|Frank Kameny (center) holding “GAY IS GOOD” sign.|
Frank Kameny, the gay rights pioneer who coined the slogan “Gay is Good,” died Tuesday on National Coming Out Day at the age of 86. Kameney was revered in the gay community for speaking out as an openly gay man when many were too afraid to do so.
“The LGBT civil rights movement stands on the shoulders of Frank Kameny,” stated Malcolm Lazin, Executive Director, Equality Forum and Executive Producer of Gay Pioneers. “Frank Kameny is the father of the LGBT civil rights movement.”
Kameny spearheaded the first organized gay and lesbian demonstrations of activists at Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell each July 4th from 1965 to 1969. The first of the “Annual Reminders” was attended by 40 activists from Washington, New York and Philadelphia. At that time it was the largest gathering for gay rights. It was the first time that demonstrators self-identified as gay and lesbian and openly and proudly demanded equality. The Annual Reminders laid the groundwork for the Stonewall Riots.
Gay Pioneers is a documentary produced by WHYY/PBS and Equality Forum about the Annual Reminders and the start of the LGBT civil rights movement. There is a Historic Marker directly across from Independence Hall and Liberty Bell recognizing the site where the gay and lesbian civil rights movement was launched with Annual Reminders organized by Frank Kameny, Barbara Gittings and other Gay Pioneers.
“When the Annual Reminders took place, gays and lesbians were denied employment by the federal government. Frank Kameny was single-handedly responsible through remarkable intensity and perseverance in having the United States Civil Service Commission end the prohibition of gays and lesbians from government service,” Lazin stated.
“The American Psychiatric Association included homosexuality as a mental disorder. Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings successfully demonstrated at the 1971 annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association. At the 1972 annual meeting, Kameny and Gittings presented a program with Dr. No, a gay psychiatrist, who was disguised to avoid recognition. With Dr. No, they explained why pervasive homophobia was the cause of emotional problems, not being gay. A committee was formed to study the issue. On December 15, 1973, homosexuality was removed as a mental illness,” said Lazin.
“I traveled across the nation with Frank Kameny at screenings of Gay Pioneers and at other events,” said Lazin. “Frank had a Ph.D. from Harvard, a computer-like mind and even into his 80’s was a feisty, lovable and committed activist for human rights. American history will remember Frank Kameny as an iconic civil rights leader.”