On this day in 1956, WRCA-TV (now WNBC) aired an award-winning weekly panel discussion program called “The Open Mind”. The program, hosted by Richard Heffner, was not only well ahead of its time when it first went on the air in May 1956, it is still an acclaimed syndicated program on American Public Television,
Heffner and The Open Mind hosted the first televised discussion on the East Coast on homosexuality. The Daughters of Bilitis’s magazine The Ladder featured a review of the program by Sten Russell (real name: Stella Rush).
“The moderator asked if the homosexual could accept himself if society didn’t accept him. The conclusion was that it was very difficult, indeed. The moderator asked if there were cultural factors in the present making for more homosexuality. Miss Kelley asked if homosexuality were [sic] growing or just being more talked about. She cited Kinsey’s books as examples. The moderator said that the matter of national “security” had focused attention on this problem. He mentioned blackmail potential as part of the “security problem”.
Laidlaw said that a homosexual was not necessarily neurotic or psychotic, but that he was more likely to be in certain ways, due mainly to the pressures of public opinion which caused him to have to hide and cover up his actions and desires. Dean Swift was concerned as to the shock children experienced when approached by adult males. Laidlaw said that that depended on the predisposition of the child. Miss Kelley said that she was not worried about the “predisposition of the child,” but that the American Law Institute wished to protect any child from the traumatic shock of any sexual attack.
Despite the misinformation and prejudices,the show was as eveven-handeds as it possibly could have been at the time which outraged the New York Archdioceses of the Catholic Church. Cardinal Francis Spellman started a war with the station and threatened to go to the FCC to have the NBC affiliate’s broadcasting license revoked.
That didn’t stop Heffner or WRCA. They scheduled another program on homosexuality just two months later which was followed by another in January. The episodes covered topics including whether homosexuality should be treated as a criminal or a medical matter, nature vs. nurture as the cause of homosexuality, and how society indoctrinates young people into gender roles
Unfortunately, no surviving tape of this episode still exists just this one still shot below.
1905: Dag Hammarskjold, the second Secretary-General of the United Nations (1953-1961), is born in Jonkoping, Sweden. Hammarskjold will die in a plane crash in what was then the Belgian Congo under mysterious circumstances in 1961. Secretary General Hammarskjold is the first SG to die while holding office. President John F Kennedy referred to him as “The greatest statesman of our century,” and he was posthumously awarded the 1961 Nobel Peace Prize. While it is rumored that Hammarskjold was homosexual, it never seems to have been proven in any consequential way. Still, we honor his birthday here for the amazing leaps he made toward world peace as the Secretary-General.
1967: Ian Campbell Dunn writes to Antony Grey, secretary of the Homosexual Law Reform Society in London, about establishing a chapter in Scotland. Grey refuses because of problems with another branch.
1975: The Annual Conference of the Metropolitan Community Church is held in Dallas, Texas. Among the speakers was Elaine Noble, who was the first person to be elected to public office while running openly as a lesbian. Noble was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for two terms starting in January 1975. She was the first openly lesbian or gay candidate elected to a state legislature
1981: Tennis player Martina Navratilova is outed by reporter Steve Goldstein of the New York Daily News. But comes out publicly through a column written by Skip Bayless. After all is said and done very few are surprised she’s a lesbian. And very few care.
1984: John O’Connell is brutally murdered by five men who drove to San Francisco looking for “some fags to beat up.” The assailants were convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to prison terms of 15 years to life.
A 9 p.m. in the Polk Street district, a favorite area of homosexuals, two men walking along the street were accosted by four of the Vallejo group, one of them shouting anti-homosexual epithets.
John O’Connell, 42, suffered two blows and fell to the pavement. The medical evidence was that it was the fall, not the blows, that produced the cerebral trauma that caused death.
The defendants left the scene laughing
In 1989 a California Court of Appeal, in a 2-1 decision, reduced the convictions to involuntary manslaughter, ruling that the two bare-handed blows struck by the assailants in a 1984 sidewalk attack were not sufficiently life-threatening.
