• Cock ring worn as a bracelet.
  • Word is Out from the 1978 release of one of the first documentaries about gay people. It might be the first.
  • Not technically a LGBT button, but the lesbian community was always sticking up for straight women's rights too ie: abortion rights.
  • A little less latex—a little more sex, a little more lace, a little more leather. Have no memory of this campaign, but I think it was to get the lesbian community to relax after the era of AIDS. Lesbians were the least likely population to get AIDS anyway.
  • First year that bisexual and transgender was added to parade name. Theme is World Without Borders.
  • '93: DC march mentions lesbian, gay, bi, but not transgender.
  • 1979 most outrageous float coin tossed off the float of the bar Trocadero Transfer.
  • 1981: First year the word lesbian added to name of the parade.

LGBT History

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Inspired by the film Milk, I dug out my collection of buttons to re-live my own gay history which was very closely interwoven with what was happening in San Francisco.

I've laid the buttons out in chronological order. The first button was from the movie The Word is Out which I saw in 1978, in my Sophomore year at UC Santa Cruz with Panda my third female lover at UCSC. (She's now married to a man she dated soon after that. It's her little sister who turned out to be a lesbian.) I had officially come out in the winter of my Freshman year having slept with enough guys to know the difference. Plus I had had a high school girl lover and others I was sweet on. At least one for every year. Santa Cruz was also where I marched (rode my unicycle actually) in my first Gay Pride march. I also protested the Brigg's initiative (which would have ousted gay/lesbian teachers and possibly any teacher saying seeming to support us). It failed.

The summer before I had attended my firt SF pride parade, the one where a poster size picture of Anita Bryant was held up next to pictures of Hitler and Mussolini. Only I didn't make it to the parade part because I was working at my summer job at a gas station. (Worse recession year ever for summer jobs.) I got there just as the weather turned gray and they were packing up the booths. I picked up a postcard that said "Dear Anita, Having a gay time. Wish you were here." I cannot find that card right now.

I moved back home to the Bay Area the year that Harvey Milk was shot. I was busing tables during the lunch shift when someone told me the news. I was stunned and couldn't tell anyone why. I saw the candlelight march on TV with my dad with whom I was living at the time. I very much wanted to jump in the family station wagon and drive up there to join them, but I couldn't tell him why. I was out to him, but we didn't discuss it much past the initial conversation. I was also watching TV with him when the twinkie verdict came down and the gay community went to city hall and busted a window or two and overturned three cop cars and set fire to them. That part wasn't mentioned in the film. "That will be the end of the gays," said my dad who anticipated a crack down on the gay community. He couldn't have been more wrong.

Harvey's message was that we had to come out. I realized when I saw the film that that was the message I politicized and lived for the next decade (and the rest of my life). In 1981 I got myself a motorcycle and a full suit of black leather. The jacket pictured here. My kung fu thighs won't fit in the pants anymore. The whistle and the leathers and later martial arts were my response to the fag bashing of the times.

The second button in this line-up is from 1979 when I went to Gay Night at the local amusement park on the eve of my 21st birthday with my pal Stacy. That was something, to infiltrate such a family park with us perverts. It made the staff rather nervous. At midnight we were at the local lesbian bar, the Daybreak (named after Joan Baez for her bisexual leanings—all true). There I had my first legal drink.

The next few years were marked by the Dykes on Bikes. I wasn't actually a member, but they allowed any woman with a motorcycle to follow behind them in the parade. Stacy rode on the back of her lover Angel's bike and we rode side by side, my then lover behind me. The first year we rode, they put us at the middle of the parade in an attempt to molify those who wanted to purge the event of the pervert aspects of the community in the hopes of becoming more acceptable. This included drag queens, us and that naked guy wearing the boa constrictor. (I still say it won't work; they'll hate us more because we look normal, but we still do the nasty in ways that revolt them—men at least, lesbians are just male porn fodder.) Nevertheless it was one of the highlights of my young life to be so out in the open being cheered like that. The following year we were back at the head of the parade. Soon after that we were wearing black ribbons to mark the appearance of AIDS. Everything I learned about community and crisis came in the years that followed.

