The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, March 12
March 12th, 2014
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
The name pretty much says it all. You can read Jack Fritscher’s memories of the Brothel Hotel here.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Nine Plead Guilty To “Gross Indecency” In Ann Arbor, MI: 1960. The city of Ann Arbor, Michigan is sometimes called the Berkeley of the Midwest for its reputation for progressive politics. In 1974, Ann Arbor voters elected the nation’s first openly lesbian candidate to its city council (See Apr 1). But in 1960, things weren’t so comfortable for gay people. Earlier in the year, Ann Arbor and University of Michigan police had embarked on a series of raids around campus which netted at least 34 arrests, and they were scheduled to appear in court on March 12. The arrests were generally involving homosexuality in some respects, including “acts of gross indecency and attempting to procure between males.”
On March 12, attorneys for nine of the men asked for jury trials, whereupon Judge James R. Breakey, Jr., announced that if the defendants insisted on wasting his “valuable time” and the jury found them guilty, he would sentence them to six months in Southern Michigan Prison in Jackson, and add increased fines for good measure. But if the defendants change their plea to guilty and “throw themselves on the mercy of the court,” they would be sentenced to thirty days in jail, a $250 fine plus court costs, and five years’ probation. All nine took the bargain and changed their pleas to guilty.
[Source: “Michigan Campus Purge Felt with Added Fury.” Mattachine Review 6, no. 5 (May 1960): 10.]
New York Times Magazine’s “Homosexuality On Campus”: 1978. In February of 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court, in declining to review a lower court ruling, let stand a decision requiring the University of Missouri to recognize a gay student group as an official campus organization. That ruling became the backdrop for journalists Grace and Fred Hechinger’s profile on the state of homosexuality on the nation’s campuses for the New York Times Magazine. The Hechingers traveled to six campuses — Yale, Stanford, U.C. Berkeley, Northwestern, Missouri, and Hood College (a small women’s college in Frederick, Maryland) — to explore the extent to which attitudes had changed on campus toward gay people, and the growing visibility of gays themselves. There were inevitable conflicts, but the journalists focused less on overt displays of homophobia and concentrated instead on the interpersonal challenges:
For many members of the homosexual minority, being homosexual is still almost as much a disadvantage as it was 30 years ago. As freshmen, they enter into a peer culture that, for the first time, is free of most parental and general adult restraints. A new world of experimentation opens up. The homosexuals — many of them for the first time confronting, or perhaps merely suspecting, their homosexuality — are thrown into a world in which they must function without feeling fully part of it. It is a world dominated by powerful traditional and communal mores and symbols. All around them, heterosexual preoccupations with dating and mating are at a peak. Sex looms large among student concerns and conversation. The basic difference in interest is bound to erect a barrier between homosexual and heterosexual roommates….
An editor of an undergraduate daily admitted that he felt a certain sickness about homosexuals,” but on the political level I’m supportive.” As a junior he had picked a homosexual roommate from a choice of two. The heterosexual candidate was addicted to loud music; the homosexual one had a lot of books, was interested in history. “On a conscious level,” the editor, now a senior, said, “there was no problem. But still I didn’t get to be good pals with him. His life outside school was different from mine. There was a gap. I feel like the white liberal kid talking about a black roommate.”
But most of the article focused on gay students themselves, mainly on issues surrounding how and whether to come out on campus and with their families. Some campuses had responded with group programs to aide in navigating the complex waters:
At Northwestern, James E. Avery, the university’s young and articulate chaplain, arranged for us to meet with a group of homosexual students and Samuel Todes, the associate professor of philosophy, who is one of the rare species of homosexual faculty members willing to “come out.” Professor Todes reported that every Wednesday evening a discussion group is held, attended by some 40 students, most of whom are in the process of “coming out.” The discussion group, said Professor Todes, “is a small breathing hole in what is still a pretty airtight closet.”
…At Standord, we joined The Bridge, a peer-counseling group, in an informal afternoon discussion. Sitting in a circle, cross-legged on pillows, the group of young men and women looked like any other college rap session. Although we had been told that at least half of those present were homosexual, it would have been impossible to tag them, confirming our observation that on campuses, as elsewhere, only a small number of homosexuals matched popular stereotypes.
In sharing the emotional strain of many of their follow students, these young people underscored the tough side effects of coming out, even the tentative declarations to a few friends. One heterosexual student described her reaction when a member of the group had told her he was homosexual. “What was I supposed to say? You can’t just reply, ‘That’s interesting, what else is new?’ ”
…”Coming out,” said Dave, a peer counselor as well as a leader in the Gay People’s Union, “is a very liberating experience, but you have to be awfully sure of yourself to handle negative attitudes.”
Edward Albee: 1928. The playwright best known for The Zoo Story (1958), The Sandbox (1959), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962), Albee was adopted just a few weeks after he was born by a wealthy theatrical management family involved with the Keith-Albee vaudeville circuit in New York. His parents gave him all of the advantages of wealth, but he never felt close to them. He figured out he was gay when he was twelve and away at boarding school. He never really came out to his parents — “There were many things they never discussed with me – that being one of them – but I didn’t feel close enough to them to impose on them to discuss anything, not that I felt I needed any discussion about it.”
Friends and collaborators describe him as crusty and curmudgeonly. Writers, when writing about him, find it impossible to resist titling their efforts, “Who’s Afraid of Edward Albee?” His reaction to being labelled a “gay writer” illustrates this trait. When he was given the Pioneer Award at the 2011 Lambda Literary Awards, he said, “A writer who happens to be gay or lesbian must be able to transcend self. I am not a gay writer. I am a writer who happens to be gay. Any definition which limits us is deplorable.” Many artists in attendance took offense at that remark, but Albee stuck to his guns, explaining to NPR “Who goes around talking about abstract expressionist painters and making a definition or a distinction between those of them that were straight and those of them who were or are gay? Nobody does it. People only do it with writers and I find that so ridiculous.” But that doesn’t mean he’s a fan of assimilation:
Why do all gay people wish to vanish into this society? Is it self-protection? I don’t know. I just don’t want us to be forced to think that we must imitate other people and behave the way they do in order to become invisible.
I had a 35-year relationship. Were we married? Yeah, I guess we were. We certainly felt that we were. We certainly treated each other like we were married to each other. Did we ever feel the need to get a marriage license? No, of course not. We knew we were married to each other. All this legality that people seem so involved with nowadays, it troubles me just a little bit. I understand all the problems to come with wills and families denying access to the loved one and all of that, but come on, do we really want to be exactly like straight people?
Albee has received three Pulitzer Prizes, for A Delicate Balance (1967), Seascape (1975), and Three Tall Women (1994). The Pulitzer’s drama jury selected Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf for the 1963 prize, but the jury was overruled by the advisory committee which decided not to give a drama award for that year. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf did get a Tony for best play that year, as did 2002’s The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? In 2005, Albee was honored with a special Tony for lifetime achievement.
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?