Wednesday, May 31st, 2023

Commentary by Craig Schoonmaker

Schoonmaker2August 22, 2015.

Is it already too late to establish the truth about the early days of the U.S. gay-rights movement?

In the materials you have sent, there are starkly different portrayals of the infighting between ONE and HIC, and between individuals whom younger people have never heard of.  Since that all transpired on the West Coast, and I have always resided on the East Coast, I am in no position to say who is right in that intramural squabble.

I can say, however, that I am hostile to some of the notions of people who fought not for openness but for “privacy” (shame), and who advocated the silly notion that homosexuality is only a point on a “continuum,” and related notions that we must not “narrow” ourselves to gay only, but must always see ourselves first and foremost as “human” — oh? what else would we be?  Plainly the people who assert such things believe that homosexuality rules them out of the human race, because they internalized the antihomosexual nonsense they were taught as children by family and society.  Of COURSE we’re “human.”  So what?  That’s a meaningless base point.

What gay men are not is lesbians.  But somehow the insane notion has arisen that gay men and lesbians are the same thing.  Oh sure, and black and white, blue and yellow, day and nite, Communist and capitalist, are all the same!  How did “opposite” become “the same”?

In any case, I do not care to hear any more about the ONE/HIC squabble.  I do want gay materials to be preserved, and if sending them off to academic libraries in the general society is the only way to do that, so be it.  I have some materials of my own that I will want preserved after my death — assuming that happens at some point.  As odd comic Steven Wright has said, “I intend to live forever.  So far, so good.”  But who would really want to live forever?  The same crap, day after day, for millennia?

I have always been on the side of openness and seeing one’s sexuality as enormously important in personal identity and mental health.  I participated in the 1969 ERCHO meeting (Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations) that created the annual march to commemorate Stonewall, and even offered an amendment, that was accepted, that the march should not impose a dress code. Little did we know that not wanting to force men to wear jacket and tie, and women, skirts and sweaters or such — the dress code of many earlier “homophile” demonstrations — would be interpreted as license to go absolutely naked, or wear drag or only a codpiece or s&m garb, turning what was intended to be an assertion of pride into instead a freak show on which hostile straight media would focus all attention.  I served on the committee that organized the first march, in NYC, and offered “Gay Pride” as the unifying title for the weekend of events around the first march. I have always been indignant at people like Johnny Mathis, Elton John, and others hiding their reality, even pretending to be “bisexual” because they just couldn’t admit to being “homosexual,” and have been all for people in the closet being “outed.”

We who favored public admissions have been proved right, over and over.  Each time someone prominent “comes out,” be it Clay Aiken, Neil Patrick Harris, or Ricky Martin, public attitudes shift in our direction. To this day I resent prominent gay men way-back-when for not coming out.  The Johnny Mathises and Rudi Gernrichs and Tab Hunters and Rock Hudsons could have moved us to today’s public acceptance decades sooner, had they not been worthless cowards.  They could also have created films and music for US.  But even the “out” gay men aren’t creating music or film or TV for us.  Why the hell not!?

I have equally always been indignant at Communists trying to drag our good name thru their mud — ignoring anti-homosexual behavior of Communist countries, including, for instance, an internment camp on Cuba’s Isle of Pines. The insistence of some Communists on forcing the Gay Movement to toe the Communist line destroyed GLF and other gay groups, as did constant personality conflicts of, I’m sorry to say, some very petty people. I tried to stay away from that but fell afoul of the unfortunate personality defects of all too many gay men — in HI!’s case, a con man worked his way into a position of trust, set member against member, then skipped town with our small treasury, leaving the organization not just broke but broken.  It never recovered.

I hope Private Manning is killed for massive espionage. It is not for him or any other private individual to decide what should and should not be classified as Secret. I’d be honored to throw the switch to chop his head off by guillotine (so his body might be chopped up for parts for people on transplant waiting lists).  He’s cute, but that is no excuse for treason and putting people’s lives at risk out of arrogance and alienation.

As for Gay Studies, I am very certain that much of this “scholarship” is shoddy, fraudulent, even knowingly fictitious — as is a lot of the “scholarship” in Black Studies. And the notion that somehow we know about the lives of non-famous gay men, centuries past, is pure bull. I am not so arrogant as to pretend to know the unknowable.

Merle Miller gave my organization, Homosexuals Intransigent!, active encouragement, even tho I never quite managed to meet him.  As for Edward Sagarin, he was a professor at City College/CUNY when I was trying to form Homosexuals Intransigent! as a student group there. I had heard the rumor that he was “Donald Webster Cory,” so I asked if he would serve as our (required) faculty advisor. He refused — the bastard enemy. Also gay enemies are all those people who insist on using “queer” for gay men — and esp. for lesbians!, who were never called “queer” even by the heterosexual culture.  “Queer” is the exact equivalent of “nigger.”  It cannot be sanitized, but is always ugly, ugly, ugly anti-homosexual propaganda that asserts in itself the dishonest claims that homosexuality is both rare and bizarre.

As for early activists consigning themselves to lifelong poverty, there is much to that. I recently found out that my brother regards me as a “failure” because I devoted my early years of college and after college, to trying to change public attitudes and, more importantly, the attitudes of gay men themselves, toward homosexuality. If you don’t get a good start on a career early on, you may never catch up. Besides, I had other causes to pursue, even after I shifted much of my attention away from gay rights and self-esteem, leaving my early writings on a Web site to remain as ongoing advice and activism to this day.


L. Craig Schoonmaker

Writer and fotografer, Newark USA fotoblog


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