A blog about LGBTQ+ History, Art, Literature, Politics, Culture, and Whatever Else Comes to Mind. The Closet Professor is a fun (sometimes tongue-in-cheek, sometimes very serious) approach to LGBTQ+ Culture.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
My Big Fat Greek Gay Blog: I give a damn. Do you?
My Big Fat Greek Gay Blog: I give a damn. Do you?: "I just read that a third gay teen in as many weeks took his life due to bullying over his sexuality. Enough is enough! Take a minute to r..."
Circumcision in Monotheistic Religions
During the 3rd century A.D., the Egyptians began writing their language in letters borrowed from the Greek alphabet augmented by a few characters from Demotic (a popular Egyptian script dating from the 2nd century). Beginning in the 7th century, this language, known as Coptic, began to disappear from everyday use, to be supplanted by Arabic. It survives to this day however in the Egyptian church. In Coptic societies, circumcision is performed on boys at ages ranging from one week to several years. It is not obligatory in character but is generally carried out for reasons of social conformity and hygiene.
The Arabs were circumcised before the advent of the Prophet; Islam merely allowed this practice to continue. In fact, Islam does not prescribe circumcision and the word is not even mentioned in the Quran. Circumcision is nevertheless traditional in Muslim societies where it constitutes a rite of initiation: a transition from childhood to adulthood. It also allows integration into the community of believers. Performed most often in the first few years of life (sometimes the odd-numbered years in certain communities) to minimize psychological trauma, it can be carried out by a Muslim or a Jew.
In no culture does circumcision occupy the position it occupies in Judaism.
The first circumcision was that of Abraham, who circumcised himself as a sign of the Covenant at the age of 99, then circumcised his eldest son Ishmael, aged 13, as well as all the males of the household. Isaac, son of Abraham, was born exactly one year after the Covenant and was circumcised by his father on the eighth day.
Since circumcision served as a mark of identity, it was frequently prohibited by enemies of the Jews such as the Ptolemys and Antiochus IV Epiphanes (2nd century B.C.) It was also forbidden during the two centuries of slavery in Egypt. Moses, who was not circumcised, reinstated the practice after the Exodus. It was again banned by Hadrian. With the rise of Christianity, circumcision became the distinguishing feature of Judaism
A number of rationales have been put forward for performing circumcision (“Milah”) on the eighth day. According to some, the period of eight days lets the infant experience at least one Sabbath. Others believe that since Creation took six days and God rested on the seventh, the eighth day symbolizes the beginning of a period that is more human, compared with the preceding seven days of divine prerogative. The eighth day, therefore, marks the true birth of man and circumcision assumes the meaning of new beginning and inauguration.
Any Jew who has been circumcised himself can perform circumcision on another, but usually the task is reserved for an individual specially trained in the act (Mohel). The contraindications to circumcision are many and specifically include a suspicion of hemophilia. The Talmud provides, for instance, that if two sisters have each lost a child to circumcision, then the third sister cannot have her son circumcised. In the same way, if a mother has lost two sons to Brit Milah and circumcision appears to be the cause of death, then circumcision is waived for the third son.
The ceremony is carried out according to well-defined rules and comprises three phases: separation of preputial adhesions, done with a fingernail and called “periah”; cutting off the prepuce; and “metzitzah”, the sucking of blood by the Mohel, indispensible for full compliance with the Covenant.
Circumcision and Christianity
Circumcision is mentioned in the New Testament. The practice was not straightway put in question during the early years of Christianity, but Paul, anxious to facilitate conversions, decided to relax certain rules (observance of the Sabbath, dietary laws and circumcision). Circumcision became worthless for Christians as a means of integrating members into the community. It was replaced by baptism, while the blood covenant with God was succeeded by Communion with Christ. It should be noted that the circumcision of Christ, which has inspired numerous paintings, notably from the Renaissance, is celebrated by Christians every year on January 1st.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Circumcision is practiced by almost all groups in West Africa. In the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, it usually coexists with excision except in the matriarchal societies forming a band across southern Africa between Angola and Mozambique. These societies practice neither circumcision nor excision. Further south, in the southernmost region of the African continent, circumcision practices are explained partly by the migration of patriarchal Bantu societies from equatorial regions.
African circumcision is performed on older children and involves a relatively stereotyped ritual consisting of the following elements in succession:
• seclusion of the initiate, isolation from women and “unclean” children;
• ablation of the prepuce, closely linked to the notion of blood sacrifice;
• tests of collective or individual endurance after the circumcision;
• wearing of special costumes;
• and sometimes the adoption of a new name marking the child’s true birth.
YouTube has an interesting documentary about African circumcision called “To Become A Man - South Africa”:
Male circumcision is one of the world’s oldest surgical practices; carvings depicting circumcisions have been found in ancient Egyptian temples dating as far back as 2300 BC.
In recent months, the issue of male circumcision and its links to the transmission of HIV has hit the headlines and sparked debates across the world. Trials in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa have now all shown that male circumcision significantly reduces a man’s risk of acquiring HIV.
According to a new study, circumcised men are more resistant to STDs, with the process lowering one's chances of herpes infection by 28%, HPV infection by 35% and HIV infection by 60%. The study took place in Uganda, where the population is battling an AIDS epidemic, but circumcision advocates say the same benefits apply to Western men, and claim that the controversial procedure should be recommended for infants here.
Male circumcision and HIV: a web special series
Sunday, September 26, 2010
A Message to LGBT Educators
I recently received a letter from the Human Rights Campaign asking me to contribute. The first thing I will say is that I am not the HRC’s biggest fan. I believe that the HRC sees only the Democratic Party as America’s LGBT saving grace. Now I am a Democrat, there is no doubt about it. However, I don’t believe that the sun shines out of the ass of every Democrat. Promises were made to the LGBT community by the current administration that have not been kept. Instead of praising the Obama administration for requiring hospitals to allow visitation by LGBT partners and family members and praising them for saying that they want Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repealed, we should be telling them to do more, do what they promised, and push even harder for equality. There should be national laws against discriminating against LGBT people in the workplace. We should have every legal right to fully recognized civil marriages (or unions). I personally think that marriage is a religious ceremony and that all people should be required to have a civil and/or a religious marriage for it to be recognized by the government. When the government gives out a marriage license at the local courthouse, they should not be able to discriminate against someone because of their sex. If two people love one another, they should be able to get married, whether it is two men, two women, or a man and a woman. The GLBT community should be more vocal about the shortfalls of the Obama administration and the slowness for “CHANGE” that has come. The HRC spends far too much time placating the Democrats and not enough time working on ending the problems of discrimination. When the HRC gets serious about LGBT rights and quits being merely a minority spokesperson in the Democratic Party, I will contribute again. Also, they need a stronger nationwide organization. Far too often, the HRC ignores the South. When they are in the South, it is largely an elitist organization. If you are going to fight for equality, fight for the equality of all, not just the elite in certain areas.
So that was my rant about the HRC. Now for what I began writing this post about in the first place. I want to gives some advice about school bullying:
This post comes from Dr. Marlene Synder, the Director of Development for the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. Dr. Synder is also a member of the Welcoming Schools National Advisory Council. She discusses the links between Welcoming Schools and Olweus, the world’s foremost bullying prevention program.
We all want our children to learn, thrive and become productive adults. Many students find it difficult to learn, thrive and dream of their futures because of school-based bullying (both traditional and cyber bullying) . We know that bullying is pervasive in our schools. National prevalence studies consistently show that roughly one in five students have been bullied regularly and a similar number have bullied others. Many others witness bullying going on around them, so in fact, there are millions of students who have to deal with the issue of bullying in our schools each day.
Students who bully generally bully students who they perceive as different and/or weaker than they are. Sometimes the bullying might be focused on a student’s family or something about the student that makes him or her stand out from the norm. Perhaps the student has two moms or two dads or lives with his or her grandparents. A bullied student might speak with a strong accent, or be of a racial or religious minority. A student might be bullied because of his or her size, or because he or she does not like to do the things that are expected for his or her gender. We are all too aware of how devastating the results of this kind of bullying can be, as we have heard all too often of students as young as 11 years old committing suicide after being severely bullied at school.
Dr. Dan Olweus, whose program has been researched for the past 30 years, clearly asserts that bullying is peer abuse and it is a civil rights issue. Our schools need to be a place where every student feels safe in school regardless of their family structure or identity. No student should be hurt, humiliated, or excluded at school. School is not a place that any student should fear. School should be a place where everyone feels welcome and a place where students enjoy learning and can grow as a part of a larger community.
The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP) was brought to United States schools more than a decade ago. The guiding principles for the OBPP are:
1. Warmth, positive interest and involvement with students and their families are needed on the part of all adults in the school. The responsibility for developing and ensuring a safe and welcoming school climate rests with adults.
2. We need to set firm limits to unacceptable bullying behavior. Clear, consistent rules and messages against bullying behaviors should be present throughout the entire school.
3. Consistent use of nonphysical, non-hostile negative consequences when rules are broken. Because OBPP is research-based, program procedures and guidelines should be followed as closely as possible.
4. Adults in the schools should function as authorities and positive role models. Children learn by example from all adults; teachers and their families.
The content of Welcoming Schools is in alignment with these guiding principles. Welcoming Schools helps the adults in the school become comfortable with interrupting bias-based bullying. Welcoming Schools involves families and the larger community. And Welcoming Schools helps adults proactively create a school climate that is welcoming of the diversity that we find in our schools. Welcoming Schools helps remind us that it is possible to create positive school climates that limit negative behavior and promote respect for all students.
