Scroll To Top
Voices

Milestones

Milestones

A876x100

To mark our 35th anniversary, The Advocate remembers the events that have defined our history and culture for the past 35 years.

Anita Bryant JANUARY 1977

The enactment of a gay rights law in Miami-Dade County mobilizes the ex-beauty queen's antigay campaign--as well as gays nationwide, including San Franciscan Armistead Maupin

From The Advocate, November 12, 2002

I actually read about Anita Bryant's Save Our Children campaign to overturn Miami's gay rights law directly from the news wires. It was quite clear to me that this campaign was going to have a galvanizing effect on the gay movement. There's really nothing like a good villain to start a revolution, and Anita filled the bill perfectly.

I know what the battle did for me: It forced me to confront my own residual self-loathing and stare it down once and for all by coming out.

I was writing Tales of the City as a serial in-house at the San Francisco Chronicle, and I was able to respond to news of Bryant's campaign in a matter of 24 hours, concocting a letter from [gay character] Michael's mother about their efforts to save Florida from the homosexuals. By the strangest serendipity, I had already established Michael as the son of Florida orange growers. Within a matter of weeks, Michael was writing a reply to his mother in which he comes out.

My parents were subscribing to the Chronicle in order to follow the series, and when they got to Michael's coming-out letter, they realized I was writing to them. And within a week they saw me described as a gay journalist in Newsweek when that magazine covered Anita Bryant.

About 10 years ago I was at an American Booksellers Association convention where Bryant was appearing, and she was still pissing and moaning about how the homosexuals had destroyed her career as spokesperson for Florida orange juice. The irony is, it wasn't the orange juice boycott that caused her to lose her job; it was the fact that she made herself forever associated with homosexuality. So in one way she was a victim of homophobia herself: Folks on the orange board didn't want people to think about queers when they bought orange juice. --As told to Bruce C. Steele


Bill Clinton NOVEMBER 1997

Clinton adviser Richard Socarides marks the first time a sitting president addresses a gay rights group

From The Advocate, November 12, 2002

For me, the moment came at 8:52 p.m. on November 8, 1997, when President Bill Clinton took to the podium at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Washington, D.C., at the Human Rights Campaign's annual gala dinner. By doing so, he became the first president in history to address a gay and lesbian audience--to a thunderous standing ovation, no less.

From my seat in the front row, I could tell this was a truly historic moment, but it had not been easy to get there. At the time I was on the White House staff, serving as the president's principal adviser on gay and lesbian civil rights issues. The combined debacles during the president's first term over gays in the military and the Defense of Marriage Act had left many advisers with no appetite to take on gay issues in the second term.

I argued that the huge support the president had received from us in both elections, combined with his strong personal commitment to our civil rights, meant that he once again had to take action and speak out on our behalf, and he readily agreed. Among other things, the president would go on to appoint hundreds of highly qualified gays and lesbians to his administration and to issue an executive order banning discrimination based upon sexual orientation in the federal civilian workforce, making the U.S. government the largest employer in the world to do so.

But I think, more important, he made it OK to be gay in America, or at least made it a lot easier. He was the first president to consider us full citizens worthy of full inclusion in the political process. For me, his speech that November evening--much of which he wrote himself in the presidential limousine as we rode to the dinner--was the most symbolic embodiment of that.

That night he said that one of the most important things he wanted to do was to show all Americans "that gays and lesbians are their fellow Americans in every sense of the word.... We have to broaden the imagination of America. We are redefining, in practical terms, the immutable ideals that have guided us from the beginning."

Socarides served as special assistant to the president in 1997-1999. He is now vice president for corporate relations at AOL Time Warner.

ACT UP MARCH 1987

New Yorker Maer Roshan writes about the early days of the group that redefined street activism

From The Advocate, November 12, 2002

Had Nora Ephron not fallen ill on March 10, 1987, it's safe to say that the course of gay rights may have been set back by at least 10 years. But as it turns out, hours before she was to address an overflow crowd at New York's Lesbian and Gay Community Center, Ephron, the author of When Harry Met Sally..., came down with the flu. Larry Kramer, the author of Faggots, was recruited to speak in her place.

Angry and depressed about AIDS, Kramer used the occasion to issue his now-famous jihad, exhorting the city's gay community to rise out of its apathy to fight a plague that had already snuffed out 5,500 New Yorkers. Electrified by Kramer's performance, a group of activists formed the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power that night, and within months its Tuesday night meetings at the center became the hottest ticket in town. Hundreds of young men and women packed the room each week in crisp white T-shirts and inescapable "silence = death" pins, the new uniform of the radically chic. Kramer paced the floor like a cornered general, railing against enemies from Ronald Reagan to the pope. Sweating under the harsh fluorescent lights, he worked the crowd to a fever pitch before falling limply to his seat.

"What are we going to do?" he concluded one week in a hoarse whisper. Suddenly, a slight woman in back stood up and shrieked, "Act up! Fight Back! Fight AIDS!" The entire crowd was on its feet. Next to me, a hollow-cheeked acquaintance struggled up from his wheelchair and joined the chorus, pumping a fist joyfully in the air. He was just 30, and two months later he was dead. ACT UP, however, lived on.

By the end of the decade the group had spawned 100 chapters worldwide, shrewdly melding politics with performance art to court a steady stream of press. Among its successes, ACT UP forced companies to speed up the process that put drugs into the hands of desperate patients, led the charge against drug-company price gouging, and demanded reform from an arrogant medical establishment. By exporting the group's message from gay ghettos to hetero bastions such as Shea Stadium and the New York Stock Exchange, it forced straight Americans to confront not only AIDS but also homosexuality.

Roshan is the former deputy editor of New York magazine and editorial director of Talk. He is now launching a new magazine called Radar.


Tongues Untied and Paris Is BurningAUGUST 1991

Film historian and producer Jenni Olson remembers two landmark documentaries on the black gay experience

From The Advocate, November 12, 2002

Released theatrically in August of 1991, Jennie Livingston's groundbreaking exploration of the Harlem House Ball circuit, Paris Is Burning, made visible a gay black and Latino subculture that was swiftly appropriated by the mainstream. More important, Paris Is Burning made gay men of color visible to themselves on the big screen, and the film served as a vitally important conduit of culture.

Stepping into the limelight at roughly the same time was Marlon Riggs's powerful personal documentary on black gay identity, Tongues Untied. Vito Russo, writing in The Advocate, celebrated the video as "a brilliant, innovative work of art that delivers a knockout political punch." Tongues Untied is an unparalleled example of personal, experimental documentary filmmaking and is as inspiring today as it was then.

Olson is a director, producer, and the editor of the Ultimate Guide to Lesbian & Gay Film and Video.

Advocate Magazine - KehlaniAdvocate Magazine - Gus Kenworthy

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories