Stonewall 50: Greater Syracuse's March to LGBTQ Equality

We have created this interactive timeline for a new perspective on Syracuse's LGBT+ rich history. Activism starts with the local community, and so we wanted to show how our local activism coincides with the national movements towards equality. As we continue our activism, it's important to remember how we fit in. Feel free to scroll through, learn something, find something, or watch something. Then, we invite you to add your own story! We hope you enjoy the exhibit and you feel inspired by the stories and objects that tell the story of our elders. Thank you --ArtRage.

1952-06-27 10:12:29

Highschool Torments

Richard was as young as six when he first began to realize his queerness: "There was no name for it of course, but as I grew older I realized that I didn't have the same feelings towards girls like my friends had. It became a kind of secret which had to be kept to myself. There were many awkward moments and embarrassing situations after puberty; as when a girl would be flirting with me while my buddies were around and they all saw that I didn't respond normally. I tried to date a few girls in High School but I had to eventually give up on them causing some tears on their part and inability to explain on my part. I even felt maybe I was crazy or mentally ill. Such were the times in the culture of the Late Fifties and Early Sixties where the mention of homosexuality meant you were ostracized or tormented. Fortunately I was an athlete so I wasn't a target for bullies… although I was very shy because of "my secret” and also because I stammered. So I did experience some bullying. I was terrified I would be found out, so I learned to be extremely discreet in my glances. There were many crushes and painful longings. I would imagine and hope that being in High School today would be less painful for a gay person."

1957-06-27 10:12:29

Looking Farther Back

Michele grew up just out of reach of Stonewall, but that didn't stop her activism. She speaks about learning from elders who were being arrested back in the 1950s, "They were rejected by all family members. They suffered untreated mental health issues, addiction, and trauma. I myself was not thinking much about gay liberation – I just wanted a girlfriend. It was not until much later in my life that I understood all this. And it is no wonder most people don’t know or care – these kinds of milestones were not in the history textbooks."

1960-06-07 10:12:29

Struggles in the Family

Patricia Norton recalls what it was like to grow up in a homophobic Irish Catholic household: "In my late thirties, I began to come out and learned that I had a gay brother who had been in a relationship for 15 years. My parents never knew about my queerness - they are both now deceased. In later life, I volunteered and served as a board member at the LGBTQ Center in Kingston - I wished I had had a place like that growing up.

1964-06-27 10:12:29

Army Affairs

In 1964 Wayne was drafted into the army. There he met his first true love. Together they visited New York City and agreed that after getting out of the army they would return and live there together. However, Wayne was discharged first and he returned home to Missouri. His army friend visited once when he got out but then went on to his home in California. They never fulfilled their plans. It wasn't until the 70s, and his mid-thirties that he began to explore those options again around the climate of Stonewall, "Occasionally I might stop by a gay bar but more likely I would walk down Christopher Street to the water then turn around and walk back downtown to my loft. I did this a lot while I was still with my wife. Thinking back on it I know it was an odd thing to do but often I just had to get out and in some small way escape what was confining me. It helped."

1967-01-27 10:12:29

Music Transends

Joe has been playing jazz music since the age of eight. Where identity becomes confrontational and people often want you to identify cut and dry, black and white, Joe says he always felt the need to be whoever he was. Music transcends that need to give people what they want, "I’ve been in my shadow a long time. It’s the best way I could describe it, just very personal about my life. But in my music, in the things I’ve recorded there have always been clues …let’s say, song titles for example. I have a recording where I played some electronic instruments and a tenor saxophone and I did a version of The Man I Love, but it’s not like anything you have ever heard."

1969-06-09 02:49:35

Gay Art in SoHo

In the summer of Stonewall, 1969, Charles Leslie and his long-term partner Fritz, mounted their first exhibition of gay art in their SoHo loft planting the seeds of what would grow to become The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, one of the most renowned LGBTQ+ art collections in the world. When asked about gay art and the mainstream today, Charles said, "Generally speaking mainstream institutions are terrified to show anything that suggests homosexuality, even now. It’s astounding… It comes out of American Puritanism. I guess. Growing up gay in god-bitten America honed my sense of social justice to razor sharp."

1969-06-27 10:12:29

Teen Beat

Lois, who has been an psychoanalyst of over 30 years, remembers being 15 during the summer of Stonewall, "At the time of the Stonewall riots, I was 15 years old and living with my parents. I don’t remember being aware of the riots, but I was engaging in my own liberating process: I was in love and sexually active with my best girlfriend. I was not thinking about being queer or what that meant. By my late teens, I learned to find others who could be attuned to my needs and who could validate my unique strengths and struggles that arose from my living in a world where I could not be fully out. "

1969-06-27 10:12:29


Ira Joel Haber remembers exactly where he was at the time of Stonewall: "In June of 1969 I had just turned 20 and was living happily with 2 roommates in a 6th-floor walkup in Chelsea. My rent was $80 a month. No doubt I was paying most of the rent, but that’s neither here or there. I was full of gay juice that June, just out, turning heads and tricks as much as I could and of course I would be in the Village all the time walking those grimy hot streets. Nothing different that Friday night on June 27th when on my way home along 7th Ave. I heard a commotion and stopped on the corner where I saw all hell let loose. I really had no idea what was going on, but I kept a safe distance from the action and did not go any closer than the corner of 7th Ave. I stayed for a while longer and then decided to get the hell out of there. I still had no idea what was going on when I got home and told my roommates that there was some kind of a riot down in the Village near the Stonewall Bar. The next day we all knew and walked down to the scene to see what was going on. The riots were still going on. "

1969-06-28 00:00:00


Police raid the Stonewall Inn in New York City. Protests and demonstrations begin, and it later becomes known as the impetus for the gay civil rights movement in the United States.

1969-06-29 03:53:39

Stonewall Uprising

The beginning of a movement.

1970-06-07 10:12:29

Influences of Stonewall

Bob says, "I felt attraction and repulsion to the gay fringe (pardon the pun) of society for over a year after I got the copy of Life magazine that featured the Stonewall riots on the cover. I had locked myself in the bathroom and devoured every word and photo several times." He recalls that in the summer of 1970 while working as a messenger in his father’s office, a guy he worked with who he thought was attractive asked him if he was gay. “I said ‘yes’. I was 18 and had no idea why I said it.”

1970-06-28 00:00:00

Christopher Street Liberation Day

Community members in New York City march through the local streets to recognize the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall riots. This event is named Christopher Street Liberation Day, and is now considered the first gay pride parade.Several Syracuse residents attended this march and brought back the spirit of liberation to Syracuse.

1971-01-01 00:00:00

The Gay Freedom League is Founded

In 1971 Syracuse’s first post-Stonewall gay and lesbian organization was founded. The Gay Freedom League (GFL) was sponsored by and met at Syracuse University’s Hendricks Chapel. There was a sense among many of its members that women did not have an equal say in the GFL and needed an organization of their own. Formed around the same time as the GFL, the Lesbian Feminists of Syracuse formed as a women only group. By the late 1970s many other gay and lesbian groups had been formed in Syracuse. Such as: Gay Mothers, Unitarian Universalist Gay Caucus, Women Loving Women, and Dignified - a Gay Catholic Organization.

1973-03-26 00:00:00

Founding of PFLAG

First meeting of "Parents and Friends of Gays," which goes national as Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) in 1982.

1974-01-01 19:57:48

The Women's Center Opens

The Lesbian Feminists of Syracuse was an early tenant of the Syracuse Women’s Info Center; a coalition of women led organizations that formed to provide a safe space and consciousness-raising for women. The Women’s Center at 601 Allen Street opened in 1974 and is still in operation today.

1974-06-01 00:00:00

Syracuse's First Gay Pride Celebration

In June of 1974 the Gay Freedom League held its first Pride event, the Gay Pride Field Day. The event was a gathering in Thornden Park with food and music. Several of the participants wore bags over their heads to hide their identity. Despite its location in the progressive Westcott Neighborhood, a local Westcott organization provided “marshals” to keep the peace in case anti-gay protesters became violent. Despite the marshals, late into the event, teenagers began to throw rocks at the picnickers. When the TV crews came out, gay rights activist Earl Colvin was interviewed to give his side of the story and came out of the closet on the evening news! The next day he discovered he had been fired from his job at AGWAY, which at the time was legal discrimination.

1975-01-01 14:47:14

SLURP (Syracuse Lavender Union Reporting Press)

In 1975 Earl Colvin and his partner Joel Rinne launched Syracuse’s first Gay and Lesbian newsletter, SLURP (Syracuse Lavender Union Reporting Press). They printed it in their own press shop, known as The Printer’s Devil. In 1976 the newsletter changed its name to the The Gay Times and in 1978 it became the Gay Light Collective.

1975-01-01 19:57:48

The GFL founds the Gay Citizens Alliance

In 1975 members of the GFL founded the Gay Citizens Alliance (GCA). This new group wanted to be independent from Syracuse University in order to take on more political organizing and challenge discriminatory laws.

1976-11-01 06:39:26

The Alternative is Launched

In 1976 The Alternative: New York State’s Gay Newspaper was launched. Based in Syracuse, the monthly paper ran national news stories on the fight for gay and lesbian equality and news and events from across the state.

1977-06-01 15:32:58

The First Gay Pride Rally

At Columbus Circle local activists took charge and held the First Gay Pride Rally.

1977-06-07 10:12:29

Prospects of America

In the late seventies Fredi immigrated to the U.S. from his native Switzerland, where they had fingerprinted him for being gay. Fredi says about the contrast between the U.S. and a country that criminalizes queerness, "I had by then found out that the US was one of the few countries in the world where you still can live your life. Even though when I came being homosexual was still considered a mental disease. But it was made clear by everybody that you don’t have to worry. Just don’t enter the country and say “I’m Gay”. Just don’t do that."

1977-10-14 15:32:58

Onofre is Arrrested

Syracuse resident and Minister Ronald Onofre was arrested and charged with sodomy by Syracuse police. In 1978 Onofre was convicted and sentenced to a one year conditional discharge.

1977-10-14 15:32:58

Anita Bryant Gets a Pie in the Face

By the late 70s pop singer and Florida Orange Juice spokeswoman, Anita Bryant had become an outspoken opponent of gay rights and was fueling homophobia across the nation. At a press conference in Des Moines, Iowa as she toured with her anti-gay agenda, gay rights activist Tom Higgins threw a pie in Bryant’s face. Gay bars all over the country stopped serving screwdrivers and replaced them with the “Anita Bryant Cocktail”, which was made with vodka and apple juice. Sales and proceeds went to gay rights activists to help fund their fight against Bryant and her campaign.

1978-06-25 00:00:00

The Pride Flag makes its debut

Inspired by Milk to develop a symbol of pride and hope for the LGBT community, Gilbert Baker designs and stitches together the first rainbow flag.

1979-06-07 10:12:29

Gender Roles

During the 70s, Camille created a male ‘drag’ character, and successfully passed as ‘Jack Savage’ a leather man, even placing in the 1979 ‘Mr. Leather’ contest. Camille began to criticize gender roles in art and queerness during her education, "It was when I went to art school, Pratt Institute, where I suddenly had loads of male friends who were discovering and exploring their true sexuality. Meanwhile, it was still fairly dark ages for gender, where my artwork was referred to with male pronouns in blind critiques because it was presumed that the ‘stronger’ and ‘better’ work was done by males. That’s when I began to chafe at gender presumptions."

1979-11-01 19:57:48

Lesbian and Gay People of New York State

Another new organization, Lesbian and Gay People of New York State was founded at a conference held in Syracuse.

1980-01-01 15:32:58

The NYS Gay/ Lesbian Conference – Syracuse Chapter

During the 1980s “The Conference” as it was called was one of the main Gay and Lesbian organizations in Syracuse. They printed the Gaygram and were the organizers of the annual Pride Celebrations.

1980-06-12 03:53:39

Syracuse Passes Fair Practice Ordinance

Syracuse Common Council....

1981-01-01 15:32:58

Onofre Case Appealed

Prominent LGBT civil rights lawyer, Bonnie Strunk appealed the case and in 1981 the New York State Court of Appeals ruled that NYS Sodomy Statute was illegal. The ruling was then upheld by the US Supreme Court.

1982-01-01 15:32:58

"AIDS" becomes a new term

The first reported cases of AIDS in the US were diagnosed in the early 1980s. The term AIDS was used for the first time in 1982. It was not until 1986 that President Ronald Reagan said the word AIDS in public.

1983-05-01 15:32:58

AIDS Task Force of Central New York

In the summer of 1983 the AIDS Support Group was created. It later became the Central New York Health Crisis, AIDS Task Force of Central New York which went on to become AIDS Community Resources which is now known as ACR Health.

1983-05-01 15:32:58

The Gaygram updates on AIDS

1983 GayGram Newsletter included this update about AIDS: “Everyone has questions about AIDS, but no one has all the answers. We know that it is not just a gay epidemic and it is certainly not just a gay concern. But we also know that 71% of all persons diagnosed with AIDS are gay men and that 50% of those are in New York City. We don’t know how many cases there are in Syracuse. As this time the number appears to be relatively low. Still, AIDS is a concern in Syracuse. We are concerned about the possible effect on our community and we have shown our concern for persons with AIDS through funds send to New York City. “A Night of Unity” at Ryan’s raised $3500 for the AIDS Resource Center in New York City.”

1983-06-01 15:32:58

'Proud To Be' at the Landmark

For the first time, the annual June Pride event took place at a well-known public establishment; the Landmark Theater. However, the Landmark refused to allow the words “Gay”, “Lesbian” or “Homosexual” to appear on the marquee so the event which was originally planned to be called “Proud to be Gay and Lesbian” was shortened to just “Proud to Be.”

1985-06-21 15:32:58

First Pride March

The first Pride March in Syracuse went down Montgomery Street to Columbus Circle.

1985-06-21 15:32:58

The Post Standard Reports Rally

Although rallies had been organized in the past, in 1985 The Post Standard reported that 150 people attended Syracuse’s first Gay Pride Rally. They wrote that many of the participants wore paper bags over their heads “as symbols of people who can’t be there openly, people who are oppressed, people who are still in the closet.” The Post-Standard later noted that only two of the five leaders of the Gay/Lesbian Conference (the organizers of the event) gave their full names to the paper. Although the rally was not endorsed by Mayor Lee Alexander, for the first time the annual event was endorsed by politicians; three county legislators signed on to endorse the event.

1985-08-20 15:32:58

"One Man's Struggle"

In 1985 the Post-Standard ran a series of articles entitled “Living with AIDS: One Man’s Struggle” about Stephen Jenteel, a prominent gay rights activist in Syracuse. The in-depth articles and intimate photographs included many details about his diagnosis and aimed to educate the public and remove stigma about the disease.

1986-06-01 10:19:02

Friends of the Gay Pride

The following organizations and businesses were listed as allies and supporters of the 1986 Pride Celebration. Syracuse Cultural Workers Syracuse Peace Council Women’s Info Center Syracuse University GLSA SU Women’s Center Greater Syracuse NOW Printer’s Devil The Laurel Tree Ryan’s Someplace Else Mr. T’s Blue Skies The Bunk House Grace Episcopal Church

1988-01-01 15:32:58

GLAS is founded

In 1988 GLAS, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of Syracuse was founded. GLAS was active until the mid 1990s.

1989-01-01 15:32:58

ACT UP Syracuse

In 1989 ACT UP Syracuse, a local chapter of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, the international direct action advocacy group was founded.

1989-01-01 19:57:48

The Pink Paper

Started in 1989 “to report and educate on socially and politically significant news events to the gay, lesbian, and alternative community of Syracuse”, The Pink Paper started as a two page newsletter and grew to 40 pages at its peak. The paper ceased in 2001 after 12 years.

1990-01-27 15:30:53

Gay in the 90s

When asked by the artist what it was like to be gay in the 90s, Cameron T. Sutton replied: "Fear of alienation; there were no positive representations of gay men in the 90’s and especially not previous generations. All visible gay men were outcasts in my real world and in the media effeminate caricatures; not fully human, one-dimensional, Cockhounds pursuing straight men relentlessly, sassy hairdressers, bad drag queens, etc., never being depicted with dignity. I wasn’t necessarily ashamed of being gay, but concerned I wouldn’t be able to live openly."

1990-11-08 03:36:46

Fair Practices Law Passed in Syracuse

After decades of organizing on the part of many organizations, beginning with the Gay Citizen’s League in the 1970s, the Fair Practices Committee and all of their supporters watched Mayor Young sign the law banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation into law on November 8, 1990. The Fair Practices Committee and nearly 50 other Syracuse area organizations hosted a large celebration at the Persian Terrace in The Hotel Syracuse.

1990-12-11 03:42:21

The Stonewall Committee

Following the passage of the Fair Practices Law, The Fair Practices Committee is renamed The Stonewall Committee. Their mission is to represent the interests of LGBTQ+ voters as they work to combat homophobia of elected officials and work to get candidates that support LGBTQ+ rights into office.

1991-06-01 18:09:17

The Syracuse Gay and Lesbian Chorus

Founded in 1991, the community choral ensemble of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people and their allies, is dedicated to providing and performing an eclectic and entertaining offering of quality choral music.

1992-04-10 14:16:02

The Q Center

Beginning in 1992, AIDS Community Resources began offering programming for LGBTQ+ youth. A few years later they opened The Q Center. Today there are three Q Centers that serve 9 counties.

1992-06-01 18:09:17

Friends of Dorothy House

The Friends of Dorothy House was founded in 1992 on the model of a Catholic Worker House and inspired by the radical Catholic activist, Dorothy Day. Founders Michael DeSalvo and Nick Orth offer home-based care to people with HIV/AIDS.

1992-11-08 03:36:46

Mayor makes Pride Proclamation

In 1992, for the first time, the Mayor Young issued a pride proclamation from City Hall. This will be voted down, yet protested, in 1994.

1993-10-15 18:09:17

Protesting Pat Robertson

Pat Robertson, Chairman and CEO of the Christian Broadcasting Network at the time, had been invited to address the NYS Board of Education Association Conference. a coalition of LGBTQ+ and progressive organizations brought out over 300 people to protest a speech given by the antigay Christian fundamentalist leader.

1994-06-07 03:36:46

Pride Proclamation Contested

In 1994 the Common Council voted down the resolution to recognize Gay and Lesbian Pride Day. The Post Standard reported that the council meeting was attended by more than 200 people, one of the largest turnouts ever. They reported that slightly more than half expressed their opposition to the resolution.

1994-06-26 19:57:48

Stonewall 25

In commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Stonewall The Stonewall Committee organized a celebration called “From Liberation to Pride: The Struggle Continues.” The event took place at the experimental theatre next to Syracuse Stage.

Stonewall 50: Greater Syracuse's March to LGBTQ Equality

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