The Daily Agenda for Friday, December 13
December 13th, 2013
THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
What Probation Officers Can Do For Homosexuals: 1949. Until Illinois became the first state in the nation to decriminalize homosexuality in 1961 (see Jul 28), it was illegal, and often a felony, in all fifty states and the District of Columbia. When caught, some were imprisoned, some were sent to mental institutions, some were fined (and some were blackmailed and forced to pay bribes), and some were placed on probation. Which meant that the question of what to do with gay people became a probation officer’s problem, whose task it was to serve multiple roles: law enforcer, social worker, employment counselor, and psychologist. Naturally, probation officers sought the opinions of psychologists and psychiatrists on how to deal with the many problems that they encountered.
In December 1949, the professional journal Federal Probation published an article by Dr. Manly B. Root, staff psychiatrist at the U.S. Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, which the journal’s editor emphasized, “is must reading for all probation officers.” Dr. Root wrote that one of the more perplexing questions confronting probation officers is “how a normal baby with all potentialities for good grows into an individual whose lax moral standards, thoughtless hedonism, callous conscience, and rebellious aggressiveness make of his character and personality a person who has to be locked up by society for its own protection.” And among the different characters Root addressed were alcoholics, drug addicts, psychopathic personalities, neurotics, psychotics, and “sexual deviates.” Of the latter, he identified four categories:
- “uncontrolled heterosexuality” (rapists and “the so-called ‘Don Juan’ type among men and the so-called ‘nymphomania’ type among women”),
- active homosexuality,
- passive homosexuality,
- and “polymorphous perverse sexual state” (“individuals who seem never to crystallize their sexual aims or desires. They are essentially children or at most adolescents in their psychosexual behavior and attitudes; are ready to try any kind of sexual expression.”).
Root defined the second and third categories this way:
Active homosexuality.– These persons have as their sexual object a person of the same sex; as their sexual aim, sexual union with the other person. They desire the masculine role, acting toward their homosexual lover as a normal person would toward a lover of the opposite sex.
Passive homosexuality.– These persons have as their sexual object a person of the same sex; as their sexual aim, sexual union with the other person. They desire the feminine role, acting toward their lovers as normal persons would toward lovers of the opposite sex.
Remember these distinctions: the active homosexual (when a man) treats a male lover as though he were a female. The passive homosexual (when a man) treats the male lover as though the lover were a male, and he (the passive homosexual) a female. All three of these types [Here, Root includes "uncontrolled heterosexuals"] may be aggressive or not; that is, they may seek the lover or may respond to the lover’s seeking. All three may be constantly true to their abnormal type, or may be what we call facultative; that is, sometimes “normal” and sometimes “abnormal.” In the field of personality distortions hardly anyone is the same sort of person all of the time.
As you can see, in 1949, the gender role men played (and it was mostly men who were convicted) was still deemed to be of great significance, even though the advice Root gave was undifferentiated based on whether the individual was “active” or “passive.” His first piece of advice, aside from suggesting that probation officers read Freud’s Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex, was to “advise and discuss, but do not be ‘preachy’. Almost everyone has some peculiarities and worries and guilt feelings and conflicts about his or her sex life.” He also reminded his readers that “you cannot control another person’s sex life. You can only give guidance and leadership.” He continued:
Much of the good done by doctors, by friends, and by priests at the confessional, comes from what psychoanalysts call catharsis — letting off steam and relieving tension by talking to a sympathetic listener. Another point to remember is that the tension caused by a person tortured by psychosexual pathology can be relieved in only four ways, as follows:
(1) Frank acceptance of the abnormal sexual desires and frank yielding to them. This results in the individual becoming an overt participant in his particular kind of sexual pathological activity. He is then no longer ashamed of his longings and activities, enjoys them, and considers the people we call normal as narrow-minded. Tension leaves him for he has avoided conflict about the matter.
(2) Frank acceptance of the abnormal sexual desires but refusal to yield to them. This results in some tension because of the constant restraint, but the acceptance of the abnormal desires does away with the more serious conflict which always occurs when an individual refuses to admit his personality or character peculiarities, sexual or otherwise. His mental state is then to be compared on a heterosexual level to the normally sexed man or woman who for some reason remains unmarried and continent. He is consciously exercising self-control, not fighting an inward conflict.
(3) Relief of tension by sublimation. This word, which is taken from physics, refers to the purification of an impulse or tendency or desire into a socially acceptable form of activity. This is not done consciously like the solution discussed under (2), but is an unconsciously developed mechanism. Its explanation lies in the field of psychoanalytic theory, not at all universally accepted. It is pretty generally believed, however, that many people find happiness by satisfying their antisocial tendencies in a way which does good instead of harm. To give specific examples of this sublimation in a paper prepared for nonmedical readers might cause embarrassment. Suffice it to say here that any overpowering interest or vocation or avocation which your clients show may lead the way to a possible sublimation of antisocial or abnormal sexual tendencies.
I’m going to pause here to wonder aloud what he meant when he said that giving examples of sublimation “might cause embarrassment” for the reader. Which reader did he have in mind? Did he sense there were a number of probation officers with “abnormal sexual desires”? Judges? Social workers? Anyway, he continued:
(4) Repression of the sexual conflict. Another and always tragic solution of an individual’s conflict about his sexual peculiarities involves its repression. According to psychoanalytic theory, at least, such a person is actually able to repress his conflict. Thus a homosexual, for instance, comes to believe that he is not a homosexual at all. If this were all, it would be a happy solution. Unfortunately for such a patient — for such persons then become psychotic — the repressed desires remain active and seek expression in some way. These ways take place through delusions and hallucinations in which homosexual threats seem to come from other persons. Depending upon the subject’s personality makeup, varied symptoms may develop and the individual becomes the victim, as he sees it, of a hostile world which is trying to force him into homosexuality, and of hallucinations and voices which accuse him of the very perversions he has repressed. Thus a person cannot safely repress his desires without becoming psychotic or exhibit some sex deviation.
Root concluded that “the only safe way of keeping his mental health are the first three alternatives,” ruling out the fourth for obvious reasons. But he advised probation officers to try to direct their charges to the second and third alternatives because “it is probable that we can do little to help the probationer as to the way in which he solves the conflict.” He left unmentioned that the first option might get the probationer in trouble with the law all over again, an option that the very audience Root is writing to would reject out of hand. Besides, Root added, “He is never as effective an individual as is the man who accepts his peculiarities and succeeds in controlling them” — and by “controlling them,” he meant “not doing it.” Easy advice for Root to dispense; he went home every night to his wife Dorothy and son Charles.
[Source: Manly B. Root "What the probation officer can do for special types of offenders." Federal Probation 13, no. 4 (December 1949): 36-46.]
Masturbate Your Way To Heterosexuality: 1970. The basis of Behavioral Therapy is that the experience of rewards and punishments were a determining factor for a wide range of human behaviors. In the late 1960s when Behavioral Therapy rivaled classic Freudian psychoanalysis as the predominant school of thought in the mental health professions, BTs began to exhibit some of the same kinds of hubris that they had accused psychoanalysts of exemplifying, especially when BTs began classifying all forms of human thoughts and feelings as “behavioral” and, therefore, amenable to modifications through punishment and rewards. As we now know, much of those punishments were appallingly cruel, torturous, and ineffective. (One example is illustrated in our award-winning report “What Are Little Boys Made Of?”, about the tragic aftermath of Kirk Murphy’s treatment at the hands of a Behavioral Therapist by the name of George Rekers.)
But some patients, if they were lucky (I suppose), underwent Behavioral Therapy that emphasized the “reward” end of the punishment/reward dichotomy. Some of those patients were clients of Dr. John N. Marquis, a psychologist at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Palo Alto, California. His paper appeared in the December 1970 issue of the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, in which he argued that by encouraging clients to think of opposite-sex partners while masturbating, he could change their “behavior” — remember, to Behavioral Therapists, sexual orientation was nothing but “behavior” — to heterosexuality. He didn’t rule out aversion therapy (i.e. electric shock, etc.) if he thought it was needed — “often… aversive conditioning to the perverse stimuli are indicated…” — but he felt that it was best to hold that off until at least some level of “behavior” — by which he meant attractions — was exhibited towards the opposite sex. And how was that accomplished?
The client is instructed to masturbate to the point where he feels the inevitability of orgasm using whatever fantasy is most arousing. Then he is to switch to the appropriate fantasy. He is warned that he may experience some difficulty at first, but that he will not lose his sexual arousal at that point. After he has successfully shifted to the appropriate stimulus four or five times (this is arbitrary but seems to work) he is instructed to start moving the introduction of the appropriate fantasy backward in time toward the beginning of masturbation. An attempt is made at the outset to get a commitment from the client never to continue picturing the inappropriate fantasy through the occurrence of an orgasm, whether in masturbation or overt sexual behavior.
That was the procedure. Dr. Marquis also had some practical advice:
If the client is generally tense he is instructed to relax before masturbating, because sexual arousal and anxiety are incompatible. If he reports feeling guilty after masturbating he is instructed to relax after masturbating as well. It may be suggested that he increase the frequency of masturbation in order to speed the process of reorientation or to decrease the frequency in order to increase drive level if he masturbates more than once a day. It is often helpful to suggest the use of a lubricant to enhance physical stimulation.
Marquis wrote that he had been prescribing this therapy for patients since 1965, and that “all of the cases described below were seen because they were suffering human beings seeking help, and not as experimental subjects.” That, of course, is crucial: it’s your first clue that this is by no means a controlled, scientific study. He provided detailed case studies of two of his patients, and brief descriptions of twelve more. All but one were “successes” to varying degrees, although only one case had anything remotely resembling a long-term follow-up. And that only happened because Marquis happened to run into that former client and his new wife three years later at a cocktail party. At least some of those successes were dubious, and not all of them involved gay people. One was a pedophile, another woman enjoyed “sado-masochistic masturbation” which, Marquis explained, were not “normal heterosexual fantasies” (although he doesn’t mention whether her fantasies involved men or women), and one was someone we would today see as just another socially-awkward nerd:
Case 13. A 24-year-old male computer programmer who was very shy had had intercourse rarely but had frequently masturbated to fantasies and pictures of beautiful girls. As a result he was completely unattracted to girls who were not strikingly beautiful. This was a serious problem since he was homely and inarticulate. Orgasmic reconditioning led to considerable improvement, but he remains a little bit too particular.
As you can see, the measurements that would constitute “considerable improvement” are what real scientists would call “anybody’s guess.” The only thing we can know from this study is that Marquis believes that most of his clients are able to masturbate to a “normal heterosexual fantasy.” We know nothing about any actual changes in his clients’ preferred masturbatory fantasies, let alone any actual or even perceived changes in sexual orientation. But that flimsy standard is precisely the kind of evidence that the National Association for Research and Treatment of Homosexuality holds in very high esteem. When NARTH published their 2009 “journal”, they claimed to have “examined more than 100 years of professional and scientific literature from 600-plus studies and reports,” all of it proving, in their minds at least, that “sexual orientation can be changed.” And of course, Marquis’s paper made the cut.
[Source: John N. Marquis. "Orgasmic reconditioning: Changing sexual object choice through controlling masturbation fantasies." Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry 1, no. 4 (December 1970): 263-271.]
Richard Isay: 1934-2012. The American Psychiatric Association decided in 1973 that homosexuality was not an illness in need of a cure. The American Psychological Association followed suit two years later. But the American Psychoanalytic Association was very slow to get on board. Until 1992 psychoanalists were still treating gay people as though they were ill, and openly gay candidates were barred from enrolling in the group’s training institutes, which is a requirement for certification. That the APsaA waited so long to finally join the modern era is incredible. Who knows how much longer it would have taken for the APsaA to change its ways without the badgering, prodding, and legal threats of Dr. Richard Isay.
A native of Pittsburgh, Isay studied medicine at Haverford College and the University of Rochester, then completed his psychiatry residency at Yale. From there, he completed training for psychoanalysis at the Western New England Psychoanalytic Institute. Early in his own career, he was troubled by his own sexuality and underwent psychoanalysis in a quest for a cure. But after ten years, now with a wife and two sons, he realize that he was no more straight than he was before he started. After meeting the man who would become his life partner, he came out to his wife in 1980. They decided to stay married for another nine year for the sake of the children, and then they divorced once the children were grown.
While he remained closeted, he began working with gay patients — not to make them straight, but to help them accept themselves. He also began writing about homosexuality as something normal, and not as an illness or a deficiency in development. In 1989, he published his groundbreaking book, Being Homosexual: Gay Men and Their Development — it was groundbreaking for psychoanalysis, anyway — in which he argued that because homosexuality was inborn, gay men experienced a natural developmental pathway which presented its own set of opportunities and challenges. Dr. Isay also presented his ideas at professional meetings, where he also began to acknowledge that he was gay. Fellow psychoanalysts weren’t receptive to that revelation. They attacked his work and stopped referring patients to him, suggesting instead that he needed more therapy himself.
Finally, after years of trying to prod the APsaA to end its discrimination against gay candidates in its training institutes, Isay met with the American Civil Liberties Union and began laying plans for a lawsuit. That finally got the organization’s attention. In 1991, the the APsaA finally adopted a policy prohibiting its training institutes from discriminating against gay candidates. After that, changes came quickly for the organization. In 1997, the APsaA became the first mental health organization to endorse same-sex marriage, and in 1999 it opposed therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation.
This undoubtedly came as a shock to those psychoanalysis who continued to believe that homosexuality was a disorder. Among mental health professionals who held that view, psychoanalysts made up a disproportionately large group. In 1992, a dissident group of psychoanalysts led by Dr. Charles Socarides founded the ex-gay organization, National Association for Research and Treatment (later changed to Therapy) of Homosexuality (NARTH). “Reparative Therapy,” the particular form of ex-gay therapy challenged by many in NARTH, remains rooted in older psychoanalytic theories, even as mainstream psychoanalysts have adopted insights from biology and psychiatry to form a more comprehensive and nuanced view of how — rather than why — gay people develop.
As for Dr. Isay himself, he continued working as a full professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College and as a faculty member of the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research. He also continued his advocacy for gay people. In his 1997 memoir, Becoming Gay: The Journey to Self-Acceptance, he described his own struggles with his sexuality and with his profession. In 2006, he wrote Commitment and Healing: Gay Men and the Need for Romantic Love, in which he described the difficulty many gay men have in sustaining loving relationships. As for his own efforts in that area, Isay was relatively successful, given the circumstances: he married his partner of 31 years in 2011 when same-sex marriage became legal in New York. He died of cancer in 2012 at the age of 77.
Allen R. Schindler, Jr.: 1969-1992. When “little Allen” was growing up, his step-father regaled him with stories of surviving the sinking of the battleship USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor. And so when he decided to enlist in the Navy on turning eighteen, it came as no surprise to his mother. He was ecstatic to learn that he would be assigned to the aircraft carrier Midway, but in 1991 he was transferred to the Belleau Wood, a smaller ship with a reputation for poor discipline. On October 27, 1992 while on shore leave in Sasebo, Japan, two drunken shipmates from the Belleau Wood followed Schindler into a public restroom in a park. Airman Charles Vins watched — and occasionally joined in — as Airman Apprentice Terry Helvey kneed Schindler in the arm, punched him repeatedly on the floor, and stomped on him with the heel of his boot. The pathologist described Schindler’s body as the worst case he had ever seen, and compared the damage to that of a “high-speed auto accident or a low-speed aircraft accident.” He also said that it was worse than another case he had seen, that of a man who had been trampled to death by a horse. The pathologist’s report chronicled a litany of lacerations, contusions and abrasions of the forehead, eyes, nose, lips, chin, neck, Adam’s apple, trachea, lungs, liver (which was “like a smushed tomato”) and, tellingly, penis. All but two ribs were broken, and both his lungs and brain had hemorrhaged. The only thing recognizable about Allen’s body was a tattoo on his right arm, of the USS Midway.
The Navy stonewalled the investigation. The murder occurred just as the pre-DADT debate was getting started over allowing gays to serve in the military. The Navy refused to confirm how Schindler died or whether a weapon was involved. At one point, a Navy senior officer leaked the story that Schindler’s murder was the result of a romance with Helvey gone bad. Meanwhile, Schindler’s mother, Dorothy Hajdys, was kept in the dark by Navy officials about what happened to her son or about the investigation. Her journal told the story: “Oct. 30: Heard nothing. Nov. 1: Sill heard nothing.” Meanwhile, the Navy tried Vins without her knowledge and sentenced him to four months in the brig. All the information Dorothy received about her son’s case came from the press. That’s how she learned her son was gay and had been killed by his shipmates in an anti-gay orgy of violence. “If one more reporter calls me with information before you do,” she told the Navy commander in charge of the case, “you haven’t even heard me scream!” Two months after the murder, Navy officials finally admitted that Schindler had been killed in a gay bashing.
The Navy denied that they had received any complaints of harassment. But as the investigation continued, it was slowly revealed that Schindler’s ship, the amphibious assault ship Belleau Wood, was a living nightmare for him. His locker had been glued shut and he was the brunt of frequent comments, like, “There’s a faggot on this ship and he should die.” Schindler requested a separation from the Navy, but his superiors insisted he remain aboard ship until the process was finished. During Helvey’s trial , it was revealed that Helvey told one investigator that he had no remorse for the killing. “I don’t regret it. I’d do it again. … He deserved it.” After confessing to the murder, he wrote in a four page statement, “Homosexuality is disgusting, sick and scary and I hate homosexuals.” When the investigator suggested that he might want to consider expressing remorse, he wrote, “I regret this incident happened and I feel like it could have been averted had homosexuals not been allowed in the military.”
Helvey avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty to “inflicting great bodily harm,” and was sentenced to life in prison. The ship’s captain who had tried to keep the crime quiet was demoted and transferred to Florida. Dorothy, virtually overnight, became a fierce advocate for hate crime protections and for gays being allowed to serve in the military. Helvey is still serving his lifetime sentence. In 1994, two years after the murder, he still had no regrets. He told a reporter:
We were just doing the Navy thing … We were drinking and fighting. It happened so many times, I can’t count them. That’s all we ever did was drink and fight. I was having fun and this dude ended up dying.”
If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).
And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?
The Daily Agenda for Thursday, December 12
December 12th, 2013
TODAY IN HISTORY:
“The Lancet” Publishes Article By Gay Physician: 1959. Through much of the previous five years since the Home Secretary appointed the Wolfenden Commission to examine Britain’s laws criminalizing homosexual relationships, there had been a great deal of discussion in the popular and professional press about what it means to be gay, whether being gay was equivalent to being mentally ill, and whether male homosexual relationships should be decriminalized. (Lesbian relationships had never been illegal in Britain.) The Wolfenden Commission in 1957 recommended that Parliament rescind its laws which criminalized homosexual behavior (see Sep 4), but the debate over whether it should continue to be regarded a mental illness raged on. On December 12, 1959, an interesting article appeared in that week’s issue of the medical journal The Lancet, titled simply “Male Homosexuality” by an un-named “medical practitioner.” The reason for the unnamed authorship became clear in the article’s first two paragraphs:
A true picture of male homosexuality in the community cannot be given if — as in most medical publications — it is based on material drawn only from psychiatric practice, prisons, mental hospitals, and venereal-disease clinics. So long as the only doctors who write on this subject are heterosexual, so long as public opinion is based on emotional prejudice, so long as the law makes it dangerous for the homosexual himself to express an opinion, the present profound ignorance of the subject-both inside and outside the medical profession-will continue.
As a general practitioner and a homosexual, I have over the past thirty years discussed the subject intimately in an atmosphere of mutual understanding and confidence with several hundred homosexual men of many nationalities, colours, cultures, and creeds. The following case histories provide, I believe, a typical cross-section of male homosexuality in the community.
He then went on to provide brief case histories of sixteen gay men. Some lived their lives in secret, others were quite open about their sexuality. Some had married and later divorced, some were bisexual and successfully married, some were partnered with other men in stable relationships, other relationships were not so stable, and others were lifelong bachelors. Some were faithful to their wives or partners, others sought discreet affairs, and others still were quite promiscuous. They came from all walks of life: doctors, businessmen, an airline pilot, a farmer, an artist, and one did the housekeeping for his partner. Most were well-adjusted, although two battled depression. One of the two was struggling with what we would now recognize as gender dysphoria. Ages ranged from 21 to the mid-80s.
The picture that emerged was a highly heterogeneous one, with very little tying them all together except, perhaps, the overall lack of conformity with prevailing stereotypes. Most critically, according to the author, “None of them has ever been on a police charge for a homosexual offence. None of them knows of any reason why they are homosexually orientated, and all agree that seduction in childhood by older persons was not the cause. I have attended most of them professionally, but none of them consulted me because of homosexuality.” He also discounted the possibility of “curing” people of their homosexuality:
As far as I am aware homosexually deviated instincts have never been permanently reorientated into heterosexual channels. Claims have been made but none have ever been submitted to the criteria for other medical claims — namely, independent scrutiny and adequate lapse of time to prove permanence. To accept marriage, or an intention to marry, as a criterion of cure is unrealistic.
He ended his discussion with a note on the the the public’s perceptions about the morality of male homosexuality:
In discussions of homosexuality the physical aspects tend to be overemphasised while the emotional aspects are overlooked. Yet these may be as intense as those experienced by heterosexuals. Many homosexual friendships, like many heterosexual friendships, do not include physical acts. The homosexual liaison — unlike marriage is unsupported by legal, social, economic, or family considerations tending to encourage permanency. I do not believe that homosexuals are inherently more promiscuous than heterosexuals would be if they had to live under similar conditions of loneliness and sexual insecurity.
Lesbianism, fornication, adultery, rape, even murder can usually be discussed calmly and objectively, but male homosexuality rarely. It seems likely that the illogical and disproportionate emotional reaction produced in some people –usually men, not women — by this subject is caused by unresolved conflicts. It is widely believed among homosexuals that exaggerated revulsion is an indication of latent homosexual tendencies.
Homosexual problems are often the cause of alcoholism and suicide, though the basic reason for these tragedies is rarely disclosed and usually unsuspected.
