Posts Tagged As: Daily Agenda

The Daily Agenda for Saturday, July 16

60 YEARS AGO: He is most acclaimed for his Pulitzer prize-winning play, Angels In America, the seven-hour epic about the AIDS crises in the Ed Koch-era of New York. Kushner wrote the play for eight actors, but stipulated that each of the actors was to play multiple roles (including multiple genders) throughout the production. When he adapted the play for an HBO miniseries starring Meryl Streep and Al Pacino, the same construct was applied. In addition to the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Kushner won the Tony Awards for Best Play in 1993 and 1994 (Angels In America is actually in two parts, Millennium Approaches and Perestroika, each having its own separate Broadway debut.)

After the turn of the new millennium, Kushner began writing for film, co-writing the screenplay for Steven Spielberg’s Munich. Most recently, he was the screenwriter for Spielberg’s Lincoln, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, for which Kushner won an Academy Award, Golden Globe, BAFTA, and a Writers Guild award for best adapted screenplay. In 2013, Kushner was one of twenty-four recipients for the National Medal of Arts and Humanities from President Barack Obama.

The Daily Agenda for Friday, July 15

From The Dallas Voice, July 13, 1984, page 12. (Source.)

From The Dallas Voice, July 13, 1984, page 12. (Source.)

Randolfe Wicker

Randy Wicker

There had long been an inherent tension among the various local chapters of the Mattachine Society between those who, because of their experience with the McCarthy-led Lavendar Scare witchhunt in the early 1950s, feared public scrutiny and exposure, and those who argued for greater visibility. Randy Wicker (see Feb 3) was among the latter. To get around some of the group’s objections, Wicker established a separate entity he called the Homosexual League of New York, an organization that consisted solely of himself, and which gave him the freedom to act independently while giving others a sense that there was an organization behind him.

Earlier in 1962 WBAI, New York’s listener-supported progressive Pacifica radio station, aired an hour-long special, “The Homosexual In America.” It was typical for its day, featuring a panel of psychiatrists describing gay people as sick and in need of a cure — a cure that they could provide with just a few hours of therapy. Wicker was incensed, not only at the ignorance of these so-called “experts,” but also because, once again, there was a panel of straight people talking about gay people with nary a gay person in sight.

Wicker marched into the WBAI studios and confronted Dick Elman, the station’s public affairs director. “Why do you have these people on that don’t know a damn thing about homosexuality? They don’t live it and breathe it the way I do. … I spend my whole life in gay society.” Wicker demanded equal time and Elman agreed, as long as Wicker could find other gay people willing to go on the air as part of a panel.  When plans for the program were announced, the New York Journal-American went ballistic. Jack O’Brian, the paper’s radio-TV columnist, wrote that the station should change its callsign to WSICK for agreeing to air an “arrogant card-carrying swish. …We’ve heard of silly situations in broadcasting, but FM station WBAI wins our top prize for scraping the sockly barrel-bottom.”

WBAI went ahead despite the controversy and the program, titled “Live and Let Live,” featured Wicker and seven other gay men talking for ninety minutes about what it was like to be gay.  They talked about their difficulties in maintaining careers, the problems of police harassment, and the social responsibility of gays and straights alike. The program’s host guided the programs with questions to the panel. “Is there harassment?” he asked. One panelist described a policeman who “roared up, jumped out of the car, grabbed me, and started giving me this big thing about ‘What are you doing here, you know there are a lot of queers around this neighborhood.’ He said, ‘You know, there’s only one thing worse than a queer, and that’s a nigger’.”

The following morning, The New York Times’s Jack Gould called the program “the most extensive consideration of the subject to be heard on American radio” — a statement that betrays his own unawareness of several similar programs which had already aired on radio and television in San Francisco and Los Angeles years earlier. Nevertheless, he wrote that “it succeeded, one would think in encouraging a wider understanding of the homosexual’s attitudes and problems.” Newsweek called the program “96 minutes of intriguing, if intellectually inconclusive listening.” A group of listeners lodged a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission and challenge the station’s broadcast license. When the FCC recognized the broadcast as a legitimate exercise in free speech, it signaled to other radio and television stations that homosexuality was an acceptable topic for broadcast (see Jan 23).

(d. 1971) He was a well-regarded American diplomat with twenty-seven years’ experience in the Foreign Service. During World War II, Reber scored a significant diplomatic win by getting Vichy France to agree that French colonies and possessions, ships and planes in the Caribbean would not be used by the Axis powers, an agreement which underscored Vichy’s weakness as a French power. Reber then joined the Allied Control Commission in Italy, and from there he served as the U.S. representative to the Allied French government in 1944. By 1946, he was a political adviser to the U.S. delegation at the Council of Foreign Ministers Conference in Paris. In 1947 he was director of the State Department’s Office of European Affairs, and in 1950 he joined in the Allied High Commission as an adviser for the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany.

Beginning in 1948, Reber faced his greatest diplomatic challenge while working for an Austrian peace treaty after enduring years of threats and insults from the Soviet Union. His work ultimately laid the groundwork for an independent Austria remaining outside of the Soviet block. But the treaty guaranteeing that independence wouldn’t come about until two years after Reber was forced out of the State Department in 1953. That’s when Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s Red Scare — and the accompanying Lavender Scare — was in full force in the U.S. Senate. McCarthy charged that the upper ranks of the State Department were filled with communists and homosexuals, prompting a wide-ranging witch hunt within the department. Reber was called in for a polygraph test and interrogations on March 17 and 19, 1953. That investigation uncovered “a lot of admissions” about homosexuality. When McCarthy threatened to reveal allegations of Reber’s homosexuality, Reber announced his retirement in May 1953, effective July 15 when he turned 50.

Because of Reber’s high profile, the reasons for his sudden resignation quickly spread through diplomatic and political circles. In 1954, McCarthy used Reber’s resignation against Reber’s brother, Major General Miles Reber, who was called to testify on the first day of the Army-McCarthy hearings. According to Time magazine:

Returning to twist the dirk already thrust into the Reber brothers, McCarthy asked General Reber: “Are you aware of the fact that your brother was allowed to resign when charges that he was a bad security risk were made against him as a result of the investigation of this committee?” Jenkins roared in protest. McClellan roared in protest. McCarthy talked on, stuck to his question. General Reber sat in silence, gripping the edges of the witness table until his knuckles showed white. Finally, McCarthy, having made his point over radio and television, dismissed the entire question as unimportant, and grandly said he would withdraw it.

But West Pointer Reber would not have it so. In a voice thick with emotion, he asked to be allowed to answer the “very serious charge” made against his brother. After another long argument, Reber said simply: “. . . As I understand my brother’s case, he retired, as he is entitled to do by law, upon reaching the age of 50 … I know nothing about any security case involving him.” With a sigh of relief, Chairman Mundt dismissed Reber, thanking him for his frank manner—a remark to which McCarthy, who seemed determined to resent any civility, made a formal objection.

After retirement, Reber served as Executive Secretary of the New York City Goethe Haus, a German cultural exchange association. In 1958, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) warded him its Knight Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit. He died in Princeton, New Jersey, on Christmas Day of 1971.

David Cicilline

55 YEARS AGO: When he was elected mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, in a landslide in 2002, David Cicilline became the first openly gay man to become mayor of a state capital. He held that position until 2011, when he went to Congress to represent Rhode Island in the U.S. House of Representatives after a surprisingly close race against his Republican opponent in what was supposed to be a safe Democratic seat. When he joined Congress, he became one of four openly gay representatives in the House. Cicilline was re-elected in 2012, despite falling approval ratings which were partly due to Providence’s near bankruptcy in the wake of Cicilline’s eight years as mayor.

In Congress, Cicilline has been a strong advocate for gun control, so much so that the National Rifle Association gave him an F- lifetime score. He has also declared his support for veterans access to health care, mental health services, housing and education. He co-sponsored the Veterans Dog Training Therapy Act which provides trained therapy dogs for veterans suffering from PTSD.

The Daily Agenda for Thursday, July 14

From Bay Area Reporter, July 15, 1971, page 25.

From Bay Area Reporter, July 15, 1971, page 25.

Sr. Jeannine Gramick, Fr. Robert Nugent

Sr. Jeannine Gramick, Fr. Robert Nugent

New Ways Ministry, founded in 1977 by Sr. Jeannine Gramick and Fr. Robert Nugent, was (and still is) “a gay-positive ministry of advocacy and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Catholics, and reconciliation within the larger Christian and civil communities.” The ministry’s name was inspired by a 1976 pastoral letter by Bishop Francis J. Mugavero of Brooklyn which, while emphasizing “chastity is a virtue which liberates the human person,” nevertheless “pledge[d] our willingness to help you bear your burdens, to try to find new ways to communicate the truth of Christ because we believe it will make you free.”

Free from what, exactly, the letter didn’t say. (This was before the religious ex-gay movement was founded in 1976.) But Sr. Gramick and Fr. Nugent saw that the clearest path to freedom was to create wider acceptance for gay and lesbian Catholics within the Catholic Church. Sr. Gramick came by her advocacy for gay people a few years earlier while working on her Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, where she befriended a gay man and began ministering to those who had left the Church because of its stance toward gay people. Fr. Nugent had been involved with pastoral ministry and counseling to gay Catholics since 1971. When Fr. Nugent and Sr. Gramick co-founded New Ways Ministry at Mt. Rainier, MD., they attracted almost immediate attention from the Church’s hierarchy. Archbishop of Washington James Cardinal Hickey’s criticisms led the Vatican in 1984 to order Fr. Nugent’s and Sr. Gramick’s resignation from New Way. They complied, but continued speaking and writing about gay and lesbian issues within the church.

On July 14, 1999, the Vatican’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published a “Notification regarding Sr. Gramick and Fr. Nugent“, from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), which is charged with enforcing adherence to Catholic doctrines. The CDF, under the leadership of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (who would later become Pope Benedict XVI), “permanently prohibited” Sr. Gramick and Fr. Nugent “from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons and are ineligible, for an undetermined period, for any office in their respective religious institutes.”

Fr. Nugent responded with a lengthy statement describing his experience with Vatican officials during the previous two decades. That prompted a further order from the Vatican prohibiting him from speaking any further “about the Notification itself, about the ecclesiastical processes that led to it or about the issue of homosexuality.” Fr. Nugent then decided to return to parish-based ministry. He retired at age 75 in 2014, and passed away the following year.

Sr. Gramick refused to complying with the silencing. “I choose not to collaborate in my own oppression by restricting a basic human right [to speak]. To me this is a matter of conscience.” She then transferred from the School Sisters of Notre Dame to the Sisters of Loretto, where she has continued her work for social justice and outreach to LGBT people. In 2004, Sr. Gramick became the subject of a documentary film, In Good Conscience: Sister Jeannine Gramick’s Journey of Faith, directed by Albert Maysles of Grey Gardens and Gimme Shelter fame. New Ways Ministry continues its work of independent advocacy for LGBT Catholics.

(d. 2011) The three-time Tony-winning playwright, director and screenwriter started out by writing scripts for radio shows and training films for the U.S. Army during World War II. One photograph of GIs in the South Pacific jungle inspired him to write Home of the Brave about anti-Semitism in the military. The play opened on Broadway in 1945 and ran for sixty nine performances. (When the play was adapted for the 1949 film, the topic switched from anti-Semitic to anti-black bigotry.) That first run wasn’t a long one, but its controversial subject would come back to haunt him when he was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee and placed on the infamous entertainment blacklist during the McCarthy red scare.

His tenure on the list was relatively brief, and by the mid-1950s Laurents was back on  Broadway and in Hollywood’s good graces again. Good thing, because he went on to write West Side Story and Gypsy, and the script for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Rope. He also wrote the scripts for the films The Way We Were and The Turning Point, and directed the 1983 stage production of La Cage Aux Folles. Laurents died in 2011 in New York of pneumonia at the age of 93. His partner of more than fifty years, Tom Hatcher, had preceded him in 2006. In honor of Laurents’s career, the lights on Broadway were dimmed at 8:00 p.m. the following evening.

Charles Pierce90 YEARS AGO: (d. 1999) The self-styled “male actress” was very clear about what he was and what he was not. “You can call me an impersonator, an impressionist, a mimic, or a comic in a dress. But not a drag queen! A drag queen is someone who dresses up and goes to a ball! I’m an entertainer.” And what an entertainer he was. His impersonations included Bette Davis, Mae West, Talulah Bankhead, Gloria Swanson, Katharine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, Joan Collins and Carol Channing, who said, “He did Carol Channing better than I did.” He titled his 1990 show, “The Legendary Ladies of the Silver Screen: All Talking, All Singing, All Dancing… All Dead.”

Pierce began his male actress career after another drag performer rejected Pierce’s suggestions about how to better impersonate Bette Davis and Talulah Bankhead. Pierce then decided he could do a better job. In some of the clubs in the early fifties, Pierce performed while wearing a tuxedo because of laws banning cross-dressing, but by the time he moved to San Francisco and was a regular performer at the Gilded Cage, he was performing in ever more elaborate costumes. Eventually, he caught the attention of Hollywood producers and got guest roles in movies and television, including a guest stint on Designing Women, where he impersonated Joan Collins and Bette Davis. He died in 1999, following a long battle with cancer.

Here he is impersonating Joan Crawford.

Nobody does bitter sarcasm like Jane Lynch. Since 2009, she has played the role of Sue Sylvester on Glee, where her Emmy-, People’s Choice- and Golden Globe-winning performance is the only rational reason why anyone would want to watch Glee (in my opinion at least). She also appeared in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and had a recurring role in The L Word. In 2010, Lynch married clinical psychologist Dr. Laura Embry in Sunderland Massachusetts — you can see their video for Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project here — but the couple divorced in January 2014. Lynch is currently hosting the NBC game show, Hollywood Game Night, for which she won an Emmy in 2014 and 2015.

The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, July 13

From The Washington Blade, July 12, 2016, page A-8.

From The Washington Blade, July 12, 2016, page A-8.

MVA80015_grandeThe first American television program featuring a gay lead character finally debuted on Showtime. The show, set in Philadelphia, centered around the three Waters brothers: Lou was a typical blue-collar construction foreman, Joe was a retired placekicker for the Philadelphia Eagles and owner of a sports bar, and Cliff, who in the first episode left his bride at the altar and came out to his family as a gay man. ABC and NBC had already turned down the series out of fear of portraying homosexuality on prime time, but when Showtime decided to begin producing original television programs, they saw Brothers as a perfect fit. After a successful first season, Showtime decided to pick up the series for a second season. Showtime also offered the series for syndication to over-the-air broadcast stations, and the fledgling Fox network jumped on that deal. Brothers would go on for a full five seasons and 115 episodes.

The campaign attracted so much attention that the Family Research Council’s Bob Knight hailed it as the “Normandy landing in the larger cultural wars.” Fifteen anti-gay organizations, including the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council and Coral Ridge Ministries, launched a national million-dollar advertising campaign, with newspaper ads in the New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today featuring “ex-lesbian” Anne Paulk under the headline, “I’m living proof that the Truth can set you free.” The campaign also included a television commercial featuring ex-gay and HIV-positive Michael Johnston who, with his mother by his side, proclaimed that he was now free from the “homosexual lifestyle.”

The ads quickly generated widespread media attention. Segments on NBC’s Today, ABC’s Nightline, CBS’s 60 Minutes and Oprah were devoted to the topic, Anne and John Paulk made the cover of Newsweek under the question, “Gay for life?” The ex-gay movement finally found its moment under the sun. But more significantly, the larger anti-gay political movement had yet another weapon to use against the LGBT community. As the argument went, if gay people could choose to become straight, then they didn’t need protections or guarantees of equality under the law. One underlying argument went even further: that there was no such thing as homosexuals; they were just heterosexuals with homosexual problems.

Focus On the Family, in particular, was eager to exploit the growing public awareness of the ex-gay movement. That same year, Focus, in partnership with Exodus International, launched a series of one-day conferences across the country. Titled “Love Won Out,” the conferences were part road show and part infomercial for ex-gay ministries. Featuring John Paulk (who was also a Focus employee and conference coordinator), fellow Focus employees Melissa Fryrear and Mike Haley; Exodus’s Bob Davies and Joe Dallas (and later, Exodus President Alan Chambers); NARTH co-founder Joseph Nicolosi; and Nancy Heche, mother of actress Anne Heche (May 25), the conferences introduced thousands, mostly parents of gay children, to the movement. Many conferences attracted an attendance of more than two thousand, with a half a dozen conferences taking place every year across North America.

But all was not well behind the movement’s facade. In 2000, Wayne Besen photographed John Paulk as he was leaving a gay bar in Washington, D.C. where he had spent a couple of hours chatting up customers (Sep 19). 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 Paulk managed to weather the controversy, remaining in his position at Focus and continuing in his role as the principal organizer and featured speaker at Love Won Out conferences for another three years.

Michael Johnston and his mother in a television commercial.

In 2003, it was revealed that while Michael Johnston was the public face of the ex-gay movement, he was privately engaging in anonymous sex with men without disclosing his HIV status. Johnston quickly shuttered his ministry and fled to Pure Life Ministries, an ex-gay residential program in rural Kentucky.

So, where are they today? In 2012, Alan Chambers acknowledged that “the majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9% of them, have not experienced a change in their orientation.” He then repudiated the particular type of counseling intended to change sexual orientation known as Reparative Therapy, and he has declared that Exodus will no longer take sides in the political debates surrounding gay rights. In 2013, he issued a formal apology for the harms done by Exodus International to its clients and shut down Exodus altogether. He has written about his transformation from an anti-gay activist to someone who now advocates for LGBT inclusion and supports marriage equality in My Exodus: From Fear to Grace. Last month, he spoke at the National Cathedral and rode in the Pride Parade as part of Washington, D.C.’s Pride celebrations.

John Paulk left Focus on the Family in 2o03, and he and his wife moved to Portland Oregon where he started a catering business. Anne continue to write books and speak on the ex-gay circuit. In 2013, John recanted his ex-gay beliefs and issued a formal apology. Meanwhile, Anne helped to form Restored Hope Network, a more hardline break-away group of former Exodus ministries. She now RHN’s Executive Director. The Paulks have divorced.

Until recently, Johnston was still deeply embedded in the ex-gay movement. He had been the director of donor and media relations at Pure Life Ministries, which had also listed him on its roster of public speakers. But as of 2015, his name had been scrubbed from Pure Life Ministry’s web site.

He played Ben Bruckner in the American version of Queer as Folk. His HIV-positive character gave the series an opportunity to explore anti-AIDS hysteria and stigma, both outside and inside the gay community. He has had numerous television guest roles, and he acted and produced in Save Me, the film staring Chad Allen about the ex-gay movement. Gant and Allen, along with Christopher Racster, are partners in the production company Mythgarden. He is active in LGBT elder issues, supporting SAGE (Senior Advocacy for GLBT Elders) and GLEH (Gay and Lesbian Elder Housing).

The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, July 12

We Are Orlando

JuanRamonGuerrero-DrewLeinonen

Juan Ramón Guerrero, 22 years old (left)
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old.

11888635_10104414853814412_7563205979875695064_oDrew was originally from Detroit, but he moved to Florida while young with his mother. He started the gay-straight alliance at Seminole High School, an act which earned him the title of Anne Frank Humanitarian Award Honoree in 2002. He earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in psychology at the University of Central Florida, and worked as a licensed mental health counselor. As half-Asian, he was proud of his “gaysian” identity. “He had all of this diversity in him that made him approach subjects from an interesting standpoint,” one friend said. “He could relate to anything almost.”

Juan was a pre-finance student at the University of Central Florida, and he was working as a customer service repo at a credit union. He had aspirations to be a financial advisor. Juan had come out to his cousin a few years ago but was worried about who the rest of his Dominican family would react. He came out to them earlier this year, and the family was accepting. “If he was happy, they were good.” Juan’s father described his son as quiet. “He was not a party boy.” But he loved Latin music.

20160614143323_24858370_0_bodyFriends and family described Juan and Drew as inseparable. “They were always together,” said one friend at UCF. “If you saw one, you saw the other.” Juan’s sister said, “They were honestly so in love. They were soulmates. You can tell by how they looked at each other. It’s a little comforting that they died together”

Drew last spoke to his mother earlier that evening when they were at SeaWorld. “I called him last night at 6 o’clock,” she said the day of the shooting. “He was at SeaWorld …I left him with, ‘I love you Chris.'” Drew and Juan went to Pulse with two Friends. As last call was approaching at 2:00 a.m., the four were ready to leave. The friends needed to go to the bathroom, so Drew and Juan waited for them on the dance floor. When shooting broke out, their friends were able to escape, but Drew and Juan were shot.

JuanRamonGuerrero-DrewLeinonen-4Friends saw Juan being taken to the hospital in an ambulance with multiple gunshot wounds, but he died of his injuries. For much of that day, Drew’s mother held vigil at Orlando Regional Medical Center. Her pleas for information about her son to every reporter she could corral made her the face of the kind of agony hundreds of families were going through. “I just feel terrible. I don’t know where my son is,” she said, sobbing during an interview Sunday morning. “We can’t get a hold of him. He was sitting right next to his boyfriend.”

On Monday, Drew’s name was among the last names to be released among the 49 casualties. Drew and Juan had a joint funeral at the Episcopal Cathedral Church of Saint Luke in downtown Orlando. “I think my son wanted to do that. That’s why,” said Juan’s father through tears. “I don’t care what the people think. I don’t care.” His sister added, “If it’s not a funeral, they were going to have a wedding together.”

 


 

This brings to an end our commemorations of those who died exactly one month ago today at the Pulse gay night club in Orlando. Fifty-three others were injured, some very seriously. Many of them are still recovering from their wounds. We will continue to hold all of them, and their families and friends, in our thoughts and prayers.

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