Op-Ed: Reflections on the History of South Florida Pride 

Dean Trantalis, Barry Teeters, & Norm Kent in 1995. Photo Via Pride Fort Lauderdale

On a personal note, I am proud to deliver to you today the largest weekly paper in gay America.  At the same time, as I have told you before, never cook bacon naked.


SFGN’s Place at Your Table 

As we begin our tenth year, the amazing size of SFGN is a tribute to the economic strength of our own LGBT community, and that is not even counting the number of Long Island Iced Teas the Alibi will sell this Thursday night during Pride Week.

Just like our bi monthly magazine, The Mirror, which touched down at 128 pages last month with our Arts and Entertainment issue, the LGBT community of greater Fort Lauderdale is making a statement. To steal a line from “Le Mis,”we are now the mayors of this town.

In South Florida, LGBT residents are the makers and shakers of our communities; the movers and doers. We are the leaders who shape our lives, run our businesses, and dominate our politics, though since we are talking about gay stuff, I will go easy on the dominatrix thing.

SFGN is proud to be your voice. It’s not all about me.  We are a group project. The paper stands tall because our content is credible, our reporting factual, our advertisers genuine, and our opinions independent.

Advertisers spend their money with us because they recognize that they get bang for their buck. Businesses realize an advertisement in our paper today can deliver them customers and consumers tomorrow. It makes sense. We reach 400 venues in three counties with distribution points in over a dozen cities.

Our online editions with breaking news stories are as much of an enterprise as printing the paper and the magazine. We offer immediate news updates and instant gratification for media junkies. From Italy to Alaska, people read SFGNonline. 

Publishing and distributing our digital and print editions costs a small fortune, though. 

We pay for our content. Our staff, insurance, cars and even freelancers cost money. But good work ain’t cheap, and cheap work ain’t good. 

Your support and advertising dollars make this endeavor and labor of love possible. So I thank you today, individually and collectively, for helping make our journey continue.

South Florida’s Gay Press 

Having a free and forceful gay free press matters in America. We have come a long way, but we have always had something worth fighting for — our rights to equality. A gay press has been the forum for your voice. 

For decades, Fort Lauderdale’s gay magazines and bar guides have also sponsored pride rallies and hosted fundraisers for charitable causes. They provide editorial space for organizations and columnists to illuminate causes that count. Their media sponsorships have been additional spark-plugs that furthered our community’s economic growth and vitality.

Along those lines, SFGN has illuminated our lives and our loves; our victories and our losses. We have lobbied for domestic unions and gay soldiers. Today, we now demand equal participation and protection for our transgender community. We won’t ever let up. Nor should you, not as long as you have a breath in your body.

In this issue, SFGN provides a forum for Equality Florida to articulate its stance on a controversial LGBT bill before the state legislature. On other pages, our columnists discuss health and aging and arts and entertainment. Whether you are rich and retired, a runaway or homeless, we will be your advocates; our pages your voice.

A gay free press matters, whether it is uncomfortable for a politician in office or a pride director caught with his finger in the pie. Our duty, however, is to always be honest and thorough. If we don’t live up to that, your duty is to hold us accountable. We are not beyond criticism. Heck, you can find something wrong with me everyday. My mother did. 

South Florida’s Gay Pride History

The first ever Pride Fort Lauderdale parade on our beach begins this Saturday at 5:30 p.m., near Sebastian Street, not far from what was once the famous and very homosexual Marlin Beach Hotel. You may know it as the home of the movie “Where the Boys Are,” starring Connie Francis. This weekend, expect a few more boys. 

It was in the basement of the Marlin Beach, in 1984, that a small group of eight concerned gay Fort Lauderdale residents met to form an advocacy group to call attention to an emerging health crisis impacting gay men.  America came to call it “AIDS.” Back then, it was also known as 
“G.R.I.D.;” a Gay Related Immune Deficiency. 

It was in South Florida that the issue of gay rights took on national prominence. In January of 1977, a group of conservatives — led by entertainer and Florida orange juice spokeswoman Anita Bryant — packed Miami-Dade County’s commission chambers to protest the potential passage of a gay rights ordinance. It passed anyway.

The results shook the planet. 

The very first day after Miami Dade became the first major urban area in the country to pass legislation protecting gays, it snowed in Miami for the first time ever.  It was also the first and only time snow fell upon the city, at least until gays showed up at the White Party in Vizcaya. 

This crazed juice queen Anita would lead a repeal fight and get the ordinance reversed.

It took more than 20 years for Miami-Dade to revive and pass the law. Rights deferred are rights denied. What takes forever to build you can lose in a minute. 

A year later, something called the Briggs Initiative in California would seek to ban gays and lesbians from working in public schools. The first openly gay legislator in the country, Harvey Milk, a San Francisco city supervisor, would be assassinated in his office.

When I moved to Fort Lauderdale in 1977, radio talk shows were still debating whether the American Psychiatric Association had wrongly declassified homosexuality as a “mental illness” in 1973. There were no pride parades. 

If you are old enough to remember, 50 years ago, in 1968, a tobacco company launched a liberating, self-affirming feminist marketing campaign for Virginia Slims cigarettes. Somewhat condescending, but universally popular, it was capsulized as “We have come a long way, baby.”

South Florida has now become one of the safest and most livable places for LGBT Americans to reside, play, and work. Gay men and women have enhanced this corner of our country. It’s not only tropical; it’s tolerant.

We have come a long way, but we are not babies.Like women, minorities, and immigrants, American institutions for too long historically and unjustifiably disgraced LGBT populations. Today’s parade therefore can’t just be a party of rainbows and beads. We can’t forget a past tarnished by unacceptable indignities.

This week we must also shine a light on history. This is the very year we celebrate the 50thanniversary of the Stonewall Bar riots in New York City. Many who helped pave the road for us are not here today to walk upon it. Remember them.

Yes, today, along the same Fort Lauderdale beach where we were once censured for looking at each other the wrong way, we smile unabashedly, parade unapologetically, and hug and kiss enthusiastically.  

We have indeed come a long way. Enjoy the moment.

 SFGN Norm Image2 Pride 2 20 19

(Photo Credit, Pride Fort Lauderdale)

 

 

 

 


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