Monday, March 06, 2017

LGBT leaders

The current miniseries on ABC, When We Rise, is based on the work of the San Francisco activist Cleve Jones.  The following are some more general ideas that the series stimulated.

To the best of my knowledge, I never met Jones, so that the following composite character sketch is based on other LGBT leaders I have known. First, they were by and large "unemployable," conducting free-floating lives as best they could. A few like Legg and Hay had partners to support them; many did not. This indifference to worldly success was complemented by a fierce (and understandable) wish to have their contributions recognized when the time came. (Rare were individuals like Arthur Warner who eschewed any limelight; the success of the cause being all that mattered.). 

Then there was lifestyle asceticism. Kameny was famous for subsisting on Chef Boyardee, consumed straight from the can without heating. Morris Kight would wear a tattered old suit until it fell off him. 

They were also inclined to factionalism. The first case I encountered was Don Slater's notorious heist of ONE in 1965. Later I learned that this sort of thing was common even in the early days of the German movement. 

Our leaders were quick to take offense, and little given to acknowledging any earlier sources. I narrowly escaped assault when I suggested to Harry Hay that he and his friends had purloined the term "homophile" from European usage (it was first introduced In German in 1925).

1 Comments:

Blogger Stephen said...

Jones has a job as a union organizer and has had it for some years. When he was a 17-year-old runaway, before Harvey Milk urged him to return to school, he had a precarious existence. The book is better (see my review at http://www.tangentgroup.org/cleve-jones-community-organizer-and-organic-intellectual/).

Nowadays, many are employed by NGOs. And back in the early days of Mattachine, didn't "Rudi" Gernreich bankroll Hay and Mattachine?

2:40 PM  

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