Research Project Explors Jones-Milk Connection, by
November 2002 will see the release of A Lavender Look at the Temple,
an in-depth research report that explores the relationship between the
gay and lesbian community of San Francisco in the 1970's and Peoples
Temple. Although the Temple's approach to the issue of homosexuality
was often contradictory, this project considers the Temple's well documented
public support for gay and lesbian teachers, as well as its consistent
opposition to discrimination and violence towards gays, lesbians, bisexuals
and transgendered folks.
Using a number of articles from Bay Area gay newspapers, "A Lavender
Look at the Temple" interprets how the gay community viewed the
progressive works of Peoples Temple before the tragedy in Jonestown
in November 1978. "A Lavender Look" also examines the personal
and political relationships between San Francisco's first elected gay
official, slain supervisor Harvey Milk, and Peoples Temple.
The project analyzes and interprets a number of letters, some which
Milk wrote to Jim Jones, and others Milk wrote to various elected officials
on behalf of Peoples Temple. These letters were recently discovered
at the California Historical Society. Through interviews with former
Milk staffers and contemporary letters from other prominent gays and
lesbians, the reader is introduced to a detailed account of the complex
relationship and mutual support shared by Jim Jones and Harvey Milk.
Additionally the project critically analyzes the accounts of the Milk/Temple
relationship that have appeared in print to date. In reviewing Milk's
relationship with the Temple, the project also briefly explores the
roles of Jewish people in Peoples Temple.
Though "A Lavender Look" is detailed and well researched,
it lacks a first-hand account of a gay or lesbian Temple member, giving
it the feel of an outsider's perspective. Hopefully surviving gay and
lesbian members who realize the importance of their Peoples Temple experience
will feel enough support to come forward with their stories. Additionally
it is hoped that future research will focus not only on the internal
roles of Temple members known to have identified as gay, lesbian or
bisexual, but also on the often ignored experiences of religious gay
and lesbian African Americans.
For more information, please contact project coordinator Michael Bellefountaine
at (415) 864-6686 or ACTUPSF@hotmail.com.