Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore

Bending Towards Oblivion: my interview with historian Martin Duberman in the San Francisco Bay Guardian

Filed By Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore | July 02, 2009 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Gay Icons and History, Media
Tags: assimilation, gay patriot, LGBT, Mainstream media, Martin Duberman, queer, San Francisco Bay Guardian, Waiting To Land

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore: We're approaching the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the symbolic event of early gay liberation, and I'm wondering if you think there's any of this liberationist spirit left in the gay movement.

Martin Duberman: Well, I guess it depends on how you define liberationist. In the early days, gay liberationists were aware of a great many other ills in the society besides their own. Their own were real, and they were well aware of that. But there was a lot wrong, they felt, with the system, and their central goal was to challenge many of the established institutions and values. Today most LGBT people seem to think of themselves -- certainly they tell the mainstream -- as "just folks," except for this little matter of a separate sexual orientation. That they're patriotic Americans and they want the same things that everybody else wants, etc.

Click here to read the rest of my interview with Martin Duberman.


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Erich Riesenberg | July 2, 2009 4:46 PM

I wish radicals would not be so condescending towards people who want normal lives.

I live in Iowa and am so glad my gay friends can now get married. Whether I want to get married or not is irrelevant. I won't donate money to the marriage cause because I think it is well represented, but I won't mock people who want that sort of relationship.

I wish people who want to live "normal" lives would not be so condescending towards anyone who voices dissent.

Erich Riesenberg | July 2, 2009 8:49 PM

Mattilda, your article is condescending so you should not be offended when it is returned towards you.

Feel free to live your life as you wish and extend the same courtesy to others. People who dislike the boring, mainstream lifestyle should spend less time talking about it and more time living their own lives as they wish.

Erich Riesenberg | July 2, 2009 8:59 PM

Oh, and you do mock people who choose a mainstream, average life, so my use of the word normal is self deprecating. A bit too clever perhaps?

Erich, let's get married -- it sounds like we would be a perfect addition to holy matrimony -- "I do."

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 3, 2009 2:16 AM

I find the class distinctions the most important part of the equation and the most interesting part of what he had to say. A great many Gays will suck kneecaps to gain admittance to the "better" circles (straight,Gay or mixed). This is our failing, our vanity and our fault.

Since I began my "out" life in 1972 I can remember that the goals then were: decriminalization, elimination of homosexuality as an "illness" classification, consciousness raising, self awareness, anti war, anti draft, anti religious control, and the unimportance of class distinctions.

It was a time when many elbows rubbed and many types of people mixed who could not/would not do so today. If some had more money than others that was OK, but never a reason only to stay in your own box. Today it is the house, car, clothes, neighborhood you reside in, anything shallow instead of doing the work of being substantive.

At the other side of the argument we were not too concerned about military issues within the military and we should have been. We did not make provision adequately for Lesbian and Woman's issues because relatively few women were "out" compared to men in numbers. We did not care a whit about marriage, but we generally never considered children in our lives either. Fortunately women, bisexuals and trans persons have brought us forward.

I have always maintained that being "average" or "normal" scares the hell out of me. All things change and morph over time as the needs of the participants change, or the type of participants involved. I would hope that we can rediscover more of what is our best as individuals, appreciate our past while creating a better future.

Thank you Mattilda


Robert, I like these priorities:

"decriminalization, elimination of homosexuality as an "illness" classification, consciousness raising, self awareness, anti war, anti draft, anti religious control, and the unimportance of class distinctions."

And, "It was a time when many elbows rubbed and many types of people mixed who could not/would not do so today."

So sad that that type of interaction doesn't happen as much today...

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 4, 2009 3:07 AM

This was one of the reasons for getting out of Palm Beach county. It was so stratified socially and filled with puffed up self important types I had to get out of dodge. May I never see another designer shirt as a statement of self worth in Lake Worth.