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Posts for February, 2015

Gay Couples Begin Marrying in Alabama as US Supreme Court Denies Stay

Jim Burroway

February 9th, 2015

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Marriages of same-sex couples are now underway in parts of Alabama this morning. AL.com is providing live updates from around the state. Late last night, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice issued an order prohibiting probate judges from issuing licenses to same-sex couples. You may remember Moore from a decade ago when he was removed as Alabama Chief Justice for refusing to comply with a federal court order requiring the removal of a monument to the Ten Commandments from the lobby of the Alabama Judicial Building. State Supreme Court justices are elected to office, and Alabama voters returned Moore to the high court in 2013. Probate Court judges are also elected positions, and between Moore’s order and popular politics in a state which approved its marriage ban in 2006 by more than 80%, these judges are now in quite a bind. Bibb County Probate Judge Jerry Pow is one of those judges not issuing licenses this morning, telling AL.com, “I don’t know whether I want to defy the Chief justice of the state Supreme Court or a federal judge.” Moore’s stand at the courthouse door is drawing obvious comparisons to another Alabama politician who stood in a doorway to block a federal court order. From an editorial in the Birmingham News:

Almost 52 years ago Gov. George Wallace made his infamous stand in the schoolhouse door at the University of Alabama to block two black students from registering for classes.

It was really all for show. Wallace knew he had no authority to stop the students. The federal courts had ruled that the time had come to integrate UA and to back up that order President John F. Kennedy federalized the Alabama National Guard to make sure the law was enforced and the peace maintained.

Still Wallace continued. He got his moment. Cameras captured it for front pages across the nation. TV broadcast it around the world painting Alabama as an intolerant place.

It is still an image we fight.

AL.com/Birmingham News is getting rather cheeky in its opinion section. One columnist asked whether Moore was “protesting too much.” Meanwhile, marriages are taking place this morning in the state capital of Montgomery and in Birmingham, Alabama’s largest city.

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Shortly after those marriages began, the U.S. Supreme Court finally announced that it was refusing to issue a stay on Alabama marriages. The decision was made by the full court after Justice Clarence Thomas referred the matter to the full court. Thomas has oversight over the Eleventh Circuit. Thomas wrote a three-page dissent (PDF: 58KB/3 pages) from the Court’s decision, with Scalia joining. Noting that the Court granted a stay over a year ago in Herbert v. Kitchen which overturned Utah’s marriage ban, Thomas wrote:

This application should have been treated no differently.That the Court more recently denied several stay applications in this context is of no moment. Those denials followed this Court’s decision in October not to review seven petitions seeking further review of lower court judgmentsinvalidating state marriage laws. Although I disagreed with the decisions to deny those applications, I acknowledge that there was at least an argument that the October decision justified an inference that the Court would be less likely to grant a writ of certiorari to consider subsequent petitions. That argument is no longer credible. The Court has now granted a writ of certiorari to review these important issues and will do so by the end of the Term. The Attorney General of Alabama is thus in an even better position than the applicant to whom we granted a stay in Herbert v. Kitchen.

…This acquiescence may well be seen as a signal of the Court’s intended resolution of that question. This is not the proper way to discharge our Article III responsibilities. And, it is indecorous for this Court to pretend that it is.

Today’s decision represents yet another example of this Court’s increasingly cavalier attitude toward the States. Over the past few months, the Court has repeatedly denied stays of lower court judgments enjoining the enforcement of state laws on questionable constitutional grounds. It has similarly declined to grant certiorari to review such judgments without any regard for the people who approved those laws in popular referendums or elected the representatives who voted for them. In this case, the Court refuses even to grant a temporary stay when it will resolve the issue at hand in several months.

The Daily Agenda for Monday, February 9

Jim Burroway

February 9th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Marriage Equality Arrives in Alabamarainbow_albama. Today will be a big day for LGBT couples in Alabama, although the arrival of marriage equality will likely not be uniform across the state. At least two probate judges will be standing at the proverbial schoolhouse door in refusing to allow same-sex couples to marry by announcing they will get out of the marriage business altogether. Three others have said that said they will refuse to honor a Federal Court order to provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Mat Staver of the Liberty Counsel — which has a history of flouting court orders and encouraging lawbreaking — says that he will represent them in what he calls “a significant clash of judicial power.

Federal District Judge Callie Granade, who had originally found Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, has already warned that probate judges that refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples will be subject to sanctions, including contempt of court and being on the hook for attorneys’ fees those couples accumulate. But Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore late last night issued an order prohibiting probate judges from issuing licenses to same-sex couples, setting up a classic showdown between state and federal courts. Moore, you may remember, was removed as Alabama Chief Justice in 2003 after refusing to comply with a federal court order requiring the removal of a monument to the Ten Commandments from the lobby of the Alabama Judicial Building. As the Montgomery Advertiser reported:

How the order will be enforced is unclear. The chief justice’s letter said that Gov. Robert Bentley should use “the legal means that are at his disposal” to carry the orders in the letter out. Jennifer Ardis, a spokeswoman for the governor, said Bentley’s office would have a comment on Moore’s letter on Monday.

It’s also unclear how many probate judges will follow Moore’s order. Jefferson County (Birmingham) probate judge Alan L. King told the New York Times, “With all due respect to Chief Justice Moore, he’s on the Alabama Supreme Court, and he’s not a federal judge.” Judge Steven L. Reed of Montgomery County, recalled Alabama’s history of ignoring federal court orders in discrimination cases, said, “I don’t want to see judges make the same mistakes that I think were made in this state 50 years ago, where you have state officials not abiding by federal orders. The legacy always hangs over us until we show that we’re beyond it.” But how this will play out today is anybody’s guess: probate judges, like state Supreme Court justices, are popularly elected, and opposing Federal orders is still popular politics in many quarters in Alabama.

Meanwhile, AL.com, the web site for the Birmingham News and the Huntsville Times, has a brief profile of twenty-one couples planning on tying the not today. And one Baptist pastor is prepared officiate one of those first marriages in Huntsville.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Los Angeles Advocate, July 1968, pages 12-13.

The Park Theater opened in Los Angeles in 1911 as the Alvarado Theatre on its namesake street just off MacArthur Park. In the 1960s, it was renamed the Park Theatre when it switched to porn. In 1968, the theater switched to gay-themed movies (including porn as well as art house movies). That switch was announced in June when the theater announced “A Most Unusual Male Film Festival,” which is believed to be the first gay film festival in a regular public theater. The Park continued to show gay films until 1971, when it was renovated into a twin theater and returned to mainstream films. The theater closed in 1986. The building is still there, although its glory days are long gone.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
AIDS Employment Discrimination Declared Illegal in California: 1987. In the first such case in the nation, the California Fair Employment and Housing Commission unanimously ordered that the defense contractor Raytheon pay damages of about $6,000 to a Santa Barbara employee who was denied reinstatement to work following hospitalization due to an AIDS-related illness. John Chadbourne was given medical leave in December 19983 when he was hospitalized with pneumonia. He was diagnosed with AIDS one month later. He recovered from pneumonia and his doctor said he healthy enough to return to work, but his employer would not reinstate him without assurances that other employees would not be endangered. Instead, Raytheon kept him on medical leave, which meant that he retained his benefits (including medical insurance), but was living on significantly reduced income from his disability insurance. The Commission ruled that AIDS is a disability under the law and employers may not discriminate against people with AIDS who are able to work. With that ruling, Chadbourne was vindicated — or at least his estate was. Chadbourne died in January 1985, two years before the Commission’s ruling.

Raytheon went on to significantly improve its policies toward LGBT people and people with AIDS, becoming the first defense contractor to earn a 100% rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index in 2005.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY’S:
Amy Lowell: 1874-1925. Her pedigree was impeccable: her family were those Lowells, of Brookline, Massachusetts. Her brother, Lawrence, was president of Harvard; another brother, Percival, was a renowned mathematician and astronomer, founder of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, and who began the effort which led to the discovery of Pluto fourteen years after his death. Amy, born and reared at Seveneies, the ten-acre family estate, was the baby of the family. Befitting a daughter of a fine Episcopalian family of New England, she was first tutored at home, then attended the best private schools in Boston when she was not touring Europe with her family. At seventeen, her family decided that attending college was not a proper activity for a young woman, so she ensconced herself in the family’s 7,000-volume library at Seveneis and taught herself literature.

In 1902, on one of her many tours of Europe, she was inspired to take up poetry. In 1910, her work began appearing in Atlantic Monthly, and her first published collection, A Dome of Many-Coloured Glass, was published two years later. At about that time, she and actress Ada Dwyer Russell entered what was then known as a “Boston Marriage,” and they remained together for the rest of Lowell’s life. It is believed that Russell is the subject of Lowell’s love poems in  ‘Two Speak Together’, from Pictures of the Floating World.

During one of the couple’s European tours, they met the Imagist poet Ezra Pound. Lowell embraced the Imagist style, so named by the precise use of visual images to convey a clarity of expression. It was also marked by free verse, where, according to Lowell, “one must abandon all desire to find in it the even rhythm of metrical feet. One must allow the lines to flow as they will when read aloud by an intelligent reader.” Then an Anglo-American movement, Lowell’s contribution to the style was in what she called “polyphonic prose,” in which the very written structure of the poetry was broken down and rendered as prose, which was then sometimes intermixed with structured verse. Her embrace and promotion of Imagist Poetry was so intense that it actually had the effect of driving a wedge between Pound and the Imagists, who he began derisively calling “Amygists.” His criticism of Lowell became pointedly personal. Referring to her short stature, her glandular-induced weight problems (and, undoubtedly, put off by her habit of smoking cigars), Pound referred to her as the “hippo-poetess” among his friends and accused her of hijacking the movement.

While Lowell remained dedicated to modern poetry, she was also a fan of historical poets as well. In Fir-Flower Tablets, she produced prose-poetry re-workings of the literal translations of ancient Chinese poetry, and she wrote several critical works about French literature. When she died in 1925 of a brain hemorrhage at Seveneies, she left behind an uncompleted two-volume biography of John Keats, with whom she undoubtedly felt a kinship. “The stigma of oddness,” she wrote of him, “is the price a myopic world always exacts of genius.” Her own genius was recognized posthumously with a 1926 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for What’s O’Clock.

PatRocco

Pat Rocco: 1934. Pasquale Vincent Serrapica was born in Brooklyn and moved with his family to California in 1946, where he quickly got a twice weekly radio show on Pasadena’s KWKW while still a teen. He also completed his high school credits at home after refusing to deny his homosexuality in school. And so it might be surprising to learn that while in his twenties, he met with a local Youth for Christ director, who got him a singing gig for the religious group, a stint for which he even reacorded an album of devotional musice in 1954. By this time, Pasquale became Pat Rocco, and for the remainder of the 1050s he toured for musicals and appeared as a regular for the Tennessee Ernie Ford Show.

RoccoDuring this time, Rocco became interested in photography and film and in 1967, he answered an ad to shoot stills of nude male models. Seeing the potential of a significant money-making enterprise, he created his own business, Bizarre Production, and began creating and selling photos and erotic movies by mail order. The films got the attention of the Park Theater in Los Angeles, which was interested in creating a special lineup of films for a gay audience. Rocco’s Love is Blue premiered on a bill with several other avant-garde gay films on June 26, 1968 as part of A Most Unusual Male Film Festival, in what it is believed to be the first gay film festival in a public theater.

