Marvel Comics mastermind Stan Lee, one of the most important and recognizable figures in the industry, has died at the age of 95.
Marvel Comics mastermind Stan Lee, one of the most important and recognizable figures in the industry, has died at the age of 95.
(*sung to the tune of karma chameleon.)
So this happened yesterday:
Jeffrey and I registered back in September for IDs and logged into the waiting room yesterday at noon EST to wait to see if we would be randomly selected to purchase badges for the Sand Diego Comic Convention. Much to my shock, I was selected within 15 minutes and twenty minutes later, we had badges to comic con in July of 2019.
As a life time comic fan, this is a dream come true for me, as it will be my first real comic con experience (aside from the local dinky ones I’ve attended) and my husband is being incredibly supportive of us going (for a non-comic person.)
However, the comic con is only one reason this trip excites me. The second, and maybe even cooler thing about it:
we will be attending the con with a favorite blogger buddy, Fearsome Beard. This will be our first “in real life” meet up and I cannot wait, as I’ve wanted to meet Mr. Beard (and his hubby and dogs) for a very long time.
And, because I’m a glutton for gratification, if we can work it out, I’m hoping to make it a triple-threat trip and meet up with one of my other favorite bloggers and comic fans, Meanwhile, over in Cali…
This definitely gives me something to look forward to in the new year.
Thank you for joining me for my month long exploration of LGBTQ+ history. The posts here represent just a small sample of the pioneers, warriors, allies, and moments that helped shape the future of the LGBTQ+ movement and community. We have come a long way, but still have a long way to go…and we can and will…together.
Want to learn more about LGBTQ+ History? Try listening to a Podcast, browsing a Website, reading a Book, watching a Documentary, or simply use your favorite web browser and search the term “LGBTQ History.”
Here are few great places to start:
Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History
Making Gay History Podcast
50 Books about LGBTQ History
Documentaries exploring LGBTQ History
The Stonewall riots (also referred to as the Stonewall uprising or the Stonewall rebellion) were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the gay (LGBT) community against a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. They are widely considered to constitute the most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT rights in the United States.
Very few establishments welcomed openly gay people in the 1950s and 1960s. Those that did were often bars, although bar owners and managers were rarely gay. At the time, the Stonewall Inn was owned by the Mafia. It catered to an assortment of patrons and was known to be popular among the poorest and most marginalized people in the gay community: drag queens, transgender people, effeminate young men, butch lesbians, male prostitutes, and homeless youth. Police raids on gay bars were routine in the 1960s, but officers quickly lost control of the situation at the Stonewall Inn. Tensions between New York City police and gay residents of Greenwich Village erupted into more protests the next evening, and again several nights later. Within weeks, Village residents quickly organized into activist groups to concentrate efforts on establishing places for gays and lesbians to be open about their sexual orientation without fear of being arrested.
After the Stonewall riots, gays and lesbians in New York City faced gender, race, class, and generational obstacles to becoming a cohesive community. Within six months, two gay activist organizations were formed in New York, concentrating on confrontational tactics, and three newspapers were established to promote rights for gays and lesbians. Within a few years, gay rights organizations were founded across the U.S. and the world. On June 28, 1970, the first gay pride marches took place in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago commemorating the anniversary of the riots. Similar marches were organized in other cities. Today, Gay Pride events are held annually throughout the world toward the end of June to mark the Stonewall riots. The Stonewall National Monument was established at the site in 2016.
The Stonewall Inn, located at 51 and 53 Christopher Street, was owned by the Genovese crime family. In 1966, three members of the Mafia invested $3,500 to turn the Stonewall Inn into a gay bar, after it had been a restaurant and a nightclub for heterosexuals. Once a week a police officer would collect envelopes of cash as a payoff, as the Stonewall Inn had no liquor license. It was the only bar for gay men in New York City where dancing was allowed.
Visitors to the Stonewall Inn in 1969 were greeted by a bouncer who inspected them through a peephole in the door. The legal drinking age was 18, and to avoid unwittingly letting in undercover police, visitors would have to be known by the doorman, or “look gay.” Patrons were required to sign their names in a book to prove that the bar was a private “bottle club”, but rarely signed their real names. The interior was painted black, making it very dark inside, with pulsing gel lights or black lights. If police were spotted, regular white lights were turned on, signaling that everyone should stop dancing or touching. It was one of two bars where effeminate men who wore makeup and teased their hair could go. Only a few transvestites, or men in full drag, were allowed in by the bouncers.
Police raids on gay bars were frequent—occurring on average once a month for each bar. Many bars kept extra liquor in a secret panel behind the bar, or in a car down the block, to facilitate resuming business as quickly as possible if alcohol was seized. Bar management usually knew about raids beforehand due to police tip-offs, and raids occurred early enough in the evening that business could commence after the police had finished. During a typical raid, the lights were turned on, and customers were lined up and their identification cards checked. Those without identification or dressed in full drag were arrested; others were allowed to leave. Some of the men, including those in drag, used their draft cards as identification. Women were required to wear three pieces of feminine clothing, and would be arrested if found not wearing them. Employees and management of the bars were also typically arrested. The period immediately before June 28, 1969, was marked by frequent raids of local bars—including a raid at the Stonewall Inn on the Tuesday before the riots.
At 1:20 a.m. on Saturday, June 28, 1969, four plainclothes policemen in dark suits, two patrol officers in uniform, and Detective Charles Smythe and Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine arrived at the Stonewall Inn’s double doors and announced “Police! We’re taking the place!” Stonewall employees do not recall being tipped off that a raid was to occur that night, as was the custom. Two undercover policewomen and two undercover policemen had entered the bar earlier that evening to gather visual evidence, as the Public Morals Squad waited outside for the signal. The music was turned off and the main lights were turned on. Approximately 205 people were in the bar that night. Patrons who had never experienced a police raid were confused. A few who realized what was happening began to run for doors and windows in the bathrooms, but police barred the doors.
The raid did not go as planned. Standard procedure was to line up the patrons, check their identification, and have female police officers take customers dressed as women to the bathroom to verify their sex, upon which any men dressed as women would be arrested. Those dressed as women that night refused to go with the officers. Men in line began to refuse to produce their identification. The police decided to take everyone present to the police station, after separating those cross-dressing in a room in the back of the bar. Both patrons and police recalled that a sense of discomfort spread very quickly, spurred by police who began to assault some of the lesbians by “feeling some of them up inappropriately” while frisking them.
The police were to transport the bar’s alcohol in patrol wagons. Twenty-eight cases of beer and nineteen bottles of hard liquor were seized, but the patrol wagons had not yet arrived, so patrons were required to wait in line for about 15 minutes. Those who were not arrested were released from the front door, but they did not leave quickly as usual. Instead, they stopped outside and a crowd began to grow and watch. Within minutes, between 100 and 150 people had congregated outside, some after they were released from inside the Stonewall, and some after noticing the police cars and the crowd. Although the police forcefully pushed or kicked some patrons out of the bar, some customers released by the police performed for the crowd by posing and saluting the police in an exaggerated fashion.
When the first patrol wagon arrived, the crowd—most of whom were homosexual—had grown to at least ten times the number of people who were arrested, and they all became very quiet. Confusion over radio communication delayed the arrival of a second wagon. The police began escorting Mafia members into the first wagon, to the cheers of the bystanders. Next, regular employees were loaded into the wagon. A bystander shouted, “Gay power!”, someone began singing “We Shall Overcome”, and the crowd reacted with amusement and general good humor mixed with growing and intensive hostility. An officer shoved a transvestite, who responded by hitting him on the head with her purse as the crowd began to boo. Pennies, then beer bottles, were thrown at the wagon as a rumor spread through the crowd that patrons still inside the bar were being beaten.
A scuffle broke out when a woman in handcuffs was escorted from the door of the bar to the waiting police wagon several times. She escaped repeatedly and fought with four of the police, swearing and shouting, for about ten minutes. Described as “a typical New York butch” and “a dyke–stone butch”, she had been hit on the head by an officer with a baton for complaining that her handcuffs were too tight. Bystanders recalled that the woman, whose identity remains unknown, sparked the crowd to fight when she looked at bystanders and shouted, “Why don’t you guys do something?” After an officer picked her up and heaved her into the back of the wagon, the crowd became a mob and went “berserk.”
The police tried to restrain some of the crowd, and knocked a few people down, which incited bystanders even more. Some of those handcuffed in the wagon escaped when police left them unattended. As the crowd tried to overturn the police wagon, two police cars and the wagon—with a few slashed tires—left immediately. The commotion attracted more people who learned what was happening. Coins sailed through the air towards the police as the crowd shouted “Pigs!” and “Faggot cops!” Beer cans were thrown and the police lashed out, dispersing some of the crowd who found a construction site nearby with stacks of bricks. The police, outnumbered by between 500 and 600 people, grabbed several people. Ten police officers—including two policewomen—barricaded themselves and several handcuffed detainees inside the Stonewall Inn for their own safety.
The Mattachine Society newsletter a month later offered its explanation of why the riots occurred: “It catered largely to a group of people who are not welcome in, or cannot afford, other places of homosexual social gathering… The Stonewall became home to these kids. When it was raided, they fought for it. That, and the fact that they had nothing to lose other than the most tolerant and broadminded gay place in town, explains why.”
Garbage cans, garbage, bottles, rocks, and bricks were hurled at the building, breaking the windows. Witnesses attest that “flame queens”, hustlers, and gay “street kids”—the most outcast people in the gay community—were responsible for the first volley of projectiles, as well as the uprooting of a parking meter used as a battering ram on the doors of the Stonewall Inn.
The mob lit garbage on fire and stuffed it through the broken windows as the police grabbed a fire hose. Because it had no water pressure, the hose was ineffective in dispersing the crowd, and seemed only to encourage them. When demonstrators broke through the windows—which had been covered by plywood by the bar owners to deter the police from raiding the bar—the police inside unholstered their pistols. The doors flew open and officers pointed their weapons at the angry crowd, threatening to shoot. The Village Voice writer Howard Smith, watched someone squirt lighter fluid into the bar; as it was lit and the police took aim, sirens were heard and fire trucks arrived. The onslaught had lasted 45 minutes.
The Tactical Patrol Force (TPF) of the New York City Police Department arrived to free the police trapped inside the Stonewall. Police detained anyone they could and put them in patrol wagons to go to jail.
The TPF formed a phalanx and attempted to clear the streets by marching slowly and pushing the crowd back. The mob openly mocked the police. The crowd cheered, started impromptu kick lines, and sang to the tune of Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay:
“We are the Stonewall girls
We wear our hair in curls
We don’t wear underwear
We show our pubic hair.”
Craig Rodwell, owner of the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop, reported watching police chase participants through the crooked streets, only to see them appear around the next corner behind the police. Members of the mob stopped cars, overturning one of them to block Christopher Street.
By 4:00 in the morning the streets had nearly been cleared. Many people sat on stoops or gathered nearby in Christopher Park throughout the morning, dazed in disbelief at what had transpired. Thirteen people had been arrested. Some in the crowd were hospitalized, and four police officers were injured. Almost everything in the Stonewall Inn was broken.
During the siege of the Stonewall, Craig Rodwell called The New York Times, the New York Post, and the Daily News to inform them what was happening. All three papers covered the riots; the Daily News placed coverage on the front page. News of the riot spread quickly throughout Greenwich Village. All day Saturday, June 28, people came to stare at the burned and blackened Stonewall Inn. Graffiti appeared on the walls of the bar, declaring “Drag power”, “They invaded our rights”, “Support gay power”, and “Legalize gay bars”, and “We are open.”
The next night, rioting again surrounded Christopher Street. Many of the same people returned from the previous evening but they were joined by “police provocateurs”, curious bystanders, and even tourists. Remarkable to many was the sudden exhibition of homosexual affection in public.
Thousands of people had gathered in front of the Stonewall, which had opened again, choking Christopher Street until the crowd spilled into adjoining blocks. As on the previous evening, fires were started in garbage cans throughout the neighborhood. More than a hundred police were present from the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Ninth Precincts, but after 2:00 a.m. the TPF arrived again. Kick lines and police chases waxed and waned; when police captured demonstrators, whom the majority of witnesses described as “sissies” or “swishes”, the crowd surged to recapture them. Street battling ensued again until 4:00 a.m.
Activity in Greenwich Village was sporadic on Monday and Tuesday, partly due to rain. Police and Village residents had a few altercations, as both groups antagonized each other. Craig Rodwell and his partner Fred Sargeant took the opportunity the morning after the first riot to print and distribute 5,000 leaflets, one of them reading: “Get the Mafia and the Cops out of Gay Bars.” The leaflets called for gays to own their own establishments, for a boycott of the Stonewall and other Mafia-owned bars, and for public pressure on the mayor’s office to investigate the “intolerable situation”.
Not everyone in the gay community considered the revolt a positive development. To many older homosexuals and many members of the Mattachine Society who had worked throughout the 1960s to promote homosexuals as no different from heterosexuals, the display of violence and effeminate behavior was embarrassing. Others found the closing of the Stonewall Inn, termed a “sleaze joint”, as advantageous to the Village.
On Wednesday, however, The Village Voice ran reports of the riots, written by Howard Smith and Lucian Truscott, that included unflattering descriptions of the events and its participants: “forces of faggotry”, “limp wrists”, and “Sunday fag follies”. A mob descended upon Christopher Street once again and threatened to burn down the offices of The Village Voice. Also in the mob of between 500 and 1,000 were other groups that had had unsuccessful confrontations with the police, and were curious how the police were defeated in this situation. Another explosive street battle took place, with injuries to demonstrators and police alike, looting in local shops, and arrests of five people. The incidents on Wednesday night lasted about an hour.
The feeling of urgency spread throughout Greenwich Village, even to people who had not witnessed the riots. Many who were moved by the rebellion attended organizational meetings, sensing an opportunity to take action.
Raids on gay bars did not stop after the Stonewall riots. In March 1970, Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine raided the Zodiac and 17 Barrow Street. An after-hours gay club with no liquor or occupancy licenses called The Snake Pit was soon raided, and 167 people were arrested. One of them was Diego Viñales, an Argentinian national so frightened that he might be deported as a homosexual that he tried to escape the police precinct by jumping out of a two-story window, impaling himself on a 14-inch spike fence. The New York Daily News printed a graphic photo of the young man’s impalement on the front page. A march was organized from Christopher Park to the Sixth Precinct in which hundreds of gays, lesbians, and liberal sympathizers peacefully confronted the TPF. They also sponsored a letter-writing campaign to Mayor Lindsay in which the Greenwich Village Democratic Party and Congressman Ed Koch sent pleas to end raids on gay bars in the city.
The Stonewall Inn lasted only a few weeks after the riot. By October 1969 it was up for rent. Village residents surmised it was too notorious a location, and Rodwell’s boycott discouraged business.
Christopher Street Liberation Day on June 28, 1970 marked the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots with an assembly on Christopher Street; with simultaneous Gay Pride marches in Los Angeles and Chicago, these were the first Gay Pride marches in U.S. history. The next year, Gay Pride marches took place in Boston, Dallas, Milwaukee, London, Paris, West Berlin, and Stockholm. The march in New York covered 51 blocks, from Christopher Street to Central Park. The march took less than half the scheduled time due to excitement, but also due to wariness about walking through the city with gay banners and signs. Although the parade permit was delivered only two hours before the start of the march, the marchers encountered little resistance from onlookers. The New York Times reported (on the front page) that the marchers took up the entire street for about 15 city blocks. Reporting by The Village Voice was positive, describing “the out-front resistance that grew out of the police raid on the Stonewall Inn one year ago”.
By 1972, the participating cities included Atlanta, Buffalo, Detroit, Washington, D.C., Miami, Minneapolis, and Philadelphia, as well as San Francisco.
The Stonewall riots brought pivotal change. The image of gays retaliating against police, after so many years of allowing such treatment to go unchallenged, “stirred an unexpected spirit among many homosexuals”. Within two years of the Stonewall riots, there were gay rights groups in every major American city, as well as Canada, Australia, and Western Europe.
The events of the early morning of June 28, 1969 were not the first instances of homosexuals fighting back against police in New York City and elsewhere. The most significant facet of the Stonewall riots, however, was the commemoration of them in Christopher Street Liberation Day, which grew into the annual Gay Pride events around the world.
In June 1999, the U.S. Department of the Interior designated 51 and 53 Christopher Street and the surrounding streets as a National Historic Landmark, the first of significance to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. In a dedication ceremony, Assistant Secretary of the Department of the Interior John Berry stated, “Let it forever be remembered that here—on this spot—men and women stood proud, they stood fast, so that we may be who we are, we may work where we will, live where we choose and love whom our hearts desire.” The Stonewall Inn itself was named a National Historic Landmark in 2000.
On June 1, 2009, President Barack Obama declared June 2009 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, citing the riots as a reason to “commit to achieving equal justice under law for LGBT Americans”.The year marked the 40th anniversary of the riots, giving journalists and activists cause to reflect on progress made since 1969. Two years later, the Stonewall Inn served as a rallying point for celebrations after the New York Senate voted to pass same-sex marriage. The act was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on June 24, 2011. Obama also referenced the Stonewall riots in a call for full equality during his second inaugural address on January 21, 2013:
“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths—that all of us are created equal—is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall…. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law—for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”
This was a historic moment, being the first time that a president mentioned gay rights or the word “gay” in an inaugural address.
