Violence—bombs, guns, ethnic slurs—has been so close to us in Boston this week that it’s been difficult to think. One of the threads of this blog has been the need for us to fight back, and various people have asked me what my books are about, and I’ve said, They’re about gay people fighting back. That has been a central fact about gay life—the need to fight back, to create a safe space for ourselves—since the Stonewall Riots, and it underlies all of our advances today. Every year our great community celebration, Gay Pride, commemorates our fighting back in those riots.
The whole history of the gay community since 1969 has been a history of us forcing ourselves into the public space—that is, fighting back. It is clear to many of us that we would not have had the recent victories in the Supreme Court, in the Congress, and. preeminently, in the polls, if we had not created our activist organizations, developed a generation of leaders, contributed money to our activist causes, demonstrated, rebelled, been rude, refused to accept the status quo, said over and over, no matter how many people were tired of us saying it, I will be safe in my world, I will not be battered, I will have space to live my life in freedom, I will hurt you if you try to take my safety from me, and, of course, most of all, I will have freedom to respond to the beauty of members of our own sex.
It is difficult to talk about violence when a central street in Boston is still closed seven days after the Marathon bombing, but when gay people fight for their space, it is nothing like a person placing disguised bombs on a crowded pavement of a city street. It has almost always been true that gay people, driven to fight against those who would restrict their freedom—who would restrict their lives—make publicly clear what they do and why they do it. They claim credit. There is nothing silent or secretive about violence directed by gay people against the actions of homophobes. I’m here, I’m queer, I’m fabulous, Get used to it. Queer Nation did not say, Please. They told who they were and why they did what they did. The Gay Liberation Front, on May 3, 1971, disrupted a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in Washington, DC. Frank Kameny, a member of GLF, as described in The Advocate, “denounced the right of psychiatrists to discuss the question of homosexuality. ‘Psychiatry is the enemy incarnate. Psychiatry has waged relentless war of extermination against us. You may take this as a declaration of war against you!’” As a consequence, the APA, on December 15, 1973, removed homosexuality from the list of mental disorders. Don’t believe for a minute that they would have changed that determination if the gay people hadn’t been rude and threatened to disrupt every meeting the APA had until they changed it.
The winning tactic, then, is be rude and promise to keep being rude until they change. We’ll fight ya, if you try to do that again.