"Finally, if the literature regarding homosexuality is to be believed, the inevitable mark of the homosexual is loneliness. It is not without significance that the first great novel on lesbianism was called The Well of Loneliness and it would seem that much of the frantic seeking of companionship in which the homosexual indulges (including the frequent changing of partners) is a recognition of this state... this loneliness seems to be a part of the cross of the homosexual who must, by nature of his inversion, bear. One hopes that the homosexual "societies" help, to some degree, to meet this problem, one tends to doubt it."
Richard Byfiels, "A Pastoral View of Homosexuality," Pacific Coast Theological Group, November 1965, p. 5-6, [courtesy of the GLBT Historical Society Archive, Don Lucas Papers; Diocesan Committee Documents, 1965 folder 19/22].
While this comment is found in the midst of a long essay about how pastors should work with gay people in 1965, it is admittedly a product of the media's portrayal of gay people at the time. The image above is from the article "The Sad 'Gay' Life: The Homosexual Man" [Star, Jack, Look, January 10, 1967 (courtesy of the GLBT Historical Society Archive, Don Lucas Papers; Mattachine Document Clippings folder 19/16)]
While it is surely true that some of the rhetoric about sad lonely gay men was designed to make homosexuality a less desirable lifestyle for youth, it is not completely missing the mark. The nature of the closet and the loss of social and familial support that many gay individuals experienced, would naturally lead to loneliness. It should also be said that the dynamics of urban life also create a sense of loneliness for many (regardless of their sexuality or gender identities).
It is particularly this loneliness that the pastors working with the Vanguard youth sought to address. This article, published in the original Vanguard , written by the Rev. Ray Broshears (picture courtesy of the GLBT Historical Society Archive, Ray Broshears Papers; News Clippings; 96-3 Carton 2) seeks to address the loneliness he witnessed in the Tenderloin.
Volume 1, Number 4, February 1967, p. 7 [courtesy of the GLBT Historical Society Archive, Don Lucas Papers; Vanguard]
The next issue of Vanguard featured comments about loneliness from youth member, Keith St. Clare:
"The more chronically one is lonely, the more selfish he becomes... . ‘I just want someone to love me!’ you cry. Do you? Usually not. Are you waiting for Prince Charming or Snow White to carry on with? Give up, Mary. The secret, the power to overthrow your loneliness, is within. Put self aside and learn to love others! Paradoxically, concern will breed concern and (Sorry ‘bout that) you’ll lose your loneliness. One way to learn concern is through uninhibited enthusiasm. Don’t hide your feelings too well...Applaud and praise at the least honest provocation. True appreciation never alienates anyone. Affectionate companions and amiable friends are rare, but if you become one you will have more than your share.”
Volume 1, Number 5, 1967, p. 7 [courtesy of the GLBT Historical Society Archive, Don Lucas Papers; Vanguard]
Working with many of the individuals in the Tenderloin who are a part of the Vanguard generation and/or who are addicted, homeless, queer, transgender, mentally ill, addicted, etc, I know that loneliness is still one of the biggest issues those living in poverty or on the margins in San Francisco. In fact, I think it is such a pervasive problem in our city that it should be considered emotional poverty.
The more I research the history of the pastors that worked with and around the Vanguard youth, the more I see how my current ministry is a direct result of the advocacy, theology and law breaking of the Urban Specialist Pastors. My work along with that of the Night Ministry, the Faithful Fools and the many programs created by Glide Memorial Church and Foundation continue to work with the lonely souls of the Tenderloin.
Vanguard Revisited will create the opportunity for contemporary individuals to use their own words, art and writings to express how they experience loneliness.