In 2014, a marker dedicated to the Stonewall riots was included in the Legacy Walk, an outdoor public display in Chicago celebrating LGBT history and people.
On June 23, 2015, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously approved the designation of the Stonewall Inn as a city landmark, making it the first landmark honored for its role in the fight for gay rights.
The Stonewall Book Award is a set of three literary awards that annually recognize “exceptional merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender experience” in English-language books published in the U.S.
On June 24, 2016, President Obama announced the establishment of the Stonewall National Monument, a 7.7-acre site to be administered by the National Park Service. The designation, which followed transfer of city parkland to the federal government, protects Christopher Park and adjacent areas totaling more than seven acres; the Stonewall Inn is within the boundaries of the monument but remains privately owned.
Harvey Bernard Milk (May 22, 1930 – November 27, 1978) was an American politician and the first openly gay elected official in the history of California, where he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
After graduation, Milk joined the United States Navy during the Korean War. He served aboard the submarine rescue ship USS Kittiwake as a diving officer. He later transferred to Naval Station, San Diego to serve as a diving instructor. In 1955, he was discharged from the Navy at the rank of lieutenant, junior grade.
In 1972, Milk moved from New York City to the Castro District of San Francisco amid a migration of gay and bisexual men. He took advantage of the growing political and economic power of the neighborhood to promote his interests and unsuccessfully ran three times for political office. Milk’s theatrical campaigns earned him increasing popularity, and in 1977 he won a seat as a city supervisor.
Milk served almost eleven months in office and was responsible for passing a stringent gay rights ordinance for San Francisco. On November 27, 1978, Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by Dan White, who was another city supervisor. White had recently resigned to pursue a private business enterprise, but that endeavor eventually failed and he sought to get his old job back. White was sentenced to seven years in prison for manslaughter, which was later reduced to five years. He was released in 1983 and committed suicide by carbon monoxide inhalation two years later.
Milk and his lover at the time, Scott Smith, opened a camera store on Castro Street. Milk became more interested in political and civic matters when he was faced with civic problems and policies he disliked. In 1973, Milk decided that the time had come to run for city supervisor. At first, his inexperience showed, but Milk’s fiery, flamboyant speeches and savvy media skills earned him a significant amount of press during the 1973 election. He earned 16,900 votes—sweeping the Castro District and other liberal neighborhoods and coming in 10th place out of 32 candidates.
From early in his political career, Milk displayed an affinity for building coalitions. Milk found a strong political ally in organized labor, and it was around this time that he began to style himself “The Mayor of Castro Street”. Milk and a few other gay business owners founded the Castro Village Association, with Milk as the president. Milk organized the Castro Street Fair in 1974 to attract more customers to the area.
Milk again ran for supervisor in 1975, earning the support of the teamsters, firefighters, and construction unions. Milk came in seventh place in the election, only one position away from earning a supervisor seat.
Newly elected Mayor George Moscone appointed Milk to the Board of Permit Appeals in 1976, making him the first openly gay city commissioner in the United States. Milk spent five weeks on the Board of Permit Appeals before Moscone was forced to fire him when Milk announced he would run for the California State Assembly. Milk’s campaign was run from the storefront of Castro Camera. The race was close, and Milk lost by fewer than 4,000 votes. In the wake of his loss, Milk co-founded the San Francisco Gay Democratic Club.
In November 1976, Milk qualified as the leading candidate for supervisor in District 5, surrounding Castro Street. On election day, November 8, 1977, Milk won by 30% against sixteen other candidates. Since the race for the California State Assembly, Milk had been receiving increasingly violent death threats. Concerned that his raised profile marked him as a target for assassination, he recorded on tape his thoughts, and whom he wanted to succeed him if he were killed, adding:
“If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door”.
Milk’s swearing-in made national headlines, as he became the first non-incumbent openly gay man in the United States to win an election for public office. Milk was often willing to vote against the more tenured members of the board. In one controversy early in his term, Milk agreed with fellow Supervisor Dan White, whose district was located two miles south of the Castro, that a mental health facility for troubled adolescents should not be placed there. After Milk learned more about the facility, he decided to switch his vote, ensuring White’s loss on the issue—a particularly poignant cause that White championed while campaigning. White did not forget it. He opposed every initiative and issue Milk supported.
Milk began his tenure by sponsoring a civil rights bill that outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation. Only Supervisor White voted against it; Mayor Moscone enthusiastically signed it into law with a light blue pen that Milk had given him for the occasion.
On November 10, 1978 (10 months after he was sworn in), White resigned his position on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, saying that his annual salary of $9,600 was not enough to support his family. Within days, White requested that his resignation be withdrawn and he be reinstated, and Mayor Moscone initially agreed. However, further consideration—and intervention by other supervisors—convinced Moscone to appoint someone more in line with the growing ethnic diversity of White’s district and the liberal leanings of the Board of Supervisors.
Moscone planned to announce White’s replacement on November 27, 1978. A half hour before the press conference, White avoided metal detectors by entering City Hall through a basement window and went to Moscone’s office, where White shot Moscone in the shoulder and chest, then twice in the head. White then found Milk and shot him five times, including twice in the head. Moscone was 49. Milk was 48 years old.
Many people left flowers on the steps of City Hall, and that evening 25,000 to 40,000 formed a spontaneous candlelight march from Castro Street to City Hall. The next day, the bodies of Moscone and Milk were brought to the City Hall rotunda where mourners paid their respects
Dan White was charged with two counts of murder and held without bail, eligible for the death penalty owing to the recent passage of a statewide proposition that allowed death or life in prison for the murder of a public official. His arrest and trial caused a sensation and illustrated severe tensions between the liberal population and the city police. The San Francisco Police were mostly working-class Irish descendants who intensely disliked the growing gay immigration as well as the liberal direction of the city government. After White turned himself in and confessed, he sat in his cell while his former colleagues on the police force told Harvey Milk jokes; police openly wore “Free Dan White” T-shirts in the days after the murder. White showed no remorse for his actions, and exhibited vulnerability only during an eight-minute call to his mother from jail.
