October 30, 2007.
I am sometimes remembering my early life, which I mostly have forgotten.
For instance, I had forgotten that as a teenager I for a time thought about trying to be a Methodist minister. My church in Sunday School was telling me that the church had been wrong to support slavery. The subject of homosexuality never came up as far as I can remember. But at no time did I have a “problem” about my sexuality, and I have no doubt that everyone knew I was homosexual — one of the oldest sayings in our community is that other people knew we were gay before we did.
I don’t think there was any connection with my sexuality (which I did not read about, hear about, had no other person tell me or talk to me about) and my clear thinking that I should learn more about the race issue. I saw how wrong it was for our white high school — the only one here at the time — to have good band instruments, books, etc., and the black high school to only have what we handed down to them. And as I say, my church confirmed this. And so did the YMCA in that its Hi-Y clubs, while not talking about race, sent some of us to summer camps that WERE racially integrated, in the south, in the late ’40s (I graduated in 1950). So in a sense I was involved in the black civil rights movement. I also supported the black bus boycott in Baton Rouge in the early ’50s: we picked up people needing a ride, and the boycott was successful.
LSU started racial integration with graduate school people in 1950. There were mixed emotions about this as the people at Southern University feared it would destroy the successful black colleges. But the Methodist Church, LSU, and Southern YM/YWCA clubs held joint meetings to get black students and white students to get some understanding of each other.
By the way, it was always rumored that LSU had a policy of trying to get students from Northern Louisiana, mostly Protestant, as roommates with students from South Louisiana, mostly Catholic, as we really were from two different worlds culturally.
My point is that I was thinking about the black civil rights movement.
I, for instance, took it upon myself to write letters to advertisers in the Negro Digest thanking them for supporting Negro publications. The Dean of Men at LSU called me into his office finally and told me my grades were lousy and I should spend less time on such work and more on studying. I knew I was not going to be able to get better grades studying — I just was lousy at Latin, chemistry, and even biological science after repeating them in summer school. I graduated barely because the moment I got into sociology I knew I understood it, and even though I ended up with equal hours in psychology and education (since I spent so much longer in school) it was sociology that gave me grades to graduate. It was common sense. And it was in a psychology class that I said to the professor after some class that based on what they were teaching, I must be homosexual — I’d had sex acts since I was six but had never thought about it intellectually.
And after finishing midterm February 1955, I went into the army — I had already had the exam while in college and left from Shreveport on a bus to Camp Chaffee AR. That was probably the most interesting act of my life — it was going to be a total mystery to me. I had known something of college but had no idea of military life. It turned out to be okay, and of course the military was already racially integrated — that was never an issue. I then went to Ft. Riley, Kansas, and spent a brief time at Ft. Benjamin Harris (Indianapolis) at Finance School. Then I was kicked out back in Ft. Riley and drove home to Bossier City, left the great Pontiac convertible, got on the train and went to Los Angeles. And after two “regular” jobs over the next years, I started in the movement, taking the first step in September ’59 at the Mattachine Convention in Denver, and with Hal Call, then back to L.A. and ONE.
I say all of this to show that I had already had an interest in two civil rights movements. But I chose the one that hit me personally. I could not have done much for either cause but did what I could, as I still do, for the one I chose.
This is what we generically have to face when we have our organizations and publications under attack for not supporting a lot of other causes. We started an organization to work for civil rights for homosexuals. We don’t oppose other civil rights efforts, and if possible will work with them. But it’s truly ignorant people who think that is easy, and that other causes even want our help.
Look at Bayard Rustin. He tried to promote both causes and got no help — even from Dr. King. I think King was right: You have enemies for racial bigotry already, so why add enemies for sexual or religious or other reasons? Certainly bigots already accused the movements of being Communist controlled, even of being un-Christian. So to add queers would not have helped Dr. King’s cause.
Now we have the issue of slowing the movement for homosexual equal/civil rights so we can add the transexual rights. As I’ve said before, listen to the transexual leaders, who now want to be added to our “parade” even though for 30 or more years they have rejected any cooperation. For a few trans people to say that they have worked for years does not change the fact that their “leaders” and publications often have not wanted to work with homosexuals.
Part of the problem is that there are several types of transexuals — we even have had internal problems with male and female homosexuals not wanting to work together — and transvestites (see my prior post on Virginia Prince et al.) rejected any effort to join the two in the fight for rights as they aren’t homosexual and their issue is not the same as ours.
Then there are the transexuals who are not homosexual and just are seeking to change their sex and still be able to earn a living. Their problem is that in both cases, they cannot be “out.” Even if the laws are changed, that will do them no good as they are hidden from their own families — spouses, children, employers, etc. Now that was true earlier of homosexuals, but it is no longer true, and thanks to allies such as PFLAG it becomes less true every month.
There are those who say that even if we get all laws changed, we will still face discrimination until we educate ourselves and the public about sexuality. That is what has been the effort of all organizations, from early Mattachine; ONE, Incorporated; DOB, and so on.
Today we are diverse, yet we are a community with a cause. We need all parts of our issue covered: legal, religious, psychological, etc. There is no conflict with supporting the organization or publication that is most important to each of us. They are all good, and none should fear another. The Lesbian Connection serves, for instance, certainly women in our movement/community. They deserve support. But the National Council for Lesbian Rights also does great work and deserves support. Perhaps some women can support both efforts, but if not, they should choose one rather than giving up and not supporting either. No one should judge someone for which choice they make. Supporting one does not mean you oppose the other.
Hopefully we can read more than one magazine or newspaper. But we can’t read them all. If you or I can’t read a publication that may have a homosexual article, then hopefully some one in our community will read it and let us know about it. The Advocate gives us more current news and about celebrities. Our local gay/lesbian newspapers give us local news. But if we are serious, we need to think about our issues, and that is why we need such publications as The Gay & Lesbian Review. For information as we travel, we can read gay travel publications, hopefully ones that will give us “gay” information and not just general information we can get from AAA or other general publications. And for an overview of our community and the services available all over the nation, we should use and support Gayellow Pages.
Some of us are religious, and we thus want such groups and publications for our faith as Connection, the publication of Kinship, the (homosexual) Seventh Day Adventists. Even those of us who are not religious should understand that we should not give the bigots control of religion.
And the same with political parties. Why should we let the bigots have the Republican party? If you believe in most of their thinking, join and fight to guide the party to be in favor of equality for all Americans. That does not mean you have to call Democrats bad.
I may just have missed the discussion of these issues in our media. If so, I hope others will guide me to the places that are covering serious discussions. But even if there is little support for this type of discussion, and few advertisers, and our media, owes it to our cause to try.
And we owe it to ourselves and future homosexual men and women to understand the issues and know what we need to do and know what resources are available and even if we need new resources.