Friday, April 18, 2014

Family, fanatics, as discussed in The True Believer

I have just found an old copy of the book The True Believer, by Eric Hoffer and am glancing at it.  What I find interesting is the two ideas of fanatics being outsiders and family making a difference.  I wonder if anyone else has read the old book and what they got out of it.

What I am trying to get an understanding on is if the founders/activists in our movement were fanatics.  I do not think so, which seems to not follow this book's thinking.

It seems to me the strength, from the start, is that we followed the rules, used the system, and never thought there had to be a revolution to arrive someday at equality.  I know some people had strong ideas and were often combative, but I did not find anyone I knew or heard about as being a fanatic, willing to run out and die for the cause.

I thought Don Slater, and others, were so sure of their thinking and cause that they just plugged on and expected success to come someday.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Tangents (magazine), reborn, as good as ever

The reborn Tangents is as good under the new editor and writers as it ever was.  Don Slater and other editors would be proud of this issue (Vol V, #1, Spring 2014).

The editorial says why we need to continue the work of ONE/IGLA/HIC.  The memorial to co-founder Jim Schneider tells how we struggled to continue the work after the loss of the main one who inspired us, Don Slater.

The article on Jim Kepner and his Little Blue Books is a good explanation of how an archive works.  My review of Tracy Baim’s “history of the gay press” (Gay Press, Gay Power) explains how the history has been preserved by our community media.

There is a strange and interesting “exchange of views of our history and thinking” in the two separate yet almost conversational essays between Stephanie Donald’s memory of Jack Nichols and Craig Schoonmaker’s memory of the movement and his views on terminology—and it seems to me this discussion is as alive today as it was in the era discussed.

Listen to the views on marriage of Jack and Craig.  “Jack’s work on gay rights was hard work for full equality.  Marriage equality was never a consideration for him because he felt that getting married, at least for men (and he felt for women, too, but  thought the ‘nesting instinct’ was harder to break in the females) was taking the ‘sexual’ out of ‘homosexual’ and forcing gay rights into heterosexual assimilation, which would destroy gay and lesbian history and culture.”  While, in a sense, Don Slater would say some of this, he did NOT agree that we had a culture—and did not want us in a ghetto.  

But, here is Craig:  “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’.”  Again, Don would not agree with most of his thinking.  We never understood why people could not grasp the obvious need to protect our privacy—something now heard when discussing the government listening to our cell phone and email discussions.  Why would asking for privacy mean we are ashamed?

As to terminology, Craig says the word “queer” is bad, yet many young LGBT people say it is better than a long list of letters.  But the issue is alive and was an article in The New York Times in the last week or two—saying only the word gay is acceptable.

So reading Tangents is reading what is in the current discussion of issues of homosexuality.

So the Homosexual Information Center is continuing its work of preserving history but also speaking to today's issues.  Again, the pioneers of this movement would be eagerly reading this issue and joining the discussion.

I did not “know” many co-workers in the cause

Morning thoughts inspired by Stephanie Donald:

There were, thankfully, many even early workers in our cause that I did not know or know well.  Those more interested in the spiritual side I did not know because I was not interested in that—not that I opposed it.

Some of them worked with Harry Hay, and it is worth pointing out that they knew and worked closely with Harry, and John Burnside, and “saw” him in a way I did not.  We worked with Harry and visited with him and saw another side—such as going to Renaissance Faires, living in San Juan Pueblo.  Yet the side of Harry they saw did not conflict with the side I saw, as they shared the spiritual interest with him I was not interested in. 

That may explain why a few people I did not like, or appreciate: they were interested in an aspect I was not.  I knew I did not have time to get involved in all aspects.  Some did, such as Jim Kepner, though mostly he wanted to know what others were doing, knowing it was history.  But he tried to write/support ONE, Advocate, etc.  Others thought getting into politics would be a good way to educate on our issues.  Some kept pushing in their church.  And some, including our own Jim Schneider, pushed law issues—he got attorneys to defend school teachers, etc.

(That interest in pushing to use the courts to get “justice” he shared with Don Slater.  They both did it on issues other than sexuality.  Jim (Schneider) fought over the government’s taking his land (eminent domain to put in a parking lot for the school).  Jim Kepner made it into a book; the house was moved to Commerce where it remains. Don Slater fought the city over trying to dictate use of houses in his district—historic, Carroll Street/Echo Park.  And cutting back his shrubbery—they caved in when he pointed out they were not trying to make others cut their’s back.  (The house is on a corner lot and could make it hard for drivers to see—at least that was the argument.)  At the house in CO, he fought an increase in property taxes—and won, and fought the attempt to make him pay for part of an irrigation ditch expansion when the man doing the work had ignored him-since he was “an absentee owner.”  He won.

It was such stubbornness that made him such a good activist.  But which made a few fellow activists not like him and misunderstand him.  And his sense of humor was misunderstood—he would play devil’s advocate or argue something he did not believe in order to “educate” the issue—summed up in what I have learned to be important in any effort: watch out for unintended consequences.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Letter to the NY Times re: Brendan Eich

As regards the NY Times essay, “The Case of Brendan Eich,” by Ross Douthat, published April 8:

Why can’t people write a simple explanation?  The issue is not complicated.  Religious bigots for centuries have had their way, told others what to do and now that they are NOT going to be able to do this, they cry victim.  This man is not a victim.  He not only commit ted an act of omission, he committed an act of commission and now wants to not be held accountable.  He is not guaranteed to NOT be held responsible, although it seems bankers and rich people are usually able to cheat and not be held accountable.

It would be interesting, and Jon Stewart could handle this, to hear he man’s explanation of why he chose to donate money to the effort to deny homosexual Americans equal rights?  Is he going to say he didn’t know that was the purpose?  Who asked him to donate?  Has he donated to any LGBT efforts?

Don Douthat’s article is nonsense, but he admits it—he wants to protect special rights for religious views (his).  I ask YOU why you do not ask people like Jon Stewart to do an article?  I suspect he has a larger and better educated audience than you do.  That is a sad commentary—but then I’ve tried dealing with the media since the 1960s and find no more competent and ethical people in your work today than I did then.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Letter to Rod Skoe by David Thorstad

Regarding anti-bullying legislation currently under consideration at the capitol, as reported by ABC News:

Hello, Rod Skoe,

As a longtime gay activist, I urge you to vote against this bill. I have read it. It is onerous (to school administrators) and promises something it cannot deliver. Moreover, it is the wrong way to approach bigotry and stupidity or harassment toward students perceived by hetero-arrogant youths. Some of its language is way too broad and could apply even to religious opinions others find annoying.

Instead of this legalistic one-size-fits-all approach to a problem that is, in any case, overblown, it would make more sense if the state provided comprehensive sex education beginning at the kindergarten level (as is done in Sweden, for example). There is no reason a teenager should feel hostility toward another student perceived to be gay, because nobody is born with such attitudes. Early and comprehensive sex education would counter such attitudes, which students most likely absorb from bigoted or narrow-minded parents, and by the time they are feeling their hormones in post-puberty, they would have a more reasonable and less skewed view of differences when it comes to sexual behavior. When I was in high school, I had sex and sex play frequently with my buddies, in school during lunch hour, outdoors, and at my home and theirs. Some of those guys grew up to be completely hetero, yet they were merely acting out on their own same-sex urges at the time. Why should youths today be any different?

Harassment of any student by other students, for whatever reason, should be nipped in the bud by school administrators. They do not need a law to do that. Any teacher or administrator who fails to take action to stop harassment should be fired for not doing their job.

Part of the problem is that the gay movement (and society as a whole) has come to project identity as the bee’s knee of sexuality. That is baloney. People are more flexible and their sexual expression hardly fits into identity politics, especially at a young age.

This legislation is misguided and should not pass.


David Thorstad

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

It is the old scientific problem of not being able to predict, but to try to explain after it has been discovered

Regarding Doug Mainwaring’s article, “Same Sex Marriage: ‘Thoroughly Tiresome’ by Design”:

There is so much wrong about this thinking that it is not worth answering.

But people seriously interested in how our movement has been successful might want to know a little about the timeline.  And it sure didn’t start with the writers of this book in the 1980s. (Maybe, like most academics, they were in an ivory tower.) I wonder how many people read the book—I did not.  Where are these men today?  What other books and resources has Mainwaring used?

But a few minor points.  First, psychology did not even think of trying to change the views of religion—in that time it USED that religious thinking—check back at what psychiatrists testified in courts, think of how many people they said they could cure.  They never did a single scientific research effort, they based their “answers” on religious nonsense—that is why we said our enemy included mostly Jewish psychiatrists.  And why Dr. (Evelyn) Hooker’s research was not welcomed.

