Many gay persons and lesbians mark the beginning of modern gay liberation with the Stonewall riots, which occurred in New York City in June of 1969. The several days of rioting were sparked by a routine police raid of a bar largely frequented by street drags. We all know its not a good idea to mess with a drag queen and especially not a streetwise one, the New York City police department did not.
It’s good for any people struggling with their identity to latch on to symbols and turn them into power creating myths and I think we’ve done that with Stonewall. This is necessary, but just as the AIDS crisis is challenging us to look at many things about ourselves I think it also forces us to look beyond Stonewall^and the ensuing sexual liberation of the 70’s;for who we are,where we’ve been and where we are going in the future Gay people did not just appear on the seen in the 60’s with LSD and free love.
Edward Carpenter (1844-1929) was an English writer and gay mystic who intensely took a look at himself and others like himself. A name he used to describe us was the ‘intermediate type’. Carpenter is considered by many to be an important precursor of present day gay liberation.
The intermediate type have been an integral part of all races and most cultures since the ‘Clan of the Cave Bear’ and will continue to be as long as human beings are tolerated by mother earth. AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease and this has unfortunately caused us to focus even more on that one component of ourselves that makes us different, as far as most people in our culture are concerned. Being intermediate types though there are many things besides the sexual that help us see the world,and our place in it,a bit differently from our non-gay brothers and sisters.
In order to put AIDS into perspective and keep it from destroying us by reinforcing society’s endless message that we are bad, we must get a sense of who we are and realize that we play an integral role in the perpetuation and thriving of all human societies. In order to get in touch with our true natures we need to look beyond Stonewall and the guppie ghettos that have evolved since then.
One place we can begin looking is to study and rediscover how the people native to this continent (pre-Columbus / Cortez) viewed the intermediate type. An exciting look at sexual diversity in American Indian culture is the book The Spirit and the Flesh by Walter L. Williams. A name sometimes used for gay Native Americans is berdache, a French word.
“The berdache receives respect partly as a result of being a mediator. Somewhere between the status of women and men, berdaches not only mediate between the sexes but between the psychic and the physical – between the spirit and the flesh”.
– Walter Williams 1986
The Colorado AIDS Project (CAP) is the sort of organization that many gay people are naturally attracted to. CAP can be viewed as an organization that mediates between the spirit and the flesh. There are of course many wonderful non-gay people also playing out this role in the organization and so CAP provides for a very intimate and growth enhancing mix of straight and gay energies.
Organization similar to CAP around the country, with their roots deep in the gay community^occasionally receive criticism usually from other gays that they are not ‘political’ enough. The criticism ironically often comes from those involved in essentially ineffective gay political organizations, who see that the various AIDS projects are very successful at what they do (mediate the spirit and the flesh), mobilizing the energies of many gay men and women in a fashion these political groups have been unable to do.
If there is a single most important goal of gay liberation it is the integration of gay persons and lesbians into society as the respected intermediates and mediators that we are. This occurs in a very fundamental and lasting fashion through organizations like the Colorado AIDS Project.