The Daily Agenda for Thursday, May 21

Jim Burroway

May 21st, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Angers, France; Birmingham, UK; Chicago, IL (Bear Pride); Düsseldorf, Germany; Eskilstuna, Sweden; Pensacola, FL; Puerto Vallarta, JAL; Pride Washington, DC (Black Pride).

Other Events This Weekend: International Mr. Leather, Chicago, IL; Matinee, Las Vegas, NV; Great Plains Rodeo; Oklahoma City, OK; Inside Out Toronto Film Festival, Toronto, ON.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Advocate, May 31, 1979, page 19.

The Elephant Walk — named after the Elizabeth Taylor movie, and not the early 1970s fratboy hazing ritual — opened in the Castro on November 27, 1974. Inspired by the massive plate glass windows at the Twin Peaks Tavern just up the street (Twin Peaks, by the way, is still in business), Fred Rogers opened the bar with similarly large, clear windows because he wanted a bright, cheerful place with a view onto the street where he could sit, relax, and chat with friends. It was a huge success. Sylvester (see Sep 6) often performed there on Sundays, and the bar featured daily brunches that were served until 3:00. p.m.

The Elephant Walk saw a lot of good times and a lot of hard times. In 1979, the bar was almost destroyed by rioting San Francisco police officers after the gay community rioted downtown following the light sentence given to Dan White for murdering gay rights activist Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone, but the bar quickly recovered and reopened. In 1985, bar manager Jack McCarty and his lover were vacationing in Greece when their return flight, TWA 847, was hijacked and diverted to Beirut. They were released and returned to the U.S. seventeen days later to a hero’s welcome. In 1988, the bar was destroyed in a four-alarm fire that consumed the upper floor of the building, and thus, the Elephant Walk came to an end. After years of reconstruction, the building today houses a restaurant called “Harvey’s,” in honor of Harvey Milk whose camera shop was just up the street on the same block.

Los Angeles Armed Forces Day Motorcade: 1966. Los Angeles Armed Forces Day Motorcade: 1966. Representatives of various East Coast homophile groups had already been protesting in support of gay rights over the past year and a half, in New York (see Sep 19 and Apr 18), Washington (see Apr 17, May 29, Jun 26, Jul 31, Aug 28, and Oct 23) and Philadelphia (see Jul 4). And so how appropriate is it that when gay rights leaders decided to stage one of the earliest organized protests in Los Angeles, a city known for its car culture and not for its walkability, their protest took place in cars and not on foot?

The occasion for the Los Angeles protest was Armed Forces Day, scheduled to take place that year on May 21. It was military policy that “The homosexual is considered unsuitable for military service and is not permitted to serve in the Armed Forces in any capacity.” On February 19, representatives of a dozen homophile groups had gathered in Kansas City to take part in the National Planning Conference of Homophile Organizations, with the idea being to form a national confederation of gay rights groups. Little was accomplished at that meeting, except a general agreement to protest the exclusion of gay people the military on Armed Forces day. The idea was met with great enthusiasm, initially, with a burst of plans and coordinating communications taking place among committees in Boston, Chicago, Denver, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Sacramento, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

But it didn’t take long for the first obstacles arose. The principal one was due to the unpopularity of the war in Viet Nam. Some gay men of draft age found the Defense Department’s policy to be one of the very few distinct advantages they had over others who opposed the war and didn’t want to serve. Aside from the political debates over the morality of the war, why would they want to protest against one of the very few advantages that gay people had in society, at least for those of draft age who didn’t want to fight?

Pretty soon, all national coordination stopped, but planning continued in Los Angeles by the Los Angeles Committee to Fight Exclusion of Homosexuals From the Aimed Forces. It was an all-volunteer effort, directed out of the offices of Don Slater’s magazine Tangents (see Aug 21) with Slater and Harry Hay (see Apr 7) co-chairing. The committee issued a press release in late March announcing the Armed Forces Motorcade, which caught the attention of L.A’s newspapers and radio and television stations. That press release not only publicized the event, but also acknowledged some of the anti-war arguments against it. The statement pointed out that while the military was “publicly paying lip service to the idea that homosexual persons are unfit for military service, (it) has quietly instructed induction centers to make discreet ‘exceptions’ to the rule (in) the case of homosexuals who are not the ‘obvious’ types.”

But even with the advance publicity, it wasn’t easy drumming up support within the gay community. As Harry Hay told Time magazine the night before the Motorcade:

We’re all tired from the work,” said Hay, “but if this comes, off, it will be something our city has never seen before. If it comes off. Imagine a motorcade of 15 cars and about a 20 mile route through Los Angeles. Ideally we should have had the support of the entire homophile, community; then we could have staged a really grand demonstration. But most homosexuals are still hiding.” He continued vehemently: “With the work we have put into this thing and with the thousands of homosexuals in the area, it is fantastic to realize we will be lucky to have 40 persons show up for the motorcade tomorrow —and at least 20 who do will not be gay.”

The motorcade, consisting of more than a dozen cars with four-sided signs attached to their roofs, wound their way through the streets of Los Angeles and Hollywood. Despite the initial interest expressed in the press, only the alternative Free Press, a Time photographer and a CBS News crew showed up to cover the event. The city editor of the Los Angeles Times said he’d send a reporter “only if someone was hurt. All our reporters and cameras are in Watts.” The incident went off without a hitch, with no adverse reaction from the public, no interference from police. That in itself was a major accomplishment.

While national coordination all but disappeared soon after the February meeting in Kansas City, other Armed Forces Day protests went ahead. The Mattachine Society of Washington D.C., picketed the White House and marched from there to the Pentagon. Frank Kameny, the group’s past president (see below) then flew to New York to be the principal speaker at a rally sponsored by the Daughters of Bilitis. Protesters also handed out leaflets at the Philadelphia Navy Yards, and picketed the Federal Building Plaza in San Francisco.

[Additional Source: C. Todd White. Pre-Gay L.A.: A Social History of the Movement for Homosexual Rights (Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2009): 183-187.]

aaawhitenightpaper1 White Night Riots: 1979. On this date, Dan White was found guilty in the shooting death of San Francisco Supervisor and LGBT advocate Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. Unfortunately, he was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter instead of first-degree murder, and sentenced to a paltry seven years in prison. (He would only serve five.) The jury bought the defense arguments that White was suffering from diminished capacity due to depression and an overload of junk food, a defense that has since been derided as the “Twinkie defense.”

The gay community was already angry with the police and fire department, which had raised money for White’s defense. That anger boiled over when the verdict was announced, leading to rioting at City Hall. A dozen police cars were set ablaze as protesters waged a four-hour battle against police in riot gear — their badges were covered with black tape to prevent identification –on Civic Center Plaza.

Later that night, San Francisco police staged a retaliatory raid in the Castro, catching people by surprise, since most of those still in the Castro that evening hadn’t gone downtown. Police descended on the Elephant Walk, a popular gay bar, with shouts of “dirty cocksuckers” and “sick faggots” while beating patrons with batons and shattering a large plate glass window. For the next two hours, police officers indiscriminately attacked passers by on the street. Fred Rogers, the bar’s owner, described the melee:

San Francisco Police charging into the Elephant Walk.

San Francisco Police charging into the Elephant Walk.

A tactical squad had charged the doors, smashing news cameras attempting to record the raid. Once inside they made a sweep from the front of the 1,800-square-foot room all the way to — and over — the bar, swinging their clubs at anything that moved. Or didn’t. Brian, one of the bartenders, was sporting head bandages. He said that it all happened fast, without warning. There was no place to hide. Behind the bar I could see our industrial-strength, stainless-steel blender. It bore the deep imprint of a police baton, mute testimony to the fierceness of the assault. My cocktail waitress, Paula, was just finishing her first week on the job when the assault began. Luckily, she found refuge behind a closed gate in the kitchen area. She said that she had not seen such police brutality since her days on the UC-Berkeley campus.

Later that night, a freelance reporter overheard a group of police officers celebrating at a downtown bar. “We were at City Hall the day [the killings] happened and we were smiling then,” one officer said. “We were there tonight and we’re still smiling.” Gay leaders refused to apologize for the riot at city hall, and an investigation into police misconduct in the Castro and City Hall ended without any charges being filed.

Wesleyan University Offers Specialized Transgender Housing: 2003. Wesleyan University of Middletown, Connecticut announced that it would become the first American college to offer special housing option to accommodate transgender students. Incoming freshmen will have the option of living in a new “gender-blind” floor of a dormitory without specifying their gender. According to the new university policy, those who choose to live in the gender-blind area “will be assigned a roommate without the consideration of gender.” Mike Whaley, dean of student services, estimated that there were twelve to fifteen transgender students on the 3,000-student campus. But after opposition and obstruction from other members of the administration, the transgender housing policy was very nearly scrapped a year later when the dean in charge of student housing refused to pair students who were not of the same “biological gender.” Finally, with input from mental health professionals and transgender advocates, a new policy was implemented in 2010.

Raymond Burr: 1917-1993. He started out as a stage actor, landing on Broadway in 1941 for Crazy with the Heat. It didn’t take long for him to switch to the silver screen for the film noir classic Raw Deal (1948). He was adept at playing the heavies, as an aggressive prosecutor in A Place in the Sun (1951), and as the murder suspect in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954). But he is best know for his two long-running television roles, in Perry Mason (1957-1966) and Ironside (1967 -1975). Like most gay actors, Burr rarely spoke about his private life. His official biography listed three marriages, but later investigations could only verify the second one. What has been verified is that Burr enjoyed a long 35-year relationship with his partner, Robert Benevides, who he met on the set of Perry Mason. Benevides was not only his life-long partner until Burr’s death in 1993, but together they owned an orchid business(orchids were one of Burr’s passions) and then a vineyard. Benevides still operates the Raymond Burr vineyards today.

