Interview With Last Known Surviving “Pink Triangle”
October 15th, 2010
Rudolf Brazda, 97, is probably the last surviving “Pink Triangle”, gay men who were rounded up by the Nazis and detained in concentration camps for being gay. They were made to wear pink triangles as an indication of their reason for imprisonment. Brazda spent three years from 1942 through 1945 at Buchenwald. Some estimates push the number of gay men who died in the camps at somewhere between 5,000 and 15,000.
“Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage.” OH MY!
August 15th, 2010
Oh, the “traditional” marriage people are upset. So upset. And this sentence from Judge Walker’s ruling on Prop 8 has them especially upset:
Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage; marriage under law is a union of equals.
Here are some upset reactions from those upset people:
I believe gender matters, and I believe that gender plays a role in what makes marriage different from relationships. But Judge Walker has decided that his interpretation of the Constitution trumps all that.
If gender is no longer “an essential part of marriage,” then marriage has been essentially redefined right before our eyes.
Can you believe you are reading these words, not merely as the private opinion of a moral reprobate, a cultural revolutionary, but as the conclusions of a “judge” in the United States of America? … This kind of homosexual propaganda has no place in the legal system of a moral culture, but there it is.
Apparently they think Walker is advancing some radical theory and that his opinion introduces a new concept of marriage into our legal system.
They’re talking nonsense.
Walker is merely noting an indisputable truth: traditional gender roles in marriage used to be mandated by law — the man was legally put in charge of his wife, and his wife’s rights were severely limited by the law — but this is no longer the case. Marriage today, in the eyes of the law, is a union of equals.
Who can claim that this change hasn’t happened? Apparently, it’s invisible to those who believe marriage has been constant and unchanging since Adam and Eve. They need a little history lesson, so here goes.
William Blackstone was an 18th Century English judge who shaped British common law and was a tremendous influence in early American law. The Prop 8 lawyers love him. In their emergency request to stay (i.e., delay) enforcement of Walker’s verdict, they write:
This understanding of the central purposes of marriage is well expressed by William Blackstone, who, speaking of the “great relations in private life,” describes the relationship of “husband and wife” as “founded in nature, but modified by civil society: the one directing man to continue and multiply his species, the other prescribing the manner in which that natural impulse must be confined and regulated.”
Yep, Blackstone’s their man. Of course, Blackstone also wrote this:
By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law; that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband, under whose wing, protection and cover, she performs everything.
Guess what? That’s not true in 2010 America. Wives won the right to own property in 1848 (in New York, at least). Men can now be prosecuted for beating their wives. Women can refuse to have sex with their husbands, and those husbands can no longer rape them them at their pleasure. So look again at that upsetting Walker quote:
Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage; marriage under law is a union of equals.
It’s simply true. Granted, a married couple can choose to live as if “the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage,” but the law will no longer enforce it. Marriage under law is now a union of equals. That leads to Walker’s point: If we no longer see the need for men to have one legally-defined set of marital rights while women have another, much smaller set, then the law sees no distinction between men and women in marriage, and therefore should see no distinction between opposite- and same-sex couples.
Let’s boil this down to one sentence (one question, actually): If someone’s outraged over Walker’s statement, simply ask, Oh, so you think wives can’t own property, and that men are still allowed to beat and rape their wives? Unless they answer you bet!, they’re admitting the truth in Walker’s verdict.
H/T to Brad Parr for pointing out Blackstone in the pro-Prop 8 brief, and to Ms. Magazine for the history lesson.
Happy Independence Day
July 4th, 2010
We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; self-evident, that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & they are endowed by their creator with certain iunalienable rights, that among which them are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness.
– Thomas Jefferson’s working draft of the Declaration of Independence
The tension between freedom and governmental imposition of specific religious beliefs and practices were evident at the very founding of our nation. That tension continues to this day as some attempt to re-write and whitewash history in order to promote the myth that our country was founded as an explicitly “Christian nation.” Those attempts are most outrageously exemplified by the Texas Board of Education’s decision to remove the very author of our Declaration of Independence from the state’s curriculum.
Thomas Jefferson poses a significant problem for the “Christian Nation” christianists. He himself held what they clearly would say are rather unorthodox religious beliefs, describing himself as being the sole member of a sect including no one but himself. He edited his own Bible (known today as The Jefferson Bible) by taking the pages of a standard Bible and rearranged selected verses in chronological order while omitting references to angels, miracles, the Trinity and the divinity and resurrection of Jesus.
