The Daily Agenda for Monday, July 25

New South Wales. View of Sydney, from the East Side of the Cove. No.2, by John Eyre, 1810

New South Wales. View of Sydney, from the East Side of the Cove. No.2, by John Eyre, 1810

On July 31 of that year, the Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser offered this brief report:

Court of Criminal Jurisdiction.

On Monday the Court assembled, and proceeded to the trial of

Richard Moxworthy, charged with the commission of an offence, of the most disgusting and abominable kind.

In support of the accusation many witnesses were called, the most favorable of whom went considerably to strengthen the material circumstances of the charge; which after a long and painful investigation, left not on the minds of the Court a doubt of actual guilt.

John Hopkins, his accomplice in the crime, was also indicted on the charge, and found guilty

Australian gay rights activist, journalist, artist and historian Bob Hay delved into the story and uncovered (PDF: 398KB/10 pages) the events that led up to the trial:

Not so lucky were Dubliner, Richard Moxworthy and Bristol-born John Hopkins who came into Sydney on board the US ship Hero on July 10, 1808. Moxworthy was second mate on this privateer and trader and was aged 42. Hopkins was only 16. The two were caught having sex when the ship was somewhere off Mexico. They were immediately relieved of duty and placed in irons until the Hero arrived in Sydney.

It’s not clear why the Australian Court felt that it had jurisdiction over a crime that happened on an American vessel, but New South Wales was a penal colony at the time and I guess that’s what you do: you take criminals to prison. Australia’s law mirrored English law, which included the “abominable crime” as a capital offense all the way up until the latter part of the nineteenth century. The Sydney Gazette doesn’t explicitly report that Moxworthy and Hopkins were sentenced to death, but that’s a reasonable conclusion, especially considering a brief notice that appeared two weeks later:

His honor the Lieutenant Governor has been pleased to extend the Royal Clemency to the two persons who were convicted capitally before the last Court of Criminal Jurisdiction.

Hay picks up the story from there:

After receiving a Conditional Pardon, Moxworthy again went to sea, this time as coxswain of the government sloop Blanche. Hopkins was not so successful: on April 26, 1822 the Sydney Gazette carried an advertisement offering £10 reward for the capture of John Hopkins who had absconded from his parole and was wanted for “diverse and other robberies”. There is no evidence that he was ever captured and that is the last we have heard of him.

Before Dr. James Barry’s death, he left strict instructions that no one was to change him out of the clothes in which he died. But the charwoman sent to prepare his corpse had no room for such nonsense. And so when she pulled his nightshirt up to wash his body, she screamed: “The devil! It’s a woman!”

Dr Barry, while alive, was known as a fierce and demanding doctor, and in the process became one of the most highly respected surgeons in Victorian England. As Britain’s Inspector General of Military Hospitals he was feared for his combative temper and fierce determination. He famously got in a bitter argument with Florence Nightingale, who called him a “brute” and “the most hardened creature I ever met throughout the Army.” As Inspector General, he fought for better food, hygiene, sanitation and proper medical care for soldiers and for the humanitarian treatment of prisoners. His reforms undoubtedly saved thousands of lives. He became the top-ranking doctor in the British Army, where despite his argumentative personality, he was also reputed to have an very good bedside manner. Many who knew him also remarked on his high, soft voice and his diminutive stature — he stood barely five feet tall on special stacked-soled shoes. His black manservant, who joined Barry’s employment in South Africa and would remain with him for the next fifty years, was entrusted with the task of laying out six small towels every morning that Barry used to conceal his curves and broaden his shoulders.

Despite the charwoman’s discovery, his secret remained tightly held and he was buried under the only name he had gone by since his early twenties. It wouldn’t be until the 1950s, when his British Army records were unsealed, that it was revealed that Barry had been born in Ireland as Margaret Buckley to a forward thinking family who were staunch supporters of women’s rights. But whatever ideals about women’s rights the family may have held, society’s limitations said otherwise: women were barred from studying medicine. So Margaret became James Barry shortly after she, then he, began training to become a doctor. And in every respect, he remained a man in what was very much a man’s world until the day he died.

Barry’s life and career is the subject of Rachel Holmes’s 2007 book, The Secret Life of Dr James Barry: Victorian England’s Most Eminent Surgeon.

Rock Hudson, Doris Day

Rock Hudson with Doris Day, in a television appearance that touched off national speculation about Hudson’s health.

The rumors had been swirling for some time, long before Rock Hudson entered a Paris hospital for what was clearly a very serious illness. He had appeared on July 16 at a news conference in Carmel, California, alongside his 1959 Pillow Talk costar, Dorris Day, to promote Doris Day’s Best Friends, a new animal companion program on the Christian Broadcasting Network. Hudson had agreed to be her first guest. Hudson was so late for the press conference that by the time he got there, a lot of the reporters had already left. Those who stayed were shocked by what they saw: sunken cheeks, poor complexion, unsteady on his feet, his speech barely intelligible and his clothing several sizes too large for his now skeletal body. Day embraced her former co-star, and they somehow made it through the press conference. Hudson taped the show a few days later, although he was so weak they had to stop several times.

A few days later, Hudson flew to Paris where he was no stranger to the medical establishment there. Back in the states in 1984, he had a scratch on his neck that wouldn’t heal, so he went to a doctor. The doctor told him that was no scratch, but Kaposi’s sarcoma, a rare form of skin cancer and a common opportunistic infection among AIDS patients. Hudson went to Paris to receive treatment with HPA-23, an experimental drug unavailable in the U.S. which was supposed to inhibit an enzyme that allows the AIDS virus to multiply. (HPA-23 was found to be ineffective against AIDS in 1989.) Now a year later, he made arrangements to return for another appointment with Dr. Dominique Dormont, the specialist who had treated him the year before. The appointment was set for July 22, but Hudson collapsed in his room at the Ritz the day before. The hotel summoned a doctor, who assumed that Hudson was experiencing heart problems and rushed him to the American Hospital of Paris. The doctors there, ignorant of his AIDS condition, noticed that his liver function was poor and suspected some kind of liver disease. This led Hudson’s publicist, Yanou Collart, to tell reporters that he was suffering from liver cancer.

Rock Hudson's return to Los Angeles

Rock Hudson’s return to Los Angeles.

When Dr. Dormont finally arrived at the hospital, he determined that Hudson was too weak to undergo any more HPA-23 treatments. Hudson decided to return to Los Angeles as soon as possible. He also decided to announce that he had AIDS.  Collart remembered, “The hardest thing I ever had to do in my life was to walk into his room and read him the press release. I’ll never forget the look on his face. How can I explain it? Very few people knew he was gay. In his eyes was the realization that he was destroying his own image. After I read it, he said simply, ‘That’s it, it has to be done.'”

Collart’s statement acknowledged Hudson’s disease, but not his sexuality. “He’s lucid. He’s talking, He’s joking… He’s feeling much better and in quite good spirits,” Collart said. “He doesn’t have any idea now how he contracted AIDS. … Nobody around him has AIDS.” In 1981, Hudson had undergone open heart surgery at Cedars-Sinai Hospital, near West Hollywood, where he received several blood transfusions. That would have been during the earliest days of what would soon be understood to be a major blood-borne epidemic. This meant that his sexuality may have been coincidental to his AIDS, but nobody really knew, then or now. But at the time, that explanation provided a path to plausible deniability.

And so the dancing around his sexuality would continue for another three weeks. Finally, and with Hudson’s blessing, close friends Angie Dickinson, Robert Stack and Mamie Van Doren acknowledged Hudson’s sexuality in a supportive article in People magazine. Messages of support and a procession of visitors followed: Morgan Fairchild, Joan Rivers, Nancy Walker, Tony Perkins, Carol Burnett, and, of course, Elizabeth Taylor. Hudson’s death less than three months later provoked another wave of sympathy and galvanized much of Hollywood, with Elizabeth Taylor’s prodding, to undertake the task of reducing the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS.

Rock Hudson (left) and Lee Garlington in 1963. The two broke up in 1965.

Rock Hudson (left) and Lee Garlington in 1963. The couple broke up in 1965.

On October 28, 1966, the FBI forwarded the following memorandum to Marvin Watson, special assistant to President Lyndon Johnson:

October 28, 1966.


Rock Hudson has not been the subject of an FBI investigation. During 1965, however, a confidential informant reported that several years ago while he was in New York he had an “affair” with movie star Rock Hudson. The informant stated that from personal knowledge he knew that Rock Hudson was a homosexual. The belief was expressed that by “personal knowledge” the informant meant he had personally indulged in homosexual acts with Hudson or had witnessed or received the information from individuals who had done so.

On another occasion, information was received by the Los Angeles Office of the FBI that it was common knowledge in the motion picture industry that Rock Hudson was suspected of having homosexual tendencies.

It is to be noted in May, 1961, a confidential source in New York also stated that Hudson definitely was a homosexual.

Our files contain no additional pertinent information identifiable with Mr. Hudson.

The fingerprint files of the Identification Division of the FBI contain no arrest data identifiable with Mr. Hudson based upon background information submitted in connection with this name check request.

NOTE: Per request of Mrs. Mildred Stegall, White House Staff.

Thomas Eakins

(d. 1916) Born and raised in Philadelphia, he studied drawing and anatomy at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and anatomy and dissection at Jefferson Medical College. His interest in the human body led him to briefly consider a career as a surgeon, but after studying art in Paris, he took his interest in the human anatomy in a very different direction. He became one of the finest painters of the human form. As for the particular human form he found fascinating, he made that clear while still a student in Paris:

“I can conceive of few circumstances wherein I would have to paint a woman naked, but if I did I would not mutilate her for double the money. She is the most beautiful thing there is — except a naked man, but I never yet saw a study of one exhibited… It would be a godsend to see a fine man model painted in the studio with the bare walls, alongside of the smiling smirking goddesses of waxy complexion amidst the delicious arsenic green trees and gentle wax flowers & purling streams running melodious up & down the hills especially up. I hate affectation.”

Salutat, 1898.

Eakins saw nudity as the essence of truth, which, in turn, was the underpinning of the realist style in which he worked. That insistence on truth got him into trouble. In 1886, he was forced to resign from the faculty of the Pennsylvania Academy after he removed the loincloth of a male model in a class which included female students. Despite the public outcry, several students left the Academy in protest over Eakins’s departure. They formed the Art Students’ League of Philadelphia, and enlisted Eakins as their instructor. He also taught at several other institutions, but his teaching career ended by 1898, just three years after being dismissed from the Drexel Institute for, again, using a fully nude male model.

Eakins married Susan Hannah MacDowell, one of his students, in 1884. Their marriage was childless, but they both shared a love of painting (Susan was a skilled artist in her own right) and photography, which Eakins had taken up in the 1880s. Amid further controversy, his photography often involved nude subjects (including a full-frontal nude photo of his friend and fellow Philadelphia, Walt Whitman), as works of art themselves, or as studies for his paintings. His entire body of work can be seen as a yearning for freedom — from what or for what, we can only guess. But looking at the obvious homoeroticism of his art, that guess is not a difficult one to make.

J. Warren Kerrigan

(d. 1947) While little-known today, Kerrigan had been a very popular silent film star for the early film studios Essanay, Biograph, and later Universal. He typically played a leading role as a modern, well-dressed man-about town, and his films were enormously successful. Photoplay magazine named him the most popular male star among its readers in 1914, the same year he became the first movie star to publish his autobiography. In 1916, the magazine Motion Picture Classic declared him the most popular star in the world.

He killed his career in 1917 over a glib remark about his refusal to enlist in World War I. He didn’t want to enlist because he didn’t want to leave his mother alone. He also didn’t want to leave behind his partner, actor and silent film director James Vincent, who lived at home with Kerrigan’s mother. When reporters pestered him over why he didn’t enlist, neither of the true answers were acceptable. Unfortunately, the answer he gave a Denver reporter was just about as disastrous as either of the real reasons he had:

… I think that first they should take the great mass of men who aren’t good for anything else, or are only good for the lower grades of work. Actors, musicians, great writers, artists of every kind — isn’t it a pity when people are sacrificed who are capable of such things — of adding to the beauty of the world.

Maybe he was tired — it was at the end of a four-month long publicity tour — or maybe he was just tired of dodging the question. At any rate, his answer was a public relations disaster, and his career was dead.

At least that’s how it looked for the next six years. In 1923, director James Cruze made a bold and surprising move by casting Kerrigan for the lead role in the Paramount western epic The Covered Wagon. The silent feature’s epic scale and outlandish budget for its day — it was filmed on location over several months at a cost of $783,000 ($11 million today) — set a new benchmark for filmmaking made it the most popular release that year. That success opened the doors to five less successful roles for Kerrigan the next year, ending in the swashbuckling 1924 film Captain Blood. By then, it was obvious that his reputation still hadn’t recovered. But with fresh money in the bank, coupled with his cautious investments and eschewing the lavish Hollywood lifestyle, his financial future was secure. He retired from filmmaking and lived quietly with Vincent until Kerrigan died in 1947 at the age of 67.

Nicknamed “Alfie,” the Welsh rugby player was the first professional rugby union player to announce publicly that he was gay. He told The Daily Mail, “I don’t want to be known as a gay rugby player. I am a rugby player, first and foremost I am a man.” I think he succeeded. Since I don’t know squat about rugby, it would be disasterous if I were to try to fake it. So  I’ll take the cheap and easy way out by quoting shamelessly from Wikipedia:

With 100 test match appearances he was the most capped Welsh rugby union player until he was overtaken by Stephen Jones in September 2011. He is currently ranked 12th among international try scorers and is the second highest Wales try scorer behind Shane Williams. He also won 4 rugby league caps for Wales, scoring 3 tries.He played rugby union for Bridgend, Cardiff, the Celtic Warriors, Toulouse, Cardiff Blues and Wales as a fullback, wing or centre. In 2010 he moved to rugby league, playing for the Crusaders RL in the Super League, and for Wales.

He broke his arm during a match in July 2011. After failing to recover in time for the Rugby League Four Nations Tournament in October, he announced his retirement.

The Daily Agenda for Sunday, July 24

From The Body Politic (Toronto, ON), April 1986, page 12. (Source.)

From The Body Politic (Toronto, ON), April 1986, page 12. (Source.)

Baron Smith

In 1984, just one year after being elected as Member of the British Parliament on the Labour ticket, Smith became the first MP to come out as gay at his own choosing. There had been a few other MP’s who had been involuntarily outed, typically as a result of a scandal. But Smith did so voluntarily, during a pro-gay rally in Rugby, Warwickshire, protesting a proposed ban on gay employees by the town council. Smith did came out during his self-introduction at the rally: “”Good afternoon, I’m Chris Smith, I’m the Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury. I’m gay, and so for that matter are about a hundred other members of the House of Commons, but they won’t tell you openly.”

That revelation did little to impede his political progress. Smith became Labour opposition whip in 1986, shadow Treasury minister in 1987, shadow environment minister in 1992, shadow secretary for National Heritage in 1994, and shadow secretary for Social Security in 1995. When Labour won the general election in 1997, Smith served as Tony Blair’s first Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport through 2001, making him the first openly gay Cabinet Minister. He left the House of Commons at the 2005 general election, and was rewarded for his services with a life peerage in the House of Lords as Baron Smith of Finsbury. In 2008, he was appointed chairman of the Environment Agency. He stepped down in 2014, and in 2015 he accepted an appointment as Master of Penbroke College, Cambridge. He also became chairman trustees of the Cambridge Union Society that same year.


Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Van Sant’s traveling salesman father moved the family around through much of his childhood. One thing remained constant though, and it was the young Van Sant’s interest in painting and Super-8 filmmaking. He enrolled at the Rhode Island School of Design to study painting, but he switched to cinema after discovering avant-garde films. Since avant-garde films were never much of a money-maker, Van Sant wound up being very familiar with some of the more derelict areas along Hollywood Boulevard, and 1985’s Mala Noche, the story of a doomed love affair between a gay store clerk and a Mexican immigrant, was the first of many films touching on the fringes of society. 1989’s Drugstore Cowboy and 1991’s My Own Private Idaho became signature films which established Van Sant as a director to be taken seriously.

His 1993 flop, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, very nearly unraveled his career, but 1995’s To Die For (starring Nicole Kidman, Matt Dillon and Joaquin Phoenix), his first major studio production for Columbia, catapulted him into the mainstream. Good Will Hunting, which starred and was written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, earned Van Sant a Best Director Oscar nomination. His remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was considerably less successful. His decision to re-create Hitchcock’s film shot-for-shot in color instead of black and white looked more alike a parlor trick than a serious artistic decision. He then turned to art-house films, including Elephant (a fictional film inspired by the 1999 Columbine shooting) which earned the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2003. He returned to the mainstream again in 2008 with his biopic Milk, starring Sean Penn as the late San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and featuring a screenplay by Dustin Lance Black (Jun 10). Again, Van Sant was nominated for an Oscar for Best Director, although he lost to Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire.

Kirk, at the age of 4 years and 6 months, just a few months before entering treatment at UCLA’s Feminine Boy Project (Photo courtesy of the family)

(d. 2003) For more than four decades, Kirk well known among behavioral therapists who were trying to prevent homosexuality and transgender identities in very young children. His identity wasn’t known; they only knew him by his pseudonym “Kraig.”

The seeds for “Kraig’s” fame were planted in the summer of 1970, when Kirk’s mother saw a television program featuring famed sexologist Dr. Richard Green describing a new federally-funded treatment program, called the Feminine Boy Project, at UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric Institute. After hearing his spiel about the dangers of effeminate boys growing up to become homosexual, she became worried that her son was headed for trouble. So a month before his fifth birthday, she took him to UCLA where Kirk came under the care of a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. Ten months later, five-year-old Kirk was declared to be rid of his “severe gender identity disturbance,” and Kirk’s case would help Rekers earn his Ph.D. in 1972.

Two years later, Rekers published his case report of “Kraig” in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis, where he described “Kraig’s” treatment and the astounding “success.” This was the first time anyone had reported curing a young child’s budding homosexuality or transgenderism — no one was ever quite sure what it was they though they saw in Kirk — and that paper became one of the more widely-cited papers in the late 1970s. Kirk’s case launched Rekers’s career, first as an acclaimed or controversial young psychologist (depending on one’s point of view at the time), and later as a significant anti-gay activist when he co-founded the Family Research Council in 1983. Throughout Rekers’s career he would write at least twenty papers describing Kirk’s case as an example of the power of his treatment program to prevent homosexuality and transgender identity in very young children. The most recent publication touting “Kraig’s” supposedly successful cure appeared in a 2009 book promoted by the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), where Rekers served on its Scientific Advisory Committee. Of course, all of that was before Rekers was discovered returning from a European vacation in the company of a male escort in 2010.

But it wouldn’t be until 2011 when the truth about “Kraig” would finally emerge. Our award winning original BTB investigation revealed that Kirk’s therapy was highly abusive; that contrary to Rekers’s persistent reports, Kirk was not straight; that Kirk struggled all his life with the shame that his treatment at UCLA had been instilled in him; and that his struggle finally ended with his suicide in December of 2003. If Kirk were alive today, he would be fifty-one years old. His is still deeply missed by his mother, brother, sister and friends.

Clinton Pays Private Visit With Pulse Families, Pays Respects To Victims

Jim Burroway

July 23rd, 2016

hillary_pulsex750Hillary Clinton was in Orlando yesterday where she met privately with families and friends of the Pulse gay night club massacre. The meeting occurred just before a larger roundtable meeting with city leaders and representatives from the LGBT and religious communities. According to the Washington Post:

“I’m really here to listen to what your experiences have been,” Clinton said during the meeting.

She noted that the attack on the gay club highlights the dangers that LGBT people in America face, including higher risk for hate crimes.

“We need to acknowledge and be very clear who this attack targeted,” Clinton said. “The Latino LGBT community by any measure was the community that was the most severely impacted by this terrible attack.”

“It is still dangerous to be LGBT in America,” Clinton added. “It is an unfortunate fact but one that needs to be said.”

The Post reported that Patty Sheehan, an Orlando city commissioner who is also a lesbian, thanked Clinton “for not politicizing it and for waiting until we were ready.” According to WESH TV, a mother and a survivor echoed that appreciation:

She never wanted to use me or my son for her political gain,” said Christine Leinonen whose son was killed in the June shooting.

“She just allowed us to tell our story and I thought that was really powerful and impactful,” said Brandon Wolf, a survivor.

During the private meeting, Sheehan warned against blaming the Muslim community for the gunman’s actions:

“Hating a Muslim person is the same as hating a gay person,” Sheehan said, growing emotional. “We cannot allow this country to become a country of hatred and division.”

“We have got to stop this kind of rhetoric. We are better together,” she added.

The Orlando Sentinel reported about the later roundtable meeting with community leaders:

…Clinton pledged to “promote the kinds of changes that will prevent this from happening to other people, other families and other communities.”

“We have to be willing to stand as one and demand changes from lawmakers at the federal, state and local level … We have a lot of work ahead of us,” said Clinton…

(Orlando Mayor Buddy) Dyer, who led the meeting alongside Clinton, said he would not wade into policy but called for unity and inclusiveness.

“We need to better understand how we come together, that we are stronger when we appreciate the similarities that we have and don’t focus on the differences,” Dyer said.

After the roundtable meeting, Clinton made an unannounced visit to an impromptu memorial outside the shuttered night club:

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, July 23

From The Advocate, January 8, 1981, page 5.

From The Advocate, January 8, 1981, page 5.

Yesterday came news that the last manufacturer of the video cassette recorder will end production by the end of this month:

The last-known company still manufacturing the technology, the Funai Corporation of Japan, said in a statement Thursday that it would stop making VCRs at the end of this month, mainly because of “difficulty acquiring parts.”

…According to the company — which said in the statement, “We are the last manufacturer” of VCRs “in all of the world” — 750,000 units were sold worldwide in 2015, down from millions decades earlier.

…The first VCRs for homes were released in the 1960s, and they became widely available to consumers in the 1970s, when Sony’s Betamax and JVC’s VHS formats began to compete. VHS gained the upper hand the following decade; but Sony stopped producing Betamax cassette tapes only in 2016.

230037778_4e8c70e60eThe VCR and its constantly blinking “12:00” is credited for making binge watching and time-shifting possible possible for the first time. It made porn available to the masses for the first time, and it also created demand for on-demand video. Before VCRs came along, if you wanted to watch a movie, you had to hope it would be available at a local theater, and once the movie’s run was complete, it was as good as gone unless you were lucky enough to catch it on television sometime. VCRs changed all of that. Today, it’s all about Netflix and chill, but in the eighties and the nineties, it was a Blockbuster night.

I have to admit I was surprised to learn that VCRs were still being produced. And I’m even more surprised to learn that they sold 750,000 machines last year. Caetlin Benson-Allott, who teaches film and media studies at Georgtown, explains:

First of all, VHS has a longer shelf life than DVD. The average shelf life of a DVD is about 25 years given average use, and if it’s a DVD-R, it can be as short as five or 10 years, depending on the quality of manufacture. VHS, if stored right, is estimated to last 50 years. …Second, while the U.S. has gone over to digital television broadcasts, a lot of countries haven’t. Third and finally, because it is a mechanical device, there is the capacity to repair it yourself, assuming you can get or manufacture parts.

She mourns the VCR’s demise and thinks we’ve lost an important human connection because of it:

What I miss most—and I have to say I already miss this—about VHS are the video stores. I miss walking into the cornucopia that was my local Lincoln Video of Lincoln, Massachusetts, and finding out about some guy named Scorsese when I was way too young to be watching his movies. And then working back from him to other things that he liked. I miss having a relationship with a video clerk and the esoteric taste, the evolution of taste, that I got from knowing that guy or that gal. We have that in a sense with the you-might-also-like function on Netflix, but that’s an algorithm replacing a human relationship, which is never the same thing.

On June 24, President Ronald Reagan announced the creation of the President’s Commission on the HIV Epidemic, and two days later he appointed Dr. W. Eugene Mayberry, CEO of the Mayo Clinic, to head the commission, despite Mayberry having no experience with the disease. Gay activists and people with AIDS were alarmed by the appointment, and demanded that the rest of the panel be made up of more qualified people, including representatives from the gay community. Anti-gay White House staff opposed that last demand, with Gary Bauer, Reagan’s chief domestic policy advisor, leading the resistance (Jun 30). In the end, Reagan apparently ignored Bauer’s advice. When Reagan announced the rest of the commission’s members on July 23, the list included Dr. Frank Lilly, a geneticist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Lilly was also on the board of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis from 1984 to 1986, and he was openly gay.

Lilly’s appointment to a part time, purely advisory commission which did not require Senate confirmation appears to be the first Presidential appointment of an openly gay person, and his presence on the panel upset conservatives. Sen. Gordon Humphrey (R-NH) said that Reagan had caved in to demands by the gay community that “society accept their sexual practices as normal.” He warned that Reagan “should strive at all costs to avoid sending the message to society — especially to impressionable youth — that homosexuality is simply an alternative lifestyle. It is not. Homosexual practices are unnatural. The practice of homosexuality is immoral. The consequences of that immoral behavior is AIDS, and not only AIDS for homosexuals, but AIDS for many innocent victims, including children.”

Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) lashed out by distributing pages from a comic book published by GMHC (“Lilly’s homosexual organization,” Helms called it) which included graphic depictions of safe-sex practices. Helms distributed those pages as part of a letter addressed “for senators’ eyes only” because “I think senators ought to know what the taxpayers’ money is being spent for, but I don’t want to help Lilly distribute this mess.” GMHC and the federal Public Health Service responded that the money used for Safer Sex Comix came from private donations, not government funds.

If conservatives were upset over Lilly’s appointment, other panelists named to the commission seemed to mollify those concerns. The most surprising nomination was New York Cardinal John, J. O’Connor, who had drawn the wrath of Act UP for publicly repudiating a National Conference of Catholic Bishops policy paper calling for AIDS educational programs even when they included information about condoms. Another conservative on the panel was Penny Pullen, Republican leader of the Illinois House of Representatives who sponsored legislation that would require a names-based HIV testing regime for marriage licenses, hospital admissions, and for all sex offenders and intravenous drug users, with additional tracing of sexual contacts for those who tested positive. Also named to the panel was Theresa Crenshaw, a controversial California sex therapist with a questionable resume who proposed barring students with AIDS from attend schools in San Diego. She also said that AIDS could be spread by insects, advised against “casual (dry) kissing” because AIDS patients “often carry other diseases,” and warned that AIDS “threatens our extinction.”

Reagan defended his more conservative choices: “When it comes to stopping the spread of AIDS, medicine and morality teach the same lessons.” The Eagle Forum’s Phyllis Schlafly also praised those selections saying she hoped the panel would “make recommendations to protect the uninfected from the infected.” But Jeff Levi, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said he did “not have high hopes for this commission.” Those fears appeared to be well-founded when Chairman Mayberry, the vice chairman and its only medical staff officer quit in October over turmoil within the commission.

