Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Simple Yet Radical Act

Over at the Box Turtle Bulletin, Jim Burroway has posted a fascinating and informative commentary marking the 40th anniversary of the Los Angeles gay community’s response to a brutal display of state-sanctioned homophobia known as the Black Cat raid.

I knew nothing about this precursor to
Stonewall until I read Burroway’s commentary. Yet as he points out: “Two and one half years before the Stonewall rebellion in New York, there was another rebellion underway in Los Angeles as the gay community stood its ground in defense of a kiss.”

“In this case of do or die,” writes Burroway, “more than 200 activists gathered at the corner of Sanborn and Sunset to protest the arrests [of gay men who had dared kiss one another at midnight during the 1966 New Year’s Eve celebration at the Black Cat Bar] and the ongoing police brutality and intimidation. At a time when few would dare to publicly identify themselves as homosexual for fear of intimidation and arrest, this first open gay-rights protest in Los Angeles was a very bold step. It led to the formation of PRIDE, a gay rights group in Los Angeles, and it swelled the ranks of the Mattachine Society. Where previous raids drove gay men further underground, this time the reaction was different. Gay activism in Los Angeles came of age that night forty years ago.”

In commemorating this groundbreaking event, Burroway has the following recommendation for gay men: “Celebrate this New Year’s Eve with a radical act. Kiss him ‘on the mouth for three to five seconds.’”

Why “three to five seconds”? Well, to find out you’re just going to have to read Burroway’s post
“The Temerity of a Kiss” at the always insightful Box Turtle Bulletin.

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