Under parental pressure I sold my bike in exchange for the safer transport of a car. So no more dykes on bikes. There's a gap in my collection because nothing could compare to being in the parade and I got tired of the lesbian community and the political correctness of it. I do remember I was there for the appearance of the first lipstick lesbians. I had returned to the community when I was living with a woman who was best friends with a lesbian celebrity. There's a 1991 button from Living Sober, the humongous LGBT AA event where she often did her best speaking appearances. Five years or so later she got together with a man and the lesbian community never let her hear the end of it (we are still friends though). Her public appearances were demoted to introducing other "cliteratti" some of whom I got to know too.

When I met Catherine, she was a filmmaker and had a press pass. She and her husband and I were free to roam the parade beyond the barricades. The next year her movie "Queers Among Queers" was in the film festival. By that time the parade was so big, it wasn't worth going to and we retired to the comfort of the film festival for the Sunday shorts. So no more parade buttons after '95. The buttons from the DC march and AIDS walk were gifts. I did not actually attend. I threw out all the souvenir condoms thrown from floats; they disintegrated.

Patrickometry, Im_a_teapot, and 28 other people added this photo to their favorites.

  1. Earthworm 65 months ago | reply

    These notes formed the history behind my piece titledProp 8: The Hate That Ate California

  2. jumpkiwi 60 months ago | reply

    Hi, I'm an admin for a group called Out on the streets., and we'd love to have this added to the group!

  3. Weingart Dude 54 months ago | reply

    Hi, I'm an admin for a group called ♡ INFLUENCE: PRIDE AND LOVE ♡, and we'd love to have this added to the group!

  4. pärlbåtar 51 months ago | reply

    Thank you for sharing your story. I really don't have anything to add, other than... wow.

    Every time I'm driving and I see one of those pathetic 'I want a Mommy AND a Daddy! Yes on 8!' bumper stickers I get so upset, and I'm reminded of the lies and hatred perpetuated by people who claim to follow a religion of kindness and acceptance. I was sitting in a 'church' with my friend right after the state legalized gay marriage, and the pastor was on a rampage about how he 'knew ex-homosexuals who had families now.' He even went as far as to say that if gay marriage is legal, people would be marrying goats and cereal boxes next. The crowd cheered him on. I'm not making this shit up, or even slightly exaggerating. Just horrible, horrible...

    I was only a few months shy of turning 18 during the '08 elections, so I couldn't vote, but I've been signing every anti-prop 8 petition I can ever since. There is no excuse for this mess. None.

  5. MillieJonesCowles 31 months ago | reply

    Love your story. In 1981 I was a Junior in High School in a small town in Iowa. I didn't have a rememberance of being gay. I say rememberance because after I met the woman that brought me out. I had suddenly remembered many times when I was attacted to women. Anyway I enjoyed hearing your story. In 1981 I was with a guy and it wasn't until 1984 when I came out to myself and started messing around with women. It was right after my son was born. I met the above said woman and my whole life changed after meeting her. I remember that there was all of this fear around Aids and who could get it and who couldn't. Wow thank you for the trip down memory lane. I think I attended a parade in SF in 1993 or so and it was 8 hours long. It was unlike anything I had ever seen. In Des Moines around that same time it was maybe a half an hour long parade. It is now much better. If you would like to get away you will have a warm experience at the Des Moines Pride it is usually around the same time as SF. But just google it and check it out.

  6. Jerry Pritikin 30 months ago | reply

    I was lucky when I moved to S.F. in the early 1960s, at the tail end of the Beatnik era, then came the hippies,i 1965 I got to see a new band called the Grateful Dead at a downtown upstairs gay bar called the Rendezvous, that had no cover charge and 25 cent beer in a bottle.Then came the Flower Children and the Summer of Love in 1967, and that was followed by Peace mongers marching against the Vietnam War. I discovered that many who belonged to those groups were gay. I moved between the Haight to a changing S.F. Neighborhood in the Eureka Valley called the Castro. I became involved in the gay rights movement and joined the first gay sports softball league in the country. I was a freelance photographer and publicist who specialized in gay clients and businesses. I displayed my photos in a bakery shop window at 420 Castro Street, just yards away from today's Harvey Milk Plaza. I counted Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone as friends. There is a great web site that is dedicated to the evolution of the Castro into America's gay mecca. It is called
    www.thecastro.net/ and my images there that include my iconic image of Harvey Milk...
    www.thecastro.street/memoriespage/pritikin/pritikin.html and my blog includes stories of that era too. www.jerrypritikin.blogspot.com/ It's always better when you read about our history by those who were there.

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