Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
I'm currently transcribing some of the Harry Hay's writings, some of the earliest American texts on queer liberation, for the web. They are insightful not only for the political orientation they reveal, but as a foundation from which we can orient the current state of the the movement. This particular text is perhaps the earliest written document we have of the how pre-Stonewall LGBT people conceived of themselves and how and why they should organize for their own liberation. These writings can be found in Radically Gay: Gay Liberation in the Words of its Founder, Harry Hay, edited by Will Roscoe.
Preliminary Concepts: International Bachelors Fraternal Order for Peace & Social Dignity, Sometimes referred to as Bachelors Anonymous.
A service and welfare organization devoted to the protection and improvement of Society’s Androgynous Minority.
A. Statement of aims and purposes.
1. With full realization that encroaching American Fascism, like unto previous impacts of International Fascism, seeks to bend unorganized and unpopular minorities into isolated fragments of social and emotional instability;
With full realization that the socially censured Androgynous Minority was suborned, blackmailed, cozened, and stampeded into serving as hoodlums, stool pigeons, volunteer informers, concentration camp trustees, torturers, and hangmen, before it, as a minority, was ruthlessly exterminated;
With full realization that the full significance of the government indictment against Androgynous Civil Servants, veiled under the sentiment that they "by the peculiar Circumstances of their private lives lay themselves wide open to social blackmail by a Foreign Power," lies in the legal establishment of a second type of GUILT BY ASSOCIATION;
With the full realization that a GUILT BY ASSOCIATION charge requires that the victim prove himself innocent against undisclosed charges (and is, therefore, impossible), and that a GUILT BY ASSOCIATION charge can be leveled on the evidence of anonymous and malicious informers (and, therefore, cannot be fought), and that under the Government's announced plans for eventual 100% war production mobilization all commerce and production would be conducted under government contract - thus making it impossible for Androgynes to secure employment;
And with the full realization that Guilt of Androgynity BY ASSOCIATION, equally with Guilt of Communist sympathy BY ASSOCIATON, can be employed as a threat against any and every man and woman in our country as a whip to ensure thought control and political regimentation;
With the full realization that, in order to earn for ourselves any place in the sun, we must with perseverance and self-discipline work collectively on the side of peace, for the program of the four freedoms of the Atlantic Charter, and in the spirit and letter of the United Nations Charter, for the full first-class citizenship participation of Minorities everywhere, including ourselves;
We, the Androgynes of the world, have formed this responsible corporate body to demonstrate by our efforts that our physiological and psychological handicaps need be no deterrent in integrating 10% of the world's population towards the constructive social progress of mankind.
2. We declare our aims to be to effect socially, economically, politically, and morally, the integration of the best interests of the Androgynous minority with the common good of the community in which we live.
3. We declare our aims to present the concept of our Fraternal Orders, fully subscribed to by our membership, as being similar in both membership service and community service and social objectives as the well-known and respected “Alcoholics Anonymous.”
4. We aim, by helping our members to adjust emotionally and intellectually to the enlightened mores and ethics of the standard community, to eradicate the vicious myths and taboos that physiological deviation (degeneracy in its true scientific sense) precludes psychological and social degeneracy. (Within the recognized minorities, people are bad not because they are Jews or Negroes but because of the external nature of their political and economic environments. We must endeavor to understand ourselves and then demonstrate this knowledge to the community.)
5. We aim to aid in the dispelling of this myth by attempting to regulate the social conduct of our minority in such matters as, for example, exhibitionism, indiscriminate profligacy, violations of public decency; we aim to explore and promote a socially healthy approach to the ethical values of a constructed pairing between Androgynes; we aim to tackle the question of profligacy and Satyriasis as emotional diseases to be treated clinically.
6. We aim to dispel the fears and antagonisms of the community by making available clinical personnel, specialists, and apparati to educators, churchmen, and professional practitioners to the end of discovering and applying group or personal techniques of therapy and/
or guidance, to give advice or recommendations or assistance to outside community bodies perplexed by manifestations of an Androgynous nature or character; we aim by the above equipment to help curb the malingering and the inducements professed to be common to cases of juvenile delinquents; we aim by the above equipment to help community organizations adjust and alleviate where possible the emotional and psychological development of Androgynous tendencies in minors.
7. We aim, by making available to biologists, physiochemists, psychologists, and educators, clinical experience and data on the objectives, frustrations, daily patterns, oppressions, insecurities, compromises, and fruitions of the great body of average Androgynes, to represent to the community a codified social analysis upon which constructive and progressive sexual legislation may be comprehended and enacted.
8. We aim to contribute to the general welfare of the community by making common cause with other minorities in contributing to the reform of judicial, police, and penal practices which undermine the honesty and morale of the community.
9. We aim to contribute to the general morale of the community by bringing ourselves to realize that only in a national community embodying the right to freedom of conscience, the right to the expression of personal opinion, and the objective of a peaceful and mutually cooperative world affording equal place to cultural production as to industrial production can our minority realize and contribute its full value.
10. We aim to integrate ourselves into the constructive social progress of society, on the side of peace, for the program of the four freedoms of the Atlantic Charter, and in the spirit and letter of the United Nations Charter, by providing a collective outlet for political, cultural, and social expression to some 10% of the world's population, in which the collective force of their vote and voice may have substance and value.
1. A Service Organization providing:
a. Committee channels to work for positive, scientifically predicated, and morale
b. Committee channels to fight against, and eliminate, police brutality, political
and judicial shakedown, and civic blackmail.
c. Committee channels to educate public opinion.
d. Committee channels to supplement community campaigns for minority rights; for safeguarding and restoring Constitutional Democracy on every Level; for promoting and insuring International Peace and the self-determination of nations and national minorities.
e. Committee channels to make available to the community whatever apparatus we may develop which has valuable community application (see A-6, 7, 8; see also B-3 below).
2. A Civil Insurance Organization providing:
a. Through dues payments and standard computed fees, legal services for all civil infractions, shake-downs, frame-ups, blackmail, slander, and unwarranted invasions of personal privacy, as applicable legally to Androgynous experience.
b. Through standard fees, bail in all cases, preliminary to review by the Orders' Grievance Committee to determine if the action involves any of the protectable categories outlined in B-1 above.
(1) If clause 8-1 is invoked, the Orders' insurance is to cover all basic costs of the case.
(2) If clause B-I is NOT invoked, the Orders' insurance does not apply. (But the Orders' Service and Welfare Committees will endeavor to work and press for judicial and community leniency, and will offer to take such cases under guardianship and apply therapy or guidance under the jurisdiction and supervision of the Court.)
(3) If clause B- I is invoked, the Order will make every effort to safeguard the social and economic well-being of the member and will undertake rehabilitation if necessary.
3. A Welfare and Educational Organization providing:
a. Educational Study groups and membership Forums on the issues which concern the civic responsibilities, general welfare campaigns, and constitutional requirements of the community as a whole, IN WHICH THE MEMBERSHIP BY ITS AIMS REQUIRES THE RIGHT TO PARTICIPATE.
b. Educational study groups and membership Forums on the special issues which the Order is sworn to promote and promulgate.
c. Cultural, creative, and recreational activities towards the end of improving the social conditions of culture, under the organizing impact of craftsman-and-audience constant participation.
d. Welfare groups to promote a better social integration of the membership Minority into the community-at-large:
(1) This shall include series of group discussions on ethics, hygiene, ethnology, social anthropology, social custom, morality, genetics, etc.
(2) This shall include therapeutic groups conducted in accordance with the most
advanced available techniques.
(3) This shall include scholastic and laboratory research into the most advanced
physiological and psychological theories, techniques, and applications, for the benefit of membership needs and aims, and the needs of the community as a whole.
(4) This shall include committees and flying squads of specialists and qualified
personnel, available for individual membership needs and problems, available to community needs and problems, and available to judiciary and governmental consultations, paroles, suspensions, and guardianships.
e. First Aid squads and single volunteers on a 24-hour basis to provide therapy, guidance, or counsel to members in emotional and psychological distress,
f. Social Service Committee to help new members, and members new to this community, to adjust themselves to the duties, the responsibilities, and the privileges of the local Orders Chapter.
g. Public Relations Committee composed of civic advisors, churchmen, attorneys, doctors, qualified members, and interested persons to suggest activities and services based on current community interests.
h. The above suggested activities may be carried on under close supervision on a cooperative or token fee basis as determined by the membership body of the Chapter.
1. Membership shall be declared to be completely non-discriminatory as to race, color, creed, or political affiliation and shall be limited only to those actively affirming the principles of majority democracy, practiced within the Order, as outlined in A-I above.
2. Membership shall be anonymous to the community at large and to each other if they choose: membership shall be protected by the device of fictitious names until such times as the organization is in a position to incorporate and set into operation the Civil Insurance plan.
3. Membership and inter-Order activity shall be Masonic in character; shall be understood to be sworn to protective secrecy except inasmuch as certain aims, purposes, and committees shall be declared as parties to community action or campaign.
4. Membership shall be determined by member-recommendation only and shall be confirmed by election. Members shall enter an initiate period for one year before being confirmed and during this period the Civil Insurance Coverage shall apply only at the discretion of the Executive Board. (Mechanics to be further determined.)
5. Membership shall, at all times, require of members and initiate an established minimum of active and unsolicited participation in at least one Educational-Welfare activity and one Service activity of the Orders' Chapter.
6. Membership shall be classified into five degrees of rank which shall be determined and bestowed by membership vote.
a. Initiate Degree: Insignia pin showing IBFO
b. First Degree (requirement: recognized participation in Service & Welfare activity): Insignia pin showing IBFO bar showing Androgyne (in Greek)
c. Second Degree (requirement: achievement in community recognition activity): Insignia pin showing IBFO bar showing Berdache (in Hopi)
d. Third Degree (requirement: continual leadership in Orders’ Aims and Purposes): Insignia pin showing IBFO bar design designating Order of St. Medardus
e. Fourth Degree (requirement: the highest honor bestowable): Insignia pin and bars as described before, plus escutcheon and chain showing the Egyptian Ankh, the sign of the Order of Pharoah, the historic personification of the Angrogynous ideal
7. Membership shall agree to at all times, whether able to be involved or not, to lend a willing ear and voice to programs and purposes considered basic to the described objectives of the Orders.
8. Membership shall agree that at all times leadership principles and activity principles shall be weighed and accepted in terms of their adherence to the objectives, in spirit and in letter, as described in section A-1 above. Membership shall agree that at any time it becomes apparent that membership activity and sentiment is not in accord with the objectives and principles described in A above, that the dissenting member is required to submit his resignation, that the dissenting chapter is considered suspended preliminary to dissolution by the Executive Board, or that the organization as a whole is required to dissolve its incorporation and any and all connections with or interest in the name and prestige of this organization.
9. Membership shall subscribe to a minimum program of mutual aid and assistance, particularly to members who are new to a group or to a community. Similarly to Shrine and Masonic practice, insignia worn at an unconventional angle may be used to designate distress or need ---and must be acted upon by all other members as quickly as possible.
D. Details of Organization (tentative and as yet incomplete).
1. The Orders shall be incorporated under the laws, duties and proscriptions attached to such non-profit organizations. Its corporate charter and by-laws must incorporate very precisely the objective and limitations of Section A and be subject to the proscriptions indicated in
2. The Orders shall be conceived to sub-charter supplementary subsidiaries such as:
a. International Spinsters Orders.
b. International Friends and Well-Wishers Auxiliaries.
3. The Orders shall seek the aid and support of Church and Professional and Civic Leaders. The Orders shall seek the aid, and in return shall subscribe to the support of governmental reform bodies in the community; the Orders shall seek the cooperation and respect of all minority groups, physical and moral welfare groups, and any other groups, whose general aims and purposes both nationally and internationally-subscribe to the objectives described in A above.
4. The Orders declare that, at all times, they publicly subscribe (though anonymously except through the public face of the Orders) to the aims, tenets, and objectives described in Section A. If any individual, group, Chapter, or Division deny or betray by intent or action any and/or several of these tenets at any time, the Orders reserve the rights to dissolve and expel the offending Chapters or members, and shall do everything in its power to make social restitution for the offenses (see C-8; D-II).
5. For purposes of mutual protection and supervision, all inter-order activities and meetings shall be declared as "closed" to membership only, except as they may be singly designated for community assistance services or campaigns by the Majority decision of the Membership involved, at each instance and each occasion.
6. Meetings and committees shall be designed for compactness and mobility ... and shall be closely supervised to insure optimal subscription to the basic requirements of community behavior. Membership recreational activities, in the name of the organization, shall be planned and designed with the amenabilities and censures of the community in mind. (For example, play-party and square dancing will probably be always acceptable where social dancing might not.)
7. Groups shall be mainly geographical except in regard to recreational and welfare groups as outlined in B-3 above.
8. Membership Lists shall be planned with the Optimal Anonymity in mind; after full and protective incorporation has been executed membership lists in coded fictions and all data shall be handled by a bonded officer appointed by a duly elective and supervising governing committee.
