Tuesday, July 2, 2013

before stonewall after 1899 part 7[continued] mattachine society

 Starting today I'm going to finish my Before Stonewall After 1899 series. I should have completed it before moving onto anything else in the first place! What was I thinking? I'll come back to my study of A Queer History of the United States when I finish this series.
    Anyhow, there are two more things I want to discuss in this series. One is The Mattechine Society and the other is The Daughters of Bilitis. I'll start with The Mattachine Society. Earlier in this series I talked about the Society for Human Rights founded by Henry Gerber in the 1920's. Well, The Mattichine Society is a ''descendent'' of Gerber's organization. It was first conceived of in 1948 by Harry Hay. Hay was a frustrated gay man who wanted action! He talked to some gay friends at a party about starting a ''homophile'' rights, as gays were called back then, organization. Everybody was enthusiastic and on board until the next day, when I assume they're hangovers were over. That's when they were nowhere to be found. However, Hay was was not deterred. He continued to draft and polish a document of ''organizing principles'' and in November of 1950 the first meeting of The Society of Fools, which would soon become The Mattichine Society, was held in Los Angeles.
    The societies growth was slow at first and did not take off until a founding member named Dale Jennings was arrested for lewd behavior in an Los Angeles park in 1952.  Instead of pleading not guilty or no contest, like most men had done in the past, Jennings saw the situation as an opportunity. He plead not guilty and went to trial. The society created a publicity campaign and started to receive financial support and volunteers. They probably packed the courtroom on the day of the trial and Jennings admitted to being a homosexual. I can see the courtroom now. Everybody is horrified and erupts into whispers of shock at such a confession. The judge pounds his gavel and yells ''order in the court!'' This story could be a movie! It's a classic melodrama. Anyhow, I'll finish my telling of this saga tomorrow.

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