Remembering Fag Rag (remember Gay Liberation?)

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Fag Rag gay liberation publication

What did you want to do when you first discovered you were queer? Aside from fondle whichever anatomical parts of another person you liked best.

How long has it been anyone claimed to be part of the gay liberation movement? Guess that denominative locution passed as Women's Lib became feminism. "2-4-6-8 gay is better than straight" (or something akin) was still alive when I came out. One evening I decided I wanted to be a part of that (this from someone who has never marched in a Gay Pride parade).

Being a card-carrying member of the gay liberation movement proved to be more work than I'd expected. Work as labor, not metaphor: I found myself working fulltime on a long forgotten regional gay newspaper in Atlanta.

I'd forgotten about it until I started typing this but I did attend some sort of gay liberation event during my short-lived attempt to live in Boston. Don't remember much. There was a consciousness-raising (a phrase happily in the grave) group where we (all men) faced each other and said things like "I am a woman." We weren't trying to feminize ourselves. I guess it was an attempt to empathize with others. And honoring women's struggle against the patriarchy was pro forma back then (which is why it is LGBT, ironically, ladies first).

And I saw a tall man with bleached hair, mascara and a pendant earring that left me staring like a slack jawed twit. Don't know what he made of my stare; doubt he cared. I was face to face with the kind of guy I'd eventually come to understand moved me like no other. My timid young self wasn't yet able to simply tell him I thought him beautiful. Too many chances lost.

When I left the paper I never gave gay liberation, politics or any of that sort of stuff another thought. Even when I was living in San Francisco and Dan White shot Harvey Milk. More than one friend had his head clubbed during a protest after the verdict was announced.

Seeing the cover of an old issue of Fag Rag brought to mind the shifting status of gay people in the US since I've been alive.

When I was a youngster gay love so perfectly didn't speak its name that I didn't know it existed. Else my failed attempts at it as a little kid might've awakened me to my own sexuality long before I turned eighteen. Nervous nelly butch that I am I'm sure that was merciful. What would I have done with that self-insight in Savannah, GA back then?

By the time I found out and came out the Stonewall riots had caused millions of gay men to live more openly, if only slightly so. And I was smart enough to move to a big city with a gay ghetto. Homophobia was something that I read about.

Gay people have become increasingly open since then. Homophobia is often something they've read about. Their empathy for the closet is minimal if don't simply deride other gay people who struggled to open the door and walk out.

The Republican Party's calculated exploitation of America's latent store of homophobia has forced many American gays to discover that the fear and disgust is still there. Some core of hatred of homosexuality will be with us always. Racism, anti-Semitism are buried but still alive. I suspect that as long as there's a sexist man - and sexism shows no sign of perishing - there'll be a homophobic man.

2004 CE has yet to play out. I suspect regardless of the evil legislation that may be passed gay men and women will live more openly than ever before. Though if you catch me on a bad sleepless night I fear there'll be a government meltdown and I'll wakeup to a theocracy.

My life, I think, will have let me see self and social sexual repression, the beginnings of living openly gay and perhaps the day that gay people become unexciting, uninteresting.

A tiny sliver of us will probably still call ourselves faggots as a badge of pride. Probably we'll find the contented gay couples vying for space in the Wal-Mart checkout line as alien as we do the heterosexuals they are jostling against.


We stand on the shoulders of giants. One of the downsides of increasing tolerance (and to a smaller extent, acceptance) is we tend to forget how difficult it was for those who, decades ago, laid the foundation for our current success: the Mattachines, the Daughters of Bellitis [sic?] and all those who dared to be open and confrontational when being open and confrontational was unthinkable. I can’t say for sure I would have been so brave.

To our own revolutionaries, you have my eternal gratitude and thanks for making my path that much easier.

I’m certainly not one of those giants. Though I fear that some of the lesser known guys names are being forgotten.

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