History never gets old.
Each year SFGN takes part in a national effort among LGBT publications to shine a bright light on our community’s history.
Each day SFGN will publish new and previously published LGBT-related history stories. So check back every day!
We launch this year's history month with a look at the infamous raid on a gay event in Waco. Texas in 1953. The story comes to us from the national LGBT history project.
On Saturday, April 11, 1953, nearly 70 gay men packed into a small four-room house at 2117 South 19th Street in Waco, Texas, about 10 blocks from Baylor University. David Owen, a ministerial student at the Baptist school, had invited the men to attend the gathering, which was billed as an “interstate convention” that would culminate in a mock wedding ceremony for two men, one of whom would dress in drag as the bride.
June 30, 1986 was a broiling hot day in Washington, D.C. when the U.S. Supreme Court released the decision in Bowers v. Hardwick, a landmark sodomy decision.
The press was huddled under the small bank of trees near the side entrance, waiting for the copies to be handed out. The fate of millions of lesbian and gay Americans lay in the hands of the high court.
Pat Rocco (1934-2018) was a pioneer gay filmmaker and activist. Though he was popular and well-known during his heyday he is hardly remembered today.
Whitney Strub, in an essay (2014) published by the UCLA Film and Television Archive on its website, called Rocco “a pioneering figure in the cultural wing of the sexual revolution, but his work goes too little remembered today.
Though on a technical level he was no cinematic virtuoso, between 1968 and 1976 Rocco built a truly remarkable body of work. His erotic shorts helped spearhead the zesty vitality of gay liberation which his documentaries in turn captured.”
When Spectrum, the undergraduate LGBT student group at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, launched in 1983, it became a resource not just for those on campus but for queer people living in that part of the South.
Over time, people from hundreds of miles away rang its office seeking support and referrals for services.
An opulent manse in Miami, James Deering’s Vizcaya has played host to many events: a wedding, elaborate engagement shoot, and field trips of schoolchildren learning about Miami’s past.
But it also holds a prominent role in local LGBT society, as the setting for the White Party from 1985 to 2010, then again in 2018.
One day in early December 1974 a crowd of passengers lined up to board the cruise ship Renaissance docked in Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades. Typically there would be nothing exceptional about this sight.
They took part in what the New York Times would later call in a front-page story in its Sunday travel section “The All-Gay Cruise: Prejudice and Pride.”
It was the 1970’s and the gay life in South Florida was marked by its nightlife, and its nightlife was measured by the Copa. As Tiny Tina, Ray Fetcho was one of its star drag performers.
Jeffrey Heagerty's body was found floating in a canal on July 1, 1984 in Royal Palm Beach. Fully dressed with his right arm reaching forward and his penis exposed through his fly, he had last been seen at Kevin's Cabaret, a popular West Palm Beach gay club the night before.
Looking into the case more I learned of all sorts of twists and turns.
Whatever happened to Allen Andrew Parsons? It’s a question that’s lingered for 40 years since his disappearance around 1980.
But first — who was this mysterious man? Parsons graduated with top honors from Fort Lauderdale High School. He ran a thriving mail-order gay pornography business. Later he ran a drug abuse commission. And his last known profession was publishing a chain of gay publications.
Small, effeminate, friendly and probably gullible, the attractive blond 19-year-old teenager with the engaging smile never stood a chance when two maniacal thugs targeted him one night for robbery and worse — a crime that would rock a city, a state and the nation.
When Jerry Mitchell came out in 1962, Broward County was not the trendy gay resort that it is today. “There was the Wine n’ Stein and the Zanzibar and a couple of others but way back then those were the two bars. And there was one in Hollywood, Garth.” It was a time of frequent bar raids, like the one on Oakland Park’s “Val’s Catering Service,” which Mitchell witnessed from a distance. “The police raided it, around 1965 or 1966, with TV cameras, TV coverage, the whole bit, and they showed pictures of people entering and leaving the club on TV. They showed the negatives but people were recognized. And people were arrested for no reason.”
A San Francisco supervisor has vowed to landmark the home where the late lesbian pioneering couple Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin lived throughout most of their 54 years together.
Historic preservationists, friends of the couple, and Lyon and Martin’s daughter held a Zoom call on Sept. 24 to discuss designating the house at 651 Duncan Street in the city’s Noe Valley neighborhood as a historic site. Gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman said during the call that he would seek granting historic status to the property.
In 1989, U.S. Army Col. Margarethe (Grethe) Cammermeyer was undergoing a routine security clearance interview when she said four simple words: “I am a lesbian.” At the time, she was a highly decorated nurse and war hero on track to becoming a general.
