Gay History – October 8th: Marcus Welby, M.D. Was A Homophobic Bigot
1904: Anna Ruhling became one of the first feminists to publicly speak out in favor of rights for same-sex attracted women. At a meeting of the Scientific Humanitarian Committee, one of the earliest organizations to take an active role in the gay rights movement, Ruhling attempted to link the women’s movement with rights for lesbians, criticizing her colleagues for not taking an active role in fighting oppression against same-sex attracted women.
1974: On an episode of “Marcus Welby, M.D.,” titled “The Outrage,” The show depicted a junior high school boy named Ted who was forcibly raped by a male science teacher. The storyline was unusually graphic for its time, describing Ted’s intestinal damage and hemorrhaging. Ted refuses to talk about what happened, fearing that being raped meant that he was gay. While Ted is in surgery, police arrest the teacher for trying to molest another boy. Ted awakes from surgery ready to testify, and the investigating officer congratulates him for handling the situation like a “real man.” ABC defended the episode by saying it was about pedophilia, not homosexuality. But the storyline played much too closely to the old stereotype of gay men forcibly preying on children.
The National Gay Task Force and the Gay Activist Alliance organized a massive national campaign aimed not only at the show but at the network itself. Gay activists across the country staged noisy protests outside of stations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Denver, and Washington, D.C., along with several smaller market stations in Ohio, Iowa, Mississippi, Texas and Idaho. The first station to announce it was dropping the episode was Philadelphia’s WPVI, which was under intense pressure from the city’s very active gay community.
Seventeen ABC affiliates ended up dropping the episode, and nearly a dozen sponsors had pulled out, including Bayer, Gallo Wine, Listerine, Ralston Purina, Colgate-Palmolive, Shell Oil, Lipton, American Home Products, Breck, Sterling Drug and Gillette. (Ralston Purina even wrote the NGTF sending “best regards” and added, “We do not wish to sponsor a program not welcome in everyone’s home.”)
Welby had also been the target once before of gay protests. In 1973, the series featured an episode called “The Other Martin Loring“. Loring, a middle-aged man, suffered from high blood pressure, diabetes, and alcoholism as a result of repressing his homosexuality. Dr. Welby is most concerned about the last and advises Loring that if he battles his sexual impulses he will not only enjoy improved health but will earn his son’s respect. In response to this portrayal of homosexuality as an illness, the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) organized a zap of ABC, with 30–40 members invading ABC’s New York City headquarters and occupying the offices of ABC president Elton Rule and board chairman Leonard Goldenson. ABC made a few minor edits in response
1975 – The movie Mahogany opens in theaters, starring Diana Ross in the title role. It features the song Mahogany’s Theme (Do You Know Where You’re Going To?), which was nominated for an Oscar but lost to I’m Easy from Nashville.
1985: A group of Latina lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists form the Austin Latina Latino Lesbian and Gay Organization (ALLGO). It acted as an LGBT rights organization that “evision[ed] a just and equitable society that celebrates and nurtures vibrant people of color queer cultures.”
1997: An episode of Ellen DeGeneres’ sitcom titled “Roommates” received an adult content warning because it contained a kiss between Ellen and another woman. The censorship reportedly infuriated Ellen, with her telling reporters: “I never wanted to be an activist, but now they’re turning me into one.”
2003: Marco, a character on “Degrassi: The Next Generation” played by Adamo Ruggiero came out of the closet in conjunction with a two-part episode titled “Pride.”
2009: Marcus Hernandez, long time leather columnist for the Bay Area Reporter passes away in Pacifica, CA. Hernandez was known to his legions of readers by his pen name “Mister Marcus” and dubbed the “Dean of leather columnists.” His weekly columns of contest goings-on and gossip was a must-read for leather community for 38 years.