Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
This article can be found at:
Latest Posts

Posts for January, 2016

The Daily Agenda for Thursday, January 28

Jim Burroway

January 28th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Blade (Washington, D.C.), June 1977, page 23.

The Windward Resort started life as a classic mid-century post-war motel on Florida’s famed A1A Highway, catering to families making the exotic trip to the palm-lined beaches of North Miami Beach. By the 1970s, newer and more fashionable options abounded all over South Florida, and the Windward Resort was catering to a much more niche clientele. The property is now the site of a twin high rise condo development where prices for the larger units top out at over $7 million.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Three Year Old Murdered for Being “Soft”: 2005. Ronnie A. Paris had a hard, short life at the hands of his abusive father. He was only one year old, in 2002, when he had been admitted to the hospital for malnourishment and a broken arm and leg. The Florida Department of Children and Family Services removed Ronnie from his home and placed him in protective custody. On December 14, 2004, five days after this third birthday, he was returned to his parents. Not too long after that, Ronnie began experiencing vomiting spells, some of which twice sent him to the hospital. He had never experienced such spells while in foster care. Then on January 22, he slipped into a coma while sleeping on the couch of a family friend as his parents attended Bible study. He died six days later from brain injuries.

Ronnie’s mother later told detectives that her husband, Ronnie B, Paris, Jr., had repeatedly beaten his son, slammed him into walls, and forced him to participate in father-son boxing matches until he would shake, cry, and wet himself. Ronnie’s father did all this because he though his son was gay, so he beat him to keep Ronnie from growing up “soft.” During the trial, the medical examiner testified that he found evidences fo three separate head injuries that caused internal bruising and trauma to the brain. He also testified that little Ronnie’s vomiting spells could also have been attributed to head trauma. After three hours of deliberation, jurors convicted Ronnie B. Paris, Jr. of second degree manslaughter and aggravated child abuse. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison, to be followed by ten years of probation.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
115 years ago: Richmond Barthé: 1901-1989. Mississippi-born Richmond Barthé spent his formative years in New Orleans, where his parish priest, Father Harry Kane, encouraged his aesthetic development as a painter. But since he couldn’t enroll in art school during his teenage years because of segregation, he remained self-taught until Kane was able to get him enrolled in the Art Institute of Chicago. During his senior year, Barthé discovered sculpting and never looked back. He moved to New York, won a Guggenheim fellowship (twice), and became a celebrated figure of the Harlem Renaissance. His work explored both race and eroticism. When crime in New York began rising after the war, Barthé moved to Jamaica. With crime rising there in the 1960s, he moved to Switzerland for five years, then to Pasadena. When he moved to an apartment above a garage, the city decided to name the street after him. There, he worked on his memoirs and editioned many of his most important works, with actor James Garner being among his most important patrons. He died in 1989.

Bobbi Campbell: 1952-1984. An early AIDS activist, Campbell was the 16th person in San Francisco to be diagnosed with Kaposi’s sarcoma, one of the more common opportunistic infections associated with AIDS. He came by activism rather simply but boldly: by simply refused to hide his face, he became known as the “KS poster boy” in 1981 when he began writing a column for the San Francisco Sentinel (see Dec 10) He gained nationwide attention on August 8, 1983 when he appeared on the cover of Newsweek holding his partner. That same year, he co-founded the People with AIDS Self-Empowerment Movement, and helped establish the Denver Principles which rejected the notion that people with AIDS (PWA) were “victims” and demanded the inclusion of PWAs in all aspects of organized responses to the epidemic, including the right to make informed decisions with regard to their own care. He died of crypytococcal meningitis, a complication from AIDS, on August 15, 1984. A week later, about a thousand mourners turned out for a memorial on a closed off street in the Castro.

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, January 27

Jim Burroway

January 27th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From David, a Florida-based gay glossy lifestyle magazine, July 1974, page 64.

From David, a Florida-based gay glossy lifestyle magazine, July 1974, page 64.

It’s a Subway shop today.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Rep. Dick Armey Calls Barney Frank “Barney Fag”: 1995. It’s not easy being the biggest ‘mo in the House. In an interview with a group of radio broadcasters, House majority leader Rep. Dick Armey (R-TX), he discussed the acrimonious atmosphere in the House of Representatives, which was then under the leadership of Newt Gingrich. “Newt’s a very patient fellow and able to handle a harangue going on around him better than I,” Armey said. “I like peace and quiet, and I don’t have to listen to Barney Fag — Barney Frank — haranguing in my ear because I made a few bucks off a book I worked on.”

Armey apologized to Frank when word of his remarks got out, first in person and then again on the House floor. But not without a harangue: “I take this exception especially in light of the fact that I went to the press that had the tape and explained to them in the best humor I could that I had simply mispronounced a name and did not need any psychoanalysis about my subliminal or about my Freudian predilections.” He also castigated House Democrats for focusing on what he called a “mispronunciation.” Frank wasn’t inclined to accept the apology. “I don’t think it was on the tip of his tongue, but I do believe it was in the back of his mind,” said Frank. “There are a lot of ways to mispronounce my name. That is the least common.”

Alan Cumming

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Alan Cumming: 1965. Well let’s see. He was the M.C. in the 1993 London staging of Cabaret, the evil Boris Grishenko in Golden Eye, and he had roles in Eyes Wide Shut, the Spy Kids franchise, X2, and Gray Matters, among others. He earned two Emmy nominations for his guest role as Eli Gold in The Good Wife, and he produced the Independent Spirit Award-winning Sweet Land. Where the Scottish actor once described himself as a “frolicky pansexual sex symbol for the new millennium,” he now simply says he’s bisexual. On January 7, 2012, he married his husband Grant Shaffer in New York, on the fifth anniversary of their 2007 civil partnership in London. Earlier this year, he published his autobiography, Not My Father’s Son, a memoir of growing up the son of an abusive father.

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

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

The Daily Agenda for Monday, January 25

Jim Burroway

January 25th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Great Plains Regional Gay Rodeo program, August 14-17, 1986, page 12. (Source.)

From the Great Plains Regional Gay Rodeo program (Oklahoma City, OK), August 14-17, 1986, page 12. (Source.)

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Alice Mitchell Kills Freda Ward: 1892. Freda Ward was the socialite daughter of a wealthy planter and merchant. Alice Mitchell was the daughter of a retired furniture dealer. Both were well known about town, daughters of two of the best families of Memphis, Tennessee. Alice would later say that as far as she could remember, she had an “extraordinary love” for Freda. The letters the exchanged revealed, as one newspaper put it, “that Alice loved Freda as man loves woman, and Freda loved Alice as woman regards man.” According to one newspaper account,

“Twice Alice went to visit Freda’s family, during which time the two girls, as witnesses attested, showed ‘disgusting tenderness’ for each other. They were seen to swing together in a hammock by the hour, hugging and kissing each other — they hugged and kissed ad nauseum”.

Alice was ashamed of doing this in public, but Freda upbraided her for this.” Their relationship grew. Alice proposed marriage, but it appears that Freda either refused the offer or was prevented from accepting it by her family. As Freda was about to leave Memphis to board a steamboat to her family’s home town in Arkansas, Alice waylaid her and killed her on the streets of Memphis. As she later explained:

“I was in love with Freda. I could not live without her. Long ago we made a compact that if we were ever separated we should ill each other. When I found that Josie had forbidden Freda to have nothing more to do with me, I saw nothing else to do but to kill her. I took father’s razor, but told no one what I was going to do.

Newspapers around the country followed every detail of the case and trial. And since this occurred at about the time psychologists and medical professionals were beginning to understand homosexuality and lesbianism as something other than simply criminal acts, the Mitchell-Ward case was dissected in the nation’s medical journals as well. The Memphis Medical Monthly carried an extensive report of the trial in which Mitchell was judged insane.

Other medical journals weighed in on the exact nature of her insanity. It was a common nineteenth century belief that insanity was the result of “degeneracy,” which was a body of beliefs that held that 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. With ordinary evolution, these inferior copies would be disadvantaged and their genes would die out. But Degeneration Theory held that the advances and “luxuries” of modern society protected these lesser individuals and allowed them to bear further de-generated offspring (see Sep 9 for a discussion of Degeneration Theory). Degeneracy didn’t always yield blemished children: geniuses were also held as examples of a kind of positive “de-generation” (because they deviated from the norm), although evidences of their degeneracy were often found in various personality quirks or other eccentricities.

Yet it was an extraordinarily short trip from “de-generation” to degeneracy, and the Mitchell-Ward case become, literally, a textbook example. Even two decades later, as in the following passage from 1914 by Douglas C. McMurtrie from the American Journal of Urology. Citing other psychologists and sexologists who observed that “congenital sexual inversion is widespread in America, homosexual women being frequently found in societies and clubs,” McMurtrie then recalled the still talked-about Mitchell-Ward case from two decades earlier, plancing great importance on Mitchell’s mother’s mental state:

One of the most widely known cases of violent crimes due to sexual inversion in the female occurred in Memphis, Tenn., approximately in 1891, though the exact date is unknown to me. The facts were typical of sexually inverted affection and are of considerable interest. They have been reported by Comstock. [Here, he quotes a brief account of the crime by T. Griswold Comstock for the New York Medical Times in 1893]

… In accounting for the deed, Comstock, while diagnosing Alice Mitchell as a sexual “pervert,” considers her insane. It appears that her mother in her first confinement had child-bed fever and puerperal insanity, and was confined in an asylum, and that before the birth of Alice she was deranged, and this aberration continued until some time after labor. Although no actual determination was made of Alice’s mental state it was decided she was insane.

This may have been the case. In the light of present knowledge regarding this sexual anomaly, however, it may be said that no more insanity might have been involved in this crime of homosexual jealousy than is involved in analogous crimes of heterosexual jealousy which come constantly before the courts.

A full account of the case of Alice Mitchell giving the facts as proved in court and the various testimony of the medical witnesses is given in the Memphis Medical Monthly. The article also contains a report of the direct examination of the defendant. It is noteworthy that in none of the medical evidence was there any mention of there having been a sexual condition chiefly accountable for the crime.

In fact, if there is anything noteworthy about this affair, it is the fact that it wasn’t the nature of the love interest which proved to be the mark of Mitchell’s insanity during her trial, even though the lesbian aspects of their relationship were very widely reported. (Indeed, it was the main reason the case was such a sensation in the popular press.) Instead, she was judged insane because her mother was judged insane. She was the unfortunate degenerated offspring of a degenerated mother, and Mitchell’s degeneracy was seen as a more generalized sort which had little to do with her sexuality. The homosexuality of gay men, on the other hand, was often regarded as degeneracy sui generis, with one Texas physician in 1893 advocating castration for those judged to be afflicted with this “trait” so that it could not be passed on to future generations — to “nip it in the bud,” so to speak.

Degeneration theory, which provided a theoretical basis for eugenics, would eventually die with the worst excesses of the eugenics movement. People with physical, mental, emotional or other anomalies — whether those anomalies were in the direction of weakness or strength — would soon lose the tag of “degenerate.” Everyone except for gay people. For them, the last remnant of this discarded theory would live on as the name commonly used against them — degenerates — until well into the late twentieth century. And in some circles, still today.

[Sources: Jonathan Katz. Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1976): pp 53-58.

Douglas C. McMurtrie. “Notes on the psychology of sex.” American Journal of Urology 10, no. 9 (September 1914): 432-436. Available online via Google Books here.

F. E. Daniel “Castration of sexual perverts.” Texas Medical Journal 9, no. 6 (December 1893): 255-271

“Murder In Cold Blood: Memphis Startled by a Most Sickening Tragedy.” The Day (New London, CT., January 26, 1892): 1. Available online via Google News Archive here.

“An Odor of Blood: The Details of Freda Ward’s Murder Retold.” Aurora (IL) Daily Express (February 25, 1892): 2. Available online via Google News Archive here.

“Misfit Affection: Strange Case of Alice Mitchell and Freda Ward.” Warsaw (IN) Daily Times (July 19, 1892): 1. Available online via Google News Archive here.

“Loved Like A Man: Developments in the Freda Ward Murder Case.” Warsaw (IN) Daily Times (July 20, 1892): 1. Available online via Google News Archive here.]

Oklahoma High School Students Form Klan Chapters: 1978. An estimated 112 to 132 high school students, mostly freshmen and sophomores at two high schools in northwestern Oklahoma City and the surrounding suburbs, joined teen chapters of the Ku Klux Kan. The purpose of those chapters, according to newspaper accounts, was to wage “a campaign of terror against homosexuals.” One unidentified youth said, “We are not just against blacks like the old Klan. We are against gays and the clubs that support them and are going to try to shut them down because this activity is morally and socially wrong.” Putnam City Hugh School was located just a few short miles several of Oklahoma City’s gay bars, and the boys claimed credit for an attack on patrons leaving one such establishment the previous November in which several people were injured and cars were vandalized.

Fear of homosexuals wasn’t isolated to a few high schools in the suburbs. Just a few days earlier, Rep. John Monks (D-Muskogee) had introduced a bill that he called the “Teacher Fitness Statute” in the state House of representatives. The bill would would allow public schools to fire or refuse to hire anyone who engaged in “public homosexuality activity,” which the proposed broadly defined to also include not just sexual activity, but also “advocating, soliciting, imposing, encouraging or promoting public or private homosexual activities in a manner that creates a substantial risk that such conduct will come to the attention of schoolchildren or school employees.” Which meant that straight teachers could be deemed unfit to teach if they said or did anything which might be construed as supporting gay rights — or, one might imaging, speaking out against an anti-gay KKK chapter in schools.

But school officials were skeptical of that the reports of student KKK chapters were true. Putnam City High School’s principal said that the news accounts could be the work of “one young man” who “has made accusations and wants publicity.” The principal of Putnam City West High School promised, “We won’t have the Klan on campus if I have any say-so.”

But an anonymous Klan spokesperson told the Oklahoma City Times, which broke the story, that the Klan had been going on “very quietly” in the Putnam City school district. One of the teens told the paper that that the chapters “have gotten instruction sheets and lots of information on the Klan from the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, even on making the robes and hats.” Another said that he joined the Klan “as a joke that kind of started making sense.” As for the Klan chapter’s membership, another boy said, “The only people we won’t let in are girls, blacks, Jews or dope smokers. And we might consider Catholics if the time comes.”

As for the Teacher Fitness Statue, it would sail through the state House and Senate in lopsided votes just a few weeks later (see Feb 21). The U.S. Supreme Court finally let stand an Appeals Court ruling striking the law down as unconstitutional in 1986 (see Mar 26).

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 Sunday, January 24

Jim Burroway

January 24th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Blade (Washington, D.C.), September 1977, page 4. (Personal collection)

From The Advocate, November 21, 1973, page 26.

From The Advocate, November 21, 1973, page 26. (Personal collection)

From The Body Politic (Toronto, ON), Winter 1974, page 16.

From The Body Politic (Toronto, ON), Winter 1974, page 16. (Source)

Roman baths (and Greek baths before them) weren’t just places where people went to bathe. The were where the cultural and political life of the community took place. It was only natural, after all. With soap being a rare and expensive luxury, the process of bathing was time consuming, so conversations became a natural part of the experience. Over time, bathhouses (or thermae, as they were called) became more elaborate, typically with at least three pools (with hot, cold, and lukewarm water), and often featured steam and dry saunas. As the process of bathing became more elaborate, it also became much more social. Some thermae increased their social importance by adding exercise rooms, libraries, rooms for poetry readings, and small cafes. Emperors and politicians knew that building elaborate thermae was one way of gaining favor with the masses, and much of the water carried in Rome’s famed aqueducts went to supply the public baths. All of this made Rome unusually clean, with daily bathing commonplace. Which is why the baths were the epitome of clean living.

From The Fifth Freedom (Buffalo, NY), January 1975, page 21.

From The Fifth Freedom (Buffalo, NY), January 1975, page 21. (Source)

Which is, I’m sure, why the idea of a Roman bathhouse inspired so many gay bathhouses across the continent. Here are just a few examples, from Washington, D.C. (top), Van Nuys and Los Angeles (above center), Toronto (above right) and Rochester, New York. And I guess they were onto something. Just as the bathhouses of ancient Rome and Egypt became important social spaces for the people of that era, so, too, were they vital social spaces for gay men in a time when congregating elsewhere often proved dangerous. Not that bathhouses were particularly safe. They were often raided as well, including the Toronto Roman Bath’s successor, Romans II Health and Recreation Spa, in 1981 (see Feb 5). That raid, in which police also hit three other bathhouses on the same night, became something of a smaller Stonewall for Toronto, prompting the gay community there to organize, get involved in local politics, and ultimately help to shape a better climate for gay people across Canada.

Jerry Thacker

Jerry Thacker

TODAY IN HISTORY:
“Gay Plague” Conservative Withdraws from Bush’s AIDS Panel: 2003. Could there possibly have been a more inappropriate pick for President George W. Bush’s AIDS advisory panel than Jerry Thacker? One might have imagined that the nominee who contracted the AIDS virus after his wife was infected by a blood transfusion might have been a good choice. But Thacker, a former Bob Jones University graduate and faculty member, had a web site where he presented his messages on AIDS prevention and caring for people with AIDS. Among his topics was a talk that he advertised, titled, “Help for Homosexuals,” in which he claimed to offer (via archive.org):

A message on the nature of homosexuality and how Christ can rescue the homosexual. Includes statistics on homosexual behavior, tips for ministry to those practicing this “deathstyle” and information on the homosexual movement and its political agenda.

Thacker also referred to AIDS as the “gay plague.” The web site was quickly scrubbed soon after the offending comments were discovered, but the damage was done. LGBT and HIV/AIDS advocates were furious. Carl Schmid, a Log Cabin Republican member and a board member for the Human Rights Campaign, had worked in Bush’s 2000 Presidential campaign. He said, “We need to have a scientific-based approach to the problems of HIV-AIDS and not this radical agenda he’s pushing.” Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-ND) also denounced the nomination: “Thacker’s characterization of AIDS as the gay plague and his offensive public statements about homosexuality indicate a disturbing bias that is completely at odds with the role the advisory commission should play.” But the panel’s co-chair, Tom Coburn (who would later become Republican Senator from Oklahoma), professed ignorance of Thacker’s opinions and claimed that Thacker’s views on homosexuality were irrelevant to the panel’s work.

A week after Thacker’s nomination, he withdrew is name from consideration. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer moved quickly to distance the administration from the controversy: “Those words are as wrong as they are inappropriate. And they are not shared by the President. That remark is far removed from what the president believes.” Thacker blamed his nomination’s failure on “gay radicals” in an interview two weeks later: “The primary tactic used by gay radicals is intimidation. They’re going to be in your face and they’re going to be noisy.”

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Publius Aelius Traianus Hadrianus, the Emperor Hadrian: 76-138. Regarded as the third of the Five Good Emperors, he became emperor in 117 just as the Roman Empire was in its prime. Peace, for the most part, was at hand, which allowed the Emperor to travel to nearly every one of the Empire’s provinces. He endeared himself as the “people’s emperor,” traveling with his troops and eating the same rations. He embark on a massive public works campaign, building roads, temples, public baths, libraries, monuments and fortifications along the frontiers, including the massive Hadrian’s Wall in Britain. He was a strong patron of the arts, he wrote poetry in Latin and Greek, he reformed the legal code with respect to slavery, and he rebuilt the Pantheon with the dome that stands to this day.

Antonous

Here’s a little-known note: Hadrian popularized beards. Before his time, Romans were clean shaven. Hadrian’s beard was inspired by his love of all things Greek: philosophy, literature, culture, and a particular young man, his love Antinous. When Antinous drowned in the Nile, Hadrian, it was said, “wept for him like a woman.” Hadrian struck coins in Antinous’s likeness and had him deified — unprecedented acts for one who was not an emperor. He founded the Egyptian city of Antinopolis in his lover’s memory, commissioned busts and statues in his likeness, built temples to him throughout his empire, and held festivals in his honor. The Cult of Antinous became very popular, particularly with a certain class of men in the empire.

Hardian did marry, to fulfill one expectation of being an Emperor, but the marriage was childless. In 136, he adopted a consul, Lucius Ceinius Commodus, that he tapped to be his successor, but Commodus died two years later. Hadrian then formally adopted Antonius Pius, on the stipulation that Antonius would adopt Marcus Aurelius and thus secure the succession of the Fourth and Fifth Good Emperors.

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

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

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, January 23

Jim Burroway

January 23rd, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Advocate, December 19, 1973, page 6.

From the Advocate, December 19, 1973, page 6.

While we tend to think of bathhouses as mostly sexual venues — and they were — they were also important social spaces for a community that was still largely underground and without safe places to gather. And so in that light, it’s not entirely surprising that the Club Baths chain, which at its peak boasted 500,000 members at 42 locations across North America, held a convention in 1974 in Miami, complete with a Mr. Club Baths contest. Houstonians were excited to learn that fellow Texan Bruce Eden took home the top honors:

Bruce EdenOn the right is model Bruce Eden. He’s the young Houstonian who earned another honor for both himself and Houston when he was elected Mr. Club Bath International at the CBC convention in Miami. Bruce was selected from dozens of contestants from coast to coast and points beyond.

— From Contact (Houston, TX), April 1974, page 4.

Eden grew up on a ranch in San Diego, Texas near Laredo. He settled near Austin, where he became something of a minor local celebrity in the gay community. He was also active in rodeos, gay and straight, having participated in events since the age of nine. He passed away of AIDS sometime before 1992. The Texas Gay Rodeo Association has named its sportsmanship award in his honor.

Top left: From This Week In Texas, April 3, 1976; Top right: with Michael Andrews, Miss Gay America 1976, This Week in Texas, May 7, 1977. Bottom left: From This Week In Texas, January 28, 1977. Bottom right: from First Hand Events magazine of the International Gay Rodeo Association, 1989.

Top left: From This Week In Texas, April 3, 1976; Top right: with Michael Andrews, Miss Gay America 1976, This Week in Texas, May 7, 1977. Bottom left: From This Week In Texas, January 28, 1977. Bottom right: from First Hand Events magazine of the International Gay Rodeo Association, 1989.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
A Suicide in St. Louis: 1892. When I wrote about this suicide in 2012, I knew neither the date nor the name of the man in question. All I had was a written description of a man whose desperation over an unrequited (or a no longer requited) love led to his untimely and sad end. Charles H Hughes, editor of the Alienist and Neurologist (“Alienist” was an early term for psychiatrist) gave a talk before the Section of Mental and Nervous Diseases at the Pan-American Medical Congress in 1893 on “Erotopathia” — among the many early terms given to homosexuality before the word “homosexual” entered the English language — in which he gave the following account:

In February of the past year (1892), a quiet, cultured and gentlemanly appearing young man committed suicide by shooting himself at his room in a hotel in St. Louis. A combination of causes probably led to the despondency which ended in the rash act. Pecuniary embarrassment may have been one of them, but the chief cause, as elicited at the Coroner’s inquest, as testified by the male friend of whom he was enamored, was that he had a morbid attachment for that friend. He wrote long letters to him teeming with endearing words. They had roomed together, but at the time of the tragedy they were rooming apart. This was his second attempt at suicide. At the time of his death he carried a locket about his neck containing the picture of the man be loved. He was an educated professional man, kindhearted and of good address.

The following letters, written in a neat hand shortly prior to, and about the time of, his death, serve to show the erotopathic condition of this young man’s mind. They reveal the ardent feeling of the anxious, disappointed lover, much the same feeling as one madly in love might normally have for his heart’s idol of the other sex, but never but unnaturally and abnormally for one’s own sex, with homicidal and suicidal impulses of maddened desperation added.

My Dear Friend: — Are you ill, angry or merely careless? I looked for my usual Thursday’s letter Saturday morning. It came not. I then felt sure you would write me on Sunday. I watched for the postman. No letter. He has been here this A. M. and still no letter. It makes me not only unhappy, but very anxious — unhappy since I am deprived of all that is left me to care for or look forward to; unhappy in the thought that I have displeased you; in suspense and anxiety lest some bodily ailment has seized that goodly frame and rendered you unable to communicate with me. If I do not hear from you in a day or so I shall be frantic and unfit for anything. I sent the stud on Thursday, which must have reached you Saturday, and not later than Monday, in which case I should have heard from you by this time.”

My Dear Friend: — I have just returned from the Cathedral, where Bishop Tuttle preached. My mind is not in a very receptive frame, so I can hardly tell anything he said. The pass was all a myth. The only pass I have is one into eternity. I even sold my dress suit and my old clothes to raise the funds to get here on. I came, intending to first kill you, then myself. I shall only make an end of my own miserable existence. My Jove for you has been my ruin. I can no more live a life apart from you than I can fly. The past month has been the test and I cannot do it. There is but one thing which could save me, and that is to pass the remainder of my life in your presence. I shall do that anyhow, for to die in your arms relieves death of half its terrors. I wish it would come to me naturally and you would have nothing to dishonor or grieve you. It is cruel in me to do this act, for it will blight your life. I should be more cruel to myself to try and live without you. You have done all but the one right and effective thing to save and make me, but it has all failed. I would gladly beg, steal, do anything — forego riches, forget friends, home, kindred, but for a life of blissful association with you. My office and outfit are all intact and you can realize something on those things. Mr. C—- H—-, XI6 M—- Avenue, will see to the things. I appreciate all you did, and the effort and sacrifice you made for me. It was not in the right direction.

“This letter to you is all I leave behind. I cannot write anything to my parents. The blow will probably kill my mother. I shudder to think of it. We might have been happy together had it not been for W—-. The W—-, your brother’s family, your other rich friends, your high social and business standing, your high ideas of morality, which you never filled — but ’tis too late, the end must come. I don’t see why God did not let me die that Saturday night. I suppose there was some purpose waiting till you had made the outlay and sacrificed so much. You see, the end is all the same. Good-by, dear I—-, I won’t wish you happiness; you will never have that again and you will follow in my footsteps sometime. Men of our natures and sins must have their punishment, and ours comes in a terrible shape. You are mine in the light of heaven and no family ties can claim you from me in death. I pity you, but oh, to be free from all this agony of separation, suspense, doubt, is so welcome. May God deal with me according to my weakness. Keep my stud as long as you live. send my watch and ring to my mother. Let my last rites be attended by as little expense as possible. A pauper cannot expect to repose in a metallic casket. I am going to bed, to sleep and gain nerve to face my fate. I have felt it must be, and since I have known you, I knew you were to be the last straw. I have Joved you better than you have ever loved or will ever be loved again. Think kindly of that love sometimes. I am unworthy, but my love for you is worth a thought. Pray for my soul. Amen.”

Much more than a sentiment of warm friendship for one’s benefactor is breathed in these epistles of passion, desperation and love, with its sequel of chagrin and suicide, without remorse for, or full appreciation of, the unnatural character of his perverted love. Though his Christian training had taught him to regard his unnatural passion as a sin.

This is why I love BTB readers. Soon after this appeared on a 2012 Daily Agenda, BTB reader John Manion wrote to me after having sleuthed out the following information:

I noticed your St Louis suicide story, it sure caught my interest and I wanted to know a little more about those involved. I am into genealogy and I took it as a challenge to find out their names. I found more than I expected and got a little carried away, but, I am stopping here. I am forwarding the items to BTB. The following is from online sources (genealogybank.com, ancestry.com, google books, etc)

Dr Hughes lived in St. Louis and may have seen the letters firsthand. He states in your column that Breedlove and Judson roomed together for a while, which is something I do not think I have seen in the news, so maybe he talked with some of the people involved. There is a sketch of Dr Breedlove.

The date of the death was reported in the newspapers of the day as happening in the morning of Feb 23 1892 in St Louis at the Hurst’s Hotel. Between 8 and 8:30. The story was in many papers from coast to coast. The man who died was Dr. Charles Breedlove, a young dentist of age 28, born in 1864, a graduate of the University of Maryland. He was single. Dr Breedlove was the last of 4 children his parents had, the other 3 all died in early life and his family hails from the south. Of course, the family was completely surprised but supportive of their son, but did not know he was unhappy. His body was sent home to Fort Smith, Arkansas, where his family lived. His father was a medical doctor. His parents died in 1906, within a few months of each other. Charles Breedlove’s friends from Baltimore thought he was not sad and certainly slandered by Prof Judson.

The man he wrote the letters to was Isaac Judson, born in 1853. They had met in Sept of 1891 and became fast friends. He was 38 and single. He was a Yale graduate and spoke at his commencement ceremonies during his graduation. His dad went to Yale too and both were members of Skull & Bones. He was a professor of Greek and Latin at the St Louis High School. His family hails from the Northeast. He was suspended from teaching for a few days until a special committee could review the case. They exonerated him from any blame in the situation and allowed him to continue his profession “without prejudice”. After the suicide he stayed in St Louis until at least 1920, working as the Head Assistant in the School. He was always single up to the 1920 census, his last one. After that he returned to New York, and died there in 1926. His funeral notice does not mention family members. He was the youngest of 4 children, with one surviving brother.

Breedlove waited for him to arrive at the hotel, walk into the room, handed him a letter. Judson was reading it and behind him Breedlove shot himself in the head. Breedlove was wearing a charm around his neck, when opened was a picture of Judson. Breedlove’s letters gave the story a life it would not have had. His family and friends believed Prof Judson, had he cared enough, would have kept the letters private. That may not have been an option, as at least one other letter was found by the medical examiner.

Judson consulted a Dr Ware (he is a dentist!!) about the feelings Charles was having, and Judson didn’t understand what was going on. Judson “seemed horrified” as Dr Ware explained what it means. Judson told Dr Ware he had “never before heard of such a thing”. Judson “then resolved to throw Breedlove aside, and asked me the best way to do it.”

Dr Ware continued “Breedlove came to me once for treatment. When he offered to pay me I declined to take his money…..a few days later…we went to the theater together. I did not like the man from the start.”

Poor guy!

Prof Judson had a roommate. This is the one Breedlove was “intensely jealous” of, Prof Herbert A Wheeler, of Washington University of St Louis. His statement is Judson was introduced to Dr Breedlove last September by a mutual friend. “the two soon grew to be fast friends and frequent visits were made by them to one another’s boarding houses.”

Professor Wheeler was born in Brooklyn in 1859 Wheeler graduated in 1880 from the Columbia College School of Mines. Herbert A Wheeler got married at age 66. It was his first marriage. He did not have any children listed at age 71, the 1930 census. He died in March 11 1950 in St Louis County. He was the youngest of 5 children.

Judson taught school in Brooklyn, from 1877 to 1880.

John also sent a wealth of newspaper clippings and other documents, and he created a public family tree page at Ancestry.com in order to make this information accessible for other historians and genealogists.

[Original source: Charles H. Hughes. “Erotopathia — Morbid eroticism.” Alienist and Neurologist 14, no. 4 (October 1893): 531-578. Available via Google Books here.]

TIME Film Review Blasts “Victim” As “A Plea for Perversion”: 1962. The British Film Victim featured a plot steeped in homosexual blackmail. Starring Dirk Bogarde (see Mar 28) as a lawyer seeking to break up a blackmail ring after his gay client commits suicide, the 1961 film brought to mass audiences a key danger that gay people faced: “A law which sends homosexuals to prison is a charter for blackmail.” The film had been released in Britain in August of 1961, but because was barred from U.S. theaters because the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America’s (MPPDA) standards prohibited films with homosexual content.

The MPPDA changed its code five weeks later (see  Oct 3), and Victim saw its U.S. premiere on February 5, 1962. In a film review two weeks later, Time made it clear that they didn’t like it one bit:

Victim has a neat plot, deft direction by Basil Dearden, and the sort of grum good manners one expects of the British in these trying situations. It also has a careful performance by Bogarde, and it pursues with eloquence and conviction the case against an antiquated statute.

But what seems at first an attack on extortion seems at last a coyly sensational exploitation of homosexuality as a theme —and, what’s more offensive, an implicit approval of homosexuality as a practice.

Almost all the deviates in the film are fine fellows—well dressed, well spoken, sensitive, kind. The only one who acts like an overt invert turns out to be a detective.

Everybody in the picture who disapproves of homosexuals proves to be an ass, a dolt or a sadist. Nowhere does the film suggest that homosexuality is a serious (but often curable) neurosis that attacks the biological basis of life itself. “I can’t help the way I am,” says one of the sodomites in this movie. “Nature played me a dirty trick.” And the scriptwriters, whose psychiatric information is clearly coeval with the statute they dispute, accept this sick-silly self-delusion as a medical fact.

