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The ugly history of LGBT discrimination

Frank Kameny stood against hate and erasure

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Frank Kameny in uniform. (Photo courtesy of Library of Congress)

“The theme of the Trump Administration with regard to LGBT people is erasure. And in this time of erasure, it is vital that gay, lesbian, and trans Americans understand their history and the roots of this terrible discrimination in the military,” Charles Francis, President of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., told the Los Angeles Blade.

Francis, an archival activist, knows LGBT history as keeper of the Frank Kameny flame. Kameny’s “Gay is Good” picket signs “were placed on the platform. The Smithsonian curator laid them alongside the writing table where Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence; the inkwell used by Lincoln when signing the Emancipation Proclamation; and the pin worn by Alice Paul who went to jail picketing the White House for women’s suffrage. ‘Frank, this is where the pickets fit into American history, the Smithsonian curator said,” Francis wrote in an Oct. 2011 essay for the Washington Blade describing the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. founder’s artifacts in the Library of Congress’ “Creating the United States” exhibit.

Kameny famously picketed because he had been fired by the US government for being gay. During the Red Scare of the 1950s, right wing Cold War hawks like Republican Sen. Joe McCarthy and his closeted gay sidekick, attorney Roy Cohen, intertwined communism and homosexuality as national security threats. Gays were hunted down, outed and force to resign on charges of “immoral conduct.”

Congress held hearings on the “Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sex Perverts” in government in 1950. Three years later, President Dwight D. Eisenhower—whose trusted post-wartime staffer WAC Sgt. Johnny Phelps identified as a lesbian—issued executive order 10450 banning homosexuals from government employment—including in the military—as a threat to national security.

The “lavender scare” caught up with Kameny in 1957 and he was fired from his job in the Army Map Service. “The military was finding gay people in their ranks and they didn’t know whether to kick them out and criminalize it or kick them out and force them into psychiatric treatment” in a mental hospital,” Francis said. “Progressive voices at the time said homosexuals certainly need to be kicked out of the military, but homosexuality should be treated as a psychiatric problem,” which often meant being “cured” through lobotomies, electrical shock treatments and powerful drugs.   

Kameny filed an unsuccessful appeal with the US Civil Service Commission—the first ever civil rights claim in a US court based on sexual orientation—and then appealed to the Supreme Court. His petition was denied in 1957, but it marked a turning point for him and the nascent movement.

“In World War II, petitioner did not hesitate to fight the Germans, with bullets, in order to help preserve his rights and freedoms and liberties, and those of others,” Kameny wrote in his petition. “In 1960, it is ironically necessary that he fight the Americans, with words, in order to preserve, against a tyrannical government, some of those same rights, freedoms and liberties, for himself and others.”

In fact, World War II changed everything.  With the war came defense factories, including in cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco where gay people found each other, developed community, and laid the groundwork for the civil rights and liberation movements of the 1950s and 1960s.

At the same time, the military targeted homosexuals, who were considered criminals in states where sodomy was a felony. “The war mobilization laid the groundwork for a national effort to eliminate homosexuals from public life,” David Hurewitz wrote in his 2007 work, “Bohemian Los Angeles and the Making of Modern Politics.”

But, Francis told reporter Michael Isikoff for “Uniquely Nasty,” a Yahoo documentary, “They fired the wrong guy.” Kameny wore his homosexuality as “a badge of pride,” leading to his organized picket protests in 1965. He demanded that the US government “cease noting that they are homosexuals and ignoring that they are also American citizens,” Francis told Library of Congress historian Ryan Reft in Nov. 2015.  

Last year, Francis obtained the “truly shocking” transcript of a closed Executive Session hearing in 1950 chaired by infamous North Carolina Sen. Clyde Hoey, who chaired the Senate Investigations Subcommittee. 

“The Hoey hearings are quite famous as they began the Congressional assault on homosexuals in government,” Francis told the Los Angeles Blade. “What is less well known is the toxic Executive Session interviewing government experts on the homosexual threat to American institutions such as the military.”

The most vile and hostile witness was Admiral Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter, the first Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, whose testimony went “FAR beyond the canard of blackmail,” Francis says. “The testimony documented in that transcript is unvarnished in its ignorance and bigotry.”

“It is a fact,” the Executive Session transcript reads, “that homosexuality frequently is accompanied by other exploitable weaknesses, such as psychopathic tendencies which affect the soundness of their judgment, physical cowardice, susceptibility to pressure, and general instability.”

Hoey asks Hillenkoetter what effects homosexuality might have “on the will power and moral fiber of the individual.” The CIA Director responded, “It would be a weakening in the moral fiber because we consider it wrong.” 

Francis hears echoes of such bigotry today. “The old discrimination and the old ignorance and bigotry are finding their way back into public policy with regard to the trans service ban,” Francis says.  

