Sunday, May 28th, 2023

What would we want to tell students about our community / movement?

Billy Glover

May 25, 2010.

I talked to students today in a class (political science but a “module” on homosexuality) at Centenary College (by invitation of Prof. Grunes).

Every year I think I’m going to get the important points down and across, and every year I get off course. But I keep wondering what we really need to have society understand about our movement, considering that they will not remember names, dates, or intricate details.

Here is what I intended to say—and didn’t.

First, I had the first issue of ONE magazine, and the first book, Homosexuals Today, and Pre-Gay L.A., which documents the history.

I think it is a great story to say that from a few Communists, meeting in secret, has come the fastest civil rights movement in America, which continues today. (I think our movement parallels the history/story of our nation, since both started with secret meetings and had intelligent thinkers to set the course of history that we still follow today.)

It is important to in fact see how complicated things can be, considering that we/it started with Communists and immediately was taken over by conservatives. It is probably worth knowing that it started in Los Angeles.

Some closet queens worried that we would stir up people by talking about “it” and perhaps cause some people to not have a sex act from fear, which they would have had it not been  discussed. Only those who “looked” it would be a problem; the others could hide and still have fun. At the other extreme was the fact that few anti-people and bigots actually thought there was any chance that homosexuals would actually be worth worrying about — that we would want marriage, in the military, equal rights, etc.

Along the way from those Mattachine-sponsored meetings in secret in 1950 came the public voice ONE magazine and ONE, Inc., and each year after came new organizations and publications. ONE did everything, including winning the right to publish, and today each of those job areas has groups and publications serving them, legal, religious, political, etc.

We seem to only want to hear about celebrities and ignore the people who really changed our lives, such as those founders, Harry Hay, Dale Jennings (who also wrote The Cowboys, the John Wayne Movie), Rudi Gernreich (who then became famous for women’s clothing, or lack of clothing), etc. Don Slater deserves credit as one of the founding editors of ONE, and W. Dorr Legg for starting the education of the subject with classes and a book, and Jim Kepner who pushed the library and saving our history, etc.

Today few people, except ignorant bigots, talk about a cure or cause, and we are no longer criminals, or sick, or sinful. And lots of celebrities are in the community — you have to try hard to not see Ellen, or Elton, or Melissa, or Rachel, etc., on TV and in the news. And we’re all over the news and in courts, with marriage, the military, young homosexuals coming out in high school, etc.

It takes hundreds of pages to list the resources available to our community: churches, businesses, publications, professional groups, centers, movement libraries/archives, groups at universities, political workers, groups to help young people, places for older people, etc.

And we need to put all of our history online so that no child, parent, scholar can say they could not find help when they needed it. That is our work now. We have and will change harmful laws but we must educate ourselves and others to the facts and live in the real world of this century. But our community/movement — and nation — should be proud that, under our system, we have been able to change things and make life more equal for all Americans.

I think Dorr Legg would say, considering how well we have done, perhaps we should be called on to do work for other causes in America. That is what Harry Hay said from the beginning: since we have a slightly different view of the world, we can help give ideas others might not see as soon — we are the “canaries” in the world, seeing problems and solutions before others because we were forced to in working for our rights.


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