Repeal of the Champaign and Urbana Cross Dressing Laws, December 1971

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Cross Dressing Law Repeal

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Mask201.jpg The Cast - Major players identified. Actual historical figures on left.

Jeff Graubart, Activist C-U Gay Liberation Front, Narrator Dave Rosen
Ed Lisowski, Co-president C-U Gay Liberation Front Doc Willow
Kathy McCabe, Co-president C-U Gay Liberation Front Gloria McMaster
Diana Peralta, Activist C-U Gay Liberation Front Paola Rivera
William Stanley, Activist C-U Gay Liberation Front Winston Stanfield III
Virgil Wikoff, Champaign, Illinois Mayor Eben Kane

Drag Queens Arrested

The story of the Champaign and Urbana drag law repeal is one where only those who were there can corroborate the details that led to the repeal. Absent other personal testimonies, I have done my best to identify deviations from actual events following each dramatization.


On October 30th, 1971, Champaign police broke-up a Halloween party of mostly gay men at 614 W. Springfield in Champaign. I left the party alone and was walking home when a squad car passed by with three drag queens from the party in the back seat. I changed destinations and walked quickly to the Champaign Police Station.


BookImage.jpg

Dramatization of scene at police station[1] The drag queen Deidre(Darryl Greenwood) is a composition character who plays several roles in the novel and does not truly represent any of the drag queens arrested at the party.



Going to the Champaign City Council

On Tuesday, November 2nd, the Champaign-Urbana Gay Liberation Front held a meeting in the Illini Union to determine our response to the arrests.


BookImage.jpg

Dramatization of first GLF meeting after drag arrests[2] The composite character Deidre plays the role of the more activist drag queen of the three, but in the actual history, the drag queen known as Tina Twat was the one interested in pursuing the case. Negative attributes of Gloria and Doc are exaggerated to highlight a growing conflict of philosophies.


Despite disapproval by most members of the GLF, I attended the Champaign City Council meeting two weeks later and asked them to repeal the cross-dressing law.


BookImage.jpg

Dramatization of my speech before Champaign City Council on cross-dressing arrests[3] The text of my speech is based solely on my recollection. The snickering at the mention of 'gay liberation front' and raucous laughter at the mention of the word 'drag queen' are not exaggerated.


There is a long road between making a nice presentation to a governing body and getting a law changed. For that reason, the next Gay Liberation Front meeting turned out to be quite dramatic.


I Raise the Stakes to the Max

BookImage.jpg

Dramatization of GLF meeting after speech before Council on drag arrests[4] The referenced newspaper article was in the Urbana Courier which does not have a public archive, but I am attempting to get a copy.


Now that I was planning to chain myself to the podium at the next Champaign City Council meeting, I was censured by the Gay Liberation Front and persona non grata in the entire Champaign-Urbana gay community. Not content to leave bad-enough alone, I decided to raise the stakes yet again.


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Dramatization of GLF meeting over Thanksgiving holiday where I speak despite censure[5] I believe this representation to be quite accurate.


In addition to chaining myself to the podium, I was going to out a city father, one, I might add, who was reputed to have mob connections. That is demonstrated clearly in the following dramatization.


BookImage.jpg

Dramatization of meeting with William Stanley in Illini Union, December 1, 1971[6] There is no way to corroborate this scene. William Stanley is deceased as is the mobster played by Neddy Reisman. I wrote it as I remembered it.


With censure by the community, a death threat hanging over my head and should I survive, a jail sentence for chaining myself to the podium, the next few days were not very pleasant. They ended in a surrealistic sexual encounter that I will leave for readers of the book and a nervous breakdown on the next day. But all was not lost as the following dramatization shows.



Breakdown and Then a Miracle Happens

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Dramatization of hospital scene, December 5-7, 1971[7] The attributes and words of the doctor are complete fiction. The meeting with Paola is an accurate representation.


So Diana Peralta and I made it to the Champaign City Council meeting a few minutes late. Here is what happened:


BookImage.jpg

Dramatization of Champaign City Council, December 7, 1971[8] The mayor actually stopped in mid-sentence when Diana (Paola) and I entered the chambers and the ordinance passed within 60 seconds. The news account below has a councilman asking us to stay afterwards, but I distinctly remember it as the mayor, so left it that way in the novel.

Actual copy of the agenda from the December 7th, 1971 Champaign City Council meeting. Handwriting says: They ammended[sic] code when they feared the scene that the[sic] had been forewarned would occur if we attended the meeting: and we did, so they did.[9]


CouncilmanKissed2.jpg

CouncilmanKissed1.jpg

News-Gazette humorous account[10]



Revenge is Sweet

The experience was not humbling. I tasted power and was about to invoke revenge.


BookImage.jpg

Dramatization of GLF teach-in, December 7, 1971[11] A very dramatic scene represented accurately. Descriptions of Kathy McCabe (Gloria McMaster) are unfair and perhaps sexist, but an essential ingredient of the novel and a useful contrast to our future alliance.


Despite the acrimony between Kathy McCabe and myself, after the victory in Champaign, she wrote a letter to members of the Urbana City Council stressing the need for consistency in the laws between the twin cities. Several weeks later, Urbana followed suit and repealed their cross-dressing law.[12]


Exhibit Page Links


References

  1. Graubart, Jeff. 2009. The Quest for Brian, 4th Draft,2:37-41
  2. Graubart, Jeff. 2009. The Quest for Brian, 4th Draft,2:42-44
  3. Graubart, Jeff. 2009. The Quest for Brian, 4th Draft,2:46-47
  4. Graubart, Jeff. 2009. The Quest for Brian, 4th Draft,2:47-51
  5. Graubart, Jeff. 2009. The Quest for Brian, 4th Draft,2:56-57
  6. Graubart, Jeff. 2009. The Quest for Brian, 4th Draft,2:58-59
  7. Graubart, Jeff. 2009. The Quest for Brian, 4th Draft,2:68-69
  8. Graubart, Jeff. 2009. The Quest for Brian, 4th Draft,2:70-72
  9. Graubart, Jeff,2007,Archives,1971-8B-Agenda of Champaign council meeting where drag law repealed
  10. Dan Doran 1971, Councilman Gets A Kiss After New Dress Code OK'd, Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette, December 8th, Page 3
  11. Graubart, Jeff. 2009. The Quest for Brian, 4th Draft,2:72-74
  12. Dennis Sullivan 1972,Legislation Committee Calls for Prohibition of Burning, Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette, June 13th, Page 2

Contact Person

Jeff Graubart jeffgrau@rcn.com

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