The 1971 Gay Pride Parade in NYC on was held exactly two years after the Stonewall Riots. In Manhattan, Marchers made their way up Sixth Avenue on the way to Sheep Meadow in Central Park. After the 1970 march, similar events happened in Washington DC, Los Angeles and Chicago. By the next year, Gay Pride Marches and Parades were copied in cities all around the world as advocates demanded Equal Rights for gay people.
In 1971, LIFE Magazine published a feature: Homosexuals In Revolt in its Year In Pictures edition. For decades, LIFE Magazine had been one of the most popular magazines in America. When I was a kid it was a weekly; arriving at my house on Wednesdays. I ate it up. Most subscribers were drawn to its photographs and brief descriptions of events from around our pretty planet. It featured pictures by the greatest photographers of the era, including Dorothea Lange, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Alfred Eisenstaedt, and Gordon Parks.
In the essay that accompanied the 11 pages of photographs of Homosexuals In Revolt, it included this tid-bit:
“It was the most shocking and, to most Americans, the most surprising liberation movement yet. Under the slogan ‘Out of the closets and into the streets’, thousands of homosexuals, male and female, were proudly confessing what they had long hidden. They were, moreover, moving into direct confrontation with conventional society. Their battle was far from won. But in 1971 militant homosexuals showed they they were prepared to fight it…They resent what they consider to be savage discrimination against them on the basis of a preference which they did not choose and which they cannot — and do not want to — change. And while most will admit that straight society’s attitudes have caused them unhappiness, they respond to the charge that all homosexuals are guilt-ridden and miserable with the defiant rallying cry “Gay is Good!”
Many readers were offended that the magazine would devote a dozen pages to people whom one letter writer characterized as “psychic cripples”.
Another subscriber wrote:
“There was plenty to lament in your year-end issue, but the thing that struck me as most sad was the fact that LIFE felt compelled to devote pages to ‘Homosexuals In Revolt’.”
Someone from Chicago said:
“Essentially, it is absurd to accept as a mere variant lifestyle a practice which, if universal, would mean the end of the human race.”
But, other LIFE readers praised the article for its fairness, accuracy and the dignity in which it was presented. Even in the early 1970s, there was infighting from the LGBTQ community for equal representation from its different factions. A woman from NJ named Jule Lee wrote that she was: “one of the oldest lesbian activists, both in age and years of participation in the movement.” She was outraged, because: “Out of ten picture pages, lesbians are mentioned on two.”
It is rather amazing that LIFE, which was owned by the very conservative Time Inc, unlike most magazines of the era, did try to show the Gay Liberation Movement with fairness and an openness:
It is interesting that in 1971, LIFE would state that:
“Homosexuality in not basis of a preference which they did not choose and which they cannot, and do not want to, change.”
Remember, this was a decade before Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell and their Moral Majority tried to ruin everything with their hateful propaganda.
Participating in Gay Pride in the 1970s took real bravery. Many of those LGBTQ pioneers who began the battle for Equality are gone now. I think we owe them our gratitude for standing up and taking the fight to the streets. With Mike Pence hovering in the background, ready to help enact anti-LGBTQ legislation, we owe it to ourselves, and the those who fought the earliest fights, not to get too complacent and to continue to fight for our rights and to win.