Arthur Evans (author)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For other persons named Arthur Evans, see Arthur Evans (disambiguation).
Arthur Scott Evans
Born (1942-10-12)October 12, 1942
York, Pennsylvania
Died September 11, 2011(2011-09-11) (aged 68)
San Francisco, California
Pen name Arthur Evans
Occupation gay rights activist, author
Language English
Nationality United States
Citizenship United States
Education Brown University, City College of New York, Columbia University
Alma mater City College of New York
Partner Arthur Bell (1964-1971), Jacob Schraeter (1972-1981)

Arthur Scott Evans (October 12, 1942, York, Pennsylvania – September 11, 2011, San Francisco, California) was an early gay rights advocate and author, most well known for his 1978 book Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

When Evans graduated from public high school in 1960, he received a four-year scholarship from the Glatfelter Paper Company in York to study chemistry at Brown University. While at Brown, Evans and several friends founded the Brown Freethinkers Society, describing themselves as "militant atheists" seeking to combat the harmful effects of organized religion.

The society picketed the weekly chapel services at Brown, then required of all students, and urged students to stand in silent protest against compulsory prayer. National news services picked up the story, which appeared in a local York newspaper.

As a result, the paper company informed Evans that his scholarship was cancelled. Evans contacted Joseph Lewis, the elderly millionaire who headed the national Freethinkers Society. Lewis threatened the paper company with a highly publicized lawsuit if the scholarship were revoked. The company relented, the scholarship continued, and Evans changed his major from chemistry to political science.

Move to New York City[edit]

Evans withdrew from Brown and moved to Greenwich Village, which he later described it as the best move he ever made in his life.

In 1963, Evans discovered gay life in Greenwich Village, and in 1964 became lovers with Arthur Bell who later became a columnist for The Village Voice. In 1966, Evans was admitted to City College of New York, which accepted all his credits from Brown University.

Evans participated in his first sit-in on May 13, 1966, when students occupied the administration building of City College in protest against the college's involvement in Selective Service. A picture of the students, including Evans, appeared the next day on the front page of The New York Times.

In 1967, after graduating with a BA degree from City College, Evans was admitted into the doctoral program in philosophy at Columbia University, specializing in ancient Greek philosophy. His doctoral advisor was Paul Oskar Kristeller, one of the world’s leading authority on Renaissance humanist philosophy. Kristeller had studied under Karl Jaspers and Martin Heidegger in Germany but fled to the US after his parents were killed in the Holocaust.

Evans participated in many anti-war protests during these years, including the celebrated upheaval at Columbia in the spring of 1968. In 1967, Evans signed a public statement declaring his intention to refuse to pay income taxes in protest against the U.S. war against Vietnam.[3] He also participated in the protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. While at Columbia, Evans joined the Student Homophile League, founded by Nino Romano and Stephen Donaldson, although Evans himself was still closeted. On December 21, 1969, Evans, Marty Robinson, and several others met to found the early gay rights group Gay Activists Alliance.[4]

In November 1970, Robinson and Evans, along with Dick Leitsch of the Mattachine Society, appeared on The Dick Cavett Show, making them among the first openly gay activists to be prominently featured on a national TV program. In 1971, Evans and Bell separated. Bell died from complications of diabetes in 1984.

Move to Washington[edit]

By the end of 1971, Evans had become alienated from urban life and the academic world. With a second lover, Jacob Schraeter, he left New York in April 1972 to seek a new, countercultural existence in the countryside.

Evans, Schraeter, and a third gay man formed a group called the "Weird Sisters Partnership". They bought a 40-acre spread of land on a mountain in Washington State, which they named New Sodom. Evans and Schraeter lived there in tents during summers.

During winter months in Seattle, Evans continued research that he had begun in New York on the underlying historical origins of the counterculture, particularly in regard to sex. In 1973, he began publishing some of his findings in the gay journal Out and later in Fag Rag. He also wrote a column on the political strategy of zapping for The Advocate, the gay newspaper.

Move to San Francisco[edit]

In 1974, Evans and Schraeter moved into an apartment at the corner of Haight and Ashbury Streets in San Francisco, in which Evans remained until he died. Schraeter returned to New York in 1981 and died from AIDS in 1989.

In the fall of the 1975, Evans formed a new pagan-inspired spiritual group in San Francisco, the Faery Circle. The Circle combined countercultural consciousness, gay sensibility, and ceremonial playfulness.

In early 1976 he gave a series of public lectures based on his research on the historical origins of the gay counterculture; these "Faeries" lectures took place at 32 Page Street, an early San Francisco gay community center. In 1978 he published this material in his groundbreaking book Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture, which analyzed evidence that many people accused of "witchcraft" and "heresy" during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance were persecuted for their sexuality and ancient pagan practices.

Evans also was active in Bay Area Gay Liberation (BAGL) and the San Francisco Gay Democratic Club, which later became the vehicle through which Harvey Milk rose to political prominence.

In the late 1970s, Evans became upset at the pattern of butch conformity that was then overtaking gay men in the Castro neighborhood. Adopting the nom de plume "The Red Queen", he distributed a series of controversial satirical leaflets on the subject. In a leaflet titled Afraid You’re Not Butch Enough? (1978) he skewered those who pursued hypermasculine bodies and wardrobes as "zombies" and "clones", presaging the "Castro clone" moniker.

Later writings and activism[edit]

In 1984 Evans directed a production at the Valencia Rose Cabaret in San Francisco of his own new translation, from ancient Greek, of the Euripides play The Bacchae. The hero of Euripides' play is the Greek god Dionysos, the patron of homosexuality. In 1988, this translation, with Evans' commentary on the historical significance of the play, was published by St. Martin’s Press as The God of Ecstasy: Sex-Roles and the Madness of Dionysos.

As AIDS began to spread in 1980s, Evans became active in several groups that later became ACT UP/SF. Evans was HIV-negative. With his close friend, the late Hank Wilson, Evans was arrested while demonstrating against pharmaceutical companies making AIDS drugs, accusing the companies of price-gouging.

In 1988, Evans began work on a nine-year project on philosophy. Thanks to a grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission, it was published in 1997 as Critique of Patriarchal Reason and included artwork by San Francisco artist Frank Pietronigro. The book is an overview of Western philosophy from ancient times to the present, showing how misogyny and homophobia have influenced the supposedly objective fields of formal logic, higher mathematics, and physical science. Evans' former advisor at Columbia University, Dr. Kristeller, called the work "a major contribution to the study of philosophy and its history."

In his later years, Evans devoted much time to improving neighborhood safety in the Haight-Ashbury district. As part of that effort he wrote a series of scathing reports, "What I Saw at the Supes Today", which he distributed free on the Internet.

Death[edit]

Diagnosed in October 2010 with an aortic aneurysm, Evans died in his Haight-Ashbury apartment of a massive heart attack on September 11, 2011.

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Archival Sources[edit]

External links[edit]