Gay Pittsburgh Came Out! … Gay Pride Week ’73 in Pittsburgh

Only a year ago who would have believed that an entire week devoted to gay people would exist in Pittsburgh and that Gays would be prominently and positively exploited in over a dozen major publications, many radio stations and all three commercial TV stations? What a difference a year makes, for that is exactly what happened here June 12-17.

The week began on Tuesday, June 12 at Benedum Hall in Oakland, where the Gay Symposium was held. Sponsored by Persad Center, Inc., the morning and afternoon workshops dealt all aspects of the gay lifestyle. Those sessions were open basically to professionals, in an-effort to better educate them in the area of counseling sexual minorities. An evening lecture, which was open th the general public, filled Benedum Hall Auditorium as Dr. Evelyn Hooker and Dr. Allen Bell each addressed the audience and then answered questions from the audience.

On Wednesday the student lounge of the University of Pittsburgh Student Union was reserved for a gay coffeehouse. It was well attended and provided a good mid-week social outing for local Gays, as well as a place for out-of-towners here for Gay Pride Week to get acquainted with Pittsburghers. Dancing was permitted and helped to make the atmosphere what it was …in fact it went so well that GAP now has dancing at its regular Saturday coffeehouse.

Thursday was Lesbian/feminists Night at the 1209 Bar, 1209 fifth Avenue, Uptown.

Friday night, the Pine Room in the Pitt Student Union was the place where the Gay Cabaret was held. The last minute cancellation of out of-town entertainment forced the organizers to come up with some other form of entertainment. The rsult may have been better than what was originally planned (at least it was cheaper), following some dancing and musical entertainment a seven member cast did a half-hour rendition of the early 60’s TV situation comedy, “The Donna Reed Show”, complete with commercials. It was really a satyrical look at Middle America’s hipocrisy towards gay people done in the impromptu style of comedy teams like “The Ace Trucking Company” and others. It went over so well that a sequil is being developed for a future event or possibly the Gay Coffeehouse.

Saturday afternoon the Gay Trolley made its appearance downtown and picked up passengers at Mellon Square. Actually it was a mod-painted street car chartered by GAP and decorated very colorfully inside, with signs identifying it as the Gay Pride Trolley readable from the outside. Passengers toured downtown and then went to the Drake Loop in South Hills for a brief rest stop. Then the trolley travelled inbound via Castle Shannon, Mt. Lebanon, Dormont, Beechview and back to Mellon Square. It provided an atmosphere where Gays from all walks of life could participate in something that was rather public, many for the first time in their life. Also the Gay Trolley more or less forced people all along the route to pay attention to an entire group of very happy, healthy gay people only a few feet from them … and they had to begin to deal with Gays as viable human beings rather than some nevertalked-about social disease. The reaction from people on the street, in their cars and in front of their homes or business establishments was’ almost totally positive. Many flashed peace signs and power to the people salutes; also a lot of hand waving was seen.

The First Unitarian Church was the scene of a fantastic dance on Saturday evening. Over 200 people were in attendance and danced to music taped earlier during Gay Pride Week. The dance was such a success that two more dances have been scheduled for July 21 and August 18 at the church.

Sunday, June 17 brought the big day everyone had waited for … at 12 noon the crowd began to assemble at Market Square downtown for Pittsburgh’s First March for Gay Pride. Besides the marchers, complete with signs, banners and a loudspeaker, there were TV cameras, reporters, many curious onlookers and several police vans. One marcher even had a seven foot exotic snake wrapped around him. At 1 pm marchers formed a line and began to move towards their destination point, Flagstaff Hill in Schenley Park. Many Gay Pride chants were heard, such as “2-4-6-8, Gay Is Just As Good As Straight”, “3-5-7-9, Lesbians Are Mighty l ine”, Ho-Ho-Homosexual, Sodomy Laws Are Ineffectual”, G-A-Y P-R-I-DeE, GAY PRIDE!, “I Am Glad That I’m Gay, Wouldn’t Have It Any Other Way”, G-A-Y P-O-W-E-R, GAY POWER!, “Join Us!, Join Us!” and so on. The marchers also sang songs along the way like “When The GAYS Go Marching In” and the old civil rights song, “We Shall Overcome!”. Several marchers passed out copies of The Gay News as the march proceeded uptown, through the Lower Hill, Soho and Oakland. When the march passed the County Jail and Juvenile Detention Home the chant, “Free Our Sisters, Free Our Brothers, Free Ourselves” swelled up. The march grew to more than twice its original size by the time it reached Flagstaff Hill for a short rally. It was definitely a day that those people participating in the march won’t forget for quite a while … a very liberating experience indeed. In fact, Gays everywhere will remember June 17, 1973 as the day that GAY PITTSBURGH CAME OUT!

Gay Pride Week ended with a picnic later on Sunday at Honeysuckle Grove in North Park, attended by several hundred Gays. Another picnic is scheduled for Sunday, September 2 at Braddock Grove in SOUTH Park.