James “John” Gruber: 1928. James Gruber was born on Des Moines, Iowa, but his father, a former vaudeville performer turned music teacher, moved the family to Los Angeles in 1936, and it was in L.A. that Gruber came of age. In 1946, Gruber turned eighteen and enlisted in the Marines. He later remarked that being in such close proximity to men, he “went bananas in the sex department.” Despite the, ah, camaraderie, he continued to have affairs with women, and throughout his life he considered himself bisexual. After he was honorable discharged in 1949, he studied English Literature at Occidental College and met Christopher Isherwood, who would become a close friend and mentor.
In April 1951, Gruber and his boyfriend, photographer Konrad Stevens, became the last new members of a group of gay men who had begun gathering under the name of “Society of Fools.” which proved to be a turning point. “All of us had known a whole lifetime of not talking, or repression. Just the freedom to open up … really, that’s what it was all about. We had found a sense of belonging, of camaraderie, of openness in an atmosphere of tension and distrust. … Such a great deal of it was a social climate. A family feeling came out of it, a nonsexual emphasis. … It was a brand-new idea.” Gruber suggested the group rename itself the Mattachine Society, referring to the medieval masque troops known as “mattachines.”
-full report at Box Turtle Bulletin
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