Rocco’s films stood out for not falling into the typical blue movie formulas. His films focused on the beauty of the male form and featured storylines with positive depictions of male intimacy. As Jim Kepner (see Feb 14) wrote in his profile of Rocco for GAY in 1970:

His fair young actors approach love as if no one had ever labeled male love sick , sinful or seamy. These lyrical fantasies evoke love in a way that makes most gay viewers proud of themselves and glad to be alive. … In competition with tired physique photographers too long in the trade, Rocco’s sometimes clumsy work seemed fresh, creative, excitingly beautiful. Though some early shorts used any trivial excuse to get the youths undressed, even Rocco’s weakest short subjects were made with surprising care. And the lyrical quality of Love is Blue, A Matter of Life, Yahoo, The Performance and the unforgettable Yes left most viewers moved as few other flesh-films had done.

While his films were explicitly nude, they skirted the edges of soft porn to such a degree that many complained that his movies didn’t go far enough. But others appreciated Rocco’s approach. Several of Roccos fans formed the Society of Pat Rocco Enlightened Enthusiasts, or SPREE, in 1968, which remained active for the next ten years publishing newsletters and mounting stage and film events.Meanwhile, Rocco’s films were a regular feature at the Park Theatre until 1971, when the Park decided to return to a more mainstream audience.

Rocco also performed an important service for the local gay community by creating short documentaries of gay rights protests and interviews of local figures. But as fictional gay films became more explicit during the 1970s, Rocco spurned the opportunity to go into hardcore porn. Instead, he turned his attention to photographing and documenting events in Southern California for gay publications. His first documentary, A Man and His Dream, chronicled the early years of Rev. Try Perry’s Metropolitcan Community Church. Rocco also became increasingly involved with gay rights advocacy. He campaigned for the resumption of the Christopher Street West Pride Parade, and he organized fundraising events for numerous organizaitons and gay rights causes. He developed a special interest in providing emergency housing in Los Angeles and established his own program, Hudson House, to provide housing, job training and meals for homeless LGBT youth. Hudson House soon spread to San Diego, San Francisco, and Hawaii. Rocco and his partner have retired to Hawaii, where they continue to be active in the local community.

Holly Johnson: 1960. When the Liverpool-based band Frankie Goes to Hollywood released its first single “Relax,” with Holly Johnson on vocals, in October 1983, it took a slow three months before it hit the top of the UK singles chart. It’s rise to number one was helped along, ironically, by BBC 1 disk jockey Mike Read, who happened to notice what he called the “overtly sexual” nature of record sleeve and the printed lyrics as the single was playing. He unceremoniously lifted the tonearm, live on air, and denounced it as “obscene.” The BBC followed that with an on-air ban on all of its radio and television outlets (with the narrow exception of its top-40 countdown show). Until then, “Relax” had been a middling top-40 dance hit, but within two weeks it hit number one and remained there for the next five. It became the seventh best selling single in UK single’s history, and the temporarily ubiquitous “Frankie Say” T-shirts became not just a musical statement but a political one as well. The Beeb finally relented and lifted its ban at the end if 1984, just as a re-worked version of “Relax” was enjoying a second bout of popularity with the release of the band’s album Welcome to the Pleasuredome.

Johnson left Frankie in 1987 over differences in the group’s musical direction. After a bitter contract dispute, Johnson was finally able to start a solo career in 1989. His first album, Blast, met with some critical and commercial success, but his 1991 album Dream That Money Can’t Buy tanked. That year, he learned he was HIV-positive and withdrew from public life. Later that decade, he re-emerged as an occasional singer and, mainly, as a painter, with shows at the Tate Liverpool and the Royal Academy.

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, February 8

Jim Burroway

February 8th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Midsumma, Melbourne, VIC.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Northwest Gay Review (Portland, OR), special San Francisco travel section, page 27.

From the Northwest Gay Review (Portland, OR), special San Francisco travel section, page 27.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Modesto Police Round Up Gay Men: 1957. The headline in the local paper read “Modesto Sex Gang Smashed.” That “gang” consisted of a group of local gay men, and the paper played it up for all it was worth while probably ruining a few lives in the process:

A police crackdown on an alleged homosexual ring known as the “Lavender Gang” was revealed today with the arrest of two Modestoans, including a former department store manager.

Police Chief James Neel announced 15 to 20 persons, including some bay area, Salinas and Merced residents, are believed to be members of the ring. He said more arrests were planned.

Charged with lewd and lascivious conduct is Elmer J. Kreuger, 55, who resigned from his managerial post Saturday after being employed by the chain store for 24 years.

Accused of sodomy as well as lewd and lascivious conduct is William Howard Moore, 26, office worker for a diary products distribution firm. … The chief reported Moore admitted he had associated with known homosexuals in Modesto and the bay area and had hosted all male parties.

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, February 7

Jim Burroway

February 6th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: NGLTF’s Creating Change Conference, Denver, CO; Midsumma, Melbourne, VIC; Bay Area American Indian Two Spirit (BAAITS) Powwow, San Francisco, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Alienist and Neurologist, 1904.

From Alienist and Neurologist, 1904.

Dr. Charles H. Hughes

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
Man Seeks Castration To Cure His Homosexuality: 1904. “How often is there delivered from the womb of some noble and grand woman — some little soul, scarred in such manner that stigmatizes its after life and brings a stain so deeply colored as to stamp it in the eyes of the world a ‘social outcast and criminal.'” So begins Dr. Charles H. Hughes’s article in the February 1904 edition of the journal Alienist and Neurologist. (An “alienist” is an archaic nineteenth century term for what today we would call a psychologist or psychiatrist.) Medical journals at the turn of the last century had a very different editorial tone than they do today, with morality holding as much or greater sway over scientific evidence the vast majority of the articles published, particularly where sexual matters were concerned. The scientific method, clearly, had yet to make may inroads into the mental health professions.

Those lines, which opened an article by Hughes of a “homosexualist’s self-description,” were actually penned by the “homosexualist” himself. This particular person, “a gentleman degenerate” of thirty-nine years of age, was an American of Irish ancestry whose father graduated “from one of the old world’s best colleges” before fighting on the losing side in the 1848 Irish rebellion, fleeing to the U.S., marrying, starting a family, and dying young of either “epilepsy or apoplexy.” That the man’s father had epilepsy was considered significant, as Hughes saw it as evidence of inherited degeneracy. That diagnosis was based on Degeneration Theory, a sort of a theory of evolution in reverse which postulated that, thanks to the conveniences of modern society and its advances in medicine and hygiene, modern man was increasingly immune from the natural “culling of the herd.” And because modern man was no longer being culled by natural forces, the human race was actually experiencing a devolution — or “de-generation” — into a more primitive state. Because the letter writer’s father had epilepsy, Hughes concluded that the son’s homosexuality was an expression of a congenital degeneracy inherited from his father.

With the father’s early demise, his mother was left to raise an unspecified number of children. One of those boys, the letter writer, wrote of himself in the third person to Dr. Hughes, and described himself as:

“a regular ‘girl boy’ as he was called, always afraid to tell a fib — never using bad language, never smoking nor chewing, thoroughly honest, shunning the girls and always having some boy friend he fancied for his good looks and endeavoring to show him some kindness in the way of making him presents — never cared for an ugly boy — in fact did not know why he particularly cared for any, always studious, receiving high honors at school for thoroughness in his studies and exemplary deportment. The child mind not understanding the features of certain matters recalls his desire to bunk with any gentleman who might be the guest of his father, and to them, no doubt revelations were made, but naturally ascribed to childish innocence. I felt myself growing stronger in this way. In other words showing a preference for such society and ignoring girls — yet being timid in the presence of both male and female — was frequently twitted about it.”

As the writer grew older, his attractions toward other men grew, along with the horror of knowing that he would never be able to fit in with society as a homosexual. He also lamented the loneliness that being gay brought him in a society with few social opportunities for people like him:

“Haunting the parks, seaside resorts and other localities, a lonely man afflicted, no hope of cure as intimated by physicians and neurologists, this being repeated to me in all localities, large cities and small towns. …

“Twenty-five years of this misery is a long time for such torture, yet the struggle goes on. If the wishes of this lonely man were realized, and he trusts it may not be long before he may find the surroundings illumined and he be enabled to step into the sunlight — a clean and wholesome man — or in the absence of such bliss — his mother’s arm be extended down from the region beyond into which he may be embraced and find that rest which may be emblemized as eternal.”

The image of his mother’s arms extending from “the region beyond” refers to the fact that she died fifteen years earlier, when the letter writer was twenty-four years old. In other words, it was an expression of the writer’s own yearning for death, as perhaps the only way out of his predicament. Hughes tried surgery:

In this case an operation was performed on the filaments of the pudic nerve supplying to testes, but the morbid inclination still persists, notwithstanding the operation and a course of chologogues, antiseptic intestinal treatment and full bromism.

Damaging the pudic nerve would have resulted in blocking the sensations of orgasm. In animals, it was known that this type of operation would have also resulted in a loss of erections. But as Hughes discovered, this operation did little to alter his patient’s sexual attractions. “The case appears to be in the head and not in the genitals,” Hughes concluded, and urged his patient to “do as other men have to do and do do, keep his passionate impulses in abeyance to the higher purposes of his nature and the nobler ambitions of life.” The patient wrote back:

“What you claim to be accomplished through efforts on my part is impossible — of course you will dispute this. Were our positions reversed for a month, you could understand. If the difficulty is with the head, all I have to say is that it has centered there with such vigor and tenacity that it would appear to me that the elimination of the trouble in one center has been doubly concentrated in another.”

By this point, the writer was getting desperate. His employer found out about his condition and fired him. “I will be upon the streets next week — to go where — the Lord only knows.” He against asked Hughes again whether he thought castration would help. “If so,” he wrote,” I will go into a charity hospital and have it done.” Several months later, in January of 1904, the patient wrote again, this time announcing that he decided to commit himself to a sanitarium, although he was still, in his desperation, weighing the option of a full castration:

“I am now convinced that from an experience in St. Louis during my last visit (an experience without consummation) that there is absolutely no avenue of escape from my trouble but to be placed under restraint, and if I can get back to St. Louis it is my intention to place myself in the hands of the authorities irrespective of the consequences, as I am certain to get into trouble, and I can not stand this thing any longer. I know just what Dr. —— and yourself would suggest, yet from the statement of other physicians — the trouble is of the head and there would be no certainty that the operation in question (castration) would be successful. You well know the debilitating experiences through which I passed after the first surgical work. I jumped on a train in St. Louis last night and followed a party clean through to South McAlester. I was expected back at the hospital that night. I spent all my money…

“I came very near getting in serious trouble on the trip. If I am compelled to pass through another surgical operation it will have to be at the city hospital. … I fell terribly over this, as I promised Dr. —— I would conduct myself with decorum. If the remedy he suggested is a sure cure, then I will have to accept it.”

[Source: Charles H. Hughes. “The gentleman degenerate: A homosexualist’s self-description and self-applied title. Pudic nerve section fails therapeutically.” Alienist and Neurologist 25, no. 1 (February 1904): 62-70. Available online via Google Books here.]

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

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

The Daily Agenda for Friday, February 6

Jim Burroway

February 6th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: NGLTF’s Creating Change Conference, Denver, CO; Midsumma, Melbourne, VIC; Bay Area American Indian Two Spirit (BAAITS) Powwow, San Francisco, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Michael's Thing (New York, NY), February 2, 1976, page 62.

