Continuing Pride month history, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the roots of LGBT activism.
It should be noted the early Gay and Lesbian organizers strove to assimilate into society leaving the Transgender (transvestites and drag queens of the day) people behind.
Not much has changed. Has it?
In response to this trend, two organizations formed independently of each other to advance the cause of homosexuals and provide social opportunities where gays and lesbians could socialize without fear of being arrested. Los Angeles area homosexuals created the Mattachine Society in 1950, in the home of communist activist Harry Hay. Their objectives were to unify homosexuals, educate them, provide leadership, and assist "sexual deviants" with legal troubles. Facing enormous opposition to its radical approach, in 1953 the Mattachine shifted their focus to assimilation and respectability. They reasoned that they would change more minds about homosexuality by proving that gays and lesbians were normal people, no different from heterosexuals. Soon after, several women in San Francisco met in their living rooms to form the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) for lesbians. Although the eight women who created the DOB initially came together to be able to have a safe place to dance, as the DOB grew they developed similar goals to the Mattachine, and urged their members to assimilate into general society.
One of the first challenges to government repression came in 1953. An organization named ONE published a magazine called ONE, Inc., that the Post Office refused to mail. The magazine issue, mailed out in plain brown wrappers, concerned homosexuals in heterosexual marriages; the Post Office claimed it was obscene. The case eventually went to the Supreme Court, which in 1958 ruled that One, Inc. could mail its materials through the U.S. Postal Service.
Homophile organizations—as gay groups were called—grew in number and spread to the East Coast. Gradually, members of these organizations grew bolder. Frank Kameny founded the Mattachine of Washington, D.C. He had been fired from the U.S. Army Map Service for being a homosexual, and sued unsuccessfully to be reinstated. Kameny wrote that homosexuals were no different from heterosexuals, often aiming his efforts at mental health professionals, some of whom attended Mattachine and DOB meetings telling members they were abnormal. In 1965, Kameny, inspired by the Civil Rights Movement, organized a picket of the White House and other government buildings to protest employment discrimination. The pickets shocked many gay people, and upset some of the leadership of Mattachine and the DOB. At the same time, demonstrations by the Civil Rights and feminist movements and opposition to the Vietnam War all grew in prominence, frequency, and severity throughout the 1960s, as did their confrontations with police forces.
On the outer fringes of the few small gay communities were people who challenged gender expectations. They were effeminate men and masculine women, or biological men who dressed and lived as women and biological women who dressed as men, either part or full-time. Contemporary nomenclature classified them as transvestites, and they were the most visible representatives of sexual minorities. They belied the carefully crafted image portrayed by the Mattachine Society and DOB that asserted homosexuals were respectable, normal people.The Mattachine and DOB considered the trials of being arrested for wearing clothing of the opposite gender as a parallel to the struggles of homophile organizations: similar but distinctly separate.
Gay and transgender people staged a small riot in Los Angeles in 1959 in response to police harassment. In 1966, drag queens, hustlers, and transvestites were sitting in Compton's Cafeteria in San Francisco when the police arrived to arrest men dressed as women. A riot ensued, with the patrons of the cafeteria slinging cups, plates, and saucers, and breaking the plate glass windows in the front of the restaurant, and returning several days later to smash the windows again after they were replaced. Professor Susan Stryker classifies the Compton's Cafeteria riot as an "act of antitransgender discrimination, rather than an act of discrimination against sexual orientation" and connects the uprising to the issues of gender, race, and class that were being downplayed by homophile organizations. It marked the beginning of transgender activism in San Francisco.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Posted by De Sube at 6/08/2010 03:01:00 PM