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Posts for February, 2015

The Daily Agenda for Valentine’s Day

Jim Burroway

February 14th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:

Dinner

So, what are your plans for Valentine’s Day?

Events This Weekend: Belgium Leatherpride, Antwerp, Belgium; Cologne Street Carnival, Cologne, Germany; Gay Mardi Gras, New Orleans, LA; Arizona Gay Rodeo, Phoenix, AZ; Sitges Carnival, Sitges, Spain.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), February 1972, page 14.

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), February 1972, page 14.

EMPHASIS MINE:
I’m not much of a poetry guy, but I’ve always found this Valentine’s Day poem rather haunting. It comes to us from the February, 1962 issue of ONE magazine.

John, Passing

Steve, you say your name is, from Columbus, somewhere,
Going through New York on your way to somewhere else.
Oh New York is my home, I offer, smiling secretly
At the handsome aspirant who is really no longer
An aspirant but — John, passing — in one of his legion disguises.

Only last week you were Tim from Maine’s lumbering woods
Ending your vacation days here — Steve, you say.
Oh, yes. You’ve chosen that temporary name, John, passing.

But before we start, and you leave, admiring the neatness of my petite bedroom,
Let me make another plea as I did when you, John, passing, were here as Milo,
A hundred Bobs, Franks, Georges, Bills and one Sylvester ago.

Stay.
John, passing.
Stay.
So I may stop days and weeks searching you,
Finding the many different names you answer to and faces you wear.
So we can weld an iron home from this swirling world
And fend from reality’s cruel sunlight
So loneliness’ deep ulcers can have end and justification in you
And what’s left of this savagely confused pattern can bring a happier existence.

Pause.
You needn’t answer.
I’m sorry.
I’ve embarrassed you.
Steve you say your name is.
We’d better get on before you’re late for your train.

– Vincent Synge

TODAY IN HISTORY:
San Francisco Establishes Domestic Partnership Registry: 1991. The idea had been tossed around since 1979, when gay rights activist Tom Brougham proposed a new category of relationship called “domestic partnership.” His cause was taken up in 1982 by San Francisco Supervisor Harry Britt, who had taken the seat of slain Supervisor Harvey Milk. Britt’s bill authorizing domestic partnerships was vetoed that year by Mayor Dianne Feinstein, It would be passed again in 1989, but that law was repealed by a voter initiative in 1990. Fortunately, that same year city voters approved Proposition K which established a modified version of domestic partnerships which allowed same-sex and opposite-sex couples to register. Fittingly, on February 14, 1991, the brand new registry was established in San Francisco allowing partners to register. San Francisco however wasn’t the first city to provide domestic partnerships. That honor went to West Hollywood in 1985.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Jim Kepner: 1923-1997. There’s no telling exactly when Kepner was born. His mother found him wrapped in newspapers under an oleander bush in an empty lot in Galveston, Texas in late September of 1923. They guessed he was about eight months old, give or take. He never knew exactly how old he really was. I asked around trying to get more clues, but Paul Cain, author of Leading the Parade: Conversations with America’s Most Influential Lesbians and Gay Men checked his notes and didn’t have anthing either. He then suggested, “If you just want to pick a day in February, maybe you could pick Feb 14 — Jim really was a sweetheart!”

And so I shall.

Kepner may have been abandoned because of his deformed leg and club foot, which despite corrective surgery and physical therapy, gave him a limp for the rest of his life. That limp, more than his attempt to classify himself as a Conscientious Objector, probably kept him out of the draft during World War II. That he was open about his homosexuality may have played a part also. In 1942, he moved with his father to San Francisco, where he discovered the underground gay scene. He also began searching for books and other material on homosexuality. Over the years, that search would lead him to compile one of the largest archives of LGBT literature in the U.S.

Between 1943 and 1951, he moved to Los Angeles, New York, Miami, back to San Francisco, then back to Los Angeles. Like a lot of young idealists of his day, he became involved with the Communist party while the U.S. was still allied with the Soviet Union, but was kicked out when his homosexuality became known. Upon returning to L.A., Kepner became involved with the Mattachine Society. Soon after, he met up with other former Mattachine members who had just launched ONE, the first nationally-distributed gay magazine (see Oct 15).