The jury for White’s trial consisted of white middle-class San Franciscans who were mostly Catholic; gays and ethnic minorities were excused from the jury pool. White’s defense attorney argued that his client was not responsible for his actions, using the legal defense known as diminished capacity, arguing that “Good people, fine people, with fine backgrounds, simply don’t kill people in cold blood” and tried to prove that White’s anguished mental state was a result of manipulation by the politicos in City Hall . He also argued that White’s mental deterioration was exacerbated by his junk food binge the night before the murders, since he was usually known to have been health-food conscious. Area newspapers quickly dubbed it the Twinkie defense. (The “Twinkie defense” has entered American mythology, popularly described as a case where a murderer escapes justice because he binged on junk food.)
White was acquitted of the first degree murder charge on May 21, 1979, but found guilty of voluntary manslaughter of both victims, and he was sentenced to serve seven and two-thirds years. With the sentence reduced for time served and good behavior, he would be released in five. When the verdict was announced, a surge of people from the Castro District walked to City Hall, chanting “Avenge Harvey Milk” and “He got away with murder”. Pandemonium rapidly escalated as rocks were hurled at the front doors of the building. The mob of more than 3,000 lit police cars on fire and shoved a burning newspaper dispenser through the broken doors of City Hall. The White Night riots, as they became known, lasted several hours. Later that evening, several police cruisers filled with officers wearing riot gear arrived at the Elephant Walk Bar on Castro Street. Officers stormed into the bar and began to beat patrons at random. After a 15-minute melee, they left the bar and struck out at people walking along the street. The chief of police finally ordered the officers out of the neighborhood. By morning, 61 police officers and 100 rioters and gay residents of the Castro had been hospitalized. City Hall, police cruisers, and the Elephant Walk Bar suffered damages in excess of $1,000,000.
Dan White served a little more than five years for the double homicide of Moscone and Milk. On October 21, 1985 (a year and a half after his release from prison), White was found dead by carbon monoxide poisoning in a running car in his ex-wife’s garage. He was 39 years old.
In the last year of his life,
Milk emphasized that gay people should be more visible to help to end the discrimination and violence against them. Although Milk had not come out to his mother before her death many years before, in his final statement during his taped prediction of his assassination, he urged others to do so:
“I cannot prevent anyone from getting angry, or mad, or frustrated. I can only hope that they’ll turn that anger and frustration and madness into something positive, so that two, three, four, five hundred will step forward, so the gay doctors will come out, the gay lawyers, the gay judges, gay bankers, gay architects … I hope that every professional gay will say ‘enough’, come forward and tell everybody, wear a sign, let the world know. Maybe that will help.”
The City of San Francisco has paid tribute to Milk by naming several locations after him. Where Market and Castro streets intersect in San Francisco flies an enormous Gay Pride flag, situated in Harvey Milk Plaza. The San Francisco Gay Democratic Club changed its name to the Harvey Milk Memorial Gay Democratic Club in 1978 (it is currently named the Harvey Milk Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Democratic Club) and boasts that it is the largest Democratic organization in San Francisco. In New York City, Harvey Milk High School is a school program for at-risk youth that concentrates on the needs of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students and operates out of the Hetrick Martin Institute.
In 1982, freelance reporter Randy Shilts completed his first book: a biography of Milk, titled The Mayor of Castro Street.
The Times of Harvey Milk, a documentary film based on the book’s material, won the 1984 Academy Award for Documentary Feature.
Milk’s life has been the subject of a musical theater production; an eponymous opera; a cantata;a children’s picture book; a French-language historical novel for young-adult readers; and the biopic Milk, released in 2008 after 15 years in the making. The film won two Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor. It took eight weeks to film, and often used extras who had been present at the actual events for large crowd scenes, including a scene depicting Milk’s “Hope Speech” at the 1978 Gay Freedom Day Parade.
Milk was included in the “Time 100 Heroes and Icons of the 20th Century” as “a symbol of what gays can accomplish and the dangers they face in doing so”.
The Advocate listed Milk third in their “40 Heroes” of the 20th century issue.
Since 2003, the story of Harvey Milk has been featured in three exhibitions created by the GLBT Historical Society, a San Francisco–based museum, archives, and research center, to which the estate of Scott Smith donated Milk’s personal belongings that were preserved after his death.
In August 2009, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Milk the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contribution to the gay rights movement stating “he fought discrimination with visionary courage and conviction”. Milk’s nephew Stuart accepted for his uncle. Shortly after, Stuart co-founded the Harvey Milk Foundation with Anne Kronenberg with the support of Desmond Tutu, co-recipient of 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom and now a member of the Foundation’s Advisory Board. Later in the year, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger designated May 22 as “Harvey Milk Day”, and inducted Milk in the California Hall of Fame.
In 2012, Milk was inducted into the Legacy Walk, an outdoor public display which celebrates LGBT history and people.
On May 22, 2014, the United States Postal Service issued a postage stamp honoring Harvey Milk, the first openly LGBT political official to receive this honor. The stamp features a photo taken in front of Milk’s Castro Camera store and was unveiled on what would have been his 84th
In July 2016, US Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus advised Congress that he intended to name the second ship of the Military Sealift Command’s John Lewis-class oilers, USNS Harvey Milk. All ships of the class are to be named after civil rights leaders.
Christine Jorgensen (May 30, 1926 – May 3, 1989) was an American trans woman who was the first person to become widely known in the United States for having sex reassignment surgery.
