In 1992, a photo appeared in The Weekly News (twn), South Florida’s gay community newspaper, which featured several LGBT community leaders in the early part of the “Gay Nineties.”
Announcing that “Broward Gay Activists Stand with Alan Schreiber,” it was a campaign ad for Schreiber, Broward County’s long-lasting (1977-2005) public defender, who recently passed away. Schreiber, poised in the center of the photo, is flanked by (from left to right) Brad Buchman, Tom Bradshaw, Shane Gunderson, and Gary Steinsmith. Bradshaw, the most experienced of the lot, was active with the Dade and Broward County Coalitions for Human Rights before he helped found (1982) the Dolphin Democrats.
The other three activists were rising stars. Buchman and Steinsmith, then partners in life as well as in politics, were Broward’s Power Couple. Together or apart, they headed virtually every queer political or social group during the early ‘90s, including GUARD (Gays United to Attack Repression and Discrimination) and UCHR (United Citizens for Human Rights).
Gunderson was president of Broward Young Democrats before he joined the Dolphin Club. All four men served as president of the Dolphins at one time or another from 1989 to 1998 and three of them (Bradshaw, Gunderson and Steinsmith) wrote columns for the local gay publications.
Shane Gunderson, who posted this photo on Facebook (and allowed this writer to use it), remembers this event: “It is important to realize that back in 1992, there was a stigma attached to aligning yourself with equal rights for the LGBTQ community. It was not easy to make this photo happen. I had to convince the gay activists to support Schreiber. We had lunch before this photo and the activists put Schreiber on the spot about supporting many of our issues. He pledged support.”
There are two things about this photo that are of some significance and tells us much about the state of LGBT leadership in 1992 (and beyond). For one thing, except for Gunderson, all the activists in the photo are now dead. Bradshaw, Buchman and Steinsmith were HIV positive, part of the “lost generation” of gay men that was decimated by AIDS. Bradshaw passed away in 1994 from AIDS complications while Buchman and Steinsmith, who died from other causes during the early years of this century, were hastened in their demise by HIV.
Like Alan Terl and too many other activists, these men might have continued to contribute their leadership skills to our community until this day, had they been allowed life and health enough to do so.
There is something else about this photo that characterizes it as a historical artifact. All the people in the photo (including Schreiber) were cisgender white men. As in other activist circles; women, people of color, and trans people were kept out of the ranks of leadership.
Robin Bodiford, who along with Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis was instrumental in bringing human rights legislation to Broward County, is not alone when she accused many of the men then active with the Dolphin Democrats of being “misogynist.”
It was only after the turn of this century that the Dolphins adopted gender parity. Meanwhile, and through their own efforts, women (Bodiford, Denise Yoezle), Blacks (Percy Johnson, Nik Harris), Latinx (Tony Ramos, Alfredo Olvera) and trans people (Gloria Stein, Carvelle Estriplet) achieved positions of leadership within the Dolphin Democrats and other queer activist groups, in South Florida and elsewhere. Thanks to their efforts, South Florida’s LGBT community now embraces diversity and inclusion. The men of 1992 have their place in our history; but now it is time for us to move on.
Jesse Monteagudo is a freelance writer and journalist. He has been an active member of South Florida's LGBT community for more than four decades and has served in various community organizations.