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The Daily Agenda for Friday, May 2

Jim Burroway

May 2nd, 2014

Existentialism in New Mexico: On I-10 near Lordsville, NM.

 
Chris and I are back on the road again this morning, on our way from our home in Tucson Arizona to pick of our car from Sewell Ford in Odessa, Texas, where we left it more than a week ago with a broken-down transmission after only 55,000 miles. The folks at Sewell got it fixed under warranty more quickly than I thought they would and even faster than they thought they would — they had said that it might take a week before they could even look at it. But the service rep called Monday and said it was ready to be picked up. So we’re heading out again for the nine hour drive to get the car, drop off the rental car, and return back to Tucson by Sunday night. We’ll be sticking to the boring Interstates in a bid to make good time. Ya’ll behave while I’m gone. See you Monday.

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Curaçao Pride, Curaçao; AIDS Walk Las Vegas, NV; Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Miami, FL; Hot Rodeo 2014, Palm Springs, CA; Prague Rainbow Spring, Prague, Czech Republic; São Paulo Pride, São Paulo, Brazil; Sitges International Bear Meeting, Sitges, Spain; Tokyo Pride, Tokyo, Japan.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Michael’s Thing, April 29, 1974, page 16 (Click to enlarge).

 
The Continental Baths were more than just a bathhouse. It also featured the night club where Bette Midler, Barry Manilow, and Wayland Flowers got their start. Other featured big name performers included Cab Calloway, Nell Carter, John Davidson, Gloria Gaynor, Andy Kaufman, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Manhattan Transfer, the New York Dolls, Pointer Sisters, Johnnie Ray, Martha Raye, Rip Taylor, Tiny Tim, Sarah Vaughan, and, exactly forty years ago tonight, cabaret singer Jane Olivor in a fundraising benefit for the National Gay Task Force.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Disloyalty vs. Security Risk: 1950. So if you’ve been following along on the Daily Agendas (for example, Feb 28, Mar 14Mar 23, Apr 18Apr 26) you would have a pretty good feel for the incredible anti-gay hysteria that was sweeping the country in 1950. The twin scares — the Lavender Scare and the Red Scare — cemented in everyone’s mind the argument that gay people in federal employment, particularly in the State Department and in the armed forces, represented a security risk which, in the words of the GOP chairman, were “as dangerous as the actual Communists” (see Apr 18). On May 2, columnist James Marlow took the opportunity to provide a couple of hypothetical situations to explain to readers the difference between being disloyal and being a security risk:

1. Jones, completely loyal, is a good worker, sober on the job. But at night, sometimes or often, he gets drunk and talks too much. In the non-sensitive agriculture department that might not make much difference, as long as Jones did his work and kept out of trouble when drunk. In the commerce department, if Jones held a sensitive job, he might be considered a security risk: he might blab secrets when drunk.

The commerce department could do one of two things: fire Jones on the ground that he was “unsuitable” for government work; or transfer him to a non-sensitive job. But state department officials say that if Jones worked there and was considered a security risk, he’d be fired. (The say emphatically they keep no known security risks or disloyal persons on the payroll, although Senator McCarthy, Republican of Wisconsin, says the place is full of them.)

2. Smith is found to be a homosexual. He’s completely loyal but because of his secret sex habits may some day run into an individual or group which would blackmail him. In the state department, he’d be considered a security risk and out, officials there say.

Officials of other government agencies, sensitive and non-sensitive, told this writer they would get rid of a homosexual on the grounds that he was “unsuitable” for government employment, not because he was a security risk.

L-R: Barbara Gittings, Frank Kameny, and John Fryer as “Dr. H. Anonymous”

“Dr. H. Anonymous” Addresses the APA: 1972. For several years, gay activists Barbara Gittings (see Jul 31) and Frank Kameny (see May 21), among others, saw the American Psychiatric Association’s classification of homosexuality as a mental illness as the single greatest impediment to equal rights for gays and lesbians. As long as the APA labeled gay people as sick, the government had an excuse to refuse to hire them, immigration authorities could refuse to allow them into the country, and thousands of therapists could continue to inflict harmful and questionable treatments to try to “cure” their patients (see, for example, see Jan 18Jan 20, Mar 29, Jun 3Jul 26Oct 30Dec 8, and our award-winning investigation, What are Little Boys Made Of?).

