My colleague Sharan Street has been working for weeks to prepare for a new iteration of the California Canon—a series celebrating the people and things that make the Golden State so great. This week we focus on people who were central to the creation of organizations and media in the gay rights movement.
There are many LGBTQ+ heroes in our state’s history, so Sharan’s initial list was quite long. It included, for example, filmmaker Dorothy Arzner, gay icon Harvey Milk, and of course the gaily iconic George Takei, who is one of the most delightful human beings in the world.
Sharan’s original hall of heroes also includes Sheila Kuehl, the first lesbian elected to the California legislature, as well as Mark Leno and John Laird, the first gay men elected to that body—more on John below.
We decided for this installment of the California LGBT Canon to limit it to the groundbreaking Californians who did important work in the 1950s and 1960s that led us to the happier place we now reside.
An excerpt: “Ask your favorite search engine to identify “the birthplace of gay pride,” and right at the top, in the first blurb, you’ll find the Stonewall Riots—the uprising that began June 28, 1969, in a Greenwich Village club and led directly to the creation of Gay Pride Month. But a quick perusal of “Milestones in the American Gay Rights Movement” proves that the Left Coast contributed more than its fair share to the cause.”
And: I had the pleasure last week of interviewing my friend John Laird, who, 40 years ago, became one of the first out gay mayors in American history. (Among other significant accomplishments, as you will see.)