Meanwhile In Arkansas
April 1st, 2015
The Arkansas legislature yesterday sent a License-To-Discriminate bill to Gov. Asa Hutchison (R), who has promised to sign the bill into law, but not before calling a news conference for later this morning. As in Indiana, supporters of the Arkansas RFIA have striven to minimize both its intent and intended effects, claiming that all it is is a state version of the federal RFIA signed into law in 1993. In fact, Arkansas’ (and Indiana’s) go way beyond federal legislation in several respects:
- The Federal law was narrowly written to protect religious worship, observations and related practices which may be “substantially burdened” by governmental intrusion. The I laws were written specifically to provide expansive protections for all claims which simply “burden” — without qualification — someone’s claimed religious belief, regardless of how peripheral or incidental those claimed beliefs may be to a claimant’s religion — and regardless of whether the claimant’s denomination espouses those beliefs or not. (The Indiana law is worse in this regard; it specifies “burden or is likely to burden.”) This dramatically lowers the bar and will tie courts’ hands when these lawsuits come to trial.
- The Federal law protects against governmental intrusion. The state laws are designed to provide a nearly carte-blanch right to discriminate regardless of whether governmental action is involved or not.
- The Federal law applies to individuals and religious institutions. The state laws apply to everyone and anyone, including corporations, limited partnerships, private companies, non-profits, and individuals employed by them or the government. This expansion goes far beyond the federal RFIA, and it even goes beyond the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, which limited the federal expansion to “closely held corporations.”
- But the most significant difference between the Federal and state laws is that the Federal law was designed with the goal that neither party is significantly harmed by the law’s outcome. But the state RFIAs have been designed with the specific goal to inflict harm on anyone who gets on someone else’s bad side and can claim a religious reason to retaliate.
These license-to-discriminate bills represent a massive attack against all anti-discirmination protections, not just the LGBT community. Members of the Little Rock Nine, who endured death threats and assaults to desegregate Little Rock High School in 1957, have denounced the Arkansas bill:
“’Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,’ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. told us, and those words are as true today as they were half a century ago. In our home state of Arkansas, legislators are attempting to enshrine their own hatred into law,” said (Ernie) Green and (Carlotta) Walls. “Once again, opponents of equality are giving credence to those who would refuse to serve their own neighbors under the guise of ‘religious liberty,’ telling us that our freedom of religion, cemented into law by the Constitution and by state law, is under attack. But we stand with our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters, as well as religious minorities and others who could fall victim to discrimination under HB 1228, and we stand against this dangerous and derogatory legislation in its current form. This bill must be amended to protect civil rights or abandoned entirely.”
The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, April 1
April 1st, 2015
Events This Weekend: Bearcelona, Barcelona, Spain; Boston LGBT Film Festival, Boston, MA; Spring Diversity, Eureka Springs, AR; Gay Easter Parade, New Orleans, LA; Pride, Osaka, Japan; Dinah Shore Weekend, Palm Springs, CA.
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
In 2006, Canada’s Daily Xtra published a walking tour of Vancouver:
In the 1960s, the Castle Pub was an important gathering place for gay men seeking community. “But the owners had no tolerance for visible homosexuality,” remembers Don Hann. “I was thrown out of it one Saturday afternoon in 1975 for kissing a gay man in the bar.”
Throughout the ’60s and ’70s, the Castle struggled with its predominantly gay clientele, at times welcoming it, at times reviling it. In 1971, the Gay Liberation Front held a kiss-in in front of the pub; a year later, the Gay Alliance Toward Equality boycotted it. But the gay community always returned to claim its space, its members eager to meet other homos and make new friends.
In 1978, the Castle finally stopped fighting its destiny and hired Terry Wallace to manage the pub and embrace its gay clientele once and for all. For the next decade, the pub became an openly friendly, supportive gay space.
When the Castle finally closed in 1990, its gay patrons lovingly carried their portrait of the Queen in a now-famous procession three blocks south to 1025 Granville St. There, the Royal picked up where the Castle left off–until the gay community gradually drifted away to other bars and the Royal went straight in 2001.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
► 60 YEARS AGO: Canada Reduces Criminal Penalty for Sodomy: 1955. Canada enacted the first of a long series of consolidations of its federal statues, with a new amended Criminal Code going into effect on April 1, 1955, which replaced the Section 202 of the old Code:
“Everyone is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for life who commits buggery, either with a human being or with any living creature.”
with Section 147, which reduced the penalty from life imprisonment to fourteen years:
“Everyone who commits buggery or bestiality is guilty of an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years.”
The Criminal Code would undergo another round of consolidation and modernization with the Criminal Amendment Act of 1968, which, when it was finally passed in 1969, resulted in the full decriminalization of homosexuality (see May 14).
► 50 YEARS AGO: Gay Rights Activists Challenge “Gay Cure” Doctor: 1965. Just a few weeks earlier, Frank Kameny convinced the Mattachine Society of Washington D.C. to endorse a resolution declaring that “the absence of valid evidence to the contrary, homosexuality is not a sickness, disturbance, or other pathology in any sense, but is merely a preference, orientation, or propensity on par with, and not different in kind from, heterosexuality” (see Mar 4). It was a bold statement, challenging the collective verdict to the contrary as delivered by the mental health professions, but it was the first step in the long march by Kameny, Barbara Gittings and others to convince the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973.
But in 1965, that resolution was considered a radical and controversial move in the gay community and among gay rights activists. Indicative of the kind of deference that many in the gay community were willing to accord mental health professionals, the Philadelphia-based gay rights group known as the Janus Society hosted a lecture by Dr. Samuel B. Hadden, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania and a well-known practitioner of group therapy to try to cure male homosexuals. Hadden gave his usual spiel to the gathering: that gay people were suffering from a treatable neurotic disorder, one brought about by a dominating mother-figure or an absent father. Jody Shotwell, writing for The Ladder described Hadden’s treatment approach:
In his group-therapy technique, the homosexual is brought into contact w1th other homosexuals who, according to Dr. Hadden, have seen some kind of light. During the sessions, those patients farther along in treatment try to convince the newer members of the group of the dissat1sfactions — if not horrors — of life as a homosexual. Some attention is given to dress and mannerisms, in an effort to get the more effeminate homosexuals to conform to our culture’s notion of masculinity.
Hadden claimed he had managed to cure twelve of his thirty two-patients, a claim that an audience member challenged by asking whether any of his patients may have been motivated to lie about their progress. Hadden had no answer. He also didn’t bother trying to conceal his contempt for his audience. He likened homophile organizations to Nazis and the Klan, said that gay people should never be granted security clearances, and falsely asserted that everyone who had defected to the Soviet Union were gay. It was toward the end of the discussion that Kameny rose to challenge Hadden on his own turf:
Dr. Franklin E. Kameny of the Mattachine Society of Washington put the following questions to the speaker: 1. Are not his patients particularly susceptible or prone — as demonstrated by their being his patients — to justify the changes he has wrought, and hence atypical of homosexuals as a whole? 2. He seems to have taken it as a premise or axiom that homosexuality is pathological. What scientifically meaningful proof or demonstration of such pathology does he have? Dr. Hadden did not reply to or touch on the first question. In answering the second, he spoke in terms of “I feel (that homosexuality is a sickness, etc.) … We believe… I consider… We think…” In the exchange of remarks, Dr. Kameny asked for a definition of pathology in this context and said that homosexuals have been defined into sickness. When Dr. Hadden’s responses continued in terms of “I think” and “We feel,” Dr. Kameny declared, “This is not science, Dr. Hadden; this is faith.”
[Source: Jody Shotwell. “Special Report: Faith and Fury.” The Ladder 9, n0. 8 (May 1965): 20-21.]
► Gay Groups Consider Buying Small California Town: 1971. Just five months after the Gay Liberation Front revealed plans to encourage gays and lesbians to move to rural Alpine County, California and take it over as a haven from discrimination and oppression (see Oct 19), reports emerged that Los Angeles-area gay leaders were considering buying another town east of San Diego and “colonizing” it.
The tiny town of Bankhead Springs, population 19, was up for sale. For a cool $239,000 (that would be almost $1.4 million today), the buyer would get a 51-year-old hotel, a cafe and eight houses. Bankhead Springs was named for Sen. John Bankhead, Tallulah Bankhead’s father and Alabama Senator who championed the construction of U.S. Route 80, “the nation’s Broadway,” from Savannah to San Diego. In southern San Diego County, Route 80 covered an old winding, mountainous stagecoach road, and Bankhead Springs became a convenient stop for automobile travelers midway between San Diego and El Centro.
