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Gay History – March 4: Vanity Plates, Man Hating Lesbians, and Murder

1971: Village Voice columnist Jill Johnston comes out in her article, “Lois Lane is a Lesbian,” sparking a controversy between feminism and lesbianism that results in various Johnston antics, including simulating an orgy during a panel discussion moderated by Norman Mailer.

As recorded in Lesbian Nation, Johnston often was at the center of controversies within the feminist movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s She famously went on record stating that “all women are lesbians except those that don’t know it yet.”

Johnston was also one of the first countercultural and lesbian writers at Ms. magazine, eventually coming to the conclusion that the magazine was too mainstream, ultimately presenting feminism as palatable, family-friendly and safe. According to author Vivian Gornick:

For radical feminists like me, Ellen Willis, and Jill Johnston, we had a different kind of magazine in mind. We came out against marriage and motherhood. Gloria Steinem was uptown; we were downtown. She hung out with Establishment figures; we had only ourselves. It very quickly became obvious at that first meeting that they wanted a glossy that would appeal to the women who read the Ladies’ Home Journal. We didn’t want that, so they walked away with it.

Johnston is the subject of one of Andy Warhol’s portrait films, Jill, a 4½-minute silent movie shot in black and white (1963)

1972: The California DMV reports that while the majority of the 65,000 vanity license plates have presented no censorship issues for the department, a few plates – including “HOMO”, “GAYLIB”, “EAT ME”, and “LOVE69” have been banned.

1973: Two weeks after the National Organization for Women passes a resolution establishing the fight for lesbian rights as a “top priority”, feminist Betty Friedan ( her 1963 book The Feminine Mystique is often credited with sparking the second wave of American feminism in the 20th century.) in the New York Times publicly accuses “man-hating” lesbians of trying to take over the organization.

The, disrupters of the women’s movement were the ones continually trying to push lesbianism or hatred of men, even though many weren’t lesbians themselves and didn’t act privately as if they hated men. They even tried to push purple armbands saying “We Are All Lesbians” on women attending a march on abortion and child care at Gracie Square. The responsible lesbians in the women’s movement fought these disruptors. Who or what was really behind it? Some of the disruption seemed to be instigated by extreme left groups. Also, I never told anyone, but very early, Ti‐Grace Atkinson took me to lunch in Philadelphia with the wife of a top C.I.A. official, .who offered to help us. I told Ti‐Grace we didn’t want any help from the C.I.A. Sometime in 1968, we heard that 200 women had been trained by the F.B.I. or the C.I.A. to infiltrate the women’s movement—as is known was done by the F.B.I. in the student and radical movement.

In the spring of 1970, a very troubled woman whom I had trusted came to see me one night. She told me a story I could hardly believe. The lesbians were organizing to take over NOW and the women’s movement, she said; they had used me, since they needed me for respectability and for my “contacts”; and she said they had given her the assignment to “seduce” me and blackmail me into silence. It seemed dangerous then to publicize this attempted lesbian take‐over—even if it were true. I was considered square, uptight, old‐fashioned, conservative, etc., about lesbianism; and considering my Middle American background, maybe I was. I think everyone has a right to sexual privacy —and to each her/his own (as long as it doesn’t hurt or exploit anyone else). But it was both hurting and exploiting the women’s movement to try to use it to proselytize for lesbianism because of the sexual preferences of a few. This could only subordinate the great issue of equality for women, the opportunity and institutional changes that all women so desperately need. As president of NOW, I never knew, or wanted to know, any woman’s sexual preferences. But I warned those who were pushing lesbianism in New York NOW that they were creating a sexual red herring that would divide the movement and lead ultimately to sexual McCarthyism. It seemed to me the women’s movement had to get out of sexual politics.

1981: A twenty-year-old Kansas City truck driver, David Groves, is found guilty of murder in the June 1980 shooting death of a gay man.  Groves was sentenced to life imprisonment without probation or parole for 50 years and had told the police “it was an honor” to kill a homosexual.

Via Law.Justia.com

On June 15, 1980 defendant went to the trailer home of Hubert Porter and witnessed Porter screaming and threatening to kill the decedent Wilborn. Out of the victim’s presence, Porter offered defendant $100.00 to kill Wilborn and supplied him with a .410 gauge shotgun and some shells. Defendant left Porter’s trailer with Wilborn, drove around for a few hours and bought him food trying to gain his confidence. Defendant then returned to Porter’s residence and informed him he was waiting for the right moment to kill Wilborn. Shortly thereafter the defendant and Wilborn drove across a field to a wooded area. As Wilborn started to set up some beer cans for defendant to shoot at, defendant shot him once and then missed with a second shot. When Wilborn tried to escape, defendant beat him over the head with the butt of the shotgun, causing it to break. Wilborn died from the combined effects of “blood force” injuries to his head with a skull fracture, bleeding in the head, and a brain injury.

Defendant was implicated by Hubert Porter and arrested on June 27, 1980. When he was questioned some 5½ hours later defendant confessed to the crime. He claimed he enjoyed every minute of it and that he did not kill Wilborn for the $100.00 but because he was a “fag”.

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Will Kohler

Will Kohler is one of America's best known LGBT historians, He is also a a accredited journalist and the owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced on such notable media venues as BBC News, CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post, The Daily Wall Street Journal, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story. Back2Stonewall has been recently added to the Library of Congress' LGBTQ+ Studies Web Archive. Mr. Kohler is available for comment, interviews and lectures on LGBT History. Contact: Will@Back2Stonewall.com

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