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Catholic student sent home after following rules

Timothy Kincaid

September 28th, 2015

CBHSIt can’t be easy being a Catholic school administrator, especially when it comes to gay issues.

On the one hand, most Catholics are supportive of gay people and wish for inclusion and respect. And this Pope, those opposing legal equality, speaks the language of compassion and conciliation.

On the other hand the American Bishops are, by and large, pedophile-defending, gay hating, sanctimonious royalty with less compassion than the 17th Century French royalty. And within every parish there are self-righteous zealots standing at the ready to raise a hue and stink if a school tries to find some approach other than sin, Sin, SIN AND ABOMINATION!!!

But though it must be tough, sometimes they just make it a lot harder on themselves than they have to. Sometimes they are their own worst enemy.

Take, for example, the story of Lance Sanderson.

Lance attends Christian Brothers High School, an all-boys Catholic High School in Memphis Tennessee with an emphasis on human dignity and a commitment to social justice. And when he told an administrator last year that he wanted to bring a male date to the Homecoming Dance, he was told that the school didn’t discriminate and suggested that it would be allowed.

But that administrator left over the summer and now the school is taking a less favorable view. (Memphis Flyer)

“I was sitting down talking to one of the current administrators over the summer, and at the end of our conversation, I mentioned it, expecting him to say the same thing. And he had a very different response,” Sanderson said. “He mentioned a [gay] couple in Texas and said I was a lot like this one person and said that the guy’s boyfriend murdered him. It was a little rough.”

I suppose that it goes without saying that “you shouldn’t date because of this one drunken fight in Texas” is phenominally bad advice, however well intended. Surely by 2015 we don’t have to rely on wild anecdotal evidence to know “what gay people are like”.

But considering that he is being taught to stand for social justice, no one should be surprised that Lance decided not to just accept that administrator’s response. He started a petition requesting the school to change it’s mind, and received support from about 24,000 signatories. And a couple dozen alumni marched with him at pride.

The school did not back down. Which is their right. But the way they went about is just plain stupid.

The school could have issued a statement along the lines of “We support Lance and respect diversity, but we are a Catholic School and same-sex dating is contrary to Catholic teaching, so we cannot allow that at official school functions.” Not a great outcome, but not likely to cause many waves.

Instead, the school compiled a committee that came up with a policy:

CBHS students may attend the dance by themselves, with other CBHS students, or with a girl from another school. For logistical reasons, boys from other schools may not attend.

Logistical Reasons. Because, you know, boys get into interschool rivalries and cause fights, especially those gay boys who are going to murder you later. And we just don’t have the logistics to deal with that.

Then they announced that the Homecoming Dance is no longer a date dance.

No, no, there won’t be anyone at the Homecoming Dance on a date. It will just be the students hanging out with their buddies (but not buddies from other schools) and with some random girls who somehow wandered there for no apparent reason but which are definitely not on dates. So, you see, we aren’t discriminating against gay students who want to bring a date, because no one is on a date. At the Homecoming Dance.

Just a note of advice to Catholic school administrators: If you’re going to say something stupid, even colossally stupid, try to come up with something that at least has some semblance of believability.

So Lance didn’t go to his Senior Year Non-Date Homecoming Dance on Saturday. Because while other students were there with their not-dates, Lance wasn’t allowed to bring a not-date, so as to avoid fights over interschool rivalries and later being murdered.

And the story should have ended there on that note of silliness.

But Christian Brothers’ administration wasn’t quite through with truly stupid blunders. Today they pulled Lance out of school and told him to stay home for the week. Even though he didn’t bring a date to the Non-Date Homecoming Dance. (Logo)

Today I arrived at school around 6:30am. I sat down to complete my assignments for the classes I planned on attending today. At 7:30am, I was speaking to a teacher when an administrator walked into the room and told me to gather my books and come to the office.

When I arrived at the office I was told that the administration “had 890 other students to worry about” and could not deal with me. I was told to go home for the week. I said goodbye to a few teachers and students, then drove home.

And so now this matter of committee policy is now a story for the mainstream media. Congratulations Christian Brothers, you make the Three Stooges look like policy wonks.

Though the school is not telling anyone why they sent Lance home, in their letter the CBHS Community, they suggest that Lance was wrong to use social media to stand up for himself. They are embarrassed and have yet to realize that their embarrassment has everything to do with themselves and nothing to do with Lance. So Lance must be punished.

I guess at Christian Brothers in Memphis, social justice means standing up for inclusion and speaking truth to power… except when you are the power.

Clearly, this is not going to end well for the administration at Christian Brothers High School.

Boehner resigns

Timothy Kincaid

September 25th, 2015

john boehner

John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, has announced his resignation. (Tribune)

With Congress in turmoil, House Speaker John Boehner abruptly informed fellow Republicans on Friday that he would resign from Congress at the end of October, stepping aside in the face of hardline conservative opposition that threatens an institutional crisis.

Boehner has faced increasing criticism from the more conservative elements within the Republican Party caused by his reluctance to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood funding. Boehner is seen as the quintessential establishment Republican by the Tea Party elements and an impediment to their wild west style of politics.

A constant focus of conservatives’ complaints, Boehner was facing the threat of a floor vote on whether he could stay on as speaker, a formal challenge that hasn’t happened in over 100 years. That was being pushed by tea partyers convinced Boehner wasn’t fighting hard enough to strip Planned Parenthood of government funds, even though doing so risked a government shutdown next week.

“It’s become clear to me that this prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable harm to the institution,” Boehner told a news conference several hours after making the announcement to his rank and file. “There was never any doubt I could survive the vote, but I didn’t want my members to go through this, I didn’t want this institution to go through this.”

In all likelihood, Boehner could withstand a floor vote. But I suspect that to do so he would require not only the support of less extreme Republicans, but that of Democrats who have nothing to gain from Boehner’s replacement.

This resignation is not good news for our community. While the Speaker has been portrayed as The Enemy by many gay writers, in reality his language and tone have been civil and respectful and have signalled that one can be opposed to our objectives without engaging in hateful diatribe or invective.

Probably Boehner’s most notorious behavior was hiring and funding counsel to bolster the Defense of Marriage Act. But, as I said at the time, defense of a law by Congress is not an unreasonable action, irrespective of what one believes about that law.

And it should be noted that during the defense of DOMA, Boehner did not attack gay couples or wail about the sanctity of the time honored definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, choosing instead to say that “The constitutionality of this law should be determined by the courts.”

Interestingly, in the middle of the battle, federal bankruptcy judges in the Central District of California declared DOMA to be a violation of the US Constitution. Boehner decided not to appeal the decision as it was unlikely to be a vehicle through which the Supreme Court could rule on DOMA’s constitutionality in a broad sense.

Upon the Supreme Court ruling in Windsor that DOMA was a violation of the US Constitution, Boehner announced his disappointment but immediately ceased defense of any federal laws or measures that discriminated against same-sex couples. Nor did he or the House involve themselves in the Obergefell or other state marriage cases.

This is not to say that Boehner was an ally to the community nor that as Speaker he advanced our goals. That is not the case. Boehner supported DADT and continues to express his beliefs that marriage should be limited to heterosexuals.

But he has also not been a derisive opponent. And while he did not encourage the GOP to adopt equality, he expressed that the party should be inclusive of gay people and in the last election cycle he traveled to support gay Republican candidates – even though they disagreed with him about marriage and other issues.

It will be interesting to see who will replace the Speaker. Though it is possible that maverik moderates may refuse to vote for an extremist, it is more likely that the next Speaker of the House will be a Tea Party activist. And should that be the case, we may be subjected to a season in which the House of Representatives debates – or perhaps even supports – efforts to change the Constitution to institute bigotry. Almost certainly religious preference laws will be proposed so as to encourage and protect discrimination.

It’s likely to get nasty.

Kim Davis’ faith trumps courtesy and civility

Timothy Kincaid

September 24th, 2015

Kim Davis

I’m sure you are all weary of Kim Davis. But I couldn’t let this pass without comment.

In her self-congratulatory Holy Martyr interview with Megyn Kelly, Davis said this:

She said while behind bars she “talked to the Lord” and “sang praises to Him, at the top of my lungs. They probably thought I was insane in there.”

To me this exemplifies exactly what kind of person is Kim Davis.

There were guards and likely other prisoners in jail, none of whom wanted to hear her shrieking and wailing at the top of her lungs. But that is immaterial to Davis. It’s all about her and what she wants to do. And because of “her faith”, she doesn’t have to be considerate of others or follow the rules that apply to everyone else.

Marriage equality comes to Jersey

Timothy Kincaid

September 23rd, 2015

Jersey shoreDespite what “reality” television might try to convince you, Jersey is not the state immediately south of New York. Rather, it is an island in the English Channel, just off the coast of France.

Jersey is a possession of the British Crown, but is autonomous and self governing. Although the United Kingdom is responsible for Jersey’s defense and international relationships, it is not part of the UK.

Earlier this week, the unicameral State of Jersey Assembly voted 37 to 4 to include same-sex couples in the island’s marriage and divorce laws.

Where are Kim Davis’ gay friends?

Timothy Kincaid

September 23rd, 2015


Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis took to the talk circuit today to defend her decision to force her county to live according to what Kim Davis thinks that God wants. And, as anti-gays so often do, she trotted out the old “my gay friends” statement.

I have friends who are gay and lesbians. They know where I stand. And we don’t agree on this issue, and we’re OK because we respect each other.

This tired old tactic is an attempt to tell the audience that they should not listen to all those radical militant homosexuals because real gay people understand and respect Davis. It is designed to discredit her critics and show that her actions aren’t so bad because reasonable people, including reasonable gay people, respect her actions.

But this cannard relies on two old premises, neither of which remain true.

First, Davis assumes that her audience doesn’t have any gay friends of their own. Even the most casual conversation with a gay person would quickly disprove that notion.

The community may not be unanimous on cake bakers or florists, but when it comes to Davis’ denial of state services and refusal to allow her deputies to offer them, gays across the political spectrum see this as not OK and not deserving of respect. The only way to not know this is to not know any gay people.

But though Davis and her counsel may live under the impression that homosexuality is a dark secret kept in a closet, most Americans have gay people in their lives. Nearly 90% of Americans know a gay person and more than half have a relative or close friend who is gay.

The second presumption on Davis’ part is that sexual orientation is a very private matter and no one will violate the privacy of her acquaintances and say, “who are these gay friends of yours?” Thus she can just toss out this patently absurd statement and no one will call her on it.

But fewer and fewer people feel shame or any need to hide their orientation. And I think we can assume that anyone who is out to Kim Davis is not particularly selective in deciding to whom they will reveal their orientation.

So the Kentucky Equality Federation is asking just who are these friends who are OK with Davis and respect her? What are their names? Do they really support her? Do they even exist?

The Daily Beast took up the quest, interviewing her former husband, her employees, and her neighbors. But no one seems to be aware of any gay people in Davis’ social circle.

Several gay themed sites have also spread the appeal and satire sites are mocking her claim. As they should.

I think that eventually someone will turn up who knows Kim Davis. Maybe a grocery clerk or the son of a neighbor or a distant cousin. And when they do, they will say that they love Kim and respect her… but that what she is doing is wrong and they are not OK with it. And that will be that.

I am sympathetic towards that as yet unidentified person who may not want to be dragged into the story or risk alienating people in their town. But I am glad that finally, after years of politicians and preachers and pundits playing the “my gay friends” card to deflect criticism, finally someone is being called on it.

California GOP softens platform on gay issues

Timothy Kincaid

September 22nd, 2015

From the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News

On Sunday September 20, the California Republican Party in a near-unanimous vote removed anti-gay communications from its platform and added language in support of the LGBT community.

The CA GOP’s platform continues to oppose marriage equality, but language about “special rights” and other trigger terms were removed. This follows the recent inclusion of Log Cabin Republicans as a recognized party organization and reflects the realization that anti-gay policies no longer have widespread support.

The state party also softened positions on immigration.

ACLU asks judge to reverse Kim Davis’ meddling

Timothy Kincaid

September 21st, 2015

After being released from jail under orders not to interfere with the issuance of marriage licenses by deputy clerks, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis immediately did just that.

She denied the deputy clerks access to Kentucky marriage licenses and instructed them to issue altered licenses in which Davis had struck out words, filled in blanks inappropriately, and restricted the deputies from acting as deputy clerks and requiring them to only act as a notary public. Having removed the authorization that comes from being issued by deputy clerks, Davis declared the forms “unauthorized”.

A few days ago, Deputy Clerk Brian Mason filed his fortnightly report with Judge Bunning in which he detailed Davis’ behavior. The alteration of the forms was also confirmed in the report of Deputy Clerk Kristy Plank.

Now the ACLU is requesting that Judge Bunning order the Deputy Clerks to issue valid marriage licenses that have not been altered by Kim Davis. They are requesting that they be identical to those licenses issued while Davis was in jail, which do not include Davis’ name, replacing it with the words “Rowan County”.

Specifically, with regard to this Court’s September 3 Order, Plaintiffs request that the Court direct the Rowan County Deputy Clerks to (1) issue marriage licenses in the same form and manner as those that were issued on or before September 8, 2015; (2) disregard any instruction or order from Defendant Kim Davis that would require them to issue any marriage license in a form or manner other than the form and manner of licenses that were issued on or before September 8, 2015; (3) continue to file status reports that address their compliance with the Court’s Orders and detail any attempt by Davis to interfere with their issuance of marriage licenses in the same form or manner as those that were issued on or before September 8, 2015; and (4) re-issue, nunc pro tunc, any marriage licenses that have been issued since September 14, 2015, in the same form or manner as those that were issued on or before September 8, 2015.

Should Davis continue to meddle and seek to block the issuance of valid marriage licenses, the ACLU request that Bunning fine Davis and put the County Clerk’s Office into receivership.

Meanwhile Davis is on the talk circuit wailing about how people called her names just because she decided to impose her personal beliefs on the citizens of Rowan County.

Greece Had an Election

Jim Burroway

September 21st, 2015

And with every election, everybody talks about who they think will win. As far as the politicians are concerned, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Syriza party scored a solid win. But if you ask me, any time a citizenry takes part in the democratic process, we all win.

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The Daily Agenda for Monday, September 28

Jim Burroway

September 28th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), October 9, 1987, page 2. (Source.)

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), October 9, 1987, page 2. (Source.)

Mondays was male dancers night. According to this photo that ran in The Calendar in September, the Fantasy in Motion Dancers were pretty athletic.

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 9.02.35 PM

Tuscarora, Nevada.

Tuscarora, Nevada.

A Same-Sex Marriage in Nevada: 1877. The LGBT acronym that we often toss about reflects the fact that we today understand ourselves as though we were measured along two distinct axis. The first axis (the L/G/B one) speaks of the gender of those to whom we are attracted; this defines us as gay, straight, or somewhere in between. The second axis (often lamented as the silent “T” by transgender advocates), describes how we see ourselves: we are generally male or female. For most of us (cisgenders) we experience our gender in congruence with our bodily appearance; for some of us (transgenders), we doesn’t. Taken together, these two sets of descriptions — of one’s sexual orientation and gender identity as separate categories — have been adequate for most of us to describe who we are as sexual beings.

But notice what those descriptions do: they also describe states of being rather than things we’re doing. And this is a very modern way of thinking. Until very recently, one was much more defined — and one’s available life choices were much more restricted — according to one’s gender role, which defined who one is according to what one does and vice versa. And until fairly recently, it was madness to consider that the two could be seperable. And so gender roles went like this: the male gender role meant that men were born male, wore men’s clothing and cut their hair, they left the home every day to make a living, and they loved and/or married women. The female gender role meant that women were female, kept the house, did the cooking, raised the children, wore dresses and petticoats, and they loved and/or married men.

Because there was no option to separate out one’s sexual orientation or gender identity, from one’s gender role, it gets very complicated when we try to assign historical figures into today’s modern categories. There are countless stories of women who, in order to pursue career paths that would violate their gender role (and this would include just about everything besides teaching, nursing and domestic work), adopt the male identity simply because they couldn’t do what they wanted to do as women (see Jul 25 for one possible example). We have far fewer examples of men taking the female gender role for similar reasons, but that is probably because there were far fewer career restrictions for men. But we also find examples of both men and women adopting the opposite gender role when entering what would otherwise be a same-sex relationship. Not everyone did this, but when they did, their examples are much trickier to understand: are we seeing a straight relationship with a transgender person, or are we seeing a gay or lesbian relationship where one adopts an opposite gender role in order to facilitate the relationship?

Today’s story illustrates that very question. On September 28, 1877, Sarah Maud Pollard, as Samuel M. Pollard, married Marancy Hughes in Tuscarora, Elko County, Nevada Territory. My friend Homer Thiel, a Tucson archaeologist and historian, wrote about that marriage in a guest post in 2011:

Sarah Pollard was born in 1846 in New York, the daughter of a middle class merchant family. After working in a shoe factory in Massachusetts and sewing shirts in New York, she headed west to Colorado in the 1870s. She caused a stir because of her masculine appearance. Around 1876 she moved to Nevada and took up wearing male clothing in order to find work and she started calling herself “Sam.” She met young Marancy Hughes, born in 1861 in Missouri, and actively courted her. Hughes’ family hated Pollard and the couple eloped on September 28, 1877.