But when Interstate 8 bypassed that section of Route 80 in the 1960s, traffic through town plummeted and businesses closed all along the route. LA-area activists saw an opportunity to create a settlement where gays could escape harassment, raise livestock, and establish an arts and crafts community. Morris Kight said that some of the surrounding properties had already been sold. “They’ve quietly moved into those villages in considerable numbers and are gradually colonizing them,” he claimed.
Kight said that the project to buy the town itself was sponsored by the Gay Liberation Front of Los Angeles, but a spokeswoman for another group interested in the town said the GLF only offered “moral support.” She said the plan was to buy the town, rename it Mount Love, and subdivide it into quarter-acre lots. But the town’s owner, Helen Miller, said she hadn’t talked with any prospective buyers who identified themselves as part a gay group, and added, “I don’t know if I would sell to them anyway. I love these mountains and don’t want to be run out.”
[Source: Associated Press. “Homosexual group eyes small town.” (April 1, 1971).]
► First Openly Lesbian Candidate Wins Public Office: 1974. For most of the previous decade, politics was the lifeblood of The University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus. In 1964, President Lyndon B Johnson chose that progressive campus to unveil his Great Society proposals during the commencement ceremony. In 1965, the anti-war movement was born when UM faculty members and 3,000 students held the nation’s first faculty-led “teach-in” to protest the Vietnam war. By 1974, protests, demonstrations, sit-ins and teach-ins to support all sorts of counter-cultural causes — civil rights, peace, women’s liberation, marijuana decriminalization, and all sorts of other progressive and radical causes — became mundane events in Ann Arbor’s student life.
And so when Ann Arbor city elections came around in 1974, few eyebrows were raised when a local political party, the Human Rights Party (HRP), ran Kathy Kozachenko to represent the second ward surrounding the UM campus. Republicans, which until then had held a solid lock on city government, couldn’t find anyone to run in the second ward, leaving a lone Democratic candidate to run against Kozachenko. With Kozachenko running openly as a lesbian, it proved to be a tight race. After expressing fears that she might lose on election day, she ended up winning by just nine votes. “This is so goddamn great!” she told reporters. “Our victory cannot be attributed simply to gay people and the HRP ‘core’. I think people really understood the difference between actions and words.” Meanwhile, Kozachenko’s opponent, Mary Richman, gave what was perhaps the most unlikely concession speech in the history of American politics: “Apparently all the Republicans voted for Kathy.” In fact, Kozachenko may have been helped by a successful HRP-sponsored ballot initiative which proved popular with UM students: the so-called “dope ordinance” which reduced the fine for possession of marijuana to $5.
► First Gay Couples Marry in Netherlands: 2001. In 1998, the Netherlands became the first non-Scandinavian country to institute registered partnerships (geregistreerd partnerschap). That law was written so that opposite-sex couples could also enter into registered partnerships, making it a viable alternative to marriage for straight people while, at the same time, being the only option available for gay couples. That changed in April 1, 2001, when the Netherlands became the first country in the world to grant marriage equality to same-sex couples. At the stroke of midnight, four couples — three male and one female — were among the first to be pronounced legal spouses in ceremonies at Amsterdam City Hall.
► 120 YEARS AGO: Alberta Hunter: 1895-1984. Born in Memphis to a very troubled family, she left home at the age of fourteen, moved to Chicago, lied about her age, and became one of Chicago’s top Blues singers in the 1910s and 1920s. She toured London and Paris in 1917, and appeared in clubs and musicals in New York and London throughout the 1920s and 1930s, including an appearance as “Queenie” in the first London production of Show Boat with Paul Robeson. In 1934, she was a regular with the Jack Jackson orchestra at London’s Dorchester Hotel. With the outbreak of World War II, she returned to America and toured with the U.S.O, entertaining troops in Casablanca, Europe and the Pacific.
Hunter was fiercely independent, which prompted rumors about her sexuality. To silence the rumors, she married in 1919, but the couple never slept together and the divorced in 1923. She had a long-term relationship with Lottie Tyler, a woman from New York that Hunter had met in Chicago. Tyler accompanied Hunter on at least one trip to Europe.
