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Posts for October, 2014

The Daily Agenda for Thursday, October 2

Jim Burroway

October 2nd, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Asheville, NC; Centreville (Bull Run), VA; Dallas, TX (Black Pride); Ft. Worth, TX; Jacksonville, FL; Little Rock, AR; Miami Beach, FL (Hispanic Pride).

Other Events This Weekend: Gay Days Disneyland, Anaheim, CA; Out on Film, Atlanta, GA; MIX Copenhagen Film Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark; AIDS Walk, Dallas, TX; Key West Bear Fest, Key West, FL; Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Tampa, FL.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Northwest Gay Review, September 6, 1974, page 13.

From the Northwest Gay Review, September 6, 1974, page 13.

Interior of the Pepper Hill Club, two weeks after the raid (Source).

Interior of the Pepper Hill Club, two weeks after the raid (Source).

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Baltimore Police Arrest 162 in Bar Raid: 1955. Quick — name the first gay bar raid that backfired and forced the local police department to abandon such tactics. I suspect most people would probably name the 1969 raid at the Stonewall Inn, but I’m sure you already know that’s the wrong answer. I can’t say that I can pinpoint the very first raid to leave a lasting positive effect, but the 1955 raid at 200 N. Gay Street  in Baltimore — an appropriate address if there ever was one — is probably a very good candidate.

That was the address of the Pepper Hill Club, a gay club on the fringe of what was called “The Block” in East Baltimore, an area that hosted a number of strip clubs and rough bars. Because of its reputation and its proximity to a nearby police station, the Pepper Hill Club quickly became a target for the city’s vice squad. At 11:00 p.m., Lt.Byrne and officer Edgar Kirby stopped in to check on the club, looked around, then left. Less than an hour later, police descended on the club and arrested all 162 patrons, employees and owners for “lewd behavior,” which consisted of male couples hugging, dancing and kissing. “We were met by a human wall,” Sgt. Hyman Goldstein later testified. “We found complete disorder, and in the rear of the place there was no light at all. Back there we found several couples.” He also testified that most of those arrested were from Washington. “We have received word that Washington police are conducting a drive on homosexuals; apparently some of them are coming to Baltimore for their entertainment.”

It took 24 trips in the paddy wagons to get all 162 patrons, employees and owners to the police station. The newspapers reported that the raid was “the largest night club raid ever conducted in Baltimore.” It was also against police policy. Just a few weeks earlier, police had conducted a mass raid at a straight nightclub, and public outrage over that night’s indiscriminate arrests led police commissioner James Hepbron to ban such mass raids. That outrage only grew this time when the courts acquitted nearly everyone in the Pepper Hill case — only four were convicted of disorderly conduct, and one woman was convicted of assaulting an officer when they tried to load her into the van. One man was fined $10 when he insisted on testifying even though his disorderly conduct charge was about to be dismissed. Charges were also dismissed against the club’s owners, Morton Cohen and Vincent Lance, who stood accused of operating a “disorderly house.”

Circuit Judge James K. Cullen sharply reprimanded the police department for the latest mass violations department policy. Commissioner Hepbron agreed with the judge and promised that it wouldn’t happen again, saying that the department’s policy against wholesale arrests would be “reiterated, re-emphasized and, if necessary, re-enforced.” He also disbanded the vice squad and reassigned its personnel to the rackets division. Those actions weren’t enough to satisfy Baltimoreans or state legislators. The following year, the Maryland legislature passed what became known as the “Pepper Hill Law” which formally outlawed mass arrests during bar raids.

Front cover of the Oct 2, 2010 edition of Rolling Stone. (Click to enlarge.)

Ugandan Tabloid Outs LGBT People Under the Headline, “Hang Them!”: 2010. Seemingly out of nowhere, an obscure Ugandan tabloid, Rolling Stone (no relation to the U.S. publication with the same name) published what they said would be the first part of a four part series exposing one hundred LGBT citizens in Uganda. The first installment included the call to “hang them” on the front cover and over the article itself, and featured the faces, addresses and employers of a number of LGBT Ugandans, including LGBT rights activist David Kato and retired Anglican bishop Christopher Senyonjo on the front cover.

This latest development occurred just as it seemed that the tempest over Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill (also known as the “Kill the Gays” bill, thanks to its death penalty provision) was starting to quieten down. In the face of international outcry, the Ugandan government had been trying to figure out a way out of the mess, and by late 2010, it seemed that the bill had been safely sidelined in a Parliamentary committee until the Rolling Stone cover story threatened the uneasy peace. Uganda’s Media Council moved swiftly to order Rolling Stone to shut down after discovering that the tabloid had not properly registered with the authorities.

November 1, 2010 edition of the Ugandan tabloid "Rolling Stone"

November 1, 2010 edition of the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone. (Click to enlarge.)

The tabloid complied, but resumed publishing again on November 1 with a second installment of its outing series. This time, the publication was much more sinister, with reporters apparently obtaining photos and other information from profiles of LGBT Ugandans posted on dating web sites. With each publication, more evidence emerged that the tabloid, which carried virtually no advertising, was receiving support from anti-gay sources. Strong circumstantial evidence suggests that anti-gay pastor Martin Ssempa was a driving force behind Rolling Stone’s activities. Sexual Minorities Uganda quickly obtained a temporary court order barring Rolling Stone from outing individual private persons in Uganda. Two months later, the court made that injunction permanent, and awarded each of the plaintiffs 1,500,000 Uganda Shillings (US$650) for damages, plus court costs.

But by then the damage was done. David Kato, the attorney and LGBT-rights activist whose image appeared on the front cover of that first Rolling Stone “Hang Them” issue and who led the court case against Rolling Stone, was found bludgeoned to death in his home in Kampala.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
65 YEARS AGO: Annie Leibovitz: 1949. “My mother and father took photographs and made eight-millimeter home movies when I was growing up, but I didn’t start taking pictures myself until the late Sixties when I was studying at the San Francisco Art Institute,” she explained in her 2006 monograph, A Photographer’s Life: 1990-2005. She further developed her photography skills while on a kibbutz in Israel in 1969, When she returned to the U.S. in 1970, she became staff photographer for Rolling Stone, quickly rising to chief photographer from 1973 to 1983. While she is known as a portraiture artist, she took her favorite photos while doing reportage, particularly when she was concert-tour photographer for the Rolling Stones in 1975.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono, 1980.

While she liked that work, her personal style of reportage was distinct from photo-journalism. “I’m not a journalist,” she wrote. “A journalist doesn’t take sides, and I don’t want to go through life like that.” Her point of view took her all over the world, including the Sarajevo siege in 1993 and the world’s capitals to photograph kings, queens and celebrities. It’s hard to pick one photo as a perfect example of her intimate style — the touching photos that she took of her lover Susan Sontag on her death bed are particularly poignant — but the most iconic photo perhaps is the 1980 portrait of John Lennon and Yoko Ono that appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone. It turned out that Leibovitz would be the last person to professionally photograph John Lennon on that fateful December day: Lennon was murdered five hours later outside his apartment building in New York City.

In 2001, Leibovitz became a mother for the first time at the age of 52, but the years following would prove to be difficult for her. She spent most of 2004 taking care of Sontag, who was dying of myelodysplastic syndrome which evolved into leukemia. Sontag died the following December. Leibovitz’s father died six weeks later. Editing the photos for A Photographer’s Life: 1990-2005 was an important part of her grieving process. “I would go into (her workshop) every morning… and cry for ten minutes or so and then start working, editing the pictures. I cried for a month. I didn’t realize until later how far the work on the book had taken me through the grieving process.”

Her grieving wasn’t over: her mother died in 2008, and in 2009 Leibovitz fell into serious financial difficulties. She borrowed $15.5 million, using the rights to all of her photographs as collateral. The New York Times< tried to figure out how an artist of such renown could be in such financial trouble. It cited several personal issues, including the recent loss of her father, mother, and Sontag, who died in 2004, and a costly renovation of her townhouses in Greenwich Village. Eventually she was able to negotiate her way through her financial problems and retain control of her work.

In 2011, she published her latest book Pilgrimage, which probably represents her most personal work to date, even though there are no people in the book. She began photographing the pictures for it while dealing with her financial struggles in 2009. She decided to go to places where she had no agenda, no assignment, no requirements from clients. Instead, she chose locations and subjects that meant something to her: Emily Dickinson’s house, Niagara Falls, Sigmund Freud’s couch. “I have a bit of a feeling that I’ve had it with people,” she told The New York Times. “But you don’t ever get away from people, really. And these are pictures of people to me. It’s all we have left to represent them. I’m dealing with things that are going away, disappearing, crumbling. How do we hold on to stuff?”

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, October 1

Jim Burroway

October 1st, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Asheville, NC; Centreville (Bull Run), VA; Dallas, TX (Black Pride); Ft. Worth, TX; Jacksonville, FL; Little Rock, AR; Miami Beach, FL (Hispanic Pride).

Other Events This Weekend: Gay Days Disneyland, Anaheim, CA; Out on Film, Atlanta, GA; MIX Copenhagen Film Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark; AIDS Walk, Dallas, TX; Key West Bear Fest, Key West, FL; Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Tampa, FL.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Wilde Side, September 1, 1976, page 10.

From Wilde Side, September 1, 1976, page 10.

Roland’s was Maine’s first openly gay bar when it opened its doors in 1967. It had a very rough beginning:

“It was unbelievable what we had to do to keep the door open,” owner Roland Labbe recalled…  In many ways, Roland’s wasn’t very different from a lot of neighborhood watering holes, except it quickly became a common occurrence to have a brick come crashing through the bar’s front window. “It was Saturday night entertainment for the straight crowd,” Labbe said.

After repeatedly replacing the panes, only to have them smashed again the following week, he switched to Plexiglas. The bricks bounced off, leaving scrapes and scars that soon rendered the new windows dirty-looking and barely translucent. “We had gangs coming in to beat up the faggots,” Labbe said. “The one thing I can say about that is we never, ever, backed down from a fight.”

From its opening weekend, Roland’s drew large crowds. While some customers walked in openly, many waited across the street until they thought no one was watching before making the dash to the door. Inside, they found a long bar, walls covered with broken mirrors (souvenirs of fights with gay bashers), a jukebox, pool tables, pinball, shuffleboard and a dance floor with a prominent red light above it. The light was not for atmosphere. It was turned on whenever a stranger entered in order to warn couples to halt any unlicensed shaking of booties. “When the light flashed on,” said Randy Scott, a longtime employee, “everybody ran for the corners like cockroaches.”

Over time, Roland’s became something of a community center for Portland’s gay community, hosting various fundraisers and political discussions. The bar finally went out of business in 1981 after being destroyed in an arson fire. Ironically, the fire wasn’t set by a gay basher, but by a disgruntled drunken customer who had been refused service.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
25 YEARS AGO: Denmark Grants World’s First Registering Partnerships: 1989. Axel Lundahl-Madsen and Eigil Eskildsen made world history when they became the first same-sex couple to have their relationship legally recognized after forty years together. The had been living under a shared surname, Axgil, (an amalgamation of their given names) for 32 years, but in 1989, when they became the first of eleven couples to enter into what was legally called a Registreret Partnerskab (Registered Partnership), their surname became fully legal.

Denmark’s Registered Partnership fell short of full marriage equality, but just barely. When the new law went into effect, registrars who didn’t have the new forms simply re-used the already existing marriage forms. A civil ceremony was still required, with at least two witnesses and promises for better or worse, for sickness and poorer, and so forth. After all that was done, couples were officially “registreret” (registered), although in everyday language everyone just simply said they were “gift” (married).

But there were a few important differences that kept Registered Partnerships from being fully equal to marriage. It didn’t cover adoption rights, artificial insemination availability, or religious wedding ceremonies in state-run Lutheran Churches. Those were still unavailable to same-sex couples. Several bills which would provide full marriage equality have been debated in the Folketing over the ensuing years. The ruling coalition rejected a marriage equality bill in June 2010, but the Folketing decided to extend adoption rights to Registered Partnerships a month later. Finally, in July of 2012, the Folketing approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage by a vote of 85-24. The law took effect on July 15. Axil and Eigil didn’t live to see full marriage equality in Denmark; Eigel passed away in 1995 and Axel joined him in 2011.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
George Cecil Ives: 1867-1950. The Sacred Band of Thebes, the army of ancient Thebans instituted in 387 B.C., was an elite force of 150 pairs of male lovers. The theory went that soldiers would fight harder and better if they were defending a lover. The Sacred Band met its end fifty years later when the rest of the Theban army fled the forces of Philip II of Macedonia at the battle of Chaeronea. The Sacred Band, instead of fleeing, fought to its death. And so when, in 1897, the German-English poet, writer, and early gay-rights campaigner decided to found a secret society for gay men, he named it the Order of Chaeronea in honor of the brave Sacred Band.

George Ives was already well connected with England’s gay scene, having probably had a brief fling with Oscar Wilde followed, later, with a brief affair with Lord Alfred Douglas. Wilde’s sensational run-in with the law, which dominated the papers of London in 1895, undoubtedly had an affect on Ives. After Wilde was released from prison, Wilde wrote Ives that he believed that a more humanitarian climate may slowly emerge. “I have no doubt we shall win, but the road is long, and red with monstrous martyrdoms,” Wilde wrote. “Nothing but the repeal of the Criminal Law Amendment Act would do any good.” Ives was ready to take on the work of changing society and laying the grounds for repeal, but he couldn’t convince Wilde to join him in what he called the “Cause.” Wilde, his health broken from two years at hard labor, had already given his measure of martyrdom. We don’t know how many other people Ives managed to enlist into the “Cause,” but we do know that some of the members included the Uranian poets Charles Kains Jackson and John Gambril Nicholson, the Rev. Samuel Elsworth Cottam (an Anglican priest who published a gay magazine called Chameleon), and the eccentric self-styled Catholic priest (he was apparently never ordained or part of an order) and occult expert Montague Summers.

Ives’s Order was influenced greatly by the Aesthetic movement — of which Wilde was but one very visible proponent — which mixed philosophy, idealism and art as part of what Wilde’s biographer, Neil McKenna, described as “a new gospel of Beauty.” Members of the Order of Chaeronea observed an elaborate system of rituals, ceremonies, seals, codes, passwords, and a calendar dating from the year of the Battle of Cheronea (1897 was written as C2235). New members swore that “you will never vex or persecute lovers,” and that “all real love shall be to you as sanctuary.”

In 1914, Ives co-founded the British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology with Edward Carpenter (see Aug 29) and Magnus Hirschfeld (see May 14), to promote the scientific study of sex and with it a more rational attitude toward sexual matters. Ives was very interested in the penal reform movement, and wrote several articles and lectures on the subject. When he died in 1950, he left behind a large archive covering his lfie and work, including 122 volumes of diaries 45 volumes of scrapbooks, the latter consisting of clippings on such topics as sensational crimes, penal methods, cross-dressing, homosexuality and cricket scores. His diaries have been a treasure trove of information for historians examining the early gay rights movement in England. His papers were purchased in 1977 by the Harry Ransom Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

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 September 30

Jim Burroway

September 30th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Arizona Gay News (Tucson, AZ), September 15, 1978, page 8.

From Arizona Gay News (Tucson, AZ), September 15, 1978, page 8.

