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Posts for December, 2014

The Daily Agenda for Monday, December 15

Jim Burroway

December 15th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Our Community (Dallas, TX), January 1972, page 8. (Source.)

From Our Community (Dallas, TX), January 1972, page 8. (Source.)

This announcement in Our Community heralded the Briarpatch’s opening on December 15, 1971:

Very quietly, and without fanfare, a new bar has opened in Dallas, and it will soon be one of the most popular bars in town. The Briarpatch is the name, and 5709 Oram (just off Greenville Ave. near Ross, in East Dallas) is the location. There was no advanced publicity, and only a few invitations sent out for the free buffet dinner party celebrating the opening. Yet 700 people showed up December 15th. That’s because Joe and Mary, owners, are well known and liked in Dallas, and their many friends got the word around. The bar is charmingly decorated, has three pool tables, and a cozy atmosphere. On entering the bar (so off the beaten path), one would think that this was a friendly neighborhood bar. It is that. But it is much more also. Everyone feels at home here – the bar offers what people want. Faithful patrons come from all over town, some almost nightly, to spend a few hours here.

… All kinds of interesting plans are being made for the gay community. The first will be an All Country-Texas Style buffet dinner served New Year’s Day. Time: 1: 00 P.M. Visit Dallas’ newest — you’ll like it.

The same announcement said that the Briarpatch already had plans to expand and build a larger dance floor. The building appears to still be there, at the corner of Oram and Greenville Avenue. The Briarpatch appears to have operated out of one or more of the side entrances on Oram Street. That area, known today as Lower Greenville (or Lowest Greenville, depending on who you ask), has long been one of Dallas’s main entertainment districts.

US Senate Committee Issues Report on “Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sexual Perverts”: 1950. The Senate Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Departments issued an interim report which would prove to become a major document of the 1950s anti-gay witch-hunts. The next day, The New York Times carried a story on the report:

“A Senate investigating group labeled sexual perverts today as dangerous security risks and demanded strict and careful screening to keep them off the Government payroll. It said that many Federal agencies had not taken “adequate steps to get these people out of Government.” …

Stressing the risks that the Government takes in employing a sex deviate or keeping one on the payroll, the subcommittee said:

“The lack of emotional stability which is found in most sex perverts, and the weakness of their moral fiber, makes them susceptible to the blandishments of foreign espionage agents.”

The report also noted that perverts were “easy prey to the blackmailer.” It said that Communist and Nazi agents had sought to get secret Government data from Federal employees “by threatening to expose their abnormal sex activities.”

The subcommittee criticized the State Department particularly for “mishandling ninety-one cases of homosexualism among its employees.” It said that many of the employees were allowed to resign “for personal reasons,” and that no steps were taken to bar them from other Government jobs. …

The committee said that it was unable to determine accurately how many perverts now held Federal jobs. It added, however, that since Jan. 1 1947, a total of 4,954 cases had been processed, including 4,380 in the military services and 574 on Federal civilian payrolls. …

In addition to strict enforcement of Civil Service rules about firing perverts, the subcommittee recommended tightening of the District of Columbia laws on sexual perversion, closer liaison between the Federal agencies and the police and a thorough inquiry by all divisions of the Government into all reasonable complaints of perverted sexual activity.

APA “Cures” Nation’s Gay Population: 1973. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) classified homosexuality as a mental illness beginning with the DSM’s first appearance in 1952. Before then, psychiatrists and psychologists looked at homosexuality as a perversion and as a deviant behavior, but the idea that it was a mental illness was considerably more controversial. Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, famously wrote to one American mother in 1935, “Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation, it cannot be classified as an illness.” (see Apr 9)

But by the early 1950’s American society’s view of homosexuality took a very sharp turn toward the dark side. This turn was partly sparked by the loud controversy stirred by Alfred Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Male in 1948 (see Jan 5). Where before, homosexuality was little talked about; now it seemed suddenly to be everywhere. In the minds of Americans across the country, homosexuality now joined the other emerging threat, communism, as two great menaces to American order. By 1952, there had already been several purges of gays from federal employment. With the APA’s addition of homosexuality to its list of mental disorders, the fates of gays and lesbians would be sealed for the next two decades.

That opinion wasn’t uniform. In 1956, UCLA researcher Evelyn Hooker published a groundbreaking paper that revealed that when psychiatrists and psychologists were given the blind results of psychological testing of gay and straight subjects, these professionally trained therapists couldn’t determine which were straight and which were gay (see Aug 30). If gay people were automatically and necessarily mentally ill, their mental illnesses should have revealed themselves in these tests. More research followed . After the mounting evidence demonstrated that gays and lesbians are not mentally ill simply because they are gay (see Oct 20), the American Psychiatric Association’s board of trustees finally approved this two-part resolution:

I. Removal of homosexuality per se from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders and substitution of the following new category and definition:

302.0 Sexual orientation disturbance:

This category is for individuals whose sexual interests are directed primarily toward people of the same sex and who are either bothered by,. in conflict with, or wish to change their sexual orientations. This diagnostic category is distinguished from homosexuality, which by itself does not constitute a psychiatric disorder. Homosexuality per se is a form of sexual behavior and like other forms of sexual behavior which are not by themselves psychiatric dosorders, is not listed in this nomenclature of mental disorders.

II. Civil rights and sodomy repeal statement:

Whereas homosexuality in and of itself implies no impairment in judgment, stability, reliability, or vocational capabilities, therefore, be it resolved that the American Psychiatric Association deplores all public and private discrimination against homosexuals in such areas as employment, housing, public accommodations, and licensing, and declares that no burden of proof of such judgment, capacity, or reliability shall be placed on homosexuals greater than that imposed on any other persons. Further, the APA supports and urges the enactment of civil rights legislation at local, state, and federal levels that would ensure homosexual citizens the same protections now guaranteed to others. Further, the APA supports and urges the repeal of all legislation making criminal offenses of sexual acts performed by consenting adults in private.

In a compromise to those who fought the finding, the APA agreed to define “sexual orientation disturbance” to describe “individuals whose sexual interests are directed toward people of their own sex and who are either disturbed by, in conflict with or wish to change their sexual orientation.” That diagnosis would provide cover for therapists to continue to try to “cure” gay people, with some of those “therapies” still involving electric shock aversion therapy. In 1980, that diagnosis would be changed to “ego dystonic homosexuality” before it was finally removed in 1986. Today, virtually all major medical and mental health professional organizations agree that homosexuality is not an illness to be “cured” or treated with the goal of trying to change one’s sexual orientation.

110 YEARS AGO: W. Dorr Legg: 1904-1994. Born William Dorr Lambert Legg, Dorr Legg (who also sometimes wrote as Bill Lambert) took a rather intellectual approach to things when he finally joined up with the homophile movement in the 1950s. While studying landscape architecture and music at the University of Michigan in his home town of Ann Arbor, Legg reputedly read Marchel Proust’s Remembrances of Things Past in the original French, just so he could learn something about gays in Europe. After graduating, and after a stint in Florida, he settled in New York City. While there, he became involved with the local gay scene, but he was put off by what he saw as fussy queens. But he also discovered the speakies and drag balls in Harlem, and that’s where he became interested in the intersection of gay life with similarly taboo interracial relationships.

In 1935, Legg moved to Corvallis, Oregon, where he took a teaching position at Oregon State College’s landscape architecture program. He remained there until 1942, when the draft claimed so many students that the landscape architecture program came close to collapse. Legg moved back to Ann Arbor where he met Marvin Edwards, and the two became lovers. But with Edwards being African-American, the sight of the two of them together sometimes raised the eyebrows of local police whenever they were out together. So in 1948, they decided to move to Los Angeles, where they felt that the more diverse culture there would be more to their liking.

Once they arrived in L.A., they quickly began to meet other gay African-Americans. Somewhere along the way, Edwards left and Legg met Merton Bird, another African-American, and the two of them founded the Knights of the Clock as a social and support group for interracial gay couples. That made Legg and Bird pioneers in the nascent gay rights movement in more than one way, but Legg gave Bird the credit. He later wrote, “Hostility and harassment were the daily lot of interracial same-sex couples in 1950. … [Bird’s] idea was that by coming together to form a mutual aid society, the group could at the very least offer each other encouragement.”

Legg also learned about the Mattachine Society, and he became one of that group’s early members. A few years, following a Mattachine Society discussion group that Legg hosted at his home, Legg, Don Slater (see Aug 21), Martin Block (see Jul 27), and Dale Jennings (see Oct 21) stayed after the meeting was over and brainstormed about the pressing need for gay people across the country to have access to news and information about themselves and others. Out of that discussion, ONE Magazine was born (see Oct 15), and Legg became its business manager When ONE debuted in January 1953 as America’s first pro-gay magazine, it sported a very sophisticated look with bold graphics and professional typeset and design. ONE’s slick offering quickly caught the attention gays and lesbians across the country, and circulation jumped to nearly 2,000 within a few months — with most subscribers paying extra to have their magazine delivered in an unmarked wrapper.

ONE Magazine, October 1954.

ONE also caught the notice of federal officials. The FBI tried to shut the magazine down, but abandoned the idea after deciding the magazine wasn’t worth their efforts. But the Post Office was another matter. The Los Angeles Postmaster ordered the August 1953, held for three weeks while deciding if it violated federal laws. (Ironically, the cover story for that issue was on “homosexual marriage,” an issue that is still contentious more than fifty years later.) Three weeks later, the Post Office decided no laws were violated and allowed its distribution. ONE, in its typically brash fashion, proclaimed “ONE is not grateful” on its October cover. A year later, its October 1954 issue was confiscated and this time the Post Office decided that the issue was illegal. Ironically, that issue’s cover proclaimed “You Can’t Print It!” ONE sued, and the case went all the way up to the Supreme Court. On January 13, 1958, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered its first ever pro-gay ruling in ONE Inc. v. Olesen, a landmark decision that allowed a magazine for gays and lesbians to be sent through the U.S. mail. (You can read more about that landmark case here.)

While ONE magazine was perhaps the most visible part of ONE, Inc., Legg envisioned the organization’s main mission as educational rather than publishing. At Legg’s behest, ONE, Inc. established the ONE Institute of Homophile Studies in 1956, which became the first institution to provide LGBT studies in the US. The ONE Instutute began conducting annual seminars known as the Midwinter Institute, and published the ONE Institute Quarterly as an academic journal dedicated to the study of homosexuality. Legg, as “Marvin Cutler,” also wrote Homosexuals Today: A Handbook of Organizations and Publications about the nascent gay rights movement.

Legg’s interest in the educational side of the organization at the expense of ONE magazine, coupled with his increasingly authoritarian style, created tensions within the group, principly between Legg and Don Slater, ONE Magazine’s editor and the organization’s librarian. While Slater also saw ONE’s mission as being educational, he also felt that the magazine as playing an indispensable role in that mission. He also feared for the integrity of ONE’s archives, which he believed were the heart and soul of the organization. By 1965, the split on ONE’s board became irreconcilable, and on Easter Sunday, Slater and two others entered ONE’s offices and moved the magazine’s assets and archives out and to another location.

For the next four months, two competing ONE magazines hit the streets: Slater’s ONE was sent to subscribers using the organization’s subscriber list, and Legg’s ONE arrived after Legg re-assembled a rival subscriber list from memory and detective work. Legg and Slater were soon in court, where Legg’s overbearing demeanor, it’s been said, alienated the judge who might have otherwise ruled in his favor. Instead, ONE, Inc., retaining the right to publish ONE Magazine, while Slater’s The Tangent Group, which by then had change the name of their magazine to Tangents, retained ownership of the archives. ONE finally ceased publication in 1969.

Legg’s first-hand experience with police raids and harassment, FBI surveillance and intimidation, and Post Office censorship gave him a deep and abiding distrust of government. That distrust informed his libertarian politics. In 1977, he became a founding member of the Log Cabin Club, a group of California gay Republicans who organized to oppose the Brigg’s Initiative which would have banned gays, lesbians, and their supporters from teaching in the public schools. The Log Cabin Club later changed its name to Log Cabin Republicans. Legg’s libertarian political beliefs however, contrary to stereotypes about gay conservatives, did not amount to an assent to assimilation. He forcefully opposed the idea that gay people should “desperately contort themselves into simulacra of heterosexuality.”

Legg died in 1994. By then, the ONE Institute had stop offering classes due to another legal dispute with a prominent donor. After Legg died, the remnants of ONE, Inc. merged with the International Gay and Lesbian Archives. The ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives today is housed at the University of Southern California, and the ONE Archives Gallery & Museum is located in West Hollywood.

[Sources: Wayne R. Dynes. “W. Dorr Legg (1904-1994).” In Vern L. Bullough’s (ed.) Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (New York: Harrington Park Press, 2002): 94-102.

Martha E. Stone. “Unearthing the ‘Knights of the Clock’.” The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide 17, no. 3 (May 2010).  Available online here.]

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

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

The Daily Agenda for Sunday, December 14

Jim Burroway

December 14th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), December 12, 1986, page 4.

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), December 12, 1986, page 4.

San Antonio’s El Jardin had been a longtime fixture in the city’s gay nightlife ever since it opened in 1946. It apparently closed sometime at around the turn of the millennium:

The El Jardin. It was the oldest gay bar in Texas, and had the exhausted clientele to prove it. They had to close it a couple of years ago because the San Antonio Conservation Society purchased the building –– they’re gonna “save” it. …

The well-intentioned ladies will restore the building to what they perceive as its most important historical pinnacle; when it was the thriving business of an industrious German peach grower in the 1870’s, or something like that. Der Yawn. They will excitedly refresh its colors to juniper berry blue with cranapple red trim; “authentic” historic colors (in Cape Cod). And the El Jardin will be buried under the building’s newest layer, masked as an early 21st Century, Martha Stewart, “it’s a good thing”, over-restored, Disneyland, “Ye Old German Towne” of a building. There!

Why can’t they just restore it to what I truly feel is its greatest historic apex –– when it was the only place in town where you could score a dime bag and listen to Edith Piaf on the jukebox.

Rising property values due to the building’s proximity to the Riverwalk finally did El Jardin in. The entire building now is a boutique hotel.

The Milwaukee Journal, Dec 14, 1954. (Click to enlarge.)

60 YEARS AGO: Milwaukee Doctor Faced Blackmail: 1954. The Milwaukee Journal reported that Anthony Roy, 26, was charged with attempting to extort $500 from a Milwaukee physician in exchange for not “exposing” him for being gay. He also made similar extortion attempts against a jeweler and an osteopath. These blackmail attempts took place at a time when even rumors that someone was gay might result in the complete ruining of that person’s reputation. In the case of the doctor and osteopath, it might have even resulted in their licenses being revoked. After all, in 1954 they were both legally criminals and (according to the APA) mentally ill. The Journal described how Roy was caught:

Roy was seized in a public toilet at 1905 E. North av. The doctor, co-operating with police, had placed there a fake money package containing a dye powder. Officers said Roy’s hands were stained blue and the package was in his topcoat.

Police said the three professional men received a total of 10 extortion notes, demanding pPayment of $500 each  from the physician and the jeweler and $1,000 from the osteopath. None of the intended victims is a homosexual, police said.

CA state Sen. John V. Briggs

CA state Sen. John V. Briggs

CA State Sen. Briggs Urges Appointment of Non-Gay To Succeed Harvey Milk: 1978. San Francisco Mayor Diane Feinstein released a telegram sent to her from California State Sen. John Briggs urging her to fill the vacancy left by San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk’s assassination with a “non-homosexual.” Briggs, who was the driving force behind an unsuccessful 1978 ballot measure (see Nov 7) which would have banned gays, lesbians, and anyone who supported them from working in public schools, responded that he was a “little shocked” that Mayor Feinstein made the telegram public. Feinstein, who had been elected mayor to fill the vacancy left by the Nov. 27 shooting deaths of Milk and Mayor George Moscone, had said that she was considering appointing another gay person to fill Milk’s vacancy. Briggs responded via telegram:

“I am appalled by your apparent desire to use the quota system in appointing supervisor Harvey Milk’s successor ‘as the only moral thing to do.’ Surely merit not sexual preference should be the criterion. Supervisor Milk always insisted to be considered a human being first and a homosexual second. As an attractive alternative, perhaps now is the time to provide fair representation for San Francisco’s Oriental, black or Chicano populations.”

It’s pretty rich that Briggs wanted her to consider gay people “a human being first and a homosexual second,” given that his ballot measure, Proposition 6, would have done precisely the opposite. Feinstein ignored Briggs’s advice, and on January 8, 1979, she appointed Harry G. Britt, a former United Methodist minister and “avowed homosexual,” to fill Milk’s vacancy to represent the Castro district.

Dr. Robert Bernstein

Texas Health Department Gives Tentative Approval to AIDS Quarantine: 1985. The Texas Board of Health voted 12-5 to give tentative approval for a rule which would allow “incorrigible” people with AIDS to be declared as a public health threat and be placed under quarantine.  Dr. Robert Bernstein, the state health commissioner, proposed the rule two months earlier (see Oct 22) to ensure the “isolation or separation” of those who refused to curtail their sexual activity or drug use. “This does not deal with the average AIDS patient,” he told the press. “This is not aimed at a disease. It is aimed at individuals who have the disease and might be incorrigible in a public health way. Whether we’ll use this, I don’t know.”

Board member Dr. Barry Cunningham, a Round Rock dentist, was more blunt: “We have a moral obligation to protect the people of Texas against a disease that is 100 percent fatal.”

Bernstein emphasized that the proposed rule would only be used as a “last resort.” Local health officials would have to first get the state commissioner’s approval before imposing a quarantine. He justified the proposal by citing a Houston male prostitute with AIDS who had initially refused to stop working. The man later accepted counseling from a local gay advocacy group and admitted himself into a hospital.

Several Texas doctors spoke out against the proposal. Dr. Phillip Anderson, and Austin physician whose practice was about 60% gay, said, “The law is clearly outdated and inappropriate.” Board chairman Dr. Ron Anderson of Dallas, who voted against the proposal, said, “It’s not really scientifically what would help us very much.” Others noted that quarantines had historically been imposed on people with diseases which were spread through casual contact, and that HIV/AIDS is not a casually-spread disease. A hearing was set for public comment for January 13.

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, December 13

Jim Burroway

December 13th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Body Politic, Winter (Jan) 1974, page 16.

From The Body Politic, Winter (Jan) 1974, page 16.

The area around Toronto’s Wellesley and Church Streets has long been the center of Toronto’s gay life, and the August Club was right there in the heart of it. Its first location was upstairs of this building at the corner of Yonge and Maitland streets, just a block south of Wellesley and a block west of Church. It was there from 1970 to 1972, when it moved four blocks to the north at Yonge and Isabella for its second incarnation as August II. It may have boasted of being Canada’s largest gay club, but it appears to have closed down by early 1974. This ad was the club’s last appearance in the city’s legendary gay newspaper, The Body Politic.