I make no attempt to defend the immorality disclosed in many of the case-histories, beyond suggesting that it should be judged alongside heterosexual immorality.
[Source: A Medical Practitioner. "Male Homosexuality." The Lancet Lancet 274, no. 7111 (December 12, 1959): 1077-1080.]
Danish Surgeon Dies Of Mysterious Disease: 1977. AIDS has often been mischaracterized as a gay man’s disease, but it’s quite possible that the first gay person to die from it was actually a lesbian. Dr. Margrethe P. Rask — her friends called her Grethe –was a indomitable woman who was as intense as she was relentless in the care that she gave to her patients in the remote Zairian villages near the Congo River basin. She had worked in Zaire in 1964, and she returned again in 1972, to a primitive rural hospital in northern Zaire delivering much-needed surgery to her patients amid appalling poverty and severe shortages. Everything was in short supply: syringes, antiseptics, even surgical gloves. Supplies were used and re-used until they wore out, and it wasn’t unusual for her to perform emergency surgeries with her bare hands. After putting together a simple jungle hospital in the remote village of Abumombaz and bringing it into operation, she took on a job as head surgeon at the Danish Red Cross Hospital in Kinshasa in 1975.
A fellow doctor and friend, Dr. Ib Bygbjerg, became worried over Gerthe’s weight loss. She was suffering from persistent diarrhea and fatigue since 1974, but given the host of often unknown tropical diseases which were common in northern Zaire, her condition was overlooked at first. But when standard treatments only temporarily alleviated the symptoms without actually restoring her health, Bygbjerg looked further and found that her lymph nodes, the glands that play an essential role on the body’s immune system, were completely out of whack. They had been swollen for nearly two years for no apparent reason.
In July 1977, Grethe took a vacation to South Africa to try to rest up from her constant fatigue, but her condition got worse. She became short of breath and was flown immediately back home to Denmark. Some of Denmark’s best doctors worked frantically to try to figure out what was wrong with her, but the more they looked, the mysteries surrounding her health only deepened. The inside of her mouth was covered with yeast infections, staph infections spread throughout her body, and blood tests showed that her T-cells, which are the main component of a body’s immune system, were completely gone. When that happens, the natural assumption was lymph cancer, but biopsies ruled out that as a cause for her immune system’s collapse. On December 12, her body finally gave out and she died.
An autopsy revealed that her lungs were filled with Pneumocystis carinii, a yeast-like fungus which causes a severe pneumonia. Because it is one of the easiest organisms for an immune system to fight off, it is extremely rare in healthy people. And even in the rare cases where people did catch it, it was usually treatable. It’s one of those diseases that nobody dies from, but Gerthe did. It was just one more conundrum added to a host of mysteries.
Five years later, gay men, Haitians, hemophiliacs, and intravenous drug uses also began to die in very large numbers of the same type of pneumonia that people almost never caught, let alone died from before. This time, Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia became so common its acronym, PCP, entered into the lingo of the gay community along with KS (Kaposi’s sarcoma, a previously rare form of cancer), and AIDS. American epidemiologists were mostly looking at AIDS as an American disease however, and with most of the people coming down with AIDS coming from stigmatized populations, the disease itself was similarly stigmatized. It was, in the popular mind anyway, a “gay plague.” But in 1983, Dr. Bygbjerg recalled his colleague and friend, and had in mined a more likely source for the disease. He published Gerthe’s medical case history in the April 23, 1983 issue of The Lancet and concluded:
“During my stay in Zaire in 1976 I was impressed by the epidemiological and virological flying teams from the USA and Europe who quickly identified Ebola virus. Perhaps such teams should search for another African virus, albeit slow killing, and explore the possible connection between endemic and epidemic AIDS/KS in Africa and America.”
[Sources: Randy Shilts. And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic (New York: St. Martni's Press, 1987): 3-7.
Ib C. Bygbjerg. "AIDS in a Danish surgeon (Zaire, 1976)." Lancet 1, no. 8330 (April 23, 1983): 925.]
90 YEARS AGO: José Sarria: 1923-2013. He was a real drag queen, one who had studied opera, could reach high C in his normal voice, and who always sang in his own voice whenever he performed. No lame karaoke for him. He began entertaining at San Francisco’s famed Black Cat in North Beach in 1946, shortly after leaving the Army after serving in World War II, and while he was studying to become a teacher. But an arrest at the men’s room at the St. Francis Hotel by a vice squad officer put the kibosh in his teaching aspirations. Sarria always maintained his innocence, noting that the arresting officer knew him personally. But they had to make an example of somebody … I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Since he was now officially a homosexual — and, therefore, a “queen” — he decided to become “the best goddam queen that ever was!”
And he was, performing three or four shows a night at the Black Cat, where he was affectionately known as “the Nightingale of Montgomery Street.” He wrote much of his own material for his Black Cat performances, typically popular torch songs and arias. He re-worked Bizet’s Carmen, set in modern-day San Francisco with Carmon cruising in Union Square while dodging the vice squad. And he exhorted his audience to be as “out” as possible, telling them, “United we stand, divided they catch us one by one.” At closing time, he’d lead the crowd with a rousing rendition of “God Save Us Nelly Queens” — sometimes taking the crowd outside during the final verse to sing to the men in the jail across the street who had been arrested in raids earlier that night. When police often tried to harass and arrest drag queens, especially during the city’s famous Halloween parties, for violating an old city ordinance banning cross-dressing with an “intent to deceive,” Sarria had labels printed up for the queens to wear reading “I am a boy,” which prevented many a queen’s arrest.
With Sarria being the most famous homosexual in all of San Francisco, it would only be natural that he would become involved with LGBT advocacy early on. In 1960, he founded the League for Civil Education as a support group for gay men facing public discrimination, ostracism, and police arrests. In 1961, he became the first openly gay person to run for the city’s Board of Supervisors (see Nov 7). He lost the race, but garnered some 6,000 votes, proving to the political establishment that there was a real gay voting bloc worth noticing. In 1962, he, along with several bar owners and employees, formed the Tavern Guild, the country’s first gay business association. In 1963, as the Black Cat was finally going out of business, Saria helped to found the Society for Individual Rights, which provided both social outlets and a venue for political organizing.
In 1964, the Tavern Guild crowned Sarria the Queen of the Beaux Arts Ball, which prompted Sarria to state that he was already a queen, so he proclaimed himself, “Her Royal Majesty, Empress of San Francisco, José I, The Widow Norton.” That “Widow Norton” part recalled a 19th century San Francisco eccentric who had declared himself Joshua Norton the First, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico. San Francisco’s newspapers amused themselves by treating Norton with all the deference due an emperor — or at least as San Francisco’s most colorful character. Sarria decided to take that page from history and found the Imperial Court System, both as a outlet for gays to make fun of themselves, and as a network of non-profit charitable organizations. The Imperial Court System expanded into dozens of courts nationwide and around the world, and raised millions of dollars for charity. Sarria’s Imperial Court became a colorful form of activism and street theater that preceded the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence by some fifteen years.
In 1995, Sarria and members of his court appeared in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, as judges for the film’s opening “Drag Queen of the Year Contest” scene. In 2005, he was honored with the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee’s Lifetime Achievement Grand Marshal Award, and the city of San Francisco renamed a section of 16th Street in the Castro to José Sarria Court. In 2007, he finally abdicated the throne of the Imperial Court, turning it over to the Empress Nicole the Great, Queen Mother of the Americas (a.k.a Nicole Murray-Ramirez, a San Diego-based transgender/gay activist). Sarria donated most of his papers and memorabilia, along with some of his costumes, to the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco. When he died in 2013, his lavish, imperial funeral at San Francisco’s Grace Episcopal Cathedral was attended by thousands of mourners, including leaders of the Imperial Court System and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in full regalia, with the regulations for the Court’s formal mourning dress determined by Sarria before he died.
Brandon Teena: 1972-1993. This would be his forty-first birthday today, if it weren’t for the fact that on December 31, 1993, Marvin Thomas Nissen and John L. Lotter, angry over Brandon’s transgender identity and the fact that he reported them to the sheriff for raping him a week earlier, tracked him down and murdered him.
Much of Brandon’s life was difficult. He began identifying as a male in high school in Lincoln, Nebraska, an identity which his mother rejected. His school was no help either. He was constantly in trouble with his Catholic high school for violating the school’s dress code by dressing as a male. He was expelled three days before graduation. He tried to volunteer for the Army, but he was rejected for identifying as a male. After high school, the pressures mounted. He entered a mental health facility for three days on suicide watch, diagnosed with having a severe “sexual identity crisis,” whatever that was supposed to mean.
Om 1993, he tried to start over anew by moving to Fall City, Nebraska, where he was known only as a man. He began dating Lana Tisdel, but also began associating with Nissen and Lotter, both of whom were ex-cons. In December, he was arrested for forging checks and placed in the female section of the jail. Lana learned that he was transgender when she came to bail him out.
Brandon’s arrest was in the local papers, under his birth name, and that led to that fateful Christmas Eve Party at Nissen’s home, where Nissen and Lotter grabbed him and forced him to drop his pants to prove to Lana that Brandon was a “girl.” They then force Brandon into a car, drove him to a meat-packing plant, and assaulted and raped him. After they returned to Nissen’s home, Brandon escaped through a bathroom window and went to Tisdel’s house. He called the police and went to the emergency room. The sheriff interviewed him about the rape, but seemed more interested in Brandon’s gender than the crime. The sheriff later questioned Nissen and Lotter but declined to arrest them due to lack of evidence when Brandon’s rape kit was lost.
Early in the morning of December 31, Nissen and Lotter went to the home of Lisa Lambert, Brandon’s roommate, and demanded to know where Brandon was. Lambert refused to tell them, but they found Brandon under a blanket on the floor. Nissen and Lotter rounded up all the adults in the house — Brandon, Lisa and Philip DeVine — and shot them in front of Lisa’s 8 month old son. When they saw Brandon twitching, Nissen stabbed him to finish him off.
Nissen and Lotter were arrested later that afternoon. The trial proved to be just about as convoluted as the events leading up to Brandon’s death. Nissen accused Lotter of committing the murders, and in exchange for testifying against Lotter, Nissen was sentenced to life imprisonment — even though Nissen delivered Brandon’s coup ‘de grâce, as it were. Lotter received the death penalty. Nissen later recanted his testimony against Lotter, and Lotter tried to use that to appeal his sentence. But the Nebraska Supreme Court rejected that appeal, saying that because they were both guilty of murder, the specific identities were irrelevant. Lotter remains on death row.
Brandon’s story became the subject of a 1998 documentary The Brandon Teena Story, and a 1999 award winning biopic, Boys Don’t Cry, starring Hilary Swank as Brandon and Chloë Sevigny as Lana Tisdel. Swank won an Academy Award for her performance. When she accepted the award, Swank referred to Brandon Teena using his preferred name and male pronouns, which solicited an angry response from his mother. ”That set me off,” said JoAnn Brandon. “She should not stand up there and thank my child. I get tired of people taking credit for what they don’t know.” In a final indignity, Brandon was buried in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery under his birth name and this epitaph: “Daughter, Sister, & Friend.”
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The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, December 11
December 11th, 2013
TODAY IN HISTORY:
40 YEARS AGO: Gay Rights Advocate Interrupts CBS Evening News Broadcast: 1973. Among the issues that gay rights advocates faced in the early 1970s was the way gay people continued to be portrayed in the press and on television — if they bothered to cover gay issues at all. The New York Times, which was supposedly the newspaper of record for the city, had never even bothered to mention the Stonewall uprising four years earlier until several months later. To call attention to the problem, Mark Segal of the Philadelphia-based Gay Raiders posed as a reporter for the Camden State Community College newspaper and called CBS asking permission to watch the broadcast of the CBS Evening News with the legendary Walter Cronkite from inside the studio. The network agreed and granted Segal access to the studio. And so on December 11, 1973, he briefly interrupted the broadcast about halfway through by running up in front of the camera with a yellow sign reading “Gays Protest CBS Prejudice”:
“I sat on Cronkite’s desk directly in front of him and held up the sign while the technicians furiously ran after me and wrestled me to the floor and wrapped me in wire — on camera,” (Segal) recalled in an interview. “The network went black while they took us out of the studio.”
Ever the professional, Cronkite reported on the event. “Well, a rather interesting development in the studio here — a protest demonstration right in the middle of the CBS News studio,” Cronkite told viewers. He later explained: “The young man was identified as a member of something called Gay Raiders, an organization protesting alleged defamation of homosexuals on entertainment programs.” Segal was charged with trespassing.
The “zap” payed off. After Segal’s trial for trespassing in which his attorneys subpoenaed Cronkite the testify, the news anchor began to take an interest in Segal’s grievance. He arranged a meeting at CBS where Segal could air his complaints to management, and Cronkite’s broadcast on May 6, 1974 featured a segment on gay rights, reporting on the ten cities throughout the country that had passed legal protections for gay people.
Segal went on to become publisher of Philadelphia Gay News, and remembered his friendship with Walter Cronkite days after his passing in 2009:
“He was the kind of man who believed in human rights for everyone,” Segal said of Cronkite. “I am amazed and humbled by his willingness to reach out to me. He was a bridge between the gay movement and major media. We remained friends, and it was a privilege knowing him.”
15 YEARS AGO: American Psychiatric Association Rejects Ex-Gay Therapy: 1998. The American Psychiatric Association’s board unanimously rejected therapy aimed solely at changing gay people straight, saying it can cause depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior. Dr, Nada Stotland, head of the APA’s joint committee on public affairs, said, “The very existence of therapy that is supposed to change people’s sexuality, even for people who don’t take it, is harmful because it implies that they have a disease. There is evidence that the belief itself can trigger depression and anxiety.”
The APA’s move was, in part, a response to a massive nationwide push by Focus On the Family and Exodus International to publicize the ex-gay movement, complete with a Newsweek cover the prior August featuring ex-gay spokesman John Paulk and his ex-lesbian wife Anne. Paulk who was the so-called gender specialist at Focus On the Family and organizer of the Love Won Out ex-gay roadshows, denounced the APA’s move. “This makes it more difficult for clients who want to be treated for unwanted homosexuality,” Paulk complained. “Furthermore, no scientific study has given conclusive evidence that homosexuality cannot be successfully treated.” Less than two years later, Paulk himself would be found in a Washington, D.C. gay bar flirting with patrons (see Sep 19). Earlier this year, Paulk renounced his prior association with the ex-gay movement and issued a formal apology to the “countless people (who) were harmed by things I said and did in the past.” Exodus International announced its closure in June, 2013.
The 1998 APA statement, along with a 2000 follow-on statement, can be found here.
100 YEARS AGO: Jean Marais: 1913-1998. The French actor first met the writer, poet and film director Jean Cocteau (see Jul 5) when Marais was auditioning for a small role in a revival of Cocteau’s play, Oedipe-roi (Oedipus Rex). Marais was 24, half of Cocteau’s age, but the two fell in love and were together as partners, both personally and professionally, for the next twelve years. Midway through their relationship, Cocteau wrote the screenplay for L’Éternel retour (The Eternal Return) specifically for Marais. The 1943 film was critical and commercial success for Cocteau, and an important milestone in Marais’s career.
Marais continued acting while Germany occupied France, but once Paris was liberated he joined France’s Second Armored Division, driving fuel trucks to the front line and earning the Croix de Guerre for his service. After the war, Marais returned to Cocteau and acting, appearing in Cocteau’s 1946 film La Belle et la bête (Beauty and the Beast), which introduced both Marais and Cocteau to American audiences, and garnering Marais a legion of fans among teen girls and gay men. Marais made four more films with Cocteau, and with other important French directors. By 1949, the personal half of his partnership with Cocteau cooled, but the two remained lifelong friends and collaborators until Cocteau’s death in 1963. Through the 1950s, Marais became the French Eroll Flynn, through his roles in a series of swashbuckling films in which he performed his own stunts.
When Marais’ film career wound down in the 1970s, he took to the stage, took up painting and sculpture, and wrote several volumes of memoirs, including one of Cocteau titled, L’Inconcevable Jean Cocteau under the authorship of “Cocteau-Marais.” In 1998, Marais was awarded the Legion of Honor for his work in French film, and died two years later, on November 8, 1998, survived by his adopted son, Serge.
85 YEARS AGO: Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton: 1928-1984. Like so many blues singers, the Montgomery, Alabama, native’s musical heritage was in the church: her father was a preacher, her mother sang in the choir, and her brother, later known as “Harp” Thornton, played drums and harmonica. Her mother died when Willie Mae was fourteen. She took a job cleaning a saloon and was soon singing. In 1941, she joined Atlanta music promoter Sammy Green’s “The Hot Harlem Revue” where she was billed as the “New Bessie Smith.” In 1948, she left the Revue, moved to Houston and played in several clubs there. Her ability to sing and play multiple instruments led, in 1951, to a five-year contract with Peacock Records, which was known for its wide selection of popular “race” artists like Johnny Ace and a young and up-and-coming Little Richard. She began touring the “chitlin’ circuit” in the south, culminating in a legendary performance at New York’s Apollo Theater in 1952.
Relatively open about her lesbianism, she preferred men’s clothing over women’s, although on the stage she was usually talked into wearing a dress. Whatever she wore seemed to make little difference: her bigger than life presence always meant that she would never be a pretty little thing. Big all her life, she topped 300 pounds by the time she hit the Apollo, and her billing became “Big Mama Thornton” at about that time. In later years, she would often appear on stage in a man’s straw hat, which became something of a signature for her.
Her biggest hit was 1953′s “Hound Dog,” written for her by the before-they-were famous songwriting team of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller. Her original recording of “Hound Dog” featured her growling voice and openly sexualized lyrics. It topped Billboard’s R&B charts, but Thornton got only $500 for her recording and no royalties. When Elvis Presley cleaned it up, covered it in 1956 and made a fortune, Thornton began adding the line, “Bow wow to you, too” at the end of her performances as a swipe against Presley’s appropriation.
Presley’s success with “Hound Dog” was part of a much larger shift in America’s musical tastes. R&B had always been a bit too raw for white audiences, but Rock and Roll was able to fill in the gap between the races. As R&B declined in popularity, so did Thornton’s career. But a second life came along in the 1960s as artists like Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and Janis Joplin actively promoted a revival in interest in traditional blues and R&B. She toured Europe in 1965 which resulted in the albums, Big Mama Thornton: In Europe, with backing by legendary artists like Buddy Guy, Walter Horton, and Fred Below. Her 1967 album Big Mama Thornton with the Chicago Blues Band also featured a stellar lineup of Muddy Waters, Sam “Lightnin’” Hopkins and Otis Spawn.” The title song from 1968′s Ball and Chain became a signature song for Janis Joplin.
Thornton continued performing and recording into the 1970s, but by now her heavy drinking was taking its toll. Her 1979 performance at the San Francisco Blues Festival earned rave reviews, despite her requiring assistance to get on the stage. After a serious auto accident, she appeared at the 1983 Newport Jazz Festival, with Muddy Waters, B.B. King and Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson. That legendary performance was memorialized in the live recording The Blues—A Real Summit Meeting. It would also be her last appearance on stage. She died of a heart attack in 1984, at the age of 57. That same year, she was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame.
[Sources: Tina Spencer Dreisbach. "Willie Mae 'Big Mama' Thornton." Encyclopedia of Alabama. (June 13, 2008, updated April 5, 2011). Available online here.
Ruth M. Pettis. "Thornton, Willie Mae "Big Mama" (1926-1984)." glbtq.com (October 8, 2007). Available online here.]
John Preston: 1945-1994. Today’s Fifty Shades of Gray fans owe Preston a particularly long-overdue acknowledgement. The award-winning writer, essayist, and journalist is probably best known for his Leather S&M gay erotica, a genre that Preston was proud of and which he felt made him a better, more honest writer. As he explained in his 1993, Harvard lecture, which he titled “My Life as a Pornographer” (and which he later published in an essay compilation by the same name) “Pornography has made me be honest, about myself and some of the most intimate details of my life and my fantasies. … Once I had exposed my own sexual fantasies, my most intimate desires, I feared little else about self-exposure as a writer.”
Leather S&M porn activism may seem like an odd field of endeaver, but activism came naturally to the Medfield, Massachusetts native, who by age fourteen had already volunteered as a Freedom Rider in Alabama and a tutor in Chicago’s projects. He graduated from Lake Forest College in Illinois, was certified as a sexual-health consultant by the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Medical School, and he also studied theology at the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, and Northwestern Lutheran Seminary in St. Paul. After moving to Minneapolis in 1969, he founded Gay House, one of the first gay and lesbian community centers in the country. He served as its first director until 1972, when he founded Gay Community Services.
By the mid 1970s, he moved to Los Angeles and became the editor of The Advocate. Then at about 1978, he moved to New York and took up fiction writing with a short pornographic story about a young man, Jaime, who becomes the sexual property of a Master named Aristotle Benson. He sent the story to Drummer magazine, which asked him to write an entire series on the exploits of Jaime and Benson. Those monthly episodes, which explored Manhattan’s Leather and S&M scene, were immensely popular, with t-shirts reading “Looking for Mr. Benson” — some with a question mark, some without — appearing in gay bars across the country. Mr. Benson was eventually published in book form, where it set a new standard in pornographic fiction. Other titles followed, including his “Master” series: I Once Had a Master (1984, which became the subject of a Canadian customs court case), Entertainment for a Master (1986), Love Of A Master (1987), and In Search Of A Master (1989).
But S&M porn was far from his only literary interest. Working as a journalist and essayist, he wrote for a number of gay magazines and penned a column about gay life in Maine after abandoning Manhattan for a refurbished warehouse in Portland. He wrote straight men’s adventure novels which, in a bizarro-world twist, his publisher insisted on publishing under a pseudonym lest his straight readers find out who wrote them. He then took what he learned from writing those books to write similar action adventure novels featuring gay characters, with story lines that addressed the difficulty gay teens experienced. When AIDS came along, Preston quickly adapted and became among the first to popularize safe sex stories by editing a safe sex anthology, Hot Living in 1985. He co-wrote, with Glenn Swann, a badly-needed safe-sex guide, Safe Sex: The Ultimate Erotic Guide, and two other rather unorthodox advice books: 1984′s Classified Affairs: A Gay Man’s Guide to the Personals and 1994′s Hustling: A Gentleman’s Guide to the Fine Art of Homosexual Prostitution.
