Tom Reeves

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Tom Reeves was a social science professor, and one of the founding members and later a national spokesman for NAMBLA. He is also one of the original signatories on the Reform Sex Offender Laws Campaign petition. He was a hero, humanitarian, gay activist.

On December 2, 1978, Tom Reeves of the Boston-Boise Committee convened a meeting called "Man/Boy Love and the Age of Consent." Approximately 150 people attended. At the meeting's conclusion, about thirty men and youths decided to form an organization which they called the North American Man/Boy Love Association, or NAMBLA for short.

He is best known for the role that he played in founding NAMBLA. In the late 1970s, prior to the formation of NAMBLA, Tom Reeves was already referring to himself as a "Boylover" and publicly defending intergenerational sexual relationships. On December 2, 1978, Reeves organized a meeting on the topic of "man-boy love,"; it was at this meeting which NAMBLA was formed. Inside of NAMBLA, Reeves played a prolific role acting as a spokesman for the organization. In the late 90's, he organized the community, Reform Sex Offender Laws. (RSOL) He was involved with many other (at that time new) gay organizations: Gay Community News, Boston Area Gay & Lesbian Youth (BAGLY), Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), the Gay Liberation Front, and much later Act Up. He was also affiliated with the American Friends' Service Committee

On August 23 1994, he explained that a lot of people aren't aware of NAMBLA's mission. "Our purpose is not to get our hands on a bunch of 14-year-old boys," he says "The primary issue is political -- to change laws about age of consent."

Though he was one of the founders of RSOL, the organization betrayed him by disowning him, stating:

RSOL does not condone sexual activity between adults and children in any way, nor does it condone any sexual activities that break laws in any state. RSOL is not affiliated with, nor do we support or condone, NAMBLA, Boychat, Girlchat, or any group with similar positions on age of consent or related behaviors.

Apart from NAMBLA, he was co-author with Karl Hess of THE END OF THE DRAFT (Random House, New York, 1970). He was National Director of the National Council to Repeal the Draft from 1968-1972. He has written about a range of U.S. foreign policy and other political issues for CounterPunch, Z, Rabble, Interconnect, Dollars & Sense, the NACLA Report and other print and internet magazines.

He passed away February, 2012.

Obituary from williampercy.com

Thomas C. Reeves March 27, 1939 – February 19, 2012

Thomas Carl Reeves – retired professor at Boston’s Roxbury Community College who died in Baltimore on Sunday, February 19, 2012, of heart failure at age 72 – was a social activist in many arenas. There is a family tale of descent from the great Virginia patriot, Patrick Henry. Though Tom would agree with “Give me liberty or give me death,” the fiery Thomas Paine was his real spiritual ancestor. Like Paine, Tom was a great organizer and cantankerous visionary. He was a civil-rights activist in the South in the 1950s and ’60s, an anti-Vietnam War campaigner who helped bring an end to the draft, a gay-rights organizer, a voice in the wilderness calling for reform of sex laws, an advocate for those with HIV/ AIDS, and an agitator against U.S. support of repression in the Caribbean, especially Haiti.

From 1976 to 2001, Reeves taught at Boston’s historically black Roxbury Community College, where he became a full professor of social sciences and director of the school’s Caribbean Focus program. Tom had a particular interest in the plight of Haiti, writing and speaking frequently about the country and joining a number of delegations and humanitarian missions, for which he was honored by the Haitian government. At Tom’s invitation, the then recently-overthrown Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide spoke at the college and received an honorary degree in April 1992.

Born in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1939, Tom was ordained a Methodist minister and pastored a church in Blue Springs, Alabama, while attending Birmingham Southern College, from which he graduated in 1960. He went on to get a Master’s of Divinity from Harvard in 1963 and an MA from American University in 1964. Tom did further postgraduate study (1964-66) at the Otto Suhr Institute of Political Science and Humboldt University, both in Berlin.

From his earliest days as a minister, Tom was attracted by the example of Martin Luther King, Jr., with whom he sometimes worked, and was involved in many protests, marches, and sit-ins. An article in the New York Times (April 12, 1960), “Fear and Hatred Grip Birmingham,” notes the arrest of “Thomas Reeves, a 21-year-old white student at Birmingham-Southern College and part-time preacher....” It was the earliest of many arrests and stints in jail that Tom faced for his political activism.

In the late ’60s, Tom worked and taught in Washington, D.C., teaching at, among other schools, American University. He was the director of the National Council to Repeal the Draft. From 1969 to ’71 he was a speechwriter for US senators Michael Gravel, Mark Hatfield, and George McGovern, the latter two of whom wrote introductions to The End of the Draft (Random House and Vintage Press, 1970), a book Tom co-wrote with Barry Goldwater speechwriter Karl Hess.

Tom’s work against the draft brought him to national prominence. A front-page story in the Harvard Crimson (March 2, 1970) reported on his speech the night before at Kirkland House. “‘[T]here is a realistic chance of repealing the draft’ in view of the wide-ranging agreement across the political spectrum on this issue,” the paper reported. “Reeves said that ‘people are challenging the idea that the central state should have the power to tell others how to run their lives.’”

After returning to Boston in the early ’70s, Tom joined the burgeoning gay liberation movement based around the Charles Street Coffeehouse. He frequently contributed to Gay Community News. As part of the radical Fag Rag collective and the Boston-Boise Committee, he tried to create a liberated gay culture.