Kepner’s first article in ONE appeared in March, 1954, titled “The Importance of Being Different” under the pseudonym of Lyn Pedersen. His debut article went to the very heart of a critical debate taking place in the gay community. Mattachine founder Harry Hay, for example (see Apr 7), argued that gay people were a distinct cultural minority, while others like Dale Jennings (see Oct 21) argued that the only difference between gay people and straight people was who they went to bed with. Kepner threw his support with Hay, announcing “Vive la Différence!” But he also urged readers not to let the controversy split the nascent movement. “What can a Society accomplish if half of it feels its object is to convince the world we’re just like everyone else and the other half feels homosexuals are variants in the full sense of the term and have every right to be? … Only by allowing the free action of individual groups within the structure of an elastic society can such diverse philosophies work together.”

By the fall of 1954, Kepner was working more or less full time at ONE, although he didn’t draw a salary until 1957. Kepner continued writing under his own name as well as several pseudonyms, mainly as a marketing ploy to mask the fact that ONE had such a tiny staff. Meanwhile, ONE had also established an educational branch, the ONE Institute, in addition to the publication arm of ONE magazine. The competing goals, education versus publication, put a strain on the organization’s meager resources and energies. Kepner finally resigned from ONE in 1960, frustrated by the infighting and what he saw as lax management in the organization.

Kepner stayed out of gay advocacy until the mid sixties. In 1966, he became the secretary of the Southern California Council on Religion and the Homophile, and edited ten issues of their newsletter. He also began publishing his own magazine, Pursuit & Symposium, which focused on gay history. He mortgaged his house to fund it. After two years, the magazine failed and he lost his house. In 1967, he helped to organize a rally in response to the LAPD raid on the Black Cat bar (see Jan 1), where he declared that “the nameless love would never again shut up.” Out of that rally came a new gay rights group, PRIDE (Personal Rights in Defense and Education), and Kepner served as the editor for the group’s newsletter. In October, that newsletter would become The Los Angeles Advocate, then later simply The Advocate. Kepner remained a regular with The Advocate through 1976, and contributed sporadically afterwards. Kepner also helped to form the Society of Pat Rocco Enlightened Enthusiasts (SPREE), a group of film enthusiasts and fans of Pat Rocco (see Feb 9), and Kepner is credited with convincing the Park Theatre’s (straight) owners to program for gay audiences. In 1969, he became an active member of the Los Angeles Gay Liberation Front, and he served on the Christopher Street West committee from 1970 to 1977. He was a founder of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center, and would come to work as a member of their paid staff for their education program from 1978 to 1980.

Jim Kepner with his archives

Beginning in 1971, Kepner made his vast collection of gay documents and memorabilia available to the public. In 1975, he dubbed his collection the Western Gay Archives, then renamed them again in 1984 as the International Gay and Lesbian Archives. By then, the collection consisted of 25,000 books and thousands of other items. In 1994, Kepner’s collection was merged with ONE’s archives at the University of Southern California. That archive today is known as the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives. If you ever have a chance to stop in, I heartily recommend it. Kepner died in 1997, at about the age of 74. A month later, his anthology, Rough News, Daring Views: 1950s’ Pioneer Gay Press Journalism, was published by Haworth Press.

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 Best Worst Graphic Ever

Rob Tisinai

February 13th, 2015

I recently saw an anti-gay graphic on JoeMyGod that excels so thoroughly at destroying its own message it feels like the best worst graphic ever.  I’m an instructional designer and a big part of my job is creating direct, clear, effective messaging, so I felt compelled, almost as a professional exercise, to analyze what makes it so perfectly disastrous. This is probably just for my fellow geeks, nerds, and dorks, but have a look at this masterpiece. Read the rest of this entry »

Alabama county update

Timothy Kincaid

February 13th, 2015

As of last count, in Alabama

47 counties are observing marriage equality
6 are issuing no marriage licenses to anyone
8 are issuing only to opposite-sex couples
5 are unreachable for inquiry

The equality counties are interspersed throughout the state, so few couples wishing to marry are inconvenienced with not more than a short drive.

The Daily Agenda for Friday the 13th

Jim Burroway

February 13th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA: Events This Weekend: Belgium Leatherpride, Antwerp, Belgium; Cologne Street Carnival, Cologne, Germany; Gay Mardi Gras, New Orleans, LA; Arizona Gay Rodeo, Phoenix, AZ; Sitges Carnival, Sitges, Spain.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From This Week In Texas, July 2, 1977, page 30.

From This Week In Texas, July 2, 1977, page 30.

ONE-1960.02

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
 55 YEARS AGO: Magazine cover provokes outrage: 1960. Fifty-five years ago, ONE magazine published yet another issue, just like it always did every month. This one, as issues go, was rather ordinary: A couple of poems, two short stories, an article about the organization of families, another one asking “Can we be worthy of a free erotic life?”, a scathing book review of Edmund Bergler’s 1000 Homosexuals (Bergler, a homo-obsessed psychoanalyst, was delightful combination of Paul Cameron and Scott Lively of his day), an advice column by psychologist Blanche Baker titled “Toward Understanding,” a brief commentary on England’s long-running debate over the Wolfenden Report’s recommendation that Parliament rescind the nation’s sodomy laws (see Sep 4), and a few letters to the editor. It was a decent issue, but mostly unremarkable. But the following month, one reader felt compelled to complain about that issue:

Dear ONE:

Good grief, Charley Brown! The cover of the February issue is simply TOO MUCH! For months now , with a snarl on my lips and no joy in my heart, I have been looking at those effeminate line drawings, girlish youths and that awful photograph of a nelly cop an ONE cover without so much as a line of protest to you. Looking back I can’t find anything like a real male figure all the way back to that sailor drawing in ’57. And now these weird creatures! They’re enough to steam a saint!

ONE, May 1957.

ONE, May 1957.

I know that many people have a positive predilection for effeminancy, as opposed to true femininity. I don’t have such a feeling; in fact an overdose of male girlishness gives me the vapors. If real male art is hard to come by couldn’t you canvass friends? Nobody wants ONE to ape the muscle mags with sweaty weightlifters all over the place, but this shouldn’t deny us the opportunity of seeing on occasional attractive man in your pages.

One last item: I think all this grotesquely womanish art is bad psychologically for those of your readers who are battling to free themselves from self-identication with the popularly-held homosexaul stereotype. Please help them remember once in a while that the average person with homosexual preferences looks, and is, as male as the next guy.

ONE, February 1958.

ONE, February 1958.

The Daughters of Bilitis insisted that women wear proper skirts instead of jeans or slacks at DoB events. Police often entered lesbian bars to make sure women wore blouses with the buttons on the left instead of the right. Men had fewer  imposed fewer dress code restrictions (outside of drag, anyway), but they were no less scrutinized and judged if they otherwise fell afoul of gender norms. And many of those judgments often came from gay men and women toward other gay men and women, in many cases just as harshly as those coming from the police or others outside the gay community.

Those who violated those gender norms — and those norms were much more restrictive fifty-five years ago — were seen as garish neon signs that drew far too much unwanted attention. A man who was romantically inclined towards other men was already violating far more gender norms than anyone could count. And in 1960, the last thing most of such men (and women) wanted to see was other people whose gender-role variance they perceived as being  more visible than their own.

Grant Wood, self-portrait, 1932.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Grant Wood: 1891-1942. Born a few miles outside of Anamosa, Iowa, the great expanse of the upper great plains and the solid simplicity of its people would always be near to his heart. He studied at the Art Institute in Chicago, and from 1920 to 1928, he made four trips to Europe where he studied Impressionism and Post-Impressionist styles of painting, but his heat never strayed far Iowa, nor did his style stray from simplicity and directness which are the bedrock of Iowa’s people. His style became known as Regionalism, which depicted rural American themes in a style which recalled the severe Calvinism of Northern Renaissance paintings.

American Gothic, 1930.

This is best exemplified in his iconic 1930 painting American Gothic, perhaps among the best known, best loved, and best parodied of American paintings. Art critics, at least those who assumed the painting was meant to be satire of small-town life, praised it. When a copy was printed in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, locals denounced their depiction as “pinched, grim-faced, puritanical Bible-thumpers.” Wood himself defended the painting as simply a a depiction of the American pioneer spirit. He also became a vocal critic of modernist trends and the dominance of the East coast art world. No other American artist before or since has earned such national fame without ever showing his work in New York.

In 1932, he founded the Stone City Art Colony to help other artists get through the Great Depression, and from 1934 to 1941 he taught at the University of Iowa’s School of Art, where his teaching career was very nearly derailed over accusations that Wood was gay. The only report that contains the complete details of those accusations was buried in a time capsule of the Art and Art History Building in 1934, and the details will remain hidden until the cornerstone is opened some twenty years from now. New allegations arose in 1941 when university colleagues, most of whom embraced the European trends that Wood so clearly disdained, tried to get Wood removed from the faculty. Their accusations centered around a very brief marriage that ended in divorce in 1938 and the handsome young roommates who lived in his home. When a reporter from Time came sniffing, the university president managed to get the story spiked, and reorganized the Art Department so that Wood would be placed in an entirely separate division and away from his detractors. But before Wood could resume teaching, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died in February 12, 1942.

Most biographies which have come out since Wood’s death have either avoided his homosexuality or dismissed it. Tripp Evans’s 2010 Grant Wood: A Life changes that by delving into previously unreleased documents and taking a closer look at Wood’s highly symbolic paintings, some of which toy with cross-gender depictions.

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?

Dangerous Medical Experimentation on Teens

Rob Tisinai

February 12th, 2015

Laurie Higgins is the “Cultural Analyst” for the Illinois Family Institute, and she’s quite agitated about the state’s attempt to ban conversion therapy for teens.

…they want minors to be prohibited from even hearing any ideas that may be linked to their unchosen same-sex attraction, because such ideas undermine the unproven, non-factual, self-serving assumptions of homosexual activists and their highly politicized, Leftist mental health community allies.

Such a tizzy. Though I’m not sure exactly what it means. But Laurie clearly thinks it’s a bad idea.

The sponsors of this bill have marshalled an unimpressive array of claims from mental “health” organizations, all of which are loaded with biased and ambiguous language in support of an astoundingly totalitarian bill. If we have any really good critical thinkers and debaters in Springfield, they should be able to shred this bill in a floor debate.

Not just regular totalitarian, like in North Korea or the Soviet Union, but astoundingly so.

Now you might think Laurie is about to shred the bill with facts and careful analysis. But that’s not her style. Laurie would rather just ask questions of the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kelly Cassidy. I’ve seen this just askin’ strategy before. It’s lazy and dishonest. Lazy, because it doesn’t require any evidence or even decent reasoning just to ask a question. Dishonest, because it leaves a gullible reader thinking a point’s been made even though nothing’s actually been said. The reader just fills in the missing answers with whatever the author insinuates.

The danger with this strategy, though, is that we can demolish simply by answering the questions. So let’s give that a try. Before we begin, though, let’s establish one thing. There is no evidence conversion therapy works, and a good bit of evidence that it can be harmful, so let’s call it what it is: dangerous medical experimentation on teens. That’s what it is, and that’s what we should always call it. Now, with that out of the way, first question: Read the rest of this entry »

The Daily Agenda for Thursday, February 12

Jim Burroway

February 12th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA: Events This Weekend: Belgium Leatherpride, Antwerp, Belgium; Cologne Street Carnival, Cologne, Germany; Gay Mardi Gras, New Orleans, LA; Arizona Gay Rodeo, Phoenix, AZ; Sitges Carnival, Sitges, Spain.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), February 11, 1983, page 24.

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), February 11, 1983, page 24.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Premiere of “Making Love”: 1982. Starring Michael Ontkean, Charlie’s Angels star Kate Jackson, and Harry Hamlin, Making Love opened in theaters as the first mainstream film to tackle homosexuality in a nonjudgmental way. That’s not to say that the story wasn’t without drama when Zach (Ontkean) and Claire (Jackson) dealt with a crumbling marriage as Zach struggled to deal with his attractions to other men. When he meets gay novelist Bart McGuire (Hamlin), their professional relationship (Zach was a doctor, Bart a patient who was in for a check-up) turned into a lunch date, then a dinner date, and then a full-fledged relationship, which over time, ends in a divorce for Zach and Claire. Claire handles the news badly, but over time comes to understand that gay people can live happy lives. The film’s happily-ever-after ending had the cautious feel of a made-for-TV movie, which critics hated. Gay critics, however, were overjoyed that the film was a positive portrayal where the gay characters didn’t all die in the end.

In real life however, the film demonstrated one significant difficulty in making mainstream movies about gay men: it seemed to confirm the fear that taking such a role would be career killers. Tom Berenger, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, William Hurt and Peter Strauss were all approached to play Zach; they all turned the role down. After the film’s release Ontkean and Hamlin had trouble living the film down. Hamlin’s promising career stalled for the next four years until he landed a role in NBC’s L.A. Law. Ontkean tried to prevent clips of his role from appearing in Vito Russo’s 1996 documentary The Celluloid Closet.

San Francisco Mayor Orders Issuance of Same-Sex Marriage Licenses: 2004. It was a stunning announcement, when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom declared that the California Constitution’s equal protection clause gave him the authority to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Between February 12 and March 11, 2004, an estimated 4,000 joyous couples lined up at City Hall to take part in what was quickly dubbed “The Winter of Love.” But the weddings came to an abrupt halt when the California Supreme Court declared that the mayor lacked the authority to bypass state law. All of those marriage licenses were voided, and same-sex marriage would remain unavailable until 2008 when the state Supreme Court found that “equal respect and dignity” of marriage is a “basic civil right” for all couples in California, gay or straight. That finding was overturned by California voters when they approved Prop 8 in 2008, which itself was ruled unconstitutional in 2010. That ruling was upheld by a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2012, and a challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court by anti-gay activists was rejected due to lack of standing in 2013.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Philipp zu Eulenburg: 1847-1921. A close, personal friend of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Eulenburg had a tremendous influence over the younger Kaiser, and over Germany’s politics in general. Like virtually everyone else in positions of influence, Eulenburg married a Swedish countess in his twenties. Together they had eight children. But also like many others of similar outlook, his marriage did little to discourage his many liaisons with others in the Kaiser’s inner circle.

In 1900, Eulenburg’s brother was exposed as a homosexual. The Kaiser demanded that Eulenburg cut all contact with his brother, a demand that Eulenburg refused, though that refusal appears not to have affected Eulenburg’s career. That same year, Eulenburg was given the title of prince in recognition of Eulenburg’s valuable counsel and friendship to the Kaiser. That counsel included urging the Kaiser to exercise a more autocratic rule independent of the Reichstag. Eulenburg also retained his post as Ambassador to Austria-Hungary, which he had held since 1893.

But holding such a powerful and influential position in the Kaiser’s court made Eulenburg a political target. In 1902, Eulenburg resigned his Ambassadorship and withdrew from politics, pleading exhaustion, although we now know that the real reason was blackmail. That was at about the same time the Germany was rocked by revelations that German industrialist Friedrick Krupp was frolicking with young men in Capri and Berlin (see Sep 17). Eulenburg returned to the Court in 1906, where he again drew the ire of critics of the Kaiser’s increasingly autocratic rule and expansionist foreign policy. Eulenburg’s timing for his return wasn’t good. Between 1906 and 1907, six military officers committed suicide after being blackmailed, and dozens of soldiers and officers had faced courts marshall for homosexuality.

Maximillian Harden, publisher of Die Zukunft, struck the first blow agaisnt Eulenburg by outing him in an article printed in April of 1907. Harden also outed General Kuno von Moltke in the same article. At the Kaiser’s urging, Eulenburg and Moltke denied the report and charged Harden with libel. Moltke’s trial came in 1907. It didn’t go well for Moltke. His former wife, a soldier, and even sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld (see May 14) testified against him. The court declared that Molte indeed was gay and cleared Harden of libel. The Kaiser voided the verdict and demanded a new trial, which found Harden guilty. He was sentenced to four months imprisonment.

But the details from the first trial both shocked and disgusted Germany. When Eulenburg’s perjury trial came around in 1908 — he was charged for denying his homosexuality during the Moltke trial — the prosecution had lined up hundreds of witnesses. Forty-one testified against Eulenburg, including several who described watching him through a keyhole. Eulenburg collapsed in the courtroom early in the trial, and proceedings were suspended while he underwent medical treatment. It  resumed later that year with Eulenburg on a stretcher, but was suspended again due to his poor health. The case remained in limbo until the destruction of the German Empire in 1918, and it never resumed after that. Eulenburg remained in retirement, with no further contact with the Kaiser, until Eulenburg’s death in 1921 at the age of 74.

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, February 11

Jim Burroway

February 11th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Belgium Leatherpride, Antwerp, Belgium; Cologne Street Carnival, Cologne, Germany; Gay Mardi Gras, New Orleans, LA; Arizona Gay Rodeo, Phoenix, AZ; Sitges Carnival, Sitges, Spain.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, March 15, 1972, page 7.

Before San Francisco’s Eureka Valley rebranded itself for the Castro Theater that remains its most prominent landmark, gay life in San Francisco centered on Polk Street, particularly the area between Geary and Union known locally as Polk Gulch or Polk Strasse. California Hall, at Polk and Turk, saw an important event in San Francisco gay history when police raided a New Years Day Mardi Gras ball sponsored by the Council on Religion and the Homosexual. The ensuing uproar forever changed LGBT politics in the city. Polk Street was also the location for San Francisco’s first Gay Pride parade in 1972. The Town Squire, a clothing store that opened in 1960, was just one of scores of popular businesses catering to the gay trade. By the late 1970s, gay life shifted to the Castro, and Polk Street became known more for its hustlers, sex workers and transgender refugees. In recent years, the entire area has undergone massive gentrfication, pushing out all of the old queer places and queer people. The storefront today is home to a computer repair business, with swank new condos rising up from above it.

A couple walks past police officers to attend the New Year’s Mardi Gras ball.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
SF Judge Acquits Four From New Years Day Raid: 1965. On New Years Day, San Francisco police raided a ball hosted by the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, a coalition of of gay and straight people of faith in the Bay area (see Jan 1). The raid took place despite negotiations between ball organizers and the SFPD which resulted in an empty promise by SFBD not to harass attendees or arrest anyone arriving at the ball in costume, including those in drag. Instead, police snapped photos of everyone trying to enter the building and later demanded entrance. Three CRH lawyers explained that the party was a private party under California law and that police could not enter without buying tickets or showing a warrant. The lawyers were arrested, along with a ticket-taker, and charged with obstructing an officer.

