FILM MARKS GAY RIGHTS ‘ROSA PARKS MOMENT’
By Stephen Holden
New York Times
“The average homosexual, if there be such, is promiscuous. He is not interested in, nor capable of, a lasting relationship like that of a heterosexual marriage.”
So declared Mike Wallace in authoritative voice-of-God tones in “The Homosexuals”, a tawdry, sensationalist 1966 “CBS Reports,” excerpted in Kate Davis and David Heilbroner’s valuable film, “Stonewall Uprising.” Funny how yesterday’s conventional wisdom can become today’s embarrassment.
The most thorough documentary exploration of the three days of unrest beginning June 27, 1969, when patrons of the Stonewall Inn, a seedy Mafia-operated gay bar in Greenwich Village, turned on the police after a routine raid, “Stonewall Uprising” methodically ticks off the forms of oppression visited on gays and lesbians in the days before the gay rights movement.
“Before Stonewall there was no such thing as coming out or being out,” said Eric Marcus, the author of “Making Gay History: The Half-Century Fight for Lesbian & Gay Equal Rights.” People talk about being in and out now; there was no out, there was just in.”
At the time of the riots, homosexuality was illegal in every state except Illinois. Before the laws were changed, one commentator observes, gay bars offered the same kind of social haven for an opressed minority as black churches in the South before the civil rights movement.
The cultural demonizing of gay men in public service films depicted them as at best, psychologically damaged and at worst, ruthless sexual predators. Lesbians were nearly invisible.
The same “CBS Reports” peddled the medical opinion, since discredited, that homosexuality was determined in the first threee years of life. the movie has ominous vintatge footage of electorshock aversion therapy being administered, accompanied by the suggestion that it might be a promising cure for what was wiedly regarded as a mental illness. The most unsettling historical tidbit concerns a the treatment of homosexual patients at a mental hospital in Atascadero, California, where some were injected with a drug that simulated drowning, a process that one commentator describes as “chemical waterboarding.”
It is a sad indication of the marginalization of homosexuality in the late 1960’s that media coverage of the Stonewall riots was mostly after the fact. And even then it was cursory and often condescending.
The details of the raid are reconstructed by several who were present, including Howard Smith and Lucian Truscott IV, journalists for the Village Voice whose offices were nearby. The film focuses on the first night of the unrest.
“This was the Rosa Parks moment, the time that gay people stood up and said no,” Truscott said. “And once that happened, the whole house of cards that was the system of oppression of gay people started to crumble.”
I saw this review in the newspaper and I had to post it here for any of my readers who may not have heard about this documentary that I plan to see as soon as possible.
Hoping you all have a great week-end and those who will be celebrating Gay Pride this Sunday keep a reverent thought for those who went before us and bravely stood up to brutality and discrimination.
Atlanta’s Gay Pride Parade is no longer held the last Sunday in June. It has been relegated to October and I guess that should put an end to all those scantily clad boys prancing about on their floats and the street corners celebrating the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots of 1969.
I hope the City of Atlanta is proud of itself. The sissies are gonna be kept off Peachtree Street and the good people, the straight people of Atlanta can go about their heterosexual way without having to endure those flaming gay boys.
I hope you noticed the sarcasm in those first two paragraphs.
The last Gay Pride Parade I actually enjoyed being a part of was in 1993. The summer was hot and the boys were hotter. We stood on Peachtree Street at the corner of Ponce de Leon Avenue for hours waiting for the Parade and watching the crowd build. The excitement was every where when the Gay Pride Events were schedule for the same week-end all across the country. We were all holding hands across the continent and claiming our moment in the spotlight to tell the whole world – “We’re Here, We’re Queer, Get Used To It”. Those were heady days for sure.
I doubt that I will attend any of the events this year. It has lost it’s momentum, it’s excitement. Perhaps African Americans should celebrate their National Holiday – Martin Luther King’s Birthday – in different months all across the nation. I mean, it would still be a celebration, right?
It is as though our minority is being splintered into smaller minorities. We will lose any cohesion we may have had. We will lose or political position as a very large, unseen force that must be acknowledged. I believe this is part of a plan to reduce our momentum towards equal rights. I believe it is being orchestrated by the right wing, ultra conservative coalition along with the pseudo-religious hate mongers who have always persecuted us.
Here, in Atlanta, where we are a large percentage of the population the City Government has turned it’s back on us. I cannot condone what they have done. I cannot condone the Gay Pride Committee’s complicity with this move to October. Stonewall did not happen in October.
Instead of supporting their so-called Gay Pride Festival charade I will be at home with family and friends who I know love and accept me for who I am. My partner and I have been together for 30 years. My family has accepted him from the very first day. We can openly show our affection within the family. This is where I will be. Not at Piedmont Park pretending what they have done is alright.
Double standards are frustrating. We are expected to accept them because “that’s just how it is”. Hypocrisy has a sickly sweet smell to it. How can we counteract it? I don’t know.
I belong to several “forums” on the internet. One of them is like my “secret garden” where I feel safe enough to be open about who I am and what is important to me. Until recently that is. I have been told that topics concerning “Gay” issues are divisive because a handful of homophobes and their allies hijack any topic I post about anything “Gay”. These few members out of hundreds of thousands are successfully censoring the only “Gay” member who is brave enough to even come out of the closet and speak openly of their minority. I have many friends there who are supportive and make comments to that effect.
The reasons this bothers me so much are numerous. First of all, a good friend of mine who happens to be one of the Administrators and has supported me and defended me in the past is now the one who asks me to stop posting Gay themed topics. I have never posted anything lewd or unsavory. I usually only quote current news items such as “Ricky Martin Announces He Is Gay” or “Obama Heckles Heckler Over Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy” or things of that nature. Simple news items for discussion.
Other members post with impunity anything of a heterosexual nature. Some lewd topics arise occasionally. I have never taunted nor criticized their discussions. If I’m not interested in them I simply do not read them.
I believe in the “Golden Rule”. Treat others as you would be treated. In fact, this is one of the bits of advice posted on the forum as part of the rules. I have seen topics which make disparaging suggestions about Gays, Transvestites or any other alternative sexual orientation where members have a good laugh at our expense and nothing is said. I’ve seen countless images of nearly nude women and unnaturally large breasts. Nothing is said about it. I’ve seen very divisive posts concerning religion go unchallenged. I’ve seen political smears posted with not a word of reproach. But let me post a simple news story about Gay Rights or a celebrity coming out and boy howdy – I have committed a mortal sin.
I don’t want to leave the forum. I have many friends who are kind, good souls and they support the blogs I post there. I’ve been told “This is a ‘Sharing’ forum” when asked not to mention anything Gay but this ‘Sharing’ forum principle isn’t applied to all the other truly offensive material that is posted – only my posts regarding anything “Gay”.
I posted a thread concerning conformity on the forum earlier on Friday. Here it is:
The Need For: Conformity
excerpt from: ChangingMindsorg
Have you ever suddenly noticed when you were in a group of people where they all were doing or saying something different to you? Did you feel uncomfortable about this? Did you feel an unspoken pressure to go along with the rest of the group? If so, you were simply complying with your need to conform.
What is it?
The need for conformity is the desire to go along with the norms of a group of people, so you will be accepted as an in-group person (and not rejected as an out-group undesirable person).
We are a tribal animal, which leads us to have a deep need to belong to a group of some sort. Conforming to group norms is a signal to the other group members that ‘I am like you. I am following our rules. I am not a threat.’ This signal indicates your consistency of behavior, allowing the other people to predict what you will do. It is also a step along the way to increasing your esteem within the group.
Different groups different rules
Different groups have different norms or rules to which group members conform. This can be to do with behavior, attitude, dress, language, etc. The degree to which other people conform to the rules indicates their desire to be a group member.
In-group members who conform strongly are core group members who are asserting the identity of the group, or peripheral members who are trying to impress the core members, perhaps to be accepted into the ‘inner circle’ (which is in fact another group-within-the-group). Further out, people outside the group may similarly emulate group members either to seek admission to the group or to form an admiring group who are seeking to gain some reflected glory. An example is pop fans who dress like their idols.
Conformists and non-conformists
The strength of desire to conform is a personality trait whereby some people will try to conform to whatever group they are in at the time, whilst other ‘non-conformists’ will go in the other direction, deliberately asserting their individuality by rejecting all but a very few sets of norms. Teenagers come to mind, as they reject their parents, being non-conformists in the family, whilst desperately conforming with peer-group norms as they seek acceptance by the cliques and gangs of the schoolyard.
Some groups are mutually exclusive, where the rules of one group are that you are not a member of specific other groups. Gangs and families are an example, as are political parties and different religions.
If you want to persuade someone, it helps a great deal to gain their trust by being in the same group as them. An approach that can help this is to conform with their group rules.
Strict conformity to others’ rules can be seen as an invasion or ridiculing. For example a senior manager going down to a factory floor may well be viewed with anger if he changed into a set of overalls and plastered grease on his face. In such cases, going some way toward the other’s norms can be effective. For example the senior manager may remove his jacket and tie and roll up his shirt sleeves.
You can also be in the reverse situation, where you set the rules and the other person has to conform to your rules in order to gain admission to your group and the other benefits that this will confer. Once within the group, the threat of expulsion will then keep them conforming. Cults, religions, companies and many other groups use this to coerce people into all sorts of peculiar behaviors.
I posted that on the forum because I was being asked to “conform” for the good of the community. If I wish to remain there with my friends I must comply.
This “Conformity” post was greeted with the same vitriolic reaction as most of my other posts. Nothing will be done about the way I nor Gay people in general are treated on the forum. Nothing will change. This is part of the global problem for Gays. It will never change. We may as well accept it and retreat to our collective closet and let them feel safe in their world. They own it and they make the rules – if we don’t like it we can leave.
I’m feeling very disappointed and very much an outcast at the moment. I’ll get over it.