QUEEN CITY OF THE PLAINS? DENVERÂ’S GAY HISTORY 1940-1975 by KEITH L. MOORE B.A., Colorado State University 2010 A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Department of History 2014
2014 KEITH L. MOORE ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
ii This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by Keith L. Moore has been approved for the Department of History by Christopher Lowen Agee, Chair Marjorie Levine-Clark John Greg Whitesides November 21, 2014
iiiMoore, Keith L. (M.A., History) Queen City of the Plains? DenverÂ’s Gay History 1940 -1975 Thesis directed by Assistant Professor Christopher Lowen Agee ABSTRACT Since its establishment as a mining camp, Denver wa s an integral part of life for many westerners, including homosexuals. This study examines how upper and middleclass white gay men navigated the boundaries of sex ual morality to help define homosexual personhood for the public and form the b asis of DenverÂ’s gay community between 1940 and 1975. Within the context of nation al discourse regarding Â“homosexuality,Â” breadwinner liberalism, and the se xual revolution, the emergence and cohesion of DenverÂ’s gay community occurred during a transformation from homophile activism to the gay liberation movement. Subsequent ly, the history of gay Denver demonstrates the importance of politicization and s exuality in the construction and organization of gay scenes and the politics of mora l respectability. Well before the materialization of a national Â“gay rightsÂ” movement and the gay liberation movement in the American twentieth century, Denver functioned a s an example of how white gay men attempted to unify and create the basis of an early gay political movement. The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication. Approved: Christopher Lowen Agee
ivACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to express my gratitude to the many pe ople who saw me through the completion of this thesis. I wanted to send a speci al thanks to the Viola Vestal Coulter Foundation Scholarship for their generous scholarsh ip to help fund some of my early research. To all of my advisors, thank you for help ing me work through muddled statements and awkward arguments. Despite our disag reements, I know that you only had my best interest at heart, and I want to extend my deepest thanks for helping me create a project that I could not be more proud of. Thank yo u for all of your hard work, wise words, and guidance throughout the last three years I am incredibly grateful to have had you all as mentors, instructors, and most important ly, therapists. To all those who provided support, assisted in the editing, and proo freading, you have my everlasting appreciation and I do apologize. This is for my fam ily for all of their support over the years. Lastly, this is for my loving partner who he lped keep me sane, who exponentially improved my writing and attitude throughout the ent ire process, and always helped me focus and see the project in new and transformative ways. Without all of you, this would not have been possible.
vTABLE OF CONTENTS INTRODUCTION 1 Defining the Aberration: Act or Status 7 Stepping Into the Light: Awareness of DenverÂ’s Gay Culture 14 CHAPTER I. 100 YEARS OF AN UNDERGROUND SUBCULTURE 20 II. AN ASSAULT ON DENVERÂ’S MORALITY: CREATING THE PROBLEM OF HOMOSEXULITY 29 Coming of Gays and the Language of Normalcy 42 Hidden Among Heterosexual Immorality 50 Homosexuality and the Law 54 The End of Invisibility 60 III. SEXUAL PRIVATIZATION: THE POLITICS OF MORAL RESPECTABILITY 65 The Denver YMCA 70 Â“Gay Only:Â” Opposition and Community Formation thro ugh Gay Bars 77 The Roots of Activism in Denver: Legal and Religiou s Reform 85 IV. EPILOGUE: QUEEN CITY TAKES ON NEW MEANING 99 Conclusion 111 REFERENCES 115
1 INTRODUCTION The corner of 17th street and Stout Avenue in downtown Denver was bus tling on the night of September 4, 1959. The colonial room i nside the Albany Hotel was full of conventioneers. Enjoying an array of beverages and visiting cordially, old friends reconnected while newly arrived guests in the Mile High City made friends with Denver residents. At first, bartenders ignored patronsÂ’ at tempts at conversation and only spoke with each other. As Rolland HowardÂ—a homophile acti vist and Mattachine Society founderÂ—recalled, Â“[T]he delegates showed themselve s to be both human beings and ladies and gentlemanÂ…the bartenders, who at first o nly communicated only with each otherÂ—in whispersÂ—soon were as warm and friendly an d full of wry humor as bartenders are usually thought to be.Â”1 Reporters for the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post even joined in on the festivities and b egan conversations with the out-oftowners.2 The next morning, visitors and natives of Denver ga thered on September 5, 1959 for the Sixth Annual Convention of the Mattachine S ociety, a nonviolent homophile activist group. Professionals, homosexual activists and advocates, and police from around the country came to the Albany Hotel for three days to Â“create greater understanding of the social, psychological and legal problems of hom osexuality.Â”3 Devoid of harassment by friend or foe, the Mattachine Convention began o n Friday and continued on Saturday with opening ceremonies, collection of registration fees, and reports about individual associations across the country. 1 Rolland Howard, "Notes on the Convention," Denver Area Newsletter 3, no. 10 (1959): 3. 2 Howard, "Notes on the Convention," 3. 3 "Group to Discuss Homosexual Needs." The Denver Post September 4, 1959. 32.
Members of the Denver Police Morals Bureau also att ended the meeting and even paid a registration fee. As Howard remembers, Â“[A] civil request with a civil explanation got from these gentlemen their civil cooperation, a nd they registered for the minimum attendance.Â”4 The convention luncheon welcomed Dr. Leo V. Tepley a Russian born psychiatrist living in Denver, who discussed homose xuality not as a disease, but as an adjustment to normative adulthood.5 Those in attendance learned of the growing debates in the psychiatric world as many psychologists bega n to disagree with antiquated ideas of homosexuality as a curable disease, and began advoc ating for greater tolerance and understanding for this newly emerging minority. Dis cussions followed with teachers, attorneys, and political officials regarding homose xuals in society and the problems they faced regarding civil liberties. After a day of edu cation, attendees concluded that the policing of homosexuality was moot and a Â“better de finition [of criminal behavior] is a necessity for both public welfare and civil liberti es.Â”6 The society held an awards banquet to honor outstanding members at a national level. T he convention continued into Sunday with more panel discussions by esteemed professiona ls; the Denver Mattachine Chapter concluded its business on Monday. Despite the public arrest of the Denver Mattachine Librarian, Billy M. Matson, for possession of illegal pornographic articlesÂ—a l aw enacted in the late 1930sÂ—the congregation of many known homosexuals during the M attachine Convention resulted in little lawful harassment of people purely because t hey were homosexual persons.7 4 Howard, Â“Notes on the Convention,Â” 3. 5 Howard, Â“Notes on the Convention,Â” 6. 6 Howard, Â“Notes on the Convention,Â” 10. 7 Â“Pornography Charged to Hospital Clerk.Â” The Denver Post, October 10, 1959. 3.
The annual Mattachine convention stands as one of the most public exhibitions of DenverÂ’s gay population in the 1950s. While the sta te knew of the existence of homosexual acts within Colorado from its inception as a territory, the Mattachine convention was the first time in DenverÂ’s history w hen a large group of homosexual identified individuals coordinated with heterosexua l activists sympathetic to gay culture to speak out against anti-homosexual rhetoric and l aw to change how the state would distinguish, define, and police homosexual personho od. As homophile activists apart of groups such as the Mattachine Society gained prominence, language regarding homosexuals transfor med and what I term the Â“battle of moral respectabilityÂ” began. In Denver, the constru ction of the gay identity and gay community operated around dysfunctional relationshi ps within queer culture. While upper and middle class white men fought against the systematic and state constructed anti-gay rhetoric to define homosexuality as a resp ectable community, lower class individuals continued to operate within a normative function of gay cultureÂ—public sex. The disagreement in politics within the culture its elf showcases class difference, and the dichotomy over homosexual classificationÂ—is it an a ct or a personÂ—continued to be fought both in and out of the public eye. This evaluation of DenverÂ’s queer community is abou t white men. Upper class white men used the politics of moral respectability because it allowed them to distance themselves from the Â“medical and forensic treatment of homosexuality as a psychiatric pathology or aberration.Â”8 White gay male Denverites focused on educating the heterosexual public regarding homosexual personhood in attempt to distance themselves 8 David Halperin, What Do Gay Men Want: An Essay on Sex, Risk, and Su bjectivity, (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007,) 2.
from the act of sodomy occurring in public spacesÂ—a cts which vilified homosexuality as an identity and movement. While the state used sodo my to continually define homosexual personhood, the homophile movement in De nver gained prominence in a way to overcome homosexuality as a disrespectable a ct and instead as a group of moral and law abiding citizens. While queer culture in Denver, Colorado faced hurdl es in the route to equality, the experiences of gay men in Denver do not reflect those of larger urban communities throughout the United States from 1940 to 1975. As many other gender and sexuality historians persuasively argue, the discussion of re gionally specific communities demonstrates how the treatment of homosexualityÂ—whi le similar in varying locationsÂ— was not identical across the United States. Differe nces existed between rural and urban areas, and the treatment of homosexual persons vari ed by community composition. Denver is a distinctive case in relation to other b urgeoning queer communities of the period because the influence of the areaÂ’s queer cu lture allowed for the creation of a definable community in a small urban area located i n an otherwise conservative and rural state. Scholars have yet to discuss the history of the hom osexual population in Denver before the 1970s. Due to the language regarding sam e-sex sexual activities changing in the 1970s, scholars generally consider this a pivot al moment for gay Coloradans. Furthermore, scholarship regarding homosexuals in r elation to evolving language began to emerge to discuss the gay rights movement and po litical activism in Colorado. Despite negative attention from state crafted anti-homosexu al rhetoric and local mediaÂ’s attempts at crafting traditional discrimination patterns, mi ddle and working class Denverites
tended to disregard homosexuals and allowed them to exist peacefully, and, in most cases, co-exist in recognized gay neighborhoods. So long a s homosexuality remained discreet, it was a police problem, not a community problem. The gay network in Denver experienced limited amounts of policing during the 1940s and 19 50sÂ—mostly due to a preoccupation with public heterosexuality and prostitutionÂ—by the municipal government but it was not until the 1960s that police began to crack down on public displays of homosexuality as an affront to middle and upper class familial morality DenverÂ’s municipal government sought to regulate the public display of sexuality, identify homosexual personhood, and eliminate any traces of a homosexual culture as hom osexual men and women slowly began to form a cohesive community. From 1940 to 19 75, Denver police regulated sexuality based on a good/bad dichotomy rooted in m oral and religious law. As I will show, DenverÂ’s queer culture fought against the pra ctice of exclusion and placed Denver on the map as a refuge for homosexuals throughout t he west by discrediting DenverÂ’s moral law as unjust. In this study, I evaluate different sexual and poli tical scenes that are a part of a burgeoning homosexual subculture within Denver. By doing so, I elucidate how selfidentifying gay men created a collective and cohesi ve gay identityÂ—that which creates the gay Â“community.Â” According to historian and sex ual theorist David Halperin, the practice of community formation is a combination of gay subjectivity, also known as individual gay identity, and the shared experiences to which gay culture exposes men and women. As men and women shape both platonic and ero tic relationships, the experiences within these groups create a normative function of gay culture, which can initiate new and younger queer subjects. He states, Â“To be gayÂ…i s not to exhibit a queer subjectivity,
but to belong to a social group. Homosexuality refe rs not to an individual abnormality but to a collective identity.Â”9 Queer theorists are beginning to understand that h omosexual culture creates an individual gay subjectivity by e xposing men and women to the normative functions of gay scenes. Gay bars, public sex, specific sexual landscapes, and even political activism instill gay subjects with a sense of collective identity, and social groups that form around normative gay scenes help c reate the idea of a cohesive community. The emergence of DenverÂ’s gay community is indicati ve of larger sociological themes present within queer history. DenverÂ’s geogr aphical location, municipal government, and proximity to military bases helped facilitate the emergence of a queer culture because homosexualityÂ—or sodomyÂ— existed in the West alongside heterosexuality in institutions such as the militar y, prostitution, and an underground subculture. DenverÂ’s unique geography helped create a public gay culture when the municipal government moved heterosexual immorality into public spaces. I argue, when DenverÂ’s municipal government pushed heterosex into public spaces used by homosexuals for erotic encounters, the increased at tention and backlash helped formulate a normative scene for one sect of gay culture in De nver. As the policing of public heterosexuality awakened municipal officials to hom osexual practices common within the city, public sex and policing became a normativ e function of DenverÂ’s gay culture and helped form a collective identity for some gay Denverites. Subsequently, as policing increased over the battle of public displays of sex uality, middle and upper class men formulated their own identity in opposition to that of lower class men and helped express their own form of gay identity; thus creating the p olitics of moral respectability. 9 Halperin, What Do Gay Men Want, 2.
Defining the Aberration: Act or Status Prior to the 1920s, the state defined same-sex sexu al behaviors as sodomy. Those who partook in same-sex sexual behavior were unders tood as Â“sodomites.Â” The term homosexual defined a person who deviated from tradi tional gender expectations and as a man, expressed feminine behaviors and characteristi cs. This division of sodomy and homosexuality created the acts versus status dichot omy. Men could partake in same-sex sexual activity as long as they met gender expectat ions and expressions of the time. As one noted historian states, Â“The most striking diff erence between the dominant sexual culture of the early twentieth century and that of our own era is the degree to which the earlier culture permitted men to engage in sexual r elationships with other men, often on a regular basis, without requiring them to regard the mselvesÂ—or to be regarded by othersÂ—as gay.Â”10 The status or identity of homosexual persons did n ot exist in the early decades of the twentieth century because sexual flu idity was largely acceptableÂ—mostly by the working and lower classes. Men could alterna te between male and female partners without recourse because the heterosexual public un derstood homosexuality as a set of feminine characteristics of dress and mannerÂ—early indicators of a homosexual personhood. But as long a man retained masculine fo rms of dress, and held the penetrative position during intercourse, the public would not regard him as gay. As such, the use of mannerisms to denote homosexuals in the early twentieth-century misidentified and excluded a large subset of people from the larg er queer narrativeÂ—especially in DenverÂ’s early history. As historian Nayan Shah sta tes, Â“Scholarship in the history of sexuality, gender studies, and queer studies denatu ralizes bodies, gender, and erotic 10 George Chauncey, Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940 (New York: Basic Books, 1994), 47.
interest, unhinging the formula that binary gender roles exhaust the direction of erotic interest, categorizing human erotic desires as eith er heterosexual or homosexual.Â”11 While contemporary studies regarding queer culture and gender expand our definitions of sexuality, the construction of homosexuality based upon characteristics and mannerisms alone left groups of menÂ—such as miners, cowboys, a nd military menÂ—out of the narrative of broader queer histories in the West. The treatment of homosexuals during the twentieth c entury varied not only upon location, but also upon acceptance by Â“normalÂ” soci ety. Early studies illustrate an acceptance of homosexuals before WWI by working cla ss societies, but smaller individual communities disappeared during the inter war period. Within many American cities, distinctive gay cultures with their own lan guages, participants, and nuances not only existed, but flourished as Â“part of the urban sexual underworld and was much more fully and publicly integrated in working-class than middle-class culture.Â”12 Indeed, many early homosexual subcultures existed with a remarka ble tolerance by the working class, which allowed for a public existence in many Americ an cities. As long as gay culture remained discreet, and did not offend hegemonic sen se of morality, they could remain apart of highly visible sexual underworlds. Shiftin g attitudes towards gender expressions and the importance of patriarchal family structures during the Great Depression, caused many cultures to publicly withdraw from even workin g-class communities as policing increased and acceptance diminished. While queer cultures continued to exist, the polici ng of homosexuality increased during the 1930s. Homosexual cultures disappeared f rom public view because the state 11 Nayan Shah, Stranger Intimacy: Contesting Race, Sexuality, and the Law in the North American West, (Berkley: University of California Press, 2011), 7. 12 Chauncey, Gay New York, 35
passed laws pertaining to psychopathic persons to p olice their behavior. As one historian states, Â“The primary purpose of this new wave of po licing was not to eradicate homosexuality altogether, a task the authorities co nsidered all but impossible, but to contain it by prohibiting its presence in the publi c sphere.Â”13 Indeed, many middle-class Americans tolerated the presence of homosexual subc ultures but only as far as they did not cross over into public spaces or threaten norma tive sexual and gender practices. The subsequent rise of the middle-class and their assum ption of middle-class society as Â“normativeÂ” caused the homosexual subculture to rec ede from public view. Heterosexuality moved sex for pleasureÂ—sex with no intent of reproductionÂ—away from acceptable same-sex sexual spaces and caused them t o retreat into an underground subculture. As Jonathan Katz argues, Â“Heterosexuali ty began this [twentieth] century defensively, as the publicly unsanctioned private p ractice of the respectable middle class, and as the publicly put-down pleasure-affirming pra ctice of urban working-class youths, southern blacks, and Greenwich Village bohemians.Â”14 Heterosexuality distanced itself from reproduction and increased its association wit h pleasure in the mid twentieth century. The terminology of the homo/hetero binary slowly permeated public culture through mass media. As the public began to distingu ish what was normal and abnormalÂ— good and badÂ—they began to associate homosexuality with perversion, immorality, and abnormality. Middle and upper classes steadily defi ned sex away from procreation and created spaces for themselves outside the degenerac y of the sexual underground. As Katz explains, Â“Gradually, heterosexuality came to refer to a normal other-sex sensuality free 13 Chauncey, Gay New York, 9 14 Jonathan Katz, The Invention of Heterosexuality (New York: Dutton, 1995) 83.
nof any essential tie to procreation.Â”15 By disconnecting itself from the bonds of procreation, heterosexuality caused illicit sexual practices to actually become less forbidden. The movement of sex for pleasure normali zed erotic desire and closed down acceptable spaces for degenerate sexual practicesÂ—i ncluding homosexuality. Following this evolution of heterosexuality, the homosexual s ubculture could only sustain a presence as long as it was outside of the public sp here.16 The public display of homosexual acts significantly affected the construction of the homosexual identity. Throughout the twentieth c entury, state and medical officials created the dichotomy of homosexual and heterosexua l personhood to define normal and abnormal sexual categories. The response from moral ists against homosexuals clearly indicates the role of public opinion in the early f ormation of the homosexual identity. Through the preoccupation with defining normative s exual categories in the 1920s and 1930s, homosexuals became the antithesis to the Ame rican norm. As Nayan Shah demonstrates, Â“by the mid twentieth century, the br oad categories of Â‘normalÂ’ and Â‘degenerateÂ’ would become interchangeable with the binary opposition of heterosexual and homosexual.Â”17 Ultimately the delineation of degeneracy, deviant, and perverted sexualities defined normative and socially acceptab le forms of relationships in the mid twentieth century.18 Within this discussion of acceptable sexual practic es, emerge other prominent themes within queer history. As heterosexuality and different-sex eroticism become 15 Katz, The Invention of Heterosexuality, 86. 16 Increased policing of homosexuality also coincided with a rise in concern over child molestation and rape. For a more thorough evaluation regarding the concer n of psychopathic personalities and increased polic ing see: Estelle B. Freedman, "Uncontrolled Desires": T he Response to the Sexual Psychopath, 1920-1960, The Journal of American History Vol. 74, No. 1 (June, 1987), pp. 83-106. 17 Shah, Stranger Intimacy, 150. 18 Shah, Stranger Intimacy, 12.
nnnormal and public, same-sex sexual practices became increasingly private. Persons partaking in homosexual acts moved their eroticism to areas less frequented by the heterosexual public. Same-sex began the twentieth c entury as largely acceptable to working-class communities, but by the mid twentieth century heterosexuality, moralists, and medical discourse relegated homosexuals back in to an underground sexual subculture within bars, parks, bathrooms, and bathhouses. By W orld War II, homosexuality continued to exist as an underground subculture. Th ose who identified or would soon identify as homosexual remained largely isolated fr om the heterosexual community and themselves until after the war. By the end of WWII, homosexuals began to form conne ctions with each other, experience gay culture more readily, and form a gay identity that would eventually produce the contemporary concept of a gay community Many scholars recognize the engendering effect upon gay cultures across the Uni ted States following WWII. As men and women entered the military in massive numbers, and even more women entered defense industry jobs to fill the need for labor, m any homosexuals became aware of themselves and others like them; they were no longe r seeing themselves as abnormal but as part of a larger group. Indeed, the military act ively discouraged homosexuality, laying the groundwork for anti-gay policies and consequent ly for the gay political movement in the post war world. Nonetheless, the experiences of gay men and women in the military, gay nightlife in large urban areas, and the battle to survive postwar antigay animosity all helped construct the basis of gay communities today .19 19 Allan Berube, "Marching to a Different Drummer: Le sbian and Gay GIs in World War II," ed. Martin Bauml Duberman, Martha Vicinus, and George Chauncey Jr. (New York: Penguin Books, 1989); DÂ’Emilio, Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities 4.
nWWII was a watershed moment for gay cultures as the militaryÂ’s condemnation of homosexuality helped construct a visible queer i dentity to combat the mistreatment of gay people after WWII. The formation of the homosex ual identity throughout the 1940s and 1950s catalyzed gay culture in the post war wor ld. As the federal government, state, and public increased policing of sexual abnormality and sexual deviance, gay people began to see themselves as part of a larger minorit y facing similar injustices despite regional and geographic differences.20 The movement of the gay community between invisibility and visibility was due to larger socie tal recognition of homosexual persons by the heterosexual public. As the state attempted to curb the visibility of homosexuality and sexual deviance, it created a homosexual identity a nd subsequently a minority capable of rebelling against sexual injustices. These newly fo rming communities would continue increase their visibility and identity recognition well into the twenty-first century. It is also important to note the evolving politics surrounding queer subjects across the nation. National historiographic trends examine that the period of 1940 to 1970s label the white heterosexual man as the dominant force wi thin both foreign and domestic 20 For a comparative look at policing of gay populati ons in the post war world and community formations, see: John D'Emilio, Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States 1940-1970 (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1983); Nan Alamilla Boyd, Wide Open Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965 (Berkley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2003); Charles Kaiser, The Gay Metropolis 1940-1996 (Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997); Lillian Faderman, and Stuar t Timmons, Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians (New York: Basic Books, 2006); Gary L. Atkins, Ga y Seattle: Stories of Exile and Belonging, (Seattle and London : University of Washington Press, 2003), 20 Allan Berube, Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and W omen in World War II (New York: The Free Press, 1990); John Howard, Men Like That: A Southern Queer History (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1999); John Howard, "T he Library, the Park, and the Pervert: Public Space and Homosexual Encounter in Post-World War II Atlan ta," Radical History Review 62 (1995): 166-187.; David K. Johnson, The Lavender Scare: The Persecution of Gays and Les bians in the Federal Government (Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press, 2004 ); Christopher Agee, "Gayola: Police Professionalization and the Politics of San Francis coÂ’s Gay Bars, 1950-1968," Journal of the History of Sexuality 15, no. 3 (2006): 462-489.; Marc Stein, City of Sisterly and Brotherly Loves: Lesbian And G ay Philadelphia, 1945-1972 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2004); an d Margot Canaday, The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Twenti eth-Century America (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2010)
npolicy, American culture, and shifting ideologies o f gender and sexuality.21 The heterosexual husband and father created the homosex ual person as the antithesis to the American norm. As historian Robert Self persuasivel y argues, Â“[T]he competing visions of American life were two ideas with far-reaching p olitical consequences: citizens have a sex and they have sex. Prior to the second half of the twentieth century, the United StatesÂ…rarely recognized the first propositionÂ…the universal subject of modern democracies was assumed to be a white heterosexual male.Â”22 The preoccupation and importance placed on the respectable father created a division within queer cultures as well. How do we organize into a community able to f ight on the political battlefield? The transformation of early homosexual activist groups (homophile movements) into the activists of the radical gay liberation movement he lped create the idea of a fully formed queer community. As historian Elizabeth Armstrong d emonstrates, Â“This turn toward identity building was accompanied by rapid politica l consolidation and the explosive growth of a commercial subculture oriented around s ex. For the first time, gay organizations agreed upon a national gay rights age nda and moved aggressively to pursue common goals in the political arena.Â”23 Similar identity and community formation occurred in Denver. This study is about the politic s of moral respectability and the successes and failures of DenverÂ’s queer culture in defining themselves against state 21 See James Gilbert, Men in the Middle: Searching for Masculinity in the 1950s (Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press, 2005); Robert J. Corbe r, In the Name of National Security: Hitchcock, Homophobia, and the Political Construction of Gende r in Postwar America (Durham, London: Duke University Press, 1993); Robert Dean, Imperial Brotherhood: Gender and the Making of Cold War Foreign Policy (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001 ); Kyle Cuordileone, Manhood and American Political Culture in the Cold War (New York, London: Routledge, 2005); and Stephen J. Whitfield, The Culture of the Cold War (Baltimore, London: John Hopkins University Press 1996). 22 Robert O. Self, All in the Family: The Realignment of American Demo cracy since the 1960s, (New York: Hill and Wang, 2012), 4. 23 Elizabeth A. Armstrong, Forging Gay Identities: Organizing Sexuality in San Francisco, 1950-1994, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002), 2.
nsponsored anti-gay rhetoric. It seeks to add to the historiography of community and identity formation by showing that while gay cultur e in Denver had its battles in its route to equality, white gay men distanced themselves fro m medical and psychiatric discourse and navigated the boundaries of Â“breadwinner libera lismÂ” to help create a gay identity for the public that was moral and acceptable. The post-WWII era significantly changed DenverÂ’s so cial structure. Individuals brought to Denver for the war effort found jobs and set down roots, and queer individuals began to form a queer culture. Increased attention to homosexual acts in the public sphere and the military prompted the federal government to legally define homosexuals based upon characteristics and their identity as sexual d eviants rather than participation in sexually deviant acts, thus denying them from milit ary service. The act of doing so set in motion the first of several sexual injustices that members of gay culture would fight against as a cohesive minority. The increased polic ing of homosexuals in the post-war world attributes to a substantial increase in their visibility following WWII. As the public and state sought ways to define and exclude homosex uals based on their identity and very personhood, policing actually increased gay visibil ity in both the political and domestic realm as homosexuals fought discrimination. Stepping Into the Light: The Awareness of DenverÂ’s Queer Culture Denver is unique because of the way the municipal government sought to regulate sexuality. The increasing number of public displays of sexuality threatened the reputation of DenverÂ—which was one of the primary concerns for city council, the mayor, and the police chief. Throughout WWII, local officials conc erned themselves with morality as a
nway to save Denver from itself. Denver officials mo nitored all immoral activities such as gambling, prostitution, drugs, liquor, and eventual ly homosexuality. As a way to protect soldiers from venereal disease and prostitution, De nver systematically began a war against public acts of indecency. As one historian states, Â“More than an effort to resolidify gender norms tested by the trials of warÂ…c ondemnation of homosexuality resulted from a heightened awareness of nonconformi ng sexualities made possible by the increasing movement of middle-class, heterosexual c ourtship into public spaces, the very spaces long occupied by marginal groups.Â”24 Homosexual men suddenly faced increased policing because heterosexual couples moved into pu blic spacesÂ—such as restrooms and parksÂ—that gay culture had been using for years. In deed, it was not just the mobilization after WWII that increased gay visibility, but the n eed to control heterosexuality for the sake of DenverÂ’s reputation. As the police continue d to regulate the public display of prostitution, they became aware of homosexual incid ences in Denver. Denver acted as the center for homosexual activity in the west. For rural communities between Chicago and San Francisco, Denv er operated as the major stepping-stone for many gay men. The experiences of rural gay men did not differ from those of their larger urban counterparts, but their location dictated the types of interactions they experienced. Rather than construc ting a visible subculture in small communities, rural gay men used transportation to n avigate their experiences to larger urban areas. As such, Denver operated as the larger urban area for outlying counties. Many queer individuals in Colorado SpringsÂ—specific ally in the militaryÂ—or from smaller conservative areas from Boulder, Fort Colli ns, and Greeley, would travel to 24 John Howard, "The Library, the Park, and the Perve rt: Public Space and Homosexual Encounter in PostWorld War II Atlanta," Radical History Review 62 (1995): 166-187, 168.
nDenver because it was the center of queer culture i n Colorado. Notwithstanding, many homosexual individuals reached out to each other wi thin their smaller areas, but instead of trying to form distinctive and public subculture s from 1950 to 1970, Denver offered the state of Colorado a public culture complete wit h activist groups, bars, and sexual scenes. The participants of smaller rural gay scene s outside Denver County helped catalyze the creation of a public and cohesive gay community as traveling into the city for experiences became increasingly possible. The growth of DenverÂ’s queer culture in the post wa r era is indicative of social and cultural influence from the municipal governmen t and geographic organization. This study of DenverÂ’s queer culture seeks to illuminate and discuss identity and community formation for the homosexual culture in a small urb an transit center. Chapter 1 will provide a brief background on homosexualityÂ—more co mmonly referred to as sodomy in the 19th centuryÂ—and the rapid and brief evolution of gay p opulations known to live their lives in Colorado and the West. Chapter 2 will begi n in the 1940s and continue through 1959. These nineteen years saw rapid change and gro wth in the way Denver distinguished, described, and challenged homosexual peoples within its city limits. Chapter 3 will discuss the 1960 to 1969 and the tra nsition of Denver's gay population from a gay culture to gay community within the evol ving world of political movements. The transformation of gay scenes and gay culture be gan in 1959 as gay subjectivity crystallized to form a coherent gay identity and wi th it a cohesive community. Between 1959 and 1969, the politics of moral respectability Â—present within homophile activists beginning in the 1950sÂ—finally made fundamental gai ns in compelling Denver officials to recognize the open and public gay community of D enver. The subsequent and rather
nbrief moment of extreme animosity helped the gay mi nority define itself in a way that attempted to discredit the inequality present withi n Denver law. Chapter 4 will briefly evaluate 1970 to 1975 and how the transformation of homophile activism to the gay liberation helped DenverÂ’s gay community come to re solutions with the Denver Police Department and have their sexuality openly accepted without fear of harassment. I will end by reevaluating several social theories, and ho w Denver presented a distinct case separate from larger urban areas, which makes it un ique. For the purposes of this study, I will use the term s gay and queer to encompass the entire LGBTQ community. This study focuses on w hite homosexual menÂ—due to their increased visibility both as a subculture and as targets of policing during the twentieth century. I also mention female groups to evaluate how all subsets of the LGBTQ community interacted with heterosexual societ y and their evolving relationships in Denver, but do not focus on them exclusively or inclusively. While lesbianism surely existed in the region, other scholars demonstrate t hat the private nature of womenÂ’s relationships resulted in less policing and lawful harassment.25 Although in contemporary language, the idiom Â“gayÂ” is not considered an enco mpassing term for the entire homosexual community, in the period discussed in th is study (1940 to 1975,) the term would be considered relatively inclusive vernacular for the entire homosexual population and will be used as such. By writing the history of gay Denver, I hope to fil l the void in the historiography of male homosexuality in the post war era by discus sing the homosexual population of a 25 For more complete discussion on female groups see Leisa Meyer, Creating G.I. Jane: Sexuality and Power in the WomenÂ’s Army Corps During World War II (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998); and Madeline Davis and Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy, Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community (New York: Routledge, 1993.)
nsmall urban community. Additionally, the study will fill a critical gap in the literature by providing the first scholarly examination of Denver Â’s gay community in the post war era. The experiences of many gay men in Denver reflect s imilar experiences of those in other urban areas, yet Denver does not emerge as a locati on of interest for the larger national narrative until the late 1970s. Scholars who discus s the history of homosexuality often construct narratives of rural communities catalyzin g larger queer communities, and Denver is no different.26 ColoradoÂ’s capitol functioned as a transportation hub, bringing many transients west. A unique aspect of Denver, as Thomas Noel alluded, was that the city was a large enough urban area to give homosexu als in Colorado an opportunity to experience, for the first time, gay culture. Howeve r, Denver acted as a community of initiation, and many of its members continued to mo ve west to larger urban areas such as Los Angeles and San Francisco that fostered larger queer communities. The forthcoming study illustrates that rural/urban dynamics are sha red experiences yet not wholly universal, and the transient nature of Denver provi ded a representative introduction for many gay men to political and sexual scenes which c ompose a part of the homosexual community. As Noel wrote in 1978, Â“Just as Denver a ttracts many gays fleeing their homes in the rural Midwest and the Rocky Mountain s tates, so San Francisco attracts many gays who Â‘outgrowÂ’ Denver. Yet the gay world i s an urban world, with Denver serving as a major stepping stone on a route often leading to bigger cities.Â”27 This is the 26 See Thomas Noel, "Gay Bars and the Emergence of th e Denver Homosexual Community," The Social Science Journal 15, no. 2 (1978): 59-74, 72; Gary Atkins, Gay Seattle: Stories of Exile and Belonging (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2003); an d John Howard, Men Like That: A Southern Queer History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.) 27 Thomas Noel, "Gay Bars and the Emergence of the De nver Homosexual Community," The Social Science Journal 15, no. 2 (1978): 59-74, 72.
nhistory of DenverÂ’s gay community who gave DenverÂ’s nickname, Â“Queen City of the Plains,Â” a completely new meaning.
CHAPTER I 100 YEARS OF AN UNDERGROUND SUBCULTURE DenverÂ’s history as a mining town almost encouraged the growth of homosexual acts within its city limits due to the demographic structure of its inhabitants, who were predominately young men. Historian Thomas Noel obse rves, Â“The almost exclusively male life in the mining camps, on railroad crews, i n the military, and among cowboys probably fostered homosexual practices.Â”28 While the incidence of homosexual acts during the late nineteenth century is hard to expos e, sodomy laws indicate an obvious awareness of homosexual acts. In 1861, Denver wrote its first anti-homosexuality clause into the statutes of the Colorado Territorial Laws. Colorado Session Law 64 states, Â“The infamous crime against nature, or the attempt to co mmit said crime, either with man or beast, or any unnatural carnal copulation committed or the attempt to commit any unnatural carnal copulation per anus or per os or i n any other way whatsoever, shall subject the offender to be imprisoned in the penite ntiary.Â”29 When the government first recognized Colorado as a territory, the state adopt ed English Common Laws as their own. Thus, Colorado imported its first forms of anti-hom osexual rhetoric from the Â“old Country.Â” However, the governmentÂ’s need to include a sodomy statute in the territorial law suggests the existence of male homosexual acts in the late nineteenth century. From its inception as a territory until its recogni tion as a state, Colorado laws acknowledged the existence of homosexual acts takin g place within its boundaries. As one journalist recognized, Â“The same ruthless prose lytizing zeal that was used by the missionaries to destroy the gay Indian culture was also used to keep down domestic gays. 28 Thomas Noel, "Gay Bars and the Emergence of the De nver Homosexual Community," The Social Science Journal 15, no. 2 (1978): 59-74, 60. 29 Legislative Assembly, Territory of Colorado, Â§64, 1861.
nHatred and fear of gays was only one of the many so cial attitudes that settlers brought west with them.Â”30 However, DenverÂ’s gay culture existed as an underg round subculture primarily in brothels and in the intimate living sp aces of the army before the twentieth century: Â“That Army conditions lent themselves to g ay sexual activities was well known to contemporary experts. Fellatio among army person nel was even a subject of discussion in at least one medical journal.Â”31 Homosexual encounters were common in such environme nts, but the existence of a homosexual identity was far from concrete. Instea d, homosexuals created a nuanced culture in which homosexual acts did not necessaril y signify an identity as a homosexual person. The determining factor for a sodomite was n ot the extent of their desire to partake in same-sex sexual acts, but instead the gender per sona and status they performed.32 The use of sexual acts to denote a sexual identity comp licated the early homosexual culture of Denver. Cowboys and soldiers would routinely partak e in same-sex sexual acts (a common occurrence in all male-environments), but as sume the active role during intercourse.33 By partaking only in an active manner, these men retained their masculine role and could identify as heterosexual without rep ercussion for their actions.34 This nuanced reading of sexual acts and sexual identity highlights one problematic emergence of DenverÂ’s queer culture. As many individuals reta ined their masculine identity, policing homosexual acts became difficult and taboo. Militar y environments of the early army, 30 Terry Mangan, "The Gay West." (Unpublished manuscr ipt,) Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Colorado Collection History Colorado, Denver, Color ado. (MSS#1832,) (1978,) 9. 31 Mangan, Â“The Gay West,Â” 16. 32 Chauncey, Gay New York, 47 33 Alfred C. Kinsey, Wardell B. Pomeroy, and Clyde E. Martin, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, (Philadelphia and London: W.B. Saunders Company, 19 48,) 457. 34 For a more detailed discussion of active versus pa ssive roles, see: Chauncey, Gay New York ; also see Margot Canaday, The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Tw entieth-Century America, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009.)
mining camps, and cowboy atmospheres with few to no women all encouraged the exploration of same-sex sexual acts, but the incide nce or occurrence of homosexual acts did not necessitate the emergence of the homosexual person. Sexual fluidity regarding participation in same-sex sexual acts during the ea rly twentieth century concealed the formation of a homosexual group because the state c hose to focus on the sexual actÂ—acts which many denied or obscured from their public ide ntity. For many queer individuals, life in the west involv ed assuming and performing a gender role outside of their biological sex. Gender -variant and cross-dressing populations existed as some of the earliest evidence of white q ueer culture in Colorado. The expansion of the west in the early nineteenth centu ry afforded many of these individuals the opportunity to perform their expressed gender i dentity.35 As one author notes, the number of gender-variant and cross-dressing individ uals living in the west was higher than originally believed. Only upon death did the b iological identities of many of these individuals come to light. Individuals such as Mrs. Nash, a laundress for the military; Billy Leroy, a drag performer and armed robber; and Charles or Katherine Vaubough, a gender-variant man, lived normal lives through the performance of expected gender roles incongruent with their biological sex. Before their deaths, no one suspected their disidentification with their biological sex or poss ible queer identity since many of them married and performed their gender within heteronor mative roles.36 The gender-variant and transgender history of Denve r in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century is difficult to discuss as contemporary language often conflates gender and sexual orientation into a singular const ruct. For instance, persons who might 35 Peter Boag, Re-Dressing America's Frontier Past (Berkley: University of California Press, 2011.) 36 Brent Everett, Â“ItÂ’s Okay to Be GayÂ” The History of Gay Denver: Vo lume One, The Gay Social Construct, (Denver: Private Publisher, 2013,) 34-53.
identify as transgender, gender queer, or gender ne utral within the construct of modern language did not use such identifications in the la te nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It is important to note, however, that p ersons who appear gender-variant or gender-nonconforming within the early history of De nver lived out their lives performing gender roles that were not congruent with normative expectations of their biological sex at the given time period. These individuals may rev eal the existence of an early homosexual subculture as the manner in which they d eviated from gender roles of their time would likely group them with other men and wom en who partook in same-sex sexual acts. Regardless, the governments of Colorad o and Denver continued to use the acts/status dichotomy to police what they considere d homosexual activity throughout the twentieth century. In this context, it is indeed di fficult to assess the earliest formations of a queer culture because sexual acts did not immedia tely indicate a specific sexual identity, and many of these populations would have appeared a s heterosexual to the public.37 Homosexual acts in Denver in the early twentieth ce ntury also existed within heterosexual brothels. The increase in sexually tra nsmitted diseases as well as prostitution exponentially heightened awareness of male homosexu ality in Denver. By 1912, there were remarkable increases in the publicity of maleÂ— homosexualÂ—prostitution according to local newspapers. The areas on Market Street, wh ile home to many female brothels and gambling rings, elicited a rise in male prostit ution as Â“several largely straight houses had an occasional male prostitute to meet the unusu al demands of discriminating customers.Â”38 37 For a more thorough discussion of gender and perfo rmance, see: Judith Butler, Â“Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory,Â” Theatre Journal Vol. 40, No. 4. (Dec., 1988,) pp. 519-531. 38 Mangan, Â“The Gay West,Â” 24.
Increased accounts of venereal disease prompted ci ty officials to take notice of the prostitution and the growing number of same-sex incidences on Larimer Street. A small visible gay culture existed within the entert ainment and red-light districts until those districts became a target of the moralists.39 In Denver, the public display and visible nature of sexual acts in the early twentieth centur y prompted moralists and religious affiliates to attack and pursue those partaking in prostitution and other illicit activitiesÂ— areas in which same-sex sex just happened to be occ urring. The need to eliminate homosexual acts through the policing of sexually tr ansmitted diseases helped exacerbate an underground sexual subculture in smaller rural a reas until the 1950s and 1960s. Awareness of homosexual acts continued to grow in D enver in the 1920s and 1930s as transient populations arrived in large num bers. By the end of World War I, prohibition and anti-vice crusades sought to shut d own gambling halls, brothels, and curb illicit activities in the Denver area. The same soc ial activists vying to shut down saloons and gambling halls also began the Young MenÂ’s Chris tian Association (Y.M.C.A.) as an environment to help transients and hobos. DenverÂ’s geographical location proved to make it a routine stop for men traveling from the east c oast to the west.40 Homosexual activities thrived in the cultures of hobos and transient men, and government officials were aware of the homosexual subculture present in transient p opulations. Their all male environments routinely cultivated situations for sa me-sex erotic behavior and homosexual acts.41 Historian Margot Canaday explains, Â“The [Federal T ransient 39 Another community that operated similarly was Seat tle Washington. Smaller rural communities in the west had gay cultures within red light and entertai nment districts until moralists and the public deem ed them unfit to exist. For a discussion of SeattleÂ’s culture see: Gary Atkins, Gay Seattle, 6-8 40 Todd DePastino, Citizen Hobo: How a Century of Homelessness Shaped America, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.) 41 Depastino, Citizen Hobo, 88.
Program] created a national system of camps and she lters for mostly male migrantsÂ….but the transient in particular was associated with the distinctive sexual subculture of hoboes and bums in which homosexuality featured prominentl y.Â”42 Indeed, the occurrence of same-sex sexual activity increased throughout the d epression era as many men viewed sexual intercourse with other men as one of the few viable options within transient culture. The creation of federal camps for transien ts and institutions such as the Y.M.C.A actually helped create social environments where ho mosexuality thrived. The introduction of the Y.M.C.A. in Denver created a sp ace for homosexual men to indulge and experience same-sex sexual acts. Â“[The Â‘YÂ’] bec ame the centre of gay activities for the entire Western SlopeÂ” reported one journalist.43 The all-male activities of the gymnasia and dormitories allowed many men to experi ence their first encounter with homosexual activity. While the moral progressives s hut down prostitution rings, transient and vagabond men used the Â“YÂ” to escape the public eye of heterosexual society well into the 1930s.44 The Â“YÂ” was not unique to Denver as many of these organizations reported homosexual incidences across the country. DenverÂ’s Â“YÂ” provided men a semiprivate institution to partake in same-sex activiti es. By giving them an arena for sexual exploration, the Â“YÂ” served as one of the first ral lying points for queer culture in Denver prior to World War II. DenverÂ’s gay culture stayed largely invisible withi n heterosexual brothels and institutions such as the Y.M.C.A. until 1939. As Th omas Noel contends, Â“In Denver, there was apparently no exclusively gay tavern unti l 1939. That year, a pioneer short42 Margot Canaday, The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Tw entieth-Century America, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009,) 92. 43 Mangan, Â“The Gay West,Â” 26. 44 For a more detailed discussion regarding the Y.M.C .A and its role in same-sex relations see: John Don ald Gustav-Wrathall, Take the Young Stranger by the Hand (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.)
lived gay bar, the Pit, opened on Seventeenth Stree t in the heart of downtown. It was not until after World War II, however, that gay bars an d a visible gay culture became well established in Denver.Â”45 While it is unknown why the bar closed or if it wa s a known gay establishment, its brief appearance illustrates the formation of an early gay culture that would shape itself into a cohesive minority in the post war world. The post-War era was a defining time for queer cult ure. The war offered men and women increased mobility and the chance to leave be hind their families and the restrictions imposed on their sexuality. Military b ases opened across the country, and defense industry and war planning significantly inf luenced the ways homosexuals formed relationships and navigated the social sphere. Acco rding to historian Allan Berube: Â“The massive mobilization for World War II relaxed the s ocial constraints of peacetime that had kept gay men and women unaware of themselves an d each other, Â‘bringing outÂ’ men in the process.Â”46 Since WWII created the opportunity for homosexual men and women to meet others like themselves and experience the g ay world, the military was largely responsible for fostering homosexual tendencies and the emergence of a cohesive homosexual identity. The military not only fostered homosexual tendencies by offering all male and all female spaces, but also resulted i n the formation of a cohesive minority due to its systematic policing of homosexuals begin ning in 1943. Military policing gave the queer culture an Â“otherÂ” to oppose. The methodi cal policing of homosexuals taken up by the state, military, and heterosexual public dur ing WWII helped foster the image and idea of a unified queer community. 45 Noel, Â“Gay Bars and the Emergence of the Homosexua l Community,Â” 61. 46 Allan Berube, Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and W omen in World War II (New York: The Free Press, 1990,) 6.
DenverÂ’s role as a transportation center changed du ring WWII. The construction of military bases and defense industry close to the city brought many individuals to the Mile High City for the first time, and many chose t o stay after the war ended or after the military discharged them for homosexuality. Mobiliz ation brought the government closer to public institutions and invited government contr ol of sexuality, both heterosexual and homosexual.47 In Denver, the movement of the military to cultura l institutions helped facilitate an increase in the public display and aw areness of homosexual persons. The model of policing introduced by the American mi litary helped perpetuate anti-gay policy in the post-war world as systematic regulation of homosexuality at a federal level aided in minority and community forma tion. Historian John DÂ’Emilio states, Â“Before a movement could take shape, that process h ad to be far enough along so that at least some gay women and men could perceive themsel ves as members of an oppressed minority, sharing an identity that subjected them t o systematic injustice.Â”48 Before the nineteenth century there was no label of the homose xual identity. Police, religious groups, and the state routinely policed the activity of hom osexuality under the term of sodomite, but the identity did not exist. It was not until th e term homosexual applied to a personÂ’s identity could activists mobilize against sexual in justice. DenverÂ’s queer culture functioned within this context. As the war brought the military and the defense industry to Denver, the policing of soldiersÂ’ sexuality brou ght the awareness of homosexuality to the municipal government. The cityÂ’s preoccupation with policing prostitution led city officials to recognize homosexual incidents among s oldiers and the community within 47 Stephen J. Leonard and Thomas J. Noel, Denver: Mining Camp to Metropolis, (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 1990,) 235. 48 John DÂ’Emilio, Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of the Homosexual Minority in the United States 1940-1970 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998,) 4.
public spheres. As the government shut down brothel s, they pushed these heterosexual entities into the public sphere, the awareness of h omosexual acts increased due to heterosexuality in public spacesÂ—the same spaces th e queer culture had operated in for years. The entry of the United States into WWII and Denver Â’s contribution to the war effort changed everything. The mobilization of mill ions propelled men out of their home communities and loosened restrictions on their sexu al development and sexual activity but also reinforced heteronormative assumptions reg arding strict gender roles. The massive mobilization of society during and after WW II created the conditions for a substantial and lasting homosexual community, but a lso gave rise to the concern over gender deviants and their affects on society. WWII and the militaryÂ—due to its existence as a primarily male environmentÂ—are largely respons ible for the return of a public and viable homosexual minority, especially in the Denve r area. While the opening of a gay tavern in Denver shows the existence of queer cultu re, policing and entrapment still existed as gender expectations grew to be a moral c oncern. Before the gay community existed as a public minority, they first became out siders to the heteronormative lifestyle.
CHAPTER II AN ASSAULT ON DENVERÂ’S MORALITY: CREATING THE PROBL EM OF HOMOSEXUALITY World War II significantly altered the demographics of Denver, Colorado. Many of the men and women brought to the state by the mi litary put down roots and created lives away from their families. Denver natives were suddenly joined by Â“thousands of exmilitary personnel who had fallen in love with the clean, green, and friendly Mile High City.Â”49 The proximity of military bases to Denver presente d the municipal government with problems before the war even started. Yet the need to protect soldiers from immoralityÂ—including prostitution, liquor, drugs, a nd pornographyÂ—created systematic efforts to police all forms of depraved actions. Th e cityÂ’s preoccupation with policing prostitution led officials to recognize homosexual incidence among soldiers and the community within public spheres. As the government shut down brothels and other controlled areas of prostitution, they pushed these heterosexual entities into public arenasÂ—spaces gay scenes operated in and around for years. Awareness of homosexual acts within Denver grew due as the new inhabitants of the city began to partake in illicit activities and subsequently forced police to regula te sexuality within public spaces. Even before the start of WWII, the municipal govern ment sought to incorporate Denver into the war effort. Thomas Noel, a Colorado historian, noted, Â“Denver saw that there were money and jobs in defense industries. To induce the army to locate an air corps training center near the city, Denver floated $750,000 in bonds to purchase the 49 Stephen J. Leonard and Thomas Noel, Denver: Mining Camp to Metropolis (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 1991,) 220.
Agnes Phipps Memorial Tuberculosis Sanatorium at Si xth and Quebec.Â”50 In 1938, this plot of land became Lowry Air Force Base, and in 19 42, contractors opened Buckley Air Force base just south of Lowry. The proximity of th ese military bases to Denver routinely led military personnel to partake in illicit activi ties within Denver. Servicemen would venture out into DenverÂ’s nightlife and routinely p articipate in the availability of both male and female prostitutes. As Thomas Noel notes, Â“the combination of a predominantly male population and great numbers of juvenile vagra nts may have promoted homosexual liaisons commercial or otherwise.Â”51 The increase in policing of prostitution coincided with the rise in accounts of venereal disease and, as early as 1937, Â“immoralityÂ” began to cause problems for the city of Denver. To combat incidences of immorality, the Denver Poli ce Department first established the Denver Morals Bureau (DMB) in 1939, under the direction of William E. GuthnerÂ—Manager of Safety.52 The DMB set out to investigate and eliminate incid ences of prostitution, liquor, and gambling as the reputa tion of DenverÂ’s Larimer Street occupied the minds of city officials. Because of mo unting fears of venereal disease, prostitution on a national scale, sex crimes, and p ressure from the federal government, the DMB began cracking down on prostitution halls, brot hels, and gambling rings throughout the Denver area. An article in The Rocky Mountain News reported in 1937 that Denver had fewer crimes than other U.S. cities, Â“showing d ecreases in seven of eight criminal classifications.Â”53 While the Denver Police were able to decrease the amount of major crimes, such as theft and robbery, Â“only one major crime classification showed a gain for 50 Leonard and Thomas Noel, Denver: Mining Camp to Metropolis 220-221. 51 Noel, "Gay Bars,Â” 60. 52 Â“Date Bureaus in Denver Face Cleanup: Guthner Orde rs Vice Squad Drive To Begin Today.Â” Rocky Mountain News August 12, 1939 53 "City Has Fewer Crimes Despite Increase thru U.S." The Rocky Mountain News July 05, 1937.
nthe period the justice department report revealed. This was rape which increased from seven to 12. In spite of the increase the local for ce was able to report that each case resulted in an arrest.Â”54 Sex crimes and venereal disease gained notoriety t hroughout the entire country as the nation geared up for war; the lack of delineation regarding specific sexual activity for crimesÂ—what constituted a sex c rimeÂ—gave increased attention to all forms of deviant sexualities.55 According to the DMB, rape, prostitution, sexual a ssault, exhibitionism, child molestation, pornography, and homosexuality all made up the category of sexual crimes. The DMB regulated all forms of sexual interaction b eginning in 1939. The Rocky Mountain News reported, Â“An investigation of all date bureaus, g et acquainted clubs, matrimonial agencies and other enterprises of simil ar nature now operating in Denver will be started today by vice squad detectives. Â‘If we [the vice squad] find evidence of any immorality, the persons involved will be taken to Police Court on vagrancy charges.Â’Â”56 By expanding to include dating agencies and even p ro-marriage institutions in its fight against immorality, the DMB attempted to diminish the occurrence of sex crimes among both hetero and homosexual populaces i n Denver. City and government officials publicly declared a w ar on prostitution in Denver in 1941. The governments need to police and control i mmorality and the spread of venereal disease increased as Denver mobilized for the war e ffort and the military brought large numbers of soldiers into the area. As the federal g overnment implemented programs 54 "City Has Fewer Crimes Despite Increase thru U.S." The Rocky Mountain News July 05, 1937. 55 For a more thorough discussion regarding changes i n legal definitions and preoccupation with psychopathic personalities in the interwar period, see: Estelle B. Freedman, "Uncontrolled Desires": T he Response to the Sexual Psychopath, 1920-1960, The Journal of American History Vol. 74, No. 1 (June, 1987), pp. 83-106. 56 Â“Date Bureaus in Denver Face Cleanup: Guthner Orde rs Vice Squad Drive To Begin Today.Â” Rocky Mountain News August 12, 1939
meant to control womenÂ’s sexuality and Â“protectÂ” me nÂ’s sexual health, the government continually funded anti-venereal disease programs i n Denver. An article in the Rocky Mountain News stated, Â“A police move against houses of ill fame i n Denver came 12 hours after the federal government had threatened w ithdrawal of its contribution to ColoradoÂ’s venereal disease program unless a respon sible city official made a statement that prostitution was being suppressed.Â”57 Federal insistence on controlling heterosexuality and the spread of venereal disease in Denver culminated in an open threat from the government to pull its funding. In 1941, t he U.S. Public Health Service contributed $40,800 annually to the control of vene real disease in Denver.58 Sam Lusky of the Rocky Mountain News wrote, Â“The United States threatened to withdraw i ts funds from the venereal disease clinic in Denver General Hospital, unless the city shut the houses down. Then the military added its insistence after large numbers of service trainees were moved into the Denver area.Â”59 While there is no statistical evidence available for local fund appropriation, Â“it was rep orted in both state and city circles that the federal action was inspired by the U.S Army, wh ich has taken numerous steps to protect the morals and health of soldiers.Â”60 Indeed, the rising incidence of venereal disease in soldiers inhibited DenverÂ’s contribution to the war effortÂ—as the military would consider soldiers with venereal disease unfit to fightÂ—and provided the DMB with the motivation to police prostitution within and ar ound Denver city limits. 57 Barron B. Beshoar, "U.S. Causes Denver Ban on Vice ." Rocky Mountain News June 07, 1941; Sam Lusky, Â“New Police Chief Promises Clean City: Denve r Will Continue Ban on Vice.Â” Rocky Mountain News, June 12, 1947. 58 Barron B. Beshoar, "U.S. Causes Denver Ban on Vice ." Rocky Mountain News June 07, 1941 59 Sam Lusky, Â“New Police Chief Promises Clean City: Denver Will Continue Ban on Vice.Â” Rocky Mountain News, June 12, 1947. 60 Barron B. Beshoar, "U.S. Causes Denver Ban on Vice ." Rocky Mountain News June 07, 1941
However, the decision to police prostitution vigoro usly was not unanimously agreed on by all of DenverÂ’s city officials. Some c ouncilmen feared that a rigorous castigation of brothels and prostitution rings woul d cause the proprietors and patrons to simply go back underground, or worse, make prostitu tion a public display on the streets of Denver. An article in the Rocky Mountain News asserted, Â“[The proposed closing of prostitution halls] was countered with an assertion by councilmen that the closing order will merely drive such resorts into residence neigh borhoods and some inmates onto the streets, where their arrests and subsequent publici ty will give Denver a bad name.Â”61 In an effort to protect soldiers from the spread of ve nereal disease, the government unintentionally encouraged women and men to move vi ces to public venues away from areas controlled by the state. Denver had been free of streetwalkers for many years, according to the article, but businesses, civic mem bers, and ministerial groups had agreed upon unlicensed supervised prostitution halls.62 Denver civic groups and the policed used supervised brothels as a containment method for oth er crimes. The police used brothel proprietors to keep a tight grip on other vices suc h as drunkenness and gambling. One councilman stated, Â“This sudden opening of official eyes to what has been known to all for years is extremely hypocritical, and in some ot her respects does not smell savory.Â”63 By shutting down controlled arenas of prostitution, which Denver councilmen obviously viewed as beneficial, city officials pushed prostit ution into areas less easily controlled. The emergence of prostitution within public areas, such as parks, bathrooms, hotels, and street corners, would soon illuminate homosexual in teractions occurring within these spaces. 61 Â“Mayor and Councilmen Row Over Vice Purge,Â” The Rocky Mountain News, June 11, 1941. 62 Â“Mayor and Councilmen Row Over Vice Purge,Â” The Rocky Mountain News, June 11, 1941. 63 Â“Mayor and Councilmen Row Over Vice Purge,Â” The Rocky Mountain News, June 11, 1941.
Throughout the war, Denver continually monitored p rostitution and venereal disease. In 1944, Captain John F. OÂ’Donnell stated that Denver was a relatively clean city: Â“Well, believe it or not, prostitution is vir tually nilÂ…maybe itÂ’s partly because the business has been taken over by amateursÂ…but it isn Â’t a problem.Â”64 Despite federal and local attempts to curb prostitution however, the DM B continued to regulate and monitor for venereal disease until the warÂ’s end. An articl e in the Rocky Mountain News stated, Â“Â’ItÂ’s better off as far as disease is concerned. W e have a regular clinic in the police building every day except Sunday. This morning we g ave nine examinationsÂ—eight girls and one manÂ… We check information with the military and they check with us. Venereal disease hasnÂ’t been eliminated, but itÂ’s certainly under control.Â’Â”65 As Thomas Noel notes, police and other government authorities ran Â“victory girlsÂ” and professional prostitutes out of town by 1943, and a base inspect ion in 1944 only resulted in ten known cases of venereal disease.66 However, the DMB continually made arrests for pros titution and public acts of sexuality. Many of the soldiers began partaking in acts of solicitation as well. As one man remembers, Â“In the vicinity of Denver there is a military fort with a force of a few hundred men. Last summer a soldier f rom there propositioned me on the street in Denver.Â”67 State attempts at controlling prostitution only pu shed professionals and amateurs back into areas consistent with an und erground sexual subculture. The policing of prostitution created red-light district s and an enterprise run by both male and female amateurs. 64 Lee Casey, Â“Denver Moral Town, Says Expert on Vice .Â” Rocky Mountain News, March 16, 1944. 65 Lee Casey, Â“Denver Moral Town, Says Expert on Vice .Â” Rocky Mountain News, March 16, 1944. 66 Leonard et al, Denver: Mining Camp to Metropolis 223. 67 Jonathan Ned Katz, Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U .S.A. (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1976,) 50.
While the state curbed the prevalence of well-known brothels and prostitution rings, it continued to struggle with venereal disea se throughout the 1940s. Prostitutes simply went underground and still engaged soldiers. The Rocky Mountain News reported in 1946, Â“Fines totaling more than $1200 were asses sed against 14 persons yesterday as a result of a Police Morals Squad raid against two al leged houses of prostitution. Four Lowry Field soldiers, found in one of the houses wi th two women, were among those fined by Police Judge Joseph D. Neff.Â”68 Abiding by ordinances restricting prostitution within city limits, the raids demonstrate the diffi culty of curtailing the prostitution industry. By the end of 1946, the Morals Squad beli eved it had cleared Denver of organized prostitution. Bernard Beckwith of the Rocky Mountain News reported, Â“Denver has been free of organized prostitution since befor e the start of the war. One of the biggest jobs of the bureau is to see that prostitut esÂ—amateur or professionalÂ—are apprehended and given treatment.Â”69 However, the incidence of venereal disease among soldiers and females demonstrates the continued pre sence of the prostitution industry within Denver. Prostitution no longer existed as a professional institution within brothels capable of police regulation, but transformed into a public vice on the streets of Denver. While the police continued to apprehend and treat w omen for venereal disease, they overlooked the spaces in which women and men w ere engaging with soldiers. As the Denver Post reported, two soldiers on leave from naval duty pi cked up two women at a local bar. After buying them several drinks, as wel l as accompanying them to a hotel, the sailors told their friends about their experience. As the paper informs, Â“Later, after separating from the girls, the sailors visited anot her resort and related their experience to 68 Â“Disorderly House Raids Bring $1200 Fines for 14.Â” Rocky Mountain News, June 12, 1946. 69 Bernard Beckwith, Â“Police Bureau Keep Denver Moral ly Clean.Â” The Rocky Mountain News, November 4, 1946.
friends. The friends volunteered the disquieting in formation that the two girls were known carriers of VD and the sailors went forthwith to police.Â”70 Highlighting that prostitution continued as an underground activity, these sailors simply interacted with cab drivers, bellboys, and friends of known women to pa rtake in such illicit activities. As the Post reported, Â“The ban, effected by civilian and milit ary enforcement agencies working in conjunction as a wartime security measureÂ…swept organized vice, as such out of its accustomed hauntsÂ…[and] succeeded, as is invariably the case in underground traffics, in boosting prices from 200 to 500 percent.Â”71 Attempts at publicly controlling prostitution pushed vices into public areas as part of an underg round heterosexual subculture consistent with underground homosexual scenes. In a nother article, the Rocky Mountain News reported, Â“Another dubious group attracted by the loiterers [homosexuals] are seekers after Â‘adventure.Â’ In the past, police say, a large proportion of this group was made up of military personnel stationed in the area .Â”72 According to the Rocky Mountain News as the DMB continued to regulate and remove prost itution from Denver, it pushed professionals and amateurs into public areas that q ueer culture used to establish liaisons and relationships for years. By reporting that many known partakers in homosexual liaisons were military personnel, local media slowl y began to portray homosexual culture publicly and increase concern for the military. The presence of nearby military bases continued to alter DenverÂ’s demographics after the war. Many of the soldiers on Lowry and Bu ckley Air Force base remained after 70 Bernard Beckwith, Â“Organized Vice Goes Underground : City Ban Invoke in 1941 Only Partly Effective.Â” The Denver Post, May 29, 1947. 71 Bernard Beckwith, Â“Organized Vice Goes Underground : City Ban Invoke in 1941 Only Partly Effective.Â” The Denver Post, May 29, 1947. 72 Bernard Beckwith, Â“Violations of Moral Code Increa se Following Wars, Economic Stress.Â” The Denver Post May 31, 1949.
their discharge because they loved the scenery and cultural atmosphere of Denver. The qualities that seemed so attractive to many of Denv erÂ’s inhabitantsÂ—Â“small town friendliness; clean air; mountain views; uncrowded streets, parks, and highland playgroundsÂ”Â—became threatened by the explosion in population.73 The exponential population growth did not necessarily yield a new a ttitude towards immorality. However, discussion of public displays of sexualityÂ—includin g homosexualityÂ—did become more frequent in the media. According to the Denver Post Â“Whether the incidence of abnormal sex tendencies [homosexuality] is greater in the current postwar period or whether the general letdown in moral consciousness resulting from a Â‘hangoverÂ’ from the war has brought them into the open in greater degre e is a much controverted subjectÂ…Whatever the reason, it is apparent in Denv er the situation is at an all-time high.Â”74 The war undoubtedly brought many homosexual men in to contact with each other as it did across the United States. The milit ary gave many men and women their first experience and introduction to homosexual cul ture, and in Denver, helped the community emerge through a continued policing of mi litary personnel.75 The neighborhoods surrounding Capitol Hill, City Pa rk, and Broadway became routine cruising grounds for homosexual and militar y culture in the late 1940s. One journalist writes, Â“Public parks adjacent to the do wn-town area have become rendezvous for increasing numbers of all the usual types of mo ral degenerate. The civic center, the capital grounds and the old court house square are the foremost examples of the rallying 73 Leonard et al, Denver: Mining Camp to Metropolis 235. 74 Bernard Beckwith, Â“Violations of Moral Code Increa se Following Wars, Economic Stress.Â” The Denver Post May 21, 1949. 75 Berube, Coming Out Under Fire, 6
places.Â”76 The knowledge of the existence of homosexuals was nothing new as articles discussing homosexuals in heterosexual prostitution halls show that police knew of their existence. In Denver, the act of policing prostitut ion forced women to loiter and attract customers in the same arenas that homosexual cultur e used for years. One member of the community remembers, Â“Prostitution is not common in Denver; male prostitutes can sometimes be met in the Capital Gardens, but not a large number of them.Â”77 Queer individuals used parks to arrange social interactio ns as part of an underground subculture. While the occurrence of public male prostitutes was not considerable, interaction between homosexual men and the formation of personal relati onships was evident. The transfer of heterosexual prostitution into relatively similar a reas awoke the public to the existence of a community that had been there all along. By 1949, local media in Denver began attempting to define homosexual culture after a decade of reporting on heterosexual vice. P olice officers with the DMB routinely patrolled Civic Center Park and the areas around th e capital as the gay populace began to blatantly express their sexuality. The DMB focused its attention on young, well-dressed men, who would loiter and occasionally exude femini ne characteristics while walking or speaking. As the Denver Post reported, Â“Usually, when questioned closely by det ectives or when confronted with evidence of questionable ad vances, these loiterers will freely admit they are members of the Â‘unmentionably minori tyÂ’Â—the homosexually inclined.Â”78 The increase in public displays of homosexual acts only grew because of the underground subculture the police created. Captain McCoy of the Vice Squad asserted, Â“[T]he red76 Bernard Beckwith, Â“Violations of Moral Code Increa se Following Wars, Economic Stress.Â” The Denver Post May 21, 1949. 77 Katz, Gay American History, 50 78 Bernard Beckwith, Â“Violations of Moral Code Increa se Following Wars, Economic Stress.Â” The Denver Post May 21, 1949.
light district set-up merely served to lower the mo ral tone of the city brought with it more degenerate sex problems.Â”79 The vice squad and media slowly began to recognize homosexuality as a group, and people part of the se xual underground it unintentionally created in the post-war world. In their efforts to rid the city of vices, the DMB simply introduced Denver to its minority of queer individu als. As gay culture slowly emerged as a public entity, t he language used by local media and the law regarding homosexual acts began t o change. The introduction of homosexuals as sexual deviates, and as an identity, portrayed an increasingly negative image of the homosexual minority to Denverites. In 1949, the city of Denver officially classified homosexuality as a minor sex offense, se parating it from crimes of rape and assault and equating it with exhibitionism and chil d molestation instead.80 The language and laws introduced in 1949 initiated the backlash DenverÂ’s gay culture would face in the 1960s. The Denver Post reported, Â“Most psychiatrists agreeÂ…that the sex o ffender is generally a mentally ill person and needs hospital treatment. A proposed Colorado law designed to combat sex crimes by sending persons of Â‘psychopathic personalityÂ’ to the State Hospital was drafted this weekÂ…Â”81 As the city developed regulations to combat the public display of homosexuality, the informatio n presented in the media confused the public due to its ambiguity in defining terms. Psyc hologists and legal experts agreed jail sentences and fines were archaic punishments for ho mosexuality, as homosexual personhood did not necessarily indicate a psychopat hic personality.82 However, the 1949 law equating homosexuality to child molesters incre ased public fears, as homosexuality 79 Leo Zuckerman, Â“Sex Crime Rate Low in Denver,Â” The Rocky Mountain News December 4, 1949. 80 Leo Zuckerman, Â“Sex Crime Rate Low in Denver,Â” The Rocky Mountain News December 4, 1949. 81 Leo Zuckerman, Â“Sex Crime Rate Low in Denver,Â” The Rocky Mountain News December 4, 1949. 82 Bernard Beckwith, Â“Violations of Moral Code Increa se Following Wars, Economic Stress.Â” The Denver Post May 31, 1949.
was now an identifiable person and largely grouped with all types of sex crimes. The Denver Post reported, Â“The conditions just described, although dangerous for the various reasons outlined, must not be confused in the publi c mind with the even more dangerous type of degenerate who preys on children.Â”83 As policing of homosexuality began to evolve from homosexual acts, to homosexual personho od, the public had only a vague conception of gay culture. The emergence of languag e and law regarding homosexuality slowly escalated throughout the 1950s but the polic ing of public acts of sexuality beginning in the late 1940s signaled a shift from p olicing of homosexual acts to homosexual personhood.84 The visibility of DenverÂ’s gay culture reached an Â“ all-time highÂ” by 1949.85 While the first gay bar in Denver opened in 1939 an d closed shortly after, in 1949 homosexuals began taking up residence in bars aroun d Capitol Hill until heterosexual customers went elsewhere and the bars only had gay patrons. Men from Lowry Air Force Base would routinely patronize bars with blatant ga y behaviorÂ—kissing, cuddling, and dancing with members of the same-sex. Many of them faced repeated arrest, but kept returning until heterosexual patrons avoided the ba r entirely.86 Captain William Sanders, Chief of the DMB in 1950 reported, Â“DenverÂ—like any other metropolitan areaÂ—has homosexuals and always is going to have themÂ….homos exuals will Â‘infiltrateÂ’ a tavernÂ…Several will appear at a tavern and being go od spenders the owner doesnÂ’t mind. 83 Bernard Beckwith, Â“Violations of Moral Code Increa se Following Wars, Economic Stress.Â” The Denver Post May 31, 1949. 84 While specific numbers are unknown as the Denver P olice Department destroyed all records relating to homosexuality, vagrancy, and public indecency in th e 1980sÂ—according to a Denver Police OfficerÂ— increased media attention and newspaper documentati on of arrests alludes to increased policing of the homosexual community in 1950s Denver. 85 Bernard Beckwith, Â“Violations of Moral Code Increa se Following Wars, Economic Stress.Â” The Denver Post May 21, 1949. 86 Noel, Â“Gay Bars,Â” 61.
nBut before he knows it homosexuals are his only pat rons.Â”87 As long as gay patrons kept their sexual activities to a minimum, bar owners ro utinely welcomed their patronage. But public displays of homosexualityÂ—whether of affecti on or sexual attractionÂ—routinely led bar owners to call the police and have them rem oved them from the premises.88 The concern with homosexualityÂ—and other sexual act ivitiesÂ—erupted after WWII because of the rise in public displays of both heterosexual and homosexual encounters.89 In Denver, homosexual men experienced relative ano nymity in the years from 1940 to 1949 due to their invisibility and dis creetness regarding sexual encounters. In the years, preceding WWII, newspapers and media attention did not mention homosexuality but rather, focused on the vices of t he heterosexual population. The discussion of homosexual activities within Denver d id not appear until the early 1950s. Homosexual scenes had not yet offended the morality of the heterosexual public in Denver. Rather the public displays and incidents of other sex crimes guided moralists, to eliminate vices in Denver. As sex crimes and the la nguage regarding them developed, homosexuality slowly emerged as a public entity. On ly after it became a public entity did police seek to entrap and eliminate homosexual pers onhood from Denver. As language and media changed, new definitions of homosexuality emerged in Denver and the public and the police marked homosexuals as outsiders to t he moral code of the 1950s. 87 Noel, Â“Gay Bars,Â” 61. 88 Noel, Â“Gay Bars,Â” 61. 89 John DÂ’ Emilio for example, Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities, discusses the emergence of the gay rights movement in years following WWII. Allan Beru be, Coming Out Under Fire also discusses the ways in which WWII impacted the queer community. Ron How ard specifically examines how public acts of heterosexuality contributed to the rise of homosexu al policing; see Â“The Library, the Park, and the Pe rvert.Â”
Coming of Gays: The Language of Normalcy Gay culture in DenverÂ—like many queer scenes across the United StatesÂ—began 1950 as moral outsiders. Originally hidden beneath the governmentÂ’s concern with heterosexual immorality, the systematic and consist ent regulation of heterosexual vices illuminated the growing number of homosexual men an d women living in Denver. Homosexual men continued to operate within public s paces as the DMB began policing all sexuality in Denver. Cruising grounds around Br oadway and the Civic Center Park continued to be meeting places for both old and new members of the burgeoning culture. As heterosexual vices drew attention to the public exhibition of homosexuality within these areas, the general-public became increasingly aware of queer culture and its actions. The experience of DenverÂ’s gay culture would vacill ate through the 1950s. In the early 1950s, increases in media attention would mak e homosexual acts a display and attempt to define the homosexual identity for Denve rÂ’s public. Complicated and ineffective definitions of the homosexual identity, helped create indifference for the homosexual community because the public did not und erstand the concept of homosexuality as an exhibitionist menace, and homos exual as a moral identity. Homosexuality continued to coexist with heterosexua l vices, and conceal itself underneath the guise of other sexual immorality. Th e increased attention given to sexual crimes throughout the 1950s created a negative imag e of queer culture. Denver, through use of national and local means, intended to define homosexual personhood for the masses but created the moral problem it was seeking to eliminate. In order for Denver officials to police immorality, it defined homosexu ality for the public and by doing so helped create the gay identity and the gay communit y. By the end of the 1950s, the
publicity of homosexuality, combined with increasin g and unrelenting additions in sodomy and anti-gay laws culminated in a very publi c, and cohesive gay community fighting for normative recognition under the law. Newspaper headlines began appearing in the early 19 50s to describe homosexual culture as sexual deviants, sexual psychopaths, and perverts intending to create a hostile environment for the emerging minority. Homosexualit y in the 1950s emerged as the antithesis to American normalcy. In the mid twentie th century, a binary conception of gender came to equate anything outside strict mascu line and feminine roles as abnormal. As sociologist Jack Drescher states, Â“Rigid gender beliefs often flourish in fundamentalist, religious communities where any information or alte rnative explanations that might challenge implicit and explicit assumptions are unw elcome.Â”90 HeteronormativityÂ—the assertion heterosexuality and pro-creation sex is n ormalÂ—created queer individuals as inherently abnormal in the post-war era.91 The federal government used heteronormativity as a basis for Â“Cold War Diplomac y,Â” and the creation of homosexuals as security risks was founded in the governmentÂ’s s taple defense against communismÂ— the nuclear family.92 Â“Sexual deviants were so readily equated with secu rity risks because they were so readily susceptible to seduction and b lackmail,Â” as one historian notes.93 In 1950, the U.S. Senate stated in its report, Employment of Homosexuals and other Sex 90 Jack Drescher, American Psychiatric Association, Queer Diagnoses: Parallels and Contrasts in the History of Homosexuality, Gender Variance, and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual ." Last modified September 25, 2009. 91 Heteronormativity is a belief that asserts that he terosexuality is the normal sexual orientation and any deviation from strict gender categories of man and womanÂ—and any marital status besides those between opposite sexesÂ—places you outside this norm. For a more detailed discussion and its implications withi n queer and feminist theory see: S Jackson, Â“Gender, Sexuality and Heterosexuality: The Complexity (and limits) of Heteronormativity Â” Feminist Theory 7 ( 1). Aug 12, 2009, pp. 105-121. 92 For a more detailed discussion regarding the nucle ar family and Cold War DiplomacyÂ’s reliance of, see : Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War E ra (New York: Basic Books, 1988.) 93 Stephen J. Whitfield, The Culture of the Cold War (Baltimore, London: John Hopkins University Press 1996,) 44.
Perverts, Â“It follows that if blackmailers can extort money from a homosexual under the threat of disclosure, espionage agents can use the same type of pressure to extort confidential information or other material they mig ht be seeking.Â”94 The federal government pursued homosexuals fervently in the 195 0s because of their alternative sexual lifestyle, deviation from sexual conformity, and the supposed threat they posed to the American way of life.95 A reintroduction of masculine vigor and increased r eliance on masculine and feminine gender roles became imperative in the 1950 s. As one historian notes, Â“The apparent nexus between the communist menace, diseas e, and illicit sexuality was strengthened by the concerted drive after the Secon d World War to re-establish conventional definitions of masculinity and feminin ity especially the dominance of heterosexuality and what was to become known as the Â‘nuclear family.Â’Â”96 Nationally, the 1950s introduced new ideas of mass consumption and suburbaninity, which would continue economic growth, as well as keep the U.S. in its place as the dominant power in the western sphere.97 However, these new requirements for normalcy femin ized the American man. Mass culture had created passive cons umers and stereotyped women as easily manipulated. As historian James Gilbert arti culates, Â“the effects of conformity, suburban life, and mass culture were depicted as fe minizing and debasing, and the 94 U.S. Senate, Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sex Perverts in Government, Interim Report submitted to the Committee on Expenditures in the E xecutive Departments. (Washington, DC, 1950), 5. 95 Geoffrey S. Smith, "National Security and Personal Isolation: Sex, Gender, and Disease in the Cold-Wa r United States," The International History Review 14. no. 2 (1992): 307-337, 314; David K. Johnson, The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays an d Lesbians in the Federal Government (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.) 96 Smith, "National Security and Personal Isolation,Â” 313 97 For a more through discussion regarding mass consu mption and its effects on masculinity, manhood, and American Cold War Politics see Kyle Cuordileone, Manhood and American Political Culture in the Cold War, (New York: Routledge, 2005); also see James Gilbert Men in the Middle: Searching for Masculinity in the 1950s, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.)
