FeaturedGay History

PRIDE MONTH Gay History – June 9th: Cole Porter, David Hockney, Franco Zeffirelli, and Christine Jorgensen

June 9th.

1653 – The Plymouth Colony court records reported that Teague Joanes and Richard Berry (both male) would be held to answer for living together in an uncivil relationship. The court was very family oriented and preferred  single men to live with families, and not together as couples. While there is no record of the outcome of the trial, six years later Berry was charged with obscene practices and banished from the colony.

1764 – Jacobus Itebelaar was hanged for robbery and attempted sodomy. He blamed alcohol and Satan.

1892 – Cole Porter was born on this date in Peru, Indiana.  A snob and would-be aristocrat, Porter was one of America’s best songwriters. When Cary Grant played Porter in the film “Night and Day,” they ignored Porter’s glass closet.

Despite being married, (For Porter, a wife afforded a respectable heterosexual front, and for Linda Thomas who married him, Porter’s success and growing fame only enhanced her social position.)  Porter himself had significant relationships with several men, including Boston socialite Howard Sturges, architect Ed Tauch (who inspired “Easy to Love”), choreographer Nelson Barclift (who inspired “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To”), actor Robert Bray, and longtime companion Ray Kelly, to whose children Porter left half of his royalties when he died in 1964.  Porter’s life was significantly de-gayed in the 2004 biopic De-Lovely: The Cole Porter Story with Kevin Kline in the starring role. William McBrien’s 1998 biography however provides a much more complete picture of Porter’s life.

1924 – Professional wrestler and wrestling entrepreneur, Jim Barnett was born on this date. He was one of the promoters of Australia’s World Championship Wrestling and the former owner of Georgia Championship Wrestling, which later was renamed World Championship Wrestling. Barnett served as an adviser to the World Wrestling Federation (many credit him with masterminding the first three WrestleMania shows, which helped the organization establish their identity), Jim Crockett Promotions and World Championship Wrestling. Jim Barnett was one of the few known men in wrestling who was openly gay.

1936 – June Jordan, poet, teacher and community activist was born on this date in Harlem to Jamaican immigrant parents. She is widely regarded as one of the most significant and prolific Black, bisexual writers of the twentieth century.

Jordan’s first published book, “Who Look at Me”, appeared in 1969, was a collection of poems for children. Twenty-seven more books followed in her lifetime, one (“Some of Us Did Not Die, Collected and New Essays”) was in press when she died. Two more have been published posthumously: “Directed By Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan” (Copper Canyon Press, 2005) and a re-issue of the 1970 poetry collection, “SoulScript”, edited by Jordan

1937 – Birth date of English artist David Hockney. Based in Los Angeles, California, Hockney was an important contributor to the British Pop art movement of the 1960s, and considered one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century.

In 1961 Hockney moved to California. in 1964. Bohemian lifestyles were the new fad, artists were welcomed with arms wide open, and the gay scene was bubbling with possibilities. In countless interviews with Hockney, he looked back at those days with impenetrable nostalgia. In an interview with The Telegraph, Hockney said: “They want to be ordinary – they want to fit in. Well I don’t care about that. I don’t care about fitting in. Everywhere is so conservative.” Hockney wanted to celebrate just how different the gay lifestyle is from the heterosexual one. It has to do with extravagance, treating the world as a playing field for daredevils, and, most of all, leading an unapologetic life.

1947 – “Newsweek” magazine reported on the US military’s intensified campaign to purge homosexuals. It described homosexuals as abnormal and neuropsychiatric cases. It also described methods used to screen out homosexuals, and said that according to Army files they had higher intelligence than the average soldier, performed admirably, and were law-abiding and hard-working.

That strange story, in retrospect, was that gay people came from all walks of life. But in 1947, neither the Army nor Newsweek in its June 9, 1947 story could wrap their heads around that fact. Newsweek was also surprised to learn that gays were, on average, intelligent, not particularly feminine, and “as a whole, these men were law-abiding and hard working. In spite of nervous, unstable and often hysterical temperaments they performed admirably as workers. Many tried to be good soldiers.” If gay soldiers were “nervous,” that undoubtedly came from the consequences of being found out. “Once this abnormality was detected, the man was usually evacuated by the unit doctors to a general hospital where he received psychiatric treatment while a military board decided whether or not he was reclaimable. A good number begged to be cured, but doctors usually doubted their sincerity, and recommended discharge.”

But being discharged was far from the end to these soldiers’ problems. During the first half of the war, they were brought up on court-martial, punished and dishonorably discharged. But by 1943, courts-martial were overwhelmed by the rising caseload, so the Army decided to let them go with an administrative “blue” discharge — neither honorable or dishonorable, and so named for the color of paper they were printed on

1983 – Italian director Franco Zeffirelli came out in an interview with “The Advocate.”  Zeffirelli considers himself “homosexual” rather than gay, he feels the term “gay” is less elegant. Zeffirelli has adopted two adult sons, men he has worked with for years and who now live with him and manage his affairs.

Zeffirelli has received criticism from religious groups for what they call the blasphemous representation of biblical figures in his films and also criticism from members of the gay community for publicly backing the Roman Catholic Church with regard to homosexual issues

1984 – A KKK march was scheduled to take place on a busy Saturday, June 9th, in the middle of the afternoon in the very gay Montrose section of Houston, TX.  Leaders from the Houston Gay Political Caucus and other organizations urged everyone to “not dignify the KKK with our attendance.” A few days before the march, local gay bars received a poster depicting a hooded Klansman saying “I want YOU, Queer — Gas Homosexuals.” A number of bars posted the poster with a suggestion that it would be better to spend Saturday voting in the city’s run-off election. “At the polls, gays win,” read a response in an LGBT magazine, “At the march, no one wins.”

Police estimated about 2,000 observers showed up for the five block march from Waugh Drive to Mason Street. Those spectators were mostly reporters, photographers, and a few curious families from the area. One father was seen telling his five-year-old son, “See those men in white robes? They’re the bad people full of hate. We’re the good people.” At Mary’s, a legendary gay bar conveniently located where the Klan’s parade began, a loudspeaker outside blared “Springtime For Hitler.” from the musical The Producers as the Klan marched bu.  Six hundred police officers lined the route to protect the crowd from the Klan — or perhaps, more accurately, the other way around — as 58 Klansmen in full regalia marched down the street. The parade itself lasted all of 16 minutes, but it cost the city about $80,000 (that’s about $185,000 in today’s dollars). Other than a few beer bottles tossed toward the marchers, there were no incidents.

1989 – Fifty people protested an appearance by comedian Sam Kinison in Seattle, Washington because of racist, sexist, and anti-gay material in his act.

1989 – The ashes of pioneer transsexual Christine Jorgensen were scattered off Dana Point by her two nieces and two of her closest friends.

1990 – Michele Barzach, former health minister of France, called for the legalization of brothels to curb the spread of AIDS.

1992 – A US District Court ruled in favor of a group of artists who challenged the constitutionality of the National Endowment for the Arts decency clause. The artist’s grants had been denied because they worked with homoerotic subject matter.

1998 – Homophobe TV preacher Pat Robertson warned the city of Orlando, Florida that God would punish the city with natural disasters for allowing the display of rainbow flags during Gay Pride Month.

2008 – Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva launched that nation’s first ever national convention on LGBT rights. After calling for a universal embrace of the homosexual movement, the president affirmed that “homophobia” is perhaps “the most perverse disease impregnated in the human head.”

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Will Kohler

Will Kohler is one of America's well known LGBT historians, He is also a a accredited journalist and the owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as BBC News, CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post, The Daily Wall Street Journal, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story, Mr. Kohler is available for comment, interviews and lectures on LGBT History. Contact: Will@Back2Stonewall.com

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