The popular Phoenix bar opened in 1971 as Mi Casa Es Su Casa, and then later as Casa de Roma, but it quickly became known simply as The Casa. It has been described as a small, plush bar with a small stage that hosted quite a number of renowned plays, musicals, and drag shows, often emceed by their comic drag headliner Cissy Goldberg (Keith Morris), who was famous for singing “The Man That Got Away” while supposedly drunk and pregnant. I’m not sure, but it looks like the location may be the parking lot for the Salvation Army.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
90 YEARS AGO: Truman Capote: 1924-1984. He taught himself to read and write before he entered his first year at school. When he was about ten years old, he submitted his first short story, “Old Mrs. Busybody,” to the Mobile Press Register for a children’s writing contest. Capote later remembered, “I began writing really sort of seriously when I was about 11. I say seriously in the sense that like other kids go home and practice the violin or the piano or whatever, I used to go home from school every day, and I would write for about three hours. I was obsessed by it.” He remained the lifelong friend of author Harper Lee, who was a neighbor in Monroeville, Alabama. “Her father was a lawyer,” he remembered, “and she and I used to go to trials all the time as children. We went to the trials instead of going to the movies.” Those trials not only influenced Lee’s book, To Kill a Mockingbird, but also helped lead to Capote’s greatest literary triumph, In Cold Blood.

Truman Capote in 1948, contemplating some outrage against conventional morality, no doubt.

His first novel however, was autobiographical; 1948′s Other Voices, Other Rooms told the story of a thirteen-year-old boy living in rural Alabama who was dealing with his emerging homosexuality. He described it as “an attempt to exorcise demons, an unconscious, altogether intuitive attempt, for I was not aware, except for a few incidents and descriptions, of its being in any serious degree autobiographical. Rereading it now, I find such self-deception unpardonable.” Other Voices, Other Rooms remained on The New York Times bestseller list for nine weeks. Everything about the novel was scandalous, including the Harold Halma photo of him on back of the dust jacket, which was considered rather homoerotic for 1948. The Los Angeles Times complained that he looked “as if he were dreamily contemplating some outrage against conventional morality,”  and he probably was. He relished the controversy.

He remained busy for the next decade, adapting novels for Broadway and churning out articles for The New Yorker. Then he struck gold again in 1958 with his collection, Breakfast at Tiffany’s: A Short Novel and Three Stories. The title tale introduced the character of Holly Golightly, who became one of Truman’s most beloved characters. But the real turning point came with his 1966 “nonfiction novel,” In Cold Blood. It took him four years to write the book about the murder of a wealthy farmer, his wife and two children in Holcomb, Kansas. The acclaimed book brought a new style of storytelling to true events, and it launched Capote to full-on celebrity status. That same year, he threw the Black and White Ball in New York, which has gone down as one of the most legendary parties of the twentieth century. While he was famous for being a literary genius, he was also, increasingly, famous for being famous and for being among the famous. He was a regular fixture at Studio 54 and on the talk show circuit.

He loved the limelight, although it did take its toll. In the 1970s, he sank into drug and alcohol abuse, which got in the way of working on his epic novel, Answered Prayers. He bragged about it often, but years went by without any sign of the work. He finally adapted portions of it for a series of short stories in Esquire. The second of those stories, “La Côte Basque 1965,” would make him persona non grata among the Jet Set, with its salacious details of the personal lives of William S. Paley and Babe Paley, who had been among his close society friends. It was seen as a betrayal of confidences among Capote’s friends, and two more short stories resulted in Capote’s being cut off from the high society he craved. He died in 1984 of liver cancer at the home of Joane Carson, the ex-wife of TV host Johnny Carson. His royalties continued to support his partner Jack Dunphy until his death, and then went toward establishing a literary prize in honor of Newton Arvin, a former boyfriend, author and professor whose life was ruined when he was fired from Smith College for being gay.

The Velvet Voice

Johnny Mathis: 1935. Chances are the last time you heard one of his songs was on television or in film, where his music is capable of setting just the right mood or sense of nostalgia. While he is frequently described as a romantic singer, his first love was jazz. It was during a performance at The Blackhawk club in San Francisco that he caught the attention of Columbia Records’ jazz producer George Avakian, who sent a telegram to the head office, “Have found phenomenal 19-year-old boy who could go all the way. Send blank contracts.” While Mathis enjoyed singing, the opportunity posed something of a dilemma for the San Francisco State College student: the track and field star was about to try out for the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. He had to decide: the Olympics or a recording session. It was one or the other; it couldn’t be both. After consulting with his father, Mathis chose the recording career.

His first album Johnny Mathis: A New Sound In Popular Song, was a jazz album. It didn’t sell well. His second album, produced by Mitch Miller, focused on soft, romantic ballads backed by the Ray Conniff Orchestra. That would prove to be the signature Mathis sound. In Late 1956, he recorded his two most popular songs, “Wonderful! Wonderful!” and “It’s Not For Me To Say,” followed soon by “Chances Are,” which hit Number 1 on the Billboard chart. By the end of the 1950s, hit singles were no longer his forte; his strength was as an album artist. Heavenly, released in1959, hit #1 in the Billboard album chart and went multi-platinum. A year earlier, he released Johnny’s Greatest Hits, the first ever Greatest Hits album in music history, spent 491 consecutive weeks on the Billboard top 100 album charts, earning him a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.. At one point, he had five albums on the Billboard charts simultaneously. His last #1 single was 1978′s “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late,” a duet he recorded with Denice Williams.

Mathis, who never married, managed to keep his personal life out of the public eye. Maybe the fact that he had been an Olympic-caliber athlete helped to keep some of the rumors at bay. Nevertheless, the rumors were out there, which he acknowledged in a 1982 interview with Us Magazine, where he was quoted as saying “Homosexuality is a way of life that I’ve grown accustomed to.” But when he started receiving death threats because of that interview, he prevailed on Us Magazine to retract the statement. In 2006, Mathis again acknowledged his sexuality, saying that his reticence on the topic was “generational.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cd3pDM2f6Y8

Ari Shapiro

Ari Shapiro: 1978. The Fargo, North Dakota native grew up in Portland, Oregon and graduated from Yale in 2000. He began his career in radio journalism at NPR as Nena Totenberg’s intern before moving on as editorial assistant for Morning Edition. He worked as regional reporter in Atlanta and Miami, then he became NPR’s Justice Correspondent, then White House correspondent in 2010. Just this year, he became the network’s London correspondent.

His golden voice wasn’t just made for radio. He’s also recorded several songs with Pink Martini, including the song “But Now I’m Back for their fourth album, Splendor in the Grass, and sings in Hebrew and Ladino (a Judeo-Spanish language spoken by Sephardic Jews) for the group’s holiday album, Joy to the World. He also performed live with Pink Martini at the Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall, Kew Gardens and the Olympia in Paris. Shapiro has been married to Michael Gottlieb, a White House lawyer, since 2004.

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

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

The Daily Agenda for Monday, September 29

Jim Burroway

September 29th, 2014

Supreme CourtTODAY’S AGENDA:
Marriage Equality Seeks Its Day in Court: Washington, D.C. Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act in June of 2013, we’ve seen upwards of 93 lawsuits filed in every state of the Union outside of the nineteen (plus the District of Columbia) which already provides marriage equality for same-sex couples. Those lawsuits are in various states of progress through the legal system, with seven case now pending at the U.S. Supreme Court: three from Virginia, and one each from Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah and Wisconsin. Today, the Supreme Court will meet in private conference, and one of the things they may decide today is whether to hear any of those appeals that are now before them.

The Supreme Court typically prefers to get involved whenever there are conflicting decisions at the Appeals Court level, and so far that hasn’t really happened. None of the Appeals Court decisions have upheld state bans on same-sex marriage. So far, they’ve only differed on why they struck down the bans. The Tenth Circuit made its decision in the Utah and Oklahoma cases on the basis of due process. The Seventh Circuit struck down bans in Indiana and Wisconsin on equal protection grounds. So far, the only Federal Court that upheld a state ban was in Louisiana, which is in the Fifth Circuit along with Texas, where a Federal judge struck down that state’s ban. Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSBlog speculates that “given the overall makeup of the Fifth Circuit, it is widely assumed that a state’s ban on same-sex marriage will have a strong chance of being upheld in that circuit.”

But those cases aren’t before the Supreme Court yet. And what SCOTUS will do today is anybody’s guess. They may pick one of more cases, order briefs and schedule oral arguments, or they may hold the cases until a later date — possibly even holding them over until the next term in 2015. Which means that we could have a decision by spring, or we can still be looking for action a year from now.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), September 1973, page 20.

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), September 1973, page 20.

The Shack was apparently aptly named, having been described as “a somewhat rundown building with a low profile, tucked away on the west side of Highway 32, between Kenosha and the Illinois state line.” It apparently was proverbial hole-in-the-wall: it was said that you could look into the rest rooms from some of those holes from the outside. But the bar was very popular from miles around. Its popularity was helped by the fact that the nondescript building a bit out of town was easy to go to without people noticing who’s parked there. The bar lasted from about 1972 until 1986, when the owners finally closed it down and opened another gay bar and dance club right off of I-94. The original location has been fixed up and turned into a pub.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
New York TV Station Airs “Homosexuality, A Psychological Approach”: 1956. The pioneering WRCA-TV (now WNBC) aired an award-winning weekly panel discussion program called “The Open Mind,” hosted by Richard Heffner. It is among the longest running programs still on the air today, now for American Public Television, and with Heffner continuing to host it right up until his death in 2013.In August, Heffner hosted the first televised discussion on the East Coast on homosexuality (see Aug 4). Despite the obvious prejudices, the program was relatively evenhanded and balanced — as balanced as a program like this could be where people were talking about another group of people who weren’t in the room. Heffner opened this program with a re-cap of the previous program, and the response that it generated

Our panel tried to distinguish between that homosexual activity which harms society and that which does not. And the point was made that our legal attitude towards homosexuality often does not reflect medical opinion, for the law frequently considers it a crime, a crime to be punished rather than a problem to be treated. Now, of course, we touched on many other aspects of homosexuality as well. And from your response to our program it was obvious that a good many of you felt precisely as we did; that we have here a problem that affects us all; affects us as parents and as good citizens concerned with our nation’s mental health. And that his problem should and can be discussed openly and freely. Many of your letter contained questions concerning the cause of homosexuality, its origins, particularly in childhood, its treatment, and the preventative measures that can be taken by the parent.

What’s most fascinating about this program is how closely the discussion mimics the messaging coming out of the ex-gay movement today, nearly than sixty years later. It is as though the ex-gay movement is frozen in time to an earlier era, free from the nettlesome knowledge that the mental health professions have picked up in the intervening six decades.

And what did the mental health professions believe before the subsequent six decodes of research? To answer that, this program’s panel consisted of Dr. Philip Polatin of the New York Psychiatric Institute, and Dr. Harry Bakwin, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics, who had written extensively about psychological issues in children, including, if not altogether accurately, homosexuality (“The condition occurs in white children of all nationalities but is rare in the Negro,” he would write a year later.) In response to the question of how homosexuals became homosexuals. Bakwin opened which what he called the “constitutional cause”:

There is a small but quite definite group of children in whom I think this is an inborn deviation. These children, from the earliest childhood, boys particularly, dress up on the clothes of the opposite sex. They posture like members of the opposite sex. They experiment with cosmetics. You know, we see these as children, but we don’t know what becomes of them as adults. These are termed by the psychiatrist “transvestites”. And the psychiatrist doesn’t consider the transvestite and the homosexual as necessarily the same.

Apparently knowing that Polatin didn’t care much for the idea of inborn homosexuality, Bakwin threw the question over to Polatin, who acknowledged that “we have an entirely different view”:

We don’t in any way ignore the possible factor of the constitutional element, but we, working with homosexuals or other sexual deviates, find that the early parent-child relationship bears a greater relationship to the development to this condition than other factors. For example, we find that one of the most common expressions of difficulty is the aggressive, dominant, controlling mother and a very passive, meek, compliant father. So that the boy, in the development of his psychological life, identifies with a parent of the opposite sex rather than with a parent of the same sex. Because we know that in the course of psychological growth there is the normal period of what we call “the latency period” or “the homosexual period” between the ages of about six and 12, in which little boys play with each other. They play the Hardy Boys game. They have games in groups. And little girls play together themselves. And they indulge in feminine activities, playing with dolls and with cooking utensils and they want to help mother. In other words, gradually they are beginning to identify themselves with the parent of the same sex, so that at the age of puberty when there is a tremendous psychological and physiological upheaval, they now become men if they are boys, and they now become women if they are girls, and then they can go out like father did or like mother did into the world and seek for themselves a mate on a heterosexual level. The homosexual has somehow or other become fixed or limited in his development at the immature level of psychological growth.

Heffner turned the question back to “constitutional” homosexuality (“and by that you mean congenital,” Heffner clarified). Polatin agreed that it may be possible but considered it rare. Bakwin placed a bit more emphasis on genetic possibilities, but even he preferred to emphasize “other factors,” which he likened to the “soil” in which a child’s sexuality takes root:

BAKWIN: I would emphasize other factors. I think the soil is different. Of course the parental reaction to different children is different. Parents are different toward their children just as they’re different toward their friends. And I don’t think that’s generally appreciated. A certain objectivity. And so it isn’t the same parent for each child. However, I think also the soil is different. And I think there is a difference in susceptibility of different individuals toward this deviation. Now, I think given this soil, given an unhappy home, given a child who is exposed to an aggressive adult, that under those circumstances if the adult is of the same sex, this child may fall prey to this particular deviation. This was brought out in a very interesting study by Greco and Wright some years ago. They studied a group of homosexual boys and also studied a group of control children. And they found that in these homosexual boys that had commonly been exposed to an experience during a period when they were unhappy, to a sex experience with an individual of the same sex in whom they had faith, in whom they had confidence. And I think it’s sort of a non-specific unhappiness, plus the chance meeting with some aggressive adult of the same sex, that plays a major role.

POLATIN: Yes.

BAKWIN: And the difference in the soil, and there’s a difference in susceptibility.

POLATIN: Yes. Well, that’s just it. I want to emphasize that. I think what Dr. Bakwin says is correct, that many homosexuals have been seduced, so to speak, in the pre-adolescent phase. But often when we study these people the soil has been right. Because we know many perfectly healthy, well-integrated, mature people who have been seduced in the pre-adolescent phase and who somehow or other have come through it unscathed and unscarred and function perfectly well. So that he soil is different in these people who are exposed to older homosexual fantasy.

HEFFNER: Well, are you putting your emphasis, Dr. Bakwin, on some traumatic experience, some single experience?

BAKWIN: Usually not a single experience. Usually repeated experiences, according to the studies and the literature.

HEFFNER: And something outside of the individual rather than inside?

BAKWIN: No, I would say first a fertile soil. Second, unhappy surroundings. And third, the chance meeting with an aggressive adult.

The topic soon turned to prevention. Bakwin’s advice was fairly general: just make sure the child has “a happy home.” Also:

I think if a child shows homosexual tendencies that he should go, if he’s a boy, say, to a coeducational school. I don’t think he should be sent to a school simply for boys. I think he’s much better off when exposed to members of the opposite sex. I don’t know what else one can do.

Polatin, on the other hand, was full of suggestions:

The father cannot shirk his responsibilities. He should take the boy with him fishing, tennis, all the activities which a man indulges in. The Boy Scouts, the minister, the priest, the rabbi play a role in this process of identification with the male, with a man. And a girl, too. The mother must take an active role with this little girl because she has to be a woman. And to permit the little child to be with her when she is cooking or baking or cleaning and have the little child participate. I’ve heard so many children who say, “I was never permitted to do any housework. My mother treated me like a queen. I wasn’t permitted to engage in any of these activities, and I miss it”. So that these are important.

For a fascinating look at how 1950s television handled the topic, you can see the entire half-hour program and transcript in the Open Mind’s archives here.

