The Daily Agenda for Saturday, June 25
He may be a talented performer, but he’s propably better known for being one hot mess. He started out as half of Wham!, which he formed with his school chum Andrew Ridgeley in 1981. The first album Fantastic reached number 1 on the U.K. charts, and their second album Make It Big hit number one in the U.S. Wham!’s 1985 tour of China was the first by a major Western music group, generating worldwide attention. Two Wham! singles, 1984’s “Careless Whisper” and 1986’s “A Different Corner,” both featured Michael as a solo singer, and were sufficiently successful to guarantee a promising solo career.
Wham! came to an end in 1986, and Michael released Faith the following year. His sexy voice and his sexy butt propelled the singles “Faith” and “I Want Your Sex” to the top of the charts. But his recording output after that was sporadic. Listen Without Prejudice came out in 1990, and he waited until 1996 to release Older. In 1999 came Songs from the Last Century, and Patience in 2004. And that was about it.
A few years after Older’s release, his personal problems became very public ones. In 1998, he was arrested for “engaging in a lewd act” in a public toilet in Beverly Hills, a charge which effectively outed him as gay. He was arrested again on similar charges in London’s Hampstead Heath in 2006. In 2007, he was arrested in Northwest London when police found his car blocking traffic and him behind the wheel zonked out on drugs. He’s had several other drug arrests since then.
In 2011, he began his Symphonica tour when his health took a severe turn. He was admitted to a hospital in Vienna on November 21 complaining of chest pains. A few days later he was put in intensive care for over a week after developing pneumonia. After emerging from intensive care, he remained in the hospital for three more weeks, and was finally discharged on December 21. Two days later, he publicly acknowledged that doctors there had saved his life and that he had undergone a tracheotomy. His attraction to drama wasn’t over with yet. In May 2013, he somehow managed to fall out of a passenger seat of a Range Rover and onto the M1 motorway, requiring his airlift to a hospital with minor head injuries. His latest solo album, Symphonica, came out in March 2014.
June 24th, 2016
Top personnel officials plan to meet as early as Monday to finalize details of the plan, and Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work could sign off on it by Wednesday, according to a Defense official familiar with the timetable but who spoke on condition of anonymity because officials were not authorized to speak publicly about it. Final approval would come from Defense Secretary Ash Carter, and the announcement will be on the eve of the Fourth of July weekend.
…The main focus of the Pentagon’s review of the policy has been on the effect of repeal on the military’s readiness to fight, Pahon said. More details about the review’s findings are expected to be released soon, he said.
Several issues relating to repeal of the ban have proven to be contentious, according to officials familiar with the review but not authorized to speak publicly about it. One sticking point has been how long transgender service members would have to serve before being eligible for medical treatment to transition to the other gender.
June 24th, 2016
President Barack Obama today announced that the Stonewall Inn, Christopher Park, and the streets and sidewalks in the immediate vicinity that were the site of the 1960 Stonewall Uprising will now be preserved as the first National Monument to honor LGBT history:
Today, President Obama will designate a new national monument at the historic site of the Stonewall Uprising in New York City to honor the broad movement for LGBT equality. The new Stonewall National Monument will protect the area where, on June 28, 1969, a community’s uprising in response to a police raid sparked the modern LGBT civil rights movement in the United States.
The designation will create the first official National Park Service unit dedicated to telling the story of LGBT Americans, just days before the one year anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision guaranteeing marriage equality in all 50 states. Additionally, in celebration of the designation and New York City’s Pride festival, the White House, in coordination with the National Park Foundation and the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, is releasing a video that will be played on the billboards in Times Square on Saturday, June 25, beginning at 12:00pm ET.
The new Stonewall National Monument will permanently protect Christopher Park, a historic community park at the intersection of Christopher Street, West 4th Street and Grove Street directly across from the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. The monument’s boundary encompasses approximately 7.7 acres of land, including Christopher Park, the Stonewall Inn, and the surrounding streets and sidewalks that were the site of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising.
Today’s designation follows years of strong support from local officials, organizations, members of Congress and citizens in New York City and across the country, as demonstrated recently at a public meeting held in New York City in May. The National Park Foundation is also today announcing that it will support the establishment of a local Friends Group to support the monument and that it will work with local and national organizations and the community to raise funding for dedicated National Park Service personnel, a temporary ranger station and visitor center, research and materials, exhibits, community outreach, and public education.
The Daily Agenda for Friday, June 24
Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25 years old.
He was born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, and studied communications at Universidad del Sagrado Corazón in Puerto Rico. But his true love was dancing. “He was very talented,” his cousin, Ana Figueroa, said. “He started dancing when he was about 10 years old. It was his passion.” He could dance anything, from ballroom to salsa, mambo or tango. If he was dancing, he was happy.
With just a few credits to go before graduating, he moved to Orlando about three years ago to pursue a career as a dancer and choreographer. He worked at Mango’s Tropical Cafe as a hip-hop dancer and performed backup for the popular Michael Jackson Show. He also performed in drag as Alanis Laurell.
On Saturday evening, he texted a friend to tell her he was going dancing at Pulse that night with his roommates and asked if she wanted to come along. She texted back that she was tired. Maybe next time. By the next morning, his two roommates were critically injured. Anthony was dead.
Almost immediately after the Stonewall Inn uprising in lower Manhattan (Jun 28), the Gay Liberation Front arose up more or less spontaneously as the product of a younger generation of LGBT people who were impatient with legacy organizations like the Mattachine Society of New York and the Daughters of Bilitis. While the GLF undertook several highly visible marches and protests during its first several months of existence (Jul 27, Sep 12, Nov 12, Mar 8), its effectiveness quickly evaporated over the group’s refusal to have recognized leaders. Having a formal leadership structure was denounced as “patriarchal” and “oppressive”, and all decisions were reached by group consensus, which came only after exhaustive and often interminably picayune political discussions — if at all. Also, the GLF tended to get sidetracked by other issues that the young people in GLF were passionate about: he Vietnam War, Third World issues, and support for the Black Panther Party.
A few months after the GLF formed, a group of activists broke away to form the Gay Activists Alliance as a more professionally-run organization, with set goals, strategic planning, leadership, and a specific focus on gay rights. Early on, they made a name for themselves by conducting extraordinarily noisy and boisterous (and yet, also strategic and disciplined) “zaps,” a political direct action designed to embarrass public figures and call media attention to examples of anti-gay discrimination and harassment. GAA member Marty Robinson is often credited with developing the zap after a march on a New York City police precinct after a raid on the Snake Pit (Mar 8). As the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall approached, the GAA decided to celebrate with another zap at Republican State Committee Headquarters.
Nearly a dozen GAA members — including Arthur Evans, Marty Robinson, Tom Doerr, Jim Owles, Phil Raia, Cary Yurman and Arthur Bell — arrived at the headquarter’s reception room a little after noon. They were greeted by a flunkey who said, “If you have legitimate grievances, I will see to it that they are forwarded to the right party.”
Arthur Evans replied, “We want (Gov. Nelson) Rockefeller to come out and fight for homosexual rights. Rockefeller is guilty of a crime of silence, and we are not leaving until we get a satisfactory answer to our demands.”
The flunkey complained: they didn’t have an appointment; they didn’t have a legitimate request; this isn’t you you do things. Arthur Bell described the GAA’s response: “We just unwound and made ourselves comfortable on the floor of the reception room until they got the picture.” Meanwhile, a larger crowd of GAA activists threw up a picket line outside, shouting, “Two-four-six-eight! Gay is just as good as straight! Three-five-seven-nine! Lesbians are mighty fine!” and “Say it loud: Gay is proud!” Television cameras showed up, filming the protest outside and interviewing zappers inside. Closing time came at five o’clock, but the zappers refused to leave. At 6:30, the party chair agreed to meet with a GAA representative. Jim Owens agreed, provided a member of the press was present. The chairman refused and called police. When police arrived, the five GAA members sitting on the floor of that reception room — Doerr, Evans, Owles, Raia, and Robinson — became the first people ever arrested for a gay sit-in in New York.
“The Rockefeller Five,” as they were soon called, were taken to Criminal Court. The GAA worked the phones, and when the five entered the courtroom that night, they were welcomed by about 40 GAA members in the courtroom, who all stood up and held hands. After the judge got control of the courtroom again, he heard the charge of criminal trespass against the five, set a trial date for August 5, and released the five on their own recognizance. When the Five left the courthouse, news reporters were waiting. Marty Robinson seized the opportunity, telling reporters: “We are trying to use political power to achieve changes that will benefit homosexuals in the state. We want homosexuals to know who has been responsible for inaction regarding their civil rights.” He also turned to another longstanding grievance in the gay community: the state’s discriminatory bar licensing policies which prevented legitimate gay bar owners from getting licenses and effectively left gay bar ownership to the mafia. “And we also wish to charge the state with corruption, such as the State Liquor Authority’s non-issuance of licenses to gay bar.” By the time the August 5 trial date came around, the charges were dropped.
[Source: David Carter. Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2004): 249-251.]
It was a Sunday. The UpStairs Lounge, a second floor gay bar in New Orleans’s French Quarter, had hosted members of the local Metropolitan Community Church who attended a beer bust following church services. Most of the bar’s patrons had gone home, but those who remained, about sixty or so, gathered around a piano to sing tunes, as they often did that time of night. The evening was still early, not quite eight o’clock when the bartender heard the door buzzer downstairs ring, a sound that usually meant that a cab was outside the take a patron home. What he didn’t know was that someone had thrown a molotov cocktail into the staircase that led up to the bar’s door on the second floor. And so when another bar employee went to open the door, a massive backdraft drew the flames into the lounge like a flamethrower.
The bartender, Buddy Rasmussen, led about twenty or thirty people through an unmarked exit which led to the roof, and they were able to hop onto other buildings and make their escape. But more than thirty others in the lounge ran to the windows instead, only to discover they were barred. By the time one of the patrons managed to squeeze through the bars, his body was already in flames and he died right after landing in the street below. Another patron escaped, but when he realized his boyfriend didn’t make it out, he went back in to find him. Fire crews later discovered their burned bodies holding each other. MCC pastor Rev. Bill Larson clung to the bars at a window where he died, his body melted into the window frame. His charred body remained visible from the street below all the next day as the fire department conducted its investigation and couldn’t be bothered with the simple decency of covering his body. Twenty-nine people died that night, and three more died later from their injuries.
The UpStairs Lounge fire was the deadliest in New Orleans’ history, and may very well have been the worst mass murder of gay people in American history. But aside from the first day’s coverage, New Orleans could barely muster a yawn. Newspaper photos of Rev. Larson’s charred body against the window frame came to symbolize the city’s apathy t0ward the tragedy. Talk radio hosts told jokes (“What will they bury the ashes of queers in? Fruit jars.”), and a cab driver callously quipped, “I hope the fire burned their dresses off.” Not only did the New Orleans Police Department barely investigate the crime, they could hardly be bothered to identify the victims. Major Henry Morris, chief detective of the New Orleans Police Department said, “We don’t even know these papers belonged to the people we found them on. Some thieves hung out there, and you know this was a queer bar.” Churches refused to allow families to hold funerals on their premises. Other families refused to claim their dead sons’ bodies. Four unidentified bodies ended up being dumped in a mass grave. Although there was a firm suspect in the case, no one was ever charged.
