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Deputy clerk says Kim Davis “may have interfered”

Timothy Kincaid

September 18th, 2015

Kim Davis

Judge Bunning has ordered the attorneys for the deputy clerks in Rowan County, Kentucky, to report to him every two weeks as to whether they are in compliance with his order to issue marriage licenses. Richard A. Hughes, the counsel for Deputy Clerk Brian Mason, has reported that Mason is issuing licenses; however, they were altered by County Clerk Kim Davis so as to make them invalid.

Kim Davis came to the office and confiscated all the original forms, and provided a changed form which deletes all mentions of the County, fills in one of the blanks that would otherwise be the County with the Court’s styling, deletes her name, deletes all of the deputy clerk references, and in place of deputy clerk types in the name of Brian Mason, and has him initial rather than sign. There is now a notarization beside his initials in place of where otherwise signatures would be.

I discussed with Mr. Mason in my opinion he had done nothing wrong and is continuing to follow his sworn testimony to the court, however it also appears to this counsel those changes were made in some attempt to circumvent the court’s orders and may have raised to the level of interference against the court’s orders. Mr. Mason is concerned because he is in a difficult position that he continues to issue the licenses per the court’s order, but is issuing licenses which had some remote questionable validity, but now with these changes may in fact have some substantial questions about validity.

Again Mr. Mason’s concern is he does not want to be the party that is issuing invalid marriage licenses and he is trying to follow the court’s mandate as well as his superior ordering him to issue only these changed forms and only with initials and only as notarized, which in the last example I have seen are not even notarized.

Judge Bunning let Kim Davis out of jail with strict instruction not to interfere with the Deputy Clerks in their duty of issuing marriage licenses. She clearly sees her faith as invalidating any obligation to live according to her promises.

Were I the judge, I would inquire with the Kentucky Supreme Court as to whether the licenses are valid. If not, and should Davis refuse to allow the proper issuance of valid licenses, I’d say “back to jail”.

Nepal gets LGBT protections, possibly marriage

Timothy Kincaid

September 17th, 2015


In November 2008, it came to our attention that the Supreme Court of Nepal, a small Himalayan landlocked country between India and China, was pushing the nation to include protections and rights for LGBT citizens (it should be noted that Nepalese perspectives about gender and sexuality are probably different from that of Western societies, but LGBT likely adequately encompasses the ruling.)

In January of 2010, it appeared that LGBT protections, including marriage rights, were to be included in the nation’s new constitution and that the deadline for implementation was May 28, 2010.

But that date passed and political turmoil in Nepal’s parliament hindered the passage of the constitution. And not just for a brief while. Year after year has passed and nothing resulted but turmoil and strife.

But in April of this year, an earthquake registering on the Richter Scale at about 8.0, changed the nation’s priorities. About 9,000 people died and tens of thousands of others were injured. Ancient architectural landmarks were destroyed and entire villages were wiped out, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. The nation’s response was abysmal, and much of the chaos was blamed on a lack preparedness due to political squabbling.

Suddenly the political differences seemed less important.

And finally, more than five years late, the constitution has been approved. (Time)

The landlocked Himalayan nation’s parliament passed the constitution on Wednesday with 507 out of 601 members of its Constituent Assembly voting in favor, Agence France-Presse reported.

The new charter replaces an interim constitution that has governed the country since 2007, when a decadelong civil war culminated in the end of its Hindu monarchy.

And it does appear that specific LGBT protections are in place: (HRC)

Article 12 states that citizens will be allowed to choose their preferred gender identity on their citizenship document. The choices available are male, female or other.
Article 18 states that gender and sexual minorities will not be discriminated against by the state and by the judiciary in the application of laws. It further adds that the government may make special provisions through laws to protect, empower and advance the rights of gender and sexual minorities and other marginalized and minority groups.
Article 42 lists gender and sexual minorities among the groups that have a right to participate in state mechanisms and public services to promote inclusion.

It remains to be seen whether these changes include marriage rights. However, as the Supreme Court has in the past directed that the government provide such rights, it seems likely that they will broadly interpret Article 18 and marriage equality may finally come to Asia.

Alabama House fails (again) to abolish marriage licenses

Timothy Kincaid

September 17th, 2015


Legislators in Alabama have been approaching the issue of issuing marriage licenses with creativity. Instead of coming up with escape clauses for those who go into conniptions at the thought of handing a piece of paper to an actual homosexual (gasp), the Alabamians just want to get out of the marriage business altogether. Rather than giving someone license to marry, they want to just record – after the fact – that people have entered into a contract of marriage, just like you would record a deed.

Which is not necessarily a horrible thing. There may be issues with how such a contract is seen by the Federal Government or by other states, but the marriage license process is pretty rote anyway and one less visit to the local petty bureaucrats is a blessing, not a hardship.

I had thought this issue had died in June when a House committee failed to advance the bill. But it was brought up for a vote this week in the House in special session. It failed again (

The House voted 53-36 in favor of the bill. But it required a two-thirds vote for approval because it was not part of the governor’s call for the special session.

It should be noted that the bill received majority support in the House and passed the Senate in June by a vote of 22 to 3. So there is a very good chance that this bill will be resurrected in the next session.

Meanwhile, Nick Williams, the Judge of Probate for Washington County (think County Clerk) has filed a petition with the Alabama Supreme Court expressing his concern about having to issue “a license to engage in sodomy”. I am not myself familiar with the Sodomy License and wonder whether, as with a Driver’s License, one has to take a test to show proficiency. Perhaps there’s a training course and a learner’s permit?

Williams has asked the Alabama Supreme Court for an order “upholding and enforcing the Alabama Constitution ans Alabama’s marriage laws, notwithstanding the decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.” In other words, he’s asked that the federal ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States be reversed by Alabama’s Supreme Court.

Of course the Supremacy Clause in the US Constitution prohibits states from overruling the US Constitution. But the yahoos on the Alabama Supreme Court have little regard for the rule of law or constitutions and they just might rule for Mr. Williams.

From Sarasota FL comes another Christian cake baker

Timothy Kincaid

September 16th, 2015

Spanish Prime Minister comes around

Timothy Kincaid

September 15th, 2015

RajoySpanish couples are now celebrating ten years of wedded bliss. But in 2005, they were fighting for their equality and their primary opponent was Mariano Rajoy, leader of the People’s Party (the conservative, Christian democratic party).

The People’s Party brought witnesses against equality and vetoed the bill in the Senate. But ultimately President Zapatero and the Socialist Worker’s Party were able to get the legislation passed, much to Rajoy’s ire.

But the sky didn’t fall.

And six years later when the PP gained power and Rajoy became Prime Minister, marriage equality was already a comfortable status quo. Rajoy inquired with the Constitutional Court as to whether the law was Constitutional. The court found it so, and that was as far as the matter went.

Now Rajoy may find himself even more comfortable with the concept. I don’t know whether he still opposes same sex marriage but, if so, it is a theoretical rather than personal opposition. (thelocal)

The Prime Minister’s words have come back to haunt him this week as he faces the prospect of attending the gay wedding of his colleague and close friend, Javier Maroto, an under-Secretary within the Popular Party and former mayor of the city of Vitoria.

Maroto, 43, will marry his long-term partner, Josema Rodríguez on Friday September 18th in Vitoria, the capital of the Basque Country.

But sources close to the Prime Minister have confirmed that it is “99 percent sure” he will attend the wedding:

“Javier is more than a colleague, he is a great friend,” the source told El Mundo.

(Also ElMundo in Spanish)

Kim Davis continues shenanigans

Timothy Kincaid

September 14th, 2015

Rowan licenses

Oh boy. It appears that Kim Davis isn’t through with her nastiness or her desire to block equality. Though she stated that she would not interfere with clerks, it now appears that she is altering the marriage licenses so as to purposefully make them invalid. Buzzfeed’s Dominic Holden has copies of the new altered format (see above).

Davis is not allowing the clerks to issue licenses as a deputy clerk at all, but instead as a notary public and while a deputy clerk likely has authority to issue licenses, a notary most certainly does not.

This will likely find her back in jail.


Kentucky’s governor says the altered marriage licenses issued in Rowan County from the office of an embattled clerk are considered valid.

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear said Monday that the licenses issued “are going to be recognized as valid in the Commonwealth.”

And that may be the end of it. I am still uncertain as to whether Beshear or anyone else is considering that the licenses are no longer being issued by anyone using their authority as deputy clerk. Perhaps the fact that they are employed by the Clerk’s office is being considered to be adequate, but signing as a notary public seems suspect to me.

Australia’s Liberal Party ousts Tony Abbott

Timothy Kincaid

September 14th, 2015

TurnbullTony Abbott’s determined refusal to allow Liberal Party member to support a marriage equality bill is but one indicator of a managerial style that grated on fellow members and lost the respect of the public. And finally, Abbott’s power has broken. This morning the Liberal parliamentarians replaced Abbott as their party leader with Malcolm Turnbull, by a 54 to 44 vote. Upon being sworn in, Turnbull will become the 29th Prime Minister of Australia.

Turnbull (himself previously ousted as party leader by Abbott in 2009) is considered to be much more moderate than Abbott. He has indicated his support for same sex marriage and had called for a conscience vote in the last marriage effort. But what this means for marriage equality in Australia is, as yet, uncertain. (Guardian)

Malcolm Turnbull has promised a new prime ministerial style respecting the intelligence of the Australian electorate and explaining necessary policy changes after winning the Liberal leadership from Tony Abbott in a party room ballot by 54 votes to 44.

