To celebrate Stonewall 50 and WorldPride in NYC, we gathered a group of remarkable people with their own Stonewall stories to tell. Read them all in our blog, and say hello when you see them at Stonewall.
As a co-owner of The Stonewall Inn and CEO of The Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative, Stacy Lentz channels decades of outspoken activism to make the world better for LGBTQ+ people. At a young age, however, that never seemed possible.
“I grew up in a small Christian town in the middle of a cornfield in Kansas,” she says. “I never thought I’d be able to come out without being scared to death of the social stigma around it, and the political ramifications for my family. There was no visibility of other LGBTQ+ people, and I was very religious, so I grew up going to church every Sunday and being told that, as I was finding out who I was, that I was wrong, that I was going to hell, and that life would be a struggle.” Far from silencing her, Stacy instead found inspiration in this background. “It made me want to change the world around me, so that kids in places that have stigma to this day could live out, open lives, be who they want to be and love who they want to love.”
Stacy left her hometown and moved to New York City in 1995, where she found her place in the LGBTQ+ community and learned the history of the Pride movement. In 1998, some of her friends brought her to The Stonewall Inn for the first time. She was disappointed. “I had this idea of what the birthplace of gay rights should look like. At the time the bar wasn’t really active in the community and wasn’t really living up to its legacy, so I was disappointed.” For the first and not nearly last time, she thought, “this could be so much more, and this should be so much more. This should be a place for everyone to come to, and to be known on a global scale.” In 2006, Kurt Kelly and his partners approached her to see if she wanted to join in their effort to buy and save the bar. Her answer was simple: “Sign me up!”
Since then, Stacy has been instrumental in raising the profile of The Stonewall Inn, encouraging education and partnering with groups ranging from grassroots activist organizations to the New York Yankees and to us at the Brooklyn Brewery in 2017. In 2007, Stacy started a weekly event called The Stonewall Inn Gives Back. Every Tuesday, proceeds from the evening went to LGBTQ+ charities including GLAAD, The Trevor Project, the Human Rights Campaign, and more. The series went on for more than ten years, raising thousands for groups on a local and global level.
In 2017, Stacy and her partners at The Stonewall Inn took a closer look at The Stonewall Inn Gives Back series. “We said, we’ve always used the Stonewall as a vehicle for change, as a place where the community gathers, as a place for fundraising. Let’s formalize that process and start our own non-profit.” They identified a key mission: supporting areas that didn’t have the resources and freedoms to support their LGBTQ+ people. “Places in the Midwest, the South, across the globe where equality has been slow to rise…we had the opportunity to raise awareness, raise funds, and start working to change policies and legalities in places that need it.” The Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative was born, marked by a launch party that featured our first collaboration beer on tap.
The Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative has spread resources and knowledge around the world since 2017, but they’re particularly excited for the opportunities around World Pride 2019 and Stonewall 50. “It’s the largest LGBTQ+ event held in the world, in history!” Stacy says. “There’s an expectation of four to six million people coming from around the world, and it’s up to us to showcase the LGBTQ+ community here in New York City, and everything we’re doing to come together and lead with our progressive values and fight for equality for everybody.”
If you’re coming to World Pride, you’re sure to see Stacy in the parade and at The Stonewall Inn. But even if you can’t make it, count on her to be near you soon as she continues to carry The Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative around the world.