Here are two news reports of the fire, a lengthy film report from CBS news, and a shorter one from NBC:
You can read the New Orleans Times-Picayune’s original coverage of the fire here (PDF: 4.4MB/2 pages), and its 20th anniversary coverage here (PDF:5.9MB/2 pages). In 2014, MacFarland Press released Clayton Delery-Edwards’s heavily-researched account of The Up Stairs Lounge Arson: Thirty-Two Deaths in a New Orleans Gay Bar.
This was supposed to be Sydney’s first Gay Pride Parade, known locally as Mardi Gras, and was planned as a night-time celebration after a morning march and commemoration of the Stonewall riots. (You can see film of the morning march taken with a super-8 camera here.) While homosexuality was still against the law in New South Wales, organizers had obtained all the necessary permits for the celebration beforehand. The evening celebration began simply, with a small crowd walking down Oxford Street on a chilly Australian winter day. The idea was to encourage people to come out from the bars and join the fun. But the crowd aroused suspicions of the police, which had gathered around the group.
By the time the small crowd, estimated at between five hundred and a thousand, reached the end of the street, the police confiscated the sound system, removed their identification badges and turned on the crowd. One participant recalled, “There was, you know, pretty serious bashing and kicking and all sort of things going on. It was a real riot.” Sandi Banks also remembered the brutality that night:
“They came racing down Darlinghurst Road, sirens going, lights galore and they jumped out, lots of them,” Ms Banks said. “Very huge men at the time and no form of identification. And they started grabbing, thumping, bashing, pulling hair. They picked me up and threw me towards the paddy wagon … my chest was black and blue from having hit the truck. And my arms both had huge marks [from] manhandling by the police there, so it was quite incredible.”
Fifty-three marchers were arrested. Peter Murphy, 25, recalled that while in police custody, he was beaten so badly he began to convulse on the floor.
“They took me along a long corridor in the police station through a U-shaped route into a room and then just beat the hell out of me. There were two police officers who did that – one in particular – bashing me with their fists in the head and saying ‘you’re not so smart now are you’.” Mr Murphy said he was beaten solidly until a blow to the solar plexus floored him. He was thrown into a solitary cell where he could hear protesters gathered outside chanting his name. “They tried to break my leg but fortunately the bones didn’t snap,” he said. “I was (literally) pissing my pants.”
A large crowd formed outside the Darlinghurst police station, singing “We Shall Overcome” and chanting slogans. Some of those inside could hear the crowd, giving them some measure of comfort.
The following Monday, gay community leaders tried to go to the court building, only to find police blocking the entrances and preventing the public from witnessing the trials. The order to close the court house to the pubic came from Police Superintendent Reginald Douglas.
Inside the courtroom, defense attorneys applied to have the general public admitted, but the Chief Magistrate insisted that no order to close the courts had been issued and that he had issued an order to the police to admit the public. But police ignored the order, and insisted that the magistrates instead provide lists of specific people needed in court. One newspaper caught the dialog: Defense attorney John Terry asked, “What criterion are you using to exclude these people?” Douglas responded that he didn’t have to answer. “You’re acting arbitrarily,” replied Terry. “That’s right, arbitrarily,” said Douglas.
“It was a wild day on the Monday as well as on the Saturday night,” said writer David Marr. “The coppers hated the poofs, they hated them. And they hated the lesbians perhaps even more than that.”
Although most of the charges were dropped, the Sydney Morning Herald published the full names of everyone who was arrested, outing many to their family, friends and employers. Many lost their jobs.
Known as the 78ers, the fifty-three who were arrested and beaten spent the next 38 years demanding an apology from the New South Wales government and Sydney Police. Those apologies finally came this year. On February 25, Liberal MP Bruce Notley-Smith delivered the Government’s apology:
We recognise that you were ill-treated, you were mistreated, you were embarrassed and shamed, and it was wrong. I hope it’s not too late that you can accept an apology but also we want to recognise that for all of that pain that you went through, you brought about fundamental change in this society and fundamental change for the many gay and lesbian people like myself, who can be open and relaxed about ourselves. You were the game changers.
…For the mistreatment you suffered that evening, as a member of this Parliament, who oversaw the events of that night, I apologise, and I say sorry. As a member of a parliament that dragged its feet on the decriminalisation of homosexual acts I apologise.
One week later, an official of the Sydney Police delivered its apology:
“I have [Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione’s] full support in saying that the NSW Police Force is sorry,” Superintendent Tony Crandell from the Surry Hills Local Area Command said.
“Sorry for the way that the Mardi Gras was policed on the first occasion in 1978.”
Boston has its Brahmins. Prescott Townsend’s Brahman credentials would make other Brahmins jealous, except a true Brahmin would never cop to envy. He was related to at least 23 Mayflower passengers, and his third great-great grandfather, Roger Sherman, was the only person to sign the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution. Townsend’s father made a fortune in the coal industry, and his family lived in Roxbury and attended the very high Anglican Church of the Advent.
Prescott himself was a considerably more eccentric Brahmin than proper Bostonians were accustomed to. At first it seemed everything was set: prep school, Harvard, military service. Then he struck out on his own in a most un-Brahman way, spending the summer of 1914 in logging camps in Montana and Idaho, traveling to Paris, North Africa and the Soviet Union. On one trip to the Rio Blanco Canyon in Mexico, he co-discovered some Toltec stone heads and got a new species of salamanders named after him: Salamdra oedipustownsendentis, which he named in an indirect homage to his father.
