Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
This article can be found at:

More Proof: They Really Want To Discriminate Against You, Eight Times Over

Jim Burroway

March 30th, 2015

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) went into full damage control yesterday with an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.” George Stephanopoulos asked Pence straight up four times whether an Indiana florist is allowed to discriminate under Indiana’s new law, and six times Pence would not give an answer.

If anyone is asked whether a business is allowed to discriminate four times and he refuses to give answer  four times, you can safely take that answer as a yes. You can be doubly assured of that because Stephanopoulos asked four more questions about whether Pence would pursue protections for LGBT Hoosiers. Pence was a bit more direct about that. That answer is no.

Alabama marriage carnival goes on

Timothy Kincaid

March 19th, 2015

bama

Since our last update, the marriage situation in Alabama has continued to whirl and twirl to a wild caliope tune.

Mobile County Probate Judge Davis, having been told by the Alabama Supreme Court that he was not exempt from their order to discriminate against same-sex couples, turned back to Federal Judge Granade. He noted that the plaintiffs in the case have all gotten married now, and requested that she put a stay on her order so as to keep him from having to defy one court or the other.

Judge Granade didn’t let him off the hook. She said, no dear, it’s isn’t much good that you’ve issued the licenses if the state won’t recognize them. And really you haven’t given me any reason why my ruling shouldn’t be upheld, so go on now and do what you’ve been told.

So Davis is refusing to issue marriage licenses to anyone.

But his problems didn’t stop there. Part of the marriage lawsuit was driven by Cari Searcy, one of the plaintiffs, desire to adopt the child that she and Kim McKeand had raised since birth. Alabama doesn’t allow second-parent adoption, but now that she’s married to the mother, she should be eligible.

But the state is refusing to recognize the marriage so Davis tried to enact partial compliance. He issued an interlocutory decree granting Searcy temporary parental rights but said he would not rule on the adoption itself until after the Supreme Court made it’s decision.

Searcy’s attorneys then sued Davis for failure to follow the order of the Federal Judge. But Davis used this to his advantage. He noted that he’s now a party to the suit and therefore no longer impartial and recused himself from the review of the adoption and asked the Alabama Supreme Court to give him a replacement for the case.

But, Searcy’s attorneys claim, a change in 2001 would have the replacement made by the presiding circuit judge. The matter is unclear because there is uncertainty whether the 2001 change applies to probate judges. This will undoubtedly delay the adoption further.

Meanwhile, Judge Granade has made her first ruling on the request by plaintiffs to add additional plaintiffs and to make the case class action. Attorney General Luther Strange had argued that too much time had passed, but Granade didn’t buy that.

She ruled that the case could be amended to allow additional plaintiffs and defendants.

There being no substantial reason to deny leave to amend, the court must allow the amendment. Accordingly, Plaintiffs’ motion for leave to file a second amended complaint (Doc. 76) is hereby GRANTED.

However, she did not rule on whether the case would be made class action.

Thus, although the court may dismiss class allegations “[w]here it is facially apparent from the pleadings that there is no ascertainable class,” …, the court finds that the Plaintiffs in this case have alleged adequate facts to support a potential class claim and the court will not engage in a detailed and rigorous analysis of the class claims until all of the current parties have had the opportunity to oppose or support the motion for class certification.

Grenade has given Strange until March 23rd to tell her why “all persons in Alabama who wish to obtain a marriage license in order to marry a person of the same sex and to have that marriage recognized under Alabama law, and who are unable to do so because of the enforcement of Alabama’s laws prohibiting the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples and barring recognition of their marriages” is an ill-defined class definition.

It seems rather unlikely that Strange will convince Judge Granade that this class of people is vague and ill-defined. And it seems rather likely that Judge Granade will determine that her ruling applies to all such couples. This will eliminate all ambiguity about the extent and scope of the Federal ruling and may set the state on course for a showdown with the Federal government.

And then we will see what the Alabama Supreme Court has to say.

Featured Reports
Main Stories

Supporters (accidentally) reveal why the Indiana law is different

Rob Tisinai

March 30th, 2015

Supporters of Indiana’s “religious freedom” bill have dishonestly claimed it’s just like its cousins in federal law and 19 other states. But the irony of pushing a lie again and again is that your efforts might inadvertently uncover the truth. That’s exactly what happened with The Federalist’s article, “Meet 10 Americans Helped By Religious Freedom Bills Like Indiana’s.” It gives examples of people whose religious freedom was protected from senseless government intrusion, like:

  • Native American children who wanted to keep their hair long, despite school policy,
  • A Jewish prisoner denied Kosher meals, and
  • A religious non-profit that “provides housing and religious instruction to petty offenders released from state prisons,” but was threatened by a new city ordinance.

It’s a great list. These are everyday people, often in powerless situations, who simply want to live according to their beliefs without harming anyone. But it’s a bad list, too, because far from showing how the Indiana law is just like the others, it actually highlights two key differences.

1.  No one was harmed by the free exercise of religion in these cases.

Long hair, kosher  meals — no one can claim real harm from such things, nothing they could prove in court, at least. And if some private individual had been harmed, they could have sued, because the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (and most state RFRAs) doesn’t offer protection against suits brought by private individuals.

But the Indiana law is different. It provides exactly that sort of protection. It’s what this part of the law means:

A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.

I emphasized the key bit. Other laws don’t contain this. Other laws require the government to be part of the action before you can invoke an RFRA defense. But if I, as a private citizen, can show you’ve harmed me — say, by firing me from a job or denying me housing or services — then I can bring suit on my own and you can’t invoke an RFRA in your defense. In Indiana, though…you can.

I hope that doesn’t seem trivial. Consider: when only the government is involved, when no one can actually prove harm (as in the cases above), there’s a good chance the intrusion on religious freedom really is pointless, and it makes sense to protect against it. But when it goes beyond the government, when your free exercise is harming those around you to the degree that they can prove damages in court, then you’re just claiming a special religious right to hurt people. And is that what we want religious freedom to be?

2. None of the people or group protected were for-profit organizations.

Our hearts and minds go out to the people on this list because they have a personal conscience or (in the case of the halfway house) their entire existence is centered on religious conviction. That isn’t generally true of for-profit businesses (and certainly not at a place like Exxon, for instance, which for years refused to include gay people in it nondiscrimination policy). That’s why most RFRAs only protected individuals — actual living humans — and religious groups. This may have changed with the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, but it was never the intent of the people who passed those laws.

But the Indiana law is different. It explicitly includes things like a “partnership, a limited liability company, a corporation,a company, a firm, a society, a joint-stock company…regardless of whether the entity is organized and operated for profit or nonprofit purposes.” Sure, you’ll need to show the individuals involved “have control and substantial ownership of the entity,” but, hey, that’s what legal departments are for. This is an enormous expansion, and whether you think it’s justified or not, you can’t claim it’s just like all the other RFRAs that have been around for years.

This all takes us far away from where we started: Powerless individuals and constitutionally-protected religious groups who want to live their lives and fulfill their missions while doing harm to no one. We end up with a whole new arena filled with for-profit businesses that have a new, potentially potent defense they can invoke as convenient when they do harm. It’s just like in the Bible, except in this bizarro version, Jesus is on the side of the money-lenders.

The Daily Agenda for Monday, March 30

Jim Burroway

March 30th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

HollywoodAustin-TxSilverDollarTimes1982.09p6

From the Texas Silver Dollar Times, September 1982, page 6.

It was a women’s bar, but Dan liked it too:

There was kind of a crossover. Androgyny was being played with a lot at that time. “Oh he’s the straightest guy there is, but he likes to look like Eno!” There were all these weird crossed signals, and then if you went to a gay bar, everybody looked totally like John Travolta. We liked going to the Hollywood because they played soul. We thought, “This is pretty cool.” We’d go there on the way to the Ritz to have a couple of drinks before a show. My friend was so confused. He’d get frustrated. He would be like, “Oh, that guy is sooo cute, and I was like, “That’s a girl.”

Gretchen, not so much:

I hated the Hollywood. The thing about the Hollywood, that was a place where there was gonna be fights. It was in 1984. I did Deborah Hay’s big group dance thing, and there was this one movement, and I’m on the dance floor, doing my dance. Whatever. We were doing some crazy dances; I hung out with dancers. And this girl kicked me in the head! ‘Cause, granted, I had this move where my head was down, but I was like, “Did you just kick me in the head?” And she said, “Yup.” And I said, “Well, why?” And she said, “‘Cause you’re dancing funny,” in a really defiant way, and I remember going out into the parking lot and crying. Crying my eyes out. You know what? Many people will tell you about a gay bar where the end of the story is “I was in the parking lot crying!” I never went back to the Hollywood.

The building was empty as of last October. The building, located within spitting distance of Austin’s legendary music scene on 6th Avenue, most recently had been a live music venue (what else?) called The Ghost Room.

Ladder.1958.03

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
 “Yes, I Am!”: 1958. It seems that much of gay history before the rise of the women’s movement in the 1960s is often centered on the experiences of gay men. It was men were being arrested and jailed, in numbers which far exceeded the experiences of lesbians, although lesbian bars were also targeted by police (see for example, Mar 8, Sep 8, Sep 21). We can all imagine what it was like to be a gay man fifty-five years ago thanks to the early homophile magazines ONE and The Mattachine Review. The latter was devoted almost exclusively to male concerns (although lesbians made an occasional appearance from time to time) while ONE, in its early days, mostly relegated women’s concerns to a segregated feature it called “The Feminine Viewpoint.”

In 1956, the Daughters of Bilitis began publishing The Ladder to provide women with a voice separate from men — and indeed, for much of the fifties, the gay men’s movement and the lesbian movement, such as they were, were mostly separate movements which only sometimes recognized the common cause between them. And thanks to The Ladder, we have, preserved like a time capsule, a collection of voices from “the feminine viewpoint.” And so what was it like to be a lesbian in the 1950s? Well, an article that appeared in the March 1958 issue of The Ladder provides one illustration of how invisible lesbians often were — and often made themselves — in those year. The article was signed with the name of Sandra Pine, although that was probably a pen name. It was titled, simply, “Yes, I Am!”:

I wish it were possible for me to wr1te this on my letterhead, but my “world” would be too shocked if they were to learn their perfectly proper and “normal” appearing friend, business and professional member of their society were any different than she appears. And more shocked to know that she is secretly glad to be a Lesbian.

I’ve never consulted a psychiatrist (but many have with me) as I am not emotionally disturbed nor suffering from a guilt complex. I am perfectly healthy, have no need or use for drugs, cigarettes or alcohol. Although I move in a society that uses them with the rest of their problems, I’m not concerned with their use.

I’ve only had one “friend”. Fifteen years ago we “discovered” one another at a rather boring society tea and instantly we knew there was a tie that bound us. We’ve been true. There is nothing “cheap” about the deep love that we have shared. We are both very prominent women. There has never been the slightest finger of suspicion pointed at us. Our manners in public are such as not to attract any undue attention. We are both attractive, well groomed, fashionably dressed, completely feminine.

If occasionally our hands meet under the table when dining out it is with complete fulfillment and security. We have found what few individuals ever do – that is complete compatibility and understanding, without jealousy or distrust.

I am always secretly amused when some wise person says “I can tell one a mile away”. When my secretary, a clever young woman who has been with me for 10 years, said to me recently when she accidentally saw my copy of THE LADDER: “What do you want with that stuff – you’re no homosexual” I knew my mask had never slipped, and I was secretly proud of the fact. But I long f or the day when I could say “I am a Lesbian” with the same ease I say “I am a Republican”.

My friend and I do not and never have lived together. We have conventional families who never even guess we are “different”. We manage to have a day a week together. We meet at social affairs and quite often we weekend, or take a vacation somewhere, even Europe.

I would not change my way of life, even if I could. Of course, we all should come out in the open and proclaim our status, but the world is not quite ready for that. While I’m not afraid of men, mice, ‘ snakes or storms, I’m just not brave enough — yet — to say “Ye s, I am!”

As an answer to that odd, contradictory, and yet, given the times, understandable declaration of deeply closeted pride, The Ladder published another article the following July by Jule Moray, titled, “An Open Letter to Sandra Pine”:

I was touched by your article, “Yes, I Am” in the March edition of THE LADDER; touched, and a little terrified.

I see two well dressed women, perfectly groomed, at whom the finger of suspicion has never pointed; their hats fashionably perched above masks that never slip. Two perfect ladies, completely feminine. Miss Pine, might I ask what are you being feminine for? Whom are you trying to deceive? Yourself, or the well dressed, well groomed, completely masculine men you meet every day? Or your conventional families, who trust you and would never guess? Is it not possible that these normal business and professional friends are as afraid of showing you that they know, as you are afraid of knowing they know? Let us by all means keep our personal lives as private as can be; but if we are lucky enough (and many are not) to have private lives why not let them be as full and satisfying as we can possibly make them? A hand touched beneath the table; one day in seven alone; the occasional week-end; even a trip to Europe in fifteen years -is that the best you can do for your love life, Miss Pine?

Would you lose your job, your mother’s love or your right to vote Republican if you let slip just a couple of small hairpins, took a flat with you friend (sic), and started to make up for all the time you two have lost? Who is going to worry? Not your secretary — you haven’t made a pass at her in ten years — we know that. Not those professional and business gentlemen — you’ve been giving them the red light all along. Who else is there? The ladies at your social gatherings — they’ll be only too thankful you’re not after their men. And at the very worst, if the whole town knows you’ve left home and are sharing with a roommate; is that going to rock anybody?

My friend and I have been together for twenty years; it took us eight years, owing to the war before we were able to live together. We’re not at all smart or well groomed, and I don’t honestly know if you’d say we are feminine or not. Probably in every plaoe we’ve ever lived everyone has known we are Lesbians. We rarely think about it, and we never worry about it. Certainly no one has ever hinted that our relationship is at all strange. Most of our friends are married and no one has ever refused to come to our house. We, in fact, think ourselves liked, sometimes well-liked, very rarely disliked.

Miss Pine, you are not afraid of men, mice, snakes or storms? All right; why don’t you take that flat? A comfortable one, serviced, you can afford it. Let yourselves go a bit over the decor, be bold, but cosy; and, before it’s too late, see to it that there’s only one bedroom with a full size double bed. You won’t, either of you be so well groomed in the future — but it will be worth it.

[Sources: Sandra Pine. “Yes, I Am!” The Ladder 2, no. 6 (March 1958): 12-13.

Jule Moray. “Open Letter to Sandra Pine.” The Ladder 2, no. 10 (July 1958): 16-17.]

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).

This your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

The Daily Agenda for Sunday, March 29

Jim Burroway

March 29th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Lafayette, LA; Lake Worth, FL.

Other Events This Weekend: Los Angeles Leather Pride, Los Angeles, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Club Scene (a Houston-based magazine geared towards gay motorcycle club enthusiasts), December 1983, page 10.

From Club Scene (a Houston-based magazine geared towards gay motorcycle club enthusiasts), December 1983, page 10.

Dick’s opened in 1982 in a portion of the historic and industrial Model Diaries building. It was most definitely a men’s bar with a very masculine vibe. But when other popular gay bars started opening up to cater to the city’s gay male population, Dick’s popularity declined. It then expanded and took over more of the building to become the 318, which  encouraged a broader gay male/female clientele. It lost some of its luster when new owners took over and 318 nearly went out of business. The landlord then turned to the 318’s original owners, who remodeled and expanded the club again and opened it as Detour, a large club with two dance floors. By then, many were grumbling that Detour was gay in name only given its popularity with straight people. That grumbling ended in 2004 when Detour closed and went out of business. The building currently houses — or recently housed; I’m not sure if they are still in business — another gay bar, Texas Lounge, and a bathhouse called Goliath.

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
 Inducing Hallucinations to “Cure” Homosexuality: 1962. Ever since Ivan Pavlov taught his dog to salivate whenever a bell was rung, Behavioral Therapists employed all sorts of adverse stimuli to produce a conditioned response in their patients which would represent a desired change in behavior: smoking cessation, giving up alcohol and other drugs, or no longer being gay — as though being gay was nothing more than behavior. And as far as Behavioral Therapists were concerned, being gay was just behavior and nothing more. (See Blind Man’s Bluff for a more complete explanation of Behavioral Therapy and its history.) And ever since Louis M. Max invented a device for delivering non-lethal doses of electric shock (see Mar 11), Behavioral Therapists have deployed any number of punitive methods designed to “cure” their patients of their homosexuality (see Jan 18, Jan 20, Jun 3, Jul 26, Oct 30, Dec 8), and our award-winning investigation, What are Little Boys Made Of?).

But among the cruelest methods for attempting to “cure” gay people must be the one described by the University of Edinburgh’s Dr. Ian Oswald, in which he used a combination of aversion therapy and induced hallucinations to try to cure one of his patients of the gay. (His other six patients were two rubber fetishists — one apparently gay and one straight — three alcoholics, and a married cross dresser.) The aversion therapy portion of the treatment was literally retching: Oswald administered two-hourly injections of apamorphine, a powerful emetic which induced violent vomiting and, in some cases, diarrhea. This was already a relatively common form of aversion therapy, but for Oswald’s experiments, the vomiting had the added desirable effect of making his patients dizzy and lightheaded due to the depletion of electrolytes. He also injected them with pilocarpine nitrate, which causes heavy salivation and sweating and, in some cases shortness of breath. Oswald never says why he used pilocarpine nitrate, but it might have been to simulate a panic attack in his subjects. He also gave his patients small doses of dexamphetamine, a stimulant, which he used to induce sleep deprivation.

All of that pharmacology was in the service of creating a condition in which his patients could be induced to experience auditory hallucinations when a tape loop was repeatedly played for hours on end. His goal was to create a state of mind similar to that of paranoid schizophrenia. Here is how it went for a patient identified as Case 5:

Case 5. A homosexual male aged 25 under the management of Dr. W. D. Boyd. The patient’s tyrannical father died when the patient was 15. The mother, to whom the patient was closely attached, was a drunkard, a spiritualist and a Lesbian. Elder brother had never engaged in honest work. No family history of mental illness.

Homosexual relationships began at the age of 14 and included frequent brief affairs in public lavatories and several long love-affairs. He had married at 19 and had two children. He came for treatment to try and salve his marriage, for he had been living away with a man for eight months. He was usually a passive partner, principally interested in fellatio. He was greatly excited by male urine and sometimes drank it.

Aversion therapy was embarked on with some reservations. A 30-minute interview in which he described his homosexual practices was tape-recorded. Every two hours he received apomorphine by injection and then the tape-recorded interview was played through a loud speaker. Glasses of urine were sometimes placed by him. In the intervals the following tape loop was played; “It makes him sick, it makes him sick, Sex with men? Oh, it makes him sick now. He gets sex with men. It must make him sick now. He’d meet men in the lavatories. Ugh. Sex with men makes him sick. He looks at men’s bodies. It must make him sick now.” (One male voice). Four seconds pause.

He received pilocarpine nitrate 1/20 grain once on the first day and once on the fourth, and dexamphetamine sulphate 10 mg. each night. Fluid and electrolyte depletion were prevented as with the other patients and serum potassium and sodium remained within normal limits, though the CO2 combining power rose to 33@5m.Eq./L. and chloride fell to 96 m.Eq./L. on the fourth day, having remained within normal limits previously.

He experienced the words of the tape-loop changing from the first day and throughout the four days’ treatment. The changes never had any great significance for him, seeming merely trivial or absurd. He could not voluntarily re-experience what was actually played through the loudspeaker. The changes were experienced by day and night throughout the four days and three nights of treatment.

At times he wrote down the various phrases he heard, which included:

“I like it thick my bacon thick. Sanford man, what makes it him sick now. He has Sangford man. They musta made a mistake now. They’ll need 8 men in the lavatories. Sangford man makes it sick. Be a good man Sportis? Do not make sick now. I’ll knock him sick. What makes him sick now. Enough with men’s bodies. Bolton quick it’d make you sick. Sex written in. He’s got six sick men, that must make him sick now. He’d eight men in the lavatories. Sax written back Matron’s sick. Hey’n they’ve got nice bodies. But you mustn’t make them sick now.”

After the end of treatment on the fourth day he wrote of his most recent auditory experiences:

“This impression of the tape-recorded message was not written down in detail at the time I heard it because I was quite convinced that it really was a separate recording, and I accepted it as such without question. I remember that the dialogue seemed much briefer and with longer pauses than the original recording, also the intonation seemed different. While listening, my mind’s eye formed a picture of the characters involved in this little ‘sketch’. One person monopolized all speech on a telephone while his weak-stomached friend sat immobile in a bath-chair. The man on the ‘phone would jokingly say he had ‘mixed bodies’ (sweets?) then say something quietly to the effect that he had better not say that as it might make ‘him’ (the bath-chair sitter) sick. There would then be a deep belching sound not before heard on the recorder and the person on the ‘phone would say, ‘He’s sick now,’ or words to that effect. Then after a pause, very loudly, ‘Oh, we’ve made him sick, we’ve made him sick,’ then carry on more normally asking after the health of two friends with strange names I cannot remember. The dialogue would then come round to the part about ‘mixed bodies’ and carry on repeating endlessly the same sickly tale. If I remember correctly these variations in the recordings always came after I’d snatched a little sleep. They never changed while listening and no effort would make them sound like the original recording.”

A month later the patient reported that he had had one attempt at sexual relations with a man but had stopped because he felt feelings of revulsion and physically sick. Within two months, however, he had left his wife and gone off to live with a man.

As for the other patients, Oswald claimed success with the three alcoholics, but only one of the two fetishists — the other rubber fetishist had “formed a friendship with a male homosexual (but had not had sexual relations with him” — while the cross-dresser, “in the 8 month since, he has dressed-up in female clothes on many occasions.”

Oswald didn’t stake his career on behavioral therapy, although the sleep-deprevation aspects of this study did point to his future career in research into sleep and sleep disorders. Some of that research revealed  that the sleep drug triazolam (marketed as Halcion) could cause adverse mental problems during the day if taken nightly, which resulted in the drug being banned in the U.K. He died in 2012.

[Source: Ian Oswald. “Induction of illusory and hallucinatory voices with consideration of behaviour therapy.” Journal of Mental Science 108, no. 453 (March 1962): 196-212.]

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).

This your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, March 28

Jim Burroway

March 28th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Lafayette, LA; Lake Worth, FL.

Other Events This Weekend: European Gay Ski Week, Avoriaz, France; Los Angeles Leather Pride, Los Angeles, CA; AIDS WAlk, Orlando, FL; European Snow Pride, Tignes, France.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GPU News, January 1977, page 26.

From GPU News, January 1977, page 26.

The Barracks was an old fleabag hotel located across the street from the Gold Coast bar, of the original International Mr. Leather fame.” Chuck Renslow, who ran a number of gay-oriented businesses in Chicago including the Gold Coast, remembered taking the Barracks over in 1975: “It was at one time a whorehouse and it was right across the street from the Gold Coast. The owner asked if I wanted to take it over or us it for anything, so for a while we rented it out for a hotel, bit not for too long. The beds were in horrible condition and we couldn’t use too many of the rooms — maybe ten or a dozen were in decent shape. … I eventually got rid of it since it needed so many repairs.” Today the building appears to be an apartment building with a Potbelly’s Sandwich Works on the ground floor.

From the The Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago, IL), March 29, 1894, page 4.

From The Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago, IL), March 29, 1894, page 4.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
“A Peculiar Friendship Made the Assassin Murderously Jealous”: 1894. Letter carrier William L. Clifford, 30, had just left the Chicago Post Office on Clark Street at noon and had walked the two blocks north to Madison street when Guy T. Olmstead, 29, came up behind Clifford and shot him in the head behind his left ear. Clifford sunk down in the snow (a snow storm would dump six more inches that day), and Olmstead shot him twice more, once more in the head and once in the back. Clifford was in the company of about a dozen other carriers who had left the post office at about the same time. They were joined by lunchtime customers flooding out of restaurants at the sound of the gun shots, about a hundred in all, who had disarmed Olmstead and threatened to lynch him on the spot. They had dragged Olmstead to a large light pole in front of Dale and Sempill’s Drug Store when about a dozen officers arrived, beat a passage way through the crowd and formed a cordon around Olmstead. A police wagon soon arrived, and the crowd surged forward as police struggled to get Olmstead into the wagon and hauled away to Central Station before the mob got out of control.

Clifford, who was unconscious, was taken into the drug store. Several doctors who had offices in the building worked to staunch the bleeding. An ambulance arrived and rushed Clifford to Presbyterian Hospital. According to early news reports, Clifford’s condition was pronounced fatal.

Meanwhile at Central Station, the distraught Olmstead told the police everything. About how he had meant to kill Clifford and then shoot himself. And he showed police a letter he had in this pocket, a murder-suicide note, which explained everything:

Mercy, March 27th.
To Him Who Cares to Read.

Fearing that my motives in killing Clifford and myself may be misunderstood, I write this to explain the cause of this homicide and suicide. Last summer Clifford and I began a friendship which developed into love. (He then recited the details of the relationship, and continued) Alter playing a Liszt rhapsody for Clifford over and over, he said that when our time to die came he hoped we would die together, listening to such glorious music as that. Our time has now come to die, but death will not be accompanied by music. Clifford’s love has, alas! turned to deadly hatred. For some reason Clifford suddenly ended our relations and friendship.”

Clifford and Olmstead had met in 1893, while both were letter carriers for the Post Office. They found they had quite a bit in common, including the fact that both had been school teachers. Their relationship blossomed in the summer of 1893, but Clifford ended it soon after. Clifford also urged Olmstead to undergo “medical treatment” and offered to pay expenses. Olmstead rejected the idea, and continued to, well, stalk Clifford, writing him passionate letters and following him around. Finally Clifford went to his superiors at the post office, showed them Olmstead’s letters, and Olmstead was out of his job by early December.

On January 7, Olmstead acquiesced to Clifford’s advice and entered the Polyclinic Hospital to have his testicles removed, which was believed to be a sure-fire cure for homosexuality (see Aug 16, Feb 7) It wasn’t. He became depressed and checked himself into Mercy Hospital. On March 19, he wrote to Mercy Hospital’s Dr. Eugene S. Talbot, who had by then established himself as something of an authority on sexual matters. Olmstead’s letter is full of what we would now recognize as an extreme case of internalized homophobia:

I returned to Chicago last Wednesday night, but felt so miserable I concluded to enter a hospital again, and so came to Mercy, which is very good as hospitals go. But I might as well go to Hades as far as any hope of my getting well is concerned. I am utterly incorrigible, utterly incurable, and utterly impossible. At home I thought for a time that I was cured, but I was mistaken, and after seeing Clifford last Thursday I have grown worse than ever so far as my passion for him is concerned. Heaven only knows how hard I have tried to make a decent creature out of myself, but my vileness is uncontrollable, and I might as well give up and die. I wonder if the doctors knew that after emasculation it was possible for a man to have erections, commit masturbation, and have the same passion as before. I am ashamed of myself; I hate myself; but 1 can’t help it. I am without medicine, a big, fat, stupid creature, without health or strength, and I am disgusted with myself. I have no right to live, and I guess people have done right in abusing and condemning me. I know now that this disease was born in me, and will leave me only when my breath leaves me.

Olmstead was discharged from Mercy only a few days before the shooting.

This wasn’t Olmstead’s first experience with emotional distress due to his sexuality. Born near Danville, Illinois, he had been molested at the age of twelve by a male relative. As an adult, he became a school teacher in Connecticut and married the daughter of a prosperous farmer. But a short time later, he fell in love with her male cousin. He divorced his wife and returned to Illinois. By 1886, he was in the Illinois Eastern Hospital for the Insane in Kankakee, where he remained for three years. Things were looking up when he moved to Chicago, found gainful employment and eventually secured a good job at the Post Office.

The sensational shooting, as you can imagine, appeared in newspapers nationwide, even if some reports fudged the details. The New York Times, said that Olmstead shot Clifford “because such charges were preferred against him (Olmstead) that he was discharged as a letter carrier.” The Chicago Daily Tribune was much less circumspect, reporting that Clifford “had been his roommate, and the severance of a peculiar friendship made the assassin murderously jealous.” Over the next day, Olmstead tried to kill himself in his jail cell four times by butting his head against the bars of the cell, and then a fifth time at 10:30 at night by swallowing rat poison and arsenic which, according to the Tribune, “he had sewed in the waistband of his trousers four days previous to the shooting of Clifford.” Olmstead was rushed to County Hospital, where he was given an emetic and survived.

Clifford also survived, and by May he was “nearly fully recovered” enough to visit with his co-workers at the Post Office, although he remained on medical leave. Surprisingly the press — at least the Tribune, found a measure of sympathy for Olmstead. An editorial appeared in the same edition that first reported the shooting which called or a defense fund for Olmstead:

We respectfully suggest to some of our Judges the propriety of raising a defense fund immediately on behalf of Guy T. Olmstead, who shot and mortally wounded a letter carrier yesterday … Olmstead shot a man because he loved him. …

The defense fund of the bench and bar cannot be raised too quickly. It is evident that Olmstead has few friends and no money. He will probably be quickly tried and hanged, without benefit of clergy, unless the bench, acting together, shall intervene in his behalf at the earliest possible moment. We do not see why the county should be put to the expense of a trial… If Olmstead was not actually insane when the crime was committed it is more than likely that he is insane now. His mind is much disturbed.”

Olmstead was committed to the Criminal Insane Asylum on July 18. Seven months later, he was discharged from the asylum, whereupon hepromptly returned to Chicago and demanded his testicles from the city’s postmaster, who he accused of engaging in a conspiracy against him. That got him admitted to the Cook Insane Hospital. He was released at some time — I don’t know when — but was arrested again in 1899 when a policeman saw him dropping his gold watch and chain into a letter box on Clark Street. This time, he was sent to the Illinois Eastern Hospital for the Insane in Kankakee, where he may have remained until his death there in 1927.

Clifford married in 1899 and had a daughter in 1904. He eventually retired from the Post Office and died in 1941 in the Chicago suburb of Riverside.

[Sources: “Shot on the Street.” The Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago, IL, March 29, 1894): 4.

“Shot in Broad Day.” Chicago Daily Tribune (March 29, 1894): 2. Available online here.

“A Great New Chance for the Judges.” Chicago Daily Tribune (March 29, 1894): 8. Available online here.

“Almost a Lynching in Chicago.” The New York Times (March 29, 1894): 1. Available online here.

“Olmstead Takes a Dose of Poison” Chicago Daily Tribune (March 30, 1894): 8. Available online here.

“Mail Carrier Clifford Is Well.” Chicago Daily Tribune (May 17, 1894): 8. Available online here.

“Olmstead Returns From the Asylum.” The Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago, IL., February 9, 1895): 7.

Eugene S. Talbot, Havelock Ellis. “A case of developmental degenerative insanity, with sexual inversion, melancholia, following removal of testicles, attempted murder and suicide.” Journal of Mental Science 42, no. 177 (April 1896): 341-344.

“G.T. Olmstead Sent to a Hospital.” The Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago, IL., September 13, 1899): 5.

Havelock Ellis. Studies in the Psychology of Sex. Volume 1: Sexual Inversion (Philadelphia: F.A. Davis Company, 1901): 107-112. Available online here.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Dirk Bogarde: 1921. He was born Derek Jules Gaspard Ulric Niven van den Bogaerde, but his friends and fans called him Dirk. After serving in the Queen’s Royal Regiment in World War II as an intelligence officer, he became one of Britain’s top matinee idols in the 1950s. In the 1960s he decided to do away with his heart-throb image with more challenging roles, including that of the closeted Melville Farr in 1961’s Victim, who resolves to break up an extortion racket that targets gay men. Time magazine, in its review of Victim, called it “a plea for perversion.” “Everybody in the picture who disapproves of homosexuals proves to be an ass, a dolt or a sadist,” Time fumed. “Nowhere does the film suggest that homosexuality is a serious (but often curable) neurosis that attacks the biological basis of life itself.”

Bogarde won critical acclaim for playing the sinister Hugo Barrett in 1963’s The Servant. Time, by then, had reconsidered their opinion of him, noting his transition from screen idol to serious actor.  (Also: “He is a bachelor, and lives a most unpublic life.”) Bogarde took on the gay lead in the 1971 art house film Death in Venice. Warner Brothers tried to drop the distribution of Death in Venice because they feared it would be banned for obscenity, but relented after Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Anne attended the London premiere.

If it was brave for a popular actor to take on gay roles like that, it was doubly brave of Bogarde because he never officially came out although his sexuality was often the subject of rumors. He remained dedicated to his lifelong partner, Anthony Forwood, whose 1988 death after a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease and liver cancer led Bogarde to become an advocate for assisted suicide. Bogarde, by then had quit acting and turned to writing, publishing seven memiors and several novels. Bogarde didn’t come out in any of his memoirs, although he did talk about caring for Forwood. Bogarde was knighted in 1992, suffered a dibilitating stroke in 1996, and died of a heart attack in 1999. It wasn’t until 2004, upon the publication of an authorized biography, that his brother, Gareth van den Bogaerde, finally acknowledged publicly that Dirk was gay.

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).

This your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

Here’s the Proof: They Really Do Want to Discriminate Against You

Jim Burroway

March 27th, 2015

I’ve been missing in action the past few months, working ten to eleven hour days at work and having just about every other minute outside of work consumed by other things. This pace is likely to continue at least through May. So I haven’t been able to keep up with the slew of right-to-discriminate bills making their appearance in state legislatures across the country as part of a larger backlash against an anticipated Supreme Court ruling sometime this summer on marriage equality. Some of that backlash is comical, like Oklahoma’s deciding not to marry straight people if gays can marry. Other examples are far more sinister, like Indiana’s sweeping law that gives any Indiana business or individual license to discriminate against anyone — including Africa-Americans, Jews, Catholics, Muslims, women, foreigners, and LGBT people. In fact, Indiana’s law is so sweeping that it allows anyone to violate any law unless there is a “compelling governmental interest… of the highest magnitude,” which I guess may exclude most felonies, although the wording of the bill doesn’t exactly make that clear.

Despite intense lobbying by business leaders, Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed the bill into law while protesting that “This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would’ve vetoed it.” But of course, you know as well as I do that all of these bills making their way through state legislatures are precisely about discrimination. And here’s the proof.

A similar right to discriminate bill was making its way through the Georgia House this week. It actually passed the House Judiciary Committee yesterday, but not before an amendment was added by State Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Brookhaven), who opposed the bill:

“I take at face value the statements of the proponents that they do not intend discrimination with this bill but I also believe that if that is the case, we should state that expressly in the bill itself. That is what the amendment does.”

Jacobs’s amendment added language to explicitly prevent “discrimination on any ground prohibited by federal, state or local law.” Bill supporter Rep. Barry Flemming (R-Harlem) complained that “This is the amendment that will gut this bill.” Which, of course, it does. And the reason that an anti-discrimination clause “guts” a bill that is “not about discrimination” is because you simply can’t get around the fact that, despite the Indiana Governor’s protest, discrimination really is the whole point of the bill! And so Flemming announced that if there is an amendment that says the bill would not allow discrimination, he would no longer support it.

So let me emphasize this: he would not longer support a bill that reiterated that the bill was not about discrimination. Because if a bill says it’s not going to allow discrimination, then he considers that bill toxic. So toxic that after three Republicans on the committee joined six Democrats to approve the amendment, Flemming offered a motion to table the amended bill. The motion passed.

The Georgia bill appears to be gravely wounded, although just about anything can still happen in the final days of the legislative session. But along the way, the true colors of these bills’ supporters have been revealed. They will tell you that it’s not about discrimination, but when you get language prohibiting discrimination into the bill, they can’t support it. What more do you need to know?

The Daily Agenda for Friday, March 27

Jim Burroway

March 27th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Lafayette, LA; Lake Worth, FL.

Other Events This Weekend: European Gay Ski Week, Avoriaz, France; Los Angeles Leather Pride, Los Angeles, CA; AIDS WAlk, Orlando, FL; European Snow Pride, Tignes, France.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, April 3, 1980, page 39.

The original location, in a light industrial area of Miami underneath the flight path for Miami International, is gone, replaced with a parking lot for an auto paint shop. The Ft. Lauderdale location is now a strip mall.

ONE Magazine, March 1955.

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
60 YEARS AGO: Miami Bar Posts House Rules: 1955. Gallows humor has long been a valuable coping mechanism whenever things haven’t been going well. And things hadn’t been going well for Miami’s gay community, which had experienced wave after wave of police raids, arbitrary arrests, and general persecution over the previous year (see Aug 3Aug 11Aug 12Aug 13 (twice that day), Aug 14Aug 15Aug 16Aug 26Aug 31Sep 1Sep 2Sep 7Sep 15Sep 19Oct 6Oct 20Nov 12 and Dec 16). According to ONE Magazine, an un-named Miami-area bar tried to make light of the situation by posting the following set of rules for its patrons to follow:

Rules and Regulations Covering the Behavior of Our Customers

First of all-remember that the customer is never right.

Before drinking each beer customer is to repeat six times “Customer is never right.”

When customer wishes to go to the restroom–please raise hand and barmaid will direct you to proper door.

Mother and daughter customers are not allowed to hold hands, kiss or pat each other on back. On week-ends they are not allowed to even talk to each other.

No after-shave lotion or talcum powder allowed on men customers.

Women must wear make-up-false eyelashes and beauty marks will be provided at the bar for those women customers who have just come from the beach and don’t have their make-up kits with them.

Men may wear only stiff shirts and tails.

Any male customer caught buying a beer for another male customer will have to buy a beer for the barmaid too so that the management will know that the man customer is of high moral character and not one of those characters.

Female customers may not talk at all–they are required to walk around the bar at least once every five minutes, dropping handkerchiefs and swooning at the far turn.

Male customers ‘may NOT wave at friends or relatives passing by in the street because we’ll have none of those gestures in this place, my dear.

Lady customers may smoke only if male customer lights cigarette for them.

Lady customers may smoke only cigarettes with ivory tips, jewelled pipes or Between the Acts cigars.

Male customers must have hair on the chest–if you have none–please bring along another chest with the required hair on it. (We will gladly refrigerate it for you while you’re here).

Male customers are required to spit periodically. Since we have no spittoons please use the guy next to you.

Please do not be offended if we do not serve you. Here are but a few of the people we could not serve if they were able to patronize us : Socrates, Wilde, Proust, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Queen Christina, Amy Lowell, Lord Tennyson, etc., etc. and far on into the night.

The bar also posted a detailed “Questionnaire to be filled in by prospective customer before selling 15¢ beer.” It asked for the customer’s name, address, phone number, boss’s phone number, parents’ names and three references. Also, and presumably to make the police’s job of notifying everyone possible if you were arrested, it asked for “names and addresses of five business or personal friends of your parents and their wives or husbands.”

[Source: J.K. “Letter from Miami.” ONE 3, no. 3 (March 1955): 44.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Bob Mizer: 1922-1992. Before there was the internet and its most lucrative offering, online porn, and before the proliferation of dead-tree porn in the late 1960s through the 1980s, there was the “physique” magazines that sprang up after World War II. Bob Mizer was the mild-mannered publisher and photographer for Physique Pictorial, one of many such magazines that published “beefcake” photographs under the guise of bodybuilding and health. His photography studio, the Athletic Model Guild (AMG), specialized in men (gay and straight) doing bodybuilding poses or wrestling in pairs. But that thin guise — almost as thin as the posing pouch that his models wore — wasn’t enough to keep him from being convicted in 1947 of unlawful distribution of obscene materials and serving a nine month sentence at a work camp in Saugus, California.

Physique Pictorial, Summer 1958.

That setback barely put a dent into Mizer’s career. In addition the Physique Pictorial, Mizer added Young Adonis in 1963 and Grecian Guild Studio Quarterly in 1966. When obscenity laws were relaxed in 1968 allowing full male frontal nudity, Mizer quickly adapted with the times. Through it all, AMG was very much a family affair, with Mizer’s mother (her skills as a seamstress was put to use in creating a line of skimpy briefs and posing pouches) and brother (an accountant) playing important roles in the business. Mizer would photograph thousands of men and take nearly a million different images. He also produced over 3000 film titles from the 1950s to the 1980’s, which mostly consisted of film (and later, videotape) of his photo sessions.

He died in 1992, and AMG went dormant for a while. But under new ownership, Mizer’s archives are being catalogued and digitally remastered. Mizer never thought of himself as an artists, but his work has garnered a significant re-appraisal in the past two decades, which influenced artists like Robert Mappelthorpe and David Hockney. The Los Angeles Times wrote in 2004 that “Mizer’s pictures are historically important because they capture a time, place and attitude so vividly that it still seems to be with us. His photographs are inspiring because they were not made to fill a market niche that already existed. Instead, they created the niche and then filled it with aplomb.” In 2009, Taschen Books released the monograph Bob’s World: The Life and Boys of A.M.G.’s Bob Mizer.

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).

This your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

The Daily Agenda for Thursday, March 26

Jim Burroway

March 26th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Lafayette, LA; Lake Worth, FL.

Other Events This Weekend: European Gay Ski Week, Avoriaz, France; Los Angeles Leather Pride, Los Angeles, CA; AIDS WAlk, Orlando, FL; European Snow Pride, Tignes, France.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Vector (San Francisco, CA), October 1973, page 20.

From Vector (San Francisco, CA), October 1973, page 20.

The Club Turkish Baths is believed to have become San Franscisco’s first gay bathhouse when it opened in 1935. Located on the same block as Compton’s Cafeteria, scene of perhaps the first true riot in response to police operations against gays, drag queens and transgender people (see Aug 21), the Club was at the south end of San Francisco’s pre-Castro gayborhood of the Tenderloin. Spanning four floors, it was also the largest bathhouse in San Francisco.

Bulldog Baths poster.

Bulldog Baths poster.

In 1979, new owners took over and renamed it the Bulldog Baths. They also did an extensive remodeling, complete with a full-sized big-rig truck greeting visitors as they arrived at the second-floor entrance. It’s layout was like a Disneyland of man-sex. The tractor rig at the entrance, the life-like prison (with guards) above, a full bar with billiards, music and “back room” below, a “jock” are with a giant screen showing sports films, a restaurant — a real restaurant — along with the usual stuff found in more conventional bathhouses. All of it was decorated with murals and graffiti art by New York artist Brooks Jones.

The Bulldog lasted until San Francisco shut down all of the city’s bathhouses in 1983. The Tenderloin fell into further decline until recently, where it has undergone some rather startling gentrification for the first time in its long history. Here’s how far that gentrification has gone: The Bulldog Baths are back in business — as a doggie day care and spa.

L-R: David McCord, David Zamora, and Boulder County Clerk Clela Rorex.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
40 YEARS AGO: Boulder, CO Issues Same-Sex Marriage Licenses: 1975. It all began when Dave McCord and Dave Zamora, both 27, went to their local county clerk’s office for El Paso County (Colorado Springs) and sought a marriage license. According to McCord, the clerk told them, “We do not do that here in El Paso County, but if you want to, go to Boulder County, they might do it there.”

So they did, and asked County Clerk Clela Rorex for a license. Rorex turned to the county’s Assistant District Attorney, William C. Wise, who wrote a quick memorandum noting that Colorado’s marriage laws weren’t gender specific. “There is no statutory law prohibiting the issuance of a license, probably because the situation was simply not contemplated in the past by our legislature. The case law is strongly on the side of the public official that refuses to issue a marriage license in these situations, and a public official could not be prosecuted for violation of any criminal law by such marriage licensing,” Wise wrote.

With Wise’s decision in hand, Rorex decided, as a “strictly administration decision,” that she would issue the county’s first same-sex marriage license to McCord and Zamora. “I am not in violation of any law,” she reasoned, “and it is not for me to legislate morality and not give persons a license if I so desire.” She also said she would continue to issue licenses in similar case as long as it was legal.

A month later, a guy by the name of Roswell Howard tried to protest the decision by showing up with a horse and a plethora of reporters. “a boy can marry a boy and a girl can marry a girl, why can’t a lonesome old cowboy get hitched to his favorite saddle mare?”, he said to the cameras. But Rorex as quick to deny the license, and she had solid legal backing to do so: the horse was too young to marry without written parental consent.

Richard Adams and Tony Sullivan.

Six couples were married altogether before the State Attorney General stepped in to call a halt. Among them were California residents Richard Adams and Tony Sullivan, an Australian national who was trying to legally immigrate to the U.S. to be with Adams. They had already married on March 20 in a religious ceremony officiated by the Metropolitan Community Church’s founder, Rev. Troy Perry, in the hopes that they could secure a green card for Sullivan on First Amendment freedom-of-religion grounds. When they heard Johnny Carson joke about the marriage licenses being issued in Boulder, they flew to Colorado and got their license on April 21.

Three days later, the Colorado Attorney General declared the six marriages invalid and ordered a halt to the licenses. The INS made it clear that it would not recognize Sullivan’s marriage. The INS district director wrote, “You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.” That crude ruling was quickly replaced with a more official declaration stating that the marriage was invalid because neither spouse “can perform the female functions in marriage.” The couple sued in Federal Court, but judge Irving Hill ruled against them, grounding his ruling partly on religious principles, which “could not possibly sanction any marriage between persons of the same because of the vehement condemnation in the Scriptures of both religions (Christianity and Judaism) of all homosexual relationships” — ignoring the couple’s MCC religious marriage in the process. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

After living abroad, Adams and Sullivan slipped back into the U.S., with Sullivan living as an undocumented immigrant. The couple remained together for four decades, until Adams’s death in 2012. None of the six couples married in Colorado saw their marriages formally annulled. Instead, their licenses were simply ignored, as though they didn’t exist. Two decades after Boulder’s historic step, Rorex reflected on that momentous decision to grant the licenses:

“Honestly, I was pretty young,” says Rorex, who went on to get her master’s in both public administration and legal administration and has been with the Native American Rights Fund’s Boulder office since 1992. “I had no real political background; I was not a political animal when I ran for that office. I didn’t even know any gays or lesbians. I didn’t know anything about the issue. I just operated from gut instinct.”

And her gut told her to give a license to two men who loved each other and wanted to get married. “It felt like the right thing to do,” she recalls, “but I couldn’t have articulated why in 1975.” She can today.

“Over all of these years, I’ve watched this issue, because of the place I was at that time — the accidental moment of history I was involved in — and I’ve grown to become a real staunch crusader for same-sex marriages,” Rorex says. “I’m continually surprised that it has taken so long for people to give equal rights to same-sex partnerships.

[Additional source: Joyce Murdoch & Deb Price. Courting Justice: Gay Men And Lesbians V. The Supreme Court (New York: Basic Books, 2001): 219-225.]

Gay Group Meets at White House: 1977. In a historic first, a group of gay advocates from the National Gay Task Force (later, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force) met with presidential aide Midge Costanza for the first official discussion of gay rights at the White House. Gay rights leaders, including Bruce Voeller (see May 12), Jean O’Leary, Frank Kameny (see May 21), Elaine Noble (see Jan 22), Rev. Troy Perry (see Jul 27), William B. Kelley, and several others, told reporters that the three hour meeting was “a happy milestone on the road to full equality under the law.” The meeting took place while President Jimmy Carter was away at Camp David for the weekend, but participants were assured that Carter was aware of the meeting and promised to support anti-discrimination legislation for employment in the federal government. “We had a fantastic meeting,” said O’Leary, NGTF co-director, “What we got was a commitment on all the issues we brought up” for further discussion not only at the White House, but within individual executive agencies.

The next day, White House Press Secretary Jody Powell appeared in CBS’s Face the Nation and defended the meeting. “For an organized group who feel they have a grievance that they are not being treated fairly, for them to have a right to put that grievance before high officials and say ‘we want redress,’ that to me is what the essence of America is all about.”

Anita Bryant, who was then campaigning against a Miami, Florida gay rights ordinance, thundered her disaproval: “Behind the high sounding appeal against discrimination in job and housing — which is not a problem to the ‘closet’ homosexual — they are really asking to be blessed in their abnormal lifestyle by the office of the President of the United States. I protest the action of the White House staff in dignifying these activists for special privilege with a serious discussion of their alleged ‘human rights’.” Later that day her self-righteous indignation grew: “Before I surrender to this insidious attack on God and His laws and the parents and their rights to protect their children, I will lead such a crusade to stop it as this country has not seen before.”

30 YEARS AGO: US Supreme Court Overturns Oklahoma’s Ban on Teachers Who Support Gay Rights: 1985. In 1978, Oklahoma state Senator Mary Helm introduced a bill allowing public schools to fire or refuse to hire anyone who engaged in “public homosexual activity” or “public homosexual conduct” (see Feb 21). The first was violation, “public homosexual activity,” was defined as any act which violated the state’s anti-sodomy law (which also banned heterosexual sodomy, but Helms’s law only dealt with violations by gay people) and the second provision concerning “public homosexual conduct” was defined to include “advocating, soliciting, imposing, encouraging or promoting public or private homosexual activity in a manner that creates a substantial risk that such conduct will come to the attention of schoolchildren or school employees.” That latter provision endangered heterosexual teachers who might presume to defend gay neighbors or relatives. Shortly after the bill was introduced, more than 100 teenage boys joined KKK chapters in local high schools to “declare war on homosexuals” (see Jan 25) with the full support of Klan leader David Duke (who happened to be a friend of Family Research Council’s current president Tony Perkins.) One student Klansman declared, “We are not just against blacks like the old Klan. We are against gays … because this activity is morally and socially wrong.”

Anita Bryant lobbied the Senate for the bill’s passage, saying that it would curb “the flaunting of homosexuality.” The Helm’s Bill sailed through the House and Senate, passing the upper chamber unanimously. Stan Easter, a gay man licensed to teach in Oklahoma, sued the Oklahoma City Board of Education in Federal Court with the backing of the National Gay Task Force. But Easter backed out over the backlash. Fortunately, Federal Judge Luther Eubanks said NGTF had standing to sue based on sworn affidavits stating that the group’s gay members included Oklahoma teachers who feared that having their names made public would result in their immediate firing. But Eubanks then went on to uphold the law’s constitutionality. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals largely reversed his decision, saying that while a teacher could be fired for violating Oklahoma’s sodomy law, the rest of the law violated teachers’ free speech rights under the First Amendment. The State of Oklahoma appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which deadlocked 4-4 (Justice Lewis Powell, seriously ill with prostate cancer, was absent during oral arguments and didn’t vote). That meant that the lower court’s ruling stood and the gag rule against Oklahoma teachers was lifted, but the ban on teachers engaging in “public homosexual activity” remained.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Tennessee Williams: 1911-1983. If you were to ask who was the most celebrated gay playwright in history, most people, gay or straight, may point to Tennessee Williams. Which is ironic because if the gay themes in his work is any indication, he appears to have been rather conflicted by his homosexuality. Blanche’s first husband in the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Streetcar Named Desire killed himself. So did Skipper in the Pulitzer Prize winning Cat on the Hot Tin Roof, and his death threatened to out his pro football buddy and severe alcoholic Brick. In Suddenly, Last Summer, Sebastian was torn apart and eaten by the boys whose sexual favors he sought. For the most part, gay characters are dead and don’t appear on the stage in Williams’s plays; Brick remained closeted, with just enough deniability for straight audience members who didn’t want to see it.

As for Williams himself, he was certainly not closeted, socializing in gay circles and taking a string of lovers. His most enduring relationship with Frank Merlo lasted sixteen years; they remained together until Merlo’s death in 1963. That plunged Williams into a severe depressions, for which he turned to Dr. Max Jacobson for help. Jacobson, nicknamed “Dr. Feelgood,” prescribed amphetamines for this depression and Seconal for his insomnia. Unsurprisingly, Williams appeared incoherent in several interviews, and his reputation suffered. He died in a Paris hotel room in 1983, having chocked to death on the cap from an eye drops bottle, surrounded by barbiturates and other prescription drugs.

T.R. Knight: 1973. Theodore Raymond began his acting career at the age of five at Minneapolis’s Guthrie Theater. He won a scholarship the the Minneapolis-based Children’s Theatre Company while a freshman in high school. After high school, he landed several leading roles at the Guthrie before moving to New York to try his luck on Broadway, where he appeared in the 2001 revival of Noises Off and the 2003 revival of Tertuffe. But his big break came two years later when he landed the role as Dr. George O’Malley in ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy.

Knight’s work on Grey’s Anatomy was well received and things seemed to be going fairly well until late 2006, when rumors began circulating that his Grey’s Anatomy co-star Isaiah Washington insulted Knight with a homophobic slur. A short time later, Knight came out and Washington issued a statement apologizing for his “unfortunate use of words during the recent incident on-set.” But the controversy resurfaced again during the Golden Globe Awards in January when Washington responded to a question from the press that “I never called T.R. a faggot.” But Knight countered that defense during an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, saying “everybody heard him.” Washington apologized again, but his fate was sealed. Later that summer, ABC announced that it wasn’t renewing Washington’s Contract. Knight, for his part, remained with Grey’s Anatomy for two more seasons before leaving in 2009 due to what he called a “breakdown in communication” with the executive producer over his lack of screen time and his decision to be open about his sexuality.

Since Grey’s Anatomy, Knight returned to the theater, appearing in several off-Broadway productions as well as the Broadway’s A Life in the Theatre in 2010. On October 5, 2013, Knight married Patrick Leahy, his partner of three years, in Hudson, New York.

30 YEARS AGO: Jonathan Groff: 1985. The bulk of his career has been in the theater, beginning with his role as Melchior Gabor in Spring Awakening, for which he was nominated for a Tony and a Drama Desk Award, and won a Grammy for best Musical Show Album featured soloist. He has appeared in an off-Broadway revival of Hair, and he made his West End debut in 2010 in Deathtrap at the Noël Coward Theatre. He’s also worked in some television time, with a recurring role in One Life to Live and Glee. My four-year-old niece will recognize his voice in the Disney animated feature Frozen, for which he lent his voice to the mountain man, Kristoff.

His last two projects have both been with HBO. He appeared as Craig Donner in last year’s film adaptation of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart. And he has starred as Patrick, a gay video game developer in the HBO series Looking, which completed its second season last Sunday. HBO declined to renew Looking for a third season, but will instead develop a final episode to wrap up the series.

Scotty Joe Weaver: 1986-2004. He should have turned twenty-nine today, but he only managed to see his eighteenth birthday. On July 22, 2004, his badly burned body was found at the side of a rural Alabama road. He had also been robbed of between $65 and $80, which was first first thought to be the main motivation for the crime. But Baldwin County District Attorney David Whetstone quickly determined that Weaver’s sexuality was the reason he was killed. “We have very specific evidence that indicates part of the motive involved his sexual orientation,” he said, noting that the wounds on Scotty Joe’s body indicated “overkill,” a common feature of anti-gay hate crimes. In fact, investigators learned that he had been beaten, strangled, cut, burned and nearly decapitated over several hours while tied to a chair in the mobile home he was living in.

Robert Porter, 18, Nichole Bryars Kelsay, 18, and Christopher Gaines, 20 were arrested and charged with capital murder. Gaines and Kelsay had been Scotty Joe’s roommates. Gaines’ lawyer at that time said that Gaines told him that Porter “spoke openly of wanting to kill the guy because he was gay.” Gaines pleaded guilty to avoid the death penalty, and was sentenced to life without parole. Porter pleaded guilty and received two consecutive life sentences. Kelsay pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and was sentenced to 20 years. Alabama doesn’t have a hate crime law covering sexual orientation. And despite the District Attorney’s findings, Scotty Joe Weaver’s murder was not included in the FBI’s hate crime statistics for 2004, representing another example of the gaps in the FBI’s hate crime reporting program. The crime was featured in the 2006 documentary, Small Town Gay Bar.

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).

This your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, March 25

Jim Burroway

March 25th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Lafayette, LA; Lake Worth, FL.

Other Events This Weekend: European Gay Ski Week, Avoriaz, France; Los Angeles Leather Pride, Los Angeles, CA; AIDS WAlk, Orlando, FL; European Snow Pride, Tignes, France.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, July 27, 1977, page 11.

From The Advocate, July 27, 1977, page 11.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
The Case of Thomas/Thomasine Hall: 1629. Virginia Colony Court records describe the case of a servant, Thomas or Thomasine Hall, who claimed to be “both a man and a woman.” Hall testified that he was born at or near Newcastle Upon Tyne and recalled being christened “by the name of Thomasine.” Hall dressed in women’s apparel until the age of twelve. When he was 22 and living in London, Hall’s brother joined the army. Hall then “cut off his hair and changed his apparel into the fashion of a man” and joined the army as well. After leaving the army, Hall again “changed himself into woman’s apparel and made bone lace and did other work with his needle.” Shortly after, Hall again changed “his apparel into the habit of a man and so came over into this country.”

After arriving in Virginia as a male, he changed his expression back to that of a woman, but rumors spread that “Hall did lie with a maid … called Great Bess.” In one encounter, two men assaulted Hall, threw him on his back and “pulled out his members,” revealing that Hall anatomically “was a perfect man.” Three other women testified to having searched Hall and reported that “he was a man.” But a Captain Basse performed an inspection and determined that there was “a piece of flesh growing at the [section of the document is missing] belly as big as the top of his littler finger (an) inch long.” Basse commanded Hall “to be put in woman’s apparel,” apparently deciding that Hall was a female. To finally resolve the case, the Court decided to accept Hall’s own self-definition as both man and woman, and ordered the determination “to be published in the plantation” where Hall lived, “that he is a man and a woman” and ordered Hall to “go clothed in man’s apparel, only his head to be attired in a coyfe (coif) and crosscloth with an apron before him.”

300 Lashes In Savannah for Sodomy: 1734. The description is extremely brief. No names, no details, just two short sentences in the diary of Johann Boltzius and Israel Gronau, Lutheran pastors who ministered to German settlers in the Georgia Colony:

Today an execution of judgment was held here in Savannah. A man from this place had been accused and convicted of sodomy and inciting others, for which he was to receive three hundred lashes under the gallows.

Samuel B. Woodward

180 YEARS AGO: “Insanity, Produced by Masturbation”: 1835. In 1829, the state of Massachusetts was alerted to the growing problem of “lunatics and persons furiously mad” who were being kept in local jails, almshouses, or private homes. After completing an informal census of the numbers of people suffering from mental illness, the state legislature established in the Massachusetts Lunatic Hospital in Worcester, among the nation’s first insane asylums, which opened its doors in 1833 under its first superintendent, Dr. Samuel B. Woodward. In many ways, Woodward’s approach represented a significant breakthrough in the attitudes towards treating the mentally ill, who he regarded as suffering from diseases which were not unlike physical illnesses.

As a product of his times, Woodward’s understanding of physical and mental illnesses reflected an era when medicine was still based on little more than lore and folk medicine. The mental health profession had even less to go on than that. But I guess they had to start somewhere. And observing the activities of the patients at the Lunatic Hospital was perhaps as good a place to start as anywhere else. On March 25, 1835, Woodward contributed a short article to the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal (which would later become the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine) detailing what he considered to be an important cause of mental illness:

No cause is more influential in producing Insanity, and, in a special manner, perpetuating the disease, than Masturbation. The records of the institutions give an appalling catalogue of cases attributed to this cause; and yet such records do not show nearly all the cases which are justly ascribable to it. For it is so obscure, and so secret in its operation, that the friends in almost all cases are wholly ignorant of it. It is in a few cases only, where the practice of the vice becomes shamefully notorious, that friends are willing to allow its agency in the production of any disease, particularly insanity; and yet no cause operates more directly upon the mind and the feeling. The mental energies are prostrated by the habit in innumerable cases, long before the delusions of insanity appear. Indeed there are many cases, in which insanity does not intervene between the incipient stages of that mental and physical imbecility, which comes early upon the victim of masturbation, and the most deplorable and hopeless idiocy, in which it frequently results.

It’s easy to be distracted by the terminology used in the early nineteenth century: idiocy, imbecility, lunacy. Today, these words are purely pejorative. But in the nineteenth century, these words had different and rather specific meanings to describe what we today would call severe intellectual disability (or severe mental retardation), milder learning difficulties, and psychosis respectively. And while Woodward used to word “vice” to describe the “notorious” practice, it would be a mistake to assume that Woodward was writing wholely out of moral indignation. (It would also be a mistake to assert that Woodward was immune to the moral indignity directed towards all non-procreative sex acts that was common in his society.)

Instead, it is perhaps best to understand Woodward as operating from what was perhaps the first true mental health laboratory in the U.S. For the first time, a trained physician could directly observe, under controlled conditions, their charges’ conduct. And these charges, often, weren’t self-possessed enough to limit their activities to what was considered proper conduct, including sexual conduct. And since sexual conduct was most certainly not a subject for polite society, Kinsey’s findings that virtually everyone masturbated would come more than a century too late to be of any use to Woodward. And so when Woodward saw crazy people masturbating, he drew the conclusion that masturbation made people crazy, though not always:

This is not, however, always the case. In some individuals there is all the raving of the most furious mania, or the deep and cruel torture of hapless melancholy, before the mind is obliterated and the energies of the system forever prostrated. … Those cases of insanity arising from other known causes, in which masturbation is a symptom, are rendered more hopeless by this circumstance. It is a counteracting influence to all the means of cure employed, either moral or medicinal, and coinciding as it does with whatever other causes may have had an agency in producing disease, renders the case almost hopeless. Of the number of tbe insane that have come under the observation of the writer (and that number is not small), few, very few have recovered, who have been in the habit of this evil practice; and still fewer, I might say almost none, have recovered, in which insanity or idiory has followed the train of symptoms enumerated in a former paper, indicating the presence of the habit, and its debilitating influence upon the minds and bodies of the young.

Clearly, with the limited data available to him, Woodward had difficulty sorting out causation versus correlation, which was a common problem in his day (as it often is today). But he provided some data to try to cast some light on this conundrum. But with no criteria to ascertain whether it was a cause or an effect of the patients’ mental health problems (or totally unrelated altogether, a prospect which apparently never occurred to him), it’s hard to see how it helps:

Of eighty males, insane, that have come under the observation of the writer, and who have been particularly examined and watched, with reference to ascertaining the proportion that practised masturbation, something more than a quarter were found to practise it; and in about 10 per cent., a large proportion of which are idiotic, the disease is supposed to have arisen from this cause.

Once someone had moved on to madness, Woodward wrote, it would be almost impossible to cure him of the practice. “They will rarely form resolutions on the subject, and still more rarely adhere to them. Reason, the balance wheel of the mind, being denied them, they are obnoxious to the influence of all the propensities in a high degree.” But he offered this advice for those who found that they could strain themselves from the habit:

As the inebriate would probably never conquer his appetite for alcoholic drink if he indulged once a month only — so in this habit, the occasional indulgence will thwart the whole plan of cure. The diet should be simple and nutritious; the exercise should be moderate and gentle; indulgence in bed should not be allowed, and the individual should always sleep alone. A matrass (sic) is better than a soft bed. He should rise immediately upon waking, and never retire till the disposition to sleep comes strongly upon him. The cold bath is a valuable remedy, a sea bath is better, and the shower bath often superior to either.

Narcotics, if there is a high degree of irritability in the system, are valuable remedies, of which conium, belladonna, hyoscyamus, nux vomica, and opium, may be used under different circumstances, combined or singly, according to the effects. Blisters and issues on the pudenda or perineum, promise well, and the different preparations of bark and iron, and other mineral tonics, should be used till all the effects of the habit are removed, till the propensity is fully conquered, and the constitution is restored to health and vigor.

Ironically, the very next article in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, titled “Quackery,” warned against the dangerous practice that passed for medical practice and called for a system of statewide regulation of the medical profession.

As for Woodward, he would go on to co-found the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane, and serve as the first president. That organization, in 1892, would rename itself the American Medico-Psychological Association which, in 1921, would rename itself again as the American Psychiatric Association.

[Source: Samuel B. Woodward. “Insanity, produced by masturbation.” Boston Medical and Surgical Journal 12, no. 7 (March 25, 1835): 109-111. Available online at Google Books.]

State Department Announces Firing of 126 Homosexuals: 1952. Two full years after the Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) and the nation’s leading conservative pundits launched the Lavender Scare (see Feb 28, Mar 21, Mar 23, Mar 24), gay government employees were still suffering the consequences. Carlisle H. Humelsine, deputy undersecretary at the Department of State, told a House Appropriations Committee that the State Department had fired 126 people accused of homosexuality since January 1, 1951. He said that 119 had been fired from the department and the foreign service during calendar year 1951, and that seven more had been fired so far in 1952. “There is no doubt in our minds,” he told the committee, “that homosexuals are security risks. We have been working in a very vigorous way on this particular problem. We have resolved that we are going to clean it up.”

Humelsine explained how the Department went about the task. “I think one of the reasons for what appears to be a large figure is that we went to each chief of mission and called his personal attention to it, and said that there is no doubt that we have just got to eradicate this influence from the foreign service. We did the same ting in the department, and I think this shows the results of that sort of work. I hope that next year will show that we have broken the back of this particular problem.”

Committee chairman Rep. John J. Rooney (D-NY) commended the State Department’s efforts, and went on to make what he called a “gratuitous observation that the State Department wasn’t the only government agency with gay people on the payroll. “We probably could do the same thing in all of the departments of the Government, including Interior, Post Office, Treasury and everywhere else. This has been extensively advertised as a problem which is solely the State Department’s, but the facts do not bear that out …. After this committee questioned such possible conditions in the Department of Commerce, it was only a very short time until they had 53, and they were still weeding them out.”

Betty Friedan Says Lesbians Are Taking Over the Women’s Movement: 1973. During the first major fundraising event for the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women, noted feminist author Betty Friedan and NOW founder cited “man hating” and lesbians as two factors that would hinder progress for women. In remarks to those gathered, the author of the 1963 book The Feminine Mystique which is credited for sparking the Women’s movement in the 1960s, repeated her opinion that lesbians were being used as a ploy to divide women. “Let U.S. Rep. Bella Abzug introduce a bill for lesbian mothers. Let Ms. Magazine do a special issue about lesbians. But let us concentrate on men and women working together for full partnership in society.” She continued:

“I have had to say some uncomfortable things because I felt they were important. I think the movement has been infiltrated and the lesbian issue has been pushed forward for divisive purposes. We must not let ourselves be used. … You don’t have to hate men or give up children to be liberated.”

An Associated Press article describing the meeting reported this reaction to Friedan’s remarks:

“Her putting down of the lesbian issue as irrelevant to the women’s movement was incredible,” said Jan Welch, who described herself as a feminist, NOW member and a lesbian, but not a man hater. “I want her to prove that I am somehow harmful to the movement because I am a lesbian. I think it’s Betty that’s causing all the problems.”

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
75 YEARS AGO: Anita Bryant: 1940. The less said, the better.

Elton John: 1947. He was born Reginald Dwight in Middlesex. He started playing piano at the age of three, and took up formal lessons at seven. He took to composition and showmanship early, writing his own music and playing piano like Jerry Lee Lewis at school functions. By eleven, he won a junior scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, where he learned Chopin and Bach. He became a pub pianist at fifteen and began playing in bands around London. He answered an ad in the New Musical Express for a songwriter, and was given a stack of lyrics written by Bernie Taupin. Dwight wrote music for the lyrics and sent them back to Taupin, and one of history’s most successful song-writing partnerships was born. Shortly after, Dwight adopted the name Elton John. In 1969 he recorded his first Album, Empty Sky, and followed that up with the eponymous Elton John, which yielded him his first US Top Ten single, “Your Song.” A string of hits followed, building toward the 1973 smash “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” from the album by the same name. In 1976, he “came out” as bisexual, but few believed him. When he married German recording engineer Renate Blauel in 1984, many speculated that the marriage was just a cover. They divorced in 1988, and he finally decided he was “comfortable” being gay.” In 1992, he founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation which raises money for HIV/AIDS prevention and fighting stigma and discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS. Since 1993, John has been in a relationship with David Furnish, which they formalized with a civil partnership in 2005. They became parents in 2010.

Sheryl Swoops: 1971. The standout women’s basketball player led her Texas Tech teammates to the NCAA women’s basketball championship in 1993 during her senior year after setting several NCAA records which are still on the books today. When the Women’s National Basketball Association was formed in 1997, she was the first player signed to the new league. She began her professional career with the Houston Comets, returning to the court only six weeks after giving birth to her son and leading the Comets to the 1997 WNBA Championship. From 1995 to 1999, she was married to her high school sweetheart, but in 2005 she finally announced that she was gay, saying “it doesn’t change who I am. I can’t help who I fall in love with. No one can. … Discovering I’m gay just sort of happened much later in life. Being intimate with [Alisa] or any other woman never entered my mind. At the same time, I’m a firm believer that when you fall in love with somebody, you can’t control that.” Over time, it appears that Swoopes has determined that she is not so much gay as bisexual: in 2011, she broke up with Alisa and became engaged to a man.

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).

This your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, March 24

Jim Burroway

March 24th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Michael’s Thing, February 2, 1976, page 50.

Harry’s Back East was a longtime gay bar whose origins went back to at least 1968. It probably owed its longevity to its reputation for being a simple, laid-back and friendly place. At least one story has it that Judy Garland paid a visit there in 1969 shortly before she died. It was a narrow space, with a very long bar in front that ran the length of the front room, with a separate dance room in the back with a disco ball and a large red light that came on whenever the cops entered the front. That was everyone’s signal to stop dancing and act innocent, lest the cops start arresting them for “lewd” conduct. If the owners weren’t current on their bribes however, all bets were off and everyone was arrested regardless of what the cops found. Harry’s survived that era and continued as a popular hangout until it finally closed in 1982. The location’s latest incarnation appears to have been a restaurant that has recently closed.

Westbrook Pegler

Westbrook Pegler

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Third Major Columnist Piles On the Lavender Scare: 1950. When Undersecretary of State for Administration John Peurifoy testified before the Senate Appropriations Commitee that 91 State Department employees were let go “for moral weakness (“Most of them were homosexual. In fact, I would say all of them were.”), that news barely made the papers (see Feb 28). Where it did, it was buried in much larger articles about an ongoing political argument over Alger Hiss, which was the main focus of the hearings. But after a public feud between Peurifoy and Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) broke out before the press, two major columnists brought the growing Lavender Scare to American readers across the country (see Mar 21, Mar 23). Now a third right-wing nationally syndicated columnist, King Features’ Westbrook Pegler, a rather nasty critic of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, took to the papers to warn that Peurifoy’s revelation was just the tip of the iceberg:

In the history of the United States, no situation ever existed before the long Roosevelt regime which was even comparable to that which was revealed recently by John E. Peurifoy, a deputy under-secretary of state, who testified that 91 homosexuals had been dismissed from the State Department. Homosexual means a person who has relations with another of the same sex. It is common knowledge that such persons have psychic ways of seeking one another. They flock together and are secretive and without honor. They are not beneath shame, however, and this makes them the more dangerous in positions of trust and “delicacy” in a government. Being furtive and ashamed, they are susceptible to blackmail and threats of exposure.

…Mr. Peurifoy did not name any of the 91 who were thrown out of the State Department. That was only one department. There is no information as to other departments. No reason occurs why the State Department should have been so heavily contaminated and others should not have been equally corrupt. There is no reason to assume, in the absence of proof, that the 91 who were eliminated from the State Department were, in the English phrase, “the lot of them.” Others may be there still. In the absence of a list one does not know whether Peurifoy’s homosexuals include an old family friend of the Roosevelts whose reputation, rightly or wrongly, became notorious and who finally left, apparently of his own will and in good order. He was a confidant of the royal family and is shown to have been put to the uses of the communists in one conspicuous recorded case.

Pegler continued writing for King Features Syndicate until 1962, when he fell out with executives at the Hearst Corporation which owned the syndicate. He then found work writing for the John Birch Society, the White Christian Council and the Christian Crusade. (Despite all this, William F. Buckley Jr. wrote a paean to Pegler in the New Yorker in 2004.)  This column demonstrates the kind of journalism by innuendo and supposition that would so endear him with the Birchers two decades later. It also illustrates the nasty partisan nature of McCarthy’s new crusade. Pegler recalls a comment by Eleanor Roosevelt, who he not so endearingly calls “the Empress”:

In a recent broadcast, shamelessly plugging her paltry potboiler, “This I Remember,” the Empress said of her late husband: “I think he got — I think a great many people that perhaps he never saw bout once made impressions on him. He began to learn about people. He began very often with me to meet different people when he was young and I always had lots of queer friends.”

In October, 1920, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was running for vice president under James M. Cox. John R. Rathom, the publisher of the Providence Journal and Evening Bulletin of Providence, R.I., and two other persons were sued in a libel action by Roosevelt … (The complaint) demanded $500,000 on the ground of charges published by Rathom concerning Roosevelt’s attitude toward sailors convicted of sexual perversion when he was Assistant Secretary of the Navy. The article in question charged that degenerates had been returned to active service. … Roosevelt’s failure to press his complaint, allowing it to lapse by default, was tantamount to an admission of the truth of the charge that he had been guilty of felonious conduct.

The Los Angeles Times, March 24, 1969, page 1. (a href="http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/thedailymirror/2009/03/march-24-1969-t.html">Source)

The Los Angeles Times, March 24, 1969, page 1. (Source)

Los Angeles Times Discovers “The Male Colony”: 1969. This would have to be about the oddest reporting on the gay community to come out of a major newspaper of the 1960s. The Los Angeles Times’s track record on reporting about the goings-on in the gay community was never particularly stellar. It ignored the Black Cat raid of 1967 (see Jan 1) along with a host of other developments taking place right under its nose. But in 1969, the Times finally came through with an article which, despite its myriad of limitations and quirks, ammounted to a reasonably balalced-for-the-1960s look at the heretofore ignored community. The quirkiness begins with the front-page title, “The Male Colony — Who They Are, What They Think”:

Los Angeles is a city where the homosexual colony has been established for a long time and is well organized. These two facts have resulted in a gradual erosion of much of the active hostility directed against homosexuals here. For example, about 15 years ago, publications of a homosexual organization were seized by the postmaster here because an article dealing with long-term living arrangements between male couples or “homosexual marriages.” Today, illustrated articles of this sort pass through the mails without any difficulties.”

The article went on to characterize the police’s interactions with the gay community, after years of hostility “in the early 1950s” were now benign. That undoubtedly came as a surprise to large numbers of gay people in Los Angeles. Much of the reporters views on the gay community seemed to have come from a man identified by his pseudonym, “Chuck Thompson,” who was “past 40 (and) financially independent” with a “Hollywood canyon home, expensively decorated with a pool,” with friends who “live in beautiful houses and give the finest parties.” This would hardly make Thompson a very representative member of the community. But his wasn’t the only representation of what the Times considered typical of gay life:

“On Friday and Saturday, high school boys come to Hollywood and get picked up by a queer,” said Capt. Charles W. Crumley, commander of the Los Angeles Police Department Hollywood Division. “It’s almost ritualistic. Homosexuals have a hell of an influence on youth. This is a serious threat to the whole society. We could have a whole generation of fruits.”

…On one street, near a church, Crumley said, the homosexuals sometimes are so thick that a man could not get his car out of a parking lot without being propositioned twice. “A vice officer does not ahve to offer himself as bait,” Crumley added. “He does not have to use any subterfuge. In cationg a homosexual, you don’t have to half try.”

