Our History: Love Knows No Color

After describing himself as “the unhappiest kid in the world,” Michael Adams falls in love and publishes it in the newsletter of Black and White Men Together.

After describing himself as “the unhappiest kid in the world,” Michael Adams falls in love and publishes it in the newsletter of Black and White Men Together.

“Mom, Dad; I’m Gay!” was the title of a two-part autobiographical essay that appeared in the April and May 1984 issues of the newsletter of Black and White Men Together-Milwaukee. This Milwaukee organization was formed in November 1980, a few months after the formation of the original chapter in San Francisco. The Milwaukee group showed the continued attention the Wisconsin gay community paid to national trends within the broader American gay community. It also showed the organizational ability of Wisconsin’s gay community. Some of its members included early activists in Milwaukee like Alyn Hess.

The Milwaukee chapter was active for the better part of two decades, describing itself as, “an interracial support group providing social and consciousness-raising opportunities.” Social in nature, the organization was also active politically and supported the passage of Wisconsin’s gay rights law. Invited speakers to its meetings included State Representatives Marcia Coggs and Tim Carpenter and State Senator Gary George.

In 1987 Milwaukee hosted the convention of the National Association of Black and White Men Together. The convention theme was “Celebrating Our Life, Liberty and Happiness,” with 30 chapters expected to attend. The keynote speaker was Calvin Hernton, author of Sex and Racism in America (1966). The banquet speaker was Joseph Beam, editor of In The Life (1986), an anthology of 29 writers who explored what it meant to be both black and gay. A memorial tribute was held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church for Maximillian Kolbe, a Franciscan friar who wore the pink triangle in the Nazi concentration camps where he died.

Michael Adams, who wrote the 1984 article, “Mom, Dad; I’m Gay!” was a black teenager who chronicled his struggles to come out to himself, his family and his community. He first believed he had emotional problems but came to realize “that I didn’t have any real problems at all. What I had was desires that needed to be fulfilled. And that’s how the White boy down the street came into the situation.” When his home and school situation became worse he was tempted runaway but instead went to a social service agency. There he found information on the Farwell Center operated by the Milwaukee gay community. Still he felt, “at a triple disadvantage: I was a minor, Black, and Gay.”

When he heard about a gay convention at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee (UWM) where a black man told him about Gay Youth Milwaukee which met at UWM. He became a regular at their meetings. He also tried to go out every night and weasel his way into bars and described himself at this time as being “the unhappiest kid in the world.”

Family troubles increased, which he attributed to being “a classic sissy.” In school he wrote poetry, and his teachers thought him creative. Trying to communicate and be intimate with one his teachers backfired.

He began to live on the streets, where he was afraid of being hurt, “and believe me, the streets are nothing but one BIG hurt. As a result, I ended up feeling cold and alone, and ready to give up on everything, and last but not least, even love.”

But that’s not the end of the story. At the time of his writing he had found a “wonderful” man who helped him lower those tough defenses learned on the street. “Now life has finally become a reality for me through love, understanding and communication.” He also expressed a wider appreciation. “Maybe my earlier problems and confusion can be blamed on my rebellious attitude and strong-headedness. But only recently have I received any meaningful moral support. There had been others from the start, and they know who they are, and at this time I thank all of them. And I say as their friend, ‘I love you all.’”