Shoulders to Stand On


                       A Rochester LGBTQ Community Program

                                                       Of the

                                               Out Alliance




The Shoulders To Stand On Program of the Out Alliance

In 2003 the Shoulders To Stand On Program of the Out Alliance was tasked with documenting archiving, preserving, sharing and making accessible the history of the Rochester LGBTQ community and its impact on New York State’s and the nation’s liberation movement. This program gives credibility to our community and culture, and will be available to teach and inspire future generations.

The Out Alliance STSO Program has four mandates and ten initiatives

        Shoulders To Stand On Program Mandates

1) To raise community awareness about what constitutes historical documentation and ephemera that the Rochester LGBT community may have.

2) To identify, gather, document, preserve, make visible and share with the Greater Rochester community and beyond the historical archival collections received from the Rochester LGBT community.

3) To energize the local community to use that history as further inspiration for leadership, acceptance and   courage.

4) To be a bridge for the general population to understand the LGBTQ community’s contributions and role  in the history of Rochester, New York State and the Social Reform Movements in  American  histor


The Shoulders To Stand On Program has 10 Initiatives:



The Roots Chronology Initiative digitized the Empty Closet Newspaper, the oldest continuously published gay news­paper in New York State. Completed in 2010.


This is an ongoing initiative in which for each Empty Closet issue EC headlines, community

resources, notable people, significant events are entered into a data base for easy search.  The

ROOTS CHRONOLOGY initiative also includes the ongoing Photo Identification Project

to identify people, places, events documented by 3,400 mostly black and white photographs

from 1972 – 2004.



The Out Alliance Documentation and Preservation Initiative received 3 New York State Archives grants (2009 – 2011) to identi­fy 260+ Rochester LGBT organizations, agencies groups and individuals that set the bar for gay activism and reli­gious tolerance from 1960 to today. 137 were contacted, 80 were surveyed and 15 record collections were placed in permanent repositories.  Details can be found in the 2012 DHP Final Report.

Link: http://www.gayalliance. org/images/stories/shoulders/DHP/2012_dhp_final.pdf

The Out Alliance Archives now totaling 130 cubic feet of organizational and programming materials are housed at Cornell University.  You can access the Finding Aide for this material at Link:

Recently the Out Alliance has placed 20 cu ft of archival material at the Rochester Public

Library Archives.  This material represents collections from local activists, agencies and

organizations.   Descriptions and Finding Aides for these collections detailing content and

location can be found at



The Oral Histories Initiative, audio and video tape, cap­tures the stories, struggles and achievements of our gay pioneers and allies. The 102+ oral histories are the foun­dation of the 90 minute Documentary on the History of the Rochester LGBT community. Oral histories will continue to be collected as history is created. These are available on line at:

     Rochester, New York Voices of LGBT History



The 90 Minute Documentary Film: Shoulders to Stand On celebrates the brave men and women who had the courage to step out of the closet, allowing their voices to be heard, in the tradition of a city whose history is firmly grounded in freedom and equality for all. The finished documentary was marketed to film festivals and PBS Television stations around the nation for presentation/broadcast. The documentary will be offered to community centers, schools, corporations and other social organiza­tions to be utilized as an educational tool with a website resource component.

To view the trailer:

To purchase:



Writing and Publishing the History of the Rochester LGBT Community. Successful completion of the Roots Chronol­ogy, the Documentation Project and the Oral Histories Initiative provides the necessary tools for research to write and publish the history of the Rochester LGBT Community in an organized, efficient, inclusive, and thorough manner. Check back at for updates.  The Shoulders To Stand On column in the EC will provide the material for this compendium volume.



In conjunction with the archival and documentation project A website has been launched to engage the community in conversa­tions about Rochester’s LGBT history. The website offers information about the project, promotes opportunities to get involved in the program, and, most importantly, it allows people to submit their stories and/or materials that represent their own LGBT history. The redesigned website along with the STSO Blog has been transformed into an educational/resource/media toolkit that will provide educators, researchers, and the general public resources for the 19 chapters of the documentary.  It provides information, study guides and other resources for churches, corporate diversity programs, and educators looking to include LGBT studies into their curriculums.

Included in the Educational Resource Guide; a brief description of each chapter; a vocabulary list of terms, names, places; an outline of topics by chapter with resource links; links to Empty Closet issues and articles; links to oral histories with access to audio and video tapes; links to archived materials at Cornell University, Archives at University of Rochester, Leather Archives in Chicago, and the Smithsonian in Washington, DC.

            STSO Educational Resource Guide



Provides free screenings of the documentary film, “Shoulders to Stand On” in Monroe County Library   and the Pioneer Library Systems of NY.  The mission of this Initiative is to raise awareness, increase visibility, and inform the general public about an underserved and undocumented population in our community. By building upon the longstanding natural alliances with the local library system, the STSO Public Library Initiative will connect diverse sections of the general population, broaden our geographic reach, and strengthen partnerships between urban and suburban public libraries in the Monroe County and Pioneer Library Systems and hopefully with the Out Alliance of the Genesee Valley.  for the next 2 years, as a part of this initiative libraries have the opportunity to display the Forging Alliance Exhibit which documents the 40+ year history of the Out Alliance of the Genesee Valley, and some of  the AIDS posters from the 6,200 AIDS posters from 124 countries in 68 languages and dialects, donated to the University’s Department of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation by retired physician Dr. Edward C. Atwater, M.D., ’50, an emeritus professor of medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center.



The Shoulders to Stand On Program of the Out Alliance in partnership with the Rochester Public Library, Friends and foundation of the Rochester Public Library, The College At Brockport, WXXI, and ImageOut has begun a yearly initiative – The Anthony Mascioli Rainbow Dialogues.

The Rainbow Dialogues is a series of community building conversations demonstrating how LGBTQ history and archival documents from the past are relevant for people today.  The Dialogues will reference and contextualize LGBTQ life in Rochester against the backdrop of local and national social justice issues.

For more information:




LGBTQ Historic Walking Tour

The 1st LGBTQ Historic took place at ROC Pride 2017.  Entitled Resistance in the ‘70’s: Have we Come Full Circle, the tour is designed to visit the historical sights that represent for the  Rochester LGBTQ significant landmarks in their struggle for freedom, justice and equality.  The tours engender a sense of pride in our past accomplishments, a sense of re-dedication to the struggle, and a sense of hope in future social, political, and economic success.


STSO and ImageOut Archival Film Series

The Shoulders to Stand On Program of the Out Alliance in partnership with ImageOut will present films screened or shown in past imageOut Film festivals.  We will begin the first unofficial film festival at Pink Flamingos and Purple Hearts and the first 3 years of ImageOut – 1993, 1994, 1995.  The series will take place the 2nd Wednesday of every other month beginning in January of each year.  Making out history and culture visible through film will help educate our community and bring renewed hope that the “closet” is bein

Shoulders To Stand On Program Initiatives

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