As a work of narrative journalism and history, Gay Seattle: Stories of Exile and Belonging opens in 1893 when the Washington State Legislature quietly begins passing laws to make homosexual conduct – and eventually even the discussion of homosexuality – a crime. It bookends exactly one century later when the state governor, Mike Lowry, becomes the first to address the annual lesbian and gay rally in Seattle. Through those one hundred years, the book follows the saga of multiple stories of Seattle lesbians and gays as they move “out of their (private) closet” and establish a powerful PUBLIC presence. To do so, they must overcome the triple challenge of a public discourse that labels them as illegal criminals, medically ill, and sinful.
They, in effect, become vocal public citizens rather than privately closeted as marginalized individuals. Gay Seattle’s structure follows that process in terms of the structures and rhetoric that had to be altered to allow fuller dignity: the legal and political institutions that defined them as criminal; the medical practices that labeled them ill; the religious doctrines that condemned them as sinful; the entertainment restrictions that forced them to their own sanctuaries; the businesses, political and philanthropic organizations that needed to develop to hold and use more wealth for the community.
The research for that 1893-1993 narrative occurred primarily from1996 to 1998. The book was finally completed by 2000 and then published by the University of Washington in spring 2003. So a decade had already elapsed, allowing time for perspective but also time for plenty more events. In 2012, a paperback edition included a preface that updated some major events.
Now, somewhat unbelievably, another decade has almost passed (I’m writing this in fall, 2021). A lot can happen in almost 30 years and has.
More events. More source materials for both the journalist and the historian now present in online versions and digitalized archives. More racial, indigenous, trans, nonbinary, and queer experiences that are not represented in that original 1893-1993 timeline and narrative. One can certainly argue that even the title “Gay Seattle” is outdated by now and that something like that somewhat awkward but more inclusive “LGBTQIA+ Seattle” is demanded for a second volume.
I don’t intend on this webpage to keep expanding the original book’s timeline – I’ll leave that to other writers in other books or other online platforms. But where possible I do want to update at least a few of the original chapters with pertinent new source materials and perspectives. Consider this a page of what I wish I had known back at the turn of the century when I was writing the original text. That I didn’t may have been due to my own neglect or the fact that the source materials and insights have only recently emerged. On this page I’ll include links or summaries summary of updates for those of you interested in the saga of sexual and gender justice in Seattle that occurred between 1893-1993.
The page is a work in progress. I’ll try to be diligent about additions… but I am now a retired professor emeritus at Seattle U, so I don’t promise to be as speedy as Twitter. I’ll also welcome any suggestions you have for updates sent to my email address: email@example.com
Updates for the Original Chapters
Part One: Imagining an Exile
Part Two: Creating Refuges
Part Three: Claiming a Civic Life
Ch. 7: Robert’s Rules and Gay Liberation
Founders of the Dorian Society: Martin Gouterman
The opening of Ch. 7 documents the founding of the Dorian Society, one of Seattle’s most important early gay rights organizations. One of the organizers, Martin Gouterman, was also a prominent physics professor at the University of Washington. While his activities as a Seattle gay rights activist are referenced in Gay Seattle, a recent recollection by one of his students, Abhik Ghosh (now a professor himself at the Arctic University of Norway), details much more about Gouterman’s contributions as a physicist as well as about his later life in Seattle. See “Martin Gouterman: The Gay Man Behind the Four-Orbital Model” in Chemistry World, 11/18/2020. https://www.chemistryworld.com/culture/martin-gouterman-the-gay-man-behind-the-four-orbital-model/4012388.article
Early Attempt at Same-Sex Marriage: Tim Mayhew Recollection
As Ch. 7 documents, in the early 1970s tensions over the strategy of how to become more fully recognized as equal citizens in Seattle emerged. Members of the original Dorian Society had used their low-key public appearances, where speakers often used aliases, to emphasize “responsible conduct” by homosexuals and criticize “less responsible” (or more sexual or flagrant conduct). The new Seattle chapter of the Gay Liberation Front, coming on the heels of the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion, urged more direct public confrontations for gay freedom, gay pride and what the Dorians called a “gay is good” aggressiveness.
