The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, October 16
October 16th, 2013
Federal District Judge to Consider Michigan Marriage/Adoption Ban: Detroit, MI. Last March, U.S. District Court Judge Bernard A. Friedman announced that he would delay ruling on DeBoer v. Snyder, which challenges Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples, until after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its rulings on its two marriage cases last summer. This case involves two lesbian registered nurses who have individually adopted three special-needs children. But because Michigan bars them from marrying, Jayne Rowse has no legal standing for one of the children, while April DeBoer is a legal stranger to the other two.
Now that the U.S. Supreme Court kicked California’s Prop 8 back to the Ninth District Court of Appeals (which then paved the way for marriage equality in California) and declared Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act Unconstitutional, Judge Friedman is prepared to hear testimony this afternoon in Detroit, and he may issue a ruling immediately after hearing the testimony. If he rules against the ban and declines to issue a stay pending an appeal — the best possible outcome, but also perhaps the least likely — then same-sex marriage would be legal in Michigan until a higher court intervenes. Michigan State Attorney General Bill Schuette will be there to argue to uphold the ban. If Judge rules against him, he is likely to request a stay pending an appeal.
In the event the Judge rules against the ban and refuses to issue a stay pending appeal, Equality Michigan has posted an online database county clerk offices with instructions for same-sex couples on getting a marriage license during what would undoubtedly be a very short window, at best. Clerks in at least ten of Michigan’s 83 counties have said that they are ready to begin issuing licenses immediately after a ruling. The hearing on Summary Judgment Motions is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. EDT.
Other Events This Weekend: Polari Film Festival, Austin, TX; Louisville LGBT Film Festival, Louisville, KY; Chéries-Chéris Film Festival, Paris, France; , Phoenix, AZ; Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Seattle, WA.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Excessive Masturbation May Cause Your Sex To Change: 1725. The West’s preoccupation with the dangers of masturbation is historically tied with the broader preoccupation with non-procreative sex generally. But masturbation was seen as particularly dangerous because it was believed to be responsible for an individual’s moral, mental and physical collapse. (See Sep 16 for some of the reasons masturbation was believed to be so dangerous.)
In the early 1700s, an unknown London doctor and clergyman wrote an important book which brought all of those beliefs together in one place, and it became, for several future generations, the primary source for information about all of the moral, physical and mental dangers that masturbation posed. Titled, Onania; or, the Heinous SIN of Self-Pollution, and All its Frightful Confequences, in both SEXES, Confider’d. With Spiritual and Phyfical Advice to Thofe, who have already injur’d themfelves by this abominable Practice. And feafonable Admonition to the Youth of the Nation, (of both SEXES) and thofe whofe Tuition they are under, whether Parents, Guardians, Mafters, or Miftreffes, the book went through several editions. Each successive printing expanded from the previous with the inclusion of letters from readers and responses from the quack doctor. The added supplemental material had the effect of firehosing any objections which may have arisen in the meantime. The ninth edition, published in 1722, closed with the author’s statement that there would be no further additions made to future printings, but in 1725, he added a letter from a young lady, dated October 16, 1726, in which she describes herself practicing masturbation with herself and another lady friend:
Just as this supplement, was as ’twere printed off, the following letter from a young Lady, was left for me at the booksellers, which, for the particularity of the case, and ingenuity of the writer, I thought I could do no less than make room for.
To the commendable Author of the ONANIA, Oct. 16, 1725,
This Letter comes from a young female creature, but an old transgressor of the practice of that filthy pleasure which you have so justly exploded and condemned, in your ingenious book Onania, which I happily met with about 10 days ago: but in all the cases therein enumerated, there is not one that is parallel to mine, which as my welfare requires it, I must be obliged to relate, and is what I question, Sir, whether you have ever once met with: nor could I tell it, though at the same time I bless the opportunity, but that I am sure you no more know the writer of it, nor ever will, than I know the author of Onania, or desire it.
I began, sir, the folly at 11 years of age, was taught it by my mother’s chambermaid, who lay with me from that time all along until now, which is full seven years, and so intimate were we in the sin, that we took the opportunities of committing it, and invented all the ways we were capable of to heighten the titillation, and gratify our sinful lusts the more. We, in short, pleasured one another, as well as ourselves, but whether by the hard usage of my parts by her, or myself, or both, or whether from any thing in nature more in my make, than is customary to the sex, I don’t know, but for above half a year past I have had a swelling that thrusts out from my body [here, she describes her clitoris — JB], as big, and almost as hard, and as long or longer than my thumb, which inclines me to excessive lustful desires, and from it there issues a moisture or slipperiness to that degree that I am almost continually wet, and sometimes have such a forcing, as if something of a large substance was coming from me, which greatly frightens both me and my maid. She went to a midwife about it, but did not, she says, tell her of our practice; the midwife said it was a bearing down of the womb, by weakness, and told her what I should do, which I did, but to no purpose. Ever since I have been so, I have not had the course of nature [menstruation], have great pain in my back, and my belly is swelled, am not near so strong as I was, my countenance much paler, and appetite less. It has almost distracted me, and unfits me for my learning, and am afraid I am so hurt, as that it cannot be remedied.
O! that I should be so wicked, I, who have had a much nobler education (and should know better) than is common to most of my sex; that am versed in the classics, and designed by my friends, who are very rich, for something above the common station of my sex; I say, that I should so filthily debase myself, wrong my body, and, which is worse, my soul, is surprising even to myself. Had I read more the Bible, and less in Martial, Juvenal, Ovid, &c it had been better form, but those books Rochester [a famous sexual libertine], and Plays, at first debauched my silly fancy. But I hope, as now, both myself and maid have, on consulting your curious discourse of Self-Pollution, abandon’d the practice, and resolved, through God’s Grace, to commit it no more, we shall find pardon, and my infirm body, from your hands, good sir, relief. She ails nothing, is a strong wench of twenty-seven, myself of a tender make, and naturally inclined to be weakly, and but just turned of eighteen. I have with this, sent you a guinea fee, and desire your cordial advice, what I had best to do, and your opinion of my case, sealed up safe, directed to Mrs E.N. and I will send for it tomorrow morning, at the bookseller’s where this is left; and, sir, I must needs desire you to send me this letter back, that I may have the satisfaction of committing it to the flames myself. According to your answer, you shall hear further from,
Your ever obliged, and
Most obedient humble Servant,
NOT, sir, but you may copy my letter first, and if you think worthwhile, to print it also in your next edition, as a caution to others; but would not that my hand be seen by any besides your self, the circumstances of the relation, so as not to be know ’tis me, I have taken care of and guarded against.
The un-named author and “doctor” responded with the warning that the if she persisted in these “unnatural practices,” she may experience an unwanted change of sex.
THIS young lady’s case, though the height of her lust, and force and frequency of abusing herself, and probably the unnatural proponderance of the part, is no more, according to the account she gives, than a relaxation of the Clitoris, a thing common to many of the sex, both in the single and married, who are vigorous and lustful, and have given up themselves to the practice of Self-Pollution for any time. In some women it extends itself, and is enlarged when inflated to the exact likeness and size of a human Penis erect, except that it has no perforation (though it really looks, by the natural impression at the end, as if there was a passage) nor is altogether so long, but yet it erects and falls as that does, in proportion to the venereal desire or inclination of the woman. I have had in my time one or two under this circumstance, by the same practice, for cure, who upon their living afterwards chaste, and using some astringent foments, and a few internals, to regulate the inordinate and enraged venereal desires, have been brought to rights, and the parts restored to their pristine, natural state and condition. It was the like case of this lady’s, that gave rise to the report of two Nuns at Rome, having changed their sex, and which had made such a noise in that city, that the Pope, upon hearing of it, gave orders for their being inspected by some cardinals. Dr Carr, in his medicinal epistles, translated by Dr Quincy, has in his answer to a letter sent him by a divine, upon the subject of it, wrote his opinion at large, which as it may confirm mine, in relation to the aforesaid lady’s case, and be of some use both to practitioners and patients, I shall not think much to transcribe it, and give it to the reader, verbatim. It is his 6th Epistle, entitled, Concerning two nuns reported to have changed their sex.
German Reichstag Committee Approves Repeal of Paragraph 175: 1929. In 1897, Magnus Hirschfeld (see May 14) co-founded the Wissenschaftlich-humanitäre Komitee (Scientific-Humanitarian Committee), the first gay rights organizaiotn in history. The WhK’s first project was to lobby for the repeal of Germanys infamous Paragraph 175, which criminalized homosexuality between men (women were unmentioned in the anti-gay code). After three decades of lobbying, the WhK came tantalizingly close to achieving its goal when the Reichstag’s Commission for Law Reform voted 15 to 13 in favor of a resolution to repeal §175.
But the crash of world stock markets two weeks later and the resulting Great Depression and political instability quickly overwhelmed the Reichstag, which suddenly found itself with more pressing matters to contend with. By 1930, Germany was besieged by massive unemployment and the Nazi party became the second-largest party in the Reichstag following the September elections. The rest, as they say, is history. The Nazi’s expanded §175’s reach in 1935, resulting in a tenfold increase in convictions with authorizaiton to incarcerate gay men in concentration camps. In 1950, Communist East Germany abolished the Nazi amendments, but West Germany kept them until 1969 when it effectively decriminalized consenstual relationships for those above the age of 21. East Germany finally decriminaized consenstual relationships between gay men in 1988, and a reunited Germany followed suit in 1994.
FBI Warns of Extortion Ring: 1959. With consensual same-sex relationships criminalized in all fifty states, and when the discovery of one’s homosexuality typically resulted in being fired from one’s job and evicted by one’s landlord, there was a great deal of money to be made in blackmailing gay people — a fact which was, itself, often used to further justify the wholesale ban on federal employment and security clearances for gay people. But regardless of the victims, blackmail was still against the law, as demonstrated by this FBI warning that appeared in The Washington Post:
The FBI warned last night that a man believed the co-leader of a Nationwide extortion ring is reported heading for Washington. He is George Brooks, 55, charged with extorting $25,000 from a man in Tucson, Ariz. Brooks is named on a warrant also charging William Tavenner, 26, a former Washington resident, whose present location is unknown.
The FBI said the men are believed to head an extortion ring of 25 people who prey on homosexuals by posing as policemen. They have been operating in Phoenix. Portland. Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago.
Tavenner. whose last known address here was listed at 1400 Fairmont St. NW, is reported by the FBI to have a record including charges of impersonating a police officer, narcotics violation, assault and disorderly conduct.
[Source: “Extortionist ring believed coming here.” The Washington Post (October 17, 1959): D4.]
Oscar Wilde: 1854-1900. His wit and flamboyance, tinged as it was with an undercurrent of rebellion, made him one of the most popular celebrities of his day. His three comedies of society, written between 1892 and 1895, lampooned Victorian values and enjoyed tremendous success in the London theater. But that just prepared the ground for his masterpiece, 1894’s The Importance of Being Earnest, and that made Wilde a superstar. That acclaim, combined with his embrace of aestheticism, belief that the pursuit of beauty was a virtue in itself, placed him at the forefront of London’s high fashion, a rare position for a man to take. He was a flashy dresser and he entertained lavishly. “I find it harder and harder every day to live up to my blue china,” he once quipped. The life he lived, however, was not seen as manly, and his high profile meant that he quickly became an easy target for those who saw him as a dangerous threat to Britain’s moral bearing. Just a few days after Earnest’s premiere, a series of events began which would ultimately see Wilde tried for sodomy and gross indecency. His first criminal trial, which quickly became regarded as the trial of the century, is famous for the question that was put to him, a question that was on everyone’s mind:
Prosecutor: What is “the love that dare not speak its name?”
Wilde: “The love that dare not speak its name” in this century is such a great affection of an elder for a younger man as there was between David and Jonathan, such as Plato made the very basis of his philosophy, and such as you find in the sonnets of Michelangelo and Shakespeare. It is that deep spiritual affection that is as pure as it is perfect. It dictates and pervades great works of art, like those of Shakespeare and Michelangelo, and those two letters of mine, such as they are. It is in this century misunderstood, so much misunderstood that it may be described as “the love that dare not speak its name,” and on that account of it I am placed where I am now. It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection. There is nothing unnatural about it. It is intellectual, and it repeatedly exists between an older and a younger man, when the older man has intellect, and the younger man has all the joy, hope and glamour of life before him. That it should be so, the world does not understand. The world mocks at it, and sometimes puts one in the pillory for it.
That case ended in a mistrial, but a second trial a month later saw him convicted of gross indecency and sentenced to two years’ hard labor. Wilde’s health declined sharply during the term. He collapsed from illness and hunger at one point, and suffered a rupture in his right ear drum during another mishap that would later contribute to his early death. When he was released in 1897, he was broken, both financially and physically. He moved to the continent, where he wandered during the last three years of his life. He spent the last months of his life in a run-down hotel in Paris. “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death,” he told an acquaintance. “One of us has got to go.” Not long after, he developed cerebral meningitis and died in November 30, 1900. He was only 46 years old.
Paul Monette: 1945-1995. The author, poet, and memoirist spent more than half of his life in the closet, the doors of which flug open when he met his future partner Roger Horwitz in 1974. That was the basis of his appropriately-named 1992 memoir, Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story, which won the National Book Award for Nonfiction. More gut-wrenching was is 1988 memoir Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir, the first personal account of living with AIDS in the pre-cocktail era, chronicling Horwitz’s diagnosis and death, and Monettet’s own diagnosis. The New York Times said that the two books together “humanized the tragedy of the disease and the torment of denying one’s homosexuality, but it also brought to life the rich relationships that some gay men enjoy.” In 1989, Monette followed with another tribute to his late lover in an eighteen-poem cycle Love Alone: Eighteen Elegies for Rog.
Monette’s writings weren’t all so mordant. In addition to other volumes of poetry and “silly novels,” as he called them, he also wrote the novelizations for the films Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), Scareface (1983), Predator (1987), and Midnight Run (1988). But he still had his own story to tell, with 1995’s Last Watch of the Night: Essays Too Personal and Otherwise, covering some the last chapters of his life. He wrote it while hooked to three intravenous tubes and taking fistfuls of medication daily. He died in 1995 in Los Angeles, where he lived with his partner of five years, Winston Wilde.
Bob Mould: 1960. He was the guitarist, vocalist and songwriter for the 1980s band Hüsker Dü, and for Sugar in the 1990s. Beginning in the late 1990s, Mould detoured from heavy sounds of his earlier work to dance music and electronica. Lately he has been performing as a live DJ in Washington, D.C., and other events around the country under the name, “Blowoff.” His homosexuality was always something of an open secret, but the secrecy was dropped in 1994 when he outed himself in Spin after the magazine’s reporter threatened to out him. His memoir, See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody, was released in 2011.
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