The Daily Agenda for Sunday, July 20
July 20th, 2014
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Pride Charlotte, NC (Black Pride); Colorado Springs, CO; Frankfurt, Germany; Glasgow, Scotland; Kitsap, WA; Munich, Germany; Reading, PA; Rochester, MN; Rochester, NY; San Diego, CA.
Other Events This Weekend: Sand Blast Weekend, Asbury Park, NJ; Outfest Film Festival, Los Angeles, CA; Miami Beach Bruthaz, Miami Beach, FL; Pink Dot Rally, Okinawa, Japan (Monday only); Bear Week, Provincetown, MA; Roze Maandag (Pink Monday), Tilburg, Netherlands (Monday only); Tokyo International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Tokyo, Japan; AIDS Walk, San Francisco, CA.
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
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TODAY IN HISTORY:
► Mattachine Society Adopts Its First Mission and Purposes: 1951.In 1950, a group of seven men met at the home of Harry Hay (see Apr 7) in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles to found a new society for gay people they tentatively called “The Society of Fools” (see Nov 11). The following April, the group followed Hay’s suggestion to change its name to the Mattachine Society, after the medieval French secret societies of masked men whose anonymity empowered them to mock and criticize kings and other nobility. That same month, one of the newer members suggested that the group’s ideals be put down in in writing. They began drafting the Mattachine’s “Missions and Purposes,” and marked it “confidential” out of fear of attracting the attention of the police. Jim Gruber (see Aug 21), one of the founders, described the whole effort as “a dare” with serious potential consequences, as they saw it. Given the tenor of the times amid the McCarthy-inspired Lavender Scare, their fears weren’t out of line. The members ratified the document on July 20. It read:
MISSIONS AND PURPOSES
TO UNIFY: While there are undoubtedly individual homosexuals who number many of their own people among their friends, thousands of homosexuals live out their lives bewildered, unhappy, alone, isolated from their own kind and unable to adjust to the dominant culture. Even those who have many homosexual friends are still cut off from the deep satisfactions man’s gregarious nature can achieve only when he is consciously part of a large, unified whole. A major purpose of the Mattachine Society is to provide a consensus of principle around which all of our people can rally and from which they can deprive a feeling of “belonging.”
TO EDUCATE: The total of information available on the subject of homosexuality is woefully meagre and utterly inconclusive. The Society organizes all available material and conducts extensive research itself — psychological, physiological, anthropological, and sociological — for the purpose of informing all interested homosexuals and for the purpose of informing and enlightening the public at large.
The Mattachine Soeity holds it as possible and desirable that a highly ethical, homosexual culture emerge as a consequence of its work, parallelling sic the emerging cultures of our fellow-minorities — the Negro, Mexican and Jewish peoples. The Society believes homosexuals can lead well-adjusted, wholesome and socially productive lives once ignorance and prejudice against them is successfully combatted and once homosexuals themselves feel they have a dignified and useful role to play in society. The Society, to these ends, is in the process of developing a homosexual ethic — disciplined, moral and socially responsible.
TO LEAD: It is not sufficient for an oppressed minority like the homosexuals merely to be conscious of belonging to a minority collective when, as is the situation at the present time, that collective is neither socially organic nor objective in its directions and activities — although this minimum is, in itself, a great step forward. It is necessary that the more far-seeing and socially conscious homosexuals provide leadership to the whole mass of social deviants if the first two missions (the unification and the education of the homosexual minority) are to be accomplished. Further, once unification and education have progressed it becomes imperative (to consolidate these gains) for the Society to push forward into the realm of political action to erase from our law books the discriminatory and oppressive legislation presently directed against the homosexual minority.
The Society, founded upon the highest ethical and social principles, serves as an example for homosexuals to follow and provides a dignified standard upon which the rest of society can base a more intelligent and accurate picture of the nature of homosexuality than currently obtains in the public mind. The Society provides the instrument necessary to work with civic-minded and socially valuable organizations and supplies the means for the assistance of our people who are victimized daily as a result of our oppression. Only a Society, providing an enlightened leadership, can rouse the homosexuals — one of the largest minorities in America today — to take the actions necessary to elevate themselves from the social ostracism an unsympathetic culture has perpetrated upon them.
[Sources: Cruising the Archive: Queer Art and Culture in Los Angeles, 1945-1980 (Los Angeles: ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, 2011): 38-39.
Stuart Timmons. The Trouble with Harry Hay: Founder of the Modern Gay Movement Centenary edition (Brooklyn: White Crane Books, 2012): 170-172.]
► Panel Discussion on Homosexuality Airs in L.A.: 1958. KTLA’s Crime Story was one of those very serious, topical panel discussion programs, airing in the graveyard time slot of 11:00 p.m. on Sunday nights just before station sign-off — back in the days when televisions would go off the air sometime around midnight. The program picked a topic each week, and moderator Sandy Howard would assemble a panel of “experts, which were typically from among the KTLA staff, since real experts weren’t eager to schlep to the studio late at night for a low-rated program. Topics for discussion included drugs, law enforcement, prison reform, international crime, and, on this night, homosexuality, which itself was a crime under California law.
In previous episodes where the subject was homosexuality, the tone was almost entirely negative and the opinions offered were ill-informed. But on this night, things were different. Sitting in for Howard was Bill Bradley, who this time included someone who actually knew something about the topic: Herbert Selwyn, attorney for the Los Angeles Chapter of the Mattachine Society. Also on the panel were two psychiatrists (both of them working for state penal systems), and a private detective and former L.A. policeman who also free-lanced for the scandal magazine Confidential — so you can imaging what his contribution would be.
After the announcer made clear that the opinions expressed on the program were not those of KTLA, Bradley asked the panel to define “sex crime.” Right off the bat, one of the two psychiatrists, Dr. Isidore Ziferstein of the Iowa State Penitentiary, declared that he didn’t consider sex acts between consenting adults to be criminal because no one was harmed — a radical idea in 1958. Fred Otash, the private detective, began explaining that California’s penal code defined “sex perversion” as including, more specifically, “copulation by mouth.” Ziferstein responded, “Yes, the penal code regarding sex acts would make nearly every American citizen a sex criminal.” The other psychiatrist, Dr. William Graves of San Quentin, agreed.
Bradley then asked whether all homosexual men — lesbians were never mentioned during the entire program — were sex criminals. Otash jumped in and said yes, according to the letter of the law, and rightly so, contending that homosexuals bred other homosexuals simply by contact. Because homosexuals could not keep to themselves, they “preyed on normal men” and made them gay. He then got tired of saying the word “homosexual,” over and over. “You may call them homosexuals, I call them ‘fags’,” he declared. That, for the most part, was the extent of his “expertise.”
Selwyn, confident that the two psychiatrists would answer the question of whether “normal men” could be turned so easily, turned the topic instead to the problem of police entrapment, which was rampant in Los Angeles. If a policeman could strike up a conversation with a gay man in a bar and get the man to suggest that they retire to his apartment, he was liable to find himself in handcuffs and facing a fifteen year sentence.
The program ended with the two psychiatrists agreeing that homosexuality should not be against the law, but they debated whether homosexuality was a neurosis or not. Ziferstien said that society wasn’t just anti-gay, but anti-sex, and that this produced an abundance of “sex deviates,” including homosexuals. Graves pushed back, and pointed out that because society was so anti-gay, it would be surprising if some gay people didn’t become in some way disturbed or distressed over the situation. In other words, Graves was explaining the concept of homophobia some ten years before the word itself was invented. By this point in the program, the panelists were regularly ignoring Otash as they lamented the way the law and society treated gay people. A review by ONE magazine, the nation’s first gay magazine, commented that viewers “may have been gratified, if surprised, by the unexpectedly friendly attitudes toward homosexuality expressed on the program. … The members of the qualified panel made effective, intelligent observations, and many positive and constructive points.”
[Sources: “Sten Russell” (Stella Rush) “TV: Crime Story.” ONE 6, no. 8 (September 1958): 26-28.
“Sten Russell” (Stella Rush). “Crime Story.” The Ladder 2, no 12. (September 1958): 11-14.]
► Rep. Gerry Studds Censured: 1983. The U.S. House of Representatives voted to censure Reps. Gerry Studds (D-MA) and Daniel Crane (R-IL), both of whom admitted to having sexual affairs with pages. Crane admitted to having sex with a 17-year-old female page three years earlier, while Studds acknowledged a relationship with a 17-year-old male page ten years earlier. (Both pages were above the age of consent.) In Studds’s case, the page himself defended the relationship as consensual and not intimidating.
When Studds returned home to his district following his censure, he was met with standing ovations at his first town meeting. He would continue to be re-elected to Congress where he fought for AIDS funding, gays in the military, and marriage equality, right up until his retirement in 1997. When Studds died in 2006, his legally married husband was denied Studd’s pension, the same pension which was provided to all other surviving spouses of former members of Congress.
► Roberta Achtenberg: 1950. If he could help it, Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) wasn’t about to let President Bill Clinton appoint her as Assistant Secretary for Housing and Urban Development. “She’s not your garden-variety lesbian,” he complained. “She’s a militant-activist-mean lesbian, working her whole career to advance the homosexual agenda. Now you think I’m going to sit still and let her be confirmed by the Senate? … If you want to call me a bigot, go ahead.” Helms was a bigot, and, garden-variety or not, she was confirmed, making her the first openly gay person to receive a Senate confirmation for an administration position.
The daughter of immigrants grew up in Los Angeles and attended college at UCLA and UC Berkeley, before studying law at Hastings Law School in San Francisco and the University of Utah. She had married another male law student while at Berkeley, but the couple divorced amicably after Achtenberg figured out she was a lesbian.
Achtenberg quickly became concerned about the legal disadvantages that gays and lesbians experience, and as a member of the Anti-Sexism Committee of the National Lawyers Guild, she helped to write a manual to advise lawyers representing gay and lesbian clients. She also began working with the Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom, and then co-founded the Lesbian Rights Project, which later became the National Center for Lesbian Rights. In 1979, she met attorney Mary Morgan, who already had a well-established track record representing lesbian mothers in custody cases. By then, Achtenberg was out, and she was ready for politics. She ran, unsuccessfully, for a seat in the California State Assembly in 1988, and she succeeded in getting elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1989. When a little-known former Arkansas governor decided to run for president, Achtenberg joined the Clinton campaign and worked on the Democratic Party’s drafting committee.
When Clinton nominated Achtenberg for HUD Assistant Secretary, Conservative Christians were outraged. They accused Achtenberg of a “personal vendetta” against the Boy Scouts because she was one of fifty — fifty! — members of the San Francisco United Way board of directors who voted unanimously to deny funding to the Scouts because of their discriminatory anti-gay policies. The Christian Action Network circulated a videotape of Achtenberg and Morgan, showing them hugging each other, ever so briefly, during the 1992 San Francisco Pride parade. Helms called that brief contact an “insane assault on family values.” Achtenberg was nevertheless confirmed in a 58-31 vote.
Achtenberg left HUD in 1995 to run for mayor of San Francisco, but lost. She served on the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce until 2005, and she was appointed to the Board of Trustees of Cal State in 2000, becoming chair in 2006. In 2011, President Barack Obama appointed her to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
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