August 26, 2010.
The main reason to get our material online is that it is the work and thinking of Don Slater.
Anyone who doesn’t care to hear what those who founded this civil rights movement thought and did in the early days — that actually set the course it has taken — can ignore us, but our job is to at least put the material there for the few who seek to understand something that changed the course of their lives and the nation.
They will not get it anywhere else.
It may not seem relevant, since in a few of the HIC Newsletters I am going to mention the people and events are not well known — then or now — but the issue and thinking was relevant then and now.
It is interesting to see what co-workers thought of some of the founders. Such as Dale Jennings’ thoughts, on the Stuart Timmons’ book on Harry Hay (The Trouble With Harry Hay). Actually, what Dale thought was bad is good from my view and the view of history. He says Stuart missed the most important single element of Harry: “That is Harry’s complete inability to bend, adapt, and change.” Yet he then immediately answers his own charge: “It is a flaw that always marks the end of an evolutionary strain.”
That is not true; Harry kept going and affecting us till the day he died. Dale is thinking about Radical Faeries, and thinks they were/are silly. I don’t think history has said that yet.
What Harry could say is that Dale, after leaving ONE, Inc., and the magazine, after co-founding it as he had early Mattachine, dropped out of the movement for years. He did, as HIC now benefits from, write The Cowboys, the movie John Wayne acted in. But anyone studying Harry needs to read the Newsletter that has Dale’s views of harry and the book.
What many young eager “gays” did not like in the hippie generation was Don’s rejection of the efforts of Gay Lib. He thought they were too leftist politically and thus harmed the movement. Then add his thoughts on the misuse of the word gay:
Although homosexual is not a dirty word, gay was substituted in its place. This made those who didn’t like the sex in homosexual a lot more comfortable with themselves. But using gay as a euphemism for homosexual deprives us not only of two honest words, but what they stand for too… In going from an adjective describing a merry mood enjoyed by everyone to a noun labeling a people separated sexually from the rest of the population, the word gay produced a new social order.
This was relevant to Don’s thinking of homosexuals in the military. He discussed the Perry Watkins case. He says what we say today:
What Watkins really needed to say is that none of this in anybody’s business… But he was proud to be gay. It didn’t occur to him that his right to privacy had been compromised. Like the army, he was convinced that his homosexuality was significant… In the first place, sexual orientation has no constitutional status. It is anomalous and, at bottom, impossible to protect people on the basis of something of which the legal and psychological relevance is yet to be determined. Sexual orientation is too amorphous, too flexible and diverse — if it has any meaning or bearing at all — to prescribe as a judicial cure. If the minority of persons who submit to the homosexual stereotype are given constitutional protection on this basis, what happens to the rights of the majority of persons who enjoy the exact same sexual outlets but do not recognize, identify with, or live by its limitations?
Who has heard such thinking?
But what did Don say about Stonewall (Newsletter #21, January 1972)?
He refers to the movement as a movement of free minds, diverse and the sexual revolution of which the homosexual movement was the catalyst and still is the vanguard has made astonishing progress in two decades.
In June of 1969, there occurred the event of the Stonewall Uprising. It was a defensive reaction by a group of jaded, role-playing bar queens who had rejected society in favor of visions of their own private gay world. The struggle at the Stonewall was a momentary, unplanned confrontation between the emotionally immature, self-ashamed patrons of a gay club, on Christopher Street in New York City, and the police. For those homosexuals who live and act out a gay role, reason and logic have always been the devil’s instruments, inhibiting their total, spontaneous, unstructured response to what is happening. The action of this bizarre element of New York’s gay population was held up to glorification by latent liberationists as the first attempt of homosexuals to wage heroic struggle against police oppression. It was the signal for other guilt-ridden homosexuals to come out of their closets. They could finally relate. The incident came to symbolize gay power, gay militancy, and ironically, gay liberation. The anniversary of the Uprising has been twice celebrated when the followers of gay revivalism on both coasts gathered to conduct elaborate rites of self-deliverance.
