Here’s an interesting bit from Chapter 11 of The Gay and Lesbian Almanac:
…in 1962, the president of the District of Columbia’s Mattachine Society, Dr. Franklin Kameny, appeared on local television for 90 seconds to talk about his organization. Such appearance was so rare and daring that the interview was preceded by a five-minute apology from the announcer for having as a guest a confirmed homosexual.
By then, Frank Kameny had grown inured to such arrows. The Civil Service Commission had already fired him after an arrest for alleged cruising; by 1958 he was barred from future employment with the federal government for refusing to give information regarding his sexual orientation. The injustice (commonplace then: men could be fired from their jobs on the mere suspicion of homosexuality) galvanized Kameny. He and others founded the Mattachine Society of Washington DC, a precursor of every gay rights group from ACT-UP to the Human Rights Campaign. This was the man who in 1963, spearheaded the fight to overturn DC’s sodomy laws (finally ratified nationwide in 1993) and worked successfully to remove homosexuality as a mental disorder from the American Psychiatric Association’s list—described by Kameny as “the day we were cured en masse by the psychiatrists.
Let the walls come down, indeed: Kameny, alongside others, was one of the first to stand up and demand equality—his was the template from which the modern gay rights movement sprang. Though the price he paid was enormous and unquantifiable (in 2009 the US government finally got around to apologizing for Kameny’s 1958 dismissal), his legacy endures. Frank Kameny died on October 11. RIP, and thanks, Frank—here’s to you, and to the day when the need for apologies finally ceases.
Read an appreciation by Jonathan Capehart for The Washington Post here.
Check out this 2010 interview with Kameny in The Washingtonian here.