Garrett Byrne, Suffolk County district attorney, was running for reelection in 1977. He turned two series of arrests – for public lewdness in Boston Public Library restrooms and for statutory rape at a house in Revere – into an anti-gay crusade. Tom Reeves and his fellow Fag Rag members, ministers and congregants of the Metropolitan Community Church, and other gay leaders fought back, forming the Boston-Boise Committee. Gore Vidal spoke at a benefit for the group at Arlington Street Church, an event a justice on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court sparked controversy by attending. Through demonstrations, public meetings, and publicity, Byrne’s campaign failed. The remaining criminal cases fizzled and Garrett Byrne was not reelected.

As a follow-up to the Boston-Boise Committee, Tom organized a conference on December 2, 1978, on the issue of ages of consent. At that conference, a group later known as the North American Man/Boy Love Association was formed by a caucus of several dozen in attendance. Tom strove over many years to convey the message that sex was something to celebrate, not fear. However moral panics ensued in the 1980s and ’90s, fueled by hysterias over the McMartin preschool case, ‘Satanic abuse,’ and recovered memories. All were shown to be without basis, but were used to hammer NAMBLA. Less radical gays – soon to be mainstream – separated from Tom on this issue.

Yet Tom was also a founding member and organizer of groups that would become more mainstream, such as Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), which grew out of the Boston-Boise Committee, and later, in the midst of the AIDS crisis, ACT UP.

“Tom was especially active as a member of ACT-UP/ Boston’s Housing Working Group,” recalls Robert Folan. “The working group organized numerous ACT-UP demonstrations to bring pressure on the city of Boston to respond to a growing crisis of homelessness among people with HIV. The group’s efforts resulted in the city committing to the development of new housing for PWAs. Over the next decade, hundreds of housing units for people with HIV would be created to alleviate the homeless problem.”

Reeves was featured in classic gay book and film Army of Lovers, by Rosa Von Praunheim.

Tom’s writings appeared in such diverse publications as the Baltimore Sun, Counterpunch, Montreal Gazette, NACLA Report (on Central American affairs), and Z Magazine.

Tom’s last years were spent in Montreal, Baltimore, and Spain. He returned to Baltimore last September, and passed away at the Manor Care Roland Park nursing home.

Tom is survived by a son and a grandson.

“As an ordained Methodist minister since his teens, Reeves always lived his life according to the highest Christian ideals,” said longtime friend and investigative journalist James Dubro. “He gave a lot of himself daily to those less fortunate and to marginalized minorities throughout his life.”

Tom suffered a lot for his beliefs in the last quarter century of his life. Not for his religious beliefs, which were conventional enough (he particularly subscribed to the ecumenical Taizé movement), but for his belief in the importance of challenging the U.S.’s ever more punitive sex laws, and particularly sex-offender registries, which he considered analogous to the Puritan scarlet letter.

“Tom was of the Tzadik Nistar,” Dubro goes on, referring to the mystical Judaic contention that God will spare a city if it contains even a few just men. “He counted among the 36 righteous who justify the existence of man to God.”

A memorial service is set for Saturday, April 28, 2012, at 3 p.m. at the Community Church of Boston (565 Boylston Street) in Copley Square. In lieu of flowers, consider a donation to the St. Joseph’s orphanage in Port au Prince, Haiti (Heartswithhaiti.org).

Quotes

  • PAN a magazine about boy-love - Number 4, February, 1980

"The core of our identity must be unashamed love of boys as boys."

"The authentic boy-love identity is not apologetic, does not view sex as temptation, and does not see the need for therapy or 'help' of any kind to reform or modify his sexuality. Love of boys as they are rules out any attempt to mould boys into what society expects of 'adults', and certainly not into 'normal' heterosexual men."

  • (1981 issue of NAMBLA NEWS)
  • EXPECT THE WORST LIVE FOR THE BEST: Three suggestions by Tom Reeves, NAMBLA activist

"2) Prepare the boys for questioning by the police. Explain to them that police will lie to them about you, that police will threaten the boys with arrest and other troubles, that the boys need not ever say anything at all about their sexual lives, that they need not go with police or answer any questions. All of this sounds very simple--and most boys will respond initially that, of course, they would not talk about sex to a policeman."

  • From The Prescott Courier - 21 Apr 1978 (prior to the formation of NAMBLA)

Boston gays want to cross age barrier

"I feel It is important to say it is possible to be a man and have a variety of relationships with adolescents, including sex, and still be an ethical, upstanding individual."

"Those relationships can be beneficial, and there Is nothing wrong with adolescents and men having sex. Sex is not a vile. awful thing. Sex is loving and caring."

"Boys between the ages of 14 and 16 just need sex all the time. They need to get it out of their systems. Some adolescents have a need to actively seek and seduce older men and do so regularly."

  • Other

"I feel It is important to say it is possible to be a man and have a variety of relationships with adolescents, including sex, and still be an ethical, upstanding individual."

External links

  • Brief info about Boston-Boise Committee, and a flyer put out by them in 1978:
http://www.lib.neu.edu/archives/voices/gl_sexual2.htm
  • Tom Reeves writings at NAMBLA
http://www.nambla.org/tom_reeves_writings.html
  • David Thorstad reflects on his collaboration with Tom Reeves
http://www.williamapercy.com/wiki/index.php?title=David_Thorstad_reflects_on_his_collaboration_with_Tom_Reeves