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The First Pittsburgh Pride Held in 1973

Photos courtesy of Shortuse-Martin Photographers

Sunday, June 17, 1973, will always be remembered as the day that LGBTQ Pittsburgh “came out”. At 12 noon a crowd began to form in Market Square in Downtown, Pittsburgh. Marchers, signs, banners, loudspeakers all gathered. TV cameras and reporters and several police vans as well. At 1 o’clock as the crowd took their first steps on the 3-mile walk to Flagstaff Hill in Schenley Park the first Pittsburgh Gay Pride March was on.

Chants of “2-4-6-8, Gay Is Just As Good As Straight”, “G-A-Y P-O-W-E-R, GAY POWER!”, and “Free Our Sisters, Free Our Brothers, Free Ourselves!” filled the streets as the crowd made their way up Forbes Avenue. By the time the marchers crossed through Oakland to Schenley Park the crowd had doubled in size.

That day and the first ever Pittsburgh Pride concluded with a picnic in North Park attended by several hundred.

In celebration of another Pride being upon us as May begins to turn to June, we present to you some of the original articles announcing the first ever Pittsburgh Pride week of events from the June 1973 issue of Pittsburgh Gay News.

“And when we march on that Sunday in June the size of our crowd doesn’t matter. If ten people march, it’s 10 more people than ever marched in this city proclaiming their gayness before . . . and each of those 10 marches for 100 more who can’t or won’t show.”

Fred Gormley

The following articles originally appeared in the June 1973 issue of Gay News Pittsburgh and are republished here for the first time in nearly 50 years in their entirety as originally published. Some language is dated. Help us preserve Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ history, like this article, by contributing to our GoFundMe.

“GAY PITTSBURGH IS COMING OUT!” THEME OF PITTSBURGH’S FIRST GAY PRIDE WEEK

Week To End With Parade & Picnic June 17

“Gay Pittsburgh is Coming Out!”, that is the theme for the Pittsburgh areas’ first annual celebration of Gay Pride Week, scheduled for June 12-17. Sponsored and organized by Gay Alternatives Pittsburgh (GAP), the weeks’ activities will mark the anniversary ofthe birth of the gay liberation movement as we know it today, and will follow a tradition that began in 1969 in most other major cities in the country. The week-long schedule includes a gay symposium on Tuesday, June 12; a gay oriented coffeehouse on Wednesday; a Lesbian/Feminists Night on Thursday; a gay cabaret on Friday; a gay trolley party on Saturday; a gay dance on Saturday evening a march for gay pride on Sunday, June 17 from downtown to Oakland; and a picnic in North Park after the march.

The gay symposium, slated for Tuesday, June 12 at Benedum Hall Auditorium, Thackeray and Ohara Sts., Oakland, will feature Dr. Allen Bell, Senior Research Psychologist, Kinsey Institute and Dr, Evelyn Hooker, one of the first persons in the United States to do research on homosexuality and come out publicly with a statement that is very positive towards Gays. Both of these speakers will appear through the sponsorship of Persad Center, Inc., a counseling center for sexual minorities in Shadyside. Workshop sessions are planned during the day that will be open exclusively to professionals, in an effort to help those attending educate themselves further in the area of counseling patients that belong to a sexual minority. A later session, scheduled for 8-11 p.m., is open to the general public and all interested persons are urged to attend.

On Wednesday, gay people are urged to join their brothers and sisters at the coffeehouse located on the first floor of the University of Pittsburgh Student Union, Fifth and Bigelow, Oakland. Offering a place to meet and relax with other Gays that will be here for Gay Pride Week, music, refreshments and a good atmosphere will be provided to help those people from out-of-town meet Pittsburgh area Gays who will be able to supply information about the city.

Thursday has been designated Lesbian/Feminists Night at the 1209 Club, 1209 Fifth Avenue, Uptown.

On Friday a gay cabaret is planned, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Pitt Student Union, first floor, Fifth and Bigelow, Oakland. Live entertainment will be featured. Admission is available for a donation of $1.50, payable at the registration desk. Those persons wishing to register for all Gay Pride Week events, may register at the registration desk and receive a pass to admit them to the cabaret, trolley party, and dance for a total of $3.00.

A gay trolley party is planned for Saturday, June 16. A trolley has been chartered by GAP and will be decorated for the occasion with signs, balloons and banners for Gay Pride Week. Passengers will assemble at 6th and Smithfield in front of Mellon Square at 12:45 p.m. and board the trolley at 1:30 p.m. The trolley will make a complete downtown loop, travel through the South Hills to Drake loop, and inbound via Castle Shannon, Mt. Lebanon, Dormont, and Beechview and back to Mellon Square at 3:30 p.m. Tickets, necessary for admission on the trolley, are available for a donation of $1.00 at the weekly gay coffeehouse, GAP meeting. House of Tilden, Holiday Bar, 1209 Club or through GAP members. Tickets will be on sale until Sunday, June 10.

At 8 p.m. Saturday, a gay dance is scheduled to begin at the First Unitarian Church, Ellsworth, and Morewood in Shadyside. Refreshments will be available; admission is a donation of $1.00 at the door.

On Sunday, June 17 participants in Pittsburgh’s first gay march for gay pride will assemble at 12 noon in Market Square downtown. The march, for which a City of Pittsburgh permit has been obtained, will begin at 1 p.m. and march via Forbes Avenue to Bigelow in Oakland, turn right and end at Flagstaff Hill in Schenley Park for a short rally. A picnic at Sharon and Honeysuckle Groves in North Park will begin at 3 p.m. and will be well underway for march participants who want to attend. Due to the picnics’ isolated location, there will be people at the rally on Flagstaff Hill able to give directions to North Park. The picnic will last until dark.


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An editorial. .. “WHY GAY PRIDE WEEK?” … by Fred Gormley
Yes, it’s another in my continuing series of ’’Why?” articles … I can think of all your “why nots” and refute each one of them. It’s so easy to do.

Do you tell me that gay is not something to be proud of? I’ll tell you that’s rubbish, and then I’ll tell you that I feel I would have it no other way; I don’t want the straight life. Being gay has made me happy so many times over, and I feel joy in knowing and loving all of my wonderful gay friends, famous and not so; I revel in their triumphs, I ache when they are in pain. How can we sit back and let fools like naughty little Ann Landers tell her so-many-millions of readers that we are sick when she is putting down so much loveliness, trampling on the gayest gardens, the beautiful flowers of our lives.

There is an ecology of gayness – so much dour pollution in the people who are afraid to laugh and afraid to cry and afraid to touch has intruded on us very little. And when you realize there are joys of being gay, you’ll grab the hand of the person sitting nearest you and fly with them down the street not caring who, in their sourball vision, thinks you might be “queer”. Because the word queer, to that person, means so many negative things, and the word to us who live it means so many right things.

It isn’t a compliment, by the way, when someone tells you he would never have guessed you were gay, you pass for straight so well. So it’s comfortable to pass, I don’t deny it’s easier. But why deny the sensitivity and sensuality of gay love? I lapse into poetry thinking of my happiness. I guess in my poetry I lost the material and concrete reasons for being gay and proud.

Do I forget you, Chuck and Jeff, the love I admire and envy between you two, the honest love, the no-roles love, and how you seem to have enough of it leftover to brace me and give lie. To my past theories of how it’s better to be alone.

Or the fine woman love of Wendy and Diane in the house where the words “love” and “honey” don’t have a separate bedroom.

Or Jim who shares my dangerous humor, and Randy who shares my dangerous thoughts. And Mickey, who shared a dangerous bed. They are trying to tell me I should feel no pride in your lives and mine.

Rubbish.

People have to be shown. It is them, and us who have to be liberated. But they don’t know the feeling of marching down a street 200 strong, shouting our gayness at the cars that go by and wave their approval, telling the nuns across the street that “Sisterhood is Powerful” and they reply with “Right On!” I know the feeling of my pride is strongest when I see the thousands of gay people at the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade…not all of them activists by a long shot, but our bar friends, our younger friends, our straight friends, our older friends. People who have to play straight 40 hours a week here to say “What the Hell” and “I am I” with the thousands of sisters and brothers around them. So must I enumerate? Must I tell you of every reason gay is proud? And surely you know the reasons why gay is angry . . .

And when we march on that Sunday in June the size of our crowd doesn’t matter. If ten people march, it’s 10 more people than ever marched in this city proclaiming their gayness before . . . and each of those 10 marches for 100 more who can’t or won’t show.

