The Daily Agenda for Saturday, August 16
August 16th, 2014
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Allentown, PA; Cardiff, UK; Charlotte, NC; Doncaster, UK; Fargo/Moorehead ND/MN; Kelowna, BC; Lübeck, Germany; Madgeburg, Germany; Montréal, QC; New Westminster, BC; New York, NY (Black Pride); Prague, Czech Republic; Pueblo, CO; Regensburg, Germany; Reno, NV; San Jose, CA; Taos, NM.
Other Events This Weekend: Gay Games 9, Cleveland, OH; AIDS Walk, Denver CO; Ascension Beach Party, Fire Island, NY; Dunas Festival, Gran Canaria, Spain; Tropical Heat, Key West, FL; Vancouver Queer Film Festival, Vancouver, BC.
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
From the Austin Chronicle:
The windows were tinted, and everyday at 4 o’clock, the firemen at the No. 1 fire station would jog down to the river and come back up the street. You could set your watch by it. Four o’clock they’d come, jogging up in front of those windows. Big ol’ hunky men with no shirts, and you’d get your shots all ready, and as they went by, you’d toast them with your shots. They couldn’t see in the windows, but we could certainly see them as they went by. One of my fave memories there: I was there one afternoon, and a part of the bar, the drink rail, broke off. Well, here are a dozen big ol’ cowboys taking off their boots and trying to hammer it back in. There were two young lesbians sitting at the end of the bar watching this entire charade of these macho guys trying to put this bar back together gingerly … like it was a Ming vase. Without saying a word, they walk out to their truck; they come back in with an electric saw, a piece of lumber, nails, hammer, and said, “Get out of the way, boys!” And rebuilt the end of the bar. It is a stereotype come to life. – Rob Faubion.
The location is now the alternative night club Elysium.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
► Texas Doctor Proposes Castrating “Sexual Perverts”: 1893. Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, which introduced his theory of evolution to the masses in 1859, also had a profound effect on biologists, medical doctors, psychiatrists and social theorists. The theory, in simplified form, held that species evolved through a process of natural selection which weeded out the weaker and less capable variations of the species. Darwin wasn’t the first to propose the theory; others proposed the theory as far back as the eighteenth century. But Darwin succeeded in providing a trove of evidence from his travels around the world to illustrate the theory in action.
The theory of evolution opened as many questions as it answered, and the main question on the minds of social theorists struggling to understand the impact of the industrial revolution was this: If nature selected out the weaker and defective members of a species, what happens when man’s technological advances intervenes in that natural process? The answer, they said, could be found in the cities throughout Europe and North America: poverty, disease, alcoholism, crime, family violence and moral depravity. They proposed an opposing theory, the theory of degeneration, which held that human beings, now that they were shielded from the natural course of evolution, were in danger of producing offspring who “de-generated” from their parents in an imperfect form — think of a xerox copy of a bad xerox copy. According to the theory, Alcoholics begat alcoholics, criminals begat worse criminals, rapists begat more violent rapists. And, of course, negroes begat negroes. Degeneracy theory was always, at its core, a highly racist one.
As pessimistic as the theory was, it did have its positive contributions: it spawned the hygiene movement which began mandating safe housing, clean food, proper sanitation, limitations in child labor and other protections, and universal education. In the glass-half-empty category, the theory of Degeneration was part of the shift from regarding homosexuality as a crime to be severely punished, to being a malady to be addressed “scientifically” — namely by the nation’s doctors and insane asylums (along with the brave few who countered that gay and gender-variant people harmed no one and should be left alone). But far more darkly, Degeneracy Theory would very quickly soon give rise to Eugenics, which provided a dark answer to the question of what to do with the unfortunate products of degeneration (from which the word “degenerates” first came).
