E-mail from Billy - Leo Laurence/Gale Whittington: The New Homosexual Circa 1969
Re: Oct.-Dec. 1969 issue of Tangents Magazine; Cover story The new Homosexual It seems strange that we could call people in gay lib the new homosexuals-but they used the term too then, and we forget, or at least I did, that major magazines, thanks partly to Stonewall, covered homosexuals in that time. Esquire had a great article, Time had a messy article, etc. But I think it may be worthwhile to look at what we did that issue, and suggest that today's editors might want to think about how the world will look back at their work 30 or 40 years later.
(The cover, by Joe Johnson was red and white with picket signs, including Kameny's Gay is Good.)
The editorial was fussing at Time for its silly handling of its October 31st coverage (The Homosexual: Newly visible, newly understood). Same of sick theory, etc.
The main cover story was interviews with two "new homosexuals," Leo Laurence and Gale Whittington, co-founders of the Committee for Homosexual Freedom, in San Francisco (Gale spoke at HIC and Leo was interviewed by Joe Hansen. Gale pointed out their work with Gay Guerilla Theatre, and work on UC Berkeley campus, and San francisco City College, etc. He said members might be unemployed since employers would fire activists, citing his firing at State Steamship Co, and their picketing of Tower records for firing someone. He said SIR (Society for Individual Rights, which had thought Mattachine was old foggy) was old foggy, and were not really "out. He admitted they tried to infiltrate SIR and take control-something people then and now have tried to do which made leaders of such organizations wary and uptight. He said that in the future it would be the integrationists that are successful, not the separatists. They were going to picket a Pat Rocco film in San Francisco. (Exploitation problem, as they felt about another movie, The Gay Deceivers. They also picketed a drag ball by the Tavern Guild-saying it merely was a money-making effort. The philosophical thoughts of CHR is scattered, marxist, anarchistic, and even moderate and Republicanist.
Leo (also with the Institute for Homosexual Liberation) said it was an organization of thinkers. They had written in the Berkeley Barb and formed the Committee for Homosexual Freedom. They were trying to develop gras-root support for the community. "we simply want the homosexual the bisexual to be able to live the life he wants and as he chooses, without harassment from the state, or from employers, or from the church or rom the schools, or from his neighbors...." They want to get young people involved. They had picketed the San Francisco Examiner, with about 100 people, while HIC had only gotten about 20, including Leo. Leo said HIC's picket was too quiet, they had shouted slogans in San Francisco.
There was a discussion about different ways to change things-for instance Dick Leitsch and NY Mattachine had gone to Mayor Lindsay and quietly gotten the harassment by police stopped. Leo seemed to think it needed people to get organized and force change. (He pained out how he had been falsely arrested in a S F picket, with cops saying he did things he didn't.) He assumed our judicial system is unjust. But the change should be from non-violent action. First we must liberate ourselves. "The homosexual community is a scared community because of thousands of years of oppression, of being taught that it's wrong, of guilt." "The worst enemy of the liberation movement is the closet queen, particularly the young ones, because the liberation movement is beginning to make him ask himself questions about where he is and is almost forcing him....Now when you start forcing a man to do something, you create a counter-movement against it." But you must allow people to develop at their own rate. "Hopefully it will come before all hell breaks loose." I find that thought interesting, since over 20 years later nothing like that happened, yet change has come, great change from my viewpoint.
In the news section we mention the article "The New Homosexuality," by tom Burke in the December issue of Esquire. A good article. As I think about all of these names, where is this man today-where is Gale today, and where are the authors of books that have homosexual elements that we reviewed in 1969, and Barbara (Grier) did as Gene Damon? We cover a brief mention of our picketing the L A times when it rejected an ad with the word homosexual, saying "the word homosexual would be offensive to our family readership." Man have times change. Several examples of young men in prison being raped, partly at the urging of the cops, are given, one by a Tulane law student i New Orleans, and conscientious objectors are "punished" in Lewisburg PA's prison by the guards by being put deliberately into places other prisoners can rape them.
And in Minneapolis MN in 1969 we learn of the founding of FREE (Fight Repression of Erotic Expression, at the university. Founder was Stephen Ihrig, 21 and a unnamed lesbian. Again, where is Ihrig today??? And in Reno, the University fo Nevada has sex week featuring talks on lesbianism, etc. (Led by Rita Laporte, of DOB). And there is a long exchange between Dr. Charles Socarides and his usual bull and John gagnon (NY Sate University sociologist.)Temple University named March (Margo) Frantz homecoming queen. Where is he today?
And we mention the play that was the cause of the ad we wanted in the L. A. Times, playing at the Coronet Theater, Geese, by Gus Weill. I think Weill is in LA and has worked with the PBS station, but I know of nothing in our field he has done. (We held discussions after several of the nights, with I think Hooker, Joe, etc.
In the letters section there is comment on how Playboy got uptight about letters they had (printed) from Kameny and me. And how NACHO had not really worked for the issue of homosexuals and the military, missing the point about our seeking equality of homosexuals in the military since they opposed the Vietnam war-but of course 3 or 4 groups in NACHO DID have events, such as our Motorcade, which got lots of publicity and a good article by Peter Bart in the New York Times. And there is the timeless issue (in a letter)of just what the income is of the average homosexual. AND, someone wants us to change our name to Homophile Information Center as it is more 'acceptable." Wonder wonder that dear soul would think today with lots of use of the words queer, gay, dyke, etc.
Well, what do we think about today's "New" homosexual" And have we settled any issue we discussed in 1969? It seems strange that the government is still anti yet most major corporations are gay-friendly and large cities place ads seeking gay tourists. Yet, even with no sodomy las now, we still have people being arrested for sex acts. And the religious nuts are still a major problem.