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Pushing the Boundaries; Decriminalising Homosexuality 1974-1982: The Role of the Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association by Jeffrey Dudgeon & Richard Kennedy

‘Hoover’s War on Gays: Exposing the FBI’s Sex Deviates Program’ by Douglas M. Charles

 

Hoover

‘Hoover’s War on Gays: Exposing the FBI’s Sex Deviates Program’ by Douglas M. Charles

>I confess to a degree of skepticism when I began reading Douglas M. Charles’s new tome, Hoover’s War on Gays: Exposing the FBI’s “Sex Deviates” Program. The activities of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and J. Edgar Hoover, its insufferable longtime director, would seem by this point to be well-worn scholarly territory. The field is both broad and deep. To name just a relevant few, FBI historian Athan Theoharis (a mentor to Charles) has written extensively about the FBI’s role in civil liberties abuses, Cold War-era red-baiting, and failed counterintelligence, and even addressed the longstanding rumors about Hoover’s own sexuality in J. Edgar Hoover, Sex, and Crime. Betty Medsger’s recent The Burglary detailed the rise and fall of the FBI’s COINTELPRO program that illegally surveilled and attacked a variety of civil rights, New Left, and countercultural groups. Meanwhile, Douglas Charles himself has surveyed the FBI’s role in “the rise of the domestic security state.” In his brief and brilliant exposé, The FBI’s Obscene File, he also described the bureau’s classification of alleged obscene materials, including how it used such classification to attempt to destroy the organized gay and lesbian movement. But as is often the case, a thorough scholarly explication of the role and importance of gays and lesbians to any particular historical moment has been the last to arrive. Fortunately, though, Hoover’s War on Gays is that necessary book. It takes its place beside such works as Kenneth O’Reilly’s Racial Matters, about the FBI’s attack on black civil rights organizations, in exhaustively detailing the effects of Hoover’s policies on specific social movements.

Charles dates Hoover and the FBI’s obsession with gays and lesbians to the 1930s, particularly the 1937 kidnapping and murder of a young boy named Charles Mattson. This particular case previewed features of decades of Hoover’s future actions: attacking marginalized groups for political gain and currying favor with the politically powerful. Despite there being no evidence that Mattson was sexually assaulted, the press reported that the FBI was seeking “sexual pervert[s]” in the case, and the public made mental associations between homosexuality and sexual degeneracy. Democratic president Franklin D. Roosevelt also made public statements regarding the case; this forced Hoover, a Republican appointee who was obsessed with maintaining his job and the FBI’s status, into prioritizing solving Mattson’s murder. Although the Mattson case was never solved, it was one prominent piece in a late 1930s sex crimes panic that played a role in Hoover’s beginning to collect information about gays as part of a larger drive against “sex offenders.” The FBI’s collecting of such information was intensive, building up to a formal Sex Deviates Program and File beginning in 1950. Although it was not confined to federal government employees, this program frequently used information gathered about such employees to have them fired. For Hoover, information collecting was in no way a passive activity; what he learned was used to destroy lives and to solidify his own power and influence.

And what of Hoover’s own sexuality? His relationship with right-hand man Clyde Tolson has certainly been cause for speculation, and that speculation was firmly in place during Hoover’s lifetime. But as Charles points out at the very beginning of Hoover’s War on Gays, comment on Hoover’s personal sexuality remains speculative. (Certainly anyone who believes the accounts of Hoover appearing in public in drag or at orgies — even without knowing the dubious sources of those claims–has very little understanding of the era in which Hoover lived or the social and political position he was attempting to maintain.) Still, Charles’s further assertion, that Hoover’s sexuality simply does not matter, may be surprising to many. He makes a compelling case, though: Hoover’s relentless assault on gays makes perfect sense even if he were straight. Gays and lesbians were an easy target in the culture wars, and rumors of the prominent’s homosexuality were politically advantageous to Hoover’s continued reign. While it may be psychologically satisfying to assume Hoover acted out of self-hatred, that prism is unnecessary; as Charles says, even if Hoover “was, as they say, straight as an arrow…[his] treatment and targeting of gays would still make sense to us given the era and the larger historical, political, social, and cultural forces at play.” For a thorough treatment of those forces, Hoover’s War on Gays will likely remain unsurpassed.