Jorgensen was born under the name George William Jorgensen Jr., the second child of carpenter and contractor George William Jorgensen Sr. and his wife Florence Davis Hansen. She grew up in the Belmont neighborhood of the Bronx, New York City, and later described herself as having been a “frail, blond, introverted little boy who ran from fistfights and rough-and-tumble games”.
Jorgensen graduated from Christopher Columbus High School in 1945 and shortly afterward was drafted into the U.S. Army at the age of 19. After being discharged from the army, Jorgensen attended Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica, New York; the Progressive School of Photography in New Haven, Connecticut; and the Manhattan Medical and Dental Assistant School in New York City. She also worked briefly for Pathé News.
Returning to New York after her military service ended, Jorgensen began taking estrogen in the form of ethinylestradiol and researching sex reassignment surgery with the help of Dr. Joseph Angelo, the husband of a classmate at the Manhattan Medical and Dental Assistant School. Jorgensen intended to go to Sweden which was, at the time, the the only place in the world where doctors performed the surgery. During a stopover in Copenhagen to visit relatives, she met Dr. Christian Hamburger, a Danish endocrinologist and specialist in rehabilitative hormonal therapy. Jorgensen stayed in Denmark and underwent hormone replacement therapy under Dr. Hamburger’s direction. She chose the name Christine in honor of Dr. Hamburger.
She obtained special permission from the Danish Minister of Justice to undergo a series of operations in that country. On September 24, 1951, surgeons at Gentofte Hospital in Copenhagen performed an orchiectomy on Jorgensen. In a letter to friends on October 8, 1951, she referred to how the surgery affected her:
“As you can see by the enclosed photos, taken just before the operation, I have changed a great deal. But it is the other changes that are so much more important. Remember the shy, miserable person who left America? Well, that person is no more and, as you can see, I’m in marvelous spirits.”
In November 1952, doctors at Copenhagen University Hospital performed a penectomy. She then returned to the United States and eventually obtained a vaginoplasty when the procedure became available there. The vaginoplasty was performed under the direction of Dr. Angelo, with Harry Benjamin as a medical adviser. Later, in the preface of Jorgensen’s autobiography, Harry Benjamin gave Christine credit for the advancement of his studies.
New York Daily News ran a front-page story on December 1, 1952 under the headline “Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Beauty”, announcing (incorrectly) that Jorgensen had become the recipient of the first “sex change”. (This type of surgery had previously been performed by German doctors in the late 1920s and early 1930s. What was different in Jorgensen’s case was the added prescription of female hormones.)
Jorgensen was an instant celebrity when she returned to New York in February 1953. The first authorized account of her story was written by Jorgensen herself in a February 1953 issue of The American Weekly, titled “The Story of My Life”. The publicity created a platform for her, and she used it to advocate for transgender people.
In 1959 Christine announced her engagement to typist Howard J. Knox in Massapequa Park, New York, where her father had built her a house in Massapequa, NY after her reassignment surgery. However, the couple was unable to obtain a marriage license because Jorgensen’s birth certificate listed her as male. In a report about the broken engagement, The New York Times noted that Knox had lost his job in Washington, D.C. when his engagement to Jorgensen became known.
In 1967, Jorgensen moved to California. It was also during this same year that Jorgensen published her autobiography Christine Jorgensen: A Personal Autobiography, which chronicled her life experiences as a trans woman and included her own personal perspectives on major events in her life.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Jorgensen toured university campuses and other venues to speak about her experiences. Jorgensen also worked as an actress and nightclub entertainer and recorded several songs. At the end of one of her cabaret acts, she would make a quick change into a Wonder Woman costume. Warner Communications, owners of the Wonder Woman character’s copyright, became aware of this and demanded that she stop using the character; she complied and, instead, began using a new character of her own invention, Superwoman, who was marked by the inclusion of a large letter S on her cape. Jorgensen continued her act, performing at Clubs in Manhattan and Hollywood.
Jorgensen died in 1989 of bladder and lung cancer, four weeks short of her 63rd birthday. Her ashes were scattered off Dana Point, California.
Jorgensen’s highly publicized transition helped bring to light gender identity and shaped a new culture of more inclusive ideas and accepting notions about the subject.
As a transgender spokesperson and public figure, Jorgensen influenced and inspired other transgender people and helped bring about greater awareness that Gender was not the set binary as people once thought.
In 2012 Jorgensen was inducted into the Legacy Walk, an outdoor public display which celebrates LGBT history and people.
Technical Sergeant Leonard P. Matlovich (July 6, 1943 – June 22, 1988) was a Vietnam War veteran, race relations instructor, and recipient of the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.
Matlovich was the first gay service member to purposely out himself to the military to fight their ban on gays in the 1970s. His fight to stay in the United States Air Force after coming out of the closet became a cause célèbre around which the gay community rallied. His case resulted in articles in newspapers and magazines throughout the country, numerous television interviews, and a television movie on NBC. His photograph appeared on the cover of the September 8, 1975 issue of Time magazine, making him a symbol for thousands of gay and lesbian service members and gay people generally. Matlovich was the first named openly gay person to appear on the cover of a U.S. newsmagazine. In October 2006, Matlovich was honored by LGBT History Month as a leader in the history of the LGBT community.
Born at Hunter Air Force Base in Savannah, Georgia, Matlovich was the only son of a career Air Force sergeant. Not long after he enlisted, at 19, the United States increased military action in Vietnam. Matlovich volunteered for service in Vietnam and served three tours of duty. He was seriously wounded when he stepped on a landmine in Da Nang.
While stationed in Florida near Fort Walton Beach, he began frequenting gay bars in nearby Pensacola. In 1973, when he was 30, he slept with another man for the first time and “came out” to his friends, but continued to conceal the fact from his commanding officer. As an opponent of racism, he volunteered to teach Air Force Race Relations classes, which had been created in response to several racial incidents in the military in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He became so successful that the Air Force sent him around the country to coach other instructors. Matlovich gradually came to believe that the discrimination faced by gays was similar to that faced by African Americans.
In March 1974, previously unaware of the organized gay movement, he read an interview in the Air Force Times with gay activist Frank Kameny, who had counseled several gays in the military over the years. He contacted Kameny, who told him he had long been looking for a gay service member with a perfect record to create a test case to challenge the military’s ban on gays. Four months later, he met with Kameny at the longtime activist’s Washington, D.C. home. After several months of discussion with Kameny and ACLU attorney David Addlestone during which they formulated a plan, he hand-delivered a letter to his Langley AFB commanding officer on March 6, 1975. When his commander asked, “What does this mean?” Matlovich replied, “It means Brown versus the Board of Education” – a reference to the 1954 landmark Supreme Court case outlawing racial segregation in public schools.
At that time, the Air Force had a fairly ill-defined exception clause that could allow gays to continue to serve if there were extenuating circumstances. These circumstances might include being immature or drunk, exemplary service, or a one-time experimentation (known sarcastically as the “Queen for a day” rule). During Matlovich’s September 1975 administrative discharge hearing, an Air Force attorney asked him if he would sign a document pledging to “never practice homosexuality again” in exchange for being allowed to remain in the Air Force. Matlovich refused. Despite his exemplary military record, tours of duty in Vietnam, and high performance evaluations, the panel ruled Matlovich unfit for service, and he was recommended for a General discharge (less than an Honorable discharge.) The base commander, Alton J. Thogersen, citing Matlovich’s service record, recommended that it be upgraded to Honorable. The Secretary of the Air Force agreed, confirming Matlovich’s discharge in October 1975.
Matlovich sued for reinstatement, but the legal process was a long one, with the case moving back and forth between United States District and Circuit Courts. When, by September 1980, the Air Force had failed to provide U.S. District Court Judge Gerhard Gesell an explanation of why Matlovich did not meet its criteria for exception (which by then had been eliminated but still could have applied to him), Gesell ordered him reinstated into the Air Force and promoted. The Air Force offered Matlovich a financial settlement instead. Convinced that the military would find some other reason to discharge him if he re-entered the service, or that the conservative Supreme Court would rule against him should the Air Force appeal, Matlovich accepted. The figure, based on back pay, future pay, and pension, was $160,000. In 1981, he moved to the Russian River town of Guerneville, where he used the proceeds of his settlement to open a pizza restaurant.
With the outbreak of HIV/AIDS in the U.S. in the late 1970s, Matlovich’s personal life was caught up in the hysteria about the virus that peaked in the 1980s. He sold his Guerneville restaurant in 1984, moving to Europe for a few months where, during a visit to the joint grave of lovers Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, and the grave of gay writer Oscar Wilde in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France, he got the idea for a gay memorial in the United States. He returned briefly to Washington, D.C., in 1985 and, then, to San Francisco where he sold Ford cars and once again became heavily involved in gay rights causes and the fight for adequate HIV/AIDS education and treatment.
In September of 1986, Matlovich was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. He was among the first to receive AZT treatments, but his prognosis was not encouraging. He went on disability benefits and became a champion for HIV/AIDS research for the disease which was claiming tens of thousands of lives in the Bay Area and nationally. He announced on Good Morning America in 1987 that he had contracted HIV, and was arrested with other demonstrators in front of the White House that June, protesting the inadequate response to HIV/AIDS by the administration of President Ronald Reagan.
Despite his deteriorating health, he tearfully made his last public speech on May 7, 1988, in front of the California State Capitol during the March on Sacramento for Gay and Lesbian Rights:
“...And I want you to look at the flag, our rainbow flag, and I want you to look at it with pride in your heart, because we too have a dream. And what is our dream? Ours is more than an American dream. It’s a universal dream. Because in South Africa, we’re black and white, and in Northern Ireland, we’re Protestant and Catholic, and in Israel we’re Jew and Muslim. And our mission is to reach out and teach people to love, and not to hate. And you know the reality of the situation is that before we as an individual meet, the only thing we have in common is our sexuality. And in the AIDS crisis – and I have AIDS – and in the AIDS crisis, if there is any one word that describes our community’s reaction to AIDS, that word is love, love, love.”
On June 22, 1988, less than a month before his 45th birthday, Matlovich died in Los Angeles of complications from HIV/AIDS. His tombstone, meant to be a memorial to all gay veterans, does not bear his name. It reads:
“When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”
Recognizing military officials would not allow such a marker in Arlington Cemetery, Matlovich chose a gravesite in Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
Before his death, Matlovich donated his personal papers and memorabilia to the GLBT Historical Society, a museum, archives and research center in San Francisco. The society has featured Matlovich’s story in two exhibitions: “Out Ranks: GLBT Military Service From World War II to the Iraq War”, which opened in June 2007 at the society’s South of Market gallery space, and “Our Vast Queer Past: Celebrating San Francisco’s GLBT History“, which opened in January 2011 at the society’s GLBT History Museum in the Castro District.
A bronze plaque in his memory was installed near the entrance of the apartment in which he once lived at the corner of 18th and Castro Streets in San Francisco. In October 2012, another, larger bronze memorial plaque was installed on Chicago’s Halsted Street as a part of the Legacy Walk, an “outdoor museum” of LGBT historical figures including Harvey Milk, Oscar Wilde, Barbara Gittings, Bayard Rustin, and Alan Turing.
San Francisco resident Michael Bedwell, a close friend and the original executor of Matlovich’s estate, created a website in honor of Matlovich and other gay U.S. veterans. The site includes a history of the ban on gays and bisexuals in the U.S. military both before and after its transformation into “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, and illustrates the role that gay veterans fighting the ban played in the earliest development of the gay rights movement in the United States.
