Category Archives: Gay Wisdom

Gay: A recent history…from Arthur Evans

Whatever happened to the word “Gay”? If you go down to the Community Center on Market Street in San Francisco, you’ll have to look long and hard until you find it. Likewise if you visit the Historical Center on Castro Street. Not to mention that it fell out of the term “Pride Week” a long time ago.

The situation reminds me of the pre-Stonewall era. Many in our community in those days were embarrassed by the word. They balked when new groups appeared calling themselves the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance. But these were the groups that triggered the Gay revolution.

Rainbow Flag After Stonewall, politicians eventually deigned to talk to us, but some still choked on the word “Gay.” I remember how this reticence infuriated Chris Perry, a founder of the San Francisco Gay Democratic Club.

In the late 1970s, Chris got the club to go after Quentin Kopp, a local politician, because he couldn’t bring himself to utter the word in public. Ironically, that group today calls itself the San Francisco LGBT Democratic Club. The word has shrunk to a letter, and in second place.

The taboo on the word “Gay” developed because lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people saw the word as referring only to homosexual males. However, such a limitation was never intended. In effect, we let the popular media take a word away from us and redefine it for their own purposes, diminishing us all in the process.

Ganymede - Rubens Some academicians have added to the problem. They claim that the word with its present double meaning of both cheerful and homosexual doesn’t go back before the 19th century. Apparently, they never heard of the myth of Ganymede, the beloved of Zeus. In ancient Greek, the word “Ganymede” (Ganumedes) means both cheerful and homosexual, just like our word “Gay.” Both words come from a common Indo-European root (ga-).

The word “queer,” which has supplanted “Gay” in some quarters, is an insult. It means odd or unnatural. But there is nothing odd or unnatural about being Gay. Homophobia is the thing that’s odd and unnatural.

I acknowledge the right of other people to call themselves GLBT, or G, or queer, if they want to. But please don’t dump any those terms on me. I’m still Gay and proud.

Yours for gay liberation, Arthur Evans

The 100 Best LGBT Blogs!

LGFoundationLOGO Well, we just received word that we've been chosen as one of the "Best 100 LGBT Blogs" by the UK's Lesbian & Gay Foundation.  How great is that?

The list includes some of the heavy hitters, Andrew Sullivan, Joemygod, and towleroad and we're happy to be included among them.

As the editors wrote:

"LGF online have scoured the internet to bring you the most informative, entertaining and inspiring blogs from around the world…the blogs in this list have a call to arms, they want to inform you about your LGBT rights, and they want you to use them."

In highlighting the Gay Wisdom blog they mentioned our founding principle:

"Committed to the certainty that gay consciousness plays a special and important role in the evolution of life on Earth."


Happy Birthday To Us!


Bob Barzan

the founder of our magazine, published the first issue of the "White Crane Newsletter."

The year was 1989 and Barzan was leading a Gay Men's discussion group in the San Francisco Bay Area.  The newsletter was a way to share more information about the historical and cultural roots of Gay people. 

The newsletter was distributed to members of the group, who passed it along beyond the group and this blossom that grew into a quarterly that is now the twenty year old magazine known as White Crane.

Barzan chose the name because in the ancient traditions of China and Japan, the white crane is a symbol of happiness and wholeness. Suggesting high-flying aspiration and convention-defying independence, it is an appropriate symbol for the Gay spiritual quest for meaning and wholeness. In that first issue Barzan described White Crane's mission:

"The driving force behind this newsletter is my belief that as gay men we have a unique and wonderful spirituality to share with each other. A spirituality that is, in part, due to our gayness but also because we have all experienced oppression of who we are as gay men…This has forced us to drink from our own wells, exploring new ways that lead to our authenticity."

To see a copy of that first issue of White Crane (in PDF form) download the first issue of White Crane.

Remembering Stonewall – Arthur Evans

We got a nice note from our friend, philosopher, playwright and rabblerouser, Arthur Evans:

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The Stonewall Riot, which initiated the modern phase of the gay liberation movement, occurred at a Manhattan gay bar forty years ago this June.StoneWallInn

Other gay riots occurred before Stonewall, but they were flashes in the pan. Stonewall was unique because its energy persisted in various organizational forms for decades. This fusion of new energy with organizational continuity is what triggered the gay revolution.

Unfortunately, I missed the Stonewall Riot itself. However, I was deeply involved in two groups that it generated: the Gay Liberation Front (G.L.F), and the Gay Activists Alliance (G.A.A.), the second of which I helped create.

In those days, politicians avoided us, the media derided us, members of the clergy called us sinful, and psychiatrists said we were sick. The same was true of even the most liberal elements of society.

For example, Carol Greitzer was the city council member for Greenwich Village and a leader of the most liberal Democratic club in the state. Yet she refused to accept, or even touch, a simple petition calling for basic civil rights for gay people.

The Village Voice, one of the most liberal newspapers in the U.S., refused to accept any ad that appealed to gay people. The New York Times refused to use the word “gay” in its news reports.

In sum, we were excluded from both civil society and the body politic. Which meant we had to elbow our way in. And so we did, using “zaps.”

These were vociferous, but nonviolent, personal confrontations with homophobes. Zaps combined theatricality, humor, and impassioned eloquence. G.A.A., in particular, at the instigation of Marty Robinson, perfected zaps into an art form.

For example, Herman Katz, the City Clerk, was responsible for issuing marriage licenses in New York. One day in 1970, out of the blue, he made scornful comments to the press about the very idea of same-sex marriage.

