Thursday, February 18, 2010

what an autograph is worth

In a profile in The New Yorker by John Lahr, the actor Ian McKellan proudly recalls helping found the UK gay rights group, Stonewall, after his public coming out in 1988. (Hey, that’s the same year I spent a semester in London.) The struggle of the time (besides AIDS, of course) was against “legislation that aimed to prohibit local authorities from publishing material condoning homosexuality or from referring to it in state schools as an acceptable lifestyle.” The proposed law was dubbed Clause 28.

Lobbying against Clause 28, McKellen used his connections to buttonhole politicians, including one of Britain’s most fervid anti-gay spokesmen, Michael Howard, who was later to become the Conservative Party leader. After a fruitless meeting, Howard requested an autograph for his children. McKellen obliged. “Fuck off! I’m gay,” he wrote.

source: The New Yorker, August 27, 2007

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

“with dignity and respect, proud and free”

I've been reading The Trouble with Harry Hay: founder of the modern gay movement, a biography by Stuart Timmons. One of the first gay rights groups was the Mattachine Society, which Hay helped found in the early 50s during a time in which it was illegal to be gay in most of the country - and I don't just mean sodomy, I mean just being alive.

Here's a pledge they recited as they held hands:

Our interlocking, sustaining and protecting hands guarantee a reborn social force of immense and simple purpose. We are resolved that our people shall find equality of security and production in tomorrow's world. We are sworn that no boy or girl, approaching the maelstrom of deviation, need make that crossing alone, afraid and in the dark, ever again. In these moments we dedicate ourselves once again to each other in the immense significance of such allegiance, with dignity and respect, proud and free.