Preston edited several critically acclaimed anthologies, including Hometowns: Gay Men Write About Where They Belong (1992), Personal Dispatches: Writers Confront AIDS (1990, which he began compiling soon after his own AIDS diagnosis), and Flesh and the Word: An Anthology of Erotic Writing (1995, with two stories by his friend, Anne Rice). Two of his anthologies, Member of the Family: Gay Men Write About Their Families (1992) and Sister & Brother: Lesbians & Gay Men Write About Their Lives Together (1994) were honored with Lambda Literary Awards. He died of AIDS in 1994, at the age of 48. His papers are housed at the John Hay Library at Brown University.
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The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, December 10
December 10th, 2013
TODAY IN HISTORY:
First American Gay Rights Group Founded: 1924. Henry Gerber, a Bavarian immigrant to Chicago, served in the U.S. Army’s occupation of Germany following World War I, where he learned about the country’s well-established gay rights movement. He read up on German homophile magazines and came in contact with Magnus Hirschfeld’s Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, the first organization in the world working to advance gay rights (see May 14). When Gerber returned to Chicago, he founded the Society for Human Rights (SHR) in 1924 with an African-American clergyman named John T. Graves as president. SHR is believed to be America’s first gay rights organization. Gerber also founded Friendship and Freedom, the first known American gay publication.
When the state of Illinois granted a charter on December 10, 1924, the Society became the first documented gay organization in America. To gain the charter, they deliberately kept the Society’s mission vague, omitting any mention of homosexuality in their application. Still, they were surprised that no one from the state investigated before issuing the charter, which described the Society’s objective as:
to promote and to protect the interests of people who by reasons of mental and physical abnormalities are abused and hindered in the legal pursuit of happiness which is guaranteed them by the Declaration of Independence, and to combat the public prejudices against them by dissemination of facts according to modern science among intellectuals of mature age. The Society stands only for law and order; it is in harmony with any and all general laws insofar as they protect the rights of others, and does in no manner recommend any acts in violation of present, laws nor advocate any matter inimical to the public welfare.
Gerber found getting SHR off the ground difficult. Graves was the only clergyman willing to join. Gerber tried to interest physicians, sex educators, and sexual freedom advocates. “The most difficult task was to get men of good reputation to back up the Society,” he later wrote, but “they usually refused to endanger their reputations… The only support I got was from poor people (who) were illiterate and penniless.” One of his problems, he discovered, was that “most people only join clubs which already have members.” Fewer still were willing to receive the SHR’s newsletter, Freedom and Friendship, which only lasted for two issues. Gerber ended up bearing most of the work and all of the costs for SHR. In 1962, he reflected on those difficulties:
I realized that homosexuals themselves needed nearly as much attention as the laws pertaining to their acts… The first difficulty was in rounding up enough members and contributors so the work could go forward. The average homosexual, I found, was ignorant concerning himself. Others were fearful. Still others were frantic or depraved. Some were blasé.
Many homosexuals told me that their search for forbidden fruit was the real spice of life. With this argument they rejected our aims. We wondered how we could accomplish anything with such resistance from our own people.
But the final straw for the group came when the wife of the group’s vice president denounced Gerber and his associates to police as “degenerates.” In July, 1925, police arrested Gerber, Graves and two others, with the Chicago Examiner reported the story under the headline, “Strange Sex Cult Exposed.” Gerber was tried three times, but the charges were eventually dismissed because he was arrested without a warrant. He was nevertheless ruined, jobless and drained of his life savings, and SHR was no more. Gerber continued writing about gay rights, sometimes under his own name and sometimes under a pseudonym. In 1962, he wrote a detailed history of SHR for ONE Magazine (major portions of that account can be found here.) He died on New Year’s Eve in 1972 at the age of 80, having lived long enough to see gay rights advocacy take on a new vibrancy in the 1950s and 1960s, culminating in an explosion of advocacy and pride after the Stonewall Rebellion of 1969.
[Source: Jim Kepner and Stephen O. Murray. "Henry Gerber (1895-1972): Grandfather of the American Gay Movement." in Vern L. Bulllough's (ed.) Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (Binghamton, NY: Harrington Park Press, 2002): 24-34.]
“K.S. Poster Boy” Comes Out: 1981. Only six months had passed since the Centers for Disease Control had warned the world of a strange new disease striking down otherwise health gay men (see Jun 5). That first warning, about a group of gay men in Los Angeles who died from an extremely rare form of pneumonia, was followed a month later with another report of gay men dying from Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS), a rare and usually treatable form of skin cancer. KS, with its purple splotchy lesions, would quickly become the most visible mark of the new beast stalking the gay community. In the fall of 1981, Bobbi Campbell (see Jan 28), an San Francisco registered nurse who had been politically active in the gay community, noticed some purple sores on his feet after a day of hiking at Bug Sur. Figuring they were blood blisters, he ignored them until they got bigger. When he saw the doctor on October 8, he became the sixteenth person in San Francisco to be diagnosed with K.S.
Most newspapers, including gay newspapers, were reluctant to write much about the new diseases, even though people in the gay community couldn’t ignore that something was very wrong. Campbell decided it was time to break the silence. In an op-ed to the San Francisco Sentinel, he introduced himself. “I’m Bobbi Campbell and I have ‘gay cancer.’ Although I say that, I also want to say I’m the luckiest man in the world.” He then announced his intention to become the K.S. Poster Boy. “The purpose of the poster boy is to raise interset and money in a particular cause, and I do have aspirations of doing that regarding gay cancer. I’m writing because I have a determination to love. You do too — don’t you?”
Within a week, Campbell persuaded a Castro pharmacy to display posters about K.S. on its front windows. The following month, he wrote another op-ed for Sentinel explaining his actions, which he likened to “a crisis topped only by coming to terms with my homosexuality in 1970.” He continued:
The adjustment process in these two situations was similar. I had to acknowledge to myself that I really was in a particular situation, that I had not chosen to be there, but I could choose what I would do in response, and I especially could decide how public or private I wanted to be.
Gayness, like a cancer diagnosis, is socially stigmatized, and it can be concealed or divulged.
… If it never occurred to you that a cancer diagnosis is a ticket to minority status, think again. People have lost their jobs, their homes, their friends, and their lives because of others’ reactions to their illness.
Campbell started what would become a “gay cancer” support group. AIDS still didn’t have a name yet, and the idea that they were suffering from “gay cancer” was still a source of hope in the earliest days of the crisis. As one member of Campbell’s support group said, “My diagnosis was of cancer, not AIDS… . I remember thinking in the back of my mind, “Well, some people beat cancer. Maybe I will…’.”
Those hopes were soon dashed as it became increasingly clear that this was no ordinary cancer. Meanwhile, Campbell took his advocacy nationwide when he appeared on the cover of Newsweek in 1983. That same year, he co-founded the People with AIDS Self-Empowerment Movement, which established the Denver Principles which rejected the notion that people with AIDS (PWA) were “victims” and demanded the inclusion of PWAs in all aspects of organized responses to the epidemic, including the right to make informed decisions with regard to their own care. Campbell died in 1984, nearly three years after he was diagnosed with K.S.
[Sources: Randy Shilts. And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic (New York: St. Martun's Press, 1987): 107-108.
Joe Wright. "Only Your Calamity: The Beginnings of Activism by and for People with AIDS." American Journal of Public Health 103, no. 10 (October 2013): 1788-1798. Available online here.]
AIDS Transmission Linked to Blood: 1982. Ever since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first began to track a new disease that would be known as AIDS in the summer of 1981 (See Jun 5), doctors and epidemiologists were scrambling to try to figure out how this disease was transmitted. Some believed it was the result of heavy drug use, some believed that it was somehow blood-borne, and some just thought it was some sort of natural breakdown of the immune system among “promiscuous homosexuals” who had too many sexually transmitted diseases over their lifetime. That last explanation didn’t do a very good job at explaining why AIDS was showing up among Haitians and hemophiliacs, but when you have homosexuals available for an ready target, it’s easy to ignore the pieces that don’t entirely fit the theory.
The CDC was finally able to shed some light on the controversy in the December 10, 1982 edition of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. That week’s MMWR carried a report of a 20-month old infant in San Francisco who developed all of the hallmark opportunistic infections associated with AIDS. The infant was delivered by C-section in March 3, 1981, and was given several blood transfusions over a four-day period, followed by more transfusions and other blood products during the one-month hospitalization that followed. Six months later, he began developing infections that continued through the next year. MMWR reported, “The parents and brother of the infant are in good health. The parents are heterosexual non-Haitians and do not have a history of intravenous drug abuse. The infant had no known personal contact with an AIDS patient.” But further investigation revealed that one of the nineteen donors who gave blood that was given to the infant during that first month was found to have AIDS:
The donor, a 48-year-old white male resident of San Francisco, was in apparently good health when he donated blood on March 10, 1981. Platelets derived from this blood were given to the infant on March 11. Eight months later, the donor complained of fatigue and decreased appetite. On examination, he had right axillary lymphadenopathy, and cotton-wool spots were seen in the retina of the left eye. During the next month, December 1981, he developed fever and severe tachypnea and was hospitalized with biopsy-proven Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia. … He died in August 1982.”
The CDC concluded:
The etiology of AIDS remains unknown, but its reported occurrence among homosexual men, intravenous drug abusers, and persons with hemophilia A suggests it may be caused by an infectious agent transmitted sexually or through exposure to blood or blood products. If the infant’s illness described in this report is AIDS, its occurrence following receipt of blood products from a known AIDS case adds support to the infectious-agent hypothesis.
…This report and continuing reports of AIDS among persons with hemophilia A raise serious questions about the possible transmission of AIDS through blood and blood products. The Assistant Secretary for Health is convening an advisory committee to address these questions.
Mark Takano: 1960. The Congressman representing California’s 41st district in the Inland Empire of San Bernardino County, comes from a family that knows quite a lot about discrimination. He is Sansei, a descendent of immigrants from Japan, and his parents and grandparents were held in internment camps during World War II. His grandmother lost all of her property as a result. After the war, the family returned to California, and Takano graduated as class valedictorian at his Riverside high school and graduated from Harvard in 1983. He then taught British literature in public schools for the next 23 years.
Takano first ran for Congress in 1992, winning the Democratic nomination but losing narrowly to Republican Ken Calvert. He tried again in 1994, but lost to Calvert by a much wider margin. He then stayed away from electoral politics until 2012, when he decided to run for the newly-redrawn 41st Congressional district. He won, deveating Republican John Tavaglione 58% to 42%, making Takano the first openly gay member of color of the House of Representatives.
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The Daily Agenda for Monday, December 9
December 9th, 2013
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Gall Bladder Problems Are For Sissies: 1927. Dr. William A. Evans’s column, “How to Keep Well” was the first syndicated health column in the U.S. In 1927, he reviewed (or, more accurately, mocked) the theories of a “Dr. Draper,” who theorized that we were born with whatever fatal diseases that would eventually do us in in the end. “His opinion,” wrote Evans, “is that if you are born to die of gall stones you’ll die of gall stones whether it comes to pass or not.” Dr. Draper also believed that certain shapes and contours of the body and head could be used to identify certain diseases. Draper soon discarded that theory in favor of one in which, as Evans described it, held that “the mental makeup, the character, personality, that he would have us believe is the background for certain diseases.” Evans continued:
Up to now he is working principally with gall stones and gall bladder infections, on the one hand, and ulcer of the stomach on the other. He finds that people who are prone to have stomach ulcers have a mental makeup in which there is great fearfulness. They have but little stability of mood. They make quick adjustments to change in environment. They are ideal opportunities. They are mental sprinters with little endurance. However, after exhaustion they are quickly rehabilitated by food, by short periods of rest and by relief from anxiety. They have heterosexual urges.
On the other hand, the people who are prone to gall bladder disease have great stability of mood, they are phlegmatic, and they have slow reactivity. They have but little fearfulness. They are placid, calm and not given to worries, fears or anxieties. They have more tendency to homosexual urges.
Minnesota State Senator Comes Out: 1974. Democrats sailed into state offices in 1974 in the wake of President Nixon’s resignation due to the Watergate scandal. But State Senator Allan Spear, who had entered the state legislature in 1972 and therefore wasn’t up for re-election that year, was more interested in another election that was taking place half a country away. That year, Elaine Noble would become the first openly gay person to be elected to a state legislature when she won her seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives (see Nov 5). “I had not yet met Elaine,” Spear later wrote, “but her example inspired me. If I did come out, I would have company, even though she would be a thousand miles away.”
Shortly after that election, Spear went to New York to speak at a gay conference. There, he met with Dr. Howard Brown, who had founded the National Gay Task Force in 1973 (see Oct 15). “In fact,” he wrote, “the most rewarding part of the weekend was seeing Howard again and having long discussions with him and some of his friends. In the struggle that was going on in my own mind about coming out, nothing was more encouraging than seeing stable, successful professional gay men who were open about their sexuality.”
Spear had already decided that it was best to come out under his own terms rather than have his sexuality brought out in circumstances which were not under his control. He had been in the state Senate long enough to establish a reputation fro being a multi-issue legislator, and his re-election was far-enough off in the future that he felt that it wouldn’t dominate the campaign when the time came. But most importantly, he was ready. “I had crossed the barrier with my parents a year before. Now my friendship with Howard Brown and the example of Elaine Noble had convinced me that I would not be marginalized by coming out. … I picked up the phone and called Deborah Howell at the Minneapolis Star. We made an appointment for lunch at a downtown Minneapolis restaurant called the Normandy Village on December 5.”
Four days later, the Star ran with a front page headline just under the fold reading “State Sen. Allan Spear Declares He’s Homosexual.” Spear was pleased to see that the story was a positive one. “The telephone rang all afternoon and evening. I received only one hostile call, from an elderly constituent who had voted for me and now felt hurt and betrayed. Otherwise the calls were wholly supportive — many from friends, of course, but others from people I didn’t know, both gay and straight, who congratulated me for my courage and wished me the best. The next day, I started receiving letters and telegrams from all over the country.”
Spear would go on to serve 28 years in the state Senate before retiring in 2000 as Senate President. In 1993 he was instrumental in passing the Minnesota Human Rights Act, which provided anti-discrimination protections in education, employment, and housing for LGBT Minnesotans. That project took twenty years to accomplish, but he finally did it with bipartisan support. Sen. Spear died in 2008, and his autobiography, Crossing the Barriers, was published posthumously in 2010.
San Francisco Mayor Vetoes Domestic Partner Benefits for City Employees: 1982. The city by the bay blew the chance to become the first city in the nation to provide domestic partnership benefits for its city employees when mayor Dianne Feinstein vetoed the controversial bill. Inspired by a similar proposal from across the bay in Berkeley (see Dec 5), Supervisor Harry Britt hurriedly pushed a bill providing spousal benefits for the same-sex partners of city employees. It would also allow unmarried couples gain limited recognition of their relationships, including, most crucially during the start of the AIDS crisis, visitation rights in hospitals and at funerals.
The problem, though, was that the gay community in San Francisco wasn’t prepared for the ensuing controversy when opponents, predictably, mischaracterized as an attack on marriage rather than a question of employee benefits. The domestic partner’s ordinance, sometimes called the “live-in lovers’ law,” was attacked by the Roman Catholic Archbishop John Quinn as “offensive to reasonable persons and injurious to our legal, cultural, moral and societal heritage.” The Episcopal Bishop and the Board of Rabbis of Northern California also denounced the ordinance.
When Mayor Diane Feinstein announced that she would veto the ordinance, she told reporters, “On a personal level, this legislation causes me deep personal anguish. I would like to be able to sign the legislation that recognizes the needs of single persons, but such legislation must not divide our community.”
Feinstein’s veto both surprised and outraged the gay community, which she had strongly supported through much of her career. A local fringe group, a separatist Haight-Asbury commune known as White Panthers, had already started a recall petition against Feinstein, and many in the gay community jumped on the “Dump Diane” campaign. The White Panthers’ beef with Feinstein was her approval of strict gun control legislation. Those laws were struck down by the California Supreme Court, but the White Panthers were still sore over it. Their anti-gay politics were largely unknown, and so many in the gay community leapt at the chance to sign their recall petition. The White Panthers turned in 35,000 signatures, mostly from the Castro Street area. The resulting recall election the following April split the gay community, and Feinstein survived the recall election with 82% of the vote.
Gay rights leaders in Berkeley were watching events in San Francisco closely, and learned some valuable lessons: namely, that getting allies on board and fully educated on the proposal was essential in building the needed political support. Two years later, those efforts would come to fruition when Berkeley became the first city in the nation to provide, first, a more limited form of domestic partnership benefits for city employees (see Dec 5), which could then be expanded upon in the months and years to come. San Franciscans would finally get domestic partnership benefits in 1985.
[Sources: Randy Shilts. And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987).
Leland Traiman. "A Brief History of Domestic Partnerships." The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide 15, no. 4 (July-August 2008): 23-24.]
1 YEAR AGO: Marriage Equality Arrives in Washington State: 2012. Three days earlier, LGBT couples flooded county auditors offices across the state to take out marriage licenses under a new law that was approved by voters the previous November. After the three day mandatory waiting period, those couples began marrying. Seattle City Hall was transformed into a massive wedding chapel, and remained open on that Sunday with several judges donating their time to marry couples. More than 140 couples have signed up for slots beginning at at 10:00 a.m. In Olympia, four local judges began performing weddings just just after midnight.
Ronnie Paris, Jr.: 2001. He was only three years old when he died on January 28, 2005 at the hands of his father. The abuse had been going on for a very long time. In 2002, the Florida Department of Children and Family Services removed Ronnie from his home and placed him in protective custody after he had been admitted to the hospital for malnourishment and a broken arm. On December 14, five days after this third birthday, he was returned to his parents. Just a month later on January 22, he slipped into a coma while sleeping on the couch of a family friend as his parents attended a Bible study. He died six days later from brain injuries. His mother later told detectives that her husband, Ronnie Paris, Sr., had repeatedly beaten his son, slammed him into walls, and forced him to participate in father-son boxing matches until he would shake, cry, and wet himself. Ronnie’s father did all this because he though his son was gay, so he beat him to keep Ronnie from growing up “soft.” Ronnie Paris, Sr. was convicted of second degree manslaughter and aggravated child abuse and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. If Ronnie, Jr., were alive today, he would be twelve years old.
As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.
The Daily Agenda for Sunday, December 8
December 8th, 2013
THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
Aversion Therapy of Homosexuality: 1969. Doctors had been using painful jolts of electricity to try to torture homosexuality out of people since 1935 (see Mar 11 and Sep 6). In 1969, The British Journal of Psychiatry published a paper by John Bancroft of Maudsley Hospital, a psychiatric facility in South London, titled “Aversion Therapy of Homosexuality: A Pilot Study of 10 cases.” The treatment went like this: first, the patient’s penis was attached to a device which measures changes in girth. Then:
In method A, the patient was asked to produce erotic homosexual fantasies whilst looking at photographs of males. Painful electric shocks were delivered to his arm whenever an erection developed up to a certain level. …Following this initial shock, further shocks were given at 15 second intervals unless the erectile response was falling or was once again below the threshold level. A minimum of 5 shocks was given in any one trial.
If the threshold level of erection was not reached by the end of 5 minutes, the trial was ended and a new trial was started with different photographs. On the average, 12 such trials were given in each session.
In addition each session included two further types of trial; one homosexual trial with no threat of shock, and 3 heterosexual trials when photographs of females were used and the patient encouraged to produce heterosexual fantasies. These heterosexual trials were included for two reasons. Firstly to allow discrimination between homosexual and heterosexual erections and so avoid any suppression of homosexual erections generalizing to both. Secondly it was hoped that either by a practice effect or by an “anxiety relief” effect (due to withdrawal of the threat of shock) the heterosexual responses might be reinforced.
In the last three patients an alternative method was used in the last part of treatment (Method B). In this method, the patient was asked to produce specific homosexual fantasies without the use of photographs, and to signal as soon as he had the image clearly in his mind. He was then shocked. In this second method, therefore the noxious stimulus was not contingent upon the erectile response but upon the fantasy.
Before or after the sessions, the patients were asked to describe any sexual activity they had participated in, as well as their masturbatory fantasies. The answers to those questions determined whether they passed or failed. How very scientific, don’t you think? But what’s most revealing is how Bancroft described the treatment effects for each of the ten patients. Each description is worth looking at:
Patient A: A 36 year old artist “of good personality” who , aside from a few dalliances, was “clearly heterosexual in his outlook.” He was married, but had frequent flings on the side. He volunteered for aversion therapy after reading about it in a newspaper article. “After 30 sessions he was initiating homosexual encounters but finding himself impotent. This had never happened before. Treatment was stopped after 45 sessions when he felt he could control the urges.” But on follow-up, he gradually returned “to his previous pattern. He was given a further course of treatment using method B; this gave him greater control but only whilst the treatment was continuing. Three and a half years after treatment homosexual encounters continue but the frequency is less than before treatment, the urges are less strong, and he is getting less pleasure from them.”
Patient B: A 28-year-old postal worker who “came for treatment because he was frightened by a police charge.” After 21 sessions, “he was starting to masturbate with heterosexual fantasies, but he expressed the following difficulty which was never completely overcome… ‘whenever I start to think of the vagina a penis comes into my mind — as though there was some kind of block.’ Treatment stopped after 39 sessions. Although he had started to find women attractive and to masturbate with heterosexual fantasies for the first time in his life, his homosexual interest had never been significantly reduced and had remained prepotent. … After four months homosexual urges became stronger and heterosexual fantasies difficult. After 6 months he resumed homosexual activities. Soon he was back to his normal pattern.”
