Posts Tagged As: Daily Agenda

Today In History, 1954: “Great Civilizations Plagued By Deviates”

Jim Burroway

August 16th, 2016

MiamiDailyNews1954.08.16

“It seems melodramatic to talk about the downfall of nations and homosexuals in the same breath. But historians are quick to point out that moral degeneracy and the destruction of some of the greatest civilizations in the world were tied hand in hand.” How many times have you heard that one before? Those words came from the opening paragraphs of The Miami Daily News’ final installement in a three part series that formed part of its overall campaign to whip up anti-gay hysteria in South Florida (Aug 13Aug 15).

The campaign began in earnest just two weeks earlier when William T. Simpson, a 27-year-old Eastern Airlines flight attendant, was murdered by two men in a rolling-the-queers robbery (Aug 3). That murder led officials to discover a “colony of some 500 male homosexuals, congregating mostly in the near-downtown northeast section and ruled by a ‘queen’.” Simpson may have been murdered, two straight men may have been arrested and charged with the crime, but as far as the local newspapers were concerned, it was the homosexuals who were guilty of the whole mess, and they promptly launched a media-driven campaign that resulted in more raids and arrests by area police departments (Aug 13, Aug 14).

ONE, January 1954.

ONE, January 1954.

The papers had been itching for just such a campaign for a few years. There had been a round of raids on gay bars and beaches earlier in 1953, Those raids got the attention of ONE magazine, which wrote about Miami’s brief anti-gay campaign in January 1954. Despite all the bad news, ONE managed to find a silver lining. In contrast to Miami Beach police chief Romeo Shepard and Dade County Sheriff Tom Kelly, Miami Police Chief Walter Headley had established a policy of letting gay bars operate more or less undisturbed when he became chief in 1948. By letting bars operate in an area that became known as “Powder Puff Lane,” he felt he could keep a better eye on the city’s gay population. Besides that, drag shows were popular with tourists, and “if I ran all of the homosexuals out of town, members of some of the best families would lead the parade.”

Headley’s refusal to crack down earned ONE’s praises, which published an open letter, written by Dale Jennings (Oct 21) and addressed to Headley, applauding his “refusal to wholeheartedly support the current hysteria concerning homosexuality.” Jennings sent copies of the letter and the January issue to Shepard, Kelly, other Dade county officials and the two Miami newspapers. In July of 1954, three weeks before Simpson’s murder but soon after another media panic over the rape and murder of a young girl in southwest Miami, The Miami Herald, armed with a copy of ONE’s approval of Headley’s policies, went on the attack:

Police have erred in permitting perverts to assemble here — to corral them in places which are “on limits” to them. … Miami’s “powder puff lane” is a civic disgrace … [and] an invitation to all sex deviates in the United States to come here for sanctuary.. . . When large numbers of perverts are present in a community, the peril is multiplied. The example and temptation to our youth is vile.

A few weeks later, The Herald blasted Headley again for “setting-up a Powder-Puff Lane … The practice harks back to the days of red light districts, sordid political partnerships, and payoffs, and dark age police methods.” The Herald also referred to ONE’s article commending Headley’s policies: “Miami’s Powder-Puff Lane has made the city a concentration center of the gentry from all over the nation. They even have a national publication which applauds Miami and its police methods [and] condemns those cities which will not coddle them.”

Dr. Paul Kells

Dr. Paul Kells

Following Simpson’s murder, the afternoon Daily News wasn’t about to let its morning rival get the upper hand in the contest for who could out-vilify the gay community. For its third installment of its “educational” series on homosexuals, News staff writer Jack Roberts went all out, charging that homosexuality caused the fall of Greece and Rome. Unmentioned, of course, is that all great civilizations come to an end sooner or later, and by the time Rome fell it was an officially Christian nation. Roberts credited his defective understanding of history to “well-known Miami psychiatrist” Dr. Paul Wells, who had been featured in the first installment of the series (Aug 13):

Dr. Kells pointed out that the spokesman for homosexuals in the Los Angeles area (editor of a magazine for homosexuals) constantly crusade for a legitimate place in society. “But in all their arguments, they fail to look at the other side of the picture,” said Dr. Kells. “The most important thing to consider where moral degeneracy can lead to.”

The article gave a brief rundown on the “all-out war against homosexuals” being waged by Shepard and Kelly. “I simply want them to get out of town,” Shepard said. Kelly’s goal was the same: “I will keep on harassing the homosexuals until they understand they’re not wanted in Dade County.” And the News blasted Headley for his “reluctance to bother perverts.”

Representatives of the Dade County-area law enforcement agencies had formed a study group to come up with ideas on how to deal with the problems. Attorney E.F.P. Brigham, chairman of the group, described to the News their suggestion of a sexual psychopath law:

If a sexual deviate is accused of molesting a child, or any person for that matter, and manages to beat the charge ni court, the state will still have the right to order a mental examination for the offender. If the person is found to be a sexual psychopath (and that does not necessarily mean insane) the state will then have the right to institute civil action to put that person in the asylum for the rest of his or her life or until such time as a cure can be effected.

Brigham says he has no doubt that the legislators will approve of new laws to curb sexual psychopaths. “But I’m afraid they will balk at the money it will cost to provide asylum facilities, “he said. “I’m afraid they will look on the pervert problem as one belonging to Miami and not the state as a whole.”

…”It is most important to take these people away from society,” said Brigham. “By establishing a worthwhile asylum, it may be possible to cure some of these psychopaths and help them lead normal lives. We are going to cite case after case of children being violated to the Legislature to prove our point. It seems foolish to try to save a few tax dollars when so much is at stake.

When Brigham made his suggestion, twenty states already had similar sexual psychopath laws on the books. Florida enacted a sexual psychopath law in 1955, but it was declared “unconstitutionally vague” a year later.

[Additional sources: “Miami Junks the Constitution.” ONE 2, no. 1 (January 1954): 16-21.

Fred Fejes. “Murder, Perversion, and Moral Panic: The 1954 Media Campaign against Miami’s Homosexuals and the Discourse of Civic Betterment.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 9, No. 3 (July 2000): 305-347]

 

Born On This Day, 1923: Pierre Seel

Jim Burroway

August 16th, 2016

(d. 2005) Pierre’s troubles began when his watch was stolen while he was in a public square in his Alsace home in 1939. The watch, a gift from his godmother, had sentimental value, and so he reported the theft to police. The square where the theft occurred was a well-known cruising ground for gay men, but since homosexuality wasn’t illegal in France, there shouldn’t have been much of a problem. But local police added his name to a list of gay men they were maintaining, and when the Germans invaded in 1940, that list fell into Gestapo hands. Seel was picked up in 1941, beaten, had his fingernails pulled out, and raped with broken rulers.

Two weeks later, he was sent to the Schirmeck-Vorbrüch camp near Strasbourg, where the beatings, tortures and rapes continued. He wore a blue bar on his uniform instead of the pink triangle — the blue bar was reserved for Catholics and “a-socials” — but the nature of his “crime” was well known. “There was no solidarity for the homosexual prisoners; they belonged to the lowest caste,” he later recalled. “Other prisoners, even when between themselves, used to target them.” He and his camp were made to stand and watch as his eighteen-year-old boyfriend was stripped naked in the center of the yard and devoured by german shepherds. That scene would haunt his nightmares for the rest of his life.

After six months of starvation, torture and forced labor, Seen was set free without an explanation. What’s more, he was made a German citizen when Alsace was informally annexed by Germany. As a German, he was drafted into the army and sent to the Eastern Front. After the war, he made his way back to France. He took his family’s advice and went deeply underground about his sexuality, and married in 1950. The marriage was a difficult one, and it finally fell apart in 1978. In 1979, Seel happened to attend a debate in a bookstore for the launch of the French edition of Heinz Heger’s book, The Men with the Pink Triangle. Two years later, Seel went public with his story when the Bishop of Strasbourg denounced the performance of the French translation of the play Bent, which was based on Heger’s book.

From then on, Seel became an advocate for the recognition of gay victims of the Nazis, particularly those from the Alsace and Moselle regions of France. In 1994, Seel published his own memoir, I, Pierre Seel, Deported Homosexual. In 2000, he appeared in the American-made documentary, Paragraph 175. When the documentary premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, Seel traveled to Germany for the first time since the war and received a five-minute standing ovation.

France still has an uneasy don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy where German collaboration is concerned, and Seel’s opening of old wounds didn’t go down easy. In the 1980s and 1990s, he received numerous death threats. After appearing on French television, Seel was attacked and beaten by youths shouting homophobic epithets. The mayor of Strasbourg refused to shake his hand during a commemoration ceremony. But the distance of time has allowed some recognition of historical realities to take root. Seel received official recognition as a victim of the Holocaust in 2003, and in 2008, three years after his death in Toulouse, his adopted city, a street was renamed in his honor. The plaque reads, “Rue Pierre Seel — Déporté Français pour homosexualité — 1923-2005”.

