The annual Pride celebration is one of San Francisco's most popular festivities, drawing out hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ+ people, straight allies and visitors from all over the world. But before Pride became a mainstream institution endorsed by city officials, local police and corporations like Google and Facebook, it was a revolt.
Fifty years ago, on June 28, 1969, queer and trans patrons at New York's Stonewall Inn, led by trans women of color, rioted against police harassment. The chaos continued for three days, tearing up the Greenwich Village block in defiance of restrictive anti-LGBTQ+ laws and police brutality. Radical organizations sprung from the uprising: Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), led by Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, fought for the rights of trans women and gender-nonconforming people who routinely faced harassment and discrimination. The Gay Liberation Front (GLF) attempted to unite the gay rights movement with anti-capitalist, anti-war movements of the time.
KQED footage from 1973 shows an interview with vigilante group the Lavender Panthers, who armed gay people with clubs and red spray paint against police and homophobic violence. Video courtesy of KQED Archives.
The anniversary of Stonewall inspired Pride celebrations all over the country in the early '70s, but not everything was harmonious in those times. Many queer women felt alienated by the GLF's mostly male membership, as well as in mostly straight radical feminist groups. Conversely, many lesbian activists at the time discriminated against trans women, who they argued benefited from "male privilege." There was little acknowledgement of bisexual people, trans men, intersex people or non-binary people. And furthermore, many early gay rights organizations had a majority-white membership that was often tone-deaf to issues affecting queer and trans people of color.