Rose Robertson and Parents Enquiry

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Rose Robertson | Polari Magazine | 14437

Gay Activist is sad to learn of the passing of Rose Ellen “Rose” Robertson, age 94. Rose pioneered gay and lesbian helplines in the UK. Rose Robertson “highlighted a social need”, said Peter Tatchell, and helped do something about it.

“Robertson told me that during her wartime work in France an incident occurred which contributed to her later embrace of the gay rights cause,” said Tatchell. “She was billeted with two young male French Resistance agents. One night she entered their room and found them in an embrace. There was mutual embarrassment all round. Not a word was said for three days. Rose knew nothing about homosexuality and was curious. She eventually plucked up the courage to ask them. Both men told stories of family prejudice and rejection. Their story affected her deeply. She was shocked that parents could be so heartless towards their gay children.” It led to her founding Parents Enquiry.

Gay Activist sends condolences to Ms Robertson’s family, friends and colleagues.

Updated 12 January 2013: Replacement photograph.
Updated 23 November 2014: Original source article for this post is no longer available. Alternative obituary located.

Rose Robertson, age 94

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Axel Axgil

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Eigel (left) and Axel on their wedding day | 1989 | Public domain | 14438

Gay Activist is sad to learn of the passing of pioneer gay rights stalwart Axel Axgil of Denmark, aged 96. Axgil died in a hospital in Copenhagen on Saturday following complications from a fall. Axgil, born Axel Lundahl-Madsen, was a founding member of LGBT Danmark in 1948, which makes it one of the oldest gay organisations in Europe.

In the 1950s, both were sentenced on pornography charges to short prison terms for running a gay modeling agency that issued pictures of naked men. The men melded their first names into a new surname, Axgil, and used it in a public show of defiance. On Oct. 1, 1989, he and his partner Eigil were able to exchange vows as Denmark became the first country to allow gays to enter civil unions. Eigil Axgil died in 1995.

Updated 23 November 2014: The original source article in the Washington Post is no longer available.

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Frank Kameny

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Four posts have been merged into one.

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Frank Kameny | UPI File Photo taken on May 19, 1965/Washington Post | 14440

Gay Activist is sad to note the passing of Frank Kameny, age 86. Mr Kameny was found dead on Oct. 11, 2014 at his home in Northwest Washington and his death was confirmed by Charles Francis, of the Kameny Papers Project and Marvin Carter, a longtime friend.

The Washington Post notes:

“Through his efforts over the years, Mr. Kameny deserved to be known as one of the fathers of that shift from the policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” …
Mr. Kameny enlisted in the Army during World War II; in an interview last year with Richard Sincere on the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner Web site, he said, “They asked, I didn’t tell.”

In what appeared to be one of the great triumphs of Mr. Kameny’s often lonely, uphill struggle, the protest signs that he once carried in front of the White House were put on display in the Smithsonian Institution four years ago, to be viewed along with the museum’s other reminders of the course of U.S. history.”

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Frank Kameny and members of the Mattachine Society at a gay pride march in 1970 | Joe My God | 14198

In 1961, astronomer Frank Kameny wasn’t able to get legal support from the American Civil Liberties Union when he was fired from his federal job for being gay. At the time, the laws in all 50 states made sodomy a crime, and the ACLU did not help him file a petition for cert, later turned down by the Supreme Court. … The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund formed in 1973 to fight for legal rights for gays. At the same time, advocates lobbied law schools and groups like the ABA to adopt nondiscrimination policies. Law firms had to agree not to discriminate if they wanted to recruit at law schools, leading to new policies.

When the Supreme Court struck down a sodomy law in Lawrence v. Texas, large law firms and groups like the ABA supported the Lambda Legal challenge. … “Gay-rights supporters have transformed the law and the legal profession, opening the doors of law firms, law schools and courts to people who were once casually and cruelly shut out because of their sexual orientation.”

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Frank Kameny receives a pen President Obama used to sign a memorandum regarding non-discrimination | June 17, 2009 | Getty | 14439

Frank Kameny was being remembered by many writers in America and around the world. David Carter writes for CNN.

“America has lost her greatest leader in the fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality: Franklin E. Kameny, universally known as Frank Kameny. It is hard today to understand the courage it took for Kameny simply to fight to get his job back after he was fired from the government’s Army Map Service in 1957 for being gay.

It is probably impossible for most people now to imagine the even greater courage it took in 1961 for him to start an organization to fight for 100% equality for homosexuals. But that is exactly what he did after he exhausted all personal avenues of appeal, including writing a stirring brief to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear his case.

While it is true that there was ongoing organized political activity on behalf of American homosexuals starting in 1951 with the founding of the Mattachine Society, that organization abandoned its approach of political activism and chose for its leader a cautious man, Hal Call.

Call advocated what was known in the homophile movement (the name the movement used then) as the “education and research” approach. Gay people had so little self-confidence at that time that they felt their only chance of gaining some tolerance was by asking psychiatrists to say that we were mentally ill and therefore should be pitied and given therapy instead of being incarcerated.

