ADRIAN RAVAROUR         

VANGUARD, AMERICAN CATHOLIC CHURCH

In 1965, Adrian started the organization Vanguard. Vanguard was the first gay, youth liberation group in America. Vanguard organized the “Street Sweep” demonstration where its members cleaned up trash in the dirty streets and was a catalyst for the Compton Cafeteria Riots and the Doggie Diner Sit-In. All three of these events happened three years before Stonewall.
   

 

Reverend Cecil Williams gave me permission to hold ongoing Vanguard meetings at Glide Church because the street youth population was something that Reverend Williams and others were interested in. I wasn't charged rent for using their facilities. Throughout the time that I ran Vanguard, some kids had bad memories about churches and they didn't want to come to Glide for Vanguard meetings.
 

I held ongoing meetings once a week for ten months teaching gay rights. I took the premise of the civil rights movement and simply applied it to LGBT. I used the Socratic method to teach people the principle of their rights to equality, citing social contact, the rights of man and other examples of Dr. King, the French Revolution, the American Revolution, the preamble to the Constitution...

It applied to them as citizens of the United States. I was still a Mormon priest at 21 years old and I was a full-time staff member at Intersection: Center for Religion and the Arts. I was trying to help the mostly teenage kids. I was trying to get them to a come to the realization that they shouldn't feel downtrodden by society for being homosexual. I believed, and had long held in my beliefs, that being gay was fine. There was nothing wrong with it. I figured that out when I was in elementary school.

 

What happened was, when I was at work staffing Intersection, I met a street youth named Joel Williams who seemed like such an angelic soul. I liked him so much. He was the very first male I had sexual relations with. I asked him to be my mate and he said, I will be your mate on two conditions.

Vanguard Street Sweep 1966, Gus Bernadicou, August Bernadicou

Adrian is making The LGBTQ History Project print his “first statement,” “This is true to the best of my memory and ability to recall.”

“The joke I often make is, 'I never knew Vows of Poverty would work this well.' Of course, I cannot complain as I chose the life of a priest in 1959, 1966, 1967, 1968, 70s, 80s, 90s, 2000s, etc. Unfortunately, I took Vows of Obedience, Poverty and Chastity back in 1967. I wish that I could renounce the Vow of Poverty, not because I want to be wealthy but because I realized, through the last decade, if I had more money, rather than being dirt poor, I would be able to produce different works, present different programs and present other things to benefit people. Since I don't have the funds to take on these different projects, I haven't been able to do that. So, money is a tool that I do not have.
 

ADRIAN RAVAROUR AMERICAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

The two conditions were he didn’t want to live out by the beach, out in the Avenues, instead, he wanted me to stay at The El Rosa Hotel in the Tenderloin where he had a room. The second was, he wanted me to help with the discrimination the street youth experienced. Those were the two conditions for him to live in a monogamous relationship with me.

I then said, okay, but I won't help street—I won't help the hustlers or the prostitutes because, as a priest, I considered them immoral. Now bear in mind, there are a lot of immoral things in life but that's just one of them. But anyway, I just didn't want to do that. And he said, no, do that because everyone deserves your help and he pointed out that the people, the majority of the people who were working as sex workers, did it because they had no way to earn an income. They were homeless and it was simply that or die. The very next day, he had me go out on the street and we met the people and I began to hear their stories about what had happened to them, how'd they'd been thrown out of their homes or how they’d been disowned. I came to the realization that yes, they do, they deserve help.

 

As I ran the Vanguard meetings, they would not bring up stories about being hustlers because that always would rile me. My whole premise was that if I was able to help end the discrimination that was against the youth because they were gay, and that was the term we used then, they might be able to find work.

Even though there were all types of people, I realized that we had to have the same mindset. I wasn't a member, I was a teacher, but all the members had to have the mindset that they understood that they were entitled to equal treatment just as human beings because this is the way things should be. I used examples from history, from Greece, from earlier civilizations, from Rome, different writing about kings from the past, you can also go to Alexander the Great, etc.

 

Each hour-long Vanguard meeting was basically a training session where I asked them, 'What happened to you today?' They would tell me something that I could address and I would address it. I would then ask questions and ask someone else and they would give an answer and then I would say, 'What do you think?' And then they would start a dialogue and get to own the floor.

 

After the Compton's Cafeteria Riot, which actually was triggered by the morning’s Doggie Diner Sit-In, which I participated in, the plight of the LGBT community, particularly the transgender, became foremost and very public in a lot of people's minds. Then, people began to question themselves as to whether or not their attitude was an appropriate attitude to have.”