65 YEARS AGO: What Probation Officers Can Do For Homosexuals: 1949. Until Illinois became the first state in the nation to decriminalize homosexuality in 1961 (see Jul 28), it was illegal, and often a felony, in all fifty states and the District of Columbia. When caught, some were imprisoned, some were sent to mental institutions, some were fined (and some were blackmailed into paying bribes), and some were placed on probation. Which meant that the question of what to do with gay people became a probation officer’s problem, whose task it was to serve multiple roles: law enforcer, social worker, employment counselor, and psychologist.

In December 1949, the professional journal Federal Probation — yes, probation officers have their profession journals too — published an article by Dr. Manly B. Root, staff psychiatrist at the U.S. Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. The journal’s editor introduced Root’s article as  must reading for all probation officers.” Root began by asking “how a normal baby with all potentialities for good grows into an individual whose lax moral standards, thoughtless hedonism, callous conscience, and rebellious aggressiveness make of his character and personality a person who has to be locked up by society for its own protection.” And among the different characters Root addressed were alcoholics, drug addicts, psychopathic personalities, neurotics, psychotics, and “sexual deviates.” Of the latter, he identified four categories:

  • “uncontrolled heterosexuality” (rapists and “the so-called ‘Don Juan’ type among men and the so-called ‘nymphomania’ type among women”),
  • active homosexuality,
  • passive homosexuality,
  • and “polymorphous perverse sexual state” (“individuals who seem never to crystallize their sexual aims or desires. They are essentially children or at most adolescents in their psychosexual behavior and attitudes; are ready to try any kind of sexual expression.”).

Root defined the second and third categories this way:

Active homosexuality.– These persons have as their sexual object a person of the same sex; as their sexual aim, sexual union with the other person. They desire the masculine role, acting toward their homosexual lover as a normal person would toward a lover of the opposite sex.

Passive homosexuality.– These persons have as their sexual object a person of the same sex; as their sexual aim, sexual union with the other person. They desire the feminine role, acting toward their lovers as normal persons would toward lovers of the opposite sex.

Remember these distinctions: the active homosexual (when a man) treats a male lover as though he were a female. The passive homosexual (when a man) treats the male lover as though the lover were a male, and he (the passive homosexual) a female. All three of these types [Here, Root includes “uncontrolled heterosexuals”] may be aggressive or not; that is, they may seek the lover or may respond to the lover’s seeking. All three may be constantly true to their abnormal type, or may be what we call facultative; that is, sometimes “normal” and sometimes “abnormal.” In the field of personality distortions hardly anyone is the same sort of person all of the time.

As you can see, in 1949, the gender role men played (and it was mostly men who were convicted) was still deemed to be of great significance. Despite the important he placed on “these distinctions,” his advice was was the same regardless of whether the individual was “active” or “passive.” His first piece of advice, aside from suggesting that probation officers read Freud’s Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex, was to “advise and discuss, but do not be ‘preachy’. Almost everyone has some peculiarities and worries and guilt feelings and conflicts about his or her sex life.” He also reminded his readers that “you cannot control another person’s sex life. You can only give guidance and leadership.” He continued:

Much of the good done by doctors, by friends, and by priests at the confessional, comes from what psychoanalysts call catharsis — letting off steam and relieving tension by talking to a sympathetic listener. Another point to remember is that the tension caused by a person tortured by psychosexual pathology can be relieved in only four ways, as follows:

(1) Frank acceptance of the abnormal sexual desires and frank yielding to them. This results in the individual becoming an overt participant in his particular kind of sexual pathological activity. He is then no longer ashamed of his longings and activities, enjoys them, and considers the people we call normal as narrow-minded. Tension leaves him for he has avoided conflict about the matter.

(2) Frank acceptance of the abnormal sexual desires but refusal to yield to them. This results in some tension because of the constant restraint, but the acceptance of the abnormal desires does away with the more serious conflict which always occurs when an individual refuses to admit his personality or character peculiarities, sexual or otherwise. His mental state is then to be compared on a heterosexual level to the normally sexed man or woman who for some reason remains unmarried and continent. He is consciously exercising self-control, not fighting an inward conflict.

(3) Relief of tension by sublimation. This word, which is taken from physics, refers to the purification of an impulse or tendency or desire into a socially acceptable form of activity. This is not done consciously like the solution discussed under (2), but is an unconsciously developed mechanism. Its explanation lies in the field of psychoanalytic theory, not at all universally accepted. It is pretty generally believed, however, that many people find happiness by satisfying their antisocial tendencies in a way which does good instead of harm. To give specific examples of this sublimation in a paper prepared for nonmedical readers might cause embarrassment. Suffice it to say here that any overpowering interest or vocation or avocation which your clients show may lead the way to a possible sublimation of antisocial or abnormal sexual tendencies.

I’m going to pause here to wonder aloud what he meant when he said that giving examples of sublimation “might cause embarrassment” for the reader. Which reader did he have in mind? Did he sense there were a number of probation officers with “abnormal sexual desires”? Judges? Social workers? Anyway, he continued:

(4) Repression of the sexual conflict. Another and always tragic solution of an individual’s conflict about his sexual peculiarities involves its repression. According to psychoanalytic theory, at least, such a person is actually able to repress his conflict. Thus a homosexual, for instance, comes to believe that he is not a homosexual at all. If this were all, it would be a happy solution. Unfortunately for such a patient — for such persons then become psychotic — the repressed desires remain active and seek expression in some way. These ways take place through delusions and hallucinations in which homosexual threats seem to come from other persons. Depending upon the subject’s personality makeup, varied symptoms may develop and the individual becomes the victim, as he sees it, of a hostile world which is trying to force him into homosexuality, and of hallucinations and voices which accuse him of the very perversions he has repressed. Thus a person cannot safely repress his desires without becoming psychotic or exhibit some sex deviation.

Root concluded that “the only safe way of keeping his mental health are the first three alternatives,” ruling out the fourth for obvious reasons. But he advised probation officers to try to direct their charges to the second and third alternatives because “it is probable that we can do little to help the probationer as to the way in which he solves the conflict.” He left unmentioned that the first option might get the probationer in trouble with the law all over again, an option that the very audience Root is writing to would reject out of hand. Besides, Root added, “He is never as effective an individual as is the man who accepts his peculiarities and succeeds in controlling them” — and by “controlling them,” he meant “not doing it.” Easy advice for Root to dispense; he went home every night to his wife Dorothy and son Charles.

[Source: Manly B. Root “What the probation officer can do for special types of offenders.” Federal Probation 13, no. 4 (December 1949): 36-46.]

Masturbate Your Way To Heterosexuality: 1970. The basis of Behavioral Therapy is that the experience of rewards and punishments were a determining factor for a wide range of human behaviors. In the late 1960s when Behavioral Therapy rivaled classic Freudian psychoanalysis as the predominant school of thought in the mental health professions, BTs began to exhibit some of the same kinds of hubris that they had accused psychoanalysts of exemplifying, especially when BTs began classifying all forms of human thoughts and feelings as “behavioral” and, therefore, amenable to modifications through punishment and rewards. As we now know, much of those punishments were appallingly cruel, torturous, and ineffective. (One example is illustrated in our award-winning report “What Are Little Boys Made Of?”, about the tragic aftermath of Kirk Murphy’s treatment at the hands of a Behavioral Therapist by the name of George Rekers.)

But some patients, if they were lucky (I suppose), underwent Behavioral Therapy that emphasized the “reward” end of the punishment/reward dichotomy. Some of those patients were clients of Dr. John N. Marquis, a psychologist at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Palo Alto, California. His paper appeared in the December 1970 issue of the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, in which he argued that by encouraging clients to think of opposite-sex partners while masturbating, he could change their “behavior” — remember, to Behavioral Therapists, sexual orientation was nothing but “behavior” — to heterosexuality. He didn’t rule out aversion therapy (i.e. electric shock, etc.) if he thought it was needed — “often… aversive conditioning to the perverse stimuli are indicated…” — but he felt that it was best to hold that off until at least some level of “behavior” — by which he meant attractions — was exhibited towards the opposite sex. And how was that accomplished?

The client is instructed to masturbate to the point where he feels the inevitability of orgasm using whatever fantasy is most arousing. Then he is to switch to the appropriate fantasy. He is warned that he may experience some difficulty at first, but that he will not lose his sexual arousal at that point. After he has successfully shifted to the appropriate stimulus four or five times (this is arbitrary but seems to work) he is instructed to start moving the introduction of the appropriate fantasy backward in time toward the beginning of masturbation. An attempt is made at the outset to get a commitment from the client never to continue picturing the inappropriate fantasy through the occurrence of an orgasm, whether in masturbation or overt sexual behavior.

That was the procedure. Dr. Marquis also had some practical advice:

If the client is generally tense he is instructed to relax before masturbating, because sexual arousal and anxiety are incompatible. If he reports feeling guilty after masturbating he is instructed to relax after masturbating as well. It may be suggested that he increase the frequency of masturbation in order to speed the process of reorientation or to decrease the frequency in order to increase drive level if he masturbates more than once a day. It is often helpful to suggest the use of a lubricant to enhance physical stimulation.

Marquis wrote that he had been prescribing this therapy for patients since 1965, and that “all of the cases described below were seen because they were suffering human beings seeking help, and not as experimental subjects.” That, of course, is crucial: it’s your first clue that this is by no means a controlled, scientific study. He provided detailed case studies of two of his patients, and brief descriptions of twelve more. All but one were “successes” to varying degrees, although only one case had anything remotely resembling a long-term follow-up. And that only happened because Marquis happened to run into that former client and his new wife three years later at a cocktail party. At least some of those successes were dubious, and not all of them involved gay people. One was a pedophile, another woman enjoyed “sado-masochistic masturbation” which, Marquis explained, were not “normal heterosexual fantasies” (although he doesn’t mention whether her fantasies involved men or women), and one was someone we would today see as just another socially-awkward nerd:

Case 13. A 24-year-old male computer programmer who was very shy had had intercourse rarely but had frequently masturbated to fantasies and pictures of beautiful girls. As a result he was completely unattracted to girls who were not strikingly beautiful. This was a serious problem since he was homely and inarticulate. Orgasmic reconditioning led to considerable improvement, but he remains a little bit too particular.

As you can see, the measurements that would constitute “considerable improvement” are what real scientists would call “anybody’s guess.” The only thing we can know from this study is that Marquis believes that most of his clients are able to masturbate to a “normal heterosexual fantasy.” We know nothing about any actual changes in his clients’ preferred masturbatory fantasies, let alone any actual or even perceived changes in sexual orientation. But that flimsy standard is precisely the kind of evidence that the National Association for Research and Treatment of Homosexuality holds in very high esteem. When NARTH published their 2009 “journal”, they claimed to have “examined more than 100 years of professional and scientific literature from 600-plus studies and reports,” all of it proving, in their minds at least, that “sexual orientation can be changed.” And of course, Marquis’s paper made the cut.

[Source: John N. Marquis. “Orgasmic reconditioning: Changing sexual object choice through controlling masturbation fantasies.” Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry 1, no. 4 (December 1970): 263-271.]

80 YEARS AGO: Richard Isay: 1934-2012. The American Psychiatric Association decided in 1973 that homosexuality was not an illness in need of a cure. The American Psychological Association followed suit two years later. But the American Psychoanalytic Association was very slow to get on board. Until 1992 psychoanalists were still treating gay people as though they were ill, and openly gay candidates were barred from enrolling in the group’s training institutes, which is a requirement for certification. That the APsaA waited so long to finally join the modern era is incredible. Who knows how much longer it would have taken for the APsaA to change its ways without the badgering, prodding, and legal threats of Dr. Richard Isay.

A native of Pittsburgh, Isay studied medicine at Haverford College and the University of Rochester, then completed his psychiatry residency at Yale. From there, he completed training for psychoanalysis at the Western New England Psychoanalytic Institute. Early in his own career, he was troubled by his own sexuality and underwent psychoanalysis in a quest for a cure. But after ten years, now with a wife and two sons, he realize that he was no more straight than he was before he started. After meeting the man who would become his life partner, he came out to his wife in 1980. They decided to stay married for another nine year for the sake of the children, and then they divorced once the children were grown.

While he remained closeted, he began working with gay patients — not to make them straight, but to help them accept themselves. He also began writing about homosexuality as something normal, and not as an illness or a deficiency in development. In 1989, he published his groundbreaking book, Being Homosexual: Gay Men and Their Development — it was groundbreaking for psychoanalysis, anyway — in which he argued that because homosexuality was inborn, gay men experienced a natural developmental pathway which presented its own set of opportunities and challenges. Dr. Isay also presented his ideas at professional meetings, where he also began to acknowledge that he was gay. Fellow psychoanalysts weren’t receptive to that revelation. They attacked his work and stopped referring patients to him, suggesting instead that he needed more therapy himself.

Finally, after years of trying to prod the APsaA to end its discrimination against gay candidates in its training institutes, Isay met with the American Civil Liberties Union and began laying plans for a lawsuit. That finally got the organization’s attention. In 1991, the the APsaA finally adopted a policy prohibiting its training institutes from discriminating against gay candidates. After that, changes came quickly for the organization. In 1997, the APsaA became the first mental health organization to endorse same-sex marriage, and in 1999 it opposed therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation.

This undoubtedly came as a shock to those psychoanalysis who continued to believe that homosexuality was a disorder. Among mental health professionals who held that view, psychoanalysts made up a disproportionately large group. In 1992, a dissident group of psychoanalysts led by Dr. Charles Socarides founded the ex-gay organization, National Association for Research and Treatment (later changed to Therapy) of Homosexuality (NARTH). “Reparative Therapy,” the particular form of ex-gay therapy challenged by many in NARTH, remains rooted in older psychoanalytic theories, even as mainstream psychoanalysts have adopted insights from biology and psychiatry to form a more comprehensive and nuanced view of how — rather than why — gay people develop.

As for Dr. Isay himself, he continued working as a full professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College and as a faculty member of the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research. He also continued his advocacy for gay people. In his 1997 memoir, Becoming Gay: The Journey to Self-Acceptance, he described his own struggles with his sexuality and with his profession. In 2006, he wrote Commitment and Healing: Gay Men and the Need for Romantic Love, in which he described the difficulty many gay men have in sustaining loving relationships. As for his own efforts in that area, Isay was relatively successful, given the circumstances: he married his partner of 31 years in 2011 when same-sex marriage became legal in New York. He died of cancer in 2012 at the age of 77.

45 YEARS AGO: Allen R. Schindler, Jr.: 1969-1992. When “little Allen” was growing up, his step-father regaled him with stories of surviving the sinking of the battleship USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor. And so when he decided to enlist in the Navy on turning eighteen, it came as no surprise to his mother. He was ecstatic to learn that he would be assigned to the aircraft carrier Midway, but in 1991 he was transferred to the Belleau Wood, a smaller ship with a reputation for poor discipline. On October 27, 1992 while on shore leave in Sasebo, Japan, two drunken shipmates from the Belleau Wood followed Schindler into a public restroom in a park. Airman Charles Vins watched — and occasionally joined in — as Airman Apprentice Terry Helvey kneed Schindler in the arm, punched him repeatedly on the floor, and stomped on him with the heel of his boot. The pathologist described Schindler’s body as the worst case he had ever seen, and compared the damage to that of a “high-speed auto accident or a low-speed aircraft accident.” He also said that it was worse than another case he had seen, that of a man who had been trampled to death by a horse. The pathologist’s report chronicled a litany of lacerations, contusions and abrasions of the forehead, eyes, nose, lips, chin, neck, Adam’s apple, trachea, lungs, liver (which was “like a smushed tomato”) and, tellingly, penis. All but two ribs were broken, and both his lungs and brain had hemorrhaged. The only thing recognizable about Allen’s body was a tattoo on his right arm, of the USS Midway.

The Navy stonewalled the investigation. The murder occurred just as the pre-DADT debate was getting started over allowing gays to serve in the military. The Navy refused to confirm how Schindler died or whether a weapon was involved. At one point, a Navy senior officer leaked the story that Schindler’s murder was the result of a romance with Helvey gone bad. Meanwhile, Schindler’s mother, Dorothy Hajdys, was kept in the dark by Navy officials about what happened to her son or about the investigation. Her journal told the story: “Oct. 30: Heard nothing. Nov. 1: Sill heard nothing.” Meanwhile, the Navy tried Vins without her knowledge and sentenced him to four months in the brig. All the information Dorothy received about her son’s case came from the press. That’s how she learned her son was gay and had been killed by his shipmates in an anti-gay orgy of violence. “If one more reporter calls me with information before you do,” she told the Navy commander in charge of the case, “you haven’t even heard me scream!” Two months after the murder, Navy officials finally admitted that Schindler had been killed in a gay bashing.

The Navy denied that they had received any complaints of harassment. But as the investigation continued, it was slowly revealed that Schindler’s ship, the amphibious assault ship Belleau Wood, was a living nightmare for him. His locker had been glued shut and he was the brunt of frequent comments, like, “There’s a faggot on this ship and he should die.” Schindler requested a separation from the Navy, but his superiors insisted he remain aboard ship until the process was finished. During Helvey’s trial , it was revealed that Helvey told one investigator that he had no remorse for the killing. “I don’t regret it. I’d do it again. … He deserved it.” After confessing to the murder, he wrote in a four page statement, “Homosexuality is disgusting, sick and scary and I hate homosexuals.” When the investigator suggested that he might want to consider expressing remorse, he wrote, “I regret this incident happened and I feel like it could have been averted had homosexuals not been allowed in the military.”

Helvey avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty to “inflicting great bodily harm,” and was sentenced to life in prison. The ship’s captain who had tried to keep the crime quiet was demoted and transferred to Florida. Dorothy, virtually overnight, became a fierce advocate for hate crime protections and for gays being allowed to serve in the military. Helvey is still serving his lifetime sentence. In 1994, two years after the murder, he still had no regrets. He told a reporter:

We were just doing the Navy thing … We were drinking and fighting. It happened so many times, I can’t count them. That’s all we ever did was drink and fight. I was having fun and this dude ended up dying.”

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

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

The Daily Agenda for Friday, December 12

Jim Burroway

December 12th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Vector, January 1969, page 2.

From Vector, January 1969, page 2.

In honor of José Sarria, a.k.a. Her Royal Majesty, Empress of San Francisco, José I, The Widow Norton.


“Running for the presidency is not an IQ test.”

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who’s prepping for another try for the GOP nomination.

55 YEARS AGO: “The Lancet” Publishes Article By Gay Physician: 1959. Through much of the previous five years since the Home Secretary appointed the Wolfenden Commission to examine Britain’s laws criminalizing homosexual relationships, there had been a great deal of discussion in the popular and professional press about what it means to be gay, whether being gay was equivalent to being mentally ill, and whether male homosexual relationships should be decriminalized. (Lesbian relationships had never been illegal in Britain.) The Wolfenden Commission in 1957 recommended that Parliament rescind its laws which criminalized homosexual behavior (see Sep 4), but the debate over whether it should continue to be regarded a mental illness raged on. On December 12, 1959, an interesting article appeared in that week’s issue of the medical journal The Lancet, titled simply “Male Homosexuality” by an un-named “medical practitioner.” The reason for the unnamed authorship became clear in the article’s first two paragraphs:

A true picture of male homosexuality in the community cannot be given if — as in most medical publications — it is based on material drawn only from psychiatric practice, prisons, mental hospitals, and venereal-disease clinics. So long as the only doctors who write on this subject are heterosexual, so long as public opinion is based on emotional prejudice, so long as the law makes it dangerous for the homosexual himself to express an opinion, the present profound ignorance of the subject-both inside and outside the medical profession-will continue.

As a general practitioner and a homosexual, I have over the past thirty years discussed the subject intimately in an atmosphere of mutual understanding and confidence with several hundred homosexual men of many nationalities, colours, cultures, and creeds. The following case histories provide, I believe, a typical cross-section of male homosexuality in the community.

He then went on to provide brief case histories of sixteen gay men. Some lived their lives in secret, others were quite open about their sexuality. Some had married and later divorced, some were bisexual and successfully married, some were partnered with other men in stable relationships, other relationships were not so stable, and others were lifelong bachelors. Some were faithful to their wives or partners, others sought discreet affairs, and others still were quite promiscuous. They came from all walks of life: doctors, businessmen, an airline pilot, a farmer, an artist, and one did the housekeeping for his partner. Most were well-adjusted, although two battled depression. One of the two was struggling with what we would now recognize as gender dysphoria. Ages ranged from 21 to the mid-80s.

The picture that emerged was a highly heterogeneous one, with very little tying them all together except, perhaps, the overall lack of conformity with prevailing stereotypes. Most critically, according to the author, “None of them has ever been on a police charge for a homosexual offence. None of them knows of any reason why they are homosexually orientated, and all agree that seduction in childhood by older persons was not the cause. I have attended most of them professionally, but none of them consulted me because of homosexuality.” He also discounted the possibility of “curing” people of their homosexuality:

As far as I am aware homosexually deviated instincts have never been permanently reorientated into heterosexual channels. Claims have been made but none have ever been submitted to the criteria for other medical claims — namely, independent scrutiny and adequate lapse of time to prove permanence. To accept marriage, or an intention to marry, as a criterion of cure is unrealistic.

He ended his discussion with a note on the the the public’s perceptions about the morality of male homosexuality:

In discussions of homosexuality the physical aspects tend to be overemphasised while the emotional aspects are overlooked. Yet these may be as intense as those experienced by heterosexuals. Many homosexual friendships, like many heterosexual friendships, do not include physical acts. The homosexual liaison — unlike marriage is unsupported by legal, social, economic, or family considerations tending to encourage permanency. I do not believe that homosexuals are inherently more promiscuous than heterosexuals would be if they had to live under similar conditions of loneliness and sexual insecurity.

Lesbianism, fornication, adultery, rape, even murder can usually be discussed calmly and objectively, but male homosexuality rarely. It seems likely that the illogical and disproportionate emotional reaction produced in some people –usually men, not women — by this subject is caused by unresolved conflicts. It is widely believed among homosexuals that exaggerated revulsion is an indication of latent homosexual tendencies.

Homosexual problems are often the cause of alcoholism and suicide, though the basic reason for these tragedies is rarely disclosed and usually unsuspected.

I make no attempt to defend the immorality disclosed in many of the case-histories, beyond suggesting that it should be judged alongside heterosexual immorality.

[Source: A Medical Practitioner. “Male Homosexuality.” The Lancet Lancet 274, no. 7111 (December 12, 1959): 1077-1080.]

Danish Surgeon Dies Of Mysterious Disease: 1977. AIDS has often been mischaracterized as a gay man’s disease, but it’s quite possible that the first gay person to die from it was actually a lesbian. Dr. Margrethe P. Rask — her friends called her Grethe –was a indomitable woman who was as intense as she was relentless in the care that she gave to her patients in the remote Zairian villages near the Congo River basin. She had worked in Zaire in 1964, and she returned again in 1972, to a primitive rural hospital in northern Zaire delivering much-needed surgery to her patients amid appalling poverty and severe shortages. Everything was in short supply: syringes, antiseptics, even surgical gloves. Supplies were used and re-used until they wore out, and it wasn’t unusual for her to perform emergency surgeries with her bare hands. After putting together a simple jungle hospital in the remote village of Abumombaz and bringing it into operation, she took on a job as head surgeon at the Danish Red Cross Hospital in Kinshasa in 1975.

A fellow doctor and friend, Dr. Ib Bygbjerg, became worried over Gerthe’s weight loss. She was suffering from persistent diarrhea and fatigue since 1974, but given the host of often unknown tropical diseases which were common in northern Zaire, her condition was overlooked at first. But when standard treatments only temporarily alleviated the symptoms without actually restoring her health, Bygbjerg looked further and found that her lymph nodes, the glands that play an essential role on the body’s immune system, were completely out of whack. They had been swollen for nearly two years for no apparent reason.

In July 1977, Grethe took a vacation to South Africa to try to rest up from her constant fatigue, but her condition got worse. She became short of breath and was flown immediately back home to Denmark. Some of Denmark’s best doctors worked frantically to try to figure out what was wrong with her, but the more they looked, the mysteries surrounding her health only deepened. The inside of her mouth was covered with yeast infections, staph infections spread throughout her body, and blood tests showed that her T-cells, which are the main component of a body’s immune system, were completely gone. When that happens, the natural assumption was lymph cancer, but biopsies ruled out that as a cause for her immune system’s collapse. On December 12, her body finally gave out and she died.

An autopsy revealed that her lungs were filled with Pneumocystis carinii, a yeast-like fungus which causes a severe pneumonia. Because it is one of the easiest organisms for an immune system to fight off, it is extremely rare in healthy people. And even in the rare cases where people did catch it, it was usually treatable. It’s one of those diseases that nobody dies from, but Gerthe did. It was just one more conundrum added to a host of mysteries.

Five years later, gay men, Haitians, hemophiliacs, and intravenous drug uses also began to die in very large numbers of the same type of pneumonia that people almost never caught, let alone died from before. This time, Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia became so common its acronym, PCP, entered into the lingo of the gay community along with KS (Kaposi’s sarcoma, a previously rare form of cancer), and AIDS. American epidemiologists were mostly looking at AIDS as an American disease however, and with most of the people coming down with AIDS coming from stigmatized populations, the disease itself was similarly stigmatized. It was, in the popular mind anyway, a “gay plague.” But in 1983, Dr. Bygbjerg recalled his colleague and friend, and had in mined a more likely source for the disease. He published Gerthe’s medical case history in the April 23, 1983 issue of The Lancet and concluded:

“During my stay in Zaire in 1976 I was impressed by the epidemiological and virological flying teams from the USA and Europe who quickly identified Ebola virus. Perhaps such teams should search for another African virus, albeit slow killing, and explore the possible connection between endemic and epidemic AIDS/KS in Africa and America.”

[Sources: Randy Shilts. And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic (New York: St. Martni’s Press, 1987): 3-7.

Ib C. Bygbjerg. “AIDS in a Danish surgeon (Zaire, 1976).” Lancet 1, no. 8330 (April 23, 1983): 925.]

José Sarria: 1923-2013. He was a real drag queen, one who had studied opera, could reach high C in his normal voice, and who always sang in his own voice whenever he performed. No lame karaoke for him. He began entertaining at San Francisco’s famed Black Cat in North Beach in 1946, shortly after leaving the Army after serving in World War II, and while he was studying to become a teacher. But an arrest at the men’s room at the St. Francis Hotel by a vice squad officer put the kibosh in his teaching aspirations. Sarria always maintained his innocence, noting that the arresting officer knew him personally. But they had to make an example of somebody … I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Since he was now officially a homosexual — and, therefore, a “queen” — he decided to become “the best goddam queen that ever was!”

José Sarria performing at the Black Cat in the early 1960s. (via the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives. Click to enlarge.)

And he was, performing three or four shows a night at the Black Cat, where he was affectionately known as “the Nightingale of Montgomery Street.” He wrote much of his own material for his Black Cat performances, typically popular torch songs and arias. He re-worked Bizet’s Carmen, set in modern-day San Francisco with Carmon cruising in Union Square while dodging the vice squad. And he exhorted his audience to be as “out” as possible, telling them, “United we stand, divided they catch us one by one.” At closing time, he’d lead the crowd with a rousing rendition of “God Save Us Nelly Queens” — sometimes taking the crowd outside during the final verse to sing to the men in the jail across the street who had been arrested in raids earlier that night. When police often tried to harass and arrest drag queens, especially during the city’s famous Halloween parties, for violating an old city ordinance banning cross-dressing with an “intent to deceive,” Sarria had labels printed up for the queens to wear reading “I am a boy,” which prevented many a queen’s arrest.

With Sarria being the most famous homosexual in all of San Francisco, it would only be natural that he would become involved with LGBT advocacy early on. In 1960, he founded the League for Civil Education as a support group for gay men facing public discrimination, ostracism, and police arrests. In 1961, he became the first openly gay person to run for the city’s Board of Supervisors (see Nov 7). He lost the race, but garnered some 6,000 votes, proving to the political establishment that there was a real gay voting bloc worth noticing. In 1962, he, along with several bar owners and employees, formed the Tavern Guild, the country’s first gay business association. In 1963, as the Black Cat was finally going out of business, Saria helped to found the Society for Individual Rights, which provided both social outlets and a venue for political organizing.

In 1964, the Tavern Guild crowned Sarria the Queen of the Beaux Arts Ball, which prompted Sarria to state that he was already a queen, so he proclaimed himself, “Her Royal Majesty, Empress of San Francisco, José I, The Widow Norton.” That “Widow Norton” part recalled a 19th century San Francisco eccentric who had declared himself Joshua Norton the First, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico. San Francisco’s newspapers amused themselves by treating Norton with all the deference due an emperor — or at least as San Francisco’s most colorful character. Sarria decided to take that page from history and found the Imperial Court System, both as a outlet for gays to make fun of themselves, and as a network of non-profit charitable organizations. The Imperial Court System expanded into dozens of courts nationwide and around the world, and raised millions of dollars for charity. Sarria’s Imperial Court became a colorful form of activism and street theater that preceded the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence by some fifteen years.

Members of the Imperial Court at José Sarria’s funeral in 2013.

In 1995, Sarria and members of his court appeared in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, as judges for the film’s opening “Drag Queen of the Year Contest” scene. In 2005, he was honored with the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee’s Lifetime Achievement Grand Marshal Award, and the city of San Francisco renamed a section of 16th Street in the Castro to José Sarria Court. In 2007, he finally abdicated the throne of the Imperial Court, turning it over to the Empress Nicole the Great, Queen Mother of the Americas (a.k.a Nicole Murray-Ramirez, a San Diego-based transgender/gay activist). Sarria donated most of his papers and memorabilia, along with some of his costumes, to the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco. When he died in 2013, his lavish, imperial funeral at San Francisco’s Grace Episcopal Cathedral was attended by thousands of mourners, including leaders of the Imperial Court System and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in full regalia, with the regulations for the Court’s formal mourning dress determined by Sarria before he died.

Brandon Teena: 1972-1993. This would be his forty-second birthday today, if it weren’t for the fact that on December 31, 1993, Marvin Thomas Nissen and John L. Lotter, angry over Brandon’s transgender identity and the fact that he reported them to the sheriff for raping him a week earlier, tracked him down and murdered him.

Much of Brandon’s life was difficult. He began identifying as a male in high school in Lincoln, Nebraska, an identity which his mother rejected. His school was no help either. He was constantly in trouble with his Catholic high school for violating the school’s dress code by dressing as a male. He was expelled three days before graduation. He tried to volunteer for the Army, but he was rejected for identifying as a male. After high school, the pressures mounted. He entered a mental health facility for three days on suicide watch, diagnosed with having a severe “sexual identity crisis,” whatever that was supposed to mean.

In 1993, he tried to start over by moving to Fall City, Nebraska, where he was known only as a man. He began dating Lana Tisdel, but also began associating with Nissen and Lotter, both of whom were ex-cons. In December, he was arrested for forging checks and placed in the female section of the jail. Lana learned that he was transgender when she came to bail him out.

Brandon’s arrest was in the local papers, under his birth name, and that led to that fateful Christmas Eve Party at Nissen’s home, where Nissen and Lotter grabbed him and forced him to drop his pants to prove to Lana that Brandon was a “girl.” They then force Brandon into a car, drove him to a meat-packing plant, and assaulted and raped him. After they returned to Nissen’s home, Brandon escaped through a bathroom window and went to Tisdel’s house. He called the police and went to the emergency room. The sheriff interviewed him about the rape, but seemed more interested in Brandon’s gender than the crime. The sheriff later questioned Nissen and Lotter but declined to arrest them due to lack of evidence when Brandon’s rape kit was lost.

Early in the morning of December 31, Nissen and Lotter went to the home of Lisa Lambert, Brandon’s roommate, and demanded to know where Brandon was. Lambert refused to tell them, but they found Brandon under a blanket on the floor. Nissen and Lotter rounded up all the adults in the house — Brandon, Lisa and Philip DeVine — and shot them in front of Lisa’s 8 month old son. When they saw Brandon twitching, Nissen stabbed him to finish him off.

Police arrested Nissen and Lotter later that afternoon. The trial proved to be just about as convoluted as the events leading up to Brandon’s death. Nissen accused Lotter of committing the murders, and in exchange for testifying against Lotter, Nissen was sentenced to life imprisonment — even though Nissen delivered Brandon’s coup ‘de grâce, as it were. Lotter received the death penalty. Nissen later recanted his testimony against Lotter, and Lotter tried to use that to appeal his sentence. But the Nebraska Supreme Court rejected that appeal, saying that because they were both guilty of murder, the specific identities were irrelevant. Lotter remains on death row.

Brandon’s story became the subject of a 1998 documentary The Brandon Teena Story, and a 1999 award winning biopic, Boys Don’t Cry, starring Hilary Swank as Brandon and Chloë Sevigny as Lana Tisdel. Swank won an Academy Award for her performance. When she accepted the award, Swank referred to Brandon Teena using his preferred name and male pronouns, which solicited an angry response from his mother. “That set me off,” said JoAnn Brandon. “She should not stand up there and thank my child. I get tired of people taking credit for what they don’t know.” In a final indignity, Brandon was buried in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery under his birth name and this epitaph: “Daughter, Sister, & Friend.”

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). As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.

The Daily Agenda for Thursday, December 11

Jim Burroway

December 11th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Wilde Side, a weekly New England gay bar guide, September 1, 1976, page 23.

From Wilde Side, a weekly New England gay bar guide, September 1, 1976, page 23.

When did you move from going to the park into going to bars and those kinds of things?

Well, I never had any gay friends, never. Until the bar opened in Lewiston about ten years ago. It was called the Blue Swan at the time. I was scared to go in so I brought a couple tough guys from work with me. Everyone at work knew I was gay. … Anyway, I brought some real tough guys from work with me. I was scared. You heard stories about those kind of people who tie you up and tear your clothes up. I didn’t know what went on in that bar. That’s why I got a couple friends to go with me.

I went in and I met people who said hello and all of this and I looked around and sat down ad had a beer with my friends and it wasn’t that bad. There was nothing going on. You didn’t see guys making out or tearing clothes off each other. So then I started going alone. I brought another friend of mine who I found out was bi; we started going pretty regular after that.

– From “An Interview with Bob Gravel” by John Preston, in Winter’s Light: Reflections of a Yankee Queer.

Gay Rights Advocate Interrupts CBS Evening News Broadcast: 1973. Among the issues that gay rights advocates faced in the early 1970s was the way gay people continued to be portrayed in the press and on television — if they bothered to cover gay issues at all. The New York Times, which was supposedly the newspaper of record for the city, had never even bothered to mention the Stonewall uprising four years earlier until several months later. To call attention to the problem, Mark Segal of the Philadelphia-based Gay Raiders posed as a reporter for the Camden State Community College newspaper and called CBS asking permission to watch the broadcast of the CBS Evening News with the legendary Walter Cronkite from inside the studio. The network agreed and granted Segal access to the studio. And so on December 11, 1973, he briefly interrupted the broadcast about halfway through by running up in front of the camera with a yellow sign reading “Gays Protest CBS Prejudice”:

“I sat on Cronkite’s desk directly in front of him and held up the sign while the technicians furiously ran after me and wrestled me to the floor and wrapped me in wire — on camera,” (Segal) recalled in an interview. “The network went black while they took us out of the studio.”

Ever the professional, Cronkite reported on the event. “Well, a rather interesting development in the studio here — a protest demonstration right in the middle of the CBS News studio,” Cronkite told viewers. He later explained: “The young man was identified as a member of something called Gay Raiders, an organization protesting alleged defamation of homosexuals on entertainment programs.” Segal was charged with trespassing.

The “zap” payed off. After Segal’s trial for trespassing in which his attorneys subpoenaed Cronkite the testify, the news anchor began to take an interest in Segal’s grievance. He arranged a meeting at CBS where Segal could air his complaints to management, and Cronkite’s broadcast on May 6, 1974 featured a segment on gay rights, reporting on the ten cities throughout the country that had passed legal protections for gay people.

Segal went on to become publisher of Philadelphia Gay News, and remembered his friendship with Walter Cronkite days after his passing in 2009:

“He was the kind of man who believed in human rights for everyone,” Segal said of Cronkite. “I am amazed and humbled by his willingness to reach out to me. He was a bridge between the gay movement and major media. We remained friends, and it was a privilege knowing him.”

American Psychiatric Association Rejects Ex-Gay Therapy: 1998. The American Psychiatric Association’s board unanimously rejected therapy aimed solely at changing gay people straight, saying it can cause depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior. Dr, Nada Stotland, head of the APA’s joint committee on public affairs, said, “The very existence of therapy that is supposed to change people’s sexuality, even for people who don’t take it, is harmful because it implies that they have a disease. There is evidence that the belief itself can trigger depression and anxiety.”

The APA’s move was, in part, a response to a massive nationwide push by Focus On the Family and Exodus International to publicize the ex-gay movement, complete with a Newsweek cover the prior August featuring ex-gay spokesman John Paulk and his ex-lesbian wife Anne. Paulk who was the so-called gender specialist at Focus On the Family and organizer of the Love Won Out ex-gay roadshows, denounced the APA’s move. “This makes it more difficult for clients who want to be treated for unwanted homosexuality,” Paulk complained. “Furthermore, no scientific study has given conclusive evidence that homosexuality cannot be successfully treated.” Less than two years later, Paulk himself would be found in a Washington, D.C. gay bar (see Sep 19). In 2013, Paulk renounced his prior association with the ex-gay movement and issued a formal apology to the “countless people (who) were harmed by things I said and did in the past.” Exodus International announced its closure in June, 2013.

The 1998 APA statement, along with a 2000 follow-on statement, can be found here.

Jean Marais: 1913-1998. The French actor first met the writer, poet and film director Jean Cocteau (see Jul 5) when Marais was auditioning for a small role in a revival of Cocteau’s play, Oedipe-roi (Oedipus Rex). Marais was 24, half of Cocteau’s age, but the two fell in love and were together as partners, both personally and professionally, for the next twelve years. Midway through their relationship, Cocteau wrote the screenplay for L’Éternel retour (The Eternal Return) specifically for Marais. The 1943 film was critical and commercial success for Cocteau, and an important milestone in Marais’s career.

Marais continued acting while Germany occupied France, but once Paris was liberated he joined France’s Second Armored Division, driving fuel trucks to the front line and earning the Croix de Guerre for his service. After the war, Marais returned to Cocteau and acting, appearing in Cocteau’s 1946 film La Belle et la bête (Beauty and the Beast), which introduced both Marais and Cocteau to American audiences, and garnering Marais a legion of fans among teen girls and gay men. Marais made four more films with Cocteau, and with other important French directors. By 1949, the personal half of his partnership with Cocteau cooled, but the two remained lifelong friends and collaborators until Cocteau’s death in 1963. Through the 1950s, Marais became the French Eroll Flynn, through his roles in a series of swashbuckling films in which he performed his own stunts.

When Marais’ film career wound down in the 1970s, he took to the stage, took up painting and sculpture, and wrote several volumes of memoirs, including one of Cocteau titled, L’Inconcevable Jean Cocteau under the authorship of “Cocteau-Marais.” In 1998, Marais was awarded the Legion of Honor for his work in French film, and died two years later, on November 8, 1998, survived by his adopted son, Serge.

Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton: 1928-1984. Like so many blues singers, the Montgomery, Alabama, native’s musical heritage was in the church: her father was a preacher, her mother sang in the choir, and her brother, later known as “Harp” Thornton, played drums and harmonica. Her mother died when Willie Mae was fourteen. She took a job cleaning a saloon and was soon singing. In 1941, she joined Atlanta music promoter Sammy Green’s “The Hot Harlem Revue” where she was billed as the “New Bessie Smith.” In 1948, she left the Revue, moved to Houston and played in several clubs there. Her ability to sing and play multiple instruments led, in 1951, to a five-year contract with Peacock Records, which was known for its wide selection of popular “race” artists like Johnny Ace and a young and up-and-coming Little Richard. She began touring the “chitlin’ circuit” in the south, culminating in a legendary performance at New York’s Apollo Theater in 1952.

Relatively open about her lesbianism, she preferred men’s clothing over women’s, although on the stage she was usually talked into wearing a dress. Whatever she wore seemed to make little difference: her bigger than life presence always meant that she would never be a pretty little thing. Big all her life, she topped 300 pounds by the time she hit the Apollo, and her billing became “Big Mama Thornton” at about that time. In later years, she would often appear on stage in a man’s straw hat, which became something of a signature for her.

Her biggest hit was 1953’s “Hound Dog,” written for her by the before-they-were famous songwriting team of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller. Her original recording of “Hound Dog” featured her growling voice and openly sexualized lyrics. It topped Billboard’s R&B charts, but Thornton got only $500 for her recording and no royalties. When Elvis Presley cleaned it up, covered it in 1956 and made a fortune, Thornton began adding the line, “Bow wow to you, too” at the end of her performances as a swipe against Presley’s appropriation.

Presley’s success with “Hound Dog” was part of a much larger shift in America’s musical tastes. R&B had always been a bit too raw for white audiences, but Rock and Roll was able to fill in the gap between the races. As R&B declined in popularity, so did Thornton’s career. But a second life came along in the 1960s as artists like Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and Janis Joplin actively promoted a revival in interest in traditional blues and R&B. She toured Europe in 1965 which resulted in the albums, Big Mama Thornton: In Europe, with backing by legendary artists like Buddy Guy, Walter Horton, and Fred Below. Her 1967 album Big Mama Thornton with the Chicago Blues Band also featured a stellar lineup of Muddy Waters, Sam “Lightnin'” Hopkins and Otis Spawn.” The title song from 1968’s Ball and Chain became a signature song for Janis Joplin.

Thornton continued performing and recording into the 1970s, but by now her heavy drinking was taking its toll. Her 1979 performance at the San Francisco Blues Festival earned rave reviews, despite her requiring assistance to get on the stage. After a serious auto accident, she appeared at the 1983 Newport Jazz Festival, with Muddy Waters, B.B. King and Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson. That legendary performance was memorialized in the live recording The Blues—A Real Summit Meeting. It would also be her last appearance on stage. She died of a heart attack in 1984, at the age of 57. That same year, she was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame.

[Sources: Tina Spencer Dreisbach. “Willie Mae ‘Big Mama’ Thornton.” Encyclopedia of Alabama. (June 13, 2008, updated April 5, 2011). Available online here.

Ruth M. Pettis. “Thornton, Willie Mae “Big Mama” (1926-1984).” (October 8, 2007). Available online here.]

John Preston: 1945-1994. Today’s Fifty Shades of Gray fans owe Preston a particularly long-overdue acknowledgement. The award-winning writer, essayist, and journalist is probably best known for his Leather S&M gay erotica, a genre that Preston was proud of and which he felt made him a better, more honest writer. As he explained in his 1993, Harvard lecture, which he titled “My Life as a Pornographer” (and which he later published in an essay compilation by the same name) “Pornography has made me be honest, about myself and some of the most intimate details of my life and my fantasies. … Once I had exposed my own sexual fantasies, my most intimate desires, I feared little else about self-exposure as a writer.”

Leather S&M porn activism may seem like an odd field of endeaver, but activism came naturally to the Medfield, Massachusetts native, who by age fourteen had already volunteered as a Freedom Rider in Alabama and a tutor in Chicago’s projects. He graduated from Lake Forest College in Illinois, was certified as a sexual-health consultant by the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Medical School, and he also studied theology at the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, and Northwestern Lutheran Seminary in St. Paul. After moving to Minneapolis in 1969, he founded Gay House, one of the first gay and lesbian community centers in the country. He served as its first director until 1972, when he founded Gay Community Services.

MasterBy the mid 1970s, he moved to Los Angeles and became the editor of The Advocate. Then at about 1978, he moved to New York and took up fiction writing with a short pornographic story about a young man, Jaime, who becomes the sexual property of a Master named Aristotle Benson. He sent the story to Drummer magazine, which asked him to write an entire series on the exploits of Jaime and Benson. Those monthly episodes exploring Manhattan’s Leather and S&M scene were immensely popular. T-shirts reading “Looking for Mr. Benson” — some with a question mark, some without — began appearing in gay bars across the country. Mr. Benson was eventually published in book form, where it set a new standard in pornographic fiction. Other titles followed, including his “Master” series: I Once Had a Master (1984, which became the subject of a Canadian customs court case), Entertainment for a Master (1986), Love Of A Master (1987), and In Search Of A Master (1989).

But S&M porn was far from his only literary interest. Working as a journalist and essayist, he wrote for a number of gay magazines and penned a column about gay life in Maine after abandoning Manhattan for a refurbished warehouse in Portland. He wrote straight men’s adventure novels which, in a bizarro-world twist, his publisher insisted on publishing under a pseudonym lest his straight readers find out who wrote them. He then took what he learned from writing those books to write similar action adventure novels featuring gay characters, with story lines that addressed the difficulty gay teens experienced. When AIDS came along, Preston quickly adapted and became among the first to popularize safe sex stories by editing a safe sex anthology, Hot Living: Erotic Stories about Safer Sex, in 1985. He co-wrote, with Glenn Swann, a badly-needed safe-sex guide, Safe Sex: The Ultimate Erotic Guide, and two other rather unorthodox advice books: 1984’s Classified Affairs: A Gay Man’s Guide to the Personals and 1994’s Hustling: A Gentleman’s Guide to the Fine Art of Homosexual Prostitution.

Preston edited several critically acclaimed anthologies, including Hometowns: Gay Men Write About Where They Belong (1992), Personal Dispatches: Writers Confront AIDS (1990, which he began compiling soon after his own AIDS diagnosis), and Flesh and the Word: An Anthology of Erotic Writing (1995, with two stories by his friend, Anne Rice). Two of his anthologies, Member of the Family: Gay Men Write About Their Families (1992) and Sister & Brother: Lesbians & Gay Men Write About Their Lives Together (1994) were honored with Lambda Literary Awards. He died of AIDS in 1994, at the age of 48. His papers are housed at the John Hay Library at Brown University.

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The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, December 10

Jim Burroway

December 10th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), November 1978, page 32.

Chicago’s Knight Out was located at 2936 N. Clark, in what was then the middle of Boystown (which has drifted further north since then). While I can find several brief mentions of it online, I can find very little information about it, other than that it appears to have closed sometime before 1980.

Charter for the Society for Human Rights, 1924.

90 YEARS AGO: First American Gay Rights Group Founded: 1924. Henry Gerber, a Bavarian immigrant to Chicago, served in the U.S. Army’s occupation of Germany following World War I, where he learned about the country’s well-established gay rights movement. He read up on German homophile magazines and came in contact with Magnus Hirschfeld’s Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, the first organization in the world working to advance gay rights (see May 14). When Gerber returned to Chicago, he founded the Society for Human Rights (SHR) in 1924 with an African-American clergyman named John T. Graves as president. SHR is believed to be America’s first gay rights organization. Gerber also founded Friendship and Freedom, the first known American gay publication.

When the state of Illinois granted a charter on December 10, 1924, the Society became the first documented gay organization in America. To gain the charter, they deliberately kept the Society’s mission vague, omitting any mention of homosexuality in their application. Still, they were surprised that no one from the state investigated before issuing the charter, which described the Society’s objective as:

to promote and to protect the interests of people who by reasons of mental and physical abnormalities are abused and hindered in the legal pursuit of happiness which is guaranteed them by the Declaration of Independence, and to combat the public prejudices against them by dissemination of facts according to modern science among intellectuals of mature age. The Society stands only for law and order; it is in harmony with any and all general laws insofar as they protect the rights of others, and does in no manner recommend any acts in violation of present, laws nor advocate any matter inimical to the public welfare.

Henry Gerber

Gerber found getting SHR off the ground difficult. Graves was the only clergyman willing to join. Gerber tried to interest physicians, sex educators, and sexual freedom advocates. “The most difficult task was to get men of good reputation to back up the Society,” he later wrote, but “they usually refused to endanger their reputations… The only support I got was from poor people (who) were illiterate and penniless.” One of his problems, he discovered, was that “most people only join clubs which already have members.” Fewer still were willing to receive the SHR’s newsletter, Freedom and Friendship, which only lasted for two issues. Gerber ended up bearing most of the work and all of the costs for SHR. In 1962, he reflected on those difficulties:

I realized that homosexuals themselves needed nearly as much attention as the laws pertaining to their acts… The first difficulty was in rounding up enough members and contributors so the work could go forward. The average homosexual, I found, was ignorant concerning himself. Others were fearful. Still others were frantic or depraved. Some were blasé. Many homosexuals told me that their search for forbidden fruit was the real spice of life. With this argument they rejected our aims. We wondered how we could accomplish anything with such resistance from our own people.

But the final straw for the group came when the wife of the group’s vice president denounced Gerber and his associates to police as “degenerates.” In July, 1925, police arrested Gerber, Graves and two others, with the Chicago Examiner reported the story under the headline, “Strange Sex Cult Exposed.” Gerber was tried three times, but the charges were eventually dismissed because he was arrested without a warrant. He was nevertheless ruined, jobless and drained of his life savings, and SHR was no more. Gerber continued writing about gay rights, sometimes under his own name and sometimes under a pseudonym. In 1962, he wrote a detailed history of SHR for ONE Magazine (major portions of that account can be found here.) He died on New Year’s Eve in 1972 at the age of 80, having lived long enough to see gay rights advocacy take on a new vibrancy in the 1950s and 1960s, culminating in an explosion of advocacy and pride after the Stonewall Rebellion of 1969.

[Source: Jim Kepner and Stephen O. Murray. “Henry Gerber (1895-1972): Grandfather of the American Gay Movement.” in Vern L. Bulllough’s (ed.) Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (Binghamton, NY: Harrington Park Press, 2002): 24-34.]

Bobbi Campbell in 1983.

“K.S. Poster Boy” Comes Out: 1981. Only six months had passed since the Centers for Disease Control had warned the world of a strange new disease striking down otherwise health gay men (see Jun 5). That first warning, about a group of gay men in Los Angeles who died from an extremely rare form of pneumonia, was followed a month later with another report of gay men dying from Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS), a rare and usually treatable form of skin cancer. KS, with its purple splotchy lesions, would quickly become the most visible mark of the new beast stalking the gay community. In the fall of 1981, Bobbi Campbell (see Jan 28), an San Francisco registered nurse who had been politically active in the gay community, noticed some purple sores on his feet after a day of hiking at Bug Sur. Figuring they were blood blisters, he ignored them until they got bigger. When he saw the doctor on October 8, he became the sixteenth person in San Francisco to be diagnosed with K.S.

Most newspapers, including gay newspapers, were reluctant to write much about the new diseases, even though people in the gay community couldn’t ignore that something was very wrong. Campbell decided it was time to break the silence. In an op-ed to the San Francisco Sentinel, he introduced himself. “I’m Bobbi Campbell and I have ‘gay cancer.’ Although I say that, I also want to say I’m the luckiest man in the world.” He then announced his intention to become the K.S. Poster Boy. “The purpose of the poster boy is to raise interset and money in a particular cause, and I do have aspirations of doing that regarding gay cancer. I’m writing because I have a determination to love. You do too — don’t you?”

Within a week, Campbell persuaded a Castro pharmacy to display posters about K.S. on its front windows. The following month, he wrote another op-ed for Sentinel explaining his actions, which he likened to “a crisis topped only by coming to terms with my homosexuality in 1970.” He continued:

The adjustment process in these two situations was similar. I had to acknowledge to myself that I really was in a particular situation, that I had not chosen to be there, but I could choose what I would do in response, and I especially could decide how public or private I wanted to be. Gayness, like a cancer diagnosis, is socially stigmatized, and it can be concealed or divulged. … If it never occurred to you that a cancer diagnosis is a ticket to minority status, think again. People have lost their jobs, their homes, their friends, and their lives because of others’ reactions to their illness.

Campbell started what would become a “gay cancer” support group. AIDS still didn’t have a name yet, and the idea that they were suffering from “gay cancer” was still a source of hope in the earliest days of the crisis. As one member of Campbell’s support group said, “My diagnosis was of cancer, not AIDS… . I remember thinking in the back of my mind, “Well, some people beat cancer. Maybe I will…’.”

Those hopes were soon dashed as it became increasingly clear that this was no ordinary cancer. Meanwhile, Campbell took his advocacy nationwide when he appeared on the cover of Newsweek in 1983. That same year, he co-founded the People with AIDS Self-Empowerment Movement, which established the Denver Principles which rejected the notion that people with AIDS (PWA) were “victims” and demanded the inclusion of PWAs in all aspects of organized responses to the epidemic, including the right to make informed decisions with regard to their own care. Campbell died in 1984, nearly three years after he was diagnosed with K.S.

[Sources: Randy Shilts. And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic (New York: St. Martun’s Press, 1987): 107-108.

Joe Wright. “Only Your Calamity: The Beginnings of Activism by and for People with AIDS.” American Journal of Public Health 103, no. 10 (October 2013): 1788-1798. Available online here.]

AIDS Transmission Linked to Blood: 1982. Ever since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first began to track a new disease that would be known as AIDS in the summer of 1981 (See Jun 5), doctors and epidemiologists were scrambling to try to figure out how this disease was transmitted. Some believed it was the result of heavy drug use, some believed that it was somehow blood-borne, and some just thought it was some sort of natural breakdown of the immune system among “promiscuous homosexuals” who had too many sexually transmitted diseases over their lifetime. That last explanation didn’t do a very good job at explaining why AIDS was showing up among Haitians and hemophiliacs, but when you have homosexuals available for an ready target, it’s easy to ignore the pieces that don’t entirely fit the theory.

The CDC was finally able to shed some light on the controversy in the December 10, 1982 edition of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. That week’s MMWR carried a report of a 20-month old infant in San Francisco who developed all of the hallmark opportunistic infections associated with AIDS. The infant was delivered by C-section in March 3, 1981, and was given several blood transfusions over a four-day period, followed by more transfusions and other blood products during the one-month hospitalization that followed. Six months later, he began developing infections that continued through the next year. MMWR reported, “The parents and brother of the infant are in good health. The parents are heterosexual non-Haitians and do not have a history of intravenous drug abuse. The infant had no known personal contact with an AIDS patient.” But further investigation revealed that one of the nineteen donors who gave blood that was given to the infant during that first month was found to have AIDS:

The donor, a 48-year-old white male resident of San Francisco, was in apparently good health when he donated blood on March 10, 1981. Platelets derived from this blood were given to the infant on March 11. Eight months later, the donor complained of fatigue and decreased appetite. On examination, he had right axillary lymphadenopathy, and cotton-wool spots were seen in the retina of the left eye. During the next month, December 1981, he developed fever and severe tachypnea and was hospitalized with biopsy-proven Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia. … He died in August 1982.”

The CDC concluded:

The etiology of AIDS remains unknown, but its reported occurrence among homosexual men, intravenous drug abusers, and persons with hemophilia A suggests it may be caused by an infectious agent transmitted sexually or through exposure to blood or blood products. If the infant’s illness described in this report is AIDS, its occurrence following receipt of blood products from a known AIDS case adds support to the infectious-agent hypothesis.

…This report and continuing reports of AIDS among persons with hemophilia A raise serious questions about the possible transmission of AIDS through blood and blood products. The Assistant Secretary for Health is convening an advisory committee to address these questions.

Mark Takano: 1960. The Congressman representing California’s 41st district in the Inland Empire of San Bernardino County, comes from a family that knows quite a lot about discrimination. He is Sansei, a descendent of immigrants from Japan, and his parents and grandparents were held in internment camps during World War II. His grandmother lost all of her property as a result. After the war, the family returned to California, and Takano graduated as class valedictorian at his Riverside high school and graduated from Harvard in 1983. He then taught British literature in public schools for the next 23 years.

Takano first ran for Congress in 1992, winning the Democratic nomination but losing narrowly to Republican Ken Calvert. He tried again in 1994, but lost to Calvert by a much wider margin. He then stayed away from electoral politics until 2012, when he decided to run for the newly-redrawn 41st Congressional district. He won, defeating Republican John Tavaglione 58% to 42%, making Takano the first openly gay member of color of the House of Representatives. He was re-elected for a second term this past November.

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). As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.

The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, December 9

Jim Burroway

December 9th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GPU News, July 1973, page 22.

The Noble Roman opened in 1970 on St. Paul’s Grand Avenue, in a space that had been a supper club. It became a gay bar somewhat by accident:

“The Roman was particularly popular because its heterosexual owner was overwhelmingly concerned with profit; she left event planning and day-to-day management to the all-gay staff. [Mary] Kester’s lax attitude permitted the bar’s popular free stage—the venue hosted innumerable drag acts, politely-received ventriloquism shows, and musical numbers. …The owner’s carefree management style had positive and negative effects on the community. The Noble Roman was an early site of faux gay weddings, and drag queens received a small stipend for their Sunday performances on its free stage. When it came to paying bills, her ownership was detrimental—the bar closed several times due to mortgage truancy.”

Kester sold the bar in 1976 and the new owners turned it back into a straight establishment. The address today is now home to a restaurant called the Wild Onion.

Dr. William A. Evans

Gall Bladder Problems Are For Sissies: 1927. Dr. William A. Evans’s column, “How to Keep Well” was the first syndicated health column in the U.S. In 1927, he reviewed (or, more accurately, mocked) the theories of a “Dr. Draper,” who theorized that we were born with whatever fatal diseases that would eventually do us in in the end. “His opinion,” wrote Evans, “is that if you are born to die of gall stones you’ll die of gall stones whether it comes to pass or not.” Dr. Draper also believed that certain shapes and contours of the head and body could identify certain diseases. Draper soon discarded that theory in favor of one in which, as Evans described it, held that “the mental makeup, the character, personality, that he would have us believe is the background for certain diseases.” Evans continued:

Up to now he is working principally with gall stones and gall bladder infections, on the one hand, and ulcer of the stomach on the other. He finds that people who are prone to have stomach ulcers have a mental makeup in which there is great fearfulness. They have but little stability of mood. They make quick adjustments to change in environment. They are ideal opportunities. They are mental sprinters with little endurance. However, after exhaustion they are quickly rehabilitated by food, by short periods of rest and by relief from anxiety. They have heterosexual urges.

On the other hand, the people who are prone to gall bladder disease have great stability of mood, they are phlegmatic, and they have slow reactivity. They have but little fearfulness. They are placid, calm and not given to worries, fears or anxieties. They have more tendency to homosexual urges.


Minnesota State Sen. Allan Spear at a gay rights rally in 1981.

40 YEARS AGO: Minnesota State Senator Comes Out: 1974. Democrats sailed into state offices in 1974 in the wake of President Nixon’s resignation due to the Watergate scandal. But State Senator Allan Spear, who had entered the state legislature in 1972 and therefore wasn’t up for re-election that year, was more interested in another election that was taking place half a country away. That year, Elaine Noble would become the first openly gay person to be elected to a state legislature when she won her seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives (see Nov 5). “I had not yet met Elaine,” Spear later wrote, “but her example inspired me. If I did come out, I would have company, even though she would be a thousand miles away.”

Shortly after that election, Spear went to New York to speak at a gay conference. There, he met with Dr. Howard Brown, who had founded the National Gay Task Force in 1973 (see Oct 15). “In fact,” he wrote, “the most rewarding part of the weekend was seeing Howard again and having long discussions with him and some of his friends. In the struggle that was going on in my own mind about coming out, nothing was more encouraging than seeing stable, successful professional gay men who were open about their sexuality.”

Spear had already decided that it was best to come out under his own terms rather than have his sexuality brought out in circumstances which were not under his control. He had been in the state Senate long enough to establish a reputation fro being a multi-issue legislator, and his re-election was far-enough off in the future that he felt that it wouldn’t dominate the campaign when the time came. But most importantly, he was ready. “I had crossed the barrier with my parents a year before. Now my friendship with Howard Brown and the example of Elaine Noble had convinced me that I would not be marginalized by coming out. … I picked up the phone and called Deborah Howell at the Minneapolis Star. We made an appointment for lunch at a downtown Minneapolis restaurant called the Normandy Village on December 5.”

Four days later, the Star ran with a front page headline just under the fold reading “State Sen. Allan Spear Declares He’s Homosexual.” Spear was pleased to see that the story was a positive one. “The telephone rang all afternoon and evening. I received only one hostile call, from an elderly constituent who had voted for me and now felt hurt and betrayed. Otherwise the calls were wholly supportive — many from friends, of course, but others from people I didn’t know, both gay and straight, who congratulated me for my courage and wished me the best. The next day, I started receiving letters and telegrams from all over the country.”

Spear would go on to serve 28 years in the state Senate before retiring in 2000 as Senate President. In 1993 he was instrumental in passing the Minnesota Human Rights Act, which provided anti-discrimination protections in education, employment, and housing for LGBT Minnesotans. That project took twenty years to accomplish, but he finally did it with bipartisan support. Sen. Spear died in 2008, and his autobiography, Crossing the Barriers, was published posthumously in 2010.

San Francisco Mayor Vetoes Domestic Partner Benefits for City Employees: 1982. The city by the bay blew the chance to become the first city in the nation to provide domestic partnership benefits for its city employees when mayor Dianne Feinstein vetoed the controversial bill. Inspired by a similar proposal from across the bay in Berkeley (see Dec 5), Supervisor Harry Britt hurriedly pushed a bill providing spousal benefits for the same-sex partners of city employees. It would also allow unmarried couples gain limited recognition of their relationships, including, most crucially during the start of the AIDS crisis, visitation rights in hospitals and at funerals.

The problem, though, was that the gay community in San Francisco wasn’t prepared for the ensuing controversy when opponents, predictably, mischaracterized as an attack on marriage rather than a question of employee benefits. The domestic partner’s ordinance, sometimes called the “live-in lovers’ law,” was attacked by the Roman Catholic Archbishop John Quinn as “offensive to reasonable persons and injurious to our legal, cultural, moral and societal heritage.” The Episcopal Bishop and the Board of Rabbis of Northern California also denounced the ordinance.

When Mayor Diane Feinstein announced that she would veto the ordinance, she told reporters, “On a personal level, this legislation causes me deep personal anguish. I would like to be able to sign the legislation that recognizes the needs of single persons, but such legislation must not divide our community.”

Feinstein’s veto both surprised and outraged the gay community, which she had strongly supported through much of her career. A local fringe group, a separatist Haight-Asbury commune known as White Panthers, had already started a recall petition against Feinstein, and many in the gay community jumped on the “Dump Diane” campaign. The White Panthers’ beef with Feinstein was her approval of strict gun control legislation. Those laws were struck down by the California Supreme Court, but the White Panthers were still sore over it. Their anti-gay politics were largely unknown, and so many in the gay community leapt at the chance to sign their recall petition. The White Panthers turned in 35,000 signatures, mostly from the Castro Street area. The resulting recall election the following April split the gay community, and Feinstein survived the recall election with 82% of the vote.

Gay rights leaders in Berkeley were watching events in San Francisco closely, and learned some valuable lessons: namely, that getting allies on board and fully educated on the proposal was essential in building the needed political support. Two years later, those efforts would come to fruition when Berkeley became the first city in the nation to provide a limited form of domestic partnership benefits for city employees (see Dec 5), which could then be expanded upon in the months and years to come. San Franciscans would finally get domestic partnership benefits in 1985.

[Sources: Randy Shilts. And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987).

Leland Traiman. “A Brief History of Domestic Partnerships.” The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide 15, no. 4 (July-August 2008): 23-24.]

Larry Duncan and Randy Shepherd, taking out a marriage license three days earlier.

Marriage Equality Arrives in Washington State: 2012. Three days earlier, LGBT couples flooded county auditors offices across the state to take out marriage licenses under a new law that was approved by voters the previous November. After the three day mandatory waiting period, those couples began marrying. Seattle City Hall was transformed into a massive wedding chapel, and remained open on that Sunday with several judges donating their time to marry couples. More than 140 couples have signed up for slots beginning at at 10:00 a.m. In Olympia, four local judges began performing weddings just just after midnight.

Ronnie Paris, Jr.: 2001. He was only three years old when he died on January 28, 2005 at the hands of his father. The abuse had been going on for a very long time. In 2002, the Florida Department of Children and Family Services removed Ronnie from his home and placed him in protective custody after he had been admitted to the hospital for malnourishment and a broken arm. On December 14, five days after this third birthday, he was returned to his parents. Just a month later on January 22, he slipped into a coma while sleeping on the couch of a family friend as his parents attended a Bible study. He died six days later from brain injuries. His mother later told detectives that her husband, Ronnie Paris, Sr., had repeatedly beaten his son, slammed him into walls, and forced him to participate in father-son boxing matches until he would shake, cry, and wet himself. Ronnie’s father did all this because he though his son was gay, so he beat him to keep Ronnie from growing up “soft.” Ronnie Paris, Sr. was convicted of second degree manslaughter and aggravated child abuse and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. If Ronnie, Jr., were alive today, he would be thirteen years old.

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 Monday, December 8

Jim Burroway

December 8th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Club Scene, a magazine geared toward gay motorcycle club members, December 1983, p 10.

From Club Scene, a magazine geared toward gay motorcycle club members, December 1983, p 10.

45 YEARS AGO: Aversion Therapy of Homosexuality: 1969. Doctors had been using painful jolts of electricity to try to torture homosexuality out of people since 1935 (see Mar 11 and Sep 6). In 1969, The British Journal of Psychiatry published a paper by John Bancroft of Maudsley Hospital, a psychiatric facility in South London, titled “Aversion Therapy of Homosexuality: A Pilot Study of 10 cases.” The treatment went like this: first, the patient’s penis was attached to a device which measures changes in girth. Then:

In method A, the patient was asked to produce erotic homosexual fantasies whilst looking at photographs of males. Painful electric shocks were delivered to his arm whenever an erection developed up to a certain level. …Following this initial shock, further shocks were given at 15 second intervals unless the erectile response was falling or was once again below the threshold level. A minimum of 5 shocks was given in any one trial.

If the threshold level of erection was not reached by the end of 5 minutes, the trial was ended and a new trial was started with different photographs. On the average, 12 such trials were given in each session.

In addition each session included two further types of trial; one homosexual trial with no threat of shock, and 3 heterosexual trials when photographs of females were used and the patient encouraged to produce heterosexual fantasies. These heterosexual trials were included for two reasons. Firstly to allow discrimination between homosexual and heterosexual erections and so avoid any suppression of homosexual erections generalizing to both. Secondly it was hoped that either by a practice effect or by an “anxiety relief” effect (due to withdrawal of the threat of shock) the heterosexual responses might be reinforced.

In the last three patients an alternative method was used in the last part of treatment (Method B). In this method, the patient was asked to produce specific homosexual fantasies without the use of photographs, and to signal as soon as he had the image clearly in his mind. He was then shocked. In this second method, therefore the noxious stimulus was not contingent upon the erectile response but upon the fantasy.

Before or after the sessions, the patients were asked to describe any sexual activity they had participated in, as well as their masturbatory fantasies. The answers to those questions determined whether they passed or failed. How very scientific, don’t you think? But what’s most revealing is how Bancroft described the treatment effects for each of the ten patients. Each description is worth looking at:

Patient A: A 36 year old artist “of good personality” who , aside from a few dalliances, was “clearly heterosexual in his outlook.” He was married, but had frequent flings on the side. He volunteered for aversion therapy after reading about it in a newspaper article. “After 30 sessions he was initiating homosexual encounters but finding himself impotent. This had never happened before. Treatment was stopped after 45 sessions when he felt he could control the urges.” But on follow-up, he gradually returned “to his previous pattern. He was given a further course of treatment using method B; this gave him greater control but only whilst the treatment was continuing. Three and a half years after treatment homosexual encounters continue but the frequency is less than before treatment, the urges are less strong, and he is getting less pleasure from them.”

Patient B: A 28-year-old postal worker who “came for treatment because he was frightened by a police charge.” After 21 sessions, “he was starting to masturbate with heterosexual fantasies, but he expressed the following difficulty which was never completely overcome… ‘whenever I start to think of the vagina a penis comes into my mind — as though there was some kind of block.’ Treatment stopped after 39 sessions. Although he had started to find women attractive and to masturbate with heterosexual fantasies for the first time in his life, his homosexual interest had never been significantly reduced and had remained prepotent. … After four months homosexual urges became stronger and heterosexual fantasies difficult. After 6 months he resumed homosexual activities. Soon he was back to his normal pattern.”

Patient C: A 37-year-old zoologist who volunteered because “he wanted to become heterosexual. …After 12 sessions he was experiencing ‘pangs’ of anxiety on seeing attractive males in the street. By this stage he was beginning to masturbate with heterosexual fantasies. After 15 sessions he started to feel some anxiety during the female trials and a little later was noting ‘pangs’ of anxiety on seeing sexually threatening females as well as attractive males. This conditioned anxiety became more obvious and treatment was stopped after 35 sessions… For 2½ years he has maintained this conditioned ‘phobic’ anxiety to potentially attractive males, experiencing a ‘pang’ of discomfort in the chest when seeing them. On two or three occasions homosexual advances have been made to him and these have provoked intense anxiety and avoidance. …Two and a half years after treatment his homosexual interest is much reduced and he has no desire to make any homosexual contacts. He is once again using homosexual fantasies during masturbation but heterosexual fantasies occur some of the time.”

Patient D: A 22-year-old “with no settled employment, with an abnormal personality … [and who] also suffered from epilepsy.” “He showed inconsistent and varied responses during treatment and was an unreliable witness. There was slight improvement in the first half of treatment but the second half resulted in a hostile, negativistic and destructive attitude together with some depression of mood. He made a suicidal gesture and his first ever homosexual advance during this stage. Treatment was stopped after 36 sessions with no apparent benefit having been achieved.” After treatment, “he appeared much more accepting of his homosexuality.” But his sexual functioning was disturbed, possibly because of the effects of treatment: “He found little pleasure and was unable to reach orgasm. Nine months after treatment he was playing a passive role in buggery, but with no sexual arousal on his part. Two years after treatment he was much more settled and was having an affair with an elderly man in which sexual activity was getting less and less frequent. He still failed to achieve orgasm during these encounters…”

Patient E: A 36-year-old actor “of athletic build.” Despite being “actively homosexual,” he met and married a woman and subsequently became “almost impotent,” and for the year before undergoing treatment, he had been suffering from “intrusive homosexual fantasies [which] were still strong and frequent” along with “marked pervasive anxiety.” After 12 sessions, he began having intercourse with his wife “with slight enjoyment.” But after 32 sessions, “both heterosexual and homosexual responses were declining again. At this stage, homosexual fantasies provoked disinterest rather than anxiety, whereas heterosexual fantasies, especially involving his wife, provoked some anxiety.” On follow-up things only got worse. “Ten months after treatment, his relationship with his wife deteriorated again, his anxiety increased and he became completely impotent. One month later homosexual fantasies returned. He expressed anger at the treatment and the therapist and discontinued treatment.”

Patient F: A 47-year-old Scot who sought treatment for many years to become heterosexual. He had previously tried psychotherapy (including psychotherapy with LSD), and two previous, unsuccessful attempts at electric shock aversion therapy. So this was a guy who knew what he was getting into. “He reported relief at the start of female trials after only 2 sessions. After 8 sessions he started to produce strong erections to heterosexual fantasies. From then on the pattern was of fluctuating heterosexual interest. Homosexual interest and responses were reduced early in treatment, but showed a slight increase in the second half. Treatment was stopped after 35 sessions. At this stage he felt ‘really heterosexual now’ and had only occasional slight homosexual interest.” But his “really heterosexual” feelings proved elusive. He dated a woman, but when they broke up he was depressed for two to three weeks and “his homosexual interest increased and he had two homosexual experiences. Fifteen months after treatment, following a second severe but short lived depressive episode he is showing more homosexual interest again, but retains some heterosexual interest and has certainly not regained his previous ‘heterophobia’.”

Patient G: A 27-year-old clerical worker who had almost no heterosexual experience or feelings. “After 9 sessions he was finding heterosexual fantasies easier and after 12 sessions he was reporting an intense interest in women. Though fluctuating in intensity, heterosexual responses and interest continued for the rest of treatment. His homosexual interest and responses were slightly reduced during the middle stages of treatment but after 17 sessions they increased again. Treatment was stopped after 32 sessions, when his homosexual interest was much the same as before treatment, but he now found women strongly attractive.”

“Following treatment he became depressed, his homosexual urges became more marked and his heterosexual interest lessened. He remained depressed for the next five months. Then, following a minor rejection by a homosexual friend, he was admitted to hospital having been found wandering the streets at night removing some of his clothing. He showed no further evidence of psychotic behaviour. For the first month in hospital he remained isolated and mildly depressed. He was then started on diazepam and showed a marked change. He became more cheerful and confident and started a relationship with a female patient which continued after they both left hospital. At first he showed some degree of impotence, but he has had a satisfactory sexual relationship with her since. Fifteen months after aversion he enjoys regular sexual intercourse and has had no homosexual inclinations at all.

Patient H: A 24-year-old teacher who, despite strong attractions, had had little homosexual experience. While had had had several girlfriends, he found them “only slightly arousing.” “After 7 sessions he started to produce increasingly strong heterosexual responses associated with aggressive fantasies. After 15 sessions heterosexual images were beginning to intrude into his homosexual masturbation fantasies and a little later he masturbated with exclusively heterosexual fantasies for the first time. By this stage his homosexual interest was less strong and he had become unable to reach orgasm using homosexual fantasies. His homosexual responses in treatment continued as strong, however.” Following treatment, he began dating a girl, but the relationship never progressed beyond kissing. It ended after three months. “Six months after treatment, he made his first homosexual contact. One year after treatment he is energetically pursuing homosexual relationships but he avoids reaching orgasm himself, and if possible prevents his partner from doing so.”

Patient I: A 29-year-old policeman, married since 21, and with two children. When he first married, he “obtained slight pleasure from sexual intercourse but this steadily waned.” He began a three year affair with another man “and is not promiscuous,” during which time he became “mostly impotent with his wife.” He volunteered for treatment to try to save his marriage, but the treatment proved futile. “Little impression was made on either his homosexual or heterosexual responses. There was some reduction in homosexual urges after 5 sessions but he avoided using his ‘affair’  in his homosexual fantasies and was clearly resisting any attempt to destroy his feelings for him. He reported little anxiety during treatment but he was generally non-communicative and difficult to assess. After 20 sessions the treatment was changed to Method B. He was urged to use fantasies involving his ‘affair’. After only one further session it became clear that he did not really want the treatment to work. The treatment was therefore discontinued.” On follow-up, “he returned to his previous homosexual relationship with considerable pleasure and continued a reasonably friendly though sexless relationship with his wife.”

Patient J: A 27-year-old “of average intelligence” who, while never having had any heterosexual interest, he “could never contemplate an overt homosexual relationship because of guilt.” “He had 15 sessions of method A and 15 sessions of Method B. His responses were inconsistent. During Method A he was usually unable to concentrate on his fantasies for fear of the shock, even when very low levels were used. Occasionally, however, he responded easily. With Method B the same inconsistency occurred. At the end of treatment there was no evidence of change in his homosexuality, and the only change heterosexually was that he had lost his revulsion and was now able to sustain heterosexual fantasies more easily. … “In the first three months (after treatment), he experienced more interest in females. He mixed more with them socially, and kissed a girl for the first time. This did not, however, result in any sexual arousal. His homosexual fantasies continued as strongly as before. Ten months after treatment there is no further progress.

As you can see, there were precious few stories which could be defined, generously, as successes. Patient G, according to Bancroft, was the only one to show “no homosexual inclinations at all.” But one has to wonder what priced he paid. Later in the article, Patient G was among four who showed moderate or high anxiety during treatment, and he “expressed some slight aggression toward the therapist on 3 or 4 occasions.” He also “became depressed soon after treatment and remained so, in spite of anti-depressant drugs, until admission to hospital 5 months later.” Bancroft attributed his subsequent improvement not to his lady friend, but to the use of Diazepam.

Overall, Bancroft found the results disappointing, but he felt it was important to press on:

Methods of behaviour modification such as these are in their infancy and a considerable amount of further research is needed before such techniques can be advocated for general use. But the benefits to be gained from such research may be considerable. They will include increased understanding of behaviour modification in general, as well as a greater understanding of the behaviours to be modified.

The Rest Of The Story
I would love to know what happened to those ten patients since their treatment ended in the mid-1960s, but nearly fifty years on we may never find out. Bancroft would continue investigating methods for changing sexual orientation through the 1960s and the first part of the 1970s. But as the mental health professions changed its view of homosexuality,  behavior therapists in particular began to abandon their punitive approaches to behavioral modification. Over time, Bancroft eventually abandoned his efforts to “cure” gay people. When Robert Spitzer published his controversial ex-gay study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior in 2003 (the study that Spitzer renounced and apologized for in 2012), Bancroft, by then at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction at Indiana University, was one of some two dozen authors criticizing Spitzer’s study. Bancroft’s drew on his own past experience:

Times were different then. The Gay Rights Movement was early in its development and it was much more likely than it is today that individuals would seek such change. But on reflection, I realized that, whereas I was genuinely trying to help the individual, in the process I was aligning myself with those who reinforced homophobic attitudes and all the consequences of the stigma that ensued. It did not continue to be a dilemma for me, as my own results gave me no reason to continue to use such simplistic interventions.

And he criticized Spitzer’s study claiming that some people who underwent “reparative” therapy said they changed. He criticized it not only for its many methodological weaknesses, but also for the role it would inevitably play in reinforcing negative attitudes toward gay people:

If there were any grounds for regarding homosexual orientation as a pathology rather than a variant of human sexual expression, then treating the pathology might be justified. I would assert that there are no such grounds, and hence providing treatment on that basis is professionally unethical and, according to my value system, immoral. There is a long and disturbing history of medical practitioners imposing their moral values through their professional practice. The imposition of moral values, explicitly or implicitly, that is, urging someone to undergo change because their current sexual orientation is immoral, should not be regarded as “therapy,” and in any case raises other ethical and moral issues. …[Spitzer’s report] constitutes vigorous reinforcement of homophobia and the social stigma experienced by those with homosexual identities in our society. Together, this results
in widespread suffering for homosexual minorities and, no doubt, for many who are pressured into attempting such change, considerable conflict and unhappiness.

[Sources: John Bancroft. “Aversion therapy of homosexuality: A pilot study of 10 cases.” British Journal of Psychiatry 115, no. 529 (December 1969): 1417-1431.

John Bancroft. Peer Comments on Spitzer (2003): “Can sexual orientation change? A long-running saga.” Archives of Sexual Behavior 32, no. 5 (October 2003): 419-421.

For more information on the history of behavioral therapy, see our report, “Blind Man’s Bluff”.]

Leroy Aarons: 1933-2004. A journalist for the Washington Post for many years, he served as bureau chief for New York and Los Angeles, and covered the Pentagon Papers story, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, urban riots, and government scandals. He covered the 1982 Lebanon War for Time before becoming editor of the Oakland Tribune. He was hired by the Tribune soon after its new owner, Robert C. Maynard, bought the struggling paper and became the first African-American owner of a major metro newspaper. Maynard and Aarons turned the Tribune around and the paper won a 1990 Pulitzer for its coverage of the Loma Prieta earthquake.

Aarons worked with Maynard to found the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, now at the University of California at Berkeley. MIJE was established to bring racial diversity to the newsroom and ensure accurate representation of minorities in the news media. In 1989, the American Society of Newspaper Editors asked Aarons to coordinate the first survey of lesbian and gay journalists. That survey of 250 print journalists showed that most of them were closeted at work, that only seven percent said that their work environments were good for gay people, and that coverage of gay issues was “at best mediocre.” Aaron presented his results to the 1990 ASMNE convention, and closed his speech by coming out to his colleagues. Four months later, he took what he learned from the Maynard Institute and co-founded the National Association of Lesbian and Gay Journalists (NLGJA). He also became its first president.

In 1991, Aarons researched and wrote his first book, Prayers for Bobby, about a mother coming to terms with her gay son’s suicide. He also wrote a handful of opera librettos and plays on a number of topical subjects, including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Pentagon Papers, and Reformed Judaism. When he died of cancer in 2004, he and his partner of 24 years, Joshua Boneh, were working on a play based on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The NLGJA established a scholarship fund in his name in 2006 for student journalists in his name.

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).

As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.

The Daily Agenda for Sunday, December 7

Jim Burroway

December 7th, 2014

Events This Weekend: Mad Bear, Madrid, Spain; Santa Skivvies Run, San Francisco, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the Michelle International Souvenir Program, 1962. (Source.)

From the Michelle International Souvenir Program, 1962. (Source.)

Many circumstances contributed to personal closeness on the ranch and trail. Cownoys frequently bedded in pairs with their “bunkie,” and a ranch bunkhouse was occasionally called a “ram pasture.” Many cowboys engaged in “mutual solace,” a tender, expressive and euphemistic term for sexual relations. Vulgar and explicit “ugly songs” describing phallic size, virility, and sodomy were sung around campfires. In 1920s Nevada, the “sixty-nine” sexual position was common enough among cowboys to warrant its won euphemism, Swanson Neuf.”

Gay cowboys continue to be an intrinsic part of the West. In 1957, two Texas cowboys visiting the Mayflower Bar, an Oklahoma City gay bar, described their life as one where there are generally two or three gay cowboys to a ranch, who quietly recognize each other, keeping their identity a secret from the others.

– Jim Wilke, “Frontier Comrades: Homosexuality in the American West,” from the 2009 anthology, Out in All Directions: A Treasury of Gay and Lesbian America.

Pennsylvania Colony Enacts New Sodomy Law: 1682. Sodomy laws seemed to come and go in Pennsylvania. The colony had originally included Sodomy in a long list of offenses which were considered capital crimes, but the first assembly in 1676 held under the proprietorship of William Penn codified Quaker leniency in its law reform when it limited the death penalty to murder. This effectively left Pennsylvania without a sodomy law for the next six years, when the colony instituted this new law:

…if any person shall be Legally Convicted of the unnatural sin of Sodomy or joining with beasts, Such person shall be whipped, and forfeit one third of his or her estate, and work six months in the house of Correction, at hard labour, and for the Second offence, imprisonment, as aforesaid, during life.

This law would remain in effect until 1693, when William Penn fell out of power and was replaced with a Royal governor who repealed most of Penn’s legislation, including the non-capital sodomy law. No new law would be enacted until 1700 (see Nov 27).

The Trial of Captain Edward Rigby: 1698. Captain Rigby had already been acquitted of a charge of sodomy by a court-martial in early 1698, but Rev. Thomas Bray, a member of the societies for the Reformation of Manners — a kind of a Family Research Council of its day — was convinced of Rigby’s guilt and worked out a plan to entrap him. The bait, William Minton, was the servant of one of Bray’s parishioners and had been previously approached by Rigby. The snare was set, Rigby was caught red-handed, and was arrested and hauled into court. The trial record shows that, this time, Rigby pleaded neither guilty nor not guilty, apparently on the hopes that there would be a problem with the indictment itself which would cause it to be thrown out. The court however found the indictment sound, and since Rigby didn’t enter a plea, the proceedings continued as though he had admitted his guilt. Then several affidavits were read, with all of their salacious details:

That on Saturday the Fifth of November last, Minton standing in St. James’s Park, to see the Fireworks [i.e. the Guy Fawkes Day bonfire], Rigby stood by him and took him by the hand, and squeez’d it; put his Privy Member Erected into Minton‘s Hand; kist him, and put his Tongue into Minton‘s Mouth, who being much astonish’d at these Actions went from him; but Rigby pursued him, and accosted him again; and after much Discourse prevailed with Minton to tell him where he lodged, and to meet him the Monday following about Five a Clock, at the George- Tavern in the Pall mall, and to Enquire for Number 4. Minton the next day Acqainted Charles Coates, Esq; (with whom he lived) with what had happened to him the Night before, and desired his Advice and Direction therein; who with a Worthy Divine then present (being willing to detect and punish the Villany designed by Rigby) directed Minton to apply himself to Thomas Railto Esq; a Justice of the Peace for Middlesex; who being informed of what past between Rigby and Minton, appointed his Clark with a Constable, and two other Persons, to go with Minton to the George-Tavern, who were to stay in some Room adjoyning to the Room whereinto Minton should go: and if any Violence should be offered to him, upon crying out “Westminster” the Constable and his Assistance should immediately enter the Room.

That on Monday the Seventh of November last, about Four of the Clock in the Afternon, Rigby came to the George-Tavern, and left Number 4 at the Bar, with Directions, That if any Enquired for that Number, to send them to him; after Rigby had been about an Hour at the Tavern, (Minton not coming) Rigby called up one of the Drawers, and in a Passionte manner, bid him go to Minton‘s Lodgings, and enquire for a young Gentleman; and if he were within, to tell him a Gentleman staid for him at the George-Tavern; the Drawer accordingly went, but Minton not being within, the Drawer return’d that Answer to Rigby.

That about six a clock Minton came to the George Tavern, enquired for Number 4. and was shewed into the room where Rigby was, and [t]he Constable and his assistance were placed in a Room adjoyning; Rigby seemed much pleased upon Mintons coming, and drank to him in a glass of Wine and kist him, took him by the Hand, put his Tongue into Mintons Mouth, and thrust Mintons hand into his (Rigby) Breeches, saying, “He had raised his Lust to the highest degree,” Minton thereupon askt, “How can it be, a Woman was only fit for that,” Rigby answered, “Dam’em, they are all Port, I’ll have nothing to do with them.” Then Rigby sitting on Mintons Lap, kist him several times, putting his Tongue into his mouth, askt him, “if he should F[uck] him,” “how can that be” askt Minton, “I’le show you” answered Rigby, “for it’s no more than was done in our Fore-fathers time”; and then to incite Minton thereto, further spake most Blaphemous words, and said, “That the French King did it, and the Czar of Muscovy made Alexander, a Carpenter, a Prince for that purpose,” and affirmed, “He had seen the Czar of Muscovy through a hole at Sea, lye with Prince Alexander.” Then Rigby kist Minton several times, putting his Tongue in his Mouth, and taking Minton in his Arms, wisht he might lye with him all night, and that his Lust was provoked to that degree, he had — [ejaculated] in his Breeches, but notwithstanding he could F[uck] him; Minton thereupon said, “sure you cannot do it here,” “yes,” answered Rigby, “I can,” and took Minton to a corner of the Room, and put his Hands into Mintons Breeches, desiring him to pull them down, who answered “he would not, but he (Rigby) might do what he pleased”; thereupon Rigby pulled down Mintons Breeches, turn’d away his shirt, put his Finger to Mintons Fundament, and applyed his Body close to Mintons, who feeling something warm touch his Skin, put his hand behind him, and took hold of Rigbys Privy Member, and said to Rigby “I have now discovered your base Inclinations, I will expose you to the World, to put a stop to these Crimes”; and thereupon Minton went towards the door, Rigby stopt him, and drew his Sword, upon which Minton gave a stamp with his foot, and cry’d out “Westminster“; then the Constable and his Assistance came into the Room, and seized Rigby, who offer’d the Constable a Gratuity to let him go, which he refusing, carryed Rigby beore Sir Henry Dutton Colt, before whom Minton charged Rigby (who was present) with the Fact to the effect before related; who being askt by Sir Henry Colt, “Whether the Fact Minton had charged him with were True,” Rigby denyed not that the Charge against him was true, only objected against some inconsiderable Circumstances, which no ways tended to the lessening of the Charge.

You’ve gotta love late seventeenth century English for stuff like this. Anyway, Rigby was sentenced to stand three days at the pillory for two hours each, a £1,000 fine, a year in prison, followed by seven years’ probation. It wasn’t entirely unusual for prisoners to be seriously wounded or even killed at the pillory as crowds threw rotten garbage (and sometimes rocks) at them. But Rigby’s fate could have been far worse: the standard punishment for sodomy cases was death by hanging. Being an officer in the Royal Navy may have factored into the court’s leniency. Rigby survived his ordeal and fled to France after his release. There, he converted to Catholicism, and entered the French navy where he was a well regarded officer.

[Source: Rictor Norton. Ed. “The Trial of Capt. Edward Rigby, 1698.” Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. (Updated 11 July 2013). Available online here, where you can find much more information, including accounts from several contemporary newspapers.]

José Sucuzhañay

José Sucuzhañay Murdered in Brutal Hate Crime: 2008. Two men were waling arm in arm late at night after leaving a bar from a long night of drinking. Three men in a maroon SUV saw them and, and one of them yelled out, “Check out those faggots over there.” Two jumped out the SUV and attacked the couple. One of the attackers broke a bottle over José’s head. When he fell to the ground, another began beating him with an aluminum baseball bat while the others kicked and punched him. All were yelling anti-gay and anti-Hispanic slurs. The other victim ran and called 911 on his cell phone, Meanwhile, the assailants piled back into the SUV and drove away.

The men who were assaulted were not faggots, but brothers from Ecuador, from a culture where showing affection is relatively common. Romel Sucuzhañay was relatively lucky, having received only minor injuries. But José sustained massive head injuries and was soon declared brain dead. Doctors tried to sustain him on life support until his mother could arrive from Ecuador, but his heart stopped five days after the attack and one day before she could get there. José also left behind two young daughters.

Keith Phoenix (left), Hakim Scott (rigtht)

Nearly three months later, police arrested Hakim Scott and Keith Phoenix, and charged them with murder and assault as hate crimes. Phoenix, an unemployed felon who was out on parole, showed no remorse. “So I killed someone — that makes me a bad guy?”, he said to police. Surprisingly, Phoenix was tried twice — the first jury deadlocked. But the second one convicted him of murder and assault as hate crimes. Scott was convicted separately of manslaughter and assault, but without the hate crimes enhancement. Judge Patricia M. DiMango sentenced Phoenix to 37 years to life in prison, and Scott to 37 years. José’s mother was magnanimous after the sentencing. “This is a very sad day,” she said through an interpreter. “It’s sad for my family and for the family of the defendants. I feel very sorry for the defendants, and of course there is a huge emptiness in my heart because of my son.” But Romel, the surviving brother, was traumatized by the whole experience. “My future is in pieces,” he said. “I have mental problems. And it is all because of the ignorance of these people and this distant event.”

Willa Cather: 1873-1947. Born in Back Creek, Virginia, Willa and her family moved to Nebraska when she was nine years old, and settled in Red Cloud. At the age of fourteen, she seems to have adopted a male persona, named “William” or “Willie,” with studio photos of her at the time had her sporting a crew cut and wearing male clothing, a practice she continued as a student at the University of Nebraska, and she often signed her letters “Aunt Willie” for much of her life. Willa also had a college crush on a fellow student, Louise Pound. In a letter written to another childhood friend, Cather describes, in surprisingly candid detail, a date she went on with Pound: “I am pretty well now, save for sundry bruises received in driving a certain fair maid over the country with one hand, sometimes, indeed, with no hand at all. But she did not seem to mind my method of driving, even when we went off banks and over haystacks, and as for me — I drive with one hand all night in my sleep.” This is an exceptionally rare glimpse — perhaps the only admission we have in writing — of Cather’s attachments to other women, although scholars have combed her novels and examined each morsel for other clues over the years.

“William” or :Willie” Cather, about 1890.

Cather began her writing career in college, with campus and local newspapers in Lincoln. After graduation, she moved to Pittsburgh, and then New York, where she worked in journalism before becoming managing editor of McClure’s magazine. In 1908, Cather became close to Edith Lewis, an advertising copywriter, who became Cather’s devoted “companion and housemate for nearly 40 years” — for the rest of Cather’s life — then heir after Cather’s death.

Cather’s first novel, Alexander’s Bridge (1912, was serialized in McClure’s. The story, of an engineer who designed the longest bridge in Canada, was influenced by her most recent travels to London, Boston and Canada. Years later though, she would renounce the workm saying it “was very like what painters call a studio picture… Like most young writers, I thought a book should be made out of ‘interesting materials,’ and at that same time I found the new more exciting than the familiar.” she returned to Red Cloud for a visit and realized that the backward, provincial country she couldn’t wait to flee as a younger woman was now the place that would spark her imagination. She immediately completed her Prairie Trilogy: O Pioneers! (1913), The Song of the Lark (1915), and My Antonia (1918). All of them were written in a distinctly Western style: low key, laconic, direct. Praise for My Antonia was particularly effusive. Sinclair Lewis hailed it for making “the outside world know Nebraska as no one else has done.” Essayist Randolph Bourne wrote, “Here at last is an American novel, redolent of the Western prairie, that our most irritated and exacting preconceptions can be content with… Miss Cather, I think, in this book has taken herself out of the rank of provincial writers and given us something we can fairly class with the modern literary art of the world over that is earnestly and richly interpreting the spirit of youth.”

Her next novel, One of Ours, wasn’t published until 1922, and was inspired by the death of a cousin during the Great War. It came out to mixed reviews, but sold well and won her a Pulitzer in 1923. She wrote four more novels, but with the Jazz age in full bloom and the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemmingway exploding onto the scene, Cather’s works seemed frumpy, overly nostalgic, and disconnected from the modern world in comparison. When the country was plunged into the Great Depression, Cather was viewed as irrelevant. She became reclusive, burned old drafts and personal papers, forbade anyone from publishing or quoting from her letters. When she died in 1947, her will severely restricted scholar’s access to her papers, a restriction that Lewis strictly enforced. This frustrated scholars for decades, particularly those who were trying to tease out details of the reclusive author’s private life. In 2011, her nephew and second executor Charles Cather died, and the copyrights passed to the Willa Cather Trust, which dropped the ban on quoting or publishing her letters, raising hopes among scholars for a rich new source of material. But when Knopf released The Selected Letters of Willa Cather earlier this year, those looking for a more personal glimpse of Cather’s life were disapointed. It turns out that Cather’s surviving letters were as circumspect as she was.

90 YEARS AGO: Billye Talmadge: 1929. Raised in Oklahoma and Missouri by a single mother after her parents separated, Billye Talmadge spent all of her life as a teacher, of one sort or another. She began teaching eighth grade English by the age of twenty-one, and later found her true calling as a well-recognized special education teacher (the state of California named her Teacher of the Year in 1971).

Talmadge also spent all her life as a student, less formally speaking at least. While home for a brief visit from college in 1949, one of her friends told her she was in love with another girl, news which shocked Talmadge. She went to the dean of women at her university looking for answers, and the dean provided Talmadge with several books, including Radclyffe Halls The Well of Loneliness. Talmadge said that reading it was “like coming home.” Looking to learn further, Talmadge sought out “the biggest butch on campus.” She recalled, “I asked her name, to make sure she was the right person, and then I said, ‘Are you a lesbian? Because I think I am and I need to know what this is all about.'”

Six years later, Talmadge and her then-partner, Jaye “Shorty” Bell, became involved with the Daughters of Bilitis, which had been founded a few months earlier (see Oct 19) but was on the verge of folding. Joining the group was a huge risk for Talmadge. “There were twenty-seven reasons why you could lose your teacher’s license in California at this time, above all if you were a card-carrying Communist or a suspected homosexual.” Nevertheless, Talmadge, Bell and a few other newcomers helped to inject new life into the nascent organization. Talmadge organized the group’s “Gab’n’Java sessions, and when the Daughters established their newsletter The Ladder, Talmadge contributed several articles.

Talmadge also became something of a one-woman social services volunteer for the group. DoB founders Del Martin (see May 5) and Phyllis Lyon (see Nov 10) remembered  Talmadge as “intuitive about somebody who might have a problem,” particularly if a woman was troubled or a victim of abuse. Talmadge recalled, “It was not unusual to get a call at 3 a.m. saying that we had somebody who was trying to commit suicide.” The Daughters found a local psychologist, Dr. Blanche Baker, who trained Talmadge, Martin and Lyons in counseling and crisis management. She also took calls whenever police arrested a lesbian or raided a bar:

We had one of your members who was picked up drunk, and she was drunk. But she was also dressed butch, and the officer damn near beat her to death. He kept calling her a dyke, and a queer, and a son of a bitch, all this type of stuff. I was called and I went down and bailed her out. … I could hardly recognize her she was so badly beaten.

Talmadge quickly learned her way through the legal system. When San Francisco police raided the Tay-Bush Inn and arrested ninety-nine men and four women (see Aug 14), Talmadge, Martin and Lyons arranged lawyers for the women, who urged them to plead not guilty and ask for a jury trial. That was a gutsy move, because it only increased the chances of their names and occupations appearing in the local paper. A lot of the men pleaded guilty and paid an eleven dollar fine — which also got them a permanent police record. Everyone’s names, addresses and employers were printed in the paper anyway, but the women saw their charges dismissed and no entries to their records.

In the 1960s, Talmadge’s interests turned to the spiritual. She was an early member of San Francisco’s Council on Religion and the Homosexual and, later, a spiritual group known as The Prosperos, which held that God, as male and female, was present in every person. “It was an educational group, primarily,” she explained. “Sexuality was one of the major topics. I got involved and became a teacher, with the goal of helping people to find themselves; not what I want them to be, but to find themselves and to express whatever that self is.”

By the late 1970s, Talmadge withdrew from The Prosperos, and turned her attention toward helping her partner, Marcia Herndon, an ethnomusicologist, write seven books. They remained together from 1974 until Marcia’s death in 1997. At last report, Billye Talmadge had recently moved to an assisted-living residence in Portland, Oregon.

[Sources: William Fennie. “Billye Talmadge (1929- ): Some Kind of Courage.” In Vern L. Bullough’s (ed.) Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (London: Routledge, 2002): 179-188.

Marcia M. Gallo. Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement (Emeryville, CA: Seal Press, 2007): 9.]

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The Daily Agenda for Saturday, December 6

Jim Burroway

December 6th, 2014

Events This Weekend: Mad Bear, Madrid, Spain; Santa Skivvies Run, San Francisco, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), December 3, 1982, page 15. (Source.)

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), December 3, 1982, page 15. (Source.)

Lollie JohnsonLollie Johnson, a divorced mother of three, owned a number of gay bars and nightclubs in San Antonio, including the Hypothesis Club (1972-1976), The Zoo Club (1974-1979), Faces (1979-1983), and the Noo Zoo Company (1983-1993). She was also active in numerous San Antonio charities, including the Alamo Human Rights Committee, the San Antonio AIDS Foundation, and the San Antonio Tavern Guild. She sold her businesses in 1994, and passed away in 2001 at only 62. Her papers were donated to the University of Texas at San Antonio, which digitized them and made them available online.

An overcrowded ward at Wisconsin’s Mendota State Hospital, 1947.

70 YEARS AGO: Wisconsin Sheriffs Call For Indeterminate Sentences for Gay People: 1944. The annual convention of the Wisconsin Sheriffs Association, meeting at Milwaukee’s Schroeder Hotel, passed several resolutions, including one endorsing a bill proposed by the Wisconsin Police Chiefs Association which would mandate medical treatment and indeterminate sentences for gay people, among other sexual offenders, who were charged with disorderly conduct. The problem, apparently, was that the current law only carried light fines and minimal jail sentences.

What the Wisconsin Sheriffs Association was asking for was what would become known as a “sexual psychopath law.” Through much of the 1930s and 1940s, American newspapers found sensational stories in gruesome murders, often of young children, which reporters and authorities attributed to “deviates,” whether there was any evidence linking gay people to the crimes or not. Those newspaper headlines feed the belief that sexual lawlessness was growing across the country. Michigan was the first state to pass a sexual psychopath law in 1935 which required a judge to determine anyone convicted of a sex crime to determine whether that person was “psychopathic, or a sex degenerate, or a sex pervert.” If so found, the judge was to order the defendant to a state mental hospital until the defendant “ceased to be a menace to the public safety because of said mental condition.” How mental health officials were supposed to make that kind of a judgment, the law didn’t say.

By 1967, twenty-six states and the District of Columbia had passed similar laws. Wisconsin’s sexual psychopath law, enacted in 1947, gave broad powers to the local sheriff to place a suspect in detention without a hearing and without a conviction. That law was replaced in 1951 with the Sexual Deviate Act, which required the individual to be convicted of a crime first. In 1954, it was noted that of 22 individuals who were being indefinitely committed under the law, thirteen had been convicted of sodomy. Wisconsin’s Sexual Deviate Act was finally repealed in 1980.

20 YEARS AGO: American Medical Association Opposes Gay Cures: 1994. The AMA’s governing House of Delegates adopted a revised policy paper calling for an end to efforts to change sexual orientation. The old position paper titled, “Health Care Needs of the Homosexual Population,” had been adopted in 1981. It read, that “some homosexual groups maintain, contrary to the bulk of scientific evidence, that preferential or exclusive homosexuality can never be changed, these people may be discouraged form seeking adequate psychiatric consultation. What is more important is that this myth may also be accepted by homosexuals.”

But by 1994, the AMA became convinced that the growing evidence showed that whatever disturbance gay people may have felt about their sexual orientation “is due more to a sense of alienation in an unaccepting environment” and called for “nonjudgmental recognition of sexual orientation by physicians.” The AMA also said that “aversion therapy” — which involved showing a gay man, for example, nude pictures of men and shocking them with a jolt of electricity — “is no longer recommended for gay men and lesbians.” It went on: “Through psychotherapy, gay men and lesbians can become comfortable with their sexual orientation and understand the social responses to it.” The new policy paper was adopted without dissent.

FDA Approves First Protease Inhibitor for Treating AIDS: 1995. The Food and Drug Administration gave its approval for Saquinavir(marketed as Invirase), the first protease inhibitor for treating AIDS. This approval was notable for two reasons. First, the FDA gave its approval only 97 days after receiving the application for approval, which was in marked contrast to the years that it would have taken under the normal drug approval process. But after several high profile protests (see, for example, Oct 11), the FDA changed its process for approving drugs for treating HIV/AIDS to allow for a significantly accelerated schedule. But the most important aspect of this approval was that Invirase would prove to be the third part of what would soon become a three-drug cocktail which, for the first time since 1981, gave people with AIDS hope for a reprieve from what had been assumed to be a death sentence.

The first component of that three-drug cocktail, azidothymidine (AZT, marketed as Retrovir), was first approved in 1987. AZT was a nucleoside analog reverse transcriptase inhibitor (or “nuke”), which blocked a particular enzyme associated with HIV. It was virtually the only means for fighting the disease for almost a decade, but it’s effectiveness was sorely limited. In November of 1995, the FDA approved another “nuke”, Lamivudine (3TC, or Epivir) which gave doctors a second option for when patients became unresponsive to AZT. But when taken together, AZT and 3TC seemed to offer an additional “punch” for many people than they experienced when taking the drugs individually. When protease inhibitors became available and were used in combination with AZT and 3TC, doctors soon discovered that this combination therapy reduced the amount of HIV swimming around in patients’ blood by about 99 percent. In early 1996, two more protease  inhibitors, Ritonavir (marketed as Norvir) and Indinavir (marketed as Crixivan), joined Invirase on the market, giving doctors more ingredients to choose from for what would be known as the “AIDS cocktail,” or Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART).

AIDS Diagnoses, Deaths (in thousands).

AIDS Diagnoses, Deaths (in thousands).

Researchers had previously seen too many supposedly promising treatments quickly proved to be ineffective before to get their hopes up too high now. Early reports of a possible breakthrough in 1996 were tentative, but the results soon proved unmistakable. When 3TC joined AZT in 1995 as a viable treatment, there was a noticeable plateau in the number of deaths due to AIDS. But in 1996 when the three-drug cocktail became available, the number of deaths due to AIDS would see its first drop since the epidemic began. And it wasn’t a slight drop either. It was a 20% improvement from the year before. People at death’s door began coming back from the abyss. For some who had prepared to die, finding that they were living again presented an entirely new set of challenges. The emotional whipsaw, dubbed “the Lazarus Syndrome” made restarting a life (including an education, careers, or simply a place to live) that had been systematically dismantled through disease, disability and stigma just one more challenge to surmount while still dealing with the anxiety of wondering whether this combination would soon fail as all of the other treatments had done before.

The three-drug cocktail, which became known as Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART), wasn’t a cure, but the breakthrough was undeniable. Further improvements in HAART resulted in more effective combinations and dosages which made adherence much simpler. HAART would eventually transform AIDS from a terminal disease to a chronic disease, albeit still a very serious one. More recent research shows that, thanks to HAART, people with AIDS can now expect a near-normal lifespan. And yet, HAART’s side effects can take a brutal toll on the body, and its cost — ranging from $10,000 to $15,00 a year for a single patient — makes life-prolonging medications a severe financial strain for anyone without insurance or governmental assistance. All of which makes finding a cure still as important as ever.

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The Daily Agenda for Friday, December 5

Jim Burroway

December 5th, 2014

Events This Weekend: Mad Bear, Madrid, Spain; Santa Skivvies Run, San Francisco, CA.



I’m not a police officer, so I don’t know what that life is like. I’m not an African-American, so I don’t know what that life is like either. But when a man says, “I can’t breathe,” you should let him breathe. And if he dies after saying it, then you should have let him breathe.

Fr. James Martin, S.J.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Vector (San Francisco, CA), July 1974, page 7

From Vector (San Francisco, CA), July 1974, page 7

From a pamphlet printed in London in 1641 (Click to enlarge).

Bishop John Atherton Hanged for Buggery: 1640. The delicious irony was that the good bishop of Waterford and Lismore in the Church of Ireland was one of the loudest proponents for a new law making homosexuality a capital crime. He then became the second person to be hanged under that statute. His his steward, tithe proctor and cohort, John Chidle, was also condemned to death.

The original trial records were destroyed in the civil wars that followed the overthrow of King Charles I in 1649, so virtually everything we know about the case comes from public pamphlets which were the equivalent of our tabloid press. Historians harbor some doubt as to whether Atherton was really guilty. In addition to being a bishop, Atherton was also a lawyer who apparently had some success in winning back some of the church’s lands from Irish landlords, an act for which he undoubtedly collected a number of powerful enemies. Puritans, who were active in trying to abolish the office of bishops in the Church of England — they succeeded in that endeavor after they overthrew King Chuck and lopped off his head nine years later — are also believed to have played a hand in Atherton’s downfall.

We may never know the true story of Atherton’s sexuality. But his death remains a warning to all nations who would impose severe criminal sanctions on homosexual relationships. As long as draconian penalties exist, the temptation will be great for blackmailers and political opponents to lobb accusations against their targets. And under those circumstances, nobody will be safe regardless of their actual sexuality.

Massachusetts Bay Court Sentences Woman for “Unseemly Practices”: 1642. The Essex County Court in Salem recorded the following: “Elizabeth Johnson, servant to Mr. Jos. Yonge, to be severely whipped and find 5 li. (pounds) for unseemly practices betwixt her and another maid; for stubbornness to her mistress answering rudely and unmannerly, and also for stopping her ears with her hands when the Word of God was read…” This brief mention is believed to be the first recorded legal prosecution of same-sex relations between women in North America.


30 YEARS AGO: Berkeley Becomes First City To Approve Domestic Partner Benefits for City Employees: 1984. Six years earlier, Berkeley joined a growing number of cities and counties which had established a non-discrimination ordinance on the basis of sexual orientation. But when Tom Brougham began working for the city in 1979, he found that he couldn’t sign his partner up for health and dental benefits. They were only available to married spouses of city employees, and marriage was available only to heterosexual couples. Brougham proposed a new category for same-sex couples, which he called a “domestic partnership,” which initially had three requirements: 1) That, aside from being a same-sex couple, the partners would be otherwise meet all the other qualifications for marriage; 2), that they live together in the same residence; and 3) they were the sole domestic partners for each other. Over the next few years, two more qualificaitons were added: a requirement of mutual financial responsibility and both partners must be at least eighteen years old and able to enter a legal contract.

Brougham and his partner, Barry Warren, spent the next two years working with local unions and the University of California at Berkely to lobby the city council, but that effort proved unsuccessful. But in 1982, San Francisco Supervisor Harry Britt noticed the proposal from across the bay and decided to try to push through a similar measure in San Francisco. The Board of Supervisors approved what proved to be a fiercely controversial proposal, only to see it vetoed by mayor Diane Feinstein in December of that year.

Brougham, Warren and the East Bay Lesbian/Gay Democratic Club then decided to step back and put together a methodical program to educate the East Bay community about domestic partnership benefits, organize a gay voting block in the city, and elect candidates who would support the proposal. In July of 1984, the city council was prepared to adopt the policy in principle, but they balked at the feared increases in health coverage costs. But the issue didn’t die there. During the November city council race, an approximation of marriage benefits for same-sex couples became a winning electoral issue when all those who had voted against implementing domestic partnerships were defeated. The following month, the new city council approved the measure, making the city the first in the nation to provide spousal benefits to same-sex partners of city employees.

[Source: Leland Traiman. “A Brief History of Domestic Partnerships.” The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide 15, no. 4 (July-August 2008): 23-24.]

Larry Kert: 1930-1991. The Hollywood High School graduate was only twenty when he joined a Broadway troupe for 1950 revue Tickets, Please! as his first professional credit. He then spent the next seven years working off-Broadway as a dancer. While dancing in the chorus for Sammy Davis, Jr., his friend and fellow dancer Chita Rivera persuaded him to audition for West Side Story. He didn’t make the cut, but a few months later Stephen Sondheim asked him to audition for the part of Tony, the role that Kert would originate when West Side Story debuted in 1957.

Consider the show’s creating team, and you have what would have had to have been the gayest production on the Great White Way: composer Leonard Bernstein (see Aug 25), lyricist Stephen Sondheim (see Mar 22), director and choreographer, Jerome Robbins (see Oct 11), book-writer Arthur Laurents (see Jul 14). Kert remained with the production for the next three years, and he became so closely identified with West Side Story that he found trouble finding work elsewhere. Even when he was invited to appear on television, it was to sing “Maria.” And yet, he was disappointed to find that he wouldn’t get to play Tony for the 1961 film version. Kert had hoped that it would open the doors to a film career, but the film’s producers didn’t think the thirty-year-old Kert could play a teenager.

From there, Kert’s career was characterized by a few successes in a field of sometimes spectacular failures. He appeared in the 1962 musical comedy A Family Affair, which ran for only 65 performances. The disastrous musical adaptation of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1966) closed during previews. In 1968, Kert took over the role of Cliff in Cabaret and stayed with it for a year, but his next venture, 1969’s La Strada, closed on opening night. Kert then took over the lead role in Stephen Sondheim’s Company shortly after it opened on Broadway. Critics raved, and Kert became the first and only replacement actor to receive a Tony nomination.

Kert’s career continued more or less like that through the rest of the 1970s and 1980s. While the uneven successes may have frustrated other actors, Kert was known for his upbeat attitude, whether he was performing on Broadway or in regional theater. “I love roller coasters, and I’ve been on one all my life,” he told one interviewer in 1988 while part of a touring company of La Cage of Folles. His last public performance was at the Rainbow and Stars Cabaret, where he joined his West Side Story co-star Carol Lawrence in reprising the musical’s popular numbers. He died eight months later, in 1991, of AIDS at the age of sixty. He was survived by his partner, Ron Pullen.

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The Daily Agenda for Thursday, December 4

Jim Burroway

December 4th, 2014

Events This Weekend: Mad Bear, Madrid, Spain; Santa Skivvies Run, San Francisco, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Northwest Gay Review, May 1975, page 30.

From Northwest Gay Review, May 1975, page 30.

From Portland, Oregon.

Roxanne Ellis (L) and Michelle Abdill (R)

Roxanne Ellis and Michelle Abdill Murdered: 1995. Roxanne and Michelle had had it up to here with living in Colorado Springs, where they felt that the atmosphere was very hostile to gays and lesbians. And after seven years, they decided that it wasn’t going to get better anytime soon, so they packed up and moved to Oregon’s Rogue Valley, just north of the California line. They quickly adapted to their new home in Medford, where they started a property management business, became board members at their church, began restoring their old Craftsman home, and visited Roxanne’s thee-year-old granddaughter as much as possible. They also became active in state politics, working to defeat Measure 9 in 1992 (which would have amended the state constitution to declare homosexuality “abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse” and prohibit its “promotion.”) and Measure 19 in 1993 (which would have restricted library access for materials related to homosexuality).

On December 4, 1995, Roxanne met with a potential tenant to show him an apartment. At about 5:00, Michelle left the office, saying she had gotten a call from Roxanne saying her pickup wouldn’t start. Neither Roxanne nor Michelle were seen until their bodies were discovered four days later in the back of Roxanne’s pickup. Both had been shot in the head, and their bodies were covered with drapes and cardboard moving boxes.

