BY LUCK OR FATE, I met and had a brief but intense love affair with one of the most important founders of the Gay Liberation movement—Carl Wittman (1943–1986). While not as well known today as Harry Hay (1912-2002) or Bayard Rustin (1910-87), Carl was a consequential early liberationist, known for his “Gay Manifesto,” his work as a cofounder of the pioneering gay magazine RFD, his shaping of a radical faerie consciousness and nature-centered spirituality, and his radically gay lifestyle. Like Henry David Thoreau or Walt Whitman, Carl Wittman was quintessentially American.
We met by looking through a small hole drilled into the metal partition between adjoining stalls in a men’s room on the U-Cal Berkeley campus in February of 1969. Within an hour we had consummated our meeting at my nearby apartment. These days a men’s restroom probably sounds like a seedy place to meet, but in 1969 it was a primary way (other than bars, which I hated) of meeting a fellow traveler. Both of us were married to women at the time, but during our three-month affair, Carl’s marriage broke up and mine came to the brink of dissolution.