But Turnbull said the substance of the Coalition’s climate change policy and its pledge to hold a national plebiscite on marriage equality would not change. He declined to nominate policies that would be altered without first consulting colleagues because he was determined to restore a “thoroughly traditional cabinet government”.

Kim Davis capitulates UPDATED

Timothy Kincaid

September 14th, 2015

kim davis loses

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis has tearfully reached the exact position that the County, the Governor, the federal judiciary, and her gay constituents have been demanding of her. Marriage licenses will continue to be issued. (Huffpo)

“I want the whole world to know … If any [deputy clerk] feels that they must issue an unauthorized license to avoid being thrown in jail, I understand their tough choice, and I will take no action against them,” she said. “However, any unauthorized license that they issue will not have my name, my title or my authority on it. Instead, the license will state that they are issued pursuant to a federal court order.”

Of course no one else is questioning their validity and Davis’ only purpose in doing so is a whiny pretense that her efforts to impose her religious values on the county were not in vain.

They were.

UPDATE: new twist: Davis has altered the marriage licenses to remove any reference to deputy clerk. By “unauthorized”, she means “altered”. They likely are invalid.

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The Daily Agenda for Sunday, September 20

Jim Burroway

September 20th, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Belgrade, Serbia; Outer Banks, NC; Peterborough, ON; St. Cloud, MN; Springfield, MA.

Other Events This Weekend: Queer Lisboa Film Festival, Lisbon, Portugal; OctoBEARfest, Munich, Germany; Cinema Diverse LGBT Film Festival, Palm Springs, CA; North Louisiana Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Shreveport, LA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Northwest Gay Review, May 1975, special San Francisco travel section, page 11.

From Northwest Gay Review, May 1975, special San Francisco travel section, page 11.

State Department Asks, Gay Applicants Tell: 1966. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State G. Marvin Gentile testified before a House Appropriations subcommittee that thirty employees identified as “security risks” had left the State Department in 1965. Some resigned, others were dismissed following investigations. Twenty-eight of the thirty left “for homosexual reasons” and the other two for other reasons “such as excessive drinking, bad debts, and excessive use of leave.” Deputy Undersecretary for Administration William J. Crockett told the Committee that the State Department would pay closer attention to “preventive security,” which he described as simply asking applicants directly if they were homosexual. “We personally interview the applicant,” he said, “and it is surprising how many admissions we get to direct questions that we would never find out without the direct questioning.”

Triangulator In Chief

President Clinton Announces Signing of DOMA Into Law: 1996. President Clinton announced his signing of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which outlawed federal recognition of same-sex marriage, and which still allows states to ignore the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S Constitution and refuse to recognized valid marriages from other states. Clinton said that he signed DOMA to head off a federal constitutional amendment, but LGBT advocates grumbled that the act was less a defense of marriage and more a defense of his 1996 reelection campaign. Those suspicions were confirmed when the Clinton campaign released a radio ad bragging about his signing of DOMA and ran it on Christian radio stations across the country. In response to loud protests from LGBT advocates, the Clinton campaign pulled that ad two days later. Section 3 of DOMA, the portion of the law that prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, was finally declared unconstitutional on June 26 of 2013.

Serving, defending.

DADT Repeal Goes Into Effect: 2011. It was an joyous celebration for the nation’s LGBT military service personnel when at the stroke of midnight, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was finally tossed into the dustbin of history where it rightfully belongs. One servicemember stationed in Germany came out to his father  — and to his unit — via YouTube. Another Navy officer married his partner at precisely one minute after midnight, and the co-founder of OutServe, “J.D. Smith” came out and revealed that he was actually Air Force First Lieutenant Josh Seefried. Naturally, not everyone welcomed the breath of fresh air. The Family “Research” Council predicted that the demise of the ban on gays serving openly would lead to a rash of “new victims of sexual harassment or assault, the soldiers exposed to HIV-tainted blood, the thousands of servicemembers who choose not to reenlist rather than forfeit their freedom of speech and religion, and the untold number of citizens who choose never to join the military.” We’re still waiting for word on any of that happening.

Harold “Hal” Call: 1917-2000. Born and raised in Missouri, Call knew that he was gay from the age of twelve. But when he was inducted into the Army during World War II, he knew that sex would be out of the question. “If people were caught engaging in homosexual acts, some of them were shipped back to the states with less-than-honorable discharges. I thought it was a waste.” He went through Officer Candidate School and was promoted to Lieutenant before being shipped to the Pacific Theater. As an officer, if he had encountered people who were gay, he would have been required to have them dismissed from the service. But his approach was of a don’t-ask-don’t-tell variety. “Who was harmed? Nobody,” he recalled later. “That’s the way the armed forces should look at it. The armed forces could not operate without homosexuals. Never could. Never has. Never will.” He was promoted to regimental battalion commander, was wounded and received the Purple Heart, and left the Army as a captain in 1945.

He returned to Missouri and worked at several newspapers including the Kansas City Star. In August of 1952, he went to Chicago, where he and three friends were arrested for “lewd conduct.” After paying an $800 bribe, the charges were dismissed, but he was fired from the Star when his supervisor found out. So he and his boyfriend at the time packed up the car and moved to San Francisco, where Call quickly became involved with the Mattachine Foundation. He began attending meetings in February, and quickly rocketed to the top leadership.

It turns out that 1953 was a pivotal year for the group, which had been founded as something of a secret society, particularly where the organization’s leadership was concerned.  Part of the secrecy was an outgrowth of some of the Foundation original founders, some of whom (Harry Hay, in particular, see Apr 7), had been members of the Communist Party. Because the Foundation was founded in the midst of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s Red and Lavender Scares, the organization was set up so that nobody knew the names of the Mattachine leadership. But it was that very secrecy — and those early political connections among some of the leaders — which opened a wedge between the founders and many of the newcomers. “They all had communist backgrounds, every damn one of them!”, Call recalled. Those newcomers feared where the founders might take the organization. As Call later explained:

“Public protests were not part of our program. Not at all. we wanted to see changes come about by holding conferences and discussions and becoming subjects for research and telling our story. We wanted to assist people in the academic and behavioral-science world in getting the truth out to people who had an influence on law and law enforcement, the courts, justice, and so on.”

Everything came to a head in the spring of 1953 (see Apr 11) during a contentions convention when the old guard resigned, the Mattachine Foundation was disbanded and promptly reconstituted as the Mattachine Society, with Call as president. As he wrote two years later:

 It became apparent … that the original founders of the movement had built better than they knew. For there emerged from the convention a Society designed to carry out all functions of the Foundation, which agreed to disband. Gone were the “secret” orders, the questions of who was behind it all and the possibility of alternate motives. Established was an association of persons who knew and trusted the others within the group, and shared the zealous desire to alleviate a pressing social problem.

It may seem ironic, then, that the “conservative takeover” of the Society would lead to its leader being among the most publicly visible homosexuals in the country. In 1954, Call created and edited the Mattachine Review, and he founded Pan-Graphic Press, a publishing and book service company that became the Mattachine Review’s printer. In 1961, when San Francisco police raided the Tay-Bush Inn and arrested 103 patrons (see Aug 14), Call swung into action and deployed the Mattachine’s meager resources to provide bail money and legal representation. A month later, Call appeared on a documentary program produced by San Francisco’s Public Television station KQED called “The Rejected” (see Sep 11).  And in 1964 when Life magazine wanted to do a groundbreaking photo essay on the gay community in the San Francisco area (see Jun 26), Call made the arrangements with local bar owners for the photo shoots.

Hall Call, in the upstairs office of the Circle J Cinema. (1999)

Mattachine business wasn’t Call’s only interest. In the 1960s, Call’s Pan-Graphic Press printed a bar directory that had been compiled by a local bar owner by the name of Bob Damron, and anyone who knows anything about Damron’s Address Book knows the rest of that story. Call also became involved in local porn production (both in print and in 16mm film) and became the owner of a few private sex clubs in the Bay area.

Those interests soon surpassed his work in the Mattachine Society, even as he blurred his other interests with the Mattachine name. The Society had already ceased to exist as a national organization in 1961, although several independent groups in several cities continued to use the Mattachine name well up into the 1970s. One of those surviving Societies was Call’s outfit, which continued in name only into the 1990s, when Call described it as “in limbo.”  “It has a board of directors, and I’m the head queen, but we don’t have the strength of a powder puff,” he said.

From The Voice, January 16, 1982, page 12.

From The Voice, January 16, 1982, page 12.

Call’s energies, by then, had been devoted to running an adult theater in the Tenderloin. When he first opened his theater in 1973, he named it Cinemattachine, much to the consternation of other activists who already felt that he had turned the San Francisco society into a front for his private businesses when he gave the Mattachine Review’s business to his Pan-Graphics Press. Call later renamed his theater the Circle J Cinema, and it was exactly what you would imagine a theater with that name would be. Over his lifetime, Call amassed over 5,000 gay men’s sex videos and films, and he was an outspoken advocate for sexual freedom. He died in San Francisco in 2000. His papers are part of the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives in Los Angeles.

[Sources: Hall Call. “A brief history of the Mattachine Society” The Mattachine Review 1, no. 2 (March-April 1955), : 39.

Eric Marcus. Making History: The Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights. An Oral History. (New York: HarperCollins, 1992): 59-69.]

