WOODY EGGER LEAVES AUSTIN
Woody Egger is a long-time Austin and Texas gay
activist. He grew up in Mullin, Texas, which is near
Brownwood. He was one of the organizers of Gay Community Services of Austin and was its General Coordinator
at one time.
The UT Law School graduate was one of the original
incorporators of the Texas Gay Task Force. He served
on the TGTF Board of Directors for three years, which
helped tie Austin into the gay organizations and activities in the rest of the state. He eventually resigned
from TGTF due to "strategy differences."
Bgger is now moving to New York City. CONNECTIONS
staffers Wayde Frey and Jim Olinger interviewed him the
evening before his departure in late August, 1980. He
expressed a need to leave Austin because he felt he was
in a rut. "I also want to get away from people's expectations of me," he stated. "They can be impossible to
live up to."
CONNECTIONS: Now that you're leaving Texas behind,
where do you see the Austin gay community heading?
bgger: I see Austin as slowly growing, but apathetic.
I find that frustrating. It's a catch-22. The more an
activist screams and hollers, the more apathetic the gay
community becomes. This results in a backlash of resentment among many closeted lesbians and gays.
I think the prevalent attitude is "What do these
gay activists want at the bar this time? Why doesn't
everybody just dance, smoke a J and be happy?"
Professional people who have made it on their own
say "I don't need that gay civil rights organization.
All I have to do is just keep my mouth shut. All anyone
has to do is be discreet and they won't have any problems
from being gay.
CONNECTIONS: That attitude is known as "gay self-
oppression . "
egger: I've lived my life openly and actively. I
think I have accomplished what I wanjfgd to do for myself
as an openly gay person. The question I ask myself is
"Why should I work hard for people who don't care?"
Most gay activist organizations in Austin are not
known that well in the gay community at large. You try
so hard to do something as a group, such as XS, ALGPC,
or TGTF, and 90% of the gay community doesn't know who
you are, what you're doing, and doesn't really even care.
CONNECTIONS: Lesbian and gay leaders are getting
a loud and clear message from their constituents:
egger: Unfortunately, yes.
For people who are determined to "do something"
anyway, gay activism has reached a fork in the road.
.There are two different philosophies about how to
proceed: the professional route or the grassroots
route. Some people say we should conduct our gay
activism on a professional basis or not at all. Others,
and I'm one of them, maintain that grassroots activism
is better than not doing anything.
So which way do you go? Take every route possible.
Success in the gay rights struggle will come neither
through the legislature nor the courts, but through
society. That's where my street activism comes in.
I don't think most people have an accurate perception of me. My two sides have confused people. I can
be radical or conciliatory.
Bettie Naylor, Kathy Deitsch, and Rosella Kliewer
of the Texas Gay Task Force and the Human Rights Advocates, didn't understand me. They couldn't go along
with my "radical" approach to lobbying the Texas Legislature .
I believed in pushing for a floor vote on the
repeal of 21.06 (the "sodomy law.") Make the legislators
bear the burden of being the bad guys, instead of putting
the blame on gay groups. Make legislators take the heat
for not voting for repeal.
I caught a lot of flack from Bettie, Kathy, and
Rosella for going into the visitors' gallery of the
Legislature with a group of gay activists wearing black
armbands. That only alienates those people who don't
like you in the first place. When you don't have a
chance anyway, go ahead and raise hell.
I resigned from the TGTF Board because of differences
with B, K, and R on strategy. Professional, closeted
gays were advising not to push for repeal of 21.06.
I believe each side needs the other. Some people
have to raise hell. Others have to be more moderate,
conciliatory, and work through the system. I can be
radical or wear a suit and tie. I don't like confrontations, but they cause better results in the long run.
CONNECTIONS: How do you feel about party politics
EGGER: I consider myself a moderate-liberal Democrat. I felt torn between Kennedy and Carter, but voted
for Carter in the May 1980 primary. I'll probably vote
for Carter in November, too, unless the Anderson com-
paign appears to be really viable. If people feel both
Carter and Reagan are so bad, they should vote for
Anderson out of principle. v
CONNECTIONS: Do you have any advice for Austin
egger: Wow! Well, keep up the good work and keep
fighting the good fight and keep all routes open. Sometimes an impromptu, emotional, impassioned speech works
best. Other times, citing statistics and Kinsey studies
influences people more. I believe in doing the unexpected - catch people off guard.