The Daily Agenda for Friday, July 27
July 27th, 2012
TODAY’S AGENDA (Ours):
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Bourneymouth, UK; Braunschweig, Germany; Detroit, MI (Black Pride); Ft. Wayne, IN; Halifax, NS; Harrisburg, PA; Norwich, UK; Nottingham, UK; Plymouth, UK; Pittsburgh, PA (Black Pride); Raleigh-Durham, NC (Black Pride); Reno, NV; and Stuttgard, Germany.
Other Events This Weekend: RodeoFest, Belleville, MI; POUTfest Film Festival, Cork, Ireland; HomoClimbtastic Rock Climbing Convention, Fayeteville, WV; Newfest LGBT Film Festival, New York, NY; and Up Your Alley, San Francisco, CA.
TODAY IN HISTORY”
“The Well of Loneliness” Published: 1927. The book was so controversial that three publishers turned it down. When it was finally published in England, it appeared in a plain, discreet black cover. It wasn’t particularly racy; the only sexual description consisted of the phrase, “and that night, they were not divided.” By today’s standards, the book may seem tame. But in 1927 Radclyffe Hall’s novel caused a sensation in Britain. The publisher sent review copies only to a few select newspapers and magazines who he thought could handle the lesbian-themed content. But he misjudged one of those editors. James Douglas, editor of the Sunday Express responded by mounting a massive campaign against the novel. He wrote “I would rather give a healthy boy or a healthy girl a phial of prussic acid than this novel.”
Despite most of the British press’s defending the novel, the publisher soon landed in court on obscenity charges. Several authors came to his defense — E.M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, and James Melville among them — but the judge declared the novel obscene. It wasn’t the story line he found objectionable; it was the novel’s plea for tolerance and acceptance that would “deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences.” The ban and the massive newspaper campaign against the book, of course, only served to increase the public’s curiosity and demand for the book. Wherever there’s a demand, there’s a supply, and in the case of The Well, that supply was met by a publisher in France who shipped copies surreptitiously to newsstands throughout Britain. That had the effect of lowering British officials’ enthusiasm for banning other lesbian-themed novels that followed. A Home Office memo observed, “It is notorious that the prosecution of the Well Of Loneliness resulted in infinitely greater publicity about lesbianism than if there had been no prosecution.” It wouldn’t be until 1949 when The Well could be published in Britain again, not because any laws had changed, but because the Home Office simply decided to look the other way. It has remained in continuous publication since then.
Surprisingly, the book’s appearance in the U.S. generated a different reaction. Sure, there were attempts to ban it in the U.S. Customs Court and in New York City, where police seized 865 copies from its American publisher’s offices, but both attempts came to naught. The ensuing publicity from the trials raised demand for the book. Despite it’s high price of $5 (about twice the cost of an average hardback novel), The Well would go through six printings and sell over 100,00 copies by the time it was cleared by the courts. As in Britain, The Well of Loneliness has been in continuous publication since its 1928 American debut, and served as an inspiration and comfort for countless women in the ensuing decades.
Troy Perry: 1940. By the time he was fifteen years old, he was already a Baptist preacher and a self-described “religious fanatic.” He married in 1959 and fathered two sons, but he was not faithful to his wife. He had a few gay dalliances on the side. When the elders at the church he was pastoring found out, they forced him to resign and he moved his family to Southern California and began preaching for the Church of God of Prophecy. While there, his wife found a copy of Donald Webster Cory’s groundbreaking The Homosexual In America hidden in a mattress. That led to an immediate divorce and an end to his preaching career. After a stint in the army beginning in 1965, Perry felt called to offer a place for gay people to worship freely. He placed an ad in The Advocate announcing a worship service designed for gays in Los Angeles. and twelve people turned up on that first Sunday in October 1968. That would be the genesis for the Metropolitan Community Church, the only Christian denomination founded specifically to address the spiritual needs of LGBT people. MCC now has 250 congregations in 23 countries around the world.
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?