POTUS has broken with tradition and refused to recognize June as LGBTQ Pride Month with one of his snazzy executive orders. Every President has done it since William Jefferson Clinton in 1994. The current President did manage to endorse celebrations like Buy A Home Month, National Ocean Month and African-American Music Appreciation Month, ironic since he has made it more difficult to buy a house, easier to pollute the water, and he thinks that African-American Music is what he heard Dr. Ben Carson listens to in the car. Hey, we love Soul Music and the beach too. But, Potus is not feeling our Pride.
The Wow Report never lets anyone, not even someone big and orange, spoil our celebration. So here is a little LGBTQ History, for you kids:
The Mattachine Society was formed in 1950 by social reformer Harry Hay, a former Communist. He had the idea of forming a national organization to fight for rights for homosexuals. At first, he failed to attract any members. Then one evening in November 1950, Hay and his lover, Fashion Icon Rudi Gernreich, who was already involved in Gay Rights Movements in Germany, hosted Dale Jennings, and a gay couple, Chuck Rowland and Bob Hull, to their house in LA. That night they held the first meeting of the Society Of Fools, later renamed The Mattachine Society.
Hay said that the wanted to create: “A service and welfare organization devoted to the improvement of society’s androgynous minority”.
They were off to a rough start because it was formed by a group of communists in the era of The House Committee On Un-American Activities (HUAC) where Senator Joseph McCarthy showed the public his disdain for gay people. Members of the Mattachine Society were taking considerable risks by belonging to such a group. During that time, homosexuality was punishable in California with sentenced of 20 years in prison and/or treatment centers at state hospitals.
The Mattachine Society’s Goals:
Unify homosexuals isolated from their own kind
Educate homosexuals and heterosexuals toward an ethical homosexual culture paralleling cultures of the Negro, Mexican and Jewish peoples
Lead the more socially conscious homosexual to provide leadership to the whole mass of social deviates
Assist gays who are victimized daily because of oppression
The Mattachine Society approach was quite radical: introduce gays and lesbians to mainstream society. Despite the risk, their numbers grew. The LA chapter had 200 people and other chapters began to pop up in other cities in California, and in Washington DC and New York. They protested outside government buildings, held seminars, and affiliated themselves with other gay groups that started later. They were men only, but they also helped launch The Ladder, a magazine published by The Daughters Of Bilits, their lesbian counterpart.
In the Spring of 1952, Jennings was arrested by an undercover cop for solicitation in a public park. The Mattachine Society decided to contest the arrest in court, enlisting an attorney. George Sibley of the Citizens’ Council To Outlaw Entrapment defended Jennings in court. During this era, gay guys usually just plead guilty to escape public attention. Jennings declared that he was gay indeed, but that he was not guilty of the charge. The court case was long, but Jennings finally won when the trial resulted in a deadlocked jury, and the case was dismissed. It was the first time a gay man had stood up to police entrapment in court and walked away. The trial attracted more membership to The Mattachine Society.
In 1953, Hay and the other founders started to lose control of their organization. Other gay people did not like the term “social deviates” used in its bi-laws. They were also fearful of the founders’ Communist connections. They feared for their jobs by their association with Hay and friends. The founders and the new leadership took a less militant approach, suggesting that members assimilate into mainstream culture. They adopted a non-confrontational policy. Membership decreased.
Although Mattachine Society officially disbanded in 1961, many chapters continued into the late 1960s. After the Stonewall Riots in August 1969, new groups went back to a more militant stance, giving birth to Gay Activist Alliance and Gay Liberation Front in the 1970s.
The Mattachine Society is important to LGBTQ History because of the considerable bravery it took to be out of the closet in a time when being gay could get you arrested and cause you to lose your job. It was a way for gays to feel less isolated and find others of their own kind. They were the first gays in America to really organize. POTUS needs to declare a Mattachine Society Day.
The Mattachine Society took its name from a French Renaissance Group called Societe Mattachine. They were a band of men who went from town to town in masks, holding parties and peasant protests during the Feast Of Fools April 1st). They denounced the political conduct of the French Monarchy.