Arthur Evans, who died September 11 at the age of 69, was a gay activist who was also a scholar, a rare combination in the United States but common in Europe (Michel Foucault, Guy Hocquenghem).Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Like the late Jack Nichols, Evans was a writer whose books gave meaning to the fight for LGBT rights and an activist who translated his words into action.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Born in York, Pennsylvania (Oct. 12, 1942), Evans earned a B.A. degree at City College, New York and studied philosophy at Columbia University.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â He was active in the anti-Vietnam War movement and a member of ColumbiaÃƒÂ¢??s Student Homophile League, an early gay student group.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â In August, 1969 Evans and his then-partner, journalist Arthur Bell, joined the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), one of the militant new groups that emerged after the Stonewall Riots.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â But Evans soon became disenchanted with GLF: ÃƒÂ¢??The group insisted that it had no leaders, yet a few Non-Leaders were clearly calling many of the shots,ÃƒÂ¢?Ã‚Â Evans recalled, in an article he wrote for GayToday.com in 1999.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â ÃƒÂ¢??In addition, the same questions were often re-debated and re-decided, with little or no group memory from one meeting to the next.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Finally, the group had no problem of consistent street activism.ÃƒÂ¢?Ã‚Â
Along with friends Marty Robinson and Jim Owles, the two Arthurs realized the need for a new organization, one that would ÃƒÂ¢??be exclusively devoted to gay and lesbian issues.ÃƒÂ¢?Ã‚ÂÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â Such a group would ÃƒÂ¢??engage the political system but without becoming entangled in it.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â The solution:Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â the group would question candidates for public office, publicize their response, but never endorse any candidate or political party.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â We would rock the system without becoming a part of it.ÃƒÂ¢?Ã‚ÂÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â On December 21, 1969 a dozen activists met in Arthur BellÃƒÂ¢??s apartment and formed Gay Activists Alliance (GAA).Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â They elected Owles president and approved a preamble and constitution that Evans wrote.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â This preamble, Evans recalled, ÃƒÂ¢??called on the larger society to recognize four basic rights.ÃƒÂ¢?Ã‚ÂÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â They are:  ÃƒÂ¢??The right to our own feelings;ÃƒÂ¢?Ã‚Â  ÃƒÂ¢??The right to love;ÃƒÂ¢?Ã‚Â  ÃƒÂ¢??The right to our own bodies;ÃƒÂ¢?Ã‚Â and  ÃƒÂ¢??The right to be persons.ÃƒÂ¢?Ã‚ÂÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â Though Evans was never elected GAA president, he represented the group on The Dick Cavett Show (November 1970).
The Gay Activists Alliance, Evans wrote, was a ÃƒÂ¢??group dedicated to street activism on behalf of gay issues.ÃƒÂ¢?Ã‚ÂÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Robinson, one of the founders, ÃƒÂ¢??wanted the group to personally confront our oppressors, but never resort to violence.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â The solution: we would use ÃƒÂ¢??zapsÃƒÂ¢?? (as Marty called them).ÃƒÂ¢?Ã‚ÂÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â In a subsequent GayToday article, Evans described ÃƒÂ¢??zapsÃƒÂ¢?Ã‚Â as ÃƒÂ¢??nonviolent, but militant, face-to-face confrontations with homophobes in positions of authority. . . . Zaps had two intended audiences ÃƒÂ¢?? our own community and the larger political world.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â In regard to our own community zaps often used humor and theater to build up group morale and gay identity.ÃƒÂ¢?Ã‚Â
Four decades before New York State legalized same-sex marriage, GAA challenged Herman Katz, then City Clerk of New York.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â A dozen activists invaded KatzÃƒÂ¢??s office with a coffee wagon and a large wedding cake, topped with a male couple and a female couple.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â While clerical workers helped themselves to some wedding cake, Evans took over the switchboard, telling all incoming callers that the ClerkÃƒÂ¢??s office was only issuing same-sex licenses that day.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Though nothing much was accomplished that day, the ÃƒÂ¢??zapÃƒÂ¢?Ã‚Â got peopleÃƒÂ¢??s attention.
One of the GAAÃƒÂ¢??s main targets was John V. Lindsay, then Mayor of New York City. In 1972 Lindsay, a ÃƒÂ¢??liberalÃƒÂ¢?Ã‚Â Republican (by todayÃƒÂ¢??s standards) planned to run for President against the more conservative GOP incumbent, Richard Nixon.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â GAA members Marty Manford, Ernest Cohen and Corona Rivera infiltrated a Lindsay for President rally, where they chained themselves to the balcony railing and threw down leaflets to the audience below.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â But ÃƒÂ¢??zapsÃƒÂ¢?Ã‚Â had their dangerous side.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â At the Suffolk County District AttorneyÃƒÂ¢??s Office on Long Island, Evans and other zappers were pushed and shoved by plainclothes police officers.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â During Gay Pride Week 1970 Evans, Owles, Robinson, Tom Doerr and Phil Raia were arrested for criminal trespass when they ÃƒÂ¢??zappedÃƒÂ¢?Ã‚Â the offices of the Republican State Committee.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Evans soon became the spokesman for ÃƒÂ¢??The Rockefeller Five.ÃƒÂ¢?Ã‚ÂÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â (Nelson Rockefeller was then GOP Governor of New York.)
By the end of 1971, the ÃƒÂ¢??heroic ageÃƒÂ¢?Ã‚Â of gay liberation was nearing its end.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Evans dropped out of Columbia, broke up with Bell, and left New York with his new partner, Jacob Schraeter.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â They formed a group called the ÃƒÂ¢??Weird Sisters PartnershipÃƒÂ¢?Ã‚Â and bought a 40-acre piece of land on a mountain in Washington State they called the New Sodom.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â In 1974 Evans and Schraeter moved to San Francisco, to an apartment in the Haight-Ashbury district that Evans lived in til the day he died.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â In the fall of 1975, Evans founded the Faery Circle, a neo-pagan, gay spiritual group.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â This and EvansÃƒÂ¢??s writings and lectures on Faeries inspired other activists to form the Radical Faeries (1979).
Though it all, Evans continued to write.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â In 1978, Evans published Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture: A Radical View of Western Civilization and Some of the People It Has Tried to Destroy, based upon a series of articles by Evans that first appeared in Out and Fag Rag magazines.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â ÃƒÂ¢??The professionals have suppressed Gay history, just as they have suppressed the truth about Third World people, women, the poor, the imprisoned, and the insane,ÃƒÂ¢?Ã‚Â Evans wrote.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â ÃƒÂ¢??This book is an attempt to record some of the things that professional historians usually leave out.ÃƒÂ¢?Ã‚ÂÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â In 1984 Evans directed a production of EuripidesÃƒÂ¢??s play The Bakkhai, which Evans translated from the Greek and which became the basis of his second book, The God of Ecstasy: Sex-Roles and the Madness of DionysosÃƒÂ¢?Ã‚Â (1988).Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Evans later returned to his philosophical roots when he wrote A Critique of Patriarchal Reason, published in 1997.
While living in San Francisco, Arthur Evans remained a committed activist, contributing to AIDS and LGBT-rights groups in the San Francisco area.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â In his later years, Evans shocked progressives when he backed a ballot measure that curtailed the rights of San FranciscoÃƒÂ¢??s homeless community.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Evans died of a massive heart attack, a year after he was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm.