The Daily Agenda for Friday, September 28

Jim Burroway

September 28th, 2012

Here is this week’s rundown of what’s happening with the four marriage ballot campaigns:

Maryland Question 6: If passed, Question 6 will provide marriage equality while guaranteeing that “each religious faith has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine regarding who may marry within that faith.” Marylanders for Marriage Equality is fighting for Question 6’s passage. Last Friday, Rev. Delman Coates of Clinton, Md., hosted a news conference at the National Press Club featuring nearling a dozen prominent African-American clergy, including Rev. Al Sharpton, to endorse Question 6. As Rev. Sharpton put it, “It’s not about forcing people that have religious views to do something they don’t agree with, it’s about truly believing that we are all equal under the law. Religious groups must still be able to maintain their spiritual and moral option to either give or withhold a religious or sacred blessing to such unions.” Gov. Martin O’Malley lent his hand in the fundraising effort to pass Question 6, saying, “We do need to raise another couple of million dollars, and if we’re able to do that I believe that we will pass this. And raising those dollars is critically important for our ability to be able to defend this at the ballot.” Toward that end, Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who came out as a strong supporter for Question 6, will host a Monday Night Football party, with Marylanders for Marriage Equality holding a raffle for a chance to attend.

What you can do: You can enter a raffle for a chance to attend Ayanbadejo’s Monday Night Football party, sign up for a volunteer vacation in Maryland, commit to volunteering during their Weekends of Action, or donate here.

Maine Marriage Initiative: A “Yes” vote on Question 1 will allow same-sex couples to marry in Maine. Mainers United for Marriage is the main campaign behind the initiative. This week, they released an ad featuring four firefighters, one of whom is gay, talking about why they’re all voting “Yes” on Question 1.  The Christian Civil League is already trotting out the ususal junk science: “When a girl doesn’t have a father to fill that role she’s more likely to become promiscuous in a misguided attempt to satisfy her inborn hunger for male attention and validation.” And in a conference call to Question 1 opponents, Frank Schubert, an out-of-state consultant who led California’s campaign to pass Proposition 8, slipped up and called himself the “manager” of the campaign in Maine.

What you can do: Ever wanted to see New England’s famed fall colors? You can do that when you sign up for a volunteer vacation or donate miles so someone else can travel. You can also buy stuff from their online store, or you can donate here.

Minnesota Marriage Amendment: The ballot proposal to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage is known simply as “the marriage amendment.” Minnesotans United for All Families is the main group fighting against the amendment’s passage in November. This past week, they’ve released their second television ad after the first one began airing last Thursday. Minnesota Congressman Tim Walz and co-chairs Jeff and Lori Wilfahrt, whose son was a gay soldier who died in Afghanistan in 2011, launched Veterans United at the State Capitol. The new coalition, which will mobilize veterans who oppose limiting the freedom to marry in the state constitution, began its statewide tour this week. Meanwhile, Catholic bishops in Minnesota sent letters to 400,000 Catholic households asking for them to donate money to Minnesota for Marriage, the group fighting to write discrimination into the state’s constitution. Chuck Darrell, who serves as Minnesota for Marriage’s Communications Director, said that the only way for the proposed amendment to fail would be if amendment opponents “find a whole lot of atheists.”

What you can do: Login with your Facebook account and starting using the new kNOw Tool to help identify “no” voters that you know, you can sign up to volunteer, sign up to run the Big Gay Race on Saturday, or simply donate here.

Washington Referendum 74: If Referendum 74 is approved, same-sex couples will be able to marry just like everone else in Washington state. Washington United for Marriage has put up a new its television ad this past week, and just yesterday they held a press conference featuring several faith leaders announcing their support for R74. All told, R74 has the support of more than 120 faith groups across Washington. Meanwhile, NOM has officially donated $250,000 to Preserve Marriage Washington, whose campaign chair, Joseph Backholm, recently went on record with more questionable claims about Washington’s bipartisan marriage law during a debate on broadcast television in Seattle. The Approve 74 campaign wasted no time unleashing a little on his assertions.

What you can do: You create your own “Raising Millions for Marriage” page to encourage your family, freinds and neighbors to help support the fight for marriage equality, sign up for one of 50 weekly phone banks across Washington, or you can donate here.

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Cumbria, UKGainesville, FL; Hong Kong, ChinaMoab, UT; Richmond, VA; Sedona/Cottonwood, AZSoweto, South Africa.

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Ann Arbor, MI; Chicago, ILIndianapolis, IN; Jackson, MI; San Deigo, CAWilmington/Rehoboth, DE.

Other Events This Weekend: Get Wet, Willemstad, Curaçao; Everybody’s Perfect LGBTIQ Film Festival, Geneva Switzerland; Queer Lisboa Film Festival, Lisbon, Portugal; Queer Fest 2012, St. Petersburg, Russia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Washington 25, D.C.

Sep 28 1962

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

Dear Mr. Schuyler:

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

Sincerely yours,

John W. Macy, Jr.

Lifting the ban would remain one of the highest priorities of the Mattachine Society for the next thirteen years. Campaigning for the ban’s elimination would lead to the first ever gay rights pickets in front of the White House, the Pentagon and the Civil Service Commission in 1965, and would finally end with the ban’s lifting in 1975 (see July 3). In 2009, Frank Kameny received a formal apology from the openly gay director of the Office of Personnel Management, the modern-day successor to the Civil Service Commission.

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?

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