Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Kameny Takes on Brokaw: His Open Letter to Random House, with Walter Williams's Reply

This letter is worth reprinting, as are Walter Williams's comments, posted as a comment below.

November 26, 2007
Mr. Tom Brokaw
c/o Random House Publishing Group
Ms. Gina Centrello
Random House Publishing Group
Ms. Kate Medina
Executive Editorial Director
Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway
New York, New York, 10019
Dear Mr. Brokaw and Mmes. Centrello and Medina:

As a long-time gay activist, who initiated gay activism and militancy at the very start of “your” Sixties, in 1961; coined the slogan “Gay is Good” in 1968; and is viewed by many as one of the “Founding Fathers” of the Gay Movement, I write with no little indignation at the total absence of any slightest allusion to the gay movement for civil equality in your book Boom! Voices of the Sixties.  Your book simply deletes the momentous events of that decade which led to the vastly altered and improved status of gays in our culture today.  This change would havebeen inconceivable at the start of the sixties and would not have occurred at all without the events of that decade totally and utterly ignored by you.  Mr. Brokaw, you have “de-gayed” the entire decade. “Voices of the Sixties”??? One does not hear even one single gay voice in your book. The silence is complete and deafening.

As a gay combat veteran of World War II, and therefore a member of the “Greatest Generation,” I find myself and my fellow gays as absent from your narration as if we did not and do not exist. We find Boom! Boom!! Boom!!! in your book about all the multitudinous issues and the vast cultural changes of that era. But not a single “Boom,” only dead silence, about gays, homosexuality, and the Gay Movement.

The development of every other possible, conceivable issue and cause which came to the forefront in that period is at least mentioned, and is usually catalogued: race; sex and gender; enthnicity; the environment; and others, on and on and on—except only gays.

In 1965, we commenced bringing gays and our issues ”out of the closet” with our then daring picketing demonstrations at the White House and other government sites, and our annual 4th of July demonstrations at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The Smithsonian Institution displayed these original pickets last month, in the same exhibition as the desk where Thomas Jefferson drafted The Declaration of Independence. The name of the Smithsonian’s exhibition?  “Treasures of American History.” In your book: No Boom; only silence.

About 1963, a decade-long effort commenced to reverse the psychiatric categorization of gays as mentally or emotionally ill, concluding in 1973 with a mass “cure” of all of us by the American Psychiatric Association. No boom in your book; only your silence.

The most momentous single Gay Movement event occurred at the end of June, 1969, when the “Stonewall Rebellion” in New York, almost overnight (actually it took three days) converted what had been a tiny, struggling gay movement into the vast grass-roots movement which it now is. We had five or six gay organizations in the entire country in 1961; fifty to sixty in 1969; by the time of the first Gay Pride march, in New York one year later in 1970, we had 1500, and 2500 by 1971 when counting stopped. If ever there was Boom, this was it. In your book, no Boom, only your silence.

About 1972, Elaine Noble was elected to the Massachusetts state House of Representatives as the first elected openly gay public official. I had run here in Washington, DC, the previous year for election to Congress as the first openly gay candidate for any federal office. Harvey Milk was elected to the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco. No boom in your book; only your silence.

Mr. Brokaw, you deal with the histories of countless individuals. Where are the gays of that era: Barbara Gittings; Jack Nichols; Harry Hay; Del Martin and Phyllis Lyons; Randolfe Wicker; Harvey Milk; numerous others? No booms in your book; only silence and heterosexuals.

Starting in 1961 a long line of court cases attacked the long-standing U.S. Civil Service Gay Ban (fully as absolute and as virulent as the current Military Gay ban, which actually goes back some 70 years and was also fought in the 60s) with final success in 1975 when the ban on employment of gays by the federal government was rescinded. In your book, no boom; only your silence.

The assault on the anti-sodomy laws, which made at least technical criminals of all gays (and most non-gays for that matter, although never used against them) and which was the excuse for an on-going terror campaign against the gay community through arrests the country over, began in 1961 and proceeded through the ’60s and onward. In your book, 
no boom; only your silence.

In 1972, following up on Stonewall, the first anti-discrimination law protective of gays was enacted in East Lansing, Michigan, followed by the much more comprehensive one in D.C. in 1973, starting a trend which now encompasses some twenty states, countless counties and cities, and has now reached Congress in ENDA. In your book, no boom; only your silence.

