The Daily Agenda for Saturday, September 7
September 7th, 2013
Other Events This Weekend: Womenfest, Key West, FL; Run to the Beat, London, UK; London to Brighton Cycle for Clarence Higgins Trust, London/Brighton, UK; Newfest Film Festival, New York, NY; Queenstown Gay Ski Week, Queenstown, NZ; Bears on Ice, Reykjavic, Iceland; North Louisiana Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Shreveport, LA; International Bears Week, Sitges, Spain.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
There Is In Every Community of Any Size a Colony: 1889. By the late 1880s, the writings of Richard von Krafft-Ebing, the famed Austro-German psychiatrist whose groundbreaking 1886 book Psychopathia Sexualis argued that homosexuality was a biological condition rather than a moral failing, were beginning to have an impact on psychiatry across the Atlantic, particularly as translated excerpts from his book began appearing in English-language journals. One of those who tried to adopt, if rather incompletely, Krafft-Ebing’s new outlook on Contrare Sexualempfindung was a very colorful urologist, surgeon, and professor from Chicago by the name of G. Frank Lydston. In 1889, Lydston delivered a lecture at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Chicago where he seemed to recognize that Kafft-Ebing’s new perspective was a decided advantage to everyone concerned:
The subject has been until a recent date studied solely from the standpoint of the moralist, and from the indisposition of the scientific physician to study the subject, the unfortunate class of individuals who are characterized by perverted sexuality have been viewed in the light of their moral responsibility rather than as the victims of a physical and incidentally of a mental defect. It is certainly much less humiliating to us as atoms of the social fabric to be able to attribute the degradation of these poor unfortunates to a physical cause, than to it willful viciousness over which they have, or ought to have, volitional control. Even to the moralist there should be much satisfaction in the thought that a large class of sexual perverts are physically abnormal rather than morally leprous.
Lydston furthered his argument by quoting directly from Krafft-Ebing himself, who wrote, “As we study into the abnormal and diseased conditions from which this malady results, the ideas of horror and criminality connected with it disappear … [T]he investigations of science will become the means of rescuing the honor and re-establishing the social position of many an unfortunate whom unthinking prejudice and ignorance would class among depraved criminals.” Krafft-Ebing concluded that such an understanding would be “a service to justice and to society by teaching that what seem to be immoral conditions and actions are but the results of disease.”
Considering the draconian criminal penalties that were imposed on those convicted of “crimes against nature,” Krafft-Ebing’s argument was exceptionally enlightened for its day. It was, in essence, this: Don’t throw them into prison; they can’t help what they’re doing. Lydston then set about to described “them”:
There is in every community of any size a colony of male sexual perverts; they are usually known to each other, and are likely to congregate together. At times they operate in accordance with some definite and concerted plan in quest of subjects wherewith to gratify their abnormal sexual impulses. Often they are characterized by effeminacy of voice, dress, and manner. In a general way, their physique is apt to be inferior — a defective physical make-up being quite general among them, although exceptions to this rule are numerous.
Sexual perversion is more frequent in the female; women usually fall into perverted sexual habits for the purpose of pandering to the depraved tastes of their patrons rather than from instinctive impulses. Exceptions to this rule are occasionally seen. For example, I know of an instance of a woman of perfect physique, who is not a professional prostitute, but moves in good society, who has a fondness for women, being never attracted to men for the purpose of ordinary sexual indulgence, but for perverted methods.
When Krafft-Ebing wrote of Contrare Sexualempfindung (Contrary Sexual Feeling), he was describing homosexuality specifically. But now it must be noted here that when Lydstrom wrote of “sexual perverts,” Lydston had shifted his definitions a bit. He define sexual perversion broadly as “the possession of impulses to sexual gratification in an abnormal manner, with a partial or complete apathy toward the normal method.” He then divided them into three classes: “(a) Those having a predilection (affinity) for their own sex; (b) those having a predilection for abnormal methods of gratification with the opposite sex; (c) those affected with bestiality.” And for all three classes, he departed from Krafft-Ebing, who described sexual “perversion” as the result of biology, by dividing his three classes further according to whether their “perversion” was congenital or acquired:
I. Congenital, and perhaps hereditary sexual perversion.
a. Sexual perversion without defect of structure of sexual organs.
b. Sexual perversion with defect of genital structure, e.g. hermaphroditism.
c. Sexual perversion with obvious defect of cerebral development e.g. idiocy.
