We Are Everywhere: Protest, Power and Pride in the History of Queer Liberation
We Are Everywhere: Protest, Power and Pride in the History of Queer Liberation, by Matthew Riemer and Leighton Brown, is a rich and sweeping photographic history of the Queer Liberation Movement, from the creators and curators of the massively popular Instagram account @lgbt_history, released in time for the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
Through the lenses of protest, power, and pride, We Are Everywhere is an essential and empowering introduction to the history of the fight for queer liberation. Combining exhaustively researched narrative with meticulously curated photographs, the book traces queer activism from its roots in late-nineteenth-century Europe–long before the pivotal Stonewall Riots of 1969–to the gender warriors leading the charge today.
Featuring more than 300 images from more than seventy photographers and twenty archives, this inclusive and intersectional book enables us to truly see queer history unlike anything before, with glimpses of activism in the decades preceding and following Stonewall, family life, marches, protests, celebrations, mourning, and Pride. By challenging many of the assumptions that dominate mainstream LGBTQ+ history, We Are Everywhere shows readers how they can–and must–honor the queer past in order to shape our liberated future.
My name is Matthew Riemer; Leighton Brown and I are the authors of We Are Everywhere: Protest, Power, and Pride in the History of Queer Liberation. We’re also the creators and curators of the Instagram account @lgbt_history.
Our personal story is very much one of privilege. Like most queer people, Leighton—my homosexual life partner—and I both faced certain internal struggles that we had to grapple with, but we’ve nonetheless moved through the world as able-bodied, white, cisgender men from upper middle-class families who love us. We went to good schools, got jobs at good law firms, and worked in cultures that celebrated the kind of diversity that made money and didn’t rock the boat.
We comfortably labored under the delusion that simply existing in the space created by those who came before was the revolution.
We met at a young gay lawyers event in D.C. —a fundraiser naturally—but we like to tell people that we met on Grindr. None of this is to say that we were unaware of the pressing needs facing the queer community, but we very much existed in a bubble where we were told that simply being gay was enough. We comfortably labored under the delusion that simply existing in the space created by those who came before was the revolution. We, by walking around in corporate America, were revolutionaries. “Look, we have a gay attorney!”
In 1989, Audre Lorde gave the commencement speech at Oberlin College, where the self-described “Black Lesbian Mother Warrior Poet” told the graduating class:
Each one of us in this room is privileged. . . . You have a bed and you do not go to it hungry. Your privilege is not a reason for guilt, it is a part of your power, to be used in support of those things you say you believe. Because to absorb without use is the gravest error of privilege. . . . How much of your lives are you willing to spend merely protecting your privileged status? Is that more than you are prepared to spend putting your dreams and beliefs for a better world into action? That is what creativity and empowerment are all about. The rest is destruction. And it will have to be one or the other.
In November 2015, Leighton and I went to a dedication of legendary gay activist Frank Kameny’s headstone. Kameny is best known for coining the phrase “Gay Is Good,” but his activism spanned decades and his contributions really created much of what we call the Gay Rights Movement. Over the course of that hourlong ceremony, we were overwhelmed by names, stories, and details about which we’d never heard — all of which made it painfully clear that we knew nothing about queer history. Despite our privileges, we somehow had failed to connect with the stories that made our lives possible.
At the end of the event, the Gay Men’s Chorus of D.C. sang “Make Them Hear You,” a song from Ragtime, the lyrics of which demanded that we
Go out and tell our story
Let it echo far and wide
How justice was our battle
And how justice was denied
Make them hear you
And say to those who blame us
For the way we chose to fight
That sometimes there are battles
That are more than black or white
Your sword could be a sermon or the power of the pen
Teach every [child] to raise their voice
And then my [family] then
Will justice be demanded by ten million righteous men
Make them hear you
And when they hear you
I’ll be near you, again.
That experience led us to start the @lgbt_history, to dedicate the privileges we’ve had to telling the stories of those who came before and those still fighting to be heard.
And we are honored to have the opportunity to be in spaces like these, be under roofs like these, so that we may hear the stories of our queer family, so that we may absorb and go forward, asking others, as Audre Lorde asked:
How much of your lives are you willing to spend merely protecting your privileged status? Is that more than you are prepared to spend putting your dreams and beliefs for a better world into action? That is what creativity and empowerment are all about. The rest is destruction. And it will have to be one or the other.
Matthew Riemer’s opening speech for “Under One Roof: A Celebration of Penguin Random House Pride” Ace New York
Ace Hotel London | March 19, 2020
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