That’s this year’s title for the 50th iteration of the San Francisco LGBT Pride celebration. 50 years of pride—a laudable achievement. Who would have thought that a nearly one-off march down Polk Street in 1970 would become the monstrous annual event with hundreds of thousands of visitors that we enjoy today? Starting small the Pride celebration née Gay Freedom Day has grown and made a huge difference, becoming a symbol and beacon around the world. Different Spokes isn’t nearly as old—we’re only 38 years old- er, young!—and we’re not nearly as
notorious famous. But the title of this year’s Pride applies to us as well: we’ve had generations of LGBT folks come through our club, most of whom have moved on (if they didn’t die). Attending a Gay Freedom Day was, and perhaps still is, a rite of passage for those coming out—it certainly was for me. Being among the mass of fellow LGBT humanity at the parade can be like the proverbial scales falling off one’s eyes: the ugly ducklings have finally found their real family. The club also was and is a smaller version of Pride: those who come to us are looking for their brethren and have to make that tentative first step in identifying as ‘one of us’.
I joined Different Spokes shortly after I moved to San Francisco. However I didn’t attend my first ride until maybe as much as a year later. I was welcomed warmly and quickly fell in. I didn’t ride a lot with the club though because I was in graduate school at the time and also working, so most of my cycling was snuck in short spurts here and there and I hardly had time for a club ride until my life settled down. I wasn’t the only new member–the club was young so we were ALL new members!–but I do recall one member in particular, a young man who wasn’t even 18. He was quiet and shy, a bit awkward interpersonally, but he loved to ride his bike. He lived in San Francisco with his parents and I’m not sure they knew he was gay. Somehow he found us. This was long before the Internet. But growing up in San Francisco he must have had his ear to the ground and made his way to us not long after the club formed. He was the furthest thing from a ‘Castro clone’ and as far as I could tell the club was his only gay outlet. He was a regular on club rides for years. I don’t know what happened to him but I like to think that hanging out with the club was a positive influence on him as he grew up. Wherever you are, Glen, I hope you’re doing well.
And to all you present and future ugly ducklings, welcome home!