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Kim and Francis

Timothy Kincaid

October 2nd, 2015

Kim Davis

Kim Davis and her attorneys have been making quite a big deal about her meeting Pope Francis. (Washington Times)

“I was humbled to meet Pope Francis. Of all people, why me?” Mrs. Davis said in the written statement. “I never thought I would meet the Pope. Who am I to have this rare opportunity? I am just a County Clerk who loves Jesus and desires with all my heart to serve him.”

She continued: “Pope Francis was kind, genuinely caring, and very personable. He even asked me to pray for him. Pope Francis thanked me for my courage and told me to ‘stay strong.’ “

From the descriptions given by Davis and Mat Staver, her counsel, you’d think this was an intimate and meaningful meeting in which the two shared their souls and pledged to fight together for their cause. Clearly the pontiff endorses Davis and her actions and encouraged her to fight on.

But knowing Staver’s history of less-than-factual statements and Davis’ gift for histrionics, something felt a bit contrived about their reporting.

We’ve all been in a receiving line of some sort or gone to a book signing or met for a moment with our Congressman. And while in the thrall of the experience we may think, ‘ohmigod, Taylor Swift was so nice to me’, by the time we got home we realized that she has no clue who we are, doesn’t recall the 10 seconds she gave, and has no opinion about us at all.

This felt like that. I certainly didn’t think it was some special audience with the Pope or any endorsement of Davis and her recalcitrance. That didn’t seem realistic.

Charles Pierce, writing in Esquire, looked further and speculated that the meeting was a set up contrived by Staver and Archbishop Carlo Vigano to play up Davis’ drama and tarnish Francis’ image, a position which was echoed by sources close to the Vatican.

In April, in a move that was unprecedented, Vigano got involved with an anti-marriage equality march in Washington sponsored by the National Association For Marriage. (And, mirabile dictu, as we say around Castel Gandolfo at happy hour, one of the speakers at this rally was Mat Staver, who happens now to be Kim Davis’s lawyer.) In short, Vigano, a Ratzinger loyalist, who has been conspicuous and publicly involved in the same cause as Kim Davis and her legal team, arranges a meeting with Davis that the legal team uses to its great public advantage.

Whether or not Pierce’s speculation has any merit, the result was embarrassment for the Pope and disappointment for Catholics who had hoped that Francis’ visit would usher in a less politically antagonistic relationship between the Church and the LGBT community. Taken together with a vague answer to questions about matters of conscience, it appeared that the Pope was endorsing Davis’ behavior.

Fut finally the Vatican has released a statement responding to the Davis’ self-aggrandizement and the answer is, more or less, “Kim who?”.

The brief meeting between Mrs. Kim Davis and Pope Francis at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, DC has continued to provoke comments and discussion. In order to contribute to an objective understanding of what transpired I am able to clarify the following points:

Pope Francis met with several dozen persons who had been invited by the Nunciature to greet him as he prepared to leave Washington for New York City. Such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the Pope’s characteristic kindness and availability. The only real audience granted by the Pope at the Nunciature was with one of his former students and his family.

The Pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects.

So there it is. Davis was part of a receiving line and got a rosary and a few moments of Pope Francis’ time. She, and her legal team, decided to spin that meeting into something that it was not.

As for the Pope’s only official audience? At present, it appears that it was with someone who does not share Davis’ position at all. (CNN)

Yayo Grassi, an openly gay man, brought his partner, Iwan, as well several other friends to the Vatican Embassy on September 23 for a brief visit with the Pope. A video of the meeting shows Grassi and Francis greeting each other with a warm hug.


Liberty Counsel is now claiming that the Vatican is lying

Despite a statement this morning by a Vatican official, the Pope’s own words about conscientious objection being a human right and his private meeting with Kim Davis indicate support for the universal right of conscientious objection, even for government officials. The meeting with Kim Davis was initiated by the Vatican, and the private meeting occurred at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, September 24. This meeting was a private meeting without any other members of the public present.

In short, Staver and Davis are asking you not to take the Vatican’s word for what the Pope supports but to take the word of two Protestants who have a history of stretching the story. I’ll let you decide who to believe.

Alan Chambers supports same-sex marriage

Timothy Kincaid

September 29th, 2015

Over the past few years, Alan Chambers, the former head of ex-gay umbrella group Exodus International, has made significant changes in the way in which he sees the world and his own spirituality. In his new book My Exodus: From Fear to Grace, he discusses how letting go of fear-based theology allowed him to see the image of God in places he once was afraid to see and in his book he encourages other Christians to do the same.

Although they are but a part of Alan’s transformation, the change in his views about sexuality are the most notable due to his past. Alan has not rejected his faith and it remains the center of his focus. But he has definitely changed the way in which he sees God and what is holy.

From Eliel Cruz’ interview with Alan in Religious News Service:

Where do you stand on same-sex relationships? Are you affirming of them?

I do believe that same-sex relationship can be holy. As a Christian, I think marriage is best. That is why I’m supportive of the Supreme Court decision for the legal recognition of same-sex marriage. I think same-sex marriages can reflect, and often do, God’s image. Many people in the church either do not know of Christ-centered same-sex relationships or refuse to see them. Leslie and I have met so many individuals who have awesome stories and are doing amazing work. Their marriages absolutely reflect the image of God.

Catholic student sent home after following rules

Timothy Kincaid

September 28th, 2015

CBHSIt can’t be easy being a Catholic school administrator, especially when it comes to gay issues.

On the one hand, most Catholics are supportive of gay people and wish for inclusion and respect. And this Pope, those opposing legal equality, speaks the language of compassion and conciliation.

On the other hand the American Bishops are, by and large, pedophile-defending, gay hating, sanctimonious royalty with less compassion than the 17th Century French royalty. And within every parish there are self-righteous zealots standing at the ready to raise a hue and stink if a school tries to find some approach other than sin, Sin, SIN AND ABOMINATION!!!

But though it must be tough, sometimes they just make it a lot harder on themselves than they have to. Sometimes they are their own worst enemy.

Take, for example, the story of Lance Sanderson.

Lance attends Christian Brothers High School, an all-boys Catholic High School in Memphis Tennessee with an emphasis on human dignity and a commitment to social justice. And when he told an administrator last year that he wanted to bring a male date to the Homecoming Dance, he was told that the school didn’t discriminate and suggested that it would be allowed.

But that administrator left over the summer and now the school is taking a less favorable view. (Memphis Flyer)

“I was sitting down talking to one of the current administrators over the summer, and at the end of our conversation, I mentioned it, expecting him to say the same thing. And he had a very different response,” Sanderson said. “He mentioned a [gay] couple in Texas and said I was a lot like this one person and said that the guy’s boyfriend murdered him. It was a little rough.”

I suppose that it goes without saying that “you shouldn’t date because of this one drunken fight in Texas” is phenominally bad advice, however well intended. Surely by 2015 we don’t have to rely on wild anecdotal evidence to know “what gay people are like”.

But considering that he is being taught to stand for social justice, no one should be surprised that Lance decided not to just accept that administrator’s response. He started a petition requesting the school to change it’s mind, and received support from about 24,000 signatories. And a couple dozen alumni marched with him at pride.

The school did not back down. Which is their right. But the way they went about is just plain stupid.

The school could have issued a statement along the lines of “We support Lance and respect diversity, but we are a Catholic School and same-sex dating is contrary to Catholic teaching, so we cannot allow that at official school functions.” Not a great outcome, but not likely to cause many waves.

Instead, the school compiled a committee that came up with a policy:

CBHS students may attend the dance by themselves, with other CBHS students, or with a girl from another school. For logistical reasons, boys from other schools may not attend.

Logistical Reasons. Because, you know, boys get into interschool rivalries and cause fights, especially those gay boys who are going to murder you later. And we just don’t have the logistics to deal with that.

Then they announced that the Homecoming Dance is no longer a date dance.

No, no, there won’t be anyone at the Homecoming Dance on a date. It will just be the students hanging out with their buddies (but not buddies from other schools) and with some random girls who somehow wandered there for no apparent reason but which are definitely not on dates. So, you see, we aren’t discriminating against gay students who want to bring a date, because no one is on a date. At the Homecoming Dance.

Just a note of advice to Catholic school administrators: If you’re going to say something stupid, even colossally stupid, try to come up with something that at least has some semblance of believability.

So Lance didn’t go to his Senior Year Non-Date Homecoming Dance on Saturday. Because while other students were there with their not-dates, Lance wasn’t allowed to bring a not-date, so as to avoid fights over interschool rivalries and later being murdered.

And the story should have ended there on that note of silliness.

But Christian Brothers’ administration wasn’t quite through with truly stupid blunders. Today they pulled Lance out of school and told him to stay home for the week. Even though he didn’t bring a date to the Non-Date Homecoming Dance. (Logo)

Today I arrived at school around 6:30am. I sat down to complete my assignments for the classes I planned on attending today. At 7:30am, I was speaking to a teacher when an administrator walked into the room and told me to gather my books and come to the office.

When I arrived at the office I was told that the administration “had 890 other students to worry about” and could not deal with me. I was told to go home for the week. I said goodbye to a few teachers and students, then drove home.

And so now this matter of committee policy is now a story for the mainstream media. Congratulations Christian Brothers, you make the Three Stooges look like policy wonks.

Though the school is not telling anyone why they sent Lance home, in their letter the CBHS Community, they suggest that Lance was wrong to use social media to stand up for himself. They are embarrassed and have yet to realize that their embarrassment has everything to do with themselves and nothing to do with Lance. So Lance must be punished.

I guess at Christian Brothers in Memphis, social justice means standing up for inclusion and speaking truth to power… except when you are the power.

Clearly, this is not going to end well for the administration at Christian Brothers High School.

Boehner resigns

Timothy Kincaid

September 25th, 2015

john boehner

John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, has announced his resignation. (Tribune)

With Congress in turmoil, House Speaker John Boehner abruptly informed fellow Republicans on Friday that he would resign from Congress at the end of October, stepping aside in the face of hardline conservative opposition that threatens an institutional crisis.

Boehner has faced increasing criticism from the more conservative elements within the Republican Party caused by his reluctance to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood funding. Boehner is seen as the quintessential establishment Republican by the Tea Party elements and an impediment to their wild west style of politics.

A constant focus of conservatives’ complaints, Boehner was facing the threat of a floor vote on whether he could stay on as speaker, a formal challenge that hasn’t happened in over 100 years. That was being pushed by tea partyers convinced Boehner wasn’t fighting hard enough to strip Planned Parenthood of government funds, even though doing so risked a government shutdown next week.

“It’s become clear to me that this prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable harm to the institution,” Boehner told a news conference several hours after making the announcement to his rank and file. “There was never any doubt I could survive the vote, but I didn’t want my members to go through this, I didn’t want this institution to go through this.”

In all likelihood, Boehner could withstand a floor vote. But I suspect that to do so he would require not only the support of less extreme Republicans, but that of Democrats who have nothing to gain from Boehner’s replacement.

This resignation is not good news for our community. While the Speaker has been portrayed as The Enemy by many gay writers, in reality his language and tone have been civil and respectful and have signalled that one can be opposed to our objectives without engaging in hateful diatribe or invective.

Probably Boehner’s most notorious behavior was hiring and funding counsel to bolster the Defense of Marriage Act. But, as I said at the time, defense of a law by Congress is not an unreasonable action, irrespective of what one believes about that law.

And it should be noted that during the defense of DOMA, Boehner did not attack gay couples or wail about the sanctity of the time honored definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, choosing instead to say that “The constitutionality of this law should be determined by the courts.”

Interestingly, in the middle of the battle, federal bankruptcy judges in the Central District of California declared DOMA to be a violation of the US Constitution. Boehner decided not to appeal the decision as it was unlikely to be a vehicle through which the Supreme Court could rule on DOMA’s constitutionality in a broad sense.

Upon the Supreme Court ruling in Windsor that DOMA was a violation of the US Constitution, Boehner announced his disappointment but immediately ceased defense of any federal laws or measures that discriminated against same-sex couples. Nor did he or the House involve themselves in the Obergefell or other state marriage cases.

This is not to say that Boehner was an ally to the community nor that as Speaker he advanced our goals. That is not the case. Boehner supported DADT and continues to express his beliefs that marriage should be limited to heterosexuals.

But he has also not been a derisive opponent. And while he did not encourage the GOP to adopt equality, he expressed that the party should be inclusive of gay people and in the last election cycle he traveled to support gay Republican candidates – even though they disagreed with him about marriage and other issues.

It will be interesting to see who will replace the Speaker. Though it is possible that maverik moderates may refuse to vote for an extremist, it is more likely that the next Speaker of the House will be a Tea Party activist. And should that be the case, we may be subjected to a season in which the House of Representatives debates – or perhaps even supports – efforts to change the Constitution to institute bigotry. Almost certainly religious preference laws will be proposed so as to encourage and protect discrimination.

It’s likely to get nasty.

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The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, October 6

Jim Burroway

October 6th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From This Week In Texas, July 2, 1977, page 31.

From This Week In Texas, July 2, 1977, page 31.

Mayor Abe Aronovitz

Miami Mayor: “Deviates Are Leaving The City”: 1954. Miami’s ongoing media-driven hysteria over discovering the presence of gay people in their midst (see Aug 3Aug 11Aug 12Aug 13 (twice that day), Aug 14Aug 15, Aug 16Aug 26, Aug 31, Sep 1, Sep 2, Sep 7, Sep 15, and Sep 19) appeared to be on the wane, with Mayor Abe Aronovitz telling The Miami News that the city’s highly publicized raids on gay bars and beaches were finally having their effect:  

Mayor Claims Deviates Are Leaving City

Miami is the cleanest town in the area so far as homosexuals go, it was claimed by Mayor Abe Aronovitz, who said, “but we are not solving it from a humanitarian standpoint because we are only clearing it up as far as Miami is concerned.”