In 1801, the Danbury Baptist Association wrote to Jefferson complaining that the state of Connecticut did not recognize their religious liberties as an “unalienable right” but rather as a privilege granted by the state legislature. Jefferson responded with his now-famous “Wall of Separation” letter:
To messers Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.
The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. [Congress thus inhibited from acts respecting religion, and the Executive authorised only to execute their acts, I have refrained from prescribing even those occasional performances of devotion, practiced indeed by the Executive of another nation as the legal head of its church, but subject here, as religious exercises only to the voluntary regulations and discipline of each respective sect.] Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.
I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association assurances of my high respect & esteem.
(signed) Thomas Jefferson
Who would have thought that in 2010, that fight would now expand to ensuring Thomas Jefferson’s own place in the history of our independence?
The fight to “restore to man all his natural rights” continues. Happy Independence Day.
Exodus Co-Founder: We Were All Still Struggling Silently As We Promised Change
A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.
April 21st, 2010
In today’s video Michael talks about an evening in New York City with another ex-gay leader that caused him to begin to question if anyone in the ex-gay movement was really changing. After talking to other Exodus leaders Michael finally came to the conclusion:
“[T]here were very few of us, if any, who were completely celibate, and we were all still silently struggling with out own sexuality, at the very same time we were promising change. And that lack of integrity, that psychological and spiritual split just got wider and wider and wider until I couldn’t take it any more.”
(transcript after the jump)
Paul Cameron’s experience with censorship
March 24th, 2010
Paul Cameron longs for the good ol’ days when homosexuality was taboo, outlawed, considered a mental illness, a cause for lobotomies or other bizarre experimentation, and unacceptable in polite society.
In a strange turn of events, Cameron’s Family Research Institute briefly got a chance to relive those days, but from the other side. In a move reminiscent of the 50′s, FRI’s March 2010 newsletter was deemed obscene by the US Post Office. (Colorado Springs Gazette)
On March 4, according to the complaint sent to the Postal Service by Cameron’s attorney, the newsletter was delivered to the bulk mailing office on Fountain Boulevard and was initially approved for bulk mailing.
The next day, however, Cameron’s group was informed by postal supervisor Paul Hill that it did not qualify for the nonprofit mailing rate because it violated the regulations against mailing material that was “obscene” and incited forcible resistance to the government, the complaint stated.
Hill later told the group’s representative that the initial decision had been reviewed and the newsletter would be accepted at a slightly higher pre-sorted rate, which Turner said is about 3 cents per piece more than the nonprofit rate.
Cameron does not appear to post his newsletter online in pdf or other whole form. However, the two pieces which we were able to review do not fit the definition of obscene. Offensive, untruthful, and brimming with contempt, but not obscene.
Although FRI is but a vehicle through with Cameron indulges his personal hatred, it is nonetheless a valid non-profit organization and does engage in “educational” activities. And while FRI is listed as a Hate Group by the SPLC (as is anyone who relies too much on Cameron’s claims), the direction of one’s opinion about homosexuality is not cause for denying non-profit status.
Finally the USPS finally did the right thing. After a review by the Postal Service headquarters, the USPS reversed the local decision and restored FRI’s non-profit billing rate.
Ironically, Cameron owes his freedom to mail objectionable materials about homosexuality in part to the “militant homosexual activists” which he so despises. A decision more than 50 years ago by the Supreme Court had cleared FRI from the USPS’ objections to materials about homosexuality.
Up until 1957 material that was depraved or corrupting of young mind was considered obscene. And obscene material was not protected under the First Amendment. But in that year, the SCOTUS changed the definition of obscene to be “whether to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to the prurient interest.”
But the relevant application of this decision was the following year in One, Inc. v. Olesen, a gay rights case.
The Postmaster of Los Angeles had declared that the October 1954 issue of One Magazine, an advocacy, education, and general interest magazine for gays and lesbians, was obscene and thus banned from the postal service. The magazine lost in court in March 1956 and at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in February 1957.
But the Supreme Court didn’t even wait for oral testimony and on January 13, 1958, acting collectively, issued a one sentence reversal based on the previous year’s decision thereby determining that material about homosexuality was not necessarily obscene.
So Paul Cameron has a pre-Stonewall gay publication to thank for his postal discount. But somehow I suspect that his “thank you” card has been lost in the mail.
