Monday, January 3, 2011

Mattachine Documents: Missions and Purposes, Discussion Groups, Your Rights in Case of Arrest

Mattachine Documents                                                                 

THE FOLLOWING ARE SOME of the key documents created by Mattachine between 1950 and 1953.  First is the statement of missions and purposes developed by the founders in the spring of 1951 and formally adopted in July. It remains one of the seminal declarations of Queer liberation.
Anyone who has worked in community-based organizations will appreciate the practical advice on conducting groups contained in the second document, a hand-out prepared for Mattachine discussion group facilitators.  It could be used today in any number of grassroots organizations and projects.
The final document is a leaflet prepared by the Citizens' Committee to Outlaw Entrapment, the organizational front created in the spring of 1952 to coordinate the legal defense of Dale Jennings, who had been entrapped by the Los Angeles vice squad. In the period of a few months the Committee distributed thousands of mimeographed leaflets in the Los Angeles area by leaving them on buses, handing them to "sympathetic" customers at places of work, and so forth. The following hand-out, designed to be kept in one's wallet for quick reference, was the most practical of these, offering advice to Gay men on what to do in case of arrest. It underscores the level of police harassment and legal persecution that male homosexuals faced in the 1950s.

Mattachine Society Missions and Purposes

To Unify - While there are undoubtedly individual homosexuals who number many of their own people among their friends, thousands of homosexuals live out their lives bewildered, unhappy, alone - isolated from their own kind and unable to adjust to the dominant culture.  Even those who may have many homosexual friends are still cut off from the deep satisfactions man's gregarious nature can achieve only when he is consciously part of a large unified whole. A major purpose of the Mattachine Society is to provide a consensus of principle around which all of our people can rally and from which they can derive a feeling of "belonging."

To Educate - The total of information available on the subject of homosexuality is woefully meager and utterly inconclusive. The Society organizes all available material and conducts extensive researches itself-psychological, physiological, anthropological, and sociological - for the purpose of informing all interested homosexuals, and for the purpose of informing and enlightening the public at large.
The Mattachine Society holds it possible and desirable that a highly ethical homosexual culture emerge, as a consequence of its work, paralleling the emerging cultures of our fellow-minorities – the Negro, Mexican, and Jewish Peoples. The Society believes homosexuals can lead well-adjusted, wholesome, and socially productive lives once ignorance and prejudice against them is successfully combated, and once homosexuals themselves feel they have a dignified and useful role to play in society. The Society, to these ends, is in the process of developing a homosexual ethic-disciplined, moral, and socially responsible.

To Lead - It is not sufficient for an oppressed minority like the homosexuals merely to be conscious of belonging to a minority collective when, as is the situation at the present time, that collective is neither socially organic nor objective in its directions and activities - although this minimum is in itself a great step forward. It is necessary that the more far-seeing and socially conscious homosexuals provide leadership to the whole mass of social deviants if the first two missions (the unification and the education of the homosexual minority) are to be accomplished. Further, once unification and education have progressed, it becomes imperative (to consolidate these gains) for the Corporation to push forward into the realm of political action to erase from our law books the discriminatory and oppressive legislation presently directed against the homosexual minority.
The Society, founded upon the highest ethical and social principles, serves as an example for homosexuals to follow, and provides a dignified standard upon which the rest of society can base a more intelligent and accurate picture of the nature of homosexuality than currently obtains in the public mind. The Society provides the instrument necessary to work with civic-minded and socially valuable organizations, and supplies the means for the assistance of our people who are victimized daily as a result of our oppression. Only a Society providing an enlightened leadership can rouse the homosexuals - one of the largest minorities in America today – to take the actions necessary to elevate themselves from the social ostracism an unsympathetic culture has perpetrated upon them.

