On June 29, 1970, hundreds of LGBTQ people marched down Hollywood Boulevard to mark the first anniversary of New York’s Stonewall Riots in one of the world’s first marches proclaiming LGBTQ pride. While the march featured many of the trappings of Sunday’s Pride parades with at least one float, the first Pride marches were acts of courage and determination as LGBTQ people came out of the closet in visible demonstrations of resistance to widespread homophobia and transphobia.
Organizers had fought numerous obstacles to get Los Angeles’s first parade underway, including multiple permit denials, fees in excess of $1.5 million and police hostility summarized when Los Angeles Police Chief Ed Davis remarked: “As far as I’m concerned, granting a permit to a group of homosexuals to parade down Hollywood Boulevard would be the same as giving a permit to a group of thieves and robbers.”
Since the 1970s, Pride parades have taken on a celebratory tone as LGBTQ civil rights gains mounted and members of our community found greater acceptance and openness from our families, in our workplaces and in our communities.
But last November’s election of President Donald Trump extinguished any illusions that our battle for full equality is over. This year’s Pride march in Los Angeles will, like those first marches, represent an expression of resistance and grim determination from a community that has been the target of discrimination, lack of acceptance and hostility.
Although California continues to shield its LGBTQ residents with the world’s strongest non-discrimination laws, and although the LGBTQ community’s signature victory on marriage equality remains intact for now, the Trump administration has targeted us both directly and indirectly.
Trump has rescinded federal guidelines protecting transgender students and proposed cutting billions of dollars in federal funding for HIV research and treatment programs. He has appointed a Supreme Court justice hostile to LGBTQ civil rights and threatened to gut the Affordable Care Act — which brought healthcare to millions of LGBTQ people for the first time, many of whom were previously ineligible for coverage because of preexisting conditions like HIV. He has targeted California’s estimated 250,000 LGBTQ undocumented immigrants for deportation.
All of these actions add to the substantial disparities in health and well-being between LGBTQ people and the rest of the public.
The general atmosphere of fear and hostility that has prevailed across the country since November means that LGBTQ people are far from alone in their anxiety. The administration has attacked immigrants, Muslims and many other groups, leaving many in the LGBTQ community to feel like dual targets; as black and white, Muslim and Jew, immigrant and native born, women and everything in between, we are members of each of those communities as well.
LGBTQ people form a natural bridge among communities and our community is a microcosm of the mosaic of peoples and cultures that make up California.
As LGBTQ Angelenos take to the streets in LA Pride events Sunday, we in fact draw on a long history of protest and organizing that predates Stonewall by more than a decade. The Mattachine Society, the nation’s first organization for gay men, formed here in the early 1950s. The first magazines directed at lesbians and gay men were launched in Los Angeles in the years following World War II. In 1959 and again in 1967, demonstrations broke out when LGBTQ patrons at two separate businesses fought back against incessant police raids and harassment.
Resistance is as much a part of our heritage as LGBTQ Californians as are the values of acceptance, inclusion and openness. Equality California’s “#ResistHate” billboards now going up across the state serve to remind us all of the values that make us Californians in the first place.
How Californians come together in a demonstration of unity and inclusion over the next four years can make our state a beacon for the rest of the country to remind others what it is that makes us American, as well.
Rick Zbur is executive director of Equality California, a statewide LGBT civil rights organization.