East Coast Bias
Below is a conversation between Billy Glover and Frank Kameny on East Coast Biases in gay history books, spurred by John D'Emilio's book, Sexual Politics. I enjoyed reading their viewpoints, and so I pass them on to you. I present them unedited.
I have just reread John D'Emilio's book, of 1983, Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities, the making of ahomosexual minority in the united States (1940-1970).
The writer gives much information, well documented and covers not only homosexual issues but gives the environment of the years-political, other civil rights movements, etc.
You can read this book and not find a single error, all of the information and even most of the views are valid. BUT, if you only have this book to learn about our movement's history you will come away with a slanted, incaccurage view. In almost every detail the writer has slanted the people and groups in this movement to say that the progress and work was done on the East Coast.
This is true even though ONE Magazine is quoted and menntion is made of ONE, Inc., mainly, ironically for Dorr, the court case to get the right to publish a magazine dealing with homosexuality. Yet most space is given the Mattachine and the Daughtes of Bilitis (DOB) and the claim is that those two organizations were the major orce in our fight for civil/equal rights.
That is total nonsense, even if you say that part of the reason is the chapters of the two organizations in New York, DC, and Chicago. No mention is made that ONE also had chapters in those cities. But the fact is that ONE- not just the magazine that was the first public homosexual publication, and had a wider circulation/readership than either the Mattchien Review or The ladder, had- had more members, reahed more people in the 50s and 60s than all other groups combined, and we appeared on as many if not more tv and radio talk shows than those in the East. An example is the mention of the June 64 issue of Life Magazine, but no mention of the fact that the pictures were of California leaders, Hal Call and Don Slater.
That is not to find fault with coverage of New York Mattachine, and certianly not the work of Frank Kameny, Jack Nichols, Barbara Gittings, etc. But to have only one mention, and incorrectly reporting the editors of ONE Magazine, of Don Slater is outrageous and can only be proof of a bias against either the person or the views of that person. Dorr Legg was not the only person behind ONE. He and Don Slater, and later Jim Kepner were the main people. But it was my understanding for stance, that Martin Block was an editor, and Don Slater was always an editor and finally for most of our time the main editor of the magazine, and ran the library. Dorr did the business and the Institute. Kepner did work on the magazine and Quarterly as well as collecting his own archives.
This is an old book, and D'Emilio's perspective of that date has raised questions from time to time. HOWEVER
While, of course our movement started on the West Coast in and about 1951, and operated almost totally from there for its first decade, effective action out there largely ceased around 1961 for a long time, and moved almost entirely to the East Coast..
When we got going here in 1961, it was universally accepted that "nothing was going on out there (i.e. the West) any more", and that WAS true as of then, in my view.
ONE had its library and its university or whatever, which were accomplishing nothing in the larger scene; they were us talking to ourselves. National Mattachine wa formally dissolved in March, 1961. Magazines were being published, as you correctly indicate, but those amounted to little more, also, than talking to ourselves. There were real problems, which the West was not touching, and which we in the East commenced to tackle vigorously --- especially here in Washington. See my 1964 speech to the New York Mattachine --- which, itself, had incorporated separately from the SF headquarters, and which, also, was not doing all that much, although being noisy about it.
In 1963, we formed ECHO -- the East Coast Homophile Organizations --- all 4 east coast groups. Nothing was happening in the West.
Things picked up in the West with the formation, around 1965, of SIR, which began to take a national lead, although the real accomplishments still remained mostly in the East.
We started our picketing in 1965 (perhaps preceded by one in 1964); we began fighting the federal government ---civil service employment; military policy; security clearances -- around the same time, and started to contest sodomy laws here in DC and elsewhere (Illinois repealed in 1961 - hardly the West).
GAA was formed in NY right after Stonewall, and clearly was in the national forefront.
NACHO was formed in early 1966. It included SIR and Tangents (Don Slater was at the February founding meeting in Kansas City) but it was primarily an East coast group, although annual meetingd did occur in Chicago (1968) and SF and elewhere.
Perhaps the changes which occurred can be encapsulated by saying that in order to create the necessary changes we needed to take political action, in the looser sense of that concept, not talking to ourselves, which is what ONE amounted to, as seen by us. We commenced doing so vigorously in the East; the West did litle in the 50s, and, until SIR, none in the 60s.
Obviously our perspectives are necessarily different, since you were totally West Coast and were immersed, particularly, in the LA scene, and I was and am totally East Coast. But I do think that my assessments are not out of line in saying that after 1960 or so, for a long time, the concrete accomplishments ceased coming from the West, and came solely from the East, with the in-between being mostly a desert.
I know you will disagree at least somewhat. We can certainly discuss further, and I would welcome it.
Cordially Frank Kameny
Frank, thanks for your view on my thoughts on the book. I think you are right in that I was concerned with L. A. and you were not only on the East Coast, but aimed your work at the federal government, and picketing, etc.
I will point out only one "problem" I have with the book, as it represents what I consider bias, regardless of whether you or I are closer to the "truth" of our history.
Why does D-Emilio mention two men starting The Advocate? It was started by PRIDE. They took it over, and probably most people only think of it as after the other man took it over, whose name escapes me now even. BUT it is still the major publication in our community-magazine at least.
