Gay What ?
Rest of site back up shortly!

Kennedy Library showcases Kameny letters to JFK

Frank Kameny, gay news, Washington Blade, letters

‘In 1961, it has, ironically, become necessary for me to fight my own government, with words,’ Frank Kameny wrote to President Kennedy. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston is taking steps this month to publicize the dozens of letters, pamphlets and press releases that D.C. gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny sent to President Kennedy from 1961 to 1963.

In a prominent write-up on the Kennedy Library website, library official Stacey Chandler, a reference archives specialist, said the letters poignantly document Kameny’s role as one of the nation’s first advocates for the rights of gay people before the highest levels of the U.S. government.

Chandler said the letters and other documents from Kameny are part of the library’s archives and are available for viewing online. Kameny died at the age of 86 in 2011.

“In World War II, I willingly fought the Germans, with bullets, in order to preserve and secure my rights, freedoms, and liberties, and those of my fellow citizens,” Kameny told Kennedy in a letter dated May 15, 1961 that’s part of the archive collection.

“In 1961, it has, ironically, become necessary for me to fight my own government, with words, in order to achieve some of the very same rights, freedoms, and liberties for which I placed my life in jeopardy in 1945,” wrote Kameny. “This letter is part of that fight.”

In a letter dated Aug. 28, 1962 Kameny told Kennedy, “You have said: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’ We know what we can do for our country; we wish to do it; we ask only that our country allow us to do it.”

Kameny wrote the letters in his role as president of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., the city’s first gay rights organization that Kameny co-founded in 1961 and led through the 1960s and early 1970s.

Chandler noted in her article that the Mattachine Society of Washington came into being shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take the case of a legal challenge that Kameny filed against the then U.S. Civil Service Commission.

In a first-of-its-kind action, Kameny contested the Civil Service Commission’s decision in 1958 to fire him from his job as an astronomer with the Army Map Service in Washington following an investigation into alleged homosexual activity by Kameny.

Among other things, the Commission cited a 1953 executive order by President Dwight Eisenhower that barred from the federal workforce anyone with a history of “sexual perversion” and other “immoral or notoriously disgraceful conduct.” Homosexual acts between consenting adults were considered among the prohibited conduct.

“Kameny wrote an astounding number of letters throughout his lifetime of advocacy, most of which are now in the Library of Congress,” Chandler wrote in her Kennedy Library article. “The huge volume of his correspondence makes the personal nature of his letters to President Kennedy especially surprising for archivists here,” she said.

“In these letters, he tenaciously argued for the right of gay Americans to work as civil servants,” she said.

In the same May 15, 1961 letter in which he told of his combat service in World War II, Kameny told Kennedy, “Yours is an administration that has openly disavowed blind conformity…You yourself have said, in your recent address at George Washington University, “…that (people) desire to develop their own personalities and their own potential, that democracy permits them to do so.’

“But your government, by its policies certainly does not permit the homosexual to develop his personality and his potential,” Kameny wrote.

In a Feb. 28, 1963 letter, Kameny told Kennedy about his fledgling effort to persuade the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

“Homosexuality is neither a sickness, disease, neurosis, psychosis, disorder, defect, nor other disturbance, but merely a matter of the predisposition of a significantly large minority of our citizens.”

Chandler said the Kennedy Library’s archivists could find no response from Kennedy or anyone else at the White House to Kameny’s letters.

“In fact, the only response we’ve found in our archives is a brief note from John W. Macy, Chairman of the U.S. Civil Service Commission, to Bruce Schuyler, Secretary of the Mattachine Society, who requested a meeting,” Chandler wrote.

In his note to Schuyler, Macy said, “It is the established policy of the Civil Service Commission that homosexuals are not suitable for appointment to or retention in positions in the Federal service. There would be no useful purpose served in meeting with representatives of your Society.”

Chandler said that in a March 6, 1963 letter to Kennedy, Kameny appeared to be referring to the government’s lack of response to his and the Mattachine Society of Washington’s overtures to the Kennedy administration.

“We wish to cooperate in any way possible, if the chance for friendly, constructive cooperation is offered to us by you,” Kameny wrote, “but if it continues to be refused us, then we will have to seek out and to use any lawful means whatever, which seem to us appropriate, in order to achieve our lawful ends, just as the Negro has done in the South when he was refused cooperation.”

In 1975, after several court rulings against the Civil Service ban on gay employees that Kameny played a role in organizing, the Civil Service Commission ended its prohibition on gay federal workers. In 2009, John Berry, the gay director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the successor to the Civil Service Commission, presented Kameny with an official government apology for his 1958 firing.

