Jack Nichols, 1938 - 2005

Bill Weintraub

Bill Weintraub

Jack Nichols, 1938 - 2005


Dear Friends,

Jack Nichols, a pioneer in the early gay rights movement and in Gay Liberation, died today.

Among many other achievements, it was Jack, along with Franklin Kameny, who, way back in 1962, persuaded the Mattachine Society to abandon the medical model of homosexuality; in the early 70s he was editor of GAY, the first gay weekly newsmagazine; and from 1997 to 2004 he served as editor of GayToday, the online zine.

In that last capacity, Jack, in 2000, enthusiastically published my essay Frot: The Next Sexual Revolution, and then solicited the Interview titled Cockrub Warrior: Bill Weintraub.

Simply put, there was no one else in the gay press at the time, nor today, who would have done what Jack did for the Frot Movement.

Yet it was only what he'd done for countless other gay Americans: he gave us a voice.

Jack was a pioneer in the gay movement, in the men's movement, and, in a sense, through those acts of publishing, in the Frot Movement as well.

Jack Nichols' courage changed the lives of men everywhere; and there is not a man today, whether gay-, bi-, or straight-identified, who is not in some way in Jack Nichols' debt.

Said William Pinyon:

It seems like such a paradox to look backward and forward at the same time; but, the significance of the achievements of Jack Nichols exists in that very contradiction. Without his past we have nothing on which to build our future. Without the future, his past would have no opportunity to shine.

We owe it to Jack and all those others who've come before us to make sure his past does have that opportunity to shine.

Jack was a courageous and fearless fighter for the truth.

We can best honor his memory by being and doing the same.

Jack Nichols

1938 - 2005

Bill Weintraub

Greg Milliken

Re: Jack Nichols, 1938 - 2005


I'm sorry to hear about the loss of such a great person. We should take the loss of someone who gave the frot movement a voice as an event which strengthens our resolve to be heard and accepted. I see that enormous steps have been taken in the past several years to promote frot, and the site keeps growing. Let the future of the frot movement shine on.

Bill Weintraub

Re: Jack Nichols, 1938 - 2005


Thanks Greg.

There was also a news story obit in the New York Times today.

Problem is that Times' obits of early gay leaders like Jack tend to be inaccurate.

That's because throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s, when guys like Jack were most active, the Times was resolutely anti-gay and refused to cover the gay movement.

As the Times reporter who did my own lover's obit back in 1995 said to me, "Hey, I don't even have any clips on the guy."

Right I said -- because your paper wasn't following the story.

Coincidentally, Kenneth Clark, the great and pioneering Black psychologist whose studies of the effects of "separate but equal" school systems on African-American children helped convince the Supreme Court in Brown v Board of Education, died a few days before Jack.

In those studies, Clark used dolls to measure self-esteem in Black and white kids.

The Times obit on Dr. Clark related this incident from those studies:

On another occasion, Dr. Clark was in rural Arkansas and when he asked one black child which doll was most like him, the little boy smiled and pointed to the brown doll and replied: "That's a nigger. I'm a nigger." Dr. Clark said he found that "as disturbing, or more disturbing, than the children in Massachusetts who would refuse to answer the question or who would cry and run out of the room."

We recognize today, as Dr. Clark did then, that that self-identification as "a nigger" is cultural:

The Black child was not born believing he was "a nigger," he was *taught* that he was such.

What would happen today if we did a similar test with gay male kids, showing them two dolls: one stereotypically masculine, the other effeminate?

I think many of those kids would choose the effeminate doll.

That too is cultural and learned.

It's not innate.

Gay men who don't recognize that are buying into their own oppression.

Were there Black people in the 30s 40s and 50s who thought that Blacks were by nature servile?


Back in the 50s and 60s, most gay men believed that they were mentally ill.

Jack fought that self-perception, and that was without question his great achievement.

It's also why he was sympathetic to my argument in Frot: The Next Sexual Revolution.

Jack understood the power of culture, and the way it shapes sexual behavior.

Thus Jack's first question to me in his follow-up Interview:

Bill, I remember a time, the 1950s, when anal sex was talked about only in whispers in the nation's capital where I came out at thirteen and grew to be twenty-nine. The 1950s and early 1960s were big on oral sex. People who invited anal sex were called by a pejorative name, "brownie queens."

And, continued Jack,

I vividly remember many gay men in those days gossiping with this tidbit: "Well, he's a brownie queen, you know." Anal sex, truly, was not chic. That's when I began realizing that no sex acts are written in stone. We change -- even from decade to decade! Isn't that what you're saying too?


The world is poorer for the loss of men like Jack and Kenneth Clark.

According to the Times, Dr. Clark was discouraged at the end of his life about our nation's uneven progress in integration:

He said a lack of meaningful progress could be blamed on blacks who saw themselves only as victims and on whites too narrow-minded to recognize their own self-interest in black success. As whites become a minority in a polyglot country, he was asked, won't they see that it is in their interest that blacks succeed?

"They're not that bright," he replied. "I don't think you can expect whites to understand the effects of prejudice and discrimination against blacks affecting them. If whites really understood, they would do something about it."


Jack was by nature I think an optimist -- you had to be to be openly gay when he was.

But there's also a big difference between the situation of gay Americans and that of African-Americans:

Homosexuality is a constant of human behavior, and most people have a gay relative or friend.

Whereas most white folks, of course, do not have a Black relative.

That's why, once AIDS had forced many gay men out of the closet, gays were able to progress so quickly.

Which is also why less generous Black folks, like Ken Hutcherson, the oafish religious right preacher up in Seattle, are so incensed by homosexuality.

Indeed, Hutcherson makes no bones about his sour grapes.

Which might be okay in an ordinary person, but in a would-be evangelist is truly appalling.

As Arthur Evans says, and as Jack would have agreed, "The struggle continues."


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