AND, no matter what you think of ONE, the shouting fact is that it/we are the ONLY organization still going. No matter how you interpret that, as we are now mainly archives/libraries, we still have the record of the history no one else has-even though in a sense it is in 3 parts. There is no disagreement among the ONE Institute, ONE/Inc/ISHR and HIC people over our history and what we did and continue to do, which no other "resource" even tries to do-be a national resource and information center.
You are certainly aware of the fact that the main founders' views differed, and our views still differ from the majority of gay/lesbian groups/publications. Where else do you have homosexual pioneers who are opposed to gay marriage-and Don Slater and Tony Reyes were partners for their lives, over 50 years-affirmative action and hate crime laws and have tried to deal with the issue of abortion in the light of "unintended consequences-which is why Don Slater supported the efforts of PLAGAL. As you say we may disagree, but no one can question the work and thinking of Don Slater, as he was there from the start.
And that is of course the major flaw in the book. Don Slater is ignored. Yet he was with Dorr the major lasting founder of ONE, Inc. (The fact that the funding part of ONE now controls the name, as HIC controls the name The Tangent Group, does not change the fact that ISHR , co-founded by Don and Dorr and Reed, was the first g/l funding organization.)
Our files prove that we were as active in picketing as you all were. Our Motorcade in 66 was covered by the New York Times-I wonder what the writer of the article, Peter Bart, who now is editor of the movie newspaper, variety I think The effort of The Committee to Fight Exclusion of Homosexuals From the Armed Forces, was headed by Don and Harry Hay/John Burnside, and supported by Vern Bullough and others, and was part f the national day of protest which you all joined in on the East Coast.
While you all were on tv, Don Slater, co-hosted a week's discussion on KHJ-TV with Maria Cole, I wonder if Natalie Cole knows that even. We picketed the Los Angeles Times. We held a benefit performance of The Women, with an all-male cast. And Don Slater alone fought Customs to get copies of Revolt magazine released. And even D-Emilio admits that ONE's fight against the post office won the right to even discuss homosexuality in publications. And there was a lawsuit in California to get rid of the sodomy laws in the 60s, which failed.
No, the East Coast media ignored our work and even almost ignored Stonewall, but suddenly "discovered" the gay movement and went from one extreme to the other, meaning that we got lots of drag queens and ACT-UP activists and dykes on bikes but still to this day no serious discussion of the history and issues. Now we finally have 250 people who challenge the push for gay marriage as the major effort of our community/movement.
The point is that when harry, Dale etc started in 1951, with early Mattachine there was NO other resource. And ONE came out to be the public voice, and so it is silly to keep saying that we talked only to ourselves, that is EXACTLY what Don Slater said we had been doing and would no longer do, when ONE was started and from the 50s to 70s when we stopped publishing the magazine we spoke to the world and was ignored by the media, even when we won the Supreme Court decision.
We as you know did NOT want a national single g/l organization. You are the perfect example of why. Once ONE was joined by DOB, Janus, and thechap[ters of ONE, Mattachine and DOB, etc, and then each year new groups and publications came on board, and specialized in some aspect, we had no need for ONE to be all things to all people. You did a great job of pushing the federal issue. ONE Magazine and Tangents told the movement and world what was happening. t a time when no one else did. We fought legal cases long before Lambda Legal. We, not very good, tried to cover academic issues with the Quarterly. ONE even had, despite Don's objections, a gay church. We had discussion groups, Yearly meetings, and a glance at Dorr's plans for courses in sociology, etc show they are as good today as they were when I and a few others took them in the 60s.
The issue of politics was one we argued over all the time. Dear Morris Kight, and you all on the East Coast, as well as the people in San Francisco, tried the route of supporting politicians, as HRC, The Task Force, etc do today. We took the attitude then and now that we are a nation of laws. The politicians Morris supported were good, but the are long gone. And the irony is that under Mayor Bradley we had ok things, but a conservative Republican mayor came along and was even better, so much for the Log Cabin Republicans, and the eternal question of whether you leave a bad group or stay in and try to change it.
No matter who claims it was their ideas and thinking that won us the U S Supreme Court decision in Colorado and Texas, a glance at the articles (including ones in the Los Angeles Times, Herald Examiner, etc, as well as ONE, Tangents and the newsletter) of Don Slater will prove that he long ago said that the way to win our battles were the ones the court said. We are NOT a minority, or a special class, Kinsey and Hooker were right, this is a sex act, we have nothing else in common. We are not "special" even though some of Harry's thinking as outsiders is correct, and what we have under the Constitution and Bill of Rights is the right to privacy, (see the Ninth Amendment) and we have our rights as individuals. That is why we will win. And on the issue of marriage, sooner or later his thinking will prevail-it is a gender issue and thus can be won on that basis.
So it has taken all of us, and there is no reason to say one person or group has been better or more right. But no person or integrity and competence can ignore the work of a major pioneer and cover the equally important work of other pioneers without having an agenda. And writers on the East Coast have done this. And the last proof is the complete ignorance of the East Coast people about the work of Vern Bullough.
So let's hope someday, either by continuing this discussion by email, or a getting together for a few days of talking some place some time, which g/l funders should support, we will try to set the record straight so that future young homosexual men and women, as well as sociologists, etc will have all the facts and thus not come to a conclusion on the basis of only part of the record.