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Posts for October, 2015

The Daily Agenda for Monday, October 12

Jim Burroway

October 12th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From theMichelle International drag pageant souvenir program, San Francisco, November 1962. (Source.)

From theMichelle International drag pageant souvenir program, San Francisco, November 1962. (Source.)

Special Police Squad Groomed to Target Gay Men: 1961. Gay bars were treacherous places. They were, for most patrons, the only place where they could socialize, but they couldn’t socialize freely. You always had to be on your guard. If you were to see someone you liked, and you struck up a conversation and felt that certain chemistry, and if he put his hand on your knee and you took that as an opening to invite him to your place, that invitation to an undercover agent in California would lead to a raid and the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Department (ABC) revoking the bar’s license.

Things used to be easier for the ABC. There was a time when all they had to do to shut a bar down was to demonstrate that the patrons were mainly gay. But the state Supreme Court ruled in 1951 that the ABC had to provide evidence that there were “offensive and disorderly acts” taking place (see Aug 28). And so the ABC deployed undercover agents to dig up that evidence, which often consisted of nothing more than an invitation to retire elsewhere — or accepting such an invitation from an agent. Those agents were particularly aggressive in San Francisco, so much so that they became fairly well known. Their covers mostly blown, the ABC turned to the San Francisco police department, which was already happily conducting raids on gay bars on its own (see Aug 14). The San Francisco Examiner revealed that the ABC agreed to train handsome young officers who were new to the force (and were therefore not well known) “on what to look for, and how to act and dress” while undercover. The Examiner reported that the joint operation was showing results, with charges field against three more “alleged ‘gay’ bars.”

The accusations, base d largely on observations and experiences of undercover policemen, were filed by the ABC against the Hideaway, 438 Eddy St.; the Jumping Frog, 2111 Polk St., and Cal’s Tavern, 782 O’Farrell St.

Norbert Falvey, ABC supervisor here, said city policemen are being used because “our manpower is limited, and our State liquor agents here are known.”

Falvey said the liaison and joint “attrition” by his department and Police Chief Thomas Cahill is showing results, with the number of “gay” bars decreasing. Last year, there were 30 such establishments here. That number now has dropped to 18, with 15 license revocation proceedings pending, Falvey said.

The timing of The Examiner’s article hit a particular nerve, as San Francisco was experiencing a wave of robberies and assaults on the Muni system, including one horrific murder the previous April. The mayor ordered the Chief Cahill to step up patrols, but the chief said he was short of personnel. Letters poured in to The Examiner’s editor from concerned citizens complaining about the department’s skewed priorities. One letter writer, protesting that while he would never himself go into a gay bar, denounced “these Gestapo-like tactics (as) inimical to the American way of life, an infringement on the basic constitutional rights of every citizen to free assembly and free speech.” A mother of four teenagers said that she “would rather have my children protected on Muni buses than from the dangers in bars where they would never go in the first place.” And a doctor, recalling the murder on the “J” line in April, asked:

If the present attempts to revoke licenses are a success, then the closing of gay bars will be synonymous with a great increase in contacts with teen-agers in the streets by evicted homosexuals resulting in more muggings, extortion and other types of brutality a la “J” line. Are law-enforcement agencies not exchanging one evil for a far more serious one?”

[Source: Ernest Lenn. “Revoking Evidence Sought: Special Cops for ‘Gay’ Bars.” The San Fransisco Examiner (October 12, 1961). As reprinted with accompanying unsigned commentary in The Mattachine Review 7, no 11 (November 1961): 4-8.]

Matthew Shephard Died: 1998. For a week Matthew Shepard’s family had been maintaining a vigil at his bedside as he lay in a coma following a brutal assault at an open field outside of Laramie, Wyoming (see Oct 6). He suffered fractures from the back of his head to the front of his right ear from being pistol-whipped by a 357-Magnum more than twenty times. He had severe brain stem damage which affected his body’s ability to control heart rate, breathing, temperature, and other involuntary functions. There were lacerations around his head, face and neck. He had welts on his back and arm, and bruised knees and groin. He had also suffered from hypothermia. His injuries were too severe for doctors to operate. They did however insert a drain into Matthew’s skull to relieve the pressure on his brain. Finally, the Poudre Valley Hospital’s CEO Rulon Stacey released this medical update during a hastily called press conference at 4:30 a.m.:

At 12 midnight on Monday, October 12, Matthew Shepard’s blood pressure began to drop. We immediately notified his family who were already at the hospital. At 12:53 a.m. Matthew Shepard died, his family was at his bedside.

Matthew arrived at 9:15 p.m. Wednesday, October 7, in critical condition. Matthew remained in critical condition during his entire stay at Poudre Valley Hospital. During his stay, efforts to improve his condition proved to no avail. Matthew died while on full life support measures.

Michael Sandy: 1977-2006. He would have turned thirty-eight years old today if it hadn’t been for the fact that on October 8, 2006. he was lured to a secluded Plumb Beach in Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn by four others who he met in an AOL chat room. When he arrived at the beach, the four pulled him out of his car and assaulted him. When he tried to escape, they chased him toward a busy freeway while he tried to call for help on his cell phone. They caught up with him at a guardrail. One of them pushed him over the guard rail and into the right lane, and punched him again. He fell back into the middle lane and was struck by an SUV. His attackers then dragged him back to the side of the road, where one of them riffled through his pockets before they fled.

Sandy was taken to Brookdale Hospital and put on a respirator. He remained on life support for five days without regaining consciousness. He died on October 13, just one day after his twenty-ninth birthday, after his family decided to remove life support.

The police investigation showed that the four selected Sandy because he was gay, believing that a gay man would hesitate to resist or call the police. Gary Timmins, 17, pleaded guilty to attempted robbery with a hate crime enhancement. As part of his plea agreement, he testified against his friends in exchange for a four-year prison sentence. John Fox, 20, who posed as a gay man in the chat room, was found guilty of manslaughter and first degree attempted robbery, both as hate crimes. He was was sentenced to between 13 and 21 years in prison. Anthony Fortunato, 21, tried to avoid the hate crime enhancement by claiming he was gay himself. He was the one who initiated contact with Sandy in the Internet chat room. He was convicted of manslaughter and petty larceny, and was sentenced to 7 to 21 years. Ilya Shurov, 21, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and attempted robbery as hate crimes. He was the one who pulled Sandy out of his car, punched him, and led the chase onto the freeway. He also went through Sandy’s pockets at the side of the freeway. Before accepting his plea deal, he had been charged with felony murder as a hate crime and was facing a life sentence. He was sentenced to 17½ years.

Before the sentences were handed down, Sandy’s father, Zeke Sandy, stood up in court and said, “These hate crimes become a cancer; it’s a disease. I don’t know why we have to go butcher one another because we don’t like what they are, who they are.” Despite the police and prosecutor’s determination that this was a hate crime, Michael Sandy’s high-profile death was not included in the FBI’s 2006 hate crimes statistics.

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, October 11

Jim Burroway

October 11th, 2015

National Coming Out Day: Everywhere. Today is the twenty-fifth annual National Coming Out day. The date was chosen to commemorate the second March on Washington, which drew some half a million LGBT people and their supporters to the nation’s capital (see below), That march inspired the blossoming of a number of LGBT advocacy groups around the country. Among them was a group of 100 LGBT advocates who, four months later, gathered in the D.C. suburb of Manassas, Virginia, to figure out how to ensure that the energy from that March didn’t just dissipate into thin air. Dr. Robert Eichberg, an author and psychologist from New Mexico, and Los Angeles LGBT advocate Jean O’Leary, hit on the idea of a national day to celebrate those who came out and to encourage others to begin to take their first steps toward visibility. As Dr. Eichberg later explained:

Most people think they don’t know anyone gay or lesbian, and in fact everybody does. It is imperative that we come out and let people know who we are and disabuse them of their fears and stereotypes.”

The first National Coming Out Day was on October 11, 1988, the first anniversary of the second March on Washington, and it quickly expanded to all fifty states.  Is there anyone you still need to come out to?

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Ashland, OR; Atlanta, GALittle Rock, AR; Medford, OR; Paramaribo, Suriname; Philadelphia, PA.

Other Events This Weekend: Iris Prize Film Festival, Cardiff, UK; MIX Copenhagen Film Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark; Octobearfest, Denver, CO; Ft. Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; World Gay Rodeo Finals, Las Vegas, NV; Black and Blue Festival, Montréal, QC; Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Seattle, WA; AIDS Walk, Tucson, AZ.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Gay Milwaukee, November 1975, page 3.

From G-Milwaukee, November 1975, page 3.

Green Bay’s Roxy Lounge appears to have operated between 1974 and 1978. That’s just about all the information I can find about it. If Google Maps is accurate, it looks like the entire area near the Fox River waterfront has been re-developed and that particular section of Pine Street was closed off and replaced with this monstrosity.

ECHO ’64 conference program. (via Frank Kamey’s papers)

Future Ex-Gay Leader Speaks At Gay Rights Conference: 1964. The day before, the East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO) kicked off a pivotal two-day conference in Washington, D.C. which would lay the groundwork for a much more confrontational style of gay rights advocacy than had ever been seen before (see Oct 10). In prior pro-gay gatherings, gay rights organizations used to portray themselves as “impartial” and “reasonable” by inviting speakers from “both sides” of an issue. This meant that attendees often had to endure talks and panel discussions featuring lawyers, mental health professionals and religious leaders explaining that gay people were criminal, sick, or sinful. By 1964, this practice had come to an end. Mostly.

There was, however, one throwback to earlier days on the second day of the ECHO conference when six clergymen were invited to participate in a panel discussion titled “Alienation of the Homosexual from the Religious Community.” This issue, as big a deal as it is today for many gay people, was a much bigger issue in 1964 when Americans, including gay Americans, were much more religiously-observant. Panel members were Rabbi Eugene Lipman of Washington, D.C.’s progressive Temple Sinai, Rev. Berkley Hawthorn of the similarly progressive Foundry Methodist Church, Rev. Ernest Martin of the (again, progressive) Swedenborgian Church of the Holy City, Rev. Kenneth Marshall of the (obviously progressive) Davies Memorial Unitarian Church, Rev. Robert J. Lewis of the (ditto) River Road Unitarian Church, and Father John F. Harvey, who was then teaching Moral Theology at DeSales Hall High School and who stuck out like a sore thumb among the other panelists. Everyone else discussed the ostracization that many gay people feel in their churches and temple, and provided suggestions for congregations and gay people on how to address the problem. But according to the write-up in the Daughter of Bilitis’s newsletter The Ladder, Halvey characterized that alienation as an inherent feature of homosexuality:

Father John F. Harvey (Catholic), Instructor in Moral Theology at DeSales Hall, Hyattsville, Md., claimed the homosexual is alienated not only from the church, but also from the secular community, from family, and from self. From adolescence, the homosexual knows he “should be attracted by the opposite sex.” He assimilates society’s scorn and becomes “filled with revulsion toward himself.” Later, “supported by homosexual literature and friends … conscience all the while being smothered,” he withdraws further. Hopelessness often tempts him to suicide or alcohol. He feels hostile toward the church. Alienation is furthered by his bitterness toward God Who allows a “mystery of suffering” and by the harsh attitude of many clergymen. Father Harvey urged that the homosexual accept himself and seek spiritual guidance to devise a life plan (excluding marriage, since conversion to heterosexuality is rarely possible) of service to the community and to God. Ageing homosexuals might reveal their condition to demonstrate “that they led Christian 11ves despite their deviate impulses.” Father Harvey advised the Homosexual should “re-direct (his) will to supernatural values …love of God must be the driving force.”

Rabbi Lipman acknowledged that his congregation ran a referral service to direct gay people to psychiatrists and other therapists with “goal one (as) heterosexuality.” He added that the second goal, if the first cannot be achieved, would be “to accept happy homosexuality. … I don’t consider the second one a defeat, but I consider it second.” Halvey asked about the chances of success for reorientation therapy. Lipman replied “The old saw that homosexuality is the hardest of the emotional problems to do much about is true … So far nobody appears to know what succeeds and what doesn’t. The formulas aren’t here yet.” Harvey agreed with that assessment.

When the panel moderator asked, “In the eyes of the churches, does a person have the right to practice homosexuality?”, all of the panelists, save one, gave varying shades of affirmative answers:

Father Harvey gave the only categorical “no,” since to the Catholic Church homosexual acts are immoral. Nevertheless, he said, many Catholics feel these acts should not be illegal because “the prosecution and the way it takes place in many instances is a great abuse.”

In 1980, Harvey founded Courage, the Roman Catholic ex-gay organization, and headed the group until 2008. Under Harvey’s leadership, Courage’s approach to reorientation was somewhat confused. Officially, the group promoted celibacy as the primary legitimate goal for gay and lesbian Catholics while downplaying the prospect for change in sexual orientation, although there was some fudging here and there. Harvey also relied heavily on theories from the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) whenever he wrote about what he believed were the causes of homosexuality. Since Harvey’s death in 2010, Courage has been slowly drifting toward the change model.

[Source: Lily Hansen, Barbara Gittings. “ECHO Report ’64, Part 2: Highlights of ECHO.” The Ladder 9, no. 4 (January 1965): 7-11, 15-20. See Jul 31 for Barbara Gittings’s bio.]

