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June 23, 2009

Comments

Todd

Thanks for posting this. I wrote my dissertation about pre-Stonewall gay male culture (and the book version is coming out soon) and so the whole Stonewall thing gets under my skin. Here in California, LCE, SIR, CHR, etc., all predated Stonewall. Mattachine Society's regional organizations were all relatively independent. Philadelphia's and D.C.'s were quite activist long before Stonewall. I'm not against celebrating Stonewall per se, but as a social scientist who kinda likes historical accuracy, it irks me that a riot at a bar that no one in the gay movement outside of New York even cared about at the time came to be emblematic of the movement as a whole. (In LA and SF, for example, they'd been protesting and suing and running for office and fighting police harassment in the courts and on the streets for years before Stonewall, including the Compton Cafeteria Riots, where transexuals and drag queens fought the police in 1966.) I think that it really is just a generational thing: The younger gays/lesbians of the baby boomer generation saw themselves as different and radical and, frankly (if you believe their publications from the period) better than the gay and lesbian of the pre-Stonewall movement. As they organized events (viz., the first Stonewall memorial march in NYC and LA the next year), and as they both took over the movement and because the first generation of queer scholars, Stonewall becomes anchored in the collective consciousness as the "beginning of the movement."

I'm frankly appalled at Susan Bellow's ignorance, or at least of her unwillingness to hear about gay and lesbian history before Stonewall. Hell, why doesn't American Experience make a documentary based on Chauncy's _Gay New York_ for example? Or the fantastic research that's been done on homosexuality during the colonial period? Or the controversies about "romantic firendship" and 19th century homosexuality? What about all the gay and bisexual artists in the Harlem Renaissance? The anthropolgoical work about Native Americans (that would be an amazing story!). Is there anyway to contact Susan Bellow to float ideas for her?

ChiChi Fargo

Thanks, Stephen.
Too bad the heinous bully and former American Experience capo Judy Crichton is no longer here to blame for any of this. She once called me at home out of the blue to call me a liar, hoping to divert some blame from one of her henchmen. I would love an opportunity to repay the compliment.

mistermoose

Thanks for this...one of my pet peeves. Stonewall was an effect (one of many) that grew out of what had very vigorously been taking place on the West Coast for a couple of decades by people who really knew the meaning of courage.

Even the Midwest (Minnesota) was a hotbed of pre-stonewall radical gay activism that were being informed by West Coast activism. On May 18th, 1969 (pre-Stonewall) the organization named FREE (Fight Repression of Erotic Expression) was founded at the University of Minnesota. This was the first Gay student organization in the United States and received nationwide press. Pre-Stonewall. The founder of this organization (Jack Baker) went on to become the first Gay Student Body President of any university (University of Minnesota) running on a platform that included attacks on sexism and homosexism. He was re-elected in 1973 after his highly public application for a marriage licence in 1970...apparently the first attempted Gay marriage in the U.S. and, in 1971 the couple applied for and were awarded a marriage licence in Mankato, Minnesota and married by a Methodist minister in Minneapolis. Yet another first. The couple went on to submit joint tax returns which were accepted by the IRS up until 2004 when the DOMA was passed - another first. And in 1972 Jack persuaded the state convention of the DFL (democratic party) to adopt a platform plank supporting equal marriage rights for all adults. This is believed to be the first support for gay marriage by any major United States political party.

Minnesota was very gay and very active before Stonewall, inspired by pre-Stonewall, California-based gay theory/activism and manifesting through FREE, Jack, and an extremely liberal social climate in Minnesota at that time. At 17, living a short distance from the University where this Q bomb was exploding, this was an exciting time for me to be alive. I thought then that the battle had been won...little did I know that the real battlefields hadn't emerged yet.

Stonewall is being inaccurately mythologized, history is being rewritten, and people's experiences and hard-won accomplishments are being erased. grrr...

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