Pages 124-128 tell one story as an example: the decision by Paul Barwick and John Singer (who was in the GLF camp and would become better known as Faygele benMiriam) to directly challenge Washington state’s definition of marriage following the rewrite of the state law in the early 1970s. The revision had dropped any reference to marriage being between a man and a woman and simply referred to it as a contract between two people 18 or older. The Gay Seattle text notes that a young legislator, Pete Francis, had explained the changes at a Dorian Society meeting, and that explanation had given Singer himself and Barwick the idea to file for a marriage license. With media in attendance in September 1971 and Barwick wearing a T-shirt with the word “Gay” printed boldly on it, they were not surprisingly denied the license. They then fought the case all the way to the State Supreme Court, where in Singer v Hara they lost.
However, additional information about this early public push for same-sex marriage has come through a recollection written by Martin Lee and available online from the University of Washington Special Collection Archives. Lee recounts Tim Mayhew’s role in that push. Mayhew was an activist who bridged the Dorian Society, the Seattle Gay Alliance which replaced it, and the Gay Liberation Front, working with all three as well as with many other gay organizations during the 1960s and 1970s.
Here are some excerpts from email exchanges written forty years later between Mayhew and Michael Boucai at the time when Boucai, a law school professor, was working on his 2015 book, Glorious Precedents: When Gay Marriage Was Radical. Boucai’s book explores the experiences of ten same-sex couples across the United States who attempted marriage in the years immediately following the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion and who presented their efforts as protests of traditional gender roles and the rule of heterosexual monogamy — often more radical arguments than those that would eventually end up and prevail at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 in Obergefell v Hodges.
Boucai asked Mayhew about details of how knowledge of the marriage revision moved from the Washington state legislative floor into the direct public action and then legal case by Barwick and Singer. Mayhew’s responses add additional insight about the media event that unfolded and clarify how Singer first heard about the revision — not from Francis directly as the Gay Seattle text says but from Mayhew.
8/26/14 email: Tim Mayhew to Michael Boucai: “As for Singer v. Hara, I am the direct cause of that. As I came back from lobbying the legislative session that passed it, I told friend John Singer that nobody had yet tried to use the new marriage law, and what it provided. [Mayhew explains in another email that as a volunteer lobbyist for the Dorian Society he had been invited by Pete Francis to testify about the marriage revision.] [Singer] wanted to be the first [to try], to make sure that it was pushed to the limit, so he grabbed his friend Paul Barwick and went ahead. They were comrades of the campaigns, and no romance was involved, which is appropriate for a civil property contract. Lloyd Hara, who has been County Auditor and State Treasurer, was the elected official responsible for issuing licenses, and he was notified by John that John was bringing a test case and the TV news crews to the courthouse, so Hara came out into the marble hallway and formally denied the license for the cameras, so that the courts could test the law. Personally, as a Seattle Democrat, he would not object, but this was a public ritual to settle all doubts”
8/27/14 email: Mayhew to Boucai: “I was indeed the first person to tell John Singer about the new law, because he was surprised and excited. Naturally discussions would have been going on elsewhere, but I doubt that he heard them or talked to those people, at least until he began organizing his own effort… In those years the gay movement had two wings, representing two social classes and two kinds of personality. This sociological and ideological divide was wide and sometimes severe, a split about policy, strategy, tactics, and style that became almost a feud in some cities…. In Seattle, we were more polite and high-minded than most other cities, as part of the general cultural tradition, so here the different factions did not quarrel but just went off in different directions to pursue their own plans. Sometimes they even coordinated, but maybe in different aspects of a project. Usually, they did not inform or consult each other.
