Shoulders Resource Guide

STSO Documentary Chapters Snapshots


Chapter 1: Gay Oppression, Pre-Stonewall     4:59

This first chapter tries to describe what pre-Stonewall Rochester was like. The Closet was home to many in the ‘40’s, ‘50’s and early ‘60’s. In fact it is home for many even today. Gay culture was invisible. Pre-Stonewall the gay social life was focused on the bars. There were few resources available to help homosexuals understand themselves.

Chapter 2: Rochester Reacts to Stonewall     5:58

Hear a personal account of the Stonewall Riots. Reactions by Rochestarians to the Stonewall Riots was mixed. The ‘60’s provided a ”liberation” environment for blacks, women and gays. The combination of anti-Vietnam War anti-government sentiment  set the stage for protests against the social stigma and illegal acts attached to being gay. Gay liberation was a revolutionary idea for many homosexuals. Gay liberation in Rochester began on the University of Rochester Campus.

Chapter 3: Gay Liberation Front, University of Rochester, Speaker’s Bureau   3:15

Within 2 years of Stonewall happening, over 400+ Gay Liberation Front organizations sprang up all over the country. Here in Rochester, two men, Bob Osborne and Larry Fine of the University of Rochester, advertised a meeting on October 3, 1970 at Todd Union to talk about the formation of a Gay Liberation Front (GLF) organization on the University of Rochester Campus. The group became an organization of the University supported by Student Government. The group had an office in Todd Union, began the Empty Closet Newspaper, and began the Speakers Bureau.

The GLF also began the Speakers Bureau. GLF volunteers would accept invitations from professors to speak in their classes about homosexuality. As the GLF became more known, community organizations and schools began inviting GLF volunteers to speak about being gay and to tell their story. Today, the Speakers Bureau has become the Community Outreach and Education program of the Gay Alliance.

Chapter 4: Green Thursday   2:10

In February, 1973 WCMF radio station gave the GLF time for Community Service Programming. The GLF began broadcasting 2 radio programs on alternate weeks at 12 am. “Green Thursday” and “Lesbian Nation” . A primary purpose of both was to reduce isolation among members of the Rochester LGBT community. The majority of the community was still “closeted”. Green Thursday and Lesbian Nation allowed the GLF to provide another avenue of visibility and connection for the community.

Chapter 5: Gay Liberation Dance   2:12

In October, 1971 in celebration of the 1st Anniversary of the Gay Liberation Front, Gay Festival was held over 3 days Friday, October 22 through Sunday, October 24. On Saturday, October 23 the GLF held its first dance in Frederick Douglas Building Lounge. This was an extraordinary event because it was illegal for same sex couples to dance with each other.

Chapter 6: The Empty Closet   4:25

Volunteers staffed the GLF Office taking phone calls and talking, mostly to students, about homosexuality. From the very beginning the group felt a need to have a vehicle of communication that would report on GLF activities around the city and share their thoughts about homosexuality and being gay. The Empty Closet Newspaper became that vehicle of communication and today is still the primary source of information on what is happening in the community, chronicling the successes and failures of gay liberation in Rochester and around the country.

Chapter 7: GLF Leaves U of R Campus, Gay Alliance Begins   4:35

From these beginnings, Gay Liberation became a focal point of political activism. Rochestarians who were not students at the University became involved in the organization, and were the majority of active members. The University stopped funding the GLF because they no longer considered it a student group, run by students. Thus in 1973, the GLF morphed into the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley.

Chapter 8: First Gay Alliance Picnic     4:09

First Gay Alliance Picnic, July 20, 1973. About 40 people attended in Genesee Valley Park at a time when most Rochester gays and lesbians feared gathering in public. This event, in the open air in the middle of the day heralded great change and new visibility for LGBT people. Supported by Rochester’s gay bars, the annual picnic grew rapidly as a fundraiser and opportunity to bring community together.

Chapter 9: Police and Community Relations   7:26

Special police surveillance of gays had long been the norm throughout the U.S. Police in Rochester regularly raided bars, harassed patrons, and recorded license plate numbers. Following interaction with Gay Alliance representatives, the first police liaison with the gay community was appointed in 1974. Destined to become police chief, Gordon Urlacher proved to be genuinely interested in learning about the LGBT community, their concerns and experiences. This was a major turning point in police attitudes.

Chapter 10: CETA Funding and Controversy     5:18

Economic downturn of the early 1970’s produced the federal Concentrated Employment Training Program to create public service employment opportunities. The Gay Alliance filed a carefully prepared application to participate. Outspoken homophobes worked to see this be the only application rejected. Recognizing open hatred for what it was, Bill Johnson, then president of the Urban League, sponsored the application and saw its funding approved. The CETA controversy received widespread news coverage. After this, all of Rochester well knew that the Gay Alliance existed.

