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[Go to end of this section.][c. 3,000 words]
That is both a greeting and the abbreviation for one of the oldest homosexual-rights organizations on Earth, Homosexuals Intransigent! Founded April 1, 1969 almost three full months before the Stonewall Riots that gave rise to the Gay Liberation Movement as a student organization at the City College of the City University of New York, HI! published several issues of a newsletter, held a couple of dances on campus, and had an outsize influence on the course of the Gay Movement.
HI!'s founder, L. Craig Schoonmaker, is the man who first offered the term "Gay Pride" for events surrounding the first annual demonstration commemorating Stonewall, in New York City in 1970. He helped found that event, and bears some slight responsibility for its becoming too freewheeling. Here's the story, in Craig's own words.
Some Gay History
In September 1968, I transferred from the very small, one-year Freshman Program at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (then on West 42nd Street) to the main campus of City College. 1968 was a presidential-election year, and I devoted my extracurricular time that first semester to Students for Humphrey, which elected me its President. (SfH was dominated by the Young People's Socialist League (YPSL - "yipsle"), which wanted as president someone who was non-YPSL so the group would not be thought a mere front for Trotskyite socialists.) Sadly, Hubert Humphrey lost the national contest, but not by much; and he won New York State, so our efforts weren't wasted.
In the spring semester I was able to turn my attention to forming a gay-rights group by writing and posting flyers on bulletin boards all over City College. I managed to gather a number of students into an organizing committee, but had to get a faculty advisor. By chance, someone I knew socially (and who was then quite beautiful), a young man named Peter Vogel, was in charge of the student affairs department. But he was "in the closet". His second-in-command was a bisexual named Irwin (I won't use his last name because I don't know if he ever "came out"). They had both heard the rumor that a member of the Sociology faculty, Edward Sagarin, was the real person behind the pseudonymous "Donald Webster Cory" who had written a couple of books, most importantly The Homosexual In America (as I recall the title). These two student-center staffers suggested I approach Sagarin to be faculty advisor to Homosexuals Intransigent!
I looked him up, and he turned out to be a short, older-middle-aged hunchback literally; he manifestly suffered from scoliosis. When I put my proposal to him, he rebuffed me, saying that tho he thought homosexuals should not be denied their civil rights, he didn't think they should agitate for recognition as being normal! I am convinced that the rumors were correct, and that the ugly, twisted hunchback Edward Sagarin was indeed "Donald Webster Cory" but refused to risk "coming out" in sponsoring a student organization that dared call itself Homosexuals Intransigent!
I went back to Peter and Irwin to report Sagarin's refusal. Peter, who was single, refused to sponsor the group himself. Irwin, who was married to a woman, put himself on the line and became faculty advisor. The only remaining barrier to CCNY recognition was the President of the Student Council, an apparent heterosexual. He didn't bat an eye, but signed the approval form without hesitation on April 1, 1969. (No "fooling".)
Alas (alad?), tho other organizations in the city should have rejoiced that the oldest unit of the largest municipal university in the Nation had a gay organization, they weren't. The other two gay student organizations at the time, the Student Homophile League (SHL) at Columbia University and New York University (SHL N.Y.U.), became (or pretended to be) hugely indignant at HI!'s being founded as a men's organization that was willing to organize a semi-separate women's group but would not admit women to a group devoted to freeing homosexual men from their various misconceptions and unearned guilts a task that would be impossible in the presence of women, who dredge up all the taught behaviors and produce in many gay men, and especially young ones, sexual anxiety and feelings that their sexual privacy is being invaded.
So the two New York City SHL's tried to boycott us out of existence! or at least incite so much hetero-origin shame that we would relent and let women invade gay men's space. They didn't know whom they were dealing with, and other organizations did not share their animus.
In autumn 1969, following the explosion of gay anger and self-assertion that produced the Stonewall Riots, a group of East Coast "homophile" organizations (that was the term in those days) met in Philadelphia to coordinate activities: ERCHO (Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations). I attended for HI!
The Gay Liberation Front (GLF), a far-Left New York organization dominated by college militants and dropouts, tried to push the Gay Movement into aligning itself with all kinds of non-gay movements, but was rebuffed by those of us who saw that such a course spelled disaster, because it would split memberships on ideological bases having nothing to do with gay or lesbian rights or interests, and probably destroy many groups for the sake of other movements that had never shown any interest in helping us.
At some point during ERCHO, I was denounced from the floor by lesbians for the 'crime' of placing an ad in a gay paper for gay and lesbian reproduction by artificial insemination: 'you keep the girls; I'll keep the boys'. They flew into high dudgeon at the suggestion that women might be regarded as 'baby factories' for gay men! Mind you, 20 years later, lesbians were soliciting gay men to father children lesbians wanted. But of course that's all right; women are entitled to anything they want; men were already then, and still are now, entitled to nothing they want in the "lesbigay" world. HI! has never been "lesbian and gay" but always and solely homosexual.
After ERCHO dispensed with the threat to the cohesion of the Gay Movement by refusing to take a stand on any non-gay issues, SHL N.Y.U. offered a resolution intended to unite the Gay Movement by means of a regular commemoration of the Stonewall Riots in the form of a demonstration in and around where the Riots occurred, New York City's Greenwich Village, on the last weekend of June each year. (The Riots had occurred the last weekend of June 1969.) People who could not get to New York for that demonstration would be encouraged to organize similar demonstrations in their own cities on the same day, to maximize the impact of the occasion.
I offered an amendment to the resolution. Theretofore, all major demonstrations called by "homophile" organizations had had a dress code: gay men were required to wear jacket and tie, lesbian women to wear skirts or dresses. HI! was a student organization in the Sixties. There was no way its members, some of whom may not have even owned a suit or sports jacket, were going to accept such a restriction. So I proposed that the body of the resolution state plainly that there would be no dress code. That amendment was accepted instantly. Little did we know that some years later, maladjusted losers would be marching in the NUDE and lesbians BARE-BREASTED, out of grotesquely mistaken notions of what it is to be homosexual or lesbian. None of us pictured S&M fetishists wearing nothing but a leather jockstrap or codpiece, or women's breasts swaying for all to see (whether they wanted to or, far more likely, not) as they took each step. That is not what any of us had in mind when we agreed, by consensus, to my amendment. I don't think we even thought about flamboyant transvestism ("drag"). Alas, deformed behavior by small minorities of exhibitionists has given hostile media myriad opportunities, year after year, to train their cameras on outlandish characters, mischaracterize the entire crowd as bizarre perverts, and thus embarrass many of the people the demonstration was instead intended to make proud.
ERCHO established the Christopher Street Liberation Day Umbrella Committee, which then met regularly in New York City. (We called the committee by its acronym, CSLDUC "sizzle-duck" but when it was later shortened to "CSLDC" (the word "Umbrella" was dropped) the lesbians in particular didn't want to say that as a word, so we just spoke of "the Committee"). The Committee decided that the demonstration would take the form of a march from Christopher Street up thru midtown Manhattan to Central Park, where a rally, with speakers, would be held. The concern was that if the demonstration were held only in the Village, which was then the center of gay life in New York, it wouldn't attract much attention. We didn't want the event ghettoized to gay media alone, so we couldn't hold it wholly within the "gay ghetto".
The Committee addressed the problem of attracting large numbers of people to the March. New York City had a lot of homosexuals and lesbians, of course, but by no means all would be willing to march in a public demonstration, where they felt they might be seen by their boss, co-workers, neighbors, family, or friends. Besides, we hoped the event would be exhilarating, so wanted as many people as possible to share in it. It was crucial that we draw in people from out-of-town: the suburbs and other cities. Suburbanites might come in for the day, but we intended to start the March, which could take three hours, on Sunday at noon, so it would be difficult or unappealing for large numbers of Philadelphians, Bostonians, Washingtonians, etc., to come up that early for one day only. Far better would it be if we could get people into the city at least the night before.
We didn't want to just abandon these people to the bar scene, in part because some would not find that agreeable, in part because some of the bars were still, in those days, controlled by the Mafia. So we decided to urge New York City organizations to host events thru the entire weekend to reward out-of-towners with a full schedule of activities dances, college-group mixers, coffeehouse-type socials, poetry readings, discussion groups, performance-art happenings, plays, whatever! especially but not only for those people who had traveled many miles.
Once we decided that an entire weekend of activities should be created, we realized that that weekend should have a unifying name.
The demonstration itself was to be called the "Christopher Street Liberation Day March", so we didn't want to call the larger event the "Christopher Street Liberation Weekend". The "other Craig", Craig Rodwell (politically-oriented owner for decades thereafter of the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop), suggested "Gay Power Weekend". But I said I'd like something more celebratory and positive: "How about 'Gay Pride Weekend'?" With absolutely no debate, the Committee accepted my suggestion unanimously. And that's how the words "gay" and "pride" came to be intimately connected in the minds of hundreds of millions of people all around the world. Quite a turnaround for "the love that dare not speak its name"!
"Gay Pride" gradually grew in use, and eventually replaced "Christopher Street Liberation Day", "Christopher Street West" (in Los Angeles and San Francisco), and other such terms. "Pride" has even become shorthand for "gay" or "gay and lesbian", as in the Pride Guide issued for each year's March in New York City. But it all started as just some term to pull together all the disparate events of host organizations in New York City around the first annual March to commemorate the Stonewall Riots. And I'm the man who proposed it: thus this AOL screenname, "MrGayPride".
