Showing posts with label Gay History. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay History. Show all posts

February 19, 2017

“Homosexuality is an Enigma” (Mike Wallace 60 Min.Documentary)



 Mike Wallace of 60 minutes commenced his documentary on Gays
 with the words “homosexuality is an enigma



This was posted on the New York Times with the tittle “When we Rise”: Stories Behind the Pain and Pride of Gay Rights



Fifty years ago next month, CBS broadcast “The Homosexuals,” an unsettling documentary about a subject “that people find disturbing,” as Mike Wallace, the anchor, put it. For nearly an hour, viewers saw a gay man in shadows describing the tragedy of his life, psychiatrists who depicted homosexuality as a debilitating mental illness and a harrowing clip of a distraught 19-year-old soldier being driven to jail after his arrest on a charge of soliciting sex in a public restroom.

“The average homosexual — if there be such — is promiscuous,” Mr. Wallace told his audience. “He is not interested in, nor capable of, a lasting relationship like that of a heterosexual marriage.”

A more contemporary examination of gay life in America comes to network television later this month, in an eight-hour avalanche of prime time spread across four nights, and with a decidedly different take on the subject. Written by a prominent gay filmmaker, Dustin Lance Black, “When We Rise” is a 50-year history of the gay rights movement beginning on Feb. 27, told through four characters who suffer — and often triumph over — family rejection, landlord discrimination, gay-bashing, police harassment, legislative defeats and AIDS. 
 
But the world is a different place than it was when ABC first commissioned the project four years ago. Barack Obama was in the White House, and gay leaders were celebrating a series of court and statehouse victories, which would soon include the Supreme Court’s recognizing a constitutional right to marry by same-sex couples. After President Trump’s election, questions that seemed largely settled about gays in American society — same-sex marriage, equal treatment in the workplace and in housing — suddenly seem in doubt.
 
Mr. Trump is hardly a champion of gay rights, and Mike Pence, his vice president, has a record of explicit opposition to gay rights measures. Mr. Trump could well end up altering the ideological composition of the Supreme Court that handed down the marriage decision.

Still, as celebration has given way to intense anxiety, Mr. Black argues that the election’s outcome has made the mini-series even more urgent.

“We did not create this series for half a nation,” Mr. Black said. “I believe that most Americans, including Americans who voted for Donald Trump, will fall in love with these real-life families and absolutely relate to their stories when they tune in.” 
 
There have been no shortage of gay characters and gay-themed television shows and films in recent years, be it “Queer as Folk,” “Modern Family” or “Will & Grace.” And ABC was the network that showed what was at the time a groundbreaking gay-themed television movie, “That Certain Summer,” in 1972. But there has never been anything quite as sprawling or historical devoted to this particular topic, a project that is drawing comparisons to “Roots,” the 1977 ABC mini-series that traced the history of African-American slavery.

“We’ve reached the stage in the L.G.B.T. movement when a network not only feels comfortable taking this on — but doing so in a big way,” said Eric Marcus, a gay historian who produces the Making Gay History podcast and is preparing his own multipart documentary on the movement.

Torie Osborn, a longtime gay and lesbian rights leader who was active in San Francisco during struggles depicted in the movie, said, “I hope this is a moment for our allies to learn about our history and young gay men and lesbians to learn about their history.”

“This is a story that could have been told before,” she said, adding: “Better late than never.”

Sipping a cup of tea after flying in from his home in London, Mr. Black, 42, teared up here as he recounted learning that ABC would devote a four-night block of prime time to his work. (“When We Rise” originally was set for four consecutive nights; the second episode has now been delayed a day to make way, fittingly enough, for Mr. Trump’s first State of the Union address.)

It was a far cry from the struggle he endured to get a movie made of his screenplay for “Milk,” the story of Harvey Milk, the openly gay member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors who was assassinated in 1978. Mr. Black said that he went nearly broke financing it and that a studio committed to it only after Sean Penn had signed on to play the title character. Mr. Black won an Academy Award for best original screenplay.
 
“When We Rise” is the latest in a series of works by Mr. Black focusing on gay issues. He wrote “8,” a play based on the closing arguments over the constitutionality of a voter initiative in California in 2008 prohibiting the marriage of same-sex couples. The production of the play was used to raise money for the legal battle that resulted in the initiative’s being thrown out of court.

“Listen, if I wanted to write movies about people with capes and fangs, I could,” he said. “My good, military, conservative, Mormon mother always said, ‘Wake up every morning and make the world better.’ That’s what I was trying to do.”

Still, telling that story was hardly easy. The history of the gay and lesbian movement is diffuse and complicated, with endless debates over where and when it really began, who its leaders are and, most fundamentally, what the battle was — is — about. Its center of gravity bounced across the country. There are few, if any, people who have risen to define the movement: Figures tend to appear and recede to the sidelines, because of death or the challenges of leading a fractious group of what was, at least initially, outcasts. 

This has long presented a challenge for anyone seeking a neat narrative arc for this history. “By necessity if you’re going to tell the story of the L.G.B.T. civil rights movement, you are only going to be able to tell a slice of a slice of a slice,” Mr. Marcus said. “What invariably happens is there will be people screaming that it doesn’t tell the whole story. Well, it can’t tell the whole story.”

Mr. Black focuses largely on San Francisco — familiar ground, since that was where “Milk” was based. But other cities were arguably as politically significant — New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington and Minneapolis among them — and are largely absent from this account.

The four characters who form the frame of Mr. Black’s story may not be the four most important figures in the movement. They were chosen over (just to pluck a few names at random from a very long list) leaders like Arthur Evans, a founder of the Gay Activists Alliance in New York; Virginia Apuzzo, a former nun and early leader of the National Gay and Lesbian Rights Task Force; Steve Endean, a founder of the Human Rights Campaign Fund; Barbara Gittings, a founder of the Daughters of Bilitis in New York City; and Morris Kight, who fought in the trenches of Los Angeles for close to 25 years.

But Mr. Black needed characters whose lives spanned the contours of this history, who would give continuity to a long story and who are, in three cases, played by different actors at different stages of their lives.

Central among them is Cleve Jones. He worked for Mr. Milk when he was a county supervisor, was there the day he was assassinated and went on to become a founder of the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, an emotionally wrenching commemoration of the people lost to the epidemic, in 1985. Mr. Jones, a historical consultant to this mini-series, stayed in Mr. Black’s home in the Hollywood Hills while writing his own memoir, “When We Rise: My Life in the Movement.”
 
Mr. Jones, who is played as an adult by Guy Pearce, said that while some details in the production were not true to what he experienced, “When We Rise” captured the spirit and themes of the movement that has absorbed much of his life. “It could be truthful without being accurate,” he said.

“When We Rise” grapples with some of the more difficult chapters of the movement, including the tense relationship between men and women in the early days, and later, how lesbians stepped up to help gay men deal with the health and political ramifications of the AIDS epidemic. Part of that is told through Roma Guy, an early feminist leader in San Francisco, played by Mary-Louise Parker. And it does not avoid the racial discrimination common in gay male bars in the 1970 and 1980s, told through the story of an African-American community organizer in the Bay Area, Ken Jones, played as an adult by Michael K. Williams (Omar, of “The Wire”).

As the production moves into the 1990s and turns to the Clinton White House and its mixed record on gay issues, a fascinating story within a story emerges involving Richard Socarides, who was President Clinton’s gay liaison: He is played by his younger brother, the actor Charles Socarides.
 
And their father is Charles W. Socarides, a psychiatrist who was one of the most vocal proponents of the view that homosexuality was a pathological disorder. Dr. Socarides is an expert witness, as it were, both in “When We Rise” and in the CBS documentary of 1967.

The fraught relationship between Dr. Socarides and his gay son has been the subject of several articles (including one I wrote in October 1995 for Out Magazine). But Mr. Socarides said there are details about his coming out to his father that he decided to share for the first time with Mr. Black.

“In that interaction with my father, my father takes out a gun and puts it to his head and threatens to shoot himself,” Mr. Socarides said. “Which actually happened. No one ever knew about it. It was really intense. I hadn’t told anybody that ever, because I was trying to protect him, or I guess in some way I was embarrassed or ashamed of myself. I felt enough time had passed.”

The tussles President Clinton had with gay leaders — in particular, over his support of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as being between a man and a woman — seem tame in this political environment, where gay leaders are girding for Mr. Trump, and Republicans who control state legislatures, to roll back protections for gays and lesbians. Still, this new climate does not appear to have shaken ABC.

“That doesn’t change things for us,” said Channing Dungey, the president of ABC Entertainment. “This is a true story involving actual events, involving real people. We are not coming at this from a political place or trying to make a political statement. This feels like an emotional story that we just want to share.”

Mr. Black said that if he had learned anything from this work, it is that the gay rights movement is a story of triumphs followed by setbacks. Mr. Trump’s election, he said, is just another turn in this road.

“We are in a period of backlash right now,” he said. “I would give anything for this to be less topical. But this series shows our history is a pendulum, not a straight line.”



A version of this article appears in print on February 19, 2017, on Page AR1 of the New York edition with the headline: Stories Behind the Pain and Pride  

September 24, 2016

Britain Recognizes 6 Gay Historic Places and It’s Just the Beginning

Oscar Wilde’s former home, the estate of "the first modern lesbian" and a memorial to a trans spy have been given special status by Historic England.

Historic England, a body that designates places worthy of legal protection, announced the decision, the latest in an effort to showcase “queer history.” Last September, Historic England gave the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, a well-known gay pub, a Grade II listing, meaning that it cannot be demolished, extended or altered without special permission.

Similar efforts to recognize gay history are underway in the United States. In June, President Obama designated the Stonewall Inn, the location of a 1969 police raid and subsequent protest that galvanized the gay rights movement, and surrounding sites a national monument.

