Tom Brokaw: No Gays In His ’60′s
November 26th, 2007
Tom Brokaw’s new book, Boom! Voices of the Sixties is supposed to be a sweeping review of all of the highlights of that pivital decade for social change. Brokaw left virtually nothing untouched: civil rights, the war, feminism, the sexual revolution — all of it is right there in his exhastive review. Except for one thing: There are no gays in the Sixties.
No Stonewall, no protests in front of the White House or Independence Hall, no Civil Service expulsions, none of that is a part of Tom Brokaw’s “Sixties.” And that has 1960′s gay rights activist and icon Frank Kameny livid. Kameny, whose memorabilia was recently featured in a display at the Smithsonian Institution fired off a stirring rebuttal to Brokaw’s silence on a very important part of America in the 1960′s. Reminding Brokaw that “Gay is good” (Frank coined that phrase in 1968.) Kameny reminds Brokaw of the great sweep of history that Brokaw overlooked and demands an apology.
Just Leave Out the Icky Part
October 31st, 2007
But what if this was a family movie and one of the characters was gay? Oh, you’d just remove that icky part, of course. Does it matter if the story is semi-autobiographical and based on a the difficulties of being a gay father to an adopted son with serious abandonment issues? Nah, just make him straight. It’s much cuddlier.
From Vue Weekly:
Really, how can you not love a little boy orphan who truly believes he’s from Mars and travels inside of an Amazon.com cardboard box with the warning “FRAGILE: Handle with care” on it? David Gordon (John Cusack) certainly can’t. In fact, this celestial orphan named Dennis (Bobby Coleman) might be the perfect match for science fiction writer David.
That is the sole premise of Martian Child, based on the award-winning novelette by, and about, sci-fi author David Gerrold and his experiences as a single adoptive dad. The only major difference is this family film leaves out the part where David is gay, and instead makes him a widower with an attractive “friend,” Harlee, played by Amanda Peet.
Awww. How sweet.
Maybe he and his father can go to a Save Marriage rally in the movie as well. Wouldn’t that be sweet?
Reviewer Omar Mouallem, who has no problem with this minor revision, tells us
But like the orphan in the box, it’s not humanly possible to dislike Martian Child. Not even a little.
Oh, I don’t know about that, Omar. I haven’t even seen it and already I dislike it more than a little.
You see, Omar, I’m not all that fond of when heterosexuals take the contributions and sacrifices that gay men and women make – often times because of the humanity and compassion that comes from being made to feel like an outsider – and pretend that the very attributes that taught this person compassion are icky and nasty and to be hidden.
Gay Is Good: Frank Kameny’s Memorabilia At The Smithsonian
August 31st, 2007
The Smithsonian’s Museum of American History is closed and undergoing renovations, but that’s not stopping them from putting on ambitious and expansive shows at other venues. One such exhibit is the “Treasures of American History” at the National Air and Space Museum.
And one part of this exhibit is titled “Gay is Good” and features several items from Frank Kameny’s recently donated archives and memorabilia, includes picket signs from 1965 and “Gay is Good” buttons from around 1968. These items join Thomas Jefferson’s small, portable, folding desk upon which he wrote the Declaration and the inkwells Abraham Lincoln used to write the Emancipation Proclamation — all of which played key roles in the formation of our national values of freedom and equality for everyone.
Frank Kameny is a living hero of the American gay rights movement. It all began when he was dismissed in 1957 from his position as an astronomer in the Army Map Service because of his homosexuality. Federal civil service rules at the time prohibited gays from federal employment, and security clearances were routinely denied to anyone who was found to be gay. He became the first to appeal a firing on the basis of homosexuality. The ACLU represented him at the Court of Appeals, but they refused to go further when he lost. So he wrote his own appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, filing it on January 21, 1961. The Supreme Court took only two months to turn it down.
In 1961, Frank and Jack Nichols co-founded the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., aggressively pressing for equal treatment of gay employees in the federal government. They also began their work to overturn anti-sodomy laws across the country and to remove homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s list of mental disorders, both of which served as justifications for ongoing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The APA was not very receptive to working with the Society however, writing in 1963, “it is not in the best interests of the APA to meet with you, nor to publicize your meetings.” Meanwhile there was a move in Congress in 1963 to prevent the District of Columbia from registering the Mattachine Society as a nonprofit organization.
But that didn’t deter the nascent gay rights movement. Frank and other members of the Mattachine Society participated in the very first gay-rights picket in front of the White House in 1965. And in 1973, he was on a panel of the APA’s symposium on homosexuality when Dr. John E. Fryer appeared as “Dr. H. Anonymous.” This ended up being a key moment leading to the APA’s elimination of homosexuality as a mental illness. That was quite a turnaround from a mere ten years earlier when the APA refused to meet with him.
In 1968 Frank coined the phrase “Gay is Good,” inspired by the popular “Black is Beautiful” slogan. “Gay is Good” may appear rather simple today, but it was a particularly significant slogan for 1968 when homosexuality was still considered both a mental illness and a criminal act. Today, in a private message reprinted here with his kind permission, Frank reflects on his slogan:
I’ve said, for a long time, that if I’m remembered for only one thing, I would like it to be for having coined “Gay is Good.” But never did I expect that that would make its way to the Smithsonian. I feel deeply contented.
