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Letter to Councilman LaBonge
Real People as Fictional Characters
Female Actors, Part Two
One Culture Hero Award
Adelante Gay Pride Gala
Tom of Finland: Sexual Liberator or Enslaver
Lying Writers
Review of The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson
Promiscuous Thoughts
A Crime of the Heart
A Letter to Michael Silverblatt
"Have you no decency, sir?"
Political Incorrectness: Female Actors and Trojans
He Hugged Moms and Dads
What is a Girly Man?
Review of Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
From Sunset Boulevard to Mulholland Drive
The Gay Mammies
A Writer Protests
Review of Beyond Paradise: The Life of Ramon Novarro
A Spirit Preserved in 'Amber'
The Supreme Court Case
Review of Live from Golgotha: The Gospel According to Gore Vidal
Review of Lost Years: A Memoir 1945-1951 by Christopher Isherwood
Review of Out For Good
Review of Hoyt Street: an Autobiography
Review of Sergei Eisenstein: A Life in Conflict.
Review of Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation
Review of Whores for Gloria
Muscles and Mascara
Review of "Blonde"
Brother Paul, Sister Jan, Brother Hinn, God and the Folks
Advice to the Next Generation
Sins of the Fathers
Beatin' Around the Bush

Cruise Not Gay! The Judge Has Spoken

The Horror, The Horror
LA--a Cliché?
Dominick, Mark & Orenthal
Holy Drag!
Ms. Hill & Mr. Tom
Mrs. guy Ritchie 
Supreme Court 
Tom Cruise 
New Times Article 


Adelante Gay Pride Gala (continued)

     Countless lives were destroyed by such arrests, men lost their jobs, were ostracized, mandated to stay away from any place catering to "perverts"--in effect being sentenced to a life of loneliness. Those ordered to register as sex offenders might be corralled, usually late at night, when any real sex crime occurred--say, child molestation. They were placed in an identification lineup although no implication of a gay act was involved.

     In 1973, three helicopters, several squad cars, and more than a dozen police on horses launched an invasion of the cruising areas of Griffith Park, routing men socializing with other gay men along the main roads, a traditional gathering for a warm Sunday afternoon. The men were handcuffed, herded down to an impromptu wired compound, and charged with whatever flimsy reason occurred to the cops.

     In 1977--four years after the repeal in California of anti-sodomy laws--similar incidents were still occurring, all invisible except to gay men, who knew that even if they were the objects of violence, it would be they who would be converted into defendants. Suicides, bashings, unreported murders, arrests, incarceration. Virtually every gay man who lived through those near-times had horror stories of abuse.

     The mythology of Stonewall was so powerful that it lulled many of us into the belief that war was over, that all those violations against our rights, however recent, were now buried in an irrelevant past. Then came AIDS, and we discovered that our battles, not only with illness but with deadly prejudice, were not over. Our horizon turned into a graveyard of often-young dying men. Illness was redefined as just punishment for sinfulness. silence became a killer. Walking along the blocks of panels that formed the quilt of death, we would halt in shock and sorrow to discover the names of friends among intimate strangers.

     Still, through daily acts of bravery, those who were dying often taught us how to live. Those who stood by them taught us about true caring as they nurtured beloved partners right up to death, even while they themselves saw the mirror of their own deaths in declining bodies. We discovered great strength in ourselves and in the solidarity between gay men and Lesbians, whose support was awe-inspiring and must not be forgotten. We found allies among parents who learned their sons were gay only when they were dying. We found allies among our families who, shedding generations of bigotry, were and are able to support us without qualification.

     As we celebrate tonight, it may be necessary to remind that not all is bright on our horizon today. Perhaps more than ever since we first declared our proud presence with various manifestations of defiance are we under new assaults that may set us back even farther than from where we emerged so recently. We are under attack simultaneously on several fronts.

     On our own front--and we should never look away from facing our own problems--there is a growing indifference to the still very real danger of AIDS. The memory of that time and the emergent courage seems increasingly to be pushed back by a new generation, the horizon wishfully cleared of that violent time. Although I have long defended, and continue to defend, the richness of our sexuality and hope that we never abdicate it, never surrender the wealth of our unique sexuality, still, dangers persist as too real; warning signals emerge, too silently, side effects, new infections, precursors to AIDS. The prevalence of drugs and unprotected sex at ubiquitous circuit parties is notorious.

