As we go to press, I’m preparing to travel for my last of four speaking gigs this June, all for Pride month. There are various reasons why groups ask me to speak during Pride month. Some are familiar with my column or writings; others want me to speak about publishing in the LGBT community; still others, a point of LGBT history I’ve been personally involved with. But I’m sure that very few know that when they ask me to speak, especially during Pride month, I’m going to speak about organizing that very first Pride, since what most of them don’t know is I was a part of that, and a death this past week just before New York’s Gay Pride made me think a lot about what Pride stands for.
Many of us in New York’s Gay Liberation Front (GLF), which was born from the ashes of the Stonewall Riot in 1969, felt that something was needed to mark the first anniversary in June 1970. It was Craig Rodwell who founded the Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day Committee. Many of us in GLF joined Craig in what many people thought was an outrageous endeavor: Gay people marching out of the Village, all the way across town to Central Park and then having what we called a “Gay In” — a party.
The earliest discussion was of who should be a part of the march. We all had opinions. Some only wanted people who had helped from that moment at Stonewall to create the community of that first year of the modern LGBT-equality movement. Other wanted to restrict churches, since they had been among the worst oppressors of our community. But in the end, we felt that it was the word PRIDE that held all of us together. So anyone who had pride in themselves and their community could march. That is the simplicity of Pride, and before we had Pride, we had people like Dick Litsch, former president of the Mattachine Society in New York, one of the few OUT gay men in the U.S. in the late 1960s. He was a brave man, and to do that at that time took Pride.
Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. You can follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MarkSegalPGN or Twitter at https://twitter.com/PhilaGayNews.