Magora Kennedy: Meet The 83-Year-Old Reverend And Stonewall Veteran

"We still have a long way to go, especially in getting rid of conversion therapy. I mean, I cannot believe that's still going on."

Reverend Magora Kennedy was 14-years-old when her mother gave her a choice: she could either get married or be sent away to Utica, the mental institution in upstate New York where gay youth were commonly sent to undergo conversion therapy. This was the early '50s and word had started to spread around Saratoga Springs about Kennedy's crushes on other girls.

But Kennedy was smart.

With a forged baptismal certificate that said she was 18, she took the entrance exam for the U.S. Air Force, passed, and soon found herself in Waco, Texas where at 14-years-old, she began her training. "I really thought I was free because, in those days, once you passed the test, they shipped you immediately," she says on this week's LGBTQ&A podcast, but her escape was cut short after a couple of weeks.

"My mother had private detectives trying to find out where I was at and that's where they found me."

Kennedy did get married, though the marriage was quickly annulled. Her second husband was a friend from childhood who gave her children and the ability to be open about her sexuality. "He was bisexual, so if he got discovered he was going to get kicked out of the army. I said, 'Not a problem. We can just get married.' They used to have the saying 'cover girl', 'cover boy'. And that was the way people that were gay...that's what they did."

On top of raising five children, Kennedy was a part of the Black Panther Party, attended the Stonewall Uprising in 1969, and eventually went to seminary school.

You can listen to the full interview with Reverend Kennedy on the LGBTQ&A podcast.

“Things are better than they were, but we still have a long way to go. What I'm concerned about now is that young gay people are being thrown out of their homes, committing suicide...these little young people who feel like they have nothing to live for.

And then, also getting rid of conversion therapy. Back in the day when people were put into places like Utica and Bellevue, men were castrated and women were given hysterectomies. And then the so-called gentler way was to start using conversion therapy. It's still going on today. I mean, I cannot believe this is still going on.”

Listen to the full podcast interview with Reverend Kennedy on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

You can listen to other Stonewall veterans on the LGBTQ&A podcast including Jay Toole, Mark Segal, and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy.

LGBTQ&A is a weekly LGBTQ+ interview podcast hosted by Jeffrey Masters. Past guests include Pete Buttigieg, Laverne Cox, Roxane Gay, and Miss Major Griffin Gracy.

New episodes come out every Tuesday.