Before pride parades roamed the streets, there was the homophile movement, and Craig Rodwell was a keystone in the bridge between the two. His politicization of homosexuality was revolutionary in the mid-twentieth century and far from universally accepted in the gay community; in fact, his politics helped put an end to his love affair with Harvey Milk. Milk later changed his mind and modeled his Castro Camera store after one of Rodwell’s community contributions: the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookstore, a safer space where New York City homophiles congregated and cultivated a sense of pride.
Throughout his activist career Rodwell founded the Homophile Youth Movement in Neighborhoods (HYMN); protested mistreatment of gays in the military; and whipped up enough political pressure to take the teeth out of the New York State Liquor Authority, which had banned gatherings of gays in establishments serving alcohol. He also helped spin the Stonewall Inn protests (which he’d attended) into an enduring pride movement by joining his partner, Fred Sargeant, and two friends, Ellen Broidy and Linda Rhodes, in reshaping the annual gay rights marches he’d started into a raucous celebration of queerness. (Included: a familiar mandate that “no dress or age regulations shall be made for this demonstration.”)