Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Today in Gay History

Photo left to right: Dr. Frank Kameny, Jack Nichols, and Dr. George Weinberg being honored as Grand Marshalls of New York City's 2004 Heritage of Pride Parade
Happy 72nd Birthday
March 16, 1938 - May 2, 2005

Credit: Thomas Kraemer; see his blog from 2006 @

Although Jack Nichols affected the lives of all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans with his five decades of gay activism. Jack Nichols died in Florida on May 2, 2005 at the age of 67. Nichols' 1972 book "I Have More Fun With You Than Anybody" was co-authored with his lover Lige Clarke. For many years prior to the publication of this book, Jack and Lige had touched many other gay people with "The Homosexual Citizen" column published in Al Goldstein's very heterosexual "SCREW" newspaper. This column was one of the only sources of gay news available to many Americans. "SCREW" was only sold in adult book stores.

Jack and Lige's column led them to become the editors of "GAY," the first weekly gay newspaper. ("The Advocate" was a biweekly newspaper.) It was often sold in hippie-style bookstores and cigar store newsstands alongside the other radical political publications of the period.

Jack Nichols' activism started years before the 1969 Stonewall rebellion. In 1961 Nichols and Dr. Frank Kameny started the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Mattachine homophile rights organization. Inspired by Martin Luther King's famous 1963 march on Washington organized by Bayard Rustin for black civil rights, Jack and Frank led a protest at Independence Hall on July 4, 1965 calling for homosexual civil rights.

Nichols was the first activist to challenge the medical dogma that homosexuality is a sickness. Nichols worked with Dr. George Weinberg and other activists to get homosexuality removed from the official list of mental disorders. Weinberg coined the term homophobia in the 1960s and initiated psychological research on homophobia.
On March 7, 1967 Nichols was interviewed by Mike Wallace of CBS News for the first nationally televised documentary on homosexuality. Jack Nichols was one of the first homosexual Americans to come out publicly.
Jack Nichols never retired. His gay activism continued into the Internet Age. He edited a daily web publication GayToday.com from 1997 until 2004 that was read by more than 50,000 people worldwide.
In 2002 I sent Jack an email thanking him for his 1972 book. As he seemed to do with everyone who came close, we became friends. Even though he lived on a beach in Florida, the Internet enabled our frequent long distance communications.
Professor J. Louis Campbell of Penn State University has spent the last several years working on a biography of Jack Nichols. A contract with a distinguished book publisher is under negotiation. An early draft of the book promises to preserve this important part of gay history.