The Sixties were a period of unprecedented rapid social and cultural upheaval and change. We gays were very much a part of all that. A reader of your book would never have the slightest notion of any of that. In your book, no boom; only your silence.

At the start of the Sixties gays were completely invisible. By the end, and especially after Stonewall, we were seen everywhere: in entertainment, education, religion, politics, business, elsewhere and everywhere. In BOOM our invisibility remains total.

The only allusions to us, in your entire book are the most shallow, superficial, brief references in connection with sundry heterosexuals. Where are the gay spokespeople? We are certainly there to speak for ourselves. But in your book, only silence.

Mr. Brokaw, I could go on, but this should be sufficient to make my point. The whole thing is deeply insulting. As I said, you have de-gayed an entire generation. For shame, for shame, for shame. You owe an abject public apology to the entire gay community. I demand it; we expect it.

Gay is Good. You are not.

Franklin E. Kameny, Ph.D.

Dr. Franklin Kameny
5020 Cathedral Ave., NW
Washington, D.C.  20016
Kameny Papers Project

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Good Op-Ed on ENDA: Snatching Rancor From Victory's Jaws

Regarding a recent op-ed piece published by Paul Schindler, GayCityNews:

I may keep repeating myself, but facts are facts.  It is silly to keep quoting 300 groups as working for including ts in the ENDA bill.  Who are these people who believe their own propaganda.  That may be what's catching up with the rightwingers, so let's not get our community living in a fairyland. 
 I start with what we said in ’60s when we would publicize a NACHO meeting.  We listed lots of “groups” and numbers—Dorr Legg was an expert at distorting the facts—when the fact was that there were perhaps 30 honest people and they represented about 7 honest groups.  AND, toward the last of the meetings we suddenly found lots of unknown people showing up saying that they represented lots of people and demanding to vote and try to get us to go into other fields, including joining the Black Panthers, etc.  It amuses me to remember how Morris Kight kept telling us that we should work by consensus, a Harry Hay thought, and we knew for a fact that such things didn’t work, since one person making false claims would get us on a project that had no possible way of succeeding and what was a realistic job would thus not be done.  We didn’t care about the motive-but some had a political agenda that had nothing to do with our movement, but even if one was honestly devoted to an issue, it was nonsense to go on a tangent and waste our time, energy and money.  AND Morris suddenly forgot his previous thinking when it was his group that had to deal with newcomers with wild ideas.
Now I have a video that Barney Frank put out many years ago talking about ENDA. He was not even that famous and powerful then. I think we may have shown it at an early PFLAG meeting. This didn’t start in April or whenever someone discovered it.  Frank has proven over the years his devotion to our cause.  Even when Don Slater was not always agreeing with him, we never doubted his devotion. Now he is probably the most powerful homosexual in America. His election is NOT due to homosexuals voting.  Probably a good thing, as we now see how shallow some are. 
And what is all this nonsense about what HRC or some t group says. They don NOT represent the homosexual community, only a small portion of it. If you don't like what HRC or The Task Force is doing, do something yourself.  But why would someone or some group be negative? Be positive. Stop saying what Frank or HRC has done wrong. This has been going on for 20 years.  All  that time you could have been doing something.  Let’s see the total number of t groups and their supporters and let’s see them work. There is no doubt that some black people think the Black panthers helped gain civil rights. The fact is that they hurt the cause and slowed it down. It was the NAACP and Dr. King that got black citizens where they are today, with the support of many young black college students and some support from white and other citizens who believed and believe in equal rights for all citizens. That is what has gotten our cause where it is. Certainly we would not be here today if we waited for Ellen, or some celebrity or, some famous queer writer or some rich queer or prince on a white horse. It was provably the middle class, garden variety homosexual citizens who did the work and got us to where we are. And that is what got all minorities where they are.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Guest Blogger: Paul Harris

On Sunday I managed to get a last minute ticket, after standing in the rush line, for the biodocumentary: “Chris and Don: A Love Story.”  It was about 90 minutes long and it was wonderful. The archival footage footage, especially of Don Bachardy, Isherwood’s long time artist-lover, was unbelievable. Bachardy was really cute as an 18 year old, and there was plenty of footage of him at that age and later, of course. Furthermore, Bachardy is still alive and was at the screening, happily fielding questions from the audience. One misleading thing was the film credits at the end. They gave a “cast of characters” listing, which misled some to believe that actors were portraying Bachardy when he was young. Not true. They explained that this only applied to a few spots necessary in assembling the film, and that most of it was genuine archival footage. You should definitely see this if it comes to a general release.

