Gay Rights

Gay Rights (acrylic on canvas) 36" x 24"
Open tolerance of male and female homosexuals is novel to the late 20th and 21st centuries. Prior to modern times, religious admonitions against sexual relations between same-sex individuals was stigmatized and in many countries ruled illegal, punishable with severe penalties including death. In 1897 homosexual men and women were given voice in Berlin with the founding of the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, an organization that published emancipated literature, sponsored rallies and campaigned for legal reform in Germany. Outside Germany, other organizations were founded including the British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology founded by Edward Carpenter and Havelock Ellis in England, and in America by Henry Gerber, a Germany immigrant who founded the Society of Human Rights in Illinois.

Despite the formation of such groups, prior to World War II gays were often harassed by police wherever they congregated. The War and its aftermath brought many young people to the cities and more visibility to the gay community. By the mid-20th century an increasing number activist organizations were formed world wide, and by 1958 a gay publication "One" won a supreme court ruling that enabled it to mail its magazine through the U.S. Postal Service. In 1974, Kathy Kozachenko from Ann Arbor, Michigan became the first openly gay person to be elected to a government office, followed by Harvey Milk who was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors (and assassinated the following year). Issues of primary importance for the gay rights movement since the 1970s have included combating HIV/AIDS, lobbying government for nondiscriminatory policies in employment, housing, military service and same-sex marriage.

Recently other aspects of gender have come to the forefront of public awareness by the confessions of decathlon winner Bruce Jenner and his quest for gender reassignment. Though not a homosexual, Jenner states that ever since he was a child he has struggled with his identity as a man, stating that his "being" has always been female.