Medallion Project Inaugural Presentation Speech

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For more information, see Medallion Project

[Note: The text on this page was created by optically scanning a graphic of the original pages. There may still be some OCR typos.]


(Made at the Sunday brunch mtg. Seattle, July 4, 1993)
Freeman Stamper

I am going to be using the word "gay." I use it as an all-encompassing word; not as a divisive term. [NOTE: There was considerable ovation at this point, and the comments within these braces were not said. {I am committed to not drawing lines around small groups of square dancers, who are inside the gay square dance community, who are inside the gay community, who are inside the greater square dance community, who are inside the greater society, who are inside the universe. We are women and men just like society identifies everyones' gender. All of us just happen to be homosexuals. I'm comfortable with the word "gay," so I use "gay" as an inclusive word.}]

In addition to my comments, you will want to read the comments which have been printed about the design of the medallion and the acknowledgment of those who have assisted in creating the database.

When I was a little boy growing up in a town of about 1,000 people, 10,000 head of cattle, and 100,000 acres of cotton, I learned the theory of commitment from a father who was a mechanic at the same car dealership for over forty years.

Most gay people have an enormous sense of commitment that is a part of our internalized values . These values are learned the very same way and at the very same time as those acquired by heterosexuals. But, you and I have often observed the enormous disparity between the selfless commitment that the gay community is willing to make and the senseless obstacles main-stream society places upon the gay community in exercising that commitment. Think of the amount of time just you and your friends spend committed to:

1. Perfecting professional skills
2. Caring for the sick and dying
3. Loving your friends
4. Loving your domestic partner
5. Loving your family
6. Demonstrating for equal rights for everyone--without discrimination
7. Serving the community to improve safety and the environment
8. Shopping to bolster the economy (LAUGHS)

But, for all we can do, have done, and will be doing, our commitment to these choices can be, have been, and will be reduced to seeming worthlessness just because society trains us to ignore gay people.

The square dance community is run by volunteers who are committed to selfless, often thankless tasks which provide a healthy, fun activity. For gay square dancers, the annual convention represents a progression: the first cements the realization that there is a bigger world (of gay square dancers) the next few represent the supreme dance event of the year, and the following represent a commitment to the dance community. It is this commitment to success of the annual convention that allows all clubs to explode the bounds of square dancing, with many dancers experiencing tremendous sacrifices to make this annual pilgrimage.

For the first nine gay square dance conventions, there have been over 2,500((1)) participants. From the 1984 Seattle convention hosting about 250 dancers to the 1992 Albuquerque convention hosting over 1,100 dancers, these nine conventions combined have hosted almost 5,500 participants. It's interesting to note that about 40% of the participants at a convention are attend ing their first, and women are reaching about 20% of the registration.

While some in our society do not want to recognize us, it is important that we recognize ourselves even through :he thvvarting of commitment without cause. So, to recognize commitment in the gay community, I have created a medallion to recognize square dancers on the occasion of attending their 10th gay convention.

There are many dancers who have been dancing 10 or more years; however, this medallion focuses on convention attendance. I began this project in 1989, and I am deeply indebted to Mark Davis of Times Squares for putting my ideas and concepts into a visual presentation. He walked up to me, said he was a graphic artist and wanted to help with the design of the medallion. His perfection in preparing the design as camera-ready art allowed the medallions to be cast with a two-week turn-around when I thought all was lost the end of May.

I am also deeply indebted to my non-dancing friend David who made all the arrangements for the casting and sweated breathlessly for the medallions to arrive only hours before I left San Francisco. (Now, that's another story that I'll tell in Lou's second book.)

[NOTE: The remarks within these braces were said extemporaneously and are not an exact transcription: {And, I also wish to acknowledge Agnes Smith. She was a co-founder of my club, Western Star Dancers, was a co-founder of Puddletown Squares,((2)) and was a co-chair of the first convention in Seattle. I thank her for the opportunity to be square dancing today.}]

Seattle in 1993 is the 10th convention; so with great pride, these veterans--these pioneers--are presented to you this year. [NOTE: The comments within these braces were made extemporaneously after the 28 people were on the stage and are not an exact transcription: {One of us has been dancing as a gay square dancer longer than anyone else. I did not accidentially leave his name out of the program. At the time the material was due to the printer, he was not planning to attend. However, he is here today, and it is a great honor to present((3)) the first 10-Year Medallion to:

[Skip to make a closing comment]


The 10-Year Veteran Medallion has been created to recognize individuals who have committed themselves to the gay square dance community by attending ten IAGSDC conventions. Cast in pewter, the design is symbolic of concepts present in the International Association of Gay Square Dance Clubs. The squares are interlocking, representing the continuity of the clubs who are members of the Association and the linking of the clubs to their Callerlab commonality. The ends of the chain are not connected to each other to represent the ability of the Association to expand, while the curved formation represents the laural branches of achievement. On the reverse is an arrangement of triangles representing the fact that the gay community is the background of the IAGSDC.

Building the database to track the information has not been easy. These people have reviewed lists of names, looked through photo albums, and provided the registration data:

- Freeman Stamper, Producer

[insert pictures here of medallion front and reverse]

When the medallion is presented, it is inscribed with the recipient's name, the year presented and the city in which that convention is located . The medallion is attached to a wide red ribbon to be worn around the neck.