Season 11 — Preview
We’re back with more engaging voices from Eric Marcus’s MGH archive! Meet six history makers as they share stories of faith and redemption, of family, of scandal, and of radicalization and liberation.
Eric Marcus: Testing, 1, 2, 3.
Eric Marcus Narration: I’m Eric Marcus, and season 11 of Making Gay History is just around the corner! While we continue to work on our “Coming of Age in the 1970s” season, we’re going back once more to the source—my Making Gay History archive—to introduce you to some of my favorite storytellers.
Beginning November 3, we’ll share six new episodes—stories of faith and redemption, of family, of scandal, and of radicalization and liberation.
First up is Craig Rodwell. If you’re a regular listener, you’ll recognize his name and voice from previous episodes. Craig made his mark as an LGBTQ rights pioneer several times over, from participating in the 1966 Sip-In, which challenged a New York State law that prohibited bars from serving homosexuals, to being a driving force behind the first Christopher Street Liberation Day March in 1970. This time, you’ll meet Craig as a headstrong teenager whose radicalization began at the hands of the Chicago police.
Craig Rodwell: All of a sudden these two or three cops just appeared, what seemed to be out of nowhere. Uh, the first thing they asked me was how old I was. And I summoned up my deepest voice and said, “17,” but they knew better. And also it was an area that I didn’t realize at the time where there was a lot of young teenage boy hustlers in the area. Then they asked me who the other guy was, and I said, “He’s my uncle.” Uh, and then they took us into the police station.
EM: You must have been frightened by then.
CR: I would say I was more angry than fr—it was a mixture of the two. I mean, ’cause I knew what was happening was an assault on, on our freedom and my freedom.
EM Narration: As a Black lesbian of faith, Rev. Carolyn Mobley-Bowie faced a steep climb trying to carve out a place in the world where every part of her would be accepted. Growing up in the segregated south, that climb began early.
Rev. Carolyn Mobley-Bowie: My cousin, uh, and I had taken a bus, Greyhound bus from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, where she was gonna spend a couple weeks with me and my mom. And we got off the bus in the bus station and looked around. And we saw a sign that said “Waiting Room,” so we went in. We weren’t, had never been there before—we hadn’t been on the bus before—so, you know, it was like, everything was new.
Well, honey, we were sitting around in there looking and all these white people, you know, were sitting around, and then we noticed this cop walking up and down in front of us, you know, kind of with his hand on his billy club. But we didn’t pay much attention and really was just unaware of what was the staring about.
So my cousin went up to the counter to buy some Life Savers, and the lady told her, “You know what’s good for your Black ass, you’ll get the hell out of here.” So we decided we better go out the front door. And as we did, we saw this sign on the other side, as we were walking up and down in front, that said, um, “Colored Waiting Room.” And I said, well, I’ll be damned.
EM Narration: Faygele Ben-Miriam was a soft-spoken radical from New York who brought his zeal for local organizing to places outside what he called the country’s gay ghettos, and lived and embodied the claim that the personal is political.
Faygele Ben-Miriam: Why did I wear dresses?
EM: Why did you wear dresses?
FBM: Um, I liked them. And I was experimenting. I mean, part of the thing about being gay was the freedom to play around with and experiment with all kinds of things. And that was one of them. To see what it felt like to wear a dress. It was in some ways very liberating. In some ways it gave me an incredible insight, more than any other man around, of the vulnerability that women are up against constantly, especially when you’re wearing high heels. It’s very hard to run in high heels.
EM: Did you wear high heels?
FBM: Well, if, if it went with the outfit, yes.
EM Narration: And you’ll hear from a young Urvashi Vaid, the influential activist powerhouse who died earlier this year and argued that the fight for LGBTQ equality could not, and cannot, be separated from other progressive struggles. Urv and I also happened to be classmates at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York.
Urvashi Vaid: In college it was much more of like—well, I dated women, I dated men, but I didn’t really have that big picture connection. It was a very specific universe. It was Vassar College. It was this little petri dish where everybody was growing their own mold.
EM Narration: Don’t miss a single episode. Subscribe to Making Gay History wherever you enjoy your podcasts, and stay tuned for details about our new Patreon page, where subscribers will get access to exclusive bonus content beginning next week. If you’d like to be among the first to sign up, go to patreon.com/makinggayhistory or head to makinggayhistory.com and click on the Patreon link in the homepage banner.
I’m Eric Marcus. So long! Until next week.