elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Carl Wittman (February 23, 1943 - January 22, 1986)

Carl Wittman (February 23, 1943– January 22, 1986) was a member of the national council of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and later an activist for LGBT rights. He co-authored "An Interracial Movement of the Poor?" (1963) with Tom Hayden and wrote "A Gay Manifesto" (1970). He died of an AIDS-related cause.

In 1960, Wittman entered Swarthmore College where he became a student activist. Wittman spent summers doing civil rights work in the South, and joined the national council of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). In 1966, after becoming disillusioned with homophobia in the New Left, Wittman left SDS. Wittman married Mimi Feingold the same year.

In 1967, Wittman moved to San Francisco with Feingold where they lived with other activists in an anti-draft commune. Wittman turned in his draft card to the Oakland Induction Center in October 1967 during Stop the Draft Week.

Wittman, while actively gay since the age of 14, remained closeted until coming out in the late 60s in an article, "Waves of Resistance," published in the November, 1968 issue of the antiwar magazine, Liberation.

In 1969, Wittman wrote Refugees from Amerika: A Gay Manifesto published by The Red Butterfly cell of the Gay Liberation Front January, 1970.

In 1971, Wittman moved to Wolf Creek, OR with his then-lover, Stevens McClave. Two years later, he began a long-term relationship with a fellow war resister, Allan Troxler, a conscientious objector. He also helped organize the state's first Gay pride march and co-founded the Durham Lesbian and Gay Health Project, which followed the grassroots model of the 1970s feminist health movement.

When he himself became ill with AIDS in the mid-1980s, Wittman declined hospital treatment; he committed suicide by lethal drug overdose at home among his loved ones on Jan. 22, 1986.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Wittman
In the '60s homosexual liberation became predominantly a political question. In early 1969, Carl Wittman, the son of Communist Party members and a drafter of the Port Huron Statement, wrote "A Gay Manifesto" while living in the midst of the political and gay scenes in San Francisco. It became the defining document for a new movement. The conclusion lists "An Outline of Imperatives for Gay Liberation":

1. Free ourselves: come out everywhere; initiate self defense and political activity; initiate counter community institutions.
2. Turn other gay people on: talk all the time; understand, forgive, accept.
3. Free the homosexual in everyone: we'll be getting a good bit of shit from threatened latents: be gentle, and keep talking & acting free.
4. We've been playing an act for a long time, so we're consummate actors. Now we can begin to be, and it'll be a good show!

Wittman's combination of community building, constructive dialogue, goodwill, trust, and fun was a mixture of New Left organizing, homosexual playfulness, and the single most important directive of gay liberation: to come out. (The term "coming out" had not been in common use before; previously the metaphor had been about coming into the homosexual world.) For gay liberationists, coming out was not simply a matter of self-identification. It was a radical, public act that would impact every aspect of a person's life. The publicness of coming out was a decisive break from the past. Whereas homophile groups argued that homosexuals could find safety by promoting privacy, gay liberation argued that safety and liberation were found only by living in, challenging, and changing the public sphere. --A Queer History of the United States by Michael Bronski
Further Readings:

Memoir of a Race Traitor by Mab Segrest
Paperback: 274 pages
Publisher: South End Press (July 1, 1999)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0896084744
ISBN-13: 978-0896084742
Amazon: Memoir of a Race Traitor

Modern American Queer History (Critical Perspectives on the Past) by Allida M. Black
Paperback: 312 pages
Publisher: Temple Univ Pr (September 22, 2001)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 156639872X
ISBN-13: 978-1566398725
Amazon: Modern American Queer History (Critical Perspectives on the Past)

In the twentieth century, countless Americans claimed gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender identities, forming a movement to secure social as well as political equality. This collection of essays considers the history as well as the historiography of the queer identities and struggles that developed in the United States in the midst of widespread upheaval and change. Whether the subject is an individual life story, a community study, or an aspect of public policy, these essays illuminate the ways in which individuals in various locales understood the nature of their desires and the possibilities of resisting dominant views of normality and deviance.Theoretically informed, but accessible, the essays shed light too on the difficulties of writing history when documentary evidence is sparse or "coded." Taken together these essays suggest that while some individuals and social networks might never emerge from the shadows, the persistent exploration of the past for their traces is an integral part of the on-going struggle for queer rights. Allida M.Black is Director and Editor of "The Eleanor Roosevelt and Human Rights Project", as well as Research Professor of History, The George Washington University.

The Pleasure Principle: Sex, Backlash, and the Struggle for Gay Freedom by Michael Bronski
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Stonewall Inn Editions; 1st edition (February 23, 2000)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0312252870
ISBN-13: 978-0312252878
Amazon: The Pleasure Principle: Sex, Backlash, and the Struggle for Gay Freedom

Drawing on a half-century of gay history, Michael Bronski brilliantly maps out the fascinating and often ironic interplay between culture and politics. In doing so, he illustrates how and why most heterosexuals need and love certain aspects of gay culture, even though this culture also causes them enormous anxiety and fear. The Pleasure Principle offers a profound and disturbing analysis of the roots—and the damaging results—of Western culture's inability to deal with both pleasure and sexuality, especially as they are embodied for many by contemporary gay culture.

More LGBT History at my website: www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Gay Classics

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Tags: activist: carl wittman, gay classics

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