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The sweetest story

Timothy Kincaid

September 18th, 2014

There is nothing I don’t love about this story. (Des Moines Register)

For so long, their love was not public. But when the news broke about their Sept. 6 wedding, their story was spread across the Internet and social media. In one week, decades of silence ended. They had never before talked to anyone about their relationship.

“In all those 72 years, no one said anything about it, either negative or positive,” said Vivian, 91, sitting across the dining hall table from Nonie, 90, on Wednesday at a Davenport retirement community where they have lived since 1987.

Go read it.

Those Twitchy people sure are lovely, aren’t they?

Timothy Kincaid

September 16th, 2014

Today I receive an odd Tweet directed at me.

That seemed a bit odd. I really had no idea what Mr. Jones was going on about. But then I got another tweet and this one gave me a clue:

It turns out that they were in response to a tweet I sent out last night while watching Dancing with the Stars.

As I said on another post, DWTS is developing the bad habit of casting the progeny or close family member of someone who has made a name for anti-gay activism. Maybe that’s getting the viewers they want, but I find it troubling.

Twitchy, Michelle Malkin’s right-wing social media activism site decided to write a piece using my tweet as their leaping off point. And boy did they leap.

haters gotta hate

After half a dozen tweets praising the Robertson child’s dancing, Twitchy picked back up with their indignation. And then they ran a bunch of comments from some mouthy teen – without mentioning that the first tweet and the string of abuse from the teen were not the same person. Not exactly admirable behavior.

And, fired up by the child’s immature insults, off went the twitchers is a deluge of abusive tweets. Towards me.

Now I’ve not encountered the Twitchy mob before. But I do have to say that from what I can tell they are a pretty disgusting bunch who lack even rudimentary reading comprehension skills. But maybe I’m biased.

Several just took the quick-and-easy personal insult ruite.

A few went with the gay insult – sadly they weren’t very clever

But that last fellow gets bonus points for using pink flowery wallpaper.

Some sought to give insights about hate

And quite a few assumed that they knew my party, ideology and faith and lectured me about tolerance

And the “real” definition of homophobia

But mostly they just demonstrated it for me

NOM exceeds its goal

Timothy Kincaid

September 16th, 2014

TargetLogo
A month ago we told you about the ambitious efforts of the National Organization for Marriage to slap down mega-retailer Target over the company’s support for marriage equality. At the time, NOM had accomplished a significant portion of their lofty goal, getting 2,800 people to pledge to join a boycott on the store.

Now it appears that not only has NOM reached their goal of 2,800, but they’ve done so with such confidence that they’ve moved the goal-post. Now NOM, having achieved 2,856 signatories, is eagerly seeking 2,900!

I suppose a cynical person might be inclined to believe that the goal just automatically updates itself to the next 1,000 so as to let the next visitor to the site believe that their signature really matters. But, then again, a cynical person might also believe that NOM is a shell group that has no real grass roots, does nothing but attempt to get its name in media, and is nothing but a front for the nastier side of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

But we’re not cynical here. No, we choose to believe that NOM is bravely marching forward to make tangible change at Target and that some day they just might have enough signatures to scare the retail giant. Maybe, just maybe, if they keep at it, Target’s response to NOM’s protest might not be to increase gay visibility in their marketing.

So buck up, Brian Brown. Maybe you’ll be relevant again in the US some day. And if not, you can always learn Russian.

Is Arizona Next?

Jim Burroway

September 16th, 2014

Last Friday, Federal District Court Judge John W. Sedwick issued a partial ruling which ordered the state to recognize a gay couple’s marriage after one of the partners died last summer. The state is now required to list the couple as having been married on the death certificate.

The case involves more than a dozen gay and lesbian couples seeking to overturn Arizona’s ban on same-sex marriage, and a ruling on the larger issue hasn’t come down. But Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSBlog thinks this early ruling tells us that Judge Sedwick is about to strike Arizona’s ban:

Judge Sedwick, who usually sits in Anchorage, Alaska, but is doing temporary duty to handle civil cases in Phoenix, cited a string of other federal court rulings striking down state prohibitions on same -sex marriage, and he commented on “the absence of any persuasive case law to the contrary.” He then added that the surviving partner in this case “is likely to prevail” in his challenge before the judge.

Because that claim is part of a broader case before the judge, involving one lawsuit filed in January and a separate case filed in March and proceeding jointly before him, his remarks were a strong indication that a 2008 state constitutional amendment and two state laws against same-sex marriage probably are going to be nullified.

A huge factor weighing against Arizona’s ban is that it is in the Ninth Circuit, which requires the more demanding “heightened scrutiny” test. Judge Sedwick has already denied the state’s claim that it doesn’t apply for this case in last week’s ruling.


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The Daily Agenda for Monday, September 22

Jim Burroway

September 22nd, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), September 22, 1979.

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), September 22, 1979.

DollysThe gays have always loved Dolly Parton, and Dolly Parton has had a special affinity for the gays, and especially for drag queens. At one time, Dolly herself entered a Dolly Parton look-alike contest — and lost:

“They had a bunch of Chers and Dollys that year, so I just over-exaggerated — made my beauty mark bigger, the eyes bigger, the hair bigger, everything,” she said, laughing. “All these beautiful drag queens had worked for weeks and months getting their clothes. So I just got in the line and I just walked across, and they just thought I was some little short gay guy.. but I got the least applause.”

As for the Warehouse in Cedar Rapids, the two-story industrial brick building that housed the club since 1978 had begun life in 1887 as the American Manufacturing Co., a maker of wood gunstocks and other handcrafted wood products. But more recently, the property was owned by the Knutson Metal Co. which operated a salvage yard on its grounds. City officials considered the property, located between a proposed city amphitheater and a park along the Cedar River, a “blight to the neighborhood and a drag on development,” while the Historic Preservationist Commission listed the building itself as one of eleven most endangered buildings in the city. In 2012, the city agreed to buy the property for $1.5 million. At last report, the city was still weighing its options for preserving the building and adapting it for public use.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
60 YEARS AGO: Senator Dirksen Denounces Homosexual “Wreckers and Destroyers”: 1954. In the past decade, we’ve seen each successive election year bring with it worse examples of character assassination, blatant bold-faced lies, and other examples of negative campaign tactics than ever before. Each time, it just seems to get worse, and we often wish we could turn back the clock to a more innocent and civil time when Americans could always find a way to get along regardless of their differences. You know, like in the 1950s.

Yeah, like in the 1950s, when Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) was labeling his political enemies radical communists and “sexual perverts.” And when Sen. Everett M. Dirksen (R-IL), who was then serving as the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the upcoming 1954 mid-term elections, declared during a meeting of 1,100 Republican women that “never were the destroyers and traitors in government so busy” as during the 20 years of Democratic rule from 1933 to 1953. He told the women that since then, Republicans like himself and McCarthy (who was Dirksen’s political ally during the previous four years) were left to root out “the wreckers and destroyers, the security risks and homosexuals, the blabbermouths and drunks, the traitors and saboteurs.”

It is important to note though that ten years later, Sen. Dirksen, who by then was Senate Minority Leader, played a crucial role in delivering enough Republican votes to break  an 83-day filibuster by southern Democrats and pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The press hailed Dirksen’s selfless bipartisanship for making possible one of the Johnson Administration’s signature pieces of legislation. Some things never change, but other things do.

And then there’s one other thing. The Federal Court House in Chicago, which was designed by the renowned modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, is named the Everett M. Dirksen U.S. Courthouse. Last month, it was the scene of the most masterful exhibition of the utter emptiness of the arguments against marriage equality in all of jurisprudence.

Oliver Sipple pushes Sara Jane Moore as she fired as shot at President Ford. (Click to enlarge.)

Gay Man Saves President Ford’s Life: 1975. President Gerald Ford was in San Francisco to deliver a luncheon speech to a foreign affairs group at the St. Francis Hotel. Outside, Oliver Sipple, former Marine and Vietnam veteran, was in a crowd of about 3,000 people waiting for Ford to exit the building. Standing next to Sipple was Sara Jane Moore, although they didn’t know each other. Moore, ironically, was also working as an FBI informant, where she provided information on illegal firearms purchases. Earlier that day, she called federal authorities threatening to “test” Ford’s security, but she was ignored. The day before, San Francisco police picked her up on a misdemeanor charge of carrying a concealed weapon, but they released her after federal authorities stepped in and said they would handle the matter. The Secret Service interviewed her that night, but let her go.

So there she was, and as Ford left the hotel, Moore pulled a .38 Smith & Wesson revolver from her purse, pointed it at the President, and fired a shot. As she fired, Sipple reached out and grabbed her arm. Her shot missed Ford by just five feet. It was the second assassination attempt in a month — nearly thee weeks earlier, a follower of mass murderer Charles Manson had tried to take a shot at him in Sacramento. That time, the gun didn’t fire. This time it did, and Sipple was a hero. “All I did was react,” he said. “I’m glad I was there. If it’s true I saved the President’s life, then I’m damn happy about it. But I honestly feel that if I hadn’t reached out for that arm, somebody else would have.”

Sipple had been a fixture in San Francisco’s gay community for several years. He was friends with Harvey Milk, and worked on Milk’s first unsuccessful attempt at winning a seat on the city’s Board of Supervisors. He was out to his friends, but closeted to his family in Detroit. Milk and other gay writers in San Francisco saw Sipple’s heroism as a perfect moment to gain some positive visibility for the gay community, but that was the last kind of attention Sipple wanted. When reporters asked about his sexuality, Sipple replied with a standard non-answer: “I don’t think I have to answer that question. If I were homosexual or not, it doesn’t make me less of a man than I am.”

But because Sipple was well known in the gay community — he volunteered for a gay service group and worked as a bartender at several gay clubs — it was impossible to keep the secret. Besides, Sipple hadn’t heard a word from the man whose life he saved, and Milk was convinced that it was because Sipple was gay. (The White House mailed a letter of appreciation four days after the assassination attempt.) But Sipple told friends that he wasn’t interested in the attention, “just a little peace and quiet.” That peace and quiet was shattered when The San Francisco Chronicle’s Herb Caen broke the story and it was soon picked up by wire services. Sipple’s Baptist mother publicly disowned him, and he soon found himself besieged by reporters. Sipple sued The Chronicle, Caen, and several other newspapers for invasion of privacy, but lost. The courts ruled that he had become a public figure on the day of the assassination attempt, and that his sexual orientation was part of the story.

Sipple, who was on psychological disability because of wounds suffered in Vietnam, declined in the years following the assassination attempt. He drank heavily, became obese, and expressed regret for grabbing Moore’s gun. He died, alone, of pneumonia in his Tenderloin District apartment in 1989.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Hans Scholl: 1918-1943. Like all good German boys, he joined the Hitler Youth in 1933, where he quickly became a squad leader in charge of 150 boys. He also formed a special elite squad to train other future leaders in the movement. Reflecting, perhaps, his own growing apprehensions about the Nazi movement, his training squad became quite unorthodox. Based on a soon-to-be outlawed Deutsche Jungenschaft, Scholl’s squad took a decidedly irreverent stance. A favorite joke within the group was to ask, “What is an Aryan?” The answer was, “Blond like Hitler, tall like Goebbels, and slim like Goering.” After the Nazis launched a crackdown on dissent, Scholl’s squad was disbanded and several members were arrested. It was during those interrogations that authorities learned that Scholl was gay. He was brought up on charges of violating paragraph 175, Germany’s longstanding law prohibiting homosexuality between men. This time, Scholl was lucky: the judged dismissed Scholl’s relationship with another squad member as “a youthful failing” and acquitted him of all charges.

Left to right: White Rose members Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst.

Scholl and his younger sister, Sophie, both became committed anti-Nazis. As war broke out, Hans was studying medicine in Munich, and Sophie joined him there to study biology and philosophy in 1941. Her boyfriend, Fritz Hartnagel, was an officer in the Wehrmacht fighting on the eastern front. Through extensive letter exchanges between Fritz and Sophie, historians have been able to piece together Sophie’s growing pacifism and Fritz’s alarm over the participation of German soldiers in mass killings of Jews and other atrocities. Meanwhile, Hans and two other students began a pacifist resistance movement called the White Rose, where they co-authored six anti-Nazi leaflets. When Sophie learned of her brother’s activities, she joined the group, which would grow to about a dozen members. As a woman, she was much less likely to be stopped by police while carrying stacks of leaflets to be distributed in several cities and through the mails.

The sixth White Rose leaflet.

The sixth White Rose leaflet.

In the summer of 1942, Hans and some of the other members of the White Rose was deployed to the Eastern Front to act as medics during the university’s summer break. When they returned, the group resumed its leafleting campaign, producing between 6,000 and 9,000 copies of their fifth leaflet, written by Hans and titled “A Call to All Germans!“, using a hand-cranked duplicating machine. The leaflet warned that Hitler was leading Germany to ruin and urged the people to join the struggle for “freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and protection of the individual citizen from the arbitrary action of criminal dictator-states.” The sixth leaflet was written by Christoph Probst after the German defeat at Stalingrad, and announced that the day of reckoning was about to come for “the most contemptible tyrant our people has ever endured.” It was while the group was dumping thousands of those leaflets around the University of Munich that a custodian spotted Hans and Sophie. They were arrested and interrogated, along with several other members of the group. On February 22, 1943, Hans, Sophie and Probst were found guilty of treason and sentenced to death.

The sentence was carried out that very same day by guillotine at Stadelheim Prison. Sophie was first to be executed. Before the blade fell, she shouted, “The sun is still shining!” Hans’s last words were “Es lebe die Freiheit!” — Long live freedom! Over the next few weeks, other White Rose members were rounded up and were either executed or sent to prison camps. But the last word would be left for the White Rose itself. Copies of that last leaflet were smuggled out of Germany and handed to the Allies, who then air-dropped millions of copies all over Germany, ensuring that the White Rose would remain an unforgettable part of German history.

The translated text of six White Rose leaflets are available here.

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?

The Daily Agenda for Sunday, September 21

Jim Burroway

September 21st, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Austin, TX; Dallas, TXPeterborough, ON.

Other Events This Weekend: Everybody’s Perfect 3 LGBTIQ Film Festival, Geneva, Switzerland; Folsom Street Fair, San Francisco, CA; Queer Lisboa 18 Film Festival, Lisbon, Portugal; OctoBEARfest, Munich, Germany; Cinema Diverse LGBT Film Festival, Palm Springs, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, May 31, 1979, page 34.

From The Advocate, May 31, 1979, page 34.

Fanny’s opened in 1974 as the Castro was more or less completing its transition from a blue collar Irish neighborhood to a rainbow hued gay village. It appears to have lasted precisely a decade. It’s now an Indian/Pakistani restaurant.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
San Francisco Police Raid the Alamo Club: 1956. The raid on the Alamo Club (also popularly known as Kelly’s) could have been just another raid by San Francisco’s police on just another gay or lesbian club. As raids go, it wasn’t particularly remarkable. Thirty-six women were arrested during the Friday night raid, hauled to the city jail, and booked on charges of frequenting a house of ill repute, which was a rather typical charge that was levied against gay bar patrons in the 1950s and 1960s. They were held over the weekend until the following Monday, when they were finally brought before a judge. All but four pleaded guilty. That, too, was typical. While the charge was frequenting a house of ill-repute, many of those arrested that night undoubtedly believed they were actually guilty of the anti-prostitution law simply because being a lesbian itself also held quite a lot of “ill-repute” in society. Pleading guilty also had its practical merits: it meant no trial and no jail sentence. Just pay a fine and you’re on your way.

If anything was different about this raid, it was made different because the Daughters of Bilitis had decided to begin publishing a newsletter in right around that time. The Ladder’s second issue in November included a very brief account of the raid — about as brief as what I just described — while lamenting that only four of those arrested chose to plead not guilty. “We feel that this was not due to actual guilt on the part of those so pleading but to an apalling (sic) lack of knowledge of the rights of a citizen in such a case.” The Ladder reported that the raid was the topic for the DoB’s October 23 discussion meeting where a local attorney, Benjamin Davis, volunteered to speak on “The Lesbian and the law,” with special emphasis on citizen’s rights in case of arrest. And in a separate article in that same newsletter, The Ladder urged “positive and constructive action” in response to the raid:

Certainly there is a marked reaction of fear and retrenchment among the Lesbian population of San Francisco after the recent raid… A paralyzing fear has been heaped upon an ever-present dread of detection. The persecuted are seeking cover once again. The innocent are convinced of their guilt. The tolerant became intolerant of their fellows. Growth is stultified by a sludge of misunderstanding.

Where will it lead? To a miserable half-existence of apprehension, self-pity, cynicism, hopelessness and paralysis? In some cases, perhaps.

BUT THIS NEED NOT BE! NOT IF REACTION IS REPLACED BY ACTION — POSITIVE AND CONSTRUCTIVE ACTION!

In the days before Miranda v Arizona, the 1966 Supreme Court case which required that arresting officers brief those under arrest of their rights (“You have the right to remain silent…), police often took advantage of suspects’ ignorance of the law. The next issue of The Ladder reported on the attorney’s talk with an article boldly titled “Citizen’s Rights,” highlighting many of those very same rights:

“DON’T PLEAD GUILTY” was the recurrent theme that was sounded by San Francisco attorney, Ben Davis at the first public discussion meeting held by this organization in October. Mr. Davis stresses three primary rules to remember if ever arrested: Don’t plead guilty; call your attorney; don’t volunteer information — in fact, don’t talk to anyone about anything.

And to drive the point home, The Ladder reprinted a list of specific rights that are guaranteed to everyone under arrest. Because most people in the 1950s were probably unaware of them, The Mattachine Review had published an identical list eight months earlier for its mostly male gay readers, who were targets for police entrapment. The list, formulated by “the National Association for Sex Research, Inc., Hollywood, Calif.”, included these thirteen points:

CITIZEN’S RIGHTS IN CASE OF ARREST

1. An officer cannot arrest you without a warrant unless you have committed a crime in his presence or he has reasonable grounds to believe that you have committed a felony. (Calif. PC 836)

2. If he has a warrant, ask to see it and read it carefully. If you are arrested without a warrant, ask what the charge is.

3. You are not required to answer any questions. You may, but do not have to give your name and address. If you are accused of a crime of which you are innocent, deny the charge. Go along, but under protest. Do not resist physically.

4. Do not sign anything. Take the badge numbers of the arresting officers.

5. If you are taken to jail, ask when you are booked what the charges are and whether they are misdemeanor or felony charges.

6. Insist on using the telephone to contact your lawyer or family.

7. You have the right to be released on bail for most offenses. Have your attorney make the arrangements or ask for a bail bondsman.

8. After an arrest without a warrant, a person must without unnecessary delay, be taken before the most accessible magistrate in the area where the arrest is made. The magistrate must hear the complaint and set bail. (Calif. PC 849)

9. Report any instances of police brutality which you observe to your attorney.

10. If you do not have an attorney by the time you are brought before a judge to plead, ask for additional time to obtain an attorney; or if this is not possible, plead not guilty and demand a jury trial.

11. You are entitled to a written statement of the charges against you before you are required to enter a plea.

12. You are not required to testify against yourself in any trial or hearing. (5th Amendment, U.S. Constitution)

13. If you are questioned by any law enforcement officer including the FBI, remember that you are not required to answer any questions concerning yourself or others. (5th Amendment, U.S. Constitution)

[Sources: Unsigned articles, The Ladder 1, no. 2 (November 1956): 5, 8.

Unsigned. "Citizen's Rights." The Ladder 1, no. 3 (December 1956): 2-3.

Unsigned. "A Citizen's Rights In Case of Arrest." Mattachine Review 2, no 2 (April 1956): 51.]

Amanda Bearse Comes Out Of the Closet: 1993. The Married… With Children star made headlines across the country when she became the first prime time actress to come out of the closet. Rumors about her sexuality had been floating around in the tabloids since 1991, but she wasn’t ready to deal with it. “The day I was outed was the anniversary of my brother’s death. I had woken up that morning thinking about my brother, and in the grand scheme of things, being outed didn’t matter.”

She came out under her own steam two years later in an interview with The Advocate. “I would love this interview to be the impetus for someone else to come forward,” she told reporter Steve Greenberg. “There are numerous celebrities, gay and straight, who contribute to our community. That buys us a lot of political power. I have friends who are more active who have… respected my pace. I guess with this interview I’ve stepped on the gas.”

Older, and with more insurance.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
70 YEARS AGO: Fannie Flagg: 1944. Born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, Patricia Neal quickly discovered when she began her acting career that she wouldn’t be able to use her perfectly good birth name — the other already famous Patricia Neal had won an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1963. So at her grandfather’s and best friend’s suggestions, she became Fannie Flagg. She broke into doing local commercials and then became the host for a local morning television program.

Acting quickly gave way to comedy and writing, and in 1964 she joined Alan Funt’s Candid Camera as a staff writer. Her southern charm and sharp wit soon landed her spots on Password and the Match Game. She performed on Broadway and in a few movies, but perhaps her most interesting acting gig was as the beard for then-closeted Bewitched star Dick Sargent (see Apr 19); they were supposedly engaged to be married and were even introduced on the game show Tattletales by host Bert Convey as “Dick Sargent and his lady, Fannie Flagg.” Fannie herself was outed by her longtime lover, Rita Mae Brown, after the couple split in the late 1970s.

When the 1980s rolled around, Flagg turned more seriously to writing, which she describes as her first love. But that meant that she had to confront a huge hurdle — her severe dyslexia. She gave up her public appearances to focus on writing, and she very nearly became financially destitute in the process. The result was worth it though; her best-known novel, 1987′s Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe: A Novel, became a critically acclaimed movie in 1991. Flagg drew an important lesson from that experience because, despite the severe hardships, “I found out I was happier than I’d ever been because my priorities were straight and I was doing something I loved.” She currently divides her time between homes in Los Angeles and Birmingham.

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?

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, September 20

Jim Burroway

September 20th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Austin, TX; Columbia, SCDallas, TX; Enid, OK; Pasadena, CA; Peterborough, ON; Provo, UT; St. Cloud, MN; Valdosta, GA.

Other Events This Weekend: Everybody’s Perfect 3 LGBTIQ Film Festival, Geneva, Switzerland; Folsom Street Fair, San Francisco, CA; Queer Lisboa 18 Film Festival, Lisbon, Portugal; OctoBEARfest, Munich, Germany; Cinema Diverse LGBT Film Festival, Palm Springs, CA; Pride Day at King’s Dominion, Richmond, VA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Northwest Gay Review, May 1975, special San Francisco travel section, page 11.

From Northwest Gay Review, May 1975, special San Francisco travel section, page 11.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
State Department Asks, Gay Applicants Tell: 1966. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State G. Marvin Gentile testified before a House Appropriations subcommittee that thirty employees identified as “security risks” had left the State Department in 1965. Some resigned, others were dismissed following investigations. Twenty-eight of the thirty left “for homosexual reasons” and the other two for other reasons “such as excessive drinking, bad debts, and excessive use of leave.” Deputy Undersecretary for Administration William J. Crockett told the Committee that the State Department would pay closer attention to “preventive security,” which he described as simply asking applicants directly if they were homosexual. “We personally interview the applicant,” he said, “and it is surprising how many admissions we get to direct questions that we would never find out without the direct questioning.”

Triangulator In Chief

President Clinton Announces Signing of DOMA Into Law: 1996. President Clinton announced his signing of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which outlawed federal recognition of same-sex marriage, and which still allows states to ignore the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S Constitution and refuse to recognized valid marriages from other states. Clinton said that he signed DOMA to head off a federal constitutional amendment, but LGBT advocates grumbled that the act was less a defense of marriage and more a defense of his 1996 reelection campaign. Those suspicions were confirmed when the Clinton campaign released a radio ad bragging about his signing of DOMA and ran it on Christian radio stations across the country. In response to loud protests from LGBT advocates, the Clinton campaign pulled that ad two days later. Section 3 of DOMA, the portion of the law that prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, was finally declared unconstitutional on June 26 of 2013.

Serving, defending.

DADT Repeal Goes Into Effect: 2011. It was an joyous celebration for the nation’s LGBT military service personnel when at the stroke of midnight, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was finally tossed into the dustbin of history where it rightfully belongs. One servicemember stationed in Germany came out to his father  — and to his unit — via YouTube. Another Navy officer married his partner at precisely one minute after midnight, and the co-founder of OutServe, “J.D. Smith” came out and revealed that he was actually Air Force First Lieutenant Josh Seefried. Naturally, not everyone welcomed the breath of fresh air. The Family “Research” Council predicted that the demise of the ban on gays serving openly would lead to a rash of “new victims of sexual harassment or assault, the soldiers exposed to HIV-tainted blood, the thousands of servicemembers who choose not to reenlist rather than forfeit their freedom of speech and religion, and the untold number of citizens who choose never to join the military.” We’re still waiting for word on any of that happening.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Harold “Hal” Call: 1917-2000. Born and raised in Missouri, Call knew that he was gay from the age of twelve. But when he was inducted into the Army during World War II, he knew that sex would be out of the question. “If people were caught engaging in homosexual acts, some of them were shipped back to the states with less-than-honorable discharges. I thought it was a waste.” He went through Officer Candidate School and was promoted to Lieutenant before being shipped to the Pacific Theater. As an officer, if he had encountered people who were gay, he would have been required to have them dismissed from the service. But his approach was of a don’t-ask-don’t-tell variety. “Who was harmed? Nobody,” he recalled later. “That’s the way the armed forces should look at it. The armed forces could not operate without homosexuals. Never could. Never has. Never will.” He was promoted to regimental battalion commander, was wounded and received the Purple Heart, and left the Army as a captain in 1945.

He returned to Missouri and worked at several newspapers including the Kansas City Star. In August of 1952, he went to Chicago, where he and three friends were arrested for “lewd conduct.” After paying an $800 bribe, the charges were dismissed, but he was fired from the Star when his supervisor found out. So he and his boyfriend at the time packed up the car and moved to San Francisco, where Call quickly became involved with the Mattachine Foundation. He began attending meetings in February, and quickly rocketed to the top leadership.

It turns out that 1953 was a pivotal year for the group, which had been founded as something of a secret society, particularly where the organization’s leadership was concerned.  Part of the secrecy was an outgrowth of some of the Foundation original founders, some of whom (Harry Hay, in particular, see Apr 7), had been members of the Communist Party. Because the Foundation was founded in the midst of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s Red and Lavender Scares, the organization was set up so that nobody knew the names of the Mattachine leadership. But it was that very secrecy — and those early political connections among some of the leaders — which opened a wedge between the founders and many of the newcomers. “They all had communist backgrounds, every damn one of them!”, Call recalled. Those newcomers feared where the founders might take the organization. As Call later explained:

“Public protests were not part of our program. Not at all. we wanted to see changes come about by holding conferences and discussions and becoming subjects for research and telling our story. We wanted to assist people in the academic and behavioral-science world in getting the truth out to people who had an influence on law and law enforcement, the courts, justice, and so on.”

Everything came to a head in the spring of 1953 (see Apr 11) during a contentions convention when the old guard resigned, the Mattachine Foundation was disbanded and promptly reconstituted as the Mattachine Society, with Call as president. As he wrote two years later:

 It became apparent … that the original founders of the movement had built better than they knew. For there emerged from the convention a Society designed to carry out all functions of the Foundation, which agreed to disband. Gone were the “secret” orders, the questions of who was behind it all and the possibility of alternate motives. Established was an association of persons who knew and trusted the others within the group, and shared the zealous desire to alleviate a pressing social problem.

It may seem ironic, then, that the “conservative takeover” of the Society would lead to its leader being among the most publicly visible homosexuals in the country. In 1954, Call created and edited the Mattachine Review, and he founded Pan-Graphic Press, a publishing and book service company that became the Mattachine Review’s printer. In 1961, when San Francisco police raided the Tay-Bush Inn and arrested 103 patrons (see Aug 14), Call swung into action and deployed the Mattachine’s meager resources to provide bail money and legal representation. A month later, Call appeared on a documentary program produced by San Francisco’s Public Television station KQED called “The Rejected” (see Sep 11).  And in 1964 when Life magazine wanted to do a groundbreaking photo essay on the gay community in the San Francisco area (see Jun 26), Call made the arrangements with local bar owners for the photo shoots.

Hall Call, in the upstairs office of the Circle J Cinema. (1999)

Mattachine business wasn’t Call’s only interest. In the 1960s, Call’s Pan-Graphic Press printed a bar directory that had been compiled by a local bar owner by the name of Bob Damron, and anyone who knows anything about Damron’s Address Book knows the rest of that story. Call also became involved in local porn production (both in print and in 16mm film) and became the owner of a few private sex clubs in the Bay area.

Those interests soon surpassed his work in the Mattachine Society, even as he blurred his other interests with the Mattachine name. The Society had already ceased to exist as a national organization in 1961, although several independent groups in several cities continued to use the Mattachine name well up into the 1970s. One of those surviving Societies was Call’s outfit, which continued in name only into the 1990s, when Call described it as “in limbo.”  “It has a board of directors, and I’m the head queen, but we don’t have the strength of a powder puff,” he said.

From The Voice, January 16, 1982, page 12.

From The Voice, January 16, 1982, page 12.

Call’s energies, by then, had been devoted to running an adult theater in the Tenderloin. When he first opened his theater in 1973, he named it Cinemattachine, much to the consternation of other activists who already felt that he had turned the San Francisco society into a front for his private businesses when he gave the Mattachine Review’s business to his Pan-Graphics Press. Call later renamed his theater the Circle J Cinema, and it was exactly what you would imagine a theater with that name would be. Over his lifetime, Call amassed over 5,000 gay men’s sex videos and films, and he was an outspoken advocate for sexual freedom. He died in San Francisco in 2000. His papers are part of the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives in Los Angeles.

[Sources: Hall Call. "A brief history of the Mattachine Society" The Mattachine Review 1, no. 2 (March-April 1955), : 39.

Eric Marcus. Making History: The Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights. An Oral History. (New York: HarperCollins, 1992): 59-69.]

Rocking the Paradise

Chuck Panozzo: 1948. Do you remember the band Styx? I’m not sure how much play they get on classic rock radio these days, but they were huge from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s. They were my favorite band in high school; I thought 1977′s The Grand Illusion was, you know, so deep. Anyway, bassist Chuck Panozzo co-founded the band with his fraternal twin brother, John. In 2001, Chuck came out as gay and as a person living with HIV, and since then he has been involved with AIDS awareness campaigns. His autobiography, The Grand Illusion: Love, Lies, and My Life with Styx, chronicles the rise of Styx and the his own struggles to come to terms with himself.

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?

The Daily Agenda for Friday, September 19

Jim Burroway

September 19th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Austin, TX; Dallas, TX; Enid, OK; Pasadena, CA; Peterborough, ON; Provo, UT; St. Cloud, MN; Valdosta, GA.

Other Events This Weekend: Everybody’s Perfect 3 LGBTIQ Film Festival, Geneva, Switzerland; Queer Lisboa 18 Film Festival, Lisbon, Portugal; OctoBEARfest, Munich, Germany; Cinema Diverse LGBT Film Festival, Palm Springs, CA; Pride Day at King’s Dominion, Richmond, VA; Out On the Mountain at Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia CA (Friday only).

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Blade (Washington, DC), June 1977, page 22.

From The Blade (Washington, DC), June 1977, page 22.

A Washington, D.C. entertainment guide in 2004 described Mr. P’s as “the oldest gay bar in the Circle” attracted “one of the oldest crowds,” which the writer defined as “30-and-ups.” Bitch! It went on: “In the evenings, patrons spill out onto the patio and head upstairs to the 2nd bar… The (Sunday) barbecues on the back patio are a good chance to meet some of the locals.” There’s a Mediterranean restaurant there today.

Mayor Abe Aronovitz

TODAY IN HISTORY:
60 YEARS AGO: Miami Mayor Dismisses Constitutional Concerns Over Anti-Gay Drive: 1954. Miami’s ongoing media-driven hysteria over the discovery of gay people in their midsts (see Aug 3, Aug 11, Aug 12, Aug 13 (twice that day), Aug 14, Aug 15, and Aug 16Aug 26, Aug 31, Sep 1, Sep 2, Sep 7) and Sep 15) received further attention on the editorial page of The Miami News when staff writer Jane Woods highlighted the many battles between the combative mayor Abe Aronovitz and others on the City Commission and the local community:

Homosexuals brought the next trouble. In the pre-Kefauver days, says the Mayor, there were numerous bars in downtown Miami with gambling rooms upstairs or in the back. After open gambling was closed down, some of these bar operators turned these upstairs rooms into parlors, where homosexuals congregated, met each other, made love.

After Miami had a series of shocking crimes this summer, it was brought to the Mayor’s attention that many homosexuals took an intense pleasure in starting innocent young people off into an abnormal life. Many teen-age boys, to make money, had learned to feign abnormality to milk older homosexual men for all the money they could. Bar operators calculatingly making money from this traffic in human misery in the heart of downtown appalled him (Aronovitz), he says.

“The only effective step I knew to take was to bring the most intense public pressure to bear on Chief Headley (see Aug 26Aug 31, and Sep 1,) I have affection, and respect for Walter Headley and his ability. But I hoped that the men in the district, under him, directly able to do something about these bars, might be spurred into action if they felt the chief’s job as at stake. I knew they could, if they would, use technicalities of the law to force these places out of existence.

“What response do I get from my fellow commissioners? Mr. Hearn tells me that I am doing millions of dollars worth of harm by bad publicity, making it appear we are a houseful of perverts in Miami. Chief Quigg suggests that the intense police drive I advocate might violate constitutional rights of some men.”

Photo by Randolfe Wicker.

50 YEARS AGO: First Known Gay Rights Picket In America: 1964. For such a momentous occasion, one would think there’d be more written about it. Sadly, I haven’t been able to find a whole lot. The picket took place in the middle of Manhattan, at the U.S. Army’s Whitehall Induction Center, in protest over the army’s failure to keep gay men’s draft records confidential. New York activist Randolfe Wicker (see Feb 3) organized it along with Craig Rodwell, who would go on to open the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookstore, the first LGBT bookstore in the U.S. Another picketer was Renai Cafiero,who would go on to become  one of the first openly gay delegates to the 1972 Democratic National Convention. Other marchers included Nancy Garden and Jeff Poland of the New York League  for Sexual Freedom. Picket signs declared, “Homosexuals died for U.S., Too,” “Love and Let Love,” and “Army Invades Sexual Privacy.”  You can see Wicker’s original photos from that event here. If anyone knows a good source for more information on this, please let me know via email or in the comments below.

Totally straight.

An Ex-Gay Leader Walked Into A Bar: 2000. In 1998, the supposedly “ex-gay” John Paulk and his “ex-lesbian” wife Anne were the centerpieces of a massive publicity push by Focus On the Family to promote the pray-away-the-gay therapy offered by Exodus International. Paulk was the manager of Focus’s Homosexuality and Gender division, and he had also served as Board Chairman for Exodus since 1995. As part of their publicity campaign, the Paulks appeared on 60 Minutes and Oprah, as well as in full-page newspaper ads and on a 1998 cover of Newsweek. Their 1999 book, Love Won Out, became the title for a series of promotional ex-gay conferences put on jointly by Focus and Exodus.

On September 19, 2000, John Paulk traveled to Washington, D.C. on Focus business when he walked into a gay bar known as Mr. P’s in the heart of D.C.’s Dupont Circle gayborhood. In 2014, Paul described the pressures of living as an ex-gay spokesperson that led him to go to Mr. P’s that evening:

[E]ven as I pursued this career as a professional ex-gay man, and raised a family and loved my wife, I was in utter torment. I struggled off and on with addiction and wanting to take my life. I knew I was living on the inside as two people. I wanted to believe it was true so badly that not only did I lie to other people, I primarily lied to myself. I wanted my homosexuality to change, but the truth is: For all my public rhetoric, I was never one bit less gay. Behind closed doors, many of us in the “ex-gay” leadership at Focus on the Family would even admit this to each other — and we had this conversation many times: “We know our orientation hasn’t really changed. What has changed is our behavior. Our way of life. How we see ourselves. Our sexuality has not changed.”

But it only became harder to maintain the false veneer of heterosexuality, at home and at work. I was preaching to other adult gay and lesbian people a gospel that I no longer really believed in. More and more, when I’d have to get up and speak to crowds about my gay conversion, I felt like a wind-up toy. I’d go back to my hotel room, fall on the bed and start weeping. I thought, “If I have to go out and do that one more time, I will literally throw up.” I was in agony. I wasn’t easy to live with either. I was short with my children and took my anger and anxiety out on my devoted wife. I just couldn’t handle it anymore.

Everything began to change in 2000, when I was photographed in a gay bar in Washington, DC. I had not gone into a gay bar since the late ‘80s, and I wasn’t looking for sex. I just wanted to be among my own kind, to feel at home, for a brief period.

A few of the patrons there, employees at the Human Rights Campaign, recognized him immediately and watched as Paulk ordered a drink and struck up conversations with other bar patrons. One of the HRC staffers called Wayne Besen, who was also working at the HRC at the time and who had already written about the ex-gay movement. When Besen arrived twenty minutes later, he found Paulk on a barstool chatting with patrons. Besen confronted Paulk and tried to photograph him, but the bar’s bouncer, citing house rules prohibiting photography, stepped in and asked Besen to leave. Besen waited outside the bar, and when Paulk finally came out the front door, Besen snapped another photo as Paulk was leaving.

Fleeing Mr. P’s.

Besen immediately called several reporters. The first to express an interest was Southern Voice’s Joel Lawson, who broke the story two days later. In Paulk’s first public statement, he claimed that he only went to Mr. P’s to use the restroom. Besen countered, “I didn’t know that using the bathroom involved 40 minutes of socializing in a bar and offering drinks to strangers.” Paulk was called back to Focus headquarters in Colorado Springs where he was placed on probation and removed as Board Chair at Exodus International (although he remained a member of the board on probationary status). But he somehow managed to weather the controversy. Paulk remained in his position at Focus, and he continued to be the principal organizer and featured speaker at Love Won Out conferences for another three years.

In 2003, he finally decided to step down from Focus. He and his wife moved to Portland, Oregon, where he started a catering business. While Anne continued to write books and speak at ex-gay conferences, John dropped out from the movement altogether. Over the past year, the two have gone their separate ways altogether. In April, John renounced his prior association with the ex-gay movement, saying “I no longer support the ex-gay movement or efforts to attempt to change individuals — especially teens who already feel insecure and alienated.” He followed that a week later with a formal apology: “I know that countless people were harmed by things I said and did in the past. Parents, families, and their loved ones were negatively impacted by the notion of reparative therapy and the message of change. I am truly, truly sorry for the pain I have caused. From the bottom of my heart I wish I could take back my words and actions that caused anger, depression, guilt and hopelessness. In their place I want to extend love, hope, tenderness, joy and the truth that gay people are loved by God.”

John and Anne’s divorce was finalized in June of 2013. Anne Paulk remains active in the ex-gay movement, after having helped to a break-away group of former Exodus ministries following Exodus president Alan Chambers’s acknowledgment that change in sexual orientation was not possible. She now serves on the board of directors of that dissident group, Restored Hope Network.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
80 YEARS AGO: Brian Epstein: 1934-1967. He was already well on the way to becoming a successful businessman as manager of the record departments at his father’s chain of radio and hi-fi stores in Liverpool, when he began to hear the buzz surrounding a local band. He decided to attend a lunchtime concert at the Cavern Club and was blown away by what he heard. “I was immediately struck by their music, their beat, and their sense of humor on stage — and, even afterwards, when I met them, I was struck again by their personal charm. And it was there that, really, it all started.” The band called themselves the Beatles. Epstein signed on as their manager, and within five months he had paid Decca records out of his own pocket to record a studio demo. He shopped it around, but none of the major labels were interested until George Martin at EMI’s tiny Parlophone label heard them. He liked what he heard and signed the band. The rest, as they say, is history.

Epstein’s sexuality wasn’t generally known until several years after his death in 1967. The band, of course, figured it out right away, probably owing to Epstein’s interest in the band’s appearance on stage. Epstein is credited for creating the early Beatles’ look — the collarless suits and ties, the mod haircuts, the synchronized bow at the end of their performances. John Lennon was known to make a few sarcastic comments about Epstein’s sexuality, but the band mostly accepted him as one of their own. Rumors later swirled that Lennon and Epstein had an affair while vacationing in Barcelona in 1963, but Lennon denied it in a Playboy interview in 1980. “It was never consummated, but we had a pretty intense relationship,” he said. Lennon and his first wife, Cynthia, (Epstein had been Lennon’s best man when they married in 1962) have always maintained that the relationship was platonic.

After Epstein died in 1967 from an overdose of the barbiturate Carbitral, the band began its downward spiral. Much of that downfall was attributed to tensions between McCartney and Lennon, who argued over who should take over the band’s management. They were never able to come to an agreement, and the relationship between the two men continued to deteriorate.

Eighteen years after the Beatles broke up, they were among the earliest entrants into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Paul McCartney credits Epstein for making the Beatles one of the most successful bands in the world. “If anyone was the Fifth Beatle, it was Brian,” he told a BBC documentary in 1997. Epstein was finally induced into the Hall’s Non-Performer’s Section in 2014.

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?

The downfall of Mars Hill Church and its macho pastor

Timothy Kincaid

September 18th, 2014

driscoll

Seattle’s Mars Hill Church is a mega-church with real machismo, where the men are men and the women are subservient. Mark Driscoll, the charismatic leader at Mars Hill has long been known by readers here at Box Turtle Bulletin to have contempt for “effeminate men” and the church has shown itself to be ignorant, at best, about the gay community, referring to it as “those who are infected with AIDS on the hill” and advocating for ex-gay efforts.

But perhaps less known, until recently, was Driscoll’s misogyny, abuse, and dictatorial approach to ministry. But eventually enough of those within his circle had experienced his abusive and controlling nature and his empire has now begun to crumble. And the catalyst was someone who is as extreme as Driscoll in her anti-gay positioning, radio host Janet Mefferd. (Seattle Times)

Driscoll’s heated November 2013 exchange with radio host Janet Mefferd would prove a crucial turning point in his explosive rise and recent fall, igniting a chain of events that would begin unraveling the Seattle megachurch he founded.

Mefferd had discovered that Driscoll had based about 14 pages of his latest book on another author’s ideas, without giving attribution. And when she pointed this out, Driscoll went on attack mode, accusing Mefferd of being rude and “not very Christ-like”.

That may have been his error – his posturing inviting inspection when his house wasn’t in order. A few people within conservative Christianity began looking into Driscoll’s book practice. And discovered that his theft of intellectual property wasn’t a isolated event.

Perhaps the greatest damage to Driscoll came when this caught the attention of Dr. Warren Throckmorton, who in some ways serves as the conscience of the evangelical community. While the original improprieties were discovered by others, Throckmorton brought them to the attention of the greater church community through blogging and authoring articles. And one particular revelation was shocking.

Real Marriage, part relationship advice, part sex manual, had enough shock value that it shouldn’t surprise that it sold well. And it did, surging to the Number One spot on the New York Times’ list of hardcover advice books. And in January 2012, Driscoll became a NYT Best Selling Author.

But it turns out that Driscoll and Mars Hill didn’t get there honestly. Instead, they hired a firm to make bogus purchases of the book so as to drive up the sales numbers. And, to fool the Times, the scheme involved large numbers of purchases from around the country using differing payment methods.

As disclosures about Driscoll’s practices came to light, more congregants and former congregants began to tell their stories about abuse and manipulation. On August 21, Dave Kraft, who had been on staff as Dricoll’s life coach, went public as to why he had left. He was joined by 21 other former pastors who presented a listing of complaints.

This – along with revelations about opinions he had expressed while using a pseudonym – compelled nine current pastors associated with Mars Hill to call on Driscoll to step down. (Daily Beast)

Then on Aug. 22, those pastors delivered a letter to their remaining fellow pastors asking Driscoll step down and enter a process of repentance and restoration. Instead of complying with the direction of his pastors, Driscoll announced to the church on Aug. 24 after his Sunday sermon that he would take “an extended focus break” in order to heal and allow the church to examine the allegations against him.

His Executive Elders, a tiny committee, then announced that they would investigate the accusations. Early indications suggest that they have every intention of vindicating Driscoll and maligning his accusers. And as for the nine pastors who called for Driscoll’s replacement – they’ve been fired.

Mars Hill’s attendance is down by about a third and there are consolidating congregations. One of the congregations which has been closed is the one which which claimed to be “serving and ministering to those who are infected with AIDS on the hill”.

This story is likely far from over.

The Daily Agenda for Thursday, September 18

Jim Burroway

September 18th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Austin, TX; Dallas, TX; Enid, OK; Pasadena, CA; Peterborough, ON; Provo, UT; St. Cloud, MN; Valdosta, GA.

Other Events This Weekend: Everybody’s Perfect 3 LGBTIQ Film Festival, Geneva, Switzerland; Queer Lisboa 18 Film Festival, Lisbon, Portugal; OctoBEARfest, Munich, Germany; Cinema Diverse LGBT Film Festival, Palm Springs, CA; Pride Day at King’s Dominion, Richmond, VA; Out On the Mountain at Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia CA (Friday only).

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From ONE magazine, April 1957, page 2.

Finding books on homosexuality in the 1950s was just about impossible for most people. These just weren’t the kind of books one would have found at the book shop on Main Street. And if the local library had them, they would have likely been kept locked away and only the stern school-marmish librarian had the key. A few unconventional bookstores, like this one catering to the Greenwich Village arts crowd, found that they could fill the void and augment their business by advertising in alternative newspapers and magazines like ONE. I can’t find any information about the Village Theater Center Bookshop, except to note that it was located two blocks from where the seminal Stonewall Rebellion would take place in 1969, and one block from where the Oscar Wilde Book Shop would relocate itself in 1973.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Donald Webster Cory/Edward Sagarin: 1913-1986. He was once hailed as the “Father of the Homophile Movement,” with considerable justification. No one else can lay claim to inspiring so many gay men and women to join a homophile movement during the sexually-fearsome 1950s than this unlikely married Jewish perfume salesman from New York. Writing under the pseudonym Donald Webster Cory, he published The Homosexual In America: A Subjective Approach in 1951, and it would  become unquestionably the single most influential book in the early gay rights movement in America. It was the first major publication to provide an exhaustive overview of a kind of gay life that was largely underground and out of sight of ordinary Americans. He discussed gay bars, drag queens, relationships, and marriages — as convenience and as cover (including his own, to his wife Gertrude since 1936, although by all accounts they were devoted to each other throughout their lives). He even provided a lexicon of gay slang. But most importantly, he wrote of homosexuals as “an unrecognized minority” on par with other minorities who were struggling for recognition in America:

We homosexuals are a minority, but more than that, an intensified minority, with all of the problems that arise from being a separate group facing us that are faced by other groups, and with a variety of important problems that are unshared by most minorities. The ethnic groups can take refuge in the comfort and pride of their own, in the warmth of family and friends, in the acceptance of themselves among the most enlightened people around them. But not the homosexuals. Those closest to us, whose love we are in extreme need of, accept us for what we are not. Constantly and unceasingly we carry a mask, and without interruption we stand on guard lest our secret, which is our very essence, is betrayed.

But what really pushed the boundaries was his unequivocal call for the full integration of gay people in public life. “I am convinced,” he wrote, “and will presently attempt to demonstrate, that there is a permanent place in the scheme of things for the homosexual — a place that transcends the reaction to hostility and that will continue to contribute to social betterment after social acceptance.” He was also an early proponent of what we today would call multiculturalism, saying that the diversity of minorities — ethnic, religious, racial and sexual minorities — strengthens and enriches a democratic society. “[H]omosexuality — fortunately but unwittingly — must inevitably place a progressive role in the scheme of things,” he argued. “It will broaden the base for freedom of thought and communication, will be a banner-bearer in the struggle for liberalization of our sexual conventions, and will be a pillar of strength in the defense of our threatened democracy.”

But if one were to try to look back with perfect 20-20 hindsight, one might detect occasional flashes of conservatism in The Homosexual In America, but it’s hard to see it given the very conservative times in which the book appeared. He accepted without question the consensus in the psychological world that homosexuality came about as a result of a disturbed home life. But then so did a large number of other gay people, who believed what the professionals told them and accepted it without question. But what set Cory apart was his argument that the mental health professions were powerless to make straight the homosexual and, further, that there was no need to try. Homosexuals may have come from disturbed homes, he reasoned, but that didn’t mean that they were disturbed themselves. Whatever disturbances they did possess came from the stresses of coping with a majority that had no use for them.

An early advertisement for Donald Webster Cory’s “The Homosexual In America.” (Click to enlarge.)

Over the next six years, The Homosexual in America went through seven hardcover printings, was re-issued as a mass market paperback in 1963, and was translated into Spanish and French. It inspired a movement and drew to it those who would shape that movement for the next two decades. Barbara Gittings (see Jul 31), who was instrumental in getting the APA to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973, credited Cory’s book with inspiring her to become involved:

What got me started in the movement was a book I found in 1953, which had been published two years earlier. It was called The Homosexual in America: A Subjective Approach, by Donald Webster Cory. The book was fascinating because, now that I look back on it, Cory’s book was very much a call to arms. Cory said that we ought to be working to gain our equality and our civil rights. … At that time, it was a very challenging book because it was saying, in effect, that we could stand up and do something for ourselves and change our situation.

Cory continued writing for the pioneering homophile magazine ONE and served as a contributing editor for the magazine’s first three years. In one article for ONE, he spoke out against those who “pleaded for acceptance from the world at large” while at the same time expressing intolerance toward effeminate men, a position that resonates still today. He established the Cory Book Service, a book-of-the-month club that provided subscribers hard to find gay-themed books. He also was a sought-after lecturer in the U.S. and Europe.

Cory’s importance to the early homophile movement gave very few hints of how reactionary and hostile he would wind up being to the very movement he helped to inspire. But many began to notice something of a shift in 1963 when Cory co-authored The Homosexual and His Society with John LeRoy (pseudonym for Barry Sheer, a New York Mattachine member and Cory’s lover at the time). Cory still argued, forcefully, for the full acceptance of gay people in society, and he argued that the first duty of mental health professionals wasn’t to “cure” gay people, but to “eliminate the personal distress and anxieties that arise as a result of social hostility.” But he challenged those in the homophile movement who rejected the idea that gay people were emotionally disturbed, going so far as to argue that there was no such thing as a “well-adjusted homosexual.”  Cory repeated and reinforced that contradictory line in his 1964 book, The Lesbian In America. A reviewer in the Daughters of Bilitis’ newsletter, The Ladder, found him “inconsistent and unconvincing in labeling lesbians as basically disturbed (or sick?), as he does part of the time, and at the same time advocating an end to discrimination against them in government service, in the armed forces, and in society generally.”

A turning point for Cory would come in 1965 when he ran for president of the Mattachine Society of New York. In March of that year, the Washington, D.C. chapter, under the leadership of Frank Kameny, had adopted a formal position that “homosexuality is not a sickness, disturbance or other pathology in any sense but is merely a preference, orientation or propensity on a par with, and not different in kind from, heterosexuality.” (See Mar 4.) Cory’s opponent, Dick Leitsch, wanted the New York chapter to adopt a similar resolution, calling illness question “the greatest obstacle in the path of the homosexual community’s fight for full citizenship in our Republic.” The vote for the chapter’s leadership position became a referendum on whether gay people were ill or not. Cory lost that election, but he also lost more than that. He lost the respect of his fellow activists. Kameny, in a letter just before the election, warned Cory of his increasing irrelevance:

You have become no longer the vigorous Father of the Homophile Movement, to be revered, respected and listened to, but the senile Grandfather of the Homophile Movement, to be humored and tolerated at best; to be ignored and disregarded usually; and to be ridiculed at worst.

Cory retreated from the homophile movement almost immediately, leaving behind the Donald Webster Cory pseudonym once and for all. As Edward Sagarin, he graduated from New York University’s sociology program in 1966. His dissertation was titled “Structure and Ideology in an Association of Deviants” — that association being the Mattachine Society — where he described, in the third person, his embittered version of events leading up to his defeat the previous year. “The Mattachine Society has little regard for the truth,” he wrote. “It is part of a movement that participates in blackmail.” Sagarin used that dissertation as the basis for a chapter in his 1969 book, Odd Man In: Societies of Deviants in America, in which he argued that Alcoholics Anonymous was the proper model for what a gay organization should be. While American readers had no clue about the connection between Sagarin and Cory, many in the homophile movement knew exactly who he was. But because of an unwritten code of honor that came about during the Lavender Scare of the 1950s, outing him was out of the question. A book reviewer for the Daughters of Bilitis’ The Ladder clearly chaffed at the restriction. “Could it be that he is one of the homosexuals who has surrendered … to the ‘sick sick sick school?”, she asked. “Right, but I assure you that if you knew who this man really is, then you’d wonder, really wonder, for he is as responsible for the founding of the homophile movement as any other single man.”

That code of honor finally broke down in 1974 when Sagarin attended the American Sociological Society’s annual convention and spoke on a panel titled, “Theoretical Perspectives on Homosexuality” to criticize the gay rights movement. Laud Humphreys, who founded the Sociologists’ Gay Caucus later that same year, sharply challenged Sagarin during the Q&A period while alternately calling him “Professor Sagarin” and “Mr. Cory” as feigned slips of the tongue. Humphreys then went in for the kill: “And where did you get your data?” Sagarin clenched his fists and said, “I am my data.” He then left the stage in tears, and from that point on he withdrew from discussing homosexuality altogether. He died of a heart attack on June 10, 1986.

Many have described Sagarin as a modern-day Jekyll and Hyde figure. As Donald Webster Cory, he remains a pioneer in the early gay rights movement. The year in which The Homosexual In America appeared, the country was in the grip of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s Red and Lavender Scares, and Cory’s treatise rang out as both a radical declaration for equality and a pioneering examination of contemporary gay society. The Homosexual In America today should occupy a prime spot in the gay rights canon. But as Edward Sagarin, he would become an intractable foe of the very movement he helped to inspire. For that, Kamany’s prediction came to fruition: the once-vigorous Father of the Homophile Movement is today disregarded and ignored.

[Sources: Ronald Bayer. Homosexuality and American Psychiatry: The Politics of Diagnosis 2nd ed. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987): 86, 88.

"Florence Conrad" (Florence Jaffy). Book Review: "The Lesbian In America." The Ladder 9, no. 1 (October 1964): 4-7.

Donald Webster Cory. The Homosexual In America: A Subjective Approach (New York: Greenberg Publisher, 1951).

Martin Duberman. "Donald Webster Cory: Father of the Homophile Movement." In The Martin Duberman Reader: The Essential Historical, Biographical, and Autobiographical Writings (New York: The New Press, 2013): 172-205.

Eric Marcus. Making History: The Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights, 1940-1990. An Oral History (New York: HarperCollins, 1992): 111-112.

James T. Sears: Behind the Mask of the Mattachine: The Hal Call Chronicles and the Early Movement for Homosexual Emancipation (New York: Harrington Park Press, 2006): 529-530.

Stephen O. Murray "Donald Webster Cory (1913-1986)" In Vern L. Bullough's (ed.) Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (New York: Harrington Park Press, 2002): 333-343.]

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?

Ugandan LGBT Activist Granted Asylum

Jim Burroway

September 17th, 2014
John "Longjones" Abdallah Wambere

John “Longjones” Abdallah Wambere

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has tentatively approved a request for asylum from Ugandan LGBT activist John Abdallah Wambere. Wambere, who co-founded Spectrum Uganda fourteen years ago and is known by his nickname “Longjones,” filed the request last May, saying that he feared persecution if he were to return to Uganda. He also was potentially liable for prosecution under the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act which President Yoweri Museveni signed into law in February. The law has since been nullified by Uganda’s Constitutional Court on a technicality, but the generally dangerous anti-gay atmosphere remains. According to the Washington Blade:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in a letter dated Sept. 11 stated John “Longjones” Abdallah Wambere’s asylum request “has been recommended for approval,” pending the results of a mandatory background check. “I am overwhelmed,” said Wambere in a press release from Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, a Boston-based LGBT legal advocacy group that represents him. “I must say that I am blessed, but there are many stories out there.”

…Wambere, 41, noted in his asylum petition that he has been threatened, evicted from his home and publicly outed as a gay man by several Ugandan newspapers.

Just a week after the Anti-Homosexuality Act was signed into law, the Ugandan tabloid Red Pepper launched

Inside spread of Red Pepper, dated Saturday, March 1.

Inside spread of Red Pepper, dated Saturday, March 1. Wambere’s photo appeared at top left. (Click to enlarge.)

an anti-gay vigilante campaign. which included Wambere’s photo under a headline, “Ugandan Homos Cabinet List Leaks.” Since then, clients abandoned his travel agency, he had been questioned by relatives and shunned by neighbors, was evicted, was harassed on the street by strangers and received threatening anonymous phone calls.

Wambere appeared in the documentary Call Me Kuchu, which portrays the hardships experienced by LGBT Ugandans, including the brutal murder of LGBT activist David Kato in January 2011. He also appeared in the 2010 Current TV documentary Missionaries of Hate.

The Whole Twitterverse Is Watching

Jim Burroway

September 17th, 2014

Last Thursday, a gay couple in Philadelphia was attacked by what was described as a “gang of eight to twelve” at about 11:00 p.m. A witness described the attackers as “tall, masculine-looking dudes,” about 30 or 31 in age. One of the victims — they have chosen to remain unidentified — was reportedly sent to the hospital with multiple fractures.

Sources tell NBC10 the 27-year-old and 28-year-old victims were walking from a restaurant in the area of 16th and Chancellor around 10:45 p.m. Thursday. Suddenly they were approached by a visibly intoxicated group of two men and six women.

Witnesses say someone in the group asked, “Is this your f****** boyfriend?”

When one of the victims told them yes, the group allegedly attacked them, punching and kicking them in the face, head and chest. Police say one of the suspects then snatched a victim’s bag containing a cellphone, wallet and credit cards. The group then fled in an unknown direction.

On Tuesday, Philadelphia police released a video of a group of people that they identified as suspects in the attack:

Within hours, Real Housewives of New Jersey cast member Greg Bennett tweeted two photos from the video to his 157,000 followers, along with another photo of a group of people dining at a restaurant that night that he thought looked like some of the suspects:

Bennet tweeted that “a friend of a friend of a friend saw my tweet… (and) sent me the pic. I wanted to get the word out.” And things quickly moved from there. Other tweeps identified the restaurant as La Viola, and saw some that some of the people in the photo had checked in at the restaurant that night on Face book.

A local reporter then tweeted that lawyers for people in the group had called police to make arrangements for them to come in. No arrests have been made yet, but Philly police say that this is how crimes will be solved in today’s social media culture:

NPR’s Melody Kramer has documented the timeline here.

The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, September 17

Jim Burroway

September 17th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Austin, TX; Dallas, TX; Enid, OK; Pasadena, CA; Peterborough, ON; Provo, UT; St. Cloud, MN; Valdosta, GA.

Other Events This Weekend: Everybody’s Perfect 3 LGBTIQ Film Festival, Geneva, Switzerland; Queer Lisboa 18 Film Festival, Lisbon, Portugal; OctoBEARfest, Munich, Germany; Cinema Diverse LGBT Film Festival, Palm Springs, CA; Pride Day at King’s Dominion, Richmond, VA; Out On the Mountain at Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia CA (Friday only).

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), May 1974, page 11.

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), May 1974, page 11.

Milwaukee’s The Ball Game opened in May 1974 in a building that had been home to gay bars going back to at least 1964. The new owners completely remodeled the place making it “a whole new ball game” and adopted the tag line, “where you’ll never strike out.” The Ball Game hosted a number of shows, drag contests, pageants, and, naturally, softball and other sports teams. It was one of Milwaukee’s longer running bars, but by the turn of the millennium the Ball Game’s location was no longer the center of gay nightlife. The Ball Game was finally called in August of 2012.

lachs01

TODAY IN HISTORY:
35 YEARS AGO: First Openly Gay Judge Appointed to the Bench: 1979. The news wires across the country buzzed with news that California’s Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Stephen M. Lachs, “an avowed homosexual“, as a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge. He had searched as a Superior Court commissioner for nearly five years, while also serving as a board member fothe Los Angeles Gay Community Services Centre. Lachs recognized his appointment as “an important step” for gay rights. “There probably are millions of lesbians and gay men in the country who are performing their jobs very well and yet are in positions where they feel they cannot allow their sexual preference to be known. This is hopefully something we will tart seeing the end of.”

He also recognized that his appointment on the bench might be controversial. “I feel that it could present problems. Judges come up for reelection and surely it could be an issue. I wold hope that when I stand for re-election, (voters) would consider my work on the bench.” His hope was well-founded, and he remained on the bench until his retirement in 1999.

Reagan

President Reagan Mentions AIDS for the First Time: 1985. According to urban legend, President Ronald Reagan never mentioned AIDS during his presidency. Or, according to another version of urban legend, he he did mention it, but not until 1987. The truth is that Reagan didn’t talk much about AIDS during his administration after so many thousands had suffered such early and agonizing deaths — in sharp contrast to the government’s vigorous and immediate response when 34 military veterans (and presumably not homosexual ones) died from Legionellosis — Legionaries Disease — at an American Legion convention in 1975. And the truth is that it was on this date in 1985 when Reagan finally mentioned AIDS, four years and some 12,000 deaths after first reports of the disease in 1981. The brief mention came at a news conference when a reporter asked about the budget allocation for research:

Q: Mr. President, the Nation’s best-known AIDS scientist says the time has come now to boost existing research into what he called a minor moonshot program to attack this AIDS epidemic that has struck fear into the Nation’s health workers and even its schoolchildren. Would you support a massive government research program against AIDS like the one that President Nixon launched against cancer?

President Reagan: I have been supporting it for more than 4 years now. It’s been one of the top priorities with us, and over the last 4 years, and including what we have in the budget for ’86, it will amount to over a half a billion dollars that we have provided for research on AIDS in addition to what I’m sure other medical groups are doing. And we have $100 million in the budget this year; it’ll be 126 million next year. So, this is a top priority with us. Yes, there’s no question about the seriousness of this and the need to find an answer.

A reporter also asked whether he would send his children, if they were younger, to a school with a child who has AIDS. He responded:

It is true that some medical sources had said that this cannot be communicated in any way other than the ones we already know and which would not involve a child being in the school. And yet medicine has not come forth unequivocally and said, ‘This we know for a fact, that it is safe.’ And until they do, I think we just have to do the best we can with this problem. I can understand both sides of it.