Chapter 11  Rochester Gay Bars   1:36

The decade of the 1970’s saw a blossoming of LGBT social life. During this heyday of Rochester’s gay bars, at least 13 different bars served the community. This decade of celebration and sexual freedom would come to a crashing end early in the 1980’s.

Chapter 12  Rochester Responds to HIV / AIDS   13:09

First reported out of New York City on June 5, 1981 as a “gay cancer”, what we know as AIDS initially felt remote until numbers of sick men came home and the disease spread locally as well. Responding to an overwhelming need, a small group of caring health professionals founded AIDS Rochester, early in the battle against the epidemic. The difficult chore of fundraising to assist the ill and support medical initiatives was undertaken by HPA – Helping People with AIDS. Another new group, MOCHA, organized to assist people of color whom AIDS Rochester could not reach, also appeared. Growing out of a pathfinding University of Rochester clinic, the Community Health Network provided health care at the forefront of medicine as more became known about the disease and effective treatment. Now merged with AIDS Rochester, this new community organization has been Trillium Health since 2013.

Chapter 13:  Rochester Gay Pride     4:56

First Pride march 1989 late on a Saturday afternoon, downtown on Main Street. Few people around but no one knew what might happen when the marchers reached the Liberty Pole. From that modest beginning emerged a much expanded, popular parade through the Park Avenue neighborhood each July. LGBT youth actively participate in Pride events and are especially effective when they travel to lobby politicians in Albany. Increasingly, youth come out and identify as LGBT but lack a sense of community and gay history, which Pride can help them develop.

Chapter 14:  Plaintiff: Gay Alliance  Versus  Defendant: City of Rochester   3:01

The Gay Alliance bought its Atlantic Avenue building in 1991, boldly placing the organization’s name on the door. Assumed that any not for profit agency would receive tax exempt status but the city assessor under Mayor Tom Ryan denied it. The Gay Alliance sued and New York State Appeals Court ruled that the organization must receive equality under law and that property tax exempt status must be granted. This landmark decision was the first in New York State and early in the U.S. as a whole, on the topic of government discriminating against gay people.

Chapter 15: Domestic Partnership Legislation     2:43

In 1994 Tim Mains, openly gay councilman, brought to Council the proposal that the City Of Rochester recognize gay partnerships and forced discussion of the topic. Mayor William Johnson saw this as a civil rights issue, the right thing to do, and assured Council that, if passed, he would sign the legislation. Council passed the bill, placing the city of Rochester in the forefront of progressive municipalities nationwide.

Chapter 16: ImageOut Film Festival   5:18

Under attack and censorship in the 1980’s and 90’s, the LGBT community needed to take control of our culture and effectively announce that we exist. In 1992 the Pink Flamingos and Purple Hearts event ushered in Rochester’s Lesbian and Gay Film Festival with all tickets sold out. Soon renamed “Image Out”, Rochester’s annual fall event is in the forefront of gay film festivals internationally. Luring large numbers of LGBT people to gather together and enjoy each other’s company, from its beginning Image Out has also attracted straight allies as volunteers and patrons, expanding and enhancing our sense of community.

Chapter 17: Workplace Equality   7:46

Parity, recognition and equality, the freedom to bring our whole selves with unrestrained creativity to work lies at the heart of workplace equality. While a fearful, closeted environment depresses corporate bottom line, openness and equality positively affects productivity.   Significant Rochester corporations such as Xerox and Kodak adopted the policy, fostered internal LGBT groups, and hold management events to educate employees from top leadership on down.

Chapter 18: Marriage Equality     6:55

Beginning with the first LGBT couple in Rochester to seek and be denied, a marriage license, this committed lesbian couple became activists joined by many others striving for years to gain marriage equality in New York State. Support from Pride at Work, an LGBT labor organization, added significant voice and pressure in Albany to pass legislation. Governor Cuomo worked with all involved in this issue over a long process to effect change and increase civil rights and justice in NYS and on June 24, 2011, Lt. Governor Duffy announced in chambers that the marriage equality bill had passed.

Chapter 19: Many Shoulders …   4:31

Rochester’s Gay Men’s Chorus, founded 1982, sings “Over the Rainbow” to conclude this documentary. Long time LGBT activists comment that it is always essential and easier now to find your people, to be yourself. Taking a risk is always worth it.

Shoulders to Stand On Educational Resources Guide

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