The Daily Agenda for Sunday, October 20
October 20th, 2013
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:
60 YEARS AGO: “Homosexual Ring” of Service Women Broken Up: 1953. According to a newspaper report, “army investigators have ‘broken up a ring’ of approximately 25 women members of the armed forces who, the investigators charged, engaged in abnormal sex practices. It said the crackdown stemmed from charges made last month by a 19-year-old WAC (Women’s Army Corps) private who was under treatment at a local (Washington, D.C.) army hospital. Half a dozen of the group were said to have confirmed the WAC’s disclosures. Most of the 25 were said to be WACS, but ‘three our four’ were reported as navy WAVES. All were described as enlisted personnel.”
None of the women were identified in the article, but the article went on to say that the women were “rounded up and questioned. Disciplinary action is pending. The group under investigation was said to have used two taverns located in the Georgetown area (of Washington) as ‘hangouts’ where meetings and ‘dates’ were arranged during off-duty hours.” An Army spokesman said that cases like these “are a continuing problem in the army,” and that military regulations required that persons found guilty of homosexuality were to be discharged as undesirables, except in some cases “where psychiatric examinations show that medical treatment or disciplinary action is warranted.”
Miami Formally Outlaws Gay Bars: 1954. Miami’s ongoing hysteria over the shocking discovery that there were gay people in the city ( see Aug 3, Aug 11, Aug 12, Aug 13 (twice that day), Aug 14,Aug 26, Aug 31, Sep 1, Sep 2, Sep 7, Sep 15, Sep 19, and Oct 6) reached an important legal milestone when the Miami City Commission passed new ordinance which prohibited liquor establishments from employing gay people or allowing “homosexuals or perverts” to congregate. The ordinance provided up to 60 days in jail, a fine of $500 (that’s about $4,000 in today’s money) and the loss of their liquor licenses. This latest ordinance came about after a previous proposal by Mayor Abe Aronovitz (see Oct 6) was rejected for being “too broad.” The vote on the revised ordinance was unanimous, and because it was adopted as an emergency ordinance it went into effect immediately.
And in another move to protect the morals of Miami’s children, the City Commission also made it illegal to sell horror comic books to children under the age of seventeen.
Federal Panel Urges Decriminalizing Homosexuality: 1969. A fourteen-member panel of doctors, lawers, and social and behavioral scientists led by UCLA’s Evelyn Hooker (see Sep 2) released a report urging the United States abolish all laws forbidding private same-sex relationships among consenting adults. The panel found, “Homosexuality presents a major problem for our society largely because of the amount of injustice and suffering entailed in it not only for the homosexual but also for those concerned about him.”
The panel had been formed two years earlier (see Sept 24), and it featured such illuminaries as psychiatrists Dr. Judd Marmor and John Money, Kinsey Institute for Sex Research director Paul Gebhard, Princeton theologian Seward Hiltner, and other experts in the fields of anthropology, sociology, and the law. The final report, which was dated October 10, 1969, called for the establishment of a Center for the Study of Sexual Behavior within the National Institute of Mental Health. The proposed center would then focus on five specific activities: research, training and education for professionals and law enforcement, social policy, and, in a reflection of the times, treatment and prevention. The panel’s research recommendations were particularly wide-ranging: they wanted to see more focus on the experiences of gay people (including job history and occupational performance), legal and civil rights issues, psychological studies, differences between lesbians and gay men, and numerous other social factors.
As for treatment, the panel recommended that the “the goal of treatment for homosexual patients as for others must be the decrease of discomfort and increase in productive functioning,” although as part of that “decrease in discomfort,” the panel endorsed treatment “to achieve some heterosexual interests and competence if they are motivated to do so.” Similarly, the panel recommended research into “prevention”, which the panel called “one of the most important goals.” “It is apparent that research in a number of areas described above, including parental relationships, childhood peer activities, endocrine, genetic and biological elements, effects of early trauma, the role of social class mores, and developmental crises, will have a direct bearing on the design of preventive programs.”