Patient C: A 37-year-old zoologist who volunteered because “he wanted to become heterosexual. …After 12 sessions he was experiencing ‘pangs’ of anxiety on seeing attractive males in the street. By this stage he was beginning to masturbate with heterosexual fantasies. After 15 sessions he started to feel some anxiety during the female trials and a little later was noting ‘pangs’ of anxiety on seeing sexually threatening females as well as attractive males. This conditioned anxiety became more obvious and treatment was stopped after 35 sessions… For 2½ years he has maintained this conditioned ‘phobic’ anxiety to potentially attractive males, experiencing a ‘pang’ of discomfort in the chest when seeing them. On two or three occasions homosexual advances have been made to him and these have provoked intense anxiety and avoidance. …Two and a half years after treatment his homosexual interest is much reduced and he has no desire to make any homosexual contacts. He is once again using homosexual fantasies during masturbation but heterosexual fantasies occur some of the time.”
Patient D: A 22-year-old “with no settled employment, with an abnormal personality … [and who] also suffered from epilepsy.” “He showed inconsistent and varied responses during treatment and was an unreliable witness. There was slight improvement in the first half of treatment but the second half resulted in a hostile, negativistic and destructive attitude together with some depression of mood. He made a suicidal gesture and his first ever homosexual advance during this stage. Treatment was stopped after 36 sessions with no apparent benefit having been achieved.” After treatment, “he appeared much more accepting of his homosexuality.” But his sexual functioning was disturbed, possibly because of the effects of treatment: “He found little pleasure and was unable to reach orgasm. Nine months after treatment he was playing a passive role in buggery, but with no sexual arousal on his part. Two years after treatment he was much more settled and was having an affair with an elderly man in which sexual activity was getting less and less frequent. He still failed to achieve orgasm during these encounters…”
Patient E: A 36-year-old actor “of athletic build.” Despite being “actively homosexual,” he met and married a woman and subsequently became “almost impotent,” and for the year before undergoing treatment, he had been suffering from “intrusive homosexual fantasies [which] were still strong and frequent” along with “marked pervasive anxiety.” After 12 sessions, he began having intercourse with his wife “with slight enjoyment.” But after 32 sessions, “both heterosexual and homosexual responses were declining again. At this stage, homosexual fantasies provoked disinterest rather than anxiety, whereas heterosexual fantasies, especially involving his wife, provoked some anxiety.” On follow-up things only got worse. “Ten months after treatment, his relationship with his wife deteriorated again, his anxiety increased and he became completely impotent. One month later homosexual fantasies returned. He expressed anger at the treatment and the therapist and discontinued treatment.”
Patient F: A 47-year-old Scot who sought treatment for many years to become heterosexual. He had previously tried psychotherapy (including psychotherapy with LSD), and two previous, unsuccessful attempts at electric shock aversion therapy. So this was a guy who knew what he was getting into. “He reported relief at the start of female trials after only 2 sessions. After 8 sessions he started to produce strong erections to heterosexual fantasies. From then on the pattern was of fluctuating heterosexual interest. Homosexual interest and responses were reduced early in treatment, but showed a slight increase in the second half. Treatment was stopped after 35 sessions. At this stage he felt ‘really heterosexual now’ and had only occasional slight homosexual interest.” But his “really heterosexual” feelings proved elusive. He dated a woman, but when they broke up he was depressed for two to three weeks and “his homosexual interest increased and he had two homosexual experiences. Fifteen months after treatment, following a second severe but short lived depressive episode he is showing more homosexual interest again, but retains some heterosexual interest and has certainly not regained his previous ‘heterophobia’.”
Patient G: A 27-year-old clerical worker who had almost no heterosexual experience or feelings. “After 9 sessions he was finding heterosexual fantasies easier and after 12 sessions he was reporting an intense interest in women. Though fluctuating in intensity, heterosexual responses and interest continued for the rest of treatment. His homosexual interest and responses were slightly reduced during the middle stages of treatment but after 17 sessions they increased again. Treatment was stopped after 32 sessions, when his homosexual interest was much the same as before treatment, but he now found women strongly attractive.”
“Following treatment he became depressed, his homosexual urges became more marked and his heterosexual interest lessened. He remained depressed for the next five months. Then, following a minor rejection by a homosexual friend, he was admitted to hospital having been found wandering the streets at night removing some of his clothing. He showed no further evidence of psychotic behaviour. For the first month in hospital he remained isolated and mildly depressed. He was then started on diazepam and showed a marked change. He became more cheerful and confident and started a relationship with a female patient which continued after they both left hospital. At first he showed some degree of impotence, but he has had a satisfactory sexual relationship with her since. Fifteen months after aversion he enjoys regular sexual intercourse and has had no homosexual inclinations at all.
Patient H: A 24-year-old teacher who, despite strong attractions, had had little homosexual experience. While had had had several girlfriends, he found them “only slightly arousing.” “After 7 sessions he started to produce increasingly strong heterosexual responses associated with aggressive fantasies. After 15 sessions heterosexual images were beginning to intrude into his homosexual masturbation fantasies and a little later he masturbated with exclusively heterosexual fantasies for the first time. By this stage his homosexual interest was less strong and he had become unable to reach orgasm using homosexual fantasies. His homosexual responses in treatment continued as strong, however.” Following treatment, he began dating a girl, but the relationship never progressed beyond kissing. It ended after three months. “Six months after treatment, he made his first homosexual contact. One year after treatment he is energetically pursuing homosexual relationships but he avoids reaching orgasm himself, and if possible prevents his partner from doing so.”
Patient I: A 29-year-old policeman, married since 21, and with two children. When he first married, he “obtained slight pleasure from sexual intercourse but this steadily waned.” He began a three year affair with another man “and is not promiscuous,” during which time he became “mostly impotent with his wife.” He volunteered for treatment to try to save his marriage, but the treatment proved futile. “Little impression was made on either his homosexual or heterosexual responses. There was some reduction in homosexual urges after 5 sessions but he avoided using his ‘affair’ in his homosexual fantasies and was clearly resisting any attempt to destroy his feelings for him. He reported little anxiety during treatment but he was generally non-communicative and difficult to assess. After 20 sessions the treatment was changed to Method B. He was urged to use fantasies involving his ‘affair’. After only one further session it became clear that he did not really want the treatment to work. The treatment was therefore discontinued.” On follow-up, “he returned to his previous homosexual relationship with considerable pleasure and continued a reasonably friendly though sexless relationship with his wife.”
Patient J: A 27-year-old “of average intelligence” who, while never having had any heterosexual interest, he “could never contemplate an overt homosexual relationship because of guilt.” “He had 15 sessions of method A and 15 sessions of Method B. His responses were inconsistent. During Method A he was usually unable to concentrate on his fantasies for fear of the shock, even when very low levels were used. Occasionally, however, he responded easily. With Method B the same inconsistency occurred. At the end of treatment there was no evidence of change in his homosexuality, and the only change heterosexually was that he had lost his revulsion and was now able to sustain heterosexual fantasies more easily. … “In the first three months (after treatment), he experienced more interest in females. He mixed more with them socially, and kissed a girl for the first time. This did not, however, result in any sexual arousal. His homosexual fantasies continued as strongly as before. Ten months after treatment there is no further progress.
As you can see, there were precious few stories which could be defined, generously, as successes. Patient G, according to Bancroft, was the only one to show “no homosexual inclinations at all.” But one has to wonder what priced he paid. Later in the article, Patient G was among four who showed moderate or high anxiety during treatment, and he “expressed some slight aggression toward the therapist on 3 or 4 occasions.” He also “became depressed soon after treatment and remained so, in spite of anti-depressant drugs, until admission to hospital 5 months later.” Bancroft attributed his subsequent improvement not to his lady friend, but to the use of Diazepam.
Overall, Bancroft found the results disappointing, but he felt it was important to press on:
Methods of behaviour modification such as these are in their infancy and a considerable amount of further research is needed before such techniques can be advocated for general use. But the benefits to be gained from such research may be considerable. They will include increased understanding of behaviour modification in general, as well as a greater understanding of the behaviours to be modified.
The Rest Of The Story
I would love to know what happened to those ten patients since their treatment ended in the mid-1960s, but nearly fifty years on we may never find out. Bancroft would continue investigating methods for changing sexual orientation through the 1960s and the first part of the 1970s. But as the mental health professions changed its view of homosexuality, behavior therapists in particular began to abandon their punitive approaches to behavioral modification. Over time, Bancroft eventually abandoned his efforts to “cure” gay people. When Robert Spitzer published his controversial ex-gay study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior in 2003 (the study that Spitzer renounced and apologized for in 2012), Bancroft, by then at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction at Indiana University, was one of some two dozen authors criticize Spitzer’s study by drawing on his own past experience:
Times were different then. The Gay Rights Movement was early in its development and it was much more likely than it is today that individuals would seek such change. But on reflection, I realized that, whereas I was genuinely trying to help the individual, in the process I was aligning myself with those who reinforced homophobic attitudes and all the consequences of the stigma that ensued. It did not continue to be a dilemma for me, as my own results gave me no reason to continue to use such simplistic interventions.
And he criticized Spitzer’s study claiming that some people who underwent “reparative” therapy said they changed. He criticized it not only for its many methodological weaknesses, but also for the role it would inevitably play in reinforcing negative attitudes toward gay people:
If there were any grounds for regarding homosexual orientation as a pathology rather than a variant of human sexual expression, then treating the pathology might be justified. I would assert that there are no such grounds, and hence providing treatment on that basis is professionally unethical and, according to my value system, immoral. There is a long and disturbing history of medical practitioners imposing their moral values through their professional practice. The imposition of moral values, explicitly or implicitly, that is, urging someone to undergo change because their current sexual orientation is immoral, should not be regarded as “therapy,” and in any case raises other ethical and moral issues. …[Spitzer's report] constitutes vigorous reinforcement of homophobia and the social stigma experienced by those with homosexual identities in our society. Together, this results
in widespread suffering for homosexual minorities and, no doubt, for many who are pressured into attempting such change, considerable conflict and unhappiness.
[Sources: John Bancroft. "Aversion therapy of homosexuality: A pilot study of 10 cases." British Journal of Psychiatry 115, no. 529 (December 1969): 1417-1431.
John Bancroft. Peer Comments on Spitzer (2003): "Can sexual orientation change? A long-running saga." Archives of Sexual Behavior 32, no. 5 (October 2003): 419-421.
For more information on the history of behavioral therapy, see our report, "Blind Man's Bluff".]
80 YEARS AGO: Leroy Aarons: 1933-2004. A journalist for the Washington Post for many years, he served as bureau chief for New York and Los Angeles, and covered the Pentagon Papers story, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, urban riots, and government scandals. He covered the 1982 Lebanon War for Time before becoming editor of the Oakland Tribune. He was hired by the Tribune soon after its new owner, Robert C. Maynard, bought the struggling paper and became the first African-American owner of a major metro newspaper. Maynard and Aarons turned the Tribune around and the paper won a 1990 Pulitzer for its coverage of the Loma Prieta earthquake.
Aarons worked with Maynard to found the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, now at the University of California at Berkeley. MIJE was established to bring racial diversity to the newsroom and ensure accurate representation of minorities in the news media. In 1989, the American Society of Newspaper Editors asked Aarons to coordinate the first survey of lesbian and gay journalists. That survey of 250 print journalists showed that most of them were closeted at work, that only seven percent said that their work environments were good for gay people, and that coverage of gay issues was “at best mediocre.” Aaron presented his results to the 1990 ASMNE convention, and closed his speech by coming out to his colleagues. Four months later, he took what he learned from the Maynard Institute and co-founded the National Association of Lesbian and Gay Journalists (NLGJA). He also became its first president.
In 1991, Aarons researched and wrote his first book, Prayers for Bobby, about a mother coming to terms with her gay son’s suicide. He also wrote a handful of opera librettos and plays on a number of topical subjects, including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Pentagon Papers, and Reformed Judaism. When he died of cancer in 2004, he and his partner of 24 years, Joshua Boneh, were working on a play based on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The NLGJA established a scholarship fund in his name in 2006 for student journalists in his name.
As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.
The Daily Agenda for Saturday, December 7
December 7th, 2013
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Pennsylvania Colony Enacts New Sodomy Law: 1682. Sodomy laws seemed to come and go in Pennsylvania. The colony had originally included Sodomy in a long list of offenses which were considered capital crimes, but the first assembly in 1676 held under the proprietorship of William Penn codified Quaker leniency in its law reform when it limited the death penalty to murder. This effectively left Pennsylvania without a sodomy law for the next six years, when the colony instituted this new law:
…if any person shall be Legally Convicted of the unnatural sin of Sodomy or joining with beasts, Such person shall be whipped, and forfeit one third of his or her estate, and work six months in the house of Correction, at hard labour, and for the Second offence, imprisonment, as aforesaid, during life.
This law would remain in effect until 1693, when William Penn fell out of power and was replaced with a Royal governor who repealed most of Penn’s legislation, including the non-capital sodomy law. No new law would be enacted until 1700 (see Nov 27).
The Trial of Captain Edward Rigby: 1698. Captain Rigby had already been acquitted of a charge of sodomy by a court-martial in early 1698, but Rev. Thomas Bray, a member of the societies for the Reformation of Manners — a kind of a Family Research Council of its day — was convinced of Rigby’s guilt and worked out a plan to entrap him. The bait, William Minton, was the servant of one of Bray’s parishioners and had been previously approached by Rigby. The snare was set, Rigby was caught red-handed, and was arrested and hauled into court. The trial record shows that, this time, Rigby pleaded neither guilty nor not guilty, apparently on the hopes that there would be a problem with the indictment itself which would cause it to be thrown out. The court however found the indictment sound, and since Rigby didn’t enter a plea, the proceedings continued as though he had admitted his guilt. Then several affidavits were read, with all of their salacious details:
That on Saturday the Fifth of November last, Minton standing in St. James’s Park, to see the Fireworks [i.e. the Guy Fawkes Day bonfire], Rigby stood by him and took him by the hand, and squeez’d it; put his Privy Member Erected into Minton‘s Hand; kist him, and put his Tongue into Minton‘s Mouth, who being much astonish’d at these Actions went from him; but Rigby pursued him, and accosted him again; and after much Discourse prevailed with Minton to tell him where he lodged, and to meet him the Monday following about Five a Clock, at the George- Tavern in the Pall mall, and to Enquire for Number 4. Minton the next day Acqainted Charles Coates, Esq; (with whom he lived) with what had happened to him the Night before, and desired his Advice and Direction therein; who with a Worthy Divine then present (being willing to detect and punish the Villany designed by Rigby) directed Minton to apply himself to Thomas Railto Esq; a Justice of the Peace for Middlesex; who being informed of what past between Rigby and Minton, appointed his Clark with a Constable, and two other Persons, to go with Minton to the George-Tavern, who were to stay in some Room adjoyning to the Room whereinto Minton should go: and if any Violence should be offered to him, upon crying out “Westminster” the Constable and his Assistance should immediately enter the Room.
That on Monday the Seventh of November last, about Four of the Clock in the Afternon, Rigby came to the George-Tavern, and left Number 4 at the Bar, with Directions, That if any Enquired for that Number, to send them to him; after Rigby had been about an Hour at the Tavern, (Minton not coming) Rigby called up one of the Drawers, and in a Passionte manner, bid him go to Minton‘s Lodgings, and enquire for a young Gentleman; and if he were within, to tell him a Gentleman staid for him at the George-Tavern; the Drawer accordingly went, but Minton not being within, the Drawer return’d that Answer to Rigby.
That about six a clock Minton came to the George Tavern, enquired for Number 4. and was shewed into the room where Rigby was, and [t]he Constable and his assistance were placed in a Room adjoyning; Rigby seemed much pleased upon Mintons coming, and drank to him in a glass of Wine and kist him, took him by the Hand, put his Tongue into Mintons Mouth, and thrust Mintons hand into his (Rigby) Breeches, saying, “He had raised his Lust to the highest degree,” Minton thereupon askt, “How can it be, a Woman was only fit for that,” Rigby answered, “Dam’em, they are all Port, I’ll have nothing to do with them.” Then Rigby sitting on Mintons Lap, kist him several times, putting his Tongue into his mouth, askt him, “if he should F[uck] him,” “how can that be” askt Minton, “I’le show you” answered Rigby, “for it’s no more than was done in our Fore-fathers time”; and then to incite Minton thereto, further spake most Blaphemous words, and said, “That the French King did it, and the Czar of Muscovy made Alexander, a Carpenter, a Prince for that purpose,” and affirmed, “He had seen the Czar of Muscovy through a hole at Sea, lye with Prince Alexander.” Then Rigby kist Minton several times, putting his Tongue in his Mouth, and taking Minton in his Arms, wisht he might lye with him all night, and that his Lust was provoked to that degree, he had — [ejaculated] in his Breeches, but notwithstanding he could F[uck] him; Minton thereupon said, “sure you cannot do it here,” “yes,” answered Rigby, “I can,” and took Minton to a corner of the Room, and put his Hands into Mintons Breeches, desiring him to pull them down, who answered “he would not, but he (Rigby) might do what he pleased”; thereupon Rigby pulled down Mintons Breeches, turn’d away his shirt, put his Finger to Mintons Fundament, and applyed his Body close to Mintons, who feeling something warm touch his Skin, put his hand behind him, and took hold of Rigbys Privy Member, and said to Rigby “I have now discovered your base Inclinations, I will expose you to the World, to put a stop to these Crimes”; and thereupon Minton went towards the door, Rigby stopt him, and drew his Sword, upon which Minton gave a stamp with his foot, and cry’d out “Westminster“; then the Constable and his Assistance came into the Room, and seized Rigby, who offer’d the Constable a Gratuity to let him go, which he refusing, carryed Rigby beore Sir Henry Dutton Colt, before whom Minton charged Rigby (who was present) with the Fact to the effect before related; who being askt by Sir Henry Colt, “Whether the Fact Minton had charged him with were True,” Rigby denyed not that the Charge against him was true, only objected against some inconsiderable Circumstances, which no ways tended to the lessening of the Charge.
You’ve gotta love late seventeenth century English for stuff like this. Anyway, Rigby was sentenced to stand three days at the pillory for two hours each, a £1,000 fine, a year in prison, followed by seven years’ probation. It wasn’t entirely unusual for prisoners to be seriously wounded or even killed at the pillory as crowds threw rotten garbage (and sometimes rocks) at them. But Rigby’s fate could have been far worse: the standard punishment for sodomy cases was death by hanging. Being an officer in the Royal Navy may have factored into the court’s leniency. Rigby survived his ordeal and fled to France after his release. There, he converted to Catholicism, and entered the French navy where he was a well regarded officer.
[Source: Rictor Norton. Ed. "The Trial of Capt. Edward Rigby, 1698." Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook. (Updated 11 July 2013). Available online here, where you can find much more information, including accounts from several contemporary newspapers.]
5 YEARS AGO: José Sucuzhañay Murdered in Brutal Hate Crime: 2008. Two men were waling arm in arm late at night after leaving a bar from a long night of drinking. Three men in a maroon SUV saw them and, and one of them yelled out, “Check out those faggots over there.” Two jumped out the SUV and attacked the couple. One of the attackers broke a bottle over José’s head. When he fell to the ground, another began beating him with an aluminum baseball bat while the others kicked and punched him. All were yelling anti-gay and anti-Hispanic slurs. The other victim ran and called 911 on his cell phone, Meanwhile, the assailants piled back into the SUV and drove away.
The men who were assaulted were not faggots, but brothers from Ecuador, from a culture where showing affection is relatively common. Romel Sucuzhañay was relatively lucky, having received only minor injuries. But José sustained massive head injuries and was soon declared brain dead. Doctors tried to sustain him on life support until his mother could arrive from Ecuador, but his heart stopped five days after the attack and one day before she could get there. José also left behind two young daughters.
Nearly three months later, police arrested Hakim Scott and Keith Phoenix, and charged them with murder and assault as hate crimes. Phoenix, an unemployed felon who was out on parole, showed no remorse. “So I killed someone — that makes me a bad guy?”, he said to police. Surprisingly, Phoenix was tried twice — the first jury deadlocked. But the second one convicted him of murder and assault as hate crimes. Scott was convicted separately of manslaughter and assault, but without the hate crimes enhancement. Judge Patricia M. DiMango sentenced Phoenix to 37 years to life in prison, and Scott to 37 years. José’s mother was magnanimous after the sentencing. “This is a very sad day,” she said through an interpreter. “It’s sad for my family and for the family of the defendants. I feel very sorry for the defendants, and of course there is a huge emptiness in my heart because of my son.” But Romel, the surviving brother, was traumatized by the whole experience. “My future is in pieces,” he said. “I have mental problems. And it is all because of the ignorance of these people and this distant event.”
140 YEARS AGO: Willa Cather: 1873-1947. Born in Back Creek, Virginia, Willa and her family moved to Nebraska when she was nine years old, and settled in Red Cloud. At the age of fourteen, she seems to have adopted a male persona, named “William” or “Willie,” with studio photos of her at the time had her sporting a crew cut and wearing male clothing, a practice she continued as a student at the University of Nebraska, and she often signed her letters “Aunt Willie” for much of her life. Willa also had a college crush on a fellow student, Louise Pound. In a letter written to another childhood friend, Cather describes, in surprisingly candid detail, a date she went on with Pound: “I am pretty well now, save for sundry bruises received in driving a certain fair maid over the country with one hand, sometimes, indeed, with no hand at all. But she did not seem to mind my method of driving, even when we went off banks and over haystacks, and as for me — I drive with one hand all night in my sleep.” This is an exceptionally rare glimpse — perhaps the only admission we have in writing — of Cather’s attachments to other women, although scholars have combed her novels and examined each morsel for other clues over the years.
Cather began her writing career in college, with campus and local newspapers in Lincoln. After graduation, she moved to Pittsburgh, and then New York, where she worked in journalism before becoming managing editor of McClure’s magazine. In 1908, Cather became close to Edith Lewis, an advertising copywriter, who became Cather’s devoted “companion and housemate for nearly 40 years” — for the rest of Cather’s life — then heir after Cather’s death.
