The Daily Agenda for Friday, February 14

Jim Burroway

February 14th, 2014

Today’s Valentine’s Day poem comes to us from the February, 1962 issue of ONE magazine.

John, Passing

Steve, you say your name is, from Columbus, somewhere,
Going through New York on your way to somewhere else.
Oh New York is my home, I offer, smiling secretly
At the handsome aspirant who is really no longer
An aspirant but — John, passing — in one of his legion disguises.

Only last week you were Tim from Maine’s lumbering woods
Ending your vacation days here — Steve, you say.
Oh, yes. You’ve chosen that temporary name, John, passing.

But before we start, and you leave, admiring the neatness of my petite bedroom,
Let me make another plea as I did when you, John, passing, were here as Milo,
A hundred Bobs, Franks, Georges, Bills and one Sylvester ago.

John, passing.
So I may stop days and weeks searching you,
Finding the many different names you answer to and faces you wear.
So we can weld an iron home from this swirling world
And fend from reality’s cruel sunlight
So loneliness’ deep ulcers can have end and justification in you
And what’s left of this savagely confused pattern can bring a happier existence.

You needn’t answer.
I’m sorry.
I’ve embarrassed you.
Steve you say your name is.
We’d better get on before you’re late for your train.

— Vincent Synge

Events This Weekend: Brighton Half Marathon, Brighton, UK; Arizona Gay Rodeo, Phoenix, AZ; SF Bear Weekend, San Francisco, CA; Sydney Mardi Gras, Sydney, NSW.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Arizona Gay News, February 9, 1979, page 10. Available online here.

Connection was a very popular Phoenix bar, located on North 7th Street across from the VA Hospital. Their parking lot was home to an annual Luau, with trucked in sand converting it into a tropical beach. In its previous incarnation, the club had been known as the Sugar Shack, and it later became simply The Club. The building has since been torn down and replaced with an empty parking lot.

San Francisco Establishes Domestic Partnership Registry: 1991. The idea had been tossed around since 1979, when gay rights activist Tom Brougham proposed a new category of relationship called “domestic partnership.” His cause was taken up in 1982 by San Francisco Supervisor Harry Britt, who had taken the seat of slain Supervisor Harvey Milk. Britt’s bill authorizing domestic partnerships was vetoed that year by Mayor Dianne Feinstein, It would be passed again in 1989, but that law was repealed by a voter initiative in 1990. Fortunately, that same year city voters approved Proposition K which established a modified version of domestic partnerships which allowed same-sex and opposite-sex couples to register. Fittingly, on February 14, 1991, the brand new registry was established in San Francisco allowing partners to register. San Francisco however wasn’t the first city to provide domestic partnerships. That honor went to West Hollywood in 1985.

Jim Kepner: 1923-1997. There’s no telling exactly when Kepner was born. His mother found him wrapped in newspapers under an oleander bush in an empty lot in Galveston, Texas in late September of 1923. They guessed he was about eight months old, give or take. He never knew exactly how old he really was. I asked around trying to get more clues, but Paul Cain, author of Leading the Parade: Conversations with America’s Most Influential Lesbians and Gay Men checked his notes and didn’t have anthing either. He then suggested, “If you just want to pick a day in February, maybe you could pick Feb 14 — Jim really was a sweetheart!”

And so I shall.

Kepner may have been abandoned because of his deformed leg and club foot, which despite corrective surgery and physical therapy, gave him a limp for the rest of his life. That limp, more than his attempt to classify himself as a Conscientious Objector, probably kept him out of the draft during World War II. That he was open about his homosexuality may have been a factor as well. In 1942, he moved with his father to San Francisco, where he discovered the underground gay scene. He also began searching for books and other material on homosexuality. Over the years, that search would lead him to compile one of the largest archives of LGBT literature in the U.S.

Between 1943 and 1951, he moved to Los Angeles, New York, Miami, back to San Francisco, then back to Los Angeles. Along the way, he became involved with the Communist party while the U.S. was still allied with the Soviet Union, but was kicked out when his homosexuality became known. Upon returning to L.A., Kepner became involved with the Mattachine Society. Soon after, he met up with other former Mattachine members who had just launched ONE, the first nationally-distributed gay magazine (see Oct 15).

