I thought it was against the law to be gay!

At a NAMBLA congress, 16-year-old Jes Harrison gave a speech about the reasons why he wanted to be legally emancipated from his parents.

Source: Kids Club Anthology #1; Out the Mouth of Babes - Youth speak out on youthlove; March 2019

Jes Harrison (age 16) gave this speech at the “Man/Boy Love and Sexual Liberation” panel held during a North American Man/Boy Love conference at the Pride Center in San Francisco on October 7, 1984. He tells of how he is seeking legal emancipation from his mother and abusive stepfather, and had to go to San Francisco to find a social worker who believed that he was abused at home and not “molested” by his 19 year old lover. Also present at the conference was Mattachine Society founder Harry Hay, journalist and International Gay and Lesbian Archives founder Jim Kepner, and early gay rights activist Morris Kight.

On June 1st I met a 19 year old student at the JC (junior college) and we started going out and everything and my parents found out and they didn’t approve of it. And before this I used to bring him over before they found out he was gay, and they just loved him, they thought he was the greatest guy in the world. The second they found out, they just got totally hostile and they just went the whole nine yards to [accuse him of] child molesting, you know, put him in jail.

My mother approved of it at first, my stepfather didn’t. The first thing she said one day when I came up the front steps, she said, “Dad knows, now.” Then he drove up and then the interrogation began: you know, hi:ing me, threatening me and stuff to say everything that had happened. So I was scared, I was very naive at the time. They were telling me things like if I didn’t tell them everything, they were going to put me in an insane asylum and stuff like that, just really off the wall stuff. And I’m from Santa Rosa, I don’t know any of this! And so, I believed it all, I’m crying and I tell them everything. And then, I had no idea it was going to the police. So then I get in the car and we go down to the– It was just exactly like you see in the movies: a dark room, the lamp, interrogation. I was in there for about two and a half hours, a taped interview, and me telling them all what happened.

And then my lover, Paul, my mom got on the phone to him and totally just told him never to call again, you know, and all this stuff, and told him that he was sick in the head and needed psychiatric help. And then the next day at work, I contacted my lover and from that point on, we just did everything we could to keep him out of jail and we had both quite good reputations at school with everything so we had to keep those reputations up. And then the only other thing I could do was to come down here to San Francisco and get emancipated to keep him out of jail and keep both our reputations up. And that’s basically my present situation: I’m trying to be emancipated. And it isn’t the easiest thing in the world!

I thought it was against the law to be gay! I thought you could be thrown in jail for being gay! I was lucky in Santa Rosa to see a gay person on the street. I just got all excited, “Oh, wow, maybe I can pick him up!” Two gay people - I was in heaven! Kids do have some kind of power, but I knew nothing of it. I was being bombarded with bullshit! The things they were telling me, “You can’t do this, we’re going to do this to you, and you’re going to say this and you can’t do nothing about it!” Maybe there’s some kind of pamphlet they can send out to everybody explaining their rights.