The mother of Ryan White, the 13-year-old teen with AIDS who was forced to attend classes via telephone because his Kokomo, Indiana school district prohibited him from going to school, was disappointed that Reagan didn’t take the opportunity to tell parents they shouldn’t fear that their children could catch AIDS through casual contact. And Rep. Gary Studds (D-MA) disputed Reagan’s statement that AIDS research was a top priority:

“… The president said last night it is one of the top priorities of the last four years,” the Massachusetts Democrat said in an interview Wednesday. “Under those circumstances, it is more than a little difficult to imagine why he has never mentioned it once before in public.”

…At his news conference Tuesday night, Reagan, responding to reporters’ questions, said more than $500 million had been spent to try to find ways of combatting AIDS, a fatal virus which attacks the body’s ability to fight disease. But Studds said Reagan’s requests to Congress for fiscal years 1982 through 1986 were far less than that amount, and the money was appropriated only because Congress went beyond administration requests. “The administration’s request for the five fiscal years in question, ’82, ’83, ’84, ’85 and ’86, adds up to $213.5 million,” Studds said. “The way I read that, it’s less than ‘over half a billion’ by a substantial amount.”

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Roddy McDowall: 1928-1998. The child actor began appearing in British films at the age of ten, but the bombing of London during World War II interrupted his career when McDowall was among thousands of British children sent to the safety of America. A year later, his role as Huw Morgan in How Green Was My Valley made him a household name. He followed that success with 1943′s Lassie Come Home, where he met lifelong friend Elizabeth Taylor. That same year, he appeared as the son of Wyoming ranchers who was given a colt to raise in My Friend Flicka of the two films, McDowall later recalled, “I really liked Lassie, but that horse, Flicka, was a nasty animal with a terrible disposition. All the Flickas – all six of them – were awful.”

“Nuthin’ like an invigorating swim to build a man’s appetite. So, it was off to raid the icebox for Tab and Roddy. As luck would have it, Mrs. McDowall had a delicious chocolate cake, hot dog sandwiches ready.” — a publicity still for the June 1963 issue of Calling All Girls. (Click to enlarge)

By his late teens, McDowall began the tricky transition from teen idol to adult actor. He did this by leaving Hollywood and going to New York to study acting. After winning a Tony award for Best Supporting Actor as Tarquin in Jean Anouilh’s The Fighting Cock, he returned to Hollywood. In 1963, he played Octavian in Cleopatra for which he was an early favorite for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Unfortunately, he was disqualified when Fox studios mistakenly submitted his nomination under the Best Actor category. He most famous role is one in which no one sees his face — under heavy makeup as Cornelius in four of the five original Planet of the Apes
films. But that didn’t prevent him from being one of Hollywood’s more recognizable faces, thanks to television appearances including The Twilight Zone, The Carol Burnett Show, Columbo, Hollywood Squares, and as “The Bookworm” in the 1960s camp classic Batman.

McDowall never married, and died of lung cancer in 1998. Like most actors of his generation, he also never came out. He was probably one of Hollywood’s most trusted celebrities; he was known among his friends as a man of kindness and who could keep a secret (his disdain for Flicka notwithstanding). Besides one rumor of his having a relationship with Montgomery Clift, the nicest man in Hollywood managed to avoid the most intrusive (and career-limiting) aspects of the rumor mill during his lifetime

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?

Dancing with the Stars features Duck Dynasty progeny

Timothy Kincaid

September 16th, 2014

mirrorballI enjoy watching ABC’s Dancing With The Stars or, as I call it, Dancing With The Hasbeens. Sports figures join 1980′s TV actors and the occasional political hack to learn new dance steps each week and earn votes from viewers. One of the more amusing aspects of the show is its effort to draw in as many diverse viewers as possible. Race car drivers (several, now), telenova stars, comedians, fashion designers, you name it, they appear as “stars”.

Mostly it’s harmless fun and at the end of a long day you can stare at the tube and watch the pretty people in colorful clothes move around to music without much mental strain.

But there are also a few things about the show which annoy me. Increasingly, each season, regular judge Bruno Tonioli has become more and more of a stereotype of a prancing, mincing, shrieking queen that fit better in a bad 70′s movie. He purses his lips and flails his arms and makes coy suggestions to every male contestant – which is not only grating but a distraction from his legitimate purpose as a dance judge.

And then there’s the gratuitous ploy for politically conservative viewers.

Now I have no problem with watching Tom Delay dance. It’s actually kind of nice to see conservative folk in a setting other than one in which we disagree politically. It reminds us that we truly are mostly the same.

But in recent seasons, it seems that the show has decided that it has to provide a “balance” to Bruno’s glitter parade by not merely including conservative figures, but looking for someone with a connection to true homophobia. Not necessarily the person most known for their anti-gay activism, but a close family member.

In Fall 2010, and back for Fall 2012, was Bristol Palin.

Bristol isn’t exactly a sweet girl – or so her social media comments would suggest – but I don’t have much objection to her. However, there is no category in which she is a “star”. She was selected merely because of her mother. And one of her mother’s (many) polarizing issues was her anti-gay activism.

Candace Cameron Bure, Spring 2014, was a bit more troubling. Candace is a “star” in her own right, and is known for playing DJ Tanner on Full House from 1987 to 1995. However, Bure is better known as being Kirk Cameron’s sister. And currently Kirk Cameron is most visible as a conservative Christian activist whose most notable recent appearance was a guest spot on Piers Morgan’s show where he called homosexuality unnatural and described same-sex marriage as “destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization”.

And while that could be coincidental, Bure’s weekly effort to work “faith” or “family” into her weekly on-screen moments could not be ignored as anything other than a way of letting the family values types know that they could vote for someone who shared their values.

And now Dancing With the Stars has pulled out all stops. The one person most associated with anti-gay statements and blatant homophobia in the country at present is likely Phil Robertson. The patriarch on the Duck Dynasty show has spouted such thoughtful contributions as the idea that sinful behavior starts with homosexuality and morphs to bestiality.

Last week he had this to say on Tony Perkin’s talk show about his anti-gay rants:

You know if you just look at the physiological downside to immorality, I mean a great question to ask is, “Why is it that all these just ah, is it coincidental that viewing all of the immoral conduct that America’s now participating in”, I’ve asked a lot of people, “Do you think it’s a coincidence that all of these debilitating and, belittley, it can cause death diseases follow that kind of conduct?”

God said, “one woman, one man” and then everybody said, “that’s old hat, that’s that old Bible stuff.”, but I’m thinking, “Well, let’s see now, But I’m thinking, well let’s see now, a clean guy — a disease-free guy and a disease-free woman — they marry and they keep their sex between the two of them. Uh, they’re not going to get chlamydia, and gonorrhea, and syphilis, and AIDS. It’s, it’s safe.”

Well, to me, either it’s the wildest coincidence ever that horrible diseases follow immoral conduct, or, it’s God saying, “There’s a penalty for that kind of conduct.” I’m leaning towards there’s a penalty toward it.

In keeping with their pattern, Dancing With The Stars decided to include Phil Robertson’s granddaughter, Sadie Robertson, on the show.

Now, I’m not overly distraught over Duck Dynasty. And I have no idea as to Sadie’s views or Sadie’s activism. She may be a lovely young woman.

But from the few episodes I’ve seen of Duck Dynasty, Sadie is barely visible. Certainly not enough to become a viewership draw in her own right. Rather DWTS has included her due to her association with her family – one embroiled in controversy over a long and loud pattern of anti-gay obsession.

Individually, I have no objection to Bristol Palin, Candace Cameron Bure, or Sadie Robertson. But I am discomforted by the pattern that appears to be emerging. It would seem that if one wants to be on Dancing with the Stars, your chances are best when you have a highly visible, fiercely anti-gay, close family member.

The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, September 16

Jim Burroway

September 16th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Alienist and Neurologist, (an early psychiatric journal), 1907.

From The Alienist and Neurologist, (an early psychiatric journal), 1907.

From the ad copy: “It gives a long and pounding stroke, medium and side stroke, short and rubbing motion.”

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
100 YEARS AGO: The Severe Effects of Masturbation: 1914. Non-procreative sex has long been seen as a terrible problem in Western society. Biblical prohibitions against adultery, onanism (masturbation), and lying with a man as one lies with a woman are obvious sources for that disdain of sex for sex’s sake. Add to that the scourge of the clap (gonorrhea) and, worse, the pox (syphilis), both of which were incurable for several centuries and only reinforced the perceived dangers of all forms of non-procreative sex, including masturbation. Today, we see the manual method as being perhaps the safest of safe-sex practices, but until the first third of the twentieth century, that idea was far from acceptable, even among a number of medical authorities. And believe it or not, those who warned against the health dangers of masturbation had science — well, proto-science, anyway — to back them up.

Before the mid-1800′s when germ theory began to take root, the mechanisms by which syphilis and gonorrhea were spread were poorly understood. People could only go by what they saw, and what they saw was that those who were more likely to contract these diseases were those who had a lot of sex. And in a time when people didn’t talk about the deed, those who “had a lot of sex” were those who were rather infamously having a lot of sex — those who were patronizing prostitutes, but also young men with, shall we say, time on their hands. And what happens when time is up? Two things: seed is spilt and exhaustion sets in, at least momentarily. And it was the second thing, that momentary “weakening,” which was believed to be the very opportunity which diseases seized upon to enter the body and take root. The reasoning went like this: since weak people got sick, and sex made people weak, it’s only logical that sex, especially lots of sex, made people sick.

Now for women – who were already the “weaker sex” – it was easy to believe that an excessive number of orgasms alone left them vulnerable to disease But what about men? Well, that momentary exhaustion following orgasm — that afterglow, we call it today — wasn’t the only problem. According to medical science — science!, mind you — that very loss of semen added another dimension of vulnerability to those otherwise virile, hearty men. That belief was expressed in a book published in the early 1700s by an unknown London doctor and clergyman. The title was, quite simply, was Onania; or, the Heinous SIN of Self-Pollution, and All its Frightful Confequences, in both SEXES, Confider’d. With Spiritual and Phyfical Advice to Thofe, who have already injur’d themfelves by this abominable Practice. And feafonable Admonition to the Youth of the Nation, (of both SEXES) and thofe whofe Tuition they are under, whether Parents, Guardians, Mafters, or Miftreffes.

The title page alone will leave you spent.

