Born On This Day, 1925: Fr. John J. McNeill

Jim Burroway

September 2nd, 2016

6a00e54ed2b7aa883301bb087d3737970d-200wi(d. 2015) The Buffalo, New York, native enlisted in the Army in 1942 at the age of seventeen and fought in the 87th Infantry. He was taken prisoner by the Nazis in France and sent to a prisoner of war camp near Leukenwald, Germany. His tortures began before he left France: he was kept in a sealed box car for days without food and water, licking frost from the box car’s nail heads to survive. His starvation continued in the camp, and his weight dropped to 80 pounds. Despite his frailty, he was made to work on a farm. One day, a Polish captive saw McNeil staring at food intended for the animals and threw him a potato when a guard was looking away. McNeil silently thanked the Pole, who made the sign of the cross in return.

That single gesture would have a profound impact on McNeill’s spirituality. After the war, he graduated magna com laude from Canisius College in Buffalo and entered the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) in 1948. He was ordained a priest in 1959 by Cardinal Spellman. In 1961, he continued his studies at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, where he earned his doctorate in philosophy in 1964. It’s also where he fell in love with another man for the first time. “The experience of the joy and peace that comes with that — it was a clear indication to me that homosexual love was in itself a good love and could be a holy love,” he later said in the 2011 biographical documentary, Taking a Chance on God.

After receiving his doctorate, he returned to the U.S. and joined the faculty of Le Moyne College in Syracuse, where he met Fr. Daniel Berrigan. The year before, Berrigan had founded the Catholic Peace Fellowship which would go on to organize protests against the war in Vietnam. McNeill soon began joining Berrigan in those protests.

By 1970, McNeill found what would ultimately prove to be his life’s calling, when he became involved with DignityUSA, an organization for LGBT Catholics that had been founded in San Diego the year before. McNeil founded the New York chapter in 1972, saying Mass, hearing confessions, and ministering to the needs of gay Catholics who struggled with self-loathing and depression.

Fr. McNeill, second from right, marching with a contingent of DignityUSA.

Fr. McNeill, second from right, marching with a contingent of DignityUSA.

In 1976, McNeill published The Church and the Homosexual, which was the first extended work by a scholar and theologian to challenge the church’s traditional teaching on homosexuality. The book argued that loving same-sex relationships were just as moral and godly as heterosexual relationships, and it argued for a change in church teachings and attitudes toward gay and lesbian Catholics. Before the book appeared in print, it was extensively vetted by a panel of theologians and received an imprimatur from the Vatican and the blessing of McNeill’s Jesuit superiors.

The Church and the Homosexual was translated into several languages, and it quickly picked up critics along the way. Meanwhile, McNeill publicly came out of the closet during an interview about the book with Tom Brokaw, who asked if he was gay. By 1977, the Vatican withdrew its imprimatur, and ordered McNeill not to write or speak publicly about homosexuality. McNeill, thinking that the church needed time to work through the issue, complied, although he continued his pastoral work with LGBT Catholics.

McNeill obeyed the order for the next nine years, until the AIDS crisis prompted him to reconsider. McNeill and Fr. Mychal Judge (May 11) founded an AIDS ministry to serve gay Catholics and the homeless in Harlem. Then in 1986, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (who would later become Pope Benedict XVI) issued its letter On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, which labeled homosexuality “a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil.” McNeil broke his silence and condemned the letter in statements issued to The New York Times and The National Catholic Reporter. As McNeill later wrote:

The Vatican document went so far in its hatred of all things gay as to assert that if homosexuals continue to claim “unthinkable” civil rights, then they should not be surprised by the violence inflicted upon them by gay-bashers and have only themselves to blame. This statement has been interpreted in some quarters as encouraging violence against gay people. Cardinal Ratzinger’s letter even suggested that it is gay activists and the professionals who try to help gays achieve self-acceptance who are responsible for the AIDS epidemic: “Even when the practice of homosexuality may seriously threaten the lives and well-being of a large number of people, its advocates remained undeterred and refused to consider the magnitude of the risks involved.”

In my more than twenty years’ experience of pastoral care with thousands of gay Catholics and other Christians, the gay men most likely to act out their sexual needs in an unsafe, compulsive way and, therefore, to expose themselves to the HIV virus, are precisely those persons who have internalized the self-hatred that their religions impose on them. They are precisely the ones who, while they find it impossible to suppress and deny their sexual needs totally, cannot enter into a healthy and committed intimacy with anyone because of this self-hatred.

Cardinal Ratzinger responded by ordering McNeill into silence once more, and to end his pastoral work with gays and lesbians. McNeill refused, and in 1987 he was expelled from the Jesuits on Vatican orders. McNeill said this expulsion, while painful, was also liberating. That year, he was name grand marshall of the New York City gay pride parade. “Our primary task these days as gay people is to learn how to celebrate life in the face of death,” he told The New York Times.

McNeill continued his work with the LGBT community, work that now included psychotherapy after picking up a degree at the Institutes of Religion and Health in New York. He also continued writing: Taking a Chance on God: Liberating Theology for Gays, Lesbians, and Their Lovers, Families and Friends (1988), Freedom, Glorious Freedom: The Spiritual Journey to the Fullness of Life for Gays, Lesbians and Everybody Else (1995), and the autobiographical, Both Feet Firmly Planted in Midair: My Spiritual Journey (1998). In 2008, McNeill married his partner of thirty-three years, Charles Chiarelli, in Toronto. McNeill passed away in 2015 in Ft. Lauderdale.

Born On This Day, 1946: Billy Preston

Jim Burroway

September 2nd, 2016

70 YEARS AGO: (d. 2006) As a three-year-old, little Billy began playing the piano while sitting on his mother’s lap. By age ten, the child prodigy was playing the organ for such noted gospel singers as Mahalia Jackson and James Cleveland (who, it was later revealed, was also gay — which is a different story for another time). At age eleven, he appeared on Nat King Cole’s national TV program singing Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill, and at age twelve, he started with Cole in the film St. Louis Blues, playing a younger W.C.Handy. In the 1960s, he became a sought-after studio musician, playing organ for Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, and the Beatles, whom he had met while performing in Hamburg in 1962.

When Preston joined up with the Fab Four again in 1969, the four weren’t quite so fab. In fact, they were on the verge of breaking up and were struggling to complete Abbey Road and Let It Be. George Harrison brought Preston in, and his gregarious personality and musicianship briefly calmed the tensions in the studio, so much so that John Lennon proposed making Preston an official “Fifth Beatle.” (Paul reportedly countered that it was bad enough with four.) Preston did join the band for its final rooftop concert at Abbey Road studio, and his prominent eclectic piano solo on “Get Back” earned him a credit on the resulting single as “The Beatles with Billy Preston.”

Preston didn’t join the Beatles, but he did join their record label, Apple Corps, which released his 1969 album That’s the Way God Planned It... His 1970 release, Encouraging Words included Eric Clapton and Ringo Starr as guest musicians. After his departure from Apple for A&M, Preston continued his collaboration with George Harrison in The Concert for Bangladesh and toured with Harrison during his 1974 North American tour. Meanwhile, Preston’s start as a solo artist began to shine, with his 1972 instrumental “Outa-Space” winning a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. That was followed by his number one hits “Will It Go Round In Circles” in 1972 and “Nothing from Nothing” in 1974.

While Preston continued released solo albums throughout his career, his spotlight as a solo artist was relatively short-lived. But his collaborations with other musicians remained strong, including an extended stint with The Rolling Stones for several albums and concert tours through the seventies. Keith Richards, in his recent autobiography Life, recalled, “He was gay at a time when nobody could be openly gay, which added difficulties to his life. Billy could be, most of the time, a bundle of fun. But sometimes he would get on the rag. I had to stop him beating up his boyfriend in an elevator once. Billy, hold it right there or I’ll tear your wig off. He had this ludicrous Afro wig. Meanwhile, he looked perfectly good with the Billy Eckstine look underneath.”

Some of Preston’s difficulties undoubtedly were rooted in his background in Gospel music. While his main success came in secular music, he remained in touch with the Black Gospel world, including playing organ for Donny McClurkin’s self-titled debut album in 1996. That was before McClurkin announced in 2002 that he was gay but had “experienced God’s power to change my lifestyle.” Preston’s foot in Gospel only added to the pressure to remain publicly closeted. As a close friend said, “Billy was gay. He didn’t wear it on his sleeve. How could he? He was a black man that came from the church. The church would have destroyed him. [But] he wasn’t ashamed of who he was.” While Preston keenly felt the need to remain closeted, there is a good reason why he may have felt at home in the Gospel world. He once quipped to a friend in Gospel music that the Black church choir was “the original gay-straight alliance.” Here, Preston plays “How Great Thou Art” at Gospel Celebration 1988:

Preston continued collaborating with other musicians through the remainder of his life. When George Harrison died, Preston played for the 2002 commemorative Concert for George in London. He also collaborated with Johnny Cash for 2002’s American IV: The Man Comes Around and on Ray Charles’s 2004 Genius Loves Company. Preston died in 2006 of complications from malignant hypertension and kidney failure, despite having undergone a kidney transplant in 2002.

Today’s Agenda Is Brought To You By…

Jim Burroway

September 1st, 2016

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), August 21, 1987, page 16. (Source.)

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), August 21, 1987, page 16. (Source.)

Today In History, 1954: “If People Wouldn’t Hire Them, They’d Go Away”

Jim Burroway

September 1st, 2016

Just yesterday, Miami mayor Abe Aronovitz demanded that city manager E.A. Evans and police chief Walter Headley begin an immediate purge of homosexuals in the city (See Aug 31). Aronovitz even went so far as to threaten to fire Evans. Feeling the pressure, Evans promised to “put pervert hangouts out of business by tomorrow.” But there was a hitch: Chief Headley was still out of town on vacation. As Evans told The Miami News, what he really meant to say that he would relay orders to Headley by tomorrow  — tomorrow now being today — to do something. Evans added that he didn’t intend to tell Headley how to do his job. “It’s a police matter,” he told the reporter.

Once Chief Headley got word of what was going on in Miami, he told The Miami News that he was somewhat hamstrung by the law. “We’ll redouble our efforts to harass the perverts,” he said, “but we’ve been working on that. We can’t put those places out of business unless someone passes a law that it’s illegal to serve homosexuals.”

Detective Benjamin Palmer backed his boss: “We go into these places about every night,” he told the reporter. “We make every customer stand up and give his name and address, which certainly doesn’t make them happy. If one of them looks even half drunk we throw him in jail, and charge the bar operator with serving drunks. It doesn’t seem to me there’s much more we can do.”

Palmer did offer one solution though: “Practically all of the homosexuals work in Miami. If people wouldn’t hire them, they’d go away.”

Today In History, 2009: Vermont’s Marriage Equality Law Goes Into Effect

Jim Burroway

September 1st, 2016

Bill Slimback and Bob Sullivan were married in one of a handful of midnight weddings in Vermont.

Bill Slimback and Bob Sullivan were married in one of a handful of midnight weddings in Vermont.

In 2000, Vermont made history when it became the first state in the U.S. to recognize same-sex marriages through a civil union law that was signed by Gov. Howard Dean. That first law came about after the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples were entitled to “the same benefits and protections afforded by Vermont law to married opposite-sex couples,” but the court stopped short of requiring the legislature provide marriage equality. Mary Bonauto, one of the lawyers who represented the couples suing the state, found the ruling strange. “They had this beautiful language in there about the humanity of gay people, but I couldn’t believe they had done something that I thought was a political judgment. I had never heard of segregating the word marriage from its rights and protections.”

Map, US, Marriage Timeline, Sept 1, 2009

Click to enlarge.

But for the next three years, civil unions were the best that same-sex couples could expect in the U.S., and Vermont was the only place they could get it until the Massachusetts Supreme Court ordered that state’s legislature to provide same-sex marriages in 2003. For the remainder of the decade, a number of states instituted domestic partnerships, civil unions, and full-on marriages, while Vermont went along with its civil unions.

Things changed in 2009, when the state Senate approved a marriage equality bill in a lopsided 26-4 vote, which drew a veto threat from Gov. Jim Douglas (R). The House approved the bill a week later in a vote that fell just shy of a veto-proof majority. But at least two of the Democratic House members who voted against the bill announced that they would switch their vote if the Governor vetoed the legislation. Douglas vetoed the bill, as promised. The Senate sailed through its override vote the next day, and the House followed through with the minimum 100-49 vote needed to reach the magic two-thirds mark. When law went into effect on September 1, Vermont became the fourth state to provide marriage equality for same-sex couples (New Hampshire’s law wouldn’t go into effect until the following January), and the first state to do it without being ordered to do so by a court.

Born On This Day, 1815: Emma Stebbins

Jim Burroway

September 1st, 2016

(d. 1882) If you’ve ever walked past the bronze statute of Horace Mann outside the State House in Boston, or paused to take in the refreshing sight of the Angel of the Waters fountain at Bethesday Terrace in Central Park, you’ve seen some of the more visible works by one of the first notable women sculptors in America. While those bronze works are her most visible, Stebbins’s greatest pleasure came from working with marble or clay, where she could work alone in her studio, undistracted from the hassles of working with patrons, foundries, and the general public. Born to a wealthy New York family, she took up painting and sculpting while in her twenties, and then moved to Rome in 1856 to study with sculptor Harriet Hosmer. That relationship quickly ended when both women competed for the affections of the famous actress Charlotte Cushman (Jul 23), who was also in Italy at the time. Stebbins won, and the two quickly became fixtures in lesbian circles in Europe.

Because women sculptors were something of a novelty, male critics charged that their works were actually products of their students or assistants. Hosner, in particular, came under that charge in 1863. Cushman confided to a friend that the controversy had driven Stemmins “almost wild.”

Marble bust of Charlotte Cushman by Emma Stebbins, 1859.

That she should be classed among those who would be believed to have their work done for them makes her too miserable, and to struggle along without the material help which all sculptors must have has become so entirely a necessity to her that she is assuming labor for which she has neither physical nor mental strength. … I never saw such crucifixion as Emma Stebbins. … because she cannot accept these helps and tries to shuffle on to do all her own work. I sometimes thing she ought not to do it and I should be doing right to take her away and not let her come back to it.

While Cushman worried about Stebbins’s health, it would be Cushman’s illness which would bring a pause to Stebbins’s career. When Cushman was being treated for breast cancer in 1869, Cushman set aside her work to nurse her lover. When Cushman died of pneumonia in 1876, Stebbens stopped working altogether. She later wrote, “I lived with the embodied principle of love so many years that it became a part of being and has grown intensive more and more since it was taken away form me, so much so, that I have an ever-present consciousness that her spirit is still suggesting to me the beautiful principle by which she loved and wrought.” In 1878, Stebbins published Charlotte Cushman: Her Letters and Memoires of Her Life. She died four years later at the age of 67.

[Source: Elizabeth Milroy. “The Public Career of Emma Stebbins: Work in Marble.” Archives of American Art Journal 33, no 3 (Fall 1993): 2-12.]

Born On This Day, 1868: Baron Adolf de Meyer

Jim Burroway

September 1st, 2016

(d. 1949) He was born in Paris and raised in Dresden, the son of a German Jewish father and a Scottish mother. Whether de Meyer was actually a baron was open to question; some say he inherited the title from his grandfather, others say that there’s no evidence to support his noble claims, others still maintained that he obtained his title by marrying, for convenience’s sake, Donna Olga Caracciolo, the divorced Italian god-daughter (some say daughter) of Edward VII.

Regardless, wherever the elite could be found, he was there, photographing such celebrities as Mari Pickford, John Barrymore, Lillian Gish, Vaslav Nijinsky, King George V and Queen Mary. He was named the first official fashion photographer for American Vogue in 1913 after appearing in Alfred Stieglitz’s quarterly Camera Work. In 1922, de Meyer became Harper’s Bazaar’s chief photographer in Paris until 1938, when he returned to the U.S. as war loomed in Europe. By then, his style was considered passé. When de Meyer died in Los Angeles in 1949, he was remembered more for his famous friends than for his photography, as relatively few of his original prints survived the war.

Born On This Day, 1939: Lily Tomlin

Jim Burroway

September 1st, 2016

She began her comedy career as a stand-up comedian in the 1960s when she quickly landed a spot on NBC’s Laugh-In. Her many memorable characters quickly became the stuff of pop culture: Ernestine, the nasal, nosy, and obnoxious telephone operator who epitomized the bureaucratic condescension of the old Ma Bell monopoly (“We don’t care, we don’t have to…we’re the phone company.”); Edith Ann, the five year old girl sitting in an oversized rocker with her observations of the crazy crap the adults around her were pulling (and always ending her monologues with “…and that’s the truth. Phhhht!”); And Mrs. Judith Beasley, the prim and proper “tasteful lady.” In 1977, she became the first woman to appear solo on Broadway with Appearing Nitely, and in 1985, she starred in another one-woman Broadway show, The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, written by her long-time partner, writer-producer Jane Wagner. In 1980, Tomlin appeared in the hit movie Nine to Five, with Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, and Dabney Coleman, and she hit movie pay dirt again in All of Me with Steve Martin.

Tomlin and Wagner have been together since 1971, and while their relationship was never much of a secret, the press remained pretty mum. When Tomlin officially came out in 2001, it hardly seemed necessary. “Everybody in the industry was certainly aware of my sexuality and of Jane… In interviews I always reference Jane and talk about Jane, but they don’t always write about it.” After the upreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and reversed California’s Prop 8 in 2013, she and Wagner are thinking about tying the knot. “You don’t really need to get married, but marriage is awfully nice,” Tomlin said. Indeed, it is. They married on New Year’s Eve of that year.

Born On This Day, 1976: Babydaddy

Jim Burroway

September 1st, 2016

Babydaddy

40 YEARS AGO: The future guitarist, keyboardist and backing vocalist for Scissor Sisters was just Scott Hoffman when he graduated from Henry Clay High School in Lexington, Kentucky. Through a mutual friend, Hoffman met Jake Sellards while Sellards was passing through and visiting a former classmate. Hoffman and Sellards hit it off and they moved to New York a year later. Hoffman attended Columbia University to study writing and music production, specializing in dance music. He and Sellards took stage names — Babydaddy and Jake Shears respectively — and became the first two members of Dead Lesbian, then Fibrillating Scissor Sisters, then just Scissor Sisters.

Babydaddy is the multi-instrumentalist of the group, playing keyboards, bass and rhythm guitar, banjo and saxophone. He’s not only the bear of the band, but he and Shears are the main lyricists. They also wrote “I Believe in You” and “White Diamond” for Kylie Minogue. In 2012, Scissor Sisters released their last album, Magic Hour and went on a world tour. In October of 2012 at a gig in North London, the Sisters announced that they would be taking an indefinite hiatus.

Today’s Agenda Is Brought To You By…

Jim Burroway

August 31st, 2016

From David (Jacksonville, FL), July 1974, page 42.

From David (Jacksonville, FL), July 1974, page 42.

David, a glossy gay magazine from Jacksonville, covered the Miss Gay Florida Pageant for 1972-73:

(Click to enlarge)

From David, May 1972, page 26. (Click to enlarge)

The rains came down in Miami that day, but spirits were high for the MISS GAY FLORIDA, 1972-73 Contest held by KEITH’S CRUISE ROOM and by the AMBASSADOR III.

Billie Boots, as usual, did a splendid job of emceeing, and he never looked better. His long blond hair cascaded down to his shoulders and he changed outfits enough to make Loretta Young, Doris Day and Julie Andrews appear to have a limited wardrobe

Entertainment was provided ably by Tubby Boots and Tanny Roman.

While waiting for the contest to begin, Tubby proceeded to place the audience in a tremendous mood with his impersonations ofthe very funny Paul Lynd [sic], the inimitable Miss Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and even Moms Mably, sans teeth.

The talent in the contest itself was excellent in many cases. Three of the contestants skillfully twirled their batons; Three more danced their hearts out (two of them did tap dances; and another contestant used his own voice.

Walking away with the title of MISS Florida was the very pretty Tricia Marie, sponsored by PEACHES BACK DOOR in Atlanta. She won with a very tearful version of “With Pen in Hand”.

Today In History, 1954: Miami’s Mayor Grows Impatient Over “Deviates”

Jim Burroway

August 31st, 2016

Miami Mayor Abe Aronovitz

Miami Mayor Abe Aronovitz

Five days had passed since  Miami Mayor Abe Aronovitz went on the radio to blast city manager E.A. Evans and police chief Walter Headley for failing to drive all of the homosexuals out of town (Aug 26). Never mind that both Evans and Headley themselves were out of town on vacation when Aronovitz took to the airwaves. But both of Miami’s daily newspapers were pressing for action against the gay community ever since the murder of an Eastern Airlines flight attendant (Aug 3) and the subsequent discovery, according to the papers, of “a colony of some 500 male homosexuals, congregated mostly in the near-downtown northeast section and ruled by a ‘queen’.” The papers demanded that steps be taken to drive the gay community out of town and Miami’s “Powder Puff Lane” closed for good. It didn’t help matters that, in contrast to the aggressive raids staged by the Miami Beach police department and the Dade County Sheriff’s office,  Miami’s police chief’s policy of allowing a handful of bars operate in one centralized location to make it easier to “keep an eye on them” had earned the praises of ONE magazine earlier that year. Eight months later, the city’s papers were throwing ONE’s praises back in the city’s faces, and Aronovitz was feeling the heat.

So now that Evans was back (Headley was still on vacation), Aronovitz called Evans on the carpet and threatened to introduce a resolution in city council for his dismissal if the city manager failed to get rid of the city’s known gay bars. The mayor demanded that homosexuals be prevented from congregating in the bars, but he said it wanted it done within the existing legal framework and without violating anyone’s constitutional rights. Clearly, these instructions were impossibly contradictory, and Evans asked the mayor for instructions on how to accomplish this. “You are the director of public safety,” Aronovitz replied. “This is a law enforcement matter.” Evans, who was clearly feeling the heat, promised to get right on it and “put pervert hangouts out of business by tomorrow.”

Born On This Day, 1977: Del Marquis

Jim Burroway

August 31st, 2016

Del Marquis

Jake Sheers had already formed Scissor Sisters when they were looking for a guitarist, and the guy Jake was dating had a friend who was looking for the gig. Derek Gruen answered the call, adopted the stage name of Del Marquis, and the rest of history. Scissor Sisters went on to fame on the strength of their cover of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.” That was followed by their own string of hits in 2004 which did well mainly on the British charts, but their popularity in the U.S. was blunted by Wal-Mart’s refusal to stock their eponymous debut album. They objected to the single “Tits On the Radio,” which they called a “snarling, swaggering attack on conservatism.” Which Wal-Mart took as a Very Bad Thing from which their bargain-hunting customers needed protection. The band refused to record a “clean” version. Since 2008, Del Marquis began releasing his own solo material, which you can hear on his web site. In 2012, Scissor Sisters released their latest album, Magic Hour, and they promptly went on a world tour. In October of that year, while performing in North London, the Sisters announced that they would be taking an indefinite hiatus.

Today’s Agenda Is Brought To You By…

Jim Burroway

August 30th, 2016

From Michael's Thing (New York, NY), August 30, 1976, page 35.

From Michael’s Thing (New York, NY), August 30, 1976, page 35.

The former cabaret in New York’s West Village is now a high-end Italian restaurant.

Today In History, 1956: The Adjustment of Male Overt Homosexuals

Jim Burroway

August 30th, 2016

Dr. Evelyn Hooker

60 YEARS AGO: As the annual American Psychological Association Convention got underway in Chicago, the body heard UCLA’s Dr. Evelyn Hooker read a paper which, over time, would shake the foundation of the mental health professions’ collective insistence that homosexuality was a mental disorder. Psychiatry’s opinion of homosexuality was both clear and curt: the first edition of the Diagnostics and Statistics Manual (DSM), which defined mental illnesses for the American Psychiatric Association, defined “Sexual Deviation” as a Sociopathic Personality Disturbance, and included “pathologic behavior, such as homosexuality, transvestism, pedophilia, fetishism and sexual sadism (including rape, sexual assault, mutilation).” The APA’s dim view of homosexuality was, at that time, backed up with more than a half-century’s worth of serious study of the subject. Unfortunately, all of those series studies were of those exhibiting homosexual behavior in prisons and reform schools or among psychiatric patients, many of whom also suffered other mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. Until 1956, not one paper or research project looked systematically at gay men and women who were living contented and productive lives. As far as the mental health professions were concerned, such people didn’t exist, mainly because the vast majority of the so-called experts had never seen them (at least, that they knew of).

But Dr. Hooker had an altogether different view of gay people. As a research assistant at UCLA’s psychology department, Hooker’s social circle had already widened to include a number of prominent gay people in Los Angeles (Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy were neighbors) and a student in her classroom, who challenged her: “We have let you see us as we are, and now, it is your scientific duty to make a study of people like us.”

Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s Red and Lavender scares were still fresh in everyone’s memory. So when Hooker applied for a grant with the National Institute of Mental Health, her chances of getting funding was considered a long shot. An NIMH representative personally flew to L.A. to make sure she was legitimate (and not a lesbian). Finding backing for her project at UCLA was similarly challenging. When she met with the chair of the Psychiatry Department to discuss her proposed study of “normal male homosexuals,” he rose from his desk and said, “What do you think you are doing? There is no such person.” He referred her to another colleague to review her proposal. His reaction was similar, but more positive. “I have never seen such persons, but I sure would like to.”

After winning the NIMH grant (miraculously, she later said, given the subject matter), she began assembling a group of thirty gay men who had never been in therapy or in trouble with the law, through contacts with the Mattachine Society, the staff of ONE magazine, and through her own social circle. Finding thirty gay men willing to participate during the McCarthy era proved exceptionally difficult. As she later recalled in 1992:

It will be obvious to you that the absolute sine qua non of research into behavior thought to be “a sin, a crime, and a disease” is confidentiality. …The triple stigma was never far from the minds of the men whom I came to know nor was it far from mine. …Building confidentiality with the gay community at that time was not an easy task. I could not lightly, if at all, share these confidences with another. Informal applications to be a coinvestigator were numerous, but I continued to work alone until the data gathering phase was complete. …I hasten to make clear that, when I characterize conducting research with gay men as stressful, I am only referring to the McCarthy era when the penalties were barbaric.

She also found thirty straight men with whom she could painstakingly match to the gay men according to age, education, and IQ. Once she assembled her study samples, she administered three psychological tests: the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), which was used to provide information about a subject’s views of the self, the world, and interpersonal relationships; the Make-A-Picture-Story (MAPS), in which subjects were asked to describe a story based on cut-out figures they selected and placed in a setting; and the Rorschach test, in which subjects are asked to identify what they saw in a series of abstract inkblots. All three tests were popular methods in the 1950s for assessing personality and mental disorders — and they were used particularly for diagnosing homosexuality. But rather than assessing the test results herself — after all, she knew who was gay and who wasn’t — she turned them over to a panel of three judges, each of them known experts in each of the tests. (One of the examiners was Edwin Shneidman, who was the creator of the MAPS test.)

To everyone’s surprise, none of them could find any differences between the members of the study. In other words, all of those supposedly mentally-ill homosexuals in her study — and remember, the APA said that all homosexuals were mentally ill — all of those supposedly mentally-ill homosexuals were indistinguishable from their not-mentally-ill heterosexual counterparts. As Hooker wrote in her groundbreaking paper:

As a judge compared the matched protocols, he would frequently comment, “There are no clues;” or, “These are so similar that you are out to skin us alive;” or, “It is a forced choice;” or, “I just have to guess.” The difficulty of the task was reflected not only in the comments of the judges but also in the results. Judge “A” correctly identified 17 of the 30 pairs, and Judge “B” 18 of the 30. Thus neither judge was able to do better than chance. In seven pairs both judges were incorrect, that is, identifying the homosexual as the heterosexual, and vice versa; in twelve pairs, correct; and in the remaining eleven they disagreed.

The degree to which the judges disagreed or got their diagnoses wrong was very entertaining. Man #16, depending on the judge and the test he was evaluating, was identified as a “strong, superior and wise” straight man, and by another as “the most heterosexual-looking homosexual I have ever seen.” A judge said of Man #50, “Except for a little too much emphasis on conquest in heterosexual relations, he is well adjusted and smooth.” Both men were gay.

When she presented the results of the study to the APA in Chicago, the findings came under withering criticism. Some criticized her for studying members of homophile groups who were probably were better adjusted than those who weren’t. Others criticized her for relying on such a small sample. But to Hooker, those  criticisms actually supported the very point she was making:

But would we not, in this case, be dealing with a different question, namely, “How many homosexuals, as compared with heterosexuals, are average or better in adjustment, and how many were worse than average?” It seems to me that for the present investigation the question is whether homosexuality is necessarily a symptom of pathology. All we need is a single case in which the answer is negative.

Her paper, “Adjustment of the Male Overt Homosexual,” was published the following March in the Journal of Projective Techniques and Personality Assessment, and she would follow that with a number of other follow-up papers reinforcing these findings. In 1972, Dr. Marvin Siegelman of City College of New York used similar methods and a larger study sample of men — and women — and found results nearly identical to Hooker’s study of gay men. Meanwhile, Hooker had chaired the NIMH Task Force on Homosexuality in 1967, which recommended the decriminalization of homosexuality and its removal from the APA’s list of mental disorders. But the APA would not act on that recommendation until 1973, and it would take another thirty years before the U.S. Supreme Court would finally release gay men and women from the threat of imprisonment.

[Sources: Evelyn Hooker. “The adjustment of the male overt homosexual.” Journal of Projective Techniques and Personality Assessment 21, no. 1 (March 1957): 18-31.

Evenly Hooker. “Reflections of a 40-year exploration: A scientific view on homosexuality.” American Psychologist 48, no. 4 (April 1993): 450-453.

Marvin Siegelman. “Adjustment of homosexual and heterosexual women.” British Journal of Psychiatry 120, no. 558 (May 1972): 477-481.

Marvin Siegelman. “Adjustment of male homosexuals and heterosexuals.” Archives of Sexual Behavior 2, no. 1 (June 1972): 9-25.]

Federal Judge Blocks UNC From Enforcing North Carolina’s “Bathroom Bill”

Jim Burroway

August 29th, 2016

UNCThe University of North Carolina is barred from enforcing the portion of North Carolina’s HB2 which would require transgender people to use public restrooms based on the gender marked on their birth certificates:

U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, issued the 83-page injunction late Friday on the basis the law, House Bill 2, likely violates Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

“The University of North Carolina, its officers, agents, servants, employees, and attorneys, and all other persons acting in concert or participation with them are hereby enjoined from enforcing Part I of HB2 against the individual transgender plaintiffs until further order of the court,” Schroeder writes.

However, Schroeder writes plaintiffs in the case “have not made a clear showing” they’re likely to succeed in their challenge against the law on the basis it violates the right to equal protection under the U.S. Constitution. Further, the court, Schoroder writes, will reserve ruling on due process claims pending further briefing from the parties.

The judge based his injunction on a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals case involving Gavin Grimm, a transgender student who is suing his Virginia school district for preventing him from using male rest rooms. That decision was stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court pending an expected an appeal to the high court.

UNC had already said that they would not be enforcing HB2 on campus, and would comply with the injunction. The full trial  is set for November 14.

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