Duncan Wilson, the chief executive of Historic England, said in a telephone interview that the decision was “part of a deliberate policy of looking at what we protect and commemorate by a listing, to see that it is more representative of society as a whole.”

Through a research project called Pride of Place, people have been invited to submit places of importance to gay history, many of them forgotten or obscure. More than 1,600 submissions have come in. The project will in part serve to commemorate the 50th anniversary next year of the partial decriminalization of homosexuality in England and Wales.
Six "historic LGBT venues" landmarks are being recognised for reflecting England's "queer history". 
Chief executive Duncan Wilson said the influence of men and women "who helped build our nation has been ignored" because they came from minority groups.
The sites include the former home of Benjamin Britten and his partner. 

'Understanding our diverse nation'

The initiative comes in the run-up to the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967.




Oscar Wilde's Kensington houseImage copyrightDEREK KENDALL
Image captionOscar Wilde's house in Kensington is one of the landmarks highlighted by Historic England

Playwright Oscar Wilde's west London home already had listed status, but has been relisted to emphasise its importance as an LGBT landmark. 
The Irishman lived in Kensington and Chelsea before being imprisoned for two years' hard labour in Reading Gaol for gross indecency. 




Amelia Edwards and Amelia Edwards tombstoneImage copyrightBEV ROGERS
Image captionThe gravestone of 19th Century Egyptologist and writer Amelia Edwards is in St Mary's Churchyard in Bristol, next to her partner Ellen Braysher
Chevalier d'Eon and Burdett-Coutts memorialImage copyrightNATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY/LOZ PYCOCK
Image captionBurdett-Coutts Memorial, which commemorates trans figure Chevalier d'Eon, has had its status upgraded

Burdett-Coutts Memorial at St Pancras Gardens in north London, which commemorates people including the 18th Century trans French diplomat and spy Chevalier d'Eon, has been upgraded to Grade II*. 
Chevalier d'Eon identified as a man for 49 years, but after infiltrating the Empress of Russia's court by dressing as a woman the spy lived the rest of his life as female. 
Mr Wilson added: "Our project is one step on the road to better understanding just what a diverse nation we are, and have been for many centuries. At a time when historic LGBT venues are under particular threat, this is an important step."
Last year the body listed the Royal Vauxhall Tavern - a well-known LGBT venue - which prevented the club's development by its landlord.




St Ann's Court SurreyImage copyrightTHE MODERN HOUSE
Image captionSt Ann's Court in Chertsey, Surrey, is hailed as an example of "queer architecture"

One of the previously-listed homes to be given special status is St Ann's Court in Chertsey, Surrey. 
Owned by architect Christopher Tunnard and broker GL Schlesinger while homosexuality was still illegal, the master bedroom of the house could be separated if visitors came round. 




Shibden Hall in HalifaxImage copyrightHISTORIC ENGLAND
Image captionShibden Hall in Halifax, the home of diarist Anne Lister, was previously a listed building

The estate of "the first modern lesbian", Anne Lister, has been relisted to record her importance as a lesbian pioneer.
At Shibden Hall, she wrote a coded diary, using the Greek alphabet and mathematical symbols, which would describe her lesbian affairs.




Red House in AldeburghImage copyrightPHILIP VILE
Image captionRed House in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, is where Benjamin Britten composed a large portion of his works, including the opera Peter Grimes

The home of post-war composer Benjamin Britten has also been relisted, to highlight his relationship with professional and personal partner Peter Pears. 
The celebrated conductor and writer of War Requiem spent most of his life in Red House, Aldeburgh, where he founded the annual classical festival in 1948. 
Historic England has also been compiling people's personal monuments to the LGBT community in an online research project called Pride of Place
More than 1,600 contributions have been made to the project, spanning the length and breadth of the country. 
Lead researcher Prof Alison Oram said: “Queer heritage is everywhere, and we hope that Pride of Place will lead to more historic places being publicly valued and protected for their important queer histories."

BBC

April 28, 2016

McCarthy Gay Purge of 1953, Justice Dept Sued




                                                                        
Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn during the Army-McCarthy hearings(Roy Cohn was a closeted gay fighting gays)




A gay rights group sued the Justice Department on Wednesday for failing to produce hundreds of pages of documents related to a 1953 order signed by President Dwight Eisenhower that empowered federal agencies to investigate and fire employees thought to be gay.

The suit in U.S. District Court accuses the government of conducting an inadequate search for the material and of groundlessly withholding some records on the basis of national security.

Executive Order 10450 allowed broad categories of federal workers, including those with criminal records, drug addiction and "sexual perversion," to be singled out for scrutiny and termination as threats to national security. Suspicions of homosexuality led to the firings of between 7,000 and 10,000 workers in the 1950s alone, according to a 2014 report from the Merit Systems Protections Board.

"We want to know, and history needs to know, how this thing was administered and how it was enforced, and what was the dynamic inside the Justice Department and the FBI driving" it, said Charles Francis, president of the Mattachine Society. The gay rights research and education organization has sought to obtain the records since 2013.

