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Justice Scalia found dead

Timothy Kincaid

February 13th, 2016

Antonin Scalia

The Supreme Court has been a body in political balance with three liberal justices, three conservative justices, and Justice Kennedy who, in the middle, often swung the majority. But there has been concern for some time that a few of the more liberal justices are aging and may soon wish to retire and, depending on the President at that time, this could shift the bench’s direction.

But I don’t think anyone expected this: (San Antonio Express)

Associate Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead of apparent natural causes Saturday on a luxury resort in West Texas, federal officials said.

A federal official who asked not to be named said there was no evidence of foul play and it appeared that Scalia died of natural causes.

Scalia was a constitutional originalist in that he held that the protections in the Constitution should be interpreted by the original teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Or so it seemed to me.

A man never deterred by compassion or decency, Scalia was quick to denounce those of whom he disapproved in scathing tones. Among such were gays and lesbians who his judicial review never seemed to find in the inclusive language of the Constitution. For Scalia, “all men” came with an asterisk (*except the homosexuals).

He will not be missed by our community.

Happy Chinese New Year

Timothy Kincaid

February 8th, 2016

Year of Monkey

To celebrate the new year, I’ve included a poster designed by Lehu Zhang, a San Francisco based Chinese graphic designer. This year is the Year of the Monkey.

While I appreciate Zhang’s minimalist style, clearly we have different esthetics. I’m having trouble seeing the monkey.

Anyway, however, you celebrate, here’s wishing you a happy new year. I think I’m celebrating with kung pao chicken and hot and sour soup.

Greenland’s marriage equality finally passes last hurdle

Timothy Kincaid

February 5th, 2016

GreenlandIceberg

Last May I noted that Greenland’s legislature had passed marriage equality. At that time I believed that it was to take effect October 1, 2015. I was mistaken. It seems that some law in Denmark needed changing.

But all that is done now. (Perchy Bird)

Following unanimous approval in both the Greenlandic and Danish Parliaments, the same-sex marriage and adoption bill was given the ceremonial Royal Assent on Wednesday.

The island’s new Civil Code will become gender-neutral and couples will begin marrying the day the law comes into force on April 1st. Greenland’s Bishop had been looking forward to couples being allowed to marry in the local Church since the bill was first proposed in 2014.

Ex-Gay therapy moves to Israel

Timothy Kincaid

February 4th, 2016

The United States has become increasingly unwelcome towards organizations that purport to change sexual orientation or, as they often couch it, to increase masculinity and resolve unwanted homosexual attractions. Some states have banned such practices if directed towards youth.

Famously, Jewish ex-gay group JONAH (Jews offering New Alternatives to Healing) was ordered out of existence in December 2015. But it appears that they could find a much more welcoming attitude were they to set up shop in the Levant.

Israel is by a long long shot the most advanced nation in the Middle East when it comes to gay issues. But it also has a very strong religious community in which opposition to homosexuality is fierce.

An article in Philly.com does not take up JONAH, directly, but discusses how other ex-gay groups fare in Israel.

At least four men’s support groups meet weekly in Jerusalem, said Jerusalem psychotherapist Adam Jessel, who has worked with hundreds of people looking to overcome their homosexuality. Some Israeli organizations also promote therapy.

The U.S. group People Can Change runs a seminar in Israel, the U.S. and Europe called Journey Into Manhood, which it says helps men “resolve unwanted homosexual attractions.” About 50 men participated in a seminar last month at a confidential location in northern Israel.

My apologies to the people of Israel. At this point in history, we do seem to export our worst attributes around the world.

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The Daily Agenda for Sunday, February 14

Jim Burroway

February 14th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA:

Dinner

So, what are your plans for Valentine’s Day?

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), February 1972, page 14.

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), February 1972, page 14. (Source.)

EMPHASIS MINE:
I’m not much of a poetry guy, but I’ve always found this Valentine’s Day poem rather haunting. I found it in the February, 1962 issue of ONE magazine a few years ago, and I’ve been posting it for every Valentine’s Day ever since.

John, Passing

Steve, you say your name is, from Columbus, somewhere,
Going through New York on your way to somewhere else.
Oh New York is my home, I offer, smiling secretly
At the handsome aspirant who is really no longer
An aspirant but — John, passing — in one of his legion disguises.

Only last week you were Tim from Maine’s lumbering woods
Ending your vacation days here — Steve, you say.
Oh, yes. You’ve chosen that temporary name, John, passing.

But before we start, and you leave, admiring the neatness of my petite bedroom,
Let me make another plea as I did when you, John, passing, were here as Milo,
A hundred Bobs, Franks, Georges, Bills and one Sylvester ago.

Stay.
John, passing.
Stay.
So I may stop days and weeks searching you,
Finding the many different names you answer to and faces you wear.
So we can weld an iron home from this swirling world
And fend from reality’s cruel sunlight
So loneliness’ deep ulcers can have end and justification in you
And what’s left of this savagely confused pattern can bring a happier existence.

Pause.
You needn’t answer.
I’m sorry.
I’ve embarrassed you.
Steve you say your name is.
We’d better get on before you’re late for your train.

— Vincent Synge

TODAY IN HISTORY:
25 YEARS AGO: San Francisco Establishes Domestic Partnership Registry: 1991. The idea had been tossed around since 1979, when gay rights activist Tom Brougham proposed a new category of relationship called “domestic partnership.” His cause was taken up in 1982 by San Francisco Supervisor Harry Britt, who had taken the seat of slain Supervisor Harvey Milk. Britt’s bill authorizing domestic partnerships was vetoed that year by Mayor Dianne Feinstein, It would be passed again in 1989, but that law was repealed by a voter initiative in 1990. Fortunately, that same year city voters approved Proposition K which established a modified version of domestic partnerships which allowed same-sex and opposite-sex couples to register. Fittingly, on February 14, 1991, the brand new registry was established in San Francisco allowing partners to register. San Francisco however wasn’t the first city to provide domestic partnerships. That honor went to West Hollywood in 1985.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Jim Kepner: 1923-1997. There’s no telling exactly when Kepner was born. His mother found him wrapped in newspapers under an oleander bush in an empty lot in Galveston, Texas in late September of 1923. They guessed he was about eight months old, give or take. He never knew exactly how old he really was. I asked around trying to get more clues, but Paul Cain, author of Leading the Parade: Conversations with America’s Most Influential Lesbians and Gay Men checked his notes and didn’t have anthing either. He then suggested, “If you just want to pick a day in February, maybe you could pick Feb 14 — Jim really was a sweetheart!”

And so I shall.

Kepner may have been abandoned because of his deformed leg and club foot, which despite corrective surgery and physical therapy, gave him a limp for the rest of his life. That limp, more than his attempt to classify himself as a Conscientious Objector, probably kept him out of the draft during World War II. That he was open about his homosexuality may have played a part also. In 1942, he moved with his father to San Francisco, where he discovered the underground gay scene. He also began searching for books and other material on homosexuality. Over the years, that search would lead him to compile one of the largest archives of LGBT literature in the U.S.

Between 1943 and 1951, he moved to Los Angeles, New York, Miami, back to San Francisco, then back to Los Angeles. Like a lot of young idealists of his day, he became involved with the Communist party while the U.S. was still allied with the Soviet Union, but was kicked out when his homosexuality became known. Upon returning to L.A., Kepner became involved with the Mattachine Society. Soon after, he met up with other former Mattachine members who had just launched ONE, the first nationally-distributed gay magazine (see Oct 15).

Kepner’s first article in ONE appeared in March, 1954, titled “The Importance of Being Different” under the pseudonym of Lyn Pedersen. His debut article went to the very heart of a critical debate taking place in the gay community. Mattachine founder Harry Hay, for example (see Apr 7), argued that gay people were a distinct cultural minority, while others like Dale Jennings (see Oct 21) argued that the only difference between gay people and straight people was who they went to bed with. Kepner threw his support with Hay, announcing “Vive la Différence!” But he also urged readers not to let the controversy split the nascent movement. “What can a Society accomplish if half of it feels its object is to convince the world we’re just like everyone else and the other half feels homosexuals are variants in the full sense of the term and have every right to be? … Only by allowing the free action of individual groups within the structure of an elastic society can such diverse philosophies work together.”

By the fall of 1954, Kepner was working more or less full time at ONE, although he didn’t draw a salary until 1957. Kepner continued writing under his own name as well as several pseudonyms, mainly as a marketing ploy to mask the fact that ONE had such a tiny staff. Meanwhile, ONE had also established an educational branch, the ONE Institute, in addition to the publication arm of ONE magazine. The competing goals, education versus publication, put a strain on the organization’s meager resources and energies. Kepner finally resigned from ONE in 1960, frustrated by the infighting and what he saw as lax management in the organization.

Kepner stayed out of gay advocacy until the mid sixties. In 1966, he became the secretary of the Southern California Council on Religion and the Homophile, and edited ten issues of their newsletter. He also began publishing his own magazine, Pursuit & Symposium, which focused on gay history. He mortgaged his house to fund it. After two years, the magazine failed and he lost his house. In 1967, he helped to organize a rally in response to the LAPD raid on the Black Cat bar (see Jan 1), where he declared that “the nameless love would never again shut up.” Out of that rally came a new gay rights group, PRIDE (Personal Rights in Defense and Education), with Kepner serving as the editor for the group’s newsletter. In October, that newsletter became The Los Angeles Advocate, then later simply The Advocate. Kepner remained a regular with The Advocate through 1976, and contributed sporadically afterwards. Kepner also helped to form the Society of Pat Rocco Enlightened Enthusiasts (SPREE), a group of film enthusiasts and fans of Pat Rocco (see Feb 9), and Kepner is credited with convincing the Park Theatre’s (straight) owners to program for gay audiences. In 1969, he became an active member of the Los Angeles Gay Liberation Front, and he served on the Christopher Street West committee from 1970 to 1977. He was a founder of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center, and would come to work as a member of their paid staff for their education program from 1978 to 1980.

Jim Kepner with his archives

Beginning in 1971, Kepner made his vast collection of gay documents and memorabilia available to the public. In 1975, he dubbed his collection the Western Gay Archives, then renamed them again in 1984 as the International Gay and Lesbian Archives. By then, the collection consisted of 25,000 books and thousands of other items. In 1994, Kepner’s collection was merged with ONE’s archives at the University of Southern California. That archive today is known as the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives. If you ever have a chance to stop in, I heartily recommend it. Kepner died in 1997, at about the age of 74. A month later, his anthology, Rough News — Daring Views: 1950s’ Pioneer Gay Press Journalism, was published by Haworth Press.

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?

Dead Scalia’s Legacy

Jim Burroway

February 13th, 2016

scalia-new-orleansIf Scalia’s death doesn’t sharpen our attention to what’s really at stake in the 2016 elections, I don’t think anything else will. It’s tempting to think that we’re not likely to see the likes of another Scalia on the top bench. But consider the prospects of a President Trump or a President Cruz or a President Rubio or a President Carson or even a President Kasich entering the White House. I truly believe that all bets will be off, since all of those candidates (except Kasich) have pledged specifically to try to overturn last summer’s Obergefell decision by appointing anti-marriage conservatives to the high court. Scalia was appointed to the bench by Ronald Reagan in 1986 — nearly thirty years ago — so you can see how high the stakes are for naming his replacement.  Cruz, Rubio, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel have already demanded that any question of Scalia’s replacement wait until after the elections. So it’s looks increasingly likely that the Senate will filibuster pretty much anyone Obama nominates to be Scalia’s replacement.

In the next several days, we’ll have a number of pious politicos tell us what a great Justice he was, and why they want more Justices like him on the bench. And we’re also going to hear a number of politicians and thought leaders tell us what horrible people we are for remembering Scalia for the judicial scourge that he was. But how can we remember him otherwise, particularly when his oft-quoted dissents from four landmark gay rights cases are so memorable?

So in the interest of remembering that great man Antonin Gregory Scalia, here are some choice quotes from those four dissents. First, from his dissent from Romer vs.Evans (1996):

The Court has mistaken a Kulturkampf for a fit of spite. The constitutional amendment before us here is not the manifestation of a “`bare . . . desire to harm’” homosexu­als, ante, at 13, but is rather a modest attempt by seemingly tolerant Coloradans to preserve traditional sexual mores against the efforts of a politically powerful minority to revise those mores through use of the laws. That objective, and the means chosen to achieve it, are not only unimpeachable under any constitutional doctrine hitherto pronounced (hence the opinion’s heavy reliance upon principles of righteousness rather than judicial holdings); they have been specifi­cally approved by the Congress of the United States and by this Court.

…But though Coloradans are, as I say, entitled to be hostile toward homosexual conduct, the fact is that the degree of hostility reflected by Amendment 2 is the smallest conceivable. The Court’s portrayal of Coloradans as a society fallen victim to pointless, hate filled “gay bashing” is so false as to be comical. Colorado not only is one of the 25 States that have repealed their antisodomy laws, but was among the first to do so. But the society that eliminates criminal punishment for homosexual acts does not necessarily abandon the view that homosexuality is morally wrong and socially harmful; often, abolition simply reflects the view that enforcement of such criminal laws involves unseemly intrusion into the intimate lives of citizens.

There is a problem, however, which arises when criminal sanction of homosexuality is eliminated but moral and social disapprobation of homosexuality is meant to be retained. The Court cannot be unaware of that problem; it is evident in many cities of the country, and occasionally bubbles to the surface of the news, in heated political disputes over such matters as the introduction into local schools of books teaching that homosexuality is an optional and fully acceptable “alternate life style.” The problem (a problem, that is, for those who wish to retain social disapprobation of homosexuality) is that, because those who engage in homosexual conduct tend to reside in disproportionate numbers in certain communities, have high disposable income, and of course care about homosexual rights issues much more ardently than the public at large, they possess political power much greater than their numbers, both locally and statewide. Quite understandably, they devote this political power to achieving not merely a grudging social toleration, but full social acceptance, of homosexuality.

When the Court takes sides in the culture wars, it tends to be with the knights rather than the villains–and more specifically with the Templars, reflecting the views and values of the lawyer class from which the Court’s Members are drawn. How that class feels about homosexuality will be evident to anyone who wishes to interview job applicants at virtually any of the Nation’s law schools. The interviewer may refuse to offer a job because the applicant is a Republican; because he is an adulterer; because he went to the wrong prep school or belongs to the wrong country club; because he eats snails; because he is a womanizer; because she wears real animal fur; or even because he hates the Chicago Cubs. But if the interviewer should wish not to be an associate or partner of an applicant because he disapproves of the applicant’s homosexuality, then he will have violated the pledge which the Association of American Law Schools requires all its member schools to exact from job interviewers: “assurance of the employer’s willingness” to hire homosexuals.

Scalia’s dissent from From Lawrence vs. Texas (2003), which struck down sodomy laws nationwide:

This reasoning leaves on pretty shaky grounds state laws limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples. Justice O’Connor seeks to preserve them by the conclusory statement that “preserving the traditional institution of marriage” is a legitimate state interest. But “preserving the traditional institution of marriage” is just a kinder way of describing the State’s moral disapproval of same-sex couples. Texas’s interest in §21.06 could be recast in similarly euphemistic terms: “preserving the traditional sexual mores of our society.” In the jurisprudence Justice O’Connor has seemingly created, judges can validate laws by characterizing them as “preserving the traditions of society” (good); or invalidate them by characterizing them as “expressing moral disapproval” (bad).

Today’s opinion is the product of a Court, which is the product of a law-profession culture, that has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda, by which I mean the agenda promoted by some homosexual activists directed at eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct. I noted in an earlier opinion the fact that the American Association of Law Schools (to which any reputable law school must seek to belong) excludes from membership any school that refuses to ban from its job-interview facilities a law firm (no matter how small) that does not wish to hire as a prospective partner a person who openly engages in homosexual conduct. See Romer, supra, at 653.

One of the most revealing statements in today’s opinion is the Court’s grim warning that the criminalization of homosexual conduct is “an invitation to subject homosexual persons to discrimination both in the public and in the private spheres.It is clear from this that the Court has taken sides in the culture war, departing from its role of assuring, as neutral observer, that the democratic rules of engagement are observed. Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their home. They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive. The Court views it as “discrimination” which it is the function of our judgments to deter. So imbued is the Court with the law profession’s anti-anti-homosexual culture, that it is seemingly unaware that the attitudes of that culture are not obviously “mainstream”; that in most States what the Court calls “discrimination” against those who engage in homosexual acts is perfectly legal; that proposals to ban such “discrimination” under Title VII have repeatedly been rejected by Congress, that in some cases such “discrimination” is mandated by federal statute, (mandating discharge from the armed forces of any service member who engages in or intends to engage in homosexual acts); and that in some cases such “discrimination” is a constitutional right (see Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, 530 U.S. 640 (2000)).

…Today’s opinion dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as formal recognition in marriage is concerned. If moral disapprobation of homosexual conduct is “no legitimate state interest” for purposes of proscribing that conduct, and if, as the Court coos (casting aside all pretense of neutrality), “[w]hen sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring,” what justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising “[t]he liberty protected by the Constitution”? Surely not the encouragement of procreation, since the sterile and the elderly are allowed to marry. This case “does not involve” the issue of homosexual marriage only if one entertains the belief that principle and logic have nothing to do with the decisions of this Court. Many will hope that, as the Court comfortingly assures us, this is so.

Scalia’s dissent from US v. Windsor (2013), which declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional (by now, he’s at least seeing the writing on the wall):

However, even setting aside traditional moral disapproval of same-sex marriage (or indeed same-sex sex),there are many perfectly valid—indeed, downright boring—justifying rationales for this legislation. Their existence ought to be the end of this case. For they give the lie to the Court’s conclusion that only those with hateful hearts could have voted “aye” on this Act. And more importantly, they serve to make the contents of the legislators’ hearts quite irrelevant: ““It is a familiar principle of constitutional law that this Court will not strike down an otherwise constitutional statute on the basis of an alleged illicit legislative motive.” Or at least it was a familiar principle. By holding to the contrary, the majority has declared open season on any law that (in the opinion of the law’s opponents and any panel of like-minded federal judges) can be characterized as mean-spirited.

…The penultimate sentence of the majority’s opinion is a naked declaration that “[t]his opinion and its holding are confined” to those couples “joined in same-sex marriages made lawful by the State.” I have heard such “bald, unreasoned disclaimer[s]” before. When the Court declared a constitutional right to homosexual sodomy, we were assured that the case had nothing, nothing at all to do with “whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter,” — with an accompanying citation of Lawrence. Now we are told that DOMA is invalid because it “demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects.” It takes real cheek for today’s majority to assure us, as it is going out the door, that a constitutional requirement to give formal recognition to same-sex marriage is not at issue here — when what has preceded that assurance is a lecture on how superior the majority’s moral judgment in favor of same-sex marriage is to the Congress’s hateful moral judgment against it. I promise you this: The only thing that will “confine” the Court’s holding is its sense of what it can get away with.

…As I have said, the real rationale of today’s opinion, whatever disappearing trail of its legalistic argle-bargle one chooses to follow, 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.

Scalia’s dissent from Obergefell v Hodges (2015), which struck down bans of same-sex marriage nationwide:

The substance of today’s decree is not of immense personal importance to me. The law can recognize as marriage whatever sexual attachments and living arrangements it wishes, and can accord them favorable civil consequences, from tax treatment to rights of inheritance. Those civil consequences—and the public approval that conferring the name of marriage evidences—can perhaps have adverse social effects, but no more adverse than the effects of many other controversial laws. So it is not of special importance to me what the law says about marriage. It is of overwhelming importance, however, who it is that rules me. Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court. The opinion in these cases is the furthest extension in fact—and the furthest extension one can even imagine—of theCourt’s claimed power to create “liberties” that the Constitution and its Amendments neglect to mention. This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves.