“Things have changed,” Chandler quoted Kameny as saying around the time Berry issued the apology with the full backing of President Obama. “How they have changed. I am honored and proud that it is so.”

The Kennedy Library, which is part of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, highlighted its collection of Kameny correspondence this month as a follow-up to a video that the NARA released in support of the It Gets Better Project, Chandler said.

LGBT rights advocates led by gay author and syndicated columnist Dan Savage created the It Gets Better Project to draw attention to bullying targeting LGBT youth. With President Obama among the political leaders and celebrities who have spoken in an “It Gets Better” video, organizers say the project has helped lift the spirits of many LGBT youth that have suffered from taunts and physical violence.

NARA director David S. Ferriero, who holds the title of Archivist of the United States, recorded a recent “It Gets Better” video that is available for viewing on the NARA website.

“It is so exciting that the Kennedy Library is highlighting Kameny’s letters to President Kennedy,” said Charles Francis, founder of the Kameny Papers Project, which arranged for Kameny’s voluminous correspondence and writings to be given to the Library of Congress.

Francis noted that copies of the Kameny letters to President Kennedy are among the collection at the Library of Congress but that the letters at the Kennedy Library are the originals.

“This was done on Frank’s typewriter from Frank’s living room,” Francis said.

“It’s progress. It’s real progress,” he said of the prominent treatment the Kennedy Library is giving to the Kameny letters.

See the Kennedy Library article on Kameny letters here.

 

20
Jan
2014

Calendar: March 14-20

Hump Film Festival, calendar, gay news, Washington Blade

A still from one of the films to be screened next week as part of the Dan Savage ‘Hump’ Film Festival at Woolly Mammoth. (Still courtesy Justin Morrison and Kelly O.)

Calendar for LGBT D.C. for the week ahead.

Friday, March 14

 

Bachelor’s Mill (1104 8th St., S.E.) holds a happy hour from 5-7:30 p.m. tonight with all drinks half price. Enjoy pool, video games and cards. Admission is $5 after 9 p.m. Must be 21 and over. For more details, visit bachelorsmill.com.

Cobalt (1639 R St., N.W.) hosts free vodka Friday tonight from 9 p.m.-3 a.m. Free rail vodka 11 p.m.-midnight. Two DJs on two floors. Cover is $10. Admission is limited to guests 21 and over. For more information, visit cobaltdc.com.

 

Saturday, March 15

 

The Latino Queer Bilingual Writing Group hosts its monthly workshop today at the D.C. Center (2000 14th St., N.W.) from 12:30-2:30 p.m. The focus will be on memoirs. Open to writers of any genre and levels of experience to share creative work in Spanish or English. Workshop is free and no prior experience is necessary. For details, call 202-682-2245 or email washeg@gmail.com.

Young Artists of America perform an orchestrated version of Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown’s “Songs for a New World” at Winston Churchill High School (11300 Gainsborough Rd., Potomac, Md.) tonight at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. For details, visit youngartistsamerica.org.

Mr. D.C. Eagle 2014 hosts “Leather Invasion: 17th Street N.W.,” a St. Patrick’s Day weekend bar-crawl. The crawl begins at the Duplex Diner (2004 18th St., N.W.) at 7:30 p.m. and ends at Green Lantern (1335 Green Ct., N.W.) at 12:30 a.m. for the “Bears Can Dance” party, Jell-O shots and a price raffle. Money will be raised for SMYAL.

GLBT Outreach and Engagement (GLOE) hosts “Masquerade and Mischief: Purim Drag Ball” at the Washington D.C. Jewish Community Center (1529 16th St., N.W.) tonight from 8:30 p.m.-midnight. There will be a drag performance by Ms. Hilda Seaview and an amateur drag/costume parade and contest with prizes. Tickets are $25 in advance and $35 at the door. There is a free open bar for anyone who comes in costume. Food and desserts are included. Admission limited to guests 21 and over. For more information, visit betmish.org.

Cobalt (1639 R St., N.W.) hosts “Bare: Military Appreciation St. Pattie’s Day” tonight from 10 p.m.-3 a.m. Admission is free for those with a valid Military ID. There will be beer pong and flip cup on the first floor. Jameson and Fireball shots are $3. Domestic beers are $5. Music by DJs Rosie and Keenan Orr. For more details, visit cobaltdc.com.

 

Sunday, March 16

 

Chick Chat, an ages-50-and-over lesbian singles group, celebrates Women’s “Herstory” month with a tour of the Clara Barton House (5801 Oxford Rd., Glen Echo, Md.) today at noon. For details and to RSVP email woernerc@yahoo.com.

Perry’s (1811 Columbia Rd., N.W.) hosts its weekly “Sunday Drag Brunch” today from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. The cost is $24.95 for an all-you-can-eat buffet. For more details, visit perrysadamsmorgan.com.

