1925 - 2011
National Coming Out Day,
Photo: AVER; Arlington, VA, 2010
lost a giant," was the first understated early
morning facebook posting alerting us to
news that would become a crescendo of queer and
mainstream media stories culminating in the rare
mention of homosexuality on NBC's Nightly
News, and a nearly full page obituary in
The New York Times two days later. Gay
Pioneer Franklin Kameny PhD, the father of
modern gay rights and WWII Combat Veteran had
passed away at the age of 86, on October 11th,
2011, National Coming Out Day. Frank
Kameny was very Out.
How does one say farewell to
a hero? Frank Kameny was a forceful
speaker for our rights for well over fifty
years; yet in person he was a very humble man.
As a teenager, he had fought his way across the
face of Europe with the
58th Armored Infantry
Battalion of the
the 8th Armored
Cadier En Keer, Holland; through the Rhineland
beneath hails of antiaircraft artillery fire;
across the heart of Germany; to liberating
Czechoslovakia. For all that, he preferred
to wear his simple Combat Infantryman's Badge
pinned to his lapel, and nothing else.
The full story of his WWII combat
service, is at
He humbly began telling me the whole
story of his heroic WWII adventure by saying, "I was
just and ordinary soldier." Indeed, just as so
many members of our Greatest Generation were. A
decade later, after completing his PhD in astronomy at Harvard, he
got a job with the Army Map Service. One fine
evening in 1957 he went cruising in Lafayette Park,
across from the White House, and was busted and labeled
as "a sexual pervert," which promptly got him fired from
his job. Imagine if that incident had never
happened! Would he have spent a quite career
making celestial maps and retired years later in obscurity?
Fifty two years later, after over a half century as one
of the most formidable voices for LGBT rights, he was
invited into the White House, across from where all the
trouble began in Lafayette Park, and in the presence of
the President, the openly gay director of the U.S.
Office of Personnel Management apologized to him for the
discrimination of his having been fired! It
doesn't get much better than that.
But, of course, there's much more.
The protest posters he made on his living room floor in
the early 1960s,
with magic markers, are now in the Smithsonian Institute
along with his papers. The house he made them in
is an official Historic site.
And many of the rights he demanded for so long have
become laws that he lived to see signed.
Franklin Kameny spent the better
part of his long life advocating for our rights,
demonstrating in Washington and Philadelphia,
organizing, and "being Out" publicly long before most of
us could even imagine doing that. He was loud,
forceful, and cantankerous, but always urbane in a tidy
but somewhat rumpled suit and tie, and speaking in
educated Harvard English with a slight New England twang.
In the battle to repeal DADT in
March of 2005, Dr. Kameny came to New York to testify in
the august ancient chambers of the New York City Council
regarding a resolution urging the President and Congress
to repeal the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy. After much
tiresome testimony from dreary lawyers and others, he brought
down the house by loudly bellowing, "Denying our military
of the services of people who have much to offer,
clearly gives aid and comfort to our enemies. But under
Section 3 of Article 3 of the constitution, giving aid
and comfort to the enemy is one of the definitions of
treason. Therefore, anyone who supports the military
gay ban whether by direct act or by mere word of mouth
is constitutionally defined as a traitor and should be
indicted, prosecuted, tried, convicted and hanged for
treason. I will gladly provide the cost of the
hangman's rope out of my own pocket."
How does one say farewell to a
hero? For me, as a gay veteran, it is the honor of
saluting his memory.
-Denny Meyer, Gay Veteran
© 2011 Gay Military Signal