Sweeping gay history into oblivion
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I guess there's never been a gay Martin Luther King: a gay leader we all remember.
Why? It is easy to come up with a series of speculations.
Most gays can't easily be identified as such. Gay people can pass in a way that was an option only for the fairest Creole. When gay men heard fag jokes they could laugh along it wasn't an option for a black man confronting the clan, denied housing or a decent wage.
While there's always been an at least small black middle class I suspect gay people were more fragmented socially than African-Americans. Money can be a great separator.
Probably many gay men (I've shifted to a specific gender because I don't feel competent to address gay women) satisfied their lust covertly, went back to their job, even their wife and family. Orgasm obtained they were more focused on silence and avoidance of shame than helping another queer person.
Is this why so much gay history has been discarded, early gay leaders forgotten? We've never been blessed with someone like King (one of my personal saints) or a witty, fiery leader like Jesse Jackson.
Any historically aware American knows of the NAACP. Fewer know of the SCLC or CORE. How many gay people know of the queer equivalent? Or would've cared had not the weasel in the White House chose us as easy targets.
A very few of you have heard of Harry Hay, the Mattachine Society, One, Inc. How about Dorr Legg? Or W.E. Smith, Jr., appointed by the major of Atlanta to represent gay people in the city in the early 70s? Or similar local gay politicians, gay publishers whose influence was only regional.
The black equivalents are well documented in the African-American studies books in my bookshop.
On my LGBT shelves there's loads of self-involved noodling called queer theory. So easy to indulge in the search for homoerotic subtexts but it reminds me of the experience many of us have had when we first came out and couldn't help but wonder if this that and the other person was gay. (Some guys never escape that and see gay men under if not in their beds.)
While many of these early gay leaders are dead the men and women who knew them are still with us. Surely it would be better for academics and journalists to preserve the details of queer history they have to share than wander about in speculations that will be forgotten a generation from now. Or analyzing the latest Madonna (not to knock her: chose your own heterosexual gay icon) release.
Social history is geographic (local) and temporal (of a time). Gay social history seems to be washed aside in anecdote and pettifogging.
Many gay men and women worked to bring your life where it is today. They deserve more than to be swept under the carpet.