The following e-mail arrived from veteran activist Barbara Gittings. Gittings founded the first East Coast chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis ( DOB ) in New York City Sept. 20, 1958. In 1963 she became the editor of DOB's national newsletter The Ladder, where she added the words A Lesbian Review and included photos of lesbians on the cover; a daring and controversial move at the time.
NACHO at the Trip ...
"Dear Sukie, I'm an ancient activist ( since 1958 ) now living in Wilmington, Dela. Last week I was in Chicago to give my show-and-tell history of the gay-rights movement, Gay and Smiling: Tales From Our Fifty Years of Activism, at UIC. Picked up Windy City Times at the university's Office of GLBT Concerns which sponsored my talk.
"Am fascinated by Glover's memories of the 1968 NACHO meeting in Chicago. I too was there, along with more than a handful of other notable lesbians, including Rita Wandstrom of Promethean Society ( Houston ) , who regaled us with stories of conflicts with Houston police over 'female' attire. Yet the only woman Glover mentions is Sandy Penn of Daughters of Bilitis!
"I'll defer to my old friend Bill Kelley of Chicago on this, but my recall is that the bar The Trip ( on East Ohio near the Medinah Temple ) was not officially closed. We used an upstairs room for our daytime meetings.
"Evenings, the bar was open and featured an excellent female impressionist. Or was it a private performance for us NACHO delegates?
"Billy Glover is absolutely right to urge people to preserve stuff from our movement's past, not only documents and photos and letters but also posters, buttons, other memorabilia. We do have several important gay archives to collect and maintain these materials. Out of the closets, out of the dustbin of history!
"In gay spirits, Barbara Gittings."
I wrote back to Gittings and asked what she knew about the Chicago DOB. She answered: "I have almost no recall of Chicago DOB. There might be some stuff in correspondence I had with other DOB people around the country during my years in DOB, 1958 to 1966. But I can't get to it for a while. My partner Kay and I have over 100 cartons of gay movement materials, now stored in a friend's house, that we hope to get sorted next year for donation to a gay archive. We expect some surprises!
"I vaguely remember Del Shearer, who was president of Chicago DOB in the early/mid 1960s and was also vice-president of DOB national from mid-1964 to early 1966. I ran a report in The Ladder on an April 1964 segment of a WBKB-TV panel show, 'Off the Cuff,' which had Del Shearer along with Frank Kameny and Randy Wicker, with an Episcopal priest and a psychoanalyst on the other side."
Talking to Corey Black ...
My first gay bar ...
"I don't actually remember the name of it. It was about '84, '85, and I would have been 21. I already knew that Lakeview was the gay area, because my family had lived here previously ... . I can remember being a pre-teen and seeing all the gay boys wandering around and me thinking they were really strange and interesting. ...
"Then my family moved away to Indianapolis and we moved back to Chicago in 1984. So I knew where the gay area was. That first bar, I was absolutely terrified of going in. Like I said, I don't remember the name of the bar, but it was on Halsted. The first thing there was a hassle at the door because I didn't look old enough to be in there, so I had to find my ID, but I was nervous as hell, so I couldn't find it. Finally got it out and I'm walking around inside and it's very dark.
"There was gay porn on the monitor and I'd never seen gay porn before and I thought, 'This is weird.' The reason I was so nervous was I had been raised by this very insular, not particularly well-educated, or well-traveled, Southern family, who were paranoid and suspicious ... . I'd grown up hearing all these stories about what gay people were and everything. So I was terrified at the thought of being one myself, and that I was having to deal with them now.
"So I ended up walking into a pool room and there was this huge Black guy with a leather hat playing pool, and he said he wanted to eat my pussy. I was rather dumbfounded. Looking back now, it's incredibly amusing to me just how naive and uneducated about this area of life I was. ... I said, 'I don't have a pussy. I just don't have one,' and I backed nervously out of the room blanching with terror. I left and I didn't go back to a gay bar for a year after that."
Future historians take note: The memory section in this column contains just that—memories —and are only to be used as a starting point for your research. Send your stories to Sukie de la Croix at Windy City Times. You can leave a message on his voicemail at 773-871-7610. E-mail email@example.com
What A Difference
A Gay Makes
U.S.: President Clinton is reelected. A national poll conducted by Voter News Service shows that 5 percent of the people who voted were gay, lesbian or bisexual, and that 66 percent of gay voters supported Bill Clinton, 41 percent Bob Dole, and 8 percent Ross Perot. * In Arizona, gay Republican Rep. James Kolbe is re-elected with 69 percent of the vote. In Ohio, conservative Republican John Kasich defeats Dem Cynthia Ruccia. During the campaign it was reported that Kasich shared a residence with his long-term male chief of staff. In Wisconsin, Dem Ronald Kind defeats conservative Republican James Harsdorf for the House seat being vacated by gay Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Gunderson. In Florida, Freshman Republican gay U.S. Rep. Mark Foley defeats Democrat James Stuber. * A jury finds Jonathan Schmitz guilty of second-degree murder in the slaying of Scott Amedure, who confessed his "crush" on Schmitz to a Jenny Jones talk-show audience in 1995. * Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar issues an administrative order banning anti-gay discrimination in his administration. * Capitol Records release a three CD boxed set called Judy Garland: The One and Only, with 65 selections.
U.S.: Alyson Publications announces that Brother to Brother: A Black Gay Anthology, Etd. by Essex Hemphill, is topping the gay bestseller lists, the first time a book by and about Black gays has done so.
U.S.: In a year when 6 or 7 gays have been murdered in Minneapolis, Craig Van Deen, is attacked by three assailants as he leaves the Cloud 9 bar and walks to his car. * San Francisco's Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, and the Exodus Trust, release a safe-sex video called All Hands On Dick. * Our Three Selves: The Life of Radclyffe Hall by Michael Baker is in stores.
U.S.: The 1st lesbian and gay business and professional convention, sponsored by the National Association of Business Councils ( NABC ) , is held in San Francisco. * In West Lafayette, Ind., the Gay/Lesbian Conference of the Purdue University Gay Alliance is held. * State Sen. John Briggs, the conservative Republican legislator who sponsored the anti-gay Proposition 6 in 1978, announces that he will resign from the California Senate.