“Come on out! Join us, bring a friend!” This joyous sentiment, spoken by Harvey Milk at the San Francisco parade for the 8th Gay Freedom Day in 1978, still resonates today. Over the past month, there have been countless events right here in Boston, and across the country, celebrating LGBTQ+ pride. In the last week of Pride Month, WGBH wanted to take the opportunity to look back on the history of the Pride movement in the United States through some broadcasts in the American Archive of Public Broadcasting.
This particular program is a sound portrait of one of the first pride parades in the United States, and captures the spirit of Pride that we still see today. Upon listening to the program, one can hear many chants and songs, some silly and lighthearted, like, “we’re here because we’re queer because we’re here because we’re queer,” and also serious, “Ain’t gonna let Anita Bryant turn us around,” referencing the famed anti-gay rights activist. Fresh off the heels of the Dade County-Miami decision, and just as the Briggs Initiative was proposed in California, sound bites and interviews in this program captures the sentiment of the LGBTQ+ movement in this moment in time.
Many of those participating in the parade were interviewed about the Briggs Initiative, also known as California Proposition 6, which would have banned gay men and lesbian women, as well as their straight allies, from working in the California public school system. This initiative was one of the most important gay rights issue in California at this time. One parade-goer states, “My friends, anyone who supports my right to be gay, can be fired, just for believing that. People think of it in terms of, it’s a gay rights issue, as opposed to being a free speech issue.” Another states, “If you’re white, male, straight, educated, and, uh, well-off, then that’s who gets the rights in this country. It’s been everyone else who’s had to go out into the streets and fight for their rights.” As is still true today, Pride parades have not only been a space for celebration, but also a space for activism, since their very beginnings.
One thing the listener notes is how diverse the interviewees are. They range from Vietnam veterans, to parents, to straight allies, to Mormons, to businessmen. There are people who believe that others are playing into gay stereotypes, and those who are completely unapologetic of their own flamboyance. There is even one man interviewed who does not even know that there is a gay pride parade happening until he is informed by the interviewer. All of these people unapologetically give their opinions on the parade, as well as gay rights, to the interviewers.
This sound portrait is only one of many broadcasts in the American Archive of Public Broadcasting that traces the LGBTQ+ movement in American history and broadcasting. As one parade-goer, Cathy Patterson, states, “Gay and straight are one and the same really, and we all have the same goal—or at least we should.”
This post was written by Olivia Hess, AAPB Intern and student at St. Lawrence University.