Forty Years of LGBT History Is Now Safe
February 26th, 2010
It was a horrendous loss when the venerable Washington Blade went belly up last year. While the paper itself was thriving and profitable, it’s parent company, Windows Media, was a financial disaster. The Blade had become the LGBT paper of record for the nation’s capital, and with its tremendous access to Congress and administration figures, I don’t think it’s too much of an exaggeration to say that the Blade was the nation’s paper along the lines of the New York Times or Washington Post on LGBT issues.
Today, the paper’s successor, DCAgenda, announced that they have successfully purchased the print and electronic archives and other assets of the Blade, ensuring that this historical treasure will be in safe hands.
Some proud President days
February 15th, 2010
When it comes to ensuring the equality of all citizens, especially gay citizens, it can seem that Presidents lag far behind legislators, judges, and society at large. It would be easy to compile a large litany of abuses that Presidents have heaped on the non-heterosexual community. But there have also been days in which Presidents took action that is laudable and to their credit. And, just some steps that I included because they amuse me.
Here are a few (but certainly not all) moments in which Presidents and our community interacted:
February 23, 1778 – Baron Friedrich von Steuben arrived to offer his services General George Washington (not yet President) and his Continental Army. Steuben was probably Washington’s best military asset, as he provided the training and structure that had been up until then missing from the Americans. Steuben’s methods would be utilized for the next century and a half. Although Washington officially did not tolerate homosexual acts (drumming out an officer caught in the act of, um, fraternizing), Steuben’s reputation – and accompaniment of handsome men – did not dissuade the General from placing him in authority. One could even suggest that “don’t ask, don’t tell” was the military policy from the start.
March 4, 1857 – President James Buchanan was sworn into office. Buchanan was a bachelor who had lived for 15 years with Alabama Senator William Rufus King (King had died in 1852, after serving as Vice President for less than a month). While evidence of the two as a couple is not overwhelmingly conclusive enough to convince those who are inclined to dismiss any historical inclusion of non-heterosexuality (the nieces of the two men burned their correspondences), contemporaries certainly seemed to think of them in this manner. Buchanan was our only bachelor President, a sin that would certainly be seen as a liability today.
March 5, 1861 – President Abraham Lincoln was sworn into office. While rumors about Lincoln were less pronounced than those about his predecessor, his space sharing was even more intimate than that of Buchanan. In his late 20′s he met Joshua Speed, moved in with him, and shared his bed for the next four years. The two exchanged flowery letters expressing devotion, and C. A. Tripp, in The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln, argued that Lincoln was primarily same-sex attracted. Dissenters argue that sharing beds was common in an era in which beds were scarce. However, they are a bit less adamant about a shortage of beds in the White House when Lincoln shared his bed with David Derickson, his bodyguard, when Mary Todd Lincoln was away. Whether, indeed, Lincoln was primarily homosexual in orientation, he was certainly unconventional in his bed-mate patterns and worthy of mention.
November 1, 1978 – The Briggs Initiative was on the California ballot, for a November 7 vote. If passed, it would have banned gay man and women from working in California’s public schools. Ronald Reagan, the prior Governor and soon to be President, wrote an editorial in the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner opposing the bill, saying “Whatever else it is, homosexuality is not a contagious disease like the measles. Prevailing scientific opinion is that an individual’s sexuality is determined at a very early age and that a child’s teachers do not really influence this.” This was an official follow-up on a September interview in which he expressed his opposition, and the timing of the editorial is closely associated with a massive shift from strong support to overwhelming opposition. In January 1981, the decorators for Nancy Reagan are the first known gay couple to spend the night in the White House.
January 20, 1993 – President Bill Clinton was sworn into office. Clinton was the first President elected with a campaign which included specific gay rights provisions and shortly into his term, Clinton sought to fulfill his promises by lifting the ban on open service of gay personnel. He ran into immediate opposition in Congress and ultimately signed off on the “compromise” that became Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as well as the Defense of Marriage Act, both of which still haunt us. But for a brief shining moment the world looked full of promise. In October 1997, Clinton nominated James Hormel, an openly gay man and significant contributor, to be Ambassador to Luxembourg. After a year and a half of opposition from conservative Senators, Clinton employed a recess appointment in May 1999 and Hormel was sworn in the following month.
February 23, 1996 – Former President Jimmy Carter, writing in the LA Times, called for a rejection of “the politics of hate.” He stated, “We must make it clear that a platform of ‘I hate gay men and women’ is not a way to become president of the United States.” On April 5, 2004, in an interview with the American Prospect, he set himself in opposition to George Bush’s election campaign against same-sex couples. “I personally, in my Sunday-school lessons, don’t favor the religious endorsement of a gay marriage. But I do favor equal treatment under the law for people who differ from me in sexual orientation.” In December of the following year, he reiterated, “My own belief is that there should be a distinction between so-called gay marriages, which I look upon as a possibility of a church- ordained blessing of God on a union, which I think should be between a man and a woman. But at the same time, that people who do have gay union in a court or in secular terms not relating to religion, should be treated with complete equality.”
