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The Daily Agenda for Friday, June 17

We Are Orlando

LuisOmarOcasio-Capo

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old

LuisOmarOcasio-Capo-2Omar was originally from Cleveland, where his mother still lives. a former teacher remembered him as “a ray of sunshine.” Omar’s sister, Belinette Ocasio-Capo said that Omar wanted to be a star. “He was one of the most amazing dancers,” she said. “He would always call me and say, ‘I’m going to be the next Hollywood star.’ He really did want to make it and be known. …Now his name ended up being all around the world, like he wanted — just not this way.” She said that Omar was due to audition for a play on Tuesday.

His cousin, Leonarda Flores, also remarked on his outgoing personality. “He did not care, he loved himself, and he loved others. He was very open, he lived who he was. He knew he was beautiful, he knew it, and he flaunted it.”

His 70-year-old coworker at a Starbucks located in a Target in Kissimmee found him brash at first, but she warmed to him after getting to know him. “I realized he had a very outgoing personality,” said Claudia Mason. “His sense of humor was definitely his defining personality trait. …Omar got along with everyone. Young, old, male, female, gay, or straight, it didn’t matter to Omar.”

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LuisOmarOcasio-Capo-1Omar loved dancing. His friend Daniel Suarez-Ortiz said, “The reason why he moved to Orlando was for his acting and dancing career, and it hurts that he is not able to do that anymore.” The last image that his friends have of him is a video showing him dancing around Pulse with his friends. The Snapchat video was taken at about 12:30 a.m., just a couple of hours before the gunman opened fire.

In November 2015, after the massacre at Paris’s Bataclan nightclub, he updated his profile picture in solidarity with the French victim. This week, an entire cabin full of JetBlue passengers showed their solidarity with Omar’s grandmother.

I didn’t want it to be a political speech. I just wanted to share what was in my heart, and that’s what came out.

…I think it’s pretty sad that a speech by a Lieutenant Governor in Utah is getting this much attention just by saying that we should love each other. I mean, how low is the bar in our country?

You can see Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox’s speech and read a transcript here.

His real name was Wladziu Valentino Liberace (May 16), but like Cher and Madonna and other gay icons, he was known by a single name. He started as a classical pianist, but he quickly added schmaltz and elements of Las Vegas showmanship (extravagant costumes, massive diamond rings, and his signature candelabra) to his repertoire of classics, show tunes, film scores and popular songs, all of which took his performances in a decidedly unclassical direction. His curly black hair, long eyelashes and bright smile made him a sex symbol for an odd collection of somewhat nerdy teenage girls, their middle-aged mothers and even their grandmothers — and for not a few gay men who understood what they were seeing. His flamboyance had long provoked questions about his sexuality (Oct 7), but those questions didn’t do much to dent the popularity of his hit television series and packed concert halls.

But in 1956, a Daily Mirror columnist who went by the pen name Cassandra (real name: William Connor) wrote a scathing article the day after Liberace’s arrival in London for a live BBC broadcast and a European tour. If everyone else was willing to go along with Liberace’s persona of being sweet, sensitive, sensational and straight, Connor had no intention of playing along:

He is the summit of sex – the pinnacle of masculine, feminine, and neuter. Everything that he, she and it can ever want. I spoke to sad but kindly men on this newspaper who have met every celebrity coming from America for the past 30 years. They say that this deadly, winking, sniggering, snuggling, chromium-plated, scent-impregnated, luminous, quivering, giggling, fruit-flavored, mincing, ice-covered heap of mother love has had the biggest reception and impact on London since Charlie Chaplin arrived at the same station, Waterloo, on September 12, 1921.

Liberace replied with at telegram: “What you said hurt me very much. I cried all the way to the bank.” But he also decided to sue for libel. The case finally reached a London courtroom in 1959. On June 6, Liberace took the stand and denied that he was gay. He also denied that he was even a sex symbol. “I consider sex appeal as something possessed by Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot. I certainly do not put myself in their class,” he said, prompting laughter in the court room. When Connor took the stand, he denied trying to imply that Liberace was gay, although he found it difficult to square that claim with his word choices for his column. The most damning phrase, according to news accounts of the day, was his use of “fruit-flavored.” Apparently that was not the phrase to be tossed around at just anyone.

