Frank Kameny’s Papers Available To The Public

Jim Burroway

September 19th, 2008

It’s been about two years since Frank Kameny, longtime Washington, D.C. LGBT activist, donated his papers to the Library of Congress. Now that those papers have been cataloged, they are available to the public:

Charles Francis, organizer of the Kameny Papers Project, said the 50,000 items were “organized to perfection” by library staff and would be an invaluable resource to people reviewing the earliest days of the gay civil rights movement.

“The Kameny Papers, documenting the evolution of the gay rights movement in the United States, are now available to study for many years to come,” he said.

Frank played a pivotal role in the gay rights movement since the 1960’s. He became involved when he was fired from his civilian job with the U.S. Army’s map service in 1957. Federal civil service rules at the time prohibited gays from federal employment, and security clearances were routinely denied to anyone who was found to be gay. He became the first to appeal a firing on the basis of homosexuality.

He lost those appeals, but went on to found the Washington, D.C. Mattachine Society. He also played a key role in getting the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973.

In 1968 Frank coined the phrase “Gay is Good,” inspired by the popular “Black is Beautiful” slogan. “Gay is Good” may appear rather simple today, but it was a particularly significant slogan for 1968 when homosexuality was still considered both a mental illness and a criminal act. Last year when some of Frank’s memorabilia was featured in a temporary display at the Smithsonian, he shared with me what the slogan meant to him:

I’ve said, for a long time, that if I’m remembered for only one thing, I would like it to be for having coined “Gay is Good.” But never did I expect that that would make its way to the Smithsonian. I feel deeply contented.

According to the Washington Blade, highlights of the Kameny Papers include papers related to the American Psychiatric Association’s 1973 decision and the landmark 1974 federal decision to grant an openly gay man a Pentagon security clearance.

And by the way, in case you were wondering, Frank Kameny is still very much alive.

Michael

September 19th, 2008

What a wonderful legacy he has given us. As an Indiana high school kid in the early 60s I remember seeing a photo? a newsreel? a TV news item? of homosexuals who had demonstrated in Washington. They had suits on and signs. I learned somehow that it was Frank Kameny. It left a lasting impression on me and helped fuel my own activism. A true gay rights hero.

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