Jack Castiglione’s first interest in civil rights developed during the short term of President Kennedy who tried to tackle that most important and violently contested, black equality issue of the time. With his newly kindling interest in equality and civil rights in the mid-1960s (while Castiglione was in high school), he became very concerned about reports exposing the unfair and harsh treatment of migrant farm workers. These legal migrants were grossly underpaid, required to live in substandard housing, and routinely subjected to awful sub-human practices such as being sprayed with herbicides (from the air) while working in the fields. Castiglione joined in supporting the work of Caesar Chavez in protecting and organizing farm workers in California and participated in the lettuce boycott (and other movements). He supported Chavez’s struggle to form the United Farm Workers Union to end the abuses for the farmers.
What first caught Castiglione’s attention on gay discrimination issues was a series of gay-bashing events including murders of gay people in Long Beach, California in the mid-1970s. Interestingly, the first notable riots of gay people who were fed-up with anti-gay police abuse occurred in New York in 1969. These were called the Stonewall Riots, but those being on the East coast event, did not really catch his attention. What was happening in Jack Castiglione’s own backyard a few years later ignited a fire in his soul.
In 1977 he attended a public meeting at MCC (the Metropolitan Community Church) which hosted a meeting between the gay community and the Long Beach Police Department to discuss an ongoing investigation of — yet another — murder of a gay man who was ambushed on the streets of Long Beach. In this latest case, the police department had not caught the predator that would come across as a friendly gay person in gay bars. The predator would present himself as interested in sexual relations with various bar patrons until he found one who would invite him to his home. Once in the victim’s home. He would murder that person. Castiglione met and interviewed the one victim who was stabbed but escaped his assailant to report the crime to the police. The victim spoke at that meeting.
In another case, a former roommate of Castiglione picked up a pleasant man at a gay bar in Long Beach because he expressed a mutual interest in sex, and brought him to his apartment. The victim was tied to a chair and set on fire. He did not survive.
In 1981, Jack Castiglione joined Dignity (a national gay Catholic organization) and soon served on the board of directors in various positions over the years, including president of the Long Beach Chapter, which was one of the largest chapters in the nation. In 1984, the Dignity help phone line was established in his home, and he answered it for the next 6 years. It became more of a “Hot Line” because people were calling for help and expression emotional issues, some very deeply, with various conflicts with the Church. Castiglione worked with the bishops of the Los Angeles Catholic Diocese, including attending various meetings with the then Archbishop, Roger Mahony. His “mission” was to try to reason with the bishops to respect gay and lesbian people as full Catholics. Castiglione did shake up the local Church and even helped to start a group called “Communidad” in Long Beach which consisted of gay and lesbian Catholics. His hope was that it would eventually grow into an organization that would exert sufficient influence to move the bishops to accept gay and lesbian Catholics as equals. He hoped as all of the Dignity organization hoped, that the Church would someday declare gay and lesbian Catholics to be whole people who must be acknowledged and respected in the Church. He would continually challenge Roger Mahony to educate his priests in the current principles of healthy psychology.
Early in his time in Dignity, Jack Castiglione attended a Catholic Mass conducted by a visiting Catholic missionary for fundraising purposes. During the missionary’s homily, the priest called gays “fags,” and “queers.” Castiglione walked out. He wrote Archbishop Mahony and told him of this public degradation of gay people. Days later he received a personal letter of apology from that missionary. Castiglione worked on this issue throughout the 1980s. However, after 8 years in Dignity and a strong and continuous dialogue with the bishops, he remained frustrated to conclude that the best the Archbishop would do was to refer to gays and lesbians as good but “broken people.” The Bishops of the church would not/could not consider a way to allowed sexual intimacy in their committed relationships. Even after three years of exchanging letters with Archbishop Roger Mahony, he felt that he made no real progress.
Although he continued some interest in the Church for many years, he struggled with the “ancient-thinking” Church. He felt his efforts would be more productive in helping to tackle social issues. It is not just because of the anti-gay issue, but also because of other important issues in which the Church refused to be reasonable, such as with the use of contraception (even in spite of the AIDS crisis), not allowing women to be priests, and the refusal to accept the healthy principles of modern psychology as essential for good mental health. The conflict between the concepts of healthy psychology and the central concepts of most Christian religions eventually lead him to be an atheist. Jack Castiglione concluded that any religion that promoted negative psychological outcomes on its members (such as producing poor self-images of LGBT people) was bad theology. The principles of modern psychology became his new “religion.”
He was appointed to the Long Beach Police chief’s advisory committee representing the gay community and served as chairman, serving three police chiefs’ from 1987 to 1992.
He helped create sting operations with LBPD to intervene in anti-gay violence. He was the subject of a documentary to showcase various efforts to combat anti-gay violence in Long Beach in 1992.
Jack Castiglione wrote op-ed pieces in the Long Beach Press-Telegram to bring anti-gay violence to the attention of the general population. He wrote numerous articles in the gay press to inform the gay community of the importance of filing crime reports when they were the victims of hate crimes.
In 1986, a gay man was stabbed to death in front of the popular, LGBT-frequented, Birds of Paradise Cafe. The community was again in outrage and demanded action from the LBPD. This event was the impetus that caused Castiglione to start the anti-gay violence hotline for LGBT members to report and document acts of violence against them. The idea was that since LBPD had a very poor reputation in respecting members of the LGBT community and rendering service, victims had the alternative of this hotline to report that crime. Many LGBT people used that line to do just that. Because many members of the gay community were very untrusting of the police, many used this hotline to report such crimes. This phone rang in Castiglione’s home from 1990 to 1996. (At one time, Castiglione had a 3-line phone system in his house to accommodate hotlines.) He interviewed every signal victim who called to report a crime, and he brought every single crime to the personal attention of the Chief of Police. The gay center supported his work and paid that phone bill.