From Michael’s Thing (New York, NY), February 2, 1976, page 62.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Reagan Orders AIDS Report: 1986. Reagan’s first mention of AIDS was during a news conference five months earlier (see Sep 17). In a message sent to Congress two days after the State of the Union Address, President Ronald Reagan made his second public mention of AIDS:

We will continue, as a high priority, the fight against Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). An unprecedented research effort is underway to deal with this major epidemic public health threat. The number of AIDS cases is expected to increase. While there are hopes for drugs and vaccines against AIDS, none is immediately at hand. Consequently, efforts should focus on prevention, to inform and to lower risks of further transmission of the AIDS virus. To this end, I am asking the Surgeon General to prepare a report to the American people on AIDS.

That last sentence in this report to Congress came as a surprise to Surgeon General C. Everett Koop. As he wrote in Koop: The Memoirs of America’s Family Doctor, the White House had worked keep him out of the loop during the AIDS crisis. So when Reagan made the public announcement, Koop jumped at the tasks, working feverishly to complete the report, and to thwart administration official’s attempts to delay or shelve it. The Surgeon General’s Report, which sought to dispel many of the misconceptions about HIV and AIDS and called on schools and parents to have “frank, open discussions” with very young children and teens, was finally released later that year (see Oct 22).

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Ramón Novarro: 1899-1968. The Mexican leading man was hailed as the next male sex symbol after Rudolph Valentino died. His first major success was in the 1923 silent film Scaramouche, but his greatest fame came with 1925’s Ben-Hur. His transition to talkies was mildly successful — he was a talented singer, but he was often miscast. By 1935, MGM decided against renewing his contract. Besides, MGM feared trouble: Novarro had already rejected Louis B. Mayer’s demand that he enter into a “lavender marriage.” From then on, Novarro worked only sporadically in films and television. Fortunately for him, Navaro made some wise investments in real estate early in his career.

Paul and Tom Ferguson during their trial.

Tom, 17 (left) and Paul Ferguson, 21 (right) during their trial.

He was murdered in 1968 by two brothers, Paul and Tom Ferguson, who Navaro had solicited for sex, but who beat him mercilessly for several hours in an attempt to get him to reveal where he kept his money. They scrawled the message Us girls are better than those fagits” on a bathroom mirror, then left with $20, leaving Novarro to choke to death on his own blood. The brothers were convicted of murder in a trial in which Novarro was more on trial than the defendants. “Back in the days of Valentino,” a defense attorney told the jury, “this man who set female hearts aflutter, was nothing but a queer. There’s no way of calculating how many felonies this man committed over the years, for all his piety.” He also played the gay panic defense. The brother were sentenced to life in prison for their crimes, but they released on parole in the mid-1970s after serving less than a decade. Tom was later convicted of rape in 1987, paroled in 1990, and committed suicide in a Motel 6 in Palm Springs in 2005. Paul, at last report, was serving a thirty year sentence for rape in Missouri.

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 Thursday, February 5

Jim Burroway

February 5th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: NGLTF’s Creating Change Conference, Denver, CO; Midsumma, Melbourne, VIC; Bay Area American Indian Two Spirit (BAAITS) Powwow, San Francisco, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, March 5, 1981, pages 16, 17 of the classifieds section.

From The Body Politic (Toronto, ON), Winter 1974, page 16.

From The Body Politic (Toronto, ON), Winter 1974, page 16.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Toronto Police Conduct Massive Bathhouse Raids: 1981. Operation Soap was a meticulously planned police action, six months in the making. It’s genesis is believed to have been the result of a successful anti-gay political campaign that drove a pro-gay administration from City Hall. At precisely 11:00 p.m. More than 160 police, using an unusual interpretation of an anti-prostitution law banning “bawdyhouses,” conducted a massive, simultaneous raid on four bathhouses: the Club Baths, Romans II Health and Recreation Spa, the Barracks, and the Richmond Street Health Emporium. Peter Bochove, co-owner of the Richmond Street Health Emporium remembered:

They leapt the counter and grabbed the cashier and bust the door open. And the first fifty arrived in the first wave. They spread out and very quickly began running around and rounding people up. … The other fifty officers arrived fairly quickly, I guess they must have had them standing by. And then they went out to their police cars and came in with their tools. They came in carting incredible numbers of crowbars and sledgehammers. At that point they were offered the keys to the lockers and the room. They held up a crowbar to me and said, “We brought out own.”

(Photo: Body Politic)

Armed with crowbars and sledgehammers, police herded patrons into the lobbies, with many of them dressed only in towels, and marked numbers on their arms. At one bathhouse, towel-clad patrons were lined up in the snow on the street for questioning. One patron at the Barracks had a different experience:

I was in a room with someone and I heard a noise. I got up to open the door but it burst open and a guy in plain clothes pushed in and shoved me up against the wall, my face pushed hard into the wall. My nose was lacerated and bloodied. The cop kept punching me in the lower back and pulling my hair and saying “You ‘re disgusting, faggot. Look at this dirty place.”

I was choked, and something was jabbed into my neck. Before they took us out of the room, they used a pen to gouge the room number into the backs of our hands.

I was naked. They herded me into the shower room with about 8 other men and we had to stand against the wall with both hands up against the wall. I couldn’t see anything but I could hear a guy choking, and then a cop said, “If you’re having trouble breathing we can give you trouble with your spleen or kidneys.”

I could hear them moving around, kicking things, overturning things. Someone said “Too bad the place doesn’t catch fire, we ‘d have to catch them escaping custody.” Somebody else said, ‘Too bad the showers aren’t hooked up to gas.”

The Richmond Street Health Emporium was so badly damaged by police that it never reopened. Many of those arrested were pressured to reveal the names of their wives and employers. All told, 286 men were charged as “found-ins” and twenty owners were charged with “keeping a common bawdyhouse.”

The mass arrest was Canada’s largest in more than a decade.  The following night, 3,000 protesters staged a mass demonstration that the intersection of Yonge and Wellesly, at the heart of the gayborhood, that descended into a riot, with fires and smashed car windows. When police responded, many of them removed their badges so they couldn’t be identified. The crowd made its way to the Division 52 stationhouse, where they were met with 195 officers surrounding the building. The crowd then moved on to Queen’s Park and the Ontario Legislature, where a phalanx of police dove into the crowd and attacked protesters. The entire confrontation quickly drew comparisons to New York’s Stonewall rebellion twelve years earlier.

The following week, gay community attended a police commission meeting and demanded an independent investigation into the raid, while protesters gathered outside the station. According to the Body Politic, Toronto’s gay newspaper:

Protesters gather outside while community leaders meet with police commissioners.

Protesters gather outside while community leaders meet with police commissioners. (Photo: Body Politic)

During many of the presentations, Commissioner Winfield McKay smirked, or conspicuously yawned. Other commissioners talked among themselves, or stared impassively as (MCC pastor) Brent Hawkes referred them to a Toronto Star story that day revealing that the police operating budget for 1981 is requesting a total of $7.5 million for the intelligence and morality bureaus together, while asking for a scant $1 million for homicide investigation. … The meeting finally dissolved in hoots and jeers as (Police Commission Chairman Paul) Givens told the crowd, “We deny any allegations of police harassment,” and said there was no need for an inquiry and there would be no inquiry.

Globe and Mail editorial called the police raid “ugly” and said it was “more like the bully-boy tactics of a Latin American republic … than of anything that has a place in Canada.” Hawkes went on a hunger strike demanding that police be held accountable. Two Toronto aldermen called for an investigation by the Ontario Attorney General, who adamantly refused the request.  But McKay held firm, telling a local television station that the gay community “squealed like a collection of stuck pigs,” and that the cost of am inquiry couldn’t be justified.

February 20 demonstration (Photo: Body Politic.)

February 20 demonstration (Photo: Body Politic.)

Meanwhile, the gay community organized like never before, with 1,400 people joining the Right to Privacy Committee to set up a defense fund for those charged. They also organized a second demonstration on February 20, where 4,000 protesters marched in a peaceful demonstration from Queen’s Park to the 52 Division headquarters. Thirty-five undercover police tried to disrupt that march by trying to provoke fights in the crowd. Several of them were seen helping to carry the front banner. Their actions were later revealed by the Body Politic and the Toronto Clarion, both of which published photos of the undercover officers. Two weeks later on March 6, a “Gay Freedom Rally” was held, which became, in effect, Toronto’s first Gay Pride event.

Court cases stemming from the raid dragged on throughout the next two years. By 1983, 87% of the “found-ins” were acquitted. Thirty-six were found guilty but received absolute or conditional charges. Many owners however were found guilty and fined. Smaller scale raids continued over the next several years. But the raids, which were meant to silence an emerging gay community, had the opposite effect of galvanizing the gay community to organize and become politically involved in the city’s political life and, ultimately, in national politics.

[Sources: “Taking It To The Streets.” The Body Politic (March 1981): 9-12, 16.

“Who Is the Next? Me?” The Body Politic (April 1981): 9-11.

“Brent Hawkes: Hungry for Rights.” The Body Politic (April 1981): 11.

“Uncovering the Enemy Within.” The Body Politic (April 1981): 12.

“Exposing the Big Lie: The Camera vs the Cops As the Plainclothes Caper Unfolds.” The Body Politic (May 1981): 10-11.]

Rep. Jon Hinson Arrested on Sodomy Charge: 1981. The closet can be a crazy place. When Rep. Jon Hinson (R-MS) was running for re-election to a second term in 1980, he admitted that in 1976, while he was working as a Congressional aide, he had been arrested for exposing himself to an undercover policeman at the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. At that same news conference, Hinson also revealed that he was one of the survivors of a 1977 fire that broke out at Cinema Follies, a gay theater in Washington’s seedy Southeast (see Oct 24). That fire killed nine people. “I must be totally frank and tell you that both of these incidents were in areas frequented by some of Washington’s homosexual community,” he told reporters. But he vowed to stay with his wife and denied that he was gay, blaming those incidents on heavy drinking, which he said that he had now gotten under control. Mississippi’s Republican party rallied around the Congressman and he was elected to a second term.

But just barely a month into that second term, Hinson was in trouble again. Hinson was arrested, along with another man, for having sex in a public men’s room in the Longworth House Office building. Hinson and the other man were arrested on charges of sodomy, a felony which carried a maximum penalty of ten years in prison. The charge was reduced to attempted sodomy, a misdemeanor — then a standard practice in D.C. —  to which Hinson entered a plea of not guilty and promptly checked himself into a hospital for “mental and physical fatigue.” He finally yielded to calls for his resignation in April and later changed his plea to no contest, for which he was given a 30-day suspended sentence and one year’s probation.

Soon after, Hinson finally came out as gay. He helped organize Virginians for Justice — by then he decided to remain in Fairfax, Virginia rather than return to Mississippi — and became something of a local gay rights activist as a founding member of the Fairfax Lesbian and Gay Citizens Association. Hinson died in 1995 from complications of AIDS.

Boulevard Albert 1er, Leopoldville, 1950s.

Boulevard Albert 1er, Leopoldville, 1950s.

AIDS Traced to 1959: 1998. The journal Nature published a short report by a team led by Tuofu Zhu of Rockefeller University. That team examined the genome of an HIV-positive blood sample taken in 1959 from an unidentified man in Leopoldville in the Belgian Congo (today’s Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire). By looking at how the virus has mutated over the past 40 years, and by projecting the mutation of that particular virus (dubbed ZR59) back further, they were able to estimate when the various HIV virus groups evolved from a common ancestor. Zhu and colleagues concluded:

Our results … indicate that the major-group viruses that dominate the global AIDS pandemic at present shared a common ancestor in the 1940s or the early 1950s. Given their ‘starburst’ phylogeny, HIV-1 was probably introduced into humans shortly before that time frame, about a decade or two earlier than previously estimated. …The factors that propelled the initial spread of HIV-1 in central Africa remain unknown: the role of large-scale vaccination campaigns, perhaps with multiple uses of non-sterilized needles, should be carefully examined, although social changes such as easier access to transportation, increasing population density and more frequent sexual contacts may have been more important.