"This is an issue of public importance — how your government treats people who work for it, how your government has historically targeted people based on their LGBT status and destroyed their lives," said Paul Thompson, a partner at McDermott Will and Emery LLP, the law firm that filed the Freedom of Information Act suit. "People are paying attention to this right now."

The Justice Department had no immediate comment on the suit.

Eisenhower's order came at a time of widespread anti-gay discrimination authorized at the highest levels of government, including a 1950 Senate subcommittee report that concluded that gays were unsuitable as federal employees.

Under a "sex deviate program" put in place by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, agents were directed to "completely and fully" investigate anything about a prospective employee's sexual orientation developed during background checks. A May 1950 FBI bulletin to local police agencies told officers to make a notation on arrest fingerprint cards if anyone they arrested on suspicion of being a "sex deviate" worked for the federal government. The FBI collected those cards.

The executive order went a step further by effectively approving of the investigation and firing of federal workers believed to be gay.

The government now makes it explicitly illegal to discriminate against federal employees on the basis of sexual orientation. President Barack Obama in 2014 signed an executive order to prohibit federal contractors from discriminating against gay workers, though he lamented that being gay can still be a fireable offense "in too many states and too many workplaces."

While the government's position has changed dramatically since the 1950s, debate about the scope of LGBT rights persists in state legislatures and courthouses. Francis said the documents sought in the suit would help reveal early and overt anti-gay bias that lingers in some corners.

"The evidentiary history is critical to see the roots of the animus," he said.

Documents culled from the National Archives, libraries and other sources have shed light on the order, but Francis' group believes nearly 900 additional pages that have been withheld could help flesh out the portrait.

"We put the puzzle together but we're still missing an ocean of material," he said.

The organization requested documents in January 2013, including all correspondence involving Warren Burger, a senior Justice Department official tasked with helping enforce the order who later become chief justice of the Supreme Court. The suit says more than 800 documents have been turned over, but 891 have been withheld, including any records related to Burger.

The FBI has invoked exemptions to the public records law, including a provision that protects against the disclosure of classified information for national security reasons. Thompson said he found that assertion "particularly troubling" because national security was the rationale of the order in the first place.

"What the lawsuit is for us is the final step in us saying, 'No, we really are serious'," Thompson said. “We are serious, and we're not going to stop until we feel like we have exhausted all possible avenues to obtain these records."

How the Gay Culture has Shape the Modern World


                                                                            
Oscar Wilde. Photo via Wikimedia

Gregory Woods has been writing about gay and lesbian history since the 1980s. His new book, Homintern, studies a long-established conspiracy theory: that gay people are out to fuck up the natural order of things. The idea that, like those pesky communists and Jews, LGBT people have historically been creating underground networks and plotting across international borders—gearing up for some kind of pink revolution.

The idea is ridiculous, of course, but as a diligent historian, Woods outlines with detail how these fears have been harbored, from the Nazis in 1930s Berlin through to Christian evangelicals during the AIDS pandemic. He tells both sides of the story, too; looking not only at the persecution of gay people, but drawing on the lives and works of figures like Somerset Maugham, Oscar Wilde, Susan Sontag, and James Baldwin, in order to figure out why gay people traveled so much (it was usually to flee their oppressors) and why gay networks formed (mostly for sex and solidarity).

While the book sets out to mock the idea of a "gay mafia," it does—accidentally or otherwise—chart the huge influence gay sensibility has on Western culture. Susan Sontag once said that "homosexual aestheticism" was one of the "pioneering forces of modern sensibility." With Sontag's words in mind, I called up Gregory to ask him why underground gay culture is so fabulous that governments actually saw it as a threat.

VICE: What was your motivation for writing this book?
Gregory Woods: I think of it as a sequel to a history of gay male literature I wrote in the 1990s. I focused on the 20th century, because that was when most of the literature available was published, but I felt there was a lot more to be said about the influence of gay culture. There is a strong sense in gay media and in cultural criticism that our history is Anglophone—British or American. I wanted to go against that and emphasize the history of gay culture in Europe and beyond, and also widen out and look at networks of lesbian women too.

Where does the term "homintern" come from?
In the late 20s and early 30s, there was an organization called the "Comintern"—"Communist International"—that was set up by Lenin and was concerned with spreading communism internationally across borders. It was seen by powers in the west as a threat. It was in the news at the time, and a lot of gay men came up with the camp joke that there was also a homintern.

What they were implying in this pun was that homosexual people could achieve influence across the barriers that society normally worked with. This mythic organization the homintern could forge alliances across national boundaries or class boundaries, for example, and make a kind of alternative realm of existence for people who were forced to live their lives in very confined and secretive ways. It was a joke, but it was also a dream, a possibility, a way of meeting other people from other societies and resisting oppression.

Was the idea of the homintern quite dangerous in some people's minds?
Yes. The idea that homosexuals exist became more well known around the start of the 20th century—mostly from scientists and sexologists, who were labeling this identity. At the same time, scandals such as Oscar Wilde's trial or Radclyffe Hall's obscenity trial about her book The Well of Loneliness became prominent. This visibility panicked people—and created an idea of a mass of homosexual people hiding behind closed doors, or in the bushes. They thought of homosexuality as a threatening, subversive presence that could organize.

