The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, July 29

Jim Burroway

July 29th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Positively Gay (Minneapolis, MN), June 1979, page 9.

From Positively Gay (Minneapolis, MN), June 1979, page 9.

From OutHistory.org:

Foxy’s opened in 1968, and by all accounts, it did not discriminate against men. The lesbian nightclub accepted women and men from all backgrounds. However, and perhaps as a result of nearby industrial work sites that employed butch women, some prospective patrons were turned away by their own beliefs in negative rumors. These rumors identified Foxy’s as a place for “Bad Dykes,” or aggressive butch women.

Foxy’s closed at its Seventh Street location in 1984, and the Over the Rainbow Bar replaced it. The bar’s owners next opened the Castle Royal on The West Side Flats before Honey Harold reopened Foxy’s in the former site of The Grand Finale in downtown St. Paul.

The site of the original Foxy’s is now a Jimmy John’s parking lot.

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
“My Daughter Is a Lesbian!”: 1958. Stonewall was still eleven years away. The first Christopher Street Liberation Day march occurred a year after that. And it was two years after that when Jeanne Manford marched with her son during that year’s CSLD parade with a sign reading “Parents of Gays Unite in Support for Our Children.” In 1958, visibility remained perhaps the single greatest hurdle for gay people. due to the dangers of being out — police raids (see Aug 14), arrest (see Jun 23), loss of job (see Mar 22, Dec 20), commitment to a psychiatric hospital (see Apr 14, Jul 26), murder (see Aug 3) — being visible was simply not an option for most people. There were few visible examples of gay people, and almost no visible examples of family members who accepted and supported their gay relatives.

Actually, there were few visible examples of gay people accepting themselves. More often than not, they saw themselves as freaks, perverts, deviants, delinquents, degenerates, sick — not just because society said so, but also because the “experts” said so, from all the respected professional organizations, prestigious universities and the most trusted hospitals.  When Frank Kameny dared to challenge psychatry’s verdict that gay people were mentally ill in 1965 (see May 11), the push-back was enourmous, much of it coming from within the gay community. The reaction could be summed up this way: who died and made you an expert on homosexuality? What credentials do you have to challenge those who have spent an entire lifetime studying the “problem.” Kameny’s answer was simple: “We are the true authorities on homosexuality, whether we are accepted as such or not.”

But in the 1950s, getting gays and lesbians to accept themselves was still the biggest challenge facing the homophile organizations, and an essay that appeared in the July 1958 issue of The Ladder, the official newsletter of the Daughers of Bilitis, shows just what a challenge that was. It was by a mother of a lesbian — and what a mother she was. I wonder, were accepting mothers more common than self-accepting lesbian daughters? I don’t know, but this one certainly gave all lesbians, their mothers, and anyone else who cared to butt in a good piece of her mind.

And yet, she also had to counter a lot of misinformation that a lot of people shared, including a lot of gay people. To counter the assumption that her daughter would live a life of lonely spinsterhood, she described her daugheter’s “congenial, intelligent, loving and kind ‘mate’.” Against the prevailing view that mothers were responsible for their child’s sexuality, she defended herself by pointing to her daughter’s morality (“she could not be cheap and promiscuous”) and her good citizenship. And to counter society’s assumptions that a faithful heterosexual marriage was every woman’s birthright, she offered the example of her own sad marriage. In all, this isn’t so much a portrait of a mother and her lesbian daughter, but a counter-narrative to the prevailing opinions of gay people at that time. The essay’s defensiveness isn’t what we would recognize as a proclamation of pride, but when you consider how oppresive the dominant assumptions were at that time, Mrs. Doris Lyles had to start somewhere.

My daughter is a Lesbian. By all measures of accepted society, that is a pretty blunt statement. If I were an average mother, I wouldn’t even bring this assertion out and view it furtively, even when alone. Nevertheless, I do not think I would come under what one would call average, and I say this in a far from self-satisfied manner. However, I do not believe in hiding truth under our stilted, self-imposed laws of society. Many people today are frustrated and under mental treatment because of these frustrations, simply because they refuse to face the truth and prefer to delude themselves in so many ways.

My daughter from small girlhood seemed to be a little different from the average child. For one thing, she was above average mentally and had very strong will power and determination that even in childhood seemed to brook no interference. Frankly, I believe that if I had been a dictatorial, demanding mother whose child had to bend to her ego and demands, I might have had a pretty serious case of delinquency to contend with today, instead of an intelligent, serious-minded daughter who holds a fine position in a respected professional field, lives what is for her a full, rounded-out life of contentment and security, with no frustrations or problems, at least none that amount to much.

