Personal Experience / Social Issues and Activist Strategies
Boy choked by cops
 A Call for Social Justice
by Fri Beslut and the San Francisco Journal Collective

JOINING NAMBLA was a significant step in my evolution from isolation to seIf acceptance.  I was exposed for the first time to others with sexual feelings similar to mine; as heinous as my thoughts and feelings about boys might have seemed to me there were others in this world who had similar leanings.

The first NAMBLA meeting I attended surprised me because not only were there others like me, they were as diverse as those of any single- purpose group could be.  There was a range of social, ethnic and political representations.  There were people I respected: men and women who were honest with themselves and others, who saw the need for examining the issues surrounding the love between children and adults from broad social, political, legal and personal perspectives and whom I considered to have personal integrity.  My association with these people has helped me increase my self-respect tremendously.

As my "perversion" became less perverse, I started looking outward for sources of my feelings of inadequacy caused by my pedophilia.  The more I examined my life, the more obvious it became to me that my predilection for young boys was not necessarily bad.  What was bad were the repressive measures inflicted upon children who chose to love an adult completely and upon those adults who chose to so love a child.  My pedophilia allowed me to see my repression as but one facet of a much larger pattern of social and political oppression.

There is potential for political stagnation in NAMBLA if we lose sight of this broader context, stagnation which can occur in spite of the willingness of some members to put their reputations, jobs and lives on the line to confront the legal system about cross-generational love and sex.  The system arrayed against us is strong, hence the need for sophisticated political awareness and wider political support.

When viewed in a purely sexual context, the subject of child-adult sex can be quite limited.  But it is very difficult to view it solely in that context.  Hard upon the heels of the question of the legitimacy of children engaging in sex with adults or other children comes the more important issue of the right of children to have control of and consent in all areas of their lives, non-sexual as well as sexual.  With the dependency which we adults have fostered in young people, it would be unrealistic to expect them to assume the full responsibilities attendant with complete social liberation immediately.  But if adults would admit to prior mistakes in child rearing and undertake it instead as a process for inculcating self-sufficiency and self respect, then such a time would be hastened in coming.

There are reasons for the reluctance of our political and social institutions to accept the liberation of children.  Principal among these is the concept of children as chattel, that is, movable property.  Legally, children are not owned by their parents, but nonetheless are completely subject to their parent's domination and consequently, have the status of slaves.

Children have no rights.  If black people were barred from the streets after 10:00 pm, if women were prohibited from frequenting video arcades except on weekends, if 30 year olds were banned from having consensual sex with 40 year olds, there would be a vehement outcry against the obvious discrimination.  But in their supposed wisdom, adults have decided what is right, safe or harmful for young people.  Status offenses (crimes such as truancy, curfew violations, running away from home and others so defined based solely on the age of the perpetrator) are by definition discriminatory.

A logical ramification of pedophilia should be an acceptance by the pedophile of children's liberation as opposed to externally imposed "children's rights".  Children, for example, have the right in this country not to be treated as an adult in the juvenile justice system but forfeit as a consequence any and all of the legal rights adult citizens may possess.  Children have a right not to work at arduous or dangerous jobs (though many do) but have been denied the right to earn a living and to live independently except at the convenience and behest of adults.  Those rights granted to young people currently are those which when given still allow for easy maintenance of children as second class citizens.

From an acceptance of the concept of children's liberation it is not a large step to the acceptance of the idea of general social liberation for all people.  When special cases of discrimination against children are examined, the specialness of the examples diminishes.  The discrimination against children is similar to that experienced by all socially oppressed and disadvantaged groups in this country such as women, the aged, lesbians, the poor, the mentally retarded, gay men, and the physically disadvantaged.

Ultimately, though, it is not classes or groups that are oppressed; it is individuals.  It is each of us, as it is each and every child, who is being kept in her or his place, made to toe the line, to power the economic juggernaut, to fuel the military machine, to obey the self-serving rules of the oligarchy.

The liberation of the individual from control by the oligarchy is the only sure way to the liberation of children.  If boys are to be free to love men in any manner the boy wishes, then we as members and friends of NAMBLA must be willing to assume active roles in the struggle for individual liberation in all of its manifestations.

Our first role would be to become active and open advocates of freedom for all people.  We must become vociferous supporters of women's liberation, economic self-determination for people of color, nuclear disarma- ment (nuclear war being the most sweeping violation of individual liberties) and other issues seemingly not directly related to pedophilia.

Second, we should eschew adherence to political rectitude but in its stead question all authority including our own intentions in our political activities.  We should promote discussion and argument on important social issues.  This may seem to contradict the first point, but it does not.  Unquestioned acceptance of dogma or a party line in areas with which one is politically sympathetic does not provide the environment necessary for growth and needed new perspectives.

Third, special groups should be allowed their own rights of decision and self expression.  For instance, a woman I know took umbrage at a gay man's insistence that homosexual women should be called "gay.”  Her comment was that all of the homosexual women she knew, herself included, considered themselves and called themselves "lesbian.”  This is not a minor point but reflects the overall issue of self-determination and self-expression.  identities, names or designations imposed from without are an indication of the attempted imposition of external control.

The need to become aware and involved politically is particularly acute at this time.  The involvement of the FBI, postal inspectors and police in trying to entrap us is an example of our government's willingness to restrict and deny personal freedom in the name of what it claims to be the general welfare.  These tactics are historically-based.  There were, for instance, the internment of the Japanese in the Second World War and the quasi-legal and illegal tactics used to infiltrate, discredit or destroy anti-war and social activist groups in the 60's and 70's, including our government's destruction of the Black Panther Party using violence and killing.  This was strikingly similar to the response to the earlier civil rights movement.

Issues concerning children cry out for political action.  When will we insist that the government end its policy of attempted domination of poor, unaligned and "colored" countries with its attendant hideous massacres of children?  How long will we permit the continued erosion of social programs whose marginal beneficiaries are those least able to exert political power: the poor, women, the handicapped--and children?  We have imposed upon our children a nightmare of nuclear destruction because the proliferation and production of nuclear weapons are good for business: when will we make this planet safe for our children?  When will we allow children the right to do with their bodies what they please: to love as they wish, to play as they wish, simply, to live?

We claim to love children.  What price are we willing to pay to prove it?

Most of the members of NAMBLA I have known are white, middle-class men and thus relatively isolated from the socioeconomic repression felt by large numbers of people on this planet.  We have a responsibility because of our relative freedom of action to the ideal we espouse of complete liberation for children.  It cannot come about in a society where short term economic considerations take overwhelming precedence over social concerns.  There are many ways of working for a socially resonsible society.  Minimally, we can wear buttons or use bumper stickers to urge for social change, and we can defend the positions they express.  More effective and involved techniques include, but are not limited to, the use of the political system and the ballot box as weapons for change, involvement in local political organizations and contributions of money and time to organizations whose goals are the liberation of all peoples.  Extra-legal activities such as tax resistance or support of draft resistors (perhaps by the establishment of "safe houses" or underground railways) are more dangerous but still effective ways of combatting a political and social system which is becoming increasingly repressive.  Whatever we do, we must begin by articulating the links between a boy's right to determine what he does with his body, young people's rights to greater self-determination, and all individuals' rights to freedom.

But we must act.  Failure to act now only signs the death warrant for individual liberties and guarantees our ultimate enslavement.

From NAMBLA JOURNAL SIX, Pgs. 1 - 4, 1983.
Copyright © NAMBLA, 2008


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