Queer Santa Cruz: Stories of the LGBTQ+ Community in Santa Cruz County


Oral History Project


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Gay Rights Advocates Marching
Alex Santana, Jr. preparing to film and interview John Laird for the LGBTQ Trailblazers Oral History Project. Photograph by Pat Dellin.

This collection of oral histories documents the local LGBTQ+ community. It honors the people who championed the movements and institutions, empowering the community.

The Dolkas-Mertz Award from the History Forum helped fund this project.


Talk to a member of our community today who was here and LGBTQ+ in the 1970s and 80s, and they’ve lived through and struggled for a revolution in laws and public attitudes. Talk to a young person today, and that’s ancient history. For both our veterans of LGBTQ+ activism and the young queers/gender fluid/non-conforming individuals of today, for straight people as well as LGBTQ+s, for families, supporters and historians, recording our memories of the beginning work towards these momentous changes is important, illuminating, educational, inspirational.

Pat Dellin, the Diversity Center of Santa Cruz County

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The MAH collaborated with the Diversity Center of Santa Cruz County to videotape twelve local LGBTQ trailblazers about their experiences in the early days of the movement for LGBTQ visibility and rights.

In order of appearance: Jerry Solomon, Lauren Crux, Adam Spickler, Gloria Nieto, Kater Pollock, Jo Kenny.

Early Prides
The first Santa Cruz Pride gatherings in the 1970s were a time for LGBTQ people to come out together, support each other, and advocate for fair treatment. There was also pushback from some segments of the larger community.

In order of appearance: Larry Friedman, Jo Kenny, Jerry Solomon.


Our work is not done, by any means, but we’ve come a really long way in the last 40 years- much farther than we dreamed possible! And I think the key to our success has been all of us working together in community, and the simple courageous act of loving one another, visibly, with pride.

Kater Pollock

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LGBTQ+ seniors are less likely to have family support and more likely to be isolated than their straight counterparts. This impacts their health and quality of life. Our trailblazers need our support, and we need to educate the larger community about these issues.

Jane Schwickerath, consultant on LGBTQ+ senior issue

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The AIDS Crisis
The AIDS crisis hit the Santa Cruz County gay men’s community hard. There was no funding from the federal government and a life-prolonging treatment was still a decade away. Local LGBTQ people came forward to support our AIDS victims.

In order of appearance: Jerry Solomon, Larry Friedman, John Laird, Jo Kenny, Gloria Nieto.

Capitola Police
Discrimination against LGBTQ people took many forms in the 1970s and 80s. This incident with the Capitola police in 1980 is one example. LGBTQ trailblazers banded together with allies to push for reforms.

In order of appearance: John Laird, Jerry Solomon, Lauren Crux.

A Message to Youth
We asked the LGBTQ trailblazer interviewees: “What is your message to LGBTQ youth today?”

In order of appearance: Gloria Nieto, Pat Dellin, Stella Moreno, Jerry Solomon, Kater Pollock, Jo Kenny.

Interviewer and videographer: Alex Santana, Jr.
Interviewers: Pat Dellin and Lauren Crux.

A collaboration of The Diversity Center of Santa Cruz County and The MAH/Dolkas History Forum


Santa Cruz Queer History Webinar 1:
Lesbian and Gay Men's Union (LAGMU) - 1974

Santa Cruz Queer History Webinar 2:
The First Pride Event Causes Santa Cruz to Come Out - 1975

Santa Cruz Queer History Webinar 3:
Santa Cruz AIDS Project a Model for the Nation, 1980s

Santa Cruz Queer History Webinar 4:
Gay Men's Volleyball in the 1980s

Santa Cruz Queer History Webinar 6:
Pajaro Valley Pride Takes Flight in 2015

Santa Cruz Queer History Webinar 7:
The Diversity Center is Founded in 1989 & Continues Today

Santa Cruz Queer History Webinar 8:
Watsonville High: What's in a Name and the First GSA

Santa Cruz Queer History Webinar 9:
Radical Faeries Enhance Santa Cruz Queer Santa Cruz, 1980s

Santa Cruz Queer History Webinar 10:
The Dyke Trans March Enhances Pride and Queer Santa Cruz, 1994

Santa Cruz Queer History Webinar 11:
The AIDS Quilt in Santa Cruz in 1989

Santa Cruz Queer History Webinar 12:
Creating the MAH Queer Santa Cruz Exhibit

Santa Cruz Queer History Webinar 13:
Lou Harrison, a Queer Music Composer in Santa Cruz, 1970s

In the News

Talk of the Bay from KSQD
Queer Santa Cuz Exhibition Discussion

Larry Friedman, Rob Darrow and Sharon Papo, three people instrumental in the creation of the new Queer Santa Cruz online exhibition at the McPherson Art and History Center, the MAH.


Additional Resources

LGBTQ+ Vocabulary List

English Version Version en Español