Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
This article can be found at:

Breaking news: box of rocks will run for presidency in 2016

Timothy Kincaid

December 10th, 2014

The box of rocks has been silent for the past two years after winning no votes in the 2012 GOP presidential primary. A spokesman for the box explained that most people just think the box is dumb and there’s not much use in debating the point.

But now we hear that Rick Santorum will be running again for the Republican nomination, and he’s proved time and again to be dumber than a box of rocks. So far, he’s off to a great start. (WaPo)

Reflecting on how a presidential campaign could be different this time around, Santorum said: “We’re just obviously in a better place right now. Our message will be a lot more focused this time than it was last time.”

Well, obviously!

For now the box is not responding; but the spokesman assures us that if Santorum runs again then the box of rocks will reignite it’s campaign, and the box is sure to benefit by comparison.

Featured Reports
Main Stories

The Daily Agenda for Sunday, December 21

Jim Burroway

December 21st, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From This Week In Texas, December 18, 1976, page 23.

From This Week In Texas, December 18, 1976, page 23.

Time Magazine’s “Opportunistic Diseases”: 1981. Nearly seven months had passed since the CDC had issued its first notice of a puzzling new condition that was appearing in gay men (see Jun 5). A month after the CDC raised the alarm, the New York Times picked up the story (see Jul 3). But beyond that, the news was slow to spread outside of a few gay publications (and most of them were gun shy). In fact, the media seemed to go out of its way to keep from looking at AIDS. Randy Shilts described the problem in And the Band Played On:

The difference, (the CDC’s James W.) Curran knew, was media attention. Once Toxic Shock Syndrome hit the front pages the heat was on to find the answer. Within months of the first MMWR report, the task force had discovered the link between tampons and the malady. Back in 1976, the newspapers couldn’t print enough pictures of flag-draped coffins of dead American Legionnaires. However the stories just weren’t coming on the gay syndrome. The New York Times had written only two stories on the epidemic, setting the tone for noncoverage nationally. Time and Newsweek were running their first major stories on the epidemic now, in late December 1981. There was only one reason for the lack of media interest, and everybody on the (CDC’s) task force knew it: the victims were homosexuals. Editors were killing pieces, reporters told Curran, because they didn’t want stories about gays and all those distasteful sexual habits littering their newspapers.

The December 21 edition of Time (which featured Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi on the cover) placed the article titled “Opportunistic Diseases” deep inside. The article provided little context, information, or hope. Truth be told, there was little to give of any of those thus far. No one knew what caused it, nor did they even know what to call it. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome wouldn’t get its official name until July 1982. Time, instead, focused on the prevailing image of gays as diseased, while simultaneously expressing surprise that lesbians weren’t coming down with the strange new infections. Of the speculations about the disease, Time wrote:

One possible culprit in the syndrome is cytomegalovirus, which is known to weaken immune defenses and can be transmitted in semen more than a year after infection. In a recent study, traces of CMV were found in 94% of homosexual men, as opposed to 54% of heterosexual men. U.C.L.A.’s Dr. Michael Gottlieb believes that CMV does contribute to the immune deficiency, but, he points out, both the virus and homosexuality “have been around for thousands of years.” Thus, he concludes, “there is a piece of the puzzle missing.”

The missing link could be “poppers,” drugs like amyl nitrate and butyl nitrate, which are said to enhance orgasm. More than 85% of the CDC patients admitted to inhaling them. Another possible explanation is the so-called immunologic overload theory, says San Francisco’s Dr. Robert Bolan. Homosexuals with many sexual partners often contract numerous venereal diseases, intestinal disruptions (gay bowel syndrome), mononucleosis and other infections, explains Bolan. “This constant, chronic stimulation to their immune system may eventually cause the system to collapse.”

All of those theories would soon be proven wrong, although some of them would continue to linger among the conspiratorially-minded AIDS deniers who insist, against all evidence to the contrary, that the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) doesn’t cause AIDS. It’s been said that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Time proved that aphorism wrong.

Kirk Murphy, in 2003

“The darkness keeps calling and I must go”: 2003. With those words written on a suicide note, Kirk Andrew Murphy ended his life in a New Delhi apartment. ““I’ll never forget this as long as I live,” said Frank, his supervisor back in Phoenix, Arizona. He was the first outside of India to receive the news. “I got a phone call from the account manager who reported to me. It was midnight or one o’clock in the morning. I was totally shook up.” Frank contacted Kirk’s sister, Maris, in New York, and together they went to India for the funeral.

What happened seemed utterly senseless to Maris, but seven years later she would learn something that would suddenly make so many things about her brother click. That’s when she learned that in 1970, when Kirk was just about to turn five years old and Maris herself was just an infant, their mother took Kirk to see a specialist at UCLA’s Gender Identity Clinic after a well-known researcher appeared on television to warn parents that gender-variant children would grow up to be homosexual. According to that researcher, UCLA had a new program, paid for with federal grants, to prevent homosexuality in children. Kirk’s mother saw that program and made an appointment. Kirk came under the care of a young grad student by the name of George Rekers, who worked with Kirk for about nine months before pronouncing him “cured.” Rekers went on to build a career on Kirk’s case, which Rekers mentioned in nearly twenty journal articles, chapters, and books. As late as 2009, referring to Kirk as “Craig,” Rekers wrote:

Follow-up psychological evaluations three years after treatment indicates that Craig’s gender behaviors became normalized. An independent clinical psychologist evaluated Craig and found that post-treatment he had a normal male identity. Using intrasubject replication designs, this published case was the first experimentally demonstrated reversal of a cross-gender identity with psychological treatment, and the journal article on this case was among the top 12 cited articles in clinical psychology in the 1970s

Kirk, at the age of 4 years and 6 months, just a few months before entering treatment at UCLA’s Feminine Boy Project (Photo courtesy of the Murphy family)

Nothing could be further from the truth. Well, it is true that Rekers’s initial case report did become one of the most widely cited articles in the 1970s. But to say that Kirk had “become normalized” according to Rekers’s definition turned out to be misleading, to put it extremely mildly. Rekers’s went on to become an important anti-gay activist. He co-founded the Family Research Council in 1983 and served as its first chairman and CEO. He also became an important figure in the ex-gay movement, serving on the Scientific Advisory Committee and the Board of Directors for the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). All that came to an end in 2009 when Penn Bullock and Brandon K. Thorp, two from the alternative newsweekly Miami New Times, photographed Rekers at Miami International Airport as he returned from a European vacation in the company of a handsome male escort.

In 2011, BTB was privileged to bring you the real story of Rekers’s most famous case history. In our award-winning investigation, What Are Little Boys Made Of?, we interviewed Kirk’s family, friends and associates, and we revealed the horrible treatment that Kirk and his brother went through while under UCLA’s care, and we learned of its terrible aftermath. We also investigated the state of psychology in 1970 and its evolution in the decades since, we looked into the claims that Kirk received “independent” follow-up evaluations indicating that he was healthy and straight, and we tried to get to the bottom of who exactly was in charge of Kirk’s treatment at the hands of that inexperienced grad student.

You can find all of that information here, along with statements from Kirk’s brother and sister, eulogies from family and friends, links to original published reports about Kirk’s case and the controversy it generated among behavioral therapists, and more information on the ex-gay movement and attempts to change sexual orientation.

If Kirk were alive today, he would be 48. He is still missed by his mother, sister, brother, and everyone who knew him.

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?

Florida marriage stay denied by SCOTUS

Timothy Kincaid

December 20th, 2014

In July, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel found that Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage was a violation of the US Constitution. That ruling was put on hold until January 5, 2015, in order to give the state time to appeal.

The state has appealed to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals to have the stay extended. The request was denied.

Then the state appealed to the Supreme Court. Which has now denied the stay. So same-sex marriages will begin in Florida in 17 days.

Interestingly, the order states that Justice Thomas and Justice Scalia would have granted the extension of stay. But the justice who handles stays for the Eleventh Circuit is Clarence Thomas. He could have simply extended the stay under his own authority. However, Thomas deferred to the full court, which chose not to extend.

I’m not exactly sure how to translate that move, but it sounds a bit to me like Thomas is saying, “I oppose same-sex marriages, but not quite enough to actually stop any of them”.

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, December 20

Jim Burroway

December 20th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From ONE, December 1963, page 24.

From ONE, December 1963, page 24.

Frank Kameny Fired From Government Job for Being Gay: 1957. Frank Kameny was a World War II veteran and Harvard-trained astronomer working for the Army Map Service. In Eric Marcus’s compendium of oral histories, Making History, Kameny described the events that led him to a lifetime of LGBT advocacy:

When I was on assignment in Hawaii in November or December of 1957, I got a call from my supervisor in Washington, D.C., to come back at once. I told him that whatever the problem, it could wait a few days, and I returned to Washington at the end of the week. As soon as I got back, I was called in by some two-bit Civil Service Commission investigator and told, “We have information that leads us to believe that you are a homosexual. Do you have any comment?” I said, “What’s the information?” They answered, “We can’t tell you.” I said, well, then I can’t give you an answer. You don’t deserve an answer. and in any case, this is none of your business.” I was not open about being gay at that time — no one was, not in 1957. But I was certainly leading a social life. I went to the gay bars many, many evenings. I’ve never been a covert kind of a person, and I wasn’t about to be one simply because I was working for the government. I’ve never been one to function on the basis that Big Brother may be looking over my shoulder.

So they called me in, and ultimately it resulted in my termination. They did it the way the government does anything: They issued a letter. They said they were dismissing me for homosexuality. I was in shock.

…Keep in mind I had been training all of my life for a scientific career, for this kind of occupation. I was not at all familiar with the job market. When I was thrown out, I had nowhere to go. Perhaps if this had happened five or ten years later, I would have had a professional reputation to fall back on, but in this case I didn’t. For a long time I applied for jobs in astronomy, but there was nothing. Ultimately, in 1959, I got a job doing something in physics. My bachelor’s degree is in physics, in the area of optics.

But meanwhile, I had decided that my dismissal amounted to a declaration of war against me by my government. First, I don’t grant me government the right to declare war on me. And second, I tend not to lose my wars.

Kameny launched a string of appeals, first through the Civil Service commission itself, then through the courts. He took his appeals all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court — writing his own brief (which is available here) declaring the discrimination he experienced “a stench in the nostrils of decent people, an offense against morality, an abandonment of reason, an affront to human dignity, an improper restraint upon proper freedom and liberty, a disgrace to any civilized society, and a violation of all that this nation stands for.” The Supreme Court denied his petition in 1961.

Kameny went on to co-found the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., which in 1963 launched a long campaign to overturn the federal employment ban on gay people and to overturn the district’s sodomy law. In 1965, he organized the first picket line in front of the White House in support of gay rights (see Apr 17), followed by several other protests throughout that year. He was also an instrumental player in the fight to remove homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s list of mental disorders. In 1971, he became the first openly gay candidate for the U.S. Congress when he ran for D.C’s non-voting Congressional delegate (see Feb 22). In 1975, the U.S. Civil Service Commission notified him that they had changed their policies and were now allowing gay people to work in federal jobs (see Jul 3). In 2009, the U.S. government officially repudiated Kameny’s firing when John Berry, the openly gay Director of the Office of Personnel Management, delivered a formal apology during a special OPM ceremony in his honor. Upon receiving the apology, Kameny tearfully replied, “Apology accepted.” He passed away in 2011 at the age of 86. You can read his full biography here.


Vermont Supreme Court Rules State Must Recognize Same-Sex Unions: 1999. In a unanimous decision, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that the state must provide the same benefits, protections and obligations to same-sex couples as it does to heterosexual couples. The Supreme Court left it up to the legislature to decide how it would end the discrimination, either through marriage or through civil unions. Most state political leaders opted for the latter. State Attorney General William Sorrell, predicted, “It would likely be a civilly sanctioned relationship that would, for all intents and purposes, have the benefits and protections a traditionally married couple would have but wouldn’t be called a marital relationship. They wouldn’t be called spouses, they’d be called domestic partners, and for a number of people, that makes an enormous difference.” Gov. Howard Dean concurred, saying that same-sex marriage “makes me uncomfortable, the same as anybody else.”

The argument for Civil Unions won the dayBeth Robinson, the lawyer for the winning plaintiffs, dismissed that idea and pressed for full marriage. “The Legislature will come to understand that as a practical matter, you can’t call it something different and have it be truly equal.”

It would take another decade before the Legislature would come to that understanding, opting instead to go for civil unions, which Gov. Dean signed into law 0n April 26, 2000. It took effect on July 1, 2000. In 2009, the Legislature revisited the issue again and passed a same-sex marriage bill with bipartisan support, only to see it vetoed by Gov. Jim Douglas (R). The legislature then overturned the governor’s veto, and same-sex marriages finally became available in the Green Mountain State on September 1, 2009.

Seth Anderson, left, and Michael Ferguson were one of the first same-sex couples to marry in Utah.

Seth Anderson, left, and Michael Ferguson were one of the first same-sex couples to marry in Utah.

1 YEAR AGO: Judge Strikes Down Utah’s Marriage Ban in First Post-Windsor Federal Decision: 2013. In a surprise early Christmas gift (the decision hadn’t been expected for another month or so), Federal District Judge Robert J. Shelby declared that Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage vilated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process.

Judge Shelby’s was the first Federal ruling in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor v. US four months earlier. That Windsor decision, which declared that Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act violated the U.S. Constitution’s Due Process clause. Judge Shelby relied heavily on the Windsor decision in striking down Utah’s law, even including Justice Antonin Scalia’s blistering dissent Windsor as part of his analysis:

The Constitution’s protection of the individual rights of gay and lesbian citizens is equally dispositive whether this protection requires a court to respect a state law, as in Windsor, or strike down a state law, as the Plaintiffs ask the court to do here. In his dissenting opinion, the Honorable Antonin Scalia recognized that this result was the logical outcome of the Court’s ruling in Windsor:

In my opinion, however, the view that this Court will take of state prohibition of same-sex marriage is indicated beyond mistaking by today’s opinion. As I have said, the real rationale of today’s opinion … is that DOMA is motivated by “bare… desire to harm” couples in same-sex marriages. How easy it is, indeed how inevitable, to reach the same conclusion with regard to state laws denying same-sex couples marital status.

133 S. Ct. at 2709 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). The court agrees with Justice Scalia’s interpretation of Windsor and finds that the important federalism concerns at issue here are nevertheless insufficient to save a state-law prohibition that denies the Plaintiffs their rights to due process and equal protection under the law.

…And Justice Scalia even recommended how this court should interpret the Windsor decision when presented with the question that is now before it: “I do not mean to suggest disagreement … that lower federal courts and state courts can distinguish today’s case when the issue before them is state denial of marital status to same-sex couples.”

Judge Shelby then took the unusual step in declining to stay his ruling, which meant that marriage began almost immediately in Salt Lake City and several other county offices. The state’s Attorney General’s office was in turmoil — John Swallow had resigned the month before in the wake of multiple corruption investigations — and so things were a bit disorganized in their efforts to get a stay. The Tenth Circuit quickly denied Utah’s pleas, as did Judge Shelby when the state tried to go back to him again. The state then decided to try to go to the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay, but first they would have to engage outside counsel to do it since their own staff had proved incapable in the lower courts. Utah finally filed its request on New Year’s Eve and the high court finally issued its stay on January 6, but not before some 1300 same-sex couples were legally married.

Since then, federal judges have followed Judge Shelby’s lead in striking down marriage bans in Virginia, Texas, Michigan, Idaho, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Florida, Colorado, West Virginia, North Carolina, Alaska, Arizona, Wyoming, Missouri, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Mississippi. All of those rulings following more or less the same findings as Judge Shelby’s ruling in Utah. Meanwhile, the Tenth Circuit upheld Judge Shelby’s ruling on June 25, 2014. Utah then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. On October 6, the Supreme Court refused to consider Utah’s request, along with similar requests from Indiana, Oklahoma, Virginia and Wisconsin. Marriages resumed once again in Utah along with the other four states. (Marriages are currently on hold in Texas, Michigan, Florida, Missouri and Mississippi pending appeal.)

Elsie de Wolfe: 1865-1950. She was the legendary interior designer who finally put gloomy victorian styles out of its misery. And for that, she is hailed as America’s first decorator and her designs, nearly a century later, are still just as fresh today as they were bold in at the turn of the last century. She began her creative life as an actress in the 1890s, but her appearances were appreciated more for her stylish clothes than for her performing abilities.

At about 1887, she began what was called a “Boston marriage” with Elisabeth “Bessie” Marbury, a New York socialite, literary agent, and business manager with such illustrious clients as Oscar Wilde (see Oct 16), George Bernard Shaw, and Sarah Bernhardt. The two bought and restored Villa Trianon in Versailles, France, where de Wolfe became enamored with the light colors and brightly-lit rooms that defined French style. She then drew on those influences as she set about redecorating Marbury’s New York home by throwing out all of that dark Victorian furnishings and cluttering bric-a-brac. New York’s high society took notice. When a group of wealthy women formed the exclusive Colony Club, de Wolfe was tapped to design the clubhouse’s interiors. The Colony opened in 1907 and with it, de Wolfe’s reputation was set.

A photo from A House In Good Taste, 1913.

Instead of the dark paneled rooms and heavy atmosphere common with men’s clubs, The Colony featured light draperies, pale walls, wicker furniture, chintz — she became known as “the Chintz Lady” — and light, lots of natural light. Her design practice exploded overnight, with commissions for private houses, clubs, opera boxes, and a dorm at Barnard College. Her 1913 book, The House in Good Taste, became an instant classic which still offers timeless advice today. As she explained, “I opened the doors and windows of American and let the air and sunshine in.” That same year, her design business took up an entire floor of offices on Fifth Avenue. In 1915, she was commissioned to design a brand new townhouse for Henry Clay Frick, then the wealthiest man in America. That commission alone made her a very rich woman.

De Wolfe was an iconoclast in many ways. She single-handedly turned the design profession from a “man’s world” into one in which women could excel. She embroidered her own pillows with the motto, “Never complain, never explain.” At her home in France, she had a dog cemetery where each headstone carried the epitaph, “The one I loved the best.” And speaking of France, When World War I came along, she broke from all expectations by volunteering to become a nurse — where she was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honor for her work with mustard gas victims. In 1926, she scandalized French society with her grand entrance to a society ball dressed as a Moulin Rouge dancer while turning handsprings — at the age of 61 — her many years of practicing yoga did well for her. Her marriage that same year to the diplomat Sir Charles Mendl was also a surprise because, as The New York Times dryly observed, “When in New York she makes her home with Miss Elizabeth [sic] Marbury at 13 Sutton Place.” Her marriage now made her Lady Mendl, immortalized in the Cole Porter lyric:

When you hear that Lady Mendl, standing up
Now turns a handspring landing up-
On her toes
Anything goes!

When World War II broke out, Mendl and de Wolfe moved to Hollywood. After the war, they returned to Villa Trianon where de Wolfe died in 1950.

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 Friday, December 19

Jim Burroway

December 19th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Our Community (Dallas, TX), November 1971, page 7.

From Our Community (Dallas, TX), November 1971, page 7.

Entre’ Nuit opened at at 4516 McKinney Avenue in Dallas sometime in mid-November of 1971. According to an announcement in Our Community, Entre’ Nuit boasted “a stunning parquet wood dance floor (the largest in Dallas), luxurious carpeting, wall-to-ceiling mirrors, a neo-Grecian classical facade and interior columns, spacious T-rooms, and billiards table.” But opening a gay club was a dicy proposition, as Our Community reported in January:

The beautiful Entre’ Nuit had been opened less than a month, and was already one of the favorite gathering places for the gay folks of Dallas. But on the morning of Sunday, December 19, at about 7: 00 A.M., someone (for reasons unknown) burned it. An off-duty policeman was the first to spot the flames, but by the time the fire department was able to bring the fire under control, the back half of the bar was completely gutted. Three jugs of gasoline had not burned. One was in the center of the parquet wood dance floor, another was placed near the bar, and the third was close to the entrance.

Bill and Joe, owners of the Entre’ Nuit have no idea who burned the bar nor do they know of any motive for anyone doing so. But one thing is certain: the Entre’ Nuit will not be closed for long. Completely redone, and with much the same decor, it will reopen shortly after the first of the year. So everyone attend the Entre’ Nuit New Year’s party even if it will be a little late this year.

Most gratifying is the way other bar owners have rallied together and have offered a reward ($800 so far) for the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for this latest burning.

Entre’ Nuit wasn’t the only establishment targeted that night:

Sunday night, December 19th, at 3: 15 A.M., the manager of the King of Clubs had just closed the club and was driving away with friends when he happened to look back and see a man with a can (perhaps gasoline) in the shadows of the building. The manager and his friends quickly stopped the car and gave chase to the prowler who ran down a side street and was lost in darkness. From the other side of the building, another man ran in a different direction. When the friends and manager reentered the club to call police, they head still a third man run across the roof, jump off, and disappear into the night. The police came, made a thorough search, and promised the club would be checked several times a night from now on. For added precaution, a security guard will be in the building at all times.

The paper then addressed the speculation that these might have been “gay-on-gay crimes”:

It was pure luck that this attempted burn-out was thwarted. With the burning of the Swinger, the Entre’ Nuit, and the vandalism of the Villa Fontana, the gay community is getting a little fed up with this crap, and is patronizing the victims of these “gay against gay?” crimes. One wonders who gains? Who is the loser – the real loser? The Swinger and the Villa have reopened and is doing more business than ever before. The Entre’ Nuit will reopen soon too. Gay bars are like gay people themselves: we’ve been imprisoned, murdered, and brutalized all through history. Yet we always come back — stronger.

From the 1980s to the late 1990s, that entire area of McKinney Avenue underwent a massive gentrification — although that particular area adjoining Highland Park was never exactly down on its heels.  The building where Entre’ Nuit was housed is now a trendy boutique.

[Source: “Arsonists Burn Another Bar.” Our Community (January 1972): 8.

“King of Clubs Saved from Arsonist.” Our Community (January 1972): 11. Full copies of Our Community are available online here.]

An abandoned building of the Norfolk State Hospital, via Flickr.

“Exaggerated Human Nature”: 1895. What is Insanity? Who better to ask than an insane man:

Said a patient in the Norfolk (Nebraska) Hospital: “I am not insane; this man is not insane; that man is not insane. There is no such thing as insanity; it is simply an exaggerated form of human nature.”

Insanity is a type of civilization, the offspring of humanity’s progress, the step-child of Nature, the penalty inflicted for brain-development. Indeed, it is in itself an abnormal form of brain-development, an exaggerated type of human nature. It is a little plant that has sprung from the footworn pathway traversed by the mighty cavalcade coming down the vast reaches of human civilization, human culture and human competition. It may be regarded as a proud flesh of the mind — a preternatural development or derangement of the protoplasmic cells. When the clock of civilization struck its sunrise hour, man everywhere was an unclad savage, drunken, greedy, treacherous and beastly. To fill his stomach and to find a comfortable place to sleep completed the apex of his ambitions and gratifications. It was his normal state.

When he commenced to enlarge his cranial sphere, when he began to expand the horizon of his thought-realm, he started the development of a subtle, an inscrutable agency, which has developed rough corners, exaggerated eccentricities and uncontrollable proclivities. In the slow and leisurely peregrination or the mad stampede at times of humanity adown the corridors of the past, in the jostle, the clash, the strife, the crowd, the crush, the greed, the vices and the mistakes, do we wonder that here and there should occur exaggerations, excrescences and abnormal protuberances of the functions of the mind?

Dr. J.H. Mackay was the superintendent of the State Hospital for the Insane in Norfolk, Nebraska, where presumably he had that enlightening exchange with an inmate. He talked about his tenure there at an 1895 meeting of the Missouri Valley Medical Association in Kansas City. But imagine the horrors that patient, and others, must have endured under Dr. Mackay’s direction:

A unique fact in connection with the insane is that any injury producing pain, such as a scald, burn or corporeal punishment, as well as a shock or fright, has a remarkably salutary influence in brightening up the minds of the insane. Recently a patient in this hospital severed the external jugular vein and was in rigors from hemorrhage when found. The vein was ligated and the patient made a good recovery and improved very rapidly, his mind becoming much clearer than previous to the injury. Instances are on record by the score where accidents of scalding and other injuries involving pain have resulted in the recovery of patients suffering from melancholia and acute mania. It would be interesting to try the results of scorching the soles of the feet, or of administering corporeal punishment or blood-letting, fright and shock in some of the chronic cases of insanity and confirmed melancholia and mania. I am of the candid belief that such treatment would result in good to the patient. It may be claimed that such treatment is barbarous. No treatment is barbarous that benefits a patient and releases his mind from the fog and gloom of insanity, however painful that treatment may be.

Mackay’s beliefs were rather typical for the late 1800s. He was a firm believer in Degeneracy Theory (see Aug 16, Sep 9, or Oct 26 for brief explanations) and the older pseudo-science of phrenology (see Aug 8 for a brief introduction), and he touched on both theories in his talk. Those beliefs led him to the conclusion that all mental illness and criminality — Mackay didn’t see the difference between the two — were actually physical ailments of some sort, with its roots either in the patient’s heredity or his misshapen skull. He presented his sketches of skulls to prove his point:

MackayDrawingsThe next is a drawing of the skull of another murderer. Do you see the deposit of bone along the suture. It is nearly one-fourth of an inch thick. Who knows but what the abnormal condition of that poor fellow’s skull led him to be a criminal? and yet he was hanged. What was accomplished by killing him? …A representation of the skull of a Flathead Indian is also shown here. The Flathead is one of the most cruel and bloodthirsty of races. It is well known that the sloping angle is produced almost wholly by artificial means. What the shape of the skull may have to do with his vicious nature I leave to you to judge. The drawing of a normal skull is introduced for purposes of comparison. …

The malformations of which I have spoken exhibit peculiar types of exaggeration or atavism. Certain portions of the brain are abnormally developed; others are practically annihilated, crowded upon and crowded out until the patient has become mentally lop-sided. unbalanced and uncontrollable. Genius, incoherence, imbecility, criminality and perverted sexualism run riot, unrestrained and unbridled by the individual. Two-thirds of all the patients are sexual perverts. Homosexuality, sexual inversion, masturbation, urnings et id omnia genus ail nauseam are the rule.

There were also the “men-haters” among the women:

There are men-haters among the women — women whose sexual system has been starved or perverted or abused; old maids with acquired or inherited sexual perversion, starvation or inversion; married women whose maternal instinct and sexual nature have been extinguished by hard work, poor diet, frequent child-bearing and nursing, and the dreary, monotonous, pleasureless, changeless grind of a quarter of a century, more or less, of married life.

Because Degeneracy Theory held that things would only get worse, Mackay was a proponent of what had become known as tEugenics (see Nov 10 for an explanation; see Aug 16 for another example of Eugenics advocacy). Mackay’s proposal was particularly draconian.

It goes without saying that to be effective any effort to improve the physical characteristics of our race must antedate the birth of the individual. We need laws to abridge the life of all monsters that do not conform to the type of man, to quarantine or prohibit the public exhibition of museum freaks, and to prevent, as far as possible, the birth of such. A judicious inspection by the state of all children before reaching puberty would serve the double purpose of discovering abnormal conditions of mind and body, and afford an opportunity for the application of means, as far as possible, to remedy them, and the segregation of those totally unsuited mentally or morally to propagate their species. In this way only can we hope to prevent insane and half-witted girls becoming pregnant. Rigid restraint, quarantining and unsexing of criminals, insane, rapists, imbeciles and those who spread specific diseases.

Mackay was a political appointee of the Populist/Democrat Gov. Silas Holcomb, and took over the state hospital in Norfolk soon after the Governor took office in 1895. Mackay resigned his position in the summer of 1896. No explanation was given for his departure, but his wife filed for divorce the following year — a rarity and a scandal at that time — claiming “extreme cruelty and inhumane treatment,” and adultery. He died in Houston in 1922 at the age of 57.

[Source: J.H. Mackay. “Exaggerated human nature.” Medical Arena 4, no. 12 (December 1895): 353-361. Available online via Google Books here.]

Michelangelo Signorile: 1960. After graduating with a degree in journalism at at Syracuse University, the Brooklyn native returned to New York where he got his first job at a public relations firm which specialized in placing stories about their entertainment clients in gossip columns. That naturally meant that he was collecting and trading in gossip, which is where he noticed the double standard in how the media glamorized the heterosexuality of celebrities while maintaining a veil of silence around anything that might be remotely gay. But it wasn’t until his friends began dying in the early years of the AIDS crisis that he began to draw a line from gay invisibility to the ease with which media and public officials could turn a blind eye on what was happening. He became an activist in 1988 when he joined ACT UP, which led to his arrest during a speech by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later to become Pope Benedict XVI) who was the Vatican’s point man on Catholic orthodoxy and the author of papers against homosexuality and against condom use to prevent the spread of AIDS. Signorile had gone simply to watch the protesters, but as he heard the Cardinal speak, he thought of the homophobia he had experienced growing up in the church, and he couldn’t contain himself. As he wrote later in Queer In America: Sex, The Media, and the Closets of Power:

Suddenly, I jumped up on one of the marble platforms, and looking down, I addressed the entire congregation in the loudest voice I could. My voice rang out as if it were amplified. I pointed at Ratzinger and shouted, “He is no man of God!” The shocked faces of the assembled Catholics turned to the back of the room to look at me as I continued: “He is no man of God—he is the devil!'”

So yeah, he was arrested, and another gay rights activist was born.

Signorile is considered the pioneer of the controversial act of outing public figures. He was the co-founding editor of OutWeek, where, in a weekly column called “Gossip Watch,” a watch column of the city’s gossip columns, he railed against the media’s double standard on how they treated gay and straight public figures, and he argued that this double standard drove the gay community to invisibility in the midst of an growing health catastrophe. He outed Hollywood producer David Geffen, who was promoting Guns ‘N’ Roses and comedian Andrew Dice Clay, two acts which were attacked for crude anti-gay lyrics and “jokes” about the AIDS crisis. He also outed gossup columnist Liz Smith and, perhaps most famously, publishing tycoon Malcolm Forbes (see Mar 18). It was actually Time magazine which coined the term “outing,” but Signorile always considered the term itself biased. He preferred to call what he did “reporting,” and insisted that it was no different from the same kind of reporting that media outlets routinely do with straight people.

Signorile later worked at the Advocate and Out magazines, and he also wrote columns for In 2000 he began working in internet radio, and that led to hosting The Michelangelo Signorile Show on SiriusXM OutQ beginning in 2003. This past year, his program moved to a broader audience on SiriusXM’s Progress 127, from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. EST. He has written three other books, including Life Outside: The Signorile Report on Gay Men and Hitting Hard, a collection of essays and columns. His 1996 book, Outing Yourself: How to Come Out as Lesbian or Gay to Your Family, Friends and Coworkers was an exceptionally valuable book to me as I was beginning my own journey of coming out.

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 Thursday, December 18

Jim Burroway

December 18th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Empty Closet (Rochester, NY), December 1974, page 10.

From The Empty Closet (Rochester, NY), December 1974, page 10.

New York Court of Appeals Strikes Down Sodomy Law: 1980. New York became the twenty-fourth state in the nation to legalize homosexuality when the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, struck down the New York’s consensual sodomy law. In a 5-2 decision, the court ruled that the law violated Constitutional rights to privacy and equal protection, noting that the law banned anal and oral sex only when those acts were performed by unmarried couples. Married couples were exempt under the law. Writing for the majority, Judge Hugh Jones wrote:

“We express no view as to any theological, moral or psychological evaluations of consensual sodomy. It is not the function of the Penal Law or our governmental policy to provide for the enforcement of moral or theological values. …the People have failed to demonstrate how government interference with the practice of personal choice in matters of intimate sexual behavior out of view of the public and with no commercial component will serve to advance the cause of public morality or do anything other than restrict individual conduct and impose a concept of private morality chosen by the State.”

Jay Bakker: 1975. Having grown up in front of television cameras as the son of televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker at their Christian theme park home in Charlotte, North Carolina, he was deeply affected when his father’s empire came crashing down. His father was sent to prison for financial irregularities and mail fraud, and his family was subsequently ostracized by fellow Evangelicals. For Jay, that led to a downward spiral of rebellion and drug abuse. But he eventually turned his life around and committed himself to a different vision of Christianity, one with God as a loving and accepting being rather than a God of judgment and wrath. In the process, he became a very different kind of minister, an “evangelical punk preacher,” as he describes himself. Jay’s experience of being outcast informed his own philosophy of inclusiveness which extends to LGBT people. In the 2006 documentary One Punk Under God, Jay is seen explaining why he supports same-sex marriage to a congregation that is not ready to accept that message:

In 2011, Jay Bakker released his book, Fall to Grace: A Revolution of God, Self and Society, in which he says that it’s grace, not religion, that he believes in. “Religion can be a very dangerous thing,” he told NPR. “It’s a constant reminder to me to be careful.” He co-founded Revolution Church in 1994, which meets every Sunday afternoon at a bar in Brooklyn. In 2013, Jay has moved to Minneapolis where he established another Revolution Church location. He has also released a new book, Faith, Doubt, and Other Lines I’ve Crossed: Walking with the Unknown God.

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 Wednesday, December 17

Jim Burroway

December 17th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From David, August 1974, page 72.

From David, August 1974, page 72.

New York Times: “Growth of Overt Homosexuality In City Provokes Wide Concern”: 1963. Randy Wicker was a brash young activist who, beginning in 1958, decided it was time to shake things up if the gay community was ever going to get anywhere. As a grad student, he volunteered with the New York Mattachine Society hoping to move the organization’s advocacy efforts in a much stronger direction. When the group scheduled a talk on “The Homosexual and the Law,” Wicker took it upon himself to print up some signs and post then throughout Greenwich Village to publicize the event. Mattachine members, who were more accustomed to the more closeted word-of-mouth method of getting the word out, found Wicker a “disturbing acquisition to the movement,” as the group’s president later said. To get around the Mattachines’ fearfulness, Wicker created a one-man advocacy “group” he called the Homosexual League of New York, so that whenever he had a project that the Mattachines felt was too far out there, his “League” could ride to the rescue. It was under that guise that Wicker appeared on WBAI radio in 1962 (see Jul 15), where New York radio listeners, for the first time, heard Wicker and six other gay men talk for ninety minutes about what it was like to be gay.

Wicker was always looking for ways to generate attention, and so when Robert Doty of The New York Times contacted him asking for help on a story about homosexuals — Doty explained that he actually knew very little about the subject — Wicker was eager to help. He took Doty on something on a field trip of gay bars in New York, and he provided him with articles from ONE magazine about Evelyn Hooker, the UCLA psychologist whose research challenged the prevailing view that homosexuality was an illness (see Aug 30 and Sep 2). As Wicker later recalled, “I told him, ‘Look, I understand that the majority opinion in the psychiatric community says that homosexuality is a disorder and that these people are out claiming they can change people. All I want is equal treatment. At least give some exposure to the minority voices that say homosexuality is not necessarily a pathology.”

Unfortunately, equal treatment was not on offer when Doty’s story appeared on the Times’ front page on a brisk Tuesday morning in December:

The problem of homosexuality in New York became the focus yesterday of increased attention by the State Liquor Authority and the Police Department.

The liquor authority announced the revocation of the liquor licenses of two more homosexual taverns that had been repeatedly raided by the police. The places were the Fawn, at 795 Washington Street near Jain Street, and the Heights Supper Club at 90 Montague Street, Brooklyn.

The city’s most sensitive open secret — the presence of what is probably the greatest homosexual population in the world and the increasing openness of its manifestations — has become the subject of growing concern by psychiatrists and religious leaders as well as law enforcement officers. One division of the organized crime syndicate controls bars and restaurants that cater to the homosexual trade. Commenting yesterday on the attack on such places and the attention being directed at their habitues, Police Commissioner Michael J. Murphy said:

“The police jurisdiction in this area is limited. But when persons of this type become a source of public scandal, or violate the laws, or place themselves in a position where they become the victims of crime they do come within our jurisdiction.”

Mr. Hostetter said the Heights Supper Club had a signal light system “that warned the boys to stop dancing with one another” when a newcomer was suspected of being a policeman. The Fawn had a back room to which an admission was charged and where as many as 70 to 80 deviates had parties on Friday and Saturday nights. Most of the patrons were males, but on police found women dancing with women.

There were 19 police visits this year resulting in summonses and complaints of a noisy jukebox, disorderly premises, insufficient lighting and dancing without a cabaret license, and an arrest for degeneracy.

Before Doty could even broach the subject of homosexuality as a mental illness — and he did devote much of his article to that very topic — he introduced New Yorkers to homosexuals as criminals, or at least as associating with the criminal element. Doty wrote that homosexuality had been, until now, “protected by taboos on open discussion,” which allowed it to become “an obtrusive part” of New York society. As for balance, Doty provided this:

Two conflicting viewpoints converge today to overcome the silence and promote public discussion. The first is the organized homophile movement — a minority of militant homosexuals that is openly agitating for removal of legal, social and cultural discrimination against sexual inverts. Fundamental to this aim is the concept that homosexuality is an incurable, congenital disorder (this is disputed by the bulk of scientific evidence) and that homosexuals should be treated by an increasingly tolerant society as just another minority.

This view is challenged by a second group, the analytical psychiatrists, who advocate an end to what it calls a head-in-the-sand approach to homosexuality. They have what they consider overwhelming evidence that homosexuals are created — generally by ill-adjusted parents — not born. They assert that homosexuality can be cured by sophisticated analytical and therapeutic techniques.

More significantly, the weight of the most recent findings suggest that public discussion of the nature of these parental misdeeds and attitudes that tend to foster homosexual development in children could improve family environments and reduce the incidence of sexual inversion.

Wicker’s copies of ONE magazine featuring articles about Evelyn Hooker’s research on homosexuality made one small appearance in Doty’s article: “The homosexual has a range of gay periodicals that is a kind of distorted mirror image of the straight publishing world.” That was it. Doty then went on to describe, in a very stereotypical fashion, the homosexuals who “throng Manhattan’s Greenwich Village”:

They have their favored clothing suppliers who specialize in the rights slacks, short-cut coats and fastidious furnishings favored by mane, but by no means all, male homosexuals. There is a homosexual jargon, once intelligible only to the initiate, but now part of New York slang. The word “gay” has been appropriated as the adjective for homosexual.

… The list of homosexuals in the theater is long, distinguished and international. It is also self-perpetuating. There is a cliquishness about gay individuals that often leads one who achieves influential position in the theater — and many of them do — to choose for employment another homosexual candidate over a straight applicant, unless the latter has an indisputable edge of talent that would bear on the artistic success of the venture.

But back to that thing about homosexuality as a mental illness. A year earlier, Dr. Irving Bieber published the highly influential book, Homosexuality — A Psychoanalytic Study of Male Homosexuals, in which he and a team of seventy psychiatrists claimed a success rate of 27% in curing gay people through psychoanalysis. It would take several more years before many of Bieber’s colleagues and former patients to come forward to dispute those claims.But Doty devoted the remaining half of his lengthy article to Bieber’s views, including his theory that homosexuality was the result of of bad parenting:

In almost every homosexual case they found some combination of what they termed a “close-binding, intimate” mother and/or a hostile, detached or unresponsive father, or other parental aberrations.

Unsaid, though was that in almost every homosexual case they also found a gay man or a lesbian who was deeply distressed at being gay, so much so that they paid some very expensive psychoanalyst in a desperate attempt to get rid of it. What their so-called study said about those who didn’t seek their services, nobody bothered to ask. To back Bieber up, Doty turned to another psychoanalyst, Dr. Charles Socarides — the same Charles Socarides who would co-found the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) in 1992 and whose son, Richard, would come out as gay. In Doty’s article, Socarides denounced the efforts of gay activists to win social acceptance for what he called a kind of “normal abnormality.” The homosexual is ill,” he said, “and anything that tends to hid that fact reduces his changes of seeking and obtaining treatment. If they were to achieve social acceptance it would increase this difficulty.”

“I thought it was a terrible betrayal,” said Randy Wicker of Doty’s article. “Because he was a man I had given all the information to and when it came out it was disgusting. He didn’t give any mention — not one mention — that there was a division among psychiatrists — not one word.” The Daughters of Bilitis’s The Ladder wrote that the story was designed to frighten readers into believing that gay people were flooding the streets of New York and “threatening to engulf the normals.” But Newsweek saw the article positively: “While straining for objectivity, a Times trademark, Doty nevertheless tried to explode a favorite myth propagated by some homosexuals that their condition is incurable and innate.”

[Sources: Edward Allwood. Straight News: Gays, Lesbians, and the News Media (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996): 47-50.

Robert Doty. “Growth of Overt Homosexuality In City Provokes Wide Concern.” The New York Times (December 17, 1963): 1ff.

Jack Nicols. “Randolphe Wicker (1938- ).” In Vern L. Bullough’s (ed.) Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (New York: Harrington Park Press, 2002): 273-281.]

110 YEARS AGO: Paul Cadmus: 1904-1999. When he died in 1999 at the ripe old age of 94, his New York Times obituary read:

Paul Cadmus, an American artist noted for a virtuosic figurative style that he applied to subjects ranging from biting social satire to moralizing allegories to sensual, sometimes sentimental male nudes, died on Sunday at his home in Weston, Conn. He was 94.

Mr. Cadmus found his inspiration in the art of Italian Renaissance painters like Mantegna and Luca Signorelli. His career was remarkable for its unruffled stylistic consistency over 70 years, from his days as a precocious student in New York in the 1920’s through his incendiary stint in the 30’s with the federal Public Works of Art Project, later folded into the Works Progress Administration, and up to the present. Although he stopped painting a few years ago, he continued to sketch.

The Fleet’s In!, 1934 (Click to enlarge)

It took the Times’s Holland Cotter four paragraphs before he could work his readers up to Cadmus’s favorite subject matter: the frank depiction of gay men as free and happy people. His “incendiary stint” came about over his 1934 PWAP commission, The Fleet’s In!,  which portrayed sailors on shore leave in New York picking up local “trade”. That painting became the center of “the Battle of the Corcoran” when Navy Secretary Claude Swanson condemned it as “a most disgraceful, sordid, disreputable, drunken brawl” and ordered it seized from the gallery. The painting remained out of public view until 1981, but the outcry cemented Cadmus’s career as a satirist. For the rest of his life, he maintained that he was grateful for the publicity.

What I Believe, 1947 (Click to enlarge)

His cartoonish style became known as “magical realism,” and his themes nearly always touched on sexuality in some form, with homosexual themes nearly always present as either a subtext (glances and signals of cruising in otherwise ordinary scenes) or as an overt subject. His 1947 painting What I Believe, inspired by an E.M. Forster essay by the same name, was his visual manifesto. It depicts nude and contented gay couples in the center and left side of the painting in bright sunlight while reading, drawing, playing music, and conversing. That paradisal scene contrasted with the almost hellish right third of the painting, where heterosexual couples reclined in bare dirt and misery — not unlike traditional renderings of the final judgment. The painting, he said, celebrated  “the sensitive, the considerate, and the plucky. Its members are to be found in all nations and classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secret understanding between them when they meet. They represent the true human condition, the one permanent victory of our queer race over cruelty and chaos.”

In an interview with the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art, Cadmus quoted the French artist Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres: “People say my paintings are not right for the times. Can I help it if the times are wrong?” Times have changed. The Fleet’s In!, the painting that started all the controversy, is now in the permanent collection of The Navy Art Gallery in Washington, where it is among its most popular attractions.

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?

“In part it reads…”

Timothy Kincaid

December 16th, 2014

Sydney, Australia, has been rocked over the past couple days by a hostage stand-off which ended in three deaths. On Sunday morning, an Islamist terrorist named Man Haron Monis entered a cafe in the financial district and took 17 hostages.

Sixteen hours later it was over, with Monis dead along with one customer and the cafe manager, Tori Johnson, age 34. Twice Johnson had scuffled with Monis, providing a distraction which allowed other hostages to escape. In the early hours of Monday morning he noticed that Monis was getting drowsy and grabbed for his gun. Johnson was fatally shot and that precipitated the police raiding the location.

Johnson is being praised as a hero, an indisputably valid description.

Tory Johnson’s family released a statement. And the local news selected portions to bring to their audience. The highlighted words below are the words they omitted.

We are so proud of our beautiful boy Tori, gone from this earth but forever in our memories as the most amazing life partner, son and brother we could ever wish for. We feel heartfelt sorrow for the family of Katrina Dawson. We’d like to thank not only our friends and loved ones for their support, but the people of Sydney; Australia and those around the world for reaching out with their thoughts and prayers. Our deepest gratitude to the NSW police, armed forces and paramedics for their tireless efforts. We ask that the media respects our privacy in this difficult time. Let us all pray for peace on earth.

It seems that it was not news-worthy that he was an “amazing life partner” to Thomas Zinn for the past 14 years. The news reporters had sufficient time to discuss the other victim’s children. But that this brave man was gay with a long-term partner, well that just wasn’t relevant, ya know.

The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, December 16

Jim Burroway

December 16th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From David, a Jacksonville-based gay lifestyle and photography magazine, May 1972, page 4.

From David, a Jacksonville-based gay lifestyle and photography magazine, May 1972, page 4.

The Warehouse VIII in Miami. Four clubs in one convenient location. The former warehouse (duh!) featured an enormous dance floor, a cruise bar upstairs that stayed open until 5:00 a.m., a Levi/leather bar in the back, and a rooftop “where anything could happen.”

Miami Mayor Abe Aronovitz

60 YEARS AGO: Miami Officials Testify Before Senate Committee About Anti-Gay Crackdown: 1954. It has been quite a year for Miami’s anti-gay witch hunt (see Aug 3, Aug 11, Aug 12, Aug 13 (twice that day), Aug 14, Aug 15Aug 16Aug 26, Aug 31, Sep 1, Sep 2, Sep 7, Sep 15, Sep 19, Oct 6, Oct 20, and Nov 12), and Miami’s Mayor Abe Aronovitz got one more shot in before the year was out. He and several other Miami officials testified before the Senate Juvenile Delinquency Subcommittee about the “alarming” rise in young people running afoul of the law. Several contributing problems were cited: a growing crime rate, the lack of resources in the county sheriff’s office, runaways appearing in Miami from other parts of the country, and, of course, homosexuals.

Daniel Sullivan, chairman of the Greater Miami Crime Commission, complained to the subcommittee that there had been a “tremendous increase” in the number of “perverts” making the Miami area their “headquarters.” He cited recent estimates of the number of homosexuals there at 8,000 (out of about 500,000 for all of Dade County). Sullivan blamed the “increase” on the number of bars and nightclubs that cater to gay people.

Aronovitz chimed in, criticizing Police Chief Walter Headly’s preferred policy of allow gay bars to operate in certain areas, saying that this was, in effect, an open invitation “to homosexuals from all over the nation.” But Chief Headly countered that while he had obeyed the mayor’s orders to break up such gatherings (see Sept 2), he believed that all that he had actually accomplished was to “scatter” the problem elsewhere in the area rather than actually getting rid of the “perverts.” Aronovitz saw it differently, telling the committee that the crackdown “temporarily improved” the situation, but said, “the federal government should spend money to help local governments battle the problem.”

115 YEARS AGO: Noël Coward: 1899-1973. He first appeared on the stage at the age of eleven, and his stage work as a teenager — along with his (possibly romantic) relationship with the painter Philip Streatfeild — opened the doors for the precocious son of a house maid to London’s high society, and his embrace of that society cemented his image for the rest of his life. “I am determined to travel through life first class,” he often remarked. Coward went on to write fifty plays, over a hundred songs, and a dozen musical theater works. He never acknowledged his homosexuality, but given his body of work he hardly had to. His 1924 hit play, The Vortex, offered a daring portrayal of a nymphomaniac society woman and her drug-addicted son. The play shocked London sensibilities with its portrayal of drugs and hints of gay life in high society, but that shock leaned more toward titillation than outrage. Coward spent the rest of his life walking that balance.

Ever the fervent anti-Fascist, Coward enlisted with British Intelligence in 1938. For his first assignment in Paris he was given the cover story of working in the British Propaganda office, where he famously critiqued the quality of its work. “If the policy of His Majesty’s Government is to bore the Germans to death I don’t think we have time,” he said. His next assignment was to go to America and use his wit and celebrity status to sway popular opinion to support the British. He also used that tour to gauge public sentiment and political leaders’ opinions about the war and report those findings back to Bletchley Park. Coward’s next assignment was to travel the world to entertain the troops, another assignment which provided perfect cover:

“I was the perfect silly ass,” (Coward) said. “Nobody … considered I had a sensible thought in my head, and they would say all kinds of things that I’d pass along.”

It was a senior diplomat named Robert Vansittart, routinely dismissed in the Foreign Office as an anti-Nazi Cassandra, who in late 1937 or 1938 spotted how to use Coward’s flamboyance, intelligence and flawless memory to help tend an unofficial, off-the-books anti-Nazi intelligence network he had set up across Europe. Vansittart dispatched Coward on tour in such un-Cowardy places as Warsaw, Moscow and Helsinki, where he sang songs, gauged Nazi influence among star-struck V.I.P.’s and (very likely) contacted sources on the ground. If he fooled the V.I.P.’s, Coward failed to fool the Nazis. He was soon on the Gestapo’s list of people to be “liquidated” when Britain fell.

King George VI had recommended Coward for a knighthood during the war, but Prime Minister Winston Churchill vetoed it. Coward was too “flamboyant” for Churchill’s tastes. After the war, Coward continued to find success in Britain and America. He also fell in love with actor Graham Payn and they remained together for the next thirty years. The two became tax exiles and moved first to Bermuda, then Jamaica. He never did acknowledge his sexuality, believing that any direct discussion of sex was tasteless. Besides, he said, “There are still a few old ladies in Worthing who don’t know.” He was finally knighted in 1969. That year, Time wrote of him, “Coward’s greatest single gift has not been writing or composing, not acting or directing, but projecting a sense of personal style, a combination of cheek and chic, pose and poise.” He died in 1973, in the company of his partner Graham. His diaries and letters were published posthumously.

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, December 15

Jim Burroway

December 15th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Our Community (Dallas, TX), January 1972, page 8. (Source.)

From Our Community (Dallas, TX), January 1972, page 8. (Source.)

This announcement in Our Community heralded the Briarpatch’s opening on December 15, 1971:

Very quietly, and without fanfare, a new bar has opened in Dallas, and it will soon be one of the most popular bars in town. The Briarpatch is the name, and 5709 Oram (just off Greenville Ave. near Ross, in East Dallas) is the location. There was no advanced publicity, and only a few invitations sent out for the free buffet dinner party celebrating the opening. Yet 700 people showed up December 15th. That’s because Joe and Mary, owners, are well known and liked in Dallas, and their many friends got the word around. The bar is charmingly decorated, has three pool tables, and a cozy atmosphere. On entering the bar (so off the beaten path), one would think that this was a friendly neighborhood bar. It is that. But it is much more also. Everyone feels at home here – the bar offers what people want. Faithful patrons come from all over town, some almost nightly, to spend a few hours here.

… All kinds of interesting plans are being made for the gay community. The first will be an All Country-Texas Style buffet dinner served New Year’s Day. Time: 1: 00 P.M. Visit Dallas’ newest — you’ll like it.

The same announcement said that the Briarpatch already had plans to expand and build a larger dance floor. The building appears to still be there, at the corner of Oram and Greenville Avenue. The Briarpatch appears to have operated out of one or more of the side entrances on Oram Street. That area, known today as Lower Greenville (or Lowest Greenville, depending on who you ask), has long been one of Dallas’s main entertainment districts.

US Senate Committee Issues Report on “Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sexual Perverts”: 1950. The Senate Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Departments issued an interim report which would prove to become a major document of the 1950s anti-gay witch-hunts. The next day, The New York Times carried a story on the report:

“A Senate investigating group labeled sexual perverts today as dangerous security risks and demanded strict and careful screening to keep them off the Government payroll. It said that many Federal agencies had not taken “adequate steps to get these people out of Government.” …

Stressing the risks that the Government takes in employing a sex deviate or keeping one on the payroll, the subcommittee said:

“The lack of emotional stability which is found in most sex perverts, and the weakness of their moral fiber, makes them susceptible to the blandishments of foreign espionage agents.”

The report also noted that perverts were “easy prey to the blackmailer.” It said that Communist and Nazi agents had sought to get secret Government data from Federal employees “by threatening to expose their abnormal sex activities.”

The subcommittee criticized the State Department particularly for “mishandling ninety-one cases of homosexualism among its employees.” It said that many of the employees were allowed to resign “for personal reasons,” and that no steps were taken to bar them from other Government jobs. …

The committee said that it was unable to determine accurately how many perverts now held Federal jobs. It added, however, that since Jan. 1 1947, a total of 4,954 cases had been processed, including 4,380 in the military services and 574 on Federal civilian payrolls. …

In addition to strict enforcement of Civil Service rules about firing perverts, the subcommittee recommended tightening of the District of Columbia laws on sexual perversion, closer liaison between the Federal agencies and the police and a thorough inquiry by all divisions of the Government into all reasonable complaints of perverted sexual activity.

APA “Cures” Nation’s Gay Population: 1973. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) classified homosexuality as a mental illness beginning with the DSM’s first appearance in 1952. Before then, psychiatrists and psychologists looked at homosexuality as a perversion and as a deviant behavior, but the idea that it was a mental illness was considerably more controversial. Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, famously wrote to one American mother in 1935, “Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation, it cannot be classified as an illness.” (see Apr 9)

But by the early 1950’s American society’s view of homosexuality took a very sharp turn toward the dark side. This turn was partly sparked by the loud controversy stirred by Alfred Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Male in 1948 (see Jan 5). Where before, homosexuality was little talked about; now it seemed suddenly to be everywhere. In the minds of Americans across the country, homosexuality now joined the other emerging threat, communism, as two great menaces to American order. By 1952, there had already been several purges of gays from federal employment. With the APA’s addition of homosexuality to its list of mental disorders, the fates of gays and lesbians would be sealed for the next two decades.

That opinion wasn’t uniform. In 1956, UCLA researcher Evelyn Hooker published a groundbreaking paper that revealed that when psychiatrists and psychologists were given the blind results of psychological testing of gay and straight subjects, these professionally trained therapists couldn’t determine which were straight and which were gay (see Aug 30). If gay people were automatically and necessarily mentally ill, their mental illnesses should have revealed themselves in these tests. More research followed . After the mounting evidence demonstrated that gays and lesbians are not mentally ill simply because they are gay (see Oct 20), the American Psychiatric Association’s board of trustees finally approved this two-part resolution:

I. Removal of homosexuality per se from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders and substitution of the following new category and definition:

302.0 Sexual orientation disturbance:

This category is for individuals whose sexual interests are directed primarily toward people of the same sex and who are either bothered by,. in conflict with, or wish to change their sexual orientations. This diagnostic category is distinguished from homosexuality, which by itself does not constitute a psychiatric disorder. Homosexuality per se is a form of sexual behavior and like other forms of sexual behavior which are not by themselves psychiatric dosorders, is not listed in this nomenclature of mental disorders.

II. Civil rights and sodomy repeal statement:

Whereas homosexuality in and of itself implies no impairment in judgment, stability, reliability, or vocational capabilities, therefore, be it resolved that the American Psychiatric Association deplores all public and private discrimination against homosexuals in such areas as employment, housing, public accommodations, and licensing, and declares that no burden of proof of such judgment, capacity, or reliability shall be placed on homosexuals greater than that imposed on any other persons. Further, the APA supports and urges the enactment of civil rights legislation at local, state, and federal levels that would ensure homosexual citizens the same protections now guaranteed to others. Further, the APA supports and urges the repeal of all legislation making criminal offenses of sexual acts performed by consenting adults in private.

In a compromise to those who fought the finding, the APA agreed to define “sexual orientation disturbance” to describe “individuals whose sexual interests are directed toward people of their own sex and who are either disturbed by, in conflict with or wish to change their sexual orientation.” That diagnosis would provide cover for therapists to continue to try to “cure” gay people, with some of those “therapies” still involving electric shock aversion therapy. In 1980, that diagnosis would be changed to “ego dystonic homosexuality” before it was finally removed in 1986. Today, virtually all major medical and mental health professional organizations agree that homosexuality is not an illness to be “cured” or treated with the goal of trying to change one’s sexual orientation.

110 YEARS AGO: W. Dorr Legg: 1904-1994. Born William Dorr Lambert Legg, Dorr Legg (who also sometimes wrote as Bill Lambert) took a rather intellectual approach to things when he finally joined up with the homophile movement in the 1950s. While studying landscape architecture and music at the University of Michigan in his home town of Ann Arbor, Legg reputedly read Marchel Proust’s Remembrances of Things Past in the original French, just so he could learn something about gays in Europe. After graduating, and after a stint in Florida, he settled in New York City. While there, he became involved with the local gay scene, but he was put off by what he saw as fussy queens. But he also discovered the speakies and drag balls in Harlem, and that’s where he became interested in the intersection of gay life with similarly taboo interracial relationships.

In 1935, Legg moved to Corvallis, Oregon, where he took a teaching position at Oregon State College’s landscape architecture program. He remained there until 1942, when the draft claimed so many students that the landscape architecture program came close to collapse. Legg moved back to Ann Arbor where he met Marvin Edwards, and the two became lovers. But with Edwards being African-American, the sight of the two of them together sometimes raised the eyebrows of local police whenever they were out together. So in 1948, they decided to move to Los Angeles, where they felt that the more diverse culture there would be more to their liking.

Once they arrived in L.A., they quickly began to meet other gay African-Americans. Somewhere along the way, Edwards left and Legg met Merton Bird, another African-American, and the two of them founded the Knights of the Clock as a social and support group for interracial gay couples. That made Legg and Bird pioneers in the nascent gay rights movement in more than one way, but Legg gave Bird the credit. He later wrote, “Hostility and harassment were the daily lot of interracial same-sex couples in 1950. … [Bird’s] idea was that by coming together to form a mutual aid society, the group could at the very least offer each other encouragement.”

Legg also learned about the Mattachine Society, and he became one of that group’s early members. A few years, following a Mattachine Society discussion group that Legg hosted at his home, Legg, Don Slater (see Aug 21), Martin Block (see Jul 27), and Dale Jennings (see Oct 21) stayed after the meeting was over and brainstormed about the pressing need for gay people across the country to have access to news and information about themselves and others. Out of that discussion, ONE Magazine was born (see Oct 15), and Legg became its business manager When ONE debuted in January 1953 as America’s first pro-gay magazine, it sported a very sophisticated look with bold graphics and professional typeset and design. ONE’s slick offering quickly caught the attention gays and lesbians across the country, and circulation jumped to nearly 2,000 within a few months — with most subscribers paying extra to have their magazine delivered in an unmarked wrapper.

ONE Magazine, October 1954.

ONE also caught the notice of federal officials. The FBI tried to shut the magazine down, but abandoned the idea after deciding the magazine wasn’t worth their efforts. But the Post Office was another matter. The Los Angeles Postmaster ordered the August 1953, held for three weeks while deciding if it violated federal laws. (Ironically, the cover story for that issue was on “homosexual marriage,” an issue that is still contentious more than fifty years later.) Three weeks later, the Post Office decided no laws were violated and allowed its distribution. ONE, in its typically brash fashion, proclaimed “ONE is not grateful” on its October cover. A year later, its October 1954 issue was confiscated and this time the Post Office decided that the issue was illegal. Ironically, that issue’s cover proclaimed “You Can’t Print It!” ONE sued, and the case went all the way up to the Supreme Court. On January 13, 1958, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered its first ever pro-gay ruling in ONE Inc. v. Olesen, a landmark decision that allowed a magazine for gays and lesbians to be sent through the U.S. mail. (You can read more about that landmark case here.)

While ONE magazine was perhaps the most visible part of ONE, Inc., Legg envisioned the organization’s main mission as educational rather than publishing. At Legg’s behest, ONE, Inc. established the ONE Institute of Homophile Studies in 1956, which became the first institution to provide LGBT studies in the US. The ONE Instutute began conducting annual seminars known as the Midwinter Institute, and published the ONE Institute Quarterly as an academic journal dedicated to the study of homosexuality. Legg, as “Marvin Cutler,” also wrote Homosexuals Today: A Handbook of Organizations and Publications about the nascent gay rights movement.

Legg’s interest in the educational side of the organization at the expense of ONE magazine, coupled with his increasingly authoritarian style, created tensions within the group, principly between Legg and Don Slater, ONE Magazine’s editor and the organization’s librarian. While Slater also saw ONE’s mission as being educational, he also felt that the magazine as playing an indispensable role in that mission. He also feared for the integrity of ONE’s archives, which he believed were the heart and soul of the organization. By 1965, the split on ONE’s board became irreconcilable, and on Easter Sunday, Slater and two others entered ONE’s offices and moved the magazine’s assets and archives out and to another location.

For the next four months, two competing ONE magazines hit the streets: Slater’s ONE was sent to subscribers using the organization’s subscriber list, and Legg’s ONE arrived after Legg re-assembled a rival subscriber list from memory and detective work. Legg and Slater were soon in court, where Legg’s overbearing demeanor, it’s been said, alienated the judge who might have otherwise ruled in his favor. Instead, ONE, Inc., retaining the right to publish ONE Magazine, while Slater’s The Tangent Group, which by then had change the name of their magazine to Tangents, retained ownership of the archives. ONE finally ceased publication in 1969.

Legg’s first-hand experience with police raids and harassment, FBI surveillance and intimidation, and Post Office censorship gave him a deep and abiding distrust of government. That distrust informed his libertarian politics. In 1977, he became a founding member of the Log Cabin Club, a group of California gay Republicans who organized to oppose the Brigg’s Initiative which would have banned gays, lesbians, and their supporters from teaching in the public schools. The Log Cabin Club later changed its name to Log Cabin Republicans. Legg’s libertarian political beliefs however, contrary to stereotypes about gay conservatives, did not amount to an assent to assimilation. He forcefully opposed the idea that gay people should “desperately contort themselves into simulacra of heterosexuality.”

Legg died in 1994. By then, the ONE Institute had stop offering classes due to another legal dispute with a prominent donor. After Legg died, the remnants of ONE, Inc. merged with the International Gay and Lesbian Archives. The ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives today is housed at the University of Southern California, and the ONE Archives Gallery & Museum is located in West Hollywood.

[Sources: Wayne R. Dynes. “W. Dorr Legg (1904-1994).” In Vern L. Bullough’s (ed.) Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (New York: Harrington Park Press, 2002): 94-102.

Martha E. Stone. “Unearthing the ‘Knights of the Clock’.” The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide 17, no. 3 (May 2010).  Available online here.]

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 Sunday, December 14

Jim Burroway

December 14th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), December 12, 1986, page 4.

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), December 12, 1986, page 4.

San Antonio’s El Jardin had been a longtime fixture in the city’s gay nightlife ever since it opened in 1946. It apparently closed sometime at around the turn of the millennium:

The El Jardin. It was the oldest gay bar in Texas, and had the exhausted clientele to prove it. They had to close it a couple of years ago because the San Antonio Conservation Society purchased the building –– they’re gonna “save” it. …

The well-intentioned ladies will restore the building to what they perceive as its most important historical pinnacle; when it was the thriving business of an industrious German peach grower in the 1870’s, or something like that. Der Yawn. They will excitedly refresh its colors to juniper berry blue with cranapple red trim; “authentic” historic colors (in Cape Cod). And the El Jardin will be buried under the building’s newest layer, masked as an early 21st Century, Martha Stewart, “it’s a good thing”, over-restored, Disneyland, “Ye Old German Towne” of a building. There!

Why can’t they just restore it to what I truly feel is its greatest historic apex –– when it was the only place in town where you could score a dime bag and listen to Edith Piaf on the jukebox.

Rising property values due to the building’s proximity to the Riverwalk finally did El Jardin in. The entire building now is a boutique hotel.

The Milwaukee Journal, Dec 14, 1954. (Click to enlarge.)

60 YEARS AGO: Milwaukee Doctor Faced Blackmail: 1954. The Milwaukee Journal reported that Anthony Roy, 26, was charged with attempting to extort $500 from a Milwaukee physician in exchange for not “exposing” him for being gay. He also made similar extortion attempts against a jeweler and an osteopath. These blackmail attempts took place at a time when even rumors that someone was gay might result in the complete ruining of that person’s reputation. In the case of the doctor and osteopath, it might have even resulted in their licenses being revoked. After all, in 1954 they were both legally criminals and (according to the APA) mentally ill. The Journal described how Roy was caught:

Roy was seized in a public toilet at 1905 E. North av. The doctor, co-operating with police, had placed there a fake money package containing a dye powder. Officers said Roy’s hands were stained blue and the package was in his topcoat.

Police said the three professional men received a total of 10 extortion notes, demanding pPayment of $500 each  from the physician and the jeweler and $1,000 from the osteopath. None of the intended victims is a homosexual, police said.

CA state Sen. John V. Briggs

CA state Sen. John V. Briggs

CA State Sen. Briggs Urges Appointment of Non-Gay To Succeed Harvey Milk: 1978. San Francisco Mayor Diane Feinstein released a telegram sent to her from California State Sen. John Briggs urging her to fill the vacancy left by San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk’s assassination with a “non-homosexual.” Briggs, who was the driving force behind an unsuccessful 1978 ballot measure (see Nov 7) which would have banned gays, lesbians, and anyone who supported them from working in public schools, responded that he was a “little shocked” that Mayor Feinstein made the telegram public. Feinstein, who had been elected mayor to fill the vacancy left by the Nov. 27 shooting deaths of Milk and Mayor George Moscone, had said that she was considering appointing another gay person to fill Milk’s vacancy. Briggs responded via telegram:

“I am appalled by your apparent desire to use the quota system in appointing supervisor Harvey Milk’s successor ‘as the only moral thing to do.’ Surely merit not sexual preference should be the criterion. Supervisor Milk always insisted to be considered a human being first and a homosexual second. As an attractive alternative, perhaps now is the time to provide fair representation for San Francisco’s Oriental, black or Chicano populations.”

It’s pretty rich that Briggs wanted her to consider gay people “a human being first and a homosexual second,” given that his ballot measure, Proposition 6, would have done precisely the opposite. Feinstein ignored Briggs’s advice, and on January 8, 1979, she appointed Harry G. Britt, a former United Methodist minister and “avowed homosexual,” to fill Milk’s vacancy to represent the Castro district.

Dr. Robert Bernstein

Texas Health Department Gives Tentative Approval to AIDS Quarantine: 1985. The Texas Board of Health voted 12-5 to give tentative approval for a rule which would allow “incorrigible” people with AIDS to be declared as a public health threat and be placed under quarantine.  Dr. Robert Bernstein, the state health commissioner, proposed the rule two months earlier (see Oct 22) to ensure the “isolation or separation” of those who refused to curtail their sexual activity or drug use. “This does not deal with the average AIDS patient,” he told the press. “This is not aimed at a disease. It is aimed at individuals who have the disease and might be incorrigible in a public health way. Whether we’ll use this, I don’t know.”

Board member Dr. Barry Cunningham, a Round Rock dentist, was more blunt: “We have a moral obligation to protect the people of Texas against a disease that is 100 percent fatal.”

Bernstein emphasized that the proposed rule would only be used as a “last resort.” Local health officials would have to first get the state commissioner’s approval before imposing a quarantine. He justified the proposal by citing a Houston male prostitute with AIDS who had initially refused to stop working. The man later accepted counseling from a local gay advocacy group and admitted himself into a hospital.

Several Texas doctors spoke out against the proposal. Dr. Phillip Anderson, and Austin physician whose practice was about 60% gay, said, “The law is clearly outdated and inappropriate.” Board chairman Dr. Ron Anderson of Dallas, who voted against the proposal, said, “It’s not really scientifically what would help us very much.” Others noted that quarantines had historically been imposed on people with diseases which were spread through casual contact, and that HIV/AIDS is not a casually-spread disease. A hearing was set for public comment for January 13.

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?

PFOX: these twins prove no one is born gay…. ooops

Timothy Kincaid

December 13th, 2014

PFOX Billboard

The Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays – a small coalition of ex-gays and parents who are angry that their children are out, proud, and happy – are not good people. While most ex-gays are busy trying to change about themselves what they don’t like, these are vengeful anti-gay activists who are furious that instead of being seen as heroes for their sacrifice, they generally as dismissed with pity or scorn.

In their efforts to punish their disobedient children – or, in the cases of the ex-gays, punish those gay people who did not follow their lead – PFOX supports every anti-gay legislative effort that comes along. They also try to get publicity so as to advance their (rapidly failing) positions, pushing their two basic mantras, ‘ex-gays are victims of discrimination’ and ‘no one is born gay’.

In an effort to argue the second point, PFOX has hired a billboard to declare to the world their evidence that “No one is born gay”. As proof they present “Identical twins, one gay, one not” and “we believe twin research studies show no one is born gay”.

PFOX’s argument is simple. They contend that in order for sexual orientation to have a biological basis, all identical twins would have to have the same orientation. And, if biology (“born gay”) were restricted to the sort of direct genetic determination that gives shape to your nose, they would have a point.

But, of course, biology is more than genetics. And even genetics is more than the more obvious physical similarities found in monozygotic twins.

What the twin studies actually show is that the more genetically similar two men are, the more likely that if one is gay the other will be as well.

Roughly 4% of the general male population could be categorized as gay or bisexual. In dizygotic (fraternal) twins if one is gay then there is an increased chance that the other is as well. In monozygotic (identical) twins, those odds go up to about twice as likely as fraternal twins. (The actual rates differ from study to study).

This suggests that genes play a role in at least some of the determination of sexual orientation. Other factors (either biological or non-biological) may also play a role, including genetic expression, intrauterine hormonal influences, and a host of other things way beyond my understanding. Ultimately, there may be different paths for different people, which really shouldn’t be surprising in something as complex as sexuality.

Nevertheless, witness and observation, by both gay people and those who raised them, has presented a fairly consistent story: sexual orientation is evidenced from the earliest stages of life and if it isn’t inborn, it’s so damn close as to be indistinguishable.

But PFOX knows that most people don’t understand genetics and that a nuanced approach is difficult to articulate. So they sought to capitalize on that complexity with a one-glance simplistic response.

So they present a “logical” argument: “look, here are two identical twins, one is gay and one is straight. And that proves that it isn’t biological.”

And those driving by may find that argument to be convincing.

But PFOX had a small problem; they didn’t have two identical twins with differing sexual orientation willing to be used as their point in evidence. So they just pulled stock images.


NBC12 – Richmond, VA News

Ya see, the problem with simplistic illustrations is that they can backfire on you. So now PFOX looks like liars and fools. Oh, drats!

Just more evidence in my long-held belief that God loves a good joke.

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, December 13

Jim Burroway

December 13th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Body Politic, Winter (Jan) 1974, page 16.

From The Body Politic, Winter (Jan) 1974, page 16.

The area around Toronto’s Wellesley and Church Streets has long been the center of Toronto’s gay life, and the August Club was right there in the heart of it. Its first location was upstairs of this building at the corner of Yonge and Maitland streets, just a block south of Wellesley and a block west of Church. It was there from 1970 to 1972, when it moved four blocks to the north at Yonge and Isabella for its second incarnation as August II. It may have boasted of being Canada’s largest gay club, but it appears to have closed down by early 1974. This ad was the club’s last appearance in the city’s legendary gay newspaper, The Body Politic.

65 YEARS AGO: What Probation Officers Can Do For Homosexuals: 1949. Until Illinois became the first state in the nation to decriminalize homosexuality in 1961 (see Jul 28), it was illegal, and often a felony, in all fifty states and the District of Columbia. When caught, some were imprisoned, some were sent to mental institutions, some were fined (and some were blackmailed into paying bribes), and some were placed on probation. Which meant that the question of what to do with gay people became a probation officer’s problem, whose task it was to serve multiple roles: law enforcer, social worker, employment counselor, and psychologist.

In December 1949, the professional journal Federal Probation — yes, probation officers have their profession journals too — published an article by Dr. Manly B. Root, staff psychiatrist at the U.S. Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. The journal’s editor introduced Root’s article as  must reading for all probation officers.” Root began by asking “how a normal baby with all potentialities for good grows into an individual whose lax moral standards, thoughtless hedonism, callous conscience, and rebellious aggressiveness make of his character and personality a person who has to be locked up by society for its own protection.” And among the different characters Root addressed were alcoholics, drug addicts, psychopathic personalities, neurotics, psychotics, and “sexual deviates.” Of the latter, he identified four categories:

  • “uncontrolled heterosexuality” (rapists and “the so-called ‘Don Juan’ type among men and the so-called ‘nymphomania’ type among women”),
  • active homosexuality,
  • passive homosexuality,
  • and “polymorphous perverse sexual state” (“individuals who seem never to crystallize their sexual aims or desires. They are essentially children or at most adolescents in their psychosexual behavior and attitudes; are ready to try any kind of sexual expression.”).

Root defined the second and third categories this way:

Active homosexuality.– These persons have as their sexual object a person of the same sex; as their sexual aim, sexual union with the other person. They desire the masculine role, acting toward their homosexual lover as a normal person would toward a lover of the opposite sex.

Passive homosexuality.– These persons have as their sexual object a person of the same sex; as their sexual aim, sexual union with the other person. They desire the feminine role, acting toward their lovers as normal persons would toward lovers of the opposite sex.

Remember these distinctions: the active homosexual (when a man) treats a male lover as though he were a female. The passive homosexual (when a man) treats the male lover as though the lover were a male, and he (the passive homosexual) a female. All three of these types [Here, Root includes “uncontrolled heterosexuals”] may be aggressive or not; that is, they may seek the lover or may respond to the lover’s seeking. All three may be constantly true to their abnormal type, or may be what we call facultative; that is, sometimes “normal” and sometimes “abnormal.” In the field of personality distortions hardly anyone is the same sort of person all of the time.

As you can see, in 1949, the gender role men played (and it was mostly men who were convicted) was still deemed to be of great significance. Despite the important he placed on “these distinctions,” his advice was was the same regardless of whether the individual was “active” or “passive.” His first piece of advice, aside from suggesting that probation officers read Freud’s Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex, was to “advise and discuss, but do not be ‘preachy’. Almost everyone has some peculiarities and worries and guilt feelings and conflicts about his or her sex life.” He also reminded his readers that “you cannot control another person’s sex life. You can only give guidance and leadership.” He continued:

Much of the good done by doctors, by friends, and by priests at the confessional, comes from what psychoanalysts call catharsis — letting off steam and relieving tension by talking to a sympathetic listener. Another point to remember is that the tension caused by a person tortured by psychosexual pathology can be relieved in only four ways, as follows:

(1) Frank acceptance of the abnormal sexual desires and frank yielding to them. This results in the individual becoming an overt participant in his particular kind of sexual pathological activity. He is then no longer ashamed of his longings and activities, enjoys them, and considers the people we call normal as narrow-minded. Tension leaves him for he has avoided conflict about the matter.

(2) Frank acceptance of the abnormal sexual desires but refusal to yield to them. This results in some tension because of the constant restraint, but the acceptance of the abnormal desires does away with the more serious conflict which always occurs when an individual refuses to admit his personality or character peculiarities, sexual or otherwise. His mental state is then to be compared on a heterosexual level to the normally sexed man or woman who for some reason remains unmarried and continent. He is consciously exercising self-control, not fighting an inward conflict.

(3) Relief of tension by sublimation. This word, which is taken from physics, refers to the purification of an impulse or tendency or desire into a socially acceptable form of activity. This is not done consciously like the solution discussed under (2), but is an unconsciously developed mechanism. Its explanation lies in the field of psychoanalytic theory, not at all universally accepted. It is pretty generally believed, however, that many people find happiness by satisfying their antisocial tendencies in a way which does good instead of harm. To give specific examples of this sublimation in a paper prepared for nonmedical readers might cause embarrassment. Suffice it to say here that any overpowering interest or vocation or avocation which your clients show may lead the way to a possible sublimation of antisocial or abnormal sexual tendencies.

I’m going to pause here to wonder aloud what he meant when he said that giving examples of sublimation “might cause embarrassment” for the reader. Which reader did he have in mind? Did he sense there were a number of probation officers with “abnormal sexual desires”? Judges? Social workers? Anyway, he continued:

(4) Repression of the sexual conflict. Another and always tragic solution of an individual’s conflict about his sexual peculiarities involves its repression. According to psychoanalytic theory, at least, such a person is actually able to repress his conflict. Thus a homosexual, for instance, comes to believe that he is not a homosexual at all. If this were all, it would be a happy solution. Unfortunately for such a patient — for such persons then become psychotic — the repressed desires remain active and seek expression in some way. These ways take place through delusions and hallucinations in which homosexual threats seem to come from other persons. Depending upon the subject’s personality makeup, varied symptoms may develop and the individual becomes the victim, as he sees it, of a hostile world which is trying to force him into homosexuality, and of hallucinations and voices which accuse him of the very perversions he has repressed. Thus a person cannot safely repress his desires without becoming psychotic or exhibit some sex deviation.

Root concluded that “the only safe way of keeping his mental health are the first three alternatives,” ruling out the fourth for obvious reasons. But he advised probation officers to try to direct their charges to the second and third alternatives because “it is probable that we can do little to help the probationer as to the way in which he solves the conflict.” He left unmentioned that the first option might get the probationer in trouble with the law all over again, an option that the very audience Root is writing to would reject out of hand. Besides, Root added, “He is never as effective an individual as is the man who accepts his peculiarities and succeeds in controlling them” — and by “controlling them,” he meant “not doing it.” Easy advice for Root to dispense; he went home every night to his wife Dorothy and son Charles.

[Source: Manly B. Root “What the probation officer can do for special types of offenders.” Federal Probation 13, no. 4 (December 1949): 36-46.]

Masturbate Your Way To Heterosexuality: 1970. The basis of Behavioral Therapy is that the experience of rewards and punishments were a determining factor for a wide range of human behaviors. In the late 1960s when Behavioral Therapy rivaled classic Freudian psychoanalysis as the predominant school of thought in the mental health professions, BTs began to exhibit some of the same kinds of hubris that they had accused psychoanalysts of exemplifying, especially when BTs began classifying all forms of human thoughts and feelings as “behavioral” and, therefore, amenable to modifications through punishment and rewards. As we now know, much of those punishments were appallingly cruel, torturous, and ineffective. (One example is illustrated in our award-winning report “What Are Little Boys Made Of?”, about the tragic aftermath of Kirk Murphy’s treatment at the hands of a Behavioral Therapist by the name of George Rekers.)

But some patients, if they were lucky (I suppose), underwent Behavioral Therapy that emphasized the “reward” end of the punishment/reward dichotomy. Some of those patients were clients of Dr. John N. Marquis, a psychologist at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Palo Alto, California. His paper appeared in the December 1970 issue of the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, in which he argued that by encouraging clients to think of opposite-sex partners while masturbating, he could change their “behavior” — remember, to Behavioral Therapists, sexual orientation was nothing but “behavior” — to heterosexuality. He didn’t rule out aversion therapy (i.e. electric shock, etc.) if he thought it was needed — “often… aversive conditioning to the perverse stimuli are indicated…” — but he felt that it was best to hold that off until at least some level of “behavior” — by which he meant attractions — was exhibited towards the opposite sex. And how was that accomplished?

The client is instructed to masturbate to the point where he feels the inevitability of orgasm using whatever fantasy is most arousing. Then he is to switch to the appropriate fantasy. He is warned that he may experience some difficulty at first, but that he will not lose his sexual arousal at that point. After he has successfully shifted to the appropriate stimulus four or five times (this is arbitrary but seems to work) he is instructed to start moving the introduction of the appropriate fantasy backward in time toward the beginning of masturbation. An attempt is made at the outset to get a commitment from the client never to continue picturing the inappropriate fantasy through the occurrence of an orgasm, whether in masturbation or overt sexual behavior.

That was the procedure. Dr. Marquis also had some practical advice:

If the client is generally tense he is instructed to relax before masturbating, because sexual arousal and anxiety are incompatible. If he reports feeling guilty after masturbating he is instructed to relax after masturbating as well. It may be suggested that he increase the frequency of masturbation in order to speed the process of reorientation or to decrease the frequency in order to increase drive level if he masturbates more than once a day. It is often helpful to suggest the use of a lubricant to enhance physical stimulation.

Marquis wrote that he had been prescribing this therapy for patients since 1965, and that “all of the cases described below were seen because they were suffering human beings seeking help, and not as experimental subjects.” That, of course, is crucial: it’s your first clue that this is by no means a controlled, scientific study. He provided detailed case studies of two of his patients, and brief descriptions of twelve more. All but one were “successes” to varying degrees, although only one case had anything remotely resembling a long-term follow-up. And that only happened because Marquis happened to run into that former client and his new wife three years later at a cocktail party. At least some of those successes were dubious, and not all of them involved gay people. One was a pedophile, another woman enjoyed “sado-masochistic masturbation” which, Marquis explained, were not “normal heterosexual fantasies” (although he doesn’t mention whether her fantasies involved men or women), and one was someone we would today see as just another socially-awkward nerd:

Case 13. A 24-year-old male computer programmer who was very shy had had intercourse rarely but had frequently masturbated to fantasies and pictures of beautiful girls. As a result he was completely unattracted to girls who were not strikingly beautiful. This was a serious problem since he was homely and inarticulate. Orgasmic reconditioning led to considerable improvement, but he remains a little bit too particular.

As you can see, the measurements that would constitute “considerable improvement” are what real scientists would call “anybody’s guess.” The only thing we can know from this study is that Marquis believes that most of his clients are able to masturbate to a “normal heterosexual fantasy.” We know nothing about any actual changes in his clients’ preferred masturbatory fantasies, let alone any actual or even perceived changes in sexual orientation. But that flimsy standard is precisely the kind of evidence that the National Association for Research and Treatment of Homosexuality holds in very high esteem. When NARTH published their 2009 “journal”, they claimed to have “examined more than 100 years of professional and scientific literature from 600-plus studies and reports,” all of it proving, in their minds at least, that “sexual orientation can be changed.” And of course, Marquis’s paper made the cut.

[Source: John N. Marquis. “Orgasmic reconditioning: Changing sexual object choice through controlling masturbation fantasies.” Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry 1, no. 4 (December 1970): 263-271.]

80 YEARS AGO: Richard Isay: 1934-2012. The American Psychiatric Association decided in 1973 that homosexuality was not an illness in need of a cure. The American Psychological Association followed suit two years later. But the American Psychoanalytic Association was very slow to get on board. Until 1992 psychoanalists were still treating gay people as though they were ill, and openly gay candidates were barred from enrolling in the group’s training institutes, which is a requirement for certification. That the APsaA waited so long to finally join the modern era is incredible. Who knows how much longer it would have taken for the APsaA to change its ways without the badgering, prodding, and legal threats of Dr. Richard Isay.

A native of Pittsburgh, Isay studied medicine at Haverford College and the University of Rochester, then completed his psychiatry residency at Yale. From there, he completed training for psychoanalysis at the Western New England Psychoanalytic Institute. Early in his own career, he was troubled by his own sexuality and underwent psychoanalysis in a quest for a cure. But after ten years, now with a wife and two sons, he realize that he was no more straight than he was before he started. After meeting the man who would become his life partner, he came out to his wife in 1980. They decided to stay married for another nine year for the sake of the children, and then they divorced once the children were grown.

While he remained closeted, he began working with gay patients — not to make them straight, but to help them accept themselves. He also began writing about homosexuality as something normal, and not as an illness or a deficiency in development. In 1989, he published his groundbreaking book, Being Homosexual: Gay Men and Their Development — it was groundbreaking for psychoanalysis, anyway — in which he argued that because homosexuality was inborn, gay men experienced a natural developmental pathway which presented its own set of opportunities and challenges. Dr. Isay also presented his ideas at professional meetings, where he also began to acknowledge that he was gay. Fellow psychoanalysts weren’t receptive to that revelation. They attacked his work and stopped referring patients to him, suggesting instead that he needed more therapy himself.

Finally, after years of trying to prod the APsaA to end its discrimination against gay candidates in its training institutes, Isay met with the American Civil Liberties Union and began laying plans for a lawsuit. That finally got the organization’s attention. In 1991, the the APsaA finally adopted a policy prohibiting its training institutes from discriminating against gay candidates. After that, changes came quickly for the organization. In 1997, the APsaA became the first mental health organization to endorse same-sex marriage, and in 1999 it opposed therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation.

This undoubtedly came as a shock to those psychoanalysis who continued to believe that homosexuality was a disorder. Among mental health professionals who held that view, psychoanalysts made up a disproportionately large group. In 1992, a dissident group of psychoanalysts led by Dr. Charles Socarides founded the ex-gay organization, National Association for Research and Treatment (later changed to Therapy) of Homosexuality (NARTH). “Reparative Therapy,” the particular form of ex-gay therapy challenged by many in NARTH, remains rooted in older psychoanalytic theories, even as mainstream psychoanalysts have adopted insights from biology and psychiatry to form a more comprehensive and nuanced view of how — rather than why — gay people develop.

As for Dr. Isay himself, he continued working as a full professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College and as a faculty member of the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research. He also continued his advocacy for gay people. In his 1997 memoir, Becoming Gay: The Journey to Self-Acceptance, he described his own struggles with his sexuality and with his profession. In 2006, he wrote Commitment and Healing: Gay Men and the Need for Romantic Love, in which he described the difficulty many gay men have in sustaining loving relationships. As for his own efforts in that area, Isay was relatively successful, given the circumstances: he married his partner of 31 years in 2011 when same-sex marriage became legal in New York. He died of cancer in 2012 at the age of 77.

45 YEARS AGO: Allen R. Schindler, Jr.: 1969-1992. When “little Allen” was growing up, his step-father regaled him with stories of surviving the sinking of the battleship USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor. And so when he decided to enlist in the Navy on turning eighteen, it came as no surprise to his mother. He was ecstatic to learn that he would be assigned to the aircraft carrier Midway, but in 1991 he was transferred to the Belleau Wood, a smaller ship with a reputation for poor discipline. On October 27, 1992 while on shore leave in Sasebo, Japan, two drunken shipmates from the Belleau Wood followed Schindler into a public restroom in a park. Airman Charles Vins watched — and occasionally joined in — as Airman Apprentice Terry Helvey kneed Schindler in the arm, punched him repeatedly on the floor, and stomped on him with the heel of his boot. The pathologist described Schindler’s body as the worst case he had ever seen, and compared the damage to that of a “high-speed auto accident or a low-speed aircraft accident.” He also said that it was worse than another case he had seen, that of a man who had been trampled to death by a horse. The pathologist’s report chronicled a litany of lacerations, contusions and abrasions of the forehead, eyes, nose, lips, chin, neck, Adam’s apple, trachea, lungs, liver (which was “like a smushed tomato”) and, tellingly, penis. All but two ribs were broken, and both his lungs and brain had hemorrhaged. The only thing recognizable about Allen’s body was a tattoo on his right arm, of the USS Midway.

The Navy stonewalled the investigation. The murder occurred just as the pre-DADT debate was getting started over allowing gays to serve in the military. The Navy refused to confirm how Schindler died or whether a weapon was involved. At one point, a Navy senior officer leaked the story that Schindler’s murder was the result of a romance with Helvey gone bad. Meanwhile, Schindler’s mother, Dorothy Hajdys, was kept in the dark by Navy officials about what happened to her son or about the investigation. Her journal told the story: “Oct. 30: Heard nothing. Nov. 1: Sill heard nothing.” Meanwhile, the Navy tried Vins without her knowledge and sentenced him to four months in the brig. All the information Dorothy received about her son’s case came from the press. That’s how she learned her son was gay and had been killed by his shipmates in an anti-gay orgy of violence. “If one more reporter calls me with information before you do,” she told the Navy commander in charge of the case, “you haven’t even heard me scream!” Two months after the murder, Navy officials finally admitted that Schindler had been killed in a gay bashing.

The Navy denied that they had received any complaints of harassment. But as the investigation continued, it was slowly revealed that Schindler’s ship, the amphibious assault ship Belleau Wood, was a living nightmare for him. His locker had been glued shut and he was the brunt of frequent comments, like, “There’s a faggot on this ship and he should die.” Schindler requested a separation from the Navy, but his superiors insisted he remain aboard ship until the process was finished. During Helvey’s trial , it was revealed that Helvey told one investigator that he had no remorse for the killing. “I don’t regret it. I’d do it again. … He deserved it.” After confessing to the murder, he wrote in a four page statement, “Homosexuality is disgusting, sick and scary and I hate homosexuals.” When the investigator suggested that he might want to consider expressing remorse, he wrote, “I regret this incident happened and I feel like it could have been averted had homosexuals not been allowed in the military.”

Helvey avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty to “inflicting great bodily harm,” and was sentenced to life in prison. The ship’s captain who had tried to keep the crime quiet was demoted and transferred to Florida. Dorothy, virtually overnight, became a fierce advocate for hate crime protections and for gays being allowed to serve in the military. Helvey is still serving his lifetime sentence. In 1994, two years after the murder, he still had no regrets. He told a reporter:

We were just doing the Navy thing … We were drinking and fighting. It happened so many times, I can’t count them. That’s all we ever did was drink and fight. I was having fun and this dude ended up dying.”

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 Friday, December 12

Jim Burroway

December 12th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Vector, January 1969, page 2.

From Vector, January 1969, page 2.

In honor of José Sarria, a.k.a. Her Royal Majesty, Empress of San Francisco, José I, The Widow Norton.


“Running for the presidency is not an IQ test.”

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who’s prepping for another try for the GOP nomination.

55 YEARS AGO: “The Lancet” Publishes Article By Gay Physician: 1959. Through much of the previous five years since the Home Secretary appointed the Wolfenden Commission to examine Britain’s laws criminalizing homosexual relationships, there had been a great deal of discussion in the popular and professional press about what it means to be gay, whether being gay was equivalent to being mentally ill, and whether male homosexual relationships should be decriminalized. (Lesbian relationships had never been illegal in Britain.) The Wolfenden Commission in 1957 recommended that Parliament rescind its laws which criminalized homosexual behavior (see Sep 4), but the debate over whether it should continue to be regarded a mental illness raged on. On December 12, 1959, an interesting article appeared in that week’s issue of the medical journal The Lancet, titled simply “Male Homosexuality” by an un-named “medical practitioner.” The reason for the unnamed authorship became clear in the article’s first two paragraphs:

A true picture of male homosexuality in the community cannot be given if — as in most medical publications — it is based on material drawn only from psychiatric practice, prisons, mental hospitals, and venereal-disease clinics. So long as the only doctors who write on this subject are heterosexual, so long as public opinion is based on emotional prejudice, so long as the law makes it dangerous for the homosexual himself to express an opinion, the present profound ignorance of the subject-both inside and outside the medical profession-will continue.

As a general practitioner and a homosexual, I have over the past thirty years discussed the subject intimately in an atmosphere of mutual understanding and confidence with several hundred homosexual men of many nationalities, colours, cultures, and creeds. The following case histories provide, I believe, a typical cross-section of male homosexuality in the community.

He then went on to provide brief case histories of sixteen gay men. Some lived their lives in secret, others were quite open about their sexuality. Some had married and later divorced, some were bisexual and successfully married, some were partnered with other men in stable relationships, other relationships were not so stable, and others were lifelong bachelors. Some were faithful to their wives or partners, others sought discreet affairs, and others still were quite promiscuous. They came from all walks of life: doctors, businessmen, an airline pilot, a farmer, an artist, and one did the housekeeping for his partner. Most were well-adjusted, although two battled depression. One of the two was struggling with what we would now recognize as gender dysphoria. Ages ranged from 21 to the mid-80s.

The picture that emerged was a highly heterogeneous one, with very little tying them all together except, perhaps, the overall lack of conformity with prevailing stereotypes. Most critically, according to the author, “None of them has ever been on a police charge for a homosexual offence. None of them knows of any reason why they are homosexually orientated, and all agree that seduction in childhood by older persons was not the cause. I have attended most of them professionally, but none of them consulted me because of homosexuality.” He also discounted the possibility of “curing” people of their homosexuality:

As far as I am aware homosexually deviated instincts have never been permanently reorientated into heterosexual channels. Claims have been made but none have ever been submitted to the criteria for other medical claims — namely, independent scrutiny and adequate lapse of time to prove permanence. To accept marriage, or an intention to marry, as a criterion of cure is unrealistic.

He ended his discussion with a note on the the the public’s perceptions about the morality of male homosexuality:

In discussions of homosexuality the physical aspects tend to be overemphasised while the emotional aspects are overlooked. Yet these may be as intense as those experienced by heterosexuals. Many homosexual friendships, like many heterosexual friendships, do not include physical acts. The homosexual liaison — unlike marriage is unsupported by legal, social, economic, or family considerations tending to encourage permanency. I do not believe that homosexuals are inherently more promiscuous than heterosexuals would be if they had to live under similar conditions of loneliness and sexual insecurity.

Lesbianism, fornication, adultery, rape, even murder can usually be discussed calmly and objectively, but male homosexuality rarely. It seems likely that the illogical and disproportionate emotional reaction produced in some people –usually men, not women — by this subject is caused by unresolved conflicts. It is widely believed among homosexuals that exaggerated revulsion is an indication of latent homosexual tendencies.

Homosexual problems are often the cause of alcoholism and suicide, though the basic reason for these tragedies is rarely disclosed and usually unsuspected.

I make no attempt to defend the immorality disclosed in many of the case-histories, beyond suggesting that it should be judged alongside heterosexual immorality.

[Source: A Medical Practitioner. “Male Homosexuality.” The Lancet Lancet 274, no. 7111 (December 12, 1959): 1077-1080.]

Danish Surgeon Dies Of Mysterious Disease: 1977. AIDS has often been mischaracterized as a gay man’s disease, but it’s quite possible that the first gay person to die from it was actually a lesbian. Dr. Margrethe P. Rask — her friends called her Grethe –was a indomitable woman who was as intense as she was relentless in the care that she gave to her patients in the remote Zairian villages near the Congo River basin. She had worked in Zaire in 1964, and she returned again in 1972, to a primitive rural hospital in northern Zaire delivering much-needed surgery to her patients amid appalling poverty and severe shortages. Everything was in short supply: syringes, antiseptics, even surgical gloves. Supplies were used and re-used until they wore out, and it wasn’t unusual for her to perform emergency surgeries with her bare hands. After putting together a simple jungle hospital in the remote village of Abumombaz and bringing it into operation, she took on a job as head surgeon at the Danish Red Cross Hospital in Kinshasa in 1975.

A fellow doctor and friend, Dr. Ib Bygbjerg, became worried over Gerthe’s weight loss. She was suffering from persistent diarrhea and fatigue since 1974, but given the host of often unknown tropical diseases which were common in northern Zaire, her condition was overlooked at first. But when standard treatments only temporarily alleviated the symptoms without actually restoring her health, Bygbjerg looked further and found that her lymph nodes, the glands that play an essential role on the body’s immune system, were completely out of whack. They had been swollen for nearly two years for no apparent reason.

In July 1977, Grethe took a vacation to South Africa to try to rest up from her constant fatigue, but her condition got worse. She became short of breath and was flown immediately back home to Denmark. Some of Denmark’s best doctors worked frantically to try to figure out what was wrong with her, but the more they looked, the mysteries surrounding her health only deepened. The inside of her mouth was covered with yeast infections, staph infections spread throughout her body, and blood tests showed that her T-cells, which are the main component of a body’s immune system, were completely gone. When that happens, the natural assumption was lymph cancer, but biopsies ruled out that as a cause for her immune system’s collapse. On December 12, her body finally gave out and she died.

An autopsy revealed that her lungs were filled with Pneumocystis carinii, a yeast-like fungus which causes a severe pneumonia. Because it is one of the easiest organisms for an immune system to fight off, it is extremely rare in healthy people. And even in the rare cases where people did catch it, it was usually treatable. It’s one of those diseases that nobody dies from, but Gerthe did. It was just one more conundrum added to a host of mysteries.

Five years later, gay men, Haitians, hemophiliacs, and intravenous drug uses also began to die in very large numbers of the same type of pneumonia that people almost never caught, let alone died from before. This time, Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia became so common its acronym, PCP, entered into the lingo of the gay community along with KS (Kaposi’s sarcoma, a previously rare form of cancer), and AIDS. American epidemiologists were mostly looking at AIDS as an American disease however, and with most of the people coming down with AIDS coming from stigmatized populations, the disease itself was similarly stigmatized. It was, in the popular mind anyway, a “gay plague.” But in 1983, Dr. Bygbjerg recalled his colleague and friend, and had in mined a more likely source for the disease. He published Gerthe’s medical case history in the April 23, 1983 issue of The Lancet and concluded:

“During my stay in Zaire in 1976 I was impressed by the epidemiological and virological flying teams from the USA and Europe who quickly identified Ebola virus. Perhaps such teams should search for another African virus, albeit slow killing, and explore the possible connection between endemic and epidemic AIDS/KS in Africa and America.”

[Sources: Randy Shilts. And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic (New York: St. Martni’s Press, 1987): 3-7.

Ib C. Bygbjerg. “AIDS in a Danish surgeon (Zaire, 1976).” Lancet 1, no. 8330 (April 23, 1983): 925.]

José Sarria: 1923-2013. He was a real drag queen, one who had studied opera, could reach high C in his normal voice, and who always sang in his own voice whenever he performed. No lame karaoke for him. He began entertaining at San Francisco’s famed Black Cat in North Beach in 1946, shortly after leaving the Army after serving in World War II, and while he was studying to become a teacher. But an arrest at the men’s room at the St. Francis Hotel by a vice squad officer put the kibosh in his teaching aspirations. Sarria always maintained his innocence, noting that the arresting officer knew him personally. But they had to make an example of somebody … I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Since he was now officially a homosexual — and, therefore, a “queen” — he decided to become “the best goddam queen that ever was!”

José Sarria performing at the Black Cat in the early 1960s. (via the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives. Click to enlarge.)

And he was, performing three or four shows a night at the Black Cat, where he was affectionately known as “the Nightingale of Montgomery Street.” He wrote much of his own material for his Black Cat performances, typically popular torch songs and arias. He re-worked Bizet’s Carmen, set in modern-day San Francisco with Carmon cruising in Union Square while dodging the vice squad. And he exhorted his audience to be as “out” as possible, telling them, “United we stand, divided they catch us one by one.” At closing time, he’d lead the crowd with a rousing rendition of “God Save Us Nelly Queens” — sometimes taking the crowd outside during the final verse to sing to the men in the jail across the street who had been arrested in raids earlier that night. When police often tried to harass and arrest drag queens, especially during the city’s famous Halloween parties, for violating an old city ordinance banning cross-dressing with an “intent to deceive,” Sarria had labels printed up for the queens to wear reading “I am a boy,” which prevented many a queen’s arrest.

With Sarria being the most famous homosexual in all of San Francisco, it would only be natural that he would become involved with LGBT advocacy early on. In 1960, he founded the League for Civil Education as a support group for gay men facing public discrimination, ostracism, and police arrests. In 1961, he became the first openly gay person to run for the city’s Board of Supervisors (see Nov 7). He lost the race, but garnered some 6,000 votes, proving to the political establishment that there was a real gay voting bloc worth noticing. In 1962, he, along with several bar owners and employees, formed the Tavern Guild, the country’s first gay business association. In 1963, as the Black Cat was finally going out of business, Saria helped to found the Society for Individual Rights, which provided both social outlets and a venue for political organizing.

In 1964, the Tavern Guild crowned Sarria the Queen of the Beaux Arts Ball, which prompted Sarria to state that he was already a queen, so he proclaimed himself, “Her Royal Majesty, Empress of San Francisco, José I, The Widow Norton.” That “Widow Norton” part recalled a 19th century San Francisco eccentric who had declared himself Joshua Norton the First, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico. San Francisco’s newspapers amused themselves by treating Norton with all the deference due an emperor — or at least as San Francisco’s most colorful character. Sarria decided to take that page from history and found the Imperial Court System, both as a outlet for gays to make fun of themselves, and as a network of non-profit charitable organizations. The Imperial Court System expanded into dozens of courts nationwide and around the world, and raised millions of dollars for charity. Sarria’s Imperial Court became a colorful form of activism and street theater that preceded the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence by some fifteen years.

Members of the Imperial Court at José Sarria’s funeral in 2013.

In 1995, Sarria and members of his court appeared in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, as judges for the film’s opening “Drag Queen of the Year Contest” scene. In 2005, he was honored with the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee’s Lifetime Achievement Grand Marshal Award, and the city of San Francisco renamed a section of 16th Street in the Castro to José Sarria Court. In 2007, he finally abdicated the throne of the Imperial Court, turning it over to the Empress Nicole the Great, Queen Mother of the Americas (a.k.a Nicole Murray-Ramirez, a San Diego-based transgender/gay activist). Sarria donated most of his papers and memorabilia, along with some of his costumes, to the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco. When he died in 2013, his lavish, imperial funeral at San Francisco’s Grace Episcopal Cathedral was attended by thousands of mourners, including leaders of the Imperial Court System and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in full regalia, with the regulations for the Court’s formal mourning dress determined by Sarria before he died.

Brandon Teena: 1972-1993. This would be his forty-second birthday today, if it weren’t for the fact that on December 31, 1993, Marvin Thomas Nissen and John L. Lotter, angry over Brandon’s transgender identity and the fact that he reported them to the sheriff for raping him a week earlier, tracked him down and murdered him.

Much of Brandon’s life was difficult. He began identifying as a male in high school in Lincoln, Nebraska, an identity which his mother rejected. His school was no help either. He was constantly in trouble with his Catholic high school for violating the school’s dress code by dressing as a male. He was expelled three days before graduation. He tried to volunteer for the Army, but he was rejected for identifying as a male. After high school, the pressures mounted. He entered a mental health facility for three days on suicide watch, diagnosed with having a severe “sexual identity crisis,” whatever that was supposed to mean.

In 1993, he tried to start over by moving to Fall City, Nebraska, where he was known only as a man. He began dating Lana Tisdel, but also began associating with Nissen and Lotter, both of whom were ex-cons. In December, he was arrested for forging checks and placed in the female section of the jail. Lana learned that he was transgender when she came to bail him out.

Brandon’s arrest was in the local papers, under his birth name, and that led to that fateful Christmas Eve Party at Nissen’s home, where Nissen and Lotter grabbed him and forced him to drop his pants to prove to Lana that Brandon was a “girl.” They then force Brandon into a car, drove him to a meat-packing plant, and assaulted and raped him. After they returned to Nissen’s home, Brandon escaped through a bathroom window and went to Tisdel’s house. He called the police and went to the emergency room. The sheriff interviewed him about the rape, but seemed more interested in Brandon’s gender than the crime. The sheriff later questioned Nissen and Lotter but declined to arrest them due to lack of evidence when Brandon’s rape kit was lost.

Early in the morning of December 31, Nissen and Lotter went to the home of Lisa Lambert, Brandon’s roommate, and demanded to know where Brandon was. Lambert refused to tell them, but they found Brandon under a blanket on the floor. Nissen and Lotter rounded up all the adults in the house — Brandon, Lisa and Philip DeVine — and shot them in front of Lisa’s 8 month old son. When they saw Brandon twitching, Nissen stabbed him to finish him off.

Police arrested Nissen and Lotter later that afternoon. The trial proved to be just about as convoluted as the events leading up to Brandon’s death. Nissen accused Lotter of committing the murders, and in exchange for testifying against Lotter, Nissen was sentenced to life imprisonment — even though Nissen delivered Brandon’s coup ‘de grâce, as it were. Lotter received the death penalty. Nissen later recanted his testimony against Lotter, and Lotter tried to use that to appeal his sentence. But the Nebraska Supreme Court rejected that appeal, saying that because they were both guilty of murder, the specific identities were irrelevant. Lotter remains on death row.

Brandon’s story became the subject of a 1998 documentary The Brandon Teena Story, and a 1999 award winning biopic, Boys Don’t Cry, starring Hilary Swank as Brandon and Chloë Sevigny as Lana Tisdel. Swank won an Academy Award for her performance. When she accepted the award, Swank referred to Brandon Teena using his preferred name and male pronouns, which solicited an angry response from his mother. “That set me off,” said JoAnn Brandon. “She should not stand up there and thank my child. I get tired of people taking credit for what they don’t know.” In a final indignity, Brandon was buried in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery under his birth name and this epitaph: “Daughter, Sister, & Friend.”

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). As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.

The Daily Agenda for Thursday, December 11

Jim Burroway

December 11th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Wilde Side, a weekly New England gay bar guide, September 1, 1976, page 23.

From Wilde Side, a weekly New England gay bar guide, September 1, 1976, page 23.

When did you move from going to the park into going to bars and those kinds of things?

Well, I never had any gay friends, never. Until the bar opened in Lewiston about ten years ago. It was called the Blue Swan at the time. I was scared to go in so I brought a couple tough guys from work with me. Everyone at work knew I was gay. … Anyway, I brought some real tough guys from work with me. I was scared. You heard stories about those kind of people who tie you up and tear your clothes up. I didn’t know what went on in that bar. That’s why I got a couple friends to go with me.

I went in and I met people who said hello and all of this and I looked around and sat down ad had a beer with my friends and it wasn’t that bad. There was nothing going on. You didn’t see guys making out or tearing clothes off each other. So then I started going alone. I brought another friend of mine who I found out was bi; we started going pretty regular after that.

– From “An Interview with Bob Gravel” by John Preston, in Winter’s Light: Reflections of a Yankee Queer.

Gay Rights Advocate Interrupts CBS Evening News Broadcast: 1973. Among the issues that gay rights advocates faced in the early 1970s was the way gay people continued to be portrayed in the press and on television — if they bothered to cover gay issues at all. The New York Times, which was supposedly the newspaper of record for the city, had never even bothered to mention the Stonewall uprising four years earlier until several months later. To call attention to the problem, Mark Segal of the Philadelphia-based Gay Raiders posed as a reporter for the Camden State Community College newspaper and called CBS asking permission to watch the broadcast of the CBS Evening News with the legendary Walter Cronkite from inside the studio. The network agreed and granted Segal access to the studio. And so on December 11, 1973, he briefly interrupted the broadcast about halfway through by running up in front of the camera with a yellow sign reading “Gays Protest CBS Prejudice”:

“I sat on Cronkite’s desk directly in front of him and held up the sign while the technicians furiously ran after me and wrestled me to the floor and wrapped me in wire — on camera,” (Segal) recalled in an interview. “The network went black while they took us out of the studio.”

Ever the professional, Cronkite reported on the event. “Well, a rather interesting development in the studio here — a protest demonstration right in the middle of the CBS News studio,” Cronkite told viewers. He later explained: “The young man was identified as a member of something called Gay Raiders, an organization protesting alleged defamation of homosexuals on entertainment programs.” Segal was charged with trespassing.

The “zap” payed off. After Segal’s trial for trespassing in which his attorneys subpoenaed Cronkite the testify, the news anchor began to take an interest in Segal’s grievance. He arranged a meeting at CBS where Segal could air his complaints to management, and Cronkite’s broadcast on May 6, 1974 featured a segment on gay rights, reporting on the ten cities throughout the country that had passed legal protections for gay people.

Segal went on to become publisher of Philadelphia Gay News, and remembered his friendship with Walter Cronkite days after his passing in 2009:

“He was the kind of man who believed in human rights for everyone,” Segal said of Cronkite. “I am amazed and humbled by his willingness to reach out to me. He was a bridge between the gay movement and major media. We remained friends, and it was a privilege knowing him.”

American Psychiatric Association Rejects Ex-Gay Therapy: 1998. The American Psychiatric Association’s board unanimously rejected therapy aimed solely at changing gay people straight, saying it can cause depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior. Dr, Nada Stotland, head of the APA’s joint committee on public affairs, said, “The very existence of therapy that is supposed to change people’s sexuality, even for people who don’t take it, is harmful because it implies that they have a disease. There is evidence that the belief itself can trigger depression and anxiety.”

The APA’s move was, in part, a response to a massive nationwide push by Focus On the Family and Exodus International to publicize the ex-gay movement, complete with a Newsweek cover the prior August featuring ex-gay spokesman John Paulk and his ex-lesbian wife Anne. Paulk who was the so-called gender specialist at Focus On the Family and organizer of the Love Won Out ex-gay roadshows, denounced the APA’s move. “This makes it more difficult for clients who want to be treated for unwanted homosexuality,” Paulk complained. “Furthermore, no scientific study has given conclusive evidence that homosexuality cannot be successfully treated.” Less than two years later, Paulk himself would be found in a Washington, D.C. gay bar (see Sep 19). In 2013, Paulk renounced his prior association with the ex-gay movement and issued a formal apology to the “countless people (who) were harmed by things I said and did in the past.” Exodus International announced its closure in June, 2013.

The 1998 APA statement, along with a 2000 follow-on statement, can be found here.

Jean Marais: 1913-1998. The French actor first met the writer, poet and film director Jean Cocteau (see Jul 5) when Marais was auditioning for a small role in a revival of Cocteau’s play, Oedipe-roi (Oedipus Rex). Marais was 24, half of Cocteau’s age, but the two fell in love and were together as partners, both personally and professionally, for the next twelve years. Midway through their relationship, Cocteau wrote the screenplay for L’Éternel retour (The Eternal Return) specifically for Marais. The 1943 film was critical and commercial success for Cocteau, and an important milestone in Marais’s career.

Marais continued acting while Germany occupied France, but once Paris was liberated he joined France’s Second Armored Division, driving fuel trucks to the front line and earning the Croix de Guerre for his service. After the war, Marais returned to Cocteau and acting, appearing in Cocteau’s 1946 film La Belle et la bête (Beauty and the Beast), which introduced both Marais and Cocteau to American audiences, and garnering Marais a legion of fans among teen girls and gay men. Marais made four more films with Cocteau, and with other important French directors. By 1949, the personal half of his partnership with Cocteau cooled, but the two remained lifelong friends and collaborators until Cocteau’s death in 1963. Through the 1950s, Marais became the French Eroll Flynn, through his roles in a series of swashbuckling films in which he performed his own stunts.

When Marais’ film career wound down in the 1970s, he took to the stage, took up painting and sculpture, and wrote several volumes of memoirs, including one of Cocteau titled, L’Inconcevable Jean Cocteau under the authorship of “Cocteau-Marais.” In 1998, Marais was awarded the Legion of Honor for his work in French film, and died two years later, on November 8, 1998, survived by his adopted son, Serge.

Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton: 1928-1984. Like so many blues singers, the Montgomery, Alabama, native’s musical heritage was in the church: her father was a preacher, her mother sang in the choir, and her brother, later known as “Harp” Thornton, played drums and harmonica. Her mother died when Willie Mae was fourteen. She took a job cleaning a saloon and was soon singing. In 1941, she joined Atlanta music promoter Sammy Green’s “The Hot Harlem Revue” where she was billed as the “New Bessie Smith.” In 1948, she left the Revue, moved to Houston and played in several clubs there. Her ability to sing and play multiple instruments led, in 1951, to a five-year contract with Peacock Records, which was known for its wide selection of popular “race” artists like Johnny Ace and a young and up-and-coming Little Richard. She began touring the “chitlin’ circuit” in the south, culminating in a legendary performance at New York’s Apollo Theater in 1952.

Relatively open about her lesbianism, she preferred men’s clothing over women’s, although on the stage she was usually talked into wearing a dress. Whatever she wore seemed to make little difference: her bigger than life presence always meant that she would never be a pretty little thing. Big all her life, she topped 300 pounds by the time she hit the Apollo, and her billing became “Big Mama Thornton” at about that time. In later years, she would often appear on stage in a man’s straw hat, which became something of a signature for her.

Her biggest hit was 1953’s “Hound Dog,” written for her by the before-they-were famous songwriting team of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller. Her original recording of “Hound Dog” featured her growling voice and openly sexualized lyrics. It topped Billboard’s R&B charts, but Thornton got only $500 for her recording and no royalties. When Elvis Presley cleaned it up, covered it in 1956 and made a fortune, Thornton began adding the line, “Bow wow to you, too” at the end of her performances as a swipe against Presley’s appropriation.

Presley’s success with “Hound Dog” was part of a much larger shift in America’s musical tastes. R&B had always been a bit too raw for white audiences, but Rock and Roll was able to fill in the gap between the races. As R&B declined in popularity, so did Thornton’s career. But a second life came along in the 1960s as artists like Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and Janis Joplin actively promoted a revival in interest in traditional blues and R&B. She toured Europe in 1965 which resulted in the albums, Big Mama Thornton: In Europe, with backing by legendary artists like Buddy Guy, Walter Horton, and Fred Below. Her 1967 album Big Mama Thornton with the Chicago Blues Band also featured a stellar lineup of Muddy Waters, Sam “Lightnin'” Hopkins and Otis Spawn.” The title song from 1968’s Ball and Chain became a signature song for Janis Joplin.

Thornton continued performing and recording into the 1970s, but by now her heavy drinking was taking its toll. Her 1979 performance at the San Francisco Blues Festival earned rave reviews, despite her requiring assistance to get on the stage. After a serious auto accident, she appeared at the 1983 Newport Jazz Festival, with Muddy Waters, B.B. King and Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson. That legendary performance was memorialized in the live recording The Blues—A Real Summit Meeting. It would also be her last appearance on stage. She died of a heart attack in 1984, at the age of 57. That same year, she was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame.

[Sources: Tina Spencer Dreisbach. “Willie Mae ‘Big Mama’ Thornton.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. (June 13, 2008, updated April 5, 2011). Available online here.

Ruth M. Pettis. “Thornton, Willie Mae “Big Mama” (1926-1984).” (October 8, 2007). Available online here.]

John Preston: 1945-1994. Today’s Fifty Shades of Gray fans owe Preston a particularly long-overdue acknowledgement. The award-winning writer, essayist, and journalist is probably best known for his Leather S&M gay erotica, a genre that Preston was proud of and which he felt made him a better, more honest writer. As he explained in his 1993, Harvard lecture, which he titled “My Life as a Pornographer” (and which he later published in an essay compilation by the same name) “Pornography has made me be honest, about myself and some of the most intimate details of my life and my fantasies. … Once I had exposed my own sexual fantasies, my most intimate desires, I feared little else about self-exposure as a writer.”

Leather S&M porn activism may seem like an odd field of endeaver, but activism came naturally to the Medfield, Massachusetts native, who by age fourteen had already volunteered as a Freedom Rider in Alabama and a tutor in Chicago’s projects. He graduated from Lake Forest College in Illinois, was certified as a sexual-health consultant by the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Medical School, and he also studied theology at the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, and Northwestern Lutheran Seminary in St. Paul. After moving to Minneapolis in 1969, he founded Gay House, one of the first gay and lesbian community centers in the country. He served as its first director until 1972, when he founded Gay Community Services.

MasterBy the mid 1970s, he moved to Los Angeles and became the editor of The Advocate. Then at about 1978, he moved to New York and took up fiction writing with a short pornographic story about a young man, Jaime, who becomes the sexual property of a Master named Aristotle Benson. He sent the story to Drummer magazine, which asked him to write an entire series on the exploits of Jaime and Benson. Those monthly episodes exploring Manhattan’s Leather and S&M scene were immensely popular. T-shirts reading “Looking for Mr. Benson” — some with a question mark, some without — began appearing in gay bars across the country. Mr. Benson was eventually published in book form, where it set a new standard in pornographic fiction. Other titles followed, including his “Master” series: I Once Had a Master (1984, which became the subject of a Canadian customs court case), Entertainment for a Master (1986), Love Of A Master (1987), and In Search Of A Master (1989).

But S&M porn was far from his only literary interest. Working as a journalist and essayist, he wrote for a number of gay magazines and penned a column about gay life in Maine after abandoning Manhattan for a refurbished warehouse in Portland. He wrote straight men’s adventure novels which, in a bizarro-world twist, his publisher insisted on publishing under a pseudonym lest his straight readers find out who wrote them. He then took what he learned from writing those books to write similar action adventure novels featuring gay characters, with story lines that addressed the difficulty gay teens experienced. When AIDS came along, Preston quickly adapted and became among the first to popularize safe sex stories by editing a safe sex anthology, Hot Living: Erotic Stories about Safer Sex, in 1985. He co-wrote, with Glenn Swann, a badly-needed safe-sex guide, Safe Sex: The Ultimate Erotic Guide, and two other rather unorthodox advice books: 1984’s Classified Affairs: A Gay Man’s Guide to the Personals and 1994’s Hustling: A Gentleman’s Guide to the Fine Art of Homosexual Prostitution.

Preston edited several critically acclaimed anthologies, including Hometowns: Gay Men Write About Where They Belong (1992), Personal Dispatches: Writers Confront AIDS (1990, which he began compiling soon after his own AIDS diagnosis), and Flesh and the Word: An Anthology of Erotic Writing (1995, with two stories by his friend, Anne Rice). Two of his anthologies, Member of the Family: Gay Men Write About Their Families (1992) and Sister & Brother: Lesbians & Gay Men Write About Their Lives Together (1994) were honored with Lambda Literary Awards. He died of AIDS in 1994, at the age of 48. His papers are housed at the John Hay Library at Brown University.

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).

As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.

Older Posts