What Was Happening Before ‘Just be nice feminism’? Part VI: Pride Parade 1972

June 25, 1972: The first San Francisco gay pride parade ended at the City Hall steps.Photo: Greg Peterson / The Chronicle 1972

The history of various Pride Parades in 1972 shows a pattern of lesbians being sidelined and excluded by men in favour of transvestites and transsexuals.

Previous parts available here: 1234 and 5.

General Pride Parades

By 1971 lesbians were taking public stands and boycotting Pride over the attempted inclusion of males in their definition and spaces. This continued into 1972 where there were attempts to get women on side and fears were still being expressed that lesbians would boycott. Indeed, in 1972 ‘lesbian separatism challenged the gay movement at Christopher Street West’ New York.1 While the transsexual Angela Keyes Douglas reported regarding the 1972 San Francisco parade that ‘According to statements appearing recently in the gay press, gay women have generally denounced the parade as being “male-oriented” and are not in support of it’.2 Douglas downplayed and omitted the role of transvestites/transsexuals/drag queens in the lesbians’ decision. We find evidence for this in later reports although the women’s voices have mostly been removed from the historical record. The inclusion of heterosexual males mocking women’s oppression or claiming to be women in a gay pride parade had not always been accepted. Douglas related that ‘In the earlier parades, both in New York and in LA, many gays demanded that transvestites and transexuals not be permitted to participate, and led to the formation of transvestite and transexual militant groups’3. Douglas indicated that from the beginning saying no to transvestites and transsexuals had led to threats of violence and armed gangs. Still, transvestites/transsexuals/drag queens ignored requests from pride organisers and Douglas detailed how ‘In New York, although TVs/TSs were NOT permitted to march by parade organizers, Lee Brewster’s Queens Liberation Front marched anyway’.4

Douglas dismissed the role of lesbians such as Storme DeLarverie’s in sparking the Stonewall riots and claimed that ‘Ironically, the Stonewall riots were fought mostly by transvestites and transexuals—the “effeminate” types. At one point, queens wrote “butches, where are you now that we need you?” on the sidewalks during the riots. (They come out once a year on June 25…)’.5 The removal of women from history and re-writing of events had begun swiftly. One way a group is oppressed and exploited is to remove their history from them. Like the current corporatisation of Pride, ‘opposition to the parades [was]also; coming from some elements of gay liberation, who feel that the parades this year co-opt the “spirit” of the Stonewall Rebellion, and are being commercialized’.6 Pride, under exclusively male direction, was rapidly monetised and the original spirit neglected.

Los Angeles Pride Parade

Nevertheless, Jeanne Cordova, a supporter of transsexual inclusion in lesbianism and feminism, claimed that many women participated while also alleging that numbers were low and women did the work of the parade such as monitoring but did not feature such as on floats. She recounted that at the 1972 parade starting at Christopher Street in Los Angeles, ‘in the assembly area, this year for the first time, there is a large assembly of women gathering. Last year’s parade was marked by a feeling on the part of women of male dominance and so they stayed away from the parade’.7 She repeated that ‘a very large contingent of women have shown up here, gathered on Hawthorne Blvd’.8 Again she stated that ‘there’s a hell of a lot more women, five or six times more women’.9 This repeated focus on the number of women attending may be indicative of the fear of female protest of Pride and the desire to use women as a resource. Natalie Harory, member of the monitors Steering Committee, claimed that “women played a key role in planning the whole demonstration today and organizationally in terms of getting the publicity out and organizing monitors. We leafleted a lot more women’s bars and women’s organizations and gay women’s groups. So I do think we reached out to them more than we did last year.”10 This is in direct contradiction to what Robert Humphries, co-chairperson of the Parade, had said and the fears articulated by Douglas. Notice how Harory dismissed women’s boycott of the 1971 parade as a matter of them not knowing about it. Still, Cordova noted that there was a ‘significant difference between the men’s participation and the women’s’. Out of the twelve or thirteen floats none of them are sponsored by or participated in by women except for the MCC women’.11 It appears the women were literally on the side-lines for the Pride Parade. Cordova complained that ‘I hate to be giving such a male dominated report on this parade, but in terms of the parade participators at this point, that’s what’s happening. Most of the women acting as monitors have since moved on’.12 This seems to contradict her previous statements emphasising the number of women involved and their centrality to the Parade.

San Francisco Pride Parade

A report by the Gay Sunshine Collective indicated that lesbians were involved in disrupting and protesting the San Francisco Parade, rather than just monitoring it. A news release related how ‘San Francisco’s Christopher Street West Parade, held Sunday, June 26, was marred by two incidents of violent conflict between parade organizers and a group of lesbians from San Jose’.13

‘The first incident took place before the start of the march near Pine and Montgomery Street in the city’s financial district. The women, members of the San Jose Radical Lesbians, reported that they approached Rev. Raymond Broshears and an unidentified man in a grey suit. Broshears, a G.A.A. member of the parade organizing committee, argued loudly with the women that the sign they were carrying (“Off Prick Power”) was obscene and that they would not be permitted to carry it in the parade’.14

Some men have always supported and aligned with their sex class, not their sisters in the struggle for gay and lesbian rights. Male, gay or straight, policing of women’s speech has continued for over 47 years. As Meghan Murphy has reported, in Vancouver, Canada,

‘a group of lesbians attended this year’s Dyke March wearing t-shirts with the word “Lesbian” written overtop a drawing of a uterus, and carrying signs featuring their “lesbian heroes.” Before the march began, they were approached by two members of the Vancouver Dyke March board, who told them they could not participate while wearing these t-shirts and carrying these placards, as they were “trans-exclusionary.” They also were told that if any of their signs featured the venus symbol (which represents “woman”) or “XX,” symbolizing the fact that females have two of the same kind of sex chromosome, they would have to remove them. The group declined to follow these instructions, but joined the march anyway. As the women walked on, they were surrounded by trans activists, who shouted “TERF bigots,” “Transwomen are women,” “This is an inclusive march,” and, “There is no room for hate at the Dyke March.”15

This is a lesbian experience being repeated globally, supported by march organisers, Pride committees and the police.

In 1972, ‘after [the]verbal altercation, the women walked away. Later, as the women were standing on the sidewalk deciding what to do, Broshears and the grey-suited man came up to them and warned them not to carry their sign in the parade. When they attempted to discuss the matter, the two men grabbed the sign and tore it to shreds, shoving one of the sisters in the process’.16 In 2019 a lesbian attending Edinburgh Pride described how ‘there was an act of physical aggression when an angry young person grabbed a placard I was holding and tried to rip it up, shouting “TERF” in my face, but this was quickly handled by stewards’, little has changed.17 Like today, ‘Broshears then called over four policemen who confirmed his opinion on the sign’s obscenity and told the women they would not be permitted to carry the sign’.18 In June 2019 Sarah Masson reported how ‘last month at Swansea Pride, Angela C. Wild, a member of Get The L Out, was dragged out from the front of the parade by four police officers’.19

Swansea Pride 2019.

There is an unbroken chain of women, and in particular lesbians, across the decades standing up to male colonisation and intrusion. Just as there are women willing to say ‘no’ to men, there are men willing to try and silence them and commit acts of violence against them. Pride shows how this is not reduced by sexual orientation, gay men belong to the same oppressor class as heterosexual men, just some choose to imagine the world differently and stand side by side with their lesbian sisters.

Reverend Raymond Broshears was not one of these men and always put male interests above others. Broshears, who helped organise the San Francisco Pride march, was co-founder of the Gay Activists Alliance, founder of the Lavender Panthers (an armed gay group) silenced and then assaulted lesbians who opposed transvestites and transsexuals in the march. After the parade one ‘of the lesbians, Chris Nunez, attempted to gain access to the microphone to ask why the sister had been shoved previously. She was prevented access by Broshears in spite of demands by many in the crowd that she be permitted to speak’.20 A little later Broshears attacked the women. The Gay Sunshine Collective recorded how

‘Broshears appeared extremely agitated. He shouted stridently that the women had not participated in the planning stages of the parade and knew nothing of the rules laid down. Suddenly, without provocation he sprang himself forward, launching himself bodily into the midst of the women, striking out furiously in all directions’.21

The women, by daring to question the men, had broken the rules laid down by men which justified violence according to a man. Still, ‘members of the crowd rushed forward to pull Broshears and the women apart, but not before two of the sisters had sustained minor bruises’.22 It comes as no surprise that Broshears decreed ‘no debate’, and that he ‘did not stay for any further discussion but was quickly ushered through the crowd by a little group of henchmen’.23 Nevertheless, ‘crowd reaction was divided. Some of those present called the women “sick bitches” and accused them of “spoiling our parade”.24 But in the early 1970s reason still prevailed amongst many and ‘most of the bystanders seemed shocked… called him a “fascist pig”.25 The lesbians had attended the parade to try and get assistance and support from their Gay brothers but when ‘asked if the parade seemed male-dominated, one women replied, “Oh god, is it ever!”.26 This domination and control is not something the men would relinquish over the next four decades and appears to be getting even stronger.

Under the leadership of Winston Leyland, The Gay Sunshine Collective who had editorially criticized the parade as sexist and male-chauvinist in their June issue released a statement supporting the lesbians. They asked if the sexism and chauvinism of the ‘gay movement and the rank and file [could have]been more apparent than in this incident’?27 They stated that ‘the male chauvinism demonstrated by the parade organizers and by many participants is too obvious to require detailed analysis’.28 The gay collective were ‘disgusted by the Rev. Broshears’ conduct and would remind him that all the parades in the world will produce no sexual liberation as long as men persist in this sort of behavior toward women’.29 This is what it looks like when gay brothers stand with their lesbian sisters. The Gay Sunshine Collective asserted that they had ‘long believed that the parade was dominated by a bankrupt “leadership” thoroughly out of touch with its constituency. This physical assault on gay sisters confirms our opinion’.30 They were scathing of Broshears who they claimed ‘reminds us of a character in Oscar Wilde’s play Lady Windermere’s Fan, of whom another character remarks, ‘He thinks like a Tory and talks like a Radical, and that’s so important nowadays’.31 As early as 1972 some were noticing that traditional, institutional values were being presented as change. The Gay Sunshine Collective went so far as to ‘call upon the sponsoring organizations to repudiate Broshears’ sexist behavior (as well as to examine their own behavior toward women) and to issue an immediate apology to the San Jose sisters’.32 The Gay Sunshine Collective could imagine the state that we are in now, with lesbians being commonly attacked and excluded, the corporatization of Pride, and they called ‘upon our gay sisters and brothers to stop acquiescing in the state of affairs which presently exists in the Bay Area gay liberation struggle. If we continue to remain passive, we deserve to be under the leadership of this bunch of male-chauvinist Machiavellians with their paper organizations and authoritarian neuroses.”33