Rocking the Paradise

Chuck Panozzo: 1948. Do you remember the band Styx? I’m not sure how much play they get on classic rock radio these days, but they were huge from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s. They were my favorite band in high school; I thought 1977’s The Grand Illusion was, you know, so deep. Anyway, bassist Chuck Panozzo co-founded the band with his fraternal twin brother, John. In 2001, Chuck came out as gay and as a person living with HIV, and since then he has been involved with AIDS awareness campaigns. His autobiography, The Grand Illusion: Love, Lies, and My Life with Styx, chronicles the rise of Styx and the his own struggles to come to terms with himself.

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

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

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, September 19

Jim Burroway

September 19th, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Belgrade, Serbia; Charlottesville, VA; Greensboro, NC; Las Vegas, NV; Mexicali, BCOuter Banks, NC; Provo, UT; Peterborough, ON; St. Cloud, MN; Springfield, MA; Valdosta, GA.

Other Events This Weekend: Queer Lisboa Film Festival, Lisbon, Portugal; OctoBEARfest, Munich, Germany; Cinema Diverse LGBT Film Festival, Palm Springs, CA; North Louisiana Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Shreveport, LA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Blade (Washington, DC), June 1977, page 22.

From The Blade (Washington, DC), June 1977, page 22.

A Washington, D.C. entertainment guide in 2004 described Mr. P’s as “the oldest gay bar in the Circle” and attracting “one of the oldest crowds,” which the writer defined as “30-and-ups.” Bitch! It went on: “In the evenings, patrons spill out onto the patio and head upstairs to the 2nd bar… The (Sunday) barbecues on the back patio are a good chance to meet some of the locals.” There’s a Mediterranean restaurant there today.

Mayor Abe Aronovitz

Miami Mayor Dismisses Constitutional Concerns Over Anti-Gay Drive: 1954. Miami’s ongoing media-driven hysteria over the discovery of gay people in their midst (see Aug 3Aug 11Aug 12Aug 13 (twice that day), Aug 14Aug 15, Aug 16Aug 26, Aug 31, Sep 1, Sep 2, Sep 7, and Sep 15) received further attention on the editorial page of The Miami News when staff writer Jane Woods highlighted the many battles between the combative mayor Abe Aronovitz and others on the City Commission and the local community:

Homosexuals brought the next trouble. In the pre-Kefauver days, says the Mayor, there were numerous bars in downtown Miami with gambling rooms upstairs or in the back. After open gambling was closed down, some of these bar operators turned these upstairs rooms into parlors, where homosexuals congregated, met each other, made love.

After Miami had a series of shocking crimes this summer, it was brought to the Mayor’s attention that many homosexuals took an intense pleasure in starting innocent young people off into an abnormal life. Many teen-age boys, to make money, had learned to feign abnormality to milk older homosexual men for all the money they could. Bar operators calculatingly making money from this traffic in human misery in the heart of downtown appalled him (Aronovitz), he says.

“The only effective step I knew to take was to bring the most intense public pressure to bear on Chief Headley (see Aug 26Aug 31, and Sep 1,) I have affection, and respect for Walter Headley and his ability. But I hoped that the men in the district, under him, directly able to do something about these bars, might be spurred into action if they felt the chief’s job as at stake. I knew they could, if they would, use technicalities of the law to force these places out of existence.

“What response do I get from my fellow commissioners? Mr. Hearn tells me that I am doing millions of dollars worth of harm by bad publicity, making it appear we are a houseful of perverts in Miami. Chief Quigg suggests that the intense police drive I advocate might violate constitutional rights of some men.”

Photo by Randolfe Wicker.

First Known Gay Rights Picket In America: 1964. For such a momentous occasion, one would think there’d be more written about it. Sadly, I haven’t been able to find a whole lot. The picket took place in the middle of Manhattan, at the U.S. Army’s Whitehall Induction Center, in protest over the army’s failure to keep gay men’s draft records confidential. New York activist Randolfe Wicker (see Feb 3) organized it along with Craig Rodwell, who would go on to open the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookstore, the first LGBT bookstore in the U.S. Another picketer was Renai Cafiero,who would go on to become  one of the first openly gay delegates to the 1972 Democratic National Convention. Other marchers included Nancy Garden and Jeff Poland of the New York League  for Sexual Freedom. Picket signs declared, “Homosexuals died for U.S., Too,” “Love and Let Love,” and “Army Invades Sexual Privacy.”  You can see Wicker’s original photos from that event here. If anyone knows a good source for more information on this, please let me know via email or in the comments below.

Totally straight.

An Ex-Gay Leader Walked Into A Bar: 2000. In 1998, the supposedly “ex-gay” John Paulk and his “ex-lesbian” wife Anne were the centerpieces of a massive publicity push by Focus On the Family to promote the pray-away-the-gay therapy offered by Exodus International. Paulk was the manager of Focus’s Homosexuality and Gender division, and he had also served as Board Chairman for Exodus since 1995. As part of their publicity campaign, the Paulks appeared on 60 Minutes and Oprah, as well as in full-page newspaper ads and on a 1998 cover of Newsweek. Their 1999 book, Love Won Out, became the title for a series of promotional ex-gay conferences put on jointly by Focus and Exodus.

On September 19, 2000, John Paulk traveled to Washington, D.C. on Focus business when he walked into a gay bar known as Mr. P’s in the heart of D.C.’s Dupont Circle gayborhood. In 2014, Paul described the pressures of living as an ex-gay spokesperson that led him to go to Mr. P’s that evening:

[E]ven as I pursued this career as a professional ex-gay man, and raised a family and loved my wife, I was in utter torment. I struggled off and on with addiction and wanting to take my life. I knew I was living on the inside as two people. I wanted to believe it was true so badly that not only did I lie to other people, I primarily lied to myself. I wanted my homosexuality to change, but the truth is: For all my public rhetoric, I was never one bit less gay. Behind closed doors, many of us in the “ex-gay” leadership at Focus on the Family would even admit this to each other — and we had this conversation many times: “We know our orientation hasn’t really changed. What has changed is our behavior. Our way of life. How we see ourselves. Our sexuality has not changed.”

But it only became harder to maintain the false veneer of heterosexuality, at home and at work. I was preaching to other adult gay and lesbian people a gospel that I no longer really believed in. More and more, when I’d have to get up and speak to crowds about my gay conversion, I felt like a wind-up toy. I’d go back to my hotel room, fall on the bed and start weeping. I thought, “If I have to go out and do that one more time, I will literally throw up.” I was in agony. I wasn’t easy to live with either. I was short with my children and took my anger and anxiety out on my devoted wife. I just couldn’t handle it anymore.

Everything began to change in 2000, when I was photographed in a gay bar in Washington, DC. I had not gone into a gay bar since the late ‘80s, and I wasn’t looking for sex. I just wanted to be among my own kind, to feel at home, for a brief period.

A few of the patrons there, employees at the Human Rights Campaign, recognized him immediately and watched as Paulk ordered a drink and struck up conversations with other bar patrons. One of the HRC staffers called Wayne Besen, who was also working at the HRC at the time and who had already written about the ex-gay movement. When Besen arrived twenty minutes later, he found Paulk on a barstool chatting with patrons. Besen confronted Paulk and tried to photograph him, but the bar’s bouncer, citing house rules prohibiting photography, stepped in and asked Besen to leave. Besen waited outside the bar, and when Paulk finally came out the front door, Besen snapped another photo as Paulk was leaving.

Fleeing Mr. P’s.

Besen immediately called several reporters. The first to express an interest was Southern Voice’s Joel Lawson, who broke the story two days later. In Paulk’s first public statement, he claimed that he only went to Mr. P’s to use the restroom. Besen countered, “I didn’t know that using the bathroom involved 40 minutes of socializing in a bar and offering drinks to strangers.” Paulk was called back to Focus headquarters in Colorado Springs where he was placed on probation and removed as Board Chair at Exodus International (although he remained a member of the board on probationary status). But he somehow managed to weather the controversy. Paulk remained in his position at Focus, and he continued to be the principal organizer and featured speaker at Love Won Out conferences for another three years.

In 2003, he finally decided to step down from Focus. He and his wife moved to Portland, Oregon, where he started a catering business. While Anne continued to write books and speak at ex-gay conferences, John dropped out from the movement altogether. Over the past year, the two have gone their separate ways altogether. In April, John renounced his prior association with the ex-gay movement, saying “I no longer support the ex-gay movement or efforts to attempt to change individuals — especially teens who already feel insecure and alienated.” He followed that a week later with a formal apology: “I know that countless people were harmed by things I said and did in the past. Parents, families, and their loved ones were negatively impacted by the notion of reparative therapy and the message of change. I am truly, truly sorry for the pain I have caused. From the bottom of my heart I wish I could take back my words and actions that caused anger, depression, guilt and hopelessness. In their place I want to extend love, hope, tenderness, joy and the truth that gay people are loved by God.”

John and Anne’s divorce was finalized in June of 2013. Anne Paulk remains active in the ex-gay movement, after having helped to a break-away group of former Exodus ministries following Exodus president Alan Chambers’s acknowledgment that change in sexual orientation was not possible. She now serves as Executive Director of that dissident group, Restored Hope Network.