90 YEARS AGO: Frank Kameny: 1925-2011. Easily one of the giants of the American gay rights movement, Frank Kameny fell into it when he was fired from his job as an astronomer with the Army Map Service in 1957 because of his homosexuality (see Dec 20). Kameny took on the U.S. Civil Service Commission and argued his appeal all the way up to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear his case. They missed out on quite case. Kameny wrote his own petition to the Supreme Court, in which he denounced the government’s ban on hiring gay people as “a stench in the nostrils of decent people, an offense against morality, an abandonment of reason, an affront to human dignity, an improper restraint upon proper freedom and liberty, a disgrace to any civilized society, and a violation of all that this nation stands for.”

Throughout his lifetime, Kameny placed himself in the middle of many first in the gay rights movement. He founded the Washington D.C. chapter of the Mattachine Society in 1961, a group which distinguished itself for its aggressiveness. In 1965, Kameny helped to organize the first gay rights protests in front the White House (see Apr 17), the Pentagon (Jul 31), the U.S. Civil Service Commission (see Jun 26), Philadelphia’s Independence Hall (see Jul 4), and the State Department (see Aug 28). That same year, Kameny published a ground-breaking essay which declared the gay rights movement’s independence from the mental health professions and its shoddy pseudo-scientific research on homosexuality, proclaiming, “We are the true authorities on homosexuality” (see May 11). That landmark declaration proved a turning point from or the gay rights movement, which soon shifted from a position of deference to professional authorities who declared that gays were mentally ill, and toward an eight year struggle to convince the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders (see Dec 15). In 1968, Kameny created the slogan “Gay is Good” (see Aug 12) and in 1971 he was the first openly gay candidate for Congress (see Feb 22).

Kameny has been recognized as a national treasure; his papers are now a part of the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian holds several of Kameny’s picket signs and other artifacts in its collection. His home is now recognized as a D.C. Historic Landmark, and in 2009, he received an official apology for his firing from the Office of Personnel Management. He passed away in 2011 at the age of 86.

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?


May 21st, 2015

I am glad to say that I met Dr. Kameny at a meeting and was able to thank him for his leadership.


May 21st, 2015

I am particularly interested in the item about transgender students at Wesleyan, as my own Alma Mater recently announced a policy. The link to Wesleyan’s policy no longer exists.

Leave A Comment

All comments reflect the opinions of commenters only. They are not necessarily those of anyone associated with Box Turtle Bulletin. Comments are subject to our Comments Policy.

(Required, never shared)

PLEASE NOTE: All comments are subject to our Comments Policy.


Latest Posts

The Things You Learn from the Internet

"The Intel On This Wasn't 100 Percent"

From Fake News To Real Bullets: This Is The New Normal

NC Gov McCrory Throws In The Towel

Colorado Store Manager Verbally Attacks "Faggot That Voted For Hillary" In Front of 4-Year-Old Son

Associated Press Updates "Alt-Right" Usage Guide

A Challenge for Blue Bubble Democrats

Baptist Churches in Dallas, Austin Expelled Over LGBT-Affirming Stance

Featured Reports

What Are Little Boys Made Of?

In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.

Slouching Towards Kampala: Uganda’s Deadly Embrace of Hate

When we first reported on three American anti-gay activists traveling to Kampala for a three-day conference, we had no idea that it would be the first report of a long string of events leading to a proposal to institute the death penalty for LGBT people. But that is exactly what happened. In this report, we review our collection of more than 500 posts to tell the story of one nation’s embrace of hatred toward gay people. This report will be updated continuously as events continue to unfold. Check here for the latest updates.

Paul Cameron’s World

In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.

From the Inside: Focus on the Family’s “Love Won Out”

On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.

Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"

The Heterosexual Agenda: Exposing The Myths

At last, the truth can now be told.

Using the same research methods employed by most anti-gay political pressure groups, we examine the statistics and the case studies that dispel many of the myths about heterosexuality. Download your copy today!

And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.

Testing The Premise: Are Gays A Threat To Our Children?

Anti-gay activists often charge that gay men and women pose a threat to children. In this report, we explore the supposed connection between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, the conclusions reached by the most knowledgeable professionals in the field, and how anti-gay activists continue to ignore their findings. This has tremendous consequences, not just for gay men and women, but more importantly for the safety of all our children.

Straight From The Source: What the “Dutch Study” Really Says About Gay Couples

Anti-gay activists often cite the “Dutch Study” to claim that gay unions last only about 1½ years and that the these men have an average of eight additional partners per year outside of their steady relationship. In this report, we will take you step by step into the study to see whether the claims are true.

The FRC’s Briefs Are Showing

Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council submitted an Amicus Brief to the Maryland Court of Appeals as that court prepared to consider the issue of gay marriage. We examine just one small section of that brief to reveal the junk science and fraudulent claims of the Family “Research” Council.

Daniel Fetty Doesn’t Count

Daniel FettyThe FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics aren’t as complete as they ought to be, and their report for 2004 was no exception. In fact, their most recent report has quite a few glaring holes. Holes big enough for Daniel Fetty to fall through.