The homosexual civil rights movement started with a few people, and they were not all out, certainly not the hundreds attending the meetings of Mattachine in L.A., but the leaders were, and there were only a dozen at ONE out, but each year after that we grew. Those at the national organization, NACHO, were maybe 50 but they represented a few hundred more, many of whom were out. I think Bill Kelley has spoken to that for Mattacine Midwest. While small in number, I recall fussing then and later to a woman (Nancy maybe?) who was doing the recording for NACHO at Chicago in 1966 or 8, and at the time I opposed letting either of the new groups at Kansas City or Houston host the next meeting as they were too young and small. I was right. What happened to them? Phoenix was the one in K.C. And Houston did keep going and today Ray Hill is still active (his picture is in the current issue of OutSmart) and the Diana Foundation people are still going, but they were originally not out. (OutSmart Magazine just did a great job on them.)
So by 1969 I have no doubt there were at least a thousand out, but reaching ten times that number. And we were already working with allies, such as the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, (San Francisco and L.A., and we had Clay Colwell, a preacher on a cover of ONE.) etc. There were "retreats," a typical church thing, discussing the issues. The preachers in some cases were ahead of their congregations who were not quite ready to talk about homosexuality. Glide Memorial Methodist in San Francisco was a good example of educating the members. This was true when the church started working on race issues.
It took Vern Bullough to push the ACLU to join us, and I'm still not clear why the East Coast clams their ACLU did it first. Again, thousands of people saw us in person, when we talked to churches, high school and college classes, and when we were on the talk shows, radio and tv. And Don Slater co-hosted a week of talking with Maria Cole and Stan Bohrman on their KHJ TV show.
And Don Slater and Hal Call were pictured in Life Magazine, long before Stonewall. Perhaps they and all of the other people and events we did were not cute enough or outrageous enough to get closet queens to jump out, but Stonewall was? Now it is Ellen, and the cute guys on Real World. I'll take whatever gets to or for whatever reasons young people finally understand the reality of their sexual proclivities, orientation or whatever. And that they will not be full citizens until we change a few more laws and hearts and minds.
Our successs defies easy explanation, and two areas sure confuse even us. First, why did the terrible problem of AIDS not destroy us—it did take away thousands of us, but the public never seemed to use that to harm us. And the bigots must really feel frustrated that a film that was in a sense negative and should have helped their "cause," Brokeback Mountain, in fact brought an outpouring of glbt support from the general public.
Where in 1950 it seemed everything worked against us, luck was not on our side, now it seems it is the bigots who can't seem to get anything right and they are unlucky.