…Progress was hard slogging for Kameny in the ’60s. He and Mattachine Society of Washington co-founder Jack Nichols were passionate about the damage done by the American Psychiatric Association’s classification of homosexuality as a mental illness. In the analysis of Kameny and others, gay people at the time were triply condemned as sinners, criminals and mentally ill, and Kameny came to take the position that “we cannot ask for our rights as a minority group … from a position of inferiority or from a position … as less than whole human beings. I feel that the entire homophile movement … is going to stand or fall upon the question of whether or not homosexuality is a sickness and upon our taking a firm stand on it.”

Documents from gay rights history are on display for the first time at the Library of Congress as part of an exhibit on the nation’s constitutional history and civil rights protections. The documents come from gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny, who was fired as a government astronomer in 1957 because he was gay. The exhibit includes Kameny’s 1961 petition to the U.S. Supreme Court contesting his firing. The documents were placed on view at the end of April in an exhibit called “Creating the United States,” which traces the evolution of the nation’s founding documents and legal framework. The Kameny Papers Project which donated about 50,000 items to the library in 2006.

The library is also displaying a 1966 letter from the head of the U.S. Civil Service Commission under President Lyndon B. Johnson, justifying the firing based on the “revulsion of other employees.” It was introduced last year as evidence in the battle over gay rights in California to show a long pattern of treatment by the federal government.

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Joe Orton’s defaced books on display

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Felix Clay/Guardian | 14441

Islington Council is putting on display 40 of the 72 dustjackets that Joe Orton and his partner Kenneth Halliwell defaced in protest against the poor selection of books at Islington’s Essex Road Library, a heinous crime which they pleaded guilty to in 1960, and were both given six month prison sentences. They were the principal suspects for the crimes and were prosecuted after being sent a letter about illegal parking at the library – they did not own a car, but Halliwell used the same typewriter they had used for defacing the books to reply to the letter, incriminating them.

Islington’s local history manager, Mark Aston, said it was the first time the jackets – “they’re of international interest I’d say” – had gone on show in this number in the same place, and they shined a light on two fascinating lives and characters.

The pair ran a guerrilla protest by systematically stealing books and doctoring the book cover. A biography of John Betjeman sported a picture of an elderly tattooed man in trunks; Collins Guide to Roses, a baboon; and Corbett H Thigpen and Hervey M Cleckley’s The Three Faces of Eve, an adorable kitten.

They also doctored the wording of the blurbs, and even sometimes book chapter names.

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First Out

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Frank Baron/Guardian | 14442

After 25 years London’s First Out gay café has closed down. First Out joins the other casualties of the Crossrail development, the east-west rail link due to open in 2017, such as the famous Astoria Theatre. The cafe’s owners say they are shutting up shop having failed to satisfactorily renegotiate the lease as the area undergoes redevelopment. It will be much missed.

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Paula Ettelbrick

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Gay Activist is sad to note the passing of Paula Ettelbrick, from cancer at the young age of 56. In a successful legal career Ettelbrick worked at Lambda Legal from 1986 until 1993; at the National Center for Lesbian Rights in 1993 and 1994; at the Empire State Pride Agenda from 1994 until 1999; at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force from 1999 until 2001; as executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission from 2003 until 2009; and since then, as the first woman to lead the Stonewall Community Foundation, a philanthropic grant-making agency that supports LGBT organizations in New York and nationwide.

Updated 23 November 2014: Original source article and photograph no longer available.

Gay City News

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J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI

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Tolson (left) and Hoover (right) | Public domain | 14443

A former top aide to U.S. law enforcement boss J. Edgar Hoover, long reputed to have been also known as Mary, disagrees with Leonardo DiCaprio’s depiction of the one-time FBI boss as a gay man because he’s convinced the gay rumours about Mr Hoover are untrue.

DiCaprio spent several hours with Cartha DeLoach at the 91-year-old’s home in South Carolina while researching his role and the two men discussed the FBI director’s sexuality. DeLoach was part of the team which investigated President John F. Kennedy’s death in the 1960s says

“I made it very clear that I never saw any evidence of (homosexuality) whatsoever. I travelled with him (Hoover), I ate in his home and he in mine.”

But the one-time deputy FBI director’s concerns appear not to have swayed DiCaprio and director Clint Eastwood from portraying Hoover as a closeted gay man with deep feelings for his aide Clyde Tolson.

DeLoach insists Hoover and Tolson were nothing more than good friends:

“I knew Clyde Tolson to be Mr. Hoover’s companion and best friend. When you are somebody like Mr. Hoover, I guess you need somebody to talk to.”

Yes of course.

William Branon, chairman of The J. Edgar Hoover Foundation and officials at the Society of Former Special Agents of the Fbi have fired off letters to Eastwood expressing their concerns about the misrepresentation of an American hero, with Branon stating,

“It would be a grave injustice and monumental distortion to proceed with such a depiction based on a completely unfounded and spurious assertion,” and William Baker, a former agent and Hoover Foundation vice president, told USA Today “We don’t want to support something not based in fact.”

Like some of the FBI Files under Hoover?

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