The admission started an intense investigation and highly publicized discharge proceedings that would later become a television movie starring Glenn Close and based on Cammermeyer’s 1995 memoir “Serving in Silence.”
Model and cookbook author Chrissy Teigen recently shared devastating news with her social media followers: she and her husband, singer John Legend, had lost their child halfway through her pregnancy. She shared heartbreaking black-and-white photos of the couple at the hospital, including her clutching a tiny blanket bundle holding their son, who they named Jack.
Most of the comments were of condolences and heartbreak, including women sharing their own experiences with miscarriage and stillbirth.
But there were the haters.
Unsurprisingly, not many video game characters are LGBT. Like most businesses dominated first by white heterosexual men, inclusivity was not a priority for game designers and publishers. But LGBT characters did exist relatively early on in the industry, if one knew where to look. The 1986 computer game “Moonmist,” about a detective investigating ghosts in a castle, featured a scorned lover who is thought to be the first lesbian video game character, though like many early queer characters — in books, films, and video games — it was not explicitly stated.
I met Morris Kight (1919-2003) in 1978. That year, Kight came to Miami to serve as Grand Marshal in the annual Pride Parade.
Since the Pride Committee did not have money to entertain its guests, I ended up driving Kight, his Co-Grand Marshal Rev. Lucia Chappelle, and Pride Chair Rev. Joseph Gilbert to Fort Lauderdale, where my lover Stephen Jerome made dinner.
The Mattachine Society was an early gay rights group that, in many ways, is shrouded in mystery. And for some, mainly younger LGBT people, it can feel like an entirely new subject in the queer history of America. But knowing the history of this group’s members is important because they were the beginning of LGBT advocacy and support in the U.S.
The ‘Homosexual Panic’ that started in the 1950s can be traced back to one event – the murder of Eastern Airlines Flight Attendant William T. Simpson in August of 1954.
But maybe more importantly, wasn’t the murder itself, but how Miami Daily News reporter Milt Sosin covered the tragedy.
Addison Mizner came to Palm Beach in 1918 to die.
Instead he would change South Florida forever, especially Boca Raton, with his enduring signature Spanish revival architecture. Eighty-four years after his death that imprint is hard to miss.
While many in Palm Beach County know who Mizner was, few suspect he was probably a gay man.
While there are many reasons why a film is “classic,” these 10 titles (listed alphabetically) are of historical cinematic importance — either because they were groundbreaking, award-winning, or the first film to depict a particular aspect of queer life for mass audiences. In some cases, they are all of the above.
“Addison Mizner, Father of South Florida Architecture, Was Likely Gay,” was the headline on SFGN’s front page about a year ago. SFGN had embarked on a project to look into the background of South Florida architect Addison Mizner’s sexuality.
Up until 2011, it was difficult to be openly LGBT at United States Naval Academy, which has roughly 4,500 students who go on to become military officers after their time in Annapolis.
However, with increasing acceptance of LGBT people in mainstream culture, USNA students are experiencing a different environment. The Academy now boasts an LGBT alumni association for graduates, a Genders and Sexualities Alliance club for current students, and an overall supportive atmosphere.
It’s difficult to believe that Nizah Morris would be a senior citizen if she were alive today. She was born on Oct. 19, 1955. So much has changed since her tragic death in 2002 — possibly connected to an encounter with Philadelphia police. This year, 2020, marks my 17th year — and counting — reporting on her case. Today, widespread police-reform efforts are underway. But when Nizah was alive, many police officers believed they could brutalize the LGBT community with impunity.
Last year, H.G. Roosters in West Palm Beach celebrated 35 years of business.
This factoid makes them the oldest continuously operating gay bar in Florida. The bar right off exit 69 on Belvedere Road celebrates their anniversary every year in September but the bar was actually opened by restauranteur Bill Capozzi in April of 1984 and the H.G. stands for his two dogs Hilda and Greta.
A banana cream pie was a part of one of the most iconic moments in the gay liberation movement.
Anita Bryant, a chart-topping songstress who used her fame to fight “homosexual militants,” was speaking at a press conference in Des Moines, Iowa in 1977 when an activist, Tom Higgins, threw the pie in her face.
“Well, at least it’s a fruit pie,” she scoffed.
It’s been almost 26 years since the last major gay bar raid occurred in South Florida.
That story is still very well known by those around today. Then Broward County Sheriff Nick Navarro orchestrated a raid of two well known LGBT establishments, The Copa in Fort Lauderdale and Club 21 in Pembroke Park. Dozens of gay men were rounded up and humiliated in front of live television. It was an act Navarro defended stating he was only attempting to crack down on South Florida’s drug problem in night clubs, but the effort is very clearly seen in history as a move based on bigotry by a publicity-seeking individual.