Drinks are good
May 11, 2011 1:18 AM   Subscribe

In the 1940s, he fought Nazis. In the 1950s, he fought the U.S. Civil Service. He's battled the Pentagon, the FBI, the medical establishment, the police, and so on. Generally, he wins. And when he's won, so has the entire gay community.... He coined the phrase ''Gay is Good'' in 1968, when the distance between homosexuality and shame was a very short trip.
He co-founded the Mattachine Society of Washington in 1961, one of the nation’s earliest gay rights groups, picketed the White House, and became the first openly gay Congressional candidate when he ran for DC’s House seat in 1971.
Kameny finally got an apology from the government that fired him for being gay. But he didn't get his pension back. And now, "while his mind is sharp, he has difficulty managing his finances. To be brief, one of our greatest heroes needs help." So maybe you'd like to Buy Frank A Drink. (previously, previously)
posted by orthogonality (13 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Just a note that the Facebook page suggests that donations were no longer being collected as of March 1st. I don't know if that "deadline" has been extended, however.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:40 AM on May 11, 2011

Apropos gay rights, I just watched the American Experiences Stonewall Uprising. (Sorry, but I don't think non-USians can watch PBS online)
posted by sbutler at 1:43 AM on May 11, 2011

Just a note that the Facebook page suggests that donations were no longer being collected as of March 1st.

Apparently you can email them after donating, asking the money be directed to Kameny.
posted by orthogonality at 1:45 AM on May 11, 2011

Sorry, but I don't think non-USians can watch PBS online

They generally can. Every once in a while a show has to be geoblocked because of rights issues, but that's not the norm. I'm fairly certain that particular AmEx episode is available everywhere.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:22 AM on May 11, 2011

My introduction to Kameny and the Mattachine Society came from Martin Duberman in his excellent Stonewall. I don't know to what extent I owe my own freedoms and equality in the UK to US pioneers, but my guess is it is considerable. Men like Kameny were brave in ways I can't even fully appreciate today. I wish him well.
posted by londonmark at 3:32 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't have any doubt that I would not be living as an openly gay man in the US without the struggle that people like Frank Kameny went through in the 1940s, 1950s, and onward. To quote from a letter that Kameny wrote to Lyndon Johnson in April 1965 as the head of the Mattachine Society of Washington, "We are writing to protest the second-class citizenship into which we have been thrust; to protest the denial of equality of opportunity and status implicit in the denial to us of Federal employment, and in other policies of the Federal Government; to protest our systematic exclusion from your Great Society."

When Kameny wrote a letter on Mattachine letterhead to a Missouri congressman, Paul Jones, in 1962, Jones's handwritten response was: "I am unalterably opposed to your purpose and cannot see how anyone in his right mind can condone the practices which you would justify. Please do not contaminate my mail with such filthy trash." There are still many, many congresspeople who wish they could get away with sending that kind of response 50 years later.
posted by blucevalo at 5:13 AM on May 11, 2011 [16 favorites]

orthogonality, thank you for pulling this information together. I just sent Frank Kameny $50.00. He's been a hero of mine for decades.
posted by Carol Anne at 6:09 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have so much respect for my elders who fought the great struggle. I haven't ever met Kameny but I did get to meet Harry Hay years ago. Much of my life has been made better by the battles begun by brave men such as these.

I am sorry to hear that Kameny has fallen into difficult times. But wow, do I ever HATE the name of this fundraising campaign. Its heart is in the right place, obviously. But without drawing any parallels between individuals when I say this, if it were the average Joe promoting his own financial straits and asking for funds to cover his bills with a "buy me a drink" campaign... it wouldn't be received well.

Still, I hope he finds the support he needs to help him through his sunset years. If my household weren't at 100% unemployment at the moment, I'd certainly kick him some bucks.
posted by hippybear at 7:03 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I remember a few years back when a similar call for funds went out for Harry Hay. Or was it John Burnside? Either way it seemed terribly sad that these men with such a long, personal legacy of being civil rights pioneers didn't have enough income to support themselves.

The site this comes from is a hate-filled bit of nonsense, but this potrait of Kameny is awesome.
posted by Nelson at 7:14 AM on May 11, 2011

"I am unalterably opposed to your purpose and cannot see how anyone in his right mind can condone the practices which you would justify. Please do not contaminate my mail with such filthy trash."

I went to an organized lobbying day in Jefferson City, MO, to talk to our state legislators about a sexual orientation non-discrimination bill about 12 years ago. A Republican state Senator--Norma Champion--took one look at our handout, casually dropped it in the trash next to her desk and retook her seat. With a smile, she looked at the two of us and said "This is not important to my constituents, and don't bring your trash into my office again."
posted by General Tonic at 7:28 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

I wish I could say this surprises me, but I don't imagine that any similar effort in Tennessee (where I live) would meet with anything but the same response. The legislature is GOP-controlled and it just steamrolled over a local non-discrimination ordinance, and to add insult to injury made the steamroll effective statewide. Another legislator is pushing a law that would forbid mentioning the word "gay" or teaching material about anything other than heterosexuality before the 9th grade.

As far as we've come, it's more than clear that there are many people in positions of power who are doing everything they can do to roll us back to 1961 or even 1911 in terms of gay rights.
posted by blucevalo at 8:10 AM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Props to Kameny and his peers for having such a positive influence on initiating the equality movement.

It's true: the next twenty years are going to be a lot more favorable to the equality movement than to the bigots. It looks like we're may be less than five years from having marriage equality in New York and California. And once these centers of popular culture (movies, tv, etc.) have made the transition, equality will permeate the next generation even more deeply and broadly than it already has.

There will always be bigoted politicos fighting their rearguard skirmishes on behalf of their homophobic constituencies. But they're headed for the trash heap of history. And I suspect they know it.
posted by darkstar at 12:21 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Incidentally (or not), Karmeny was an astronomer, a Harvard PhD who probably would've had a long and happy career in the field had he been straight. A colleague of mine is trying to get the American Astronomical Society to recognize Karmeny (and in the longer term, others, for "exceptional service by an astronomer in advancing the public welfare"). If you're interested in reading more about that, you might go here.
posted by chalkbored at 8:11 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

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