Tag Archives: Gay History

August 26, 1986: Former Washington Redskin Jerry Smith Announces He Has AIDS

Gay History – SPORTS: August 26, 1986: Former Washington Redskins Football Player Jerry Smith Announces He Has AIDS

August 26, 1986: Jerry Smith, former Washington Redskins tight end, is the first celebrity to voluntarily acknowledge that he has AIDS.

Jerry Smith was the Redskins’ tight end from 1965-77. Sports Illustrated called him “an outstanding receiver among tight ends, with the ability to break open for a long gain.”  During his career Smith played in 168 games and had 421 receptions for a total of 5,496 yards.  Scoring an amazing 60 touchdowns, he held the record for tight ends that stood for almost 25 years and was twice named All-Pro

Smith was 6-foot-3 but weighed only 210 pounds. Nobody ever questioned his skills and tight-end toughness.

But on August 26, 1986 as he lay in a bed at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Springs, MD where he was fighting for his life against the deadly disease AIDS he weighed only 150 pounds.

Smith decided to go public with his diagnosis in the Washington Post because in his words: “I want people to know what I’ve been through and how terrible this disease is. Maybe it will help people understand. Maybe it will help with development in research. Maybe something positive will come out of this.”

One of the most recognizable and popular Redskins of his era, Smith also was one of the most respected and private. and never talked about his sexuality.

After retiring Smith became co-owner of The Boathouse, a gay bar in Austin Texas.  It was later confirmed that he had been romantically involved with former Redskins teammate Dave Kopay who had come out of the closet years earlier.

Jerry Smith died seven weeks after he made his announcement.

The Redskins logo, along with Jerry Smith’s uniform number 87, is part of the AIDS quilt.

Jerry Smith | Legacy Project Chicago

Gay History – August 22, 1983: Organizers of the 20th Anniversary March of MLK Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” Speech Deny Gays The Right to Speak

On August 22, 1983 organizers of a Washington march marking the 20th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech announced that no representatives from gay or lesbian rights groups would be allowed to speak.

In the months leading up to the twentieth anniversary of the march and King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, a coalition of civil rights groups met to plan a public commemoration in Washington, D.C.  

All except for the leaders from the LGBT community that is.

The event’s national director, Baptist minister Walter Fauntroy—who also served as the District of Columbia’s delegate to Congress—said the presence of homosexuals would be “divisive,” and that allowing gay leaders to share a stage with blacks and other leaders of progressive causes might be interpreted as advocacy of a gay way of life. LGBT civil rights had as much legitimacy as “penguin rights.”

Three days before the march, four gay men—three of whom were African American—were arrested for staging a sit-in at Fauntroy’s office. 

David Hunt  who was producing news  programming for the LGBT community for radio station KPFK in Southern California interviewed Charles Stewart, then a leader of the interracial group Black and White Men Together.

At the time of the interview, Fauntroy and Donna Brazile (pictured above) another organizer, (And yes the SAME Donna Brazile of the Democratic National Committee who served as the interim chairperson for the DNC after the Debbie Wasserman Schultz scandal) would remain steadfast in their efforts to exclude gays and lesbians from speaking at the march.

In the interview with Hunt, Stewart was quick to counter the notion that there was a rift between the African American and LGBT communities. He noted that 17 of the 20 members of the Congressional Black Caucus had endorsed a federal civil rights measure for gays and lesbians. .

The four men arrested in Fauntroy’s office were Mel Boozer, head of the National Gay Task Force, who died of an AIDS related illness in 1987, Ray Melrose, former president of the D.C. Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gay Men, Phil Pannell, a Democratic Party activist and Washington D.C. commissioner, and gay activist Gary Walker.

Fontroy would continue to fight against LGBT rights and in 2003 became one of the leaders of the anti-gay Alliance for Marriage.

*Sources:  The Nation and Gay in the 80’s

Gay History – August 21, 1983: La Cage aux Folles Opens on Broadway! [Video – Full Show]

On this day in gay history the musical La Cage aux Folles (Yea Theatre Queens!) with a book by Harvey Fierstein and lyrics and music by Jerry Herman opened on Broadway in 1983.

Based on the 1973 French play of the same name by Jean Poiret, it focuses on a gay couple: Georges, the manager of a Saint-Tropez nightclub featuring drag entertainment, and Albin, his romantic partner and star attraction, and the farcical adventures that ensue when Georges’s son, Jean-Michel, brings home his fiancée’s ultra-conservative parents to meet them. La cage aux folles literally means “the cage of mad women”. However, folles is also a slang term for effeminate homosexuals (queens).

