Pride + Gratitude: a Brief Reflection

Joyce Gabiola, Head Archivist
June 7, 2021


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Images from Lambda Archives of San Diego. Pride Photo Collection (L2013.63): San Diego LGBTQ Pride Festival, 1999 (left); San Diego LGBTQ Pride Parade, 2000 (right).


A few days ago, I thought about how my relationship with Pride has differed since coming out as gay in college. At that time, Pride meant that I could be closer to my full self in public (but still unknown to my parents). It meant that I would attend the Pride festival and freely be in a crowd of people who I felt were just like me. It meant that I would march in the Pride parade as a member of a community organization or cheer from the sidewalk with my friends. As this was all in the southern part of Texas in the month of June, it also meant that I was always drenched with sweat. It also meant that, year after year, I would feel more empowered to come out to more people, including my parents, eventually. It meant that in June being gay/queer would temporarily seem mainstream rather than ‘other’. Decades later, this feeling has become the norm for me. As far as my queerness, I don’t feel so much as ‘other’ anymore. And I acknowledge that this feeling is a privilege.

About a month ago or so, I recall saying to myself, “Oh yeah, I’m queer.” It’s not that I’ve forgotten myself nor disengaged from my queerness. (I lead a LGBTQ community organization, after all.) I’ve just grown to know much more about myself in different ways, including my limitations and coping methods, and I’m much more comfortable with myself and with navigating the world as a queer person of color. When I think about how scared I was as a child that someone would find out “my secret”, I think about my own child and how I want to shield them from that feeling–that fear or sadness that emerges when one (read: a child!) feels that their family and friends will reject them, be disgusted by them, or not love them anymore for who they are.

A few days ago, as I held my 18-month old and placed them on my lap, I told them that June is known as Pride month, or LGBTQ Pride month, and that it is celebrated everywhere in different ways. Then I said to my partner that we need to buy children’s books about Stonewall. But are there any? As I’m entrenched in the world of libraries, my children’s literature librarian network has provided me with a list of titles (see below) that also include books about Stonewall specifically, not just Pride celebrations.

I didn’t learn about Stonewall until much later post-coming out, which is kind of a travesty. So I want to make sure that my child grows up knowing about the history of Pride, the spark of the LGBTQ rights movement–the uprising of Black and Brown trans women who protested police harassment. I want them to know who Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P.Johnson are before any of the U.S. presidents. I want them to know that today I don’t feel so much as ‘other’ because in 1969 Sylvia and Marsha, with others alongside them, pushed back against a system of hate and violence. Today, I don’t feel so much as ‘other’ because of you and many others who resisted and persisted before me.

In resistance, pride & gratitude, Y’ALL!
Joyce, Head Archivist


Check out this blog post on our website!
Whitewashing Stonewall: Reflections on Racism in the LGBTQ Community
by Gabrielle Garcia, a project assistant at Lambda Archives


Check out these children’s books about Pride + Stonewall!
Pride 1 2 3 (board book – up to age 3)
Michael Joosten / Illus. Wednesday Holmes
Pride Colors (board book – up to age 3)
Robin Stevenson
Our Rainbow (board book – up to age 3)
Little Bee Books
Pride Puppy (ages 3-5)
Robin Stevenson / Illus. Julie McLaughlin
Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution (picture book; ages 3-8)
Joy Michael Ellison / Illus. Teshika Silver
This Day in June (ages 4-8)
Gayle E. Pitman / Illus. Kristyna Litten
What Was Stonewall? (ages 8-12)
Nico Medina / Illus. Jake Murray
Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets (ages 9-11)
Gayle E. Pitman


Joyce Gabiola (they/them) works as the Head Archivist of Lambda Archives and a founding editor of up//root, a We Here publication. They are a queer, nonbinary Filipinx American who navigates our capitalist society with class and educational privilege. Their solo essay about countering archival under-/misrepresentation is part of the forthcoming anthology, Q&A: Voices From Queer Asian North America (Temple University Press, July 2021).

200 Years of Freedom for Whom?

200 Years of Freedom for Whom?
Red Scare and the Depoliticization of San Diego Gay Pride 1976

by Gabrielle Garcia
Published May 17, 2021

“200 Years of Freedom for Whom?” Back, Q0858, L2008.08 Gary Gulley Collection, 1976.
“200 Years of Freedom for Whom?” Front, Q0858, L2008.08 Gary Gulley Collection, 1976.



While scanning objects from an unnamed flat file drawer of miscellaneous materials from San Diego Pride events, Diversionary Theatre, and a private artist, I came across a small double-sided flyer from 1976 that immediately caught my eye. The words “200 Years of Freedom for Whom?” across the top of the first page are bold and unrelenting. As of 1976, the United States celebrated its 200th anniversary of existence, a country built and maintained by the systemic exploitation and disenfranchisement of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, women, LGBTQ folks, disabled people, immigrants, and poor and working class people. 1976 was also the year of the second permitted San Diego Pride Parade, entitled “Gay Spirit”, six years after the events at the Stonewall Inn in New York.1 LGBTQ pride marches and events across the United States were born out of the Stonewall Uprising, led by Black and brown queer and trans folks in response to homophobic, transphobic, racist, and classist police violence in 1969. It is necessary to say that LGBTQ pride owes its very existence to the most marginalized community members who frequented the Stonewall Inn, including butch lesbians, trans folks, houseless folks, sex workers, drag queens, people of color, and those at the overlaps of these identities.

