The late 70’s were my coming-of-age era. Mine was the first generation to benefit from Roe v. Wade and the 26th Amendment. I was a teenager ushering in the nation’s bicentennial while nursing my first born. I danced to the Bee Gees' “Staying Alive” and the Jacksons' “Living off the Wall.” Mine was the “Me generation,” a backlash generation—no draft for my generation. We were supposed to be the beneficiaries of the Civil Rights Movement, the Anti-War Movement, the Women’s Movement.
Why then did I not feel like a beneficiary?
That was not a rhetorical question. There’s a persistent probing I live with. I often wonder if its source begins here.
We were in the throes of the 60’s. I’m an 8-year-old child. The activism of that era barely registers on my radar. But here’s a memory from that era that does. This scene is real. It’s always with me, even to this day more than 50 years later.
In the middle of the night I’m awakened to the sounds of distress, sounds that tell me something is wrong. I throw off the covers, get up, leave my bedroom. In the darkness I walk down the hallway towards the single bathroom in our small Bronx apartment.
He rests his head on my lap as I treat his wounds. He’s been beaten and attacked with a pair of scissors. The blade has slashed his forehead. Blood is everywhere, but thankfully the wound wasn’t deep.
I hear my uncle stirring in the bathroom. I hesitantly knock on the door.
Before I go further, I want to convey to you a smidgeon of the love this little 8-year-old girl has for uncle. The person on the other side of the bathroom door that night is the person that makes her world sing. She waits for him to come home every night—sometimes falling asleep before he arrives. But, even when he’s late, he’s always asleep on the couch when she wakes in the morning.
He opens the bathroom door.
I take one look at his face. My heart skips. Trying to control my response, I utter a barely perceptible gasp, walk in, take a seat on the toilet’s closed lid. He rests his head on my lap as I treat his wounds. He’s been beaten and attacked with a pair of scissors. The blade has slashed his forehead. Blood is everywhere, but thankfully the wound isn’t deep. I notice his smeared eye make-up as I clean the blood from his face with hydrogen peroxide.
This was the 60's. That night, I’m pretty sure he had been at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. I wish I could say that that was the only time my uncle experienced violence simply because of who he was. It was not. Not by a long shot.
My uncle was a gender nonconforming gay man who sometimes appeared as a woman. This was before people declared their pronouns, before the letters LGBTQ+ meant anything to the masses.
My uncle, Leopold Allen, was a long-time makeup artist for the American Ballet Theatre and was admired for the wonderful job he did on the dancers’ eyes. The job he did on his own eyes when he was going out was pretty special, too. I remember his glorious eyes even now.
Decades have passed. He is no longer with us. In the years since his passing, there have been some positive changes but we’ve still got a long way to go.
A few years ago, the LA Progressive was introduced to Carl Matthes, founder and president of the Uptown Gay and Lesbian Alliance (UGLA)—an organization that was founded after the murder of Bobby Brown, a locally well-known young gay man, who was twice assaulted and finally killed as he was leaving a local gay bar, The Bon Mot, located near Avenue 41 and North Figueroa Street in the north Los Angeles community of Highland Park.
On Sunday, July 12, 2020, at 2:00pm Pacific Time, UGLA will host a virtual mixer with a focus on Black Lives Matter. Carl invited Dick and I to attend and to speak. UGLA is one of over 350 LGBTQ+ groups that signed onto and distributed two letters to the city demanding structural change, for divestment of police resources and reinvestment in communities for long-term transformational change in policing.
Our friend Kayo Anderson of LA CAN will also share some of his experiences of intersectionality.
This gathering is open to our readers. Contact me at dick_and_sharon at laprogressive for the Zoom meeting ID and Link
Topic: UGLA Virtual Mixer - Black Lives Matter
Time: Today, Sunday, July 12 at 2 PM PDT
Publisher, LA Progressive