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Kim’s new t-shirt

Timothy Kincaid

September 9th, 2015

It’s pretty easy to confuse the Rowan County Circuit Court Clerk and the Rowan County Clerk. One keeps track of criminal and civil filings and the other issues licenses, but most people wouldn’t know the difference.

For Kim Tabor, this hasn’t been a happy confusion. Tabor works for the Circuit Court Clerk and has been on the receiving end of a number of people who called and asked for Kim, thinking that they were reaching the County Clerk.

So what do you do when your name is Kim and you work for the Rowan County Circuit Court Clerk? You do this:

not kim davis

Kim Davis ordered released

Timothy Kincaid

September 8th, 2015


U.S. District Judge David Bunning issued an order Tuesday saying Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis shall be released from Carter County jail.

The judge’s order, filed Tuesday in U.S. District, says Davis shall not interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples.

Bunning is requiring the clerks to file a status report with him to confirm that they are remaining in compliance. Should Davis interfere with them in any way, she will be sanctioned again.

The Huckabee rally is set to start shortly. It will be interesting to see how Davis/Staver/Huckabee will spin this latest twist. I suspect that we’ll hear about ‘the power of prayer’ and how this is a victory. But it’s difficult to see anything but defeat in this for Kim Davis.

Of course, she may declare that she’ll stop the licenses again and the circus may go on.

Meanwhile, a Rasmussen poll suggests that Davis only has support from about 26% of likely voters.

Huckabee keeps children from school today

Timothy Kincaid

September 8th, 2015

East Carter County High, East Carter Middle School and some east side elementary schools will not be open due to the expected congestion caused by the rally and the appearance of Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who is coming to visit Kim Davis in jail.

Davis’ martyrdom act not selling well

Timothy Kincaid

September 7th, 2015

Kim Davis

Mat Staver and Kim Davis no doubt believe that they have achieved the perfect situation. Kim Davis has been thrown in jail like Paul and Silas for her Christian faith. Homosexuals and liberals are showing themselves to be the tyrants that they are and are engaging in full on war against Christians.

But this narrative isn’t playing as well as they might like.

Anti-gay activists are pointing at certain GOP presidential pretenders as indication of support. And Democratic activists are doing the same to suggest that the Republican Party is comprised entirely of homophobic lunatics. But the reality is something quite else.

Certainly some wild-eyed firebrands like Mike Huckabee have rushed to her defense, planning a rally and fundraising on Davis’ plight. Others such as Cruz, Santorum, and Jindal have also weighed in as being in support of Davis and Rand Paul seems completely confused. But for most, the response is more nuanced.

The GOP candidates have expressed some level of dismay that Davis is in jail along with their general disagreement with the Obergefell ruling. But for many of them, their frustration is in no small part with Davis and her refusal to find a solution.

Jeb Bush

“She is sworn to uphold the law, and it seems to me that there ought to be common ground, there ought to be big enough space for her to act on her conscience and — now that the law is the law of the land — for a gay couple to be married in whatever jurisdiction that is,” Bush told reporters in New Hampshire.

Donald Trump

“You have to go with it. The decision’s been made, and that is the law of the land,” the real estate mogul said Friday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“I would say the simple answer is let her clerks do it,” he said. “Now from what I understand she’s not letting the clerks do it either. The other simple answer is rather than going through this — because it’s really a very, very sticky situation and terrible situation — 30 miles away they have other places, they have many other places where you get licensed. And you have them actually quite nearby, that’s another alternative.”

Carly Fiorina

“And, while I disagree with this court’s decision, their actions are clear,” Fiorina said. “And so I think in this particular case, this woman now needs to make a decision of conscience — is she prepared to continue to work for the government, be paid for by the government in which case she needs to execute the government’s will, or does she feel so strongly about this that she wants to sever her employment with the government and go seek employment elsewhere where her religious liberties will be paramount over her duties as a government employee?”

John Kasich

Even though Davis personally opposes same-sex marriage, she’s a government employee, Kasich told ABC’s This Week on Sunday.

“She’s not running a church. I wouldn’t force this on a church, but in terms of her responsibility, I think she has to comply,” said Kasich, Ohio governor and a GOP presidential candidate. He doesn’t think she should sit in jail, he said, but “I think she should follow the law.”

Lindsey Graham

As a public official, comply with the law or resign.

“The rule of law is the rule of law. We are a rule of law nation.

“I appreciate her conviction, I support traditional marriage, but she’s accepted a job in which she has to apply the law to everyone.”

I think that there are several reasons why Davis’ jailing isn’t getting the expected universal condemnation from Republicans and conservatives.

First is Davis herself. Due to her faith, she dresses plainly and avoids makeup. And while on some, that can come across as sweet-faced and innocent, Davis’ simply looks dowdy. Davis also expresses her sense of entitlement and petty authority in her expressions, giving the impression of sourness and anger. She is not nearly so sympathetic a character as we have previously seen in bakers, photographers, and venue suppliers.

Running a close second is her counsel. They are accustomed to making outlandish and absurd statements to those who share their extreme views and who willingly believe their wild assertions. But when that is trotted out in front of the general public, it sounds like the ranting of lunatics. Insisting that the licenses being issued are void and worthless (though Kentucky law allows for deputy clerk authorization) or declaring that the Supreme Court doesn’t have constitutional authority to rule on issues relating to constitutional interpretation makes Mat Staver appear, as a Fox News panel put it, “ridiculously stupid”.

Also contributing to the lack of respect for Davis may be a current dissatisfaction with petty bureaucrats and never ending regulation. Irrespective of whether one thinks that marriage should be equal, this story seems more indicative of governmental meddling than it does of individual victimhood. It’s easy to pity a baker who is being forced by faceless administrators to bake a cake, but Davis is on the other side of that equation, refusing to engage with her customers and with reporters and autocratically forbidding her staff from serving the public.

We should also consider that Americans are tired of the debate. The question of the legality of same-sex marriage had placed strain on families and friendships and even on personal beliefs as ancient moral codes warred with genuine affection for gay people. And when the Supreme Court found for gay marriage, most of those who were not favorable of that decision were, nevertheless, glad that there had finally been a decision and they could move on. By bringing up again what was believed to be finalized, Davis irritated those who were becoming comfortable with the new reality.

Finally, this situation is not one which could not have found a solution. Davis was given the opportunity to find a win-win by allowing her deputies to issue marriage licenses. This would have allowed everyone to feel good about Davis standing for her beliefs but not standing in the way of others. And when she rejected that offer demanding that she be allowed to block marriage licenses in the county for everyone based solely on her personal beliefs, she was the one who seemed unfair and unkind.

Certainly the gadflies and the extremists and the professionally butthurt will beat this horse for long after it has breathed its last whinney. But the public, including much of the right of center, has not rallied around her nor found in Kim Davis a cause.

Just how batpoop crazy David Barton really is

Timothy Kincaid

September 4th, 2015

I mostly ignore Christian “historian” David Barton. His assertions about the founding of the country, its founders, and their intent is almost without exception unfounded. Frequently they are baldfaced lies.

But just as an example of how completely nutcase are his assertions, listen to him tell Glen Beck the difference between a democracy and a republic. I can’t figure out how to post this video, so go listen here.

Sadly, people listen to this and instead of saying, “that’s complete nonsense”, they think he’s telling them some great truth that the media and the liberals are trying to hide from them.

Marriage comes to Rowan County, Kentucky

Timothy Kincaid

September 4th, 2015

James Yates and William Smith Jr. paid $35.50 and filled out paperwork early Friday to become the first couple to get a marriage license in Rowan County since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage June 26. Another couple soon followed.

With Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis in jail on civil contempt charges for defying a judge’s order to resume issuing licenses, deputy clerk Brian Mason ended the office’s two-month license ban by politely serving Yates and Smith on Friday, even congratulating them and shaking their hands afterward.

As for Kim Davis, she sits in jail. Where she will remain, I suppose, until she promises not to interfere in the issuance of marriage licenses by her staff.

After today the cameras will leave. Public services are now being issued in a manner that is equal under the law and daily life will resume in Rowan County.

Mike Huckabee and Brian Brown and others of their ilk will continue to rally and to point and scream, “they’re persecuting Christians” and some small segment of society will stay all worked up over this for a while. But the public has moved on and the professionally butthurt will soon find another ‘victim’ to champion.

And eventually Kim Davis will tire of her cell and decide that since she can’t prohibit gay people from marrying, she might as well stop being a martyr. Once the spotlight is off, jail isn’t much fun. And the small blip in the local press indicating some ‘compromise’ of some sort and Kim’s release will be the last of this story.

Judge to clerk’s office: issue licenses or join Davis in jail

Timothy Kincaid

September 3rd, 2015

The circus isn’t over


The judge also told all five of the clerk’s deputies, including her son, Nathan Davis, that they are free to issue licenses to all applicants while Davis is held in contempt, but would also face fines or jail if they refuse to comply. He told them to meet with lawyers briefly and consider their fates before returning to his courtroom later Thursday to reveal their decisions.

It appears that five of the six deputies said they are fine with issuing marriage licenses.


After deputies indicated willingness to issue licenses, Judge Bunning called Davis back to court. She refused, but spoke through her counsel.

She refused to allow her deputies to perform their duties according to their own values and religious beliefs. Only Davis’ religious freedom matters, not that of her deputies.

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The Daily Agenda for Friday, September 11

Jim Burroway

September 11th, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Athens, GA; Benidorm, Spain; Burlington, VT; Chula Vista, CA; Humboldt/Eureka, CA; Idaho Falls, ID; Oakland, CA; Roanoke, VA; Savannah, GA; Spartanburg, SC; Torquay, UK; Worcester, MA.

Other Events This Weekend: Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival, Austin, TX; Folsom Europe, Berlin, Germany; Out in the Park at Six Flags Great America, Chicago, IL; Pride Night Kings Island, Cincinnati, OH (Friday Night Only); AIDS Walk, Ft. McMurray, AB; Gay Day at Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, NJ; Womenfest, Key West, FL; Gay Days, Las Vegas, NV; Best Buck In the Bay Rodeo, San Francisco, CA; Sitges Bears Week, Sitges, Spain.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Michelle International Souvenir Program, 1962. Available online here.

From the Michelle International Souvenir Program, 1962. (Source.)

San Francisco’s Club Dori didn’t start out as a gay bar when it first opened in 1961, but it quickly became one when Doris “Dori” Jennings realized that the city’s gay population was largely educated, professional, very sociable, and often had disposable income. Club Dori quickly became one of San Francisco’s most popular gay bars:

Tucked away on Presidio Avenue near California Street in the shadow of the old Jewish Community Center, Club Dori was one of the city’s first neighborhood oases of its kind for discreet, upscale, professional homosexuals. Within a year or two after it opened its doors to the gay community in the mid-sixties, it was the “in” place where gay men could walk in the front door and come out of the closet for a few hours. Men whose careers would be jeopardized by exposure of their sexual preference — city officials, legislators, attorneys, bankers, stockbrokers, doctors and TV anchors, among others — flocked to Club Dori. …Scores of men who were revered for their contributions to the mainstream world, yet were still society’s outcasts for their clandestine personal lives, found refuge and respect at Club Dori. Over time, Dori herself became the “queen mother” to a generation of young gay men who blazed the way for a citywide coming out party during the liberalized 1960s and 1970s.

Dr. Karl Bowman explaining Kinsey’s 1948 study on KQED’s “The Rejected.”

 KQED Airs “The Rejected”: 1961. The year was a monumental one as American opened itself to the modern world in ways that it hadn’t done before. The youngest elected president in history had just taken the oath of office, succeeding the oldest president then in history, Hollywood was about to relax its ban on overt displays of homosexuality (see Oct 3), and Jess Stearn’s book, The Sixth Man, provided the sensational claim that one in six men in America was “affected” by homosexuality. KQED, San Francisco’s public television station, had a reputation for tackling controversial subjects, and now the time was ripe to tackle what was perhaps one of the most controversial topics of all.

