The Daily Agenda for Thursday, October 11
October 11th, 2012
National Coming Out Day: Everywhere. The second March on Washington, which drew some half a million LGBT people and their supporters to the nation’s capital (see below), was the inspiration for the founding of a number of LGBT advocacy groups around the country. Among them was a group of 100 LGBT advocates who, four months later, gathered in the D.C. suburb of Manassas, Virginia, to figure out how to ensure that the energy from that March didn’t just dissipate into thin air. Dr. Robert Eichberg, an author and psychologist from New Mexico, and Los Angeles LGBT advocate Jean O’Leary, hit on the idea of a national day to celebrate those who came out and to encourage others to begin to take their first steps toward visibility. As Dr. Eichberg later explained:
Most people think they don’t know anyone gay or lesbian, and in fact everybody does. It is imperative that we come out and let people know who we are and disabuse them of their fears and stereotypes.”
The first National Coming Out Day was on October 11, 1988, the first anniversary if the second March on Washington, and it quickly expanded to all fifty states. Today is the twenty-fourth annual National Coming Out day. Is there anyone you still need to come out to?
Legacy Walk Dedication: Chicago, IL. In 1988, a community project began erecting seventeen rainbow-colored Art Deco pylons along North Halstead Street in the heart of Chicago’s Boystown. Today, those iconic pylons will become the site of what the Legacy Project calls the “the world’s only outdoor museum walk celebrating the diverse accomplishments of the GLBT community.” Cast bronze plaques have been affixed to eighteen of those pylons, with each plaque consisting of a laser-case image of an honoree along with a brief description of that individual’s contributions.
Honorees include such diverse figures as Alvin Ailey, Jr., James Baldwin, Barbara Gittings, Christine Jorgensen, Leonard Matlovich, Harvey Milk, Bayard Rustin, Alan Turing, and Oscar Wilde. In 2013, sixteen more plaques will be added, leaving each pylon with two commemorative markers. After that, additional plaques will be added and rotated into a new Visitor’s Center the organization plans to open. You can learn more about the Legacy Walk at the Legacy Project’s somewhat Geocities-esque website.
Other Events This Weekend: Iris Prize Film Festival Cardiff, UK; Gay Day at Disneyland, Hong Kong, China; Chéries-Chéris Film Festival, Paris, France; Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Seattle, WA.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
AIDS Quilt Debuts During Second March on Washington: 1987. Somewhere around half a million LGBT people descended onto the Mall in Washington for the largest gay rights demonstration in history to demand an end to discrimination and more federal money for AIDS research and treatment. About a hundred members of Congress and other prominent civic, labor and religious leaders signed letters endorsing the March, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who had declared himself a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, spoke and promised to support the goals of the march. Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Gerry Studds (D-MA), both openly gay members of Congress, also spoke. The march also marked the debut of the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, which was shown publicly for the first time. The quilt occupied the equivalent of two city blocks, and included 1,920 panels commemorating more than 2,000 persons who have died of AIDS. But despite the enormity of the gatherings, the three national news magazines — Newsweek, Time and U.S. News & World Report — neglected to mention any of it, which longtime advocate Barbara Gittings described as “an appalling example of media blindness.”
ACT-Up Occupies the FDA: 1988. The gay community was feeling the pressure of a ticking time bomb, with someone in the U.S. dying of AIDS every two hours. AZT had been approved by the U .S. Food and Drug Administration in 1987, but it was prohibitively expensive and required taking a pill every four hours around the clock. European health officials had been approving new treatments for AIDS, but the FDA continued to cling to its multi-year approval process. And as the FDA dithered, more names were being added to the AIDS quilt. By 1988, frustration and anger had built to a boiling point, and more than a 1,200 demonstrators, led by ACT-Up activists, invaded the FDA’s grounds in Rockville, Maryland, for a nine-hour protest demanding quicker action on drug approvals. About 175 demonstrators were arrested
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, later recalled that the protest had left a deep impression. He later told PBS’s Frontline:
“After a little while, I began to get beyond the rhetoric and theater of the demonstrations and the smoke bombs, to really listen to what it is that they were saying, and it became clear to me, quite quickly, that most of what they said made absolute sense, was very logical and needed to be paid attention to. … Interacting with the constituencies was probably one of the most important things that I had done in my professional career.”
