In love with the left for 40 years…
by Brandon Wolf
On Sunday, June 28, 2009, the LGBT community celebrates the 40th anniversary of the bar riot in New York City that ignited our movement toward full equality. I came out the year following Stonewall, so I’ve always equated my life as a gay man with the whole sweep of the gay movement. Cognizant of the upcoming 40th anniversary, my mind drifted back in time.
In 1968, my oldest brother came out to me. He was sure I was gay, too, but I denied it. That, however, didn’t stop me from buying a theater ticket for every gay film that was being released at the time; for some reason, Hollywood had suddenly got interested in gays. I saw The Fox, The Killing of Sister George, The Sergeant, and Reflections in a Golden Eye. When The Boys in the Band was released, I slipped in to see it again and again, weekend after weekend. Somehow, though, I still wasn’t convinced I was gay.
In June 1969, the Stonewall riot occurred. But it would be a year later, in the fall of 1970, when my defining moment would arrive. Dick Cavett invited a young gay activist to appear on his evening talk show. After the introduction of the guest, the audience became breathlessly silent. Cavett shifted uncomfortably in his chair. When he said the word “homosexual,” it pierced the air.
Cavett’s guest, Marty Robinson, was visibly nervous, but determined to get on with the business of speaking the unspeakable. Robinson was dark, handsome, muscular, and articulate—a construction worker by day and a Gay Activist Alliance member by night. He was lean and trim, wearing a dark navy-blue sweatshirt with a big orange lambda. I was mesmerized. A month later I walked into a gay bar for the first time.
I soon realized that being gay was more than “living a gay lifestyle.” It was now a political and legal battle to change American attitudes. Immersing myself in the politics of gay rights, I quickly learned that many politicians in the Democratic Party were our friends. And that we had many foes in the Republican Party.
Long-time community activist Ray Hill once told me about the day he came out to his mother, Frankie. He warned her that he had something to tell her about himself that she didn’t know. “I’m gay,” he said. And she responded, “Oh, thank God. I thought you were going to say you’d become a
Over the past 40 years, I’ve supported every Democratic candidate for the presidency. What I didn’t originally anticipate was a movement inside the gay community undermining our ability to fight for gay rights—one of the greatest political mysteries of all time: the Log Cabin Republicans (LCR). How can any LGBT person look the other way and help put into office a party which has worked against our community’s interests for so long?
Shortly before the 2008 election, I received an e-mail from LCR, asking me to vote for their endorsed candidate, John McCain. The organization’s president, Patrick Sammon, included a recent McCain interview with The Washington Blade. Sammon gushed over the fact that the senator had spoken with a gay newspaper. What he seemed oblivious to was the fact that his candidate had consistently rejected every LGBT issue he was asked about. Politics makes for strange bedfellows—and bad sex.
I know all the LCR stuff about “changing the party from within.” But when I think about them, I always get the same eerie feeling I had while watching that first Muppet movie when the frog-leg restaurant chain attempted to hire Kermit as their spokesman.
The Republicans went down in defeat this past November. And the LCR band played on as their mother ship sank beneath the waves. One might think this would be a harbinger of demise for gay Republicans. Instead, they are now arguing with each other about who is “too liberal,” and a new group called GOProud has emerged. Let’s hope that the Specter Flu spreads.
The Democratic Party isn’t perfect. It has disappointed our community many times over the years. But on the whole, their hearts have been in the right place, and they’ve been there for us more often than not. The current White House website features a list of goals that the Obama administration hopes to achieve for LGBTs.
We have a president who listens, an administration with a desire for dialogue, a growing international reputation of good will, the hottest First Lady on the planet, and an adorable First Dog named Bo. That’s enough for me to stay content for the near future, while our government works to repair our economy and renew our spirits.
I have sometimes questioned how I would perceive life if I hadn’t been born gay. Would I have ever experienced the wonder of societal evolution or understood the depth of the human spirit to resist injustice? Or would life have just become an endless blur of days on the calendar and dollars in the bank account?
Recently I was talking to my lesbian activist friend Arden Eversmeyer. She’s that lady from LOAF (Lesbians Over Age Fifty). Eversmeyer loves to delight Houston Pride Parade crowds as she leads cheers such as “Two, four, six, eight—how do you know your grandma’s straight?”
I asked Eversmeyer what she would answer if there was a way that she could travel back through time, stand before God, and be allowed to choose whether or not she would be gay. Without a moment of hesitation, she looked at me and said, “Oh Brandon, that’s a no-brainer.”
Indeed. Have a happy 40th!
Brandon Wolf, a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine, founded the online group, Houston Activist Network (Han-Net), which is now LoneStarActivists.