Alex Blaze

I don't need a straight man's history book

Filed By Alex Blaze | November 09, 2007 10:58 AM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Media, Politics
Tags: 1960s, Boom, LGBT history, Tom Brokaw

Tom Brokaw's new history book, Boom!: Voices of the Sixties: Personal Reflections on the '60s and Today, is a 700-page tome on how the 60's affected our lives today. And it completely ignores us in our movements' most formative time period.

Definitely the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, and the second wave should be discussed in any history book about the 60's. And they are. But what about the first gay rights protest in 1965 in Philly, the transgender riots in SF, the development of gaystream media like The Advocate, the dissemination of the term "gay" over the previously popular yet medicalizing and insulting "homosexual", the start of the Gay Liberation Front, the Mattachine Society's and the Daughters of Bilitis's marches in Washington, the removal of homosexuality from the DSM (Brokaw's "1960's" go all the way up to '74), and, oh yeah, Stonewall? All got straight-washed right out of the book. The few references to "homosexuality" are sparse and shallow, according to one reviewer.

Whatever. I don't need Tom Brokaw to recognize our greatest generation to know about it. And I don't need to read about it in his history book to acknowledge the effort that a lot of brave people put forward so that we could move en masse out of the closet and into the spotlight.

But if someone writes a comprehensive book about the changes in that decade, then leaving us out is erasing, insulting, and, frankly, dishonest.

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | November 9, 2007 1:25 PM

700 pages and Brokaw couldn't find room for an examination of beginnings of the modern gay rights movement and its impact on society?

This shows that we have lots of work to do not only in demanding that LGBT history be incorporated into the larger narrative of American history, but we also have to take the reins and make sure that our stories are told and that our heroes are recognized as such.

Insulting and dishonest? Wow, those are pretty harsh words for no good reason.

This is similiar to the big hub-bub over the Ken Burns series about WWII. Never mind the focus of that series was meant to be how a few select towns and soldiers from those towns got through the war. That didn's stop a few select minorities from whining because they were not included. Instead of funding their own movie or recruiting filmmakers to film their story, they had to kidnap Burns' artistic vision.

When you read a Brokaw book, you know what you are getting. You are getting his experiences, along with the hindsight that comes with over forty years in journalism. No where has he claimed this book to be a comprehensive history. I would wager he would be the first to say that others should tell the story you wish to be told. Why must we insist that others write about us? Are we not capable of doing it ourselves? Are we not capable of doing it better? Should we stick out our lips just because Brokaw has a bigger soapbox than us and ignored us? If Brokaw did write about the gay movement, would we whine because he gave an overly simplistic view? How about a complaint that he was not on the inside of this movement, so he can't really tell the story?

I am sorry, I think your intentions are good with this post, but I just don't get it.

Too bad SB 777 in California didn't affect the textbook adoption process. It would be nice to have a complete people's history of the United States.

Any gay man who expects to be represented in history books who is not in some ultra-liberal state/district is asking for disappointment. I've checked online catalogs for various high school libraries in my district, and each library included at most 2-3 books concerning homosexuality, all treating the subject solely on sexual context, and all severely outdated by about 4-5 years. On women's issues there were 4-5 on average, while there were 15-20 average books on racial (mostly black, curiously Asians are rarely mentioned) issues. Mind, I live in Florida, but from what I've researched during college regarding the educational system's coverage of LGBT issues, the results came out to be rather bleak.

We may now be allowed to come out of the closet, but then we are promptly shoved under the rug afterwards. Heterosexuals have a sick knack for erasing LGBTs from mention.

No, Chuck, you're wrong. It's not his thoughts - it's interviews and narratives about how that decade affects us today.

And it's being marketed as "a full spectrum of opinions about the impact" of that decade. And that it's "an epic portrait of another defining era in America as he brings to life the tumultuous Sixties, a fault line in American history." And that it'll spark "frank conversations about America then, now, and tomorrow."

Even though isn't not "a full spectrum", or a complete "portrait" of an "era", nor can it spark "frank conversations" about a subject that people are all too willing to ignore that continues to be ignored in this book.

He wrote about the civil rights movement and feminism, and I haven't heard many complaints about it being too simplistic. These were major accomplishments and he chose to ignore them. Or maybe his publisher did. Or whatever, they're not there.

We can write our own history books, and we do, and we read them, and I read them and that's how I know about this stuff. We do write some great history of ourselves, but then it's ghetto-ized off to the sidelines of history books because he just didn't want to acknowledge that we were doing some pretty important things back then.

Alex, you are so right about how stupid this book is. The only thing I would question is whether the 60s is actually our greatest generation. I also blogged about this book here: