Mark Forrester, San Francisco, December 9, 1976
Introduction: Forrester was a San Francisco activist in the early 1960s, involved with the Society for Individual Rights. As his remarks make clear, he claims to have been on the more militant, activist-oriented end of the spectrum in SIR, and after a few years he left the homophile movement and shifted to other forms of public activism, including working as a community organization in the War on Poverty.
Came to San Francisco, c. 1961. Ran into Hal Call, heard of Mattachine through him. “Couldn’t conceive of the homophile movement” as political.
By time of Society for Individual Rights, felt time had come for homosexual politics. “Intuitive.” “In 1963 or 1964 the time for change had arrived. It was a good time for us to begin thinking about a civil rights movement. After all, it was going on all over the country for blacks and there was a certain respectability connected with that…so you weren’t exactly alone.”
Knew Jim Foster. Foster, Beardemphl, Plath, himself began meeting—Mattachine didn’t provide forum—Hal Call operating a one man organization with Don Lucas as bookkeeper.
Mattachine contributed a lot to SIR—did the printing of literature; “A Brief of Injustices”; Office of Economic Opportunity briefs.
Forrester left homophile movement when he got involved in War on Poverty program. Not socially active before homophile movement. Traveling around the country in 1961. Unemployed a lot of the time in SF at first—odd jobs—could do what he wanted. Had time and freedom.
Guy Strait—saw him as a dirty old man, pain in the ass. SIR—people had different ideas; social, civil rights and liberties, politics, protect bars under harassment. Forrester wanted a strong membership organization, court cases for civil liberties, and political involvement: voter registration, issues, endorsements, walked precincts for candidates who would be indebted to gays.
Forrester: secretary at first; after about 2 years, left. Becoming a social club. Founders of SIR not a cohesive group. Lots of talking among pairs at first. Foster-Forrester. Foster-Beardemphl, also Plath. Talked with Call and Strait also. Decide it has to be independent.
Works with Council on Religion and the Homosexual; drafted A Brief of Injustices. CRH publishes it. Big difference came with CRH ball. Publicity negative for police department. Quickly noticed differences in police behavior. Within a year, steady decline in police harassment of bars.
Forrester moving force in getting SIR Community Center. “needed a visible manifestation of our existence.” Forrester more into political organizing; Beardemphl more into social. Hated bars, Tavern Guild, Bill Plath, Guy Strait. Self-serving, economic interests. Mostly disagreed with Beardemphl. Gets the War on Poverty job as an open homosexual.
NACHO, Kansas City, 1966. Never thought it had much of a chance. “noise and nonsense.”
Gays snarling at each other. “irreconcilable differences—egos!” Never went to others—didn’t think worth much.