Official LGBT Pride celebrations, both in San Francisco and all over the country, have been coopted by assimilationist liberals demanding equal rights. Along with many other queers rooted in broad social justice struggles, we were especially distressed this year by celebrations of the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage while the court’s assaults on voting rights and affirmative action threaten so many in our various communities. We posted these three images along the route of the Dyke March and Trans March in San Francisco, to remind people of our history of queer liberation militancy.
These three posters commemorate three important moments of joyful, powerful queer revolt. The Stonewall Rebellion is iconic, but is in danger of being sanitized from consciousness. When groups calling themselves “Stonewall Democrats” ally themselves with politicians like former SF mayor Gavin Newsom, who supports gay people as long as they’re not poor, it’s obvious that the spirit of Stonewall is being perverted. Stonewall was a fight-back led by street trans sex workers, working class bar dykes and queer youth who openly identified with the Black Panthers and the Vietnamese people.
Lesbian Avengers, formed in 1992, was a direct action group focused on lesbian visibility and survival. Inspired by the success of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), and with chapters in dozens of cities throughout the country created fabulous street actions that inserted lesbians into public life, forced political change, and redefined dykes as the coolest, most ferocious, girls on the block. Lesbian Avengers organized the first Dyke March at the 1993 March on Washington. At least 20,000 women participated in the semi-spontaneous march, which had no permit and no official sanction.
“Fight AIDS Not Arabs” was the slogan shouted by the group from ACT UP New York when they took over a CBS news studio in 1991, interrupting Dan Rather’s nightly news broadcast. The action preceded the “Day of Desperation” at the start of the first Gulf War, as bombs rained down on Iraq. In San Francisco, Dykes and Gay Guys’ Emergency Response (DAGGER) joined with Queer Peace (part of Queer Nation) and members of ACT UP to organize an all-queer march of over 1000 people and a queer blockade of the Federal Building, to protest the war against Iraq.
We will not forget.