proposed solution often lay in the renewal of tradi tional masculine vigor and individualism.Â”98 The fear of a destabilized country through upsetti ng heteronormative gender binaries helped exacerbate attitude toward h omosexual culture as abnormal and frightening. Nationally, sexuality created tensions in American domestic and foreign policy. The language of homosexuality encompassed more than sexual acts and identity in the 1950s as the U.S. government politicized gender and sexuality. The government introduced a new level of homophobia into mainstrea m culture through accusing political officials of being both security risks and communis ts, purging suspected homosexuals from government employment, and defining homosexual s as communists. The state related the mental and sexual health of the individ ual to that of the symbolic state body. The deviation of homosexual men from normative gend er expression threatened the basis of American political culture. Sexual deviance from heteronormativity was destabilizing to an increasingly urbanized and industrial world, and the drive to control all forms of immorality functioned only as an example of the fed eral governmentÂ’s use of heteronormativity to guide policies of the Cold War Whether intentional or unintentional, the U.S. government was responsible for projecting the subversive image of homosexuals into the American mainstream in the 1950s, which in troduced a new and irrational fear of the newly identifying homosexual people.99 Government reliance of strict gender binaries to di ctate domestic and foreign policy created a juxtaposition of heterosexuality a nd homosexuality. The culture equated 98 James Gilbert, Men in the Middle: Searching for Masculinity in the 1950s (Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press, 2005,) 4. 99 Robert J. Corber, Homosexuality in Cold War America, (Durham, London: Duke University Press, 1997,) 11-12
heterosexuality with the good/moral and homosexuali ty with the bad/immoral, and permeated all localities across the United States i ncluding Denver. As Drescher concludes: The good/bad binary is not confined to religion alo ne as the language of morality is inevitably found, for example, in theories about the Â‘causesÂ’ of homosexuality. For in the absence of certitude about homosexuality Â’s Â‘etiology,Â’ binary gender beliefs and their associated moral underpinnings fr equently play a role in theories about the causes and/or meanings of homosexuality. When one recognizes the narrative forms of these theories, some of the mora l judgments and beliefs embedded in each of them become clearer.100 The relationship created between heterosexuality an d homosexuality in the 1950s dictated the actions of the DMB, and subsequently, their tre atment of gay culture. By the 1950s, law enforcements learned of homosexual culture unin tentionallyÂ—Â“or by accidentÂ”Â—as they shed light on the existence of the people. The national delineation of moral/immoral, or normal/abnormal, elucidated why the DMB concerne d itself with policing immorality in the first place. Denver began by policing vices based upon ideas of religious and moral law as the federal government dictated it. Religion and normative sexual practices constructed homosexuality as immoral and thus, need ed removing from the American way of life. DenverÂ’s reaction to the emerging homo sexual minority was simply an example of federally constructed heteronormative po licies.101 Military and local governments in large urban areas Â—such as those in New York and San FranciscoÂ—had begun creating anti-gay polic ies as early as World War I. As historian Margot Canaday writes, Â“[T]here was a pol icy against being a homosexual, and 100 Drescher, Â“Queer Diagnoses,Â” 431. 101 For a more general and detailed discussion on cons truction of homosexual identity through the process of state building, see Margot Canaday, The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in th e American Twentieth Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009.) Ca naday argues that the federal governmentÂ—due to an increasing awareness and visib ility of homosexuality in the twentieth centuryÂ— developed federal policy that would exclude homosex uals from immigration, welfare, and the military. Ultimately, such policies culminated in the restric tion of specific rights that limited homosexuals fr om living as full citizens of the United States.
it was federal in nature. States and localities gen erally policed homosexual acts; sometimes the feds did as well. Yet in addition, it was the federal government that gradually developed tools to target homosexual pers onhood or status, the condition of being homosexual.Â”102 The sudden visibility of the queer minority after WWII exacerbated legal tensions regarding homosexual per sonhood, which reached new levels in the 1950s. When anti-gay rhetoric began to perme ate government documents as well as national and local media, it intended to curtail th e emergence of the queer minority by using the general population to combat the recognit ion of homosexuality. By labeling queer men and women as abnormal, federal, and local authorities enlisted the help of the public to identify and report homosexual activity a nd exclude them from benefits of citizenship. The repression of sex and gender nonco nformity in the 1950s increased as the state began to legally define homosexual personhood and make homosexuality a publicly named minority. As early as 1950, newspapers began publishing artic les to inform Denverites of the growing number of sex crimes, as well as the di fficulty of answering the question, what do we do with homosexual men? The overwhelming majority of newspaper headlines dedicated to the homosexuality between 19 50 and 1953 discussed the need for definitions and recognition of the minority. Sam Lu sky of the Rocky Mountain News and Bernard Beckwith of the Denver Post wrote many articles regarding homosexual culture and its impact on Denver. Lusky, one of the few wri ters for the Rocky Mountain News covered the majority of public relations stories in Denver. Lusky was born on February 27, 1923, in Memphis, Tennessee and graduated from the University of Denver in 1943. He majored in political science and minored in jour nalism. Lusky began writing at the 102 Canaday, The Straight State, 7.
Rocky Mountain News shortly thereafter and began his career as a quickwitted and sharp public relations correspondent.103 Bernard Â“BeckÂ” Beckwith wrote for The Denver Post and covered the Denver Judicial Courts, the DMB, an d Denver Police Department as early as World War II. Â“BeckÂ” vigilantly covered th e problem of morality in Denver as it came to encompass everyday life for Denverites.104 Both local newspapers described homosexuality in a negative fashion in the 1950s, but many of the articles simply aimed to dra w attention to sexual crimes, rather than encourage condemnation of gay culture. Many of the articles encouraged DenverÂ’s community to recognize and acknowledge the existenc e of homosexuality, but focused more heavily on the presence of exhibitionists and incidence of molestation. An article by The Rocky Mountain News stated, Â“There are the homosexuals who frequent pu blic parks and theaters at the lower end of the cityÂ…There are the quiet homosexuals who outwardly live moral, normal lives and ply their Â‘h abitsÂ’ in secret.Â”105 Media attention on DenverÂ’s homosexual scene in 1950 focused on the pu blic display of homosexual acts rather than the identity of homosexual men. The equ ation of homosexuality and sex offenders followed the national trend of homosexual s as psychopathic offenders, and Denver newspapers attempted to separate out and dra w distinction between sex offenders and the homosexual minority. By insinuating there w as a difference between homosexual men who partake in cruising grounds around the capi tal, and those that do not, the 103 Tillie Fong, Â“Sam Lusky Left News to Make Mark as Public Relations Man.Â” The Rocky Mountain News, November 13, 1998. 104 Â“Direct from Headquarters by Bernard "Beck" Beckwi th: Watch Dogs Â“(The Denver Post newspaper clipping) University of Utah Photograph Archives 19 52-1955 University of Utah J. Willard Marriott Library. Accessed October 02, 2014. 105 Sam Lusky, Â“Scavengers of Society: Perverts Find L oopholes in Law.Â” The Rocky Mountain News, November 9, 1950.
municipal government and the media helped illustrat e the difference between sexual crimes and sexual identity. Media inclusion of homosexuals under umbrella terms such as perverts, degenerates, sexual psychopaths, and deviants led t o public suspicion. As one headline in the Rocky Mountain News highlighted, Â“Denver Civic Groups Awakening to Men ace of the Sex Criminal.Â” The public display of homosexual ity began to frighten the heterosexual population because the language dedica ted to describing gay culture included sexual assault, molestation, and exhibitio nism.106 The language regarding homosexuality did not define the minority itself, b ut attempted to legally attribute their deviation from heteronormativity as a crime. Howeve r, by 1953, state and federal governments did begin to formally recognize homosex uality as distinctive from the category of sexual crimes. According to the United States Senate, Â“Even the terms Â‘sex pervertÂ’ and Â‘homosexualÂ’ are given different conno tations by the medical and psychiatric experts.Â”107 Within government documents and the media, state a nd local officials defined homosexuals as sexual perverts, s exual deviants, sexual psychopaths, and sexual inverts. Additionally, government docume nts increased confusion as one historian recognizes, Â“When not referred to directl y as homosexuals or sex perverts, such persons were often called Â‘moral weaklings,Â’ Â‘sexua l misfits,Â’ Â‘moral risks,Â’ Â‘misfits,Â’ Â‘undesirablesÂ’ or persons with Â‘unusual morals.Â’Â”108 By 1953, state and local authorities slowly began to recognize homosexuality based upon identity, rather than sexual acts. 106 Â“Denver Civic Groups Awakening To Menace of the Se x Criminal.Â” The Rocky Mountain News March 19, 1950. 107 U.S. Senate, Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sex Perverts in Government, Interim Report submitted to the Committee on Expenditures in the E xecutive Departments. (Washington, DC, 1950), 2. 108 David K. Johnson, The Lavender Scare: The Persecution of Gays and Les bians in the Federal Government (Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press, 20 04,) 7.
The problem for the public was that homosexuality n ever presented itself so concretely, and then created dual images for public understandi ngÂ—was homosexuality the sexual deviants who participated in sexual displays in par ks, bathrooms, around Broadway and Civic Center Park? Or were homosexuals people capab le of leading moral lives? Many homosexual men who cruised the capital for intimate relationships led upstanding moral lives, but chose to participate in gay culture in t he only way many knew howÂ—publicly. DenverÂ’s queer culture changed in the 1950s. Homose xual men arranged meetings with each other in bars, parks, and bathro oms throughout the decade. But, as state and local officials began to define homosexua lity based upon personhood, the state tried to create a moral problem out of the minority they helped illuminate. Before the media began to define homosexuality as two entities Â—public and privateÂ—the state could prosecute homosexuality as a sexual crime molestati on, rape, assault, and exhibitionism. However, the state began to delineate homosexuality based upon personhood as Denver incorporated national language into its municipal l aws. While Denver reporters often used negative language to describe homosexuality, t heir goal was to draw attention to the public display of sexuality, and report sexual crim esÂ—not necessarily to condemn the homosexual person.109 The increased media attention from local newspaper s sought to define homosexuality for the masses, if only to off icially recognize a supposed problem for Denver society. Hidden Among Heterosexual Immorality Members of gay culture in Denver flew under the pro verbial sexual radar. The Denver Morals Bureau, while faced with an increasin g number of sexual crimesÂ—and 109 Bernard Beckwith, Â“Stricter Laws Urged: Sex Offens e Growing Denver Problem.Â” The Denver Post March 26, 1950
noutrage from the heterosexual community that the bu reau could not prevent themÂ— continued to focus on heterosexual vices such as Â“s tag shows,Â” pornography, and gambling. The Rocky Mountain News stated, Â“Denver is making Â‘a rapid return to the bawdy, tawdry wild and tough era of its infamous yo uthÂ…Â’Rampant are prostitution, dope, strip teasers, juvenile vandalism, gambling a nd rolling of visiting cattlemen and oilmen. Plus a lot of sex.Â”110 The assertion of DenverÂ’s rampant immorality appea red in a magazine article written from Morals Bureau police records in 1953. Despite the state denying its accusations, Captain McCoy of the Moral s Bureau allegedly signed off on the document for publication. The increase in heterosex ual crimes and immoral vices continued to allow homosexuality to go unnoticed in lieu of heterosexual immorality. The influx in visitors to the Mile High City concerned police, as these individuals were the prime customers of illegal sexual activities.111 Heterosexual immorality continued to concern the gr owing number of Denver residents. Exotic shows and sexual novelty gifts en cumbered visitors and residents alike. The Morals Bureau simply could not regulate the pro fitable business of sex. Sam Lusky of the Rocky Mountain News stated, Â“The business of strippingÂ—exotic dancing, in the parlance of the tradeÂ—is a sizable one in Colorado and a money-making oneÂ….How far the gals can Â‘take it offÂ’ in response to urgent pl eas from the audience depend on what the mood of the local police happens to be at the time. Â”112 DenverÂ’s history as a transit center exacerbated the occurrence of exotic shows and sex stores because of social clubs and 110 Â“WriterÂ’s Just Nuts, Police and Prosecutor Agree: Magazine Find Denver Full of Sin and Crime.Â” The Rocky Mountain News, July 21, 1953. 111 Â“WriterÂ’s Just Nuts, Police and Prosecutor Agree: Magazine Find Denver Full of Sin and Crime.Â” The Rocky Mountain News, July 21, 1953. 112 Sam Lusky, Â“Sex for Sale (First of Series) Stag Sh ow Stripper get the Cash.Â” The Rocky Mountain News, September 17, 1950.
traveling businessmen. As prime buyers and attendee s of stag shows, elite men in Denver intensified the escalating world of sex.113 Another article in the Rocky Mountain News stated, Â“Playing cards, cigaret [ sic ] packages, pencilsÂ—all have been invaded by sexÂ…The pirating here is terrific. EverybodyÂ’ steal s from everybody else. The cuttings range all the way from the slightly salty-Â‘above th e counterÂ’ stuffÂ—to the downright filthy, so filthy that most people flinch at hearin g themÂ…But there is Â‘sex for saleÂ’ in Denver, in many forms.Â”114 The necessity to control the influx of sex in Denv er paralleled an increase in the number of sexual crimes. The DMB sought to decrease the number of sexual crimesÂ—rape, assault, molestation, and exhib itionismÂ—by suffocating the sex trade. However, Â“[There are] probably more passionÂ’ s playthings, hard-boiled virgins, impatient lovers and desperate menÂ’ loose today tha n ever before it you can believe the cover blurbs,Â” according to Lusky.115 The increased risk of sexual crimes and blatant sexuality created a public scene of all forms of se xuality. The DMB may have considered homosexuality the lesser of two evils. The close proximity of military bases to Denver con tinued to cause problems for the DMB. Military personnel continued to partake in activities in Denver in the 1950s and continued to bring to light homosexual activity The Rocky Mountain News reported, Â“Seven youths, all soldiers, were arrested and hosp italized. Five had a venereal disease. They all went to Canon City PenitentiaryÂ—after one of them got insanely jealous of 113 Sam Lusky, Â“Sex for Sale (Second in a Series) Porn ographic Â‘ClassicsÂ’ Cost the Customer Plenty.Â” The Rocky Mountain News, September 18, 1950. 114 Sam Lusky, Â“Sex for Sale (Last of a Series) Playin g Cards and Pencils ear Photos of Nude Girls Nowadays.Â” The Rocky Mountain News September 19, 1950. 115 Sam Lusky, Â“Sex for Sale (Second in a Series) Porn ographic Â‘ClassicsÂ’ Cost the Customer Plenty.Â” The Rocky Mountain News, September 18, 1950.
another for stealing his Â‘boyfriendÂ’ and talked too much.Â”116 Military personnel continued to contribute to gay cultureÂ’s public emergence thr oughout 1950s Denver and worsen legal problems for the homosexuals. Similar to situ ations in the 1940s, military and local police attempted to curb military personnelÂ’s parti cipation in all forms of nonreproductive sexual acts to protect military contri butions from Denver. An increase in violent crimes paralleled increases in sex crimes in Denver. In 1951, a group of young men attacked, kidnapped, and robbed three young men who were present in a park after hours. According to the Denver Post police rounded up the assailants based upon physical appearance and quest ioned them: Â“The victims of the attacks said at first they were unable to account f or the brutal treatment they received. But when the young assailants were rounded up and arres ted by police they told officers the Â‘victimsÂ’ attempted to pick them up and that Â‘acts of perversion were discussed.Â’Â”117 The assailants vented their anger by attacking the thre e young men, and robbing them, Â“wellknowing the chances of any complaints being made we re almost nil.Â”118 However, homosexual men did file complaints with Denver Poli ce and Denver Police followed through and arrested many men for attacking homosex ual men and women. Many homosexual men would never consider going to the po lice regarding the attacks, but in 1951 the Denver Morals Bureau did not concern itsel f with regulating the homosexual person; they were merely concerned with the public display of sexuality. 116 Sam Lusky, Â“Scavengers of Society: Perverts Find L oopholes in Law.Â” Rocky Mountain News, November 7, 1950. 117 Bernard Beckwith, Â“Centuries-Old Morals Problem Ha ngs Over Denver Civic Center.Â” The Denver Post, November 25, 1951. 118 Bernard Beckwith, Â“Centuries-Old Morals Problem Ha ngs Over Denver Civic Center.Â” The Denver Post, November 25, 1951.