The idea for a documentary on homosexuality came to John W. Reavis, Jr., who spent several months researching and conducting background interviews with experts with backgrounds in medicine, anthropology, religion, law, government and business. He also sought the participation of members of the Mattachine Society. Initially titled “The Gay Ones,” Reavis tried to sell the documentary to the major networks. But finding no backers there, Reavis found a ready reception with KQED’s co-founder Jonathan Rice and general manager James Day.

Over the objections of one of the board members who threatened to resign, Reavis’s documentary project, now renamed “The Rejected,” went forward with a $100 budget and filmed segments featuring interviews anthropologist Margaret Mead (her own lesbianism wasn’t revealed at that time) and Mattachine members Hall Call (see Sep 20), Don Lucas and Les Fisher, who spoke openly as gay men. Episcopal Bishop James Pike spoke of gay people as being just like “anyone else with an illness,” deserving compassion and care. San Francisco psychiatrist Karl Bowman countered the suggestion that homosexuality was an illness, let alone a curable one. “The attitudes of some people is to try to treat it in an entirely punitive way,” he said. Albert Bendich, a lawyer and former ACLU attorney called statutes seeking to outlaw same-sex conduct “not enforceable.”

Mattachine Society executive director Howard Call and secretary Don Lucas, during a filmed interview for “The Rejected.”

Call explained that part of his group’s aims was “to dispel part of this stereotyped picture” and to change the law against homosexuality. Reavis shared the goal of dispelling stereotypes, carefully constructing the program to establish a gay stereotype in the minds of viewers and then methodically destroying that stereotype. According to Reavis’s original proposal for the documentary, “the viewer should be left, if anything, with a feeling he is confused and that society as a whole is confused about homosexuality.” One brief segment was even filmed at San Francisco’s famed Black Cat bar (see Aug 28)

The hour-long documentary aired at 9:30 p.m. on Monday, September 11. Typical of most programs about homosexuality, “The Rejected” did not include lesbians. But it was perhaps the first scripted documentary to discuss homosexuality from a calm and rational point of view. Response was mostly positive. KQED was inundated with letters following the broadcast, with many of them requests for transcripts. Only a tiny minority, 3% according to station officials, wrote to complain. “The Rejected” also received critical acclaim, with the San Francisco Chronicle saying “KQED handled the subject soberly, calmly and in great depth.” It also received national notice, and was broadcast on several other public TV stations between 1961 and 1963, including in Tucson, Los Angeles, Portland and New York.

For the next five decades, it was thought that the video tape of the documentary was lost, leaving only only transcripts and news reports to describe the program. After a six year search through film and video archives, an archivist for the San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive was finally able to locate a sixty-minute version of “The Rejected” deep in the bowels of the Library of Congress. The video tape was in awful shape. This year, a cleaned-up and partially-restored version was posted amid great celebration at the San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive and on YouTube. The search continues for a longer version — 120 minute, 89 minute, and 74 minute versions were created. One of those linger versions may include those scenes from inside the Black Cat.

[Sources: Edward Alwood. Straight News: Gays, Lesbians and the News Media (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996): 41-42.

Bob Connelly. “A television coming out story from 1961.” The Advocate (September 21, 2011): available online.

Stephen Tropiano. The Prime Time Closet: A History of Gays and Lesbians on TV (New York: Applause Theater and Cinema, 2002): 5-7.]

 Marc-André Raffalovich: 1864-1934. Born in Paris to Russian Jewish emigrés, Raffalovoch studied in Oxford and settled in London in 1882, where he opened a salon in the 1890s. It seemed only natural for him; his mother kept a successful salon in Paris, attracting such notable figures as Sarah Bernardt, Colette, and Gustave Moreay. But Oscar Wilde found the younger Raffalovich’s events wanting. “Dear André! He came to London to found a salon and only succeeded in opening a saloon.” Raffalovich, in turn, was uncomfortable with what he took to be Wilde’s wild sexuality.

Raffalovich published several works poetry and fiction between 1884 and 1896, but few were notable except for their omission of gender when describing the object of his desires. Non-fiction was where Raffalovich made his reputation. In 1896, he published Uranisme et Unisexualité, which established him as an expert on homosexuality. It is also where Raffalovich laid out his argument that homosexuality was only pure and noble when practiced by a “sublime invert” — who fulfills his desires not through his sexuality but through artistic endeavors and spiritual friendships. This naturally put him on a collision course with other gay advocates such as Edward Carpenter and Magnus Hirschfeld, the latter who Raffalovich accused of advocating for moral decline and the destruction of whole generations. In 1897, Raffalovich started work in  Annales de l’unisexualité, and Les Chroniques de l’unisexualité, in which he embarked on an ambitious effort to document everything ever published about homosexuality. These works remain useful to historians to this day, and they remain perhaps his most important work.

But soon after, Raffalovich turned away from the subject. In 1892, he met John Gray (See Mar 2), a young poet in Oscar Wilde’s circle of friends (some say Gray was the inspiration for Dorian Gray). Raffalovich followed Gray into Catholicism, and after Gray was ordained a priest and assigned to a parish in Edinburgh, Raffalovich followed him there, too, purchasing a home nearby and provided important financial support for the parish. Raffalovich established another salon there where guests included novelist Henry James, art scholar Herbert Read, and sculptor Aelred Whitacre. Raffalovich and Gray maintained separate homes, but their friendship was known as something more than that of “just friends,” despite being very formal with each other in public. When Raffalovich died suddenly in 1934, Gray was devastated. He became ill and died just four months later.

 Kristy McNichol: 1962. Born and raised in L.A., she got her start in acting with the help of family friend Desi Arnaz. In 1976, she was cast for the part of Buddy Lawrence for the ABC drama series Family, which was one of those oh-so-earnest “real life issues” dramas that often made 1970s television so unwatchable. McNichol’s Buddy (in my opinion) was perhaps the only thing that made the program bearable, for which she earned two Emmys for Best Supporting Actress. (There must have been something in the water on the Family set; the program also featured Meredith Baxter (see Jun 21).) It helped that her off-screen personality was as engaging as her acting skills, making her a popular guest on talk shows and Battle of the Network Stars. She began her film career in 1978 in The End, starring Burt Reynolds, before moving on to more notable turns in 1980’s Little Darlings and 1981’s The Nights the Lights Went Out in Georgia. She also earned a Golden Globe nomination for her role in Neil Simon’s Only When I Laugh.

It looked as though McNichol was going to be one of those rare child stars to successfully navigate the treacherous transition to adult acting, when her behavior become erratic and her attendance on sets unreliable. Rumors swirled that she was using drugs, but it turns out that she was actually suffering from bipolar disorder. When she was diagnosed in 1992, she decided to retire from acting. Since then, she’s been teaching acting at a private school in L.A., and she’s been active in local charity work. In 2012, she surprised almost no one when she decided to come out as a lesbian after reading about several suicides of LGBT teens.

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 Thursday, September 10

Jim Burroway

September 10th, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Athens, GA; Benidorm, Spain; Burlington, VT; Chula Vista, CA; Humboldt/Eureka, CA; Idaho Falls, ID; Oakland, CA; Roanoke, VA; Savannah, GA; Spartanburg, SC; Torquay, UK; Worcester, MA.

Other Events This Weekend: Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival, Austin, TX; Folsom Europe, Berlin, Germany; Out in the Park at Six Flags Great America, Chicago, IL; Pride Night Kings Island, Cincinnati, OH (Friday Night Only); AIDS Walk, Ft. McMurray, AB; Gay Day at Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, NJ; Womenfest, Key West, FL; Gay Days, Las Vegas, NV; Best Buck In the Bay Rodeo, San Francisco, CA; Sitges Bears Week, Sitges, Spain.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From David, May 1972, page 49.

From David, May 1972, page 49.

The Sweet Gum Head opened in November 1971 and became one of Atlanta’s most popular bars and dance clubs. It’s legendary drag shows and contests helped to make Atlanta one of the leading cities for drag performers in America. In its later years, the Sweet Gum Head’s reputation for having some of the country’s best drag acts made it a popular stop for straight tourists as well. It’s also where puppeteer/ventriloquist Wayland Flowers got his start. As far as I can tell, the Sweet Gum Head lasted about ten years or so before closing down. Until very recently, the location was home to Bliss, a strip club tucked behind a Precision Tune.

Atlanta Eagle

 Atlanta Police Raid The Eagle: 2009. More than forty years after Stonewall, and a few police departments still hadn’t gotten the word that raiding gay bars with impunity was so last century. Only three months after Ft. Worth police raided the Rainbow Lounge (see Jun 28), at least nine undercover Atlanta police officers entered the Atlanta Eagle posing as customers, allegedly for the purpose of conducting a criminal investigation. It was underwear night at the Eagle, and four dancers and some of the patrons were there wearing garments that covered about as much of their bodies as would be seen on most beaches and city pools. At around 11:00 p.m., the undercover officers signaled for a full raid to begin. At least twelve officers burst in for a SWAT-style raid with guns drawn and ordered everyone down on the floor. For the next two hours, patrons were forced to lay face down amid spilled beer and broken glass as police checked everyone’s ID — without a warrant — entered everyone’s name into a police computer, and hurled general insults to everyone in the bar: “You people make me sick.” “I hate fags.” “This is fun; we should do this every week.” Questions were answered with “Shut the fuck up!”

Eight employees were arrested and jailed for “providing adult entertainment without a city permit.” Dancing in underwear was the “adult entertainment.” They were detailed well until the following afternoon when two Atlanta City Council candidates intervened. Police claimed that they were acting on complaints of “illicit sex” at the Eagle, although no one was charged for that crime. Police at other times claimed that drugs were being sold, although no drugs were found on anyone there. Meanwhile, the APD’s LGBT Liaison Officer was kept completely out of the loop. She didn’t know the raid was taking place until she was contacted by the media, and nearly twenty-four hours later she still didn’t have access to basic information such as how many officers were on the scene or who was arrested on what charges.

The following month, the Atlanta Eagle and several patrons filed a lawsuit against the city of Atlanta, the Chief of Police, and forty-eight officers of the Atlanta Police Department. Greg Nevins of Lambda Legal, who filed the lawsuit on the Eagle’s behalf, said, “If it is APD procedure for elderly men and wounded veterans to be thrown to the floor and harassed simply for being in a bar having a drink after work, then the APD should change its procedures.” The following March, the staff and dancers who had been arrested were found not guilty, in proceedings that only added to the pressure against the city and police department.

In response to growing public outrage over the raid, the Atlanta City Council commissioned a special outside investigation. In June of 2010, the 343-page report found widespread perjury by police officers in sworn testimony and in affidavits about what happened that night. Ten individual officers were identified by name for lying. Other violations found included destruction of evidence, unlawful search and seizure, false imprisonment, intentional violation of constitutional rights, and anti-gay discrimination.

One officer justified the police’s strong-armed tactics by claiming that gay people were unusually violent. “In the past I have as a patrol officer handled calls where there are gay couples living in residence where one is mad at the other, and they slash clothes, furniture, anything they can do. They’re very violent.” When asked if he thought that the gay community was more violent than other groups, that officer responded, “My experience, yes.” Another officer voiced similar sentiments: “Seeing another man have sex with another man in the ass, I would classify that as very violent.” The city of Atlanta paid $1,025,000 to settle the lawsuit, re-vamped their policies, fired six officers and disciplined nine others. Two of the fired officers quickly found new jobs as Deputies with the suburban Clayton County Sheriff’s office. “The upside is that the citizens of Clayton County get some of the finest-trained, most experienced officers,” Sheriff Kem Kimbrough told a reporter.

