LGBT North Carolinians making history

Part Five of the InterstateQ.com Pride Series.

North Carolina certainly may not be like the hot-beds of LGBT community, life and activism like San Francisco or New York City, but we still have plenty of history makers and leaders to be proud of!

From politicians to activists, authors to bloggers and community leaders, philanthropists and community organizations, North Carolina has more in LGBT history, leadership and community than many outside of the state may realize.

Of course, this article is no where near exhaustive and I am sure that I have unknowingly left out a lot of worthy individuals. However, thanks and great gratitude is extended to those I have not listed, as well.

Julia Boseman (Wilmington, NC), politician
Julia Boseman is North Carolina’s first and only openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender member of the North Carolina General Assembly. Senator Boseman serves in the North Carolina Senate and was elected to her second term in the office in the 2006 elections. (Thanks to reader Hunter for keeping my airheadedness in check; I had originally said Senator Boseman was in the NC House. Don’t know what got into me today; perhaps not enough coffee.)


Mandy Carter (Durham, NC), activist
“Mandy Carter is a life long activist for women’s and queer rights and peace. In 1993, Mandy helped found SONG – Southerners On New Ground – to help build allies in Dixie – connecting peoples of different races, classes, cultures, gender & ual identities. Mandy has devoted most of her life to the social justice movement, educating audiences about LGBT rights. Mandy Carter is a member of the national steering committee of the Freedom To Marry project former board member of the National Black Lesbian and Gay Leadership Forum and of the International Federation of Black Prides. Recently, Mandy was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize as part of the 1000 Women for Peace nominations! She lives in Durham, North Carolina.” (src)

Mandy Carter was also among the founding members of the NC Pride PAC, which later became a part of Equality North Carolina (see below in the “Organizations” section).


John D’Emilio (Greensboro, NC), author, educator, advocate
“John D’Emilio (born 1948, New York City) is a professor of history and of women’s and gender studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has taught previously at George Washington University and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1982. […]

His most important and widely cited book, ual Politics, ual Communities (University of Chicago Press, 1983), is considered a definitive history of the U.S. homophile movement from 1940 to 1970. Therfore D’Emilio won 1984 the Stonewall Book Award.” (src)


Ed Farthing (Hickory, NC), advocate, attorney
“Activism was not new for Farthing on coming out of the closet. He has been active in the Republican Party since he was a teen, even serving as President of the North Carolina Teen Age Republicans in the mid 60’s. He served 2 terms on the Catawba County Board of Elections in the mid 70’s and early 80’s (one of those as Chair), and currently serves as GOP Precinct Chair in Greenmont Precinct. […]
In the LGBT community Farthing has served 2 terms on the Equality NC Board of Directors, resigning as Chair of the Equality NC PAC Board to work for Equality NC. He helped organize and served as treasurer of Catawba Valley PFLAG and also helped organize and helped facilitate the LGBT youth group Catawba Valley Time Out Youth. He was on the Board of Directors of NC Pride, Inc. and helped organize NC Pride events in Charlotte, Durham and Winston-Salem, as well as teaching several seminars on legal issues for LGBT citizens.

He has been active with Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and served as local counsel in matters that arose in Western NC. Farthing has also been active with the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund and attended candidate training in 2001. He is active in Soulforce, an LGBT activist organization for people of faith, and has been arrested twice in non-violent demonstrations protesting spiritual violence perpetrated by organized religion against God’s LGBT children.”

Ed is an Elder in the Presbyterian Church and a former Boy Scout. (src)


Dr. Kimeron N. Hardin (Rutherford, NC), author, medical professional
Hardin was born in Rutherford County, NC, and was the child of fundamentalist Christian parents. He came out at the age of 17 in 1977 and later attended The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he became a campus educator. Later, Hardin taught at other public UNC schools.

“He is now the Director of the Bay Area Pain Program in Los Gatos and San Jose California. Although Kimeron went on to develop a subspecialty within my clinical practice in the area of pain management and health psychology, he has continued to try to support the GLBT community through his writings which have included The Gay and Lesbian Self-Esteem Book: A Guide to Loving Ourselves and Queer Blues: The Lesbian and Gay Guide to Overcoming Depression, as well as GLBT book reviews, articles and workshops.” (src)


Kevin Jennings (Winston-Salem, NC), Executive Director/Founder, GLSEN
Kevin Jennings, a native of Winston-Salem, NC, is the son of a Baptist minister who grew up to become an educator, moving to Boston and then later New York City. In the 1990s, Jennings came at the forefront of advocacy for LGBT students in K-12 education. He founded the Gay and Lesbian Teachers Network, which later became the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network based in New York City. GLSEN is the leading national organization working on issues affecting LGBT students in K-12 education and sponsors the annual Day of Silence and No Name-Calling Week projects.


