Changing the Course of LGBTQ History

For only the second time in California history, an LGBTQ pride flag is flying at the state Capitol. The first time was in 1990, when two young gay legislative staffers arranged to raise the rainbow banner on National Coming Out Day. This year Governor Gavin Newsom (under the impression that he was the first to do so) ordered the pride colors to be hung in honor of Pride Month. Celebrated throughout the world with marches, parades, events, and parties, Pride Month commemorates the riots that followed a police raid of New York City’s Stonewall Inn gay bar 50 years ago. 

Closer to home, Alta was proud to sponsor the premiere of Armistead Maupin’s new Tales of the City series at the Castro Theatre. And this week we published “L.A.’s LGBTQ Mariachi Band Performs with Pride,” which profiles the self-proclaimed world’s first LGBTQ mariachi band, as well as “The Fight to Keep the Castro Queer,” which examines the impact of gentrification on one of the world’s most famous “gayborhoods” (see below).

As we gear up for San Francisco Pride events taking place this weekend (Los Angeles and Sacramento festivities occurred earlier in the month), this week’s newsletter remembers three lesser-known California LGBTQ pioneers who changed the course of history throughout the Golden State—and the globe. 

Virginia Prince was a Los Angeles native and trans woman who published Transvestia magazine in 1960 and later created the Foundation for Full Personality Expression and the Society for the Second Self. Transvestia focused on the needs and interests of people who were then known as transvestites. It included letters from readers all over the world and served as a vital—and often safe—way for trans people to connect. Prince died in Los Angeles in 2009. 

The Daughters of Bilitis was one of the nation’s first lesbian-centered organizations. The group was founded in 1955 in San Francisco by eight lesbians, including activists Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin. The Daughters of Bilitis published a magazine called the Ladder and opened chapters as far afield as New Orleans and Philadelphia. The DOB disbanded in the 1970s, but Lyon and Martin subsequently became the first couple married by then–San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom when he ordered the city clerk to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples in 2004. They were inducted into the LGBT Journalists Hall of Fame in 2006. 

The Reverend Elder Dr. Troy Perry founded Metropolitan Community Churches in his Huntington Park living room in 1968 with just 12 congregants. MCC claims to be the first church group that provided positive ministry to the LGBTQ community. The church now has almost 300 congregations in 22 countries, with 43,000 members. Perry is a governor on the Stonewall 50 Wall of Honor, which celebrates LGBTQ pioneers and was unveiled in New York City today. 

Which LGBTQ trailblazer inspires you? Let us know by emailing Happy Pride!

—Beth Spotswood

Alta’s newsletter will be on hiatus next week in honor of Independence Day. We will return to your inbox on Thursday, July 11. 
Saving the “Gayborhood”
The San Francisco neighborhood known as an international beacon of LGBTQ freedom is becoming more symbol than reality. One group aims to preserve the Castro’s queer community, even if that means it has to move. READ MORE
Performing with Pride
Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles breaks with tradition to create a welcoming space for LGBTQ performers. Catherine Womack reports on the passion and pride of the self-proclaimed world’s first LGBTQ mariachi band. READ MORE
Alta Podcast: Satellites for Good
Today’s guest is Po Bronson, an award-winning science journalist. In the Summer 2019 issue of Alta, Bronson wrote about Planet, a San Francisco–based company that uses shoebox-size satellites to take images of nearly everything on Earth—from space. He joins us to explain how and why Planet is the “Batman” of satellite imaging. Listen for free on:
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Altatude: Throwback Thursday Cartoon
“It was in that moment that Kevin realized…print truly was dead.”

Like to laugh? Visit the Alta site for more Altatude cartoons. SEE MORE
Our recommendations for this week’s best writing about California and the West.
BART’s End of the Line Surges with Homeless As Misery Plays Out Each Night — San Francisco Chronicle

The Washington Judge and the Three-Strikes Convict — New Republic

The Unsolved Mystery of the Malibu Creek Murder — GQ

• Who’s Coming and Who’s Going: California in Five Interactive Charts and Maps — CALmatters

Formosa Café Is Back—with All the Kitschy Old-Hollywood Vibes Intact — Los Angeles
Support Alta and our event partners at these upcoming events:
TONIGHT: Join Alta and Book Passage for a look back at Berkeley in 1969. Through eyewitness testimonies and hundreds of photographs, The Battle for People’s Park, Berkeley 1969 commemorates the 50th anniversary of one of the most searing conflicts that closed out the tumultuous 1960s: the Battle for People’s Park. In April 1969, a few Berkeley activists planted the first tree on an abandoned University of California–owned city block near the campus. Hundreds of people from all over the city helped build a park there as an expression of a politics of joy. On May 15, which would soon be known as Bloody Thursday, a violent struggle erupted. Hundreds were arrested, martial law was declared, and the National Guard was ordered to crush the uprising. One man died; another was blinded. Fifty years on, the question still lingers: Who owns People’s Park? Alta’s Beth Spotswood will moderate a discussion with author Tom Dalzell, Heyday Books’ Steve Wasserman, and Book Passage owner Bill Petrocelli. Details: Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, 7 p.m., free.
TONIGHT: Join the California Historical Society for two short presentations from historians Amy G. Richter and Julia Lee on women and their role in the railroad industry. Tonight’s presentations are Richter’s “The Binding Together of the Nation: Women Travelers and the Meaning of the Transcontinental Railroad” and Lee’s “The Train Is Ready for Us: The Transcontinental Railroad in Chinese American Women’s Imaginations.” Details: California Historical Society, 678 Mission St., San Francisco, 6 p.m., $10 to the public, free for members.
Saturday, June 29: It’s Pride Month, and no better time to celebrate LGBTQ young adult literature. The YA genre gets a lot of attention in the book world for how it depicts teens dealing with romance, adventure, vampires, and dystopian futures. But what about the queer teens of YA lit? What kind of stories do they get to be a part of? What do readers want from them? Join young adult authors Britta Lundin (Ship It!), Abdi Nazemian (Like a Love Story), Aminah Mae Safi (Tell Me How You Really Feel), and Amy Spalding (The Summer of Jordi Perez) to celebrate LGBTQ YA lit with a discussion about its past, present, and future. Details: Vroman’s Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, 3 p.m., free.
Sunday, June 30: Kick off your summer reading with Graphix Con! Join Books Inc. for an afternoon of fun activities featuring your favorite Scholastic graphic novel characters, Dog Man and Bone, plus photo ops and a costume contest. All ages are welcome. Details: Books Inc., 1875 S. Bascom Ave., Ste. 600, Campbell, 4 p.m., free.
Tuesday, July 2: Join Book Soup and Alta as Ralph Cissne discusses and signs Prudence in Hollywood: And Other Stories. From “Farewell True Love” and “Laughing Stock” to “Claim to Fame” and “Alpha Girl,” we follow a quirky cast of unconventional characters pursuing love with surprising and often humorous consequences. Details: Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 7 p.m., free.
Wednesday, July 10: What can we learn from the evolution of one Oakland neighborhood and the dramatic changes it’s seen over the past 40 years? How have gang violence and gentrification affected the city’s sense of community? Join Alta and Books Inc. for a discussion of the history and evolving landscape of Oakland with someone who knows: playwright, author, activist, poet, professor, and longtime East Bay resident Ishmael Reed. His latest accolades include the Alberto Dubito International award for poetry and the AUDELCO award for theater. His feature film Personal Problems has been praised by the New York Times and called “a work of art” by Art Forum. Reed’s latest essay, “My Neighborhood, Part 2,” explores the extraordinary transition of his once close-knit North Oakland neighborhood and its residents. Reed will be in conversation with Alta editor and publisher Will Hearst. Details: Books Inc., 1491 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 7 p.m., free.
Tuesday, July 16: In his new novel, Deep River, author Karl Marlantes crafts a stunningly expansive narrative of human suffering, courage, and reinvention. In the early 1900s, as the oppression of Russia’s imperial rule takes its toll on Finland, the three Koski siblings—Ilmari, Matti, and the politicized young Aino—are forced to flee to the United States. Not far from the majestic Columbia River, the siblings settle among other Finns in a logging community in southern Washington. The brothers face the excitement and danger of pioneering this frontier wilderness, while Aino, foremost of the book’s many strong, independent women, devotes herself to organizing the industry’s first unions. As the Koski siblings strive to rebuild lives and families in an America in flux, they also try to hold fast to the traditions of a home they left behind. At its heart, Deep River is an ambitious and timely exploration of the place of the individual, and of the immigrant, in an America still in the process of defining its own identity. Marlantes will be in conversation with Alta managing editor Blaise Zerega. Details: Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, 7 p.m., free.
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