American Nazi Party Member Tries to Disrupt ECHO Conference: 1964. As if the 1964 Conference of the East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO) in Washington, D.C., wasn’t already fascinating enough (see above and Oct 10), a couple of other things happened which everyone would remember for years to come. Staff at the Sheraton Park Hotel learned that members of the American Nazi Party planned to disrupt the conference, so the hotel requested additional protection from Washington police. So when the conference began, ECHO leaders actually felt reassured when police arrived, although they were surprised to see a plainclothes officer from the department’s Morals Division. As the Daughters of Bilitis’s The Ladder informed its readers:

A handsome chap moving among many handsome chaps, he might have gone through the conference unnoticed, but for the sharp memory of a Washington Mattachine member. This member reportedly looked the plainclothesman in the eye and said in effect “I know who you are.” Shorn of his cover, undercover officer Graham phoned his boss at the Morals Division to say he’d been recognized and what should he do? “Continue on assignment” was his order — and continue he did, staying for the entire ECHO conference.

The word spread about Graham’s presence, and he became a curiosity, Why was he there, if not to memorize faces? Despite suspicion of the motives of the plainclothesman, many ECHO registrants went out of their way to talk hospitably with him and to discuss the speeches, Here, some thought, was an educating job to be done. Officer Graham was a captive listener, sitting politely among homosexuals and friends of homosexuals and hearing speakers denounce our absurd sex laws and the peculiar tactics our police resort to in trying to enforce them.

Everything went well on the conference’s first day, although unidentified Nazis continued to call the ECHO suite to warn of disruptions. That attempted disruption came the next day, at about 2:30 that afternoon when attendees were waiting for the religion panel to begin. Now, if this were to happen today, it would be captured on camera phones and posted to YouTube within minutes. That technology didn’t exist then, but The Ladder provided the next best thing thanks to Kay Lahusen (see Jan 5), who had just turned on a tape recorder to record the panel discussion. With her transcription of that tape, we can now re-enact our own YouTube drama:

Cast, in order of appearance: A Nazi, conference coordinator Bob Belanger (under the pseudonym “Robert King”), Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. founder Frank Kameny (see May 21)), an unidentified blonde girl, future ex-gay leader Fr. John Harvey (see above), future DoB president Shirley Willer (as “Shirley W”, see Sep 26), and Det. Graham.

Scene: A “blond, good-looking, well-built, quietly dressed” man walked into the room, carrying a large gift-wrapped box marked “Queer Convention.” Two of his cohorts waited outside the door.

And, action:

NAZI: Would somebody call Rabbi Lipman, please? Is Rabbi Lipman in the house? (Rabbi Lipman is one of the clergymen on ECHO’s religious panel. He has not yet arrived.) I’ve got 24 quarts of vaseline here to deliver to Rabbi Eugene Lipman. I believe all you queers will be able to make use of it. (He starts toward the inner room, carrying the box. ECHO leaders, moving according to plan, link arms in the CORE fashion and stop him from going further. Others join the line. A crowd gathers. The line begins to inch forward.)

ROBERT KING: You must either pay an admission or get out. You are trespassing. (Plainclothes officer Graham leaves the room to telephone police officers specifically stationed in the hotel to protect ECHO from the Nazis.)

NAZI: Would you quit pushing me, you queers… I see you’ve got queer rabbis and priests and reverends and everything here today… Would somebody please bring the queer Rabbi here for me to deliver this vaseline to him? (He smiles, partly turns, digs in his heels, presses back against the line.) The Rabbi’s waiting for his vaseline… Are there any lesbians here? (A blonde girl joins the line.) Are you a lesbian too?

BLONDE GIRL: As much as you are!

NAZI: If you queers don’t stop pushing me I’m going to charge you with assault.

FATHER HARVEY: Sir, you are trespassing. Would you please leave? (Father Harvey is one of the religious panel members.)

NAZI: Sir, would you like some vaseline too? This vaseline is for the rabbi, but I’m sure he wouldn’t mind sharing it with his cassock friends.

DR. KAMENY: You are being asked to leave.

ROBERT KING: The authorities are on the way.

NAZI: I’m only a delivery boy. I had to leave church today in order to bring this vaseline over to you queers. (He pushes back against the line, continues to smile.)

SHIRLEY W.: Sir, you’re stepping on my foot. Would you please move.

NAZI: I believe you’re trying to kick me, aren’t you, lesbian?… There’s a queer for LBJ. He looks like a kike, too. Are there many kike queers here? A dog himself shouldn’t be subjected to you bunch of queers. (A cameraman from WTOP-TV enters and begins filming. The station has apparently been alerted by the publicity-hungry Nazis.)

SHIRLEY W. Please, sir, you’re stepping on my foot. Would you mind leaving?

NAZI: I heard the Rabbi was out of vaseline. Is that right? (Enter plainclothesman Graham. Ironically, he is forced to do the apprehending because the special police sent to prevent a disturbance are too far away at the moment in the huge hotel.)

GRAHAM: I’m a police officer and I want to talk to you alone right now.

NAZI: Do you have some identification?

GRAHAM: Right. (He produces badge.)

NAZI: Am I under arrest?


NAZI: Well, I have to deliver this case of vaseline to…

GRAHAM: You ARE under arrest. (The Nazi, still hefting the gift-wrapped carton marked QUEER CONVENTION, is escorted out of the ECHO room. Applause breaks out for Graham’s action.)

The Ladder reported that the Nazi — his name was never identified — was booked on a charge of disorderly conduct and ‌fined $10 (about $75 in today’s dollars). The disruption lasted less than five minutes. WTOP decided against showing the film during its news broadcast.

[Sources: Warren D. Adkins, Kay Tobin (Kay Lahusen). “ECHO Report ’64, Part 1: Sidelights of ECHO.” The Ladder 9, no. 4 (January 1965): 4-7.

Kay Tobin (Kay Lahusen). “ECHO Report ’64, Part 3: A Nazi stunt fails.” The Ladder 9, no. 4 (January 1965): 20-22.]

AIDS Quilt Debuts During Second March on Washington: 1987. Somewhere around half a million LGBT people descended onto the Mall in Washington for the largest gay rights demonstration in history. The top demands were for an end to discrimination and more federal money for AIDS research and treatment. About a hundred members of Congress and other prominent civic, labor and religious leaders signed letters endorsing the March, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who had declared himself a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, spoke and promised to support the gay community. Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Gerry Studds (D-MA), both openly gay members of Congress, also spoke.

With AIDS at the forefront of everyones’ concern, the march marked the public debut of the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. The quilt occupied the equivalent of two city blocks, and included 1,920 panels commemorating more than 2,000 persons who had died of AIDS. Since then, the AIDS Memorial Quilt has become the world’s largest community art project, encompassing 1.3 million square feet and commemorating the lives of over 94,000 people who died of AIDS.

But even the quilt couldn’t break through the national reticence to discuss the epidemic or the concerns of gay people. Despite the enormity of the gatherings, the three national news magazines — Newsweek, Time and U.S. News & World Report — neglected to mention any of it, which longtime advocate Barbara Gittings described as “an appalling example of media blindness.”

ACT-Up Occupies the FDA: 1988. The gay community was feeling the pressure of a ticking time bomb, with someone in the U.S. dying of AIDS every two hours. AZT had been approved by the U .S. Food and Drug Administration in 1987, but it was prohibitively expensive and required taking a pill every four hours around the clock. European health officials had been approving new treatments for AIDS, but the FDA continued to cling to its multi-year approval process. And as the FDA dithered, more names were being added to the AIDS quilt. By 1988, frustration and anger had built to a boiling point, and more than a 1,200 demonstrators, led by ACT-Up activists, invaded the FDA’s grounds in Rockville, Maryland, for a nine-hour protest demanding quicker action on drug approvals. About 175 demonstrators were arrested

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, later recalled that the protest had left a deep impression. He later told PBS’s Frontline:

“After a little while, I began to get beyond the rhetoric and theater of the demonstrations and the smoke bombs, to really listen to what it is that they were saying, and it became clear to me, quite quickly, that most of what they said made absolute sense, was very logical and needed to be paid attention to. … Interacting with the constituencies was probably one of the most important things that I had done in my professional career.”

Eight days later, the FDA announced new regulations to cut the time it took to approve new drugs for treating HIV/AIDS.

Jerome Robbins: 1918-1998. Born Wilson Rabinowitz, the Broadway producer, director and choreographer’s career in show business began soon after dropping out of New York University, where he had been studying chemistry, in order to pursue dance. Just a couple of years later, he was already dancing the chorus of several Broadway shows, including George Balanchine’s Keep Off the Grass. In 1940, he left the theater in favor of ballet, but soon returned to choreograph 1944’s On the Town (with music by Leonard Bernstein, just one of several collaborative efforts between the two men). In 1947, he won his first Tony Award for Choreography for the Keystone Kops comedy/ballet High Button Shoes.

Through most of the next decade, Robbins continued to choreograph several hit shows, alternating between Broadway and ballet as choreographer for the American Ballet Company and the New York City Ballet. But his career was threatened in 1950 when he was scheduled to appear on Ed Sullivan’s show. The show’s sponsor, Ford Motor Company, forced him to cancel because he had been a member of the Communist Party between 1943 and 1947, joining, like many other Americans, when the U.S. was an ally of the Soviet Union during World War II. He tried to go to the FBI to clear his name, but when Sullivan publicly urged the House Committee on Un-American Activities to subpoena Robins, he fled to Paris for a year.

He returned to the U.S in 1951 to choreograph The Pied Piper, The King and I, and several other classical ballet pieces. But in 1952, the House Un-American Activities committee caught up with him and subpoenaed him to appear. While everyone knew about one of those skeletons in his closet — his Communist Party membership — he also feared that the other skeleton — his homosexuality — would come tumbling out. He not only personified the twinned Red and Lavender Scares of the McCarthy era, but he also harbored a great deal of internalized shame over his Jewish immigrant roots, which he felt made him insufficiently American in other people’s eyes. Years later, he wrote:

”It was my homosexuality I was afraid would be exposed I thought. It was my once having been a Communist that I was afraid would be exposed. None of these. I was & have been — & still have terrible pangs of terror when I feel that my career, work, veneer of accomplishments would be taken away (by HUAC, or by critics) that I panicked & crumbled & returned to that primitive state of terror — the facade of Jerry Robbins would be cracked open, and behind everyone would finally see Jerome Wilson Rabinowitz

Robbins named the person who recruited him into the Communist Party, along with several other actors, playwrights and critics who were party members. Rep. Gordon Scherer (R-OH) congratulated him, saying he “‘was going to see The King and I that very night and would now appreciate it all the more.” Robbins’s career was preserved: he choreographed and/or directed Peter Pan, Bells are Ringing, West Side Story, Gypsy, Funny Girl, and Fiddler on the Roof, and over the course of his career, he won two Academy Awards, four Tony Awards, five Donaldson Awards, two Emmys, the Screen Directors’ Guild Award, and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. But none of those accomplishments could expiate his guilt over his HUAC testimony. In the mid-1970s, when he spent three weeks at a mental hospital for depression, he described himself as “a Jewish ex-commie fag who had to go into a mental hospital.” He died following a stroke in New York on July 29, 1998.

Cleve Jones: 1954. How appropriate is it that today would also happen to be Cleve Jones’s birthday? Born in West Lafayette, Indiana and reared in Scottsdale, Arizona, he moved to San Francisco to study political science at San Francisco State University where he also became an intern for Harvey Milk’s political campaigns and became active in the city’s gay rights scene. Years later, Jones recalled what a heady time that was:

I think what was most exciting was that it was all brand-new. All of us who were participating in it were doing so with an awareness that what we were doing had never been done before. So many of the things that people take for granted now, like gay marching bands and pride parades and gay churches and gay synagogues and gay newspapers and gay film festivals — I remember when the first of each of those happened. There was a wonderful sort of self-awareness among everyone that what we were doing had never been seen before.

It was a political revolution; it was a social revolution; it was a sexual revolution. For those of us who were part of it, there was a wonderful sense of self-discovery, because I think I’m a member of the last generation [of] people who spent our childhood thinking we were the only ones. That doesn’t happen anymore. But when I was a child I thought I was the only one, and so when I discovered that I was not the only one, that there were thousands upon thousands of people just like me, it was incredibly liberating and exhilarating.

Jones learned his gay activism chops from Milk, who gave him his first bullhorn. “When he got elected to public office, he said: ‘You keep people on the street. I’ll be working on the inside; you keep them screaming on the outside, and we’ll get more done.'” But the next several years were traumatic. First, there was Milk’s 1978 assassination (see Nov 27), then there were people coming down with all sorts of illnesses. “I have memories from 1978 and 1979 of friends of mine contracting diseases that I’d never heard of, or that I’d heard of but only in the context of impoverished countries. I remember a friend came down with meningitis, and that seemed to me to be odd. There was also quite a bit of hepatitis going around.” Then the CDC became aware of what was going on in 1981 (see Jun 5). “My memory of it, when I think back, it seems like it was just an avalanche. It was like one week we’d never heard of it, and then the next week everybody started to die. Now, I know that’s not really the way it was, and it unfolded a little more slowly than that, but it was so sudden, and people didn’t talk about it. They were too frightened. Even in our community, there was a great deal of cruelty. So people began to vanish.”

Jones decided to try to “fill the vacuum left by the government’s response” by co-founding the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and becoming one of the earliest frontline advocates for people with AIDS in the city. When an antibody test became available and he found out he was HIV-positive, he went public with his diagnosis on CBS’s 60 Minutes. As a result, he received death threats and was nearly killed when he was attacked with a knife. Jones then determined that one of the keys to making an apathetic public pay attention the the epidemic was to humanize the problem. And so during a candlelight memorial for Harvey Milk in 1986, Jones came up with the idea for an AIDS memorial quilt. He had learned that 1,000 San Franciscans had died of the disease, he asked fellow marchers to write the names of friends and loved ones onto placards that were taped onto the wall of the Federal Building. That patchwork of names that reminded him of his grandmother’s quilts. He established the Names Project Foundation which debuted the AIDS Memorial Quilt during the second march on Washington for gay rights (see above).

Jones currently lives in San Francisco, where he works as a community organizer for UNITE HERE, an international union representing hotel, casino, food service and restaurant workers. He is also serves as an adviser for the Courage Campaign and is on the advisory board for the American Foundation for Equal Rights.

Matt Bomer: 1977. “When I was in high school, there was no safe haven, there was no outlet for you to speak your mind. So I did what any self-preserving 14-year-old would do -— I signed up for the school play and also the football team to cover my tracks.” That’s how White Collar star Matt Bomer recently described his high school years in Klein, Texas, outside of Houston. After graduating from Carnegie Mellon University in 2001 with a degree in Fine Arts, Bomer moved to New York City where he landed a small role on All My Children, followed by a three year stint on Guiding Light. Since 2009, he has played the lead role of Neal Caffrey on USA Network’s White Collar.

In 2011, Bomer joined John Lithgow, Morgan Freeman, and many other prominent actors for an all-star world premiere of Dustin Lance Black’s new play “8”, and in 2012, Bomer got to shake his money-maker for the Steven Soderbergh film Magic Mike with Matthew McConaughey and Channing Tatum. He had long been the subject of rumors about his personal life, and his approach to the subject was to neither confirm nor deny. But in February 2012, Bomer finally decided to uncover his tracks when he thanked his partner and their three children during an acceptance speech for a Steve Chase Humanitarian Award.

Last year, he appeared in HBO’s adaption of Larry Kramer’s A Normal Heart, for which he earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie. Bomer has also been tapped to play actor Montgomery Clift in a new indie biopic for HBO.

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 Saturday, October 10

Jim Burroway

October 10th, 2015

Legacy WalkLegacy Walk Dedications: Chicago, IL. If you’ve been looking for something to do in the Windy City this weekend, regular BTB reader, gay rights activist and Executive Director of the Legacy Project Victor Salvo alerts us to an interesting and informative event that will take place tomorrow afternoon on North Halsted Street. The Project will dedicate five new plaques for what is billed as the “the world’s only outdoor museum walk celebrating the diverse accomplishments of the GLBT community.” That museum currently consists of thirty bronze plaques affixed to ten pairs of twenty-five foot art-deco pylons which mark the heart of Chicago’s LGBT community. Each plaque commemorates the life and work of notable LGBT people who have changed the world

This year’s bronze plaques will commemorate Leonard Bernstein, Josephine Baker, Rudolf Nureyev, Billy Strayhorn, and the homosexual victims of Nazi persecution. The dedications begin this afternoon at 3:00 p.m. at the pylon located at 3245 N. Halsted. They will welcome each new plaque onto the street in a small ceremony conducted by youth participants in the Legacy Project Education Initiative (LPEI). The traveling celebration will move north toward the final dedication at 3656 N. Halsted. Participants may either meet at the first location and move as a group up Halsted, or gather at the pylon of their choosing to await the arrival of the co-celebrants. The ceremonies will wrap up at about 5:00 p.m., then move to the rooftop of the Center on Halsted for a post-ceremony pizza party. Click here for more information.

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Ashland, OR; Atlanta, GA; Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Ft. Meyers, FL; Little Rock, AR; Medford, OR; Oceanside, CA; Orlando, FL; Paramaribo, Suriname; Philadelphia, PA.

Other Events This Weekend: Iris Prize Film Festival, Cardiff, UK; MIX Copenhagen Film Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark; Octobearfest, Denver, CO; Ft. Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; QCinema LGBT Film Festival, Ft. Worth, TX; World Gay Rodeo Finals, Las Vegas, NV; Black and Blue Festival, Montréal, QC; Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Seattle, WA; Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Tampa, FL; AIDS Walk, Tucson, AZ.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GPU News, April 1978, page 25.

From GPU News, April 1978, page 25.

Little Jim’s started it all when it opened in 1975 as the very first gay bar on Chicago’s famed North Halsted street. The tiny hole-in-the-wall was soon joined by several other establishments catering to LGBT people and within just a few years, Boystown was born. As the years went by, it was often overshadowed by the larger and flashier establishments that sprouted up around it. The bar’s original owner, Little Jim Gates, sold the joint in 2014, but the new owners vowed to keep running it more or less as it was been for the past forty years.

Newsweek’s “Queer People”: 1949. In the mid-twentieth century, reactions to homosexuality fell into two camps. On one side were those who held that such “sexual perversion” was a criminal act which should be treated harshly by the courts. The other side, which saw themselves as more enlightened, saw homosexuality as a mental illness which merited pity rather than punishment. On October 10, 1949, Newsweek published an editorial titled “Queer People,” which came down squarely in the first camp:

The sex pervert, whether a homosexual, an exhibitionist, or even a dangerous sadist, is too often regarded merely as a ‘queer’ person who never hurts anyone but himself. Then the mangled form of one of his victims focuses public attention to the degenerate’s work. And newspaper headlines flare for days over accounts and feature articles packed with sensational details of the most dastardly and horrifying crimes.

The editorial reviewed The Sexual Criminal, a book by J. Paul DeRiver who headed the Los Angeles Police Department’s Sex Offenses Bureau. Newsweek lauded the “factual scientific book” with 43 case histories, including “lots of very queer people” including “the sadistic pedophile,” “zoophiles, psychopaths who performed sadistic acts on animals, and the necrophiles, who …commit acts of moral degeneracy upon or in the presence of dead bodies.” Eugene D. Williams, a California “special assistant attorney general,” wrote the introduction to the book, in which he warned that “the semihysterical, foolishly sympathetic, and wholly unscientific attitude of any individual engaged in social work and criminology to regard sex perverts as poor unfortunates who are suffering from disease and cannot help themselves, has a tendency to feed their ego.” To which Newsweek added:

A sterner attitude is required, if the degenerate is to be properly treated and cured. Williams suggests that the sex pervert be treated, not as a coddled patient, but as a particularly virulent type of criminal. “To punish him,” he concludes, “he should be placed in an institution where the proper kind of rehabilitory work can be done so that, of capable of being brought to the realization of the error of his ways, he may be brought back to society prepared to live as a normal, law-abiding individual, rather than turned out as he now is from the penitentiary, confirmed in his perversion.

ECHO ’64 conference program. (via Frank Kameny’s papers)

East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO) Hosts Conference Calling for Direct Action: 1964. The early major “Homophile” gay-rights groups established in the 1950s saw their main purpose was not so much to advocate for changes in the law which criminalized same-sex relationships in all fifty states, but to confront the regular police abuses and day-to-day acts of discrimination which effectively kept just about everyone in the closet. The tactic those groups espoused was “education.” It was thought that by educating the general public about homosexuality and gay people, the public would come around to accepting gay people as equals. The Daughters of Bilitis’s statement of purpose, which appeared in the front of every issue of The Ladder, included the “Education of the public at large through acceptance first of the individual, leading to an eventual breakdown of erroneous taboos and prejudices.” Likewise, when the Mattachine Society was first founded in 1950, it considered it part of its mission to “EDUCATE … for the purpose of informing and enlightening the public at large.” ONE, Inc., which published the first nationally-distributed gay magazine in America, considered education so important that it established the ONE Institute of Homophile Studies.

One problem, though, was that the “education” was not always particularly uplifting.  For one, the goal of education was supposed to be “understanding” of the “problems” that homosexuals faced. But in many of the early homophile literature, one could easily replace the word “understanding” with “pity,” and not alter the view being expressed one bit. Consequently, the educational approach tended to be one that valued being “reasonable” and “impartial ” over carrying any significantly useful information. And homophile organizations, eager to prove their reasonableness and impartiality, often invited speakers from “both sides” of an issue — which meant that gays and lesbians attending homophile conferences often had to sit through lawyers, mental health professionals and religious leaders explaining that gay people were criminal, sick, or sinful. As Barbara Gittings (see Jul 31) later commented, “At first we were so grateful just to have people — anybody — pay attention to us that we listened to everything they said, no matter how bad it was…. It was essential for us to go through this before we could arrive at what we now consider our much more sensible attitudes.”

By 1964, those more sensible attitudes were on display when four organizations — the Daughters of Bilities, the Janus Society of Philadelphia, and the Mattachine Societies of New York and Washington, D.C., met in the nation’s capital for the second conference of the East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO), a loose confederation formed in 1962. Attendance was light: only about a hundred people showed up at the Sheraton Park Hotel, thanks to ECHO’s difficulty in getting the word out about where the event would take place. The Mattachine Society of Washington (MSW), which was hosting the conference, saw three other hotels cancel their bookings and three newspapers refusing to run ads for the conference. Those who showed up were charged up and impatient with the old ways of doing things. The DoB’s newsletter, The Ladder, set the scene:

“I’m an activist,” said a handsome young man present at the ECHO conference for 1964. “I’ve read nearly 75 books in the New York Mattachine Society library, and I’m fed up with reading on the subject of homosexuality.” His statement seemed to typify the attitude pervading this serious conference.

Any disappointment over the small attendance (less than 100 persons) could be offset by the fact that this was a down-to-business meeting attended primarily by those dedicated to immediate action. It was a gathering of men and women impatient to remedy the discriminations against the homosexual citizen in our society.

We talked with a long-time friend of one of the sponsoring organizations, and his remarks confirmed our view. “A few years ago,” he said, “ours was a sweeter, clubbier, less insistent organization. Now there seems to be a militancy about the new groups and new leaders. There’s a different mood.”

Signs of that different mood were everywhere, beginning with MSW’s Robert King’s prescient keynote address. He said that gay people were asking for “the rights, and all the rights, afforded the heterosexual. We are still in the asking stage. We will soon reach the demanding stage. (… A) dormant army is beginning to stir.” J.C. Hodges, president of the Mattachine Society of New York, challenged the prevailing timidity of previous homophile leaders to get involved with politics, declaring that “politics is everybody’s business.” He urged attendees to throw themselves into established political organizations. “Involve yourself if  you are to have any voice on your own behalf.”

The African-American civil rights movement, which was celebrating its successful March on Washington a year earlier followed by the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that summer, was held up as an example for gay activists to follow. A lawyer from the ACLU advised, “I wanted to emphasize today the importance of recognizing your solidarity with other minority groups and your vital stake in maintenance and development of a society with freedom and justice for all.” During a panel discussion about legal issues moderated by MSW’s Frank Kameny (see May 21) asked if the panelists would be willing to form a board to look at creating a “multi-attorney approached to planned legal strategy” in challenging anti-gay laws. The panel agreed, with the National Capital Area ACLU chairman, David Carliner, recommending the establishment of a legal defense fund modeled after the NAACP’s.

The conference also had a bit of fun at the expense of Congressman John Dowdy (D-TX), who had introduced legislation in the House to strip MSW of its charitable status the year before (see Aug 8, Aug 9). That bill led to Kameny becoming the first gay man in history to address a Congressional committee when the House Subcommittee for the District of Columbia held hearings on Dowdy’s bill. ECHO issued a cordial citation in Dowdy’s honor. “We want to acknowledge that Rep. Dowdy caused more attention to be called to the homosexual problem than anyone else,” a spokesman told the Washington Post. The Post also reported, “A spokesman for the Congressman said Dowdy has not received an invitation, wasn’t going to attend in any case and viewed the award as an attempt to ’embarrass’ him.”

But if you really want to see the stirrings of what we would recognize as the modern gay rights movement, you would look to another panel discussion — a debate, really — between Frank Kameny and Dr. Kurt Konietzko, a psychologist and member of the Philadelphia Board of Parole, which questioned the entire raison d’etre of the homophile organizations until then. The topic was “Education or Legislation,” although The Ladder said that “‘Act or Teach?’ might better describe the alternatives.” On the “act” side, naturally, was Kameny, who argued that emphasizing education, as homophile groups had done, relies on the “naive assumption that in matters of ingrained prejudice, the majority of people are rational and amenable to reason. They aren’t. Prejudice is an emotional commitment, not an intellectual one, and is little if at all touched by considerations of reason. Study upon study…has shown this.” The Ladder continued:

Dr. Kameny cited one recent study which he said “showed that tolerance is only slightly promoted by more information, that communication of facts is generally ineffective against predisposition.” Large numbers of people “hate our guts,” he warned. In terms of their deep prejudices in this area, they are “uneducable and noninformable.” Anyone doubting this need only read the transcript of the Dowdy subcommittee hearings on HR 5990. “That’s entrenched prejudice in very high places!”

He pointed out that “the Negro tried the education/information approach for 90 years and got almost nowhere. In the next ten years, by a vigorous social-protest, social-action, civil-liberties type of program, he achieved in essence everything for which he had been fighting. Let not this lesson be wasted upon us.”

Dr. Konietzko countered that he believed education was essential to “the basic human question of how we get people to live together harmoniously. He also noted that educators, particularly religious leaders, were “charged specifically with instilling in the young the attitudes of the larger society … Prejudices are learned. And if they are learned, they are taught. And if you can change the teaching, then you can change society.” Konietzko cautioned that pushing “aggressively” would result in a backlash. “The more you threaten, the less they’re able to think straight, and the less willing they become to grant you anything.” He also recommended that homophile groups rely on outside experts to get their messages across — even though, as one audience member pointed out, “the ‘experts’ are constantly making pronouncements to the public which contradict the subjective knowledge of so many homosexuals.” That’s when Kameny delivered what would be his signature rallying cry for decades to come:

A place to start is for the homophile organizations to realize that in the last analysis — and I am knowingly oversimplifying — we are the experts and the authorities. And we had better start educating the public to the fact that when they want reliable information on homosexuals and homosexuality, they come not to the psychiatrists, not to the ministers, and not to all the rest — they come to us. (Applause) We are coming to be more and more called on to speak in our own behalf, and it’s time we started a coordinated program to do so. We must get across to the public that we are the ones to come to, not the psychiatrists or all the rest with their utter lack of information and their distorted viewpoints.

Five months later, Kameny’s rallying cry would inspire a groundbreaking resolution approved by the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., which declared that “in the absence of valid evidence to the contrary, homosexuality is not a sickness, disturbance, or other pathology in any sense…” (see Mar 4). Gay activism then entered a new era as ECHO and its member organizations embarked on a string of pickets in New York (see  Apr 18), Philadelphia (see Jul 4) and Washington D.C. (see Apr 17, May 29, Jun 26, Jul 31, Oct 23) calling for equal rights for gays and lesbians.

[Sources: Warren D. Adkins, Kay Tobin (Kay Lahusen). “ECHO Report ’64, Part 1: Sidelights of ECHO.” The Ladder 9, no. 4 (January 1965): 4-7. See Jan 5 for Kay Lahusen’s bio.

Lily Hansen, Barbara Gittings. “ECHO Report ’64, Part 2: Highlights of ECHO.” The Ladder 9, no. 4 (January 1965): 7-11, 15-20. See Jul 31 for Barbara Gittings’s bio.

Kay Tobin (Kay Lahusen), Barbara Gittings. “ECHO Report ’64, Part 4: ‘Act or Teach’?” The Ladder 9, no. 5 (February 1965): 13-17.

Jean White. “Homophile Groups Argue Civil Liberties.” The Washington Post (October 11, 1964): B10.]

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

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The Daily Agenda for Friday, October 9

Jim Burroway

October 9th, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Ashland, OR; Atlanta, GA; Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Ft. Meyers, FL; Little Rock, AR; Medford, OR; Oceanside, CA; Orlando, FL; Paramaribo, Suriname; Philadelphia, PA.

Other Events This Weekend: Iris Prize Film Festival, Cardiff, UK; MIX Copenhagen Film Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark; Octobearfest, Denver, CO; Ft. Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; QCinema LGBT Film Festival, Ft. Worth, TX; World Gay Rodeo Finals, Las Vegas, NV; Black and Blue Festival, Montréal, QC; Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Seattle, WA; Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Tampa, FL; AIDS Walk, Tucson, AZ.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Michael's Thing, April 29, 1974, page 35.

From Michael’s Thing (New York, NY), April 29, 1974, page 35.

Michael Giammetta, publisher of the weekly New York gay bar guide Michael’s Thing, wrote this review of The Alley in 1974:

Just ask anyone in Queens where they go when they want to have a royal time dancing and partying, and they’ll mention The Alley Opened over a year ago, this swinging bar is already a legend. The Alley takes its picturesque name from nearby Vaseline Alley, Queen’s version of Christopher Street where the cruising goes on like crazy. But the action on the streets can’t hold a candle to the sophisticated love-looks exchanged on the dance floor of this exciting bar.

“We never have to go to the city anymore,” a group of attractive boys told me. “We have everything we want right here in Queens. The disc jockeys play the latest and greatest rock hits and everybody is beautiful and together. The boys knew what they were talking about. Unlike many bars out in the boroughs, The Alley was filled with a lot of hip kids in the latest fashions. Here one could find the greased flat-top, rolled up jeans, and muscle shirts of the fifties freak-out movement so popular with flamboyant Manhattanites. But if that’s not your style, enough handsome hippies, glamorous boys, and dapper men frequent this bar to keep everyone happy. …The Alley gets four stars. One for fun. One for flair. One for frivolity. And one for fantabulous!

The Alley appears to have closed sometime in the first half of 1976. The address today is the home of a branch of the Habib American Bank, a subsidiary of a prominent Pakistani bank.

South Africa Strikes Down Sodomy Law: 1998. South Africa’s penal code defined sodomy as a Schedule 1 offense, like murder or rape, and was punishable by life imprisonment. Another law, Section 20A of the Sexual Offenses Act, which outlawed any behavior “at a party” — defined as a gathering of two or more men — that would be an invitation to sexual activity. Under that law, any hint of a proposition or even a glance, could lead to an arrest. The laws had been mostly ignored — South African cities had been host to Gay Pride parades for more than a decade — but that didn’t stop two prisoners in Cape Town from being charged with sodomy after engaging in consensual sex in 1997. But South Africa’s Constitutional Court responded to a suit brought by the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality and struck down the country’s harsh sodomy law along with Section 20A of the Sexual Offenses Act.

The ruling, written by Judge Lori Ackerman with a concurring ruling by Judge Albie Sachs, held that the decision violated South Africa’s new post-Apartheid 1996 constitution which made South Africa one of the first countries in the world to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The justices ruled that the decision was “part of a growing acceptance of difference in an increasingly open and pluralistic South Africa,” which included gays already serving openly in the military and the police force providing domestic partnership benefits for same-sex couples. The ruling African National Congress had earlier decided not to oppose the lawsuit. The ruling was made retroactive to the adoption of an interim constitution of 1994, which also prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Simeon Solomon: 1840-1905. When he was about ten years old, Solomon, the youngest child of a prominent London Jewish family, began to learn to paint from his older brother. A few year later, he attended Carey’s Art Academy, and later, as a student at the Royal Academy, he became a prominent member of the Pre-Raphaelite Circle. He held several acclaimed exhibitions at the Royal Academy between 1858 and 1872, with many of his paintings drawing from his Jewish background with scenes from the Hebrew Bible and ordinary Jewish life. His paintings also explored affections between men. In 1871 Simeon Solomon privately published his erotic poem “A Vision of Love Revealed in Sleep,” and the images he evoked in the poem would re-appear in his paintings for the rest of his career. John Addington Symonds would note that the themes of same-sex love in the poem was “the key to the meaning of his drawings.”

The Sleepers, and the One that Watcheth (1870, click to enlarge)

Solomon’s career though was ruined in 1873 when he was arrested at a public toilet and fined £100 (about £4,600 or UD$7,400 today) for attempted sodomy. He was arrested again the next year in Paris and was sentenced to three months in prison. He never recovered. From then on, he was hobbled by alcoholism and poverty. He would pass his remaining years in and out of the workhouse where he continued to paint, but both the quality and quantity of his work was severely impaired by his drinking. He finally collapsed in central London and died of bronchitis and alcoholism in 1905. Poet and critic Arthur Symons, on learning of Solomon’s death, lamented, “There is nothing in this world so pitiful as a shipwreck of a genius.”

Nona Hendryx: 1944. The Trenton, New Jersey-born singer, producer, songwriter, author and actress was one third (with Patti LaBelle and Sarah Dash) of the trio Labelle, whose greatest hit was 1974’s “Lady Marmalade.” Beginning in 1977, Hendryx embarked on a solo career, but struggled to repeat the success of LaBelle. She wasn’t without work though, as she provided background vocals for the Talking Heads and became a part of New York’s underground rock, R&B and dance scene. As the eighties progressed, she collaborated with Keith Richards, Peter Gabriel and Prince. In 2001, she came out as bisexual in an interview with The Advocate, and added gay rights to her repertoire.

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

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

The Daily Agenda for Thursday, October 8

Jim Burroway

October 8th, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Ashland, OR; Atlanta, GA; Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Ft. Meyers, FL; Little Rock, AR; Medford, OR; Oceanside, CA; Orlando, FL; Paramaribo, Suriname; Philadelphia, PA.

Other Events This Weekend: Iris Prize Film Festival, Cardiff, UK; MIX Copenhagen Film Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark; Octobearfest, Denver, CO; Ft. Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; QCinema LGBT Film Festival, Ft. Worth, TX; World Gay Rodeo Finals, Las Vegas, NV; Black and Blue Festival, Montréal, QC; Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Seattle, WA; Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Tampa, FL; AIDS Walk, Tucson, AZ.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From Our Community (Dallas, TX), October 1971, page 7.

From Our Community (Dallas, TX), October 1971, page 7.

Like a lot of bars of its day, it featured a large dance floor and drag acts. Unlike the other bars though, MAARS didn’t serve alcohol. It was strictly BYOB, which meant that it could stay open long after the other bars closed. It had also meant that the club could welcome teenagers when it opened earlier in 1971, although the policy seems to have changed to eighteen-and-up by October. Later that month, MAARS hosted a special party for the Ice Capades touring company. According to a write-up in Our Community:

And speaking of great shows, 86 members of the Ice Capades Company were recent guests at the Maars Bar for a party and special performance given in their honor. The grand entertainers pulled out all the stops to give the skaters and company members a hearty Texas welcome.

The John F. Kennedy Learning Center, a pre-kindergarten through fifth grade elementary school, now sits on the block where MAARS used to hold court.

Gay Activists Alliance Protests Aversion Therapy: 1972. There are many schools of psychology, and nearly all of them have one thing in common: in one form or fashion, they typically examine at least some aspect of an individual’s interior life in order to understand that person’s motivation for feeling or behaving the way he does. By understanding and working with what is going on inside — by discovering why the patient feels or thinks the way he does — the therapist hopes to modify what happens on the outside. Behavioral Therapy, however, flips that inside-to-outside model around, by focusing solely on re-directing or re-training the patient’s external behaviors directly. In fact, classical Behavioral Therapy cared little about what was going on in the inside. When taken at its purest form, Behaviorism isn’t much concerned with anyone’s interior life at all, let alone changing it. In fact, some Behaviorists went so far as to argue that what happened internally was irrelevant. The only thing that mattered, they argued, was external behavior.

Schematic diagram of Louis William Max’s device for inducing a powerful electric shock. (Click to enlarge.)

In the 1930s, Behavioral Therapy got a very important tool when New York University’s Louis William Max unveiled his new invention safely administer a painful electric shock to his patient (see Mar 11). The idea was that by administering an electric shock under undesirable conditions, the patient would associate that undesired condition with the painful shock, and would change his behavior to avoid that condition in the future. In 1935, Dr. Max delivered another lecture to describe his first usage for his electric shock apparatus: “Breaking up a homosexual fixation” (see Sep 6).

From then on, behavioral therapists connected thousands of gay men to electrodes and their penises to measurement devices. One twitch of arousal while looking at gay porn would result in a powerful electric shock. While some gay men could work up an aversion to gay sex that way, they rarely became straight. They just became very sick or nervous homosexuals, many of them undoubtedly further burdened with therapy-induced PTSD. Of all of the various types of therapies for “curing” gay people, aversion therapy, as this particular form of behavioral therapy was known, was obviously the most torturous.

And so when the Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy (AABT) met for their annual convention in New York City, about a hundred members of the Gay Activists Alliance demonstrated in front of the New York Hilton, shouting slogans and distributing pamphlets. They also performed a bit of guerrilla theater, in which they asked heterosexuals to volunteer to submit to aversion therapy to cure them of their heterosexuality. After about an hour, the protesters marched inside the hotel and confronted about 50 delegates in one of the seminars. Several of the demonstrators compared the AABT’s work to Stanley Kubrick’s film, “A Clockwork Orange.” UCLA’s Dr. Robert Liberman, who served as the convention’s program chair, defended aversion therapy. “The therapists here have no moral quarrel with homosexuality,” he said. “All we want o do is to offer assistance for homosexuals to lead a more comfortable, spontaneous and creative life.” Another delegate, who refused to identify himself, claimed that “aversion therapy is entirely voluntary.”

But GAA spokesman Ron Gold countered that aversion therapy was a form of social engineering. “It is brainwashing,” he said. “You can’t deal with an individual homosexual’s problem without also dealing with the antiquated mores of society. Change must come at a broader, society-wide level.”

In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association would finally remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders (see Dec 15). When the AABT met again in 1974, its president, Dr. Ian Evans, told the membership that providing treatment to clients seeking to change their sexual orientation was morally wrong generally, and he singled out aversion therapy for particular criticism. Evans’s comments were not well received, and aversion therapy continued for a several more years, including at least one research program at Brigham Young University using aversion therapy on gay students continued through at least 1976.

One of the last papers to be published in the medical journals evaluating electric shock therapy to “cure” homosexuality appeared in 1981. Australia’s Nathanial McConaghy and his colleagues acknowledged “ethical objections to the use of behavior therapy in homosexuality,” but dismissed them and went on to present 10 cases in which men underwent electric shock aversion therapy for “compulsive homosexual urges.” By 1981, aversion therapy had mostly died out and McConaghy’s paper appeared as a strange anachronism.

[Sources: “Therapy scored by homosexuals: ‘Aversion cure’ is protested at psychiatrists’ meeting.” The New York Times (October 9, 1972): 32.

Ian M. Evans. “The effect of values on scientific and clinical judgment in behavior therapy.” Behavior Therapy 28, no. 4 (Fall 1977): 483-493.

Max Ford McBride. “Effect of visual stimuli in electric aversion therapy.” Unpublished doctoral dissertation. (Brigham Young University: August 1976). Available online here.

Nathaniel McConaghy, Michael S. Armstrong, Alex Blaszczynski. “Controlled comparison of aversive therapy and covert sensitization in compulsive homosexuality.” Behaviour Research and Therapy 19, no. 5 (1981): 425-434.

You can also learn more about the role of Behavioral Therapy in attempts to “cure” homosexuality in Blind Man’s Bluff, an epilogue to our award-winning original investigation, What Are Little Boys Made Of?]

Major Advertisers Boycott Controversial “Marcus Welby., M.D.” Episode: 1974. By the early 1970s, the National Gay Task Force had positioned itself as the primary watchdog of the national media’s portrayal of gay people, and because of that, some producers and networks began soliciting advice from the group whenever plots involved gays and lesbians. But whether they accepted the advice from the NGTF or not was another matter altogether, as evidenced by one of the earliest consultations from ABC. The network was planning an episode of Marcus Welby, M.D. called “The Outrage,” which depicted a junior high school boy named Ted who was forcibly raped by a male science teacher. The storyline was unusually graphic for its time, describing Ted’s intestinal damage and hemorrhaging. Ted refuses to talk about what happened, fearing that being raped meant that he was gay. While Ted is in surgery, police arrest the teacher for trying to molest another boy. Ted awakes from surgery ready to testify, and the investigating officer congratulates him for handling the situation like a “real man.” ABC defended the episode by saying it was about pedophilia, not homosexuality. But the storyline played much too closely to the old stereotype of gay men forcibly preying on children.

This wasn’t the first time Marcus Welby, M.D. had drawn the ire of gay activists. The year before, an episode titled “The Other Martin Loring” featured a man whose  alcoholism, weight problems, depression and diabetes were blamed on his repressed homosexuality, which itself was depicted as a mental illness (see Feb 20). By the end of that episode, Dr. Welby advised Loring to see a psychiatrist so that Loring will win his “fight” to live a “normal” life. About three dozen gay activists occupied ABC’s offices, but the network refused to alter the episode.

With “The Outrage,” ABC may have wanted to avoid a repeat of that noisy experience, but why they decided to consult with the NGTF is a mystery since the network refused to take the NGTF’s concerns seriously. The only positive outcome of that consultation was that it gave the NGTF, along with the Gay Activist Alliance, a head start in organizing a massive national campaign aimed not only at the network itself, but also at its affiliates and advertisers. On that last point, the GAA had a particular advantage: one of its members worked in ABC’s computer room and had access to the network’s advertising accounts. Whenever an advertiser cancelled, the employee would pass the information on to the GAA, and it would soon appear in major newspapers — sometimes before the network’s vice president knew about it.

Meanwhile gay advocacy groups around the country staged noisy protests outside of stations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Denver, and Washington, D.C., along with several smaller market stations in Ohio, Iowa, Mississippi, Texas and Idaho. The first station to announce it was dropping the episode was Philadelphia’s WPVI, which was under intense pressure from the city’s very active gay community. Mark Segal, who had already established himself as a masterful “zapper” of live television when he interrupted Walter Cronkite’s CBS newscasts (see Dec 11), may well have been a strong motivator behind WPVI’s decision. “We are gratified by Channel 6’s decision,” he told the press.” It is the first time they have made such a decision in regard to us and we salute them. We hope it will be the first step between us and the station that will result in a better understanding of our position.”

Altogether, seventeen ABC affiliates ended up dropping the episode, and nearly a dozen sponsors had pulled out, including Bayer, Gallo Wine, Listerine, Ralston Purina, Colgate-Palmolive, Shell Oil, Lipton, American Home Products, Breck, Sterling Drug and Gillette. (Ralston Purina even wrote the NGTF sending “best regards” and added, “We do not wish to sponsor a program not welcome in everyone’s home.”) The protest was marked as a success in newspapers across the country, but it proved to be a very temporary one: just one month later, NBC would air an episode of Police Woman titled, “Flowers of Evil” (see Nov 8), which TV Guide called “the single most homophobic show to date.”

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, October 7

Jim Burroway

October 7th, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Ashland, OR; Atlanta, GA; Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Ft. Meyers, FL; Little Rock, AR; Medford, OR; Oceanside, CA; Orlando, FL; Paramaribo, Suriname; Philadelphia, PA.

Other Events This Weekend: Iris Prize Film Festival, Cardiff, UK; MIX Copenhagen Film Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark; Octobearfest, Denver, CO; Ft. Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; QCinema LGBT Film Festival, Ft. Worth, TX; World Gay Rodeo Finals, Las Vegas, NV; Black and Blue Festival, Montréal, QC; Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Seattle, WA; Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Tampa, FL; AIDS Walk, Tucson, AZ.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From the San Francisco Hotel Greeter's Guide, 1958, page 47.

From the San Francisco Hotel Greeter’s Guide, 1958, page 47.

Finocchio'sA list of must-sees for San Francisco tourists in the late 1950s aren’t much different from today’s tourists: Fisherman’s Wharf, the famous Cable Cars, Coit Tower and, for many, a dip into the city’s gay culture. Finocchio’s was never, strictly speaking, a gay bar, but this advertising in a tourist guide placed in hotel rooms is testimony to the night club’s popularity with tourists. The club started as Club 201, a speakeasy during Prohibition, and moved to larger quarters in 1936 and changed its name to that of the club’s owner, Joe Finocchio, which also just happens to be a nice Italian word for fennel and a not so nice Italian word for gay. Since the 1930s, Finocchio’s was the most famous drag club in the entire country, featuring many drag acts by both gay and straight performers. Joe Finocchio died in January 1986, and his widow finally decided to close the club  in 1999 due to rising rents and dwindling audiences.

“I don’t want to marry anyone for at least two years.”(Click to enlarge.)

Liberace’s Girl Meets Mom: 1954. So here’s something I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of:

Liberace’s Girl Meets Mom, But No Wedding, By George!

Hollywood, Calif., Oct 7. — Pianist Liberace says that “there isn’t a word of truth to the report that I am engaged” to marry dancer Joanne Rio.

The report popped up yesterday and Liberace promptly denied it.

He said: “I was misquoted and I am very embarrassed for Joanne, who is a lovely girl and an understanding friend.

“I don’t want to marry anyone for at least two years — until I’ve made the motion picture I am planning for Warner Brothers and have a chance to tour Europe, which I plan to do next year.”

Friends say he dates other girls, but that Joanne is the only one he brings home to mother.

Miss Rio is a pretty brunette. She is the daughter of Eddie Rio, West Coast head of the American Guild of Variety Artists.

Liberace had no sooner announced his engagement to Rio when he quickly backtracked before the day was out. It appears that Joanne Rio was something of an on-again/off-again for Lee. They appeared together a month later on the cover of TV Guide, where Rio was introduced as Liberace’s “favorite date.” “If it’s God’s will that Liberace and I get married, then we will. I’m leaving everything in God’s hands,” she told the magazine. God’s hands, apparently, were busy elsewhere.

San Francisco Progress headline for October 7, 1959.

S.F. Mayoral Candidate Charges Incumbent With Allowing City to Become “Deviate Headquarters”: 1959. The Mattachine Society’s sixth annual convention in Denver, conducted over the Labor Day weekend in September that year, was judged to be one of the more successful conventions in the organization’s history. It featured a good roster of speakers, positive publicity from the Denver press, and little jostling among factions. Even the business meeting was rather routine, with a few dull resolutions passed, often unanimously, along with the announcement that the next convention, in 1960, would be held in San Francisco, where the Society was headquartered.

But one of those quiet, noncontroversial resolutions became headline news as San Francisco was gearing up for the mayoral elections in November, when the tiny The San Francisco Progress’s October 7 edition blared, “Sex Deviates Make S.F. Headquarters,” and placed the blame for it on incumbent mayor George Christopher:

A just-completed survey of vice conditions in San Francisco discloses that this city, during the Christopher administration, has become the national headquarters of the organized homosexuals in the United States. It is a sordid tale, one which will revolt every decent San Franciscans, but one which the San Francisco Progress believes is of vital importance to our city, and therefore must be told.

The survey was made in an effort to determine the truth or falsity of George Christopher’s claim that he has given the people a “clean city.”

The facts are that some of the big call girl operations and a number of minor bookmakers have been put out of business. But in their place another form of vice – – homosexualism — has been allowed to flourish to a shocking extent, and under shocking circumstances.

Last month at a convention of deviates in Denver, Colorado, a resolution, passed unanimously, praised the mayor of San Francisco — by name — for an “enlightened administration” which has permitted the group to flourish here.

The paper published a photocopy of the official resolution, which praised “the efforts of law enforcement authorities in San Francisco based upon an officially administered entity, enlightened, and just City Government and Police Force,” and expressed its appreciation “to Mayor George Christopher and Police Chief Thomas Cahill for their persistent and consistent efforts to conduct their administration with these high ideals foremost in mind.” City Assessor Russell L. Wolden, the Democratic candidate who was challenging Mayor Christopher in the November election, immediately jumped on the issue, telling The Progress:

“This is a matter of grave concern for every parent,” Russell L. Wolden, assessor and candidate for mayor, declared today. “It exposes teenagers to possible contact and contamination in a city admittedly overrun by deviates. For a city administration to permit this situation to exist is nothing less than scandalous. The whole rotten mess cries for investigation.”

Wolden repeated his accusations against Christopher in a speech broadcast on radio that night, and described the Mattachine as an organization that “conducted classroom instruction for deviates” and published literature of “the most lurid, disgusting and distasteful sort.”

William P. Brandhove (left) with Russell L. Wolden.

But the very next day, the entire campaign against Christopher began to fall apart when city’s three major newspaper, The Chronicle, The Examiner and The News-Call-Bulletin all uncovered the identity of man responsible for the resolution. William P. Brandhove, a Wolden campaign worker, had signed himself up as a Mattachine member just days before the convention, where he introduced his resolution to the executive board. “We thought it was just an innocent expression in favor of tolerance in San Francisco,” Mattachine secretary Donald Lucas told the newspapers. “We had no idea that it was intended or might be used for any political purpose.”

When reporters tried to find Brandhove for comment, they found that he had quickly checked out of the Grand Hotel in San Francisco’s Tenderloin, which was then the heart of the gay community. They eventually tracked him down in his Wolden campaign bumper sticker-plastered car. Brandhove admitted that he had, in fact, attended the convention. “I’m not a homosexual but I joined the Mattachine Society only to find out about its activities.” He also tried to distance the Wolden campaign from his activities, although he admitted to turning over copies of the resolution to his attorney, Ralph Taylor — who also just happened to be Wolden’s campaign treasurer — telling Taylor to “make sure it’s used.”

Brandhove’s name was already well known among San Francisco’s political establishment. He had been involved in a similar smear campaign in a 1948 congressional contest and the 1949 mayor’s race. He was also wrapped up in a local blackmail trial involving a small-time publisher of a scandal magazine who extorted large sums of money in exchange for agreeing not to print allegations of homosexual affairs. The Chronicle said Brandhove was “known to police and the underworld as an unreliable stool pigeon,” and noted that he had been arrested in 1930 in Jersey City, New Jersey on a charge of sodomy.

“Want some feelthy campaign issues?” San Francisco Chronicle editorial cartoon.

The papers immediately branded the entire operation a “smear,” which not only tarnished the good name of the honorable mayor, but the city itself and its citizenry, a charge underlined by the mayor himself. “In a blind drive for office, my opponent has degraded the city,” said Christopher. “Under no circumstances would I covet any office so much that I would stoop to maligning somebody.” Democrats also lambasted Wolden, with Democrat Club president Franklyn K. Brann saying “I didn’t know the Mattachine Society was running for Mayor.” The Chronicle and The News-Call-Bulletin called for Wolden to withdraw from the race. The Examiner blasted him for offending “the tenets of political decency of the Democratic Party that he so recently joined.” But instead of calling for Wolden to withdraw, The Examiner instead called on voters to kick him out.

And so they did. Seventy-one percent of registered voters turned out on November 3 and re-elected Christopher with in a 61% to 39% landslide. Meanwhile, the Mattachine Society, which had lodged a $1 million lawsuit against Wolden, reported that they were “deluged with telephone calls and visits from friends, well-wishers, curiosity-seekers and others” as a result of the controversy. Wolden managed to stay on as the city’s assessor until 1966 when, after twenty-seven years in office, he was convicted on eight counts of bribery and one of conspiracy for accepting payoffs in exchange for lower tax assessments.

[Sources: Wes Knight. “Smear Drive.” The Mattachine Review 5, no. 11 (November 1959): 12-15.

“Sex deviates make S.F. Headquarters: ‘Enlightened’ city rule earns praise.” San Francisco Progress (October 7, 1959). As reprinted in The Mattachine Review (November 1959): 15-24.

Yancey Smith. “‘Mystery man’ seen in ‘smear’.” The San Francisco News-Call-Bulletin (October 8, 1959). As reprinted in The Mattachine Review (November 1959): 24-25.

George Draper. “Praise of Mayor’s policy on deviates engineered by ex-police informer.” The San Francisco Chronicle (October 9, 1959). As reprinted in The Mattachine Review (November 1959): 26-29.]

Walter Jenkins

Top Johnson Aid Outed In Sex Scandal: 1964. Walter Jenkins and Lyndon B. Johnson went way back, all the way back to 1939 when Johnson was still a young member of the U.S. House of Representatives. For the next 25 years, Jenkins was Johnson’s right hand man and top administrative assistant as Johnson rose through the ranks as Senator, Senate Majority Leader, Vice President, and ultimately President following John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Journalist Bill Moyers, who was Johnson’s press secretary praised Jenkins’s political skills: “When they come to canonize political aides, [Jenkins] will be the first summoned, for no man ever negotiated the shark-infested waters of the Potomac with more decency or charity or came out on the other side with his integrity less shaken. If Lyndon Johnson owed everything to one human being other than Lady Bird, he owed it to Walter Jenkins.”

But Johnson would effectively wind up losing his right arm during the final weeks before the 1964 presidential election when District of Columbia police arrested Jenkins at a YMCA restroom and charged him with disorderly conduct. That was not-so-subtle code for going down on a stranger in a men’s room. Jenkins paid the $50 fine. Republican operatives tried to shop the story to the press, but those were the days when a fellow’s private life was still considered off-limits. The Chicago Tribune and the Cincinnati Enquirer both refused the story. But on October 14, an editor for the Washington Star called the White House seeking comment on the arrest. White House staff tried to lobby all three Washington newspapers not to run the story, but that only confirmed the rumors. Administration staffers then tried to chalk the incident up to exhaustion and stress, but it soon came out that Jenkins had been arrested in 1959 on similar charges. The Star ran its story and a shocked President Johnson obtained Jenkins’s resignation that same day.

But a scandal that could have caused significant damage to the presidential campaign was soon pushed off of the front pages by two back-to-back international crisis. Nikita Khrushchev was unceremoniously dumped as Soviet Premier that same day, and China detonated a nuclear bomb two days later. Some members of the Goldwater campaign made a half-hearted effort to drum up outrage over Jenkins — it issued bumper stickers reading “All the way with LBJ but don’t go near the YMCA” — but Goldwater himself declined to make the incident a campaign issue. “It was a sad time for Jenkins’ wife and children, and I was not about to add to their private sorrow,” he later wrote.

Jenkins’s career may have been over, but the genuine good feelings held by Johnson administration insiders were undiminished. Jenkins received a large number of letters of support from administration officials and a personal endorsement from Lady Bird, who wrote an open letter that was published by several newspapers: “My heart is aching today for someone who has reached the end point of exhaustion in dedicated service to his country.”

Jenkins and his wife, Marjorie, moved back to Texas and remained together until separating in the early 1970s, although the two never divorced. Meanwhile Jenkins’s absence at the White House was keenly felt. Johnson Press Secretary George Reedy once commented, “A great deal of the president’s difficulties can be traced to the fact that Walter had to leave…. All of history might have been different if it hadn’t been for that episode.” Attorney General Ramsey Clark felt that Jenkins’s resignation “deprived the president of the single most effective and trusted aide that he had. The results would be enormous when the president came into his hard times. Walter’s counsel on Vietnam might have been extremely helpful.”

Dan Savage: 1964. The Chicago native grew up attending Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary North, which is described as a high school for young men considering the priesthood. (Other graduates include Cardinal Edward Egan and sociologist/novelist Fr. Andrew Greeley.) After graduating from the University of Illinois in Urbana, Savage moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where he got to know Tim Keck, co-founder of The Onion, who was about to go to Seattle to establish the alt-weekly The Stranger. Savage told him to make sure the paper had an advice column because “everybody claims to hate ’em, but everybody seems to read ’em.”

To Savage’s surprise, he ended up being that columnist, when his sex advice column “Savage Love,” appeared in the very first edition of The Stranger in 1991. Since then, “Savage Love” has been the source of a number of well-known neologisms: GGG (good, giving, game, to describe an ideal sex partner), Monogamish, Pegging, “The Campsite Rule” (when starting a relationship with a younger partner, leave them in better emotional and physical shape than when you started), Saddlebacking (the phenomenon of Christian teens engaging in unprotected anal sex in order to preserve their virginities), and, his most famous one, Santorum.

In late 2010, when Billy Lucas became the latest in a tragic line of teens who had killed themselves because of anti-gay bullying, Savage wrote:

I wish I could have talked to this kid for five minutes. I wish I could have told Billy that it gets better. I wish I could have told him that, however bad things were, however isolated and alone he was, it gets better. But gay adults aren’t allowed to talk to these kids. Schools and churches don’t bring us in to talk to teenagers who are being bullied.  Many of these kids have homophobic parents who believe that they can prevent their gay children from growing up to be gay—or from ever coming out—by depriving them of information, resources, and positive role models.

Why are we waiting for permission to talk to these kids? We have the ability to talk directly to them right now. We don’t have to wait for permission to let them know that it gets better. We can reach these kids.

The way to reach those kids was through videos uploaded on the Internet. Since 2010, the It Gets Better project has hosted some 50,000 videos from around the world with a simple message: just hold on and it will get better. The project was given a special 2012 Emmy award for “strategically, creatively and powerfully utilizing the media to educate and inspire.”

Savage is editor of The Stranger, and his “Savage Love” column appears in alternative weeklies across North America. He writes his advice column at the desk once owned by Eppie Lederer, better known as Ann Landers. Savage also records a weekly  Savage Lovecast  podcast. He has written six books, edited another, contributed op-eds for The New York Times, and has made numerous appearances on talk shows and news programs. His latest book, American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics, came out in 2013.

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 Tuesday, October 6

Jim Burroway

October 6th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From This Week In Texas, July 2, 1977, page 31.

From This Week In Texas, July 2, 1977, page 31.

Mayor Abe Aronovitz

Miami Mayor: “Deviates Are Leaving The City”: 1954. Miami’s ongoing media-driven hysteria over discovering the presence of gay people in their midst (see Aug 3Aug 11Aug 12Aug 13 (twice that day), Aug 14Aug 15, Aug 16Aug 26, Aug 31, Sep 1, Sep 2, Sep 7, Sep 15, and Sep 19) appeared to be on the wane, with Mayor Abe Aronovitz telling The Miami News that the city’s highly publicized raids on gay bars and beaches were finally having their effect:  

Mayor Claims Deviates Are Leaving City

Miami is the cleanest town in the area so far as homosexuals go, it was claimed by Mayor Abe Aronovitz, who said, “but we are not solving it from a humanitarian standpoint because we are only clearing it up as far as Miami is concerned.”

“There is no solution from a humanitarian standpoint, however, because I have received complaints from both Broward County on the north and Monroe County on the south that the homosexuals are just drifting out of Miami.”

The City Commission later today is expected to pass on second reading an ordinance aimed at controlling homosexuals and also jeopardizing liquor licenses of establishments serving people known to have homosexual tendencies.

It was passed on the first reading two weeks ago.

And that is why there are no homosexuals in Miami anymore.

Rev. Troy Perry

Rev. Troy Perry Holds First Metropolitan Community Church Service: 1968. Perry’s life had always been difficult. His bootlegger father died when Perry was twelve. His mother married an alcoholic who reduced the family to poverty and was physically abusive. Troy ran away from home and stayed with relatives, who introduced him to Pentecostalism. In 1959, the nineteen-year-old Perry married a Church of God pastor’s daughter and became the pastor of a CoG church in Jolliet, Illinois — all this despite knowing that he was gay and was sexually active with other men. He merely told himself that it was a phase and that he wasn’t really gay. After all, it was impossible to be both gay and Christian, his superiors in the church had reassured him. But his cover didn’t last long in Jolliet though, and when his secret came out, he was told by church leaders to leave the church and tell his wife, who decided to stay with him.

The couple moved to California, where they joined the Church of God of Prophecy, another Pentecostal denomination. When he finally decided to tell his superiors in that denomination that he was gay, they acted as CoG had: they kicked him out. This time though, his wife left him, taking their two young sons with her. Perry spent the next several years trying to figure out what he was: was he gay, or was he Christian? In 1967, he tried to kill himself after breaking up with a boyfriend. The following year, he was on a date at a gay bar called The Patch near Long Beach when when Los Angeles police decided to randomly arrest two of the bar’s patrons (see Aug 17) . His date, broken and demoralized by the experience, decided that no one cared about gay people, including God. That’s when Perry decided it was time to show that young man, and all gay people, differently.

From The Los Angeles Advocate. October 1968, page 20.

And so on October 6, 1969, he held his first worship service in the living room of his Huntington Park home. Twelve people attended. Nine were friends of his, who showed up to support him. Three were there in response to an ad that Perry placed in that month’s edition of The Los Angeles Advocate. The next week, there were twelve. Pretty soon, the fledgling congregation was growing so quickly that finding larger quarters became a weekly endeavor. “You better attend church every Sunday if you want to know where the church is going to be,” members joked.

Soon the congregation moved to the Encore Theater on Melrose Avenue, and they quickly filled all 385 seats in the house. By the time the MCC bought its first genuine church of its own in the West Adams area, the congregation had swelled to 1,000. That purchased also made the MCC the gay organization in the U.S. to own a piece of real estate. In 1996, Perry remarked, “If you had told me twenty-eight years ago that the largest organization in the world touching the lives of gays and lesbians would be a church, I would not have believed you.” Over the years, twenty-one MCC churches were targets of arsonists and four MCC clergy were murdered. But in 2000, Perry repeated his vow: “We will never, ever, be chased out of a city; we’ve never, ever left a city where we’ve faced persecution.” The MCC currently has 172 churches in 37 countries.

[Source: Lee Arnold. “Troy Perry (1940- ).” In Vern. L. Bullough’s (ed.) Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (New York: Harrington Park Press, 2002): 393-398.

San Francisco Police Sweep The Castro: 1989. ACT-UP had put on a number of protests and marches before in San Francisco, almost all of them without incident. This one was small: about 150 people showed up at the Federal Building a few blocks from City Hall. After a brief rally, they marched to City Hall, then up Market Street to the Mint Building before ending at Castro Street. Typically during marches like this one, the Police department would assign a handful of officers to help block traffic and ensure the safety of protesters and onlookers. But one marcher, Gerard Koskovich, noticed something was different about this march:

“The march turned non-routine the minute it left the federal plaza. Hordes of San Francisco police officers on foot and on motorcycles emerged as soon as the protesters started marching on the street. They attempted to force the march to stay on the sidewalk,” said Koskovich, who wrote an essay about the Castro Sweep in the 2002 anthology Out in the Castro: Desire, Promise, Activism. “The first arrest happened a block away from the federal building. The tactical coordinator for ACT UP stepped out into the street to talk to the commanding officer and he was immediately grabbed, thrown face down on the asphalt, handcuffed, and then taken away. No one had seen anything like this at a queer protest in San Francisco for a number of years.”

By the time the rally reached the Castro, the marchers were met by hundreds of police officers. It was a sign of how the night would end.

“When I got there I saw the single largest mass of San Francisco police officers I had ever seen at that point. The entire intersection of Castro and Market streets was filled with officers standing in rank,” said Koskovich. “At this point it was still a peaceful march of people staying on the sidewalk. It was completely perplexing why the police force brought out a horde of officers.”

Angered by the police confrontation, marchers sat down in the middle of Castro Street near Market. One group staged a die-in, and others spray-painted stenciled slogans and body outlines on the pavement as a “permanent AIDS quilt” on the street. Police then announced that the demonstration was an “illegal action” and began a sweep action, marching in unison down Castro toward 18th street, forcing thousands inside the Castro’s homes, stores, bars and restaurants under virtual house arrest. As Koskovich wrote in OutWeek a month later:

The police soon charged in earnest. I saw one officer advance with his baton in a jabbing position, a technique that the San Francisco Police Commission banned after an officer using it nearly killed Farmworkers Union co-founder Delores Huerta last year. Others pushed with the sides of their batons, knocking the front of the crowd off balance. I fell against the person to my left, scraping my ear, then regained my footing.

After a partial withdrawal and a second effort to clear the area, the police announced that the entire block of Castro from Market to 18th St., including the sidewalks, had been declared an illegal assembly area. The crowd held its ground, milling into the street and repeatedly chanting “Cops go home” and “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, SFPD go away.” A group of officers reacted by ramming their motorcycles through the center of the crowd.

In the confusion, I lost sight of the friends I had been standing with and made my way to the opposite side of Castro St. From that vantage, I watched an officer break ranks, approach a man standing peacefully in the street, and beat him over the shoulder. Shortly thereafter, I saw a second officer pin a bystander against a news box, then club him to the pavement. Other cops joined in, one of them so eager to land a blow that he carelessly clubbed a fellow officer.

Minutes later, I heard someone calling out my name and spotted Alex Chee, one of the friends I had marched with, leaning from an ambulance moving slowly through the police lines. “I’m going to the hospital with Mike,” he shouted. With a sinking feeling, I pushed to the back window; inside, I could see another friend, Michael Barnette—a 19-year-old who was attending his first ACT UP demonstration—strapped motionless on a stretcher.

Michael received several stitches to close a gash across his eyebrow. According to witnesses, an officer identified as a captain in the SFPD Tactical Unit and an event commander for the October 6 protest clubbed Michael on the head as he stood on the sidewalk on the west side of Castro St. From the opposite corner, I had heard protesters chanting the officer’s helmet number—1942— but had not seen the beating.