Armistead Maupin (Raleigh, NC), author
“Armistead Maupin was born in Washington, D.C., in 1944 but grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. A graduate of the University of North Carolina, he served as a naval officer in the Mediterranean and with the River Patrol Force in Vietnam.
Maupin worked briefly as a reporter for a newspaper in Charleston, South Carolina, before being assigned to the San Francisco bureau of the Associated Press in 1971. The climate of freedom and tolerance he found in his adopted city inspired him to come out publicly as homosexual in 1974. Two years later he launched his “Tales of the City” serial in the San Francisco Chronicle, the first fiction to appear in an American daily for decades.
Maupin is the author of nine novels, including the six-volume Tales of the City series, Maybe the Moon, The Night Listener and, most recently, Michael Tolliver Lives. Three miniseries starring Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney were made from the first three novels in the Tales series. The Night Listener became a feature film starring Robin Williams and Toni Collette.

Maupin lives in San Francisco with his husband, Christopher Turner.” (src)


Mike Nelson (Carrboro, NC), politician
“Michael R. Nelson (popularly known as Mike Nelson) is an American politician from North Carolina who currently serves on the Orange County Board of Commissioners.

A Democrat, Nelson is a former mayor of Carrboro, North Carolina and the first openly gay person to be elected as a mayor of a North Carolina city. Nelson was elected in 1995 after serving two years on the Carrboro Board of Aldermen. He served five consecutive terms as mayor from 1995 to 2005.

In November 2006, Nelson was elected to the Orange County Board of Commissioners.” (src)

Mike Nelson was also among the founding members of the NC Pride PAC, which later became a part of Equality North Carolina (see below in the “Organizations” section).


Bob Page & Dale Fredericksen (Greensboro, NC), businessmen & philanthropists
Bob Page and Dale Fredericksen, owners of Replacements, Ltd. are major community leaders and donors in North Carolina. Their philanthropy and leadership has helped to shape and create a visible and viable movement for LGBT equality in the Triad area of North Carolina and across the state. Page and Fredericksen’s philanthropy has led to the creation or sustainability of numerous organizations including the Triad Business & Professional Guild, the Guilford Green Foundation, UNCG PRIDE! and Equality North Carolina. Replacements, Ltd. is a national-level corporate sponsor of the Human Rights Campaign.


Gary Palmer (Greensboro, NC), advocate, educator
“I moved to Greensboro in 1983 when about the only things that existed in the gay community were bars. Fortunately, our community started growing shortly after that and I became involved with gay groups as they materialized. I became involved with ART in the late ’80s and was President of [Alternative Resources of the Triad] in the early ’90s, the first president of GLASS, the gay teen support group and one of the original board members of GGF.

Going to work at Replacements in 1992 was a huge blessing. I no longer had to worry about being openly gay. Bob Page was supportive of all my gay activist activities and instigated my involvement in the committee that created the Triad Business and Professional Guild. I have served on the board of [Triad Health Project] and the granting committee for GCAP. I founded the GLSEN [Greensboro] chapter in 1997, working to create positive change for LGBT students in high schools. I now lead the GSAFE group whose purpose is very similar.

One of the great pleasures of working at Replacements is that I have been able to incorporate my work, Vice President Community Affairs, into being a visible gay person in a lot of community organizations and activities. I was part of the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce Class of 2000 leadership program, Other Voices and a member of the 2001 class of Leadership Greensboro. In 2003 I received the Chamber of Commerce Leadership Greensboro Medal and in 2006 the Chamber of Commerce Other Voices Change Agent Award. I now serve on the board of the United Way of Greater Greensboro, the board of the National Conference for Community and Justice – Piedmont and the granting committee for the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro. In addition I am involved with the Community Education Committee headed by the new Guilford County Schools diversity officer Monica Walker. This group is working to improve acceptance of differences in schools and works to address the issues of racism in our schools. I have served on the steering committee of the Bennett College for Women Chief Diversity Officer’s Forum since its beginning in 2004.” (src)


Ian Palmquist (Raleigh, NC), advocate, Executive Director of Equality North Carolina
Ian Palmquist, the young Executive Director of Equality North Carolina, has quickly become a respected leader in the national movement for LGBT equality. After taking the helm of Equality NC as Co-Director with current Political and Community Organizing Director Ed Farthing in 2003, Ian became the sole Executive Director in 2006. Ian has served as Co-Chair of the national Equality Federation since 2004 and helped to organize the national Gay Men’s Health Summit and its conference in Raleigh, NC, in 2003. (src)


Jay Quinn, author
“Born in North Carolina, Jay, two-time Lammy finalist, is the author of Metes and Bounds and The Mentor. He is the editor of the Rebel Yell series of anthologies featuring the stories of southern gay men. Founding and Executive Editor of Southern Tier Editions, an imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc., Jay lives in South Florida with his partner of ten years, 2 Dobermans and a Weimaraner.” (src)


David Sedaris, author
“David Sedaris is an openly gay author who was born in Johnson City, New York, raised in North Carolina. David Sedaris began his career by reading his essays on radio, which aired in America and the UK in the mid-nineties. He developed a knack for making people laugh by humorously telling of his own stories throughout his life, such as his family, jobs, and relationships. His books include: , Barrel Fever, and Me Talk Pretty One Day. He still does essay readings on the radio, and also live readings of his books, which are very funny. Sedaris’ latest book, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, was released in June of last summer and was the New York Times bestseller for Nonfiction. After an extreme adiction and a period of akward jobs (described in parts of Me Talk Pretty One Day), he’s somewhat settled down in France with his long-term boyfriend (husband?) Hugh Hamrick.” (src)


Pam Spaulding (Durham, NC), blogger/activist
“Pam Spaulding is the editor and publisher of Pam’s House Blend (pamshouseblend.com), honored as “Best LGBT Blog” in the 2005 and 2006 Weblog Awards. The Blend, which averages 110,000 visitors a month, was launched in July 2004 as a personal response to the anti-gay state of the political landscape.

A regular contributor to the progressive blog Pandagon.net, Pam has also guest posted at the national blogs Firedoglake, The Rude Pundit, and has written for The Independent Weekly.

With roots in North Carolina and the New York City, Pam considers herself to have “dual citizenship” status as a Southerner and a Yankee — and brings that perspective and voice to her blog, which focuses on current political events, LGBT and women’s rights, the influence of the far Right, and race relations.

Pam’s House Blend is ranked in the top 100 progressive political blogs. […]

Pam has spoken at national forums, and performed the first-ever live-blogging event for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network’s annual dinner in May 2006.

Spaulding has a B.A. in Media Studies from Fordham University and in the non-virtual world, serves as Information Technology Manager at Duke University Press. She is a board member of The Institute of Southern Studies, which publishes the award-winning investigative journalism publication Southern Exposure, and the blog Facing South. Pam is on the organization’s Media Advisory Group.

She lives Durham, NC with her wife Kate — they legally married in Vancouver in 2004 — and their two dogs.” (src)


Shane Windmeyer (Charlotte, NC), author/speaker, founder of CampusPride.net
“Shane, – ited Out on Fraternity Row: Personal Accounts of Being Gay in a College Fraternity, in this book speaks candidly about his experience on coming out to his fraternity and how homophobia hurts everyone – gay or straight, Greek or non-Greek. [..]

Shane is considered one of the foremost educators on ual orientation issues in relation to greek life. A true champion for lgbt issues on college campuses, Shane recently founded and currently serves as coordinator of CampusPride.Net – National Online Network for LGBT Student Leaders and released his third book titled Inspiration for LGBT Students & Their Allies in October 2002.”

Shane is also the editor of The Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students. (src)


Jo Wyrick (Greensboro, NC), LGBT advocate, Executive Director of National Stonewall Democrats
Wyrick, a native of Greensboro, NC, is the former Executive Director of Equality North Carolina and is the current Executive Director of the National Stonewall Democrats, taking her job first as the interim director in March 2006 and becoming the permanent director in July 2006. Wyrick is a graduate of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (src)



Alternative Resources of the Triad (Greensboro, NC) 1988
“Alternative Resources of the Triad was established in 1988 by Katheryn Smith, former Executive Director of the Triad Health Project. Receiving help from numerous friends and acquaintances, Katheryn also relied heavily on John Quillan of the Charlotte Gay and Lesbian Switchboard and Greensboro attorney Ron Johnson for guidance in obtaining nonprofit tax exempt status.

An anonymous donation of $1,000.00 was giving and the seed that produced their first event was named “the Lesbian Health Fair” that same year. The legacy of ART “The Gay & Lesbian Hot line of the Triad” was initiated shortly after. This had become the foremost function of the organizations beginning and the Gay & Lesbian Hot line was placed in the spare room of a volunteer’s apartment at that time. Donated phone equipment lead to the first training of seven pioneers in Greensboro. The official opening of the hot line even received coverage in the Greensboro News & Record as well as two local television stations.” src)

Alternative Resources of the Triad now operates OutGreensboro.com, a resource and referral site for the LGBT community in Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point, NC, and also operates “Greensboro, Out at the Movies.” In 2007, Alternative Resources of the Triad organized the Triad area’s first-ever, regional LGBT Pride festival.


Equality North Carolina (The NC Pride PAC & the North Carolina Human Rights Fund) 1979/1990

Equality NC got its start as NC Pride PAC, which was founded in December, 1990, by Joe Herzenberg, Mike Nelson, Ruth Ziegler, Mandy Carter, Jesse White, David Jones, Tom Warshauer, and Eric Rosenthal. Founded in the wake of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender mobilization for the 1990 Helms-Gantt race for U.S. Senate, this political action committee sought to use that energy to affect change at the state level.

Since then, the group has been active in state legislative races and other races of statewide importance. The organization also has maintained an active lobbying presence in the NC General Assembly, advancing issues including Crime Against Nature reform, hate crime, non-discrimination, HIV/AIDS funding and education, and others. In 1998, the group changed its name to Equality NC PAC and joined forces with Equality NC Foundation (then called Equality NC Project), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit group, to do more public education and organizing work.

Equality NC Foundation was founded in 1979 as the North Carolina Human Rights Fund, an educational and charitable organization established to promote and defend the human rights and civil liberties of lesbians and gay men in North Carolina. In the early years, NCHRF worked to document antigay violence, to fight for repeal of the Crime Against Nature law, and to provide legal aid to gays and lesbians targeted for prosecution. The group also worked to foster local organizations across the state, and help fund the first NC Pride marches. In the late eighties, the focus shifted to providing education on lesbian and gay issues.

In 2002, the Board agreed that it was time to form a parent organization to link the PAC and the Foundation, and to manage the group’s growing lobbying and advocacy work. Equality NC, Inc. was created as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit group.

From the 1979 founding of NCHRF to the 1990 founding of ENC PAC to today, Equality NC has been fighting tirelessly for equal rights and justice for all North Carolinians, regardless of ual orientation or gender identity. (src)


UNCG PRIDE!, formerly the Gay Student Union & Gay & Lesbian Student Union, 1974

PRIDE!, formerly known as the Gay Student Union, the Gay and Lesbian Student Association and the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Student Association, is among the nation’s oldest gay student groups. Established in 1974, PRIDE! is, to knowledege, the oldest, most continuously active gay student organization in North Carolina and has had a varied and interesting history as the GLBTQA student organization on the campus of UNCG.

The earliest records of any existence of a gay student group on the campus of UNCG dates from November 1974 through January 1975 in the form of historical documents including a flier, an interdepartmental memo, and a correspondence between the UNCG Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and the Office of the President of The University of North Carolina. One document within the historical archives of PRIDE! does date back to 1973; it is, however, unrelated to the original gay student group, but relates to the formation and recognition of “Gay Liberation on state-supported campuses.” The name under which PRIDE! operated during this time period is unknown but the letter written by the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs refers to the group as being a part of the “Gay Liberation Movement.”

In the 1979-1980 academic year the Gay Student Union was given official University affiliation. According to an October 30, 1979 article in the Carolinian, the first meeting of the newly affiliated Gay Student Union (called the “Gay Academic Union” in the article) was held on October 25, 1979. Many correspondences between members of the alumni, the Greensboro community and University administration detail the overwhelming anti-gay attitudes of the time period. The correspondences also reveal the vehement opposition from alumni to the affiliation of a gay student group to the University. Many letters to the editor within the Greensboro Daily News echo the same attitudes from Greensboro citizens. These letters are not only valuable to the history of PRIDE!, but also to the history of the entire LGBT Rights Movement. These letters are evidence of the intense anti-gay attitudes held by the vast majority of Americans during the 1970s and 1980s, a time in which the Movement had finally formed a somewhat unified and solidified effort. During this time, gay rights also began to become a more accepted topic within the debates of mainstream American politics. Although our group did not receive official affiliation until 1979 and although no mention of a group name appears before 1979 in the historical archives of our organization, outside evidence points to the fact that only one, continuous gay student group has existed on the UNCG campus since 1974.