Wedding Cake So Marc Rubin and Pete Fisher of G.A.A. organized a take-over Katz’s office. With Marc and Pete in the lead, about a dozen of us suddenly appeared in Katz’s inner sanctum, bearing a big wedding cake with two same-sex figurines on top.

We gave coffee and donuts to the clerical staff. Pete strummed his guitar, while the rest of us sang enthusiastically about the delights of gay romance.

I took over the phones and told callers that the office was only giving marriage licenses that day to gay couples. “Are you a homosexual?” I asked one nonplussed caller. “No? Well then, you’re out of luck. Try New Jersey.”

Naturally, the police came and took us away. But the spectacle, which had been witnessed by the press, made engaging news copy.

Because of highly publicized zaps like this, hundreds of gay men and women who had been closeted were inspired to step out into the light and join the struggle.

Thanks to the lasting consequences of the Stonewall Riot, it is now possible for politicians in some parts of the nation to be openly gay. In fact, in places like San Francisco, being openly gay can help build a career in politics.

Which is a good thing. But I hope we never forget the sassy attitude of the Stonewall era to all people in authority, including even gay politicians.

Stonewall means having a sense of self worth, thinking for yourself, and taking on all the bullies.

Yours for gay liberation,
Arthur Evans

Harold Norse

Harold Norse by Allen Ginsberg We received word that Harold Norse passed away on Monday. He was 92. 

The Beat Museum will be hosting a Memorial for Harold Norse on Sunday, July 12th, time TBA.

From the Beat Museum: "In 1951, Norse's talent was recognized by William Carlos Williams, who invited him to read at the Museum of Modern Art in early 1952. Williams remarked on Norse's ability to "use the direct image on its own," and became an important mentor to Harold. Williams would later call Norse "the best poet of his generation," a profound accolade considering Williams was mentor to such figures as Charles Olson, Denise Levertov, and Allen Ginsberg. Following the 1953 publication of his first book of poetry, The Undersea Mountain, which was reviewed in The New York Times and Poetry magazine, Norse left America for Italy.

"In 1957, Norse was nearly deported from Italy when the Italian government deemed his poem "Victor Emmanuel Monument (Rome)," political fodder for the Communists.

"Norse moved to Paris in 1960, on a tip from Williams and, at the Beat Hotel, met Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, William S. Burroughs, Brion Gysin, and others, drawn by their interest in Buddhist meditation, which Norse had recently taken up. Using the cut-up technique devised by Gysin and Burroughs, Norse wrote his experimental novel, Beat Hotel. Originally titled Sniffing Keyholes, the first chapter—which he describes as "a sex/dope scene between a muscular black youth called Melo and a blond Russian princess called Z.Z."— made even the often stoic Burroughs laugh. During his time at the Beat Hotel, Norse began creating his 'random paintings' or Cosmographs (using the hotel's bidet).

"Norse returned to America in 1969 and, with Carnivorous Saint: Gay Poems 1941-1976, became a leading gay liberation poet. For the last 35 years he lived in San Francisco’s Mission District."

Friends have created a memorial website But apparently the bandwidth has been exceeded and you may have difficulty reaching the site.

RFD: 35 Years – Remarkably Festive Divas


Join the NYC Circle of Radical Faeries for an evening of readings, ritual, high drag and magic! Celebrate the 35th anniversary of RFD,

the digest of the Radical Faerie community.

Saturday, May 30th at BLUESTOCKINGS

6:00 PM Meet, Greet, Drum and Chant

7:00 PM Readings…and…


RFDIssue132 The current issue explores the relationship between the Radical Faerie's ritual practices and Starhawk's Reclaiming Collective. It includes articles on the life of Faeries and Witches in the 1970', 80's and 90's
as well as meditations on the current practice of Faerie Ritual. Rare back copies from the last 35 years of quarterly publication will also be available for sale. 

a bookstore, fair trade cafe, and activist center
in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
172 Allen St.
New York, NY 10002
Bluestockings is located in the Lower East Side of Manhattan at 172 Allen Street between Stanton and Rivington, one block south of Houston and First Avenue.

By train: F train to 2nd Ave , exit at 1st Ave , and walk one block south.

By car: If you take the Houston exit off of the FDR, then turn left onto Essex
(a.k.a. Avenue A), then right on Rivington, and finally right on Allen, you will
be very, very close.


Marriage Lest the news of Proposition 8 be the ultimate buzz kill for today (which it sort of is), it's worth reading the opinion from California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno, who was the only judge dissenting in today's 6-1 decision upholding Proposition 8. Moreno, who was actually rumored to be on Obama's shortlist for the open Supreme Court vacancy that this morning went to Sonia Sotomayor, had this to say:


In my view, the aim of Proposition 8 and all similar initiative measures that seek to alter the California Constitution to deny a fundamental right to a group that has historically been subject to discrimination on the basis of a suspect classification, violates the essence of the equal protection clause of the California Constitution and fundamentally alters its scope and meaning.  Such a change cannot be accomplished through the initiative process by a simple amendment to our Constitution enacted by a bare majority of the voters; it must be accomplished, if at all, by a constitutional revision to modify the equal protection clause to protect some, rather than all, similarly situated persons.  I would therefore hold that Proposition 8 is not a lawful amendment of the California Constitution.

It's nice to know that at least one Judge has his wits about him.

Proposition 8 contradicts California's equal protection clause.