Arthur Evans (author)
Arthur Scott Evans
|Born||October 12, 1942|
York, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Died||September 11, 2011 (aged 68)|
San Francisco, California, U.S.
|Pen name||Arthur Evans|
|Occupation||Gay rights activist, author|
|Education||Brown University, City College of New York, Columbia University|
|Alma mater||City College of New York|
Arthur Scott Evans (October 12, 1942 – September 11, 2011) was an early gay rights advocate and author, best known for his 1978 book Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture. Politically active in New York City in the 1960s and early 1970s, he and his partner began a homestead in Washington state in 1972, then later moved to San Francisco where he became a fixture in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. In his later years, Evans remained politically active and continued as a translator and academic. His 1997 book Critique of Patriarchal Reason argued that misogyny had influenced "objective" fields such as logic and physics.
Early life and education
Evans was born on October 12, 1942 in York, Pennsylvania. His father was a factory worker, while his mother ran a beauty shop in the front of their family home. Evans graduated from public high school in 1960, afterwards receiving a four-year scholarship from the Glatfelter Paper Company in York to study chemistry at Brown University. Evans and several friends founded the Brown Freethinkers Society, a group of self-professed "militant atheists" working against organized religion, which picketed Brown's required weekly chapel services. The story was picked up nationally. As a result, the paper company canceled Evans' scholarship, and Evans contacted Joseph Lewis, president of the Freethinkers Society, and Lewis threatened the paper company with a lawsuit if the scholarship were dropped. The scholarship stayed in place, with Evans switching to a major in political science. Evans withdrew from Brown and moved to Greenwich Village in 1963, which he later described as the best move he ever made in his life. Evans was admitted to City College of New York in 1966, switching his major to philosophy from political science, and graduating in 1967. He afterwards joined the doctoral program at Columbia in philosophy, where he focused on ancient Greek philosophy while continuing to take part in protests. His doctoral advisor was Paul Oskar Kristeller.
Career in writing and activism
New York City
He became politically active in the 1960s, participating in his first sit-in on May 13, 1966, when he and other students occupied the administration building of City College in protest against the college's involvement in Selective Service. He also participated in a number of anti-war protests, including the 1968 Columbia protests. 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. 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.
He was not at the Stonewall Riots in 1969, but they did fuel him into a "militant fervor," according to the New York Times, and inspired him to join the Gay Liberation Front along with Arthur Bell. Within GLF, he co-created a cell called the Radical Study Group to examine the history of homophobia and sexism, with participants including Evans, Bell, John Lauritsen, Larry Mitchell, and Steve Dansky. However, he and others felt the group was not coherent and assertive enough, and also that it was diluting its effectiveness by focusing on issues such as racial discrimination and the Vietnam War. On December 21, 1969, Evans, Marty Robinson, and several others met to found the early gay rights group Gay Activists Alliance, with a more aggressive ethos than GLF and 12 starting members. Evans wrote the group's statement of purpose, as well as much of its constitution. Based out of New York, the group used methods such as "zaps" to draw attention to discrimination, confronting Mayor John V. Lindsay and demonstrating against legislation of the time, for example a regulation at the time requiring gay people to get approval from a psychiatrist before being allowed to drive a taxi. Evans was often arrested for the zaps.
Although not yet out as gay to his family, in November 1970, he appeared on The Dick Cavett Show with other leaders Marty Robinson, along with Dick Leitsch of the Mattachine Society, making them among the first openly gay activists to be prominently featured on a national TV program.
Withdrawing from Columbia in 1972, in 1972, Evans and his lover Jacob Schraeter left New York, purchasing a 40-acre (16-hectare) plot of forest in northeastern Washington state. Naming the land New Sodom and living in tents during the summers, Evans, Schraeter, and a third member formed the Weird Sisters Partnership group, named after the trio in Macbeth, a homesteading collective seeking self-sufficiency, with the group living off wild berries and vegetables. During winter months in Seattle, Evans continued research that he had begun in New York on the underlying historical origins of the counterculture, focusing in part on the sexual history of the counterculture. He published some of his research in 1973 in the journal Out, and later in Fag Rag. The Advocate also published a column written by Evans on the political strategy of zapping.
