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Photographer Scott Lokitz Looks Back On Documenting 4 Decades Of St. Louis Pride

A KMOV Channel 4 reporter records a news story from the 1984 Pride parade, where marchers carried pink balloons. It wasn't until the 1990s that the rainbow flag became a common symbol in St. Louis and nationwide.
Provided | Scott Lokitz
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A KMOV (Channel 4) reporter records a news story from the 1984 Pride parade, where marchers carried pink balloons. It wasn't until the 1990s that the rainbow flag became a common symbol in St. Louis and nationwide.

When Scott Lokitz was a gay teenager, his mother and grandmother took him to march with dozens of other gay and lesbian St. Louisans down Lindell Boulevard in the city’s first Pride parade.

Marching in a Pride parade was a bold move in 1980, a time when state and national laws forbade consensual same-sex relationships. But Lokitz felt right at home at St. Louis’ first Pride celebration, four decades ago. His mother had come out as lesbian and his grandmother was a member of PFLAG, an organization for those with a gay or lesbian family member.

“It felt natural,” Lokitz said. “It was just a celebration with my family.” 

Lokitz continued to march and photograph the annual Pride event, and in the late 1990s became Pride St. Louis’ official photographer.

“They couldn’t get rid of me,” Lokitz said. “I was there photographing it whether I was official or not.”

Scott Lokitz did not take this 1982 photo but he treasures it because it shows his grandmother Ida Dew, in black, with other members of PFLAG, an organization for families of gay and lesbian people.
Credit Provided | Wilbur Wegener
Scott Lokitz did not take this 1982 photo, but he treasures it because it shows his grandmother Ida Dew, in black, with other members of PFLAG, an organization for families of gay and lesbian people.
Scott Lokitz said the 2015 PrideFest following the legalization of same-sex marriage was the biggest celebration of them all.
Credit Provided | Scott Lokitz
Scott Lokitz said the 2015 PrideFest following the legalization of same-sex marriage was the biggest celebration of them all.

This weekend, Pride St. Louis celebrates its 40th anniversary with its annual parade and festival near Soldiers Memorial, downtown. 

It coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion, when gay, lesbian and transgender New Yorkers fought with police who raided a gay bar. 

“So I think this year’s celebration will be euphoric and record-breaking all around,” Lokitz, 55, said. “It is so amazing to me that in 50 years, how much progress our community has made, how many strides."

Lokitz's Photos Help Tell the Stories of LGBTQ History

St. Louis PrideFest was held in Forest Park, as seen in this 1992 photo, before it moved to Tower Grove Park in the late 1990s and then to downtown St. Louis in 2013.
Credit Provided | Scott Lokitz

St. Louis PrideFest was held in Forest Park, as seen in this 1992 photo. That same year, HIV became the number-one cause of death for gay men. The next year, President Bill Clinton would sign the "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy banning openly gay Americans from serving in the military. Congress incorporated the policy into law later that year.

TWA employees march in the 1996 Pride Parade.
Credit Provided | Scott Lokitz

In 1996, a handful of TWA employees boldly came out to march in the Pride parade. President Bill Clinton had just signed The Defense of Marriage Act that banned federal recognition of same-sex marriage and defined marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, which then became law.

Festivalgoers pack Tower Grove Park for the 1999 PrideFest.
Credit Provided | Scott Lokitz

Festivalgoers pack Tower Grove Park for the 1999 PrideFest. The festival moved from Forest Park to the south St. Louis park in the late 1990s. In two years, Vermont would become the first state to allow civil unions for same-sex partners.

The Novak's Bar float, seen here in 2003, was a well-known part of the Pride Parade for many years.
Credit Provided | Scott Lokitz

The Novak’s Bar float, seen here in 2003, was a well-known part of the Pride parade for many years. The mood was high, because just days before the festival, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its Lawrence v. Texas ruling legalizing consensual same-sex relations.

Drag performer Dieta Pepsi stands above the crowd in Tower Grove Park in this photo from the 2009 PrideFest.
Credit Provided | Scott Lokitz

In this 2009 photo, drag performer Dieta Pepsi stands above the crowd at PrideFest in Tower Grove Park. It would be two more years before "don’t ask, don’t tell" would be repealed, four before the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and six more before the U.S. Supreme Court allowed same-sex marriage.

A couple enjoys the 2018 PrideFest near Soldiers Memorial in downtown St. Louis.
Credit Provided | Scott Lokitz
A couple enjoys the 2018 PrideFest near Soldiers Memorial in downtown St. Louis.

PrideFest moved to downtown St. Louis in 2013. In recent years, more Pridegoers have begun openly identifying as transgender or nonbinary. Until the late 1990s, most Pride groups were known as “gay and lesbian” organizations with some groups also acknowledging people who were bisexual.

In 2019, in Missouri, LGBTQ people can still be fired or denied housing on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

LGBTQ groups continue to fight against “bathroom laws.” This past January, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to reinstate President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military.

“It’s been an educational experience for me, as a gay man, to learn more about transgender people or gender non-binary folks,” Lokitz said.

This 1982 photo by Wilbur Wegeman shows Scott Lokitz at 17, at the far right wearing white shorts with his camera around his neck.
Credit Provided | Wilbur Wegener

This 1982 photo by Wilbur Wegeman shows 17-year-old Scott Lokitz marching in his third Pride parade, fourth in line from the right, wearing white cutoff shorts and striped socks, with his camera around his neck.

If you go:

St. Louis PrideFest

Soldiers Memorial Park, Market Street, N. 15th Street and N. Tucker Street

11 a.m.-7 p.m., Saturday 

11 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday; parade at noon

Free

 

Follow Nancy on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

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Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.