Kepner’s first article in ONE appeared in March, 1954, titled “The Importance of Being Different” under the pseudonym of Lyn Pedersen. His debut article went to the very heart of a critical debate taking place in the gay community. Mattachine founder Harry Hay, for example (see Apr 7), argued that gay people were a distinct cultural minority, while others like Dale Jennings (see Oct 21) held that the only difference between gay people and straight people was who they went to bed with. Kepner threw his support with Hay, announcing “Vive la Différence!” But he also urged readers not to let the controversy split the nascent movement. “What can a Society accomplish if half of it feels its object is to convince the world we’re just like everyone else and the other half feels homosexuals are variants in the full sense of the term and have every right to be? … Only by allowing the free action of individual groups within the structure of an elastic society can such diverse philosophies work together.”

By the fall of 1954, Kepner was working more or less full time at ONE, although he didn’t draw a salary until 1957. Kepner continued writing under his own name as well as several pseudonyms, mainly as a marketing ploy to mask the fact that ONE had such a tiny staff. Meanwhile, ONE had also established an educational branch, the ONE Institute, in addition to the publication arm of ONE magazine. The competing goals, education versus publication, put a strain on the organization, with the two arms competing for priorities and scarce resources. Kepner finally resigned from ONE in 1960, frustrated by the infighting and lax management in the organization.

Kepner stayed out of gay advocacy until the mid sixties. In 1966, he became the secretary of the Southern California Council on Religion and the Homophile, and edited ten issues of their newsletter. He also began publishing his own magazine, Pursuit & Symposium, which focused on gay history. He mortgaged his house to fund it. After two years, the magazine failed and he lost his house. In 1967, he helped to organize a rally in response to the LAPD raid on the Black Cat bar (see Jan 1), where he declared that “the nameless love would never again shut up.” Out of that rally came a new gay rights group, PRIDE (Personal Rights in Defense and Education), and Kepner served as the editor for the group’s newsletter. In October, that newsletter would become The Los Angeles Advocate, then later simply The Advocate. Kepner remained a regular with The Advocate through 1976, and contributed sporadically afterwards. Kepner also helped to form the Society of Pat Rocco Enlightened Enthusiasts (SPREE), and is credited with convincing the Park Theatre’s (straight) owners to program for gay audiences (see Feb 9). In 1969, he became an active member of the Los Angeles Gay Liberation Front, and he served on the Christopher Street West committee from 1970 to 1977. He was a founder of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center, and would would come to work as a member of their paid staff for their education program from 1978 to 1980.

Jim Kepner with his archives

Beginning in 1971, Kepner made his vast collection of gay documents and memorabilia available to the public. In 1975, he dubbed his collection the Western Gay Archives, then renamed them again in 1984 as the International Gay and Lesbian Archives. By then, the collection consisted of 25,000 books and thousands of other items. In 1994, Kepner’s collection was merged with ONE’s archives at the University of Southern California. That archive today is known as the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives. (If you ever have a chance to stop in, I heartily recommend it.) Kepner died in 1997, at about the age of 74. A month later, his anthology, Rough News, Daring Views: 1950s’ Pioneer Gay Press Journalism, was published by Haworth Press.

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?


February 14th, 2014

Another day, another marriage ban overturned.

Virginia is for Lovers (Some restrictions may apply)


February 14th, 2014

Thanks for the poem, Jim, which I rather unexpectedly enjoyed. And thanks too for the bio notes on Jim Kepner; he achieved so much, yet I had never heard of him.


February 14th, 2014


I was surprised it wasn’t at the top for BTB. I noticed there was a muted response all over.

I don’t know if the storm distracted (plus how late the decision came out) or if we’ve actually developed the old ennui over these :)


February 14th, 2014

just started reading the decision–front page has a passage from Mildred Loving’s book. :)

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