Jack Castiglione was allowed to give special training sessions on gay and lesbian sensitivity to each Long Beach police academy class from about 1986 to 1993. This was to make police officers aware of the shameful treatment the gay community was receiving from the general community as well as from some members of the police department. In addition to new officers, the city implemented the same gay and lesbian sensitivity training as a requirement for all current officers as well. The Long Beach Police Dept. was so bad, that a new police chief, Lawrence Binkley, was brought on in 1987 to “clean up the department.” Within a short time, that new chief fired 83 police officers for improper behavior, not only against the LGBT community but for dereliction of duty in all police matters throughout the city.
In working with the 3 police chiefs over that time (mainly Binkley and Ellis), Jack Castiglione helped transform the LBPD. In the 1970’s LBPD was transformed from an agency with officers who would not protect members of the LGBT community or even take reports from gay-bashed victims, to a more professional complement of officers who would respect and treat the LGBT people fairly. (He would, however, admit that the vice squad was still operating out of legal bounds in making their arrests.) Castiglione became so important to the rank and file of LBPD that many members of the police department sought a letter of recommendation from him. Some higher ranking members would seek him out at his home or work and ask him for such a letter from this well-respected leader of the Long Beach gay community. (Amazing!)
In 1986, Jack Castiglione became a member of the newly formed Hospital Visitation Team.” This program trained men and women as professional PWA (Persons with AIDs) visitors at the various local hospitals who cared for AIDS patients. The gay center sponsored a 6-week training class to teach volunteers methods of “active listening” and other important aspects of death and dying, these team members were considered “visiting friends.” He worked at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Long Beach to visit any PWAs who wanted to talk to someone. He completed his training in 1986 and visited PWAs, once a week, for 6 years.
In 1991, Castiglione was appointed by the Long Beach City Council to serve as a Human Rights Commissioner which he worked on for four years.
Jack Castiglione authored the gay rights book, titled, “The Straight Person’s Guide to Gay People’s Anguish,” which was published in 1992.
Note: As you can tell, particularly between the years of 1980 and 1996, Jack Castiglione was immersed in civil and social issues including, stopping anti-LGBT violence, building LBPD relations, bring support and comfort to those with AIDS, and tackling the anti-LGBT positions of the Catholic Church.
Currently, in 2018, at the age of 70, Castiglione still maintains interest in all of the above, but to a lesser degree. However, he is expanding two new volunteer interests, despite his chronic physical disability with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (see the tab “GBS”). The first is, he joined a nonprofit cat rescue to help expand its ability to rescue, neuter and adopt out more cats to loving homes. He will be primarily focused on fundraising events and marketing.
Second, Castiglione was surprised when he received a postcard purported to be from a Democrat organization’s recommendations for California’s June 2018 election. It listed all the popular Democratic candidates and supported elections. However, that postcard included support for judges who are right-wing and even anti-LGBT. How did that happen? The postcard, in very fine print, indicated that all the judges included in its information were paid to be listed. Since judges are to be non-political, it can be said that any judges listed have a basis for being listed. Since Castiglione worked in the Lambda Democratic Club (see above), recommending judges as well as other candidates, was a key interest of his. Judges, however, don’t often do interviews, and never express their personal political leanings. But determining which judges to support as more progressive or liberal, can still be accomplished. This is Jack Castiglione’s second new challenge.
On the Personal Side:
Jack Castiglione was born in 1948, and in the City of San Pedro, CA (Los Angeles) as were his parents before him. He studied politics and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from California State University, Dominguez Hills, in 1970. Just out of college, he worked for the City of Carson for 8 years and then for the City of Gardena for 3 years. In 1978, he started the Long Beach Music Company (one of several businesses he enjoyed operating) At this music teaching supplies company he invented/designed and sold some 40 products nationwide, to help beginners to learn to play musical instruments and to read and write music. He sold that business 35 years later. In 1992, he built, owned and operated one of the largest coffee houses in the state of California, The Coffee Tavern in Bixby Knolls area of Long Beach, CA.
Even though he has a life-long struggle with dyslexia, he enjoys writing articles and poetry, with many being published. He has many activities and hobbies such as US politics and history, pets and animals, cooking, human rights and equality, flowers and gardens, cards and games, traveling, socializing and making new friends.
On June 21, 2001, Jack Castiglione became severely ill when he suddenly contracted a rare and devastating illness called Guillain-Barre Syndrome, GBS for short. It’s an autoimmune disease that destroys one’s nervous system, usually, its damaging effects are temporary. In Castiglione’s case, it became chronic. He basically became a quadriplegic for most of a year and then experienced a very slow, partial recovery during the next 15 years. GBS has nothing to do with AIDS, he is not HIV Positive. Though today he looks and acts completely healed. He does have extreme fatigue as well as difficulty walking. He continues to receive physical therapy.
He officially retired from all businesses in 2015 at the age of 68, but his interest in writing and in LGBT rights continues. He resides in Long Beach with Doug Cleaver, his lifelong partner since January 20, 1992.
Note: The dates in this bio are mostly from memory, and maybe slightly different from actual times.