The blog of Billy Glover, one of America’s senior activists for homosexual rights
Dr. Vincenz is a lovely lady who is not only very intelligent for her age but also a very talented violin player. She conducts recitals from her sun room at her Fairfax, VA home every Saturday. I had the honor of interviewing her about Jack Nichols last year and she has inherent warmth regarding her memories of the Mattachine Society of Washington D.C. It might have been a historical period of draconian laws against the LGBT community but I think Lilli looks back on them with an almost romantic perspective but alas; she is getting quite old. She did get married to her lover of 41 years two years ago when D.C. made marriage equality legal but ironically, when she and her wife crossed into Virginia for their honeymoon in the Blue Ridge Mountains and their Fairfax, Va. home that they’ve lived in for over four decades. She and I established a very casual friendship and I’m proud to call her a friend. I hope she feels the same about me. I’m not too sure about other LGBT pioneers but the only other one that I know of that donated a good deal of their personal library of papers and other memorabilia was Dr. Frank Kameny but that kid he left his estate to is trying to retrieve everything Frank donated. He no doubt wants to auction all of it off on EBay so he can bilk as much out of Frank’s estate as he possibly can.
I’m glad you got to know her.And I do not know what to say or think about Frank leaving his estate to someone who could or would try to take back what was donated to the archives—I thought a group of people bought the material and donated it—Library of Congress?I never heard of the person—has he been written about some place—their relationship, etc. He might have been a comfort to Frank.
I first saw Lilli on a David Suskind show about lesbians around 1972. Few months later, I happened to see her at the Pier Nine club in DC. I was like totally in awe. My heart was pounding as I walked up to her, but I smiled and asked if she was Lilli Vincenz. She immediately put me at ease and asked how I knew. I told her I had watched the Suskind show. My memory of that show was somewhat disappointing. He just wasn’t getting it well. At one point, he questioned if it was a choice. And then he looked at one woman and said, “You are such an attractive woman. How could you be a lesbian?” The look on her face was priceless. Kind of like, “Oh God, we’re going to have to go back to square one with David!”
I wasn’t aware of her appearance on the Susskind Show but it doesn’t surprise me. As far as Susskind making the “You’re so attractive” comment; I used to get that all the time when I was younger and it’s infuriating! It’s almost as if heterosexual men seem to base lesbianism on how ugly a woman is or how much cruelty a woman has endured by straight men. They just find it unimaginable that females could possibly find members of the same gender more attractive than men! The entire structure of homophobic thought is so illogical that I sometimes wonder how supposedly intelligent heterosexuals can come to conclusions that male and female homosexuals had to have an over-bearing mother and a diminutive father, or women had to have some form of abuse from their father or rape incidents in their lives. It almost seems as if heterosexuals have to quantify us in some manner, especially now that we’ve been able to defeat paragraph 23 of DOMA, while there are plenty of wild and whacky Christian right-wing idiots still making inimical lies toward us but even those who just can’t come to terms with thinking of homosexuals as equals or fence sitters who can’t make up their minds need to find some pigeon hole each homosexual—some reason we are who we are. I included a blind copy of this email to my acquaintance, Dr. George Weinberg, whom I interviewed about the same time that I did Dr. Vincenz. Dr. Weinberg’s book, Society and the Healthy Homosexual was the first book that proposed “homophobia” as a valid psychosis and outlined the exact construct of the psychosis. I read his book when I was in high school because somehow, my school library got a copy of the book and I think I was the only one who caught the fact that it was about regarding homosexuality. I think they removed it after I graduated in 1973. I’m hoping that Dr. Weinberg might have some insights into the modern evolution of homophobia. Since I included him as a “blind” copy he may or may not decide to respond. Jack had introduced me to him about 15 years ago during a phone conversation he had with him when I was visiting at Jack’s condo and I hope someday that I have the excuse to meet him face-to-face. There may be a possibility that I’ll be in New York City at the end of September for a week. Perhaps I can arrange to spend an evening with him. Even if you decide not to respond, George, hello and if you ever wish to contribute an article to LGBT-Today (the online magazine I started in Jack’s honor to continue his legacy) I would be honored!
My theory about the ‘attractive’ thing is that the only gays and lesbians were visible for years were the ‘obvious’ ones – the nellie queens and the I’ll-punch-you-in-the-face Diesel dykes. Once we started coming out of the closet, straights had a lot of adjusting to do. Thankfully, the media has learned how to present the whole gamut. But back then, the mainstream was clueless. I guess David gave it his best shot, but it was still rather pathetic. And I also think you’re right about your theory, too – some people just can’t come to grips with reality, so they create their own ‘answers’. Ironically, when I lived in DC 1971-1977, there were times I was asked to join gay ‘delegations’ to politicians, etc. – not because I knew about politics (I didn’t) – but because I was about the only preppie activist. Most everyone else had long hair – either styled or hippie-like. But there I was in my button-down Oxford shirt, with a tan corduroy blazer. A few times, people we were visiting would pull me aside and ask, “Are you REALLY gay, or just here with your friends?” Actually, I had fun funking with their minds and telling them I was very definitely gay. More than once I heard, “Well, if you find out you’re not, I know a nice girl who would probably love to date you.” Being gay has been an experience I wouldn’t trade for a million dollars cash.
There were always two groups of lesbians that I never fit into and could never really get along with. The first was your aforementioned “diesel-dykes”, because most times they weren’t the most intelligent women to try and make small talk with on a date. More often than not if you met one in a bar, being the person I am, I wanted to get to know someone before either going to their place, let alone having them know where I live! I’ve had more than one bad experience of being stalked by a bad date in my younger years. I’m not sure if that happens to you guys but believe me, it can really f*ck with your entire life when a person you only slept with once (and they really were nothing to write home about in bed) starts showing up at your house when you have another date there or she shows up at your job and gets you fired and just keeps it up under the promise that she will never stop until you submit to being her girlfriend forever. The only way to get rid of her is to gather your friends and have a little “sock” party with her to convince her that your friends are more determined to get rid of her than she’s determined to mess up your life. If you don’t know what a sock party is, it’s probably best that you stay ignorant. It isn’t pretty. Then there’s a group of women who calls themselves “bois”. The cut their hair short, wear ace bandages around their boobs and when they go out in public they wear a strap-on penis under a tight pair of jeans so everyone will think they’re men with big dicks. They prefer feminine lesbians (what some might call “lipstick lesbians”). Personally, if I wanted someone who looked and acted like these lesbians and appeared to be packing huge baskets then I would have just turned out heterosexual. Every time a “boi” has made a pass at me and I’ve explained that I’m not the least bit interested because they really don’t turn me on at all, I get vehemently berated by every boi in earshot for being prejudiced. I guess they just don’t like hearing that they aren’t hugely attractive to every lesbian they set their gaze upon. Now the type I do like is someone I can have a good conversation with who is moderately intelligent, has an activist nature, isn’t quite as intelligent as I am (I admit I like teaching—so sue me!) but enjoys learning new things. I tend to gravitate to either soft butches or slightly hard femmes. I tend to like watching a movie sometimes with a sad part and I admit I cry but I don’t want to feel embarrassed about it so I prefer a lover who cries along with me. I have the perfect wife now and if anything happens now, she’s the last. I’m too old to start over at this point. I don’t have enough money to troll the bars and my heart simply isn’t in it any longer. If I found myself alone at this stage in my life, if I’m to attain my goals, I’ll only have time to work and not play.
OMG. Lesbians have more to deal with than I imagined. You’re not the first lesbian to tell me about being stalked, and even confronted at their workplace. That kind of obsession is frightening. I’ve never dealt with it, thankfully. I have always tended to think that in general, the fist fights went on in lesbian bars – in male bars, queens scream, slap and throw drinks. And now I’ve learned about ‘bois’. Interesting. Glad you found the right one out there finally!
Jack Nichols, Frank Kameny and I discussed that same thing one evening by phone on speaker. The point was that many years before, from the 1950s on, if gay men and lesbians entered into more dialogue with each other the amount of accomplishments toward equality nationwide would have moved at least twice as fast as they did. I think personally that misunderstandings between gays and lesbians were only about 1/3 of the issue. I think 2/3 of the issue was mostly too many chiefs and not enough Indians!
If you are right, (too many chiefs) I never met them. I was/am an Indian but it seems to me that there were never enough of either.At ONE, Don & Dorr always had two answers: If you think that is a project that is important and worth doing, go ahead and do it, we have other things needing done first. Or: If you think what we are saying or doing is wrong, then go start an organization or publication yourself-the field is wide open. Sadly, most such people were merely trying to find an excuse for doing nothing, mostly out of fear-or self hatred.
First off, let me say that I had no idea that you were Lenny Matlovich’s lover, Brandon. I read that last night and was in something of a stupor after reading it and wanted to let a night’s sleep reorganize my thoughts before I responded. I have some specific thoughts about gays and lesbians serving in the military of a nation that considers us to be less than human and at the time that Lenny served, it was even more important but honestly; I served for s short time in the Air Force so I could get G.I. Benefits so I really don’t have that much room to talk. The fact that Lenny risked his life for his fellow soldiers to the extreme of winning the Congressional Medal of Honor, then he was a man of great honor. No one could take that from him and he could have merely left the military and pursued a life as a gay man without shame or remorse but he decided to take a stand while he was still in the armed forces. Even greater is the fact that while he went through a struggle bigger than the battlefield and fought the military and spread the word all over the nation, if he picked you as his lover then he saw something you that equaled his own bravery and I need to say that I’m extremely honored to know you and I’m actually glad I got to know you over these past couple of years without making the connection between Matlovich and yourself. I always knew that there was something different about you that practically shouted “FRIEND” at me and now I know why. I hope to get to know you better. Billy: Your description of Don & Dorr are exactly what I’m talking about! With those two it their way or the highway! Frank Kameny wasn’t much better and by the time the hippie era was in full swing, that’s why Jack Nichols went his own way and the D.C. Mattachine disbanded about 1968. I have a complete copy of Jack’s daily diary (he retyped it to his computer from his written journal in the years just before he died and sent me a copy) where he talked about sitting in Steve Yate’s work van smoking a joint when he decided that, “although I will always love and respect Frank (Kameny), it was becoming increasingly clear that my path was completely different from his. I believe that the energy coming from the young people today is the same energy that the homophile movement needs. I’ve tried to have this conversation with Frank but it’s increasingly obvious that he’s stubbornly rooted in both his scientific beliefs and theorems and his older generation that simply can’t accept the attitudes of the younger generation.” Once again, Frank was “my way or the highway”. Jack chose the highway. Frank wanted some degree of radicalism but he wasn’t prepared to go where Jack was or even where the Stonewall Rebellion was taking everyone. From late June of 1969 on, Frank was riding the coats of the GAA instead of everyone riding his. Jack told me that Frank was never sure if he was leading or following from 1971 on. I’m sure that many other leaders felt the same way. I know Dick Leitsch said that he wished that Stonewall never happened because he was just starting to make some headway with NYM.
Thank you for the kind words, Stephanie. I feel should offer a more complete explanation. I met Len in 1976 at his hearing with Judge Sirica. I had been working at Northern Virginia Community College, 1971-1975, in their public relations office. I decided to work part-time and pursue an accounting degree. I had a bachelors in English and journalism and had taught high school for two years (but left when I came out, because in 1970 I didn’t see how I could be out and teach). I lived right outside DC. Because of my schedule, I was able to come and go fairly freely because I didn’t have the constraints of a full-time job. I had read about Len, and was absolutely dazzled. I found out through activist friends that he moved to DC after being kicked off of the service in Newport News. At the first recess, he was standing in the hallway all by himself and he saw me and smiled, and came over and talked. I was overwhelmed. He talked realistically about where he was at in life. Had no job, no income, his parents weren’t happy, he was living with activists who opened their townhome to him. Except for the media moments, life was tough for him. He was lonely, nearly penniless, but well-known, and was living off donations people made when he went to speaking engagements. I asked if I could help with PR for him, since I knew the field, and he was more than happy. He had just broken up with a lover/scheduler named Al Sevier, who apparently broke his heart and nearly ruined him financially and reputation wise. I have to admit I feel in love with his passion for gay rights – although I don’t think I feel in love with his fame – I was fairly shy and that part scared me. But he was so unusual, and I couldn’t shake the image of him on the cover of TIME. It seemed surreal knowing someone on a first hand basis who had been on the cover of TIME.
To make a long story short, we started a friendship and a sexual relationship quickly. The friendship endured, but not the sexual one – the chemistry just didn’t click and we both sensed it, after several tries. We never considered ourselves lovers, but I was his ‘boyfriend’ for a while. He really needed someone emotionally, to help him stay stable and have someone who was always there. We slept together now and then, but usually it wasn’t sex. He just needed someone to hold him and comfort and encourage him. And I was glad to do that. I admit, that at the time, I’d wake up in the middle of the night, and realize who was sleeping next to me, and I’d be amazed. I left DC in 1977 for Houston – my oldest brother, also gay, was dying of diabetes, and mother needed me here to monitor things. As it turned out, he needed someone full-time to drive him to doctor appointments and do his mail and finances, because he was nearly blind. I suggested Michael Bedwell, the man who now runs LeonardMatlovich.Com, and he did come and work for my brother for the last year of his life, until his death in March 1979. http://www.leonardmatlovich.com/ I met the local activists when I arrived, and when Prop 6 came up, I asked if they would like Len to come and headline a weekend of fundraising. Because I could just pick up the phone and ask him, he said yes right away. They were delighted, and ended up getting Del Martin, Troy Perry, and David Kopay to also round out the weekend. Len and I kept in touch for quite a while after he moved to San Francisco, and then we both got busy with our lives and sort of drifted away. When Sears interviewed me, he taped an interview. He also looked through a pile of pictures I had of Len, and borrowed about a dozen cassette tapes – they were phone calls, conversations, etc. – all that Len had approved. I signed a release for the photo of Len in his uniform when Sears was here. When the book was written, I was buried at work, and somehow never got around to signing the release. He wanted to use a few quotes from our interview, and without the release I guess didn’t want to use my name, so he later said he just picked “boyfriend”, which for all practical purposes was true. I wanted to be open and honest about this, because I’m in touch with Michael again, and apparently 2-3 other people have claimed to actually have been Len’s lover. One even wrote a book – and paid for his gravesite. But Michael says it was all in their imagination.
I find it said Len died without a lover. There were so many clues he gave that he wanted and needed one. On a trip to Indiana once (to talk to someone about a foundation), he heard “Little Boy Lost” on the radio and said “That’s me!” He also told me “Behind every great man is ….. another great man.” But things either click or don’t, and it just didn’t click. I wish I could have fulfilled that role for him, but fate cast the dice differently. However, I do smile when I think of a little ‘game’ we used to play, when I’d take him to the airport for a speaking engagement and pick him up. We’d play ‘boyfriends’ just for the pure theater of it. (And I sort of like to screw with people’s minds.) When he was set to go, or just came back, he’d grab me and give me a long kiss, just like all the straight people around us. We’d see some disgusted looks, but we enjoyed upsetting them. Len was SO passionate. He told me many times he was going to set himself on fire on the steps of the Supreme Court. And I think he wasn’t joking. He was THAT committed. But I’d convince him that wasn’t a good route to go – better to fight the courts. There was a funny moment when he first met Brad Dourif who played him in the TV movie. We went to the rail station in DC to pick him up, and we were looking around for him, and finally I saw him. He had grown a scraggly beard, had wild hair, and was wearing a leather coat that came below the knee. I had seen “Cuckoo”, so I recognized him and waved and we started walking towards each other. Len said, “Which guy is he?” I told him and he said, “Oh God, no, no, no.” But he came to like Brad. But when he saw the movie he said his clothes weren’t properly pressed and his moustache was way too big.Anyways, there were lots more fun times and memories with Len, but I wasn’t his lover. But to have chosen by fate to be a good friend to him was very special, and to this day Michael Bedwell and I still mention how lucky we were. Lenard was such an amazing guy. It’s ironic that he died of AIDS. I was so sorry to hear that. I wish he could have seen DADT, and been a ‘senior hero’ today. And yet, it may have worked out the way he wanted. He talked often about what his gravesite was going to say – and sure enough, it does. And in a way, being close to him, I sensed he had a death wish. I think he wanted to die a hero. He was always aware someone might shoot him. But after Harvey was killed, I think that sobered him up to that thought, and realized we had our martyr, so he no longer needed to be the one who took the bullet. I hadn’t realized that you, too, were in the service. I commend you for serving our country, even when the country wasn’t supportive of you. After DADT, I interviewed several Houstonians for OutSmart, and one woman, Lee Albin, really impressed me. She loved the military and stayed in for decades. But she said she was subjected to three witch hunts, each of which took a toll on her. She was delighted when DADT was repealed. When I was looking for a photo of her for the article, she let me scan some photos from her scrapbook, and post them on Facebook. I especially enjoy seeing how effectively femme she could be when it was necessary for survival. She now sports a flattop!
Stephanie, I think you and I gravitated to each other because of our shared passion for gay rights, and also (and especially) because of your deep friendship with Jack Nichols. I was mesmerized by Jack when I saw him in that now-dreadful CBS Reports in 1967. He was the first man to serve as a role model, and I remembered him all through my adult life. I just wasn’t the hairdresser type, and Jack personified what I wanted to be. I feel in love with his TV image and thought about him for years. After I came out, I followed him in the Advocate and read his book about life with Lige. In the late 90’s, I connected with him via a website when the Internet became a way of life. Even then, I was in awe that I was actually communicating with the real Jack Nichols. Len was very special – especially because of our closeness. But Marty Robinson and Jack Nichols were the two guys ‘from afar’ that I nearly idolized. All three of them were role models, and people who I will never forget. I’ve been a lucky guy, all things considered.
Thanks for sharing your memories of Matlovich, Jack, etc. Not relevant, but it occus to me that most of the good ;peo;ple were working for the cause and NOT making money.
I met Leonard Matlovich in New Orleans in October 1978 when he appeared at one of the gay bars there to talk about his case. He was a low-key speaker and not a great one, just an average Joe, but he got his point across. The only thing I really remember about his appearance is tangential. I was in New Orleans to interview members of the Pink Triangle, a radical faerie group who lived (I believe) in the Ninth Ward. We all went to the bar that afternoon to hear Matlovich speak, but because most members of the Pink Triangle were very anti-military, they left the bar as soon as Matlovich got up to speak. I interviewed them, and then later I spoke with Matlovich briefly. Kind of a disjointed experience for me, but it certainly wasn't the first.
That is a sad example of how some parts of our community are as ideological as the right-wing bigots. I had not thought of the Pink Triangle, I only knew some faeries, Skip Ward, and a few others, he was in Alexandria.I can understand the serious issues lgbt PETA people can have with glbt rodeo people, or atheists can have with evangelical Christian glbt people, but it is nonsense to ask others to deal with our civil rights if we can't deal with others in our own community.
George Weinberg responded but only to my email address so I’ll paste his reply here: Always nice to hear from you, though I don't correspond much if at all. By the way, I went with Lilli to that Susskind show and asked a question from the audience. It was “What are the benefits of being a lesbian?” Susskind hated it naturally because they were stressing the horrors of being gay. By the way, before the show, some guards were told to go through the line of audience waiting to go in and get rid of any homosexuals who looked like demonstrators. They had their sights set only on men; they didn’t think in terms of women caring or being in the movement. They got rid of a few men –I think my friend Marty Robinson was one. But they let in some gay women who demonstrated. In those days, they hardly knew that there were gay women. George
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