With no proof of actual homosexual activity on Liberace’s part — there were no former lovers to testify, no police arrests to report — the jury returned a verdict of guilty against Connor and the Daily Mirror, and awarded damages of $22,400. Liberace’s pop idol status also probably helped. One upper-middle-aged lady on the jury gave Liberace what was described as “a broad wink” and mouthed “it’s all right” before the verdict was read. Spectators also picked up on the signal, and murmurs of “he won” spread through the courtroom. She later turned up at his hotel and told reporters that she thought he was wonderful — “a real smasher.” This was after she

But today of course we know what was true all along: that he was actually gay even though he never came out of the closet during his lifetime. His estate and many of his remaining fans continued to deny for many years the numerous reports that when he died in 1987, it was AIDS that killed him.

The documentary The Queen makes its premiere in a theater in New York City. The film, shot almost entirely with hand-held cameras, is a primitive pre-Stonewall prequel to Paris is Burning, and follows the behind-the-scenes preparations for the Miss All-America Camp Beauty Pageant – a national drag queen competition in New York City. The conversations recorded in the dressing rooms about draft boards, sexual and gender identity, sex reassignment surgery, and being a drag queen captures a very specific time in LGBT history. If you are ever lucky enough to see it, keep a very sharp eye out whenever the camera pans to the audience. You might just get a quick glimpse of Andy Warhol in his trademark platinum wig.

One fine Wednesday in June, two fishermen pulled a suitcase out of Rough River Lake, located about midway between Elizabethtown and Owensboro, Kentucky. When they pulled it up and unzipped it, they found the grizley remains of Guin “Richie” Phillips, a 36-year-old gay man from Rineyville, near Elizabethtown. He was identified by some personal items and a University of Kentucky Wildcat tattoo on his shoulder. Phillips had disappeared on June 17.

When his mother reported her son missing, she told police that she feared that he had been harmed because he was gay. Her fears proved correct. Police arrested Joshua Cottrell, 21, and charged him with Phillip’s murder. Cottrell had been seen having lunch with Phillips in Elizabethtown, and they were seen together in Phillip’s truck that same day. Several days later, the truck was found abandoned in Southern Indiana. Prosecutors announced that they would seek the death penalty.

When the trial finally got under way in 2005, a mutual friend testified that Cottrell had bought a set of luggage at J.C. Penney’s and told the friend that he planned to do some traveling. Cottrell also said that he would “cold-cock” Phillips if he ever made a pass at him. Cottrell’s aunt testified that Cottrell had confessed to the crime but his family didn’t believe him. According to the aunt, Cottrell invited Phillips to his motel room and asked Phillips if he liked him. Phillips said yes, and Cottrell chocked him to death.

But Cottrell testified that Phillips came to his motel room uninvited, tried to kiss him, and tried to force him to into oral sex. Cottrell’s attorney told the jury that the killing was fully justified. “This kid is not a killer,” Scott Drabenstadt said during closing arguments. “This kid is not a robber. Yes, he did some very inappropriate things with the body. … But what set it all in motion, he was privileged to do. What set it in motion were the actions of a 36-year-old man.”

That “gay panic defense,” despite the testimony from Cottrell’s own relatives, was all that was needed to convince the jury to reject the more serious charge of murder in favor of second degree manslaughter. They recommended 30 years, but Kentucky law limited the term to twenty. Phillips’s brother told a reporter, “I think they were looking at my brother being a homosexual when they made their decision to pick the lesser charge.” Cottrell was sentenced to the maximum twenty years. He is now more than half way through his term and has been eligible for parole since 2007.

Carl Van Vechten, self-portrait, 1934.

(d. 1964) A writer and a photographer, Carl Van Vechten was fascinated with African-American culture and became a patron on the Harlem Renaissance. In 1926, he published his controversial 1926 novel Nigger Heaven, which portrayed the intellectuals, political activists, workers, and others who inhabited the “great black walled city” of Harlem. The book by a white author split Harlem down the middle: Langston Hughes was among the book’s fans and defenders (Hughes even wrote new poems to replace the songs used in the book’s first printing), while W. E. B. Du Bois and Alain Locke condemned it as an “affront to the hospitality of black folks.”

The question of whether a white man could truly know the Black experience lies at the very heart of the controversy surrounding Van Vechten’s life. Some of Van Vechten’s affinity for African-Americans can be traced to his wealthy family while growing up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. His father endowed a school for African-American children, and he instructed his sons to always address the family’s employees with “Mr.” and “Mrs.”, regardless of their race. After graduating from the University of Chicago, he moved to New York to become the music and dance critic for The New York Times. In 1913, he took a year-long trip to Europe where he met Gertrude Stein and helped to get her work published.

In the 1920s, he began publishing novels himself, many of which containing sly and witty references to homosexuality. His 1923 novel, The Blind Bow-Boy includes a character he called “the Duke of Middlebottom,” whose stationery sported the slogan, “A thing of beauty is a boy forever.” It was about this time that Van Vechten emerged as a notable advocate for Black culture, writing articles in Vanity Fair celebrating the music of the Harlem Renaissance — the blues, jazz and spirituals which he said were the only authentic American musical forms. He also promoted writers of “the New Negro movement”: Alain Locke, Langston Hughes, Wallace Thurman, among others. In the 1930, Van Vechten took up photography and became known for his portraits of some of the leading artists of the day, including Langston Hughes, Marian Anderson, Pearl Bailey, Josephine Baker, Marlon Brando, Truman Capote, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Mahalia Jackson — the list is nearly endless.

Although Van Vechten had married the Russian-born actress Fania Marinoff in 1914, Van Vechten was gay. This was evident when his papers were unsealed twenty-five years after his death in 1964:

As the 25-year mark drew near, scholars assumed they were about to unveil Van Vechten’s diaries. “They said, ‘Of course, this is going to be exciting, and let’s open those journals and have a party,’ and the curator said, ‘Well, I don’t think so…’ It was a good instinct.” The few people who did attend the 1989 opening, including Willis, were shocked by what they found: 18 scrapbooks of graphic homoeroticism, full of mischief and devoid of explanation.

…Van Vechten collected newspaper clippings chronicling Harlem drag balls, early sex-change operations (“GI Who Turned Woman is a Happy Beauty”), court cases for “morals charges,” and abuse incidents. He assembled more restrained, if still theatrical, black and white photographs of male nudes, both Caucasian and African American, which most scholars think are mostly or entirely the work of Van Vechten. Nothing escaped him: Photos of ambiguously homoerotic Greek vases, labeled in childishly rounded handwriting, nestled against newspaper cutouts of male wrestlers locked in combat.

Emily Bernard’s 2012 biography, Carl Van Vechten and the Harlem Renaissance: A Portrait in Black and White, explores the contentious racial and sexual intersections between the multiple worlds that Van Vechten inhabited and chronicled.

The Daily Agenda for Thursday, June 16

We Are Orlando

FrankyJimmyDeJesusVelazquez

Franky Jimmy De Jesús Velazquez, 50 years old

Like so many of the patrons attending Pulse’s that night, Jimmy was originally from Puerto Rico. He had traveled the world as a professional Jíbaro folk dancer — Jíbaro being the name given to poor, backwoods mountain people in the island’s interior (akin to the American hillbilly). In Orlando, he was a visual merchandiser at Forever 21, designing displays for the Orlando stores. At fifty, he was the oldest of the victims killed at Pulse. He seemed to have taken his age in stride. On May 28, he posted a picture on his Facebook page of a T-shirt reading “Never underestimate an old man who is also a visual merchandiser.” “He was a very outgoing, friendly person,” said one co-worker who worked with him in Miami. “Everyone wanted to be around him.”

FrankyJimmyDeJesusVelazquez-3Jimmy wasn’t a big clubber, according to his sister, Bernice De Jesús. “He was the kind of person who likes to have a good time in the house with family and friends,” she said. “But that night he wanted to go because it was a Latin night. That is what one of his friends told me.”

Jimmy was at Pulse with his two roommates — they called themselves “the three amigos.” They heard the shooting, but thought it was part of the music until they saw people falling down. The friend tried to grab Jimmy, but he and others were pushed up against the wall by the shooter, who then started shooting at the group. His roommates were both seriously injured, but made their way out to the parking lot. Jimmy didn’t make it out. “It’s going to take a lot for them to recover,” said Bernice.

Walt Whitman spent his last nineteen years in Camden, New Jersey, just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia (May 31). More than sixty years later, the Delaware River Port Authority’s Special Committee on Bridge Names voted unanimously to name a suspension bridge, then under construction connecting nearby Gloucester City, New Jersey to Philadelphia’s Packer Avenue, for Camden’s adopted hometown hero in advance of the centenary of the first publication of Leaves of Grass (Jul 4).

The announcement was made, the Centenary was celebrated in 1956, and the bridge’s construction continued with its opening slated for the spring of 1957. That should have been the end of the matter.

And it would have been, until Father Edward Lucitt, director of the Holy Name Union of the Diocese of Camden, Monsignor Joseph McIntyre, and seven other Holy Name Society leaders in Southern New Jersey wrote to complain that “Whitman himself had neither the noble stature or quality of accomplishment that merits this tremendous honor, and his life and works are personally objectionable to us.”

That letter, from December 16, 1956, was motivated by a series of articles in the Camden diocesan weekly newspapers by Rev. James Ryan, who denounced Whitman as a third-rate poet and a scandal to decency. Other Catholic publications picked up on the controversy and went through Whitman’s published work with a fine tooth comb. They criticized a line in Section 32 of “Song of Myself” where Whitman praises the irreligiosity of animals (“They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God”), and especially, of course, “As I Lay With My Head in Your Lap, Camerado.” In January 1957, the Committee received 467 copies of a mimeographed form letter, signed by clerics, nuns and lay people from across Philadelphia and southern New Jersey, which mixed moralizing with then-common red-baiting rhetoric:

Gentlemen:

We oppose the naming of the new $90,000,000 bridge as a memorial to Walt Whitman for the following reasons:

(1) He is not great enough to deserve this honor. In what way has he inspired or influenced American democracy for good?

(2) He boasted of his immoralities and published immorality as a personal experience.

(3) He held Christianity in contempt, and affirmed himself as the new savior of mankind.

(4) He attempted to teach rebellion against the natural law of God, and the right order established by the tortured experience of the centuries.

(5) His political philosophy, dusted off the scrap heap during the depression, as the Voice of the Common Man, has proved alien to Jeffersonian Democracy, and he is now the Poet Laureate of the World Communist Revolution.

Because the naming of the Bridge in his honor would raise him to the status of a national hero, give aid and comfort to the enemies of our established order of morality and democracy, make the teaching of religious concepts difficult, and bring the common stamp of morality in our heritage into contempt, we ask you to drop Whitman’s name from the Bridge.

Not all Catholics were on board with the anti-Whitman campaign. An editorial in The Ave Maria, published at Notre Dame University, warned against the foolishness of wasting the moral weight of Catholic opinion on “less important matters” when there were other things to worry about (such as the showing of “obscene movies” and “legislation authorizing the distribution of birth control literature.”) The New York Times picked up on the story, which led to a counter-campaign by those who either supported honoring Whitman or resented Catholic interference in public affairs. For at least one letter writer, Whitman’s sexuality was not an issue. “Michael Angelo was a homosexual,” he wrote to the committee. “Why don’t they destroy the Sistine chapel?” Another letter to The New York Post expanded on that theme:

(They) “want to take Whitman’s name off that bridge because he may have been abnormal sexually. If they succeed, their next job is to remove Michelangelo’s statues from the Vatican, tear down St. Peter’s Basilica and throw out all copies of Leonardo’s Last Supper. Da Vinci was actually arrested on a charge of perversion and Michelangelo’s sonnets suggest far more than any of Whitman’s poems.”

In the end, there appears to have been little desire among River Authority officials to consider changing the name. By the time the Walt Whitman Bridge opened to traffic on May on May 16, 1957, the controversy was over and mostly forgotten. Ten years later when the New Jersey Turnpike Authority renamed one of its service areas for Whitman, no one objected. Today, the Walt Whitman Bridge is a part of Interstate 76, which is known locally in the Philadelphia area as the Schuylkill Expressway.

[Source: Joann P. Krieg. “Democracy in Action: Naming the Bridge for Walt Whitman.” Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 12, no. 2 (Fall 1994), 108-114. Available online here.

“Dal McIntire” (Don Slater) “Tangents.” ONE Magazine 4, no. 3 (March 1956):7.]

The stage musical The Rocky Horror Show premiered in London at the Royal Court’s Theatre Upstairs, a tiny 63-seat venue set aside as a project space for new works. Starring Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter — a “sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania” — the musical (set in Ohio!) follows the adventures of young lovers Brad Majors and Janet Weiss who came to the doctor’s castle to call a cab because their car has a flat tire. The production featured lots of catchy songs (“Time Warp” and “Science Fiction, Double Feature”), risqué sexuality and of course, lots of makeup. The show was an instant hit, and the cast was signed for a soundtrack album right after the show’s second night. By the time the show closed seven years and four venues later, it has gone through 2,960 performances and picked up several added songs along the way.

The Rocky Horror Show opened on Broadway on March 10, 1975, but critics panned it and the show closed just three weeks later. That same year, the play was adapted for the film and retitled The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It became a must-see cult classic that has kept art houses in business for the next four decades. Because it is still officially in limited release, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is the longest-running theatrical release in film history.

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS)

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) appeared on Armstrong Williams’s program to talk about abortion, disciplining children (he said he used a belt on his occasionally) and his childhood (growing up in Mississippi in the 1950s and early 1960s was a “good time in America.” And he also spoke on the controversial subject of same-sex marriage, two years after the passage of the Defense of Marriage Act. Williams asked Lott what he thought about homosexuality. Lott replied, “You still love that person and you should not try to mistreat them or treat them as outcasts. You should try to show them a way to deal with that.” He said his own father had had a problem with alcoholism, adding, ”Others have a sex addiction or are kleptomaniacs. There are all kinds of problems and addictions and difficulties and experiences of this kind that are wrong. But you should try to work with that person to learn to control that problem.”

President Bill Clinton’s press secretary Michael D. McCurry blasted Lott’s statement, saying it showed how difficult it was getting things done “when you’re dealing with people who are so backward in their thinking. For over 25 years, it’s been quite clear that sexual orientation is not an affliction, it’s not a disease, it is something that is part of defining one’s sexuality.'” Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-MN) seized on Lott’s remarks to demand that Clinton’s nomination of openly gay James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg to be brought to the Senate floor, a move that had been blocked by Lott. House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) came to Lott’s defense: “I abide by the Bible… I do not quarrel with the Bible on the subject.” The controversy eventually blew over and Lott kept his job as Senate Republican leader until 2002 when, at a party honoring the 100th birthday of Sen. Strom Thurmond (S-SC) who had run for President as a segregationist Dixiecrat candidate in 1948, Lott said that if Thurmond had won, “we wouldn’t have had all these problems over the years.” Those remarks finally led to his resigning his leadership position.

Del Martin (left, 87) and Phyllis Lyon (right, 83)

Phyllis Lyon (Nov 10)and Del Martin of San Francisco (May 5) had been together for fifty-five years when they were finally married at city hall. Their wedding capped a lifetime of advocacy for gay equality. In 1955, they and six other women founded the Daughters of Bilitis, the first major lesbian organization in the United States (Oct 19). Phyllis edited the DOB’s newsletter The Ladder beginning in 1956 (Jan 20), and Del served as editor from 1960 to 1962. They also took turns as head of the Daughters until 1964, when they helped found the Council on Religion and the Homosexual. Phyllis was also the first open lesbian to serve on the board of the National Organization for Women in 1973. Meanwhile, Del was heavily involved in getting the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

When the California Supreme Court ruled on May 15, 2008, that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional under the state constitution, it also issued a temporary stay to give the state time to implement the necessary changes in its forms and procedures. That stay expired at 5:00 p.m. on June 16. San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom selected Phyllis and Del for the honor of being the first same-sex couple in California to marry in a ceremony began at precisely 5:01 p.m.

Phyllis and Del enjoyed two months of officially wedded bliss before Del passed away in August of that year.

65 YEARS AGO: (d. 1991) The pioneering transgender activist had begun identifying as a “female transvestite” in 1973. Two years later, he moved to San Francisco and began identifying as a female-to-male transgender — and as a gay man. This didn’t sit well with the so-called gender specialists of the day, who saw sexual orientation and gender identity as, more or less, the same thing — gay men really “wanted to be women,” just like male-to-female transgender people, with only the degree of that “want” distinguishing the two. The idea that someone born female who identifies as a male but who also is attracted to other men — that just blew their minds, with many saying it just wasn’t possible.

So when Sullivan sought surgery, he was consistently denied it because, as far as the so-called gender experts were concerned, he was a woman who liked men and therefore there was nothing to “fix.” Sullivan was able to obtain hormones from doctors who were not associated with gender clinics, and he began lobbying the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (now known as WPATH, World Professional Association for Transgender Health), to recognize that, despite what the “experts” said, he really did exist. Sullivan wrote the first guidebook for FtM people, and he spent the rest of his life as an advocate and an educator on the clear distinctions between sexual orientation and gender identity. His efforts eventually paid off, and in 1986 he was able to undergo genital reconstructive surgery. Later that year, he was diagnosed with AIDS, which exposed him to yet another kind of stigma. Just before he died in 1991, he wrote, “I took a certain pleasure in informing the gender clinic that even though their program told me that I could not live like a gay man, it looks like I’m going to die like one.” The Lou Sullivan Society continues to serve the FtM community in the San Francisco Bay area.

The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, June 15

WeAreOrlando

Top Row: Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old • Amanda Alvear, 25 years old • Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old and Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old • Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old • Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old • Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old • Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old • Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old
Second Row: Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old • Cory James Connell, 21 years old • Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old • Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old • Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old • Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old • Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old • Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old • Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old
Third Row: Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old • Frank Hernandez, 27 years old • Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old • Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old • Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old • Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old • Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old • Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old
Fourth Row: Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old • Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old • Kimberly Morris, 37 years old • Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old • Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old • Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old • Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old • Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old
Fifth Row: Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old and Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old • Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old • Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old • Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old • Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old • Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years old • Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old • Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old
Botton Row: Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old • Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old • Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old • Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old • Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old • Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old

We wil be hearing a lot about the shooter over the next couples of weeks. I think it’s important to know those who were taken away from this earth far too early because of him. Over the next several days, I will use this space to provide a brief introduction to each of those who died on Sunday.

Edward Sotomayor

Edward “Top Hat Eddie” Sotomayor, Jr., 34 years old.

Eddie was the first to be identified to the public. That made him the face of the massacre for much of Sunday. The Sarasota resident loved to travel around the world and he made friends easily. He got the name “Top Hat Eddie” for the hats that he wore. Many of the online tributes on social media made use of black hat emojis.

“Eddie was one sweetheart and I will miss talking and working with him. That smile and top hat is burned in my memory,” Nikki Stjames posted.

“He was a kind and loving man. A man that lit up the room with his great smile,” said friend Jason Howell. “Always there to try and solve a problem whether small or big. Just the posts on all of the social media sites show how much he is loved and how he touched so many lives … he will truly be missed.”

Edie worked as a brand manager for Al and Chuck Travel, which catered to the gay community. He was also one of the company’s tour leaders:

“He was one of our tour leaders, known for wearing his top hat, and for being a really nice guy,” Robin Ziegler Suess posted on social media. “He was also a tour leader on our recent Caribbean cruise in January, where I had the honor of wearing his top hat.”

He had recently returned from Cuba after coordinating the first-ever gay cruise to the island last April. In 2015, he was the national coordinator for the “Drag Stars at Sea” cruise, which featured a number of stars from the TV Show “RuPAul’s Drag Race”:

Drag performer Pandora Boxx also remembered Sotomayor for his top hat — but also so much more. He said he first met Sotomayor on a cruise and “everyone was talking about Top Hat Eddie (he wore a top hat the entire time!).”

“Not only was he good-looking but he was so super sweet and friendly. I never heard a bad word spoken about him,” the performer said in an email to NBC News. “My heart is broken that he was taken from us by a senseless tragedy. He will be remembered with love. So much love.”

SotomayorPandoraBoxx

Eddie and his boyfriend were at Pulse for Latin Night, and he tried to get his boss, Al Furguson, to come out to the club to join in the fun:

“He was with his boyfriend and they sent me a video text from the dance floor at Pulse, trying to get me to come over from where I was at,” recalled Ferguson, who owns the travel company where Sotomayor was national brand manager.

The shooting began twenty-three minutes later. Eddie was shot in the back as he helped his boyfriend to safety.

“What I will say, over and over again, was he was a person who said, ‘We cannot be afraid,'” said Ferguson. “I know his friends are going to be the exact same way… we are not going to be afraid.”

