Frank Kameny ~ American Hero

Frank Kameny, a hero of mine since I discovered him in college, passed away yesterday.  Fittingly, Frank Kameny died on National Coming Out Day.  A day, it can be argued, that Frank Kameny helped to make possible.  While I never met Frank Kameny, I can’t help but feel connected to him.  I can’t help but feel a direct link between Frank Kameny’s life and work and the fact that yesterday I had the opportunity to speak on behalf of HRC at a National Coming Out Day event sponsored by an astounding young man in a library in the middle of New Jersey.  It was a remarkable event for two reasons – because it was remarkable to those who attended and because it was not remarkable to those who didn’t.  The fact that a GLBT group can meet openly in a public library in the middle of New Jersey without so much as a raised eyebrow from passersby can be traced directly to a handful of notable people whose strength, courage, fortitude, fearlessness, vision and certitude launched a movement.  Frank Kameny is ~ was ~ one of those people.

It is not without thought that I used Frank Kameny’s name repeatedly in the previous paragraph instead of surrendering to smoother-sounding pronouns.  The least I can do is sacrifice the pace of a paragraph so that Frank Kameny’s name can be read and re-read ~ and hopefully remembered.

Sometimes the people who change the world aren’t treated to a collective mourning when they die ~ a Facebook hand-wringing and cyber-competition for the title of Most Affected and Grief-Stricken.  Sometimes they get neither a bowed head from the media nor impromptu pop-up memorials.  It seems that Mr. Kameny’s passing has registered barely a blip on the media radar.

I fear that no one knows who Frank Kameny is.  I fear that while we enjoy the fruits of his legacy everyday, he himself is already largely forgotten.

Here was a man who did the unthinkable ~ he protested his discharge from the army ~ a discharge based solely on the fact that he was gay – and appealed his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.  The court declined to hear the case and a lower court’s ruling against him was upheld, but to dwell on the outcome would be missing the point entirely.  He did this in the ’50s!!!  On his own.  He was a gay activist when there were few gay activists.  His anger predated Stonewall by a decade.  He taught us that “gay is good” when gay was considered not only not good, but sick.

He had no apology in him.

He said, out loud, what no one was saying ~ what no one was even thinking.  He marched when marching was truly dangerous.  He laid a path where there had been no path.  His courage made my own life easier and better.  His courage made the lives of all GLBT people easier and better.

I am sad that he is gone, although at his age it can hardly be described as surprising.

I am profoundly sad that he seems to be largely forgotten.

Posted on Oct 12, 2011 by Ian In: Current Events/Pop Culture/Politics, Inside Voice
« »