…This is a naked judicial claim to legislative—indeed, super-legislative—power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government. Except as limited by a constitutional prohibition agreed to by the People, the States are free to adopt whatever laws they like, even those that offend the esteemed Justices’ “reasoned judgment.” A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.

…If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: “The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,” I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning ofJohn Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, February 13

Jim Burroway

February 13th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From This Week In Texas, July 2, 1977, page 30.

From This Week In Texas, July 2, 1977, page 30.

ONE-1960.02

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
 Magazine cover provokes outrage: 1960. Fifty-five years ago, ONE magazine published yet another issue, just like it always did every month. This one, as issues go, was rather ordinary: A couple of poems, two short stories, an article about the organization of families, another one asking “Can we be worthy of a free erotic life?”, a scathing book review of Edmund Bergler’s 1000 Homosexuals (Bergler, a homo-obsessed psychoanalyst, was the delightful combination of Paul Cameron and Scott Lively of his day), an advice column by psychologist Blanche Baker titled “Toward Understanding,” a brief commentary on England’s long-running debate over the Wolfenden Report’s recommendation that Parliament rescind the nation’s sodomy laws (see Sep 4), and a few letters to the editor. It was a decent issue, but mostly unremarkable. But the following month, one reader felt compelled to complain about that issue:

Dear ONE:

Good grief, Charley Brown! The cover of the February issue is simply TOO MUCH! For months now , with a snarl on my lips and no joy in my heart, I have been looking at those effeminate line drawings, girlish youths and that awful photograph of a nelly cop an ONE cover without so much as a line of protest to you. Looking back I can’t find anything like a real male figure all the way back to that sailor drawing in ’57. And now these weird creatures! They’re enough to steam a saint!

ONE, May 1957.

ONE, May 1957.

I know that many people have a positive predilection for effeminancy, as opposed to true femininity. I don’t have such a feeling; in fact an overdose of male girlishness gives me the vapors. If real male art is hard to come by couldn’t you canvass friends? Nobody wants ONE to ape the muscle mags with sweaty weightlifters all over the place, but this shouldn’t deny us the opportunity of seeing on occasional attractive man in your pages.

One last item: I think all this grotesquely womanish art is bad psychologically for those of your readers who are battling to free themselves from self-identication with the popularly-held homosexaul stereotype. Please help them remember once in a while that the average person with homosexual preferences looks, and is, as male as the next guy.

ONE, February 1958.

ONE, February 1958.

The Daughters of Bilitis insisted that women wear proper skirts instead of jeans or slacks at DoB events. Police often entered lesbian bars to make sure women wore blouses with the buttons on the left instead of the right. Men had fewer  imposed fewer dress code restrictions (outside of drag, anyway), but they were no less scrutinized and judged if they otherwise fell afoul of gender norms. And many of those judgments often came from gay men and women toward other gay men and women, in many cases just as harshly as those coming from the police or others outside the gay community.

Those who violated those gender norms — and those norms were much more restrictive fifty-five years ago — were seen as garish neon signs that drew far too much unwanted attention. A man who was romantically inclined towards other men was already violating far more gender norms than anyone could count. And in 1960, the last thing most of such men (and women) wanted to see was other people whose gender-role variance they perceived as being  more visible than their own.

Grant Wood, self-portrait, 1932.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
125 YEARS AGO: Grant Wood: 1891-1942. Born a few miles outside of Anamosa, Iowa, the great expanse of the upper great plains and the solid simplicity of its people would always be near to his heart. He studied at the Art Institute in Chicago, and from 1920 to 1928, he made four trips to Europe where he studied Impressionism and Post-Impressionist styles of painting, but his heat never strayed far Iowa, nor did his style stray from simplicity and directness which are the bedrock of Iowa’s people. His style became known as Regionalism, which depicted rural American themes in a style which recalled the severe Calvinism of Northern Renaissance paintings.

American Gothic, 1930.

This is best exemplified in his iconic 1930 painting American Gothic, perhaps among the best known, best loved, and best parodied of American paintings. Art critics, at least those who assumed the painting was meant to be satire of small-town life, praised it. When a copy was printed in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, locals denounced their depiction as “pinched, grim-faced, puritanical Bible-thumpers.” Wood himself defended the painting as simply a a depiction of the American pioneer spirit. He also became a vocal critic of modernist trends and the dominance of the East coast art world. No other American artist before or since has earned such national fame without ever showing his work in New York.

In 1932, he founded the Stone City Art Colony to help other artists get through the Great Depression, and from 1934 to 1941 he taught at the University of Iowa’s School of Art, where his teaching career was very nearly derailed over accusations that Wood was gay. The only report that contains the complete details of those accusations was buried in a time capsule of the Art and Art History Building in 1934, and the details will remain hidden until the cornerstone is opened some twenty years from now. New allegations arose in 1941 when university colleagues, most of whom embraced the European trends that Wood so clearly disdained, tried to get Wood removed from the faculty. Their accusations centered around a very brief marriage that ended in divorce in 1938 and the handsome young roommates who lived in his home. When a reporter from Time came sniffing, the university president managed to get the story spiked, and reorganized the Art Department so that Wood would be placed in an entirely separate division and away from his detractors. But before Wood could resume teaching, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died in February 12, 1942.

Most biographies which have come out since Wood’s death have either avoided his homosexuality or dismissed it. Tripp Evans’s 2010 Grant Wood: A Life changes that by delving into previously unreleased documents and taking a closer look at Wood’s highly symbolic paintings, some of which toy with cross-gender depictions.

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, February 12

Jim Burroway

February 12th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), February 11, 1983, page 24.

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), February 11, 1983, page 24.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Premiere of “Making Love”: 1982. Starring Michael Ontkean, Charlie’s Angels star Kate Jackson, and Harry Hamlin, Making Love opened in theaters as the first mainstream film to tackle homosexuality in a nonjudgmental way. That’s not to say that the story wasn’t without drama when Zach (Ontkean) and Claire (Jackson) dealt with a crumbling marriage as Zach struggled to deal with his attractions to other men. When he meets gay novelist Bart McGuire (Hamlin), their professional relationship (Zach was a doctor, Bart a patient who was in for a check-up) turned into a lunch date, then a dinner date, and then a full-fledged relationship, which over time, ends in a divorce for Zach and Claire. Claire handles the news badly, but over time comes to understand that gay people can live happy lives. The film’s happily-ever-after ending had the cautious feel of a made-for-TV movie, which critics hated. Gay critics, however, were overjoyed that the film was a positive portrayal where the gay characters didn’t all die in the end.

In real life however, the film demonstrated one significant difficulty in making mainstream movies about gay men: it seemed to confirm the fear that taking such a role would be career killers. Tom Berenger, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, William Hurt and Peter Strauss were all approached to play Zach; they all turned the role down. After the film’s release Ontkean and Hamlin had trouble living the film down. Hamlin’s promising career stalled for the next four years until he landed a role in NBC’s L.A. Law. Ontkean tried to prevent clips of his role from appearing in Vito Russo’s 1996 documentary The Celluloid Closet.

San Francisco Mayor Orders Issuance of Same-Sex Marriage Licenses: 2004. It was a stunning announcement, when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom declared that the California Constitution’s equal protection clause gave him the authority to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Between February 12 and March 11, 2004, an estimated 4,000 joyous couples lined up at City Hall to take part in what was quickly dubbed “The Winter of Love.” But the weddings came to an abrupt halt when the California Supreme Court declared that the mayor lacked the authority to bypass state law. All of those marriage licenses were voided, and same-sex marriage would remain unavailable until 2008 when the state Supreme Court found that “equal respect and dignity” of marriage is a “basic civil right” for all couples in California, gay or straight. That finding was overturned by California voters when they approved Prop 8 in 2008, which itself was ruled unconstitutional in 2010. That ruling was upheld by a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2012, and a challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court by anti-gay activists was rejected due to lack of standing in 2013.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Philipp zu Eulenburg: 1847-1921. A close, personal friend of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Eulenburg had a tremendous influence over the younger Kaiser, and over Germany’s politics in general. Like virtually everyone else in positions of influence, Eulenburg married a Swedish countess in his twenties. Together they had eight children. But also like many others of similar outlook, his marriage did little to discourage his many liaisons with others in the Kaiser’s inner circle.

In 1900, Eulenburg’s brother was exposed as a homosexual. The Kaiser demanded that Eulenburg cut all contact with his brother, a demand that Eulenburg refused, though that refusal appears not to have affected Eulenburg’s career. That same year, Eulenburg was given the title of prince in recognition of Eulenburg’s valuable counsel and friendship to the Kaiser. That counsel included urging the Kaiser to exercise a more autocratic rule independent of the Reichstag. Eulenburg also retained his post as Ambassador to Austria-Hungary, which he had held since 1893.

But holding such a powerful and influential position in the Kaiser’s court made Eulenburg a political target. In 1902, Eulenburg resigned his Ambassadorship and withdrew from politics, pleading exhaustion, although we now know that the real reason was blackmail. That was at about the same time the Germany was rocked by revelations that German industrialist Friedrick Krupp was frolicking with young men in Capri and Berlin (see Feb 17). Eulenburg returned to the Court in 1906, where he again drew the ire of critics of the Kaiser’s increasingly autocratic rule and expansionist foreign policy. Eulenburg’s timing for his return wasn’t good. Between 1906 and 1907, six military officers committed suicide after being blackmailed, and dozens of soldiers and officers had faced courts marshall for homosexuality.

