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Posts for October, 2008

Today In History: “Baby, I’m So Sorry This Happened”

Jim Burroway

October 7th, 2008

Ten years ago today at around 6:30 PM, Aaron Kreifels was riding his bicycle on Snowy Mountain View Road, just outside of Laramie, Wyoming, when he wiped out near the end of a rough buck-and-rail fence. In the fall, he severely damaged his front tire. Aaron got up to try to figure out how to get back into town when he was startled by what he thought was a scarecrow. He took a closer look and discovered that it wasn’t a scarecrow, but a 5-foot-2, 102 pound University of Wyoming student by the name of Matthew Shepard.

Aaron was further surprised to see that the bloody figure was still alive, though barely. Matthew was comatose, breathing “as if his lungs are full of blood,” Aaron would later testify. It had been a very cold day that day with a 30-degree freezing wind the night before, and it was now evening again. Matthew had been there for more than 18 hours, laying on his back, head propped against the fence, his legs outstretched. His hands were tied behind him, and the rope was tied to a fence post just four inches off the ground. His shoes were missing.

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

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

His injuries were too severe for doctors to operate. They did however insert a drain into Matthew’s skull to relieve the pressure on his brain.

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

See also:
(Oct 16) Today In History: Rest In Peace
(Oct 13) Today In History: “Something In the Culture”
(Oct 12) Today In History: Matthew Wayne Shepard (Dec 1, 1976 – Oct 12, 1998)
(Oct 11) Today In History: The Vigil
(Oct 10) Today In History: Armbands and Scarecrows
(Oct 9) Also Today In History: Details Emerge
(Oct 9) Today In History: “We Just Wanted To Spend Time With Him”
(Oct 8) Today in History: Two Men Arrested
(Oct 7) Also Today In History: Another Assault In Laramie
(Oct 7) Today In History: “Baby, I’m So Sorry This Happened”
(Oct 6) Today In History: Before Matthew Shepard

Also Today In History: Another Assault In Laramie

Jim Burroway

October 7th, 2008

Ten years ago today, police in Laramie, Wyoming were called to investigate a fight during the very early morning hours. The two young men had attacked two others who were vandalizing cars. One was hit so hard, his skull was fractured.

Everyone fled the scene when police arrived, but they found the pickup truck driven by one of the men. Inside, they saw evidence that suggested there was more going on than a simple street fight. According to Sgt. Flint Waters:

“I looked in the back of the truck and laying in the back of the truck was a large-frame revolver. The thing was huge, like an 8-inch barrel that had blood all over it. And there was some rope and a coat in the truck; there was I believe a shoe sitting in the front. … Seeing that the gun was covered in blood, I assumed that there was more going on than what we’d stumbled onto so far.”

Meanwhile, Matthew Shepard was tied to a fence post, severely beaten and comatose. Police wouldn’t find him for another eighteen hours.

See also:
(Oct 16) Today In History: Rest In Peace
(Oct 13) Today In History: “Something In the Culture”
(Oct 12) Today In History: Matthew Wayne Shepard (Dec 1, 1976 – Oct 12, 1998)
(Oct 11) Today In History: The Vigil
(Oct 10) Today In History: Armbands and Scarecrows
(Oct 9) Also Today In History: Details Emerge
(Oct 9) Today In History: “We Just Wanted To Spend Time With Him”
(Oct 8) Today in History: Two Men Arrested
(Oct 7) Also Today In History: Another Assault In Laramie
(Oct 7) Today In History: “Baby, I’m So Sorry This Happened”
(Oct 6) Today In History: Before Matthew Shepard

Today In History: Before Matthew Shepard

Jim Burroway

October 6th, 2008

Ten years ago today, the world had never heard of Matthew Shepard. That’s because up until ten years ago today, he was just another 21-year-old gay college student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.

Well, not just another college student. He showed great promise. He had attended two years of high school at the American School in Switzerland during the time his family moved temporarily to Saudi Arabia. He had a particular talent for learning languages and he had a special love for community theater. In college, he was active in the university’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Association, and he was chosen as a student representative to the Wyoming Environmental Council. Friends described him as easy, outgoing, and approachable, with a special gift of relating to almost everyone.

And yet, he really was just another college kid. His mother, Judy Shepard, says 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.”

But ten years ago today proved to be Matthew’s last full day as an ordinary college student.

Ten years ago today was a Tuesday, right in the middle of midterms at UW. Matthew had a French exam to study for, but he decided to wind up early that evening and go over to an LGBTA meeting. The main item on the agenda for the meeting was to put the final touches on plans for Gay Awareness Week, which was to be held on campus beginning on Sunday.

After the meeting ended, Matthew went back home. But then he decided to go out again to the Fireside Lounge. There, he met Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, who posed as visiting students from California.

Sometime after midnight, in the very early morning hours of ten years ago tomorrow, Matthew decided to take McKinney and Henderson up on an offer for a ride home.

And sometime after that, Matthew Shepard was no longer just an ordinary college student.