The idea of gay people as one homogenous group seems ludicrous, but you do make a case for pockets of culture where gay people have, historically, been more likely to congregate: fashion, theater, and literary circles. Why do you think gay people have been more drawn to these fields?
It's hard. There can't be anything genetically making gay people more creative. And yet one looks around the world and sees this pattern.

I suppose one answer is to look at the idea of "feminine" men and "masculine" women. Individuals who don't fit standard gender roles are forced to reinvent themselves to pass as masculine men and feminine women. They have to reinvent the world around themselves in order to fit in with it. One way to do that is to construct your own aesthetic. Growing up not being able to take one’s gender role for granted and never question it forces one to think: How am I going to get away with this? 

 
Alice B. Tolkas and Gertrude Stein in their salon in Paris in 1922. Photo by Man Ray

You mention how many American writers like James Baldwin, Gertrude Stein, and Allen Ginsberg were drawn to Paris in the early 20th century. Why was this?
It was partly a question of economy—European currencies were cheap against the dollar. It was what Stein called "a lost generation" of artists and writers who were swept up in the fashion of young people going to Europe, at least until the Wall Street Crash in 1929. I suppose there was a hangover from the naughty 1890s, of late 19th century aestheticism, that was still attractive to some Americans. With Paris, there was also the attraction of the Napoleonic Code—a more liberal legal system than there was in the US or Britain.

Even today, gays and lesbians in America today are more likely to have passports. If it's been drummed into you that you don't fit into the society that you grew up in, maybe you start looking elsewhere.

After writing the book, what is your conclusion? Did governments actually have anything to be worried about? Were gays really politically organizing?
The fear centered around the sense that gays were talking in secret—and not just about their sex lives, but we were organizing against nation states. So of course the occasional discovery of a homosexual spy would be taken as confirmation that this was what was happening. This suspicion was felt on both sides of the old Iron Curtain. But actually there doesn't seem to be any truth behind this; it's very hard to imagine gay people as a mass of subversives in the present day. Today, they're just as likely to be voting for the right as the left, wanting to protect their pockets and livelihoods just as everyone else does.

At the beginning of the book, I say that the homintern is the presence of homosexual men and women in modern society. Then I say there is no such thing as the homintern. I'm happy with this. There's no formally organized network of same-sex oriented people looking to work against the interests of the heterosexual majority. Then again, it's culturally interesting to look at groups forming and reforming, alliances across boundaries, flexible and formless masses of people exerting a cultural influence. Because it makes for something so creatively different.


Oscar Wilde. Photo via Wikimedia

So what impact has this "formless mass" of LGBT people helped shape modern Western culture?
It's not simply that gay people have been involved in the arts—straight people have a pretty good record of that, too—but that gay people did so from a fresh perspective, seeing things aslant from a position of difference. You only have to think of Oscar Wilde's paradoxes to see this process in action. They cast a fresh light on what had been thought of as fixed gender roles, subverting them by demonstrating, in the flesh, the possibility of living as a masculine woman or a feminine woman. This in turn generated a completely fresh aesthetic—in fashion, of course, but then also in dance and cinema and theater, and ultimately in popular culture. I also feel that many of these people were, in themselves, in the way they presented themselves in daily life, Wilde or Quentin Crisp, Radclyffe Hall and Gertrude Stein, all living embodiments of a queerness that more ordinary folk could marvel at and learn from, maybe even imitate.

Historically, gay people have found one another through necessity. How has the decriminalization of homosexuality and limited assimilation of LGBT people changed the need for those networks and connections?
It's similar to what we used to say in the gay liberation movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s—that we were working toward a society where there would be no need for a gay movement. Because ideally, we would live in a world where there would be no discrimination and no need to distinguish between homosexual and heterosexual. I don't for a moment believe the whole of humanity is heading in that direction, but if we were, I'd worry that with total assimilation of acceptance, there wouldn't be the impetus or energy for gay people to connect, or to make something out of an unfortunate situation, oppression, or difference. Where would the sparks of creativity come from?

By Amelia Abraham
Vice

Follow Amelia Abraham onTwitter.

January 27, 2016

How the Fist Gay Movie was Saved from the Nazis



 Sara Laskow wrote this wonderful story of LGBT movie history. She fills many questions about what gay movie survived that period in which so many LGBT were not able to survived themselves. We lost so many writings available on that period and movies which were made taking advantage of this new medium in which you could now have the characters in the books come alive in front of your eyes. 

The early movies were a wonderful new medium for gays to get to know how other gays behaved, looked and were able to communicate sexually or otherwise in works from the great writers from previous ages.  