  1. ‘Chronicle – the lesbian movement 1970 – 1976’, The Lesbian Tide (1976), Volume 6, issue 1, July-August, 1976, p. 24.
  2. A. Keyes Douglas, ‘FREEDOM PARADE looks good’, Berkeley Barb, Volume 14, issue 24(357), (June 16-23, 1972), p.10.
  3. A. Keyes Douglas, ‘FREEDOM PARADE looks good’, Berkeley Barb, Volume 14, issue 24(357), (June 16-23, 1972), p.10.
  4. A. Keyes Douglas, ‘FREEDOM PARADE looks good’, Berkeley Barb, Volume 14, issue 24(357), (June 16-23, 1972), p.10.
  5. A. Keyes Douglas, ‘FREEDOM PARADE looks good’, Berkeley Barb, Volume 14, issue 24(357), (June 16-23, 1972), p.10.
  6. A. Keyes Douglas, ‘FREEDOM PARADE looks good’, Berkeley Barb, Volume 14, issue 24(357), (June 16-23, 1972), p.10.
  7. J. Cordova, ‘Christopher Street’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 1, issue 12, July, 1972, p. 3.
  8. J. Cordova, ‘Christopher Street’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 1, issue 12, July, 1972, p.4.
  9. J. Cordova, ‘Christopher Street’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 1, issue 12, July, 1972, p.4.
  10. J. Cordova, ‘Christopher Street’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 1, issue 12, July, 1972, p.4.
  11. J. Cordova, ‘Christopher Street’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 1, issue 12, July, 1972, p. 12.
  12. J. Cordova, ‘Christopher Street’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 1, issue 12, July, 1972, p.13.
  13. Gay Sunshine Collective, San Francisco, ‘News Release’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 1, issue 12, July, 1972, p.9.
  14. Gay Sunshine Collective, San Francisco, ‘News Release’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 1, issue 12, July, 1972, p.9.
  15. M. Murphy, ‘Twitter’s Trans-Activist Decree’, Quillette (28 November 2018), https://quillette.com/2018/11/28/twitters-trans-activist-decree/
  16. Gay Sunshine Collective, San Francisco, ‘News Release’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 1, issue 12, July, 1972, p.9
  17. J. Mearns, ‘Lesbians at Edinburgh Pride A Personal Account’, WPUK (undated), https://womansplaceuk.org/2019/06/23/lesbians-at-edinburgh-pride-a-personal-account/
  18. Gay Sunshine Collective, San Francisco, ‘News Release’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 1, issue 12, July, 1972, p.9.
  19. S. Masson, ‘Lesbian visibility matters now more than ever’, Feminist Current (18 June 2019), https://www.feministcurrent.com/2019/06/18/lesbian-visibility-matters-now-more-than-ever/
  20. Gay Sunshine Collective, San Francisco, ‘News Release’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 1, issue 12, July, 1972, p.9.
  21. Gay Sunshine Collective, San Francisco, ‘News Release’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 1, issue 12, July, 1972, p.9.
  22. Gay Sunshine Collective, San Francisco, ‘News Release’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 1, issue 12, July, 1972, p.9.
  23. Gay Sunshine Collective, San Francisco, ‘News Release’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 1, issue 12, July, 1972, p.9.
  24. Gay Sunshine Collective, San Francisco, ‘News Release’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 1, issue 12, July, 1972, p.9.
  25. Gay Sunshine Collective, San Francisco, ‘News Release’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 1, issue 12, July, 1972, p.9.
  26. Gay Sunshine Collective, San Francisco, ‘News Release’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 1, issue 12, July, 1972, p.9.
  27. Gay Sunshine Collective, San Francisco, ‘News Release’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 1, issue 12, July, 1972, p.9.
  28. Gay Sunshine Collective, San Francisco, ‘News Release’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 1, issue 12, July, 1972, p.9.
  29. Gay Sunshine Collective, San Francisco, ‘News Release’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 1, issue 12, July, 1972, p.9.
  30. Gay Sunshine Collective, San Francisco, ‘News Release’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 1, issue 12, July, 1972, p.9.
  31. Gay Sunshine Collective, San Francisco, ‘News Release’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 1, issue 12, July, 1972, p.9.
  32. Gay Sunshine Collective, San Francisco, ‘News Release’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 1, issue 12, July, 1972, p.9.
  33. Gay Sunshine Collective, San Francisco, ‘News Release’, The Lesbian Tide, Volume 1, issue 12, July, 1972, p.9.