New Orleans Times-Picayune article about the Pollard marriage, June 23, 1878. (Click to enlarge.)

They were happily married for six months, and then Marancy broke the secret. The small silver-mining town of Tuscarora, Nevada was transfixed by the story. The matter ended up in court and after Marancy testified, a dramatic re-union took place. Stories about the troubled marriage were carried in newspapers across the country (even appearing in a New Zealand paper). The couple broke up two more times, before Marancy moved on to a marriage with a man in 1880.

Pollard’s story appears to have had a happy ending:

Sarah moved to Minnesota to start a new life by 1883, working by herself on a farm. The story of her successful farming career again made national newspapers, which noted she wore a bloomers-type outfit while plowing. By the 1890s she had met a woman named Helen Stoddard, a schoolteacher who was born in 1864 in Vermont. In later census records Helen was listed as her partner or companion. Sarah died in 1929, and Helen paid for her arrangements at a local funeral home, the owners puzzling over the relationship of the two women.

If all we knew about Pollard was restricted to the events in Nevada, we would be left with an open question: Was she lesbian or was he transgender? But as the second half of the story reveals, the question itself was mistaken. What she did in Nevada was adopt a male gender role which allowed her to do male things: make a living and marry a woman. But a decade later, the evidence strongly suggests that she decided to forget about gender roles and just live — she farmed (a man’s job), wore bloomers while plowing (a woman’s garment; pants would have been much more practical), presented herself with a female name, and became a partner to a female schoolteacher — with Helen apparently maintaining a more traditionally female gender role but with Sarah’s gender role being flexible. No wonder the funeral home’s owners were puzzled by the relationship.

Three Tulane Students “Role A Queer”: 1958. It was in the wee hours of Saturday morning when three bored Tulane University Students decided to go to the French Quarter to “roll a queer,” the popular term in those days for picking out a fag, beating him up, and taking his money. They went to Cafe Lafitte In Exile (a popular gay bar which today bills itself as the oldest continuously operating gay bar in the country), where they met Fernando Rios, a twenty-six year old tour guide from Mexico City. John S. Farrell, 20 and the group’s ringleader, met up with Rios in an alley, while the other two students, David Drennan, 19, and Alberto Calvo, 20, hid at the alley’s entrance to prevent an escape. Farrell later claimed that Rios “made an indecent proposal,” although other witnesses said Rios refused Farrell’s advances and tried to hail a cab. Either way, Farrell, hit Rios, took his wallet, and left Rios in the gutter. Rios died without regaining consciousness. Doctors testified that both his eyes were blackened, there were severe bruises and fractures on his skull, nose and mouth, and he had received a bruising blow to his liver.

Meanwhile, the three students went to Calvo’s room and proceeded to brag to Calvo’s roommate, George Meyer. The four then burned the contents of Rios’s wallet, except for the $40 dollars they found. (That would be about $325 today.)

The next day, reports of Rios’s death was in the papers and on the radio, and thanks to the trio’s bragging, word of their adventures spread around campus. They decided that they had no choice but to turn themselves into police, but they did so with two caveats: they would claim that Rios propositioned them, and they would claim that they didn’t plan to rob him. The second point was key because Louisiana law defined murder as either the intentional killing of a person, or the unintentional killing of someone while robbing them. So their story went like this: Rios came on to Farrell, and so Farrell decked him. No robbery, no murder. As for how they ended up with Rio’s $40, they had a story for that. As an afterthought, Ferrell went back later and got the wallet. So now the robbery took place in a separate incident after Rios was assaulted, not during it. Their lawyer even told the jury that when Farrell found out Rios had died, he was so contrite that he had left the stolen money in a church’s poor box. “The three boys are guilty of nothing worse than bad conduct,” the lawyer said.

The combination of a 1958 version of the gay panic defense, combined with full-blown animosity toward Rio’s perceived sexuality (there was no evidence presented during the trial to suggest that Rios was actually gay) and nationality (the Mexican government, controversially, retained an attorney to witness the proceedings) had its desired effect on the jury. The twelve white men found all three defendants not guilty. When ONE magazine reported the lamentable details to its readers, it asked,

How many more times must the innocent die and the guilty go free before the unsubstantiated claim of an “indecent proposal” ceases to be on alibi for robbery and murder?

[Source: “Dal McIntire” (pseudonym). “Tangents: News and Reviews.” ONE 7, no. 3 (March 1959): 13-15.]

US Civil Service Refuses To Meet With Washington Mattachine Society: 1962. Frank Kameny and Jack Nichols founded the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., in 1961, soon after Kameny’s appeal of his 1957 firing by the U.S. Army’s Map Service was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. The federal government’s ban on employment of gays and lesbians was firmly in place, but Kameny didn’t let a small thing like the Supreme Court stop him from demanding the lifting of the ban. In 1962, the MSW requested a meeting with the U.S. Civil Service Commission to discuss the federal employment ban, but in a letter dated September 28, 1962, they were turned down cold:


Washington 25, D.C.

Sep 28 1962

Mr. Bruce Schuyler, Secretary
The Mattachine Society of Washington
P. O. Box 1032
Washington 1, D.C.

Dear Mr. Schuyler:

Your letter of August 28, 1962 and attachments relating to the purposes of the Mattachine Society of Washington have been read with interest. It is the established policy of the civil Service commission that homosexuals are not suitable for appointment to or retention in positions in the Federal service. There would be no useful purpose served in meeting with representatives of your Society.

Sincerely yours,

John W. Macy, Jr.

Lifting the ban would remain one of MSW’s highest priorities for the next thirteen years. When MSW began picketing for gay rights in 1965, the Civil Service Commission was one of their targets (see Jun 26). But it would take another ten years before the Civil Service Commission would finally end the ban (see Jul 3). In 2009, Frank Kameny received a formal apology from the openly gay director of the Office of Personnel Management, the modern-day successor to the Civil Service Commission.

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

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

The Daily Agenda for Sunday, September 27

Jim Burroway

September 27th, 2015

Pride Celebrations Weekend: Sunderland, UKWillemstad, Curaçao.

Other Events This Weekend: Folsom Street Fair, San Francisco, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GLC Voice (Minneapolis, MN), December, 1979, page 6.

From GLC Voice (Minneapolis, MN), December, 1979, page 6.

Six Men Pilloried in London for Homosexuality: 1810. In early 19th century Britain, the penalty for homosexuality was death. If a judge felt lenient, he might instead sentence the accused to stand time at the pillory. The September 27, 1810 entry in the Annual Register describes the pillorying of six members of what we might describe today as a gay hangout known as the White Swan on Vere Street. That description goes like this:

Such was the degree of popular indignation excited against these wretches, and such the general eagerness to witness their punishment, that, by ten in the morning, the chief avenues from Clerkenwell Prison and Newgate to the place of punishment were crowded with people; and the multitude assembled in the Haymarket, and all its immediate vicinity, was so great as to render the streets impassible. All the windows and even the very roofs of the houses were crowded with persons of both sexes; and every coach, waggon, hay-cart, dray, and other vehicles which blocked up great part of the street, were crowded with spectators.

The Sheriffs, attended by two City Marshals, with an immense number of constables, accompanied the procession of the Prisoners from Newgate, whence they set out in the transport caravan, and proceeded through Fleet-street and the Strand; and the Prisoners were hooted and pelted the whole way by the populace. At one o- clock four of the culprits were fixed in the pillory, erected for and accommodated to the occasion, with two additional wings, one being allotted for each criminal; and immediately a new torrent of popular vengeance poured upon them from all sides. The day being fine, the streets were dry and free from mud, but the dfect was speedily and amply supplied by the butchers of St. James’s-market. Numerous escorts of whom constantly supplied the party of attack, chiefly consisting of women, with tubs of blood, garbage, and ordure from their slaughter-houses, and with this ammunition, plentifully diversified with dead cats, turnips, potatoes, addled eggs, and other missiles, the criminals were incessantly pelted to the last moment. They walked perpetually round during their hour [the pillory swivelled on a fixed axis]; and although from the four wings of the machine they had some shelter, they were completely encrusted with filth.

Two wings of the Pillory were then taken off to place Cooke and Amos in the two remaining ones, and although they came in only for the second course, they had no reason to complain of short allowance, for they received even a more severe discipline than their predecessors. On their being taken down and replaced in the caravan, they lay flat in the vehicle; but the vengeance of the crowd still pursued them back to Newgate, and the caravan was so filled with mud and ordure as completely to cover them.

No interference from the Sheriffs and Police officers could refrain the popular rage; but notwithstanding the immensity of the multitude, no accident of any note occurred.

The six men were relatively lucky. Depending on the ferocity of the crowd, death at the pillory wasn’t out of the question. The pillory was formally abolished in England in 1837.

Public Enemies Number Three

Public Enemies Number Three (source)

Americans Rank Homosexuals Third Most Harmful to the Nation: 1965. A Harris Poll of 1250 Americans ranked Homosexuals at number three as “more harmful than helpful to American life.” The Harris Poll asked respondents to rank gay people along with Communists, atheists, civil rights demonstrators, anti-war protesters, hippies, bikini wearers and college professors active in unpopular causes. Seventy percent ranked gay people as harmful, behind Communists (89%) and atheists (72%). Another 29% believed that gay people didn’t “help or harm things much one way or the other.” That left only a tiny 1% volunteering the opinion that gay people were more helpful than harmful.

Pollster Louis Harris commented, “As could be expected, an overwhelming majority of Americans regard Communists, homosexuals, and prostitutes as harmful to the Nation, although three out of every ten Americans think homosexuals and prostitutes are not a matter of serious concern …Eighty-two per cent of the men think homosexuals are harmful to the Nation while only 58 per cent of the women think so.” The gender gap was alive and well, even back then.

Rev. Ray Broshears, Lavender Panthers organizer.

Rolling Stone Reports on San Francisco’s “Lavender Panthers”: 1973. San Francisco in 1973 may have been seen as a tolerant haven for gay people, but that’s was only relatively speaking when compared to much of the rest of the country. For all of its “tolerance,” more than 60 anti-gay assaults and beatings had occurred over the past summer, with two dozen since August 1. Rev. Ray Broshears, a gay Pentecostal evangelist told Rolling Stone about one horrific crime the previous January:

“One of our own [Gay Activist Alliance] members was murdered early this year,” he says. “This boy was beaten and his unconscious body placed on the Sunset Tunnel streetcar tracks. He was left to be hit by a train.” Police records acknowledge that 19-year-old David Hart Winters was struck and killed by a streetcar late one night last January. The coroner’s report shows that he had been beaten before his death.”

Broshears himself was severely beaten by four teenagers outside his church, leaving him with partial nerve control loss in his left arm. That beating occurred on the Fourth of July, after he had called the police to complain about some teenagers who were setting off fireworks in a lot next door. Rather than deal with the problem, police simply told the youths who had ratted them out. Police were indifferent, or worse — often accusing assault victims of sexually soliciting or provoking their attackers. Consequently, most victims didn’t bother to file a report. Add to that, three gay-affirming churches and two gay bars had burned over the summer, with arson either suspected or determined in all of those cases. So Broshears formed the Lavender Panthers and took to streets:

Each evening, several of the Panthers (on a rotating schedule) drive the group’s VW bus to parts of the city that sport a concentration of gay bars, restaurants, baths and clubs. They concentrate on the popular Upper Market-Castro Street area, where most of the beatings have taken place. …

“When we spot trouble, we all jump out of the van and run toward the attackers, blowing police whistles and shouting. Usually, we startle the attackers enough that they take off,” explains one patrol member. “In a couple of situations, we’ve had to hit them over the head and show them a taste of their own medicine. The fact that we’re gay doesn’t mean we can’t and won’t fight back.”

The Lavender Panthers conducted self-defense martial-arts workshops and firearms training, distributed police whistles so people could sound an alarm if they were attacked or saw one in progress, and recommended that gay people carry cans of red spray paint to use as mace. The Lavender Panthers maintained their patrols in San Francisco for about a year before disbanding.

Two weeks after the Rolling Stone article appeared, TIME magazine published its own write-up.

[Source: Bill Sievert. “Lavender Panthers Protect Gays.” Rolling Stone (September 27, 1973): 7.]

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The Daily Agenda for Saturday, September 26

Jim Burroway

September 26th, 2015



Last night, Stephen Colbert did a segment on various politicians’ continuing opposition to same-sex marriage. Citing Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) assertion that now “you could marry your lawnmower” thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality, Colbert announced that he was going into the all-inclusive wedding cake topper business “for any marriage imaginable,” including various combinations and permutations of men and/or women of various quantities, as well as a man and a ghost, fifteen babies in top hats, Steve King and his lawnmower, and, of course, a man and a box turtle. I assume my royalty check is on its way.

Update: Here’s the video:

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Melbourne, FL; Memphis, TN; Moab, UT; Raleigh/Durham, NC; Willemstad, Curaçao.

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Chicago, IL; San Diego, CA; Seattle, WA; Spokane, WA; Wilmington/Rehoboth, DE.

Other Events This Weekend: Queer Lisboa Film Festival, Lisbon, Portugal; Folsom Street Fair, San Francisco, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, May 13, 1982, page 19

From The Advocate, May 13, 1982, page 19

The building had a long history as a gay gathering spot, going as far back as the 1940s when busses used to drop off G.I.s there after being discharged. From 1957 to 1962, it was known as the Tel and Tel Tavern, so named for the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph building across the street. In 1963, it changed its name to Derek’s Tavern, then in 1965 it became The Annex. As Derek’s Tavern, it had already gained a reputation with Portland’s vice squad for being “frequented by homosexuals of higher class and means.” Such notable patrons included Johnny Mathis and Rudolph Nureyev. In 1971, the tavern was sold again and became The Family Zoo, which became one of Portland’s more popular gay nightspots. I don’t know when the Family Zoo met its demise, but the site today is home to New Avenues for Youth, a homeless and at-risk youth service organization.

Gay Man and Lesbian Killed in Firebombed Apartment: 1992. The election to decide the fate of Oregon’s Measure 9 was still just over a month away (see Nov 3), and the campaign waged by anti-gay extremists was already worrying to gay activists across the state. Measure 9, if enacted, would have amended the state constitution to prohibit the expenditure of “monies or properties to promote, encourage or facilitate homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism or masochism.” It would have banned gay groups from using city parks, and would have prohibited public libraries from carrying books about homosexuality.

The measure put forward by the Oregon Citizens Alliance, a radically-conservative religious right group that was closely aligned with the Christian Coalition, and was headed by Lon Mabon, with Scott Lively serving as his right hand man. Their campaign was especially nasty. The OCA had released a graphic video depicting gay people as uniformly debauched and featured alarming statistics manufactured by anti-gay extremist and Nazi sympathizer Paul Cameron.

The extreme nature of the anti-gay propaganda flooding the state from the OCA and other groups accompanied a marked increase in violence throughout the state. Campaign offices in opposition to Measure 9 were repeatedly burglarized and vandalized, often with urine and feces smeared throughout the premises. Gay bashing were on the rise, and telephone threats were becoming commonplace. Editors of , a Portland gay newspaper, arrived to work one morning to find “We’re Going to Kill You,” written on their front door. Portland police reported that attacks on LGBT people had risen by twenty percent since the campaign began. Donna Red Wing, Executive director of Portland’s Lesbian Community Project said, “I wouldn’t say the OCA is doing that, but I think the climate they helped create is one of violence. When they’re talking about gays and lesbians as subhumans, animals, birth defects and abominations … it just makes it easier for people to hurt us.”

The worst fears became a reality in the early morning hours of September 26 when four skinheads threw a firebomb into a basement apartment in Salem. Hattie Mae Cohens, 29, and Brian H. Mock, 45, were killed in the blast. Cohens was black, Mock was white, and both were gay. Six others sleeping in the apartment were injured. Local officials denied that it was a hate crime. “This clearly was not a crime targeted at homosexuals,” said district attorney Dale Penn. “When all is said and done, the primary motive for the killings will likely not be race or sexual orientation, but both of them played a role.” Four were charged with murder, arson and assault: Yolanda R. Cotton, 19; Leon L. Tucker, 22; Philip B. Wilson, Jr., 20; and Sean R. Edwards, 21. Edwards pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, in a plea bargain in which he avoided the death penalty in exchange for testifying against the others. Tucker and Wilson were then found guilty of murder, assault, arson and racial intimidation. Cotton was acquitted of all charges.

The violence didn’t end with the Salem bombing. A few weeks later, vandals hit St. Matthew’s Catholic Church in Hillsboro, spray-painting swastikas and anti-gay graffiti inside the sanctuary and setting fire to the church’s offices. Hours later, Fr. Jim Galluzo, preached a homily amidst the damage on the need to respect the rights of gay people. Meanwhile, OCA head Lon Mabon denied that his group’s rhetoric had anything to do with the increase in violence. Instead, he claimed that gays were provoking others to commit violent acts and were staging incidents themselves to earn sympathy.

