Changing the Course of LGBTQ History

In this newsletter, we discover LGBTQ leaders who changed (and are changing) the course of history in California—and the world.

LGBTQ trailblazers Virginia Prince, the Daughters of Bilitis co-founders Del Close and Phyllis Lyon, and Rev. Troy Perry.

For only the second time in California history, an LGBTQ pride flag is flying at the state Capitol. The first time was in 1990, when two young gay legislative staffers arranged to raise the rainbow banner on National Coming Out Day. This year Governor Gavin Newsom (under the impression that he was the first to do so) ordered the pride colors to be hung in honor of Pride Month. Celebrated throughout the world with marches, parades, events, and parties, Pride Month commemorates the riots that followed a police raid of New York City’s Stonewall Inn gay bar 50 years ago.

Closer to home, Alta was proud to sponsor the premiere of Armistead Maupin’s new Tales of the City series at the Castro Theatre. And this week we published “L.A.’s LGBTQ Mariachi Band Performs with Pride,” which profiles the self-proclaimed world’s first LGBTQ mariachi band, as well as “The Fight to Keep the Castro Queer,” which examines the impact of gentrification on one of the world’s most famous “gayborhoods” (see below).

As we gear up for San Francisco Pride events taking place this weekend (Los Angeles and Sacramento festivities occurred earlier in the month), this week’s newsletter remembers three lesser-known California LGBTQ pioneers who changed the course of history throughout the Golden State—and the globe.

Virginia Prince was a Los Angeles native and trans woman who published Transvestia magazine in 1960 and later created the Foundation for Full Personality Expression and the Society for the Second Self. Transvestia focused on the needs and interests of people who were then known as transvestites. It included letters from readers all over the world and served as a vital—and often safe—way for trans people to connect. Prince died in Los Angeles in 2009.

The Daughters of Bilitis was one of the nation’s first lesbian-centered organizations. The group was founded in 1955 in San Francisco by eight lesbians, including activists Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin. The Daughters of Bilitis published a magazine called the Ladder and opened chapters as far afield as New Orleans and Philadelphia. The DOB disbanded in the 1970s, but Lyon and Martin subsequently became the first couple married by then–San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom when he ordered the city clerk to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples in 2004. They were inducted into the LGBT Journalists Hall of Fame in 2006.

The Reverend Elder Dr. Troy Perry founded Metropolitan Community Churches in his Huntington Park living room in 1968 with just 12 congregants. MCC claims to be the first church group that provided positive ministry to the LGBTQ community. The church now has almost 300 congregations in 22 countries, with 43,000 members. Perry is a governor on the Stonewall 50 Wall of Honor, which celebrates LGBTQ pioneers and was unveiled in New York City today.

Which LGBTQ trailblazer inspires you? Let us know by emailing Happy Pride!

This article originally appeared in Alta‘s June 27, 2019 newsletter.

Beth Spotswood is Alta's digital editor, events manager, and a contributing writer.
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