Such a sad shame that we lost so much and up to this point I am not sure if we have found everything that was saved.  Atlas Obscura published this story today.                                                            
Looting of Hirschfeld's Institute for Sexology (Photo: Wikimedia)
 The first LGBT film ever made was released in Berlin, not long after the end of the Great War, and it was almost lost entirely.
A silent film, filled with love, betrayal, art and suicide, Different from the Others argued, very explicitly, that being gay was natural and that the only problem with relationships between two men were the laws that criminalized them. It was co-written by a sexologist and a movie producer, and though it was a popular film, within a year of its release in 1919, it had been banned from cinemas across Germany.
Any of the 30 or 40 original copies that were still around when the Nazi Party took over are now gone; a film like this one would have been singled out for destruction.
Original footage from the movie survived only serendipitously. After the first version of the film was censored, one of the co-writers, the sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld, patched about 40 minutes of it into another film, a copy of which ended up in a Russian archive, where it sat, untouched, for decades.
Over the past few years, film archivists at UCLA have been working to combine that footage with photos taken from Hirschfeld’s own collection and additional stills from the movie, in order to create a version as loyal to the original as possible. In February, that cut of the film will premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival, and audiences will have a chance to see a Different from the Others that’s as close an approximation of the original as has been seen since before World War II. 

A scene from Different from the Others, in which Körner meets his blackmailer (Photo: Courtesy of UCLA Film & Television Archive)
  
 This plot was drawn from Hirschfeld’s preoccupations. Since the 1890s, he had been fighting against Paragraph 175, a law that criminalized homosexual acts, and arguing that the law did more to assist blackmailers than it did to stop homosexuality. He was also deeply troubled by suicide in the gay community; he once wrote that one of the greatest satisfactions of his life had been to keep at least some people from killing themselves.
By 1919, though, Hirschfeld was already, in some ways, old-fashioned, “an avant-gardist of the belle époque,” whose rivals for leadership in the gay rights movement thought of him as “a fossil of a bygone era," as James Steakley, an academic who studies 20th century gay history in Germany, writes. But if the plot and storyline were drawn from the pre-War era, the movie was still a radical piece of culture. When it came out in May 1919, nothing so accepting of and positive about homosexuality had ever been shown on film before.
Where the film was distributed, it filled movie houses. But in some parts of Germany, screenings were banned almost immediately or restricted to audiences of people over the age of 20. Within a few months, Hirschfeld and Oswald were organizing special screenings for politicians, with little success. The opposition to the film (and others made in this free period) was so strong that by 1920, the parliament had reinstated censorship. Different from the Others was quickly banned–in part on the recommendation of Hirschfeld’s rivals, who claimed to cure homosexuality with hypnotism, which the film depicted as an ineffective ruse.
Hirschfeld was still allowed to show the film at his own institute, but he wanted it to have a wider audience. Over the next few years, he tried to edit the film into some form that would make it past the censors, and, very briefly, in 1927, he succeeded. His movie Laws of Love was an educational picture, which combined David Attenborough-esque nature footage of sex in the animal kingdom with parts of Different from the Others.
The film was shown in theaters for just a week and was not well reviewed, before it was yanked from public distribution. A version of that movie, though, made it to Russia, where it stayed safe (and forgotten) for decades.
Some of the images in Hirschfeld's collection (Photo: Wellcome Images/Wikimedia)
In the later decades of the 20th century, the most widely seen copy of the film was just 24 minutes, a version that had been edited in 1928 to evade censorship. In 2004, though, the Munich Film Museum rescued the footage from the archive and cut together a restored version. “The Munich version was a breakthrough,” says Steakley, who translated the text for the English version.
It's also the basis for the new cut of the film. Jan-Christopher Horak, now director of the UCLA Film & Television Archive, oversaw that earlier restoration, and, when he came to California, started working with Outfest, an L.A. organization that promotes LGBT films, on a new version, based on that same footage from the Moscow archive. 
“We have about half the film, maybe slightly more,” says Horak. “That’s all there actually is. There has been a search all over the world, but so far no one has found more. No print was found in other countries. We’re lucky to at least have some of this material.”
The version that will premiere in February at the Berlinale makes some improvements on the 2004 German version, though. Horak says that a “very, very long synopsis of the film,” found in censorships records, gave them additional hints as to how the existing footage should be ordered and how the plot worked. The latest version also has newly uncovered stills from the film, some of which were saved in film magazines from the time, including an additional shot from Körner’s funeral.
The most important update, though, may be to the lecture that Hirschfeld gives. In the film, he showed his own slides about the nature of human sexuality, including people in gay and lesbian relationships, as well as transgendered and transsexual people. In the new version, those slides come from Hirschfeld’s four-volume history of sexuality, which includes selections from his photo archive and from the photos that once hung on the wall of his Institute for Sexology.
“We can’t say for certain that these were the actual images in the film,” says Horak. “But they could have been.”
With the information available, this may be the best version of the film that can be made–unless, by chance, there’s more original footage, somewhere in the world, hidden away.

November 30, 2015

Gay History of Scots




                                                                     



For many years Scotland just did not do gay. Homosexuality was dangerous and taboo, and it was actually against the law right up to the 1980s. So how did a country that seemed to take pride in its prejudices end up with the best gay rights in Europe?

