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



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The first Santa Cruz Pride event took place in the summer of 1975. It was the idea of the Lesbian and Gay Men’s Union (LAGMU). This group started at Cabrillo College. The week-long celebration took place over four days and included workshops, dances, and concerts. It ended with a day of picnicking, music, poetry, in San Lorenzo Park.

First Santa Cruz Pride Participants Joyfully Marching
Photograph by Clytia Fuller

In 1975, 200 people gathered in San Lorenzo Park to “come out” en masse for the very first Gay Pride gathering in Santa Cruz, and one of the first in the nation for a small city.This was a time when LGBTQ people had no rights and practically no support from the public. We came out to be visible and to affirm our humanity. Little did we know that we were starting a tradition of Pride celebrations in Santa Cruz that have continued annually for over 40 years. As we stood together in 1975, we could barely dream that we would one day have the rights such as the right to marry that we gained during the Obama years.

Pat Dellin (from “Why Documenting our Local LGBTQ History is Important”)

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Santa Cruz Pride Participants Waving Flag

Watsonville and Pajaro Valley Pride developed in the 2000s. There is a parade, speeches, performances, food, and community booths.

Santa Cruz Pride is the third oldest Pride Event in California. (San Francisco and Los Angeles Prides are first and second). The people who started the first Santa Cruz pride are now the elders of the LGBTQ+ community. They’re still active in the 60+ men and women’s groups who meet monthly.

Santa Cruz County Sentinel Newspaper with Gay Pride March On Cover

Pride is about visibility; with visibility comes acceptance…We’re not interested in tolerance from the community, we want acceptance.

Nahum Rivera, Watsonville Pride Coordinator, 2015

Dyke Trans March Poster, 2018.

When we filmed the 1975 pride event, we asked a straight couple this question: What do you think about having a Gay Pride Week in Santa Cruz? Their answer was: “It’s beautiful…we heard the singing and we’ve enjoyed talking to some of the people…it’s been about 2,000 years that the world has existed with these outmoded laws, so I think it’s about time we shed our hypocrisy and take a real good look at this world. Because it could be a beautiful world and a beautiful country."

David Paine, 1975

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First Gay Pride Poster.
1977 Gay Pride Parade Photo in Santa Cruz Sentinel, 2000