Mayhew’s own position on same-sex marriage was just as radical as Singer’s and was documented in a Seattle Gay Alliance position paper he developed for the American Civil Liberties in December 1971, three months after Singer and Barwick attempted to get their license. Mayhew urged that marriage be abolished “as a specifically recognized state in law.” He wrote that it was “intrusive for the state to dictate in advance the terms of a private contract, especially one that depends so much on mutable emotions,” that “the state corrupts marriage by legislating it,” that such laws were a “superfluous annoyance” to personal relationships. He also argued that the state had no reason to limit marriage to only two individuals rather than “groups of more than two persons, in any combination of sexes.” But Mayhew’s practical activist side also showed, more in keeping with his role in trying to bridge between the old Dorian Society/Seattle Gay Alliance and the new GLF. Recognizing that marriage law would not suddenly disappear, he also opened his position statement with equal protection arguments similar to those that would eventually prevail in the U.S. Supreme Court decades later, arguing that states had no substantial reasons to discriminate against same-sex couples in tax and financial matters, adoptions or inheritances. See his full statement at https://digitalcollections.lib.washington.edu/digital/collection/pioneerlife/id/25989/rec/2
Martin Lee’s recollection of Mayhew’s activism also includes valuable material about Lee’s own experiences as a young Mormon, his arrival at the Gay Community Center’s early underground gathering space near Pioneer Square — where Lee met Mayhew — and Mayhew’s widespread role as an early gay activist in Seattle. View it at this link: https://digitalcollections.lib.washington.edu/digital/collection/pioneerlife/id/29686/rec/1
Ch. 11, Confronting a Police Crackdown
Tim Mayhew’s Activism
Chapter 11 documents the moral crusade that Seattle police chief George Tielsch inspired against Seattle’s newly public gay and lesbian community, with police using fears of moral vice to begin cracking down on gay bars and public spaces where gay men in particular “loitered” while cruising. Pages 199-200 note how Tim Mayhew of the Seattle Gay Alliance collected an important list of incidents that would eventually help curtail the police harassment
This is one of the few mentions in Gay Seattle of Mayhew’s important activist role in Seattle, which stretched across many decades and organizations, and so deserved more attention in several different chapters. As noted above in the update to Ch. 7, a fuller recollection of Mayhew’s activism is available from a recent recollection by Martin Lee: https://digitalcollections.lib.washington.edu/digital/collection/pioneerlife/id/29686/rec/1
As Lee’s reminiscence notes, among many activities, Mayhew helped found the Gay Community Center in 1971, served as the Seattle Gay Alliance’s first volunteer gay lobbyist in Olympia in the early 1970s and reported from Seattle for the early Northwest Gay Review. In the early 1970s, Mayhew also began pressing candidates for public office for their position on various aspects of gay rights. Lee describes how Mayhew would often interview candidates in their offices and public candidate fairs. He also developed a questionnaire and rating system that would later be adopted by the Seattle Municipal Elections Committee (SEAMEC) when it was organized in 1977 to formalize the evaluations. Mayhew was also a diligent archivist and many of his materials are now housed at the University of Washington’s Special Collections (accessible via this link: http://archiveswest.orbiscascade.org/ark:/80444/xv79011/
Of particular note for its rhetoric of the time is Mayhew’s broad ranging position statement on “Homosexual Civil Liberties” prepared for the ACLU in 1971 while Mayhew was chair of the SGA’s Education Committee. It contains his political philosophy that “an enlightened society…must safeguard cultural diversity for its vital strength” because “where all people believe and practice the same things, learning stops, stagnation sets in” causing “fatal blindness and weaknesses.” He also noted that the fact that the U.S. was dealing with different forms of religious, racial and sexual discrimination separately indicated that “most Americans do not regard discrimination in itself as wrong, but that they will avoid offending sufficiently powerful minorities.” That, he saw, was the key: “So now it is time for the very large gay minority to raise its voice in defense of variant patterns of touching and loving.” It was not enough to simply urge tolerance or understanding as had been the rhetorical strategies of the 1950s and 1960s. His statement went on to call for significant legal reforms and read like a platform for the next decades. Abolish the “vague laws” against loitering, solicitation, public nuisances, indecency, and prostitution that police were using to harass lesbians and gays. Recognize gay relationships for purposes of taxes, inheritance, and the right to be together. End employment and public accommodation discrimination. Guarantee equal access and treatment in schools, media, jobs, transportation, recreation. Protect from violent crimes in which the gay victims were often the ones prosecuted since they were seen as criminals under the sodomy laws. Mayhew’s full position statement can be seen at https://digitalcollections.lib.washington.edu/digital/collection/pioneerlife/id/25984/rec/3