Mattachine Society of D.C. Repurposed For “Archive Activisim” On LGBT History

The Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. was originally formed by Frank Kameny in 1961 as an organization to help further the civil rights of gay people. Today, the organization has now repurposed itself to discovering and publishing documentation on political and policy practices against gays and lesbians from America’s past. From The Washington Blade:

With pro bono help last year from the McDermott Will & Emery law firm, Mattachine found at the National Archives a memorandum written in 1962 by a high-level Civil Service Commission official that appeared to summarize the views of many government officials on gays and lesbians, [gay public affairs consultant Charles] Francis said.

The official was John W. Steele, chief of the Civil Service Commission’s Program Systems and Instructions Division.

“[W]e set homosexuality apart from other forms of immoral conduct and take a much more severe attitude toward it,” Steele wrote. “Our tendency to ‘lean over backwards’ to rule against a homosexual is simply a manifestation of the revulsion which homosexuality inspires in the normal person.”

Steele added, “What it boils down to is that most men look upon homosexuality as something uniquely nasty, not just as a form of immorality.”

In another recent project, Francis said Mattachine Society of Washington discovered documents showing that J. Edgar Hoover and his then top FBI assistant Clyde Tolson played a role in pressuring the U.S. Postal Service into refusing to allow one of the nation’s first gay publications, One magazine, from being distributed through the mail. In the early 1950s, at the time it banned One from being mailed, the Postal Service described the publication as “obscene, lewd, licentious and filthy,” according to documents obtained by Mattachine.

Read the full article

Learn more about the modern-day Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C.

Learn more about Mattachine Society history

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