*Editor's Note: Randy Wicker sent me this column and urged me to reprint this because, and I agree; his name seems to be the target for many years of erasure from the history books for the gay civil rights era from the 1950s until present day. Randy's contributions to the movement both then and now are both incalculable and profound. Most people don't understand that without Randy Wicker there would have been no voice for Jack Nichols because Randy got Jack his first job as a paid writer for Gay magazine which later led to Nichols and Lige Clarke's role's as editors for Screw magazine. In his last years, Jack ran GayToday, totally in tribute to the name of that first magazine for which Randy got him his start.
I know because Jack told me this and even though I've never told Randy this; he has the opportunity to hear it now.
Randy is in fact responsible for the first formal protest of the United States military over the policies of not allowing gays, lesbians and bisexuals to serve openly in the military and giving those who did or were found out a less than honorable discharge. On September 19, 1964, despite the purposeful erasers by the LGBT community, Randy Wicker and the Homosexual League of New York along with the New York League for Sexual Freedom, picketed the Armed Forces Induction Center at Whitehall Street in New York City, while the Mattachine Society of New York quaked in fear of the repercussions caused by the "brazen" nature of such a protest. The local Mattachine Society begged and pleaded with the HLNY and the NYLSF to please, please not picket in the name of homosexuals and Randy thumbed his nose defiantly in their faces and led those valiant people to the first LGBTQ protest of any kind, but in the shadow of President Obama's signing of the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell one week ago; the first protest was over military policy regarding homosexuals 46 years ago and it was led by Randy Wicker!
In 2004, this supposed panel of "gay historians" thumbed their noses at Randy Wicker and think even less of him. One might suppose that it's because of his unorthodox approach to matters through the years. It might be because of how the 20 and 30-something-instant-gratification generation views in some ominous regard only those who seem to have approached those years through a business suit and tie instead of tie-dyes, rose colored glasses and roach-clip.
I'm sorry kids but, the 1960s, regardless of whether you were gay or straight, was a time when not everyone was drug-free and even the gay movement was divided into those who thought that the hippies were on to something with sexual freedom and opening your mind through drug use and those who thought that identifying with the hippie culture would be a bad thing. At the time; Randy Wicker, Jack Nichols, Hal Call, Harry Hay and a host of others were on the sexual freedom side and Dr. Frank Kameny and many others were on the other side. For you supposed academics who weren't there: Stop talking out of your butts because you have no idea what the 1960s and 1970s were about unless you lived it!
Either way and for whatever reason this Orwellian rewriting of history is taking place; Randy evolved and changed like everyone else did.
In the column Carl Cole calls hell-fire and brimstone down on Randy's head for criticizing the Stonewall riot. If hell be Randy's lot then he isn't alone. I hate to sour the historian's palate but Jack Nichols was dour about Stonewall as well.
In 1999, during a conversation with Jack Nichols in his condo, I was bright-eyed and extremely naive, and while extolling the virtues of the impact of Stonewall on gay civil rights, Jack smiled softly and stopped me with a gentle but dismissive waive of his hand. He proceeded to relate to me exactly what happened because he was there that week and covered the event for Gay magazine.
"Stonewall wasn't about civil rights!" He said dismissively. "What most people don't realize about Stonewall is that it was just a few drag queens who were tired of getting busted at that one bar over and over by the Greenwich Village cops!" I looked confused at him and he continued. "The owner of The Stonewall was in financial trouble at the time and if he, like the other gay bar owners in the area, had the money to just pay the cops off, then the cops would have left the bar alone!"
I sat there with a dumb-founded expression on my face and Jack patted me on the back with a comforting smile.
"Everyone thinks Stonewall was about civil rights when they don't realize that all it was about was corruption at the New York City Police Department!"
Jack not only condemned history's view of Stonewall but he condemned the ignorant historians who extolled the virtues of misinterpreting it's meaning! So are they going to erase Jack from history now?
For historians and academics to attack and erase Randolfe Wicker's role in history is blasphemy in the first degree! Randy Wicker, more so or as much as, any other member of the Mattachine, Homophile, Harvey Milk campaign, Act-Out or any other organization that came before, exists now, or will ever exist in the name of LGBT civil rights, has lived, ate, drank, slept but most of all dreamed of LGBT equality.
And I will challenge the validity of any claims the supposed academics might make against Randy. What's more; Randy has become my trusted friend and advisor. He's my window back to that time just as much as Jack Nichols once was. I don't know what I would do without his up-beat, practical and optimistic advice about LGBT-Today. I can well understand why Jack Nichols regarded Randy as his best friend because he has become mine as well.
I've practically begged Randy to write his views about the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell because even more than Dr. Frank Kameny and his invitation to the signing of President Obama's signing of the repeal he deserves to write about this event because Randy was the first to protest against the armed forces treatment of gays and lesbians in the armed forces, and despite Randy's objection that he's a busy man which I don't doubt, I suspect his refusal comes more from humility rather than a matter of his personal time.
Perhaps it might be that he would rather have a time machine and go back to September 19, 1964 with his faithful video camera in hand, grab his younger self at Whitehall Street, and do an "on the street" interview with himself rather than present himself as any sort of historical figure today. I think Randy's fascination with the visual media stems from his love of what he perceives as other people who are doing things of importance rather than his own prominence in history even if that other person might be his younger self seen through older eyes.
