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The Daily Agenda for Thursday, May 2

Jim Burroway

May 2nd, 2013

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Marriage Equality Bills To Be Signed Into Law: Providence, RI. So this is where we are so far: in January, the Rhode Island House passed a marriage equality bill in a 51-19 vote. Then last week, the Rhode Island Senate passed a similar but not identical marriage equality bill in a 26-12 vote — a vote which, in a historic first, saw all five Republicans in the chamber voting to support same-sex marriage. But because that bill wasn’t identical to the House bill, it went back to the House for its final approval. On Tuesday,  House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the Senate version and sent it on to the House floor for its final approval. That is expected to take place today, and Gov. Lincoln Chaffee has announced that he will sign it at 5:45 p.m. in a ceremony at the State House. And with that, Rhode Island will become the tenth state, in addition to the District of Columbia, to provide marriage equality when the law goes into effect on August 1.

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Maspalomas, Gran Canaria; Mobile, ALNorrköping, Sweden; Northhampton, MARaleigh, NC.

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Anaheim, CAAtlantic City / Asbury Park / Morristown / Newark / Ridgewood, NJ; Charlotte, NCFt. Wayne, IN.

Other Events This Weekend: Hot Rodeo, Banning, CA; Boston LGBT Film Festival, Boston, MA; Frieberg Gay Film Festival, Frieberg, Germany; Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Miami, FL;  Urban Bear Weekend, New York, NY; Sitges International Bear Meeting, Sitges, Spain; Tybee Gay Days, Tybee Island, GA.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Disloyalty vs. Security Risk: 1950. So if you’ve been following along on the Daily Agendas (for example, Feb 28, Mar 14Mar 23, Apr 18Apr 26) you would have a pretty good feel for the incredible anti-gay hysteria that was sweeping the country in 1950. The twin scares — the Lavender Scare and the Red Scare — cemented in everyone’s mind the argument that gay people in federal employment, particularly in the State Department and in the armed forces, represented a security risk which, in the words of the GOP chairman, were “as dangerous as the actual Communists” (see Apr 18). On May 2, columnist James Marlow took the opportunity to provide a couple of hypothetical situations to explain to readers the difference between being disloyal and being a security risk:

1. Jones, completely loyal, is a good worker, sober on the job. But at night, sometimes or often, he gets drunk and talks too much. In the non-sensitive agriculture department that might not make much difference, as long as Jones did his work and kept out of trouble when drunk. In the commerce department, if Jones held a sensitive job, he might be considered a security risk: he might blab secrets when drunk.

The commerce department could do one of two things: fire Jones on the ground that he was “unsuitable” for government work; or transfer him to a non-sensitive job. But state department officials say that if Jones worked there and was considered a security risk, he’d be fired. (The say emphatically they keep no known security risks or disloyal persons on the payroll, although Senator McCarthy, Republican of Wisconsin, says the place is full of them.)

2. Smith is found to be a homosexual. He’s completely loyal but because of his secret sex habits may some day run into an individual or group which would blackmail him. In the state department, he’d be considered a security risk and out, officials there say.

Officials of other government agencies, sensitive and non-sensitive, told this writer they would get rid of a homosexual on the grounds that he was “unsuitable” for government employment, not because he was a security risk.

L-R: Barbara Gittings, Frank Kameny, and John Fryer as “Dr. H. Anonymous”

“Dr. H. Anonymous” Addresses the APA: 1972. For several years, gay activists Barbara Gittings (see Jul 31) and Frank Kameny (see May 21), among others, saw the American Psychiatric Association’s classification of homosexuality as a mental illness as the single greatest impediment to equal rights for gays and lesbians. As long as the APA labeled gay people as sick, the government had an excuse to refuse to hire them, immigration authorities could refuse to allow them into the country, and thousands of therapists could continue to inflict harmful and questionable treatments to try to “cure” their patients (see, for example, Jan 18, Jan 20, Mar 29, Jun 3, Jul 26, Oct 30, Dec 8), and our award-winning investigation, What are Little Boys Made Of?).

For Gittings and Kameny in particular, getting the APA to change its stance was a pressing priority. After years of protesting APA conventions as outsiders (see May 14), they finally were given permission in 1972 to organize a panel on homosexuality for that year’s convention in Dallas. The panel’s topic was to be “Lifestyles of Non-Patient Homosexuals.” Gittings and Kameny were part of the panel, and they had recruited three other prominent psychiatrists, Judd Marmor, Robert Siedenberg and Kent Robinson. But they also felt it was important to include a professional psychiatrist who was gay. Finding one who would agree to speak was virtually impossible. Everyone they asked turned them down, except one: John Fryer (see Nov 7), and he would only do it in disguise. He wore a mask, wig, and a suit several sizes too big (which was not easy to find since Fryer was already a big man to begin with), and he spoke into a microphone which distorted his voice. And with all of those precautions in place, American pschiatrists, for the first time, heard a fellow psychiatrist by the name of “Dr. H. Anonymous” describe what it was like to be gay in a profession that considered him sick. His speech was short, but to the point:

Thank you, Dr. Robinson. I am a homosexual. I am a psychiatrist. I, like most of you in this room, am a member of the APA and am proud to be a member. However, tonight I am, insofar as in it is possible, a “we.” I attempt tonight to speak for many of my fellow gay members of the APA as well as for myself. When we gather at these conventions, we have a group, which we have glibly come to call the Gay-PA. And several of us feel that it is time that real flesh and blood stand up before you and ask to be listened to and understood insofar as that is possible. I am disguised tonight in order that I might speak freely without conjuring up too much regard on your part about the particular WHO I happen to be. I do that mostly for your protection. I can assure you that I could be any one of more than a hundred psychiatrists registered at this convention. And the curious among you should cease attempting to figure out who I am and listen to what I say.

We homosexual psychiatrists must persistently deal with a variety of what we shall call ‘Nigger Syndromes.’ We shall describe some of them and how they make us feel.

As psychiatrists who are homosexual, we must know our place and what we must do to be successful. If our goal is academic appointment, a level of earning capacity equal to our fellows, or admission to a psychoanalytic institute, we must make certain that no one in a position of power is aware of our sexual orientation or gender identity. Much like the black man with the light skin who chooses to live as a white man, we cannot be seen with our real friends — our real homosexual family — lest our secret be known and our dooms sealed. There are practicing psychoanalysts among us who have completed their training analysis without mentioning their homosexuality to their analysts. Those who are willing to speak up openly will do so only if they have nothing to lose, then they won’t be listened to.

As psychiatrists who are homosexuals, we must look carefully at the power which lies in our hands to define the health of others around us. In particular, we should have clearly in our minds, our own particular understanding of what it is to be a healthy homosexual in a world, which sees that appellation as an impossible oxymoron. One cannot be healthy and be homosexual, they say. One result of being psychiatrists who are homosexual is that we are required to be more healthy than our heterosexual counterparts. We have to make some sort of attempt through therapy or analysis to work problems out. Many of us who make that effort are still left with a sense of failure and of persistence of “the problem.” Just as the black man must be super person, so must we, in order to face those among our colleagues who know we are gay. We could continue to cite examples of this sort of situation for the remainder of the night. It would be useful, however, if we could now look at the reverse.

What is it like to be a homosexual who is also a psychiatrist? Most of us Gay-PA members do not wear our badges into the Bayou Landing, [a gay bar in Dallas] or the local Canal Baths. If we did, we could risk the derision of all the non-psychiatrist homosexuals. There is much negative feeling in the homosexual community towards psychiatrists. And those of us, who are visible, are the easiest targets from which the angry can vent their wrath. Beyond that, in our own hometowns, the chances are that in any gathering of homosexuals, there is likely to be any number of patients or paraprofessional employees who might try to hurt us professionally in a larger community if those communities enable them to hurt us that way.

Finally, as homosexual psychiatrists, we seem to present a unique ability to marry ourselves to institutions rather than wives or lovers. Many of us work twenty hours daily to protect institutions that would literally chew us up and spit us out if they knew the truth. These are our feelings, and like any set of feelings, they have value insofar as they move us toward concrete action.

Here, I will speak primarily to the other members of the Gay-PA who are present, not in costume tonight. Perhaps you can help your fellow psychiatrist friends understand what I am saying. When you are with professionals, fellow professionals, fellow psychiatrists who are denigrating the “faggots” and the “queers,” don’t just stand back, but don’t give up your careers either. Show a little creative ingenuity; make sure you let your associates know that they have a few issues that they have to think through again. When fellow homosexuals come to you for treatment, don’t let your own problems get in your way, but develop creative ways to let the patient know that they’re all right. And teach them everything they need to know. Refer them to other sources of information with basic differences from your own so that the homosexual will be freely able to make his own choices.

Finally, pull up your courage by your bootstraps and discover ways in which you and homosexual psychiatrists can be closely involved in movements which attempt to change the attitudes of heterosexuals — and homosexuals — toward homosexuality. For all of us have something to lose. We may not be considered for that professorship. The analyst down the street may stop referring us his overflow. Our supervisor may ask us to take a leave of absence. We are taking an even bigger risk, however, not accepting fully our own humanity, with all of the lessons it has to teach all the other humans around us and ourselves. This is the greatest loss: our honest humanity. And that loss leads all those others around us to lose that little bit of their humanity as well. For, if they were truly comfortable with their own homosexuality, then they could be comfortable with ours. We must use our skills and wisdom to help them — and us — grow to be comfortable with that little piece of humanity called homosexuality.

The panel was a sensation. Despite the august credentials held by the other psychiatrists, their contributions to the discussion were all but ignored. Dr. Anonymous’s speech was the only thing people talked about. The “Dr. Anonymous” speech proved to be a critical turning point. The following year, Dr. Robert Spitzer, who was editor of the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual, met quietly with the Gay-PA and began the process of removing homosexuality from the authoritative manual. That process was completed by the end of the year (see Dec 15)

But on that day, the end goal still seemed to be very far away. But Fryer, despite his initial hesitation, was elated. The next day as he was flying back to Boston from Dallas, Fryer wrote in his diary:

The day has passed — it has come and gone and I am still alive. For the first time, I have identified with a force which is akin to my selfhood. I am not Black. I am not alcoholic. I am not really addicted. I am homosexual, and I am the only American psychiatrist who has stood up on a podium to let real flesh and blood tell this nation it is so.

[You can see Dr. Fryer’s handwritten speech here and his diary entry here.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Lesley Gore: 1946. She was still a junior in high school in 1963 when her single, “It’s My Party” shot to number one, was nominated for a Grammy, and sold over one million copies. She followed that with a string of top forty hits: “Judy’s Turn to Cry”, “She’s a Fool,” “You Don’t Own Me,” and another Grammy nominated hit, “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows.” Her fame led to a cameo in the beach party movie, The Girls on the Beach, which also included an early appearance by the Beach Boys, and she played the villain, Pussycat, one of Catwoman’s acolytes, in the Batman TV series. In 1980, she won an Academy Award, with her brother Michael, for the song  “Out Here On My Own” for the Fame soundtrack. In 2005, Gore revealed in an interview that she was a lesbian, and had been living with her partner since 1982.

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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