Posts Tagged As: Daily Agenda

Today’s Agenda Is Brought To You By…

Jim Burroway

August 26th, 2016

From David, a Jacksonville-based gay photography and lifestyle magazine, May 1972, page 13.

From David, a Jacksonville-based gay photography and lifestyle magazine, May 1972, page 13.

Even as far back as 1954, Miami’s Cactus Lounge on Biscayne Blvd. was widely known around town as Miami’s oldest gay bar. Yet somehow it escaped being mentioned in the local newspapers whenever bars were raided along Miami’s “Powder Puff Lane.” The Carnival Bar, which is also mentioned in this ad, wasn’t so lucky. It was raided along with at least six other bars in an anti-gay sweep in 1954. But the Cactus Lounge survived all of that and latest all the way up until 2004, when development finally accomplished what Miami’s mayors couldn’t do: shutter the bar permanently. The bar was torn down and replaced with a row of upscale condos, which themselves are conveniently located across the street from a Bentley dealership.

Emphasis Mine

Jim Burroway

August 26th, 2016

Left: two women dressed in male attire. Right, two unidentified men. Both photos from the early 1900s.

Left: two women dressed in male attire. Right: two unidentified men. Both photos are from the early 1900s.

It’s very encouraging to see local efforts to preserve LGBT history in cities and towns all across the country. So much of the study of gay history seems to concentrate itself in the major urban areas. Finding a trove like this one in Lexington, Kentucky, is particularly special. Historian Jonathan Coleman and artist Robert Morgan have compiled more than 12,000 items and 100 hours of recorded interviews to create the Faulkner-Morgan Pagan Babies Archive of LGBTQ life in Kentucky, which is currently seeking a permanent home. Coleman will discuss LGBT history this Sunday at 2:00 p.m. at the University of Kentucky Central Library:

The project began in 2014, when Morgan, a well-known artist and figure in the gay community, told Coleman about material he had been collecting for decades. Much of it involved Faulkner (1924-1981), a renowned Lexington painter who was “out” long before it was socially acceptable.

Morgan, 66, who befriended Faulkner as a teenager, ended up with most of his photographs and memorabilia.

“Henry started giving me stuff, and he took me to all these houses,” Morgan said. “I would meet all these old gay men who were born in the 1800s, and they would tell stories.”

Members of the "Negro Review", a drag show held in the 1930s at the Woodland Auditorium.

Members of the “Negro Review,” a drag show held in the 1930s at the Woodland Auditorium.

When the AIDS epidemic hit in the 1980s, Morgan cared for many local victims.

“Sometimes I was taking care of people I didn’t really know, and their families would come when they would die and throw all of their stuff in the street,” he said. “I would go back that night and go through the boxes and save their personal stuff, because it upset me so much that the families just threw all that away. I ended up with scrapbooks and photographs and ephemera documenting people’s whole lives.”

When people heard that Morgan was collecting, they brought him more material. An elderly man in Louisville sold him dozens of photographs of unidentified gay couples and cross-dressers he found over the years at Kentucky yard sales and flea markets.

…The archive includes a lot of drag photographs, including black men in women’s clothing performing in 1930s shows at the old auditorium in Woodland Park.

“Sometimes the only history we have are naked men and drag queens, because they were not worried about people seeing them in photographs,” Morgan said. They’re not representative of the larger gay community, he said, but “sometimes you have to take your history where you find it.”

 

Today In History, 1954: Miami Mayor Calls for Anti-Gay Crackdown

Jim Burroway

August 26th, 2016

Miami Mayor Abe Aronovitz

Miami Mayor Abe Aronovitz

As pressure mounted in the press over the growing anti-gay hysteria that had swept the Miami area following the murder of an Eastern Airlines flight attendant (Aug 3, Aug 11, Aug 12, Aug 13 (twice), Aug 14, Aug 15, Aug 16), Mayor Abe Aronovitz seized the moment when city manager E.A. Evans and police chief Walter Headley were both out of town on vacation to blast them for “coddling homosexuals” in the city.

Headley had already been singled out by the city’s newspapers for his policy of allowing gay bars to operate in Miami proper “so police can watch them” (Aug 16). That policy earned the him the praises of ONE magazine, the nation’s first nationally-distributed magazine. ONE’s public endorsement of Headly’s policies was more proof to the city’s papers that Headley’s tolerance of “Powder Puff Lane” was a “civic disgrace.”

By mid August, the papers were calling for the firing of Evans and Headley, and Florida’s acting Governor Charley Johns was threatening to intervene personally. Aronovitz decided he needed to respond to the growing political crisis. He told the papers that he would give Evans just one week from the time he returns from vacation to “clean out certain pervert nests in Miami proper.” Criticizing the police chief’s more lenient policies, Aromovitz added, “I firmly believe it is a disgrace to have a place on Biscayne Boulevard whose business caters to the disturbed mind which enjoys seeing a bunch of fairies perform where the sky seems the limit.”

Today In History, 1995: GOP Presidential Candidate Sen. Bob Dole Returns Donation from Log Cabin Republicans

Jim Burroway

August 26th, 2016

Richard Tafel and Sen. Dole: He’s just not that into you.

Richard L. Tafel, president of LCR, received a letter from John A. Moran, the finance director for the presidential campaign of Sen. Bob Dole. The letter read: “Per our discussion, I am attaching a list of upcoming Dole for President fund-raising events. Senator Dole and I would appreciate any assistance you could give us in turning out your members at each event. I am looking forward to working with you. With all good wishes. Cordially, John.” The letter seemed to vindicate Tafel’s hard work in getting LCR recognized as a valuable partner in electing a Republican to unseat President Bill Clinton. With Dole, Tafel thought he had someone he could work with. Campaign officials were soliciting his support, and he prominently wore a Log Cabin lapel button as he discussed AIDS police with Sen. Dole during a fundraiser.

And so Tafel donated $1,000 to the Dole campaign to support his quest for the Republican nomination. But after a devastating showing at the Iowa Straw Poll — Dole was expected to win handily, but ended up tying with his arch-conservative rival Texas Sen. Phil Gramm — Dole’s front-runner status in the Republican field looked to be in jeopardy. And so in August, the Dole campaign decided to tack right, hard. And as part of that direction, they publicly returned LCR’s donation. Tafel was furious, and made Moran’s letter available to the New York Times. Nelson Warfield, Dole’s spokesman, said they the only reason they accepted the money in the first place was because of “a financial screw up.” He also accused the LCR of making the donation for publicity, saying, “They’re struggling for credibility.” Dole himself tried to appear insulated from his own campaign’s actions, telling ABC News, “I don’t agree with (LCR’s) agenda — I assume that’s why it was returned.” Campaign manager Scott Reed put the donation in a broader context: “We need to be seen as a consistent conservative — and we will be that.”

Dole captured the GOP nomination after his hard turn to the right, but this episode exposed the growing fissure between the party’s conservative and moderate wings. Critics asked why Dole’s campaign returned LCR’s donation “for ideological reasons” — the campaign had acknowledged that the action was the first take solely for that reason — but kept other donations from, for example, Hollywood producers who Dole sharply criticized three months earlier. Rep Steve Gunderson, (R-WI), then the only openly gay GOP Congressman, issued a letter to Dole asking, “Are you rejecting support of anyone who happens to be gay? If this is so, do you intend to now reject my support and request those on your staff who happen to be gay to resign?”

As the weeks wore on, the issue died in the press, but the internecine battles threatened to drive moderates from the party. On October 18, just as his campaign staff had hoped the furor was safely behind them, Dole reignited the controversy again when he publicly reversed the decision. One unnamed Republican said to be close to Dole told The New York Times that the campaign had acted without Dole’s knowledge in returning the check. “Dole absolutely opposed giving it back,” he said. “He was angry about it. The campaign did it without checking with him.” But now it was the conservative wing’s turn to be angry. Gary Bauer, president of the Family Research Council, warned, “When a politician takes money from a group, he or she legitimizes that group’s agenda.” His rivals for the GOP nomination said that the reversal showed that Dole “lacked conviction.” Dole ended up winning the GOP nomination, but his support from the conservative win was lackluster during the general election campaign and President Bill Clinton won his bid for a second term.

Today In History, 1998: Lawyer Suggests Abortion If a Test Could Prove Fetus Has “Gay Gene”

Jim Burroway

August 26th, 2016

That was the San Francisco Chronicle’s headline when Chicago attorney Aaron Greenberg, proposed this thought experiment on one possible consequence if science were to discover a genetic basis for homosexuality. Greenberg, who was set to present his argument before the 15th annual symposium of the San Francisco-based Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA), said he was “pro-gay, but also pro-freedom.” According to the Chronicle:

“All things being equal, I think a kid who is heterosexual would have an easier life, not for any good reason, but because people irrationally discriminate (against homosexuals),” he said, giving what he speculated would be the biggest reason parents would want a straight child.

He said parents who make such a decision also would probably relate better to a heterosexual child and might feel they would have a better chance of eventually becoming grandparents.

…”I don’t want to upset anyone,” Greenberg said. “But I don’t think, with certain conditions, that there’s anything morally objectionable with choosing a child’s sexual orientation.”

Even if hatred is the motive, he said there’s no harm in a homophobe choosing not to have a gay child.

