The Stonewall Riots have been in the news. PBS ran the documentary, “Stonewall Uprising,” on American Experience last week. I got out my copy of David Carter’s Stonewall, originally published in 2004, to compare notes. It’s cool seeing gray-haired men, talking about the riots, and then realizing that this gray-haired man is the one in that picture in Carter’s book. Forty years ago he was a street kid screaming at the cops. The most powerful memory many of the participants have is of gay people on Christopher Street chasing the cops into the Stonewall and scaring the shit out of them. What came out of the riots was the zap, which was not so much a way to persuade as it was a way to terrorize. Gay liberation also came out of the riots. On the web, I found a story about Larry Kramer and the revival of The Normal Heart on Towleroad. I found an interview with him on Salon. Larry is pissed, as usual, and it’s us he’s pissed at. Present-day gay people are not on the front lines, fighting AIDS or creating new paradigms for community medicine or new ways to take down the establishment. Larry was never one to make his points by persuasion. ACT UP made its points by pouring buckets of blood on the Harvard Medical School front steps and humiliating the Dean. They changed public health as a result.

Then there is the Atlanta law firm, King and Spaulding, who quit the defense of DOMA last week. In a posting by Ari Ezra Waldman, the legal commentator for Towleroad, we are told: “This hiccup in the House’s defense of DOMA illustrates the progress we have made in the court of public opinion and the reason why persuading hearts and minds is the real battle.”

Well, maybe. I suspect that, in all these cases, “persuading heart and minds” has worked only after the gay community has used force on its opponents. In the case of King and Spaulding, “persuading hearts and minds” worked only after the very powerful gay lobbying organizations called in all their chips from other big corporations that were clients of King and Spaulding.

The point here is that persuading our opponents to change their hearts and mind is sweet, but in these cases, our opponents didn’t actually change their behavior until the gay community got tough.