Yesterday, the District of Columbia lost one of its most prominent activists, Frank Kameny. Many D.C. residents will recognize his name merely because there is a street named after him in the Northwest quadrant of our city. He rightfully earned that honor by being quite a proponent of gay rights. In 1957, he was relieved of his position as an astronomer in the Army Map Service when he refused to answer questions regarding his sexuality. With disgust, he began to write letters to the White House and the Capitol alike, but to no avail. The federal government remained neutral, forcing Kameny to go to the Supreme Court, who too denied his existence. Frustrated by the lack of support, he co-founded the Mattachine Society of Washington in the early sixties, which was one of the first gay rights groups in America. Inspired by hatred, he coined the phrase “Gay is good”, which is still used by supporters at rallies and protests today. He would continue on to work on a campaign to remove homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s list of mental disorders and to be the first openly gay candidate for the United States House of Representatives.
The death of this brilliant advocate was made worse only by its timing. Not only is October national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning (LGBTQQ) awareness month, but specifically, yesterday, October 11th, was National Coming Out Day; a day on which members of the LGBTQQ community are encouraged to “come out of the closets” by declaring their sexuality, loudly and proudly. It also seeks to provide a safe global environment for the LGBTQQ community, and reassures them that they need not live in fear or hide their sexuality. Dating back to the late eighties, National Coming Out Day is one of international tolerance, and is viewed as a rite of passage for LGBTQQ youth. Exactly twenty-four years ago, over a half a million people marched on Washington, demanding rights for themselves and their loved ones, and it is for this reason that we celebrate it on the 11th of October.
In moments of celebration, as well as tragedy, we must look at the progress, the positives, and the past. It is a blessing that a pioneer for civil rights such as Franklin Kameny was able to witness such wonderful progress, like the repealing of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the legalization of gay marriage in several states and countries, and the overall change in our society’s opinion of the LGBTQQ lifestyle. Over the past hundred years, so much has changed in our legislation, our perspectives, and our routines that we have no choice but to change with it.
This blog was written by Lynn Blake, College Democrats Freshmen Representative