Views Aired At Gay Conference
"You just haven't met the right penis yet." they consoled her "What a waste," others lamented. "My lover, she doesn't think so!" retorted Massachusetts State Representative Elaine Noble to her colleagues. Noble, an outspoken feminist helped kick off the Midwest Spring Gay Conference last Friday, March 7th along with Minnesota State Senator Allen Spear, who discussed the state of the gay movement and its direction.
When Spear first announced his affiliation with the gay movement some two years ago, he was met with a suggestion from another senator that the Senate appropriate $300 for psychiatrie care for their gay colleagues. "What a cheap bastard!" responded Spear, who realizes that people's anti-gay attitudes are deeply ingrained, but remains optimistic that they can be changed.
Spear admires the flamboyant pioneers of the gay pride movement, who unabashedly demonstrated to society via the "zap" (or confrontative)method, but he feels that additional measures for consciousness-raising must now be utilized. While donning a dress and makeup and flaunting sexual stereotypes draws attention to homosexuals who want to express their oppression and strength, it is also alienating and downright confusing to most people. To folks like Spear, it is essential to present mass education about sexual discrimination, by organizing and lobbying for legal change. Amidst scattered "hisses," Spear emphasized that legislation, such as the "Petition for Sanity" that was recently printed in her-self and Ms., can be a focal point for consciousness-raising both on a national and community level. Signers of this petition for gay rights pledge themselves to work for an end to all discrimination based on sexual preference and for the creation of a social climate open to all lifestyles. Signers include prominent politica figures including Representative Bella Abzug, National Farm Workers Vice President Delores Huerta, Anais Nin, Elaine Noble and many others.
It is not selling out, Spear insisted, to unify with other groups working for social change. The gay movemenl is part of a general struggle for human rights. "Our goal is to end the divisions between gays and straights," to work with the feminist movement and other sympathetic groups to eliminate sex roles and the oppression suffered by those not part of the privileged white straight male class.
Spear concluded his talk with this suggestion, "'I believe we need to throw out the term 'closet cases.' We need to broaden our own community by encouraging people to 'come out' in a non-pressured, non-hostile atmosphere, he explained. It is difficult to come out and express unity with other gay brothers and sisters, especially if you are held in disdain because you are not as outspoken as they are, or out there demonstrating in a certain way. Elaine Noble, by presenting a positive example of how a person can live an openly gay life and use his or her position to change people's attitudes, gave Spear the courage to announce his gayness and organize the Minnesota Committee of Gay Rights.
Elaine Noble was elected to the Massachusetts State House of Representatives in November, 1974. She campaigned as an open lesbian and (surprisingly to many people) as a Democrat.
"I wanted to deliver services," she explained. Noble's district is lower income and in great need of food, health care, quality child care and education. She needed power to create some of these changes and decided to get elected immediately.she had to join the Democrats. Noble also talked about the importance of an alternative economic base and has participated in developing clinics and food cooperatives in Boston.
Both Spear and Noble set a strong and inspirational tone to the rest of the weekend, which followed with educational and social events sponsored by the Gay Academie Union.
The theme of the weekend was "A CALL TO ACTION" and the content of the workshops helped to carry this out. The workshops included: the legal aspects of employment for the homosexual, using the media, dynamics of gay organizations, gay bill of rights, an impromptu discussion on drag and many more. It was a weekend which brought together gay people from 10 states in the midwest to exchange ideas, create new ideas and benefit from each other's experiences and expertise.
The Gay Academic Union is a national organization created some 21/2 years ago on the East Coast. It is made up of students and other interested people who are concerned with educating themselves and others about gayness. They are mostly campus based and are concentrating on areas such as eliminating sexual discrimination in universities, organizing classes and gay studies programs, arranging for faculty and graduate students to do research in gay related areas, counseling gays, and creating an atmosphere where professors, students and anyone can feel free to live alternative lifestyles.