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The Daily Agenda for Sunday, September 28

Jim Burroway

September 28th, 2014

RobGeorgeTODAY’S AGENDA:
In Case You Missed It: Rob Tisinai and George Clooney got married yesterday. (You can see our favorite happy couple here.)

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Belgrade, SerbiaFt. Collins, CO;  Sedona/Cottonwood, AZ;  Sunderland, UK; Willemstad, Curaçao.

Other Events This Weekend: AIDS Walk, Chicago, IL,  Everybody’s Perfect 3 LGBTIQ Film Festival, Geneva, Switzerland.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From David, a Jacksonville, Florida-based photography and lifestyle magazine, May 1972, page 51.

From David, a Jacksonville, Florida-based photography and lifestyle magazine, May 1972, page 51.

I can’t find any information about Pete’s, except that, like all the bars in the French Quarter, Pete’s was very welcoming to out-of-towners. If you go to 800 Bourbon Street today, you will still find the gays dancing and the D.J.s spinning, except it’s now called Oz. I’m sure they are just as welcoming to out-of-towners as Pete’s, although I doubt that this ad will still get you a complimentary drink.

Tuscarora, Nevada.

Tuscarora, Nevada.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
A Same-Sex Marriage in Nevada: 1877. The LGBT acronym that we often toss about reflects the fact that we today understand ourselves as though we were measured along two distinct axis. The first axis (the L/G/B one) speaks of the gender of those to whom we are attracted; this defines us as gay, straight, or somewhere in between. The second axis (often lamented as the silent “T” by transgender advocates), describes how we see ourselves: we are generally male or female. For most of us (cisgenders) we experience our gender in congruence with our bodily appearance; for some of us (transgenders), we doesn’t. Taken together, these two sets of descriptions — of one’s sexual orientation and gender identity as separate categories — have been adequate for most of us to describe who we are as sexual beings.

But notice what those descriptions do: they also describe states of being rather than things we’re doing. And this is a very modern way of thinking. Until very recently, one was much more defined — and one’s available life choices were much more restricted — according to one’s gender role, which defined who one is according to what one does and vice versa. And until fairly recently, it was madness to consider that the two could be seperable. And so gender roles went like this: the male gender role meant that men were born male, wore men’s clothing and cut their hair, they left the home every day to make a living, and they loved and/or married women. The female gender role meant that women were female, kept the house, did the cooking, raised the children, wore dresses and petticoats, and they loved and/or married men.

Because there was no option to separate out one’s sexual orientation or gender identity, from one’s gender role, it gets very complicated when we try to assign historical figures into today’s modern categories. There are countless stories of women who, in order to pursue career paths that would violate their gender role (and this would include just about everything besides teaching, nursing and domestic work), adopt the male identity simply because they couldn’t do what they wanted to do as women (see Jul 25 for one possible example). We have far fewer examples of men taking the female gender role for similar reasons, but that is probably because there were far fewer career restrictions for men. But we also find examples of both men and women adopting the opposite gender role when entering what would otherwise be a same-sex relationship. Not everyone did this, but when they did, their examples are much trickier to understand: are we seeing a straight relationship with a transgender person, or are we seeing a gay or lesbian relationship where one adopts an opposite gender role in order to facilitate the relationship?

Today’s story illustrates that very question. On September 28, 1877, Sarah Maud Pollard, as Samuel M. Pollard, married Marancy Hughes in Tuscarora, Elko County, Nevada Territory. My friend Homer Thiel, a Tucson archaeologist and historian, wrote about that marriage in a guest post in 2011:

Sarah Pollard was born in 1846 in New York, the daughter of a middle class merchant family. After working in a shoe factory in Massachusetts and sewing shirts in New York, she headed west to Colorado in the 1870s. She caused a stir because of her masculine appearance. Around 1876 she moved to Nevada and took up wearing male clothing in order to find work and she started calling herself “Sam.” She met young Marancy Hughes, born in 1861 in Missouri, and actively courted her. Hughes’ family hated Pollard and the couple eloped on September 28, 1877.

New Orleans Times-Picayune article about the Pollard marriage, June 23, 1878. (Click to enlarge.)

They were happily married for six months, and then Marancy broke the secret. The small silver-mining town of Tuscarora, Nevada was transfixed by the story. The matter ended up in court and after Marancy testified, a dramatic re-union took place. Stories about the troubled marriage were carried in newspapers across the country (even appearing in a New Zealand paper). The couple broke up two more times, before Marancy moved on to a marriage with a man in 1880.

Pollard’s story appears to have had a happy ending:

Sarah moved to Minnesota to start a new life by 1883, working by herself on a farm. The story of her successful farming career again made national newspapers, which noted she wore a bloomers-type outfit while plowing. By the 1890s she had met a woman named Helen Stoddard, a schoolteacher who was born in 1864 in Vermont. In later census records Helen was listed as her partner or companion. Sarah died in 1929, and Helen paid for her arrangements at a local funeral home, the owners puzzling over the relationship of the two women.

If all we knew about Pollard was restricted to the events in Nevada, we would be left with an open question: Was she lesbian or was he transgender? But as the second half of the story reveals, the question itself was mistaken. What she did in Nevada was adopt a male gender role which allowed her to do male things: make a living and marry a woman. But a decade later, the evidence strongly suggests that she decided to forget about gender roles and just live — she farmed (a man’s job), wore bloomers while plowing (a woman’s garment; pants would have been much more practical), presented herself with a female name, and became a partner to a female schoolteacher — with Helen apparently maintaining a more traditionally female gender role but with Sarah’s gender role being flexible. No wonder the funeral home’s owners were puzzled by the relationship.

Three Tulane Students “Role A Queer”: 1958. It was in the wee hours of Saturday morning when three bored Tulane University Students decided to go to the French Quarter to “roll a queer,” the popular term in those days for picking out a fag, beating him up, and taking his money. They went to Cafe Lafitte In Exile (a popular gay bar which today bills itself as the oldest continuously operating gay bar in the country), where they met Fernando Rios, a twenty-six year old tour guide from Mexico City. John S. Farrell, 20 and the group’s ringleader, met up with Rios in an alley, while the other two students, David Drennan, 19, and Alberto Calvo, 20, hid at the alley’s entrance to prevent an escape. Farrell later claimed that Rios “made an indecent proposal,” although other witnesses said Rios refused Farrell’s advances and tried to hail a cab. Either way, Farrell, hit Rios, took his wallet, and left Rios in the gutter. Rios died without regaining consciousness. Doctors testified that both his eyes were blackened, there were severe bruises and fractures on his skull, nose and mouth, and he had received a bruising blow to his liver.

Meanwhile, the three students went to Calvo’s room and proceeded to brag to Calvo’s roommate, George Meyer. The four then burned the contents of Rios’s wallet, except for the $40 dollars they found. (That would be about $325 today.)

The next day, reports of Rios’s death was in the papers and on the radio, and thanks to the trio’s bragging, word of their adventures spread around campus. They decided that they had no choice but to turn themselves into police, but they did so with two caveats: they would claim that Rios propositioned them, and they would claim that they didn’t plan to rob him. The second point was key because Louisiana law defined murder as either the intentional killing of a person, or the unintentional killing of someone while robbing them. So their story went like this: Rios came on to Farrell, and so Farrell decked him. No robbery, no murder. As for how they ended up with Rio’s $40, they had a story for that. As an afterthought, Ferrell went back later and got the wallet. So now the robbery took place in a separate incident after Rios was assaulted, not during it. Their lawyer even told the jury that when Farrell found out Rios had died, he was so contrite that he had left the stolen money in a church’s poor box. “The three boys are guilty of nothing worse than bad conduct,” the lawyer said.

The combination of a 1958 version of the gay panic defense, combined with full-blown animosity toward Rio’s perceived sexuality (there was no evidence presented during the trial to suggest that Rios was actually gay) and nationality (the Mexican government, controversially, retained an attorney to witness the proceedings) had its desired effect on the jury. The twelve white men found all three defendants not guilty. When ONE magazine reported the lamentable details to its readers, it asked,

How many more times must the innocent die and the guilty go free before the unsubstantiated claim of an “indecent proposal” ceases to be on alibi for robbery and murder?

[Source: "Dal McIntire" (pseudonym). "Tangents: News and Reviews." ONE 7, no. 3 (March 1959): 13-15.]

US Civil Service Refuses To Meet With Washington Mattachine Society: 1962. Frank Kameny and Jack Nichols founded the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., in 1961, soon after Kameny’s appeal of his 1957 firing by the U.S. Army’s Map Service was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. The federal government’s ban on employment of gays and lesbians was firmly in place, but Kameny didn’t let a small thing like the Supreme Court stop him from demanding the lifting of the ban. In 1962, the MSW requested a meeting with the U.S. Civil Service Commission to discuss the federal employment ban, but in a letter dated September 28, 1962, they were turned down cold:

UNITED STATES· CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION

Washington 25, D.C.

Sep 28 1962

Mr. Bruce Schuyler, Secretary
The Mattachine Society of Washington
P. O. Box 1032
Washington 1, D.C.

Dear Mr. Schuyler:

Your letter of August 28, 1962 and attachments relating to the purposes of the Mattachine Society of Washington have been read with interest. It is the established policy of the civil Service commission that homosexuals are not suitable for appointment to or retention in positions in the Federal service. There would be no useful purpose served in meeting with representatives of your Society.

Sincerely yours,

(signed)
John W. Macy, Jr.
Chairman

Lifting the ban would remain one of MSW’s highest priorities for the next thirteen years. When MSW began picketing for gay rights in 1965, the Civil Service Commission was one of their targets (see Jun 26). But it would take another ten years before the Civil Service Commission would finally end the ban (see Jul 3). In 2009, Frank Kameny received a formal apology from the openly gay director of the Office of Personnel Management, the modern-day successor to the Civil Service Commission.

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The Daily Agenda for Saturday, September 27

Jim Burroway

September 27th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Belgrade, Serbia; Durham, NC; Ft. Collins, CO; Memphis, TN; Moab, UT; Richmond, VA; Sedona/Cottonwood, AZ; Soweto, South Africa; Sunderland, UK; Willemstad, Curaçao.

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Chicago, IL; San Diego, CA; Seattle, WA; Wilmington/Rehoboth, DE.

Other Events This Weekend: Everybody’s Perfect 3 LGBTIQ Film Festival, Geneva, Switzerland; Queer Lisboa 18 Film Festival, Lisbon, Portugal.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GLC Voice (Minneapolis, MN), December, 1979, page 6.

From GLC Voice (Minneapolis, MN), December, 1979, page 6.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Six Men Pilloried in London for Homosexuality: 1810. In early 19th century Britain, the penalty for homosexuality was death. If a judge felt lenient, he might instead sentence the accused to stand time at the pillory. The September 27, 1810 entry in the Annual Register describes the pillorying of six members of what we might describe today as a gay hangout known as the Vere Street Club. That description goes like this:

Such was the degree of popular indignation excited against these wretches, and such the general eagerness to witness their punishment, that, by ten in the morning, the chief avenues from Clerkenwell Prison and Newgate to the place of punishment were crowded with people; and the multitude assembled in the Haymarket, and all its immediate vicinity, was so great as to render the streets impassible. All the windows and even the very roofs of the houses were crowded with persons of both sexes; and every coach, waggon, hay-cart, dray, and other vehicles which blocked up great part of the street, were crowded with spectators.

The Sheriffs, attended by two City Marshals, with an immense number of constables, accompanied the procession of the Prisoners from Newgate, whence they set out in the transport caravan, and proceeded through Fleet-street and the Strand; and the Prisoners were hooted and pelted the whole way by the populace. At one o- clock four of the culprits were fixed in the pillory, erected for and accommodated to the occasion, with two additional wings, one being allotted for each criminal; and immediately a new torrent of popular vengeance poured upon them from all sides. The day being fine, the streets were dry and free from mud, but the dfect was speedily and amply supplied by the butchers of St. James’s-market. Numerous escorts of whom constantly supplied the party of attack, chiefly consisting of women, with tubs of blood, garbage, and ordure from their slaughter-houses, and with this ammunition, plentifully diversified with dead cats, turnips, potatoes, addled eggs, and other missiles, the criminals were incessantly pelted to the last moment. They walked perpetually round during their hour [the pillory swivelled on a fixed axis]; and although from the four wings of the machine they had some shelter, they were completely encrusted with filth.

Two wings of the Pillory were then taken off to place Cooke and Amos in the two remaining ones, and although they came in only for the second course, they had no reason to complain of short allowance, for they received even a more severe discipline than their predecessors. On their being taken down and replaced in the caravan, they lay flat in the vehicle; but the vengeance of the crowd still pursued them back to Newgate, and the caravan was so filled with mud and ordure as completely to cover them.

No interference from the Sheriffs and Police officers could refrain the popular rage; but notwithstanding the immensity of the multitude, no accident of any note occurred.

The six men were relatively lucky. Depending on the ferocity of the crowd, death at the pillory wasn’t out of the question. The pillory was formally abolished in England in 1837.

Public Enemies Number Three

Public Enemies Number Three (source)

Harris Poll Finds Homosexuals Third Most Harmful to the Nation: 1965. A Harris Poll of 1250 Americans ranked Homosexuals at number three as “more harmful than helpful to American life.” The Harris Poll asked respondents to rank gay people along with Communists, atheists, civil rights demonstrators, anti-war protesters, hippies, bikini wearers and college professors active in unpopular causes. Seventy percent ranked gay people as harmful, behind Communists (89%) and atheists (72%). Another 29% believed that gay people didn’t “help or harm things much one way or the other.” That left only a tiny 1% volunteering the opinion that gay people were more helpful than harmful.

Pollster Louis Harris commented, “As could be expected, an overwhelming majority of Americans regard Communists, homosexuals, and prostitutes as harmful to the Nation, although three out of every ten Americans think homosexuals and prostitutes are not a matter of serious concern …Eighty-two per cent of the men think homosexuals are harmful to the Nation while only 58 per cent of the women think so.” The gender gap was alive and well, even back then.

Rev. Ray Broshears, Lavender Panthers organizer.

Rolling Stone Reports on San Francisco’s “Lavender Panthers”: 1973. San Francisco in 1973 may have been seen as a tolerant haven for gay people, but that’s was only relatively speaking when compared to much of the rest of the country. For all of its “tolerance,” more than 60 anti-gay assaults and beatings had occurred over the past summer, with two dozen since August 1. Rev. Ray Broshears, a gay Pentecostal evangelist told Rolling Stone about one horrific crime the previous January:

“One of our own [Gay Activist Alliance] members was murdered early this year,” he says. “This boy was beaten and his unconscious body placed on the Sunset Tunnel streetcar tracks. He was left to be hit by a train.” Police records acknowledge that 19-year-old David Hart Winters was struck and killed by a streetcar late one night last January. The coroner’s report shows that he had been beaten before his death.”

Broshears himself was severely beaten by four teenagers outside his church, leaving him with partial nerve control loss in his left arm. That beating occurred on the Fourth of July, after he had called the police to complain about some teenagers who were setting off fireworks in a lot next door. Rather than deal with the problem, police simply told the youths who had ratted them out. Police were indifferent, or worse — often accusing assault victims of sexually soliciting or provoking their attackers. Consequently, most victims didn’t bother to file a report. Add to that, three gay-affirming churches and two gay bars had burned over the summer, with arson either suspected or determined in all of those cases. So Broshears formed the Lavender Panthers and took to streets:

Each evening, several of the Panthers (on a rotating schedule) drive the group’s VW bus to parts of the city that sport a concentration of gay bars, restaurants, baths and clubs. They concentrate on the popular Upper Market-Castro Street area, where most of the beatings have taken place. …

“When we spot trouble, we all jump out of the van and run toward the attackers, blowing police whistles and shouting. Usually, we startle the attackers enough that they take off,” explains one patrol member. “In a couple of situations, we’ve had to hit them over the head and show them a taste of their own medicine. The fact that we’re gay doesn’t mean we can’t and won’t fight back.”