See also:
(Oct 16) Today In History: Rest In Peace
(Oct 13) Today In History: “Something In the Culture”
(Oct 12) Today In History: Matthew Wayne Shepard (Dec 1, 1976 – Oct 12, 1998)
(Oct 11) Today In History: The Vigil
(Oct 10) Today In History: Armbands and Scarecrows
(Oct 9) Also Today In History: Details Emerge
(Oct 9) Today In History: “We Just Wanted To Spend Time With Him”
(Oct 8) Today in History : Two Men Arrested
(Oct 7) Also Today In History: Another Assault In Laramie
(Oct 7) Today In History: “Baby, I’m So Sorry This Happened”
(Oct 6) Today In History: Before Matthew Shepard

Happy Birthday, Evelyn Hooker

Gregory Herek

September 2nd, 2008

Today is the 101st anniversary of Dr. Evelyn Hooker’s birth.

Dr. Hooker, the psychologist widely credited with helping to establish that homosexuality is not inherently linked to mental illness, was born September 2, 1907, in North Platte, Nebraska. She was the sixth of nine children.

In the course of her remarkable life, Dr. Hooker surmounted many of the barriers faced by women who sought an academic career in the 20th century. She is best known for her psychological studies of gay men in the 1950s and 1960s.

By demonstrating that well-adjusted homosexuals not only existed but in fact were numerous, Dr. Hooker’s research demonstrated that the illness model had no scientific basis. She helped to lay the foundation for the American Psychiatric Association’s 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from its Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and for the American Psychological Association’s subsequent commitment to removing the stigma that has historically been attached to homosexuality.

In my latest post at Beyond Homophobia, I summarize Dr. Hooker’s most famous study and offer some reflections on the lasting impact of her work.

Today In History: A Bugger Was Hung

Jim Burroway

August 12th, 2008

“Buggery” — the quaint British legal term for homosexual activity — was a capital offense until 1861, when the laws were finally relaxed to allow for life imprisonment. But that change came almost thirty years too late for Captain Henry Nicholas Nicholls, who was hanged 175 years ago today for the “abominable vice.”

According to the London Courier:

Captain Henry Nicholas Nicholls, who was one of the unnatural gang to which the late Captain Beauclerk belonged, (and which latter gentleman put an end to his existence), was convicted on the clearest evidence at Croydon, on Saturday last, of the capital offence of Sodomy; the prisoner was perfectly calm and unmoved throughout the trial, and even when sentence of death was passed upon him. In performing the duty of passing sentence of death upon the prisoner, Mr. Justice Park told him that it would be inconsistent with that duty if he held out the slightest hope that the law would not be allowed to take its severest course. At 9 o’clock in the morning the sentence was carried into effect. The culprit, who was fifty years of age, was a fine looking man, and had served in the Peninsular war. He was connected with a highly respectable family; but, since his apprehension not a single member of it visited him.

[Hat tip: ExecutedToday.com (which proves that there is truly a blog for everything!) via Andrew Sullivan.]

Today In History: The APA Says No

Jim Burroway

July 17th, 2008

One of the top goals of the early gay rights movement was to get the American Psychological Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. As long as homosexuality remained listed, governmental agencies and private companies had all the excuse they needed to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

In 1957, Psychologist Evelyn Hooker began publishing the results of a series of tests which demonstrated that gays and lesbians who weren’t patients of mental health professionals were indistinguishable from heterosexuals. Before then, the mental health community thought that gays were mentally deficient because all of the prior research had only studied people who were confined to mental hospitals or were seen in clinical settings.

Despite the strength of this new evidence, it would still take many years for it to sink in. In fact, it was forty-five years ago today that the American Psychological Association declined to discuss the matter in a letter to leading gay rights activist Frank Kameny and the Mattachine Society, saying  “it is not in the best interests of the APA to meet with you, nor to publicize your meetings.”

Another ten years would pass before Kameny appeared on a panel of the APA’s symposium on homosexuality with Dr. John E. Fryer as “Dr. H. Anonymous.” That was  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 them.

Frank Kameny’s papers are now a part of the Smithsonian Institution, and at 83, he’s still kicking butt and naming names from his home in Washington, D.C.

Lawrence vs. Texas Revisited

Jim Burroway

June 26th, 2008

Driver error led me to prematurely celebrate the five year anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling which struck down anti-sodomy laws across the nation. Dr. Gregory Herek apparently is in better control of his blogging software than I am of mine.

Dr. Herek is a prolific researcher and professor of psychology at U.C. Davis. Today he posted excerpts from a longer article he wrote to commemorate the ruling. In it, he explores the role that social science played in that ruling and what it tells us today in our current debates over same-sex marriage. He concludes:

Because current debates about law and policy concerning sexual orientation inevitably raise questions about the nature of intimate relationships, parenting, family dynamics, and the personal impact of sexual stigma – phenomena that have been extensively studied by behavioral and social scientists – psychologists and other behavioral scientists have an ongoing role to play in communicating our knowledge to policy makers, jurists, and the public.

By doing so, we will continue to fulfill our longstanding commitment to take the lead in removing the stigma historically attached to homosexuality and same-sex intimate relationships.

Like everything else Dr. Herek writes, this is well worth reading and bookmarking.

Today In History: The Rainbow Flag

Jim Burroway

June 25th, 2008

Today is the thirtieth anniversary of the debut of the Rainbow Gay Pride flag. The original flag, hand-dyed by Gilbert Baker, first flew in the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day parade on June 25, 1978. The original 1978 flag consisted of eight stripes, with each stripe assigned a specific meaning. From top to bottom, the stripes were:

  • Original Flaghot pink: sexuality
  • red: life
  • orange: healing
  • yellow: sunlight
  • green: nature
  • turquoise: magic
  • blue: serenity
  • violet: spirit

After Harvey Milk’s assassination on November 27, 1978, demand for the flag went up sharply. But since hot pink fabric wasn’t available as a stock color, the top stripe was removed and the flag became a seven stripe flag. Then, the story goes, organizers planned to hang rainbow flags vertically from lamp posts for San Francisco’s 1979 pride celebration and they noticed that the lamp post would obscure the middle stripe. So the turquoise stripe was dropped and the rainbow flag has remained a six-stripe flag ever since.

