.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;} Note: This website has no control over the ads placed on it. Caveat emptor.

Friday, April 01, 2016

 

47th Anniversary


This post was extensively revised on April 3rd.

On April 1st, 1969, I founded Homosexuals Intransigent! as a recognized student organization at City College of New York. No fooling.
+
(CCNY was still the more common term then for what was soon to be known formally as the City College of the City University of New York. In any case, that was the oldests unit of the City University and, due to me, the first unit to have a gay-rights organization.)
+
As President of HI!, I attended the meeting of ERCHO, the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations in Philadelphia the following autumn, at which we decided to create an annual commemoration of the Stonewall Riots of the prior summer. We established an interorganizational committee (the Christopher Street Liberation Day Umbrella Committee), comprising mainly New York City organizations, but also at least one Philadelphia group. I was the regular representative of Homosexuals Intransigent! to all those meetings, tho Robben Borrero also attended at least one.
+
The Committee decided to hold an annual march in Manhattan on the last Sunday in June, in that the Riots occurred on the last weekend of June. We worked out the logistics (e.g., the parade permit), and arranged for a Quaker group to train marshals to ensure that the march didn't turn into a violent demonstration. Then we addressed the issue of publicity. During that discussion, we decided to ask NY-based organizations to hold other events that weekend, to bring in as many people as possible from out-of-town to participate in the march. Then we decided to provide a unifying name for that group of events.
+
The first suggestion was "Gay Power Weekend". I didn't like that, so suggested, instead, "Gay Pride Weekend", which, to my astonishment was seconded immediately by Jerry Hoose of the NY Gay Liberation front and then approved unanimously without discussion. And that is how the phrase "Gay Power" entered the public consciousness, spreading from the weekend to the march to other events far and wide, making a huge change in people's thinking as regards homosexuality, first, their own, then to everyone's, everywhere on Earth.
+
I felt that "Gay Power" could raise hackles on the part of much, or even most, of straight society, and as a matter of simple fact, not only did gay people NOT have any power but they couldn't even ASPIRE to power almost anywhere. But pride was within the control of the individual, pride in himself. No one else had to know, until self-esteem forced people to become more accepting of themselves and pretty much burst out when people were ready to assert themselves. The pursuit of gay power was bound to fail in the short run, but hearing the phrase "Gay Pride" in one's own head made an impression immediately, whereupon it could start to produce effects immediately, and ultimately lead people to the openness that would change social attitudes, as people "came out" to family and friends, and celebrities also came out, which gradually changed society's perceptions and encouraged even more people to come out, as caused ever more people to change their perceptions.
+
It took a long time for the phrase "Gay Pride" to work its magic in society, because it took a long time for significant numbers of people to feel enuf better about themselves as to be willing to go public, and then only to family, good friends, strangers, and then to the more dangerous groups, employers, police, and local government. Once a few people did become open about their orientation to everyone, many more people heard about their becoming open without being destroyed, which emboldened them to become open themselves. But as the numbers of fully-open people increased, the numbers of people who heard about their openness hugely increased, as then further enormously increased the number of other people willing to be known as gay. On and on it went, until society in general had to admit that homosexuality was very common, and said nothing about a person's worth or morality, only about their sexual orientation, and it became very difficult for bigotry born or ignorance to maintain itself in the presence of knowledge of the reality.
+
So here we are, 46 years after the organizing committee for the weekend of events around the first march celebrating Stonewall, and society has found that variation in sexual orientation is just another form of "diversity", no more significant than race or language. Older forms of discrimination, such as against left-handedness (the word "sinister" derived from the Latin term for left(-handedness, and a lot of people in days or yore thought that there was indeed something sinister about left-handed people, and even when society abandoned that association, schools continued for decades to try to retrain left-handed people to write and do other things with their right hand, putting forward the rationale that they would have an easier time in life if they could switch hands. It was for their own good, you see, to try to change them. Sure it was.
+
Sentiment about left-handedness has changed drastically within my lifetime (I am now 71 years old), so much so that in 2008, both major-party candidates for President, Barack Obama and John McCain, were left-handed. Let's see how long it is until a gay man can be taken seriously as a candidate for President. From at latest age 11, I always wanted to be President, but knew that such an aspiration was impossible until social attitudes toward homosexuals changed. So I changed them. Unfortunately, changing those attitudes took so long in terms of a single person's lifetime that I am now too old to run, in that when, for instance, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton were racking up political experience, I was still occupied in fiting for a change in perceptions of gay people. Ah, well, there may be somebody out there who would like to be the first openly-gay President who is now free to pursue his own political ambitions for not having to fite a battle that we who were active in the "homophile" movement of the 1950s thru 1970s fought for them.
+
(Some of the writings of Homosexuals Intransigent! from the Sixties and Seventies are available online at the "Mr. Gay Pride" website. They still have much to say to gay people, esp. kids who are just beginning to accept that they are gay.)



Links to this post:

Create a Link



<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?