Post-war Scotland was a deeply conservative place. In fact, half the country voted Tory in 1950 and most people attended the Kirk on a Sunday. Sex was rarely, if ever, mentioned.
If talking about the birds and bees in the 1950s was taboo then mention of the possibility of bees getting together with each other was totally forbidden.

Dr Jeff Meek, the author of Queer Voices in Post-War Scotland, says: "There was almost a bar on talking about same-sex desire."
He says homosexuality was something families, religious institutions, the medical profession and society at large all chose to ignore.

Acts of male homosexuality had been outlawed for centuries and were made stricter in the late 19th Century but same-sex contact between women had never been targeted in law and was not illegal.
Scottish society just chose to believe lassies did not do that kind of thing.
Author Val McDermid says: "When I was growing up the word lesbian was in our vocabulary but it was a kind of fabled beast like unicorns.
"You heard about them but you never met one. It was always someone’s cousin knew a lassie that knew one."

Gay men were known to exist but they did not fit the Scottish image of robust masculinity.
Homosexual men were forced underground to public toilets or illicit parties.
Dr Meek says: “The consequences of being caught were significant.

"You knew being caught meant being excluded from your family. You could be sacked for a hint of homosexuality, never mind a prosecution.”

Douglas Pretsell and Peter Gloster formalised their marriage in Sydney
People went to prison for sometimes two years or were locked up in psychiatric institutions.
In 1957, after a succession of well-known men were convicted of homosexual offenses, the Wolfenden report recommended that "homosexual behavior between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offense".

However, the Scottish representative on the Wolfenden Panel was James Adair.
Dr Meek says: “Adair disagreed with almost all the recommendations the main committee had come up with.

"He saw homosexuality as the first step into moral turpitude.
"The Scotland he loved would be lost. This upstanding, moral, conservative, religious society would descend into decay and would be destroyed.”

It took a decade for the recommendations of the Wolfenden report to be become law in England and Wales, decriminalising homosexuality for men over 21.
But because of James Adair, homosexuality in Scotland remained illegal, classified as criminally-depraved behavior.
In 1969, a brave group of gay Scots decided they could not change their sexuality so they set out to change Scotland.

The SMG (Scottish Minorities Group) arranged discos and get-togethers for gay men and for lesbian women.
They were very respectable events, usually held in a pub on a Monday or Tuesday night when there was little other business. They had rules about public displays of affection in order to keep within the law. Although small at first, word spread and the numbers grew.

The SMG started to make money and leased property in Broughton Street in Edinburgh where it set up the Gay Information Centre and operated a telephone helpline.
Writer, historian and gay activist Bob Cant says: "I think the Scottish Minorities Group deserves an enormous amount of credit. Their achievement in changing public consciousness was enormous."
Thirteen years after the law was reformed in England, Labour MP Robin Cook lodged an amendment in the Scottish Criminal Justice Bill and homosexuality was finally decriminalized in Scotland in 1980.

That decade saw an explosion of gay culture into the mainstream. In Scotland, the newly legalised gay men had a fantastic time. In Glasgow, the gay mecca was Bennets.

Social commentator Damian Barr tells a BBC Scotland documentary: "I could not have imagined a place like this existed. I'd not even seen a gay club on film or on television. It felt like Xanadu.

"To walk into a room and see all these men dancing together and kissing, I actually thought something bad was going to happen. I thought these people can't be allowed to have this much fun."
But along with fun came a new threat in the form of HIV/Aids.

If Scotland was ignorant about Aids it was rudely awoken in 1985, when 60% of injecting drug addicts tested at an Edinburgh hospital were found to be HIV positive.
As a result, the Scottish capital was labelled the HIV capital of Europe.

David Taylor, who was at Lothian health board in the 80s, says: “It certainly stuck as a label but it was blatantly untrue."

Despite the study relating to drug addicts and the figures being debatable, homosexual sex was once again portrayed as something to fear.

In 1987 Margaret Thatcher's government went to war with the gay community.
The prime minister told the Tory conference: “Children who need to be taught the traditional moral values are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay."

Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 prohibited "the teaching of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship".
Historian Dr Amy Tooth Murray says: “Section 28 basically says 'you can not talk about non-heterosexual relationships at school'."

There was outrage and protests across the country at this rolling back of the rights of gay people but the law stayed in place until the re-establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.
One of its first acts was to repeal Section 28 but it had a battle on its hands.

Billionaire businessman and born-again Christian Brian Souter did not support the move and used his money to back a strong Keep the Clause campaign, which had the backing of Scotland's best-selling newspaper The Daily Record and the Roman Catholic Church.
The Scottish Executive stood firm and abolished the clause. Westminster followed suit three years later.

Journalist David Torrance says that despite being very unpleasant at the time it was a "cathartic" experience that got Scotland talking about gay rights issues and finally swept away the old attitudes.
Since the Millennium, Scots attitudes to homosexuality have changed dramatically.
Surveys show that a third of Scots actively approve of gay marriage and it is now homophobia that is taboo.