Maximillian Harden, publisher of Die Zukunft, struck the first blow agaisnt Eulenburg by outing him in an article printed in April of 1907. Harden also outed General Kuno von Moltke in the same article. At the Kaiser’s urging, Eulenburg and Moltke denied the report and charged Harden with libel. Moltke’s trial came in 1907. It didn’t go well for Moltke. His former wife, a soldier, and even sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld (see May 14) testified against him. The court declared that Molte indeed was gay and cleared Harden of libel. The Kaiser voided the verdict and demanded a new trial, which found Harden guilty. He was sentenced to four months imprisonment.

But the details from the first trial both shocked and disgusted Germany. When Eulenburg’s perjury trial came around in 1908 — he was charged for denying his homosexuality during the Moltke trial — the prosecution had lined up hundreds of witnesses. Forty-one testified against Eulenburg, including several who described watching him through a keyhole. Eulenburg collapsed in the courtroom early in the trial, and proceedings were suspended while he underwent medical treatment. It  resumed later that year with Eulenburg on a stretcher, but was suspended again due to his poor health. The case remained in limbo until the destruction of the German Empire in 1918, and it never resumed after that. Eulenburg remained in retirement, with no further contact with the Kaiser, until Eulenburg’s death in 1921 at the age of 74.

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The Daily Agenda for Thursday, February 11

Jim Burroway

February 11th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Belgium Leatherpride, Antwerp, Belgium; Cologne Street Carnival, Cologne, Germany; Gay Mardi Gras, New Orleans, LA; Arizona Gay Rodeo, Phoenix, AZ; Sitges Carnival, Sitges, Spain.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, March 15, 1972, page 7. (Personal collection.)

Before San Francisco’s Eureka Valley rebranded itself for the Castro Theater that remains its most prominent landmark, gay life in San Francisco centered on Polk Street, particularly the area between Geary and Union known locally as Polk Gulch or Polk Strasse. California Hall, at Polk and Turk, saw an important event in San Francisco gay history when police raided a New Years Day Mardi Gras ball sponsored by the Council on Religion and the Homosexual. The ensuing uproar forever changed LGBT politics in the city. Polk Street was also the location for San Francisco’s first Gay Pride parade in 1972. The Town Squire, a clothing store that opened in 1960, was just one of scores of popular businesses catering to the gay trade. By the late 1970s, gay life shifted to the Castro, and Polk Street became known more for its hustlers, sex workers and transgender refugees. In recent years, the entire area has undergone massive gentrfication, pushing out all of the old queer places and queer people. The storefront today is home to a computer repair business, with swank new condos rising up from above it.

A couple walks past police officers to attend the New Year’s Mardi Gras ball.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
SF Judge Acquits Four From New Years Day Raid: 1965. On New Years Day, San Francisco police raided a ball hosted by the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, a coalition of of gay and straight people of faith in the Bay area (see Jan 1). The raid took place despite negotiations between ball organizers and the SFPD which resulted in an empty promise by SFBD not to harass attendees or arrest anyone arriving at the ball in costume, including those in drag. Instead, police snapped photos of everyone trying to enter the building and later demanded entrance. Three CRH lawyers explained that the party was a private party under California law and that police could not enter without buying tickets or showing a warrant. The lawyers were arrested, along with a ticket-taker, and charged with obstructing an officer.

Trial for the four began on February 8 with Marshall Krause, an attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, demanding that the police state in detail what the four did to interfere with the officers. Three inspectors and one officer were called to the stand and questioned extensively. According to the testimony, the officers had, in fact, gained entrance to the hall, but were stopped inside when the four asked for search warrants as required under the Constitution. When asked why police were taking pictures of guests arriving at the ball even though no crime had occurred, one official replied that police “wanted pictures of these people because some of them might be connected to national security.” He also claimed that the more than two dozen officers and two photographers were necessary “just to inspect the premises.” On February 11, their testimony ended, and Krause moved that the case be dismissed because the prosecution’s contention that the charges against the defendants lacked merit. Judge Leo Friedman agreed, and directed the jury to return not guilty verdicts.

The raid and resulting acquittals would be a major turning point for the gay rights movement in San Francisco. City officials, embarrassed by the obvious police misconduct, responded by designating officer Elliot Blackstone as the first liaison between the department and the LGBT community. One of the lawyers who had been arrested and charged, Herb Donaldson, would go on to become San Francisco’s first openly gay judge. Two years later, the Los Angeles Advocate would contrast the differing political climates for the gay community in Los Angeles to San Francisco and credit the “unbelievably inept harassment of a big New Year’s Eve Ball a few years ago” for “triggering the homosexual resurgence, and the organizations were quick to capitalize on the police bungling.”

[Sources: Kay Tobin. “After the ball…” The Ladder 9, no. 5 (February 1965): 4-5.

Unsigned. “Cross currents.” The Ladder 9, no. 9 (June 1965): 14-16.

Unsigned. Editorial: “Politics by the bay.” The Los Angeles Advocate 1, no. 4 (December 1967): 6.]

Time magazine, Feb 9,1976.

40 YEARS AGO: Newspapers Pull “Doonesbury” Over Gay Character: 1976. Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury, which had been in syndication for little over five years, had gained a reputation for taking on a host of controversial subjects: sex, drugs, the Vietnam War, race, women’s lib, Watergate, you name it. In 1975, Trudeau won a Pulitzer for Editorial Cartooning, making Doonesbury the first regular comic strip to be so honored. Trudeau was, you might say, the Jon Stewart of his day. President Gerald Ford, who was often skewered in Doonesbury, remarked, “There are only three major vehicles to keep us informed as to what is going on in Washington—the electronic media, the print media and Doonesbury, and not necessarily in that order.” On February 9, 1976, Time magazine put the cast of Doonesbury on its front cover, and noting, “The panels are so volatile that half a dozen editors regularly run the strip on the editorial page.”

As if to prove that volatility, just two days later newspaper editors across the country were confronted with what to do with that day’s latest Doonesbury installment. The strip was, by today’s standards, pretty innocuous: a simple conversation between Walden College law student Joanie Caucus and classmate Andy Lippincott, with whom Joanie has developed a crush. Andy sits down with her and explains the situation: he’s gay.

That panel sent dozens of newspaper editors over the cliff. At least three major newspapers — The Columbus (Ohio) Citizen-Journal, The Cleveland Press and The Houston Post — and an unknown number of smaller papers suspended the strip. Thomas Boardmen of The Cleveland Press tried to put a thoughtful, but ultimately self-contradictory spin on their decision: “The subject of homosexuality is one of the most important issues facing our society today and it deserves special treatment. We are not shying away from it but we do not believe that it is proper for the comic page.” Charles Egger, editor of the Citizen-Journal, faintly echoed his Cleveland counterpart: “We felt the subject matter was not appropriate for the comic page.” After the Citizen-Journal’s switchboard was flooded with thousands of complaints, the paper offered to mail copies of the deleted strip to those who requested it. In Houston, Post editors also called the strip “inappropriate on a comic page,” but a local radio station responded by reading it over the air, as did member of the Gay Activist Alliance at the University of Houston when anyone called their office number. “We’ve been getting about 50 calls a day,” said an unnamed GAA spokesman. All three papers resumed publishing the strip by the following Monday.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Tammy Baldwin: 1962. Her political career began in 1986 when she won a seat to the Dane County (Madison, Wisconsin) Board of Supervisors. In 1992, she won a race for the Wisconsin State Assembly by defeating two other candidates while garnering 59% of the vote. She was one of only six openly gay politicians nationwide to win a general election that year, and she was the first openly lesbian Assembly member. When Congressman Scott Klug announced his retirement in 1998, Baldwin ran for that seat and won, making her the first woman to be sent to Congress from Wisconsin, and the first person to enter Congress as an openly gay representative. She would go on to represent the 2nd District for seven terms. In 2013, she became the first openly gay Senator in history after defeating former Gov. Tommy Thompson to represent Wisconsin in the U.S. Senate.

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

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The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, February 10

Jim Burroway

February 10th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

SwingerDallas-OurCommunity1971.05p10

From Our Community (Dallas, TX), May 1971, page 10.

Dallas’s gay newspaper Our Community had this brief write-up:

If a stranger steps into the SWINGER, he want be a stranger long.’ I’d never been in a butch bar before, so I was a little apprehensive when I opened the door: I mean all those butch cowboy types. What if one of those handsome brutes lassod (sic) me, threw me down and “had his way” with me! Of course I’d try to defend myself (but I’m not very strong)”! This didn’t happen, but I’d been there only a few moments before I meet several friendly studs. They said: “If you go once, you’ll return often.” I’did. So will you. It’s friendly, like home.

The Swinger burned five months later. The site is now a Chevron station.

Post cards by J.C. Leyendecker, 1900.

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
 A New Homosexual Trait?: 1920. Dr. Walter Courtenay Rivers raised in the February, 1920 issue of Medical Review of Reviews:

A sexuological brochure published in 1913 brought me some correspondence both home and foreign. Among the writers of these letters was an English public school ‘coach,’ whom later I met. I then found that altho he had written he was glad my book had appeared, he was an invert himself; not only that, but a member of a homosexual coterie; and besides, one who physically indulged his abnormality. Upon which I felt that his acquaintance and correspondence were too potentially compromising for my as yet extremely slight scientific name. I asked him to send his ‘case’ to Dr HAVELOCK ELLIS (to whom I wrote about him also), and declined further communication with regret, for of course clinical experience is the only road to discovery. However, one clue I did get. He kept a large cat of which he seemed very fond, and he remarked that many of his friends had the same taste in pets.

The “brochure” that Rivers mentioned was a booklet published in 1913, titled Walt Whitman’s Anomaly, which explores exactly what its title implied: that Walt Whitman was a sexual invert or, in the still-newfangled terminology of the medical literature, a homosexual. Rivers was undoubtedly surprised by his “coach’s” interest in the book, as its sale was “restricted to members of the legal and medical professions. This was quite common at a time when anything which might be remotely construed as non-condemning of the “abominable vice” was routinely banned as obscene. Havelock Ellis’s early works were not immune from such official attentions (see Feb 2). And so Rivers’s nervousness over merely maintaining a correspondence with an invert was neither out of the ordinary nor out of line.

And yet, Rivers’s articles and writings were among a growing body of literature which was just beginning to  try to figure out who these homosexuals were that they kept encountering. Given how little was really known about gay people, coupled with reluctance of the overwhelming majority of gay people to make themselves known, every tiny clue took in a huge significance. Including cats.

Since [Magnus] HIRSCHFELD’S (see  May 14) exhaustive work does not mention such a trait, the matter seemed worth inquiry, and it is attacked here in the following way: First I have taken HIRSCFIELD’S list of eminent men who were of inverted disposition, and looked for record of their affection’ for cats as pets; secondly I have taken eminent persons who are stated to have been cat lovers, and looked for evidence of inversion in them.

Rivers encountered several difficulties in the first approach; Hirschfeld’s list went back into antiquity; Hirschfeld didn’t see pet ownership as an important detail to record, some names on Hirshfeld’s list weren’t prominent enough for such details to survive. But Rivers did find four worth mentioning: the 18th-century art historian and Member of Parliament Horace Walpole, the English poet Edward Fitzgerald, the French poet Charles Baudelaire, and the English essayist Walter Pater, for whom Rivers provided the following evidence of homosexuality:

The evidence of PATER’S inverted disposition might first be briefly given. He never smoked and never married; he was entirely averse to outdoor games altho not physically weak; he wore always a green tie; his works show passim a special sensibility to young male beauty.

But about their cats:

Four out of thirty-one is a proportion of one in eight. Is one out of every eight men, or, for the matter of that, one out  of every eight distinguished men, devoted to cats? I imagine most people would say no. Some men, and particularly distinguished men, have notoriously a horror of them. These four, by the way, were all writers, and HAVELOCK ELLIS states that inversion is particularly frequent amongst authors. They were also pretty exclusively homosexual; there is no evidence of a bisexual disposition

Rivers then compiled his list of known cat-lovers in history “taking only those who have been dead some time” — undoubtedly to avoid impugning the reputation of a living person and opening himself up to charges of libel. Rivers then lists them:

Pope GREGORY the GREAT, HOKUSAI, TASSO, A. DE MUSSET, PAUL DE KOCK, PETRARCH, COWPER, WORDSWORTH, LISTON the SURGEON, RICHELIEU, CIIATEAUBRIAND, T. GAUTIER, DR. JOHNSON, SIR WALTER SCOTT, DUMAS the ELDER, SHELLEY, JEREMY BENTHAM.

Of how many of these may inversion be deemed a likely characteristic?

The quest now is much more difficult. To begin with, of none can we expect the trait looked for to be recorded outright. It will be a matter of inferring its presence from other, and commonly associated, characteristics, such as friendship enthusiasm, feminine tastes, aversion to women, physical stigmata of degeneration, and so forth; while even these may easily escape biographical mention. Again, bisexuality, physical attraction to men and women both, may mask inversion. Perhaps for these reasons, none of these cat lovers figure in HIRSCHFELD’S list of eminent inverts already spoken of.

You will notice Rivers’s referring to “physical stigmata of degeneration,” a reference to Degeneration Theory that I’ve mentioned elsewhere in these historical notes (see, for example, Sep 9Jan 25Feb 7). It was a medical axiom in those days that homosexuality, along with many other physical and mental ailments, were the result of evolution gone wrong. Before the industrial era, natural selection meant that the fittest survived. But modern society was now allowing all sorts of lesser-fit people to survive and breed, resulting in a kind of reversal of evolution — they called it “de-generation” — in which mankind was de-evolving or “degenerating” to a more primitive, less advanced state. The theory further held that degeneracy was not only imprinted on the brain, but  the “physical stigmata” or signs of the degeneracy could also be found on the body as well, whether it was a physical abnormality, or the shape of the head, the cut of the brow, the width of the nose, the tone of the skin — you can see where this went racially, can’t you?

At any rate, River’s struck two individuals from his list immediately as not being gay, and concluded that only three were definitely gay. Three of seventeen now brings the ratio to somewhere closer to one in five. Clearly, he thought, he was onto something. But why cats?

And there is something else relevant to cats which is also relevant to our subject, and that is the close association in the human mind of cats with femininity. One always associates cats with the woman’s world, and of course male inverts are very often of feminine tastes. The former proposition seems the truer and profounder the more one tests it…

A good many readers, perhaps, will agree that fondness for cats does, on the whole, seem entitled to a place among male homosexual characteristics. If it be, then the reason is that it is a woman’s taste. My subject aforesaid, the public school coach, had his cat beside him when pouring out tea; which he did, if not, like COMPTON MACKENZIE’S inverted author WILMOT dispensing similar hospitality. See Sinister Street Vol 1. ‘with a myriad mincing gestures,’ still with quite unmasculine competence, gusto and deliberation; he sucked sweets, smoked only cigarettes. Indeed the tale of male homosexual traits has probably not yet been given anywhere with anything like completeness. For the heart of the inverted man seems always reaching out after something womanish in order to adopt it; or else recoiling from something that reminds him he is bodily a man. Of that unfortunate being it might almost be said:

Femina est: nihil feminitatis a se alienum putat.

[Source: W.C. Rivers. “A new male homosexual trait?” Medical Review of Reviews 26, no. 2 (February 1920): 55-60. Available online via Google Books here.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
John Yang: 1958. The Chillicothe, Ohio native rose quickly though the journalism ranks, beginning with the Boston Globe in 198o, then Time in 1986 and the Wall Street Journal in 1986. In 1990, he moved to the Washington Post and remained there for the next ten years as a political reporter. In 1999, he made the move to television as the D.C. correspondent for ABC News, where he earned a Peabody for his coverage of the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon. He then became a Middle East correspondent from 2002 to 2004. Yang recalled the phone conversation with Peter Jennings when he got that gig:

“I was extremely flattered because at ABC News, Peter Jennings had veto power over foreign correspondents. And this was an area that Peter cared deeply about. And actually Peter got on the phone …  It’s actually something that Peter said to me,” Yang recalled. “It’s that he thought that — and looking back, you can take what he said a couple of different ways, whether he meant [me] being Asian or being gay — but that he thought that what I would bring to that reporting was an understanding or an insight into … people who are marginalized.”

In 2007, he was once again in Washington, D.C., this time as White House correspondent for NBC News. He is currently a reporter and commentator for NBC Nightly News, Today, and for MSNBC.

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The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, February 9

Jim Burroway

February 9th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Los Angeles Advocate, July 1968, pages 12-13.

The Park Theater opened in Los Angeles in 1911 as the Alvarado Theatre on its namesake street just off MacArthur Park. In the 1960s, it was renamed the Park Theatre when it switched to porn. In 1968, the theater switched to gay-themed movies (including porn as well as art house movies). That switch was announced in June when the theater announced “A Most Unusual Male Film Festival,” which is believed to be the first gay film festival in a regular public theater. The Park continued to show gay films until 1971, when it was renovated into a twin theater and returned to mainstream films. The theater closed in 1986. The building is still there, although its glory days are long gone.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
AIDS Employment Discrimination Declared Illegal in California: 1987. In the first such case in the nation, the California Fair Employment and Housing Commission unanimously ordered that the defense contractor Raytheon pay damages of about $6,000 to a Santa Barbara employee who was denied reinstatement to work following hospitalization due to an AIDS-related illness. John Chadbourne was given medical leave in December 19983 when he was hospitalized with pneumonia. He was diagnosed with AIDS one month later. He recovered from pneumonia and his doctor said he healthy enough to return to work, but his employer would not reinstate him without assurances that other employees would not be endangered. Instead, Raytheon kept him on medical leave, which meant that he retained his benefits (including medical insurance), but was living on significantly reduced income from his disability insurance. The Commission ruled that AIDS is a disability under the law and employers may not discriminate against people with AIDS who are able to work. With that ruling, Chadbourne was vindicated — or at least his estate was. Chadbourne died in January 1985, two years before the Commission’s ruling.

Raytheon went on to significantly improve its policies toward LGBT people and people with AIDS, becoming the first defense contractor to earn a 100% rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index in 2005.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY’S:
Amy Lowell: 1874-1925. Her pedigree was impeccable: her family were those Lowells, of Brookline, Massachusetts. Her brother, Lawrence, was president of Harvard; another brother, Percival, was a renowned mathematician and astronomer, founder of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, and who began the effort which led to the discovery of Pluto fourteen years after his death. Amy, born and reared at Seveneies, the ten-acre family estate, was the baby of the family. Befitting a daughter of a fine Episcopalian family of New England, she was first tutored at home, then attended the best private schools in Boston when she was not touring Europe with her family. At seventeen, her family decided that attending college was not a proper activity for a young woman, so she ensconced herself in the family’s 7,000-volume library at Seveneis and taught herself literature.

In 1902, on one of her many tours of Europe, she was inspired to take up poetry. In 1910, her work began appearing in Atlantic Monthly, and her first published collection, A Dome of Many-Coloured Glass, was published two years later. At about that time, she and actress Ada Dwyer Russell entered what was then known as a “Boston Marriage,” and they remained together for the rest of Lowell’s life. It is believed that Russell is the subject of Lowell’s love poems in  ‘Two Speak Together’, from Pictures of the Floating World.

During one of the couple’s European tours, they met the Imagist poet Ezra Pound. Lowell embraced the Imagist style, so named by the precise use of visual images to convey a clarity of expression. It was also marked by free verse, where, according to Lowell, “one must abandon all desire to find in it the even rhythm of metrical feet. One must allow the lines to flow as they will when read aloud by an intelligent reader.” Then an Anglo-American movement, Lowell’s contribution to the style was in what she called “polyphonic prose,” in which the very written structure of the poetry was broken down and rendered as prose, which was then sometimes intermixed with structured verse. Her embrace and promotion of Imagist Poetry was so intense that it actually had the effect of driving a wedge between Pound and the Imagists, who he began derisively calling “Amygists.” His criticism of Lowell became pointedly personal. Referring to her short stature, her glandular-induced weight problems (and, undoubtedly, put off by her habit of smoking cigars), Pound referred to her as the “hippo-poetess” among his friends and accused her of hijacking the movement.

While Lowell remained dedicated to modern poetry, she was also a fan of historical poets as well. In Fir-Flower Tablets, she produced prose-poetry re-workings of the literal translations of ancient Chinese poetry, and she wrote several critical works about French literature. When she died in 1925 of a brain hemorrhage at Seveneies, she left behind an uncompleted two-volume biography of John Keats, with whom she undoubtedly felt a kinship. “The stigma of oddness,” she wrote of him, “is the price a myopic world always exacts of genius.” Her own genius was recognized posthumously with a 1926 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for What’s O’Clock.

PatRocco

Pat Rocco: 1934. Pasquale Vincent Serrapica was born in Brooklyn and moved with his family to California in 1946, where he quickly got a twice weekly radio show on Pasadena’s KWKW while still a teen. He also completed his high school credits at home after refusing to deny his homosexuality in school. And so it might be surprising to learn that while in his twenties, he met with a local Youth for Christ director, who got him a singing gig for the religious group, a stint for which he even reacorded an album of devotional musice in 1954. By this time, Pasquale became Pat Rocco, and for the remainder of the 1050s he toured for musicals and appeared as a regular for the Tennessee Ernie Ford Show.

RoccoDuring this time, Rocco became interested in photography and film and in 1967, he answered an ad to shoot stills of nude male models. Seeing the potential of a significant money-making enterprise, he created his own business, Bizarre Production, and began creating and selling photos and erotic movies by mail order. The films got the attention of the Park Theater in Los Angeles, which was interested in creating a special lineup of films for a gay audience. Rocco’s Love is Blue premiered on a bill with several other avant-garde gay films on June 26, 1968 as part of A Most Unusual Male Film Festival, in what it is believed to be the first gay film festival in a public theater.

Rocco’s films stood out for not falling into the typical blue movie formulas. His films focused on the beauty of the male form and featured storylines with positive depictions of male intimacy. As Jim Kepner (see Feb 14) wrote in his profile of Rocco for GAY in 1970:

His fair young actors approach love as if no one had ever labeled male love sick , sinful or seamy. These lyrical fantasies evoke love in a way that makes most gay viewers proud of themselves and glad to be alive. … In competition with tired physique photographers too long in the trade, Rocco’s sometimes clumsy work seemed fresh, creative, excitingly beautiful. Though some early shorts used any trivial excuse to get the youths undressed, even Rocco’s weakest short subjects were made with surprising care. And the lyrical quality of Love is Blue, A Matter of Life, Yahoo, The Performance and the unforgettable Yes left most viewers moved as few other flesh-films had done.

While his films were explicitly nude, they skirted the edges of soft porn to such a degree that many complained that his movies didn’t go far enough. But others appreciated Rocco’s approach. Several of Roccos fans formed the Society of Pat Rocco Enlightened Enthusiasts, or SPREE, in 1968, which remained active for the next ten years publishing newsletters and mounting stage and film events.Meanwhile, Rocco’s films were a regular feature at the Park Theatre until 1971, when the Park decided to return to a more mainstream audience.

Rocco also performed an important service for the local gay community by creating short documentaries of gay rights protests and interviews of local figures. But as fictional gay films became more explicit during the 1970s, Rocco spurned the opportunity to go into hardcore porn. Instead, he turned his attention to photographing and documenting events in Southern California for gay publications. His first documentary, A Man and His Dream, chronicled the early years of Rev. Try Perry’s Metropolitcan Community Church. Rocco also became increasingly involved with gay rights advocacy. He campaigned for the resumption of the Christopher Street West Pride Parade, and he organized fundraising events for numerous organizaitons and gay rights causes. He developed a special interest in providing emergency housing in Los Angeles and established his own program, Hudson House, to provide housing, job training and meals for homeless LGBT youth. Hudson House soon spread to San Diego, San Francisco, and Hawaii. Rocco and his partner have retired to Hawaii, where they continue to be active in the local community.

Holly Johnson: 1960. When the Liverpool-based band Frankie Goes to Hollywood released its first single “Relax,” with Holly Johnson on vocals, in October 1983, it took a slow three months before it hit the top of the UK singles chart. It’s rise to number one was helped along, ironically, by BBC 1 disk jockey Mike Read, who happened to notice what he called the “overtly sexual” nature of record sleeve and the printed lyrics as the single was playing. He unceremoniously lifted the tonearm, live on air, and denounced it as “obscene.” The BBC followed that with an on-air ban on all of its radio and television outlets (with the narrow exception of its top-40 countdown show). Until then, “Relax” had been a middling top-40 dance hit, but within two weeks it hit number one and remained there for the next five. It became the seventh best selling single in UK single’s history, and the temporarily ubiquitous “Frankie Say” T-shirts became not just a musical statement but a political one as well. The Beeb finally relented and lifted its ban at the end if 1984, just as a re-worked version of “Relax” was enjoying a second bout of popularity with the release of the band’s album Welcome to the Pleasuredome.

Johnson left Frankie in 1987 over differences in the group’s musical direction. After a bitter contract dispute, Johnson was finally able to start a solo career in 1989. His first album, Blast, met with some critical and commercial success, but his 1991 album Dream That Money Can’t Buy tanked. That year, he learned he was HIV-positive and withdrew from public life. Later that decade, he re-emerged as an occasional singer and, mainly, as a painter, with shows at the Tate Liverpool and the Royal Academy.

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The Daily Agenda for Monday, February 8

Jim Burroway

February 8th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Northwest Gay Review (Portland, OR), special San Francisco travel section, page 27.

From the Northwest Gay Review (Portland, OR), special San Francisco travel section, page 27. (Personal collection.)

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Modesto Police Round Up Gay Men: 1957. The headline in the local paper read “Modesto Sex Gang Smashed.” That “gang” consisted of a group of local gay men, and the paper played it up for all it was worth while probably ruining a few lives in the process:

A police crackdown on an alleged homosexual ring known as the “Lavender Gang” was revealed today with the arrest of two Modestoans, including a former department store manager.

Police Chief James Neel announced 15 to 20 persons, including some bay area, Salinas and Merced residents, are believed to be members of the ring. He said more arrests were planned.

Charged with lewd and lascivious conduct is Elmer J. Kreuger, 55, who resigned from his managerial post Saturday after being employed by the chain store for 24 years.

Accused of sodomy as well as lewd and lascivious conduct is William Howard Moore, 26, office worker for a diary products distribution firm. … The chief reported Moore admitted he had associated with known homosexuals in Modesto and the bay area and had hosted all male parties.

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The Daily Agenda for Sunday, February 7

Jim Burroway

February 7th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Michael’s Thing, a biweekly New York City gay bar guide, April 29, 1974, page 22. (Personal collection.)

I haven’t been able to come up with much information about Dirty Edna’s except that it was a rather seedy bar owned by a husband and wife team, reputedly with mob connections (as was typical for a lot of gay bar owners in New York City at the time). Near as I can tell, the location now appears to be a parking lot a block off of Broadway.

Dr. Charles H. Hughes

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
Man Seeks Castration To Cure His Homosexuality: 1904. “How often is there delivered from the womb of some noble and grand woman — some little soul, scarred in such manner that stigmatizes its after life and brings a stain so deeply colored as to stamp it in the eyes of the world a ‘social outcast and criminal.'” So begins Dr. Charles H. Hughes’s article in the February 1904 edition of the journal Alienist and Neurologist. (An “alienist” is an archaic nineteenth century term for what today we would call a psychologist or psychiatrist.) Professional journals of the day had a very different editorial tone than they do today, with morality holding as much or greater sway over scientific evidence in the vast majority of the articles published, particularly where sexual matters were concerned. The scientific method, clearly, had yet to make may inroads into the mental health professions.

Hughes began his “homosexualist’s self-description” with those lines, which were actually penned by the “homosexualist” himself. This particular person, “a gentleman degenerate” of thirty-nine years of age, was an American of Irish ancestry whose father graduated “from one of the old world’s best colleges” before fighting on the losing side in the 1848 Irish rebellion, fleeing to the U.S., marrying, starting a family, and dying young of either “epilepsy or apoplexy.”

That the man’s father had epilepsy was considered significant; Hughes saw it as evidence of inherited degeneracy. Degeneration theory was widely believed to be a key explanation for what was happening in the world in the latter part of the nineteenth century, and into the first quarter of the twentieth. Degeneration theory can best be explained as a sort of a theory of evolution in reverse. Its origins actually predates Darwin’s theory of evolution. It was more fully developed by the French alienist Bénédict Augustin Morel in about 1857 and it entered the popular imagination thanks to the Hungarian physician and social critic Max Nordau’s best-selling 1892 book Degeneration. By them, degeneration had long been established as a medical term. Degeneration theory postulated that, thanks to the conveniences of modern society and its advances in medicine and hygiene, modern man was increasingly immune from the natural “culling of the herd.” And because modern man was no longer being culled by natural forces, the human race was experiencing a devolution — or “de-generation” — and becoming increasingly more primitive, which promoters termed a “reversion to an atavistic (ancient or ancestral) state.”

And so by 1904, it would only be natural for Hughes to make note of the letter writer’s father’s epilepsy, and to conclude that the son’s homosexuality was an expression of a congenital degeneracy inherited from his father.

With the father’s early demise, his mother was left to raise an unspecified number of children. One of those boys, the letter writer, wrote of himself in the third person to Dr. Hughes, and described himself as:

“a regular ‘girl boy’ as he was called, always afraid to tell a fib — never using bad language, never smoking nor chewing, thoroughly honest, shunning the girls and always having some boy friend he fancied for his good looks and endeavoring to show him some kindness in the way of making him presents — never cared for an ugly boy — in fact did not know why he particularly cared for any, always studious, receiving high honors at school for thoroughness in his studies and exemplary deportment. The child mind not understanding the features of certain matters recalls his desire to bunk with any gentleman who might be the guest of his father, and to them, no doubt revelations were made, but naturally ascribed to childish innocence. I felt myself growing stronger in this way. In other words showing a preference for such society and ignoring girls — yet being timid in the presence of both male and female — was frequently twitted about it.”

As the writer grew older, his attractions toward other men grew, along with the horror of knowing that he would never be able to fit in with society as a homosexual. He also lamented the loneliness that being gay brought him in a society with few social opportunities for people like him:

“Haunting the parks, seaside resorts and other localities, a lonely man afflicted, no hope of cure as intimated by physicians and neurologists, this being repeated to me in all localities, large cities and small towns. …

“Twenty-five years of this misery is a long time for such torture, yet the struggle goes on. If the wishes of this lonely man were realized, and he trusts it may not be long before he may find the surroundings illumined and he be enabled to step into the sunlight — a clean and wholesome man — or in the absence of such bliss — his mother’s arm be extended down from the region beyond into which he may be embraced and find that rest which may be emblemized as eternal.”

The image of his mother’s arms extending from “the region beyond” refers to the fact that she died fifteen years earlier, when the letter writer was twenty-four years old. In other words, it was an expression of the writer’s own yearning for death, as perhaps the only way out of his predicament. Hughes tried surgery:

In this case an operation was performed on the filaments of the pudic nerve supplying to testes, but the morbid inclination still persists, notwithstanding the operation and a course of chologogues, antiseptic intestinal treatment and full bromism.

Damaging the pudic nerve would have resulted in blocking the sensations of orgasm. In animals, it was known that this type of operation would have also resulted in a loss of erections. But as Hughes discovered, this operation did little to alter his patient’s sexual attractions. “The case appears to be in the head and not in the genitals,” Hughes concluded, and urged his patient to “do as other men have to do and do do, keep his passionate impulses in abeyance to the higher purposes of his nature and the nobler ambitions of life.” The patient wrote back:

“What you claim to be accomplished through efforts on my part is impossible — of course you will dispute this. Were our positions reversed for a month, you could understand. If the difficulty is with the head, all I have to say is that it has centered there with such vigor and tenacity that it would appear to me that the elimination of the trouble in one center has been doubly concentrated in another.”

By this point, the writer was getting desperate. His employer found out about his condition and fired him. “I will be upon the streets next week — to go where — the Lord only knows.” He against asked Hughes again whether he thought castration would help. “If so,” he wrote,” I will go into a charity hospital and have it done.” Several months later, in January of 1904, the patient wrote again, this time announcing that he decided to commit himself to a sanitarium, although he was still, in his desperation, weighing the option of a full castration:

“I am now convinced that from an experience in St. Louis during my last visit (an experience without consummation) that there is absolutely no avenue of escape from my trouble but to be placed under restraint, and if I can get back to St. Louis it is my intention to place myself in the hands of the authorities irrespective of the consequences, as I am certain to get into trouble, and I can not stand this thing any longer. I know just what Dr. —— and yourself would suggest, yet from the statement of other physicians — the trouble is of the head and there would be no certainty that the operation in question (castration) would be successful. You well know the debilitating experiences through which I passed after the first surgical work. I jumped on a train in St. Louis last night and followed a party clean through to South McAlester. I was expected back at the hospital that night. I spent all my money…

“I came very near getting in serious trouble on the trip. If I am compelled to pass through another surgical operation it will have to be at the city hospital. … I fell terribly over this, as I promised Dr. —— I would conduct myself with decorum. If the remedy he suggested is a sure cure, then I will have to accept it.”

[Source: Charles H. Hughes. “The gentleman degenerate: A homosexualist’s self-description and self-applied title. Pudic nerve section fails therapeutically.” Alienist and Neurologist 25, no. 1 (February 1904): 62-70. Available online via Google Books here.]

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The Daily Agenda for Saturday, February 6

Jim Burroway

February 6th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Michael's Thing (New York, NY), February 2, 1976, page 62.

From Michael’s Thing (New York, NY), February 2, 1976, page 62. (Personal collection.)

TODAY IN HISTORY:
30 YEARS AGO: Reagan Orders AIDS Report: 1986. Reagan’s first mention of AIDS was during a news conference five months earlier (see Sep 17). In a message sent to Congress two days after the State of the Union Address, President Ronald Reagan made his second public mention of AIDS:

We will continue, as a high priority, the fight against Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). An unprecedented research effort is underway to deal with this major epidemic public health threat. The number of AIDS cases is expected to increase. While there are hopes for drugs and vaccines against AIDS, none is immediately at hand. Consequently, efforts should focus on prevention, to inform and to lower risks of further transmission of the AIDS virus. To this end, I am asking the Surgeon General to prepare a report to the American people on AIDS.

That last sentence in this report to Congress came as a surprise to Surgeon General C. Everett Koop. As he wrote in Koop: The Memoirs of America’s Family Doctor, the White House had worked keep him out of the loop during the AIDS crisis. So when Reagan made the public announcement, Koop jumped at the task, working feverishly to complete the report and to thwart administration officials’ subsequent attempts to delay or shelve it. The Surgeon General’s Report, which sought to dispel many of the misconceptions about HIV and AIDS and called on schools and parents to have “frank, open discussions” with very young children and teens, was finally released later that year (see Oct 22).

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Ramón Novarro: 1899-1968. The Mexican leading man was hailed as the next male sex symbol after Rudolph Valentino died. His first major success was in the 1923 silent film Scaramouche, but his greatest fame came with 1925’s Ben-Hur. His transition to talkies was mildly successful — he was a talented singer, but he was often miscast. By 1935, MGM decided against renewing his contract. Besides, MGM feared trouble: Novarro had already rejected Louis B. Mayer’s demand that he enter into a “lavender marriage.” From then on, Novarro worked only sporadically in films and television. Fortunately for him, Navaro made some wise investments in real estate early in his career.

Paul and Tom Ferguson during their trial.

Tom, 17 (left) and Paul Ferguson, 21 (right) during their trial.

He was murdered in 1968 by two brothers, Paul and Tom Ferguson, who Navaro had solicited for sex, but who beat him mercilessly for several hours in an attempt to get him to reveal where he kept his money. They scrawled the message, “Us girls are better than those fagits” on a bathroom mirror, then left with $20, leaving Novarro to choke to death on his own blood. The brothers were convicted of murder in a trial in which Novarro was more on trial than the defendants. “Back in the days of Valentino,” a defense attorney told the jury, “this man who set female hearts aflutter, was nothing but a queer. There’s no way of calculating how many felonies this man committed over the years, for all his piety.” They also played the gay panic defense. Neither tactic seemed to work with the juries. The brothers were sentenced to life in prison for their crimes. They apparently found more sympathetic listeners with the parole board though, and they were released in the mid-1970s after serving less than a decade. Tom was later convicted of rape in 1987, paroled in 1990, and committed suicide in a Motel 6 in Palm Springs in 2005. Paul, at last report, was serving a thirty year sentence for rape in Missouri.

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The Daily Agenda for Friday, February 5

Jim Burroway

February 5th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, March 5, 1981, pages 16, 17 of the classifieds section. (Personal collection.)

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

From The Body Politic (Toronto, ON), Winter 1974, page 16. (Source.)

TODAY IN HISTORY:
35 YEARS AGO: Toronto Police Conduct Massive Bathhouse Raids: 1981. Operation Soap was a meticulously planned police action, six months in the making. It’s genesis is believed to have been the result of a successful anti-gay political campaign that drove a pro-gay administration from City Hall. At precisely 11:00 p.m. More than 160 police, using an unusual interpretation of an anti-prostitution law banning “bawdyhouses,” conducted a massive, simultaneous raid on four bathhouses: the Club Baths, Romans II Health and Recreation Spa, the Barracks, and the Richmond Street Health Emporium. Peter Bochove, co-owner of the Richmond Street Health Emporium remembered:

They leapt the counter and grabbed the cashier and bust the door open. And the first fifty arrived in the first wave. They spread out and very quickly began running around and rounding people up. … The other fifty officers arrived fairly quickly, I guess they must have had them standing by. And then they went out to their police cars and came in with their tools. They came in carting incredible numbers of crowbars and sledgehammers. At that point they were offered the keys to the lockers and the room. They held up a crowbar to me and said, “We brought out own.”

(Photo: The Body Politic. Source.)

Armed with crowbars and sledgehammers, police herded patrons into the lobbies, with many of them dressed only in towels, and marked numbers on their arms. At one bathhouse, towel-clad patrons were lined up in the snow on the street for questioning. One patron at the Barracks had a different experience:

I was in a room with someone and I heard a noise. I got up to open the door but it burst open and a guy in plain clothes pushed in and shoved me up against the wall, my face pushed hard into the wall. My nose was lacerated and bloodied. The cop kept punching me in the lower back and pulling my hair and saying “You ‘re disgusting, faggot. Look at this dirty place.”

I was choked, and something was jabbed into my neck. Before they took us out of the room, they used a pen to gouge the room number into the backs of our hands.

I was naked. They herded me into the shower room with about 8 other men and we had to stand against the wall with both hands up against the wall. I couldn’t see anything but I could hear a guy choking, and then a cop said, “If you’re having trouble breathing we can give you trouble with your spleen or kidneys.”

I could hear them moving around, kicking things, overturning things. Someone said “Too bad the place doesn’t catch fire, we ‘d have to catch them escaping custody.” Somebody else said, ‘Too bad the showers aren’t hooked up to gas.”

