It never ceases to amaze me how, for my entire post-graduate adult life, the fundamental axiom that my circle of colleagues and I identified as key and central to the issues of social justice so long ago, as if seemingly utterly novel at the time, has remained valid to this day.
It is essential to consider the Trump rape trial this week, including both the Trump lawyer’s manner of cross examination and defense and the bold and proud assertions of the victim. At the heart of the matter is a brutal, forcible rape by a man of a woman. Trump is a “male chauvinist pig” and everything associated with that identity applies not only to him but his movement as a whole. Rape and the anti-abortion frenzy now fueled by angry, self-righteous male supremacist zeal are products of the same thing, as are the attempts to demonize anything that challenges traditional gender roles.
Alas, long ago, my friends and I, stewing in the ferment of the late 1960s civil rights, anti-war and feminist social upheavals, on the front lines, as it were, in Berkeley, Calif., pinpointed this very issue as central to the entire matter of human inequality and oppression.
We launched the Gay Liberation Front, taking the name from the striving anti-imperialist Third World movements against tyranny and exploitation. Our movement has two main branches in the U.S., one in New York that led to the Stonewall Riots of 1969, and the other in San Francisco Bay Area where I was graduating from theological seminary.
Out of that “uprising” quickly evolved two primary currents. One chose to focus attention on equal rights, on laws and initiatives to end discrimination and to focus on initiatives to that end. The other, where I was, was centered on more fundamental things, on the root of discrimination and brutality toward women, children, exploited minorities and gays, in particular, which we called “male supremacy.”
The two factions remained split, and I must admit that as that tumultuous era moved deeper into the 1970s, the “gay rights” group crushed the “gay liberation” movement. The first was completely open to the ravages of a hedonist counteroffensive, if you will, to the overall movement.
Taking the clearest voice of that era to heart, of the late Rev. Martin Luther King’s admonition that our larger movement be defined “not by the color of our skin, but by the strength of our character,” we found ourselves assailed by a massive surge of what I have called “anarcho-hedonism,” of mindless and endless “sex, drugs and rock and roll.”
The “gay rights” crowd, including the well-known name that arose on my side of the country that I was well acquainted with, Harvey Milk, bought the whole hog into the temptations of the anarcho-hedonist counterrevolution.
A dear friend, Jim Rankin, now deceased, and I remained truer to our outgunned “strength of character” faction, not that we were total aesthetes. We collaborated in the creation of a newspaper-like entity called The Effeminist, which I sold, among other places, on the corner of Powell and Geary in San Francisco, sharing space with male hookers under the awning of the St. Francis Hotel, across from Union Square, a half block from the one-room place where I lived.
Rankin and I declared ourselves “gay men in the feminist revolution,” and that proved a very apt descriptor. It applies to me every bit as much today as it did then.
It is in the oppression of women by men that the seeds of every deadly form of cruelty of one human to another can be found. This week’s rape trial against Trump only proves it.
On the other side of this coin, this affirms that only by means of a mass mobilization of, and led by, women against the violation of their very bodies, can our society’s current slide into demagoguery hope to be averted.
We have never been in a better position to arouse such a massive ferment to overthrow injustice in all its forms in our society. Many women are too kind to view themselves like this. But it is the task of us all to bring them around, anyway.