Most likely in an attempt to be more inclusive of the LGBT community, the name of the Gay Student Union was changed to the Gay and Lesbian Student Association sometime in the mid-80s. In September 1993 our name was changed to the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Student Association and in a final push to be more inclusive, our name changed to PRIDE!, Proudly Representing Individuality, Diversity and Equality, in 1997. […]

PRIDE! continues to uphold its more than 30-year service to the UNCG community through weekly meetings, social events, educational and awareness programming and activities, and through the annual PRIDE! Week, usually held every April. PRIDE! also shows a commitment to healthy living by holding athletic and sports-based activities at our weekly meetings throughout the academic year, as well as offering information on safe , abstinence and other healthy living topics and issues. (src).

Previous Pride Series Posts

Part Four of the InterstateQ.com Pride Series.

Before 1973, LGBT people were considered to be mentally diseased, sick or ill. Even today, people still believe it.

But history would be made in 1973, when the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its lists of mental diseases contained in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III).

For average LGBT people, the removal of homosexuality from the DSM-III meant that they would no longer be subject to involuntary commitment to psychiatric hospitals or tests and neither would they have to undergo such inhumane psychiatric treatments as shock-therapy.

However, the debate has raged on ever since 1973 and remains hot today, at least within religious and “ex-gay” circles.

The A.P.A. continues to state that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and in a fact sheet on sexual orientation, the A.P.A. states:

No. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals agree that homosexuality is not an illness, a mental disorder, or an emotional problem. More than 35 years of objective, well-designed scientific research has shown that homosexuality, in and itself, is not associated with mental disorders or emotional or social problems. Homosexuality was once thought to be a mental illness because mental health professionals and society had biased information.

In the past, the studies of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people involved only those in therapy, thus biasing the resulting conclusions. When researchers examined data about such people who were not in therapy, the idea that homosexuality was a mental illness was quickly found to be untrue.

In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association confirmed the importance of the new, better-designed research and removed homosexuality from the official manual that lists mental and emotional disorders. Two years later, the American Psychological Association passed a resolution supporting this removal.

For more than 25 years, both associations have urged all mental health professionals to help dispel the stigma of mental illness that some people still associate with homosexual orientation.

In 1976, Exodus International, the largest “ex-gay” organization in the world, was founded on the premise that homosexuality is a mental disorder as well as a religious short-coming. Exodus and other “ex-gay” groups such as the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexual (NARTH) continue to say that homosexuality is a mental disease:

NARTH agrees with the American Psychological Association that “biological, psychological and social factors” shape sexual identity at an early age for most people.

But the difference is one of emphasis. We place more emphasis on the psychological (family, peer and social) influences, while the American Psychological Association emphasizes biological influences–and has shown no interest in (indeed, a hostility toward) investigating those same psychological and social influences.

There is no such thing as a “gay gene” and there is no evidence to support the idea that homosexuality is simply genetic. However, biological influences may indeed influence some people toward homosexuality; recent studies point to prenatal-hormonal influences, especially in men, that result in a low-masculinized brain; also, there may be genetic factors in some people — both of which would affect gender identity, and therefore sexual orientation. But none of these factors mean that homosexuality is normal and a part of human design, or that it is inevitable in such people, or that it is unchangeable.

Numerous examples exist of people who have successfully modified their sexual behavior, identity, and arousal or fantasies.

Unfortunately, the myth that LGBT people are mentally ill, diseased and sick continues to spread around the nation and the globe.

And, unfortunately, the debate will most likely rage on. Until there comes a time when radical portions of the religious community no longer seek to use their religious tenets to outcast and exclude other members of their human family, the propagation of false information claiming that homosexuality is mentally disordered and that sexual orientation can always be changed will continue.

Previous Pride Series Posts


‘Homo Nest Raided’

Part Three of the InterstateQ.com Pride Series.

It is the “reason for the season.”

When police raided the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village on June 27 and 28, 1969, I doubt they thought that this time would be any different from any of the other times they successfully raided a gay bar in the city. I doubt they thought their decision would spark an entire community to movement.

In a July 6, 1969 news article entitled “Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees are Stinging Mad,” reporter Jerry Lister of The New York Daily News states:

Last Friday the privacy of the Stonewall was invaded by police from the First Division. It was a raid. They had a warrant. After two years, police said they had been informed that liquor was being served on the premises. Since the Stonewall was without a license, the place was being closed. It was the law.

All hell broke loose when the police entered the Stonewall. The girls instinctively reached for each other. Others stood frozen, locked in an embrace of fear.

Only a handful of police were on hand for the initial landing in the homosexual beachhead. They ushered the patrons out onto Christopher Street, just off Sheridan Square. A crowd had formed in front of the Stonewall and the customers were greeted with cheers of encouragement from the gallery.


Official reports listed four injured policemen with 13 arrests. The War of the Roses lasted about 2 hours from about midnight to 2 a.m. There was a return bout Wednesday night.

Two veterans recently recalled the battle and issued a warning to the cops. “If they close up all the gay joints in this area, there is going to be all out war.”

In those times, it was still illegal in many places to serve alcohol to a homosexual. That was just one of the discriminatory laws that the Mattachine Society fought against in the 1950s.

Another site also states:

In 1969 it was illegal for men to dance with men, although women could dance with women. To gay teenagers, The Stonewall Inn was a favorite place of refuge, a site where they could dance with whomever they wanted and could choose whatever music they wished. At the same time, however, the Mafia-owned and operated bars in the city were places where possible violence was always present. Gay bars were seedy and the drinks were watered . But, at least, they were there.

But raids on gay bars in New York City weren’t all that rare. Many thought the raid on the Stonewall was no different from any of the other times the police simply wanted to round up a bunch of queers, folks they considered to be breaking the law just for holding hands or being near their boyfriend or girlfriend.

According to Wikipedia (src):

Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine, who led the raid on the bar that first night, claims that he was ordered to close the Stonewall Inn because it was the central location for gathering information on gay men who worked on Wall Street. A recent increase in the number of thefts from brokerage houses on Wall Street led police to suspect that gay men, forced by blackmail, were behind the thefts. (Carter 262)

The Wikipedia article also gives some other interesting facts, such as the fact that transgender individuals and gender-nonconformists (like butch women or effeminate men) were highly targeted that night. Some of them were dragged into the bar and beaten. One rioter was severely beaten.

By the end of the night the total number of rioters had grown to 2000, fighting with over 400 police officers. The early morning riot of June 28th soon calmed down, but riots broke out the next night and gatherings in the Village continued for weeks.

Every June we celebrate the time when LGBT people first stood up in large, vocal numbers for their rights and against police and government oppression.

As one site states:

Since 1969 it has been an uphill struggle for gays to be accorded the rights of other citizens. Before The Stonewall, there were other brave gay, lesbian, and transgenders who courageously fought the system, making in-roads here and there. However, the Stonewall rebellion made the public, and more importantly “us,” realize that we are a people, that we must demand our rights as American citizens and as human beings. At long last we symbolically had achieved “minority status.”

This post is a part of InterstateQ.com Pride Series, exploring the history of the pre-Stonewall and modern LGBT Rights Movement and celebrating Pride Month in June 2007.

Previous Pride Series Posts


Oppression before Stonewall

Part Two of the InterstateQ.com Pride Series.

In Part One of the InterstateQ.com Pride series, “A Few Good Men (and Women),” we briefly discussed and explored the pre-Stonewall LGBT community and early LGBT activism and advocacy during the 1950s.

In Part Two, I wanted to delve further into the issue of the oppression of LGBT people before the very public Stonewall Inn riots in New York City. In Part One we explained how the Stonewall Riots became a turning point for the LGBT community, marking the beginning of the modern LGBT Rights Movement.

While activism and advocacy surely existed before Stonewall, it was limited and rare, usually confined to America’s largest cities. In places like San Francisco, Washington, DC and New York City, LGBT activism was alive and well with the presence of the Mattachine Society and Daughters of Bilitis. In most areas throughout the nation, however, LGBT people continued to be oppressed beyond imagination.

Suffering “witch-hunts” and a lumping together with the likes of pedophiles and the mentally diseased, most LGBT people led double-lives. To those around them, LGBT people were either nice, well-mannered single-types or they were nice, well-mannered married individuals. In the vast majority of communities, LGBT people were not able to live open, honest lives, much less step up and participate in activism or advocacy.

While there were, indeed, LGBT people who were able to settle down with life partners, some LGBT people, and especially gay men, were not so lucky. Many found themselves seeking out anonymous sexual relationships to fulfill themselves (not that the acts themselves would fulfill any lasting emotional need, but only a short-term physical need).

PlanetOut offers a classic video from the Mansfield, Ohio, police department’s undercover sting operation to catch gay men who sought out these very limited, unemotional attempts at fulfilling their emotional and physical needs.

PlanetOut says of the video:

In this intensely disturbing documentation of 1960s police entrappment a variety of men are depicted engaging in homosexual conduct in a Mansfield, Ohio men’s room. Using a hidden camera, the police department staked out the restroom, and utilized the footage to make a series of 38 sodomy arrests. The resulting “police training film” explains the dangers of “sex deviancy” and how to obtain evidence to convict offenders of sodomy (most of those arrested are described as “currently serving 1 to 20 in the Ohio Penitentiary”).

You can view it here (limited nudity, but for mature audiences only).

In September 2006, columnist Lorraine Ahearn of the Greensboro, NC News & Record wrote an extensive report on the “Gay Purge” of 1957 in Greensboro, NC. Unlike the situation recounted by the video from the Mansfield police department, “the purge” in Greensboro, NC, revolved almost exclusively around men who had consensual sexual relations in the privacy of their own homes.

Ahearn opens up her “Greensboro’s untold story: The gay scare of ’57”:

On Feb. 4, 1957, a Guilford County grand jury emerged from its closed session and issued a bundle of indictments of a scope unlike any before or since — against 32 men accused of being homosexual.

After witnesses named the men during police interrogations, the suspects were tried one by one in a Greensboro courtroom for crimes against nature, almost exclusively with consenting adults.

The now-obscure episode, which some longtime residents came to call “the purge,” was the largest attempted roundup of homosexuals in Greensboro history and marked one of the most intense gay scares of the 1950s.

Unlike sweeps of subsequent decades, involving raids on public parks and gay bars, Greensboro’s 1957 trials focused on private acts behind closed doors.

The purpose, in the words of the police chief, was to “remove these individuals from society who would prey upon our youth,” and to protect the town from what a presiding judge called “a menace.”

Some 32 trials in the winter and spring of 1957 would end in guilty verdicts, 24 of them resulting in prison terms of five to 20 years, with some defendants assigned to highway chain gangs.

As you can see, even taking precautions to keep their lives private and secret didn’t always work for LGBT people. Lumped in with child molesters and other criminals, LGBT people were routinely rounded up and prosecuted under “Crimes against Nature,” better known as sodomy, laws.

Although many states have repealed their sodomy laws and the United States Supreme Court struck them down in the landmark decision in Lawrence v. Texas (2003), many states have also kept them on the books. North Carolina is one of those states that still does.

This post is a part of InterstateQ.com Pride Series, exploring the history of the pre-Stonewall and modern LGBT Rights Movement and celebrating Pride Month in June 2007.

Previous Pride Series Posts


A Few Good Men (and Women)

Part One of the InterstateQ.com Pride Series.

The time before the Stonewall Riots in June 1969 are usually referred to as “Pre-Stonewall,” a time when being “out” as a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person was not only rare, but dangerous for many. An openly LGBT person was hardly ever seen and the sight of one brave enough to openly, publicly challenge our society was few and far between.

Early Organizational Activism: Mattachines and Bilitis
Perhaps one of the first LGBT rights and activist organizations to form Pre-Stonewall was the Mattachine Society. The organization was founded in 1950 by Hay and a small group of friends. According to an article at Wikipedia (src), the organization “first met in Los Angeles, on November 11, 1950, with Harry, Rudi Gernreich, Bob Hull, Chuck Rowland, and Dale Jennings in attendance, but was not incorporated until 1954 when a different group assumed leadership positions.”

Soon after affiliate groups were started in several major American cities, including San Francisco, New York City, Boston, Chicago, Denver, the District of Columbia, and Philadelphia. According to Wikipedia, “the primary goal of the society was to engender public acceptance of homosexuality — they wrote in their manifesto that homosexuals’ ‘physiological and psychological handicaps need be no deterrent in integrating 10 percent of the world’s population towards the constructive social progress of mankind.'”

From Wikipedia:

In a 1976 interview with Jonathan Ned Katz, Hay was asked the origin of the name Mattachine. He mentioned the medieval-Renaissance French Sociétés Joyeux:

“One masque group was known as the ‘Société Mattachine.’ These societies, lifelong secret fraternities of unmarried townsmen who never performed in public unmasked, were dedicated to going out into the countryside and conducting dances and rituals during the Feast of Fools, at the Vernal Equinox. Sometimes these dance rituals, or masques, were peasant protests against oppression — with the maskers, in the people’s name, receiving the brunt of a given lord’s vicious retaliation. So we took the name Mattachine because we felt that we 1950s Gays were also a masked people, unknown and anonymous, who might become engaged in morale building and helping ourselves and others, through struggle, to move toward total redress and change.”

The Daughters of Bilitis, another early group, was the Mattachine Society’s counterpart specifically for lesbians. The group was formed in San Francisco in 1955. Like the Mattachine Society, the Daughters of Bilitis published a magazine geared toward the particular community for which the organization was formed.

By the 1960s and 1970s, however, both groups would fade away. Affilated groups would split off and form their own independent organizations. The Mattachine Society became a target of claims that they were too traditional and not willing to go far enough to advance LGBT rights. The Daughters of Bilitis was accused of “siding with” the Mattachine Society instead of allying themselves with separatist feminist organizations formed in the 1970s.

Frank Kameny
Seeing an LGBT person openly and publicly challenge social institutions, organizations or local, state and national governments is nothing new to many people in 21st century America. In many locales across the nation, people know of local LGBT activists as well as national LGBT movements. Most, if not all, Americans have had at least some exposure to LGBT activism and advocacy and, at the very least, have heard of our movement for marriage equality.

In 1957, however, this was not the case. At least it wasn’t until Frank Kameny appeared on the scene. Kameny was born in 1925 to a middle-class, Jewish family in New York. He entered college at the age of 15, but did not finish his education until 1956 due to his service in World War II.

Kameny went to work in civil service for the U.S. Army Map Service in 1957 and soon thereafter was arrested in a local cruising area for gay men in Washington, D.C. He was arrested on “moral charges,” although he was released and nothing ever came of it. Problems arose, however, when the incident was reported to an investigator in the Civil Service Commission. Kameny was fired from his job and in 1958 learned that he was barred from any and all future employment with the federal government.

According to PlanetOut’s Queer History section (src):

Kameny’s experience spurred him to militant activism. “My dismissal amounted to a declaration of war against me by the government,” Kameny later said. “And I tend not to lose my wars.”

Kameny went through a lengthy process of suing the government to get his job back, but all of his efforts and appeals failed, including an attempt to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. In March 1961, however, the high court rejected Kameny’s petition. “That ended the formal case,” he explained, “but not the battle. The time had come to fight collectively.”

Kameny and a friend established the Washington, D.C. branch of the Mattachine Society, a homophile group that had started 10 years earlier in Los Angeles. The first meeting of the D.C. chapter, held on November 15, 1961, drew about 12 men and women, who elected Kameny as the new group’s president.

Unlike many other gay leaders of the time, Kameny embraced direct action along the lines of the black civil rights movement. “The [gay] movement of those days was very unassertive, apologetic, and defensive,” Kameny noted. But he believed that gay people should fight a “down-to-earth, grass-roots, sometimes tooth-and-nail” battle.

Under Kameny’s leadership, the group charged to the forefront of the nascent gay rights movement. The D.C. chapter focused on trying to reform the government’s exclusionary policies toward homosexuals in federal employment and successfully lobbied the ACLU to take up the cause. They also organized the first gay demonstration of the White House in April 1965, in which a handful of gay men in suits and lesbians in dresses carried placards reading “First Class Treatment for Homosexuals” and “Civil Service Commission is Un-American.”

A few months later, the U.S Court of Appeals for the first time decided that the rejection of an application for federal employment on the grounds of “homosexual conduct” was “too vague.” The Civil Service Commission, the court ruled, failed to state “why that conduct related to occupational competence or fitness.” Dogged by a long line of similar court cases, the Civil Service Commission formally amended its anti-gay policy in 1975. After 18 years, Kameny was vindicated.

In 2006, Kameny was honored by the Human Rights Campaign at the National Dinner in Washington, DC. He received the National Capital Area Leadership Award:

LGBT History, Pre-1950s
The history of the LGBT community before 1950 is quite varied. Although there exists less activism and public challenges to a prejudiced and discriminatory society, LGBT people still made their through life, leaving their indelible mark on society and history.

Here are a few links for more reading:

This post is a part of InterstateQ.com Pride Series, exploring the history of the pre-Stonewall and modern LGBT Rights Movement and celebrating Pride Month in June 2007.


InterstateQ.com Pride Series

June is, of course, celebrated as LGBT Pride Month. The celebration is rooted in history, mainly that of the Stonewall Riots which occurred on the evening of June 27, 1969 through the next morning of June 28 and weeks afterward. The Stonewall Riots marked what history would come to name the catalyst of of the modern LGBT Rights Movement.

Starting this week, InterstateQ.com will feature a series of posts exploring the history of the LGBT Rights Movement, from the days of pre-Stonewall conditions and activism to Stonewall and from the harrowing ordeals of the 1980s through the 21st century movement for equality.

I hope you’ll find the series both educational and interesting. When I originally went off to college, I had intended on majoring in History and becoming a history teacher, perhaps. Needless to say, I’ll enjoy perusing through the history of our Movement and sharing what I find with you all.

Stay tuned.

You can bookmark this link
http://www.interstateq.com/archives/category/pride-series/ to go directly to a page listing all Pride Series posts.