David Mixner has done an excellent summary of Time magazine's cover story from the October 31, 1969, on queer life in America at the dawn of the gay lib era.
As it happens, it was about that same time, October of '69, that I first came to the crushing realization that "homosexual" and "me" were synonyms. Which I've tried to write about before here on the Blue Truck, but even now the memories are still too painful to discuss in detail. Back then, there were no out people here in the Southland, and not a soul you could talk to about it. What few mentions of the subject you found in library books were all extremely discouraging, consigning you to a life of loneliness and desperation. Only once in a great while did you come across a magazine article that suggested there were others like you in existence, that you were not the only queer boy in the world, which is exactly how it felt.
The Time article was pretty sympathetic to us for its time, only a few months after Stonewall - which, children, as big as it looms in our collective memory now was not an earth-shaking event for the general population at the time. If anyone heard about it when it happened - and I certainly didn't, way down here in the Deep South - it was more like, "Oh God, another kooky bunch of weirdos causing trouble." There was a lot of that in the sixties, just one damn thing after another as our parents said. But in the summer of 1969, people were much more interested in hearing and seeing the first moon landing, the investiture of the Prince of Wales, and that ungodly conglomeration of dirty hippies at some place called Woodstock. Stonewall was a tiny blip on the nation's radar; it wasn't until the following year when the first anniversary was celebrated with parades and protests that the gay liberation movement really began to impress itself on the consciousness of the heartland.
And then there were the magazine articles that, one by one, drew attention to the newly militant, loud and proud homos. Despite the good things Time had to say about us - you can read the entire article at their website - the article also served up a heap of sneering, slanted views and fears that are still being proclaimed as gospel truth by the unenlightened and the bigoted. As well as some things that are still quite true and up to date, like the vicious humor of bitchy queens and the married (can you say Republican?) closet cases tricking in men's rooms.
I'm glad to discover this article online, though, because at last I have found the quote I remembered all these many years but wasn't sure where I read it, or when - I would have thought perhaps a couple years later. But I still recall the utter disbelief I felt when I read this statement by a gay activist:
I won't be happy until all churches give homosexual dances, and parents are sitting in the balcony saying, 'Don't John and Henry look cute dancing together?'Deep in the darkness of my closet, I laughed out loud when I read this, thinking, "Oh no, that will never, ever happen - you're crazy, buddy." It really was totally unthinkable, in that time and in that place, a ludicrous idea like a snowball in hell. It was much easier to believe in the sci-fi gadgetry of Star Trek than to believe homos would ever be so accepted.
And yet - here we are, 42 years later, and it just takes my breath away sometimes to consider how many light-years we've advanced since that preposterous thought was voiced. If we aren't quite there, it's easy to believe we almost are, and the next generation will see it and live it - no science fiction involved.
Make it so.