The creation of the Sex Deviates File in 1950 displays links to what historian David K. Johnson has dubbed “the Lavender Scare”–the long-term attack on federal employees that had its roots in the same era as McCarthyism. What Johnson showed and Charles more extensively documents here, though, is that the attack on gays in government predates the McCarthy era. The FBI had its hand in helping to oust Sumner Welles, FDR’s undersecretary of state, when Republicans receive evidence of Welles’ repeated drunken solicitations of African American train employees. This was just one of repeated FBI investigations into rumors surrounding the sexual lives of the prominent, among them Senator David I. Walsh, General Philip Faymonville, Supreme Court justice Abe Fortas, and Illinois governor and two-time Democratic presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson (whose index card from the Sex Deviates File is the only one to escape the file’s late 1970s destruction by the FBI). Some of these rumors were true, some not. What Charles makes clear is that Hoover ultimately did not care. These rumors’ truth or falsity was secondary to how useful they might be to Hoover in his relationships with the presidents and lawmakers whose favor he sought.
Of course, as time went on, there were increasing numbers of openly gay men and women for Hoover to harass and attack. The FBI’s investigations into, and surveillance and harassment of, among many others, Mattachine Society founder Harry Hay; Mattachine member and ONE, Inc. founder W. Dorr Legg; original Mattachine Society-DC leader Buell Dwight Huggins; the Daughters of Bilitis; Mattachine Society of Washington co-founder Jack Nichols (whose father, an FBI agent, was demoted and cut off all contact with his son after the FBI uncovered the connection), and, later, the Gay Liberation Front, show Hoover’s desire to crush subversion. That these men and women, who could easily have submitted to fear of the FBI’s power, continued to fight for social and legal changes forms an inspiring counter-narrative in what could have been (and sometimes is) a litany of sad tales. Although Hoover won many battles, the war continued well beyond his death in 1972, and the forces he supported are losing. And what of Hoover’s own sexuality? His relationship with right-hand man Clyde Tolson has certainly been cause for speculation, and that speculation was firmly in place during Hoover’s lifetime. But as Charles points out at the very beginning of Hoover’s War on Gays, comment on Hoover’s personal sexuality remains speculative. (Certainly anyone who believes the accounts of Hoover appearing in public in drag or at orgies — even without knowing the dubious sources of those claims–has very little understanding of the era in which Hoover lived or the social and political position he was attempting to maintain.) Still, Charles’s further assertion, that Hoover’s sexuality simply does not matter, may be surprising to many. He makes a compelling case, though: Hoover’s relentless assault on gays makes perfect sense even if he were straight. Gays and lesbians were an easy target in the culture wars, and rumors of the prominent’s homosexuality were politically advantageous to Hoover’s continued reign. While it may be psychologically satisfying to assume Hoover acted out of self-hatred, that prism is unnecessary; as Charles says, even if Hoover “was, as they say, straight as an arrow…[his] treatment and targeting of gays would still make sense to us given the era and the larger historical, political, social, and cultural forces at play.” For a thorough treatment of those forces, Hoover’s War on Gays will likely remain unsurpassed.

Hoover’s War on Gays: Exposing the FBI’s “Sex Deviates” Program
By Douglas M. Charles
University of Kansas Press
Hardcover, 9780700621194, 480 pp.
September 2015 – See more at: http://www.lambdaliterary.org/reviews/11/27/hoovers-war-on-gays-exposing-the-fbis-sex-deviates-program-by-douglas-m-charles/?utm_source=Lambda+Literary+Review+December+4th%2C+2015&utm_campaign=Newsletters&utm_medium=email#sthash.7vtdjm6j.dpuf

Russia has cancelled one of its only LGBT film events.

pinknews_logo

 

The Moscow Premiere, an anti-fascist and LGBT cinema event, was soon to take place, but was replaced with a “positive, youth-orientated” alternative, reports Digital Spy. 

The organiser of the Moscow Premiere, a free event, said he could not work with the new organiser, Yevgeny Gerasimov.Russia LGBT

The festival had previously accepted submissions rejected by mainstream releases and festivals.

Funding was cut at a moment’s notice, and supporters of the festival, and the LGBT community as a whole in Russia have criticised the way the situation has been handled.

The Youth Festival of Life Affirming Film, which will replace the Moscow Premiere, will be unable to show any films featuring LGBT people in positive light, due to Russia’s federal anti-gay law.

Passed in 2013, it bans the “promotion of non-traditional sexual relations” to minors.

The cancellation of the Moscow Premiere is being seen as part of a wider crackdown on LGBT rights in Russia.

The Youth Festival of Life Affirming Film is set to take place this coming week.

Russia last week announced plans to entirely block Wikipedia, in its latest crackdown on the internet.

The Russian government recently bolstered its watchdog’s powers to censor the internet – and over the past year a number of blocks have been placed on ‘dissenting’ groups.

Russia’s main support group for teenagers who identify as LGBT, Children-404, was quietly blocked by authorities on Russian social media site VKontakte in April.

Masked men hurl smoke bombs at venue of Ukraine gay forum

By AFP | AFP – Sat, Aug 15, 2015

LGBT Activists

AFP/AFP/File – LGBT activists were planning to hold a forum on the history of the gay rights movement in Odessa after a local court banned the planned march over fears it could spark violence

 

Ukranian men throw gas

At the gay pride march in Kiev on June 6, 2015, scufles broke out after activists

Masked men on Saturday Aug 15, 2015  hurled smoke bombs into a venue in the Ukraine port city of Odessa where gay rights activists were to hold a forum after deciding against marching in defiance of a ban.

They threw “several” smoke bombs at the participants before fleeing, Odessa Pride spokesman Kyrylo Bodelan told AFP, adding that no one was hurt in the attack.

LGBT activists were planning to hold a forum on the history of the gay rights movement in the strategic Black Sea port city after a local court on Thursday banned the planned march over fears it could spark violence.

Bodelan earlier denounced the ban, saying it was “illegal and violates our constitutional right of assembly.”

A handful of activists demonstrated near the town hall in defiance of the ban, drawing taunts from passers-by.

An AFP correspondent saw an elderly woman trying to wrest a placard from one demonstrator that read “Dignity Has No Colour”. Police quickly intervened to defuse the confrontation.

Prominent extreme nationalist group Pravy Sektor (Right Sector) — once central to the demonstrations in Kiev that toppled a Russian-backed president last year — had voiced fierce opposition to Saturday’s event.

“We won’t beat the gays, but this march will not take place,” local Pravy Sektor leader Sergui Sternenko was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

A gay pride march in the capital Kiev in June — the second in the nation’s post-Soviet history — was marred by scuffles after activists were attacked by far-right nationalists. Around a dozen people were injured.

The socially conservative country — locked in a bruising war with pro-Russian insurgents — is seeking a closer alliance with Europe and remains keen to promote civil liberties freely enjoyed in much of the West.

But homophobia remains rampant in a nation where the conservative Orthodox church wields considerable influence and nationalist far-right groups have grown more prominent.

Odessa regional governor Mikheil Saakashvili, the Westernising ex-president of Georgia, kept his distance from the controversy, with his administration insisting it was a matter for the city authorities

The Lost Pink Triangles

An exhibition of Nazi persecution of homosexuals goes on display in NYC.

BY JAMES MCDONALD
JULY 06 2015 5:00 AM ET
A traveling exhibition produced by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933–1945,” is now on view at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City.

The show tells the story of Nazi persecution of homosexuals during World War II: Hitler’s genocide resulted in the death of 6 million Jews and millions of other people, with an estimated 5,000 to 15,000 sent to concentration camps because of their sexual orientations — the vast majority of them being gay men.

The story of these victims, commonly known as the Pink Triangles, has begun attracting attention relatively recently. Despite noted works like the play Bent, which was adapted into a film starring Clive Owen in 1997, and memoirs by former camp prisoners Gad Beck and Pierre Seel, gay stories have largely failed to become part of mainstream Holocaust narratives.

“The exhibition explores why homosexual behavior was identified as a danger to Nazi society and how the Nazi regime attempted to eliminate it,” says exhibition curator Edward Phillips.

“The Nazis believed it was possible to ‘cure’ homosexual behavior through labor and ‘re-education.’ ” Phillips says. “Their efforts to eradicate homosexuality left gay men subject to imprisonment, castration, institutionalization, and deportation to concentration camps.”

Between 1933 and 1945, more than 100,000 gay men were arrested for violating Nazi Germany’s ban on homosexuality. The exhibition includes personal accounts, photographs, and detailed information spanning this dark period of LGBT history.

MJHNYC.org, through October 2, 2015.

Meet the Russian who would have bee Mary Whitehouse's bed-fellow

Shades of Mary Whitehouse and her moral indignation come to mind when I read this article.

Constance Mary Whitehouse, CBE (née Hutcheson, 13 June 1910 – 23 November 2001) was an English social activist known for her strong opposition to social liberalism and the mainstream British media, both of which she accused of encouraging a more permissive society. She was the founder and first president of the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association, through which she led a longstanding campaign against the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). A staunch social conservative, she was disparagingly termed a reactionary by her socially liberal opponents. Her motivation derived from her traditional Christian beliefs, her aversion to the rapid social and political changes in British society of the 1960s and her work as a teacher of sex education.

 

Now ‘Meet the Russian who has had over 30 teachers fired for being gay’

 Pictures of teachers hugging loved ones is being sent to officials in order to have them fired for ‘immoral behavior’
Timur Isaev: Persecuting LGBTI teachers in Russia.

A music teacher who worked with disabled children in St Petersburg was fired for being gay this month, the latest in a long line of educators who have become victims of Russia’s ‘gay propaganda’ law.

Anastasia (not her real name) was called into the principal’s office on 8 December. She was told that pictures of her hugging her girlfriend had been forwarded to the school and a demand she be fired for ‘immoral behavior’.

The pictures and demand was also sent to local government officials.

‘You belong with gay people,’ the teacher was told. ‘You are not allowed to work with children.’

This was another ‘win’ for Timur Isaev, a man who boasts he has had over 30 teachers fired for being gay.

Among his other victims include Ilya Kolmanovsky, an award-winning biology teacher at a top public school, who was fired in January.

‘I have been fired from the school where I worked for seven years,’ he wrote on Facebook.

‘My opponents found about me and my school and sent complaints to the administration, and on Monday the principal told me he is firing me to save the school.’

‘I don’t blame the principal,’ he added. ‘He knows better who is dealing with.’

Isaev does not hide the fact he is helping teachers get fired. On his VK page, it reads: ‘Russia – It’s hell for gays, let them get used to it!’

‘If people are unhealthy and have psychiatric abnormalities such as being a lesbian, then it is clear the law states they are unacceptable for doing this type of work,’ he says.

‘Homosexuality is not normal,’ he told Meduza. ‘It is a disease that is treated with hormone therapy.’

He is now working to fire other teachers, making sure no other LGBTI person ‘influences’ a child.

The nationwide ‘gay propaganda’ law was enforced in Russia in June 2013.

– See more at: http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/meet-russian-who-has-had-over-30-teachers-fired-being-gay261214#sthash.9eithlYN.dpuf

The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game: Homophobia is still with us 60 years after the death of Alan Turing

To combat anti-gay bullying, education against all prejudice should be a mandatory subject in every school, says Peter Tatchell

Movies rarely make me cry, but I cried when I watched The Imitation Game. Released today, it stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightly, telling the heroic and tragic story of the British wartime code breaker, mathematical genius and computer pioneer, Alan Turing.

As well as decrypting Nazi military codes, shortening the war by two years and saving millions of lives, the entire modern digital age of computers, mobile phones, email, internet and space exploration is based on the principles he elaborated. Although Turing arguably possessed one of the greatest minds in history – on a par with Newton and Einstein – he was nevertheless prosecuted and hounded to his death in 1954 for being gay.

Upon conviction, Turing was given a stark choice: two years’ jail, or chemical castration via a hormone therapy that was uncannily similar to the Nazi “cures” for homosexuality that were used on gay men in Buchenwald concentration camp.

Unable to cope with the ghastly side effects of castration treatment, he committed suicide at the age of 41 – depriving humanity of future knowledge and inventions he might have pioneered had he lived.

I wept as I watched this film. I wept not only for Turing’s terrible personal suffering, but also for the estimated 50,000-100,000 other gay and bisexual men who were convicted in Britain under the same or similar anti-gay laws. Unlike Turing, most of them were given no choice. They were jailed and often brutally abused on the inside.