Saturday, June 27, 2009

Today in Gay History

June 27 ~ June 29, 1969

On the night of June 27, 1969, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn, a true gay neighborhood bar on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village, NY City, were doing their customary gathering of community. Police raids were getting less and less common. The patrons of the Stonewall were used to such raids and the management was generally able to reopen for business either that night, or the following day.

it was a particularly sad day in the gay community on June 27, 1969. What made the June 1969 raid different was the death a week earlier of Judy Garland, an important cultural icon with whom many in the gay community identified. The palpable grief at her loss culminated with her funeral on Friday, June 27, attended by 22,000 people, among them an estimated 12,000 gay men. Many of the Stonewall patrons were still emotionally distraught when the raid occurred that night, and refused to react passively. Along about 1:30 am on the 28th, all hell broke loose. . .

. . . one very butch lesbian had the audacity to talk back to one of the policemen then harassing customers inside the Stonewall Inn.
She was escorted from the bar and placed in the back of a police cruiser. She began "cutting up" and the car started a-rockin'. She got out of the unlocked car and continued to rock the police car with her arms, to the angry delight of the motley crew gathering in the street. . . .The gendarmes barricaded themselves inside the bar, apparently afraid of the angry mob outside, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Jimboland Jots recounts:

. . .On a hot summer New York night in Greenwich Village in 1969, the Stonewall Riots came about because of recurring bar raids by the New York Police Department on a bar called the Stonewall Inn. That night, an ethnically diverse crowd of gay men, dykes, drag queens, and trannies had had enough and fought back so strongly that the men of the NYPD were forced to take shelter inside the very bar that they had repeatedly raided for years, previously arresting many people and ruining countless lives.

This riot is generally recognized as the galvanizing event for the contemporary gay liberation movement and became known as the Stonewall Riots. It was followed by several days of rowdy, angry protests and frequently large street demonstrations and actions, growing rapidly and broadly in power and visibility, boldly tearing down the closet of shame and oppression. People came out of the closet and into the streets, into society, and began the movement toward equality and inclusion into larger American society.

The Stonewall Movement presaged a wave of gay civil rights activism across the country for forty years, with many advances at every level of government. This progress and visibility was eventually exploited and used by extremists to demonize, villify, and otherwise minimize gays as less than human to advance American rightist political power across the three branches of American government in a reactionary attempt to move the country away from a constitutional democracy. Such irrational and inhumane behavior toward others has betrayed a selfishness, a closed mind, a worldview that is lacking in humanity, an act of tyrannical moral violence toward our evolving idea and understanding of human identity. . .

What began as a routine shakedown at the Stonewall Inn became a watershed moment of the gay rights movement. Something sparked in the motley crowd of gays, lesbians, hippies and drag queens singled out for ID inspection, and soon patrons and passersby alike responded to police with taunting, resistance and even violence. Police cars were overturned and burned. Bitches were slapped. Anger was vented.

For three hours, the mob ruled the streets of Greenwich Village and for the next week there would be sporadic riots almost nightly. Though few people outside of New York City heard about the events at the time, it marked the definitive turning point of the gay rights movement, from resigned tolerance of homophobic harassment to self-empowerment and pride.

On the same day in 1970, thousands of people marched in Los Angeles and New York City to commemorate the first anniversary of Stonewall. These celebrations marked the first Gay Pride marches, which evolved into the elaborate Pride Festivals that occur annually in every major American city and some smaller towns.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Lead-Up to Stonewall's 40th Anniversary

Today in Gay History


The much admired Stephen
@ Band of Thebes
pointedly demonstrates that, the
event of the Stonewall riots, while
important, was not seminal:

. . .Harry Hay, ONE, Phyllis & Del, Daughters of Bilitis, the Mattachine Society, ECHO, the picketing of the White House and Philadelphia's City Hall, or any other gay history prior to 1969 [are often overlooked because of the attention given to the Stonewall riots. Stonewall is an essential, explosive midpoint in the timeline of gay rights, but . . .it [is] a crushing injustice . . .[to] cast it as the birth of the movement.

For seventeen years before the riots, organized gay groups fought for gay equality, published gay magazines, won Supreme Court cases (1958), held national gay conferences (1960), successfully lobbied state legislatures to rescind their sodomy laws (1962), and promoted gay visibility, protesting publicly against anti-gay discrimination (1965). To erase these landmark achievements by claiming that the gay rights movement began with a bar brawl is to disgrace those pioneers and history itself. God knows bravery wears many outfits and symbols are powerful, but the drag queens and Stonewall regulars fighting police and doing chorus line kicks while singing, "We are the Village girls, we wear our hair in curls," mustn't obliterate their less cinematic, more scholarly forerunners.

The Lead-up to Stonewall: A Retrospective~~~

Click here for a recent interview with Frank Kameny and pictorial retrospective of pre-Stonewall picket signs


Today in Gay History


June 26, 2003

In a sweeping decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Texas anti-sodomy law in Lawrence v. Texas by a 6-3 vote, reversing the 1986 decision in Bowers v. Hardwick.

That earlier 1986 decision,had held that "Decisions of individuals relating to homosexual conduct have been subject to state intervention throughout the history of Western civilization." Kennedy's citation of European law was in part a response to this blanket citation of the values of "Western civilization."

The Court concluded that, "Bowers was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today. It ought not to remain binding precedent. Bowers v. Hardwick should be and now is overruled."

The main majority opinion in Lawrence was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, an appointee of Ronald Reagan. Kennedy's citation of European law was in part a response to the blanket citation of the values of "Western civilization" which Chief Justice Burger had used as a rationale in the earlier Bowers case. The conservative right wing punditocracy went CRAZY over this citing of European examples. They were not cited as controlling authority, but nonetheless the wackos went berserko over this part of the decision.

Kennedy's majority opinion in Lawrence was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. The opinion held that the Texas statute violated the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor concurred, but stated a different rationale in her concurring opinion: the broader vision that the statute violated the Equal Protection Clause. Of course, Rendquist, Scalia and Thomas dissented.

The legal and historical significance of this decision for LGBTQ rights generally, probably cannot be overstated. No less an authority than preeminent Constitutional scholar, Professor Lawrence Tribe has written that Lawrence "may well be remembered as the Brown v. Board of gay and lesbian America."

Rendquist is still dead, replaced by Neo Federalist John Roberts. O'Connor is still retired and replaced by Samuel Alito, whose judicial expressions have been reactionary at best, in contrast to the moderation of O'Connor. If the case were heard again in 2009, the decision would undoubtedly be only 5-4 instead of 6-3.

Two steps forward, one step back.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Why We Won't Get Real Healthcare Reform

George Carlin Nails It


Today in Gay History

Larry Kramer
(born June 25th 1935)

Largely unlikable, hugely admired

Controversial playwright, novelist, and essayist Larry Kramer has been a pioneer political activist in the gay political response to AIDS in America.

Born into a well-to-do professional family in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1935, he completed a B.A. at Yale in 1957 and served in the army for a year after graduating. In 1958, he began a career in the entertainment industry, working first for the William Morris Agency and then for Columbia Pictures. His first professional writing was the screenplay for the 1969 movie adaptation of D. H. Lawrence's Women in Love, which he also produced and for which he received an Academy Award nomination.

In 1978, Kramer published his first novel, Faggots, an important breakthrough novel for gay publishing, Kramer himself will most likely be remembered as an AIDS activist. In 1981, he cofounded Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York, the first community-based AIDS service organization in America. Disenchanted with what he perceived to be the lethal dangers of an uncontrollable AIDS bureaucracy, he founded AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) in 1988, which became and remains one of the most powerful direct action political groups in America.

Spurred by his own HIV positivity and his work in the AIDS field, Kramer wrote The Normal Heart in 1986, one of the first artistic responses to the AIDS crisis. The play, which established Kramer as a dramatist, received the Dramatists Guild Marton Award, the City Lights Award, the Sarah Siddons Award for the best play of the year, and a nomination for an Olivier Award.

Michael Petrelis wrote a note to Kramer after the November 2008 passage of Prop 8 repealing marriage equality in California:
"What exactly would be lost in our struggle for equal treatment and a bit of respect from voters, if this worthless-for-decades Democratic Party front group [The vaunted Human Rights Campaign] were to close up shop?"

Kramer's acerbic response:

i have been saying things like this and writing things like this, about HRC, (then HRCF) since the beginning of hiv in 1981 when i discovered-- really fast! -- how useless they were in our fights against this plague.

who gives a flying fuck what this still useless organization says at its hastily summoned emergency meetings, all camouflage to make the world think they are doing something.


it is just a big bunch of stupid people running a big machine that sucks money from uneducated naive donors and then throws it away. every time i see the letters HRC i want to puke. they could be so wonderful and they are such a waste.

god help the gay population because HRC won't. if they disappeared tomorrow we would be better off. we might even have won against proposition 8.
s/larry kramer

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Republicon Foreign Policy



Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Today in Gay History

Turing (1912-1954)


It would be difficult to overestimate the importance to the modern world of the mathematical, philosophical, and cryptographic work of Alan Mathison Turing. A gifted mathematician, Turing is remembered today as one of the founders of computer science.

The gay and lesbian community remembers Turing not only for his work on computers and the cracking of the Enigma machine code during World War II, but also because of his needless, horrific death. He committed suicide at the age of 41, two years after his arrest, conviction, and forced chemical castration for a homosexual encounter. Though he died at an early age, a victim of British homophobia, he had already created whole new ways of thinking about computers, biology, minds, and humanity.

. . .

In 1948, Turing had accepted a position as Deputy Director of the Royal Society Computing Laboratory at the University of Manchester and moved to that city, where he soon became involved with a young working class man, Murray Arnold, who would later burglarize his home.

After reporting the burglary, Turing was arrested and prosecuted for what was then known under British law as "Gross Indecency," a section of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 (also known as the Labouchère Amendment), under which Oscar Wilde had also been charged in 1895.

Turing was offered a stark choice: go to prison or submit to the administration of the hormone estrogen. This procedure was known as "organo-therapy," a form of aversion therapy designed to destroy his sex drive. It was a type of chemical castration.

The administration of the female hormone left Turing impotent. He also developed breasts. Two years after his arrest, and one year after this coerced and barbaric "therapy," Alan Turing used cyanide to kill himself.

He left no note, and the circumstances of his death were inadequately investigated and perhaps left deliberately murky to spare his mother anguish. She believed his death to be accidental. Most commentators believe, however, that he committed suicide by eating an apple smeared with cyanide-laced jam.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Stand Out Story of the Week


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a DADDY!
Happy Father's Day to all the Daddies in the World!!