On returning to Beacon Hill, he began a relationship with theater producer Elliot Paul. Paul was hipster a hundred years before today’s hipsters came up with the idea, sporting a Van Dyke beard and broad-brimmed hats. Townsend was more of his day, wearing “a raccoon skin overcoat that was the envy of Cedar Street,” and who could easily “talk informatively on any given subject in the space it required his auditor to consume precisely a quart of gin.” Gin was as illegal in prohibition Boston as everywhere else, but Townsend’s Brahmin connections somehow shielded his establishments from police scrutiny.
Townsend and Paul founded the Barn Experimental Theater in 1922, thanks to Townsend’s modest trust fund income. He spent what remained of his trust money buying up properties on Beacon Hill, transforming the area into the epicenter of bohemian Boston. He operated speakeasies, restaurants, theaters, a gallery and a bookstore, the latter in his home. Townsend became good friends with the openly-gay novelist André Gide, who himself had come out in print in 1926. Townsend also had a keen interest in experimental architecture, both in Beacon Hill and in Provincetown, where he built five A-frame houses. Unfortunately, it never occurred to him to patent the A-frame.
Townsend became one of America’s first public gay activist in the 1930s when, owing to his Brahmin status, Massachusetts lawmakers indulged him as he testified for the repeal of the state’s sodomy law. Lawmakers politely dismissed him. He came back again the following year, and the year after that, each time he was met with the same polite indifference.
On January 29, 1943, he was working at the Fall River shipyard when he was arrested for participating in an “unnatural and lascivious act.” The tabloid Mid-Town Journal ran a particularly cutting headline: “Beacon Hill ‘Twilight’ Man Member of Queer Love Cult Seduced Young Man.” Twilight indeed! He was sentenced to 18 months at hard labor, and was released on V-E Day. He later said that when he saw the celebrations in town, he thought they were for him. His family and Boston’s upper crust saw no reason to celebrate him though. Most of his family cut off all contact with him, and he was officially dropped from both the Boston and New York Social Registers, which delighted him. “I was thrown out of the Social Register the same year as Barbara Hutton,” he bragged, “and for the same reason!”
In the 1957, he held meetings at his home/bookstore, which he described as “the first social discussion of homosexuality in Boston.” Those discussions grew into the Boston chapter of the Mattachine Society. When his own activities proved too embarrassing for the buttoned-down Mattachines — one member called “the Professor” complained that Townsend was constantly “defending his creamy-meamy bubble-headed faggy types” — they kicked him out in 1962. Townsend then established a competing organization he called the Boston Demophile Society, which outlasted the Boston Mattachine Society by several years. Townsend also developed what he called his “Snowflake Theory,” in which he argued that each person’s sexuality was as unique as a snowflake.
Townsend had a way of moving along with the cutting edge of the times. In the 1960s, Townsend welcomed hippies and runaways to his buildings in Boston and his home made of driftwood, plastics and other cast-off material in Provincetown, which he named Provincetownsend. Future luminaries at Provincetownsend included Mink Stole and John Waters, who described the house as “like living with a lunatic Swiss Family Robinsons”:
Part of the apartment [in Townsend’s house] was made out of a submarine, and trees grew right up through the living room. There was no runing water, but it was an incredibly beautiful place. The only real problem was that when it rained, it was like being outside. …There was no rent. You just had to be liked by the incredibly eccentric landlord, Prescott Townsden [sic], a notorious seventy-year-old gay liberationist who drove around on a motor scooter and ate nothing but hot dogs.
Charming. Kooky. He and I wandered around town a few times during different conventions, window-shopping and such. He was a kind and—I didn’t understand it at the time—the kind of person from an old aristocratic background who could brag about the fact that he got the seersucker suit he was wearing for 50 cents at a Goodwill store. And he was just so comfortable that he didn’t have to put on the dog, and would do almost the opposite, where at the meetings, other people were, those who were the social climbers, were just scandalized by this kind of tacky, old, rumpled-suit.
…He was ahead of his time and behind his time. He was like an 1890 radical.
In 1965, at the age of seventy-one, Townsend became active in the East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO) and participated in the 1965 demonstrations in New York (Apr 18). In 1967 — he’s seventy-three years old now — Townsend showed up in Boston Common at a camp of young hippies. With his mimeograph machine in tow, he turned out flyers for the Boston Common Be-In. In 1970 — now he’s seventy-six — he took those ideas to the Boston Gay Liberation Front for it’s Be-In that summer. Meanwhile, a new generation of hustlers and drug addicts were taking advantage of his generosity. Provincetownsend burned, under suspicious circumstances, as did several of his Beacon Hill properties including his original home/bookstore. He moved to a friend’s apartment. There, he stopped eating, and three days later was found dead. Townsend’s funeral was very, very far away, in temperament at least, from us parents’ high Anglican church. It took place in the Unitarian Arlington Street Church, which hosted gay youth groups, anti-war rallies and other progressive causes.
[Sources: John C. Mitzel. “Who’s that old fart? Prescott Townsend, Granddaddy of Gay Lib, believes in fun, too.” The Advocate no. 86 (May 24, 1972): 21, 24.
Charles Shively. “Prescott Townsend (1894-1973): Bohemian Blueblood — A Different Kind of Pioneer.” In Vern L. Bullough (ed.) Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (Binghamton, NY: Harrington Park Press, 2002): 41-47.
John Waters. Shock Value: A Tasteful Book About Bad Taste (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1981): 48.]
June 23rd, 2016
There has been widespread speculation about whether Omar Mateen, the man who killed 49 and injured more than 50 others at the Pulse gay night club in Orlando, might have been gay. The FBI has been investigating that possibility, and today says they cannot find any evidence that Mateen was leading “a secret gay life”:
Federal investigators have scoured Omar Mateen’s laptop computer, cell phone and the trail of communications he left behind and so far have found no evidence that he led a secret gay life, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the ongoing investigation.