The Richmond Street Health Emporium was so badly damaged by police that it never reopened. Many of those arrested were pressured to reveal the names of their wives and employers. All told, 286 men were charged as “found-ins” and twenty owners were charged with “keeping a common bawdyhouse.”

The mass arrest was Canada’s largest in more than a decade. The following night, 3,000 protesters staged a mass demonstration that the intersection of Yonge and Wellesly, at the heart of the gayborhood, that descended into a riot, with fires and smashed car windows. When police responded, many of them removed their badges so they couldn’t be identified. The crowd made its way to the Division 52 stationhouse, where they were met with 195 officers surrounding the building. The crowd then moved on to Queen’s Park and the Ontario Legislature, where a phalanx of police dove into the crowd and attacked protesters. The entire confrontation quickly drew comparisons to New York’s Stonewall rebellion twelve years earlier.

The following week, gay community attended a police commission meeting and demanded an independent investigation into the raid, while protesters gathered outside the station. According to the Body Politic, Toronto’s gay newspaper:

Protesters gather outside while community leaders meet with police commissioners.

Protesters gather outside while community leaders meet with police commissioners. (Photo: The Body Politic. Source.)

During many of the presentations, Commissioner Winfield McKay smirked, or conspicuously yawned. Other commissioners talked among themselves, or stared impassively as (MCC pastor) Brent Hawkes referred them to a Toronto Star story that day revealing that the police operating budget for 1981 is requesting a total of $7.5 million for the intelligence and morality bureaus together, while asking for a scant $1 million for homicide investigation. … The meeting finally dissolved in hoots and jeers as (Police Commission Chairman Paul) Givens told the crowd, “We deny any allegations of police harassment,” and said there was no need for an inquiry and there would be no inquiry.

A Globe and Mail editorial called the police raid “ugly” and said it was “more like the bully-boy tactics of a Latin American republic … than of anything that has a place in Canada.” Hawkes went on a hunger strike demanding that police be held accountable. Two Toronto aldermen called for an investigation by the Ontario Attorney General, who adamantly refused the request. But McKay held firm, telling a local television station that the gay community “squealed like a collection of stuck pigs,” and that the cost of am inquiry couldn’t be justified.

February 20 demonstration (Photo: Body Politic.)

February 20 demonstration (Photo: The Body Politic. Source.)

Meanwhile, the gay community organized like never before, with 1,400 people joining the Right to Privacy Committee to set up a defense fund for those charged. They also organized a second demonstration on February 20, where 4,000 protesters marched in a peaceful demonstration from Queen’s Park to the 52 Division headquarters. Thirty-five undercover police tried to disrupt that march by trying to provoke fights in the crowd. Several of them were seen helping to carry the front banner. Their actions were later revealed by the Body Politic and the Toronto Clarion, both of which published photos of the undercover officers. Two weeks later on March 6, a “Gay Freedom Rally” was held, which became, in effect, Toronto’s first Gay Pride event.

Court cases stemming from the raid dragged on throughout the next two years. By 1983, 87% of the “found-ins” were acquitted. Thirty-six were found guilty but received absolute or conditional charges. Many owners however were found guilty and fined. Smaller scale raids continued over the next several years. But the raids, which were meant to silence an emerging gay community, had the opposite effect of galvanizing the gay community to organize and become politically involved in the city’s political life and, ultimately, in national politics.

[Sources: “Taking It To The Streets.” The Body Politic (March 1981): 9-12, 16. All issues of The Body Politic are available at Archive.org.

“Who Is Next? Me?” The Body Politic (April 1981): 9-11.

“Brent Hawkes: Hungry for Rights.” The Body Politic (April 1981): 11.

“Uncovering the Enemy Within.” The Body Politic (April 1981): 12.

“Exposing the Big Lie: The Camera vs the Cops As the Plainclothes Caper Unfolds.” The Body Politic (May 1981): 10-11.]

35 YEARS AGO: Rep. Jon Hinson Arrested on Sodomy Charge: 1981. The closet can be a crazy place. When Rep. Jon Hinson (R-MS) was running for re-election to a second term in 1980, he admitted that in 1976, while he was working as a Congressional aide, he had been arrested for exposing himself to an undercover policeman at the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. At that same news conference, Hinson also revealed that he was one of the survivors of a 1977 fire that broke out at Cinema Follies, a gay theater in Washington’s seedy Southeast (see Oct 24). That fire killed nine people. “I must be totally frank and tell you that both of these incidents were in areas frequented by some of Washington’s homosexual community,” he told reporters. But he vowed to stay with his wife and denied that he was gay, blaming those incidents on heavy drinking, which he said that he had now gotten under control. Mississippi’s Republican party rallied around the Congressman and he was elected to a second term.

But just barely a month into that second term, Hinson was in trouble again. Hinson was arrested, along with another man, for having sex in a public men’s room in the Longworth House Office building. Hinson and the other man were arrested on charges of sodomy, a felony which carried a maximum penalty of ten years in prison. The charge was reduced to attempted sodomy, a misdemeanor — then a standard practice in D.C. — to which Hinson entered a plea of not guilty and promptly checked himself into a hospital for “mental and physical fatigue.” He finally yielded to calls for his resignation in April and later changed his plea to no contest, for which he was given a 30-day suspended sentence and one year’s probation.

Soon after, Hinson finally came out as gay. He helped organize Virginians for Justice — by then he decided to remain in Fairfax, Virginia rather than return to Mississippi — and became something of a local gay rights activist as a founding member of the Fairfax Lesbian and Gay Citizens Association. Hinson died in 1995 from complications of AIDS.

Boulevard Albert 1er, Leopoldville, 1950s.

Boulevard Albert 1er, Leopoldville, 1950s.

AIDS Traced to 1959: 1998. The journal Nature published a short report by a team led by Tuofu Zhu of Rockefeller University. That team examined the genome of an HIV-positive blood sample taken in 1959 from an unidentified man in Leopoldville in the Belgian Congo (today’s Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire). By looking at how the virus has mutated over the past 40 years, and by projecting the mutation of that particular virus (dubbed ZR59) back further, they were able to estimate when the various HIV virus groups evolved from a common ancestor. Zhu and colleagues concluded:

Our results … indicate that the major-group viruses that dominate the global AIDS pandemic at present shared a common ancestor in the 1940s or the early 1950s. Given their ‘starburst’ phylogeny, HIV-1 was probably introduced into humans shortly before that time frame, about a decade or two earlier than previously estimated. …The factors that propelled the initial spread of HIV-1 in central Africa remain unknown: the role of large-scale vaccination campaigns, perhaps with multiple uses of non-sterilized needles, should be carefully examined, although social changes such as easier access to transportation, increasing population density and more frequent sexual contacts may have been more important.

Leopoldville,1952

Leopoldville, 1952.

That single serendipidous 1959 blood sample from a man whose name and fate is lost to history provided an important part of our understanding of where the virus came from. Simon Wain-Hobson wrote a commentary in the same issue of Nature explaining its implications:

What else is the position of ZR59 among HIVs telling us? First, it probably means that the global epidemic was indeed founded by a single HIV although, in this respect, it is no different from the annual ’flu strain.’ Second, the centre of the radiation and ZR59 are a considerable stretch from any simian counterpart, suggesting that HIV had a human history before it went global. Third, the Big Bang seems to have occurred around, or just after, the Second World War. Emerging microbial infections often result from adaptation to changing ecological niches and habits. And, of course, the post-war era saw the collapse of European colonialism and attendant changes in urban and technological traits. As usual, when data are limited we’re in the realm of speculation, meaning that the story is not over. …

In 1959, the Nobel prize for physiology or medicine was awarded to Severo Ochoa and Arthur Kornberg for their work on nucleicacid polymerases, while the world rocked around to Elvis and Chuck Berry. There was fog in the English Channel.

And in 1959, a blood sample was drawn from an unknown HIV-positive man in the Belgian Congo. What he must have gone through afterwards…

[Sources: Zhu, Tuofu; Korber, Bette E.; Mahmias, Andre J.; Hooper, Edward; Sharp, Paul M.; Ho, David D. ” An African HIV-1 sequence from 1959 and implications for the origin of the epidemic.” Nature 391, no. 6667 (February 5, 1998): 594-597.

Wain-Hobson, Simon. “Immunodeficiency viruses, 1959 and all that.” Nature 391, no. 6667 (February 5, 1998): 531-532.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
William S. Burroughs: 1914-1997. A canonical figure of the Beat Generation, the novelist, poet, and spoken word performer’s best-known work is his third novel, Naked Lunch. Published in 1959, it was immediately controversial for its obscene language, unabashed portrayal of Burroughs’s heroin addiction and frank descriptions of sex, including his own homosexuality. Naked Lunch was banned in Los Angeles and Boston, where it became last the work of literature to be prosecuted for being obscene in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court lifted the ban in 1966, following a series of trials that included testimony by Allen Ginsberg and Norman Mailer in support of Burroughs.

If there was a secret to Burroughs’s art, it was this: He simply put his chaotic life to paper. A longtime heroin addict, he and his wife fled to Mexico in 1950 after Louisiana police discovered letters between himself and Allen Ginsberg discussing a drug delivery. While there, he shot and killed his wife while playing “William Tell” at a party. He was eventually able to avoid imprisonment after witnesses testified that the gun went off accidentally. For the several decades, he was in and out of drug rehab and financially destitute much of the time before finally kicking the habit, temporarily, in the mid-1970s. It was at about that time when friends hit on the idea of booking him to read from his works in bookstores and other small performance spaces. His career as a performance artist was launched, which also revived his literary career. He went on to collaborate with Laurie Anderson, Throbbing Gristle, Kurt Cobain, Ministry, and Sonic Youth. He also appeared in Gus Van Sant’s 1989 film Drugstore Cowboy. He died in 1997 following a heart attack.

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