The dream of a gay nation was born in the “heroic age” that followed the Stonewall Uprising (1969-1971), when militants tried to imitate the work of Zionists and other nationalists to create an autonomous “gay nation.” L. Craig Schoonmaker, head of the aptly-named Homosexuals Intransigent!, argued that gays could never achieve equality as permanent minorities in a country where the straight majority rules.
According to Donn Teal’s activist history, The Gay Militants, Schoonmaker urged gays to “become the majority” by designating “certain geographical areas for demographic takeover by homosexuals. We should leave the farms and villages, the small towns and small cities, and come to specific neighborhoods of specific big cities. We should take over entire election districts and cities, and vote our people in to speak militantly for our rights. The blacks have done it. Puerto Ricans, Italians, Irish, and others too. It works.”
Schoonmaker’s plan was to “create a homosexual majority in Manhattan’s 19th and 20th Congressional Districts — which we have designated the ‘First Gay-Power District.’”
Schoonmaker’s master plan did not go well with other activists, who were involved with more pressing and practical issues. Dick Leitsch, at the time president of the New York Mattachine Society, complained that “Craig Schoonmaker wanted to agitate for a gay homeland. I told him, we have one already. It’s called Cherry Grove [Fire Island].”
Meanwhile, on the Left Coast, activist Don Jackson had what Teal called a “broader, non-city dream of gay takeover to establish a gay counter-culture, a refuge for persecuted homosexuals, and a gay tourist Mecca.”
“I have a recurring daydream,” Jackson said. “I imagine a place where gay people can be free. A place where there is no job discrimination, police harassment or prejudice. A place where love rules instead of hate. A beautiful valley in the mountains, remote enough from cities so we will not be hassled, yet close enough so transportation is rapid. A place where a gay government can build the base for a flourishing gay counter-culture and city.”
Jackson’s daydream was to take over Alpine County, at the time a sparsely-populated rural enclave in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, and turn it into a “Stonewall Nation.”
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Alas, Los Angeles’ press-hungry activists Morris Kight and Don Kilhefner took this idea of a “Stonewall Nation” and turned it into a huge publicity stunt, which frightened the conservative residents of Alpine County into passing ordinances that would prevent a possible gay takeover.
More recently — on June 14, 2004, to be exact — gay Australian activists who never heard of Craig Schoonmaker or Don Jackson expressed their dissatisfaction with Australia’s ban on same-sex marriage by taking over Cato Island, an uninhabited islet in Australia’s Coral Sea Island Territory, and declaring it to be an independent “gay kingdom.”
Renamed “The Island of Heaven,” Cato Island became the capital of “the Gay & Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands,” complete with a rainbow flag and an upside-down pink triangle as its coat of arms. It was the most momentous event of its kind since the 1980s, when Key West “seceded” from the Union and briefly became “the Conch Republic.”
Critics called “the Gay & Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands” a publicity stunt or a joke.
Whatever it was, it was in the fine tradition of LGBT militancy. On “independence day” (June 14) the founders of the gay kingdom raised the rainbow flag on Cato Island and sent the governor general of Australia a formal notice of independence.
The kingdom’s “Declaration of Independence,” posted on its website, is a long, ponderous tract which obviously owes much to Thomas Jefferson’s more famous (and shorter) Declaration. A “Gay Constitution” was also concocted, which declared the island to be a constitutional monarchy.
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Australian activist Dale Parker Anderson (who, we are told, is a direct descendant of England’s gay King Edward II) became “His Imperial Majesty Dale I, Emperor of the Gay & Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands.” (Nothing less than an Emperor would do.) Needless to say, the Australian government has refused to recognize this new gay kingdom in the Coral Sea.
Undaunted, the founders of the Gay & Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands proceeded to bestow upon itself all of the accouterments of modern nationhood.
“I am what I am,” as sung by Gloria Gaynor, was named the national anthem and “the Pink Dollar” became the national currency. The Kingdom also produced “camp postage stamps” to be sold as fundraisers.
Meanwhile, “His Majesty’s gay government” announced plans to give diplomatic recognition to [the] nations of Taiwan and Tibet,” to legalize euthanasia, and to open its borders “to gay immigration and in gathering of gay exiles. Every homosexual now has the right to emigrate to the kingdom [on the Gayflower] and after his arrival should he desire to settle here may obtain permanent residence status.
The Kingdom will also be a tax haven and will derive its income from other means.” On military matters, “the Kingdom has declared itself neutral; it does however have a small army of gay activists located around the world it can call on in times of emergency.” Finally, “the Gay Kingdom has Consulates located in the major cities of most states and nations in the world. Most of the Consulates are located in the offices of the gay press of these nations.”
The Emperor Dale assured the Sydney Star Observer that “we’re very serious about” the Gay & Lesbian Kingdom. “The [Australian] government’s obviously not going to recognize it but if we can force them to do something about it, then they can’t ignore it.” Without taxes, the gay kingdom will have to depend on tourism for its income, though His Imperial Majesty admits that “it’s a bit hard to get there because there’s no harbor and you have to park the boat off the reef and wait for a wave.”
Alas, like too many LGBT groups before or since, the Gay Government soon split over personalities and procedures; and “queer republicans” tried to overthrow the Emperor Dale. Since 2005, several factions have seceded from the Kingdom and gone their own gay ways, forming the Gay and Lesbian Commonwealth Kingdom and the Unified Gay Tribe in the United States and the Gay Homeland Foundation in Germany.
Recently the group Planting Peace, led by the LGBT ally Aaron Jackson, visited Antarctica and “claimed” it as “the world’s first LGBT-friendly continent,” raising the rainbow and transgender pride flags over the ice to the bemusement of the native penguins and seals. Meanwhile there is nothing left of “the Gay & Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands” but a website, a Facebook page and a Yahoo group.
— A version of this article first appeared in GayToday.com.