Gene Elder is an out and proud gay man, an artist and activist, and is the LGBT Archives Director for the HAPPY Foundation, located in the same building as the Bonham Exchange. Among the many art and activism ideas he enacts is the Wedding Cake Liberation Front, in which participants bake a wedding cake and hold a fundraising party to eat it and to support marriage equality.
Gene, when did you come up with the Wedding Cake Liberation Front idea?
It was my reaction to the fight over the amendment to the Texas Constitution `HJR-6, also called the Marriage Amendment, passed in April 2005 and ratified later that year, formally denying civil marriage rights to gays and lesbians`. It was designed as a fundraiser for the `Lesbian and Gay Rights Lobby of Texas, now called Equality Texas`. I always like to make everything into an art form, and of course it was perfect, to me, to call it the Wedding Cake Liberation Front. It was inspired by all the liberation groups from the ’60s and ’70s. You recall the Weather Underground, the Black Panthers, Women’s Lib., etc. Martha Oestreich was the co-conspirator for the event. She paid for the cake.
Did it evolve out of the wedding cake as a symbol, or was it in response to something specific? When and where was the first WCLF event?
The wedding cake is a symbol, needless to say, and it is a symbol of happiness and love and two people starting a path in life, a gathering of friends, and by associating that with liberation was very funny and relevant. I have been wanting the WCL Front to start up in other states. I can’t figure out way it hasn’t. It is such a perfect excuse for a fundraiser. Get a cake, have some speakers, and have a political party. The first event took place in the Joan Grona Gallery, June 16, 2005.
Have you ever considered getting married?
I have not really thought about marriage. The idea seemed rather silly to me. I like being alone. To get married someone has to like you, and no one likes me but Jesus. Jesus told me to start the WCL Front, though. It was all his idea. Jesus and me are big buddies.
Would you describe the ideal wedding-cake fundraiser, so that people can throw WCLF parties? Is it a suggested donation per slice? Where would you recommend people donate the money they raise?
Well, of course the struggle to educate more people about this issue is still a national concern, and I would encourage each city and state to think original thoughts about how to make it a fundraiser for any group that they want to work for. `Ed. note: Check out marriageequality.org.` It is a pretty basic recipe: Make a cake, be as creative as you can afford. Any cake will do. Round up some speakers. Get some entertainment, and have a party. Practice having a wedding. Practice makes perfect. What could be simpler? I always wanted to have a wedding-cake sit-in at the Alamo. But, you know, people always look at me askance about my ideas. The party can be as elaborate as hell, or a get-together on the patio around the pool.
Is there any place where people can find out more about the WCLF, as an art/activism-concept?
Basically I am it. And this article you are writing. Toby Johnson wrote an article about the gallery event. It is on the web. Just google Wedding Cake Liberation Event. I can be reached at the HAPPY Foundation or email@example.com. If anyone starts a WCLFront chapter, I would like to know about it because I have a file on it in the `HAPPY Foundation LGBT` archives.
Do you like weddings, in general?
No! They are so ooey gooey to me.