The Lavender Panthers conducted self-defense martial-arts workshops and firearms training, distributed police whistles so people could sound an alarm if they were attacked or saw one in progress, and recommended that gay people carry cans of red spray paint to use as mace. The Lavender Panthers maintained their patrols in San Francisco for about a year before disbanding.

Two weeks after the Rolling Stone article appeared, TIME magazine published its own write-up.

[Source: Bill Sievert. "Lavender Panthers Protect Gays." Rolling Stone (September 27, 1973): 7.]

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The Daily Agenda for Friday, September 26

Jim Burroway

September 26th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Belgrade, Serbia; Durham, NC; Ft. Collins, CO; Memphis, TN; Moab, UT; Richmond, VA; Sedona/Cottonwood, AZ; Soweto, South Africa; Sunderland, UK; Willemstad, Curaçao.

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Chicago, IL; San Diego, CA; Seattle, WA; Wilmington/Rehoboth, DE.

Other Events This Weekend: Everybody’s Perfect 3 LGBTIQ Film Festival, Geneva, Switzerland; Queer Lisboa 18 Film Festival, Lisbon, Portugal.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, May 13, 1982,  page 19

From The Advocate, May 13, 1982, page 19

The building had a long history as a gay gathering spot, going as far back as the 1940s when busses used to drop off G.I.s there after being discharged. From 1957 to 1962, it was known as the Tel and Tel Tavern, so named for the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph building across the street. In 1963, it changed its name to Derek’s Tavern, then in 1965 it became The Annex. As Derek’s Tavern, it had already gained a reputation with Portland’s vice squad for being “frequented by homosexuals of higher class and means.” Such notable patrons included Johnny Mathis and Rudolph Nureyev. In 1971, the tavern was sold again and became The Family Zoo, which became one of Portland’s more popular gay nightspots. I don’t know when the Family Zoo met its demise, but the site today is home to New Avenues for Youth, a homeless and at-risk youth service organization.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Gay Man and Lesbian Killed in Firebombed Apartment: 1992. The election to decide the fate of Oregon’s Measure 9 was still just over a month away (see Nov 2), and the campaign waged by anti-gay extremists was already worrying to gay activists across the state. Measure 9, if enacted, would have amended the state constitution to prohibit the expenditure of “monies or properties to promote, encourage or facilitate homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism or masochism.” It would have banned gay groups from using city parks, and would have prohibited public libraries from carrying books about homosexuality.

The measure put forward by the Oregon Citizens Alliance, a radically-conservative religious right group that was closely aligned with the Christian Coalition, and was headed by Lon Mabon, with Scott Lively serving as his right hand man. Their campaign was especially nasty. The OCA had released a graphic video depicting gay people as uniformly debauched and featured alarming statistics manufactured by anti-gay extremist and Nazi sympathizer Paul Cameron.

The extreme nature of the anti-gay propaganda flooding the state from the OCA and other groups accompanied a marked increase in violence throughout the state. Campaign offices in opposition to Measure 9 were repeatedly burglarized and vandalized, often with urine and feces smeared throughout the premises. Gay bashing were on the rise, and telephone threats were becoming commonplace. Editors of , a Portland gay newspaper, arrived to work one morning to find “We’re Going to Kill You,” written on their front door. Portland police reported that attacks on LGBT people had risen by twenty percent since the campaign began. Donna Red Wing, Executive director of Portland’s Lesbian Community Project said, “I wouldn’t say the OCA is doing that, but I think the climate they helped create is one of violence. When they’re talking about gays and lesbians as subhumans, animals, birth defects and abominations … it just makes it easier for people to hurt us.”

The worst fears became a reality in the early morning hours of September 26 when four skinheads threw a firebomb into a basement apartment in Salem. Hattie Mae Cohens, 29, and Brian H. Mock, 45, were killed in the blast. Cohens was black, Mock was white, and both were gay. Six others sleeping in the apartment were injured. Local officials denied that it was a hate crime. “This clearly was not a crime targeted at homosexuals,” said district attorney Dale Penn. “When all is said and done, the primary motive for the killings will likely not be race or sexual orientation, but both of them played a role.” Four were charged with murder, arson and assault: Yolanda R. Cotton, 19; Leon L. Tucker, 22; Philip B. Wilson, Jr., 20; and Sean R. Edwards, 21. Edwards pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, in a plea bargain in which he avoided the death penalty in exchange for testifying against the others. Tucker and Wilson were then found guilty of murder, assault, arson and racial intimidation. Cotton was acquitted of all charges.

The violence didn’t end with the Salem bombing. A few weeks later, vandals hit St. Matthew’s Catholic Church in Hillsboro, spray-painting swastikas and anti-gay graffiti inside the sanctuary and setting fire to the church’s offices. Hours later, Fr. Jim Galluzo, preached a homily amidst the damage on the need to respect the rights of gay people. Meanwhile, OCA head Lon Mabon denied that his group’s rhetoric had anything to do with the increase in violence. Instead, he claimed that gays were provoking others to commit violent acts and were staging incidents themselves to earn sympathy.

Shirley Willer

Shirley Willer

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Shirley Willer: 1922-1999. Her childhood was hard. Her father, a respected judge in Chicago, was also an alcoholic and violent abuser. When Shirley was nine, her mother packed up and left, taking Shirley and her younger sister with her. As Shirley got older, she managed to scrape enough money together to go to nursing school, where she learned about other women who shared some of the same romantic desires she did. When she told her mother that she was a lesbian, her mother went out and purchased a copy of Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness, a remarkably understanding act for a woman in the 1940s.

Willer’s oversized personality matched her physicality. She was heavyset with short cropped hair and tailored clothing, all of which made her “butch” — a term she hated for its stereotypical role-playing connotations. “Because I was heavy,” she later explained, “I looked much better in tailored clothes.” Her appearance got her trouble with the police one night while she was headed to a gay bar. “Just the assumption that I was gay was justification enough for one policeman to pick me up by the front of my shirt and slap me back and forth. He called me names, the same ones they used now. ‘You god-damned pervert. You queer. You S.O.B.’ … I was so angry at the policeman I could have killed him! I wasn’t frightened; I was angry! He had no right to do that to me! and that’s been my attitude all my life. They have no right!”

After watching a male nurse die after horrible treatment at a Catholic hospital because he was gay, Willer was driven to become an advocate for gay rights. “Barney’s death probably had a great deal to do with my aggressiveness,” she said. She and five other women talked about forming a group, but they dropped it after deciding it was too dangerous, given the political climate of the McCarthy era. But by the late 1950′s, Willer began hearing about other homophile groups around the country, including a chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis in New York City. So she decided to mov to the Big Apple in 1962. Upon arrival, she wrote to the DOB chapter, and Marion Glass answered with details about their next meeting. Willer and Glass met at that meeting and quickly became lovers and partners. The two turned out to be perfect complements to each other: Glass was as thoughtful as Willer was brash. Together, with Glass serving as Willer’s mentor and advisor, Willer become the chapter’s president in 1963, and three years later she was elected the national president of DOB.

Willer’s passion as DOB president was in travelling across the country planting as many DOB chapters as possible. She was aided in that effort through the generosity of an wealthy closeted lesbian, known only as “Pennsylvania,” who wanted to contribute to DOB anonymously. Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, co-founders of the original Daughters of Bilitis group in San Francisco, were among the very few who had met “Pennsylvania.” Lyon remembered, “She was so nervous when we started talking about lesbians… up until then, she had been very poised and sophisticated, but when we started talking about lesbians she couldn’t even look at us. She started blushing and fidgeting.”

But over a five year period, “Pennsylvania” wrote more than $100,000 in checks of $3,000 each, made out to different DOB members each time. Those checks, in turn were turned over to the national organization with Willer being the conduit through whom those checks flowed. “Pennsylvania’s” money was first used to turn the DOB’s newsletter The Ladder into a slick, professionally typeset magazine available on newsstands. She also funded the establishment of new DOB chapters across the country, along with Willer’s travel expenses to get them started. Willer said, “There wasn’t an operating chapter of the Daughters that didn’t receive at least six thousand dollars to put toward a building fund or toward office expenses or toward publications. … Nobody was supposed to talk about our benefactor or what she did. And this woman will never take credit for her contribution to the movement, which amounted to more than one hundred thousand dollars. But she does have the satisfaction of being able to go down the street and see a couple of guys or a couple of girls walking hand in hand, and seeing the Mafia lose control of the gay bars, of seeing homosexuality become much more acceptable.”

But Willer’s traveling in those pre-cell phone/pre-Twitter/pre-text message days meant that members of already existing chapters weren’t able to contact her when problems arose. In 1968 when Philadelphia police raided a popular lesbian bar, the local DOB chapter couldn’t reach Willer to coordinate a response (see Mar 8). The resulting inaction led to the fracturing of Philadelphia’s homophile movement and the closure of DOB’s chapter there (see Aug 7). Another sticking point was the DOB’s official position against picketing, a controversial position which put Willer, who wanted to see more direct action in the organization, in a no-win position. “This split between those who wanted to make noise and those who wanted to do things quietly affected me very directly,” she recalled in 1989. “During the second half of the 1960s, I was more and more at odds with the official position of DOB.”

It was increasingly clear that for the local chapters to thrive, they needed the freedom to respond quickly without having to wait for approval from the national organization, particularly when the local chapters wanted to act outside of the DOB’s restrictive one-size-fits-all policies. Marion Glass (under the pseudonym Meredith Grey) proposed a massive reorganization in the August 1968 issue of The Ladder. Under this proposal, all DOB chapters would be autonomous and the national organization’s sole role would be limited to publishing The Ladder. But there was a hitch: the change would require the approval of the membership, and that issue of The Ladder still had no announcement of where that year’s national DOB Convention would be held. When the DOB’s finally convened their biennial convention in Aurora, Colorado, the short notice meant that only fifteen members showed up. With so few members on hand to make such a momentous decision, the group decided to defer until the next biennial convention, which wouldn’t occur until 1970.

Frustrated by the delay, Willer decided not to stand for re-election as the Daughters’ national president. She also withdrew from gay activism altogether, and with her withdrawal, “Pennsylvania’s” dollars stopped flowing as well. Two years later, the DOB did finally vote to disband its national organization and set all of its individual chapters free. But by then, it was too late. Only a few DOB chapters remained, and The Ladder only had another couple of years before it too went belly-up. Meanwhile, Willer and Glass retired to Key West, Florida, where they ran a rock shop for tourists and became involved with the growing local LGBT community. Willer died on New Years Eve in 1999.

[Sources: Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. "Shirley Willer (1922-1999)." In Vern L. Bullough's Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (Binghamton, NY: Harrington Park Press, 2002): 203-205.

Eric Marcus. Making History: The Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights: 1945-1990. An Oral History (New York: HarperCollins, 1992): 127-135.

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):82-83.]

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The Daily Agenda for Thursday, September 25

Jim Burroway

September 25th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Belgrade, Serbia; Durham, NC; Ft. Collins, CO/a>; Memphis, TN; Moab, UT; Richmond, VA; Sedona/Cottonwood, AZ; Soweto, South Africa; Sunderland, UK; Willemstad, Curaçao.

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Chicago, IL; San Diego, CA; Seattle, WA; Wilmington/Rehoboth, DE.

Other Events This Weekend: Everybody’s Perfect 3 LGBTIQ Film Festival, Geneva, Switzerland; Queer Lisboa 18 Film Festival, Lisbon, Portugal.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From ONE, December 1962, page 21.

From ONE, December 1962, page 21.

J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson at the San Deigo’s Del Mar Turf Club, 1947.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
30 YEARS AGO: J. Edgar Hoover’s  Personal Interest in Gay Movements Revealed: 1984. An earlier cache of secret files detailing FBI surveillance on gay people had been released two years earlier (see Sep 9), but that release offered only a small glimpse of the magnitude of governmental spying. It would take an ACLU lawsuit on behalf of the International Gay and Lesbian Archives (now the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives) for the more important cache to be released under the Freedom of Information Act. That later release consisted of more than 5,800 papers, most of it very boring details of gay pride picnics and parades, and photocopies of magazines that were publicly sold on newsstands. Most documents focused on the Mattachine Society and ONE Magazine, the first openly gay magazine in America.

But one interesting set of papers revealed J. Edgar Hoover’s interest in the gay movement. According to a memo dated January 26, 1956, the Los Angeles field office had been asked to check on the November 1955 issue of ONE, which talked about gay people who worked for Time and The New Yorker. The LA field office concluded that the articles statement was “baseless” and recommended that “no reply be made.”

But scrawled in handwriting below the typewritten recommendation was the sentence, “I think we should take this crowd and make them ‘put up or shut up’.” Markings indicated that the handwritten statement was made by Hoover’s chief aide and lifelong special “friend” Clyde Tolson. Hoover and Tolson worked closely together in the day, ate all their meals together in the evening, were seen socializing in nightclubs, and took vacations together. When Hoover died in 1971, Tolson inherited Hoover’s estate, and accepted the flag that draped Hoover’s coffin. Tolson’s grave is just a few discrete yards away from Hoover’s in Congressional Cemetery.

Hoover also weighed in on the 1956 memo. Next to Tolson’s recommendation to keep the case files open and continue investigating was another inscription. “I concur,” it read, with the single letter “H” underneath. The next day, a telegram went to the Los Angeles office. “You are instructed to have two mature and experienced agents contact Freeman (the pseudonym for the article’s author), in the immediate future and tell him the bureau will not countenance such baseless charges appearing in this magazine, and for him to either ‘put up or shut up’.” It was signed, simply, “Hoover.”

The Los Angeles field office followed up on Hoover’s instructions and paid a visit to ONE magazine (see Jan 26), where they found ONE’s chairman, Dorr Legg (see Dec 15) who flatly refused to answer their questions. Nevertheless, the FBI file on ONE grew to more than a hundred pages over the next several months while Hoover and Tolson complained about the lack of incriminating evidence from the investigation.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Pedro Almodóvar: 1952. Born in a small town in La Mancha, the trajectory of his life was rather unremarkable in the late Franco era. He went to Catholic boarding school in preparation for the priesthood, but instead found his education in the local cinema. In 1967, he moved to Madrid with the goal of becoming a film director, but since Franco had just closed the National School of Cinema, Almodóvar got a job at the state telephone company where he worked for the next twelve years. But they weren’t wasted years; he also became involved with the underground experimental theater and cinema, learning his craft using a Super-8 camera he bought from his first paycheck from the phone company.

His first feature film didn’t come until 1980. Pepi, Luci, Bom y Otras Chicas del Montón (Pepi, Luci, Bom and Other Girls on the Heap) was filmed on a shoestring budget by a team of volunteers working on the weekends. He later described the film as “full of defects. When a film has only one or two, it is considered an imperfect film, while when there is a profusion of technical flaws, it is called style. That’s what I said joking around when I was promoting the film, but I believe that that was closer to the truth.” Seventeen more films followed, most of them celebrating the sexy exhilaration of modern Spain. International fame came with Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, which established Almodóvar as a “women’s director” for his ability to solicit powerful performances from his actresses, which has brought about comparisons to George Cukor. It also introduced the world to Spanish actor Antonio Banderas. Banderas was featured again in 1990′s Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, a sadomasochistic-themed film which earned a controversial X-rating in the U.S.

The decade’s end brought increasing critical acclaim, with 1999′s All About My Mother (with Penélope Cruz) earning an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, 2002′s Talk to Her winning an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, and 2009′s Broken Embraces (this time starring Penélope Cruz) and 2011′s The Skin I Live In (starring Antonio Banderas) earning Golden Globe nominations. His latest film, I”m So Excited, came out in 2013 to mixed reviews.

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The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, September 24

Jim Burroway

September 24th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Belgrade, Serbia; Durham, NC; Ft. Collins, CO/a>; Memphis, TN; Moab, UT; Richmond, VA; Sedona/Cottonwood, AZ; Soweto, South Africa; Sunderland, UK; Willemstad, Curaçao.

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Chicago, IL; San Diego, CA; Seattle, WA; Wilmington/Rehoboth, DE.

Other Events This Weekend: Everybody’s Perfect 3 LGBTIQ Film Festival, Geneva, Switzerland; Queer Lisboa 18 Film Festival, Lisbon, Portugal.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The 5th Freedom (Buffalo, NY), July 4, 1974, page 2.

From The 5th Freedom (Buffalo, NY), July 4, 1974, page 2.t

When the Rathskeller held its grand opening in Rochester, New York, on January 20, 1974, the local gay paper, The Empty Closet, printed this brief announcement:

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

The Rathskeller was one of the original sponsors of Rochester’s annual Gay Picnic, which is still going strong as part of Rochester’s annual Pride celebration. The Rathskeller’s location today is a desolate, empty lot, in a part of town that has clearly seen better days.

Thomas Jefferson “Jeffrey” Withers

TODAY IN HISTORY:
“Your Elongated Protruberance”: 1826. In May of 1826, Thomas Jefferson Withers, a twenty-two year old law student known to his friends at South Carolina College as Jeffrey, wrote to his dear friend, James Hammond, 18, a letter which is both playful and quite frank about the physical nature of their relationship (see May 15). Hammond responded on June 3, but that letter appears to have been lost. Instead, what we do have is a follow-up letter from Withers which allude to that letter, which Withers praised for having “too much honesty of purpose” and in which Hammond, apparently, weighed the pros and cons of marriage. Withers’s reply to Hammond on September 24 went like this:

Your excellent Letter of 13 June arrived … a few weeks since … Here, where anything like a systematic course of thought, or of reading, is quite out of the question — such system as leaves no vacant, idle moments of painful vacuity, which invites a whole Kennel of treacherous passions to prey upon one’s vitals … the renovation of spirit which follows the appearance of a friend’s Letter — the diagram of his soul — is like a grateful shower from the cooling fountains of Heaven to reanimate drooping Nature. Whilst your letters are Transcripts of real–existing feeling, and are on that account peculiarly welcome — they at the same time betray too much honesty of purpose not to strike an harmonious chord in my mind. I have only to regret that, honesty of intention and even assiduity in excition [?] are far from being the uniform agents of our destiny here– However it must, at best, be only an a priori argument for us to settle the condemnation of the world, before we come in actual contact with it. This task is peculiarly appropriate to the acrimony of old age — and perhaps we had as well defer it, under the hope that we may reach a point, when ’twill be all that we can do–

l fancy, Jim, that your elongated protruberance –your fleshen pole — your [two Latin words; indecipherable] — has captured complete mastery over you — and I really believe, that you are charging over the pine barrens of your locality, braying, like an ass, at every she-male you can discover. I am afraid that you are thus prostituting the “image of God” and suggest that if you thus blasphemously essay to put on the form of a Jack — in this stead of that noble image — you will share the fate of Nebuchadnezzar of old. I should lament to hear of you feeding upon the dross of the pasture and alarming the country with your vociferations. The day of miracles may not be past, and the flaming excess of your lustful appetite may drag down the vengeance of supernal power. — And you’ll “be dam-d if you don’t marry “? — and felt a disposition to set down and gravely detail me the reasons of early marriage. But two favourable ones strike me now — the first is, that Time may grasp love so furiously as totally [?] to disfigure his Phiz. The second is, that, like George McDuffie, he may have the hap-hazzard of a broken backbone befal him, which will relieve him from the performance of affectual family-duty — & throw over the brow of his wife, should he chance to get one, a most foreboding glooming — As to the first, you will find many a modest good girl subject to the same inconvenience — and as to the second, it will only superinduce such domestic whirlwinds, as will call into frequent exercise rhetorical displays of impassioned Eloquence, accompanied by appropriate and perfect specimens of those gestures which Nature and feeling suggest. To get children, it is true, fulfills a department of social & natural duty — but to let them starve, or subject them to the alarming hazard of it, violates another of a most important character. This is the dilemma to which I reduce you — choose you this day which you will do … [Underlines in the original.]

James Hammond, indiscriminate wielder of his “fleshen pole.”

Hammond would indeed choose to marry, and through his wife he became the owner of a 10,000 acre plantation and 220 slaves. In fact, that young man of “flaming excess” and “lustful appetites” would, according to his own diaries, exercize his libido on three teenage nieces, a slave who bore him several children, and his own teenage daughter. And yet he served as Congressman, Governor and Senator for South Carolina, and became one of the South’s most prominent moralists and defenders of slavery. “I firmly believe,” he said while Governor, “that American slavery is not only not a sin, but especially commanded by God through Moses, and approved by Christ through his apostles.” Hammond invented the phrase “Cotton is King” during a Senate floor debate, and he argued that every society needed a lower caste in order to provide the luxeries that marked high civilization. Hammond’s arguments in support of the “peculiar institution” were highly influential, leading ultimately to his state becoming the first in the South to secede at the start of the Civil War.

Withers also married, in 1831, and he reached a measure of prominence as a journalist and “nullifier,” a lawyer and as a judge of the South Carolina Court of Appeals. He represented his county in South Carolina’s secession Convention, and South Carolina as a Senator in the Provisional Confederate Congress. He was also a signatory to the Confederate Constitution, but resigned from his Senate seat and returned to South Carolina in 1861. His estate was destroyed in the war, and he died, “a professed infidel,” of dysentery in November, 1865.

South Carolina law carried the death penalty for sodomy until 1869, when the death penalty was abolished for all crimes except murder. A follow-up law in 1872 imposed a five year prison term and/or a fine of $500.

[Source: Martin Duberman. "'Writhing Bedfellows': 1826." Journal of Homosexuality 6, no. 1 (1981): 85-101. Also available online here.]

Dr. Charles Socarides

Prominent Psychiatrist Calls for National Center to Treat Homosexuality: 1967. Dr. Charles Socarides, clinical assistant professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine gave a lecture at a meeting at the National Institute of Mental Health, describing homosexuality as “condition of certainly epedemological proportions” and calling for the establishment of a national center for its research and treatment. “There is no place — hardly any place, I would say, in the United States — where a homosexual can go and say: I am a homosexual. I need help.”

Socarides been angling to establish himself as the nation’s leading authority on homosexuality for quite some time. Earlier that year, he had appeared on CBS’s notorious hour-long special program “The Homosexuals” (see Mar 7). In his NIMH lecture, he described homosexuality as a product of the “Pre-Oedipal” stage (according to psychoanalytic theories of development) — generally before the age of three — which was earlier than the generally accepted age in classical theories of sexual development. Socarides contended that his proposed theory would also hold up for “fetishism, transvestitism, sexual masochism, and exhibition,” and would lead to what he called a “Unified Theory of Sexual Perversion.” Socarides placed the burden of a homosexual’s development on his mother. “The homosexual’s mother is domineering and tyrannical,” he said. “The best way to describe her is as a crushing mother that will not allow the child to achieve his own autonomy.” He later added, “I don’t want to blame Mother for everything, but it comes down to this.”

Socarides described the NIMH as “ideally constituted” to set up a treatment and research center for homosexuality. “Such a national center will be started by one of the Western governments, and I hope it is here. … A comprehensive program is needed to diminish, reverse, and prevent this tragic human condition that involves such large numbers of the population.

Socarides’s suggesting was never adopted. Instead, the NIMH announced four days later the formation of a task force to recommend a research program on human sexuality, with a special focus on homosexuality. The twelve-member panel included professionals from the fields of psychiatry, psychology, law, sociology, anthropology and clergy. UCLA’s Dr. Evelyn Hooker (see Sep 2), whose groundbreaking research on homosexuality found that gay people weren’t inherently mentally disturbed (see Aug 30), was tapped to chair the panel. In 1969, that panel would release its report urging the decriminalization of homosexuality nationwide (see Oct 20). Socarides would become a bitter critic of the American Psychiatric Association’s 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders (see Apr 9). In 1992, he co-founded of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), which continues to advocate for the “curing” of gay people of their “pathology.”

[Sources: Jean M. White. "Center to Treat Homosexuals Urged." The Washington Post (September 25, 1967): A3.

Unsigned. "Task Force to Study Sexuality." The Washington Post (September 29, 1967): A2.]

A candlelight vigil at the Backstreet Cafe following the shooting.

Mass Shooting in Gay Bar Kills One, Injures Six: 2000. Ronald Edward Gay spent his entire life hearing jokes about his surname. A former Vietnam vet, he become an alcoholic and drug abuser, and had just been divorced for the sixth time. His children changed their last names, he claimed, to escape the jokes. So when he finally had had enough, he decided to turn it around and take it out not on his tormentors, but on those who he believed had ruined his name. On September 24, 2000, the fifty-three-year-old drifter walked into the Backstreet Cafe in Roanoke, Virginia, pulled a 9mm handgun from his black trench coat and opened fire. One of the bar’s patrons, Anna Sparks, described the terror. “The guy was standing there with a trench coat on, and the gun was going pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, and people were falling over everywhere, trying to get behind booths. He just stood there for a couple of seconds, then lowered the gun and walked out like nothing had happened.” When the shooting spree ended, Danny Lee Overstreet, 43, was dead in a pool of blood and six others were injured, one critically.

Danny Lee Overstreet (left), Ronald Edward Gay (right)

Gay had been at a different bar earlier that night asking where the city’s nearest gay bar was, telling patrons he wanted to shoot some gay people. One person gave him directions and then called the police, who arrived at the Backstreet Cafe shortly after the shooting. They found Gay about two blocks away. “He said he was shooting people to get rid of, in his term, ‘faggots,’” Lieutenant William Althoff of the Roanoke police told reporters. Gay told authorities that he became obsessed with fulfilling four “missions”: to stop corruption, to stop communism, to bring all Vietnam vets “out of the mountains”, and to stop the spread of AIDS by forcing all gay people to move to San Francisco. Gay pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and six malicious wounding charges and on July 23, 2001 was given four life sentences.

No homos.

“There Are No Homosexuals In Iran”: 2007. Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in New York for the opening of a United Nations General Session when he made a side trip to Columbia University for a controversial speaking engagement. Some feared that Columbia would give the Ahmadinejad an open platform to spout his Holocaust-denying views unchallenged, but those fears evaporated when Columbia President LEe Bollinger’s opening remarks blasted him as “a petty and cruel dictator” for imprisoning and executing gay people, academics and journalists. “I doubt you will have the intellectual courage to answer these questions,” Bollinger said before Ahmadinejad took the podium. “I do expect you to exhibit a fanatical mind-set.”

Bollinger’s expectations were met, as Ahmadinejad fielded questions from Bollinger and the audience. When asked about the death penalty that Iran imposed on gay people, Ahmadinejad tried to turn the subject to drug smugglers. But when pushed on the question by the acting dean of the School of International and Public Affairs John Coatsworth, Ahmadinejad gave his now-famous answer: ” Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country. In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I don’t know who has told you we have that.” Ahmadinejad’s answer was greeted with jeers, outrage, and howls of laughter.

Those comments came just a few months after photos made the rounds on the Internet of two teenage boys who were hanged after being found guilty of homosexual acts. Just two months after Ahmadinejad’s talk at Columbia, an Iranian member of Parliament said that gays in Iran deserved to be executed or tortured. We assume he was speaking hypothetically.

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The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, September 23

Jim Burroway

September 23rd, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From David, May 1972, page 17.

From David, May 1972, page 17.

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

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

Keith Orr eulogized the bar’s closing in 1998:

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

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

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

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
  Beacon Hill Resident Congratulates Beacon Hill for Its Tolerance: 1965. Residents of Boston’s historic Beacon Hill prided themselves on gentility, openness and tolerance, even as those virtues were being challenged in the tumultuous 1960s. And they had no compunction about patting themselves on their collective backs, as exemplified in a letter to the editor that was published in the September edition of the neighborhood’s newsletter, The Beacon Hill News:

The only people I would consider as being so-called undesirable elements are the “immature set”… The so-called odd-balls, beatniks, and homosexuals give the Hill the charm it has today, along with the elderly ladies and gentlemen who have been living in this area for so long.

It is amazing how the rich, poor, the young, old, the students, beatniks, and homosexuals can be so compatible within this little community in the heart of Boston. Eliminate the immature, who are included in all types, and you have the most prejudice-free community, where everyone minds his own business and lives side by side in almost complete harmony. This is an example of the way all communities should be in America. This is Beacon Hill. This is America.

I’m sure that those odd-ball students, beatniks and homosexuals may have had a considerably different perspective on their fellow neighbors’ tolerance, but the mere fact that a welcome mat for homosexuals could appear in the prestigious neighborhood’s newsletter (“Where the Lowells speak only to the Cabots, and the Cabots speak only to God”) ought to count for something.

[Source: "Cross-Currents" The Ladder (December 1965): 12.]

 

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
60 YEARS AGO: George C. Wolfe: 1954. The playwright and director grew up in Frankfort, Kentucky, where he first pursued his theater interests in high school. After college, he taught for several years in Los Angeles in New York, and earned an MFA in dramatic writing and musical theater at New York University. He began to gain national attention for the 1991 musical Jelly’s Last Jam, a story about jazz musician Jelly Roll Morton, which received eleven Tony nominations. In 1993, he directed Tony Kushner’s Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, which won a Tony for best play that year. He also directed the sequel Perestroika the following year.

In 1995, Wolfe created Bring In ‘da Noise, Bring In ‘da Funk at the Off-Broadway New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater, and took it to Broadway the following year. The musical tells the story, through tap dance, video montages, and commentary, of Black history from slavery to the present. The New York Times called it “beautiful and the dancing exuberant, but Funk is serious business, with vicious, funny send-ups of Uncle Tomism in Hollywood.” Bring In ‘da Noise received nine Tony nominations; the production won four Tony’s, including Wolfe’s for Best Direction of a Musical.

Wolfe continues to direct plays, including Tony Kushner’s Caroline, or Change and a 2011 Broadway revival of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart, which won a Tony for Best Revival.

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The Daily Agenda for Monday, September 22

Jim Burroway

September 22nd, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), September 22, 1979.

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), September 22, 1979.

DollysThe gays have always loved Dolly Parton, and Dolly Parton has had a special affinity for the gays, and especially for drag queens. At one time, Dolly herself entered a Dolly Parton look-alike contest — and lost:

“They had a bunch of Chers and Dollys that year, so I just over-exaggerated — made my beauty mark bigger, the eyes bigger, the hair bigger, everything,” she said, laughing. “All these beautiful drag queens had worked for weeks and months getting their clothes. So I just got in the line and I just walked across, and they just thought I was some little short gay guy.. but I got the least applause.”

As for the Warehouse in Cedar Rapids, the two-story industrial brick building that housed the club since 1978 had begun life in 1887 as the American Manufacturing Co., a maker of wood gunstocks and other handcrafted wood products. But more recently, the property was owned by the Knutson Metal Co. which operated a salvage yard on its grounds. City officials considered the property, located between a proposed city amphitheater and a park along the Cedar River, a “blight to the neighborhood and a drag on development,” while the Historic Preservationist Commission listed the building itself as one of eleven most endangered buildings in the city. In 2012, the city agreed to buy the property for $1.5 million. At last report, the city was still weighing its options for preserving the building and adapting it for public use.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
60 YEARS AGO: Senator Dirksen Denounces Homosexual “Wreckers and Destroyers”: 1954. In the past decade, we’ve seen each successive election year bring with it worse examples of character assassination, blatant bold-faced lies, and other examples of negative campaign tactics than ever before. Each time, it just seems to get worse, and we often wish we could turn back the clock to a more innocent and civil time when Americans could always find a way to get along regardless of their differences. You know, like in the 1950s.

Yeah, like in the 1950s, when Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) was labeling his political enemies radical communists and “sexual perverts.” And when Sen. Everett M. Dirksen (R-IL), who was then serving as the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the upcoming 1954 mid-term elections, declared during a meeting of 1,100 Republican women that “never were the destroyers and traitors in government so busy” as during the 20 years of Democratic rule from 1933 to 1953. He told the women that since then, Republicans like himself and McCarthy (who was Dirksen’s political ally during the previous four years) were left to root out “the wreckers and destroyers, the security risks and homosexuals, the blabbermouths and drunks, the traitors and saboteurs.”

It is important to note though that ten years later, Sen. Dirksen, who by then was Senate Minority Leader, played a crucial role in delivering enough Republican votes to break  an 83-day filibuster by southern Democrats and pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The press hailed Dirksen’s selfless bipartisanship for making possible one of the Johnson Administration’s signature pieces of legislation. Some things never change, but other things do.

And then there’s one other thing. The Federal Court House in Chicago, which was designed by the renowned modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, is named the Everett M. Dirksen U.S. Courthouse. Last month, it was the scene of the most masterful exhibition of the utter emptiness of the arguments against marriage equality in all of jurisprudence.

Oliver Sipple pushes Sara Jane Moore as she fired as shot at President Ford. (Click to enlarge.)

Gay Man Saves President Ford’s Life: 1975. President Gerald Ford was in San Francisco to deliver a luncheon speech to a foreign affairs group at the St. Francis Hotel. Outside, Oliver Sipple, former Marine and Vietnam veteran, was in a crowd of about 3,000 people waiting for Ford to exit the building. Standing next to Sipple was Sara Jane Moore, although they didn’t know each other. Moore, ironically, was also working as an FBI informant, where she provided information on illegal firearms purchases. Earlier that day, she called federal authorities threatening to “test” Ford’s security, but she was ignored. The day before, San Francisco police picked her up on a misdemeanor charge of carrying a concealed weapon, but they released her after federal authorities stepped in and said they would handle the matter. The Secret Service interviewed her that night, but let her go.

So there she was, and as Ford left the hotel, Moore pulled a .38 Smith & Wesson revolver from her purse, pointed it at the President, and fired a shot. As she fired, Sipple reached out and grabbed her arm. Her shot missed Ford by just five feet. It was the second assassination attempt in a month — nearly thee weeks earlier, a follower of mass murderer Charles Manson had tried to take a shot at him in Sacramento. That time, the gun didn’t fire. This time it did, and Sipple was a hero. “All I did was react,” he said. “I’m glad I was there. If it’s true I saved the President’s life, then I’m damn happy about it. But I honestly feel that if I hadn’t reached out for that arm, somebody else would have.”

Sipple had been a fixture in San Francisco’s gay community for several years. He was friends with Harvey Milk, and worked on Milk’s first unsuccessful attempt at winning a seat on the city’s Board of Supervisors. He was out to his friends, but closeted to his family in Detroit. Milk and other gay writers in San Francisco saw Sipple’s heroism as a perfect moment to gain some positive visibility for the gay community, but that was the last kind of attention Sipple wanted. When reporters asked about his sexuality, Sipple replied with a standard non-answer: “I don’t think I have to answer that question. If I were homosexual or not, it doesn’t make me less of a man than I am.”

But because Sipple was well known in the gay community — he volunteered for a gay service group and worked as a bartender at several gay clubs — it was impossible to keep the secret. Besides, Sipple hadn’t heard a word from the man whose life he saved, and Milk was convinced that it was because Sipple was gay. (The White House mailed a letter of appreciation four days after the assassination attempt.) But Sipple told friends that he wasn’t interested in the attention, “just a little peace and quiet.” That peace and quiet was shattered when The San Francisco Chronicle’s Herb Caen broke the story and it was soon picked up by wire services. Sipple’s Baptist mother publicly disowned him, and he soon found himself besieged by reporters. Sipple sued The Chronicle, Caen, and several other newspapers for invasion of privacy, but lost. The courts ruled that he had become a public figure on the day of the assassination attempt, and that his sexual orientation was part of the story.

Sipple, who was on psychological disability because of wounds suffered in Vietnam, declined in the years following the assassination attempt. He drank heavily, became obese, and expressed regret for grabbing Moore’s gun. He died, alone, of pneumonia in his Tenderloin District apartment in 1989.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Hans Scholl: 1918-1943. Like all good German boys, he joined the Hitler Youth in 1933, where he quickly became a squad leader in charge of 150 boys. He also formed a special elite squad to train other future leaders in the movement. Reflecting, perhaps, his own growing apprehensions about the Nazi movement, his training squad became quite unorthodox. Based on a soon-to-be outlawed Deutsche Jungenschaft, Scholl’s squad took a decidedly irreverent stance. A favorite joke within the group was to ask, “What is an Aryan?” The answer was, “Blond like Hitler, tall like Goebbels, and slim like Goering.” After the Nazis launched a crackdown on dissent, Scholl’s squad was disbanded and several members were arrested. It was during those interrogations that authorities learned that Scholl was gay. He was brought up on charges of violating paragraph 175, Germany’s longstanding law prohibiting homosexuality between men. This time, Scholl was lucky: the judged dismissed Scholl’s relationship with another squad member as “a youthful failing” and acquitted him of all charges.

Left to right: White Rose members Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst.

Scholl and his younger sister, Sophie, both became committed anti-Nazis. As war broke out, Hans was studying medicine in Munich, and Sophie joined him there to study biology and philosophy in 1941. Her boyfriend, Fritz Hartnagel, was an officer in the Wehrmacht fighting on the eastern front. Through extensive letter exchanges between Fritz and Sophie, historians have been able to piece together Sophie’s growing pacifism and Fritz’s alarm over the participation of German soldiers in mass killings of Jews and other atrocities. Meanwhile, Hans and two other students began a pacifist resistance movement called the White Rose, where they co-authored six anti-Nazi leaflets. When Sophie learned of her brother’s activities, she joined the group, which would grow to about a dozen members. As a woman, she was much less likely to be stopped by police while carrying stacks of leaflets to be distributed in several cities and through the mails.

The sixth White Rose leaflet.

The sixth White Rose leaflet.

In the summer of 1942, Hans and some of the other members of the White Rose was deployed to the Eastern Front to act as medics during the university’s summer break. When they returned, the group resumed its leafleting campaign, producing between 6,000 and 9,000 copies of their fifth leaflet, written by Hans and titled “A Call to All Germans!“, using a hand-cranked duplicating machine. The leaflet warned that Hitler was leading Germany to ruin and urged the people to join the struggle for “freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and protection of the individual citizen from the arbitrary action of criminal dictator-states.” The sixth leaflet was written by Christoph Probst after the German defeat at Stalingrad, and announced that the day of reckoning was about to come for “the most contemptible tyrant our people has ever endured.” It was while the group was dumping thousands of those leaflets around the University of Munich that a custodian spotted Hans and Sophie. They were arrested and interrogated, along with several other members of the group. On February 22, 1943, Hans, Sophie and Probst were found guilty of treason and sentenced to death.

The sentence was carried out that very same day by guillotine at Stadelheim Prison. Sophie was first to be executed. Before the blade fell, she shouted, “The sun is still shining!” Hans’s last words were “Es lebe die Freiheit!” — Long live freedom! Over the next few weeks, other White Rose members were rounded up and were either executed or sent to prison camps. But the last word would be left for the White Rose itself. Copies of that last leaflet were smuggled out of Germany and handed to the Allies, who then air-dropped millions of copies all over Germany, ensuring that the White Rose would remain an unforgettable part of German history.

The translated text of six White Rose leaflets are available here.

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The Daily Agenda for Sunday, September 21

Jim Burroway

September 21st, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Austin, TX; Dallas, TXPeterborough, ON.

Other Events This Weekend: Everybody’s Perfect 3 LGBTIQ Film Festival, Geneva, Switzerland; Folsom Street Fair, San Francisco, CA; Queer Lisboa 18 Film Festival, Lisbon, Portugal; OctoBEARfest, Munich, Germany; Cinema Diverse LGBT Film Festival, Palm Springs, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, May 31, 1979, page 34.

From The Advocate, May 31, 1979, page 34.

Fanny’s opened in 1974 as the Castro was more or less completing its transition from a blue collar Irish neighborhood to a rainbow hued gay village. It appears to have lasted precisely a decade. It’s now an Indian/Pakistani restaurant.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
San Francisco Police Raid the Alamo Club: 1956. The raid on the Alamo Club (also popularly known as Kelly’s) could have been just another raid by San Francisco’s police on just another gay or lesbian club. As raids go, it wasn’t particularly remarkable. Thirty-six women were arrested during the Friday night raid, hauled to the city jail, and booked on charges of frequenting a house of ill repute, which was a rather typical charge that was levied against gay bar patrons in the 1950s and 1960s. They were held over the weekend until the following Monday, when they were finally brought before a judge. All but four pleaded guilty. That, too, was typical. While the charge was frequenting a house of ill-repute, many of those arrested that night undoubtedly believed they were actually guilty of the anti-prostitution law simply because being a lesbian itself also held quite a lot of “ill-repute” in society. Pleading guilty also had its practical merits: it meant no trial and no jail sentence. Just pay a fine and you’re on your way.

If anything was different about this raid, it was made different because the Daughters of Bilitis had decided to begin publishing a newsletter in right around that time. The Ladder’s second issue in November included a very brief account of the raid — about as brief as what I just described — while lamenting that only four of those arrested chose to plead not guilty. “We feel that this was not due to actual guilt on the part of those so pleading but to an apalling (sic) lack of knowledge of the rights of a citizen in such a case.” The Ladder reported that the raid was the topic for the DoB’s October 23 discussion meeting where a local attorney, Benjamin Davis, volunteered to speak on “The Lesbian and the law,” with special emphasis on citizen’s rights in case of arrest. And in a separate article in that same newsletter, The Ladder urged “positive and constructive action” in response to the raid:

Certainly there is a marked reaction of fear and retrenchment among the Lesbian population of San Francisco after the recent raid… A paralyzing fear has been heaped upon an ever-present dread of detection. The persecuted are seeking cover once again. The innocent are convinced of their guilt. The tolerant became intolerant of their fellows. Growth is stultified by a sludge of misunderstanding.

Where will it lead? To a miserable half-existence of apprehension, self-pity, cynicism, hopelessness and paralysis? In some cases, perhaps.

BUT THIS NEED NOT BE! NOT IF REACTION IS REPLACED BY ACTION — POSITIVE AND CONSTRUCTIVE ACTION!

In the days before Miranda v Arizona, the 1966 Supreme Court case which required that arresting officers brief those under arrest of their rights (“You have the right to remain silent…), police often took advantage of suspects’ ignorance of the law. The next issue of The Ladder reported on the attorney’s talk with an article boldly titled “Citizen’s Rights,” highlighting many of those very same rights:

“DON’T PLEAD GUILTY” was the recurrent theme that was sounded by San Francisco attorney, Ben Davis at the first public discussion meeting held by this organization in October. Mr. Davis stresses three primary rules to remember if ever arrested: Don’t plead guilty; call your attorney; don’t volunteer information — in fact, don’t talk to anyone about anything.

And to drive the point home, The Ladder reprinted a list of specific rights that are guaranteed to everyone under arrest. Because most people in the 1950s were probably unaware of them, The Mattachine Review had published an identical list eight months earlier for its mostly male gay readers, who were targets for police entrapment. The list, formulated by “the National Association for Sex Research, Inc., Hollywood, Calif.”, included these thirteen points:

CITIZEN’S RIGHTS IN CASE OF ARREST

1. An officer cannot arrest you without a warrant unless you have committed a crime in his presence or he has reasonable grounds to believe that you have committed a felony. (Calif. PC 836)

2. If he has a warrant, ask to see it and read it carefully. If you are arrested without a warrant, ask what the charge is.

3. You are not required to answer any questions. You may, but do not have to give your name and address. If you are accused of a crime of which you are innocent, deny the charge. Go along, but under protest. Do not resist physically.

4. Do not sign anything. Take the badge numbers of the arresting officers.

5. If you are taken to jail, ask when you are booked what the charges are and whether they are misdemeanor or felony charges.

6. Insist on using the telephone to contact your lawyer or family.

7. You have the right to be released on bail for most offenses. Have your attorney make the arrangements or ask for a bail bondsman.

8. After an arrest without a warrant, a person must without unnecessary delay, be taken before the most accessible magistrate in the area where the arrest is made. The magistrate must hear the complaint and set bail. (Calif. PC 849)

9. Report any instances of police brutality which you observe to your attorney.

10. If you do not have an attorney by the time you are brought before a judge to plead, ask for additional time to obtain an attorney; or if this is not possible, plead not guilty and demand a jury trial.

11. You are entitled to a written statement of the charges against you before you are required to enter a plea.

12. You are not required to testify against yourself in any trial or hearing. (5th Amendment, U.S. Constitution)

13. If you are questioned by any law enforcement officer including the FBI, remember that you are not required to answer any questions concerning yourself or others. (5th Amendment, U.S. Constitution)

[Sources: Unsigned articles, The Ladder 1, no. 2 (November 1956): 5, 8.

Unsigned. "Citizen's Rights." The Ladder 1, no. 3 (December 1956): 2-3.

Unsigned. "A Citizen's Rights In Case of Arrest." Mattachine Review 2, no 2 (April 1956): 51.]

Amanda Bearse Comes Out Of the Closet: 1993. The Married… With Children star made headlines across the country when she became the first prime time actress to come out of the closet. Rumors about her sexuality had been floating around in the tabloids since 1991, but she wasn’t ready to deal with it. “The day I was outed was the anniversary of my brother’s death. I had woken up that morning thinking about my brother, and in the grand scheme of things, being outed didn’t matter.”

She came out under her own steam two years later in an interview with The Advocate. “I would love this interview to be the impetus for someone else to come forward,” she told reporter Steve Greenberg. “There are numerous celebrities, gay and straight, who contribute to our community. That buys us a lot of political power. I have friends who are more active who have… respected my pace. I guess with this interview I’ve stepped on the gas.”

Older, and with more insurance.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
70 YEARS AGO: Fannie Flagg: 1944. Born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, Patricia Neal quickly discovered when she began her acting career that she wouldn’t be able to use her perfectly good birth name — the other already famous Patricia Neal had won an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1963. So at her grandfather’s and best friend’s suggestions, she became Fannie Flagg. She broke into doing local commercials and then became the host for a local morning television program.

Acting quickly gave way to comedy and writing, and in 1964 she joined Alan Funt’s Candid Camera as a staff writer. Her southern charm and sharp wit soon landed her spots on Password and the Match Game. She performed on Broadway and in a few movies, but perhaps her most interesting acting gig was as the beard for then-closeted Bewitched star Dick Sargent (see Apr 19); they were supposedly engaged to be married and were even introduced on the game show Tattletales by host Bert Convey as “Dick Sargent and his lady, Fannie Flagg.” Fannie herself was outed by her longtime lover, Rita Mae Brown, after the couple split in the late 1970s.

When the 1980s rolled around, Flagg turned more seriously to writing, which she describes as her first love. But that meant that she had to confront a huge hurdle — her severe dyslexia. She gave up her public appearances to focus on writing, and she very nearly became financially destitute in the process. The result was worth it though; her best-known novel, 1987′s Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe: A Novel, became a critically acclaimed movie in 1991. Flagg drew an important lesson from that experience because, despite the severe hardships, “I found out I was happier than I’d ever been because my priorities were straight and I was doing something I loved.” She currently divides her time between homes in Los Angeles and Birmingham.

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, September 20

Jim Burroway

September 20th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Austin, TX; Columbia, SCDallas, TX; Enid, OK; Pasadena, CA; Peterborough, ON; Provo, UT; St. Cloud, MN; Valdosta, GA.

Other Events This Weekend: Everybody’s Perfect 3 LGBTIQ Film Festival, Geneva, Switzerland; Folsom Street Fair, San Francisco, CA; Queer Lisboa 18 Film Festival, Lisbon, Portugal; OctoBEARfest, Munich, Germany; Cinema Diverse LGBT Film Festival, Palm Springs, CA; Pride Day at King’s Dominion, Richmond, VA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Northwest Gay Review, May 1975, special San Francisco travel section, page 11.

From Northwest Gay Review, May 1975, special San Francisco travel section, page 11.

TODAY IN HISTORY:
State Department Asks, Gay Applicants Tell: 1966. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State G. Marvin Gentile testified before a House Appropriations subcommittee that thirty employees identified as “security risks” had left the State Department in 1965. Some resigned, others were dismissed following investigations. Twenty-eight of the thirty left “for homosexual reasons” and the other two for other reasons “such as excessive drinking, bad debts, and excessive use of leave.” Deputy Undersecretary for Administration William J. Crockett told the Committee that the State Department would pay closer attention to “preventive security,” which he described as simply asking applicants directly if they were homosexual. “We personally interview the applicant,” he said, “and it is surprising how many admissions we get to direct questions that we would never find out without the direct questioning.”

Triangulator In Chief

President Clinton Announces Signing of DOMA Into Law: 1996. President Clinton announced his signing of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which outlawed federal recognition of same-sex marriage, and which still allows states to ignore the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S Constitution and refuse to recognized valid marriages from other states. Clinton said that he signed DOMA to head off a federal constitutional amendment, but LGBT advocates grumbled that the act was less a defense of marriage and more a defense of his 1996 reelection campaign. Those suspicions were confirmed when the Clinton campaign released a radio ad bragging about his signing of DOMA and ran it on Christian radio stations across the country. In response to loud protests from LGBT advocates, the Clinton campaign pulled that ad two days later. Section 3 of DOMA, the portion of the law that prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, was finally declared unconstitutional on June 26 of 2013.

Serving, defending.

DADT Repeal Goes Into Effect: 2011. It was an joyous celebration for the nation’s LGBT military service personnel when at the stroke of midnight, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was finally tossed into the dustbin of history where it rightfully belongs. One servicemember stationed in Germany came out to his father  — and to his unit — via YouTube. Another Navy officer married his partner at precisely one minute after midnight, and the co-founder of OutServe, “J.D. Smith” came out and revealed that he was actually Air Force First Lieutenant Josh Seefried. Naturally, not everyone welcomed the breath of fresh air. The Family “Research” Council predicted that the demise of the ban on gays serving openly would lead to a rash of “new victims of sexual harassment or assault, the soldiers exposed to HIV-tainted blood, the thousands of servicemembers who choose not to reenlist rather than forfeit their freedom of speech and religion, and the untold number of citizens who choose never to join the military.” We’re still waiting for word on any of that happening.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Harold “Hal” Call: 1917-2000. Born and raised in Missouri, Call knew that he was gay from the age of twelve. But when he was inducted into the Army during World War II, he knew that sex would be out of the question. “If people were caught engaging in homosexual acts, some of them were shipped back to the states with less-than-honorable discharges. I thought it was a waste.” He went through Officer Candidate School and was promoted to Lieutenant before being shipped to the Pacific Theater. As an officer, if he had encountered people who were gay, he would have been required to have them dismissed from the service. But his approach was of a don’t-ask-don’t-tell variety. “Who was harmed? Nobody,” he recalled later. “That’s the way the armed forces should look at it. The armed forces could not operate without homosexuals. Never could. Never has. Never will.” He was promoted to regimental battalion commander, was wounded and received the Purple Heart, and left the Army as a captain in 1945.

He returned to Missouri and worked at several newspapers including the Kansas City Star. In August of 1952, he went to Chicago, where he and three friends were arrested for “lewd conduct.” After paying an $800 bribe, the charges were dismissed, but he was fired from the Star when his supervisor found out. So he and his boyfriend at the time packed up the car and moved to San Francisco, where Call quickly became involved with the Mattachine Foundation. He began attending meetings in February, and quickly rocketed to the top leadership.

It turns out that 1953 was a pivotal year for the group, which had been founded as something of a secret society, particularly where the organization’s leadership was concerned.  Part of the secrecy was an outgrowth of some of the Foundation original founders, some of whom (Harry Hay, in particular, see Apr 7), had been members of the Communist Party. Because the Foundation was founded in the midst of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s Red and Lavender Scares, the organization was set up so that nobody knew the names of the Mattachine leadership. But it was that very secrecy — and those early political connections among some of the leaders — which opened a wedge between the founders and many of the newcomers. “They all had communist backgrounds, every damn one of them!”, Call recalled. Those newcomers feared where the founders might take the organization. As Call later explained:

“Public protests were not part of our program. Not at all. we wanted to see changes come about by holding conferences and discussions and becoming subjects for research and telling our story. We wanted to assist people in the academic and behavioral-science world in getting the truth out to people who had an influence on law and law enforcement, the courts, justice, and so on.”

Everything came to a head in the spring of 1953 (see Apr 11) during a contentions convention when the old guard resigned, the Mattachine Foundation was disbanded and promptly reconstituted as the Mattachine Society, with Call as president. As he wrote two years later:

 It became apparent … that the original founders of the movement had built better than they knew. For there emerged from the convention a Society designed to carry out all functions of the Foundation, which agreed to disband. Gone were the “secret” orders, the questions of who was behind it all and the possibility of alternate motives. Established was an association of persons who knew and trusted the others within the group, and shared the zealous desire to alleviate a pressing social problem.

It may seem ironic, then, that the “conservative takeover” of the Society would lead to its leader being among the most publicly visible homosexuals in the country. In 1954, Call created and edited the Mattachine Review, and he founded Pan-Graphic Press, a publishing and book service company that became the Mattachine Review’s printer. In 1961, when San Francisco police raided the Tay-Bush Inn and arrested 103 patrons (see Aug 14), Call swung into action and deployed the Mattachine’s meager resources to provide bail money and legal representation. A month later, Call appeared on a documentary program produced by San Francisco’s Public Television station KQED called “The Rejected” (see Sep 11).  And in 1964 when Life magazine wanted to do a groundbreaking photo essay on the gay community in the San Francisco area (see Jun 26), Call made the arrangements with local bar owners for the photo shoots.

Hall Call, in the upstairs office of the Circle J Cinema. (1999)

Mattachine business wasn’t Call’s only interest. In the 1960s, Call’s Pan-Graphic Press printed a bar directory that had been compiled by a local bar owner by the name of Bob Damron, and anyone who knows anything about Damron’s Address Book knows the rest of that story. Call also became involved in local porn production (both in print and in 16mm film) and became the owner of a few private sex clubs in the Bay area.

Those interests soon surpassed his work in the Mattachine Society, even as he blurred his other interests with the Mattachine name. The Society had already ceased to exist as a national organization in 1961, although several independent groups in several cities continued to use the Mattachine name well up into the 1970s. One of those surviving Societies was Call’s outfit, which continued in name only into the 1990s, when Call described it as “in limbo.”  “It has a board of directors, and I’m the head queen, but we don’t have the strength of a powder puff,” he said.

From The Voice, January 16, 1982, page 12.

From The Voice, January 16, 1982, page 12.

Call’s energies, by then, had been devoted to running an adult theater in the Tenderloin. When he first opened his theater in 1973, he named it Cinemattachine, much to the consternation of other activists who already felt that he had turned the San Francisco society into a front for his private businesses when he gave the Mattachine Review’s business to his Pan-Graphics Press. Call later renamed his theater the Circle J Cinema, and it was exactly what you would imagine a theater with that name would be. Over his lifetime, Call amassed over 5,000 gay men’s sex videos and films, and he was an outspoken advocate for sexual freedom. He died in San Francisco in 2000. His papers are part of the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives in Los Angeles.

[Sources: Hall Call. "A brief history of the Mattachine Society" The Mattachine Review 1, no. 2 (March-April 1955), : 39.

Eric Marcus. Making History: The Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights. An Oral History. (New York: HarperCollins, 1992): 59-69.]

Rocking the Paradise

Chuck Panozzo: 1948. Do you remember the band Styx? I’m not sure how much play they get on classic rock radio these days, but they were huge from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s. They were my favorite band in high school; I thought 1977′s The Grand Illusion was, you know, so deep. Anyway, bassist Chuck Panozzo co-founded the band with his fraternal twin brother, John. In 2001, Chuck came out as gay and as a person living with HIV, and since then he has been involved with AIDS awareness campaigns. His autobiography, The Grand Illusion: Love, Lies, and My Life with Styx, chronicles the rise of Styx and the his own struggles to come to terms with himself.

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).

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The Daily Agenda for Friday, September 19

Jim Burroway

September 19th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Austin, TX; Dallas, TX; Enid, OK; Pasadena, CA; Peterborough, ON; Provo, UT; St. Cloud, MN; Valdosta, GA.

Other Events This Weekend: Everybody’s Perfect 3 LGBTIQ Film Festival, Geneva, Switzerland; Queer Lisboa 18 Film Festival, Lisbon, Portugal; OctoBEARfest, Munich, Germany; Cinema Diverse LGBT Film Festival, Palm Springs, CA; Pride Day at King’s Dominion, Richmond, VA; Out On the Mountain at Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia CA (Friday only).

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Blade (Washington, DC), June 1977, page 22.

From The Blade (Washington, DC), June 1977, page 22.

A Washington, D.C. entertainment guide in 2004 described Mr. P’s as “the oldest gay bar in the Circle” attracted “one of the oldest crowds,” which the writer defined as “30-and-ups.” Bitch! It went on: “In the evenings, patrons spill out onto the patio and head upstairs to the 2nd bar… The (Sunday) barbecues on the back patio are a good chance to meet some of the locals.” There’s a Mediterranean restaurant there today.

Mayor Abe Aronovitz

TODAY IN HISTORY:
60 YEARS AGO: Miami Mayor Dismisses Constitutional Concerns Over Anti-Gay Drive: 1954. Miami’s ongoing media-driven hysteria over the discovery of gay people in their midsts (see Aug 3, Aug 11, Aug 12, Aug 13 (twice that day), Aug 14, Aug 15, and Aug 16Aug 26, Aug 31, Sep 1, Sep 2, Sep 7, and Sep 15) received further attention on the editorial page of The Miami News when staff writer Jane Woods highlighted the many battles between the combative mayor Abe Aronovitz and others on the City Commission and the local community:

Homosexuals brought the next trouble. In the pre-Kefauver days, says the Mayor, there were numerous bars in downtown Miami with gambling rooms upstairs or in the back. After open gambling was closed down, some of these bar operators turned these upstairs rooms into parlors, where homosexuals congregated, met each other, made love.

After Miami had a series of shocking crimes this summer, it was brought to the Mayor’s attention that many homosexuals took an intense pleasure in starting innocent young people off into an abnormal life. Many teen-age boys, to make money, had learned to feign abnormality to milk older homosexual men for all the money they could. Bar operators calculatingly making money from this traffic in human misery in the heart of downtown appalled him (Aronovitz), he says.

“The only effective step I knew to take was to bring the most intense public pressure to bear on Chief Headley (see Aug 26Aug 31, and Sep 1,) I have affection, and respect for Walter Headley and his ability. But I hoped that the men in the district, under him, directly able to do something about these bars, might be spurred into action if they felt the chief’s job as at stake. I knew they could, if they would, use technicalities of the law to force these places out of existence.

“What response do I get from my fellow commissioners? Mr. Hearn tells me that I am doing millions of dollars worth of harm by bad publicity, making it appear we are a houseful of perverts in Miami. Chief Quigg suggests that the intense police drive I advocate might violate constitutional rights of some men.”

Photo by Randolfe Wicker.

50 YEARS AGO: First Known Gay Rights Picket In America: 1964. For such a momentous occasion, one would think there’d be more written about it. Sadly, I haven’t been able to find a whole lot. The picket took place in the middle of Manhattan, at the U.S. Army’s Whitehall Induction Center, in protest over the army’s failure to keep gay men’s draft records confidential. New York activist Randolfe Wicker (see Feb 3) organized it along with Craig Rodwell, who would go on to open the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookstore, the first LGBT bookstore in the U.S. Another picketer was Renai Cafiero,who would go on to become  one of the first openly gay delegates to the 1972 Democratic National Convention. Other marchers included Nancy Garden and Jeff Poland of the New York League  for Sexual Freedom. Picket signs declared, “Homosexuals died for U.S., Too,” “Love and Let Love,” and “Army Invades Sexual Privacy.”  You can see Wicker’s original photos from that event here. If anyone knows a good source for more information on this, please let me know via email or in the comments below.

Totally straight.

An Ex-Gay Leader Walked Into A Bar: 2000. In 1998, the supposedly “ex-gay” John Paulk and his “ex-lesbian” wife Anne were the centerpieces of a massive publicity push by Focus On the Family to promote the pray-away-the-gay therapy offered by Exodus International. Paulk was the manager of Focus’s Homosexuality and Gender division, and he had also served as Board Chairman for Exodus since 1995. As part of their publicity campaign, the Paulks appeared on 60 Minutes and Oprah, as well as in full-page newspaper ads and on a 1998 cover of Newsweek. Their 1999 book, Love Won Out, became the title for a series of promotional ex-gay conferences put on jointly by Focus and Exodus.

On September 19, 2000, John Paulk traveled to Washington, D.C. on Focus business when he walked into a gay bar known as Mr. P’s in the heart of D.C.’s Dupont Circle gayborhood. In 2014, Paul described the pressures of living as an ex-gay spokesperson that led him to go to Mr. P’s that evening:

[E]ven as I pursued this career as a professional ex-gay man, and raised a family and loved my wife, I was in utter torment. I struggled off and on with addiction and wanting to take my life. I knew I was living on the inside as two people. I wanted to believe it was true so badly that not only did I lie to other people, I primarily lied to myself. I wanted my homosexuality to change, but the truth is: For all my public rhetoric, I was never one bit less gay. Behind closed doors, many of us in the “ex-gay” leadership at Focus on the Family would even admit this to each other — and we had this conversation many times: “We know our orientation hasn’t really changed. What has changed is our behavior. Our way of life. How we see ourselves. Our sexuality has not changed.”

But it only became harder to maintain the false veneer of heterosexuality, at home and at work. I was preaching to other adult gay and lesbian people a gospel that I no longer really believed in. More and more, when I’d have to get up and speak to crowds about my gay conversion, I felt like a wind-up toy. I’d go back to my hotel room, fall on the bed and start weeping. I thought, “If I have to go out and do that one more time, I will literally throw up.” I was in agony. I wasn’t easy to live with either. I was short with my children and took my anger and anxiety out on my devoted wife. I just couldn’t handle it anymore.

