Teach-in for Equality

Saturday, May 9th, 9:30am to 4:30pm – Los Angeles

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Walter L. Williams

Walter Williams, Founding Editor of the International Gay and Lesbian Review

Walter Williams, Founding Editor of the International Gay and Lesbian Review

Walter Williams is Professor of Anthropology, History, and Gender Studies, at the University of Southern California. He is one of the pioneers in the field of Gay Studies, with a long background in human rights activism. As a teenager in Atlanta in the 1960s, he was inspired by Martin Luther King to get involved in the civil rights movement, and in 1978 he switched to gay activism due to Anita Bryant’s Save Our Children campaign. In 1979 he became director of the Greater Cincinnati Gay Coalition. At the same time, he founded the Committee on Lesbian and Gay History for the American Historical Association, was an officer of the Society of Lesbian and Gay Anthropologists, and a founder of the Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies. He is on the board of editors of the Journal of Homosexuality and was the Founding Editor of the International Gay and Lesbian Review, the world’s first academic journal in any field to be published on the internet. In 1994 he negotiated the merger of Dorr Legg’s ONE Institute with Jim Kepner’s International Gay and Lesbian Archives. He was subsequently elected as its president. ONE Archives is now the largest LGBTQ Studies library and research center in the world.

Professor Williams has published eleven books, including an award-winning historical novel, Two Spirits: A Story of Life with the Navajo, with gay novelist Toby Johnson; a sourcebook on Gay and Lesbian Rights in the United States: A Documentary History, with lesbian herstorian Dr. Yolanda Retter; a book of essays Overcoming Heterosexism and Homophobia: Strategies That Work, with Professor James Sears; and a theoretical book Homophile Studies in Theory and Practice, with ONE Institute‘s legendary founder Dorr Legg.

But Walter Williams is most known for his own award-winning book The Spirit and the Flesh: Sexual Diversity in American Indian Culture. When it was published in 1986, this book revolutionized our thinking about the acceptance of homosexual behavior and transgenderism in ancient and non-western cultures and religions, with its revelations that queer people were considered sacred, and were highly respected religious leaders, in Native American and many other ancient religions.

Dr. Williams has not only had an impact in America, but in other countries as well. He helped to start the gay movement in Indonesia, has had a major impact on helping to reduce homophobia in China and to persuade the Chinese government to change its homophobic policies, and he is currently involved in a campaign to challenge the persecution and torture of homosexuals in Malaysia (see the lead article about him in the March 2009 issue of the online journal NEBULA). For his work he has been awarded the “Gandhi King Ikeda Lifetime Achievement Award, for Scholarship and Activism in the Expansion of Human Rights” that was presented by the Gandhi Institute for Reconciliation, at Morehouse College (see “Walter Williams Life of Activism in Human Rights“).

For the last five years, Dr. Williams has been living much of the time in Thailand, including part of that time living on a Buddhist monastery. Two years ago in Bangkok he gave a televised much-noted speech at the 4th International Buddhist Conference, calling for the absolute equality of women and sexual minorities in all Buddhist institutions. He is currently doing research for a book about the social acceptance of homosexuality and transgenderism in Thai Buddhism.

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