9. The Orders, for the time being, shall be self-supporting as to needed funds and fees, and shall seek the services of paid functionaries ONLY when the scope of Organizational activity requires it.
10. Insignia, referred to in C-6, must be EARNED by the member, and shall be bestowed by elective vote only in respect to degree of participatory service upon the part of the candidate. a. Any member who shall, in the course of a year, not advance the degree of his standing must agree to a review of his privileges and responsibilities and must agree to attempt to reach common decision with the committee as to his future commitments. b. This shall be construed as one of a number of safeguards of the protective mantle required by the Orders against the infiltration of elements inimicable to the aims and principles of the Orders and its individual members.
11. In relation to the public responsibility assured by the Orders as indicated in D-4, and cross-references above, it must be understood that should investigation reveal that the violation were a first deviation, or an irrational or compulsive slip from the self-discipline sought and subscribed to by the Orders that the organization reserves the right to treat the member, or members, as penitents and to invoke the protection of therapeutic guardianship under the leniency of the community.
All the above, with the exception of the general sense and social orientation indicated in section A, is declared to be purely exploratory and open to complete expansion or rejection.
Respectfully submitted to whom it may concern ...
Dated July 7,1950, but actually typed July 9.
1. Stuart Timmons, The Trouble with Harry Hay: Founder of the Modern Gay Movement (Boston: Alyson, 1990), pp. 132,135.
2. Hay believes that Chuck Rowland burned the last copy during an episode of depression following the break-up of the original movement.
3. When I asked Hay about the role of women in early Mattachine, he provided me with the following recollections: "Del Martin and Phyl Lyons, next to Helen Sanders (Helen Sandoz) and Sten Russell (Stella Rush), their counterparts and first Editors of The Ladder, who moved from SF to LA in about 1956, were typical of the Lesbians who came forward at all during the first decade. Ruth Bernhard, who became a world-renowned photographer in the late'50s and '60S, was a major exception: a truly marvelous European-born and -educated Woman, who was totally sure of herself as an artist as well as a person. Ruth was introduced to us through Martin Block's friend, the actor Phil Jones, and his actor-director friend Paul Bennard in approximately September of 1951. Geraldean Jackson (whose neighborhood name was Betty Purdue) had become part of the Echo Park-Silverlake Guild after the trial, in the Fall of 1952, and she, in turn, brought Jim Kepner to his first Mattachine Discussion Group meeting in late December of 1952 or early 1953. After ONE mag started, Ann Carll Reid and her lover Dawn Fredrick (who became Eve Elloree and ONE's Art Director) showed up, with Ann Carll taking over the editorship from Dale Jennings after ONE's first year in 1954. With the exception of 'Boopsie,' who showed up with Hal Call from San Francisco during the gathering of the First Mattachine's rupturous upheaval in April-May of 1953, these are all the women I know about in first Mattachine" (pers. comm., April 27, 1995).
4. The Atlantic Charter was a program of peace aims and a statement on international human rights enunciated by Churchill and Roosevelt in August 1941, which became the basis for the formation of the United Nations.
5. In the 1930s, a friend of Hay who had traveled through the Balkans showed him a small carving of a saint honored in that region named Medardus (or Medardos in Greek), who was the patron of life-long male companions. There is a French St. Medard, but I have been unable to confirm if this is the same figure Hay identifies.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Sunday, December 5, 2010
It's clear that the LGBT movement at the present is dead, or at least its gone back to sleep. Two years ago, we marched in the streets for equal rights chanting "Yes, we can!" Today, we're back to spending our time waiting for the powers that be to act and gossiping among ourselves about the next move of so-and-so politician. As the latest chapter of the LGBT movement comes to a close, it's time for a reassessment. Over the coming months, I’ll be writing critical assessments of the LGBT Liberation movement from a Marxist perspective.
