According to a new survey by RSEA Safety, which asked tradesmen how short they like to wear their shorts, a staggering 60 per cent of blue-collar workers quizzed have revealed they prefer their shorts “as short as possible”.
While some of those who voted in the social media campaign preferred the modesty of a longer hemline of nine or ten inches, the much more revealing four inch short-length proved the most popular.
Lilly Lee, general manager of marketing at RSEA Safety, said many new season shorts combine functionality with style, and the trend was definitely thigh-high.
“We are expecting at least a 30 per cent increase in short sales in the coming months, and this season we are noticing an increase in shorter styles, with brands almost in competition with each other over who can offer the shortest short,” Ms Lee said.
“ELEVEN have launched a 4-inch ‘Chizeled’ short and FXD WS-2 have designed a ‘short short’ while Corc’s have introduced a ‘shorty short’ style. We thought it would be fun to ask tradies in our #shortorshorter campaign how they wear theirs and we’ve had some hilarious responses with an overwhelming number of tradies voting for “as short as possible’”
Melbourne tradies Dale Cheesman, Shaun Caton-Robertson and Dyllan Milligan, from The Melbourne Builder & Co, showcased an array of summer shorts at a Prahran building site this week.
Mr Milligan is among those advocating for shorter shorts this summer.
“The shorter the better — they’re easier to work in and the legs are getting a good tan.”
What went wrong with the conversion ministry, according to Alan Chambers, who once led its largest organization
In 2001, Alan Chambers was hired as the president of the world’s largest ex-gay ministry, Exodus International. That same year, U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher issued a report that stated, “there is no valid evidence showing that sexual orientation can be changed.”
Like most conservative Christian leaders at the time, Chambers considered the countercultural nature of his work a point of pride. During the latter part of the 20th century, Exodus and similar conservative groups promoted the idea that gay people could—and should try to—become straight. Ex-gay leaders traveled to churches and appeared on television news programs citing a litany of examples of happily married “former homosexuals” to demonstrate that sexual orientation is a choice and that change is possible.
But Chambers would undergo a radical change of heart. In 2013, he publicly apologized to the LGBT community for the “pain and hurt” Exodus had caused and announced that the ministry was permanently shutting down. Chambers’s decision effectively delivered the deathblow to the beleaguered ex-gay movement. And his story of transformation, detailed in a new memoir, My Exodus: From Fear to Grace with a foreword by CNN’s Lisa Ling, will likely resonate with many traditionalists who are searching for new ways to think about LGBT issues.
Chambers, 43, was raised by an ex-military father in a Southern Baptist home and realized he was attracted to other males at a young age. Most of his early sexual encounters with men were anonymous, which bred in him a deep self-hatred. At 19, he connected with an Exodus-affiliated ministry where he hoped to rid himself of same-sex attraction once and for all.
While the ministry did not make Chambers straight, he claims that it saved his life and many others because it provided a “safe space for many” to talk about their sexuality. At the time, there was no national network for LGBT Christians and most churches were not places of sexual transparency. But, he says, Exodus’s emphasis on “change” made it “fatally flawed.”
In 1998, Chambers married his wife, Leslie, with whom he adopted two children. In My Exodus, he recounts his inability to consummate the union for eight months, but he says their sex life is now “good.”
“While many relationships are built on sex, ours just includes sex,” Chambers says. “We love it and value it because we worked hard for it.”
As a former Exodus participant who once lived a “gay lifestyle” but was able to achieve a successful straight marriage, Chambers was the perfect candidate to lead the organization. And by 2001, Exodus needed all the help it could get.
At its peak, Exodus International had an annual operating budget of more than $1 million, had 25 employees, and served as an umbrella organization for more than 400 local ministries across 17 countries. But over the years since its founding in 1976, many of the leaders Exodus’ touted as success stories had become cautionary tales instead.
Cofounder Michael Bussee left the group in 1979 and entered a relationship with another Exodus leader, Gary Cooper. Bussee would later admit, “I never saw one of our members or other Exodus leaders or other Exodus members become heterosexual, so deep down I knew that it wasn’t true.” Throughout the 1980s and ‘90s, many former Exodus members became vocal critics of the ministry, claiming it had caused them psychological distress. And in September 2000, Exodus’s chairman John Paulk was photographed cruising for men at a gay bar in Washington, D.C. He was ousted from his position and later confessed, “I do not believe that reparative therapy changes sexual orientation; in fact, it does great harm to many people.”
The movement traditionalists believed would be their saving grace in the fight against LGBT rights was quickly becoming their Achilles’ heel.
Being chosen to lead Exodus in 2001 was like becoming the ex-gay Pope following the Catholic sex-abuse scandals. The ministry’s board knew it could not survive another public scandal, so it questioned Chambers rigorously before deciding to hire him. During the interview process, Chambers recalls a board member asking him what success would look like under his leadership. He replied, “It looks like Exodus going out of business because the church is doing its job.”
Chambers words would later seem prophetic, but he first needed to travel a long road. In 2005, he called homosexuality “one of the many evils this world has to offer.” And in 2006, he lobbied for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. But Chambers admits that during the same year his thinking began to evolve.
“As I heard more stories and evaluated my own realities,” Chambers said, “I realized change in orientation was not possible or happening.”
Though the ex-gay leader was stewing on the inside, he seemed as resolute as ever on the outside. He advocated for California’s Proposition 8, which sought to ban gay marriage in the state. In 2009, he published a book called Leaving Homosexuality: A Practical Guide for Men and Women Looking for a Way Out. He admits to immediately regretting the book’s title and some of its content.
Chambers’s thinking continued morphing until his dramatic announcement that the ministry would shut down in 2013: “Exodus is an institution in the conservative Christian world, but we’ve ceased to be a living, breathing organism. For quite some time, we’ve been imprisoned in a worldview that’s neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical.”
By this point, the ex-gay movement was already in shambles. A 2013 Pew Research poll showed that only 36 percent of Americans believe a gay or lesbian person’s orientation can be changed. As Satcher reported, modern science had delivered crushing blows to the ex-gay movement with peer-reviewed research showing that its ideology was bunk. And a national movement to ban reparative therapy for minors was taking shape and had already been successful in several states.
The closing of Exodus International became the “tipping point” in conservative Christians’ conversations about the nature of sexual orientation. Today, even top Southern Baptist leaders have denounced ex-gay therapy, and the school newspaper for the Jerry Falwell-founded Liberty University has editorialized against it.
“Shutting down Exodus dealt a fatal blow to the whole idea that orientation can be changed and that God somehow loves you more because of the choices you make,” Chambers says. “Some ministries still promote this idea, but they are not going to achieve the same level of success that Exodus had. That position is more of a minority than it has ever been.”
The release of Chambers’s memoir this month marks another step in the leader’s evolution. He has voiced his support for President Obama’s effort to ban orientation-change therapies for minors and celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage. And now he even admits that he believes committed, monogamous same-sex relationships can be holy.
“I look at gay and lesbian people who are in committed relationships and I believe they can reflect the image of God,” Chambers says. “That belief has continued to evolve, but heterosexuals don’t have a corner on the market of healthy, holy relationships.”
While many culture-warring conservatives will undoubtedly see Chamber’s openness as a cowardly capitulation, others will call him courageous. The former ex-gay leader chooses to focus on just being honest, instead. As he said in a chapter intended for his memoir but cut by the publisher, “Every part of my life, all of my compartmentalization is reconciled. My message and story are no longer different depending on the group to whom I’m speaking.”
Chambers describes his current sexual orientation as “complicated.” While he is still attracted to men, he also says that he and Leslie have a healthy marriage with a robust sex life. But he no longer claims that every person with same-sex attraction should follow his path.
“For those who cannot reconcile their faith and sexuality, they can be affirmed in their choice of celibacy and devote their lives to causes more life giving than ‘ridding themselves of the demon homosexuality,’” Chambers says. “And the gay Christian community can be affirmed in who they already are: beloved.”
Nothing raises my hackles more than watching any documentary on ex-gay conversion therapy! It is bad enough when adults submit themselves to this degrading process, brought about almost inevitably by peer and social pressure. However, when parents send their below age-of-consent children to places like a Love In Action/Refuge conversion therapies, one really has to wonder just how shallow parental love can be! These so-called ex-gay conversion therapies by a whole range of organisations that fell under the Exodus International umbrelladisplay everything that is wrong, and evil, about Christianity: hypocrisy, prejudice, discrimination, stigma, deceit, misinformation, guilt, manipulation, and out-and-out lies to force an antiquated system of belief on teenagers at a difficult and confusing time of their lives, a time where personalities and sexuality are running rampant through rapidly changing bodies. We know, for a fact, that gay people cannot be turned straight. You’ve just gotta love how some of these ‘ex-gay” members love to flaunt their wives, kids and marriages as proof that the therapies work! Denial can be a strong motivator in some people’s lives. Both the 30% suicide rate amongst ex-gay conversions…probably motivated by the so-called therapy apparently not working…and that there are ex-ex-gay groups for those who attended therapy sessions and yet still found themselves with gay inclinations would seem to say all that needs to be said about the high failure rate of conversion therapy.
Obama’s call to ban the practice reflects a tectonic shift within the community that once championed it.
Throughout the 1980s and 90s, the Christian right poured money and muscle into promoting the message that homosexuality was a curable disorder. It advocated conversion therapy, which promised to turn gay men and women straight. But last week, when President Obama announced his support for a national ban on such therapies, few voices on the Christian right spoke up in protest. The announcement confirmed the evaporation of support for these approaches among the communities that once embraced them. As Alan Chambers, who once ran America’s largest ex-gay ministry, told me, “sexual orientation doesn’t change.”
It was a shift rooted in the accrual of evidence and experience. After she came out as a lesbian in high school, Julie Rodgers’ conservative Christian parents urged her to join a ministry in Texas to help make her straight. Ministry leaders promised her that if she continued praying, reading the Bible, attending meetings, and of course, refusing to identify as gay, her sexual orientation would eventually change and she could even marry a man. Rodgers didn’t want to go, but she did want the food, shelter, and love her parents offered. So she agreed.
The program worked great—except that it didn’t. After a decade of compliance, neither Rodger’s orientation nor those of her fellow group members budged toward straightness. And worse, the empty promises and feeling that she was “less than” normal left her drowning in a sea of shame.
It’s a sad story, but one that grows gloomier when you consider that Rodgers is one of the lucky ones. Countless LGBT youths have been subjected to much worse, not just in Christian ministries, but also at the hands of licensed counselors who perform what is known as “reparative” or “conversion therapy.” These controversial mental health practices, intended to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, are ineffective and often drive participants to depression, anxiety, drug use, or suicide.
In recent years, however, conversion therapy has been much maligned if not completely discredited. Almost all major medical and public welfare organizations oppose it, and even conservative Christians—once counted among its strongest supporters—are changing their minds. New Jersey, California, and Washington, D.C., have already outlawed ex-gay therapy for minors. By all accounts, therapies attempting to cure gayness appear to be going the way of the buggy whip.
But this hasn’t always been so. According to Kenneth Lewes, in his book, Psychoanalysis and Male Homosexuality, some began to view same-sex erotic behavior less as sin than as a mental-health disorder as early as the 19th century. This was true of other “sinful” behaviors as well—for example, drunkenness morphed into alcoholism and demon possession became schizophrenia or a personality disorder.
The shift was spurred on by the work of Sigmund Freud in the early 1900s, even though the iconic neurologist was pessimistic about either the possibility or desirability of changing homosexual orientation to heterosexual. Freud’s belief that human beings are born bisexual and can move along a continuum of sexuality formed the basis of the belief that homosexuals could be “cured.”
This way of thinking about sexual orientation persisted into the mid-20th century as many Americans fantasized about an idyllic “traditional family” in the Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver molds. By the start of the American cultural revolution in the 1960s, many mental-health professionals, clergy, and politicians supported the idea that homosexuality was a mental-health disorder that could be cured through some combination of prayer and “therapy,” which included electroshock therapy, masturbatory reconditioning, and giving patients nausea-inducing drugs while forcing them to view homosexual erotica.
“One reason why homosexuals are so rarely cured is that they rarely try treatment,” proclaimed a 1965 Time magazine article. “Too many of them actually believe that they are happy and satisfied the way they are.”
But the late 60s and 70s brought on a blitzkrieg of social change. Women’s liberationists energized the feminist movement, the conflict in Vietnam provoked an anti-war movement, a growing awareness of ecological degradation brought on the environmental movement, and an increasingly mobilized LGBT community morphed into a powerful gay-rights movement.
In 1974, the American Psychiatric Association voted to remove homosexuality from its list of mental health disorders. This inflamed many conservatives, especially the Christians among them, who were now mobilizing in the public square against what they believed was a growing tumor of secularism.
Christian pastors promoted anti-gay messages from their pulpits, even advocating the idea that HIV/AIDs was a special form of God’s wrath and judgment against human sinfulness. Christian funders helped bankroll ex-gay ministries like Exodus International, which grew into a coalition of more than 80 ministry partners across 34 states. In 1998, Christian political groups even spent $600,000 on pro-conversion therapy ads in The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and other publications. Robert Knight of the Family Research Council called it “the Normandy landing in the culture war.”
As a result, ex-gay therapy experienced something of a resurgence in the 1990s. Newspapers often treated it as a medically viable option, and Newsweek ran a sympathetic cover story in 1998.
But the foundations of this effort began crumbling at the turn of the 21st century. While peer-reviewed evidence for the efficacy of aversive therapies was lacking, a growing body of scientific studies indicated that it was not effective in altering subjects’ sexual orientations and was potentially harmful. (The main study cited in support of conversion therapy was conducted by Robert L. Spitzer, who later apologized and admitted his data was tainted, unreliable, and misinterpreted.) After reviewing such studies, major medical organizations—the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Counseling Organization, National Association of Social Workers, World Health Organization, and others—systematically repudiated these practices as harmful.
While science was discrediting conversion therapy, high-profile ex-gay leaders were either apologizing and defecting to the other side or being exposed as frauds. John Paulk, a man who had been a vocal and visible supporter of gay conversion for more than a decade and claimed to be happily married to a former lesbian, was photographed in a Washington, D.C., gay bar in 2000. Three years later, it was discovered that Michael Johnston, founder of “National Coming Out of Homosexuality Day,” was having unprotected sex with men he’d met online despite being HIV-positive. In 2006, Ted Haggard, a fiery opponent of gay rights and then president of the National Association of Evangelicals, admitted to having gay sex with a male prostitute after unsuccessful attempts to change his orientation through counseling. A few years later, John Smid, former executive director of the ex-gay advocacy group “Love in Action,” apologized and said he “never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual.” These names are only a sampling.
By the second decade of the 21st century, the scientific foundation of reparative therapy had eroded, every major medical association had repudiated it, the movement’s leaders were falling away, and viral horror stories from former participants were popping up across the web.
But the death-knell sounded in July of 2013 when Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, America’s largest ex-gay Christian ministry apologized to the LGBT community and shuttered his organization. Chambers once claimed he knew “tens of thousands of people who have successfully changed their sexual orientation.” But last week, he told me “99.9 percent of people I met through Exodus’ ministries had not experienced a change in orientation.”
Chambers’ announcement seemed to unleash a broader shift among conservative Christians, the last defense against reparative therapy’s demise. Julie Rodgers, the ex-gay ministry survivor from Texas, now serves on the ministry staff at Wheaton College, one of America’s most prominent evangelical universities, where she has spoken against ex-gay therapy. Russell Moore, the political pointman for the Southern Baptist Convention, has publicly repudiated the practice. Even the opinion editor at the school newspaper for Liberty University, founded by the late Jerry Falwell, editorialized against it.
In 2011—roughly half a century from gay conversion therapy’s heyday—only 24 percent of Americans said they believe it works. The number is presumably even lower today.
While some disparate pockets of support remain, they are waning. The day when ex-gay therapy enjoyed legitimacy in mainstream medicine, media, religion and society is now heading for the history books. And in its place, there is a growing consensus that such practices are distasteful, irresponsible, unethical—and perhaps should be illegal.
Religious Faith Linked To Suicidal Behaviour In LGBQ Adults
(Reuters Health) – Although religiosity is generally tied to reduced suicide risk, the opposite may be true for some young lesbian, gay and questioning adults, researchers say.
Based on data from more than 21,000 U.S. college students, researchers found that greater religious feeling and engagement was tied to increased risk of suicidal thoughts and actions for participants who identified as LGBQ.
“Religion has typically been seen as something that would protect somebody from thoughts of suicide or trying to kill themselves, and in our study our evidence suggests that may not be the case for everyone, particularly for those we refer to as sexual minority people,” said one of the study authors, John Blosnich of the Injury Control Research Center at West Virginia University in Morgantown.
Previous research suggests that belonging to a religious faith reduces risky behavior in young people, such as substance use and unsafe sex, Blosnich noted in a telephone interview. Religiosity has also been linked to a lower risk of suicidal behaviors, but there is some evidence to suggest that the impact of religion may be different for lesbian, gay, bisexual and questioning (LGBQ) individuals.
The study team analyzed survey data from the 2011 University of Texas at Austin’s Research Consortium on 21,247 college-enrolled 18- to 30-year-olds, including 2.3 percent who reported being lesbian or gay, 3.3 percent who identified as bisexual and 1.1 percent who were questioning their sexuality.
All participants rated the importance of religion in their lives on a 1 to 5 scale, from “not important” to “very important.” Between 21 percent and 28 percent of LGBQ participants rated the importance of religion to them at a 4 or 5, compared with 39 percent of heterosexuals, researchers report in American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Questioning youth had the highest rate of recent thoughts about suicide, at 16.4 percent, compared with 3.7 percent of heterosexuals, 6.5 percent of lesbian/gay individuals and 11.4 percent of bisexuals. Lifetime suicide attempts were reported by 20 percent of bisexual youth, 17 percent of questioning youth, 14 percent of gay or lesbian youth and 5 percent of heterosexuals.
For bisexual youth, the importance of religion was not associated with suicidal behavior, while religiosity was protective against thoughts of suicide and suicidal attempts in the heterosexual youth. But lesbians and gays who reported that religion was important to them were 38 percent more likely to have had recent suicidal thoughts. For lesbians only, religion was associated with a 52 percent increased likelihood of suicidal thinking.
Questioning individuals were almost three times as likely to have attempted suicide recently if they reported that religion was very important to them.
Among lesbians and gays who said religion was not important to them, there was no association between sexual orientation and recent suicide attempts. But being homosexual did significantly increase the likelihood of recent suicide attempts in people who said that religion was very important to them.
“Some sexual minority folks are really at odds. They feel very confused or they feel that they are in conflict with their faith because of who they are. That’s a very scary place to be in,” Blosnich said.
“We are definitely not saying that religion, period, is bad; it’s not,” he added. “There are many sexual minority people who find great strength and great sources of support in their religious communities, but unfortunately we hear many stories about people who do not.”
Faith-based partners in public health suicide prevention and intervention services “should be willing and equipped to assist all people who seek their services, regardless of sexual orientation,” the study authors write.
atizing views of sexual minorities, the authors note. Because the study population was drawn from an academic setting, it may not represent the general population, they add.
“We want to engage religious and faith-based providers in a way that benefits all people,” Blosnich said. “Faith-based communities are major participants in suicide prevention. We just want to make sure that the services that people provide through faith-based organizations or through community faith partners reach everyone who comes to them for help, regardless of sexual orientation.”
SOURCE: bit.ly/2qt3gYC American Journal of Preventive Medicine, online March 15, 2018.
Former Love In Action Leader Marries His Same-Sex Partner
John Smid, the former director of Memphis-based ex-gay ministry Love In Action, has announced his marriage to partner Larry McQueen. The two married in Oklahoma on Sunday, November 16th.
Smid has been living as an out gay man for several years now, and he’s been in a relationship with McQueen for one year. Gay marriage just became legal in Oklahoma last month. The couple live in Paris, Texas, where Smid moved from his Memphis home in the summer of 2013.
Smid’s journey from ex-gay leader to happily out gay man has been a long one. He was promoted to the role of executive director of Love in Action in September 1990, and in 1994, the organization moved its ministry to Memphis. Love in Action operated here quietly until 2005, when protests over a youth “straight” camp called Refuge sparked a national media firestorm.
In early June 2005, Zach Stark, a White Station High School student, posted these words on his MySpace page: “Today, my mother, father, and I had a very long ‘talk’ in my room, where they let me know I am to apply for a fundamentalist Christian program for gays.”
That fundamentalist program, described by Stark in a later post as a “boot camp,” was Refuge, a two-week day camp where gay kids were taught how to become straight kids. After Stark’s MySpace post, local LGBT equality advocates held a week of protests outside Love In Action, and the Memphis ministry made national headlines, including a story in The New York Times.
Love In Action eventually discontinued the Refuge program and moved to an adults-only conversion therapy model. All the while, Smid was struggling with his own beliefs. During the week of protests in 2005, Smid met Memphis filmmaker Morgan Jon Fox, who was working on a documentary about Love In Action. Smid told the Flyer in a previous interview that it was Fox’s influence that helped open his eyes to the fact that conversion therapy was doing more harm than good.
“As we got together, we were willing to lay aside our agenda and get to know one another as people,” Smid said of Fox. “That was very instrumental in my processing where I am today.”
Smid eventually resigned as director of Love In Action in 2008, and he founded Grace Rivers, a monthly fellowship for gay Christians. At the time, he remained married to his wife. But they eventually divorced in 2011. Earlier this year, Smid told The Lone Star Q, a Texas LGBT news organization, that he couldn’t continue living the rest of his life in a marriage that didn’t feel right.
“I’ve believed in faith that something was going to happen, and it never did, and so at my age, right now in my life, I don’t have that many good years left in me, and I can’t live like this for the rest of my life, so I said no I’m not willing to keep pushing after something that’s not going to happen,” Smid told The Lone Star Q, regarding his divorce.
Smid met McQueen three years ago, but they were just “acquaintances with common friends,” wrote Smid in his Facebook announcement of their marriage Sunday.
“I gradually got to know him over time until we reached a place in our lives that we saw we wanted to get to know one another through a dating relationship. As we dated we shared our vision for life, our personal philosophies, and our faith values. We found a compatibility that was comfortable and exciting,” Smid said.
He went on to say, “I realized this week that my relationship with Larry is a mirror I see in every day. For most of my life, the mirror I saw reflected my mistakes, shortcomings, and failures. The reflection I see today with Larry shows me the positive things in my life, my strengths, gifts, and talents. I see how I can succeed at a mutual intimate and loving relationship. For this, I am truly grateful.”
Ex-Gay Group Exodus International Shuts Down, President Apologises
Exodus International, a group that bills itself as “the oldest and largest Christian ministry dealing with faith and homosexuality,” announced June 19 that it’s shutting its doors.
Exodus’s board unanimously agreed to close the ministry and begin a separate one, though details about the new ministry were unavailable at the time of the organization’s press release.
The announcement came just after Exodus president Alan Chambers released a statement apologizing to the gay community for many actions, including the organization’s promotion of efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation.
“I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents,” Chambers said. “I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly ‘on my side’ who called you names like sodomite—or worse.”
The announcement comes at a critical point for gay rights, as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to issue two potentially decisive rulings on gay marriage and public opinion shifts rapidly in favor of gay rights and even gay marriage.
A recent Gallup Poll showed that 59 percent of Americans now view gay or lesbian relations as “morally acceptable,” a 19-point swing since 2001 and the biggest change seen on any social issue, including divorce, extramarital affairs and other issues.
Chambers disavowed reparative therapy at the annual Gay Christian Network conference in January 2012. “Alan has been moving this way for awhile … but this apology is much more explicit and leaves no room for support for change therapies or demonizing gays.” said Warren Throckmorton, a psychology professor at Grove City College who has long observed the ex-gay movement.
“Exodus has been a lighting rod for Christian discussion about homosexuality over the years and with today’s events will probably continue to be for awhile.”
John Paulk, who was spotted at a gay bar in Washington D.C. in 2000 and left his role as chairman of Exodus, also recently apologized for the reparative therapy he once promoted.
Chambers announced the closure of Exodus at the ministry’s 38th annual conference in Irvine, Calif. Local affiliated Exodus ministries, which are autonomous, will continue, but not under the name or umbrella of Exodus.
Exodus began in 1976 by a gay man, Frank Worthen. “Perhaps nothing has brought Exodus into the mainstream of evangelicalism more than its embrace by James Dobson’s Focus on the Family,” wrote Christianity Today in 2007. The ministry has faced some challenges in recent years, including a split with Willow Creek Community Church outside Chicago and dissolved partnerships.
In his apology, Chambers acknowledged stories of people who went to Exodus for help only to experience more trauma.
“I have heard stories of shame, sexual misconduct, and false hope,” he said. “In every case that has been brought to my attention, there has been swift action resulting in the removal of these leaders and/or their organizations. But rarely was there an apology or a public acknowledgement by me.”
On Thursday, journalist Lisa Ling’s program “God & Gays,” which features Chambers among others, will air on The Oprah Network. “The organization needs to shut down. Shut down!” a man in the trailer tells Chambers.
Back in my dim, dark past I was picked up one night in the Midnight Shift by a very cute guy. Nothing odd about that…until he took me to the back of the bar and introduced me to his boyfriend. The intention was obvious, they were both good looking men…and I didn’t say no. The sex was great and both guys seemed quite at ease in the threesome situation, and I stayed the night. However, the next morning was a real eye-opener…over breakfast, things took a real turn to the dark side…and I was caught right in the middle of it…with no idea what to do. Graeme…the guy who had picked me up the last evening…was relentlessly verbally abused by his partner, Peter. It was as though I wasn’t even there, as the abuse went on around me, and needless to say, it was a very uncomfortable breakfast. It seemed that Graeme could neither do, nor say, anything right. I never witnessed any physical abuse, but you could feel it underlying the verbals. Peter ordered Graeme to drive me home, and said he’d be timing it. I felt so bad for Graeme, as he was a really lovely, gentle guy. We got to my apartment building and I asked him if he would like to come in for a coffee…but he stated the obvious! If he wasn’t home in the allotted time, he’d cop it. A number of months later, I ran into Graeme in my local watering hole. The whole puck-up thing happened, though this time he was on his own. When I questioned what was happening with Peter, he said they’d parted company. I mentally breathed a sigh of relief. Graeme and I then went on to have a fuck-buddy thing for about 4 years. Last time I saw him…about 20 years ago now…he was in a happy relationship with another guy. I all my years on the gay scene, both amongst a large, close social circle, and in my day-zoo-day picks ups, fuck buddies and one night stands, that was the only incidence of gay domestic violence that I’ve ever encountered. However, it made me very aware of its existence, and how it can be so easily covered up just by presenting the normal semblance of a relationship. It did make me wonder just how much could have been going on amongst those I did know.
Domestic violence has become a “silent epidemic” in the gay and lesbian community despite being the subject of increasing scrutiny in heterosexual relationships, according to the AIDS Council of NSW.
Roughly one in three lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) couples experience domestic violence. Those statistics are echoed among the general population.
After years of fighting to prove their love is valid, LGBTI victims of domestic violence can feel like they are in another closet, making it harder to get help.
Russ Vickery was six months into his first gay relationship when the violence began.
“We went out for dinner and then drinks at a local pub … he got angry about something and the night ended with me having a broken nose,” Vickery says
Same-sex couple Russ Vickery (L) and Matthew Parsons have both been in domestic violence situations in their previous relationships. CREDIT: PAUL JEFFERS
“After the first time he was very apologetic and it was never going to happen again.” But it did happen, again and again over a period of five years, culminating in Vickery being thrown down a set of stairs at home in front of his children.
For Matthew Parsons, domestic violence came in other forms – psychological, financial and emotional abuse.
The smallest of triggers would set off a torrent of abuse, like the time he left the do not disturb sign on a hotel room door.
“When we returned, the room hadn’t been serviced for towels and so he flipped out and threw champagne, strawberries and chocolate across the room. I spent the night crying in the parking lot.”
Parsons had no control over his own finances either. The final straw came when his partner knowingly withheld from him the few dollars he needed to purchase lunch.
“I thought, you don’t even think of me as human, I’m just your play thing. That was a really horrible realisation to come to.”
It took both men years to realise they were experiencing domestic abuse, which is little talked about in the LGBTI community.
“He kept telling me that when two men get involved in a relationship, things turn physical,” says Vickery, who had been in a 17-year marriage prior to coming out. “I had no barometer so I just assumed that was how it worked.”
Parsons says the gay and lesbian community has spent so long trying to prove their love is valid, they are afraid to ruin it by admitting domestic abuse occurs.
“There’s an unspoken fear that if we start to tell the mainstream community that actually sometimes our relationships are toxic and horrible and abusive, then that will be used against us to say, ‘see it’s all unnatural and a sin anyway’.”
Vickery likens it to coming out a second time.
“A lot of people ask me why I didn’t leave [sooner] … but I’d come out and told everyone it was a wonderful thing. I didn’t want to come out again…”
ACON chief executive, Nicolas Parkhill, says for this reason, domestic violence is under-reported within the LGBTI community.
And because same-sex domestic violence “doesn’t look the same” as in heterosexual relationships, people don’t always recognise it, Parkhill says.
Unique to LGBTI victims is the fear the abusive partner will “out” them to family, friends and work colleagues, or reveal their HIV status.
Within the LGBTI community abuse is more frequently reported by women and transgender males than by gay men but Parkhill says more research is needed to determine the full extent of the problem.
He applauds the naming of Rosie Batty as Australian of the Year which has already raised the profile of domestic violence in the community, but says “the silent epidemic within this public profile raising is how that plays out in relationships that aren’t perceived as ‘the normal’.”
More needs to be done to raise awareness of domestic violence in gay and lesbian relationships, Parkhill says, and more government funding is needed for LGBTI-specific support services.
Matthew Parsons remembers calling a domestic violence hotline only to discover it was run by a Christian organisation.
“They were very unhelpful to say the least and I thought from that experience there wasn’t help out there, which isn’t true,” he says.
He eventually found help through the website Another Closet and counselling which encouraged him to do a “pack and dash” – fleeing while his partner was out.
The stair incident was the catalyst for Vickery to leave, but it still took him a year to come to terms with the relationship loss.
The men have been together now for four years and finally know what it is like to feel happy and safe.
Drawing on those experiences, they co-created a highly acclaimed cabaret show My Other Closet about domestic violence in gay relationships, for the Sydney Mardi Gras festival in 2013 and have plans to revive the show in Melbourne.
“[Our] horrible relationships … taught us both everything we never want to have in a relationship again,” Parsons says.
“We want to turn our negative experiences into a positive and put the message out there … that abuse is abuse and it’s the same in any relationship.”
In the video for Jonny McGovern’s song “Sexy Nerd,” guys strip down from cardigan sweaters, bow ties and pocket protectors to tighty-whities and black-rimmed glasses as McGovern sings, “Take your clothes off, but leave your glasses on . . . I need a man to sit on my laptop and open my download.”
The song, released in 2012, hit on a major change in the gay community. “The focus on becoming bigger and masculinity is all gone,” says Chris Ryan, a promoter of bar nights for gay twentysomethings. “Younger guys are really focused on looking smarter, being different from the older generation.”
Hollywood had already caught onto the trend when it cast Toby Maguire as Spider-Man. “Hollywood used to have Spider-Man play Peter Parker, now Peter Parker is playing Spider-Man,” says Matthew Levine, founder of Skin Tight USA, a group for fans of spandex and cosplay. “A lot of muscle queens were nerds who wanted to hide it by becoming gym bunnies. A lot of those muscle queens have let their geek nerd flag fly. Hot sexy geeks have come out of the woodwork.”
