Proud quotables

Jamakaya

Writing in 1951, when gay people were being locked up and lobotomized, the brave pioneers of the Mattachine Society adopted this earnest, forward-looking mission statement:

“(T)housands of homosexuals live out their lives bewildered, unhappy and alone – isolated from their own kind and unable to adjust to the dominant culture. …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.’

“The Society believes homosexuals can lead well-adjusted, wholesome and socially productive lives once ignorance against them is successfully combated and once homosexuals themselves feel they have a dignified and useful role to play in society. …Once unification and education have progressed, it becomes imperative … 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.”

Twenty years later, after the Stonewall Rebellion, Gay liberation took up a more militant posture. In “Gay is Good,” Martha Shelley warned: “Look out straights. Here comes the Gay Liberation Front. …We want something more now, something more than the tolerance you never gave us. But to understand that, you must understand who we are.”

“We are the extrusions of your unconscious mind – your worst fears made flesh. From the beautiful boys at Cherry Grove to the aging queens in the uptown bars, the taxi-driving dykes to the lesbian fashion models, the hookers on 42nd Street, the leather lovers, and the very ordinary, very un-lurid gays. …We are the sort of people everyone was taught to despise – and now we are shaking off the chains of self-hatred and marching on your citadels of repression.”

In 1978, Harvey Milk ingeniously co-opted the slur about gays “recruiting”: “I want to recruit you for the fight to preserve your democracy from the John Briggses and the Anita Bryants who are trying to constitutionalize bigotry. We are not going to allow that to happen. On this anniversary of Stonewall, I ask my gay sisters and brothers to make the commitment to fight for themselves. For their freedom. For their country.”

In his “Political Will,” Milk asked that people’s anger be channeled into coming out: “That would do more to end prejudice overnight than anybody could imagine. I urge them to come out. Only that way will we start to achieve our rights.”

Every LGBT person should know about the two Supreme Court rulings that have upheld our rights to privacy and equal protection. The first, Romer v. Evans (1996), struck down a Colorado amendment that repealed civil rights protections pertaining to sexual orientation. Justice Anthony Kennedy’s decision was eloquent:

“If the constitutional conception of ‘equal protection of the laws’ means anything, it must at the very least mean that a bare desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot constitute a legitimate governmental interest. …We must conclude that Amendment 2 classifies homosexuals not to further a proper legislative end but to make them unequal to everyone else. This Colorado cannot do. A State cannot so deem a class of persons a stranger to its laws.”

From Lawrence v. Texas (2003), which struck down the Texas sodomy statute and reversed a previous ruling that states could criminalize private, consensual sexual behavior between adults, here again is Justice Kennedy:

“When homosexual conduct is made criminal by the law of the state, that declaration in and of itself is an invitation to subject homosexual persons to discrimination both in the public and in the private spheres. …The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives. The state cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime.”