The more we can work together to promote consistent messages against bullying behaviors, our children will learn, thrive and realize their dreams for their futures.
One thing that I think the HRC is doing right is their involvement with anti-bullying campaigns. Now I teach in a private school where the environment is far from being accepting. In fact our principal believes that bullying is good for the kids because it teaches them to conform to societal norms. We are not all Baptist, right-wing, Tea Partiers. Some of us are good loving Christians who welcome the diversity that is in our world. Needless to say, but with our principals attitude toward bullying and his politics, there is no way that our school could have a gay/straight alliance or any other kind of alternative group where everyone could feel safe. Instead the only real student club is the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, whose sponsoring teacher firmly believes that it really should be the Fellowship of Christian Students because all students, not just athletes should feel welcome. I really admire the faculty sponsor for this club. He is truly a good hearted Christian, who like me believes in acceptance, not hate.
The point I am getting to is that we may not be able to have a GSA in every school, but we can still provide a safe and welcoming environment for all, no matter what amount of diversity they have. In my classroom the students know by now that I do not tolerate the word “nigger” or “faggot".” I do not allow bullying or any anti-gay slurs. In my classroom, all students are equal and treated with respect. I don’t care if they are gay, straight, bisexual, closeted, curious, etc. I don’t care if they are black, white, Muslim, Asian, or Native American. They are my students. They are there to learn. They are there to feel safe. They are there to have me teach them. I will admit that one of the freedoms that I have with teaching at a private school is that I can teach using Christian examples, and I can teach Christian love and acceptance. At least once every two weeks, they have to hear me give my lecture about The Golden Rule. I may not be able to stand in front of my class and say that I am gay and if anyone needs to talk, if anyone is having problems, I understand, and I am hear to listen and give advice. However, I can stand in front of the class and teach tolerance, love, and charity and say if anyone needs to talk, if anyone is having problems, I understand, and I am hear to listen and give advice.
I hope that all LGBT educators out there will do the same. We may not always have the option of being out of the closet at school, but we control the environment in our own classroom. We can teach tolerance. We can teach love and acceptance. If we are able to teach one mind these things, then we have made a difference. If they admire us in the classroom, they may one day want to emulate us, and we have made a difference. It may be a slow process but as Booker T. Washington said at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta in 1895 in what became known as the Atlanta Compromise Speech:
A ship lost at sea for many days suddenly sighted a friendly vessel. From the mast of the unfortunate vessel was seen a signal,“Water, water; we die of thirst!” The answer from the friendly vessel at once came back, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” A second time the signal, “Water, water; send us water!” ran up from the distressed vessel, and was answered, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” And a third and fourth signal for water was answered, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” The captain of the distressed vessel, at last heeding the injunction, cast down his bucket, and it came up full of fresh, sparkling water from the mouth of the Amazon River.
Sometimes, our situations are not perfect. Sometimes you have to work with what you have. Sometimes you have to “Cast down your bucket where you are.” When you can, fight for what you believe in. The HRC has the money and influence to make a difference, they no longer need to “Cast down their bucket where they are.” Not all of us have money influence in power and must “Cast down our bucket where we are.” So my message is, teach tolerance in all that you do.
Do unto others, as you would have then do unto you.
By the way, here is an interesting link for GLBT teachers out there:
A Gay Teachers Battle to Teach
Saturday, September 25, 2010
My New Assistant
Yeah, I didn’t really hire this guy as my new assistant, but I can dream, right?
Sometimes we just need a break and a moment of beauty or a moment of Zen to make our day a little better.
Have a great weekend guys! The posts about circumcision will resume on Monday. I think I have just about decided that on Saturdays I will post a Moment of Zen pic, one that is beautiful and can just transport us to a new place. On Sundays, I will try to post gay resources of some kind or something inspirational. It is hard for me to leave this blog to just three days a week.
Friday, September 24, 2010
History and Geography of Ritual Circumcision
Ritual circumcisions can be separated into two types, depending on the circumstances in which they are performed:
Spiritual circumcisions expressing a community identity, usually religious, are wrapped in complex meanings that invoke numerous myths, notably Biblical and African.
The secular model of ritual circumcision exemplified in the USA includes—apart from intensely debated medico-scientific justifications—a real social dimension and also reflects a desire for membership in a community.
Whatever the circumstances, physicians may be asked to perform circumcision and should be aware of the significance of this procedure.
Mutilations prescribed for oneself or others are of ancient origin and universal in scope: practically no body part has been spared their impact. Sexual mutilations are the most frequent: noteworthy are subincision, practiced by Australian aborigines,[34, 43] Fijians, and Amazon Indians; hemicastration, found in Ethiopia, Egypt, and the islands of Micronesia; castration of harem keepers and choir boys (to preserve high voices); genital mutilations of girls (excision, infibulation, clitoridectomy); and finally circumcision, probably the most common of these practices.
