The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, May 14
May 14th, 2014
Other Events This Weekend: Harvey Milk Day Events, various cities and dates; Bearcelona, Barcelona, Spain; Brighton Heroes Run, Brighton, UK; Bear Watch, Galveston, TX; Saints and Sinners Literary Festival, New Orleans, LA.
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
I don’t have any information about the Ruins of Indianapolis, except that it was, for a while, a popular Indianapolis dance bar. Later, the address was home to a lesbian dive bar called Ten, which apparently closed sometime in the past year or so. The entire building is now vacant and boarded up.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
45 YEARS AGO: Canada’s Parliament Votes to Decriminalize Homosexuality: 1969. In 1967, Justice Minister Pierre Trudeau introduced a large omnibus bill, The Criminal Amendment Act of 1968, in the 27th Canadian Parliament, which, if passed, would have had far-ranging effects on Canadian Law. The bill proposed, among other things,to allow provinces and the federal government to set up lotteries, expand laws on gun possession, impose penalties on drinking and driving, regulate misleading advertising, allow abortions and contraception, and decriminalize homosexuality. In 1968 when Prime Minister Lester Pearson announced he was stepping down as Prime Minister and head of the Liberal party, Trudeau sought the party’s leadership and won. After elections that summer, Trudeau became Prime Minister and John Turner became Trudeau’s Justice Minister. Turner re-introduced the massive omnibus bill into the 28th Parliament and described it as “the most important and all-embracing reform of the criminal and penal law ever attempted at one time in this country.”
The most controversial elements of the bill, the provisions legalizing abortion and same-sex relationships, drew the sharpest criticism from the opposition. The government fought back amendments from Conservative and Creditiste party members to leave the homosexuality sanctions intact. MP Marcel Lambert (PC-Edmonton West) asked, “If it is right to remove the legal sanction from acts of homosexuality between consenting adults … and from certain acts between husband and wife, why do we not remove a whole gamut of offenses, including attempted suicide and other acts involving an individual only and not other human?” MP Andrew Fortin (Creditiste-Lotbiniere) claimed that homosexuality “like tuberculosis,” could be brought under control with proper treatment. MP Rene Matte (Criditiste-Champlain) found the whole debate an abomination, saying it was “almost scandalous to see representatives of the people being obliged to discuss these questions.” England had decriminalized homosexuality two years earlier, but Matte declared, “we’re not obliged to follow the decadence of England.”
Justice Minister Turner countered that the removal of homosexuality from the criminal code would merely lift “the taint or stigma of the law,” and repeated the government’s position that “areas of private conscience, private behavior had better be left to private judgment,” and added that a law that was not enforceable was not a good law. Trudeau also rose to defend the provisions, telling reporters that “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation, and what’s done in private between adults doesn’t concern the Criminal Code.” After the acrimonious debate finally came to a close, the criminal code amendments dealing with abortions and homosexuality cleared the House of Commons late on Wednesday night, May 13, 1969, in a 149-55 vote.
You can see the CBC’s archival newsclips of Trudeau speaking to reporters about decriminalizing homosexuality and other provisions of the omnibus bill here.
“Shock Doc” Protested at APA: 1970. Gay advocates had long observed that the APA’s labeling of homosexuality a mental disorder served as a handy excuse to enforce widespread discrimination and legal sanctions against LGBT people in all areas of life. What’s more, psychiatry’s attempts to cure homosexuality were often physically torturous, with electric shock aversion therapy a not uncommon method. One of the stars of aversion therapy, an Australian psychiatrist by the name of Nathaniel McConaghy, was in San Francisco Francisco to read a paper American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting, and gay advocates saw it as a perfect opportunity to confront the organization. As McConaghy coolly described the methods he used — his patients’ penises were wired to measurement devices and they were shown porn; once twinge of arousal and they were delivered powerful electric shocks — gay advocates in the crowd began shouting “vicious!” and “torture!” and “where did you take your residency, Auschwitz?”
When the moderator announced the next session, the gay advocates exploded and demanded to be heard. The moderator refused, and the meeting broke down into shouts and recriminations. Conference chairman Dr. John Brady told the protesters to restrain themselves, whereupon one demonstrator shouted back, “We’ve restrained ourselves for 5,000 years!” Another psychiatrist shouted back, “It won’t hurt to restrain yourselves for another half-hour. Another physician reportedly called for the police to shoot the protesters. Most psychiatrists left the room, but some stayed and the conversations that ensued over the next three years finally led to the APA’s delisting of homosexuality as a mental disorder.
In 1981, McConaghy was still unapologetic about his treatment of gay people. In an article he published in the journal Behavior Research and Therapy, he was still presenting the results of his electric shock experiments on gay men. He defended his work as ethical and continued to voice resentment over the interruption of his presentation eleven years earlier. By the mid 1980’s he abandoned aversion therapy, but he kept trying to cure an illness that no longer existed.