Leopoldville,1952

Leopoldville, 1952.

That single serendipidous 1959 blood sample from a man whose name and fate is lost to history provided an important part of our understanding of where the virus came from. Simon Wain-Hobson wrote a commentary in the same issue of Nature explaining its implications:

What else is the position of ZR59 among HIVs telling us? First, it probably means that the global epidemic was indeed founded by a single HIV although, in this respect, it is no different from the annual ’flu strain.’ Second, the centre of the radiation and ZR59 are a considerable stretch from any simian counterpart, suggesting that HIV had a human history before it went global. Third, the Big Bang seems to have occurred around, or just after, the Second World War. Emerging microbial infections often result from adaptation to changing ecological niches and habits. And, of course, the post-war era saw the collapse of European colonialism and attendant changes in urban and technological traits. As usual, when data are limited we’re in the realm of speculation, meaning that the story is not over. …

In 1959, the Nobel prize for physiology or medicine was awarded to Severo Ochoa and Arthur Kornberg for their work on nucleicacid polymerases, while the world rocked around to Elvis and Chuck Berry. There was fog in the English Channel.

And in 1959, a blood sample was drawn from an unknown HIV-positive man in the Belgian Congo. What he must have gone through afterwards…

[Sources: Zhu, Tuofu; Korber, Bette E.; Mahmias, Andre J.; Hooper, Edward; Sharp, Paul M.; Ho, David D. ” An African HIV-1 sequence from 1959 and implications for the origin of the epidemic.” Nature 391, no. 6667 (February 5, 1998): 594-597.

Wain-Hobson, Simon. “Immunodeficiency viruses, 1959 and all that.” Nature 391, no. 6667 (February 5, 1998): 531-532.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
William S. Burroughs: 1914-1997. A canonical figure of the Beat Generation, the novelist, poet, and spoken word performer’s best-known work is his third novel, Naked Lunch. Published in 1959, it was immediately controversial for its obscene language, unabashed portrayal of Burroughs’s heroin addiction and frank descriptions of sex, including his own homosexuality. Naked Lunch was banned in Los Angeles and Boston, where it became last the work of literature to be prosecuted for being obscene in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court lifted the ban in 1966, following a series of trials that included testimony by Allen Ginsberg and Norman Mailer in support of Burroughs.

If there was a secret to Burroughs’s art, it was this: He simply put his chaotic life to paper. A longtime heroin addict, he and his wife fled to Mexico in 1950 after Louisiana police discovered letters between himself and Allen Ginsberg discussing a drug delivery. While there, he shot and killed his wife while playing “William Tell” at a party. He was eventually able to avoid imprisonment after witnesses testified that the gun went off accidentally. For the several decades, he was in and out of drug rehab and financially destitute much of the time before finally kicking the habit, temporarily, in the mid-1970s. It was at about that time when friends hit on the idea of booking him to read from his works in bookstores and other small performance spaces. His career as a performance artist was launched, which also revived his literary career. He went on to collaborate with Laurie Anderson, Throbbing Gristle, Kurt Cobain, Ministry, and Sonic Youth. He also appeared in Gus Van Sant’s 1989 film Drugstore Cowboy. He died in 1997 following a heart attack.

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The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, February 4

Jim Burroway

February 4th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: NGLTF’s Creating Change Conference, Denver, CO; Midsumma, Melbourne, VIC; Bay Area American Indian Two Spirit (BAAITS) Powwow, San Francisco, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Michael's Thing (New York, NY), February 2, 1976, page 56.

From Michael’s Thing (New York, NY), February 2, 1976, page 56.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Florida Strikes Ban on Gay Groups on Campus: 1982. It marked a rare victory for LGBT rights in Florida when all seven justices of the Florida Supreme Court declared a state law banning gay college groups from campuses was an unconstitutional infringement on free speech.

The law had been sponsored by state Sen. Alan Trask and Rep. Tom Bush, and would deny state money to a state university or college which allowed its facilities be used by groups “advocating sex between unmarried persons.” While the law was broadly written, the sponsors said that it was aimed directly at LGBT groups. Their goal was to prevent the state spending money to “promote trash.”

But the state justices countered, “If it were to be held that freedom of expression applies only to views that the national, state or local community find to be within the range of reasonable discourse, the First Amendment would have little meaning or purpose.” The court added that the state, “may not make the privilege of attending (a public university) contingent upon the surrender of constitutional rights.”

The suit was instigated by John Wall, who was only seventeen years old when his community college denied him permission to form a gay student group. Now eighteen, Wall was delighted by the ruling. “I knew the court had no other choice but to do that,” he said. “Is it all over with? No, with Sen. Trask I can’t know. I’m sure there will be more battles to come for everybody. For Florida, it ‘s just one step further we’ve gotten. There’s always going to be someone trying to do something against us.”

In fact, Sen. Task had already announced that he would try to appeal the “tragic and dangerous interpretation of the U.S. Constitution” to the U.S. Supreme Court. He also filed bills in the state legislature to get around the state Supreme Court ruling, as well as to clarify Florida’s law on “fornication” — extramarital sex, under which gays and lesbians (and straight people) were liable to prosecution — as a second-degree misdemeanor.

[Source: “Florida Court Strikes Down State Law Aimed at Gays.” The Advocate, issue 338 (March 18, 1982): 9.]

The Congo River, north of the provincial capital of Mbandaka, Équateur province.

AIDS Cases Discovered from 1976: 1988. Common wisdom today, even with all that we know about the history of the epidemic, often still sets the start of AIDS with the June 1981 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describing five gay men who had died of a mysterious disease in Los Angeles (see Jun 5). When the HIV virus was isolated in 1984 and a test for the virus became available in 1985, several avenues of research opened up to try to figure out where this virus came from. Doctors in Paris and Brussels, who had long been treating wealthy African patients from their former colonies bearing all of the hallmarks of the new disease, pointed to Africa as a possible source for the virus. On February 4, 1988, the New England Journal of Medicine published a report by Dr. Nzila Nzilambi from Kinshasa, Zaire and other doctors from Belgium and the CDC which strongly suggested an African source for the virus, and revealed that AIDS had been a persistent health problem in rural Zaire as early as the mid 1970s.

Commercial center of Mbandaka, Équateur province.

In 1976, there had been an outbreak of Ebola in the northeastern Zaire province of Équateur along the Congo river. In the course of the medical investigations, hundreds of serum samples were collected from people throughout the area. Those samples remained preserved Zaire and were flown to Atlanta for testing. Investigators then went back out to Équateur in 1986 and collected more samples from as many people as possible, 388 in all. Ninety of them had also been among the 659 samples collected in 1976. Five of the samples from 1976 tested positive for HIV. Two were still alive ten years later; one was healthy, but the other was already showing signs of a suppressed immune system. Three were dead. One woman tested positive in 1976 was confirmed dead, “after a prolonged illness characterized by weight loss, fever, cough, and diarrhea” — all common symptoms of diseases associated with AIDS. Another woman, the wife of one of the two HIV-positive men still alive, “died in 1981 after a long illness associated with fever, weight loss, skin rash, and oral lesions.” Again an apparent death from AIDS. The third was a child who was seven years old in 1976, who “died of pneumonia and weight loss at the age of 16.”

The doctors concluded: “The results of our study showed that HIV infection was already present in an isolated area of the Équateur province of Zaire in 1976 and that the prevalence of infection in the general population there did not change significantly over the 10-year observation period.”

[Source: Nzila Nzilambi, Kevin M. De Cock, Donald N. Forthal, et al. “The prevalence of infection with human immunodeficiency virus over a 10-year period in rural Zaire.” New England Journal of Medicine 318, no. 5 (February 4, 1988): 276-279.]

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The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, February 3

Jim Burroway

February 3rd, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Los Angeles Advocate, July 1968, page 21.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Paterson, New Jersey Censors Mae West’s “The Drag”: 1927. Before going to Hollywood and becoming a major screen star, Mae West sought to make her mark on Broadway. In 1926, she staged the highly controversial play Sex, which was a sensation and played to packed houses for a year before the police finally shut it down and arrested her for ” lewdness and the corrupting of youth,” a charge that got her a ten day jail sentence. Undaunted, her follow-up play, The Drag was inspired by the gay men that she knew at the time. When her plans to bring it to Broadway were thwarted by objections from the Society for the Prevention of Vice, she opened it to great financial success in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and to critical and official disgust. On February 1, police arrested Mae West’s sister, Beverly, and the play’s director, Edward Elsner, and charged them with breach of peace. When The Drag went to Paterson, New Jersey, two days later, the following item appeared in several papers across the country:

Order Censoring “Drag” Enforced by Police Squad

Paterson, N.J., February 3. — A squad of police was on hand Thursday night to see that “the drag,” a homosexual play which caused a furore when it opened this week in Connecticut, was presented in the form in which an impromptu board of local censors left it after deleting objectionable lines.

The group of censors included a girls’ advisory committee, a welfare organization, an citizens’ committee, and Police Chief John Tracy.

“Paterson will have clean entertainment if it takes the entire police force to make it clean, Chief of Police John Tracy said, after the censors had struck out all the lines they found objectionable.

The play was next slated to go to Bayonne, but was banned on February 10, despite some 800 people already packing the Bayonne Opera House for the opening matinee.

Justice Department Announces It Will No Longer Defend DOMA: 2011. In a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), Attorney General Eric Holder announced his determination that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which barred the federal government from recognizing legal marriages of same-sex couples, was a violation of the equal protection clause of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Holder explained that the Administration had defended Section 3 in the past where courts had already held that the law was subject to rational basis review. But, in responding to two newer cases:

These new lawsuits, by contrast, will require the Department to take an affirmative position on the level of scrutiny that should be applied to DOMA Section 3 in a circuit without binding precedent on the issue.   As described more fully below, the President and I have concluded that classifications based on sexual orientation warrant heightened scrutiny and that, as applied to same-sex couples legally married under state law, Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional.

One of those lawsuits, United States v Windsor, would ultimately make it to the U.S. Supreme Court, with the House Bipartisan Advisory Group, under the direction of Speaker Boehner, intervening in the Justice Department’s stead. On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. Almost immediately the Obama Administration began issuing a stream of updated regulations and policies to extend federal rights, privileges, benefits and obligations to married same-sex couple wherever the law allowed it. (Some areas, such as Social Security benefits, require Congressional action.) More significantly, state courts, federal district courts and appeals courts across the U.S. cited Windsor to strike down same-sex marriage bans in dozens of states, bringing the number of marriage equality states from fourteen at the time of Windsor decision to thirty-five (assuming Alabama’s stay expires on schedule next week).

Portrait of Gertrude Stein by Pablo Picasso

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Gertrude Stein: 1874-1946. Her legacy is, well, complicated. On the one hand, she was undeniably the embodiment of a life of art, and the art of life. The novelist, poet, and art collector literally defined — and named — the “Lost Generation” of illuminati who frequented the Parisian salons of the early twentieth century. Her art collection was particularly bold, including works by Renoir, Matisse, Picasso, Gauguin, Cézanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, and many other notable impressionists, post-impressionists and other contemporary artists. In 1903, she wrote one of the first personal coming-out stories in her autobiography, Q.E.D., although it wasn’t published until 1950, four years after her death. Her longtime relationship with Alice Toklas (see Apr 30) however was nobody’s secret. They met in 1907 and remained together for the rest of Stein’s life. Ernest Hemingway, who himself was among the glitterati at Stein and Toklas’s salons, wrote of Toklas as Stein’s wife, and remarked that when Hemingway and his wife visited, Stein and Hemmingway would visit together and leave the “wives” to chat with each other.

But if the pre-war year brought out the best of Stein’s contributions to the arts, her politics during World War II brought out the worst. Her politics always included progressive feminism and anti-patriarchal ideals, but she was also, simultaneously, stridently conservative and reactionary. She hated F.D.R. and publicly supported Generalissimo Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War. In 1934, she told the New Yorker that Hitler deserved the Nobel Peace Prize. When Hitler invaded France, she became a supporter of the Vichy leader Philippe Pétain. She agreed to translate Pétain’s speeches into English, and she wrote an introduction comparing him to George Washington. All this, despite Stein’s Jewish parentage. Some have defended her support for Vichy France as a tactic to preserve her own life, yet Stein continued to praise Pétain after the war.

That praise however didn’t last long. Stein died in 1946 from stomach cancer at the age of 72. Toklas survived her by another twenty-one years. They are buried next to each other in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

Randolfe Wicker: 1938. Charles Gervin Hayden, Sr., read Charles Gervin Hayden, Jr.’s diary one day during his son’s freshman year in college, and discovered that his only son was gay. “Fortunately,” the son later recalled, “he went to a decent psychiatrist who told him I would probably be gay all my life.” When the father later confronted his son, the father gave his assurances that all he wanted was for his son to be the best-adjusted homosexual he could be. And when the son told his father about his intention to become a gay activist, the father only asked for one favor: “Just don’t involve my good name.” As Randolfe Hayden Wicker recalled, “How could I refuse such a ‘reasonable’ small request from a father who, while not close emotionally, was someone who put the needs of his wife and his child ahead of his own?”

Wicker was outspoken from the beginning. While attending the University of Texas at Austin, he came across a copy of ONE magazine, where he learned about the New York City chapter of the Mattachine Society. In 1958, he moved to New York and set to work drumming up publicity for the group, when he took it upon himself to print up fliers and plastering them all over Greenwich Village announcing a Mattachine talk called “Homosexuality and the Law.” Even though a record-breaking 300 people showed up, neither the lawyer giving the talk nor the Mattachine leadership appreciated Wicker’s publicity stunt. Arthur Maule, the Mattachine’s president, later recalled, “We didn’t know what to make of Randy Wicker. …He was, let’s say, a disturbing acquisition for the movement.”

Wicker’s arrival on the scene marked an important transition from the more conservative approach to gay rights among the older generation and the more direct tactics of the emerging younger generation of “radicals.” To get out from under Mattachine’s reticence, he founded a one-man group he called the “Homosexual League of New York,” which gave him the credibility to approach media outlets and create the kind of publicity that the Mattachine Society was reluctant to do. His 1962 appearance on a ninety-minute program on radio station WBAI with several other gay men to talk about what it was like to be gay (see Jul 15) soon drew the attention of The New York Times, the Herald Tribune, Newsweek, and Variety to Wicker’s “League” and to Wicker himself.

Thanks to that publicity, Wicker became one of the most visible gay personalities in New York, a visibility that was extended in 1964 when he appeared in WABC’s The Les Crane Show (see Jan 31). Later that year, Wicker’s “League” organized the very first gay rights picket in the United States when he and his League protested in front of the U.S. Army’s Whitehall Induction Center over the army’s failure to keep gay men’s draft records confidential (see Sep 19). And where the New York Mattachine Society was still hesitant to take on psychiatry’s indictment of gay people as mentally ill (many argued that they should “wait until more research had been done before we decide to take a stand”), gay rights activist Jack Nichols remembered that Wicker challenged the mental health establishment head on and was “adept at making the statures of shrinks shrink noticeably.”

Wicker’s activism went far beyond media appearances and protests. He made his day-to-day living as “the Button King” of the hippie era. As he later wrote: “By 1964, I’d become a passionate opponent to the War in Vietnam. My best friend’s girlfriend nearly died terminating an unwanted pregnancy. Other friends “turned me on to pot” and I’d become naively enamored by it. I joined the anti-war, sex freedom and legalize pot movements. Publishing “issue buttons” was my hobby. “Equality for Homosexuals” was my first big success. By 1967, my hobby had become a lucrative business. I became the ‘Button King’ of the hippie era.”

He sold his buttons out of his East Village head shop, the Underground Uplift Unlimited, and through mail order from ads placed in magazines nationwide. His activism spread accordingly, to civil rights, marijuana decriminalization, censorship, anti-war sentiment, abortion rights, and sexual freedom. His entrepreneurialship was above all else however. By the late 1960s, he identified as a moderate Republican, much to the dismay of the more left-leaning gay activists, and despite his most popular button of 1968 reading “Lick Dick.”

Wicker continued to make waves all his life. He became a regular contributor for Gay magazine, and then for Screw, where he wrote a memorable article giving detailed instructions on “how to get maximum satisfaction out of sodomy” in an article titled, “Up The Ass Is A Gas”. After scientists announced the cloning of Dolly the Sheep, Wicker became a cloning rights activist, arguing that every person’s DNA is his or her personal property and that the right to bear one’s “later-born identical twin” was a human right. Has no problem if people regard him as a gadfly. He long ago recognized that it was what he was best at:

Anyone who really thinks and speaks for himself makes waves. I’ve always liked challenging stereotypical thinking. I would have preferred to be a beloved popular political leader. However, I found that required being two-faced and duplicitous. At the minimum being a beloved political leader requires compromising away most of what you believe in to achieve popularity.

Here is a television appearance by Randolfe Wicker on a local Pittsburgh talk show from 1972:

[Additional source: Jack Nichols. “Randolfe Wicker (1938-).” In Vern L. Bullough’s Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (New York: Harrington Park Press, 2002): 273-281.]

Nathan Lane: 1956. When Lane came out to his mother at age 21, she responded, “I’d rather you were dead.” Lane replied, “I knew you’d understand.” When a reporter asked if he was gay, Lane said, “I’m 40, single and work a lot in the musical theater. You do the math.” While he’s been in a few films and television shows, his award-winning work on Broadway is his main calling card, with roles in The Producers, Guys and Dolls, Love! Valour! Compassion!, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. His big break in film came when he played opposite Robin Williams in The Birdcage. He also reprised his Broadway role for the film version of The Producers.

Lane’s successful runs on Broadway have continued with nary a break. Last year, he starred in the title role of The Nance, which is set in a burlesque house in the 1930s. The role earned him Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations, and he won the Outer Critics Circle Award and the Drama League Award for Distinguished Performance.

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The Daily Agenda for Monday, February 2

Jim Burroway

February 2nd, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From ONE, August 1960, page 21.

Selling books on sexuality was always fraught with peril. If a book became too popular, its popularity might bring it to the attention of censorious authorities, whether they be the local vice squad, an ambitious district attorney or the Post Office. Many publishers tried to inoculate themselves against charges of peddling obscenity by placing notices on the title pages of their publications that the sale of the book was restricted to the medical or legal professions, regardless of whether the book itself had any medical or legal value whatsoever. But those messages also meant that the typical popular bookseller wouldn’t bother to stock these books. So with the opening of the first gay bookstore still several years away (see Nov 24), mail order from “medical book departments” was perhaps the most reliable way of obtaining such hard to find titles. This ad, appearing as it does in the nation’s first nationally distributed gay magazine, has all of the winks and nods needed to pass muster with the authorities while still getting its message across to “the serious reader.”

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
Why Should It Be a Crime To Dress As You Please?: 1884. The following letter to the editor appeared in the February 1884 edition of the journal Alienist and Neurologist (an alienist is an archaic term for a psychiatrist). The letter was notable for two reasons. Nearly all letters to the editor were routinely signed, but this one is kept anonymous. And it is also a very rare early example of an American writer, apparently a professional, asking whether those who don’t conform to the rigid gender roles of the day should be left alone (or at least relatively alone) and not treated as a criminal:

MR. EDITOR: — Will you kindly permit me to say a few words about Sexual Perversion, in reply to Dr. Rice’s paper. The latter says that it has but little forensic interest in this country, and I beg to differ with him. In the first place, it is quite generally admitted that lunatics and maniacs are not responsible, and irresponsible people are not to be punished for a thing that they cannot help doing.

When a man dons female attire, or vice versa, he either has an object or he has none. If he has an object, it may be good, bad or indifferent. If it is to conceal past crime, or as an aid to future crime, it is bad, and deserves punishment. If he seeks the disguise to enable him to ferret out a crime, the object is praiseworthy, — detectives are allowed it. In the third case, it must be said that the sole object is pleasure or satisfaction of some sort. Crime may be a pleasure to some, but if we exclude all evil intent, is it not harmless? Another case that resembles, sometimes one and sometimes another of the above, is when it is done for a livelihood; women give this as an excuse, a plea to be allowed men’s dress; men rarely.

Quite a large number of cases are occurring in all large cities, of persons arrested for dressing like the opposite sex. But few are criminals; many are highly respectable and honorable. Should they be punished as criminals? If the object is good, No! If bad, Yes! If neither, what then?

It is self-evident that no sane man will take the pains and go to the expense of obtaining a full set of female attire, and persist in the practice of wearing it until he becomes expert in its uses, initiating himself into all the mysteries of a lady’s toilet, submitting voluntarily to the tortures of tight corsets and high-heeled boots and false hair, hoops, pull-backs and frizzes, unless impelled thereto by some motive stronger than mere mischief. There can be no doubt in my mind that such a miserable being deserves pity rather than punishment. There have been several arrests in this city within five or six years for wearing female attire, and I believe nearly all the victims belonged to that innocent class, since no other object or purpose was ever proved against them.

Why should it be a crime, to dress as you please? The dress itself inflicts punishment enough on its wearer. No one but the wearer is injured, nor need others be any the wiser for it. Certain it is that many of these poor people have suffered severe punishment at the hands of our judges, and with no one bold enough to defend them.

Is it not sad enough that they must suffer daily between two fires — love of this dress, and fear of punishment, which they have known to be swift and certain? Would the world be any the worse for allowing them this little modicum of comfort, the only pleasure they have in life, under proper restrictions? What these restrictions should be I am not prepared to say. Perhaps an asylum or retreat might be provided, where they could resort when these paroxysms came on, and there enjoy (?) in seclusion from the public eye, where the law could not reach them, such indulgences as might be deemed proper, or compelled to follow these practices until they were thoroughly cured of such desires. I know of one case, at least, that would be benefited, perhaps cured, by suitable treatment of this sort. I should be glad to hear the opinion of those of greater experience than myself.

E.J.H.

[Source: E.J.H. (Anonymous) “Correspondence.” Alienist and Neurologist 5 no. 2 (February 1884): 351-352. All italics and parentheticals in the original.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Havelock Ellis: 1859-1939.When it came time to choose a career, he chose an unorthodox one for a Victorian Englishman: that of a sexologist. To prepare, he studied to be a physician, since medical science was considered to be essential in understanding all matters sexual. Then he joined the Fellowship of the New Life, a social group influenced by Emerson and Thoreau, where he met Edward Carpenter (see Aug 29), whose unabashed homosexuality must surely have been a great influence on him. Another influence: his wife, women’s rights activist Edith Lees, who was openly lesbian, and who insisted on an open marriage, an arrangement to which he readily agreed although he himself was impotent until the age of 60.

