40 Years Later, Still Second-Class Americans

Published July 11, 2009 by Michael C Leeson

Op-Ed Columnist – 40 Years Later, Still Second-Class Americans – NYTimes.com

The article written by a straight who acknowledges his ignorance to our history gives a clear commentary on the changing attitudes to our community from the Stone Wall Riots through to the present. In 1969, we had no political muscle, no presents, other than as phantoms of the tearoom. Even the much-laundered  Stonewall Riots  seen today as the birth of our civil rights movement was simply them others causing public mischief.  According to the author, it was not until the AIDS crisis in the 1980s that we popped up again. Not as a proud community but as a threat to public health, we became the disease. He goes on to reflect on various public policy, politicians and ambivalent public attitudes that have and still frustrate us. His conclusion which seems quiet amusing upon reflection

“The cultural climate is far different today, besides. Now, roughly 75 percent of Americans support an end to Don’t Ask, and gay issues are no longer a third rail in American politics. Gay civil rights history is moving faster in the country, including on the once-theoretical front of same-sex marriage, than it is in Washington. If the country needs any Defence of Marriage Act at this point, it would be to defend heterosexual marriage from the right-wing “family values” trinity of Sanford, Ensign and Vitter.”


In Australia, gay men as television characters appeared in the 1970s with Number96 butch Lawyer Don Finlayson (Joe Hasham) and The Box’s Lee Whiteman (Paul Karo) man bag carrying effeminate television producer. This was my introduction to representation of gay characters in mainstream media. These characters were presented as normal people, not monsters or strangers but accepted for who they were, althoughwhi being soaps there was always a crisis. I can’t remember which year but under the Xmas tree was a parcel for Lee, that was me, being a kid I did not appreciate the meaning, that Mum already knew who I was before I ever guessed.

I also remember the first Sydney_Gay_& Lesbian_Mardi_Gras held to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of The Stonewall Riots , which ended in a violent mêlée caused by over enthusiastic homophobic police. I was angry and excited, I wanted to be there, and the activist was steadily growing but had not yet found his voice. The other event AIDS, it was first described to me as a new form of cancer, being anything but sexual active it passed. However, as the crisis grew, I took note in 1985 QuAc or the Queensland AIDS Council Incorporated, formed by concerned members of Our Community and interested organisations(another story). It received recurrent government funding and AIDS subsequently addressed as a public health issue (yet another story). Since then QuAc has morphed into the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities (QAHC – pronounced ‘quack‘)..

Related Themes

The article cites a number of themes I have compiled a simple compare & contrast on the differences in attitudes between the  US & Australia

Pride in Brisbane in June with a march and fair day.

DOMA (USA) – IN Australia Same Sex Marriage Australian full story

DADT (USA) – In the defence force members of Our Community serve their Australia with PRIDE

Police force we have LGBTI Community liaison officers (Queensland)

Overview of the Australian Government’s Same-Sex Law Reforms

(effective July 2009)

Some of my memories

In the 1970s I have 2 other memories upon reflection I now find interesting the first was an insight into my family’s attitude, towards gay men. My great-uncle made his only visit home after a long period, Mum told us Uncle Bill was coming to visit. In a childish way I though ok some old bloke was making a visit, but she went on to tell us that he would be with his partner (not sure what that meant), who was also a man named Joe. She explained we were expected to show them all due respect, I was thinking what about my father (another story), it was then made clear the instruction were from my father. Ok I was confused, when they arrived with my favourite larger than life aunty (we all have one, but I was lucky I had two another story) they were openly welcomed link any long lost family. They chatted on for hours about the old days and their life in Sydney, there was a meal, it was so normal. When they left my father made no negative remarks and seemed glad they visited, I was very confused by this acceptance. So gay marriage was/is normal and has been for a very long time.


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