San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano denounced the suggestion. “I find it very frightening,” he said. “I think that in Germany during World War II there were some of the same rationales” for the elimination of Jews. Discrimination against gay people is fast eradicating, and certainly even if it’s still around, it wouldn’t justify that. I think this guy is grabbing for the spotlight, and also capitalizing on the campaign against gays that’s coming from the Republicans.”

San Francisco PFLAG chapter heads, Sam and Julia Thoron, who had a grown lesbian daughter, said the world was a better place with their daughter in it. Sam added, “All of this implies that there’s something wrong with being gay. There’s nothing wrong with being gay, underline and exclamation point.”

But others, while not supporting Greenberg’s suggestion, nevertheless felt that the debate needed to be aired. GLMA Executive Director Ben Schatz said, “Sure it’s going to upset people. But I think it forces us to come to terms with the fact that people hate us and there’s no magic bullet to make it go away. I think this underscores that we can’t look to science or technology as an antidote to bigotry.”

Born On This Day, 1904: Christopher Isherwood

Jim Burroway

August 26th, 2016

(d. 1986). Born in North West England to a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, young Christopher moved around a lot as his father was stationed in various towns around England. But after his father was killed in the First World War, Christopher and his mother and brother settled at Wyberslegh. As Christopher grew to adulthood, his life appeared to have taken on some of the wanderings of his father: He studied at Cambridge, but dropped out in 1925. He studied medicine at King’s College London in 1928, but left in 1929 when he followed a friend to Berlin. There, he discovered the thriving gay scene in the Wiemar Republic, and Isherwood thrived there. He had done some writing in England, but in Germany he came into contact with several other writers, including E.M.Forster (Jan 1), who became his mentor.

Isherwood wrote several novels throughout the 1930’s, including The Memorial and a collection of shorter novels which were later released as The Berlin Stories. When the Nazis came to power, Isherwood and his German lover moved to Copenhagen. After his lover returned to Germany for a brief visit in 1937 and was arrested as a draft dodger and for committing “reciprocal onanism,” Isherwood and his writing partner, W. H. Auden, traveled to China to collect material for a book they were working on, and stopped in New York on their way back to Britain. That’s when they decided to emigrate to the U.S., Auden remained in New York while Isherwood took off for Hollywood.

On Valentine’s day at the age of 48, he met nineteen-year-old Don Bachardy (May 18), and the two of them began a partnership that lasted until the end of Isherwood’s life. The differences in ages raised quite a few eyebrows among their circle of friends. They had their differences and difficulties, including separations and affairs, but in the end they remained devoted to each other. Their relationship provided material for 1964’s A Single Man, which Isherwood wrote during one of the couple’s periods of difficulty. Bachardy recalled later, “I was making a lot of trouble and wondering if I shouldn’t be on my own. Chris was going through a very difficult period (as well). So he killed off my character, Jim, in the book and imagined what his life would be without me.” The novel is not just a classic in the cannon of gay literature, but one of the great novels of the 20th century, and it became an award-winning film under the direction of Tom Ford in 2009. Isherwood died in 1986 of prostate cancer. Bachardy still lives in the home they shared in Santa Monica, California. The 2007 documentary Chris & Don. A Love Story recounts their lives together.

Today’s Agenda Is Brought To You By…

Jim Burroway

August 25th, 2016

From Louisiana Alternative, July 1981, page 8.

From Louisiana Alternative, July 1981, page 8 (Source.)

Emphasis Mine

Jim Burroway

August 25th, 2016

From a letter written by Leonard Bernstein’s wife, actress Felicia Montealegre, sometime in 1951 or 1952:

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The connubial couple.

Darling,

If I seemed sad as you drove away today it was not because I felt in any way deserted but because I was left alone to face myself and this whole bloody mess which is our “connubial” life. I’ve done a lot of thinking and have decided that it’s not such a mess after all.

First: we are not committed to a life sentence—nothing is really irrevocable, not even marriage (though I used to think so).

Second: you are a homosexual and may never change—you don’t admit to the possibility of a double life, but if your peace of mind, your health, your whole nervous system depend on a certain sexual pattern what can you do?

Third: I am willing to accept you as you are, without being a martyr or sacrificing myself on the L.B. altar. (I happen to love you very much—this may be a disease and if it is what better cure?) It may be difficult but no more so than the “status quo” which exists now—at the moment you are not yourself and this produces painful barriers and tensions for both of us—let’s try and see what happens if you are free to do as you like, but without guilt and confession, please!

As for me —- once you are rid of tensions I’m sure my own will disappear. A companionship will grow which probably no one else may be able to offer you. The feelings you have for me will be clearer and easier to express—our marriage is not based on passion but on tenderness and mutual respect. Why not have them?

…n any case my dearest darling ape, let’s give it a whirl. There’ll be crisis (?) from time to time but that doesn’t scare me any more. And let’s relax in the knowledge that neither of us is perfect and forget about being HUSBAND AND WIFE in such strained capital letters, it’s not that awful!

Born On This Day, 1918: Leonard Bernstein

Jim Burroway

August 25th, 2016

(d. 1990) When he died only five days after announcing his retirement in 1990, the New York Times lionized him as “one of the most prodigiously talented and successful musicians in American history.” He became instantly famous in 1943 when he stepped in at the last minute — unrehearsed — to conduct the New York Philharmonic when conductor Bruno Walter fell ill. That concert at Carnegie Hall was nationally broadcast, and it led to guest conductor engagements around the country. In 1947 he conducted a complete Boston Symphony concert in Carnegie Hall, the first time that orchestra had allowed a guest to do so in 22 years. In 1953 he became the first American-born conductor to conduct an opera at Milan’s famed La Scala. When he was named the New York Philharmonic’s musical director in 1958, he became the youngest person to fill that role in the orchestra’s history.

Bernstein was also the first conductor to give numerous television lectures on classical music, starting in 1954, continuing until his death. Meanwhile, he also achieved popular success with his many compositions, including three symphonies, ballets and operas; his Mass; and music for such Broadway hits as Candide, On the Town, and most famously, West Side Story.

Bernstein conducting the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood, 1970.

Bernstein was known for both his punishing schedule and his highly animated conducting style. One legendary story has it that at his first rehearsal as guest conductor for the St. Louis Symphony, his initial downbeat was so dramatic that the startled musicians simply stared in amazement and made no sound. In 1982 Bernstein fell off the podium while conducting the Houston Symphony, and he did it again in 1984 while leading the Vienna Philharmonic in Chicago.

Bernstein married Chilean actress Felicia Montealegre Cohn in 1951. and although they had three children, the marriage didn’t fool anyone. He certainly didn’t fool her. She knew he was gay from the very beginning, and agreed to look the other way. The reached an accommodation, and by all accounts he was a devoted father and husband. But when they separated in 1976 and he moved in with his boyfriend, she was furious, saying, “You’re going to die a bitter and lonely old man.” A short while later, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. He begged her to let him move back in. She relented, and he took care of her until she died in 1978.

Bernstein’s homosexuality, often rumored throughout his life, became public knowledge with the 1987 publication of Joan Peyser’s Bernstein: A Biography. Arthur Laurents, Bernstein’s collaborator in West Side Story, said simply that Bernstein was “a gay man who got married. He wasn’t conflicted about it at all. He was just gay.”

Today’s Agenda Is Brought To You By…

Jim Burroway

August 24th, 2016

From Arizona Gay News, August 18, 1978, page 3.

From Arizona Gay News, August 18, 1978, page 3.

Homosexuality was very much in the news in 1978, thanks to the numerous Anita Bryant-inspired political hate campaigns taking place in several cities across America and the contentious Briggs Amendment that was being hotly debated in California. A number of cities, like Phoenix, saw a terrible spike in anti-gay violence. On August 7, Tucson-based Arizona Gay News reported on three separate incidents in late July:

The most serious of the three occurred late last Thursday night, July 27. Blain Henderson, 22, was leaving the 3-0-7 Bar by the side door when he was accosted by three people who took his wallet and demanded his automobile keys. Henderson refused to give up his keys and, while two of the men ran away, the third produced a small caliber revolver and shot Henderson. The bullet entered through the cheek bone, into the left eye, and lodged in the right eye with some splinters lodging in the brain. At presstime, Henderson was in critical condition in intensive care. Hospital spokespersons contacted late Tuesday appeared optimistic concerning Henderson’s recovery, although it is anticipated that, because of the eye damage, he will be permanently blinded. It is two early to speculate about possible brain damage.

On August 18, Arizona Gay News followed up with news of the fundraiser:

As reported in the August 7 issue of AGN, a member of the Phoenix gay community was assaulted, robbed and shot in the parking lot of a local Phoenix bar. Still under a doctor’s car and with almost positive loss of sight in both eyes, Blaine Henderson is recovering at the home of his brother and sister-in-law.

…Mr. Henderson is able to converse and visit with friends, but from all indications, he will require “lifetime care,” according to Phyllis Nest, who helped stage a benefit for Henderson and two other men injured the same week. … The Connection and the Doug Cooper Show will be holding a benefit dance and show for Blaine Henderson, Thursday, August 24 beginning at 8:00 p.m. and lasting until midnight. These benefits are being held to help defray the astronomical medical costs that are being accrued by Blaine. Dale Williams, popular owner of the Connection, is making the first donation of $100.