Somehow, his colleagues’ esteem for him remained intact. After he died in 2005, the Archives of Sexual Behavior published a memorial lauding him as a pioneer in behavioral therapy who “inspired many to pursue truth and beauty through his example.” The memorial was notable for three things: 1) it briefly mentioned his attempts to cure gay men and painted his response to the “near riot” of 1970 as heroic (“He remained a fearless champion of the application of scientific methods to the study of human sexuality.”), 2) the memorial neglected to mention his use of electric shock therapy, and 3) the memorial was unsigned.
40 YEARS AGO: First LGBT Civil Rights Bill Introduced in Congress: 1974. Rep. Bella Abzug, the Democratic Congresswoman for Manhattan and part of the Bronx, was a civil rights attorney before she entered Congress, where she became an outspoken supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment and opponent of the war in Vietnam. Her stands earned her the nickname “Battling Bella,” along with a position on President Richard Nixon’s famed “Enemies List.” On this date in 1974, Rep. Abzug introduced the first federal gay rights bill, the Equality Act of 1974. The bill, which would have banned discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, went nowhere then, and similar efforts to ban discrimination have come to naught in the 39 years since then.
The proposed Equality Act of 1974 can be viewed here.
Magnus Hirschfeld: 1868-1935. Sometimes known as “The Einstein of Sex,” German-born Magnus Hirschfeld was the most prominent advocate of gay emancipation in his day. In 1897, Hirschfeld co-founded the Wissenschaftlich-humanitäre Komitee (Scientific-Humanitarian Committee), whose first project was to repeal Germanys infamous Paragraph 175, which criminalized homosexuality between men (women were unmentioned in the anti-gay code). While the committee managed to gather signatures of some 6,000 Germans calling for repeal, the committee failed in its goal. In 1919, Hirschfeld founded the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (Institute for Sexual Science), and he became widely recognized as a prolific writer and speaker on sexual minority issues. He also figured in film history, when he made a cameo appearance in the 1919 film Anders als die Andern (Different from the Others, see May 28), the first film to portray a homosexual love story in a sympathetic light.
While Germany’s Wiemar Republic saw homosexuality becoming somewhat accepted in Berlin, extreme right-wing forces reacted with violence. In 1920, Hirschfeld was attacked and severely wounded in Munich after a conference, and in 1921 his skull was fractured in another attack. From 1929, Nazis repeatedly disrupted his lectures. In 1930, Hirschfeld began a lecture tour of the United States, which was expanded to a world-wide tour. By the time he returned to Europe in 1932, conditions in Germany had become so dangerous that he decided not to return to Berlin. On May 6, 1933, the Nazis attacked and destroyed the Institute for Sexual Science, and on May 10, they burned its library and files, the largest of its kind in the world. Hirschfeld wandered Europe before settling in Nice, France in 1934. He died there in 1935, with his death coming also on this very same date in history.
Julian Eltinge: 1881-1941. He was, perhaps, America’s first famous drag queen. One story has it that he first donned women’s clothing at the age of ten for an appearance in Boston. Another one suggests that his mother helped him to dress in drag at a very young age to perform in the saloons in Butte, Montana, and that his father nearly beat him to death when he found out. Eltinge himself claimed that he learned to perform drag as a member of Harvard’s Hasting Pudding Club, but in fact he never attended school there.
At any rate, we do know that he was performing drag onstage and touring Vaudeville after the turn of the century, and unlike most female impersonators at the time, he didn’t place farcical caricatures of women for laughs. He sought to create the full illusion of actually being a woman. He toured Vaudeville under the his last name “”Eltinge,” which gave no hint of his gender. He sang, he danced, he recited soliloquies, and at the end of his act, he stepped forward on stage, and in a dramatic gesture emulated later in the 1982 film Victor/Victoria, he reached up and removed his wig to the surprise of his often unsuspecting audience. He arrived on Broadway in 1907 at the Alhambra Theater, and through the next decade he was reputed to be the highest paid stage actor. He started appearing in films in 1914, and by 1920, had one of the most lavish mansions in Southern California, where he lived with his mother.
Eltinge countered rumors of his homosexuality offstage by presenting a unrelentingly masculine presence in public. He smoked cigars, was an amateur boxer, got into bar fights, and had long engagements with women. Funny though, he never married. “I am not gay,” he protested, “I just like pearls.” But by the 1930;s, his heyday was over. He gained weight and started drinking as his career took a nose-dive. He was reduced to performing in a Hollywood nightclub catering to a gay clientele, but local laws intended to contain the “homosexual menace” banned dressing in drag. Eltinge had to perform in a tuxedo alongside mannequins dressed in his outfits. He’d point to them while enacting his characters. He died in 1941, reportedly of a brain hemorrhage, although some suspect suicide. His will, dated October 13, 1938, stated “I declare that I am a bachelor” and left everything to his mother.
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?