Gay History Forum at Pride Center 

The Round Table discussion at the Fort Lauderdale Prime Gentlemen meeting. Photo via ftlprimegentlemen.org

The Prime Gentlemen of Fort Lauderdale cater to the interests of gay seniors living in South Florida. The group, formerly known as the Fort Lauderdale Prime Times, originated in 2003, and now comprises over 600 members. 

The members are gay and bisexual men striving to live healthy lives by engaging in volunteerism, politics, sports, and entertainment. They meet regularly, enjoying the entertainment of guest speakers and potluck style meals. A perusal of their website: FTLprimegentlemen.org, includes a gallery of members from their hall of fame. With their combined age, the members’ biographies reflect the richness of their experiences and the hall of fame is a reminder of the difficulties of being queer in past decades. Their stories are gripping tales of hardship and the joyous overcoming of struggle. 

Within the organization, subgroups exist for various hobbies, including ballet and opera, weekly mixers at local bars, and even a Haulover beach group. The calendar posting on their website has events almost daily. 

One of their most popular events is the bimonthly history lesson at the Pride Center at Equality Park, in Wilton Manors. This event is lead by erudite members, including Lou Wangberg, an officer of the group. Wangberg is excited to announce his upcoming discussion on the gay history of South Florida in the 80’s and 90’s. He has invited panelists which include entertainers, bar owners, bartenders, and customers of the times. He even mentions inviting famous drag queens. It is meant to archive the era, and the group has invited the Stonewall Library to record the talk for its archives. There are few opportunities to learn what it was like to be LGBT prior to current liberties, this will be one of those opportunities. 

The 80s and 90s are an important time-frame in the history of LGBT men in South Florida. Decades ago, gay life in South Florida was forced to closeted encounters and subject to police raids. It was not until 1971 that the Florida Supreme Court struck down homosexual acts as considered “crimes against nature” and punishable as a felonyٰٰٰٰ.  

Lou Wangberg credits living in Wilton Manors since these times and states the tremendous change he has seen in a few short decades. He claims that in 1985, upon his arrival, Wilton Manors was not the abundant community it has now become. Wangberg wishes to discuss this tremendous change. Be sure to attend if you are in need to reminisce or learn alongside great company. 

This event is scheduled at 7 p.m. March 14, at the Pride Center, at 2040 N. Dixie Hwy, Wilton Manors. It is free and open to the public. Parking is available at the Center.