November 30, 2013.
As I read Will Roscoe’s article on Harry Hay in the November/December issue of the Gay and Lesbian Review, it reminds me of what I think of the magazine as a whole. While I find the first half of his article very good, he lost me from then on. And, I think he never even had most young LGBT people.
Not only do they seem uninterested in the pioneers of the movement that has made it possible for them to live comfortably open lives as homosexuals, but they seem uninterested in any discussion of homosexuality—certainly not the Hay versus Foucault thinking.
The issue of if we are a minority is not settled, yet Don Slater’s view seems to have been agreed to in the Colorado decision of the U.S. Supreme Court—we are minority only because society and laws make us one. Otherwise we have nothing in common, not even the language, etc., Harry thought made us one.
I also thought of that as I read the letter—I always like letters to the editor—pointing out the misuse of Harvey Milk’s “writings.” (Sort of like the current issue over Rand Paul’s speeches—questioning authorship.) What some people have “seen” in Harry, Radical Faeries, Communist, subject-subject thinking, etc., I did not see.
What I did see is what the letter writer points out, which is that (as also seems possible in the questions raised in the new book on Matthew Shepard) some writers or closet queens feel the need to find some person or event to put forward as evidence we are good people. As the writer, who was his editor and has some of the original writings of Milk, says:
He has become the vehicle for any enterprising aspirant, including restless academics, in search of a personality to immortalize. Harvey Milk apparently fits the bill, but this does not make him a “philosopher.”
What should be asked is why Harry does not fit that need.
I do not like the idea of Roscoe that it was “assimilationists” who kicked Harry, et al., out of leadership—thus ending early Mattachine foundation. It is clear from history that it took Harry and cohorts to start the movement. As Roscoe says, “He held a meeting,” which all the talkers and closeted writers did not. That made all the difference.
But as I worked in the movement, with him and the others, it was clear that there had to be a change of focus to make the movement grow. Secret meetings would not do it, and having Communists lead the movement publicly would have stopped it. Our movement and those of blacks and women were constantly accused of being part of a Communist plot (mentioned in another letter to the editor, forgiving Liberace for being a closet queen).
I’m not sure how this fits the discussion, but Roscoe is right when he says Harry said—I assume regarding all the nonsense of experts and the idea of how we became a minority— “We built it.” We did it—not some theory, not in an ivory tower. We created the movement that has changed our lives-with no help from academia, religion, law, rich people, etc.
I am not sure how to feel about the idea that some dilettantes can go to Fire Island/CherryGrove and make a life for part of the year. But it sure does not fit the book review about a man who was into rodeos. Nor are many glbt people interested in the Bloomsbury thing, or Proust. Are all books about English musicians or writers? I see a listing for meetings by such movement/community people as LGBT leaders. Why are there no books or articles about such people?
The first part of G&LR is always interesting, but the last half goes into people/subjects I have no interest in. I acknowledge that my interest has always been limited to working for civil rights—that is what ONE and HIC did/do.
But I think, even with (or especially with) the Internet, twitter, etc., and with so many issues of homosexuality on the TV and front pages of newspapers, most LGBT people will not spend their time on obscure people—artistic types. But I also think even young people are not as interested in gay plays as most LGBT newspapers seem to think—considering how much space they give to the week’s newest celebrity who has come out and is in a play. I suspect that interest is covered by the general media and by Billy Masters. I, of course, think ONE Magazine gave the community a balanced view of people, places and events. I guess what I want is an up-to-date ONE. And that makes me guilty—as are too many people who review books—of wanting the publication to do what I want it to, not what the publisher/writer/editor intended and chose to do.