Rainbow FlagThe rainbow flag is now a world-wide symbol for LGBT communities everywhere, and it has come to mean many things to many different people. For some, it’s a gesture of visibility, a way of saying we’re here. For others, its a reminder of all that we’ve gone through as a community. And some in the LGBT community consider it a silly expression of separatism and self-segregation from society. Last October, Gilbert Baker penned an essay to explain what the flag meant to him. He describes growing up gay in Middle America and being harassed while serving in Viet Nam. He was sent stateside to work as a nurse in San Francisco, where he met Harvey Milk:

Stationed in San Francisco as a nurse, I cared for the wounded. I also met my closet [sic] friend and mentor, Harvey Milk. Harvey had an aggressive charm that attracted the wicked and the wise. His charisma and fearlessness are at the heart of all I hold dear.

Harvey was a pioneer, a trailblazer, and with the community by his side, he became a San Francisco Supervisor. One day he said to me that we needed a logo, a symbol. We needed a positive image that could unite us. I sewed my own dresses, so why not a flag? At Harvey’s behest, I went about creating our Rainbow Flag. I had never felt so empowered, so free.

My liberation came at a painful cost. In the ultimate act of anti-gay violence, Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated. The bullets were meant for Harvey, to silence him, and, by extension, every one of us. Uniting a community cost him his life.

I remember when I was still coming out how important it was for me to see it and know that it marked a place of safety and refuge. And even now, when I go to a strange town and I see a small sticker on a doorway or a car’s bumper, I know that I’m among friends.

This Week In History: Lawrence vs. Texas

Jim Burroway

June 23rd, 2008

It’s been only five years since the United States Supreme Court struck down anti-sodomy laws with its 6-3 ruling in Lawrence vs. Texas. Writing for the majority, Anthony Kennedy said, “the intimate, adult consensual conduct at issue here was part of the liberty protected by the substantive component of the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process protections.” Sandra Day O’Connor wrote a separate concurring opinion, but she based her arguments on equal protection instead of due process. Dissenting were Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, and Clarence Thomas.

Update: The actual date when the decision was released was June 26, 2003. When I wrote this, I meant to post date it so it wouldn’t show up until Thursday, which is the actual anniversary. I typically write these history things several days in advance. But given that this is a Monday and all, well … TA-DAH!

This Month In History: A Book Review

Jim Burroway

June 20th, 2008

As I was doing some leisurely digging in the university library a few weeks ago, I came across this familiar book review. It appeared fifty years ago this month, in the June 1958 issue of The Mattachine Review. Enjoy!

The Talented Mr. RipleyDIRT TAKES A SWEEP THROUGH ITALY
THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY, by Patricia Highsmith. New York: Coward-McCann, 1955. Reviewed by H. E. P.

How he started on his career is not made at all clear, but when we first meet Tom Ripley he is already a successful extortionist, and before long we see the list of his accomplishments grow and expand to include a remarkably long string of murders. Although at the very beginning the hero (?) himself vehemently denies that he is a homosexual, subsequent events more than suggest that he is not being entirely candid and honest with us, and presently we find him in a typical New York East Side gay bar. Here he meets the father on one of his erstwhile acquaintances and is sent by him to Europe with the ostensible object of bringing the son back to the United States. It is in the course of a leisurely Italian tour — Sorrento, San Remo, Naples, Rome, and places too numerous to mention — that Tom’s character unfolds slowly — perhaps too slowly for some readers. While it soon becomes apparent that Tom is one of the most despicable heels in contemporary literature, the author does manage to elicit from the reader a measure of sympathy for her “hero” — not an easy task by any manner of means. In the process of following Tom’s adventures we meet a series of straightforward and susceptible homosexuals who invariably fall into his wiles, with the possible exception of Dickie Greenleaf, a homosexual with a girl friend — and here some readers will probably feel that the girl friend incident would be more believable were the sex changed. At any rate, the plot thickens, murder mounts upon murder, a case of assumed identity, and the novel comes to a swift end. It would not be fair to reveal the ending, but let us just say that it is not a conventional one at all, though possibly true to life, and that the reader is sure to react strongly to it, either in delight or revulsion.

“The Talented Mr. Ripley” may not be as well written nor as full of suspense as the author’s other novel on the subject of the homosexual and his troubles, “Strangers on a Train,” but this reviewer was unable to lay it down until the last word had been read, and was left wishing for an Alfred Hitchcock to turn his talents to a dramatization of what is a most unusual suspense novel.

The Talented Mr. RipleyAlfred Hitchcock never made the movie, but Anthony Minghella did in 1999. Starring Matt Damon as Tom Ripley, Jude Law as Dickie Greenleaf, and Gwyneth Paltrow as “girlfriend” (Marge Sherwood), it was nominated for five Academy Awards. They made a few changes for the movie — Ripley meets Greanleaf’s father at a party instead of a gay bar — but the story is essentially the same, leaving viewers in a state of delight or revulsion, depending.