They’ve also reviewed the electronic devices of men who said they’d communicated with him on gay dating apps and so far have found no link.
…Investigators have not stopped following leads about Mateen’s reported interest in gay clubs and gay men, but federal officials reported Thursday that they’ve found no photographs, text messages, smart phone apps or gay pornography that suggest Mateen was gay or was trying to find a gay lover.
Several men have come forward claiming to have chatted with Mateen on gay dating apps. But:
Federal investigators, however, believe men making such claims may be confusing Mateen with someone else or are not credible, the officials said.
As for the man who, in a Univision interview, claimed to have been a regular “friend with benefits” with Mateen:
“We are not at liberty to confirm or deny specific interviews, nor the credibility of content … due to the ongoing investigation,” she wrote in an email.
Federal officials in Washington, however, said they do not believe that man’s claims are credible.
June 23rd, 2016
The owners of Pulse, the gay night club whose Latin Night party was attacked by Omar Mateen on June 12, will hold a fundraising event, described as “half party, half memorial” tonight. This will be Pulse’s first event after the massacre. Since the club is still a crime scene (that’s due to come to an end soon), the event will be held in the Thornton Park neighborhood.
“It will be Latin night, Washington Street will be closed, Pulse entertainers will be dancing, drag queens… the whole megillah,” said Sara Brady, spokeswoman.
Brady said city officials, including Mayor Buddy Dyer and Commissioner Patty Sheehan, have been invited.
Barbara Poma’s husband, Rosario Poma, owns numerous businesses in the area. One of them, Wildside B-B-Q Bar & Grill, 700 E. Washington St., will be the focal point for Thursday’s celebration. Across Washington Street, the Veranda event space will also participate, Brady said.
Pulse owner Barbara Poma told NPR that her commitment is to keep Pulse alive, and the party will help do that. The funds raised will benefit employees, who have been out of work since the shooting and will likely remain without a paycheck for months to come before the nightclub can re-open. Roma said that a memorial will be a part of Pulse’s rebuilding project.
The Daily Agenda for Thursday, June 23
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old.
Friends and Family called him Peter Ommy. He worked at UPS in Orlando. He attended Colonial High and Aloma Charter High School in suburban Winter Park. A teacher who taught him at Liberty Middle School remembered his “contagious joy” and “contagious humor.” “No matter what kind of day I was having, he always made me laugh,” she wrote on Facebook.
Peter makes a difference everywhere he goes. He was a happy person. If Peter is not at the party, no one wants to go,” his aunt, Sonia Cruz, told The Associated Press.
Peter Ommy went to Pulse that night with his best friend, 25-year-old Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez. Neither of them survived the shooting.
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old.
Gilberto grew up in Manati, Puerto Rick, and moved to Orlando a few years ago. He worked at a Speedway convenience store in Orlando while studying health care management at the Ana G. Mendez University’s Orlando campus. Maricelly Alomar, a counselor at the school, said, “He was a dedicated man, with great dreams of helping people in need, and the desire of becoming a health care professional. He carried positive and contagious attitude towards life.”
His family back home in Puerto Rico is, understandably, devastated. One cousin told the Orlando Sentinel: “He is my older brother’s only child, and he was the light and the life of all the family gatherings. This all feels like a dream, and I’m going to wake up and he will be texting me or calling me to tell me he is ok.”
The nightmare began as many such nightmares did for gay men in Los Angeles in the 1950s. In February of 1952, Dale Jennings (Oct 21) was in a public men’s room at Westlake Park (now MacArthur Park) when a man walked up to him with his hand on his crotch. Jennings wasn’t interested. “Having done nothing that the city architect didn’t have in mind when he designed the place, I left,” Jennings later explained. The man, however, insisted on striking up a conversation and following Jennings home. When they arrived at Jennings’s house, Jennings said good-bye and went inside, but the man decided to invite himself inside. The stranger continued to make sexual advance to Jennings — in Jennings’s own home — but Jennings refused. “At last he grabbed my hand and tried to force it down the front of his trousers. I jumped up and away. Then there was the badge and he was snapping the handcuffs on with the remark, ‘Maybe you’ll talk better with my partner outside’.”
As Jennings continued the story:
I was forced to sit in the rear of a car on a dark street for almost an hour while three officers questioned me. It was a particularly effective type of grilling. They laughed a lot among themselves. Then, in a sudden silence, one would ask, ‘How long have you been this way?’ I sat on my hands and wondered what would happen each time I refused to answer. Yes, I was scared stiff. … At last the driver started the car up. Having expected the usual beating before, now I was positive it was coming–out in the country somewhere. They drove over a mile past the suburb of Lincoln Heights, then slowly doubled back. During this time they repeatedly made jokes about police brutality, and each of the three instructed me to plead guilty and everything would be all right.
Jennings was formally arrested and charged with “lewd and lascivious conduct.” He remained in jail until the following morning when Harry Hay (Apr 7) paid the $50 bail ($450 in today’s dollars). The two of them, along with several others, had founded the Mattachine Foundation two years earlier (Nov 11), and Jennings’s troubles would soon become the fledgling organization’s first gay rights victory. During the 1950s, gay men absolutely never fought this kind of a trial. Instead, they’d post bail, and forfeited it later rather than show up at court for the misdemeanor charge. But Hay convinced a reluctant Jennings that he had no choice but to fight the charges. As Jennings wrote in an unpublished manuscript:
(Hay was) the only tall person I ever met who used it with the imperial self-confidence of the chosen. … From his great height, he laid hear hands on my shoulders, stared intensely down at me in his best S.AG. (Screen Actors Guild) style, and made his great and solemn pitch… The Great Man pointed out that I, in my miserable way, would be somewhat Chosen, too, if I stood up to the Establishment. I had nothing to lose by my chains. After all, working in a family business, I couldn’t get fired. Being recently divorced, it would not hurt my wife and I could continue at USC as something of a hero if the straight on campus didn’t go to work on me as they did all the fries. He himself would be honored to do such a thing, but of course, he had too many familial responsibilities. Oh, I was lucky.