The commission was quickly re-organized under the leadership of retired Admiral James Watkins. When the commission issued its report in 1988, it endorsed 580 specific recommendations including a call for state and federal anti-discrimination laws to protect people with AIDS. Another section harshly criticized funding cuts to public health services and the resulting impacts to the poor. It also recognized the work of gay community organizations which rose up to try to fill the gaps left by government inaction. “Semen, blood and ignorance surround this epidemic,” Watkins said at a press conference, “and we were in that last category.” He added, “The foremost obstacle to progress raised was the discrimination faced by those with HIV.” Such discrimination, he said, “is the rule, not the exception.”

Tim Sweeney, deputy executive director of GHMC, called the report “courageous, aggressive and compassionate. We challenge the President, Congress and presidential candidates to respond to this report by implementing its recommendations.” But the response to the report was muted. After all, it was a presidential election year with a lame-duck president waiting out the end of his term and a Congress whose attention focused solely on re-election.

charlotte-cushman200 YEARS AGO: (d. 1876) The American stage actress was from one of Boston’s oldest families, a direct descendent of Robert Cushman, a Pilgrim who helped organize the Mayflower voyage to Plymouth and who is credited for giving the first sermon on North American soil. But Charlotte was nothing like her Pilgrim forbearers or other proper Bostonian families. She would begin her life in the theater at thirteen, when she began singing opera to make money after her father died. She learned to sing from a friend of her father’s who owned a piano factory, and she is said to have possessed a remarkable contralto range. Her performance in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro was a great success.

But when her singing voice suddenly failed due to the strain of singing above her comfortable range, she switched gears and became a noted drama actress, with a particular flair for Shakespeare. In 1836, she made her dramatic debut in the lead role of Lady MacBeth to rave reviews. With her sister, fellow actress Susan Webb Cushman, they became famous for playing Romeo and Juliet together, with Charlotte playing Romeo to Susan’s Juliet.

Charlotte Cushman and Matilda Hays

Charlotte Cushman and Matilda Hays

In 1844, Cushman began traveling to Europe, where in 1848 she met journalist and sometime actress Matilda Hays. They began an affair and lived as a couple. They were known for dressing alike, and they immersed themselves in an expatriate community in Rome consisting mainly of lesbian artists. They also, separately, indulged in a number of tumultuous affairs. In 1857, Cushman began seeing the sculptor Emma Stebbins (Sep 1). When Hays discovered the affair,  the two underwent a violent argument, with Hays hitting Cushman and chasing her around the house. Hays left Cushman and sued her, saying that she had sacrificed her career to support Cushman’s. The two settled the case privately for an unknown sum, and parted ways.

Stebbins moved in with Cushman. A few months later, Cushman left Stebbins behind and returned to the U.S. for another tour. Before returning to Italy in 1861, Cushman performed at the Washington Theater in the title role of Hamlet. The poster for the production described her as “a lady universally acknowledged as the greatest living tragic actress.”

Charlotte Cushman and Emma Stebbins

Charlotte Cushman and Emma Stebbins

In 1869, Cushman underwent treatment for breast cancer, with Stebbins setting aside her sculpting to devote her energies to Cushman’s recovery. As Cushman recovered, she developed a career as a dramatic reader, reading scenes from Shakespeare, poetry, poems and humorous pieces. In 1871, the couple returned to the U.S. and Cushman embarked on a series of performances, many of them billed as her final appearance as either a dramatic reader or actress. Her final final stage performance was in May of 1875 at Boston’s Globe Theater, which was followed by a short tour of dramatic readings in Rochester, Buffalo, and Syracuse before retiring to her villa in Newport. She became ill in October of 1875, and moved to Boston for treatment, where she died the following February of pneumonia. As for Stebbins, she never produced another sculpture after Cushman died. Instead, she devoted her time to compiling their correspondence for Charlotte Cushman: Her Letters and Memories of Her Life.

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