Today In History: HIV Virus Discovered

Jim Burroway

May 20th, 2008

Twenty-five years ago today, on May 20, 1983, an article appeared in the journal Science in which a team led by Luc Montagnier of France’s Pasteur Institute announced that they had discovered the virus which causes AIDS. The suspected virus was isolated in a patient who had died of the disease. Nearly a year later, American researcher Robert Gallo would make a similar claim, sparking a three year debate over who actually discovered the virus.

Nevertheless the discovery of the virus sparked a sense of premature optimism. US health secretary Margaret Heckler famously declared in 1984 that “We hope to have a vaccine ready for testing in about two years.” Two decades later, that vaccine remains out of reach.

The introduction of the “AIDS cocktail” in 1995 has transformed the experience of AIDS from being a terminal condition to being a very serious chronic one. Where receiving an AIDS diagnosis was once tantamount to being handed a death sentence, today people are living full and productive lives with HIV/AIDS. And yet, the more than two-decades-old stigma associated with HIV/AIDS continues.

Today in History: Magnus Hirschfeld

Jim Burroway

May 14th, 2008

Magnus HirschfeldToday is the 140th anniversary of the birth of Magnus Hirschfeld, the famous German gay rights advocate and founder of the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (Institute for Sexual Research) in Berlin. He was born on May 14, 1868.

Hirschfeld founded the Scientific Humanitarian Committee in 1897. The Committee was established to perform sexual research in support efforts to repeal Paragraph 175, Germany’s anti-sodomy law. Over time, tthe committee was able to gather more than 5,000 signatures on a petition to the Reichstag calling for Paragraph 175′s repeal. The bill was first brought before the Reichstag in 1898, and for more than two decades it continued to garner more support until the Nazi takeover in 1933 obliterated all hopes for its repeal.

After the first World War, Hirschfield founded the Institute for Sexual Research in 1919. The goal of the institute was similar to the Scientific Humanitarian Committee, but its scope was more ambitious. Hirschfield’s institute was intended to conduct research in four major areas: sexual biology, sexual pathology (medicine), sexual sociology, and sexual ethnology. In addition to publicly lobbying for the repeal of Paragraph 175, the Institute also performed premarital counseling, held public lectures on sexological subjects and offered expert testimony in criminal cases.

To support its activities, the Institute established what would become the world’s largest library and archives dedicated to sex research. That library eventually grew to include more than 20,000 volumes, 35,000 photographs and a large art collection. It also maintained some 40,000 biographical letters with names and addresses.

Book BurningAll that changed when the Nazi’s came to power in 1933. On May 6, of that year, a crowd of students and stormtroopers stormed the Institutes’s offices while Hirschfeld was away on a speaking tour of the U.S. The raiders carted off all the contents of the priceless library and burned it in a public bonfire. They destroyed more than 10,000 books, articles, magazines, and other research material. After the Institute’s sacking, Hirschfeld remained in exile, where he tried to re-establish the Institute in Paris. He was unsuccessful however, and he died in 1935 on his 67th birthday in Nice.

Paragraph 175 remained in effect, and was expanded in 1935 by the Nazi regime to include “lewdness”, which could include kissing or fondling. It was also elevated from a misdemeanor to a felony. It is estimated that a quarter of a million gay men and women were swept up in Nazi raids, with tens of thousands dying in concentration camps. After the war when the camps were emptied, several hundred gay men were re-arrested by allied authorities to serve out their sentences under Paragraph 175 because the law was regarded as a legitimate criminal law rather than a political one. In fact, between 1945 and 1969 about 100,000 men were indicted and about 50,000 men sentenced to prison. Paragraph 175 wasn’t repealed until March 10, 1994.

Hirschfeld-UferOn May 6, 2008, the city of Berlin renamed a stretch of the Spree river for Magnus Hirschfeld in commemoration for the Nazi’s distruction of the Institute 75 years earlier. The riverbank is located near the site of the former Institute.

Today In History: The Love That Dares Not Speak Its Name Gets A Name

Jim Burroway

May 6th, 2008

One hundred and forty years ago today, on May 6, 1868, the word homosexuality was invented.

Before then, there were very few value-neutral words to describe people who experienced romantic or sexual attractions toward others of the same sex. Pejoratives such as “bugger,” “molly,” “sodomite,” or “pederast” were common, words loaded with condemnation and shame. But as the budding science of sexology began to grow, and as same-sex loving defenders began to speak out about what same-sex love was all about, their first problem was with how to name it. “Abominable vice” wouldn’t do. A new word was desperately needed to describe their lives and feelings.

The love that dared not speak its name couldn’t. It didn’t have one.

The first to try to name this love was the German gay-rights advocate Karl Heinrich Ulrichs. In the 1860′s, he described the urning as a “male-bodied person with a female psyche,” who is sexually attracted to men and not women. An Urningin was a “female-bodied person with a male psyche,” and Urningthum came to mean homosexuality itself. Ulrichs devised an entire system of classification based on different combinations of attractions and gender roles. Some of these words gained usage in English, although the less foreign-sounding sexual inversion and inverts to describe homosexuality and homosexuals respectively fell more naturally to English ears. But in a few short years, those words would become obsolete, replaced by the creation of an aspiring Hungarian writer.