The report, therefore, might not appear to be particularly forward thinking by today’s standards, but it was quite progressive in one area in which it was somewhat timid and another area in which it was vocal. The report was timid on the question of whether gay people were inherently mentally ill, which the American Psychiatric Association’s official diagnostic manual answered in the affirmative. The report simply said that “homosexual individuals vary widely in terms of their emotional and social adjustments. Some persons who engage in homosexual behavior function well in everyday life,” a point that even those who argued that gay people were mentally ill would acknowledge when pressed. Some were just less sick than others, the reasoning went, and the report did little to dispel those arguments. But it did suggest that much of the problems gay people experienced were the result of anxiety over being discovered and loosing their jobs or going to jail.
And it was on that point where the the report was at its most controversial: the rampant discrimination that gay people regularly faced in employment and the law. Homosexuality was illegal in every state except Illinois. The panel observed that “the extreme opprobrium that our society has attached to homosexual behavior, by way of criminal statutes and restrictive employment practices has done more social harm than good.” Furthermore, “[t]here is evidence to indicate that entrapment is not uncommon, that existing laws are selectively enforced, and that serious injustice often results.” The report added, “Many homosexuals are good citizens, holding regular jobs and leading productive lives. The existence of legal penalties relating to homosexual acts means that the mental health problems of homosexuals are exacerbated by the need for concealment and the emotional stresses arising from this need and from the opprobrium of being in violation of the law.” The panel, citing similar recommendations made by American and British legal experts, recommended that the law “be recast in such a way as to remove legal penalties against acts in private among consenting adults.”
The panel was unanimous on all of its recommendations except for the last ones on discriminatory laws and employment practices. Three dissented, saying that those recommendations should be deferred pending further research in the other recommended topics. (One panelist, Judge David L. Bazelon of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, resigned on June 3 before the report was formally adopted, perhaps to avoid potential conflicts of interest.) The report made headlines on October 20 when the task force’s recommendations were formally made public, with news reports focusing almost exclusively on the panel’s criticisms of the nations’ anti-gay laws. The NIMH responded by saying simply that would study that report before deciding which recommendations they would endorse. The report was buried; none of its recommendations were adopted and the NIMH even refused to publish it. A year later, NIMH director Stanley F. Yolles, was forced out by the Nixon Administration, partly because of the report’s recommendations, but also because of his call for legalizing marijuana possession for personal use.
But thanks to those news reports, the gay community was aware of the report and homophile leaders were eager to give it greater publicity. ONE magazine had by then ceased publication, but ONE, Inc., was still in operation as an educational institution, publishing the scholarly ONE Institute Quarterly: Homophile Studies (although by the late sixties, it wasn’t so much a quarterly as it was an occasionally). In 1970, when it became clear that the NIMH was dragging its heels in releasing the report, Hooker sent a copy to One, Inc., which promptly published it in a special edition of the Quarterly. Dorr Legg, the publication’s editor (see Dec 15), defended the action, saying the report merited “careful attention, for it contains the potential for unlocking a whole new era of individual and social well-being for many millions of American men and women.”
With the cat now fully out of the bag, NIMH eventually relented and published the report in 1972, accompanied with seven working papers and three appendices which were not available in the Quarterly. Its full appearance in 1972 came just in time for the APA’s debate over the removal of homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.
[Source: National Institute of Mental Health Task Force on Homosexuality: Final Report and Background Papers. John M. Livingood (ed.). DHEW Publication no (HSM) 72-9116. (Rockville, MD: NIMH, 1972).
ONE Institute Quarterly: Homophile Studies, 8, no. 22 (1970).
Stuart Auerbach. "Panel Urges Repeal of Homosexual Laws." Washington Post (October 21, 1969): A1.
Evelyn Hooker: "Reflections of a 40-year exploration: A scientific view on homosexuality." American Psychologist 48, no. 4 (April 1993): 450-453]
Arthur Rimbaud: 1854-1891. The French poet’s period of productivity was unusually short. He wrote his entire life’s output of poetry as a teenager, and he gave up creative writing altogether before turning twenty. His education was interrupted at the age of sixteen by the Franco-Prussian War. Bored, Rimbaud ran away from his home in Charleville and caught a train to Paris, where he was promptly arrested for fare evasion and vagrancy. He was released and sent back to Charleville, but he ran away again just ten days later, determined to live the life a poet. He had it all planned out, as he wrote to one of his teachers earlier that spring:
I’m now making myself as scummy as I can. Why? I want to be a poet, and I’m working at turning myself into a seer. You won’t understand any of this, and I’m almost incapable of explaining it to you. The idea is to reach the unknown by the derangement of all the senses. It involves enormous suffering, but one must be strong and be a born poet. It’s really not my fault.
Rimbaud joined up with the Symbolist poet Paul Verlaine, and the two embarked on a torrid affair fueled by absinthe, hashish, and some of the most striking visionary verse that Paris had ever seen. The two moved to London in 1872, where they lived an impoverished life, though Rimbaud’s adapted the splendor of the British Museum’s reading room as his office, where “heating, lighting, pens and ink were free.”
A year later, Verlaine left Rimbaud and returned to Paris, but he soon missed his young lover. Verlaine asked Rimbaud to meet him in Brussels, but the reunion went badly. On July 10, Verlaine, drunk, fired two shots at Rimbaud, wounding him in the left wrist. Verlaine was sentenced to two years in prison, but only after an intense interrogation about his relationship with Rimbaud. Rimbaud, for his part, returned home to Charleville and completed his landmark Une Saison en Enfer (A Season in Hell) in 1873. The pioneering Symbolist work candidly detailed his relationship with Verlaine. The following year, Rimbaud was back in London, this time with the poet Germain Nouveau. They were together for three months while Rimbaud wrote the poems that would eventually make their way into Les Illuminations.
Rimbaud’s poetry was revolutionary, and it would go on to influence not only the Symbolists, but the Dadaists and Surrealists who followed. Those poems also marked the end of Rimbaud’s writing career (even though Les Illuminations itself wouldn’t see print for another decade). What happened? Why did he stop writing? Nobody really knows. Rimbaud instead spent the next decade undertaking more reliable work in exotic locations: first as a Dutch soldier in Java, then as a quarry foreman in Cyprus, then as a coffee trader in Ethiopia and Yemen. In 1891, he developed what he thought was arthritis in the knee. When he returned to France, the diagnosis turned out to be bone cancer. He died that year in Marseille and was burred in Charleville. Before he died, Rimbaud was by then indifferent to his poetry, but when Verlaine published Rimbaud’s complete works in 1895, he cemented his ex-lover’s singular reputation in the world of poetry forever.
Edward John Barrington Douglas-Scott-Montagu, 3rd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu: 1926. Okay, first of all: how can you not love a name like that? Lord Montagu has been a Conservative member of Britain’s House of Lords since 1947. He knew from a very early age that he was bisexual, but he always tried to keep his affairs with men quiet. That proved impossible when in 1954 he and two others were convicted and imprisoned for twelve months for “conspiracy to incite certain male persons to commit serious offenses with male persons.” Britain, like America, was then in the midst of a massive anti-gay witch hunt. The Sunday Times had editorialized that “its eruption… is today a serious and growing criminal problem,” while a Daily Mail headline read, “Homosexuality spreading like a foul growth in our midst.” As many as 1,000 men were arrested every year for violating the country’s anti-gay laws, and Home Secretary Sir David Fyfe urged magistrates to inflict maximum penalties on those who were found guilty.
But with Montagu protesting his innocence even after his conviction, the trial ended up provoking a sharp debate in British popular opinion. Kinglsy Martin exemplified a growing discomfort over Britain’s gross indecency laws when he wrote in New Statesman & Nation, “It is a social evil but its bad effects are greatly aggravated by our savage criminal law … There should be no penalties attached to adult males consorting together who, in private, decide to live a homosexual life… I believe there are Members of Parliament who’d be willing to make this change in the law.”
Parliament instead decided to study the issue by establishing a special commission to look into Britain’s laws against homosexuality and prostitution. Chaired by Lord John Wolfenden, the commission met over the next three years, and in 1957 issued its report recommending that “homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence.” The report also found that “homosexuality cannot legitimately be regarded as a disease, because in many cases it is the only symptom and is compatible with full mental health in other respects.” It would take another ten years before Parliament would act on the report’s recommendations and decriminalize homosexuality.
As for Lord Montagu, the distress over having been arrested and imprisoned never faded. He never talked about it, saying that he abhors the idea of becoming “a professional convict.” He married his first wife in 1958, and the couple had one son and one daughter before divorcing in 1974, when he turned around and married wife number two, who bore him another son in 1975.
But when Britain’s Channel Four was preparing to air a documentary about the trial in 2007, Lord Montagu felt that it was time to speak up. “I am slightly proud that the law has been changed to the benefit of so many people. I would like to think that I would get some credit for that. Maybe I’m being very boastful about it but I think because of the way we behaved and conducted our lives afterwards, because we didn’t sell our stories, we just returned quietly to our lives, I think that had a big effect on public opinion.”
Allan Horsfall: 1927-2012. He was born in the tiny mining village of Laneshaw Bridge in Lancashire where he was raised by his grandparents, whom he described has “God-fearing Conservatives and fervent upholders of law and order.” Like most gay men who grew up in small towns, it was during his time in military service — the RAF, in particular, where Horsfall discovered other gay men. One man, in particular, he met in an ex-Servicemen’s Club in 1947: Harold Pollard, a primary school teacher, would remain his life partner until Harold’s death in 1996. But unlike a lot of gay men who grew up in small towns, Horsefall didn’t flee to the big city. He decided instead to return back to his small town, take up residence in a simple miner’s cottage and become a clerk for the National Coal Board.
Horsfall settled in to a rather non-descript life until 1956. when the Suez Crisis inspired him to enter politics. He joined the Labour Party and won an election as a councillor in Nelson. After the Wolfenden Report was released in 1957 with its recommendation that homosexuality be decriminalized, Horsfall immediately became involved with the London-based Homosexual Law Reform Society. When he decided that the HLRS was too hidebound, closeted and aloof to be effective, Horsfall helped to found the North West Committee for Homosexual Law Reform in 1964. In doing so, he made it clear that he believed gay people shouldn’t remain closeted in order to support law reform. His North West Committee also rejected the national campaign’s opinion that gays were “unfortunates” who deserved pity. Again, against the advice of friends, he used his home address and phone number as the public point of contact. But he found that there was actually very little hostile reaction. If anything, his experience harkened back to the days of Edward Carpenter from the turn of the century (see Aug 29), who lived openly and undisturbed in the mining vilage of Milthorpe while Oscar Wilde was being prosecuted for “gross indecency” in London.
After Britain finally decriminalized homosexuality in 1967 (see July 28), the London-based HLRS, believing that its work was done, floundered for a few years before folding. But Horsfall’s North West Committee kept going and evolved into the Campaign for Homosexual Equality which, in 1971, took part in the first major gay rights demonstration in London. Horsfall’s main focus, by then, was on increasing the social support for gay people by establishing membership clubs in the north of England. Modelled after Working Men’s Clubs, his proposed Esquire Clubs were intended to function as a combination community center and pub for rural and small-town gays and lesbians. The clubs themselves were unsuccessful, but his fight to establish them paid a very different kind of dividend. In Burnley, Horsfall’s CHE organized a public meeting to confront the local Christian Alliance, which had formed to prevent the opening of an Esquire club there. During the packed meeting, Horsfall asked all of the homosexuals to stand up. Over one hundred did so, making it one of the first mass coming-out demonstrations in the U.K. It also marked a coming-of-age for the gay rights movement in Britain. CHE went on to become the UK’s largest LGBT-rights organization, with over 5,000 members in more than 100 local groups across England and Wales.
Horsfall suffered a heart attack in 1970, and by 1974 he began withdrawing from the front lines of the gay-rights movement. As a sign of the respect he commanded, he was named President for Life of CHE. In 1998, he became involved in the case of the Bolton Seven, a group of gay men who were prosecuted because, while homosexuality was legal, group sex between men was not. He also campaigned for an end the ban on gays serviing openly in the military, the equalization of the age of consent, and allowing gays to adopt children. He also became involved with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament during the 1980s.
Horsfall died on August 27, 2012 of heart failure at the age of 84. His web site, Gay Monitor, has been selected for preservation by the British Library’s UK Web Archive.
And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?