The Gay Liberation Front has been named one of a few grand marshals for World Pride 2019/Stonewall 50 in New York City. The group represents LGBTQ community past, present and future.
In the early hours of June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Rebellion began. Gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, drag queens and trans people refused to be subjected to one more police raid; one more night of lesbians being strip-searched to see if they were wearing three articles of women’s clothing; one more night of gay men being shoved apart with night sticks; one more night of lesbians and trans women being sexually abused; one more night of the worst verbal abuse and as much physical abuse as the police could get away with.
Stonewall 50 celebrates LGBTQ history and those who made it. The grand marshals consist of LGBTQ people who were present that fateful night at the Stonewall Inn, and also LGBTQ folks who weren’t born until decades later.
When announcing those who would front what will be the largest LGBTQ Pride celebration in history, Julian Sanjivan, NYC Pride March director said, “In a world where LGBTQIA+ people continue to experience profound oppression, the NYC Pride March is a beacon of hope and community. This June 30, that beacon will shine the brightest it ever has when [the cast of] “Pose,” Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, Gay Liberation Front, The Trevor Project and Monica Helms lead 115,000 marchers in the largest display of LGBTQIA+ Pride the world has ever seen.”
Last June, FX network and the cast of “Pose” made history as the first scripted TV series starring trans actors. The series was nominated for numerous awards, including a Golden Globe for Best Drama TV Series. Billy Porter, one of the show’s stars, was nominated for Best Actor in a Drama TV series.
Co-star, Indya Moore, was among the TIME 100 and fêted at the Lincoln Center gala on April 23. The 24-year-old trans actor has spoken movingly about their personal journey and how representative “Pose” has been for them. They will be among the youngest of the grand marshals.
The Gay Liberation Front represents a different generation of activists, still iconoclastic. The Pride March organizers described GLF succinctly as “the very first LGBTQ activist organization formed after the Stonewall Rebellion. The courageous members of GLF fought to give political shape and direction to a whole new generation of LGBTQ militancy that spread with unprecedented vigor and impact across the nation and the world.”
GLF PROTESTS TIME MAGAZINE. PGN PUBLISHER MARK SEGAL IN STRIPED SWEATER.
PGN publisher Mark Segal was one of the youngest members of GLF and will be one of the representatives for the organization when a group of 40-plus members grand marshal the Stonewall 50 Pride.
“Gay Liberation Front and Stonewall are synonymous,” Segal said. “We’re the ones who wrote on the walls and street of Christopher Street that night with chalk, ‘Tomorrow night, Stonewall.’ We’re the ones who spoke from Stonewall’s front door the second night. We’re the ones who created an LGBT community from the ashes of Stonewall. GLF and Stonewall are intertwined.”
Susan Silverman was also a founding member of GLF. Silverman, of Philadelphia, now lives at the well-known John C. Anderson apartments, the building itself an example of gay activism, funded by the community to create a safe living space for LGBTQ seniors. Silverman was also one of the youngest GLF members. Now 70, she came out at 19, at a time when fewer lesbians had the strength or fearlessness to do so.
“I was politicized by the civil-rights and anti-war movements,” Silverman told PGN. “I came out in a flurry of political activity with incredible support.”
The native New Yorker was living on the Lower East Side when Stonewall happened. “It was an exciting, electric time,” she said. “My generation really was committed to making change.” GLF is proof of that change and is being honored accordingly. In many ways, the GLF paved a road for some of the other grand marshals to travel, and those grand marshals will likely pave new roads for the future.
The voices and faces of lesbians, particularly lesbians of color, have often been erased from LGBTQ history, making the inclusion of black lesbian activist Opoku-Gyimah as a grand marshal critically important.
Lady Phyll, as she’s known, is cofounder and executive director of U.K. Black Pride, which she helped establish in order to “celebrate LGBT-plus people of color.” Lady Phyll said she was “beyond excited” to be part of Stonewall 50. “I cannot wait to be part of World Pride 2019. What an appropriate way to celebrate and remember the Stonewall uprising. So humbled and honored to be asked to be a grand marshal.”
Trans military veteran Monica Helms and The Trevor Project, which provides support to LGBTQ youth in crisis, round out the grand marshals. With a trans military ban and conversion therapy of LGBTQ youth putting members of the community risk, their inclusion is a reminder that the work of activists remains essential.
“As millions of LGBTQIA+ folks from across the world make their pilgrimage to WorldPride 2019 and the commemoration of Stonewall 50, New York City will display its Pride like never before,” said Chris Frederick, executive director of NYC Pride. “The entire month of June, and this day in particular will be a celebration of everything the LGBTQIA-plus community stands for.”
Segal said, “I’m often asked how many days were the Stonewall riots. My answer is 365 days, since it took GLF a year to create community and the world’s first Gay Pride. I’m proud that my marshal’s badge from that very first Pride is now at The Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History, and smile at how far we have come from that very first march.”
For details on the march and the events, which take place throughout June, visit www.worldpride.com.