Etymologically, the term “circumcision” denotes excision of all or part of the prepuce and comes from the Latin “circum” (around) and “caedere” (to cut). Semantically, the word bears no direct relation to the prepuce. Sometimes [in French] the terms “posthectomie” or “péritomie” are used.
The historical conditions in which circumcision arose are obscure. The practice probably began around the 4th century B.C. as attested to by statues and paintings depicting circumcision among Sumerians, Ethiopians, Phoenicians, Babylonians, as well as by circumcised Egyptian mummies. However, the frequency of circumcision in these periods and its possible social significance are unclear.
A schematic distinction can be drawn between two major types of circumcision, based on the circumstances in which the operation is performed: therapeutic circumcision, which is beyond the scope of this paper, and ritual circumcision. The latter can be subdivided into religious circumcision, as in a ceremony marking a rite of passage and affirming membership in a group, usually religious, and secular circumcision, in which a religious motive is not invoked presumptively. The routine circumcision practiced in the USA for controversial prophylactic reasons is an example of the secular type.
Despite this conceptual distinction, we will see that both religious and secular circumcision are laden with complex meanings heavily impregnated with morality and social identity. Click on images for a larger version.
This begins a new series on The Closet Professor about Male Circumcision.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Gay Rights Movement: Post-Stonewall
Not all gays believed that the riots and “revolution” were a good thing. The older and more wealthy gay men who frequented Fire Island in the summer either ignored the riots or were embarrassed by then. They belonged to the beliefs of the Mattachine Society who believed in assimilation and accommodationist tactics. The Mattachines wanted gays to act like heterosexuals and thus blend into the greater society. The differences between the accommodationists and the liberationist will be a trend in gay politics to this day.
On the evening of July 4, 1969, the New York Mattachine Society called a meeting. The purpose of the gathering was to stop anymore riots and to get gays and lesbians to follow more closely their view of how the revolution should proceed, mainly for them to act like straight people and gain respect among normal society. Most of the gays in the room that night were tired of the Mattachine’s tactics. They wanted a new movement, one that challenged what normal was, one that was more militant, and one in which they did not have to change who they were. That night, the gays and lesbians at the Mattachine Society meeting formed the beginnings of the Gay Liberation Front.
The Gay Liberation Front (GLF) never had the same organizational hierarchy that the Mattachine Society had. The GLF allowed for each chapter to move in its own direction and determine how best to achieve their overall goals in their local area. The GLF was also more visible than many people actually preferred to be, but for the GLF to succeed they had no choice but to use the “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” tactics. The GLF had their share of splinter groups and unlikely alliances, such as with the Black Panthers.
The gay liberation movement also moved into more proper politics in the early 1990s. The AIDS epidemic took a great deal of the steam out of the movement that had continued to build during the seventies. In the early nineties, groups like the Human Rights Council, the largest gay and lesbian political action committee, the Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and the Lambda Legal Defense Fund tackled legislative and legal issues pertaining to gay and lesbian rights. Gays and lesbians even entered the political arena with a branch of the Democratic Party, the Stonewall Democrats, and with a branch of the Republican Party, the Log Cabin Republicans. The same old issues of whether gays should assimilate into society or make society accept them for who they are and at the same time have equal rights are still apparent in the splits that exist within the gay community.
James T. Sears, Rebels, Rubyfruit, and Rhinestones: Queering Space in the Stonewall South, (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2001), 60, 64.
Benjamin H. Shepard, “The Queer/Gay Assimilationist: The Suits vs. the Sluts,” Monthly Review: An Independent Socialist Magazine 53:1 (May 2001): 49-63.
“ 4 Policemen Hurt in ‘Village’ Raid,” The New York Times, 29 June 1969.
Duberman, Martin. 1994. Stonewall. New York: Plume.
“Hostile Crowd Dispersed Near Sheridan Square,” New York Times, 3 July 1969.
Meeker, Martin. 2001. “Behind the Mask of Respectability: Reconsidering the Mattachine Society and Male Homophile Practice, 1950s and 1960s.” Journal of the History of Sexuality. 1:78-116.
“Police Again Rout ‘Village’ Youths,” New York Times, 30 June 1969.
Sears,James T. 2001. Rebels, Rubyfruit, and Rhinestones: Queering Space in the Stonewall South. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
Shepard, Benjamin H. 2001. “The Queer/Gay Assimilationist: The Suits vs. the Sluts.” Monthly Review: An Independent Socialist Magazine 53:1, 49-63.
Smith, Howard. “Full Moon Over the Stonewall,” The Village Voice, 3 July 1969.
Suran, Justin David. 2001. “Coming Out Against the War: Antimilitarism and the Politicization of Homosexuality in the Era of Vietnam.” American Quarterly 3: 452-488.
