The Daily Agenda for Friday, August 23

Jim Burroway

August 23rd, 2013

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Charlotte, NC; Cornwall, UK; Chico, CA; Copenhagen, Denmark; Foyle (Derry/Londonderry), Northern Ireland; Galway, Ireland; Lansing, MI; Manchester, UK; Moncton, NB; Ottawa, ON; Toledo, OH; Ventura, CA.

Other Events This Weekend: Big Bear Adventure Weekend, Big Bear Lake, CA; SHOUT LGBTQ Film Festival, Birmingham, AL; Windy City Rodeo, Crete, IL; Camp Camp, Portland ME; Provincetown Carnival, Provincetown, MA; AIDS Red Ribbon Ride, Rochester, NY; Vancouver Queer Film Festival, Vancouver, BC.

We’re here…

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Newsweek’s “The Militant Homosexual”: 1971. In the two years following the seminal Stonewall Rebellion, a new wave of gay advocacy and visibility broke over the landscape, going far beyond anything that had gone before. Straight America was scratching its collective head: where did all of these homosexuals come from? They seemed to be everywhere — holding hands in Greenwich Village, running for student presidents at major universities, and marching in the streets shouting something about “gay pride.” Newsweek devoted four pages trying to explain it all to its readers:

To supporters of gay liberation, marching in the streets and holding hands in public are only minor gestures of assertion. They are picketing the Pentagon, testifying at government hearings on discrimination, appearing on TV talk shows, lecturing to Rotary Clubs, organizing their own churches and social organizations and, perhaps most important of all, using their real names. “Two or three years ago, a homosexual who tried to explain what he and the gay movement were all about would have been ridiculed,” says Troy Perry, a homosexual minister who established Los Angeles’s Metropolitan Community Church in 1968 and has been a movement hero ever since.

…What seemed then it relatively minor clash is now enshrined in gay-lib lore as the “Stonewall Rebellion.” Within weeks, the first of scores of militant homosexual groups, the Gay Liberation Front, was formed in New York. The new mood quickly crossed the continent, leading to the creation of similar organizations in Los Angeles and San Francisco. By the first anniversary of the Stonewall incident, the militants were on the march in a dozen cities. By the second anniversary, they were celebrating Gay Pride Week with an elaborate panoply of parades and protests. The movement already has a book-length history in print and some of its more imaginative propagandists have even begun to speak of a “Stonewall Nation.”

Virtually the entire four-page article dealt with the sudden visibility of the gay community — a visibility which had personal, psychological, familial and political aspects, according to Newsweek. As one measure of the surprise this new openness must have engendered, the word “militant” appeared in the four-page article fifteen times. And what the authors regarded “militant” is revealing: they described “militants” coming out to their friends, families and employers; “militants” wanting acceptance; “militants” refusing to accept the APA’s verdict that they were mentally ill (the APA would set aside that verdict two years later); “militants” demanding an end to the ban on federal employment; “militants” starting gay churches and “militants” getting married in them, and “militants” saying it’s great to be gay. And that last point, according to Newsweek was especially dangerous:

What all this suggests is a central problem that gay liberation usually chooses to ignore: if the movement succeeds in creating an image of “normality” for homosexuals in the society at large, would it encourage more homosexually inclined people — particularly young people — to follow their urges without hesitation? No one really knows for certain. Dr. Paul Gebhard, the distinguished anthropologist who directs the Kinsey Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University, believes that gay lib “will not convert heterosexuals into homosexuals but might encourage those who are going in a homosexual direction to feel less guilty about it.” New York sociologist Edward Sagarin takes an even dimmer view. “If the militants didn’t say that it is great to be gay,” Sagarin insists, “more adolescents with homosexual tendencies might seek to change instead of resolving their confusion by accepting the immediate warm security that tells them they are normal.”

(A sharp-eyed reader may recognize Edward Sagarin’s name. A decade earlier, he used to be a leading gay rights advocate and author, writing under the name of Donald Webster Corey. See Sep 18)

Three weeks later, pioneering gay rights advocate Frank Kameny responded to that paragraph with this letter to the editor:

The gay liberation movement has been formulating its positions for some twenty years, has quite “come to grips with all the implications of its own positions” and does not at all “choose to ignore” the “problem” of “more homosexually inclined people — particularly young people — [following] their urges without hesitation.” Not only do we consider this neither a problem nor a danger; we consider it an eminently desirable goal to be worked toward and achieved as soon and as fully as possible. It is the very essence of liberation.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

Ben in Oakland

August 23rd, 2013

I came out in 1971, and vaguely remember that article. Within a few years I was hearing the words “militant homosexuals” quite regularly.

By 1973, I was saying things like, “goddam right I’m militant. I have a right to a normal life!”

And I’ve been a militant homosexual ever since. Good times!

Ben in Oakland

August 23rd, 2013

oops. hit post. My iPad is as sensitive as a right wingers sensibilities.

But it’s funny. I’m militant because all I do is insist that I have a normal life–every minute of it. I live my life as an out and proud gay man. I write letters and Internet postings, I vote, I donate money.

My militancy is nothing more than insisting that I have the right to live my life as I am made. Since 1973, I have carried in my wallet a clipping from a Chicago gay newspaper. It’s a quote from John Addington Symonds:

“We maintain that we have the right to exist after the fashion which nature made us. And if we cannot alter your laws, we shall go on breaking them. You may condemn us to infamy, exile, prison– as you formerly burned witches. You may degrade our emotional instincts and drive us into vice and misery. But you will not eradicate inverted sexuality.”

And THAT, children, is Militance– 130 years ago.

Lindoro Almaviva

August 23rd, 2013

Love that quote. I guess I am a militant homosexual too, and damn proud.

Jols

August 25th, 2013

Yes! I remembered Edward Sagarin from your article last year. What do I get, what do I get??

About the article, like most articles written before the 90s (and even then…) it’s a mixture of interesting, infuriating and downright hilarious quotes.

Sagarin’s is especially sad, reeking of self-loathing.

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