Introduction to Rochester LGBT Pioneers Tell Their Story

This five-part series tries to capture the people, stories, and events of the beginning of the Gay Liberation Movement in Rochester, NY in the early 1970s.  The story begins with Stonewall on June 28, 1969.  Stonewall did not happen in a vacuum. The foundation for the Gay Liberation Movement that emerged was laid in the decades before in public and private battles, in different organizations, and through the work of many people. The Stonewall Riots were a galvanizing force for LGBT political activism, leading to the beginning of 200+ Gay Liberation Front organizations all over the country, primarily on college campuses.  Pre-Stonewall and even after, the “closet” was home for many LGBTQ men and women.  There were no legal protections for homosexuals.  If you were identified as gay you could be evicted from your apartment, fired from your job, arrested for congregating in a group of three or more, discriminated against in other ways, and possibly be rejected by friends and family.

The Rochester Gay Liberation Front came into existence sixteen months after Stonewall on October 3, 1970, at Todd Union on the University of Rochester campus.

Ep 1 Where Did It All Begin – Stonewall

Tim Judd sets the stage for what it was like to be gay at the time of Stonewall. Patti Evans was at Stonewall the first night of rioting and shares what went on, and what her experience of that night.  The story is then picked up by Bruce Woolley who stands in for Larry Fine, one of the original founders of the Rochester Gay Liberation Front (GLF), and continues with an excerpt from a report written by Bob Osborne, the other founder of the GLF.  Patti Evans talks about the first GLF meeting she attended and Bob Crystal recounts the structure of the meetings, other significant members at the time, and the activities the group engaged in. Finally, Joe Russo describes what being President of the GLF in 1978 was like.

Ep 2 Twitter, Twitter, Twitter – the Empty Closet

We first hear about the modes of communication available in the early ‘70’s.  RJ Alcala tells how the GLF named its newsletter the Empty Closet. We learn from Patti Evans how the newspaper was put together and the evolution from a newsletter, to a newspaper, from light table, to digital, to being online in 2017.  

Ep 3 Paul Revere’s Ride – The Speaker’s Bureau

We begin by hearing from Karen Hagberg about one of the first speaking engagements she did with RJ Alcala and Larry Fine on Dec 7, 1970 in Dr. Vincent Nowlis’ Social Psychology Seminar: Sex and Gender Role.  RJ Alcala and Patti Evans add their experiences as presenters for the Speaker’s Bureau programs.  Jeanne Gainsburg, Chair of the Speaker’s Bureau in 2017, brings the history of the Speaker’s Bureau forward to the current day schedules and the expanding topics that are currently being presented.

Ep 4 Let Freedom Ring

Bruce Jewel and Patti Evans talk about the Green Thursday/Lesbian Nation alternating radio broadcasts for men and women that took place on Thursdays on WCMF from midnight to one.  The story continues with excerpts from the first Green Thursday broadcast on February 14, 1973, from interviews with Frank Kameny, and excerpts from Lesbian Nation with Liz Bell.  Michael Lill continues the presentation by talking about the current radio show for the LGBTQ communities in Rochester, NY. with Brian Hurlburt and Michael Lill.  Rainbow Roc radio broadcasts on WAYO 104.3FM.

EP 5 Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

We begin with a description of the activities that the GLF sponsored and was involved in, and what actions they planned and executed to bring visibility to LGBT issues.  Patti Evans and Whitey LeBlanc will tell about the split between the women and the men that occurred in 1972, and the departure from the U of R in 1973.  The women formed the Lesbian Resource Center.  The men formed the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley, today the Out Alliance.  Early in 1974 the men and women came back together at the Genesee Coop at 713 Monroe Avenue to pool their resources and join forces to continue the fight for gay liberation.