The Gay Revolution
Once when my son was quite young he won a much coveted door
prize at a Bangor Public Library children's summer program event: an
18 wheeler. No, there was not a semi parked outside. His prize was a
Dysarts eighteen scoop ice cream dessert. It took two families to
devour that megatreat.
That came to mind when I started reading Lillian Faderman's The
Gay Resolution: The Story of the Struggle. We're talking 635 pages
of serious scholarship. Notes and index add on another more than
150. It is fascinating reading. But I staggered it over a several
week period because to read it all at once would have been like trying
to eat an 18 wheeler all on my own. There were also times I had to
put it aside because the things done to people because of who they
loved made me so angry.
Faderman set the scene with an event from 1948. (The great
appeal of her book, in my mind, comes from the fine balance between
scholarship and narrative, between the events and the people without
whom they couldn't have occurred.) At the University of Missouri
Professor E. K. Johnston, a highly esteemed long term faculty member
who had served as an acting dean, gave out awards to journalism
students. Then he turned himself in to the county prosecutor's office
and was thrown into jail. He lost his job, his career, and even his
pension. Jail was a possibility. At his trial there was debate over
whether he was a menace to society.
His crime? I bet you've guessed. The middle part of the
twentieth century was like one of Dante's levels of Hell for LGBT
folks. Sodomy was a crime. Police officers spent a lot of time and
taxpayer money lurking in gay bars to entrap gay men. Anyone
suspected of not being all out hetero could be fired from a job. The
same folks carrying out the Communist witch hunts considered gays an
even bigger threat to national security. Psychologists listed
homosexuality as a disorder and prescribed forcible commitment,
electroshock therapy, and even frontal lobotomies.
Between then and now when don't ask don't tell in the military
has met a well deserved demise and gays and lesbians can marry same
sex partners there is a complex and dramatic history. Faderman takes
us through it into the courts, the demonstrations, the planning
sessions, the riots, the tragedies and the celebrations. We learn how
the wide diversity in the LGBT world set up internal conflicts such as
traditionalists who wore suits and spoke politely versus the radical
crowd who saw them as sold out fuddy duddies. We see where there was
not always solidarity with other oppressed groups. Blacks sometimes
resented comparisons and Betty Friedan once called Lesbians the
If you want to learn about LGBT history The Gay Revolution is a
real treasure. I highly recommend it. Reading it would make a great
New Years Resolution.
On a personal note, oh, yeah, it's New Years Eve. I plan to celebrate
by reading and eating candy near the Christmas tree with Joey cat on
my lap and then watching the ball drop.
A great big shout out goes out to you, my awesome readers. May your
festivities be fun and safe. Got 2 bits of advice on resolutions.
The first is shamelessly taken from my friend Carol Higgins Taylor.
In a column in the Weekly she advised us to make them manageable.
Break them down. My resolution number one (you'll learn about the
other nine in upcoming reviews) is a good example. Early in December
I decided to break down my desire to cut down on sugar into steps.
The first thing I did was cut sugar out of my coffee. Succeeding on
that made me proud and ready to tackle step two tomorrow: finding what
tea I like unsweetened. Taking on something too big is a recipe for
The second bit is pure me. This is not the only time to make
resolutions. Any time you want to do better is just as good. My
sugarless coffee started a few weeks ago.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod