Previous Next 

Jun 28 2021
Randy Wicker, Gay Activist Since 1958, Reflects On Prides Past & Present Comments (0)

Randy Wicker by Matthew RettenmundIMG_0529*****_newMy shot of Randy from 2019, when he was celebrating Gertrude Stein's birth anniversary (Image by Matthew Rettenmund)

Randy Wicker is an LGBTQ activist who has been at it longer than almost anyone else in the world — at age 83, he has been fighting the gay fight for 63 years and counting.

If you Google him, you will find references to him that verify who he is and what he has done, which is not true of some others over the years who have claimed to have been things they were not. He was the first publicist for any LGBTQ movement, he worked in the South to bring reform and gay rights, he launched the Homosexual League of New York after having been an early Mattachine Society member, he was on radio and TV as an out gay man in the 1960s and to top it off, he was a roommate of Marsha P. Johnson's.

Today, Randy posted a long message on Facebook reflecting on his experiences with gay Pride parades over the years, and I think his words are important. They also reveal that being older is no excuse for being closed to change.

He writes:

Yesterday, I attended my 51st Pride March, marking my 63 years as a gay activist. I want to share with you how incredibly different June 2021 was from June 1958 when I became New York Mattachine Society's 16th member.
In 1958, the nascent LGBT+ movement was almost entirely caucasian, upper middle class and above the age of thirty. You had to be 21 to join any group or even to enter their offices.
Women were few and far between. There was a separate group for them called the Daughters of Bilitis which existed mostly in San Francisco.
In 2021, the LGBT+ movement had grown from two or three hundred members nationwide into a mass movement of millions who reflected the diversity of American Society.
The crowds at the Heritage of Pride street fair and those marching in the Queer Liberation March & Rally from Bryant Park to the Village were overwhelmingly young (mostly under thirty), disproportionately female, with a racial and ethnic diversity reflecting that of the larger American society.
It was quite a change even from the early 1970s when the movement was rapidly exploding in the wake of Stonewall. In those days, GAA activists and others kept asking themselves:
“Where are the minorities?”
Female representation had expanded but lesbians were divided between prioritizing their homosexual lives and/or the women right's movement.
Gender-identity issues were totally misunderstood. The movement was known as the G.L. and/or the L.G. movement until 1992 when B. was finally added for bisexuals.
Those violating masculine gender norms were labeled “Drag Queens” and were considered an embarrassment to the movement.
In the late 1970s, Heritage of Pride decided to ban Drag Queens from the annual Pride march. Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson out-foxed the ban by marching in front of the Pride Banner at the head of the parade, making it appear as if they were leading the entire march.
Youthful enthusiasm has increasingly fueled Pride marches in the years since the 1970s. While LGBT+ society was increasingly accepted and absorbed by America's corporate-dominated society, so was the Annual Pride March.
Three years ago, for the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, with NYC becoming the stage for a World Pride celebration, activists organized their separate “Reclaim Pride March”.
It left Sheridan Square, the site of the Stonewall Bar, at the outrageously-early non-gay hour of 9:00 a.m. Several thousand people marched up to Central Park to an area where they held their own celebration.
It was an exciting change. I managed to attend, thanks to help from my straight-husband pushing a wheel-chair and J.C., an energetic peticab volunteer.
That's where I bought a beautiful “Black Trans Lives Matter” t-shirt which served me well in subsequent media appearances.
Last year, Reclaim Pride held a second march in support of Black Lives Matter and Against Police Violence. At least 10,000 people attended the March which commenced downtown in Manhattan's Foley Square.
It was when Covid-19 had NYC in its grip. Everyone wore a mask. The huge crowd marched up to the Christopher Street Piers, ending up in Washington Square Park.
The Corporate media broadcast a “Virtual Pride Celebration” hosted by Heritage of Pride which was broadcast for three hours. I was unable to attend.
“Virtual” for me just doesn't work on Pride when compared to masked live protesters lending their LGTB+ voices in support of the riveting issue of racism.
After all, our movement copied the non-violent methods first developed by the Civil Rights Movement --- ironically, shaped by Bayard Rustin who mentored Rev. Martin Luther King.
Our movement's success outpaced that of racial and ethnic minorities. The real reason for that is that our sexual orientation was invisible.
Ordinary people got to know friends, co-workers. schoolmates and others as “people” before discovering they were homosexual. Not enough conversations occurred between racial and ethnic minorities for “so-called Americans” to get to know one another as people.
The 2021 Queer Liberation March & Rally was not so ignored this year. It got an impressive photo on the front page of the N.Y. Times & other media coverage.
I look at that photo and I see today's young people --- all races, all ethnicities, all gender-identities marching together. It was proof we had created a better America!
It felt good to know my 63 years of civil-rights, anti-war & LGBT+ activism had given birth to a more inclusive world.