Nearly twenty-five years ago activists published a provocative message on billboards around Richmond: Someone You Know is Gay… Maybe Someone You Love. Beginning August 26, the Gay Community Center of Richmond will recreate this campaign by republishing this important message on a billboard overlooking Interstate 95 in central Richmond.
Each day tens of thousands of travelers traveling south on Interstate 95 and east on Interstate 64 will see this message of inclusion as they pass the Gay Community Center of Richmond. Perhaps some will learn. Perhaps some will come out. Just as in 1987, Richmond will be reminded that LGBT people are woven into the fabric of the city.
Follow the links below to learn more about our purpose, and about Guy Kinman, who in 1987 led an unprecedented “outing” of the Richmond LGBT community. Historian Beth Marschak discusses the importance of the effort then, and now. And, we want to hear from you. Share your memories of Richmond then, and tell us about how things have changed.
The Importance of Remembering
In 1987 the Richmond LGBT community, while proud, was isolated. Few organizations existed to bring people together. Gay bars were just that – places where gay men and lesbians gathered, but where others didn’t venture. The AIDS crisis neared its deadly peak. Few were willing to help, and many actually feared us.
That year a small group of activists came together to spread a message of understanding and compassion. Raising money through small donations they paid for a campaign to educate Richmonders about a simple fact of life – that gay people were their neighbors, their colleagues and their family.
The world was different then, and Richmond was not used to LGBT people speaking publicly as a community. The city noticed, and this simple message made a difference. Richmond would never again overlook us. Our city learned that we were a part of the community, and that we were here to stay.
Nearly twenty-five years later we have an opportunity to repeat this message to Richmond. The message is as powerful today as it was in 1987. Now, as then, our task is to remind our neighbors that we are among them, and that we deserve justice, fairness and respect. It’s too easy to disregard the humanity of a faceless “other.” It’s much harder to discriminate against a co-worker, a friend, or a son or daughter.
The Gay Community Center of Richmond is proud to recreate this historic effort with a new billboard that will be seen by tens of thousands of travelers each day. Today we often need to forcefully demand our rights and to make it plain that we will not settle for less than equality. Still, there is a place for a gentle message, one that appeals to the basic fairness shared by people of good will. Come out, be open, be yourself and together we’ll change hearts and minds.
Update 8/30: The billboard image was updated with the correct punctuation.