September 18, 2001 – Michael Guest was sworn in as Ambassador to Romania. Unlike James Hormel, this George W. Bush appointment was based on civil service record and received Senate confirmation. This early in W’s first term, there was considerable optimism that he would oversee an inclusive administration.
October 29, 2001 – Reporter Deb Price ran an article based on an interview with former President Gerald Ford. To her surprise, Ford endorsed non-discrimination and declared that gay couples should have the same tax and Social Security rights as married heterosexuals. “I think they ought to be treated equally. Period.” That year Ford joined the Republican Unity Coalition, an organization dedicated to making sexual orientation a non-issue in the Republican Party, thus becoming the only President to engage in pro-gay activism. Shortly before his 2006 death, Ford discussed with his Episcopal priest the divisions in the denomination over the place of gay congregants in the church. In his homily, his pastor noted, “He said he did not think (such inclusive steps) should be divisive for anyone who lived by the Great Commandments and the Great Commission — to love God and to love neighbor.” Ford was the only President who was not elected to any position by the American voters at large. He was sent to Congress by the people of Grand Rapids. After the resignation of Vice-President Spiro Agnew, Ford was selected as a replacement based primarily on his reputation for honesty and integrity, and he become president upon the resignation of Richard Nixon.
The current President has promised to be a fierce advocate for our community. And history will advise us of the most favorable action that President Barack Obama will take in his administration. To date, we are thankful for statements made during the election cycle, for Bishop Robinson’s inaugural prayer, for several gay appointments, and for current efforts to reverse the ban on open service in the military. Let’s hope we have much for to celebrate next Presidents’ Day.
Undoubtedly, I’ve omitted several milestones, for which I apologize. Feel free to praise Presidents in the comments section (for today, let’s try and keep it to praise. We’ll start the criticism again tomorrow.)
Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King’s Dream
January 18th, 2010
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28, 1963
Keep the dream alive.
Continue the struggle.
Video of Matthew Shepard Surfaces
December 12th, 2009
Matthew Shepard has managed to become something of an icon for anti-LGBT hate crimes in America. and like the old religious icons which become a part of our culture, his image has always been a static one. Now a video of an brief interview with Matthew and his then-boyfriend has emerged and is posted on Joshalot.
The web site’s author (his name isn’t given) ran across some videos as part of his research project, one of which includes an interview of Matthew and his boyfriend in the mid-1990′s when they were attending Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C. The video, which is not embeddable but can be seen here, shows us a moving, breathing, intelligent and soft-spoken Matthew Shepard that we’ve never seen before, and reminds us of the very ordinary college student that we lost more then ten years ago.
AFA’s Bryan Fischer Proposes Sectarian Cleansing of US Military
November 10th, 2009
This is shocking even by usual American Family Association “standards.” Here’s what the AFA’s Bryan Fischer is saying:
It it is time, I suggest, to stop the practice of allowing Muslims to serve in the U.S. military. The reason is simple: the more devout a Muslim is, the more of a threat he is to national security. Devout Muslims, who accept the teachings of the Prophet as divinely inspired, believe it is their duty to kill infidels. Yesterday’s massacre is living proof. And yesterday’s incident is not the first fragging incident involving a Muslim taking out his fellow U.S. soldiers.
Of course, most U.S. Muslims don’t shoot up their fellow soldiers. Fine. As soon as Muslims give us a foolproof way to identify their jihadis from their moderates, we’ll go back to allowing them to serve. You tell us who the ones are that we have to worry about, prove you’re right, and Muslims can once again serve. Until that day comes, we simply cannot afford the risk. You invent a jihadi-detector that works every time it’s used, and we’ll welcome you back with open arms.
We knew that some among them [Japanese Americans] were potentially dangerous but no one knew what would happen among this concentrated population if Japanese forces should try and invade our shores. Military authorities therefore determined that all of them, citizens and aliens alike would have to move.
Near the end of the film:
[This current story of Japanese internment] will be fully told only when circumstances permit the loyal American citizens once again to enjoy the freedom we in this country cherish and when the disloyal, we hope, have left this country for good. In the mean time we are setting a standard for the rest of the world in the treatment for people who may have loyalties to an enemy nation, we are protecting ourselves without violating the principals of Christian decency. We won’t change this fundamental decency no matter what our enemies do.