Eugenics came in two forms: positive Eugenics (the hygiene movement was but one example), and negative Eugenics, which included sterilization programs aimed at severing the generational capabilities of the degenerate line. On August 16, 1893, Dr. F.E. Daniel of Austin, Texas, and editor of the Texas Medical Journal, delivered an address before the World’s Columbian Auxiliary Congress titled, “Should Insane Criminals or Sexual Perverts be Permitted to Procreate?” The main perversions that Daniel was worried about were rape and masturbation, the latter of which was believe to be the cause of insanity. For the case of sexual criminals judged to be insane, there had already been calls for castration in lieu of hanging, partly because it was believed that hanging someone who was insane constituted a breach of justice. Daniel also held that view, but, ever the humanitarian, he considered hanging to be an extreme, cruel, and ultimately ineffective form of punishment. And so he added an additional reason to consider castrating criminals who, despite their obvious degeneracy, were nevertheless judged to be sane:
In this country, and recently, several writers have advocated castration. Dr. W. A. Hammond’s paper on the subject will be recalled by all present. Dr. Frank Lydston (Va. Medical Monthly) in reply to a question from Dr. Hunter McGuire as to the cause of so much rape by negroes in the South, advises castration as a remedy for the evil; and there is much wisdom in the advice. He would castrate the rapist, thus rendering him incapable of repetition of the offense, and of propagating his kind, and turn him loose — on the principle of the singed rat — to be a warning to others. Dr. Lydston says, and very truly, that a hanging or even a burning is soon forgotten; but a negro buck at large amongst the ewes of his flock, minus the elements of manhood, would be a standing terror to those of similar propensities. Dr. Orpheus Everts (Lancet Clinic, March, 1888,) would castrate all convicted criminals, thus arresting the descent of their respective vices of constitution.
Daniel found Everts’s advice too extreme: “innocent persons are sometimes convicted of crime, and we might cut the wrong man.” But Daniel did believe that sexual crimes were in a special category because, he argued, it was almost impossible to draw a line between sanity and insanity where sexual crimes were concerned:
In light then of the very evident doubt as to the sanity of those who commit sexual crimes, and therefore, of their responsibility; and particularly as it is impossible in the present state of our knowledge to draw a line and say where, in mental alienation, unsoundness to the extent of irresponsibility for acts exists, I would substitute castration as a penalty for all sexual crimes or misdemeanors, including confirmed masturbation.
…The lower animals limit production, and eliminate the weaker by battles between the males for the possession of the female; and certain of the rodents, the squirrel I am told, castrate the young males. But with civilized man the procreative function, and the right to exercise it ad libitum seems to be something sacred; it is respected, even in those who have, by their misconduct, outraged society, and forfeited all other rights, civil, religious and political. Is it not a remarkable civilization that will break a criminal’s neck, but will respect his testacles? [sic]
A number of asylums were already beginning to sterilize both their male and female patients. Daniel argued that if those programs were extended to sexual criminals, it could usher in a new age of sexual continence within a generation:
While we can not hope ever to institute a Sanitary Utopia in our day and generation, it would seem within the legitimate scope and sphere of Preventive Medicine, aided by the enactment and enforcement of suitable laws, to eliminate much that is defective in human genesis, and to improve our race mentally, morally and physically; to bring to bear in the breeding of peoples the principles recognized and utilized by every intelligent stock-raiser in the improvement of his cattle; and in my humble judgment the substitution of castration, as advocated above, for the useless and cruel execution of criminals, is the first step in the reformation. I predict that in twenty years the beneficial results of castration for crimes committed in obedience to a perverted (diseased) sexual impulse will be established and appreciated.
Rape, sodomy, beastiality [sic], pederasty and habitual masturbation should be made crimes or misdemeanors, punishable by forfeit of all rights, including that of procreation; in short by castration, or castration plus other penalties, according to the gravity of the offense.
[Source: F.E. Daniel. “Castration of sexual perverts.” Texas Medical Journal 9, no. 6 (December 1893): 255-271. Available online at Google Books here.]
► 60 YEARS AGO: “Great Civilizations Plagued by Deviates”: 1954. “It seems melodramatic to talk about the downfall of nations and homosexuals in the same breath. But historians are quick to point out that moral degeneracy and the destruction of some of the greatest civilizations in the world were tied hand in hand.” How many times have you heard that one before? Those words came from the opening paragraphs of The Miami Daily News’ final installement in a three part series that formed part of its overall campaign to whip up anti-gay hysteria in South Florida (see Aug 13 and Aug 15). The campaign began in earnest just two weeks earlier when William T. Simpson, a 27-year-old Eastern Airlines flight attendant, was murdered by two men in a rolling-the-queers robbery scam (see Aug 3). That murder led officials to the discovery of a “colony of some 500 male homosexuals, congregating mostly in the near-downtown northeast section and ruled by a ‘queen’.” Simpson may have been murdered, two straight men may have been arrested and charged with the crime, but as far as the local newspapers were concerned, it was the homosexuals who were guilty of the whole mess, and they promptly launched a media-driven campaign that resulted in more raids and arrests by area police departments (see Aug 13, Aug 14).
The papers had been itching for just such a campaign for a few years. There had been a round of raids on gay bars and beaches earlier in 1953, which got the attention of ONE magazine, which wrote about Miami’s brief anti-gay campaign in January 1954. Despite all the bad news, ONE managed to find a silver lining. In contrast to Miami Beach police chief Romeo Shepard and Dade County Sheriff Tom Kelly, Miami Police Chief Walter Headley had established a policy of letting gay bars operate more or less undisturbed when he became chief in 1948. By letting bars operate in an area that became known as “Powder Puff Lane,” he felt he could keep a better eye on the city’s gay population. Besides that, drag shows were popular with tourists and “If I ran all of the homosexuals out of town, members of some of the best families would lead the parade.”
Headley’s refusal to crack down earned ONE’s praises, which published an open letter, written by Dale Jennings (see Oct 21) and addressed to Headley, applauding his “refusal to wholeheartedly support the current hysteria concerning homosexuality.” Jennings sent copies of the letter and the January issue to Shepard, Kelly, other Dade county officials and the two Miami newspapers. In July of 1954, three weeks before Simpson’s murder but soon after another media panic over the rape and murder of a young girl in southwest Miami, The Miami Herald, armed with a copy of ONE’s approval of Headley’s policies, went on the attack:
Police have erred in permitting perverts to assemble here — to corral them in places which are “on limits” to them. … Miami’s “powder puff lane” is a civic disgrace … [and] an invitation to all sex deviates in the United States to come here for sanctuary.. . . When large numbers of perverts are present in a community, the peril is multiplied. The example and temptation to our youth is vile.
A few weeks later, The Herald blasted Headley again for “setting-up a Powder-Puff Lane … The practice harks back to the days of red light districts, sordid political partnerships, and payoffs, and dark age police methods.” The Herald also referred to ONE’s article commending Headley’s policies: “Miami’s Powder-Puff Lane has made the city a concentration center of the gentry from all over the nation. They even have a national publication which applauds Miami and its police methods [and] condemns those cities which will not coddle them.”
Following Simpson’s murder, the afternoon Daily News wasn’t about to let its morning rival get the upper hand in the contest for who could out-vilify the local gay and lesbian community. For its third installment of its “educational” series on homosexuals, News staff writer Jack Roberts went all out, charging that homosexuality caused the fall of Greece and Rome. Unmentioned, of course, is that all great civilizations come to an end sooner or later, and by the time Rome fell it was an officially Christian nation. Roberts credited his defective understanding of history to “well-known Miami psychiatrist” Dr. Paul Wells, who had been featured in the first installment of the series (see Aug 13):
Dr. Kells pointed out that the spokesman for homosexuals in the Los Angeles area (editor of a magazine for homosexuals) constantly crusade for a legitimate place in society. “But in all their arguments, they fail to look at the other side of the picture,” said Dr. Kells. “The most important thing to consider where moral degeneracy can lead to.”
The article gave a brief rundown on the “all-out war against homosexuals” being waged by Shepard and Kelly. “I simply want them to get out of town,” Shepard said. Kelly’s goal was the same: “I will keep on harassing the homosexuals until they understand they’re not wanted in Dade County.” But the News blasted Headley for his “reluctance to bother perverts.” Nevertheless, representatives of the Dade County-area law enforcement agencies had formed a study group to come up with ideas on how to deal with the problems. Attorney E.F.P. Brigham, chairman of the group, described to the News their suggestion of a sexual psychopath law:
If a sexual deviate is accused of molesting a child, or any person for that matter, and manages to beat the charge ni court, the state will still have the right to order a mental examination for the offender. If the person is found to be a sexual psychopath (and that does not necessarily mean insane) the state will then have the right to institute civil action to put that person in the asylum for the rest of his or her life or until such time as a cure can be effected.
