GEORGE NICKLE: Be proud of how far we’ve come

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The first time my husband and I visited West Hollywood it was 1998. We had coffee at a shop on Santa Monica Blvd. in what we now call the Rainbow District. As we sat at a sidewalk table he kissed me. It was the littlest peck on the lips, but still not something we normally do in public. We’re just very private. I was surprised and asked him why he did it. He said, “Because I can.”

He meant, he could in West Hollywood.

We’d both moved from North Carolina, where neither of us were originally from, but where we had lived for years and where we met. Two men kissing in public there was a provocation. Two men kissing in public, even the modest one we shared, still is in many places across our country. It is a death sentence in many places across the world.

Of course, in 1998 Alex was not my husband. We had no legal right to marry or to serve openly in the military if we had wanted to. In just a few years we would watch in barely contained rage as the president of the United States stood before a joint session of Congress and asked that a ban on same-sex marriage be written into the U.S. Constitution. A few years later we would pour our heart and soul into electing the first African American as president. A man who would not, let’s be honest, politically could not, say that he was for our right to marry. On the night of that election our tears of joy at his win were made bitter by the passing of Prop 8 here in California. Poll after poll showed that the majority of Americans were against our right to marry. It felt as if that would not change in our lifetimes.

That was not so long ago. But it is a different world now, and we refuse to go back.

We have watched as the Supreme Court stripped away Women’s Rights. Voting rights are under attack across the country, as are LGBTQ rights. Especially those of our Trans brothers and sisters. I share the story about that kiss because I know things can feel really bad. I’ve heard people say, right here in West Hollywood, that things have never been worse for our community. That simply is not true.

Within the lifetimes of some of your friends and neighbors, gay men could go to prison for having another gay man as a pen pal. Jobs were lost, lives were ruined, and men were actually sent to prison for writing things in a letter to another man that you wouldn’t think twice about saying openly today. AIDS burned through our community as a U.S. president stood by silently. I went with my sister in 1991 when she met with a recruiter and enlisted for service in the U.S. Coast Guard. The officer signing her up asked her if she was a lesbian. It was easy for her to say no because she wasn’t. It was difficult for her to have to because it was wrong of them to ask. If she had been, and if she had been honest and answered yes, she would have been denied the opportunity to serve her country.

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This Pride I am not asking you to downplay the politically precarious place in which we find ourselves, but I am asking for historical perspective. Acknowledge our hard-fought wins. Honor the people who fought the battles to get us here. Do it for those in our community who did not survive to enjoy the victories we have achieved. This is fuel for the fights ahead, and they are coming.

For now, we celebrate. And we register to vote, and we encourage our friends and family to, too. Then we vote! If need be, we will stand up and continue defending our rights, fueled by the fearlessness of those who won us the victories we enjoy today.

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About George Nickle
George Nickle is a Public Safety Commissioner and Co-Captain of the WeHo Eastside Neighborhood Watch Group. He and his husband have lived on Norton Ave. in West Hollywood for 19 years and share their home with two rescue cats, Marie and Sissi. www.nickle4weho.com

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Randy Gillis
Randy Gillis
1 month ago

I still live in NC. In many ways, if feels worse than it did 30 years ago. A kiss between men would surly result in violence. I look at places like West Hollywood with awe, confusion, and maybe even fear. I wouldn’t know how to adjust to that level of openness. And the upcoming election results could make matters even worse. Great article. And remember the country gays. We’re still here.

Mikie Friedman
Mikie Friedman
1 month ago

people take so much for granted! And much like able body people take their abilities for granted, and do not understand the difficulties that disabled people go through every day, so straight people do not understand the difficulties that people with different sexual activities every day in order to have the freedom and the choices that straight people have. Article is a wonderful reminder that we should never take anything for granted and to appreciate how far your journey has taken you. It is also reminder that it should never go backwards!

Mikie Friedman
Mikie Friedman
1 month ago
Reply to  Mikie Friedman

Sorry for all the weird mistakes and typos. I usually proofread what I have dictated before I send, because I don’t trust AutoCorrect… but my finger slipped! Great article, George!!

Last edited 1 month ago by Mikie Friedman
Robert Steloff
1 month ago
Reply to  Mikie Friedman

Mikie, you are 100% correct – Additionally, let us not forget how great this city was upon its declaration of city-hood & many of the great evolutionary changes along the way, let us also NOT forget some of the less-than-great dumb decisions & changes of late, which is why George Nickle must be supported, & therefore elected!

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