Sunday, December 02, 2012

 

Totally by chance, I came upon this screen capture of a scene in New York Harbor during the height of the now-infamous Hurricane Sandy.

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Although the recent election signaled that some vestiges of sanity and reason still exist in the populace, if not among many of our elected leaders, Fritz was struck by this quote from an essay called "What I Believe" written in 1938 by the gay British writer E.M. Forster.  It could be an Op-Ed piece in today's contemporary New York Times:

"I do not believe in Belief.  But this is an age of faith, and there are so many militant creeds that in self-defence, one has to formulate a creed of one's own.  Tolerance, good temper and sympathy are no longer enough in a world which is rent by religious  and racial persecution, in a world where ignorance rules, and science, who ought to have ruled, plays the subservient pimp."

Quoted in A Great Unrecorded History: A New Life of E.M. Forster, by Wendy Moffat   A Picador Paperback


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I still get a jolt seeing the AIDS memorial ribbon hanging in the White House portico, remembering all the decades when such a recognition would have been unthinkable, and the chief resident of the house totally unsympathetic to the epidemic and its victims.  Sadly, many in government still are.


I am importing this story whole from Stephen Rutledge's blog, Post-Apocalyptic Bohemian.  Stephen devotes his blog to the stories of gays and lesbians, many of whom have had to live their lives "underground."  This story of Elliot Blackstone, a straight man of extraordinary vision and generosity of spirit, came as a total surprise to me and to others who commented on Stephen's post:

Born On This Day- November 30th... Elliot Blackstone


Our allies can come from the most unexpected places and change the daily lives of gay people through the dignity that they bring to the work they do.

Sgt. Blackstone was born in Montana on this day in 1924. After finishing high school, he served in the Navy during World War II. He joined the San Francisco Police Department in 1949.


Sgt. Blackstone was a pioneer of community-based policing, once remarking that being a cop was like being "a social worker with a badge." In 1962, after the "gayola" scandal involving police demanding payoffs from gay bar owners, he was appointed the first SFPD liaison to the gay community. He was present during a police raid of a gay New Year's ball in 1965, where an officer shoved his wife, assuming she was a drag queen.


Asked why he, as a straight man, took such an active role on behalf of gay and transgender people, Sgt. Blackstone replied: "Because it was the right thing to do."


Blackstone was the 2006 San Francisco Pride Parade Grand Marshal. He also received commendations from the California State Senate, the California State Assembly, & the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.


He says he was just doing his job, although at the time police brass gave him no support.


Elliot Blackstone planted a seed to grow San Francisco into a city that was welcoming; a place that all people are treated equal. He became the first retired officer to receive a commendation from the Police Commission. Blackstone was the first police liaison to the GLBT community in 1962, after a bribery scandal involving gay bars and the police. At that time, the issue for gay rights at the department was different.

Blackstone: "They hated me. They thought it was wrong for a policeman to associate with these faggots, but they needed help, so I helped."


Blackstone worked with what were then called "homophile" organizations, such as the Mattachine Society & The Daughters of Bilitis, to end police entrapment of gay men in public bathrooms. He trained police recruits on how to handle the community by bringing in gays, lesbians and transgender people to talk about their lives.

He helped establish an anti-poverty office in the Tenderloin that employed transsexual workers. When the city was unwilling to pay for hormones for transgender people, Blackstone took up a donation at his church and distributed the drugs for free. He attended gay galas and was the face of the department for the community. He was a pioneer; somebody whose amazing, considerably brave accomplishments have been forgotten for too long.


Blackstone fought against prejudice and stigma at a time when the rights of gays were ignored, and helped to create a ripple of positive change.


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Stephen's story put me in mind of the Garden of the Righteous in Jerusalem where memorial markers honor gentiles who went to extraordinary lengths and took chances to shelter Jews from the Holocaust.  Perhaps there should be a memorial in thanks for the efforts of people like Officer Blackstone and others who stood with LGBT people against anti-gay prejudice, legal oppression, and governmental refusal to support AIDS research -- while demonizing those who were dying by the thousands.  San Francisco, where Elliot Blackstone worked, might well be the place for such a memorial.   




Comments:
Dear Will,
A very interesting and inspiring story about a very brave and inspiring man!
A man who really did love his neighbour.
I am glad that I have been introduced to him.
Kirk
 
Will - I enjoyed this post too. I very much appreciate your thoughtful informative blog.
 
wonder picture of the statue in the storm, Wow!


 
A healthy reminder to those over here who give it so much jip that a great deal of America is, to quote Alice Goodman's Nixons, 'good at heart'.
 
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