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Posts for May, 2016

I Didn’t Say WHEN In May…

Jim Burroway

May 2nd, 2016

…although I had meant for it to be the first of May. (In fact, Timothy went ahead and gave it a start.) I did manage to get most of the database repaired, although a number of comments will likely remained somewhat messed up for quite a while.

But last Saturday, my partner Chris got off the phone with his mother and was very worried about her. She’s 79, and has been laid up with a broken kneecap since last October. Both of my in-laws are very active, so for her to be essentially homebound has been especially hard. And last Saturday, she had reached her breaking point and had essentially given up hope of ever walking again. So we tossed some clothes into the car, dropped the dog off at the kennel, and on Monday headed to Abilene, Texas, arriving two days later just in time to see her hobbling not just using a walker but with a cane, albeit still somewhat unsteady. It appears that her rehab breakthrough occurred that Monday. By Friday, we got her out of the house and enjoying a nice dinner at Red Lobster, something that she had been craving for months.

So that’s the (very) good news. We are now working our way back to Tucson. After that, I still have more work to do to get this website back to full functionality. There are still problems going on with the back-end, and I have some other revisions I want to make in order to get Facebook working once and for all. I’m targeting Sunday May 15 to get everything put back together again. Until then, we will be doing some occasional posting here and there, but the Daily agenda won’t make its re-appearance until I can get the rest of the web site back up and running. I appreciate your patience, apologize for the interruption, and invite you to stick around for what I hope will be an even better BTB.

See You In May

Jim Burroway

April 13th, 2016

We’ve lost about 48 hours of updates to the web site (which is not much of a loss at this point) due to an errant WordPress plug-in and a not-entirely successful restore from a back-up.

So here’s the deal. I currently have a general overall refurbishment in work to fix some of the longstanding problems we’ve been having here. Until then, I will go ahead and suspend any further updates, which lately have been limited to minor updates to the Daily Agenda. I’m going to give myself a May 1 deadline to get the site back up and fully functioning. At that point, I also hope to resume more-or-less full-time blogging on a refreshed blog. See you then.

The Daily Agenda from Monday, April 11

Jim Burroway

April 11th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From This Week In Texas, March 13, 1981, page 100. (Source.)

From This Week In Texas, March 13, 1981, page 100. (Source.)

TODAY IN HISTORY:
ūüĒó First Mattachine Constitutional Convention: 1953. The Mattachine Foundation, founded in Los Angeles in 1950, was the brain child of Harry Hay (see Apr 7), Dale Jennings (see Oct 21), Chuck Rowland (see Aug 24), and Bob Hull (see May 31),¬† all of whom felt that the time was right to¬†push for gay rights. Rowland later commented, “We had just won the war. We had rid the world of fascism, except in Spain. We came back and we were going to save the world.” Idealism came naturally to Rowland, Hay and Hull: they had earlier been members of the Communist Party.

When they formed the Mattachine Foundation, one of their chief concerns was secrecy. The Lavender Scare was just getting underway in American, and the group feared that if one member was picked up by the FBI and interrogated, he might reveal the names of other members of the Foundation. To alleviate those concerns, they decided to borrow a secretive membership structure from American Communists, with Freemasonry providing the inspiration for a series of “orders.” The founding members were anonymous members of the Fifth Order, and¬†members in lower orders were in charge of local chapters (the first orders), and with all of them¬†remaining anonymous through the use of pseudonyms. Once the organization structure was set, they then set about articulating the Foundation’s goals: educating the public about homosexuality, advocating for tolerance, and engaging in “political advocacy,” which presumably meant challenging the anti-sodomy laws which were then in force in all fifty states.

The Mattachine Foundation first became known to general public following Dale Jennings’s 1952 arrest in an LAPD entrapment operation (see Jun 23). Hays and Jennings decided to fight the charges, with¬†Jennings admitting in open court that he was a homosexual — a very daring move — but insisting that he was innocent of the particular charges against him. The jury deadlocked and the charges ended up being dropped.

This court victory was¬†a massive public relations coup for Mattachine. Suddenly new members were joining in droves and creating new discussion groups all across California.¬†By 1953, it was estimated that membership stood at more than 2,000 with as many as 100 joining a single discussion group. This exponential growth diversified the group considerably, attracting more women to the discussion groups and drawing in those from a much broader political spectrum, many of whom didn’t share the radical vision of Mattachine’s founders. Some worried that the group wouldn’t be able to withstand an investigation by a Senate committee if some of the founders’ former Communist ties were made public. Others feared that including an explicit call for gay equality as part of its mission would endanger the security of the group’s members. That concern was amplified in March 1953 when Los Angeles Mirror columnist Paul Coates obtained copies of the Mattachine’s lobbying questionnaires, and published an article questioning the group’s legitimacy and charging that its members were “bad security risks.”

New members from Northern California were among the most vocal about their misgivings over the “radical” aims of the Mattachine Foundation, as well as the secretive nature of its leadership. Hal Call (see Sep 20), who joined the group in Berkeley, was especially concerned. “We wanted to see Mattachine grow and spread, and we didn’t think that this could be done as long as Mattachine was a secret organization.” But before the group went public, it had some housecleaning to do. “We wanted to make sure that we didn’t have a single person in our midst who could be revealed as a Communist and disgrace us all.” The Mattachine’s founders “had to go. Mattachine had to be free of Communists.”

It all came to a head in April 1953, during the first constitutional convention to re-organize the Mattachine Foundation. Rowland delivered a speech which lifted the veil of secrecy of the group’s leadership. “You will want to know something about the beginnings of the Mattachine Society, how the Fifth Order happened to be. … I think it is reasonable that you should ask this and important that you understand it,” he said. He then introduced five of the founding members to the rank-and-file.

The meeting broke down into an ideological battle between two distinctive camps. The first camp was represented by most of the founding members who had set up the secret society. Hay, Rowland and Hull advocated a view that homosexuals were a unique minority, and,¬†as with other minorities, they were possessed with special qualities and a unique culture. The opposing camp, made up of Call, Kenneth Burns, Don Lucas, David Finn, and others, countered that homosexuals were no different from any other American except for their sexuality. Dale Jennings, while a founding member,¬†would have been sympathetic with this group’s philosophy if he hadn’t already left Mattachine to join the fledgling ONE magazine (see Oct 15). He had long argued that the task for the group wasn’t homosexual emancipation, but sexual freedom for everyone. This second camp also feared an FBI investigation, and for good reason. Finn and Lucas were already acting as informants for the FBI and the police, and they were desperately trying to convince the FBI that Mattachine posed no danger to national security.

With the group unable to come to an agreement, the first attempt at a constitutional convention broke down and a second meeting was called for May. At that meeting, Mattachine’s founders grew tired of the argument and resigned. The remaining members then declared the work of the Mattachine Foundation completed and disbanded the organization, replacing it with a new one to be known as the Mattachine Society. Leadership then passed to a new group led by Call and Burns, who called for another general meeting in November to establish a new constitution¬†which would¬†open up the group to greater transparency, while also setting the group on a much¬†less confrontational path.

[Sources: Douglas M. Charles “From subversion to obscenity: The FBI’s investigations of the early homophile movement in the United States, 1953-1958.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 19, no. 2 (May 2010): 262-287.

Martin Meeker. “Behind the mask of respectability: Reconsidering the Mattachine Society and male homophile practice, 1950s and 1960s.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 10, no. 1 (January 2001): 78-116.]

Waco, Texas, in the 1950s.

Waco, Texas, in the 1950s.

🔗¬†Sixty-Three Arrested in Waco: 1953. The United Press reported that:

A well-planned raid early Sunday morning broke up a statewide “homosexual convention” while a mock wedding was in progress, police reported Monday. Detective Capt. Wiley Stem said 63 men, mostly ranging in ages from 24 to 33 were arrested in the raid of a two-room private residence in South Waco.

Fifteen detectives, a Texas Ranger, and a district attorney working with information furnished by undercover agents, closed in on the small house as the “bride” and “groom” were going through the mock ceremony before 60 invited guests. Police said some of the “guests” had come from as far away as New York, Virginia and California.

Other “guests” were registered from Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Houston, Fort Hood, and Connally Air Force Base just north of Waco. Police said all had received “invitations” to the affair.

The Associated Press put the number arrested at 64. One guest from Ft. Worth was charged with possession of marijuana, and others were charged with vagrancy — they posted $25 bonds (that’s about $220 in today’s money) and were released. All in all, it hardly seems to justify the expense of a reported three-month investigation by fifteen officers and undercover agents. But it apparently was quite spectacular when stacked up against the ordinary goings on in Waco. The AP described “Wigs, women’s dresses, high heeled shoes and corsets were stacked on a table in the detective’s office after the raid… ‘In 30 years of policing I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Police Lt. Bob Van Wie.”

Postscript: Exactly one month later on May 11, Waco would be devastated by one of thirty-three confirmed tornados that broke out across the great plans over a three day period. Waco was hit by the deadliest of them all: Of the 144 deaths from all of the storms, 114 died in Waco alone.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

The Daily Agenda for Sunday, April 10

Jim Burroway

April 10th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From This Week In Texas, April 10, 1981, page 79. (Source.)

From This Week In Texas, April 10, 1981, page 79. (Source.)

