Arthur Evans (1942-2011)
Arthur Evans and
I met in late summer 1969, in the early days of the New York Gay
Liberation Front (GLF), and formed a friendship which lasted until his
death in San Francisco on 11 September 2011, at the age of 68. After
Arthur moved to San Francisco in 1974, he and I continued to correspond
and exchange books with each other, and we saw each other when I
In the late fall
of 1969, the weekly GLF meetings became utter chaos, thanks to the
“no votes” and “structureless structure”
resolutions which had been passed. People would SCREAM at each other
over the slightest provocation, and virtually nothing got done. I
remember Arthur and me sitting on the periphery, watching the horror
show from a distance, and talking about our dreams for gay liberation.
He had the vision and the practical ability to do what had to be done.
Arthur should be remembered as one of the three main founders of the
Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) in November 1969, and as the architect of
the GAA Constitution — which ensured that the new organization
would focus entirely on gay rights and that its affairs would be
conducted in a democratic and orderly way. 
Arthur started a
Radical Study Group, which met at the apartment of his lover, Arthur
Bell. In a letter to me he wrote:
What I do remember was your suggestion that we read Engels' The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State,
a book that has had a major impact on my own intellectual development.
I will always be grateful for our discussion of that book and other
works. I found the Radical Study Group to be much more satisfying than
my graduate study in philosophy at Columbia University at the time. By
comparison to participants in the Radical Study Group, my professors at
Columbia seemed like intellectual sleep-walkers. (Arthur Evans to John
Lauritsen, 3 March 2008)
At one of these meetings Arthur Bell gave me a copy of Lionel Tiger's book, Men in Groups, which had an impact on my own thinking, moving me to concentrate on male relationships.
In 1981, Arthur
and Hank Wilson became the first two people to warn gay men about the
dangers of “poppers” (nitrite inhalants). This was on the
verge of what came to be known as the “Gay Health Crisis”
and later “AIDS”. At this time, the so-called “AIDS
virus” — first “LAV”, then
“HTLV-III”, and finally “HIV” — had
neither been “discovered” nor named. Arthur's article,
“POPPERS: an ugly side of gay business”, written for the
San Francisco newspaper, Coming Up!,
proved to be tragically prophetic; he clearly saw the link between the
gay male lifestyle and the new illnesses. To read the poppers article click here. 
Arthur's second article on gay business, “Drinking: a gay way of life”, was published in December 1981. To read his article on alcoholism among gay men it click here.
In 2009, on the
40th anniversary of Stonewall, GLF and GAA, Arthur distributed a
statement, in which he beautifully summed up the goals and history of
gay liberation. To read it click here.
In a letter to the San Francisco Bay Times
of 9 July 2009, Arthur made an incisive critique of “queer”
and “LGBT”. He concluded: “I acknowledge the right of
other people to call themselves LGBT, or G, or queer. But please don't
dump any of these terms on me. I'm still gay and proud.” To read
this letter click here.
In his last
years, Arthur was severely criticized by some “progressives”
for his part in helping pass Proposition L, the civil-sidewalks law. My
own sympathies were entirely with Arthur, based on a letter to me:
still trying to get the money together to move to Northern California.
My street is overwhelmed with drug dealers, junkies, drunks, the whole
bit. Incessant noise and aggravation — people crapping and
pissing on the sidewalk, pounding on drums around the clock, pushing
drugs in everybody's face, blasting radios, fighting with each other,
smashing bottles on the sidewalk. This scene has made it very hard for
me to work, and greatly demoralized me. Hopefully, I'll be able to get
the money together somehow to move this summer. We'll see. (Arthur
Evans to John Lauritsen, 14 May
But Arthur couldn't get the money together, and stayed in Ashbury, San Francisco.
In January 2011,
Arthur wrote that his health was deteriorating, and asked for
information on how he might find an institutional buyer for his
papers. Knowing that his days were limited, he had the excellent
foresight to write his own obituary. To read it click here.
With Arthur's death, I have lost a friend and comrade.
ATQUE IN PERPETUUM FRATER AVE ATQUE VALE.
For all eternity, brother, hail and farewell!
(Catullus 101, tr. JL)
John Lauritsen, 19 October 2011
1. To read the GAA Constitution
click here. To visit the Gay
Activists Alliance pages click here.
2. For other articles on poppers click here.