Trial for the four began on February 8 with Marshall Krause, an attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, demanding that the police state in detail what the four did to interfere with the officers. Three inspectors and one officer were called to the stand and questioned extensively. According to the testimony, the officers had, in fact, gained entrance to the hall, but were stopped inside when the four asked for search warrants as required under the Constitution. When asked why police were taking pictures of guests arriving at the ball even though no crime had occurred, one official replied that police “wanted pictures of these people because some of them might be connected to national security.” He also claimed that the more than two dozen officers and two photographers were necessary “just to inspect the premises.” On February 11, their testimony ended, and Krause moved that the case be dismissed because the prosecution’s contention that the charges against the defendants lacked merit. Judge Leo Friedman agreed, and directed the jury to return not guilty verdicts.

The raid and resulting acquittals would be a major turning point for the gay rights movement in San Francisco. City officials, embarrassed by the obvious police misconduct, responded by designating officer Elliot Blackstone as the first liaison between the department and the LGBT community. One of the lawyers who had been arrested and charged, Herb Donaldson, would go on to become San Francisco’s first openly gay judge. Two years later, the Los Angeles Advocate would contrast the differing political climates for the gay community in Los Angeles to San Francisco and credit the “unbelievably inept harassment of a big New Year’s Eve Ball a few years ago” for “triggering the homosexual resurgence, and the organizations were quick to capitalize on the police bungling.”

[Sources: Kay Tobin. “After the ball…” The Ladder 9, no. 5 (February 1965): 4-5.

Unsigned. “Cross currents.” The Ladder 9, no. 9 (June 1965): 14-16.

Unsigned. Editorial: “Politics by the bay.” The Los Angeles Advocate 1, no. 4 (December 1967): 6.]

Time magazine, Feb 9,1976.

Newspapers Pull “Doonesbury” Over Gay Character: 1976. Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury, which had been in syndication for little over five years, had gained a reputation for taking on a host of controversial subjects: sex, drugs, the Vietnam War, race, women’s lib, Watergate, you name it. In 1975, Trudeau won a Pulitzer for Editorial Cartooning, making Doonesbury the first regular comic strip to be so honored. Trudeau was, you might say, the Jon Stewart of his day. President Gerald Ford, who was often skewered in Doonesbury, remarked, “There are only three major vehicles to keep us informed as to what is going on in Washington—the electronic media, the print media and Doonesbury, and not necessarily in that order.” On February 9, 1976, Time magazine put the cast of Doonesbury on its front cover, and noting, “The panels are so volatile that half a dozen editors regularly run the strip on the editorial page.”

As if to prove that volatility, just two days later newspaper editors across the country were confronted with what to do with that day’s latest Doonesbury installment. The strip was, by today’s standards, pretty innocuous: a simple conversation between Walden College law student Joanie Caucus and classmate Andy Lippincott, with whom Joanie has developed a crush. Andy sits down with her and explains the situation: he’s gay.

That panel sent dozens of newspaper editors over the cliff. At least three major newspapers — The Columbus (Ohio) Citizen-Journal, The Cleveland Press and The Houston Post — and an unknown number of smaller ones suspended the strip. Thomas Boardmen of The Cleveland Press tried to put a thoughtful, but ultimately self-contradictory spin on their decision: “The subject of homosexuality is one of the most important issues facing our society today and it deserves special treatment. We are not shying away from it but we do not believe that it is proper for the comic page.” Charles Egger, editor of the Citizen-Journal, faintly echoed his Cleveland counterpart: “We felt the subject matter was not appropriate for the comic page.” After the Citizen-Journal’s switchboard was flooded with thousands of complaints, the paper offered to mail copies of the deleted strip to those who requested it. In Houston, Post editors also called the strip “inappropriate on a comic page,” but a local radio station responded by reading it over the air, as did member of the Gay Activist Alliance at the University of Houston when anyone called their office number. “We’ve been getting about 50 calls a day,” said an unnamed GAA spokesman. All three papers resumed publishing the strip by the following Monday.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Tammy Baldwin: 1962. Her political career began in 1986 when she won a seat to the Dane County (Madison, Wisconsin) Board of Supervisors. In 1992, she won a race for the Wisconsin State Assembly by defeating two other candidates while garnering 59% of the vote. She was one of only six openly gay politicians nationwide to win a general election that year, and she was the first openly lesbian Assembly member. When Congressman Scott Klug announced his retirement in 1998, Baldwin ran for that seat and won, making her the first woman to be sent to Congress from Wisconsin, and the first person to enter Congress as an openly gay representative. She would go on to represent the 2nd District for seven terms. In 2013, she became the first openly gay Senator in history after defeating former Gov. Tommy Thompson to represent Wisconsin in the U.S. Senate.

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 Tuesday, February 10

Jim Burroway

February 10th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

SwingerDallas-OurCommunity1971.05p10

From Our Community (Dallas, TX), May 1971, page 10.

Dallas’s gay newspaper Our Community had this brief write-up:

If a stranger steps into the SWINGER, he want be a stranger long.’ I’d never been in a butch bar before, so I was a little apprehensive when I opened the door: I mean all those butch cowboy types. What if one of those handsome brutes lassod (sic) me, threw me down and “had his way” with me! Of course I’d try to defend myself (but I’m not very strong)”! This didn’t happen, but I’d been there only a few moments before I meet several friendly studs. They said: “If you go once, you’ll return often.” I’did. So will you. It’s friendly, like home.

The Swinger burned five months later. The site is now a Chevron station.

Post cards by J.C. Leyendecker, 1900.

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
 95 YEARS AGO: A New Homosexual Trait?: 1920. Dr. Walter Courtenay Rivers raised in the February, 1920 issue of Medical Review of Reviews:

A sexuological brochure published in 1913 brought me some correspondence both home and foreign. Among the writers of these letters was an English public school ‘coach,’ whom later I met. I then found that altho he had written he was glad my book had appeared, he was an invert himself; not only that, but a member of a homosexual coterie; and besides, one who physically indulged his abnormality. Upon which I felt that his acquaintance and correspondence were too potentially compromising for my as yet extremely slight scientific name. I asked him to send his ‘case’ to Dr HAVELOCK ELLIS (to whom I wrote about him also), and declined further communication with regret, for of course clinical experience is the only road to discovery. However, one clue I did get. He kept a large cat of which he seemed very fond, and he remarked that many of his friends had the same taste in pets.

The “brochure” that Rivers mentioned was a booklet published in 1913, titled Walt Whitman’s Anomaly, which explores exactly what its title implied: that Walt Whitman was a sexual invert or, in the still-newfangled terminology of the medical literature, a homosexual. Rivers was undoubtedly surprised by his “coach’s” interest in the book, as its sale was “restricted to members of the legal and medical professions. This was quite common at a time when anything which might be remotely construed as non-condemning of the “abominable vice” was routinely banned as obscene. Havelock Ellis’s early works were not immune from such official attentions (see Feb 2). And so Rivers’s nervousness over merely maintaining a correspondence with an invert was neither out of the ordinary nor out of line.

And yet, Rivers’s articles and writings were among a growing body of literature which was just beginning to  try to figure out who these homosexuals were that they kept encountering. Given how little was really known about gay people, coupled with reluctance of the overwhelming majority of gay people to make themselves known, every tiny clue took in a huge significance. Including cats.

Since [Magnus] HIRSCHFELD’S (see  May 14) exhaustive work does not mention such a trait, the matter seemed worth inquiry, and it is attacked here in the following way: First I have taken HIRSCFIELD’S list of eminent men who were of inverted disposition, and looked for record of their affection’ for cats as pets; secondly I have taken eminent persons who are stated to have been cat lovers, and looked for evidence of inversion in them.

Rivers encountered several difficulties in the first approach; Hirschfeld’s list went back into antiquity; Hirschfeld didn’t see pet ownership as an important detail to record, some names on Hirshfeld’s list weren’t prominent enough for such details to survive. But Rivers did find four worth mentioning: the 18th-century art historian and Member of Parliament Horace Walpole, the English poet Edward Fitzgerald, the French poet Charles Baudelaire, and the English essayist Walter Pater, for whom Rivers provided the following evidence of homosexuality:

The evidence of PATER’S inverted disposition might first be briefly given. He never smoked and never married; he was entirely averse to outdoor games altho not physically weak; he wore always a green tie; his works show passim a special sensibility to young male beauty.

