My new book is out this week. It is called, “Gay Men in the Feminist Revolution: Articles, Pamphlets & Reflections on My Gay Activist Days in San Francisco, 1969-1972.” It is published by BCI Books and is available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon.
It is the result of many years of compiling from an array of odd sources including online auctions of memorabilia and scores of original source documents from that era, when the ferment was so strong on behalf of social justice and especially, for many of us, against the oppressive society run by “The Man,” the paradigm of the straight white male chauvinist responsible for war and the oppression of all racial and cultural minorities and, most basically, women.
Needless to say, I’d saved nothing of the many published articles, pamphlets and manuscripts I’d produced in that era and had to retrieve enough of them over time in the last two decades to fashion a useful book, augmented by introductory reflections and stories.
Yes, it comes in the 50th anniversary year of the Stonewall Riots in New York’s Greenwich Village in 1969. It was quite by coincidence that my “coming out” and the Stonewall Riots occurred within a couple months of each other, my “coming out” being first and at the opposite coast of the U.S. from where the New York riots happened.
I had just graduated that spring from the Pacific School of Religion with a master’s degree in New Testament theology. I had been a director Christian Education for three years while in seminary at the Plymouth United Church of Christ in Oakland.
In my last year of seminary, I drove from my apartment at that church on the border of Piedmont to my seminary campus north of the U.C. Berkeley campus on roads where the National Guard was out in force, lined up to guard against the many anti-Vietnam War riots and violent marches that were occurring there in those days.
I took my time “coming out,” but three years of nonstop radicalism in Berkeley contributed to making it inevitable. It was a social mandate, so I thought, to throw off the moral and cultural chains of oppression and assert your true self.
When I confronted my very physical father at a Christmas Eve family dinner with the news, it was the most frightening thing I’d ever done. He was an angry brute and could have crushed me. It was in the form of an intervention, bursting into a family event he’d already banned me from because of my long hair.
He didn’t kill me. He sat silently while I railed at him and then left. But on two other occasions later on he did threaten to kill me.
Mine was a case, I think, where everybody growing up already knew I was gay except me, and it’s true, I was different. I loved classical music. Where did that come from? And I started producing my own newspaper, The Benton Star, at age 7. I did it to help my mom in her tireless efforts to create concord in the home, but even she was not pleased when I went selling copies for 5 cents to the neighbors. How gay is that?
Following my 1969 “coming out,” I aligned quickly with friends who held gay liberation as a facet of a larger movement to throw off all the ills of male supremacy, the feminist movement. But we lost out to those who wanted to limit the focus to gay freedom issues alone.
That was a disaster, in my view. “The Man” countered serious feminism with a huge offensive of pornography, “sexual freedom” (i.e. rape) and radical anarcho-hedonism, generally. Sex and porn addiction in the 1970s led to an explosion of sexually-transmitted diseases, and finally a horribly deadly one.
But in reality, the gains of our feminist movement were not lost, and began to reassert themselves with many of the themes animating the Obama and Hillary Clinton presidential campaigns.
Now, with Trump, it’s a reinvigorated feminist current that is animating the entire mass movement arraying against him and his white male apologists. That’s why I’ve done this new book.
Nicholas Benton may be emailed at [email protected]