Karl Lagerfeld: 1933. Opinions. The outspoken fashion designer in the black glasses and high starched collar has a million of them, which he dispenses for free without asking. In 2009, he defended his use of animal fur in his designs this way: “In a meat-eating world, wearing leather for shoes and clothes and even handbags, the discussion of fur is childish.” He also has a thing about skinniness, criticizing supermodel Heidi Klum as “too heavy and has too big a bust” to be a runway model. He also called the singer Adele “a little too fat” in 2012, a remark for which he had to apologize. Adele, for her part, responded that she never wanted to look like a model. “I represent the majority of women and I’m very proud of that,” she said. A year later, Lagerfeld was at it again, saying that he never called Adele fat, but just a “little roundish. “But for such a beautiful girl, after that she lost eight kilos [17.6 pounds] so I think the message was not that bad.”

The German-born son of a wealthy businessman grew up privileged during the hardships of World War II. After attending private school, he moved to Paris, got an education in drawing and history, and began designing haute couture collections in the mid-1950s. His first collection was booed by the press, and his short skirts for the 1960 spring season also weren’t well received either. In 1963, he moved to Rome and worked for Tiziani until 1969, where he picked up Elizabeth Taylor, Doris Duke and Principessa Borgheses as customers. He also designed freelance for the French fashion house Chloé, and Italian houses Curiel, Fendi, and the American jeans brand Diesel. He is currently head designer and creative director for Chanel, Fendi, and his own fashion house. He lives in a Paris mansion which he shares with his Siamese cat, Choupette, who he said he would marry if it were legal.

 45 YEARS AGO: Jeff Marx: 1970. The composer and lyricist began life as a lawyer looking for clients in the entertainment industry. The only reason he joined a musical theater workshop was to meet potential clients. “I didn’t tell them I was just there to meet clients and had no designs on being a songwriter,” he later confessed. But to stay in the workshop, he had to do the work. That’s where he met Richard Lopez, and the two of them started writing music for what would become the Broadway Musical Avenue Q, for which they won the 2004 Tony Award for Best Musical and Best Score.

That was it. Marx never went back to practicing law. He and Lopez, with Debra Fordham, wrote four songs for a critically-acclaimed musical episode of the NBC sitcom Scrubs, which aired in 2007. One of their songs, “Everything Comes Down To Poo,” was nominated for an Emmy. Marx has written songs for the Disney Channel and the theme song for Logo TV’s animated series Rick & Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple In All the World. Marx currently lives in Los Angeles where he is also a member of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles.

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 Wednesday, September 9

Jim Burroway

September 9th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From SilverDollar Times, September 1982, page 9.

From SilverDollar Times, September 1982, page 9.

An anti-suffrage post card, c.a. 1910 (source).

An anti-suffrage post card, c.a. 1910 (source).

120 YEARS AGO: The Degeneracy of Women’s Suffrage: 1895. For many decades, the word “degenerate” took on a very specific meaning: gay people were “degenerates,” as were almost anyone else who radically deviated (negatively) from what was considered normal and wholesome. Everyone — doctors (see Aug 2), police investigators (see May 19Jun 1), newspaper columnists (see Mar 23), housewives (see Jun 29) and Newsweek (see Oct 10) — thought nothing of using the word “degenerate,” and by the middle of the twentieth century its usage became much more specific to describe gay people.

But what was lost by that time was a recollection of where the word “degenerate” came from. It was the last vestige of a proto-scientific theory which had been universally accepted by social scientists, doctors and early geneticists in the nineteenth century. Degeneration Theory described a body of beliefs which was a kind of a theory of evolution, but in reverse. Darwin’s theory held that as species reproduced, the process of natural selection would help to weed out the lesser copies of the offspring, while the more capable versions would survive to reproduce again. Degeneration Theory pondered what would happen if natural selection was not such a strong force, thanks to advances in science, medicine, and civilization in general, in the development of the human race.

While there are a number parallels between Degeneration Theory and Evolution, Degeneration Theory actually pre-dated Darwin’s theory by about five decades. According to Degeneration Theorists, human beings, through the natural course of evolution, would naturally produce children who “de-generated” some of their parent’s characteristics in an imperfect form — think of a Xerox copy of a Xerox copy. Degeneration didn’t always yield lesser children; geniuses were examples of a kind of positive degeneration. They may have greater powers of reasoning than others, but they nevertheless deviated from the norm, and that deviancy was a sign of degeneration. Besides, geniuses often had other quirks as part of their personalities, and those quirks were seen as offsetting signs of degeneracy, a price, if you will, paid for their genius. It was also believed that degenerates, whether their degeneration was positive or negative, also bore physical markers, known as the “stigmata of degeneration,” in the form of various skull shapes, facial features, and other bodily characteristics which, if one looked closely enough, might provide further evidence of degeneracy. That’s why detailed physical descriptions were an important part of the scientific literature. In fact, those descriptions were considered so important and became so commonplace that the practice lasted well the 1960s, long after the very theories which required such descriptions were long dead and forgotten.

The product of this degeneracy was called the “reversion to the atavistic type” — in other words, a natural tendency of a species to return to a more primitive state. For humans, it would mean a descent into poverty, ignorance and criminality of which nineteenth-century inner-city tenements, according to Degeneracy Theorists, provided ample proof. But as pessimistic as the theory went, it did have its positive contributions: it spawned the hygiene movement which began mandating safe housing, clean food, proper sanitation, limitations in child labor and other protections, and universal education. In the glass-half-empty category, Degeneration Theory marked the beginning of the shift from regarding homosexuality as a crime to be severely punished, but as a malady to be addressed “scientifically” — namely by the nation’s doctors and insane asylums, along with the brave few who countered that gay and gender-variant people harmed no one and should be left alone. But far more darkly, Degeneration Theory would soon give rise to Eugenics, which would cast an especially dark shadow over much of the early twentieth century.

So to give you an example of “degenerates” who had nothing to do with gay people, the September 1895 edition of The American Naturalist included a classic anti-feminist tract steeped in Degeneration Theory. Dr. James Weir, Jr.’s, article, “The effects of female suffrage on posterity,” argued that feminism (which was then focused on voting rights and the prohibition of alcohol) was just another result of ongoing degeneracy in society. Weir argued that if women were given the right to vote, it would cause further “regression to the atavistic state” in civilization, which, he argued, included matriarchy ( “female government”), communism, “free love,” and homosexuality. He began his monograph, in typical Degeneration Theory fashion, by describing the atavistic swamp from which modern society first arose:

"I did not raise my girl to be a voter." (source)

“I did not raise my girl to be a voter.” (source)

In the very beginning woman was, by function, a mother; by virtue of her surroundings, a house-wife. Man was then as now, the active, dominant factor in those affairs outside the immediate pale of the fireside. Life was collective; “communal was the habitation, and communal the wives with the children; the men pursued the same prey, and devoured it together after the manlier of wolves; all felt, all thought, all acted in concert.” Primitive men were like their Simian ancestors which never paired, and which roamed through the forests in bands and troops. This collectivism is plainly noticeable in certain races of primitive folks which are yet in existence, notably the Autocthons of the Aleutian Islands. Huddled together in their communal Kachims, naked, without thought of immodesty, men, women and children share the same fire and eat from the-same pot.

Weir’s description of atavistic societies then became rather contradictory and confusing:

Frequent wars must have occurred between hostile tribes of primitive men, during which, some of them (physically or numerically weaker than their opponents) must have been repeatedly vanquished, and many of their females captured, for, in those old days (like those of more recent times, for that matter) the women were the prizes for which the men fought. Under circumstances like these, the few remaining women rmust have served as wives for all the men of the tribe; and, in this manner polyandry had its inception.

Under circumstances like these, the few remaining women must have served as wives for all the men of the tribe; and, in this manner polyandry had its inception. Polyandry gives woman certain privileges which monandry denies, and she is not slow to seize on these prerogatives and to use them in the furtherance of her own welfare. Polyandry, originating from any cause whatsoever, will always end in the establishment of a matriarchate, in which the women are either directly or indirectly at the head of the government.

Weir then ignored the vast preponderancy of male-dominated societies to find a few matriarchal ones (including, specifically, the Nair of India) which, he claimed, proved his point.

Weir then, somewhat abruptly, turned to the subject of genius — “retrogressive genius” in particular — which he said gave rise to feminism:

There are two kinds of genius; the first is progressive genius, which always enunciates new and original matter of material benefit to the human race and which is consequently healthy; the second is retrogressive genius, which is imitative and which always enunciates dead and obsolete matter long since abandoned and thrown aside as being utterly useless. The doctrines of communism and of nihilism are the products of retrogressive genius and are clearly atavistic, inasmuch as they are a reversion to the mental habitudes of our savage ancestors. The doctrines of the matriarchate are likewise degenerate beliefs, and if held by any civilized being of to-day, are in evidence of psychic atavism. Atavism invariably attacks the weak; and individuals of a neurasthenic type are more frequently its victims than are any other class of people. Especially is this true in the case of those who suffer from psychical atavism. The woman of to-day, who believes in and inculcates the doctrines of matriarchy, doctrines which have been, as far as the civilized world is concerned, thrown aside and abandoned these many hundred years, is as much the victim of psychic atavism as was Alice Mitchell who slew Freda Ward in Memphis several years ago [see Jan 25], and who was justly declared a viragint by the court that tried her.

This, of course, is where Weir touched on homosexuality and tied it to the feminist movement. The English language was still relatively bereft of easily understandable terms to describe homosexuality. The love that dare not speak its name was only just then acquiring its name in English when Weir wrote his monograph in 1895 (see May 6), and so the scandalous murder of Freda Ward by her lesbian lover stood in as the widely understood euphemism for lesbianism in particular, and somewhat tenuously, homosexuality in general. And it is here that Weir begins to tie it all together:

I think that I am perfectly safe in asserting that every woman who has been at all prominent in advancing the cause of equal rights in its entirety, has either given evidences of masculo-feminity (viraginity), or has shown, conclusively, that she was the victim of psycho-sexual aberrancy. Moreover, the histories of every viragint of any note in the history of the world, show that they were either physically or psychically degenerate, or both. Jeanne d’Arc was the victim of hystero-epilepsy, while Catharine the Great was a dipsomaniac and a creature of unbounded and inordinate sensuality.

…Viraginity has many phases. We see a mild form of it in the tom-boy who abandons her dolls and female companions for the marbles and masculine sports of her boy acquaintances. In the loud-talking, long-stepping, slang-using young woman we see another form, while the square-shouldered, stolid, cold, unemotional, unfeminine android (for she has the normal human form, without the normal human psychos) is yet another. The most aggravated form of viraginity is that known as homo-sexuality; with this form, however, this paper has nothing to do. Another form of viraginity is technically known as gynandry, and may be defined as follows: A victim of gynandry not only has the feelings and desires of a man, but also the skeletal form, features, voice, etc., so that the individual approaches the opposite sex anthropologically, and in more than a psycho-sexual way.

Even if feminists weren’t lesbians, they were, as far as Weir was concerned, only a few steps away from it, a prospect that he clearly didn’t want to spend too much time thinking about (“…with this form, however, this paper has nothing to do”).  Weir had bigger things to worry about. Aside from lesbianism, equal rights for women would bring about all manner of degeneration — moral, psychical, and physical — due to the stresses of increased responsibility:

The effects of degeneration are slow in making their appearance, yet they are exceedingly certain. The longer woman lived amid surroundings calling for increased nervous expenditure, the greater would be the effects of the accruing degeneration on her posterity. …The inherited psychical habitudes handed down through hundreds and thousands of years would prevent the immediate destruction of that ethical purity for which woman is noted, and in the posession [sic] of which she stands so far above man. …(But) there would come a time when the morality of to-day would be utterly lost, and society would sink into some such state of existence as we now find en evidence among the Nairs….