Truscott,Lucian, IV. “Gay Power Comes To Sheridan Square.” The Village Voice. 3 July 1969.
“Village Raid Stirs Melee.” New York Post. 28 June 1969.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Gay Rights Movement: Stonewall Riots
While the two movements described by Meeker and Suran are precursors of the gay liberation movement sparked by the Stonewall Riots, the most often cited catalyst of the gay liberation movement is the series of riots that began on the night of Friday, June 27, 1969, after a raid on the Stonewall Inn, which continued for the next three nights. Raids of gay bars in New York City, particularly Greenwich Village, were not uncommon in the summer of 1969, what made the raid on the Stonewall on June 27 so different was that the patrons of the bar resisted instead of going peacefully.
The New York Post was the first of the New York newspapers to report the raid and the first “melee” that followed the raid. The Post described the scene following the raid on the Stonewall Inn, “a tavern frequented by homosexuals at 53 Christopher St.” The raid was staged because of the unlicensed sale of liquor. On that first night twelve people were arrested with charges ranging from assault to disorderly conduct because of the impromptu riot that soon ensued. As the police drove away with those in custody from the raid, the newspaper describes how “hundreds of passerby” shouted “Gay Power” and “We Want Freedom” while laying siege to the bar with “an improvised battering ram, garbage cans, bottles and beer cans in a protest demonstration.” More police were sent to 53 Christopher Street where the disturbance raged for more than two hours.
For the next two days and again on July 3, the New York Times ran small pieces about the “Village Raid.” On June 29, the Times reported that shortly after 3 a.m. on the previous day, that the bar had been raided. About two hundred patrons were thrown out of the bar and soon were joined by about two hundred more in protest of the raid. Police seized several cases of liquor from the establishment, which the police stated was operating without a liquor license. The Times reported that the “melee” lasted for only about forty-five minutes after the raid before the crowd dispersed and thirteen people in all were arrested with four policemen suffering injuries, one a broken wrist. The June 29 article also stated that the raid was one of three conducted in the last two weeks, and on the night of June 28, “throngs of young men congregated outside the inn. . .reading aloud condemnations of the police.”  The June 30 edition of the newspaper stated that on the early morning of June 29, a crowd of about four hundred gathered again on Christopher street and a Tactical Patrol Unit was called in to control the disturbance at about 2:15 a.m. The crowd was throwing bottles and lighting small fires. With their arms linked, the police made sweeps down Christopher Street from the Avenue of the Americas to Seventh Avenue, but the crowds merely moved into side streets and reformed behind the police. Those who did not move out of the way of the police line were pushed along and two men were clubbed to the ground. Stones and bottles were thrown at the police and twice the police broke ranks to charge the crowd. Three people were arrested on charges of harassment and disorderly conduct. The June 30 article also states that the crowd gathered again on the evening of June 29 to denounce the police for “allegedly harassing homosexuals.” Graffiti painted on the boarded up windows of the inn stated “Support gay power” and “Legalize gay bars.” A July 3, article in the New York Times stated that a chanting crowd of about five hundred gathered again outside the Stonewall Inn and had to be dispersed by the police, while four protestors were arrested.
On July 3, 1969, The Village Voice published two, more substantial articles on the incidents surrounding the Stonewall Inn. Of the two articles, Lucian Trusctott IV’s article is written in a tongue-in-cheek style focusing on the several days of riots that ensued after the first raid. Truscott reports that the crowd, which returned on Saturday night, were being led by “gay power” cheers: “We are the Stonewall girls/ We wear our hair in curls/ We have no underwear/ We show our pubic hair!” The article is mostly sympathetic to the gay cause and quotes Allen Ginsberg, a gay activist, stated “Gay Power! Isn’t that great! We’re one of the largest minorities in the country--10 percent, you know. It’s about time we did something to assert ourselves.” Truscott is prophetic when he end his article by stating:
We reached Cooper Square, and as Ginsberg turned to head toward home, he waved and yelled, “Defend the fairies!” and bounce on across the square. He enjoyed the prospect of “gay power” and is probably working on a manifesto for the movement right now. Watch out. The liberation is under way!The other article, by Howard Smith, is much more subdued. Smith, a reporter for the Voice, only relates the night of the raid, when he stayed with the police for protection. Although his article is not exactly pro-gay, Smith does offer some interesting observations that the other reports of the Stonewall Riots leave out. First of all, Smith reports on the number of men in drag that actually fight back. All other reports in The New York Times and The New York Post only state that the young men who resisted the police were young men, but Smith states that their were men in drag and a number of lesbians who resisted the police. Smith also describes in detail the “melee” especially concerning the attack on the police wagon while he was inside with the police for protection against the mob. Lastly, Smith points out the connection with the bar being owned by the mafia, although he only states that the men who own and run the establishment are Italians. Smith does relate that statements to the police were basically: “we are just honest businessmen, who are being harassed by the police because we cater to homosexuals, and because our names are Italian so they think we are part of something bigger.”