When in 1896 he co-authored (with JohnAddington Symonds, see Oct 5) the first installment of his six-volume Studies on the Psychology of Sex, that volume, titled Sexual Inversion go on to become the first English medical textbook on homosexuality. But first, he published it in German, and then translated it into English in 1897 in a bid to avoid British censors. German scholars, by then, had already written several influential works on homosexuality, making German the de facto language of sexology. It was thought that by translating a German work, censors might look the other way as they had for other publications of continental origin. They didn’t. A bookseller was prosecuted for stocking Sexual Inversion, although the charges were eventually thrown out.

Ellis can claim several firsts. He was the first to study what we today recognize as transgender identities as a distinct phenomenon from homosexuality. He is also credited for creating the ideas of narcissism and autoeroticism, concepts which were later adopted by psychoanalysis. He is also often credited for introducing the word “homosexual” into the English language, although in fact he hated the word’s made-up mixture of Greek and Latin roots: “‘Homosexual’ is a barbarously hybrid word, and I claim no responsibility for it.” He wrote instead about “sexual inversion,” and in ways that no major English writer had done before: as an objective field of study without characterizing it as a disease, immorality or a crime.

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).

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The Daily Agenda for Sunday, February 1

Jim Burroway

February 1st, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA: Events This Weekend: Midsumma, Melbourne, VIC; BeefDip, Puerto Vallarta, JAL; Rainbow Reykjavik Winter Festival, Reykjavik, Iceland.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GAY, October 25, 1971, page 13.

From GAY, October 25, 1971, page 13.

Gay rights advocate Jack Nicols (see Mar 16) and his parter Lige Clarke founded GAY in New York in 1969 as the first weekly newspaper for LGBT people sold on newsstands, with aspirations to become a nationally-distributed publication. In 1971, GAY gave its readers a rundown on gay establishments in New York and the West Coast, including these three bars in Hollywood:

OLIVER, 365 N. La Clenega Blvd . Delightful room serving cocktails and dinner from 4pm to 2am seven days a week. Menu is extensive and prices are stunningly below any other restaurant of its calibre in town. Atmosphere is that of quiet elegance.

SPOTLITE ROOM, 1601 N , Cahuenga Blvd. What can you say about a tradition? In this one’s case, it certainly is NOT dull! Don’t be deceived by its initial impression that it’s strictly a rough type bar! There is absolutely no telling who you’re liable to run into there. It is unique in Los Angeles.

LEMON TWIST LOUNGE, 6423 Yucca. This quiet place halted the trend that had gays deserting the downtown Hollywood area for the nicer, more sophisticated bistros of West Hollywood or the Valley. It has a pleasant decor and personable staff. It’s neither an entertainment center nor a sardine can, but a cozy, intimate place to socialize without all the gimmickry that seems so fashionable these days. GM, GF.

EMPHASIS MINE:

Cafe: 3 a.m.

Detectives from the vice squad
with weary sadistic eyes
spotting fairies.
Degenerates,
some folks say.

But God, Nature,
or somebody
made them that way.

Police lady or Lesbian
over there?
Where?

– Langston Hughes, inspired by a police raid on an African-American gay bar.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
95 YEARS AGO: Los Angeles Police “Purity Squad” Raids Private Party: 1920. Angelinos awoke to an odd story in that day’s Los Angeles Times:

Twenty Los Angeles men, some said the be prominent in social and business circles, were arrested last night by the police at a stag party in the home of Former Mayor Harper and were booked on the charge of social vagrancy.

Seven of the men, including the host, Joseph Harper, 24 years old, are alleged by the officers making the raid to have been gowned in feminine apparel.

The house, at 1128 West Twenty-eighth street, was surrounded when the gaiety was at its height.

Just after the police had raided the residence, Ex-Mayor Harper and Mrs. Harper arrived home. They had returned, unexpectedly, from a trip to Bakersfield. Mrs. Harper was prostrated by the incident and became hysterical. Mr. Harper also was overcome with emotion.

…According to Police Sergeant Gifford and the officers of the “purity squad” who conducted the raid, a degenerate orgy was in progress when they entered the house.

Two naval petty officers and two unlisted sailors, whose names were withheld by the police were at the “party” in uniform, it is said.

The four naval personnel were the only ones accorded the courtesy of their names not being released to the press. For everyone else, The Times dutifully noted in the next two paragraphs party-goers’ names, addresses and occupations, with the first paragraph listing the six who were “all taking ‘female’ parts in the party,” and the second listing those who “remained in male attire.” The following day, The Times carried a much more lengthy account:

Two of the score of prisoners were released on bail yesterday, eight of them were ordered held without bail after they failed to pass the medical quarantine examination, and the other ten are being held in various tanks and cells, some still awaiting masculine clothes to take the place of the feminine finery which Purity Squad officers unceremoniously removed from them in the jail.

The ever-diligent Times then went on to list the names, addresses and occupations of everyone who “failed to pass the medical examination for infectious disease,” those who were released on bail, and those who remained in jail. Former Mayer Harper, whose son was released on a $500 bond, told reporters: “I believe absolutely in my son’s innocence. I wouldn’t say that the police are misrepresenting the facts, but I reserve for myself a few opinions along that line.” The Times, having gotten that quick statement out of the way, then went on to describe some of the more titillating details:

Central Police Station buzzed with activity all through the night and the day yesterday. Early in the morning, after Jailer Shand arrived, he and his assistants went upstairs to the big tank and began stripping eight of the “guests” of the female attire in which they had draped themselves.

The dresses, some of them very costly and elaborate, were unceremoniously packed into suit cases and marked as evidence. Some of the men were supplied with bathrobes and others had to content themselves with jail blankets.

The arresting officers yesterday related the details of the raid and the evidence they assert they have to substantiate their charges. News that the party was to take place Saturday night was received about two weeks ago, they stated. At that time, the officers say, there was another party at which some of the men arrested Saturday were present.

Arrangements were made to have some of the officers in the house. While the scheme of the operation was not disclosed, it was whispered yesterday that at least one of the purity squad’s experts was under a bed in one of the rooms, another one was among the original members of the party wearing a uniform, and a third member managed to get into the house at the last hour. The officers say liquor was served int he shape of punch, and that there was music and much hilarity.

In an odd turn two months later, the charges in the Harper raid were dropped due to “confusion” and the fact that an “important witness is said to have disappeared.”

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Langston Hughes: 1902-1967. He was one of the innovators of a new form of poetry: jazz poetry. Born in Joplin, Missouri, he moved to New York City to attend Columbia, but was more interested in the goings-on in Harlem. He traveled throughout the world, and while his writings reflect those travels, he remained rooted in the experience of the Harlem Renaissance. His 1934 collection of short stories, The Ways of White Folks, tells of the intersection of black and white, and his screen play for Way Down South came out in the same year as Gone With the Wind. He remained closeted for his entire life, although some say that if you ignore the pronouns you can see hints of homoeroticism in some of his poems. Other unpublished poems appear to have been written to a black male lover. Another short story, Blessed Assurance,” deals with a father’s anger over his son’s “queerness.” But his finances were always precarious, and he would not have been able to afford the fallout of openness about his sexuality. He died in 1967 after abdominal surgery, and his ashes are interred at the Arthur Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem.

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, January 31

Jim Burroway

January 31st, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA: Events This Weekend: Pride Film Festival, Bloomington, IN; Midsumma, Melbourne, VIC; BeefDip, Puerto Vallarta, JAL; Rainbow Reykjavik Winter Festival, Reykjavik, Iceland; GayWhistler Winter Pride, Whistler, BC.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Eastern Mattachine Magazine, July 1965, page 25.

Nob Hill opened in the late 1940s as a formal dinner club, but by the early 1950s, the club’s owner, James Jones, realized that the lack of a gay bar for African-Americans presented a golden business opportunity. Nob Hill soon joined the ranks of the Capital’s very few gay bars and the only one that was African-American owned. It developed a reputation for its spectacular drag shows and its Sunday night Gospel concerts, and became an essential refuge for gay African-Americans in Columbia Heights. Nob Hill had a good run for the next half century before finally closing in 2004.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Randolphe Wicker Appears on the Les Crane Show: 1964. Randolfe Wicker (see Feb 3) was never afraid of drawing attention to himself as an out and proud gay man. In fact, he relished it. And when he moved to New York City and became involved in the local Mattachine Society chapter, he pushed for the group to become more visible and to publicize its activities. Some of the more conservative members of the group feared that he was pushing too hard and too fast. So Wicker got around the problem by starting a one-man group he called Homosexual League of New York. That way, if Mattachine members became too uncomfortable with his planned actions, he could just switch and do them under the guise of the alternative “group.” In 1962, he had already talked WBAI,  a listener-supported radio station, to air a 90 minute program with gay people on a panel (see Jul 15). That appearance led to listener complaints to the FCC, which finally ruled in favor of the station in 1964 (see Jan 23).

Just one week after the FCC’s ruling, Wicker found a somewhat larger audience when he appeared in WABC’s Les Crane Show to answer questions about homosexuality. True, the program aired at 1:00 a.m., and it took place about eight months before Crane’s show went nationwide, but Wicker’s appearance remains an important landmark in gay activism on the East Coast.

50 YEARS AGO: Washington Post Publishes “Those Others: A Report on Homosexuality”: 1965. We often talk about 1969,  the year of the Stonewall rebellion, as being the pivotal year in the history of the gay rights movement. We even divide our history into “pre-Stonewall” and “post-Stonewall” areas. But as I’ve been putting these posts together, I’ve come to the conclusion that if one had to pick just one single year in which things truly began to change for gay people, the year to really pay attention to would be 1965, as the events of that year laid the groundwork which allowed the transformation which took place after Stonewall possible. The year already started off with a bang when San Francisco police raided a New Years’ Day party attended by straight couples as well as gay (see Jan 1). For the first time, straight people witnessed first hand the police harassment that gay people experienced on a routine basis. That event would have a lasting impact on city politics. New York activist Randy Wicker had already organized America’s first public protest for gay rights in New York in 1964 (see Sep 29), and 1965 would usher in the first public protests for gay rights in front of Independence Hall (see Jul 4) in Philadelphia and in Washington, D.C., (see Apr 17, May 29, Jun 26, Jul 31, Aug 28, and Oct 23).

Another important development came early in 1965, beginning on a Sunday morning, January 31, when Jean M. White, a staff reporter for The Washington Post, was able to accomplish a most remarkable thing. She published the first installment of a five part series titled, “Those Others: A Report on Homosexuality,” which was the first relatively judgment-free, balanced, mostly accurate and sympathetic overview in a major newspaper of what it meant to be gay in the 196os. The first installment began:

This series of articles would not have been written five years ago.

Then, a frank and open discussion of homosexuality would have been impossible. It was a topic not to be mentioned in polite society or public print because lit; could be distasteful, embarrassing and disturbing.

So, like mental illness and venereal disease earlier, homosexuality was stored out of sight in society’s attic, carefully hidden under a blanket of silence — except for snide jokes or oblique allusions.
Now, there is a growing awareness and concern about the problem of homosexuality — brought about in part by a more open and liberal public attitude toward sex in general.

In recent years, the subject has been debated debated in the British Parliament, discussed in statements by doctors, lawyers and churchmen and examined, if somewhat gingerly, in the public media.
The conspiracy of silence of the past nurtured myths, misconceptions, false stereotypes and feelings of disgust and revulsion. They still cloud any discussion of homosexuality. But more and more, recognition has come of a need to reappraise our laws — and our attitudes.

