(Photo by Kay Tobin Lahusen, NYPL Digital Library)
My latest column describes my first experience of Frank Kameny's combative style when I brought him to Villanova University to debate gay rights in 1978:
In response to the charge that gay people flaunted their sexuality, Frank pointed out that when you see a visibly pregnant woman in public, "you know exactly what she's been doing in bed." This was my introduction to Frank's penchant for provocation and for turning the tables on our opponents. He assailed their biased assumptions and disarmed them with reason and wit.
"I fought in front-line combat for my country," Frank thundered. As a citizen and patriot he demanded equality under the law — "no more, but not one whit less." He easily won the vote on our resolution opposing discrimination based on sexual orientation.
For his appearance at Villanova, Frank requested only travel and lodging costs, which were covered by our modest honorarium. The Political Union's officers took him to dinner beforehand at the Conestoga Mill. Frank wore a "Gay Is Good" button, and as we left the restaurant the manager wished Frank good luck. It dawned on me that Frank carried into battle the dreams of untold quieter gay people like that restaurant manager.
Over the next 33 years, I often observed Frank's fearless and iconoclastic way of challenging dogma. He said that anything that has lasted long enough to become a tradition deserves to be questioned. He declared, "The world needs more and better blasphemy." He called celibacy unnatural. He told homophobes who cited Scripture, "Your God may disapprove of homosexuality, but my God considers it a blessing."
After Congress vetoed D.C.'s first attempt to repeal its sodomy law as part of the Sexual Assault Reform Act of 1981, Frank shouted at a community meeting that repeal should be attached to every bill the District passed until we rid ourselves of "this damnable law!"
Read the whole thing here.
Note: Kay Lahusen, who took the photo of Frank used above, is the widow of famed lesbian activist Barbara Gittings. I have enjoyed many conversations with her in recent years, including in the aftermath of Frank's passing.