While the newspapers provide a glimpse at the reaction of the New York press as the riots were happening, several further accounts were later retold in memoirs of the Riot. The most thorough account is given by Martin Duberman in his book Stonewall. Mostly through oral history interviews, Duberman is able to relate the events of the Stonewall Riots with more accuracy than the accounts in the New York City newspapers.
No one really knows what set off the “flash of anger” that began the riots. Most of the people who were there just say that all of a sudden the crowd grew angry and either began throwing bottles or trying to free one of the men in drag who were being arrested. Even if it cannot be determined what set off the anger that went through the crowd, it must be asked, why that night. Many factors could have contributed to why the people in the Stonewall Inn fought back. It could have been because most of them had reached their breaking point, with the criminalization of their behavior to the Vietnam War that had raged for the last four years in the living rooms of every American with a television. One interesting theory could be that with Judy Garland’s funeral earlier that day, the men in the Stonewall Inn were distraught over losing their greatest icon. Probably what compounded most of the anger that rushed through the crowd was that most of the patrons were high on some type of drugs. Another factor was that the raid occurred early in the morning. Usually raids happened earlier in the evening so that the bar could open back up. Police were being bribed, so raids were rarely major incidents.
Once the crowd did begin to fight back, the fervor of rebellion and the feeling that a revolution was happening among the gay community swept through the crowd. No longer were gays going to work with the system to make themselves feel more normal. They wanted to be accepted for who they were, not for who the establishment wanted them to be. African-Americans had made great strides in their civil rights struggle, and women were just beginning to make strides for women’s liberation and equality. As pointed out by Alan Ginsberg earlier, gays and lesbians were a large minority in the United States. If they could make themselves heard, this could change everything for them. No longer would they be forced to only socialize with each other in dank and dingy, mafia owned bars, that could be raided at anytime and served watered down drinks so the owners could make more money. The law in New York City stated that a person must wear at least three articles of clothing appropriate to one’s own gender. Gay bars were not allowed to have a liquor license and most were not allowed to have dancing.
“Village Raid Stirs Melee,” New York Post, 28 June 1969.
“4 Policemen Hurt in ‘Village’ Raid,” The New York Times, 29 June 1969, 33.
“Police Again Rout ‘Village’ Youths,” New York Times, 30 June 1969, 22.
“Hostile Crowd Dispersed Near Sheridan Square,” New York Times, 3 July 1969.
Lucian Truscott IV, “Gay Power Comes To Sheridan Square,” The Village Voice, 3 July 1969, 18.
Howard Smith, “Full Moon Over the Stonewall,” The Village Voice, 3 July 1969, 25.
Martin Duberman, Stonewall, (New York: Plume, 1994), 196-197.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Too often we get wrapped up in our own burdens and forget about those of others. I am generally a very empathetic person who who can listen to someone’s problems and try to help them make sense of it. Sometimes, I fail to listen to the problems of others, or I do not let others know that they can come to me with their problems. I try to always be helpful to others, because I hope that one day they will be there for me if I need them. It’s what I talked about last Sunday with the Golden Rule.
This Sunday, we had a guest preacher at our church who discussed life’s burdens. The biblical text for his sermon came from Galatians Chapter 6:
Brothers, even if a man is caught in some fault, you who are spiritual must restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to yourself so that you also aren't tempted.
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
For if a man thinks himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
But let each man test his own work, and then he will take pride in himself and not in his neighbor.
For each man will bear his own burden.
Galatians 6: 1-5
Our preacher used the topic of burdens this week because it was something that had weighed heavily on his mind all week. He had a friend who committed suicide earlier in the week. As our preacher said, he had a burden that he could not bear, and he was not able to help him with that burden. He couldn’t help because he did not know of the burden until it was too late. I happen to have known this man also as an acquaintance, though he had never been one that I particularly liked or trusted, but I am not here to judge. When this man committed suicide, he made a very selfish decision. Instead of getting help for his burdens, he added more to his friends and family.
The point of telling you all this is because gay men suffer from suicide more often than any other group. Some people don’t have the support needed to bear the burden of being gay or closeted. They come to their wits end and no of no other way out. There is always another way out. When you take your own life, you are performing a selfish act. The burden moves from you to those who knew you. There is help out there. Many of us bloggers are willing to lend a shoulder to cry on. We can listen to your problems. But there is other help as well. Maybe it is a teacher or professor that you trust. Ministers are not always the best for this, because some ministers do not follow the idea of Christian love and acceptance. But maybe there is a family friend or a friend that you can trust. If there is, share your burden with them. If you truly feel completely alone, call one of the many suicide hotlines. Here are a few resources:
Need Help Now?