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
¬†James Ogilvy, 7th Earl of Findlater, 4th Earl of Seafield: 1750-1811. The Scottish peer and landscape architect is known for his lavish British landscape garden designs in mainland Europe, where he spent most of his life. Some say he was exiled to Europe, but others say it was voluntary. In either case, the cause of his exile appears to be related to his homosexuality which, while a capital offense in Britain, was somewhat more tolerated on the mainland as long as things were kept discreet. And besides, they did like his gardens, particularly in Carlsbad, Bohemia, where he became a major patron of the city’s charities and parklands. Findlater trail is still well-used today.

In 1803, Findlater’s private secretary, Johan Georg Fischer purchased Helfenberg Manor near Dresden on Findlater’s behalf. Its lands gave Findlater yet another opportunity to create a garden of considerable¬†renown. Findlater died in 1811, and his will named Fischler his sole heir. Findlater’s family in Scotland contested the will on the grounds that it was made “for a base cause,” suggesting an unspecified immorality between the two. The lawsuit created a huge scandal, but Findlater’s relatives were partly successful, having been awarded Findlater’s lands and estate in Scotland. Fisher remained at the estate in Dresden until his own death in 1860, when he was buried alongside Findlater at the Loschwitz parish church.

¬†Frances Perkins: 1880-1965. There’s little doubt that Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal forever changed America, mostly for the better. But what isn’t well known is that the individual responsible for the lion’s share of the New Deal’s enduring legacy was Frances Perkins, who, as Secretary of Labor, already made history by becoming the first woman cabinet secretary barely thirteen years after the Nineteenth Amendment guaranteed women the right to vote. Lesser-known still was the fact that by being a woman, Perkins broke an important code in Washington society, one in which a Cabinet secretary was expected to guests to his home with his wife playing the role of gracious host, which entailed a lot of planning, coordinating, preparations, etc. Perkins, having no wife, could not be expected to perform all of those functions while also still put in a full day’s work as Labor Secretary. Perkins’s husband was of no use; he was permanently sidelined with debilitating mental illness. But her special friend, railroad heiress Mary Harriman Rumsey, came to the rescue, with a finely-appointed Georgetown home which the two shared, and where the consummate power-couple hosted dinner parties said to include Eleanor Roosevelt, Will Rogers, Margaret Bourke-White, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, and unknown Appalachian folk singers.

Perkins became interested in labor issues while in New York, where she personally witnessed the tragic Triangle Shirt Factory Fire of 1911. The fire killed 147 young men and women, mostly seamstresses, who were unable to escape because the owner locked the exists for fear that feared theft from his employees. Perkins joined a commission that investigated the fire and recommended changes to the state’s labor laws. She then served in several labor-related commissions in state government under Gov. Alfred Smith. When Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected governor in 1929, Perkins served as his first State Commissioner of Labor. It would only be natural, then, that Perkins would follow him to Washington as his Labor Secretary when FDR was elected President.

Frances Perkins on the cover of Time, Aug 14, 1933.

When Perkins arrived in D.C., she was brimming with ideas. She saw hundreds of thousands of productive, employable people who were out of work, and she came up with an unemployment insurance fund which would be paid into during good years and drawn from in bad. She saw the elderly, no longer able to work, being thrown out of their homes after draining their life savings, and thought that there ought to be some kind of a social security that could protect them. She saw companies hiring children instead of adults to cut costs, children who should be in school and not supporting their families, and argued that child labor laws were needed. And with FDR’s backing, she set about putting those ideas into action.

Perkins’s most enduring legacy, Social Security, came about during a particularly trying¬†time. While struggling to meet a Christmas 1934 deadline for her committee to complete its work designing the system, Rumsey died on December 19 from complications from a fall from a horse. Amid the intense political pressure of designing a brand-new federal program, Perkins also¬†was mourning Rumsey’s death, quietly and alone. And so on the very same week Rumsey died, Perkins called the committee members to her home — a home she would soon lose because only Rumsey could afford the rent — sat a bottle of Scotch on the table, and announced that no one would leave that night until the work was done.

As Labor Secretary,¬†Perkins oversaw the creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Federal Works Agency. She established the minimum wage and the forty-hour work week through the Fair Labor Standards Act. Perkins remained Labor Secretary for all four terms of FDR’s presidency. In 1945, President Harry Truman asked her to serve in the Civil Service Commission, a post that she held until 1952 when her husband finally died. After her career in government service, she taught at Cornell until her death in 1965 at the age of 85.

Perkins’ parents were Maine natives, and that’s where she was buried. It’s also where an eleven-panel mural celebrating labor throughout history — including colonial shoe cobblers, lumberjacks, “Rosie the Riveter, striking paper mill workers, and Frances Perkins in a conversation with a family — was on display at Maine’s Department of Labor. In 2011, Maine’s tea-party governor, Paul LePage, ordered the mural’s removal. His spokesman claimed that the mural was reminiscent of “communist North Korea where they use these murals to brainwash the masses.” LePage also ordered the re-naming of seven conference rooms, including one originally named for Perkins.

[Source: Kirsten Downey. The Woman Behind the New Deal: The Life and Legacy of Frances Perkins, Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, (New York: Anchor Books, 2010)]

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, April 9

Jim Burroway

April 9th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Vector (San Francisco, CA), April 1972, page 9.

From Vector (San Francisco, CA), April 1972, page 9.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
 Freud’s Letter to a Concerned Mother: 1935. At the turn of the twentieth century, the most common opinion about homosexuality among psychiatrists was that it was the result of natural degeneracy, which was a kind of a theory of evolution in reverse (for more detailed descriptions of Degeneracy Theory, see Aug 16Sep 9, or Oct 26). But Sigmund Freud challenged that prevailing theory early in his career. In his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, Freud argued that if degeneracy theory were a valid explanation, it would mean that gay people who have to exhibit not many different behaviors from the norm, but their “efficient functioning” would have to be limited as well. Freud however found gay men and women who exhibited no other behavioral problems, and rather than exhibit unimpaired functioning but many were “indeed distinguished by specially high intellectual development and ethical culture.” If gay people were truly the product of degeneracy, none of his observations would make sense.

In 1935, Freud outlined some of these beliefs again in a letter which is often described as being to “an American mother” The letter has been so described perhaps because it was sent anonymously to the American sexologist Dr. Alfred Kinsey from “a grateful mother.” We don’t actually know who that mother was. Kinsey, in turn, shared it with the American Journal of Psychiatry, where it appeared in the April 1951 edition. The handwritten letter reads as follows:

April 9th, 1935.

Dear Mrs. ——

I gather from your letter that your son is a homosexual. I am most impressed by the fact that you do not mention this term yourself in your information about him. May I question you, why you avoid it? Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation, it cannot be classified as an illness; we consider it to be a variation of the sexual function produced by a certain arrest of sexual development. Many highly respectable individuals of ancient and modern times have been homosexuals, several of the greatest men among them. (Plato, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, etc.) It is a great injustice to persecute homosexuality as a crime and cruelty too. If you do not believe me, read the books of Havelock Ellis.

By asking me if I can help, you mean, I suppose, if I can abolish homosexuality and make normal heterosexuality take its place. The answer is, in a general way, we cannot promise to achieve it. In a certain number of cases we succeed in developing the blighted germs of heterosexual tendencies which are present in every homosexual, in the majority of cases it is no more possible. It is a question of the quality and the age of the individual. The result of treatment cannot be predicted.

What analysis can do for your son runs in a different line. If he is unhappy, neurotic, torn by conflicts, inhibited in his social life, analysis may bring him harmony, peace of mind, full efficiency, whether he remains a homosexual or gets changed. If you make up your mind he should have analysis with me — I don’t expect you will –, he has to come over to Vienna. I have no intention of leaving here. However, don’t neglect to give me your answer.

Sincerely yours with kind wishes,
Freud.

P. S. I did not find it difficult to read your handwriting. Hope you will not find my writing and my English a harder task.

It would take another four decades before the American Psychiatric Association would finally catch up with Freud’s finding that homosexuality “cannot be classified as an illness.”

[Sources: Sigmund Freud. Three Essays On The Theory Of Sexuality. Translated and edited by James Strachey. (New York: Basic Books, 2000): 4-5.

Sigmund Freud. “Letter (to an American mother, 1935)” American Journal of Psychiatry 107, no. 10 (April 1951): 786-787.]

Piccadilly Circus in London's West End, 1959.

Piccadilly Circus in London’s West End, 1959.

 Daily Express Calls for Homosexual Purge from London’s Theaters: 1959. Under the ownership of Canadian-born Max Aitken (who, in 1917, became the first Lord Beaverbrook when he was granted a peerage), London’s Daily Express had long enjoyed a reputation for both forming and reflecting the prejudices and outrages of its conservative and working class readers. Following World War II, the Express newspapers enjoyed the world’s largest circulation and Beaverbrook was known as “the first Baron of Fleet Street.” In 1959, author and historian John Deane Potter took to the pages of the Daily Express to warn its readers about a terrible menace in London’s theater district:

I read with dismay the news yesterday that a 31-year-old South African called John Cranko was fined £10 at Marlborough-street police court.

It was not the fine. It was the man and the offence. Because he pleaded guilty to a crime which has become known as the West Side vice.

