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'The Lavender Line' Exhibit Honors LGBTQ History in Queens

By Katie Honan | June 15, 2017 11:41am
 "The Lavender Line" runs through July 30 at the Queens Museum. 
'The Lavender Line' Exhibit Honors LGBTQ History in Queens
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CORONA — In 1993, a group of gay, lesbian and bisexual residents of Queens carried a pink banner down 37th Avenue for the first Queens Pride Parade.

Twenty five years later that banner is hanging inside the Panorama of the City of New York at the Queens Museum through July 30 as part of "The Lavender Line: Coming Out in Queens," an exhibit honoring the borough's LGBTQ history. The name of the exhibit is a nod to the line of lavender paint that traces the entire length of the parade. 

Photos, documents, videos and fliers from the personal archives of people involved in the movement, including Councilmen Danny Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer, line the walls of the Panorama — creating their own map of the borough's LGBTQ history.

The archives will be part of the permanent collection at LaGuardia and Wagner Archives at LaGuardia Community College, and will grow with more submissions and interviews.

"I wanted my archives and this exhibit to be a living archive," Dromm said at the exhibit opening last week. 

Dromm was a co-founder of the Queens Pride Parade along with Maritza Martinez, both carrying the pink banner at the procession's start. 

The parade was organized as a response to the beating death of Julio Rivera in Jackson Heights in 1990, and the controversy surrounding the Children of the Rainbow multicultural curriculum.

From its inception, organizers hoped to signal to residents that the LGBTQ community was "indeed your family, your friends and your neighbors," he said.

A timeline at the exhibit shows chapters of the Mattachine Society and Daughters of Bilitis, gay and lesbian activist groups, from the 1950s.

The exhibit also shows the Queens-specific sites that were popular LGBTQ hangouts — including Jacob Riis Park, which opened in the 1930s.

In 1973, Jeanne Manford founded Parents and Friends for Lesbians And Gays, or PFLAG, from her Flushing apartment. 

There was a network of local bars that supported the cause including Hatfield's, Betsy Ross, and Pep McGuire's.

But there was also the notion that in order to be open about who you were, you had to travel across the river to Manhattan — something many people reflect on in the videos shown throughout the exhibit.

Rivera's death, and the subsequent parade, helped change that. 

Van Bramer, then a student at St. John's University, carried a red banner in protest of the Catholic university's refusal to recognize a campus Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual alliance. It, too, is hanging up in the museum.

“The pride parade, in Queens, told generations of LGBTQ youth and others that you don’t have to move to be who you are,” Van Bramer said.

“You don’t have to go to Manhattan to celebrate being queer. You can do it right here, in Queens, in Jackson Heights, on 37th Avenue, in the neighborhood that is your home.”