Cather’s first novel, Alexander’s Bridge (1912, was serialized in McClure’s. The story, of an engineer who designed the longest bridge in Canada, was influenced by her most recent travels to London, Boston and Canada. Years later though, she would renounce the workm saying it “was very like what painters call a studio picture… Like most young writers, I thought a book should be made out of ‘interesting materials,’ and at that same time I found the new more exciting than the familiar.” she returned to Red Cloud for a visit and realized that the backward, provincial country she couldn’t wait to flee as a younger woman was now the place that would spark her imagination. She immediately completed her Prairie Trilogy: O Pioneers! (1913), The Song of the Lark (1915), and My Antonia (1918). All of them were written in a distinctly Western style: low key, laconic, direct. Praise for My Antonia was particularly effusive. Sinclair Lewis hailed it for making “the outside world know Nebraska as no one else has done.” Essayist Randolph Bourne wrote, “Here at last is an American novel, redolent of the Western prairie, that our most irritated and exacting preconceptions can be content with… Miss Cather, I think, in this book has taken herself out of the rank of provincial writers and given us something we can fairly class with the modern literary art of the world over that is earnestly and richly interpreting the spirit of youth.”
Her next novel, One of Ours, wasn’t published until 1922, and was inspired by the death of a cousin during the Great War. It came out to mixed reviews, but sold well and won her a Pulitzer in 1923. She wrote four more novels, but with the Jazz age in full bloom and the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemmingway exploding onto the scene, Cather’s works seemed frumpy, overly nostalgic, and disconnected from the modern world in comparison. When the country was plunged into the Great Depression, Cather was viewed as irrelevant. She became reclusive, burned old drafts and personal papers, forbade anyone from publishing or quoting from her letters. When she died in 1947, her will severely restricted scholar’s access to her papers, a restriction that Lewis strictly enforced. This frustrated scholars for decades, particularly those who were trying to tease out details of the reclusive author’s private life. In 2011, her nephew and second executor Charles Cather died, and the copyrights passed to the Willa Cather Trust, which dropped the ban on quoting or publishing her letters, raising hopes among scholars for a rich new source of material. But when Knopf released The Selected Letters of Willa Cather earlier this year, those looking for a more personal glimpse of Cather’s life were disapointed. It turns out that Cather’s surviving letters were as circumspect as she was.
Billye Talmadge: 1929. Raised in Oklahoma and Missouri by a single mother after her parents separated, Billye Talmadge spent all of her life as a teacher, of one sort or another. She began teaching eighth grade English by the age of twenty-one, and later found her true calling as a well-recognized special education teacher (the state of California named her Teacher of the Year in 1971).
Talmadge also spent all her life as a student, less formally speaking at least. While home for a brief visit from college in 1949, one of her friends told her she was in love with another girl, news which shocked Talmadge. She went to the dean of women at her university looking for answers, and the dean provided Talmadge with several books, including Radclyffe Halls The Well of Loneliness. Talmadge said that reading it was “like coming home.” Looking to learn further, Talmadge sought out “the biggest butch on campus.” She recalled, “I asked her name, to make sure she was the right person, and then I said, ‘Are you a lesbian? Because I think I am and I need to know what this is all about.’”
Six years later, Talmadge and her then-partner, Jaye “Shorty” Bell, became involved with the Daughters of Bilitis, which had been founded a few months earlier but was on the verge of folding (see Oct 19). Joining the group was a huge risk for Talmadge. “There were twenty-seven reasons why you could lose your teacher’s license in California at this time, above all if you were a card-carrying Communist or a suspected homosexual.” Nevertheless, Talmadge, Bell and a few other newcomers helped to inject new life into the nascent organization. Talmadge organized the group’s “Gab’n'Java sessions, and when the Daughters established their newsletter The Ladder, Talmadge contributed several articles.
Talmadge also became something of a one-woman social services volunteer for the group. DoB founders Del Martin (see May 5) and Phyllis Lyon (see Nov 11) remembered Talmadge as “intuitive about somebody who might have a problem,” particularly if a woman was troubled or a victim of abuse. “Talmadge recalled, “It was not unusual to get a call at 3 a.m. saying that we had somebody who was trying to commit suicide.” The Daughters found a local psychologist, Dr. Blanche Baker, who trained Talmadge, Martin and Lyons in counseling and crisis management. She also took calls whenever police arrested a lesbian or raided a bar:
We had one of your members who was picked up drunk, and she was drunk. But she was also dressed butch, and the officer damn near beat her to death. He kept calling her a dyke, and a queer, and a son of a bitch, all this type of stuff. I was called and I went down and bailed her out. … I could hardly recognize her she was so badly beaten.
Talmadge quickly learned her way through the legal system. When San Francisco police raided the Tay-Bush Inn and arrested ninety-nine men and four women (see Aug 13), Talmadge, Martin and Lyons arranged lawyers for the women, who urged them to plead not guilty and ask for a jury trial. That was a gutsy move, because it only increased the chances of their names and occupations appearing in the local paper. A lot of the men pleaded guilty and paid an eleven dollar fine — which also got them a permanent police record. Everyone’s names, addresses and employers were printed in the paper anyway, but the women saw their charges dismissed and no entries to their records.
In the 1960s, Talmadge’s interests turned to the spiritual. She was an early member of San Francisco’s Council on Religion and the Homosexual and, later, a spiritual group known as The Prosperos, which held that God, as male and female, was present in every person. “It was an educational group, primarily,” she explained. “Sexuality was one of the major topics. I got involved and became a teacher, with the goal of helping people to find themselves; not what I want them to be, but to find themselves and to express whatever that self is.”
By the late 1970s, Talmadge withdrew from The Prosperos, and turned her attention toward helping her partner, Marcia Herndon, an ethnomusicologist, write seven books. They remained together from 1974 until Marcia’s death in 1997. At last report, Billye Talmadge had recently moved to an assisted-living residence in Portland, Oregon.
[Sources: William Fennie. "Billye Talmadge (1929- ): Some Kind of Courage." In Vern L. Bullough's (ed.) Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (London: Routledge, 2002): 179-188.
Marcia M. Gallo. Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement (Emeryville, CA: Seal Press, 2007): 9.]
As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.
The Daily Agenda for Friday, December 6
December 6th, 2013
Same-Sex Marriage Arrives Down Under: Canberra, Australian Capital Territory. Beginning today — Saturday, December 7 if you’re in Australia, where Canberra is sixteen hours ahead of New York and nineteen hours ahead of California — same-sex couples will be able to enter into a same-sex marriage. Which, to be clear, is nothing at all like marriage. No, siree. It’s completely different. Because in Australia, plain old marriage is a Federal issue, not a state or territorial one as it is in the U.S. But since the Federal government has refused to take up marriage equality, the government of Australian Capital Territory, which is the seat of the nation’s capital city of Canberra, devised a territory-only solution called “same-sex marriage,” which because it was not defined according to the Federal government’s definition as marriage, it is therefore, by definition, not marriage but “same-sex marriage.” At least that’s the argument that “same-sex marriage” supporters are putting forth before Australia’s High Court earlier this week.
But because the High Court won’t rule on those arguments until December 12, there is, at minimum, a five day window in which same-sex couples can get same-sex married. The pro-equality group Australian Marriage Equality – they may need to re-think their name for the time being — says that at least twenty couples are prepared to same-sex marry this weekend, with at least two couples doing so right after midnight. AME also says that “Telstra Tower on Black Mountain will black out at 11.59pm this evening and then turn back on at 12am lit in sequential rainbow colours to mark the first same-sex weddings which take place at 12.01am.”
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Wisconsin Sheriffs Call For Indeterminate Sentences for Gay People: 1944. The annual convention of the Wisconsin Sheriffs Association, meeting at Milwaukee’s Schroeder Hotel, passed several resolutions, including one endorsing a bill proposed by the Wisconsin Police Chiefs Association which would mandate medical treatment and indeterminate sentences for gay people, among other sexual offenders, who were charged with disorderly conduct. The problem, apparently, was that the current law only carried light fines and minimal jail sentences.
What the Wisconsin Sheriffs Association was asking for was what would become known as a “sexual psychopath law.” Through much of the 1930s and 1940s, American newspapers found sensational stories in gruesome murders, often of young children, which reporters and authorities attributed to “deviates,” whether there was any evidence linking gay people to the crimes or not. Those newspaper headlines feed the belief that sexual lawlessness was growing across the country. Michigan was the first state to pass a sexual psychopath law in 1935 which required a judge to determine anyone convicted of a sex crime to determine whether that person was “psychopathic, or a sex degenerate, or a sex pervert.” If so found, the judge was to order the defendant to a state mental hospital until the defendant “ceased to be a menace to the public safety because of said mental condition.” How mental health officials were supposed to make that kind of a judgment, the law didn’t say.
By 1967, twenty six state and the District of Columbia had passed similar laws. Wisconsin’s sexual psychopath law, enacted in 1947, gave broad powers to the local sheriff to place a suspect in detention without a hearing and without a conviction. That law was replaced in 1951 with the Sexual Deviate Act, which required the individual to be convicted of a crime first. In 1954, it was noted that of 22 individuals who were being indefinitely committed under the law, thirteen had been convicted of sodomy. Wisconsin’s Sexual Deviate Act was finally repealed in 1980.
American Medical Association Opposes Gay Cures: 1994. The AMA’s governing House of Delegates adopted a revised policy paper calling for an end to efforts to change sexual orientation. The old position paper titled, “Health Care Needs of the Homosexual Population,” which had been adopted in 1981, had read, that “some homosexual groups maintain, contrary to the bulk of scientific evidence, that preferential or exclusive homosexuality can never be changed, these people may be discouraged form seeking adequate psychiatric consultation. What is more important is that this myth may also be accepted by homosexuals.”
But by 1994, the AMA became convinced that the growing evidence showed that whatever disturbance gay people may have felt about their sexual orientation “is due more to a sense of alienation in an unaccepting environment” and called for “nonjudgmental recognition of sexual orientation by physicians.” The AMA also said that “aversion therapy” — which involved showing a gay man, for example, nude pictures of men and shocking them with a jolt of electricity — “is no longer recommended for gay men and lesbians.” It went on: “Through psychotherapy, gay men and lesbians can become comfortable with their sexual orientation and understand the social responses to it.” The new policy paper was adopted without dissent.
FDA Approves First Protease Inhibitor for Treating AIDS: 1995. The Food and Drug Administration gave its approval for Saquinavir(marketed as Invirase), the first protease inhibitor for treating AIDS. This approval was notable for two reasons. First, the FDA gave its approval only 97 days after receiving the application for approval, which was in marked contrast to the years that it would have taken under the normal drug approval process. But after several high profile protests (see, for example, Oct 11), the FDA changed its process for approving drugs for treating HIV/AIDS to allow for a significantly accelerated schedule. But the most important aspect of this approval was that Invirase would prove to be the third part of what would soon become a three-drug cocktail which, for the first time since 1981, gave people with AIDS hope for a reprieve from what had been assumed to be a death sentence.
The first component of that three-drug cocktail, azidothymidine (AZT, marketed as Retrovir), was first approved in 1987. AZT was a nucleoside analog reverse transcriptase inhibitor (or “nuke”), which blocked a particular enzyme associated with HIV. It was virtually the only means for fighting the disease for almost a decade, but it’s effectiveness was sorely limited. In November of 1995, the FDA approved another “nuke”, Lamivudine (3TC, or Epivir) which gave doctors a second option for when patients became unresponsive to AZT. But when taken together, AZT and 3TC seemed to offer an additional “punch” for many people than they experienced when taking the drugs individually. When protease inhibitors became available and were used in combination with AZT and 3TC, doctors soon discovered that these this combination therapy reduced the amount of HIV swimming around in patients’ blood by about 99 percent. In early 1996, two more protease inhibitors, Ritonavir (marketed as Norvir) and Indinavir (marketed as Crixivan), joined Invirase on the market, giving doctors more ingredients to choose from for what would be known as the “AIDS cocktail,” or Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART).
Researchers had previously seen too many supposedly promising treatments quickly proved to be ineffective before to get their hopes up too high now. Early reports of a possible breakthrough in 1996 were tentative, but the results soon proved unmistakable. When 3TC joined AZT in 1995 as a viable treatment, there was a noticeable plateau in the number of deaths due to AIDS. But in 1996 when the three-drug cocktail became available, the number of deaths due to AIDS would see its first drop since the epidemic began. And it wasn’t a slight drop either. It was a 20% improvement from the year before. People at death’s door began coming back from the abyss. For some who had prepared to die, finding that they were living again presented an entirely new set of challenges. The emotional whipsaw, dubbed “the Lazarus Syndrome” made restarting a life (including an education, careers, or simply a place to live) that had been systematically dismantled through disease, disability and stigma just one more challenge to surmount while still dealing with the anxiety of wondering whether this combination would soon fail as all of the other treatments had done before.
The three-drug cocktail, which became known as Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART), wasn’t a cure, but the breakthrough was undeniable. Further improvements in HAART resulted in more effective combinations and dosages which made adherence much simpler. HAART would eventually transform AIDS from a terminal disease to a chronic disease, albeit still a very serious one. More recent research shows that, thanks to HAART, people with AIDS can now expect a near-normal lifespan. And yet, HAART’s side effects can take a brutal toll on the body, and its cost — ranging from $10,000 to $15,00 a year for a single patient — makes life-prolonging medications a severe financial strain for anyone without insurance or governmental assistance. All of which makes finding a cure still as important as ever.
As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.
The Daily Agenda for Thursday, December 5
December 5th, 2013
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Bishop John Atherton Hanged for Buggery: 1640. The delicious irony was that the good bishop of Waterford and Lismore in the Church of Ireland was one of the loudest proponents for a new law making homosexuality a capital crime. He then became the second person to be hanged under that statute. His his steward, tithe proctor and cohort, John Chidle, was also condemned to death.
The original trial records were destroyed in the civil wars that followed the downfall of King Charles I, so virtually everything we know about the case comes from public pamphlets which were the equivalent of our tabloid press. Historians harbor some doubt as to whether Atherton was really guilty. In addition to being a bishop, Atherton was also a lawyer who apparently had some success in winning back some of the church’s lands from Irish landlords, an act for which he undoubtedly collected a number of powerful enemies. Puritans, who were also active in trying to abolish the office of bishops in the Church of England, are also believed to have played a hand in his downfall.
We may never know the true story of Atherton’s sexuality. But his death remains a warning to all nations who would impose severe criminal sanctions on homosexual relationships. As long as draconian penalties exist, the temptation will be great for blackmailers and political opponents to lobb accusations against their targets. And under those circumstances, nobody will be safe regardless of their actual sexuality.
Massachusetts Bay Court Sentences Woman for “Unseemly Practices”: 1642. The Essex County Court in Salem recorded the following: “Elizabeth Johnson, servant to Mr. Jos. Yonge, to be severely whipped and find 5 li. (pounds) for unseemly practices betwixt her and another maid; for stubbornness to her mistress answering rudely and unmannerly, and also for stopping her ears with her hands when the Word of God was read…” This brief mention is believed to be the first recorded legal prosecution of same-sex relations between women in North America.
Berkeley Becomes First City To Approve Domestic Partner Benefits for City Employees: 1984. Six years earlier, Berkeley joined a growing number of cities and counties which had established a non-discrimination ordinance on the basis of sexual orientation. But when Tom Brougham began working for the city in 1979, he found that he couldn’t sign his partner up for health and dental benefits. They were only available to married spouses of city employees, and marriage was available only to heterosexual couples. Brougham proposed a new category for same-sex couples, which he called a “domestic partnership,” which initially had three requirements: 1) That, aside from being a same-sex couple, the partners would be otherwise meet all the other qualifications for marriage; 2), that they live together in the same residence; and 3) they were the sole domestic partners for each other. Over the next few years, two more qualificaitons were added: a requirement of mutual financial responsibility and both partners must be at least eighteen years old and able to enter a legal contract.
Brougham and his partner, Barry Warren, spent the next two years working with local unions and the University of California at Berkely to lobby the city council, but that effort proved unsuccessful. But in 1982, San Francisco Supervisor Harry Britt noticed the proposal from across the bay and decided to try to push through a similar measure in San Francisco. The Board of Supervisors approved what proved to be a fiercely controversial proposal, only to see it vetoed by mayor Diane Feinstein in December of that year.
Brougham, Warren and the East Bay Lesbian/Gay Democratic Club then decided to step back and put together a methodical program to educate the East Bay community about domestic partnership benefits, organize a gay voting block in the city, and elect candidates who would support the proposal. In July of 1984, the city council was prepared to adopt the policy in principle, but they balked at the feared increases in health coverage costs. But the issue didn’t die there. During the November city council race, an approximation of marriage benefits for same-sex couples became a winning electoral issue when all those who had voted against implementing domestic partnerships were defeated. The following month, the new city council approved the measure, making the city the first in the nation to provide spousal benefits to same-sex partners of city employees.
[Source: Leland Traiman. "A Brief History of Domestic Partnerships." The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide 15, no. 4 (July-August 2008): 23-24.]
Larry Kert: 1930-1991. The Hollywood High School graduate was only twenty when he joined a Broadway troupe for 1950 revue Tickets, Please! as his first professional credit. He then spent the next seen years working off-Broadway as a dancer. While dancing in the chorus for Sammy Davis, Jr., his friend and fellow dancer Chita Rivera persuaded him to audition for West Side Story. He didn’t make the cut, but a few months later Stephen Sondheim asked him to audition for the part of Tony, the role that Kert would originate when West Side Story debuted in 1957.
Consider the show’s creating team, and you have what would have had to have been the gayest production on the Great White Way: composer Leonard Bernstein, lyricist Stephen Sondheim, director Jerome Robbins, librettist, Arthur Laurents. Kert remained with the production for the next three years, and he became so closely identified with West Side Story that he found trouble finding work elsewhere. Even when he was invited to appear on television, it was to sing “Maria.” And yet, he was disappointed to find that he wouldn’t get to play Tony for the 1961 film version. Kert had hoped that it would open the doors to a film career, but the film’s producers didn’t think the thirty-year-old Kert could play a teenager.
From there, Kert’s career was characterized by a few successes in a field of sometimes spectacular failures. He appeared in the 1962 musical comedy A Family Affair, which ran for only 65 performances. The disastrous musical adaptation of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1966) closed during previews. In 1968, Kert took over the role of Cliff in Cabaret and stayed with if for a year, but his next venture, 1969’s La Strada, closed on opening night. Kert then took over the lead role in Stephen Sondheim’s Company shortly after it opened on Broadway. Critics raved, and Kert became the first and only replacement actor to receive a Tony nomination.
Kert’s career continued more or less like that through the rest of the 1970s and 1980s. While the uneven successes may have frustrated other actors, Kert was known for his upbeat attitude, whether he was performing on Broadway or in regional theater. “I love roller coasters, and I’ve been on one all my life,” he told one interviewer in 1988 while part of a touring company of La Cage of Folles. His last public performance was at the Rainbow and Stars Cabaret, where he joined his West Side Story co-star Carol Lawrence in reprising the musical’s popular numbers. He died eight months later, in 1991, of AIDS at the age of sixty. He was survived by his partner, Ron Pullen.
As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.
The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, December 4
December 4th, 2013
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Roxanne Ellis and Michelle Abdill Murdered: 1995. Roxanne and Michelle had had it up to here with living in Colorado Springs, where they felt that the atmosphere was very hostile to gays and lesbians. And after seven years, they decided that it wasn’t going to get better anytime soon, so they packed up and moved to Oregon’s Rogue Valley, just north of the California line. They quickly adapted to their new home in Medford, where they started a property management business, became board members at their church, began restoring their old Craftsman home, and visited Roxanne’s thee-year-old granddaughter as much as possible. They also became active in state politics, working to defeat Measure 9 in 1992 (which would have amended the state constitution to declare homosexuality “abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse” and prohibit its “promotion.”) and Measure 19 in 1993 (which would have restricted library access for materials related to homosexuality).
On December 4, 1995, Roxanne met with a potential tenant to show him an apartment. At about 5:00, Michelle left the office, saying she had gotten a call from Roxanne saying her pickup wouldn’t start. Neither Roxanne nor Michelle were seen until their bodies were discovered four days later in the back of Roxanne’s pickup. Both had been shot in the head, and their bodies were covered with drapes and cardboard moving boxes.
That prospective tenant, twenty-seven year old Robert Acremant had just moved to Medford with his mother three weeks earlier. A witness had seen Acremant park the pickup truck and walk away. When police circulated a composite sketch based on the witness’s account, his mother recognized the face as her son who, she thought, was acting strangely. She called the police. When detectives matched the address labels on her moving boxes to those covering Roxanne and Michelle’s bodies, they new they had their man.
He confessed to the murder, claiming it was a simple robbery. But the district attorney was skeptical. After all, victims’ purses, wallets, jewelry, cell phones and money were left at the crime scene. Acremant also confessed to killing Scott Gordon in Visalia, California two months earlier. Later in 1996, he wrote a letter to his hometown newspaper stating that while he had intended to rob the couple, he found it was easier to just kill them knowing they were lesbians. He also wrote that he killed Gordon because Gordon had made a pass at him. He later recanted his story about why he killed his victims, but the reasons he gave remained incoherent. Perhaps the best indication of the state of his mind is the one part of his story which remained consistent: He was trying to raise money so he could afford to resume his relationship with his “girlfriend,” a call girl in Las Vegas who had broken off contact with him after he ran out of money and began stalking her.
On September 11, 1996, Acremant pleaded guilty to the murders of Roxanne and Michelle, and was sentenced to death by lethal injection. It would emerge later that he had been complaining for years that he heard voices and that there was a transmitter in his head so others can control him. On February 18, 2011, his sentenced was reduced to life imprisonment after he had been found mentally delusional and unable to assist in his own appeals.
Samuel Butler: 1835-1902. The English novelist was both the son and grandson of Anglican clergy. Naturally, his family expected him to continue in the family business. After studying in Cambridge, Butler worked briefly as a lay minister in a poverty-stricken London neighborhood. In 1860, he decided to put off the question of ordination and moved to New Zealand, where he became a successful sheep rancher and writer for the local press. While there, Butler met Charles Paine Pauli, and they returned to England together in 1864. Butler supported Pauli financially for the next 30 years. When Pauli died, Butler discovered a terrible betrayal: Pauli had amassed a fortune from being supported by two other men, and he excluded Butler from his will.
