Last week, Dangerous Minds dug up an important video artifact of the post-Stonewall gay movement in the 1970’s. This was a time when most Americans didn’t know and had never met a “homosexual” (let alone a transgender person), and a Pittsburgh TV program gave Randolfe Wicker the chance to appear on television and answer the audience’s questions about a gay person’s life — to help dispel myths and rumors. Wicker was the first gay man to ever appear on television (on The Les Crane Show in 1965), and in the video, Mr. Wicker shows an incredible patience, generosity and openness with audience questions, no matter how silly or blunt they are.
Remember: This was a time when the APA still classified homosexuality as a mental illness. There is no such thing as a stupid question in 1972.
As Dangerous Minds points out, there are a number of reasons that this video is so eye-opening. It’s a testament to Harvey Milk’s statement that queer people need to stand up and be counted, being faces and presences in the movement. We need to be on people’s televisions, in their homes and in their lives — because it makes us harder to discriminate against. However, the most important moment, for me, is the way Wicker puts it so painly that queer people want A-B-C-D rights, but even more than that, they simply want “respect.”
Watch the video below. Be warned: The quality is a little less than desirable, but welcome to archiving history.