What would happen if 500 gay Pittsburghers said, “I am, I am proud” on that Sunday, and showed it in a parade of pride? I can hear the funny pages dropping out of laps across the city.

ABOUT GAY PRIDE WEEK . . .

Gay Pride Week has become an annual event in many cities, large and small, throughout the world during the past few years. It has meant different things for different people in the past, but the purpose is fairly clear: to promote a sense of involvement, unity, and joy within the gay community … to provide an atmosphere in which our gay sisters and brothers can come together openly to share the things that make the gay lifestyle a beautiful lifestyle. Very simply, it should convey the message that GAY IS GOOD!

The origin of Gay Pride Week goes back to 1969. It was late in June, in New York City, when the police were making another typical raid on a syndicate-owned gay bar. As is usually the case it was the bars’ patrons, gay women and men, who were the victims of what was obviously just another disagreement between police officials ‘on the take’ and the syndicate. There was only one thing different about this raid: THE GAYS WERE NOT WILLING TO ACCEPT BEING VICTIMIZED ANY LONGER. They stood up against the authorities and bar management. . . publicly, militantly and unfortunately in a few cases violently. The demonstration soon grew to encompass several square blocks and include over 2,000 Gays. No where before had Gays united in a public stand about something which affected them directly. The demonstrations lasted over a week and brought a new sense of awareness to Gays all over the city, whether they were involved or not. Straights learned a lot about gay people that week too because of the large amount of news coverage. It really was the birth of the gay liberation movement as we know it today . . . just look at the chain reaction it has set off around the country!

Since 1970, there have been celebrations in many locales to commemorate this historic event and to reaffirm the belief that it is better to lead a life that is gay, open and free than to hide, make alibis, and stay in the closet.

Many events have been planned for Pittsburgh area Gays and out-of-town visitors during Gay Pride Week, June 12-17. It will be the first such observance in this area; the theme for this year has been determined to be “GAY PITTSBURGH IS COMING OUT!” Let us all join in the various activities, very positive about it all, and make Gay Pride Week in Pittsburgh something we can surely be proud of also.

ABOUT THE MARCH . . .

In the 1700’s the first American “pioneers” charted their way to an area where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers met to form the Ohio, and paved the way for future venturesome individuals to settle in what we now know as Pittsburgh, once the “Gateway to the West”. On Sunday, June 17 at 1 p.m., the Pittsburgh area’s first gay ” pioneers” are going to chart their way from downtown to Oakland in an attempt to pave the way for future generations of Gays to come out publicly … proud of their lifestyle and willing to show it. The theme of this march, like the entire Gay Pride Week, is “GAY PITTSBURGH IS COMING OUT!”

This will be accomplished through Pittsburgh’s first march for Gay Pride, to assemble at Market Square downtown at 12 noon. At 1 p.m. the actual march will begin; the route is to take Forbes Avenue uptown, through Oakland to Bigelow, to turn right and proceed to Flagstaff Hill in Schenley Park for a short informal rally.

Gay Alternatives Pittsburgh has obtained a permit for the march from the city; therefore participants are not only welcome but they are EXPECTED by our city fathers. The police department will be around, not to harass marchers, but to protect marchers because those people marching DESERVE protection as much as anyone else. However, if any problem should arise with an individual officer along the way or a private citizen for that matter, the incident should be reported in detail to one of the march organizers for future dealings.
The march will consist of organized gay groups that have been invited from other cities, local organizations, individual Gays marching on their own, Straights that agree with the idea of Gay Pride, parents and other relatives of gay people and possibly participants from local gay business establishments. EVERY person EVERYWHERE is urged to join in and participate in this historic event. This will be the first opportunity to show, in numbers, in numbers, that there are gay people here that WANT their human rights, that WANT to come out publicly and express that thought as well as the thought that GAY IS GOOD. Whether the march consists of 10 people or 10,000 people, the message will definitely get through.

Please be a part of that message and urge all of your friends to join you. Again, the march assembles at 12 noon at Market Square downtown, and begins to move promptly at 1 p.m.. . .Sunday, June 17.

The Q Archives and articles like this are made possible by the kind contribution of Tony Molnar-Strejcek, the publisher of Pittsburgh’s Out, and by contributions by readers like you.

QBurgh staff writer
QBurgh is your source for LGBTQ news and community resources in Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. Be sure to subscribe to our weekly newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Want to write for us?