But about their cats:

Four out of thirty-one is a proportion of one in eight. Is one out of every eight men, or, for the matter of that, one out  of every eight distinguished men, devoted to cats? I imagine most people would say no. Some men, and particularly distinguished men, have notoriously a horror of them. These four, by the way, were all writers, and HAVELOCK ELLIS states that inversion is particularly frequent amongst authors. They were also pretty exclusively homosexual; there is no evidence of a bisexual disposition

Rivers then compiled his list of known cat-lovers in history “taking only those who have been dead some time” — undoubtedly to avoid impugning the reputation of a living person and opening himself up to charges of libel. Rivers then lists them:

Pope GREGORY the GREAT, HOKUSAI, TASSO, A. DE MUSSET, PAUL DE KOCK, PETRARCH, COWPER, WORDSWORTH, LISTON the SURGEON, RICHELIEU, CIIATEAUBRIAND, T. GAUTIER, DR. JOHNSON, SIR WALTER SCOTT, DUMAS the ELDER, SHELLEY, JEREMY BENTHAM.

Of how many of these may inversion be deemed a likely characteristic?

The quest now is much more difficult. To begin with, of none can we expect the trait looked for to be recorded outright. It will be a matter of inferring its presence from other, and commonly associated, characteristics, such as friendship enthusiasm, feminine tastes, aversion to women, physical stigmata of degeneration, and so forth; while even these may easily escape biographical mention. Again, bisexuality, physical attraction to men and women both, may mask inversion. Perhaps for these reasons, none of these cat lovers figure in HIRSCHFELD’S list of eminent inverts already spoken of.

You will notice Rivers’s referring to “physical stigmata of degeneration,” a reference to Degeneration Theory that I’ve mentioned elsewhere in these historical notes (see, for example, Sep 9Jan 25Feb 7). It was a medical axiom in those days that homosexuality, along with many other physical and mental ailments, were the result of evolution gone wrong. Before the industrial era, natural selection meant that the fittest survived. But modern society was now allowing all sorts of lesser-fit people to survive and breed, resulting in a kind of reversal of evolution — they called it “de-generation” — in which mankind was de-evolving or “degenerating” to a more primitive, less advanced state. The theory further held that degeneracy was not only imprinted on the brain, but  the “physical stigmata” or signs of the degeneracy could also be found on the body as well, whether it was a physical abnormality, or the shape of the head, the cut of the brow, the width of the nose, the tone of the skin — you can see where this went racially, can’t you?

At any rate, River’s struck two individuals from his list immediately as not being gay, and concluded that only three were definitely gay. Three of seventeen now brings the ratio to somewhere closer to one in five. Clearly, he thought, he was onto something. But why cats?

And there is something else relevant to cats which is also relevant to our subject, and that is the close association in the human mind of cats with femininity. One always associates cats with the woman’s world, and of course male inverts are very often of feminine tastes. The former proposition seems the truer and profounder the more one tests it…

A good many readers, perhaps, will agree that fondness for cats does, on the whole, seem entitled to a place among male homosexual characteristics. If it be, then the reason is that it is a woman’s taste. My subject aforesaid, the public school coach, had his cat beside him when pouring out tea; which he did, if not, like COMPTON MACKENZIE’S inverted author WILMOT dispensing similar hospitality. See Sinister Street Vol 1. ‘with a myriad mincing gestures,’ still with quite unmasculine competence, gusto and deliberation; he sucked sweets, smoked only cigarettes. Indeed the tale of male homosexual traits has probably not yet been given anywhere with anything like completeness. For the heart of the inverted man seems always reaching out after something womanish in order to adopt it; or else recoiling from something that reminds him he is bodily a man. Of that unfortunate being it might almost be said:

Femina est: nihil feminitatis a se alienum putat.

[Source: W.C. Rivers. “A new male homosexual trait?” Medical Review of Reviews 26, no. 2 (February 1920): 55-60. Available online via Google Books here.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
John Yang: 1958. The Chillicothe, Ohio native rose quickly though the journalism ranks, beginning with the Boston Globe in 198o, then Time in 1986 and the Wall Street Journal in 1986. In 1990, he moved to the Washington Post and remained there for the next ten years as a political reporter. In 1999, he made the move to television as the D.C. correspondent for ABC News, where he earned a Peabody for his coverage of the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon. He then became a Middle East correspondent from 2002 to 2004. Yang recalled the phone conversation with Peter Jennings when he got that gig:

“I was extremely flattered because at ABC News, Peter Jennings had veto power over foreign correspondents. And this was an area that Peter cared deeply about. And actually Peter got on the phone …  It’s actually something that Peter said to me,” Yang recalled. “It’s that he thought that — and looking back, you can take what he said a couple of different ways, whether he meant [me] being Asian or being gay — but that he thought that what I would bring to that reporting was an understanding or an insight into … people who are marginalized.”

In 2007, he was once again in Washington, D.C., this time as White House correspondent for NBC News. He is currently based in Chicago.

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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).

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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.]

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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.

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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.]

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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