Cranko is the latest on the list of famous stage names who have been found guilty of this squalid behaviour. He is a talented man of the theatre. He was the co-author of the spectacularly successful review “Cranks.”

The private lives of people, whether they are a brilliant ballet designer and author like Cranko, or an ordinary office worker on the 6.15, should, according to the Wolfenden Report, be their own business. But this question is public business.

It has become a sour commonplace in the West End theatre that unless you are a member of an unpleasant freemasonry your chances of success are often lessened.

For the theatre is far too full of people belonging to a secret brotherhood.

Most of them are not tortured misfits. They do not want psychiatric treatment or cures.

They live complacently in their own remote world, with its shrill enthusiasms.

But they are evil. For two reasons.

One is their PERSONAL POWER.

Corruption is an outmoded word that used to be thundered with hellfire vigour from Victorian pulpits. Now this West End weakness is the subject of sophisticated wit.

Their chi-chi world may seem remote from the normal theatregoer. Except for this.

If your son wants to go on the stage — what will his future be? It is a shivering thought.

So many talented young men have said to me: “It is no good in the theatre unless you are camp. You must be queer to get on.”

Those are just two expressions from the cryptic slang they use to describe the social disease from which they suffer.

The boy, whatever his talents, may become bitter and frustrated.

Or worse. He does not have to travel far along the corridors of the West End back-stage to meet the smooth, unspoken. proposition. He may, through ambition, try to play along with it. And, make no mistake, many of these men take pleasure in corrupting the young.

Danger number two is their PROFESSIONAL POWER.

Some of the stuff they produce is beautiful, witty, and clever. But too often they try to foist upon the public a false set of values.

What is often received with trills of praise by the closed West End set remains puzzling to the formal mind of the average theatregoer who is unaware of the lace-like intricacies of the decor or the obscure oddities of the plot.

And the theatre has an expensive flop on its hands.

No one likes to indulge in a Jehovah-like loftiness about other people’s lives.

But I repeat: these are evil men. They have spun their web through the West End today until it is a simmering scandal.

I say they should be driven from their positions of theatrical power.

[Source: John Deane Potter. “Isn’t It About Time Someone Said This… Plainly and Frankly”  The (London) Daily Express (April 9, 1959). As reprinted in The Mattachine Review 5, no. 6 (June 1959): 21.]

apa_logo

 APA Membership Affirms Decision To Remove Homosexuality From DSM-II: 1974. When the American Psychiatric Association’s board of trustees ratified the Nomenclature Committee’s recommendation to remove homosexuality from the second edition of the Diagnostics and Statistics Manual (DSM-II, the APA’s official list of mental disorders — see Dec 15), the faction within the APA opposing the move, led by Charles Socarides, vowed to overturn the board’s decision and return the nation’s gays and lesbians to the ranks of the mentally ill. Socarides’s Ad Hoc Committee Against the Deletion of Homosexuality from DSM-II moved quickly to put the board’s decision to a vote of the membership. This demand was most remarkable: having lost the scientific argument, the dissident committee turned to the organization’s by-laws — which were intended to democratize the APA’s policy decisions — and turn it into a referendum on a scientific finding. In other words, they wanted to put facts up for a vote.

The APA board was appalled at the idea that a scientific finding should be the product of a vote, but the wording of the bylaws left them no choice. The day after board’s decision to delete homosexuality from the DSM they set a date for the referendum. Ballots were mailed out to the membership, and the controversy was hotly debated in the APA’s publication Psychiatry News. On April 9, 1974, the APA released the results:

Result
Favoring the board’s decision 5,854 58%
Opposing the board’s decision 3,810 37%
Abstaining 367 3%
Invalid votes 9 <1%
Not voting on this issue 51 <1%
TOTAL 10,091

Socarides and others were never able to reconcile themselves to the APA’s decision. In 1992, Socarides joined Benjamin Kaufman and Joseph Nicolosi in founding the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), which continues to argue that homosexuality is pathological and can be cured, against all scientific evidence to the contrary.

[Source: Ronald Bayer. Homosexuality and American Psychiatry: The Politics of Diagnosis (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987): 138-150.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
 50 YEARS AGO: Cynthia Nixon: 1966. Daughter of actress Anne Knoll and radio journalist Walter E. Nixon, Cynthia Nixon already was in two simultaneous hit Broadway plays while also a freshman at Barnard College in 1984. Her roles were short and the two theaters were just two blocks from each other, close enough that she could run from one to the other in time to get dressed and deliver her performances. She had minor roles in a number of films and made-for-TV movies before landing her first major supporting part in 1986’s The Manhattan Project. But of course, her best-known role was that of Miranda Hobbes in HBO’s Sex and the City, which ran from 1998 to 2004 and spawned two moves, one okay and one awful. In 2006, she won a Tony for Best Actress in the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Rabbit Hole and she won a 2008 Emmy for a guest appearance in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. In 2009, she shared a Grammy, with Beau Bridges and Blair Underwood for Best Spoken Word Album for the audio CD of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.

But perhaps her most important prize came in May of 2012 when she married her partner, Christine Marinoni after a three year engagement. When she came out in 2007, Nixon, who had been previously married to photographer Danny Mozes, said “I don’t really feel I’ve changed. I’d been with men all my life, and I’d never fallen in love with a woman. But when I did, it didn’t seem so strange. I’m just a woman in love with another woman.” She married education activist Christine Marinon in 2012 in New York City.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

The Daily Agenda for Friday, April 8

Jim Burroway

April 8th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Just Us, 1975, page 36.

Lost and Found got off to a rough start when it opened in 1971: its unannounced admissions policy appeared to have excluded African-Americans, women, and people in drag. After several months of picketing and negotiations with a group calling themselves the Committee for Open Gay Bars, the owners relented and Lost and Found would become legendary for its spectacular drag shows. Lost and Found lasted for the next 27 years, with a two year period beginning in 1991 when it temporarily adopted the name Quorum. Lost and Found closed in 1998. Since then, the entire block has been razed and redeveloped into condos.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
¬†Michael Bennett: 1943-1987. He was something of a dancing prodigy, dropping out of high school at age sixteen to join a touring company of West Side Story. His Broadway debut was in Subways Are for Sleeping (1961). But by the mid-1960s, he decided to focus more on choreography than dancing. The first two shows he choreographed were commercial failures: A Joyful Noise (1966), and Henry, Sweet Henry (1967). His first success as choreographer came with the Bacharach and David musical Promises, Promises (1968), which he followed with Coco (1969), and Sondheim and Prince’s Company (1970) and Follies (1971), which won him two Tonys. In 1973, he took over the troubled musical Seesaw, but only after demanding complete directorial and choreographic control. The producers agreed, and he replaced both the show’s director and choreographer and claimed a writing credit as well. Seesaw won him a Tony for best choreographer.

Bennett’s next project would be his most ambitious. He decided to do a show about the lives of dancers. But instead of commissioning a script, he spent the next hear conducting hundreds of hours of taped interviews with Broadway dancers. A Chorus Line debuted off-Broadway in May 1975, and moved to Broadway’s Shubert Theater on July 25, and stayed there for the next fifteen years. The musical won nine Tonys, all eight Drama Desk Awards for which it was nominated, and a Pulitzer. Bennett would come to regard A Chorus Line as something of a mixed blessing, as the many international companies demanded so much of his time.

While Bennett would go on to have several more critical and commercial successes, but A Chorus Line would always be the high water mark. His next musical, Ballroom (1978), was a commercial failure despite earning eight Tony nominations. Bennett won for Best Choreography, the only Tony that Ballroom won. He had another hit with Dreamgirls (1981, and another Tony for Bennett’s choreography).

Bennett was bisexual, with numerous affairs with both men and women throughout his life. He had a long and stormy relationship with dancer/singer/actress Donna McKechnie, for whom he created the lead role in A Chorus Line. They married in 1976, divorced four months later, and remained close friends until his death. He had an affair with Sabine Cassel, who was then the wife of French actor Jean-Pierre Cassel, but that relationship soured. He was also linked with choreographer Larry Fuller, dancer Scott Pearson, and Gene Pruitt, who lived with Bennett for the last eight months of his life in Tucson, Arizona, where he went for treatment for AIDS and where he died on July 2, 1987 at the age of forty-four.

¬†Sean Kennedy: 1987-2007. He would have turned twenty-nine today if he hadn’t been killed on May 16, 2007 at about 3:45 a.m. as he left a local bar in Greenville, South Carolina. According to local news reports, Stephen Andrew Moller got out his his car, walked up to Sean, called him a faggot, and punched him hard enough to break several facial bones. When Sean fell, his head hit the pavement so hard that his brain separated from his brain stem. Fifteen minutes later, one of Sean’s friends received a voice mail from Moller:

Hey. (laughter) Whoa stop. (laughter) Hey, I was just wondering how your boyfriend’s feeling right about now. (laughter) (??) knocked the fuck out. (laughter). The fucking faggot. He ought to never stick his mother-fucking nose (??) Where are you going? Just a minute. (laughter). Yea boy, your boy is knocked out, man. The motherfucker. Tell him he owes me $500.00 for breaking my goddamn hand on his teeth that fucking bitch.

Greenville County sheriff’s office arrested Moller as part of a homicide investigation; his arrest warrant described the act as “a result of the defendant not liking the sexual identity of the victim.” But by the time the case reached the grand jury in October, the indictment was reduced to involuntary manslaughter, for which South Carolina law set the maximum penalty at five years. Moller’s attorney argued that Moller “had no idea (Sean) was gay until after the fact. It’s just a freak incident that should never have happened.”

As part of a plea deal, Moller was sentenced to three years, minus seven months for time served. After getting his GED, Moller’s sentenced was reduced again and he was released after just 13 months, his goddamn hand having healed quite nicely in the meantime.

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The Daily Agenda for Thursday, April 7

Jim Burroway

April 7th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GPU News, March 1973, page 18.

Here’s another one that’s gone without a trace. The address today is nothing more than a small, narrow parking lot next to a Dollar Store in Chicago’s Little India.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
¬†Pearl M. Hart: 1890-1975. She was born as Pearly Minne Harchovsky in Traverse City, Michigan, the youngest of five children of Orthodox Jewish √©migr√©s¬†from Russia, and the only child in the family born in the U.S. The family moved to Chicago’s near west side when her rabbi father took a job as a kosher inspector for Jewish butchers. Her passion for social justice began when she left school at fourteen to work in a garment factory to help support the family, and quickly became a leader in the adult/male dominated union. A few years later she began attending classes at the John Marshall Law School, changed her name to Hart, and in 1914, was admitted to the Illinois Bar.

In 1915, she became among the first women adult probation officers in Chicago. Her early interest was in the needs of children, and she set about drafting legislation, serving on committees and speaking to audiences to reform the juvenile court system. Her attention to children led her to notice the problems of women who were passing through the legal system, many of them charged with prostitution. In 1933, she volunteered to serve as the first public defender in the morals court. Before then, women defendants typically couldn’t afford lawyers, and the court’s conviction rate was about ninety percent. Hart reversed that trend after only four months when the conviction rate plummeted to ten percent.

In the 1950s McCarthy era, Hart turned her attention to those who were being accused of subversion against the U.S. government, mostly in defending foreign-born clients who were facing deportation for allegedly working for so-called subversive organizations. One client, George Witkovich, who had received a deportation order, appeared at an immigration hearing and, on Hart’s advice, refused to answer questions about activities and affiliations on the grounds that they were irrelevant to whether he should be deported. The U.S. government sued, she counter-sued, and the court cases led eventually to a 1957 U.S. Supreme Court victory in U.S. v. Witkovich, which held that even non-citizens were protected by the constitutional rights of free association and free speech.

Hart also defended another class of so-called subversive — the sexual kind. Her clients included hundreds of gay men who were arrested for soliciting, or who were entrapped or rounded up in bar raids. Many of the arrests were little more than shakedown operations conducted by the notoriously corrupt Chicago police, and it was common knowledge that bribes paid to the right person would result in the charges being dropped. Hart steadfastly refused to get involved in bribery, and instead demanded jury trials, which also tended to have the same effect. That earned her the nickname of the “Guardian Angel of Chicago’s Gay Community.”

In 1965, she co-founded Mattachine Midwest, a Chicago-based gay rights group, and served as its legal counsel. Most of Mattachine Midwest’s job, according to president Jim Bradford, was “making the police behave.” In a May 1969 speech to the Mattachine membership she urged a “more aggressive” public posture on gay rights, two months before Stonewall.

Throughout her life, Hart remained very circumspect about her private life. She never publicly identified as a lesbian, although she had two long-term relationships. The first was with actress and singer J. Blossom Churan. They met at around 1920 and moved in together a few years later after Hart’s parents died. Churan was Hart’s first great love, but by the 1940s, Churan was bored and began an affair with a physician, Bertha Isaacs. Rather than lose Churan to Isaacs, Hart invited Isaacs to move in with the two of them, and all three lived together until Churan’s death in 1973.

Hart’s second major relationship was with pulp fiction writer and poet Valerie Taylor (see Sep 7). They met in 1961, and became close in 1963. Taylor took an apartment around the corner from Hart’s home and, as she put it, accepted the “neurotic situation” at the Hart residence. Taylor was devoted to Hart for the rest of Hart’s life. But as Hart lay dying of pancreatic cancer in 1975, Taylor was denied entrance to Hart’s hospital room thanks to the hospital’s families-only policy. By the time a friend intervened, Hart was already in a coma.

In 1981, the Midwest Gay and Lesbian Archive and Library changed its name to the Henry Gerber-Pearl M. Hart Library. Hart was inducted in the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 1992 and her home was marked with a Chicago Tribute Marker of Distinction in 2001.

Before she died, Hart had expressed her one regret in life: that she had no sons or grandsons to say kaddish for her. The Mattachine Midwest president reminded her that grateful members of that organization were her sons and grandsons, and they would gladly say kaddish. In 1991, Taylor published her last poem dedicated to the love of her life:

Kaddish

March 22
I light yahrzeit candles,
dust your photograph
that watches over my bed
and remember your touch.

You are an institution now,
a library,
a scholarship for women lawyers.

As long as I breath
you are a living woman
moving through my mind.

[Sources: Karen C. Sendziak. “Pearl M. Hart (1890-1975).” In Vern L. Bullough’s Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (New York: Harrington Park Press, 2002): 56-62.

Marie J. Kuda. “Legal Pioneer: Pearl M. Hart, 1890-1975.” In Tracy Baim’s Out and Proud in Chicago: An Overview of the City’s Gay Community¬†(Evanston, IL: Agate Surry, 2008): 26-27.]

¬†Harry Hay: 1912-2002.¬†Hay was more than just a co-founder of the Mattachine Foundation (see Nov 11; renamed Mattachine Society two years later) which became the first successful organization of gay men (and, to a much lesser extent, lesbians). It wasn’t the first such organization designed to bring gay people together. That distinction went to the short-lived Chicago Society for Human Rights, which didn’t last a year (See Dec 10). But Hay was a curious and tenuous link between the earlier Chicago group and the Mattachines when, in 1930, at the age of 17:

I enticed an “older” gentleman (he must have been at least 33 ) to “bring me out” by finagling his picking me up in Los Angeles’s notorious Pershing Square. Poor guy–he was appalled to discover, subsequently, that I was both a virgin and jailbait. Champ Simmons didn’t really turn me on, but he was a very decent human being; he was gentle and kind and taught me a great deal.

…Champ, the guy I seduced into picking me up and bringing me out into the gay world, had himself been brought out by a guy who was a member of that Chicago group. So I first heard about that group only a few years after its sad end.¬†My impression was that the society was primarily a social thing. But just the idea of gay people getting together at all, in more than a daisy chain, was an eye-opener of an idea. Champ passed it on to me as if it were too dangerous; the failure of the Chicago group should be a direct warning to anybody trying to do anything like that again.

Hay wasn’t put off by dangerous ideas, a propensity which would always mark him as a controversial figure throughout his life. He joined the Communist Party in 1934, and remained a member until the early 1950s. He also became active in theater, where he briefly became the lover of actor Will Greer. In 1938, he married at the urging of his therapist and party members. He and his wife adopted two daughters, but the couple divorced in 1951.

In 1948, Hay went to a party at USC with several other gay men who supported the presidential campaign of Progressive Party candidate Henry Wallace. It was at that party that Hay¬†conceived¬†of organizing a gay activist group. His first efforts to found the “Bachelors for Wallace” failed, but Hay stuck with the idea of creating an organization specifically for gay people. Finally, on November 11, 1950, Hay and several others met at Hay’s home for the first meeting of “The Society of Fools”, which later became the Mattachine Foundation, named after the Medieval French secret societies of masked men whose¬†anonymity¬†allowed them to criticize the ruling monarchs. As the Mattachines¬†got off the ground, Hay left the Communist Party, which didn’t allow gays to be members.

By 1953,¬†Mattachine grew to over 2,000 members in Southern California. And also by 1953, Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s red and pink scares were in full swing. With homosexuality being equated with subversion and treason, many Mattachine members became concerned about some of Mattachine’s founders’ communist connections, principally, Hay. They were also concerned that the Mattachine Foundation was being too public and too “radical” in advocating for gay people. When Hal Call and other Mattachine members from San Francisco sought to amend the Mattachine’s constitution to oppose “subversive elements” and to affirm that members were loyal to the U.S., Hay resigned, he said later, to save the organization from investigations related to the Red Scare. (In 1955, Hay would, in fact, be called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee.) The Foundation then re-organized itself into the Mattachine Society, elected publicly named directors for the first time, disavowed its prior links with Hay, and reassured the public that the organization had no interest in changing the nation’s sodomy laws.

In the 1960s, Hay and his partner, John Burnside, became involved again with gay activism, helping to found the North American Conference of Homophile Organizations (NACHO), the Los Angeles chapter of the Gay Liberation Front, and, in 1979, a gay spirituality movement called the Radical Fairies. It was during this time when his opposition to assimilationist attitudes within the gay community really began to stand out:

“We pulled ugly green frog skin of heterosexual conformity over us, and that’s how we got through school with a full set of teeth,” Hay once explained. “We know how to live through their eyes. We¬†can always play their games, but are we denying ourselves by doing this? If you’re going to carry the skin of conformity over you, you are going to suppress the beautiful prince or princess within you.”

Harry Hay (left), with John Burnside

Hay’s concept of homosexuality, it could be said, was more of a nineteenth century conception than a twentieth century one. He was¬†enamored¬†with the concepts of androgyny, with some of his ideas being similar to the nineteenth-century formulation of homosexuality being a “third sex.” He was influenced by Edward Carpenter, who wrote of gay people as a distinct, well-defined group with its own unique ideals that set if apart from society. Carpenter also wrote of “Greek love” and its pederastic ideals. This perhaps explains how¬†Hay’s radical and anti-assimilationist politics could reach its most controversial limits when, in the early 1980s, he protested NAMBLA’s exclusion from LGBT organizations and activities. He was forcibly removed from the Los Angeles pride parade in 1986 when he showed up with a sign reading “NAMBLA walks with me.” Even some of Hay’s most dedicated supporters and closest friends couldn’t abide this stance. The majority of the gay community had grown, matured, and move in directions that Hays couldn’t accept.

This is perhaps the most¬†difficult¬†aspect of Hay’s legacy that we are left to grapple with. And yet, without¬†Hay’s extremely radical idea — radical for 1950 — that gay people should come together from out of the shadows and begin to ask for simple things like the freedom to gather in bars or not to be arrested or not to have their newsletters and magazines confiscated by the post office, it’s hard to know how long the fruition of a far¬†more radical idea would have been delayed — the extremely radical, impossible-to-fathom-in-1950 idea that gays and lesbians could assimilate, that they could become police officers, run businesses, publish newspapers, serve in the military, run for office, marry, raise children, join PTAs and churches and car pools and homeowners associations and march openly in parades down the middle of public streets in June, and do all of those things without hiding or retreating back into the closet. If Hay saw himself as the sworn enemy of assimilation, his pioneering efforts in 1950 were ultimately what made that assimilation possible. And for that,¬†I think that perhaps the late Paul Varnell put it best:

Hay may have been wrong about almost everything. But in the end we do not insist that founders have the right answers, not even ask the right questions. We can honor them as founders and leave it at that.

¬†65 YEARS AGO: Janis Ian: 1951. She was only thirteen when she wrote her first hit single, “Society’s Child.” The song’s subject, about a young girl’s¬†interracial romance, was way too controversial for radio stations to touch when it was first released in 1964. Re-released again, and then again, the third time proved to be the charm in 1967 when “Society’s Child finally made it to number fourteen on Billboard’s Hot 100. She was on the verge of being a one-hit wonder when “At Seventeen” was released in 1975. It hit number one on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary charts, dragged her album, Between the Lines to the number one spot on Billboard’s Album chart,¬†and earned her a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal. She performed “At Seventeen” as the very first musical guest for Saturday Night Live’s debut that year. Thanks to the lyric, “To those of us who knew the pain /¬†of valentines that never came,” she reportedly received over four hundred Valentine cards on Valentine’s Day 1977.

Ian’s career since then has been considerably more low-keyed, although she has never stopped recording and touring. In 1993, her album Breaking Silence broke several silences, including the silence of her closet. She married¬†Patricia Snyder in 2003. In 2008, Ian published her autobiography, Society’s Child, to critical acclaim. Her audio CD of Society’s Child earned a Grammy in 2013 for Best Spoken Word Recording.

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The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, April 6

Jim Burroway

April 6th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Northwest Gay Review, April 1975, page 21.

From Northwest Gay Review, April 1975, page 21.

Seattle’s Trojan Shield I held its first Closet Ball in 1974, an event that proved so popular they revived it again 40 years ago today. Here’s how the event was introduced¬†in 1974:

You’re probably asking yourself, “What in the queen’s realm is a ‘Closet Ball’?” Well here it is sweetie. Go find yourself a straight friend (You do have at least one don’t you — some of my best friends are straight). If you truly don’t have any, then bring a gay substitute. Then on March 31 dress yourself up in drag and bring your (hee-hee) straight friend to the Trojan Shield at 8 p.m. Then for a specified period of time (I think one hour) you will proceed to undress yourself and dress your former friend in your drag outfit. Since neither of you will be recognizable, you can both come out of your closets. Tickets for the event are $3 with rules and entry blanks available at the Shield. The pair performing the best transformation will receive a beautiful color photo of Rock Hudson. (Northwest Gay Review, April 1974, page 14)

By the way, numerous gay publications have alluded to the fact that Rock was “one of them” as far back as the 1950s.

At any rate, I’m not so sure there were that many straight participants at that first Closet Ball. But it was¬†a success nonetheless, as was the second annual event in 1975:

On Sunday, April 6th, the Trojan Shield presented the Second¬†Annual Closet Queen Ball . Needless to say the evening was filled¬†with many surprises, especially when Del Petersen entered the contest¬†looking like Catherine the Great a la Jan Del Rio and, after many comments, he said, with tears in’ his eyes, “I don’t see how¬†you guys go through all of this,” and in my usual quick response¬†replied, “IT AINT EASY, IT AINT EASY.” A stillness came over¬†the audience as the first announcement of the evening came. It named¬†Kenny K-Y (You remember him, Kenny K-Was the past Emperor¬†of Vancouver B.C.) as the Camp Queen of 1975. Kenny was striking¬†in his yellow hard hat, bathrobe, boots and yellow and green feather¬†boa. He reminded one of a proud polish bride. The second announcement¬†was that Tinkerbelle – Dan C – was the Girl Most Likely.¬†Tinkerbelle wore a striking accordion pleated pants suit with a¬†mid-calf tunic of brocade. The the big moment arrived. The new¬†Closet Queen, 1975 – Brian – sponsored by Starlet. Brian was¬†ravishing in a black panne’ velvet sheath adorned by mirrors.¬†Each winner was given a trophy and cash prizes. Our congratulations¬†to the winners and all the other contestants – each deserving¬†of winning. (Northwest Gay Review, May 1975, page 11.)

TODAY IN HISTORY:
 Study of 100 Homosexuals: 1957. There had been a string of high profile arrests of very prominent and well-known men in Britain in the early 1950s, including Lord Montagu (see Oct 20), his cousin, Maj. Michael Pitt-Rivers, and journalist Peter Wildeblood (see May 19), all of whom had been charged and convicted of homosexual offenses. Their arrests opened the debate over whether homosexual acts between consenting adults should remain criminalized. In 1954, the Home Secretary, David Maxwell-Fyfe, convened a committee to study the issue under the leadership of Lord John Wolfenden, and they would study the question for the next three years. The multi-disciplined committee, which included theologians, psychiatrists, educators, judges, lawyers, and several other leading figures, was tasked with reviewing the medical, legal, and moral aspects of homosexuality (along with prostitution, as laws forbidding it were also open for discussion.)

One of the psychiatrists on that committee was Dr. Desmond Curran of the Department of Psychiatry at St. George’s Hospital in London. Curran and fellow researcher Dr. Denis Parr, took on the task of preparing a study of 100 gay men, which appeared in the April 6, 1957 edition of the British Medical Journal titled “Homosexuality: An Analysis of 100 Male Cases Seen in Private Practice.”

The men described in this paper were referred to the authors for evaluation and treatment for the following reasons:

  • Criminal charge or executive consequences thereof: 30
  • Worry over homosexual propensities (for example, “Can I change?”) as the presenting complaint: 25
  • Various psychological problems (for example, depression, excessive drinking) rather than direct worry over homosexuality as the presenting complaint: 22
  • Pressure from friends or relatives: 12
  • Marital difficulties, including impotence: 5
  • Homosexual jealousy or deprivation reactions: 2
  • Executive problems: 2
  • Fear of scandal arising from homosexual acts: 2

The authors observed¬†that homosexuality was a criminal offense in Britain in three very distinct ways. The crime of “buggery,” which was generally interpreted as penetrative anal intercourse, carried a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The crimes of “indecent assault” and “gross indecency” provided maximum penalties of ten years and two years respectively. “Indecent assault” generally was used for sexual behavior with minors under the age of 16, while “gross indecency” was any contact or exposure of genitalia for sexual excitement.

One problem with the published research on gay men was that virtually all of it was based on clinical or criminal populations, which Curran and Parr acknowledged would not necessarily be representative of the general population of gay men. In their report, they acknowledged that their sample would likely exhibit higher rates of psychiatric problems or criminal recidivism. But when they looked into the files of these 100 men who had been referred to their practice, the authors observed:

…[I]n spite of the probability that any group of homosexuals referred to a psychiatrist might be expected to be heavily weighted in the direction of psychiatric abnormality, no fewer than 51 % were considered to be free from gross personality disorder, neurosis, or psychosis during their adult lives. Only one was certifiably defective and none certifiably insane. They included a number of important and talented individuals of high integrity, successful, efficient, and respected members of the community. Only two had been on any criminal charge other than homosexuality. Very few showed the traditional “pansy” picture of homosexuals; indeed, only 21 were noted to have at all obvious homosexual personality traits, only one of these being a paedophiliac.

As for the treatment programs the men underwent:

The objects of treatment can be arbitrarily divided under four main headings : (1) change in direction of the sex urge, (2) greater continence, (3) greater discretion, and (4) better adaptation to the sexual problem and to life in general.