Hay called an emergency meeting of the Mattachine Foundation at Jennings house for that evening to devise the strategy: Jennings would “make a big thing out of this” by admit he was gay, but he would refuse to plead guilty and forcefully defend himself against the lewd conduct charges.
The Mattachine Foundation, which had established itself as a secret society, decided against opening itself to outside scrutiny while championing Dale’s defense. Instead, they decided to support Jennings’s legal fight under the guise of the Citizens Committee to Outlaw Entrapment. The committee raised money for Jennings’s defense and printed leaflets to distribute to gay bars, public restrooms and the beaches. They also hired George Shibley, an Arab-American lawyer who was well known for taking on controversial civil rights and union causes in the 1930s and ’40s. As Jennings wrote in ONE:
The attorney, engaged by the Mattachine Foundation, made a brilliant opening statement to the jury in which he pointed out that homosexuality and lasciviousness are not identical after stating that his client was admittedly homosexual, that no fine line separates the variations of sexual inclinations and the only true pervert in the courtroom was the arresting officer. …
…The Jury deliberated for forty hours and asked to be dismissed when one of their number said he’d hold out for guilty till hell froze over. The rest voted straight acquittal. Later the city moved for dismissal of the case and it was granted.
Jennings was stunned. As he later wrote in his unpublished memoirs:
Walking out of the courtroom free was a liberation that I’d never anticipated. It didn’t happen in our society. You went to jail for that sort of thing. And so I was numb for some time, and it began to dawn on me that we did have a victory.
Even though the newspapers ignored the story, news spread all over gay Los Angeles virtually overnight. Everyone wants to know who was behind this unprecedented victory. Until then, it was inconceivable that eleven jurors would take the word of a gay man over the sworn testimony of a police officer. Mattachine capitalized on the news with a “victory” flyer: “You didn’t see it in the papers, but it could — and did — happen in L.A.: In a unique victory, Dale Gennings defended himself against entrapment by the L.A. Police and won.” The flyer urged readers to “give now to help eliminate gangster methods by the police. A contribution now may save you thousands if you become the next target of entrapment.” Through flyers like these and word of mouth, Mattachine membership suddenly exploded, with overflowing meetings and new groups sprouting all over the Los Angeles area. By early 1953, groups had formed as far away as Long Beach, Laguna Beach, San Diego, Fresno, the Bay area, and Chicago.
Feeling its oats, Mattachine began polling those running for the Los Angeles City Council, mayor, and Board of Supervisors to ascertain their positions on police harassment of gay people. That publicity backfired, at least among the newer, more frightened members of the group. In the end, that massive growth of new members, ironically, resulted in the collapse of the Mattachine Foundation and the birth of the much more timid Mattachine Society less than a year later (Apr 11). By then, Jennings had already left to become the first managing editor of ONE magazine, the first nationally distributed publication for a gay audience (Oct 15). His account of his arrest and trial appeared in the magazine’s first issue, which helped to spread the news further. The case didn’t bring an end to official harassment of gay men by the Los Angeles police. That would continue for more than two more decades. But it did signal to the nation’s fearful gay community that false charges could be fought and defeated. Sixty-some years ago, that was big news indeed.
[Sources: Douglas M. Charles. “From Subversion to Obscenity: The FBI’s Investigations of the Early Homophile Movement in the United States, 1953-1958.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 19, no. 2 (May 2010): 262-287.
Dale Jennings. “To be accused is to be guilty.” ONE 1, no. 1 (January 1953): 10-13.
John Loughery. The Other Side of Silence: Men’s Lives and Gay Identities: A Twentieth Century History (New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1998): 223.
James T. Sears. Behind the Mask of the Mattachine: The Hall Call Chronicles and the Early Movement for Homosexual Emancipation (Binghamton, NY: Harrington Park Press, 2006): 162-164.
C. Todd White. Pre-Gay LA: A Social History of the Movement for Homosexual Rights (Urbana, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2009): 23-27.]
Dr. Charles Socarides, who had spent the past several years establishing himself as the nation’s go-to expert on homosexuality, had published a four-page paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association a month earlier (May 18). “Homosexuality is a medical disorder which has reached epidemioligic proportions,” he warned, in the paper’s first paragraph. “Epidemiologic” was a made-up nonsense word he often used, its seven syllables sounding much more serious and scientific than the correct cognate epidemic meant to say. He liked using his Very Impressive Seven-Syllable Word whenever he could. He used his VISSW three years earlier during an appearance on the infamous CBS documentary “The Homosexuals” (Mar 7), and he would continue to use it for years to come.
It’s easy to mock Socarides’s self-importance today, now that his theories have been thoroughly discredited, all of the national health organizations have condemned therapies intended to change one’s sexual orientation (the very kinds of therapies that Socarides had built his career on), and after five states, so far, have banned licensed therapists from providing those therapies to minors. But in 1970, the American Psychiatric Association still listed homosexuality as a mental disorder, and quack therapies like the kind Socarides offered were a thriving business. And that business had the full support of the American Medical Association, which had published Socarides’s paper in May and was now meeting in Chicago for its annual convention.