According to Playbill Radio program director Robert Viagas, La Cage aux Folles predated the widespread “Ellen,” “Will & Grace” and “Queer Eye”-type recognition. “La Cage opened in a time when gays were just starting to be accepted and homosexuality was just starting to be talked about openly,” Viagas said. “A Chorus Line opened the door and then [came] Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy. La Cage took it a step further showing to a general audience that gays could actually form stable, long-term relationships and even raise children. The message of La Cage could be phrased as ‘Honor your mother — even if she’s a man.’ That was a revelation at the time, at least in the mass media.”

The early-season musical would beat out the rest of the year’s competition — including shows like Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Sunday in the Park with George, John Kander and Fred Ebb’s The Rink and David Shire and Richard Maltby, Jr.’s Baby — taking home the top trio of musical prizes for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book. Actor Hearn, director Laurents and costume designer Theoni V. Aldredge would bring the show to a topping tally of six awards.

The original production starred George Hearn as Albin and Gene Barry as Georges

Watch the full musical performed by the American Musical Theatre of San Jose starring: Lee Roy Reams, George McDaniel, Ray Reinhardt, and Steven X. Ward below.

Souces: Playbill

 

 

Gay History - August 18, 1978: Boston Police Beat, Arrest 2 Gay Teens, State "This is for Anita Bryant"

Gay History – August 18, 1978: 2 Boston Police Officers Gay Bash Three Teens “This is for Anita Bryant!”

On August 18, 1978 three gay teens, two of them in drag, were walking to a Beacon Hill apartment when they heard screams coming from the Arlington Street T station. Two men came out of the station and ran to their cars. When Larry Brown called out their license plate numbers to his friends, the two men chased them down, beat and kicked them, and shouting, “This is for Anita Bryant.”

When the police finally arrived, the three youths learned that the men who had beaten them were actually Boston police officers: John Gillespie and Thomas Clifford. Patrol officers then arrested the victims, with Gillespie and Clifford going free. On the way back to the station, the arresting officers threatened to dump the youths “in the Charles River or the Blue Hills” saying: “queers have no right to live.”

Then Massachusetts State Rep. Barney Frank demanded an investigation, the BPD’s Internal Affairs Division obliged. They found Clifford and Gillespie guilty of physical and verbal abuse against the young men, failing to submit incident reports, and submitting false statements to their commanders and to IAD. Lt. Ralph Maglio was also found guilty of neglecting his responsibilities as a duty supervisor and of making false statements to IAD.

BPD Commissioner Joseph M. Jordan suspended Clifford and Gillespie for three months without pay. Maglio received a one week suspension without pay.

Jordon’s action made it the first time Boston police officers had ever been disciplined for abusing gay people

Source: Box Turtle Bulletin

Gay History – August 1971: NEWSWEEK Magazine Publishes “The Militant Homosexual”

August 1971 – Newsweek Magazine Publishes “The Militant Homosexual” 

A little more than two years after the Stonewall riots in NYC’s Greenwich Village,  Newsweek ’magazine published an article titled “The Militant Homosexual”  where it devoted four pages trying to explain it all to its readers where all these nasty homosexuals suddenly came from.

The entire four-page article dealt with the sudden visibility of the gay community — a visibility which had personal, psychological, familial and political aspects, according to Newsweek. As one measure of the surprise this new openness must have engendered, the word “militant” appeared in the four-page article fifteen times. And what the authors regarded “militant” is revealing: they described “militants” coming out to their friends, families and employers; “militants” wanting acceptance; “militants” refusing to accept the APA’s verdict that they were mentally ill (the APA would set aside that verdict two years later); “militants” demanding an end to the ban on federal employment; “militants” starting gay churches and “militants” getting married in them, and “militants” saying it’s great to be gay.  

That last point, according to Newsweek was especially dangerous:

To supporters of gay liberation, marching in the streets and holding hands in public are only minor gestures of assertion. They are picketing the Pentagon, testifying at government hearings on discrimination, appearing on TV talk shows, lecturing to Rotary Clubs, organizing their own churches and social organizations and, perhaps most important of all, using their real names. “Two or three years ago, a homosexual who tried to explain what he and the gay movement were all about would have been ridiculed,” says Troy Perry, a homosexual minister who established Los Angeles’s Metropolitan Community Church in 1968 and has been a movement hero ever since.