Today’s Agenda Is Brought To You By…

Jim Burroway

August 15th, 2016

From American Journal of Urology and Sexology, December 1917.

From American Journal of Urology and Sexology, December 1917.

Today In History, 1891: Sexual Perversions “As Rare As They Are Disgusting”

Jim Burroway

August 15th, 2016

Dr. Charles L Dana

125 YEARS AGO: The August 15th edition of the Medical and Surgical Reporter included the text of a clinical lecture given by Dr. Charles L. Dana, M.D., who taught at the New York Post-Graduate Medical School. Dana’s talk, “On Certain Sexual Neuroses,” focused mostly on the dangers of masturbation — which was thought to cause various physical health problems and mental disturbances– and his treatments to “cure” his patients from the “vicious habit.” But he touched on a number of other sexual “perversions” as well, which he categorized this way:

The Sexual Psychoses are Divided into,

A — The Vicious Habits, such as masturbation, &c.
B — The Sexual Perversions, these are classified as

  1. Masturbation, sexual murder and anthropophagy.
  2. Flagellation.
  3. Exhibitionism
  4. Stercophily
  5. Contrary Sexual Instincts of which Pæderasty and Bestiality are examples.

C — Excessive Sexuality: —

  1. Sexual precocity
  2. Senile sexuality
  3. Satyriasis
  4. Nymphomania.

Of the sexual perversions I shall say nothing except that they are happily as rare as they are disgusting, and are usually an evidence of mental deterioration. They are sometimes, however, acquired vices being the result of a continual search for new sexual stimuli on the part of voluptuaries.

Let’s linger over the word “voluptuaries,” shall we?

In 1891, the term “contrary sexual instinct” was commonly deployed to described homosexuality — the term homosexuality itself had not yet entered the English language (May 6). Its conflation with bestiality and pederasty goes back centuries, as laws against sodomy typically made no distinction between the three.

But as I said, Dana’s article dealt chiefly with masturbation and another condition that was seen as equally injurious, nocturnal emissions (which carried the diagnosis of spermatorrhea). Both, which represented the expenditure of seed and accompanying energies for purely recreational purposes (or, in the case of nocturnal emissions, no purpose at all), were believed to be debilitating, particularly for young men and women (Jan 7, Mar 20, Mar 25Jul 5, Sep 16, Oct 16). For one sixteen-year-old patient who masturbated “weekly and sometimes daily,” Dr. Dana prescribed an extensive course of treatments:

He was placed on bromides, taken from school, and kept at work out doors. But his emissions continued. I saw him a month ago, and prescribed atropia and bromides, twice a day, noon and night, with a drachm of flud extract of salix nigra at night. Beside this, cold steel sounds were introduced into the urethra for ten minutes, three times weekly. He was made to take cold sponge baths daily, and was given an impressive lecture on the necessity of stopping his bad habits. He is very much better now, and on the high road to recovery.

[Source: Charles L. Dana. “On certain sexual neuroses.” Medical and Surgical Reporter. 65, no. 7 (August 15, 1891): 241-245. Available online at Google Books here.]

Today In History, 1954: “How Los Angeles Handles Its 150,000 Perverts”

Jim Burroway

August 15th, 2016

MiamiNews1954.08.15

“Is Greater Miami in danger of becoming a favorite gathering spot for homosexuals and sexual psychopaths? It happened in Los Angeels and it could happen here.” That was The Miami Daily News’ opening line in the second of three articles that appeared on the front page on Sunday, August 15, 1954 as part of the city’s newspapers’ ongoing campaign to whip up anti-gay hysteria in South Florida (Aug 3, Aug 11, Aug 12, Aug 13 (twice), Aug 14). The first article had appeared two days earlier (see Aug 13) featuring a local psychiatrist who characterized homosexuality as “worse than drug addiction or alcoholism” because “there is little hope for returning the established homosexual to a socially acceptable pattern.” Now the News published with another “educational” installment to describe what would happen if Miami became overrun with homosexuals the way Los Angeles did. ONE magazine, the first nationally-distributed pro-gay magazine in the United States (Oct 15), managed to catch the News’ attention:

In California the homosexuals have organized to resist interference by police. They have established their own magazine and are constantly crusading for recognition as a “normal” group, a so-called “third sex.” They number 150,000 in Los Angeles, their leaders say. They claim kinship by nature with some of the leading literary and business figures in the nation.