Chicago Gay Liberation was formed out of a group of gay and lesbian students at the University of Chicago in February, 1970. They held some of their first public protests that April, and when the AMA came to town in June for its annual convention, Chicago Gay Liberation decided to formed what you might call a welcoming committee of sorts to greet Socarides as he was about to give his talk. I haven’t found any written descriptions about what happened other than this first-person account from Chicago Gay Liberation member Step May:
Dear Sisters and Brothers —
On Tuesday, June 23, eighteen women and men of Chicago Gay Liberation invaded the American Medical Association National Convention here in Chicago. The occasion was a workshop on Family Medicine at which Dr. Charles Socarides was to speak. A psychiatrist practicing in New York City, Socarides is an “authority” on homosexuals and is foremost spokesman for the” school of psychiatry that proclaims that homosexuality is a disease, and must therefore be treated as a medical problem which requires a cure.
The members of Gay Liberation decided that we could not allow our arch-enemy to go unchallenged. We scattered ourselves throughout the hall and waited for him to begin his address. As soon as he said the word “homosexual” one invader shouted “homosexuals are beautiful” and ten others jumped up to distribute the prepared leaflet. We then settled back with our arms around each other to hear all about ourselves.
At appropriate points throughout his speech, invaders would shout such challenges as “that’s a moral judgment” and “you’re
making things up” and “do you cure your straight patients of heterosexuality?” When Socarides repeated his point about the male and female being physiologically adapted to each other, one audience participant yelled, “a woman’s breasts don’t fit into a man’s chest.”
After Socarides finished, one furious doctor demanded to know by what authority we were attending the session. Another doctor suggested that the issue that the Gay Liberation people were raising should be given legitimacy, and that one homosexual should join Socarides and the other authorities on the panel. A gay guerrilla raised the objection that there were women
homosexuals and men homosexuals and that both groups would have to be represented. A gay woman and a gay man then took their places on the panel and explained that homosexuals are not inherently sick, but that society and psychiatrists force them to think of themselves as sick. Socarides reiterated his position about gender identity being confused by childhood trauma, which by now must have sounded pretty lame to just about everyone present. That evening a man called the number on the leaflet and said that he approved of the action we’d done. “I’m a doctor,” he explained. “I’m gay.”
[Source: Step May. “Offing the Shrinks.” Come Out! 1, no. 5 (September 1970): 9. Come Out! was the New York Gay Liberation Front Newsletter. Available online here.]
(d. 1954) It’s hard to imagine what the 21st century would have looked like without him. The English mathematician, logician, and cryptanalyst practically invented computer science when he formalized the idea of “algorithm” and “computation” with the what became known as the Turing machine. It was a conceptual device, which he imagined to consist of an infinitely long tape which would be capable of writing, reading and changing arbitrary symbols, much as a hard drive can do so today. With that concept defined, he proved that relatively simple Turing machines would be capable of making computations — hence the very term computer that we use today.
Turing became a Fellow at King’s College at Cambridge just four years after entering as an undergrad. He earned his Ph.D. at Princeton in just two years, just in time to head home to Britain before World War II. After a brief stint at Cambridge, he joined the famous Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, where he headed the section responsible for German naval cryptanalysis. He devised a number of techniques for breaking German ciphers, the most important of which was the bombe, an electromechanical machine that could determine the settings for Germany’s “unbreakable” Enigma machine. Turing’s bombes were instrumental in Germany’s ultimate defeat when the Enigma code was cracked.
Following the war, Turing worked at the National Physical Lab (NPL) in London on the design of the Automatic Computing Engine (ACE). In 1946, he presented the design for the first stored-program computer. But because his work at Bletchley Park was classified, he found it difficult to translate what he invented there to the NPL. He left NPL in frustration and returned to academia at the University of Manchester, where he devised what is now known as the Turing Test. The Turing Test still serves as a standard for whether a computer could be considered “intelligent.” The test was simple: a computer could be considered a “thinking machine” if a human, through ordinary conversation, could not tell its responses apart from those of another human being. He then set about writing a program to play chess, but he was stymied by the lack of computers powerful enough to execute it.
Turing’s life took a dramatic turn in 1952 when he met Arnold Murray outside a Manchester theater and asked him for a lunch date. After a few weeks, the man spent the night at Turing’s house. Sometime later, Murray stole a gold watch and some other items from Turing’s home. Turing reported the crime to police. When police investigated, they asked Turing how he knew Murray. Turing, who had become somewhat open about his homosexuality by that time, acknowledged the sexual relationship.
But with homosexuality being illegal in England, Turing was charged with gross indecency, the same crime for which Oscar Wilde was convicted more than half a century earlier. Turing was given a choice between imprisonment or probation on the condition he underwent chemical castration via estrogen hormone injections. Turing chose the latter, but his conviction led to his security clearance being revoked, which seriously damage both his career and reputation. And as the Red Scare rose its ugly head in the early 1950s, and with gay men coming under growing suspicion for being a danger to national security, Turing found himself under increasing surveillance. His estrogen injections themselves may have added to his feelings of hopelessness; one of the side effects of the synthetic estrogen he was prescribed was depression. Finally on June 7, 1954, Turing’s cleaning woman found him dead in his bedroom with a half-eaten apple laying beside his bed. An autopsy revealed that he died of cyanide poisoning. That apple was never tested for cyanide, but it is believed that this was how he ingested the fatal dose.
