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 June, 2015

The Daily Agenda for Thursday, June 4

Jim Burroway

June 4th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Aarhus, Denmark; Anchorage, AK; Asbury Park, NJ; Bergen, Norway; Birmingham, AL; Buffalo, NY; Pride Cambridge/Kitchener/Waterloo, ON;Charleston, WV; Columbus, GA; Conway, AK; Dayton, OH; Detroit, MI; Dresden, Germany; Edmonton, AB; El Paso, TX; Fresno, CA; Guerneville, CA; Honolulu, HI; Indianapolis, IN; Innsbruck, Austria; Lander, WY; Lille, France; Ljubljana, Slovenia; Los Ranchos, NM; Milwaukee, WI; New Paltz, NY; Niagara Falls, NY; Nicosia, Cyprus; Oxford, UK; Pine City, MN; Queens, NY; Sacramento, CA; Salt Lake City, UT; Santa Cruz, CA; Spencer, IN; Split, Croatia; Tulsa, OK; Washington, DC.

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Beaver Lake, NY; Boston, MA; London, UK.

Other Events This Weekend: Connecticut Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Hartford, CT; Gay Days Disney, Orlando, FL; AIDS Lifecycle, San Francisco to Los Angeles, CA; Tel Aviv LGBT International Film Festival, Tel Aviv, Israel; Identities Queer Film Festival, Vienna, Austria.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Los Angeles Advocate, November 1968, page 31.

From The Los Angeles Advocate, November 1968, page 31.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
FBI Collects Info on Homophile Groups “Obstructing the Efforts of the Bureau”: 1965. On On June 4, 1965, the Birmingham, Alabama field office sent a memo addressed to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover with a copy of a document “furnished… on 6-1-65 by Major DON DRISSIL, Region 4, 111th Intelligence Group, Ft. McClellan, Alabama, U.S. Army Duty Station, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. Major DRISSIL advised that the source of this document was unknown; however it had been furnished to him by one of his investigators who had obtained it somewhere in the State of Florida. It is being furnished to the Bureau for information and any action deemed necessary in the event it has not been previously furnished.” The memo, which had been routed to Associate Director Clyde Tolson and other senior staff at the F.B.I., quoted the following:

EAST COAST HOMOPHILE ORGANIZATIONS

How To Handle A Federal Investigator

The discriminatory policies of the Federal Government in disqualifying the homosexual citizen from Federal employment, from eligibility for a security clearance, and from service in and fully honorable discharge from the Armed Forces, are not only not justified, but are gravely injurious to the national interest. It is, therefore, the patriotic duty of every American citizen to do everything lawfully within his power to impede and to obstruct the implementation of these policies, and to encourage others to do likewise. Central to that implementation is the conduct of investigations involving the administration of interrogations. To those finding themselves subject to such interrogations, the following pointers and suggestions are offered.

1. No citizen is required to submit to an interrogation by any Federal official — F.B.I., Civil Service Commission, military investigators, etc. — or even to speak to them. However, in certain instances (for example, where you yourself, rather than an acquaintance are the subject of the investigation) it may be advisable to grant the Government the privilege of interviewing you.

2. In case of such interrogation, your choice is NOT between telling truth or untruth, but between speaking and not speaking. Never lie, falsify, or misrepresent. On matters relating to homosexuality — yours or anyone else’s — just refuse to speak.

3. If you are asked any questions at all on homosexuality, in any aspect, your ONLY answers should be: “These are matters which are of no proper concern to the Government of the United States under any circumstances whatsoever.” and “This is information which the Government does not have to know.” Stand your ground on these. Do not engage inin philosophical or psychological or sociological discourses. Do not make use of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution; it is not necessary, and may be harmful.

4. Sign no statements; take no lie detector tests; give no names or other information about any other person.

5. Under no circumstances tolerate unannounced visitations by investigators at your home or your place of employment. Refuse to speak to them. Insist upon a proper appointment, at a time and place of YOUR choice and convenience. INSIST upon the right to be accompanied by one or more persons of your choice (without restriction to professional legal counsel) to act not only as counsel, but as witness.

6. The interrogators will try to cajole, to persuade, to bully, to demand, to threaten, to bargain. Do not be taken in. Regardless of what they may say and how they may act, they are “out to get you.” Among a few of their favorite techniques are:

a. “You are not cooperating.” Of course you are not. Continue not to.

b. “All of this is not really very important, and nothing will happen to you; we just need a few questions answered and your signature, so we can complete our records and close our files.” Do not believe it.

c. “The laws or reguatlions require you to reply.” This is not true, regardless of what may be quote to you or even shown to you in print.

d. The “good guy and bad guy” approach. After interrogator A has unpleasantly browbeaten you for a while, interrogator B will intercede, supposedly as your friend, to try to make things easier for you, and to modify interrogator A’s attitude. Do not be taken in. They are both your enemies.

7. This is stated with very strong over-emphasis because extensive experience has shown that without it, this advice, as simple as it is, is not properly heeded: On matters having to do with homosexuality, say NOTHING; “nothing” means NO thing, and “no” means NONE AT ALL, with NO exceptions. It does NOT mean “Just a little.” This means that you do NOT discuss juvenile homosexual experiences, and you do NOT discuss so-called passive acts, or anything else at all. You say NOTHING whatsoever. Do not attempt to exercise your judgment as to what may or may not be harmful to discuss. Close the door firmly and absolutely to discussion or comment upon ANY and EVERY aspect of homosexuality, and, in fact, of sex generally.

8. Do not confirm information which they allegedly have. They may not have what they have led you to believe they have and they may be only guessing and deducing. Even if there is no doubt as to their possession of information, you will be better off if there has been no confirmation or corroboration from you.

9. Insist that you be treated with the full respect and dignity due ALL American citizens in every status, by ALL their public servants, at ALL levels, at ALL times. If you are not so treated, walk out and do not return until you have received, in writing, an apology for past improper treatment, and assurances of future proper behavior. If you receive no such apology, object, by letter, to the appropriate Cabinet-level official, with details of the behavior and language involved, and inform you local Mattachine Society or other homophile organization.

10. Remember that the information involved in investigations is classified, as far as the Government is concerned. If anyone — particularly including your employer — is informed by anyone but you, of the subject or any details of an investigation of you, you can bring criminal charges against the investigators or other officials who have disclosed the information. Do so. At the same time, do not allow yourself to be misled into believing that you are not permitted to discuss any and all aspects of the matter with anyone you choose. You may seek counsel and advice from anyone, and are completely free to discuss all aspects of the matter with persons of your choice, at all times.

By following the advice above, you will be serving not only your own best interests and those of your acquaintances and fellow citizens, but the best interests of your country.

The statement ends with the addresses and phone numbers for the Mattachine Societies of Washington, D.C. and New York, the Daughters of Bilitis’ New York Chapter, and the Janus Society of Philadelphia.

That same day, another memo from the Louisville field office, also addressed to Director Hoover, contained the same mimeographed document. According to the Louisville memo, that copy was obtained by a Commanding Officer at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. The following day, another memo from the Newark office provided a two-page printed brochure with the same title that had been “found in a public telephone booth at Fort Monmouth, N.J.” In fact, “How To Handle A Federal Investigator” had been published in March of that year in The Eastern Mattachine Magazine, the official newsletter of the Mattachine Society of New York. Eastern Mattachine didn’t give an author’s name, but judging by its emphatic cadence and authoritative tone, it’s hard to imagine it being written by anyone other than Frank Kameny (see May 21), who had been working with a large number of Federal employees who were being hounded out of their jobs and denied security clearances.

Four weeks after those memos were sent to Hoover, another memo went out from the FBI to an official of the Justice Department responding to a suggestion from the Department’s Training Division that the FBI provide “instructions issued by such groups as the American Nazi Party and the Mattachine Society to their members to obstruct the efforts of the bureau and law enforcement.” The FBI provided the Mattachine’s “How To Handle A Federal Investigator,” along with material from the Communist Party, the American Nazi Party, the Minutemen of America and the Ku Klux Klan, all of which the Bureau apparently viewed as equal threats.

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, June 3

Jim Burroway

June 3rd, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Aarhus, Denmark; Anchorage, AK; Asbury Park, NJ; Bergen, Norway; Birmingham, AL; Buffalo, NY; Pride Cambridge/Kitchener/Waterloo, ON;Charleston, WV; Columbus, GA; Conway, AK; Dayton, OH; Detroit, MI; Dresden, Germany; Edmonton, AB; El Paso, TX; Fresno, CA; Guerneville, CA; Honolulu, HI; Indianapolis, IN; Innsbruck, Austria; Lander, WY; Lille, France; Ljubljana, Slovenia; Los Ranchos, NM; Milwaukee, WI; New Paltz, NY; Niagara Falls, NY; Nicosia, Cyprus; Oxford, UK; Pine City, MN; Queens, NY; Sacramento, CA; Salt Lake City, UT; Santa Cruz, CA; Spencer, IN; Split, Croatia; Tulsa, OK; Washington, DC.

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Beaver Lake, NY; Boston, MA; London, UK.

Other Events This Weekend: Connecticut Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Hartford, CT; Gay Days Disney, Orlando, FL; AIDS Lifecycle, San Francisco to Los Angeles, CA; Tel Aviv LGBT International Film Festival, Tel Aviv, Israel; Identities Queer Film Festival, Vienna, Austria.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From TWT (This Week In Texas), March 24, 1979, page 72.

Point Loma, by George Quaintance.

Point Loma (1952), by George Quaintance.

This ad confuses me, artistically at least. It it’s based on a painting by George Quaintance, which is why I chose this ad for today since today is his birthday. This painting was repurposed for contest being held by The Ranch, a cowboy bar in Houston. This painting is an odd choice to advertise a trip to Waikiki Beach. Is that supposed to be Hawaii? Is that mountain supposed to stand in for Diamond Head? In fact, the painting is titled Point Loma, named for a community of San Diego at the entrance to San Diego Bay and across from Coronado Island. Naval Base Point Loma is home to a Submarine Squadron and employs about 48,000 military personnel and civilians, two of whom are depicted here.

As for The Ranch (or the Hilite Ranch, as other ads seem to have it), it’s been hard to find out much about it. By the late 1980s, it had apparently morphed into a C&W lesbian bar. It then moved into a strip mall on Buffalo Speedway and became part of a complex of three lesbian bars. The original location on South Main is completely gone and replaced with a high rise Wyndham Hotel.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
“Morals Raids” Staged in Tampa: 1961. Deputies staged a series of raids in what Hillsborough County Sheriff Ed Blackburn called “the biggest morals crackdown, to my knowledge, in the history of the state of Florida.” Thirty-six were arrested in a series of early morning raids by a team of city, county, and state agents, with another 100 more expected to be taken into custody by the time the operation was finished. A few days later, Tampa police chief Neil Brown also spoke on the “ever growing problem” of homosexuality in Tampa. “We’re going to clean them up and get them out of town,” he declared. “I don’t know where they will go, but we’re going to get them out of town.” City police then rounded up 48 people from “known homosexual hangouts.”

The crackdown was the result of a year-long investigation in which city and county officers compiled “mug books” containing names, addresses, and other identifying information on gay people either living in Tampa or visiting on weekends. The data was compiled from court records beginning in the year 1955. Tampa vice squad detective Bill Whitmer said that he still had about three more years’ worth of dockets to go through.

Among those arrested was a thirty-five-year old-principal of Citrus Park Elementary School, who was being held on a $1,000 bond. Others arrested included a doctor, a former Air Force Major, and a sixty-seven year old retired psychology professor who had operated a school for mentally-retarded boys at Brooksville, Florida, about 45 miles north of Tampa. The names of both educators were emblazoned on Associated Press reports nationwide. Local papers printed the names and addresses of everyone arrested.

Later that month, State Attorney Paul B. Johnson told reporters, “Investigations have shown this problem to be even more widespread than we first anticipated. We have arrested at least 130 persons for crimes against nature, and lewd and lascivious acts in the past 90 days. Most have admitted their guilt.”

ONE magazine received a letter from a reader in Tampa filling in more details. It read:

On June 16th I received a letter from my best friends. The two have been living together for 11 years. One is a teacher the other a doctor. They have a lovely home outside Tampa on.. .. ” A part of the letter reads, ” I don’t know what you have read in the papers or whether radio or TV has carried the news in your city or not. At any event our worst fears have been realized, the reign of terror struck Tampa and made front pages here.

On June 2nd, B was arrested without warning at … and charged with a ‘crime against nature.’ He is awaiting trial and is out of jail on $2,000 bond. [$2,000 is equivalent to about $15,500 in today’s dollars] Being a school teacher he enjoyed adequate publicity. Needless to say, just about everything has collapsed for us.

“Fortunately, I am not involved legally, but of course otherwise, especially financially, we’ve had it. I don’t know how we’ll get through the next few months . . ..”

[Sources: Del McIntire (Don Slater) “Tangents — Tampa Tempest” ONE, 9, no. 8 (August 1961): 24-25.

Associated Press. “Morals raid held in Tampa.” (June 4, 1961).

Associated Press. “Morals crackdown staged in Florida.” (June 5, 1961).]

Aversion Therapy in Management of 43 Homosexuals: 1967. An article under that title by Malclom J. MacCulloch and Maurice Philip Feldman appeared in the June 3, 1967 edition of the British Medical Journal. While electric shock aversion therapy was an expensive form of therapy, it was also surprisingly common. The authors reported the results of 41 men and two lesbians who they treated at Crumpsall Hospital in Manchester, U.K. The treatment consisted of administering painful electric shocks while projecting photos of attractive men (or women, in the case of the two lesbians). Of the 43 subjected to this torturous treatment, five were between the ages of 15 to 20. Eighteen were being treated under court order. Seven dropped out without completing the treatment, and 11 were “unimproved.” That left 25 who claimed that they were “improved” after twelve months. The “failures,” they said, tended to have a higher Kinsey rating — in other words, they didn’t have a basis in bisexuality to work with.

The authors concluded that “In our opinion the approximately 60% rate of improvement achieved in our series (over other reported studies) is mainly due to the use of an aversion therapy technique which has been carefully designed to make the most effective use of the findings of the experimental psychology of learning.” With an advertised success rate like that, this paper for the British Medical Journal proved highly influential, inspiring hundreds of therapists to try electric shock aversion therapy on perhaps thousands of subjects (see, for example, May 8). As far as therapists were concerned, this paper confirmed the value of electric shock aversion therapy as a relatively highly effective means for “curing” homosexuality.

That confirmation however fell apart ten years later, when Dr. Sheelah James and colleagues from Hollymoor Hospital in England published the results of their own study which failed to replicate MacCulloch and Feldman’s findings. Among the second group’s problems was a very high dropout rate, one which was much higher than what MacCulloch and Feldman reported. “It appears that the Feldman and MacCulloch group had undergone some clinical preselection before referral,” they wrote, a process which would have inflated Feldman and MacCulloch’s so-called “success” rate. (In a subsequent paper, James advocated an alternative therapy for “curing” gay people involving hypnosis.) Ten years later still, aversion therapy would finally be largely abandoned — not just for ethical reasons, but also because of the growing realization that it simply didn’t work.

[Sources: M.J. MacCulloch and M.P. Feldman. “Aversion therapy in management of 43 homosexuals.” British Medical Journal 2, no. 5552 (June 3, 1967): 594-597. Available as a free downloaded from the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health.

Sheelah James, A. Orwin, R.K. Turner. “Treatment of homosexuality, I. Analysis of failure following a trial of anticipatory avoidance conditioning and the development of an alternative treatment system.” Behavior Therapy 8, no. 5 (November 1977): 840-848.

Sheelah James. “Treatment of homosexuality, II. Superiority of desensitization/arousal as compared to anticipatory avoidance conditioning: Results of a controlled trial.” Behavior Therapy 9, no. 1 (January 1978): 28-36.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Alla Nazimova: 1879-1945. The larger-than-life Russian-born Hollywood silent film star was as exotic and flamboyant off the screen as on. Her screen debut in 1916 led to eleven more films in two years. Her specialty was outrageously exotic yet tragic characters. Her most famous role was that of the title character in Camile, a 1921 film which featured Rudolf Valentino. It was at about that time that she became a producer, specializing in experimental artistic masterpieces which, unfortunately, were commercial flops. 1923’s Salome was particularly scandalous, as was her thinly concealed bisexuality off screen. Her “marriage” with gay actor Charles Bryant didn’t fool anyone. Her home, which she named “Garden of Allah,” was the scene for many glamorous private parties, and her name was connected with several Hollywood starlets and women of the arts. She is the credited with coining the phrase “sewing circles” to refer to lesbian or bisexual actresses who concealed their true sexuality. Her career ended in 1925 with the advent of the Hayes Code, although she had some minor film appearances in the 1940s (she was Doña Maria in The Bridge of San Luis Rey). She died in 1945.

George Quaintance: 1902-1957. “My ancestors were all farmers,” he later wrote of his family in Shenandoah Valley hamlet of Luray, Virginia. “There were no artists or talented people among them, yet I drew, painted and modeled in clay as early as I can remember, and I did it with the assurance and the ability of experience, while the mysteries of running a farm… are still very great mysteries to me, after all these years.” Quaintance — he later became one of those artists known only by his last name — left Luray for New York City to become a dancer in 1920, but not before leaving behind a mural for his mother’s church, that of a spectacularly broad-shouldered (though fully clothed) Christ being baptized in the River Jordan by a similarly handsome John the Baptist. While in New York, he became a vaudeville dancer, women’s hair designer, and commercial illustrator.

In the early 1940s, Quaintance became increasingly focused on male figurative art in the style of the emerging “physique” magazines. His lover (and later business partner) Victor Garcia and his friendship with photographer Lon Hanagan (a.k.a. Lon of New York) supplied him with a steady stream of models, and Canadian bodybuilding publisher Joe Weider signed him to illustrate the covers of several of his physique magazines. In 1946, Weider appointed Quiantance art director of Your Physique, Wieder’s best-selling magazine, where Quaintance’s paintings became regular fixtures on the magazine’s covers. In 1947, Quaintance left Weider, and he and Victor moved out west, first to Los Angeles and then Phoenix. There, Quantance branched out into physique photography — he had always photographed his models as portrait studies, so selling those photographs wasn’t that much of a stretch for him. But he remained focused on his paintings.

His paintings took on a distinctly western flair. Quaintance’s exaggerated form of the ideal male dressed in denim and boots would define an esthetic for an entirely new subculture of Levi aficionados. He would also influence other artists like Tom of Finland, who would become something of a Quaintance of Leather. After Quaintance died in 1957, Victor kept the business going, but the business fell off in the late 1960s after full male nudity and porn became legal. After that, he simply disappeared.

In 1988, Durk Dehner of the Tom of Finland Foundation tried to track him down, but the trail ran cold at Victor’s last known address near West Hollywood, where he found several of Quaintance’s scrapbooks and paintings abandoned in an otherwise empty carport. Fifty-five canvases are believed to have been created, but eighteen of them are lost. A diptych turned up at an antique store in Dallas in the early 1990s, but now its whereabouts are unknown. In 2010, Taschen published Quaintance, a lavish monograph of all his known work, including dozens of examples of his early commercial art for Procter and Gamble and several New York dance companies.

Josephine Baker: 1906-1975. The Jazz Age icon and Art Deco chanteuse was born in St. Louis, but after a brief stint in New York during the Harlem Renaissance, she quickly moved to Paris where her career as actress, dancer and singer achieved instance success. Everything about her was made for Paris, and Paris for her. Her erotic dancing and nearly-nude performances were appreciated by her French audiences, and her exotic beauty as an African-American posed far fewer challenges in France than in the U.S. She become a French citizen in 1937 when she married a Frenchman, Jean Lion, who was Jewish. During World War II, she left Paris and went to her home in the south of France and, later, Morocco, where she provided assistance to the French Resistance. As an entertainer, she was able to continue touring Europe, particularly non-combatant nations like Switzerland and Purtugal. In her travels, she smuggled secrets for the French Resistance by writing them in her sheet music with invisible ink.

After the war, she supported the American civil rights movement, and whenever she toured the U.S., she refused to perform before segregated audiences. But through the rest of her life, her home remained in France. She married four times, and had twelve children — all of them adopted. She also had a string of female lovers, including the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Her son, Jean-Claude Baker, interviewed over 2000 people for Josephine: The Hungry Heart, his biography of his mother. He described her in one interview:

“She was what today you would call bisexual, and I will tell you why. Forget that I am her son, I am also a historian. You have to put her back into the context of the time in which she lived. In those days, Chorus Girls were abused by the white or black producers and by the leading men if he liked girls. But they could not sleep together because there were not enough hotels to accommodate black people. So they would all stay together, and the girls would develop lady lover friendships, do you understand my English? But wait wait…If one of the girls by preference was gay, she’d be called a bull dyke by the whole cast. So you see, discrimination is everywhere.”

Allen Ginsberg: 1926-1997. “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by / madness, starving hysterical naked, / dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn / looking for an angry fix…” Those were the opening lines of what is arguably the most infuential American poem of the twentieth century. Most Americans however have never read past those lines, but Allen Ginsberg’s Howl unleashed several forces which have had a lasting impact in American culture.

Howl was birthed not in print but at a celebrated 1955 public reading at Six Gallery in San Francisco, where Ginsberg’s disenchantment of American materialism, his identification with the outcasts of American society, and especially his frank discussion of sex — and most especially of  homosexuality (one line described those “who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy”) caught the attention of Customs officials when City Lights Press published Howl and Other Poems in 1956. Publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti and City Lights Bookstore manager Shigeyoshi Murao were arrested and charged with disseminating obscene literature. At the trial, nine literary experts testified on the poem’s behalf. California State Superior Court Judge Clayton Horn decided that the poem was of “redeeming social importance.” As to the poem’s explicit language, Horn asked, “Would there be any freedom of press or speech if one must reduce his vocabulary to vapid innocuous euphemisms?”

Ginsberg was one of the defining figures of the Beat Generation. He also became an integral part of the the next generation’s hippie movement. He was sympathetic for the ideals of communism, but disdained its repression of free speech. He was invited to visit China, Cuba and Czechoslovakia when authorities believed his anti-capitalist statements would be propaganda coups, only to discover that this was the least of his concerns. He was unceremoniously deported from Cuba and Czechoslovakia after wearing out his welcome there, but the ideas he left behind in Czechoslovakia inspired another generation of artists, including playwright Václav Havel, to strive for freedom of expression. In 1974, his collection The Fall of America: Poems of These States 1965-1971 shared the annual U.S. National Book Award for Poetry, and he was awarded the National Arts Club gold medal  in 1979, the same year he was inducted into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1995 his book Cosmopolitan Greetings: Poems 1986-1992 was named a Pulitzer prize finalist. Ginsberg died of liver cancer and complications from hepatitis in 1997.

The 2010 film Howl, starring James Franco as Ginsberg, portrayed the poem’s debut at Six Gallery and the subsequent obscenity trial. John Krokidas’s film Kill Your Darlings (2013) depicted a 1944 murder which brought together the three figures who would be known as the greatest poets of the beat generation: Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs (see Feb 5), with Daniel Radcliffe playing Ginsberg. You can hear Ginsberg himself reading Howl here.

Anderson Cooper: 1967. Kathy Griffin’s favorite New Year’s foil is the son of writer Wyatt Cooper and heiress Gloria Vanderbilt. The younger Cooper’s media exposure began early: he was photographed as an infant by Diane Arbus for Harper’s Bazaar, and his mother brought him along for a guest appearance on The Tonight Show when he was three. But it was his older brother’s death by suicide in 1988 that sparked Anderson’s interest in journalism. “Loss is a theme that I think a lot about, and it’s something in my work that I dwell on. I think when you experience any kind of loss, especially the kind I did, you have questions about survival: Why do some people thrive in situations that others can’t tolerate? Would I be able to survive and get on in the world on my own?”

After graduating from college, Cooper forged a press pass and went to Myanmar, where he filmed a series of reports about students fighting against the military dictatorship. He was able to sell those news segments to Channel One, a youth-oriented news program broadcast to junior and senior high scools in the U.S. He then moved to Vietnam for a year, where he filed more reports for Channel One about Vietnamese life and culture. He also filed reports from war-torn countries like Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda. In 1995, he became a correspondent for ABC News, but he took a detour in 2000 to host the reality show The Mole “to clear my hed and get out of news a little bit.” After two seasons and 9/11, he decided it was time to get back into the news, this time with CNN. In 2002, he became CNN’s weekend prime-time anchor, and in 2003 he got his own show, Anderson Cooper 360°.

In 2012, he became what The New York Times called “the most prominent openly gay journalist on television” when he came out in an email published by Andrew Sullivan:

Andrew, as you know, the issue you raise is one that I’ve thought about for years. Even though my job puts me in the public eye, I have tried to maintain some level of privacy in my life. Part of that has been for purely personal reasons. I think most people want some privacy for themselves and the people they are close to.

But I’ve also wanted to retain some privacy for professional reasons. Since I started as a reporter in war zones 20 years ago, I’ve often found myself in some very dangerous places. For my safety and the safety of those I work with, I try to blend in as much as possible, and prefer to stick to my job of telling other people’s stories, and not my own. I have found that sometimes the less an interview subject knows about me, the better I can safely and effectively do my job as a journalist.

…Recently, however, I’ve begun to consider whether the unintended outcomes of maintaining my privacy outweigh personal and professional principle. It’s become clear to me that by remaining silent on certain aspects of my personal life for so long, I have given some the mistaken impression that I am trying to hide something – something that makes me uncomfortable, ashamed or even afraid. This is distressing because it is simply not true. …The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.

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, May 31

Jim Burroway

May 31st, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Alkmaar, Netherlands; Bergen, NorwayNicosia, Cyprus; Oxford, UK; Söderhamn, Sweden.

Other Events This Weekend: Film Out, San Diego, CA; Connecticut Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Hartford, CT; KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, Mumbai, India; Cinépride LGBT Film Festival, Nantes, France; AIDS Lifecycle, San Francisco to Los Angeles, CA; Inside Out Toronto Film Festival, Toronto, ON.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Bay Area Reporter, March 7, 1985, page 28.

By 1985, it had been well established that AIDS was caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, and that the virus was transmitted via the blood or semen, and not by “a hug, holding hands, having a good talk, fixing dinner, or going for a drive.” But terror ruled the day, both within the gay community and outside of it. It would still be many years before that message would take hold.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Scientists Trace AIDS To 1951: 1986. The summer of 1986 looked to be another terrible year in the nearly five-year-old AIDS epidemic. To be precise, that should be the five-year-old known AIDS epidemic. The CDC first noted the new disease in 1981 with the death of five young men, “all active homosexuals” whose immune system had been mysteriously and severely compromised. Out of the 23,000 known cases of people with AIDS between 1981 and the end of 1986, 56% were already dead (PDF: 32KB/5 pages).

While anti-gay activists rushed to declare that the so-called “gay plague” was a divinely inspired “terrible retribution,” scientists sought to figure out where the deadly disease came from. It wasn’t long before doctors in Europe and Africa noticed that the new disease first reported in America was remarkably similar to a mysterious illness striking the Congo River basin of Zaire and was already spreading eastward to Uganda. Swedish doctors remembered an infant born in Zaire who had contracted a similar disease in 1975 and finally died in 1982. Others recalled a Danish surgeon who died in 1977 after working in the Congo River region. Preserved blood and tissue samples tested positive for HIV, and this sent scientists scurrying to identify earlier possible samples which may offer clues to the disease’s origin.

On May 31, 1986, a team of American scientists published a letter in the British journal The Lancet announcing that they were able to determine that a blood sample that had been taken from an unknown patient at a Kinshasa hospital in 1959 tested positive for HIV. Nothing was known of the patient — neither a name nor medical records survive — but we can certainly guess at the suffering he or she must have endured. Nevertheless, this finding was an early clue that the epidemic itself was much older than previously thought. Later genetic analysis of the virus in that blood sample would indicate that the virus had actually entered the human population sometime around 1931. And later analysis still would push that estimate back to around 1908. But as early as 1986, it was already clear that it was only the stigma surrounding the disease, and not the disease itself, that was then approaching its fifth birthday.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Walt Whitman: 1819-1892. Usually I commemorate famous birthdays by providing a brief biographical sketch. But when describing the life of the great American poet, it strikes me as unseemly to describe a man’s life when he has already written all that needs to be said:

When I Heard At The Close Of The Day.

WHEN I heard at the close of
     the day how my name
     had been receiv’d with
     plaudits in the capitol, still it was
     not a happy night for me that follow’d,
And else when I carous’d, or when my plans were accomplish’d,
     still I was not happy,
But the day when I rose at dawn from the bed of perfect health,
     refresh’d, singing, inhaling the ripe breath of autumn,
When I saw the full moon in the west grow pale and disappear in
     the morning light,
When I wander’d alone over the beach, and undressing bathed,
     laughing with the cool waters, and saw the sun rise,
And when I thought how my dear friend my lover was on his way
     coming, O then I was happy,
O then each breath tasted sweeter, and all that day my food
     nourish’d me more, and the beautiful day pass’d well,
And the next came with equal joy, and with the next at evening
     came my friend,
And that night while all was still I heard the waters roll slowly
     continually up the shores,
I heard the hissing rustle of the liquid and sands as directed to
     me whispering to congratulate me,
For the one I love most lay sleeping by me under the same cover
     in the cool night,
In the stillness in the autumn moonbeams his face was inclined
     toward me,
And his arm lay lightly around my breast and that night I was
     happy.

This poem was originally part of a sequence of poems titled “Live Oak with Moss,” which tells the story of an unhappy affair with a man. When Whitman published the third edition of Leaves of Grass in 1860, he included them among the forty-five poems of “Calamus,” but re-arranged their order to obliterate the narrative. For the fourth edition of Leaves of Grass, two of the three poems dropped were “Live Oak ” poems, perhaps revealing that Whitman still feared that the poems told more than he could safely reveal. You can see the reconstructed “Live Oak” series at the Whitman Archive.

Bob Hull: 1918-1962. The future co-founder of the Mattachine Foundation grew up near Minneapolis. While a student at the University of Minnesota, Hull met Chuck Rowland (see Aug 24) — another future Mattachine co-founder — and they became lovers, briefly. After the war, Rowland became a Communist organizer, and Hull soon followed. In 1948, Rowland left the party and moved to Los Angeles. Hull followed him to L.A., but remained in the party where he met Harry Hay (see Apr 7). When Hay discussed his idea for forming a support organization for gay people with Hull, Hull shared the idea with Rowland and Hull’s then-current lover, Dale Jennings (see Oct 21). Together with Hay’s lover, Rudi Gernreich, the five met in Hay’s home in the Silver Lake neighborhood and formed what would become the Mattachine Foundation (see Nov 11).

Hull’s role in the new organization was rather limited. He was best known for leading discussion groups and writing tracts for the group. As Mattachine grew and attracted new members, many of those new members were skittish over its founders’ Communist ties and the Foundation’s high degree of secrecy. Few knew the names of those in leadership positions, and the founders organized the individual discussion groups so that each one was compartmentalized. That way, if the FBI picked up one member  — remember, this was at the height of the McCarthy anti-Communist and anti-gay witch hunts — the other in the organization would be protected.

But by 1953, newer members, mostly conservative members from San Francisco led by Hal Call (see Sep 20), demanded that the secrecy surrounding the leadership be abandoned and the organization cleared of Communists. Hull voiced concerns that some of those northern members might tip off a Senate Committee that Communists had founded the organization and questioned whether the founders could withstand such an investigation. (In fact, two new members from the Bay area were already FBI informants.) After the Foundation’s first constitutional in April broke down in disagreement (see Apr 11), a second meeting was called for May, when Hay, Rowland, and Hull stepped down. The remaining members declared the Mattachine Foundation disbanded and announced the formation of the newly reconstituted Mattachine Society.

When Hull left Mattachine, he also left advocacy behind. He briefly joined up with Rowland’s short-lived gay-affirming Church of One Brotherhood, but Hull’s personal demons soon caught up with him. A lifelong introvert, Hull struggled with depression for which he underwent years of therapy. Just days after his lover left him, Hull killed himself on May 1, 1962.

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, May 30

Jim Burroway

May 30th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Alkmaar, Netherlands; Bergen, Norway; Bradford, UK; Ferndale, MI; Geneva, NYKarlsruge, Germany; Kiel, Germany; Lorraine, France; Malta; Nicosia, Cyprus; Oxford, UK; Söderhamn, Sweden.

Other Events This Weekend: Film Out, San Diego, CA; Connecticut Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Hartford, CT; KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, Mumbai, India; Cinépride LGBT Film Festival, Nantes, France; AIDS Lifecycle, San Francisco to Los Angeles, CA; Inside Out Toronto Film Festival, Toronto, ON.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From High Gear (Cleveland, OH), March 1976, page 8.

From High Gear (Cleveland, OH), March 1976, page 8.

A large wave of Italian, Greek and Eastern European immigration flowed throughout northeastern Ohio from the 1910s onward, with many of them settling in Youngstown. As major steel mill town almost exactly midway between Pittsburgh and Cleveland, Youngstown’s population exploded from 79,000 in 1910 to 170,000 in 1930. Youngstown became the nation’s third largest steel producer, and its workers were among the best-paid in the country. Such a major urban center quickly drew the interest of competing crime families in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, which vigorously “competed,” shall we say, for dominance in the Mahoning valley, often with local elements of organized crime playing Pittsburgh and Cleveland against each other. Before long, the “Youngstown tune-up” entered mob jargon as a euphemism for a car bomb.

Youngstown has struggled to shake off its image as Mobstown, U.S.A., although those efforts received a significant boost with the 2002 conviction of Rep. James Traficant (D-Beam Me Up) of racketeering, bribery and tax fraud. Also, the mob just ain’t what they used to be. Unfortunately, neither are the steel mills. The biggest one, Youngstown Sheet and Tube, closed down in 1977, on a day that is still remembered as “Black Monday,” throwing 5,000 out of work. Youngstown’s population today is at 65,000, a shadow of its former self. Many parts of the city are hollowed out shells that often draw comparisons to Detroit. And like Detroit, a new urban pioneering effort is beginning to take hold in a few parts of Youngstown, with upscale bars and restaurants beginning to appear downtown.

I haven’t been able to find anything out about the Troubadour Lounge; its Facebook fan page doesn’t provide much info, other than giving a different address than the one in this ad. Maybe it moved at some point? Anyway, the location listed in the ad at 2010 Market Street  is today an empty lot. The location given in the Facebook page, which actually looks like it could have been a nice bar location, is a boarded up craft shop.

Paul Guilbert and Aaron Fricke

TODAY IN HISTORY:
35 YEARS AGO: Male Couple Attends Senior Prom After Obtaining Court Order: 1980. Aaron Fricke was a high school senior when he publicly came out as gay, started dating Paul Guilbert, and asked him to the Cumberland (Rhode Island) High School senior prom. The year before, Guilbert had tried to attend the junior prom with a male date, but he ran into opposition from both the principal and his father. This time, Fricke took the lead but, as before, the principal refused to allow the couple to attend, complaining that the publicity “upset other students, sent the community abuzz, and rallied out-of-state newspapers to consider the matter newsworthy.” It also earned Fricke five stitches under his eye when he was attacked in the hallway.

This wasn’t the first time that a gay couple tried to go to the prom. The year before, Randy Rohl, 17, and Grady Quinn, 20, attended a high school prom in conservative Sioux Falls, South Dakota with the full support of that school’s principal and several fellow students (see May 22). But this time in Rhode Island, Fricke first had to file a lawsuit in Federal court, charging that the school district was infringing on his First Amendment right to free speech. “I feel I have the right to attend,” he told the judge. “I feel I want to go to the prom for the same reason any other student would want to go.” The judge agreed (PDF: 60KB/7 pages), and not only ordered the school district to allow the couple to attend, but to beef up security in case there were any problems. And on this day in 1980, Fricke and Guilbert attended the prom, slow-danced to Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got The Night,” and the case of Fricke v. Lynch became an important legal precedent for other gay couples across the nation since then.

Fricke later wrote about his experiences in Reflections of a Rock Lobster: A Story about Growing Up Gay. He also collaborated with his father on another book about coming out, Sudden Strangers: The Story of a Gay Son and His Father.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Christine Jorgensen: 1926-1989. She was born in the Bronx, and described herself as “frail, tow-headed, introverted little boy who ran from fistfights and rough-and-tumble games.” She also went by “George.” After a stint in the army following World War II, her identity as a woman was overwhelming — and her physical development as a man was underwhelming. As she attended dental school, she began taking the female hormone ethinyl estradiol on her own and looked into sexual reassignment surgery. At the time, the only surgeries being performed were in Sweden. But at a stopover in Copenhagen to visit relatives, she discovered Dr. Christian Hamburger, a Danish endocrinologist and specialist in rehabilitative hormonal therapy. Denmark’s Minister of Justice allowed her surgery to take place.

Christine’s surgery wasn’t the first of its kind, but that’s how it was portrayed on December 1, 1952 when the New York Daily News carried the front-page headline, “Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Beauty.” Within months, she was a national celebrity, and became the most written-about person in 1953. She tried to use her celebrity as an opportunity for education, which turned out to be a huge task. She acted in summer stock, toured the lecture circuit, wrote an autobiography, and made countless radio and television appearances. She was engaged to marry John Traub, but that engagement was called off. In 1959, she announced her engagement to Howard J. Knox, but the couple was unable to obtain a marriage license because Jorgensen’s birth certificate still listed her as a male. By the time they ended that engagement, Knox had been fired from his job over the publicity. Shortly before Jorgensen died in 1989, she said she had given the sexual revolution “a good swift kick in the pants.” She died of bladder and lung cancer just a month shy of her 63rd birthday.

