By Nicole Murray Ramirez
Chase Matys-Gleason is a sixth grader at a local San Diego school and last week, he turned 12 years old. He was in New York City, invited to be a special speaker for the official unveiling of the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor at the historic Stonewall Inn, which kicked off World Pride NYC/Stonewall 50. Among Chase’s fellow speakers would be civil rights icon Mandy Carter, co-founder of the National Black Justice Coalition; global LGBTQ human rights activist Stuart Milk of the Harvey Milk Foundation; renown LGBTQ allies and respected national spokespersons Judy and Dennis Shepard, founders of the National Matthew Shepard Foundation; California state Senate President Toni Atkins; deputy director of the National LGBTQ Task Force Kierra Johnson; national transgender advocates Karina Samala and Kamryn Whitley; as well as other well-known LGBTQ American leaders. National media and reporters covered this historic event and it was livestreamed to hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ people around the world.
Now this lineup of famous speakers would intimidate anyone let alone a 12-year-old, but not San Diego’s Chase Matys-Gleason. This young trans boy has spoken before more than 1,000 people at the Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast, hundreds of people at the Trans Day of Empowerment Rally, and Equality California’s Equality Awards — and every time he did an outstanding job. He was eloquent and articulate, and in fact, he was honored with the Harvey Milk Diversity Founders Award and given a lifetime title as a Crown Prince of the Americas within the Imperial Court de San Diego. Chase is the proud son of two well-known LGBTQ leaders and fathers, State Commissioner Robert Gleason and Marc Matys of the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus. Chase’s 13-year-old brother Maxwell Matys-Gleason is a remarkable teen in his own right. He is very proud and supportive of his young trans brother. I have had the pleasure of knowing the Matys-Gleason family for almost two decades and they are true role models of the new modern American family of the 21st century. This month, Marc and Robert will celebrate 27 years together and are happily married.
Now let me get back to the historic unveiling ceremony of the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor at the Stonewall Inn, which was sponsored by the International Imperial Courts Council — the oldest LGBTQ organization in North America (1965) — and the oldest LGBTQ civil rights organization, the National LGBTQ Task Force. Well, you could have heard a pin drop as Chase gave his stirring speech. He talked about his journey as a young trans boy, his fellow trans friends, and those who helped him and his family. He also spoke of his respect for the many LGBTQ activists’ shoulders he now stands on. There was a hardly a dry eye among those in the crowd as we all were bursting with pride to have the privilege — yes, the privilege — to hear the words of this young activist who absolutely stole the show and was the talk of the town. Yes, I am the one that invited him to speak at this event and after he spoke and received a very long ovation, I said to the crowd, “Chase and our LGBTQ youth are not our future but our here and now!” The crowd enthusiastically agreed when I said Chase was indeed a future president of the U.S. And now, I would like to officially nominate the Matys-Gleason family for next year’s Community Grand Marshalls for San Diego’s 2020 Pride Parade.
My Pride co-founders Jess Jessop and Tom Homann
In 1974, Vietnam veteran Jess Jessop and ACLU attorney Tom Homann and a wild drag queen “Baroness” of the Imperial Court named Nicole went down to the police station on Market Street to try to get a police permit for San Diego’s first Pride march/parade. We were not only told “no,” but were told by a police sergeant, “There will never be a homosexual pride parade in San Diego.” Well, about 40 of us marched anyway mostly on the sidewalks (Bridgette Wilson was one of us) that year and in 1975, many marched with paper bags over their faces — the “unknown gays.” At our first 1974 Pride march and 1975 Pride march/parade, there were hardly any spectators on the streets. Before 1976, homosexuality was illegal and many were sent to mental hospitals for being homosexuals and subjected to electric shock treatment or lobotomies. Jessop went on to establish our LGBT Community Center and Lambda Archives, and Tom Homann went on to become a prominent civil rights attorney and even argued a successful case in front of the Supreme Court (he was also my personal attorney). Baroness Nicole went on to become the empress of San Diego and Queen Mother of the Americas. My brothers Jess and Tom died of AIDS over a decade later and every Pride parade and rally, I think of them and miss them very much. They were both good, kind, giving men and true gay leaders. Indeed, God has blessed me to be able to witness the growth and empowerment of the two communities I love. The Latino and LGBTQ communities, and to witness our Pride parade grow from about 40 people in 1974 to now hundreds of thousands. My Pride co-founders would be so proud — and please, never ever forget Jess Jessop and Tom Humann.
Thank you, and happy 2019 Pride and Happy Stonewall 50!
— Nicole Murray Ramirez has been writing a column since 1973. He has been a Latino/gay activist for almost half a century and has advised and served the last seven mayors of San Diego. Named the ‘Honorary Mayor of Hillcrest’ by a city proclamation, he has received many media awards including from the prestigious San Diego Press Club. Reach Nicole at Nicolemrsd1@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @Nmrsd2.
Editor’s Note: The opinions written in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the staff and/or publisher of Gay San Diego and/or its parent company, San Diego Community News Network (SDCNN). The newspaper and its staff should be held harmless of liability or damages.