 

Monday, March 17

 

United Soldiers and Sailors of America, a non-profit organization that supports combat wounded and their families, hosts a St. Patrick’s Day event at Jake’s Boiler Room (5018 Connecticut Ave., N.W.) from 4-11 p.m. Admission is $10 and includes a complimentary green beer and St. Patrick’s Day mug. There will be $5 Smithwicks and Harp, $8 Irish car bombs and $15 corned beef and cabbage platter. All proceeds benefit United Solders and Sailors of America. For details, visit jakesdc.com.

Rainbow Theatre Project presents a reading of the Noel Coward play “Long Island Sound” tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Source (1835 14th St., N.W.). It tells of an author seeking peace and quiet at a friend’s house who is interrupted by a large gathering of boisterous artists and socialites of whom he becomes the main attraction. About 20 local and student artists will present the reading. Rainbow Theatre Project is a new LGBT-specific theater company.

 

Tuesday, March 18

 

Transgender Legal Advocates of Washington (TransLAW) hosts its annual celebration and fundraiser tonight at Lost Society (2001 14th St., N.W.) tonight from 6:30-9:30 p.m. There will be an open bar with wine and specialty cocktails and light hors d’oeuvres from 6:30-7:30 p.m. There is a suggested $10 donation at the door but no one will be turned away for lack of funds. For more information, visit translawdc.org.

“Elton John: The Million Dollar Piano,” a filmed concert special of John’s “Million Dollar Piano” show at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, plays at AMC Mazza Gallerie (5300 Wisconsin Ave., N.W.) tonight at 7 p.m. as part of a special two-night event. There will be another showing on March 26.

 

Wednesday, March 19

 

Bookmen D.C., an informal men’s gay literature group, discusses “The Lost Library: Gay Fiction Rediscovered” edited by Tom Cardamone at the American Foreign Service Association (2101 E St., N.W.) tonight at 7:30 p.m. All are welcome. For details, visit bookmendc.blogspot.com.

The Tom Davoren Social Bridge Club meets tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Dignity Center (721 8th St., S.E.) for social bridge. No partner needed. For more information, call 301-345-1571.

 

Thursday, March 20

Freestyle Fitness presents “Go Live and Rewind,” a fitness dance party that benefits Capital Pride 2014, is at Town (2009 8th St., N.W.) tonight from 7-11 p.m. Enjoy music from DJ miGGL from the ‘80s, ‘90s and today from pop, hip-hop, Latin and more while getting a workout. For more details, visit facebook.com/freestylefitnessmoves.

Congressional Chorus presents “New York, New York: An American Cabaret” at Atlas Performing Arts Center (1333 H St., N.W.) tonight at 8 p.m. through March 23. A cast of 85 singers and dancers perform musical selection from notable people in the music industry from New York City including Stephen Sondheim, Billy Joel, Alicia Keys and Jay-Z. Tickets are $45. For details, visit atlasarts.org.

Dan Savage, gay author and co-founder of the “It Gets Better Project” brings his “Hump!” Film Festival to Woolly Mammoth Theatre (641 D St., N.W.) tonight with showings at 6, 8 and 10 p.m. These 15 short films discuss sexual situations and include straight, gay, lesbian and transgender stories. Tickets are $20. Screenings go through March 22. For more information, visit humptour.strangertickets.com.

Whole Foods (1440 P St., N.W.) hosts “Drag Bingo on P Street” featuring the Imperial Court of Washington tonight from 7-9 p.m.  There will be prizes and snacks. All proceeds benefit Whole Planet Foundation. For more details, visit wholefoods.com/events.

LGBT personnel assigned to the Pentagon meet at Freddie’s Beach Bar (555 23rd St., Arlington) today from 5-7 p.m. for happy hour. This monthly event (the third Thursday of each month) is open to military, Department of Defense civilians and military contractors who work in and around the Pentagon.

The band cut/copy plays Echo Stage (2135 Queens Chapel Road, N.E.) tonight at 7 p.m. Tickets are $35. Visit echostage.com for details.

13
Mar
2014

U of C students incensed that word “tranny” was used in discussion about word “tranny”

Students have launched a petition attacking noted gay activist Dan Savage for simply discussing the controversy.

.
29
May
2014

The end of gay history

I worry that we're witnessing the end of gay history. And I'm not convinced that it's something to celebrate.

.
09
Jun
2014

Russia update: Savage & Fierstein on MSNBC, Brits & Swedes weigh in, Miss Universe pageant snafu

Today's über (alles) Russia update includes videos of Fierstein and Savage on MSNBC, and Socarides on CNN.

