munity, which is nice to look back on. It
happened to a coalition of people. It wasn't
just one group in charge of the event. It
was all groups participating in it, with a
couple of groups like GPC being the thrusting force in making it happen."
Shiflett recalled other major events
which occurred during his GPC presidential history.
He is particularly proud of the national
convention that "put the GPC on the
national gay political map. Texas, as a
matter of fact, was put on the gay political
map by Houston representingTexas. California and New York finally started to
deal with us. It (the gay movement) had
been an east coast/west coast phenomenon up until that time.
"Then we had to force our way to the
decision-making table. They didn't really
want to include us when we got there."
But since then, all has changed, and
Houston's position in the national gay
momement has finally become entrenched
in the east/west coast minds.
"Texas is now looked at as the moderate
voice of the gay community leadership,"
Shiflett said. "We don't tend to have the
radical approach . We're pragmatic and
even-keel down here."
Shiflett is also proud of the municipal
election of '79 that displaced Frank Mann,
"the bigot of the century on City Council,"
with Eleanor Tinsley.
He said Mann's three favorite words
were "oddwads, queers, perverts," and
that he prticularly delighted in telling
Mann, "Little minds belong with little people, and little people don't belong in big
places like City Council. We're going to
Consequently, the GPC fed Tinsley 200
to 300 volunteers, and "she swept by," Shiflett said.
"That's when the GPC became popular.
We were recognized. And gay baiting was
used all over."
Shiflett recounted the troubled years
with the Houston Police Department and
the confrontation with HPD Chief Caldwell, who would not acknowledge that the
gay community had a problem with the
But the police problem "being the one
issue that brings the community
together," GPC's work with the National
Gay Task Force, which was invited to
Houston, led to Operation Documentation
which encourged the gay community to
report actions by the police.
Shiflett recalled the frequent bar raids,
the beatings by the HPD, the shootings,
the police cars parked in front of the gay
bars with the cops inside waiting to follow
people out and arrest them on DWI
charges or for public intoxication, sometimes 10 at a time.
But what was most important to him
during his presidency was the sense of
community and the pride he felt with so
many other gay groups besides the GPC
growing and forming in Houston.
"So many more opinion leaders were
available to work with, and the more
groups that were out there, the more people you could put together for your efforts.
You could work together. And that's what
was so tremendous, because there really
was a camaraderie and esprit de corps,
and it was fun."
Then Shiflett reflected on the highpoint
of his two years as president of the GPC,
that of organizing, watching and participating in Houston's first Gay Pride Week.
"It was probably the most memorable
event that I can remember during those
two years of my being president, because it
brought out so many more people. You
could see the smiles on their faces as you
drove down Westheimer in the parade. It
was an incredible feeling just to see the
sense of self-worth coming across the community. Overnight they had decided to
come out of the closet!
"It was very emotional. I would say our
first parade had 12-13,000 people at it—an
incredible leap in one year for a community, especially a gay community.
"It was so satisfying to see the results of
your efforts. But again, it was becauseeve-
ryone was working together."
Just prior to Shiflett's election for a
third term, the GPC was at its peak of
"I had been responsible for bringing the
gay community into the mainstream of
politics and establishing its ability to perform and deliver what they say they can
deliver. We were riding high on a crest of
"It was time for our community to realize that we could make a difference. And
when we realized that we did make a difference, it reinforced our reason to exist
and continue to build and gave hope to a
lot of people that things can get done."
(Next week, Shiflett discusses his resignation from the GPC and the forming of
Citizens for Human Equality (CHE), as
well as the political divisions within the
community which could plunge it into a
dark age without leaders, wherein the current GPC could become an extinct dinosaur.)
Dec. 2,1983 / Montrose Voice 9
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