The Daily Agenda for Friday, January 31
January 31st, 2014
Events This Weekend: Doncaster Winter Pride, Doncaster, UK; Lahti Pride, Lahti, Finland; Midsumma, Melbourne, VIC; BeefDip, Puerto Vallarta, JAL; Rainbow Reykjavik Winter Festival, Reykjavik, Iceland; Bay Area American Indian Two Spirit (BAAITS) Powwow, San Francisco, CA; GayWhistler Winter Pride, Whistler, BC.
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
The Golden Calf, located just south of Thomas Circle, operated from 1963 to 1970. It was a popular meeting place for the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
50 YEARS AGO: Randolphe Wicker Appears on the Les Crane Show: 1964. Randolfe Wicker was never afraid of publicity. When he moved to New York City and became involved in the local Mattachine Society chapter, he pushed for the group to become more visible and to publicize its activities. Some of the more conservative members of the group feared that he was pushing too hard and too fast. So Wicker got around the problem by starting a one-man group he called Homosexual League of New York. That way, if Mattachine members became too uncomfortable with his planned actions, he could just switch and do them under the guise of the alternative “group.” In 1962, he had already talked WBAI, a listener-supported radio station, to air a 90 minute program with gay people on a panel (see Jul 15). That appearance led to listener complaints to the FCC, which finally ruled in favor of the station in 1964 (see Jan 23).
Just one week after the FCC’s ruling, Wicker found a somewhat larger audience when he appeared in WABC’s Les Crane Show to answer questions about homosexuality. True, the program aired at 1:00 a.m., and it took place about eight months before Crane’s show went nationwide, but Wicker’s appearance remains an important landmark in gay activism on the East Coast.
Washington Post Publishes “Those Others: A Report on Homosexuality”: 1965. We often talk about 1969, the year of the Stonewall rebellion, as being the pivotal year in the history of the gay rights movement. We even divide our history into “pre-Stonewall” and “post-Stonewall” areas. But as I’ve been putting these posts together, I’ve come to the conclusion that if one had to pick just one single year in which things truly began to change for gay people, the year to really pay attention to would be 1965, as the events of that year laid the groundwork which allowed the transformation which took place after Stonewall possible. The year already started off with a bang when San Francisco police raided a New Years’ Day party attended by straight couples as well as gay (see Jan 1). For the first time, straight people witnessed first hand the police harassment that gay people experienced on a routine basis. That event would have a lasting impact on city politics.
Another important development came on the last day of that month, on January 31, on a Sunday morning, when Jean M. White, a staff reporter for The Washington Post, was able to accomplish a most remarkable thing. She published the first installment of a five part series titled, “Those Others: A Report on Homosexuality,” which was the first relatively judgment-free, balanced, mostly accurate and sympathetic overview in a major newspaper of what it meant to be gay in the 196os. The first installment began:
This series of articles would not have been written five years ago.
Then, a frank and open discussion of homosexuality would have been impossible. It was a topic not to be mentioned in polite society or public print because lit; could be distasteful, embarrassing and disturbing.
So, like mental illness and venereal disease earlier, homosexuality was stored out of sight in society’s attic, carefully hidden under a blanket of silence — except for snide jokes or oblique allusions.
Now, there is a growing awareness and concern about the problem of homosexuality — brought about in part by a more open and liberal public attitude toward sex in general.
In recent years, the subject has been debated debated in the British Parliament, discussed in statements by doctors, lawyers and churchmen and examined, if somewhat gingerly, in the public media.
The conspiracy of silence of the past nurtured myths, misconceptions, false stereotypes and feelings of disgust and revulsion. They still cloud any discussion of homosexuality. But more and more, recognition has come of a need to reappraise our laws — and our attitudes.
This series was quite unlike another series of articles published by The New York Times just two year earlier (see Dec 17). This series focused mainly on male homosexuals “because female homosexuality poses less of a social problem. The Lesbian has been treated more tolerantly by society and seldom comes into conflict with the law.” The first article of the series included a broad overview of the gay community — its organizations, magazines, and the difficulties both of life in the closet and outside of it. It also included a few vignettes of some of the individuals in the D.C. area. Twenty-five year old “David” represented one who lived more or less in the gay community, attending parties and having been a patient at St. Elizabeth’s Psychiatric Hospital “to try to change but ‘it didn’t take.” Another person described in the opening article was for some unknown reason unnamed, but an astute observer today would recognize him as Frank Kameny (see May 21), the late pioneering gay rights advocate:
The astronomer speaks articulately of civil rights and job discrimination and cites studies in anthropology and psychoanalytic theory. Seven years ago he lost his Government job because of a report that he was a homosexual.
“I decided then that I had run long enough,” ‘he recalls. “All of us have to make our own compromises in life. I decided not to hide any more.”
He fought his job dismissal in the courts. Since then he has appeared before a congressional subcommittee to speak for the local Mattachine Society and has defended homosexuality on radio and television programs.
After long months without work and then a temporary job as a technician, he finally was hired as a physicist a year ago by a private employer, who knows he is a homosexual.
This middle-class homosexual with college degrees deplores the perverts and -queens” and points out that heterosexuals also have their rapists, child molesters, sadists and neurotics. He sometimes drops in at a “gay” bar for conversation and a drink and attends the Mattachine meetings. He has sought a lasting relationship without success.
This is not the type of homosexual that the police generally meet. They know the homosexual as the predatory man who loiters in public men’s rooms. Or they see the man who compulsively seeks a quick partner in the park.
The opening installment of the article continued with a review of Kinsey’s 1948 Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and noted the early emerging debate about whether homosexuality was a mental illness. Four more installments in the series would be published over the next for days. Part two focused on the disagreements among psychologists about whether homosexuality can or ought to be “cured,” and it featured quotations from Sigmund Freud’s 1935 letter to an American mother discounting the possibility of changing her son’s sexuality (see Apr 9). Part three introduced readers to the idea that gay people could be found throughout society and in all professions. Part four explored the legal difficulties that gay men experienced in a country where every state except Illinois and every territory and the District of Columbia criminalized gay relationships (including the North Carolina case where a man was sentenced to a minimum of twenty years — see Jan 8). Part five delved into the federal ban on hiring gay people for government jobs, and the efforts of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., to overturn that ban.
While the series was exceptionally balanced for 1965, it wasn’t entirely free of the typical hangups and prejudices of that era. For example, in Part 3, White wrote:
It is true, however, that homosexuals seem to cluster around certain “arty” professions — the fashion industry, hairdressing, the theater and entertainment world. In fact, there seems to be some basis for the charge of “reverse discrimination” — that homosexuals hire their own kind and set up a “homosexual closed shop.”
But whatever faults may be found in the series by today’s standards, they pale when considering the abject invisibility that the gay community experienced in the 1960s. Which is why this series was so important. At that very moment, gay activists on the East Coast were already coming together to devising strategies for bringing the entire community out of the shadows. Barbara Gittings (see Jul 31), the Philadelphia-based gay rights advocate who edited the Daughters of Bilitis’s magazine The Ladder, praised it as “the most astute, as well as most extensive, coverage so far in U. S. papers. …The POST’s survey of the conflicting ‘expert’ views of homosexuality is one of the most comprehensive run-downs in print anywhere.”
Not only did most of the series appear in the front page of The Washington Post, but abbreviated versions of it appeared in several other newspapers around the country, including The Providence Sun-Journal in Rhode Island and The Chicago Sun-Times. It would wind up providing a well-timed introduction of gay people to the general public, ahead of a series of protests that would take place later that year.
[Sources: Jean M. White. “Those Others: A Report on Homosexuality.” Washington Post (February 1, 1965): A1.
Jean M. White. “Those Others — II. Scientists Disagree on Basic Nature of Homosexuality, Chance of Cure.” Washington Post (February 1, 1965): A1.
Jean M. White. “Those Others — III. Homosexuals Are in All Kinds of Jobs, Find Place in Many Levels of Society.” Washington Post (February 2, 1965): A1.
Jean M. White. “Those Others — IV. 49 States and the District Punish Overt Homosexual Acts as Crimes.” Washington Post (February 3, 1965): A1.
Jean M. White. “Those Others — V. Homosexuals’ Militancy Reflected in Attacks on Ouster in U.S. Jobs.” Washington Post (February 4, 1965): A1.
Barbara Gittings (as Gene Damon). “Cross-Currents.” The Ladder (April 1965): 19.]
“Suitcase Murderer” Found Guilty: 2005. Witnesses saw Josh Cottrell, 22, and Guinn “Ritchie” Phillips, 36, eating lunch at a restaurant in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, on July 17, 2003. Seven days later, Phillips’s truck and other belongings were found abandoned in southern Indiana. The next day, two fishermen pulled a suitcase out of Rough River Lake, opened it, and found Phillips’s body inside. When police arrested Cottrell on June 27, they charged him with murder and announced they would seek the death penalty in the case. And by all rights he should have been convicted very easily: he confessed to bludgeoning Phillips to death and stuffing him into the suitcase. His own family members even testified that Cottrell planned to kill Philips because he was gay, and lured Phillips into his hotel room where the murder took place.
But in court, Cottrell deployed the gay panic defense. He testified that Phillips came to the motel room uninvited and tried to kiss him and force him into oral sex. Phillips panicked, he claimed, and bludgeoned him to death. His lawyers argued that Cottrell was within his rights to defend himself.
After deliberating for nine hours, the jury returned its verdict. They found Cottrell guilty. Of manslaughter, not murder. Phillips’s brother sized it up this way to a local newspaper: “I think they (the jury) were looking at my brother being a homosexual when they made their decision to pick the lesser charge.” The judge sentenced Cottrell to 20 years in prison, the maximum allowed under the law.
Fred Karger: 1950. The political consultant and gay rights activist was largely responsible for drawing attention to the massive Mormon funding of the fight to strip LGBT Californians of their right to marry. Before becoming a gay rights advocate, he was a Republican political consultant at the Dolphin Group, where he worked in the Presidential campaigns of Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush. In 2012, he decided to return to presidential politics, launching his own bid for the GOP presidential nomination. His campaign may have seemed quixotic, but Karger was serious about his goal to “open up” the Republican party and to send a message to young people to “stand up and be proud in a tough atmosphere.” He also achieved a notable first by becoming the first openly gay presidential candidate from a major political party in American history.
Portia de Rossi: 1973. That’s her professional name. Another name she goes by is Portia Lee James DeGeneres. The Australian-born actress is best known for her roles as Nelle Porter on Ally McBeal and as Linsay Bluth Fünke on Arrested Development. She married Ellen DeGeneres in 2008, and on August 6, 2010 she field a petition to take Ellen’s name. She became a US citizen in 2012.
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?