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Other Side of Silence

I want to start making some points about my thoughts on The Other Side of Silence, by John Laughery (Owl Books, 1999).

I first would say I don’t understand why I never read the book before, and I sure hope we have it in our collection—fate got it to me as the local library is discarding unused books and here it was in the group. But I wonder if I would have the same feelings about it if I had read it years ago as I do now?
It covers a lot.  And is readable, which some have not been—such as Sear's Behind the Mask of the Mattachine.   All of the books are important in our history, but they all cover different parts and from different views.  I think Loughery does a good job, geographically.  He “got” that Dorr’s educational work was historic.  I don’t think he got that Don Slater’s work was extremely important, as much for his thinking as for his putting out the first public magazine dedicated to homosexual issues.
He mentions picketing or sitting in at the Los Angeles Times, (on 11/05/1969 in protest that the newspaper would not publish the word “homosexual”) which I have not found in the book so don’t know what he is talking about since he does NOT cover our picketing of the paper. And once again he implies that Troy Perry’s work elsewhere, including ad in the Advocate, got his church really gong.  Nonsense.  Anyone knows that it was the interview he got with John Dart the day he and we picketed the paper, a column which was reprinted all over the nation.
Equally he refers to the draft/military issue but does not give Don Credit for(or Harry, John, Vern, et al) for the Motorcade, a historic first. And the few errors I found were unimportant and geographical.  He says Morris was at TCU in  San Antonio, and I never heard of them having a branch, so assume he means Texas Christian in Fort Worth.  Unimportant.  And he misplaces Kessler first in Alabama but then says it is in Biloxi MS which it is.  Again, unimportant.
But to say that Dorr was the main financial backer of ONE is nonsense.  Dorr and Don and then Jim Kepner did wonders for ONE, Incorporated, but none of them had money.  And that is why it was so ironic that the moment Erickson came along and guaranteed us money with ISHR that, after Don and I were paid a month or two by ISHR, a point Dorr used against Don, being deceitful of course, we separated due to internal disagreements which the money should have solved, as Jim Schneider et al. said.
More later, but he, like Vern Bullough, says things that are very true and shows insight in the overall picture. I think, for instance, in Vern’s case, he alone made the point that I think is true now but didn’t the, that I was the straw that broke the camel’s back and got Don to separate.  That  point I think he makes in his introduction and is not made any where else in print.  I now think the booklet Joe Hansen did—Joe is also never mentioned in the book—is important.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

An open letter to CSPAN...

I believe that C-SPAN has failed to give adequate coverage to homosexuality, considering that it has been a major topic for years and hit the top ten with the Senator Craig arrest and the fight over ENDA with Rep. Barney Frank.
Only on rare cases have you covered the journalists, for instance, who cover the homosexual community and homosexual issues. When have you had the excellent editors/publishers of gay/lesbian newspapers and magazines. I can give you several that you need to have on either separately or as a group to discuss what is important currently to their readers.
To give balance, what about someone from L. A., say Karen Ocamb, who writes for two local publications (karenocamb@sbcglobal.net).  Then for Mid-America there is editor/publisher Tracy Baim of Chicago’s Windy City Times and other media things (editor@windycitytimes.com). And in Philadelphia we have not just a publisher of the newspaper, Philadelphia Gay News but activist Mark Segal, who can hold his own in any discussion (mark@epgn.com).  Certainly there are journalists who are heard elsewhere, such as Deb Price, in her column in the Detroit News  (dprice@detnews.com).
And why not a show on gay/lesbian archives/libraries, with people from Chicago's Gerber Hart Library (info@gerberhart.org) and the Homosexual Information Center's Todd White not only got his Ph.D. covering the history of the early movement, he has a book coming out soon from he university of Illinois Press, titled, Pre-Gay L. A. and has worked with the library at California State University, Northridge, to preserve our historic material, partly in the Vern and Bonnie Bullough Human Sexuality Collection there.
Each year there are conventions of gay/lesbian professional organizations, and certainly there could be some coverage of the Lesbian/Gay Journalists Assn.
Please try to get informed on the serious aspects of homosexual issues so that your viewers will have adequate information to judge the “sexy” issues such as Craig, etc.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Guest Blogger: Aristide Laurent

Only I would review a funeral!