For Gittings and Kameny in particular, getting the APA to change its stance was a pressing priority. After years of protesting APA conventions as outsiders (see May 14), they finally were given permission in 1972 to organize a panel on homosexuality for that year’s convention in Dallas. The panel’s topic was to be “Lifestyles of Non-Patient Homosexuals.” Gittings and Kameny were part of the panel, and they had recruited three other prominent psychiatrists, Judd Marmor, Robert Siedenberg and Kent Robinson. But they also felt it was important to include a professional psychiatrist who was gay. Finding one who would agree to speak was virtually impossible. Everyone they asked turned them down, except one: John Fryer (see Nov 7), and he would only do it in disguise. He wore a mask, wig, and a suit several sizes too big (which was not easy to find since Fryer was already a big man to begin with), and he spoke into a microphone which distorted his voice. And with all of those precautions in place, American psychiatrists, for the first time, heard a fellow psychiatrist by the name of “Dr. H. Anonymous” describe what it was like to be gay in a profession that considered him sick. His speech was short, but to the point:

Thank you, Dr. Robinson. I am a homosexual. I am a psychiatrist. I, like most of you in this room, am a member of the APA and am proud to be a member. However, tonight I am, insofar as in it is possible, a “we.” I attempt tonight to speak for many of my fellow gay members of the APA as well as for myself. When we gather at these conventions, we have a group, which we have glibly come to call the Gay-PA. And several of us feel that it is time that real flesh and blood stand up before you and ask to be listened to and understood insofar as that is possible. I am disguised tonight in order that I might speak freely without conjuring up too much regard on your part about the particular WHO I happen to be. I do that mostly for your protection. I can assure you that I could be any one of more than a hundred psychiatrists registered at this convention. And the curious among you should cease attempting to figure out who I am and listen to what I say.

We homosexual psychiatrists must persistently deal with a variety of what we shall call ‘Nigger Syndromes.’ We shall describe some of them and how they make us feel.

As psychiatrists who are homosexual, we must know our place and what we must do to be successful. If our goal is academic appointment, a level of earning capacity equal to our fellows, or admission to a psychoanalytic institute, we must make certain that no one in a position of power is aware of our sexual orientation or gender identity. Much like the black man with the light skin who chooses to live as a white man, we cannot be seen with our real friends — our real homosexual family — lest our secret be known and our dooms sealed. There are practicing psychoanalysts among us who have completed their training analysis without mentioning their homosexuality to their analysts. Those who are willing to speak up openly will do so only if they have nothing to lose, then they won’t be listened to.

As psychiatrists who are homosexuals, we must look carefully at the power which lies in our hands to define the health of others around us. In particular, we should have clearly in our minds, our own particular understanding of what it is to be a healthy homosexual in a world, which sees that appellation as an impossible oxymoron. One cannot be healthy and be homosexual, they say. One result of being psychiatrists who are homosexual is that we are required to be more healthy than our heterosexual counterparts. We have to make some sort of attempt through therapy or analysis to work problems out. Many of us who make that effort are still left with a sense of failure and of persistence of “the problem.” Just as the black man must be super person, so must we, in order to face those among our colleagues who know we are gay. We could continue to cite examples of this sort of situation for the remainder of the night. It would be useful, however, if we could now look at the reverse.

What is it like to be a homosexual who is also a psychiatrist? Most of us Gay-PA members do not wear our badges into the Bayou Landing, [a gay bar in Dallas] or the local Canal Baths. If we did, we could risk the derision of all the non-psychiatrist homosexuals. There is much negative feeling in the homosexual community towards psychiatrists. And those of us, who are visible, are the easiest targets from which the angry can vent their wrath. Beyond that, in our own hometowns, the chances are that in any gathering of homosexuals, there is likely to be any number of patients or paraprofessional employees who might try to hurt us professionally in a larger community if those communities enable them to hurt us that way.

Finally, as homosexual psychiatrists, we seem to present a unique ability to marry ourselves to institutions rather than wives or lovers. Many of us work twenty hours daily to protect institutions that would literally chew us up and spit us out if they knew the truth. These are our feelings, and like any set of feelings, they have value insofar as they move us toward concrete action.

Here, I will speak primarily to the other members of the Gay-PA who are present, not in costume tonight. Perhaps you can help your fellow psychiatrist friends understand what I am saying. When you are with professionals, fellow professionals, fellow psychiatrists who are denigrating the “faggots” and the “queers,” don’t just stand back, but don’t give up your careers either. Show a little creative ingenuity; make sure you let your associates know that they have a few issues that they have to think through again. When fellow homosexuals come to you for treatment, don’t let your own problems get in your way, but develop creative ways to let the patient know that they’re all right. And teach them everything they need to know. Refer them to other sources of information with basic differences from your own so that the homosexual will be freely able to make his own choices.

Finally, pull up your courage by your bootstraps and discover ways in which you and homosexual psychiatrists can be closely involved in movements which attempt to change the attitudes of heterosexuals — and homosexuals — toward homosexuality. For all of us have something to lose. We may not be considered for that professorship. The analyst down the street may stop referring us his overflow. Our supervisor may ask us to take a leave of absence. We are taking an even bigger risk, however, not accepting fully our own humanity, with all of the lessons it has to teach all the other humans around us and ourselves. This is the greatest loss: our honest humanity. And that loss leads all those others around us to lose that little bit of their humanity as well. For, if they were truly comfortable with their own homosexuality, then they could be comfortable with ours. We must use our skills and wisdom to help them — and us — grow to be comfortable with that little piece of humanity called homosexuality.

