When the marriage equality bill was passed in New York, crowds gathered downtown at the Stonewall Inn and throughout New York City to celebrate. The New York Daily News, one of the nation’s most circulated newspapers, profiled five residents from Harlem, East Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood to capture the voices and stories of black and Latino gay men and women who live uptown.
Long-time Harlem resident Sherman Walker (pictured right), 72, recounted what it was like growing up gay in New York City. Although Walker knew he was gay around age 14, it went largely unacknowledged by his mother. He sought refuge at downtown social clubs and dance halls in Chelsea and the Village.
"It was liberating," he told the paper. "I got the same feeling the first time I went to the Pride Parade, [getting] to be among your own kind. Watching people cut up and act the fool. Home was one thing, this was another. It was a great feeling."
Another great feeling comes from the passage of the marriage equality bill.
“For 30 years, I've been living under the cloud of funerals for friends who died of AIDS,” Walker said in another powerful New York Daily News piece. “This new chapter in my life, I hope, is one with more weddings than funerals.”
Ruben Porras and Raul Rivera were also featured in the paper. The Inwood couple remained engaged for three years because they wanted to get married only in New York. Porras has received support from both his family and his neighborhood. The two walk down the streets holding hands—many store and restaurant owners know they’re a couple.
"We found a neighborhood that we knew would be accepting," said Porras.
Other men and women profiled include Joseph Tolton, a Harlem-born and openly gay pastor, Alex Schilesinger, a student and Morningside Heights resident, and Johnnie Lang, a lesbian mother of five and foster parent.
Lang was with her church congregation when they heard the marriage equality bill passed.
"It's a beautiful thing," she said. "We deserve this."
GLAAD worked closely with the New York Daily News to find LGBT Harlem residents willing to share their stories. We applaud the newspaper for elevating the voices within New York’s LGBT communities and encourage other publications to follow in their strong example.