Thursday, December 8, 2011

From My File Cabinet - 3 "1986 Gay Politics"

This is from a 1986 letter to the editor of a local gay news rag after he castigated some men who were arrested in a local "t-room" for allegedly soliciting a police officer for sex.  It was in the local news and there was a question of entrapment that was never investigated.  The paper's editorial implied that the men deserved what they got and that they should be shunned.

I share the letter here to contrast the issues then with those we deal with today.  In a sense Gay Liberation and Act-Up politics was so much more radical than the current Marriage Equality campaign or even the Occupy Movement.  And before the internet, cruising areas were frequently the only place where gay men could meet other gay men.

It seems to me that even when we read about kids getting bullied to the point of suicide or politicians treading on our rights with their heavy religious boots, we fail to get angry.  We have relinquished our indignation.  To borrow a slogan "ACT UP,  FIGHT BACK, FIGHT HATE!

18 January 1986


To the Editor:
I must respond with incredulity to your recent comments in reference to ... the arrests at ABC Mall.  
... Regarding the ABC Mall situation: 


1) The management of XYZ Store had apparently been aware of the activities going on in the 3rd floor men's room for some time.  (Certainly it was no secret among [the city] area gay men).  Several measures could have been taken to curtail activity, e.g. a lock on the men's room door with key available on request, or a sign on the door stating that security will make frequent checks of this area.  Those are two...strategies short of police involvement that could have been employed...  


2) That police were employed following a complaint might suggest that the real intent was..."to make an example of a few."  


3) The media did not report or investigate the means...whereby the arrests were accomplished, thus leaving open the question of entrapment.  Given...that such methods have been used in other instances, this possibility should not be...dismissed.


4) The media, by linking "child", "homosexual" and "school teacher" (like bringing together critical masses needed for an atomic chain reaction) intentionally played to the emotions of its audience and ... reinforced the worst myths and stereotypes...  The media must be held accountable for any misuse of its inherent power to inform public opinion.


5) Because of the nature of their misdemeanor, the men arrested have and will suffer consequences disproportionate to their alleged wrong doing, regardless of their guilt or innocence.  They deserve compassion and support for this reason, if for no other. 


Ultimately, these issues must be discussed in the wider context of oppression:  society refuses to recognize that its intolerant and oppressive stance toward homosexuals fosters and encourages the types of activities which that same society so self-righteously condemns.  Our outrage should be directed at the oppressive attitudes which have cultivated the sexual underground and which continue to indoctrinate us as homosexual men and women to see ourselves and one another as perverts...


That the men arrested at XYZ Store have made a grave error in judgement is NOT the question.  Nor should our main concern be...that the publicity about the arrests reflects poorly on the rest of us...[Editorial] rhetoric against oppression cannot cover up the [underlying editorial] belief that homo/bi-sexual men and women must endorse and model the values of the white, upper middle class, heterosexist society in order to gain "approval".  I'm not convinced that is a laudable goal for any oppressed minority.  To say that any of our brothers and sisters who cause us embarrassment are to be excluded from the community is discriminatory and [is itself] oppressive.


[The editorial statement appears to define]...who does and does not belong to the gay/lesbian community: "many men...have disassociated themselves from the gay community because they are married and/or in a responsible professional position".  [The editorial's] criteria are exclusive rather than inclusive.  While we may endorse public 'coming out' as the...most effective means of  changing societal attitudes, we must not pass judgement or exclude those who, for whatever reason, choose to remain closeted...


Talking REAL politics, the fact is that liberation, born of oppression is always radical.  For us, coming out, in its most radical sense, means being sensitized and responsive to all forms of oppression... [The editorial's] Uncle Tom attitude toward the ABC Store arrests should make us wary of [editorial] opinions in the future.



1 comment:

Bill Dameron said...

Excellent letter and congratulations to you for fighting for our rights for such a long time. You inspire me.

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