elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Dick Leitsch (born May 11, 1935)

Dick Leitsch (born on May 11, 1935 in Louisville, Kentucky), three-term president of the Mattachine Society of New York City, was also its reigning power. Leitsch was one of the first Mattachine leaders and pre-Stonewall activists who dared to use his own name - to seek publicity to expose oppression, and to use the courts to sue for homosexual rights. He was also charming and charismatic, a well-polished Kentuckian who presented a much-needed "regular guy" image. In addition, he had what many of the later, more radical gay leaders lacked: a sense of humor.

His parents had been among the first white members of the NAACP in Louisville. Leitsch greatly admired Martin Luther King's nonviolent methods in forcing integration, and he attempted to emulate King in his own political sphere. On April 21, 1966, Dick Leitsch and two other members staged the Sip-in at Julius bar on West 10th Street in Greenwich Village. This resulted in the anti-gay accommodation rules of the NY State Liquor Authority being overturned in subsequent court actions. These SLA provisions declared that it was illegal for homosexuals to congregate and be served alcoholic beverages in bars.

The press scribbled away as Leitsch explained that the Mattachine Society, along with the ACLU, was planning to sue Julius's. But not to worry, he said, the society would pay all of Julius's legal expenses. The object was simply to have the liquor authority's anti-homosexual policies overturned.

The threatened lawsuit never materialized. The New York Liquor Authority turned over the policy voluntarily - after learning from their lawyers that they didn't stand a chance in hell of winning. Also, the press was behind Leitsch, and a liberal public in New York City had been made aware of the authority's discriminatory policies. The battle was won - not with a bang, but a whimper. Gay bars became legal.

During the summer of 1967, he met Robert Amsel, who was staying with his sister in New York, and was a volunteer at the Mattachine Society.

Madolin Cervantes, a heterosexual woman who devoted her life to homosexual equality and was an officer of the society, had a large, rent-controlled apartment on West End Avenue, where the couple lived for another year, upon Amsel’s graduation from Syracuse University. (During Amsel’s senior year, Leitsch had shared an apartment with Amsel in Syracuse but traveled back and forth between Syracuse and New York.)

At the time of the Stonewall riots, Dick Leitsch had been upgraded to executive director of Mattachine and Amsel was its president.

In 1978, the faltering relationship of Amsel and Leitsch ended when Amsel moved to London for several years. Amsel returned to New York in the summer of 1981 but ultimately moved to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Source: http://andrejkoymasky.com/liv/fam/biol2/leitsc01.html

Dick Leitsch, 1999, by Robert Giard (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl_getrec.asp?fld=img&id=1121517)
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digitallibrary/giard.html)

Further Readings:

Gay Power: An American Revolution by David Eisenbach
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Da Capo Press (May 18, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0786719346
ISBN-13: 978-0786719341
Amazon: Gay Power: An American Revolution

The definitive history of how the gay rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s sparked an American revolution that transformed a nation.

Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities by John D'Emilio
Paperback: 286 pages
Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (October 1, 1998)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0226142671
ISBN-13: 978-0226142678
Amazon: Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities

With thorough documentation of the oppression of homosexuals and biographical sketches of the lesbian and gay heroes who helped the contemporary gay culture to emerge, Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities supplies the definitive analysis of the homophile movement in the U.S. from 1940 to 1970. John D'Emilio's new preface and afterword examine the conditions that shaped the book and the growth of gay and lesbian historical literature.

"How many students of American political culture know that during the McCarthy era more people lost their jobs for being alleged homosexuals than for being Communists? . . . These facts are part of the heretofore obscure history of homosexuality in America—a history that John D'Emilio thoroughly documents in this important book."—George DeStefano, Nation

"John D'Emilio provides homosexual political struggles with something that every movement requires—a sympathetic history rendered in a dispassionate voice."—New York Times Book Review

"A milestone in the history of the American gay movement."—Rudy Kikel, Boston Globe

Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution by David Carter
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (May 19, 2005)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0312342691
ISBN-13: 978-0312342692
Amazon: Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution

"Riveting...Not only the definitive examination of the riots but an absorbing history of pre-Stonewall America, and how the oppression and pent-up rage of those years finally ignited on a hot New York night." - Boston Globe

In 1969, a series of riots over police action against The Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City's Greenwich Village, changed the longtime landscape of the homosexual in society literally overnight. Since then the event itself has become the stuff of legend, with relatively little hard information available on the riots themselves. Now, based on hundreds of interviews, an exhaustive search of public and previously sealed files, and over a decade of intensive research into the history and the topic, Stonewall brings this singular event to vivid life in this, the definitive story of one of history's most singular events.

More Particular Voices at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Particular Voices

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Tags: activist: dick leitsch, particular voices

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