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Letter to Councilman LaBonge
Real People as Fictional Characters
Female Actors, Part Two
One Culture Hero Award
Adelante Gay Pride Gala
Best Work of Fiction?
Tom of Finland: Sexual Liberator or Enslaver
Lying Writers
Review of The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson
Promiscuous Thoughts
A Crime of the Heart
A Letter to Michael Silverblatt
"Have you no decency, sir?"
Political Incorrectness: Female Actors and Trojans
He Hugged Moms and Dads
What is a Girly Man?
Review of Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
From Sunset Boulevard to Mulholland Drive
The Gay Mammies
A Writer Protests
Review of Beyond Paradise: The Life of Ramon Novarro
A Spirit Preserved in 'Amber'
The Supreme Court Case
Review of Live from Golgotha: The Gospel According to Gore Vidal
Review of Lost Years: A Memoir 1945-1951 by Christopher Isherwood
Review of Out For Good
Review of Hoyt Street: an Autobiography
Review of Sergei Eisenstein: A Life in Conflict.
Review of Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation
Review of Whores for Gloria
Muscles and Mascara
Review of "Blonde"
Brother Paul, Sister Jan, Brother Hinn, God and the Folks
Advice to the Next Generation
Sins of the Fathers
Beatin' Around the Bush

Cruise Not Gay! The Judge Has Spoken

The Horror, The Horror
LA--a Cliché?
Dominick, Mark & Orenthal
Holy Drag!
Ms. Hill & Mr. Tom
Mrs. guy Ritchie 
Supreme Court 
Tom Cruise 
Eminem 
New Times Article 


  
  
  
  
  
   

 

 

"Perhaps the most powerful attack on our horizon is that being waged by the cadre of political liars that have illegally seized the country, led by the unelected "war president," whose closest encounter on the frontlines occurred when he was a cheerleader for the Yale football team. "

Adelante Gay Pride Gala

The following talk was given at the Adelante Gay Pride Gala in El Paso, Texas, on June 24, 2006

I am delighted to join ADELANTE in commemorating a thrilling event in the evolution of gay pride--the Stonewall Riot. That occurred at the Stonewall Inn in New York, June 26, 1969. On a hot night, a couple of butch lesbians and a couple of drag queens refused to be pushed around by cops during what was a routine raid of gay bars. Rioting began and extended for three turbulent days.

     But pride and courage were not born at Stonewall, although even the few history books that attempt to document our long but largely unrecorded struggles place the birthplace of defiance there and then. In doing so, they divide our resistance into two steadfast periods, "pre-Stonewall" and "post-Stonewall," the former judged as repressive, the latter extolled as liberated.

     Over-emphasis on that single event distorts our history and renders as lesser other acts of equal--and even greater--courage, when circumstances of the time of occurrence are considered.

     Way back in 1958, at Cooper's Donuts on Main Street, a favorite after-hours hangout in Los Angeles' downtown, two cops ostensibly checking I.D., a routine harassment, arbitrarily picked up two hustlers, two queens, and a young man just cruising and led them out. As the cops packed the back of the squad car, one of the men objected, shouting that the car was illegally crowded. While the two cops switched around to force him in, the others scattered out of the car. From the donut shop, everyone poured out. The police faced a barrage of coffee cups, spoons, trash. They fled into their car, called backups, and soon the street was bustling with disobedience. Gay people danced about the cars.

     In 1967, two years before the Stonewall riot, in the Black Cat Bar in Los Angeles, at the stroke of New Year, plainclothesmen who had infiltrated the bar throughout the night started humiliating and beating the celebrants there. Subsequently 200 gay men and women gathered in the Silver Lake district to protest the raid before squadrons of armed police, stunned by the sudden resistance.

     Those cataclysmic events and others occurring before Stonewall, several notable in San Francisco and other cities, were rendered invisible because, at the time, the very word homosexuality was disallowed in all media; its mention even in films was forbidden. As we celebrate with justified pride the advances we have made, it is not inappropriate to remind how those advances came about.

     The history of gay oppression is long; its recorded history sadly brief. It is not difficult to encounter young homosexuals who have no idea about our tradition of endurance, the battles that were fought. Recalled, that turbulent history may inspire our strength to cope with new, constantly emerging struggles.

     For centuries we survived religious inquisitions. We survived illegal prosecutions, and let's not forget the outrage against Oscar Wilde that not only destroyed the man but cut off what might have been great works of literary art. We survived concentration camps--although it's seldom noted that we were put there and that when liberation occurred, men who wore the identifying pink triangle were rearrested by the allies--and still survived. We survived commitment into insane asylums, shock therapy. We've survived being exposed to sentences of life-imprisonment for being found in a consensual homosexual acts. We've survived threats of electrical-shock aversion therapy, of having to register for life as a "sex offenders."

     It is for those reasons that some of us did not feel grateful when, only three years ago, the Supreme Court, by only one vote--a vote now replaced by someone who would have voted otherwise--finally struck down a law that made consensual sex in private between members of the same sex a criminal act punishable by years in prison. For veterans of not-too-distant wars for equal rights, that decision stirred memories of outrages overcome long before Stonewall.

     In the 50s, the 60s, even into the edge of the 70's people risked arrest by being in a gay bar. At any moment a bar would be flooded with light from a squad car. A bullhorn ordered all "queers" to march out in a single line, ostensibly to be checked for I.D. At random, men were insulted, mauled, arrested.

     Two men sitting in a car in areas known to be cruising turf exposed themselves to being ordered out, separated, and grilled with questions about each other, to determine whether or not they had just met; the latter was enough to claim an intent to engage in a lewd act. That occurred so often that gay men developed a hurried technique to thwart the accusation. On detecting the presence of the police, men together would exchange names and backgrounds to indicate they had not just met.

     Accusations of lingering in gay turfs might lead to arrests for loitering, being held in jail, without charges, for as long as 48 hours, on the whim of arresting officers.

     Entrapment was rampant; vice cops in provocative attire courted or accepted an invitation for sex at someone's home, and, once there, arrested. Plain clothes cops sat in cars outside gay gathering places in order to trail men leaving together. They waited, then pushed their way into a private home. Men thus caught having consensual sex faced prison sentences of up to 5 years. It was such an arrest that brought up the case that caused the Supreme Court to strike down such laws in 2003, years after countless similar raids had been upheld by courts.

     Until the 70's it was illegal for members of the same sex to dance together. (Heterosexual women were exempted.) A famous "private" club in Topanga Canyon developed a system of lights to signal a hostile presence. Lights would blink, and gay men would shift partners, dancing with Lesbians.

     Another wily maneuver was one employed by a pianist in a gay bar. When, in another routine act of harassment, a member of the shore patrol and a member of the police department, invaded to question patrons, the sailor in white, the cop in black, the pianist would lunge into the strains of the wedding march.

     Fledgling political groups, like the Mattachine Society, met in secret, blinds drawn; their newsletters were confiscated by the postoffice, although they had no erotic content; the same fate awaited the inception of "One" magazine, equally non-erotic.

  Continued


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