GAMMA's First Year
From the first meeting on January 10, 1978 until the end of September, meetings were held almost every Thursday night in someone’s home. Usually the first and third Thursdays were reserved for “Rap Sessions” while the second and fourth Thursdays were set aside for social events. The only way a man could connect to the group was through a published telephone number. The phone was connected to an answering machine maintained by A. Billy S. Jones (now Jones-Hennin). A caller would be contacted and then given an address after a phone interview. GAMMA records contain many examples of maps with directions to members’ homes. Social events were important because, as the organizers for GAMMA had stated in the announcement for the new group, “discrete gay social outlets are extremely limited for married gays”.
The first name for the organization was the “Married Gays Association”. This title appears in eight months of meeting announcements published in The Washington Blade. It also appears in a couple of letters written by A. Billy Jones in March, 1978. The first use of the name “GAMMA” appears with the first newsletter, published in July, 1978. That issue also carries the lower case Greek letters for “lambda” and “gamma”, but the next issue of the newsletter has “GAMMA” proudly written in full one-inch letters at the top. Beginning in October and for many years thereafter, a simple, but boldly printed upper case Greek letter gamma was used as our logo.
The first newsletter (July, 1978) announced that four members had taken on responsibility as coordinators for specific jobs: Ron L. for Social Planning, John S. for Rap Sessions, Vern W. for Finances, and Billy J. for the Newsletter and Telephone (full names were used in the newsletter). In the following issue, this same group is referred to as “The Steering Committee”, but this time only first names are used. For several years, members carrying out those functions also acted as the governing body of the organization. Steering Committee Meetings were held monthly and all members were invited/encouraged to attend.
The September newsletter announced that GAMMA had finally found a home; beginning in October, the group met regularly on the second and fourth Fridays in Satterlee Hall located in St Alban’s Parish at Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues. The group continued to meet there for a little over 5 years (10/13/1978 until 2/24/1984). Allied groups: Parents Who Are Gay (P-WAG), GAMMA Couples and GAMMA Wives also met at St Albans. Because of the cost of the new venue, members attending meetings were asked to contribute $2 “if at all possible”.
Curiously, calendar entries in the two December issues of The Blade identified GAMMA as a support group for both lesbians and gays in straight marriages. There is no discussion about this in the newsletters.
The year ended with the “GAMMA Retreat Sexuality Workshop” attended by at least 15 men. It was held at the Cacapon Resort State Park in Berkeley Springs, WV (December 1-3). This was the first of many retreats that GAMMA would sponsor over the years.
Sixteen men attended the first GAMMA meeting in January; by the end of the year, GAMMA membership had grown to almost 100 (The Blade, Jan 18, 1979, p 16).