Born in 1940 Frank Kameny is considered the father of the Gay Rights Movement and more than likely did not plan on becoming an activist. He respectively enrolled in college at age 15 to study physics. A slight trick of hands that only life can deal took Kameny into World War II. Thereafter he accomplished his dream receiving a doctorate in Astronomy from Harvard. Of further interest is what happens to Kameny’s life afterwards. He went on to teach at Georgetown University getting a job with the US Army Map Service in July of 1957. Additionally. he became a fulfillment of Margaret Mead’s declaration. Mead believed that dramatic change came out of injustices experienced in the flesh. A Civil Service Commission investigator came to see Kameny after rumors got out that he was gay. Kameny was fired in January of 58 and had been completely blackballed from federal government employment. At that time being gay was considered to be the workings of the devil, an act of possession, a form of mental illness and criminal sent others into hiding but not Kameny who as a scientist was trained to be skeptical of any flash insights gathered by his group of peers and naysayers and to see through prejudice or, negative disposition, and any pseudo-scientific psychiatric theory. Kameny sued the government, lost and appealed. After losing a second time and being deserted by his lawyer Kameny continued to go to the Supreme Court of the United States for reconsideration his petition was denied by them in 1968. There were no gay rights organizations at the time and so Kameny started one of his own and although Stonewall would be eight years later gay rights organizations were nonetheless budding. A running liberal democrat, Henry Hay founded “Bachelors for Henry Wallace”. Two years later, Hay founded the Mattachine Society of Los Angeles. Their motive, to unify”, to educate and to lead”. In 1961 Kameny and his friend Jack Nichols founded Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C where they held their first meeting in the Hay-Adams Hotel. When the Metropolitan Police sent an undercover agent to infiltrate the meeting they were spotted and promptly asked to leave. This started the fight to stop the arbitrary firing of federal employees because of their sexual orientation. 1965 sparked the first gay demonstration on the White House grounds. Kameny and Nichols encouraged everyone including themselves to wear professional attire, carry their placards and to move around in a circular motion. They published a newsletter, The Gazette which was mailed to politicians including J Edgar Hoover Director of the FBI and public officials throughout the area. Their campaign relentless. As decisions in the US Federal Courts began to slowly turn in their favor in 1975 and after 18 years of hard work the US Civil Service Commission changed the policies to include gays in government employment. In 1966 Kameny coined the slogan, “Gay is Good” modeled after the campaign slogan, “Black is Good”. In 1971 after demanding microphone time at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association Kameny charged their speculative theories as being unscientific and harmful to the psychological well-being of millions. In 1971 he founded the Gay and Lesbian Activist Alliance of which he stayed active until the age of 76. Additionally, Kameny co-founded the National Gay Task Force (the first national political lobbying organization for the LGBTIQA community and in 1975 Kameny became the first gay municipal appointed Commissioner of the D.C. Commissioner of Human Rights.
Christopher Street West (CSW) is a 501 © 3 non-profit. West organized the world’s first approved pride parade on June 28, 1970 as a response and in commemoration to Stonewall Rebellion, the year before on Christopher Street In New York. Thus, the beginning of producing the West Hollywood Gay Pride Festival in Los Angeles, in June of each year which cost the city roughly around $750,000in expenses and lost revenue, according to a West Hollywood City Council staff report. www.lapride.org. This year’s event garnered bigger sponsors and bigger stars like dancer, performer, actor and singer, Todrick Hall. The streets were literally alive with the sounds of music and laughter. Frank Kameny would have been proud of his fellow gay-sters and LGBTIQA community activist who have made the choice to carry on and plant their feet firmly on the front lines. Each day a person of color is murdered an LGBTIQA adult or child is murdered or commits suicide.
Since those humble beginnings the LGBTQIA has ferociously and with guided assertion made an inedible mark and making gay pride one of the most celebrated events in the world. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest are designed to put anyone on blast that would dare say or put down the LGBTQIA community. As the late Patrick Swayze in his famous words in the hit movie. “Dirty Dancing”, nobody puts baby in a corner.
It was 15 years ago that my youngest daughter announced her sexuality. The good thing is that I had to research terms and circumstances in order to understand just where she was coming form and what experience had motivated her to cross over. I was also without work and needed a job. In adult life I have always been judged as quirky, offbeat or strange when amongst the so-called heterosexual community. When I couldn’t find work after getting laid off from Universal Music Group record label, I made my way to several small organizations one of them located off Melrose when I arrived and after 15 minutes of indignant questioning I was asked to leave and not comeback until I could admit that I was gay.
This was new to me because of coming out of the military, seeing women in the nude and for some time I questioned my sexuality. I stood in front of mirrors asking myself did I look like a man and up until she mentioned the word. “gay”, I had never heard of gay, straight or otherwise. I just never focused on it and my parents never overtly talked to us about race or politics. After serving in the military where the noises, the moans and groans of passion were heard nightly, I never knew what the LGBTIQA movement was. Never questioned it. Never had an issue with gay people because I simply asked folk their name and treated everyone the same.
After that I ended up working for two black gay male directors of Senwotnella Films out of Atlanta. They had a hot film project they called, “Out of the Closet”, that was like Dallas and the Black Bold and Beautiful. It was raw and unedited. I set-up for a press release to go out and took a meeting with the head of LOGO at their headquarters which was on Sunset Boulevard at the time. Well needless to say. We got in the door. We had access to the show producers and continued to meet with the heads of LOGO in an unannounced location in Burbank. On the press release without knowing I used the word. “homosexual”. The very next day, I received a personal phone call from the head of GLAAD explaining to me how offensive my use of the word was and that he would send me the GLADD dictionary so that I could use the appropriate language. I explained to him what prompted the use of the word, and that it was kind of him to care enough to call. www.gladd.org . We lost the deal at LOGO and I was jacked. I was never able to get on the gay networks and finally gave up. The other position I held was as a sales associate working with Ted Trent for Out of the Closet Television. Ted was the first to sale the idea to non-gay companies on running gay ads as a 10-30n second lead into advertiser’s commercials. He was the first to show high-end lofts throughout downtown Los Angeles’ loft district and the first to give upcoming LGBTQIA talent a platform to perform on his site. www.outofthecloset.tv is no longer functioning but it was ahead of the time. The organization Commercial Closet out of New York was the first to offer advertising to non-gay advertisers so that they could place ads and buy products that were LGBTQIA community based. Ted is also an actor and photographer.
I walked door to door, to buy advertisers got on the and cold-call potential businesses looking to collaborate. It was not an easy sell then and it is still riddled with challenges to sell now. Truth is that the world needs all of those who are socially woke to keep uniting and building and we could certainly stand a lot more love and in the confides of that loving seek to gain and instill a lot more pride.
Source references: Who is Frank Kameny? By David Bianco.
“Frank Kameny”, “Lesbian and Gay Staff Association of South Bank University, London. http://www.southbank-university.ac.uk/stafflag/frankkameny.html