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40 Parades and Counting

Tracye Lawson and Larry Friedman at the KUSP studios before the interview. Photo: Laufer / KUSP

Tracye Lawson and Larry Freedman at the KUSP studios before the interview. Photo: Laufer / KUSP

By Julia Calderone | KUSP News –

Santa Cruz’s first lesbian and gay organization, LAGMU, sparked a turning point in the Santa Cruz gay community by hosting its first pride parade in 1975. As this year’s 40th annual parade approached, Larry Friedman and Tracye Lawson, two of the first organizers reminisce about the event’s inception.

Larry: ”It started out with a group of gay and lesbian members of the community who put together the first gay organization in Santa Cruz County and it was sponsored by Cabrillo College. And it started in the early part of 1975, it was part of the lesbian and gay men’s union – LAGMU.”

Tracy: ”Because of the political time, it wasn’t just about supporting ourselves, it was about being visible. So we decided we’re here, we’re proud and we’re part of this community and we’re going to show it.”

Larry: “We had hecklers on the sidewalks like you wouldn’t believe. Zealots.”

Tracye: ”People praying at the end of Pacific, well-meaning but they were praying for us. Young men standing on the side of the road saying GO HOME. And we were like, we live here. We didn’t INVADE Santa Cruz.”

In 1978, the Briggs Initiative to ban openly gay and lesbian teachers lit a fire under the movement. Previously unpolitical members of the GLBTQ community campaigned against the measure and it went down to a big defeat.

The politics became a part of the parade, Lawson and Friedman say. A few years later the AIDS epidemic meant Pride was a more somber event. Though, over that period, increasingly more people openly identified themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered.

Larry: ”Things really changed from ‘we’re going to express ourselves as free sexual beings’ to becoming more politically aware, to enlist support of city, county and political machines. It really moved into a much more acceptable thing by the mid-80’s.”

Friedman and Lawson encourage Santa Cruz residents to join the parade Sunday, June 1 at 11 am on Pacific Avenue. Aside from the parade, there will be booths, a stage and activities galore.

J.D. Hillard contributed to this report.

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