You can find more information about Frank’s contribution to gay rights in America at his web site, the Kameny Papers. Not only was he a great gay rights leader, he also ended up being a great archivist. It seems as if he never threw anything away and we’re all the richer for it. Now his legacy is a part of our national patrimony. And as this video from The Kameny Papers website shows, his struggle — and ours — is part and parcel of the larger struggle to bring America’s promise of equality to fruition for everyone.
Marriage is One Vassal / One Vassal
August 23rd, 2007
One of the most often heard (and most ignorant) arguments against recognition of same-sex couples is that marriage has always been the same – one man and one woman – for 5,000 years. Considering that the same people who assert this position also claim they read the Bible, I marvel that they don’t break out in giggles.
In 1994 the acclaimed history scholar John Boswell released Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe. Boswell centered his research on liturgy and offered evidence that during the middle ages certain segments of the Church recognized same-sex couples using ceremonies startlingly similar to wedding.
Now the Journal of Modern History (as reported by Science Daily) will present in its September issue historical evidence of legal documents used by two men to who promised to share “one bread, one wine, and one purse.”
The effects of entering into an affrèrement were profound. As [Allan A.] Tulchin explains: “All of their goods usually became the joint property of both parties, and each commonly became the other’s legal heir. They also frequently testified that they entered into the contract because of their affection for one another. As with all contracts, affrèrements had to be sworn before a notary and required witnesses, commonly the friends of the affrèrés.”
Tulchin acknowledges the difficulties of stating definitively that such civil unions were sexual in nature – just as they would be today. Nonetheless, recognition of same-sex affection and devotion in a period before our own should hardly shock us. I doubt my grandmother’s bachelor uncles would be all that surprised.
Frank Kameny: “Not Dead”
May 17th, 2007
The legendary gay-rights leader Frank Kameny has released a statement in which he claims that he is “not dead.”
Next week’s issue of The Advocate, which will hit the newsstands Tuesday, reports that Frank Kameny is one of the leaders we’ve “lost to AIDS.” But Frank Kameny has come forward to deny that he has AIDS or that he is dead. He even says he will turn 82 on Monday, May 21.
Dr. Kameny was fired from his job as an astronomer at the Army Map Service in 1957 when they discovered he was gay. This began his twenty year fight against Civil Service regulations which barred gays from federal employment. He co-founded Washington’s Mattachine Society in 1961 and was part of the first picket line of gays and lesbians at the White House on April 17, 1965. And even though Frank is “not dead,” you can still read a fitting tribute by Jonathan Rauch. Kameny’s papers were recently donated to the Library of Congress.
Richard J. Heakin (1954-1975)
October 13th, 2006
Our local afternoon paper, the tiny but intrepid Tucson Citizen ran a great article yesterday about Richard J. Heakin, Jr., a gay man who was visiting Tucson from Nebraska. In June 6, 1975, the 21-year-old was attacked and killed by four teenagers while leaving a local bar near downtown.
Outraged that the 15- to 17-year-old killers received only probation for what was termed a hate crime, Tucson pressed for change and introduced anti-discrimination laws, new organizations and pride events celebrating the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community.
Then a Tucson committee decided on a memorial and tried to reach the Heakin family. But a dishonest friend supposedly said they wanted nothing to do with it, the family later learned.
The family remained in the dark about the impact Richard’s death had in Tucson. It led to Tucson becoming one of the first communities in the nation to pass anti-discrimination laws based on sexual orientation a few months after his death. It also led to the establishment of Wingspan, one of the largest LGBT community centers in the country for a city our size. (Tucsonans like to point out that Phoenix doesn’t even have one.) And every year, on June 6, Richard’s death is remembered with a gathering at the Richard Heakin Memorial in Tucson’s Presidio Park.
And now, thanks to the Internet, Richard’s family has learned about the great impact his death has had in our community. His niece tapped his name into a search engine, and a whole world opened up for her and her family.
Heather Ryan typed into an Internet search engine the name of an uncle four teens beat to death in Tucson and discovered a world unknown to the family…
While Lori Ryan, Heakin’s sister, was at bingo, her daughter spent the night at their Missouri home tracking down e-mail addresses that resulted in a phone number exchange, which led to a talk with Rowan Frost, one among the group that tried to reach the family years ago.
“We probably still would not have known if she hadn’t . . . gone on the Net,” Ryan, 49, said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “Making that phone call made all the difference.”
So came the tender and thrilling moment when Ryan received a mass of newspaper clippings about various events commemorating her brother. She booked a flight to Tucson so she could get to know the city that has spent decades keeping his name alive.
She wasn’t emotional as she walked up to the shaded memorial bearing her dead brother’s name Thursday, but Lori Ryan seemed tentative nonetheless.
It was understandable.
It was the first time Ryan or anyone from her Nebraska family had been to Downtown’s Presidio Park to see the 4-year-old plaque bearing the name of her older brother, Richard J. Heakin Jr., a victim of hate and intolerance….
“I never realized his death made such a difference,” said Ryan, 49, several hours after her plane landed at the airport. “It’s incredible to know that people who didn’t know him went through all this.”
Most gay communities celebrate Pride during June to commemorate the Stonewall riots. But Tucson waits until October, when the temperature will more reliably remain below 100. This year’s Pride is this weekend and Richard Heakin’s family will be in attendance. The original grand marshal of the parade even stepped aside so Lori Ryan could have the honor.
Kahlil Gilbran once wrote, “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” Some of our greatest advancements are born through terrible loss. Richard Heakin’s senseless death more than thirty years ago brought about a great transformation in a small city in the desert. This weekend, we will celebrate our pride in ourselves and in our community’s transformation. And we will remember the suffering.