Wayne ball SFGN Covers Wayne Besens Early Years of LGBT ActivismNorm Kent’s South Florida Gay News (SFGN) wrote an excellent article about my ties to the area. It discusses how I first became involved in LGBT advocacy in the 1980′s in Fort Lauderdale and Gainesville. (A pic from my first activism days in Florida, right)

Take a look at the story, it is a terrific read:

Truth Wins Out is best known for last year’s undercover sting operation where the group used hidden cameras to show that the clinic of Rep. Michele Bachmann’s husband, Marcus, was practicing “ex-gay” therapy. The results of TWO’s investigation made international headlines and the group was featured on ABC’s World News Tonight, Nightline, Good Morning America, and NBC’s The Today Show.

What many people don’t know is that the organization’s founder, Wayne Besen, is originally from South Florida and was inspired to a life of advocacy in Fort Lauderdale.

“When I was eighteen and too young to get into bars, I would go extra early to the Copa and sneak in before the doorman was outside,” recalled Besen, of the iconic Fort Lauderdale nightclub. “With time to kill before the crowd arrived, I would read the gay newspaper TWN from cover-to-cover and learn about the LGBT movement.”

Besen’s first brush with LGBT activism came during a stinging defeat in a 1990 referendum attempting to amend the Broward County Human Rights Act to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The fight was nasty and brutal with Tom Scott, executive director of the Christian Coalition of Florida, comparing LGBT people to pornographers and child molesters. One of Besen’s fist activism memories was seeing an anti-gay “Save the Children” billboard in Davie.

The LGBT community lost the vote by a 3-2 margin and licked its wounds at a campaign “party” at the original Georgie’s Alibi on Sunrise Boulevard.  While Besen did not actively participate in that campaign, the bitter memory of defeat was seared in his brain.

“I’ll never forget the funeral-like atmosphere at Georgie’s that evening,” Besen said. “There was music playing, but people were emotionally spent and psychologically devastated. The opposition only won because they grotesquely distorted our lives and used blatant lies to terrify voters.”