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"On These Shoulders We Stand"

A Film by Glenne McElhinney

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Not everything began with Stonewall.

On These Shoulders We Stand is an illuminating historical account of early gay life and activism in Los Angeles told by the people who lived it.


Eleven elders of the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender community in Los Angeles chronicle gay life from the 1950s into the early 1980s. The film brings to light Los Angeles' hidden gay history by interweaving first-person accounts with narration and unprecedented access to seldom-seen archival materials.

Project Summary:

The film shows postwar Los Angeles to be a city of startling contrasts. In this tale of two cities, there is one, a city with a substantial, vibrant gay community, and the other, a city obsessed with rendering that community invisible, kept in the closet or locked in its jails.

On These Shoulders We Stand chronicles the lives of eleven elders, from their early years to their coming out, to their groundbreaking activism for the rights of all GLBT people. Contrary to popular belief that the struggle for gay rights was confined to New York City and San Francisco, the film profiles several Los Angeles activists who helped change the course of both California and GLBT history. Viewers will learn how Los Angeles' gay community has had a national impact on issues as diverse as the First Amendment, the entertainment industry and the civil rights movement. On These Shoulders We Stand brings the marginalized and under-reported history of Los Angeles' GLBT community to a new generation of American audiences.

Link: Impact Stories - an oral history project