Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Monroe's column asking what Dr. King would say/do about lgbt issues (WCT 1-20-10)

To Tracy Baim, editor of the Windy City Times:

It is very strange that for some reason there is so much discussion at once, or so it seems to me, about homosexual and racial civil rights issues, and two items seem to speak to each other and us about what we need to consider.

I watched, a rare thing for me on that channel, a documentary on Bayard Rustin on Dr. King’s holiday, on LOGO. A tangential issue, I wonder how (Rev. Irene) Monroe thought when the BET channel chose to have, on King Day, a film on Malcolm X. But I learned or was reminded of the issues Rustin faced, and King and the black civil rights movement deal with, in their work in the documentary. There have been several boks on Rustin, but i dobut young people who read them even really understand the many issues he had to deal with.

I think Monroe is right when she says/thinks that had King done much in support of the lgbt civil rights movement he would have lost much support from black citizens, and black preachers, as he started to do near the end of his life when he got into economic issues and the questioning of the Vietnam war.

And King and Rustin, like Obama, LBJ, etc all had to make choices on how best to get changes they sought without harming other changes they also wanted. Specifically, Rustin had started in the anti-war movement, a pacifist and working with the Fellowship of Redconcilation, as I recall. He then got into the black civl rights issue, and as the media finally got right, he got credit for the March on Washington. But he was under constant attack, as indirectly was King, from blacks who hated homosexuals. While some good came, for instance, from (Rev. Adam Clayton) Powell, he was vicious in accusing King of being homosexual because King chose to accept the help of a homosexual, Rustin, in his work for black civil rights. And Rustin, who had been arrested for public sex (homosexual) did little for the glbt cause as he had chosen to work for the race rather than sex issue.

And Rustin, needing LBJ’s help in the cause, did not speak out against the Vietnam war because he thought it would cause strain in getting help from President Johnson in changing laws, and he was right.

And the issue is with us today as we try to get changes in all areas of American life. Each of us can only do so much, and we must choose what group or part we will support. And hoope others will work in the areas we can not.

As we watch the issue of same sex marriage come up it is sad if not funny to hear young black people opposed to lgbt civil rights when they did nothing to gain their own rights.

It is another issue I wish we had a Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert to cover in case there is some way to deal with this issue with humor.

Friday, January 15, 2010

What may be missing in the era of the internet; sharing of thoughts and ideas that don't make sense without context of experiences

I have complained often to, and about, Don Slater about not putting down his views on his life’s work. He urged others to do this, but like many of us, didn't practice what he preached. His reply was always that he HAS—in his many writings and the magazine he more than any one else gave to our community and movement, even when most people were still not ready to deal honestly with their sexuality or deal with it seriously, instead of being gay in a gay bar or by dressing in drag and using coded in-group words.

And I can not seem to find a way to tell others of my life experience with some, in fact most of, the pioneers in the movement to gain civil/equal rights for homosexual Americans. But in an incoherent way I am going here to try. How can you explain an experience to those who, sadly, may never have such an experience? For instance, I would probably not have understood other people talking about their great feeling for some person they loved if I had not known Melvin. I'm not saying I didn’t have lots of great sex, and like the people I had the short experience with. My deep love for my co-workers was not the same thing, but was just as important.

In obituaries, the parents and relatives are listed. But in a sense, how do we know if they had much affect on who the person became. If they did, was it by commission or omission. I honestly don't see how my parents affected my life. But I see in others that I was lucky my parents did not reject me. I see little influence on me from schooling, or LSU, and even the time in the Army. No teacher, or book got me to understand my sexuality. I had some input on religion from the Methodist Church, and it gave me the most important weapon to combat prejudice based on the Bible-they told me, in the late 40s, that they had been wrong to support slavery based on quotes from the Bible. That meant later that I paid no attention to the misuse of the Bible about homosexuality.

What I got from work with Mattachine, ONE and the Homosexual Information Center was the most important thing a person can get, sharing an experience of learning with others. I got from Dr. Evelyn Hooker the proof we needed that will eventually prove our case. But I met her only through having first volunteered at both Mattachine (with Hal Call, Don Lucas briefly in San Francisco in 1959) and ONE, where, no matter how later events and disagreement affected relationships, I daily worked with Dorr Legg and Don Slater, met and talked with Harry Hay, and John Burnside, and Jim Schneider and the editors of the magazine, including Joseph and Jane Hansen, he being a writer/author who was willing to work with a homosexual group.

And I learned that people and groups change. Obviously the main founders of (early) Mattachine were Communists, using their training in that secret organization to found a homosexual organization that in 1950 (see the movie The Way We Were) had to also be secret. and I saw co-founder Dale Jennings go from that left (political) extreme to the right extreme as Hal Call took over and led Mattachine to the right/conservative side, almost going too far to seek “respectability,” hiding behind experts instead of using them, as ONE did.

The most important part of this experience, getting me to where I am today, was just having conversations with these people, not always on sex issues. Long trips from Los Angeles to the house in Colorado gave Don and me lots of time to talk. And that may have been as important as the work on the magazine, or the Motorcade or lectures.

These thoughts came to me as two items are in the news. I was happily surprised to hear people saying that the terrible earthquake in Haiti points out that in life it is not enough to have a good national art, or culture, or special music. You have to have/do the basics, of people and government working to make life safe, in this case a country, but in my case a civil rights movement. Many people think the world will come to accept homosexuals because we are good interior decorators, can make good music, are good artists, go to operas. The fact is that it has taken people working seriously to change laws, to educate people on the issue of sexuality, that has made life so much better for young homosexual men and women. The same is true of the blacks’ and women’s civil rights movements. It is great to have good musicians, but it took marching and education to change the nation to the time we could elect an interracial person as president, and have women mayors, including homosexual women, and governors, etc, and black men in law enforcement when a few decade ago they were being lynched.

And that leads to the other “major” news item. Senator Harry Reid's remarks to and about (President) Obama's “negro-ness,” or lack hereof. A (black) columnist—Eugene Robinson—said all that needed to be said. It was a good sociological thought, but a stupid political thought.

But I think more should be understood in this case, and it is relevant to the issue of acceptance of homosexuals/LGBT citizens. Senator Reid, and even those wonderful “Mattachines,” Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, should go see a movie that would have told Reid why he was wrong, even though perhaps right in the world we lived in before the election—and hopefully will no longer be right on judging or urging change of homosexuals soon. I urge them to see the movie that at first seems irrelevant to this issue, although in others ways is a very important movie on our personal lives, “Disney’s The Kid.” It is great to think of seeing yourself as a person today, as you were as a child and as you will be later in life. I'm not sure we would change things, but it is great to be reminded of the past and see your future.

But the relevant scene, important in the film and important to Reid's “issue,” is where the man (Bruce Willis character, the man of the present) is in a plane, sitting next to a woman and they talk, and she learns that he is a person who advises people, such as politicians, on putting up a good front (my interpretation). So she asks him how he thinks she should change as she is about to get a job as a TV anchor person. He, as I recall says something perhaps about her hair and dress, but he specifically says for her NOT to change her voice—not to give up her (southern) accent just to be acceptable. The opposite of what Reid thought was Obama’s situation. Obama had not changed, except from Barry to Barack, and it is good to speculate what bigots would have said if he had tried to use Barry, and of course what bigots said when he honestly used Barack. With bigots there is no winning.

That is what Don Slater said in person and in ONE Magazine for two decades. And why he put a Trans person on the cover. He knew that if we tried to hide or disclaim drag queens, or some other segment of our community, that would still not make the “normal” queers “acceptable” as our enemies hate us all.

Maybe someday we will know, if we have competent and ethical historians, who and what got the world to change its views of homosexuality, but I don’t know for sure. Obviously I took the path led by ONE and think we have been right. I hear from good people who worked in other fields, trying to change the church/religion from inside, trying to change right or left wing political parties from within. Many people think the world likes us better because they like Ellen, or Elton, and they have seen the absurd thinking of bigots as pointed out on Comedy Central shows—more than on the supposedly educational channels or in college classes or they have not wanted to be on the side of nuts like the preacher family from Kansas.

But why is there only one answer? Why can it not be all of the above, or none of the above. Perhaps Elvis, or Playboy or World War II is/are the catalysts that led us to where we re today. The “religious” have always hated the “new” music, and the human body and those who are different. It may be that we live in the time when religious institutions that base their main efforts for existence on some tangential issue such as sexuality, as Jesus said, have built their house on shifting sand, and may not stand. It is for sure that homosexuals will be here, and if we/they and our allies continue to push, politicians, churches and the bigots will learn to do what we ask, leave us alone. We don't need special rights in a fair world. It seems that they have so little faith in what they claim to believe about homosexuality and the world, that they do need special rights.

Can we today have the emotional values we got working personally with others in a cause. We can send emails, and hopefully will. But it could be we need to spend time just being with each other, that way we will know how to "hear" what someone is saying. Those who “know” Reid know how to “hear” what he said. That makes a big difference, one that talkers on Fox “news” or elsewhere will not understand. If our nation is to keep going where the founders envisioned, the media is harming us by taking us off on tangential issues. It is up to good citizens to seek serious news and information, or we will, like Haiti, be on shifting sand.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Great articles in first Gay & Lesbian Review of 2010

From the start to end, this issue is great. I agree that our being hidden iin the past is important in learning our history. Larry Kramer’s article in a previous issue, opposing queer theory, is a great example of how a “view” can bring on a counter view and a great discussion. Ironically I don’t agree with the queer theory people yet agree with the disagreement with Kramer.

It is good to have a person who served in the military again say that the majority of people serving don’t feel the need for don’t ask, don’t tell. And as we try to be “accepted” it is good to point out that laws with good purposes, such as the obscenity laws, can have bad enforcement and do more harm than good.

There are good letters to the editor, and again Kramer inspired response. I think the issue of how black Americans view homosexuality is not that confusing—they use the Bible that approved of slavery—not that only black people have been slaves, just as the Mormons preach oldfashioned marriage while they had polygamy at their founding and only “got rid of it” when forced to by the government.

And Bill Percy’s protest of using science as a replacement for religion as proof of something, when it in many cases has merely been pushing religious ideas under differnet terms is still needed, as many young people have no idea of how science, medicine, etc were used to harm our community in the past. A columnist, Thomas Sowell, has recently said we should not accept “science” when it tells us about climate control, but he accepts it when it says homosexuality is wrong, if it says homosexuals are sick.

As to the question of the Knights of the Clock,the early Los Angeles interracial group, I know of no more information, as Dorr Legg covered it in ONE's first book, Homosexuals Today, still available as I have a copy, and assume ONE Institute (Dorr Legg, Jim Kepner parts) and the Homosexual Information Center (Don Slater part) archives/collections do as well.

I am sorry that I see no place, especially in “queer studies” that the issues brought up in BTW are covered. I have said that is where even our HIC website fails, as do all books, in covering why ONE and HIC founders had such important views that are still valid today. You point out that in a court (in Australia) men were asked to “prove” they were homosexual. We answered that question, even if the world and even “gays” reject it, years ago, in court, with the person best able to support our belief, Dr. Evelyn Hooker. In fighting drafting of young men who had said they were homosexual, to avoid the draft, and some of them were not homosexual, Don Slater and attorneys went into court several times, winning all cases, and telling the court that the ONLY proof that someone is homosexual is their word. An act does not prove or make someone homosexual, and no “experts” could prove it when Hooker offered them the chance.

And then you say Kenya wants homosexuals there to identify themselves, so they will know how many there are in dealing with AIDS. Well, that is the same issue we faced in the 1960s when the Health authorities in Los Angeles asked ONE to work with them, take money, and deal with homosexuals with medical problems. We said no and reminded them that we would have to identify those people and by their admission they would be confessing to a crime, and the information would not be kept secret. They claimed we were wrong, until we showed them information given in secrecy to them had been given by them to health agencies in another state.

And the silly addition of letters to our “community” only shows how silly some of us are. Just as the continued insistence by a few people that only the word gay is acceptible—even some women don’t accept the word lesbian. No comment on how Texas should correct the mistake in its attempt to defend marriage from us. They now have a “gay” mayor in Houston. I think that tells us where the future lies.

But the most fun is in trying to understand what Jason Schneiderman is trying to say to and about Larry Kramer's anti-queer theory remarks.

How can I say it except that his “proof” is unacceptable to me, yet his arguments are right.
No one at ONE, as far as I can remember, ever accepted the arguments about Foucault. I never read him, and it seems to me that much of the article is an east coast view as we were busy working on the west coast and not being intellectual. It amazes to me that the world still seems to think homosexuality and our movement didn’t happen until the east coast thought to join us. And in book reviews it seems no one ever heard of many west coast authors, including Patrica Nell Warren, who is in this issue, or Joseph Hansen, etc.