Silencing/Speaking Up

Speaking up about aspects of sexuality where there is pressure to be silent - whether being transgender, having AIDS, working in the porn industry, or just being frank about personal sexual experience - takes courage. The female student who responded to the 1932 sexuality survey made her discomfort clear: "I do not wish to answer your questionnaire on petting."

Hate crimes against sexual minorities and rape can be silencing. Censorship of sexual speech has a long history. The U.S. military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy specifically demanded silence.

Public demonstrations, press conferences, writing and publishing, coming out, and wearing buttons are some of the ways people speak up.

Here, activists Robert Garcia and Karen Ramspacher speak to a class at John Jay College in New York City about LGBT issues and AIDS.

Shown below is a short film taken by activist filmmaker Phil Zwickler of the Sloan-Kettering demonstration on July 24, 1987.

The AIDS crisis highlighted the ways LGBT people form families and care for each other without the standard legal protections provided to heterosexuals. LGBT people searched for ways of remembering and honoring those who died in the AIDS epidemic, such as this tribute to Robert Garcia created by his friends.

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