apathy and timidity among homosexuals”.  Others agree:
Inman was “a voice in the wilderness in Miami” (John
Loughery) and “a virtual one-man band for gay rights”
(Eugene Patron).  Foster Gunnison, Jr., who worked with
Inman, called him “an unsung hero of the movement”,
while Jack Nichols, who knew Inman as well as anyone
still alive, dubbed him “The South’s Pioneer”.  “Inman was
the first Southerner to challenge anti-gay laws in the
courts, to write in mass circulation publications about
gay men and lesbians and to appear on local television
and radio programs”, said Nichols.

Florida in the 1960's was “the Mississippi of the homosexual;” and it took a lot of
chutzpah to challenge the Sunshine State’s ingrained homophobia.  Born in Tampa in
1926, Inman arrived in Miami in the 1940s.  Like many others in his time and place,
Inman was arrested at least twice, for “simply being in a gay bar” during a raid.  
Undaunted, Inman founded (1963) the Atheneum Society, which according to Sears,
was “the first state-chartered, explicitly homosexual organization in the South.”  Created
“to combat ... gross injustices affecting homosexual citizens which are perpetuated by
certain heterosexuals who masquerade behind the guise of ‘justice’ and decency”, the
Society was basically a one-man [Inman] group.  Even so, Inman benefitted from the
secret but substantial financial assistance of an elderly, closeted millionaire who gave
him much-needed pocket cash.

With his Atheneum Society in tow, Inman soon became, in Sears’s words, “the lightning
rod for Florida’s nonexistent homophile movement.”  Claiming to
represent “200,000" Florida homosexuals, Johns “privately engaged in correspondence
and conversations with political leaders and kingmakers.  He also engaged in a long-
term battle with two powerful politicians: [StateSenator] Charley Johns and [Dade
County State Attorney] Richard Gerstein.”  Inman soon caught the attention of activist
Jack Nichols who, with Franklin Kameny, founded the Mattachine Society of Washington
in 1961.  Nichols and his partner Lige Clarke visited Inman in Miami and persuaded
him to change the Atheneum’s name to the Mattachine Society of Florida.  Inman
became President, Nichols Vice President, and Clarke editor of the group’s news letter.  
As head of the Mattachine Society of Florida, Inman adopted, in John D’Emilio’s words,
“a Kameny-like tone in his dealings with public officials.”

On April 19, 1966 Inman appeared on the television documentary “The Homosexual”.  
Hosted by WTVJ’s Ralph Renick, “The Homosexual” was dominated by antigay zealots
like Detective John Sorenson of the Dade County Sheriff’s Department of Morals and
Juvenile Squad.  Inman’s appearance was a disaster.  Loughery wrote that Inman’s
“performance ... suggested gay men and lesbians would be better served by silence.  
Uncomfortable on camera and looking as if he had suddenly realized that
acknowledging his sexuality was tantamount to admitting a crime for which he might be
arrested, Inman squirmed before his interviewer’s questions, ending with the claim that
he had given up homosexuality four years earlier - ‘it’s not my cup of tea’ - though he
believed that homosexuals deserved fair treatment.  He giggled at the suggestion of gay
marriage or gay adoption. ‘You weren't exactly inspired to run out and join his
organization,’ a Fort Lauderdale gay man, then in his twenties, noted.  ‘Actually, he
scared me more than the cop they had telling the eighth-graders that any one of them
could become a deviant if they weren't careful.’”
www.ambiente.us  APRIL | ABRIL 2009

Jesse’s Journal | Richard Inman |  The Father of Florida’s Gay
by Jesse Monteagudo

The State of Florida has had its share of outstanding GLBT leaders; people who
worked against enormous odds to make life better for the Sunshine State’s LesBiGay
and Trans community during the last half century.  To a great degree, they were
following in the footsteps of Richard A. Inman.  The Sunshine State’s first queer activist,
Inman dared to be openly and actively gay at a time when that was a dangerous thing
to be.  By challenging both a firmly antigay political establishment and a closeted gay
community, Inman is rightly considered to be the Father of Florida’s Gay Community.

Who was Richard Inman?  Since he dropped out of sight after 1969, Inman became
largely unknown to a generation of activists who took up where he left off.  Though I
grew up in Miami, I was not aware of Inman or his achievements until I became an
activist myself.  Only recently did Inman begin to receive the recognition that he so richly
deserved.  James T. Sears, whose book Lonely Hunters: An Oral History of Lesbian
and Gay Southern Life, 1948-1968 contributes so much to our knowledge of Inman,
called him  “a soldier of fortune turned taxi driver challenging the homophobia and
ignorance of heterosexuals as well as

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Inman was burned out.  In March 1967 he abolished Florida Mattachine.  In October the
Miami Vice Squad raided Inman’s new business, the Atheneum Book Shop, charging
Inman with possession of pornography (he was acquitted on a technicality).  By August
1969, the Miami Herald could claim that “The Miami [gay] subculture shows few signs of
the minority group syndrome.  Since the demise of the Mattachine Society of Florida ...
Miami has had neither homosexual organizations nor militants.  A politically docile,
socially invisible subculture, it attracts little attention, and less support.”  It remained for
a new generation of activists to take up where Inman left off.

What happened to Richard Inman?   According to Jack Nichols, “In 1970, Inman visited
me in my New York offices at GAY.  After that he disappeared.”  In Rebels, Rubyfruit, and
Rhinestones (2001), Sears finally revealed what happened to the Father of Florida’s
Gay Community:  “Richard Inman never returned to the activist role that he once had in
Florida.  He settled in a working-class area in the outskirts of Long Beach - not far from
the interstate highway - where he lived in a Spanish-style duplex on the corner of
Golden Avenue and Hill Street until his death on 3 February 1985.”


Jesse Monteagudo is a South Florida-based, freelance writer.

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