The homosexual-as-predator theme was amplified further when the article described situational homosexuality in prisons, even though, as a professor of crimiology at Cal State Long Beach noted, “On their release, when they have a chance to be with the opposite sex, they would probably not continue to be homosexual.” It also spent considerable time discussing transgender people — which was almost always confused with homosexuality at that time, even among professionals.

Lebians weren’t completely ignored. Seven out of 77 paragraphs were devoted to them. The Times explained that near-exclusion by noting that “comparatively little research has been done on the subject of lesbians. It is known that lesbians usually form long-lasting relationships and are not promiscuous, as are most male homosexuals. They seldom become a topic for police attention.” Their problems, according to the article, weren’t the problems of lesbians, but the problems of being women in a male-dominated society.

A somewhat jumbled history of the gay rights movement followed, with brief mentions of Lisa Ben’s newsletter “Vice Versa” (see Nov 7, which the Times confusingly described as “the prototype of all existing homosexual organizations” even though it wasn’t an organization at all), the Mattachine Society (which the Times erroneously described as operating “still in secret,”) the Daughters of Bilitis, and ONE, Inc., which published ONE magazine.

This final section on gay rights groups was introduced by remarks from Dr. Judd Marmor, then a psychiatrist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. “Homosexuals are becoming more expressive in asserting their minority rights,” he reportedly said. “Their organizations are less underground. They are vocal and insistent about getting their rights as human beings despite their variant behavior.” Marmor had already spent much of the decade trying to convince colleagues that gay people were neither ill nor deviant. He was an early and strong advocate for removing homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s list of mental disorders (see May 2). All of that leads me to wonder if the Times may have misquoted him when closing the article in a way that would be more satisfactory to the Times:

As for the future of homosexuality, society needs to become more tolerant, according to Dr. Marmor. At the same time, research into the prevention of homosexuality should be undertaken, he added.

 ACT-UP Launches First Protest: 1987. Morning rush hour became ensnarled in lower Manhattan as 250 AIDS activists protested at the corner of Broadway and Wall Street. The protest was the result of growing frustration over New York City’s lax response to the AIDS crisis in the city as well as the Food and Drug Administration’s cautious and excruciatingly slow process for approving new drugs to combat the disease. Only one drug, AZT, had been approved so far (see Mar 19), but at $10,000 per year ($20,000 in today’s dollars) it was prohibitively expensive, hard to obtain (it was being rationed), and of very limited efficacy. European regulators had approved several other drugs for use in combating AIDS, but the FDA’s standard process for approval would take the better part of a decade, far longer than most people with AIDS would have to live.

The newly-formed group, ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power), was born from that frustration, and on the morning of March 24 they took to the streets for the first time. Playwright Larry Kramer, one of the group’s founder, said, “We’ve been told by the leading AIDS experts that there are drugs that are safer to use and more promising than AZT. We want these drugs and we want the Wall Street business community to help us get them.” The group also called for a massive public education campaign to stop the spread of the disease, an anti-discrimination policy for people with AIDS in treatment, insurance, employment and housing, and a national comprehensive national policy on AIDS. Protesters sat down in the middle of the street, resulting in seventeen arrests. After more than a year of protests, including a massive protest in which members of ACT-UP occupied the grounds of the FDA in Washington, D.C., (See Oct 11), the FDA finally relented and instituted a new emergency streamlined process for quicker approval of AIDS drugs.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Grethe Cammermeyer: 1942. She was born in Oslo during the Nazi occupation of Norway, in a home that was across the street from Nazi headquarters. Her parents were active in the resistance, and they used to hide guns under the mattress of her baby carriage, and push her through the streets of Oslo to make deliveries to the resistance. After the war, the family moved to the U.S. in 1951, and she became a U.S. citizen upon turning eighteen in 1960.

In 1961, she joined the Army Nurse Corps to learn to be a nurse. She married a fellow soldier in 1965, served at a hospital in Vietnam for fourteen months, then left the army in 1968 when she became pregnant for her first son. Army regulations at the time didn’t allow women to have dependent children. When that changed in 1972, she returned to the Army Reserves and rose to the rank of Colonel in 1987. Meanwhile, she gave birth to three more sons and entered a period that she called her “identity crisis, as I came to understand that I was a lesbian.” She divorced after fifteen years of marriage.

In 1988, she accepted a position as Chief Nurse of the Washington State National Guard. While interviewing for a top-secret clearance in 1989, she truthfully answered the question that would get her in trouble: “I am a lesbian.” During that past year, she had been in a relationship with Diane Divelbess, and the two would go on to become lifelong partners. But Cammermeyer’s answer to investigators kicked off an investigation and proceedings that ended with her discharge in 1992. She immediately filed a lawsuit to try to get her job back. In June, 1994, Federal District Court Judge Thomas Zilly ruled that the military’s ban on gays serving openly was unconstitutional. The Pentagon requested a stay of the decision, but Zilly refused, as did the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. To preserve “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the Pentagon elected not to appeal rather than risk a higher court ruling that would free others from serving under the ban. Cammermeyer returned to the National Guard, and retired with full military privileges in 1997.

After Washington voters approved a marriage equality referendum at the ballot box in 2012, Cammermeyer and Divelbess became the first same-sex couple to get a marriage license in Island County, where they make their home.

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).

This your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

The Daily Agenda for Monday, March 23

Jim Burroway

March 23rd, 2015

Eniac-348x196TODAY’S AGENDA is late. Our web server, Successful Hosting, hasn’t been so successful lately. Problems started on Saturday with intermittent access problems to the server that hosts BTB. When I first signed up for Successful Hosting ten years ago, they were an amazing company, with outstanding and responsive customer service. But in the ten years, they’ve gone from amazing to so-so, to awful, to abysmal. Somewhere along the way, they turned their servers over to NaviSite. (I don’t know Successful Hosting’s relationship to NaviSite, whether they were bought or if they have a re-selling relationship.) But to give you an idea of how things go today, when they first started experiencing problems with a Cisco switch on Saturday, their response was to re-seat it and “wait[] on words from upper management to have this module replaced ASAP.” It wasn’t replaced ASAP, and it died on Sunday. So get this: a single-point failure affected many different servers and who knows how many web sites for almost nine hours with no backup plan or replacement spare in site. What kind of a company allows a single-point failure to happen with no plan to deal with it? Okay, I see it now. In very small type, it says that NaviSite is “a Time Warner Cable Company.”

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Michael’s Thing, April 29, 1974, page 14.

This is one of those clubs that came and went in New York City, more or less without a trace. The only bit of info that I can find on it is that the space had originally been a club called Stage 45 until the Lib came along in the early seventies. Today, even the storefront is gone. The building’s there, but the address has been walled- and glassed-in, and is no longer accessible from the street.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
New Haven Colony Sentences “Sundrie Youths” To Public Whipping: 1653. The court records for Puritan colony at New Haven includes the following account for March 23, 1653:

Upon a complaint made to he Governor of sundrie youths in the Town that had committed much wickedness in a filthy corrupting way one with another, they were called before the Governor and Magistrates … [Those charged were] Benjamin Bunill, Joshua Bradly, Joseph Benham,William Trobridg, Thomas Tuttill & Thomas Kimberly. They were examined in a private way, and their examinations taken in writing, which were of such a filthy nature as is not fit to be made known in a public way; after which the Court were called together, and the youths before them. Their examinations were read and, upon their several confessions, the Court … Sentenced the youths above named to be whipped publicly. And whereas John Clarke, servant to Jeremiah Whitnell, was questioned and charged by one of them for some filthy carriage, he denied it, and another of the company in some measure cleared him from that the other charged him with, whereupon he was not sentenced to be corrected publicly, but the Court left it with his master to give him that correction in the family which he should see meet, warning John Clarke that if ever any such carriage came forth against him hereafter, the court would call these miscarriages charge upon him to mind again.

[Source: Jonathan Ned Katz. Gay/Lesbian Almanac: A New Documentary (New York: Harper & Row, 1983): 100.]

Robert Ruark

65 YEARS AGO: Columnist: “State Department Hires Perverts”: 1950. The early stages of the McCarthyite red scare also had distinctly pink undertones, as gay people became looked upon as being as much as a danger to national security as communists. When  deputy undersecretary of State John E. Peurifoy’s revealed that the State Department had fired 91 employees for being gay (see Feb 28), his statement was barely noticed, buried as it was in a larger testimony centered around the explosive controversy surrounding Alger Hiss. But that small statement would soon grow into a huge national scare all of its own, a lavender scare that was intwined with the red scare. Three weeks later, influential columnist George Sokolsky brought the lavender scare to the nations newspapers (see Mar 21). Two days later, author and novelist Robert Ruark whose column was syndicated by Scripps-Howard, added his weight to the new scare with his own unique literary style:

Looks like a new point in journalism has finally been reached, at which it is possible to face the problem of homosexuality and perversion with the same honesty it took us so long to win in the case of venereal disease. Our peering into the well of loneliness is as much overdue as our realization that syphilis and gonorrhea were something more than “social” diseases, to be hushed behind the hand.

This belated appraisal of a human aberration is due to the fact that our State Department, in record, as been filled with a type of humanity which is not “normal” as we construe normalcy in the broad sense, and that the list of perverted sex-crimes seems to be mounting furiously.

There is considerably more to abnormality in the sexes than a simple negation of boy-meets-girl. There is a great difference between homosexuality and perversion. The homosexual in a simpler sense is less dangerous to the world around him, because his odd sexual leanings creep easily into vicious criminality with innocents as victims.

Divergents from the sexual norm are pitiable, and in general live a life of mental and spiritual torture, full of frustration and persecution. Their residence in a minority group makes them subject to censure by the majority and leads them to a life in shadow.

This creates a constant nervousness that pays off in panic. Most “queers” eventually acquire a tendency to hysteria, which means the blow their tops in time of stress. Since the also must hide from the world that outweighs them — since the must always mask their activities in stealth and secrecy — they are forever open to apprehension.

A pervert fondles a child. The child cries. The creep blows his roof. He is panic-ridden and hysterically afraid of being caught. He throttles the child. A homosexual — possibly even a “happily” married one — is suddenly confronted with public awareness of his abnormal outcroppings. His position, his job, his very life is at stake. He blows his top. He has three choices. He can kill himself, jill his discoverer, or submit to blackmail.

In the loneliness that cloaks a homosexual that places him basically apart form his fellow, he scarred soul calls out for company. So his inclination is to surround himself with his like. Homosexuals travel in packs, as do most divergents from an accepted status.

It is all well to say that a man must live his own life and in a manner which best suits him, but in government which is operated for the greater good of the greatest number a dissenter from accepted behavior is a great liability. The drunkard, the boss who chases every stenographer, the sexual degenerate or homosexual all have a gaping chink in the behavioristic armor. This leads almost invariably to erratic action, neglect of job, and even to blackmail. Always to blackmail.

When a man or woman is susceptible to easy blackmail, he is a tremendous risk in a position of trust. I know the story of the highly-placed State Department executive who crowded the lists with so many homosexuals that 91 resignations of firings have recently resulted. His appointees surrounded themselves with their appointees, and on down the line. What you have finally is a corroded organization which can be bribed, bulled or blackmailed in the easiest possible fashion.

Homosexuality has figured, off stage, in one of our traitorous operations. Homosexuality and similar irresponsibility has weakened us all over the world through the State Department’s calm acceptance of abnormality. A great deal of the trouble we are in, internationally, can be laid to the tolerance of that kind of weakness in a service which should be above reproach. You can say that the queer ones are pathetic and deserve a right to pursue happiness in most businesses but you don’t need them in positions of heavy trust.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Carl Westphal: 1833-1890. the German neurologist is credited for revolutionizing psychiatry and bringing it into the world of modern medicine. That he is much lesser known today than Sigmund Freud just goes to show how much of a lock psychoanalysis held in the mental health professions throughout the first three-quarters of the twentieth century.  Westphal founded the Archiv für Psychiatrie und Nervenkrankheiten (Archives of Psychiatry and Nervous Diseases) in 1868 where, for the first time, German clinicians could publish articles and discuss a new understanding of mental illness: that it was a  medical problem rather than moral or sinful failings subject to conviction and incarceration under the law. Westphal is credited for coining the term “agoraphobia,” to describe the case of three male patients who feared going out in public. He was the first to describe what is now known as hepatolenticular degeneration, in which cooper accumulates in the tissues and causes neurological and psychiatric symptoms, as well as liver disease. And he was the first to describe narcolepsy and cataplexy, which is a sudden temporary loss of muscle tone.

And, owing to a paper Westphal published in the Archiv in 1869 where he wrote about the case of a woman who was sexually attracted to other women rather than men, Westphal became the first to describe, in clinical terms, those who experienced Konträre Sexualempfindung (“contrary sexual feeling”). He described what would later become known as homosexuality as being the result of an individual’s alienation from his or her own gender, an archaic and ultimately unproven theory that remains a crucial underpinning of much of what is taught in ex-gay circles today. Westphal wrote:

I chose the term ‘contrary sexual feeling’ from a suggestion by an admirable, and in the field of philology and archeology, most distinguished colleague, after failing to find shorter and more appropriate terms. What shall here be expressed is that it is not always simultaneously the sexual urge as such with which we are dealing, but rather also merely the feeling of the complete inner being, being alienated form its own sex.

By describing homosexuality as something that was an expression of the essential nature in an individual, the paper sparked tremendous controversy in medical circles. Until then, those who were caught engaging in homosexual behavior were treated as heretics, sinners, and criminals. Westphal instead sought to abolish those primitive, archaic superstitions with a new “scientific” understanding of gay people. Westphal’s paper, in particular, ascribed homosexuality to a disorder of the central nervous system. And while that particular theory was eventually discarded, it nevertheless placed homosexuality in the realm of psychiatry, there it it would remain for more than a century. So while Westphal can be credited for introducing the idea that gay people weren’t sinful criminals, he can also be blamed for the classifying all gay people as mentally sick. It could be argued that in 1869, that represented a huge advancement, but in reality it merely represented an exchange of prison, the pillory and other torturous punishments for the mental asylum and torturous “medical” treatments, an exchange that would last for another hundred years before the American Psychiatric Association finally removed homosexuality form its list of mental disorders in 1973.

J. C. Leyendecker: 1874-1951. At the turn of the century, men’s shirts were sold with detachable collars, and New York’s Cluett, Peabody & Co. and their advertising agency launched one of the most successful advertising campaign for Cluett’s line of Arrow collars. The Arrow Collar Man was the creation of Joseph Leyendecker, one of the the pre-eminent American illustrators of the era. Little did the nation’s housewives know that when they purchased those collars for their husbands with the handsome and debonair Arrow Collar Man in mind, that he was modeled after Leyendecker’s life-long partner, Canadian-born Charles Beach. By the time Leyendecker landed the Arrow Collar gig at the turn of the century, his work was already making regular appearances on the covers of the Saturday Evening Post, a relationship that would last for 44 years. Meanwhile the handsome Beach would turn up for Leyendecker’s illustrations in ads for Kuppenheimer Suits, Interwoven Socks, Pierce-Arrow automobiles, and wherever style and class were called for.

