Beasley knows his Pride

  • by Seth Hemmelgarn
  • Tuesday June 23, 2009
Share this Post:
William Beasley is this year's lifetime achievement grand<br>marshal. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
William Beasley is this year's lifetime achievement grand
marshal. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

William Beasley is a man of many movements.

Beasley, 70, said he thinks he's being honored as this year's LGBT Pride Parade lifetime achievement grand marshal "because of my long history in both civil rights and gay rights and freedom of all kinds in America."

Beasley got his start in the civil rights movement in the late 1950s in Atlanta, where he was jailed for participating in a lunch counter sit-in that helped lead to the integration of the city's businesses and restaurants.

In 1969, he moved to Long Beach, California, where he became involved in the movement against the Vietnam war and played a lead role in exposing Dow chemical's part in producing toxic agents for the war.

Beasley, who is African American, came out as gay in 1968, and was also heavily involved in the Los Angeles gay rights movement and helped found Christopher Street West, the Los Angeles Pride organization.

He moved to the Bay Area in 1971 and began working with San Francisco's Gay Freedom Day Celebration Committee, which eventually became the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee.

Beasley, whose time with Pride included a stint on the board of directors, was one of the original advocates for including the words "bisexual" and "transgender" in the event's title.

When he first started, very few people were out, Beasley said. Now, he said, not only are people more open about their orientation, the movement is "a lot more diverse than what it used to be."

"When I was in there [the gay movement] years ago, you had to watch yourself or they would call you a 'nigger,'" he said.

Beasley, who's single, said he doesn't think an effort to repeal Proposition 8 in 2010 will be successful

"I know they're going to try to get back on the ballot and fight it again, but I don't think they're going to win," he said.

However, Beasley said, "I stand wholeheartedly behind those struggles to make America completely free, and I hope it spreads all over the world ... I stand just as strong now as I did when I first started my conquest and dedicated my life to fighting for the freedom of all people," he said.

The veteran activist said that as far as his personal plans, he's thinking about building a house in Berkeley.

"I want to build a nice house and have my friends come to live with me," said Beasley. "My theory is that when you're gay and you get slightly older, you have to build something so you can invite the young people to live with you, and you don't have to worry about anything."