Years in San Francisco
When the Washington living experiment "failed," he and his companion moved to San Francisco, and Evans in 1974 moved into an apartment at the corner of Haight and Ashbury Streets. Opening a Volkswagen repair business called the Buggery, Evans also began writing a book on homophobia and persecution in the Middle Ages. In 1975, he formed the Faery Circle in San Francisco. The gay pagan-inspired group was devoted to ritual play, and later influenced the Radical Faeries. Evans has described the group as bringing together "gay sensibility, neo-paganism, and a sheer Whitmanesque celebration of the body and of sex." At 32 Page Street, an early San Francisco gay community center, in early 1976 he gave a series of public "Faeries" lectures based on his research on the historical origins of the gay counterculture.
In 1978 he published his recent research in Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture: A Radical View of Western Civilization and Some of the People it Has Tried to Destroy, which analyzed evidence that many people accused of "witchcraft" and "heresy" during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance were specifically persecuted for their sexuality and ancient pagan practices. Published by the independent Boston imprint Fag Rag Books, the work considered, among other topics, early Celtic rituals and their connection with sexual traditions in gay culture. Historian Rollan McCleary has referred to the book as an "influential cult classic." Others have noted the book's cultural import, describing it "less a history of persecution than it is an invocational litany or an aggrieved magical treatise on the failures of patriarchal liberalism and industrial socialism to adequately recognize and protect the lives of gay people." Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture was "an apposite resource on the history of social oppression." where Evans argues that magic is an "inherently collective activity, depending for its practice on group song, dance, sex and ecstasy." A poem from the book was included on the 2014 album Why Do The Heathen Rage? by The Soft Pink Truth. A planned re-release with the title The Lady Rises in the East was eventually published with other collected materials under the title The Evans Symposium: Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture and Moon Lady Rising in 2018.
Among other groups, Evans was involved with the Bay Area Gay Liberation (BAGL) and the San Francisco Gay Democratic Club. In the late 1970s, Evans became known for distributing his own satirical pamphlets under the nom de plume "The Red Queen." The pamphlets, including one in 1978 titled "Afraid You’re Not Butch Enough?", satirized what Evans saw as a growing pattern of butch conformity overtaking gay men in the Castro neighborhood, presaging the "Castro clone" moniker. Against the "hyper-masculine Castro clone identity" drawing men in during the disco era, he continued his research into faeries and male involvement in Western spiritual traditions.
Later writings and activism
With the onset of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, Evans became involved with several groups, which converged into ACT UP/SF. He was once arrested while protesting the price-increases on AIDS drugs by pharmaceutical companies along with his friend Hank Wilson.
He directed a 1984 production at the Valencia Rose Cabaret in San Francisco using his own translation of The Bacchae by Euripides, which features Dionysos, patron of homosexuality. The translation along with his commentary were published in New York by St. Martin's Press as The God of Ecstasy in 1988.
He began work on a nine-year philosophy project in 1988. It was published in 1997 as the Critique of Patriarchal Reason subsequent to a grant by the San Francisco Arts Commission, including art by Frank Pietronigo. In the book he argued that misogyny had influenced "objective" fields such as logic and physics. As an overview of the history of Western philosophy, the book focuses on how "misogyny and homophobia have influenced the supposedly objective fields of formal logic, higher mathematics, and physical science." Evans former doctoral advisor, Kristeller, called the book "a major contribution to the study of philosophy and its history." He focused the book in part on the internal homophobia of gay thinker Ludwig Wittgenstein, and how Wittgenstein's conflicted attitude affected his thinking and logic.
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.
In 1964 he became lovers with Arthur Bell, and they separated in 1971. In 1972 in New York he became romantically involved with Jacob Schraeter, and they spent two years homesteading together in Washington state. In 1974 they moved to San Francisco, with Evans living in an apartment at the corner of Haight Ashbury for the remainder of his life, although Schraeter returned to New York in 1981. Diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm in October 2010, Evans died in his Haight-Ashbury apartment of a massive heart attack on September 11, 2011. He was survived by his brother, Joe and his best friend Naphtali Offen.