The authors don’t go into much detail of what kind of treatment the men underwent, saying simply that “treatment consists in a mixture of physical, psychological, social, and environmental measures, in varying proportions according to the case.” In general, it appears to have been confined to psychotherapy or simple counseling, although in some cases the “prescription of medications or environmental adjustments” were noted. As for the attempts at changing sexual orientation, the results weren’t very encouraging:

Of the 59 patients about whom sufficient information was available, 9 (or roughly 1 in 6) reported less intense homosexual feelings, or increased capacity for heterosexual arousal, 3 became more homosexual in preference than when first seen, and no change, even of a minor order, was found in the sexual orientations of the other 47. When a change was found it often amounted only to a slight alteration in the balance of masturbatory fantasies.

Eight of the nine who claimed a “slight alteration” toward heterosexuality were classified as bisexual or “predominately” homosexual (as distinct from “100% homosexual”). What isn’t stated in the article is how many of those who claimed to have experience a “slight alteration” were among the thirty men who faced criminal charges. This would be important; the authors noted elsewhere in their paper that those who were criminally charged had “come in the hope of establishing medical reasons for mitigating the rigours of the law.”

Since the prospect of “slight alteration” of homosexuality was minimal, the only other question remaining was whether there was anything intrinsically wrong with being gay. Curran and Parr found little evidence for it:

Only half the patients showed significant psychiatric abnormality other than their sexual deviation, and such associated abnormalities were often slight. Moreover, many of these abnormalities were explicable as a reaction to the difficulties of being homosexual. Symptomatic homosexuality was rare. If homosexuality is a disease (as has often been suggested), it is in a vast number of cases monosymptomatic, non-progressive, and compatible with subjective well-being and objective efficiency. In our series, both practising and non-practising homosexuals were on the whole successful and valuable members of society, quite unlike the popular conception of such persons as vicious, criminal, effete, or depraved. Only one-fifth were at all obviously ” pansy,” and we found no reason to regard most of the patients as physically, intellectually, or emotionally immature (unless the basic criterion for ” immaturity” is that of being homosexual-a circular argument).

This study, among others, would find its way into the Wolfenden Report later that year, which recommended that “homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence” (see Sep 4).¬†It would take Parliament another ten years to act on that recommendation (see Jul 28).

[Source: Desmond Curran and Denis Parr. “Homosexuality: An analysis of 100 male cases seen in private practice.” British Medical Journal 1, no. 5022 (April 6, 1957): 797-801. Available online for free at PubMed Central.]

Rob Epstein

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
¬†Rob Epstein: 1955. He was nineteen years old when he answered an ad in a San Francisco alt-weekly for “a non-sexist person to work on a documentary film on gay life.” That led to his becoming the youngest filmmaker in the six-member collective, the Mariposa Film Group, which The collective produced the landmark 1977 documentary Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives. The film featured interviews with 26 gay men and women, ranging in age from eighteen to seventy-seven, and was the first feature-length documentary by and about gays and lesbians. For the first time, man thousands of gay people saw themselves on the screen, and they flooded the Mariposa Film Group’s mailbox with expressions of gratitude, with many of the crediting the film with saving their lives. Word Is Out premiered at the Castro Theater in 1977, and aired on several local PBS stations the next year.

After the success of Word Is Out, Epstein started off on his own solo filmmaking career. He began working on a documentary about Proposition 6, also known as the Brigg’s Initiative, which would have banned gays and lesbians from teaching in California’s public schools (see Nov 7). Epstein planned to center his documentary on San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk’s efforts to defeat the measure. But when Milk was assassinated just three weeks later (see Nov 27), Epstein decided to make the documentary about Milk himself. With narration by actor Harvey Firestein, The Times of Harvey Milk won the Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary in 1985.

AIDS was the focal point for his next two projects: The AIDS Show: Artists Involved with Death and Survival (1986) for PBS, and Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt (1989), with Jeffrey Friedman, about the NAMES Project’s AIDS Memorial Quilt. Common Threads won his second Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary, and it won a George Foster Peabody Award for Excellence in Television when it aired on HBO.

In 1995, he and Friedman wrote and directed The Celluloid Closet, based on Vito Russo’s 1981 book by the same name, and explored how Hollywood portrayed LGBT characters throughout history. After it aired on HBO, it won four Emmys and a Peabody. In 2000, Epstein and Friedman released Paragraph 175, which featured first-person accounts of the Nazi persecution of homosexuals during the Third Reich. In 2010, they entered the world of scripted, narrative filmmaking with Howl, which portrays the early life of Allen Ginsberg (played by James Franco). In 2013, Epstein and Friedman released¬†Lovelace, a biopic about¬†Deep Throat¬†star Linda Lovelace, starring Amanda Seyfried in the title role, with Peter Sarsgaard, Sharon Stone and James Franco.

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The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, April 5

Jim Burroway

April 5th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Dallas Voice, April 3, 1987, page 23. (Source.)

From The Dallas Voice, April 3, 1987, page 23. (Source.)

TODAY IN HISTORY:
¬†Oscar Wilde Loses Criminal Libel Case: 1895. It had already been a bad year for the acclaimed author, and the year was barely a quarter of the way through. In February, Wilde was dining at the Albermarle Club when the Marquess of Queensbury left a calling card with the porter. It read, “For Oscar Wilde posing as a somdomite.” The misspelling may have been the product of Queensbury’s rage over the relationship between his son Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas and Wilde. ¬†Bosie refused to end it despite Queensbury’s arguments and threats, including the threat to publicly expose Wilde, which he accomplished with that calling card. Friends urged Wilde to ignore it, but Wilde felt that such an insult required a vigorous response, namely a lawsuit against Queensbury for criminal libel. No response, he reasoned, it would be tantamount to admitting the truth, something that Wilde knew would be disastrous not only to his reputation and career, but also to his very freedom. Homosexuality was a criminal offense.

Unfortunately, Wilde’s libel case collapsed on the second day of the sensational trial, when Wilde took the stand and Queensbury’s lawyer asked whether he had ever kissed a young man named Walter Grainger. Wilde replied, “Oh, dear no. He was a peculiarly plain boy. He was, unfortunately, extremely ugly. I pitied him for it.” Queesnbury’s lawyer pounced on Wilde’s reason for not kissing Grainger: it wasn’t that Wilde didn’t like kissing men, but that he didn’t want to kiss this particular¬†man. That was on April 4. The next morning, Queensbury’s lawyer announced that he planned to call several male prostitutes to testify against Wilde. Wilde’s lawyer, after conferring with Wilde, addressed the court. He said that since Queensbury’s letter only accused Wilde of “posing as” a sodomite rather than actually being one, he asked the court to drop the charges and return a verdict of “not guilty” against Queensbury. But this proved complicated. Libel law hinged on two findings: to be not guilty of libel, it had to have been found to be true and it had to have been made for the “public benefit.” And that’s what the judge found, that the statement¬†“is true in fact and substance, and that the publication is for the public benefit.”

With that verdict as evidence, an arrest warrant was filed that afternoon and Wilde was arrested at 6:30 that evening. charged with gross indecency. Queensbury denied that he pressed officials to bring criminal charges against Wilde, but acknowledged sending Wilde a message which read, “If the country allows you to leave all the better for the country; but if you take my son with you, I will follow you wherever you go and shoot you.” That very day, Wilde’s name was removed was removed from the play-bills at the Haymarket and St. James Theatres, where his plays, An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest were being performed. Both plays were cancelled soon after.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
¬†Nigel Hawthorne: 1929-2001. British audiences (and fans of British sitcoms) will known him best as Sir Humphrey Appleby, a permanent secretary in Yes, Minister (1980-1984) and a cabinet secretary in the follow-up Yes, Prime Minister (1986-1988), for which he won four BAFTAs. That acclaim was long in coming. He spent much of the previous three decades playing various roles as a character actor on stage, film and television. But after his successful run on the two sitcoms, Hawthorne’s career truly came onto its own, with a 1991 Tony for Best Actor for the Broadway production of Shadowlands, and his portrayal of the king in Alan Bennett’s stage play The Madness of George III.¬†Three years later, he appeared in the title role again for the film version (which was renamed The Madness of King George), for which he won another BAFTA and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor.

Amid the publicity surrounding his Academy Award nomination, Hawthorne granted an interview with The Advocate, in which he discussed, among quite a lot of things, his private life and his relationship with his longtime partner since 1979, Trevor Bentham. Hawthorne later said that he asked The Advocate to respect his privacy, and was surprised and upset to find The Advocate describe him as “the first openly gay actor to be nominated for a Best Actor Award.” Hawthorne described the outing as traumatic, but he nevertheless attended the Oscar ceremony with his partner and began speaking about being gay in interviews from then on. He also portrayed a gay character in 1998’s The Object of My Affection, and¬†was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1999. After battling pancreatic cancer for two years, he died of a heart attack in 2001.

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The Daily Agenda for Monday, April 4

Jim Burroway

April 4th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Christopher Street, June 1977, page 42.

From Christopher Street, June 1977, page 42.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
¬†Anita Bryant Suggests Sending Gay People To Prison For 20 Years: 1978. Newspapers across the country got a bit of a tease from Playboy, which released a couple of tantalizing tidbits from an interview with anti-gay activist Anita Bryant that would appear in its May issue. A small preview released to the wire services quoted Bryant as suggesting that sending gay people to prison for 20 years “might make them think twice, especially the young ones. Any time you water down the law, it just makes it easier for immorality to be tolerated.”

