DINING: Midtown pizza place serves up delicious
Italian dishes. Page 17.
PETS: Gay Houston couple's four-legged "children"
are two German Shepherds. Page 18.
on the Bayou
JUNE 20, 2003
The world according to Ray
Arguably the father of
the Houston gay rights
movement Hill presses
on in his own unique style
By TINA KING
RAY HILL WAS A GAY ACTIVIST IN
Houston at a time before "gay activist"
could have been a term said out loud.
He remembers the day when a gay
man got assaulted and a sheet was
spread out on a pool table in a bar so
that those present could treat the victim themselves. They had to, Hill relates,
because to call in emergency medical technicians would mean that the victim would have
to tell where, how and why he was beaten up.
If he did that, the best case scenario would be
that he would lose his job for being gay
Hill has dipped his hands into the blood of
a gay-bashing victim in the days when
HIV/AIDS was new and fear of the disease
was overwhelming. He has been a high school
quarterback, an evangelist, served time in
prison and conquered alcoholism.
Those who first meet this fascinating man
receive a warm greeting from a tall, personable gentleman with an outstretched hand. He
is articulate — he uses words like "machinations" and "esoteric." Names of the mothers
and fathers of the GLBT movement, court
cases and dates, names of reporters, police
officers, city officials and authors stream from
his tongue as if he were the fountainhead.
As Houstonians celebrate Pride 2003, Hill
reflects on his own path of pride — a path that has
run parallel with Houston's gay rights movement.
It was 1958, Eisenhower was president, Hill
went to Galena Park High School and a man
could be thrown in jail just for being gay,
because it was a crime in the United States.
Hill had always known that he was gay and was
so aware of his gayness that he decided to become
an evangelist Having been raised in a fundamentalist Baptist church by his atheist mother, Hill became
a 13-year-old evangelist because he believed that one
day God would "cure" him of his homosexuality
By the time he was 16 years old, he'd was a
successful minister and had acquired a
drinking problem. His homosexual desires were
still present; he became sick of the hypocrisy
and retired from the evangelist's circuit.
Through all of these years, knowing that he was
gay, Hill was never ashamed of whom he was, so at 17
he came out to his mother, he recalls. Her response?
"Oh, you're gay Thaf s such a relief Raymond (Ray's
father) and I h.ave been noticing that you've been
dressing up (coats and ties) more than the other boys
in the neighborhood and we thought that you were
hying to appear wealthier than we are
"We were afraid that you might grow up to be a
Republican and embarrass the family," she told him.
Road to activism
In his early years, Hill formed the
"Promethean Society" with Rita Wanstraum,
Ray and Davie Patterson and John Hilliard. The
society was named after the mythological god of
fire and light. The group found it an apropos
name, as they would be the fire and light for a
society that had little light when it came to the
issue of homosexuality, Hill explains.
Hill and Wanstraum had different views on
the way those in the movement should conduct
themselves in order to best promote the cause,
Hill recalls. According to Hill, Wanstraum said
outsiders would judge the entire movement by
the actions of the few. Therefore, she was in
favor of projecting all that was respectable and
"normal" to the watching world and felt that
GLBT people should watch their behavior.
Hill, on the other hand, believed that the
actions of one do not reflect all, because people are individuals and should be viewed
accordingly. He was more in your face: "We're
here, we're queer, so get used to it." Together,
the pair were early co-grand marshals of the
Pride parade when it was in its infancy
Hill believes in openness when it comes to
his own imperfections as well. He openly volunteers that in the 1970s he was sentenced to the
Texas penitentiary for commercial burglaries.
This was the way he financed his social activist
endeavors — stealing.
He was released from prison in March 1975
after serving four years, four months and 17
days. Hill soon made this experience applicable
in a positive way by starting his own radio show
in April 1975. "The Prison Show" on KPFT 9
FM has become widely renowned, even g"
On the front lines
Think 1991, the Paul Broussard case and the
"Woodland 10." Hill was personally involved in
reacting to that infamous Houston gay beating.
In the early morning hours of July 4,1991,
Hill received a phone call that a young gay man,
Broussard, had been the victim of a gay bashing,
was lying in a parking lot and the emergency
team refused to pick him up. Hill got on the phone
and demanded that Broussard be picked up.
When Hill arrived, Broussard's blood was still wet
on the ground and many in the GBLT community
just stood around in stunned silence, Hill recalls.
Knowing that the stigma and mystery surrounding HIV and AIDS made even gays frightened of their own spilled blood, HUT walked up,
put both of his hands in Broussard's blood,
wiped them on his shirt, and then proceeded to
talk to those on the scene, he relates.
Hill spearheaded an effort to find the assailants.
This ultimately resulted in the unearthing of 10
young men from the Woodlands who allegedly committed this crime Because of Hill's efforts, seven in
all eventually received jail sentences, and now
because of Hill's efforts, at least one has been
paroled, and Hill is seeking to help the others.
Hill explains that he began corresponding
with and visiting with the young men in
prison. Hill believed that the fastest way to
further alienate them from and harden them
against the gay community would be a prison
system that often is brutal on gays.
"It's like sending in mad dogs and getting
out rattlesnakes," HUT says.
As he has come to know the young men
and their stories, he believes the most beneficial thing for the gay community, the city and
the perpetrators themselves is for them to be
paroled. Hill sees no dichotomy in both having
helped to have them incarcerated and in now
coming to their aid to have them freed.
Hill's activism as a gay man extends throughout his life. His younger sister died in a car accident in 1977 and left two young boys. Hill adopted
and raised the chUdren as his own, and it was
their choice that he do so. He over-prepared them
for the reaction their peers might have to them
being raised by a gay parent, he says. There
weren't any negative reactions to speak of
Having studied the art and science of
bringing about social change, he says the oft-
quoted phrase in the civil rights movement is
"Quote Martin Luther King, but read Malcolm
X." He remembers the day Anita Bryant came
to Houston and gays ceased to be scared,
frightened individuals fending for themselves
and they solidified into a unified community,
realizing that they were not alone.
He still says that gays are individuals and
need to be seen in all their messy, multi-faceted
diverseness. Hill's desire is that those who
have had such a pivotal impact in the GLBT
movement, though perhaps having untidy lives
like his own, not be written out of GLBT history. He doesn't always go with the flow.
He doesn't fear struggling upstream to
bring about change. He wants to make people
think, and he certainly succeeds.
77ms week's activities as part of Houston
Pride Month include:
Pride Committee of Houston
Saturday, June 21
11 a.m.-lO p.m. Pride Day at
Six Rags Astroworld
Cost: $35 in advance,
$39.95 at the door
Six Flags Astroworld
610 South Loop
between Kirby and Fannin
7:30 am Sixth annual Houston Pride 5k
Fun Run & Walk
Sam Houston Park
9 p.m.-5 am "Official" After
Rich's, 2401 San Jacinto
Sunday, June 22
1-4 pm Family and Youth Day
7-9:30 p.m. XALT: Xtreme Adoration of the
Lord Together (Praise Day)
Community Gospel Church
Tuesday, June 24 *new date*
6-8 p.m. "Outbreak: A Community Forum
on Gay Men's Sexual Health"
1415 Bar & Grille, 1415 California
Wednesday, June 25
8:30-10 am Explaining HIV Drug
Resistance: A Patient-friendly
Cost: Free, but RSVP required
The Center for AIDS
Thursday, June 26
7:30 pm "Hope Along the Wind: The Life
of Harry Hay"
Theatre New West
8:30 pm "Could Angels Be Blessed"
Cost: $10, with proceeds
Theatre Suburbia, 1410 West 43rd