Rick Stokes did what almost every gay man in Kansas did back in the 1950s- he got married to a woman. His wife knew that he had a number of gay experiences before they got married but whether it was naivety or wishful thinking, they thought his desire for a gay life would go away.
When his desires wouldn’t abate, his family, his wife and his in-laws convinced him to undergo electro shock therapy to cure him. After many treatments and with no guarantee of success, Rick opted out of this unusual treatment and ended his marriage. But he says later it was the kick in the pants he needed to help him to chase his own rainbow colored dreams.
He moved to Sacramento, CA to find the man who he would eventually spend 35 years with. Along with his partner, Rick formed the Association for Responsible Citizenship (ARC) to provide social interaction and to promote pro-gay action.
They group provided a place for people to feel good about being gay and to accomplish pro gay activities. One such activity was to raise awareness about STDs like gonorrhea or syphilis which were very common but were little understood by gay men or even by their doctors.
The pair eventually moved to San Francisco and became involved in the gay scene. Having acquired a law degree, Rick became well known as the “go to” guy if you got busted by the police for what were punishable offenses back in the day. Often times, people arrested for what was considered lewd behavior pleaded down to a lesser crime in order to reduce the risk of being found out and losing work. Rick convinced people to not “plead out” their cases but to go to trail. Eventually, the court system figured out that they weren’t go to win any of these cases so the police stopped targeting gay men.
Rick later ran against Harvey Milk for Supervisor seat in 1977 and lost. He will be portrayed by in the upcoming film “Milk” by Stephen Spinella, an openly gay actor known for his role in Angels in America and Spring Awakening on Broadway.
Listen as we talk with Rick about the horrors of being electrocuted in attempts to change your sexuality, working for gay rights in America at a time when being gay as illegal and where we are all headed in our fight for sexual diversity.
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