     Another front on which we are forcefully assaulted is that of religious right-wing zealots of every ilk. From fundamentalist podiums to the pulpits of established religions, they arouse hatred that incites violence, the savage murder of Matthew Shepherd, the brutal killing of Teena Brandon. Consider the barbaric intent of bands of bigots who doggedly appear at the funerals of servicemen, blaming their deaths on the prevalence of homosexuality in the country.

     There is surreal irony in the fact that those priests who claim to have surrendered sex, who profess abstinence, proclaim homosexuality to be "unnatural." What is more unnatural--literally against nature--than the denial of sexual desire? What is more perverted than the abuse of children, often quietly concealed by the hierarchy of churches?

     Perhaps the most powerful attack on our horizon is that being waged by the cadre of political liars that have illegally seized the country, led by the unelected "war president," whose closest encounter on the frontlines occurred when he was a cheerleader for the Yale football team. The same man who has spawned murderous destruction on a country and has sent thousands of young Americans to their death, most of them dead before living even a third of their lives--that same man who sleeps soundly despite the daily criminal acts of carnage, is the man who is backing an amendment to the constitution to add illegitimacy to homosexuality. Whatever one may feel about gay marriage--I myself do not need the ceremony to assert my love for my partner of more than 20 years--such bonding would allow us rights otherwise deprived, the right, importantly, of visitation, the need for which was cruelly manifested during the height of the AIDS epidemic when men who had lived together for decades were not allowed into the hospital when one of them expired.

     The power of hatred was exemplified in the last presidential election. By attaching proposed anti-gay legislation to the presidential ballots, Republicans lured bigots to provide the votes that pushed the cheerleader once again into office. They have begun to do this again.

     Too often, we gay people separate ourselves from signals of dangers when they appear to involve others. Yet those who scream out for violence against "illegals" are the same who scream out against "faggots." Those who turn "Support Our Troops" into a cry for their deaths are the same who deny us equal rights.

     I believe that we gay people have not yet discovered our full power, the power of our numbers, the power of millions of us committed to equal rights and justice that extends beyond us, recognizing that the thirsty evil unleashed in our country knows no demarcation, that we have dangers in common, and that our vast numbers, conjoined with others, may be able to shift the terrible direction our country has taken.

     I prefer to end my talk tonight by recalling a few instances of courage and pride exhibited by individuals here in El Paso long, long before Stonewall or the Black Cat riot, decades ago. Barely a teen-ager, I used to cross San Jacinto Plaza on my way home from the public library. There, almost nightly, a bleached blond queen held court, brash, assertive, unashamed, unfazed by heckling and routine harassment by cops. She sat proudly on the stone ledge like the queen of the alligators that lazed then in a pond. She was a symbol of bleached defiance, a revolutionary tromp l'oeil. With her boldness, she inspired others less identifiable to shed their shame, an act that required much less courage than hers.

     I remember two women who ate regularly at Luby's Cafeteria. They wore their hair smartly short, they wore suits. When they entered, there were often sniggers. They walked in--sometimes they marched--with squared shoulders and a steady pace, undaunted. That was individual courage equivalent to that shown collectively at Stonewall.

     I remember two men, always together, slightly effeminate, in the same cafeteria--and none of this is to imply that Luby's is the center of coming-out activity. The two could not have escaped the overt and covert looks of disdain, the leering smiles, and, not infrequently, a not-too-whispered reference to "queers." They never lost their dignity as they invaded--yes, at times with an added arrogant swish--what must have seemed to them a minefield of derision. That manifestation of courage matched that of those who defied the cops in riots. Rather than brand those men, those women as stereotypes, as they now so often and so sadly are, I would call them stalwart pioneers who proclaimed their difference: "I am not what you want me to be."

     Years ago, here in El Paso, I would not have been able to imagine, to conceive that one day in my hometown a group of gay men and Lesbians would march proudly down its streets, as you did so beautifully recently. I would not have been able to dream that there would come a time when there would be such a gathering as this here, tonight, this thrilling display of pride.

     I congratulate you for all that you have accomplished. There is nowhere else I would rather be to celebrate gay pride than here, in El Paso, my hometown.

John Rechy
June 2006


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