Connect with us

National

Stonewall gives middle finger to oppressive heterosexist ‘normalcy’

Fight against the APA was just as profound

Published

on

Barbara Gittings, Frank Kameny, and John Fryer as ‘Dr. H. Anonymous’ at the APA meeting in 1972. (Photo courtesy Wikipedia)

In the Trump era, the massive LGBT parades in New York City and elsewhere on June 28, the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, commemorate more than an annual Pride event: they symbolize an LGBT people intent on joyfully countering white male-dominated heterosexism and the tentacles of hatred it inspires. This counter-culture moment in many ways mirrors the counter-culture movement of the 1960s and early 1970s where hope for full equality and the spirit of freedom and democracy clashed with oppressive hard-core conservatism. 

Stonewall was a line of demarcation between passive acceptance and courageous self-empowerment in a culture war that is not yet won.

Violent raids on gay bars were routine until Stonewall, as the Washington Post reported in their review of Howard Mann’s book “Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood, 1910-1969.” “The imposition of the notorious Production Code, for example, was accompanied by a crackdown on ‘pansy’ clubs in Los Angeles and elsewhere — all part of a reaction to the liberalization of the raucously roaring ’20s.”

Outside of dark hideouts and clandestine hookups, LGBT people survived by hiding in the closet, passing as straight. Those who couldn’t hide or got caught were often scandalized, humiliated, beaten or killed without repercussions.

Gays like Howard Efland, a nurse who checked into the SRO Dover Hotel in downtown LA on March 9, 1969—roughly four months before Stonewall—hoping to meet someone in those otherwise free-wheeling pre-bathhouse days of the 1960s. But the LAPD didn’t just bust the “faggot” on a trumped-up charge—they dragged him naked by the feet down a flight of stairs where they savagely beat him in front of horrified witnesses as he screamed for help. When he died shortly thereafter, they told his parents he suffered a heart attack. The Coroner called his death an “excusable homicide.”

The LA Advocate found out and reported the murder, prompting the Rev. Troy Perry and gay troublemaker Morris Kight to organize a march and rally at the site. But no one was ever held accountable.

Protest rallies had become common in the 1960s as more people joined civil rights marches and students protested the war in Vietnam. But the 1968 assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Rev. Martin Luther King, along with the televised brutality of the Chicago police during the Democratic National Convention, led the country to split asunder debating politics, ethics and morality. 

But Stonewall in 1969 and the less celebrated earlier LGBT rebellions against police in Los Angeles at the Cooper Do-Nuts in 1959, Compton’s Cafeteria in 1966, the Black Cat Tavern on Feb. 11, 1967 and at Lee Glaze’s The Patch in Aug. 1968 were significant for another reason, as well. They symbolized an arbitrarily constructed minority fighting back against the prevailing definition of homosexuality as an icky moral perversion worthy of degradation, condemnation—and as the Bible suggests, death.

As a result of the acceptance and promotion of that longstanding belief by society, the state, religion and families, in 1952, the American Psychiatric Association listed homosexuality as a mental disorder and a “sexual deviation” in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) during the height of the McCarthy era witch hunts.

Many LGBT individuals internalized that hate-based definition of homosexuality as a sin, a crime and a sick perversion, leading to suicide, profound shame, secrecy, and agonizing isolation.

“It took many years of vomiting up all the filth I’d been taught about myself, and half-believed, before I was able to walk in the earth as though I had a right to be here,” gay author James Baldwin once wrote.

“Cures” for homosexuality included lobotomies, electroshock aversion therapy, and chemical castration among other tortures—as well as the perennial “conversion” or “reparative” therapy, still thriving in many states today.

Not all LGBT people were cowed by the danger, however. Edythe Eyde (aka Lisa Ben) started the first known lesbian newsletter Vice Versa in 1947 during off time as a secretary for RKO Pictures. Harry Hay and a few others founded the Mattachine Society and ONE Inc, which published ONE Magazine, in LA in the early 1950s when poet Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” was all the rage. San Francisco drag queen and Army vet Jose Sarria ran for political office in 1961, before founding the Imperial Court System. Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon founded the Daughters of Bilitis in San Francisco in 1955, also publishing The Ladder for lesbians.

But most of the early organizations were clandestine since being discovered to be a homosexual led to instant unemployment, loss of family and friends and a myriad of other personal horrors, including depression, anxiety and other emotional and mental illnesses. Gradually activists such as Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings from the Washington DC chapter of the Mattachine Society publicly protested, promoting the argument that “Gay is Good.”