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, January 22

Jim Burroway

January 22nd, 2016

EMPHASIS MINE:
The Russian biologist Ilya Mechnikoff of the Pasteur Institute of Paris tackled a raging controversy in 1907:

Ilya_MechnikovA large number of people, amongst them even men of science, regard as immoral any attempt to prevent to spread of venereal diseases. Recently, in connection with the investigations in the action mercurial ointment as a means of preventing syphilis, members of the Faculty of Medicine in France made a public protest, declaring that it would be “immoral to let people think that they could indulge in sexual vice without danger,” and that it was “wrong to give the public a means of protection in debauch.” None the less, other men of science, equally serious, were convinced that they were performing an absolutely moral work in attempting to find a prophylactic against syphilis which would preserve many people, including children and other innocent persons who, if no preventive measures existed, would suffer from the terrible disease. Such examples show the reader what confusion exists in the problem of morality…

…In the question of the prevention of syphilis, the moral problem is still more easy to settle. … The certainty of safety from this disease might render extra-conjugal relations more frequent, but if we compare the evil which might come from that with the immense benefit gained in preventing so many innocent persons from becoming diseased, it is easy to see which side the scale dips. The indignation of those who protest against the discovery of preventive measures can never either arrest the zeal of the investigators or hinder the use of the measures. This example again shows that reasoning is necessary in the solution of most moral questions.

— Dr. Elie Metchnikoff (sic). The Prolongation of Life. Trans. P. Chalmers Mitchel (New York: GP Putnam’s Sons, 1910 edition): 302 and 304.

Some questions never stay answered. The objections to preventing syphillis a hundred years ago echo again today with anti-gay activists’ objections to the HPV vaccine or some of the objections raised by others to PrEP. Metchnikoff, by the way, was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1908 for his discovery of phagocytes and their role in the immune system.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Michael’s Thing, April 29, 1974, page 27.

The Bike Stop would later open another location at 381 3rd Avenue. That one became known as the Bike Stop East, and the 75th Street location became the Bike Stop West. The bar manager, known as “the Emerald Queen” for the emerald rings he wore, claimed to be Tab Hunter’s half brother. The Bike Stop East today is a sushi bar. I’m not sure what’s going on with the original location.

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
The Bicycle in the Treatment of Homosexuality: 1892. In the late 1800s, the entire country was swept up in a massive bicycling craze. Today, we tend to think of bicycling today as a hobby or recreation, at least outside of a few densly-populated urban centers. But in the late 1800s, people quickly discovered what today’s urban dwellers already know: it was an amazingly practical, efficient, cheap and speedy way of getting around. Before the bike came along, transportation was either by horse (cumbersome and expensive) or by foot (slow). By 1885, over 400 bicycle factories were working non-stop to keep up with demand. That year alone, Americans bought 2 million bikes, one for every 27 people in the country.

Bicycling also had the added benefit of being healthy exercise. And so it should come as no surprise that it would inspire doctors to find novel prescriptions for their patients’ ailments. Dr. Graeme M. Hammond of New York City wrote to the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease about the new contraption’s ability to calm his patient’s nervous disorders. He presented thirteen cases, which included “one of sexual perversion, and the thirteenth case was one of abnormally developed sexual appetite”:

Dr. Graeme Hammond

Dr. Graeme Hammond

CASES XII. and XIII. both suffered from abnormal sexual appetites. Case XII. a young man, twenty-four years of age, had observed for the past year a gradually increasing desire for members of his own sex. He had been able to control his appetite so far, but was fearful lest it should finally overcome him and lead him to perpetrate acts which were naturally abhorrent to him. Case XIII. was a man, thirty years of age, whose naturally vigorous sexual appetite had been fed by indulgence, till it seemed as if the gratification of his desires was his only object in life.

I have observed during my twenty years experience among athletes, that physical fatigue is antagonistic to the sexual appetite, and that men who devote their lives to the cultivation of their physical strength are seldom, if ever, immoderate sexually, and during the periods of active training are often abstemious simply from lack of desire. Energy, which, in others might be expended sexually, is in them consumed by hard physical work. It has, therefore, been my custom in those cases, in whom I have considered it advisable to diminish or to abolish the sexual appetite, to prescribe severe and fatiguing exercise in conjunction with suitable medicinal treatment. I have found nothing more serviceable than the bicycle to accomplish this object. It should be used daily, preferably in the afternoon, and the patient should be directed to ride long distances at a rapid rate of speed, not carrying it to such an extent as to produce exhaustion, yet sufficiently so to induce well-marked fatigue.

Both of these patients have repeatedly told me that a hard ride would invariably abolish all sexual desire, even if the appetite was at its strongest just before the ride was taken. Of course, medicinal treatment was administered in both instances; but there can be no doubt that their recovery was hastened and facilitated by the hard physical labor they were subjected to by the use of the bicycle.

Paging NARTH…

[Source: Graeme Hammond. “The bicycle in the treatment of nervous diseases.” Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 17, no. 1 ( January 1892): 36-46.]

100 YEARS AGO: V.D. As Retribution for Illicit Intercourse: 1916. Today’s history item goes to show that the more things change, the more things stay the same. Through much of the first decades of the AIDS crisis, moralistic preachers, pundits and politicians described the fatal disease as divine punishment for what they saw as illicit behavior. In 1983, for example, New York Post Columnist Pat Buchanan wrote, “The poor homosexuals… they have declared war upon nature, and now nature is exacting an awful retribution.” (See May 24)

Winfield Scott Hall

Winfield Scott Hall

It’s that phrase — “awful retribution” — which is as ignorant is it is memorable, even some three decades later. But it’s hardly original. In 1916, Dr. Winfield Scott Hall, professor of physiology at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago, published a book, Sexual Knowledge, “for the instruction of young people, young wives and young husbands… on the best way and the best time to impart sexual knowledge to boys and girls.” The book was published under a copyright held by The International Bible House, and it proved to be as ignorant and moralizing as anything Buchanan has ever written. The concern then, of course, wasn’t AIDS, but gonorrhea and syphilis, two sexually transmitted diseases for which there were no easy cures. And so avoiding them in the first place was an important priority. Condoms were known to as an effective barrier to transmission, and there were a variety of other remedies which were marketed as prophylactics. But Hall, in Sexual Knowledge, wrote that the only true prevention was adherence to marriage vows:

Nature has devised a retribution for illicit intercourse in the form of venereal disease. If the parties observe fidelity to their marriage vows, venereal disease is experienced in wedlock only on very rare occasions, and then through some accidental infection, as from contact with some public utensil, as a public water closet, a public towel, or a drinking cup. So rare is this unfortunate accident, however, that we may say that intercourse in undefiled wedlock results normally in pleasure and gratification to both parties; while intercourse out of wedlock, or illicit intercourse, is destined, as a rule, to be visited with retribution.

Mind you, this was a professor at Northwestern University’s medical school, one of the largest and most prestigious institutions in the Midwest. Dr. William J. Robinson, who was a physician, sexologist, birth control advocate, and editor of the American Journal of Urology and Sexology, exploded with fury in the January 1916 edition of his journal. Quoting the first sentence from the passage above, Robinson raged:

William J. Robinson

William J. Robinson

I wish I possessed a pen sufficiently sharp and vitriolic and a vocabulary sufficiently rich and varied, to characterize properly this sentence, to brand it as it deserves to be branded.

…It isn’t sufficient to characterize it merely as a stupid falsehood; the injury of such statements is much greater than one would casually conceive; they have a further reaching significance in the fact that they tend to loose, illogical thinking and lead to false ideas about Nature in general. Coming from a scientist such a statement is nothing less than a crime. Just think of what the sentence means: in order to discourage men from illicit sexual relations or to punish them for having indulged in ante-matrimonial or extra-matrimonial relations, Nature has designedly, purposely, created the gonococcus and the spirocheta pallida. So thoughtful, so solicitous is Nature about Man’s morality, so deeply interested is she that men should live in strictly monogamic marriage only (which, by the way, everybody except a Professor of Physiology knows is an institution of only comparatively recent origin), that she has deliberately and purposely devised a retribution in the form of gonorrhea and syphilis for all those who dare to indulge in illicit, i. e., natural sex relations! Any union sanctioned by priest or magistrate is to be blessed, happy and free from any disease or disharmony, any union not s0 sanctioned is to be punished by venereal disease. And this is Nature’s deliberate retribution, and so says a scientist, a Professor of Physiology, who is supposed to instruct and develop the thinking powers of the young!

Venereal disease is Nature’s retribution for illicit intercourse. And what is measles, scarlet fever and diphtheria a retribution for? What is consumption, cancer, heart disease, Bright’s disease, a retribution for?

Robertson was just getting warmed up. To drive home the sheer ridiculousness of Hall’s “retribution” thesis, Robertson demanded that Hall’s statement be brought to its most logical conclusion:

I believe in logic to a finish. If it be reprehensible to teach people the use of venereal prophylactics because such knowledge circumvents Nature and destroys the deterrent effect of venereal disease, then it is also reprehensible, nay even criminal, to treat venereal disease, and every venereal specialist is a criminal, because by his skill in curing venereal disease, which is the direct result of illicit intercourse, he circumvents Nature, minimizes the stings of the punishment and thus directly encourages immorality. I am not joking. I am simply logical. And if we believe that Nature has devised venereal disease as a retribution for illicit intercourse, then it stands to reason that any attempt to cure venereal disease, to free men from Nature’s punishment, is a sin against Nature.

Here is the situation. A man knows that there is such a thing as venereal disease; still, prompted by the imperiousness of his instinct, he takes the risk with the conscious or unconscious thought that if he is unfortunate enough to contract the disease he will go to a specialist who will cure it. But suppose there were no such a thing as a venereal specialist? Suppose the treatment of venereal disease were made a criminal offence? Can’t you see that the fear of venereal disease would exert its deterrent effect in a thousand times stronger measure than it does now? If a man were sure that if he contracted gonorrhea or syphilis or chancroids, that he would have to carry the disease for the rest of his life, that not only would there be no hope of any cure, but that he would get no relief, don’t you agree with me that such a man would hesitate much more than he does now, before subjecting himself to the risk of venereal infection? Of course you do. Q. E. D.

We thus reach the logical, the unassailable conclusion that if Nature devised venereal disease as a retribution for illicit intercourse, then it is not only criminal to teach the use of venereal prophylactics, as is now done so commonly in the armies and navies of the world, including those of the United States, but it is just as criminal, in fact more so, to treat venereal disease in any form. If a man wants to be a criminal and wants to break Nature’s laws against illicit intercourse, then let him bear the full consequences, and every man who wants to save him from Nature’s punishment, or wants to cure him after he has been punished, is accessory to the crime.

How does Professor Hall and those who believe with him like this logically unassailable conclusion?

[Sources: Winfield Scott Hall. Sexual Knowledge (Philadelphia: John C. Winston Co., 1916): 129-130. The passage can be read online via Google Books here.

William J. Robinson. “Venereal disease as a retribution for illicit intercourse.” American Journal of Urology and Sexology 12, no. 1 (January 1916): 24-29. Robinson’s article can be read online via Google Books here.]

Portrait of Francis Bacon, 1617, by Frans Pourbus the younger.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Sir Francis Bacon: 1561-1626. The philosopher, essayist, author, jurist, statement and scientist is known as the creator of empiricism, which insisted that knowledge must come from direct experience and evidence rather than traditions, intuitions or religious beliefs. Bacon further honed those theories into a disciplined approach to scientific method which became known as the Baconan methond or, more simply, the scientific method.

Bacon’s career began in law, first as a barrister and then as a member of Parliament, where he became known as a reformer and an advocate against religious persecution. But his career stalled under Queen Elizabeth I, and he found himself mired in debt. When James I ascended to the thrown, Bacon’s prospects improved. He also, at the age of 48, finally married Alice Barnham. His close relationship with the gay James I was fruitful, as Bacon was awarded the office of Solicitor General, then Attorney General, then Lord High Chancellor, the highest post in government aside from the King himself, all within a decade. But his public career ended in 1621 when after falling into debt, he was charged by Parliament with 23 counts of corruption. He was fined £40,000 and sent to the Tower of London at the king’s pleasure. Again, his closeness with the King came in handy as he was released days later with James I covering the fine.

During Bacon’s downfall, there was considerable speculation about his private life and his love for “very effeminate-faced youth,” and Welsh male servants. The Puritan MP Sir Simonds D’Ewes wrote in his diary on the very day of Bacon’s censure by Parliament:

The favour he had with the beloved Marquis of Buckingham emboldened him, as I learned in discourse from a gentleman of his bedchamber, who told me he was sure his lord should never fall as long as the said Marquis continued in favour. His most abominable and darling sinne I should rather burie in silence, than mencion it, were it not a most admirable instance, how men are enslaved by wickedness, & held captive by the devill. For wheeras presentlie upon his censure at this time his ambition was moderated, his pride humbled, and the meanes of his former injustice and corruption removed; yet would he not relinquish the practice of his most horrible & secret sinne of sodomie, keeping still one Godrick, a verie effeminate faced youth, to bee his catamite and bedfellow, although hee had discharged the most of his other household sevants: which was the moore to bee admired, because men generallie after his fall begann to discourse of that his unnaturall crime, which hee had practiced manie yeares, deserting the bedd of his Ladie, which hee accounted, as the Italians and the Turkes doe, a poore & meane pleasure in respect of the other; & it was thought by some, that hee should have been tried at the barre of justice for it, & have satisfied the law most severe against that horrible villanie with the price of his bloud; which caused some bold and forward man to write these verses following in a whole sheete of paper, & to cast it down in some part of Yorkehouse in the strand, wheere Viscount St. Alban yet lay:

Within this sty a *hogg doth ly,
That must be hang’d for Sodomy.

(*alluding both to his sirname of Bacon, & to that swinish abominable sinne.)

But hee never came to anye publicke triall for this crime; nor did ever, that I could heare, forbeare his old custome of making his servants his bedfellowes, soe to avoid the scandall was raised of him, though hee lived many yeares after his fall in his lodgings in Grayes Inne in Holbourne, in great want & penurie.

With his career in government over, Bacon turned to writing and conducting scientific research. He wrote New Atlantis, a utopian fiction which set out his ideals about the best way to organize society; Novum Organum, in which he discussed the organization of knowledge; and The Advancement of Learning, where he argued for empirical research instead of supposition and superstition. In 1626, his commitment to empiricism may have been a factor in his death. To test whether freezing meat would preserve it, he went out in a blizzard and stuffed a dead chicken with snow. As he wrote while on what would turn out to be his death bed, “As for the experiment itself, it succeeded excellently well; but in the journey between London and Highgate, I was taken with such a fit of casting as I know not whether it were the Stone, or some surfeit or cold, or indeed a touch of them all three.” He died of pneumonia a month later on April 9, 1626.

 Elaine Noble: 1944. Before Harvey Milk won political office in San Francisco, there was Elaine Noble in Boston. She won her Massachusetts state House of Representatives seat in 1974, becoming the first non-incumbent “avowed homosexual” to be elected to public office. It was a nasty campaign from beginning to end: her windows were shot out, her car was vandalized, and windows were smashed at her campaign headquarters. As she later recalled, “I was elected in a largely Irish-Catholic town. I was elected in spite of being gay. In the height of desegregation in Boston, I was riding on the buses with children of color. The gay community was just as racist as the straight community. So I had a lot of issues around race… There was a level of animosity in all strata of society against homosexuality.”

Despite that animosity, she won 59% of the vote. She did it by focusing on the things people in her district cared about: crime, health care, housing for the district’s many elderly residents, and the neglect in city services.

But the harassment continued after she took office. “One day, I was walking to the State House and there was a guy, 85 years old, and he walked up and said, ”Rep. Noble.’ And I reached up to shake his hand and he spit on me. And then I turned around and he started doing his diatribe. I walked all the way home, showered and changed my clothes. So, even walking to work or riding my bike to work was not terribly safe.”

She not only had to deal with obscene profanities, she once found human feces left in her desk. But when she stood for re-election two years later, she won with almost 90% of the vote. In 1977, she was part of the first delegation of gay men and lesbians invited to the Jimmy Carter White House to discuss issues important to the LGBT community (see Mar 26). Being such an important “first” took its toll on her though, and she decided against running for re-election in 1978:

My phone was ringing constantly from people all over the country who had very frightened voices. There were people all over the country calling and asking if I would come and speak. They’d say, “Well, you have a responsibility to a bigger constituency.” I was pulled in a thousand different ways. It was not going to have a happy ending and I was smart enough to know that. I thought, “Well, I’ve done my best. It’s time for me to move on to the next step in my own life. I’ve paid my dues.”

Since then, with the exception of an occasional interview, she has mostly been living a considerably quieter private life.

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, January 20

Jim Burroway

January 20th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

from the Empty Closet (Rochester, NY), January 1973, page 2.

from the Empty Closet (Rochester, NY), January 1973, page 2.

When the Rathskeller held its grand opening in Rochester, New York, the local gay paper, The Empty Closet, printed this brief announcement:

The RATHSKELLER (formerly the TURF) has been bought by FLORENCE AND JESS, long time friend of the gay set. They have cleaned it up and out, trying to build a clientel (sic) reminisent (sic) of the CHALET. Quiet, amiable drinking is always in at the RATHSKELLER.

The Rathskeller was one of the original sponsors of Rochester’s annual Gay Picnic, which is still going strong as part of Rochester’s annual Pride celebration. The Rathskeller’s location today is a desolate, empty lot, just to the east of where the Midtown Plaza shopping mall used to be, which was across Broad Street from where the corporate headquarters of Xerox used to be.

Murder, she wrote.

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
Phyllis Lyon Kills Ann Ferguson: 1957. When the Daughters of Bilitis began publishing The Ladder in October 1956, the masthead identified its first editor as Ann Ferguson. In the second issue, Ferguson penned a short article addressing the first problem they encountered in publishing what would become the nation’s first magazine for lesbians. As Ferguson explained it, too many people feared “that names on our mailing list may fall into the wrong hands, or that by indicating interest in this magazine a person will automatically be labeled a homosexual.” She assured readers that subscribers included all kinds of people, including lawyers, social workers, psychiatrists, business, and other professionals. She also assured readers that “Daughters of Bilitis is not outside the law — we advocate no illegal actions by anyone.”

Ferguson revealed that the organization had obtained legal council and would file for incorporation under the laws of California. She also explained a recent Supreme Court decision which upheld the rights of citizens to refuse to reveal to Congressional committees the names on subscription lists or lists of purchases. So in addition to the organization’s own bylaws prohibiting the disclosure of The Ladder’s subscription lists, “the decision also guarantees that your name is safe!”

Ferguson had been at the helm for only thee months when the January 1957 issue included this startling announcement:

ANN FERGUSON IS DEAD!
I confess. I killed Ann Ferguson. Premeditatedly and with malice aforethought. We ran an article in the November issue of THE LADDER entitled “Your Name is Safe”.” Ann Ferguson wrote that article. Her words were true, her conclusions logical and documented — yet she was not practising what she preached.

Somehow it didn’t seem right,

She spent some time considering the situation. Then came to a conclusion. At the November public discussion meeting of the Daughters of Bilitis we got up — Ann Ferguson and I — and did away with Ann. Now there is only Phyllis Lyon.

Seriously, my pseudonym was taken in the first place without much thought. Somehow, it seemed the thing to do. But all it did was create problems. If you’re going to write under a pseudonym then you should go by that name in personal contacts. But everybody connected with the Daughters of Bilitis already knew me as Phyllis and the attempt to call me Ann confused everyone, including me.

I’m sure that I’m not placing myself in any jeopardy by using my real name — and I’m only simplifying matters and practising what I preach.

Phyllis Lyon (see Nov 10) with her partner Del Martin (see May 5) were among eight women who founded the Daughters of Bilitis in 1955 (see Oct 19). In 2008, they Phyllis and Del became the first same-sex couple to be legally married in the state of California. Del passed away later that year. At last report, Phyllis still lives in their home in San Francisco.

[Sources: Ann Ferguson. “Your Name Is Safe!” The Ladder, 1, no. 2 (November 1956): 10-12.

Phyllis Lyon. “Ann Ferguson Is Dead!” The Ladder, 1, no. 4 (January 1957): 7.]

An Improved Method for Delivering Electric Shocks for Aversion Therapy: 1965. Electric shock aversion therapy was just one of many torturous methods which had been used to try to “cure” gay people throughout the twentieth century. Being that it’s use of electricity somehow managed to convey a “technological” gloss into a very crude affair — male patients were shown nude photographs and given painful jolts if the showed any kind of interest in photos of men — it might be surprising that there had, in fact, been only a few basic “improvements” since the technology was first developed in 1935 (see Mar 11 and Sep 6). Three researchers, Bernard Tursky, Peter D. Watson and D.M. O’Connell from Harvard’s Department of Psychiatry and the Massachusetts Mental Health Center, wrote in the journal Psychophysiology about that lack of progress:

Very little systematic work has been done toward designing a satisfactory electrode for the delivery of electric shock in psychological experimentation, although a wide variety of electrode types have been used. These, for example, have included: (a) plates of various metals and different sizes and shapes, either taped or strapped to the fingers, arms or legs of Ss (subjects); (b) cups filled with saline solution into which Ss’ fingers were immersed; (c) standard EEG electrodes attached to the earlobes; and (d) wires attached to the teeth by wax or cups.

Several studies have been conducted to determine the effect of varying the absolute and relative sizes of electrodes. It was found that the smaller the electrode, the less current was needed to produce a given subjective intensity, and that when there was a considerable difference in the relative sizes of the two electrodes, the sensation was felt primarily under the smaller electrode. These studies indicate that the size and the configuration of the electrodes are important variables.

Such was the nature of this kind of research that the very people who were being subjected to painful electric shocks were reduced to the smallest abbreviation possible: they were just “Ss”, and the less said of them the better. The real problem, as Tursky, Watson and O’Connell saw it, was that currently existing technology really did have some problems that they felt needed addressing. Those problems were fourfold:

These are (a) precise delimitation of the area of stimulation; (b) minimal interference with the mobility of the S; (c) freedom from skin irritation and burning; and (d) reduction of muscle involvement as a secondary concomitant of shock stimulation.

The “improved” electrode (click to enlarge).

Tursky, Watson and O’Connell believed that they had an answer. Instead of separate electrodes placed throughout the body, they devised a concentric electrode configuration which “has been found to be highly satisfactory. An inner aluminum disk was surrounded by second aluminum ring, both of which were held together in a plastic case. In order to avoid skin irritation and burning, the electricity was conducted between the device through small sponge pads soaked in saline and coated with an electrode paste. This, they said, was a marked improvement over the older methods:

When an electrical stimulus is applied through a simple metal electrode in direct contact with the skin for long periods of time, small area burns may occur. This can be explained by thinking of the metal electrode as an infinite number of conductors making contact with the skin. Any one of these contacts can form a low resistance path which becomes the focal point for all current flow. The sponge and salt paste contact, used in our electrode, acts to diffuse current flow and insures equal density over the entire surface. In two years of use with over one hundred Ss, this electrode has not caused any burns.

In other words, they created the torturer’s dream: a system of torment that leaves no mark. Well, at least none that we can see. It was also your parents’ and grandparents’ tax dollars at work. The research was supported by a grant from the U.S. Public Health Service.

[Source: Bernard Tursky, Peter D. Watson, D.N. O’Connell. “A concentric shock electrode for pain stimulation.” Psychophysiology 1, no. 3 (January 1965): 296-298.]

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

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

The Daily Agenda for Monday, January 18

Jim Burroway

January 18th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Body Politic (Toronto, ON), January 1984, page 14.

From the Body Politic (Toronto, ON), January 1984, page 14.

Buddy’s opened in the spring of 1982 in Vancouver’s West End, and closed in the summer of 1988. According to a walking tour published by Xtra in 2006:

Many people have fond memories of Buddies; some say it was the last 1970s-style denim cruising bar in Vancouver. Its two-storey building was torn down to make way for the Ellington in 1991. To this day, many Buddies regulars have bittersweet memories of the bar’s farewell party.

Before it became Buddies in 1981, the site housed another gay space called the Boom Boom Room.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Transgender Man In the News: 1894. The following item appeared in the Badger State Banner, published in Black River Falls, Wisconsin. A larceny case became a case about the nature of the defendant and his wife.

Anna Morris Given One Year
Anna Morris, alias Frank Blunt, the woman who has tried to be a man for the last fifteen years, was sentenced to the penitentiary for one year by Judge Gibson at Fond du Lac. She was arrested several months ago in Milwaukee charged with stealing $175 in Fond du Lac. It was then discovered that the prisoner was a woman, although she had worn masculine attire nearly all her life. A jury convicted her of larceny and a motion for a new trial was overruled. After the sentenced had been passed Gertrude Field, a woman who claimed to have been married to the prisoner in Eau Claire, fell upon the neck of the prison and wept for half an hour. This woman had furnished all the money for Blunt’s defense, and now proposes to carry the case to the Supreme Court.

[Source: Jonathan Katz’s, Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1976): pp 231-232.]

A Simple Home Device for Aversion Therapy: 1964. On this date, the British Medical Journal published this article by R.J. McGuire and M. Vallance:

A Simple Apparatus

Click to enlarge

Aversion Therapy by Electric Shock: a Simple Technique
Aversion therapy has been used for many years in the treatment of alcoholism. Apomorphine and emetine are the usual drugs used as the unconditioned stimuli for nausea and vomiting, with alcohol as the conditioned stimulus. More recently the same procedure has been used in the treatment of sexual perversions — for example, fetishism, transvestism and homosexuality.

There are several disadvantages to the use of drugs in conditioning procedures. The time between the stimulus being presented and the nausea being produced is uncertain. The patient may not even feel nausea; and, further, the cerebral depressant effect of the drug may interfere with the patient’s ability to form conditioned responses. In addition, the treatment may have to be terminated prematurely because of its dangerous side-effects.

Alternative unpleasant responses can be used to produce aversion. In experimental psychology electric shock has been widely used both in animals and in humans. In clinical treatment, however, it has been less often used. The technique is simpler, more accurately controlled, and more certain in producing an unpleasant effect than drugs. This article describes a simple apparatus designed by one of us (R. J. McG.) and its use in the aversive treatment of sexual perversions, alcoholism, smoking, and neurotic symptoms.

Apparatus. — The components are cheap (under £1) and fit into a box approximately 6 in. (15 cm.) square and 2 in. (5 cm.) deep (Figs. 1 and 2). It is powered by a 9-volt battery and is therefore completely portable. The shock is administered through electrodes on a cuff around the patient’s forearm. To construct the apparatus requires no special skill, and the technical details are given at the end of the article.

…After initial instruction he can treat himself and may take the apparatus home to continue the treatment there. Besides saving the therapist’s time and making frequent treatment possible, this arrangement is to be preferred when the symptom is one usually indulged in alone-for example, masturbation to perverse fantasies. While the patient can use the apparatus whenever he is tempted to masturbate, he should also each day deliberately carry out the treatment at a time when the desire to masturbate is not strong.

This isn’t the first time a device for administering electric shock has been described in the medical literature for treating homosexuality. Electric Shock Aversion Therapy has been discussed since at least 1935 (see Sep 6). But as modern science entered the space age, a few therapists got the idea that there was a demand for an inexpensive home version.

[Source: R.J. McGuire, M. Vallance. “Aversion Therapy By Electric Shock: A Simple Technique.” British Medical Journal 1, no. 5376 (January 18, 1964): 151-153. Available online here.]

Anita Bryant and Bob Green at a church service during the campaign against Miam-Dade’s gay rights ordinance.

Miami-Dade County Approves Gay Rights Ordinance: 1977. An angry mob of anti-gay conservatives led by singer and Florida Orange Juice spokesperson Anita Bryant packed the Miami Commission Chambers in an attempt to shout down a proposed gay rights ordinance which would extending nondiscrimination protections in employment, housing and accommodations on the basis of “affectional or sexual preference.” Despite the evident anger in the room, the Commission passed the ordinance 5-3.

Bryant and her husband, Bob Green, vowed to lead a campaign to repeal the ordinance at the ballot box, a campaign that she subsequently won (see Jun 7). That victory led to similar campaigns to overturn similar ordinances in St Paul, Minnesota (see Apr 25); Wichita, Kansas (see May 9); and Eugene Oregon (see May 23). That tidal wave reached its high-water mark in on November 7, 1978 when California voters defeated the Brigg’s Initiative which would have banned gays and lesbians from working in public schools. That same day, voters in Seattle also roundly rejected a ballot initiative to rescind that city’s anti-discrimination ordinance.

On December 1, 1998, the Miami-Dade County Commission again passed another non-discrimination ordinance by a vote of 7-6. Opponents again petitioned for a vote, but the law was upheld on September 10, 2002.

All Saints Episcopal Church, Pasadena, CA.

First Same-Sex Blessing In Episcopal Church: 1992. Mark Benson, a 47-year-old physician’s assistant, and Philip Straw, a 45-year-old postal worker, both of Pasadena, California, had been together for eight years when they decided to make honest men of each other. And so they did what any normal self-respecting church-going couple would do when they wanted to get married. They went to their church, All Saints Episcopal Church of Pasadena, which just happens to be the largest Episcopal Church west of the Mississippi. It also happened to have a very receptive rector in Rev. George Regas. He had already proposed that All Saints begin blessing gay unions in a sermon two years earlier.

Regas held back from calling the ceremony a “wedding,” calling it a blessing instead. But even that small concession went far beyond what the national denomination at the time was willing to sanction. At the denomination’s national summit in 1991, they were unable to reach a consensus on a wide range of gay-related issues, instead affirming a “traditional” standard which calls for unmarried people to remain celibate. Regas understood that the ceremony, which was attended by 500 guests, would case a stir. “Homosexuality is such a divisive issue, I’m sure there is a great deal of distress” about the ceremony, he told a reporter from The Los Angeles Times. “But the people who were there, who know these men, knew this was appropriate and good. … It had such a sense of rightness about it.”

Of course, not everyone agreed. Two weeks later, a group of fundamentalists marched outside All Saints during a Sunday service holding signs reading “Homosex is a sin,” and handing out flyers asking “What’s worse than dying with AIDS?” to parishioners. The protest was organized by R.L. Hymers, pastor of the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles, who in 1986 had asked his parishioners to pray for God to remove Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan from his seat on the court by death over Brennan’s 1973 vote in Roe v Wade. He also chartered an airplane to fly over Los Angeles trailing a banner reading, “Pray for Death: Baby killer Brennan.” Hymers was similarly bombastic during this protest. “It’s absolutely the wrong signal with the AIDS epidemic raging out of control, he told reporters. “The last thing a pastor should do is advocate a life-threatening and soul-threatening practice of sodomy.”

Regas remained unapologetic. “We have done what we think God is calling us to do. We believe the inclusive love of Christ welcomes everybody.” Philip Straw died from AIDS the following December.

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 Sunday, January 17

Jim Burroway

January 17th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), January 17, 1986, page 5. (Source)

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), January 17, 1986, page 5. (Source)

TODAY IN HISTORY:
ACLU Says Anti-Gay Laws Are Constitutional: 1957. In response to pleas from gay activists from the Mattachine Society, Daughters of Bilitis and ONE Magazine, the National Board of Directors of the American Civil Liberties Union issued the following statement:

The American Civil Liberties Union is occasionally called upon to defend the civil liberties of homosexuals. It is not within the province of the Union to evaluate the social validity of laws aimed at the suppression or elimination of homosexuals. We recognize that overt acts of homosexuality constitute a common law felony and that there is no constitutional prohibition against such state and local laws on this subject as are deemed by such states or communities to be socially necessary or beneficial. Any challenge of laws that prohibit and punish public acts of homosexuality or overt acts of solicitation for the purpose of committing a homosexual act is beyond the province of the Union.

In examining some of the cases that have come to our attention, however, we are aware that homosexuals, like members of other socially heretical or deviant groups, are more vulnerable than others to official persecution, denial of due process in prosecution, and entrapment. As in the whole field of due process, these are matters of proper concern for the Union and we will support the defense of such cases that come to our attention.

Some local laws require registration when they enter the community of persons who have been convicted of a homosexual act. Such registration laws, like others requiring registration of persons convicted of other offenses are, in our opinion unconstitutional. We will support efforts for their repeal or proper legal challenge of them.

The ACLU has previously decided that homosexuality is a valid consideration in evaluating the security risk factor in sensitive positions. ‘We affirm, as does Executive Order 10450 and all security regulations made thereunder, that homosexuality is a factor properly to be considered only when there is evidence of other acts which come within valid security criteria.

Executive Order 10450, signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953 (see Apr 27), went far beyond “security risk factors in sensitive positions.” It actually barred all federal employment for gay people. That ban remained in place until 1975 (see Jul 3).

In 1957, homosexuality was illegal in all forty-eight states in the Union, as well as the District of Columbia and all American territories. Illinois wouldn’t drop its anti-sodomy law until 1961 (see Jul 28), and it would remain the only state to do so for the next decade. For many gay activists, overturning sodomy laws was still a distant dream. There were more pressing matters: police harassment, entrapment, raids, and other forms of official persecution. And for the first time, the ACLU committed to defending gay people in those areas.

That’s why a statement like this, which today would seem to be a setback for gay people, was actually welcomed by many gay activists at the time. The Daughters of Bilitis issue a statement “commend(ing) the ACLU for its fine work in the defense of civil rights for all citizens” and urged its members to support the ACLU “whenever and wherever possible.” The Mattachine Society agreed: “We believe that the serious interest of ACLU in matters of civil rights and due process of law merit the praise of Mattachine members and friends, and urge readers to support the organization’s effort with memberships and donations whenever possible.”

But ONE magazine, which was in the midst of its own legal battle with the Post Office (see Jan 13), wasn’t having it. “One question,” it asked. “Would it be within the province of the Union to evaluate the social validity of laws aimed at the suppression or elimination of Negroes, Jews, or Jehovah’s Witnesses? Of course it would. Then why not homosexuals?”

[Sources: Unsigned. “The ACLU Takes a Stand on Homosexuality.” The Ladder 1, no. 6 (March 1957): 8-9

Unsigned. “ACLU Position on Homosexuality.” Mattachine Review 3, no 3 (March 1957): 7.

Dal McIntire “Tangents.” ONE 5, no 4 (April 1957): 11-13.]

Merle Miller

Merle Miller

45 YEARS AGO: New York Times Magazine Publishes “What It Means To Be A Homosexual”: 1971. The Harper’s October 1970 cover screed by Joseph Epstein — the one where he called gay people “an affront to our rationality” and were “condemned to a state of permanent niggerdom among men” — generated an outpouring of anger in the gay community, which resulted in a protest inside the offices of Harper’s (see Oct 27). Gay activists demanded another article to give the gay community equal exposure, but the Harper’s refused the request. Its editors also refused to apologize. The outrageous insults in the piece become something of a second, lesser Stonewall in the way it brought out even more gays and lesbians who decided it was time to become more involved publicly.

Among them was Merle Miller, a former editor at Harper’s who was also a novelist and biographer. His anger was apparent to two New York Times editors when they met for lunch one day. They discussed the Harper’s article, and as discussion that became increasingly heated — the other editors didn’t think there was anything wrong with it — Miller finally said, “Look, goddamn it, I’m homosexual … and I’m sick and tired of reading and hearing such goddamn demeaning, degrading bullshit about me and my friends.”

Now, it’s important to remember that throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s, The New York Times had earned the enmity of gay people everywhere for its reticence in covering issues important to the gay community. In fact, under the editorship of A.M. Rosenthal, the very word gay was banned, unless it was a direct quote from someone else. He refused to make Walter Clemons a daily book critic once he found out Clemons was gay. Reporters and editors soon got the message: propose too many stories about gay people, and you too might come under suspicion.

But in 1971, The New York Times Magazine operated separately from the daily paper, and until the operations were merged in 1976, Rosenthal had no say what went into it. And so a few days later, those two editors proposed that Miller write a piece for the magazine. He accepted, and his essay, “What It Means To Be A Homosexual,” would become a landmark. Miller described the pain of growing up gay in Iowa, how, as a young reporter, he learned to behave as a stereotypical tough-guy blood-and-guts reporter, denouncing “queers” regularly, to hide who he was. At one time he sought a psychiatrist to try to become straight, to no avail:

It took me almost fifty years to come out of the closet, to stop pretending to be something I was not, most of the time fooling nobody. …I dislike being despised, unless I have done something despicable, realizing that the simple fact of being homosexual is all by itself despicable to many people, maybe, as Mr. Epstein says, to everyone who is straight. Assuming anybody is ever totally one thing sexually.

Miller’s essay was unlike anything that had ever been published before. Untold thousands of closeted gays read, for the first time, about Miller’s experience in coming to terms with his sexuality and his experience of coming out. Letters poured into the Times mail room — almost 2000 in the first six weeks alone, and almost all of them from gay people, expressing their gratitude for Miller’s honesty.

Later that year, his now-classic essay was published again in book form as On Being Different: What It Means to Be a Homosexual. Penguin Classics re-issued it again in 2012 with a foreword by Dan Savage and afterword by Charles Kaiser.

Dr. Robert Bernstein

30 YEARS AGO: Texas AIDS Quarantine Proposal Withdrawn: 1986. Texas Health Commissioner Robert Bernstein announced that he was withdrawing the proposal to impose a quarantine on “incorrigible” people with AIDS (see Oct 22, Dec 14). The announcement came three days after twenty witnesses testified in a public hearing against the proposal, saying it would do little to stem the spread of the disease. The specter of a possible misuse of a quarantine, AIDS and other health advocates said, would prevent a lot of people with HIV/AIDS from getting tested or seeking services. Gov. Mark White also weighed in, saying that the proposed quarantine was “not an appropriate solution.”

In a news conference in Austin announcing the about-face, Bernstein said that because of the “furor and the emotion” the proposal generated, the relationship between public health officials and the gay community “would suffer out of all proportion to the value gained.” But he hadn’t yet given up on coming up with some method for isolating people with AIDS. “We’re not dropping it,” he said. “We are just going to go about it in a less tumultuous way.” Gay leaders in Texas hailed the turnaround and promised to help a newly expanded task force identify effective ways for dealing with the disease.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
130 YEARS AGO: Ronald Firbank: 1886-1926. inspired by the Aesthetes of the late nineteenth century (especially Oscar Wilde), The plots in Firbank’s stories were mostly inconsequential, bare frameworks on which to hang his dazzling dialogue. He studied at Cambridge, but left in 1909 before completing his degree. He had converted to Catholicism — like Wilde and many other aesthetes who were drawn by the pageantry — and contemplated entering the priesthood. He didn’t, and spent much of his time traveling around the Mediterranean, living off of his family’s wealth.

Despite the tragic example set by Oscar Wilde’s conviction and imprisonment for “gross indecenc,y” Firbank saw no reason to hide his sexuality, either in his private life or in his books, which touched on a number of themes involving race, religion, social climbing, and sexuality, with many of his characters being gay, lesbian, and all shades in-between. Some of his stories were published posthumously, including 1915’s The Artificial Princess and 1926’s Concerning the Eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli, which saw the title character falling dead of a heart attack while naked and chasing a choir boy around the church. Much of his other novels — Vainglory (1915), Inclinations (1916), Caprice (1917), Valmouth (1919), The Flower Beneath the Foot (1923), and Sorrow in Sunlight (1924, published in the U.S. as Prancing Nigger) — were either self-published or, when they were published, financial flops. He died in Rome at age forty from alcoholism and lung disease in. Since then, he has acquired a legion of literary champions, including E.M. Forster (see Jan 1), Alan Hollinghurst, W.H. Auden, and Susan Sontag (see Jan 16), who included his novels as part of “the canon of Camp.”

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

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

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, January 15

Jim Burroway

January 16th, 2016
From the Albatross (Houston, TX), October 1, 1965, page 8.

From the Albatross (Houston, TX), October 1, 1965, page 8.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
From 1965 to 1968, Houston had a gay newspaper called the Albatross. In itsOctober 1, 1965 issue, the Albatross welcomed a new advertiser from Lake Charles, Louisiana:

Lounging around the Calcasieu at THE GASLIGHT with genial hostess, Georgia, and associates, Rene and Giselle doing a good Saturday biz. A new sponsor of THE ALBATROSS, The Gaslight bows into this issue with their ad and invites all of their friends of other towns and cities to stop in for hospitality cognizicant (sic) of fair Lake Charles. Your reporter truly enjoyed the flavor of drinks… atmosphere… and well-rounded personalities who makeup (sic) the GASLIGHT! Come see Georgia!

The Gaslight apparently lasted just a few years. Its advertisements were gone by 1968. The building today houses a hair salon.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
 Louisiana Supreme Court Upholds Conviction of Lesbians for “Unnatural Carnal Copulation”: 1967. Convictions of women for “crimes against nature” have been exceedingly rare in our nation’s history, but the Louisiana Supreme Court in 1967 upheld two such convictions. In 1966, Mary Young and Dawn DeBlanc were arrested and charged with “having committed a crime against nature” under Louisiana law during the course of a prostitution sting. A police officer testified in court that he had spoken with DeBlanc over the phone about arranging to meet her and Young at a motel. As they settled on a price for services rendered, DeBlanc said that sometimes they “gave a show” for an additional charge. The evidence at trial for the crime against nature charge was slim: A photo of the girls naked in the motel room when they were arrested and certain comic books in one of the girls’ purses which was labeled obscene. Judge Frank Shea refused to throw out the flimsy evidence, and in stead instructed the jury that the law defining “crimes against nature” included any joining or connection of a genital organ of one person with the mouth of another. He also refused to instruct the jury on laws on entrapment.

Young and DeBlanc were convicted and sentenced to thirty months in the Orleans Parish prison. They appealed the case to the Louisiana Supreme Court on the grounds that the charge was vague. In 1967, the court ruled:

The statute, of course, requires proof of an “unnatural carnal copulation.” As pointed out by this court … this phrase simply means “any and all carnal copulation or sexual joining and coition that is devious and abnormal because it is contrary to the natural traits and/or instincts intended by nature, and therefore does not conform to the order ordained by nature. … Oral copulation by and between two women constituted “unnatural carnal copulation” within statute proscribing such conduct.

[Source: Jonathan Katz. Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the USA (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1976): pp 127-128.]

Photo by Annie Leibovitz

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
 Susan Sontag: 1933-2004. Her literary career began in fiction, and she considered herself mainly a novelist even it was her essays which made her famous. When “Notes on ‘Camp'” was first published in the Partisan Review in 1964, it established her reputation as a critical thinker in popular culture. That essay has become the reference point for everything we thing about when we think of “camp”: the “so bad it’s good” quality; the celebration of the unnatural, the obvious artifice which fails to conceal deeper truths; the mocking of all that is serious; the playfulness that serves as an answer to moral indignation. Her series On Photography, which first appeared in the New York Review of Books between 1973 and 1977, drew on the works of Dian Arbus, Andy Warhol, and the Depression-era photography commissioned by the Farm Security Administration to illustrate the relationship of photography to the viewer and the photo’s subject.

When she published Illness as Metaphor in 1978, she tackled the way sufferers of diseases are affected by the perceived morality and character traits of the disease itself. “With the modern diseases (once TB, now cancer), the romantic idea that the disease expresses the character is invariably extended to assert that the character causes the disease — because it has not expressed itself. Passion moves inward, striking and blighting the deepest cellular recesses.” Written while she was being treated for breast cancer, she argued that the metaphors people applied to diseases had the effect of silencing and shaming patients. Her observations couldn’t have been more prescient time. When AIDS came along just a few years later, Illness as Metaphor would find deeper relevance in the gay community, and it would lead her to write its continuation, AIDS and Its Metaphors in 1988.

Sontag was nothing if not controversial. Easily dismissive of anything she saw as smacking of provincialism — including the provincialisms of intellectual Harvard, Paris, Oxford or New York, making her relationship with the city she called home an uneasy one. “I don’t like America enough to want to live anywhere else except Manhattan. And what I like about Manhattan is that it’s full of foreigners. The America I live in is the America of the cities. The rest is just drive-through.” That was tame. In 1965, she famously remarked that “the white race is the cancer of human history.” She expanded that view in 1967 when she wrote, “America was founded on a genocide, on the unquestioned assumption of the right of white Europeans to exterminate a resident, technologically backward, colored population in order to take over the continent.” In 1968, her anger at the U.S. led her to visit North Vietnam, which she documented in “Trip to Hanoi.” That same year, she visited Cuba and called for a sympathetic understanding of the Cuban Revolution. Critics denounced her for what they saw as a naive sentimentality when it came to Communism. A few years later, Sontag renounced her earlier views, particularly when the Cuban regime imprisoned the poet Heberto Padilla and launched a wave of persecutions against the island’s gay community.

She drew another wave of indignation following the September 11 terrorist attacks, when she wrote in the New Yorker, “Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a ‘cowardly’ attack on ‘civilization’ or ‘liberty’ or ‘humanity’ or ‘the free world’ but an attack on the world’s self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions? … In the matter of courage (a morally neutral virtue): Whatever may be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday’s slaughter, they were not cowards.”

Aware that she was bisexual at during her early teens, Sontag was married from 1950 to 1959, a union which produced a son, David. After her divorce, she had a number of lovers, both male and female. She had been open about her sexuality since 1995. In 2000, she told The Guardian that she had been in love seven times in her life. “No, hang on,” she said.” “Actually, it’s nine. Five women, four men.” The last of those loves was photographer Annie Leibovitz (see Oct 2), a relationship that lasted from the 1980s until the day Sontag died of cancer in 2004. Her New York Times obituary, like most obituaries, said only that she was survived by her son and a younger sister.

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 15

Jim Burroway

January 15th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Michael's Thing (New York, NY), August 30, 1976, page 18.

From Michael’s Thing (New York, NY), August 30, 1976, page 18.

The International, which was also known variously as International Stud or just the Stud, was known more or less for just one thing. As the local newspaper GAY put it in 1971: “The (International) Stud, Greenwich & Perry Sts. The best make out bar in the Village.”

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Torch Song Trilogy Debuts: 1982. The play is actually a collection of three plays by actor/playwright Harvey Fierstein (see Jun 6), with each play taking up an act in the final production: International Stud, Fugue in a Nursery, and Widows and Children First!. The thread that ties the three plays together is the central character, Arnold Beckoff, a torch song-singing Jewish drag queen, with each act focusing on a different phase in Beckoff’s life.

The first staging of International Stud took place in February 2, 1978, and deals with Arnold’s troubled relationship with Ed. International Stud is named for a real life gay bar in the 1960s and 1970s, the backroom of which plays a central role in the play. Act Two, Fugue in a Nursery, sees Arnold settling down with Alan and planing to adopt a child. It debuted on February 1, 1979. By the time Torch Song Trilogy opened three years later, Widows and Children First! and an opening soliloquy were added to complete the trilogy, with Act 3 finding Arnold, now tragically post-Alan, raising a gay teen and dealing with the teen’s his mother-from-hell from Florida.

The four hour long Torch Song Trilogy opened at the Actor’s Playhouse with a star studded cast: Fierstein, Joel Crothers, a young Matthew Broderick as the teen son David, and Estelle Getty as the evil mother. After its run at the Actors’ Playhouse, Torch Song Trilogy moved to the Little Theater Broadway in June, where it ran for 1,222 performances and won two Tonys. It was made into a movie in 1988, starring Fierstein, Anne Bancroft, Matthew Broderick (now grown up and playing Alan), and Brian Kerwin.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Loïe Fuller: 1862-1928. Born Marie Louise Fuller outside of Chicago, she began her theatrical career as a child actress and dancer/choreographer in burlesque, vaudeville and traveling circuses. Those early years as a dancer are when she developed her improvisational dance techniques, and where she learned to combine choreography with silk costumes and multi-colored lights and made her a pioneer of both modern dance and theatrical lighting.

She became famous enough in America, but she didn’t feel appreciated as an actress. She moved to Paris, where she found a warm embrace in the City of Lights. A regular at the Folies Bergère, her works Serpentine Dance and Fire Dance became signature pieces of the Art Nouveau movement. She also went on to hold several patents related to stage lighting, including chemical compounds used in color gels, luminescent lighting, and fabrics. Her work profoundly influenced other French scientists and artists, including Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, François-Raoul Larche, Henri-Pierre Roche, Auguste Rodin and Marie Curie. Fuller introduced Isadora Duncan to Parisian audiences and advancing the acceptance of modern dance as a serious art form. She devleoped a close friendship with Queen Marie of Romania, and maintained a twenty-year live-in relationship with Gabrielle Block, a Jewish-French banking heiress known for dressing only in men’s suits. Fuller remained in Paris, returning only occasionally to America. She died in Paris of Pneumonia on the first day of 1928 at the age of 65.

In 1899, the Lumière brothers filmed and hand-colored, frame by frame, a performance by an unknown dancer of Loïe Fuller’s Serpentine Dance:

More early filmed versions of Serpentine Dance are available here.

Ivor Novello: 1893-1951. The Welsh screen idol did it all: actor on stage and silent screen, playwright and composer. When the Great War broke out, he wrote the music for the song “Keep the Home Fires Burning” to lyrics written by American Lena Guilbert-Ford. That hit was Novello’s debut in the the entertainment business. In 1916, he was drafted into the Royal Naval Air Service and trained as a pilot, but after crashing twice, he was transferred to central London to work as a clerk. That allowed him to work as a composer for theater during his off hours. That’s when he met actor Bobbie Andrews, who would become Novello’s life partner. He also met Noel Coward (see Dec 16), who envied “the magic atmosphere in which (Novello) moved and breathed with such nonchalance”

After the war, Novellow continued to find success in composing for musical comedy. He also began making a career of acting, first on the stage and then in film. He appeared in D.W. Griffith’s The White Rose (1923) and in two early Alfred Hitchcock silent thriller The Lodger (1926) and Downhill (1927). A lucrative contract from a British film company allowed him to buy a country house west of London which he renamed Redroofs, and entertained with little regard for convention. Those parties led to the rise of “the Ivor/Noel naughty set,” named for Novello, Noel Coward, and, shall we say, those sorts of people. During the late 1920s Novello was perhaps the most popular star in British films. In 1930, he took his plays Symphony in Two Flats and The Truth Game to Broadway, where he was offered a contract with MGM. But beyond writing the dialogue for Tarzan the Ape Man (including the famous line, “Me Tarzan, you Jane”), his Hollywood career failed to pan out.

Hollywood’s loss was London’s gain. On his return, he added playwriting to his repertoire of talents, which, along with his compositions, made him a powerhouse of British theater. A string of hits followed through the 1930s and 40s. He died suddenly in 1951, while still at the top of his game, from a coronary thrombosis and with Andrews at his side. Coward wrote in his diary, “Another landmark swept away. Poor, poor Bobbie… he will be utterly devastated.” Thousands of fans lined the streets to give their final goodbyes and his funeral was broadcast live on BBC. Four years later, the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) established the Ivor Novello Awards for songwriting and composing. The Ivors, as the awards are called, remain the only award that is judged by the writing community, and not by publishers and recording companies.

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, January 14

Jim Burroway

January 14th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From David, May 1972, page 17.

From David, May 1972, page 17.

When I go looking for information on a long-lost gay bar, the last place I expect to find it is Zillow. But lo and behold, there it is:

Originally a charming Victorian Age Carriage House, this property is most well-known as the previous location of long-time bar and nightclub the Napoleon Club, which existed on the site for over 40 years, from the 1950s until 1998, when the previous owner abruptly closed the door, forever. Although the fascinating history goes back even earlier as this site first opened as a speakeasy in 1929, called Nappies. The Napoleon Club was a Boston institution for many years and is now ready for a buyer of exquisite taste.

Keith Orr eulogized the bar’s closing in 1998:

Mind you, Napoleon’s was not so much a bar as it was a cocktail lounge, where drinks were served in real glass, patrons took the time to say hello to each other as they bellied up to the bar, and a dedicated group of regulars made the club as close to a gay version of Cheers as you could find. Many luminaries crossed the threshold, including Liza and Lorna’s mom, Judy; Liberace; and just about every chorus boy from every bus and truck show to set up camp in Boston’s Theater District.

For those of you who never had the pleasure, you missed out on one of the most amazing nocturnal experiences our little town had to offer. My favorite memory is from a night a couple of years ago. It was fairly early, before the evening crowd had arrived, and without any prompting, a fairly plain-looking guy in an Anderson Little suit moved from the bar and parked himself at the piano. Placing his drink atop a coaster, he launched into the most spirited rendition of “Oklahoma” that I have ever heard. I fully expected Shirley Jones to come around the corner in full costume to complete the scene. I imagined that he had just spent the whole day working downtown at a bank he managed, singing the song over and over to himself, and when that last teller cashed out, he beelined to Nappy’s to get it out of his system. And in true Napoleon’s tradition, the few patrons in the room either moved to join him around the piano or just smiled to themselves and sang along from their places at the bar.

The old club has been converted to a three bedroom, four bath, 2,400 square foot home that last sold in 2013 for a cool $1.8 million.

An unidentified patient at Worcester State Hospital (Photo by Herbert Gehr/Life Magazine, 1949)

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
75 YEARS AGO: Hormone Treatments Found Ineffective for Altering Homosexuality (Or, More Precisely, Gender Identity): 1941. It’s a good thing this idea was knocked down rather early in the twentieth century. Unfortunately, it took a series of medical experiments on a mental hospital patient (almost certainly without the patient’s consent) to arrive at that conclusion. Worse, in an example which brings to mind the infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiments, the experiments were performed on an African-American patient. According to Dr. Saul Rosenzweig and R.G. Hoskins, working at Worcester State Hospital in Massachusetts, the patient, apparently transgender (in 1941, the idea of gender identity as distinct from sexual orientation was still unknown in the medical literature, which explains why doctors pegged her as homosexual), was admitted to the hospital following the death of her male lover:

The patient, A.D., a male negro of 46, entered the Northampton State Hospital in 1921 and 4 years later was transferred to the Worcester State Hospital with a diagnosis of “constitutional psychopathic personality without psychosis.” …[His symptoms] consisted mainly of seclusiveness, shyness, pronounced effeminacy, and excessive preoccupation with drawing, painting, designing of women’s clothes and similar “artistic” activities. His speech became disjointed and unresponsive and for two years he refrained from leaving his home. He talked of wearing women’s clothes and often went to bed with presumably imaginary ailments. Upon admission to the Worcester State Hospital he showed no pronounced psychotic symptoms.

He is a short, stocky negro who, except for his large masculine genitals, is in every respect a woman. He shows an exaggerated female gait and speech and all the mannerisms of a clinging-vine type of female, spends hours at his toilette, and says he is fond of being well-groomed. With men he is coy, silly, and affected. With the other sex he talks as one woman to another. He daily asks for cathartics and is overinterested in the needs of his lower intestinal tract. He knows he is considered effeminate, but says that that is the way God made him. He further excuses his peculiarities on the ground that he is an artistic genius and therefore entitled to a few eccentricities.

A.D. had been a patient for 20 years with little change in his mannerisms or appearance. What is alarming about this report so far is the admission that A.D. is a long-term mental patient “without psychosis.” It’s hard to imagine what the doctors would be looking for as a sign that A.D. was ready to be discharged, although it’s equally hard to imagine how A.D. would have been able to function in the world if he had been discharged after 21 years of confinement. But of course, the alarm doesn’t end there. Rosenzweig and Hoskins decided that A.D. was the perfect candidate for a series of experiments:

From October 16 to November 10, 1939 he was given orally the potent synthetic estrogen, Stilboestrol (Squibb), in dosage of 5 mgm. three times a week.

On December 6 he received an implant of a 150-milligram tablet of Testosterone (Schering), which was embedded in the subcutaneous tissues beneath the inferior angle of the left scapula.

On December 20, 1939 to February 7, 1940, intramuscular injections were given of a gonadotropic preparation derived from pregnant-mare serum (Anteron-Schering). The dosage was 1 cc. or 250 units twice weekly. Because of an upper respiratory infection medication was omitted during the week of January 11.

An attempt was then made to enhance the responsivity to sex hormones by the use of desiccated thyroid (Armour). This was begun on February 1 at 1 grain daily and continued throughout the remainder of the study.

On February 9, Pituitary Gonadotropic — Pranturon (Schering) — was substituted for the pregnant-mare preparation, also in dosage of 1 cc. twice weekly. At the same time Testosterone Propionate by intramuscular injection was begun in dosage of 50 mgm. twice a week. Both were continued until February 29.

On March 9 another estrogenic preparation was begun, Ayerst Mc-Kenna and Harrison’s Emmenin being used in dosage of 1 teaspoonful three times daily. This was discontinued on March 11.

Finally, from April 6 to 11 another estrogen, Estriol (Lilly), was given in the large dosage, 6.24 mgm. three times a day.

What was the point of all of this bizarre hormonal treatments on A.D.? Rozenzweig and Hoskins believed that homosexuality was caused by an “imbalance of male and female sex-hormone production,” and that by altering that ratio, they hoped to be able to observe changes in A.D.’s behavior. They failed. “No influence upon the behavior or the personality of the patient could be detected.” For Rozenzweig and Hoskins, it was back to the drawing board. But for A.D., we may never know what became of her.

[Source: Saul Rosenzweig & R.G. Hoskins. “A note on the ineffectualness of sex-hormone medication in a case of pronounced homosexuality.” Psychosomatic Medicine 3, no. 1 (January 1941): 87-89.]

“To Love and Let Love”: 1964. A short essay by Tom Wilson appeared in the January 1964 edition of the Mattachine Review which highlights the generous tolerance that many homosexual men and women felt toward those who were different:

Just because we prefer members of our own sex as love partners is no valid reason why we should persecute or harass men and women who choose to love members of the opposite sex. After all, it is no concern of ours what two adult heterosexuals of sound mind do in the privacy of their own homes so long as they do not prey on minors or flaunt their eccentricities in public, they should not be prosecuted.

I further believe that heterosexuals should be allowed to congregate in public places such as bars, restaurants and clubs, as that is their constitutional right as American citizens. Nor should we frown upon public dancing between men and women, much as we may deplore it as an odious practice. We must learn to be tolerant in these matters.

Furthermore, I believe that heterosexuals should be allowed to serve in the government and the armed forces, without being investigated by the F.B.I. regarding their private lives. I believe this, despite the fact that the majority of Americans involved in security risk situations are heterosexuals. Although it is true that more straight people become involved with the law than homosexuals (paradoxical [sic] as that may sound), this does not justify our unleashing a campaign of prejudice against them. They have many emotional and psychological problems which probably account, in part, for their apparent instability and we should do all we can to “understand” and alleviate their “problem:’

It has not yet been fully determined just what makes a heterosexual. No doubt environment, bed-wetting, broken families, early mother or father fixation, and many other complex problems playa part. Frankly, there has been very little scientific investigation into the origin anddevelopment of the heterosexual, except in the past decade or so, and such research still does not scratch the surface. In any case, it is obvious that most heterosexuals consider themselves normal and would not want to be “cured” (I use the word advisedly) even if there was any legitimate treatment. It is important to emphasize the fact that heterosexuals are not criminals. I have, on occasion, invited them into my own home and some of my best friends are heterosexuals.

…Organizations of heterosexuals and periodicals devoted to their way of life should be allowed full freedom under the lawand their press should be unhampered solong as it does not encourage pen-pals and utilize pornography. Poems and stories involving ‘girl-meets-boy’ themes should, of course, be permitted. and movies-and pIa ys dealing with heterosexual love should not be censored. This is, after all, the twentieth century, and we must progress with the times.

Further, I believe we should fight for the repeal of all laws which penalize sex between heterosexuals (in fact, a “Wilson Report” on this important matter will be the next project your reporter w.illundertake). Many ancient laws, often unenforced it is true, but still on the books, call for penalties up to ten years in prison (and higher in some states) for certain sexual acts between men and women, even if they are marriedI I feel that any type of sex-play between members of the opposite sex is just as natural and right as that between members of the same sex II may not agree with what heterosexuals do, but I will fight to the death their right to do it!

[Source: Tom Wilson. “Love and Let Love.” Mattachine Review 10, no. 1 (January 1964): 4-6.]

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, January 13

Jim Burroway

January 13th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From ONE, October 1954, page 31.

From ONE, October 1954, page 31.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
 Unitarian Church Sponsors Symposium on Homosexuality: 1954. The Unitarian Universalist Association has a long history of inquiry on a large number of contentious topics. In 1954, the First Unitarian Church of Miami hosted a forum called “Homosexuality: Cause, Society, and Crime.” According to a write-up in ONE magazine, the nation’s first gay publication, the attendance “broke all existing records.” The panel included Miami Mayor Abe Aronovitz, psychologist Dr. Syvil Marquit (no affiliation was given), Dr. Jack Capschan of the University of Miami’s psychology department, and Dr. Alvin Winder, psychologist for the Veterans Administration. The psychologists generally agreed that homosexuality wasn’t an illness, but they differed on whether it was “curable” or whether society was the problem. Mayor Aronovitz however pleaded ignorance on the subject, saying he was only there because “in his desire to please, he had instructed his secretary to accept all speaking engagements.”:

He said that there are three or four places in Miami where homosexuals gather, but that the proprietors were not in business to help these people, only to profit monetarily from their suffering. He said that he didn’t want Miami known as a haven for homosexuals or divorce getting or any other criminals, but that homosexuals should not be persecuted or hounded, because they were undoubtedly suffering from a sickness of the mind. To conclude, he added, “They certainly need kindly understanding, but whose rights shall we consider?”

The discussion was then opened to questions from the audience. The first question was “How can we cure homosexuality?” Dr. Kapschan answered with this question, “Is it not possible that instead of sick homosexuals, we have a sick society?” Dr. Marquit added that we must have a wider acceptance of homosexuals. “In other words,” he said, “your sex life is your own business.”

…Then Mayor Aronovitz asked, “I would like to know if there are any individuals who have had the glorous experience of normal sexual relations who prefer homosexual relations?” “I’m sorry to disappoint the Mayor,” answered Dr. Marquit, “but it has been proven that a large percentage of confirmed homosexuals have experienced ‘glorious’ heterosexual relations. Then it was asked “If these, people are to be driven from the bars, beaches, and other gathering places, where would you have them spend their leisure time?” Mayor Aronovitz answered that if society accepted this, it should not be persecuted.

To the question “Is prejudice against homosexuality related to intolerance?” Dr. Kapschan answered, “Yes, research has proven that prejudice is generally against a number of minority groups, not just homosexuality. The authoritarian personality that condemns persons for their homosexual behavior is much more of a threat to society than the homosexual himself. They are psychoneurotics who need psychiatric treatment, not the harmless homosexual who varies from the so-called normal, criticized only insofar as what he does in bed. Prejudice against the homosexual makes an especially good scapegoat for the authoritarian personality.”

ONE’s editors were greatly encouraged by the forum, and hoped that it would “lead to more stimulated discussions by qualified people, sponsored by churches and other civic-minded groups.” Those hopes were short-lived however, as Mayor Aronovitz would go on that year to lead a notoriousanti-gay witch hunt in his city (see Aug 3Aug 11Aug 12Aug 13 (twice that day), Aug 14Aug 15, Aug 16Aug 26, Aug 31, Sep 1, Sep 2, Sep 7, Sep 15, Sep 19, Oct 6, Oct 20, Nov 12, and Dec 16).

[Source: Unsigned. “Who’s Sick?” ONE 2, no. 2 (February 1954): 4-5.]

ONE's first issue, January 1953.

ONE’s first issue, January 1953.

 US Supreme Court Issues First Gay Rights Ruling: 1958. It was barely a ruling, just a terse, one-sentence line, issued by the Supreme Court without hearing oral arguments. Reading the one-page document without knowing anything about the cases mentioned therein would leave one without the slightest idea what the whole thing was about. But that was all it took for the US Supreme Court to affirm the rights of the first major gay magazine, ONE, to be distributed by the U.S. Postal Service without its subject matter, homosexuality, being declared obscene.

When ONE debuted in January 1953, it sported a very sophisticated look, with bold graphics and professional typset and design. It  quickly caught the attention gays and lesbians across the country, and circulation jumped to nearly 2,000 within a few months — with most subscribers paying extra to have their magazine delivered in an unmarked wrapper. By today’s standards, ONE is tame. There were no racy pictures, its fiction was mostly limited to depictions of longing and desire, and there was nary any evidence of physical contact on its pages.

But what the magazine lacked in raciness, it made up for in political audacity. ONE’s editorial tone was bold and unapologetic, covering politics, civil rights, legal issues, police harassment, employment and familial problems, and other social, philosophical, historical and psychological topics. And most importantly, ONE quickly became a voice for thousands of silent gays and lesbians across the U.S., many of whom wrote letters of deep gratitude to ONE’s editors. But in a sign of those times, all letters to the editor were published anonymously — from “m” in Winston-Salem, North Carolina or from “f” in Beaumont, Texas.

The August 1953 issue was held by the Post Office for three weeks.

The August 1953 issue was held by the Post Office for three weeks.

ONE also caught the eye of the U.S. Post Office. Since its inception, Los Angeles postal authorities vetted each issue before deciding whether it was legal to ship under the Post Office’s stringent anti-obscenity standards. And since homosexuality was illegal in most states, ONE had the added problem of possibly being guilty of promoting criminal activity. The Post Office finally acted in August 1953, holding up that month’s issue for three weeks while deciding if it violated federal laws. The cover story for that issue was on “homosexual marriage,” making ONE the first gay publication to tackle the subject seriously (see Aug 20). Finally, officials in Washington decided the magazine didn’t violate federal laws and ordered the LA Post Office to release it for shipment.

ONE, true to its aggressive stance, reacted defiantly to that move in its October issue by proclaiming in an editorial printed on its covers, “ONE is not grateful”:

ONE's defiant message to the Post Office was splayed on the front and back cover of the October 1953 issue.

ONE’s defiant message to the Post Office was splayed on the front and back cover of the October 1953 issue. (Click to enlarge.)

Your August issue is late because the postal authorities in Washington and Los Angeles had it under a microscope. They studied it carefully from the 2nd until the 18th of September and finally decided that there was nothing obscene, lewd or lascivious in it. They allowed it to continue on its way. We have been found suitable for mailing.

This official decision changes our status considerably. Incredible as it may seem to everyone else but us, we have been pronounced respectable. The Post Office found that ONE is obscene in no way, incites no one to anything but thought and doesn’t want to overthrow the government. This decision will also indicate to the timorous deviate that we are a safer bet than once assumed. Many who were contented to be told what to read, will now consider the matter of their own dignity and human rights. Subscriptions will mount astronomically. We are prepared.

…But one point must be made very clear. ONE is not grateful. ONE thanks no one for this reluctant acceptance. It is true that this decision is historic. Never before has a governmental agency of this size admitted that homosexuals not only have legal rights but might have respectable motives as well. The admission is welcome, but it’s tardy and far from enough. As we sit around quietly like nice little ladies and gentlemen gradually educating the public and the courts at our leisure, thousands of homosexuals are being unjustly arrested, blackmailed, fined, jailed, intimidated, beaten, ruined and murdered. ONE’s victory might seem big and historic as you read of it in the comfort of your home (locked in the bathroom? hidden under a stack of other magazines? sealed first class?). But the deviate hearing of our late August issue through jail bars will not be overly impressed.

But as defiant as ONE was in the October 1953 issue, they knew that the threat of closure due to postal censorship still loomed large — that is, if finances and distribution problems didn’t get to them first. Their prediction for astronomical subscriptions didn’t materialize, and ONE was forced to skip the August and September issues the following year. With such precarious finances, the last thing ONE needed was more legal trouble. ONE’s editors asked Eric Julber, their young straight lawyer fresh out of law school, to write a set of rules for the staff to follow — what they could publish, and what they should avoid. When readers began to complain that ONE was too tame, the editors asked Julber to print his rules in the October 1954 issue with a cover declaring, “You Can’t Print It!” Those rules prohibited:

The October 1954 issue of ONE. Ironically, this is the issue that got the magazine blocked by the Post Office.

(1) Lonely hearts ads, seeking pen pals or meetings.

(2) “Cheesecake” art or photos. To readers who ask, “But how about all the girlie magazines?” I can only reply that in our society, visual stimulation of man by woman is tolerated to a far greater extent than attempted visual stimulation of man by man, for what is in law a criminal purpose.

(3) Descriptions of sexual acts, or the preliminaries thereto. Again here, what is permissible in heterosexual literature is not permissible in ONE’s context.

(4) Descriptions of experiences which become too explicit. I.e., permissible: “John was my friend for a year.” Not permissible: “That night we made mad love.”

(5) Descriptions of homosexuality as a practice which the author encourages in others, or waxes too enthusiastic about.

(6) Fiction with too much physical contact between the characters. I.e., characters cannot rub knees, feel thighs, hold hands, soap backs, or undress before one another. (All examples taken from recent contributions).

Julber also insisted that he review each issue before it went to the publisher. But all this failed to keep ONE out of trouble — maybe because Julber didn’t strictly enforce his own rules. The October 1954 issue turned out to be arguably the raciest to date. That issue featured a fictional short story called “Sappho Remembered,” in which two young lovers touched each other four times, declared their love for each other, and the story had a happy ending. Another feature, a poem, made light of the arrest of several British public figures — including Lord Montagu (see Oct 20) and actor John Gielgud (see Apr 14) — on “morals” charges (“Lord Samuel is a legal peer / (While real are Monty’s curls!) / Some peers are seers but some are queers / And some boys WILL be girls.”). And there were two ads — one for the Swiss magazine Der Kreis (which, postal officials charged, meant that ONE was advertising “obscene materials” because Der Kreis often published beefcake photos; see Mar 16) and another for men’s pajamas and intimate wear (see today’s sponsor above).

That was enough for the Los Angeles Post Office to seize that issue —- the one with “You Can’t Print It!” on the cover -— and charge the editors with violating the 1873 Comstock Act, which prohibited sending “obscene, lewd, and/or lascivious” material through the mail. Jubler took the case for free, without the help of the ACLU (which was still defending the constitutionality of sodomy laws; see Jan 17) and sued the the Los Angeles Postmaster Otto Olesen in Federal Court. It didn’t go well. The judge ruled for the Post Office in March 1956, and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed in February 1957, calling ONE “morally depraving and debasing” because the magazine “has a primary purpose of exciting lust, lewd and lascivious thoughts and sensual desires in the minds of persons reading it.”

ONE then took its case to the U.S. Supreme Court. To everyone’s surprise, the Court agreed to consider the case, its first ever dealing with homosexuality. Even more surprising, instead of granting certiorari and scheduling briefs and oral arguments, the Supreme Court simply issued a short, one-sentence decision on January 13, 1958 based on the Appeals court transcript and overturned the two lower courts. The Supreme Court’s order simply read:

This cause came on to be heard on the transcript of the record from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth circuit and was duly submitted.

On consideration whereof, it is ordered and adjudged by this Court tht the judgment of the said United States Court of Appeals, in this case, be, and the same is hereby, reversedl and that this cause e, and the same is herey, remanded to the United States district Court for the Southern District of California. Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476.

ONE celebrates its victory. February 1958, page 16.

ONE celebrates its victory. February 1958, page 16.

That case cited in the order, Roth v. United States was the key. Roth was a landmark 1957 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court more narrowly defined obscenity as material whose “”dominant theme taken as a whole appeals to the prurient interest” to the “average person, applying contemporary community standards.” The court also found that “All ideas having even the slightest redeeming social importance — unorthodox ideas, controversial ideas, even ideas hateful to the prevailing climate of opinion — have the full protection of the guaranties” of the First Amendment. Thanks to Roth sorts of material that had been previously banned could be freely published and distributed — James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, and so on. And now with ONE v. Olesen expanding Roth’s application to include homosexual themes, lesbian and gay publications could be mailed without legal repercussions — although many continued to experience harassment from the Post Office and U.S. Customs. Editor Don Slater (see Aug 21) celebrated the ONE decision in the February 1958 issue:

By winning this decision ONE Magazine has made not only history but law as well and has changed the future for all U. S. homosexuals. Never before have homosexuals claimed their right as citizens. Not even the Berdache, nor the Greeks, nor the Napoleonic Code, nor Wolfenden “recommendations,” nor The American Law Institute “recommendations” have managed to mean so much to so many. ONE Magazine no longer asks for the right to be heard; it now exercises that right. It further requires that homosexuals be treated as a proper part of society free to discuss and educate and propagandize their beliefs with no greater limitations than for any other group.

 Jesse Helms Calls Gays “Disgusting People”: 1990. When the three-term Senator from North Carolina stood on the platform at the state fairgrounds before a crowd of 1,700 to announce his intention to run for a fourth term, there was no doubt whatsoever what his platform would be: abortions and gays. “Family values in American are under attack as never before,” he said. “Think about it. Homosexuals and lesbians, disgusting people marching in our streets demanding all sorts of things, including the right to marry each other. How do you like them apples?” Helms won that election, and another one again in 1996 before finally leaving the Senate in 2003. Helms is currently dead.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
 85 YEARS AGO: Charles Nelson Reilly: 1931-2007. He was a very well respected Broadway actor, director and drama school teacher, but he was best known and beloved for his campy comedic roles and as a panelist on the game show The Match Game. His break on Broadway came in 1960 with Bye Bye Birdie. His part was small, but it opened the door to 1961’s Pulitzer prize-winning musical How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. He was also featured in 1964’s Hello, Dolly! Through the 1960s and 70s, he had several comedic guest appearances on television. He was a regular on The Dean Martin Show and made countless appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. His campy character and his flamboyant dress marked him as a gay man. He never explicitly acknowledged it, although he would joke about how “butch” he was on The Match Game. No one asked, he didn’t tell, but everyone knew and no one bothered much with keeping the secret. In 2002, he finally discussed his private live in his one-man show Save It for the Stage, which became the basis for the autobiographical independent film, The Life of Reilly. He was too ill to attend its premiere in 2006 at South by Southwest, and he died at home on in 2007.

 Rip Taylor: 1934. I’ll bet you didn’t know this: the King of Confetti, known for his handlebar mustache, wild wigs, crazy props, and compulsive confetti throwing, began his adult life as a page in the U.S. Senate. Explains a lot, doesn’t it? After being drafted to serve in the Korean War, he came home and began his career as a stand-up comic. During the 1960s and 1970s, he was a regular on several variety and game shows (including Hollywood Squares and The Gong Show), and a voice for Popeye and The Addams Family cartoons. His Gong Show gig led to his own brief program, $1.98 Beauty Show, which was produced by Gong Show executive and host Chuck Barris and was on the air from 1978 to 1980.

His schtick is that of an old fashioned gag man, deploying odd props as bad puns, dropping the worst one-liners imaginable, and manically throwing confetti. His show as been a mainstay in Vegas, either as an emcee for a chorus line show or an opening act for Debbie Reynolds, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Ann-Margaret. As a result, he was named Las Vegas Entertainer of the Year for three years in a row in the 1970s. He’s also had a few more serious roles, including as Demi Moore’s boss in Indecent Proposal and in Broadway productions of Oliver!, Peter Pan and Anything Goes. More recently, The “Prince of Pandemonium” and the “Master of Mayhem” has had cameos in Will & Grace, George Lopez, and the first three Jackass movies. In 2006, he made another notable cameo appearance in his home town of Washington, D.C., as the grand martial for the Capital Pride parade. In 2010, he gave another more serious performance for his one-man show It Ain’t All Confetti.

Here’s a clip from 1987:

 Edmund White: 1940. He was born in Cincinnati and grew up in Chicago, then studied Chinese at the University of Michigan. He worked as a journalist in New York, then moved to France and settled in as a writer. In 1973, he co-wrote the first edition of The Joy of Gay Sex with psychologist Charles Silverstein, and that set him on his course of what one observer called his dedication to sexual truth-telling. His best known work, A Boy’s Own Story, was the first volume in his autobiographical-fiction trilogy that continued with The Beautiful Room Is Empty and The Farewell Symphony. His 2006 memoir, My Lives provides a frank and unflinching account of growing up gay in the Midwest and his life since then. In 2006, he told journalist Steve Dow, “Writing has always been my recourse when I’ve tried to make sense of my experience or when it’s been very painful. When I was 15 years old, I wrote my first (unpublished) novel about being gay, at a time when there were no other gay novels. So I was really inventing a genre, and it was a way of administering a therapy to myself, I suppose.”

White is currently a member of the faculty of Princeton University’s Creative Writing Program. His most recent novel, Jack Holmes and His Friend, was published in 2012, followed two years later with another memoir, Inside a Pearl: My Years in Paris.

 Nate Silver: 1978. The math whiz, baseball fanatic, poker player, and political polling savant who accurately predicted the outcome of the 2012 presidential election in each of the fifty states and the District of Columbia, wants it to be known that he is not a gay statistician, but a statistician who happens to be gay, while “ethnically straight.” To those who take such identity labels oh so seriously, Silver’s remarks challeneged an established orthodoxy, but one that is becoming increasingly irrelevant to those of Silver’s generation. As he once explained in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything”:

My quick-and-dirty view is that people are too quick to affiliate themselves with identity groups of all kinds, as opposed to carving out their own path in life.

Obviously, there is also the issue of how one is perceived by others. Living in New York in 2013 provides one with much a much greater ability to exercise his independence than living in Uganda — or for that matter living in New York forty years ago. So perhaps there’s a bit of a “you didn’t build that” quality in terms of taking for granted some of the freedoms that I have now.

And/but/also, one of the broader lessons in the history of how gay people have been treated is that perhaps we should empower people to make their own choices and live their own lives, and that we should be somewhat distrustful about the whims and tastes and legal constraints imposed by society.

Silver is the author of The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail – But Some Don’t. In March 2014, he expanded and re-launched FiveThirtyEight blog as a larger data journalism project for ESPN.

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 Sunday, January 10

Jim Burroway

January 10th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Body Politic, May 1984, page 6.

From The Body Politic (Toronto, ON), May 1984, page 6.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Gore Vidal’s “The City and The Pillar” Published: 1948. It turns out that the month of January, 1948 was a rather scandalous month for the American public. On January 5, Sexual Behavior In the Human Male, the first of the two Kinsey Reports, was released. Then just five days later, Gore Vidal’s novel, The City and the Pillar came out. Vidal wrote this novel, his third, at the relatively tender age of twenty-one, and it was the first mainstream novel dealing with homosexuality in its central characters. It was, in its day a kind of a Brokeback Mountain, a coming of age story in which the main protagonist awakens to his sexuality. Gore also smashed the prevailing stereotypes of the day by portraying the central characters as masculine. I guess both books coming out within the space of less than a week was too much for the New York Times. Their review the next day went like this:

Presented as the case history of a standard homosexual, this novel adds little that is new to a groaning shelf. Mr. Vidal’s approach is coldly clinical: there is no real attempt to involve the reader’s emotions, as the author sets down Jimmie’s life story — his first experience during his high school days, his life as a cabin boy, a tennis bum, his adventures in Hollywood and points East. Backdrops are gaudy, and Jimmie’s more ardent acquaintances include a picture star (the idol of a million bobby soxers), a fashionable novelist and members of the armed forces. But the over-all picture is as unsensational as it is boring…

Boring. Perhaps the worst thing that could be said about any novel, if anything was to be said at all. Most papers refused to review it, but a few saw it as a triumph. The Washington Post called it “an artistic achievement” and the Atlantic Monthly said it was “a brilliant exposé of subterranean life.” Despite it’s “subterranean” themes and The New York Times’ great displeasure, The City and the Pillar made it to the best-seller’s list. The Times so thoroughly disliked it that it refused to run ads for it and ignored Vidal’s next five books. Cut off from an important promotion vehicle, Gore resorted to writing mystery novels in the early 1950s under the pseudonym of Edgar Box.

Although the gay characters’ portrayals in The City and the Pillar were generally positive, the tone was dark and the ending tragic, with the main character being murdered by his lover. It’s been widely reported that the publishers forced Vidal to change the ending to an unhappy one, but Gore himself denied this. But twenty years later, when he published the novel again as The City and the Pillar, Revised, Gore changed the overall tone to be less dark and allowed the main character to survive the ending.

Virgin Islands Murder Prompts Call for Crackdown on “Deviates”: 1963. Things move at a much slower pace on the U.S. Virgin Islands than they do on the mainland. St. Thomas residents had just seen their telephone service switch over to direct dial, and St. Croix was preparing for their turn a few months later. the power company was installing new diesel generators to try to stem the power outages, dock workers had just concluded a strike in favor of a 17¢ per hour wage increase, and the territory’s governor and legislature were wrangling over a revision to the election law. But on January 8, the local paper in Charlotte Amalie, the territory’s capital on St. Thomas reported on the suspicious murder of Deputy Commissioner of Commerce Sheldon “Shell” Nulty, 33, formerly of Glen Falls, New York. He had died just after 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, January 5 at Knud Hanson Memorial Hospital, but not before whispering into the ears of an investigating officer the name of Nulty’s killer.

The name Nulty offered up was twenty-three year old Ralph Moolenaar. The Virgin Islands Daily News was unusually coy about what happened. What I’ve been able to glean was that Moolenaar appeared at Nulty’s apartment in French Town. An argument broke out and Moolenaar stabbed Nulty in the stomach with a bread Knife. Officials ascribed the argument to “jealousy,” and left it at that. It would later come out in the trial that the jealousy stemmed, according to the Daily News from Moolenaar’s discovery that another man was in Nulty’s bedroom.

Nulty’s roommate, Kenneth Maynar, was detained as a material witness. He was later charged with being an accessory after the fact, along with two other residence of the apartment building, when it was learned that Nulty had laid in the apartment bleeding for more than an hour before anyone sought help. The U.S. Attorney quickly announced that he would press for a first degree murder conviction for Moolenaar, but a few days later, he announced that due to what the paper simply said was “background factors connected with Nulty’s death,” the charge would be reduced to either second degree murder or manslaughter.

As I said, the newspaper was very coy about the details of why Nulty was killed that day. But St Thomas is small, and people talk — many of them, probably, on those new direct-dial telephones. On January 10, the Daily News reported that Gov. Ralph Paiewonsky announced a drive to rid the islands of “deviates”:

Gov. Ralph Paiewonsky

Gov. Ralph Paiewonsky

Action to Rid Here of Deviates Begins

Governor Paiewonsky today declared that his Administration has no intention of permitting the Virgin Islands to become a haven for homosexuals in which to spread their peculiar perversions.

To this end he has directed Commissioner of Public Safety, Otis L. Felix to undertake an immediate investigation into the extent of the problem in the Virgin Islands simultaneous with an all out drive against offenders.

If existing law is inadequate, says the Governor, the Attorney General will prepare legislation designed to eliminate this offensive activity in the Islands.

Noting that a large number of such persons are reported to have come to the Virgin Islands from other places, the Governor stated that the public interest required that our children be protected from the spread of homosexual practices.

An op-ed from the English language San Juan Star reprinted in the Mattachine Review connected Gov. Paiewonsky’s pledge to Nulty’s death, and was somewhat less coy about describing the incident as resulting from “homosexual jealousy.” The columnist compare this logic to trying to “drive all married men out of town because occasionally a husband murders his wife.” The next day, Felix responded to Paiewonsky’s call for an investigation:

Commissioner of Public Safety Otis Felix.

Commissioner of Public Safety Otis Felix.

Problem of Deviates Is People’s Responsibility

“There is a definite need for better laws than we now have i we hope to control the situation,” said Commissioner of Public Safety Otis Felix, recently, in speaking of what has developed into a public concern over homosexuality.”

“The problem like many others in a community is not one that is an isolated police department problem but rather it is truly a community’s responsibility,” Felix said in connection with what can be done about the situation. ”

Governor Paiewonsky in the past few days has been quoted as saying that homosexuals must be run off the island and when asked if the police department plans to implement the administration’s edict, Felix said, “All established police agencies have various strategies in handling certain disagreeable conditions in existence. We feel that these strategies are common to us also.”

Felix also interjected that there is a possible weakness in the license laws which govern the operation of bars and clubs on the island — a situation which should be corrected, he said. This statement was made in reference to the fact that the Police Department suspects that certain clubs have been catering to this “undesirable element” in St. Thomas.

Voicing objection to the theory that when certain places of business are allowed to operate then the authorities can better keep a check on the activities of suspect persons, Felix felt “Civilized man cannot less than be contaminated directly or indirectly unless he is definitely isolated from objectional surroundings.”

The responsibility of citizens maintaining a constant vigil against moral decay in the community was further emphasized by the commissioner when he said, “If we have a community that is determined not to have such conduct and conditions in existence, they would cease through positive community action.”

If any police or community actions which may have taken place, none of it got reported in the Daily News. As for Ralph Moolenaar, he was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to six years. Judge Walter Gordon agreed that the U.S. Attorney had been “very fair in reducing the charge to voluntary manslaughter.” Gordon also offered a few words of encouragement to Moolenaar, offering to try to find a federal facility on the mainland where Moolenaar could learn a trade. Judge Gordon added, “I don’t want you to leave here as if this is the end of the world.”

[Sources: “Dying Govt. Official Whispers Assailant’s Name: Police Say.” Virgin Islands Daily News (January 8, 1963): 1. Available online here.

“U.S. Attorney to Press for First Degree Murder Charge.” Virgin Islands Daily News (January 9, 1963): 1. Available online here.

“Action to Rid Here of Deviates Begins.” Virgin Islands Daily News (January 10, 1963): 1. Available online here.

“Hearing Held in Death of Govt. Official.” Virgin Islands Daily News (January 10, 1963): 1. Available online here.

“Problem of Deviates Is People’s Responsibility.” Virgin Islands Daily News (January 11, 1963): 1. Available online here.

“Virgin Islands to Be Swept Clean of Homos.” Mattachine Review 9, no. 2 (February 1963): 33-35.

“Murder Hearing Results in Two Being Arrested.” Virgin Islands Daily News (January 11, 1963): 1. Available online here.]

Episcopal Church Ordains First Open Lesbian: 1977. Before Bishop Paul Moore of New York ordained Rev. Ellen Marie Barrett as a priest in his Episcopal diocese, there is a point in the service in which the ordaining bishop asks the congregation, “If any of you know any impediment or crime because of which we should not proceed, come forward now, and make it known.” Rev. James Wattley, who was an active opponent of the church’s decision to ordain women to the priesthood, rose to denounce the ordination as a “travesty and a scandal.” He went on: “my objection is for myself alone on the grounds that she is a self-proclaimed lesbian.”

Bishop Moore appeared prepared for the answer. “Attention has been drawn to the ordination because Ms. Barrett has not made a secret of her homosexual orientation,” the Bishop announced. “However, her personal life has never been under criticism. Many persons with homosexual tendencies are presently in the ordained ministry. Ellen Barrett’s candor in this regard is not considered a barrier to ordination. She is highly qualified intellectually, morally and spiritually. … Historically, many of the finest clergy in our church have had this personality structure, but only recently has the social climate made it possible for some to be open about it.”

Rev. Barrett’s ordination sparked another round of controversy in a church still split over its 1976 decision to admit women to the priesthood. Within a month of Barrett’s ordination, nine parishes announced they were leaving the church. In an unusual move, one Florida pastor read out an “excommunication decree” from the altar of his church against Bishop Moore and Rev. Barrett.

The following October, the church’s House of Bishops sought to calm the controversy with a resolution declaring that gay people should not be ordained as priests, saying that such an ordination would “require the Church’s sanction of such a lifestyle not only as acceptable but worthy of emulation.” The House of Bishops also gave a nearly unanimous consent to another resolution to support Bishops who “by their own conscience” refuse to ordain women priests or allow them to serve in their dioceses. But in a 28-62 vote, the House refused to censure Bishop Moore, and in a 49-68 vote refused to advise California Bishop Kilmer Myers against licensing Rev. Barrett in his diocese. Thus the precedent was set, and bishops continued ordaining openly gay priests under the same “conscience” principle which permitted other bishops to bar women from the altar.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Johnnie Ray
: 1927-1990. When his career broke open in 1951, his highly emotional brand of white R&B earned him the nickname “The Prince of Wails.” His intense performances foreshadowed the raw energy of Rock And Roll which would hit the charts hard a few years later. Ray’s first hits, “Cry,” and “The Little White Cloud That Cried”, were sides A and B of his first single, with both sides dominating the charts for several months. They were followed by a string of a couple dozen top-forty hits, including “Please Mr. Sun,” “Walkin’ My Baby Back Home,”  “A Sinner Am I” (all three in 1952), “Such a Night” (1954), “Just Walkin’ In the Rain” (1955), and “Yes Tonight Josephine”  (1957).

Ray married in 1952. His wife knew he was gay going in — he had been arrested for soliciting an undercover police officer in Detroit for sex before his career took off — but the aspiring Mrs. Ray was confident she could “straighten him out.” Her efforts came to naught, and they divorced two years later. He also had a close friendship and casual affair with entertainment reporter Dorothy Kilgallen. Despite Kilgallen’s marriage and Ray’s string of male lovers, they remained close until her death in 1964.

In 1959, Ray was arrested, again in Detroit, and again for for trying to pick up an undercover cop, this time at a bar known as The Brass Rail. Kilgallen stood by him and the jury, comprised entirely of older women, found him not guilty. One juror rushed to comfort him when he fainted upon hearing the verdict.

His popularity in the U.S. took a hit, but he continued to do well in the UK, where his show at the Palladium became legendary. But by the early sixties, his fading star was further dimmed by alcoholism, a bout of tuberculosis and cirrhosis of the liver. By 1963, he had a new manager and first real long term partner, Bill Franklin, who worked to resolve Ray’s health and financial crises, and who got Ray to sober up. In 1968, Ray was appearing on American television again. He opened for Judy Garland’s last two concerts in Denmark and Sweden, followed by several more American television appearances in the early 1970s.

But that comeback didn’t take hold. Ray started drinking again. Franklin left him in 1976 and cut off all contact a few years later. By the time the 1980s rolled around, gen-X’ers had little idea of who he was except for a line in the 1982 hit “Come On Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners. (“Poor old Johnnie Ray sounded sad upon the radio / he moved a million hearts in mono.”) Ray continued performing in small venues until illness and alcoholism overtook him in late 1989. He died of liver failure in 1990.

Here is a performance of “The Little White Cloud That Cried.” Yes, the song itself is corny, but look at his performance and imagine seeing it in 1951 when the top acts that year included Perry Como, Nat King Cole and Tony Bennett — five years before Elvis.

And by the way, you may notice the clunky hearing aid in the video. He had lost about half of his hearing from an untreated childhood concussion. In 1958, he underwent two surgeries to restore his hearing, but the results were a disaster. He completely lost his hearing in his left ear and sixty percent in his right.

Here’s another appearance from 1956 on the Frankie Lane Show. The first song, “Walking In the Rain,” is cheesy in its staging, but his second number, “If I Had You,” is more vintage Johnnie Ray:

Sal Mineo: 1939-1976. He was a talented young actor who some say peaked with his first major role as John “Plato” Crawford in Rebel Without a Cause, the 1955 classic staring James Dean and Natalie Wood. That role got him an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor. He also appeared in another James Dean vehicle, Giant, as a Mexican boy, and for a while he became typecast as a troubled teen. In 1957, he made a brief stab at pop music, and in 1959, he appeared as the famous jazz drummer Gene Krupa in The Gene Krupa Story. He received another Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in the epic Exodus in 1960. By the late 1960s, Mineo became one of the first Hollywood actors to acknowledge his homosexuality. He died in 1976, stabbed to death during a mugging as he was walking home from a rehearsal in West Hollywood. He was only 37.

But back to Rebel Without A Cause. By the time I saw the film for the first time as a teenager in the late 1970s, I had already read a lot about the classic. Critics and observers wrote about the movie’s themes of alienation, aimless adolescence, the ambivalence of impending adulthood — you know, stuff like that And so when the movie appeared on television one night (remember, this was before Netflix, or even VHS rentals), I was unprepared for what looked to be the most obvious theme of the movie: the sexual tension between Sal Mineo and James Dean. At the time I had no idea that Mineo was gay or that Dean was bi. But seeing their chemistry together on the screen, it was so bright, so combustible, so obvious! Well good lord, why wasn’t anybody talking about that? Yeah, I know. I would later find out that others noticed it too. But remember, this was the 1970s and I was growing up in Appalachia. And man, what an eye-opener.

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

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

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, January 9

Jim Burroway

January 9th, 2016

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From a flyer distributed in 1961.] (Source).

From a flyer distributed in 1961. (Source).

The Diplomat in 1959 (Source).

The Diplomat in 1959 (Source).

Drag performer David Hummell began his career in the 1950s. He remembered the Diplomat:

I later moved to Detroit and happened upon a gay bar (The Diplomat) that had just started the very first drag show in Detroit. There may have been touring shows like the Jewel Box Revue but this was the first club to house a drag show. I had just lost my job so I decided to work on an act. Being six foot two I was way too tall to pass as a real female so I concentrated on comedy routines. I had another friend, Joe Price, who also wanted to break in an act so we teamed up and called ourselves The Fono Fools. After playing a few gigs we went to The Diplomat and became part of their show. This was in the late 1950s…

The Dip, as the locals called it, was owned by Morrie Weisberg and “Fat Jack” Bookie Stewart, who was described as “a Mafia-type character who spoke through a hole in his throat.” He also performed in drag. The drag shows were so legendary that straight couples soon arrived to check out the entertainment. But whatever entertainment value a few cutting-edge straight people found there, the Dip remained firmly gay. It was popular with Detroit’s gay community when the city was still the sixth largest in the nation, and it was a beacon to gay people who traveled there from outlying areas such as Ann Arbor, Jackson, Pontiac and Flint. Today, the building is gone, and the hallowed ground is occupied by a Baptist church.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Homosexual Crackdown at the University of Michigan: 1960. The campus paper, the Michigan Daily, headlined its editorial “Homosexual Crackdown of Dubious Value,” and informed the student body that Ann Arbor police had been patrolling campus restrooms, arresting 34 men. The paper said the arrests were “seriously questionable with regard to methods, motives, legality and moral implications.” The paper also criticized the expenditure of public funds “to aggravate the psychological problem of the homosexual, first by enticement, then by arrest, arraignment, trial, and perhaps a prison sentence. This is neither a logical way to spend public funds nor a sensitive way to handle a public problem.” Staff writer Thomas Hayden found the police motives odd:

No major incident-such as an attack on a child-triggered it. The police themselves admit no organized ring exists. Since the state law against indecent conduct between males has been on the books for many years, the suddenly renewed enforcement for no specific reason seems curious. It leaves one to guess that an irrational force in Ann Arbor is overly interested in keeping the city “a decent place to live” and that the police, are hypersensitive with regard to the public image.

What’s revealing about the editorial, however, is that writer didn’t tackle the topic because he thought gay people should be left alone more or less like anyone else. Instead, he engaged a much older argument, saying that gay people weren’t criminals who were responsible for their actions, but were mentally ill and couldn’t help what they were doing:

The situation once more illustrates the cultural lag which puts the homosexual under the heading of “criminal” when he is most often an individual with serious psychological difficulties. …What must be questioned most basically is the state statute itself. It simply is not consistent with advances in modern psychiatry. It is based on an absurd conception of homosexuality as the immoral behavior of stable rational individuals. It makes little attempt to understand such individuals as anything other than criminals, and most frightening of all, it sentences them to state prisons where their environment is hardly conducive for cure.

This line of reasoning passed for an “enlightened” viewpoint in 1960, even among many gay people. It would still take a few more years before gay rights activists would directly challenge the homosexuality-as-illness explanation, and even then it was controversial (see Mar 4). Meanwhile, Michigan’s crackdown would have tragic results for those arrested. At least nine pleaded guilty after a judge threatened them with six months in prison if they insisted on a jury trial (see Mar 12). One man who had been found guilty a week earlier committed suicide two days before he was due in court for sentencing (see Mar 13).

(By the way, that staff writer “Thomas Hayden” who wrote the piece was the very same Tom Hayden who would later co-found the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). In 1968, he and seven others were arrested during protests during the Democratic National Convention. The Chicago Seven (Bobby Seale was tried separately) were charged with conspiracy, inciting to riot, and other charges. Hayden and four others were convicted of crossing state lines to incite a riot, but the charges were reversed on appeal. He became a member of the California State Assembly in 1982, and moved to the State Senate in 1992 and served there until 2000. Along the way, his views changed considerably concerning homosexuality since he penned that editorial in 1960.)

[Source: Hal Call. “Calling Shots.” Mattachine Review 6, no. 3 (March 1960): 18-19.]

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?

Newer Posts | Older Posts