After the secrets of Bletchley Park were declassified, Turing’s posthumous reputation as a war hero only added to growing recognition of his impressive contributions to computer science. In 1966, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) began awarding the Turing Prize for outstanding technical contributions to computing. His childhood home in London has been designated a English Heritage site with an official Blue Plaque. Another Blue Plaque was placed at his home in Wilmslow where he died, and today a third will be unveiled in front of King’s College at Cambridge. In 2009, Prime Minister Gordon Brown formally apologized: “On behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work I am very proud to say: we’re sorry, you deserved so much better.”
A petition to have Turing formally pardoned was circulated 2012 as part of the observance of Turing’s centenary. But the request was denied by Justice Minister Lord McNally, saying: “A posthumous pardon was not considered appropriate as Alan Turing was properly convicted of what at the time was a criminal offence. He would have known that his offence was against the law and that he would be prosecuted.” McNally added that the best response would be to “ensure instead that we never again return to those times.” Turing finally got a Royal pardon on Christmas eve of 2013 after a request from Justice Minister Chris Grayling. Benedict Cumberbatch, who portrayed Turing in the 2014 biopic The Imitation Game, has joined Stephen Fry, producer Harvey Weinstein, and Turing’s great niece Rachel Barnes in a campaign to pardon the 49,000 who had been convicted under the anti-gay law.
June 22nd, 2016
Angered over Donald Trump’s charge that the Muslim community had been hiding Omar Mateen’s radicalization from the FBI, Mohammed A. Malik came forward in a Washington Post op-ed to reveal that he was the one who tipped the FBI about Mateen’s fascination with propaganda videos produced by Anwar al-Awlaki, an al-Qaeda leader in Yemen. Malik and Mateen attended the same mosque in Fort Pierce, Florida, and had been friends for over a decade. He described Mateen as introverted and upset over anti-Muslim prejudice. Malik says he tried to steer Mateen toward constructive efforts to counter islamophobia — volunteer, work with charities, et., — and Mateen seemed to agree:
Then, during the summer of 2014, something traumatic happened for our community. A boy from our local mosque, Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, was 22 when he became the first American-born suicide bomber, driving a truck full of explosives into a government office in Syria. He’d traveled there and joined a group affiliated with al-Qaeda, the previous year. We had all known Moner; he was jovial and easygoing, the opposite of Omar. According to a posthumous video released that summer, he had clearly self-radicalized – and had also done so by listening to the lectures of Anwar al-Awlaki, the charismatic Yemen-based imam who helped radicalize several Muslims, including the Fort Hood shooter. …
Immediately after Moner’s attack, news reports said that American officials didn’t know anything about him; I read that they were looking for people to give them some background. So I called the FBI and offered to tell investigators a bit about the young man. It wasn’t much – we hadn’t been close – but I’m an American Muslim, and I wanted to do my part. …After my talk with the FBI, I spoke to people in the Islamic community, including Omar, about Moner’s attack. I wondered how he could have radicalized. Both Omar and I attended the same mosque as Moner, and the imam never taught hate or radicalism. That’s when Omar told me he had been watching videos of Awlaki, too, which immediately raised red flags for me. He told me the videos were very powerful.
After speaking with Omar, I contacted the FBI again to let them know that Omar had been watching Awlaki’s tapes. He hadn’t committed any acts of violence and wasn’t planning any, as far as I knew. And I thought he probably wouldn’t, because he didn’t fit the profile: He already had a second wife and a son. But it was something agents should keep their eyes on. I never heard from them about Omar again, but apparently they did their job: They looked into him and, finding nothing to go on, they closed the file.
On June 13, just one day after the Orlando gay night club massacre, presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump alleged that the American Muslim community was complicit in the shooting:
But the Muslims have to work with us. They have to work with us. They know what’s going on. They know that he was bad. They knew the people in San Bernardino were bad. But you know what? They didn’t turn them in. And you know what? We had death, and destruction.
I am not the first American Muslim to report on someone; people who do that simply don’t like to announce themselves in to the media. For my part, I’m not looking for personal accolades. I’m just tired of negative rhetoric and ignorant comments about my faith. Trump’s assertions about our community – that we have the ability to help our country but have simply declined to do so – are tragic, ugly and wrong.
The Washington Post got conformation from “a federal law enforcement official” that Malik had cooperated with authorities.
Malik told CNN that he never saw any signs that Mateen was either gay or homophobic.
In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.
When we first reported on three American anti-gay activists traveling to Kampala for a three-day conference, we had no idea that it would be the first report of a long string of events leading to a proposal to institute the death penalty for LGBT people. But that is exactly what happened. In this report, we review our collection of more than 500 posts to tell the story of one nation’s embrace of hatred toward gay people. This report will be updated continuously as events continue to unfold. Check here for the latest updates.
In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.
On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.
Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"
Using the same research methods employed by most anti-gay political pressure groups, we examine the statistics and the case studies that dispel many of the myths about heterosexuality. Download your copy today!
And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.
Anti-gay activists often charge that gay men and women pose a threat to children. In this report, we explore the supposed connection between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, the conclusions reached by the most knowledgeable professionals in the field, and how anti-gay activists continue to ignore their findings. This has tremendous consequences, not just for gay men and women, but more importantly for the safety of all our children.
Anti-gay activists often cite the “Dutch Study” to claim that gay unions last only about 1½ years and that the these men have an average of eight additional partners per year outside of their steady relationship. In this report, we will take you step by step into the study to see whether the claims are true.
Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council submitted an Amicus Brief to the Maryland Court of Appeals as that court prepared to consider the issue of gay marriage. We examine just one small section of that brief to reveal the junk science and fraudulent claims of the Family “Research” Council.
The FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics aren’t as complete as they ought to be, and their report for 2004 was no exception. In fact, their most recent report has quite a few glaring holes. Holes big enough for Daniel Fetty to fall through.