Butler’s more notable works included Erewhon (1872), a futuristic parody of Victorian England; The Fairhaven (1875), a satire of Christianity; and his posthumously semi-autobiographical The Way of All Flesh (1903). Written between 1873 and 1884, Butler dared not publish The Way of All Flesh in his lifetime, as he considered its attack on Victorian values too controversial. It also included a sham marriage by one character who struggles with his feelings toward other men (a mistake which Butler, a lifelong bachelor, avoided in real life). While The Way of All Flesh had to await Butler’s death before it could see the light of day, Butler’s 1899 Shakespeare’s Sonnets Reconsidered put forth Butler’s belief that Shakespeare wrote several sonnets to a younger man who had betrayed him, perhaps a reflection of Butler’s own experience with Pauli.
Ed Flesh: 1931-2011. If you’ve ever watched the game show Wheel of Fortune, then you’ve seen Flesh’s most famous handiwork. The prolific art director designed the famous horizontally-spinning wheel that is the show’s trademark. He also designed the sets for Jeopardy!, the Newlywed Game, The $25,000 Pyramid, and Name That Tune. Ed died in 2011 at the age of 79, leaving behind his partner of 44 years.
A. Scott Berg: 1949. The biographer has won numerous awards in his career, beginning with his first book in 1978 about editor Maxwell Perkins, which won a National Book Award. He also wrote the story for Making Love, the groundbreaking 1982 film which was the first major Hollywood release to deal with homosexuality in a serious way. In 1998, his highly acclaimed best-seller, Lindbergh, about the famed aviator, won him the Pulitzer. In 2003, he published Kate Remembered which appeared in print just twelve days after Katharine Hepburn’s death. The memoir about his twenty-year friendship with the actress remained on The New York Times Best Seller list for eleven weeks. Berg currently resides in Los Angeles with his film producer partner.
As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.
The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, December 3
December 3rd, 2013
TODAY IN HISTORY:
New York Business Group Says People with AIDS Should Be Forced to Work at Home: 1985. Just as the state of New York was about to release a report showing that workplace AIDS discrimination complaints had gone up from four the previous year to nineteen in 1985 (one was a heterosexual security guard who was fired after a one-week hospital stay), the New York Business Group on Health, which advised 265 businesses including Bloomingdale’s and New York Telephone Co., recommended that employees diagnosed with AIDS should be required to work from home. The group also suggested that supervisors treat workers as they would any other seriously ill employee.
“Our theses is employers should recognize the importance of AIDS as a problem and prepare for its eruption,” said Dr. Leon Warshaw, the group’s Executive Director. “They should form fairly explicit policies and procedures. Otherwise, they’ll find themselves suddenly involved in a crisis situation and as a result they will be liable to take ill-ocsidered actions, knee-jerk reactions that could boomerang.” Like, say, telling a Bloomies sales clerk to try doing his job from his walk-up, instead of following the group’s other recommendation: that companies educate their employees of the then-prevailing medical opinion that AIDS couldn’t be spread through casual contact.
Ron Najman of the National Gay Task Force blasted the proposal. “That suggestion is totally inappropriate,” he said. “It’s counterproductive, and it leads to de facto discrimination. They are speaking with forked tongue here. It’s opening the door to tolerating hysteria and panic.”
Allan Bérubé: 1946-2007. He is best known as the author of the best-selling book, Coming Out Under Fire, about the stories of gay men and women who served during World War II. The book, which drew on GIs wartime letters, interviews with veterans and declassified military documents, Bérubé revealed a history that had previously been hidden. What’s more, his timing was prescient; the book came out just three years before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was enshrined into law. The book earned Bérubé an Lambda Literary Award for outstanding Gay Men’s Nonfiction. The book was made into a documentary in 1994, which won a Peabody Award in 1995 and earned Bérubé “Genius Grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 1996. After he died in 2007 the bulk of his personal and professional papers were donated to the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco, where they are currently being organized and catalogued for future historians.
As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.
The Daily Agenda for Monday, December 2
December 2nd, 2013
Say Aloha to Marriage Equality: Hawaii. At the stroke of midnight Hawaii time (that would be 5:a.m. EST), marriage equality arrives in paradise. Among the first to be married after the stroke of midnight will be Rev. Jonipher Kupono Kwong, a Unitarian minister and gay rights activist, and Chris Nelson, Kwong’s partner of fifteen years, with 140 friends and Gov. Neil Abercrombie in attendance. At least six other couples will race to be among the first to say “I Do” at the Sheraton Waikiki. It’s fitting that the Sheraton would host some of the first same-sex marriages. Hotels and wedding planners across Hawaii are eager to get a piece of an estimated $217 million in increased tourism dollars over the next three years as Hawaii’s well-oiled marriage industry gears up to welcome same-sex couples from other states.
Documentary Film “The Battle of amfAR” Premieres: HBO. From the press release: “The Battle of amfAR tells the true story of when AIDS struck and two very different and extraordinary women – Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor and research scientistDr. Mathilde Krim – joined forces to take a stand and create America’s first AIDS research foundation, AmfAR. Their goal: to unveil the truth of the disease as a worldwide pandemic in desperate need of funding for scientific research to find a cure. Directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (HBO’s Sundance award-winning The Celluloid Closet and Oscar-winning Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt) and executive produced by fashion mogul Kenneth Cole, The Battle of amfAR chronicles the organization’s history and continuing importance in the fight against HIV/AIDS.”
The official premier is tonight on HBO at 9:00 p.m. EST/PST, although a sneak prevue aired last night on HBO 2. You can learn more about the documentary at the film’s official web site and at HBO’s documentary web page. The official trailer follows:
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Columbus Police Question 500 “Deviates”: 1962. ”At least 500 men with abnormal sex habits walk Columbus streets. Nothing can be done about them unless they break the law,” the Columbus Dispatch breathlessly exclaimed on a December Sunday morning. Police in Columbus, Ohio, had “thoroughly checked” about 2,500 people since the gruesome murder of Columbus Business College student Mary Margaret Andrews two and a half months earlier. Of those checked out, police tagged five hundred of them as “deviates.”
Detective Chief Wade Knight’s statements to the Dispatch illustrate the confused nature of his investigation. At one point, he said suggested that “the person who committed the crime is abnormal, but not a sex maniac or degenerate.” But then he emphasized what he believed to be the likelihood that the crime was somehow linked to what the Dispatch listed as “molestings, window peeping, exhibitionists, and homosexuals.” Knight added, “I didn’t realize, and I don’t believe the homicide squad realized, how many people there are walking the streets with abnormal sex habits until we got into the Andrews case.”
Knight also suggested that the five hundred was just the tip of the iceberg. “In this case we would uncover more sex deviates than otherwise. Probably many are walking the streets we didn’t pull in.”
Knight complained that Ohio’s laws were inadequate to deal with the problem. “They certainly need help. They realize they need help and many would like to have it. They need psychiatry and an institution for their care. A lot know they are abnormal and don’t want to do anything about it.” Knight acknowledged that courts could work out a psychiatric treatment plan. But under Ohio law, the cost of treatment was borne by the individual being committed for treatment, a cost which many were unable to pay. Knight called on families to “take every step to help them. If they don’t they are only hurting themselves and the people they (they deviates) are associating with.”
[Source: James Speckman. "500 Sex Deviates Quizzed by Police." The Columbus Dispatch (December 2, 1962): 22A.]
Gay Activists Challenge “Gay Cure” Psychiatrist at Cooper Union: 1964. Two and a half months after organizing the first known gay rights picket on American soil (see Sep 19), New York activist Randolphe Wicker decided to try another direct challenge, this time against the medical profession which held that homosexuality was a mental illness. Dr. Paul Dince, Associate in Psychiatry at New York Medical College was scheduled to speak on “Homosexuality, a Disease” at the popular Cooper Union Forum.
Wicker and four activists arrived early to hand out literature and display signs reading, “We Request 10 Minutes Rebuttal Time.” They got their rebuttal time during the Q&A session following Dince’s talk. Wicker pointed out that all of the so-called experts disagreed and contradicted each other over why some people became gay and whether they could be cured. He lambasted the research to date which had been conducted almost entirely of “unhappy, ill-adjusted homosexuals” who were patients undergoing therapy. He derided the so-called experts for starting with the assumption that homosexuality was a disease, and drawing conclusions which supported their prejudices. He also warned that those who were firmly committed to the homosexuality-as-disease theory were happily charing exorbitant hourly fees, draining the bank accounts of homosexuals or their parents while promising a cure.
The Ladder gleefully reported, “Applause for the challenger topped applause for the lecturer, who appeared stunned for a moment by the reaction of the audience.” Dince was also forced to concede the point about unscrupulous therapists. “Unfortunately, they do exist,” he admitted. And he admitted his own surprise at being picketed and receiving such a strong rebuttal during his first public lecture.
[Source: Kay Tobin (Kay Lahusen). "'Expert' Challenged." The Ladder 9, nos. 5-6 (February-March 1965): 18. For Kay Lahusen's bio, see Jan 5.]
CDC Freezes AIDS Education Grants: 1985. Fearing a backlash from the White House and conservative political leaders on Capitol Hill, officials at the Centers for Disease Control confirmed that they were putting on ice more than $1.6 million in AIDS “innovative risk reduction” grants for education on safe sex practices. CDC spokesperson Donald Berreth confirmed to reporters, “There was some concern that there would be a backlash against the federal government funding ‘pornography.’ This is a problem that existed before with sexually transmitted diseases, not just AIDS. It’s something we have struggled with within the CDC.”
While Berreth denied that the CDC’s decision was due to “outside influence,” CDC director Dr. James O. Mason had told gay rights groups and others that he was under considerable pressure from the White House not to sponsor what was termed “sexually graphic” educational materials, even though Mason had argued that such education “could stop this epidemic in its tracks.”
Gianni Versace: 1946-1997. For the man known simply as “Versace,” fashion had long been a family affair. He began his apprenticeship at home, where his mother ran a sewing workshop that employed as many as a dozen seamstresses. When he began selling at his own boutique in Milan in 1978, his older brother, Santo, joined him to oversee the growing firm’s organization, distribution, production and finance, while younger sister Donatella served as Gianni’s publicist, critic and muse. Versace would go on to design for such celebrities as Princess Diana, Madonna, Elton John, Cher, Eric Clapton, and Sting.
Versace’s designs, which were a mash-up of ancient Roman and Greek art with splashes of pop and abstract art thrown in, reflected the opulent, jet-setting lifestyle he enjoyed with his partner, designer and model Antonio D’Amico. Versace met D’Amico in 1982, and D’Amico would later design Versache’s Sport. The two remained partners for the next fifteen years, until July 15, 1997, when mass-murderer Andrew Cunanan gunned down Versace outside of his Miami Beach mansion. Versace was Conanan’s fifth victim in four months, before Cunanan killed himself on a houseboat eight days later.
As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.
The Daily Agenda for Sunday, December 1
December 1st, 2013
World AIDS Day: Everywhere. Today is the day set aside to increase awareness, fight prejudice, and improve education about HIV/AIDS. Worldwide, it is estimated that about 35 million people are are living with HIV/AIDS. The good news is that the rate of new HIV infections worldwide are still declining, as have AIDS-related deaths. Where access to antiretroviral (ARV) medications is available, AIDS changed from being a fatal disease to a chronic one, albeit a very serious one. Those who are on ARVs can now expect a near-normal lifespan.
The bad news is that men who have sex with men (MSM) made up 62% of all new HIV infections in 2011. Alarmingly, African-American men make up about 36% of that category (PDF: 545KB / 2 pages). Young people under 25 represent more than a quarter of new HIV infections each year (26 percent) and most of them (60 percent) don’t know they’re infected. All told, an estimated 75% of people with HIV do not have their virus under control because about quarter of all people with HIV don’t even know they have it. Do you know your status? Find out today. You can even do it from the comfort of your own home, so there’s no excuse not to.
Croatians to Vote on Same-Sex Marriage Ban. More than 1,000 gay rights supporters marched through Zagrab yesterday ahead of today’s referendum that could outlaw marriage equality in the European Union’s newest member state. The referendum placed on the ballot by a governmental commission last October on the very same day that Croatia’s foreign minister Vesna Pusić was welcoming top human rights officials from the U.S. and Europe at a meeting of the International Gay and Lesbian Association (IGLA) European branch in the Croatian capital. Croatia had already approved a law banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in order to meet one of the conditions of EU membership. Placing the marriage ban on the ballot was seen as a dramatic reversal of Croatia’s commitments to human rights. A recent poll shows that 68% of Croatians say they will vote to support the ban. It also has support from 104 members of Croatia’s 151-seat parliament.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Connecticut Passes It’s First Sodomy Law: 1642. “If any man lyeth with mankind as hee lyeth with woman, both of them shave committed abomination, they both shall surely be put to death. — Levit. 21. 13.” If it’s any consolation, the same penalty also applied to adultery.
15 YEARS AGO: Miami Reinstates Gay Rights Ordinance: 1998. More than two decades earlier, Miami first passed a gay rights ordinance (see Jan 18) which was eventually overturned following an acrimonious campaign led by Florida Orange Juice spokesperson Anita Bryant (see Jun 7). That victory led Bryant to spearhead campaigns to overturn similar ordinances in St Paul, Minnesota (see Apr 25) and Wichita, Kansas (see May 9). That tidal wave reached its high-water mark in 1978 when voters in Eugene, Oregon turned back a Bryant-inspired attempt to rescind that city’s anti-discrimination ordinance (see Nov 7). That same day, California voters turned down the Brigg’s Initiative, which would have banned gays and lesbians from working in public schools.
In the decades that followed, eleven states, 27 counties and 136 cities had passed anti-discrimination laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in housing and employment. But gays and lesbians in Miami, where the anti-gay backlash against such legislation first became a major political force, remained without those protections. That changed in 1998, when the Miami-Date Commission voted 7-6 to approve an ordinance barring discrimination in housing and employment. The vote came after more than four hours of public debate while opponents of the measure prayed on their knees outside.
“It says that we’ve grown up,” said Carlos Hazday, a local gay activist who spearheaded the campaign for the ordinance. “We’re not perfect, we still have differences, but we’re learning from our mistakes.” Miami Beach mayor Neisen Kasdin welcomed the vote after arguing that an image of intolerance was bad for the area’s tourism-dependent economy. “Greater Miami is no longer a provincial, backwater town,” he said. “Let’s not retreat from our destiny as a major international city.” Reporters seeking comment from Anita Bryant tried leaving messages on an answering machine at her theater in Branson, Missouri. They were apparently unaware that she had been forced to close her theater and declare bankruptcy.
Matthew Shepard: 1976-1998. I’m not sure what to say about him that hasn’t already been said. He has become so much larger in death than he was in life — except, of course, to those who knew him. For the rest of us, he’s an icon, not unlike the golden images venerated in Orthodox churches of impossibly heroic saints who suffered their unimaginable tortures in stoic silence. Most of what we know about him can be summed up in a simple creed: he suffered, died, and was buried. One popular description of how he was found — tied to a fence with his arms outstretched — took on religious significance, even if the image it portrayed was inaccurate. Judy Shepard, Matthew’s mother, has always been uncomfortable with the deification.
“People call him a martyr, but I take exception to that,” she said. “I’ve tried very hard to keep him real. It’s unfair to make him larger than life. He had foibles. He made mistakes. He was not a perfect child by any means.
“When he was killed he was not on a victory march or a protest march or anything that you would consider fighting for gay rights. He was just living his life as a 21-year-old college student who smoked too much, drank too much and didn’t study enough. He was a college kid trying to figure out his future.”
As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.
The Daily Agenda for Saturday, November 30
November 30th, 2013
THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
The Mental Hygiene Aspects of Homosexuality: 1917. The theories behind the Eugenics movement were formulated by Sir Francis Galton, half-cousin of Charles Darwin. Drawing on Darwin’s theories of evolution, Galton sought to create a practical application of those theories in his 1883 book, Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development, in which he suggested that, through carefully considered interventions, the human condition could be improved. In addition to Eugenics, which took a more narrow human-husbandry approach to improving the population, those ideas launched a broader “social hygiene” movement which had many positive results: the regulation and eventual abolition of child labor, mandatory and free education primary and (eventually) secondary education, workplace health and safety rules, anti-tenement ordinances, pre-natal care, food safety regulations, immunizations, sanitation, and birth control — although the latter, in some of its manifestations, also had its negative qualities as well. Particularly where forced sterilization of “undesired” population groups were concerned.
Eugenics was the dark side of the social hygiene movement, as was its “racial hygiene” component which simply provided a weak scientific gloss over longstanding prejudices and racial policies designed to prevent “race-mixing.” While not everyone involved in social hygienes were eugenicists, there was often a certain degree of crossed influences between the two areas of discussion. We can best see this in a textbook which was published in November 1917 by William Alanson White, a prominent psychoanalyst and professor of nervous and mental diseases at Georgetown University. In The Principles of Mental Hygiene, he touched on a large number of topics, including homosexuality. That passage is particularly striking because of the way White described homosexuality according to its impact on “the herd.”
This social group, like the others, is a complex and heterogeneous one and one, too, that we have only recently come to study scientifically. Perhaps no group of individuals have suffered from less understanding, have been treated with greater lack of consideration, than this group. The antipathic emotions have held almost complete sway and so have made the scientific approach to the problem practically impossible. The history of society’s attitude towards the homosexual is much the same as the history of its attitude towards the prostitute except that it has, if possible, been more completely dominated by the antipathic emotions.
Homosexuality has come of late to have a much broader meaning than that usually connoted by the popular speech. It means that degree of attraction for the same sex which turns the individual aside on the path towards a heterosexual goal and therefore away from those activities which naturally lead to procreation and are therefore race-preservative. The term by no means necessarily connotes actual concrete acts of sexual perversion. In this large sense it is readily seen why it should be tabooed by the herd. Its tendency is destructive to the interests of the herd as a biological unit and therefore the reaction against it. The reaction of hate and its congeners is the instinctive way of self-protection and must necessarily precede any judicial, intelligent attitude based upon scientific knowledge which can only come in the course of development when instinct shall have been controlled and directed by reason.
As already intimated, the homosexual group is a large and complex one and we are only beginning to be able to approach its problems with a clear scientific vision, but as we are able to do this we come more and more to an appreciation of how widely this particular type of inefficiency is distributed. Again, therefore, we come to appreciate the emphasis which I have all along put upon the necessity for studying the individual in order that he may be dealt with for what he is rather than perfunctorily classified with this or that social group just because, and for no other reason, the accident of circumstance has found him momentarily identified with it. Distinct homosexual types are found among the insane, the criminal, the feeble-minded, the epileptic, the vagrant, etc., etc., so that we must come to realize that it is a type of reaction, not a label to distinguish a given individual from all others, and try in our investigations to evaluate the part it has played in the social inadequacy of the particular individual under consideration.
Viewed in this way it becomes a problem like all the others and the objects of treatment come out clearly instead of being befogged by a haze of emotion.
The homosexual reaction should be corrected if possible. Psychotherapy is the most hopeful way of approach. Failing this the individual should be taught to use his energies as best he can based upon an understanding of himself. The ideal, next to cure, would be a direction of the energies into socially useful channels, which direction would at the same time afford an adequate fulfilment (sic) of the individual.
Homosexuality, in the broad sense here used, is found as a type of reaction in a great many conditions which constitute or lead to social inadequacy. It, therefore, offers a natural barrier to procreation of the socially inadequate classes the immense value of which, to the herd, has not been appreciated. It is, so to speak, a natural means of sterilization.
[Source: William A. White. The Principles of Mental Hygiene (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1917): 208-211. Available online via the Internet Archive here.]
Robert Odeman: 1904-1985. Born Martin Hoyer in Hamburg, he took his stage name when he began traveling throughout Europe performing as a classical pianist. When his playing career ended after suffering a hand injury, he turned to the theater as an actor. He met his first love, Martin Ulrich Eppendorf, at the age of 17, and they remained together for the next ten years. After his beloved Muli died in 1932, Odeman became musical director of a theater in Hamburg, and in 1935 he opened his own cabaret. The Nazis closed it a year later on the grounds that it was politically subversive. A year after that, in 1937, the Nazi’s pressured a bookseller to renounce Odeman as a homosexuals, and he was convicted under Paragraph 175, Germany’s notorious statute that outlawed homosexual acts between men.
After serving in prison for 27 months, he was released in 1940 under the terms of a Berufsverbot, or a professional ban on certain professions including public performances. He was also kept under police surveillance. In 1942, he was arrested again under Paragraph 175 and was sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. He was assigned an office job, which probably saved his life. An estimated 30,000 prisoners lost their lives there, from exhaustion through forced labor, disease, or were executed. When the Red Army advanced on Sachsenhausen, the camp’s SS guards ordered the 33,000 remaining inmates on a forced March. Thousands more prisoners did not survive the death march. But Odeman and two other “175′ers” were able to escape.
After the war, Odeman returned to Berlin, where he worked as an actor, composer, and author of satirical poems. Because Paragraph 175 remained on the books, Odeman continued to be regarded as a convicted criminal under the law and, like others convicted under the statute, he was denied compensation. He died in 1985 at the age of 81.
Ryan Murphy: 1965. The screenwriter, director, producer and creator or co-creater of Nip/Tuck, Glee, and The New Normal grew up in a writerly Irish Catholic familiy in Indianapolis: his father was newspaper circulation director and his mother, though a stay-at-home mom, had written five books and worked in communications for more than 20 years. Murphy ended up being outed to his parents at the age of fifteen when they discovered that he had been having a covert affair with a 21-year-old. They removed him from summer camp, sold his car, threatened to file statutory rape charges, and sent him to a therapist in the hopes of making him straight. Murphy drew a lucky card with his therapist, “who after two sessions called my parents in and said, ‘Your child is very smart and manipulative, and clearly he’s getting A-pluses in school even though this is going on, so either you deal with it honestly or he will turn 18 and you will never see him again.’ There was a long silent car ride home, and we never spoke of it again.”
