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The Gay Crusaders Today

wickertobin1129.jpg - 10.62 K Randolfe Wicker and
Kay Tobin Lahusen
By Jesse Monteagudo

Sometime in 1972, when I was just 19 and in the closet, I bought a copy of The Gay Crusaders, a book by Kay Tobin (Lahusen) and Randy Wicker.

A pocked-sized original from the Paperback Library, The Gay Crusaders was a collection of "in-depth interviews with 15 homosexuals - men and women who are shaping America's newest sexual revolution". The "gay crusaders" were, in order of appearance:

1. Troy Perry; founder, Metropolitan Community Church

2. Jim Owles; founding president, Gay Activists Alliance of New York

3-4 Phyllis Lyon & Del Martin; Daughters of Bilitis; authors, Lesbian/Woman

5. Craig Rodwell, founder, Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop; Stonewall veteran

6. Dick Michaels; founding editor, The Advocate

7. Frank Kameny; Mattachine Society Washington; first gay to run for Congress

8-9 Jack Baker & Michael McConnell; Minnesota activists

10. Ruth Simpson; president, New York D.O.B.; author, From the Closet to the Courts

11. Marty Robinson; Gay Activists Alliance of New York

12-13. Lige Clarke & Jack Nichols; Mattachine Washington-Florida; editors of Gay

14. Arthur Evans, Gay Activists Alliance of New York; writer and philosopher

15. Barbara Gittings, Daughters of Bilitis; Gay Task Force, American Library Association

Later it was revealed, by Nichols in GayToday, that Tobin wrote The Gay Crusaders by herself, and only added Wicker's name after the publisher insisted on gender parity.

This was a surprise to me, since Wicker had already made a name for himself as author of "The Wicker Basket", one of the first columns written from a gay activist perspective. Even so, Wicker and Tobin will always be linked as "authors" of The Gay Crusaders.

Though long out of print, The Gay Crusaders endures as a basic resource for anyone who is interested in the early days of the gay and lesbian movement. It was part of the Arno Press series of gay classics in 1975 and was number 55 in my list of the Top 100 Gay Books of the 20th Century.

The Gay Crusaders left out some important figures in the movement, primarily Harry Hay and other West Coast pioneers. And its coverage of lesbian activists (4 out of 15) ignored the gender split that by 1972 had already driven many women out of the gay movement into their own lesbian-feminist movement.

Historians like John D'Emilio, Lillian Faderman, Charles Kaiser, Eric Marcus, James Sears and Stuart Timmons have since closed most of the gaps left open by The Gay Crusaders.
1129liege.jpg - 8.50 K Lige Clarke

1129nichols.jpg - 6.43 K Jack Nichols

1129mrobinson.jpg - 6.10 K Marty Robinson

1129aevans.jpg - 8.50 K Arthur Evans

1129gittings2.jpg - 11.56 K Barbara Gittings

Twenty-seven years later, we are impressed by the endurance of the "gay crusaders". Many members of this first generation of gay activists have survived into old age, unlike the second generation of activists which was tragically decimated by AIDS.

Of the 15 "crusaders" Owles, Rodwell, Michaels, Robinson and Clarke are no longer with us.

On the other hand, Perry still presides over his MCC, Evans continues to challenge us with his writings (his most recent one is The Critique of Patriarchal Reason), and Nichols is senior editor of GayToday, an on-line magazine published by Badpuppy. Randy Wicker still makes headlines as the founder of Clone Rights United Front (CRUF), a cloning rights organization.

Lyon, Martin, Kameny and Gittings (along with her long-time partner, Kay Tobin Lahusen), while not as active as they used to be, are still with us, and still active as enduring role models and advocates for the rights of LesBiGay and Trans people.

Recently television newsman Tom Brokaw wrote a book, The Greatest Generation, that honored the men and women who grew up in the Depression, fought in World War Two, and produced the postwar Baby Boom. In my opinion, the men and women who created the gay movement of the 50's and 60's are our community's "greatest generation".

They dared to be out and proud at a time when virtually all of their contemporaries were hiding in the closet. Against great odds, they founded our community's first political, social, cultural and religious institutions; published our first newspapers and magazines; and pioneered the field of lesbian and gay studies.

They built the scaffold and blazed the trail that my generation and subsequent generations would later stand on and walk upon.

Admittedly, these "crusaders" made mistakes. They held the naive notion that a small group of leaders could unite a motley group of people who had nothing in common but our enemies. They were not above indulging in ego trips, personality conflicts, or needless divisions. They were ignored by straight society and by most of their constituents, even while they were making life easier for them.

Previous People Articles from the GayToday Archive:
Barbara Gittings: Co-Grand Marshal in New York City

Randolfe Wicker: The Grand High Clone Himself

Jim Owles: First President After Stonewall

Related Sites:
Clone Rights United Front
GayToday does not endorse related sites.

They were idealists; with a zeal that made them less successful but more enduring than later, more practical, activists. It was their idealism, more than any actual achievement, that turned this group of fallible men and women into our community's heroes and legends.

Though Owles and Robinson only spoke for a few when their GAA zapped its waythrough New York City, they became role models for many of us who were too young, too closeted, or too distant from the Big Apple to get involved. We who are active today stand on the shoulders of these giants.

Last year a star-studded galaxy of pioneer lesbian and gay activists gathered at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Hollywood to celebrate the life of activist/author/archivist Jim Kepner, who recently died.

Joining "gay crusaders" Perry, Lyon, Martin, Kameny, Nichols, Gittings and Tobin were Bob Basker, Lisa Ben, Malcolm Boyd, Vern Bullough, Hal Call, Flo Fleischman, Lee Glaze, Harry Hay, Dale Jennings, Phil Johnson, Bill Kelly, Judd Marmor, Eldon Murray, Ernie Potvin, Eddie Sandifer, Jose Sarria and Mark Segal.

In addition to paying tribute to Kepner, this "summit" gave the survivors of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community's greatest generation an opportunity to gather together one more time. Remember these names. If we ever create a Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, these people should be the first ones in it.

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