“There is no solution from a humanitarian standpoint, however, because I have received complaints from both Broward County on the north and Monroe County on the south that the homosexuals are just drifting out of Miami.”

The City Commission later today is expected to pass on second reading an ordinance aimed at controlling homosexuals and also jeopardizing liquor licenses of establishments serving people known to have homosexual tendencies.

It was passed on the first reading two weeks ago.

And that is why there are no homosexuals in Miami anymore.

Rev. Troy Perry

Rev. Troy Perry Holds First Metropolitan Community Church Service: 1968. Perry’s life had always been difficult. His bootlegger father died when Perry was twelve. His mother married an alcoholic who reduced the family to poverty and was physically abusive. Troy ran away from home and stayed with relatives, who introduced him to Pentecostalism. In 1959, the nineteen-year-old Perry married a Church of God pastor’s daughter and became the pastor of a CoG church in Jolliet, Illinois — all this despite knowing that he was gay and was sexually active with other men. He merely told himself that it was a phase and that he wasn’t really gay. After all, it was impossible to be both gay and Christian, his superiors in the church had reassured him. But his cover didn’t last long in Jolliet though, and when his secret came out, he was told by church leaders to leave the church and tell his wife, who decided to stay with him.

The couple moved to California, where they joined the Church of God of Prophecy, another Pentecostal denomination. When he finally decided to tell his superiors in that denomination that he was gay, they acted as CoG had: they kicked him out. This time though, his wife left him, taking their two young sons with her. Perry spent the next several years trying to figure out what he was: was he gay, or was he Christian? In 1967, he tried to kill himself after breaking up with a boyfriend. The following year, he was on a date at a gay bar called The Patch near Long Beach when when Los Angeles police decided to randomly arrest two of the bar’s patrons (see Aug 17) . His date, broken and demoralized by the experience, decided that no one cared about gay people, including God. That’s when Perry decided it was time to show that young man, and all gay people, differently.

From The Los Angeles Advocate. October 1968, page 20.

And so on October 6, 1969, he held his first worship service in the living room of his Huntington Park home. Twelve people attended. Nine were friends of his, who showed up to support him. Three were there in response to an ad that Perry placed in that month’s edition of The Los Angeles Advocate. The next week, there were twelve. Pretty soon, the fledgling congregation was growing so quickly that finding larger quarters became a weekly endeavor. “You better attend church every Sunday if you want to know where the church is going to be,” members joked.

Soon the congregation moved to the Encore Theater on Melrose Avenue, and they quickly filled all 385 seats in the house. By the time the MCC bought its first genuine church of its own in the West Adams area, the congregation had swelled to 1,000. That purchased also made the MCC the gay organization in the U.S. to own a piece of real estate. In 1996, Perry remarked, “If you had told me twenty-eight years ago that the largest organization in the world touching the lives of gays and lesbians would be a church, I would not have believed you.” Over the years, twenty-one MCC churches were targets of arsonists and four MCC clergy were murdered. But in 2000, Perry repeated his vow: “We will never, ever, be chased out of a city; we’ve never, ever left a city where we’ve faced persecution.” The MCC currently has 172 churches in 37 countries.

[Source: Lee Arnold. “Troy Perry (1940- ).” In Vern. L. Bullough’s (ed.) Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (New York: Harrington Park Press, 2002): 393-398.

San Francisco Police Sweep The Castro: 1989. ACT-UP had put on a number of protests and marches before in San Francisco, almost all of them without incident. This one was small: about 150 people showed up at the Federal Building a few blocks from City Hall. After a brief rally, they marched to City Hall, then up Market Street to the Mint Building before ending at Castro Street. Typically during marches like this one, the Police department would assign a handful of officers to help block traffic and ensure the safety of protesters and onlookers. But one marcher, Gerard Koskovich, noticed something was different about this march:

“The march turned non-routine the minute it left the federal plaza. Hordes of San Francisco police officers on foot and on motorcycles emerged as soon as the protesters started marching on the street. They attempted to force the march to stay on the sidewalk,” said Koskovich, who wrote an essay about the Castro Sweep in the 2002 anthology Out in the Castro: Desire, Promise, Activism. “The first arrest happened a block away from the federal building. The tactical coordinator for ACT UP stepped out into the street to talk to the commanding officer and he was immediately grabbed, thrown face down on the asphalt, handcuffed, and then taken away. No one had seen anything like this at a queer protest in San Francisco for a number of years.”

By the time the rally reached the Castro, the marchers were met by hundreds of police officers. It was a sign of how the night would end.

“When I got there I saw the single largest mass of San Francisco police officers I had ever seen at that point. The entire intersection of Castro and Market streets was filled with officers standing in rank,” said Koskovich. “At this point it was still a peaceful march of people staying on the sidewalk. It was completely perplexing why the police force brought out a horde of officers.”

Angered by the police confrontation, marchers sat down in the middle of Castro Street near Market. One group staged a die-in, and others spray-painted stenciled slogans and body outlines on the pavement as a “permanent AIDS quilt” on the street. Police then announced that the demonstration was an “illegal action” and began a sweep action, marching in unison down Castro toward 18th street, forcing thousands inside the Castro’s homes, stores, bars and restaurants under virtual house arrest. As Koskovich wrote in OutWeek a month later:

The police soon charged in earnest. I saw one officer advance with his baton in a jabbing position, a technique that the San Francisco Police Commission banned after an officer using it nearly killed Farmworkers Union co-founder Delores Huerta last year. Others pushed with the sides of their batons, knocking the front of the crowd off balance. I fell against the person to my left, scraping my ear, then regained my footing.

After a partial withdrawal and a second effort to clear the area, the police announced that the entire block of Castro from Market to 18th St., including the sidewalks, had been declared an illegal assembly area. The crowd held its ground, milling into the street and repeatedly chanting “Cops go home” and “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, SFPD go away.” A group of officers reacted by ramming their motorcycles through the center of the crowd.

In the confusion, I lost sight of the friends I had been standing with and made my way to the opposite side of Castro St. From that vantage, I watched an officer break ranks, approach a man standing peacefully in the street, and beat him over the shoulder. Shortly thereafter, I saw a second officer pin a bystander against a news box, then club him to the pavement. Other cops joined in, one of them so eager to land a blow that he carelessly clubbed a fellow officer.

Minutes later, I heard someone calling out my name and spotted Alex Chee, one of the friends I had marched with, leaning from an ambulance moving slowly through the police lines. “I’m going to the hospital with Mike,” he shouted. With a sinking feeling, I pushed to the back window; inside, I could see another friend, Michael Barnette—a 19-year-old who was attending his first ACT UP demonstration—strapped motionless on a stretcher.

Michael received several stitches to close a gash across his eyebrow. According to witnesses, an officer identified as a captain in the SFPD Tactical Unit and an event commander for the October 6 protest clubbed Michael on the head as he stood on the sidewalk on the west side of Castro St. From the opposite corner, I had heard protesters chanting the officer’s helmet number—1942— but had not seen the beating.

This went on from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. in an action which reminded everyone of the White Night riots ten years earlier, when San Francisco police rioted in the Castro following the conviction of Dan White of manslaughter for the assassination of Harvey Milk (see May 21).

The following night, 1,500 protesters demonstrated the police action in the Castro. Mayor Art Agnos issued a statement to the Bay Area Reporter saying that previous night’s police action was “deeply disturbing, and if even 25 percent of the allegations turn out to be true then what happened October 6 is unacceptable.” Deputy Police Chief Jack Jordan was demoted, and he resigned the following month. Other high-ranking officers were re-assigned and reprimanded. The Tactical Squad was relived of one of its primary responsibilities, crowd control. “Civil disobedience did occur,” Police Chief Frank Jordon said, but the response was “inappropriate” and represented a command breakdown. Three years later, the city settled a series of lawsuits brought by victims for $250,000.

Matthew Shepard Assaulted: 1998. At around 6:30 PM, Aaron Kreifels was riding his bicycle on Snowy Mountain View Road, just outside of Laramie, Wyoming, when he wiped out near the end of a rough buck-and-rail fence. In the fall, he severely damaged his front tire. Aaron got up to try to figure out how to get back into town when he was startled by what he thought was a scarecrow. He took a closer look and discovered that it wasn’t a scarecrow, but a 5-foot-2, 102 pound University of Wyoming student by the name of Matthew Shepard. Aaron was further surprised to see that the bloody figure was still alive, though barely. Matthew was comatose, breathing “as if his lungs are full of blood,” Aaron would later testify. It had been a very cold day that day with a 30-degree freezing wind the night before, and it was now evening again. Matthew had been there for more than 18 hours, laying on his back, head propped against the fence, his legs outstretched. His hands were tied behind him, and the rope was tied to a fence post just four inches off the ground. His shoes were missing.

Aaron, in a state of panic, ran to the nearby home of Charles Dolan. From there, they called 911, and then the both of them returned to Matthew to wait for the sheriff’s deputy to arrive. Deputy Reggie Fluty later testified that the only spots not covered in blood on Matt’s brutally disfigured face were tracks cleansed by his tears. She told the barely breathing victim, “Baby, I’m so sorry this happened.”

Matthew was rushed to Poudre Valley Hospital’s intensive care unit in critical condition. He suffered fractures from the back of his head to the front of his right ear from being pistol-whipped by a 357-Magnum more than twenty times. He had severe brain stem damage which affected his body’s ability to control heart rate, breathing, temperature, and other involuntary functions. There were lacerations around his head, face and neck. He had welts on his back and arm, and bruised knees and groin. He had also suffered from hypothermia. His injuries were too severe for doctors to operate. They did however insert a drain into Matthew’s skull to relieve the pressure on his brain.

By the end of the day, Matthew Shepard was laying quietly in a soft, warm bed with clean sheets after having spent eighteen hours in the freezing high plains of Wyoming tied to a fence post. He was breathing with the aid of a ventilator.

Bruno Balz: 1902-1988. He wrote some of Germany’s most famous songs for film despite his career being hampered by official persecution for his homosexuality. When Balz was arrested by Nazi authorities for violating Germany’s Paragraph 175 outlawing male homosexuality, he was released after several months’ imprisonment on the condition that his name not be mentioned in public. When he was arrested again in 1941 and tortured in Gestapo headquarters, his songwriting partner, Michael Jary, appealed to authorities to release him, saying that he could write songs to lift German morale as part of the war effort. He wrote two of his greatest hits just days after his release. And while his songs would be criticized later for aiding  the war effort, gays in Germany were buoyed by what they saw as double meanings in some of his songs. One song in particular, his 1938 classic “Kann denn Liebe Sunde sein?” (“Can Love Be a Sin?”), became something of an anthem for Germany’s underground gay community:

Every little Philistine makes my life miserable, for he’s always

talking about morality. And whatever he may think and do, you can

see that he just doesn’t want anyone to be happy…. Whatever

the world thinks of me, I don’t care, I’ll only be true to love.

Can love be a sin?

Can’t anybody know when you kiss,

When you forget everything out of happiness?

Balz’s troubles continued even after the war and the fall of Nazism. After all, Paragraph 175 remained the law of the land until 1994 after Germany’s reunification, which meant that the strictures on him remained in effect preventing him from receiving his due credit for his music. Balz died in 1988. There is now a Bruno Balz theater named for him in Berlin.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

The Daily Agenda for Monday, October 5

Jim Burroway

October 5th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), May 1978, page 40.

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), May 1978, page 40.

Vasco Núñez de Balboa Feeds “Men Dressed Like Women” To His Dogs: 1513. The Spanish conquistador and explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa is a revered figure in Panama, where you can buy a bottle of Balboa beer for about 1.50 Balboas (which is used interchangeably with the U.S. Dollar, also legal currency there). His name graces Panama City’s main port at the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal as well as numerous avenues and parks throughout the country.

Balboa first explored the South American coast from present-day Columbia to Nicaragua in 1501, before settling on the island of Hispaniola to become a farmer. When Balboa returned to the South American continent in 1509, he did so as a stowaway from Hispaniola — a bankruptcy refugee, to be exact — but he quickly proved his worth with his knowledge of geography and local native culture, thanks to his earlier expedition. In 1510, Balboa founded the city of Santa Maria la Antigua del Darién on the northern coast of present-day Colombia near today’s border with Panama, and in 1511, he declared himself governor of Veragua, which roughly covered the Caribbean coast of present-day Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Balboa then spent the next three years exploring his domain, defeating various native tribes and befriending others, always remaining on the lookout for gold.

In 1513, Balboa arrived at the region in present-day Panama controlled by the chief Careta, whose forces Balboa defeated and whom Balboa befriended. Together, Balboa and Careta defeated a rival chief, Ponca, and made an alliance with another chief, Comagre, whose son told them that if they really wanted to find lots of gold, they needed to conquer the tribes living on the coast of “the other sea” on the other side of the Isthmus of Panama. Balboa and his hordes set off to conquer their way south, and on September 20, when Balboa stood on a summit on the mountains alongside the Chucunaque River, he became the first European to see, on the distant horizon, the Pacific Ocean. Nine days and one battle later, Balboa walked knee-deep into the ocean with his sword in one hand and his battle standard in the other, and claimed possession of the “South Sea” and all of its adjoining lands for Spain.