Where were we? Oh, yeah, the loss of semen — it turns out that spilling that vital seed willy-nilly placed an inordinate strain on the blood supply:

The blood is made into Seed, which is further elaborated and purify’d in the Epidydimides, from whence by the Vafa deferensin, it is carried into the Veficulæ Seminales, where it is laid up till by contractions of thofe Veficulæ, it is carried through the Proftate into the Urethra, and forc’d through the Capuit Galinaginis, which hinders the voluntary running of it. The oftner these Veficulæ Seminales are emptied, the more is made for the Tefticles, and consequently the greater Confumption of the fineft and moft Balfamick part of the Blood.

Blood was well-recognized as, well, the lifeblood of the human body. When blood was spilled, life was in danger, and it often ended. And so it stood to reason that if the “finest Baslamic part of the Blood” was used to replenish the supply of semen, then male vigor was threatened any time that precious supply was squandered. Do it too often, and life itself was in peril.

Silly, isn’t it? But once an idea takes root, it often remains stubbornly planted long after the germ of its genesis is long forgotten. So let’s fast forward some two hundred years. The microscope confirmed the role of germs and viruses in causing diseases, and antiseptics made hospitals places where people recovered, not places where they went to die. As for beliefs about non-procreative sex, many in the medical profession began to understand that the spilling of a little seed here and there wasn’t something to get too worked up about. But it took a long time for that knowledge to become universal, even among medical professionals. And part of the reason for it is that now the feared harms of masturbation were no longer just physical, but generational, thanks to Degeneration Theory (see Sep 9 for an introduction). Now masturbation’s not just physically harmful, but its assault on the nervous system causes mental and emotional harms which then became embedded in the offsprings’ hereditary make-up and were then passed down through the generations. So the theory went.

“The results of masturbation”: the Blum is off.

By 1914, Degeneration Theory had mostly run its course, but its ghosts still ran heavy in medicine and the social sciences. For evidence of that, you need look no further than the September 1914 issue of the American Journal of Urology featured the last of a four part series on the deleterious effects of masturbation by Dr. Victor Blum, of the Vienna General Polyclinic. In his final installment, titled simply “Results of Masturbation,” he posed the question: “Is masturbation a primary affection, or is it the result of a special neuropathic disposition?” An answer of “neither” was quickly ruled out:

It is denied by some authors that the act of masturbation is essentially different from the normal satisfaction of the sexual needs. Both arise from the same source, the human sexual instinct; both are physiologically and mechanically very similar actions; and yet clinical experience teaches that masturbation has an entirely different effect upon the nervous system from natural coitus. We have considered this question thoroughly elsewhere, and came to the conclusion, that habitual masturbation in some way represents an injury, in spite of the apparent identity of the two actions in their individual acts, because it is an abnormality of the sexual life.

The severe effects of masturbation, however, only occur when the injury affects an originally non-resistant nervous system, that is, when the unnatural sexual life is added as a specific agent to a nervous constitution.

When masturbation leads to severe nervous disorders in otherwise quite normally constituted men, we must suppose the cause of this to be the immoderate sexual activity in early youth, a time when the sensitive organism cannot bear without injury the repeated severe shocks to the nervous system resulting from the sexual acts and perhaps also from the frequent seminal losses.

As you may have guessed, these breathtaking conclusions were not arrived at by anything remotely resembling the Scientific Method. No experiments, no studies, no controls, no analysis. Just one declarative statement following upon another. And while Degeneration Theory did add an additional concern to the effects of masturbation, there still lurked the primordial belief that semen loss was still an issue. Blum himself dismissed it, but the journal’s editor, William J. Robinson, felt compelled to interject with a parenthetical paragraph to re-introduce the eighteenth-century “fact”:

It is my positive conviction that in some people the mere withdrawal of a certain amount of semen can have a disastrous effect on the economy. … For as soon as the seminal vesicles and the testicles are emptied of their reserve semen, the latter at once begin to elaborate new semen, and in the process of elaboration valuable vital material is withdrawn from the economy, material which evidently is of great importance to the brain and spinal cord-in short, to the entire nervous system.

Didn’t we just read something very similar to that from two hundred years earlier? The only difference here is that masturbation didn’t exhaust the blood supply, but the central nervous system’s “economy”. Robinson then bowed out and let Blum resume his conjectures:

The principal injurious effect manifested is upon the nervous system, from the early suffered and frequently repeated severe shocks of the sexual act, and upon the general health, since in every sexual activity a cooperation of other organs is unavoidable. Thus we see disturbances occur in the circulatory and respiratory systems and in the functions of the visceral organs. The results of onanism upon the individual organs we have already reported in the chapter on sexual neurasthenia. The relations between masturbation and mental and psychic changes in the youthful masturbator have also been treated in that chapter.

If the reader has any doubts, Blum closes with the case of a twenty-year-old “unfortunate, who made his confession in the form of a letter”:

“My present state is a sad one. Unfounded fears, quick exhaustion of the entire body, especially of the hands and feet; poor memory, anger at the least trifle and especially pleasure in quarreling. I am fond of seeking lonely places, where I can sit all day and meditate on my lost happiness of youth. I should be happy to wander, if I could only go far, far away from Vienna.

“I get up in the morning more tired than when I went to bed, and have a morbid sleepiness so that I often sleep during my office hours. My complaints are: pain in urinating, pain in the feet and hands, then also in the hips and the head. The way in which I seek satisfaction is to rub the penis so long or to move to and fro so long on the bed until the pleasure comes, often in the reclining position, often in the standing during the day three or four times and alas! oftener sometimes. The penis will not relax until the semen is emptied, which causes terrible pains. When the semen has been evacuated I am weak and cannot recover for twenty to thirty minutes, while the heart beats strongly and I have difficulty in breathing. Afterwards I can urinate only with difficulty, often with tears in my eyes.

“…To conclude, I fear that the end of these sad youthful errors will be madness; as the books all say at the end, there is no hope for me, and the madhouse threatens me. I have come to this supposition by reading the so-called popular scientific books — thus incurable! Especially the book entitled ‘Masturbation and its Terrible Results,’ let no other thoughts arise in me than those of the madhouse.”

So let that be a warning to you.

[Sources: Anonymous. Onania: or, the Heinous Sin... 9th ed. (London: Fliz. Rumball: 1723). Available online here.

Victor Blum. "Results of masturbation." American Journal of Urology 10, no. 9 (September 1914): 410-414. Available online here.]

Billy Glover (left) with his one-time partner and lifelong friend, Melvin Cain.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Billy Glover: 1932. There aren’t many people still around who were part of the homophile movement of the late 1950s. Those few who are, are a tremendous treasure to the LGBT community. A native of Bossier City, Louisiana and an alumnus of Louisiana State University (where he says he had “more fun than learning”), Billy Glover was drafted in the army in 1955, only to be discharged in 1956 for “acting up” — his words — with another man after learning that he wouldn’t get to go to Germany after training at Fort Benjamin Harrison.

He moved to Los Angeles, where he saw ONE magazine at local newsstands. Intrigued, he decided one day to show up at ONE’s office, where he met Jim Kepner, one of the magazine’s principal writers. Kepner advised him to go to the Mattachine convention in Denver. That experience led Glover to decide to work full time for the movement. He spent a few weeks working for Hal Call (see Sep 20) in San Francisco before returning to ONE in Los Angeles. He worked first as a volunteer, then as the organization’s first paid employee after Kepner left in 1960. Glover’s role, at first, was mostly as a gofer. He helped to distribute copies of ONE to local newsstands and package the magazines in their brown paper wrappers for mailing to subscribers. He did much of the bookkeeping, and in 1962 held the title of Secretary of Social Services.

By 1964, infighting was mounting within ONE, Inc., largely due to two powerful personalities who saw ONE’s future in two entirely different ways. Dorr Legg (see Dec 15), envisioned the organization’s main mission as educational. He established the ONE Institute of Homophile Studies, the organization’s educational arm which became the first institution to provide LGBT studies in the U.S. (even going so far as to gain accreditation with the State of California.) Don Slater (see Aug 21), ONE magazine’s editor, also saw the organization’s main mission as educational, but believed that the magazine, along with the organization’s vast archives (Slater was also ONE’s archivist), was the best way to further that mission. The split came to a head during a rancorous board meeting in January, 1964, when Slater pressed the board to elect Glover to fill a vacancy. Legg and his faction opposed the nomination, and balloting went into the night and well into the next day. The debacle led two board members to resign in disgust, and allegations of vote rigging made the legitimacy of two more members’ positions questionable. Nevertheless, the group held together, tenuously, until April, 1965, when Legg, with his allegedly “packed” board’s backing, effectively fired much of ONE’s editorial staff – at least those who hadn’t resigned in anger.

Slater saw that as more evidence that Legg was determined to shut down the magazine and transfer all of the organization’s resources to his fledgling Institute. The following Saturday night, Slater, Glover, and Slater’s partner, Tony Reyes, entered ONE’s darkened offices, packed up the magazine’s assets and archives, and moved the operation, lock stock and barrel, to a new location “for the protection of the property of the corporation.” For three months, confused subscribers received two competing issues of ONE in the mail, one published by ONE, Inc., and the other by Slater’s The Tangent Group, named for a popular column in ONE. In the ensuring court battle, ONE, Inc. was allowed to keep its name. But, partly because ONE’s governance was in shambles, the Tangent Group was allowed to keep its assets.

Glover stayed with Slater and the Tangents Group, which later incorporated as the Homosexual Information Center with Glover as its president. He worked on the committee which organized the 1966 protest, known as “the motorcade,” which protested the exclusion of gays from the military, and he was part of the 1969 protest against The Los Angeles Times over its refusal to print an advertisement because it contained the word “homosexual” (see Nov 5) Glover returned to Louisiana in 1989 for family reasons, although he remained active in HIC.

Glover was never much of a leader, per se, in the gay rights movement. Instead, he has been just one of its many foot soldiers who happened to play some rather pivotal roles when called upon to do so. That seems to be the particular example he has set, and it is the advice that he passes on to others: when you have a cause you believe in, get involved:

You don’t have to know anything at first. You don’t even have to become a “leader” or “expert” but just being there to help and support each other is the main benefit to you and the cause. And when you look back years later, as I have, you will see that by luck you seemed destined to do what you have done, and you can have no regrets for what you didn’t risk doing since you took a chance and followed what seemed like a dream. As one of ONE’s founders said in the fifties, to actually someday see people like us marching down Hollywood Boulevard proudly and to have lived to see that day multiplied around the nation is enough.

Billy turns 82 today, and is living in his old family home on Bossier City where he’s still active online with his prolific and informative emails, some of which ends up on his blog.

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?

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