This Educational Resource Guide presents information, historical outlines and references, and  YouTube video references on the LGBT history of Rochester, NY captured by the Shoulders To Stand On 90 minute Documentary. (Watch the trailer.) The guide is for use by educators, researchers, students, and the general population in a variety of venues including community speaking engagements, classroom presentations, and corporate diversity training. The documentary has been broken into 19 chapters for use, primarily in educational settings, to allow for effective independent use of individual topics for research and presentation purposes.

In addition to the 19 chapters, the Resource Guide includes a Rochester New York General Resources section; Appendices with additional content; and a list of Vocabulary. For help or questions about using the Guide, please contact Evelyn Bailey, Chair, Shoulders To Stand On.

1. Gay Oppression, Pre-Stonewall   Summary   Chapter 1
2. Rochester Reacts to Stonewall   Summary   Chapter 2
Appendices:  Rochester Bars, Bookstores and Baths   Stonewall Articles
3. Gay Liberation Front, University of Rochester, Speaker’s Bureau   Summary   Chapter 3
4. Green Thursday   Summary   Chapter 4
Appendices:  Green Thursday Interviews Pt 1   Green Thursday Interviews Pt 2
5. Gay Liberation Dance   Summary   Chapter 5
6. The Empty Closet   Summary   Chapter 6
Appendix:  Empty Closet Editors 1971-2011
7. GLF Leaves University of Rochester, Gay Alliance Begins   Summary   Chapter 7
8. First Gay Alliance Picnic   Summary Chapter 8
9. Police and Community Relations   Summary   Chapter 9
10. CETA Funding and Controversy   Summary   Chapter 10
11. Rochester Gay Bars   Summary   Chapter 11
12. Rochester Responds to HIV/AIDS   Summary   Chapter 12
Appendix: Helping People with AIDS
13. Rochester Gay Pride   Summary   Chapter 13
14. Plaintiff: Gay Alliance Versus Defendant: City of Rochester   Summary   Chapter 14
15. Domestic Partnership Legislation   Summary   Chapter 15
16. ImageOut Film Festival   Summary   Chapter 16
17. Workplace Equality   Summary   Chapter 17
Appendix: Corporate Influence on Political Policy Bibliography
18. Marriage Equality   Summary   Chapter 18
Appendix: Marriage Equality Timeline
19. Many Shoulders   Summary

Also included in the Shoulders To Stand On Educational Guide:
Rochester, NY General Resources

Chapter Summaries

Chapter 1: Gay Oppression, Pre-Stonewall

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.
Video Chapter 1 Run Time: 4:59 minutes     Chapter 1

Chapter 2: Rochester Reacts to Stonewall

Hear a personal account of the Stonewall Riots. Reactions by Rochesterians 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.
Video Chapter 2 Run Time: 5:58 minutes   Chapter 2
Appendices: Rochester Bars, Bookstores and Baths    Stonewall Articles

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

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.
Video Chapter 3 Run Time: 3:15 minutes   Chapter 3

Chapter 4: Green Thursday

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.
Video Chapter 4 Run Time: 2:10 minutes   Chapter 4
Appendices: Green Thursday Interviews Pt 1   Green Thursday Interviews Pt 2

Chapter 5: Gay Liberation Dance

In October, 1971 in celebration of the 1st Anniversary of the Gay Liberation Front, a 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.
Video Chapter 5 Run Time: 2:12 minutes   Chapter 5

Chapter 6: The Empty Closet

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.
Video Chapter 6 Run Time: 4:25 minutes   Chapter 6
Appendix: Empty Closet Editors 1971-2011

Chapter 7: GLF Leaves the University of Rochester Campus, Gay Alliance Begins

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.
Video Chapter 7 Run Time: 4:35 minutes   Chapter 7

Chapter 8: First Gay Alliance Picnic

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.
Video Chapter 8 Run Time: 4:09 minutes   Chapter 8

Chapter 9: Police and Community Relations

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.
Video Chapter 9 Run Time: 7:26 minutes   Chapter 9

Chapter 10: CETA Funding and Controversy

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.
Video Chapter 10 Run Time: 5:18 minutes   Chapter 10

Chapter 11: Rochester Gay Bars

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.
Video Chapter 11 Run Time: 1:36 minutes   Chapter 11

Chapter 12: Rochester Responds to HIV/AIDS

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.
Video Chapter 12 Run Time:  13:09 minutes   Chapter 12
Appendix: Helping People with AIDS

Chapter 13: Rochester Gay Pride

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.
Video Chapter 13 Run Time: 4:56 minutes   Chapter 13

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

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.
Video Chapter 14 Run Time: 3:01 minutes   Chapter 14

Chapter 15: Domestic Partnership Legislation

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.
Video Chapter 15 Run Time: 2:43 minutes   Chapter 15

Chapter 16: ImageOut Film Festival

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.
Video Chapter 16 Run Time: 5:18 minutes  Chapter 16

Chapter 17: Workplace Equality

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.
Video Chapter 17 Run Time: 7:46 minutes   Chapter 17
Appendix: Corporate Influence on Political Policy Bibliography

Chapter 18: Marriage Equality

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.
Video Chapter 18 Run Time: 6:55 minutes   Chapter 18
Appendix: Marriage Equality Timeline

Chapter 19: Many Shoulders

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.
Video Chapter 19 Run Time: 4:31 minutes