In 2005, civil partnerships were made legal for gay couples and the following year same-sex couples were able to adopt.
Last year, as the Commonwealth Games was being shown around the world, Scotland declared its new openness with a kilted gay kiss as part of the opening ceremony.

The year ended with gay marriage becoming legal in Scotland and the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, a lesbian, passionately supporting the move.
Earlier this year, Scotland was rated the best country in Europe in terms of legal equality for LGBT people.
A remarkable transformation in just a generation. A queer tale indeed.

BBC

September 9, 2015

“IAM a Homosexual” and Closeted-40 Yrs Ago in the Air Force



                                                                       



It was exactly 40 years ago that Leonard Matlovich tested the Air Force's ban on gay service members

It was early 1974 when Leonard Matlovich stumbled across a story in Air Force Times that would change his life—and alter the course of gay rights in America. The piece mentioned that Frank Kameny, a pioneering gay rights activist, was looking for a case to test the military’s ban on gay service members. Matlovich had long known he was gay, but had lived his life firmly in the closet as he followed his father’s footsteps into the Air Force and served in Vietnam, earning a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. After returning to the states, Matlovich, who was raised in the segregated South, worked as a counselor easing racial tension in the service.
It was exactly the sort of resume that Kameny was looking for. By Sept. 8, 1975, Matlovich, who had long been intensely guarded about his personal life, was on the cover of TIME under the banner headline, “I Am a Homosexual.”
Matlovich had become one of the most visible faces of the still-nascent gay-rights movement. TIME readers responded to the cover with letters that ranged from calling him “a disgrace to the uniform of an honorable service” to noting the irony of a world where you can “be highly decorated for killing thousands of your fellow men and be drummed out of the corps if you dare to love one.”
Today, 40 years after the cover first appeared, it serves as a striking reminder of how much has changed in a few short decades (although a billthat would push the upgrading of discharges of those who were in Matlovich’s shoes to “honorable” status is currently stuck in Congress).
“I’m pretty old and have been involved in gay rights for quite a while,” says Michael Bedwell, a close friend of Matlovich’s and the executor of his estate, “I never imagined simultaneously how far we had to go and how long it would take.”
Matlovich took his first steps toward becoming a public figure that June, shortly after he came out in a letter to his commanding officer. As TIME reported in the September cover story: “When T/Sgt. Leonard Matlovichhanded his coming-out letter to his superior officer, a black captain at Langley Air Force Base, Va., the officer said: ‘What the hell does this mean?’ Replied Matlovich: ‘It means Brown v. the Board of Education.'”
That letter, which is now held along with the rest of Matlovich’s papers at the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco, can be read here (roll over to zoom):


Courtesy of Leonard Matlovich Papers, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Historical Society

Unlike Brown v. Board, Matlovich’s case did not go to the Supreme Court. After the Air Force began the proceedings to give him a general (not honorable) discharge, Matlovich announced that he wanted the decision to be reviewed. Although the review board had the option to overturn decisions in “most unusual circumstances,” they refused to do so.
Matlovich went on to become a dedicated advocate for gay rights, running for the San Francisco public office that had once been Harvey Milk’s. In 1980, a judge ordered the Air Force to reinstate Matlovich and to give him five years’ worth of back pay on the grounds that the “most unusual circumstances” rule was too vague. The two sides eventually settled, but the story didn’t end there.
“He had a gift, peculiar to someone who really only had a high-school education and knew nothing about the gay rights movement before he became one of its leaders, of appreciating historical perspective,” Bedwell says.
Matlovich died of AIDS in 1988. He was 44. His tombstone, which does not bear his name, echoes the sentiments of that TIME reader from 40 years ago: WHEN I WAS IN THE MILITARY THEY GAVE ME A MEDAL FOR KILLING TWO MEN AND A DISCHARGE FOR LOVING ONE.


Margaret Witt
Courtesy Margaret WittMargaret Witt at Leonard Matlovich’s gravesite

Matlovich’s influence was particularly strong on one case. Margaret Witt, a retired major in the Air Force Reserves, was a flight nurse who was discharged from the service after being outed against her will during the “don’t ask, don’t tell” era. After suing, Witt settled shortly after that law was repealed in 2010.
She recalls that, as a closeted member of the military, she often thought of Matlovich’s story as proof that it was possible to be proud of one’s service and proud of one’s sexuality.
“I never thought I’d be in that position, but I think we all thought it couldhappen to us,” Witt says. “We all kept our own hidden libraries if you will, even of books, and grabbed for any articles we could find on what was happening. We silently followed very closely anything that was happening. The visibility of all of those folks was a huge influence whether they were aware of it or not.”
These days, as the military begins to accept not only gay people but also transgender service members, Bedwell often recalls something Matlovich told the reporters who swarmed his discharge hearing back in 1975: “Maybe not in my lifetime, but we are going to win in the end.”
Read the full 1975 cover story, here in the TIME Vault: The Sergeant v. The Air Force

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