Shirley Willer

Shirley Willer

Shirley Willer: 1922-1999. Her childhood was hard. Her father, a respected judge in Chicago, was also an alcoholic and violent abuser. When Shirley was nine, her mother packed up and left, taking Shirley and her younger sister with her. As Shirley got older, she managed to scrape enough money together to go to nursing school, where she learned about other women who shared some of the same romantic desires she did. When she told her mother that she was a lesbian, her mother went out and purchased a copy of Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness, a remarkably understanding act for a woman in the 1940s.

Willer’s oversized personality matched her physicality. She was heavyset with short cropped hair and tailored clothing, all of which made her “butch” — a term she hated for its stereotypical role-playing connotations. “Because I was heavy,” she later explained, “I looked much better in tailored clothes.” Her appearance got her trouble with the police one night while she was headed to a gay bar. “Just the assumption that I was gay was justification enough for one policeman to pick me up by the front of my shirt and slap me back and forth. He called me names, the same ones they used now. ‘You god-damned pervert. You queer. You S.O.B.’ … I was so angry at the policeman I could have killed him! I wasn’t frightened; I was angry! He had no right to do that to me! and that’s been my attitude all my life. They have no right!”

After watching a male nurse die after horrible treatment at a Catholic hospital because he was gay, Willer was driven to become an advocate for gay rights. “Barney’s death probably had a great deal to do with my aggressiveness,” she said. She and five other women talked about forming a group, but they dropped it after deciding it was too dangerous, given the political climate of the McCarthy era. But by the late 1950’s, Willer began hearing about other homophile groups around the country, including a chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis in New York City. So she decided to mov to the Big Apple in 1962. Upon arrival, she wrote to the DOB chapter, and Marion Glass answered with details about their next meeting. Willer and Glass met at that meeting and quickly became lovers and partners. The two turned out to be perfect complements to each other: Glass was as thoughtful as Willer was brash. Together, with Glass serving as Willer’s mentor and advisor, Willer become the chapter’s president in 1963, and three years later she was elected the national president of DOB.

Willer’s passion as DOB president was in travelling across the country planting as many DOB chapters as possible. She was aided in that effort through the generosity of an wealthy closeted lesbian, known only as “Pennsylvania,” who wanted to contribute to DOB anonymously. Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, co-founders of the original Daughters of Bilitis group in San Francisco, were among the very few who had met “Pennsylvania.” Lyon remembered, “She was so nervous when we started talking about lesbians… up until then, she had been very poised and sophisticated, but when we started talking about lesbians she couldn’t even look at us. She started blushing and fidgeting.”

But over a five year period, “Pennsylvania” wrote more than $100,000 in checks of $3,000 each, made out to different DOB members each time. Those checks, in turn were turned over to the national organization with Willer being the conduit through whom those checks flowed. “Pennsylvania’s” money was first used to turn the DOB’s newsletter The Ladder into a slick, professionally typeset magazine available on newsstands. She also funded the establishment of new DOB chapters across the country, along with Willer’s travel expenses to get them started. Willer said, “There wasn’t an operating chapter of the Daughters that didn’t receive at least six thousand dollars to put toward a building fund or toward office expenses or toward publications. … Nobody was supposed to talk about our benefactor or what she did. And this woman will never take credit for her contribution to the movement, which amounted to more than one hundred thousand dollars. But she does have the satisfaction of being able to go down the street and see a couple of guys or a couple of girls walking hand in hand, and seeing the Mafia lose control of the gay bars, of seeing homosexuality become much more acceptable.”

But Willer’s traveling in those pre-cell phone/pre-Twitter/pre-text message days meant that members of already existing chapters weren’t able to contact her when problems arose. In 1968 when Philadelphia police raided a popular lesbian bar, the local DOB chapter couldn’t reach Willer to coordinate a response (see Mar 8). The resulting inaction led to the fracturing of Philadelphia’s homophile movement and the closure of DOB’s chapter there (see Aug 7). Another sticking point was the DOB’s official position against picketing, a controversial position which put Willer, who wanted to see more direct action in the organization, in a no-win position. “This split between those who wanted to make noise and those who wanted to do things quietly affected me very directly,” she recalled in 1989. “During the second half of the 1960s, I was more and more at odds with the official position of DOB.”

It was increasingly clear that for the local chapters to thrive, they needed the freedom to respond quickly without having to wait for approval from the national organization, particularly when the local chapters wanted to act outside of the DOB’s restrictive one-size-fits-all policies. Marion Glass (under the pseudonym Meredith Grey) proposed a massive reorganization in the August 1968 issue of The Ladder. Under this proposal, all DOB chapters would be autonomous and the national organization’s sole role would be limited to publishing The Ladder. But there was a hitch: the change would require the approval of the membership, and that issue of The Ladder still had no announcement of where that year’s national DOB Convention would be held. When the DOB’s finally convened their biennial convention in Aurora, Colorado, the short notice meant that only fifteen members showed up. With so few members on hand to make such a momentous decision, the group decided to defer until the next biennial convention, which wouldn’t occur until 1970.

Frustrated by the delay, Willer decided not to stand for re-election as the Daughters’ national president. She also withdrew from gay activism altogether, and with her withdrawal, “Pennsylvania’s” dollars stopped flowing as well. Two years later, the DOB did finally vote to disband its national organization and set all of its individual chapters free. But by then, it was too late. Only a few DOB chapters remained, and The Ladder only had another couple of years before it too went belly-up. Meanwhile, Willer and Glass retired to Key West, Florida, where they ran a rock shop for tourists and became involved with the growing local LGBT community. Willer died in 1999 on New Year’s Eve.

[Sources: Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. “Shirley Willer (1922-1999).” In Vern L. Bullough’s Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (Binghamton, NY: Harrington Park Press, 2002): 203-205.

Eric Marcus. Making History: The Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights: 1945-1990. An Oral History (New York: HarperCollins, 1992): 127-135.

Marcia M. Gallo. Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement (New York: Carroll & Graf, 2006):82-83.]

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The Daily Agenda for Friday, September 25

Jim Burroway

September 25th, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Melbourne, FL; Memphis, TN; Moab, UT; Raleigh/Durham, NC; Willemstad, Curaçao.

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Chicago, IL; San Diego, CA; Seattle, WA; Spokane, WA; Wilmington/Rehoboth, DE.

Other Events This Weekend: Queer Lisboa Film Festival, Lisbon, Portugal; Folsom Street Fair, San Francisco, CA.

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From ONE, December 1962, page 21.

From ONE, December 1962, page 21.

J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson at the San Deigo’s Del Mar Turf Club, 1947.

J. Edgar Hoover’s  Personal Interest in Gay Movements Revealed: 1984. A smaller  cache of secret files detailing FBI surveillance on gay people had been released two years before, but that release offered only a small glimpse of the magnitude of governmental spying. It would take an ACLU lawsuit on behalf of the International Gay and Lesbian Archives (now the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives) for the more important cache to be released under the Freedom of Information Act. That later release consisted of more than 5,800 papers, most of it very boring details of gay pride picnics and parades, and photocopies of magazines that were publicly sold on newsstands. Most documents focused on the Mattachine Society and ONE Magazine, the first openly gay magazine in America.

But one interesting set of papers revealed J. Edgar Hoover’s interest in the gay movement. According to a memo dated January 26, 1956, the Los Angeles field office had been asked to check on the November 1955 issue of ONE, which talked about gay people who worked for Time and The New Yorker. The LA field office concluded that the articles statement was “baseless” and recommended that “no reply be made.”

But scrawled in handwriting below the typewritten recommendation was the sentence, “I think we should take this crowd and make them ‘put up or shut up’.” Markings indicated that the handwritten statement was made by Hoover’s chief aide and lifelong special “friend” Clyde Tolson. Hoover and Tolson worked closely together in the day, ate all their meals together in the evening, were seen socializing in nightclubs, and took vacations together. When Hoover died in 1971, Tolson inherited Hoover’s estate, and accepted the flag that draped Hoover’s coffin. Tolson’s grave is just a few discrete yards away from Hoover’s in Congressional Cemetery.

Hoover also weighed in on the 1956 memo. Next to Tolson’s recommendation to keep the case files open and continue investigating was another inscription. “I concur,” it read, with the single letter “H” underneath. The next day, a telegram went to the Los Angeles office. “You are instructed to have two mature and experienced agents contact Freeman (the pseudonym for the article’s author), in the immediate future and tell him the bureau will not countenance such baseless charges appearing in this magazine, and for him to either ‘put up or shut up’.” It was signed, simply, “Hoover.”

The Los Angeles field office followed up on Hoover’s instructions and paid a visit to ONE magazine (see Jan 26), where they found ONE’s chairman, Dorr Legg (see Dec 15) who flatly refused to answer their questions. Nevertheless, the FBI file on ONE grew to more than a hundred pages over the next several months while Hoover and Tolson complained about the lack of incriminating evidence from the investigation.

Pedro Almodóvar: 1952. Born in a small town in La Mancha, the trajectory of his life was rather unremarkable in the late Franco era. He went to Catholic boarding school in preparation for the priesthood, but instead found his education in the local cinema. In 1967, he moved to Madrid with the goal of becoming a film director, but since Franco had just closed the National School of Cinema, Almodóvar got a job at the state telephone company where he worked for the next twelve years. But they weren’t wasted years; he also became involved with the underground experimental theater and cinema, learning his craft using a Super-8 camera he bought from his first paycheck from the phone company.

His first feature film didn’t come until 1980. Pepi, Luci, Bom y Otras Chicas del Montón (Pepi, Luci, Bom and Other Girls on the Heap) was filmed on a shoestring budget by a team of volunteers working on the weekends. He later described the film as “full of defects. When a film has only one or two, it is considered an imperfect film, while when there is a profusion of technical flaws, it is called style. That’s what I said joking around when I was promoting the film, but I believe that that was closer to the truth.” Seventeen more films followed, most of them celebrating the sexy exhilaration of modern Spain. International fame came with Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, which established Almodóvar as a “women’s director” for his ability to solicit powerful performances from his actresses, which has brought about comparisons to George Cukor. It also introduced the world to Spanish actor Antonio Banderas. Banderas was featured again in 1990’s Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, a sadomasochistic-themed film which earned a controversial X-rating in the U.S.

The decade’s end brought increasing critical acclaim, with 1999’s All About My Mother (with Penélope Cruz) earning an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, 2002’s Talk to Her winning an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, and 2009’s Broken Embraces (this time starring Penélope Cruz) and 2011’s The Skin I Live In (starring Antonio Banderas) earning Golden Globe nominations. His latest film, I”m So Excited, came out in 2013 to mixed reviews.

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The Daily Agenda for Thursday, September 24

Jim Burroway

September 24th, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Melbourne, FL; Memphis, TN; Moab, UT; Raleigh/Durham, NC; Willemstad, Curaçao.

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Chicago, IL; San Diego, CA; Seattle, WA; Spokane, WA; Wilmington/Rehoboth, DE.

Other Events This Weekend: Queer Lisboa Film Festival, Lisbon, Portugal; Folsom Street Fair, San Francisco, CA.

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From The 5th Freedom (Buffalo, NY), July 4, 1974, page 2.

From The 5th Freedom (Buffalo, NY), July 4, 1974, page 2.

When the Rathskeller held its grand opening in Rochester, New York, on January 20, 1974, the local gay paper, The Empty Closet, printed this brief announcement:

The RATHSKELLER (formerly the TURF) has been bought by FLORENCE AND JESS, long time friend of the gay set. They have cleaned it up and out, trying to build a clientel (sic) reminisent (sic) of the CHALET. Quiet, amiable drinking is always in at the RATHSKELLER.

The Rathskeller was one of the original sponsors of Rochester’s annual Gay Picnic, which is still going strong as part of Rochester’s annual Pride celebration. The Rathskeller’s location today is a desolate, empty lot, in a part of town that has clearly seen better days.

Thomas Jefferson “Jeffrey” Withers

“Your Elongated Protruberance”: 1826. In May of 1826, Thomas Jefferson Withers, a twenty-two year old law student known to his friends at South Carolina College as Jeffrey, wrote to his dear friend, James Hammond, 18, a letter which is both playful and quite frank about the physical nature of their relationship (see May 15). Hammond responded on June 3, but that letter appears to have been lost. Instead, what we do have is a follow-up letter from Withers which allude to that letter, which Withers praised for having “too much honesty of purpose” and in which Hammond, apparently, weighed the pros and cons of marriage. Withers’s reply to Hammond on September 24 went like this:

Your excellent Letter of 13 June arrived … a few weeks since … Here, where anything like a systematic course of thought, or of reading, is quite out of the question — such system as leaves no vacant, idle moments of painful vacuity, which invites a whole Kennel of treacherous passions to prey upon one’s vitals … the renovation of spirit which follows the appearance of a friend’s Letter — the diagram of his soul — is like a grateful shower from the cooling fountains of Heaven to reanimate drooping Nature. Whilst your letters are Transcripts of real–existing feeling, and are on that account peculiarly welcome — they at the same time betray too much honesty of purpose not to strike an harmonious chord in my mind. I have only to regret that, honesty of intention and even assiduity in excition [?] are far from being the uniform agents of our destiny here– However it must, at best, be only an a priori argument for us to settle the condemnation of the world, before we come in actual contact with it. This task is peculiarly appropriate to the acrimony of old age — and perhaps we had as well defer it, under the hope that we may reach a point, when ’twill be all that we can do–

l fancy, Jim, that your elongated protruberance –your fleshen pole — your [two Latin words; indecipherable] — has captured complete mastery over you — and I really believe, that you are charging over the pine barrens of your locality, braying, like an ass, at every she-male you can discover. I am afraid that you are thus prostituting the “image of God” and suggest that if you thus blasphemously essay to put on the form of a Jack — in this stead of that noble image — you will share the fate of Nebuchadnezzar of old. I should lament to hear of you feeding upon the dross of the pasture and alarming the country with your vociferations. The day of miracles may not be past, and the flaming excess of your lustful appetite may drag down the vengeance of supernal power. — And you’ll “be dam-d if you don’t marry “? — and felt a disposition to set down and gravely detail me the reasons of early marriage. But two favourable ones strike me now — the first is, that Time may grasp love so furiously as totally [?] to disfigure his Phiz. The second is, that, like George McDuffie, he may have the hap-hazzard of a broken backbone befal him, which will relieve him from the performance of affectual family-duty — & throw over the brow of his wife, should he chance to get one, a most foreboding glooming — As to the first, you will find many a modest good girl subject to the same inconvenience — and as to the second, it will only superinduce such domestic whirlwinds, as will call into frequent exercise rhetorical displays of impassioned Eloquence, accompanied by appropriate and perfect specimens of those gestures which Nature and feeling suggest. To get children, it is true, fulfills a department of social & natural duty — but to let them starve, or subject them to the alarming hazard of it, violates another of a most important character. This is the dilemma to which I reduce you — choose you this day which you will do … [Underlines in the original.]

James Hammond, indiscriminate wielder of his “fleshen pole.”

Hammond would indeed choose to marry, and through his wife he became the owner of a 10,000 acre plantation and 220 slaves. In fact, that young man of “flaming excess” and “lustful appetites” would, according to his own diaries, exercize his libido on three teenage nieces, a slave who bore him several children, and his own teenage daughter. And yet he served as Congressman, Governor and Senator for South Carolina, and became one of the South’s most prominent moralists and defenders of slavery. “I firmly believe,” he said while Governor, “that American slavery is not only not a sin, but especially commanded by God through Moses, and approved by Christ through his apostles.” Hammond invented the phrase “Cotton is King” during a Senate floor debate, and he argued that every society needed a lower caste in order to provide the luxeries that marked high civilization. Hammond’s arguments in support of the “peculiar institution” were highly influential, leading ultimately to his state becoming the first in the South to secede at the start of the Civil War.

Withers also married, in 1831, and he reached a measure of prominence as a journalist and “nullifier,” a lawyer and as a judge of the South Carolina Court of Appeals. He represented his county in South Carolina’s secession Convention, and South Carolina as a Senator in the Provisional Confederate Congress. He was also a signatory to the Confederate Constitution, but resigned from his Senate seat and returned to South Carolina in 1861. His estate was destroyed in the war, and he died, “a professed infidel,” of dysentery in November, 1865.

South Carolina law carried the death penalty for sodomy until 1869, when the death penalty was abolished for all crimes except murder. A follow-up law in 1872 imposed a five year prison term and/or a fine of $500.

[Source: Martin Duberman. “‘Writhing Bedfellows’: 1826.” Journal of Homosexuality 6, no. 1 (1981): 85-101. Also available online here.]

Dr. Charles Socarides

Prominent Psychiatrist Calls for National Center to Treat Homosexuality: 1967. Dr. Charles Socarides, clinical assistant professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine gave a lecture at a meeting at the National Institute of Mental Health, describing homosexuality as “condition of certainly epedemological proportions” and calling for the establishment of a national center for its research and treatment. “There is no place — hardly any place, I would say, in the United States — where a homosexual can go and say: I am a homosexual. I need help.”

Socarides been angling to establish himself as the nation’s leading authority on homosexuality for quite some time. Earlier that year, he had appeared on CBS’s notorious hour-long special program “The Homosexuals” (see Mar 7). In his NIMH lecture, he described homosexuality as a product of the “Pre-Oedipal” stage (according to psychoanalytic theories of development) — generally before the age of three — which was earlier than the generally accepted age in classical theories of sexual development. Socarides contended that his proposed theory would also hold up for “fetishism, transvestitism, sexual masochism, and exhibition,” and would lead to what he called a “Unified Theory of Sexual Perversion.” Socarides placed the burden of a homosexual’s development on his mother. “The homosexual’s mother is domineering and tyrannical,” he said. “The best way to describe her is as a crushing mother that will not allow the child to achieve his own autonomy.” He later added, “I don’t want to blame Mother for everything, but it comes down to this.”

Socarides described the NIMH as “ideally constituted” to set up a treatment and research center for homosexuality. “Such a national center will be started by one of the Western governments, and I hope it is here. … A comprehensive program is needed to diminish, reverse, and prevent this tragic human condition that involves such large numbers of the population.

Socarides’s suggesting was never adopted. Instead, the NIMH announced four days later the formation of a task force to recommend a research program on human sexuality, with a special focus on homosexuality. The twelve-member panel included professionals from the fields of psychiatry, psychology, law, sociology, anthropology and clergy. UCLA’s Dr. Evelyn Hooker (see Sep 2), whose groundbreaking research on homosexuality found that gay people weren’t inherently mentally disturbed (see Aug 30), was tapped to chair the panel. In 1969, that panel would release its report urging the decriminalization of homosexuality nationwide (see Oct 20). Socarides would become a bitter critic of the American Psychiatric Association’s 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders (see Apr 9). In 1992, he co-founded of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), which rebranded itself in 2014 as the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity to continue its advocacy for so-called therapies designed to the cure gay people of their “pathology.”

[Sources: Jean M. White. “Center to Treat Homosexuals Urged.” The Washington Post (September 25, 1967): A3.

Unsigned. “Task Force to Study Sexuality.” The Washington Post (September 29, 1967): A2.]

A candlelight vigil at Roanoke’s Backstreet Cafe after the shooting.

Mass Shooting in Gay Bar Kills One, Injures Six: 2000. Ronald Edward Gay spent his entire life hearing jokes about his surname. A former Vietnam vet, he become an alcoholic and drug abuser, and had just been divorced for the sixth time. His children changed their last names, he claimed, to escape the jokes. So when he finally had had enough, he decided to turn it around and take it out not on his tormentors, but on those who he believed had ruined his name. On September 24, 2000, the fifty-three-year-old drifter walked into the Backstreet Cafe in Roanoke, Virginia, pulled a 9mm handgun from his black trench coat and opened fire. One of the bar’s patrons, Anna Sparks, described the terror. “The guy was standing there with a trench coat on, and the gun was going pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, and people were falling over everywhere, trying to get behind booths. He just stood there for a couple of seconds, then lowered the gun and walked out like nothing had happened.” When the shooting spree ended, Danny Lee Overstreet, 43, was dead in a pool of blood and six others were injured, one critically.

Danny Lee Overstreet (left), Ronald Edward Gay (right)

Gay had been at a different bar earlier that night asking where the city’s nearest gay bar was, telling patrons he wanted to shoot some gay people. One person gave him directions and then called the police, who arrived at the Backstreet Cafe shortly after the shooting. They found Gay about two blocks away. “He said he was shooting people to get rid of, in his term, ‘faggots,'” Lieutenant William Althoff of the Roanoke police told reporters. Gay told authorities that he became obsessed with fulfilling four “missions”: to stop corruption, to stop communism, to bring all Vietnam vets “out of the mountains”, and to stop the spread of AIDS by forcing all gay people to move to San Francisco. Gay pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and six malicious wounding charges and on July 23, 2001 was given four life sentences.

No homos.

“There Are No Homosexuals In Iran”: 2007. Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in New York for the opening of a United Nations General Session when he made a side trip to Columbia University for a controversial speaking engagement. Some feared that Columbia would give the Ahmadinejad an open platform to spout his Holocaust-denying views unchallenged, but those fears evaporated when Columbia President LEe Bollinger’s opening remarks blasted him as “a petty and cruel dictator” for imprisoning and executing gay people, academics and journalists. “I doubt you will have the intellectual courage to answer these questions,” Bollinger said before Ahmadinejad took the podium. “I do expect you to exhibit a fanatical mind-set.”

Bollinger’s expectations were met, as Ahmadinejad fielded questions from Bollinger and the audience. When asked about the death penalty that Iran imposed on gay people, Ahmadinejad tried to turn the subject to drug smugglers. But when pushed on the question by the acting dean of the School of International and Public Affairs John Coatsworth, Ahmadinejad gave his now-famous answer: ” Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country. In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I don’t know who has told you we have that.” Ahmadinejad’s answer was greeted with jeers, outrage, and howls of laughter.

Those comments came just a few months after photos made the rounds on the Internet of two teenage boys who were hanged after being found guilty of homosexual acts. Just two months after Ahmadinejad’s talk at Columbia, an Iranian member of Parliament said that gays in Iran deserved to be executed or tortured. We assume he was speaking hypothetically.

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The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, September 23

Jim Burroway

September 23rd, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Melbourne, FL; Memphis, TN; Moab, UT; Raleigh/Durham, NC; Willemstad, Curaçao.

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Chicago, IL; San Diego, CA; Seattle, WA; Spokane, WA; Wilmington/Rehoboth, DE.

Other Events This Weekend: Queer Lisboa Film Festival, Lisbon, Portugal; Folsom Street Fair, San Francisco, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Body Politic (Toronto, ON), September 1977, page 23. (Source.)

From The Body Politic (Toronto, ON), September 1977, page 23. (Source.)

 50 YEARS AGO: Beacon Hill Resident Congratulates Beacon Hill for Its Tolerance: 1965. Residents of Boston’s historic Beacon Hill prided themselves on gentility, openness and tolerance, even as those virtues were being challenged in the tumultuous 1960s. And they had no compunction about patting themselves on their collective backs, as exemplified in a letter to the editor that was published in the September edition of the neighborhood’s newsletter, The Beacon Hill News:

The only people I would consider as being so-called undesirable elements are the “immature set”… The so-called odd-balls, beatniks, and homosexuals give the Hill the charm it has today, along with the elderly ladies and gentlemen who have been living in this area for so long.

It is amazing how the rich, poor, the young, old, the students, beatniks, and homosexuals can be so compatible within this little community in the heart of Boston. Eliminate the immature, who are included in all types, and you have the most prejudice-free community, where everyone minds his own business and lives side by side in almost complete harmony. This is an example of the way all communities should be in America. This is Beacon Hill. This is America.

I’m sure that those odd-ball students, beatniks and homosexuals may have had a considerably different perspective on their fellow neighbors’ tolerance, but the mere fact that a welcome mat for homosexuals could appear in the prestigious neighborhood’s newsletter (“Where the Lowells speak only to the Cabots, and the Cabots speak only to God”) ought to count for something.

[Source: “Cross-Currents” The Ladder (December 1965): 12.]

George C. Wolfe: 1954. The playwright and director grew up in Frankfort, Kentucky, where he first pursued his theater interests in high school. After college, he taught for several years in Los Angeles in New York, and earned an MFA in dramatic writing and musical theater at New York University. He began to gain national attention for the 1991 musical Jelly’s Last Jam, a story about jazz musician Jelly Roll Morton, which received eleven Tony nominations. In 1993, he directed Tony Kushner’s Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, which won a Tony for best play that year. He also directed the sequel Perestroika the following year.

In 1995, Wolfe created Bring In ‘da Noise, Bring In ‘da Funk at the Off-Broadway New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater, and took it to Broadway the following year. The musical tells the story, through tap dance, video montages, and commentary, of Black history from slavery to the present. The New York Times called it “beautiful and the dancing exuberant, but Funk is serious business, with vicious, funny send-ups of Uncle Tomism in Hollywood.” Bring In ‘da Noise received nine Tony nominations; the production won four Tony’s, including Wolfe’s for Best Direction of a Musical.

Wolfe continues to direct plays, including Tony Kushner’s Caroline, or Change and a 2011 Broadway revival of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart, which won a Tony for Best Revival.

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The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, September 22

Jim Burroway

September 22nd, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), September 22, 1979.

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), September 22, 1979.

DollysThe gays have always loved Dolly Parton, and Dolly Parton has had a special affinity for the gays, and especially for drag queens. At one time, Dolly herself entered a Dolly Parton look-alike contest — and lost:

“They had a bunch of Chers and Dollys that year, so I just over-exaggerated — made my beauty mark bigger, the eyes bigger, the hair bigger, everything,” she said, laughing. “All these beautiful drag queens had worked for weeks and months getting their clothes. So I just got in the line and I just walked across, and they just thought I was some little short gay guy.. but I got the least applause.”

As for the Warehouse, the two-story industrial brick building that housed the club since 1978 had begun life in 1887 as the American Manufacturing Co., a maker of wood gunstocks and other handcrafted wood products. But more recently, the property was owned by the Knutson Metal Co. which operated a salvage yard on its grounds. Cedar Rapids officials considered the property, located between a proposed city amphitheater and a park along the Cedar River, a “blight to the neighborhood and a drag on development,” while the Historic Preservationist Commission listed the building itself as one of eleven most endangered buildings in the city. In 2012, the city agreed to buy the property for $1.5 million. At last report, the city was still weighing its options for preserving the building and adapting it for public use,  but its location on the flood plain along the Cedar River continues to threaten those hopes.

Senator Dirksen Denounces Homosexual “Wreckers and Destroyers”: 1954. In the past decade, we’ve seen each successive election year bring with it worse examples of character assassination, blatant bold-faced lies, and other examples of negative campaign tactics than ever before. Each time, it just seems to get worse, and we often wish we could turn back the clock to a more innocent and civil time when Americans could always find a way to get along regardless of their differences. You know, like in the 1950s.

Yeah, like in the 1950s, when Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) was labeling his political enemies radical communists and “sexual perverts.” And when Sen. Everett M. Dirksen (R-IL), who was then serving as the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the upcoming 1954 mid-term elections, declared during a meeting of 1,100 Republican women that “never were the destroyers and traitors in government so busy” as during the 20 years of Democratic rule from 1933 to 1953. He told the women that since then, Republicans like himself and McCarthy (who was Dirksen’s political ally during the previous four years) were left to root out “the wreckers and destroyers, the security risks and homosexuals, the blabbermouths and drunks, the traitors and saboteurs.”

It is important to note though that ten years later, Sen. Dirksen, who by then was Senate Minority Leader, played a crucial role in delivering enough Republican votes to break  an 83-day filibuster by southern Democrats and pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The press hailed Dirksen’s selfless bipartisanship for making possible one of the Johnson Administration’s signature pieces of legislation. Some things never change, but other things do.

And then there’s one other thing. The Federal Court House in Chicago, which was designed by the renowned modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, is named the Everett M. Dirksen U.S. Courthouse. Last month, it was the scene of the most masterful exhibition of the utter emptiness of the arguments against marriage equality in all of jurisprudence.

Oliver Sipple pushes Sara Jane Moore as she fired as shot at President Ford. (Click to enlarge.)

40 YEARS AGO: Gay Man Saves President Ford’s Life: 1975. President Gerald Ford was in San Francisco to deliver a luncheon speech to a foreign affairs group at the St. Francis Hotel. Outside, Oliver Sipple, former Marine and Vietnam veteran, was in a crowd of about 3,000 people waiting for Ford to exit the building. Standing next to Sipple was Sara Jane Moore, although they didn’t know each other. Moore, ironically, was also working as an FBI informant, where she provided information on illegal firearms purchases. Earlier that day, she called federal authorities threatening to “test” Ford’s security, but she was ignored. The day before, San Francisco police picked her up on a misdemeanor charge of carrying a concealed weapon, but they released her after federal authorities stepped in and said they would handle the matter. The Secret Service interviewed her that night, but let her go.

So there she was, and as Ford left the hotel, Moore pulled a .38 Smith & Wesson revolver from her purse, pointed it at the President, and fired a shot. As she fired, Sipple reached out and grabbed her arm. Her shot missed Ford by just five feet. It was the second assassination attempt in a month — nearly thee weeks earlier, a follower of mass murderer Charles Manson had tried to take a shot at him in Sacramento. That time, the gun didn’t fire. This time it did, and Sipple was a hero. “All I did was react,” he said. “I’m glad I was there. If it’s true I saved the President’s life, then I’m damn happy about it. But I honestly feel that if I hadn’t reached out for that arm, somebody else would have.”

Sipple had been a fixture in San Francisco’s gay community for several years. He was friends with Harvey Milk, and worked on Milk’s first unsuccessful attempt at winning a seat on the city’s Board of Supervisors. He was out to his friends, but closeted to his family in Detroit. Milk and other gay writers in San Francisco saw Sipple’s heroism as a perfect moment to gain some positive visibility for the gay community, but that was the last kind of attention Sipple wanted. When reporters asked about his sexuality, Sipple replied with a standard non-answer: “I don’t think I have to answer that question. If I were homosexual or not, it doesn’t make me less of a man than I am.”

But because Sipple was well known in the gay community — he volunteered for a gay service group and worked as a bartender at several gay clubs — it was impossible to keep the secret. Besides, Sipple hadn’t heard a word from the man whose life he saved, and Milk was convinced that it was because Sipple was gay. (The White House mailed a letter of appreciation four days after the assassination attempt.) But Sipple told friends that he wasn’t interested in the attention, “just a little peace and quiet.” That peace and quiet was shattered when The San Francisco Chronicle’s Herb Caen broke the story and it was soon picked up by wire services. Sipple’s Baptist mother publicly disowned him, and he soon found himself besieged by reporters. Sipple sued The Chronicle, Caen, and several other newspapers for invasion of privacy, but lost. The courts ruled that he had become a public figure on the day of the assassination attempt, and that his sexual orientation was part of the story.

Sipple, who was on psychological disability because of wounds suffered in Vietnam, declined in the years following the assassination attempt. He drank heavily, became obese, and expressed regret for grabbing Moore’s gun. He died, alone, of pneumonia in his Tenderloin District apartment in 1989.

Hans Scholl: 1918-1943. Like all good German boys, he joined the Hitler Youth in 1933, where he quickly became a squad leader in charge of 150 boys. He also formed a special elite squad to train other future leaders in the movement. Reflecting, perhaps, his own growing apprehensions about the Nazi movement, his training squad became quite unorthodox. Based on a soon-to-be outlawed Deutsche Jungenschaft, Scholl’s squad took a decidedly irreverent stance. A favorite joke within the group was to ask, “What is an Aryan?” The answer was, “Blond like Hitler, tall like Goebbels, and slim like Goering.” After the Nazis launched a crackdown on dissent, Scholl’s squad was disbanded and several members were arrested. It was during those interrogations that authorities learned that Scholl was gay. He was brought up on charges of violating paragraph 175, Germany’s longstanding law prohibiting homosexuality between men. This time, Scholl was lucky: the judged dismissed Scholl’s relationship with another squad member as “a youthful failing” and acquitted him of all charges.

Left to right: White Rose members Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst.

Scholl and his younger sister, Sophie, both became committed anti-Nazis. As war broke out, Hans was studying medicine in Munich, and Sophie joined him there to study biology and philosophy in 1941. Her boyfriend, Fritz Hartnagel, was an officer in the Wehrmacht fighting on the eastern front. Through extensive letter exchanges between Fritz and Sophie, historians have been able to piece together Sophie’s growing pacifism and Fritz’s alarm over the participation of German soldiers in mass killings of Jews and other atrocities. Meanwhile, Hans and two other students began a pacifist resistance movement called the White Rose, where they co-authored six anti-Nazi leaflets. When Sophie learned of her brother’s activities, she joined the group, which would grow to about a dozen members. As a woman, she was much less likely to be stopped by police while carrying stacks of leaflets to be distributed in several cities and through the mails.

The sixth White Rose leaflet.

The sixth White Rose leaflet.

In the summer of 1942, Hans and some of the other members of the White Rose was deployed to the Eastern Front to act as medics during the university’s summer break. When they returned, the group resumed its leafleting campaign, producing between 6,000 and 9,000 copies of their fifth leaflet, written by Hans and titled “A Call to All Germans!“, using a hand-cranked duplicating machine. The leaflet warned that Hitler was leading Germany to ruin and urged the people to join the struggle for “freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and protection of the individual citizen from the arbitrary action of criminal dictator-states.” The sixth leaflet was written by Christoph Probst after the German defeat at Stalingrad, and announced that the day of reckoning was about to come for “the most contemptible tyrant our people has ever endured.” It was while the group was dumping thousands of those leaflets around the University of Munich that a custodian spotted Hans and Sophie. They were arrested and interrogated, along with several other members of the group. On February 22, 1943, Hans, Sophie and Probst were found guilty of treason and sentenced to death.

The sentence was carried out that very same day by guillotine at Stadelheim Prison. Sophie was first to be executed. Before the blade fell, she shouted, “The sun is still shining!” Hans’s last words were “Es lebe die Freiheit!” — Long live freedom! Over the next few weeks, other White Rose members were rounded up and were either executed or sent to prison camps. But the last word would be left for the White Rose itself. Copies of that last leaflet were smuggled out of Germany and handed to the Allies, who then air-dropped millions of copies all over Germany, ensuring that the White Rose would remain an unforgettable part of German history.

The translated text of six White Rose leaflets are available here.

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