Beginning today, the city's LGBT community will begin three days of public events that are widely seen as one big party, but which really have their roots in protest and should still be seen as such. Given that rights and recognition for transgendered people are truly the final frontier in the civil rights fight, the 10th Annual Trans March this evening should be viewed as the most important event of the weekend, politically. Allow us to delve into a little history...
The thing we call the Gay Pride Parade was, once upon a time, called the Gay Freedom Day Parade a better name, if you ask us, because at this point gay folks are pretty proud enough, but not always completely free. The inaugural event in San Francisco was a small 20- to 30-person march of "hair faeries" followed by a "gay-in" in Golden Gate Park in the summer of 1970, commemorating the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. That same weekend in New York City, there was the first large Pride-like march dubbed the Christopher Street Liberation Day March.
This all of course began with an uprising of homos, drag queens, and trans people who fought back against a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in New York's Greenwich Village on June 28, 1969. The night's rioting, which included a lot of thrown beer bottles and was arguably motivated, in part, by the rioters' grief at the death of Judy Garland (her funeral had occurred earlier that day) led to three days of riots and tensions with police throughout the Village. Seen as the birth of the LGBT civil rights movement though the Compton's Cafeteria Riot, spawned by police harassment of trans women in the Tenderloin, happened three years earlier in 1966 Stonewall's anniversary is still marked by major Pride celebrations in New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis, and other cities on the last weekend in June.
San Francisco's first big parade came in 1972, and it featured upwards of 2,000 participants and a march down Polk Street to Civic Center with makeshift floats on the backs of old pickup trucks. It was initially dubbed the Christopher Street West parade, featured a poster with a upraised fist and the words "Gay Pride," and in keeping with San Francisco's place in hippie history, it was way more nude and kooky than the equivalent event in New York. As the Chronicle notes in a recent slideshow of historic photos, "A full third of the photos [from the 1972 event in the Chronicle archive] showed at least one naked penis in the frame."
We like that San Francisco's celebrations were always a little more tawdry than New York's, but they're also bigger, and for all their spectacle they're more rooted in activism than the current Pride parade in NYC as Justin Vivian Bond recently pointed out, "I loved [Pride] in San Francisco because there was a real end you marched and at the end, everybody was there together and there was a show or whatever. But here you just go down and disperse. There's no real formation of community around it I feel like it's almost designed to dissolve community." See some footage of the 1977 parade here, which came up Market Street from downtown, as it does today.
The iconic photo of Harvey Milk in the parade, wearing a lei and carrying a sign that said, "I'm From Woodmere, N.Y." comes from 1978, the year he died. The Civic Center celebration that we all know began in 1982, and the annual event was known as the Gay Freedom Day celebration, followed by International Lesbian and Gay Freedom Day, and only became officially known as Pride, or the San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Pride Celebration, in 1995.
Dyke March began in 1993 and still bears some more of the protest nature and grassroots-y-ness of the original Gay Freedom Day events, with handmade signs, light nudity, no real floats, and most people on foot. It remains a lively, community-based event that stands in contrast to the more flashy, corporate-sponsored Pride parade. Now it begins with a day-long rally in Dolores Park, and culminates with a Saturday evening march through the Mission and Castro. This 2002 documentary short profiles some of the tens of thousands who came out for that year's march.
The first Trans March was in 2004 and featured several hundred marchers who came out in response to an anonymous email call to be more visible, and "to encourage more trans and gender-variant people to come out; to build connections among ftm, mtf, bayot, crossdressers, sadhin, hijra, transvestites, bantut, drag queens, drag kings, mahu, transsexuals, bakla, travesti, genderqueers, kathoey, two spirit, intersex and those with other labels for themselves and no labels for themselves, those who see gender as having more than two options, and those who live between the existing options." The march now begins with a rally in Dolores Park this afternoon, and takes marchers from the Mission to Turk and Taylor, the former site of Compton's Cafeteria. Check out a video of the 2011 Trans March here.
So, to all LGBTQI people out there, take a moment between drinks this weekend to recognize our history, how far we've come in light of this week's landmark Supreme Court rulings, and not to take our hard-won freedoms for granted.