I’ve read quite a few obituaries and memorials for Arthur Evan, who died on September 11, 2011; they seem to refer to completely different individuals—there’s the pioneer gay liberationist, there’s the curmudgeon of Haight Street who wrote almost daily letters about problems caused by homeless people to the local press, and there’s the important figure in queer spirituality and paganism. Evan’s book The Lord of Ecstasy about Dionysos and sex/gender roles made a great impact on me when I read back when it came out in 1988. It remains an essential contribution to the literature on this god. It also includes his translation of the Bakkhae. There are photos in the book from the production he directed also; it must’ve been a wonderful theatrical production! It ran from December 4th, 1984 to January 15, 1985 at the Valencia Rose Cabaret in San Francisco’s Mission District. Dionysos was played by Assunta Femia, a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence.
There’s also Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture, which came out in 1978 and was important in inspiring the Radical Fairy milieu. He founded the Fairy Circle in San Francisco in 1975. While Evans was definitely under the influence of the Murray theory of ‘thee Olde Religion’ (well, just about everyone was at that time) it made the important point that many of those who were caught up in witchcraft persecutions in late medieval and early modern Europe were sexual/gender variant people, as can be found in historian of witchcraft E. Wiliam Monter’s archival work on French and German witchcraft persecutions, including the frequent charges of both sodomy and werewolvery.
Evans had a background in classics and philosophy, and also wrote the Critique of Patriarchal Reason, which I would like to read. I hope he is much longer remembered for his writings and activism than his complaints about the homeless (and I am sure he will be). He played a big part in queer liberation, GLBT activism, AIDS activism and anti-war movements. In many ways his voice still resonates today, even in this conservative age of contraction and diminished expectations. May he inspire us to continue to create a more liberatory culture and may he wander the lovely slopes of Nysa and meet up with his god in ecstasy!