Everything began to change in 2000, when I was photographed in a gay bar in Washington, DC. I had not gone into a gay bar since the late ‘80s, and I wasn’t looking for sex. I just wanted to be among my own kind, to feel at home, for a brief period.

A few of the patrons there, employees at the Human Rights Campaign, recognized him immediately and watched as Paulk ordered a drink and struck up conversations with other bar patrons. One of the HRC staffers called Wayne Besen, who was also working at the HRC at the time and who had already written about the ex-gay movement. When Besen arrived twenty minutes later, he found Paulk on a barstool chatting with patrons. Besen confronted Paulk and tried to photograph him, but the bar’s bouncer, citing house rules prohibiting photography, stepped in and asked Besen to leave. Besen waited outside the bar, and when Paulk finally came out the front door, Besen snapped another photo as Paulk was leaving.

Fleeing Mr. P’s.

Besen immediately called several reporters. The first to express an interest was Southern Voice’s Joel Lawson, who broke the story two days later. In Paulk’s first public statement, he claimed that he only went to Mr. P’s to use the restroom. Besen countered, “I didn’t know that using the bathroom involved 40 minutes of socializing in a bar and offering drinks to strangers.” Paulk was called back to Focus headquarters in Colorado Springs where he was placed on probation and removed as Board Chair at Exodus International (although he remained a member of the board on probationary status). But he somehow managed to weather the controversy. Paulk remained in his position at Focus, and he continued to be the principal organizer and featured speaker at Love Won Out conferences for another three years.

In 2003, he finally decided to step down from Focus. He and his wife moved to Portland, Oregon, where he started a catering business. While Anne continued to write books and speak at ex-gay conferences, John dropped out from the movement altogether. Over the past year, the two have gone their separate ways altogether. In April, John renounced his prior association with the ex-gay movement, saying “I no longer support the ex-gay movement or efforts to attempt to change individuals — especially teens who already feel insecure and alienated.” He followed that a week later with a formal apology: “I know that countless people were harmed by things I said and did in the past. Parents, families, and their loved ones were negatively impacted by the notion of reparative therapy and the message of change. I am truly, truly sorry for the pain I have caused. From the bottom of my heart I wish I could take back my words and actions that caused anger, depression, guilt and hopelessness. In their place I want to extend love, hope, tenderness, joy and the truth that gay people are loved by God.”

John and Anne’s divorce was finalized in June of 2013. Anne Paulk remains active in the ex-gay movement, after having helped to a break-away group of former Exodus ministries following Exodus president Alan Chambers’s acknowledgment that change in sexual orientation was not possible. She now serves on the board of directors of that dissident group, Restored Hope Network.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
80 YEARS AGO: Brian Epstein: 1934-1967. He was already well on the way to becoming a successful businessman as manager of the record departments at his father’s chain of radio and hi-fi stores in Liverpool, when he began to hear the buzz surrounding a local band. He decided to attend a lunchtime concert at the Cavern Club and was blown away by what he heard. “I was immediately struck by their music, their beat, and their sense of humor on stage — and, even afterwards, when I met them, I was struck again by their personal charm. And it was there that, really, it all started.” The band called themselves the Beatles. Epstein signed on as their manager, and within five months he had paid Decca records out of his own pocket to record a studio demo. He shopped it around, but none of the major labels were interested until George Martin at EMI’s tiny Parlophone label heard them. He liked what he heard and signed the band. The rest, as they say, is history.

Epstein’s sexuality wasn’t generally known until several years after his death in 1967. The band, of course, figured it out right away, probably owing to Epstein’s interest in the band’s appearance on stage. Epstein is credited for creating the early Beatles’ look — the collarless suits and ties, the mod haircuts, the synchronized bow at the end of their performances. John Lennon was known to make a few sarcastic comments about Epstein’s sexuality, but the band mostly accepted him as one of their own. Rumors later swirled that Lennon and Epstein had an affair while vacationing in Barcelona in 1963, but Lennon denied it in a Playboy interview in 1980. “It was never consummated, but we had a pretty intense relationship,” he said. Lennon and his first wife, Cynthia, (Epstein had been Lennon’s best man when they married in 1962) have always maintained that the relationship was platonic.

After Epstein died in 1967 from an overdose of the barbiturate Carbitral, the band began its downward spiral. Much of that downfall was attributed to tensions between McCartney and Lennon, who argued over who should take over the band’s management. They were never able to come to an agreement, and the relationship between the two men continued to deteriorate.

Eighteen years after the Beatles broke up, they were among the earliest entrants into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Paul McCartney credits Epstein for making the Beatles one of the most successful bands in the world. “If anyone was the Fifth Beatle, it was Brian,” he told a BBC documentary in 1997. Epstein was finally induced into the Hall’s Non-Performer’s Section in 2014.

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

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

The Daily Agenda for Thursday, September 18

Jim Burroway

September 18th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Austin, TX; Dallas, TX; Enid, OK; Pasadena, CA; Peterborough, ON; Provo, UT; St. Cloud, MN; Valdosta, GA.

Other Events This Weekend: Everybody’s Perfect 3 LGBTIQ Film Festival, Geneva, Switzerland; Queer Lisboa 18 Film Festival, Lisbon, Portugal; OctoBEARfest, Munich, Germany; Cinema Diverse LGBT Film Festival, Palm Springs, CA; Pride Day at King’s Dominion, Richmond, VA; Out On the Mountain at Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia CA (Friday only).

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From ONE magazine, April 1957, page 2.

Finding books on homosexuality in the 1950s was just about impossible for most people. These just weren’t the kind of books one would have found at the book shop on Main Street. And if the local library had them, they would have likely been kept locked away and only the stern school-marmish librarian had the key. A few unconventional bookstores, like this one catering to the Greenwich Village arts crowd, found that they could fill the void and augment their business by advertising in alternative newspapers and magazines like ONE. I can’t find any information about the Village Theater Center Bookshop, except to note that it was located two blocks from where the seminal Stonewall Rebellion would take place in 1969, and one block from where the Oscar Wilde Book Shop would relocate itself in 1973.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Donald Webster Cory/Edward Sagarin: 1913-1986. He was once hailed as the “Father of the Homophile Movement,” with considerable justification. No one else can lay claim to inspiring so many gay men and women to join a homophile movement during the sexually-fearsome 1950s than this unlikely married Jewish perfume salesman from New York. Writing under the pseudonym Donald Webster Cory, he published The Homosexual In America: A Subjective Approach in 1951, and it would  become unquestionably the single most influential book in the early gay rights movement in America. It was the first major publication to provide an exhaustive overview of a kind of gay life that was largely underground and out of sight of ordinary Americans. He discussed gay bars, drag queens, relationships, and marriages — as convenience and as cover (including his own, to his wife Gertrude since 1936, although by all accounts they were devoted to each other throughout their lives). He even provided a lexicon of gay slang. But most importantly, he wrote of homosexuals as “an unrecognized minority” on par with other minorities who were struggling for recognition in America:

We homosexuals are a minority, but more than that, an intensified minority, with all of the problems that arise from being a separate group facing us that are faced by other groups, and with a variety of important problems that are unshared by most minorities. The ethnic groups can take refuge in the comfort and pride of their own, in the warmth of family and friends, in the acceptance of themselves among the most enlightened people around them. But not the homosexuals. Those closest to us, whose love we are in extreme need of, accept us for what we are not. Constantly and unceasingly we carry a mask, and without interruption we stand on guard lest our secret, which is our very essence, is betrayed.

But what really pushed the boundaries was his unequivocal call for the full integration of gay people in public life. “I am convinced,” he wrote, “and will presently attempt to demonstrate, that there is a permanent place in the scheme of things for the homosexual — a place that transcends the reaction to hostility and that will continue to contribute to social betterment after social acceptance.” He was also an early proponent of what we today would call multiculturalism, saying that the diversity of minorities — ethnic, religious, racial and sexual minorities — strengthens and enriches a democratic society. “[H]omosexuality — fortunately but unwittingly — must inevitably place a progressive role in the scheme of things,” he argued. “It will broaden the base for freedom of thought and communication, will be a banner-bearer in the struggle for liberalization of our sexual conventions, and will be a pillar of strength in the defense of our threatened democracy.”

But if one were to try to look back with perfect 20-20 hindsight, one might detect occasional flashes of conservatism in The Homosexual In America, but it’s hard to see it given the very conservative times in which the book appeared. He accepted without question the consensus in the psychological world that homosexuality came about as a result of a disturbed home life. But then so did a large number of other gay people, who believed what the professionals told them and accepted it without question. But what set Cory apart was his argument that the mental health professions were powerless to make straight the homosexual and, further, that there was no need to try. Homosexuals may have come from disturbed homes, he reasoned, but that didn’t mean that they were disturbed themselves. Whatever disturbances they did possess came from the stresses of coping with a majority that had no use for them.

An early advertisement for Donald Webster Cory’s “The Homosexual In America.” (Click to enlarge.)

Over the next six years, The Homosexual in America went through seven hardcover printings, was re-issued as a mass market paperback in 1963, and was translated into Spanish and French. It inspired a movement and drew to it those who would shape that movement for the next two decades. Barbara Gittings (see Jul 31), who was instrumental in getting the APA to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973, credited Cory’s book with inspiring her to become involved:

What got me started in the movement was a book I found in 1953, which had been published two years earlier. It was called The Homosexual in America: A Subjective Approach, by Donald Webster Cory. The book was fascinating because, now that I look back on it, Cory’s book was very much a call to arms. Cory said that we ought to be working to gain our equality and our civil rights. … At that time, it was a very challenging book because it was saying, in effect, that we could stand up and do something for ourselves and change our situation.

Cory continued writing for the pioneering homophile magazine ONE and served as a contributing editor for the magazine’s first three years. In one article for ONE, he spoke out against those who “pleaded for acceptance from the world at large” while at the same time expressing intolerance toward effeminate men, a position that resonates still today. He established the Cory Book Service, a book-of-the-month club that provided subscribers hard to find gay-themed books. He also was a sought-after lecturer in the U.S. and Europe.

Cory’s importance to the early homophile movement gave very few hints of how reactionary and hostile he would wind up being to the very movement he helped to inspire. But many began to notice something of a shift in 1963 when Cory co-authored The Homosexual and His Society with John LeRoy (pseudonym for Barry Sheer, a New York Mattachine member and Cory’s lover at the time). Cory still argued, forcefully, for the full acceptance of gay people in society, and he argued that the first duty of mental health professionals wasn’t to “cure” gay people, but to “eliminate the personal distress and anxieties that arise as a result of social hostility.” But he challenged those in the homophile movement who rejected the idea that gay people were emotionally disturbed, going so far as to argue that there was no such thing as a “well-adjusted homosexual.”  Cory repeated and reinforced that contradictory line in his 1964 book, The Lesbian In America. A reviewer in the Daughters of Bilitis’ newsletter, The Ladder, found him “inconsistent and unconvincing in labeling lesbians as basically disturbed (or sick?), as he does part of the time, and at the same time advocating an end to discrimination against them in government service, in the armed forces, and in society generally.”

A turning point for Cory would come in 1965 when he ran for president of the Mattachine Society of New York. In March of that year, the Washington, D.C. chapter, under the leadership of Frank Kameny, had adopted a formal position that “homosexuality is not a sickness, disturbance or other pathology in any sense but is merely a preference, orientation or propensity on a par with, and not different in kind from, heterosexuality.” (See Mar 4.) Cory’s opponent, Dick Leitsch, wanted the New York chapter to adopt a similar resolution, calling illness question “the greatest obstacle in the path of the homosexual community’s fight for full citizenship in our Republic.” The vote for the chapter’s leadership position became a referendum on whether gay people were ill or not. Cory lost that election, but he also lost more than that. He lost the respect of his fellow activists. Kameny, in a letter just before the election, warned Cory of his increasing irrelevance:

You have become no longer the vigorous Father of the Homophile Movement, to be revered, respected and listened to, but the senile Grandfather of the Homophile Movement, to be humored and tolerated at best; to be ignored and disregarded usually; and to be ridiculed at worst.

Cory retreated from the homophile movement almost immediately, leaving behind the Donald Webster Cory pseudonym once and for all. As Edward Sagarin, he graduated from New York University’s sociology program in 1966. His dissertation was titled “Structure and Ideology in an Association of Deviants” — that association being the Mattachine Society — where he described, in the third person, his embittered version of events leading up to his defeat the previous year. “The Mattachine Society has little regard for the truth,” he wrote. “It is part of a movement that participates in blackmail.” Sagarin used that dissertation as the basis for a chapter in his 1969 book, Odd Man In: Societies of Deviants in America, in which he argued that Alcoholics Anonymous was the proper model for what a gay organization should be. While American readers had no clue about the connection between Sagarin and Cory, many in the homophile movement knew exactly who he was. But because of an unwritten code of honor that came about during the Lavender Scare of the 1950s, outing him was out of the question. A book reviewer for the Daughters of Bilitis’ The Ladder clearly chaffed at the restriction. “Could it be that he is one of the homosexuals who has surrendered … to the ‘sick sick sick school?”, she asked. “Right, but I assure you that if you knew who this man really is, then you’d wonder, really wonder, for he is as responsible for the founding of the homophile movement as any other single man.”

That code of honor finally broke down in 1974 when Sagarin attended the American Sociological Society’s annual convention and spoke on a panel titled, “Theoretical Perspectives on Homosexuality” to criticize the gay rights movement. Laud Humphreys, who founded the Sociologists’ Gay Caucus later that same year, sharply challenged Sagarin during the Q&A period while alternately calling him “Professor Sagarin” and “Mr. Cory” as feigned slips of the tongue. Humphreys then went in for the kill: “And where did you get your data?” Sagarin clenched his fists and said, “I am my data.” He then left the stage in tears, and from that point on he withdrew from discussing homosexuality altogether. He died of a heart attack on June 10, 1986.

Many have described Sagarin as a modern-day Jekyll and Hyde figure. As Donald Webster Cory, he remains a pioneer in the early gay rights movement. The year in which The Homosexual In America appeared, the country was in the grip of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s Red and Lavender Scares, and Cory’s treatise rang out as both a radical declaration for equality and a pioneering examination of contemporary gay society. The Homosexual In America today should occupy a prime spot in the gay rights canon. But as Edward Sagarin, he would become an intractable foe of the very movement he helped to inspire. For that, Kamany’s prediction came to fruition: the once-vigorous Father of the Homophile Movement is today disregarded and ignored.

[Sources: Ronald Bayer. Homosexuality and American Psychiatry: The Politics of Diagnosis 2nd ed. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987): 86, 88.

"Florence Conrad" (Florence Jaffy). Book Review: "The Lesbian In America." The Ladder 9, no. 1 (October 1964): 4-7.

Donald Webster Cory. The Homosexual In America: A Subjective Approach (New York: Greenberg Publisher, 1951).

Martin Duberman. "Donald Webster Cory: Father of the Homophile Movement." In The Martin Duberman Reader: The Essential Historical, Biographical, and Autobiographical Writings (New York: The New Press, 2013): 172-205.

Eric Marcus. Making History: The Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights, 1940-1990. An Oral History (New York: HarperCollins, 1992): 111-112.

James T. Sears: Behind the Mask of the Mattachine: The Hal Call Chronicles and the Early Movement for Homosexual Emancipation (New York: Harrington Park Press, 2006): 529-530.

Stephen O. Murray "Donald Webster Cory (1913-1986)" In Vern L. Bullough's (ed.) Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (New York: Harrington Park Press, 2002): 333-343.]

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

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

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