Upon a closer look, this flyer reveals that in the lead up to the 1976 Gay Pride Parade, the San Diego pride commitee made decisions to prohibit any “political” signage to be used in the march, shortly thereafter prohibiting any signage pertaining to a group or organization. Such decisions were reached due to pressure by the Imperial Court de San Diego and the San Diego Tavern Guild to shut out the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP), who were accused of being too “dominating” at the 1975 pride with their signage. These decisions were intended to force SWP members as well as people of other groups, political or not, to be “just a mass of undefined people except for ‘gay pride’ at the beginning and end of the parade,” a flattening of difference and the multi-facetedness of the community for a false unity. “The Center, MCC-San Diego, MCC-Oceanside, Military Off-Limits Defense Fund, The Imperial Court of San Diego, Dignity of San Diego, and the San Diego Tavern Guild all withdrew [their participation] at the time” leading up to the march,2 in response to this flyer that was being circulated by SWP to bring attention to the hypocrisy and injustice of such behavior. Jeri Dilno, one of the pride organizers at the time—even with her own reservations about SWP’s “dominant” presence—had said that SWP “was one of the only political groups that identified LGBTQ rights as a part of their platform”.3 Such censoring, blatant targeting against SWP (despite their pro-LGBTQ platform), and coordinated attempts to depoliticize pride and LGBTQ identity are contrary to pride’s very origins and insulting to the lived realities of its most disenfranchised community members. This behavior also embodies the same conservative Cold War anti-communism that actively targeted LGBTQ folks, quashed labor unions and struggles, and destroyed millions of lives abroad through war, occupation, coups, assassinations, and sanctions.

Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Riveria, two foremothers of the Stonewall Uprising, did not commit to their activism with Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR)—a radical political collective that conducted political protest and demonstrations, held meetings, and provided housing and support to homeless LGBT youth and sex workers—to have their legacies depoliticized. The patrons of the Stonewall Inn and community members did not fight back against the police for their efforts to be depoliticized. The Stonewall Uprising was political. LGBTQ Pride is political. The issues, oppression, and violence that the most marginalized in our community face, including homelessness, poverty, police violence, immigration violence, and  military violence worldwide, are perpetuated and maintained by capitalism, colonialism, and white supremacy. The justice, life, and freedom of LGBTQ people are entwined with the justice, life, and freedom of other folks of marginalized backgrounds who are also LGBTQ. I’m reminded of a quote that encompasses this understanding:

“There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”
— Audre Lorde

LGBTQ Pride must be as multi-faceted in its protest, organizing, and celebration as its community members are. We as a community cannot be free until the most marginalized of us are free. We cannot allow such harmful divisiveness to repeat AND we must examine the ways in which privileged LGBTQ folks can actively harm other LGBTQ community members of other oppressed backgrounds. We must examine the roles that law enforcement, the military, and the Republican and Democractic parties have played historically and actively continue to play in exploiting and harming LGBTQ folks, especially BIPOC, disabled, immigrant, poor and working class, and houseless folks. Addressing the uncomfortable subject of assimilation into violent institutions, such as with the recent repeal of the military trans ban or the inclusion of LGBTQ people in American police forces, are vital to challenging the goals and direction of the broader LGBTQ community. What does it mean to gain access to inherently violent occupations and institutions that actively oppresses and disenfranchises marginalized people domestically and abroad as a member of a marginalized community? What lines do we draw? What compromises do we make? Which hypocrisies and contradictions are tolerable and which aren’t? There are no clear cut answers to these questions, but they must be reckoned with if we as a community continue to espouse goals of equity and justice.

Marchers behind a banner challenging the Bicentennial, 1976. Gary Gulley Collection (P109.007), Lambda Archives of San Diego.
“Gay Spirit” button, 1976. Button and Pin Collection, Lambda Archives of San Diego.4




1“1976 ‘Gay Spirit,’” San Diego Pride Timeline, Out on the Left Coast, last modified October 11, 2017, https://sdpride.sdsu.edu/gay-spirit/#.
2“1976,” San Diego Pride, last modified June 5, 2020, https://sdpride.org/year1976/.
3San Diego Pride, “Jeri Dilno, ‘1976,’” Youtube video, 02:14, posted April 3, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yqStB5wNgM.
4“1976 ‘Gay Spirit,’” San Diego Pride Timeline, Out on the Left Coast, last modified October 11, 2017, https://sdpride.sdsu.edu/gay-spirit/#.

