Editor’s Note: We are pleased that a few public media stations like WILL have taken advantage of the Lab’s Open Call to draw out stories from members of their local LGBT communities. We give a special shout-out to Sean Powers, WILL reporter, for donating his time to a listener he encountered who needed assistance getting his story into the new media world that so many of us have learned to work in effortlessly. We know that Sean not only helped shoot Mr. Davis’ video, but showed him how to register for a Youtube account and submit his video. Our hat’s off to you, Sean!
A few months ago, I met Gale Davis, 70, of Urbana, IL. He’s a member of Illinois Public Media, and a longtime viewer and listener of our station. Davis said he knew he was gay when he was four years old.
“I had no interest in girls at all, but you had to keep that under the whatever,” he said.
Davis said 1969 was an important year for him. Right after the Stonewall riots in June, gay groups started forming across Illinois. It was around this time when Davis came out. A couple of years later, Davis spoke to the Mattachine Society in Chicago, one of the earliest gay rights organizations. He then began traveling across the country visiting gay churches, and meeting with gay rights activists. While Davis admits gays are represented more today than they were in 1969, he said many of the struggles facing the LGBT community back then are still relevant.
“Things have changed a lot, although not quite enough,” he said, reflecting on his memories about being thrown out of the air force because of his sexuality. “I was perfectly happy to donate my time and energy and even blood to protect the country, and they didn’t want me because I was born gay.”
David said people today are more comfortable coming out about their sexuality, but he added that there needs to be more of an effort to share the gay experience with the rest of the world.
I told Davis about the Stonewall Uprising Open Call, and how the public would really benefit by hearing his perspective about what it is like being gay in America and what has changed over the past 40 years. He was eager to contribute, but did not have the means of uploading his own user-generated content. This seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up. I set up a time to interview Davis at his home. We spoke in front of a wall coated with his ‘sermons’ describing the long-standing history of same-sex couples.
I hope Davis’ story will encourage other gay people to come forward, share their stories about gay rights since Stonewall and help guide the conversation of 21st century issues in the LGBT community.
Cross-posted with Illinois Public Media. See Davis’s video on their Vimeo channel.