While Balboa continued his journey along Panama’s Pacific coast, conquering and discovering as he went, he discovered, after killing chief Quarega and entering his village, what Balboa perceived to be the famously relaxed attitude among Quarega’s people toward the Peccatum illud horribile, inter christianos non nominandum. I say perceived, because it’s not exactly clear that Balboa’s men correctly interpreted what they saw. Sure, native groups throughout Panama had a reputation for tolerance of homosexuality and cross-gender behavior, so it’s not inconceivable that he found some of those goings-ons in Quarega’s court. But some scholars doubt that Balboa’s men actually managed to come across two full score of them in a single village. Some speculate that the Spaniards mistook the ceremonial attire of members of Quarega’s court for women’s clothing. Others suggest that in the political vacuum following Quarega’s death, there may have been some finger-pointing among political rivals who were savvy to the Spaniards’ disgust for the “sin so horrible.”

At any rate, at least forty of them — Gay men? Transgenders? Cross dressers? Or disgraced officials on the losing end of political score-settling? — were rounded up and devoured by Balboa’s dogs, in what has been described as the first recorded instance of Spanish punishment of homosexuality in the New World. About a century later, Antonio de la Calancha, a Spanish official in Lima, was still singing his praises, albeit somewhat inaccurately, of the man who “saw men dressed like women; Balboa learnt that they were sodomites and threw the king and forty others to be eaten by his dogs, a fine action of an honorable and Catholic Spaniard.”

[Sources: Charles C. Mann 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, (New York, Alfred A. Knoff, 2011): 348.

Ward Stavig. “Political ‘abomination’ and private reservations: the nefarious sin, homosexuality, and cultural values in colonial Peru.” In Pete Sigal’s (ed.) Infamous Desire: Male Homosexuality in Colonial Latin America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003): 134-135.

Walter Williams. “The abominable sin: the Spanish campaign against ‘sodomy’ and its results in modern Latin America” in ): in Larry Gross and James D. Woods’ (eds.) The Columbia Reader on Lesbians & Gay Men in Media, Society, and Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999): 128.]

California Studies Treatment for “Sex Deviants”: 1951. An item appeared in The Los Angeles Times describing efforts that promised “the eventual solution of one of California’s most difficult problems – the sex offender.” California had tried to “legislate sexual offenses out of existence” through more severe penalties, but lawmakers were “finally persuaded medical research might bring results,” and passed the Sexual Deviation Research Act in 1950. And with that, according to The Times, efforts were now fanning out to “several laboratories, schools, hospitals, and clinics throughout the State.” The Dean of UCLA’s Medical School was already bragging of research breakthroughs. “It is now possible, he states, to predict with a fair degree of accuracy, through blood and urine tests, the onset of a sexually psychopathic ‘attack’.” What, exactly, was being studied was obviously very sensitive; it took eight paragraphs before the LA Times writer finally got around to describing what these “sexual deviations” might be:

Another study underway is concerned with diagnosis and treatment of homosexual males. The purpose of this research is twofold: (1) to make physical, psychiatric, glandular and mental studies of the types of homosexuals who affect feminine behavior and (2) to investigate such psychological factors in homosexuality as the personal, family, social and cultural histories of patients. Results of these studies, it is felt, should greatly add to more accurate diagnosis of types of homosexuality and its treatment.

Research would continue for at least another thirty years in California and throughout the western world, all to no avail. When the American Psychiatric Association finally determined in 1973 that homosexuality was not a mental illness in need of a cure, efforts to change sexual orientation in the scientific community slowly began to wane over the course of the next decade — with the notable exception of a very tiny religiously-motivated dissident minority, and their efforts to change sexual orientation still come up short. California’s law mandating research into curing homosexuality remained on the books, ignored and forgotten, until it was finally repealed in 2010. In 2012, California began moving toward the opposite direction when Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation which prohibits licensed professionals from providing conversion therapy to minors.

HC Robert Mapplethorpe.jpg

25 YEARS AGO: Cincinnati Museum Acquitted of Pornography Charges over Mapplethorpe Exhibit: 1990. Before the late 1980s, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe was known for his brilliant black and white photographs of achingly beautiful subjects: orchids, lilies and celebrities, including Richard Gere, Laurie Anderson, Peter Gabriel, Andy Warhol, Grace Jones and Patti Smith. But when he began putting together his 1989 exhibit, The Perfect Moment, he decided to include some of his more recent works, photos that he had begun taking since the early 1980s of very sexually explicit images of homoeroticism and sadomasochism. The exhibit, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, sparked immediate outrage among social conservatives. Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) tried to de-fund the NEA entirely, and wound up settling for yet another of those many “Helms Amendments” that wound up littering the legal landscape for decades to come. This amendment barred the NEA from funding “obscenity,” a nebulous mandate which cast a chilling effect on the arts for more than a decade.

The controversy led the Corcoran Gallery to cancel The Perfect Moment, in the summer of 1989, but the Washington Project for the Arts stepped in to host the show. Thanks to the publicity, some forty thousand people attended. The show’s next step was the University Art Museum in Berkeley, which hosted the show without incident. From there, it went to the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati, but police closed the exhibit on opening day in order to videotape the exhibit on orders from Hamilton County Prosecutor Arthur Ney. Later that day, Ney got an indictment from the grand jury charging the CAC and its director, Dennis Barrie, on charges of pandering obscenity and child pornography. If convicted, the museum faced fines of up to $10,000 and Barrie faced up to a year in prison and $2,000 in fines.

A demonstration in downtown Cincinnati immediately after the trial ended.

A demonstration in downtown Cincinnati immediately after the trial ended.

As far as anyone knew, no other museum in the country had ever been indicted on similar charges. The controversy had an immediate impact in the city and on the museum. When the exhibit reopened with seven portraits removed and replaced with black placards, crowds descended on the small museum to see what the fuss was all about. One farmer arrived with mud on his boots and overalls and presented a check for $20, saying that he’d fought in World War II for the freedom of expression exemplified by the exhibit. Nearly 80,000 people attended the exhibition, making it one of the most successful shows ever for the CAC.

When the trial got underway in late September, the jurors were subject to a crash course on art history and photography from some of the country’s leading museum directors. Martin Friedman, director of Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center, expounded on the formalism behind Mapplethorpe’s composition and lighting. Janet Kardon, the exhibit’s curator, testified, “No matter what the subject matter, he brought a sense of perfection to it. And all of the attributes one characterizes a good formal portrait by, that is composition and light and the way the frame is placed around the image, all of those things are brought to every image.” One of those images, was Mapplethorpe’s 1978 Self Portrait (NSFW), which featured what Kardon described as a “figure study” in which “the human figured is centered. The horizontal line is two-thirds of the way up, almost the classical two-thirds to one-third proportions … it’s very symmetrical, which is characteristic of his flowers.” Of course, none of his flowers had a bull whip inserted in the ass.

Evan Turner, from the Cleveland Museum of Art, told the jury, “I think with these difficult images, one way of judging their quality … is to look at them as abstract, which they are, essentially.” Robert Sobieszek, photography curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, placed the portraits in biographical terms: “They reveal, in very strong, forceful ways, a major concern of this creative artist; a major part of his life, a major part of his psyche or psychology, his mental make-up and perhaps, they say to me, some troubled portion of this life that he was trying to come to grips with… IT’s not unlike Van Gogh painting himself with his ear torn off, or cut up.”

Surprisingly, the prosecution called only one “expert” witness, the anti-gay activist and author Judith Reisman, who was then a paid “researcher” for the American Family Association’s. Her artistic background, as the defense repeatedly pointed out, was limited to writing songs for Captain Kangaroo.

Dennis Barrie hugs his attorney H. Louis Sirkin after hearing the verdict.

Dennis Barrie hugs his attorney H. Louis Sirkin after hearing the verdict.

After less than two hours of deliberation, the mostly blue-collar jury returned verdicts of not guilty. Defense lawyer H. Louis Sirkin called the verdict “a signal to everybody that before they start shutting down museums and telling people what they can say and what they can see, they better realize there is a protection out there, and it is the greatest document ever written.” A visibly relieved Barrie reacted, “This was a major battle for art and for creativity, for the continuance of creativity in this country. Mapplethorpe was an important artist. It was a beautiful show. It should never have been in court.” Meanwhile, the CAC came out of the controversy stronger than ever. It had overgrown its previous digs at the Mercantile Center and in 2003 moved into a splendid new building which the New York Times described as “the best new building since the Cold War.”

[Additional source: Richard Meyer. Outlaw Representation: Censorship and Homosexuality in Twentieth-Century American Art (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002): 211-218.]

175 YEARS AGO: John Addington Symonds: 1840-1893. He fulfilled the expectations of Victorian England by marrying and having a family, but the poet and literary critic was always conscious of “men constituted like me.” As an early proponent of what was then called “male love,” Symonds was among the first to publish works for general audiences with direct references to homosexuality. His 1876 Studies of the Greek Poets, Second Series, included praise for Greek “friendship,” which led to withering condemnation from critics. One critic decried Symond’s “phallic ecstasy” and his “palpitations at male beauty.”

While Symonds became more circumspect in identifying himself with “male love,” he nevertheless continued to explore the theme. Symonds’s 1878 translation of Michelangelo’s Sonnets corrected, for the first time, the proper male pronouns which had been rendered female by previous translators. And in that same year, he published his poem “The Meeting of David and Jonathan” (1878), where Jonathan, “In his arms of strength / Took David, and for some love found at length / Solace in speech, and pressure and breath / Wherewith the mouth of yearning winnoweth /Hearts overcharged for utterance. In that kiss / Soul into soul was knit and bliss to bliss.”


But Symonds kept most of his writings on homosexuality private, first in letters to Walt Whitman, Edmund Gosse, and Edward Carpenter, and later in privately-circulated works like Male Love: A Problem in Greek Ethics (1883) and A Problem in Modern Ethics (1891), where he wrote in the introduction this answer to those who argued that the only good homosexual was a celibate homosexual:

I have taken no vow of celibacy. If I have taken any vow at all, it is to fight for the rights of an innocent, harmless, downtrodden group of outraged personalities. The cross of a Crusade is sewn upon the sleeve of my right arm. To expect from me and from my fellows the renouncement voluntarily undertaken by a Catholic priest is an absurdity, when we join no order, have no faith to uphold, no ecclesiastical system to support. We maintain that we have the right to exist after the fashion which nature made us. And if we cannot alter your laws, we shall go on breaking them. You may condemn us to infamy, exile, prison -– as you formerly burned witches. You may degrade our emotional instincts and drive us into vice and misery. But you will not eradicate inverted sexuality.”

In 1893, he began to publish more openly about homosexuality in Walt Whitman: A Study, and he began a collaboration with Havelock Ellis, who was then embarking on his landmark study, Sexual Inversion. Symonds died in 1893, ten months into that collaboration. When Sexual Inversion made its English debut in 1897, Symonds was listed as co-author. But Symonds’s executor, scandalized at the association, prohibited his name from being further associated with the book. Symonds was credited as “Z” in the second 1897 printing, and his essay “A Problem in Greek Ethics” was deleted. Interest in Symonds was revived in 1963 when Phyllis Grosskurth won the 1964 Canadian Governor General’s Award for John Addington Symonds: A Biography. Twenty years later, she would also bring The Memoirs of John Addington Symonds to print for the first time in 1984, ninety-one years after his death.

David Pallone: 1951. Major League Baseball umpires never become household names. But a few can somehow find ways to become memorable. That happened to Pallone on April 30, 1988, when he was umpiring at first base in Cincinnati when, in the ninth inning, he called New York Mets outfielder Mookie Wilson safe on a delayed call. That delay allowed another Mets runner to score the winning run. Reds’ manager Pete Rose rushed to Pallone to argue the call. Tempers escalated, one thing led to another, Pallone might have touched Rose, Rose definitely shoved Pallone, and Pallone immediately ejected him from the game. Fans showered the field with trash for the next fifteen minutes and Pallone had to be taken out of the game to ease tension. Rose was suspended for 30 days and fined $10,000.

Later that year, Pallone was forced to resign when a New York Post article outed him as gay and claimed that he was part of a teenage sex ring. Those charges were later proven groundless, but Pallone says in his memoir Behind the Mask: My Double Life in Baseball that team owners were unimpressed and pressured baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti to fire him anyway. Or, more accurately, Pallone was paid to leave, and strongly encouraged to do so. Today, Pallone is a diversity trainer and motivational speaker based in Colorado.

Thomas Roberts


Thomas Roberts: 1972. The former CNN Headline News anchor became the first national anchorman to come out as gay when, in 2006, he spoke at the annual convention of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association in Miami Florida during a panel discussion titled “Off Camera: The Challenge of LGBT TV Anchors.” Describing his appearance on that panel as the biggest step he had taken publicly to be out, he had been coming out at CNN over the past several years. But he found the tension between his public life and private life to be difficult to balance. “When you hold something back, that’s all everyone wants to know,” he told the gathering.

Roberts stayed at CNN until 2007, when he resigned to move to Washington, D.C. to pursue other opportunities. In late 2010, he began guest-anchoring for MSNBC, and became a full-time anchor in December.  He currently anchors MSNBC Live with Thomas Roberts weekdays from 1:00 to 3:00 E.T. In 2012, Roberts married Patrick Abner in New York, making Roberts the first (and the most handsome) national anchor to marry a same-sex partner.

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The Daily Agenda for Sunday, October 4

Jim Burroway

October 4th, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Asheville, NC; Centreville (Bull Run), VA; Dallas, TX (Black Pride); Darwin, NT; Ft. Worth, TX; Jacksonville, FL; Miami Beach, FL (Hispanic Pride).

Other Celebrations This Weekend: Gay Days Disneyland, Anaheim, CA; Out on Film, Atlanta, GA; MIX Copenhagen Film Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark; AIDS Walk, Dallas, TX; Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Tampa, FL.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Los Angeles Advocate, November 1968, page 13.

From The Los Angeles Advocate, November 1968, page 13.

Shands Hospital

Florida Hospital Dumps AIDS Patient: 1983. Twenty-seven-year-old Morgan MacDonald had been treated at Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida, since July for various opportunistic infections because of AIDS. When his state Medicaid benefits ran out, the private teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Florida tried to find a nursing home to send him to, but none in the area would take him. So the hospital declared MacDonald “well enough to walk,” stuffed $300 into his pocket, loaded him onto a Lear Jet with a doctor and a nurse, and shipped him off to San Francisco and dumped him at the offices of the city’s AIDS Foundation. The nurse and doctor walked out and left the volunteer staff to figure out what to do with him. He’s condition was so bad, he was unable to lift his head. Foundation volunteers took MacDonald to San Francisco General Hospital which immediately admitted him.

General’s Dr. Mervyn Silverman was furious. “I’ve never seen anything like it before,” he told reporters. “It’s unconscionable to do this to a patient, especially a patient in serious condition.” A Shands spokeswoman claimed that MacDonald didn’t need hospital treatment, but outpatient treatment instead, and said that shipping him off to San Francisco — even though he came to them from Vero Beach, Florida — was “a real humanitarian thing to do.” They also claimed that MacDonald was ambulatory when he left Shands, and that he worsened sometime after leaving. “AIDS is a disease where your condition changes,” the Shands spokeswoman said. San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein denounced the dumping and demanded that Florida Gov. Bob Graham investigate. A Florida Health Department official would later admit, “We are having problems in Florida because medical professionals are reluctant to provide care because they know so little about AIDS. We are seeing people take any opportunity within the law to avoid providing care.” The state, however, found no evidence of legal wrongdoing. MacDonald died in San Francisco, a medical outcast, sixteen days later. San Francisco General sent Shands Hospital a bill for $6,627.12, which Shands refused to pay.

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir: 1942. When she became Iceland’s first female Prime Minister in 2009 following more than a year of public protests over Iceland’s handling of the financial crisis, she broke yet another important barrier by becoming the world’s first open lesbian head of government. The LGBT community around the world cheered, but Sigurðardóttir had no time for celebrations. Her plate was full with the collapse of the island nation’s entire banking system and the stock exchange losing some 90% of its value. She renegotiated Iceland’s payment of bank deposits to holders in Netherlands and Britain — much to the outrage of Icelandic taxpayers, which rejected the deal in a 2010 referendum with a resounding 93% against and 2% in favor. A second round of negotiations also went down to defeat before Iceland’s voters in 2011 with 60% against and 40% for. Meanwhile, the arduous process of revising the country’s constitution produced one of Sigurðardóttir’s few victories, when voters approved it in a 2012 referendum with significant margins. In September 2012, she announced that she would not seek re-election in the upcoming elections. She retired from politics when the new government took office in May 2013.

Jóhanna had been in a Registered Partnership with Jónína Leósdóttir since 2002. When Iceland enacted its marriage equality law in 2010, Jóhanna and Jónína became among the first to convert their legal partnership into a marriage.

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The Daily Agenda for Saturday, October 3

Jim Burroway

October 3rd, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Asheville, NC; Centreville (Bull Run), VA; Dallas, TX (Black Pride); Darwin, NT; Ft. Worth, TX; Jacksonville, FL; Miami Beach, FL (Hispanic Pride).

Other Celebrations This Weekend: Gay Days Disneyland, Anaheim, CA; Out on Film, Atlanta, GA; MIX Copenhagen Film Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark; AIDS Walk, Dallas, TX; Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Tampa, FL.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Blade, June 1977, page 10.

From The Blade, June 1977, page 10.

The Fraternity House was located in Washington, D.C. just a couple of blocks west of DuPont Circle, opening in 1976 just as the area was beginning to become a full-fledged gayborhood. The club wasn’t exactly on P street itself, but just down an ally around the back, in an old Carriage House. In 1997, the club was re-named Omega, which remained in business right up until the end of 2012, when the building was reportedly sold for $1.9 million and was to be renovated into a 5,850-square-foot single-family house.


 Hollywood Production Code Changed to Allow Films Dealing with Homosexuality: 1961. There were a number of rather risqué films coming out of Hollywood in the early days, risqué, at least, according to Catholic clergy and middle-American sensibilities. To counter the growing noises coming from the country’s moral finger-waggers (not to mention legislators in 37 states who were busy introducing a patchwork of movie censorship bills) Hollywood enlisted a moral finger-wagger of its own, William H. Hays, to head the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA). Hays promptly promulgated what came to known as “The Hays Code” which, for the next thirty years, more or less dictated what would and most certainly would not be displayed on America’s movie screens. Number four on Hays’s list of Don’ts was “any inference of sex perversion,” which, when strictly enforced, meant absolutely no portrayal of gay men or women, or even any hint of any bending of gender roles. (Also banned by the code: “Miscegenation” at number six, and “Ridicule of clergy,” number ten. “Willful offense to any nation, race or creed” came in last at number eleven, even though the race stipulation rarely enforced.)

If the MPPDA certified that a film met the standard, it was given an MPPDA seal of approval, which assured theater owners that the film would pass muster with squeamish audiences. If it failed, it was sent back to the studios for edits or canned altogether. Some films were produced outside the studio system and beyond the reach of the MPPDA, but their distribution tended to be severely limited. But in the 1950s, studios began to test the code’s limits, and by the end of the decade, Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot became a smash hit even though United Artists didn’t bother to obtain the MPPDA seal. Between 1958 and 1961, several popular films — Pit of Loneliness, Suddenly, Last Summer, Devil’s Advocate, Victim and A Taste of Honey are just a few — dealt with anti-gay prejudices or had gay characters.

As the sixties opened, with Elvis regularly appearing on Ed Sullivan and the sexual revolution just getting underway, it was obvious that the MPPDA either needed to adapt its aging code to modern sensibilities or fade into complete irrelevancy. And so on October 3, 1961, the MPPDA announced a revision to its three decade old code: “In keeping with the culture, the mores and the values of our time, homosexuality and other sexual aberrations may now be treated with care, discretion and restraint,” the MPPDA announced. To which Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper replied, “Well, all I’ve got to say is that our producers shouldn’t have any trouble with casting.” The Children’s Hour and Advise and Consent were released soon after the change was announced.

 35 YEARS AGO: Congressman Pleads No Contest For Soliciting a Teen Male Prostitute: 1980. Rep. Bob Bauman (R-MD) had a history of voting for anti-gay bills in Congress. He voted twice to deny federal funds to lawyers dealing with gay rights issues, and he backed a “family protection bill” that would have explicitly legalized discrimination in housing and employment based on sexual orientation. He was one of the brightest stars of the far right, serving as chairman for the American Conservative Union. But on this date in history, Bauman was charged by D.C. police for “soliciting sex from a sixteen-year old boy.” It turns out he had a habit of cruising gay bars in Washington, D.C., a habit he blamed entirely on alcohol. A judge bought his story and accepted his not guilty plea in exchange for entering a six-month alcohol rehabilitation course. Voters in his district didn’t buy it though. Despite the Ronald Reagan-led Republican landslide in November, Bauman lost his Congressional seat, and his wife walked out the following June.

In 1986, he wrote his memoir, The Gentleman from Maryland: The Conscience of a Gay Conservative, not because he wanted to tell his story but because he was broke. He wrote that his downfall was orchestrated by the Carter administration, House Speaker “Tip” O’Neill and a Maryland senator who considered him a potential rival. As for himself, he told one interviewer, “I still don’t like being gay. If I had my druthers, I wouldn’t be gay.” But he did begin to accept himself and, for a while in the mid-1980s, tried to organize a conservative gay rights organization. That effort fell apart when other gay Republicans refused to go public or write checks to support the group. (Some would, however, donate smaller amounts in cash because it couldn’t be traced.) Bauman is now an attorney for the Sovereign Society, a group which provides expatriation services for Americans looking for offshore tax havens.

 90 YEARS AGO: Gore Vidal: 1925-2012. His 1946 novel Williwaw, written when he was 21, was a success, but not nearly as notorious as his second one two year later. The City and the Pillar, dedicated to “J.T.” in an oblique reference to James Trimble III, Gore’s first love who died on Iwo Jima, was the first major novel to deal directly with male homosexuality — so directly that Orville Prescott, The New York Times book critic, refused to allow the Times to review Vidal’s next five books. Vidal managed to work around the Times’s boycott by publishing several mysteries under the pseudonym of Edgar Box. He worked on the script for the film Ben-Hur, including adding a gay subtext to the relationship between Messala and Ben-Hur (played by Charlton Heston, who was oblivious to the gay references). Over the course of his life, Vidal published thirty-one novels and story collections, eight plays, fourteen screen-plays (including the infamous 1979 cult classic Caligula), and countless essays on whatever subject that struck his fancy — and his fancy was struck by an unusually wide variety of topics.

But as famous as he was for his writing, he was probably just as famous — and maybe even more so — for his public appearances, for which Gore could always be counted on to say something shocking. Most famous of his public appearances, perhaps, came in 1968 when ABC News invited Gore and William F. Buckley, Hr. to provide political analysis during the Republican and Democratic conventions. It was during one of those discussions, carried live on national TV, that Gore responded to Buckley’s complaint about “pro-Nazi” protesters with, “As far as I’m concerned, the only sort of pro-crypto-Nazi I can think of is yourself.” An obviously livid Buckley then replied, “Now listen, you queer. Stop calling me a crypto-Nazi, or I’ll sock you in the goddamn face and you’ll stay plastered.” The Gore and Buckley feud continued to play out in competing essays in Esquire and in court where they sued each other for libel.

When Gore died in 2012, many obituaries identified him as either gay or bisexual. If he were alive, he would have loudly railed against pinning an identity on him. He hated the very idea of identity, particularly a gay one, believing that they were inherently false. He believed more in the nineteenth-century concept which saw sex and sexuality as simply something one does, and he had no patience whatsoever for those who sought to build an identity — let alone a movement — over something called gay. In that way, he had much in common with anti-gay activists who believe that the very concept of “orientation” is some sort of a homosexual plot to change the world. And yet, Gore’s own promiscuous pansexuality — he said that he had had more than a thousand liaisons before the age of 25 — underscored his own comfort with ignoring the constraints that others would put on him. And yet, he was also an iconoclast’s iconoclast: he maintained a loving, loyal and long-term relationship with his partner, Howard Austen, for fifty-two years until Austen died in 2003. Gore said that the secret to their longevity was that they only had sex once, in the beginning, and then no more. He explained it this way: “It’s easy to sustain a relationship when sex plays no part & impossible, I have observed, when it does.”

 Jake Shears: 1978. He was born in Arizona, but grew up north of Seattle on San Juan Island. When he turned fifteen, he sought out Dan Savage for advice on whether he should come out to his parents. Savage gave him what he later called the worst advice he has ever given:

And after he told me everything I was like: “Oh, they know. They’re just waiting for you to tell them. You should tell them. Just come out to them. They’re waiting. They’re ready.” And he came out to them and they didn’t know and it was a big disaster and they threatened to pull him out of school and they were really angry and so he called me. I had a radio show and he called me and I got him off the air and got his mother’s phone number and called my mother and gave my mother Jake’s mother’s phone number and had my mom call him mom and yell at her. And it helped, but yeah, I gave him so really shitty advice.

(Savage now says that “not everybody is in a position where that is wise or safe and we have to tell these gay teenagers to take a cold, hard look at who their families are and where they live before they take that step.” But this isn’t about Savage, it’s about Shears.)

When Jake was nineteen, he traveled to Lexington, Kentucky to meet up with a former classmate, and that’s where he met Scott Hoffman (better known by his stage name, Babydaddy, see Sep 1). They hit it off immediately, and that turned into Shears’s second great turning point in his life. They move to New York the following year where they immediately immersed themselves into the city’s gay nightlife. In 2000, they formed the Fibrillating Scissor Sisters and began performing in underground clubs. When Ana “Ana Matronic” Lynch joined the duo in 2001, they dropped the word “Fibrillating” from their name and began performing as the Scissor Sisters. They were soon joined by Derik “Del Marquis” Gruen (see Aug 31) on lead guitar and Patrick “Paddy Boom” Seacor on drums, the band’s token male heterosexual. In 2002, the Sisters cut a single, “Electrobix” which proved to be less popular than its B-side, a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.”

That got the attention of major record labels, and by 2003 they were recording for Polydor. They proved popular in Britain, but their success in America was thwarted by skittish radio programmers and Wal-Mart, then the largest music seller in the country. Wal-Mart, in particular, objected to the song “Tits On the Radio,” which they described as a “snarling, swaggering attack on conservatism,” and demanded the band record a “clean” version. The band refused.

In 2010, Shears contributed a video to Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project, where he talked about the abuse he suffered in high school after coming out, and how he channels those memories into his energetic performances today. In 2012, Scissor Sisters went on a world tour in support of their latest album, Magic Hour. While performing in North London in October, the Sisters announced that they would be taking an indefinite hiatus.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

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The Daily Agenda for Friday, October 2

Jim Burroway

October 2nd, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Asheville, NC; Centreville (Bull Run), VA; Dallas, TX (Black Pride); Darwin, NT; Ft. Worth, TX; Jacksonville, FL; Miami Beach, FL (Hispanic Pride).

Other Celebrations This Weekend: Gay Days Disneyland, Anaheim, CA; Out on Film, Atlanta, GA; MIX Copenhagen Film Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark; AIDS Walk, Dallas, TX; Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Tampa, FL.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Michael’s Thing (New York, NY), February 2, 1976, page 70.