“The problems of the homosexual stem from discrimination by the heterosexual majority and are much more likely to be employment problems than emotional problems,” Kameny wrote in a letter to Playboy in 1969 in response to a story about “therapeutic methods” for treating gay men, according to the New York Review of Books.  Doctors “would be of greater service to the harassed homosexual minority,” Kameny concluded, “if they ceased to reinforce the negative value judgments of society and, instead, adopted a positive approach in which therapy for a homosexual would consist of instilling in him a sense of confident self-acceptance so he could say with pride, ‘Gay is good.’”

APA CEO Dr. Saul Levin (Photo courtesy APA)

Indeed, Dr. Saul Levin, the out gay CEO of the APA, tells the Los Angeles Blade, “LGBTQ folk have always been stereotyped and in some ways derided. There was a stigma to it.” But “as mental illness became more part of the medicalization,” some psychiatrists began to question the data-less assumptions about homosexuality, including Professor Sigmund Freud, a neurologist and psychiatrist.

“A mother bought her son and said that there was something wrong with him. And that’s when [Freud] began to really look at a sort of homosexuality,” Levin says. “In some of his writing, he did not think that this was a mental illness, per se—that in some ways it was a sexual variant. I’m paraphrasing his words….But by the 1970s, it became very clear that some asked why was it a mental illness? Show us that we had a different problem or a mental illness compared to someone who has depression or anxiety.”

That questioning led to an APA panel in 1972 with Kameny and Gittings and a masked “Dr. H. Anonymous,” the only gay psychiatrist who agreed to participate.

“Yes, we are sick—we are sick of your manipulation and exploitation of us,” Kameny said. He demanded that “homosexuality be removed permanently from the psychiatric list of diseases” and called for “treatment of the oppressing society instead of the attempted treatment of us, the oppressed homosexual.”

But, says Levin, it was “Dr. H. Anonymous” who really got them thinking.  

“John Fryer, a psychiatrist out of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, was a gay man who realized at that time he could lose his job, he could lose this apartment,” who came forward, says Levin. “The gay community was very much beginning to come out of the closet but it was also a time where we were highly discriminated against by legislation. And he eventually said to the APA that it was time for them to either take homosexuality out of the DSM, or they need to show the data of why it’s a mental illness. And the APA leaders at the time heard him, and within a year they had decided that there actually was not data so they took it out of the DSM,” in the 1973 publication.

“Today, we know that it’s not a mental illness. We are just a variant in who we love and who we want, and who we are inside,” Levin says. “And obviously, sometimes whether you’re straight or gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender, there may be parts of you that, because of some of the discrimination you may have had when you were younger, that’s the issue that has to be addressed as part of a good mental health, healthcare checkup….The bottom line is that it is a natural variant of the human being and, it does not need curing,” a position the APA continues to strongly advocate.

Though less colorful and public than the Stonewall Rebellion, the fight against the APA’s designation of homosexuality was also a significant resistance to the oppressive heterosexual construct of “normalcy.”

It is also the subject of the upcoming documentary “Cured.”

“We were drawn to this story because it’s such a pivotal but largely unknown moment in LGBT history,” Cured Co-Director Patrick Sammon tells the Los Angeles Blade. “In fact, following the Stonewall rebellion of 1969, the campaign that resulted in the American Psychiatric Association’s 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from its manual of mental illnesses marked the first major step on the path to equality for LGBT Americans.”

“At a time when every lesbian and gay man, no matter how well-adjusted, was automatically considered sick and in need of a cure, the diverse group of activists who took on the APA found the courage to stand up and tell the world that they — not psychiatrists — were the experts on their own lives,” says Bennett Singer, co-director of “Cured.” “Their tactics and strategy offer crucial lessons about how to create and sustain social change, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable opposition. And their insistence on speaking truth to power can inspire and guide every LGBTQ American — as well as our allies — who wants to ensure that hard-won progress toward equality is not rolled back.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement

The White House

White House, Don’t Say Gay law: “This is discrimination, plain and simple”

“State officials who claim to champion liberty are limiting the freedom of their fellow Americans simply to be themselves”

Published

on

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre (The White House)

WASHINGTON – The White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre released a statement Friday as Florida’s notorious ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law took effect, saying “[…] state officials who claim to champion liberty are limiting the freedom of their fellow Americans simply to be themselves.”

President Biden also tweeted about the law prior to leaving for Camp David to spend the July 4th holiday weekend, calling the law “the latest attempt by Republicans in state houses to target LGBTQI+ students, teachers, and families.”