She went on: “Why make it easier for them? I think it only helps to condone it and make it easier for kids who wouldn’t be so concerned if it was a misdemeanor, whereas a felony might make them think twice, especially the younger ones.” When asked whether prison life might not be conducive to homosexuality, she answered, “They’ll have plenty of time to think. Just because prisons are corrupt and not doing the right thing in rehabilitation because they don’t have enough emphasis on spiritual emphasis doesn’t mean there should not be a strong punishment for that.”

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
¬†Anthony Perkins: 1932-1992. Best known for his role as the sexually-conflicted Norman Bates in the Alfred Hitchcock classic Psycho, Perkins’s own sexuality was the subject of rumors throughout his career. He shared a long-term relationship with fellow 1950s teen idol Tab Hunter (See Jul 11. Hunter discussed their time together in his 2005 memoir Tab Hunter Confidential) and another six-year relationship with dancer/choreographer Grover Dale. In 1973, Perkins and Dale broke up when both of them married other women. Perkins’s marriage to Berry Berenson, which¬†has been described as a bid to keep his name out of the scandal sheets, puzzled his friends. But Perkins seemed to have made the best of it.¬†By all accounts he was devoted to Berenson and their two children. But it remains doubtful that his devotion extended to sexual exclusivity. He died on September 12, 1992 from complications of AIDS, with Berry by his side, two years after the National Enquirer outed him both as gay and as a person with AIDS. His public acknowledgment of his illness came posthumously in a statement dictated to his sons and released to the public. His private acknowledgement of his sexuality, he took with him to his grave. In a tragic coda, his widow died on September 11, 2001, on American Airlines flight 11 when it was hijacked and crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

¬†Graham Norton: 1963. The Irish comic’s 1992 stand up comedy performance at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe as a tea-towel clad Mother Teresa caught the attention of Scottish Television, which, bizzarely, mistook him for the real Mother Teresa. Soon he was appearing on BBC radio, then as a stand-in late night talk show host for Channel 5, before eventually taking his openly-camp act to Channel 4 for his own weekly talk show, So Graham Norton, then V Graham Norton. In 2004, he tried to take his show to America, with The Graham Norton Effect on Comedy Central, but the controversy over Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” at the Super Bowl that year soured Norton on bringing his raunchy, innuendo-laden comedy to the U.S. He returned to Britain in 2005, and landed several gigs on the Beeb. He has also regularly hosted the British Academy Television Awards, several British reality/game shows as well as the Eurovision Song Contest. In 2007, he returned to weekly late-night talk with The Graham Norton Show on BBC2, which moved to BBC1 in 2009.

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The Daily Agenda for Sunday, April 3

Jim Burroway

April 3rd, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), September 1975, page 13.

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), September 1975, page 13.

State Sen. Charley E. Johns (center) with two members of the Johns Committee.

Florida state Sen. Charley E. Johns (center) with two members of the Johns Committee.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
¬†University of Florida Dismisses¬†14 Employees, 50 Students for Homosexuality: 1959. Florida had its own home-grown version of the McCarthyesque Red and Lavender Scares that lasted from 1956 to 1964. Filling the role of McCarthy was State Sen. Charley E. Johns, who led the Florida Legislative Investigations Committee, popularly known simply as the Johns Committee. Johns launched his committee in 1956 with a mandate to investigate alleged communist links to the NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The NAACP successfully got bogged the committee’s work down in several court challenges, so Johns decided to go after a much less organized target: gays and lesbians in the state’s schools, colleges and universities.

In early January, the Miami Herald reported that the committee was “quietly probing reports of homosexuality at the University of Florida” (see Jan 12). Nearly three months later, Dr. Wayne Reitz, president of the University of Florida in Gainesville, announced that 14 academic and non-academic employees of the university had been dismissed as a result of the Johns Committee investigation.

“Action has also been taken with respect to the few students involved,” Reitz said in a statement. He declined to disclose the names of those dismissed, and added, “I want to emphasize that there is no reason to believe that the extent of homosexual conduct at the University of Florida is unique and that other public institutions have any lesser problem. This conclusion is expressed in the legislative investigation committee confidential report. Certainly this statement neither condones such activities nor alters our firm position in taking action whenever we develop adequate evidence.”

Little was known about the Johns Committee’s activities until records became available under Florida’s new open records law in 1993. Those records revealed that Johns had sent two investigators to the University of Florida during the summer of 1958. By October, the investigator found very little evidence of anything going on, but boasted in a report that he found “a considerable homosexual operation” on campus that deserved further investigation. Having gotten the go-ahead, the investigators began hiring student informants and used highway patrolmen to remove professors and individual students from classrooms for interrogation. Most of what they got was rumor and innuendo. One student identified professors “by observing them in class… the way they act… nothing specific. Another student named a professor because he wore Bermuda shorts on campus.

Students were also caught up in the witch hunt. Some students accused of homosexuality were allowed to remain on campus, but only if they visited the infirmary and submitted themselves to psychiatric treatment through the duration of their time on campus. In violation of privacy laws, clinic personnel were required to turn over information from patients records. Nearly fifty students wound up being dismissed.

In February 1959, Reitz received a 1900-page confidential report titled, “Crimes against Nature at the University of Florida.” That report led to the firing of fourteen employees. At the end of April, the committee summarized the report during a closed-door session of the state Senate. In response, the legislature extended the committee’s mandate for two more years so it could “investigate any agitator who may appear in Florida.”

[Source: Associated Press. “14 Are Dismissed in UF Morals Probe.” The News Tribune (Four Pierce, Florida, April 3, 1959): 1. Via Newspapers.com.

James A. Schnur. “Closest Crusaders: The Johns Committee and Homophobia, 1956-1965.” Chapter 8 in John Howard (ed.) Carryin’ On in the Lesbian and Gay South (New York: New York University Press, 1997): 132-138.]

The justices of the Iowa Supreme Court who made history in the Midwest

¬†Iowa Supreme Court Declares Ban on Same-Sex Marriage Unconstitutional: 2009. he Iowa Supreme Court unanimously¬†upheld a lower court ruling which held that the state’s marriage statute was unconstitutional. The Court concluded that:

We are firmly convinced the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage does not substantially further any important governmental objective. The legislature has excluded a historically disfavored class of persons from a supremely important civil institution without a constitutionally sufficient justification. There is no material fact, genuinely in dispute, that can affect this determination.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and House Speaker Pat Murphy issued a joint statement welcoming the court’s decision. Citing Iowa’s long tradition in being a leader in civil rights, they congratulated “the thousands of Iowans who now can express their love for each other and have it recognized by our laws.” Iowa’s same-sex couples began marrying on April 27.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
¬†225 YEARS AGO: Anne¬†Lister: 1791-1840. Her father was a veteran British soldier who fought with the Redcoats at the Battles of Lexington and Concord during the American War for Independence. (He later wrote a book about it). After the war, he married and became a wealthy country gentleman in Yorkshire. His eldest daughter, Anne, was brought up with all of the advantages of education and erudition, the latter resulting in an intense interest in classical literature. In 1826, she inherited the family estate, Shibden Hall, and with it a steady income from the estate’s tenants. That modest wealth was enough to afford her a measure of independence and deference from those who might otherwise criticize her “masculine appearance.” She was sometimes referred to as “Gentleman Jack,” for her business (she was a major player in the very male-dominated coal mining business) and recreational affairs (she was the first woman to climb Mont Perdy in the Pyrenees in 1830). These interests were certainly not considered normal for a woman of her standing.

What’s more, her private life wasn’t considered normal for a woman of any standing. Lister had a long term relationship with Marianna Belcombe, which lasted lasting several years including a period of time when Belcombe was married. In 1832, Lister met and fell in love with a wealthy landowner Ann Walker, and the two of them would remain together for the rest of Lister’s short life. Their relationship was as close to a marriage as was possible, given the times. Lister died in 1840, at the age of 49, while traveling with Walker in Eastern Europe.

Lister left behind a 26-volume diary covering the years 1806 to 1840. Most of the diary covered various mundane topics — the weather, social events, business concerns, her travels — but about a sixth of the diary was encrypted in a simple code. Those coded sections describe her lesbian nature and affairs. When a relative, John Lister, who was the last to inhabit Shibden Hall, decoded the diaries and discovered the contents, he was advised to burn them. He didn’t, but he did hide them.

A century later, Helena Whitbread published portions of the diaries in two volumes in 1988 and 1992, and issued a re-release of selected excerpts as The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister in 2012. As Shibden Gall curator Claire Shelby observed, the diaries reveal a complicated woman who was very frank about her sexuality. “She talks about her tactics for wooing women. She talks about how she likes a particular woman, how she is interested and how she has spoken to tem. It’s almost like you can see relationships developing as they go along. And, though she doesn’t refer to it in the sort of language we use today, it is clear to see a sexual element in her relationships. … She approached an awful lot of women, including married women, and it doesn’t sound like she was rejected very often. She could be very charming when she wanted to be.” In 2010, BBC Two aired a dramatization and a documentary of Lister’s life. Between the books and the television programs, Lister’s reputation as “the first modern lesbian” has been firmly cemented.

Copelland

¬†George Copeland: 1882-1971. The Massachusetts-born concert pianist is best known for his devotion to the work of notoriously heterosexual Claude Debussy. Their meeting in 1911 in Paris marked a huge turning point for Copeland, who had already performed the American debut of Debussy’s Deux Arabesques in Boston seven years earlier. Copeland spent four months studying with Debussey, discussing and playing each of Debussy’s piano works. Copeland later said that at the end of those four months, Debussy told him, “I never dreamed that I would hear my music played like that in my lifetime.”

Whether Debussy really said that or not, it’s hard to say. Nevertheless, Copeland became the leading expert on Debussey’s piano works. He gave several U.S. and world premiers of Debussy’s works, including La Bo√ɬģte √ɬ† joujoux in 1914 and numbers X and XI of the Etudes in 1916. From 1904 until his final performance in 1964, Copeland played at least one Debussy work in each of his recitals. Copeland also had a fondness for Spanish music from the likes of Isaac Alb√©niz, Enrique Granados, and Manuel de Falla. In 1909, he performed the American debuts of three of Alb√©niz works. Copeland was known as part of the avant-garde, often performing new works by contemporary composers, although he became considerably less adventurous as time went on.

Copeland was also rather iconoclastic in his private life. He was open about his homosexuality, telling a Cleveland paper in 1913 that “I don’t care what people think of my morals. I never think anything about other people’s morals. Morals have nothing to do with me.” He also had a passion for wearing exotic jewelry and perfume. His openness reportedly caused problems for composer Aaron Copland (see Nov 14), who was also gay but considerably more circumspect. During a tour of Latin America, the composer Copland-without-an-“e” received a frosty reception from local officials. After discreetly asking around, Copland learned that Copeland-with-an-“e” had been there on a concert tour and had gotten into trouble on a “morals charge.” Copland cleared up the confusion¬†and the concert went on with considerably more cooperation from the locals.

Copland, on the other hand, met a young German, Horst Frolich, in Barcelona in 1936. Frolich became Copeland’s “secretary” and partner for more than thirty years.¬†Copeland’s career continued to flourish unabated until 1958, when he broke his shoulder in a fall and was unable to play for several years. He thought his career was over, but he made a comeback in 1963 when he re-entered the recording studio and gave several small concerts. He performed what would be his final concert at Yale in 1964. He talked about returning to the concert hall in 1966, but he never followed through. He died of bone cancer on June 16, 1971.

¬†David Hyde Pierce: 1959. He took up acting in high school, but he went to Yale to study classical piano. He soon grew bored with it, and decided to switch his major to English and Theatre Arts. He moved to New York, where he struggled to find acting jobs. His big break came in 1993 when he was cast as Niles Crane, Frasier Crane’s younger brother for the Cheers spin-off Frasier, which lasted eleven seasons. Pierce earned eleven consecutive Emmy nominations for Best Supporting Actor, and won in 1995, 1998, 1999 and 2004.

Pierce has appeared in Jody Foster’s Little Man Tate (1991), Oliver Stone’s Nixon (1995), as Meg Ryan’s brother in Sleepless in Seattle (1992) and as Ewan McGregor’s boss and best friend in Down With Love (2003). That’s in addition to voicing several animated features and a couple of episodes of The Simpsons. On stage, he starred in the Kander and Ebb musical Curtains, which won him a Tony for Best Performance by a Lead Actor in a Musical Ffor 2007. Pierce, who had formally come out as gay earlier that year, thanked his partner, television writer/director/producer Brian Hargrove, when accepting his Tony “because it’s 24 years of listening to your damn notes — that’s why I’m up here tonight.” They married in October, 2008 in California, just days before voters approved Proposition 8.

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The Daily Agenda for Saturday, April 2

Jim Burroway

April 2nd, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Los Angeles Advocate, October 1968, page 5. (Personal collection.)

Thanks to ongoing bar raids, entrapment operations and general police harassment, the risk of arrest was an ever-present worry in the gay community, making ads for bail bond agencies a not altogether uncommon feature in gay publications of the 1960s and into the early 1970s.

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
ONE Magazine Educates Readers on Legal Definition of Entrapment: 1954. Police entrapment was a very real concern for LGBT people everywhere, with many police departments being particularly aggressive in their pursuit of gay people. But the difficulty of proving entrapment made it an extremely rare defense, as an article from the April 1954 issue of ONE illustrates. The unsigned article, written by “ONE’s legal counsel” (probably Eric Julber, who would later successfully defend ONE in a landmark censorship case; see Jan 13) begins with a brief overview of the relevant law, and then provides three specific examples to illustrate what does and does not constitute entrapment:

1 — The first situation is that where an officer offers to buy a prohibited article, and the defendant is willing to sell. This can arise in narcotics cases, liquor cases, or in prostitution. In these cases, it is no defense that the officer disguised his identity. Where the defendant is motivated by a desire for money, there is no entrapment by an officer who offers money.

2 — The second type of case involves more active activity on the part of the officer. He may secure the confidence of a thief and loan him a gun with which to commit a robbery; he may pretend to be an accomplice; he may take narcotics into a city and there-by attract narcotic peddlers anxious to buy. In these situations, the officer creates situations which make it easier for a criminal to commit an offense which he seeks an opportunity to commit. The idea for the offense has, however, originated with the defendant.

3 — In the third situation, the officer suggests the commission of the crime. He overcomes the defendant’s unwillingness by threats or appeals to sympathy, pity or friendship. In this situation, entrapment exists. (For example, in a famous case, a prostitute induced a man to live with her outside of wedlock. She had been hired to do so by police, who arrested the man for violation of a morals law. It was held the man had been entrapped.) But in this situation, the proof of the defendant’s reluctance must be clear and overwhelming. CASES ARE EXTREMELY RARE IN WHICH A CLAIM OF ENTRAPMENT IS SUCCESSFUL AS A DEFENSE.

In situations of homosexual life, we can apply the law as obtained from the above situations and lay down the following general rules, dependent in each case, of course, upon the particular facts:

It is obvious that, for instance, a homosexual who makes the acquaintance of a strange man, perhaps in a public place, and proposes to him the commission of an illegal act, cannot urge the defense of entrapment, even though the stranger was a vice-squadder “staked out” as a decoy to attract such defendants.

If, in the same situation, it was the vice-squadder who proposed the illegal act the same would be true. A MERE SOLICITATION BY A VICE SQUAD OFFICER DOES NOT CREATE ENTRAPMENT. These cases are similar to situation (2) above: the officer has merely created a situation in which a defendant can commit an act with more ease.

Only in the third situation can entrapment truly be claimed: If the officer “picks up” the defendant, gains his acquaintance, proposes the act, and proceeds to overcome the defendant’s genuine reluctance and unwillingness by appeals to sympathy, pity. friendship, etc., entrapment exists, but IF, AND ONLY IF the defendant was in fact unwilling, and the officer’s appeals were such as to leave no doubt that he was the procuring party. To prove such a state of fact requires a strong degree of proof; obviously, the defendant is forced to take the stand in his own defense, and his version of the facts must be so strong and believable as to convince a judge or jury of its truth and validity.

This discussion by ONE was not only in the immediate interest of many of its readers, but it also came about as the result of direct experience of least one member of ONE’s founding staff members. Dale Jennings recounted in ONE’s very first issue on 1953 of his own narrow escape after having been arrested in a clear case of entrapment by the Los Angeles Police (see Jun 23). Jennings surprised everyone by publicly proclaiming his homosexuality in court while refusing to plead guilty to the charges. His case was finally dismissed, not because he was exonerated, but because the jury couldn’t agree on whether to believe his claims of entrapment.

[Source: Unsigned. “The law: A discussion of entrapment.” ONE 2, no. 4 (April 1954): 7-8.]

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The Daily Agenda for Friday, April 1

Jim Burroway

April 1st, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Body Politic (Toronto, ON), January 1984, page 14.

From Body Politic (Toronto, ON), January 1984, page 14.

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:
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).

Dr. Samuel B. Hadden

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.]

The old hotel at Bankhead Springs (Google Streetview)

45 YEARS AGO: 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.

Peter Lemke and Frank Wittebrood, Ton Jansen and Louis Rogmans, Helene Faasen and Anne-Marie Thus, Dolf Pasker and Geert Kasteel

15 YEARS AGO: 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.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
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.

Alberta Hunter in her nursing uniform

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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The Daily Agenda for Thursday, March 31

Jim Burroway

March 31st, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Northwest Gay Review (Portland, OR), May 1975, special San Francisco travel section page 24.

From Northwest Gay Review (Portland, OR), May 1975, special San Francisco travel section page 24. (Personal collection.)

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 problems. Frustrations grew as Feinstein waited two full weeks before finally¬†calling for the officers’ prosecution. Just one was charged, tried, and convicted of battery. He was sentenced to three years’ probation and fined $1,000. Resentments in the gay community¬†continued to fester with¬†police harassment continuing 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

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.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
¬†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 Op√©ra. 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 L√©onide 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, Sh√Ö¬ćgun, 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.”

¬†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¬†last year.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

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

The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, March 30

Jim Burroway

March 30th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

HollywoodAustin-TxSilverDollarTimes1982.09p6

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

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

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

Gretchen, not so much:

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

The building, located within spitting distance of Austin’s legendary music scene on 6th Avenue, had been¬†most recently¬†a live music venue¬†(what else?) called The Ghost Room. It’s gone now, and the entire block is undergoing redevelopment.

Ladder.1958.03

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

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

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