Franklin Kameny: Activism Honored


There was a moving article in the Washington Post this weekend about 80-year-old gay rights activist Franklin Kameny and his trove of papers and artifacts from the early days of gay activism over which several foundations and museums are salivating.

Kameny, a World War II veteran, was fired in 1957 for being gay, and after fighting the dismissal and petitioning the Supreme Court unsuccessfully, he found the Mattachine Society, the nation’s first gay rights group.

In his old age Kameny is still outspoken and thinks for himself:

“He lives alone. On Fridays he stops by Lambda Rising to get his copy of the Washington Blade. He never misses an episode of cable TV’s ‘Queer as Folk’ and ‘Six Feet Under’ (the latter features the off-and-on relationship of two gay men) and keeps himself occupied with meetings and events for organizations such as the Gay and Lesbian Activist Alliance and his neighborhood association. He has no family, except for his 77-year-old sister, Edna, who lives in Long Island. He has remained — except for a love affair with a man named Keith in what he refers to as the ‘golden summer of 1954′ — steadfastly single. (But don’t think for a minute that he wants your help or needs your sympathy, because he’s taking ‘quite good care’ of himself, thank you.)”

In fact, he has always spoken for himself:

Kameny: “If society and I differ on something, I’m willing to give the matter a second look. If we still differ, then I am right and society is wrong; and society can go its way so long as it does not get in my way. But if it does, there’s going to be a fight. And I’m not going to be the one who backs down. That has been an underlying premise of the conduct of my life.”

It’s refreshing to see activists like this getting the credit they deserve from the MSM.

Signs of Progress [washington post]


  1. Glenn says

    When I was in law school he came and spoke with our LGBT group. He’s sharp, brave and as Digger said above, a true queer hero. Long may he live.

  2. Leland says

    Frank Kameny, whom I have had the honor of knowing, seamlessly combines a towering ego with an uncompromising respect for the truth and, so, would quickly point out that the first known US gay group, the Society for Human Rights, was started, not by him, but by Henry Gerber in 1924 in Chicago. While it was forced out of existence by the police within a few months, their courageous attempt must not be overlooked. Nor does it diminish Frank’s history to clarify that he and Jack Nichols started the DC chapter of the Mattachine Society nearly 10 years after that organization’s founding in LA, particularly given that they quickly eclipsed the LA group’s achievements. Those clarifications aside, let me add to the cheers for this lion, this hero, who taught himself to read at 4 and entered college to study physics at 15, and threw down on the Federal government, the FBI, the American Psychiatric Association, and anyone else who suggested he was less than they. I am certain of two things, both with a certain degree of sadness: 1. his prominence in the movement would have endured had he not been trampled by ageist/looksist “more liberated than thous.” 2. had he not been effectively included out, we would be far freer than we are now, the Right would not have the strangehold on our futures they currently have, and, had we 10 more like him, we might be the full-class citizens we still aspire to be 40+ years later. Even at 80, having lived a pauper’s life for decades, his mind is sharper, his voice more admirably stentorian, his passion more inspiring than all of our highly-paid gay “leaders” put together. Pray for his endurance. Pray for forgiveness.

  3. elsist says

    unbelievable! you praise his honesty;the militancy he leveled is praiseworthy and famous, but he used the same militancy against a helpful sister; he received the money to buy his house from his mother. He also inherited a large amount of money, always demanding more.
    H could have done everything and still been honest and gratful.

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