Friday, March 4, 2011

Going to Mickey's Jailhouse. An Interlude.

We got married that Autumn of 1965 in Upper New York State on our way to take up my teaching position in the philosophy department at McGill University.  My honeymoon performance was less than spectacular; just as my fears had anticipated.  Sex got somewhat better, at least for me, over the next six years of marriage and was occasionally actually exciting. I suspect for my partner my sexual dexterity never measured up to what she had experienced with men more toward the heterosexual end of the Kinsey Scale, but it did indicate that my self-definition as a bisexual had some basis in fact, however unlikely it may seem to those who know me today. The first year of marriage required some adjustments in my expectations of roles between husband and wife.  Being a child of the fifties, I had envisioned a traditional relationship with myself being, principally' the bread-winner and my wife, principally, the homemaker.  As a couple we liked to occasionally rough-house together and I wasn't above using that play as an opportunity to demonstrate primordial male dominance.

When I first met my wife she was reading The Female Eunuch and continued reading feminist writings as they emerged in the sixties, so she, happily, had different ideas of what a marriage ought to be. She provided my first intellectual exposure to the early writings of the sexual liberation movement. I want to write further about the impact of those writings on the radical change that would occur to my sexual understanding of myself, but for now, a California interlude. There was another intellectual current that was moving me leftward at the time, which was the pacifism that was part of the progressive expression of Catholicism I had espoused. Its major intellectual spokespersons were Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. The Vietnam War was just beginning to escalate for the United States in the Summer of '66, as was opposition to the war that was, initially, mainly identified with the hippies.  The peace movement in it's more significant manifestation was, like most things, only available at a later date in Canada. My wife and I weren't prepared for the polarization that was beginning to form in the United States in relation to the War.

We went back to Claremont for that Summer so that my wife could finish writing her PhD dissertation. It wasn't just my thinking that had begun to move gradually, but decidedly, leftward through reading the seminal writers of liberation theology, the peace movement and, more recently, the sexual liberation movement; in addition, my sartorial and fashion style, such as it was, drifted toward hippie. I had shoulder length, blond hair and a weakness for paisley, bell bottoms and sandals. The photos you'll find on the Facebook page for L'Androgyne: gone, but not forgotten ( will give you some idea of the look, though the style you'll find there is a more Northern, darker, anarcho-politico me, rather than the earlier, sunnier me of peace and love.  I had no way of realizing until going back to the States that my fashion sense had become a political statement and many people didn't take to in a friendly way.

I've always had a weakness for Disneyland and never travel to Southern California with visiting the Magic Kingdom. This was not the Disneyland of today's Gay Days. Walt Disney, a reactionary, racist, Commie chaser, had recently died and his ghost still haunted the Magic Kingdom. Myself and my wife, pregnant with our first child, decided to spend the day there and passed without incident through the admission gates. She, too, was evolving into the style of a hippie wife with long, braided hair, beads and a granny skirt. We walked down Main Street USA feeling only slightly out of place and turned right toward Tomorrow Land and my favourite ride, Space Mountain.  What makes that roller coaster special is that the ride takes place mainly in the dark.

We had no sooner turned to the right than I found two, rather burley men on either side of me.  They emerged from a cunningly concealed tunnel, one of a network in Disneyland from which security personnel can emerge within minutes of an emergency and whisk hooligans or seriously injured visitors through those tunnels to a holding unit or medical station; in a manner calculated not to disturb the Disney Experience of other visitors. They politely informed me that, while I was welcome to go to Adventure Land, Frontier Land or Fantasy Land, I was forbidden entry to Tomorrow Land. I wondered if it was, perhaps, too threatening to project the presence of hippies into the future, but I only asked why; nearly always a mistake when dealing with security people. They replied that it was because of my appearance and for my own protection.  I objected that they had no right to keep me out of an area of Disneyland simply because of my appearance and, anyway, from whom or what were they protecting me?

Asking another question of the security people was another mistake; they became visibly less amused and asked that we come with them. Probably because I hadn't caused a commotion, though I was clearly not pleased, they walked us down Main Street USA, rather than snatching us into a hidden tunnel. People looked at us as though we might be visitors meriting a special escort. They led us the Town Hall on Town Square at the end of Main Street USA, where my wife was asked to wait on a park bench. I was taken through a side door in the brick facade of the faux. nineteenth century building, into a modern, well equipped security facility and to the office of the head of security. He was a rather rotund, not very jolly or amiable looking man, who accused me of not cooperating with his agents. I replied that I had been peacefully on my way to Space Mountain, along with hundreds of other people, when I was singled out and forbidden to go further, apparently, simply on the basis of how I looked. He smirked, didn't reply and asked to see my identification.

I gave him my driver's license, along with my McGill faculty card. When he looked at the latter there was a visible change toward a kinder, gentler demeanour, which turned out to be short-lived. He apologized and repeated that I had been asked not to go into Tomorrow Land for my own protection. Again, I asked from what and he said, "Some people might not like your appearance." I related that I'd been living just a few miles away, outside of Los Angeles, for several months and had never felt threatened because of my appearance. His reply was that there were many military bases around Disneyland and they had incidents of military personnel beating up people who looked like me because they supposed we were anti-War. Why Tomorrow Land? Because there was a dance pavilion there where soldiers, sailors and marines tended to gather to cruise women. I suggested that if it was the military who were attacking people just because they didn't like their appearance, perhaps it was the military personnel whose access to Disneyland should be limited. With that remark his kinder, gentler demeanour vanished and was replaced by his previous sneering one. "What? Deny our boys fighting a war for us to come here and enjoy themselves? Either leave immediately or I'll arrest you for trespassing." I did the prudent thing, went out and picked up my wife from her park bench in Town Square USA and left under the watchful eyes of the security people. We weren't offered a refund.

When we got back to Claremont I related what had happened to a professor who was on the board of the local American Civil Liberties Union and he offered to bring my experience to their attention. They were interested in pursuing it, but we were leaving California in a few weeks to return to Montreal, so it wasn't practical to accept their offer. The Disney experience was more amusing than formative in terms of my leftward drift. On the other hand, experiences involving racism in America, especially during my years in college at William and Mary, did have a significant impact on me; enough so that I think reference to those experiences is important in understanding my subsequent involvements with both the anti-Vietnam War movement and, subsequently, gay liberation.


  1. Bruce, I am learning so many fascinating things about you in your blog. You should write a biography.

  2. Thanks, Bill. I'm happy you're reading them. When I've been writing some of them I've imagined that you've shared some similar experiences.

  3. I have seen myself in a lot of the situations, but you have a gift for making them an interesting and elucidating read.