Best known for the Off-Broadway musicals, "The Last Session," "The Big Voice: God or Merman?" and "New World Waking," a song cycle for peace and justice.

Monday, May 04, 2009

New Book: Pre-Gay L.A.

One of the great tragedies of written history is that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people have, for the most part, been erased from the record or ignored. Not the people, actually, but the fact that they were GLBT. It's why many who oppose us think "gay" was "invented" in the 60s and is some recent phenomenon.

In fact, we've been here all along. The only difference is that because we've been a constant victim of humiliation and hate, the writers of history either didn't know we were there, or pretended otherwise, or wrote about us in some code language that's almost indecipherable.

But, as I have asserted, time and again, we are a people and we have a history.

Happily, we also have people like C. Todd White who go to great lengths to document, record and write about our history.

His new book, which will be released soon, is called "Pre-Gay L.A. A Social History of the Movement for Homosexual Rights."

I strongly urge you to order it and read it. And then get one for your local library or, especially, for young glbt people.

As Ken McPherson has said over and over, each generation of gay kids ends up having to reinvent the wheel because information about who we are, where we come from, and how we got to this exciting point in history where we are almost reaching legal parity with straight people, is a fascinating story.

But even more than being fascinating, it's impossible to know where you're going unless you truly understand where you've been. In my lifetime, I have seen us go from being completely invisible, except when portrayed in the most awful of terms, to being regular characters in movies and tv shows, to achieving the chance to marry.

It's a remarkable story. And though I know much of it, there are still things to learn. I met, for instance, Harry Hay, once long ago, but had no idea who he was. How I wish I could rewind back to that time, get on my knees and kiss the man's hand. He was a flawed human being, as we all are, but he fought for us in a time when doing so would land you in jail.

Imprisoned! For just being gay! (And in some parts of the world, being gay can still get you executed).

I urge everyone who reads this to get Todd's book. I know it's going to be great.
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