Brian Epstein: 1934-1967. He was already well on the way to becoming a successful businessman as manager of the record departments at his father’s chain of radio and hi-fi stores in Liverpool, when he began to hear the buzz surrounding a local band. He decided to attend a lunchtime concert at the Cavern Club and was blown away by what he heard. “I was immediately struck by their music, their beat, and their sense of humor on stage — and, even afterwards, when I met them, I was struck again by their personal charm. And it was there that, really, it all started.” The band called themselves the Beatles. Epstein signed on as their manager, and within five months he had paid Decca records out of his own pocket to record a studio demo. He shopped it around, but none of the major labels were interested until George Martin at EMI’s tiny Parlophone label heard them. He liked what he heard and signed the band. The rest, as they say, is history.

Epstein’s sexuality wasn’t generally known until several years after his death in 1967. The band, of course, figured it out right away, probably owing to Epstein’s interest in the band’s appearance on stage. Epstein is credited for creating the early Beatles’ look — the collarless suits and ties, the mod haircuts, the synchronized bow at the end of their performances. John Lennon was known to make a few sarcastic comments about Epstein’s sexuality, but the band mostly accepted him as one of their own. Rumors later swirled that Lennon and Epstein had an affair while vacationing in Barcelona in 1963, but Lennon denied it in a Playboy interview in 1980. “It was never consummated, but we had a pretty intense relationship,” he said. Lennon and his first wife, Cynthia, (Epstein had been Lennon’s best man when they married in 1962) have always maintained that the relationship was platonic.

After Epstein died in 1967 from an overdose of the barbiturate Carbitral, the band began its downward spiral. Much of that downfall was attributed to tensions between McCartney and Lennon, who argued over who should take over the band’s management. They were never able to come to an agreement, and the relationship between the two men continued to deteriorate.

Eighteen years after the Beatles broke up, they were among the earliest entrants into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Paul McCartney credits Epstein for making the Beatles one of the most successful bands in the world. “If anyone was the Fifth Beatle, it was Brian,” he told a BBC documentary in 1997. Epstein was finally inducted into the Hall’s Non-Performer’s Section in 2014.

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

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The Daily Agenda for Friday, September 18

Jim Burroway

September 18th, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Belgrade, Serbia; Charlottesville, VA; Greensboro, NC; Las Vegas, NV; Mexicali, BCOuter Banks, NC; Provo, UT; Peterborough, ON; St. Cloud, MN; Springfield, MA; Valdosta, GA.

Other Events This Weekend: Queer Lisboa Film Festival, Lisbon, Portugal; OctoBEARfest, Munich, Germany; Cinema Diverse LGBT Film Festival, Palm Springs, CA; North Louisiana Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Shreveport, LA; Out On the Mountain at Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia CA, (Friday).

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From ONE magazine, April 1957, page 2.

Finding books on homosexuality in the 1950s was just about impossible for most people. These just weren’t the kind of books one would have found at the book shop on Main Street. And if the local library had them, they would have likely been kept locked away and only the stern school-marmish librarian had the key. A few unconventional bookstores, like this one catering to the Greenwich Village arts crowd, found that they could fill the void and augment their business by advertising in alternative newspapers and magazines like ONE. I can’t find any information about the Village Theater Center Bookshop, except to note that it was located two blocks from where the seminal Stonewall Rebellion would take place in 1969, and one block from where the Oscar Wilde Book Shop would relocate itself in 1973.

Donald Webster Cory/Edward Sagarin: 1913-1986. He was once hailed as the “Father of the Homophile Movement,” with considerable justification. No one else can lay claim to inspiring so many gay men and women to join a homophile movement during the sexually-fearsome 1950s than this unlikely married Jewish perfume salesman from New York. Writing under the pseudonym Donald Webster Cory, he published The Homosexual In America: A Subjective Approach in 1951, and it would  become unquestionably the single most influential book in the early gay rights movement in America. It was the first major publication to provide an exhaustive overview of a kind of gay life that was largely underground and out of sight of ordinary Americans. He discussed gay bars, drag queens, relationships, and marriages — as convenience and as cover (including his own, to his wife Gertrude since 1936, although by all accounts they were devoted to each other throughout their lives). He even provided a lexicon of gay slang. But most importantly, he wrote of homosexuals as “an unrecognized minority” on par with other minorities who were struggling for recognition in America:

We homosexuals are a minority, but more than that, an intensified minority, with all of the problems that arise from being a separate group facing us that are faced by other groups, and with a variety of important problems that are unshared by most minorities. The ethnic groups can take refuge in the comfort and pride of their own, in the warmth of family and friends, in the acceptance of themselves among the most enlightened people around them. But not the homosexuals. Those closest to us, whose love we are in extreme need of, accept us for what we are not. Constantly and unceasingly we carry a mask, and without interruption we stand on guard lest our secret, which is our very essence, is betrayed.

But what really pushed the boundaries was his unequivocal call for the full integration of gay people in public life. “I am convinced,” he wrote, “and will presently attempt to demonstrate, that there is a permanent place in the scheme of things for the homosexual — a place that transcends the reaction to hostility and that will continue to contribute to social betterment after social acceptance.” He was also an early proponent of what we today would call multiculturalism, saying that the diversity of minorities — ethnic, religious, racial and sexual minorities — strengthens and enriches a democratic society. “[H]omosexuality — fortunately but unwittingly — must inevitably place a progressive role in the scheme of things,” he argued. “It will broaden the base for freedom of thought and communication, will be a banner-bearer in the struggle for liberalization of our sexual conventions, and will be a pillar of strength in the defense of our threatened democracy.”

But if one were to try to look back with perfect 20-20 hindsight, one might detect occasional flashes of conservatism in The Homosexual In America, but it’s hard to see it given the very conservative times in which the book appeared. He accepted without question the consensus in the psychological world that homosexuality came about as a result of a disturbed home life. But then so did a large number of other gay people, who believed what the professionals told them and accepted it without question. But what set Cory apart was his argument that the mental health professions were powerless to make straight the homosexual and, further, that there was no need to try. Homosexuals may have come from disturbed homes, he reasoned, but that didn’t mean that they were disturbed themselves. Whatever disturbances they did possess came from the stresses of coping with a majority that had no use for them.

An early advertisement for Donald Webster Cory’s “The Homosexual In America.” (Click to enlarge.)

Over the next six years, The Homosexual in America went through seven hardcover printings, was re-issued as a mass market paperback in 1963, and was translated into Spanish and French. It inspired a movement and drew to it those who would shape that movement for the next two decades. Barbara Gittings (see Jul 31), who was instrumental in getting the APA to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973, credited Cory’s book with inspiring her to become an activist:

What got me started in the movement was a book I found in 1953, which had been published two years earlier. It was called The Homosexual in America: A Subjective Approach, by Donald Webster Cory. The book was fascinating because, now that I look back on it, Cory’s book was very much a call to arms. Cory said that we ought to be working to gain our equality and our civil rights. … At that time, it was a very challenging book because it was saying, in effect, that we could stand up and do something for ourselves and change our situation.

Cory continued writing for the pioneering homophile magazine ONE and served as a contributing editor for the magazine’s first three years. In one article for ONE, he spoke out against those who “pleaded for acceptance from the world at large” while at the same time expressing intolerance toward effeminate men, a position that resonates still today. He established the Cory Book Service, a book-of-the-month club that provided subscribers hard to find gay-themed books. He also was a sought-after lecturer in the U.S. and Europe.

Cory’s importance to the early homophile movement gave very few hints of how reactionary and hostile he would wind up being to the very movement he helped to inspire. But many began to notice something of a shift in 1963 when Cory co-authored The Homosexual and His Society with John LeRoy (pseudonym for Barry Sheer, a New York Mattachine member and Cory’s lover at the time). Cory still argued, forcefully, for the full acceptance of gay people in society, and he argued that the first duty of mental health professionals wasn’t to “cure” gay people, but to “eliminate the personal distress and anxieties that arise as a result of social hostility.” But he challenged those in the homophile movement who rejected the idea that gay people were emotionally disturbed, going so far as to argue that there was no such thing as a “well-adjusted homosexual.”  Cory repeated and reinforced that contradictory line in his 1964 book, The Lesbian In America. A reviewer in the Daughters of Bilitis’ newsletter, The Ladder, found him “inconsistent and unconvincing in labeling lesbians as basically disturbed (or sick?), as he does part of the time, and at the same time advocating an end to discrimination against them in government service, in the armed forces, and in society generally.”

A turning point for Cory would come in 1965 when he ran for president of the Mattachine Society of New York. In March of that year, the Washington, D.C. chapter, under the leadership of Frank Kameny (see May 21), had adopted a formal position that “homosexuality is not a sickness, disturbance or other pathology in any sense but is merely a preference, orientation or propensity on a par with, and not different in kind from, heterosexuality.” (See Mar 4.) Cory’s opponent, Dick Leitsch, wanted the New York chapter to adopt a similar resolution, calling illness question “the greatest obstacle in the path of the homosexual community’s fight for full citizenship in our Republic.” The vote for the chapter’s leadership position became a referendum on whether gay people were ill or not. Cory lost that election, but he also lost more than that. He lost the respect of his fellow activists. Kameny, in a letter just before the election, warned Cory of his increasing irrelevance:

You have become no longer the vigorous Father of the Homophile Movement, to be revered, respected and listened to, but the senile Grandfather of the Homophile Movement, to be humored and tolerated at best; to be ignored and disregarded usually; and to be ridiculed at worst.

Cory retreated from the homophile movement almost immediately, leaving behind the Donald Webster Cory pseudonym once and for all. As Edward Sagarin, he graduated from New York University’s sociology program in 1966. His dissertation was titled “Structure and Ideology in an Association of Deviants” — that association being the Mattachine Society — where he described, in the third person, his embittered version of events leading up to his defeat the previous year. “The Mattachine Society has little regard for the truth,” he wrote. “It is part of a movement that participates in blackmail.” Sagarin used that dissertation as the basis for a chapter in his 1969 book, Odd Man In: Societies of Deviants in America, in which he argued that Alcoholics Anonymous was the proper model for what a gay organization should be. While American readers had no clue about the connection between Sagarin and Cory, many in the homophile movement knew exactly who he was. But because of an unwritten code of honor that came about during the Lavender Scare of the 1950s, outing him was out of the question. A book reviewer for the Daughters of Bilitis’ The Ladder clearly chaffed at the restriction. “Could it be that he is one of the homosexuals who has surrendered … to the ‘sick sick sick school?”, she asked. “Right, but I assure you that if you knew who this man really is, then you’d wonder, really wonder, for he is as responsible for the founding of the homophile movement as any other single man.”

That code of honor finally broke down in 1974 when Sagarin attended the American Sociological Society’s annual convention and spoke on a panel titled, “Theoretical Perspectives on Homosexuality” to criticize the gay rights movement. Laud Humphreys, who founded the Sociologists’ Gay Caucus later that same year, sharply challenged Sagarin during the Q&A period while alternately calling him “Professor Sagarin” and “Mr. Cory” as feigned slips of the tongue. Humphreys then went in for the kill: “And where did you get your data?” Sagarin clenched his fists and said, “I am my data.” He then left the stage in tears, and from that point on he withdrew from discussing homosexuality altogether. He died of a heart attack on June 10, 1986.

Many have described Sagarin as a modern-day Jekyll and Hyde figure. As Donald Webster Cory, he was a pioneer in the early gay rights movement. The year in which The Homosexual In America appeared, the country was in the grip of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s Red and Lavender Scares, and Cory’s treatise rang out as both a radical declaration for equality and a pioneering examination of contemporary gay society. By all rights, The Homosexual In America should today occupy a prime spot in the gay rights canon. But Edward Sagarin was an intractable foe of the very movement Donald Webster Cory helped to inspire. For that, Kamany’s prediction came true: the once-vigorous Father of the Homophile Movement is today disregarded and ignored.

[Sources: Ronald Bayer. Homosexuality and American Psychiatry: The Politics of Diagnosis 2nd ed. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987): 86, 88.

“Florence Conrad” (Florence Jaffy). Book Review: “The Lesbian In America.” The Ladder 9, no. 1 (October 1964): 4-7.

Donald Webster Cory. The Homosexual In America: A Subjective Approach (New York: Greenberg Publisher, 1951).

Martin Duberman. “Donald Webster Cory: Father of the Homophile Movement.” In The Martin Duberman Reader: The Essential Historical, Biographical, and Autobiographical Writings (New York: The New Press, 2013): 172-205.

Eric Marcus. Making History: The Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights, 1940-1990. An Oral History (New York: HarperCollins, 1992): 111-112.

James T. Sears: Behind the Mask of the Mattachine: The Hal Call Chronicles and the Early Movement for Homosexual Emancipation (New York: Harrington Park Press, 2006): 529-530.

Stephen O. Murray “Donald Webster Cory (1913-1986)” In Vern L. Bullough’s (ed.) Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (New York: Harrington Park Press, 2002): 333-343.]

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

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The Daily Agenda for Thursday, September 17

Jim Burroway

September 17th, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Belgrade, Serbia; Charlottesville, VA; Greensboro, NC; Las Vegas, NV; Outer Banks, NC; Provo, UT; Peterborough, ON; St. Cloud, MN; Springfield, MA; Valdosta, GA.

Other Events This Weekend: Queer Lisboa Film Festival, Lisbon, Portugal; OctoBEARfest, Munich, Germany; Cinema Diverse LGBT Film Festival, Palm Springs, CA; North Louisiana Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Shreveport, LA; Out On the Mountain at Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia CA, (Friday).

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Los Angeles Advocate, October 1968, page 22.

Just about every gay bar in L.A. was subject to some kind of police harassment or another. The Los Angeles Advocate reported, in the same issue in which this ad appeared, on a visit paid to the Tonky Honker on September 17, just a few days after the new owners took over. Police shut down the bar’s pool table because they didn’t have a license for it, despite the owners having gotten the OK from the police commission. Then one of the bar’s customers went into the men’s room, followed by one of the officers posing as a customer. The customer immediately came back out and sat at the bar. The officers left, but not before trying to “pick up” the customer. A few minutes, the officers returned and arrested the customer anyway for “lewd conduct,” claiming that the customer “groped” the undercover cop in the men’s room. “Why the police officer didn’t arrest the man when he committed the alleged act isn’t clear,” the Advocate wrote. “This may come out in the trial.” I don’t have any further information on the outcome. The Advocate, in the same issue, also included a two-page article, “If You’re Arrested: Some Do’s & Dont’s,” along with another small piece, “If You Witness A Raid.”


First Openly Gay Judge Appointed to the Bench: 1979. The news wires across the country buzzed with news that California’s Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Stephen M. Lachs, “an avowed homosexual“, as a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge. He had searched as a Superior Court commissioner for nearly five years, while also serving as a board member fothe Los Angeles Gay Community Services Centre. Lachs recognized his appointment as “an important step” for gay rights. “There probably are millions of lesbians and gay men in the country who are performing their jobs very well and yet are in positions where they feel they cannot allow their sexual preference to be known. This is hopefully something we will tart seeing the end of.”

He also recognized that his appointment on the bench might be controversial. “I feel that it could present problems. Judges come up for reelection and surely it could be an issue. I wold hope that when I stand for re-election, (voters) would consider my work on the bench.” His hope was well-founded, and he remained on the bench until his retirement in 1999.


30 YEARS AGO: President Reagan Mentions AIDS for the First Time: 1985. According to urban legend, President Ronald Reagan never mentioned AIDS during his presidency. Or, according to another version of urban legend, he he did mention it, but not until 1987. The truth is that Reagan didn’t talk much about AIDS during his administration after so many thousands had suffered such early and agonizing deaths — in sharp contrast to the government’s vigorous and immediate response when 34 military veterans (and presumably not homosexual ones) died from Legionellosis — Legionaries Disease — at an American Legion convention in 1975. And the truth is that it was on this date in 1985 when Reagan finally mentioned AIDS, four years and some 12,000 deaths after first reports of the disease in 1981. The brief mention came at a news conference when a reporter asked about the budget allocation for research:

Q: Mr. President, the Nation’s best-known AIDS scientist says the time has come now to boost existing research into what he called a minor moonshot program to attack this AIDS epidemic that has struck fear into the Nation’s health workers and even its schoolchildren. Would you support a massive government research program against AIDS like the one that President Nixon launched against cancer?

President Reagan: I have been supporting it for more than 4 years now. It’s been one of the top priorities with us, and over the last 4 years, and including what we have in the budget for ’86, it will amount to over a half a billion dollars that we have provided for research on AIDS in addition to what I’m sure other medical groups are doing. And we have $100 million in the budget this year; it’ll be 126 million next year. So, this is a top priority with us. Yes, there’s no question about the seriousness of this and the need to find an answer.

A reporter also asked whether he would send his children, if they were younger, to a school with a child who has AIDS. He responded:

It is true that some medical sources had said that this cannot be communicated in any way other than the ones we already know and which would not involve a child being in the school. And yet medicine has not come forth unequivocally and said, ‘This we know for a fact, that it is safe.’ And until they do, I think we just have to do the best we can with this problem. I can understand both sides of it.

The mother of Ryan White, the 13-year-old teen with AIDS who was forced to attend classes via telephone because his Kokomo, Indiana school district prohibited him from going to school, was disappointed that Reagan didn’t take the opportunity to tell parents they shouldn’t fear that their children could catch AIDS through casual contact. And Rep. Gary Studds (D-MA) disputed Reagan’s statement that AIDS research was a top priority:

“… The president said last night it is one of the top priorities of the last four years,” the Massachusetts Democrat said in an interview Wednesday. “Under those circumstances, it is more than a little difficult to imagine why he has never mentioned it once before in public.”

…At his news conference Tuesday night, Reagan, responding to reporters’ questions, said more than $500 million had been spent to try to find ways of combatting AIDS, a fatal virus which attacks the body’s ability to fight disease. But Studds said Reagan’s requests to Congress for fiscal years 1982 through 1986 were far less than that amount, and the money was appropriated only because Congress went beyond administration requests. “The administration’s request for the five fiscal years in question, ’82, ’83, ’84, ’85 and ’86, adds up to $213.5 million,” Studds said. “The way I read that, it’s less than ‘over half a billion’ by a substantial amount.”

Roddy McDowall: 1928-1998. The child actor began appearing in British films at the age of ten, but the bombing of London during World War II interrupted his career when McDowall was among thousands of British children sent to the safety of America. A year later, his role as Huw Morgan in How Green Was My Valley made him a household name. He followed that success with 1943’s Lassie Come Home, where he met lifelong friend Elizabeth Taylor. That same year, he appeared as the son of Wyoming ranchers who was given a colt to raise in My Friend Flicka of the two films, McDowall later recalled, “I really liked Lassie, but that horse, Flicka, was a nasty animal with a terrible disposition. All the Flickas – all six of them – were awful.”

“Nuthin’ like an invigorating swim to build a man’s appetite. So, it was off to raid the icebox for Tab and Roddy. As luck would have it, Mrs. McDowall had a delicious chocolate cake, hot dog sandwiches ready.” — from a photo spread titled “Calling All Girls” in the June 1953 issue of Movie magazine. (Click to enlarge)

By his late teens, McDowall began the tricky transition from teen idol to adult actor. He did this by leaving Hollywood and going to New York to study acting. After winning a Tony award for Best Supporting Actor as Tarquin in Jean Anouilh’s The Fighting Cock, he returned to Hollywood. In 1963, he played Octavian in Cleopatra for which he was an early favorite for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Unfortunately, he was disqualified when Fox studios mistakenly submitted his nomination under the Best Actor category. He most famous role is one in which no one sees his face — under heavy makeup in four of the five original Planet of the Apes films (two as Cornelius, two as Cornelius’s son). But that didn’t prevent him from being one of Hollywood’s more recognizable faces, thanks to television appearances including The Twilight Zone, The Carol Burnett Show, Columbo, Hollywood Squares, and as “The Bookworm” in the 1960s camp classic Batman.

McDowall never married, and died of lung cancer in 1998. Like most actors of his generation, he also never came out. He was probably one of Hollywood’s most trusted celebrities; he was known among his friends as a man of kindness and who could keep a secret (his disdain for Flicka notwithstanding). Besides one rumor of his having a relationship with Montgomery Clift, the nicest man in Hollywood managed to avoid the most intrusive (and career-limiting) aspects of the rumor mill during his lifetime

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

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The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, September 16

Jim Burroway

September 16th, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Belgrade, Serbia; Charlottesville, VA; Greensboro, NC; Las Vegas, NV; Outer Banks, NC; Provo, UT; Peterborough, ON; St. Cloud, MN; Springfield, MA; Valdosta, GA.

Other Events This Weekend: Queer Lisboa Film Festival, Lisbon, Portugal; OctoBEARfest, Munich, Germany; Cinema Diverse LGBT Film Festival, Palm Springs, CA; North Louisiana Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Shreveport, LA; Out On the Mountain at Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia CA, (Friday).

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Alienist and Neurologist, (an early psychiatric journal), 1907.

From The Alienist and Neurologist, (an early psychiatric journal), 1907.

From the ad copy: “It gives a long and pounding stroke, medium and side stroke, short and rubbing motion.”

The Severe Effects of Masturbation: 1914. Non-procreative sex has long been seen as a terrible problem in Western society. Biblical prohibitions against adultery, onanism (masturbation), and lying with a man as one lies with a woman are obvious sources for that disdain of sex for sex’s sake. Add to that the scourge of the clap (gonorrhea) and, worse, the pox (syphilis), both of which were incurable for several centuries and only reinforced the perceived dangers of all forms of non-procreative sex, including masturbation. Today, we see the manual method as being perhaps the safest of safe-sex practices, but until the first third of the twentieth century, that idea was far from acceptable, even among a number of medical authorities. And believe it or not, those who warned against the health dangers of masturbation had science — well, proto-science, anyway — to back them up.

Before the mid-1800’s when germ theory began to take root, the mechanisms by which syphilis and gonorrhea were spread were poorly understood. People could only go by what they saw, and what they saw was that those who were more likely to contract these diseases were those who had a lot of sex. And in a time when people didn’t talk about the deed, those who “had a lot of sex” were those who were rather infamously having a lot of sex — those who were patronizing prostitutes, but also young men with, shall we say, time on their hands. And what happens when time is up? Two things: seed is spilt and exhaustion sets in, at least momentarily. And it was the second thing, that momentary “weakening,” which was believed to be the very opportunity which diseases seized upon to enter the body and take root. The reasoning went like this: since weak people got sick, and sex made people weak, it’s only logical that sex, especially lots of sex, made people sick.

Now for women — who were already the “weaker sex” — it was easy to believe that an excessive number of orgasms alone left them vulnerable to disease But what about men? Well, that momentary exhaustion following orgasm — that afterglow, we call it today — wasn’t the only problem. According to medical science — science!, mind you — that very loss of semen added another dimension of vulnerability to those otherwise virile, hearty men. That belief was expressed in a book published in the early 1700s by an unknown London doctor and clergyman. The title was, quite simply, was Onania; or, the Heinous SIN of Self-Pollution, and All its Frightful Confequences, in both SEXES, Confider’d. With Spiritual and Phyfical Advice to Thofe, who have already injur’d themfelves by this abominable Practice. And feafonable Admonition to the Youth of the Nation, (of both SEXES) and thofe whofe Tuition they are under, whether Parents, Guardians, Mafters, or Miftreffes.

The title page alone will leave you spent.

Where were we? Oh, yeah, the loss of semen — it turns out that spilling that vital seed willy-nilly placed an inordinate strain on the blood supply:

The blood is made into Seed, which is further elaborated and purify’d in the Epidydimides, from whence by the Vafa deferensin, it is carried into the Veficulæ Seminales, where it is laid up till by contractions of thofe Veficulæ, it is carried through the Proftate into the Urethra, and forc’d through the Capuit Galinaginis, which hinders the voluntary running of it. The oftner these Veficulæ Seminales are emptied, the more is made for the Tefticles, and consequently the greater Confumption of the fineft and moft Balfamick part of the Blood.

Blood was well-recognized as, well, the lifeblood of the human body. When blood was spilled, life was in danger, and it often ended. And so it stood to reason that if the “finest Baslamic part of the Blood” was used to replenish the supply of semen, then male vigor was threatened any time that precious supply was squandered. Do it too often, and life itself was in peril.

Silly, isn’t it? But once an idea takes root, it often remains stubbornly planted long after the germ of its genesis is long forgotten. So let’s fast forward some two hundred years. The microscope confirmed the role of germs and viruses in causing diseases, and antiseptics made hospitals places where people recovered, not places where they went to die. As for beliefs about non-procreative sex, many in the medical profession began to understand that the spilling of a little seed here and there wasn’t something to get too worked up about. But it took a long time for that knowledge to become universal, even among medical professionals. And part of the reason for it is that now the feared harms of masturbation were no longer just physical, but generational, thanks to Degeneration Theory (see Sep 9 for an introduction). Now masturbation’s not just physically harmful, but its assault on the nervous system causes mental and emotional harms which then became embedded in the offsprings’ hereditary make-up and were then passed down through the generations. So the theory went.

“The results of masturbation”: the Blum is off.

By 1914, Degeneration Theory had mostly run its course, but its ghosts still ran heavy in medicine and the social sciences. For evidence of that, you need look no further than the September 1914 issue of the American Journal of Urology featured the last of a four part series on the deleterious effects of masturbation by Dr. Victor Blum, of the Vienna General Polyclinic. In his final installment, titled simply “Results of Masturbation,” he posed the question: “Is masturbation a primary affection, or is it the result of a special neuropathic disposition?” An answer of “neither” was quickly ruled out:

It is denied by some authors that the act of masturbation is essentially different from the normal satisfaction of the sexual needs. Both arise from the same source, the human sexual instinct; both are physiologically and mechanically very similar actions; and yet clinical experience teaches that masturbation has an entirely different effect upon the nervous system from natural coitus. We have considered this question thoroughly elsewhere, and came to the conclusion, that habitual masturbation in some way represents an injury, in spite of the apparent identity of the two actions in their individual acts, because it is an abnormality of the sexual life.

The severe effects of masturbation, however, only occur when the injury affects an originally non-resistant nervous system, that is, when the unnatural sexual life is added as a specific agent to a nervous constitution.

When masturbation leads to severe nervous disorders in otherwise quite normally constituted men, we must suppose the cause of this to be the immoderate sexual activity in early youth, a time when the sensitive organism cannot bear without injury the repeated severe shocks to the nervous system resulting from the sexual acts and perhaps also from the frequent seminal losses.

As you may have guessed, these breathtaking conclusions were not arrived at by anything remotely resembling the Scientific Method. No experiments, no studies, no controls, no analysis. Just one declarative statement following upon another. And while Degeneration Theory did add an additional concern to the effects of masturbation, there still lurked the primordial belief that semen loss was still an issue. Blum himself dismissed it, but the journal’s editor, William J. Robinson, felt compelled to interject with a parenthetical paragraph to re-introduce the eighteenth-century “fact”:

It is my positive conviction that in some people the mere withdrawal of a certain amount of semen can have a disastrous effect on the economy. … For as soon as the seminal vesicles and the testicles are emptied of their reserve semen, the latter at once begin to elaborate new semen, and in the process of elaboration valuable vital material is withdrawn from the economy, material which evidently is of great importance to the brain and spinal cord-in short, to the entire nervous system.

Didn’t we just read something very similar to that from two hundred years earlier? The only difference here is that masturbation didn’t exhaust the blood supply, but the central nervous system’s “economy”. Robinson then bowed out and let Blum resume his conjectures:

The principal injurious effect manifested is upon the nervous system, from the early suffered and frequently repeated severe shocks of the sexual act, and upon the general health, since in every sexual activity a cooperation of other organs is unavoidable. Thus we see disturbances occur in the circulatory and respiratory systems and in the functions of the visceral organs. The results of onanism upon the individual organs we have already reported in the chapter on sexual neurasthenia. The relations between masturbation and mental and psychic changes in the youthful masturbator have also been treated in that chapter.

If the reader has any doubts, Blum closes with the case of a twenty-year-old “unfortunate, who made his confession in the form of a letter”:

“My present state is a sad one. Unfounded fears, quick exhaustion of the entire body, especially of the hands and feet; poor memory, anger at the least trifle and especially pleasure in quarreling. I am fond of seeking lonely places, where I can sit all day and meditate on my lost happiness of youth. I should be happy to wander, if I could only go far, far away from Vienna.

“I get up in the morning more tired than when I went to bed, and have a morbid sleepiness so that I often sleep during my office hours. My complaints are: pain in urinating, pain in the feet and hands, then also in the hips and the head. The way in which I seek satisfaction is to rub the penis so long or to move to and fro so long on the bed until the pleasure comes, often in the reclining position, often in the standing during the day three or four times and alas! oftener sometimes. The penis will not relax until the semen is emptied, which causes terrible pains. When the semen has been evacuated I am weak and cannot recover for twenty to thirty minutes, while the heart beats strongly and I have difficulty in breathing. Afterwards I can urinate only with difficulty, often with tears in my eyes.

“…To conclude, I fear that the end of these sad youthful errors will be madness; as the books all say at the end, there is no hope for me, and the madhouse threatens me. I have come to this supposition by reading the so-called popular scientific books — thus incurable! Especially the book entitled ‘Masturbation and its Terrible Results,’ let no other thoughts arise in me than those of the madhouse.”

So let that be a warning to you.

[Sources: Anonymous. Onania: or, the Heinous Sin… 9th ed. (London: Fliz. Rumball: 1723). Available online here.

Victor Blum. “Results of masturbation.” American Journal of Urology 10, no. 9 (September 1914): 410-414. Available online here.]

Billy Glover (left) with his one-time partner and lifelong friend, Melvin Cain.

Billy Glover: 1932. There aren’t many people still around who were part of the homophile movement of the late 1950s. Those few who are, are a tremendous treasure to the LGBT community. A native of Bossier City, Louisiana and an alumnus of Louisiana State University (where he says he had “more fun than learning”), Billy Glover was drafted in the army in 1955, only to be discharged in 1956 for “acting up” — his words — with another man after learning that he wouldn’t get to go to Germany after training at Fort Benjamin Harrison.

He moved to Los Angeles, where he saw ONE magazine at local newsstands. Intrigued, he decided one day to show up at ONE’s office, where he met Jim Kepner, one of the magazine’s principal writers. Kepner advised him to go to the Mattachine convention in Denver. That experience led Glover to decide to work full time for the movement. He spent a few weeks working for Hal Call (see Sep 20) in San Francisco before returning to ONE in Los Angeles. He worked first as a volunteer, then as the organization’s first paid employee after Kepner left in 1960. Glover’s role, at first, was mostly as a gofer. He helped to distribute copies of ONE to local newsstands and package the magazines in their brown paper wrappers for mailing to subscribers. He did much of the bookkeeping, and in 1962 held the title of Secretary of Social Services.

By 1964, infighting was mounting within ONE, Inc., largely due to two powerful personalities who saw ONE’s future in two entirely different ways. Dorr Legg (see Dec 15), envisioned the organization’s main mission as educational. He established the ONE Institute of Homophile Studies, the organization’s educational arm which became the first institution to provide LGBT studies in the U.S. (even going so far as to gain accreditation with the State of California.) Don Slater (see Aug 21), ONE magazine’s editor, also saw the organization’s main mission as educational, but believed that the magazine, along with the organization’s vast archives (Slater was also ONE’s archivist), was the best way to further that mission. The split came to a head during a rancorous board meeting in January, 1964, when Slater pressed the board to elect Glover to fill a vacancy. Legg and his faction opposed the nomination, and balloting went into the night and well into the next day. The debacle led two board members to resign in disgust, and allegations of vote rigging made the legitimacy of two more members’ positions questionable. Nevertheless, the group held together, tenuously, until April, 1965, when Legg, with his allegedly “packed” board’s backing, effectively fired much of ONE’s editorial staff – at least those who hadn’t resigned in anger.

Slater saw that as more evidence that Legg was determined to shut down the magazine and transfer all of the organization’s resources to his fledgling Institute. The following Saturday night, Slater, Glover, and Slater’s partner, Tony Reyes, entered ONE’s darkened offices, packed up the magazine’s assets and archives, and moved the operation, lock stock and barrel, to a new location “for the protection of the property of the corporation.” For three months, confused subscribers received two competing issues of ONE in the mail, one published by ONE, Inc., and the other by Slater’s The Tangent Group, named for a popular column in ONE. In the ensuring court battle, ONE, Inc. was allowed to keep its name. But, partly because ONE’s governance was in shambles, the Tangent Group was allowed to keep its assets.

Glover stayed with Slater and the Tangents Group, which later incorporated as the Homosexual Information Center with Glover as its president. He worked on the committee which organized the 1966 protest, known as “the motorcade,” which protested the exclusion of gays from the military, and he was part of the 1969 protest against The Los Angeles Times over its refusal to print an advertisement because it contained the word “homosexual” (see Nov 5) Glover returned to Louisiana in 1989 for family reasons, although he remained active in HIC.

Glover was never much of a leader, per se, in the gay rights movement. Instead, he has been just one of its many foot soldiers who happened to play some rather pivotal roles when called upon to do so. That seems to be the particular example he has set, and it is the advice that he passes on to others: when you have a cause you believe in, get involved:

You don’t have to know anything at first. You don’t even have to become a “leader” or “expert” but just being there to help and support each other is the main benefit to you and the cause. And when you look back years later, as I have, you will see that by luck you seemed destined to do what you have done, and you can have no regrets for what you didn’t risk doing since you took a chance and followed what seemed like a dream. As one of ONE’s founders said in the fifties, to actually someday see people like us marching down Hollywood Boulevard proudly and to have lived to see that day multiplied around the nation is enough.

Billy turns 83 today, and is living in his old family home on Bossier City where he’s still active online with his prolific and informative emails, some of which ends up on his blog.

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

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

The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, September 15

Jim Burroway

September 15th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), August 1973, page 14. (Source.)

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), August 1973, page 14. (Source.)

From the Wisconsin GLBT History Project:

The Shack, south of Kenosha, was pretty much that: a somewhat rundown building with a low profile, tucked away on the west side of Highway 32, between Kenosha and the Illinois state line. The low whitewashed one-story building was non-descript in front, housing a dance bar area and another bar area to the rear. The bar advertised in the August 1972 issue of the GPU News that it would open on September 15 of that year, “newly remodeled, under new ownership, operated by gay management”, listing Bob, Frank and Mark. At one point, future Milwaukee bar owner Al Thomas worked at the Shack.

There were some holes and odd openings in the building in later years, and one recalls it was sometimes possible to see into the rest rooms from the outside. However the bar was very popular with residents of Racine, Kenosha and towns in north-eastern Illinois (such as Zion), largely because it was somewhat out of the way and therefore anonymous to go to and park at.

Miami Mayor Abe Aronovitz

Miami Mayor Abe Aronovitz

Miami Passes Anti-Gay Ordinance, Launches “Super-Secret Inquiry”: 1954. The Miami City Commission took a somewhat comical turn in responding to the newspaper-driven anti-gay hysteria campaign (see Aug 3Aug 11Aug 12Aug 13 (twice that day), Aug 14Aug 15, Aug 16Aug 26, Aug 31, Sep 1, Sep 2, and Sep 7) when it unanimously voted to earmark $5,000 — that’s $43,000 in today’s money — so that city manager Arthur Evans could launch what was described by The Miami News as a “super-secret investigation of morals and gambling conditions in Miami.” The Commission also voted 4-1 to approve an ordinance which made it a violation for persons of the same sex to “embrace, caress or dance in public or to adopt mannerisms or facial makeup or dress of the opposite sex.” The News didn’t indicate what the penalty for violating the ordinance would be.

Earlier that week, Miami’s mayor Abe Aronovitz announced that he was drawing up an ordinance which would prohibit Miami bar owners from selling liquor or bear “to known sex perverts” and direct the offending bars be referred to the State Beverage Department with a recommendation that their licenses be revoked. In announcing that proposal, Aronovitz said, “I think it is a far greater menace to sell liquor to perverts than to minors.”

Ann Bannon: 1932. Born Ann Weldy, the future “Queen of Lesbian Pulp Fiction” experienced her first stirrings over her sexuality while a sister at the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the early 1950s. Noticing that a younger sorority sister was being flirtatious with an older one, she felt both awkward and fascinated. “I saw a lot of it happening and I didn’t know what to make of it. I don’t even know how to put it—I was absolutely consumed with it, it was an extraordinary thing.”

She nevertheless married after graduating in 1954 — becoming Ann Holmquist in the process — and soon became the mother of two children. But she clearly couldn’t put her sorority experience out of her mind. She had read two lesbian novels: Radclyffe Hall’s dismal 1928 novel The Well of Loneliness — practically required reading for every lesbian in the 1950s — and Vin Paker’s Spring Fire from 1952. Because Spring Fire was set in a boarding school, Bannon could more easily identify with that story line. She also decided to try her hand at fiction writing. She wrote to Packer — real name Marijane Meaker — asking for advice on how to get published. To her surprise, Meaker answered with an invitation to meet in Greenwich Village. There, the young mother could see “Emerald City, Wonderland, and Brigadoon combined —- a place where gay people could walk the crooked streets hand in hand.”

Odd Girl Out, first edition cover, 1957.

Ann Weldy Hulmquist then took the pen name of Ann Bannon, wrote Odd Girl Out based on her own sorority experience, and saw her book published by Gold Medal Books in 1957. It became the second best selling original paperback that year. Between 1957 and 1962, she wrote four others — I Am a Woman, Women in the Shadows, Journey to a Woman, and Beebo Brinker. But with the completion of her fifth novel, Bannon decided that her writing career had run its course. She went back to college to earn a master’s and a doctorate in linguistics, and became a professor and, later, an associate dean at Cal State in Sacramento. She remained largely unrecognized, although her novels were rediscovered and re-issued several times over the years. Occasionally, one of the university librarians would bump into her and comment on a new edition the library received, or a student would find out who she was.

It wasn’t until her difficult marriage ended in a bitter divorce in the 1980s and she retired in the late 1990s, that she finally began to realize how important those little mass market paperbacks were to generations of lesbians who had little other media or literary representations to draw on. As Bannon recalled in 2002:

To the persistent surprise of many of us, and of the critics who found us such an easy target years ago, the books by, of and for women found a life of their own. They — and we — may still not be regarded as conventionally acceptable ‘nice’ literature, as it were — but I have come to value that historical judgment. We wrote the stories no one else could tell. And in so doing, we captured a slice of life in a particular time and place that still resonates for members of our community.

In 1997, her work was included in Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, a collection of authors who had made the deepest impact on the lives and identities of gays and lesbians, which was used as a college textbook for LGBT studies across the country. In 2004, three of her novels were translated into an award-winning play titled “The Beebo Brinker Chronicles,” which had two successful runs in New York in 2007 and 2008. The second run was staged with Lily Tomlin and her partner Jane Wagner as executive producers. In 2008, Bannon was given the Pioneer Award from the Lambda Literary Foundation. She still tours the country, visiting paperback-collecting and pulp fiction conventions, and she is often invited to speak at colleges and universities. You can find out more at her web site.

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

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

The Daily Agenda for Monday, September 14

Jim Burroway

September 14th, 2015
From Parleé, July 1975, page 32.

From Parleé, July 1975, page 32.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

“No establishment shall make facilities available for the purpose of sexual activities where anal intercourse, vaginal intercourse, or fellatio take place. Such facilities shall constitute a threat to the public health.” So reads the New York state code in Section 24-2.2. The code was adopted in the early 1990s over the objections of HIV/AIDS advocates. New York City had been closing down bathhouses since the mid-1980s. But the Wall Street Sauna somehow managed to escape all of those efforts until 2004, when a New York Appeals Court sided with the City and ordered the Sauna closed.

The Wall Street Sauna opened in 1974, and its location one 1 Maiden Lane, just four blocks from the New York Stock Exchange, made it instantly popular with area businessmen. An article for the Village Voice in 1976 said it was “where businessmen get their rocks off during the lunch hour (it’s called “funch”).” After the AIDS crisis led to the shuttering of other bathhouses and sex clubs, the Wall Street Sauna soldiered on with the owners insisting, implausibly, that men were not using their facility for sex. After New York Heath Department finally ordered the Sauna closed in February, 2004,  part of the sauna reopened a week later after the owners agreed to a court order that all sexual activity would be prohibited. But health inspector reported seeing sexual behavior in April, and the city appealed the lower court’s ruling. On July 8, the state appeals court sided with the city and ordered it closed once and for all.

Disgusting Depravity: 1822. The following notice appeared in the September 14, 1822 edition of The Times of London:

DISGUSTING DEPRAVITY — On Monday last Benjamin Candler, late valet to the Duke of Newcastle, was committed to Lincoln Castle by Sir R. Heron, Bart., charged with an unnatural offence. On the same day was committed to the same place by the Alderman of Grantham, William Arden, Esq., of Great Pultney-street, Golden-square, London, charged with the same offence; and on Tuesday was committed to the Castle , by the Alderman of Grantham, John Doughty, of Grantham, joiner, charged with the same. A discovery of the abominable intercourse which had been carried on it, it is stated, was made through the circumstance of a letter from Rantham, intended for the valet at Clumber, but accidentally not addressed on the outside, falling into the hands of the Duke of Newcastle. His Grace, on discovering the nature of the contents, proceeded with due caution for furthering the purposes of justice, and the consequence has been the commitment of the above persons to Lincoln Castle for trial at the next assizes. The person committed as an Esquire, was apprehended in London after the first examination of the others at Grantham, and was brought down in safe custody in one of the mail coaches on Sunday morning. We understand that he had apartments at Grantham during the last hunting season.

The “unnatural offence” was a capital crime, and the three men were hanged at Lincoln Castle on March 21, 1823.

ACT UP Protests At NY Stock Exchange: 1989. Chaining themselves to a banister at the New York Stock Exchange and unfurling a sign reading “SELL WELLCOME,” five AIDS activists protested the price set by Burroughs Wellcome for AZT, the only drug that had been approved in the U.S. to fight AIDS. Burroughs Wellcome had been charging from $7,000 to $8,000 per year for the drug, which was far beyond the ability for many people to pay. Four days later, Burroughs Wellcome announced a twenty percent reduction in the wholesale price of the drug. A spokesman denied that the announcement was connected to the high profile protest.

David Wojnarowicz: 1954-1992. In November of 2010, G. Wayne Clough, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, made the executive decision to remove a short silent film A Fire in My Belly by David Wojnarowicz from the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibit “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture.” The film, which included a twelve-second scene of ants crawling over a crucifix, was denounced by the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue as anti-Catholic “hate speech.” Clough removed the video after complaints from soon-to-be House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), but he neglected to consult co-curator, gay activist and art historian Jonathan David Katz, about the decision. “It was an incredibly stupid decision. I am flabbergasted that they rose to the bait so readily,” he said in an interview after the video was removed. The irony, which was not lost on anyone, is that the whole point of “Hide/Seek” was to highlight the role of sexual difference in American portraiture, including the effects of marginalization (hence, the “hide”). Katz saw history repeating itself:

In 1989 Senator Jesse Helms demonized Robert Mapplethorpe’s sexuality, and by extension, his art, and with little effort pulled a cowering art world to its knees. His weapon was threatening to disrupt the already pitiful federal support for the arts. And once again, that same weapon is being brandished, and once again we cower.

Untitled (One Day This Kid…), 1990. Click to enlarge.

Wojnarowicz, who at 37 died of AIDS in 1992, wasn’t one to cower, although he certainly had the kind of life experiences which might have encouraged him to do so. Born in Red Bank, New Jersey he grew up with an exceptionally cruel and abusive father. After his parents divorced, he and his siblings were bounced back and forth between parents — at one point, his father kidnapped them and took them to Rural Michigan — until they finally ended up with their mother in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen. By the time he was sixteen, he ran away from home and was living on the streets. He supported himself through prostitution and became fascinated with the social outcasts he met in abandoned warehouses and on street corners. His graffiti soon morphed into elaborate paintings on the walls of abandoned buildings. At one point, he spent some time in Paris with his sister, where he became more serious about photography and painting. When he returned to New York, his unique brand of confrontational street art found an audience alongside other underground artists like Keith Haring (who Wojnarowicz didn’t get along with).

Wojnarowicz had a combustible personality. When one gallery damaged one of his paintings and refused to repair it, Wojnarowicz retaliated by taking a tire iron to the gallery’s pristine white walls. In 1989, Wojnarowicz wrote a blistering essay, “Postcards form America: X-rays from Hell,” which blasted several public figures, Cardinal O’Connor in particular (“this fat cannibal from that house of walking swastikas”). The essay appeared in an exhibition catalogue, prompting the National Endowment for the Arts to rescind its funding for the show. This made Wojnarowicz the newest bogeyman for the religious right. But when the American Family Association’s Donald Wildmon copied, distorted, and disseminated Wojnariwicz’s image in a pamphlet as part of a campaign against the NEA, Wojnarowicz sued the AFA and won a historic Supreme Court case which is forever enshrined as David Wojnarowicz v. American Family Association (see Apr 8).

Which, of course, makes the Smithsonian’s actions in 2010 all the more relevant. Here is the version of A Fire in My Belly which led the Smithsonian to crumple like a bad suit against Donohue’s charges of blasphemy. This same video was also projected onto the exterior walls of the National Portrait Gallery during a protest over the Smithsonian’s censorship.

David Wojnarowicz’s life is chronicled in Cynthia Carr’s definitive biography Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz, which was released in 2012.

Another one for his fans.

Ben Cohen: 1978. The former England Rugby Union player for Northampton Saints and Sale Sharks, Cohen was already a well-liked gay icon before retiring from professional rugby in 2011. He often speaks highly of his gay following, a fan base which he has rewarded by almost never wearing a shirt. In 2010, he released this video as part of the “It Gets Better” project and, since retiring, he has devoted his time to the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation, which he established as the world’s first foundation dedicated to combating anti-gay bulling and homophobia. He was inspired by two things in his life: his father was killed when he stood up for an employee who was being attacked, and Cohen’s clinical deafness (he has about a 33% hearing loss in each ear) has made him keenly aware of how being different can make someone stand out.

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

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

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