Written April 1951 and ratified July 20, 1951.  Published in Marvin Cutler, ed., Homosexuals Today: A Handbook of Organizations and Publications, 1956 (Los Angeles: ONE, Inc., 1956), pp. 13-14·

A Quick Guide to Conducting Discussion Groups

I.          INTRODUCTION (read to the group or tell in your own words):
The Mattachine Foundation, a California Corporation, has the following aims: (1) To aid in research on sexual deviation, (2) To promote understanding of sexual deviates amongst themselves, and (3) To develop public understanding of the social problem of sexual deviation. These discussion groups, open to homosexuals and sympathetic heterosexuals, are for the purpose both of giving people an opportunity to exchange ideas and of collecting for the Foundation information on the lives, ideas, feelings, and problems of homosexuals. Besides these discussion groups, there are action committees to give all interested people a chance to work and help the Foundation carry out its program.

A. Subject.
The subject for discussion should be selected by the group at the previous meeting. Usually a specific subject results in a more interesting discussion. Examples of subjects that have proven good:
1. Why are there so few successful homosexual "marriages"?
2. What causes swishing?
3. Is there a homosexual culture?
4. Should homosexuals try to pattern their "marriages" after the heterosexual
B. Remember -- any information about how homosexuals live and solve their problems is interesting and valuable.

A. Throw out questions and ideas if the discussion lags.
B. Give everyone a chance to talk by curtailing those who tend to monopolize the time and encouraging others to enter the discussion.
C. Attempt to keep the discussion going in some general direction, not in all directions. D. Try to summarize the discussion briefly at the end.

            A. Talk too much.
B. Take advantage of his position to advance his own ideas.

V.        BE SURE TO:
A. Announce and explain the action committees before the break.
1. Dossier committee [collecting information on legal cases].
2. Mailing and mimeograph committee.
3. Committee to edit discussion group reports.
4. Committee to gather information from newspapers, magazines.
B. Have someone take notes.
C. Pass out slips of paper and pencils to everyone and let them, if they choose, give names, address, and phone number and indicate whether they want to be on the mailing list and what projects they would like to work on. This is done during the break. Appoint people to help you do this job.
D. Have literature about the organization available.
E. Decide on place of next meeting before people start leaving.


Your Rights in Case of Arrest

1.         If an officer tries to arrest you, he should have a warrant unless a misdemeanor (minor violation) or a felony (serious offense) has been committed in his presence or he has reasonable grounds to believe the person being arrested is guilty.
2.         If he has no warrant ask what the basis of arrest is. If it is not explained as in No. 1 above, go along but under protest made before a witness if possible. DO NOT RESIST PHYSICALLY.
3.         GIVE NO INFORMATION! You may, but do not have to, give your name and address. Do NOT talk to any policeman.

Q: "Why did you commit this crime?"
A: "I'm not guilty and I'd like to speak to my attorney, please."
Q: "How long have you been a lewd vagrant?"
A: "I'm not guilty and I'd like to see my lawyer before making a statement."
Q: "Have you been arrested  for this before?"
A: "I'm not guilty and my attorney would rather I speak through him."
Q: "Nice day, isn't it?"
A: "I'm sorry but I'd like a lawyer's advice before making a statement."

4. Deny all accusatory statements by arresting officers with, "I'm not guilty and I'd like to contact a lawyer." Otherwise your silence before witnesses can be construed in court as assent.
5. If an officer insists on taking you to jail, ask when you are booked (registered) what the charges are.
6. Insist on using a telephone to contact your lawyer or family.
7. DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING. Take numbers of arresting officers.
8. You have a right to be released on bail for most offenses. Have your attorney make the arrangements. Or you can ask for a bail bond broker. For a fee, he will post (deposit with the police) the amount needed for your release.
9. Under no circumstances have the police a right to manhandle, beat, or terrorize you.  REPORT ALL SUCH INCIDENTS.
10. If you do not have an attorney by the time you are required to plead guilty or not guilty, remember this:
a. You are entitled to a copy of the charges made against you.
b. You are entitled to have a lawyer. Ask for a postponement until you get legal representation.
12. Ask for a trial by jury unless your lawyer advises otherwise.
13. You are not required to testify against yourself in any trial or hearing.
14. If you are questioned by a member of the FBI, you are not required to answer.  Immediately consult an attorney so that your rights may be adequately protected.

Citizens' Committee to Outlaw Entrapment, Spring 1952.

1 comment:

  1. thank you for posting this; a very important set of documents!