This went on from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. in an action which reminded everyone of the White Night riots ten years earlier, when San Francisco police rioted in the Castro following the conviction of Dan White of manslaughter for the assassination of Harvey Milk (see May 21).

The following night, 1,500 protesters demonstrated the police action in the Castro. Mayor Art Agnos issued a statement to the Bay Area Reporter saying that previous night’s police action was “deeply disturbing, and if even 25 percent of the allegations turn out to be true then what happened October 6 is unacceptable.” Deputy Police Chief Jack Jordan was demoted, and he resigned the following month. Other high-ranking officers were re-assigned and reprimanded. The Tactical Squad was relived of one of its primary responsibilities, crowd control. “Civil disobedience did occur,” Police Chief Frank Jordon said, but the response was “inappropriate” and represented a command breakdown. Three years later, the city settled a series of lawsuits brought by victims for $250,000.

Matthew Shepard Assaulted: 1998. At around 6:30 PM, Aaron Kreifels was riding his bicycle on Snowy Mountain View Road, just outside of Laramie, Wyoming, when he wiped out near the end of a rough buck-and-rail fence. In the fall, he severely damaged his front tire. Aaron got up to try to figure out how to get back into town when he was startled by what he thought was a scarecrow. He took a closer look and discovered that it wasn’t a scarecrow, but a 5-foot-2, 102 pound University of Wyoming student by the name of Matthew Shepard. Aaron was further surprised to see that the bloody figure was still alive, though barely. Matthew was comatose, breathing “as if his lungs are full of blood,” Aaron would later testify. It had been a very cold day that day with a 30-degree freezing wind the night before, and it was now evening again. Matthew had been there for more than 18 hours, laying on his back, head propped against the fence, his legs outstretched. His hands were tied behind him, and the rope was tied to a fence post just four inches off the ground. His shoes were missing.

Aaron, in a state of panic, ran to the nearby home of Charles Dolan. From there, they called 911, and then the both of them returned to Matthew to wait for the sheriff’s deputy to arrive. Deputy Reggie Fluty later testified that the only spots not covered in blood on Matt’s brutally disfigured face were tracks cleansed by his tears. She told the barely breathing victim, “Baby, I’m so sorry this happened.”

Matthew was rushed to Poudre Valley Hospital’s intensive care unit in critical condition. He suffered fractures from the back of his head to the front of his right ear from being pistol-whipped by a 357-Magnum more than twenty times. He had severe brain stem damage which affected his body’s ability to control heart rate, breathing, temperature, and other involuntary functions. There were lacerations around his head, face and neck. He had welts on his back and arm, and bruised knees and groin. He had also suffered from hypothermia. His injuries were too severe for doctors to operate. They did however insert a drain into Matthew’s skull to relieve the pressure on his brain.

By the end of the day, Matthew Shepard was laying quietly in a soft, warm bed with clean sheets after having spent eighteen hours in the freezing high plains of Wyoming tied to a fence post. He was breathing with the aid of a ventilator.

Bruno Balz: 1902-1988. He wrote some of Germany’s most famous songs for film despite his career being hampered by official persecution for his homosexuality. When Balz was arrested by Nazi authorities for violating Germany’s Paragraph 175 outlawing male homosexuality, he was released after several months’ imprisonment on the condition that his name not be mentioned in public. When he was arrested again in 1941 and tortured in Gestapo headquarters, his songwriting partner, Michael Jary, appealed to authorities to release him, saying that he could write songs to lift German morale as part of the war effort. He wrote two of his greatest hits just days after his release. And while his songs would be criticized later for aiding  the war effort, gays in Germany were buoyed by what they saw as double meanings in some of his songs. One song in particular, his 1938 classic “Kann denn Liebe Sunde sein?” (“Can Love Be a Sin?”), became something of an anthem for Germany’s underground gay community:

Every little Philistine makes my life miserable, for he’s always

talking about morality. And whatever he may think and do, you can

see that he just doesn’t want anyone to be happy…. Whatever

the world thinks of me, I don’t care, I’ll only be true to love.

Can love be a sin?

Can’t anybody know when you kiss,

When you forget everything out of happiness?

Balz’s troubles continued even after the war and the fall of Nazism. After all, Paragraph 175 remained the law of the land until 1994 after Germany’s reunification, which meant that the strictures on him remained in effect preventing him from receiving his due credit for his music. Balz died in 1988. There is now a Bruno Balz theater named for him in Berlin.

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The Daily Agenda for Monday, October 5

Jim Burroway

October 5th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), May 1978, page 40.

From GPU News (Milwaukee, WI), May 1978, page 40.

Vasco Núñez de Balboa Feeds “Men Dressed Like Women” To His Dogs: 1513. The Spanish conquistador and explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa is a revered figure in Panama, where you can buy a bottle of Balboa beer for about 1.50 Balboas (which is used interchangeably with the U.S. Dollar, also legal currency there). His name graces Panama City’s main port at the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal as well as numerous avenues and parks throughout the country.

Balboa first explored the South American coast from present-day Columbia to Nicaragua in 1501, before settling on the island of Hispaniola to become a farmer. When Balboa returned to the South American continent in 1509, he did so as a stowaway from Hispaniola — a bankruptcy refugee, to be exact — but he quickly proved his worth with his knowledge of geography and local native culture, thanks to his earlier expedition. In 1510, Balboa founded the city of Santa Maria la Antigua del Darién on the northern coast of present-day Colombia near today’s border with Panama, and in 1511, he declared himself governor of Veragua, which roughly covered the Caribbean coast of present-day Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Balboa then spent the next three years exploring his domain, defeating various native tribes and befriending others, always remaining on the lookout for gold.

In 1513, Balboa arrived at the region in present-day Panama controlled by the chief Careta, whose forces Balboa defeated and whom Balboa befriended. Together, Balboa and Careta defeated a rival chief, Ponca, and made an alliance with another chief, Comagre, whose son told them that if they really wanted to find lots of gold, they needed to conquer the tribes living on the coast of “the other sea” on the other side of the Isthmus of Panama. Balboa and his hordes set off to conquer their way south, and on September 20, when Balboa stood on a summit on the mountains alongside the Chucunaque River, he became the first European to see, on the distant horizon, the Pacific Ocean. Nine days and one battle later, Balboa walked knee-deep into the ocean with his sword in one hand and his battle standard in the other, and claimed possession of the “South Sea” and all of its adjoining lands for Spain.

While Balboa continued his journey along Panama’s Pacific coast, conquering and discovering as he went, he discovered, after killing chief Quarega and entering his village, what Balboa perceived to be the famously relaxed attitude among Quarega’s people toward the Peccatum illud horribile, inter christianos non nominandum. I say perceived, because it’s not exactly clear that Balboa’s men correctly interpreted what they saw. Sure, native groups throughout Panama had a reputation for tolerance of homosexuality and cross-gender behavior, so it’s not inconceivable that he found some of those goings-ons in Quarega’s court. But some scholars doubt that Balboa’s men actually managed to come across two full score of them in a single village. Some speculate that the Spaniards mistook the ceremonial attire of members of Quarega’s court for women’s clothing. Others suggest that in the political vacuum following Quarega’s death, there may have been some finger-pointing among political rivals who were savvy to the Spaniards’ disgust for the “sin so horrible.”

At any rate, at least forty of them — Gay men? Transgenders? Cross dressers? Or disgraced officials on the losing end of political score-settling? — were rounded up and devoured by Balboa’s dogs, in what has been described as the first recorded instance of Spanish punishment of homosexuality in the New World. About a century later, Antonio de la Calancha, a Spanish official in Lima, was still singing his praises, albeit somewhat inaccurately, of the man who “saw men dressed like women; Balboa learnt that they were sodomites and threw the king and forty others to be eaten by his dogs, a fine action of an honorable and Catholic Spaniard.”

[Sources: Charles C. Mann 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, (New York, Alfred A. Knoff, 2011): 348.

Ward Stavig. “Political ‘abomination’ and private reservations: the nefarious sin, homosexuality, and cultural values in colonial Peru.” In Pete Sigal’s (ed.) Infamous Desire: Male Homosexuality in Colonial Latin America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003): 134-135.

Walter Williams. “The abominable sin: the Spanish campaign against ‘sodomy’ and its results in modern Latin America” in ): in Larry Gross and James D. Woods’ (eds.) The Columbia Reader on Lesbians & Gay Men in Media, Society, and Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999): 128.]

California Studies Treatment for “Sex Deviants”: 1951. An item appeared in The Los Angeles Times describing efforts that promised “the eventual solution of one of California’s most difficult problems – the sex offender.” California had tried to “legislate sexual offenses out of existence” through more severe penalties, but lawmakers were “finally persuaded medical research might bring results,” and passed the Sexual Deviation Research Act in 1950. And with that, according to The Times, efforts were now fanning out to “several laboratories, schools, hospitals, and clinics throughout the State.” The Dean of UCLA’s Medical School was already bragging of research breakthroughs. “It is now possible, he states, to predict with a fair degree of accuracy, through blood and urine tests, the onset of a sexually psychopathic ‘attack’.” What, exactly, was being studied was obviously very sensitive; it took eight paragraphs before the LA Times writer finally got around to describing what these “sexual deviations” might be:

Another study underway is concerned with diagnosis and treatment of homosexual males. The purpose of this research is twofold: (1) to make physical, psychiatric, glandular and mental studies of the types of homosexuals who affect feminine behavior and (2) to investigate such psychological factors in homosexuality as the personal, family, social and cultural histories of patients. Results of these studies, it is felt, should greatly add to more accurate diagnosis of types of homosexuality and its treatment.

Research would continue for at least another thirty years in California and throughout the western world, all to no avail. When the American Psychiatric Association finally determined in 1973 that homosexuality was not a mental illness in need of a cure, efforts to change sexual orientation in the scientific community slowly began to wane over the course of the next decade — with the notable exception of a very tiny religiously-motivated dissident minority, and their efforts to change sexual orientation still come up short. California’s law mandating research into curing homosexuality remained on the books, ignored and forgotten, until it was finally repealed in 2010. In 2012, California began moving toward the opposite direction when Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation which prohibits licensed professionals from providing conversion therapy to minors.

HC Robert Mapplethorpe.jpg

25 YEARS AGO: Cincinnati Museum Acquitted of Pornography Charges over Mapplethorpe Exhibit: 1990. Before the late 1980s, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe was known for his brilliant black and white photographs of achingly beautiful subjects: orchids, lilies and celebrities, including Richard Gere, Laurie Anderson, Peter Gabriel, Andy Warhol, Grace Jones and Patti Smith. But when he began putting together his 1989 exhibit, The Perfect Moment, he decided to include some of his more recent works, photos that he had begun taking since the early 1980s of very sexually explicit images of homoeroticism and sadomasochism. The exhibit, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, sparked immediate outrage among social conservatives. Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) tried to de-fund the NEA entirely, and wound up settling for yet another of those many “Helms Amendments” that wound up littering the legal landscape for decades to come. This amendment barred the NEA from funding “obscenity,” a nebulous mandate which cast a chilling effect on the arts for more than a decade.

The controversy led the Corcoran Gallery to cancel The Perfect Moment, in the summer of 1989, but the Washington Project for the Arts stepped in to host the show. Thanks to the publicity, some forty thousand people attended. The show’s next step was the University Art Museum in Berkeley, which hosted the show without incident. From there, it went to the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati, but police closed the exhibit on opening day in order to videotape the exhibit on orders from Hamilton County Prosecutor Arthur Ney. Later that day, Ney got an indictment from the grand jury charging the CAC and its director, Dennis Barrie, on charges of pandering obscenity and child pornography. If convicted, the museum faced fines of up to $10,000 and Barrie faced up to a year in prison and $2,000 in fines.

A demonstration in downtown Cincinnati immediately after the trial ended.

A demonstration in downtown Cincinnati immediately after the trial ended.

As far as anyone knew, no other museum in the country had ever been indicted on similar charges. The controversy had an immediate impact in the city and on the museum. When the exhibit reopened with seven portraits removed and replaced with black placards, crowds descended on the small museum to see what the fuss was all about. One farmer arrived with mud on his boots and overalls and presented a check for $20, saying that he’d fought in World War II for the freedom of expression exemplified by the exhibit. Nearly 80,000 people attended the exhibition, making it one of the most successful shows ever for the CAC.

When the trial got underway in late September, the jurors were subject to a crash course on art history and photography from some of the country’s leading museum directors. Martin Friedman, director of Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center, expounded on the formalism behind Mapplethorpe’s composition and lighting. Janet Kardon, the exhibit’s curator, testified, “No matter what the subject matter, he brought a sense of perfection to it. And all of the attributes one characterizes a good formal portrait by, that is composition and light and the way the frame is placed around the image, all of those things are brought to every image.” One of those images, was Mapplethorpe’s 1978 Self Portrait (NSFW), which featured what Kardon described as a “figure study” in which “the human figured is centered. The horizontal line is two-thirds of the way up, almost the classical two-thirds to one-third proportions … it’s very symmetrical, which is characteristic of his flowers.” Of course, none of his flowers had a bull whip inserted in the ass.

Evan Turner, from the Cleveland Museum of Art, told the jury, “I think with these difficult images, one way of judging their quality … is to look at them as abstract, which they are, essentially.” Robert Sobieszek, photography curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, placed the portraits in biographical terms: “They reveal, in very strong, forceful ways, a major concern of this creative artist; a major part of his life, a major part of his psyche or psychology, his mental make-up and perhaps, they say to me, some troubled portion of this life that he was trying to come to grips with… IT’s not unlike Van Gogh painting himself with his ear torn off, or cut up.”

Surprisingly, the prosecution called only one “expert” witness, the anti-gay activist and author Judith Reisman, who was then a paid “researcher” for the American Family Association’s. Her artistic background, as the defense repeatedly pointed out, was limited to writing songs for Captain Kangaroo.

Dennis Barrie hugs his attorney H. Louis Sirkin after hearing the verdict.

Dennis Barrie hugs his attorney H. Louis Sirkin after hearing the verdict.

After less than two hours of deliberation, the mostly blue-collar jury returned verdicts of not guilty. Defense lawyer H. Louis Sirkin called the verdict “a signal to everybody that before they start shutting down museums and telling people what they can say and what they can see, they better realize there is a protection out there, and it is the greatest document ever written.” A visibly relieved Barrie reacted, “This was a major battle for art and for creativity, for the continuance of creativity in this country. Mapplethorpe was an important artist. It was a beautiful show. It should never have been in court.” Meanwhile, the CAC came out of the controversy stronger than ever. It had overgrown its previous digs at the Mercantile Center and in 2003 moved into a splendid new building which the New York Times described as “the best new building since the Cold War.”

[Additional source: Richard Meyer. Outlaw Representation: Censorship and Homosexuality in Twentieth-Century American Art (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002): 211-218.]

175 YEARS AGO: John Addington Symonds: 1840-1893. He fulfilled the expectations of Victorian England by marrying and having a family, but the poet and literary critic was always conscious of “men constituted like me.” As an early proponent of what was then called “male love,” Symonds was among the first to publish works for general audiences with direct references to homosexuality. His 1876 Studies of the Greek Poets, Second Series, included praise for Greek “friendship,” which led to withering condemnation from critics. One critic decried Symond’s “phallic ecstasy” and his “palpitations at male beauty.”

While Symonds became more circumspect in identifying himself with “male love,” he nevertheless continued to explore the theme. Symonds’s 1878 translation of Michelangelo’s Sonnets corrected, for the first time, the proper male pronouns which had been rendered female by previous translators. And in that same year, he published his poem “The Meeting of David and Jonathan” (1878), where Jonathan, “In his arms of strength / Took David, and for some love found at length / Solace in speech, and pressure and breath / Wherewith the mouth of yearning winnoweth /Hearts overcharged for utterance. In that kiss / Soul into soul was knit and bliss to bliss.”


But Symonds kept most of his writings on homosexuality private, first in letters to Walt Whitman, Edmund Gosse, and Edward Carpenter, and later in privately-circulated works like Male Love: A Problem in Greek Ethics (1883) and A Problem in Modern Ethics (1891), where he wrote in the introduction this answer to those who argued that the only good homosexual was a celibate homosexual:

I have taken no vow of celibacy. If I have taken any vow at all, it is to fight for the rights of an innocent, harmless, downtrodden group of outraged personalities. The cross of a Crusade is sewn upon the sleeve of my right arm. To expect from me and from my fellows the renouncement voluntarily undertaken by a Catholic priest is an absurdity, when we join no order, have no faith to uphold, no ecclesiastical system to support. We maintain that we have the right to exist after the fashion which nature made us. And if we cannot alter your laws, we shall go on breaking them. You may condemn us to infamy, exile, prison -– as you formerly burned witches. You may degrade our emotional instincts and drive us into vice and misery. But you will not eradicate inverted sexuality.”

In 1893, he began to publish more openly about homosexuality in Walt Whitman: A Study, and he began a collaboration with Havelock Ellis, who was then embarking on his landmark study, Sexual Inversion. Symonds died in 1893, ten months into that collaboration. When Sexual Inversion made its English debut in 1897, Symonds was listed as co-author. But Symonds’s executor, scandalized at the association, prohibited his name from being further associated with the book. Symonds was credited as “Z” in the second 1897 printing, and his essay “A Problem in Greek Ethics” was deleted. Interest in Symonds was revived in 1963 when Phyllis Grosskurth won the 1964 Canadian Governor General’s Award for John Addington Symonds: A Biography. Twenty years later, she would also bring The Memoirs of John Addington Symonds to print for the first time in 1984, ninety-one years after his death.

David Pallone: 1951. Major League Baseball umpires never become household names. But a few can somehow find ways to become memorable. That happened to Pallone on April 30, 1988, when he was umpiring at first base in Cincinnati when, in the ninth inning, he called New York Mets outfielder Mookie Wilson safe on a delayed call. That delay allowed another Mets runner to score the winning run. Reds’ manager Pete Rose rushed to Pallone to argue the call. Tempers escalated, one thing led to another, Pallone might have touched Rose, Rose definitely shoved Pallone, and Pallone immediately ejected him from the game. Fans showered the field with trash for the next fifteen minutes and Pallone had to be taken out of the game to ease tension. Rose was suspended for 30 days and fined $10,000.

Later that year, Pallone was forced to resign when a New York Post article outed him as gay and claimed that he was part of a teenage sex ring. Those charges were later proven groundless, but Pallone says in his memoir Behind the Mask: My Double Life in Baseball that team owners were unimpressed and pressured baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti to fire him anyway. Or, more accurately, Pallone was paid to leave, and strongly encouraged to do so. Today, Pallone is a diversity trainer and motivational speaker based in Colorado.

Thomas Roberts


Thomas Roberts: 1972. The former CNN Headline News anchor became the first national anchorman to come out as gay when, in 2006, he spoke at the annual convention of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association in Miami Florida during a panel discussion titled “Off Camera: The Challenge of LGBT TV Anchors.” Describing his appearance on that panel as the biggest step he had taken publicly to be out, he had been coming out at CNN over the past several years. But he found the tension between his public life and private life to be difficult to balance. “When you hold something back, that’s all everyone wants to know,” he told the gathering.

Roberts stayed at CNN until 2007, when he resigned to move to Washington, D.C. to pursue other opportunities. In late 2010, he began guest-anchoring for MSNBC, and became a full-time anchor in December.  He currently anchors MSNBC Live with Thomas Roberts weekdays from 1:00 to 3:00 E.T. In 2012, Roberts married Patrick Abner in New York, making Roberts the first (and the most handsome) national anchor to marry a same-sex partner.

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The Daily Agenda for Sunday, October 4

Jim Burroway

October 4th, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Asheville, NC; Centreville (Bull Run), VA; Dallas, TX (Black Pride); Darwin, NT; Ft. Worth, TX; Jacksonville, FL; Miami Beach, FL (Hispanic Pride).

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

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Los Angeles Advocate, November 1968, page 13.

From The Los Angeles Advocate, November 1968, page 13.

Shands Hospital

Florida Hospital Dumps AIDS Patient: 1983. Twenty-seven-year-old Morgan MacDonald had been treated at Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida, since July for various opportunistic infections because of AIDS. When his state Medicaid benefits ran out, the private teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Florida tried to find a nursing home to send him to, but none in the area would take him. So the hospital declared MacDonald “well enough to walk,” stuffed $300 into his pocket, loaded him onto a Lear Jet with a doctor and a nurse, and shipped him off to San Francisco and dumped him at the offices of the city’s AIDS Foundation. The nurse and doctor walked out and left the volunteer staff to figure out what to do with him. He’s condition was so bad, he was unable to lift his head. Foundation volunteers took MacDonald to San Francisco General Hospital which immediately admitted him.

General’s Dr. Mervyn Silverman was furious. “I’ve never seen anything like it before,” he told reporters. “It’s unconscionable to do this to a patient, especially a patient in serious condition.” A Shands spokeswoman claimed that MacDonald didn’t need hospital treatment, but outpatient treatment instead, and said that shipping him off to San Francisco — even though he came to them from Vero Beach, Florida — was “a real humanitarian thing to do.” They also claimed that MacDonald was ambulatory when he left Shands, and that he worsened sometime after leaving. “AIDS is a disease where your condition changes,” the Shands spokeswoman said. San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein denounced the dumping and demanded that Florida Gov. Bob Graham investigate. A Florida Health Department official would later admit, “We are having problems in Florida because medical professionals are reluctant to provide care because they know so little about AIDS. We are seeing people take any opportunity within the law to avoid providing care.” The state, however, found no evidence of legal wrongdoing. MacDonald died in San Francisco, a medical outcast, sixteen days later. San Francisco General sent Shands Hospital a bill for $6,627.12, which Shands refused to pay.

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir: 1942. When she became Iceland’s first female Prime Minister in 2009 following more than a year of public protests over Iceland’s handling of the financial crisis, she broke yet another important barrier by becoming the world’s first open lesbian head of government. The LGBT community around the world cheered, but Sigurðardóttir had no time for celebrations. Her plate was full with the collapse of the island nation’s entire banking system and the stock exchange losing some 90% of its value. She renegotiated Iceland’s payment of bank deposits to holders in Netherlands and Britain — much to the outrage of Icelandic taxpayers, which rejected the deal in a 2010 referendum with a resounding 93% against and 2% in favor. A second round of negotiations also went down to defeat before Iceland’s voters in 2011 with 60% against and 40% for. Meanwhile, the arduous process of revising the country’s constitution produced one of Sigurðardóttir’s few victories, when voters approved it in a 2012 referendum with significant margins. In September 2012, she announced that she would not seek re-election in the upcoming elections. She retired from politics when the new government took office in May 2013.

Jóhanna had been in a Registered Partnership with Jónína Leósdóttir since 2002. When Iceland enacted its marriage equality law in 2010, Jóhanna and Jónína became among the first to convert their legal partnership into a marriage.

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The Daily Agenda for Thursday, October 1

Jim Burroway

October 1st, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Asheville, NC; Centreville (Bull Run), VA; Dallas, TX (Black Pride); Darwin, NT; Ft. Worth, TX; Jacksonville, FL; Miami Beach, FL (Hispanic Pride).

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

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From High Gear (Cleveland, OH), March 1976, page 10.

From High Gear (Cleveland, OH), March 1976, page 10.

The neighborhood in downtown Cleveland has changed quite a bit since the gays partied at the Rainbow. The building now houses the Local Heroes Grill, right across the street from Progressive Field, the home of the Cleveland Indians. When it opened in 1994, the ballpark was called Jacobs Field. While that name was retired when Progressive Insurance bought the naming rights in 2008, locals still call it the Jake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, September 30

Jim Burroway

September 30th, 2015

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Asheville, NC; Centreville (Bull Run), VA; Dallas, TX (Black Pride); Darwin, NT; Ft. Worth, TX; Jacksonville, FL; Miami Beach, FL (Hispanic Pride).

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

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Velvet Voice

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

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

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

Ari Shapiro

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

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

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The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, September 29

Jim Burroway

September 29th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Daily Agenda for Monday, September 28

Jim Burroway

September 28th, 2015

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), October 9, 1987, page 2. (Source.)

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), October 9, 1987, page 2. (Source.)

Mondays was male dancers night. According to this photo that ran in The Calendar in September, the Fantasy in Motion Dancers were pretty athletic.

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 9.02.35 PM

Tuscarora, Nevada.

Tuscarora, Nevada.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Washington 25, D.C.

Sep 28 1962

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

Dear Mr. Schuyler:

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

Sincerely yours,

John W. Macy, Jr.

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

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The Daily Agenda for Sunday, September 27

Jim Burroway

September 27th, 2015

Pride Celebrations Weekend: Sunderland, UKWillemstad, Curaçao.

Other Events This Weekend: Folsom Street Fair, San Francisco, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Public Enemies Number Three

Public Enemies Number Three (source)

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

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

Rev. Ray Broshears, Lavender Panthers organizer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Daily Agenda for Saturday, September 26

Jim Burroway

September 26th, 2015



Last night, Stephen Colbert did a segment on various politicians’ continuing opposition to same-sex marriage. Citing Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) assertion that now “you could marry your lawnmower” thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality, Colbert announced that he was going into the all-inclusive wedding cake topper business “for any marriage imaginable,” including various combinations and permutations of men and/or women of various quantities, as well as a man and a ghost, fifteen babies in top hats, Steve King and his lawnmower, and, of course, a man and a box turtle. I assume my royalty check is on its way.

Update: Here’s the video:

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Melbourne, FL; Memphis, TN; Moab, UT; Raleigh/Durham, NC; Willemstad, Curaçao.

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

Other Events This Weekend: Queer Lisboa Film Festival, Lisbon, Portugal; Folsom Street Fair, San Francisco, CA.

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From The Advocate, May 13, 1982, page 19

From The Advocate, May 13, 1982, page 19

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

Gay Man and Lesbian Killed in Firebombed Apartment: 1992. The election to decide the fate of Oregon’s Measure 9 was still just over a month away (see Nov 3), and the campaign waged by anti-gay extremists was already worrying to gay activists across the state. Measure 9, if enacted, would have amended the state constitution to prohibit the expenditure of “monies or properties to promote, encourage or facilitate homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism or masochism.” It would have banned gay groups from using city parks, and would have prohibited public libraries from carrying books about homosexuality.

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

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

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

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

Shirley Willer

Shirley Willer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marcia M. Gallo. Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement (New York: Carroll & Graf, 2006):82-83.]

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

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

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