To the “Children of Christopher Street,” the actions of earlier homosexual groups looked like efforts at quiet accommodation with a fundamentally hostile society. They blamed the government and the law for their personal unhappiness. Their frame of mind was easily made a political tool. They were especially susceptible to the ideology of the New left. The main thing the New left has been saying is that the United States is intrinsically evil, and repressive in its treatment of Negroes and Mexicans and other minorities, and that the Indochina war is an immoral imperialistic aggression. The ideas And attitudes of the New left were absorbed into the mainstream of gay liberation thought. The Gay liberation Front became the left insurgency of the national homosexual movement.
Homosexuals who had been in hiding and who for one reason or another despised themselves — like a stream of pentecostal witnesses — appeared to confess their guilt and affirm their salvation — and then to excoriate the “pre-revolutionary” homosexual leaders who persisted in contending that homosexuals should not be organized into an anabaptist sect and that the “concern of the movement” as the Mattachine founders had perceived, “is the problems of sexual variation.
There are plenty of sexual revolutionaries (maybe the majority) who firmly believe that the United States is one of the least repressive societies in human history, that the war in Indochina is not immoral and imperialistic, and that war related research is not necessarily wicked. Differing views on these questions need have no quarrel with each other as far as the homosexual movement is concerned. They are issues utterly irrelevant to sexual freedom. What is important is that the individual should be able to survive in the movement, and retain his own mind, manners, and political beliefs, and not be drawn off into the visionary gay world of the Children of Christopher Street.
(This last line explains my thinking about dealing with Wayne and russell, et al.)
I will not quote Number 26 (September 1973), but thoughts on the fire in the gay bar in New Orleans was not that of the majority, to put it mildly.
How about his view of The Advocate (newsletter #29 (May 1975)? Steve Ginsberg (where is he?) sold the remains of PRIDE to Dick Michaels for about $300, who ran it like a banker, covering Troy Perry and exploiting gay bar fires (Don says that most of the money raised for victims of the fire did not get to them but was spent by those raising the funds) and having lucrative personal ads.Michaels carefully excluded those items he thought would not sell papers and also people he didn’t like.
He then sold it to David Goldstein for a lot more money, who did not change much. Not a good thing.
Then Don takes on Dave Glascock (again, where is he?). He questioned his qualifications to speak for the community as staff member for Supervisor Ed Edelman:
When Glascock first drifted into L A., like most ideological hustlers he started looking around for a little honest graft. The unstructured homosexual movement was like a sitting duck, and as an opportunity to enhance his personal fortunes it beat selling corn salve.
He got coverage with his picture in The Advocate by marrying a Selma St. hustler, performed by Troy.
(Is Obama making any wiser choices in deciding who can give info on our community/movement?)
We put out a newsletter explain why we didn’t work with the county on VD issues — we didn’t trust them, but the new Gay & Lesbian Center did, and they got lots of money.
We reviewed books — Newsletter #31 said the book by Howard Brown (Familiar Faces, hidden Lives) was nonsense merely saying Dr. Brown thought he was the most famous queer in America because he was a professional and came out, finally. “After I came out publicly, I became the most prominent self-confessed homosexual in America, partly because I was a member of a profession regarded as a citadel of respectability.”
Newsletter #41 (Spring 1990) was a Symposium on Outing, with Martin Block, John Burnside, Harry Hay, Morris Kight, Stuart Timmons, and Don Slater.
And we put out an announcement when we hosted discussions after performances of the play The Geese, at the Coronet Theater. (This was the cause of picketing the Los Angeles Times (over refusal of an ad) where Troy Perry got lucky and his interview by John Dart went nationwide.) Co-hosts included Dr. Irene Kassorla, Joe Hansen (as James Colton), Gale Whittington (Committee for Homosexual Freedom, S.F.), Dr. Fred Goldstein, Morris Kight, Herb Selwyn, and Don Slater.
None of this would have happened without Don, and Los Angeles heard him, on TV, radio, and in newspaper articles. It is hard to say how many people heard, saw, and read him, but it would be foolish to deny that his views were heard and are alive today. The magazines need to be seen and read. The LGBT journalists, historians, and professionals today should know this person and what he said, even if they reject his thinking.