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Gay is Good: The Life and Letters of Gay…
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Gay is Good: The Life and Letters of Gay Rights Pioneer Franklin Kameny

by Michael G. Long

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I hadn’t heard of Franklin Kameny before I started reading this book. He’s a fascinating man: fierce, furious, articulate, and brave. Kameny’s activism began after he was fired from his position as an astronomer with the U.S. Army’s Map Service in 1957 because he was gay. Rather than retreating in silence and shame Kameny became a remarkable activist for gay civil rights. At the start, he thought of this crusade as his own, asking to be treated as an individual, rather than being lumped into a class of people. Before long, however, he came to see himself as activist working on behalf of all gay people, trying not just to win his own job back, but to ensure equal employment for all gay men and lesbians.

Kameny’s activism originally took the form of an ongoing, detailed letter writing campaign addressed at key political figures of his time, including President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy. He filed suit to be reinstated in his job, lost twice in lower courts, then was denied certiorari (a writ ordering a review of a lower court decision) by the U.S. Supreme Court. This was the first civil rights case based on sexual orientation put before the Court and marks a turning point in gay and U.S. history, despite his request for review being denied. He fought to end sodomy laws and to remove the listing of homosexuality as a mental illness from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

Reading through Kameny’s letters is a delight. He constructs thoughtful, detailed arguments. He holds politicians to the claims they make about individual and group rights. This isn’t a book one can skim over or rush through. Kameny’s letters demand that today’s readers (like those he first addressed through this correspondence) give his subject the attention it deserves. While he may have engaged in political sloganeering in other gay rights work, in these letters he builds detailed claims with ample evidence.

If you’re interested in the history of the gay rights movement or in the history of social change in the U.S. over the last sixty years, you’ll want to spend time with this essential book. ( )
  Sarah-Hope | Jan 5, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0815610432, Hardcover)

Contrary to popular notions, today s LGBT movement did not begin with the Stonewall riots in 1969. Long before Stonewall, there was Franklin Kameny (1925-2011), one of the most significant figures in the gay rights movement. Beginning in 1958, he encouraged gay people to embrace homosexuality as moral and healthy, publicly denounced the federal government for excluding homosexuals from federal employment, openly fought the military s ban against gay men and women, debated psychiatrists who depicted homosexuality as a mental disorder, identified test cases to advance civil liberties through the federal courts, acted as counsel to countless homosexuals suffering state-sanctioned discrimination, and organized marches for gay rights at the White House and other public institutions. In Gay Is Good, Long collects Kameny s historically rich letters, revealing some of the early stirrings of today s politically powerful LGBT movement.


These letters are lively and colorful because they are in Kameny s inimitable voice a voice that was consistently loud, echoing through such places as the Oval Office, the Pentagon, and the British Parliament, and often shrill, piercing to the federal agency heads, military generals, and media personalities who received his countless letters. This volume collects approximately 150 letters from 1958 to 1975, a critical period in Kameny s life during which he evolved from a victim of the law to a vocal opponent of the law, to the voice of the law itself. Long situates these letters in context, giving historical and biographical data about the subjects and events involved. Gay Is Good pays tribute to an advocate whose tireless efforts created a massive shift in social attitudes and practices, leading the way toward equality for the LGBT community.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:51 -0400)

Contrary to popular notions, today's LGBT movement did not begin with the Stonewall riots in 1969. Long before Stonewall, there was Franklin Kameny (1925-2011), one of the most significant figures in the gay rights movement. Beginning in 1958, he encouraged gay people to embrace homosexuality as moral and healthy, publicly denounced the federal government for excluding homosexuals from federal employment, openly fought the military's ban against gay men and women, debated psychiatrists who depicted homosexuality as a mental disorder, identified test cases to advance civil liberties through the federal courts, acted as counsel to countless homosexuals suffering state-sanctioned discrimination, and organized marches for gay rights at the White House and other public institutions. In Gay Is Good, Long collects Kameny's historically rich letters, revealing some of the early stirrings of today's politically powerful LGBT movement. These letters are lively and colorful because they are in Kameny's inimitable voice-a voice that was consistently loud, echoing through such places as the Oval Office, the Pentagon, and the British Parliament, and often shrill, piercing to the federal agency heads, military generals, and media personalities who received his countless letters. This volume collects approximately 150 letters from 1958 to 1975, a critical period in Kameny's life during which he evolved from a victim of the law to a vocal opponent of the law, to the voice of the law itself. Long situates these letters in context, giving historical and biographical data about the subjects and events involved. Gay Is Good pays tribute to an advocate whose tireless efforts created a massive shift in social attitudes and practices, leading the way toward equality for the LGBT community.… (more)

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