It’s entirely appropriate that the first sexy gay nerd superstar was Nate Silver, a short, slightly built, unassuming guy who became famous for spending countless hours poring over reams of data. “Now that everybody has a computer in his pocket, nerds are in, they’re cute, they’re even hot,” says McGovern (whose own fantasy involves hooking up with a guy fixing his iPhone).
Silver’s elevation to sex symbol was part of what Derek Buescher, a professor of cultural studies and media criticism at the University of Puget Sound, calls “a broadening of acceptable norms. The alpha male is more broadly defined as not just physical specimens but can also accomplish things.”
In 2012, Silver himself tweaked the description of him from right-wing website unskewedpolls.com as “a thin and effeminate man with a soft-sounding voice.” Silver tweeted back, “Nate Silver seems kinda gay + ??? = Romney landslide!”
In The Social Network, a small Jewish guy with a borderline personality disorder not only gets to humiliate two arrogant Übermensch brothers, but ends up surrounded by hot tech groupies. If money isn’t the ultimate aphrodisiac, it certainly didn’t hurt the real-life Mark Zuckerberg’s sex appeal after he made $1 billion at age 23.
“Coders are now kings,” says Sean Van Sant, marketing director for Rentboy, a website for male escorts. Van Sant has been considering an ad campaign that plays down macho, muscular types in favor of “nerd-chic guys. Because that’s in style right now they’re featuring it more,” says Van Sant, who fesses up to a personal preference for nerds: “I’ve always had my eye out for those guys.”
Event promoter Daniel Nardicio has always looked for nerdier guys over “the mainstream gay Chelsea Boy types” when hiring go-go boys for his raunch fests in the city and on Fire Island, “adorkable” men, not far past voting age, with classic swimmer’s builds. “That whole bodybuilding mania had gotten so cliché,” Nardicio says. “The manicured Chelsea Boy is gone. Now it’s tattooed and scruffy. The B-List is the new A-List.”
In a 1999 Voice article, “Babes in Boyland,” Guy Trebay put down Fire Island Pines and Chelsea as the epitome of “tittie boy culture.” Trebay described Chelsea as full of men who “resemble a casting call for a Wonderbra ad,” while the Pines was “a small beach town populated exclusively by bendable action figures.”
Today, notes Fire Island fixture Morabito, a DJ with three decades’ experience on the island, “the Pines is a “real mixed bag,” where drinking is the drug of choice and the absence of a six-pack won’t immediately consign visitors to social oblivion.
As for Chelsea, as the eponymous Chelsea Boys aged into muscle daddies and bears, the next generation of gay men established gayborhoods first in Hell’s Kitchen and the East Village, and, more recently, Williamsburg and Bushwick. “Brooklyn,” says McGovern, “is the center of the ‘new attractive,’ the new East Village.”
Inevitably, Nardicio’s long-ago attraction to Williamsburg’s “more offbeat, tattooed, and scruffy” look has fallen prey to companies like Brooklyn Grooming, whose most popular fragrance is called “Williamsburg.” “The nerd is not supposed to be conscious about his appearance,” says Sean Rollins, a men’s fashion blogger who works with Brooklyn Grooming. “We’ve taken that aesthetic and given it groomed flourishes. What started out as not trying is now being replicated.”
While some sexy gay nerds affect a studied sloppiness, others emulate the dandy, whose avatar is designer Thom Browne: ultra-skinny pants sans socks, a sweater vest, and, of course, thick black-rimmed glasses. Browne readily acknowledges Pee-wee Herman, whose trademark is the bow tie, as a major influence and inspiration. When Matt Fox started Fine and Dandy, a website and retail store in Hell’s Kitchen, “people would always call out ‘Pee-wee Herman!’ Today, nobody notices.”
Scenesters and DJ duo AndrewAndrew always dress exactly alike in a style the New York Times called “conservative drag.” “We used to get odd looks, now we get compliments,” AndrewAndrew tells the Voice. (They — or rather, he — have made a lifetime commitment to be considered as one person.) “We still get comments, but now it’s a thumbs-up. A bro or frat guy’s read on it is that we’re peacocking, but really, it’s a rejection of the whole Abercrombie/Juicy Couture culture, and dressing like adults.”
The dandy, notes Natty Adams, straight author of the book I Am Dandy, is “harking back to an earlier style of masculinity. Only after Oscar Wilde did the dandy become associated with gays.” Black culture never rejected natty attire, he adds, but in the years after Stonewall, gay men favored the highly sexualized clone.
“The idea,” Adams says, “is to look dignified and elegant — sexy, but subtly. It’s not an in-your face sexuality,” he adds. “For gay men, dressing is a form of public relations. It says, ‘We’re not just sex-crazed lunatics.’ It goes hand in hand with marriage, the new normal. Today, walking around like a Tom of Finland drawing seems a little silly.”
Along with rejecting the Tom of Finland man’s hypersexuality, sexy gay nerds have embraced their feminine side. A bar hop or stroll through Hell’s Kitchen on any given Saturday night is proof enough of Ryan’s contention that “young guys are more openly femmy.”
Even when cruising online, “they’re not taking themselves as seriously,” Levine adds. Younger guys present themselves “with a wink, irony and a sense of self-detachment.”
The triumph of the sexy nerd is making those who still see a gay community obsessing about “muscularity and masculinity,” as Brandon Ambrosino did in the Atlantic in 2013, look like out-of-it outsiders. If anything, the emphasis on a slimmed-down physique has brought its own set of problems. Studies have shown that the number of gay men with anorexia or bulimia is several times higher than the general male population.
In the past, most of the male clients who came to the Alliance for Eating Disorders complained they weren’t big enough, a condition known as muscle dysmorphia. Now, says clinical director Joann Hendelman, more and more of them are “wanting to be thinner, thinner, and thinner. In the gay community, we see a tremendous amount of that.”
The one notable exception to the “lean is mean” aesthetic is costume play, or cosplay, essentially, dressing up like a superhero. “A decade ago, cosplayers at the comic cons were scarce,” says Chris Riley, a web comic book writer in Los Angeles. “Gays were treated very harshly in comic books, as either a joke or cannon fodder. Cosplay is what brought everybody out of the closet to accept their nerdiness.”
Nearly everyone agrees that the trend toward pumping and juicing in the gay world of the ’80s was a reaction to the AIDS crisis. Before protease inhibitors, when HIV brought with it prolonged and visible wasting, a beefy body served as a walking clean bill of health. “Now,” Nardicio points out, “men don’t worry about broadcasting that.”
The sexy gay nerd, McGovern says, “is a reaction to spending hours in the gym. They’re saying, ‘This is what my body is naturally.’ If you’ve got a naturally thin body, you can do a couple of push-ups and you’re there.”
But while “the bodybuilder physique is not something they aspire to,” concedes Morabito, “I see plenty of twentysomething guys with muscle. Saying the muscle boy is antiquated depends on what part of town you live in.” Every Saturday night, Viva, a gay party at Studio 48, “is filled with young muscle boys, she says. And the semi-monthly Alegria parties are largely populated by massive men
Some believe that we’re hard-wired to find muscular men attractive. “While we now have a proliferation of genres in media consumption, we still have an archetype of masculinity,” Buescher notes. Hollywood, having replaced Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger with actors like Robert Downey Jr. and Brad Pitt, is once again super-sizing its action heroes.
Jeff Buchman, who teaches brand management at the Fashion Institute of Technology, believes that men’s body types are as subject to the whims of the moment as the clothes they’re wearing. “Over the years,” he says. “just as women’s bodies have changed, so too [will] males’. The human body only has so many forms, so what’s cool and hip at one point is out the next.”
Josh Steers, an aspiring DJ who moonlights as one of Nardicio’s dancing adorkables, enjoys the work and the money. But he doubts if any other promoter in town would hire him. “People want to see what’s unattainable,” he says about the prevailing go-go boy aesthetic.
Even McGovern agrees that dedicated gym rats shouldn’t despair: “The buff, muscular Chelsea Boy will always remain attractive to gay men and women, and the object of envy for straight men. Big muscles never really go out of style.”
Not since June 24, 1973 when a madman fire-bombed the UpStairs Lounge in New Orleans has the LGBT community suffered such slaughter at the hands of hate. On that horrible day, 43 years ago, 32 of our own were burned to death. No one was ever charged or punished for that crime. Ever since, unfortunately, random violence has shadowed our journey to freedom. Over a dozen MCC churches have been burned to the ground. Every one of us knows someone who has been gay-bashed. Many have been beaten so badly that they never regain their ability to function in the world. None of us will ever forget Matthew Shepard crucified on a fence in the barren and desolate prairie of Wyoming.
For the LGBT community, the news that terrorists aim to kill us is certainly not new. We have recoiled time and time again as videos show our brothers and sisters in the Middle East stoned to death or hurled off the tops of buildings. In Africa we see members of our community burned to death encased in the infamous ‘neckless’ (a burning tire around their neck). A generation of us witnessed first hand as our brothers endured a prolonged and brutal death from AIDS while our own government turned its back on us. American preachers have called for the death sentence for LGBT Americans and dispatched missionaries overseas to urge third world nations to inflict hate and violence on their own LGBT citizens.
For the most part we have suffered all this amid the silence of others; it has almost become a way of life for us. The lack of outrage or even coverage of the repression and terror directed toward us from the media is striking. Also, the fact that thirteen nations have the death penalty simply for being homosexual — and many of them are American allies. As ACT UP said so eloquently, silence really does equal death.
Now another place, another name has joined the long list: Pulse. Ironically the name of the Orlando bar is the means to ascertain if a person is still alive.
Oh yes, we are still alive. They have not invented a bullet, a gun or firebomb that can come close to murdering our spirit or our determination to be free. For every one of our fallen there are ten to take their place.
The slaughterhouse in Orlando hits close to home. I have spoken there at a community event. Every city in America has a bar like Pulse. We have all danced to the same music! We all know it can happen anywhere, anytime in our community. We are all always at risk.
President Obama rightly called the slaughter in Orlando both a terrorist act and a hate crime. The two can’t be separated.
Let’s be honest. Not only was this twisted terrorist inspired by ISIS; he had plenty of permission here in America to hate us.
There are precincts of American politics filled with rhetoric against our community, our rights, our very being. Pastors advocate hate from their pulpits and legislation is submitted and enacted to demean us and sanction anti-LGBT discrimination. There are states passing laws to permit our fellow citizens to deny us a meal in a restaurant, a place to sleep at night, or even access to a restroom. Do these agents of bigotry really believe their cynical fear-mongering and attempts to write hate into the stature books did not contribute to the massacre at Pulse? Really?
What can we do in the face of such horror?
For years to come and without question we will have to continue fighting our oppressors in the streets and at the ballot box. We cannot rest until every hate-filled law is overturned. The best memorial to the dead of Orlando is a new birth of freedom.
In the short term, many of the killed or injured are poor and they and their families need our financial assistance. Equality Florida has established a “Go Fund Me” page for us to help pay for funerals and medical expenses.
The LGBT community in Texas — and all decent citizens –have a special obligation and that is to remove Lt. Governor Patrick from office for his hateful tweet: “You reap what you sow.” He dishonors his office and America.
The Republican Party must stop exploiting gay-baiting as a tool to turn out their base.
Finally, we must stand tall, proud and open. All of us are sickened and angered by the mass execution of our brothers and sisters, but we are not bowed and not defeated. Never!
On New Year’s Day 1965, hundreds of gay San Franciscans arrived at 625 Polk Street in the city’s Tenderloin district for a much-anticipated “Mardi Gras Ball.”
The event organized by gay rights — or, to use the then-common term, homophile — activists was not unlike the thousands of public parties being held this June during Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month: There were drinks and music, hand-holding, flirtatious glances and kisses between friends old and new. But it was also a private affair — $5 tickets had to be bought ahead of time — in a city where gay people regularly faced threats and arrests for gathering together and showing affection.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the San Francisco ball, however, was its purpose beyond merriment: It was held as a fundraiser for pro-gay clergy.
Today, although Americans for and against gay rights cite their religious beliefs, those who oppose same-sex marriage and other civil rights for LGBT individuals have been especially vocal in declaring that God is on their side. That’s not always been the expectation about the faithful. In the mid-1960s, LGBT activists often looked to men of the cloth as allies in their fight for justice and human rights, according to historians.
Just months before the ball, about two dozen Bay Area Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopal and United Church of Christ clergy and gay activists had formed the Council on Religion and the Homosexual to promote the “need for a better understanding of human sexuality” and its “broad variations and manifestations.”
Clergy and lawyers for the group had negotiated with police — who had a habit of shutting down LGBT events — to let the dance go forward. But according to contemporary newspaper articles, police still showed up that night, taking pictures of those entering as an intimidation tactic. When the cops demanded to get inside, the lawyers reportedly blocked them. Six people ended up in jail for interfering with the police and disorderly conduct.
The clergy fought back with a press conference the next day. “Angry Ministers Rip Police,” said a front-page headline in the San Francisco Chronicle below a picture of men in clerical collars. The clash mobilized both the city’s gay community and the pastors. The American Civil Liberties Union brought a lawsuit over the arrests — the first time the ACLU had joined a legal battle over gay rights, according to the LGBT Religious Archives Network.
“That was years before the 1969 Stonewall riots, which is popularly considered the beginning of the gay rights movement,” said Heather White, a visiting assistant professor of religion at the New College of Florida who has spent years combing through LGBT archives for an upcoming book, tentatively titled Reforming Sodom: Protestants and the Rise of Gay Rights. “And that’s just one of the best-known stories. There were Councils on Religion and Homosexuality and similar groups in D.C., Pennsylvania, Ottawa, Hawaii.”
White is among a growing group of scholars who have been working to uncover the broad — and for many, surprising — history of religious gay rights activism. The LGBT Religious Archives Network has documented hundreds of stories like that of the San Francisco clergy since it was founded 13 years ago at the United Church of Christ-affiliated Chicago Theological Seminary. The organization is now based in Berkeley, California, at the Pacific School of Religion’s Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry.
The network’s website offers a series of profiles of and oral history interviews with Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and Pagan LGBT clergy and religious activists, living and dead. Online exhibits cover topics ranging from the Council on Religion and the Homosexual to the 1973 UpStairs Lounge fire in New Orleans, an anti-gay arson incident that killed 32 people, including many members of the city’s gay-friendly Metropolitan Community Church, to New York’s Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, which launched in 1973 and calls itself the world’s largest gay synagogue. The network also holds archives on the lives of people like William R. Johnson, who in 1972, as a member of the Golden Gate Association of the United Church of Christ, became the first gay American Protestant to be ordained.
White, who sits on the network’s advisory committee, said expectations about how religion would view gay rights began to change after the 1960s.
“What we know of the face of religion and gay rights has been shaped by a shift that occurred in the 1970s with the rise of conservative Christianity. It’s a consolidated political force that wasn’t in place before then. There were certainly conservative people and religious people who were involved in politics, but in the 1950s and 1960s, homophile organizations saw religious leaders as likely allies,” said White. “That is less of the case today, though things are changing.”
A Pew Research Center survey, released Thursday, found that 62 percent of Americans now say homosexuality should be accepted, rather than discouraged, by society. But clear lines still divide religious Americans when it comes to gay rights, especially same-sex marriage. Polls show that white evangelicals tend to strongly oppose gay marriage. The nation’s largest churches — including the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, the United Methodist Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — officially do not support same-sex marriage.
On the other hand, Catholic Americans as individuals tend to be supportive of gay marriage. And several denominations — including the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, and both Reform and Conservative Jews — allow clergy to perform same-sex marriages or blessings.
Some of the biggest gay rights activists and organizations started their work in churches,” said Bernard Schlager, executive director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry and an associate professor of cultural and historical studies as the Pacific School of Religion.
