De-Classified FBI Records: A Treasure Trove for Gay Historians
By John Emery
Reading thru the 150 pages of de-classified FBI surveillance records of the Gay Activists Alliance, I have been able to learn who some of the major players were in the early gay rights movement. My research involved finding the earlier origins for the First National March on Washington in 1979. These efforts have been hampered by the absolute lack of historical records in some cases and the lack of on-line archives in others. Some of the best sources have been recorded interviews with the few remaining survivors (bless you IN THE LIFE) and FBI records.
The karmic payback of J Edgar Hoover’s homophobia and obsession with the “radical” homosexuals who insisted on “coming out,” was the foundation for the exhaustive records left for today’s gay historians. Perhaps J Edgar and Roy Cohen are rolling in their fire pits of hell, knowing that we have hundreds of documents laying out who, what, where, how and why of our early gay history. For the makers and keepers of these early activist records, came possible consequences comparable to today’s kiddy-porn collectors.
Many of the 1940’s and 1950’s gay activists were Marxists. The 1950’s McCarthy witch-hunts cleared the ranks of these “pinko commie fags” and it wasn’t until the mid 1960’s that the socialist gay movement picked up steam again. The activists need for secrecy combined with J Edgar and Roytoy Cohen’s obsessions gave us heretofore missing gaps in our history. Thanks to the efforts of the FBI, we now know of more people deserving of honor, in the gay annals of history.
Amongst others, the COINTELPRO surveillance programs in the 1960’s and 1970’s included the Black Civil Rights movement, the anti-war movement and the women’s movement; including the efforts to pass ERA. These investigations followed the women who later served in the post-ERA lesbian and gay movement, who were our experienced backbone from the mid 1970’s. The FBI was concerned that the defeat of ERA would cause a radical backlash. This backlash, they feared, would manifest thru the lesbian and gay movement, in the form of riots and domestic terrorism. Their fears are laughable in today’s perspective and are worthy of an epic comedy, or at least a Mad-TV skit (visualize J Edgar Hoover in Islamic drag, spying on drag queens and lipstick lesbians for make-up tips, pretending it’s for Homeland Security).