In her statement, Jean-Pierre said:

“Today, some of Florida’s most vulnerable students and families are more fearful and less free. As the state’s shameful “Don’t Say Gay” law takes effect, state officials who claim to champion liberty are limiting the freedom of their fellow Americans simply to be themselves.

“Already, there have been reports that “Safe Space” stickers are being taken down from classrooms. Teachers are being instructed not to wear rainbow clothing. LGBTQI+ teachers are being told to take down family photos of their husbands and wives—cherished family photos like the ones on my own desk.

“This is not an issue of “parents’ rights.” This is discrimination, plain and simple. It’s part of a disturbing and dangerous nationwide trend of right-wing politicians cynically targeting LGBTQI+ students, educators, and individuals to score political points.

“It encourages bullying and threatens students’ mental health, physical safety, and well-being. It censors dedicated teachers and educators who want to do the right thing and support their students. And it must stop.

“President Biden has been very clear that every student deserves to feel safe and welcome in the classroom.

“The Department of Education will be monitoring this law, and any student or parent who believes they are experiencing discrimination is encouraged to file a complaint with the Department’s Office for Civil Rights.

“Our Administration will continue to fight for dignity and opportunity for every student and family—in Florida and around the country.”

Continue Reading

Florida

Florida county’s school policy critics say “essentially targets LGBTQ+ kids”

“Sending out a parent notification could be seen as placing a target on a student’s back,” said Lauren Kelly-Manders, a Tallahassee resident

Published

on

Screenshot/YouTube students in a classroom generic news coverage

TALLAHASSEE – The Leon County School Board this week unanimously approved its “LGBTQ Inclusive School Guide” after a rancorous and at times heated debate Tuesday. At the heart of the new policy are guidelines that critics charge will harm LGBTQ+ youth in the school system.

The Tallahassee Democrat newspaper reported what drew the most debate was a provision that a school will notify parents — by form — if a student who is “open about their gender identity” is in a physical education class or on an overnight trip. 

Some teachers and students during the Tuesday night meeting said the policy will “out” LGBTQ+ students — revealing their sexual orientation or gender identity without their permission. 

While the policy language does explicitly say a student’s sexual orientation, gender identity or expression “should not be shared with others without their input and permission,”  advocacy groups and activists claim that in “real world” application the policy’s danger to Outing LGBTQ+ kids remains regardless.

Los Angeles-based writer and actor Benjamin Siemon took to Twitter angrily noting that the policy “essentially paints these children as sex offenders that require warnings.”

Supporters of the school board’s new policy included the Leon County chapter of Mom’s for Liberty, a national far-right anti-LGBTQ+ activist group which has sought to ban LGBTQ+ books and curriculum nationwide. But the sticking point for the group is the provision doesn’t go far enough.

According to the Tallahassee Democrat, Sharyn Kerwin, head of the Leon County chapter of Mom’s for Liberty and who also served on the advisory committee to the School board as it crafted the new policy, told board members and the audience Tuesday: “Any attempt to withhold information from a parent or try to influence a child in a knowing way is against Florida law.”

Kerwin and other parents argued that the Parental Rights in Education bill, HB 1557, colloquially referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” law requires school administrators to notify parents and many in the audience Tuesday citing biblical verses maintained discussions about sexual orientation have no place in schools.

Opponents charge that this policy will effectively weaponize bigotry and target LGBTQ+ kids, especially trans youth.

Critics of the notification policy say the district’s language is equating “gender identity” with LGBTQ sexuality. They note that even someone who is “straight” expresses themselves via their clothing choices or appearance and can be “open about their gender identity,” the Tallahassee Democrat noted.

“Sending out a parent notification could be seen as placing a target on a student’s back,” said Lauren Kelly-Manders, a Tallahassee resident. 

In the end, even with the policy approved, none were happy with the outcome as one side claiming not enough consideration was given to parental rights and opponents charging this will simply increase bullying of LGBTQ+ kids.

“Normally when we have something on the agenda, we have a group that’s for, and a group that’s against,” school board Vice Chair Alva Striplin noted adding, “Well, tonight we had everyone against.”

The school board voted to approve the guide unanimously 4-0.  According to the Tallahassee Democrat school board members will schedule another meeting to revisit the guide in six months to adjust the policy if needed. 

Continue Reading

The White House

White House announces 17 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients

The nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom will be presented to those named at the White House on July 7, 2022

Published

on

Megan Rapinoe, an Out Olympic gold medalist is among those named ((Screenshot/YouTube via U.S. Soccer )

WASHINGTON – The White House today released President Joe Biden’s selection of recipients for bestowing the nation’s highest civilian honor,  the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The awards will be presented at the White House on July 7, 2022.

