Disagreements among pioneers and early movement activists
I should be sending this to Wayne, as he only said the Morris versus Don issue at a time i was already planning on putting on record this very issue. I thought I gave Todd most of the letters I have since I came back to work from LA, but I have been glancing at some and they only confirm what I said to Wayne. I intend to quote some to show that even those who worked closely always had disagreements. I recall a letter from Don mentioning that both Kepner and Dorr were doing a book review-for the HIC newsletter. And even though I also said things about others and others said things about me-mostly true-we always worked for the cause.
I will start with the first letter on the stack, for no real reason. Remember that Jim Schneider took care of Dale Jennings for the last 4 or 5 years he lived. Remember that Dale came down to stay with me for a week to see if he could live down here-assuming he could it would be cheaper, etc. He, like Don, hated the humidity so didn't stay and then got sick and Jim put him in the nursing home near him-across the street really but it was in Pico rRvera I think yet Jim is in Commerce. Anyway, for some reason he got Dale to give his thoughts on Jim Kepner- I think he may have not wanted to go to Jim's memorial-I actually forget who died when.
But while we all knew the good and bad of Kepner, I didn't understand then or now Dale's views, especially since for years Dale had dropped out-not surprising considering how he and Dorr had fought, but then so did Kepner and Dorr, yet Kepner always took Dorr's position even when Dorr was wrong-but not in a cocoon and Dorr had his valid reasons.
We thought Jim (Kepner, not Schneider) was a sort of gadfly, he also was with the Advocate and was an "honorary" DOB, etc. But he pushed saving our history and wrote good things.
Jim (Schneider) says that Jim (Kepner) was not a mover and shaker in the movement. I disagree. But he says Kepner was a writer and collector of papers. That is what all parts of ONE are now.
Dale says Kepner's ambitions were beyond his reach-I disagree. He claims associates said that-I never heard it. He says Kepner was unsentimental. Now that I reread this, it is worthless as most of the "thoughts" on Kepner turn out to be Dale's usual thoughts on the founding of early Mattachine. In exactly the same words he says Kepner was not important he says "Those who distinguished themselves in the making of the Mattachine made their own jobs out of whole cloth. In doing so they created a structure that was special-not to the needs of the movement, but to their own abilities or lack of them. Drawing up their rules as they went along, they made an organization that is quite unique in both structure and purpose. ...It is difficult, if not impossible, to sum up the purposes of the organization which they founded. The worst dissension came, not by the outside, but by the members themselves.
In spite of having contributed little or nothing to the philosophy of homosexuality, the Mattachine did stir up the thinking of its members which had been confusing up to its founding. Far from an exercise in futility, it triggered strangely creative thinking. As such it will go down in homosexual history as a courageous failure and an explosion of creative ideas which the future will undoubtedly put to good use.
In sum, the Mattachine was not an end of itself, but a beginning for all who look on themselves as being "homosexual."
He wrote this in 1998. It is very interesting to read it today as new york celebrates gay marriage. But like Dale, it goes on a tangent from a few words about Kepner, to again think of when he and the others co-founded Mattachine. He was the one who said someday we would march down Hollywood Blvd. He was right of course, but he went from being a communist to a almost rightwinger. So that says something about him, and us. And while he and Don Slater were the best of friends, Don disagreed with most of his thinking.