II. Acquired sexual perversion.
a. Sexual perversion from pregnancy, the menopause, ovarian disease, hysteria, etc.
b. Sexual perversion from acquired cerebral disease, with or without recognized insanity.
c. Sexual perversion (?) from vice. [Note: the parenthetical question mark is in the original]
d. Sexual perversion from over stimulation of the nerves of sexual sensibility and the receptive sexual centres, incidental to sexual excesses and masturbation.
Lydston then considered the possible causes of “sexual perversion”. This is where Degeneracy Theory came into play (see Sept 3 for a brief introduction to Degeneracy Theory): “In some cases, perhaps, sexual differentiation has been imperfect, and there is a reversion of type; (to) the original bi-sexuality of the ancestors of the race, shown in the rudimentary female organs of the male.” Because he, like nearly everyone else in the late nineteenth century, believed firmly in Degeneracy Theory, he gave a poor prognosis for the future:
It is probable that few bodily attributes are more readily transmitted to posterity than peculiarities of sexual physiology. The offspring of the abnormally carnal individual is likely to be possessed of the same inordinate sexual appetite that characterizes the parent. The child of vice has within it, in many instances,the germ of vicious impulse, and no purifying influence can save it from following its own inherent inclinations. Men and women who seek, from mere satiety, variations of the normal method of sexual gratification, stamp their nervous systems with a malign influence which in the next generation may present itself as true sexual perversion. Acquired sexual perversion in one generation may be a true constitutional and irradicable vice in the next, and this independently of gross physical aberrations.
Because Lydston believed — as Degeneracy Theory explained — that the sins of the fathers become the biological errors of the sons, he had a particular disdain for those whose “perversions” were acquired. Whatever high-minded purpose he may have had at the beginning of the lecture when he cast the discussion as one between a moralist and a “scientific physician,” this particular physician wound up delivering a fully moralistic condemnation to everyone concerned:
There exists in every great city so large a number of sexual perverts, that seemingly their depraved tastes have been commercially appreciated by the demi-monde. This has resulted in the formation of establishments whose principal business it is to cater to the perverted sexual tastes of a numerous class of patrons. Were the names and social positions of these patrons made public in the case of our own city, society would be regaled with something fully as disgusting, and coming much nearer home, than the Pall Mall Gazette exposures.
The individuals alluded to would undoubtedly resent the appellation of “sexual pervert;” but, nevertheless, in many instances they present the disease in its most inexcusable form: that from vicious impulse. Personally, I fail to see any difference, from a moral standpoint, between the individual who is gratified sexually only by oral masturbation performed by the opposite sex, and those unfortunate mortals whose passions can be gratified only by performing the active role in the same disgusting performance. One is to be pitied for his constitutional fault; the other to be despised for his deliberately acquired debasement.
[Source: G. Frank Lydston. “Clinical Lecture: Sexual perversion, satyriasis, and nymphomania” (Part 1). Medical and Surgical Reporter 61, no. 10 (September 7, 1889): 253-258. The lecture is also available via Google Books here, in an 1895 collection of addresses and essays by Lydston.]
McCarthy’s 145 “Deviates” In The State Department: 1952. Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s (R-WI) anti-Communist hearings are a dark, well-known chapter in American history. His campaign to root out suspected “subversives” from under every bed wasn’t limited to Communists; there was a very strong anti-gay subtext to his witch hunts as well. For the first time, gay men and women were actively rooted out of all levels of government employment. Gays were seen not only as morally suspect, but also a security risk and a dangerous influence in government offices. In 1952, McCarthy published a book titled McCarthyism: The Fight For America, in which he laid out his crusade to rid the country of “Communists and perverts.” As part of his book’s promotion, McCarthy answered several question from the editor of the Milwaukee Sentinel. McCarthy accused several State Department employees by name of harboring Communist sympathies and took credit for their ouster. He also took credit for the removal of 145 “deviates”:
QUESTION — How many sex deviates have been removed from the State Department?
ANSWER — Ninety-one were forced to resign from the State Department prior to 1950 and 54 since that time. The Senate Special Investigating Committee had this to say about those who were allowed to resign: “In most of those cases, these known homosexuals were allowed to resign for ‘personal reasons,’ and no information was placed in the regular personnel files of the state Department indicating the real reason for resignation nor was the Civil Service Commission informed of the true reason for the resignation … Die ot the manner in which these cases were mishandled, 23 of those 91 state Department employees found there way into other departments of government.”
QUESTION — Do you claim that the sex deviates removed from the State Department were all disloyal?
ANSWER — No, but all were considered security risks. One reason why sex deviates are considered by all intelligence agencies of the government to be security risks in that they are subject to blackmail. Is is a known fact that espionage agents often have been successful in extorting information from them by threatening to expose their abnormal habits.