In better times, The Connection was known for hosting its County Fair in the parking lot over Memorial Day weekend. They also hosted an annual summer Luau, with the entire parking lot filled with sand to create a kind of a beach scene. Grace Jones reportedly performed at one of the Luaus. The levi/leather bar later opened a leather disco next door called Der Druck, with a Kenworth cab next to the dance floor. The owner died of AIDS in 1988, and the businesses closed soon after. The whole thing today is now a parking lot across the street from the VA hospital.

Today In History, 1970: New York Times Looks At “Homosexuals In Revolt”

Jim Burroway

August 24th, 2016

Homosexuals are fit to print.

On June 28, 1969, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn erupted in revolt when New York City police tried to raid the bar. The New York Times, the city’s newspaper of record, barely covered the story, burying a few paragraphs on page 33 with the headline “4 Policemen Hurt in ‘Village’ Raid” (Jun 29). More than a year later, the Grey Lady finally found that the explosion of new gay organizations, along with the successful Gay Pride march and a large gathering in Central Park marking the one-year anniversary of Stonewall a few months earlier (Jun 28), was all too much to ignore. And so on August 24, 1970, the Times printed an exhaustive and (for 1970) relatively balanced exploration of the shifts that had just occurred within the gay community over the past year, namely its new-found pride and emerging sense of self worth. Of course, not everyone thought those developments were positive:

This new attitude has its critics, both among “straights” and among homosexuals. Many doctors believe that, while homosexuals have full legal rights, “gay” is not necessarily “good.” Dr. Lionel Ovesey, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, said: “Homosexuality is a psychiatric or emotional illness. I think it’s a good thing if someone can be cured of it because it’s so difficult for a homosexual to find happiness in our society. It’s possible that this movement could consolidate the illness in some people, especially among young people who are still teetering on the brink.”

Having gotten that out of the way, the rest of the Times article focused mainly on the the emergence of a new attitude and commitment to equality among younger people, in contrast to the timidity that was still common among the older generation. The youth, who were organizing gay advocacy and social groups at an astonishing pace across the country, were inspired particularly by the African-American civil rights movement as well as the women’s movement:

“We are all fighting for equal rights as human beings,” explained (New York Mattachine Society president Michael) Kotis, who had a picture of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. above his desk in the society’s cramped offices on West End Avenue. “The philosophical ideals on which this country was founded have yet to be realized. We owe a great debt to the blacks — they were the pioneers.”

Page-28

But gays and lesbians were up against a lot of history. They were also up against a lot of internalized shame and guilt — even among some of the brave new activists:

“The first job we have to do is to decondition ourselves, to undo that self-contempt we have,” said Don Kilhefner, a graduate student who started a Gay Liberation branch at the University of California at Los Angeles. “We’ve gone through the same kind of conditioning blacks have gone through. We believe the myth society tells about us, consciously or unconsciously.”

“Homosexuality is not an illness; it’s a way of expressing love for someone of the same sex, and any form of love is beautiful and valid,” said Karla, a leader of the Lavender Menace, a lesbian organization in New York, who would not give her full name.

The article went on to discuss some of the discrimination that gay people face, particularly in employment where they were routinely fired if their employers found out they were gay:

As a result, people like Karla, despite her devotion to the movement, are still afraid. “I still face the possibility that I might have to make it in the ‘straight’ world,” she said, in explaining why she would not give her full name. “And there are a lot of things you still can’t do if they know you’re ‘gay’.” In answer to these problems, “gay” organizations provide legal counsel, offer advice on job hunting, and lobby for legislative reforms.

There is much that feels antiquated about this article more than forty years later, but there is also much that feels familiar, particularly the tensions between the more established gay rights groups who feared pushing too hard and provoking a backlash (and who, quite visibly in this article, called themselves “homosexuals”), and the younger, more active members of the community who were impatient for change and were more willing to take their complaints to the street — and to proclaim themselves gay:

There are sharp disagreements within the homosexual community. People such as Michael Brown of Gay Liberation in New York identify with a broader radical movement. “The older groups are oriented toward getting accepted by the Establishment,” he said, “but what the Establishment has to offer is not worth my time. …”

On the other side are organizations such as the Tangent Group in Los Angeles, headed by a brisk, middle aged man named Don Slater (Aug 21). He agreed that homosexuals should have pride in themselves, but he added: “People should stop thinking of homosexuals as a class. They’re not. We have spent 20 years convincing people that homosexuals are no different than anyone else, and here these kids come along and reinforce what society’s thought all along — that they’re ‘queer.’ ‘Gay’ is good! To hell with that. Individuals are good.”

The parameters of the argument have changed quite a bit in the past forty years, but the fundamental discussion continues: assimilation vs. queer identity, the establishment vs. the grassroots, Gay, Inc. vs. Act-Up. Some things may never change.

Today In History, 1977: “The Advocate” Reports Another FBI Document Dump On Gay Rights Groups

Jim Burroway

August 24th, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 5.50.49 PMJust two days after The Advocate published its exposé on decades of FBI surveillance of thousands of gay men and gay rights groups (Jul 8), the FBI responded to another Freedom of Information Act request by releasing another twenty-four pages from its files on the Gay Liberation Movement. The documents span the period from August 22, 1969 to April 22, 1972, and report on gay rights groups in San Antonio, Austin, Ann Arbor and New York City.

The Advocate found the documents “unrevealing, except as indicators of FBI thinking during the period,” namely, that the FBI “did not consider the gay movement particularly worthy of its attention.” This was in sharp contrasts to earlier files from the 1940s to the 1960s which demonstrated the FBI’s pre-occupation that gay people might be blackmailed into becoming Soviet informants. Those earlier files also revealed that the FBI, in turn, also sought to coerce gay people into becoming informants for the FBI. The latest release, on the other hand, revealed that whatever worries the FBI may have had about homosexuals in previous decades, radical “New Left” civil rights and anti-war movements on the nation’s campuses and major cities were now the focus of FBI surveillance.

If the latest release wasn’t particularly revealing in its details, the process the Advocate had to go through to get those files under the Freedom of Information Act was:

A bout a year and a half ago, The ADVOCATE mailed out a flurry of FOIA requests to nearly two dozen federal spy agencies, seeking proof of a gay informant’s claims that files were kept on the publication and its employees. After a year-long wait, most of the agencies replied that the publication was not on file. The Military Intelligence group of the U.S. Army, however, reported that at one time it had a file titled “Advocate,” but didn’t know if it referred to this publication or another Advocate because the file, it said, had been destroyed.

We followed these turn-downs with detailed appeals and were again told we just weren’t listed. Additionally, we requested the files of two ADVOCATE employees who, the government agencies finally said, also were not on file.

Taking inspiration from the success of the Los Angeles Times in locating some 1,500 pages of flies in a request for material on the”Women’s Liberation Movement,” we then filed for information on the “Gay Liberation Movement,”

The FBI indicated in its cover letter that all it had on “GLM” was what it had sent. Deletions, so common in most FOIA-processed documents, were few, generally involving only the names of “sources” or its information.

Apparently, to get the full story of what the FBI or other agencies actually have on file about the gay rights movement, it will be necessary to file numerous requests, specifically naming a variety of organizations and individuals. The agency wilt not release files on specific people to us because this would be an invasion of those persons’ privacy. Additionally. there is some doubt that it will release information about organizations to anyone except representatives (past or present) of those organizations.

The Advocate suggested that the best avenue for future FOIA requests would be for those organizations aligned with the so-called “New Left.”

"Fag Liberation Movement"

“Fag Liberation Movement”

As for the documents in this latest release, only one was derogatory. “Whether in jest or from prejudice,” one memo described the New York Gay Liberation Front as a “Fag Liberation Movement.” The memo went on to described two GLF protests before concluding: “In view of the nature of subject organization, it is recommended that no further investigation be conducted, and that this case be placed in a closed status.”

The FBI’s interest in the Ann Arbor GLF stemmed mainly in that group’s connections to other campus leftist groups which, the FBI Detroit field office said, “use the GLM (gay liberation movement) as a device to further ‘New Left’ agitation.” A later 1970 memo pointed out the the University of Michigan had enjoyed “an unusually quiet summer,” and by October, the Detroit office reported that the GLF was “small in number and ineffectual as an independent group… They, as a group, have not taken any independent aggressive action on a New Left project or activity. They have no regular membership, dues or meetings, and it is felt that their purpose remains social rather than political.” By 1971, the Detroit office placed the GLF “in a closed status to be re-opened at such a time when the group again becomes active in New Left matters.”

The last two documents mentioned, in passing, the participation of the San Antonio and Austin gay rights groups in anti-war demonstrations. Overall, the tone of the documents released to the Advocate seemed to indicate an overall disinterest on the FBI’s part in gay rights groups and movements. In fact, later FOIA releases would show that the FBI maintained a watchful vigilance on the Gay Activists Alliance and on GLFs around the country through the early 1970s, with the main focus being on discovering any ties they may have had with other leftist groups.

[Source: Sasha Gregory-Lewis. “Gay Liberation Movement FBI Files Released to ADVOCATE.” The Advocate issue 222 (August 24, 1977): 36-38.]

Today In History, 1977: Houston Klan: “We Endorse and Seek the Execution of All Homosexuals”

Jim Burroway

August 24th, 2016

Site of the Klan's bookstore in Pasadena, TX. (via Flicker)

Site of the Klan’s bookstore in Pasadena, TX. (via Flicker)

The Star, a gay paper in Houston, reported that the phone answering machine message for the Klan’s bookstore in the Houston suburb of Pasadena said, in part:

The Ku Klux Klan is not embarrassed to admit that we endorse and seek the execution of all homosexuals. While many church people are duped by their brain-washed, pinky-panty preachers into believing that we should merely pray for the homosexuals, we find that we must endorse and support the law of God, which calls for the death penalty for homosexuals. … Not only have we seen the establishment of homosexual churches in our once unblemished land, but at least two major denominations have actually ordained homosexuals into the ministry.

The Ku Klux Klan does not have to rely on the feelings or thoughts of man, nor do we need to experience a dialogue with some Jewish Psychiacrist or rabbi who is mentally warped anyway. We rely on the age-proven and reliable law of God. …The law on homosexuality states: “That if a man also lie with mankind as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination, and shall be put to death” (Leviticus 20:13). … It is not our intention to but this matter up to a discussion or debate the matter or start a dialogue with a committee of queers as to their rights of sexual freedom. The law of God states the death penalty for homosexuals, and when God’s laws are again enforced, the death penalty is what it will be.”

[Source: The Star, as quoted in “‘We endorse and seek the execution of all homosexuals’ — KKK.” Arizona Gay News (September 16, 1977): 2.]

Today In History, 1988: Canada’s Largest Protestant Church Accepts Gay Ordination

Jim Burroway

August 24th, 2016

The governing council of the United Church of Canada voted at a meeting in Victoria, British Columbia, to allow gay men and women to be ordained into the clergy. The church, which was formed in 1925 from a merger of Canada’s Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational churches, decreed: “All persons regardless of their sexual orientation, who profess faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to Him, are welcome to be or become members of the United Church. All members of the church are eligible to be considered for the ministry. All Christian people are called to a lifestyle patterned on Jesus Christ. All congregations, presbyteries and conference covenant to work out the implications of sexual orientation and lifestyles in the light of Holy Scriptures.”

The final report approved by the governing council added: “we confess before God that as a Christian community we have participated in a history of injustice and persecution against gay and lesbian persons in violation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” It also acknowledged “our continued confusion and struggle to understand homosexuality.”

The 205-160 vote followed months of heated debate, during which a quarter of the church’s ministers and 30,000 of its 860,000 members signed a declaration opposing the move. Over the next four years, membership fell by 78,000 as some congregations split and a few others left the denomination altogether.

Born On This Day, 1917: Chuck Rowland

Jim Burroway

August 24th, 2016

(d. 1990) His tiny hometown of Gary, South Dakota, straddling the state line with Minnesota, may have been off the beaten path, but the town’s only newsstand was located in his father’s drugstore, providing young Chuck with a window to a much larger world. He vividly remembered that day when he snatched a copy of Sexology magazine, a small quasi-scientific magazine about the size of a Reader’s Digest, and read “that if one was homosexual, he shouldn’t feel strange or odd, that there were millions of us, that there was nothing wrong with it.” Rowland knew from the time he was ten years old that he was gay, when he fell in love with another boy. “As soon as I read that there were millions of us, I said to myself, well, it’s perfectly obvious that what we have to do is organize, and why don’t we identify with other minorities, such as the blacks and the Jews? I had never known a black, but I did know one Jew in our town. Obviously, it had to be an organization that worked with other minorities, so we would wield tremendous strength.” Organizing would become Rowland’s greatest contribution to the early gay rights movement.

In the late 1930s, Rowland went to the University of Minnesota where he met Bob Hull (May 31), and the two became lovers, briefly, and then lifelong friends. Rowland was drafted into the Army, but thanks to a severe injury he stayed stateside and, “frankly, I had a ball.” After his discharge in 1946, he became an organizer for the New York-based American Veterans Committee, a liberal veterans group. Rowland also became friends with a young man whose parents had been Communists. Rowland decided to join the Communist Party and became head of a youth group called the American Youth for Democracy in the Dakotas and Minnesota. He left in 1948, “not because I disagreed with anything, but because I just wanted out. Joining the Communist Party is very much like joining a monastery or becoming a priest. It is total dedication, twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year.”

That year, Rowland moved to Los Angeles to start a new life. Hull soon followed and the two of them met Harry Hay (Apr 7), who was already kicking around with the idea of starting an organization for homosexuals. Rowland and Hull, along with Dale Jennings (Oct 21), met with Hay and Hay’s lover, Rudi Gernreich (Aug 8), and in November of 1950 they formed what would become the Mattachine Foundation (Nov 11). Rowland’s organizational skills to be an important asset to the fledgling group. Given the fearful political climate of the McCarthy era, Mattachine meetings were held in secret, with members using aliases and the leadership known only as “The Fifth Order.” Taking a cue from the Communist party, each discussion group or chapter was operated autonomously with loose coordination, so that if police were to raid and arrest the members of one chapter, it wouldn’t endanger the others.

An exceptionally rare photo of early members of the Mattachine Society. Pictured are Harry Hay (upper left, Apr 7), then (l-r) Konrad Stevens, Dale Jennings (Oct 21), Rudi Gernreich (Aug 8), Stan Witt, Bob Hull (May 31), Chuck Rowland (in glasses), Paul Bernard. Photo by James Gruber (Aug 21). (Click to enlarge.)

That worked for a while. But by 1953, Mattachine had grown to over 2,000 members, thanks in part to the publicity over Dale Jennings’s acquittal of trumped up charges for soliciting a police officer (Jun 23). Mattachine raised its profile during the trial: raising money, hiring a lawyer, and generating quite a bit of publicity along the way. But the flood of new members brought pressure to change the Foundation. In particular, they demanded the secrecy surrounding the leadership’s identities be abandoned and the organization cleared of Communists. Many of them also demanded that the Foundation become less “activist,” an ironic stance given that Mattachine’s activism in the Jennings case was what made the newer members aware of the organization in the first place.

The group also split over a far more fundamental disagreement: over the nature of homosexuality itself. Were they a distinct cultural minority seeking recognition, or were they exactly like heterosexuals in every way except one? The latter “integrationist” model was sought by many (though certainly not all) of the more “conservative” members, who also demanded transparency, the ejection of former Communists, and a non-confrontational approach to public activism. A Constitutional Convention was called to try to reconcile the many emerging fault lines and come up with a new organizational structure that everyone could agree on (Apr 11). Rowland gave a speech which blasted through the wall of secrecy of the group’s leadership. “You will want to know something about the beginnings of the Mattachine Society, how the Fifth Order happened to be. … I think it is reasonable that you should ask this and important that you understand it,” he said. He then introduced the leadership to the rank-and-file. That satisfied one of the conservatives’ demands. But he also declared his unwavering belief that homosexuals were a unique, valuable segment of society, and if they could only see themselves as such, and with pride, only then could they effect change in society. “The time will come when we will march arm in arm, ten abreast down Hollywood Boulevard proclaiming our pride in our homosexuality.” The newer members found that idea far too radical and confrontational — and downright “communistic.”

Rowland proposed a new constitution, organizing the Mattachine Foundation as a group of autonomous clubs governed by a committee and an annual convention. His draft constitution was rejected and the convention decided to suspend its meeting due to a lack of consensus. During a second meeting called for May, Rowland, Hull and Hay resigned their leadership positions, the remaining members declared the Mattachine Foundation disbanded, and announced the formation of the newly reconstituted Mattachine Society with a centralized organizational structure and a disavowal of activism.

Rowland tried to remain active in the new Society, in a chapter that was intended to take on legal cases. But an attorney for the new Society charged that “the very existence of a Legal Chapter, if publicized to society at large, would intimidate and anger heterosexual society.” At the next convention in November, Rowland’s chapter was shut down, Rowland himself was branded a Communist, his credentials were revoked and he was out of the group.

Meanwhile, a group of disaffected Mattachine members had founded ONE, Inc. (Oct 15), which was originally formed solely to publish ONE magazine, but which found itself fielding questions and requests for help from gay men and women who were showing up at its tiny Los Angeles office. Rowland became director of ONE’s social services division, providing job placement and counseling services for nearly 100 people in 1955 alone. The following year, Rowland decided to found a church, the Church of One Brotherhood, using the name he lifted from ONE. The church launched a burst of activity in social work, activism and advocacy before flaming out in 1958.

Soon after, Rowland began suffering from alcoholism, had a nervous breakdown, saw a business partnership go belly-up, went into debt, and was evicted from his home. When Hull committed suicide in 1962, Rowland decided it was time to start over. He moved to Iowa where he somehow managed to become a high school teacher. He then earned his master’s degree in theater in 1968 and chaired a theater arts department at a Minnesota college. On retiring in 1982, Rowland returned to Los Angeles to form Celebration Theatre, “the only theatre in Los Angeles dedicated exclusively to productions of gay and lesbian plays.”

In March of 1990, Rowland was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. He moved to Duluth, into an apartment donated by a former student, and spent the remainder of his days among students and relatives. He died on December 20, 1990.

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