Karl-Maria KertbenyKarl-Maria Kertbeny (or Károly Mária Kertbeny) was an Austrian-born Hungarian journalist, memoirist and human rights campaigner. Kertbeny reportedly became interested in homosexuality when a close friend committed suicide after being blackmailed by an extortionist. Kertbeny later said that this, combined with his “instinctive drive to take issue with every injustice” — as a Hungarian, he knew what it was to be a minority in Vienna — drove him to advocate for civil rights for gay people.

Kertbeny’s own sexuality remains unclear however: He described himself as “normally sexed,” but his diaries reportedly document his appreciation for the male form. When he moved to Berlin in 1868 at the age of 44, he was still unmarried. It was at around this time that Kertbeny coined the word Homosexualität — “of the same sex” — from the Greek prefix homo- (same) and the Latin root sexualis (sex). His first known usage of this word is documented in a letter he wrote to Ulrichs on May 6, 1868.

Karl-Maria Kertbeny’s letter

Karl-Maria Kertbeny’ pamphletHomosexualität made its first known public appearance the following year, when Kertbeny anonymously published the pamphlet Paragraph 143 of the Prussian Penal Code and Its Maintenance as Paragraph 152 of the Draft of a Penal Code for the North German Confederation. This pamphlet advocated for the repeal of Prussia’s sodomy laws, saying that private consensual sex acts shouldn’t be subject to criminal penalties.

Homosexualität gained usage as other German advocates began putting forth the idea that homosexuality was inborn, a “medical problem” which placed homosexuality as a form of pathology or illness. Today of course we recoil at the abuses which arose from this “homosexuality as pathology” mindset, but in the nineteenth century this “medical model” represented a significant improvement in attitudes to homosexuality. Before Ulrichs and Kertbeny, homosexuality was viewed as a mere wickedness or moral degeneracy to be severely punished — often by pillory or death.

But Kertbeny appeared to understand the dangers behind the “medical model.” He not only saw that the “innate” argument was potentially dangerous, but that it was also irrelevant. In that vein, his advocacy for gay civil liberties was remarkably modern:

To prove innateness … is a dangerous double edged weapon. Let this riddle of nature be very interesting from the anthropological point of view. Legislation is not concerned whether this inclination is innate or not, legislation is only interested in the personal and social dangers associated with it … Therefore we would not win anything by proving innateness beyond a shadow of doubt. Instead we should convince our opponents — with precisely the same legal notions used by them — that they do not have anything at all to do with this inclination, be it innate or intentional, since the state does not have the right to intervene in anything that occurs between two consenting persons older than fourteen, which does not affect the public sphere, nor the rights of a third party.”

Kertbeny had another thoroughly modern idea about homosexuality, and this one is probably the most salient for understanding homosexualität’s triumph over urning and invert. The word homosexual doesn’t refer to any assumptions about gender roles or attributes. An urning, remember, was a “male-bodied person with a female psyche.” This of course bore a direct reference to effeminacy, a presumed hallmark of all gay men. And urningin, a “female-bodied person with a male psyche,” referred to lesbians’ perceived innate masculinity. (The English term invert carried with it similar assumptions of “inverse” gender characteristics.) But in writing about homosexuality, Kertbeny pointedly noted that homosexual men were not necessarily effeminate, citing several heroic historical figures as examples.

In 1880, Gustav Jäger used Kertbeny’s homosexualität in his book Discovery of the Soul. That book also included Kertbeny’s other useful word heterosexualität. Then the German sex researcher Richard von Krafft-Ebing borrowed those terms for his highly influential 1886 Psychopathia Sexualis. Homosexuality appears to have entered the English language at about 1895, which is when Charles Gilbert Chaddock translated Psychopathia Sexualis into English. And when Sigmund Freud used it in his books and lectures, he propelled its use among psychologists and psychoanalysts as well as in popular culture.

But admiration for the new word wasn’t universal. English sexologist Havelock Ellis, whose 1897 work Sexual Inversion became one of the first widely published English texts to deal with homosexuality, hated its bastardization of Greek and Latin. “‘Homosexual’ is a barbarously hybrid word,” Ellis wrote in a footnote. “It is, however, convenient, and now widely used. ‘Homogenic’ has been suggested as a substitute.”

Homogenic never caught on, and Ellis ended up using the word homosexual himself more often in his text than the terminology found in his volume’s title. By the 1930′s the homosexual, heterosexual and bisexual had almost completely erased the Urning and the invert for describing an individual’s sexual orientation.

Kertbeny’s graveKertbeny however didn’t live to see his Homosexualität in widespread use. He died of a stroke in Budapest in 1882 at the age of 58, still unmarried. He was buried in Budapest’s Kerepesi Cemetery. In 2002, members of Budapest’s gay community placed a new tombstone over his rediscovered grave, where it is now customary to lay a wreath during Hungarian gay festivals.

Today in History: A Notorious Nazi Doctor

Jim Burroway

April 28th, 2008

Carl Peter VærnetDr. Carl Peter Værnet was born on this date on April 28, 1893 in Denmark. During World War II, he became a Nazi SS major, serving as a doctor at Buchenwald concentration camp. There, he performed medical experiments on inmates who were convicted under Germany’s notorious Paragraph 175 — the statute against male homosexuality.