Included among the seventeen honorees are Megan Rapinoe, the Out Olympic gold medalist and two-time Women’s World Cup champion. She also captains OL Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League. She is a prominent advocate for gender pay equality, racial justice, and LGBTQI+ rights.

Also selected by the president for a posthumous recognition was Richard Trumka, the powerful labor leader and longtime Democratic ally of the LGBTQ+ community who passed away last August. Trumka had led the AFL-CIO since 2009 and who throughout his career, was an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ+ Americans, social and economic justice.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, world peace, or other significant societal, public or private endeavors.

Presidential Medal of Freedom (The White House)

The following individuals will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom:

Simone Biles
Simone Biles is the most decorated American gymnast in history, with a combined total of 32 Olympic and World Championship medals. Biles is also a prominent advocate for athletes’ mental health and safety, children in the foster care system, and victims of sexual assault.

Sister Simone Campbell
Sister Simone Campbell is a member of the Sisters of Social Service and former Executive Director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice organization. She is also a prominent advocate for economic justice, immigration reform, and healthcare policy.

Julieta García
Dr. Julieta García is the former president of The University of Texas at Brownsville, where she was named one of Time magazine’s best college presidents. Dr. García was the first Hispanic woman to serve as a college president and dedicated her career to serving students from the Southwest Border region.

Gabrielle Giffords
Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was the youngest woman ever elected to the Arizona State Senate, serving first in the Arizona legislature and later in the U.S. Congress. A survivor of gun violence, she co-founded Giffords, a nonprofit organization dedicated to gun violence prevention.

Fred Gray
Fred Gray was one of the first black members of the Alabama State legislature since Reconstruction. As an attorney, he represented Rosa Parks, the NAACP, and Martin Luther King, who called him “the chief counsel for the protest movement.”

Steve Jobs (posthumous)
Steve Jobs (d. 2011) was the co-founder, chief executive, and chair of Apple, Inc., CEO of Pixar and held a leading role at the Walt Disney Company. His vision, imagination and creativity led to inventions that have, and continue to, change the way the world communicates, as well as transforming the computer, music, film and wireless industries.

Father Alexander Karloutsos
Father Alexander Karloutsos is the former Vicar General of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. After over 50 years as a priest, providing counsel to several U.S. presidents, he was named by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew as a Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Khizr Khan
Khizr Khan is a Gold Star father and founder of the Constitution Literacy and National Unity Center. He is a prominent advocate for the rule of law and religious freedom and served on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom under President Biden.

Sandra Lindsay
Sandra Lindsay is a New York critical care nurse who served on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic response. She was the first American to receive a COVID-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials and is a prominent advocate for vaccines and mental health for health care workers.

John McCain (posthumous)
John McCain (d. 2018) was a public servant who was awarded a Purple Heart with one gold star for his service in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam. He also served the people of Arizona for decades in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate and was the Republican nominee for president in 2008.

Diane Nash
Diane Nash is a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee who organized some of the most important civil rights campaigns of the 20th century. Nash worked closely with Martin Luther King, who described her as the “driving spirit in the nonviolent assault on segregation at lunch counters.”

Megan Rapinoe
Megan Rapinoe is an Olympic gold medalist and two-time Women’s World Cup champion. She also captains OL Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League. She is a prominent advocate for gender pay equality, racial justice, and LGBTQI+ rights.

Alan Simpson
Alan Simpson served as a U.S. Senator from Wyoming for 18 years. During his public service, he has been a prominent advocate on issues including campaign finance reform, responsible governance, and marriage equality.

Richard Trumka (posthumous)
Richard Trumka (d. 2021) was president of the 12.5-million-member AFL-CIO for more than a decade, president of the United Mine Workers, and secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO. Throughout his career, he was an outspoken advocate for social and economic justice.

Wilma Vaught
Brigadier General Wilma Vaught is one of the most decorated women in the history of the U.S. military, repeatedly breaking gender barriers as she rose through the ranks. When she retired in 1985, she was one of only seven women generals in the Armed Forces.

Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington is an actor, director, and producer who has won two Academy Awards, a Tony Award, two Golden Globes, and the 2016 Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. He has also served as National Spokesman for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America for over 25 years.

Raúl Yzaguirre
Raúl Yzaguirre is a civil rights advocate who served as CEO and president of National Council of La Raza for thirty years. He also served as U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic under President Barack Obama.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @LosAngelesBlade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular