The first issue of the San Francisco Bay Times, published on May 1, 1978, proudly proclaims that it is “a Newspaper by Lesbians & Gay Men.” This was a revolutionary concept. The Bay Times was the first paper in California, and among the first in the world, to be jointly and equally produced by gay men and women. As an Opinion piece in that first issue mentioned, “Though the Bay Area is often regarded as a liberated haven for lesbians and gay men, these groups are surprisingly out of touch with each other and within themselves. Existing newspapers, which sufficed when they were founded several years ago, no longer meet the needs of today’s expanded and more politically conscious readership.”
The Contributors list for that first issue reads like an historic Who’s Who, with names such as Cleve Jones and Phyllis Lyon mentioned. These talented, dedicated individuals are still vibrant in our community, just as the Bay Times itself remains strong. We are the oldest fully LGBT funded and owned newspaper in San Francisco!
As you scan this historic first page from May of 1978, consider what a pivotal time that was in our history.
In January of that year, Harvey Milk became the first openly gay person in California to be elected to public office. He was settling in as a member of the SF Board of Supervisors, with the Bay Times covering his work. Preparations were underway for the June 25 Gay Freedom Day Parade, which included the world debut of the Rainbow Flag and was led for the first time by Dykes on Bikes. We were busy fighting the hateful Briggs Initiative, which would have allowed school boards to fire, or refuse to hire, LGBT teachers and even non-LGBT teachers who supported our rights. Thanks to Milk and others, San Francisco had just passed a new gay rights ordinance that helped to prevent discrimination.
While we at the Bay Times are looking back on our 35 years, we are also looking forward. We are getting ready to launch a new website, sfbaytimes.com, and are already making plans for additional projects in the year to come. For now, though, let’s take a mental journey back to 1978…