This series was quite unlike another series of articles published by The New York Times just two year earlier (see Dec 17). This Post series focused mainly on male homosexuals “because female homosexuality poses less of a social problem. The Lesbian has been treated more tolerantly by society and seldom comes into conflict with the law.” The first article of the series included a broad overview of the gay community — its organizations, magazines, and the difficulties both of life in the closet and outside of it. It also included a few vignettes of some of the individuals in the D.C. area. Twenty-five year old “David” represented one who lived more or less in the gay community, attending parties and having been a patient at St. Elizabeth’s Psychiatric Hospital “to try to change but ‘it didn’t take.” Another person described in the opening article was for some unknown reason unnamed, but an astute observer today would recognize him as Frank Kameny (see May 21), the late pioneering gay rights advocate:

The astronomer speaks articulately of civil rights and job discrimination and cites studies in anthropology and psychoanalytic theory. Seven years ago he lost his Government job because of a report that he was a homosexual.

“I decided then that I had run long enough,” ‘he recalls. “All of us have to make our own compromises in life. I decided not to hide any more.”

He fought his job dismissal in the courts. Since then he has appeared before a congressional subcommittee to speak for the local Mattachine Society and has defended homosexuality on radio and television programs.

After long months without work and then a temporary job as a technician, he finally was hired as a physicist a year ago by a private employer, who knows he is a homosexual.

This middle-class homosexual with college degrees deplores the perverts and -queens” and points out that heterosexuals also have their rapists, child molesters, sadists and neurotics. He sometimes drops in at a “gay” bar for conversation and a drink and attends the Mattachine meetings. He has sought a lasting relationship without success.

This is not the type of homosexual that the police generally meet. They know the homosexual as the predatory man who loiters in public men’s rooms. Or they see the man who compulsively seeks a quick partner in the park.

The opening installment of the article continued with a review of Kinsey’s 1948 Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and noted the early emerging debate about whether homosexuality was a mental illness. Four more installments in the series would be published over the next for days. Part two focused on the disagreements among psychologists about whether homosexuality can or ought to be “cured,” and it featured quotations from Sigmund Freud’s 1935 letter to an American mother discounting the possibility of changing her son’s sexuality (see Apr 9).  Part three introduced readers to the idea that gay people could be found throughout society and in all professions. Part four explored the legal difficulties that gay men experienced in a country where every state except Illinois and every territory and the District of Columbia criminalized gay relationships (including the North Carolina case where a man was sentenced to a minimum of twenty years — see Jan 8). Part five delved into the federal ban on hiring gay people for government jobs, and the efforts of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., to overturn that ban.

While the series was exceptionally balanced for 1965, it wasn’t entirely free of the typical hangups and prejudices of that era. For example, in Part 3, White wrote:

It is true, however, that homosexuals seem to cluster around certain “arty” professions —  the fashion industry, hairdressing, the theater and entertainment world. In fact, there seems to be some basis for the charge of “reverse discrimination” — that homosexuals hire their own kind and set up a “homosexual closed shop.”

But whatever faults may be found in the series by today’s standards, they pale when considering the abject invisibility that the gay community experienced in the 1960s. Which is why this series was so important. At that very moment, gay activists on the East Coast were already coming together to devising strategies for bringing the entire community out of the shadows.  Barbara Gittings (see Jul 31), the Philadelphia-based gay rights advocate who edited the Daughters of Bilitis’s magazine The Ladder, praised it as “the most astute, as well as most extensive, coverage so far in U. S. papers. …The POST’s survey of the conflicting ‘expert’ views of homosexuality is one of the most comprehensive run-downs in print anywhere.”

Not only did most of the series appear in the front page of The Washington Post, but abbreviated versions of it appeared in several other newspapers around the country, including The Providence Sun-Journal in Rhode Island and The Chicago Sun-Times. It would wind up providing a well-timed introduction of gay people to the general public, ahead of a series of protests that would take place later that year.

[Sources: Jean M. White. “Those Others: A Report on Homosexuality.” Washington Post (February 1, 1965): A1.

Jean M. White. “Those Others — II. Scientists Disagree on Basic Nature of Homosexuality, Chance of Cure.” Washington Post (February 1, 1965): A1.

Jean M. White. “Those Others — III. Homosexuals Are in All Kinds of Jobs, Find Place in Many Levels of Society.” Washington Post (February 2, 1965): A1.

Jean M. White. “Those Others — IV. 49 States and the District Punish Overt Homosexual Acts as Crimes.” Washington Post (February 3, 1965): A1.

Jean M. White. “Those Others — V. Homosexuals’ Militancy Reflected in Attacks on Ouster in U.S. Jobs.” Washington Post (February 4, 1965): A1.

Barbara Gittings (as Gene Damon). “Cross-Currents.” The Ladder (April 1965): 19.]

10 YEARS AGO: “Suitcase Murderer” Found Guilty: 2005. Witnesses saw Josh Cottrell, 22, and Guinn “Ritchie” Phillips, 36, eating lunch at a restaurant in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, on July 17, 2003. Seven days later, Phillips’s truck and other belongings were found abandoned in southern Indiana. The next day, two fishermen pulled a suitcase out of Rough River Lake, opened it, and found Phillips’s body inside. When police arrested Cottrell on June 27, they charged him with murder and announced they would seek the death penalty in the case. And by all rights he should have been convicted very easily: he confessed to bludgeoning Phillips to death and stuffing him into the suitcase. His own family members even testified that Cottrell planned to kill Philips because he was gay, and lured Phillips into his hotel room where the murder took place.

But in court, Cottrell deployed the gay panic defense. He testified that Phillips came to the motel room uninvited and tried to kiss him and force him into oral sex. Phillips panicked, he claimed, and bludgeoned him to death. His lawyers argued that Cottrell was within his rights to defend himself.

After deliberating for nine hours, the jury returned its verdict. They found Cottrell guilty. Of manslaughter, not murder. Phillips’s brother sized it up this way to a local newspaper: “I think they (the jury) were looking at my brother being a homosexual when they made their decision to pick the lesser charge.” The judge sentenced Cottrell to 20 years in prison, the maximum allowed under the law.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
65 YEARS AGO: Fred Karger: 1950. The political consultant and gay rights activist was largely responsible for drawing attention to the massive Mormon funding of the fight to strip LGBT Californians of their right to marry. Before becoming a gay rights advocate, he was a Republican political consultant at the Dolphin Group, where he worked in the Presidential campaigns of Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush. In 2012, he decided to return to presidential politics, launching his own bid for the GOP presidential nomination. His campaign may have seemed quixotic, but Karger was serious about his goal to “open up” the Republican party and to send a message to young people to “stand up and be proud in a tough atmosphere.” He also achieved a notable first by becoming the first openly gay presidential candidate from a major political party in American history.

Portia de Rossi: 1973. That’s her professional name. Another name she goes by is Portia Lee James DeGeneres. The Australian-born actress is best known for her roles as Nelle Porter on Ally McBeal and as Linsay Bluth Fünke on Arrested Development. She married Ellen DeGeneres in 2008, and on August 6, 2010 she field a petition to take Ellen’s name. She became a US citizen in 2012.

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, January 30

Jim Burroway

January 30th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Pride Film Festival, Bloomington, IN; Midsumma, Melbourne, VIC; BeefDip, Puerto Vallarta, JAL; Rainbow Reykjavik Winter Festival, Reykjavik, Iceland; GayWhistler Winter Pride, Whistler, BC.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Los Angeles Advocate, October 1968, page 5.

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.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
 Gay Man Falsely Arrested for “Sex Crime”: 1957. In 1955, a horrific crime took place, with the “sex slaying” of three teenage boys in Chicago.  Fourteen-year-old Robert Peterson and two of his friends, John Schuessler, 13, and John’s brother Anton, 11, had left the Peterson home on their bikes to see a move at a nearby theater one Sunday afternoon. They never returned home. Two days later, on October 18, 1955, police found their bodies on a horse bridal path in a forest preserve, nude and strangled. The Peterson-Schuessler murders sparked a media frenzy, and in the ensuing panic Chicago police conducted thousands of interviews of possible suspects. One suspect was Anton Schuesslelr, Sr., who was questioned by police, then put into a psychiatric institution and given electroshock therapy. He died of a heart attack just one month after his sons’ murders.

Fifteen months later, Chicago police had another suspect, a “good-looking, mild-mannered” thirty-nine year old engineer, William Rexroad Brooke, who was working in Iran with an oil company. On January 30, a bewildered Brooke was arrested by eighteen police and detectives, with a swarm of reporters looking on, as he walked off a KLM airliner from Amsterdam. Brooke asked detective why he was being arrested. Told that he was wanted by Chicago police, reporters heard him say, “I don’t know what for.” He then asked reporters, “What is this all about?”

Newspapers blared the story the next day under huge headlines, along with details on the Chicago Police Department’s suspicions: Brooke had worked at a metal products firm near where the boys were found, his storage shed contained newspapers which included stories about the well-publicized murder, and his apartment was in “the general area” where they boys disappeared. More to the point, they found evidence that Brooke was gay, and that was enough to clinch the deal, despite the lack of any evidence whatsoever connecting him to the crime. Brooke was indicted in absentia by a Cook County grand jury and a warrant was issued for his arrest. When Brooke made his trip back from Iran, his name showed up on the passenger list and police were notified. And soon, everyone around the country knew about Brooke’s story, thanks to front page headlines that were impossible to miss.

Easier to miss was a tiny, one-paragraph Associated Press report that appeared four days later buried in the inside pages of the few papers that cared to carry it:

Suspect Cleared in Boy Killings

CHICAGO, Feb 3 (AP) — Lie detector tests have cleared a 39-year-old efficiency expert of any connection in the 1955 sex slaying of an Evanston, Ill., Boy Scout, police say William Rexroad Brooke was absolved for the killing of Peter Gorham, 12, who was found shot to death Aug 14, 1955 near Muskegon, Mich., and he also has been cleared in the strangling of three boys found Oct 18, 1955, in Robinson Woods, northwest of Chicago.

Nearly forty years later, information from an FBI informant connected to the Chicago mob ultimately led to the trial and conviction of  Kenneth Hansen, a horse livery stable worker for a Chicago mobster, for the boys’ murders. Hansen was sentenced to between 200 and 300 years.

[Source: “Seized on Plane from Europe in ’55 Deaths of 3 Chicago Boys.” Mattachine Review 3, no. 3 (March 1957): 12-13.]

 Oregon Doctors Claim Gay Cure Breakthrough: 1958. The San Francisco Examiner provided the following report:

Doctors Claim Cure for Sex Criminals

CARMEL, JAN 30. — A medical team claimed here today that homosexuals and sex fiends can be tamed down into useful, law-abiding citizens by daily doses of simple synthetic hormones. The report came from Drs. William M. Laidlaw, Donald J. Moore and Carl G. Heller of the University of Oregon Medical School.

Doctor Heller told the annual meeting of the Western Section of the American Federation for Clinical Research that he and his colleagues experimented with 55 volunteer convicts serving terms in Oregon State Penitentiary for sex crimes.

After six to nine weeks of daily treatment with progesterone, a female sex hormone, or synthetic versions of it, every convict in the group was infertile, impotent and lost all sexual desire. They stayed that way as long as they got their daily hormone pills.

Doctor Heller said the convicts were happy about the results. He reported the Oregon State parole board is deeply interested in the experiment.

