SAGA speaker honors LGBTQ visionaries

Marina Boyle, Features editor

On Nov. 7, the Mercyhurst Sexuality and Gender Acceptance Club (SAGA) held a celebratory club event to honor heroes of the LGBTQ movement from whom minorities have won their rights.

The evening consisted of a lecture by guest speaker Ted Hoover, who presented the talk “Still, They Resisted.”

Hoover is an LGBTQ advocate, author and public speaker who celebrates the unsung heroes of the LGTBQ movement who engaged in ordinary acts that advanced the cause of human rights.

Hoover’s message is that while we all know Ellen DeGeneres and Harvey Milk, we should also celebrate all the courageous everyday acts of little-known LGBTQ people.

Hoover began his talk by discussing the achievements of Marsha P. Johnson, a black transgender woman who fought for LGBTQ rights in the Stonewall riots of 1969. Johnson is a more well-known LGBTQ activist for her role in the gay liberation movement and the mystery that surrounds her suspicious death.

Hoover also discussed the achievements of Barbara Gittings, who he referred to as “the grandma of the LGBT movement.” Gittings tackled the psychiatric side of homophobia to fight for the APA’s removal of homosexuality from its list of psychiatric disorders in 1973. She also fought for lesbian civil rights and to make public spaces safe for minorities.

As well as these major figures who played roles that history has deemed significant, Hoover tried to emphasize those who are lesser known.

For example, Aaron Fricke was the first person to bring another male date to prom after winning a landmark court case in Rhode Island in 1980. His plea led the court to rule that existing free speech doctrine protected gay and lesbian students’ rights to attend prom with same-sex dates.

Later came Jeanne Manford, an American schoolteacher whose son was a gay activist. She co-founded the support group Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays as an advocacy organization. PFLAG is an organization that continues to this day for LGBTQ allies.

Hoover went on to discuss the small acts of bravery by countless others who have acted to advance the cause of human rights.

Many students were touched by the talk, which showed the effect of small actions with large consequences.

Sophomore Psychology major Sydney Zajac agreed that the talk was inspiring.

“I enjoyed the message of this talk a lot,” Zajac said. “It is interesting to see how such massive issues can pervade the LGBTQ community, and yet small actions which are truly brave do have an effect. These actions tend to have a ripple and because of that are worth it.”