According to Richard Plant’s The Pink Triangle The Buchenwald inmate roster in December 1943 listed 169 homosexuals. In March, that number was down to 89. Værnet experimented in 17 of them between June and December 1944. Camp methods show that methods include castration and injection with hormones:

Since surviving entries are spotty, if not nearly illegible, one can only conclude that on October 1, 1944, a group of seven homosexuals was operated on, and a second group, consisting of eleven more, on October 10. Additional test may have been administered because Værnet visited Buchenwald again in December. … Some subjects became ill; some, so it seems, must have died, because new names appear on the rosters of those actually castrated. Værnet carefully filled out order forms for chloroform, bandages, and new medical instruments, and handed out instruction sheets explaining how Buchenwald physicians should continue the castration-hormone tests without him. No final report has survived that notes the results of the experiments on the castrated men.

Medical laboratory

Carl Peter Værnet’s graveAfter the war, Værnet was captured by the British and handed over to Danish authorities. At some point, he was transferred to a hospital after claiming to suffer from a heart ailment. He told doctors there that his problem could only be treated in Sweden. Despite being accused of war crimes, he was allowed to go to Sweden, where he contacted a Nazi escape network and fled to Argentina where he worked in the Ministry of Health. He was never tried for his crimes. He died on November 25, 1965. His grave was located in Argentina’s Britanico Cemetery in April, 1998.

Today In History: Eisenhower Signs Executive Order 10450

Jim Burroway

April 27th, 2008

Pres. Dwight D. EisenhowerFifty-five years ago today, on April 27, 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed Executive Order 10450, which mandated the firing of all federal employees who were determined to be guilty of “sexual perversion.” Over the next two decades, thousands of gays and lesbians would loose their jobs solely because of their sexual orientation.

This was the culmination of an anti-gay witch hunt which began three years earlier. In February of 1950, Undersecretary of State John Peurifoy, testifying before the US Senate Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Department, revealed that 91 employees “in the shady category” had resigned since 1947. Republican Senators took that admission to allege that President Harry Truman’s administration’s employment of “sexual deviants with police records” was recklessly endangering the country’s national security.

Joseph McCarthyIt just so happened that Joseph McCarthy was a member of that committee. He had just given give his famous Wheeling Speech a few weeks earlier, claiming to have “a list in my hand” of 205 communist employees at the State Department. The Homosexual Scare now joined the nascent Red Scare as twin threats to American liberties. By April, McCarthy pressured the Civil Service to begin rooting out gays and lesbians from federal offices. By June, he persuaded the Senate to authorize a full-range investigation of homosexuals “and other moral perverts” in the civil service. The Senate Appropriations Committee responded with a rushed report a few months later, saying “one homosexual can pollute an entire government office,” and “to pussyfoot or take half measures will allow some known perverts to remain in government.”

McCarthy and CohnBy the end of 1950, anti-homosexual hysteria was in full swing. The Republican Party’s national chairman sent a warning to 7,000 party members that, “Perhaps as dangerous as the actual Communists are the secret perverts who have infiltrated our government in recent years.” On Christmas Day of that year, Time magazine opined that all homosexuals should be fired from the federal government. The hysteria raged for the next three years as McCarthy presided over countless hearings on the imagined threat of homosexuals and communists in the government. Ironically, it would be McCarthy’s chief council, Roy Cohn, who would draw fire during the Army investigations of 1954 over rumors of his own homosexuality. (Cohn would later die of AIDS in 1986.) This played a small but key role in McCarthy’s eventual downfall.

Clamor over the twin menaces raged for the next three years, culminating in Eisenhower’s 1953 Executive Order which declared all homosexuals to be “security risks,” regardless of whether they were actually disloyal or not. It didn’t matter how low or innocuous their position was; their mere presence in a government office was deemed a threat. Following Eisenhower’s executive order, more than 640 federal employees would lose their job because of allegations of homosexuality over the next year and a half. Unknown numbers of others resigned quietly. State and local governments and government contractors followed suit, tossing countless more innocent Americans out of their jobs.

Unintended consequences are funny things though. In 1957, a young astronomer by the name of Dr. Franklin Kameny was fired from the Army Map service because of his homosexuality. After all of his court appeals were denied, he founded the Washington, D.C. Mattachine Society. He and Daughters of Billitis founder Barbara Gittings organized the first gay rights demonstrations in front of the White House, State Department and Philadelphia’s Independence Hall in 1965 to demand an end to the federal employment ban. This demand remained a key component of the whole gay rights movement from the 1950′s through the 1970′s. Much of today’s modern gay rights movement has its roots buried deep in the anti-gay and anti-red hysteria of the 1950′s and Executive order 10450.

White House Protest

The Civil Service ban on gays and lesbians would continue for the next two decades. In 1973, a federal judge ruled that a person’s sexual orientation alone could not be the sole reason for termination from federal employment. But even with that ruling, it wasn’t until July 3, 1975 when the Civil Service Commission finally announced that they would consider applications by gays and lesbians on a case by case basis.

Today In History: BXG!

Jim Burroway

April 2nd, 2008

On April 2, 2007, one year ago today, Beyond Ex-Gay was founded. And what a year it’s been. It has been my pleasure to play a very small part in this young group’s activities over the past year. They’ve accomplished a lot in a very short time. Happy birthday, BXG!

Image from Peterson’s blog.

Today In History: A Russian Gay Icon Is Born

Jim Burroway

March 21st, 2008

Vadim KozinOn March 21, 1903, one hundred and five years ago today, the great Russian tenor Vadim Alekseevich Kozin was born in St. Petersburg. In the 1920′s he was celebrated throughout the Soviet Union for his recordings and concerts, specializing in gypsy romances and love songs. It was those love songs that he wrote and sang with such passion and tenderness that garnered him the title of the “Russian Orpheus.” He once gave a concert with American Paul Robeson and is said to have performed for Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin at the Tehran conference in 1943.

