Keep your heroes and i shall keep Quentin.
Current LGBT activist and journalist Peter Thatchell attempts to belittle the life of Quentin Crisp for the sin of getting old, and not being “a hero”!
Crisp is no gay icon. The true icons and pioneers of the modern British gay community are heroes like Allan Horsfall and Antony Grey.
Crisp is a pale shadow of US gay rights trailblazers like Harry Hay, Frank Kameny, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon.
Crisp hated the fact that he was no longer unique – no longer the only visible queer on the block. For this reason, he loathed the gay liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s.*
The accusation one is merely sulking because one is not the permanent center of attention is one the more eccentric among us have heard often in our lives, mostly coming from people who are embarrassed by their association with the likes us. It is a thought-terminating cliché whose aim it is to silence those of us for whom making a fool of one’s self, or saying something outrageously off-mark is not a fate worse than death.
As to the Mattachine Society, which Thatchell touts as the birth place of the gay movement. That center right organization would likely still be tinkering away to this day at what in the late Fifties / early Sixties was already a 100 year old strategy to affect legal reform from within the system. It was not the Mattachines who led the surge for gay civil rights, but students inspired by the black civil rights movement, and scared to death of being sent off to lose yet another US hegemonic war in East Asia, and hence took up political radicalism (at least temporarily) rather than a respectable job and the American way of life. The general atmosphere of the late Sixties and early Seventies, made the Gay and Lesbian rights movement what it was up until the AIDS-crisis – with all due respect to legal reformers from Ulrichs to Grey to the upstanding citizens of the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis, many of whom were equally aghast at what they viewed as the audacity and excesses of the next generation as was Mr. Crisp. Those who survived, and those who followed the AIDS crisis have since rediscovered their older roots in safety and respectability. Hearing Quentin Crisp poo-pooed in this atmosphere of role-back has a bit of bitter after taste. I defy anyone to find a so-called hero who is without human failings, unless s/he has been plucked from the pages of a comic book or born of the pen of some raving fanatic.
So whilst the gay lawyers and lesbian professors of this world muse upon what is best said how and when and according to whose rules, or whether one has put ones foot in ones mouth and if so how far, i shall be here on the ground floor with the effeminate homosexuals like Mr. Crisp making a scene so that those who do not sit on your boards, read your publications, or attend your seminars may catch a glimpse of something unhomogenized from time to time, and frankly just for the sheer stupid, uncouth joy of it all.
Image: Quentin Crisp in New York City (1992). Source: Wikimedia.org URL: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:QuentinCrisp-RossBennettLewisPHOTO.jpg. Photographer: Ross B. Lewis. Creative Commons License: CC BY-SA 4.0.