By 1914, Leyendecker was financially secure enough to buy a large home in New Rochelle, NY for himself, Beach, and Leyendecker’s brother and sister. The parties which Leyendecker and Beach hosted at their home became important social events as Leyendecker was acknowledged as one of the country’s great illustrators. But with the stock market crash of 1929 and the onset of the great depression, Leyendecker’s high-society style lost favor among advertising agencies. Cluett, Peabody & Co. dropped him in 1931 as the company had stopped making collars in favor of completed shirts. By 1936, the Saturday Evening Post cut back on their commissions for his covers. World War II brought something of a respite, with contracts for war bond posters, but that work would mark the end of his output. He died in 1951, survived by his sister and Beach. A really great monograph of his illustrations was published in 2008 by Abrams.

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).

This your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

The Daily Agenda for Sunday, March 22

Jim Burroway

March 22nd, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Amsterdam Bear Pride, Amsterdam, Netherlands; European Gay Ski Week, Avoriaz, France; Florida AIDS Walk & Music Festival, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Los Angeles Leather Pride, Los Angeles, CA; Elevation: Mammoth Gay Ski Week, Mammoth Lakes, CA; European Snow Pride, Tignes, France.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From New Eastern Standard Times (Baltimore, MD), March 1978, page 2.

From New Eastern Standard Times (Baltimore, MD), March 1978, page 2.

I have known Tom since 1984 when I first moved to Baltimore and discovered a row of gay bars on Boston Street in Canton. There were two dance clubs: Numbers and Masquerade and a festive smaller bar called The Unicorn. Tom informed me that he has been involved in the bar business for 32 years. He started in the business as a partner in a straight bar in Fells Point. After five months there, the bar sold and in August 1982 he started at The Unicorn. He took over The Unicorn in 1992. The Unicorn was a popular place and had been a gay bar since the 1960s. Its name changed over the years. It was called Faye’s Mistake, Frankie and Ronnie’s, Frankie and Ronnie’s Unicorn, and finally just The Unicorn. We laughed and talked about The Unicorn. I said that I remembered when freight trains used to come right down the center of Boston Street. Tom smiled and said, ‘Drag queens used to come out of the bars, jump on the train, and jump off at the Sip and Bite.’ In 2000 Tom sold The Unicorn and it became another Canton yuppie bar.”

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Allegedly Gay Teachers Suspended in Florida: 1961. Pinellas County School Superintendent Floyd T. Christian confirmed at a school board meeting that five St. Petersburg-area teachers had been suspended for “alleged homosexual practices.” The action came after the state’s Legislative Investigative Committee lodged allegations against the teachers. The Legislative Investigative Committee, known as the Johns Committee for its first chairman, state Sen. Charley Johns, was created in 1956 to root out communists from government but switched its focus to look for gays teachers and university professors. Superintendent Christian said that following the accusations from the state, the teachers were suspended last October “with the full knowledge and approval of the board.”

The matter was referred to the state’s Cabinet Board of Education in Tallahassee, which revoked the certificates of three of the teachers. That decision was overturned by the State Supreme Court in 1962, saying the state board didn’t follow proper procedures. The three teachers’ certificates were finally restored in 1963.

Superintendent Christian would go on to become the Florida Commissioner of Education from 1965 to 1973, which became an elected position with Florida’s new constitution in 1968. Superintendent Christian would go on to become the Florida Commissioner of Education from 1965 to 1973. After resisting desegregation as Pinellas County School Superintendent, Christian would shift his position as state Commissioner and become a strong defender of desegregation efforts in the state. Christian’s political career ended in scandal, and he spent several months in federal prison in 1975 for income tax evasion.

Christan’s career ended in scandal, and he spent several months in federal prison following a conviction for income tax evasion.

Montana Senate Requires Convicted Gays To Register With Police: 1995. In a 41-8 vote, the Montana Senate gave its approval to a bill that would require offenders of the state’s anti-homosexuality law (which prohibited “deviate sexual conduct”) to register for life with local law enforcement officials. The provision was a last minute amendment to a bill requiring registration for those convicted of murder, rape, aggravated assault, incest, sexual assault, and indecent exposure. During the debate, Sen. Al Bishop (R-Billings) said that homosexual acts, even consensual acts between adults, were “even worse than a violent sexual act,” a statement that drew outrage among women’s rape crisis advocates. Gay rights advocates quickly organized rallies in Helena, Billings and Missoula, and the entire state became the target of national scorn. By noon the next day, red-faced lawmakers were in full retreat mode, repealing the provision specifying “deviate sexual conduct” from the bill that they had just passed the day before, in a unanimous voice vote with no debate.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Stephen Sondheim: 1930. Born to a well-to-do Jewish family in New York’s Upper West Side, Sondheim describes his childhood as an exceedingly lonely one. ” it’s luxurious, you’re in an environment that supplies you with everything but human contact. No brothers and sisters, no parents, and yet plenty to eat, and friends to play with and a warm bed, you know?” His parents divorce when he was ten; his father abandoned the family for another woman, and his mothre was, according to Sondheim, psychologically abusive.

But at around the time of his parents’ divorce, Sondheim became friends with Jimmy Hamerstein, son of the Broadway legend, Oscar Hammerstein II, who became a kind of a surrogate father and mentor. While attending the prestegious George School in Newtown, Pennsylvania, Sondheim wrote a musical, By George, which proved popular with his classmate. Proud of his efforts, he took it to Hammerstein and asked him to evaluated it. Hammerstein said it was the worst thing he ever saw. “But if you want to know why it’s terrible, I’ll tell you.” Sondheim then received and education that afternoon which, as he later said, taught him ” more about songwriting and the musical theater than most people learn in a lifetime.”

After studying musical thater at Williams College and graduating Magna Cum Laude in 1950, when through “a few painful years of struggle” trying to break into the business. But his persistence was rewared when, in 1955, he was hired to write the lyrics for Leornard Bernstein’s West Side Story. In 1959, he wrote the lyrics for Gypsy, which ran for 702 performances. Then he got the chance to write music and lyrics for the musical farce, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, which opened in 1962, ran for 964 performances, and earned him his first Tony. But then followed a dry spell, until 1970, when he began his fruitful collaboration with director Hal Prince. That partnership produced a string of innovative hits: Company (1970, which won him three Tonys), Follies (1971, and another Tony), and A Little Night Music (1973), which won him two Tonys and yielded his only Top 40 hit with Judy Collins’s recording of “Send In the Clowns.”

Stephen Sondheim with James Lapine.

The collaboration with Prince continued with Pacific Overtures (1976), Sweeny Todd (1979, which won him another Tony), and Merrily We Roll Along (1984, which flopped badly). The tone of the reviews for Merrily were such that he felt that critics and the public were rooting for his failure. (Merrily would later go on to see several successful revivals.), and it almost convinced Sondheim to quit musical theater altogether. Instead, he went off Broadway and discoverd a play by director James Lapine, whose unorthodic presentation rekindled Sondheim’s creative interests. Their first collaboration, Sunday in the Park with George opened off Broadway in 1983, despite the first act still being in development. The act was finished and the second act was developed before the run of 25 performances were over. The production then moved to Broadway in 1984, with the show completed only a few days before its opening.  It opened to mixed reviews, and ran for 604 performances. It lost money, but Sondheim and Lapine won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and Sunday has seen several rivivals since then. Sondheim’s collaborations with Levine continued with Into the Woods (1987, which won Sondheim another Tony), and Passion (1994, and two more Tonys).

When Sondhein turned 80 in 2010, he was feted with several benefits and concerts in New York and London, and the former Henry Miller’s Theater was renamed the Stephen Sondheim Theater. He is still working, and lives with his partner Jeff Romley.

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).

This your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, March 21

Jim Burroway

March 21st, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Amsterdam Bear Pride, Amsterdam, Netherlands; European Gay Ski Week, Avoriaz, France; Florida AIDS Walk & Music Festival, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; AIDS Walk, Ft. Worth, TX; Los Angeles Leather Pride, Los Angeles, CA; Elevation: Mammoth Gay Ski Week, Mammoth Lakes, CA; Black Party, New York, NY; European Snow Pride, Tignes, France.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Michael’s Thing (a bi-weekly gay bar guide), August 2, 1976, page 7.

The Barefoot Boy Disco was immensely popular from about 1974 to about 1978 or 1979 (near as I can tell) that launched the careers of quite a number of major DJs of the era. Disco queen and former porn star Andrea True, whose “More, More, More” in 1976 became part of the disco canon, name-checked the Barefoot Boy in her 1977 single “New York, You Got Me Dancing” (“Dancing the night away / Oh what a joy at the Barefoot Boy”). The club later became Zeus (or Barefoot Boy at Club Zeus). It then became Stix in the early 1980s. A residential tower now stands where the gays used to dance the night away.

George Sokolsky

George Sokolsky

TODAY IN HISTORY:
 65 YEARS AGO: TheLavender Scare Hits The Papers: 1950. The nascent Lavender Scare blew itself wide open in the nation’s newspapers when arch-conservative columnist George Sokolsky, an early admirer of Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) and close friend of J. Edgar Hoover and, later, Roy Cohn, took to his column to blast the U.S. State Department, once again, for harboring “known Communists” and worse. What could be worse, you ask?

The most damaging contribution to the subject has thus far been made by John Peurifoy, deputy under-secretary of state in charge of administration. His statement should have shocked this nation. When Maximillian Harden, the German journalist, called attention to a similar camarilla in the Kaiser’s court, involving Prince Eulenburg, it shocked and astonished the world. Yet, in this generation, in the United States, a charge that 91 employees of the state department were dismissed for being homosexuals passes with little excitement.

The Eulenburg affair, as the 1907 German scandal was known was often brought up whenever the topic of gays in government employment came up. Never mind that Prince Philipp zu Eulenburg was never found guilty of any sort of wrongdoing — other than having the socking temerity of living and faithfully serving the Kaisar as a homosexual (see Feb 12). And indeed, when Peurifoy testified before the Senate Appropriations Commitee that 91 State Department employees were let go “for moral weakness (“Most of them were homosexual. In fact, I would say all of them were.”), that news almost didn’t make the papers (see Feb 28. Where it did, it was buried in a much larger article about an ongoing political argument over Alger Hiss.

The Ninety-One might almost have been forgotten, had it not been for the rising public feud between Peurifoy and McCarthy. On March 12, Peurifoy blasted McCarthy for claiming that the State Department was rife with Communists. “If he isn’t prepared to substantiate the charges, he should withdraw his allegations,” Peurifoy said. “This is much too important to the country and its foreign policy to be left to innuendo.” He also added this taunt: “I think that Senator McCarthy owes it to the country to make available to the committee any evidence which he has that involves the loyalty of persons in the Department of State, whether it be the 205 that he said were communists in Wheeling, the 57 that he said were card carrying communists in Salt Lake City, the four that he said weren’t communists at all in Reno, the 81 that he mentioned on the floor of the Senate, or just one.”

McCarthy countered that he was preparing a dossier on 81 cases but “the Democratic membership of the committee kept me from completing even one case.” Two days later, McCarthy made public three names. A fourth name he didn’t release, although he turned it over to the committee. Recalling Peurifoy’s remarks about the 91 released for “moral weakness,” McCarthy declined to give the fourth name to reporters because of the “sordid details of this case.” Sokolksy wondered why there was so little attention being paid to those “moral weaknesses”:

Perhaps the reason is that the word, homosexual, is considered bad. It is not the word that is bad; it is the consequences of the deed that lay the individual open to blackmail. He is ashamed; he is frightened; he has become accustomed to secrecy, conspiracy, lying. He is always subject to blackmail.

Mr. Peurifoy said, in giving the figure 91:

“Most of them were homosexuals. In fact, I would say all of them were.

Of course, Mr Peurifoy withheld the names of these persons and therefore it is not known what positions they held. For instance, if a homosexual held such a position as under-secretary of state, or assistant secretary or as sensitive bureau chief, the menace to the United States would be that if the espionage services of a foreign power or of a world-wide conspiracy got at him, he would have three alternatives 1. To resign yet to risk exposure; 2. To submit to blackmail and become a spy for a foreign power; or 3. To commit suicide.

I am dealing with this problem not from a moral but from a practical standpoint. There are some persons who excuse the homosexual on the ground that he was born that way. Others became involved in Freudian jargon and explain this phenomenon as due to a variety of causes. From out standpoint, it is merely a question as to whether a person whose conduct lays him open to blackmail is a good security risk.

Now, in all the arguments on the subject, those who defend the state department and attack Senator McCarthy miss two points:

1. Our foreign policy has been wrong since 1943 (Teheran) because it was controlled by a foreign power, Soviet Russia. … What part did these homosexuals, subject to blackmail, play in the formulation and conduct of those erroneous policies?

2. Whereas some of the rest of us may be as black at heart as Al Capone, those in the state department must be as pure in mind and purpose as driven snow. For that department gathers the data, formulates the policies, lays down the techniques, short of war, for the defense of our country in times of peace and war.

A liar advantageously station; a blackmailed creature in a sensitives spot; a frightened soul, caught in the web of conspiracy, can produce such a results as the conquest of China by Soviet Russia by consent. There is the menace.

Sokolsky was considered one of the most important columnists in the country. When he died in 1962, honorary pallbearers included Herbert Hoover, Robert Kennedy, J. Edgar Hover, Douglas MacArthur, Sens. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ), Everett Dirksen (R-IL) and Thomas Dodd (D-CT).

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
 Vadim Alekseevich Kozin: 1903-1994. The great Russian tenor Vadim Alekseevich Kozin was celebrated throughout the Soviet Union in the 1920s for his recordings and concerts specializing in gypsy romances and love songs. He sang those songs, which he wrote himself, with such passion and tenderness that garnered him the title of the “Russian Orpheus.” He once gave a concert with American Paul Robeson and is said to have performed for Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin at the Tehran conference in 1943. But in those precarious days during Stalin’s rule, Kozin fell out of favor with the Kremlin and was arrested in 1944. He was sent to a prison camp near Magadan in the Russian Far East for five years for political offenses, “corruption of youth” and homosexuality. From that moment on, his songs disappeared from the radio and his public concerts came to an end.

After his release in 1950, Kozen resumed performing in local theaters in the Russian Far East and Siberia, but he was prohibited from performing in Moscow and Leningrad. It was during this period when Kozen began to keep a diary. “How I would like even just once,” he wrote of one unnamed man in 1956, “even for one instant, to look into the depth of those green eyes. Why does it happen like this? One person appears, and there is nothing else sacred in the world. He has filled it all himself. Who that person is, no one will ever find out.”

Kozin also used his diary to express his impatience with the official attitude toward homosexuality. “There is nothing unnatural in the life I want to live,” he wrote. “There is real, good friendship and complete mutual trust.” In another entry, he criticized actors with their “demonstration of fictional family values” and waving of party cards. “Do I have the moral right, with my defects, to see them that way? After torturous and long thought, I have realized that I do. They are much more rotten people.”

But Kozin worried that he risked further imprisonment. In another entry, he was alarmed by another actor while on tour. “His behavior will lead him to the camp. I must tell him that his sexual motives shouldn’t affect me at all. … I don’t want people to think about me like that again. I will try to suffer alone.”

Kozin’s fears were well-founded. He was arrested again in 1959 for homosexuality and was forced to write a humiliatingly detailed confession. Despite a brief revival in the 1980’s when his records were reissued, he was never officially rehabilitated. He died in Madagan in 1994 at the age of 91. Since his death, Vadim Kozin has become an icon in Russia’s gay community. One of his most famous songs is one called “Friendship” which, he later confided to a friend, was dedicated to another man:

“We are so close that words do not have to be repeated. Our tenderness and our friendship are stronger than passion and greater than love.”

Vadim Kozin with friends in Madagan in 1993:

 Rosie O’Donnell: 1962. During her years hosting her popular daytime talk show, The Rosie O’Donnell Show, from 1996 to 2002, she developed a reputation for being “The Queen of Nice” and for her self-professed crush with actor Tom Cruise. Two months before her talk show ended, she came out, saying, “I’m a dyke!” When she became a moderator for The View in 2006, her “queen of nice” persona was ancient history, as she engaged in several public controversies and on-air disputes. She was encouraged by the program to be provocative and outspoken, and she certainly delivered. She picked a public fight with Donald Trump, she compared the Mark Foley congressional page scandal to the Catholic Church’s child sexual abuse scandals, and she condemned the Bush Administration’s Iraq war policies. The final straw for O’Donnell’s tenure on The View came during an on-air argument with co-host Elizabeth Hasselbeck. The producers showed O’Donnel and Hasselbeck in a split screen, which, O’Donnel, said, “they (the producers) had to prepare that in advance… I felt there was setup egging me into that position.” Tired of the confrontations, O’Donnel left the show in May, 2007. Parade magazine named her “The Most Annoying Celebrity of 2007,” while Time called her one of their “100 Most Influential People.”

Since then, O’Donnell has been involved in several projects, including acting as Executive Producer of a Lifetime movie, hosting SiriusXM’s “Rosie Radio” from 2009 to 2011, a short-lived talk show on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN, and a collaborative partner in the LGBT family vacation company R Family Vacations. She has also been involved with several charitable causes, including early childhood care and education, adoption and foster parenting, and rehabilitation therapies for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. Her For All Kids Foundation has awarded more than $22 million in grants to 1,400 child-related organizations. Overall, O’Donnell has given more than $100 million to charity. O’Donnell herself is a foster and adoptive mother, and in February of 2004, she married Kelly Carpenter in San Francisco when Mayor Gavin Newsom launched an ill-fated effort to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but the couples split in 2007. (Their marriage, by then, had been invalidated by the California Supreme Court, along with all of the other 2004 “winder of love” marriages.) In 2012, O’Donnell married Michelle Rounds in a private ceremony in New York, and they adopted a daughter, Dakota, in early 2013. The couple separated in 2014, and O’Donnell field for a divorce this past February.

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).

This your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

The Daily Agenda for Friday, March 20

Jim Burroway

March 20th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Amsterdam Bear Pride, Amsterdam, Netherlands; European Gay Ski Week, Avoriaz, France; Florida AIDS Walk & Music Festival, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; AIDS Walk, Ft. Worth, TX; Los Angeles Leather Pride, Los Angeles, CA; Elevation: Mammoth Gay Ski Week, Mammoth Lakes, CA; Black Party, New York, NY; European Snow Pride, Tignes, France.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From David (a Jacksonville-based gay photography and lifestyle magazine), May 1972, page 18.

From David (a Jacksonville-based gay photography and lifestyle magazine), May 1972, page 18.

I can’t find any information about the Music Box Lounge, except that it appears to have lasted until sometime between 1982 and 1984. The location today houses a Bali import jewelry and decor store.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
 Single Women of New York Denounce “Old Bachelors”: 1749. Just a few centuries ago, marriage was more than a desirable arrangement for two people who love each other. It was, just as importantly, a significant economic proposition. This was especially true for women, whose options for earning a living were severely limited. While men had the entire world open to them as far as opportunities for making a living were concerned, women’s options were limited mostly to marrying men. In 1749, a group of single women who called themselves “The Petticoat Club” found themselves paying a severe economic penalty while they saw large numbers of eligible men refusing to settle down and marry. In a petition to the New York Gazette, the club proposed that those “old bachelors,” were not carrying out their proper duties, and should be taxed for their selfishness:

To all married Men … The Humble Petition of a Society of young Women known by the Name of The Petticoat Club, in Behalf of themselves and several Hundred of others, between the Age of Sixteen and Forty, in this City and Province.

That your Petitioners being all of the ancient and honourable Family of the Wife-wou’d-be’s, and being arrived to the Age of Maturity, are as we flatter ourselves, of as good Abilities both of Body and Mind as any the World does afford … ; yet, notwithstanding all our Accomplishments and utmost Endeavours we are frustrated of this our laudable Design, by the unsufferable Stupidity and Obstinacy of a Set of Men called Old Bachelors, who know and ought to do better, and who in Contempt of the laws both of God and Nature, and to the inexpressible Damage of this Province, do oblige us, contrary to our Desires and Inclinations, to remain useless, and ever burdensome Members thereof.

For our Relief in these our deplorable Circumstances, ’tis our earnest Desire, that you would so far commiserate our Condition, as to use your utmost Endeavors, that there be such Fine laid on all Offenders of this Nature, as may bear some Proportion of the Heinousness of their Crimes; and that all Bachelors above 26 Years of Age, may be obliged to pay a moderate Tax, which should yearly increase till they arrive at 40; that the said Fine may be applied to the Education of the Boys of this Province, that so they may have the Opportunity of learning more sense and better Manners, and wherein the true interest of their Country does consist. — And if any of the aforesaid Drones shall presume to continue in their Obstinacy till the Age of 40, then we pray, that there may be some publick Mark of Distinction, that they be known from other Men; and we think it not improper to oblige such stubborn offenders to wear one Side of their Beard at full length, to show their Age, and the other Half shaved bare, as a Mark of their Folly; unless they can make appear they have done something to equivalent Advantage to their Country . …

That there are such Numbers of the ancient and honourable Family of the Wife-wou’d be’s, in this Province, is so manifest it needs no Proof; that the Treatment they meet with, is in Contempt to the Divine Law, is plain; for no sooner was Man created Male and Female, but God commanded them to increase and multiply, and replenish the Earth; which Command the Old Bachelors have no Regard to, unless to replenish it with such an illigetimate Race, as would be a standing Reproach to the Parents. … We could multiply Texts of Scripture to the Purpose; but … we shall pass on to show, that it is even contrary to the Laws of Nature. We see that the Male and Female of all Species of Creatures (except the Old Bachelors) have a natural Inclination towards each other, by which their Kind is propagated and maintained in the World. … ’til a general Rule with the whole Creation, and the Old Bachelor Seems to be the only Exception. [The women argue that] those that are best able, and have least Charge on their Hands, ought to pay the Most Tax; That the Bachelors have the least Charge, is plain, having none but himself to support, and yet has the same Liberty and Opportunity to pursue his Business as other Men; For which Reason if he is not capable, it’s his own Fault, which often happens; for having no suitable Companion at home, he is often inclined to indulge himself in drunken Frolicks abroad … often to the great Disturbance of the whole Town in which he lives. …

Florida Supreme Court: Gays Can’t Be Barred From State Bar: 1978. In 1976, Robert F. Eimers, a recent graduate of Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, had already been certified for admission to the Pennsylvania bar when he moved to Florida and took the exam for the Florida bar. He passed, but the Florida Board of Bar Examiners found that he might fail to meet the “good moral character” standard for admission because, in response to a question at a hearing, Eimers said that he was gay. The twelve member board deadlocked on whether to admit him and referred the matter to the Florida Supreme Court. On March 20, the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-1 decision that a “substantial connection” between private behavior and the ability to carry out professional responsibilities would be required to bar Eimers from practicing law, and his homosexuality did not rise to that level. “Otherwise, the bar will be virtually unfettered in its power to censor the private morals of Florida bar members, regardless of any nexus between the behavior and the ability to responsibly perform as an attorney.”

That’s where the “Today in History” part of the story ends, but Eimers’ story continues. While Florida’s Supreme Court was correct in ruling that a gay man cannot be prohibited from practicing law because of his “private morals,” that same court nine years later would wind up disbarring Eimers because of his dismal public morals, not to mention breaking a few laws along the way. In 1982 Eimers, his law partner (who was not licensed to practice law) and husband-and-wife clients Daniel and Sally Phelps, were the subjects of an undercover sting involving money laundering and prostitution. In November 1982, they were all charged with two counts of money laundering, and the Phelps’s, in addition, were charged with three counts associated with the prostitution ring. After their arrest and indictment, they were all released on bail. The Phelps and Eimers were tried and convicted in June, 1983, but Eimers’s conviction was in absentia due to his becoming a fugitive in March. Eimers was sentenced to ten years and fined $100,000. In 1987, the Florida Supreme Court officially disbarred him (PDF: 176KB/6 pages) because of his felony conviction and allegations that he had misappropriated funds from three of his clients. I can’t find any record of his having served his sentence, but in 1993 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court also ordered his disbarment in that state as well. He apparently died in 1998 at the age of 51.

And that, as they say, is the rest of the story.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Samuel-Auguste Tissot: 1728-1797. You know you’ll go blind if you keep doing that, don’t you? Ever wonder where those old medical “facts” came from? Blame this eighteenth-century Swiss physician from Lausanne, but also consider his time. In his day, the medical establishment was built on little more than folk medicine and superstitions, some of which where handed down from as far back as ancient Greece.

To his credit, Tissot tried to change that and turn the practice of medicine into a scientific endeavor. His 1761 textbook Avis au Peuple sur sa Santé (Advise to the Public Concerning their Health) became the best-selling medical self-help book of the century and it established his international reputation. In a 1769 essay, he argued that doctors must have a working knowledge of physics and the natural sciences: “Whoever is unacquainted with the powers and properties of bodies and the laws of motion will never be able to learn the art of healing.” He became an early proponent of exercise for “literary and sedentary persons,” observing that exercise “strengthens the fibres, preserves the fluids in their proper state, procures an appetite, facilitates the secretions particularly perspiration, raises our spirits, and produces an agreeable sensation in the whole nervous system.” His 1789 Traité des Nerfs et de Leurs Maladies (Treatise on the Nerves and Nervous Disorders) included an 83-page chapter devote to the study of migraines, which is today considered a foundational work for future doctors’ understanding of the phenomenon.

So you can see he was off to a pretty good start in professionalizing the practice of medicine. But his efforts were ultimately constrained by the state of medical knowledge in the 1700s which still came mainly from two sources: ancient manuscripts, from Greek and Roman times through the Renaissance, and ongoing observations by physicians who knew nothing about viruses, bacteria, hormones, genetics or even the precise functions of a number of organs. And so Tissot believed, like many of his contemporaries, that the human body was governed by a balance between the excretion of vital fluids — the ancient Greeks called them “humours” — and their replenishment through eating and drinking. Blood, obviously, was an essential humour. Lose too much of it, and death is certain. Perspiration was a humor, as was mother’s milk, which he called a “non-essential” humour — for the mother, anyway. Also, in the tally of humours:

There is another, the seminal fluid, which has so much influence on the strength of the body and on the perfection of digestion which restores it, that physicians of every age have unanimously admitted, that the loss of one ounce of it, enfeebles more than forty ounces of blood. We may form some idea of its importance by observing the effects it produces; when it begins to form, the voice, the countenance, and even the features change; the beard grows, and the whole body often assumes another appearance, since the muscles become so large and firm that they form a sensible difference between the body of an adult, and that of one who has not arrived at puberty. All these developments are prevented by debilitating the organ which serves to separate the fluid producing them. Correct observations prove that the extirpation of the testicles, at the period of virility, causes the loss of the beard, and the return of an infantile voice. Can we doubt, after this of its action on the whole body, and not perceive the many bad consequences with which the emission of so precious a fluid must be attended.

The third edition of Tissot’s L’onanisme, 1765.

That passage is from the introduction of Tissot’s most enduring work, his highly influential L’onanisme, ou Dissertation Physique, sur les Maladies Produites par la Masturbation (Onanism: Or a Treatise Upon the Disorders produced by Masturbation), published first in Latin in 1758, then in French in 1760. According to Tissot, the loss of just an ounce of semen brought about a terrible blow to the body. During the sexual act, Tissot observed that other humours were excreted through perspiration and heavy breathing, leading to the “evacuation of the semen,” which is accompanied by:

a general shock, a convulsion of all the parts, an increase of the rapidity of the movements of all the fluids, to displace and expel it. Is it too great presumption to say, we must regard this necessary concurrence of the whole system, at the moment of its evacuation, as a rational proof of its influence on the body? …The promptitude with which the weakness follows the act, appears to many people, and with reason, a proof that this cannot be occasioned by merely a loss of semen; but the debility of all those affected with convulsive diseases, proves that the weakness is produced by the spasm…

Men weren’t alone in their susceptibility to masturbation’s dangers. Semen’s analog in women was the fluids of vaginal lubrication. Like men, women also experienced the perspiration, the “rapidity of the movements of all the fluids,” the general shock and convulstions, and so forth. But masturbation posed an even greater danger to women because their weaker nerves made the loss of those vital fluids all the more serious. The consequences, for men and women both, were numerous: pimples, hemorrhoids, tuberculosis, weak-mindedness, weakness or partial paralysis in the limbs, ashen skin, pain, digestive problems, epilepsy, blindness, and even death.

The loss of semen was always bad, but it was worse when the loss occurred during non-procreative sex, all forms of which he grouped under the umbrella term “Onanism.” At least with ordinary vaginal intercourse, he reasoned, there was a reciprocity taking place which helped to lower the dangers:

A person perspires more during coition than at any other time, because the power of the circulation is quickened. This perspiration is perhaps more active and more volatile than at any other time: it is a real loss, and occurs whenever emissions of semen take place, from whatever cause, since it depends on the agitation attending it. In coition it is reciprocal, and the one inspires, what the other expires. This exchange has been verified by certain observations. In masturbation there is a loss without this reciprocal benefit.

Tissot’s L’onanisme wasn’t the first anti-masturbation tract. Some thirty-five years earlier, an unknown London doctor and clergymen published the final edition of Onania; or the Heinous Sin of Self-Pollution (see Oct 16), which warned about the many dangers of masturbation from both a medical and moral standpoint. But Tissot criticized the English Onania for its “theological and moral trivialities” which made it  “truly a chaos, the most unfinished work written for a long time.” Tissot’s L’onanisme, on the other hand, sought to correct those errors and re-cast sexual morality solely on the basis of the physical imperative rather than a divine one. It became a best-seller. Twelve authorized editions appeared between 1760 and 1799 in the original French, with translations into German, Italian, Spanish, Russian and English. Thanks to Tissot, the idea that masturbation was the source of a number of serious physical, medical and social diseases quickly became medical dogma all the way up to the beginning of the twentieth century.

[Source: Samuel-Auguste Tissot. Treatise on the Diseases Produced by Onanism. Translated by “A Physician” (New York: Collins & Hannay, 1832). Available online at Archive.org. The original 1760 French edition of L’onanisme is available at Google Books.]

 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).

This your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

Older Posts