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LGBTQ Pride Month-Remembering Queer Activism in SA-1978

June 8, 2015

During the month of June, LGBTI Pride festivities abound. The three Pride p’s–parades, picnics, and panel discussions–ubiquitous manifestations of queer visibility, play out across the U.S. and beyond. As floats glide down city streets and drag divas wave to adoring, celebrating throngs; as same-sex parents with children and doggies sporting rainbow scarves in tow enjoy family friendly Pride picnics; as panelists discuss coming out and homophobia–how many recall the brave moments of activism that paved the way for today’s Pride panoply?

While the Stonewall [1] riots of 1969 served as a catalyst for gay liberation, activists and activism that came in its wake waged incremental skirmishes against homophobia and discrimination. In 1978, members of San Antonio’s gay community entered into the fray, taking on Anita Bryant, beauty queen, singer, and prominent anti-homosexual spokesperson. [2] When Bryant was invited to speak at a rally in San Antonio, gay business entrepreneur Hap Veltman sent out a community call-to-action.

Letter from Hap Veltman requesting contributions for ad, MS 428, Gene Elder papers

Letter from Hap Veltman requesting contributions for ad, MS 428, Gene Elder papers

Veltman’s plea fell on responsive ears and many of San Antonio’s citizens openly proclaimed their opposition to Bryant and what she represented. Veltman raised the funds needed to take out a full page ad in the Express-News condemning Bryant’s actions but validating the importance of free speech.

Release form for SA Express-News ad, MS 428, Gene Elder papers

Release form for SA Express-News ad, MS 428, Gene Elder papers

Anita Bryant protest advertisement, MS 428 Gene Elder papers

Anita Bryant protest advertisement, MS 428 Gene Elder papers

The image in the advertisement, originally published in Time magazine in 1977, shows  a protest march against Anita Bryant in San Francisco. For members of the gay and lesbian community, Bryant’s homophobic rhetoric echoed that of past ruthless dictators and hate groups and thus she was depicted alongside Hitler, Stalin, and others. Veltman secured the rights to use the image as part of the SA Express-News advertisement. Many who helped pay for the ad allowed their names to be published while others who could not afford to be openly identified, chose to remain anonymous.

Gene Elder, artist and activist, took the local protest a step further. He created the “Anita Bryant Prayer” which he passed out at the venue where Bryant was speaking. Elder explains:

I felt this was a very brave act on my part, being 28 at that time, acting alone, and I chose to protest Anita’s march across America in this fashion. I was promptly escorted out by security who saw my passing the flyers down the rows as disruptive. (I guess “praying for those that persecute you” must be unchristian at religious rallies.)

Anita Bryant Prayer, MS 428, Gene Elder papers

Anita Bryant Prayer, MS 428, Gene Elder papers

This local protest may have seemed like a minor effort launched by a small segment of the queer community. However, the action combined with other protests across the U.S. thrust gay rights into the national spotlight and fortified calls for equality and an end to discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Many of UTSA Libraries Special Collections LGBTQ materials originate from the work of local activists. The collections offer opportunities for researches to investigate often-underrepresented facets of local history.

LGBTQ collections of interest include:

Gene Elder papersEntrapment Operations in San Antonio Parks, Linda and Cynthia Phillips papers, San Antonio Lesbian Gay Assembly (SALGA), LGBTQ Publications Digital Collection

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[1] LGBT Pride celebrations are rooted in an annual commemoration of the Stonewall Riots that occurred in June of 1969 in Greenwich Village, N.Y. The square-off between members of the queer community and police ignited tense interactions over several days. This event is heralded as the beginning of the gay rights movement–a seminal moment marked by annual Pride celebrations.

[2] Anita Bryant, a former Miss Oklahoma, became an outspoken opponent of gay rights and homosexuality. She campaigned to repeal a non-discrimination ordinance in Dade County, Florida. Her “Save Our Children” coalition promoted the ideology that homosexuality was sinful and homosexuals were child predators. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anita_Bryant], accessed June 4, 2015.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 8, 2015 8:11 am

    Reblogged this on stillness of heart.

  2. June 15, 2015 3:08 pm

    Good article but what happened when she came to San Antonio? The article reads a bit like watching a movie that stops in the middle!!

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  1. UTSA Libraries Special Collections exhibits celebrate LGBTQ Pride month | The Top Shelf

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