…Thad F. Brown, deputy chief of detectives for the City of Los Angeles, told The Miami Daily News that homosexuals and sexual psychopaths “are a tremendous problem in this city.” Chief Brown said a special detail works out of the vice squad to control homosexuals gathering in public places. … “This thing is like cancer, said Chief Brown. “It keeps getting bigger and bigger each year. We process about 150 homosexuals a month who are caught in the act.”

… The police in Los Angeles have a policy of harassment. “We keep a constant check on bars and restaurants where they hang out,” Brown said. “We try to get the licenses of the places catering to them.”

ONE1954.01The News described the January 1954 edition of ONE, which had criticized Miami Beach Police Chief Romeo Shepard for a series of raids at the 22nd Street beach in 1953. “Last Thursday Chief Shepard pulled another raid at 22nd Street,” said the News (Aug 13), “and will probably get another roasting from the magazine published in Los Angeles.” The News then warned that Miami may well end up like Los Angeles, maybe worse:

Miami and Los Angeles have much in common. Both have mild climates; both are vacation centers, ar in the midst of rapid growth and are cosmopolitan in attitude. In other words, Miami could follow a pattern to that of Los Angeles in regard to deviates. Florida’s laws for the punishment of the sexual psychopath are not nearly as harsh as California law. Punishment for homosexuals caught in the act is light.

Today In History, 1961: New York Columnist Says Gays Hold Loyalty To “No Country, No Law Or No Code”

Jim Burroway

August 15th, 2016

Lee Mortimer

55 YEARS AGO: Lee Mortimer, a columnist for the New York Mirror, had an unusual beat: he began his career as a crime reporter before becoming a Broadway and Harlem nightclub gossip columnist. He traded in sensation with a popular series of gossipy books about crime in the U.S., with titles like New York Confidential, Chicago Confidential, Washington Confidential, and U.S. Confidential, the latter of which drew libel lawsuits from two members of Congress. Those salacious books, which purported to describe the seedy underside of urban life, often included derisive descriptions of limp-wristed, sashaying and lisping homosexuals. On August 15, 1961, Mortimer decided that New Yorkers needed to know about the local chapter of the Mattachine Society which had been in existence since 1956, and wrote the following for his column in the Mirror:

DEPT. OF STIFLED YAWNS: There’s an international group known as the Mattachine Society, Inc. with headquarters at 1133 Broadway; which acts as a sort of defense agency for homosexuals. It talks loudly and stridently about their “civil rights” and lobbies to secure legislation making such disgusting practices legal. That has been done in many continental countries. The campaign is well on the way to reaching its objective in England, a country in which homosexualism has always had a head start…

In a letter signed “Albert J. de Dion, chairman” the statement is made that the society was in back of my “campaign” to rid the town of hoodlums who preyed on these “unfortunates,” but now it seems to be having second thoughts. “Fighting to keep criminal elements from our city is very commendable and deserves our support. But to attack a defenseless minority such as homosexuals is not in the best of American traditions.” I now ask whether it is in the best of American traditions to encourage the degenerates who roam our streets at night. I say these so-called “unfortunates” are no defenseless minority but a huge, well-organized, wealthy, defiant, politically powerful, intelligent community, spreading across national borders, with loyalty to no country, no law or no code, except their fellow deviates.

Today In History, 1972: Ohio Refuses to Incorporate Gay Organization

Jim Burroway

August 15th, 2016

Ohio Secretary of State Ted W. Brown

The Greater Cincinnati Gay Society’s proposed articles of incorporation said the group was formed “to promote the acceptance of homosexuality as a valid life style whenever and wherever possible by legal, political or other means.” When the Society filed its incorporation papers with Secretary of State Ted W. Brown (R), he   refused to approve, file and record the articles of incorporation because “homosexuality as a valid life style has been and is currently defined by statute as a criminal act.” In a radical interpretation of Ohio law, Brown held that just talking about homosexuality, apparently, was also against the law under Ohio’s anti-sodomy and solicitation statutes.

The three men who filed the articles — Powell Grant, Jack Busse, and Robert Dugan — appealed Brown’s decision to the Ohio Supreme Court, asking the court to order Brown to accept the incorporation request. While the case was pending, the Ohio Legislature undertook a massive revision to the Ohio Criminal Code (now routinely referred to as the Ohio Revised Code), and in the process eliminated the anti-sodomy and anti-solicitation laws. But the majority of the court appeared not to have gotten that memo. On July 10, 1974, four of the seven justices sided with Secretary Brown. They acknowledged that homosexuality was no longer illegal, but held that “promotion of homosexuality as a valid life style is contrary to the public policy of the state.” The minority pointed out that because Ohio had decriminalized all private sexual activity between consenting adults, there was nothing even remotely illegal about the Society.

In 1976, Brown apparently had a change of heart when he approved the filing of articles of incorporation for the Dayton Lesbian and Gay Center. In 1978, he lost his seat to his Democratic challenger in a very close race.

Today’s Agenda Is Brought To You By…

Jim Burroway

August 14th, 2016

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), August 13, 1982, page 18. (Source.)

From The Calendar (San Antonio, TX), August 13, 1982, page 18. (Source.)

Emphasis Mine

Jim Burroway

August 14th, 2016

The following is an excerpt from an Advocate article from August 14, 1974::

“The recent wave of publicity (on the gay nudes) has brought a rash of TV interviews with elderly women who reside in the Riis Park area. According to one newscaster, “The women could hardly put down their binoculars long enough to talk to us.” Field glasses dangling from their hands, the elderly ladies stated that they had been watching the beach intently ever since the gay nudity began. They stated that they are thoroughly scandalized and appalled by the numerous acts of gay sex they see transpiring daily on the teach. “You wouldn’t believe the shocking, perverted things that go on. It’s awful. We sit here and watch it all day,” one lady informed WABC-TV’s John Johnson.”

Today In History, 1953: “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female” Published

Jim Burroway

August 14th, 2016

The first half of what is collectively and colloquially known as “The Kinsey Report” appeared in 1948 with the publication of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (Jan 5). That volume revealed that the human male in America was having a hell of a lot of sex: pre-marital sex, extra-marital sex, self sex, oral sex, masochistic sex, sadistic sex, and, most shockingly, gay sex. The book was controversial, but somewhat less so than you might imagine. After all, boys will be boys, even in 1948, and sexual experiences were more or less seen as coming with the territory. Sure, there were criticisms: it wasn’t statistically rigorous, the sample wasn’t representative, he relied too much on questionnaires distributed among prison populations. And while the “how many” and “how often” is what was talked about most, the fact that there was any kind of data on an activity that everyone did but nobody talked about, helps to explain the first volume’s success. Now, all of the sudden everyone was talking about it — as science, not smut, which made all the difference in the world.

The reception for the second volume, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female in 1953 was very different. Kinsey anticipated some of its criticisms based on methodological complaints about the first volume. He purged the inmate and other atypical populations, and he listened more carefully to what statisticians were telling him. But he couldn’t correct all of his shortcomings. Clyde Klucknohn, a Harvard University anthropology professor, in a review for The New York Times, called the book “a brilliant and arguable contribution for which we are all in their debt.” He thought however that it was “not a definitive treatise…. The honest title would have been: ‘Some Aspects of Sexual Behavior in American Females (Primarily Educated, Protestant, Regionally Localized, Adolescent through Middle-Aged).'”

Time, August 24, 1953.

But other criticisms of Sexual Behavior in the Human Female went way beyond the statistical, largely because this time, we’re not talking about boys being boys, but the fairer sex and the flowering of female desires. Finding out that more than 90% of women had indulged in sexual petting, 66% dreamed about sex, 62% masturbated, about half had given blow jobs, half had had sex before marriage, a quarter had cheated on their husbands, and a sixth had had sex with another woman at least once in their lives (also: “Homosexual contacts are highly effective in bringing the female to orgasm.”) — all of that was seen as an attack on American Motherhood and her apple pie.

Kinsey was branded an enemy of religious propriety and American values. Rep. B. Carroll Reece (R-TN) chaired a House committee to investigate alleged ties between Kinsey and the Communist Party. The Rockefeller Foundation, which had provided funding for Kinsey’s studies, cut him off. Kinsey spent the next two years trying to find another benefactor, and the stress took its toll. He died in 1956 at 62 following years of declining health. The fallout from the two volumes would have a chilling effect on large scale statistical studies of human sexuality for the next 40 years. When AIDS appeared on the landscape in 1981, the Kinsey reports, flawed as they were, were still the only significant source of information on human sexual behavior on which to base a response.

Reactions to Sexual Behavior in the Human Female weren’t universally negative. A few found the volume’s titillation entertaining, and it certainly cut a wide swath through popular culture. But most importantly, many women found comfort in discovering that they weren’t sexual freaks, that many other women also enjoyed sex in all of its various forms. And despite their many methodological shortcomings, the Kinsey reports opened an entire field of study that was ripe for exploration. Pioneers often get things wrong; Columbus died believing he found a western route to the East Indies. But pioneers do one thing very well: they point the way for other explorers to carry on the work of discovery.

Today In History, 1954: Nineteen Arrested in Miami Bar Raids

Jim Burroway

August 14th, 2016

Miami’s media-driven anti-gay hysteria showed no signs of letting up (Aug 3, Aug 11, Aug 12, Aug 13 (twice)). Just the day before (Aug 13), Florida’s acting governor threatened to replace Dade County Sheriff Thomas J. Kelly for allegedly permitting “wide open” gambling and “failing to prevent the concentration of sex perverts in the county which had become emphasized recently.” It’s unknown what actions Sheriff Kelly took to curb gambling, but it only took him a day to put together a raid on several of the city’s gay bars. Nineteen were arrested, and a photo of one of the drag queens (sans wig) was splashed onto the front page of The Miami News:

Front page news.

Raiders Seize 19 in Pervert Roundup.

Nineteen suspected perverts were arrested early today in Miami and Miami Beach by raiding deputy sheriffs. The men were booked on vagrancy charges and held for a venereal disease check. One suspect was released in custody of his attorney. Deputies did not name the suspects.

Sheriff Thomas J. Kelly said his deputies had been watching bars where perverts had been seen and had made floor plans of each place to be visited.

Deputy Gerald Butler said Dr. M.J. Takos, Dade County Venereal Disease Control director, checked each person brought in by deputies. Dr. Takos decided which men were to be held.

Places on the list included the Good Hotel, Stockade Bar, Echo Club, El Morocco Bar, Sambo Bar, Circus Bar, Charles Hotel Bar, DeMarco Bar, Alibi Bar, Shanticleer [sic] Bar, Leon and Eddies, the Little Club, and Singapore Lounge, Butler reported.

Deputies taking part in the raids included Earl Venno, Bill McCrory, Bob Thomas, Paul Huizenga, Dick Shelton, Al Hickland, Frank Cilencion, and Joe Gorman.

Butler said the deputies were warned against “unnecessary rough stuff.”

Sheriff Kelly said “we don’t want perverts to set up housekeeping in this county. We want them to know that they’re not welcome.”

Kelly said he had been told by the health unit that five cases of primary syphilis have been reported in male homosexuals this months and the figure was considered “alarming.”

Today In History, 1961: San Francisco Police Raid Tay-Bush Inn

Jim Burroway

August 14th, 2016

55 YEARS AGO: San Francisco Mayor George Christopher faced a serious challenge to his re-election in 1959 from city Assessor Russ Wolden, Jr., who planted a story under a banner headline, “Sex Deviates Make S.F. Headquarters,” in the weekly San Francisco Progress (Oct 7). Wolden charged that Christopher allowed “this unsavory wicked situation … to fester and spread like a cancerous growth on the body of San Francisco.” If Wolden hoped to bring the entire city up on arms, he was successful beyond his dreams — but not in the way he planned. Over the next three weeks, San Francisco’s three dailies investigated the story and backed the incumbent, condemning Wolden for acting “beyond the pale of decent politics.” The concern wasn’t that Wolden had attacked a persecuted minority, but that he had “stigmatized the city” and “degraded the good name of San Francisco.”

Christopher won re-election by a landslide, but he was determined that he would never again be susceptible to charges of being soft on vice. One way of demonstrating his commitment was to launch a series of highly publicized gay bar raids, with the San Francisco Police Department coordinating their attacks with the California Alcohol and Beverage Control Board. The ensuing series of raids through the summer culminated in the largest vice raid in the city’s history, when 89 men and 14 women were arrested at the Tay-Bush Inn just a few bocks northwest of Union Square. Witnesses reported that police first allowed “respectable looking” and politically connected customers to leave quietly before beginning the round-up. Hal Call (Sep 20), the San Francisco gay rights activist who headed the Mattachine Society, recalled, “Ethel Merman just missed getting busted on that night by about fifteen minutes. She was starring in Gypsy, and she’d gone up to the Tay-Bush with some gay friends after the show.”