Fortunately there are still many LGBT pioneers/activists who can testify to how little support they got from the media—ask the publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News, et al.  Take a look at what the “media” was saying about us until the ’90s.  And that includes what were supposedly “liberal” and intellectual publications.  AND the ACLU did not think we had a valid issue until about 1965.  And did the writers miss Stonewall, 1969?

But that makes the point—by the ’80s we had already been successful.  I wonder how the people interested in abortion think of the claim that that issue is settled.

The article writer is against same-sex marriage?  Why?  I have no interest in it but would not take the time to oppose it while other members of the community want it.  And deserve it: either marriage benefits are for everyone or for NO  one.  That is the American way.  Equality of opportunity.  But, like many preachers, I wonder why he is so concerned about this one issue?  Is he active in other efforts to gain our civil rights?

Turn the issue of who is a victim around. Does he accept the religious nuts idea that they are victims if we gain equal rights?  As they once said black Americans made them—white people—when THEY sought marriage, including interracial marriage?  Has he studied the real history “marriage?”

It is not hard—it is easy, to learn the history of the movement to gain civil rights for homosexual Americans.  The lasting effort began, as is well recorded, in 1950 (early/original Mattachine).  I went public in 1952 (ONE magazine.).  It started in Los Angeles, San Francisco joined, then major cities, with organizations and publications.  It had NO support from the media, academia, rich people, celebrities,  liberals, religious groups—ONLY middle class Americans.  By the mid 1960s, the dozen or so main groups joined to form a national effort (NACHO) and held the first coordinated public demonstration in 1966—over the issue of homosexuals and the military.  It was covered NOT by the local press but by an article by Peter Bart in The New York Times. Two local TV stations did send reporters to interview us—Tom Brokaw for NBC and Connie Chung for CBS—both have for some reason forgotten this. 

There had been a few TV talk shows and LIFE magazine had done a decent article in 1964, but not much media coverage was given to our efforts until 1969. By that time they needed us more than we needed them.  The media does not try to give citizens news until it is no longer news—no  longer controversial—they do not want to upset the advertisers.  BUT, that is an interesting point—it has been the free enterprisers, capitalists that have welcomed the community and given us support—not the politicians, governments (that should be treating all citizens equally) and certainly not the religious people who claim to love everyone.  Major corporations supported us long before the politicians, and the religious do-gooders have still not seen the light.)

The Myth of Gay Affluence

Regarding the Atlantic article on the “Myth of Gay Affluence”:

I doubt that anyone else will “get” what this article says abut the view of homosexuality. It is not about income of LGBT people, but it is about what we did NOT have when this movement started—academics studying and giving support to us, no matter on what aspect.

It seems every week the Williams Institute is quoted as reliable voices on our issues.  Ask how many academics were speaking in the 1950s and ’60s.  But the few that did were were not believed by most self-hating homosexuals—who were still accepting the lies that said they were no good—they were criminals, sick and sinful.  They just could not believe the results of the research of Dr. Evelyn Hooker, who proved that “experts” could not tell, based on tests, who was and was not homosexual.

The media didn’t cover the issues much and if they did they quoted the bigots like Bergler, Bieber, et al., vice squad officers and charlatan preachers, all of whom had a personal interest, in keeping the status quo, something to gain if we were kept as people to arrest, cure, and save.

If ONE magazine writers said something positive about homosexuality, even our readers were skeptical—saying we were biased—as if the bigots were not.  But if we got an “expert” to say the same thing, many would believe it—although some still could not believe that an “objective,” “normal” person would say homosexuality was OK, or that we had civil rights. And that included even the liberals at the ACLU.

The fact is that we are consumers, and we should be loyal to the businesses that treat us fairly.  And most of the people in our community I know do travel, buy cars, eat well, and even go to Disneyland, with or without children. So we do not ONLY have sleazy, high-priced gay bars to accept us now.  Why is that a problem?  And we can-not to say we do-vote and support politicians who join our efforts to get and keep equal/civil rights.  It is common sense.

AND, we now have more biological family members, neighbors and friends who will also vote for those who are gay-friendly, and eat at the cafes we feel comfortable in, etc.  That is why so many people no longer support most churches, they don’t like preachers and members who preach and practice hate.