FRIENDS OF DOROTHY
In 1909, L. Frank Baum released the fifth of the Oz books, called the Road to Oz. In the book, Dorothy has returned to Oz, continuing her usual misadventures with a motley crew of companions, including her dog Toto, a homeless bearded man in curled clothing called the Shaggy Man, and a cherubic little boy in a sailor suit named Button Bright. In chapter five, they meet Polychrome, a colorful sky princess who is the daughter of the rainbow. Polychrome, who is dancing about to keep herself warm, looks at the group and says “You have some queer friends, Dorothy.” Dorothy innocently replies, “The queerness doesn’t matter so long as they are friends.”
Before and after this, the Oz books were filled with stories about accepting and loving all, even misfits like a lion who is afraid or a tiger who is constantly hungry, but the books also frequently challenged gender stereotypes, with women nearly always in positions of power, like Princess Ozma and Glinda the Good, and telling stories like one with an entire army of women.
Groups of queer people began to refer to themselves as Friends of Dorothy, and the phrase caught on. On many cruise ships, even now, special events for gay people are planned using this phrase; rather than advertising a “gay brunch” it will advertise “brunch for the Friends of Dorothy”, for example. Meeting groups in big cities would be set up using this name as well. The phrase became even more popular and relevant when Judy Garland became a gay icon, given that she had played Dorothy in the blockbuster film of the Wizard of Oz.
In one humorous anecdote, Naval officers sought to ferret out gay military men. Hearing the term Friends of Dorothy, the investigating officers concluded that a woman named Dorothy was organizing rings of gay service men and they went on a hunt for the woman. Another potential origin to the term Friends of Dorothy is a reference to the parties held at Dorothy Parker’s home in the early days of Hollywood. Parker was a poet, critic, and writer who was well-connected in the industry.