The San Francisco Chronicle said the raid “was reminiscent of the old speakeasy days of Prohibition,” The Chronicle wrote: “Three paddy wagons shuttled back and forth between the inn and the city prison – seven loads in all – and apartment house dwellers watched from their windows.” It was, the Chronicle said, “vaguely reminiscent of leading sheep from a packed corral.” Despite 103 arrests, authorities complained that another 139 intended detainees managed to slip away. Those arrested included actors, actresses, dancers, a state hospital psychologist, a bank manager, an artist and an Air Force purchasing agent, with the San Francisco Examiner listing every one of their names, addresses, occupations and employers.

All were charged with frequenting a disorderly house. The evidence, according to prosecutors: “The majority of the males affected swishy-hipped walks, limp-wristed gestures, high-pitched voices and wore tight pants…. The women were mannish.” About one in five or six were given an additional charge of lewd conduct, because they were seen dancing together or kissing. And because five or six couples were dancing, the Tay-Bush Inn was fined $400. The Mattachine Society paid for lawyers, and the disorderly house charges were eventually dropped for all but two. Mayor Christopher responded, “We found as always that some arrests are very difficult of prosecution because Courts demand total, complete, and unequivocal evidence, but we think we’re on the right track.”

But Christopher’s train soon derailed. The Chronicle’s reporting on the administration’s campaign against gay bars had been becoming increasingly critical against the police. Before the Tay-Bush raid, one columnist questioned where gay people would go if police succeeded in closing down all the gay bars. One possibility was unpalatable to readers: they might end up going to straight bars. When the Tay-Bush was raided, the Chronicle portrayed the patrons sympathetically, as ordinary middle-class, otherwise respectable citizens. It also described Bob Johnson, the Tay-Bush’s twenty-seven-year-old owner, as something of a martyr, who “seemed more concerned about his patrons than himself.” Columnist Herb Caen mocked the “courageous raid” and wrote, “The mayor is pleased. ‘Something is being done!’ Nothing is being done: The fashionable Ones don’t give themselves away. The only moral, if it’s a question of morals: Don’t be a poor One. Don’t be a poor anything.”

Responding to growing media criticism, Christopher pressured police chief Thomas Cahill to tone down the publicity and abandon the department’s massive, centrally-coordinated raids.

[Sources: Christopher Lowen Agee. The Streets of San Francisco: Policing and the Creation of a Cosmopolitan Liberal Politics, 1950-1972 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014): 98-101.

Edward Allwood. Straight News: Gays, Lesbians, and the News Media (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996): 39.

Hal Call. “Calling Shots.” Mattachine Review 7, no. 9 (September 1961): 12-14.

Eric Marcus. Making History: The Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights, 1940-1990. An Oral History (New York: HarperCollins, 1992): 39.

Del Martin. “Editorial: Fire Hoses Next? The Ladder 5, no. 12 (September 1961): 14-15.]

Today In History, 1985: Los Angeles Enacts AIDS Non-Discrimination Ordinance

Jim Burroway

August 14th, 2016

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved an ordinance protecting people with AIDS from discrimination in employment, housing and health care, making L.A. the first major city in the U.S. to pass such a measure. Before the vote, Councilman Joel Wachs, who introduced the measure, told the council, “We have an opportunity to set an example for the whole nation, to protect those people who suffer from AIDS against insidious discrimination.”

Wachs said that discrimination was a pressing problem. “There are a large number to cases of discrimination out there, where people are being fired, evicted and can’t get into an apartment because they have AIDS,” he said. Wachs also noted that half of the people with AIDS who file complaints die before their complaints are investigated. The city council opted for civil penalties instead of criminal penalties because civil proceedings are much faster. The ordinance provided for compensation for actual damages, costs, and attorney fees, and also provided for punitive damages. Councilman Ernani Barnardi hoped that the ordinance would have the effect of educating the public and calming the hysteria.

Wachs served on L.A.’s city council from 1971 to 2001. He came out in 1999 as he was preparing a 2001 run for the Mayor’s office.

Born On This Day, 1840: Richard von Krafft-Ebing

Jim Burroway

August 14th, 2016

(d. 1902) The Austro-German psychiatrist’s principal work, Psychopathia Sexualis was more than just the Kinsey Report of 1886; it single-handedly established sexology as a serious field of study. The last edition, his twelfth, included 238 case histories of human sexual behavior, and popularized such terms as sadism, masochism, fetishism, and the newly-coined word, homosexuality (May 6). He wrote it specifically for psychiatrists, physicians, and judges, using a dense academic style in order to discourage its purchase by lay readers. The most sordid parts, he wrote in Latin to further discourage casual reading.

A native of Baden, Germany, Krafft-Ebing studied medicine and psychiatry at the University of Heidelberg. He taught at the Universities of Strasbourg, and then at Graz, where he also served as superintendent of the Feldhof mental asylum. When he arrived at the asylum, he found that it was operated more as a dungeon than a treatment facility, and he fought for its reform, a fight which was ultimately unsuccessful. But it led him to publish the Text-Book of Insanity in 1879 to promote therapy rather than imprisonment for the mentally ill.

In Krafft-Ebing’s study of insanity, he often encountered sexual practices which were routinely characterized as causes of insanity or dismissed as vile criminal practices, but which were otherwise little studied. This deficiency in the scientific literature led to what would turn out to be his life’s work. Psychopathia Sexualis catalogued a wide range of sexual practices, from masturbation, impotence, fetishisms, necrophilia, lust-murder — you name it. The practices were carefully categorized as paradoxia (sexual desire at the wrong time of life), hyperaesthesia (excessive sexual desire), anaesthesia (absence of sexual desire) and, the largest, paraesthesia (which he called the perversion of the sexual instinct).

Krafft-Ebing’s notable achievement with Psychopathia Sexualis is that it allowed psychiatry to claim authority over sexual knowledge, where previously it was seen as a religious or criminal problem. Before Psychopathia Sexualis, sexual behavior that was not directed toward procreation — especially promiscuity and masturbation — was believed to cause insanity. Psychopathia Sexualis flipped that understanding around, and argued that “deviant” sexual behaviors were the result of a more fundamental disorder. For homosexuals in particular, he concluded that gay people were suffering from a kind of a biologically-based anomaly, one which occurred sometime during gestation, which resulted in a “sexual inversion” of the brain.

Despite Krafft-Ebing’s efforts at objectivity, he was never able to escape the nineteenth-century assumptions that regarded recreational sex as a perversion of the sex drive. But in his later years, Krafft-Ebing’s opinions became more lenient toward gay people. He was among the first to sign Magnus Hireschfield’s petition for the repeal of Germany’s Paragraph 175, which criminalized sexual behavior between men. In his last article on homosexuality, published in Hirschfeld’s Yearbook for Intermediate Sexual Types, Krafft-Ebing described his earlier views of homosexuality as pathology as being one-sided, and argued that gay people should be treated with sympathy and compassion. However condescending that viewpoint was, it was also, at least, an improvement. But in the end Krafft-Ebing’s work had the practical effect of extending Victorian morality for most of the next century by merely replacing religious moralism with a scientific gloss. It would take nearly nine decades after Psychopathia Sexualis’s publication before the American Psychiatric Association would finally cut through that gloss once and for all and remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders (Dec 15).

The 1894 English translation of Psychopathia Sexualis, which is credited with introducing the word “homosexuality” into the English language, is available for free at Google Books here

Born On This Day: 1876: Sibilla Aleramo

Jim Burroway

August 14th, 2016

140 YEARS AGO: (d. 1960) Reared outside of Milan where her father managed a glass factory, young Rina Faccio was unable to continue her education beyond the elementary level. At fifteen, she began seeing a man ten years her senior, who raped her at her father’s factory. Rina didn’t tell her parents what happened, and instead wound up marrying him. A year and a half later, she had a son, and eight years later she left her husband and moved to Rome. Her new lover, the journalist Giovanni Cena, convinced her to turn her story into a fictionalized memoir, Una Donna (A Woman), which she published in 1906 under the pen name of Sibilla Aleramo.

Aleramo became active in politics and the arts, which is how she came to meet the Italian feminist Lina Poletti at the First National Congress of Women in Rome. The two women entered what is described as a volatile relationship, even as Aleramo remained with Cena. In her letters to Poletti, she wrote that she didn’t feel at all guilty about being in love with both of them at the same time; Poletti answered that the dual relationships threatened Aleramo’s sanity. Aleramo’s relationship with Poletti ended after a year. Aleramo went on to become one of Italy’s leading feminists, and Una Donna is now considered an Italian classic as the first outspokenly feminist Italian novel. She remained active in feminist politics until her death in 1960.

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