Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Let's Be Frank

Franklin Edward "Frank" Kameny (May 21, 1925 – October 11, 2011) was "one of the most significant figures" in the American gay rights movement. In 1957, Kameny was dismissed from his position as an astronomer in the Army Map Service in Washington, D.C. because of his homosexuality, leading him to begin "a Herculean struggle with the American establishment" that would "spearhead a new period of militancy in the homosexual rights movement of the early 1960s".

Kameny protested his firing by the U.S. Civil Service Commission due to his homosexuality, and argued this case to the United States Supreme Court in 1961. Although the court denied his petition, it is notable as the first civil rights claim based on sexual orientation. He died of natural causes on October 11, 2011.

In August 1961, Kameny and Jack Nichols co-founded the Mattachine Society of Washington, an organization that pressed aggressively for gay and lesbian civil rights. In 1963 the group was the subject of Congressional hearings initiated by Congressman John Dowdy over its right to solicit funds.

Kameny is credited with bringing an aggressive new tone to the gay civil rights struggle. Kameny and the Mattachine Society of Washington pressed for fair and equal treatment of gay employees in the federal government by fighting security clearance denials, employment restrictions and dismissals, and working with other groups to press for equality for gay citizens. In 1968, Kameny, inspired by Stokely Carmichael's creation of the phrase "Black is Beautiful," created the slogan "Gay is Good" for the gay civil rights movement.

In 2007, the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History included Kameny's picket signs carried in front of the White House in 1965, in the Smithsonian exhibit "Treasures of American History." The Smithsonian now has 12 of the original picket signs carried by gay and lesbian Americans at this, the first ever White House demonstration. (source: Wikipedia)

I last met Frank Kameny in Los Angeles in 2000. Frank was seated outside a movie theatre, holding a small sign that read BOYCOTT COORS. From his little folding chair, he told me that the gay film festival OutFest was still taking money from the rightwing-owned beer corporation. While I wasn't actually "supporting" the festival, since I had comp tickets, I felt dirty through the entire screening (of a forgettable 'light comedy').

There he was, the grandfather of gay rights, still keeping the struggle going, in the face of an army of tanned, veneered "new gays," more concerned with their reel than what's real.

Well, they won't be remembered the way Frank is this week.

The Washington Blade:
“Because there was one Frank Kameny, trailblazing and honest enough to speak out 50 years ago, there are now millions of Americans, coming out, speaking out and fighting for their basic civil rights. His is a legacy of bravery and tremendous impact and will live on in the hearts and minds of every American who values equality and justice.” - Chad Griffin, board president for the American Federation for Equal Rights

ABC News:
"While so many have been impatient about the pace of progress, there was Frank, insisting we recognize that, in the last two years, he was regularly invited as a guest of honor by the very government that fired him simply for being gay," said a statement by Rea Carey, the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Associated Press via Edge Media:
"Being gay has become infinitely better than it was," he said earlier this year when documents from his collection of gay rights history went on display for the first time at the Library of Congress. "The fundamental theme underneath all of that is simply equality."

"Nearly fifty years ago, the United States Government banned me from employment in public service because I am a homosexual. This archive is not simply my story; it also shows how gay and lesbian Americans have joined the American mainstream story of expanded civil liberties in the 20th century. Today, by accepting these papers, the nation preserves not only our history but marks how far gay and lesbian Americans have traveled on the road to civil equality." Frank Kameny

has more links and quotes.

CNN did an expansive feature on Kameny.

Frank's legacy may be overshadowed by the over-promoted and much less worthy.

To the overpaid executives at the allegedly pro-gay nonprofits? Be more like Frank and less like the equivocating suits you cowtow to.

To the large gay media that wouldn't dare put a senior on its cover, let alone an actual homosexual: be more like Frank.

To the deranged "street artists" who don't know the difference between vandalism and activism: Let's be frank. You're idiots.

To the narcissistic self-promoting gay celebutantes who can't post a single picture on Facebook that isn't of themselves, you're un-Frank, and an un-friend.

To the "gay" TV networks that vomit out a cascade of vicious stereotypical nobodies whose only achievement is arriving on camera where there's an open bar: Let's be frank. You're a bunch of douchebags.

None of us has done half as much as Frank did. But we can aspire to be like Frank.

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