But in those precarious days during Stalin’s rule, Kozin’s illustrious career ended all too abruptly. He fell out of favor with the Kremlin and was arrested in 1944. He was sent to a prison camp near Magadan in the Russian Far East for five years for political offenses, “corruption of youth” and homosexuality. From that moment on, his songs disappeared from the radio and his public concerts came to an end.

Vadim KozinAfter his release in 1950, Vadim resumed performing in local theaters in the Russian Far East and Siberia, but he was prohibited from performing in Moscow and Leningrad. It was during this period when Vadim began to keep a diary, portions of which were published in Moscow just last month:

In one of the diary’s few romantic passages, Kozin described a man whose name is not given. “How I would like even just once, even for one instant, to look into the depth of those green eyes,” he wrote in August 1956. “Why does it happen like this? One person appears, and there is nothing else sacred in the world. He has filled it all himself. Who that person is, no one will ever find out.”

While he may have avoided physical details, Kozin often used the diary to express his impatience with the official attitude toward homosexuality. “There is nothing unnatural in the life I want to live. There is real, good friendship and complete mutual trust,” he wrote in one entry. In another, he criticized actors with their “demonstration of fictional family values” and waving of party cards. “Do I have the moral right, with my defects, to see them that way?” he asked himself. “After torturous and long thought, I have realized that I do. They are much more rotten people.”

Nevertheless, Kozin was acutely aware that he risked another sentence. He was unnerved by the open gay affairs of an actor on the same tour. “His behavior will lead him to the camp,” he wrote. “I must tell him that his sexual motives shouldn’t affect me at all. … I don’t want people to think about me like that again. I will try to suffer alone.”

Vadim KozinKozin’s fears were well-founded. He was arrested again in 1959 for homosexuality and was forced to write a humiliatingly detailed confession. Despite a brief revival in the 1980′s when his records were reissued, he was never officially rehabilitated. He died in Madagan in 1994 at the age of 91.

Since his death, Vadim Kozin has become an icon in Russia’s gay community. One of his most famous songs is one called “Friendship” which, he later confided to a friend, was dedicated to another man:

“We are so close that words do not have to be repeated. Our tenderness and our friendship are stronger than passion and greater than love.”

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Vadim Kozin with friends in Madagan in 1993:

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Today in History: AIDS in Black Africans

Jim Burroway

March 19th, 2008

As we’ve mentioned before, by the time 1983 came around the panic surrounding the emerging HIV/AIDS crisis had already reached epic proportions, with anti-gay groups and individuals pinning everlasting blame on the gay community. When they had bothered to notice, some would acknowledge that Haitians, drug addicts and hemophiliacs were also at risk for AIDS. But it was the gay community which bore the brunt of the responsibility for the new “plague.” In 1983, Pat Buchanan would thunder:

The poor homosexuals — they have declared war upon nature, and now nature is exacting an awful retribution.

Ignorance among many Americans was running a fevered pitch, but things were very different in Europe. Belgian and French doctors had noticing something for quite some time: they had been treating wealthy African immigrants from their former colonies who were suffering from diseases which were remarkably similar to those reported by AIDS patients in America. Finally, twenty-five years ago today, on March 19, 1983, the rest of the world would learn what they have been noticing with the publication of this brief letter in the respected journal The Lancet:

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome in Black Africans

SIR,-Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) has been described in homosexual or bisexual men, in drug addicts, in haemophiliacs, and in Haitian immigrants. To our knowledge there is no report of AIDS and opportunistic infections in previously healthy Black Africans with no history of homosexuality or drug abuse.

Tables I and II show the clinical and immunological data on five Black patients seen in Brussels and who were from Central Africa (Zaire and Chad). Three of them had been living in Belgium, for between 8 months and 3 years. All were of good socioeconomic status. They presented with prodromes of fever, weight loss, and generalised lymphadenopathy, and extensive investigations did not reveal any neoplasia. Patients A and E died; the three survivors are still ill.

These patients fulfilled all the criteria of AIDS. …

This preliminary report suggests that Black Africans, immigrants or not, may be another group predisposed to AIDS.

Indeed, the world would soon learn the horror that had been stalking the Congo river region for decades. This small letter to the editor would later prove to be the canary in the coalmine. It is the first published indication of a pandemic which had already taken countless lives in Zaire and Chad, and would very soon engulf much of an entire continent.

Source:Clumeck, N.; Mascart-Lemone, F.; de Maubeuge, J.; Brenez, D.; Marcelis, L. Letter to the editor: “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome in Black Africans.” Lancet 1, no. 8325 (March 19, 1983): 624.

See also:
Opportunistic Infections

This Month in History: “Aversion Therapy for Sexual Deviation”

Jim Burroway

February 29th, 2008

Attempts to cure homosexuality have taken many forms, many of them cruel. Perhaps the cruelest might be the use of electric shock aversion therapy. This method was first described in the academic literature in 1935, and reports of its continued use persisted through the 1970′s and even later. Two of sixteen participants at a Brigham Young University program committed suicide in the mid-1970′s, and there are similar reports of suicide and long-term psychological and physical damage elsewhere.