HI! was a small organization that made lots of waves, and held a men's dance on the City College campus. Then the SHL people gave up their (failed) boycott and came around to agree to co-sponsor a three-college "mixer" at City. But they were still uptight about everything as compared to us. At the dance we announced that Gay Power newspaper (in which I as President of HI! had a column) wanted photos of our event, so for the next few minutes only people willing to appear in a gay paper should occupy the dance floor. The semi-closeted men from SHL rushed up to protest mightily. Naturally, that didn't stop us from letting Gay Power take photos, and the guys on the dance floor were ecstatic to be "out" and about, and looked forward to seeing their pictures in the paper.
After several years of moderate success, HI! was disrupted by a pathological liar and thief who worked his way into a position of trust, then mounted a rebellion against my leadership in order to steal the organization's treasury ($107, as I recall; a petty sum now, even for a student organization, but a tidy sum in 1971 for an organization that had most of its expenses covered by student activity fees). He ended up destroying the group's interpersonal dynamics even after the members who had not become completely disgusted by the infighting reunited to restore me to the presidency and try to regroup. HI! never recovered as a functioning social entity, and was thereafter reduced to occasional publishing, mainly of flyers; writing letters to media and opinion leaders to correct offenses; etc., with the invaluable help of its Vice President, Walter J. Phillips (founder and long-term proprietor of the Paths Untrodden Book Service until his premature death in December 1996, at age 54, from an acute attack of asthma).
Perhaps even worse, tho, than the disruption of HI! as a functioning social group is that just after I resigned in disgust, and before I had been restored to the presidency, a documentary record producer did an interview with Joshua Harris (the liar and thief) as part of a survey of opinions from leaders of Movement organizations of the time! Joshua disappeared with HI!'s treasury soon thereafter, and has never been heard from in New York since except on that record, which permanently records his as the voice of Homosexuals Intransigent!
Fortunately, very few people remember the malicious man who ravaged Homosexuals Intransigent! but HI!'s good works made a difference and are remembered in disparate places, such as in the books The Gay Militants, The Long Road to Freedom, and even the late Randy Shilts's Conduct Unbecoming.
HI! published, by mimeograph, a number of issues of an intellectual newsletter/magazine which had considerable influence in shaping the gay mentality, altho initially much of what it said was met with hostility. This Netsite will, over time, reprint all those newsletters, both as historical documents for people who want a sense of what it was like to be gay and militant in the early 1970s and as pieces that have much to say to today's gay man.
HI! had a radicalizing effect on a number of people, who went on to found or play a crucial role in several other organizations. Peter Vogel, the student-center staffer who would not be our faculty adviser, later became active in organizing or at least leading Village Gay Independent Democrats. He later died of AIDS, having fallen into the drug scene. John Singer, a key early member, moved to the Seattle area, took a job with the federal government and appealed its "dress" code to the highest levels. Other members formed other gay organizations.
In about 1973, I joined the high-IQ society Mensa and tried to form a Special Interest Group ("SIG") for gay men. Despite initial opposition, I prevailed, and Homosexuals In Mensa ("HIM") arose. After a couple of years, however, I left Mensa in disgust. I have never met so many bizarre people as there, and I've known more than a few drag queens and leathermen.
I then formed Homosexuals of High IQ ("H2IQ"), which functioned for a few years as a social organization that met about once a month and issued a mimeographed newsletter shortly before each meeting. I then attempted, tho unsuccessfully, to form a gay "block-association" type of organization for the "Clinton" neighborhood in Manhattan, to be called "Hell's Kitchen Homos".
Then I and a gay friend in New York's Boro of Queens, Stanley H. Hauser, formed the Expansionist Party of the United States ("XP"), a general-purpose political organization into which I folded my gay-rights interests. (Stanley died in July 1996, at age 67, of emphysema. Let me here publicly honor both Stanley Hauser and Walter Phillips for their efforts on behalf of gay men, and mourn their loss. I hasten to add that neither of them had AIDS.)
Homosexuals Intransigent! has been largely inactive since Walter's death, but we are publishing on the Internet in hopes of reaching and motivating today's homosexuals. Who knows? We may even locate some lapsed members all across the country.
HI! cares about much more than gay political rights. We are indeed concerned mainly with how gay men feel about themselves and relate to each other. We care very little what straight people think about us, nor what the law says we supposedly may and may not do. We need to address large issues, and think about them, as homosexual men. We will do that here.
To the extent we still have copies, we will, over the next few months, upload to this space the full text of all gay-related materials generated by Homosexuals Intransigent!, HIM, H2IQ, and XP, and add new materials that address the current condition of the gay world. We have resisted the temptation to edit to conform earlier materials to later understandings. A regular reader will see the evolution of our views over time.
If you have comments or questions about any of these materials and especially if you have copies of any of our older materials that we may have lost please feel free to contact us at the e-mail and postal addresses at our homepage.
New York City, May 20, 1998
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