“The appeal court said correctly that a slap and a punch do not make a murder,” said Maureen R. Kallins, a San Francisco lawyer. “This was a classic example of a hysterical jury verdict . . . and a classic example of being tried by the press.”
1986: Chicago’s city council defeats a gay rights bill by a vote of 30-18.
1987: U.S. President Ronald Reagan nominates homophobic judge Robert Bork to the US Supreme Court. He would be rejected by the Senate 58-42.
1987: The International Lesbian and Gay Association’s 9th annual conference begins in Cologne, West Germany.
1993: Seven years after legalizing gay sex, New Zealand’s parliament amends the Human Rights Commission Amendment Act, outlawing discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation (“heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or lesbian”) or HIV, passing Parliament after only 1 1/2 days of debate but intensive lobbying. It exempted the Government until December 31, 1999.
1998: Famed choreographer and director Jerome Robbins (pictured above), dies at age 79, four days after suffering a stroke. Among the numerous stage productions he worked on during his career were On the Town, Peter Pan, High Button Shoes, The King And I, The Pajama Game, Bells Are Ringing, West Side Story, Gypsy: A Musical Fable, and Fiddler on the Roof. Robbins was a five-time Tony Award winner and a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors. Robbins also received two Academy Awards, including the 1961 Academy Award for Best Director with Robert Wise for West Side Story.
But not all were success and high points for Robbins. In the 1950s, Robbins found himself swept into the whirlwind of the McCarthy era and, as a former Communist, pressured by the FBI to name the names of party associates at hearings held by The House Committee on Un-American Activities. (HUAC). For three years he resisted. But threatened by exposure of his homosexuality, he at length agreed to testify before HUAC and named eight people. Robbins himself never spoke of his testimony publicly; in his journal, he wrote, “Maybe I will never find a satisfying release from the guilt of it all.”
1998: The U.S. House of Representatives votes 214-212 in favor of a bill to withhold federal housing money to San Francisco because of the city’s policy of welcoming private companies contracting with the city that offer domestic partner benefits equal to those offered to married employees.
2002: The federal government of Canada decides to appeal an Ontario Superior Court ruling which supported gay marriages. Less than a year later the government loses the appeal and introduces legislation legalizing gay marriage.
2003: Bishop Fred Henry of the Catholic Diocese of Calgary, Alberta, in Canada, warns Canada’s (straight) catholic Prime Minister that the PM risks jeopardizing his “eternal salvation” by introducing legislation legalizing gay marriage. Prime Minister Jean Chretien ignores the warning and introduces the legislation anyway.
2006: The first World Outgames opens in Montreal, Quebec, with about 18,600 participants from 111 countries as conference delegates, athletes, volunteers, or participants. About a half million spectators attended the Outgames, an athletic event set up after a quarrel with the long-established Gay Games.
Jacopo Bonfadio was born in Garda, Italy in 1508 and was educated at Verona and Padua.
Beginning in 1532, he worked as a secretary for various members of the clergy in Rome and Naples. In 1540, he gained employment in Padua with the son of Cardinal-humanist Pietro Bembo. While working for Bembo’s son, he met and became friends with notable humanists of the time and was a contemporary of Annibal Caro.
In 1541, Bonfadio among others, coined the term una terza natura, meaning ‘nature improved by art’, and subsequently, many designers utilized the concept. Large-scale views of the Medici villas, the grand vistas of Louis XIV, and the planning of 16th-century and later English country houses show how this idea was incorporated.
Bonfadio’s humanist views earned him some powerful enemies in Genoa. In 1550, after he had completed Annales Genuendis, ab anno 1528 recuperatae libertatis usque ad annum 1550 (his history of the Republic of Genoa from 1528 to 1550), his writings angered the powerful Genoese families the Dorias, the Adornos, the Spinolas, and the Fieschi, who sought revenge against him for daring to record and judge their actions. They proceeded to accuse him of sodomy, for which he was arrested, tried, and condemned to death.
