Four Things a Gay Twink Must Know

11.3.2005

By Out.com Editors

We get that the world is constantly changing and evolving'despite the best efforts of the president and the religious wrong. That said, when you don't pay attention to the past, you're bound to repeat its mistakes. Unfortunately, you aren't going to read about queer life in most of the textbooks out there. So here are four easily digestible morsels of (dare we use such a horrific term') 'gay history' young queers would do well to learn. Bush can't stay in office forever, right? Um'right??

Yes, Stonewall is a bar but'
Many queer New Yorkers and tourists have been inside the Stonewall Bar on Christopher Street in the West Village. However, Stonewall (well, actually the original Stonewall, which was kinda next door to the current one) was the site of the first major gay civil rights uprising back in 1969. Some say the whole June event'called the Stonewall riots'was triggered by queers mourning the loss of Judy Garland and sick of getting attacked by crooked cops. In any case, it was the birthplace of the gay pride movement. And while some people think pride is tacky, lame, and over, there was a time before the Internet and Will & Grace when we had to hide out in crummy little bars. And since there are people who would like us back in that time, it's important to know the roots of Pride so we never have to hide again. That said, we do not encourage you to wear rainbow-emblazoned clothing.

ACT UP isn't just what you do when you're mad at your parents.
In the mid-1980s, the U.S. government was doing squat about the AIDS crisis. (Which is just a little less than they're doing now.) President Reagan wouldn't even say the friggin' word AIDS. While some gay folk tried to ingratiate themselves into the political structure where they could affect change, others formed an activist group called the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power'ACT UP'which used actions rather than just words to get attention to the thousands of people (many of them gay) suffering with AIDS and HIV. One of their most notorious 'actions' (as their protests were called) was Stop the Church in December of 1989, when over 5,000 people protested in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, and several members who went inside the cathedral were arrested. So while much good work has been done since then, ACT UP opened up millions of people's eyes to a crisis they didn't want to see.

There weren't always openly gay people on TV!
As shocking as that might be, there was a time when (as Margaret Cho says) 'all we had was Wayland Flowers.' Since many of you will have no idea who that is, let's just laugh at the funny name and move on. Gay characters on television were nonexistent until just a few years ago. 1972 brought the first gay character to U.S. television (on a long-forgotten show called The Corner Bar), and in 1973 PBS gave us TV's first gay reality television star, Lance Loud of An American Family. And for many years, gays on TV were relegated to negative stereotypes and bit parts. We're not asking you to run up and hug a network executive or anything, but know that one of the reasons it's so cool there are gay characters on TV is because once there weren't.

What the heck is a Mattachine?
If the Mattachine Society sounds to you like a group that should meet next to the Kiwanis Club, listen up. The Mattachine Society was one of the earliest gay rights organizations. Founded by gay rights pioneer Harry Hay, Mattachine took its name from a medieval French society, which conducted frivolity during the Feast of Fools. They always wore masks in public, and Hay saw homosexuals as a 'masked society.' While we don't wear masks now, it took Hay two years just to find one other person to join his group, which took the name Mattachine in 1950. The group eventually grew to over 5,000 members across the country but fizzled out after the Stonewall riots. Still, Mattachine helped pave the way for contemporary gay rights groups like the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, and Lambda Legal.

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