GLAAD Asks ‘South Park’ To Dumb Down Show
This commentary is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the opinions of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin
November 9th, 2009
Here’s a clip from last week’s South Park, titled “The F Word,” in which the boys attempted to redefine the word “fag” to mean inconsiderately loud and attention seeking motorcycle riders:
Fans of South Park, including myself, often view the show as one of TV’s most intelligent outlets for artistic cultural commentary. “The F Word” episode was no exception as it examined the power of the word “fag,” its constantly changing definition throughout history, and lastly the ability of a community to reclaim an insult into a badge of honor and identity.
GLAAD sees things differently and issued a Call To Acton. Poor GLAAD couldn’t even bring themselves to using the word “fag” in their Call To Action:
The creators of South Park are right on one important point: more and more people are using the F-word as an all-purpose insult. However, it is irresponsible and wrong to suggest that it is a benign insult or that promoting its use has no consequences for those who are the targets of anti-gay bullying and violence. This is a slur whose meaning remains rooted in homophobia. And while many South Park viewers will understand the sophisticated satire and critique in last night’s episode, others won’t [emphasis added] – and if even a small number of those take from this a message that using the “F-word” is OK, it worsens the hostile climate that many in our community continue to face.
Let me establish my credibility as a creative professional; I’m a licensed architect, I create films and interviews for my gay activism, and I’m a paid blogger for a community events group in Denver. There are a variety of ways to criticize creative works, some of which are stronger than others. Here’s how I see things…
Examples of valid and strong criticisms:
- The theme of your work is offensive to gay people
- Your work exploits gay people
- Your work presents ugly stereotypes as truth
- Your work is uninteresting or uncompelling
- Your work failed to make its point
- Your work is unoriginal
Examples of weak criticisms:
- Stupid people won’t understand your work
- You didn’t fit our talking points into your work
- You didn’t articulate your work’s message the way we wanted
It’s like saying contemporary art superstar Damien Hurst shouldn’t create works of art like the image below because someone might not understand the piece and think it’s OK to go out and spear an animal dozens of times with arrows.
The only thing I find offensive about “The F Word” is GLAAD asking other creative professionals to cater to the lowest common denominator in their audience because someone, somewhere might not understand it. The weak and invalid argument GLAAD presents would dumb-down America’s great cultural landscape for all of us.
The full episode can be viewed on South Park’s website until Wednesday night when the next new episode airs.
A True Hero Gets an Apology
September 10th, 2009
There are not many people who have changed the course of political history or impacted the day to day lives of nearly every person on the planet. Alan Mathison Turing did both.
In 1936, two years out of college, Turing presented the paper, On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem. In this, he proposed that a machine could perform mathematical computations if presented as an algorithm. These Turing Machines (in practice, theoretical) were programmable and could replicate the function of any other machine.
During the Second World War, the German superpower communicated by means of an encryption device call the Enigma. With British and other allied sources unable to decrypt communications, Germany was free to engage in warfare that was immediate and reactive.
England found it essential that these codes be conquered and turned to Turing. Turing and his associates at the Government Code and Cypher School created a series of machines that were about to intercept and decrypt Germany’s military messages, an endeavor that was incalculably valuable. Turing even traveled the the United States to work with U.S. Navy cryptanalysts and to assist with the development of secure speech devices.
It is no exaggeration to say that, without his outstanding contribution, the history of the Second World War could have been very different. He truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war.
After the war, Turing returned his attention to computing. He extrapolated on his earlier work, presenting papers on how to create a programmable machine – or computer – and on artificial intelligence, among other contributions.
So influential was Turing to your ability to read what I’m writing that he is considered by many to be the father of modern computer science. And the most prestigious award given to contributions to computer science is the A.M. Turing Award.
An appreciative world should have thrown flowers at his feet. But Turing had a flaw that 1950′s western civilization could not find forgivable. Turing was gay.
In January 1952, Turing met a charming young man, Arnold Murray. Murray accepted an invitation to stay the night at Turing’s home, but he had other than amorous motives. During the night, he let in an accomplice to rob the place.
When Turing reported the incident to the police, the investigation revealed that Turing and Murray had a sexual encounter. This being illegal, Turing was convicted under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885.
England found that it’s appreciation for his war efforts on its behalf was far less compelling than its disapproval of his orientation. So his government gave Turing a choice, imprisonment or chemical castration.
After two years of oestrogen hormone injections, during which Turing grew breasts, he ended his life at age 42. And one of the greatest mathematical minds that the world has known ceased to contribute to society.
Today the United Kingdom has apologized.
In an article in the Telegraph, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has penned a tribute to Turing and expressed regret on behalf of the nation.
While Turing was dealt with under the law of the time, and we can’t put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair, and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him. Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted, as he was convicted, under homophobic laws, were treated terribly. Over the years, millions more lived in fear in conviction.
So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work, I am very proud to say: we’re sorry. You deserved so much better.
Yes. He did.
Thank You, Raymond Castro
June 29th, 2009
Forty years and a day ago, Raymond Castro was arrested for his part in the Stonewall Riots. (msnbc)
“When the police raided the place, I was outside,” Castro remembered. “Then I remembered a friend inside who did not have a false ID and he was going to get in trouble, so I went inside to give him one.” (Many of the police raids, he said, resulted in arrests for underage drinking). “Once I got inside, the police wouldn’t let us out. It got really hot. I remember throwing punches and resisting arrest. The police handcuffed me and threw me in the paddy wagon. But I sprung back up, like a leap frog, and when I did that I knocked the police down.”
Castro then got out of town and spent the next forty years as a baker – 30 of them with Frankie Sturniolo – building a life around caring for friends and family .
In fact, it was not until David Carter, a historian and author of “Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution,” called Castro that he started publicly reflecting on the events of 40 years ago.
But for every day of those forty years our community has owned him a debt of gratitude. Thank you, Raymond, for the part you played in our ongoing fight for freedom and equality.
New Hampshire Would be the Sixth What, Exactly?
May 8th, 2009
New Hampshire could be the sixth gay marriage something-or-other, but finding the language to fit is not a straight-forward task. Considering the methods by which states have reached (and retreated from) marriage rights, putting them in order depends on what one is measuring.
The order in which states have granted recognition to same sex couples
1. District of Columbia 1992 (blocked by Congress until 2002)
2. Hawaii 1997
3. California 1999
4. Vermont 1999
5. Connecticut 2005
6. New Jersey 2004
7. Maine 2004
8. New Hampshire 2007
9. Washington 2007
10. Oregon 2007
11. Maryland 2008
12. Iowa 2009
13. Colorado 2009
The order in which courts have found that states must provide marriage and/or all its rights and benefits to same-sex couples:
1. Hawaii 1993/1997 (reversed by Constitutional amendment)
2. Vermont 1999
3. Massachusetts 2003
4. New Jersey 2006
5. California 2008 (perhaps reversed by Constitutional amendment)
6. Connecticut 2008
7. Iowa 2009
The order in which states provided virtually all of the same benefits as marriage
1. Vermont 1999
2. California 2003 (with subsequent minor adjustments to fix differences)
3. Massachusetts 2003
4. Connecticut 2005
5. District of Columbia 2006 (with adjustment in 2008)
6. New Jersey 2006
7. New Hampshire 2007
8. Oregon 2007
9. Washington 2009
10. Maine 2009
The order in which legal marriages were first performed
1. Massachusetts – 5/17/2004
2. Iowa – 8/31/2007 (only one)
3. California – 6/16/2008
4. Connecticut – 11/4/2008
5. Vermont – 9/1/2009 (Scheduled)
6. Maine – around 9/14/2009 (Scheduled)
The order in which continuous legal marriages began to be offered
1. Massachusetts – 5/17/2004
2. Connecticut – 11/4/2008
3. Iowa – 4/27/09
4. Vermont – 9/1/2009 (Scheduled)
5. Maine – around 9/14/2009 (Scheduled)
And should New Hampshire’s bill be signed, it will be sixth.
Two Big Oscar Nods
February 22nd, 2009
Sean Penn, who won the Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of Harvey Milk, gave a great shout-out to those who voted to strip California’s gays and lesbians of their right to marry:
For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, and, I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that way of support. We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone.
Earlier, Milk’s screenwriter Dustin Lance Black won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. His acceptance speech was undoubtedly the most moving:
…When I was 13 years old, my beautiful mother and my father moved me from a conservative Mormon home in San Antonio, Texas to California and I heard the story of Harvey Milk. And it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life, it gave me the hope to one day live my life openly as who I am and that maybe even I could fall in love and one day get married.
(He chokes up, audience begins to applaud.)
I want to thank my mom who has always loved me for who I am, even when there was pressure not to. But most of all, if Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he’d want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches or by the government or by their families that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value and that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you and that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights, federally, across this great nation of ours. (Wild applause from the audience.) Thank you, thank you, and thank you God for giving us Harvey Milk.
Happy Bicentennial, Mr. President
February 11th, 2009
History has its favorites. Circumstances and personality sometimes meet in such a way as to forever bind a name with world changing events. And time strips away those conflicting realities that may contradict the myth leaving us with an untarnished champion, someone greater than their experiences, a symbol of an ideal.
One such man who stands for an institution greater than he made it is President Abraham Lincoln. Honest Abe is the American Hero, the greatest president that ever presided; a poor boy who though hard work and humble wit advanced to save the nation in its most perilous hour. And although there is a current movement to rehumanize the man, in the minds of most he will be the Great Emancipator, the one who held the Union together and freed the slaves.
Four years ago, C.A. Tripp (posthumously) published The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln, in which he argues that Lincoln was primarily same-sex attracted. This book was met with a flood of indignant rebuttals.
I found Tripp’s book to be fascinating, though not necessarily proof. Tripp presented only circumstantial evidence and, though there was a lot of it, there was no smoking gun.
But I found those who argued against Tripp to have but the flimsiest of denials for Tripp’s strongest points (“there was a bed shortage and men often shared beds for years and wrote flowery love notes to each other”), accompanied by an absolute silence on his subsidiary evidence (surely there was no bed shortage in the White House). They seemed more motivated by protecting Lincoln’s image from such a ‘vile slander’ than they did in applying any professional curiosity to the matter.
But there is a lesson to be learned. We all want to own a part of President Lincoln and his legacy. Lincoln – a flawed man all too human – took the right positions on the right issues and transcended his own mortality.
On this, the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, let us all strive to live so that others in distant decades will want to claim us as their own.
Eartha Kitt (January 17, 1927 – December 25, 2008)
December 25th, 2008
She was… C’est Si Bon.
‘Milk’ Reviews Are In!
November 26th, 2008
The reviews of Milk, the biopic of slain gay San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk, are almost unanimous:
- “Emotionally devastating.” Four stars — Roger Ebert
- “Sean Penn shines in new Gus Van Sant biopic ‘Milk’.” — New York Daily News
- “‘Milk’ and Penn are a powerful cinematic combination.” — USA Today
- “Gus Van Sant males ‘Milk’ a real, moving story.” — Seattle Post-Intelligencer
- “‘Milk’ is a marvel.” — New York Times
- “‘Milk’ hits the stirring heights.” — Washington Post
Okay, I said almost unanimous:
- “Sean Penn overacts as gay leader in ‘Milk’.” — Washington Times
So go see it. Just don’t go to a Cinemark, Century, CineArts or Tinseltown theater.
Today In History: 1958 Broadcast On “The Homosexual In Society”
November 24th, 2008
Fifty years ago today, on November 24, 1958, several people gathered in the studios of KPFA-FM in Berkeley, California, to participate in a two-hour broadcast on the problems that gay people faced in society. This is not only believed to be the first radio broadcast to deal favorably with gay people, it is also believed to be the first to include an actual gay person to speak directly of his experience. The first hour also featured the mother of a gay son.
(Update: I received the following info in an email from James Sears, author of Behind the Mask of the Mattachine: The Hal Call Chronicles and the Early Movement for Homosexual Emancipation. He wrote that first TV broadcast with an acknowledged homosexual was in Los Angeles by the vice-president of the Mattachine Society on the Paul Coates Show in 1956. His face was disguised. The first to feature an acknowledged homosexual on the east coast was March 10, 1956 with Tony Segura on the show (but he was in a mask). Also, WRCA of NYC produced a series of 3 panel discussions on its Open Minds on Aug 24, Sept 29 1956 and a third on Jan. 12, 1957.)
Del Martin wrote the following account of the 1958 broadcast for the January 1959 edition of The Ladder, which was the official publication of the Daughters of Bilitis. Just last summer, Del became a June bride when she married Phyllis Lyon, her partner of 56 years. Del passed away last August.
Del’s article chronicling that broadcast is reproduced below.
2-Hour Broadcast on Homophile Problem
“The Homosexual in Society”, a two-hour broadcast presented by KPFA-FM, a non-profit listener-subscription radio station in Berkeley, California, during November brought such popular acclaim that the program was repeated a month later and will be issued in pamphlet form as well.
The program consisted of two separate panel discussion sound tapes, the first covering “The Role of the Homosexual as an Individual and as a Member of Society” and the second “The Role Society Should Play” in solving the homophile problem.
THE ROLE OF THE INDIVIDUAL
Hal Call, publications director of the Mattachine Society and editor of the MATTACHINE REVIEW, opened the discussion by outlining the educational program of the organization to lead “to a better understanding of the homosexual and other forms of variance where there is no great harm to the social order.”
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.”
Mr. Call concluded the first panel discussion with a resume of legal attitudes in Europe and the United States. In England last September the Wolfenden Report recommended that homosexual acts between consenting adults no longer be considered a crime provided they are conducted in private, do not involve minors, no force or violence or fraud is used and do not offend public decency. In April, 1955, in our own country the American Law Institute in its draft of a Model Penal Code recommended essentially the same things.
In Denmark a change in the law was made in 1933, he said, but while not illegal, the stigma attached to homosexuality still remains. Persecution is particularly severe in Germany and Austria today despite previous progress and is reported to be the result of our own American occupation. In this country we have 48 different states with 48 different sets of laws concerning certain homosexual acts ranging from misdemeanor penalties of 30 days to maximum penalties of life imprisonment.
BASIS OF AMERICAN SEX LAWS
Dr. Karl Bowman, psychiatrist who until recently was director of the Langley Porter Clinic of the University of California School of Medicine in San Francisco, opened the second discussion with some historical background on our present laws, which he said are “largely traced back to ancient Hebrew laws.” The Christian religion took over the Jewish code which was extremely restrictive pertaining to sexual behavior. And the English law, on which United States law is based, stemmed from the Christian code.
“If this is so, it is my contention,” Dr. Bowman added, “it is time to re-examine our laws in the light of present knowledge and recommend modifications.”
WHAT IS A HOMOSEXUAL?
Dr. Frank Beach Jr., anthropologist and professor of psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, deplored the fact that nowhere in the previous discussion had there been a definition of the term “homosexual”. He 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
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.
CAUSES OF HOMOSEXUALITY
Dr. Beach said that hereditary factors may be involved, since in some genetic studies the incidence of homosexuality was higher in identical twins. There is also evolutionary evidence based on observation of other mammals. Exclusive, overt homosexuality does not occur in any other species but man, he pointed out, however. In cases of error in identification of sex at birth, Dr. Beach added that it was extremely difficult to reverse the sex if it was established in the mind of the individual.
Dr. Bowman agreed that there were multiple causes, that heredity, physical condition and psychological conditioning all played an important role.
“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.
Pointing out some of the abuses of the law such as police harassment, registration as sex offender and entrapment, Mr. Lowenthal said he believed that if these injustices were brought to the attention of the public, it might offend the decency of most people.
Dr. Wilson pointed out that a change in the law would not eliminate altogether the problem of blackmail because of the moral issue, though the degree would certainly be much less.
Moderator Thompson summed up the discussion, “Homosexuality is not a question of crime. If society is to solve the problem it must be done with enlightenment, understanding and a scientific approach at the individual level.”
OVERWHELMING RESPONSE TO BROADCAST
According to officials of KPFA, almost all of the heavy mail received after the first broadcast congratulated them on their courage and observed that they would undoubtedly be attacked for the program. However, they did not have a single attack for presenting the program — technical criticism, yes, but no indictment.
Because of the overwhelming response to the program, “The Homosexual in Society” is being made available in pamphlet form and can be obtained from Station KPFA, 2207 Shattuck, Ave., Berkeley 4, California, for $1.00.
– Del Martin
The Black Cat Named a Historical-Cultural Monument
November 8th, 2008
On New Years Eve we shared with you the story of the police raid on the Black Cat Bar in the first minutes of 1967. Our retelling of this tale encouraged Wes Joe in his efforts to have that event recognized for its historical significance.
Today the LA Times reports that the City Counsel has honored Wes’ request.
The Black Cat, a Silver Lake bar that was home to the gay rights movement in Los Angeles, on Friday was named a historic-cultural monument.
“With Prop. 8 we took five steps backward, but the Black Cat gives us the perspective that we’ve taken 50 steps forward since 1967,” Wes Joe, a Silver Lake resident who nominated the bar for monument status, said at Friday’s council meeting in Van Nuys.
Congratulations to Wes Joe and to Le Barcito, the current name of the Black Cat.
As Wes notes, in the midst of our disappointment and our anger arising from the enshrinment of discrimination into three state constitutions on Tuesday, this should serve as a reminder of how far we have come.