Sen. Clyde Hoey (D-NC)

The year 1950 is better known as marking the start of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s infamous Red Scare witch hunt. But, in the spirit of first things first, the national scare over imagined Reds in America was actually preceded by a now often-forgotten Lavender Scare (Feb 28Mar 14,Mar 21Mar 23Mar 24Apr 14, Apr 18Apr 26, May 2, May 15, May 19, and May 20). The Lavender Scare began quietly enough earlier that year when Deputy Undersecretary of State John E. Peurifoy revealed in testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee that the State Department had gotten rid of 91 employees accused of being homosexual (see Feb 28). His testimony almost didn’t make the papers, but Republican and southern Democrats unhappy with President Truman’s civil rights policies, seized on that admission to stoke fears of, according to one uninformed estimate, as many as 3,750 “sex perverts” in the Federal Government’s employment (see May 19).

That wild guess was given to the Senate Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Department by Police Lieutenant Roy Blick, head of the Washington, D.C. police department’s vice squad. The Senate Committee then ordered an investigative subcommittee to investigate those charges. Sen. Clyde R. Hoey (D-NC) was named to head the investigation. “The paramount objective is to protect the Government and the public interest,” he explained, and promised the investigation will make “every effort to obtain all the pertinent facts” but without “subject(ing) any individual to ridicule.

The New York Times reported that Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI), who had already made numerous allegations concerning Communists and homosexuals in the federal government, agreed to remove himself from the panel,”to avoid being in a position of judging his own allegations.” Sen. Andrew F. Schoeppel (R-KS) was named to take his place. Other panel members were Sens. Margaret Chase Smith (R-ME), John McClellan (D-AR), James Eastland (D-MS), Herbert O’Conor (D-MD) and Karl Mundt (R-SD).

NPH has successfully smashed two important acting barriers. A former child actor, he has successfully navigated the difficulties of becoming an adult actor in Broadway, film, and television. And he has also navigated the difficult transition from assumed-straight actor to a highly visible gay one, with partner David Burtka and twin children who were born in 2010. And as a very visible gay actor, he still manages to play straight roles on film and television. In addition, he has been an acclaimed host for the Tony Awards in 2009, 2011, 2012, and 2013. He didn’t host the 2010 Tonys, but that year he did win an Emmy for hosting the 2009 Awards, and he won two more Emmys for hosting the 2011 and 2012 Tonys. His winning ways continued with his performance in the Broadway premiere of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, for which he won a Drama Desk Award and a Tony for Best Actor in a Musical. This past weekend, NPH debuted his shaved head look at the Tony Awards. I’m still not ready to update the picture.

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What Are Little Boys Made Of?

In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.

Slouching Towards Kampala: Uganda’s Deadly Embrace of Hate

When we first reported on three American anti-gay activists traveling to Kampala for a three-day conference, we had no idea that it would be the first report of a long string of events leading to a proposal to institute the death penalty for LGBT people. But that is exactly what happened. In this report, we review our collection of more than 500 posts to tell the story of one nation’s embrace of hatred toward gay people. This report will be updated continuously as events continue to unfold. Check here for the latest updates.

Paul Cameron’s World

In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.

From the Inside: Focus on the Family’s “Love Won Out”

On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.

Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"

The Heterosexual Agenda: Exposing The Myths

At last, the truth can now be told.

Using the same research methods employed by most anti-gay political pressure groups, we examine the statistics and the case studies that dispel many of the myths about heterosexuality. Download your copy today!

And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.

Testing The Premise: Are Gays A Threat To Our Children?

Anti-gay activists often charge that gay men and women pose a threat to children. In this report, we explore the supposed connection between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, the conclusions reached by the most knowledgeable professionals in the field, and how anti-gay activists continue to ignore their findings. This has tremendous consequences, not just for gay men and women, but more importantly for the safety of all our children.

Straight From The Source: What the “Dutch Study” Really Says About Gay Couples

Anti-gay activists often cite the “Dutch Study” to claim that gay unions last only about 1½ years and that the these men have an average of eight additional partners per year outside of their steady relationship. In this report, we will take you step by step into the study to see whether the claims are true.

The FRC’s Briefs Are Showing

Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council submitted an Amicus Brief to the Maryland Court of Appeals as that court prepared to consider the issue of gay marriage. We examine just one small section of that brief to reveal the junk science and fraudulent claims of the Family “Research” Council.

Daniel Fetty Doesn’t Count

Daniel FettyThe FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics aren’t as complete as they ought to be, and their report for 2004 was no exception. In fact, their most recent report has quite a few glaring holes. Holes big enough for Daniel Fetty to fall through.