So I beg your forgiveness for co-opting your article, Randy, but it was necessary to pay homage to you and your achievement, whether you wanted it or not.
December 29, 2010
by Carl Cole Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2004 at 9:28 PM Queer historians delete gay man who organized first known U.S. picket on a queer issue. On October 12, 2004, a distinguished panel of queer historiansspoke at the San Francisco Public Library, downtown.After their presentations, an audience member stood up and said:"This question is about the 'homophile' period on the East Coast.Randy Wicker claims that the first queer U.S. picket wasin September 1964, in New York, at the Army induction center;several months before the well-known 1965 picket at the White House.Is Wicker correct?"At least two panelists replied that Wicker was first;BUT that his 1964 picket was just a bunch of individuals, not an organization.The questioner then asserted that there were two organizations sponsoring the picket:the Homosexual League of New York, and the New York City League for Sexual Freedom.Panelists again dismissed Wicker's role; because HLNY was very small;and because LSF wasn't exclusively (nor even primarily) gay.Thus the panelists implied that the 1965 picket was historic,but that the 1964 picket wasn't.This attitude justifies the Establishment's practice of honoringFranklin Kameny, Ph.D., leader of Washington D.C. Mattachine,as organizer of the first queer picket line; while dismissing Wicker's earlier picket.The underlying assumptions seem to be:(1) If Wicker, a gay man, individually organizes a picket on a queer issue(military discrimination against queers), that just doesn't count.(2) If non-queer allies participate in a queer-led picket on a queer issue,then the picket isn't legitimately part of queer history.Do those assumptions seem logical?Objective?Fair?Does the queer history Establishment have some other motivationfor denying or minimizing Wicker's pioneering role?Do they simply dislike Wicker as a person? Or do they delete his 1964 picket becauseWicker disgraced himself, several years later, by opposing the Stonewall Riots of 1969?For that stance, he certainly merits harsh criticism --but does Wicker really deserve to be erased from queer history?In George Orwell's novel 1984, the protagonist's government jobincludes erasing disfavored persons from official publications.Orwell thus parodies a well-known Soviet practice.Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose..... Randy Wicker's Response to Carl Cole's Column: Well, I am glad to see some are willing to stand up to the Orwellian rewriting of gay history. There were three prominent members of The NY Mattachine Society included in our first demonstration: Craig Rodwell, founder of the Oscar Wilde Bookstore, and Renai Cafiero, one of the first gay delegates to the Democratic Presidential Convention in 1972 as a McGovern delegate; and myself.The Homosexual League of New York did exist. I have a picture of about six of us working together on a mailing in the early 1960s.The "progressive" members of Mattachine (like myself) used this organizational name so that we could participate in activities like picketing that the NY Mattachine Society would not agree to do or opposed doing.The League for Sexual Freedom was quite a real organization with meetings that sometimes drew between fifty and a hundred members. I am proud of the fact that at least half of those demonstrating were heterosexuals. Whether homosexuals or heterosexuals predominated really depends on how you count open bisexuals like Jeff Poland.I laugh at the petty squabbling among gay activists. They have adopted "queer" as a badge of courage. Thank goodness African Americans were not so dimwitted as to "rehabilitate" the "N" word.We always said we were fighting for "civil rights for homosexuals". That wasn't catchy enough for the post Stonewall "queer" crowd. They coined the term "Gay Rights". This was a linguistic error because it enabled the Religious Right to come up with the slogan "Gay Rights are Special Rights!"Could anyone name one so-called "gay right" that is not also a civil right? Ask 100 passers-by on a street if they would "support" -or "like to have"- "gay rights".Only openly gay people would reply positively to the "like to have" question. Most straight people would probably "pass". Of course, what use are "gay rights" to the general heterosexual public?I laugh when I read the picketing rules in the documentary "Gay Pioneers". The producers of that show edited out my next comment, which was: "Now, I remember why I left the gay movement."I left the narrow politics of the gay ghetto behind in the mid 1960s. I went on to be the main sloganeer for anti-war buttons. I helped found LEMAR (legalize marijuana) with Allen Ginsburg and Jeff Poland.I got Screw Magazine busted by giving detailed instructions on "how to get maximum satisfaction out of sodomy" in an article entitled: "Up The Ass Is A Gas".I exposed the corrupt ex-cons who used to control and exploit the annual Christopher Street Festival in NYC in 1990 and won control of that back for the community.In 1997, I became the World's first human cloning activist and have been the leading champion of reproductive human cloning in the United States since that time. Check out Cloning RightsI am now an advisor at The Immortality Institute. They are working "to conquer the blight of involuntary death". Darlings, I have always known how to pick a good fight. Now, I've joined the "ultimate" one.The tired old queens who can only see the world through their narrow lavender glasses don't need to "dump" me. I was light years ahead of them in the 1960s. I'm still light years ahead of them.My love to all--especially to lovely feminine gay men who are so often blind to their own beauty and too taken with the supposed handsomeness of gym boys! Cloningly yours,Randy Wicker#1 Marineview Plaza #10EHoboken, NJ 07030201-656-3280Founder, Clone Rights United FrontAdvisor, The Immortality Institute
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