Hunter’s mother death in 1954 caused her to reconsider her priorities. “I went as far as you could go. I played Broadway. I played the Royal Theatre in London. I played in Paris… and I figured I had gone to the top,” she later told a documentary filmmaker.” A career change was in order. So she took twelve years off her age, created a false high school diploma, and enrolled in nursing school in New York City. She was, by all accounts, a dedicated nurse for the next twenty years. None of her co-workers suspected that they were working alongside a singer who had been celebrated on two continents. In 1961, she broke her eleven-year vow to stay away from show business when she agreed to record her signature composition, “Down Hearted Blues,” and a few other songs for a couple of albums. She enjoyed the diversion, but decided to stick with nursing. She remained at New York’s Goldwater Memorial Hospital until 1977, when she reached, according to their records anyway, the mandatory retirement age of seventy. (She was, in fact, eighty two.)
Bored, she decided to launch a comeback. In 1978, she was booked for what was supposed to be a two-week engagement at a Greenwich Village club, the Cookery, which quickly turned out to be a huge hit. Columbia Records gave her another recording contract. She released two albums, supervised the re-release of her old material, made television appearances and began touring again in Europe and South America. The White House invited her to perform for Jimmy Carter, but she refused because “they wanted me there on my day off.” The White House adjusted its schedule and she accepted the invite. She continued to perform regularly at the Cookery until she died in October, 1984. She was inducted in the Blues Hall of Fame in 2011.
Here she is, in 1981, performing “Nobody Knows You When Your Down and Out” at the Cookery.
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Gov. Pence Calls For Changes In Indiana’s Right-To-Discriminate Law
March 31st, 2015
This is what Indiana Gov. Mike Spence woke up to this morning: A a rare front-page editorial in the Indianapolis Star demanding that Pence and the state legislature “stop clinging to arguments about whether RFRA really does what critics fear; to stop clinging to ideology or personal preferences; to focus instead on fixing this.” Pence responded to that and other criticisms from business leaders around the country with a news conference today in which he 1) blamed his critics for spreading ” misunderstanding and confusion and mischaracterization” (while spreading a different kind of misunderstanding and mischaracterization himself; more on that in a moment), and 2) called for the legislature to implement unspecified “clarifications” to the law.
What those clarifications might be is anyone’s guess, and caution is in order. After all, the devil is always in the details, as Pence well knows as he mischaracterizes the very law he signed last Thursday. In this morning’s news conference, Pence doubled down on the claim that the law was nothing more than a state law mirroring the federal RFRA signed by President Clinton in 1993. Of course, the law’s supporters have already revealed the differences, as Rob Tisinai pointed out yesterday. Today, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who is likely to become the next Senate Minority Leader, and who co-wrote the federal RFRA with Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), blasted Pence’s mischaracterization on Facebook:
In the uproar over the recently passed Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), defenders of the bill like Indiana Gov. Pence are trying to hide behind the argument that the law “simply mirrors” the federal RFRA Sen. Ted Kennedy wrote and I introduced as a Congressman in 1993. That may be true only if you’re using a Funhouse mirror. In reality, it is completely false, and a disingenuous argument to boot; they should cease and desist immediately comparing the federal RFRA of 1993 to their present, misguided law.
There are two simple reasons the comparison does not hold water.
First, the federal RFRA was written narrowly to protect individuals’ religious freedom from government interference unless the government or state had a compelling interest. If ever there was a compelling state interest, it is to prevent discrimination. The federal law was not contemplated to, has never been, and could never be used to justify discrimination against gays and lesbians, in the name of religious freedom or anything else.
Second, the federal RFRA was written to protect individuals’ interests from government interference, but the Indiana RFRA protects private companies and corporations. When a person or company enters the marketplace, they are doing so voluntarily, and the federal RFRA was never intended to apply to them as it would to private individuals.
Because of these significant, legal differences, the Indiana RFRA in no way resembles the intent or application of the federal RFRA. As the signer of the bill, Governor Pence should put a stop to it immediately.
Garrett Epps at the Atlantic describes a key event which led Indiana to add private companies and corporations in its law:
The new Indiana statute also contains this odd language: “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.” (My italics.) Neither the federal RFRA, nor 18 of the 19 state statutes cited by the Post, says anything like this; only the Texas RFRA, passed in 1999, contains similar language.
What these words mean is, first, that the Indiana statute explicitly recognizes that a for-profit corporation has “free exercise” rights matching those of individuals or churches. A lot of legal thinkers thought that idea was outlandish until last year’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, in which the Court’s five conservatives interpreted the federal RFRA to give some corporate employers a religious veto over their employees’ statutory right to contraceptive coverage.
Second, the Indiana statute explicitly makes a business’s “free exercise” right a defense against a private lawsuit by another person, rather than simply against actions brought by government. Why does this matter? Well, there’s a lot of evidence that the new wave of “religious freedom” legislation was impelled, at least in part, by a panic over a New Mexico state-court decision, Elane Photography v. Willock. In that case, a same-sex couple sued a professional photography studio that refused to photograph the couple’s wedding. New Mexico law bars discrimination in “public accommodations” on the basis of sexual orientation. The studio said that New Mexico’s RFRA nonetheless barred the suit; but the state’s Supreme Court held that the RFRA did not apply “because the government is not a party.”
Remarkably enough, soon after, language found its way into the Indiana statute to make sure that no Indiana court could ever make a similar decision. Democrats also offered the Republican legislative majority a chance to amend the new act to say that it did not permit businesses to discriminate; they voted that amendment down.
Pence nevertheless held firm in this morning’s news conference that the problem wasn’t with the law itself, but with “perception”:
But the governor, clearly exasperated and sighing audibly in response to questions, seemed concerned mostly with defending the law and the intent behind it, saying, “We’ve got a perception problem,” not one of substance. He referred to “gross mischaracterizations,” “reckless reporting by some in the media,” “completely false and baseless” accounts of the law, and “the smear that’s been leveled against this law and against the people of Indiana.”
“If this law had been about discrimination, I would have vetoed it,” he said. “I don’t believe for a minute that it was the intention of the General Assembly to create a license to discriminate, or a right to deny services to gays, lesbians or anyone else in this state, and that was not my intent, but I appreciate that that’s become the perception.”
Pence blames “reckless reporting,” but that “perception,” as he puts it, is largely attributable to two things: the text of the law itself, and Pence’s refusal four times to answer a straight up yes/no question on Sunday about whether an Indiana business can safely discriminate against a gay customer under the new law. And if he didn’t think it was about discrimination, then he didn’t pay much attention to the debate in the state legislature leading up to the votes, nor did he happen to notice those who stood behind him as his signed the bill into law. The Governor’s office refused to identify the people attending the private signing ceremony, but GLAAD did some of that work for them.
But when you get past his self-serving complaints today, Pence has appeared to have backed down. The Washington Post’s Paul Waldman calls that a “significant victory” for gay Hoosiers:
But the pressure Pence got from people both within Indiana and around the country has essentially forced him to be true to his word. Up until now, Pence has been saying that the law was not intended to give businesses in Indiana the right to discriminate against gay people. Now he’s saying that he wants to put that explicitly within the law itself. That’s a huge win for gay people who don’t want to be discriminated against, and makes it more likely that the next state that passes a law like this one — and there are similar bills pending in multiple states — will include a similar clarification.
Not only that, Pence went so far as to say, “No one should be harassed or mistreated because of who they are, who they love or what they believe. I believe it with all my heart.” The “who they love” part is not the kind of language one usually hears about LGBT people from Republicans, particularly those as conservative as Pence.
For me though, the devil will still be in the details. It’s unclear how Pence and the GOP-controlled legislature will “fix this thing” while holding to their vow not to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s anti-discrimination laws. When asked about that this morning, Pence replied, “I’ve never supported that, and I want to be clear, it’s not on my agenda. I think it’s a completely separate question.”
Despite (or perhaps, because of) the controversy, Pence enjoys powerful support within the Republican party. A rash of potential (and one declared) presidential candidates have already strongly defended Indiana’s RFRA in its current form, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, March 31
March 31st, 2015
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
TODAY IN HISTORY:
► Off-Duty SF Police Officers Assault Lesbian Bar: 1979. A group of burly young men, most of them drunk, had gotten off a streetcar at 11th Avenue and Gear in San Francisco’s Richmond neighborhood. They were loud and obnoxious, some of them were carrying open beer containers — itself an illegal act. Alene Levine, who was working the door at Peg’s Place, saw that they were already drunk and carrying open containers, and blocked their way into the bar. As them men milled about outside talking about about “getting the dykes,” Levine noticed that two women were at the door and were trying to get in. Fearing for their safety, Levine let them in, and the men pushed their way in. Other bar employees and patrons met them at the door and an argument broke out, which quickly escalating in shouting and pushing. When one of the women threatened to call the cops, the guy doing the pushing responded, “We’re the cops, and we’ll do as we damn please.”
In fact, the men, who were out celebrating a bachelor party for their friend, included San Francisco off-duty officers. A general melee broke out as patrons rushed to defend the door, armed with pool cues. One officer beat bar owner Erlinda Symaco so badly she was hospitalized for ten days due to severe head injuries. A police lieutenant arrived, and promptly began investigating — the bar, carefully checking all of the bar’s licenses and permits, and accusing the bartender of being drunk.
The lieutenant refused to believe that his officers could be at fault, and he refused to take any statements from witnesses in the bar. But in fact, the officers’ actions were part of a much larger trend. Police had been hassling, and sometimes beating and/or arresting customers as they tried to enter gay bars. In January, police officers assaulted and arrested two women as they left a lesbian bar in the Mission. To make matters worse, they were strip searched at the jail. Mary L. Spencer, president of the San Francisco chapter of the National Organization of Women, called the Peg’s Place incident part of “a repetitious pattern of abuse, brutalitv and harassment by the San Francisco Police Department of women and of the racial and ethnic minorities of this City.”
The Peg’s Place assaults quickly became a major story in the local press, and gay leaders pressed Mayor Dianne Feinstein to address the growing problems. Their frustration grew as Feinstein waited two full weeks before issuing a statement calling for the prosecution of the policemen involved. One of the officers was eventually charged, tried, and convicted of battery. He was sentenced to three years’ probation and fined $1,000. But the problems continued to fester. Resentments in the gay community grew as police harassment continued without letup. Anger finally boiled over less than two months later, when former city Supervisor Dan White was sentenced to a paltry seven years for shooting San Francisco Supervisor and LGBT advocate Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. Gays rioted at City Hall and police rioted in the Castro, in what became known as the “White Night Riots” (see May 21).
► Coretta Scott King: “Homophobia Is Like Racism and Anti-Semitism”: 1998. Lambda Legal was celebrating its 25th anniversary at a gathering in Chicago’s Palmer House Hilton. Coretta Scott-King, widow of civil rights icon the Rev. Dr, Martin Luther King, Jr., was there to help celebrate Lambda Legal’s achievements. Speaking just four days before the thirtieth anniversary of her husband’s assassination, noted that the civil rights movement “thrives on unity and inclusion, not division and exclusion,” and said that her husband’s struggles were similar to hose of the gay rights movement:
For many years now, I have been an outspoken supporter of civil and human rights for gay and lesbian people. … I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people, and I should stick to the issue of racial justice. But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream to make room at the table of brother- and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people.
Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood. This sets the stage for further repression and violence, that spreads all too easily to victimize the next minority group.
Gays and lesbians stood up for civil rights in Montgomery, Selma, in Albany, Georgia, and St. Augustine, Florida, and many other campaigns of the civil rights movement. Many of these courageous men and women were fighting for my freedom at a time when they could find few voices for their own, and I salute their contributions.
► Sergei Diaghilev: 1872-1929. The Russian-born art patron and connoisseur forever changed the world of modern ballet when he founded the revolutionary Ballets Russes in Paris in 1909. Three years earlier, Diaghilev had mounted a major exhibition of Russian art in Paris, which he followed with a series of concerts of Russian music and a production of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov at the Paris Opéra. When he returned to Paris again in 1909 with a troupe of dancers led by his lover, Vaslav Nijinsky, they performed all new works with innovative set designs and choreography. His four-week run was a smashing success.
In subsequent years, Ballets Russes became known for breaking all of the rules. The violently sexual Scheherazade, based on a symphonic poem by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, so outraged the composer’s widow that she protested in open letters which Diaghilev published. His debut of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring in 1913, with its insistent rhythms and dissonant score and the highly unconventional choreography set off a riot in the theater on opening night. Diaghilev was delighted at the controversy, telling Stravinsky that it was “exactly what I wanted.”
Ballets Russes collaborated with wide-ranging artists as composers Claude Debussy, Sergei Prokofiev, Richard Strauss and Erik Satie, and artists Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró, Georges Braque, Georges Rouault, and Max Ernst as designers. It also launched the careers of George Balanchine, Ninette de Valois, and Serge Lifar.
Diaghilev was always very open about his homosexuality. It’s largely the reason he abandoned pre-revolutionary St. Petersburg for the more permissive climes of Paris. Composer Nicolas Nabokov said, “he was perhaps the first grand homosexual who asserted himself and was accepted as such by society.” He was also a very passionate man in everything he did. Diaghilev’s affair with Nijinsky was perhaps the most famous gay affair in Europe until Nijinsky married in 1913. Diaghilev promptly fired him. Diaghilev then turned to Léonide Massine, who he coached into becoming a great dancer and one of the more important choreographers of the century. They were together until Massine married in 1920. Diaghilev promptly fire him also.
While Ballets Russes was both a critical and artistic success, it was never a financial one. Diaghilev barely kept the company afloat, and it never found a permanent home any time in its two decade existence. When he died in Venice of diabetes in 1929, his friend had to pay the hotel bill. Ballet Russes folded upon Diaghilev’s death.
► Richard Chamberlain: 1934. He first became famous in 1961 as the handsome young intern, Dr. Kildare, in the television series of the same name, a role that lasted until the series ended in 1966. From there, he became involved in repertory theater and film roles which had a more literary bent: The Tree Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Music Lovers, and The Lady Carline Lamb (his 1974 appearance in The Towering Inferno being a notable departure.) He returned to television in the 1970s in several popular miniseries, including Centennial, Shōgun, and The Thorn Birds as Father Ralph de Bricassart. He lived in Hawaii with his partner, Martin Rabbett, from 1976 to 2010; and it was during that time that he was outed by a French women’s magazine in 1989. While that outing didn’t really stick very well with the general public, it didn’t surprise many people when Chamberlain finally and officially came out in 2003 in his autobiography Shattered Love. In 2010, he advised actors who sought leading-man roles to remain in the closet. “Despite all the wonderful advances that have been made, its still dangerous for an actor to talk about that in our extremely misguided culture. Look at what happened in California with Proposition 8. Please, don’t pretend that we’re suddenly all wonderfully, blissfully accepted.”
► 75 YEARS AGO: Barney Frank: 1940. He represented Massachusetts’s 4th Congressional district from 1981 until his retirement in 2012, and he did so as an openly gay representative since 1987. When he came out to The Advocate that year, he became the first member of Congress to do so voluntarily. He recalled that when Rep. Stewart McKinney of Connecticut died of complications from AIDS (McKinney’s physician claimed that McKinney became infected from a blood transfusion, but many didn’t believe it.), there was “an unfortunate debate about ‘Was he or wasn’t he? Didn’t he or did he?’ I said to myself, I don’t want that to happen to me.” After coming out, Frank easily won re-election in 1988 and in just about every election since then.
He earned a reputation for being one of the House’s quickest wits, saying, for example, that he was unable to finish reading the Starr Report about President Bill Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky because it was “too much reading about heterosexual sex.” In 2006, Rep. John Ostettler (R-IN) accused Frank of pushing a “radical homosexual agenda.” Frank responded to that charge by point out, “I do not think that any self-respecting radical in history would have considered advocating people’s rights to get married, join the army, and earn a living as a terribly inspiring revolutionary platform.” He married his partner, Jim Ready, in July of 2012, making Frank the first gay-married Congressman in history. He retired from politics on January 1, 2013, and released his memoir Frank earlier this month.
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Supporters (accidentally) reveal why the Indiana law is different
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
March 30th, 2015
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
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.
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.]
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The Daily Agenda for Sunday, March 29
March 29th, 2015
Other Events This Weekend: Los Angeles Leather Pride, Los Angeles, CA.
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
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.]
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The Daily Agenda for Saturday, March 28
March 28th, 2015
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
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.
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.]
► 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.
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
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
March 27th, 2015
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
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.
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 3, Aug 11, Aug 12, Aug 13 (twice that day), Aug 14, Aug 15, Aug 16, Aug 26, Aug 31, Sep 1, Sep 2, Sep 7, Sep 15, Sep 19, Oct 6, Oct 20, Nov 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.]
► 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.
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.
This your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?
The Daily Agenda for Thursday, March 26
March 26th, 2015
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
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.
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.
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.
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.
► 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.
This your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?
The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, March 25
March 25th, 2015
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
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.
► 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.”
► 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.
This your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?
The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, March 24
March 24th, 2015
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
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.
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.
► 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.
► 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.
This your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?