How Frank Kameny changed the way the rest of the world sees us

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

The legendary Frank Kameny, who passed away a few days ago, is 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.”


SP

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