Editors' Note:Guest blogger Zack Rosen is a Leo who is losing his hair. He blogs at The New Gay.
You know who Madonna is, right? Or Lady Gaga? Can you recite every line of Kathy Griffin's latest standup routine or tell me who exactly fucked whom on the cast of "The A List: New York," and in what position?
If you answered yes to any, or all, of those questions then I have another one for you: Do you know Frank Kameny?
Frank Kameny is the 85 year-old man who is almost single-handedly responsible for the jump starting the modern gay rights movement as we know it. Before there was the HRC, or "It Gets Better," or DADT even existed to be repealed there was Frank Kameny. Mr. Kameny is responsible for the visibility, and eventual legality, of gays in the military. He was the first to organize pickets on the White House for governmental mistreatment of so-called "homophiles" in the pre-Stonewall 60s. He is responsible for the American Psychiatric Institute declassifying homosexuality as an illness. He coined the phrase "Gay is Good" some 30 years before Ellen, The Indigo Girls or Will & Grace existed to combat the almost universally held notion that same-sex love was the most debased, shameful urge that a person could carry. In short, without his hard work we'd still be languishing in ditches and backrooms of American society.
So where is he now? Living the high life in a Dupont Circle row house? Gracing the cover of Out Magazine on an annual basis? Is he the subject of a reality show or Oscar-winning movie to keep him on the forefront of our national consciousness?
No. Frank Kameny is struggling to make ends meet in a decidedly modest corner of our nation's capital. All but forgotten by the glittery activist circles he birthed, Frank Kameny is, at best, honored by an honorary street sign on DC's gay 17th St. and, at worst, forced to borrow cab fare for this journalists 2009 interview with him at Lambda Rising, about a 20 minute ride from his house.
In short, Frank Kameny needs your help.
Before we get too far into that, lets pretend Frank Kameny was not a national treasure, not the man whose hard work and tenacious charm allows me to hold hand with my boyfriend at the Columbia Rd. Safeway. Lets pretend he was a pop star.
Lets pretend Frank Kameny was given a different set of gifts and blasted onto the scene in 1973 with an unparalleled dance hit, or double LP of smoky torch songs that redefined not our human rights but the soundtrack to our dinner parties and makeout sessions. Lets say he followed this initial success with a string of double-platinum albums, with NBC Christmas specials and sold out engagements at Carnegie Hall, with regrettable forays into disco or synthpop that we forgave him for because we loved him.
If this was the case, where would Frank be now? He'd be inescapable within the pages of our most-read gay publications. Drag Kings would don his outfits at spoken word nights and clips of his more ingratiating moments would be fixtures at video bars like Sidetracks or JRs. People would call him a "national treasure" on their facebook status updates and whisper to each other "it's him!" when they saw him on the street. He would be known and celebrated and loved for no other fact than that he was outlandish or flamboyant or somehow worthy of entrance into the puzzling, mercurial ranks of the gay canon.
That is not the case. When Katy Perry garners gay headlines for merely wiping her ass from front to back, when not liking Glee is considered a gay sin on par with Shopping at Target or voting Republican, when people seem so concerned with what they are and what they have that they don't know how they got it, people like Frank Kameny sit alone in the Christmas morning detritus of opened boxes and crumpled wrapping paper while their proverbial families play outside.
Helping Our Brothers and Sisters is a DC-based charity dedicated to "meeting the short term needs of marginalized GLBT in the Washington D.C. area, who don't fit the criteria for help from other organizations or agencies" and right now they are dedicated to assisting Frank Kameny. Their volunteer Ben Carver is helming the "Buy Frank a Drink" initiative, where the price of a high-end cocktail can be donated instead to helping Mr. Kameny with his basic financial needs. Carver has assured this author that all the money going into HOBS right now will be given to Frank.
The Gay Rights Movement is notorious for "eating its leaders alive," as the saying goes, but I can't think of anyone out there that could criticize Frank Kameny's actions or intentions. Instead, he has just been forgotten. But he is still with us. It is important to show him our support, and by extension our gratitude, while we still have him.
If you want to support Frank Kameny, please visit the facebook page for "Buy Frank a Drink" with more information about the project and instructions on how to donate.