From a person who sees himself as an unwavering supporter of equal rights, When We Were Outlaws is a great wake-up call. Jeanne Cordova's personal portrayal of the struggle for equality during the mid 1970's was moving and informative. Perhaps the biggest eye-opener is the feeling that I was left with after reading sections on the organization, determination and will it takes to be a real supporter of equality; my support is far more personal, and decidedly less effective.
One aspect of the struggle that I have never personally approached is that while Gay and Lesbian activism often takes on the same face to the public, there are some points of contention that were well outlined in the book. Cordova points out the history of local cooperation and tension among the varied political ideologies that exist between the Gay movement and the Lesbian-femenist movements during that time.
Showing a true dedication to truth, empathy and self-reflection, Cordova wrote about her time interviewing characters like Emily Harris, an activist in the Symbionese Liberation Army, and Joe Tomassi, a neo-Nazi militant. For me, it was very impressive to see the level of compassion and maturity that Cordova was able to display with regards to these two characters, activist in their own right. And, while purpose and belief may differ among the three of them, Cordova looks within herself to come to a very moving realization that perhaps the personal motivation of her and Joe Tomassi were not all that different, and that hate of another can really only come from one place.
After reading Jeanne Cordova's book, that are a couple questions I would ask:
1) I remember reading MLK Jr's Letter From Birmingham Jail a while back, and in it Dr. King spoke out against what he saw as the greatest threat to racial equality. Perhaps surprisingly, Dr. King did not believe it was the outspoken white supremest or KKK member, but the man or woman who supported freedom, but did not share their voice. I wonder if Jeanne Cordova might agree or disagree.?
2) What is the biggest impediment to the realization of "gay rights?"Is it the stance of the church, the outdated belief of some members of the government that it goes against this countries christian values, or the ignorance of the voting populace, at least when it comes to California and the prop 8?