The Special Senate Investigating Committee had this to say about the high percentage of sex deviates in government: “The homosexual has a tendency to gather other perverts around him. Eminent psychiatrists have informed the subcommittee that the homosexual is likely to seek his own kind because the pressures of society are such that he feels uncomfortable unless his is with his own kind. Due to this situation the homosexual tends to surround himself with other homosexuals, not only in his social but in his business life. Under these circumstances, if a homosexual attains a position in government where he can influence the hiring of personnel, it is almost inevitable that he will attempt to place other homosexuals in government jobs.”
The worst irony in all this is that throughout McCarthy’s witch hunts, a young lawyer by the name of Roy Cohn served as McCarthy’s right hand man. During one of McCarthy’s televised hearings into the supposed influence of communists in the U.S. Army, attorney Joseph Welch accused McCarthy of accepting a doctored photo as evidence. Referring to Cohn, Welch asked McCarthy whether the photo “came from a pixie.” When McCarthy asked what a pixie was, Welch replied “a close relative of a fairy.” Cohn would later become a regular fixture, albeit a publicly closeted one, in gay conservative circles. He died of AIDS in 1986.
Florida Gov. Appoints Special Attorney to “Eradicate” Gays from Miami: 1954. By the fall of 1954, with the public having had just about had enough with Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s constant and indiscriminate red-baiting, the Senate had begun a series of public hearings on a possible censure of the Wisconsin’s junior Republican. But the Lavender scare which had been building in Florida for the past month showed no signs of abating (see Aug 3, Aug 11, Aug 12, Aug 13 (twice that day), Aug 14, Aug 26, Aug 31, Sep 1, and Sep 2). And now Florida’s acting Governor Charley E. Johns deciding to get into the act. In a letter sent to Mayor Abe Aronovitz, Johns announced that he had appointed Miami attorney Morey Rayman “to aid you and to cooperate with you and your office in the eradication and control of sex deviates. Every law enforcement agency under my jurisdiction has been issued orders to do everything within their power to correct this serious situation which has been called to my attention.”
Johns became acting governor when Gov. Dan McCarty died in 1953. He would later return to the State Senate where he would head up the infamous Johns Committee which revived a statewide Red Scare and Lavender scare, with its investigations of alleged communists, homosexuals, and civil rights advocates among the students and faculty of Florida’s schools and university system. Johns would dominate the state’s anti-gay and anti-communist crusade from 1956 to 1965. By the time the committee was disbanded, it had forced more than 100 professors and deans out of the University of Florida, Florida State University and the University of South Florida.
Aronowitz was the one who made the letter public, and in doing so he criticized City Manager Arthur Evans and Police Chief Walter Headley for their failure to rid the city of homosexuals. The letter from the acting governor was just one way for him to turn up the heat on Evans and Headley, with whom Aronovitz had expressed increasing frustration for quite some time (See Aug 26 and Aug 31). “They had better start looking for other jobs if they don’t deliver the goods on this,” Aronovitz told reporters.
Headley responded that his anti-gay drive, while resulting in precious few arrests (see Sep 2), nevertheless was having its intended effect. “Now we’re getting complaints from other places that perverts are beginning to drift into them. I believe we’re making them uncomfortable,” he told The Miami News. He also revealed that six women suspected by police of being lesbians were arrested at a bar the prior night, questioned and released.
Log Cabin Republicans Refuse to Endorse Bush’s Re-Election: 2004. When Texas Gov. George W. Bush ran for President in 2000, he was eager to avoid the uglier aspects of kind of culture war politics which proved fatally divisive during his father’s failed re-election bid in 1992. The younger Bush’s solution was not to run away from social conservatism altogether, but to put a friendlier, more caring face on it. He was up front about his evangelical belief, even going so far during a primary debate to name as his favorite political philosopher or thinker as “Christ, because he changed my heart.” Certainly, as Governor, Bush had opposed the repeal of Texas’s sodomy law (the same law which was eventually overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003), and he refused to back any pro-gay measures in the state. But when the “compassionate conservative” candidate agreed to meet with members of Log Cabin Republicans in 2000 in Austin, he became the first Republican presidential candidate to do so. Bush didn’t concede any policy changes at the meeting — he still opposed federal hate crimes expansion and same-sex marriage, but he said that marriage should be left to the states. But after meeting, Bush declared “I am a better man” and promised to include gays and lesbians as part of his administration. When Bush took office in 2001, he appointed openly gay employees in his administration, including, most notably, Michael Guest to serve as ambassador to Romania from 2001 to 2004.
The landscape in 2004 was considerably different. Gays were marrying in Massachusetts (see May 17) and, briefly, in San Francisco (see Feb 12). Social conservatives, a vitally important voting block for President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign, were clamoring for a Federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to write discrimination permanently into national law once and for all. And Bush’s campaign, eager to avoid the too-close-by-a-chad outcome of 2000, was determined to energize the Evangelical base more directly than they had done in 2000. To placate with his conservative Christian base — and in keeping with campaign strategist Karl Rove’s project to encourage several important states (including, critically, Ohio) to place marriage bans proposals on their ballots as part of a get-out-the-vote effort — Bush declared his support for a the Federal Marriage Amendment (see Feb 24), which, if enacted, would have permanently and nationally banished all same-sex marriages “or the legal incidents thereof.”
Bush’s announcement was taken as a betrayal by those who had met with him in 2000 and were reassured that Bush’s compassionate conservatism would spell an end to divisive politics. And so two months before election day, Log Cabin Republicans announced that they would not endorse President Bush for re-election, specifically because of his support for the Federal Marriage Amendment. “It is impossible to overstate the depth of anger and disappointment caused by the president’s support for an antifamily constitutional amendment. This amendment would not only ban gay marriage, it would also jeopardize civil unions and domestic partnerships,” Log Cabin political director Chris Barron said.
LCR Executive Director Patrick Guerriero explained the decision: “Log Cabin’s decision was made in response to the White House’s strategic political decision to pursue a re-election strategy catered to the radical right. The president’s use of the bully pulpit, stump speeches and radio addresses to support a constitutional amendment has encouraged the passage of discriminatory laws and state constitutional amendments across America. Using gays and lesbians as wedge issues in an election year is unacceptable to Log Cabin.”
Valerie Taylor: 1913. Born Velma Nacella Young in Aurora, Illinois, she developed scoliosis as a child, which led her to believe that she was unattractive — and which instilled in her an early identification and empathy with the underdog. She began publishing a series of mass market lesbian novels in the 1950s under the pen name Valerie Taylor. Those novels became classics of the lesbian pulp fiction era. She published her first general fiction novel, Hired Girl in 1953, and used the $500 proceeds to acquire a pair of shoes, two dresses, and a divorce against her increasingly abusive husband.
Taylor then became a prolific writer in several genres — poetry as Nacella Young, popular romances as Francine Davenport, and, of course, lesbian pulp fiction as Valerie Taylor, including such classics as Whisper Their Love (1957), The Girls In 3-B (1959), , Stranger on Lesbos (1960), World Without Men (1963), Unlike Others (1963), and Ripening (1988). A member of the Chicago Chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis, she was also a frequent contributor to the organization’s national magazine, The Ladder, as Velma Tate.
While Taylor’s books might be dismissed as trashy novels, they were taken very seriously by gay women in the 1950s and 1960s. The Ladder didn’t just include them in book reviews, but often dedicated several pages to discussing, analyzing and criticizing them both on their literary merits and, more often, on the way the novels portrayed lesbians to a wider audience. This illustrated how important the lesbian pulp fiction genre really was: for many lesbians, especially those in small towns and rural areas outside the reach of the Daughters of Bilitis or The Ladder, lesbian pulp fiction was often the only medium where lesbians could see other people like themselves, even if those people were imaginary characters in impossibly outlandish situations. These pocket drug-store paperbacks were a treasured lifeline for many women across the country.
It’s fitting then that Taylor herself became very active in gay rights. In addition to her activities with the DOB, she helped to co-found Mattachine Midwest, the Chicago Chapter of the Mattachine Society, in 1965, and she and edited its newsletter for several years. She protested at the 1968 Democratic Convention with other Mattachine members, and she worked for the Women’s International League for Peace.
Taylor met her partner, civil rights attorney Pearl Hart, when the two of them helped to co-found Mattachine Midwest. They remained together for the next ten years until Hart’s death in 1975. Sadly, as Hart lay dying in a hospital, Taylor was prohibited from visiting and saying goodbye to her because Taylor wasn’t considered immediate family. By the time a friend intervened, Hart was already in a coma.
After her partner’s death, Taylor moved to Tucson, Arizona, where she became a Quaker and a member of the Gray Panthers. She and Hart were inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 1992. Taylor died in 1997 at the age of 84. Her books have recently found a new audience as younger women rediscovered vintage pulp fiction paperbacks in second-hand stores, and many of her original novels have become prized collectibles. In 2011, several of Taylor’s titles were released on Amazon.com as Kindle ebooks.
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?