In the summer of 1972 I was still pretty naive about the real world. I still lived in my midwestern hometown with my husband Larry. We were still essentially in the closet, although we had been together 6 1/2 years. I was working at the University of Illinois library as an acquisitions clerk in rare books and microfiche. It was an election year and I was involved in politics like I had never been before. I had lost my first classmate to the Vietnam war and I was a supporter of George McGovern for president.
Five White House operatives had just been arrested for burglarizing the offices of the DNC at Watergate. Three weeks after the Democratic convention in Miami, in the second week of August, my best friend Richard and I packed my little red Volkswagen bug and headed off to Texas to visit my sister Pat. I proudly displayed my McGovern bumper sticker on the back of my car, unaware that in Texas it would become a bull’s eye in the crosshairs of Texas police officers.
On the evening before Richard was to board a plane for a short flight to his family in Houston, he and I decided to check out a gay bar on Jacksboro Highway in Sansom Park, north of Fort Worth. We laughed when we discovered the bar was predominately “lipstick lesbians.” When the bar closed, Richard and I were among the last patrons to exit to the parking lot.
I always had a difficult time enduring cigarette smoke in enclosed spaces, so we hung out in the car for a few minutes with the doors open, while I caught my breath. As we prepared to close the car doors, the last car pulled out of the parking lot. Then bright headlights suddenly descended upon us from three directions. We were surrounded by police cars. The next thing I know, I’m forcibly being dragged out of the car by a policeman who is yelling anti-gay epithets. “What are you doing in Texas?” Pointing to Richard, another officer asks, “is this your sister?” As a blunt instrument (flashlight) bashes into the back of my head, my arm responds by placing my hand between the flashlight and my scull. I feel my finger snap with the next blow. Another policeman pulls the assaulting officer away from me. My hand is covered with blood.
Richard and I were placed in separate cells that were already occupied. I spent the night on a cold concrete floor beside a toilet covered in human excrement. A drunk occupied the single bunk on the other side of the toilet.
That was the night I became a man. That was the night I was born again in Texas. That was the night I learned that no matter how hard I tried to follow the rules, no matter how hard I tried to stay invisible, no matter how hard I tried to be kind and generous and compassionate, there would always be people who hated me so much they would kill me if they got the chance. That was the night my innocence died!
On this 45th anniversary, I have no patience for those who excuse the actions of psychopaths. For 44 years I watched a slow progression toward equality and justice. For the past year I have witnessed the revenge of the psychopaths and the haters and the homophobes and the racists and the sexists and the xenophobes. So save your breath trying to convince me to understand where they are coming from. I already understand where they are coming from and I know what they are capable of. I have no intention of sitting around waiting for their acts of violence and atrocities to become horrific enough to convince those who still doubt their sincerity and capabilities. Count me at the head of the resistance and count me among those who will not be silenced!