Gay History Month – October 23rd: “Transvestitism”, Gay Hero Harry Hay, and Quebec’s Gay Clubs Raid Protests
1766: Christoffel Bosch van Leeuwarden, a seventy year old porter in the Netherlands, was convicted of seduction to sodomy and sentenced to three years of prison labor.
1937: Mattachine Society founder Harry Hay’s former lover Stanley Haggart wrote to him after marrying a woman in an attempt to change his sexuality, “To think it had to take a marriage with its wedding night experiences to show me where my real affinity lies. Every cell in me screamed out in protest at my desecration of my body. At that time I knew that I belonged to you and you to me.”
1977: Two thousand people demonstrated in downtown Montreal to protest October 22 bar raids. Police attack the demonstrators with motorcycles and billy-clubs and made further arrests.
Truxx and another bar, Le Mystique, were simultaneously raided on Oct. 22, 1977. Fifty police officers wearing bulletproof vests and carrying machine guns conducted the raid, charging 146 patrons as “found-ins” and Truxx’s owner as a keeper of a common bawdy house. Detainees were held for eight hours in crowded cells, subjected to venereal disease testing and denied the opportunity to call their lawyers.
Community response to the raid was quick. The night after the raid, two thousand people blocked a downtown intersection in protest. When police tried to break it up by driving their motorcycles into the crowd and clubbing people, protesters threw beer bottles. Hundreds turned up at a public forum, organized by l’Association pour les droits des gaies du Québec, and a defence committee for the found-ins was formed.
It took five years for the charges against the Truxx patrons to be dropped.
1979: Former Winnipeg Free Press publisher Richard Malone pleads guilty to charges of buggery and obstructing justice. He is given a one-year sentence, following a “juvenile sex ring” investigation in February 1979.
1993: In Helena Montana the state supreme court ruled that “transvestitism” is not a sufficient reason to deny a father joint custody of his 3-year old child.
1998: The Los Angeles City council condemns the “Making Sense of Homosexuality” conference, organized by the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, otherwise known as NARTH saying that claims of “curing” homosexuals creates an atmosphere that can lead to anti-gay violence.
1999: Religious right leader Rev. Jerry Falwell and evangelical Christian supporters met with Rev. Mel White and gay Christians for an anti-violence forum. Shockingly, it did not stop the violence.
2002: Pioneering gay rights activist Harry Hay (photo above) dies of lung cancer in hospice care. A founder and architect of the modern gay rights movement in 1950. Hay and four others formed one of the nation’s first gay rights organizations, the Mattachine Society. Hay’s believed in the cultural minority status of homosexuals which led him to take a stand against assimilation.
In June 1969, the Stonewall riots in New York marked a move toward a more radical and militant approach among gay rights activists; Hay however stated that “I wasn’t impressed by Stonewall, because of all the open gay projects we had done throughout the sixties in Los Angeles. As far as we were concerned, Stonewall meant that the East Coast was catching up.” The riot led to the emergence of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), with Hay and Burnside involving themselves in the early development of its Los Angeles chapter in December 1969. Hay was elected its first chairperson, organizing pickets of homophobic establishments, holding a one-day “Gay-In” in Griffith Park and “funky dances” at Troupers Hall to challenge the legal restrictions on same-sex dancing
“We pulled ugly green frog skin of heterosexual conformity over us, and that’s how we got through school with a full set of teeth,” Hay once explained. “We know how to live through their eyes. We can always play their games, but are we denying ourselves by doing this? If you’re going to carry the skin of conformity over you, you are going to suppress the beautiful prince or princess within you.”
THIS is our history.