spotlight: PRIDE long beach 34 YEARS AND COUNTING… by joel martens

stablished in October of 1983, Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride, Inc.(LBLGC), produced the first annual Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride Festival and Parade in June of 1984. The event was conceived out of a growing

need to “Increase awareness and to promote Pride and a greater sense of self-worth within the community,” as well as working to “facilitate greater cooperation, mutual respect and understanding between the lesbian and gay community and the community of Long Beach.” Visibility has always been the key to moving beyond the shadows and

the darkness of those closets we’d been forced to hide in. We and those before us, fought hard to “come out” into the light and have generations of men and women to thank for it. Precious little is known of our early leaders, the ones who took the earliest and greatest risks publicly, so as to ensure we would eventually be free of the burdens they faced. People likeHenry Gerber who in 1924, founded the Society for Human Rights in Chicago and Harry Hay, who establishedThe Mattachine Society, the first national gay rights organization in 1951. Women such as Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, who along with four other lesbian couples, founded San Francisco’s Daughters of Bilitis in 1955. José Sarria, the founder of the Imperial Court System, who in 1961 became the first openly gay candidate for office, running and winning a place on theSan Francisco Board of Supervisors.Leonard Matlovich, the Purple Heartand Bronze Star recipient who became the first service member to out himself to the military in 1975. Activist Christine Jorgenson, the first trans woman widely known in the United States for having sex reassignment surgery in the early 1950s and Sylvia Rivera, another transgender activist, founded theGay Liberation Front and theGay Activists Alliance. These are just a few of the brave souls, who through their strength and fortitude, were willing to break the bonds of bigotry. They opened those early closet doors and planted the seeds of freedom, creating a movement and establishing guidelines that would prepare for the coming fights we would face.

26 RAGE monthly | MAY 2017


Times have certainly changed since then and

we have achieved much, yet it’s interesting to note that some of the challenges we face, in this current political climate, have familiar echoes of the homophobia once commonly imposed on the LGBT community. That is why, it is still just as important now as it was back then, to remain visible and to show the world we are a united front. Pride events, though to some seem frivolous, are one of the best places to do that. Celebrations that offer a place to show our unity, to recognize community, sing its praises and to bask in the freedoms we now enjoy…And, to remember that though we have achieved much, there is still work to do. In the spirit of those who began the fight and continue to do so, all the gains we’ve made and as illustrated through the theme Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride organizer’s have chosen, it’s time to celebrate: Viva La Vida: Here’s to Life!

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