Gay Is Good: The Letters of Franklin Kameny

Gay Is Good: The Letters of Franklin Kameny

Matlovich Time Coverx400 0
Kameny to Sergeant Leonard Matlovich

Kameny refers here to a New York Times Magazine article penned by historian Martin Duberman of the City University of New York. By the time the article appeared, a three-member panel of the Air Force Administrative Discharge Board had recommended that Matlovich receive a general discharge from the air force. In a last-ditch effort, Matlovich appealed the decision to Air Force Secretary John McLucas. The secretary denied the appeal, and Matlovich received a general discharge by the end of October.

November 9, 1975

Dear Lenny:

As you may have seen, Marty Duberman’s article on your hearing appeared in the magazine Section of today’s New York Times. Although I don’t think the article was as good as it might have been ... the article raises another matter of considerable direct importance (I predict) to you — a matter which I raised with you once before.

You are once again quoted as taking the position that “he admits that had he the choice — he would rather be straight.”

Now, you are obviously free to take whatever position you wish on that matter. I would not presume to dictate your feelings to you, even had I the power to do so. I do point out certain things, however.

If that IS, in fact, your view, then prepare yourself to defend it. I guarantee you that you WILL be attacked for holding that view by gays and gay groups wherever you go, as deeply and harmfully undercutting the gay movement. Further, you will find that it will place you at a severe disadvantage in making logical, compelling, persuasive pro-gay and pro-gay rights arguments with non-gay audiences.

So IF that IS your position, you should be doing some VERY careful thinking as to the best way to present it and to defend it.

On the other hand: If it is NOT your view, then I urge — STRONGLY — an IMMEDIATE letter-to-the-editors ... disavowing that as your position. The letter should be phrased firmly, and absolutely unequivocally and unambiguously, with an absolute minimum of words, phrases and clauses of modification and reservation which could conceivably be interpreted (i.e., misinterpreted) as evasion or “weasel words,” because gays everywhere will be reading, intensely critically, what you say in this respect.

If you wish, I’ll be more than pleased to discuss this with you at some early date of our mutual convenience.

While I’m writing, I’d like, just briefly, to follow up on some items raised in our conversation of yesterday. ...

Your issue is a narrow and very specific one. Effective pursuit of the issues and causes raised by that issue — gays and the military — requires funding. So do you, individually. Fundraising is always more effective when narrowed to specifics, rather than when broadened with generalities. You have specificity; make the most of it. ...

Incidentally, as a side comment, I would suggest that you don’t make your endeavors too crassly commercial. ... The measure of your success is your ability to persuade the public of the justness and the rightness of your (our) causes. Obviously certain purely practical considerations must be considered. We discussed those to some extent on the phone yesterday. Certainly your out-of-pocket expenses should ALWAYS be reimbursed to you (unless, in particular instances you choose to make an exception). Certainly the flow of funds into the support of the cause, as finally formulated, should always be kept in mind. But there is a difference between a commercial, in-it-for-the-profit performer, and someone fighting for a cause. Don’t lose sight of those differences.

Keep in mind the very harsh reality that fame is fleeting. You are riding high — and properly should be — on the crest of a wave of publicity created by the immediacy of your case, plus the fortunate publicity which it received in The NY Times and in Time, plus your own personal charisma. But those WILL fade — and with a quickness which you may find traumatic. I would suggest that you make the maximum possible use of the fame, and of the time it persists, to grind your own particular axe, both in terms of pleading the cause and raising the finds. Naturally, that will rub off onto support for the general gay cause, and that is all to the good, but — I feel — your major effort should remain somewhat narrowed. ...

Cordially, Frank

Matlovich did not accept Kameny’s advice about following up with a letter to the editor.

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