There are literally hundreds of reports of various forms of aversion therapy in the literature between 1935 and 1980. Thirty-five years ago this month, one such report appeared in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology by two researchers from the University of Vermont. Dr. Harold Leitenberg and Ph.D candidate Edward J. Callahan wrote the following in an article titled, “Aversion therapy for sexual deviation: Contingent shock and covert sensitization“:

Treatment Procedures
Contingent shock: …Shock levels varying from “pain” to “tolerance” were then randomly selected for administration as part of a punishment procedure which made shock contingent upon erection. These shock levels ordinarily ranged from .5 milliampere to 4.5 milliampere, and shock duration was varied randomly from .1 second to .5 second. Erection was monitored by a penile strain gate. Five slides of deviant material and two heterosexually oriented slides were presented for 125 seconds apiece in each session while the subject was instructed to imaging whatever was sexually arousing with the person on the slide. An attempt was made to obtain slides appropriate to each person’s idiosyncratic sexual arousal. If during the “deviant” material slide, the penile circumference increase exceeded a level of 15% of full erection, shock was administered through electrodes on the first and third fingers on the subject’s right hand.

Covert Sensitization: This technique involves the presentation of verbal descriptions of “deviant” acts and the description of aversive consequences, such as nausea, vomiting, discovery by family, etc. … For example, a man might be asked to imagine going to the apartment of a homosexual contact, approaching the man’s bedroom, initiating sexual activity, feeling increasingly nauseous, and finally vomiting on the contact, on the sheets, and all over himself. A variation of this scene might involve the patient finding the homosexual contact rotting with syphilitic sores, or finding that the contact had diarrhea during the sexual encounter.

Subject 4
This was a 19-year-old homosexual with no prior sexual or dating experience with girls. … Sexual contacts [with other men] led to guilt feelings and vacillation over whether he wanted to learn to accept homosexuality or to change his pattern of sexual arousal. After discussing his dilemma with a few friends and relatives, he decided to seek treatment.

Phase 1: Contingent shock was administered for 10 sessions. Penile circumference changes were reduced during slides of males and females initially; however, this suppression during slides of females was only transient. There was an increase in average daily homosexual urges to slightly more than two per day and a slight increase in frequency of daily homosexual masturbation, while homosexual fantasies were slightly decreased. The patient was somewhat disturbed by the experience of shock, but was willing to undergo it in order to change his sexual arousal pattern. He had one homosexual contact late in this phase.

Phase 2: Covert sensitization was administered for seven sessions. Penile circumference changes to slides of men reduced greatly, and penile circumference changes to slides of women continued to increase. Rapid progress was reported by the subject in this phase. … After seven sessions, the subject reported he was progressing more quickly than he could stand “physically.” He felt his progress was strong enough to drop treatment and continue to make adjustment alone. After 3 months, however, he returned to treatment because of “unwanted” homosexual contact which unnerved him about the stability of his progress.

… An attempt was made to return the subject to contingent shock treatment. The subject became very upset by this and misapplied the electrodes during the first scheduled shock session in order to reduce the shock. At the next session, he explained that the felt shock had not helped him and that he did not want to go through the painful experience since he felt it had not therapeutic effect. At this stage, he said he would have to quit treatment rather than go through contingent shock again.

Source: Callahan, Edward J.; Leitenberg, Harold. “Aversion therapy for sexual deviation: Contingent shock and covert sensitization.” Journal of Abnormal Psychology 81, no. 1 (February 1973): 60-73. Abstract available here.

This Month In History: How To Conduct Junk Science

Jim Burroway

February 11th, 2008

Recent election coverage has brought a lot of attention to opinion polls. We’ve seen a number of polls failing to predict some of the state primary winners, while other polls either overstate or underestimate the support for various candidates. There are a lot of factors which can determine a poll’s accuracy, with the phrasing of the questions being a key component.

Forty years ago this month, a young assistant psychology professor from Wayne State University published the results of a study in the February 1968 edition of the journal Psychological Reports:

That a poll can be biased by the statement of the question and/or the attitudes of the interviewers is part of the pollster’s lore. The degree of biasing possible is largely unknown and the present study was undertaken to aid in the anchoring of this parameter.

Twenty introductory psychology students interviewed by telephone 590 fellow-students randomly selected from the student directory while an additional 574 were personally interviewed utilizing quota sampling. In either case, the interviewer asked [the subject] two questions from an array of 18, one concerning Johnson’s policy in Viet Nam and the other about its news coverage. No [subject] was asked two questions of the same coloration (neutral, agree-, or disagree-biased). Interviewers were instructed to promote agreement with the casting of each item by acting as though they personally endorsed it by tone of voice (and, in the face-to-face interview, facial expression).

And what did this young neophyte professor discover? Depending on how the question was phrased and how it was asked by the interviewer, it was possible to manipulate a change in opinion of around 13%. That young researcher concluded:

Considering the influence of an interviewer in a transitory situation, social psychologists would do well to cast a critical eye on classical assessment-message-assessment attitude experiments.

That young assistant professor was Paul Cameron, who would later become famous for being a prolific generator of junk statistics for the anti-gay industry. Little did he know how useful that little two-page study would become later in his career.

Source: Cameron, Paul; Anderson, James. “Effects of introductory phrases and tonal-facial suggestions upon question-elected responses.” Psychological Reports 22, no. 1 (February 1968): 233-234.

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