Friday, March 31st, 2023

Leo Laurence’s mention in Tangents

Billy Glover

Sept. 4, 2007.

I have been trying to reread back issues of the Tangents magazine and other material that ONE/HIC has done over the years that I have with me here in Louisiana.

And while glancing at the Tangents magazine of Aug–Sept. 1969 (the the cover image below right), I found such items as an editorial warning us to “beware the ghetto mentality.”

This editorial was backed up by Don Slater’s excellent article on the issue of the military’s policy of excluding homosexuals from the armed forces. The editorial covers the work of the Committee to Fight Exclusion of Homosexuals From the Armed Forces — because we opposed anyone having to tell the government about their private sex lives, pointing out that non-homosexuals were using the “gay” factor to avoid the draft and, based on Kinsey and common sense, this could eliminate about a third of available men from the draft since many non-homosexuals had had a same-sex sexual encounter (what proof is there if someone has a “tendency”?) and that we were not a blackmail threat, etc. There was and is no way to prove someone is homosexual. That is what we told the court in the few cases that actually got to court, and we won every time.

Tangents cover, Aug. 1969
Tangents magazine Aug–Sept. 1969

Of course this involved our very basic beliefs: In a sense (a message to Sen. Craig), the only authority as to whether someone is homosexual or not is that person’s word. Homosexuality is a sex act, which can be performed by many different kinds of people. (Remember, at this time the sodomy laws were still in effect, so admitting you were homosexual, and having to “prove” it by or through an act, thereby made you a criminal.) The question should be eliminated. Of course, today we have no draft.

Then, in the news section, I read the following:

Berkeley, Calif. — “Homosexuality is a natural style of life, not an abnormality, sin or perversion. Only fascists call it ‘queer.’ Homosexuals are making major contributions to our society, and to the revolution, but history books and the press ignore it… The homosexual revolution is part of the whole street revolution, fighting fascism in the U.S. By locking arms with our brothers and sisters in the movement, we will ALL win our freedom…”

So began the text of a leaflet by Leo Laurence, which he and his lover, Don Burton, distributed at a Black Panther rally in Bobby Hutton Park. In the new underground paper, The Berkeley Tribe, Laurence writes, “The Panther official who okayed distribution of our leaflets said, ‘Our board of Control hasn’t endorsed this, but we’re for anyone who wants freedom, so go ahead.’”

The next item in the issue may have been our first discussion of Stonewall. Laurence’s leaflet had reported, “The first gay riots in the history of man turned New York City streets into a bloody confrontation between pigs and thousands of gays and hypothesizers last month…” In our news item, we covered words of Jerry Lisker of the New York Daily News about police saying things were thrown and calling the Inn “a mecca for the homosexual element.”

And the Gene Damon (Barbara Grier) column on books was good — I wonder if people today have heard of the hundreds of books that had a gay element that she covered? And of course the letters to the editor were always a great part of Tangents that readers liked.


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