This is perhaps not surprising since Donald Trump was mentored by Roy Cohen. – Karen Ocamb contributed to this story.

[pdf-embedder url=”https://www.losangelesblade.com/content/files/2018/12/HillenkoetterExecSession.pdf”]

History

Anti-LGBTQ activist Judith Reisman dies at age 86

There was the time she appeared on the Liberty Counsel’s radio show to declare that all gays are inherent pedophiles

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Screenshot via JoeMyGod

Editor’s note: Judith Ann Reisman was a vocal opponent of women’s reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights and known for her criticism and condemnation of the work in sexual studies of Dr. Alfred Kinsey. Reisman, a prominent conservative, has been referred to as the “founder of the modern anti-Kinsey movement.”  New York-based LGBTQ journalist, activist and blogger Joe Jervis covered her for over a decade on his widely popular blogsite Joe.My.God.

By Joe Jervis | Longtime JMG readers will recall Reisman’s anti-LGBT claims as a regular feature here going back a decade or so. There was the time she appeared on the Liberty Counsel’s radio show to declare that all gays are inherent pedophiles:

We know that pedophilia, which was the original Greek they say it’s ‘love of’ but of course it isn’t, it’s ‘lust for’ boys. And there’s a strong, clear, cross-cultural, historical reality, people don’t want to do deal with, but the propaganda has been loud and strong to deny the fact, the aim of homosexual males and now increasingly females is not to have sex with other old guys and get married but to obtain sex with as many boys as possible. That’s the reality.

There was the time she called for a class action suit against groups that advocate for safer sex:

The reality is that condoms are manufactured and approved every day for natural, vaginal sex, not anal “sex.” They are not effectively designed to protect from disease those people who engage in sodomy. Such a lawsuit should target the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Planned Parenthood and a myriad of teachers and school systems, too many to count, that have taught that anal “sex” (traditionally termed “sodomy” or “buggery” under British-based legal codes) as not so different than natural coitus. Due to the lies that have told, people who practiced sodomy are under the tragically mistaken notion that a condom is effective protection from disease.

There was the time she went to Jamaica to advocate for keeping homosexuality criminalized:

American Religious Right leaders Mat Staver and Judith Reisman are scheduled to be featured speakers at a conference in Jamaica this weekend hosted by a group that has been working to preserve the country’s criminal ban on consensual gay sex. The annual conference, hosted by the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society, will focus on how “[c]ontemporary society has become increasingly hostile to the traditional definitions of marriage and family” and Staver.

There was the time she blamed the demise of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” on a rise in reported sexual assaults in the military:

Why is the best-kept military secret that most soldierly sexual assaults are now definitively homo, not heterosexual, male-on-male sexual exploitation? While men are statistically more loathe to report their sexual victimization than are women, 10,700 male soldiers, sailors and airmen in 2010 actually reported their sexual assaults. What this means is not totally clear, since men are cannot technically be raped, despite the term being regularly used in the recent hearings on the matter.

There was the time she compared activists against school bullying to Hitler Youth:

Both the GLSEN youth and the Hitler Youth were trained to be revolutionary leaders of the brave new world order. GLSEN school clubs and their teacher sponsor/trainers are now funded by major corporations and by some state funds. GLESN’s Day of Silence and “GAY ALLY!” pledge cards for kindergartners and other children (left) are direct assaults on traditional parental, American values. German children’s literature historians document Hitler’s pioneering ban of both the Ten Commandments and biblical stories from Nazi school texts in favor of coarse and violent tales that ridiculed religious believers and their values.

There was the time she was condemned by the Anti-Defamation League:

Holocaust analogies generate headlines and get attention, they do little in the service of truth, history or memory. When [Peter] LaBarbera and Reisman suggest that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are “demonizing [Christians] like the Nazis used to do to the Jews,” they undermine the historical truth of the Holocaust as a singular event in human history that led to the murder of six million Jews and millions of others. Holocaust comparisons are deeply offensive and trivialize and distort the history and meaning of the Holocaust.

And let’s close with this notation from Rational Wiki:

Reisman is a supporter of Scott Lively and his completely insane screed, The Pink Swastika. She has claimed that she believes that a homosexual movement in Germany gave rise to the Nazi Party and the Holocaust. She enthusiastically and unconditionally endorses criminalization of homosexuality, despite the fact that homosexuals were were one of the Nazis’ target groups for annihilation. Reisman has claimed that the homosexuals employ recruitment techniques that rival those of the United States Marine Corps to transform innocent children into raving homosexuals.

Reisman, passed away on Friday, April 9, 2021, two days before her 86th birthday. From the magazine of the far-right John Birch Society:

Like Judith the Biblical heroine, Dr. Reisman was fearless and stood against the great powers of the world in our time. When her countrymen were ready to surrender to the mighty Assyrian army, the Biblical Judith, trusting in God, walked into the enemy camp — and walked out with the head of Holofernes, the Assyrian general, thus saving her people. Likewise, Judith Reisman repeatedly, over the past several decades, strode into many hostile enemy camps around the world — colleges, universities, legislative bodies, media outlets — to speak truth to power and to expose vile works of darkness.

Joseph “Joe” Jervis  is an American blogger and writer based out of New York City. He is the author of Joe.My.God., a personal blog which, since he first posted on April 27, 2004, has primarily covered LGBT news and opinion.

The preceding article was originally published at Joe.My.God and republished by permission.

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Commentary

The Bay Area Reporter turns 50- Congrats from the Los Angeles Blade

The Los Angeles Blade congratulates the publisher, editor, and staff of the The Bay Area Reporter on its Golden Anniversary

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SAN FRANCISCO – An important and critical voice for the LGBTQ+ community in Northern California turns 50 this Spring as the venerable LGBTQ+ newspaper, The Bay Area Reporter, commences its fifth decade of service to San Francisco and the greater Bay Area.

Not unlike the beginnings of the Los Angeles Blade’s sister publication, The Washington Blade, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019, the Bay Area Reporter traces its roots to an ad hoc distribution- in B.A.R.’s case atop cigarette machines in the city’s gay and lesbian watering holes.

Since then according to Michael Yamashita, a gay man who has been the paper’s publisher since 2013, the paper has never missed an issue deadline — not even when threatened by the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989.

The Los Angeles Blade congratulates the publisher, editor, and staff of the The Bay Area Reporter on its Golden Anniversary of service to the LGBTQ+ community.

Read B.A.R.’s own coverage of its 50th here: https://www.ebar.com/index.php?id=303476

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History

S.F. Jewish and LGBTQ icon Al Baum dies at 90 after ‘full, rich life’

You have to be willing to do it yourself or you’re just being hypocritical

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Al Baum, seen here at Miller’s Deli in San Francisco, died March 28 at the age of 90.
(Photo/Rajat Dutta)

By Maya Mirsky | SAN FRANCISCO – Alvin H. Baum Jr., a philanthropist and activist known as Al to his friends and admirers, died March 28 at home in San Francisco. He was 90.

“Al lived a full, rich life,” his husband, Robert Holgate, told J. “Through his example of giving, he taught many how to live, love and give back,”

As a philanthropist, Baum was a generous donor to Jewish and LGBTQ causes, the arts, civil liberties, and a host of other causes and interests. In 2019, the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation awarded Baum its Robert Sinton Award for Distinguished Leadership, and a J. profile at the time painted a full picture of his background and his longtime activism on multiple fronts.

Born into an affluent Jewish family at the height of the Great Depression, Baum grew up mostly in Highland Park, which in the 1930s was emerging as one of Chicago’s most prosperous Jewish-identified suburbs. He went to Harvard University as an undergrad and again for law school, then spent two years in the Army, in Berlin, during the Korean War.

Al Baum (right) with husband Robert Holgate in 2014.

Upon his return, he visited San Francisco to see how he liked it; at the time, he was living his life as a closeted gay man. He came out publicly in 1975, when he was in his 40s and living in San Francisco. It was a momentous step and not really planned.

“You know they say, ‘When you’re drowning, your whole life passes before your eyes?’” he said in an interview with OUTWORDS, an LGBTQ history archive, in 2017. “Well, it was like that. But I had been telling people, friends, that they should come out. And I wasn’t. I said to myself, ‘You have to be willing to do it yourself or you’re just being hypocritical.’”

From there he became an activist, working with the ACLU and Lambda Legal and many other organizations. Also, he worked as a city planner and attorney for many years and then, late in life, began a third career as a therapist, getting a degree from UC Berkeley in social work. In later years, with his husband, whom he married in 2014, he devoted himself to philanthropy.

Baum served on the boards of many organizations, including S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children’s Services, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the ACLU of Northern California, and the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. He also founded the Federation’s gay and lesbian task affinity group. He was a founding member of the New Israel Fund, and has been an active supporter of LGBTQ senior organization Openhouse. In 2014, he served as grand marshal of the San Francisco Pride Parade, accompanied by Holgate.

Baum was a longtime member of Congregation Sha’ar Zahav in San Francisco. Holgate said details of a celebration of Baum’s life and a shiva would be forthcoming.

Al Baum as S.F. Pride Parade grand marshal in 2013. (Photo/Lisa Finkelstein)

Maya Mirsky is a staff writer for J. The Jewish News of Northern California and is based in Oakland.

The preceding article was published by J. The Jewish News of Northern California and was republished by permission.

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