Fred “Fritz” Klein (December 27, 1932 – May 24, 2006) was an Austrian-born American psychiatrist and sex researcher who studied bisexuals and their relationships. He was an author and editor, as well as the developer of the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid, a scale that measures an individual’s sexual orientation. Klein believed that sexual orientation changed over the course of a lifetime and that researches underestimated the number of men that had sexual interactions with both sexes. Fritz Klein founded the American Institute of Bisexuality in 1998 which is continuing his work by sponsoring bi-inclusive sex research, educating the general public on sexuality, and promoting bi culture and bi community.
Klein was born in Vienna, Austria, to Orthodox Jewish parents. He and his family fled to New York when he was a child, to escape anti-Semitism. He received a BA from Yeshiva University in 1953, and an MBA from Columbia University in 1955. He studied medicine at University of Bern in Switzerland for six years, receiving his MD in 1961. He practiced as a psychiatrist in New York City in the 1970s.
Self-identified as bisexual, Klein was surprised at the lack of literature on his sexuality in the New York Public Library in 1974. That year he founded the Bisexual Forum, the first support group for the bisexual community. He devised the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid, a multi-dimensional system for describing complex sexual orientation, similar to the “zero-to-six” scale Kinsey scale used by Alfred Kinsey, but measuring seven different vectors of sexual orientation and identity (sexual attractions, sexual behavior, sexual fantasies, emotional preference, social preference, lifestyle and self-identification) separately, as they relate person’s past, present and ideal future.
Klein published The Bisexual Option: A Concept of One Hundred Percent Intimacy in 1978, based on his research, the world’s first real psychological study of bisexuality. He also co-authored The Male, His Body, His Sex in 1978. Klein moved to San Diego in 1982. He published Bisexualities: Theory and Research in 1986. In 1998 he founded the American Institute of Bisexuality (AIB), also known as the Bisexual Foundation, to encourage, support and assist research and education about bisexuality. Klein also founded the Journal of Bisexuality. He remained the Journal’s principal editor until his death. He published Bisexual and Gay Husbands: Their Stories, Their Words in 2001. Klein published a novel, Life, Sex and the Pursuit of Happiness in 2005.
In 2006 Klein was diagnosed with cancer, and underwent surgery as a result. Although expected to die from cancer in a matter of months, Fritz Klein instead died at home in San Diego, California, from cardiac arrest aged 73. He was survived by two brothers and his life partner, Tom Reise. Klein donated his body to science.
New York City’s first ever Pride March was held on Sunday, June 28, 1970 (the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall uprising), and, much to the organizers’ surprise, attracted thousands of participants. Known at the time as the Christopher Street Liberation Day March, the route began on Washington Place between Sheridan Square and Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village, moved north up Sixth Avenue, and ended with a “Gay-In” in Central Park’s Sheep Meadow.
At the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall uprising on Sunday, June 28, 1970, a group headed by Craig Rodwell, owner of the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop, led what became the first annual NYC Pride March (then known as the Christopher Street Liberation Day March). Rodwell had been an organizer of the annual Fourth of July Reminder Day demonstrations in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, from 1965 to 1969. Among the earliest significant LGBT protests in the United States, these were held to highlight the community’s lack of basic civil rights.
The last Reminder Day took place on July 4, 1969, only one day after the end of the Stonewall uprising. Rodwell chartered a bus of younger people from New York, who joined the Philadelphia demonstration but did not adhere to the strict conservative dress code, nor did they follow the “orderly” rules of conduct of previous years. It was clear that the events at Stonewall had already changed things. In October, in Rodwell’s and his boyfriend Fred Sargeant’s apartment at 350 Bleecker Street, meetings were held to discuss an action to replace the Reminder Days. In attendance were Ellen Broidy, Linda Rhodes, and other members of the newly formed Gay Liberation Front, and activist Foster Gunnison, Jr.
At the final annual Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations (ERCHO) in Philadelphia, on November 2, 1969, the following resolution was proposed on behalf of Rodwell, representing the Homophile Youth Movement, and Broidy, of NYU’s Student Homophile League:
“That the Annual Reminder, in order to be more relevant, reach a greater number of people, and encompass the ideas and ideals of the larger struggle in which we are engaged – that of our fundamental human rights – be moved both in time and location.
We propose that a demonstration be held annually on the last Saturday in June in New York City to commemorate the 1969 spontaneous demonstrations on Christopher Street and this demonstration be called CHRISTOPHER STREET LIBERATION DAY.
No dress or age regulations shall be made for this demonstration. We also propose that we contact Homophile organizations throughout the country and suggest that they hold parallel demonstrations on that day. We propose a nationwide show of support.”
All at the meeting voted in favor except for Mattachine Society of New York, which abstained. The march ended up taking place on a Sunday, June 28, so that more people could participate. The marchers first gathered on Washington Place between Sheridan Square and Sixth Avenue. From Greenwich Village they followed a route up Sixth Avenue to Central Park, where the march ended with a “Gay-In” in the Sheep Meadow. This incredibly brave, for the time, public march ended up attracting thousands of participants, much to the surprise of the organizers. As historian Lillian Faderman commented, “Never in history had so many gay and lesbian people come together in one place and for a common endeavor.” The annual March contributed greatly to solidifying the significance of Stonewall in LGBT history.
The first marches were both serious and fun, and served to inspire the widening activist movement; they were repeated in the following years, and more and more annual marches started up in other cities throughout the world. In Atlanta and New York City and the marches were called Gay Liberation Marches, and the day of celebration was called “Gay Liberation Day”; in Los Angeles and San Francisco they became known as ‘Gay Freedom Marches’ and the day was called “Gay Freedom Day”. As more cities and even smaller towns began holding their own celebrations, these names spread.
In the 1980s, there was a cultural shift in the gay movement. Activists of a less radical nature began taking over the march committees in different cities, and they dropped “Gay Liberation” and “Gay Freedom” from the names, replacing them with “Gay Pride”.