Condado is an oceanfront enclave just to the east of the colonial district of Old San Juan. Developed at the turn of the previous century as a haven for wealthy Americans (the Vanderbilts’ summer home is now a hotel), the district got its second wind in the 1950s as a tourist destination. By the 1970s, there were several bars, restaurants and guest houses catering to the gay tourist trade, like these two clubs on Ashford Avenue.

Interior of the Pepper Hill Club, two weeks after the raid (Source).

Interior of the Pepper Hill Club, two weeks after the raid (Source).

60 YEARS AGO: Baltimore Police Arrest 162 in Bar Raid: 1955. Quick — name the first gay bar raid that backfired and forced the local police department to abandon such tactics. I suspect most people would probably name the 1969 raid at the Stonewall Inn, but I’m sure you already know that’s the wrong answer. I can’t say that I can pinpoint the very first raid to leave a lasting positive effect, but the 1955 raid at 200 N. Gay Street  in Baltimore — an appropriate address if there ever was one — is probably a good candidate.

That was the address of the Pepper Hill Club, a gay club on the fringe of what was called “The Block” in East Baltimore, an area that hosted a number of strip clubs and rough bars. Because of its reputation and its proximity to a nearby police station, the Pepper Hill Club quickly became a target for the city’s vice squad. At 11:00 p.m., Lt.Byrne and officer Edgar Kirby stopped in to check on the club, looked around, then left. Less than an hour later, police descended on the club and arrested all 162 patrons, employees and owners for “lewd behavior,” which consisted of male couples hugging, dancing and kissing. “We were met by a human wall,” Sgt. Hyman Goldstein later testified. “We found complete disorder, and in the rear of the place there was no light at all. Back there we found several couples.” He also testified that most of those arrested were from Washington. “We have received word that Washington police are conducting a drive on homosexuals; apparently some of them are coming to Baltimore for their entertainment.”

It took 24 trips in the paddy wagons to get all 162 patrons, employees and owners to the police station. The newspapers reported that the raid was “the largest night club raid ever conducted in Baltimore.” It was also against police policy. Just a few weeks earlier, police had conducted a mass raid at a straight nightclub, and public outrage over that night’s indiscriminate arrests led police commissioner James Hepbron to ban such mass raids. That outrage only grew this time when the courts acquitted nearly everyone in the Pepper Hill case — only four were convicted of disorderly conduct, and one woman was convicted of assaulting an officer when they tried to load her into the van. One man was fined $10 when he insisted on testifying even though his disorderly conduct charge was about to be dismissed. Charges were also dismissed against the club’s owners, Morton Cohen and Vincent Lance, who stood accused of operating a “disorderly house.”

Circuit Judge James K. Cullen sharply reprimanded the police department for the latest mass violations department policy. Commissioner Hepbron agreed with the judge and promised that it wouldn’t happen again, saying that the department’s policy against wholesale arrests would be “reiterated, re-emphasized and, if necessary, re-enforced.” He also disbanded the vice squad and reassigned its personnel to the rackets division. Those actions weren’t enough to satisfy Baltimoreans or state legislators. The following year, the Maryland legislature passed what became known as the “Pepper Hill Law” which formally outlawed mass arrests during bar raids.

Front cover of the Oct 2, 2010 edition of Rolling Stone. (Click to enlarge.)

5 YEARS AGO: Ugandan Tabloid Outs LGBT People Under the Headline, “Hang Them!”: 2010. Seemingly out of nowhere, an obscure Ugandan tabloid, Rolling Stone (no relation to the U.S. publication with the same name) published what they said would be the first part of a four part series exposing one hundred LGBT citizens in Uganda. The first installment included the call to “hang them” on the front cover and over the article itself, and featured the faces, addresses and employers of a number of LGBT Ugandans, including LGBT rights activist David Kato and retired Anglican bishop Christopher Senyonjo on the front cover.

This latest development occurred just as it seemed that the tempest over Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill (also known as the “Kill the Gays” bill, thanks to its death penalty provision) was starting to quieten down. In the face of international outcry, the Ugandan government had been trying to figure out a way out of the mess, and by late 2010, it seemed that the bill had been safely sidelined in a Parliamentary committee until the Rolling Stone cover story threatened the uneasy peace. Uganda’s Media Council moved swiftly to order Rolling Stone to shut down after discovering that the tabloid had not properly registered with the authorities.

November 1, 2010 edition of the Ugandan tabloid "Rolling Stone"

November 1, 2010 edition of the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone. (Click to enlarge.)

The tabloid complied, but resumed publishing again on November 1 with a second installment of its outing series. This time, the publication was much more sinister, with reporters apparently obtaining photos and other information from profiles of LGBT Ugandans posted on dating web sites. With each publication, more evidence emerged that the tabloid, which carried virtually no advertising, was receiving support from anti-gay sources. Strong circumstantial evidence suggests that anti-gay pastor Martin Ssempa was a driving force behind Rolling Stone’s activities. Sexual Minorities Uganda quickly obtained a temporary court order barring Rolling Stone from outing individual private persons in Uganda. Two months later, the court made that injunction permanent, and awarded each of the plaintiffs 1,500,000 Uganda Shillings (US$650) for damages, plus court costs.

But by then the damage was done. David Kato, the attorney and LGBT-rights activist whose image appeared on the front cover of that first Rolling Stone “Hang Them” issue and who led the court case against Rolling Stone, was found bludgeoned to death in his home in Kampala.

Annie Leibovitz: 1949. “My mother and father took photographs and made eight-millimeter home movies when I was growing up, but I didn’t start taking pictures myself until the late Sixties when I was studying at the San Francisco Art Institute,” she explained in her 2006 monograph, A Photographer’s Life: 1990-2005. She further developed her photography skills while on a kibbutz in Israel in 1969, When she returned to the U.S. in 1970, she became staff photographer for Rolling Stone, quickly rising to chief photographer from 1973 to 1983. While she is known as a portraiture artist, she took her favorite photos while doing reportage, particularly when she was concert-tour photographer for the Rolling Stones in 1975.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono, 1980.

While she liked that work, her personal style of reportage was distinct from photo-journalism. “I’m not a journalist,” she wrote. “A journalist doesn’t take sides, and I don’t want to go through life like that.” Her point of view took her all over the world, including the Sarajevo siege in 1993 and the world’s capitals to photograph kings, queens and celebrities. It’s hard to pick one photo as a perfect example of her intimate style — the touching photos that she took of her lover Susan Sontag on her death bed are particularly poignant — but the most iconic photo perhaps is the 1980 portrait of John Lennon and Yoko Ono that appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone. It turned out that Leibovitz would be the last person to professionally photograph John Lennon on that fateful December day: Lennon was murdered five hours later outside his apartment building in New York City.

In 2001, Leibovitz became a mother for the first time at the age of 52, but the years following would prove to be difficult for her. She spent most of 2004 taking care of Sontag, who was dying of myelodysplastic syndrome which evolved into leukemia. Sontag died the following December. Leibovitz’s father died six weeks later. Editing the photos for A Photographer’s Life: 1990-2005 was an important part of her grieving process. “I would go into (her workshop) every morning… and cry for ten minutes or so and then start working, editing the pictures. I cried for a month. I didn’t realize until later how far the work on the book had taken me through the grieving process.”

Her grieving wasn’t over: her mother died in 2008, and in 2009 Leibovitz fell into serious financial difficulties. She borrowed $15.5 million, using the rights to all of her photographs as collateral. The New York Times< tried to figure out how an artist of such renown could be in such financial trouble. It cited several personal issues, including the recent loss of her father, mother, and Sontag, who died in 2004, and a costly renovation of her townhouses in Greenwich Village. Eventually she was able to negotiate her way through her financial problems and retain control of her work.

In 2011, she published her latest book Pilgrimage, which probably represents her most personal work to date, even though there are no people in the book. She began photographing the pictures for it while dealing with her financial struggles in 2009. She decided to go to places where she had no agenda, no assignment, no requirements from clients. Instead, she chose locations and subjects that meant something to her: Emily Dickinson’s house, Niagara Falls, Sigmund Freud’s couch. “I have a bit of a feeling that I’ve had it with people,” she told The New York Times. “But you don’t ever get away from people, really. And these are pictures of people to me. It’s all we have left to represent them. I’m dealing with things that are going away, disappearing, crumbling. How do we hold on to stuff?”

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The Daily Agenda for Thursday, October 1

Jim Burroway

October 1st, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Asheville, NC; Centreville (Bull Run), VA; Dallas, TX (Black Pride); Darwin, NT; Ft. Worth, TX; Jacksonville, FL; Miami Beach, FL (Hispanic Pride).

Other Celebrations This Weekend: Gay Days Disneyland, Anaheim, CA; Out on Film, Atlanta, GA; MIX Copenhagen Film Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark; AIDS Walk, Dallas, TX; Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Tampa, FL.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From High Gear (Cleveland, OH), March 1976, page 10.

From High Gear (Cleveland, OH), March 1976, page 10.

The neighborhood in downtown Cleveland has changed quite a bit since the gays partied at the Rainbow. The building now houses the Local Heroes Grill, right across the street from Progressive Field, the home of the Cleveland Indians. When it opened in 1994, the ballpark was called Jacobs Field. While that name was retired when Progressive Insurance bought the naming rights in 2008, locals still call it the Jake.

Denmark Grants World’s First Registering Partnerships: 1989. Axel Lundahl-Madsen and Eigil Eskildsen made world history when they became the first same-sex couple to have their relationship nationally recognized after forty years together. They had been living under a shared surname, Axgil, (an amalgamation of their given names) for 32 years, but in 1989, when they became the first of eleven couples to enter into what was legally called a Registreret Partnerskab (Registered Partnership), their surname became fully legal.

Denmark’s Registered Partnership just barely fell short of full marriage equality. When the new law went into effect, the differences were so minor that registrars who didn’t have the new forms simply re-used the already existing marriage forms. A civil ceremony was still required with at least two witnesses, and with promises of for better or worse, for sickness and poorer, and all that. After all that was done, couples were officially “registreret” (registered), although in everyday language everyone just simply said they were “gift” (married).

But there were a few important differences that kept Registered Partnerships from being fully equal to marriage. It didn’t cover adoption rights, artificial insemination availability, or religious wedding ceremonies in state-run Lutheran Churches. Those were still out of reach. Several bills which would provide full marriage equality have been debated in the Folketing over the ensuing years. The ruling coalition rejected a marriage equality bill in June 2010, but the Folketing decided to extend adoption rights to Registered Partnerships a month later. Finally, in July of 2012, the Folketing approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage by a vote of 85-24. The law took effect on July 15. Axil and Eigil didn’t live to see full marriage equality in Denmark; Eigel passed away in 1995 and Axel joined him in 2011.

George Cecil Ives: 1867-1950. The Sacred Band of Thebes, the army of ancient Thebans instituted in 387 B.C., was an elite force of 150 pairs of male lovers. The theory went that soldiers would fight harder and better if they were defending a lover. The Sacred Band met its end fifty years later when the rest of the Theban army fled the forces of Philip II of Macedonia at the battle of Chaeronea. The Sacred Band, instead of fleeing, fought to its death. And so when, in 1897, the German-English poet, writer, and early gay-rights campaigner decided to found a secret society for gay men, he named it the Order of Chaeronea in honor of the brave Sacred Band.

George Ives was already well connected with England’s gay scene, having probably had a brief fling with Oscar Wilde followed, later, with a brief affair with Lord Alfred Douglas. Wilde’s sensational run-in with the law, which dominated the papers of London in 1895, undoubtedly had an affect on Ives. After Wilde was released from prison, Wilde wrote Ives that he believed that a more humanitarian climate may slowly emerge. “I have no doubt we shall win, but the road is long, and red with monstrous martyrdoms,” Wilde wrote. “Nothing but the repeal of the Criminal Law Amendment Act would do any good.” Ives was ready to take on the work of changing society and laying the grounds for repeal, but he couldn’t convince Wilde to join him in what he called the “Cause.” Wilde, his health broken from two years at hard labor, had already given his measure of martyrdom. We don’t know how many other people Ives managed to enlist into the “Cause,” but we do know that some of the members included the Uranian poets Charles Kains Jackson and John Gambril Nicholson, the Rev. Samuel Elsworth Cottam (an Anglican priest who published a gay magazine called Chameleon), and the eccentric self-styled Catholic priest (he was apparently never ordained or part of an order) and occult expert Montague Summers.

Ives’s Order was influenced greatly by the Aesthetic movement — of which Wilde was but one very visible proponent — which mixed philosophy, idealism and art as part of what Wilde’s biographer, Neil McKenna, described as “a new gospel of Beauty.” Members of the Order of Chaeronea observed an elaborate system of rituals, ceremonies, seals, codes, passwords, and a calendar dating from the year of the Battle of Cheronea (1897 was written as C2235). New members swore that “you will never vex or persecute lovers,” and that “all real love shall be to you as sanctuary.”

In 1914, Ives co-founded the British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology with Edward Carpenter (see Aug 29) and Magnus Hirschfeld (see May 14), to promote the scientific study of sex and with it a more rational attitude toward sexual matters. Ives was very interested in the penal reform movement, and wrote several articles and lectures on the subject. When he died in 1950, he left behind a large archive covering his lfie and work, including 122 volumes of diaries 45 volumes of scrapbooks, the latter consisting of clippings on such topics as sensational crimes, penal methods, cross-dressing, homosexuality and cricket scores. His diaries have been a treasure trove of information for historians examining the early gay rights movement in England. His papers were purchased in 1977 by the Harry Ransom Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

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The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, September 30

Jim Burroway

September 30th, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Asheville, NC; Centreville (Bull Run), VA; Dallas, TX (Black Pride); Darwin, NT; Ft. Worth, TX; Jacksonville, FL; Miami Beach, FL (Hispanic Pride).

Other Celebrations This Weekend: Gay Days Disneyland, Anaheim, CA; Out on Film, Atlanta, GA; MIX Copenhagen Film Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark; AIDS Walk, Dallas, TX; Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Tampa, FL.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Arizona Gay News (Tucson, AZ), September 15, 1978, page 8.

From Arizona Gay News (Tucson, AZ), September 15, 1978, page 8.

The popular Phoenix bar opened in 1971 as Mi Casa Es Su Casa, and then later as Casa de Roma, but it quickly became known simply as The Casa. It has been described as a small, plush bar with a small stage that hosted quite a number of renowned plays, musicals, and drag shows, often emceed by their comic drag headliner Cissy Goldberg (Keith Morris), who was famous for singing “The Man That Got Away” while supposedly drunk and pregnant. I’m not sure, but it looks like the location may be the parking lot for the Salvation Army.

Truman Capote: 1924-1984. He taught himself to read and write before he entered his first year at school. When he was about ten years old, he submitted his first short story, “Old Mrs. Busybody,” to the Mobile Press Register for a children’s writing contest. Capote later remembered, “I began writing really sort of seriously when I was about 11. I say seriously in the sense that like other kids go home and practice the violin or the piano or whatever, I used to go home from school every day, and I would write for about three hours. I was obsessed by it.” He remained the lifelong friend of author Harper Lee, who was a neighbor in Monroeville, Alabama. “Her father was a lawyer,” he remembered, “and she and I used to go to trials all the time as children. We went to the trials instead of going to the movies.” Those trials not only influenced Lee’s book, To Kill a Mockingbird, but also helped lead to Capote’s greatest literary triumph, In Cold Blood.

Truman Capote in 1948, contemplating some outrage against conventional morality, no doubt.

His first novel however, was autobiographical; 1948’s Other Voices, Other Rooms told the story of a thirteen-year-old boy living in rural Alabama who was dealing with his emerging homosexuality. He described it as “an attempt to exorcise demons, an unconscious, altogether intuitive attempt, for I was not aware, except for a few incidents and descriptions, of its being in any serious degree autobiographical. Rereading it now, I find such self-deception unpardonable.” Other Voices, Other Rooms remained on The New York Times bestseller list for nine weeks. Everything about the novel was scandalous, including the Harold Halma photo of him on back of the dust jacket, which was considered rather homoerotic for 1948. The Los Angeles Times complained that he looked “as if he were dreamily contemplating some outrage against conventional morality,”  and he probably was. He relished the controversy.

He remained busy for the next decade, adapting novels for Broadway and churning out articles for The New Yorker. Then he struck gold again in 1958 with his collection, Breakfast at Tiffany’s: A Short Novel and Three Stories. The title tale introduced the character of Holly Golightly, who became one of Truman’s most beloved characters. But the real turning point came with his 1966 “nonfiction novel,” In Cold Blood. It took him four years to write the book about the murder of a wealthy farmer, his wife and two children in Holcomb, Kansas. The acclaimed book brought a new style of storytelling to true events, and it launched Capote to full-on celebrity status. That same year, he threw the Black and White Ball in New York, which has gone down as one of the most legendary parties of the twentieth century. While he was famous for being a literary genius, he was also, increasingly, famous for being famous and for being among the famous. He was a regular fixture at Studio 54 and on the talk show circuit.

He loved the limelight, although it did take its toll. In the 1970s, he sank into drug and alcohol abuse, which got in the way of working on his epic novel, Answered Prayers. He bragged about it often, but years went by without any sign of the work. He finally adapted portions of it for a series of short stories in Esquire. The second of those stories, “La Côte Basque 1965,” would make him persona non grata among the Jet Set, with its salacious details of the personal lives of William S. Paley and Babe Paley, who had been among his close society friends. It was seen as a betrayal of confidences among Capote’s friends, and two more short stories resulted in Capote’s being cut off from the high society he craved. He died in 1984 of liver cancer at the home of Joane Carson, the ex-wife of TV host Johnny Carson. His royalties continued to support his partner Jack Dunphy until his death, and then went toward establishing a literary prize in honor of Newton Arvin, a former boyfriend, author and professor whose life was ruined when he was fired from Smith College for being gay.

The Velvet Voice

 80 YEARS AGO: Johnny Mathis: 1935. Chances are the last time you heard one of his songs was on television or in film, where his music is capable of setting just the right mood or sense of nostalgia. While he is frequently described as a romantic singer, his first love was jazz. It was during a performance at The Blackhawk club in San Francisco that he caught the attention of Columbia Records’ jazz producer George Avakian, who sent a telegram to the head office, “Have found phenomenal 19-year-old boy who could go all the way. Send blank contracts.” While Mathis enjoyed singing, the opportunity posed something of a dilemma for the San Francisco State College student: the track and field star was about to try out for the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. He had to decide: the Olympics or a recording session. It was one or the other; it couldn’t be both. After consulting with his father, Mathis chose the recording career.

His first album Johnny Mathis: A New Sound In Popular Song, was a jazz album. It didn’t sell well. His second album, produced by Mitch Miller, focused on soft, romantic ballads backed by the Ray Conniff Orchestra. That would prove to be the signature Mathis sound. In Late 1956, he recorded his two most popular songs, “Wonderful! Wonderful!” and “It’s Not For Me To Say,” followed soon by “Chances Are,” which hit Number 1 on the Billboard chart. By the end of the 1950s, hit singles were no longer his forte; his strength was as an album artist. Heavenly, released in1959, hit #1 in the Billboard album chart and went multi-platinum. A year earlier, he released Johnny’s Greatest Hits, the first ever Greatest Hits album in music history, spent 491 consecutive weeks on the Billboard top 100 album charts, earning him a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.. At one point, he had five albums on the Billboard charts simultaneously. His last #1 single was 1978’s “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late,” a duet he recorded with Denice Williams.

Mathis, who never married, managed to keep his personal life out of the public eye. Maybe the fact that he had been an Olympic-caliber athlete helped to keep some of the rumors at bay. Nevertheless, the rumors were out there, which he acknowledged in a 1982 interview with Us Magazine, where he was quoted as saying “Homosexuality is a way of life that I’ve grown accustomed to.” But when he started receiving death threats because of that interview, he prevailed on Us Magazine to retract the statement. In 2006, Mathis again acknowledged his sexuality, saying that his reticence on the topic was “generational.”

Ari Shapiro

Ari Shapiro: 1978. The Fargo, North Dakota native grew up in Portland, Oregon and graduated from Yale in 2000. He began his career in radio journalism at NPR as Nena Totenberg’s intern before moving on as editorial assistant for Morning Edition. He worked as regional reporter in Atlanta and Miami, then he became NPR’s Justice Correspondent, then White House correspondent in 2010. Last year, he became the network’s London correspondent. This year, he returned stateside to take over as a host for All Things Considered.

His golden voice wasn’t just made for radio. He’s also recorded several songs with Pink Martini, including the song “But Now I’m Back for their fourth album, Splendor in the Grass, and sings in Hebrew and Ladino (a Judeo-Spanish language spoken by Sephardic Jews) for the group’s holiday album, Joy to the World. He also performed live with Pink Martini at the Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall, Kew Gardens and the Olympia in Paris. Shapiro has been married to Michael Gottlieb, a White House lawyer, since 2004.

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The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, September 29

Jim Burroway

September 29th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), September 1973, page 20.

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), September 1973, page 20.

The Shack was apparently aptly named, having been described as “a somewhat rundown building with a low profile, tucked away on the west side of Highway 32, between Kenosha and the Illinois state line.” It apparently was proverbial hole-in-the-wall: it was said that you could look into the rest rooms from some of those holes from the outside. But the bar was very popular from miles around. Its popularity was helped by the fact that the nondescript building a bit out of town was easy to go to without people noticing who’s parked there. The bar lasted from about 1972 until 1986, when the owners finally closed it down and opened another gay bar and dance club right off of I-94. The original location has been fixed up and turned into a pub.

New York TV Station Airs “Homosexuality, A Psychological Approach”: 1956. The pioneering WRCA-TV (now WNBC) aired an award-winning weekly panel discussion program called “The Open Mind,” hosted by Richard Heffner. It is among the longest running programs still on the air today, now for American Public Television, and with Heffner continuing to host it right up until his death in 2013.In August, Heffner hosted the first televised discussion on the East Coast on homosexuality (see Aug 4). Despite the obvious prejudices, the program was relatively evenhanded and balanced — as balanced as a program like this could be where people were talking about another group of people who weren’t in the room. Heffner opened this program with a re-cap of the previous program, and the response that it generated

Our panel tried to distinguish between that homosexual activity which harms society and that which does not. And the point was made that our legal attitude towards homosexuality often does not reflect medical opinion, for the law frequently considers it a crime, a crime to be punished rather than a problem to be treated. Now, of course, we touched on many other aspects of homosexuality as well. And from your response to our program it was obvious that a good many of you felt precisely as we did; that we have here a problem that affects us all; affects us as parents and as good citizens concerned with our nation’s mental health. And that his problem should and can be discussed openly and freely. Many of your letter contained questions concerning the cause of homosexuality, its origins, particularly in childhood, its treatment, and the preventative measures that can be taken by the parent.

What’s most fascinating about this program is how closely the discussion mimics the messaging coming out of the ex-gay movement today, nearly than sixty years later. It is as though the ex-gay movement is frozen in time to an earlier era, free from the nettlesome knowledge that the mental health professions have picked up in the intervening six decades.

And what did the mental health professions believe before the subsequent six decodes of research? To answer that, this program’s panel consisted of Dr. Philip Polatin of the New York Psychiatric Institute, and Dr. Harry Bakwin, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics, who had written extensively about psychological issues in children, including, if not altogether accurately, homosexuality (“The condition occurs in white children of all nationalities but is rare in the Negro,” he would write a year later.) In response to the question of how homosexuals became homosexuals. Bakwin opened which what he called the “constitutional cause”:

There is a small but quite definite group of children in whom I think this is an inborn deviation. These children, from the earliest childhood, boys particularly, dress up on the clothes of the opposite sex. They posture like members of the opposite sex. They experiment with cosmetics. You know, we see these as children, but we don’t know what becomes of them as adults. These are termed by the psychiatrist “transvestites”. And the psychiatrist doesn’t consider the transvestite and the homosexual as necessarily the same.

Apparently knowing that Polatin didn’t care much for the idea of inborn homosexuality, Bakwin threw the question over to Polatin, who acknowledged that “we have an entirely different view”:

We don’t in any way ignore the possible factor of the constitutional element, but we, working with homosexuals or other sexual deviates, find that the early parent-child relationship bears a greater relationship to the development to this condition than other factors. For example, we find that one of the most common expressions of difficulty is the aggressive, dominant, controlling mother and a very passive, meek, compliant father. So that the boy, in the development of his psychological life, identifies with a parent of the opposite sex rather than with a parent of the same sex. Because we know that in the course of psychological growth there is the normal period of what we call “the latency period” or “the homosexual period” between the ages of about six and 12, in which little boys play with each other. They play the Hardy Boys game. They have games in groups. And little girls play together themselves. And they indulge in feminine activities, playing with dolls and with cooking utensils and they want to help mother. In other words, gradually they are beginning to identify themselves with the parent of the same sex, so that at the age of puberty when there is a tremendous psychological and physiological upheaval, they now become men if they are boys, and they now become women if they are girls, and then they can go out like father did or like mother did into the world and seek for themselves a mate on a heterosexual level. The homosexual has somehow or other become fixed or limited in his development at the immature level of psychological growth.

Heffner turned the question back to “constitutional” homosexuality (“and by that you mean congenital,” Heffner clarified). Polatin agreed that it may be possible but considered it rare. Bakwin placed a bit more emphasis on genetic possibilities, but even he preferred to emphasize “other factors,” which he likened to the “soil” in which a child’s sexuality takes root:

BAKWIN: I would emphasize other factors. I think the soil is different. Of course the parental reaction to different children is different. Parents are different toward their children just as they’re different toward their friends. And I don’t think that’s generally appreciated. A certain objectivity. And so it isn’t the same parent for each child. However, I think also the soil is different. And I think there is a difference in susceptibility of different individuals toward this deviation. Now, I think given this soil, given an unhappy home, given a child who is exposed to an aggressive adult, that under those circumstances if the adult is of the same sex, this child may fall prey to this particular deviation. This was brought out in a very interesting study by Greco and Wright some years ago. They studied a group of homosexual boys and also studied a group of control children. And they found that in these homosexual boys that had commonly been exposed to an experience during a period when they were unhappy, to a sex experience with an individual of the same sex in whom they had faith, in whom they had confidence. And I think it’s sort of a non-specific unhappiness, plus the chance meeting with some aggressive adult of the same sex, that plays a major role.


BAKWIN: And the difference in the soil, and there’s a difference in susceptibility.

POLATIN: Yes. Well, that’s just it. I want to emphasize that. I think what Dr. Bakwin says is correct, that many homosexuals have been seduced, so to speak, in the pre-adolescent phase. But often when we study these people the soil has been right. Because we know many perfectly healthy, well-integrated, mature people who have been seduced in the pre-adolescent phase and who somehow or other have come through it unscathed and unscarred and function perfectly well. So that he soil is different in these people who are exposed to older homosexual fantasy.

HEFFNER: Well, are you putting your emphasis, Dr. Bakwin, on some traumatic experience, some single experience?

BAKWIN: Usually not a single experience. Usually repeated experiences, according to the studies and the literature.

