Labor Gay

(Man-on-man sex, with a photo that just barely doesn’t have any genitalia in it, so not for kids or the sexually modest)

Today is the Saturday of the US Labor Day weekend — the actual holiday is on Monday — and so there are sales on almost everything imaginable, including of course gay porn. This year TitanMen is offering a holiday pun — Labor Gay — for the occasion, in an ad showing two pornstars hard at work, laboring at their job:

(#1) Well yes, there are the facial expressions: the receptive partner is facially an Ecstatic (a man abandoned to the experience, mouth gaping and face contorted, often to the point where intense pleasure and pain are hard to distinguish), while — relevant to the day — the insertive partner is facially a Man At Work (focused seriously on the job at hand); but the ad is here because of that pun, which invites us to consider actual labor gays: gay people in labor movements

(Some regular readers of this blog will be disappointed to hear that this is the end of the anal intercourse portion of today’s program: from here on, it’s all politics and history and media coverage.)

As for labor gays, there have been many of them. In the US, notably Bayard Rustin, a gay Black exponent of nonviolence, a labor organizer, and one of the architects of MLK’s 1963 March on Washington that we are now celebrating the 60th anniversary of. For a long time a disregarded figure in the civil rights movement because he was openly gay. Though John D’Emilio wrote a remarkable 2003 book appreciating the man, the conduct of his life, and his achievements — and Rustin has now gotten a full biopic, scheduled to be released in November.

First, the outlines of Rustin’s life. Then, D’Emilio’s book. Finally, the movie.

Rustin in Wikipedia. The life in summary:

Bayard Rustin (March 17, 1912 – August 24, 1987) was an African American leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, nonviolence, and gay rights.

Rustin worked with A. Philip Randolph [AZ: the organizer, in 1925, and first leader of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first successful African-American-led labor union] on the March on Washington Movement, in 1941, to press for an end to racial discrimination in employment. Rustin later organized Freedom Rides, and helped to organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to strengthen Martin Luther King Jr.’s leadership and teaching King about nonviolence; he later served as an organizer for the [1963] March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Rustin worked alongside Ella Baker, a co-director of the Crusade for Citizenship, in 1954; and before the Montgomery bus boycott, he helped organize a group, called “In Friendship”, amongst Baker, Stanley Levison of the American Jewish Congress, and some other labor leaders. “In Friendship” provided material and legal assistance to those being evicted from their tenant farms and households in Clarendon County, Yazoo, and other places. Rustin became the head of the AFL–CIO’s A. Philip Randolph Institute, which promoted the integration of formerly all-white unions and promoted the unionization of African Americans. During the 1970s and 1980s, Rustin served on many humanitarian missions, such as aiding refugees from Vietnam and Cambodia. At the time of his death in 1987, he was on a humanitarian mission in Haiti.

D’Emilio’s 2003 book. From his Introduction:

(#2) The US book cover

I knew that Rustin was gay when I began to study his life. It was an important part of what attracted me to his story. I had already written about the history of homosexuality in America, and I knew the intensity of persecution directed not only at Communists and fellow travelers during the McCarthy era but at sexual nonconformists as well. I also knew that Rustin had been convicted for public lewdness in the 1950s and that in the final days before the March on Washington, segregationists exposed the incident. Yet I assumed that “the closet” was so sturdily constructed at this time and that habits of discretion in sexual matters operated so pervasively that Rustin’s sexuality would serve at most as an interesting backdrop to the public career. I expected it to be tucked into the corner marked “private life” and imagined that it would only occasionally intervene in the telling of his story.

I now know differently. The boundary between public and private proved very porous in Rustin’s life. As I dug through the evidence and interviewed those who knew him, it became abundantly clear that his sexuality — or, more accurately, the stigma that American society attached to his sexual desires — made him forever vulnerable. Again and again, Rustin found his aspirations blocked, his talents contained, and his influence marginalized. Yes, he also found ways to carve out a significant role in the movements he held dear. But he had to find ways to do this so that unpredictable eruptions of homophobia might not harm these causes. It is little wonder that so few Americans today know who he is.

And the disavowal of Rustin continues. As I write this introduction, parents of school-aged children in his hometown of West Chester, Pennsylvania [where he was raised as a Quaker], are rebelling against proposals to rename the local high school after its most accomplished alumnus. [AZ in 2023: in fact, the district got its West Chester Bayard Rustin High School (construction beginning in 2003, opening in 2006)]

The book that I have written is not what I had originally intended. It still has much to say about the 1960s and the stirring events of that decade. But any thoughts I entertained that Bayard Rustin could be a vehicle for my purposes long ago fell victim to the dramatic nature of his story. Lost Prophet is centrally about Rustin — the impact he had on events and the struggles he faced to sustain a role for himself in the most important movements of his times. To take Rustin seriously — and, trust me, he insists that we do take him seriously — requires paying as much attention to the decades when he toiled in obscurity as to the 1960s, when he had his moment as a national figure.

A biographer could not ask for a more compelling subject than Rustin. His story is heroic and harrowing. It abounds with triumphs and trials. It combines the narrative contours of the saint and the sinner. Rustin displays courage under circumstances that are terrifying to contemplate. His life reminds us that the most important stories from the past are often those that have been forgotten and that from obscure origins can emerge individuals with the power to change the world.

He is no longer an obscure figure. Now we have:

The 2023 movie. From Wikipedia:

(#3) On the left, the actual Bayard Rustin; on the right, Colman Domingo as Rustin in the biopic

Rustin is a 2023 American biographical drama film directed by George C. Wolfe, from a screenplay by Julian Breece and Dustin Lance Black, and a story by Breece about the life of civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. It is produced by Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company Higher Ground Productions. The film stars Colman Domingo in the title role, alongside Chris Rock, Glynn Turman, Aml Ameen, CCH Pounder, Michael Potts, Jeffrey Wright and Audra McDonald. It is based on the true story of gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, who helped Martin Luther King Jr. and others organize the 1963 March on Washington.

Rustin premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on August 31, 2023, and is slated for the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival on September 13, 2023. It is scheduled to be released in select theaters on November 3, 2023, before its streaming release on November 17, 2023, by Netflix.

I’m hoping it’s released soon on DVD, where I’ll be able to watch it.


One Response to “Labor Gay”

  1. Sim Aberson Says:

    I recently read the novel My Government Means to Kill Me by Rasheed Newson. It’s about Earl “Trey” Singleton III, a wealthy, Young Black man from Indianapolis who goes to New York City around the start of the AIDS crisis. He meets a lot of interesting (real) people, including Bayard Rustin, who plays a major part in the novel. Lots of steamy sex, too, since a lot of it takes place in a bathhouse. Highly recommended.

Leave a Reply