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, May 29

Jim Burroway

May 29th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Alkmaar, Netherlands; Bergen, Norway; Bradford, UK; Ferndale, MI; Geneva, NYKarlsruge, Germany; Kiel, Germany; Lorraine, France; Malta; Nicosia, Cyprus; Oxford, UK; Söderhamn, Sweden.

Other Events This Weekend: Film Out, San Diego, CA; Connecticut Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Hartford, CT; KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, Mumbai, India; Cinépride LGBT Film Festival, Nantes, France; AIDS Lifecycle, San Francisco to Los Angeles, CA; Inside Out Toronto Film Festival, Toronto, ON.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Out (Washington, DC), April 6, 1979, page 13.

From Out (Washington, DC), April 6, 1979, page 13.

“Is DC becoming the gay capital of America?” That’s what The Washingtonian magazine asked in 1980. The evidence was there for anyone with eyes to see: gays were a major voting block for Mayor Marion Barry (when Barry was a pro-gay politician), police harassment had largely died down, and gay visibility was increasing with businesses catering to the pink dollar — including four gay bars near DuPont Circle alone! Rascals was one of the four named, along with Mr. P’s, the Fraternity House, and Friends. “The waiting line outside Rascals is all male,” the sharp-eyed Washingtonian observed. Rascals was a popular show and dance club for about a decade. The building also included Shooters, a male strip club, upstairs.

Gay rights advocate Jack Nichols (see Mar 16) and Frank Kameny (see May 21) on the picket line in front of the White House.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Second White House Protest: 1965. If a tree falls in the woods and nobody’s there, does it make a sound? That’s the kind of question that may have been on the minds of members of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. following the first ever protest in front of the White House for gay rights the month before (see Apr 17). The group decided not to publicize that hour-long protest in advance because they didn’t want to give the police time to invent a reason to block their demonstration. But that also meant that there were no reporters or news cameras there either. As far as everyone outside the little group knew, it simply didn’t happen. But as Frank Kameny, co-founder of the Washington chapter recalled, the protest “went so well that we immediately decided to do a repeat, with advance publicity.” This time, they decided on a three-prong approach to get the word out: they sent a news release to major news outlets, handed out a mimeographed leaflet to passersby during the demonstration, and sent a follow-up release to news media after the protest ended.

Thirteen people showed up with picket signs, and this time there was considerable press coverage, including brief mentions in The New York Times, The Washington Star, the Associated Press, United Press International, and ABC television, whose East Coast viewers saw a line of respectable men (in jackets and ties) and ladies (in heels and skirts), protesting according to the dictates handed down by Kameny (“If you’re asking for equal employment rights, look employable!”). This protest would establish a pattern for future gay rights protests for the next four years.

“Polyester” Premieres: 1981. The John Waters film Polyester made its debut on the silver screen. Divine (see Oct 19) once again starred, this time as Francine Fishpaw, a suburban housewife whose world is thrown into chaos when her pornographer husband declares he’s been unfaithful, her daughter becomes pregnant, and her son is accused of breaking local women’s feet as part of his fetish. Nineteen-fifties heartthrob Tab Hunter (see Jul 11) appeared near the end as lounge-suit-wearing Todd Tomorrow who swept Francine off her sweep and proposed marriage — only to plot with Francine’s mother to embezzle her divorce settlement and drive her insane.

The film was notable for a unique technological breakthrough: it was presented in “Odorama,” in which theatergoers were handed scratch-and-sniff cards so they could smell along with the action. One of those odors was feces, leaving Waters delighted with the thought that his audiences actually “pay to smell shit.” Despite the film’s positive reception — it even got a positive review at The New York Times — it remains a scandal that Polyester has yet to earn any major cinematic awards.

Barney Frank Comes Out: 1987. Barney Frank became only the second member of Congress to confirm that he was gay, and the first to do so wholly voluntarily, when he told a Boston Globe reporter:

“If you ask the direct question: ‘Are you gay?’ the answer is yes. So what? I’ve said all along that if I was asked by a reporter and I didn’t respond it would look like I had something to hide and I don’t think I have anything to hide.”

Rep. Frank said that the disintegration of Gary Hart’s presidential campaign earlier that month over reports of his extra-marital relationship with a young model, and the recent revelation that Rep. Stewart B. McKinney of Connecticut had died of AIDS, had prompted his decision to come out. Of McKinney, Frank said there was “an unfortunate debate about ‘Was he or wasn’t he? Didn’t he or did he?’ I said to myself, I don’t want that to happen to me.” On May 31, the Globe reported that most of his constituents were unperturbed by his announcement, and many were unsurprised.

LIA Protest

1o YEARS AGO: “Current Mood: Depressed”: 2005. Remember MySpace, the first large-scale social media site? Remember how posts began with the writer’s current mood? It was typically located right under the post’s title. In this case, the title was, “The World Coming To An Abrupt Stop,” and it was written by sixteen-year-old Zach, who had plenty of reasons to feel depressed. He wrote:

Somewhat recently, as many of you know, I told my parents I was gay. This didn’t go over very well, and it ended with my dad crying, my mom tearing, and me not knowing what I’d done – or what to do. It kind of.. went away for about a week or two I think. They claim it’s because they didn’t want to interfere with my last week or two of school.

Yesterday they told me that I couldn’t go anywhere until I got a job. Out of the blue. Because I’m the most irresponsible child my dad knows – as he told me – mainly because I forget to unload the dishwasher sometimes… it doesn’t matter that I have to clean up after my sisters and myself everyday. It just doesn’t.

Well today, my mother, father, and I had a very long “talk” in my room where they let me know I am to apply for a fundamentalist christian program for gays. They tell me that there is something psychologically wrong with me, and they “raised me wrong.” I’m a big screw up to them, who isn’t on the path God wants me to be on. So I’m sitting here in tears, joing the rest of those kids who complain about their parents on blogs – and I can’t help it.

I wish I had never told them. I wish I just fought the urge two more years… I had done it for three before then, right? If I could take it all back.. I would, to where I never told my parents things and they always were mad at me– It’s better than them crying and depressed cause they will have no granchildren from me. It’s better than them telling me that there’s something wrong with me. It’s better than them explaining to me that they “raised me wrong.”

Currently listening:
Hot Fuss
By The Killers
Release date: By 15 June, 2004

The next day it only got worse:

Monday, May 30, 2005

After The World Stopped, It Gave Me A Lot Of Rules.
Current mood: worried

Yeah, I was upset yesterday.. however I found an email about the rules and regulations of the program. My parents lied to me.. they told me (29th of May) that they didn’t know what the rules were exactly, however, this email wasnt sent on the 26th of May. I see now why they “didn’t know what the rules were.” It’s horrible.. they’re posted below.. and I so worried. It’s like boot camp… but worse. I obviously was not supposed to see this.. Seeing the bottom say “Parental Rules (not to be given to client)”

What is with these people…? Honestly.. how could you support a program like this? If I do come out straight I’ll be so mentally unstable and depressed it wont matter.. I’ll be back in therapy again. This is not good–

Currently listening:
Breakaway
By Kelly Clarkson
Release date: By 30 November, 2004

Zach posted the rules, giving the world first look at what the Memphis-based Love In Action residential ex-gay program was all about. The rules were staggering: hair can’t be too long or too short and can’t be colored, no Abercrombie and Fitch or Calvin Klein clothing, no contact with anyone outside the program, no cell phones, computers, or internet access. No TV, movies or “secular media.” No more than 15 minutes in the bathroom with the door closed while showering. Bedroom doors must be kept open at all times. The rules went on for several pages and were highly detailed.

As a teenager, Zach wasn’t eligible for the adult residential program. Thank God for small favors. Instead, he was sent to the youth-oriented Refuge program, a two-week day camp that would begin on June 6. Thanks to the pre-Facebook/Twitter power of MySpace, Zach’s cry to the world was quickly answered, first with comments of support and outrage over what was about to happen. Zach posted again to thank those who offered their support:

Friday, June 03, 2005

Thanks.. by the way.
Current mood: numb

Thanks. Thank you for all of the comments and messages, they mean a lot. really. I was shocked to see all of this… of course I haven’t been on a computer, phone, nor have I seen any friends in a week almost– Soon. Soon, this will be all over. My mother has said the worst things to me for three days straight… three days. I went numb. That’s the only way I can get through this. I agree, if you’re thinking that these posts might be dramatized.. but the proof of the programs ideas are sitting in the rules. I pray this blows over. I can’t take this… noone can… not really, this kind of thing tears you apart emotionally. To introduce THIS subject… I’m not a suicidal person… really I’m not.. I think it’s stupid – really. But.. I can’t help it, no im not going to commit suicide, all I can think about is killing my mother and myself. It’s so horrible. This is what it’s doing to me… I have this horrible feeling all of the time… I wish this on no person… I’m so satisfied–happy’s too strong of a word the state I’m in– that everyone’s taking the time to email and write letters in complaint to these people. I dont know if it will do anything, but if something did happen it would be — awesome.

It’s been a week of torture – anger, and crying.
Current mood: worried

Hi. I’m not sure if I’m even supposed to be on. I ran away for a short while. I came back and they took everything from me, they don’t want me to have outside influences– i dont know how long im going to be on, because if tehy wake up, im screwed. The program starts June 6 and is until either teh 17th or the 20th. I’m sorry I don’t have time to write back o all of the comments and messages. I’m just here to let everyone know I am still alive, I’m sure you’ve left messages on my cellphone, they took that.. and my keys… and the computer.. and I’ve been homebound. -=sigh=- I just need this to be over. Don’t worry. I’ll get through this. They’ve promised me things will get better whether this program does anything or not. Let’s hope they aren’t lying. I’ve been through hell. I’ve been emotionally torn apart for three days… I can’t remember which days they were.. time’s not what it used to be.

LIA ProtestZach entered Love In Action on June 6. His friends, having seen his MySpace posts, organized a rally for him outside the facility as he showed up that morning with signs reading “It’s Okay to Be Gay” and “We Support You.” The next day, they showed up again, and the day after that and the day after that — for the next two weeks, so Zach would know he wasn’t alone. After a few days, national media began notice. Before long, the whole country learned what was happening behind the locked doors of Love In Action.

The national controversy brought a lot of unwanted attention to Love In Action. It was investigated by the state of Tennessee for child abuse and for operating a separate unlicensed drug and alcohol treatment program. Love In Action eventually settled with the state by re-casting themselves as a Christian ministry rather than as a therapeutic program. A year later, they quietly shut down their youth program.

This Is What Love In Action Looks LikeIn 2012, Memphis filmmaker Morgan Jon Fox released his documentary, This is What Love in Action Looks Like. Zach had remained out of the public eye ever since he left Love In Action, and six years later he still wasn’t giving interviews. But he did agree to appear briefly in the film.

Just as importantly, so did John Smid, Love In Action’s executive director, who by then had established an unlikely friendship with Fox. Smid credits that friendship for being instrumental in his profound change of opinions — about homosexuality, about his role in the ex-gay movement, and about himself personally. Smid resigned from Love In Action in 2008, and had written several letters of apology by 2010. In 2011, Smid wrote that change in orientation was both impossible and unnecessary. Smid and his wife divorced, and he married his current husband in 2014.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Nancy Cárdenas: 1934-1994. The poet, playwright, journalist, theater director and social activist was born in Parras, Coahuila in Mexico. She became a noted radio announcer at the age of 20 before turning to the stage. Her interest in literature became apparent in the 1950s when she participated in a public reading program, Poetry Out Loud followed in the 1960’s with the publication of her one-act play El Cántaro Seco (The Empty Pitcher).

In the 1970s, she became an acclaimed theater and film director. Her 1970 film, El Efecto de los Rayos Gamma Sobre las Caléndulas (The Effect of Gamma Rays on Marigolds), was a critical hit, earning the Theatre Critics Association Award. It was also very controversial for being gay themed. She drew death threats and the film was protested by the brother of then-President Luis Echeverría, which was no small thing: President Echeverría had been the hardline Interior Secretary during the 1968 Tlatelolco Massacre, when the Mexican government opened fire on protesting students ten days before the 1968 Summer Olympics. But such was Cárdenas’s influence that not only was the film shown in the Mexican capital, but in a theater on Insurgentes no less — Insurgentes being one of the principal boulevards in Mexico city. It was a huge success.

She came out as a lesbian in 1974  during an interview on the public affairs television program 24 Horas. That act made her the first publicly declared lesbian in Mexico. That year she founded El Frente de Liberación Homosexual (FLH, the Gay Liberation Front). In 1975, she co-wrote with Carlons Monsivais the Manifiesto en Defensa de los Homosexuales en México. On October 2, 1978 as part of a commemoration of the 1968 Tlatelolco student massacre, she headed the first Gay Pride march in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas. She continued her advocacy throughout the 1980s through her plays, poetry and public statements. She died in 1994 of breast cancer.

Gene Robinson: 1947. When he was elected Bishop of the Episcopal Church’s Diocese of New Hampshire in 2004, he became the first openly gay, non-celibate priest to be elevated to the episcopate. His election was so controversial, he wore a bullet-proof vest during his consecration. In a BeliefNet interview the day after he gave a prayer at the opening of President Barack Obama’s inaugural celebrations, he talked about his journey toward coming to terms with his sexuality:

I’ve been the reparative therapy route. I did that. My own experience is it doesn’t work. I think what it does it that it teaches gay and lesbian people to become so self loathing that they are willing to not act in a natural way, and deprive themselves of the kind of love and support that makes life worthwhile, that makes sense of our own lives and being. I can’t be supportive of that. It only underscores the way the church has gotten this wrong. God doesn’t ever get it wrong but the church often does.

Bishop Robinson formally retired in January, 2013.

Rupert Everett: 1959. His 1981 role as a gay schoolboy in the stage version of Another Country proved to be his break, opening the way for his screen appearance in the 1984 film version with Colin Firth. In 1989, Everett moved to Paris and came out as gay, which he said may have damaged his career. Wags would say that the 1987 flop Hearts of Fire may have been a factor. But his appearance in the 1997 film My Best Friend’s Wedding and 2000’s The Next Best Thing showed that his career wasn’t entirely over — although it did appear that he would forever be typecast as the heroine’s gay best friend. In 2009, he told the British newspaper The Observer:

The fact is that you could not be, and still cannot be, a 25-year-old homosexual trying to make it in the British film business or the American film business or even the Italian film business. It just doesn’t work and you’re going to hit a brick wall at some point. You’re going to manage to make it roll for a certain amount of time, but at the first sign of failure they’ll cut you right off… Honestly, I would not advise any actor necessarily, if he was really thinking of his career, to come out.

In recent years, Everett has remained active in British television and in the lead role of a London production of The Judas Kiss, about Oscar Wilde’s downfall and 1895 gross indecency conviction. And as a former sex worker himself, he has lately championed the decriminalization of sex workers and their clients. And ever the iconoclast, he criticized those who advocated for marriage equality in Britain, saying, “I find it personally beyond tragic that we want to ape this institution that is so clearly a disaster.”

Melissa Etheridge: 1961. Her debut album was completed in just four days after her record label rejected her first effort as too polished. That stripped down album, titled simply Melissa Etheridge, not only defined her sound, but it yielded a hit single, “Bring Me Some Water” and a Grammy nomination. In 1992, she won her first Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance on the strength of her third album, Never Enough. Her breakthrough album, 1993’s Yes I Am, was certified Platinum and garnered her a second Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for her single “Come to My Window”. Her 2006 song “I Need to Wake Up” was recorded for Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth and won an Academy Award for Best Original Song.

She came out publicly in 1993 and has been a committed gay rights advocate ever since. She is also a committed advocate on behalf of the environment and breast cancer research, having herself undergone chemotherapy for breast cancer in 2004 and 2005. In an interview with Dateline NBC, she discussed her recovery and her use of medical marijuana while undergoing chemo. In 2011, she announced her separation from her wife, Tammy Lynn Michaels, after seven years together. They have two children, fraternal twins, who were born in 2006. Etheridge also has two children from her previous long-term relationship with Julie Cypher. In 2013, she announced her engagement to television producer Linda Wallem, although no date has been set.

Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka

David Burtka: 1975. He began as an actor, first on the stage, and then in guest roles on The West Wing, Crossing Jordan and in seven episodes of How I Met Your Mother. Those appearances in Mother led to rumors that Burtka was romantically involved with one of the series’ stars, which finally prompted Neil Patrick Harris to publicly acknowledge in 2006 that he was gay. In 2010, Burtka and Harris, who have been together since 2004, became fathers to fraternal twins, a boy and a girl. Birtka had cut back on acting to run a Los Angeles catering company and work as a full time chef, but he has recently returned to the stage on Broadway for a role in It Shoulda Been You.

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, May 28

Jim Burroway

May 28th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Alkmaar, Netherlands; Bergen, Norway; Bradford, UK; Ferndale, MI; Geneva, NYKarlsruge, Germany; Kiel, Germany; Lorraine, France; Malta; Nicosia, Cyprus; Oxford, UK; Söderhamn, Sweden.

Other Events This Weekend: Film Out, San Diego, CA; Connecticut Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Hartford, CT; KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, Mumbai, India; Cinépride LGBT Film Festival, Nantes, France; AIDS Lifecycle, San Francisco to Los Angeles, CA; Inside Out Toronto Film Festival, Toronto, ON.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

AVeryNaturalThing-Advocate1977.08.24p34

From The Advocate, August 24, 1977. page 34.

Before 1970 or so, films with gay characters were either tragic (you just knew someone was going to be killed or commit suicide), or were played for laughs. By the 1980s, films turned turned even more tragic, thanks to AIDS. But there was a brief moment, say in 1974 when A Very Natural Thing debuted, when a film about ordinary love and relationships between men could be released to the general public by a somewhat alt-mainstream company, which is what New Line Cinema was aspiring to be at the time.

A Very Natural Thing is regarded as the first American film about gay relationships intended for a mainstream audience. The film’s reception was ambiguous. Straight critics thought it was too political (two men in love, apparently was what made it so), while gay critics were more inclined to think it wasn’t political enough (the characters were too white, too middle-class, and too heteronormative). Producer/director Christopher Larkin thought all of the critics were reading too much into the film. “I wanted to say that same-sex relationships are no more problematic but no easier than any other human relationships. They are in many ways the same and in several ways different from heterosexual relationships but in themselves are no less possible or worthwhile.”

TODAY IN HISTORY:
First Pro-Gay Film Released 1919. The German silent film Anders als die Andern (“Different From the Others”) tells the story of a famous concert violinist, Paul Körner (played by Conrad Veidt, who later appeared in Casablanca as Major Heinrich Strasser) who falls in love with his student Kurt Sivers (Fritz Schulz). Both men experience disapproval from their parents, and Körner becomes the subject of a blackmail attempt. The real-life Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, the famous German sexologist and gay-rights advocate (see May 14), makes several cameo appearances in the film. In one scene, he explains to Körner’s parents that their son “is not to blame for his orientation. is not wrong, nor should it be a crime. Indeed, it is not even an illness, merely a variation, and one that is common to all of nature.”

Hirshfeld’s appearances appear directed more toward the audience than the characters he’s speaking to. In one flashback scene, when Körner first meets Hirschfeld’s character after discovering that an “ex-gay” hypnotherapist was a fraud (some things never change), Hirschfeld tells him, “Love for one of the same sex is no less pure or noble than for one of the opposite. This orientation can be found in all levels of society, and among respected people. Those that say otherwise come only from ignorance and bigotry.”

The acting is stilted, as is common for that era, and the plot is fairly predictable. Körner reports Bollek for blackmail and has him arrested. In retaliation, Bollek exposes Körner. Both men wind up in court, and both are found guilty, despite Hirshfeld’s testimony on Körner’s behalf (and another soliloquy for the audience). The judge has mercy on Körner however, and sentences him only to one week. Disgraced and shunned by his family, Körner kills himself. Sivers also tries to kill himself, but Hirschfeld intervenes. “You have to keep living; live to change the prejudices by which this man has been made one of the countless victims. …Justice through knowledge!”

The film was originally released for general distribution, but it soon fell under official censorship and its showings were restricted to doctors and lawyers. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, they rounded up all the copies they could find and burned them. Only small fragments of the film survives today. A version has been reconstructed from those fragments, surviving stills and added title cards describing missing plot points. It’s available on DVD. This clip includes one of Hirscheld’s cameos (beginning at 3:10):

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, May 27

Jim Burroway

May 27th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Alkmaar, Netherlands; Bergen, Norway; Bradford, UK; Ferndale, MI; Geneva, NYKarlsruge, Germany; Kiel, Germany; Lorraine, France; Malta; Nicosia, Cyprus; Oxford, UK; Söderhamn, Sweden.

Other Events This Weekend: Film Out, San Diego, CA; Connecticut Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Hartford, CT; KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, Mumbai, India; Cinépride LGBT Film Festival, Nantes, France; AIDS Lifecycle, San Francisco to Los Angeles, CA; Inside Out Toronto Film Festival, Toronto, ON.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Eastern Mattachine Magazine, November 1965, page 7.

From the Eastern Mattachine Magazine, November 1965, page 7.

The Daughters of Bilitis’ official magazine The Ladder first appeared in October, 1956 as a twelve-page typewritten, mimeographed and hand-stapled newsletter. One hundred and seventy-five copies of that first issue were sent out, and from those humble beginnings, The Ladder went on to become first nationally distributed lesbian publication in the U.S. In Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement, Marcia Gallo wrote “For women who came across a copy in the early days, The Ladder was a lifeline. It was a means of expressing and sharing otherwise private thoughts and feelings, of connecting across miles and disparate daily lives, of breaking through isolation and fear.” The Ladder appeared monthly from 1956 until 1970, then every other month until its demise in 1972.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Homosexual Ring Broken Up”: 1948. A veteran University of Missouri journalism professor was arrested and charged with sodomy as Prosecutor Howard B. Lang, Jr. described to reporters fantastical tales of “mad homosexual parties” in Columbia, Missouri. According to the Associated Press on the day of his arrest:

The prosecuting attorney said he had issued a warrant for the arrest of E.K. Johnston, for 24 years a member of the faculty of the university’s school of journalism, after a long investigation into abnormal sex orgies here and other central Missouri cities. Two other men were held in the Boone County jail on similar charges. They are Willie Coots, a gift shop employee here, and Warren W. Heathman, 35, Rolla, Mo., an itinerant instructor for the Veteran Administration’s farm training program.

Lang said both had signed statements, implicating Johnston as a principal in what he called a homosexual “ring” at Johnston’s apartment which Coots had shared for the last 15 or 16 years. At least of score of University of Missouri students and other residents here, Lang said, also are implicated in the ring. No charges have been filed against any one except Coots, Heathman and Johnston, but several are being held in jail for investigation or as material witnesses.

Heathman, Lang reported, told a near-fantastic story of “mad parties” at Johnston’s apartment and at a cabin near Salem, Mo., in which as many as 30 members of the “ring” gathered to boast of conquests and to indulge in homosexual practices.

Johnston was released after posting a $3,500 bond (that would be nearly $35,000 in today’s money), and the university fired him the next day. Johnson initially pleaded not guilty to the charge of sodomy, but after the other two testified against him, he changed his plea to guilty in exchange for four years’ probation under a $2,000 bond. Terms of the probation included “cessation of homosexual practices.” The others also pleaded guilty and were placed on probation.

Johnston was just one of a large number of students and faculty who were caught up in a wider anti-gay witch hunt then taking place on the UM campus, spearheaded by the university’s vice president Thomas A. Brady. In the late 1940s, the university had gained a reputation as a “safe haven” for gay people, and the state legislature exerted pressure to get them out of the university. The university set up an investigative committee under Brady’s guidance, and the committee set about identifying gay students and faculty based on the interviews with those who were offered immunity in return for testifying against the others. That investigation led Johnston’s arrest along with several other students:

“Phillip,” a former MU student interviewed by Jim Duggins of the GLBT Historical Society, describes running into a gay friend who’d been caught “at a party out in the woods in Salem, Mo., in a cabin, having a wild time.”

“The university got rid of everyone,” Phillip says. “Each student who had been involved had his transcripts stamped, ‘This student will not be readmitted to the University of Missouri until he is cleared of charges regarding homosexual activities.’ That’s why one kid killed himself right away, and others killed themselves during the ensuing months. It was just tragic.”

Phillip and the other interviewees also discuss the 1948 dismissal of MU advertising professor E.K. Johnston. “E.K. Johnston had been at the party,” Phillip says. “He was immediately dismissed; the chancellor of the university, or whoever it was, said, ‘We had no idea. Such a respected man,’ though Johnston had been talked about for years.”

Professor Johnston moved to Kansas City, where he lived until his death in 1990.

Daughters of Bilitis Convention Program.

 55 YEARS AGO: Daughters of Bilitis Hold First National Convention: 1960. When Del Martin and Phyllis Lyons co-founded the Daughters of Bilitis in 1955, the tiny group only had eight members (see Oct 19). Five years later, and the Daughters were large enough to hold its first biennial convention at the Hotel Whitcomb in San Francisco. The DoB’s press release announcing the convention was met mostly with silence, with a few sprinkles of condescension here and there. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Herb Caen typified the latter when, while referring to a gay-baiting mayoral campaign the previous autumn (see Oct 7), he wrote, “Russ Wolden, if nobody else, will be interested to learn that the Daughters of Bilitis will hold their nat’l convention here May 27-30. They’re the female counterparts of the Mattachine Society — and one of the convention highlights will be an address by Atty. Morris Lowenthal titled ‘The Gay Bar in the Courts.’ Oh brother. I mean sister. Come to think of it, I don’t know what I mean.”

Two hundred women and men attended the convention, whose theme was “A Look At The Lesbian.” he convention began on Friday night with a cocktail party at Martin and Lyon’s home. The main convention occurred at the hotel on Saturday, with panels of speakers, a lunch, and a cocktail reception and banquet that night.  Just as lunch was about to be served, a detail from the San Francisco police department also showed up to have their own look at the lesbians, specifically to make sure the ladies were wearing ladies’ clothing. SFPD had a long history of harassing lesbians dressed in slacks, jeans, or shirts with the buttons on the wrong side. As the Daughters had long emphasized outward conformity in the hopes that it would put larger society at ease, they were already prepared for the inspection. Del Martin brought the police inside so they could verify that everyone — the women, anyway — was wearing dresses, stocking and heels.

The convention went off without further disruptions from police, but the same couldn’t be said of some of the invited speakers. As Helen Sandoz (see Nov 2) reported in the DoB’s newsletter, The Ladder:

Saturday was a day to remember. We started out with the usual panel … the pat on the head… the understanding… the back-up by professionals. So, another homophile convention was under way in the usual manner. Then lunchtime came. An Episcopal minister served up our dessert with damnation.

Stella Rush provided more details about the brimstone delivered by Rev. Fordyce Eastburn, Episcopal chaplain at San Francisco’s St. Luke’s Hospital:

Having admitted that homosexuality was an unknown island to him, Rev. Eastburn proceeded to inform us that he felt that homosexuality was a “primary disorder of the Divine Plan.” …Homosexuals, he told us, were: 1, afflicted with a disorder of nature; 2, must attempt to stay away from their sources of temptation; and 3, should take therapy and attempt to make a heterosexual adjustment to life. (If you can’t make number three, I presume that leaves you celibate, presuming further that you’re capable of remaining  celibate and retaining your sanity.) …Well, it was a real different kind of luncheon, you had to admit that!

The gathering remained polite, despite the seething anger building in the crowd. Martin had invited Eastburn in the hopes if “open(ing) a door to communication with the church.” But Rush remembered, “It was awful — once more we were being told we were sinners. The men and women activists held up well, for they had come to accept themselves. But a gay boy I knew in L.A., who had no ties or experience in ONE, Inc., or the Mattachine and had come at my invitation, was harmed rather than helped. I lost his friendship over it.”

Things calmed down a bit, only to heat up again during a mid-afternoon debate between opposing lawyers in a gay bar case. Sidney Feinberg, North Coastal Area Administrator of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, defended the ABC’s practice of arresting gay bar patrons who propositioned undercover officers. One man at the convention rose up to ask a simple question:

“Sir,” the man asked timidly, “What is wrong with the person so approached saying ‘no’?” Mr. Feinberg asked in thundering tones whether the young man realized what he was asking. He was implying that to be protected all anyone had to do was say “No.” (Yes, it appeared as if that was what the young man was saying.) Such an implication seemed to inflame Mr. Feinberg greatly; certainly it was clear that such a thesis would put the ABC out of the job it said it wanted to be put out of. Mr. Feinberg expostulated that a man di d not have to accept the proposition of a prostitute either, did the questioner mean to imply that there should be no repression of prostitutes? There was a sprinkling of affirmations from the audience of those who believed there should be no such repression, and Mr. Feinberg became even more agitated. He stated in effect that if the audience did not even see eye-to-eye with the Law on something like that, that we would pursue two parallel lines in discussion and never come to any understanding.

Another queried, “Sir, would it be considered ‘indecent’ in a bar for men to be dancing together?” Mr. Feinberg opined that it would. The young man asked, “Why?” Mr. Feinberg said that such at hing was offensive. Another male member of the audience asked rather curtly, “Offensive to whom?” Mr. Feinberg became even more agitated, and the tension in the audience rose proportionately. “Offensive to the public.” Someone else asked, “Who decides what is offensive to the public? You?”

Finally it was Morris Lowenthal’s turn to speak. Lowenthal was a San Francisco attorney who successfully defended a gay bar that the ABC had tried to shut down. As Lowenthal detailed the ABC’s many attempts to shut down gay bars solely on the basis of the makeup of its clientele — as “resorts for sex perverts,” as ABC policy put it. The heated exchange that followed not only shocked the audience, but even made it into the Sam Francisco newspapers. Again, Rush described what happened:

Mr. Feinberg, who had been crouched over the table all this time, obviously fuming, erupted with a demand that he be allowed rebuttal time at the end of Mr. Lowenthal’s discourse.  …Mr. Feinberg was almost incoherent with fury until he calmed down a bit and tried to refute Mr. Lowenthal. Unfortunately he did not use facts, but sheer passion and sound decibles. I felt a rumble which literally rose from the floor, a very frightening feeling to one who has never been in such a position before. Mr. Feinberg attacked Mr. Lowenthal as having accused State officials of corruption, bribery and blackmail.

The audience, which had borne patiently the fireworks up to that POL1t, became angered at tactic s which it felt were not only unfair, but untrue. Also the audience was much impressed by the fact that whatever the merits of anybody’s case, Mr. Lovlenthal had at no time raised his voice, shouted or become angry.

Del Martin managed to calm the waters before open rebellion broke out, and was undoubtedly relieved when the time came to bang the gavel and move the convention to the next item on the agenda. The rest of the convention went on without interruption or aggravation. That night, they even gave out honorary S.O.B.’s — a “Sons of Bilitis” award to nearly a dozen male activists and allies. By Sunday night, while Lisa Ben (see Nov 7) delighted the crowd with her gay songs and parodies, the organizers and attendees were overjoyed at the convention’s success. Sandoz ended her report in The Ladder with a note of thanks to everyone who attended, including those who were uninvited or otherwise less than welcome:

Those of us who attended will never forget the excitement, the living proof of our worth. It was a timely shot in the arm when so much is adverse in so many areas. Thank you, DOB, ABC (California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control); Vice Squad, professional folk… thank you all for letting us see you and letting you see us.

[Sources: Sten Russell and Helen Sanders (pseudonym for Stella Rush and Helen Sandoz). “Convention Highlights.” The Ladder 4, no. 9 (June 1960): 5-6, 25.

Sten Russell (pseudonym for Stella Rush). “DOB Convention: A Look At The Lesbian.” The Ladder 4, no. 10 (July 1960): 6-25.

Marcia M. Gallo. Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement (New York: Carroll & Graf, 2006).]60-66.

Russia Decriminalizes Homosexuality: 1993. President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree which repealed the law forbidding male homosexuality on this date,. Since 2006, Moscow gay rights advocates have attempted to commemorate the anniversary of this historic event by conducting a gay pride march in Moscow. And every year, Moscow authorities have suppressed the march, usually violently. In 2013, Russia upped the ante when President Vladimir Putin signed into law a measure which ostensibly bans distributing “pro-homosexual propaganda” to minors, but which is so broadly written as to ban virtually all pro-LGBT advocacy anywhere in Russia.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Marijane Meaker: 1927. The American novelist and short story writer is known among lesbian pulp fiction fans as Vin Packer, and among fans of young adult fiction as M.E. Kerr. Her 1952 paperback, Spring Fire, is often considered to be the first lesbian pulp novel. Maker worked on the novel while working as a proofreader at Gold Medal Books. She got Spring Fire published there by posing as a literary agent representing an author named “Vin Packer.”

Spring Fire, was a hit, but the nature of the audience caught Gold Medal Books by surprised. “Spring Fire was not aimed at any lesbian market,” Meaker said in 1989, “because there wasn’t any that we knew about. I was just out of college. We were amazed, floored, by the mail that poured in. That was the first time anyone was aware of the gay audience out there.” Thrilled with Spring Fire’s success, Gold Medal sought more stories from Vin Packer, who proceeded to produce twenty pulp fiction novels between 1952 and 1969.

Inspired by Donald Webster Cory’s groundbreaking book The Homosexual in America (see Sep 18), Meaker’s second persona, Ann Aldrich, published a series of nonfiction works to describe the the lesbian experience in 1950s America. We Walk Alone appeared in 1955 to mixed reviews. While it was an eye opener to general audiences, lesbians weren’t so taken with it, with many of those criticisms being played out in the pages of the Daughters of Bilitis’ newsletter The Ladder. Aldrich’s 1958 follow-up, We, Too, Must Love (1958), did little to win over her lesbian critics. Del Martin (see May 5) wrote:

Your intentions are admirable, Miss Aldrich, but somehow we feel that you have not reached your objective. You have glossed over that segment of the Lesbian population which we consider to be the “majority” of this minority group. We refer to those who have made an adjustment to self and society and who are leading constructive, useful lives in the community in which they live. While we will grant you that the “average” Lesbian, like any other “average”, makes dull reading, you must concede that without inclusion of this group you have not painted a well-rounded and true picture of Lesbian life. …Lesbian life which you have depicted may be likened to a similar study of heterosexual life in which only the Skid Road characters and the well-to-do are delineated. …Surely in your 18 years of Lesbian experience you have met those capable of carrying on an intelligent conversation.”

Meaker became a successful young adult fiction writer under the pseudonym M.E. Kerr, beginning in 1972, covering topics which weren’t usually covered by books for that audience: racisms, absent parents, homosexuality and, later, AIDS. Her first book as M.E. Kerr, 1972’s Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack!, had as a central character an overweight girl, and was listed by the School Library Journal as one of the 100 most significant books for children and young adults. She also wrote four books for younger audiences under the pseudonym Mary James.

Meaker had a contentious relationship from 1959 to 1961 with the eccentric author Patricia Highsmith (see Jan 19), which Meaker wrote about in the 2003 memoir, Highsmith: A Romance of the 1950s. Meanwhile, a whole new audience has rediscovered her pioneering pulp fiction work, with collectors driving up prices on original paperbacks. Cleis Press re-releaseda large number of titles since 2011 in paperback and for Kindle.

25 YEARS AGO: Chris Colfer: 1990. If you watch Fox’s “Glee,” you know him as Kurt Hummel, the fashionably gay kid who is routinely bullied in school. He had auditioned for the role of Artie Abrams, but the show’s creators were so impressed with Colfer that they created the role of Kurt especially for him. Colfer, who is gay himself, says that he was accepted by his family but often bullied in school. You can see Colfer’s video for the “It Gets Better” project here.

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

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

The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, May 26

Jim Burroway

May 26th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Northwest Gay Review, May 1974, page 16

From Northwest Gay Review, May 1974, page 16

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Massachusetts Buggery Law: 1697. After the Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth colonies were united into the new Massachusetts Colony, a revision to the old Massachusetts Bay Law of 1672 revised its old sodomy law. The death penalty remains, but now “Buggery” is defined to include bestiality as well as sodomy:

For avoiding of the detestable and abominable Sin of Buggery with Mankind or Beast, which is contrary to the very Light of Nature; Be it Enacted and Declared … That the same Offence be adjudged Felony … And that every Man, being duly convicted of lying with Mankind, as he lieth with a Woman; and every Man or Woman that shall have carnal Copulation with any Beast or Brute Creature, the Offender and Offenders, in either of the Cases before mentioned, shall suffer the Pains of Death, and the Beast shall be slain and Burned.

Massachusetts abolished the death penalty for sodomy and bestiality in 1805.

First Known Intersex Actress On Film: 1976. She made her debut on the screen in the 1976 movie Drive-In. Set in small town Texas, the story portrays a slice of life as the town’s teens gather at the local drive-in to watch a disaster flick. The film’s movie-within-a-movie (the movie being screened at the drive-in) is a hilarious sendup of action movies. Among the cast is Katherine Connella (billed as Neely Richlond) who plays a student and is the first intersexed person to star in a motion picture. Katherine’s biography, released in 2001, describes her experience of being born and growing up a combination of genders.

Maryland Adds Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity to Hate Crime Law: 2005. Five days after vetoing a bill that would provide domestic partnership for same sex couples, Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R) signed a bill to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s hate crime law. Conservative religious groups naturally protest.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Sakia Gunn: 1987-2003. If she were alive today, she’d be celebrating her twenty-eighth birthday. Instead, she didn’t quite make it to sweet sixteen. On May 11, 2003, she and her friends were waiting for the #1 New Jersey Transit bus in downtown Newark when they were propositioned by two men. The girls rejected their advances by declaring themselves to be lesbians. The men attacked, and when Gunn fought back, one of the attackers stabbed her in the chest. After both attackers fled, Gunn was rushed to the hospital where she died. The murder became the subject of several protests in Newark, and more than 2,500 people attended her funeral.

One of the attackers, Robert McCullough, was arrested and charged with murder. In a tale that could have come from a bad comedy sketch, McCullough claimed that Gunn died after she ran into his knife. He eventually agreed to a plea bargain in which the murder charges were dropped in exchange for a guilty plea for manslaughter, aggravated assault and bias intimidation. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

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 Memorial Day

Jim Burroway

May 25th, 2015

Today is Memorial Day in the U.S., a day set aside to remember those who gave their lives for this country. With the demise of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in 2011, gay and lesbian service members have been able to serve their country openly and with honor and pride. And gays and Lesbians, both servicemembers and their civilian spouses and loved ones, can also, without shame or fear, remember and honor the sacrifices of their loved ones. That, in particular, was perhaps one of the cruelest aspects of DADT and prior bans on gays and lesbians serving, and dying, openly. In prior years, loved ones were made to mourn in silence. In 1961, ONE magazine published a poignant letter from one such World War II army veteran who still mourned another who didn’t come home:

Dear Dave:

This is in memory of an anniversary — the anniversary of October 27th, 1943, when I first heard you singing in North Africa. That song brings memories of the happiest times I’ve ever known. Memories of a GI show troop — curtains made from barrage balloons — spotlights made from cocoa cans — rehearsals that ran late into the evenings — and a handsome boy with a wonderful tenor voice. Opening night at a theater in Canastel — perhaps a bit too much muscatel, and someone who understood. Exciting days playing in the beautiful and stately Municipal Opera House in Oran — a misunderstanding — an understanding in the wings just before opening chorus.

Drinks at “Coq d’or” — dinner at the “Auberge” — a ring and promise given. The show for 1st Armoured — muscatel, scotch, wine — someone who had to be carried from the truck and put to bed in his tent. A night of pouring rain and two very soaked GIs beneath a solitary tree on an African plain. A borrowed French convertible — a warm sulphur spring, the cool Mediterranean, and a picnic of “rations” and hot cokes. Two lieutenants who were smart enough to know the score, but not smart enough to realize that we wanted to be alone. A screwball piano player -= competition –miserable days and lonely nights. The cold, windy night we crawled through the window of a GI theater and fell asleep on a cot backstage, locked in each other’s arms — the shock when we awoke and realized that miraculously we hadn’t been discovered. A fast drive to a cliff above the sea –pictures taken, and a stop amid the purple grapes and cool leaves of a vineyard.

The happiness when told we were going home — and the misery when we learned that we would not be going together. Fond goodbyes on a secluded beach beneath the star-studded velvet of an African night, and the tears that would not be stopped as I stood atop the sea-wall and watched your convoy disappear over the horizon.

We vowed we’d be together again “back home,” but fate knew better — you never got there. And so, Dave, I hope that where ever you are these memories are as precious to you as they are to me.

Goodnight, sleep well my love.

Brian Keith

[Source: Brian Keith. “Letter to a G.I.” ONE, 9, no. 9 (September 1961): 19.]

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Out (Washington, D.C.), May 21, 1981, page 30.

From Out (Washington, D.C.), May 21, 1981, page 30.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
120 YEARS AGO: Oscar Wilde Convicted: 1895. Author, poet and playwright Oscar Wilde was the toast of London. He made his mark in literature in The Picture of Dorian Gray (an annotated edition with some of the more homoerotic themes restored was released in 2011). His essays made him a respected man of letters, while his popular plays (Salome, A Woman of No Importance, and especially The Importance of Being Earnest) burnished his reputation for sophisticated wit.

But the wild success of Earnest, which premiered February 14, 1895, was quickly eclipsed by Wilde’s conviction and sentencing for homosexuality. Four days after the premiere of Earnest, Wilde was denounced as a homosexual by the Marquess of Queensberry (see Feb 18). Wilde, who was involved with the Marquess’s son, Alfred Douglass, ignored the advise of his friends and sued the Marquess for libel. That proved disastrous. During cross-examination, Queensberry’s lawyer asked Wilde whether he had ever kissed a particular young man, Walter Grainger, in greeting. “Oh, dear no,” Wilde replied, “He was a peculiarly plain boy. He was unfortunately extremely ugly. I pitied him for it.” Queesnbury’s lawyer pounced on Wilde’s admssion for not kissing Grainger: it wasn’t that Wilde didn’t like kissing men, but that he didn’t want to kiss this particular “ugly” man.

In short order, Wilde lost the case (see Apr 5). The next day, he was arrested and charged with gross indecency. His first trial began on April 26, with Wilde pleading not guilty. It was during that trial that Wilde uttered these famous lines under cross-examination:

Charles Gill (prosecuting): What is “the love that dare not speak its name”?

Oscar Wilde: “The love that dare not speak its name” in this century is such a great affection of an elder for a younger man as there was between David and Jonathan, such as Plato made the very basis of his philosophy, and such as you find in the sonnets of Michelangelo and Shakespeare. It is that deep spiritual affection that is as pure as it is perfect. It dictates and pervades great works of art, like those of Shakespeare and Michelangelo, and those two letters of mine, such as they are. It is in this century misunderstood, so much misunderstood that it may be described as “the love that dare not speak its name,” and on that account of it I am placed where I am now. It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection. There is nothing unnatural about it. It is intellectual, and it repeatedly exists between an older and a younger man, when the older man has intellect, and the younger man has all the joy, hope and glamour of life before him. That it should be so, the world does not understand. The world mocks at it, and sometimes puts one in the pillory for it.

Despite that admission, Wilde’s first trial ended in a hung jury. But a second jury on May 25 found him and another friend guilty. Justice Alfred Wills sentenced them to the maximum sentence allowed by law: to two years of hard labor:

Justice Wills: Oscar Wilde and Alfred Taylor, the crime of which you have been convicted is so bad that one has to put stern restraint upon one’s self to prevent one’s self from describing, in language which I would rather not use, the sentiments which must rise in the breast of every man pf honor who has heard the details of these two horrible trials. That the jury has arrived at a correct verdict in this case I cannot persuade myself to entertain a shadow of a doubt; and I hope, at all events, that those who sometimes imagine that a judge is half-hearted in the cause of decency and morality because he takes care no prejudice shall enter into the case, may see that it is consistent at least with the utmost sense of indignation at the horrible charges brought home to both of you.

It is no use for me to address you. People who can do these things must be dead to all sense of shame, and one cannot hope to produce any effect upon them. It is the worst case I have ever tried. that you, Taylor, kept a kind of male brothel it is impossible to doubt. And that you, Wilde, have been the center of a circle of extensive corruption of the most hideous kind among young men, it is equally impossible to doubt.

I shall, under the circumstances, be expected to pass the severest sentence that the law allows. In my judgment it it totally inadequate for a case such as this. The sentence of the Court is that each of you be imprisoned and kept to hard labor for two years.

[Cries of “Oh! Oh!” and “Shame!”]

Oscar Wilde: And I? May I say nothing, my Lord?

The court adjourned.

The Redl Affair: 1913. Col. Alfred Redl was a Galician native from a poor family in what is now Ukraine but was then a part of the Austrian Empire. He joined the Austrian army where his keen intelligence and facility with languages outweighed his poverty-stricken background and opened doors into the officer corps. That was a rarity, since officers were nearly uniformly drawn from the rich and the politically well-connected. Redl was appointed to the counter-intelligence service, and his innovations quickly led the way to a series of promotions which led to his becoming the service’s chief in 1907. In 1911, Redl was honored with the Expression of Supreme Satisfaction, which was a personal honor bestowed by Emperor Franz Josef himself.

But while that was happening, Redl was also an spy for Russia, starting probably around 1903 (although the Austrian Empire’s official rendition of events had him starting only in 1912). How he became a spy for the Austria’s arch enemy isn’t clear, but we do know that Russia became aware of Redl’s homosexuality as early as 1901, and it is believed that Redl was blackmailed. Before World War I broke out, Redl handed over Austria’s plan for invading Serbia, revealed the names of Austrian agents in Russia, and underestimated Russia’s military strength to the Austrian military. The results were disastrous for Austria. With Russia and Serbia knowing Austria’s moves ahead of time, it is estimated that Redl may have been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Austrian soldiers and civilians.

Ironically, Redl’s innovations in Austria’s counter-intelligence service proved to be his undoing. When Redl was promoted up and out of the counter-intelligence service, his successor and protégé, Major Maximilian Ronge, became aware of some suspicious envelopes, stuffed with cash but no note, being delivered to the Vienna post office for a Herr Nikon Nizetas for General Delivery (in other words, with no address; the post office was to hold the envelopes for Nizetas to pick up). Because of the large sums of money involved and evidence that the envelopes may have come from Russia, Ronge personally led the investigation. To Ronge’s surprise, it was Redl who arrived at the post office to claim the envelopes. When Ronde and a group of officers confronted Redl at the Hotel Klosmer where Redle was staying, Redl cordially invited them into his room and admitted his crimes. Redl then asked to borrow a revolver. Knowing what would come next, Ronge and his men left a Browning pistol and left, waiting outside the hotel for the sound of the gunshot. Redl removed his uniform, wrote one last farewell letter, and shot himself.

At first, Emperor Franz Josef tried to keep the circumstances behind Redl’s suicide under wraps, but Redl’s death soon became a rallying point for a number of factions within the government. Aristocrats pointed to Redl’s humble background to demand that the officer corps be returned to its all-aristocratic foundations. His Galician upbringing brought all Slavs in the officer corps under suspicion, despite the fact that Redl was ethnically German. And a rumor that Redl was Jewish, despite his Roman Catholic upbringing, stoked yet another wave of anti-Semitism in central Europe.

But more crucially, the Redl Affair became a worldwide symbol of the vulnerability of high-level government officials to blackmail, particularly where homosexuality was concerned. During the Cold War, the Redl Affair, along with the 1951 defection to the Soviet Union of British spies Guy Burgess and Don MacLean, reinforced the argument that gay people could not be trusted in government, and during McCarthy’s anti-communist crusade in the 1950s, homosexuality and communism were further linked as twin threats to national security.

Rep. William G, O’Neill (D-Ocala), chairman of the Legislative Investigations Committee.

Florida Legislative Committee Calls Schools “Veritable Refuge for Practicing Homosexuals”: 1961. That charge was levied in a report by the Florida Legislative Investigations Committee, which was Florida’s homegrown version of the McCarthy Red and Lavender Scares from a decade earlier. Known popularly as the Johns Committee for its first chairman, state Senator and former acting Governor Charley Johns, it was established in 1956 to investigate alleged communist links to the NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In 1957, the Legislature broadened the committee’s mandate to investigate gays in the state’s colleges and universities. In 1961, just as that mandate was about to expire, the Johns committee issued a biennial report to the Legislature which claimed that it found a “call ring” in an unidentified populous county which put teenage boys “through what amounts to a regular course in training in homosexual acts. When properly trained they are made available to older homosexuals the same as female prostitutes.”

The report, filed by Rep. William G, O’Neill (D-Ocala), the committee’s chair, claimed that the investigation was ongoing and three men had been arrested, but provided no other details of the alleged ring. ONE magazine was skeptical of the charges:

It seems to this reporter that there have been entirely too much acceptance of alleged happenings as reported by investigative bodies or individuals who are never required to give absolute and irrefutable proof. We have for years been hearing about supposed homosexual “rings” and “clubs” that serve their memberships play-boy style. I defy anyone to show me one.

ONE was right to be skeptical, as no such case has ever hit Florida’s newspapers as far as I’ve been able to determine. But the report did tally the damage the committee had done to people lives as of 1961. Since 1959, 39 teachers’ certificates had been revoked and fourteen more cases were pending before the state Board of Education (see Apr 22 for the case of five teachers from St. Petersburg) “The committee is in possession of sworn testimony concerning homosexual conduct in excess of 75 additional public school teachers,” the report added, but added that disclosure of details would derail its investigations.

The Florida Legislature approved an additional appropriation to the Johns Committee and renewed its charter for another two years. In 1963, the Committee said that its work still was not done so the Legislature renewed its charter again for two additional years. In 1964, the fruits of that “exhaustive investigation” were finally made public when the Johns Committee issued its final report, “Homosexuality and Citizenship in Florida” (see Mar 17). Known as the “purple pamphlet” for the abstract purple cover that was added to obscure the more provocative photos inside, the report was blasted as an exercise in taxpayer-funded pornography. The Legislature responded to the controversy by finally pulling funding for the committee and forcing its disbanding.

Everard Bathhouse Fire Kills Nine: 1977. In 1976, the fire officials ordered the Everard to install a sprinkler system. They were installed by May 1977, but they hadn’t been hooked up to a water supply yet when, in the early morning hours of Wednesday, May 25, 1977, a mattress fire broke out. Occupants when through several fire extinguishers trying to put out the flames before finally calling the fire department.

By the time firefighters arrived, about 80 to 100 occupants had managed to flee the building, many of them clad only in towels or robes. Others clung to windows awaiting rescue by the more than 200 firefighters who arrived at the scene. Nine customers didn’t make it.. Seven died from smoke inhalation, one from respiratory burns, and one from injuries sustained after jumping from an upper floor.

Identification of the victims was complicated by the fact that many of them had registered under assumed names. Friends wound up identifying them rather than family. They were: Hillman Wesley Adams, 40, South Plains, NJ; Amado Alamo, 17, Manhattan; Anthony Calarco, age unknown, The Bronx; Kenneth Hill, 38, Manhattan; Brian Duffy, 30, address unknown; Patrick Knott, 38, Manhattan; Ira Landau, 32, Manhattan; Yosef Signovec, 30, a Czech refugee whose address was unknown; and James Charles Stuard, 30, Manhattan, who was a well-known DJ at the club 12 West.

George Ames, manager of the Club Baths in Boston, was on the premises when the fire broke out. He told reporters later that the customers remained calm, although “the young employees… were hysterical. … The management at the Everard showed no regard for the customers. They are just a bunch of straight people coining money at the expense of the gay community.” Ames criticized the club for its lack of sprinklers, fire escapes, and emergency lighting. The National Gay Task Force’s Bruce Voeller (see May 12) described the Everard as a “shabby, dreadful place, run down and grubby beyond words.” He pointed out that there had been a fire five years earlier, and there was nothing more than a “cosmetic renovation,” of the facility. The only reason the Everard was still popular, he said, was because of its long history and its location in a safe neighborhood.

(Note: This video of the fire erroneously give the year as 1975.)

The fire destroyed the top two floors. They were rebuilt and the Everard reopened in 1979 — this time with sprinklers — only to close again in 1986 during a campaign by New York mayor Ed Koch during the AIDS epidemic.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Ian McKellen: 1939. His roots are in theater, mainly Shakespeare, where he continues to perform in a number of state productions in Britain. But beginning in 1969, he branched out in film and television, covering a wide range of genres from drama (And the Band Played On, Gods and Monsters), to mystery (Six Degrees of Separation, The Da Vinci Code), to action and fantasy (X-Men, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, as Gandolf).

McKellen was among the earliest actors to come out publicly as gay. He came out in 1988 during a BBC interview while discussing the controversial Section 28 of the Local Government Bill, which stated that local governments “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship” (see May 24). According to a 2003 interview, McKellen said he visited Environment Secretary Michael Howard (who was responsible for local governments) to lobby against the bill. Howard reaffirmed his approval of Section 28, and in a defining moment of chutzpah, asked McKellen to leave an autograph for Howard’s children. He did. It read, “Fuck off, I’m gay.” McKellen remained politically active and co-founded the British gay-rights group Stonewall in 1989. In 2007, he became a patron of The Albert Kennedy Trust, an organization that provides support to homeless and troubled LGBT youth.

McKellen is properly called Sir Ian McKellen. He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1979, was knighted in 1991 for services to the performing arts. He was also named a Companion of Honour for services to drama and to LGBT equality in 2008.

Anne Heche: 1969. She got her start on the NBC soap opera Another World, where she won a Daytime Emmy in 1991. Appropriate, given that so much of her life reads like a soap opera. She was the daughter of a Baptist choir director who disclosed his homosexuality to his family just before dying of AIDS in 1983. That same year, her brother died in a car accident. Four years later, Heche launched her acting career with Another World as soon as she got out of high school. From there she took a series of roles in television and film, including If These Walls Could Talk (1996), Walking and Talking (1996), Wag the Dog (1997), and I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997).

It was at about that time that Heche began dating comedian Ellen DeGeneres. They had said they would get a civil union if it became legal in Vermont, but they broke up in August, 2000. Just hours after news broke of their relationship ending, she appeared that the rear door of a house in Fresno County wearing nothing by shorts and a bra, asking if she could take a shower. She had curled up on the couch for a nap when sheriff deputies arrived. She told officers that she was “God, and was going to take everyone back to heaven in a spaceship.” She was taken by ambulance to a hospital, but was released a few hours later.

That episode became the stuff of tabloid headlines and served as a turning point in her 2001 memoir Call Me Crazy (which she wrote in only six weeks), where she described the her sexual abuse by her father, and her subsequent emotional problems and drug abuse. Meanwhile, her mother, Nancy Heche capitalized on her daughter’s fame and became an important speaker at ex-gay conferences where she claimed that her prayers “cured” Anne’s lesbianism. Anne, who is bisexual, says that her mother’s campaign is “a way to keep the pain of the truth out.” In 2011, Anne said that she doubted that she would ever reconcile with her mother.

In 2001, Heche married a cameraman who she met during DeGeneres’s 2000 standup comedy tour, and had a son the following year.  They divorced in 2007. That same year, she moved in with actor James Tupper, who was her co-star in the ABC comedy-drama Men in Trees (2006-2008). She had her second son with Tupper in 2009.

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, May 24

Jim Burroway

May 24th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Angers, France; Birmingham, UK; Chicago, IL (Bear Pride); Düsseldorf, Germany; Eskilstuna, Sweden; Pensacola, FL; Puerto Vallarta, JAL; Pride Washington, DC (Black Pride).

Other Events This Weekend: International Mr. Leather, Chicago, IL; Matinee, Las Vegas, NV; Great Plains Rodeo; Oklahoma City, OK; Inside Out Toronto Film Festival, Toronto, ON.

TODAY’S AGENDA is bought to you by:

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), September 1977, page 20.

Milwaukee’s Sugar Shack opened in 1976 as a bar “by and for women.” It lasted until 1985 when the two women who owned it sold it . It then re-opened as another lesbian bar, D.K.’s Tavern. That lasted just two years until 1987, when it changed hands again and became a men’s gay bar, The Triangle, which finally closed down in 2012. The building has since been renovated beyond recognition and houses a chic restaurant.

Pat Buchanan

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Pat Buchanan Calls AIDS an “Awful Retribution”: 1983. “The sexual revolution has begun to devour its children,” proclaimed Pat Buchanan in a New York Post op-ed that was relayed in newspapers across America. “And among the revolutionary vanguard, the Gay Rights activists, the mortality rate is higher and climbing.”

By 1983, the known AIDS epidemic was about to reach its two-year mark. A general panic was spreading in the gay community, and a general backlash was brewing everywhere else. Buchanan fueled that backlash with this op-ed, warning that no homosexual should be permitted to handle food. He also warned that the Democratic party’s decision to hold their 1984 convention in San Francisco would leave their delegates wives and children at the mercy of “homosexuals who belong to a community that is a common carrier of dangerous, communicable and sometimes fatal diseases.” And he attributed all of it to divine retribution with his now-infamous money-quote: “The poor homosexuals… they have declared war upon nature, and now nature is exacting an awful retribution.”

Buchanan had a flair for the dramatic turn of the phrase, having served as an opposition researcher and speechwriter for President Richard Nixon. He would go on to become communications director for the Reagan White House from 1985 to 1987. In 1992, as Buchanan ran for the Republican nomination for President, he again called AIDS “nature’s retribution for violating the laws of nature in many ways” (see Feb 27). His speech before the Republican National Convention later that summer brought the term “culture war” to a nationwide audience.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Britain Enacts Section 28: 1988. When Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party swept into Government in 1979, it brought with it sweeping changes throughout Britain touching on all levels of society. With “Thatcherism” came a wholesale transformation of the economy, widespread cuts in social programs, open warfare with trade unions, and a retrenchment on a wide range of social issues including homosexuality. British society’s attitudes towards gay people hardened further during the early 1980s as AIDS began to take root in the U.K.

But in areas in which either the Labour or Liberal Party held sway, gay rights activists were able to get a number of local councils to include sexual orientation in their anti-discrimination policies. The Greater London Council authorized several grants between 1981 and 1984 to local gay groups and the London Lesbian and Gay Community Centre in Islington, and in 1985, the Labour Party called for an end to all legal discrimination against gays and lesbians. When the Daily Mail, in its characteristic alarmist fashion, discovered the book  Jenny Lives With Eric and Martin by the Danish author Susanne Bösche in a school library, all hell broke loose.

On December 2, 1987, Conservative MP David Wilshire responded to the outcry with a proposed amendment to the Local Government Act to prohibit local authorities from “promoting homosexuality” or teaching “the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship” in schools. The clause which later became known as Section 28, was inserted at the committee stage on December 7, debated in Committee on December 8, and was adopted by the full House of Commons on December 15. The House of Lords approved it the following spring, and the law took effect on May 24, 1988.

The law had its intended effect. Where local governments had previously allowed gay groups to meet on government property and libraries to keep LGBT publications, many now were reluctant to do so. It also had an unintended effect: Section 28 almost singlehandedly revived the gay rights movement on a national scale. Ian McKellen came out on the BBC and helped to found Stonewall, while Peter Tatchell established OutRage!, and the two spent the next decade campaigning against Section 28. In 1997, Labour was swept back into Government in a landslide victory, but the first two legislative attempts to repeal Section 28, both in 2000, were defeated in the House of Lords. After another Labour landslide in the 2001 elections, opponents of Section 28 made another run at repeal again. in 2003. This time it was successful, and the repeal went into effect on November 18, 2003.

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, May 23

Jim Burroway

May 23rd, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Angers, France; Birmingham, UK; Chicago, IL (Bear Pride); Düsseldorf, Germany; Eskilstuna, Sweden; Pensacola, FL; Puerto Vallarta, JAL; Pride Washington, DC (Black Pride).

Other Events This Weekend: International Mr. Leather, Chicago, IL; Matinee, Las Vegas, NV; Great Plains Rodeo; Oklahoma City, OK; Inside Out Toronto Film Festival, Toronto, ON.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Northwest Gay Review (Portland, OR), May 1975, page 28.

From Northwest Gay Review (Portland, OR), May 1975, page 28.

Cyril Wilcox,  the Harvard undergrad whose suicide launched Harvard’s ant-gay Secret Court.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
95 YEARS AGO: Harvard’s Secret Court: 1920. On May 13, 1920, Cyril Wilcox, a Harvard sophomore, committed suicide. He had been struggling with his grades and with his health, and returned home to recover. While at home, he told his older brother, George, that he had been having an affair with another man. George apparently reacted very badly to the news, with Cyril’s suicide following shortly after. Soon after Cyril’s death, George intercepted two letters. One was a gossipy letter from a gay classmate, and another was from a recent graduate. Armed with those letters, George demanded that Harvard’s acting Dean, Chester N Greenough rid the college “of this pernicious scourge.” Greenough consulted with Harvard President Abbot Lowell and formed a special five-man tribunal on this date in history which became known as the “Secret Court.”

Acting Dean Chester N. Greenough, who led the investigations for the Secret Court.

The court launched a wide-ranging witch hunt, with Greenough summoning each witness one-by-one with a brief note. The Court’s inquiry was exhaustive, posing questions about masturbation practices, sex with women or men, cross-dressing, overnight guests, parties, and reading habits. The scope of the inquiry soon expanded to area businesses, cafés and bars. Eight students were expelled, ordered to leave Cambridge and reported to their families. They were also told that Harvard would disclose the reasons for their expulsion if employers or other schools sought references. At least one student committed suicide following his expulsion. Four others unconnected to Harvard were also deemed guilty. The school couldn’t punish them directly, but they did pressure one café to fire a waiter.

In 2002, a researcher from Harvard’s daily newspaper, The Crimson, came across a box of files labeled “Secret Court” in the University’s archives. After pressure from newspaper staff, the University finally released five hundred documents related to the Court’s work, and The Crimson published its findings in November of that year. Harvard’s president Lawrence H. Summers responded to the revelations, expressing deep regret for the anguish the students and families experienced. He called the reports “extremely disturbing” and the court’s actions “abhorrent.” Conservative commentator Pat Buchanan responded to Summers’s statement by saying that “Harvard embraces bathhouse values”:

Harvard’s code is now based on Summers’ values, which hold that the old moral code of Christianity, which teaches that sexual relations between men are unnatural and immoral, is “abhorrent and an affront to the values of our university.” Harvard has not only turned its back on its Christian past, it has just renounced its Christian roots as poisoned and perverted. If Harvard is educating America’s leaders, this country is not Slouching Toward Gomorrah, we are sprinting there.

[More information can be found in William Wright’s Harvard’s Secret Court: The Savage 1920 Purge of Campus Homosexuals]

65 YEARS AGO: State Department Announces Tougher Scrutiny for Job Applicants: 1950. By May of 1950, the Truman Administration and its State Department had withstood unrelenting attacks from Republican and Southern Democrats in Congress over charges that the administration was lax about hiring homosexual employees, all of whom allegedly posed as security risks (see Feb 28Mar 14Mar 21Mar 23Mar 24Apr 14, Apr 18Apr 26, May 2May 5 and May 19). On May 22, the State Department’s top security officer, R.W. Scott McLeod, announced steps in the hiring process to try to address those criticisms. He told Congress that he was ordering his aides to be “completely ruthless” on passing on new job applicants who had a hint of security issues. According to news reports, McLeod said that someone who made a single mistake in the past might be able to “cancel it out” with good performance since then, with one exception. He said that a single homosexual act, no matter how long past, would make the employee subject to blackmail and would never be hired.

Supporters of Eugene's gay rights ordinance gather for a candlelight protest on election night. (Source.)

Supporters of Eugene’s gay rights ordinance gather for a candlelight protest on election night. (Source.)

Eugene Oregon Voters Defeat Gay Rights Ordinance: 1978. Anita Bryant’s successful campaign to defeat a Miami non-discrimination ordinance in 1977 (see Jun 7)) Launched a wave of ballot measures in cities across the country the following year. Voters in St. Paul, Minnesota repealed their ordinance by more than a two-to-one margin (see Apr 25) and Wichita, Kansas voters bested that two weeks later with a five-to-one vote (see May 9). Anita Bryant’s Protect America’s Children had poured $20,000 into those battles ($74,000 in today’s dollars), which were enormous sums for city elections.

The juggernaut next moved on to Eugene, Oregon two weeks later, where residents were asked to vote on whether to approve a gay rights amendment to the city’s human rights ordinance. The amendment would have extended existing prohibitions of housing, employment and public accommodations discrimination to include sexual orientation. The Eugene City Council had passed the amendment on November 28. It would have gone into effect thirty days later, but a group quickly formed, calling themselves the Volunteer Organization Involved in Community Enactments (VOICE), and they managed to collect 10,000 signatures in less than two weeks to place the amendment on the next primary election ballot.

From The Eugene Register-Guard, May 21, 1978, page 3A.

From The Eugene Register-Guard, May 21, 1978, page 3A.

With Eugene being home to the University of Oregon and known for being friendly to more progressive brand of politics, the gay community felt that this fight would give them the best chance to turn back the tide. Early polling, which showed voters about evenly split, was promising. According to local news reports, VOICE and the pro-gay Eugene Citizens for Human Rights (ECHR) “conducted vigorous but restrained campaigns that lacked the inflammatory rhetoric of campaigns on similar gay rights proposals in other communities.” While VOICE sought examples of brochures and advertisements from the other campaigns, they elected to focus their message less on morality and religious beliefs, and more about whether gay people deserved “special” protections under the law. ECHR, similarly, shunned assistance from outside groups. ECHR coordinator Candy Hansen said, “Eugene is Eugene and we want to win this for the people of Eugene.”

From The Eugene Register-Guard, May 21, 1978, page 7A.

From The Eugene Register-Guard, May 21, 1978, page 7A.

That win didn’t happen. The vote was 22,898 to 13,427 — 63 to 37 percent. It was the best margin yet for the gay community, but still a landslide defeat. Turnout among college students was low, which may  partly explain why the polling looked so much more favorable. Lynn Greene, a campaign coordinator for VOICE was ecstatic. “We’ve shown that a liberal community will oppose legislation destructive to moral standards. “It shows that you don’t have to be religious to see that this kind of ordinance can negatively affect the community. The idea that this is a human rights issue is a facade, and people recognize that.” VOICE director Larry Dean called the vote a reaction against a “swing in morals” and said that even in liberal Eugene, voters weren’t ready to endorse what amounted to an “acceptance of homosexuality.” “If they (the gay community) cannot win here, they can’t win anyplace, except perhaps San Francisco.”

That same night, Dean received a congratulatory telegram from Anita Bryant, who praised “the Christian public and all the citizens of Eugene who worked and voted against legalized immorality. Let us continue to reach out in Godly love to all homosexuals who want deliverance, while opposing at the threshold every attempt of the militant homosexuals to represent their lifestyle as ‘normal’ and to impose it on us and our children.” Meanwhile, Edward Rowe, the Executive Director for Protect American’s Children reiterated his denial that his group was directly involved with VOICE’s campaign. “We worked only indirectly with the people in Eugene. There was consultation with our office in Miami Beach and the groups in Wichita and St. Paul. There was no funding in this case.”

While VOICE supporters were celebrating at a Chuckwagon steak house, the gay community and its allies marched quietly from the Eugene Hotel to the courthouse in a candlelight parade.

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, May 22

Jim Burroway

May 22nd, 2015

<strongTODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Angers, France; Birmingham, UK; Chicago, IL (Bear Pride); Düsseldorf, Germany; Eskilstuna, Sweden; Pensacola, FL; Puerto Vallarta, JAL; Pride Washington, DC (Black Pride).

Other Events This Weekend: International Mr. Leather, Chicago, IL; Matinee, Las Vegas, NV; Great Plains Rodeo; Oklahoma City, OK; Inside Out Toronto Film Festival, Toronto, ON.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

AnitaBryant.DivorceCruise-Blade1980.06.12p21

From The Washington Blade, June 12, 1980, page 21.

Randy Rohl and Grady Quinn.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
First Gay Couple To Attend High School Prom: 1979. Randy Rohl, a 17-year-old senior at a Lincoln High School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, embarked on the most quintessential high school rite of passage: attending the senior prom. His date wasn’t so quintessential: his friend, 20-year-old Grady Quinn. The couple wore matching powder blue tuxes, rose boutonnieres and matching silver pierced earrings.

Rohl wore his sexuality rather lightly, especially considering the times and the locale. He later told a friend that it wasn’t meant to be a political act. He just wanted to go to the prom. The school’s principal, Fred Stephens, granted permission for the couple to attend the dance, saying “My belief is that people need their rights protected. Homosexuals have rights.” Rohl told reporters, “The principal was very concerned for my well-being.”

And aside from a few pre-prom threats (which brought out a police presence in case anything came from those threats), and some raised eyebrows and a heavy media presence with glaring bright lights, it all went off without a hitch. . The couple danced five times. “The first one was a slow dance,” Rohl told reporters, “and people were a little surprised to see two guys dancing together.” The Washington Post reported that they got was a lot of extra room on the dance floor. But when the faster disco tunes were played, they attracted less attention.

“I think it’s rather sad that my date and I have to get more publicity or more acknowledgement from the press than any other couple,” he said. “I don’t think we’re any more worthy of special attention. Yes, maybe it’s a milestone in gay rights, but it’s being made into more of a freak show.” He also said that despite the threats, several students came over and congratulated the couple. “A lot of people were really glad we stuck to your guns and went.”

According to the National Gay Task Force, this was the first time an acknowledged gay couple attended a high school prom together in the U.S., even though the two were just friends. (Grady Quinn was the partner of a local gay rights activist.) This would be Randy Rohl’s only act as an activist. After high school, he moved to Minneapolis to attend college, and retreated back into private life. He died on December 31, 1993 of AIDS.

[Additional source: “‘It’s a Good Feeling,’ Says Gay Who Took Boyfriend to His Prom.” The Advocate, no. 271 (July 12, 1979): 7.]

BryantGreen 35 YEARS AGO: Anita Bryant Files for Divorce: 1980. The Associated Press described her as a “strong-principled advocate of God, family and flag.” Nevertheless, she announced that she was divorcing her husband and manager, Bob Green because he “violated my most precious asset: my very conscience.”

Bryant’s statement, which the AP reported she released “from her 25-room Miami Beach home,” charged that Green cooperated “with certain hired staff members who conspired to control me and to use my name and reputation to build their personal careers instead of my ministry.” Her statement brought to a close their twenty year marriage. She also announced that she was resigning from Anita Bryant Ministries.

Green answered Bryant with an open letter, which was also released to the press:

Dear Anita:

I love you with all my heart and I am awaiting your return as my wife and the mother of our children. God’s love and forgiveness is open to both of us if we will but seek it.

Let us both put aside all other earthly considerations and reunite our lives in Christian love.

Your husband,
Bob

Bryant wasn’t interested in Green’s overture, such as it was, and she went ahead with the divorce, even though it was “against everything I believe in.” Green, citing his religious beliefs, refused to recognize the divorce, saying they were still married “in God’s eyes.” He also blamed gay people: “Blame gay people? I do. Their stated goal was to put [Bryant] out of business and destroy her career. And that’s what they did. It’s unfair.” He died, an embittered old man, in 2012.

As for Bryant, she married again, relaunched her career in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. When that failed, she moved to Branson, Missouri. When that failed, she declared bankruptcy and moved to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee to start over one more time. That also failed, leaving a pile of unpaid creditors and abused employees in the wake.

Harvey Milk

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
85 YEARS AGO: Harvey Milk: 1930-1978. Also known as the Mayor of Castro Street, Harvey Milk finally succeeded in becoming California’s first (and the nation’s fourth) openly gay non-incumbent candidate to win a political office for two reasons: he refused to hide who he was; and he made it his mission to build alliances with groups that other gay activists thought were impossible to reach. So to those who knew Harvey well weren’t surprised when his 1977 as San Francisco City Supervisor that he was good terms with conservative supervisor Dan White. White, a former cop, was supported by the city’s police union whose leaders were angry over city policies which they considered to be soft on crime and homosexuals. The local media ate it up as the two made joint appearances on local talk shows where they both talked warmly of each other. Harvey began to privately telling friends that he thought White was “educatable,” and that the two might actually be able to work together.

But all that changed when Milk wound up voting against White’s proposal to bar a psychiatric treatment center from opening in White’s district. White retaliated by voting against Milk’s gay rights bill (it passed anyway), and for the next several months, White would not speak to Milk or his aides. Other supervisors noticed that White stopped spending as much time at his office in City Hall, and he was sullen during the weekly board meetings. White abruptly resigned on November 10, 1978. When he had a change of heart a few days later, Mayor George Moscone refused to commit to re-appointing him to the board. On November 27, 1978, White snuck into City Hall and confronted Moscone in his office, and shot him twice in the abdomen, then twice more in the head. He then walked down the hall to Milk’s office. After arguing with Milk, White shot him three times in the chest, once in the back and twice in the head.

Milk’s short political career changed the face of LGBT politics. During the 1978 campaign against the Briggs Amendment which would have required the firing of gay teachers and any school employee who supported gay rights, Milk insisted on aggressively confronting the anti-gay campaign by raising the visibility of the gay community. The campaign against the Briggs Amendment was also a campaign against the closet. He told a crowd during San Francisco’s Gay Pride that year:

“On this anniversary of Stonewall, I ask my gay sisters and brothers to make the commitment to fight. We will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets… We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions. We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I’m going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it. You must come out. Come out to your parents, your relatives.”

45 YEARS AGO: Mark Bingham: 1970-2001. A true hero, Mark Bingham was among the passengers who stormed the cockpit of United Airlines Flight 93 after it had been hijacked by Al-Qaeda terrorists on September 11, 2001. His personal bravery was well known before that fateful day. His boyfriend of six years, Paul Holm, recalled that Bingham had thwarted two attempted muggings, one at gunpoint. His friends recalled that he proudly showed off the scars he received during a running of the bulls in Pamplona. During the hijacking, Bingham, who was sitting in first class, made a brief call to his mother. She later called him back after learning of the other 9/11 attacks and said the flight was being used on a suicide mission. Bingham has been honored with several others for bringing the aircraft down and preventing a much greater loss of 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 Thursday, May 21

Jim Burroway

May 21st, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Angers, France; Birmingham, UK; Chicago, IL (Bear Pride); Düsseldorf, Germany; Eskilstuna, Sweden; Pensacola, FL; Puerto Vallarta, JAL; Pride Washington, DC (Black Pride).

Other Events This Weekend: International Mr. Leather, Chicago, IL; Matinee, Las Vegas, NV; Great Plains Rodeo; Oklahoma City, OK; Inside Out Toronto Film Festival, Toronto, ON.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Advocate, May 31, 1979, page 19.

The Elephant Walk — named after the Elizabeth Taylor movie, and not the early 1970s fratboy hazing ritual — opened in the Castro on November 27, 1974. Inspired by the massive plate glass windows at the Twin Peaks Tavern just up the street (Twin Peaks, by the way, is still in business), Fred Rogers opened the bar with similarly large, clear windows because he wanted a bright, cheerful place with a view onto the street where he could sit, relax, and chat with friends. It was a huge success. Sylvester (see Sep 6) often performed there on Sundays, and the bar featured daily brunches that were served until 3:00. p.m.

The Elephant Walk saw a lot of good times and a lot of hard times. In 1979, the bar was almost destroyed by rioting San Francisco police officers after the gay community rioted downtown following the light sentence given to Dan White for murdering gay rights activist Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone, but the bar quickly recovered and reopened. In 1985, bar manager Jack McCarty and his lover were vacationing in Greece when their return flight, TWA 847, was hijacked and diverted to Beirut. They were released and returned to the U.S. seventeen days later to a hero’s welcome. In 1988, the bar was destroyed in a four-alarm fire that consumed the upper floor of the building, and thus, the Elephant Walk came to an end. After years of reconstruction, the building today houses a restaurant called “Harvey’s,” in honor of Harvey Milk whose camera shop was just up the street on the same block.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Los Angeles Armed Forces Day Motorcade: 1966. Los Angeles Armed Forces Day Motorcade: 1966. Representatives of various East Coast homophile groups had already been protesting in support of gay rights over the past year and a half, in New York (see Sep 19 and Apr 18), Washington (see Apr 17, May 29, Jun 26, Jul 31, Aug 28, and Oct 23) and Philadelphia (see Jul 4). And so how appropriate is it that when gay rights leaders decided to stage one of the earliest organized protests in Los Angeles, a city known for its car culture and not for its walkability, their protest took place in cars and not on foot?

The occasion for the Los Angeles protest was Armed Forces Day, scheduled to take place that year on May 21. It was military policy that “The homosexual is considered unsuitable for military service and is not permitted to serve in the Armed Forces in any capacity.” On February 19, representatives of a dozen homophile groups had gathered in Kansas City to take part in the National Planning Conference of Homophile Organizations, with the idea being to form a national confederation of gay rights groups. Little was accomplished at that meeting, except a general agreement to protest the exclusion of gay people the military on Armed Forces day. The idea was met with great enthusiasm, initially, with a burst of plans and coordinating communications taking place among committees in Boston, Chicago, Denver, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Sacramento, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

But it didn’t take long for the first obstacles arose. The principal one was due to the unpopularity of the war in Viet Nam. Some gay men of draft age found the Defense Department’s policy to be one of the very few distinct advantages they had over others who opposed the war and didn’t want to serve. Aside from the political debates over the morality of the war, why would they want to protest against one of the very few advantages that gay people had in society, at least for those of draft age who didn’t want to fight?

Pretty soon, all national coordination stopped, but planning continued in Los Angeles by the Los Angeles Committee to Fight Exclusion of Homosexuals From the Aimed Forces. It was an all-volunteer effort, directed out of the offices of Don Slater’s magazine Tangents (see Aug 21) with Slater and Harry Hay (see Apr 7) co-chairing. The committee issued a press release in late March announcing the Armed Forces Motorcade, which caught the attention of L.A’s newspapers and radio and television stations. That press release not only publicized the event, but also acknowledged some of the anti-war arguments against it. The statement pointed out that while the military was “publicly paying lip service to the idea that homosexual persons are unfit for military service, (it) has quietly instructed induction centers to make discreet ‘exceptions’ to the rule (in) the case of homosexuals who are not the ‘obvious’ types.”

But even with the advance publicity, it wasn’t easy drumming up support within the gay community. As Harry Hay told Time magazine the night before the Motorcade:

We’re all tired from the work,” said Hay, “but if this comes, off, it will be something our city has never seen before. If it comes off. Imagine a motorcade of 15 cars and about a 20 mile route through Los Angeles. Ideally we should have had the support of the entire homophile, community; then we could have staged a really grand demonstration. But most homosexuals are still hiding.” He continued vehemently: “With the work we have put into this thing and with the thousands of homosexuals in the area, it is fantastic to realize we will be lucky to have 40 persons show up for the motorcade tomorrow —and at least 20 who do will not be gay.”

The motorcade, consisting of more than a dozen cars with four-sided signs attached to their roofs, wound their way through the streets of Los Angeles and Hollywood. Despite the initial interest expressed in the press, only the alternative Free Press, a Time photographer and a CBS News crew showed up to cover the event. The city editor of the Los Angeles Times said he’d send a reporter “only if someone was hurt. All our reporters and cameras are in Watts.” The incident went off without a hitch, with no adverse reaction from the public, no interference from police. That in itself was a major accomplishment.

While national coordination all but disappeared soon after the February meeting in Kansas City, other Armed Forces Day protests went ahead. The Mattachine Society of Washington D.C., picketed the White House and marched from there to the Pentagon. Frank Kameny, the group’s past president (see below) then flew to New York to be the principal speaker at a rally sponsored by the Daughters of Bilitis. Protesters also handed out leaflets at the Philadelphia Navy Yards, and picketed the Federal Building Plaza in San Francisco.

[Additional Source: C. Todd White. Pre-Gay L.A.: A Social History of the Movement for Homosexual Rights (Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2009): 183-187.]

aaawhitenightpaper1 White Night Riots: 1979. On this date, Dan White was found guilty in the shooting death of San Francisco Supervisor and LGBT advocate Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. Unfortunately, he was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter instead of first-degree murder, and sentenced to a paltry seven years in prison. (He would only serve five.) The jury bought the defense arguments that White was suffering from diminished capacity due to depression and an overload of junk food, a defense that has since been derided as the “Twinkie defense.”

The gay community was already angry with the police and fire department, which had raised money for White’s defense. That anger boiled over when the verdict was announced, leading to rioting at City Hall. A dozen police cars were set ablaze as protesters waged a four-hour battle against police in riot gear — their badges were covered with black tape to prevent identification –on Civic Center Plaza.

Later that night, San Francisco police staged a retaliatory raid in the Castro, catching people by surprise, since most of those still in the Castro that evening hadn’t gone downtown. Police descended on the Elephant Walk, a popular gay bar, with shouts of “dirty cocksuckers” and “sick faggots” while beating patrons with batons and shattering a large plate glass window. For the next two hours, police officers indiscriminately attacked passers by on the street. Fred Rogers, the bar’s owner, described the melee:

San Francisco Police charging into the Elephant Walk.

San Francisco Police charging into the Elephant Walk.

A tactical squad had charged the doors, smashing news cameras attempting to record the raid. Once inside they made a sweep from the front of the 1,800-square-foot room all the way to — and over — the bar, swinging their clubs at anything that moved. Or didn’t. Brian, one of the bartenders, was sporting head bandages. He said that it all happened fast, without warning. There was no place to hide. Behind the bar I could see our industrial-strength, stainless-steel blender. It bore the deep imprint of a police baton, mute testimony to the fierceness of the assault. My cocktail waitress, Paula, was just finishing her first week on the job when the assault began. Luckily, she found refuge behind a closed gate in the kitchen area. She said that she had not seen such police brutality since her days on the UC-Berkeley campus.

Later that night, a freelance reporter overheard a group of police officers celebrating at a downtown bar. “We were at City Hall the day [the killings] happened and we were smiling then,” one officer said. “We were there tonight and we’re still smiling.” Gay leaders refused to apologize for the riot at city hall, and an investigation into police misconduct in the Castro and City Hall ended without any charges being filed.

Wesleyan University Offers Specialized Transgender Housing: 2003. Wesleyan University of Middletown, Connecticut announced that it would become the first American college to offer special housing option to accommodate transgender students. Incoming freshmen will have the option of living in a new “gender-blind” floor of a dormitory without specifying their gender. According to the new university policy, those who choose to live in the gender-blind area “will be assigned a roommate without the consideration of gender.” Mike Whaley, dean of student services, estimated that there were twelve to fifteen transgender students on the 3,000-student campus. But after opposition and obstruction from other members of the administration, the transgender housing policy was very nearly scrapped a year later when the dean in charge of student housing refused to pair students who were not of the same “biological gender.” Finally, with input from mental health professionals and transgender advocates, a new policy was implemented in 2010.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Raymond Burr: 1917-1993. He started out as a stage actor, landing on Broadway in 1941 for Crazy with the Heat. It didn’t take long for him to switch to the silver screen for the film noir classic Raw Deal (1948). He was adept at playing the heavies, as an aggressive prosecutor in A Place in the Sun (1951), and as the murder suspect in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954). But he is best know for his two long-running television roles, in Perry Mason (1957-1966) and Ironside (1967 -1975). Like most gay actors, Burr rarely spoke about his private life. His official biography listed three marriages, but later investigations could only verify the second one. What has been verified is that Burr enjoyed a long 35-year relationship with his partner, Robert Benevides, who he met on the set of Perry Mason. Benevides was not only his life-long partner until Burr’s death in 1993, but together they owned an orchid business(orchids were one of Burr’s passions) and then a vineyard. Benevides still operates the Raymond Burr vineyards today.

90 YEARS AGO: Frank Kameny: 1925-2011. Easily one of the giants of the American gay rights movement, Frank Kameny fell into it when he was fired from his job as an astronomer with the Army Map Service in 1957 because of his homosexuality (see Dec 20). Kameny took on the U.S. Civil Service Commission and argued his appeal all the way up to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear his case. They missed out on quite case. Kameny wrote his own petition to the Supreme Court, in which he denounced the government’s ban on hiring gay people as “a stench in the nostrils of decent people, an offense against morality, an abandonment of reason, an affront to human dignity, an improper restraint upon proper freedom and liberty, a disgrace to any civilized society, and a violation of all that this nation stands for.”

Throughout his lifetime, Kameny placed himself in the middle of many first in the gay rights movement. He founded the Washington D.C. chapter of the Mattachine Society in 1961, a group which distinguished itself for its aggressiveness. In 1965, Kameny helped to organize the first gay rights protests in front the White House (see Apr 17), the Pentagon (Jul 31), the U.S. Civil Service Commission (see Jun 26), Philadelphia’s Independence Hall (see Jul 4), and the State Department (see Aug 28). That same year, Kameny published a ground-breaking essay which declared the gay rights movement’s independence from the mental health professions and its shoddy pseudo-scientific research on homosexuality, proclaiming, “We are the true authorities on homosexuality” (see May 11). That landmark declaration proved a turning point from or the gay rights movement, which soon shifted from a position of deference to professional authorities who declared that gays were mentally ill, and toward an eight year struggle to convince the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders (see Dec 15). In 1968, Kameny created the slogan “Gay is Good” (see Aug 12) and in 1971 he was the first openly gay candidate for Congress (see Feb 22).

Kameny has been recognized as a national treasure; his papers are now a part of the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian holds several of Kameny’s picket signs and other artifacts in its collection. His home is now recognized as a D.C. Historic Landmark, and in 2009, he received an official apology for his firing from the Office of Personnel Management. He passed away in 2011 at the age of 86.

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, May 20

Jim Burroway

May 20th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Angers, France; Birmingham, UK; Chicago, IL (Bear Pride); Düsseldorf, Germany; Eskilstuna, Sweden; Pensacola, FL; Puerto Vallarta, JAL; Pride Washington, DC (Black Pride).

Other Events This Weekend: International Mr. Leather, Chicago, IL; Matinee, Las Vegas, NV; Great Plains Rodeo; Oklahoma City, OK; Inside Out Toronto Film Festival, Toronto, ON.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Wisconsin In Step (Milwaukee, WI), May 17, 1984, page 28. (Source.)

From Wisconsin In Step (Milwaukee, WI), May 17, 1984, page 28. (Source.)

According to the Wisconsin GLBT History Project:

My World bar in Green Bay was opened by Bob Hackl and Scott. It advertised itself as “Leather Levi Country/ Country Rock Music” bar. It enjoyed great success, and celebrated its 5th anniversary in April-May 1984. For a time, My World also was home to another bar, the Silver Saddle. It advertised in 1982-1983 as a lesbian bar, entered via the rear entrance of My World. The bar changed ownership in February 1985. It was shown in the same issue of In Step as being owned by “Jerry and Dwight” and advertised as being owned by “Dwayne and Jerry”. Shortly after, the bar was renamed “Brandy’s”.

The location is now a parking lot.

L-R: Luc Montagnier and Robert Gallo

TODAY IN HISTORY:
AIDS Virus Identified: 1983. In a paper published in the US journal Science, a team from France’s Pasteur Institute, led by Luc Montagnier, described a suspect virus which had been isolated in a patient who had died of AIDS. Montagnier’s groundbreaking work led to the determination by US researcher Robert Gallo in 1984 that the virus was indeed the cause of AIDS. Gallo named his virus HTLV-III, and promptly claimed credit for discovering the virus. But the rest of the world began calling it the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV. A three year acrimonious spat between Gallo and Montagnier ensued over who was the first to discover it. The dispute was finally settled after intensive negotiations resulting in both parties being awarded credit, and everyone lived happily ever after, as it were.

Photo of an Amendment 2 Protest from the Nov. 11, 1992 issue of Out Front.

Romer v. Evans: 1996. On this date, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the landmark decision striking down Colorado’s Amendment 2 to the state constitution which would have disenfranchised that state’s LGBT citizens from the right to petition their state and local governments for laws banning discrimination.  Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, rejected Amendment 2 supporter’s arguments that the ban on anti-discrimination laws were meant solely to deny LGBT people “special rights”:

[W]e cannot accept the view that Amendment 2’s prohibition on specific legal protections does no more than deprive homosexuals of special rights. To the contrary, the amendment imposes a special disability upon those persons alone. Homosexuals are forbidden the safeguards that others enjoy or may seek without constraint. They can obtain specific protection against discrimination only by enlisting the citizenry of Colorado to amend the State Constitution or perhaps, on the State’s view, by trying to pass helpful laws of general applicability. This is so no matter how local or discrete the harm, no matter how public and widespread the injury. We find nothing special in the protections Amendment 2 withholds. These are protections taken for granted by most people either because they already have them or do not need them; these are protections against exclusion from an almost limitless number of transactions and endeavors that constitute ordinary civic life in a free society.

…(Amendment 2) is at once too narrow and too broad. It identifies persons by a single trait and then denies them protection across the board. The resulting disqualification of a class of persons from the right to seek specific protection from the law is unprecedented in our jurisprudence. …We must conclude that Amendment 2 classifies homosexuals not to further a proper legislative end but to make them unequal to everyone else. This Colorado cannot do. A State cannot so deem a class of persons a stranger to its laws. Amendment 2 violates the Equal Protection Clause, and the judgment of the Supreme Court of Colorado is affirmed.

Justices John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O’Connor, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer joined Kennedy in the majority opinion.

Dissenting Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justice Clarence Thomas, considered Colorado’s attempt to disenfranchise an entire class of people “unimpeachable under any constitutional doctrine hitherto pronounced.” Pointing to Bowers v Hardwick, the 1986 Supreme Court Decision which declared sodomy laws constitutional, Scalia wrote, “If it is rational to criminalize the conduct, surely it is rational to deny special favor and protection to those with a self-avowed tendency or desire to engage in the conduct.” Seven years later, the Court would correct that contradiction in Lawrence v Texas, which finally struck down anti-sodomy laws in the 13 states where such laws were still in effect.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:
Cher: 1946. She started out as one-half of the husband-and-wife singing duo Sonny & Cher with their 1965 hit, “I Got You Babe.” After a string of hits and a popular television series, their marriage ended and Cher’s solo singing career took off. She also became an Academy Award winning actress, winning a Best Actress award for her role in 1987’s Moonstruck. In 2002, Cher began her Farewell Tour, after which she said she would retire from show business. The tour lasted three years, and at some point she re-named it the “Never Can Say Goodbye” Tour. But in 2005, she finally retired the show and retired herself. Then she retired from retirement in February 2008 for a show at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas which lasted until February 2011. A recent single from the 2010 Burlesque soundtrack is fitting: “You Haven’t Seen The Last Of Me.” She released her 26th solo studio album in 2013 after a twelve-year gap, Closer To The Truth.

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

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

The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, May 19

Jim Burroway

May 19th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From NW Fountain, May 1979, page 15.

In 1964, San Francisco drag performer and LGBT rights activist José Sarria proclaimed himself “Her Royal Majesty, Empress of San Francisco, José I, The Widow Norton,” and established a national Imperial Court System which raised millions of dollars for charity (see Dec 12) across the country. But Portland, as it turns out, was six years ahead of Sarria in establishing its own Court system that was remarkably similar to what would later appear in San Francisco. Bartender Duane Frye, who worked at Portland’s Half Moon Tavern, remembered:

Queen Eugenie I, Mother Superior of Transylvania. From William Holman’s “A Gay History: Let It Be Forgotten,” Northwest Gay News, June 1977, section 2, page 3. The caption adds: “This photo, taken inside the old Half Moon Tavern, is the only known photo taken inside that venerable establishment.”

Sometime around 1958… the first Queen Eugenie I (alias Sam) was self-proclaimed in the Court of Transylvania. This mythical court allowed for a whole plethora of other regal titles to come about including a Lord High Sheriff, and a number of other drag queens including Sr. Mary Wanna (Michael Patrick Dillon, who later got caught in a 1963‑1964 sex scandal; see the Oregonian, Oct. 25, 1963, p. 26; Mar. 25, 1964, p. 13). In the back of the bar was erected a throne for the Queen (who would later become known as Empresses). An unbroken line of succession was created to the present day—with the earliest Empresses declared by someone (but who knows who?), and later by community-wide elections held in the city’s bars.

The line wasn’t entirely unbroken. It had apparently petered out in the early 1960, but was revived in 1965 as a more formally organized endeavor, complete with Spring and Fall Balls. In 1969, the Rose Queen’s title was changed to Empress, in keeping with titles being bestowed in other Imperial Courts across the country. Portland’s Imperial Sovereign Rose Court is still going strong as part of Portland’s oldest LGBT organization, and is headed today by Her Most Imperial Majesty Rose Empress LVI The Lady Ambrosia Schock.

The Half Moon Tavern first opened in 1939 at 72 SW Morrison Street in downtown Portland near the Willamette River. It’s not clear when it became a gay bar, but it was probably a popular gay watering hole by 1952 when two male patrons were assaulted by a visitor in what the papers described as an “unprovoked attack.” In addition to the Court of Transylvania, the Half Moon sponsored an LGBT bowling team. In 1960, the Half Moon Tavern moved a block away to 124 SW Yamhill Street and remained in business until it was forced to close in 1981 due to a fire. The original Morrison Street location was razed and replaced with a mid-century modern hotel. The Yamhill Street building still stands and today houses a yoga studio.

61003

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Rhode Island Colony’s Sodomy Law: 1647. Roger Williams established Providence Plantation (“Plantation” was a synonym for a settlement or colony) in 1636 as a refuge for religious freedom and on the principle of majority rule among the heads of households for “civil things.” He had established his colony after Massachusetts banished him for spreading “diverse, new, and dangerous position.” Those positions included theological and legal disputes with the leaders of Massachusetts colony, and since Massachusetts laws were based on Puritan theology, Williams was found guilty of sedition and heresy simultaneously. His Providence Plantation would be far different, becoming the first outpost to uphold the diverse, new, and dangerous position of the separation of church and state.

The following year, Massachusetts banished the followers of Anne Hutchinson, who preached the doctrine of Antinomianism, which held that if salvation came through faith and divine grace alone, then the strict imposition of a moral law by political authorities was an unbiblical reliance on good works over faith. Hutchinson’s followers settled in present-day Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Other settlements soon followed.

In 1647, representatives from Providence, Portsmouth, Newport and Warwick came together in Portsmouth to establish a government for the Rhode Island Colony, and to draw up a body of laws which would become one of the earliest governmental codes enacted by colonists in the New World. With Rhode Island being a refuge for those “distressed of conscience,” Rhode Island’s new code was modeled more on the statutes of England rather than on Biblical texts as in Massachusetts. But that didn’t mean it was devoid of Biblical citations — Rhode Island Colony may have prized religious freedom, but there was still an assumption that Biblical principles were important in public life. And so Rhode Island Colony’s law addressing sodomy cited, in addition to English law, Paul’s letter to the Romans as part of its justification. That section read:

Touching Whoremongers. First of sodomy, which is forbidden by this present Assembly throughout the whole colony, and by sundry statutes of England 25 Hen. 8, 6: 5 Eliz 17. It is a vile affection, whereby men given up thereto leave the natural use of women and burn in their lusts toward another, and so men with men work that which is unseemly, as that Doctor of the Gentiles [St. Paul] in his letter to the Romans once spake, i. 27. The penalty concluded by that state under whose authority we are is felony of death without remedy. See 5 Eliz 17.(2)

The citations of 25 Henry 8, 6 and 5 Elizabeth 17 refer to, respectively, the 1533 buggery statute enacted under King Henry VIII, and its 1563 reenactment under Queen Elizabeth I. The reference to Paul’s letter to the Romans was unusual. Legislation at that time would have much more typically referenced Leviticus 20:13. But remember, Rhode Island Colony was settled by colonists who rejected salvation by works of the law, and there’s nothing more workier-of-the-law than Leviticus. Hence, the New Testament citation rather than the Old.

By imposing the death penalty for men who “work that which is unseemly” with other men, sodomy joined treason, murder, manslaughter, witchcraft, robbery, arson, and rape as crimes meriting the death penalty. There were no recorded persecutions under this law or any subsequent laws which included the death penalty, although that may be due to a lack of rigorous record keeping rather than a lack of prosecutions. The ultimate penalty was eliminated in 1844 and replaced with one to twelve years’ imprisonment. The minimum penalty was raised to seven years in 1872, and the maximum was raised to twenty years in 1881. The Rhode Island legislature didn’t get around to decriminalizing consensual sex between same-sex couples until 1998.

Oscar Wilde Released from Prison: 1897. This date in history ended a two-year ordeal for Oscar Wilde, which began in 1895 when he was denounced as a homosexual by the Marquess of Queensberry. Wilde, who was involved with the marquess’ son, Alfred Douglass, sued the Marquess for libel but lost the case when evidence supported the marquess’ allegations (see Apr 5). Because homosexual behavior among men was still considered a crime in England, that evidence led to Wilde’s arrest. His first trial resulted in a hung jury, but a second jury in 1895 sentenced him to two years of hard labor (see May 25). Wilde was imprisoned in Pentonville and then Wandsworth prisons in London. The regime consisted of “hard labour, hard fare and a hard bed.” Ill with dysentery and weakened from hunger, Wilde collapsed during Chapel, bursting his right ear drum. He spent two months in the infirmary, and his health never fully recovered.

He was later transferred to Reading prison, where he wrote a 50,000 word letter to Douglass. He wasn’t allowed to send the letter, but he was permitted to take it with him when he was released. The letter, since named De Profundis was published in 1962’s Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde. It reads, it part:

When first I was put into prison some people advised me to try and forget who I was. It was ruinous advice. It is only by realising what I am that I have found comfort of any kind. Now I am advised by others to try on my release to forget that I have ever been in a prison at all. I know that would be equally fatal. It would mean that I would always be haunted by an intolerable sense of disgrace, and that those things that are meant for me as much as for anybody else – the beauty of the sun and moon, the pageant of the seasons, the music of daybreak and the silence of great nights, the rain falling through the leaves, or the dew creeping over the grass and making it silver – would all be tainted for me, and lose their healing power, and their power of communicating joy. To regret one’s own experiences is to arrest one’s own development. To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.

65 YEARS AGO: DC Police Estimate 3750 “Sex Perverts” in Federal Government: 1950. In the first half of the 1950s, the Lavender Scare had actually eclipsed Wisconsin GOP Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s Red Scare as the most talked-about scandal in Washington (see Feb 28Mar 14,Mar 21Mar 23Mar 24Apr 14Apr 26, and May 5). The scandal was led by the Republican caucus in coalition with Southern Democrats who were angry at President Truman’s relatively progressive racial attitudes. (Truman had ordered the integration of the Armed Forces and survived a walkout of “Dixicrats” during the 1948 Democratic Convention before going on to win re-election.)

The GOP and Southern Dems saw the Lavender Scare as a great opportunity to gain the upper hand over the President. President Truman’s advisors had already warned him that “the country is more concerned about the charges of homosexuals in the Government than about Communists.” And an ABC Radio news commentator observed that “It looks as if the enemies of the State Department, and of the administration generally, have gotten hold of a more profitable issue than communism.” That profitable issue got a greater boost when the following United Press article appeared in newspapers nationwide:

3750 Perverts Listed on Payroll

Senate Republican Leader Kenneth S. Wherry said today that Washington police estimate there are 3750 sex perverts in the Government here.

In a report to a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Wherry said police authorities testified that 300 to 400 State Department employees are “suspected or allegedly homosexual.”

The Nebraskan also said that Washington police reported they have uncovered “what purported to be a plan of Communists to sabotage and damage” Washington in case of war with Russia; that a Red Fifth Column is using sex degenerates for subversive purposes; and that “there are 1000 bad security risks” in Washington.

The report gave no details on the purported plot to sabotage Washington.

The New York Times had a more in-depth account, which revealed that Police Lieutenant Roy Blick, head of the department’s vice squad, testified that his estimate of 300 to 400 gays employees in the State Department was based on “a quick guess”:

This, he said at one point, was a “quick guess,” in the sense that it was based upon his experience that arrested persons not connected with the State Department would sometimes say: “Why don’t you go get so-and-so and so-and-so? They all belong to the same clique.”

“By doing that,” Lieutenant Blick added, “their names were put on the list and they were catalogued as such, as the suspect of being such.”

Senate Majority Leader Kenneth Wherry (R-NE)

Senate Majority Leader Kenneth Wherry (R-NE)

Sen. Wherry and his Democratic counterpart Lister Hill (D-AL), alarmed at what they considered a lax attitude toward homosexuals in government employment, had been conducting closed-door hearings with DC police and federal agency witnesses since March 23. More than a dozen witnesses had testified, including those from the State Department, Defense Department, the FBI, and D.C. police. The Navy protested that more than 7,800 “known or alleged homosexuals” had been “separated” from the service since 1947, and the Army claimed that more than 5,000 were discharged during the same period.

But Blick wound up being the star witness by suggesting that the work in rooting out homosexuals wasn’t completed. Wherry was pleased that Blick was a “one-man watchdog of the city’s morals,” but was disappointed that the city’s vice squad didn’t maintain a master list of arrested homosexuals. He wanted to cross-check such a list against federal employment rolls. But Block wound up providing the crucial testimony that Block was looking for: a confirmation that there were “thousands” of homosexuals working in the government, far more than the 91 that the State Department had acknowledged to have gotten rid of during testimony in February (see Feb 28). But Blick’s arrival at the 3,750 number was, by his own admission, based on pure guesswork. He gave a “quick guess” of five thousand homosexual men in the District of Columbia (out of a population of 800,000). He guessed that three-fourths of them were government jobs.

Sensing a political advantage, Republicans leaked Blick’s secret testimony to the press in late March — but without Blick’s dubious methods for coming up with his number. By the time Wherry released his report to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, no one was bothering to fact-check Blick’s number. His “quick guess” was simply repeated as fact. Later that July, Blick admitted to a reporter that his numbers were dubious and he regretted having been “caught between the Democrats and the Republicans.”

[Additional source: Randolph W Baxter. “‘Homo-Hunting’ in the Early Cold War: Senator Kenneth Wherry and the Homophobic Side of McCarthyism,” Nebraska History 84 (Fall 2003): 119-132. Available online here (PDF: 2MB/16 pages).]

Scott Lively (left) and Lon Mabon

Scott Lively (left) and Lon Mabon

Springfield, OR, Voters Approve Anti-Gay Ordinance: 1992. About three years earlier, Vietnam vet, ex-hippie and born-again Christian by the name of Lon Mabon had formed the Oregon Citizens Alliance (OCA) with support from the Oregon branch of Pat Roberston’s Christian Coalition. By 1991, budding firebrand Scott Lively joined the group, where he had quickly earned his reputation for being a loose canon. In October of that year, the photographer Catherine Stauffer attended a church meeting where the OCA was previewing a videotape it had cobbled together in preparation for a campaign in support of a series of local anti-gay ballot measures across the state. Lively forcefully ejected Stauffer from the meeting by physically throwing her against the wall and dragging her across the floor. She sued Lively and OCA. The jury determined that Lively was guilty of using unreasonable force and awarded Stauffer $20,000.

What the OCA was preparing was a series of local ballot measures that would prohibit “promoting, encouraging or facilitating homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism or masochism” — restrictions which would, in addition to equating homosexuality with pedophilia, determine such basic community issues as which books could be accepted into the local library and which groups could access city facilities, including streets and parks. They would also institute a double standard: for example, OCA would be allowed to hold meetings in city buildings, while Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) would not.

Those ballot measures found their first success in Springfield, a more conservative working-class suburb of Eugene, where voters approved a proposed city charter amendment, Ballot Measure 20-80, by a 54-46 margin. City Councilman Ralf Walters, was elated. “What this means is that Springfielders have shown their commitment to traditional family values. They want to maintain Springfield as a terrific place to raise a family, and they don’t want their leaders and public institutions to promote as an alternative lifestyle.”

But Mayor Bill Morrisette, an outspoken opponent of the measure, was more cautious. “I think there’s more to the city of Springfield than this particular question of sexual orientation. It certainly would be a mistake for the OCA to think if they win this that they’ve got a lock on the city.” Planning Commission member Tom Atkinson, who helped lead the opposition, said the vote “does stamp Springfield with Hate City USA. I just don’t believe that it’s true about Springfield. The low turnout really makes me believe the real will of the people of Springfield was not expressed tonight.”

Even though a similar vote in Corvallis failed by a wide margin, OCA’s Scott Lively saw the Springfield vote as a prophetic omen for future ballot measures in the state. “The votes in Springfield — and Corvallis, too, even though it failed there — vindicate our position that traditional family values are shared by a large number of people in this state. The attempt by the opposition to equate the simple ‘no special rights’ message with hatred and bigotry was a lie, and the people of Springfield proved it.”

OCA’s victory in Springfield gave Mabon and Lively all the encouragement they needed to propose a state constitutional amendment with language that was very similar to the Springfield measure. They saw Springfield as their testing ground, but it would also prove to be their high water mark. Following a nasty state-wide campaign led by Mabon, Lively and the OCA, Measure 9 was defeated by voters just nine months later (see Nov 3). Meanwhile, Springfield’s new law was challenged in court, and in 1995 the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that a state law passed in 1993 pre-empted local governments on gay rights issues.

[Sources: Jim Burroway. “Lively’s Lies: A Profile of Scott Lively.” Political Research Associates (March 1, 2011). Available online here.

Ann Portal. “Voters approve anti-gay measure.” Eugene Register-Guard (May 20, 1992): 1A. Available online here.

Randi Bjornstad. “OCA issue hinged on ‘special rights’.” Eugene Register-Guard (May 21, 1992): 1A. Available online here.

Paul Neville. “Appeals court deals setback to gay rights foes.” Eugene Register-Guard (April 13, 1995): 1A. Available online here.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Peter Wildeblood: 1923-1999. In 1954, Peter Wildeblood was a diplomatic correspondent for London’s Daily Mail in 1953, when he was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment for homosexual offenses. In essence, he was convicted of refusing to be ashamed. Wildeblood has one of four men caught up in the so-called “Montagu Case,” named for Lord Montagu (see Oct 20), whose beach house was raided by police on a tip that a homosexual orgy was taking place. Montagu had offered Wildeblood the use of the beach house, and Wildeblood in turn invited two friends from the RAF, his lover Edward McNally and John Reynolds. Montagu’s cousin, Michael Pitt-Rivers, had also joined the group.

Wildeblood later said that the whole affair had been “extremely dull,” while Montague elaborated, “We had some drinks, we danced, we kissed, that’s all. But McNally and Reynolds turned Queen’s Evidence and claimed that “abandoned behavior” had occurred. Wideblood was charged with “conspiracy to incite certain male persons to commit serious offences with male persons,” among other charges, and was sentenced to eighteen months’ imprisonment.

After his release, Wildeblood considered his battle only half over. Just as he proclaimed his homosexuality during his trial, he published his audacious, ground-breaking memoir Against the Law, which revealed his experiences during his arrest and trial, and the appalling conditions of his imprisonment. He also described being on the receiving end of popular scorn when news of his arrest hit the papers:

That night, a woman spat at me. She was a respectable looking, middle-aged, tweedy person wearing a sensible felt hat. She was standing on the pavement as the car went by. I saw her suck in her cheeks, and the next moment a big blob of spit was running down the windscreen.

This shocked me very much. The woman did not look eccentric or evil; in fact she looked very much like the country gentlewomen with whom my mother used to take coffee when she has finished her shopping on Saturday mornings. She looked thoroughly ordinary, to me. But what did I look like to her? Evidently, I was a monster.

The following year, Wildeblood came out with another book, A Way of Life, which included twelve essays describing various gay people he had come in contact with. This helped to put a human face on the hitherto faceless “homosexuals.” Wildeblood’s two books also helped to inform the Wolfenden Report, which in 1957 recommended the decriminalization of homosexual acts in Britain. But those recommendations wouldn’t be acted upon for another ten years (see Jul 28).

Wildeblood went on to become a television producer and writer, first for Granada Television, and then CBC Toronto. He became a Canadian citizen in the 1980s, and died in Victoria, British Columbia in 1999.

Mike McConnell: 1942. Growing up gay in Oklahoma wasn’t easy, but the experience quickly made Mike realize that people like him were, at best, second-class citizens. While attending the University of Oklahoma, his friend, Joe Clem, was also gay and rather cautiously open about it, even among his frat brothers. During one bout of drinking, those so-called “brothers” became enraged with Clem being a “faggot,” beat the crap out of him, and drove him out to a deserted road outside Norman and dumped him there. Clem eventually made his was back to Norman, but he didn’t dare call the police.

Mike McConnell, with Jack Baker, ca 1970. Photo by Kay Lahusen (see Jan 5).

McConnell met Jack Baker (see Mar 10) at a barn party in 1966 outside of Norman. McConnell was completing his Masters degree in Library Science, and Baker was working as a field engineer in Oklahoma City. Both were 24, and they hit it off right away. Six months later, Baker proposed to McConnell, and McConnell accepted, on one condition: that they would find a way to marry legally.

In 1969, Baker moved to Minneapolis to study law at the University of Minnesota. Six months later, McConnell was offered a job at the University’s library. Three weeks after McConnell moved to Minneapolis, the pair went to the Hennepin County Courthouse in downtown Minneapolis to apply for a marriage license (see May 18). Their application was denied. Not only that, but after the news about what they had done had hit the papers, the university’s Board of Regents voted to withdraw its job offer to McConnell.

Those events launched two separate lawsuits: Baker v. Nelson challenged Hennepin County’s denial of their marriage license, and McConnell v. Anderson challenged the University’s withdrawal of McConnell’s job offer. Baker v. Nelson worked its way up the Minnesota state courts, with courts ruling against Baker and McConnell every step of the way. The case eventually made it to the Minnesota Supreme Court in October 1981, which also ruled against them. The U.S. Supreme Court then dismissed an appeal “for want of a substantial federal question,” and Baker v. Nelson was treated as though it were an established precedent for the next several decades.

McConnell’s lawsuit against the University went little better. He got an early victory when the Federal District Judge issued an injunction against the University. He called the couple’s attempt at getting married “rather bizarre,” but found that even a “homosexual is after all a human being and a citizen… He is as much entitled to the protection and benefits of the laws… as others.” But McConnell never did get his job at the University. The judge stayed his injunction pending appeal, the Eight Circuit overturned the lower court’s ruling, and the Supreme Court refused to consider the case.

While the cases were winding their way thought the courts, McConnell and Baker continued to pursue legal recognition of their relationship through other means. McConnell legally adopted Baker in August 1971, which allowed them at least some of the benefits of marriage (inheritance, medical decision-making, even reduced tuition for Baker). A month later, they managed to obtain a marriage license from a clerk in Blue Earth County, Minnesota and were married by a Methodist minister (see Sep 3). That license was never officially revoked, although questions remained about its legal force. The IRS, for example, refused to recognize their marital status.

McConnell later found work in the Hennepin County Library system, and continued working there for the next thirty-seven years before retiring in 2010 as a Coordinating Librarian. In 2012, University of Minnesota president Erik Kaler formally apologized to McConnell fir his treatment forty-two years earlier. When marriage equality finally arrived in Minnesota in 2013, it was natural to ask whether Baker and McConnell would formally tie the knot. Maybe even as the honorary first same-sex couple to marry. No need for that, they answered. As far as they were concerned, they had been legally married since 1971. They are still living together as a married couple in the suburbs of south Minneapolis, quietly and well out of the spotlight.

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