That prospective tenant, twenty-seven year old Robert Acremant had just moved to Medford with his mother three weeks earlier. A witness had seen Acremant park the pickup truck and walk away. When police circulated a composite sketch based on the witness’s account, his mother recognized the face as her son who, she thought, was acting strangely. She called the police. When detectives matched the address labels on her moving boxes to those covering Roxanne and Michelle’s bodies, they new they had their man.

He confessed to the murder, claiming it was a simple robbery. But the district attorney was skeptical. After all, victims’ purses, wallets, jewelry, cell phones and money were left at the crime scene. Acremant also confessed to killing Scott Gordon in Visalia, California two months earlier. Later in 1996, he wrote a letter to his hometown newspaper stating that while he had intended to rob the couple, he found it was easier to just kill them knowing they were lesbians. He also wrote that he killed Gordon because Gordon had made a pass at him. He later recanted his story about why he killed his victims, but the reasons he gave remained incoherent. Perhaps the best indication of the state of his mind is the one part of his story which remained consistent: He was trying to raise money so he could afford to resume his relationship with his “girlfriend,” a call girl in Las Vegas who had broken off contact with him after he ran out of money and began stalking her.

On September 11, 1996, Acremant pleaded guilty to the murders of Roxanne and Michelle, and was sentenced to death by lethal injection. It would emerge later that he had been complaining for years that he heard voices and that there was a transmitter in his head so others could control him. On February 18, 2011, his sentenced was reduced to life imprisonment after he had been found mentally delusional and unable to assist in his own appeals.

Samuel Butler: 1835-1902. The English novelist was both the son and grandson of Anglican clergy. Naturally, his family expected him to continue in the family business. After studying in Cambridge, Butler worked briefly as a lay minister in a poverty-stricken London neighborhood. In 1860, he decided to put off the question of ordination and moved to New Zealand, where he became a successful sheep rancher and writer for the local press. While there, Butler met Charles Paine Pauli, and they returned to England together in 1864. Butler supported Pauli financially for the next 30 years. When Pauli died, Butler discovered a terrible betrayal: Pauli had amassed a fortune from being supported by two other men, and he excluded Butler from his will.

Butler’s more notable works included Erewhon (1872), a futuristic parody of Victorian England; The Fairhaven (1875), a satire of Christianity; and his posthumously semi-autobiographical The Way of All Flesh (1903). Written between 1873 and 1884, Butler dared not publish The Way of All Flesh in his lifetime, as he considered its attack on Victorian values too controversial. It also included a sham marriage by one character who struggles with his feelings toward other men (a mistake which Butler, a lifelong bachelor, avoided in real life). While The Way of All Flesh had to await Butler’s death before it could see the light of day, Butler’s 1899 Shakespeare’s Sonnets Reconsidered put forth Butler’s belief that Shakespeare wrote several sonnets to a younger man who had betrayed him, perhaps a reflection of Butler’s own experience with Pauli.

Ed Flesh: 1931-2011. If you’ve ever watched the game show Wheel of Fortune, then you’ve seen Flesh’s most famous handiwork. The prolific art director designed the famous horizontally-spinning wheel that is the show’s trademark. He also designed the sets for Jeopardy!, the Newlywed Game, The $25,000 Pyramid, and Name That Tune. Ed died in 2011 at the age of 79, leaving behind his partner of 44 years.

65 YEARS AGO: A. Scott Berg: 1949. The biographer has won numerous awards in his career, beginning with his first book in 1978 about editor Maxwell Perkins, which won a National Book Award. He also wrote the story for Making Love, the groundbreaking 1982 film which was the first major Hollywood release to deal with homosexuality in a serious way. In 1998, his highly acclaimed best-seller, Lindbergh, about the famed aviator, won him the Pulitzer. In 2003, he published Kate Remembered which appeared in print just twelve days after Katharine Hepburn’s death. The memoir about his twenty-year friendship with the actress remained on The New York Times Best Seller list for eleven weeks. Berg currently resides in Los Angeles with his film producer partner.

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 Wednesday, December 3

Jim Burroway

December 3rd, 2014

Events This Weekend: Mad Bear, Madrid, Spain; Santa Skivvies Run, San Francisco, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, August 19, 1982, page 38.

From The Advocate, August 19, 1982, page 38.

The idea of gay men dancing together at a cowboy bar must have confounded quite a few straight Angelinos in 1987 when they read about Rawhide:

Cowboys dance the two-step at the Rawhide. They dance with each other. Men crowd around a wooden bar at the center of the club as a country band plays on stage. Sometimes they will join arm-in-arm and sway to the music.

Over the last eight years, the Rawhide in North Hollywood has earned a reputation as one of the best places in Los Angeles to hear live country and western music. It is perhaps better known as the city’s only gay cowboy bar.

For it is in this place, with sawdust on the floors and bartenders who will pat you on the behind, that two very different cultures meet. As local musician Jack Daniels puts it, country music has its roots in “rednecks and Blue Ribbon beer drinkers,” the kind of people who aren’t too understanding when it comes to the gay community.

“It’s really a weird combination, but in L. A. they go for anything,” said Paul Bowman, a country and western musician and disc jockey at KFOX-FM (93.5). “Most redneck cowboys, you mention gays to them and they’re ready to fight. Rednecks don’t go in there.”

…One customer, who asked not to be named, said the gay community needs a place like the Rawhide. “I would never go to the Palomino. Redneck and gay don’t mix well,” he said. “This gives us an opportunity to go into a country bar and not have to worry.”

Rawhide appears to have remained in business untill sometime around 2007 or so. That’s when the sawdust was swept out and the place became a gay Latino nightclub.

New York Business Group Says People with AIDS Should Be Required to Work at Home: 1985. Just as the state of New York was about to release a report showing that workplace AIDS discrimination complaints had gone up from four the previous year to nineteen in 1985 (one was a heterosexual security guard who was fired after a one-week hospital stay), the New York Business Group on Health, which advised 265 businesses including Bloomingdale’s and New York Telephone Co., recommended that employees diagnosed with AIDS should be required to work from home. The group also suggested that supervisors treat workers as they would any other seriously ill employee.

“Our theses is employers should recognize the importance of AIDS as a problem and prepare for its eruption,” said Dr. Leon Warshaw, the group’s Executive Director. “They should form fairly explicit policies and procedures. Otherwise, they’ll find themselves suddenly involved in a crisis situation and as a result they will be liable to take ill-ocsidered actions, knee-jerk reactions that could boomerang.” Like, say, telling a Bloomies sales clerk to try doing his job from his walk-up, instead of following the group’s other recommendation: that companies educate their employees of the then-prevailing medical opinion that AIDS couldn’t be spread through casual contact.

Ron Najman of the National Gay Task Force blasted the proposal. “That suggestion is totally inappropriate,” he said. “It’s counterproductive, and it leads to de facto discrimination. They are speaking with forked tongue here. It’s opening the door to tolerating hysteria and panic.”

Allan Bérubé: 1946-2007. He is best known as the author of the best-selling book, Coming Out Under Fire, which documented the stories of gay men and women serving in World War II. Drawing on GIs wartime letters, interviews with veterans and declassified military documents, Bérubé revealed a history that had previously been hidden. What’s more, his timing was prescient; the book came out just three years before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was enshrined into law. Bérubé won a Lambda Literary Award for outstanding Gay Men’s Nonfiction. The book was made into a documentary in 1994, which won a Peabody Award in 1995 and earned Bérubé a “Genius Grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 1996. After he died in 2007 the bulk of his personal and professional papers were donated to the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco.

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The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, December 2

Jim Burroway

December 2nd, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Where It's At (New York, NY), September 1, 1975, page 56.

From Where It’s At (New York, NY), September 1, 1975, page 56.

Choo Choo’s Pier was located on West Street along the docks of the Hudson River, which had long been a known cruising spot for about a century. Wherever there were docks, there were sailors, and wherever there were sailors, there you could find their admirers. Also, wherever there were docks, there were warehouses, and trucks used to park near those warehouses. After the trucks were unloaded for the night, they were left sitting there empty and unlocked. This made the “trucks” a well-known venue for sex in New York. That general cruiseyness drew a particular type of gay bar to the area: the Anvil, Ramrod, Keller’s, Badlands, the International Stud, the Cock Ring — you get the picture. Choo Choo’s Pier was located right next door to the Ramrod, in one of the last wood-frame buildings of New York’s waterfront. A few years later, Choo Choo’s became Sneakers, which in 1980 was the scene of a deadly shooting by a former transit cop who killed two and injured six (see Nov 19). The building today appears empty, despite an eccentric artist’s plans to build a water museum there.

Columbus, Ohio, Police Question 500 “Deviates”: 1962. “At least 500 men with abnormal sex habits walk Columbus streets. Nothing can be done about them unless they break the law,” the Columbus Dispatch breathlessly exclaimed on a December Sunday morning. Police in Columbus, Ohio, had “thoroughly checked” about 2,500 people since the gruesome murder of Columbus Business College student Mary Margaret Andrews two and a half months earlier. Of those checked out,  police tagged five hundred of them as “deviates.”

Detective Chief Wade Knight’s statements to the Dispatch illustrate the confused nature of his investigation. At one point, he said suggested that “the person who committed the crime is abnormal, but not a sex maniac or degenerate.” But then he emphasized what he believed to be the likelihood that the crime was somehow linked to what the Dispatch listed as “molestings, window peeping, exhibitionists, and homosexuals.” Knight added, “I didn’t realize, and I don’t believe the homicide squad realized, how many people there are walking the streets with abnormal sex habits until we got into the Andrews case.”

Knight also suggested that the five hundred was just the tip of the iceberg. “In this case we would uncover more sex deviates than otherwise. Probably many are walking the streets we didn’t pull in.”

Knight complained that Ohio’s laws were inadequate to deal with the problem. “They certainly need help. They realize they need help and many would like to have it. They need psychiatry and an institution for their care. A lot know they are abnormal and don’t want to do anything about it.” Knight acknowledged that courts could work out a psychiatric treatment plan. But under Ohio law, the cost of treatment was borne by the individual being committed for treatment, a cost which many were unable to pay. Knight called on families to “take every step to help them. If they don’t they are only hurting themselves and the people they (they deviates) are associating with.”

[Source: James Speckman. “500 Sex Deviates Quizzed by Police.” The Columbus Dispatch (December 2, 1962): 22A.]

Gay Activists Challenge “Gay Cure” Psychiatrist at Cooper Union: 1964. Two and a half months after organizing the first known gay rights picket on American soil (see Sep 19), New York activist Randolphe Wicker (see Feb 3) decided to try another direct challenge, this time against the medical profession which held that homosexuality was a mental illness. Dr. Paul Dince, Associate in Psychiatry at New York Medical College was scheduled to speak on “Homosexuality, a Disease” at the popular Cooper Union Forum.

Wicker and four activists arrived early to hand out literature and display signs reading, “We Request 10 Minutes Rebuttal Time.” They got their rebuttal time during the Q&A session following Dince’s talk. Wicker pointed out that all of the so-called experts disagreed and contradicted each other over why some people became gay and whether they could be cured. He lambasted the research to date which had been conducted almost entirely of “unhappy, ill-adjusted homosexuals” who were patients undergoing therapy. He derided the so-called experts for starting with the assumption that homosexuality was a disease, and drawing conclusions which supported their prejudices. He also warned that those who were firmly committed to the homosexuality-as-disease theory were happily charging exorbitant hourly fees and draining the bank accounts of homosexuals or their parents while promising a cure.

The Ladder gleefully reported, “Applause for the challenger topped applause for the lecturer, who appeared stunned for a moment by the reaction of the audience.” Dince was also forced to concede the point about unscrupulous therapists. “Unfortunately, they do exist,” he admitted. And he admitted his own surprise at being picketed and receiving such a strong rebuttal during his first public lecture.

[Source: Kay Tobin (Kay Lahusen). “‘Expert’ Challenged.” The Ladder 9, nos. 5-6 (February-March 1965): 18. For Kay Lahusen’s bio, see Jan 5.]

CDC Freezes AIDS Education Grants: 1985. Fearing a backlash from the White House and conservative political leaders on Capitol Hill, officials at the Centers for Disease Control confirmed that they were putting on ice more than $1.6 million in AIDS “innovative risk reduction” grants for education on safe sex practices. CDC spokesperson Donald Berreth confirmed to reporters, “There was some concern that there would be a backlash against the federal government funding ‘pornography.’ This is a problem that existed before with sexually transmitted diseases, not just AIDS. It’s something we have struggled with within the CDC.”

Berreth denied that the CDC’s decision was due to “outside influence.” But CDC director Dr. James O. Mason had told gay rights groups and others that he was under considerable pressure from the White House not to sponsor what was termed “sexually graphic” educational materials, even though Mason had argued that such education “could stop this epidemic in its tracks.”

Gianni Versace: 1946-1997. For the man known simply as “Versace,” fashion had long been a family affair. He began his apprenticeship at home, where his mother ran a sewing workshop that employed as many as a dozen seamstresses. When he began selling at his own boutique in Milan in 1978, his older brother, Santo, joined him to oversee the growing firm’s organization, distribution, production and finance, while younger sister Donatella served as Gianni’s publicist, critic and muse. Versace would go on to design for such celebrities as Princess Diana, Madonna, Elton John, Cher, Eric Clapton, and Sting.

Versace’s designs, which were a mash-up of ancient Roman and Greek art with splashes of pop and abstract art thrown in, reflected the opulent, jet-setting lifestyle he enjoyed with his partner, designer and model Antonio D’Amico. Versace met D’Amico in 1982, and D’Amico would later design Versache’s Sport. The two remained partners for the next fifteen years, until July 15, 1997, when mass-murderer Andrew Cunanan gunned down Versace outside of his Miami Beach mansion. Versace was Conanan’s fifth victim in four months, before Cunanan killed himself on a houseboat eight days later.

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).

As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.

The Daily Agenda for Monday, December 1

Jim Burroway

December 1st, 2014

World AIDS Day: Everywhere. Today is the day set aside to increase awareness, fight prejudice, and improve education about HIV/AIDS. Worldwide, it is estimated that about 35 million people are are living with HIV/AIDS. The good news is that the rate of new HIV infections worldwide are still declining, as have AIDS-related deaths. Where access to antiretroviral (ARV) medications is available, AIDS changed from being a fatal disease to a chronic one, albeit a very serious one. Those who are on ARVs can now expect a near-normal lifespan.

More good news, I think, is the growing acceptance in the gay community of PrEP (Pre-exposure Prophylactic, typically in the form of the anti-retroviral drug Truvada). This looks to be a game changer in the battle against AIDS. After more than thirty years with our only weapon being the condom, men who have sex with men (MSM) in the U.S. still accounted for 64% of all new HIV infections in 2012. Recent research has prompted the CDC to recommend PrEP for those who are at risk. In addition, ongoing research is showing that those who are HIV-positive and are on ARV’s with an undetectable viral load have now a very low likelihood of passing the virus on to others.

Neither approach represent a cure, which is still the holy grail of the AIDS battle. But if you could have told the founders of GHMC and ACT-UP thirty years ago that a single drug regiment could make a serious dent in both the transmission and acquisition sides of the equation, who could doubt that they’d be beating down the doors to ensure access to ARV’s for everyone? Access, it turns out, still remains a problem. At about $13,000 per year, the cost of Truvada is out of reach for just about everyone without health insurance, and even for some who have it.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:


From The Weekly News (Miami, FL), October 21, 1987, page 5.

AZT became the first FDA-approved drug to combat AIDS in March of 1987. Beyond that, there was nothing else in the arsenal besides safe sex messages. But given the reluctance of the Reagan Administration and Congress to allow funding for organizations which provided clear and direct safe sex information, exactly what “safer sex” meant was still often left unspoken. If you didn’t know any better, would you be able to figure out what “safer sex” was supposed to mean from reading this ad that appeared in Miami gay newspaper? The word “condom” doesn’t appear anywhere. In the nearly three decades since then, we’ve learned that safety pins don’t work, and preaching about condom use is little better among a generation that has grown up with condom fatigue.

Connecticut Passes It’s First Sodomy Law: 1642. “If any man lyeth with mankind as hee lyeth with woman, both of them shave committed abomination, they both shall surely be put to death. — Levit. 21. 13.” If it’s any consolation, the same penalty also applied to adultery.

Miami Reinstates Gay Rights Ordinance: 1998. Miami first passed a gay rights ordinance more than two decades earlier (see Jan 18), but it was overturned following an acrimonious campaign led by Florida Orange Juice spokesperson Anita Bryant (see Jun 7). That victory led Bryant to spearhead campaigns to overturn similar ordinances in St. Paul, Minnesota (see Apr 25), Wichita, Kansas (see May 9), and Eugene, Oregon (see May 23). That tidal wave reached its high-water mark in 1978 when voters in Seattle turned back a Bryant-inspired attempt to rescind that city’s anti-discrimination ordinance (see Nov 7). That same day, California voters turned down the Brigg’s Initiative, which would have banned gays and lesbians from working in public schools.

In the decades that followed, eleven states, 27 counties and 136 cities had passed anti-discrimination laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in housing and employment. But gays and lesbians in Miami, where the anti-gay backlash against such legislation first became a major political force, remained without those protections. That changed in 1998, when the Miami-Date Commission voted 7-6 to approve an ordinance barring discrimination in housing and employment. The vote came after more than four hours of public debate while opponents of the measure prayed on their knees outside.

“It says that we’ve grown up,” said Carlos Hazday, a local gay activist who spearheaded the campaign for the ordinance. “We’re not perfect, we still have differences, but we’re learning from our mistakes.” Miami Beach mayor Neisen Kasdin welcomed the vote after arguing that an image of intolerance was bad for the area’s tourism-dependent economy. “Greater Miami is no longer a provincial, backwater town,” he said. “Let’s not retreat from our destiny as a major international city.” Reporters seeking comment from Anita Bryant tried leaving messages on an answering machine at her theater in Branson, Missouri. They were apparently unaware that she had been forced to close her theater and declare bankruptcy.

Matthew Shepard: 1976-1998. I’m not sure what to say about him that hasn’t already been said. He has become so much larger in death than he was in life — except, of course, to those who knew him. For the rest of us, he’s an icon, not unlike the golden images venerated in Orthodox churches of impossibly heroic saints who suffered their unimaginable tortures in stoic silence. Most of what we know about him can be summed up in a simple creed: he suffered, died, and was buried. One popular description of how he was found — tied to a fence with his arms outstretched — took on religious significance, even if the image it portrayed was inaccurate. Judy Shepard, Matthew’s mother, has always been uncomfortable with the deification.

“People call him a martyr, but I take exception to that,” she said. “I’ve tried very hard to keep him real. It’s unfair to make him larger than life. He had foibles. He made mistakes. He was not a perfect child by any means.

“When he was killed he was not on a victory march or a protest march or anything that you would consider fighting for gay rights. He was just living his life as a 21-year-old college student who smoked too much, drank too much and didn’t study enough. He was a college kid trying to figure out his future.”

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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