The suggestion has been made that many sexual deviants and sexual psychopaths could be released from prisons if continuing daily doses of the hormones were made a condition of parole.

Of course, the article itself clamed no such cure, only that “homosexuals and sex fiends” could be “tamed down.” They were simply “de-sexed,” as one critic of the procedure put it in a letter to the Mattachine Review. But a de-sexed homosexual was good enough as far as these doctors were concerned, given that they apparently couldn’t imagine a homosexual who was already a useful, law-abiding citizen rather than a “sex fiend.” As to whether the prisoners undergoing the experiment were truly happy with the result, their happiness was likely tied to their prospects for parole.

[Source: “Doctors Claim Cure for Sex Criminals.” San Francisco Examiner (January 31, 1958). As reprinted in the Mattachine Review, 4, no. 3 (March 1958): 13-14.]

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?

Bryan Fischer “Fired” While Republican Party Leaders Travel To Israel on Hate Group’s Tab

Jim Burroway

January 29th, 2015

While news outlets in America are discussing Speaker John Boehner’s irresponsible invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before Congress as part of Netanyahu’s re-election campaign back home, the Israeli daily Haaretz is filling its Israeli readers in on a trip being made by some sixty members of the Republican National Committee, with all expenses paid by the American Family Association. In the process Haaretz is giving its readers a good glimpse of what the AFA’s Bryan Fischer has said on behalf of the organization footing the bill for the Republican junket:

Bryan Fischer, the AFA’s director of issue analysis, has said that black people “rut like rabbits.” Moreover, in a September essay, he wrote: “We are a Christian nation and not a Jewish or Muslim one.” On a video segment on MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show” last Friday, Fischer was seen blasting gay activists as “jack-booted homo-fascist thugs,” and depicting Islam as “an Ebola virus that is lethal and deadly.”

…For his part, AFA’s Fischer, in a 2010 essay slamming the end of the U.S. military’s ban on openly gay soldiers, blamed homosexuals for the Holocaust: “Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews.”

The AFA has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-gay hate group. GOP Chairman Reince Priebus sent out the invitation for the trip to all 168 RNC members in November. About sixty accepted and are going on the trip, including Priebus. Altogether 98 people are going on the nine-day trip that begins on Saturday. David Lane, who heads the American Renewal Project, is organizing the trip. The American Renewal Project is funded by the AFA, and is housed at AFA headquarters in Tupelo, Mississippi. Haaretz also gave its readers a small dose of some of Lane’s past statements as well:

His American Renewal Project is working to persuade 1,000 evangelical pastors to run for public office in 2016. “The Lord gave me this model of mobilizing pastors to try and engage the culture. Somebody’s values are going to rein supreme,” Lane told Haaretz, adding, “America was founded by Christians for the glory of God and the Christian faith.”

…We were established as a Christian nation in the name of God and for the advancement of the Christian faith. It’s my position that we’ve lost that,” Lane explained, in an appearance on conservative political commentator Glenn Beck’s television show “The Blaze.” “Restoring America to our Judeo-Christian heritage and re-establishing a Christian culture is the only way that we get out of where we are.”

No one from the RNC, the Republican Jewish Coalition, or the Anti-Defamation League would respond to a week’s worth of telephone messages from Haaretz for comment.

So far, this has been little noted in the American press, although it’s gotten to be a really big deal in Israel. Debra Nussbaum Cohen, the Haaretz reporter, appeared on Rachel Maddow last night to talk about the story. Maddow also reported that the AFA has responded by announcing that Fischer has been “fired” as a spokesperson and Director of Issues Analysis for the AFA. Tim Wildmon, the AFA’s president, told MSNBC that Fischer was now “just a radio host,” and that he was “fired” because of “the soundbite quotes, you know, the Hitler and the homosexuality one…” Maddow noted that even though Fischer has a long history of consistently making these same remarks over and over, Wildmon said simply, “we reject that.” For now, at least, while the Israeli public’s eyes are on them.

I’m still putting Fischer’s “firing” in quotes, because he apparently still has his radio program, carried throughout the AFA’s radio network of more than 200 stations. He may no longer have the title, but he still has the same national platform that he always had, courtesy of the AFA:

Meanwhile, more than a third of the entire Republican National Committee and its chairman will depart Saturday in the company of several Christian Reconstructionists on the AFA’s $400,000 tab. So for now, nothing’s really changed.

The Daily Agenda for Thursday, January 29

Jim Burroway

January 29th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Pride Film Festival, Bloomington, IN; Midsumma, Melbourne, VIC; BeefDip, Puerto Vallarta, JAL; Rainbow Reykjavik Winter Festival, Reykjavik, Iceland; GayWhistler Winter Pride, Whistler, BC.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From This Week In Texas, November 11, 1978, page 32.

From This Week In Texas, November 11, 1978, page 32.

As of March 2013, the formerly sumptuous disco on Lubbock’s far north side was empty and available for lease.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Greg Louganis: 1960. During the 1976 Montreal Olympics, he came in second for the tower diving behind Italy’s Klaus Dibiasi. When Dibiasi retired two years later, Louganis won his first world title and was a favorite for the 1980 Olympics. Unfortunately, that was the Moscow Olympics, which the U.S. boycotted overt the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. But in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles (which the Soviets boycotted in retaliation), Louganis won his gold metals in springboard and tower diving. During the 1988 Seoul Olympics, he hit his head on the springboard during preliminaries, resulting in a concussion. But he went on to earn a gold during the finals.

He came out as gay in 1995 — where else? — on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and his 1996 memoir, Breaking the Surface, detailed his trials of competing as a closeted gay man. He also announced his HIV status, upon which every sponsor but one — Speedo — dropped him like a hot potato. His book was the basis for a 1997 Showtime movie by the same name starring Mario Lopez. He married his partner, paralegal Johnny Chaillot, in 2013.

Sara Gilbert: 1975. Kid sister of Melissa Gilbert, Sara is perhaps best known for her role as the sardonic Darlene Conner on the ABC sitcom Roseanne, who was far and away my favorite character on the series (aside, of course, from a minor character played by a very young George Clooney in the first four seasons). Later, Sara juggled her work in Rosanne with studies at Yale where she majored in art photography, with producers accommodating her academic schedule by shooting remote segments in New York. She had a recurring role on The Big Bang Theory from 2007 to 2010, when she became the co-host and executive producer of The Talk. That same year, she came out as a lesbian. She and her former partner, TV producer Allison Adler, separated amicably in 2011 after a ten year relationship and two children. She married former 4 Non Blondes frontwoman Linda Perry in March of 2014. Last September, she announced on The Talk that she is expecting a baby.

Adam Lambert: 1982. Critics agreed: he had the talent to win the eighth season of American Idol, but Christian conservatives, appalled by his open sexuality, thought otherwise and mounted a phone campaign to make sure the ‘mo didn’t win. He wound up coming in second place, but his career was set. (Trivia question: does anyone remember who came in first? No fair Googling.) His first studio album, For Your Entertainment, debuted at number three on the Billboard 200. Subsequent releases cemented his reputation, and in 2010 he became the only American Idol contestant, so far, to headline a worldwide concert tour in the year after appearing on Idol. He’s theatrical, androgynous, and unabashedly flamboyant — in the best, gayest sense of the word. His controversial American Music Awards performance — risqué in ways that was old hat for Madonna and Britney Spears — nearly got him banned from television. ABC relented, but would only allow him to appear on The View in a pre-recorded appearance. In 2012, Lambert toured as the lead singer for Queen in several cities across Europe, while his latest album, Trespassing, reached number one on the Billboard 200. Last year, his tour with Queen extended to North America, Australia and New Zealand. They are heading back out to Europe this 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).

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

The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, January 28

Jim Burroway

January 28th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Pride Film Festival, Bloomington, IN; Midsumma, Melbourne, VIC; BeefDip, Puerto Vallarta, JAL; Rainbow Reykjavik Winter Festival, Reykjavik, Iceland; GayWhistler Winter Pride, Whistler, BC.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Blade (Washington, D.C.), June 1977, page 23.

The Windward Resort started life as a classic mid-century post-war motel on Florida’s famed A1A Highway, catering to families making the exotic trip to the palm-lined beaches of North Miami Beach. By the 1970s, newer and more fashionable options abounded all over South Florida, and the Windward Resort was catering to a much more niche clientele. The property is now the site of a twin high rise condo development where prices for the larger units top out at over $7 million.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
10 years ago: Three Year Old Murdered for Being “Soft”: 2005. Ronnie A. Paris had a hard, short life at the hands of his abusive father. He was only one year old, in 2002, when he had been admitted to the hospital for malnourishment and a broken arm and leg. The Florida Department of Children and Family Services removed Ronnie from his home and placed him in protective custody. On December 14, 2004, five days after this third birthday, he was returned to his parents. Not too long after that, Ronnie began experiencing vomiting spells, some of which twice sent him to the hospital. He had never experienced such spells while in foster care. Then on January 22, he slipped into a coma while sleeping on the couch of a family friend as his parents attended Bible study. He died six days later from brain injuries.

Ronnie’s mother later told detectives that her husband, Ronnie B, Paris, Jr., had repeatedly beaten his son, slammed him into walls, and forced him to participate in father-son boxing matches until he would shake, cry, and wet himself. Ronnie’s father did all this because he though his son was gay, so he beat him to keep Ronnie from growing up “soft.” During the trial, the medical examiner testified that he found evidences fo three separate head injuries that caused internal bruising and trauma to the brain. He also testified that little Ronnie’s vomiting spells could also have been attributed to head trauma. After three hours of deliberation, jurors convicted Ronnie B. Paris, Jr. of second degree manslaughter and aggravated child abuse. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison, to be followed by ten years of probation.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Richmond Barthé: 1901-1989. Mississippi-born Richmond Barthé spent his formative years in New Orleans, where his parish priest, Father Harry Kane, encouraged his aesthetic development as a painter. But since he couldn’t enroll in art school during his teenage years because of segregation, he remained self-taught until Kane was able to get him enrolled in the Art Institute of Chicago. During his senior year, Barthé discovered sculpting and never looked back. He moved to New York, won a Guggenheim fellowship (twice), and became a celebrated figure of the Harlem Renaissance. His work explored both race and eroticism. When crime in New York began rising after the war, Barthé moved to Jamaica. With crime rising there in the 1960s, he moved to Switzerland for five years, then to Pasadena. When he moved to an apartment above a garage, the city decided to name the street after him. There, he worked on his memoirs and editioned many of his most important works, with actor James Garner being among his most important patrons. He died in 1989.

Bobbi Campbell: 1952-1984. An early AIDS activist, Campbell was the 16th person in San Francisco to be diagnosed with Kaposi’s sarcoma, one of the more common opportunistic infections associated with AIDS. He came by activism rather simply but boldly: by simply refused to hide his face, he became known as the “KS poster boy” in 1981 when he began writing a column for the San Francisco Sentinel (see Dec 10) He gained nationwide attention on August 8, 1983 when he appeared on the cover of Newsweek holding his partner. That same year, he co-founded the People with AIDS Self-Empowerment Movement, and helped establish the Denver Principles which rejected the notion that people with AIDS (PWA) were “victims” and demanded the inclusion of PWAs in all aspects of organized responses to the epidemic, including the right to make informed decisions with regard to their own care. He died of crypytococcal meningitis, a complication from AIDS, on August 15, 1984. A week later, about a thousand mourners turned out for a memorial on a closed off street in the Castro.

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

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

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