Brigham says he has no doubt that the legislators will approve of new laws to curb sexual psychopaths. “But I’m afraid they will balk at the money it will cost to provide asylum facilities, “he said. “I’m afraid they will look on the pervert problem as one belonging to Miami and not the state as a whole.”
…”It is most important to take these people away from society,” said Brigham. “By establishing a worthwhile asylum, it may be possible to cure some of these psychopaths and help them lead normal lives. We are going to cite case after case of children being violated to the Legislature to prove our point. It seems foolish to try to save a few tax dollars when so much is at stake.
When Brigham made his suggestion, twenty states already had similar sexual psychopath laws on the books. Florida enacted a sexual psychopath law in 1955, but it was declared “unconstitutionally vague” a year later.
[Additional sources: “Miami Junks the Constitution.” ONE 2, no. 1 (January 1954): 16-21.
Fred Fejes. “Murder, Perversion, and Moral Panic: The 1954 Media Campaign against Miami’s Homosexuals and the Discourse of Civic Betterment.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 9, No. 3 (July 2000): 305-347]
► Pierre Seel: 1923-2005. Pierre’s troubles began when his watch was stolen while he was in a public square in his Alsace home in 1939. The watch, a gift from his godmother, had sentimental value, and so he reported the theft to police. The square where the theft occurred was a well-known cruising ground for gay men in the area, but since homosexuality was not illegal in France, there shouldn’t have been much of a problem. But local police added his name to a list of gay men they were maintaining, and when the Germans invaded in 1940, that list fell into Gestapo hands. Seel was picked up in 1941, was beaten, had his fingernails pulled out, and raped with broken rulers. Two weeks later, he was sent to the Schirmeck-Vorbrück camp near Strasbourg, where the beatings, tortures and rapes continued. He wore a blue bar on his uniform instead of the pink triangle — The blue bar was reserved for Catholics and “a-socials” — but the nature of his “crime” was well known. “There was no solidarity for the homosexual prisoners; they belonged to the lowest caste,” he later recalled. “Other prisoners, even when between themselves, used to target them.” He and his camp were made to stand and watch as his eighteen-year-old boyfriend was stripped naked in the center of the yard and torn apart and devoured by german shepherds. That scene would haunt his nightmares for the rest of his life.
After six months of starvation, torture and forced labor, Seen was set free without an explanation. What’s more, he was made a German citizen when Alsace was informally annexed by Germany, and he was drafted into the army and sent to the Eastern Front. After the war, he made his way back to France. He took his family’s advice and went deeply underground about his sexuality, and married in 1950. The marriage was a difficult one, and it finally fell apart in 1978. In 1979, Seel happened to attend a debate in a bookstore for the launch of the French edition of Heinz Heger’s book, The Men with the Pink Triangle. Two years later, Seel went public with his story when the Bishop of Strasbourg denounced the performance of the French translation of the play Bent, which was based on Heger’s book. From then on, Seel became an advocate for the recognition of gay victims of the Nazis, particularly those from the Alsace and Moselle regions of France. In 1994, Seel published his own memoir, I, Pierre Seel, Deported Homosexual. In 2000, he appeared in the American-made documentary, Paragraph 175. When the documentary premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, Seel traveled to Germany for the first time since the war and received a five-minute standing ovation.
France still has an uneasy don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy where German collaboration is concerned, and Seel’s opening of old wounds didn’t go down easy. In the 1980s and 1990s, he received numerous death threats, and was attacked and beaten by youths shouting homophobic epithets following an appearance on French television. The mayor of Strasbourg refused to shake his hand during a commemoration ceremony. But the distance of time has allowed some recognition of historical realities to take root. Seel received official recognition as a victim of the Holocaust in 2003, and in 2008, three years after his death in Toulouse, his adopted city, a street was renamed in his honor. The plaque reads, “Rue Pierre Seel — Déporté Français pour homosexualité — 1923-2005”.
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