Some of the topics I’ll be covering:
- 1. The four main periods of the LGBT movement and what was different about the latest chapter
- 2. Gay Rights v. Queer Liberation, how activists from each camp undermine the progress towards liberation and why neither makes a priority of teaching LGBT people to see themselves as the agents of the their own liberation
- 3. An analysis of the concept of “assimilation”, its origins, and its ultraleftist strand
- 4. The question of “middle class ideology” in the movement
- 5. The ultraleftist stand of the queer liberationists towards the trade unions
- 6. A critique of the “queer oppositionist” perspective: “The point is to change it”
- 7. The unique challenges of LGBT Liberation compared to other social movements including the relatively late development of the notion of “homosexual” identity and community, the early co-optation by the Democratic Party, the impact of AIDS and its decimation of an entire generation of movement cadre, and the impact of neoliberalism
- 8. Democracy as a solution to the impasse of gay politics
- 9. The radical roots of LGBT Liberation: why Marxism was necessary for the birth of the movement and why a return to Marxism is necessary to move forward
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
The Montgomery bus boycott
The growth of militancy among Southern Blacks produced its own leadership and organization, since virtually no political organization existed that stood for the interests of the mass of Southern Blacks. The two main political parties in the United States maintained segregation. The existing Black organizations—the NAACP and the Urban League—were organizations of middle-class professionals, aiming to end segregation through legal means and not through a mass struggle. The politics and leadership that would come to dominate this upsurge first emerged in the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama.
The bus boycott was sparked by the refusal of Rosa Parks to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger, on December 1, 1955. Parks was a seamstress and secretary of the local NAACP chapter. The driver called the police, who promptly arrested Mrs. Parks. She was charged with violating the city’s segregation ordinance. The very next day, a meeting at Martin Luther King, Jr.’s church called for a one-day boycott of all Montgomery’s buses on Monday, December 5. On that day the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) elected its first president, Martin Luther King, Jr. The boycott lasted 381 days, elevating the struggle—and King—to national prominence.
The initial demands of the Montgomery movement were quite moderate, and did not aim to challenge the system of segregation as such. The MIA asked for courteous treatment for Black passengers, seating on a first-come, first-served basis, with Blacks seated in the rear, and employment of Black drivers on the predominantly Black routes. The local chapter of the NAACP had discussed a boycott for the last year, but had failed to act. Resistance by Montgomery officials and the virtually unanimous support for the boycott by Montgomery’s Black population changed the character of the struggle. King said later:
Feeling that our demands were moderate, I had assumed that they would be granted with little question; I had believed that the privileged would give up their privileges on request. This experience, however, taught me a lesson. I came to see that no one gives up his privileges without strong resistance. I saw further that the underlying purpose of segregation was to oppress and exploit the segregated, not simply to keep them apart.20The new leaders, like King, were not radicals. But King was not only an expression of the “new mood.” He was also influenced by it. The civil rights leaders believed that theirs was a moral struggle and that the “nation” suffered from the blight of racism. “It is...a moral issue...which may well determine the destiny of our nation in the ideological struggle with communism,” argued King.
King and other leaders of the movement played down any suggestion that the bus boycott was designed to challenge the existing order of things. As King put it in 1955: “We are not asking for an end to segregation,” King said in 1955. Instead, Blacks sought the right to sit, not stand, in seats that were not occupied by whites, because, King said, “we don’t like the idea of Negroes having to stand up when there are vacant seats.”21
Their basic strategy would revolve around nonviolent mass action to pressure the authorities into negotiations, leading, it was hoped, to concessions. As such, it was not a struggle of Black against white: “We are out to defeat injustice and not white persons who may be unjust.”22 King was well aware that the movement’s demands would be met with concerted resistance, but this only elevated the moral character of struggle itself:
We will match your capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering.... We will soon wear you down by our capacity to suffer.23
Rivers of blood may have to flow before we gain our freedom, but it must be our blood.24
The non-violent approach does not immediately change the heart of the oppressor. It first does something to the hearts and souls of these committed to it. It gives them new self-respect; it calls up resources of strength and courage that they did not know they had.25
Laws that need breaking
It is impossible to avoid the comparison between Arizona today and the era of Jim Crow segregation—or between the protests against these racist laws today and the struggles that finally ended Jim Crow laws by defying them en masse.
Although Rosa Parks is today revered for her role in launching the civil rights movement, at the time, most Southern (and Northern) whites disparaged her for promoting racial integration. When four Black students sat in at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in 1960, they were soon joined by hundreds of other students from a nearby Black college—but they also faced protests by angry white mobs.
Indeed, at virtually every juncture, civil rights demonstrators encountered a violent white opposition seeking to uphold the segregation laws of their state. These racists justified their attacks because African American activists “broke the law.”
There is no doubt, however, that the civil rights movement challenged and ultimately changed prevailing opinion.