- History & Culture
Zapping: The boisterous protest tactic that ignited early LGBTQ activism
Designed to disrupt the status quo and gain support for gay rights, these theatrical tactics included everything from duck costumes to pie throwing.
Charles Silverstein was a grad student in psychology when he attended a workshop at a behavioral therapy convention in October 1972. The topic was aversion therapy, a form of pseudoscientific conversion therapy in which gay men were administered electric shocks and other stimuli to “cure” their sexual attraction to other men.
But Silverstein wasn’t there to learn. He was there to shut the workshop down. As a leading psychologist took the podium, Silverstein hurried to the front of the room and introduced himself as a gay activist.
“We’re going to interrupt your presentation,” he told the speaker. “We’ll give you 10 minutes to speak, and then we’re taking over.” He made good on his promise, prompting chaos in the presentation