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Pre-Gay L.A.

Pre-Gay L.A.: A Social History of the Movement for Homosexual Rights

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Pre-Gay L.A.
    Book Description:

    This book explores the origins and history of the modern American movement for homosexual rights, which originated in Los Angeles in the late 1940s and continues today. Part ethnography and part social history, it is a detailed account of the history of the movement as manifested through the emergence of four related organizations: Mattachine, ONE Incorporated, the Homosexual Information Center (HIC), and the Institute for the Study of Human Resources (ISHR), which began doing business as ONE Incorporated when the two organizations merged in 1995. Pre-Gay L.A. is a chronicle of how one clandestine special interest association emerged as a powerful political force that spawned several other organizations over a period of more than sixty years._x000B__x000B_Relying on extended interviews with participants as well as a full review of the archives of the Homosexual Information Center, C. Todd White unearths the institutional histories of the gay and lesbian rights movement and the myriad personalities involved, including Mattachine founder Harry Hay; ONE Magazine editors Dale Jennings, Donald Slater, and Irma Wolf; ONE Incorporated founder Dorr Legg; and many others. Fighting to decriminalize homosexuality and to obtain equal rights, the viable organizations that these individuals helped to establish significantly impacted legal policies not only in Los Angeles but across the United States, affecting the lives of most of us living in America today.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09286-2
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xix-xx)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    In an age where homosexuality is increasingly tolerated and discussed within North America’s urban centers, it may be difficult to understand the apprehensions these men and women endured fifty years ago, fearful that the police or FBI might arrest them at any moment. The threat of a raid, whether at a bar, a cruising ground, or even in one’s home, was a very real possibility. The police called the shots. Virtually no attorney would defend one accused of sexual perversion or subversion. The newspapers would destroy one’s reputation while the legal system sapped the accused of time and resources. The...

  7. 1 Mattachine (1948–52)
    (pp. 11-27)

    IT WOULD SEEM that today’s lesbian and gay rights movement, commonly referred to as the LGBT or LGBTQ movement since it came to include the rights of bisexual, transgendered, and queer people, began in 1950 largely through the efforts of one man, Harry Hay. More has been written about Hay, often lauded as the “father” of the gay rights movement, than about any other pioneer of the Los Angeles homosexual movement.

    Henry “Harry” Hay was born on April 7, 1912, in Sussex, England, and raised in an upper-middle-class neighborhood in Los Angeles. His first sexual encounter was with a sailor...

  8. 2 The Launch of ONE (1952–53)
    (pp. 28-40)

    AS MATTACHINE’S POPULARITY grew after Jennings’s trial in the summer of 1952, Hay felt his authority within Mattachine—the organization that he had created and nurtured—begin to diminish. Hay became increasingly annoyed by Jennings, who was becoming disdainful and seemed to oppose anything Hay favored (Timmons 1990, 178). Although Hay insisted that gays were a unique and especially talented people who had formerly played an integral role within “folk” and tribal societies and needed to unify in order to reclaim those sacred traditional roles, Jennings insisted that there was no essential difference between males who preferred sex with women...

  9. 3 Cleaning House (1953–54)
    (pp. 41-61)

    THIS CHAPTER DOCUMENTS a paradoxical time of prosperity and growth on the one hand, internal strife and ultimatums on the other. When it became clear in 1953 that they were on to something, the men of ONE began jockeying for power. Who would be the first to reap the financial reward? As the organization became solvent—the distribution forONE Magazinerose from 500 to 6,000 copies—many started looking at the dollars. All of a sudden, ONE’s integrative ideals went right out the window and, over the course of the year, African American members fell by the wayside and...

  10. 4 The Establishment of ONE Institute (1955–60)
    (pp. 62-92)

    OUSTING DALE JENNINGS did not solve any of the problems simmering within ONE, Incorporated. But it did significantly shift the balance of power from the editor-in-chief to the senior bureaucratic administrator, Bill Lambert. Indeed, as will be seen, Jennings’s resignation seems to have shocked many into silence and deference. No one really knew precisely what transpired during the special meeting with Jennings on March 22, 1954. Although several board members were present, none seem to have discussed the occasion afterward, and this pivotal moment in the history of the organization haunted those remaining. Newcomers to the organization became especially cautious...

  11. 5 Separation (1960–62)
    (pp. 93-115)

    I HAVE COME to think of the late 1950s and early ’60s as the golden years for ONE, Incorporated. Though plagued with personality conflicts and paucity of resources throughout its history, the organization had pulled though very difficult times and operations had become routine. After the dust settled,ONE Magazineemerged as the voice of America’s homosexuals, and men and women from all over the country regularly turned to its pages for support, encouragement, and a sense of unity and fellowship. It was during this time that my primary consultants joined the corporation, Jim Schneider in the winter of 1959...

  12. 6 Division (1963–65)
    (pp. 116-136)

    In prior chapters, we have seen that ONE, Incorporated, was a house divided almost from inception, two primary camps emerging as the corporation sought to define itself. At first blush, the shared sense of purpose and the excitement for the success ofONE Magazineblurred the underlying ideological differences. But in time core differences in ideology, identity, purpose, and audience made for a deep rift between the two factions who came to call themselves “homosexuals” on the one hand and “homophiles” on the other.

    The homosexuals were determined to secure sexual liberty and equal rights for all individuals. This mind-set...

  13. 7 Two Years of War (1965–67)
    (pp. 137-174)

    THE IDEAL OUTCOME would have been for the 1965 division of ONE, Incorporated, to mark both the end of one era for the Los Angeles movement and the dawning of a new, more productive one. Theoretically, the infighting over, each group had the chance to start afresh and focus on what it did best, with the Tangent Group continuing to publish the successfulONE Magazinewhile the Venice Group developed its Institute for Homophile Studies. To Legg and Slater, sadly, such accommodation became impossible. The situation soon developed into a zero-sum game where only one group could continue as the...

  14. 8 The Founding of ISHR, HIC, and Christopher Street West (1965–70)
    (pp. 175-199)

    Since the 1965 division of ONE, Incorporated, many have debated whether the split ultimately benefited or injured the homosexual rights movement in Los Angeles and in the greater United States. Legg’s loyalists first branded Slater’s mutiny a tragic crime and then a substantial blow that had been heroically overcome. Others called it a calamity from which the Los Angeles movement never recovered. This chapter presents brief historical vignettes, a series of independent battles demonstrating the significant gains made by activists for homosexual rights both in Los Angeles in particular and the nation writ large after the infamous schism of ONE,...

  15. 9 Conclusion(s)
    (pp. 200-226)

    AFTER YEARS OF mutual antagonism, Don Slater and W. Dorr Legg eventually buried their hatchets (after first having to remove them from each other’s backs) and declared a truce between them. It is fair to wonder if their newfound respect for each other came more from having endured so many years of tenacious onslaught than from any rekindled sense of friendship. Perhaps age itself is a social lubricant. My experiences with the elders of ONE suggest that people in their later years—in this case in their seventies and eighties—no longer exasperate each other as much or spend as...

  16. Appendix A: Significant Locations
    (pp. 227-229)
  17. Appendix B: Pseudonyms
    (pp. 230-231)
  18. Appendix C: Dramatis Personae
    (pp. 232-234)
  19. Notes
    (pp. 235-244)
  20. References
    (pp. 245-252)
  21. Index
    (pp. 253-258)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 259-261)