Murphy wrote for the school newspaper while attending Indiana University, then got jobs at papers in Miami, L.A., New York, and Knoxville before selling his first script to Steven Spielberg in the late 1990s for something called, “Why Can’t I Be Audrey Hepburn?”. Murphy’s first television project was with the WB teen comedy series Popular, but his first critical and popular hit came with FX’s Nip/Tuck. He followed that with Fox’s Glee, which was based, in part, on Murphy’s own experiences in choir back in Indiana. In addition to his writing and producing duties, Murphy selects much of the music that gets covered on <em<Glee, which has led to a number of public spats with Slash from Guns N’ Roses, Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, and the Followill brothers of Kings of Leo, over their refusals to allow their music on Glee.
In 2012, Murphy was co-creater of NBC’s The New Normal, about a gay couple and a surrogate who will carry their child. Again, Murphy’s inspiration for The New Normal was drawn on real life. In 2012, Murphy and his husband, photographer David Miller, welomed their first son in December. Murphy announced this year that the sixth season of Glee will be its last.
As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.
The Daily Agenda for Friday, November 29
November 29th, 2013
Yes, yes, yes, today is Black Friday, the traditional start of the Christmas shopping season. Apparently the name Black Friday has two origins. In Philadelphia in the early 1960s, it referred to the gridlocked traffic that occurred as everyone rushed to the stores to take advantage of post-Thanksgiving sales. In the ’70s, economists began calling the day “Black Friday” because it was the day in which many retailers would begin to turn their profits for the year (or, go “in the black,” as opposed to remaining “in the red”). This year, some retails are beginning to push their luck by actually opening their doors on Thanksgiving day.
But here’s the thing. Those so-called “door-buster” Black Friday savings really aren’t great deals for the vast majority of shoppers, but they are a tremendous deal to retailers. Serious Christmas shopping discounts won’t begin to kick in for another two weeks. But if retailers can sucker people into shopping today (or yesterday), they can get them to spend more money than they would have if they had waited. But not only that, retailers will still have the rest of the shopping season to try to entice those early bird shoppers into buying even more stuff that they absolutely have to have in the weeks ahead.
So I don’t play the Black Friday game. And neither should you, although as a recreational shopper I can understand the allure and won’t judge you too harshly if you’re out there fighting the crowds today. But I have to be honest: if you were out shopping yesterday, then just go away. I don’t even want to know you. Unless you vow never to do it again.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Der Spiegel Reports On Arrests of 750 Gay Men: 1950. The Third Reich had been defeated five years earlier, but Germany’s notorious Paragraph 175 lived on to claim more victims. On this date in 1950, Germany’s news weekly Der Spiegel featured a surprisingly sympathetic report on the arrest of 750 gay men by the Frankfurt Criminal Police resulting in 140 criminal charges as of November 25. Magistrate Kurt Romini denied that an official campaign had been launched, saying he was only responding to complaints from “young persons.” But it turns out that Romini himself had been in charge of handling criminal cases against gay men as State Attorney during the Nazi regime. “During his work in the Third Reich,” Der Spiegel reported, “it was not in the interest of a defendant to admit to homosexuality. As soon as he confessed, he was on the way to the concentration camp (with a pink triangle on his chest) and certain to eventually be castrated.”
Castration was no longer in vogue, but Der Spiegel discovered a new twist in this latest campaign. Police relied almost entirely on street hustlers to make arrests and build cases. “They (the hustlers) are driven, for example, through the city in unmarked cars. Then they indicate which passers-by they recognize in the street traffic. The auto stops, and the subject is arrested and interrogated. Moreover, he is entered into the criminal records system. That is, he is photographed; the picture is then shown to all hustlers in custody and informants until someone recognizes him. When someone admits that he visits bars frequented by homosexuals, then a detailed description of a sex act by a hustler is sufficient for a court to convict him. There are known cases where such relationships persons with homosexual tendencies with a certain hustler did not exist. The ‘boys’ invented experiences, and a conviction resulted.”
One hustler, identified as 19-year-old Otto Blankenstein, had been the star witness (and often the only witness) in at least 40 cases. This was true even though “tangible symptoms of mental illness are apparent” in Blankenstein. Der Spiegel also reported that a number of the cases involved blackmail, where the men refused to pay a bribe to some of the street hustlers in exchange for not naming them to police. It’s likely that some of the men weren’t even gay. Their only “crime” was to respond to a few innocuous questions from a hustler at a train station, who then surreptitiously followed them as they walked home. On learning the man’s address, the hustler could then learn more about him; if he was unmarried, the hustler was extra-lucky and his mark would be easier for the inevitable blackmail demands. Refusal to pay resulted in being turned over to police.
If the victim was lucky and wasn’t convicted, his problems still weren’t over. “The citizen is recorded as a suspected homosexual, and a duplicate of his mug shot, which he had to let the police take, is now placed in the Frankfurt mug shot library, and will be shown to hustlers and other people in custody. They will point at it and say, ‘That one, that one, I saw him too in the Kleist Kasino (a popular gay bar), and he offered me DM10 for the night.’” At the peak of the campaign, Judge Romini, who was in charge of all Paragraph 175 cases, was presiding over four trials per day. At least six of the accused men committed suicide.
On February 14, 1951, Der Spiegel carried a brief update revealing that Romini’s star witness, Otto Blankenstein, had been declared mentally ill, and Romini himself had been accused by his housekeepers of “severe night-time disorderly conduct and outburst in the presence of his professional colleagues.”
[Thanks to BTB reader Rob in NYC for the translations]
Bush Signs Immigration Bill Ending Gay Ban: 1990. When Congress overhauled the nation’s immigration laws in 1950, it was still in the grip of the McCarthy Red and Lavender Scares. Consequently, Congress banned Communists and “persons afflicted with psychopathic personality” from entering the U.S. That latter clause was added by a Senate Judiciary subcommittee with the express purpose of excluding “homosexuals and other sex perverts.” The legislation that was ultimately signed into law didn’t mention homosexuals, but the U.S. Public Health Service consistently interpreted the language to be “sufficiently broad to provide for the exclusion of homosexuals and sex perverts.” When Congress addressed immigration reform again in 1965, it added “sexual deviation” to the list of characteristics that would preclude immigration. But even then, the law didn’t single out homosexuality for exclusion, but it nevertheless remained official immigration policy even after homosexuality was removed from the American Psychiatric Association’s list of mental disorders in 1973.
The nation’s doctors may have changed their understanding of gay people, but immigration authorities did not. That change wouldn’t come about until Congress again set out to reform the nation’s immigration laws again in 1990. This time, Congress decided to life the political litmus test which automatically barred Communists and people with other potentially controversial political views from entering the U.S., and it also specifically struck down the exclusion of entry based on sexual orientation. When President George H.W. Bush signed the bill into law, gay people, for the first time, could enter the U.S without fear of automatic exclusion if their sexuality were discovered.
The new law was supposed to go further, with a clause which was intended to eliminate the automatic exclusion of people with AIDS from immigrating. But the law contained another clause which left it up the Health and Human Services Department to determine the list of communicable diseases which would prevent travel and immigration to the U.S. That list, as of 1990, still included HIV/AIDS, thanks to an amendment added to a 1987 appropriations bill by Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) which required that HIV/AIDS be included on the list of excludable diseases. When public health officials tried to remove AIDS from the list, it touched off a massive political firestorm of opposition from conservatives. HHS backed down, and the HIV travel and immigration ban would remain in place as an interim policy. When HHS moved to remove AIDS from the list in 1993, Congress retaliated by approving a measure that made the HIV/AIDS immigration and travel ban law. That ban was finally lifted in 2010.
Billy Strayhorn: 1915-1967. Born in Dayton and raised in Pittsburgh, Billy Straygorn was a classical music enthusiast from a very early age. But imagine how hard it was for a black kid to try to become a concert pianist in the 1930s. There was little encouragement for him, but Strayhorn persisted, even taking a job in high school so he could buy his own piano. His musical focus shifted when he hears his first jazz record. From then on, Strayhorn’s compositional focus turned toward jazz, but always with a classical influence.
Strayhorn composed “Lush Life,” which would become his signature song, while still performing in Pittsburgh. That changed when he met Duke Ellington in 1938. Ellington, who was certainly no slouch as a bandleader and composer himself, was immediately impressed with Strayhorn’s talent. Strayhorn moved to Harlem, where he and Ellington composed such standards as “Take the A Train,” and “Satin Doll.” Ellington was hit-or-miss in giving Strayhorn credit. He gave Strayhorn credit for some of their collaborations, but for others Ellington took sole credit (and royalties). But there was little doubt that Ellington valued the quiet young composer, and if anything bothered Strayhorn, it seemed to be centered more on his own lack of independence than on any perceptions that Ellington was taking advantage of him.
But if Strayhorn lacked independence, there was something of a benefit for him being out of the spotlight. He was one of the few openly gay jazz musicians in Harlem. In fact, he met one earlier long-term partner, musician Aaron Bridgers, in 1939, who was friends with Ellington’s son. Strayhorn and Bridgers remained together, as an openly gay couple, for eight years until Bridgers moved to Paris in 1947.
In the 1940s, Strayhorn composed several songs for Lena Horne, including “Maybe,” “Something to Live For,” and “Love Like This Can’t Last.” That raised his profile somewhat, even as he continued composing for Ellington. By the 1950s, Ellington gave Strayhorn full credit on several larger works like “Such Sweet Thunder,” “A Drum Is a Woman,” and “The Far East Suite.” Ellington later said of him, “Billy Strayhorn was my right arm, my left arm, all the eyes in the back of my head, my brain waves in his head, and his in mine.” In 1960, Ellington and Strayhorn collaboration on a Jazz interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.” That album featured Strayhorn’s name and likeness along with Ellington’s on the front cover.
Strayhorn was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 1964, and he died in 1967 with his partner, Bill Grove, by his side. Before he died, he handed off his final composition to Ellington, “Blood Count,” which appeared on Ellington’s 1967 memorial album, And His Mother Called Him Bill.
As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.
The Daily Agenda for Thanksgiving Day
November 28th, 2013
Turkey, oyster dressing, mashed sweet potatoes, basmati rice with walnuts and raisins, green bean casserole, spicy tomato crumble, steamed asparagus, cranberry sauce, wine, and homemade bourbon-molasses-pecan pie. That’s what’ll be on our table for Thanksgiving. What about you?
TODAY IN HISTORY:
25 YEARS AGO: Dallas Judge Gives Light Sentence In Gay Men’s Murder: 1988. It was a common sport among Dallas-area high school students throughout the 1980s and well into the 1990s: drive into the Oak Lawn gayborhood on a weekend night and spend the evening “gay bashing” — their term for it. (One of my friends was stabbed in the chest and spent days in intensive care in one such attack while walking along Throckmorton Street with his boyfriend. His assailants were never found.) In one case, nine guys from North Mesquite High School drove to Oak Lawn one night in May to “pester the homosexuals.” According to the New York Times’s description of the event:
Witnesses who were in that group said the boys were standing on a street corner and shouting at passers-by, and then Tommy Lee Trimble, 34, and John Lloyd Griffin, 27, drove up and invited the boys into their car. [Richard Lee] Bednarski was said to have persuaded one more friend in his group to get in the car. After the car reached a secluded area of Reverchon Park, Mr. Bednarski is said to have ordered Mr. Trimble and Mr. Griffin to remove their clothes. On their refusal, a witness said, Mr. Bednarski drew a pistol and began firing. Mr. Trimble died immediately. Mr. Griffin died five days later.
At first, the crime was thought to be a botched robbery. Former Dallas Gay Alliance president William Waybourn later remembered, “Reverchon Park was a notorious mugging point. We don’t even know they would gay at first.” But as details unfolded, it became clear that there was more going on. Bednarski, the son of a police officer, began bragging about the shootings, then he became worried that Griffin might live to identify against him.
Bednarski was found guilty of two counts of murder, but Texas law allows the defendant to decide whether the judge or jury would determine the sentence. Bednarksi’s defense lawyer sensed that Judge Jack Hampton was sympathetic and chose him. Prosecuters demanded the maximum: life in prison. But Hampton announced that he considered, among other things, that Bednarski has no prior criminal record, was attending college, and was raised n a “good home.” He then handed down the sentence: 30 years in prison instead of life.
The sentence was considered light. Hampton explained his reasoning two days later to the Dallas Times Herald: “The two guys that got killed wouldn’t have been killed if they hadn’t been cruising the street picking up teenage boys. I don’t care for queers cruising the streets picking up teenage boys. I’ve got a teenage boy.” He also said that he would have handed down a much harsher sentence if the victims had been “a couple of housewives out shopping, not hurting anybody. I put prostitutes and gays at about the same levee, and I’d be hard pressed to give someone life for killing a prostitute.”
Those remarks touched off a furor in the gay community. Paul Varnell of the Illinois Gay and Lesbian Task Force summed up the reaction and said, “It appears that we do have one law for heterosexuals and one law for homosexuals.” John Wiley Price, the outspoken African-American activist and Dallas County Commissioner, said, “The only difference between the Ku Klux Klan and Judge Hampton is that one wears a white robe and the other a black robe.” On December 19, 200 people attended a rally outside the county courthouse. The next day, Sen. Edward Kennedy joined another protest at City Hall Plaza, where he described Hampton’s comments as “bigotry at its worst.”
Hampton had his supporters though. Two days later, fifty supporters demonstrated outside the courthouse. The Rev. Donald Skelton of Victory Tabernacle Church said that his reason for demonstrating had less to do with supporting Hampton as it was to “protest sodomy.” “He explained, “Our sole thrust is against sodomy. I feel sorry for them [homosexuals].” That same day, Hampton called a press conference and apologized for his “poor choice of words,” although he also protested that the Time Herald reporter had “distorted” his remarks. “I did not intend to stat ethat any victim of crime was entitled to less fair treatment.”
The gay community wasn’t satisfied. Waybourn responded that Hampton had “raised the question of his judicial fitness and ability to be impartial. This question cannot be answered with a simple apology.”
LGBT leaders filed a complaint with the Commission on Judicial Conduct, which publicly censured Hampton for making “irresponsible statements” which “created an additional burden for the entire judiciary.” But it fell short of condemning his prejudice or removing him from the bench. Hampton, who had been first elected judge in 1981 and would be up for re-election in 1990, remained unconcerned. “Just spell my name right,” he told the Times-Herald. “If it makes anybody mad, they’ll forget by 1990.” He was right. He was re-elected in 1990, but his judicial career finally ended when when he ran for an appellate court seat in 1992 and lost.
Bednarski was released in 2007 after serving less than nineteen years in Huntsville.
As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.
The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, November 27
November 27th, 2013
Hey! You Got Your Hanukkah In My Thanksgiving! Tonight at sundown marks the start of the first night of Hanukkah. A few hours later at the stroke of Midnight, it’ll be Thanksgiving morning. Some are calling it “Thanksgivukkah,” and the Hasidic Chabad.org explains how this mashup happened:
Chanukah was declared a Jewish national holiday 2178 years ago. Thanksgiving was declared a national American holiday on the last Thursday of every November by Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Before then, Thanksgiving was celebrated on different dates in different states, so we won’t count those. But, using the Chabad.org Date Converter, you will see that Thanksgiving coincided with the first day of Chanukah on November 29, 1888. It also coincided with the fourth day of Chanukah on November 30, 1899.
On November 28, 1918, Thanksgiving was on Chanukah eve. But since it’s still Thanksgiving until midnight, and Jewish days begin at night, that would still mean that Jewish Americans would have eaten their turkeys that Thanksgiving to the light of their first Chanukah candle.
In 1941, Thanksgiving was changed from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday, making November 28 the latest possible date that Thanksgiving can fall on. Cabad.org, says that Thanksgiving will next overlap with Hanukkah on November 27, 2070/Kislev 24, 5831, but only if you wait to have Thanksgiving dinner after sundown. Waiting until after sundown looks like a good tradeoff to me, because if you’re going to insist on having your Thanksgivukkah celebration while it’s still daylight, you’ll have to wait another 74,682 years.
…whoever shall be legally convicted of sodomy or bestiality, shall suffer imprisonment during life, and be whipped at the discretion of the magistrates, once every three months during the first year after conviction. And if he be a married man, he shall also suffer castration, and the injured wife shall hae a divorce if required.
In keeping with the pacifist nature of the Quakers who dominated the political structures in Pennsylvania, the colony’s law against sodomy was quite lenient: it was the only colonial law which didn’t call for the death penalty. That relative pacifism however didn’t extend to those of African descent. Another law, “An Act for the Trial of Negroes,” added this:
…”if any negro or negroes within this government shall commit a rape or ravishment upon any white woman or maid, or shall commit murder, buggery or burglary, they shall be …. punished by death.”
[Source: Jonathan Ned Katz. Gay/Lesbian Almanac (New York: Harper & Row, 1983), pages 122-123.]
35 YEARS AGO: Harvey Milk Assassinated: 1978. Harvey Milk finally succeeded in winning political office as a gay man for two reasons. One, he refused to hide who he was; and two, he made it his mission to build alliances with groups that other gay activists thought were impossible to reach. Among those alliances, initially, was with the most conservative member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Dan White. There couldn’t have been two politicians from more opposite ends of the political spectrum. White, a former cop, was a conservative Catholic representing a blue-collar neighborhood, while Milk, a gay Jew from New York, represented the growing gay districts surrounding the Castro. Milk and White made several media appearances in which they spoke warmly of each other, and Milk began telling friends that he thought White was “educable.” That began to change however when Milk changed his mind about White’s opposition to a proposed psychiatric treatment center in White’s district. Harvey initially supported White, which would have given White the 6-5 majority he needed to block the facility. But as Harvey learned more about the center, he discovered that San Francisco children would be sent instead far away to a state hospital where they would be cut off from their families. He concluded that “they’ve got to be next to somebody’s house,” and switched his vote.
The loss stunned White, and for several months he refused to speak to Milk or his aides. He also tried to retaliate by switching his vote on Harvey’s gay rights bill, but the bill passed anyway 10-1. White became increasingly disillusioned with politics, and abruptly resigned on November 10, 1978. He quickly regretted his decision, and asked Mayor George Moscone to re-appoint him as Supervisor. Instead of complying with the request immediately, Moscone said he would think it over and announce his decision on November 27.
The night before the scheduled announcement, White learned through a reporter that he would not get the reappointment. The next morning White went to City Hall with his loaded .38 Smith & Wesson. He went to Moscone’s office and asked for a meeting. Moscone agreed and invited him into the mayor’s office. There, White shot Moscone twice in the abdomen and twice in the head. He then went down the hall to Milk’s office. When Milk got up out of his seat to greet White, White shot him three times in the chest, once in the back, and twice more in the head.
News of the two assassinations sent the city reeling. To make matters worse, San Franciscans were still grappling with the shocking news of the Jonestown, Guyana massacre and mass suicide the week before, which had been led by San Francisco-based preacher Jim Jones and resulted in 918 deaths. That night, tens of thousands of stunned mourners gathered in the Castro for an impromptu candlelight march to City Hall. The sea of candles stretched ten city blocks long. At the steps of city hall, Joan Baez led the crowd in singing “Amazing Grace” and the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus sang a hymn by Felix Mendelssohn.
50 YEARS AGO: John Aravosis: 1963. An attorney, Democratic political consultant, gay activist and blogger, Aravosis is the founder of Americablog. His first major success as a gay activist came in 1998 when he defended U.S. sailor Timothy R. McVeigh (not to be confused with the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh), who was being kicked out of the Navy after he was outed by America Online. The internet provider had released the identity behind McVeigh’s email account even though the Navy never bothered to get a court order or warrant, in direct violation of AOL’s terms of service. McVeigh was days from being discharged when Aravosis embarked on a massive publicity campaign that caught the attention of ABC News, Time and Newsweek. It also got the attention of another lawyer, who took McVeigh’s case pro bono. McVeigh not only won an honorable discharge from the Navy, but also a large settlement from AOL.
Aravosis founded AmericaBlog in 2004. AmericaBlog first received widespread media attention in 2005 after it outed “Jeff Gannon” (real name: Jeff Guckert), a member of the White House press corps who had a reputation for fielding softball questions during news conferences.
As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.
The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, November 26
November 26th, 2013
TODAY IN HISTORY:
55 YEARS AGO: British Parliament Shelves Wolfenden Report Recommendations: 1958. More than a year had passed since the Wolfenden committee issued its groundbreaking report urging Parliament to decriminalize homosexual activity between consenting adults (see Sep 4). The Wolfenden committee, named for chairman Lord John Wolfenden, had spent the previous three years combing through studies and soliciting testimony from experts in medicine, science, theology, ethics, and the law. The first print run of 5,000 copies of the Wolfenden Committee’s 155-page “Report on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution” sold out within hours of its publication. In it, the committee recommended that “homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence… It is not, in our view, the function of the law to intervene in the private life of citizens, or to seek to enforce any particular pattern of behaviour.”
When Parliament finally got around to considering the report on November 25, 1958, Conservative Home Secretary Rab Butler opened the debate by announcing that the government was not prepared to alter the country’s laws with regard to homosexual relationships. He explained the reasons, in part, in terms of what he believed the effect the law’s removal would have on those who were not particularly religious:
Many people outside the influence of religion found no other basis for their notions of right and wrong but in the criminal law. Could we be sure that if the support of the criminal law were removed from these people they would find any other support?
What is clear to me is that there is at present a large section of the population which strongly repudiates homosexual conduct and whose moral sense would be offended by an alteration ot the law seeming to imply approval or tolerance of what they regard as a great social evil. Therefore the considerations I have indicated satisfy the Government that it would not be justified, on the basis of opinions expressed so far, in proposing legislation to carry out the recommendations of the Committee.
