February 21, 2020 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

GAY L.A.: In 1952, Gay and Latinx Angelenos Fought Back

When the police came for marginalized groups in the 1950s, a near-alliance was formed between two of L.A.’s most beleaguered (and intersecting) groups.

The 1950s in Los Angeles proved a violent decade for many underserved communities who didn’t fit into the cookie-cutter vision held by many lawmakers and politicians for a post-war America. As a result, the decade before the start of the civil rights movement saw countless raids, racial profiling incidents, and downright violence aimed at queer and other marginalized communities.

After the formation of the Mattachine Society in 1950, founder Harry Hay and his fellow leaders were trying to protect their fellow members from targeted raids on gay bars and community spaces. By 1952, after the arrest of another Mattachine founder, Dale Jennings, was arrested for soliciting sex in MacArthur Park, Hay was trying to find a way to bring peaceful, yet provocative action against the police force. During this time, he was contacted by another organization interested in keeping the peace. The Civil Rights Congress, a communist organization closely tied to L.A.’s large Mexican-American community, made contact with Hay to see if the Mattachine society might combine forces to present a united front against police brutality.

James Ellroy’s novel “L.A. Confidential” deals with tales of a turbulent 1950s Los Angeles. With Gay bars and Mexican-America spaces being routinely raided by the LAPD, an alliance seemed necessary.

The LAPD had been targeting Latinx community centers in the same way they’d been raiding gay bars in the city. When it came to L.A.’s Mexican-American community, police brutality largely got swept under the rug even if an incident, such as the 1951 arrest of six young Latino men, turned violent without reason, an incident that novelist James Ellroy would later draw inspiration from when writing “L.A. Confidential.” Harry Hay and the other Mattachine Society members were watching closely and thinking about creating a protective alliance with the other targeted individuals who’d had enough of bowing to the LAPD’s violent whims.

“As soon as we got into the oppressed cultural minority phase we had something our backgrounds had prepared us for—oppression of the blacks, the Jews, of women, and now—here in Los Angeles—of the Chicanos…” said Mattachine cofounder Chuck Roland. “A left-oriented organization, ANMA (Asociación Nacional Mexicana [sic] Americana), was formed to oppose police harassment and frequent brutality in East LA. We would make common cause with them for, we were convinced, all socially oppressed minorities had something in common, whether they knew it or not.”

ANMA would be a force for justice in the coming years, with branches all across the country. The organization was interested in calling the police force to task for using covert operations and plainclothes insurgents to entrap and imprison Latinx community members. In 1952, five Mexican-American youths found themselves nearly murdered due to an entrapment scheme that affected both queer and Latinx communities: A vice squad officer, attempting to solicit one of the young men in the men’s room of the Echo Park Boathouse, ended by shooting him and arresting the others simply for trying to flee the scene.

After news of this incident spread, with the police and the press unable to suppress its clear homophobic undertones, Harry Hay reached out to Shifra Meyers, the current Administrative Secretary of the Civil Rights Congress, to express his outrage at the the treatment of both groups.

“What have you ever offered the Homosexual that he should risk his livlihood [sic], his housing, even his pitiful facsimile of social security, to inform you?” Hay asked. “Has any committee and/or group of civic or sectarian minded citizens ever taken even an impartial interest in the Homosexual Minority as a Group? Has the homosexual EVER had anyone to turn to, (except the dubious subjectivity of his own), for help, succour, guidance, protection, or sympathy? Unfortunately, well-meaning people like yourselves are still so shot through with Freudian conditioning that you cannot perceive the Homosexual as a member of a social minority.”

While the alliance didn’t amount to anything in the end, the conversations begun by Hay and the concerned members of ANMA paved the way for bigger, broader civil rights struggles to come. Perhaps Hay, without knowing it, was aware of just how much the queer and Latinx communities in Los Angeles have always bled into one another to create so much of the city’s iconic culture, imagery, and heart.

Related Posts

Transgender Care Services Coming to Baldwin Park

February 18, 2020

February 18, 2020

By Staff Writer A new Planned Parenthood center opening soon in Baldwin Park will provide transgender care services to a...

Texas Files Suit Against California’s Travel Ban to State

February 18, 2020

February 18, 2020

Texas asks U.S. Supreme Court to overturn California’s travel ban to Texas By Sam Catanzaro Texas is asking the U.S....

WeHo Opens Nominations For 2020 Rainbow Key Awards

February 18, 2020

February 18, 2020

Nominations will be Accepted Until Thursday, February 27 By Staff Writer The City of West Hollywood is gathering nominations for...

News Brief: Calls for LGBTQ CA Supreme Court Judge

February 14, 2020

February 14, 2020

Sen. Scott Winer and Assemblymember Todd Gloria introduce send letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom By Kerry Slater Two prominent state...

Addressing LA’s Increase in Syphilis

February 14, 2020

February 14, 2020

Legislation introduced to allow expanded rapid testing By Chole Marie Rivera February 4, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced legislation...

Cirque Du Soleil Presents Equality Night at Dodger Stadium

February 12, 2020

February 12, 2020

Proceeds benefiting Los Angeles LGBT Center By Chole Marie Rivera On Thursday, February 13 Cirque Du Soleil hosted Equality Night,...

Edify TV: LGBTQIA+ Health Conference

February 11, 2020

February 11, 2020

Learn more about the annual Southern California LGBTQIA+ Health Conference that was held last weekend at the David Geffen School of...

Man Charged for Series of LGTBQ Attacks in Culver City

February 7, 2020

February 7, 2020

Joshua Immanuel Ebow charged for Culver City and West Los Angeles attacks By Sam Catanzaro A former delivery driver has...

Honoring National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day at the ONE Archive

February 4, 2020

February 4, 2020

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is on Friday, February 7. In the LGBTQ+ community, HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects gay black men...

Q&A: Being Openly Gay at LA Opera

February 3, 2020

February 3, 2020

The scene: Eurydice always imagined that her wedding day would be a day she’d never forget. But after a tragic...

USC One Archives to Host Screening of Film on Black Trans Woman to Honor Black History Month

February 1, 2020

February 1, 2020

Meet Mary Jones, a black transgender woman born in New York in 1803. Described as a “man-monster” in the press. ...

LGBT Center to Host Groundbreaking Conference for LGBT Widows and Widowers in L.A.

January 30, 2020

January 30, 2020

Renowned Designer, Author, Advocate Nate Berkus to Give Keynote Address On Saturday, February 29, the Los Angeles LGBT Center will host...

LGBTQ Center of LB Announces 2020 Executive Team for Board of Directors

January 29, 2020

January 29, 2020

The LGBTQ Center Long Beach recently announced its new executive team to lead the organization’s 2020 Board of Directors.  Stella...

Public Outcry Temporarily Saves Los Angeles LGBT Center’s STD, HIV Services

January 28, 2020

January 28, 2020

The temporary agreement restores funding through the end of March. The Los Angeles LGBT Center announced today that it has...

HRC to Honor Dan Levy, Janelle Monáe at Award Ceremony in DTLA

January 27, 2020

January 27, 2020

Award Season is upon us, and the LGBTQ+ Community is not immune. HRC announced today that actor Dan Levy will...