If you have read my blog for a while, you know that I am a Christian, maybe not everyone would agree with that, but I am. I take my faith very seriously. Both of my blogs are to uplift the spirit and help others to dismiss their burdens for just a little while. I hope that I do that. We should all reach out to those that we can help. I hope that you will never turn away someone who needs you.
I hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend. I apologize if this post is a bit of a downer, but after the message I heard this morning, I felt that is was too important not to share.
Friday, September 17, 2010
Gay Rights Movement: The Anti-War Movement
For some more information about the history of Gays in the Military, check out this article from Time Magazine: Brief History of Gays in the Military.
In more modern times, the United States and most countries of the world criminalized homosexuality (sodomy) and therefore banned gay men and women from serving in the military. The Mattachine Society, founded in 1950, was one of the earliest homophile (gay rights) organizations in the United States, probably second only to Chicago’s short-lived Society for Human Rights (1924). Harry Hay and a group of Los Angeles male friends formed the group to protect and improve the rights of homosexuals. Because of concerns for secrecy and the founders’ leftist ideology, they adopted the cell organization of the Communist Party. In the anti-Communist atmosphere of the 1950s, the Society’s growing membership substituted a more traditional ameliorative civil rights leadership style and agenda for the group’s early Communist model. Then as branches formed in other cities, the Society splintered in regional groups by 1961.
Youths rebelled against older homophile organization, which often refused to take a stance on the Vietnam War. Young gay men had to chose whether or not to reveal or conceal their homosexuality when they came before the draft board, because with the draft board being composed of local citizens, this could mean being outed to friends, neighbors or parents. The dilemma faced by gay youths polarized the gay liberation movement and gay youths joined in on the antiwar protests. While older homophile organizations saw non-participation of homosexuals in the American military as detrimental to gay rights, youths of the antiwar stance saw it as a positive good. Suran contends that there are four major assertions by gay men in the antiwar movement. First, young homophiles saw military service as politically and morally counterproductive. Second, they declared war as a masculine affront to gay men. They cited the “effiminist” nature of homosexual men and refused to participate in macho role playing. Third, the young activists viewed imperialism as an extension of heterosexist ideology. Finally, they perceived homosexuality itself as antiwar antiestablishment, and anti-imperialist. With these four beliefs, young homophiles refused to embrace the older homophile tradition of assimilation in to “normal” society through military service.
Though the Mattachine Society fell apart by the 1970s, one of their focuses was on protesting the US policy against gays serving in the military. They believed they could serve their country in any capacity, whether it be in government (gay men and women were not allowed to serve in government positions because their sexuality could be used as a basis for blackmail by communist spies) or in the military.
When more public gay rights groups formed after the 1969 Stonewall Riots, gay men had moved away from support for military service. With the Vietnam War and the draft still very much a reality, gay rights groups turned their backs on the issue of military service because they did not want to be drafted. However, the government also turned their backs on the ban and forced many gay men who were drafted to serve, deciding that they needed the manpower more than they needed to uphold the ban on military service. In the United States today, sodomy is no longer illegal thanks to the Supreme Court decision, Lawrence v. Texas, and in 1973 the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Therefore there is no legal or medical reason that can be used to deny gay men and women the right to serve openly in the military.
Justin David Suran, “Coming Out Against the War: Antimilitarism and the Politicization of Homosexuality in the Era of Vietnam,” American Quarterly 53, no. 3 (2001): 453.
Next: The Stonewall Riots
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Gay Rights Movement: Mattachine Society
This post continues a new series on The Closet Professor about the history of the early gay rights movement. Most if not all of you have heard of the Stonewall Riots, and though most people credit Stonewall with the beginning of gay rights, there were precursors to the movement. This series is based on a paper I once wrote about the gay rights movement but has been updated to some extent. I hope you enjoy it and find it informative.
Most historians agree that the movement towards gay rights, at least, nominally began with the founding of the Mattachine Society in Los Angeles in 1950 as the first gay rights organization in history. Harry Hay founded the organization and gave it its name after the medieval group of court jesters who satirized the government and royalty by wearing masks to keep themselves anonymous. Mattachine went through two different phases in its development. Early leadership based the leadership of the organization on the cell structure of the Communist Party with a secret hierarchical structure and a very centralized leadership. The seven founding members of the Mattachine Society remained anonymous as the mysterious “fifth order” who ran the organization through their leadership. The organization had three primary goals: to unify homosexuals as a group and with the dominant heterosexual culture, to educate both homosexuals and heterosexuals on the subject of homosexuality, and to enter the realm of political action.