The baneful effects resulting from female suffrage will not be seen tomorrow or next week, or week after next, or next month, or next year, or a hundred years hence, perhaps. It is not a question of our day and generation; it is a matter of involving posterity. The simple right to vote carries with it no immediate danger, the danger comes afterward; probably many years after the establishment of female suffrage, when woman, owing to her increased degeneration, gives free rein to her atavistic tendencies, and hurries ever backward toward the savage state of her barbarian ancestors. I see, in the establishment of equal rights, the first step toward that abyss of immoral horrors so repugnant to our cultivated ethical tastes — the matriarchate. Sunk as low as this, civilized man will sink still lower — to the communal Kachims of the Aleutian Islanders.

[Source: James Weir, Jr. “The effect of female suffrage on posterity.” The American Naturalist 29, no 345 (September 1895): 815-825. Full text available online at]

John Curry

John Curry: 1949-1994. As a child, he wanted to be a ballet dancer. His abusive father, a hard-drinking factory owner, forbade it, saying that such ambitions weren’t appropriate for boys. But he did allow his son to take up figure skating at the age of seven. Even then, the elder Curry wasn’t an enthusiastic supporter. He saw his son skate only twice. The father’s suicide 1965 proved to be a turning point. “We were delighted,” he later told a friend. “We were happy. We were free of him.”

By the time he was eighteen, Curry moved to London to study figure skating seriously, and finally take those long-delayed ballet lessons. In 1970, Curry won his first British skating championship after having come in second during the two years before. He would go on to win another four national titles before making the Winter Olympics team for 1976. Shortly before going to Innsbruck, he gave an interview to a journalist with the International Herald Tribune during which, in a moment he thought was off the record, confided that he was gay. International Herald Tribune’s story appeared soon after Curry defeated the favorites from the Soviet Union and Canada to win the gold medal. It made him one of the very few actively competing athletes to declare his sexuality openly.

Curry’s style of figure skating involved an artful combination of ballet and skating. That may not seem so unusual today, but men’s figure skating before 1976 was much more “athletic” — more jumping around and heaving women right and left. Peggy Flemming, the 1968 Women’s gold medalist, later commented, “I think he brought the purest form of ballet to the ice. He was a real purist, totally devoted to the art of skating. He also had the technique and athleticism to make that art look effortless. It was a wonderful blend of what skating is about — art and sport.”

But off the rink, his homosexuality would make him a ripe target for barbs and humiliations. The December after winning his Olympic gold medal, he was honored by the Sports Journalists’ Association at a London hotel. Curry was late to collect his reward, and as he made his way to the table during the evening’s comic act, the comic joked, “It’s good to feel the Christmas spirit among us all, and here comes the fairy for the tree.” Curry collected his award in silence. He later said it was “one of the most hurtful incidents in my life.”

Curry turned professional after winning the World Championships in 1976, and founded his own touring skating company after turning down offers to join other companies. “I never could see the point of spending 12 years training to go dress up in a Bugs Bunny suit.” He brought his show “Ice Dancing” to Broadway in 1977-1978, and toured with his John Curry Skating Company.

By the mid-1980s, Curry noticed the toll that AIDS was taking in the skating world. “”It is hard to watch people in that situation, and it was frightening when people started to become ill,” he said, adding “You start to think ‘When is it going to be my turn?'” His turn came in 1987 when he found out he was HIV-positive. He participated in the fundraiser Skating for Life in 1988, and his final skating performance in 1989 was for another AIDS benefit. He was diagnosed with AIDS in 1991 and went back to his mother’s home in Binton, Warwickshire, where he died on April 15, 1994.

Here is a clip of his performance at Innsbruck.

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The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, September 8

Jim Burroway

September 8th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Blade (Washington., DC), June 1978, page 9.

From The Blade (Washington., DC), June 1978, page 9.

Jeannie Sullivan and Tommy Vasu.

 San Francisco Police Raid Tommy’s Place: 1954. Tommy Vasu, one of the owners of Tommy’s Place, was the first known lesbian to have an legal ownership stake of a bar in San Francisco. Wherever she went, she attracted attention: dressed in double-breasted suits, wide tie and a fedora, she loved to gamble and was known as a risk taker. Vasu, with her girlfriend Jeanne Sullivan, Grace Miller and Joyce van de Veer, opened Tommy’s Place at 520 Broadway in 1952. Tommy’s Place attracted a mixed crowd of artists, prostitutes, bohemians and, of course, lesbians. Vasu and Sullivan also operated 12 Adler Place; its entrance was just around the corner and the two clubs, which shared a single liquor license, were connected inside by a split-level mezzanine. Because Vasu had a police record, her name could not appear on a liquor license. She put the license in Sullivan’s name, and she listed Miller and van de Veer as owners of 12 Adler Place so they could serve as bartenders.

In 1954, the McCarthy “Lavender Scare” was still in full swing, and whenever elections loomed in San Francisco, the police department would unleash another round of raids to “clean up the city.” In June, The Examiner, owned by William Randolph Hearst, published a series of articles decrying the “marked influx recently of homosexuals” into San Francisco: “The condition (of the city) is marked by the increase of homosexuals in the parks, public gathering places and certain taverns in the city. It is a bad situation. It is a situation that has resulted in extortion and blackmail. Even worse, these deviates multiply by recruiting teen-agers.”

Police Chief Michael Gaffey announced a new campaign to “clean the homosexuals from the streets, the public rooms and the parks where their actions have become intolerably offensive.” That month, police raided five bars in the Tenderloin “suspected of being frequented by sex deviates.” While those cases drew headlines, those raids were quickly forgotten. The big raid was still in the planning phase. In July, Police were three months into an investigation involving a dozen high school girls who “donned mannish clothes and frequented pool halls.” On September 1, they raided the home of Jesse Joseph Winston, who they determined was hosting parties for teenage girls where he allegedly provided them with marijuana and Benzedrine, and supposedly schooled them in “sexual rebellion.” As part of that investigation, police determined that Winston met these supposedly “innocent girls from good families” at Tommy’s Place, where he invited them over to his place after the bars closed. The fact that Winston was African-American and the girls were white only added to the city-wide panic which ensued. Winston was charged with three counts of providing marijuana to a minor and one count of possession of marijuana.

Grace Miller, behind the bar at Tommy’s Place. (Click to enlarge.)

A week later, Police turned their attention to Tommy’s Place and 12 Adler Place, where they arrested Grace Miller and Joyce van de Veer, who were working as bartenders that night. They were charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. According to news reports, Tommy’s place was targeted because:

The bar, police said, has long served as a happy hunting ground for a group of adult debauchees, who recruited school girls into their academy of dope addiction and sexual perversion. “At least a dozen” teen-age girls have been ensnared, according to Inspector L.G. Etherington and taken from the bar to other places in the Latin Quarter for a full education in abominable practices.”

One former patron later remembered the raid at Tommy’s Place:

“They (Miller and van de Veer) were framed as part of this harassment of gay bars. Two of her [Tommy’s] bartenders were arrested. … One of them is a good friend of mine. She did six months. They were accused of serving minors, and the girls were minors but they had forged IDs. It sort of escalated, and the PTA got involved. Then the police planted some drugs in the ladies’ room, some heroin and the works or something like that, and they pretend to find it. … The Examiner just ran with it. At that time it was a real sensational tabloid.

Indeed it was. The day after the raid, The Examiner’s front page screamed with alarm: “School-girls’ vice, dope revealed in S.F. Bar Raid.” and “S.F. Teen-age Girls Tell of ‘Vice Academy’.” The raid on Tommy’s Place, pumped by The Examiner’s sensational headlines, sparked a city-wide panic, which led to more crackdowns on gay bars. News of Tommy’s raid even reached Washington. In October, the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, which had been holding hearings in various cities across the country, arrived in San Francisco, where the Tommy’s Place raid was the main focus.

As for the three who were arrested, Joyce Van de Veer was acquitted. Grace Miller was found guilty of serving alcohol to a minor and served six months in the county jail. Winston was convicted and sentenced to a term of one to twenty years at San Quentin. Eventually, the state of California revoked the liquor license, and Tommy’s Place and 12 Adler Place were forced to close. The building which housed Tommy’s Place is now a straight strip club called “The Garden of Eden.” The entrance to 2 Adler Place (the street has since been re-named William Saroyan Place) is now the home of Specs’ Twelve Adler Museum Cafe, a hard-to-find hipster dive bar which has been described both as “chaotically-themed” and “virtually unchanged.”

[Source: Nan Alamilla Boyd. Wide-Open Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965 (University of California Press, 2003): 92-100.]

 40 YEARS AGO: Time Magazine’s “I Am A Homosexual”: 1975. Technical Sergeant Leonard Matlovich’s picture on the cover of Time with the caption announcing “I Am a Homosexual” posed a direct challenge to the pre-“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on gays serving in the military. As Time reported, he was the perfect test case: “The tall, red-haired sergeant has an impeccable twelve-year military record, no known psychiatric problems, and a Bronze Star and Purple Heart won on one of his three tours in Viet Nam.” A five-member Air Force review board heard his case the following week. He lost that case, and he was excommunicated from the Mormon Church a month later.

But on this date in 1975, he became the face of the gay community as Time devoted several pages to the rising gay rights movement. By then, twelve states had eliminated their laws making homosexuality a crime, and the American Psychiatric Association and American Psychological Association recognized that homosexuality was not a mental disorder. AT&T and the Civil Service Commission had announced that they were willing to hire openly gay employees, and one major educational journal wrote that gay teachers should come out to their students. Time covered the usual ground for stories of this kind: gay activism, the problems gay people face, the requisite tour of the raunchier gay establishments (New York’s Eagle gets a mention, along with an introduction to the handkerchief code and bathhouses), and yet the article manages to present gay people as real people — something quite rare for 1975. The word “gay” is used in about equal measure as “homosexual,” and the word “militant” appears only three times in the 5,400 word article. It did however end on a down note, warning that homosexuality become more widespread if anti-gay discrimination were to end:

Says Psychoanalyst Herbert Hendin: “‘Anything goes’ is a legitimate attitude for consenting adults toward each other, but for a culture to declare it as a credo is to miss entirely the stake all of us have in the harmony between the sexes and in the family as the irreplaceable necessity of society. This is a society that is increasingly denying its impotence by calling it tolerance, preaching resignation and naming all this progress.”

It’s worth noting that while both APA’s (the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association) had declared that homosexuality was not a mental disorder, the American Psychoanalytic Association was much slower to reach that conclusion. It wasn’t until 1991 when the APsaA formally declared that homosexuality was no longer a barrier to becoming a psychoanalyst. It’s also worth noting that most conversion therapy today is still rooted in older psychoanalytic theories. And, it’s worth noting further that the argument that increased acceptance for gay people today will create more gay people tomorrow is still a staple of anti-gay and ex-gay rhetoric.

On the whole, Time’s coverage of Matlovich’s case was relatively positive — well, positive-for-1975 positive. Coverage elsewhere wasn’t so tactful. Gay activists targeted San Francisco’s KPIX studios when an anchorman, after reading Matlovich’s story and thinking the microphone was switched off, was heard to say, “I was going to say ‘faggot flier’ but I thought…” — before a technician actually switched the mike off.

 Mark Foley: 1954. When the lifelong bachelor Republican from Florida cast his vote for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, journalist Kurt Wolf decided it was time to out Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) and fellow Republican Jim Kolbe (R-AZ, see Jun 28) from the Congressional closet, first on a New York City radio station, then on a Boston cable-access television show. The Advocate picked up the story and decided to call the two congressmen for comment. Both men hid behind the excuse that their sexual orientations weren’t relevant, but a week later Kolbe decided to come out (see Aug 1).

Foley didn’t, and the story mostly went away until it was resurrected, briefly, when Foley was considering a run at Sen. Bob Graham’s (D-FL) vacating Senate seat. Ths time, Broward County’s New Times picked it up, leading Foley to call a news conference to denounce what he termed the “revolting and unforgivable” rumors, while simultaneously managing to avoid denying the rumors specifically. A few weeks later, he dropped out and decided to remain in the House.

All was quiet until September 28, 2006 when news reports broke that Foley had sent email messages to a former Congressional page asking the page to send him a photo. That report prompted another page to come forward, who shared sexual explicit AOL instant messages sent by Foley. Confronted by House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), Foley resigned on September 29 rather than face expulsion from the House.

More pages and former pages came forward, with allegations stretching back at least ten years. It emerged soon emerged that Foley had been warned by another House Republican and the House Clerk in 2005. Subsequent criminal investigations by the FBI and the state of Florida found no eveidence of criminal wrongdoing; the pages were above the age of consent, although Florida investigators complained about “Congress and Mr. Foley denied us access to critical data.” Foley returned to Florida and entered the real estate business in Palm Beach. Foley also came out publicly and acknowledged his partner, Layne Nisenbaum. The two, it turned out, had been together since 1984. Nisenbaum died in 2012.

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The Daily Agenda for Labor Day

Jim Burroway

September 7th, 2015

Lewis Hine’s “Power house mechanic working on steam pump,” 1920. (Click to enlarge)

Today is Labor Day, a day that is set aside both to honor the sacrifices of American laborers in the past who fought for fair wages and decent working conditions, and to celebrate the social and economic contributions of workers today. The holiday had already been celebrated in thirty states when Congress in 1894 declared it a Federal holiday as an olive branch to organized labor in honor of those who died at the hands of the U.S. military and U.S. Marshals during the Pullman Strike that year. For today’s workers and their families, this extended weekend also marks that last hurrah of summer. I hope your Labor Day is a relaxing one.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Northwest Gay Review, May 1975, page 31.

One regular of Seattle’s Silver Slipper remembered that the clientele watched out for each other:

The Slipper was a women’s bar. It was a lesbian bar. Occasionally a man would come in, but he would be a gay man. He was kind of an oddity, you know? He was there because maybe he knew one of the bartenders, or maybe he was a friend or a brother of a customer there that night, or whatever. He had a legitimate tie, and nobody really minded that. But every once in a while mixed couple would come in. And you could pretty well tell, after a while, whether the men had a legitimate reason for being there, or whether he was with a woman friend or wife — and they were there looking for a lesbian to go home with them for perverse three-way kinds of [sex ?].

So when you would see a mixed couple zeroing in on a woman who was by herself and started buying her drinks, you knew what was going on. And other lesbians would move in to protect her, or they would try to intervene and either get her out — if she was too drunk to get out — somebody would take her either to her home or to their home, or to somewhere for the night. Or they would try to get the het couple to leave peaceably.

Or they would distract them, or as a last resort — and I saw this happen more than once. Some lesbian would go to the bar and get a beer, and come back and stumble and go, “Whoops!” and dump a beer on the guy. “Oh, I’m so sorry! Oh — spill over here! Somebody bring a rag!” And they would all pitch in and clean up, and then they would pack up and leave. And I saw that happen two or three times.

As of 2014, the storefront was an architect’s office, although they seemed to have moved since then.

G Frank Lydston

 “There Is In Every Community of Any Size a Colony”: 1889. Richard von Krafft-Ebing (see Aug 14), the famed Austro-German psychiatrist argued in his 1886 book, Psychopathia Sexualis, that homosexuality was a biological condition rather than a moral failing. By the late 1880s, those ideas were beginning to have an impact on psychiatry across the Atlantic, particularly as translated excerpts from his book began appearing in English-language journals. One of those who tried to adopt, if rather incompletely, Krafft-Ebing’s new outlook on Contrare Sexualempfindung was a very colorful urologist, surgeon, and professor from Chicago by the name of G. Frank Lydston. In 1889, Lydston delivered a lecture at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Chicago where he seemed to recognize that Kafft-Ebing’s new perspective was a decided advantage to everyone concerned:

The subject has been until a recent date studied solely from the standpoint of the moralist, and from the indisposition of the scientific physician to study the subject, the unfortunate class of individuals who are characterized by perverted sexuality have been viewed in the light of their moral responsibility rather than as the victims of a physical and incidentally of a mental defect. It is certainly much less humiliating to us as atoms of the social fabric to be able to attribute the degradation of these poor unfortunates to a physical cause, than to it willful viciousness over which they have, or ought to have, volitional control. Even to the moralist there should be much satisfaction in the thought that a large class of sexual perverts are physically abnormal rather than morally leprous.

To back up that statement, Lydston quoted from Krafft-Ebing, who wrote, “As we study into the abnormal and diseased conditions from which this malady results, the ideas of horror and criminality connected with it disappear … [T]he investigations of science will become the means of rescuing the honor and re-establishing the social position of many an unfortunate whom unthinking prejudice and ignorance would class among depraved criminals.” Krafft-Ebing concluded that such an understanding would be “a service to justice and to society by teaching that what seem to be immoral conditions and actions are but the results of disease.”

Considering the draconian criminal penalties that were imposed on those convicted of “crimes against nature,” Krafft-Ebing’s argument was exceptionally enlightened for its day. It was, in essence, this: Don’t throw them into prison; they can’t help what they’re doing. Lydston then set about to describe “them”:

There is in every community of any size a colony of male sexual perverts; they are usually known to each other, and are likely to congregate together. At times they operate in accordance with some definite and concerted plan in quest of subjects wherewith to gratify their abnormal sexual impulses. Often they are characterized by effeminacy of voice, dress, and manner. In a general way, their physique is apt to be inferior — a defective physical make-up being quite general among them, although exceptions to this rule are numerous.

Sexual perversion is more frequent in the female; women usually fall into perverted sexual habits for the purpose of pandering to the depraved tastes of their patrons rather than from instinctive impulses. Exceptions to this rule are occasionally seen. For example, I know of an instance of a woman of perfect physique, who is not a professional prostitute, but moves in good society, who has a fondness for women, being never attracted to men for the purpose of ordinary sexual indulgence, but for perverted methods.

When Krafft-Ebing wrote of Contrare Sexualempfindung (Contrary Sexual Feeling), he was describing homosexuality specifically.  But now it must be noted here that when Lydstrom wrote of “sexual perverts,” Lydston had shifted his definitions a bit. He defined sexual perversion more broadly as “the possession of impulses to sexual gratification in an abnormal manner, with a partial or complete apathy toward the normal method.” He then divided them into three classes: “(a) Those having a predilection (affinity) for their own sex; (b) those having a predilection for abnormal methods of gratification with the opposite sex; (c) those affected with bestiality.” And for all three classes, he departed from Krafft-Ebing, who described sexual “perversion” as the result of biology, by dividing his three classes further according to whether their “perversion” was congenital or acquired:

I. Congenital, and perhaps hereditary sexual perversion.

a. Sexual perversion without defect of structure of sexual organs.
b. Sexual perversion with defect of genital structure, e.g. hermaphroditism.
c. Sexual perversion with obvious defect of cerebral development e.g. idiocy.

II. Acquired sexual perversion.

a. Sexual perversion from pregnancy, the menopause, ovarian disease, hysteria, etc.
b. Sexual perversion from acquired cerebral disease, with or without recognized insanity.
c. Sexual perversion (?) from vice. [Note: the parenthetical question mark is in the original]
d. Sexual perversion from over stimulation of the nerves of sexual sensibility and the receptive sexual centres, incidental to sexual excesses and masturbation.

Lydston then considered the possible causes of “sexual perversion”. This is where the theory of Degeneration came into play (see Aug 16, Sep 9 and Oct 26 for some discussions of Degeneration Theory): “In some cases, perhaps, sexual differentiation has been imperfect, and there is a reversion of type; (to) the original bi-sexuality of the ancestors of the race, shown in the rudimentary female organs of the male.”  Because he, like nearly everyone else in the late nineteenth century, believed firmly in Degeneracy Theory, he gave a poor prognosis for the future:

It is probable that few bodily attributes are more readily transmitted to posterity than peculiarities of sexual physiology. The offspring of the abnormally carnal individual is likely to be possessed of the same inordinate sexual appetite that characterizes the parent. The child of vice has within it, in many instances, the germ of vicious impulse, and no purifying influence can save it from following its own inherent inclinations. Men and women who seek, from mere satiety, variations of the normal method of sexual gratification, stamp their nervous systems with a malign influence which in the next generation may present itself as true sexual perversion. Acquired sexual perversion in one generation may be a true constitutional and irradicable vice in the next, and this independently of gross physical aberrations.

Because Lydston believed — as Degeneration Theory explained — that the volitional sins of the fathers become the biological errors of the sons, he had a particular disdain for those whose “perversions” were acquired. Whatever high-minded purpose he may have had at the beginning of the lecture when he cast the discussion as one between a moralist and a “scientific physician,” this particular physician wound up delivering a fully moralistic condemnation to everyone concerned:

There exists in every great city so large a number of sexual perverts, that seemingly their depraved tastes have been commercially appreciated by the demi-monde. This has resulted in the formation of establishments whose principal business it is to cater to the perverted sexual tastes of a numerous class of patrons. Were the names and social positions of these patrons made public in the case of our own city, society would be regaled with something fully as disgusting, and coming much nearer home, than the Pall Mall Gazette exposures.

The individuals alluded to would undoubtedly resent the appellation of “sexual pervert;” but, nevertheless, in many instances they present the disease in its most inexcusable form: that from vicious impulse. Personally, I fail to see any difference, from a moral standpoint, between the individual who is gratified sexually only by oral masturbation performed by the opposite sex, and those unfortunate mortals whose passions can be gratified only by performing the active role in the same disgusting performance. One is to be pitied for his constitutional fault; the other to be despised for his deliberately acquired debasement.

[Source: G. Frank Lydston. “Clinical Lecture: Sexual perversion, satyriasis, and nymphomania” (Part 1). Medical and Surgical Reporter 61, no. 10 (September 7, 1889): 253-258. The lecture is also available via Google Books here, in an 1895 collection of addresses and essays by Lydston.]

Joseph McCarthy and his “pixie.”

McCarthy’s 145 “Deviates” In The State Department: 1952. Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s (R-WI) anti-Communist hearings are a dark, well-known chapter in American history. His campaign to root out suspected “subversives” from under every bed wasn’t limited to Communists; there was a very strong anti-gay subtext to his witch hunts as well. For the first time, gay men and women were actively rooted out of all levels of government employment. Gays were seen not only as morally suspect, but also a security risk and a dangerous influence in government offices. In 1952, McCarthy published a book titled McCarthyism: The Fight For America, in which he laid out his crusade to rid the country of “Communists and perverts.” As part of his book’s promotion, McCarthy answered several question from the editor of the Milwaukee Sentinel. McCarthy accused several State Department employees by name of harboring Communist sympathies and took credit for their ouster. He also took credit for the removal of 145 “deviates”:

QUESTION — How many sex deviates have been removed from the State Department?

ANSWER — Ninety-one were forced to resign from the State Department prior to 1950 and 54 since that time. The Senate Special Investigating Committee had this to say about those who were allowed to resign: “In most of those cases, these known homosexuals were allowed to resign for ‘personal reasons,’ and no information was placed in the regular personnel files of the state Department indicating the real reason for resignation nor was the Civil Service Commission informed of the true reason for the resignation … Die ot the manner in which these cases were mishandled, 23 of those 91 state Department employees found there way into other departments of government.”

QUESTION — Do you claim that the sex deviates removed from the State Department were all disloyal?

ANSWER — No, but all were considered security risks. One reason why sex deviates are considered by all intelligence agencies of the government to be security risks in that they are subject to blackmail. Is is a known fact that espionage agents often have been successful in extorting information from them by threatening to expose their abnormal habits.

The Special Senate Investigating Committee had this to say about the high percentage of sex deviates in government: “The homosexual has a tendency to gather other perverts around him. Eminent psychiatrists have informed the subcommittee that the homosexual is likely to seek his own kind because the pressures of society are such that he feels uncomfortable unless his is with his own kind. Due to this situation the homosexual tends to surround himself with other homosexuals, not only in his social but in his business life. Under these circumstances, if a homosexual attains a position in government where he can influence the hiring of personnel, it is almost inevitable that he will attempt to place other homosexuals in government jobs.”

The worst irony in all this is that throughout McCarthy’s witch hunts, a young lawyer by the name of Roy Cohn served as McCarthy’s right hand man. During one of McCarthy’s televised hearings into the supposed influence of communists in the U.S. Army, attorney Joseph Welch accused McCarthy of accepting a doctored photo as evidence. Referring to Cohn, Welch asked McCarthy whether the photo “came from a pixie.” When McCarthy asked what a pixie was, Welch replied “a close relative of a fairy.” Cohn would later become a regular fixture, albeit a publicly closeted one, in gay conservative circles. He died of AIDS in 1986.

Mayor Abe Aronovitz

 “Florida Gov. Appoints Special Attorney to “Eradicate” Gays from Miami: 1954. By the fall of 1954, with the public having had just about had enough with Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s constant and indiscriminate red-baiting, the Senate had begun a series of public hearings on a possible censure of the Wisconsin’s junior Republican. But the newspaper-driven Lavender scare which had been building in Miami for the past month showed no signs of abating (see Aug 3Aug 11Aug 12Aug 13 (twice that day), Aug 14Aug 15, Aug 16Aug 26, Aug 31, Sep 1 and Sep 2). And now Florida’s acting Governor Charley E. Johns deciding to get into the act. In a letter to Miami Mayor Abe Aronovitz, Johns announced that he had appointed Miami attorney Morey Rayman “to aid you and to cooperate with you and your office in the eradication and control of sex deviates. Every law enforcement agency under my jurisdiction has been issued orders to do everything within their power to correct this serious situation which has been called to my attention.”

Florida’s acting Gov. Charley Johns

Johns became acting governor when Gov. Dan McCarty died in 1953. He would later return to the State Senate where he would head up the infamous Johns Committee which revived a statewide Red Scare and Lavender scare, with its investigations of alleged communists, homosexuals, and civil rights advocates among the students and faculty of Florida’s schools and university system. Johns would dominate the state’s anti-gay and anti-communist crusade from 1956 to 1965. By the time the committee was disbanded, it had forced more than 100 professors and deans out of the University of Florida, Florida State University and the University of South Florida.

Aronowitz made the letter public while criticizing City Manager Arthur Evans and Police Chief Walter Headley for their failure to rid the city of homosexuals. The letter from the acting governor was just one way for him to turn up the heat on Evans and Headley, with whom Aronovitz had expressed increasing frustration for quite some time (See Aug 26 and Aug 31). “They had better start looking for other jobs if they don’t deliver the goods on this,” Aronovitz told reporters.

Headley responded that his anti-gay drive, while resulting in precious few arrests (see Sep 2), nevertheless was having its intended effect. “Now we’re getting complaints from other places that perverts are beginning to drift into them. I believe we’re making them uncomfortable,” he told The Miami News. He also revealed that six women suspected by police of being lesbians were arrested at a bar the prior night, questioned and released.

Log Cabin Republicans Refuse to Endorse Bush’s Re-Election: 2004. When Texas Gov. George W. Bush ran for President in 2000, he was eager to avoid the uglier aspects of kind of culture war politics which proved fatally divisive during his father’s failed re-election bid in 1992. The younger Bush’s solution was not to run away from social conservatism altogether, but to put a friendlier, more “compassionate conservative” face on it. He was up front about his evangelical belief, even going so far during a primary debate to name as his favorite political philosopher or thinker as “Christ, because he changed my heart.” Certainly, as Governor, Bush had opposed the repeal of Texas’s sodomy law (the same law which was eventually overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003), and he refused to back any pro-gay measures in the state. But when he agreed to meet with members of Log Cabin Republicans in 2000 in Austin, he became the first Republican presidential candidate to do so. Bush didn’t concede any policy changes at the meeting — he still opposed federal hate crimes expansion and same-sex marriage — but he said that marriage should be left to the states. After meeting, Bush declared “I am a better man” and promised to include gays and lesbians as part of his administration. When Bush took office in 2001, he appointed openly gay employees in his administration, including, most notably, Michael Guest to serve as ambassador to Romania from 2001 to 2004.

The landscape in 2004 was considerably different. Gays were marrying in Massachusetts (see May 17) and, briefly, in San Francisco (see Feb 12). Social conservatives, a vitally important voting block for President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign, were clamoring for a Federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to write discrimination permanently into national law once and for all. And Bush’s campaign, eager to avoid the too-close-by-a-chad outcome of 2000, was determined to energize the Evangelical base more directly than they had done in 2000. To placate that base — and in keeping with campaign strategist Karl Rove’s project to encourage several important states (including, critically, Ohio) to place marriage bans proposals on their ballots as part of a get-out-the-vote effort — Bush had declared his support for a the Federal Marriage Amendment (see Feb 24), which, if enacted, would have permanently and nationally banished all same-sex marriages “or the legal incidents thereof.”

Bush’s announcement was taken as a betrayal by those who had met with him in 2000 and were reassured that Bush’s compassionate conservatism would spell an end to divisive politics. And so two months before election day, Log Cabin Republicans announced that they would not endorse President Bush for re-election, specifically because of his support for the Federal Marriage Amendment. “It is impossible to overstate the depth of anger and disappointment caused by the president’s support for an antifamily constitutional amendment. This amendment would not only ban gay marriage, it would also jeopardize civil unions and domestic partnerships,” Log Cabin political director Chris Barron said.

LCR Executive Director Patrick Guerriero explained the decision: “Log Cabin’s decision was made in response to the White House’s strategic political decision to pursue a re-election strategy catered to the radical right. The president’s use of the bully pulpit, stump speeches and radio addresses to support a constitutional amendment has encouraged the passage of discriminatory laws and state constitutional amendments across America. Using gays and lesbians as wedge issues in an election year is unacceptable to Log Cabin.”

Valerie Taylor: 1913-1997. Born Velma Nacella Young in Aurora, Illinois, her scoliosis in childhood led her to believe that she was unattractive and instilled in her an early identification and empathy with the underdog. She began publishing a series of mass market lesbian novels in the 1950s under the pen name Valerie Taylor. Those novels became classics of the lesbian pulp fiction era. She published her first general fiction novel, Hired Girl in 1953, and used the $500 proceeds to acquire a pair of shoes, two dresses, and a divorce against her increasingly abusive husband.

Taylor then became a prolific writer in several genres — poetry as Nacella Young, popular romances as Francine Davenport, and, of course, lesbian pulp fiction as Valerie Taylor, including such classics as Whisper Their Love (1957), The Girls In 3-B (1959), , Stranger on Lesbos (1960), World Without Men (1963), Unlike Others (1963),and Ripening (1988). A member of the Chicago Chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis, she was also a frequent contributor to the organization’s national magazine, The Ladder, as Velma Tate.

Valerie Taylor’s “Whisper Their Love” (1957).

While Taylor’s books might be dismissed as trashy novels, they were taken very seriously by gay women in the 1950s and 1960s. The Ladder didn’t just include them in book reviews, but often dedicated several pages to discussing, analyzing and criticizing them both on their literary merits and, more often, on the way the novels portrayed lesbians to a wider audience. This illustrated how important the lesbian pulp fiction genre really was: for many lesbians, especially those in small towns and rural areas outside the reach of the Daughters of Bilitis or The Ladder, lesbian pulp fiction was often the only medium where lesbians could see other people like themselves, even if those people were imaginary characters in impossibly outlandish situations. These pocket drug-store paperbacks were a treasured lifeline for many women across the country.

It’s fitting then that Taylor herself became very active in gay rights. In addition to her activities with the DOB, she helped to co-found Mattachine Midwest, the Chicago Chapter of the Mattachine Society, in 1965, and she and edited its newsletter for several years. She protested at the 1968 Democratic Convention with other Mattachine members, and she worked for the Women’s International League for Peace.

Taylor met her partner, civil rights attorney Pearl Hart (see Apr 7), when the two of them helped to co-found Mattachine Midwest. They remained together for the next ten years until Hart’s death in 1975. Sadly, as Hart lay dying in a hospital, Taylor was prohibited from visiting and saying goodbye to her because Taylor wasn’t considered immediate family. By the time a friend intervened, Hart was already in a coma.

After her partner’s death, Taylor moved to Tucson, Arizona, where she became a Quaker and a member of the Gray Panthers. She and Hart were inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 1992. Taylor died in 1997 at the age of 84. Her books have recently found a new audience as younger women rediscovered vintage pulp fiction paperbacks in second-hand stores, and many of her original novels have become prized collectibles. In 2011, several of Taylor’s titles were released on as Kindle ebooks.

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The Daly Agenda for Sunday, September 6

Jim Burroway

September 6th, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Atlanta, GA (Black Pride); Calgary, AB; Duluth, MN; Québec City, QC; Stavanger, Norway.

Other Events This Weekend: Splash Days, Austin, TX; Show-Me State Rodeo, Kansas City, MO; Southern Decadence, New Orleans, LA;Bears on Ice, Reykjavik, Iceland; Sitges Bears Week, Sitges, Spain.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

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

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

Schematic diagram of Louis William Max’s device for inducing a powerful electric shock. (Click to enlarge.)

80 YEARS AGO: First Recorded Case Of Electric Shock Treatment for Homosexuality: 1935. The idea had been floated around for quite a while among therapists practicing a brand new, non-Freudian form of psychology known as Behavioral Therapy. The premise for this form of therapy goes back to Pavlov’s dog, which was trained to salivate whenever it heard a ringing bell. Behavioral Therapy used various systems of rewards and punishments — initially, mostly punishments — to instill desired behavior in their subjects. And therapists were always on the lookout for new, effective forms of punishment. Shocking patients with a dose of electricity was seen as one promising avenue, but improperly administered, electric current could be lethal, as prisons from Sing Sing to San Quentin demonstrated on a regular basis.

But by 1935, that problem was solved. At an earlier meeting of the New York branch of the American Psychological Association, New York University’s Louis William Max introduced a new device that he invented to safely administer a painful electric shock to his patient (see Mar 11). Later that year, Dr. Max traveled to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to give a brief talk before the American Psychological Association’s annual meeting about his attempts to cure homosexuality using his new electric shock device. On Friday, September 6th at 2:00 p.m., the APA convened a panel on Abnormal Psychology at the University of Michigan’s Chemistry Amphitheater (room 165, to be exact), where Dr. Max gave his talk. The transcript of the talk itself is not available, but this brief synopsis appeared two months later in the APA’s Psychological Bulletin:

Breaking Up a Homosexual Fixation by the Conditioned Reaction Technique: A Case Study. Louis Wm. Max, New York University.

A homosexual neurosis in a young man was found upon analysis to be partially fetishistic, the homosexual behavior usually following upon the fetishistic stimulus. An attempt was made to disconnect the emotional aura from this stimulus by means of electric shock, applied in conjunction with the presentation of the stimulus under laboratory conditions. Low shock intensities had little effect but intensities considerably higher than those usually employed on human subjects in other studies, definitely diminished the emotional value of the stimulus for days after each experimental period. Though the subject reported some backsliding, the ” desensitizing ” effect over a three month period was cumulative. Four months after cessation of the experiment he wrote, ” That terrible neurosis has lost its battle, not completely but 95% of the way.” Advantages and limitations of this technique are discussed. [10 min.]

Behavioral techniques to try to “cure” homosexuality took many forms, from electric shock therapy on adults and adolescents, to so-called “mild swats” on four-year-old boys like Kirk Andrew Murphy, who underwent behavioral therapy at the hands of George Rekers. You can learn more about the role of Behavioral Therapy in attempts to “cure” homosexuality in Blind Man’s Bluff, an epilogue to our award-winning original investigation, What Are Little Boys Made Of?, about Kirk’s treatment at UCLA under Rekers.

[Source: Louis William Max. “Breaking up a homosexual fixation by the conditioned reaction technique: A case study.” Psychological Bulletin 32, no. 9 (November 1935): 734.]

William Martin (left) and Bernon Mitchell (center) at the Moscow press conference.

55 YEARS AGO: Martin and Mitchell Announce Their Defection to the Soviet Union: 1960. The U.S. was still recovering from its embarrassment over the Soviets’ shooting down of an American U-2 spy plane in Soviet airspace four months earlier when the Soviets staged another dramatic press conference at the Kremlin. This time, the Soviets trotted out two American National Security Agency employees, Bernon F. Mitchell, 31, of Eureka, California, and William H. Martin, 29, of Ellensburg, Washington, who announced that they had defected to the Soviet Union with the intention of becoming Soviet citizens.

“We would attempt to crawl to the moon if we thought it would lessen the threat of an atomic war,” Martin said as he read a statement before television cameras. He then spilled their secrets: that the U.S. had broken the codes of 40 friendly nations and had planted a spy in the Turkish embassy. He denounced the U-2 reconnaissance flights over Soviet airspace and predicted that U.S. policy would lead to World War III. “Perhaps U.S. hostility toward communism arises out of a feeling of insecurity engendered by Communist achievements in science, culture and industry. If this is so, such feelings of insecurity are a poor excuse for endangering world peace,” he said.

The whole saga began on June 24, when they left Fort Meade, Maryland, for what they told family and friends was a vacation to see family in California and Washington. They never appeared at their destinations, and their failure to report back to work in mid-July prompted a massive investigation. On August 1, the Pentagon announced that the two were missing, and four days later, they revealed the “likelihood” that they had “gone behind the Iron Curtain.” Investigators learned that the men had booked a flight for Mexico City and briefly stayed at a hotel there before taking another flight to Cuba on tickets purchased “by someone other than Martin or Mitchell.” From there, they took a freighter to the Soviet Union.

Family members were shocked, and wondered whether they had been kidnapped or were in Moscow “under duress.” The mens’ parents said that the two had been very close friends, since serving together in the navy between 1951 and 1953, and joining the NSA in 1957. Both families recalled them as “normal boys.” The “normal boys,” meanwhile, said that they planned to settle down and start families in the Soviet Union. “Talents of women are encouraged and utilized to a much greater extent in the Soviet Union than in the United States,” Martin said. “We feel that this enriches Soviet society and makes Soviet women more desirable as mates…”

But within days, talk of the “long-time bachelor pals” began appearing in the press. Rep. Francis E. Walter (D-PA), chair of the House Committee on un-American Activities, said that the two were known to their acquaintances as “sex deviates.” Speculation ran rampant that the two were either blackmailed or mentally disturbed. Time reported that a review of security records revealed that Mitchell had visited a psychiatrist and speculated that the reason for the visit was “presumably out of concern for homosexual tendencies.” Attorney General William Rogers feared that the Soviets had a list of gay people to draw on in their recruiting and blackmail efforts. President Eisenhower, who had signed an executive order seven years earlier banning gay and lesbians from federal employment, (see Apr 27), sought a central authority to coordinate a government-wide investigation of gays in the workforce.

But subsequent investigations over the next three years failed to come up with any evidence for Martin’s or Mitchell’s homosexuality. On the contrary, the NSA’s internal investigations uncovered evidence of relationships with women, with Martin sometimes engaging in sex with “multiple female partners,” as well as a running sexual relationship with a Baltimore stripper. A 1961 NSA report found no evidence that the two were gay, let alone lovers as many had assumed. “Martin and Mitchell were known to be close friends and somewhat anti-social, but no one had any knowledge of a homosexual relationship between them,” the report said. In fact, Martin married a Russian woman four months after arriving there, and Mitchell married later.

But lacking any other rationale that would explain the pair’s betrayal, the NSA launched a witch hunt for any other “deviants” on its payroll, leading to the purging of twenty-six employees because of alleged “perversions.” When the House un-American Activities Committee issued its report in 1961, it blamed the pair’s defection on their alleged homosexuality. The press jumped on the same bandwagon, with the Los Angeles Times speculating that Martin and Mitchell were part of a ring of homosexuals who “recruit other sex deviates for federal jobs.” Hearst papers referred to them as “the two defecting blackmailed homosexual specialists” and as a “love team.” The Lavender Scare of the McCarthy era ten years earlier was in full bloom again. For years to come, government officials would point to the Martin and Mitchell case as justification for maintaining its ban on federal employment and security clearances for gay people. The employment ban would remain in place until 1975 (see Jul 3), and it would take an executive order from President Bill Clinton in 1995 (see Aug 4) to finally remove homosexuality as a reason for denying security clearances once and for all.

Sylvester: 1946-1988. Born Sylvester James in Los Angeles, he lived his entire life on the corner of Gay and Black. Like Cher, he dropped his surname when he moved to San Francisco in 1970 and began performing with the gender-queering troupe known as the Cockettes. He also performed in drag in a musical review of Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday songs. He went on to form rock several bands before finally latching onto the disco craze in the mid-1970s as a solo artist. His second album, Step II, yielded his greatest funk/disco hits, “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” and “Dance (Disco Heat)”. In 1979, he appeared in the film The Rose, starring Bette Midler, and in 1983 his Hi-NRG dance hit “Do You Wanna Funk” appeared in the film Trading Places. During the disco era, he was called “The Queen of Disco,” but as he moved away from disco and toward a more Dance/Funk sound, his record company wanted him to butch things up a bit. Sylvester’s response was to attend meetings with the label’s execs in full-on drag. A drag photo shoot that he put together to tweak his record label bosses ended up on the cover art for his posthumous release Immortal. His last hit, 1986’s “Someone Like You,” hit number 1 on the U.S. Dance Chart, and came from his only Warner Brother’s album, Mutual Attraction, which featured cover art by Keith Haring. Sylvester is another of the many giant talents consumed by the AIDS epidemic; he died in 1988, and willed his future royalties San Francisco’s AIDS Emergency Fund and Project Open Hand. Last June, Fantasy Records re-released Mighty Real: Greatest Dance Hits, with proceeds going to Sylvester’s named charities.

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The Daily Agenda for Saturday, September 5

Jim Burroway

September 5th, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Atlanta, GA (Black Pride); Calgary, AB; Duluth, MN; Grimsby, UK; Leicester, UK; Québec City, QC; Reading, UK; Stavanger, Norway.

Other Events This Weekend: Splash Days, Austin, TX; Show-Me State Rodeo, Kansas City, MO; Southern Decadence, New Orleans, LA; Gay Ski Week, Queenstown, NZ; Bears on Ice, Reykjavik, Iceland; Sitges Bears Week, Sitges, Spain.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Washington Blade, July 10, 1981, page B-5.

From The Washington Blade, July 10, 1981, page B-5.

The Many Names for Gay: 1998. To demonstrate the persistence of “derogatory language” used to describe gay people in publications that “have the potential to influence popular prejudices, Lisa Bennet analyzed the 356 articles about gays and lesbians that appeared in Time and Newsweek from 1947 to 1997 and published the list of terms she found in her study, “The Perpetuation of Prejudice in Reporting on Gays and Lesbians.” They are:

1947-1959 (23 articles): aberrant, abnormal, abominable, abomination, corrupt, criminal, degenerate, degraded, depraved, deviant, dirty pansy, disgusting, evil, extreme medical disorder, fairy, filthy, horrible, indecent, infamous crime against nature, invert, misdeed, neuropsychiatric case, pervert, psychopath, queer, sex criminal, sex deviant, sex offender, sodomite, undesirable, unmentionable subject, unnatural, unspeakable crime, vice, victim, vile, wicked.

1960s (25 articles): aberrant, abomination, butch, crime against nature, crime of deviation, dandified sissy, detestable, deviant, deviate, effeminate, emotionally immature, fag, gay, hair fairies, homme-femme, homophile, invert, le vice anglais, lesbian, moral malady, pederast, pervert, psychic masochist, psychopath, queen, queer, sodomite, swish, third sex, transvestite, tweedy lesbian, unnatural.

1970s (62 articles): aberrant, abomination, admitted homosexual, avowed homosexual, committed homosexual, confessed homosexual, deviant, drag queen, fag, fairy, flaming fag, fruit, homophile, human garbage, human rot, mental aberration, militant homosexual, queer.

1980s (95 articles): avowed gay, consensual grossness, deviant, deviate, dyke, faggot, faggot bitch, fairy, fruit, homophile, militant gay, militant homosexual, oddwad, pervert, prissy sissy, professed homosexual, queer.

1990-1997 (151 articles): abnormal, acknowledged gay, acknowledged homosexual, avowed gay, avowed homosexual, biker dyke, butch, butt pirate, degenerate, diesel dyke, dyke, fag, faggot, fascist pervert from hell, femme, go-go boys, lipstick lesbian, the love that dare not speak its name, pervert, poofter, professed homosexual, queer, queer dyke bitch, sexual nonconformist, sinner, sodomite, unnatural, vanilla lesbian, wicked, a willful choice of godless evil.

[Source: Lisa Bennett. The Perpetuation of Prejudice in Reporting on Gays and Lesbians: Time and Newsweek: The First Fifty Years. (Cambridge, MA: The Joan Shirenstein Center of the Press, Politics and Public Policy, September 1998). Available online here (PDF: 257KB/24 pages).]

John Cage

John Cage: 1912-1992. His best-known work, 4’33”, is also his most controversial. Composed in 1952 for any instrument or combination of instruments and divided into three movements. The lengths of each movement varies, depending on the manuscript you’re consulting — the causes of the discrepancies aren’t currently understood since the original manuscript has been lost — but the first movement is about 30 seconds in length, the second about 2 minutes and twenty-three seconds in length, and the fourth movement is about a minute forty in length. Each movement is nothing but silence. When pianist David Tudor premiered the work in 1952, he marked the beginning of each movement by closing the lid on the keyboard, and then opened it gain at the end of each movement. The premiere was highly controversial, with many in the audience walking out. It has remained controversial to this day. Cage remembered the premiere in 2003:

They missed the point. There’s no such thing as silence. What they thought was silence, because they didn’t know how to listen, was full of accidental sounds. You could hear the wind stirring outside during the first movement. During the second, raindrops began pattering the roof, and during the third the people themselves made all kinds of interesting sounds as they talked or walked out

Cage discovered chance as a musical device when a friend and fellow composer in “the New York school” of composition presented him with a copy of the I Ching or The Book of Changes, an ancient Chinese divination guide which sought to illuminate order in chaotic events. The first results of his new method of composition could be found in Imaginary Landscape No. 4 for twelve radio receivers, and Music of Changes for piano, which calls for consulting the I Ching to determine the starting sounds, durations and dynamics, which then defines how the rest of the composition is to be performed.

But with 4’33”, Cage, the performer, and the I Ching are all removed as elements of determining chance, leaving nothing but chance itself. With 4’33”, Cage challenged the definition of music much as Rothko challenged the definition of landscapes and Magritte challenged the definition of a pipe. But where Rothko and Magritte relied on the languages of abstraction expressionism and surrealism respectively, Cage set his question of what constitutes music in the most direct way possible. He also succeeded in deconstructing our notions of silence. After all, what is silence when you are surrounded by traffic, HVAC systems, nature, the blood in your ears or the thoughts in your head? And that also makes 4’33” arguably the most intimate composition ever created, leaving the listener alone with his own thoughts, perceptions, and, in many cases, emotions — especially when that emotion is anger or disgust at the piece.

Cage's unorthodox compositions required an a new approach to musical notation for his manuscripts. This is part of the score for Music for Piano 1-85 (1952).

Cage’s unorthodox compositions required a new approach to musical notation for his manuscripts. This is part of the score for Music for Piano 1-85 (1952).

Cage was born in Los Angeles where, just before graduating from high school, he gave a prize-winning speech at the Hollywood Bowl suggesting that America establish a day of silence. “By being hushed and silent, ‘we should have the opportunity to hear what other people think”, he said. That speech anticipated 4’33” by more than three decades. While in college in 1928, he learned his first lesson in chance when he noticed all of his classmates reading copies of the same book in the library. “Instead of doing as they did, I went into the stacks and read the first book written by an author whose name began with Z. I received the highest grade in the class. That convinced me that the institution was not being run correctly. I left.”

He went to Europe where he studied art, architecture, painting, and poetry. He then took up music composition and discovered that “the people who heard my music had better things to say about it than the people who looked at my paintings had to say about my paintings.” He studied composition at The New School in New York, and then studied under Arnold Schoenberg, the modernist atonal composer who developed the twelve-tone technique. It was at about that time that he met the Alaska-born Russian artist Xenia Andreyevna Kashevaroff. They married in 1935. The couple moved to Seattle in 1938, where Cage worked as a composer and dance accompanist on piano for the Cornish College of the Arts. It’s where he met dancer Merce Cunningham, who would later become Cage’s lifelong collaborator and partner after Cage divorced Kashevaroff in 1945. By then, Cage was in New York and Cunningham was a member of the Martha Graham dance company. The two collaborated on a number of ballets, most notably 1947’s The Seasons which was commissioned by the New York City Ballet.

Cage went on teach experimental music at Wesleyan University in the early 1960s. He also taught at the School for Social Research in New York and, briefly, at the highly innovated Black Mountain College outside of Asheville, North Carolina. He continued composing throughout the rest of his life, including the massively multimedia work HPSCHD in 1969 for seven harpsichords, fifty-two sound tapes, sixty-four slide projectors and forty films. He continued working up through the 1980s, but declining health took its toll. He suffered a a stroke in 1992 while preparing tea for himself and Cunningham, and died the next morning.

As a fitting coda, in 2010 a Facebook group formed in Britain encouraging everyone to purchase a recording of 4’33” in the hopes that it would prevent the winner of the seventh series of the X Factor from topping the U.K. Singles Chart for Christmas Day, which traditionally is the most prestigious time to reach number one for the entire year. (This phenomenon inspired the Band Aid charity single, “Do They Know It’s Christmas” in 1984.) The Facebook group’s goal was not only to deny the X Factor the top spot for Christmas, but also to “make December 25 a ‘silent night’.” 4’33” failed to reach number one, peaking instead at 21 on the U.K. Singles Chart.

Freddie Mercury: 1946-1991. So there we were during my freshman year in high school, my classmates and me in our quiet Appalachian town (just fifty miles as the crow flies from Morehead, Kentucky, where the drama with Rowan County clerk Kim Davis has been playing out). There we were, just minding our business when all of the sudden “Bohemian Rhapsody” came screaming out of our radios like space aliens from a distant planet. Nobody was quite sure what to make of it — Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango? — it was hard at first to be too enthusiastic about this very flamboyant song, mostly because we couldn’t figure out what it all meant. Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds? Sure, we had that figured out. Mama Got A Squeeze Box? Got it. Stairway to Heaven? We were still working on that, but it didn’t seem too far out of reach. Just few more tokes one a Saturday night by the river and we’d get it. But Bismillah? Beelzebub? Why are they singing about Galileo? We didn’t even know where to start. But we always turned it up whenever it came on the radio. And it didn’t take long at all before we were hooked.

Queen had already been very popular in the U.K. for several years, but for most Americans “Bohemian Rhapsody” was our introduction. And we had almost nothing to prepare us for — well, I’ll say it again — the openly flamboyant lead singer. Even the band’s name was provocative. One of my friends bought a Queen teeshirt at a concert in Dayton, but his mother prohibited him from wearing it. It was “too homosexual.” And so was Freddie — maybe. Except he had a girlfriend, as the press went, so maybe he wasn’t. Maybe it was all an act, we told each other (and ourselves). You know, a character like David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust or Alice Cooper or any of the members of Kiss. Whatever he was, he flaunted it, as it went in our vernacular, but as long as it was a character he was flaunting, maybe it was okay. It helped that Queen’s follow-on hits — “You’re My Best Friend,” “Someone To Love” — were sufficiently “normal” while unmistakably Queen to calm things down a bit. By the time News of the World came out and the testosterone-laden “We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions” became my high school’s unofficial anthem the same year that we won the state AA basketball championship, everyone had chilled. Those of us in that small town and school who were easily freaked out over the very possibility of homosexuality — including us homosexuals — were well served by our sometimes willful naiveté. Without it, it would have been socially impossible to enjoy the music.

Freddie hoodwinked those of us who wanted to be hoodwinked, just enough so we could enjoy the music and the spectacle. The hits kept coming: “Fat Bottomed Girls,” Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” “Another One Bites The Dust,” “Under Pressure” (with David Bowie, of course). By the time it dawned on me that he really was gay, I had long since left home and it no longer mattered socially whether I was a fan or not. And by the time it was announced that he had AIDS and would die very shortly, nobody was surprised but everyone was saddened. It seems that there are some people who are too outsized in our world to remain in it for very long, and Freddie was one of them. On November 25, 1991, the day after he died, Britain’s tabloid The Sun carried a very simple headline: “Freddie Is Dead.” It’s hard to believe, but if he had survived he’d be just a few years shy of seventy.

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 Friday, September 4

Jim Burroway

September 4th, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Atlanta, GA (Black Pride); Calgary, AB; Duluth, MN; Grimsby, UK; Leicester, UK; Québec City, QC; Reading, UK; Stavanger, Norway.

Other Events This Weekend: Splash Days, Austin, TX; Show-Me State Rodeo, Kansas City, MO; Southern Decadence, New Orleans, LA; Gay Ski Week, Queenstown, NZ; Bears on Ice, Reykjavik, Iceland; Sitges Bears Week, Sitges, Spain.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From David, May 1972, page 54.

From David, May 1972, page 54.

Photos from the Miss Sweetheart Contest, 1972. (From David, May 1972, page 46.)

Unidentified contestants at the Miss Sweetheart Contest, 1972. (From David, May 1972, page 46.)

According to Wikipedia, Asheville has been well-recognized in several best-of rankings: One of the “Top 25 Small Cities for Art,” one of “20 Great Cities for Writers,” “a New Age Mecca,” “The New Freak Capital of the U.S.,” “The Hippie Capital of the South,” and the “Happiest City in the South.” It wasn’t always that way. Asheville’s downtown area had been in a state of serious decline until the late 1980s. But it has long been one of the gayest cities of the South, in good times and in bad. The Flaming Ember opened as a gay bar sometime in the late 1960s. In 1972,  David,  a Florida-based gay lifestyle magazine, described what was believed to be Asheville’s first drag show:

With the latest craze for female impersonation contests going around, Asheville, North Carolina decided not to be outdone. The FLAMING EMBERS lounge recently held its Miss Sweetheart Contest, 1972. It was Asheville’s first drag show and the ten contestants performed to a standing room only audience. A selection of songs from Purlie won Robbie the title of Miss Sweetheart ’72. First runner up was Lola with her interpretation of the popular Cabaret and Monica walked off with the 2nd runner up position by doing Bridge Over Troubled Water. A special treat of the evening came when Gary Wilson, the owner, did a show-stopping version of Coronet Man.

Wolfenden Report Recommends Homosexuality “Should Not Be A Crime”: 1957. Home Secretary David Maxwell-Fyfe in 1954 appointed a special fifteen-member committee to examine laws in Britain which criminalized homosexuality and prostitution. The committee came about after the arrest of several well-known men that year for homosexuality, including Lord Montagu (see Oct 20) and Peter Wildeblood (see May 19). Those arrests and trials provoked a national debate over Britain’s “gross indecency” law, which criminalized homosexual behavior between men. (Lesbian relations had never been made illegal.) The committee, chaired by Lord John Wolfenden of Reading University, included theologians, psychiatrists, educators, judges, lawyers, and several other leading figures. The Wolfenden committee, as it became known, was tasked with reviewing the medical, mental health, legal, and moral aspects of homosexuality and prostitution, and to report on their findings and recommendations for legal changes.

On of the chief difficulties the committee ran into was finding gay men who were willing to provide testimony. After all, the committee was, in effect, asking people to incriminate themselves for a crime under the same statute that had famously sent Oscar Wilde to prison for two years at hard labor (see May 25). One of those giving testimony was Peter Wildeblood, who had written one book about his arrest, trial, conviction, the appalling conditions of his imprisonment, and his experience of being spat upon by a “respectable looking, middle-aged, tweedy” woman while out the street. His second book included twelve essays describing various gay people he had come in contact with. Both books, along with his testimony and that of two others, helped to inform the Wolfenden’s report.

And so did a study conducted by a Wolfenden member, Dr. Desmond Curran of the Department of Psychiatry at St. George’s Hospital in London. That study, published in the British Medical Journal (see Apr 6), examined one hundred gay men who were under evaluation and treatment for homosexuality. Curran found that none of them could muster anything more than a “slight alteration” toward heterosexuality — and almost all of those who achieved that minimal accomplishment were classified as bisexual to begin with. Curran also found no evidence that homosexuality was an impairment, but was instead “compatible with subjective well-being and objective efficiency … both practising and non-practising homosexuals were on the whole successful and valuable members of society.”

Lord John Wolfenden

After three long years, the committee finally published its recommendations the 155-page “Report on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution.” Known popularly as the Wolfenden Report, its first run of 5,000 copies sold out within hours of publication. The report recommended wholesale revisions to English and Welsh law with regard to age of consent, penalties for sexual assault, the statute of limitations, and, most critically, on the criminalization of homosexuality itself: that “homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence… The law’s function is to preserve public order and decency, to protect the citizen from what is offensive or injurious, and to provide sufficient safeguards against exploitation and corruption of others… It is not, in our view, the function of the law to intervene in the private life of citizens, or to seek to enforce any particular pattern of behaviour.”

The Report’s recommendations enjoyed wide support, including from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Goeffrey Fisher, who also served on the committee. The Times of London approved the report, as did the Star, which pointed out that “The present laws are out of date and often cruel in their application.” The Manchester Guardian called the Report “A fine piece of work, interleaving sympathy and sternness.” The Daily Mirror also chimed in: “Now Whitewash. No Prudery. And No Hypocrisy,” went the headline. “What they say may shock the sort of people who shut their eyes to the unpleasant facts of life. But it is the truth.” The Economist urged Parliament to take up the Report’s recommendations: “If the Government cannot pluck up courage to bring in legislation of its own (and it ought to), Parliament should at least be given every facility for a free vote on a private member’s bill.”

Other papers weren’t so supportive. The Daily Express asked, “Why did the Government ever sponsor this cumbersome nonsense,” while the Daily Mail called the recommendations “full of danger.” Its editorial warned, “If the law were to tolerate homosexual acts a great barrier against depravity would be swept aside.”

The Government ended up rejecting the Wolfenden Committee’s recommendations, and it would be another decade before Parliament would take up the task of decriminalizing sex between men (see Jul 28).

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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