He pointed to the Metropolitan Community Church, which gay rights activist Troy Perry launched in Los Angeles in 1968 to cater to gay people. The relatively small church has 222 congregations worldwide today, but Schlager said its influence was “monumental” in pro-LGBT Protestant movements. Another noted gay rights group, PFLAG — formerly known as Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays — had its first meeting in 1973 at the Metropolitan-Duane Methodist Church in New York City’s Greenwich Village (now called the Church of the Village).
Schlager suggested that the widespread, if inaccurate, perception of religion firmly opposing gay rights is also shifting. “It’s come to the point that sometimes people today say it’s more difficult to come out as a person of faith than it is to come out as LGBT in religious circles,” he said.
Melissa Wilcox, an associate professor of religion and gender studies at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, shared a similar view.
“With the increasing visibility of the marriage rights movement, we have started to see LGBT-supportive groups [within religious communities] being able to get their message out more clearly. That’s a battle for them, but many have been there all along,” said Wilcox, who also sits on the LGBT Religious Archives Network’s advisory committee.
After decades of church activism, for example, the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly last week voted to allow its pastors to officiate gay marriages in states where they are legal. The church’s presbyteries, or regional bodies, are also scheduled to vote on whether to change the definition of marriage to cover “two people,” rather than only a man and a woman.
“A lot of people are still wary of anything you’d call religion. A lot of people have been burned,” said Wilcox. “But there’s a rich history out there of gay religious activism for us to appreciate and uphold.”
ONE Inc.’s Articles of Incorporation were signed on Nov. 15, 1952 and were signed by “Tony Sanchez” (a pseudonym), Martin Block, andDale Jennings. Other founders were Merton Bird,W. Dorr Legg, Don Slater, and Chuck Rowland. Jennings and Rowland were also Mattachine Society founders.
In January1953ONE, Inc. began publishingONE Magazine, the first U.S. pro-gay publication, and sold it openly on the streets of Los Angeles. In October1954the U.S. Postal Service declared the magazine ‘obscene’. ONE sued, and finally won in1958, as part of the landmarkFirst Amendmentcase,Roth v. United States.The magazine continued until1967.
ONE also publishedONE Institute Quarterly(now theJournal of Homosexuality). It began to run symposia, and contributed greatly to scholarship on the subject of same-sex love (then called ‘homophilestudies’).
ONE readily admitted women, and Joan Corbin (as Eve Elloree), Irma Wolf (as Ann Carrl Reid), Stella Rush (as Sten Russell), Helen Sandoz (as Helen Sanders), and Betty Perdue (as Geraldine Jackson) were vital to its early success. ONE and Mattachine in turn provided vital help to theDaughters of Bilitisin the launching of their newsletterThe Ladder (Magazine)in1956. The Daughters of Bilitis was the counterpart lesbian organisation to the Mattachine Society, and the organisations worked together on some campaigns and ran lecture-series. Bilitis came under attack in the early 1970s for ‘siding’ with Mattachine and ONE, rather than with the new separatist feminists.
In 1965, ONE separated over irreconcilable differences between ONE’s business manager Dorr Legg andONE Magazineeditor Don Slater. After a two-year court battle, Dorr Legg’s faction retained the name “ONE, Inc.” and Don Slater’s faction retained most of the corporate library and archives. In 1968, Slater’s faction became theHomosexual Information Centeror HIC, a non-profit corporation that survives today.
In 1996, ONE, Inc. merged with ISHR, theInstitute for the Study of Human Resources, a non-profit organization created by transgendered philanthropist Reed Erickson, with ISHR being the surviving organization and ONE being the merging corporation. In 2005, the HIC donated many of its historic materials, including most of ONE Incorporated’s Blanche M. Baker Memorial Library, to theVern and Bonnie Bullough Collection on Sex and Gender, a special collection within Oviatt Library at California State University, Northridge.
A Timeline History of ONE, Incorporated 1947–1967
This timeline links to several primary documents, such as court records, corporate minutes, letters of resignation, and correspondence between several of the pioneers of the early movement for homosexual rights in the United States. It ends in 1967 after the division of ONE, Inc. was finalized after a grueling two-year court battle.
White’s book Pre-Gay L.A.: A Social History for the Movement for Homosexual Rights, published by the University of Illinois Press in May of 2009, discusses many of the documents linked to this page.
June:Edythe EydepublishesVice Versa: America’s Gayest Magazine, the first regularly published newsletter in the United States dedicated to homosexual issues. The newsletter was typewritten at her employer’s, RKO Studios in Los Angeles. Eyde distributed 16 copies to friends such as Jim Kepner between June 1947 and February 1948. Eyde later became know to readers ofThe Ladderthrough her pen-name, “Lisa Ben,” an anagram for Lesbian.
Note: The HIC secured official right to use Eyde’s true name in print, in the summer of 2015.
Alfred Kinsey et al.’sSexual Behavior in the Human Maleis published, asserting that one in three American males had experienced some form of homosexual encounter in their lifetime and that between four and eight percent were exclusively homosexual.
February: final (ninth) issue ofVice Versadistributed.
August: Harry Hay attends a beer bust near the University of Southern California campus, where the idea is sprung to start a political organization called “Bachelors for Wallace.” Upon returning home that night, Hay began his first draft of a prospectus to form an organization dedicated to the welfare of homosexuals.
Publication of Nial Kent’sThe Divided Path.
Physique Pictorialmagazine is first published, by Bob Mizer.
(Future activist) Betty Berzon moves to Los Angeles.
President Eisenhower signs Executive Order 10450, citing “sexual perversions” as reasons for preventing homosexuals from being employed by the federal government.
Nov 11:Harry Hay, Rudy Gernreich, Chuck Rowland,Dale Jennings, andBob Hullmeet at Hay’s home in Silver Lake to discuss his Preliminary Concepts for unifying homosexuals into social action. The group meet again two days later, on Nov. 13th.
Dec: A Senate subcommittee issues a report stating that homosexuals working within the Federal government could be considered a threat to national security.
Dec. 11: First organized discussion group of Hay’s secret society, which would later become known as Mattachine.
Jim Kepnermoves to 2141 Baxter Street in Echo Park, where he is to reside for the next 21 years.
Donald Webster Cory’sThe Homosexual in America—A Subjective Approachis published by Greenberg.
Fritz Peters’s novelFinistèreis published by Farrar, Straus & Company.
April: Lovers Konrad Stevens and James Gruber (christened collectively as “Stim” byDale Jennings) join Harry Hay’s “Society of Fools.” The organization decides to call itself “Mattachine.” First Missions and Purposes of the Mattachine Society are written.
June: Dorr Legg (known as Bill Lambert), Merton Bird, and others found Knights of the Clocks, an organization of interracial homosexuals.
July 20: Missions and Purposes of the Mattachine Society are ratified.
UCLA psychologistEvelyn Hookercontacts Mattachine in search of subjects for her study of differences between male homosexuals and heterosexuals.
January: Premier Issue ofONE Magazine, edited byMartin Block,Dale Jennings, andDon Slater, withWilliam Lambertas Business Manager andDonald Webster Coryas Contributing Editor.
Jim Kepnerattends his first Mattachine meeting by invitation of his friendBetty Perdue.
February 7 [Sa]:ONE, Incorporated’s Articles of Incorporationfiled with the Secretary of State in Sacramento, CA, signed byMartin Block,Dale Jennings, andTony Reyes, the First Directors of ONE, Inc. Also on this day: aBusiness Meeting
March 21 [Sa]:Business Meeting
April 11–12 [Sa–Su]: Mattachine Conference to create a new constitution.
Spring: Irma “Corky” Wolf, known in print as “Ann Carl Reid,” begins working for ONE, Inc.
May 27 [We]: ONE, Incorporated’s Charter Granted by the State of California.
June:Martin Blockresigns as editor ofONEmagazine;Dale Jenningstakes over.
June 7 [Su]:Business Meeting
August: An issue ofONEmagazine dealing with homosexual marriage is confiscated by the Los Angeles Postmaster.
AttorneyEric Julberlater secures the magazine’s release.
Sept:ONE is first distributed in New York City.
October 16 [Fr]:By-Laws for ONE, Incorporated are filed with the Secretary of State in Sacramento, California.
Nov. 1 [Su]:First Official Board Meeting for ONE, Incorporated.Martin Blockis elected Chair,Tony Reyes Vice Chair, andDale Jennings becomes the Secretary-Treasurer.
The cover of the November issue ofONEreads “The Homosexual Magazine” for the first time.
By year’s end, Mattachine-like discussion groups are being held throughout Los Angeles and in Long Beach, Laguna Beach, Fresno, San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and Chicago.
January 22 [Fr]: Annual Business Meeting.
The Board of Directors of ONE, Incorporated electWilliam Lambertas Chairman,Irma Wolfas vice-Chairman, andDale Jenningsas Secretary-Treasurer, each to serve a three-year term.
Feb.:Dale Jenningsresigns as editor ofONE.Irma Wolfis recruited to the editorial board.
March 31 [We]:Don Slaterbecomes interim director of ONE, Inc. Jim Kepner, as “Lyn Pedersen,” publishes his first article inONE,“The Importance of Being Different.”
May:Jim Kepner, as “Lyn Pedersen,” becomes a member of the Editorial Staff forONE,replacing Ben Tabor.
ONE Inc. begins its ONE Institute of Homophile Studies program, lead byJim Kepner,Merritt Thompson, andW. Dorr Legg. This is the first educational institution in the United States dedicated to the study of homosexuality.
ONE Confidentiallaunched and distributed to the Friends of ONE in response to the onslaught of mail and increased public attention.
ONE, Incorporated’s Publications Division publishesHomosexuals Today: A Handbook of Organizations & Publications,withWilliam Lambert[Marvin Cutler], as Editor.
Jim Kepnercontributes over 400 books to ONE Incorporated’s library, more than doubling the size of the collection.Don Slaterbecomes ONE’s first librarian.
Jan. 27–29: Second annual Midwinter Institute.Harry Hayis a featured speaker.
March 1 [Th]:Chuck Rowlandresigns from ONE’s Social Services Division.
Irma “Corky” Wolf, as “Ann Carll Reid,” is promoted to Editor ofONE Magazine.
U.S. District Judge Thurmond Clarke rules that the October 1954 issue ofONE Magazinehad contained “filthy and obscene material obviously calculated to stimulate the lust of the homosexual reader” and was thus unmailable. ONE’s attorneyEric Julberappeals.
The Wolfenden Reportis published, recommending that homosexuality be decriminalized in England.
Harry Benjamincoins the word “transsexual.”
A Navy committee investigating homosexuals in the military publishesThe Crittenden Report,stating that there was no legitimate basis for excluding homosexuals from the armed forces.
Federal government astronomerFrank Kamenyis fired for being a homosexual.
UCLA PsychologistEvelyn Hookerpublishes a study proclaiming that homosexual men are just as well adjusted as heterosexual men.
Jan. 25–27: Third annual Midwinter Institute.
Theme: “The Homosexual Answers His Critics.” Harry Haypresents a paper titled “The Homophile in Search of an Historical Context and Cultural Continuity.”
Dale Jennings, as Jeff Winters, again appears inONEmagazine,as author of the short story “The Little Guy.”
March: California’s Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judges Barnes, Hamley, and Ross uphold Judge Clarke’s ruling from a year prior that the October 1954 issue ofONEwas obscene and thus not mailable. Julber decides to appeal.
June 24 [Mon]: Supreme Court rules in Roth vs. United States that “obscenity” is not protected by the First Amendment and that “The standard for judging obscenity…is whether, to the average person…the dominant theme of the material, taken as a whole, appeals to prurient interests.”
Summer: “The Homosexual Viewpoint” first printed on the cover ofONEmagazine.
Oct. 17 [Th]:Irma “Corky” Wolfresigns as Editor ofONEdue to health issues and continued conflicts with W. Dorr Legg[William Lambert].
Barbara Gittingsfounds a Daughters of Bilitis chapter in New York.
Jan. 13 [Mo]: The United States Supreme Court rules that the October 1954 issue ofONE Magazinewas not obscene and should be protected as an exercise of free speech. The court battle between ONE Inc. and Los Angeles PostmasterOtto Olesonis over.
Jan. 31 [Fr]: Annual Business Meeting.Don Slaterelected a Director to fill the unexpired two-year term ofAnn Carll Reid.
Jan. 31–Feb. 2: 4th annual Midwinter Institute. Theme: Homosexuality: A Way of Life.
June 6 [Fr]:ONE Institute Quarterly for Homophile Studiesfirst published, byW. Dorr Legg,Merritt M. Thompson, andJim Kepner.
Jan. 29–31: 5thannual Midwinter Institute.
Theme: Mental Health and Homosexuality.
Sept. 4–7: 6thannual Mattachine Convention in Denver. Theme: New Frontiers in Acceptance of the Homophile.Jim Kepneris a featured speaker.Billy Gloverattends and decides to work for the movement.
Late December:Jim SchneidercontactsDon Slaterat ONE’s offices in downtown Los Angeles and becomes an active volunteer for the organization.
Jan. 29–31: ONE’s 6thannual Midwinter Institute.
Theme: “The Homosexual in the Community.”
Feb. 2: [Mon]: Board of Directors Meeting. Jim Kepneris elected Chairman,Don SlaterVice Chairman, andWilliam LambertSecretary-Treasurer.
Nov. 1 [Tue]:Jim Kepner’s letter explaining his resignation to the Members of ONE, Inc.
Nov. 15 [Sat]: Date ofJim Kepner’ssecond letter of resignationfrom ONE, Incorporated, and from the editorial board ofONEmagazine.Ross Ingersoll takes his place.
Wayne Placek introducesJoseph HansentoDon Slater, to see if Slater would publish one of Hansen’s poems or short stories.
San Francisco drag artistJosé Sarriabecomes the first openly gay person to run for political office in the nation.
Jan. 28–29: 7thAnnual Midwinter Institute and “Bill of Rights” fiasco.
Jan. 27 [Fr]:Fred Frisbie(known as “George Mortenson”) becomes a director of ONE, Incorporated, replacingJim Kepner, who had resigned the prior November.
Jan. 28 [Sa]:Frank Kamenywrites to ONE, Inc. advising them of the Writ of Certiorari he had filed with the Supreme Court the day before.
July 12 [We]:Stella Rush, known as “Sten Russell,” resigns fromONEmagazine’s editorial board in a phone conversation withDon Slater.
Dec. 11: Psychologist and long-time friend of ONEBlanche M. Bakerdies.
Joseph Hansenjoins ONE’s Editorial Board.
Jan. 26 [Fr]: 10thAnnual Business Meeting for ONE, Incorporated.Fred Frisbie(known as “George Mortenson”) becomes ONE’s Chairman.Don Slateris elected Vice-chair andW. Dorr Leggbecomes Secretary/Treasurer. ActorMorgan Farleyis elected to membership.
Jan. 26–28: 8thAnnual Midwinter Institute.Harry Hayis an honored speaker.
March:Joseph Hansenmakes his debut inONE.
May 1: ONE, Inc., moves to Venice Blvd. after being evicted from its Hill Street office due to earthquake retrofitting. Actor Morgan Farleyhelps to secure the new office for ONE Inc.
John Rechy’s novelCity of Nightpublished by Grove Press.
The Society for Individual Rights [SIR] founded in San Francisco to help organize the gay community.
In Britain, a group of Quakers publish a pamphlet titledToward a Quaker View of Sexthat argued that society “should no more deplore homosexuality than lefthandedness.”
Jan. 25–27 [Fr–Su]: 9thAnnual Midwinter Institute
Jan. 25 [Fr]: ONE Inc.’s Annual Meeting.Monwell Boyfrankbecomes a director.
Feb. 1 [Fr]: ONE’s election of officers.Joseph Aaronis elected Chairman.W. Dorr Leggis elected Vice-chairman, andMonwell Boyfrankbecomes Secretary/Treasurer.