I will be very frank in saying that I am lucky in that she found a congenial, intelligent, loving and kind “mate” in this association of which I am aware but do not understand completely as a normal mother and wife. I do not like that word “normal” applied here, for there are no two more normal persons alive than my daughter and her charming associate.

In finding out about my daughter’s preferences, I had one very firm belief. I knew she would find someone of kindred tastes and lead a very circumspect life no matter what path she chose, for I knew my child and understood she could not be cheap and promiscuous, whether Lesbian or heterosexual. This thought was a great comfort and from the beginning I knew she would need love, appreciation and understanding from me; not censure, shame or withdrawal. One thing I have done to an extent most people would feel was too much to the extreme: I have left her to her own devices and now, in her middle twenties, she leads her own life completely and when she wishes to come to me, for whatever period of time she chooses, she knows she is welcome and won’t be importuned to “come oftener” and “stay longer”. As a child, I led a sheltered life in which my mother dominated all my moves and actions. When she passed away, I was at completely loose ends and made a very foolish marriage which would not have happened had I been free to follow my owm course in life. This had made me wary of being possessive and trying to shape and run the lives of others. As a consequence, I think I have my daughter’s love and loyalty — even to a greater degree than most mothers who make demands and expect them to be carried out.

With the background of theatrical people during my childhood, I learned rather early that all of us, men or women, did not come within the realm of “norms.” Maybe this is why my daughter’s fate didn’t seem so terrible to me. I could think of a great many worse things, such as the unhappy twenty years of marriage I had shed at the time I learned of my daughter’s “difference”. I spent those years with a man who was a congenital liar, who preferred a lie when the truth would have served him better, and who couldn’t leave town for a week’s trip as a Salesman who travelled without having his quota of affairs with anyone — waitresses, nurses, — he seemed to prefer uniforms. It was a question of keeping my marriage together by not digging too deeply in the barrel, and keeping my temper, but definitely losing my self-respect. This I believe is a fate far worse for a girl. Maybe I’m wrong and maybe I should use every means within my power to help my daughter in her situation, but frankly I do not believe she needs help from me or anyone else. If ever the time should come when she feels the need for advice or counsel, I only hope I will be able to advise her wisely, but certainly not against what she believes with all her being to be her path in life.

We preach freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and even though reams and reams have been written on the subject, there are very few who will admit belief in freedom of love.

[Source: Mrs. Doris Lyles. “My Daughter Is a Lesbian.” The Ladder 2, no. 10 (July 1958):4-5.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Tim Gunn: 1953. His role on Project Runway is that of a fashion professor and mentor, in line with his previous life as a member of the faculty at Parson The New School for Design, where he served as the fashion design chair before moving to Liz Claiborne in 2007 to work as their chief creative officer. Meanwhile, he’s been “making it work” at the Lifetime reality series which just started its thirtheenth season last week. He is an animal rights advocate and speaks out against the use of fur in fashion. He also made an “It Gets Better” video, motivated by his own suicide attempt when he was seventeen. He has generally been a private person, not given to opening his life to public scrutiny, but that began to change in 2006 when, in an interview with Instinct, Gunn said that he hadn’t been in a relationship since the early 1980s, after the end of a six-year relationship with the love of his life, whom he still loves today. He’s been celibate ever since then. In 2012, he wrote a short essay, Shaken, Not Stirred (available only as a Kindle Single) in which he described growing up with a rigid, controlling FBI-agent father who was J. Edgar Hoover’s ghostwriter.

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?

Eric Payne

July 29th, 2014

What a conflux of Agenda items! Lesbians and Tim Gunn… both of whom perplex me.

(J/K about lesbians :-) )

I’m an avid Project Runway fan — even when both the fashion and the personalities involved (or maybe because the fashion and the personalities involved) are especially cringe-worthy — and I’ve gotta say, the show doesn’t work without the presence of Gunn.

I was, partially, aware of his private life via interviews he’s given… though he’s always been guarded in his self-revelations, even if the interview is, specifically, a biographical piece. Maybe I subconsciously recognized in Gunn an especially kindred spirit — that of a man trying to live his own life, yet unable to completely shake the ghostly voice of a disapproving father.

I wish Mr. Gunn every joy life brings his way; it’s my fervent hope the lost love of his life, one day, is replaced by someone who turns out to be the real love of his life.

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