Friday, March 31st, 2023

GLBT news in 1959 that the media ignored…

Billy Glover…life happened before Stonewall.

October 17, 2013.

I have been rereading the issues of 1959—since it seems interesting to know how much had gone on in the movement before Stonewall.

Most issues had articles or news about aspects of homosexuality we discuss today, but how different the times! We were criminals, sick and sinful. Our bars were raided in every major city. The media only covered the subject negatively. And, no surprise, readers complained that all the news was negative.  Few celebrities could be covered, even if we knew they were gay. As the film on HBO showed, Liberace sued an English newspaper and won—denying he was gay.

In the January 1959 issue, they (I didn’t come on till about 1961) had Dr. Blanche M. Baker discussing issues of homosexuality and an editorial about how we needed to support young people. In February, Dr. Baker discussed the idea of us marrying to hide. In March it was pointed out that much of the work for the cause was done by non-gay people, as most of us were closeted. And, the “Stonewall” type raids on the Black Cat, etc., in San Francisco and the legal battle were discussed, giving credit to the legal work of Morris Lowenthal and the fight back of Stoumen, the owner.

And the article by Vivian Messetti was the first discussion of Intersex issues.

April discussed the downfall of all marriages, discussed mental health issues. Some of the marriage issues were why and type, such as creative with two people, and procreation but mainly for love. The idea of overpopulation meaning no need to procreate was mentioned—not a very good argument it seemed then and now to me. Children are in the discussion today, so a change. The idea of us settling down has always been there.

May saw an attempt to show positive thinking, with an interview with a successful homosexual (teacher)—which some thought was a fake. That type of negative thinking is covered in another marriage column of Dr. Baker’s (in the December issue). She said that the first need to have a successful life and marriage is to like and accept yourself—since if you feel sinful, etc., you will not be able to live freely.

The July issue had an article on beatniks. Not that great for our cause. Del Martin discussed men who like lesbians in the august issue. There is mention of ONE in Pageant Magazine—one example of a little bit of media coverage. There is mention of a French magazine (I don’t recall or know what happened to it), Juventus.  And Dr. Baker has mention of Intersex issues.

In September they covered the continuing problem of the people who wanted a pen pal resource—an issue Frank Kameny argued with us about years later when we rejected computer dating. Although meeting people in person, bars, etc. could be dangerous, examples of how bad meetings through pen pal places had been.

There was a brief mention of Fire Island, which in a later issue got a letter saying that there had been a backlash—the article had been in the New York Post. And there is the ad for the Mattachine convention in Denver, coming in September.

The failure of the media—except in Denver—to cover this major event is proof of either incompetent or unethical journalists/editors. Why is discussed in the November issue.

In October (“Dune People”), Cherry Grove is covered. And a Canadian Report that was anti-gay, with stupid remarks from the police chief of Toronto. And in another article there is the first mention of the fact that the Ninth Amendment is important in any discussion of our civil rights. Remember that the ACLU did NOT consider us a civil rights issue until 1965.

The November issue is mainly coverage of what the Mattachine Denver Convention brought to politics in San Francisco and how the local media handled it well but the national media ignored it—which had to be deliberate. A candidate (Wolden) running against the current mayor (Christopher) had a “plant” to get a resolution thanking Christopher for being so gay-friendly, assuming this would harm him. It backfired and got Hal Call and Mattachine great publicity, got Christopher reelected, and thus was great win for him and Mattachine.

Dr. Baker discussed need for college courses on homosexuality and issues of bisexuality.

The December issue again discussed marriage, and benefits of permanent relationships, giving examples of several longtime couples. The advice was generic: what makes a good homo relationship is same as a hetero one. I would quarrel with the third example of types of gay marriages. I doubt seriously that a good marriage means the two people go to a bar and ignore everyone and only talk to each other. Why would they leave home if they only wanted to be with each other? Ignoring others is rude, and to be only with each other could be smothering.

A bit of science, if true, was that snakes on an island off Brazil were intersex—and it speculates they would end up dying off. There is coverage of Bergler’s latest book (1,000 Homosexuals) and how the media (Time, etc.) give it good reviews, showing their bigotry.

And there is Norman Mailer’s latest book which says he was nuts to do the article for ONE, yet reprints it (Advertisement of myself). One interesting aspect of Mailer’s thinking/claim is that a “secretary of ONE told him that 10% of the population is homosexual and the community was growing and soon would be supporting politicians, and he would benefit if he was seen as a friend to the community.” At the time, this seemed unbelievable—though today it seems that is true—but of course no one did tell him that as far as we knew.

On the issue of marriage, it is interesting, considering the idea that today we are more supportive of marriage than many heterosexuals, is a quote Dr. Baker uses from a professional, Dr. Paul Popenoe, of the Family Counsel:

It seems that there are not that many people happily married and it may be more accurate that there are just lots of people who are not divorced.

There is also a review, by Jim Kepner, of The Gospel of St. Thomas. We seldom hear of that view of the Bible today, or how it differs from the usual text, or of The Peshitta Bible, the translation from the Aramaic by Lamsa. I wonder how many religious fanatics have ever heard of these two versions of the history of Christianity?

The Norman Mailer discussion of book and how he wrote for ONE, the wild race for mayor in San Francisco, the legal battle of the Black Cat in San Francisco, and other events in the movement in 1959 show how the media failed to cover our efforts then, and were so “surprised and eager” to cover the rebellion at Stonewall—10 years later. Better late than never I guess.

But the record shows ONE, Incorporated, and others were acting and the media was ignoring us and even now can’t seem to admit its failure—so constantly, incestuously keep saying we didn’t exist until they “discovered” us in 1969.


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1 Comment

  1. Edgar Carpenter

    I was growing up in a small town in Southern California in 1959, and heard none of these news stories.It would have been so good if I’d found a copy of ONE at any time in the following decade. The only sort-of positive gay influence for me was finding a book of Noel Coward’s short stories in the local library (apparently missed by the rabidly homophobic librarian), which had some explicitly gay men in them, men who were mostly rather nice people – although they did still tend to die unhappily.ONE was splendid, it’s just too bad that the difficult times constrained its circulation.

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