Opposition MP Anthony Greenwood (Lab-Rossendale) spoke in favor of the Wolfenden Committee’s recomendations, although he stressed that his position was not an official Labour position. He said that he hoped that during the debate, Members would “extend tolerance to each other and compassion to minorities in our midst who are denied the happiness and fulfilment which is the lot of most of us.” He then added:
What we have to decide is whether men who, for some reason we do not understand, are practising homosexuals should live their lives under the shadow of the law and at the mercy of the blackmail. I believe that life is harsh enough for these people without society adding to their burdens. The fact that the law is largely unenforced, and indeed largely unenforceable, is certainly no reason for retaining it. I am fortified in my view by the fact that it is shared by many of the great religious leaders of the country. … I believe that ultimately this reform will come. I am saddened by the fact that it should only come after a still greater toll of human misery has been extracted by society.
Arguments for and against the Wolfenden recommendations cut across party lines. Labor MP Frederick Bellenger (Lab-Bassetlaw) opposed any change in the law. He described those in the “cult” as “a malignant canker in the comminuty. If this were allowed to grow, it would eventually kill what is known as normal life.” But Conservative MP High Linstead (C-Putney) argued that because homosexuality was “fixed in people at an early age,” the law would make “no difference to a man’s tendencies.” Labour MP Jean Mann (Lab-Coatbridge and Airdrie) opposed any changes to the law, but the feminist in her couldn’t let one point pass without comment. On observing that lesbian relationships had never been criminalized under British law, Mann wryly remarked that this time it was “the male (who) was now demanding equality with the female.”
The greater consensus on both sides of the House was against scrapping the laws criminalizing consensual homosexual relationships. The House approved, without dissent, a motion put forward by Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government which said, simply, “That this House takes note of the report.”
[Source: "No Action on Homosexuals Yet: Mr. Butler Sets Out the Problems." Daily Telegraph (November 27, 1958). As reprinted in The Mattachine Review 5, no. 1 (January 1959): 4-12.]
35 YEARS AGO: ABC Airs “A Question of Love”: 1978. Six years earlier, ABC broke ground in providing a positive portrayal of a gay relationship with the broadcast of “That Certain Summer” in 1972 (see Nov 11) depicting a divorced father’s relationship with another man. But portrayals of lesbians remained limited to criminals, prisoners and sexual abusers (see, for example, Nov 8). In response to pressure from LGBT activists, ABC opted to produce a docu-drama based on a true-life custody battle by a Texas lesbian mother for her two sons. Gena Rowlands played the mother, with Jane Alexander as her partner, as they contended with the mother’s abusive ex-husband who discovers their relationship and sues for custody. In the end, the jury sided with the father, despite his history of violence and infidelity. The made-for-TV movie aired on Sunday night of Thanksgiving weekend following a warning that the program may not be suitable for young people. It was greeted with a few smarmy reviews, but surprisingly for being in the year of Anita Bryant, the telecast prompted very little protest or controversy.
Wayland Flowers: 1939-1988. The thing about puppets is that they get to say and do things that ordinary people aren’t allowed to do. Maybe that’s why Georgia-native Wayland Flowers took up puppetry and created “Madame,” which Hofstra University’s Patricia Jukliana Smith aptly described as “a grotesquely ugly and flamboyantly ribald old crone festooned in outrageous evening gowns, tiaras, and rhinestones.” In other words, an outrageously campy drag queen in wood and wire, a hideous hag who thought herself glamorous and who spoke in double entendres and bitchy take-downs.
Flowers developed Madame in night clubs and gay bars throughout the 1960s before landing frequent appearances on Laugh-In. The act then appeared as a recurring comedy skit on Solid Gold before eventually replacing Paul Lynde as Center Square on Hollywood Squares. In 1982, Madame was star of her own sitcom, Madame’s Place, a half-hour syndicated program that ran five days a week for one season. Madame’s talk show within the series drew Debbie Reynolds, Foster Brooks and William Shatner as guests. Flowers died on October 11, 1988, five weeks after collapsng during a performance at Harra’s resort in Lake Tahoe. The family attributed his death to cancer, and asked that no other details about his AIDS-releated death be released to the public.
Simon Tseko Nkoli: 1957-1998. Born in Soweto, Nkoli became a youth activist against apartheid with the Congress of South African Students and with the United Democratic Front. He also became a gay rights activist when he joined the mainly white Gay Association of South African in 1983 and later formed the Saturday Group, the first black gay group in Africa. Nkoli’s anti-apartheid activism led to his arrest in 1984, when he faced the death penalty for treason with twenty-one others who became collectively known as the Delmas 22. While prisoner, he came out as gay. Fearing that the state would use his homosexuality against the entire group, the others of the Delmas 22 demanded a separate trial. But in the end he won them over and they stood trial together because, as they all realized, they were in the same struggle together. As Nkoli later wrote in the anthology, Defiant Desire: Gay and Lesbian Lives in South Africa, “If you are black in South Africa, the inhuman laws of apartheid closet you. If you are gay in South Africa, the homophobic customs and laws of this society closet you. If you are black and gay in South Africa, well, then it really is all the same closet, the same wardrobe. Inside is darkness and oppression. Outside is freedom. It is as simple as that.”
By coming out as gay while a prisoner against apartheid, he is credited with helping to change the attitude of the African National Congress toward gay rights. Patrick “Terror” Lekota, who later became chairman of the ANC, remarked, “all of us acknowledged that [Nkoli's coming out] was an important learning experience . . . His presence made it possible for more information to be discussed, and it broadened our vision, helping us to see that society is composed of so many people whose orientations are not the same, and that one must be able to live with it.” And so, when it came to writing the Constitution, “how could we say that men and women like Simon, who had put their shoulders to the wheel to end apartheid, how could we say that they should now be discriminated against?”
After his acquittal and release from prison in 1988, he founded the Gay and Lesbian Organisation of the Witwatersrand (GLOW), which organized South Africa’s first Gay Pride march in 1990. He also was among the first African gay men to come out publicly as HIV-positive and founded Positive African Men in Johannesburg. He was among the first gay activists to meet with President Nelson Mandela in 1994, and he campaigned successfully for anti-discrimination measures on the Bill of Rights of the South African Constitution. Nkoli lived long enough to see South African repeal its sodomy law in 1998, shortly before he died on November 30.
John Amaechi: 1970. The Boston-born son of a Nigerian father and English mother grew up in England and didn’t take up basketball he was seventeen, when he moved to Toledo and played hoops at St. John’s Jesuit High School. His college career began at Vanderbilt, then he transferred to Penn state, where he was named to First Team Academic All-American twice. He also when he began his career as a motivational speaker and youth mentor. After college, he played one season with Cleveland (1995-6), then played a few years in Europe before returning to the Orlando Magic in 1999. He was so grateful to Orlando for hiring him when no other NBA team would that the next year he turned down a $17 million contract from the Lakers so he could remain in Orlando for $600,000 per year. “There are many people who are asked what their word is worth,” he later explained, “and when people ask me that I can say, ‘At least $17 million.’” After Orlando, Amaechi was traded to the Utah Jazz, where he played for two years. He then went to the Houston Rockets for a season before retiring from the New York Knicks.
Since then, Amaechi has launched his second career as NBA broadcaster for UK’s Channel Five and he provided broadcast commentary for the BBC’s coverage of the 2008 Olympics. He also returned to school to earn a Ph.D. in psychology. In 2007, Amaechi became the first openly gay former NBA player after coming out in his memoir, Man in the Middle. In 2011, Amaechi was awarded the Order of the British Empire for his services to sports and for his voluntary work after retiring.
As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.
The Daily Agenda for Monday, November 25
November 25th, 2013
TODAY IN HISTORY:
15 YEARS AGO: Judge Rules Utah Teacher’s Rights Were Violated: 1998. Wendy Weaver, who taught psychology and physical education at the high school in Spanish Fork, Utah, became embroiled in controversy when her ex-husband, Gary Weaver, told the district in 1997 that she was a lesbian. Rumors quickly began to swirl around Spanish Fork High School, and that summer students began asking her if she was gay. She answered truthfully, and a few of the girls dropped out of the girl’s volleyball team that she was coaching. On July 14, the school district removed her as volleyball coach and banned her mentioning her “lifestyle” or partner to students, parents or staff. If she mentioned a word about her sexuality to anyone, she would be fired. A letter to that effect was placed in her employee record.
When word got out, an overflow crowd showed up to denounce Weaver at a Nebo Board of Education meeting on November 14, 1997, where parents demanding the right to pull their children out of any class she taught. A group of parents formed Nebo Citizens for Moral and Legal Values and presented a petition signed by 2,700 parents demanding her removal. After Weaver filed suit in Federal Court alleging that her First Amendment Rights were being violated, the parents group filed a suit of their own demanding the revocation of Weaver’s teaching certification.
It all came to a head on November 25, 1998 when U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins issued a sweeping 25-page ruling finding that Weaver’s constitutional rights of free speech and equal protection were violated. The judge ordered the school district to remove its threat to fire her from their files, restore her to the girl’s volleyball coaching job, and to pay her the $1,5000 stipend that she would have been entitled to as coach. He found the limits on Weaver’s speech to be overly broad. “Indeed,” wrote Judge Jenkins, ” these restrictions limit Ms. Weaver’s ability to speak on her sexuality outside of the school, as, for example, when meeting a parent of a student in the supermarket, or when speaking at dinner with a friend who may be a staff member at the school, or even when speaking with her own children, who are students in the school district.” All of this was a gross violation of Weaver’s constitutional rights. “Simple as it may sound, as a matter of fairness and evenhandedness, homosexuals should not be sanctioned or restricted for (speech) where heterosexuals are not likewise sanctioned or restricted.”
As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.
The Daily Agenda for Sunday, November 24
November 24th, 2013
Events This Weekend: Side-By-Side LGBT Film Festival, St. Petersburg, Russia.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
55 YEARS AGO: Berkeley’s KPFA Broadcasts Two-Hour Program on Homosexuality: 1958. On a Monday before Thanksgiving, several people gathered at Pacifica Radio’s studios at KPFA in Berkeley, California, for what appears to have been the first broadcast discussion on homosexuality in the Bay area. The broadcast consisted of two separate panel discussions in two consecutive hours, which represented quite an investment of airtime for the non-profit, noncommercial station.
Participants for first hour of the historic broadcast were Mattachine president Hal Call (see Sep 20); Dr. Blanche Baker, a bay area psychologist and straight ally who wrote a regular column for ONE magazine; and Leah Gailey, a mother whose son was gay. The first hour’s topic was “The Role of the Homosexual as an Individual and as a Member of Society.” Del Martin’s (see May 5) summary of the broadcast for the Daughters of Bilitis’ magazine The Ladder the following January indicates the kinds of the questions that ordinary people had about gay people:
…According to Dr. Blanche Baker, San Francisco psychiatrist, there is much controversy on the subject, “even in the medical profession.” There are those who feel it is a neurotic problem and others who call it glandular, or even a hereditary problem.
“For myself, from many years of work, I consider the homosexual first of all a human being,” she stated. “I believe in individual adjustment of each particular case. Factors leading to homosexuality lie deep in the individual nature. It is a psychological problem in which early childhood has its effect. All people have a certain amount of maleness and femaleness in their constitution, and child experiences tend to throw us to one side of the scale or the other.”
FIRST REACTION OF SHOCK
When questioned by Elsa Knight Thompson, moderator, Mrs. Leah Gailey, housewife and mother, replied, “My first reaction was a universal one — shock. There was ostracism to face for me and my son. It was clearly — shock. But basically I loved my son, so I decided I would try to understand. Fear is based on the unknown, and much fear disappears as one learns to understand.
“There is much literature on the layman level for anyone to read,” she pointed out. “It is just a matter of understanding and accepting.”
Mr. Call declared that the problem of homosexuality is very often closer to all of us than many realize — a member of the family, a neighbor, a co-worker, a friend.
“Approximately every tenth adult may be predominantly homosexual in orientation,” he stated. “This covers the entire strata of society, every intellectual and economic Ieve1.”
Mr. Call said that there had not necessarily been an increase in homosexuality in recent years, as some have supposed, but rather a greater awareness of the subject.
HOSTILITY — CAUSE OR EFFECT?
Moderator Thompson posed the problem of “hostility” in the homosexual. Does it stem from the individual because of his fear of being “different”? Or is it a result of society’s attitude?
Mr. Call said that the homosexual adopts attitudes as result of the society in which he lives. He may effect certain mannerisms of hostility toward society because of its attitudes and also because of his inability to accept himself.
According to Mrs. Gailey, the homosexual’s hostility is based on fear from society and guilt from self. The homosexual has both problems to face, she said.
Dr. Baker pointed out that in her field she works on self acceptance so that the individual can relax and be more comfortable in the world he lives in.
When asked if her clients wished to rid themselves of their homosexuality or if they sought acceptance, Dr. Baker said, “Most of those who come to me want to get rid of this approach to life. If the heterosexual component potential is large enough to function with, fine. But many cases just don’t have the potential.”
ARE HOMOSEXUALS GIFTED PEOPLE?
Dr. Baker said she had no statistics on the subject, that she herself worked with small numbers of people, “But the ones who come to me are artists — versatile, gifted people, not just bread, meat and potatoes people.”
Mr. Call did not consider this a just evaluation. He said that homosexuals are no more gifted or talented than any other group, but that perhaps the homosexual has more opportunity to develop creative and artistic talents since he doesn’t have the economic pressure of providing for a wife and family.
Elsa Knight Thompson suggested that, as in the case of any other minority group, there is more concentration to excel in order to counteract criticism.
“This is true job-wise,” Mrs. Gailey declared. “Because of his fear of detection, the homosexual puts forth an utmost effort to do his best.”
On consideration of the short duration of most homosexual relationships, Dr. Baker asserted, “The friction between homosexual couples is due to the hate in themselves and an unhappy adjustment to life. The over-emphasis on a sexual level would keep them from adjusting on other levels.”
Mr. Call pointed out that there were many lasting homosexual relationships that are not known or recognized, and Dr. Baker admitted, “We are all too conscious of those who do not get along together and don’t know about those who do.”
The second hour was given over to the professionals: Dr. Karl Bowman, a at the University of California School of Medicine in San Francisco; Dr. Frank Beach Jr., anthropologist and professor of psychology at the UC Berkeley; Morris Lowenthal, a San Francisco attorney who worked on a number of gay rights cases on behalf of local bars targeted by the state alcohol control board; and Dr. David Wilson, attorney and psychiatrist of the UC Berkeley’s School of Criminology.
You might say that Bowman, like Baker and Lowenthal (and Beach, as you will see), was something of an ally for the Bay area gay community, having given several talks for local Mattachine and DoB meetings in the bay area. He opened the second hour with brief discussion of the state’s anti-gay laws which “largely traced back to ancient Hebrew laws.” He added, “ it is my contention,” Dr. Bowman added, “it is time to re-examine our laws in the light of present knowledge and recommend modifications.” Del Martin picks of the narrative from there:
Dr. Frank Beach Jr. …recounted the varying degrees of homosexual behavior: the latent individual who has tendencies but who manifests no overt behavior, the individual who has one or two experiences in his life time, those who find satisfaction in both homosexual and heterosexual behavior, and those with exclusive homosexual experience.
Dr. Bowman pointed out that in the armed forces mere diagnosis of latent homosexuality makes an individual unsuitable and subject to an undesirable discharge which interferes seriously with the individual’s ability to secure a position. Some one who has never violated any law and who has never had a homosexual experience thus becomes a victim, he said.
Relative to the problem of who is a homosexual, Morris Lowenthal, San Francisco attorney, spoke of the 1955 law passed by the California state legislature that any bar or restaurant becoming a “resort for sexual perverts” may have its license revoked. The problem of the proprietor is two-fold, he said, since the 1951 California Supreme Court decision in the Stoumen vs. Reilly case upheld the civil right of the homosexual to meet and eat or drink in any public bar or restaurant, while the new law in direct conflict prohibits the use of these premises as a gathering place for homosexuals. Mr. Lowenthal also posed the issue as to how the bartender or owner can determine the homosexual tendencies of his patrons.
The subject then moved to the question of what “causes” homosexuality. Beach and Bowman argued that homosexuality may be hereditary, although Bowman also believed that “ physical condition and psychological conditioning” played a role. It’s interesting that those arguments were as lively then as they are now, with the underlying assumption that if homosexuality was biological in origin, then laws forbidding it were profoundly unjust:
“The crux of the matter,” asserted Dr. David Wilson, attorney and psychiatrist of the University of California School of Criminology at Berkeley, “is the law making something a crime. Society passes a law because it feels threatened, but it doesn’t work and in no way affects the amount of homosexuality. If the law doesn’t work, it should be reappraised and handled in a realistic manner.
“The propensity is there or it could not develop. We can not change basic individual factors. Unless we know why, we can’t pass laws to curb the incidence of homosexuality.”
Mr. Lowenthal advanced the theory that homosexuals have been discouraged in cultures when an increase in population was needed for survival and encouraged when it was necessary to curb the population.
“Naive assumption!” Dr. Wilson interjected. “Homosexuals are not going to be the productive members of society in any case.”
Dr. Beach also rejected the idea, “Human beings don’t behave this rationally.” Prohibitions appear in many societies, he added.
Dr. Bowman considered the population theory a rationalization. “Cultures that allow homosexuality freely have in many cases had a higher increase in population than those who have not.”
“Rejection of the homosexual is purely on an emotional basis and tied up with our general repressive attitude toward all sex behavior,” he added.
VAGUE AND AMBIGUOUS LAWS
In our criminal laws, many of which are not enforced, it was pointed out by Attorney Lowenthal that no reference is made to homosexuals specifically. Vague and ambiguous laws are used and abused against the homosexual resulting in his subjection to blackmail.
Dr. Bowman pointed out that the California law reads, “Anyone guilty of the infamous crime against nature…” The use of such wording has led to long controversies, he stated.
Dr. Beach took exception to the “crime against nature.” The capacity for homosexual activity is inherent in nature — in man’s biological constitution — and there is therefore nothing “unnatural” in homosexual activity, he said.
“It would appear then that the law is vague, open to loose interpretation and capable of injustice to the individual where invoked against him, bearing no fruit from the social standpoint,” Elsa Knight Thompson, the moderator, put in.
“Laws to prevent crimes of Violence and violation of children would satisfy my requirements of a fair law,” Dr. Wilson asserted. “Homosexuality is a medical and social problem, not a legal one.”
Mr. Lowenthal declared that a strange situation existed where it has been granted by the California Appellate Court that the homosexual is no menace to society and has no particular propensity toward crime, yet at the level of police and certain legislators he is declared a menace and attempts are made to whittle away the civil rights of the individual.
“The mere existence of a law can be a threat to an individual even though it may not be enforced or can be overturned at a higher court level,” Dr. Wilson said. However, he did not hold out much hope for immediate action. The legislators won’t change the law until they understand more. It will take a great deal of time and education, of which this program is a step.
The KPFA broadcast was an enormous shot in the arm for the gay movement. Tapes of the broadcast were circulated and played at gay conferences and meetings, and the Mattachine Review reprinted the broadcast transcripts in July and August of 1960. The program was rebroadcast a month later on KPFA, and Los Angeles’s KPFB and New York’s WBAI picked it up for 1959. KPFA also published a printed transcript as a booklet.
You can listed to the program’s first hour via the Internet Archive here.
[Sources: Del Martin. "Two-Hour Broadcast on Homophile Problem." The Ladder 3, no. 4 (January 1959): 7-14.
"The Homosexual In Society." Mattachine Review 6, no. 7 (July 1960): 12-28.
"The Homosexual In Society (Part II)." Mattachine Review 6, no. 8 (August 1960): 9-25.]
First Gay Bookstore In the U.S. Opens: 1967. Craig Rodwell had been a longtime resident of Greenwich Village, and was among the more controversial figures in during the early, much more timid period of the New York Mattachine Society. In 1964, he formed the Mattachine Young Adults, in an attempt to gain greater visibility for gay people, and he helped to organize the nation’s first gay rights picket at the U.S. Army’s Whitehall Induction Center, in protest over the army’s failure to keep gay men’s draft records confidential (see Sep 19). In 1966, Rodwell joined three other activists to stage a “sip-in” to challenge a New York Liquor Authority regulation against serving customers who were “disorderly,” a term that was invariably used against anyone who was gay (see Apr 21).
But perhaps his most important contribution to the gay community came in 1967, when he opened the doors to the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop at 291 Mercer Street near Washington Park. It has been described as “the first legal business (i.e. not a bar) opened explicitly for gay people.” Despite the severely limited quantity of materials on homosexuality, Rodwell decided to focus his offerings on literature by gay and lesbian authors. Selections were slim at first, reportedly “three copies apiece of the 25 most positive books about homosexual behavior he could find.” He refused to sell pornography, in an attempt to avoid negative publicity. It didn’t work. A New York Post columnist compared it to see-through dresses and topless flicks. That decision also wasn’t particularly popular with his male gay customers. Consequently, money was tight, with Rodwell putting in 70-hour work weeks as the store’s sole employee for its first eighteen months.
Three months after founding Oscar Wilde, he founded a bookshop-based youth group, Homophile Youth Movement in Neighborhoods (HYMN) which published the New York Hymnal, a monthly newsletter that called for ending Mafia ownership of gay bars and police harassment of bar patrons.
In 1973, Rodwell moved the Oscar Wilde to 15 Christopher St, just a block away from the Stonewall Inn. At some point, Rodwell relented on the pornography ban. Bills had to be paid, but the operation always remained a struggling, hand-to-mouth existence. But for the next four decades, Oscar Wilde became a more than a bookstore; it was also something of a community center for its LGBT patrons.
When Rodwell developed stomach cancer in 1993, he sold the store to one of his managers, Bill Offenbaker, who ran it until 1996, when Larry Lingle took it over. The store was never much of a money maker, and in 2003, Lingle announced that he would have to close the doors. At the last minute, the owner of Washington, D.C.’s Lambda Rising bookstore took it over and saved it from closure. Three years later, manager Kim Brinster took over, but with the down economy and the pressure that all booksellers were experiencing with Amazon.com and box box chain bookstores, the store couldn’t survive, even with its drastically bel0w-market rent. The Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop closed for good in on March 29, 2009.
[Additional source: Martha E. Stone. "After Many a Season Dies the Oscar Wilde." The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide 16, no. 4 (July-August 2009): 9.]
As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.