- 1978: Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture
- 1988: The God of Ecstasy
- 1997: Critique of Patriarchal Reason
- 2018: The Evans Symposium: Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture and Moon Lady Rising
- Tim Redmond (September 13, 2011). "Arthur Evans Dies - 69". San Francisco Bay Guardian. San Francisco, California, The United States. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
- Martin, Douglas (September 15, 2011). "Arthur Evans, Leader in Gay Rights Fight, Dies at 68". The New York Times. pp. A33. Retrieved September 25, 2011.
- "Gay pioneer Arthur Evans dies". The Bay Area Reporter. San Francisco, California, United States. September 15, 2011. Retrieved August 14, 2021.
- Evans, Arthur (July 15, 1997). Critique of Patriarchal Reason (1st ed.). White Crane Press. p. 373. ISBN 978-0964538412.
- "Gay rights activist who advocated hard line against discrimination". Irish Times. September 24, 2011.
- “No Income Tax For War!” archived at Horowitz Transaction Publishers Archive
- "Karen Ocomb, LGBTpov website entry on Evans (September 13, 2011)". Archived from the original on November 4, 2011. Retrieved September 14, 2011.
- Raj Ayyar. "Arthur Evans and the Politics of Celebration". Gay Today. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
- Jamie Sutcliffe (February 15, 2017). "What We Do Is Secret: The relevance today of Arthur Evans's Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture". Frieze. Retrieved July 22, 2019.
- "Arthur Evans, gay pioneer".
- Arthur Scott Evans (1978). Witchcraft and the Gay counterculture: a radical view of Western civilization and some of the people it has tried to destroy. Fag Rag Books. p. 180. ISBN 9780915480012.
- Douglas Martin (September 17, 2011). "Arthur Evans, at 68; was fervent activist for gay rights". The Boston Globe. Boston, Massachusetts, The United States. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
- Barzan, Robert (1995). Sex and Spirit: Exploring Gay Men's Spirituality. p. 37. ISBN 9780964538405.
- McCleary, Rollan (2004). A Special Illumination: Authority, Inspiration and Heresy in Gay Spirituality. Equinox Publishing Ltd. p. 130. ISBN 9781904768548.
- Evan Minsker (May 8, 2014). "The Soft Pink Truth (Matmos' Drew Daniel) Covers Black Metal With Antony, Wye Oak on New Album". Pitchfork. Retrieved March 14, 2018.
- Evans, Arthur (2018). The Evans Symposium: Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture and Moon Lady Rising. White Crane Books. ISBN 9781732284401.
- Arthur Evans. "Gay Meaning". Moorish Orthodox Information Kiosk. Retrieved March 14, 2018.
- "The Evans Symposium". White Crane Institute. December 4, 2018. Retrieved December 25, 2019.
- Arnie Kantrowitz Papers, 1958-1995 (14 linear feet) are housed at the New York Public Library.
- Gay Activists Alliance, New York Collection, 1969-1998 (2 linear feet) are housed at the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives.
- Rink photographs, 1975-1985 are housed at the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives. Includes photographs of Arthur Evans from 1997.
- Randy Alfred Subject Files and Sound Recordings (circa 22 linear feet) are housed at the GLBT Historical Society.
- Tim Redmond (September 13, 2011). "Arthur Evans Dies - 69". San Francisco Bay Guardian. San Francisco, California, The United States.
- Tommi Avicolli Mecca (September 13, 2011). "Gay Activist and Writer Arthur Evans Dies". Salon. The United States. Archived from the original on October 6, 2012.
- Karen Ocomb (September 13, 2011). "Gay Activist Alliance Co-Founder Arthur Evans Dies". LGBTPOV. Archived from the original on November 4, 2011. Retrieved September 14, 2011.
- Cynthia Laird (September 15, 2011). "Gay pioneer Arthur Evans dies". Bay Area Reporter. San Francisco, California, The United States.