We buried my long-time friend Allan Jackson yesterday. Alas, one less member of my diminishing group of old friends. It's starting to feel like a version of the Baatan Death March for Sissies.

The service was held at Metropolitican Baptist Church in Alta Dena (CA). I’ve never been to a black Baptist funeral before. I guess I can still experience “firsts” — even at my age.  For someone who was born and raised a devout Catholic, slowing morphing to lapsed Catholic, then recovering Catholic, and, finally, rabid anti-Catholic, I must say this was a totally unique experience for me.  As you can imagine the service was a long way from the gaudy, solemn ritual of requiem mass to which I've become accustomed over many years and many funerals.

The entire front row was composed of very white Mormons. Roy’s family drove in from Utah to support him in his time of loss. The second row seemed to be composed of what few blood relatives of Allan remained. I found it interesting that two of the country’s most perceived homophobic religions had come together to honor a gay man whose kindness, gentleness and love could surpass the faith-based nonsense & bigotry incorporated in their belief systems. In this church, on this day, we were all one in love and respect for a lost friend.

Former fellow poker club member, Howie, was one of the pallbearers. He looked very uneasy in his white gloves because this was probably the first time he’d been in a church since he was dunked in a cold baptismal font. Wow! Someone even less Catholic than I.

As the service began, I kept waiting for all the “hootin’ and hollerin’” I've heard so much about with Baptist fundamentalism. Everyone was very dignified ... except a member or two in the choir who would stand up, shout somethng, wave their hands in the air and sit down. The choir as a group was fine but the soloists were [to me] just dreadful. The male singer’s voice was [again, to me] extremely grating, like fingernails on a blackboard; and the female singer quite frankly could not carry a tune in a brass collection basket, bless her heart. That, too, was disappointing and completely destroyed the stereotype of gospel choirs as breeding grounds for future blues & hip hop stars. I expect no emergence of another Aretha Franklin or Al Green to come from this group.

Another lady walked up to the podium and began reading letters of praise from what seemed to be every Baptist Church in the county. She was barely laudable past the second row. The reading went on until my ass bones began to ache. We all know he was an exemplary human being, but most of my group here doesn't have all that much time left above ground. I leaned over and whispered to Gee & Richard “if she doesn’t stop reading those things soon, I'm going to go up there and rip them up, screaming ‘read this, bitch!’” The preacher spent too much time talking about himself and never once mentioned Allan’s life partner of 39 years, Roy Harris. My ballsy friend Richard called him on it at the cemetery (where the preacher actually forgot the words to The Lord's Prayer. Oy veh!). He said something like, “Oh, didn’t I?”

Then, it got down. The preacher began to preach and the audience began to get into it. People began praising and shouting and calling the name of the Lord! Then the preacher shifted into first gear and worked up a holy sweat. A lady sitting behind Korie & Miss Miller began to drown out the rest of the church with her shouting and praising. I looked over and saw poor Miss Korie with fingers shoved deeply into both ears as the lady behind him turned up the volume and flailing of hands. “OK... now we were beginning to rock,” thought I. The lady jumped up from her seat and ran into the aisle shouting and testifying until she reached the front row of mourners. All eyes were on her. She actually began to strut like a rooster, flapping her elbows back. I loved it. No Dies Irae, Dies Illa here. The only thing I understood from her testimony was that she was “80 years old and Jesus had touched her” (I assume not inappropriately). I could imagine Roy slinking down into his seat as his Utah family watched her transfixed. Roy later said that Allan had specifically requested that none of this carrying-on go on. But when the spirit moves you, ya gotta go with it. Hallelujah!

After Allan’s coffin was lowered into the ground at Forest Lawn of Hollywood, we all returned to our cars for the trip back to the church for a delicious repast of fried chicken and all the fixin’s. During the meal, people were supposed to give reminiscences of Allan. Gee and I were ready with our prepared speeches but never got to give them. I guess they were afraid we were going to tell too much. Smile. I must admit that I felt a deep tinge of sadness in my throat as the procession left the cemetery leaving Allan, a once vibrant human being, behind. I still choke up when I think how we must eventually abandon those we love so dearly to a cold grave and move on with our lives.

At least, for a few hours, the love of one gentle soul brought two homophobic religions & cultures together. Sometimes setting a good example does more than confrontation for acceptance as equal human beings. This was obviously one of those times.