.
15
Aug
2013

Dan Savage’s message for gay Russians: It gets better

"Nothing would give the struggle for LGBT civil equality a bigger boost in Russia than straight people."

.
31
Aug
2013

New project to highlight pro-LGBT Christians

Dan Savage in the debut video for the NALT Christian Project (Screenshot via YouTube)

Dan Savage in the debut video for the NALT Christian Project. (Screenshot via YouTube)

A new project inspired by the popular “It Gets Better” campaign aims to give a voice to pro-LGBT Christians who proclaim they’re “Not All Like That,” referring to the anti-gay rhetoric espoused by some conservative Christians.

The effort, dubbed the NALT Christians Project, debuted on Wednesday and will allow Christians to post videos on its website to express support for LGBT people and refute anti-LGBT rhetoric. It’s similar to the “It Gets Better” project, which enabled LGBT people and public figures to tell LGBT youth their lives will improve.

Dan Savage, an LGBT advocate who founded the “It Gets Better” project, created the premiere video for the NALT Christian Project and called on Christians to create videos to demonstrate they’re “not all like that” in terms of holding anti-LGBT views.

“If you don’t speak up, then know that your silence allows the Tony Perkins’ and Pat Robertsons’ of this world to speak for you, and to continue doing real harm not just to young LGBT people, but also to Christianity itself,” Savage says in his video.

Savage says he came up with the term “NALT” after hearing from Christians who told him they’re “not all like that” to distinguish themselves from anti-LGBT leaders who call themselves Christians.

“I heard that so often that I started thinking of the Christians who said that as NALTs, ‘not-all-like-that’ Christians,” Savage says. “Christians who support us on LGBT civil rights. I used the phrase a few times on my blog and in podcasts — and it stuck.”

The initiative was created by Christian author John Shore as well as Wayne Besen and Evan Hurst, activists associated with Truth Wins Out, an organization dedicated to countering widely discredited “ex-gay” sexual orientation conversion therapy.

Besen said he doesn’t think of the project as a shift in his work at Truth Wins Out because he’s always considered the “ex-gay” industry as broader strategy to undermine LGBT people.

“The ‘ex-gay’ industry thrives by exploiting religious guilt and shame to recruit new clients to its programs,” Besen said. “They deliberately contrive a conflict in the hearts and minds of many LGBT people, where they are made to falsely believe they have to choose between their faith and their sexuality. The NALT Chrisitans Project says that no such choice has to be made, and that there are many supportive Christians who will love LGBT people exactly as they are.”

Co-sponsors of the project include: Reconciling Ministries Network, Faith in America, The Evangelical Network, GLAD Alliance, Methodists in New Directions, Covenant Network of Presbyterians, Many Voices and the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists.

As of Wednesday morning, the NALT Christian Project already had 24 videos featuring Christians from around the world, including Presbyterian Minister Mary Lynn Tobin of the Covenant Network.

“I can’t tell how many times over the years I had a giant button that said, ‘I’m a Christian, and we’re not all like that,’” Tobin said. “It drives me crazy that a knock off of Christianity has become an instrument of the right-wing political agenda and become labeled as the real thing by the media. No wonder so many people are hostile to Christianity. I would be, too.”

In another video, Pentecostal Bishop Carlton Pearson said he came to support LGBT people after a long period of soul-searching in which he concluded homosexuality “is not going away.”

“It’s now time for the church — particularly the African-American church — to wake up to the fact that the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ mentality has run its course, and to open up and embrace,” Pearson says. “Because what you fight, you invite, you ignite, and what you resist, persists.”

The website also features a page set up on The Bible with the headline “The Bible does NOT condemn homosexuality” that disputes the notion that the Bible is a rulebook.

“Whenever a specific biblical injunction is found to be incongruous with contemporary mores, a reshaping of the conception of that injunction is not only widely accepted by Christians, it’s encouraged, as long as the new thinking is understood to be in keeping with overriding timeless biblical moral principles,” the website says. “This is why Christian women no longer feel morally constrained to follow Paul’s directives to leave their hair uncut, to keep their heads covered in church, or to always remain quiet in church.”

04
Sep
2013

Santorum to lead “strike force” to save Cuccinelli’s disastrous run for VA Gov

But can Santorum save Cuccinelli from the new definition that Dan Savage has come up with for "cuccinelli"?

.
21
Oct
2013

Rick Santorum was right! Woman chooses horse as bridesmaid

Santorum once famously decried gay marriage because he opposes "man on dog" marriage too.

.
14
Nov
2013

Dan Savage has no respect for child-raping Catholic priests

Far-right Catholics are upset at Dan Savage for not show child-raping Catholic priests the appropriate respect.

.
02
Dec
2013