Feb. 11 [Mo]: Spring semester begins at ONE Institute for Homophile Studies.
May:Harry Haymoves in withJim Kepnerin Echo Park. (They had started dating earlier in the year.
May 31 [Fri]: Joseph Arron resigns as Chair of ONE Incorporated’s Promotions Committee.Jim Schneideris installed in his place.
July 28 [Sun]:Joan Corbin, known as “Eve Elloree,” is dropped from corporate membership due to poor attendance.
Sept:Harry HaymeetsJohn Burnsideand the two begin living together two months later. Hay and Burnside remain lovers until Hay’s death on Oct. 24, 2002.
Nov. 12 [Tue]: Corporate meeting. ONE, Inc. becomes divided over who should be elected into membership at the next annual meeting in January. Slater, Reyes, and Steinert favor electingBilly Gloverto corporate membership; Lambert, Aaron, and Boyfrank reject Glover in favor of others. It is decided to submit the names ofHarry Hay,John Burnside, andBilly Gloveras candidates.
Nov. 22 [Fri]: President John F. Kennedy assassinated in Dallas.Billy GlovermeetsMelvin Cainlater that afternoon, and they become lovers and friends.
Joseph Hansen, as “James Colton,” publishes his first novel,Lost on Twilight Road.
Jan. 15:Monwell Boyfranksubmits a formal letter of resignation, due to health reasons, at a board meeting chaired byBill Lambert.Jim Schneiderelected to Board of Directors of ONE, Inc.
Jan. 25 and 26: ONE Inc.’s Annual Business Meeting, chaired byJoe Weaver(a.k.a. Joseph Aaron).Manuel Boyfrankwas Secretary. Other members present:Antonio Reyes, Rudolf Steinert (“Stuart”),Bill Lambert, andDon Slater.Harry HayandJohn Burnsideare elected to serve as Directors then resign shortly after due to a conflict over whether or not to elect Billy Glover as a director.
Don Slater’s account of the 1964, 1965 Elections at ONE, Incorporated.
June 26: ONE, Inc., is featured in aLifemagazine article titled “Homosexuality in America.”
June 28: Erickson Educational Foundation founded by Reed Erickson in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
July 4: Louisiana millionaire Reed Erickson contacts ONE Inc. to offer financial assistance to the organization.
August 15th:Monwell Boyfrank’s letter toDon Slaterstating that no compromise was possible and that ONE Inc. was in deadlock.
The Institute for the Study of Human Resources (ISHR) founded byDon Slater,Antonio Sanchez, andW. Dorr Legg.
Rudi Steinert’s letter to Chairman Joe Aaron requesting a Corporate Meeting, dated Sept. 9, 1964 (signed “R. H. Stuart”).
Sept. 21: ISHR granted exemption from franchise tax by the State of California Franchise Tax Board, as a non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to scientific research and education.
Jan. 29th and 30th: ONE Inc.’s Annual Business Meeting. Meeting adjourned on the 29thwith no business conducted and resumed on Sat., without quorum Second meeting adjourned with no time or place set for a follow up meeting.
Feb. 5:Dorr Leggconvenes a meeting as a continuation of the adjourned Corporate Meeting despite Slater’s protest that it was instead a “special meeting,” citingRoberts Rules of Orderand the California Civil Code. Slater again protested the 1964 “election” of Winn and Bonham. Legg announced that Rudi Steinert, who was away conducting ONE’s business in Europe, would not be allowed to vote by proxy even though substantial changes in the bylaws were being prepared. Legg further announced that they were going to elect additional members and that Slater would be dismissed as a member of the corporation. Slater withdraws in protest.
March 2 [Tu]: Corporate meeting.Tony Reyes attends to address new members, but the chair,W. Dorr Legg, does not allow him the floor.
March 7 [Su]: Attorney Stuart Simke presents a lecture on “The California Sex Laws: Prospects for Reform” as part of the 1964–1965 ONE Institute Series.
April 12 [Mo]:W. Dorr Leggstorms into an editors’ meeting and forces the resignation of the editors ofONE Magazine,telling them they had no right to discuss or attempt to influence corporate policy.
April 14 [We]: Ross Ingersoll, known as “Marcel Martin,” resigns as Associate Editor ofONEmagazine. Ingersoll had served as an editor since the resignation ofJim Kepnerin November of 1960.
April 15 [Th]: Don Slater signs a lease for office space on Cahuenga Blvd. in Universal City.
April 18 [Su]: Don Slater, Tony Reyes, andBilly Glovermove ONE’s library and office from Venice to Cahuenga Blvd. “for the protection of the property of the corporation.” They soon begin calling themselves The Tangent Group, after a regular news column inONEmagazine usually written byJim Kepner, and maintain that they are indeed “the majority of legally elected board members of ONE.” Kepner and others dub the event “The Heist,” but Slater describes the event as more of a mutiny.
April 20 [Tu]: Jim Schneider’s letter to Don Slater expressing concern over the recent split of ONE, Incorporated.
April 21 [Wed]: Jim Schneider sends a letter to ONE Inc. members calling for an informal meeting in his home and demanding the resignation or reconciliation of W. Dorr Legg and Don Slater.
April 23 [Fr]: Joe Aaron resigns from ONE, Inc. due to “the present corporate dilemma.”
April 23 (or 25): Legg’s faction votes in a special meeting to removeDon Slaterfrom membership in ONE, Inc.
May 11 [Tu]: Don Slater sends a Letter to “Former Friends and Subscribers” ofONE Magazine, announcing ONE Inc.’s move from Venice to Cahuenga Blvd., in Hollywood and asking for help and “moral support.”
May 12 [We]: Jim Schneider sends a letter to Don Slater.
May 16 [Su]: Rudi Steinert and Tony Reyes are removed from membership in ONE, Inc. by W. Dorr Legg’s faction.
May 18 [Tu]: Monwell Boyfrank’s letter to Jim Schneider advising him that ONE’s board of directors had removed him from membership in the corporation.
June 5 [Sa]: The Institute for the Study of Human Resources [ISHR] is incorporated and granted tax exempt status under §501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
Don Slatervoted off the board of ISHR based on allegations made by W. Dorr Legg.
July 27 [Tu]: First public meeting of Mattachine Midwest
Sept. 16th [Th]: Don Slater’s deposition taken in the law offices of Hillel Chodos, in Beverly Hills.
Jan. 26 [We]: W. Dorr Legg answers Don Slater’s interrogatories in the law offices of Hillel Chodos, in Beverly Hills.
Feb. 19–20: Don Slater attends theNational Planning Conference of Homophile Organizationsheld in Kansas City, Missouri, where it was decided to launch a national campaign to protest the exclusion of homosexuals by the U.S. Military. Forty leaders attend from fourteen different homophile organizations.
The organizations unite to form NACHO, the North American Conference of Homophile Organizations.
Jan. 1 [Su]: Los Angeles Police raid the Black Cat Bar within minutes after midnight New Year’s eve.
Six male patrons are charged with kissing, and sixteen people are arrested. Several bar-goers are injured, leading to future protests and a legal case.
Feb. 11 [Sa]: Rally outside of the Black Cat Bar in Los Angeles. (Jim Kepnerhelped to organize.)
April 25 [Tu]: Agreement of Settlement between the parties to the action of ONE, Incorporated vs. Slater, et al.
April 27 [Th]: Dismissal entered for case number 864 824 without prejudice, as to all defendants and cross-defendants, and as to all causes of action in the complaint and in the cross-complaint. The court battle between ONE, Incorporated andDon Slater, et al., is officially over, the organization permanently divided.
ROTH V. UNITED STATES
The U.S. Supreme Court, in Roth v. United States and Alberts v. California, 354 U.S. 476, 77 S. Ct. 1304, 1 L. Ed. 2d 1498 (1957), issued a landmark ruling on obscenity and its relation to the first amendment. The Court held that obscenity was not a protected form of expression and could be restricted by the states. In addition, the Court announced a test for courts to use in evaluating whether material was obscene.
The Court consolidated the appeals of Samuel Roth and David Alberts. Roth had been convicted of violating a federal statute (18 U.S.C.A. § 1461) that made it a crime to mail obscene advertising and reading materials
Justice william j. brennan jr., in his majority opinion, reviewed the history of freedom of expression and concluded that not every type of utterance was protected in the thirteen original colonies. libel, blasphemy, and profanity were among the statutory crimes. In addition, that every state and the federal government had obscenity statutes showed that the First Amendment “was not intended to protect every utterance.” Obscenity is denied protection because it is “utterly without redeeming social importance.”
Having ruled that obscenity is not within the area of constitutionally protected speech or press, Brennan noted that sex in art and literature was not, by itself, obscene
Indeed, “sex, a great and mysterious motive force in human life” had interested “mankind through the ages; it is one of the vital problems of human interest and public concern.” In the past, however, mere sexual content was enough to have a novel banned under the test courts used in assessing whether something was obscene.
For a legal definition of obscenity, U.S. courts looked to the English case of Regina v. Hicklin, L.R. 3 Q.B. 360 (1868). The Hicklin test was “whether the tendency of the matter charged as obscenity is to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences, and into whose hands a publication of this sort may fall.” This test permitted prosecutors and judges to select objectionable words or passages without regard for the work as a whole and without respect to any artistic, literary, or scientific value the work might have.
Brennan rejected the Hicklin test as being “unconstitutionally restrictive of the freedoms of speech and press.” It was essential that the work as a whole be evaluated before being declared obscene
Brennan endorsed the test used in both Roth’s and Alberts’s trials: “whether to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to a prurient [lewd or lustful] interest.” The new test was applicable to both state and federal government obscenity prosecutions.
The Roth test did not settle the question of what is obscenity, however. In fact, the Court was drawn into a long-term inquiry over virtually every element of the new obscenity test. The Court has never reached full agreement on what constitutes an appeal to “prurient interest.” The phrase “redeeming social importance” has also failed to generate a consensus. Nor, in the years immediately following Roth, could the Court agree on whether “community” referred to the nation as a whole or to individual states or localities
This article and listing is from 2010, so some have possibly disappeared, and new groups appeared. I think this is an important part of our history, a constant reminder that there has always been, and will continue to be, groups whose sole purpose is to discriminate, demoralise, spread misinformation, and use hate-speech against the LGBT community. We could add our own local groups like the so-called Australian Christian Lobby, and Family First. These groups like to glorify the word “family” with no nod or acknowledgement to the changing faces of “family” in today’s world. Mind you, these are the same groups who suggest that, if you are the victim of domestic abuse, you should just suffer it for the sake of your “family”. Says it all, really!
A small coterie of groups now comprise the hard core of the anti-gay movement
Even as some well-known anti-gay groups like Focus on the Family moderate their views, a hard core of smaller groups, most of them religiously motivated, havecontinued to pump out demonizing propaganda aimed at homosexualsand other sexual minorities. These groups’ influence reaches far beyond what their size would suggest, because the“facts” they disseminate about homosexualityare often amplified by certain politicians, other groups and even news organizations. Of the 18 groups profiled below, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) will be listing 13 next year as hate groups, reflecting further research into their views; those are each marked with an asterisk. Generally, the SPLC’s listings of these groups is based ontheir propagation of known falsehoods— claims about LGBT people that have been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities — and repeated, groundless name-calling. Viewing homosexuality as unbiblical does not qualify organizations for listing as hate groups.
*Abiding Truth Ministries
Abiding Truth Ministriesserves mainly as a launching pad for an international anti-gay campaign. Its founder, Scott Lively, is also responsible for a book, widely cited by gay-bashers, accusing homosexuals of running the Nazi Party.
Lively first emerged as an anti-gay activist when he became communications director for the Oregon Citizens Alliance, which was backing that state’s notorious Measure 9 vote in 1992. The measure, which failed, would have added language to the state constitution listing homosexuality, along with pedophilia and masochism, as “abnormal behavior.” Lively later served as California director of the American Family Association, another particularly hard-line anti-gay group (see below).
Lively is best known for co-authoring, with Kevin Abrams,The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party. The book makes a series of claims that virtually no serious historian agrees with: that Hitler was gay, that “the Nazi Party was entirely controlled by militaristic homosexuals,” and that gays were especially selected for the SS because of their innate brutality. Theclaims are entirely false; in fact, the Nazis murdered significant numbers of gays and made homosexuality a death penalty offense in 1942. In the foreword, Abrams adds that homosexuality is “primarily a predatory addiction striving to take the weak and unsuspecting down with it. … They have no idea of how to act in the best interests of their country… . Their intention is to serve none but themselves.”
Lively has taken his message abroad to Eastern Europe (see Watchmen on the Walls, below), Africa and Russia. In a 2007 open letter to the Russian people, he asserted that “homosexuality is a personality disorder that involves various, often dangerous sexual addictions and aggressive, anti-social impulses.” In 2009, he went to Uganda to speak at a major conference on the evils of homosexuality, saying, among other things: “The gay movement is an evil institution. The goal of the gay movement is to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.” He also met with Ugandan lawmakers. A month after Lively left the country, a bill was introduced that called for the death penalty for certain homosexual acts and prison for those who fail to disclose gays’ identities.
In 2008, Lively started the Redemption Gate Mission Society, a church that seeks to “re-Christianize” the city of Springfield, Mass., where he lives.
*American Family Association
Methodist minister Donald E. Wildmon formed the National Federation for Decency in 1977, changing its name to theAmerican Family Association(AFA) in 1988. Today, the group, which was taken over by Tim Wildmon after his father’s 2010 retirement, claims a remarkable 2 million online supporters and 180,000 subscribers to its AFA Journal. It also broadcasts over nearly 200 radio stations.
The AFA seeks to support “traditional moral values,” but in recent years it has seemed to specialize in “combating the homosexual agenda.” In 2009, it hiredBryan Fischer, the former executive director of the Idaho Values Alliance, as its director of analysis for government and policy. Taking a page from the anti-gay fabulist Scott Lively (see Abiding Truth Ministries, above), Fischer claimed in a blog post last May 27 that “[h]omosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and 6 million dead Jews.” (Ironically, the elder Wildmon was widely denounced as an anti-Semite after suggesting that Jews control the media, which the AFA says “shows a genuine hostility towards Christians.”) Fischer has described Hitler as “an active homosexual” who sought out gays “because he could not get straight soldiers to be savage and brutal and vicious enough.” He proposed criminalizing homosexual behavior in another 2010 blog post and has advocated forcing gays into “reparative” therapy. In a 2010 “action alert,” the AFA warned that if homosexuals are allowed to openly serve in the military, “your son or daughter may be forced to share military showers and barracks with active and open homosexuals.”
Gays aren’t the AFA’s only enemies. In late 2009, Fischer suggested that all Muslims should be banned from joining the U.S. military. “Islam is a totalitarian political ideology,” Fischer added in August 2010. “It is as racist as the KKK. … Allowing a mosque to be built in town is fundamentally no different that granting a building permit to a KKK cultural center built in honor of some King Kleagle.” A little later, according to the Huffington Post, Fischer said that whatever the government does to “to make it unthinkable for America’s youth to join a white supremacist group,” it should also do “to make it as unthinkable for a resident of America to embrace Islam.” Around the same time, the Huffington Post said, he blogged that Muslim values are “grossly incompatible with American values,” and therefore no place in America should allow a mosque to be built.
And then there are the promiscuous. On his May 26, 2010, radio show, Fischer recounted the biblical story of Phineas, who used a spear to kill a man and a woman who were having sex. Citing the nation’s “rampant sexual immorality,” Fischer said, “God is obviously looking for more Phineases in our day.”
*Americans for Truth About Homosexuality
Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH) was formed as a part-time venture in 1996 by long-time gay-basher Peter LaBarbera, who reorganized it in 2006 as a much more serious and influential, if often vicious, operation.