…What seemed then it relatively minor clash is now enshrined in gay-lib lore as the “Stonewall Rebellion.” Within weeks, the first of scores of militant homosexual groups, the Gay Liberation Front, was formed in New York. The new mood quickly crossed the continent, leading to the creation of similar organizations in Los Angeles and San Francisco. By the first anniversary of the Stonewall incident, the militants were on the march in a dozen cities. By the second anniversary, they were celebrating Gay Pride Week with an elaborate panoply of parades and protests. The movement already has a book-length history in print and some of its more imaginative propagandists have even begun to speak of a “Stonewall Nation.” [snip]

What all this suggests is a central problem that gay liberation usually chooses to ignore: if the movement succeeds in creating an image of “normality” for homosexuals in the society at large, would it encourage more homosexuality inclined people — particularly young people — to follow their urges without hesitation? No one really knows for certain. Dr. Paul Gebhard, the distinguished anthropologist who directs the Kinsey Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University, believes that gay lib “will not convert heterosexuals into homosexuals but might encourage those who are going in a homosexual direction to feel less guilty about it.” New York sociologist Edward Sagarin takes an even dimmer view. “If the militants didn’t say that it is great to be gay,” Sagarin insists, “more adolescents with homosexual tendencies might seek to change instead of resolving their confusion by accepting the immediate warm security that tells them they are normal.”

Three weeks later, pioneering gay rights advocate Frank Kameny responded to that paragraph with this letter to the editor:

The gay liberation movement has been formulating its positions for some twenty years, has quite “come to grips with all the implications of its own positions” and does not at all “choose to ignore” the “problem” of “more homosexuality inclined people — particularly young people — [following] their urges without hesitation.” Not only do we consider this neither a problem nor a danger; we consider it an eminently desirable goal to be worked toward and achieved as soon and as fully as possible. It is the very essence of liberation.

Sometimes I wish we had these militant homosexuals back. 

Because the Twerk Protesting Queers of today just ain’t cutting it.

Gay History – August 1888: Lifelong Transman Discovered As Patient At Fort Madison, Iowa Prison Hospital

In August of 1888. a column in the nineteenth-century journal The Medical Standard included a roundup of items submitted by doctors from the then 38 states, several territories and a number of Canadian provinces.

More of a “This and That” column without having much real basis in actual medicine. Many of the notices were nothing more than gossip: the practice of a “voodoo doctor” in Georgia,  a “magnetic healer” in Kentucky “who is is ‘curing’  hysterical females in great numbers at Bowling Green.” (Women were commonly diagnosed with “hysteria” in the nineteenth century for being sexually repressed and and frigid because of the “moral code” of its time.  Barbarically its cure was sometimes a hysterectomy.)

Among those notices was this case from Iowa:

A case of sexual perversion has been discovered in the Ft. Madison penitentiary. A woman from her early youth had dressed in male attire, was universally regarded as a man, married and lived with a woman as a husband. She was recently arrested for horse-stealing and sent to the penitentiary; in the hospital of which her sex was discovered.

No other information can be found about this person.

The Ft. Madison penitentiary was established in 1839, seven years before Iowa’s statehood. The old facility, expanded several times over the years, is still in use today as the Iowa State Penitentiary, making it the oldest operating prison west of the Mississippi.

Gay History – 1919: The First Gay Movie Was Made Over 100 Years Ago – “Different From The Others” [Video]

We all know there is a HUGE selection of LGBT themed films out there available to watch. Many are recent while some began to come into mainstream media in the 1990’s.

But is it possible that the first film ever to showcase a gay couple was made over a 100 years ago?

The answer is yes.

A few years ago the UCLA Film and Television Archives discovered a film that was produced in 1919 Germany. During that time in Germany, a Social Democratic government came into power allowing long-standing censorship laws to be lifted. Acting quickly, filmmaker Richard Oswald joined with psychiatrist and gay-rights pioneer Magnus Hirschfeld to write and produce the first gay centered film.

Different From The Others was a 90 minute film centered around a famous violinist and his male student. This was a drama that showed a love affair between the two men. Although the film did not show any sex, it is very clear in the film that the two men were in love. Unfortunately, the film suffered many vicious attacks from the right-wing press calling Oswald a “perverted Jew”.

The complete physical copy of the film was lost except for 40 minutes that Hirschfeld edited into a 1926 documentary about tolerance.

As part of the preservation, the gay and lesbian film festival, Outfest, partnered with UCLA Film and Television Archives has reassembled those 40 minutes based on Oswald’s screenplay.

“To use the term ‘restore’ would be wrong,” says Jan-Christopher Horak, director of the archives. “There’s not enough footage for a real restoration. But what we have put together allows people to experience the remarkable culture that existed in Berlin in the 1920s, which was wiped out, of course, by the Nazis. As far as I know, this is the earliest document we have of gays and lesbians being represented on-screen.”

This is an incredible piece of LGBT history. This may be the first example of LGBT people being depicted in film. This also may be one of the first steps towards the fight for LGBT equality. 

Released in released in 1919 and starring Conrad Veidt and Reinhold Schünzel. you can watch scenes from  Different From Others below:

Gay History – August 13, 1998: For The First Time In 10 Years The Bay Area Reporter Prints No Obituaries For AIDS Victims

Twenty-two years ago this day August 13th, 1998 for the first time in over a decade The Bay Area Reporter printed no obituaries.

Every week for 10 years BAR reported dozens of deaths for gay men who succumbed to AIDS. But on August 13th, 1998 three years after the release of the first effective HIV drugs for the first time The Bay Area Reporter had no AIDS related deaths to report.

AIDS deaths in New York City also plummeted by 48 percent accelerating earlier gains attributed to improved drug therapies.

By 1998, AIDS/HIV had already killed 14 million people, mostly gay men. But now also women, and children. 

Almost an entire generation of gay men were wiped out most of whom set the groundwork and fought for the many of the rights and visibility enjoy today.

#NeverForget

Gay History – August, 1673: Plymouth Colony Convicts Two Men Of “Spending their seed one upon another”

On August 6, 1673 Plymouth Colony convicted two men of “Lewd Behavior and Unclean Carriage”. 

While not directly labeled in the records as a case of sodomy, it is clearly an act of homosexual behavior.

From the official record:

John Allexander & Thomas Roberts were both examined and found guilty of lewd behavior and unclean carriage one with another, by often spending their seed one upon another, which was proved both by witness & their own confession; the said Allexander [was] found to have been formerly notoriously guilty that way, and seeking to allure others thereunto. The said John Allexander was therefore censured [sentenced] by the Court to be severely whipped, and burnt in the shoulder with a hot iron, and to be perpetually banished [from] the government [territory] of New Plymouth, and if he be at any time found within the same, to be whipped out again by the appointment [order] of the next justice, etc., and so as oft as he shall be found within this government. Which penalty was accordingly inflicted.

Thomas Roberts was censured to be severely whipped, and to return to his master, Mr. Atwood, and serve out his time with him, but to be disabled hereby to enjoy any lands within this government, except he manifest better desert.

Allexander and Roberts, were two men with a long history of sodomy in Plymouth and were spared capital punishment. Allexander, a property owning man, and Roberts, an indentured servant, not only violated sexual morals, but also transgressed class distinctions .

Their punishment, banishment for Allexander and the denial of future land ownership for Roberts, was approximately the same as was cast upon those who participated in illicit sexual acts between men and women.

Gay History – August 1966: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria, San Francisco [WATCH: Screaming Queens]

On an warm August night in San Francisco in 1966 (no one knows the exact date since SFPD files have been lost) at Gene Compton’s Cafeteria, a seedy eatery in the Tenderloin district one of the first rebellions against the oppression of the LGBT community.

Compton’s became a sanctuary drag queens, young gay street hustlers, and down-and-out regulars much to the chagrin of it’s owners.

One August night the management who were finally fed-up and annoyed by the noisy crowd at one table, called the police. When a surly cop, accustomed to manhandling the Compton’s clientele, attempted to arrest one of the drag queens, she threw her coffee in his face and mayhem erupted. Windows broke, furniture flew through the air and the hustlers and drag queens fought back. Police reinforcements then arrived, and the fighting spilled into the street.

For the first time, the gay hustlers and drag queens banded together to fight back.  Getting the better of the cops, they kicked, punched and stomped on the cops with their high-heels. For everyone at Compton’s that night, one thing was certain — things there would never be the same again.

There is so much more to the story of the Compton Cafeteria than those bare-bones facts. In 1966 San Francisco it was unlawful to crossdress and it was unlawful to “impersonate a female.” Drag performers, transvestites, effeminate gay males, and rough trade hustlers experienced frequent harassment by police, including arrests, beatings and demeaning jailhouse treatment.  With no rights, employment or public accommodation protections, prostitution became survival sex work — it was the only way a drag queen or a down and out hot young guy could make a living.

The violent reaction of the drag queens and gays at the Compton’s Cafeteria did not solve the problems that they were having in the Tenderloin on daily basis. It did, however, create a space in which it became possible for the city of San Francisco to begin relating differently to the community — to begin treating them, in fact, as citizens with legitimate needs instead of simply as a problem to get rid of. That shift in awareness was a crucial step for the contemporary  social justice movement — the beginning of a new relationship to state power and social legitimacy.