In my office hangs a copy of the oldest known San Diego Pride budget. We had a deficit of one dollar. 90% of our income came from button sales. The year was 1975, the first year to have a permitted Pride Parade, but not the first year of Pride in San Diego. I love having that piece of history hanging next to me as I work every day. It reminds me of the legacy gifted to us by the pioneers of our movement – those early struggles and successes of our community as it fought legal oppression, societal norms, and too often internally.
In 1970, students at SDSU, including architect of our regional movement Jess Jessop, founded the San Diego Chapter of the Gay Liberation Front and held early protests and “Gay-Ins” in solidarity with the national GLF movement, which conducted and coordinated solidarity events with first annual “Christopher Street Liberation Day March“.
San Diego “Gay-Ins” led by the GLF continued in 1971 and 73, but in 1972 regional LGBTQ activists and organizers saw the opportunity to do something more than a day in the park. The GLF of San Diego and over 20 other regional emerging LGBTQ organizations joined forces to produce the San Diego Southwestern Gay Conference, a time to coordinate and strategize.
Our regional organizations began to become more sophisticated. Jess Jessop and many in the GLF shifted their focus to establish the Gay Information Center hotline in 1973, which grew into our region’s LGBTQ Community Center. In 1974, the then titled Center for Social Services Center held a Stonewall Anniversary yard sale and potluck to raise funds for the growing LGBTQ Center. There are conflicting and undocumented oral accounts of an impromptu unpermitted march that some credit as the first San Diego Pride, but I find it important to honor that our movement did not yet have shared language to call these events “Pride” and that Stonewall anniversary events, Gay-ins, conferences, and marches were happening in San Diego before our first permits or nonprofit status.
In 1981, the first national list of Pride organizers was created by San Diego Pride board member Doug Moore, and in 1982 a small Pride conference was conducted in Boston, followed in 1983 by a slightly larger Pride Coordinators National Conference held here in San Diego. This was the beginning of what would become InterPride, the international Pride membership body, and annual global conference.
Ad hoc committees would come together each year to produce Pride Parades and Rallies that eventually added a festival. In 1989, Christine Kehoe, Neil Good, and others in our community decided to take Pride in a more professional direction and San Diego Pride became the first Pride in the world to hire an Executive Director, Tim Williams. Together they helped us become our own nonprofit in 1994, a year that marked the beginning of the Parade route and Festival location most people will find familiar.
Today, San Diego Pride is the most philanthropic Pride organization in the world, with robust year-round education and advocacy programs predominantly led by community volunteer leaders and supported by our volunteer board of directors and paid staff. Our organization and movement weren’t built by one person, one group, one nonprofit, one leader. We have been manifested through the intentional will and labor of countless people across generations. Even now, our leadership is comprised of people in their teens, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. As I reflect on October being LGBTQ history month, my heart and gratitude to all those who carried us here and each of you who are taking us forward. Together we’ve made history, we are building our future, and we are Resilient.”
Fernando Zweifach López
Executive Director | San Diego Pride
P.S. You can invest in the long-term legacy of this organization by becoming a Guardian of Pride.
Fernando Lopez is the Executive Director of San Diego Pride. Lopez’s years of LGBT advocacy, nonprofit management, public education, diversity consulting, media relations, guest lectures, and organizing have made them a consistent presence ensuring the struggles of the LGBT community are ever visible.