HEFFNER: And something outside of the individual rather than inside?

BAKWIN: No, I would say first a fertile soil. Second, unhappy surroundings. And third, the chance meeting with an aggressive adult.

The topic soon turned to prevention. Bakwin’s advice was fairly general: just make sure the child has “a happy home.” Also:

I think if a child shows homosexual tendencies that he should go, if he’s a boy, say, to a coeducational school. I don’t think he should be sent to a school simply for boys. I think he’s much better off when exposed to members of the opposite sex. I don’t know what else one can do.

Polatin, on the other hand, was full of suggestions:

The father cannot shirk his responsibilities. He should take the boy with him fishing, tennis, all the activities which a man indulges in. The Boy Scouts, the minister, the priest, the rabbi play a role in this process of identification with the male, with a man. And a girl, too. The mother must take an active role with this little girl because she has to be a woman. And to permit the little child to be with her when she is cooking or baking or cleaning and have the little child participate. I’ve heard so many children who say, “I was never permitted to do any housework. My mother treated me like a queen. I wasn’t permitted to engage in any of these activities, and I miss it”. So that these are important.

For a fascinating look at how 1950s television handled the topic, you can see the entire half-hour program and transcript in the Open Mind’s archives here.

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The Daily Agenda for Monday, September 28

Jim Burroway

September 28th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), October 9, 1987, page 2. (Source.)

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), October 9, 1987, page 2. (Source.)

Mondays was male dancers night. According to this photo that ran in The Calendar in September, the Fantasy in Motion Dancers were pretty athletic.

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 9.02.35 PM

Tuscarora, Nevada.

Tuscarora, Nevada.

A Same-Sex Marriage in Nevada: 1877. The LGBT acronym that we often toss about reflects the fact that we today understand ourselves as though we were measured along two distinct axis. The first axis (the L/G/B one) speaks of the gender of those to whom we are attracted; this defines us as gay, straight, or somewhere in between. The second axis (often lamented as the silent “T” by transgender advocates), describes how we see ourselves: we are generally male or female. For most of us (cisgenders) we experience our gender in congruence with our bodily appearance; for some of us (transgenders), we doesn’t. Taken together, these two sets of descriptions — of one’s sexual orientation and gender identity as separate categories — have been adequate for most of us to describe who we are as sexual beings.

But notice what those descriptions do: they also describe states of being rather than things we’re doing. And this is a very modern way of thinking. Until very recently, one was much more defined — and one’s available life choices were much more restricted — according to one’s gender role, which defined who one is according to what one does and vice versa. And until fairly recently, it was madness to consider that the two could be seperable. And so gender roles went like this: the male gender role meant that men were born male, wore men’s clothing and cut their hair, they left the home every day to make a living, and they loved and/or married women. The female gender role meant that women were female, kept the house, did the cooking, raised the children, wore dresses and petticoats, and they loved and/or married men.

Because there was no option to separate out one’s sexual orientation or gender identity, from one’s gender role, it gets very complicated when we try to assign historical figures into today’s modern categories. There are countless stories of women who, in order to pursue career paths that would violate their gender role (and this would include just about everything besides teaching, nursing and domestic work), adopt the male identity simply because they couldn’t do what they wanted to do as women (see Jul 25 for one possible example). We have far fewer examples of men taking the female gender role for similar reasons, but that is probably because there were far fewer career restrictions for men. But we also find examples of both men and women adopting the opposite gender role when entering what would otherwise be a same-sex relationship. Not everyone did this, but when they did, their examples are much trickier to understand: are we seeing a straight relationship with a transgender person, or are we seeing a gay or lesbian relationship where one adopts an opposite gender role in order to facilitate the relationship?

Today’s story illustrates that very question. On September 28, 1877, Sarah Maud Pollard, as Samuel M. Pollard, married Marancy Hughes in Tuscarora, Elko County, Nevada Territory. My friend Homer Thiel, a Tucson archaeologist and historian, wrote about that marriage in a guest post in 2011:

Sarah Pollard was born in 1846 in New York, the daughter of a middle class merchant family. After working in a shoe factory in Massachusetts and sewing shirts in New York, she headed west to Colorado in the 1870s. She caused a stir because of her masculine appearance. Around 1876 she moved to Nevada and took up wearing male clothing in order to find work and she started calling herself “Sam.” She met young Marancy Hughes, born in 1861 in Missouri, and actively courted her. Hughes’ family hated Pollard and the couple eloped on September 28, 1877.

New Orleans Times-Picayune article about the Pollard marriage, June 23, 1878. (Click to enlarge.)

They were happily married for six months, and then Marancy broke the secret. The small silver-mining town of Tuscarora, Nevada was transfixed by the story. The matter ended up in court and after Marancy testified, a dramatic re-union took place. Stories about the troubled marriage were carried in newspapers across the country (even appearing in a New Zealand paper). The couple broke up two more times, before Marancy moved on to a marriage with a man in 1880.

Pollard’s story appears to have had a happy ending:

Sarah moved to Minnesota to start a new life by 1883, working by herself on a farm. The story of her successful farming career again made national newspapers, which noted she wore a bloomers-type outfit while plowing. By the 1890s she had met a woman named Helen Stoddard, a schoolteacher who was born in 1864 in Vermont. In later census records Helen was listed as her partner or companion. Sarah died in 1929, and Helen paid for her arrangements at a local funeral home, the owners puzzling over the relationship of the two women.

If all we knew about Pollard was restricted to the events in Nevada, we would be left with an open question: Was she lesbian or was he transgender? But as the second half of the story reveals, the question itself was mistaken. What she did in Nevada was adopt a male gender role which allowed her to do male things: make a living and marry a woman. But a decade later, the evidence strongly suggests that she decided to forget about gender roles and just live — she farmed (a man’s job), wore bloomers while plowing (a woman’s garment; pants would have been much more practical), presented herself with a female name, and became a partner to a female schoolteacher — with Helen apparently maintaining a more traditionally female gender role but with Sarah’s gender role being flexible. No wonder the funeral home’s owners were puzzled by the relationship.

Three Tulane Students “Role A Queer”: 1958. It was in the wee hours of Saturday morning when three bored Tulane University Students decided to go to the French Quarter to “roll a queer,” the popular term in those days for picking out a fag, beating him up, and taking his money. They went to Cafe Lafitte In Exile (a popular gay bar which today bills itself as the oldest continuously operating gay bar in the country), where they met Fernando Rios, a twenty-six year old tour guide from Mexico City. John S. Farrell, 20 and the group’s ringleader, met up with Rios in an alley, while the other two students, David Drennan, 19, and Alberto Calvo, 20, hid at the alley’s entrance to prevent an escape. Farrell later claimed that Rios “made an indecent proposal,” although other witnesses said Rios refused Farrell’s advances and tried to hail a cab. Either way, Farrell, hit Rios, took his wallet, and left Rios in the gutter. Rios died without regaining consciousness. Doctors testified that both his eyes were blackened, there were severe bruises and fractures on his skull, nose and mouth, and he had received a bruising blow to his liver.

Meanwhile, the three students went to Calvo’s room and proceeded to brag to Calvo’s roommate, George Meyer. The four then burned the contents of Rios’s wallet, except for the $40 dollars they found. (That would be about $325 today.)

The next day, reports of Rios’s death was in the papers and on the radio, and thanks to the trio’s bragging, word of their adventures spread around campus. They decided that they had no choice but to turn themselves into police, but they did so with two caveats: they would claim that Rios propositioned them, and they would claim that they didn’t plan to rob him. The second point was key because Louisiana law defined murder as either the intentional killing of a person, or the unintentional killing of someone while robbing them. So their story went like this: Rios came on to Farrell, and so Farrell decked him. No robbery, no murder. As for how they ended up with Rio’s $40, they had a story for that. As an afterthought, Ferrell went back later and got the wallet. So now the robbery took place in a separate incident after Rios was assaulted, not during it. Their lawyer even told the jury that when Farrell found out Rios had died, he was so contrite that he had left the stolen money in a church’s poor box. “The three boys are guilty of nothing worse than bad conduct,” the lawyer said.

The combination of a 1958 version of the gay panic defense, combined with full-blown animosity toward Rio’s perceived sexuality (there was no evidence presented during the trial to suggest that Rios was actually gay) and nationality (the Mexican government, controversially, retained an attorney to witness the proceedings) had its desired effect on the jury. The twelve white men found all three defendants not guilty. When ONE magazine reported the lamentable details to its readers, it asked,

How many more times must the innocent die and the guilty go free before the unsubstantiated claim of an “indecent proposal” ceases to be on alibi for robbery and murder?

[Source: “Dal McIntire” (pseudonym). “Tangents: News and Reviews.” ONE 7, no. 3 (March 1959): 13-15.]

US Civil Service Refuses To Meet With Washington Mattachine Society: 1962. Frank Kameny and Jack Nichols founded the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., in 1961, soon after Kameny’s appeal of his 1957 firing by the U.S. Army’s Map Service was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. The federal government’s ban on employment of gays and lesbians was firmly in place, but Kameny didn’t let a small thing like the Supreme Court stop him from demanding the lifting of the ban. In 1962, the MSW requested a meeting with the U.S. Civil Service Commission to discuss the federal employment ban, but in a letter dated September 28, 1962, they were turned down cold:


Washington 25, D.C.

Sep 28 1962

Mr. Bruce Schuyler, Secretary
The Mattachine Society of Washington
P. O. Box 1032
Washington 1, D.C.

Dear Mr. Schuyler:

Your letter of August 28, 1962 and attachments relating to the purposes of the Mattachine Society of Washington have been read with interest. It is the established policy of the civil Service commission that homosexuals are not suitable for appointment to or retention in positions in the Federal service. There would be no useful purpose served in meeting with representatives of your Society.

Sincerely yours,

John W. Macy, Jr.

Lifting the ban would remain one of MSW’s highest priorities for the next thirteen years. When MSW began picketing for gay rights in 1965, the Civil Service Commission was one of their targets (see Jun 26). But it would take another ten years before the Civil Service Commission would finally end the ban (see Jul 3). In 2009, Frank Kameny received a formal apology from the openly gay director of the Office of Personnel Management, the modern-day successor to the Civil Service Commission.

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The Daily Agenda for Sunday, September 27

Jim Burroway

September 27th, 2015

Pride Celebrations Weekend: Sunderland, UKWillemstad, Curaçao.

Other Events This Weekend: Folsom Street Fair, San Francisco, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GLC Voice (Minneapolis, MN), December, 1979, page 6.

From GLC Voice (Minneapolis, MN), December, 1979, page 6.

Six Men Pilloried in London for Homosexuality: 1810. In early 19th century Britain, the penalty for homosexuality was death. If a judge felt lenient, he might instead sentence the accused to stand time at the pillory. The September 27, 1810 entry in the Annual Register describes the pillorying of six members of what we might describe today as a gay hangout known as the White Swan on Vere Street. That description goes like this:

Such was the degree of popular indignation excited against these wretches, and such the general eagerness to witness their punishment, that, by ten in the morning, the chief avenues from Clerkenwell Prison and Newgate to the place of punishment were crowded with people; and the multitude assembled in the Haymarket, and all its immediate vicinity, was so great as to render the streets impassible. All the windows and even the very roofs of the houses were crowded with persons of both sexes; and every coach, waggon, hay-cart, dray, and other vehicles which blocked up great part of the street, were crowded with spectators.

The Sheriffs, attended by two City Marshals, with an immense number of constables, accompanied the procession of the Prisoners from Newgate, whence they set out in the transport caravan, and proceeded through Fleet-street and the Strand; and the Prisoners were hooted and pelted the whole way by the populace. At one o- clock four of the culprits were fixed in the pillory, erected for and accommodated to the occasion, with two additional wings, one being allotted for each criminal; and immediately a new torrent of popular vengeance poured upon them from all sides. The day being fine, the streets were dry and free from mud, but the dfect was speedily and amply supplied by the butchers of St. James’s-market. Numerous escorts of whom constantly supplied the party of attack, chiefly consisting of women, with tubs of blood, garbage, and ordure from their slaughter-houses, and with this ammunition, plentifully diversified with dead cats, turnips, potatoes, addled eggs, and other missiles, the criminals were incessantly pelted to the last moment. They walked perpetually round during their hour [the pillory swivelled on a fixed axis]; and although from the four wings of the machine they had some shelter, they were completely encrusted with filth.

Two wings of the Pillory were then taken off to place Cooke and Amos in the two remaining ones, and although they came in only for the second course, they had no reason to complain of short allowance, for they received even a more severe discipline than their predecessors. On their being taken down and replaced in the caravan, they lay flat in the vehicle; but the vengeance of the crowd still pursued them back to Newgate, and the caravan was so filled with mud and ordure as completely to cover them.

No interference from the Sheriffs and Police officers could refrain the popular rage; but notwithstanding the immensity of the multitude, no accident of any note occurred.

The six men were relatively lucky. Depending on the ferocity of the crowd, death at the pillory wasn’t out of the question. The pillory was formally abolished in England in 1837.

Public Enemies Number Three

Public Enemies Number Three (source)

Americans Rank Homosexuals Third Most Harmful to the Nation: 1965. A Harris Poll of 1250 Americans ranked Homosexuals at number three as “more harmful than helpful to American life.” The Harris Poll asked respondents to rank gay people along with Communists, atheists, civil rights demonstrators, anti-war protesters, hippies, bikini wearers and college professors active in unpopular causes. Seventy percent ranked gay people as harmful, behind Communists (89%) and atheists (72%). Another 29% believed that gay people didn’t “help or harm things much one way or the other.” That left only a tiny 1% volunteering the opinion that gay people were more helpful than harmful.

Pollster Louis Harris commented, “As could be expected, an overwhelming majority of Americans regard Communists, homosexuals, and prostitutes as harmful to the Nation, although three out of every ten Americans think homosexuals and prostitutes are not a matter of serious concern …Eighty-two per cent of the men think homosexuals are harmful to the Nation while only 58 per cent of the women think so.” The gender gap was alive and well, even back then.

Rev. Ray Broshears, Lavender Panthers organizer.

Rolling Stone Reports on San Francisco’s “Lavender Panthers”: 1973. San Francisco in 1973 may have been seen as a tolerant haven for gay people, but that’s was only relatively speaking when compared to much of the rest of the country. For all of its “tolerance,” more than 60 anti-gay assaults and beatings had occurred over the past summer, with two dozen since August 1. Rev. Ray Broshears, a gay Pentecostal evangelist told Rolling Stone about one horrific crime the previous January:

“One of our own [Gay Activist Alliance] members was murdered early this year,” he says. “This boy was beaten and his unconscious body placed on the Sunset Tunnel streetcar tracks. He was left to be hit by a train.” Police records acknowledge that 19-year-old David Hart Winters was struck and killed by a streetcar late one night last January. The coroner’s report shows that he had been beaten before his death.”

Broshears himself was severely beaten by four teenagers outside his church, leaving him with partial nerve control loss in his left arm. That beating occurred on the Fourth of July, after he had called the police to complain about some teenagers who were setting off fireworks in a lot next door. Rather than deal with the problem, police simply told the youths who had ratted them out. Police were indifferent, or worse — often accusing assault victims of sexually soliciting or provoking their attackers. Consequently, most victims didn’t bother to file a report. Add to that, three gay-affirming churches and two gay bars had burned over the summer, with arson either suspected or determined in all of those cases. So Broshears formed the Lavender Panthers and took to streets:

Each evening, several of the Panthers (on a rotating schedule) drive the group’s VW bus to parts of the city that sport a concentration of gay bars, restaurants, baths and clubs. They concentrate on the popular Upper Market-Castro Street area, where most of the beatings have taken place. …

“When we spot trouble, we all jump out of the van and run toward the attackers, blowing police whistles and shouting. Usually, we startle the attackers enough that they take off,” explains one patrol member. “In a couple of situations, we’ve had to hit them over the head and show them a taste of their own medicine. The fact that we’re gay doesn’t mean we can’t and won’t fight back.”

The Lavender Panthers conducted self-defense martial-arts workshops and firearms training, distributed police whistles so people could sound an alarm if they were attacked or saw one in progress, and recommended that gay people carry cans of red spray paint to use as mace. The Lavender Panthers maintained their patrols in San Francisco for about a year before disbanding.

Two weeks after the Rolling Stone article appeared, TIME magazine published its own write-up.

[Source: Bill Sievert. “Lavender Panthers Protect Gays.” Rolling Stone (September 27, 1973): 7.]

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The Daily Agenda for Saturday, September 26

Jim Burroway

September 26th, 2015



Last night, Stephen Colbert did a segment on various politicians’ continuing opposition to same-sex marriage. Citing Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) assertion that now “you could marry your lawnmower” thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality, Colbert announced that he was going into the all-inclusive wedding cake topper business “for any marriage imaginable,” including various combinations and permutations of men and/or women of various quantities, as well as a man and a ghost, fifteen babies in top hats, Steve King and his lawnmower, and, of course, a man and a box turtle. I assume my royalty check is on its way.

Update: Here’s the video:

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Melbourne, FL; Memphis, TN; Moab, UT; Raleigh/Durham, NC; Willemstad, Curaçao.

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Chicago, IL; San Diego, CA; Seattle, WA; Spokane, WA; Wilmington/Rehoboth, DE.

Other Events This Weekend: Queer Lisboa Film Festival, Lisbon, Portugal; Folsom Street Fair, San Francisco, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, May 13, 1982, page 19

From The Advocate, May 13, 1982, page 19

The building had a long history as a gay gathering spot, going as far back as the 1940s when busses used to drop off G.I.s there after being discharged. From 1957 to 1962, it was known as the Tel and Tel Tavern, so named for the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph building across the street. In 1963, it changed its name to Derek’s Tavern, then in 1965 it became The Annex. As Derek’s Tavern, it had already gained a reputation with Portland’s vice squad for being “frequented by homosexuals of higher class and means.” Such notable patrons included Johnny Mathis and Rudolph Nureyev. In 1971, the tavern was sold again and became The Family Zoo, which became one of Portland’s more popular gay nightspots. I don’t know when the Family Zoo met its demise, but the site today is home to New Avenues for Youth, a homeless and at-risk youth service organization.

Gay Man and Lesbian Killed in Firebombed Apartment: 1992. The election to decide the fate of Oregon’s Measure 9 was still just over a month away (see Nov 3), and the campaign waged by anti-gay extremists was already worrying to gay activists across the state. Measure 9, if enacted, would have amended the state constitution to prohibit the expenditure of “monies or properties to promote, encourage or facilitate homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism or masochism.” It would have banned gay groups from using city parks, and would have prohibited public libraries from carrying books about homosexuality.

The measure put forward by the Oregon Citizens Alliance, a radically-conservative religious right group that was closely aligned with the Christian Coalition, and was headed by Lon Mabon, with Scott Lively serving as his right hand man. Their campaign was especially nasty. The OCA had released a graphic video depicting gay people as uniformly debauched and featured alarming statistics manufactured by anti-gay extremist and Nazi sympathizer Paul Cameron.

The extreme nature of the anti-gay propaganda flooding the state from the OCA and other groups accompanied a marked increase in violence throughout the state. Campaign offices in opposition to Measure 9 were repeatedly burglarized and vandalized, often with urine and feces smeared throughout the premises. Gay bashing were on the rise, and telephone threats were becoming commonplace. Editors of , a Portland gay newspaper, arrived to work one morning to find “We’re Going to Kill You,” written on their front door. Portland police reported that attacks on LGBT people had risen by twenty percent since the campaign began. Donna Red Wing, Executive director of Portland’s Lesbian Community Project said, “I wouldn’t say the OCA is doing that, but I think the climate they helped create is one of violence. When they’re talking about gays and lesbians as subhumans, animals, birth defects and abominations … it just makes it easier for people to hurt us.”

The worst fears became a reality in the early morning hours of September 26 when four skinheads threw a firebomb into a basement apartment in Salem. Hattie Mae Cohens, 29, and Brian H. Mock, 45, were killed in the blast. Cohens was black, Mock was white, and both were gay. Six others sleeping in the apartment were injured. Local officials denied that it was a hate crime. “This clearly was not a crime targeted at homosexuals,” said district attorney Dale Penn. “When all is said and done, the primary motive for the killings will likely not be race or sexual orientation, but both of them played a role.” Four were charged with murder, arson and assault: Yolanda R. Cotton, 19; Leon L. Tucker, 22; Philip B. Wilson, Jr., 20; and Sean R. Edwards, 21. Edwards pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, in a plea bargain in which he avoided the death penalty in exchange for testifying against the others. Tucker and Wilson were then found guilty of murder, assault, arson and racial intimidation. Cotton was acquitted of all charges.

The violence didn’t end with the Salem bombing. A few weeks later, vandals hit St. Matthew’s Catholic Church in Hillsboro, spray-painting swastikas and anti-gay graffiti inside the sanctuary and setting fire to the church’s offices. Hours later, Fr. Jim Galluzo, preached a homily amidst the damage on the need to respect the rights of gay people. Meanwhile, OCA head Lon Mabon denied that his group’s rhetoric had anything to do with the increase in violence. Instead, he claimed that gays were provoking others to commit violent acts and were staging incidents themselves to earn sympathy.

Shirley Willer

Shirley Willer

Shirley Willer: 1922-1999. Her childhood was hard. Her father, a respected judge in Chicago, was also an alcoholic and violent abuser. When Shirley was nine, her mother packed up and left, taking Shirley and her younger sister with her. As Shirley got older, she managed to scrape enough money together to go to nursing school, where she learned about other women who shared some of the same romantic desires she did. When she told her mother that she was a lesbian, her mother went out and purchased a copy of Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness, a remarkably understanding act for a woman in the 1940s.

Willer’s oversized personality matched her physicality. She was heavyset with short cropped hair and tailored clothing, all of which made her “butch” — a term she hated for its stereotypical role-playing connotations. “Because I was heavy,” she later explained, “I looked much better in tailored clothes.” Her appearance got her trouble with the police one night while she was headed to a gay bar. “Just the assumption that I was gay was justification enough for one policeman to pick me up by the front of my shirt and slap me back and forth. He called me names, the same ones they used now. ‘You god-damned pervert. You queer. You S.O.B.’ … I was so angry at the policeman I could have killed him! I wasn’t frightened; I was angry! He had no right to do that to me! and that’s been my attitude all my life. They have no right!”

After watching a male nurse die after horrible treatment at a Catholic hospital because he was gay, Willer was driven to become an advocate for gay rights. “Barney’s death probably had a great deal to do with my aggressiveness,” she said. She and five other women talked about forming a group, but they dropped it after deciding it was too dangerous, given the political climate of the McCarthy era. But by the late 1950’s, Willer began hearing about other homophile groups around the country, including a chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis in New York City. So she decided to mov to the Big Apple in 1962. Upon arrival, she wrote to the DOB chapter, and Marion Glass answered with details about their next meeting. Willer and Glass met at that meeting and quickly became lovers and partners. The two turned out to be perfect complements to each other: Glass was as thoughtful as Willer was brash. Together, with Glass serving as Willer’s mentor and advisor, Willer become the chapter’s president in 1963, and three years later she was elected the national president of DOB.

Willer’s passion as DOB president was in travelling across the country planting as many DOB chapters as possible. She was aided in that effort through the generosity of an wealthy closeted lesbian, known only as “Pennsylvania,” who wanted to contribute to DOB anonymously. Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, co-founders of the original Daughters of Bilitis group in San Francisco, were among the very few who had met “Pennsylvania.” Lyon remembered, “She was so nervous when we started talking about lesbians… up until then, she had been very poised and sophisticated, but when we started talking about lesbians she couldn’t even look at us. She started blushing and fidgeting.”

But over a five year period, “Pennsylvania” wrote more than $100,000 in checks of $3,000 each, made out to different DOB members each time. Those checks, in turn were turned over to the national organization with Willer being the conduit through whom those checks flowed. “Pennsylvania’s” money was first used to turn the DOB’s newsletter The Ladder into a slick, professionally typeset magazine available on newsstands. She also funded the establishment of new DOB chapters across the country, along with Willer’s travel expenses to get them started. Willer said, “There wasn’t an operating chapter of the Daughters that didn’t receive at least six thousand dollars to put toward a building fund or toward office expenses or toward publications. … Nobody was supposed to talk about our benefactor or what she did. And this woman will never take credit for her contribution to the movement, which amounted to more than one hundred thousand dollars. But she does have the satisfaction of being able to go down the street and see a couple of guys or a couple of girls walking hand in hand, and seeing the Mafia lose control of the gay bars, of seeing homosexuality become much more acceptable.”

But Willer’s traveling in those pre-cell phone/pre-Twitter/pre-text message days meant that members of already existing chapters weren’t able to contact her when problems arose. In 1968 when Philadelphia police raided a popular lesbian bar, the local DOB chapter couldn’t reach Willer to coordinate a response (see Mar 8). The resulting inaction led to the fracturing of Philadelphia’s homophile movement and the closure of DOB’s chapter there (see Aug 7). Another sticking point was the DOB’s official position against picketing, a controversial position which put Willer, who wanted to see more direct action in the organization, in a no-win position. “This split between those who wanted to make noise and those who wanted to do things quietly affected me very directly,” she recalled in 1989. “During the second half of the 1960s, I was more and more at odds with the official position of DOB.”

It was increasingly clear that for the local chapters to thrive, they needed the freedom to respond quickly without having to wait for approval from the national organization, particularly when the local chapters wanted to act outside of the DOB’s restrictive one-size-fits-all policies. Marion Glass (under the pseudonym Meredith Grey) proposed a massive reorganization in the August 1968 issue of The Ladder. Under this proposal, all DOB chapters would be autonomous and the national organization’s sole role would be limited to publishing The Ladder. But there was a hitch: the change would require the approval of the membership, and that issue of The Ladder still had no announcement of where that year’s national DOB Convention would be held. When the DOB’s finally convened their biennial convention in Aurora, Colorado, the short notice meant that only fifteen members showed up. With so few members on hand to make such a momentous decision, the group decided to defer until the next biennial convention, which wouldn’t occur until 1970.

Frustrated by the delay, Willer decided not to stand for re-election as the Daughters’ national president. She also withdrew from gay activism altogether, and with her withdrawal, “Pennsylvania’s” dollars stopped flowing as well. Two years later, the DOB did finally vote to disband its national organization and set all of its individual chapters free. But by then, it was too late. Only a few DOB chapters remained, and The Ladder only had another couple of years before it too went belly-up. Meanwhile, Willer and Glass retired to Key West, Florida, where they ran a rock shop for tourists and became involved with the growing local LGBT community. Willer died in 1999 on New Year’s Eve.

[Sources: Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. “Shirley Willer (1922-1999).” In Vern L. Bullough’s Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (Binghamton, NY: Harrington Park Press, 2002): 203-205.

Eric Marcus. Making History: The Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights: 1945-1990. An Oral History (New York: HarperCollins, 1992): 127-135.

Marcia M. Gallo. Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement (New York: Carroll & Graf, 2006):82-83.]

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

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