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Subject:      Gay Activist Resume
From:         Tom Keske
Date:         1998/01/23
Newsgroups:  alt.politics.homosexuality


It is a bit strange to talk so much on newsgroups, without
ever giving each other proper introductions.  When you assess
the credibility of an author, its nice to know something about
the author's background and credentials, and where the author
gets his or her perspective.

A couple more motives: everyone likes to think that they are
helping the gay cause.  Probably we ask ourselves sometimes
whether we are really doing enough.  Martin Luther King once
observed that what you get out of a movement is in proportion
to what you put into it.  Its nice to go to Pride parades, but
how do we stack up against the efforts ever put in by other
civil rights activists:  how long have you ever been in jail
as a prisoner of conscience?  Risked your career?  Braved
bullets and angry mobs?

Therefore, I think it would be interesting for newsgroup
regulars to tell us more about their background, and share
their visions as to what they think improves our world.  I'll
start, but it would be interesting to compare notes and
experiences with everyone.

* Coming out:

came out in college, in Cleveland, in the early 70s, just
after discovering that a gay community even existed for me to
come out into.  There wasn't a word for being "out" that I
recall, but it seemed like the thing to do, so I wore a
"lambda" button for the Gay Activist Alliance around campus.
GAA was a group that formed just after Stonewall- the birth of
the movement.

I co-wrote a Letter-to-the-Editor with my lover, to the Plain
Dealer, criticizing an anti-gay show, which caused the
Cleveland Public Library to ask my lover to resign his job as
a page boy.

We used our home phone as a hot line for the GAA.  We once
sheltered a gay youth who was kicked out by parents. We did
speaking engagements for GAA at college, high school, and
nursing classes.

* Civil Disobedience

got arrested at the Supreme Court civil disobedience at the
first March on Washington (slept on bare springs).

got arrested at a nonviolent sit-in outside Jesse Helms'
office in Raleigh, North Carolina. Two other North Carolina
activists joined (there were supposed to be more, but they
backed out). Got a large picture in the Triangle News-Observer

Following the advice of Martin Luther King, I left a $50 fine
unpaid after another nonviolent sit-in at a Federal building
in Boston.  I was handcuffed by federal marshals at my place
of employment and led away, as all my co-workers lined up at
the window watching, some women crying.   I was afraid that
this would destroy my career, but I managed to hang on.

* Hunger Strike

Used a two-week vacation to go on a hunger strike in front of
the Massachusetts State House, trying to force a graveyard
committee to free the gay civil rights bill.

My career again suffered seriously, because this was not an
opportune time to take a vacation.  However, the bill had been
killed for over 15 years straight, and the committee was doing
what it had done before- failing to release the bill, making
us start from ground zero again in the next legislative year.

I tried to get other groups to participate, but none did.

I was pelted with eggs and threatened with shooting, a number
of times. I had people yelling at me that "Gays have no
rights", "I hope you starve",  "I hope you die", "I wouldn't
stay there with that sign if I were you."

A couple small papers, Brockton Enterprise, Patriot Ledger,
Randolph Mariner ran articles on the protest.  The Boston
Globe took a picture, but never printed anything.  A state
legislator eventually stopped by and told me that the protest
was lending moral weight to the cause.

At the end of two weeks, I left but vowed to return if the
bill stayed bottled up.  At the start of the next week, it
finally made it out of the committee, and Massachusetts became
the second state in the nation to pass a gay rights bill.

* Sodomy Protests

After Bowers-vs-Hardwick, I tried to persuade gay groups to
engage in mass civil disobedience protests, with little

I tried to launch my own protest, with some initial help from
a lesbian lawyer who worked for NGLTF, and some activists from
North Carolina, which was one of the locations on my list, the
others being Georgia, Massachusetts, and the District of
Columbia.  The Carolina activists eventually ran into flak
with some members who thought it was too provocative,
especially with a "Yankee" involved.  I proceeded with a
couple activists helping, but being the only one to attempt
getting arrested.

We sent photos of token sex law violations in all locations
(nothing unsafe), to police with notarized confessions, urging
arrest. I also wrote to Senator Helms, urging him to use his
influence to secure an arrest, since he had stated that he
thought the laws should be enforced. He wrote back, making the
dubious claim that he cared about AIDS.  I intended to
hunger-strike if arrested.

In some of these areas, sodomy was a felony punishable by 10
to 20 years in prison.  Sometimes, the laws had been enforced
in the past.  However, none of locations took action, probably
sensing that the protest would make them look bad.

My lover was so upset over the uncertainty put into our lives
by my continual protests, that he nearly left me.  This was
probably the most difficult thing of all.

Being unable to get arrested, I spent thousands of dollars
placing a paid political message the Washington Post, to
protest the Supreme Court decision.

* Corporate policies
came out to a new supervisor, with a number of other gays
where I work (a conservative Fortune 500 company), trying to
get them  to add sexual orientation to their
non-discrimination policy.

We did eventually win this goal.

I also worked with HR to get a gay-positive educational
article placed in a company newsletter.

* St. Patrick's March

I got involved in the St. Patrick's day issue, once holding
one end of the GLIB banner during a Cambridge march.  After
the city of Boston failed to sponsor its own, alternative,
inclusive march, I tried to get GLIB interested in protesting,
as in New York, but did not make progress.  Against the advice
of a friend in GLIB who told me that there would be trouble if
I tried to go to South Boston, I went anyway, the first year
after the decision, to hold a protest sign (no trouble).  I do
believe that we still should make our presence felt as a group
activity, forever, until Boston comes up with an alternate
march and sponsor, as in Cambridge.

I have of course marched in many marches, and donated
thousands of dollars to a wide variety of gay, AIDS, and other
causes, but the above is my vision for the kinds of things
that the gay community should most be doing to make the world
a better place for our kind.

Tom Keske
Boston, Mass.

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