The Daily Agenda for Saturday, July 13

Jim Burroway

July 13th, 2013

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Bournemouth, UK; Bristol, UK; Green Bay, WI; Leipzig, Germany; Marseille, France (EuroPride 2013); Munich, Germany; San Diego, CA; San Luis Obispo, CA; Santa Barbara, CA; Tacoma, WA.

Other Events This Weekend: Rocky Mountain Regional Rodeo, Golden, CO; Outfest Film Festival, Los Angeles, CA; QFest Film Festival, Philadelphia, PA; Bear Week, Provincetown, MA Tokyo International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Tokyo, Japan.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Gay Pub Raided in London: 1810. From The Times of London: “The existence of a Club, or Society, for the purpose so detestable and repugnant to the common feelings of our nature, that by no word can it be described without committing an outrage upon decency, has for some time been suspected by the Magistrates of Bow-street; who cautiously concealing the odious secret, abstained from taking any steps on the information they had received, until an opportunity should offer of surprising the whole gang. About 11 o’clock last Sunday evening, three separate parties of the patrole, attended by constables, were detached from Bow-street on this service. … The enterprise was completely successful. — We regret most deeply, that the information given at the office was found to be so accurate, that the Officers felt themselves justified in seizing no fewer than 23 individuals, at a public-house, called the White Swan, in Vere-street, Clare-market.”

Two men were found guilty of sodomy and were hanged. Six more were found guilty of attempted sodomy and were made to stand at the pillory. The crowds who turned out for the pillory were particularly violent, throwing rotten fish, dead cats, “cannonballs” made of mud, and vegetables at the convicted men. The men were severely injured and barely survived their allotted time at the pillory.

“Brothers” Debuts: 1984. The first American television program featuring a gay lead character finally debuted on Showtime. The show, set in Philadelphia, centered around the three Waters brothers: Lou was a typical blue-collar construction foreman, Joe was a retired placekicker for the Philadelphia Eagles and owner of a sports bar, and Cliff, who in the first episode left his bride at the altar and came out to his family as a gay man. ABC and NBC had already turned down the series out of fear of portraying homosexuality on prime time, but when Showtime decided to begin producing original television series, they saw Brothers as the perfect fit. After a successful first season, Showtime decided to pick up the series for a second season. Showtime also offer the series for syndication to over-the-air broadcast stations, and the fledgling Fox network decided to jump on that deal. Brother would go on for a full five seasons and 115 episodes.

15YEAR AGO: Anti-Gay Groups Kick Off Nationwide Ex-Gay Advertising Campaign: 1998. The campaign attracted so much attention that the Family Research Council’s Bob Knight hailed it as “the “Normandy landing in the larger cultural wars.” Fifteen anti-gay organizations, including the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council and Coral Ridge Ministries, launched a national million-dollar advertising campaign, with newspaper ads in the New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today featuring “ex-lesbian” Anne Paulk under the headline, “I’m living proof that the Truth can set you free.” The campaign also included a television commercial featuring ex-gay and HIV-positive Michael Johnston who, with his mother by his side, proclaimed that he was now free from the “homosexual lifestyle.”

The ads quickly generated widespread media attention. Segments on NBC’s Today, ABC’s Nightline, CBS’s 60 Minutes and Oprah were devoted to the topic, Anne and John Paulk made the cover of Newsweek under the question, “Gay for life?” The ex-gay movement finally found its moment under the sun. But more significantly, the larger anti-gay political movement had yet another weapon to use against the gay community. As the argument went, if gay people could choose to become straight, then they didn’t need protections or guarantees of equality under the law. One underlying argument went even further: that there was no such thing as homosexuals; they were just heterosexuals with homosexual problems.

Focus On the Family, in particular, was eager to exploit the growing public awareness of the ex-gay movement. That same year, Focus, in partnership with Exodus International, launched a series of one-day conferences across the country. Titled “Love Won Out,” the conferences were part road show and part infomercial for ex-gay ministries. Featuring John Paulk (who was also a Focus employee and conference coordinator), fellow Focus employees Melissa Fryrear and Mike Haley; Exodus’s Bob Davies and Joe Dallas (and later, Alan Chambers); NARTH co-founder Joseph Nicolosi; and Nancy Hesche, actress Anne Hesche’s mother, the conferences introduced thousands, mostly parents of gay children, to the movement. Many conferences attracted an attendance of more than two thousand, with a half a dozen conferences taking place every year across North America.

But all was not well behind the movement’s facade. In 2000, Wayne Besen photographed John Paulk as he was leaving a gay bar in Washington, D.C. where he had spent a couple of hours chatting up customers (see Sep 19). Paulk was called back to Focus headquarters in Colorado Springs, where he was placed on probation and removed as Board Chair at Exodus International (although he remained a member of the board on probationary status). But Paulk managed to weather the controversy, remaining in his position at Focus, and continuing in his role as the principal organizer and featured speaker at Love Won Out conferences for another three years.

Michael Johnston and his mother in a television commercial.

In 2003, it was revealed that while Michael Johnston was the public face of the ex-gay movement, he was privately engaging in anonymous sex with men without disclosing his HIV status. Johnston quickly shuttered his ministry and fled to Pure Life Ministries, an ex-gay residential program in rural Kentucky.

So, where are they today? In 2012, Alan Chambers acknowledged that “the majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9% of them, have not experienced a change in their orientation.” He then repudiated the particular type of counseling intended to change sexual orientation known as Reparative Therapy, and he has declared that Exodus will no longer take sides in the political debates surrounding gay rights. In 2013, he issued a formal apology for the harms done by Exodus International to its clients and shut down Exodus altogether.

John Paulk left Focus on the Family in 2o03, and he and his wife moved to Portland Oregon where he started a catering business. Anne continue to write books and speak on the ex-gay circuit. Earlier this year, recanted his ex-gay beliefs and issued a formal apology. Meanwhile, Anne helped to form Restored Hope Network, a more hardline break-away group of former Exodus ministries. She now serves on the board of directors of RHN. The Paulks are divorcing.

Johnston continues as director of donor and media relations at Pure Life Ministries, where his is also available as a public speaker (PDF: 93 KB/3 pages).

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
45  YEARS AGO: Robert Gant: 1968. He was Ben Bruckner in the American version of “Queer as Folk.” His HIV-positive character gave the series an opportunity to explore anti-AIDS hysteria and stigma, both outside and inside the gay community. He has had numerous television guest roles, and he acted and produced in Save Me, the film staring Chad Allen about the ex-gay movement. Gant and Allen, along with Christopher Racster, are partners in the production company Mythgarden. He is active in LGBT elder issues, supporting SAGE (Senior Advocacy for GLBT Elders) and GLEH (Gay and Lesbian Elder Housing).

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?

jpeckjr

July 13th, 2013

Thanks for mentioning “Brothers.” I enjoyed that show so much. My favorite episode was the one where Penny, Joe’s daughter, was considering breast augmentation surgery. But my favorite aspect was how Lou, who never quite understood Cliff’s being gay, fully understood that Cliff was his brother and that mattered more than anything else.

Ben in Oakland

July 13th, 2013

I remember Lou’s line to cliff when cliff told him he was gay, and I still use it….

“Can’t you do some push-ups or sumpin’?”

Paul Douglas

July 14th, 2013

Whatever happened to Bob Davies, Mike Haley and Melissa Fryrear? Are they still on the ex-gay dole or what?

Michael Moore

July 27th, 2013

Hmm, I would say “Soap” was the first American television show featuring a lead gay character, played by Billy Crystal. That was way before “Brothers.”

Jim Burroway

July 27th, 2013

The key word is lead gay character. As the opening sequence of Soap explained, the lead characters were two sisters, Jessica Tate and Mary Campbell, with plot lines centered around the two sisters’ family. Billy Crystal played Jody Dallas. While Jody was one of the first gay characters in a recurring role — and the focal point of the show’s controversy — he wasn’t the lead character, but was typically involved in one of the many running subplots throughout the series.

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