A one-time reporter for the conservative Washington Times, LaBarbera has been an energetic campaigner against “the radical homosexual agenda” since at least 1993, when he launched The Lambda Report, which claimed to do first-hand reporting to expose its gay enemies. Over the years, he has been an official with Accuracy in Media, Concerned Women for America, the Family Research Council and the Illinois Family Institute (see below for the last three). He left the Illinois Family Institute, where he’d been executive director, in 2006.
AFTAH is notable for its posting of the utterly discredited work of Paul Cameron (of the Family Research Institute; see below), who has claimed that gays and lesbians live vastly shorter lives than heterosexuals. Among the Cameron propaganda published by AFTAH are 2007 claims that gays and lesbians in Norway and Denmark live 24 fewer years than heterosexuals. Reviewing that claim, Danish epidemiologist Morten Frisch found thatit had no scientific basis. LaBarbera himself, in 2002, compared the alleged dangers of homosexuality to those of “smoking, alcohol and drug abuse.” Similarly, AFTAH’s website carries essays describing homosexuality as a “lethal behavior addiction,” a “dangerous” practice that is “neither normal nor benign.”
In 2007, LaBarbera claimed there was “a disproportionate incidence of pedophilia” among gay men — yetanother false assertion. The same year, he posted an open letter to the Lithuanian people from long-time gay-basher Scott Lively (see Abiding Truth Ministries, above), who has made a series of false claims about gays running the German Nazi Party. In the piece posted to the AFTAH website, Lively said homosexuals are trying to take away free speech from all opponents of gays and to silence all religious opinions on the matter.
The AFTAH site repeats bogus claims like the idea that a proposed bill in California would “promote cross-dressing, sex-change operations, bisexuality and homosexuality” to kindergartners and other children. And it ran anessay that falsely assertedthat hate crime laws would “restrict our speech.”
Led since 1986 by Gary DeMar, American Vision is one of the primary exponents of the doctrine of “Christian Reconstruction” — the idea that the U.S. was founded as a “Christian nation” and that its democracy should be replaced with a theocratic government based on Old Testament law. As a practical matter, that means American Vision, which describes its goal as “restor[ing] America’s Biblical foundation,” backs the death penalty for practicing homosexuals.
DeMar has modified that dictum slightly in the past, saying that homosexuals wouldn’t all be executed under a “reconstructed” government, but that he did believe that the occasional execution of “sodomites” would serve society well because “the law that requires the death penalty for homosexual acts effectively drives the perversion of homosexuality underground, back into the closet.” More recently, while hosting American Vision’s “The Gary DeMar Show” in December 2009, Joel McDurmon, the group’s research director, agreed that the Bible does call for killing homosexuals. And, he said, “when most of a society is Christian, is biblical, then it [execution of gays] is perfectly normal; it should definitely be in place.”
In April 2009, DeMar said: “Homosexuals aren’t content with only having the bedroom. They have taken their perversion into the classrooms, teaching that such practices are normal. There is nothing normal about what homosexuals do.”
DeMar, who was closely allied with the late D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries (see below), is a central figure in Reconstruction theology, which was founded by R.J. Rushdoony (see Chalcedon Foundation, below). He is co-author of Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t with Gary North.
DeMar has also said that a “long-term goal” should be “the execution of abortionists and their parents.” Islam is another enemy, he said in August 2010: “The long-term goal of Islam is the abolition of our constitutional freedoms.”
TheChalcedon Foundation, named after a 451 A.D. council that proclaimed the state’s subservience to God, was started in 1965 by Rousas John Rushdoony, who is known as “father of Christian Reconstruction” theology. Led by Rushdoony’s son, Mark, since the elder Rushdoony’s death in 2001, the foundation continues to push for the imposition of Old Testament law on America and the world.
Reconstruction, as described in R.J. Rushdoony’s foundational 1973 book The Institutes of Biblical Law, is opposed to modern notions of equality, democracy or tolerance — instead, it embraces the most draconian of religious views. Rushdoony supported the death penalty for homosexuals, among other “abominators.” He also opposed what he called “unequal yoking” — interracial marriage — and “enforced integration,” insisting that “[a]ll men are NOT created equal before God” (the Bible, he explained, “recognizes that some people are by nature slaves”). Rushdoony also denied the Holocaust, saying the murder of 6 million Jews was “false witness.”
Rushdoony’s Reconstruction is indeed radical, even including “incorrigible children” among those deserving death. And virtually all of his works remain for sale on the Chalcedon Foundation website.
Today, most fundamentalist leaders deny holding such views. But a Who’s Who of the religious right — including Tim and Beverly LaHaye (see Concerned Women for America, below), Donald Wildmon (American Family Association, above), and the late D. James Kennedy (Coral Ridge Ministries, below) — once served alongside the elder Rushdoony on the Coalition for Revival, a group formed in 1984 to “reclaim America.” Rushdoony reportedly was also a member of the secretive Council of National Policy, a group of archconservative leaders.
Christian Anti-Defamation Commission
Originally incorporated in 1999 by retired Army Gen. William Hollis, the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission (CADC) says its goal is to serve as a “first line of response to anti-Christian defamation, bigotry and discrimination.” It was largely inactive until 2007, when it brought in as its new leader the Rev. Gary Cass, who claims that Christian-bashing, “the last acceptable form of bigotry in America, is alive and well and growing more intense and hysterical by the day.”
The CADC is heavily focused on the alleged evils of homosexuality. It has called the idea of allowing gays to serve openly in the military “evil”; opposed hate crimes legislation (which many religious-right groupsfalsely assertwould make it easy to send pastors to prison for condemning homosexuality); and raged against a judge’s overturning of California’s Proposition 8, which had invalidated same-sex marriages. With regard to that last, it said: “Homosexuals have turned away from humbly worshipping the true and living God and his transcendent moral order in order to make an idol out of their sexual perversion and chaos.”
The group also has protested a lawsuit seeking to end public use of the motto, “In God We Trust”; encouraged the IRS to investigate the anti-theocratic Americans United for Separation of Church and State; and opposed a proposed Islamic center in New York City, saying Muslims “are exploiting the liberty we afford them to honor a murderous ideology that denies religious liberty every where [sic] it can.”
Although it is somewhat benign by comparison, the CADC has an advisory board that includes some of the country’s most hard-line anti-gay activists: Lou Sheldon, head of the Traditional Values Coalition (see below); Donald Wildmon, the founder of the American Family Association (above); and O’Neal Dozier, a pastor who wrote in his 2008 book that “[h]omosexuality not only spreads disease and neutralizes God’s command,” but also “destroys families.” The board also includes Carmen Mercer, a former top official of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a now-defunct nativist group that once ran its own armed civilian border patrols.
Concerned Women for America
San Diego, Calif., activist Beverly LaHaye, whose husband Tim would go on to become famous as co-author of the Left Behind novels depicting the end times, started Concerned Women for America (CWA) in 1979 to create an anti-feminist group that matched the power of the National Organization for Women. Today, CWA claims more than 500,000 members organized into state chapters, a radio program that reaches more than 1 million listeners, and a cadre of attorneys and researchers devoted to the group’s mission of promoting biblical values.
LaHaye has blamed gay people for a “radical leftist crusade” in America and, over the years, has occasionallyequated homosexuality with pedophilia. In 2001, she hired prominent anti-gay propagandists Robert Knight (now with Coral Ridge Ministries; see below) and Peter LaBarbera (now with Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, above) to launch CWA’s Culture and Family Institute. Matt Barber was CWA’s policy director for cultural issues in 2007 and 2008 before moving on to similar work with the Liberty Counsel (below).
While at CWA, on April 12, 2007, Barber suggested againstall the evidencethat there were only a “miniscule number” of anti-gay hate crimes and most of those “may very well be rooted in fraudulent reports.” In comments that have since disappeared from CWA’s website, Barber demanded a federal probe of “homosexual activists” for their alleged fabrications of hate crime reports.
CWA long relied on and displayed Knight’s articles and talking points, including claims that “homosexuality carries enormous physical and mental health risks” and “gay marriage entices children to experiment with homosexuality.” Most remarkably, Knight cited the utterly discredited work of Paul Cameron (see Family Research Institute, below) to bolster claims that homosexuality is harmful.
Today, CWA continues to make arguments against homosexuality on the basis of dubious claims. President Wendy Wright said this August that gay activists were using same-sex marriage “to indoctrinate children in schools to reject their parents’ values and to harass, sue and punish people who disagree.” Last year, CWA accused the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), a group that works to stop anti-gay bullying in schools, of using that mission as a cover to promote homosexuality in schools, adding that “teaching students from a young age that the homosexual lifestyle is perfectly natural … will [cause them to] develop into adults who are desensitized to the harmful, immoral reality of sexual deviance.”
Coral Ridge Ministries
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The late Rev. D. James Kennedy started turning fundamentalist Coral Ridge Presbyterian into a mega-church in the 1960s, adding Coral Ridge Ministries (CRM) as its action arm in 1974 and claiming some 10,000 members by the 1990s. During the fiscal year ending in June 2009, CRM raised almost $18 million and spent more than $6 million of that on television and radio outreach efforts.
Over the years, Kennedy emphasized anti-gay rhetoric, particularly in his TV ministry. He recommended as “essential” the virulent work of R.J. Rushdoony (see Chalcedon Foundation, above), who believed practicing gays should be executed. In an especially nasty 1989 edition of a CRM newsletter, Kennedy ran photographs of children along with the tagline, “Sex With Children? Homosexuals Say Yes!”
After Kennedy died in 2007, Coral Ridge Presbyterian seemed to change course, merging in 2009 with New City Presbyterian Church under its pastor, Tullian Tchividjian, a grandson of evangelist Billy Graham. Tchividjian began to move the church away from divisive social issues; some 500 members of Coral Ridge, including Kennedy’s daughter, left as a result. Today, Tchividjian says that the church, with 2,400 congregants, is entirely separate from CRM.
CRM, however, has continued its hard-line course. In 2009, it hired anti-gay activist Robert Knight as a senior writer and Washington, D.C., correspondent. Knight has used the work of discredited researcher Paul Cameron (see Family Research Institute, below). In one recent essay on the CRM website, he argued against allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military, saying that “Bible-believing Christians would quickly find themselves unwelcome in Barney Frank’s new pansexual, cross-dressing military.” (Hector Padron, CRM’s executive vice president, wrote last May that such a change would post a “grave threat to the military.”)
In 2002, before joining CRM, Knight wrote that gay marriage “entices children to experiment with homosexuality” and that accepting homosexuality leads to “a loss of stability in communities, with a rise in crime, sexually transmitted diseases and other social pathologies. Still another is a shortage of employable, stable people.”
*Dove World Outreach Center
The Dove World Outreach Center was founded in 1986 by Don Northrup and described itself as a “total concept church” in which all would be served. But Northrup died in 1996, and his successor brought in long-time Northrup associateTerry Jonesas Dove’s leader in 2001. Since then, Jones has spouted increasingly vicious attacks on gays and Muslims, culminating in a plan that drew worldwide condemnation this September to hold an “International Burn a Koran Day.”
Jones and his family had spent some 20 years in Cologne, Germany, running a church that was allied with Dove. When he was asked to take over the Gainesville church, he apparently divided his time between the two until 2008, when the Cologne church was closed amid criticism of Jones by its congregants.
Jones pushed himself into the headlines last March, when he surrounded Dove with signs aimed at Craig Lowe, a Gainesville city commissioner who was running for mayor, that said “No Homo Mayor.” After an electioneering complaint was filed with the IRS (nonprofit churches cannot intervene in political campaigns), Jones had the signs shortened to the more generic “No Homo.” At one point, Jones and 30 of his congregants joined an anti-gay rally by theWestboro Baptist Church, which runs the Godhatesfags.com website and regularly pickets the funerals of U.S. soldiers, saying God is killing soldiers because America is a “fag-enabling” nation.
Jones is also the author of a book entitled Islam is of the Devil, and he has used that phrase on another set of signs posted around his church and sent his followers’ children to school in T-shirts bearing that slogan. (The school refused to let the children wear the shirts, and the ACLU filed suit against it as a result.) He regularly repeats the phrase on his “Braveheart Show,” an Internet video program where he asserted last April that “[h]omosexuality makes God throw up.”
Jones and his tiny congregation became momentarily famous this September, when he said he would burn Korans to protest Islam, which he describes as “an evil religion.” The threat drew public condemnation from Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and several leading members of the Obama Administration, and sparked anti-U.S. rallies in Muslim countries. In the end, Jones withdrew his threat and rapidly sank back into political obscurity.
*Faithful Word Baptist Church
Steven Anderson, formerly affiliated with Sacramento, Calif.-based Regency Baptist Church, started Faithful Word Baptist Church in Arizona on Christmas Day 2005 as a “totally independent” organization. With “well over a hundred chapters of the Bible memorized word-for-word,” Anderson quickly led his congregation into a series of extremely radical stands.
Much of his venom was aimed at homosexuals, who he suggests should be killed (“The biggest hypocrite in the world is the person who believes in the death penalty for murderers but not for homosexuals”). In an August 2009 sermon, he attacked the United Methodist Church, saying “10% of their preachers are queers” and adding, “they got a dyke and a faggot behind the pulpit.” He has described gays as “sodomites” who “recruit through rape” and “recruit through molestation.”
Anderson is also a virulent government hater. As operator of the True Sons of Liberty website, the pastor calls for abolishing the IRS, the Federal Reserve, Social Security and Child Protective Services state agencies. In April 2009, he refused to get out of his car or answer questions from Border Patrol agents at the California-Arizona border. Agents broke his window and tased him as a result.
Anderson brought his church national notoriety in August 2009, when a member of his congregation, Christopher Broughton, went to an Obama appearance in Phoenix legally carrying an assault rifle and a pistol. It turned out that Anderson had preached a day earlier to Broughton and others that he “hates Obama” and would “pray that he dies and goes to hell.” Two weeks later, he told openly gay columnist Michelangelo Signorile that he “would not judge or condemn” anyone who killed the president. Then, for good measure, he told Signorile at the end of the interview, “If you’re a homosexual, I hope you get brain cancer and die like Ted Kennedy.”
*Family Research Council
Started as a small think tank in 1983, theFamily Research Council(FRC) merged in 1988 with the much larger religious-right group Focus on the Family in 1988, and brought on Gary Bauer, former U.S. undersecretary of education under Ronald Reagan, as president. In 1992, the two groups legally separated to protect Focus on the Family’s tax-exempt status, although Focus founder James Dobson and two other Focus officials were placed on the FRC’s newly independent board. By that time, FRC had become a powerful group on its own.
Headed since 2003 by former Louisiana State Rep. Tony Perkins, the FRC has been a font of anti-gay propaganda throughout its history. It relies on the work of Robert Knight, who also worked at Concerned Women for America but now is at Coral Ridge Ministries (see above for both), along with that of FRC senior research fellows Tim Dailey (hired in 1999) and Peter Sprigg (2001). Both Dailey and Sprigg have pushedfalse accusationslinking gay men to pedophilia: Sprigg has written that most men who engage in same-sex child molestation “identify themselves as homosexual or bisexual,” and Dailey and Sprigg devoted an entire chapter of their 2004 bookGetting It Straightto similar material. The men claimed that “homosexuals are overrepresented in child sex offenses” and similarly asserted that “homosexuals are attracted in inordinate numbers to boys.”
That’s the least of it. In a 1999 publication (Homosexual Behavior and Pedophilia) that has since disappeared from its website, the FRC claimed that “one of the primary goals of the homosexual rights movement is to abolish all age of consent laws and to eventually recognize pedophiles as the ‘prophets’ of a new sexual order,” according to unrefuted research by AMERICAblog. The same publication argued that “homosexual activists publicly disassociate themselves from pedophiles as part of a public relations strategy.” FRC offered no evidence for these remarkable assertions, and has never publicly retracted the allegations. (The American Psychological Association, among others, has concluded that “homosexual men are not more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexual men are.”)