Eight days later, the FDA announced new regulations to cut the time it took to approve new drugs for treating HIV/AIDS.
Jerome Robbins: 1918. Born Wilson Rabinowitz, the Broadway producer, director and choreographer’s career in show business began soon after dropping out of New York University, where he had been studying chemistry, in order to pursue dance. Just a couple of years later, he was already dancing the the chorus of several Broadway shows, including George Balanchine’s Keep Off the Grass. In 1940, he left the theater in favor of ballet, but soon returned to choreograph 1944’s On the Town (with music by Leonard Bernstein, just one of several collaborative efforts between the two men). In 1947, he won his first Tony Award for Choreography for the Keystone Kops comedy/ballet High Button Shoes.
Through most of the next decade, Robbins continued to choreograph several hit shows, alternating between Broadway and ballet as choreographer for the American Ballet Company and the New York City Ballet. But his career was threatened in 1950 when he was scheduled to appear on Ed Sullivan’s show. The show’s sponsor, Ford Motor Company, forced him to cancel because he had been a member of the Communist Party between 1943 and 1947, joining, like many other Americans, when the U.S. was an ally of the Soviet Union during World War II. He tried to go to the FBI to clear his name, but when Sullivan publicly urged the House Committee on Un-American Activities to subpoena Robins, he fled to Paris for a year.
He returned to the U.S in 1951 to choreograph The Pied Piper, The King and I, and several other classical ballet pieces. But in 1952, the House Un-American Activities committee caught up with him and subpoenaed him to appear. While everyone knew about one of those skeletons in his closet — his Communist Party membership — he also feared that the other skeleton — his homosexuality — would come tumbling out. He not only personified the twinned Red and Lavender Scares of the McCarthy era, but he also harbored a great deal of internalized shame over his Jewish immigrant roots, which he felt made him insufficiently American in other people’s eyes. Years later, he wrote:
”It was my homosexuality I was afraid would be exposed I thought. It was my once having been a Communist that I was afraid would be exposed. None of these. I was & have been — & still have terrible pangs of terror when I feel that my career, work, veneer of accomplishments would be taken away (by HUAC, or by critics) that I panicked & crumbled & returned to that primitive state of terror — the facade of Jerry Robbins would be cracked open, and behind everyone would finally see Jerome Wilson Rabinowitz
Robbins named the person who recruited him into the Communist Party, and named several other actors, playwrights and critics who were party members. Rep. Gordon Scherer (R-OH) congratulated him, saying he “‘was going to see The King and I that very night and would now appreciate it all the more.” Robbins’s career was preserved: he choreographed and/or directed Peter Pan, Bells are Ringing, West Side Story, Gypsy, Funny Girl, and Fiddler on the Roof, and over the course of his career, he won two Academy Awards, four Tony Awards, five Donaldson Awards, two Emmys, the Screen Directors’ Guild Award, and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. But none of those accomplishments could expiate his guilt over his HUAC testimony. In the mid-1970s, when he spent three weeks at a mental hospital for depression, he described himself as “a Jewish ex-commie fag who had to go into a mental hospital.” He died following a stroke in New York on July 29, 1998.
Matt Bomer: 1977. “When I was in high school, there was no safe haven, there was no outlet for you to speak your mind. So I did what any self-preserving 14-year-old would do — I signed up for the school play and also the football team to cover my tracks.” That’s how White Collar star Matt Bomer recently described his high school years in Klein, Texas, outside of Houston. After graduating from Carnegie Mellon University in 2001 with a degree in Fine Arts, Bomer moved to New York City where he landed a small role on All My Children, followed by a three year stint on Guiding Light. Since 2009, he has played the lead role of Neal Caffrey on USA Network’s White Collar.
In 2011, Bomer joined John Lithgow, Morgan Freeman, and many other prominent actors for an all-star world premiere of Dustin Lance Black’s new play “8”, and this past summer, Bommer got to shake his money-maker for the Steven Soderbergh film Magic Mike with Matthew McConaughey and Channing Tatum. He had long been the subject of rumors about his personal life, and his approach to the subject was to neither confirm nor deny. But in February 2012, Bomer finally decided to uncover his tracks when he thanked his partner and their three children during an acceptance speech for a Steve Chase Humanitarian Award.
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?