The Advocate’s occasional tradition of issuing a dishonor roll has gotten us in trouble more than once. The list, which began as the Phobies, became the Sissy Awards when an editor wanted to make a point about haters misusing that derogatory word. The dictionary says a sissy is “timid or cowardly,” a fitting description. But the LGBT movement continues to favor reclaiming words as badges of honor instead of flinging them like the bullies we shame. So call them what you like — bigot or hater or just plain wrong — but here’s our list of the 45 most odious homophobes from Advocate history.
Above from left: Police make arrests at the Stonewall riots; Robert Mugabe; Marcus Welby, M.D.
It might be hard to imagine now, with gay officers marching in pride parades and big-city squads having dedicated LGBT liasons, but The Advocate wrote in 1973 that gay people had come to think of police “as their natural enemies.”
The very first issue, in 1967, announced a meeting between our founders and the Los Angeles Police Department. Most notorious among chiefs was Los Angeles’s Ed Davis, who once compared gay people to lepers and opposed the city’s first pride parade in 1970, saying, “As far as I’m concerned, granting a parade permit to a group of homosexuals to parade down Hollywood Boulevard would be the same as giving a permit to march to a group of thieves and murderers.” Davis told the Christopher Street West Association that he “would much rather celebrate Gay Conversion Week, which I will gladly sponsor when the medical practitioners in this country find a way to convert gays to heterosexuals.”
The only conversion Davis got was his own. The man who had once overseen hundreds of arrests for public sex in entrapment schemes (as well as raids on clubs where LGBT patrons were beaten or intimidated into staying home) went on to become a state senator and had a surprising turnaround. Davis voted for AB1, an antidiscrimination bill, and called for greater acceptance of gays by the Republican Party, which led opponents to chastise him as “the GOP’s leading crusader for homosexual rights.” The same phenomenon spread to law enforcement nationwide. If only more of the figures on this list had evolved.
The New York City firefighter and former Golden Gloves heavyweight boxing champion went on trial in 1972 on charges of brutally beating a gay protester. Maye, head of a New York firefighters’ union, was accused of knocking the man to the ground and then stomping on his crotch. He was acquitted after a judge found witnesses’ accounts of the beating unreliable. The trial got big exposure on television, and in interviews Maye made clear his belief that “these people should never have been allowed to capture so much publicity by flaunting their ways in public.” Maye said he’d been misunderstood; he opposed discrimination — except gays shouldn’t be allowed to teach in schools or serve with him in the fire department.
Zimbabwe’s aging dictator said in 1995 that gays are “worse than pigs and dogs.” He’s called gays insane and unnatural, and homosexuality is still outlawed in his country. So when a member of Parliament told those attending an opposition party’s rally in 2011 that Mugabe had multiple gay affairs, Mugabe proved his heterosexuality by locking her in jail for a week.
Royko, then a Chicago Daily News columnist, wrote an elaborate story in 1974 of a faux world in which men “in love with monkeys” try stupidly to gain public acceptance. Royko, who later went to the Chicago Sun-Times and then the Chicago Tribune, was syndicated nationally to more than 600 newspapers and often made gays the subject of his jokes. He wasn’t laughing, though, in 1994 when caught using antigay slurs during a drunk-driving arrest.
The lead character of ABC’s fictional medical drama Marcus Welby, M.D. first got attention when advising a patient to resist his homosexual urges. Then the doctor triggered protests from gay rights groups and the American Psychiatric Association in 1974 with an episode in which a junior high boy was raped by a male teacher — a plot that equated homosexuality with pedophilia. Some network affiliates bowed to pressure and refused to air the episode.