Bonfadio was beheaded, and his body was burnt.
Unfortunately, the minutes of his trial have been lost forever.
1939: Ludwig Alexander Hirtreiter, aka Rex Gildo, German singer of ‘schlagers’, born in Munich. Hirtreiter aka Gildo reached the height of his popularity in the 1960’s and 1970’s, selling over 25 million records and also starring in film and television roles.
Gildo died in 1999 aged 63, having spent three days in an artificially-induced coma after attempting suicide by jumping from the window of his apartment building. He was said to have been suffering “psychological problems”. After his death, it was reported that he had been gay and involved in a relationship with Dave Klingeberg, his secretary with whom he lived, for seven years.
1953: The Los Angeles Herald-Express reports that the state department in California had fired 531 sex perverts and other security risks. The number of homosexuals fired was 425. Note: during the McCarthyist period from 1947 to 1953 more people lost their jobs for being homosexual than for involvement with the Communist party in which McCarthy was aided by the ice cold sleaze queen and deeply closeted homosexual Roy Cohn.
1969: Responding to the fourth and final night of ongoing Stonewall riots on Christopher Street New York police arrived and beat the demonstrators with nightsticks, leaving many many victims bleeding but in the end more then double the amount of police were injured during the riots than LGBT activist.
1970: A group of American Lutheran leaders issues a statement calling for an end to sodomy laws and the passage of legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation
1974: In Winnipeg, Manitoba, Derksen Printers refuses to print Understanding Homosexuality, an educational publication by Gays for Equality. Group pickets printing plant.
1975: During a joint meeting of the National Organization of Women, the Austin Women’s Political Caucus and Women’s Equality Action League, the Austin Lesbian Organization is invited to give a presentation on lesbianism.
1986: By only a single vote New Zealand’s parliament allows final debate to begin on a proposed law to lower the age of consent for gay sex to 16 and legalize gay sex. The bill eventually passes.
1989: Employees of the US Internal Revenue Service who were members of the National Treasury Employees Union receive a new contract which included protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation. But to this day it does not appear in internal ethics material.
1994: Italy’s “First National Demonstration of Gay and Lesbian Pride” takes place in Rome.
On March 24, 1987, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) staged a massive protest on Wall Street, New York City, to draw attention to the ongoing HIV/AIDS crisis and to demand more action from the US government and pharmaceutical companies.
Outraged by the government’s mismanagement of the AIDS Crisis LGBT’s and straight allies unite to form the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power. ACT UP.
The demonstration began with a rally in the morning, where thousands of protestors gathered outside the New York Stock Exchange. Activists dressed in white lab coats and carried signs that read “AIDS Is Wall Street’s Business” and “Money for AIDS, Not for War.” The protestors then marched through Lower Manhattan, blocking traffic and chanting slogans such as “Healthcare is a right, not a privilege!” and “ACT UP, Fight Back, Fight AIDS!
The protest aimed to highlight the financial interests ((especially Burroughs Wellcome, manufacturer of AZT) that were hindering progress in finding a cure for HIV/AIDS. ACT UP accused pharmaceutical companies of prioritizing profits over saving lives and called on the government to increase funding for AIDS research and access to affordable healthcare for those living with HIV.
The demonstration received national attention and helped to bring the issue of HIV/AIDS into the mainstream media. It also led to increased funding for AIDS research and improved access to medication for those living with HIV/AIDS.
In the end 17 protestors were arrested.
Overall, the Wall Street protest was a pivotal moment in the fight against HIV/AIDS and demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to effect change
ACT UP’s flyer for the event listed its demands:
NO MORE BUSINESS AS USUAL!
Come to Wall Street in front of Trinity Church at 7AM Tuesday March 24 for a
MASSIVE AIDS DEMONSTRATION
To demand the following
1. Immediate release by the Federal Food & Drug Administration of drugs that might help save our lives.
These drugs include: Ribavirin (ICN Pharmaceuticals); Ampligen (HMR Research Co.); Glucan (Tulane University School of Medicine); DTC (Merieux); DDC (Hoffman-LaRoche); AS 101 (National Patent Development Corp.); MTP-PE (Ciba-Geigy); AL 721 (Praxis Pharmaceuticals).
2. Immediate abolishment of cruel double-blind studies wherein some get the new drugs and some don’t.
3. Immediate release of these drugs to everyone with AIDS or ARC.
4. Immediate availability of these drugs at affordable prices. Curb your greed!
5. Immediate massive public education to stop the spread of AIDS.
6. Immediate policy to prohibit discrimination in AIDS treatment, insurance, employment, housing.
7. Immediate establishment of a coordinated, comprehensive, and compassionate national policy on AIDS.
President Reagan, nobody is in charge!
AIDS IS THE BIGGEST KILLER IN NEW YORK CITYOF YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN
The first few minutes of the clip below from Fight Back Fight AIDS: 15 Years of ACT UP and the tweet from ACT UP below is the only remaining footage of the first protest.
Today is the anniversary of our first-ever action on Wall Street in March 24, 1987. 32 years later, we are STILL fighting for access to costly HIV treatment and prevention drugs. pic.twitter.com/nt9AOQT2LH
March 23, 1874 – J. C. Leyendecker perhaps the most successful commercial artist of the 20th century was born in Montabour, Germany. He is best known for his poster, book and advertising illustrations, the trade character known as The Arrow Collar Man, and his numerous covers for The Saturday Evening Post.
Between 1896 and 1950, Leyendecker painted more than 400 magazine covers.
Leyendecker virtually invented the whole idea of modern magazine design. His work on the Arrow Shirt Man, is still sexy today. When the ads first appeared in magazines carloads of letters from female fans would arrive daily. But, the model he used was not available. He was Leyendecker’s lover Charles Beach.
1886 – Serbian Nikola Tesla (July 1856 – 7 January 1943) was issued nearly 300 patents in the US for his ground-breaking career focusing on electricity. He was an inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, physicist, and futurist who is best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current(AC) electricity supply system. Likely asexual, Tesla never married, explaining that his chastity was very helpful to his scientific abilities. Tesla chose to never pursue or engage in any known relationships, instead finding all the stimulation he needed in his work.
1958 — Comedian Ellen Degeneres (born January 26, 1958) is born. Degeneres is the first star of a television sitcom ever to come out — in 1997 — to the public, an act many see as having dramatically improved the climate for LGBT actors, though she almost instantly lost her show. Her current success in daytime talk television was unforeseeable at the time and she had no reason to think she would not have to go back to stand-up comedy clubs forever at the time she risked her television career. In 2008, she married her longtime girlfriend Portia de Rossi (born 31 January 1973), Australian and American actress, model, and philanthropist.
1971 –Look Magazine includes a gay couple from Minnesota, Jack Baker and Mike McConnell, as part of that week’s cover article on “The American Family.” Baker and McConnell are also noteworthy as they are the first same-sex couple in the U.S. to be granted a marriage license.
Jack Baker and Mike McConnell were married by a young Methodist minister in Mankato, MN in 1971. Baker had legally changed his name to the gender-neutral Pat Lynne McConnell to get the marriage license. By the time the state of MN figured out that the bride was actually a male it was already too late. The two were officially married.
While Minnesota did try to null and void their marriage Baker and McConnell fought back furiously and predicted they would win eventually, but the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that their marriage was illegal. However, their license was never revoked
1996 – Rent opens off Broadway in the New York Theater Workshop for a six-week run. The creator, Jonathan Larson (February 4, 1960 – January 25, 1996), died unexpectedly the morning of Rent‘s first preview performance Off Broadway. He suffered an aortic dissection, believed to have been caused by undiagnosed Marfan syndrome, in the early morning on January 25, 1996.
2011, Uganda – David Kato Kisule (c. 1964 – 26 January 2011), founding member of Sexual Minorities Uganda, is murdered. He was the founder and leader of the LGBT rights movement in Uganda where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by death. He was a Ugandan teacher and LGBT rightsactivist, considered a father of Uganda’s gay rights movement[ and described as “Uganda’s first openly gay man”. He served as advocacy officer for Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). Kato was murdered in 2011 allegedly by a male sex worker, shortly after winning a lawsuit against a magazine which had published his name and photograph identifying him as gay and calling for him to be executed.
1887 – American theatre critic Alexander Woollcott (January 19, 1887 – January 23, 1943) is born in Phalanx, New Jersey. He was an American critic and commentator for The New Yorker magazine, theater critic for the New York Times and founding member of the Algonquin Round Table.
Woollcott was one of the most quoted men of his generation. Among Woollcott’s classics is his description of the Los Angeles area as “Seven suburbs in search of a city”—a quip often attributed to his friend Dorothy Parker. Describing The New Yorker editor Harold Ross, he said: “He looks like a dishonest Abe Lincoln.”
Woollcott was renowned for his savage tongue. He dismissed Oscar Levant, the notable wit and pianist, by observing, “There is absolutely nothing wrong with Oscar Levant that a miracle can’t fix.” He often greeted friends with “Hello, Repulsive.” When a waiter asked him to repeat his order, he demanded “muffins filled with pus.”
His judgments were frequently eccentric. Dorothy Parker once said: “I remember hearing Woollcott say reading Proust is like lying in someone else’s dirty bath water.’
The origin of the 10-year lunches lies in a June 1919 gathering at the Algonquin Hotel. The occasion was to welcome columnist Woollcott home from the war, but the tribute, studded with barbs, quips, puns, wisecracks, and repartee, was something more akin to a roast. A tradition was established. The round table replaced a long rectangular one a year later, though the group always preferred to call their clique the Vicious Circle
1901 – New York Times reports story of Tammany Hall politician Murray H. Hall (1841 – January 16, 1901). Murray (born Mary as it turned out) lived as a male for decades, married women twice, and was found to be female-bodied only after he died of breast cancer. Murray Hall was a New York City bail bondsman . The headline reads: “Murray Hall Fooled Many Shrewd Men – How for Years She Masqueraded in Male Attire – Had Married Two Women.”
Hall was buried in women’s clothes in an unmarked grave in Mount Olivet Cemetery.
1943 – Janis Joplin (January 19, 1943 – October 4, 1970) is born in Port Arthur, Texas. She was an American rock singer and songwriter and one of the biggest female rock stars of her era.
Friend and neighbor Peggy Caserta claims to have had an affair with Janis over several years.
Peggy on her relationship with Janis Joplin:
“It worked for what it was. We had a lot of fun. We made a lot of love. It wasn’t a relationship that people think of or look at today as a ‘lesbian relationship.’ It was not like that at all. We were compatible and young and wild and interested in each other.
Joplin’s official cause of death was a heroin overdose, possibly compounded by alcohol. On August 8, 2014, the United States Postal Service revealed a commemorative stamp honoring Janis Joplin, as part of its Music Icons Forever Stamp series during a first-day-of-issue ceremony at the Outside Lands Music Festival at Golden Gate Park.
1974 – A Lesbian Conference is organized by Gay Women’s Collective and held at the Montreal Women’s Center. The small group of women who take part agree to hold a major conference for lesbians in North America the following year.
1976 – Campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination, former Vice President Hubert Humphrey becomes one of the first nationally known politicians to endorse gay and lesbian rights.
Humphrey left behind a legacy few presidents can match. As a soldier of the New Deal and the Great Society, he amassed one of the most prolific legislative records in senate history, sponsoring hundreds of bills—from Medicare to the Peace Corps to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. But Humphrey’s most enduring achievements were in the areas of civil and human rights. Propelled to party prominence during the 1948 Democratic National Convention, the 37-year-old mayor of Minneapolis delivered an historic speech directly challenging the racist leadership of the U.S. Senate. Almost two decades later, Humphrey’s extensive network of church and civil rights leaders helped him to break the longest filibuster in senate history, resulting in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
*Many thanks to Ronni Sanlo for compiling this timeline from multiple sources including Back2Stonewall.com, Quist, Lavender Effect, DataLounge.com, Arron’s Gay Info, All Things Queer, RS Levinson, Amara Das Wilhelm, Safe Schools Coalition, and/or Wikipedia.
January 6, 1854 – On this is the date, Arthur Conan Doyle tells us his most famous character Sherlock Holmes was born. Although a figment of Doyle’s imagination, and despite many denials by literary historians Holmes friendship with his assistant Dr. Watson leaves very little to the reader’s imagination in many of his famous adventures.
We have these quotes which are taken verbatim from Dr Watson’s narrations.
The Yellow Face, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
One day in early spring he (Holmes) had so far relaxed as to go for a walk with me in the Park, where the first faint shoots of green were breaking out upon the elms, and the sticky spearheads of the chestnuts were just beginning to burst into their fivefold leaves. For two hours we rambled about together, in silence for the most part, as befits two men who know each other intimately
The Return of Sherlock Holmes
“This gentleman,” said he, with a wave in my direction. “Is it discreet? Is it right? “Dr Watson is my friend and partner.” [said Holmes].
The Man with the Twisted Lip, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
“I moved my head to look at the cabinet behind me. When I turned again, Sherlock Holmes was standing smiling at me across my study table. I rose to my feet, stared at him for some seconds in utter amazement, and then it appears that I must have fainted for the first and the last time in my life. Certainly a grey mist swirled before my eyes, and when it cleared I found my collar-ends undone and the tingling after-taste of brandy upon my lips. Holmes was bending over my chair, his flask in his hand.”
And let us not forget the Holmes story “The Three Students” where Watson states that he and Holmes had left London quickly and secretly for reasons which could not be gone into. This story is set in 1895 which is the same year that Oscar Wilde was on trial for “gross indecency”. Some people argue that Doyle had Holmes fled London for fear of being dragged into the scandal.
January 5, 1925 – Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming became the first female governor inaugurated in the U.S. She may not have been a lesbian, but she was one of the first feminists to gain political office.
January 5, 1977 – The Lesbian Organization of Toronto moves to new center at 342 Jarvis Street, sharing with feminist publication The Other Woman and coffeehouse called Three of Cups.
January 5, 1978 – In 1971 Pink Triangle Press, as we know it today, is born as The Body Politic Collective.
In 1978 the Toronto Police brought charges against The Body Politic/Pink Triangle Press (which is still in existance today and specializes in LGBT media including publishing, online interactive media, and television and the LGBT magazine, Xtra! ) was charged with “publishing immoral, indecent and scurrilous material” because of an issue of The Body Politic which included Gerald Hannon‘s article “Men Loving Boys Loving Men” under Criminal Code section 159 (“possession of obscene material for distribution”) and section 164 (“use of the mails for purpose of transmitting anything that is indecent, immoral or scurrilous”).
Four years later The Body Politic/Pink Triangle Press was brought up on similar charges again in May 1982, this time for “Lust With a Very Proper Stranger”, an article on fisting.
The Body Politic/Pink Triangle Press fought both charges and eventually won
In 1987 The 135th, and final, issue of The Body Politic is released in February. The new publication Xtra is released adapting to changing times and the void left by The Body Politic, the paper becomes increasingly politicized. Xtra becomes a place for discussion about the defeat of Ontario NDP Bill 167, criminalization of HIV/AIDS, and the censorship struggles of Vancouver’s Little Sister’s and Toronto’s Glad Day queer bookstores.