In fact, in a Nov. 30, 2010, debate on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews”between Perkins and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mark Potok, Perkins defended FRC’s association of gay men with pedophilia, saying: “If you look at the American College of Pediatricians, they say the research is overwhelming that homosexuality poses a danger to children. So Mark is wrong. He needs to go back and do his own research.” In fact, the college, despite its hifalutin name, is a tiny, explicitly religious-right breakaway group from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the 60,000-member association of the profession. Publications of the American College of Pediatricians, which has some 200 members, have been roundly attacked by leading scientific authorities who say they are baseless and accuse the college of distorting and misrepresenting their work.
Elsewhere, according to AMERICAblog, Knight, while working at the FRC, claimed that “[t]here is a strong current of pedophilia in the homosexual subculture. … [T]hey want to promote a promiscuous society.” AMERICAblog also reported that then-FRC official Yvette Cantu, in an interview published on Americans for Truth About Homosexuality’s website, said, “If they [gays and lesbians] had children, what would happen when they were too busy having their sex parties?”
More recently, in March 2008, Sprigg, responding to a question about uniting gay partners during the immigration process, said: “I would much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them.” He later apologized, but then went on, last February, to tell MSNBC host Chris Matthews, “I think there would be a place for criminal sanctions on homosexual behavior.” “So we should outlaw gay behavior?” Matthews asked. “Yes,” Sprigg replied. At around the same time, Sprigg claimed that allowing gay people to serve openly in the military would lead to an increase in gay-on-straight sexual assaults.
Perkins has his own unusual history. In 1996, while managing the U.S. Senate campaign of Republican State Rep. Louis “Woody” Jenkins of Louisiana, Perkins paid $82,500 to use the mailing list of former Klan chieftain David Duke. The campaign was fined $3,000 (reduced from $82,500) after Perkins and Jenkins filed false disclosure forms in a bid to hide the link to Duke. Five years later, on May 17, 2001, Perkins gave a speech to the Louisiana chapter of theCouncil of Conservative Citizens(CCC), a white supremacist group that has described black people as a “retrograde species of humanity.” Perkins claimed not to know the group’s ideology at the time, but it had been widely publicized in Louisiana and the nation. In 1999, after Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott was embroiled in a national scandal over his ties to the group, GOP chairman Jim Nicholson urged Republicans to quit the CCC because of its “racist views.” That statement and the nationally publicized Lott controversy came two years before Perkins’ 2001 speech.
*Family Research Institute
Colorado Springs, Colo.
Started in 1987 by psychologistPaul Cameron, the Family Research Institute (FRI) has become the anti-gay movement’s main source for what Cameron claims is “cutting-edge research” — but is, in fact, completely discredited junk science pushed out by a man who has been condemned by three professional organizations.
Over nearly three decades, Cameron has published “research studies” (though almost never in peer-reviewed journals) that suggest that homosexuals are predatory and diseased perverts who victimize children. Among his more recent defamations was an FRI pamphlet asserting the primary activity of the gay rights movement is “seeking to legitimize child-adult homosexual sex.” In another, he claimed that with “the rise of the gay rights movement, homosexual rape of men appears to have increased.” In yet another, he wrote, “Homosexuals were three times more likely to admit to having made an obscene phone call” and “a third more apt to report a traffic ticket or traffic accident in the past 5 years.”
Some of Cameron’s moreinfamous claimsinclude the idea that homosexuals molest children at far higher rates than heterosexuals and that homosexuals have extremely short lives. Last February, he wrote on FRI’s website that “[i]f homosexuals are allowed to serve in the military, they will be recruiting in showers, having sex in the barracks… . Before long, the U.S. may be defended by the sex-obsessed and those who can tolerate kowtowing to them.” After all, writes Cameron — a man who proposes that parents promote teen heterosexual activity to keep kids straight — “homosexual sex overwhelms rationality [and] overwhelms the desire to serve.”
Cameron’s colleagues have condemned him repeatedly. In 1983, he was thrown out of the American Psychological Association for ethical violations. In 1984, the Nebraska Psychological Association disassociated itself from Cameron’s statements about sexuality. In 1985, the American Sociological Association adopted a resolution saying Cameron “has consistently misinterpreted and misrepresented sociological research on sexuality” and “repeatedly campaigned for the abrogation of the civil rights of lesbians and gay men”; the following year, the same group formally condemned Cameron for that misrepresentation of research.
In late 2010, reacting to reports that his group had once again been listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group, Cameron toldThe(Colorado Springs, Colo.)Gazettethat he believed homosexuality should be criminalized in America and that he was fine with aproposed bill in Ugandathat would punish some gay sexual acts with death (“Whatever they decide, I’m OK with”). He also proposed heavily taxing gays and single adults because of their failure to produce children. And he suggested that gays and lesbians undergo a “public shaming” of some kind.
Despite all this — and the fact that Cameron’s propaganda is widely known to be false or misleading — many groups have continued to use his claims, though often without citing their source. They include the American Family Association, Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, Concerned Women for America, Coral Ridge Ministries, the Family Research Council (see above for all five) and, until recently, the Illinois Family Institute (see below).
*Heterosexuals Organized for a Moral Environment
Downers Grove, Ill.
Heterosexuals Organized for a Moral Environment (HOME) was founded by 62-year-old Wayne Lela, a former Catholic who now describes himself as an agnostic. Until recently, the 20-year-old group has had a fairly low profile.
The group, which is entirely focused on the alleged evils of homosexuality, attacks gay people on a wide variety of levels. But it keeps coming back to the idea that gay sexual activity should be illegal. “[P]enalizing people for engaging in homosexual behavior is clearly not discrimination, just like penalizing people for exhibitionism or incest is not discrimination,” HOME’s website says. In a second website comment, it adds, “[H]eterosexual activity is not illegalizeable … while homosexual activity is definitely illegalizeable.” And in a third, it insists that “legalizing homosexual deviations” leads to a “confused and sick society.”
HOME doesn’t stop there. It says that gays should apologize “for all the STDs [sexually transmitted diseases] they’ve spread, and all the money those STDs have cost, and especially for setting bad moral examples for our children.” It accuses homosexuals of having a “pathological attitude” toward the opposite sex. It says homosexuality shouldn’t have been removed from the American Psychiatric Association’s list of mental disorders. It says gays threaten free speech because they seek hate crime law protections. It argues that gay film directors are working to “condition men to bond with other men at the expense of women.” And it claims that pedophilia and necrophilia are a sexual orientations like homosexuality, going on to suggest thatthey could therefore be legalized.
And then there’s this: Freemasonry may be connected to “the homosexual movement,” with members evidently engaging in sodomy and “homosexual orgies.” Thus, HOME says, there is a “very real possibility that this group is using its influence to try to impose pro-homosexual ‘values’ on the public.”
*Illinois Family Institute
Carol Stream, Ill.
The Illinois Family Institute (IFI), which says it dedicates itself to issues surrounding “marriage, family, life and liberty,” is heavily focused on attacking gay people and homosexuality in general. It maintains “working partnerships” with other hard-line groups including the Family Research Council (see above) and the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative legal center based in Phoenix. In early 2010, it launched Illinois Family Action as a political-action sister organization.
In 2006, then-Executive Director Peter LaBarbera (see Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, above), told a religious-right gathering hosted by Vision America that homosexuality was “disgusting” and demanded the closing down of all “homosexual establishments.” He called for the repeal of all “sexual orientation laws” — laws that ban discrimination against gays — and spoke of the “need to find ways to bring back shame to those practicing homosexual behavior.”
Over the years, the group also has occasionally embraced the groundless propaganda of Paul Cameron (see Family Research Institute, above). Until 2009, it carried an article on Cameron — “New Study Shows that Homosexuals Live 20 Fewer Years” — preceded by a full-throated endorsement LaBarbera. “Paul Cameron’s work has been targeted for ridicule by homosexual activists, and he’s been demonized by the left,” LaBarbera wrote in his introduction, “but that should not discount his findings.” IFI also posted a video attacking school anti-bullying programs that claimed, based on Cameron, that gay men’s median age of death is 42. Both were removed in response to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s 2009 listing of IFI as a hate group, which was largely based on its use of Cameron.
That response, however, hardly indicated that the IFI was backing down on its hard-line position. This year, Focus on the Family — for years, the powerhouse of anti-gay religious organizations in America — moderated its position markedly after founder James Dobson retired and pastor Jim Daly took over. In April, Daly told an interviewer: “I will continue to defend traditional marriage, but I’m not going to demean human beings in the process. It’s not about being highly confrontational.” The response of Laurie Higgins, IFI’s belligerent director of school advocacy, was that Daly was showing “surprising naïveté,” using the same language as pro-gay “homosexualists,” and failing to confront “the pro-homosexual juggernaut.”
In 2009, Higgins compared homosexuality to Nazism, likening the German Evangelical Church’s weak response to fascism to the “American church’s failure to respond appropriately to the spread of radical, heretical, destructive views of homosexuality.” Elsewhere, Higgins has pined for the days when gays were in the closet. “There was something profoundly good for society about the prior stigmatization of homosexual practice… . [W]hen homosexuals were ‘in the closet,’ (along with fornicators, polyamorists, cross-dressers, and ‘transexuals’), they weren’t acquiring and raising children.” She’s also said that McDonald’s, because it ran a gay-friendly TV ad, is “hell bent on using its resources to promote subversive moral, social, and political views about homosexuality to our children.”
Created in 1989, Liberty Counsel is affiliated with Liberty University Law School in Lynchburg, Va., a legacy of the late conservative icon Jerry Falwell. It was founded and is still chaired by Mathew (Mat) Staver, who also serves as director of the Liberty Center for Law and Policy at Liberty University, and provides legal assistance with regard to religious liberty, abortion and the family.
The organization may be best known for its campaigns to ensure that “public displays of religion” are maintained during the Christmas holiday, and it has adopted broad right-wing views, including the allegation that the Obama Administration has a “socialist liberal agenda.” But it also has focused heavily on anti-gay activism.
In 2009, J. Matt Barber, formerly with Concerned Women for America and Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (see above for both), joined Liberty Counsel as director of cultural affairs (also becoming Liberty University’s associate dean for career and professional development). A year earlier, Barber had argued that given “medical evidence about the dangers of homosexuality,” it should be considered “criminally reckless for educators to teach children that homosexual conduct is a normal, safe and perfectly acceptable alternative.”
The Counsel also has been active in battling same-sex marriage, saying it would destroy the “bedrock of society.” In 2005, the group’s blog said: “People who … support the radical homosexual agenda will not rest until marriage has become completely devalued. Children will suffer most from this debauchery.” A 2007 blog posting said same-sex marriage would “severely impact future generations.”
Like other anti-gay groups, Liberty Counsel argues that hate crime laws are “actually ‘thought crimes’ laws that violate the right to freedom and of conscience” — an opinion rejected by the Supreme Court. In fact, the laws raise penalties for crimes already on the books — assault, murder and so on — that were motivated by hatred of peoplebased on their sexual orientation. They do not, and could not under the Constitution, punish people for voicing opinions.
Since 2006, Liberty Counsel has also run its “Change is Possible” campaign with Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays to protect people who say they’ve changed from gay to straight from “discrimination” by “intolerant homosexuals.”
MassResistance, “the leading pro-family grassroots activist group in Massachusetts,” began life in 1995 as the Parents’ Rights Coalition, became the Article 8 Alliance in 2003, and took on its current name in 2006. Its leader, Brian Camenker, is a programmer who was an official of the Article 8 Alliance and also headed the Newton, Mass., chapter of the National Taxpayers’ Association.
As president of yet another group, the Interfaith Coalition of Massachusetts, Camenker spearheaded the drafting of a bill that passed in 1996 and required that parents be notified of any sex education in their children’s schools. That same year, Camenker claimed that suicide prevention programs aimed at gay youth actually were “put together by homosexual activists to normalize homosexuality.” Later, MassResistance charged that groups like the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), which support school anti-bullying programs, actually want to lure children into homosexuality and, very possibly, sadomasochism.
At a 2006 religious right gathering in Washington, D.C., Camenker insisted that gays were trying to get legislation passed to allow sex with animals. “One bill in Massachusetts takes away all the penalties for bestiality,” he claimed. “This is where this [homosexual] agenda is going.” A little later, he added, “They [gays and lesbians] are pushing perversion on our kids.”
In 2006-2007, Mass-Resistance pushed for an amendment of the 1996 statute that would have required that parents be notified of any discussion of gay or lesbian issues in the schools. The group proposed language that lumped sexual orientation (which includes heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality) in with criminal behaviors like bestiality and polygamy. During legislative testimony supporting the amendment, Camenkerfalsely claimedthat no homosexuals died in the Holocaust and that the pink triangle the Nazis forced imprisoned gays to wear actually signified Catholic priests. The amendment did not pass.
Camenker, who has long focused on the purported “homosexual agenda” in the schools and frequently claimed gays are dangerous to kids, has repeatedly cited discredited claims from organizations like the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality that link homosexuality and pedophilia.
In 2008, Camenker made another accusation for which there was no supporting evidence at all — the claim that the state of Massachusetts had had to spend more money every year since same-sex marriage became legal in that state. That, he said, was because of “skyrocketing homosexual domestic violence” and because of the “extreme dysfunctional nature of homosexual relationships.”
This year, MassResistance called Boston Gay Pride events a “depraved” display that featured “a great deal of obviously disturbed, dysfunctional, and extremely self-centered people whose aim was to push their agenda.”
National Organization for Marriage
The National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which is dedicated to fighting same-sex marriage in state legislatures, was organized in 2007 by conservative syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher and Princeton University politics professor Robert George. George is an influential Christian thinker who co-authored the 2009 “Manhattan Declaration,” a manifesto developed after a New York meeting of conservative church leaders that “promises resistance to the point of civil disobedience against any legislation that might implicate their churches or charities in abortion, embryo-destructive research or same sex marriage.”
NOM’s first public campaign was in 2008, supporting California’s Proposition 8, which sought to invalidate same-sex marriage in that state. It was widely mocked, including in a parody by satirist Stephen Colbert, for the “Gathering Storm” video ad it produced at the time. Set to somber music and a dark and stormy background, the ad had actors expressing fears that gay activism would “take away” their rights, change their lifestyle, and force homosexuality on their kids.
The group, whose president is now former executive director Brian Brown, has become considerably more sophisticated since then, emphasizing its respect for homosexuals. “Gays and Lesbians have a right to live as they choose,” NOM says on its website, “[but] they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for all of us.”
For a time, NOM’s name was used by a bus driver named Louis Marinelli, who drove a van for NOM’s “Summer for Marriage Tour” this year. Marinelli called himself a “NOM strategist” and sent out electronic messages under the NOM logo that repeatedfalsehoods about homosexualsbeing pedophiles and gay men having extremely short lifespans. In homemade videos posted on his own YouTube page, he said same-sex marriage would lead to “prostitution, pedophilia and polygamy.” But this July, NOM said it was not associated with Marinelli.
*Traditional Values Coalition
Former Presbyterian minister Lou Sheldon has been warning Americans about the “gay threat” since 1980, when he founded the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), which also is concerned with abortion and national security and takes on liberal activists on a range of issues. The TVC, which today claims to speak for 43,000 churches, lobbies Congress and also mobilizes churches to oppose legislation that it disagrees with. Sheldon’s daughter Andrea Lafferty, a former Reagan Administration official, serves as executive director of the organization.
The group has at times enjoyed remarkable access to the halls of power — during the George W. Bush Administration, Sheldon and Lafferty visited the White House a combined 69 times, meeting personally with Bush in eight of the visits. But that does not mean that it has not long had a record of extreme gay-bashing.
In 1985, Sheldon suggested forcing AIDS victims into “cities of refuge.” In 1992, columnist Jimmy Breslin said that Sheldon told him that “homosexuals are dangerous. They proselytize. They come to the door, and if your son answers and nobody is there to stop it, they grab the son and run off with him. They steal him. They take him away and turn him into a homosexual.” Sheldon later denied that he made the comments, but his website today includes strikingly similar language: “[S]ince homosexuals can’t reproduce, they will simply go after your children for seduction and conversion to homosexuality.” Elsewhere, it claims that “[t]he effort to push adult/child sex … is part of the overall homosexual movement.”
The TVC also asserts that “it is evident that homosexuals molest children at a far greater rate than do their heterosexual counterparts” — afalsehoodbased on conflating male-male molestation with homosexuality. Gays, it says, molest children at “epidemic rates,” adding: “As homosexuals continue to make inroads into public schools, more children will be molested and indoctrinated into the world of homosexuality. Many of them will die in that world.” With regard to LGBT teen suicides, TVC, under the headline “Homosexual Urban Legends,” claims that “[t]he cold, hard fact is that teens who are struggling with homosexual feelings are more likely to be sexually molested by a homosexual school counselor or teacher than to commit suicide over their feelings of despair.”
The TVC also makes assertions on its website about disproportionate homosexual pedophilia and attacks the idea that people are born gay and the claim that gays want the right to marry for the same reasons that heterosexuals do — the TVC suggests the real purpose of marriage equality is to destroy the concept of marriage and ultimately replace it altogether with group sex and polygamy.
The challenge of writing about 37 years of living with HIV/AIDS isn’t so much to write tomes about what actually was witnessed over that period. That is easy to do, and I could ramble on forever about it. The challenge lies in being objective and succinct, to tone down the schmaltz and sentimentality and cut to the chase. Not as easy as one may think, as these were the most challenging, relentlessly ruthless and heartbreaking years of my life. But if survival is the gauge of ones strength and tenacity, then I have come out at this end of it with flying colours. Indeed, the cup is half full!
So what was it really like in 1982 to be reading snippets in our local gay press about this mysterious illness in The States that seemed to be targeting gay men who frequented the saunas, and quickly killing them? Well, cynicism and disbelief to start with, and the surety that within a short period of time they would find an antibiotic to clear up yet another STD. Soon the snippets were to become columns, then pages as the mysterious and deadly illness leapt from the shores of America and found its way here.
Our response was mixed. The first recorded case of HIV at home was 1982, and the first death in 1983. We had our usual ratbags who yelled and screamed about God’s vengeance on the evil, sick and perverted gay lifestyle (obviously a different God to the compassionate, all-forgiving one that I had heard about), the advocates of hate who demanded quarantine for all infected persons, and those who either quietly or vocally wished that we would all die or just go away. Not that easy folks!
Thankfully, common sense prevailed and both the government and the grassroots gay community combined to put both AIDS Councils and NGO programs in place. Our quick response was instrumental in Australia always being at the forefront of HIV/AIDS care. Within 2 years every state had an AIDS Council under the national umbrella of NAPWA (National Association of People with AIDS), and the formation of support organisations such as The Bobby Goldsmith Foundation (named after the first person to die from AIDS in Australia), Community Support Network (CSN) and Ankali. Without these organisations life would have been grim for those infected. In 1985 testing was introduced. It was a bit of a strange affair in the early days. Due to hysteria and discrimination no one wanted their personal details on a database, so you chose a name, and Albion Street Centre issued you with a number that then became your ID. You had a blood test, and waited for two weeks – talk about high anxiety – to get your result. I had a mystery illness in 1982, a flu-type illness that wasn’t the flu, and already suspected that I had sero-converted and was going to come up HIV+. I was right. Counseling? Oh yeah, we had a lot of that back then. “You’ve got about 2 years to live”. Shrug shoulders “Okay”. And off we went knowing the inevitable was rapidly approaching, and it was time to PARTY!!! What else could you do?
However there were horror stories. The disgusting treatment of young Eve Van Grafhorst is something for all Australians to be ashamed of. Born in 1982, she was infected with HIV via a blood transfusion. When she attempted to enrol in her Kincumber pre-school in 1985, parents threatened to withdraw their children due to the (supposed) risk of infection. The family was literally hunted out of town, and forced to leave the country and go to NZ. I will never forget the sight of this poor, frail girl on her way to the airport. I, like many others, was horrified that this could happen in Australia. Thankfully, her NZ experience was quite the opposite, and she lived a relatively normal life until her death in 1993 at 11 years of age. Her parents received a letter from Lady Di praising her courage.
Meanwhile, the Australian nightmare was well and truly hitting home. My first close friend, Andrew Todd, died in 1986. At that time there was no dedicated AIDS ward, and Andrew was shifted between wards as beds were needed for other cases. He died on Boxing Day in A&E (called St Christopher’s ward, due to people usually just “travelling” through it on their way to a dedicated ward) at St, Vincent’s Hospital In Darlinghurst. It is interesting to note here that the Sisters of Charity, who founded this hospital, put the hospital at the centre of HIV care very early in the epidemic, and also provided palliative dare through the attached a Sacred Heart Hospice. I had the sad duty of ringing all my friends at a party to tell them the sad news. Party pooper recognition acknowledged! Ward 17 at St Vincent’s eventually became the dedicated AIDS ward, and for the next 10 years was never empty. Other hospitals such as Westmead hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons; full contamination clothing for those working with HIV people, rooms not being cleaned, meals left outside doors. Even the poor old mosquito copped a hiding as a means of contamination, along with toothbrushes, glasses, cutlery and crockery. An advertising campaign featuring the Grim Reaper bowling down poor people created an apocalyptic vision of HIV that scared the life out of everyone. It was quickly withdrawn. In the interim, my 2 years became 4, which became 6 followed by 8. My life became a haze of alcohol and cigarettes, not shared alone.
In the 80’s I held a lot of parties with anywhere from 40- 60 friends attending. By 1996, if I had tried to hold a party I would have been lucky to have dug up 10 friends to attend. In the blink of an eye my social circle was effectively wiped off the face of the earth. Hospitals, hospices, funerals and wakes became the dreaded regular events. It was death on a relentless and unforgiving scale. The Quilt Project became the focus of our sorrow, and it’s regular unfoldings and name readings were tear-filled times of remembrance and reminiscence, along with the yearly Candlelight Rally. I attended until I became so empty that I could no longer bear it. I submitted my names but no longer attended. In the early 90’s four friends died close together – two from AIDS, one a heart attack and one cancer. This was a particularly heavy blow as two of these friends had been regular “gutter drag” partners, and that part of my life effectively ended. In a perverse way, it seemed strange that the Big A wasn’t the only thing stalking our lives.
Despite its reputation for being human Ratsac (the Concorde Study in France named it such, after conducting an unethical trial; turns out they were correct!) I started taking AZT when my CD4 count started to take a dive. Hard work, long hours, heavy drinking, chain smoking, a shit diet and emotional turmoil didn’t help. Pub culture became lifestyle. Did several drug trials – D4T, which was sort of successful, though the same class of drug as AZT. Also p24 VLP (Very Light Protein) which proposed that stimulating the p24 antigen may help control HIV. Total waste of my time. It did nothing. We started alternating drugs – 6 months on AZT, 6 on D4T, 6 on DDI, 6 on DDC. Perversely it seemed to keep the wolf from the door. Dosage was huge. Everyone on it ended up with kidney problems and peripheral neuropathy. Prophylactics added to the drug burden. In the meantime there was no HIV dental service and our teeth rotted or fell out due to bouts of candida. I left work in 1993 after being seriously knocked around by viral pneumonia which should have killed me…but didn’t.
Like many, I went on every drug or alternative trial that came my way. There are those who have described us guinea pigs as brave, or “heroes”, but we certainly didn’t feel like that at the time, despite it being a very selfless act. The thinking at such a desperate time was that…well, if it works for me, the benefit will flow onto everyone else! But there were, in the early days at least, more failures than successes. D4T:FAILURE…caused anaemia; P24-VLP:FAILURE…was hoped it would boost the p24 antigen – it did nothing: Goat Serum:FAILURE…though I did get a very scary skin rash from it; Vitrasert Implants: FAILURE…though due more to HAART eradicating the scourge of CMV retinitis. Were intended to leach Ganciclovir into the eye over a 9 month period, thus eliminating the need to have it injected into the eye regularly. Two minor operations to insert them, with an initial estimate of a 4% chance of developing cataracts. Turned out to be a 100% chance, thus further operations to remove the cataracts. Fun, baby!
I was shuffled onto the pension, and given rent subsidised housing by DOH (Department of Housing). The subsidy seemed like a good idea at the time. After all, weren’t we all eventually going to be killed by the Big H, so no one would be on it for that long? Famous last words! My alcohol consumption and chain smoking increased, if that was possible! Was losing weight at an alarming rate, and naturally no one noticed because I took to wearing baggy clothes to disguise it. Nothing quite like being delusional. Moved from Darlinghurst to Bondi. Nothing like moving away from the scene to help your health…not! Collapsed in the street, and admitted to St Vincent’s not with PCP as suspected but a collapsed lung. Two weeks later and a change of female GP’s saw me back in the doctor’s rooms while she read my hospital discharge report. Had they tested me for CMV retinitis? No! Was I having trouble with my vision? Yes, but I do wear glasses. Guess what? We’re sending you for a little holiday at Prince Henry Hospital (now closed). I was a little bit sick. Chronic CMV retinitis, chronic candida, chronic anemia, had 10 CD4 cells and weighed 48 kgs. Mmm, prognosis was not good. Well, it had been a good life. I was certainly joining a band of party people. But no! Life hadn’t finished with me yet. Protease Inhibitors had come along at an auspicious time, and within a fortnight I had been stolen from the arms of death. Mind you, that fortnight had been no picnic. Ganciclovir injections into the eye, Deca-Durabolin injections to help put weight back on, blood transfusions, and enough finger prick blood readings to last me the rest of my life. And the problems had just started for this return-to-lifer. Not dying when you are supposed to really fucks up your head space.
So started the next round of therapies. Peer Support groups; counselors; Caleo (Greek word which means “To Stick”, a treatment management group who help you maintain the impetus to take the billion pills a day (I was taking over 360 pills a week – anti-retrovirals, prophylactics, and pills to control side effects – at one stage) we were taking); clinics; dental care (now up and running); volunteer work (to keep one sane). What started out as volunteer work at the then PLWHA (NSW) Inc (now Positive Life) turned into paid employment as a research assistant. I started writing for “Talkabout” magazine, joined the Positive Speakers Bureau, and learnt to use a computer. A couple of stints back in full-time employment made me realise that big changes needed to be made with my life. By this time my health was pretty well back together. A couple of nights out pushed home just how few people I knew, however did lead to meeting my current (now ex) partner. A brief encounter with Indinivir sludge in my kidneys (which involved having a stent inserted then removed) also made me aware that for HIV+ people the unexpected can happen at any time. Yet another change of doctor. Self-empowerment had become an important issue, and I wanted a say in my health management, as distinct from being dictated to. Big changes were about to happen.
In 2000 David and I did a big (and expensive) holiday to the Red Centre. It was an amazing experience. Before leaving Sydney I had applied to the University of Technology in Sydney to do my degree in writing. Shortly after arriving back home I was informed that I had been accepted. Ah, the advantages of mature age AND disability. So spent three years doing my Graduate Certificate in Writing, was office- bearer for the Special Needs Collective…in fact I WAS the Special Needs Collective, and discovered I hated having to deal with the moronic “radicals” who called themselves the Student Association and did nothing except rant and rave, and waste student money. I was glad to leave uni. Towards the end of 2004 I decided to get my chef’s credentials from East Sydney TAFE, and crammed a 12-month course into 6 months. As much as I hated uni, I really loved TAFE and found it more grassroots and honest. David and I started Alderman Catering, a top-end catering business though it only lasted about 2 years as I found it very exhausting. I then sort of returned to my retail roots by opening a web site called Alderman Providore to sell Australian made gourmet grocery items. The site proved successful, and within 4 years I was opening my second site, this time specialising in tea, coffee and chocolate products. I got involved in a trial using Goat’s Serum to treat HIV, but again another waste of time. I did manage to get a skin rash from it, and managed to score a $1,000 for participating. In late 2009 the GFC hit, and online shopping took a major hit. After a disastrous Christmas that left me severely out if pocket, I decided to sell the business and put it behind me.
More eye problems followed, this time involving my blind eye. Back to the regular rounds at the Sydney Eye Hospital, and an injection of Avastin (a cancer drug that reduces blood flow) into the blind eye to stop it creating new blood supplies to an eye that couldn’t see. By this time, the interior of the bad eye was collapsing, and it took on an unnatural colour. Before this I hadn’t looked blind. Now I did! Scary how anyone you talk to can pick an anomaly – and stare at it while talking.
The next step, which sort of brings us up to date (this was 2011), was a major move. Plans to move north had been on the agenda for 10 years – in 2011 it finally happened, though we did jump the border which wasn’t in the original plan. No sooner were we there than my retina detached (I had been warned to eventually expect this, due to the amount of CMV scar tissue in the eye) in my one seeing eye…or rather was pushed off by all the scar tissue present from my original CMV infection. An emergency operation to scrape down the scar tissue, and replace the retina and fluid (called a vitrectomy) has seen my sight degenerate even further and I am now the proud owner of a white cane curtesy of Guide Dogs Queensland. It has become obvious that our two Jack Russell’s are not, despite their best of intentions, good seeing-eye dogs. I can see, though very poorly. A lot of life is a blur these days.
However, I am not going to complain. I have always enjoyed a challenge, and this presents yet another one. I gave up smoking 23 years ago, and drink only lightly and socially these days. I adopted a healthy diet and exercise program 10 years ago when I started getting unattractively over-weight and inactive.I have turned my life around by adopting this course of action. In 2013 I attended Southbank Institute of Technology in Brisbane and obtained my Certificate III in Fitness. I hoped this would lead on to becoming a Personal Trainer for mature-age and disabled people both individually and in conjunction with my local gyms. I was almost 60 by the time I finished. Just in time for the next stage of my life.
In 2014 David and I called an end to our 16 year relationship. It had run its course, and with a 14-year age gap…I’m the older…we were both at different stages of our lives. It was amicable, and we are still friends. However, it was the start of a year from hell. A disastrous 60th birthday followed, them an attack of shingles that was the worst Royal Brisbane Hospital’s Infectious Diseases Unit had ever seen, leading to an infection in the blisters that landed me in hospital with blood poisoning, followed by two weeks with a portable drip through their Hospital In The Home initiative (Neuralgia and numbness from this are still a problem 5 years down the line). Then our first rescue dog, Ampy, died. I was also faced with some serious decisions. With the parting of our ways, I could no longer afford to live in the house we were in being on a pension, and of the options open to me, returning to Sydney to move in with an ex from the 80s was the only viable one. I also made a nerve-wracking decision to have my blind eye removed, and replaced with a prosthetic. After years of ongoing problems with it, was time it came to an end, and the operation occurred in early 2015 just prior to my other dog, Benji, and myself returning to Sydney.
I stayed in Sydney only for as long as I needed to be there. I hated it! A cold, over-populated, rude city. Within 12-months, we…I include my housemate, who also came with me…moved to the Central Coast, where life is quiet, and more civilised. Life goes on…I’ve lived long enough now to start seeing the truth finally being told about many aspects of HIV – the high toxicity and ongoing problems caused by AZT, exploitation by Big Pharma, misuse of funding, unresearched and often inaccurate advice on therapies and treatments, the rushing through of many treatments that proved detrimental to those who took them. It’s time to clear the air, and take the sentimentality out of an often rose-coloured glasses view of the epidemic.
37 years eh! OMG where have those years gone? Despite all the discrimination, stress, anxiety, illness, deaths, survivor guilt and despair, there have been moments of great introspection, illumination, strength and enlightenment. That over-used word “empowerment” springs to mind and that is perhaps the one word that sums all those years up. Victim? No way! Survivor? Not in my words! And I have never been one to wallow in self pity. You just need to grab life by the balls, and get on with it. I trust that is what I have done.