Due to the insistence of the first Mattachine Society that homosexuals adapt to the homophobic society of the Cold War by adopting the social and cultural mores of heterosexuals, the organization began to lose influence and membership. By 1957, the organizations national headquarters moved from its base in Los Angeles to San Francisco where it remained until the national organization disbanded in 1961. With the end of the national organization and its insistence on conservative politics, the local chapters began to become more radical in their quest for gay liberation. The Communist Party structure and tactics of the Mattachine Society ultimately hurt the organization more that it would help it. With the Red Scare during the Cold War, the politics of the movement had a difficult time getting any recognition. Besides its communist association, this early homophile organization was never that large of a political organization. The fear of being publicly discovered as a homosexual was worse than having freedoms during the 1950s, when coming out meant that you were considered mentally ill, a social deviant, often classified as a criminal, and were barred from holding civil service jobs.
In his examination of the radicalization of the gay liberation movement, historian Justin David Suran shifts the focus from the radicalization of local homophile organizations to the gay participation in the antiwar movement. Local homophile organizations were still working for homosexuals to be “normalized” by assimilating into the heterosexual cultures, most by allowing gay men and women to serve discretely in the U.S. Armed Forces. With the ability to be deferred from the draft by being labeled homosexual, many young gay men saw the opportunity to stay out of the Vietnam War. As the war continued into the early seventies, the deferment for homosexuality would have to be proved by a doctor or an arrest report in order to receive the deferment because of the prevalence of heterosexual men posing as homosexuals to stay out of the military.
Martin Meeker, “Behind the Mask of Respectability: Reconsidering the Mattachine Society and Male Homophile Practice, 1950s and 1960s,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 10, no. 1 (2001): 83.
Justin David Suran, “Coming Out Against the War: Antimilitarism and the Politicization of Homosexuality in the Era of Vietnam,” American Quarterly 53, no. 3 (2001): 458-463.
Next: The Anti-War Movement
Monday, September 13, 2010
Gay Rights Movement: Introduction
The summer of 1969 showed the best and worst of America. In June, President Nixon announced Vietnamization as a way to get America out of the Vietnam War, which reminds me a lot of our present policy of Iraqization of the now (supposedly) ended war in Iraq. Man stood on the moon for the first time on July 16 with the Apollo 11 landing. In August, Woodstock demonstrated to the world the epitome of the flower children’s culture and the height of the counter culture movement. While such events were celebrated in American culture, the summer of 1969 was also marked by a series of tragedies. Judy Garland died from an overdose of drugs. The Manson Family murdered actress Sharon Tate, her unborn child, and four others in Bel Air, California, in what has become known as Helter Skelter. Mary Jo Kopechne died in a drunk driving accident with Ted Kennedy in Chapppaquiddick, Massachusetts. And 248 people perished in Mississippi when Hurricane Camille crashed into the Gulf Coast. The Civil Rights Movement was also going through a change. With the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis in 1968, the end had come to the classic period of the Civil Rights Movement. The movement was becoming more radical and began to splinter off into more groups of people, including women and the gay and lesbian community.
With the Stonewall Riots, the modern gay and lesbian rights movement had its beginnings in Greenwich Village, New York, during the summer of 1969. The Stonewall Riots marked a change in the direction of the gay liberation movement that had been brewing since the end of World War II with the founding of the Mattachine Society in Los Angeles with chapters in New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. Gays and lesbians worked with the Civil Rights Movement, participated in the anti-war movement, and kept their sexuality in the background. But the “Friends of Dorothy” and “Daughters of Bilitis” were determined to no longer stay in the background and have homosexuality criminalized as it had been in the past. On the night of June 27, 1969, the gays and lesbians in the Stonewall Inn fought back after a police raid, and the modern gay liberation movement was born and would continue to grow as gay pride marches marked the subsequent anniversaries of the Stonewall Riots each year in New York during the month of June.
Although most historians of the gay liberation movement place the climax of the beginning of the modern movement on the Stonewall Riots, some west coast historians give the metropolitan centers of the movement as Los Angeles and San Francisco in the fifties with the founding of the Mattachine Society, the earliest homophile activist organization, and the antiwar movement in San Francisco during the sixties. Martin Meeker of the University of Southern California presented a re-evaluation of the Mattachine Society in his article “Behind the Mask of Respectability: Reconsidering the Mattachine Society and Male Homophile Practice 1950s and 1960s,” and Justin David Suran of the University of California, Berkeley examines the effects of the Vietnam War on the gay liberation movement in “Coming Out Against the War: Antimilitarism and the Politicization of Homosexuality in the Era of Vietnam.”
Next: The Mattacine Society
Announcement: I have decided that I will try something new with The Closet Professor. Most college classes either meet on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays or on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Therefore, I have decided that The Closet Professor, which has a very loyal but also relatively small following, will begin posting only on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. These posts take more time to put together than the posts on my other blog, so I have chosen to give you quality not quantity. I love this blog, and it is the blog I love to do: teach. I hope that you will continue to read and comment as the posts slow down just a bit. Occasionally, I will randomly post things for other days as the mood strikes but for now, I plan to follow the new schedule.
Thanks for reading.