The panel was a sensation. Despite the august credentials held by the other psychiatrists, their contributions to the discussion were all but ignored. Dr. Anonymous’s speech was the only thing people talked about. The “Dr. Anonymous” speech proved to be a critical turning point. The following year, Dr. Robert Spitzer, who was editor of the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual, met quietly with the Gay-PA and began the process of removing homosexuality from the authoritative manual. That process was completed by the end of the year (see Dec 15)

But on that day, the end goal still seemed to be very far away. But Fryer, despite his initial hesitation, was elated. The next day as he was flying back to Boston from Dallas, Fryer wrote in his diary:

The day has passed — it has come and gone and I am still alive. For the first time, I have identified with a force which is akin to my selfhood. I am not Black. I am not alcoholic. I am not really addicted. I am homosexual, and I am the only American psychiatrist who has stood up on a podium to let real flesh and blood tell this nation it is so.

[You can see Dr. Fryer’s handwritten speech here and his diary entry here.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Lesley Gore: 1946. She was still a junior in high school in 1963 when her single, “It’s My Party” shot to number one, was nominated for a Grammy, and sold over one million copies. She followed that with a string of top forty hits: “Judy’s Turn to Cry”, “She’s a Fool,” “You Don’t Own Me,” and another Grammy nominated hit, “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows.” Her fame led to a cameo in the beach party movie, The Girls on the Beach, which also included an early appearance by the Beach Boys, and she played the villain, Pussycat, one of Catwoman’s acolytes, in the Batman TV series. In 1980, she won an Academy Award, with her brother Michael, for the song  “Out Here On My Own” for the Fame soundtrack. In 2005, Gore revealed in an interview that she was a lesbian, and had been living with her partner since 1982.

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?

Comments

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Eric Payne
May 2nd, 2014 | LINK

Jim,

Have a safe trip. Fingers crossed the drive home is uneventful — just remember, a new (or rebuilt) transmission has to be babied for awhile; we just had to have the tranny on our 2001 Isuzu Trooper rebuilt (at a $3,500 cost). A week later, it was back in the shop to have some more work done on the torque converter (it developed a “shudder,” and felt as if we were driving over stop-strips when shifting into third). Yeah, the car itself, isn’t worth $3,500… but we both agreed, this car has been perfect for us, and wanted to keep it.

Hyhybt
May 2nd, 2014 | LINK

I have to ask: does that sign in any way involve half a cat?

Jim Burroway
May 2nd, 2014 | LINK

Hyhybt,

Yes, and no.

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/113/the-story-of-schroedingers-cat-an-epic-poem

CPT_Doom
May 2nd, 2014 | LINK

I always tell people my favorite road sign was in the mountains outside Albuquerque that said “High Winds May Exist.” I was driving alone when I saw it, part of a cross-country trip, and nearly had to pull over from the laughing. All I could think was “do you mean here?”

Jim Burroway
May 2nd, 2014 | LINK

We saw signs in the Rio Hondo valley saying “flooding may exist.”

I think it’d be cool if they replaced their “Welcome to New Mexico” signs at the state line with “New Mexico may exist.”

Ray
May 2nd, 2014 | LINK

Your quest was very cool, Jim. It reminded me of my own in 2011 when helping move my kids from California to Austin. Two blowouts on the car trailer 15 minutes from the start in the middle of LA traffic. We made it to Palm Spring from San Juan Capistrano in just EIGHT hours (normally two). Major dust storm in New Mexico – the entire trip across the state. Two more blowouts on the UHaul truck just south of Fort Stockton. Best trip of my life. I got to talk with my daughter all day long for three consecutive days while she drove the car pulling another trailer. Got to know my grandson a little better and got to see what a great guy my son-in-law is. When UHaul come to fix the flats on the truck, they brought us all a box lunch without us even asking. It was an adventure!

Ray
May 2nd, 2014 | LINK

I think you mean “Lordsburg” in your image caption.

Timothy Kincaid
May 2nd, 2014 | LINK

I think you mean “Lordsburg” in your image caption.

Oh, I’m sure the Lord won’t mind.

(sorry: semi-obscure literary reference)

Eric Payne
May 2nd, 2014 | LINK

I think you mean “Lordsburg” in your image caption.

It used to be Lordsburg, but there’s been a population change.

Hyhybt
May 3rd, 2014 | LINK

Not quite what I was thinking of, but close enough.

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