Gabrielle Garcia (they/he/she) is a Project Assistant at Lambda Archives. He is a white Cuban Jewish non-binary butch lesbian with class and educational privilege and abolitionist left politics. Additionally, they are an artist and designer, aspiring archivist, and a 2019 graduate from Scripps College with a BA in Media Studies and two minors in Art and Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. She is interested in the intersections of art, media, film, publishing, archives, and the LGBTQ community (especially butch lesbians). They will be applying to library and information science masters programs this winter.

Whitewashing Stonewall: Reflections on Racism in the LGBTQ Community

by Gabrielle Garcia, Project Assistant
Published April 12, 2021

[ Trigger warning for discussions of antisemitism, racism, ableism, and Nazism ]

***

While inventorying materials for the California State Library (CSL) Project, I sorted through a selection of large LGBTQ pride-related posters throughout the decades and the world, coming across a Decades of Pride 1969-1989: Celebrating the Stonewall Uprising poster created for the Los Angeles Pride of 1989 (above left).1 For a poster commemorating the Stonewall Uprising—an event led by Black and brown queer and trans folks in response to homophobic, transphobic, racist, and classist police violence—there’s a lack of color in more than one way. In the poster are two white, cisgender, conventionally attractive and fit caricatures of a gay man and a lesbian sitting upon a Greek pedestal in matching white athletic clothing. The lesbian is holding up an upside down triangle, which likely references the reclamation of the (pink) triangle used in Nazi concentration camp badge coding systems (see categorization below2) as a symbol of the LGBTQ community.

Upon seeing this poster, I was immediately reminded of propaganda posters that portray the Nazi’s racist and eugenics-oriented ideal blond and blue eyed men and women. After a web search of such posters, I found the one above on the right, solidifying my discomfort with the Pride poster. The similarities between the two objects are uncanny: the outfits, the fitness caliber, the blond hair. The Decades of Pride poster has an Americanized aesthetic lens, especially evident in the man’s muscle mass and military-type haircut. Additionally, the use of the upside down triangle (especially without color pink) in relation to these white blonde caricatures comes off as insensitive and antisimetic. The poster’s focus on whiteness as representing LGBTQ pride alienates community members of color, folks of different sizes and disabilities, and Jewish people. 

On the other hand, it would be careless not to discuss the Greek podium the two individuals in the poster are sitting on, and the prominent use of Greek symbols, history, etc. in larger (white) LGBTQ culture in relation to white supermacist use of Greek art, imagery, and classics. This poster was not the first in the collection where I had seen Greek art or other classical cultural references being used in relation to the LGBTQ community. Personally, I see this connection as intending to link homosexuality to an older cultural history as a response to homophobic assertions that insist otherwise. However, Greek art and imagery has also been co-opted as symbols of whiteness and white supremacy by fascists, from the Nazi Party to America’s present day Alt-Right. For instance, Adolf Hitler thoroughly believed that Greek and Roman art was “uncontaminated by Jewish influences,”3 while the Alt-Right use Greek classics to insist that “white men are the guardians of intellectual authority, especially when such authority is perceived to be under threat from women and people of color.”4 Although the intentions are different, overlap between these meanings can occur in regards to racism. Racist LGBTQ people exist. We have seen this from Grindr bios to gay and trans Republicans and Trump supporters. 

I draw these comparisons to address the legacies and continued presence of racism and anti-Blackness in LGBTQ communities in the United States. Aesthetic and artistic choices are influenced by ideology. There are no neutral objects or choices. These comparisons are made not to diminish the persecution of LGBTQ people by Nazis and other fascists, but to acknowledge that sexuality and gender do not negate racism, ableism, classism, antisemitism, and others axises of oppression. And for an event like Pride, which is intended to celebrate all LGBTQ folks and the revolutionary legacy of the Stonewall Uprising, using a poster that harbors violent constructions of whiteness harms the community’s most vulnerable members. This hypocrisy is especially evident in a culturally diverse and liberal-leaning city like Los Angeles. If we as a community want to genuinely take pride, we must be critical of and accountable for the expressions of systemic oppression and prejudice that exists among us.


1 [Accession Number forthcoming], Lambda Archives of San Diego.
2 Image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_concentration_camp_badge and created by Wikipedia.
3 Henry Grosshans, Hitler and the Artists (1983), 86. 
4 Donna Zuckerberg, “How the Alt-Right Is Weaponizing the Classics”, Medium, October 15, 2018, https://gen.medium.com/how-the-alt-right-is-weaponizing-the-classics-d4c1c8dfcb73.


Gabrielle Garcia (they/he/she) is a Project Assistant at Lambda Archives. He is a white Cuban Jewish non-binary butch lesbian with class and educational privilege and abolitionist left politics. Additionally, they are an artist and designer, aspiring archivist, and a 2019 graduate from Scripps College with a BA in Media Studies and two minors in Art and Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. She is interested in the intersections of art, media, film, publishing, archives, and the LGBTQ community (especially butch lesbians). They will be applying to library and information science masters programs this winter.