The Denver Morals Bureau continued to patrol public venues in search of prostitution, pornographic shows, and other illicit activities. The battle to enforce sex offender laws began to grow as the media and police portrayed increasingly negative images of the homosexual person and equated them wi th rapists, exhibitionists, molesters, and communists. The Denver Post stated: [T]oday his lurking presence is reckoned with more by Denver police than in any other period of police history, for his number is e ver increasingÂ…This hunted marauder is a prowler of many disguises. He may be a child molester, and there is no way of knowing by the cut of his jaw or the drap e of his suit. He may be a pervert of his own sex. Or he may be an exhibitioni st.119 Increases in violent crimes that accompanied sex cr imes urged Denver officials to combat the growing problem of sexual deviance. By 1953, De nver officials would successfully create homosexuality as a moral problem, and associ ate it with a personal identity and pursue prosecution of sexual deviation. Homosexuali ty was no longer about the public display of sexuality; it became a moral imperative to protect DenverÂ’s public from the homosexual menace. Homosexuality and the Law Colorado established sodomy laws congruent with Eng lish common law with its establishment as a territory in 1853. In 1939, Colo rado changed its sodomy laws to include fellatio, and changed the language to defin e these acts as Â“crimes against nature,Â” and covertly target non-reproductive sexual acts.120 Between 1939 and 1963, laws pertaining to homosexual activity included all form s of non-reproductive sexual activity. 119 Bernard Beckwith, Â“Stricter Laws Urged: Sex Offens e Growing Denver Problem.Â” The Denver Post March 26, 1950 120 Colorado Laws 1939, Law of April 3, 1939, ch. 97,  p. 318
Between 1952 and 1953, new legal categories officia lly defined homosexuality. In 1952, the American Psychological Association publis hed the first edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-I), which was a publication that listed Â“all t he conditions psychiatrists then considered to be a me ntal disorder. [The] DSM-I classified Â‘homosexualityÂ’ as a Â‘sociopathic personality distu rbance,Â’Â” and identified it as a mental disorder capable of cure.121 In 1953, Colorado enacted psychopathic offender la ws that provided for indefinite institutionalization for co mmitting sex crimes, effectively putting homosexuals in the same legal category as rapists a nd child molesters.122 However, as early as 1950, psychiatrists and law officials bega n discussing how to legally deal with the homosexual menace in Denver. The Rocky Mountain News stated, Â“Now, a great number of psychiatrists agree with district attorne ys and other law enforcement officers that many perverts and degenerates canÂ’t be cured; that they must be put away so they wonÂ’t corrupt normal persons.Â”123 While the introduction and solidification of psychopathic offender laws called for the incarcera tion of homosexual men and women, Denver officials never fully agreed upon the classi fication of homosexuals as mentally unstable, or that incarceration was an appropriate punishment. The Rocky Mountain News stated, Â“Many sexual deviatesÂ—members of society wh o have abnormal desires or prefer lovers of their own sexÂ—fail to respond to treatmen t. They run afoul of the law time and again. That fact has caused a change in psychiatric thinking.Â”124 Indeed, psychiatrists and sociologists routinely fought against lawyers, offi cers, and jurists because many 121 Drescher, Â“Queer Diagnoses,Â” 432. 122 Colorado Laws 1953, Law of April 1, 1953, ch. 89, Â§Â§ 1-10,  p. 249 123 Sam Lusky, Â“Scavengers of Society: Many Perverts C annot Be Cured.Â” The Rocky Mountain News November 12, 1950. 124 Sam Lusky, Â“Scavengers of Society: Many Perverts C annot Be Cured.Â” The Rocky Mountain News November 12, 1950.
community members in Denver did not fear homosexual men and women, and did not agree with the legal classification of homosexuals as criminals.125 DenverÂ’s legal officials never agreed on the treatm ent of homosexuals. While the state enacted psychopathic offender laws to define homosexuality as a crime, the treatment of homosexuals in Denver courts varied. A n article in the Rocky Mountain News discussed District Judge Albert T. FrantzÂ’scriticis m of the laws defining legal treatment of homosexuality as lagging behind contem porary science. The judge stated: For years it has been a matter of scientific and cl inical knowledge that a homosexual is the victim of a constitutional or psy chological development which gives him a sexual orientation that is different fr om the established social pattern, but such knowledge has not changed the popular view which is guided more by unreasoning emotion than by rational thinkingÂ…As us ual, the law is lagging behind science in the treatment of homosexuals. It is hoped [this] case will awaken the legislative department of the state to t he urgent need of some institution proper and adequate to take care of peo ple suffering from sexual aberrations. But until that is done, the courtÂ’s ha nds are tied and he must reluctantly impose upon you a punishment for being what you cannot help being.126 Under the 1953 psychopathic offender law, any homos exual man or woman who appeared in court legally had to submit to psycholo gical testing before being able to be sentenced. As many judges noticed, placing homosexu al men and women in exclusively male or female institutions only increased occurren ces of homosexual behavior.127 Indeed, the psychopathic offender law required homosexual m en to submit for psychological assessment regarding their sexual identity, but the ir penalty was still associated with their sexual acts. While many attorneys and lawyers obser ved that religious and moral law governed the treatment of homosexuals in Denver, th ey routinely spoke out against DenverÂ’s lack of adequate understanding between hom osexuality and homosexual acts. 125 Sam Lusky, Â“Scavengers of Society: Many Perverts C annot Be Cured.Â” The Rocky Mountain News November 12, 1950. 126 Â“Homosexuality Laws Critcized by Judge.Â” The Rocky Mountain News, March 10, 1953. 127 Â“Homosexuality Laws Critcized by Judge.Â” The Rocky Mountain News, March 10, 1953.
In 1954, a man named Ray Hawkins appeared in Denve rÂ’s court on charges of a Â“crime against nature,Â” and in 1955, his attorneys appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court citing the 1953 psychopathic offender law as cause for dismissal. Ray Hawkins never received the mandatory psychological testing incriminating him as a homosexual. His attorney defended Hawkins against the Colorado Supreme Court using the psychopathic offender law as basis for the need to strike Hawkins sentence, because he was never examined by a psychiatrist. The court rec ord reads as follows: The second contention made by counsel for defendant is that, under chapter 39, article 19, '53 C.R.S., the trial court was require d to order a complete psychiatric examination of defendant. The argument is wholly wi thout merit. The statutory provision is to the effect that in the type of sex cases specifically mentioned, Â‘if the district court is of the opinion that any such person, if at large, constitutes a threat of bodily harm to members of the public, or is an habitual offender and mentally ill, the district court in lieu of the sen tence now provided by law, for each such crime, may sentence such person to a stat e institution for an indeterminate term having a minimum of one day and a maximum of his natural life.Â’ CRS '53, 39-19-1. The statute further provid es, in substance, that if, in the discretion of the trial court, it is of the opinion that an offender falls within the class above described, the said sentence of one day to life shall not be entered until a complete psychiatric examination shall have been made of said defendant. The court has discretion to order such examination, or to impose the penalty as directed *159 by the statute which defines the offe nse. The record in this case fails to disclose any abuse of this discretion and no error was committed in this connection.128 In 1955, Ray Hawkins filed a motion to vacate his s entence in the state penitentiary, strike his testimony from the record, and strike hi s plea of guilty and enter a plea of not guilty. The judge affirmed his sentence on the grou nds that Hawkins entered a plea of guilty under the direction of a competent attorney and because Hawkins did in fact pose a threat to those around him sustained his internment The case against Ray Hawkins demonstrates the stateÂ’s inability to follow its ow n laws regarding homosexual behavior. The psychopathic offender laws created a way for th e courts to effectively define 128 Hawkins v People, 281 P.2d 156 (Colorado 1955).
homosexual activity and to persecute homosexual per sonhood. However the court continued to impose harsh sentences for men partaki ng in public acts of sexuality if the court deemed them harmful to the publicÂ—or negative to the reputation of Denver. The case of Hawkins vs. People is a consistent example of DenverÂ’s preoccupation with sexual morality and DenverÂ’s reputation. Indeed, th e introduction of the 1953 Psychopathic Offender Law did little to help Denver Â’s government understand or castigate gay culture. Local authorities primary co ncern continued to be that of DenverÂ’s reputation, and homosexual acts in public places. Between 1950 and 1953, news sources condemned the i nability of the DMB to contain the public display of sexuality and the lac k of legal action against them. Nine out of 18 articles published by the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post, criticized the DMBÂ’s lack of efficiency in defining and regulating public acts of homosexuality. The Rocky Mountain News stated, Â“Many more Denverites than you realize are involved in corrupt sexual acts. But these violators can genera lly win in the courts because they employ skillful attorneys and because the evidence is so debatable.Â”129 Because the evidence was usually circumstantial, defendants cha rged with immoral sex acts generally received more temperate punishments. The patrolling of Civic Center Park was one of the only methods to prohibit public acts of sexuality. The Rocky Mountain News stated, Â“Captain McCoy said it was impossible to keep all D enverÂ’s sex deviates under surveillance, and the department is thus able to ge t only after a crime has been committed.Â”130 The Denver Post also recognized the difficulty in patrolling publi c 129 Sam Lusky, Â“Scavengers of Society: Acts of Sexual Degeneracy Are Difficult to Prove in Court.Â” The Denver Post November 10, 1950. 130 Â“Denver Civic Groups Awakening To Menace of the Se x Criminal.Â” The Rocky Mountain News March 19, 1950.
sexuality, Â“The departmentÂ’s breakdown on the numbe r of Â‘exposureÂ’ complaints showed they easily outnumber all other types of sex offens es. Along police row, the estimate is that for every actual molestation complaint, there are probably ten exposure charges.Â”131 Colorado laws lacked efficient language to properly prosecute acts of immorality, and until 1953, legal officials routinely treated homos exuality as a lesser crime than that of rape, assault, or molestation. Many of DenverÂ’s gay scenes operated outside publi c spaces. The idea of the Â“take-overÂ” movements within bars and restaurants c ontinued into the 1950s, and many of the participants were women. Â“Men are not the on ly offenders,Â” stated the Rocky Mountain News Â“There was a West Denver tavern, for example, whe re almost everyone present was female. The girls wore slacks and boyis h bobs, danced with each other and shunned the company of men.Â”132 Many tavern owners accepted the patronage as a paying customer is a paying customer, but when hete ronormative customers became angry, they would typically call upon the police to run gay patrons off. The Rocky Mountain News told the story of such a couple: A man and his wife stopped in for a drink after a s how. They didnÂ’t know the reputation of the place. The man left his wife alon e at the table for minute, and she was approached by one of the slack-clad women. Â‘HowÂ’s about a dance, honey?Â’ The wife was asked. She replied rather angr ily that she wasnÂ’t interested. The slack clad one, Â‘Why did you come to a place li ke this, then?Â’ INFURIATED [sic] by normalcy, she moved away.133 Homosexual men and women began to move their relati onships and sexuality into semiprivate spacesÂ—bars. Take-over movements were commo n in the 1940s because no 131 Bernard Beckwith, Â“Stricter Laws Urged: Sex Offens e Growing Denver Problem.Â” The Denver Post March 26, 1950 132 Sam Lusky, Â“Scavengers of Society: Acts of Sexual Degeneracy Are Difficult to Prove in Court.Â” The Denver Post November 10, 1950. 133 Sam Lusky, Â“Scavengers of Society: Acts of Sexual Degeneracy Are Difficult to Prove in Court.Â” The Denver Post November 10, 1950.
exclusively gay tavern operated. Or rather, no gay bar operated openly or knowingly to the public. By the 1950s, the reaction to public di splays of sexuality prompted many queer individuals to move sexuality away from outdo or cruising areas where police harassment and entrapment were common, and into spa ces where bar owners could offer them some resemblance of a refuge. In doing so, hom osexuality slowly began to move away from public acts of indecency, and moved towar d a moral minority. Throughout the 1950s, the public exhibition of sex uality dictated the treatment and defining of homosexuality. Sodomy laws, psychop athic offender laws, and the language of homosexuality all revolved around publi c acts of sexuality rather than personhood. In this context, public immorality conc erned the Morals Bureau more than the acts themselves. So long as queer culture acted with discretion, it could fly under the proverbial sexual radar, and avoid any interaction with legal officials. By the end of the 1950s, however, Denver would begin to understand th e difference between homosexual personhood and homosexual acts, and intensify their policing of the gay minority regardless of private or public relations. The End of Invisibility Homosexual culture in Denver began to function as a cohesive and public minority by the end of the 1950s. Despite arrests s ince WWII, homosexual men were able to navigate public spaces in a manner that did not draw attention during the latter half of the decade. Upper and middle class men began to mov e sexual relationships to spaces that were queer/gay only, and out of the public eye However, it was the language
ndescribing homosexual as communists, perverts, psyc hopaths, degenerates, sex offenders, and deviants that helped create the basis of Denver Â’s queer community. While larger urban areas hosted scores of homosexua l men and womenÂ—such as those in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and ChicagoÂ—Denver functioned as the organizing point for group activity for all of Colo rado and the west.134 As Alfred Kinsey noted, Â“The specific data on the particular rural a nd urban groups whichÂ…suggest that there is something in city life which encourages th e development of the homosexual. But the distinctive thing about homosexuality in the ci ty is the development of a more or less organized group activity which is unknown in any ru ral area.Â”135 The increase in number of automobiles reshaped the way Denver functioned a s they made and promoted social and physical mobility.136 The initiation of the interstate system in Colorad o created opportunities for homosexual men in rural areas to travel and partake in a burgeoning homosexual scene located in the stateÂ’s capital. Ho wever, it was the escalation of negative publicity throughout the 1950s that create d the need for the 1959 Mattachine Society Convention located in Denver. The Denver Chapter of the Mattachine SocietyÂ—a gay advocate group fighting for equal treatment under the lawÂ—began in 1957. Th e 1959 Mattachine Convention gathered homosexual men and womenÂ—as well as hetero sexual alliesÂ—from around the country to discuss the treatment of homosexuality i n the United States.137 One of the major reasons the society held the convention was t o discuss the language of 134 Noel, Â“Gay Bars,Â” 1978. 135 Kinsey et al, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male 455-457. 136 Noel et al, Denver: Mining Camp to Metropolis 225. 137 See introduction for specific details regarding co nvention.
homosexuality specific to Denver, and new psychiatr ic trends emerging to discuss homosexual personhood.138 The mission of the Mattachine society was to promot e a positive and moral image of the homosexual minority and to fight police entr apmentÂ—a practice used little by the Morals Bureau until 1960. The foundations of the Ma ttachine Society helped organize upper and middle-class white men in Denver around c ommon goals thus precipitating a gay community. Harold L. Call, a San Franciscan exp lained to the Denver Post about the Mattachine SocietyÂ’s history and purpose: The societyÂ…started in Los Angeles as a citizens co mmittee seeking to outlaw entrapment. Â‘The society recognizes the fact that t he law must protect the young. Anyone belonging to the society, or attending its m eeting, must be 21 years old. We also hold the view that the law must prohibit se x acts in public, must prevent the spread of disease and prohibit the use of force Â…But the mutually agreeable association of two individuals in private life shou ld be their own affair, so long as they respect the rights of others.Â’139 DenverÂ’s Chapter of the Mattachine society focused on the principle reason for discrimination in the Mile High SocietyÂ—public acts of sexuality. While many members of the homosexual minority in Denver led upstanding lives, it was the belief of many that public acts of indecency only exacerbated negative attitudes towards the gay community and hampered their acceptance from the state. Call continued: Most homosexuals are not insane, stupid, willfully perverted, unnatural or socially incompetent as is often believedÂ…the fact is that m ost homosexuals can and do lead useful and productive lives. Many of them are among our most respected and successful citizens. But homosexuals as such have o nly limited social and civil rights. In fact, our whole society is organized to keep them, in many respects, more completely oppressed than are various racial a nd religious minorities. This is why a group of responsible, socially conscious c itizens, including many who are not themselves homosexual has formed the Mattac hine Society. Its purpose is to encourage medical and social research pertaining to socio-sexual behavior and to publish the results of such research.140 138 Â“6th Annual Session: Group to Discuss Homosexual Needs, Â” The Denver Post, September 4, 1959. 139 Â“Meeting in Denver: Society Probes Problem of Perv ersion,Â” The Denver Post, September 5, 1959. 140 Â“Meeting in Denver: Society Probes Problem of Perv ersion,Â” The Denver Post, September 5, 1959.
The introduction of the Mattachine Society to the h eterosexual public of Denver hoped to calm fears that homosexual men were indecent, lustf ul, and immoral. Society members hoped to curtail a growing animosity towards the co mmunity by identifying themselves as separate from heterosexual immorality, as well a s communism, perversion, and molestation. Indeed, the meeting of the Mattachine convention in Denver helped focus the publicÂ’s attention on the idea that private sex ual acts among consenting adults were just that, private.141 The convention marks a definitive point for DenverÂ’ s homosexual community. Its occurrence marks two critical points for DenverÂ’s q ueer culture. While its event illustrates limited acceptance from the heterosexua l communityÂ—due to the amount of attention the convention received from newspapers a nd the lack of arrests of many wellknown homosexual men and womenÂ—the convention indic ates the earliest formation of an actual gay community in Denver. Members of the M attachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis (a national lesbian organizati on) and local medical, religious, and psychological authorities all congregated at the Al bany Hotel to discuss homosexual culture for the first time in Denver. The conventio n was one of the most public acknowledgements of homosexuality to date. Newspape r headlines and the DMB arrests of homosexual men and women throughout the 1950s on ly briefly described homosexuality as a personhood, and focus overwhelmi ngly on negative connotations of homosexuals relating to public displays of sexualit y and sexual crimes. Indeed, the convention and gathering of so many homosexual pers ons brought forth hundreds of homosexual personsÂ—many living normative moral live s and not partaking in public acts of sexualityÂ—to the forefront of the public minds. No longer was the homosexual 141 Howard, "Notes on the Convention," 1.
community hiding beneath heterosexual immorality. T hey had become a full-fledged public group of people fighting for recognition fro m the state. Throughout the 1950s, Denver residents created a m oral/immoral binary regarding all forms of sexuality. While federal pol icy furthered attention of the homosexual minority by equating them to communists, security risks, perverts, people with unusual morals, the increase in sex crimes, po rnography, and stag shows in Denver, all resulted in the labeling of homosexuality as ou tside the bounds of propriety. But it was always the public act of homosexuality that invited legal prosecution. The public exposure of a homosexual personhood, by the Mattach ine Society and eventually local media, rather than just homosexual acts, ignited pu blic debate in the 1960s. Members of the homosexual community would form relationships, open up exclusively and public gay bars, apply for marriage licenses, all in an at tempt for legal recognition from the state of Colorado.
CHAPTER III SEXUAL PRIVATIZATION: THE POLITICS OF MORAL RESPECT ABILITY It seemed like a normal interaction, as two men cas ually talking on the sidewalk would not usually draw the attention of bystanders. The first man, slender with blonde hair, boyish face, and a flair for modern fashion, discussed the weather with the second man, a tall brooding individual with dark eyes, and a secret. The two men exchanged words, nothing more than a simple discussion of the possible storm. As the conversation turned to more intimate matters, policemen suddenly appeared from nowhere and arrested the young blonde for attempting to solicit a homose xual encounter with the dark mysterious manÂ—another policeman.142 In the years following World War II, Â“plainclothesÂ” police officers routinely sought to entrap homosexual men across the country. The fear of homosexuality as a threat to heteronorm ativity and the nuclear family, and subsequently a threat to national security, stoked public fear and rage towards to the minority of homosexuals. New regulations and concern with immorality in Den ver named homosexuality as a cause for concern after 1959. A Denver Post editorial apologized for bringing up the subject, but reported Â“Â’the extent of homosexual ac tivity in DenverÂ’ made it necessary to alert the citizenry.Â’Â”143 Homosexuality was disquieting to the police force in the 1960s. The public display of sexualityÂ—discovered through policing of heterosexual immoralityÂ—codified homosexuality as immoral, unnat ural, and an affront to the heterosexual public in Denver. While scenes of poli ce entrapment were common for 142 Noel, Â“Gay Bars,Â” 62. 143 Noel, Â“Gay Bars,Â” 62.
homosexual individuals in the mid twentieth century so long as DenverÂ’s queer community was discreet, members faced relatively li ttle harassment until the 1960s. Public displays of sexuality, specifically sexual a cts, within public spheres caused homosexuals to emerge as a full minority and commun ity after 1959. The evolving negative language towards homosexuality, and increa ses in policing, helped DenverÂ’s queer community find a rallying point. The backlash that the Denver community began to experience during the late 1950s and 1960s encourag ed the privatization of sexual acts and sexuality. In an attempt to privatize their sex uality, the queer community began to progress into a culture that relegated itself to Â“g ay-onlyÂ” establishments and social interaction in personal homes. The gathering of lar ge numbers of homosexual men and women at the Mattachine Society Convention, reveale d DenverÂ’s heterosexual members to the growing number of homosexuals within Denver city limits. By 1960, members of the homosexual minority began to privatize their se xuality to avoid persecution and harassment from the DMB. Following the Mattachine convention, the homosexua l community in Denver erupted as a fully formed minority demanding equal treatment under the law. Members of the community confronted the general populace with psychological and legal arguments that homosexual men and women were not abhorrent, a bnormal, or appalling, but a moral minority of individuals worthy of recognition. As H arold CallÂ—member of the Denver Mattachine Society stated, Â“The society recognizes the factÂ…that the law must prohibit sex acts in publicÂ…But the mutually agreeable assoc iation of two individuals in private life should be their own affair so long as they res pect the rights of others.Â”144 While it would take several more years until popular media b egan to portray the homosexual 144 Â“Meeting in Denver: Society Probes Problem of Perv ersion,Â” The Denver Post, September 5, 1959.
community as a minority, members of the Denver Matt achine Chapter began to speak out against negative connotations of homosexuality in a n attempt to normalize it for the general public. DenverÂ’s national reputation required the control of immorality in the 1960s. While the DMB ardently regulated venereal disease, they were never capable of ridding Denver of its rough and tawdry reputation. The Vice Bureau believed prostitution was the main perpetrator in the carrier of venereal disease but by the 1960s, federal warnings began to include gay men and women in descriptions of VD.145 The District of Columbia Public Health Department began issuing warnings reg arding venereal disease that included homosexuals. Â“Â’[H]omosexuality has become recognized as a major problem in the control of the diseaseÂ’Â…In Denver, VD contacts are not broken down into heterosexual-homosexual categories, but the 50 perc ent figure seems high,Â”146 according to the Denver Post Â“Venereal disease, like homosexuality, is somethi ng nice people seldom care to talk about. When the two are connect ed, they become a doubly touchy topic.Â”147 Indeed, the Vice Bureau and Denver officials becam e increasingly concerned with homosexuality because of the connection to ven ereal disease and the secretive manner in which homosexuals operated. Dr. Sam Johns onÂ—Denver director of public health and preventative medicineÂ—stated, Â“Â‘weÂ’re su re the number of homosexual contacts growing, because we pretty much follow the national pattern. Homosexuals are so secretive that itÂ’s extremely difficult to obtai n from them information about the other 145 Bob Whearley, Â“Â’Militant MinorityÂ’ Poses Serious P roblem for Society,Â’ The Denver Post, February 14, 1965. 146 Bob Whearley, Â“Â’Militant MinorityÂ’ Poses Serious P roblem for Society,Â’ The Denver Post, February 14, 1965. 147 Bob Whearley, Â“Â’Militant MinorityÂ’ Poses Serious P roblem for Society,Â’ The Denver Post, February 14, 1965.
men with whom theyÂ’ve had relations; they donÂ’t wan t to get anyone else in trouble, especially in view of the stigma attached to homose xuality.Â”148 Although not directly correlated, the prevalence of venereal disease cont inued to alert the Vice Bureau to homosexuality in Denver. By the 1960s, homosexual i mmorality became the primary focus of the Vice Bureau and its regulation. While heterosexual immorality continued to be a problem, the Bureau set out to stigmatize and control the gay community zealously despite their pending retreat into private spaces. DenverÂ’s new anti-gay regulations stimulated action within the gay community. The process of moving homosexuality from public to private spaces helped the community with identity and community formation. Th e increase in gay bars assisted in giving immoral sexual acts between men, a moral fro nt in Colorado. While the bars operated as a public space for gay people, they cre ated privacy for sexual relationships. Harassment for kissing or cuddling in public would receive less attention in spaces that were knowingly and strictly gay-only. Additionally, if heterosexual patrons happened upon gay establishments, they often received harass ment from gay men resulting in their departure from the premises.149 Gay bars fostered a more cohesive identity through out the state, and gave activism a beachhead for legal and religious reform. The anti-gay laws in the 1950s and 1960s planted the early roots of acti vism within DenverÂ’s gay bars, and by the 1970s, Denver made far-reaching efforts for equ ality.150 148 Bob Whearley, Â“Â’Militant MinorityÂ’ Poses Serious P roblem for Society,Â’ The Denver Post, February 14, 1965. 149 Christopher Lowen Agee, The Streets of San Francisco: Policing and the Crea tion of a Cosmopolitan Liberal Politics, 1950-1972, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014,) 76-77 ; Noel, Â“Gay Bars,Â” 1978, 66-67. 150 Noel, Â“Gay Bars,Â” 1978.
Homophile groups, such as the Mattachine Society, g ained notoriety in the 1960s as they used interest-group politics to advocate fo r sexual equality.151 By promoting a moral and sexually restrained image of the homosexu al man, homophile activist groups sought to educate the public, and distance definiti ons of homosexuals from medical and psychological discourse.152 As historian Elizabeth Armstrong notes, Â“Homophile organizing in the 1950s and 1960s began the process of transforming homosexual identity from a private group consciousness into a public co llective identity. It established the legitimacy of creating public organizations of homo sexuals and the notion that homosexuals were a group deserving rights that coul d be won by engaging in interest group politics.Â”153 Notably, gay bars functioned as one of the few rel atively stable environments in which middle and lower-class indivi duals could participate in these types of political gatherings. At the same time, definitions of homosexual personh ood began to appear in local media. The Denver Post asked, Â“What is homosexuality? By definition, it is erotic desire for one of the same sex. But it is more, much more. It is a police problem and a moral question.Â”154 Morality represented the basis for anti-homosexual mentality. Denver officials and the Vice Bureau policed homosexual es tablishments established upon religious based laws governed by the idea of hegemo nic morality. The battle of the Â“Politics of Moral RespectabilityÂ” began in Denver in 1959. As groups such as the Mattachine Society gained notability, they began to battle morality as a justification for 151 Elizabeth Armstrong, Forging Gay Identities: Organizing Sexuality in San Frnacisco, 1950-1994 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.) 152 Christopher Lowen Agee, The Streets of San Francisco, 74-75; Elizabeth Armstrong, Forging Gay Identities: Organizing Sexuality in San Frnacisco, 1950-1994 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002,) 1; 153 Elizabeth Armstrong, Forging Gay Identities 3. 154 Bob Whearley, Â“Â’Militant MinorityÂ’ Poses Serious P roblem for Society,Â’ The Denver Post, February 14, 1965.
excluding homosexuals from society. Middle and uppe r class white men would advocate for the movement of sexuality to private spaces so the public would disconnect homosexuality with perversion and associate it with normal and moral relationships between consenting adults. By the end of the 1960s, anti-gay laws would come into question by both legal and religious officials. The privatizing of sexual actsÂ—moving them away from outdoor spacesÂ—took away the methods in which law enforcement agents could successfully arrest homosexual men, th us calling into question the entire foundation of anti-homosexual stigma in Denver. The Denver YMCA quickly became one of the first areas of conflict. The Denver YMCA As the municipal government continued to police imm orality throughout the city, homosexuals moved from openly public to semi-privat e places. Gay bars began to open to an exclusively gay clientele and the Young MenÂ’s Christian Association (YMCA)Â—a space which routinely fostered homosexual relations Â—continued to be a customary space for homosexuality in Denver. Terry ManganÂ—a journal ist and gay manÂ—interviewed a man by the name of A.J.R. born April 24, 1945. Â“RÂ” lived in Colorado Springs but would frequent Denver to experience gay culture. He moved to Denver in 1969, when he was 24 years old after he graduated from Colorado College. Mangan wrote, Â“Three years ago Â‘RÂ’ first went to the central YMCA in Denver. He had he ard vaguely of sex there. In the third floor menÂ’s restroom, he found a hole cut between t he last two toilet stalls. Since that time he has made it a practice to frequent this res troom.Â”155 The occurrence of 155 A.J.R., interview by Terry Mangan, Denver, CO, 197 1, Gay Coalition of Denver Collection (MSS #1151), Colorado Historical Society, Denver, Colora do.
nhomosexual activity within the Y was of common know ledge for many members of DenverÂ’s gay communityÂ—and the operators of the fac ility. Rollen N. Brousard, an exmarine from Chicago, Â“was sentÂ…to take over as exec utive secretary of the YMCAÂ’s main Denver Branch, he was given a double-barreled assignment: Â—Put the Y on a sound financial footing. Â—Â‘Get rid of the queers.Â’Â”156 Homosexual men soon faced increased animosity when visiting the Denver YMCA because of the number of men using it as a liaison for social and sexual interaction in the 19 60s.157 Denver continued to be a prominent stop for transie nts in the post war world. Many homosexual men came to Denver from surrounding rural communities. To authorities at the YMCA, transients were problemati c and unwelcome. As historian Margot Canaday notes, Â“[T]he transient in particula r was associated with the distinctive sexual subculture of hoboes and bums in which homos exuality featured prominently.Â”158 Throughout the depression, WWII, and the 1950s, the sexual subculture of transients contained notable homosexual undertones, which exac erbated public scenes of sexuality. DenverÂ’s YMCA eventually ousted all transients. Bro usard stated, Â“Â’Our residence hall has an average of 200 guests a night,Â’ he said. Â‘At one time, we were moving out four or five men a week. ItÂ’s tapered off now to two or thr ee, usually its transients who are killing us. WeÂ’ve got a list of 35 or 40 guys to wh om we wonÂ’t rent rooms because of what we know about them.Â”159 But Denver continued to be a gathering point for g ay men throughout the west. Traveling to larger urban area s on the west coast, animosity towards 156 Bob Whearley, Â“Homosexuals in Denver: Tough Stands Aids Â‘YÂ’ In Solving Problems,Â” The Denver Post, February 15, 1965. 157 Bob Whearley, Â“Homosexuals in Denver: Tough Stands Aids Â‘YÂ’ In Solving Problems,Â” The Denver Post, February 15, 1965. 158 Canaday, The Straight State, 92. 159 Bob Whearley, Â“Homosexuals in Denver: Tough Stands Aids Â‘YÂ’ In Solving Problems,Â” The Denver Post, February 15, 1965.
the transient community began in at the YMCA in Den ver. Indeed, gay men throughout surrounding areas knew that if they were looking fo r a homosexual encounter, it began at the Denver Y. The operators of the YMCA were aware of the extent of homosexual socialization at the association. Â“Much of the problem at the [De nver] Y centered around activity in the two dormitories, one with 8 beds, the other with 10 Â…Â” according to Brousard. Continuing, Â“[He] decided to bunk in the dorms for a few weeks, posing as a resident, to see first-hand what was happening. He saw, and he t ook swift action. He closed both dorms. Today, the beds in them are rented only to s ervicemen on leave and to members of supervised groups such as touring athletic teams Â…that didnÂ’t solve the problem.Â”160 In an attempt to reduce the occurrence of homosexual a ctivity in the Y, the executive secretary endeavored to avoid having homosexual men stay in the rooms with soldiers and teams. However, military personnel continually partook in homosexual activity both on and off military bases. YMCA authorities also we lded bathrooms shut after complaints of homosexual activities. According to t he Post Â“BrousardÂ…closed the restroom in the youth sectionÂ—a trouble spot here j ust as it was in the Washington YÂ— and converted it into a laundry facility.Â”161 However, the bathroom only stayed closed for a short amount of time and its regular occupants re sumed using the bathroom as a meeting place for sexual relations.162 Â“RÂ” first began to venture into the bathroom at th e age of 21. He stated Â“He has seen fellatio, sodomy, analingus, as well as group sex in the 160 Bob Whearley, Â“Homosexuals in Denver: Tough Stands Aids Â‘YÂ’ In Solving Problems,Â” The Denver Post, February 15, 1965. 161 Bob Whearley, Â“Homosexuals in Denver: Tough Stands Aids Â‘YÂ’ In Solving Problems,Â” The Denver Post, February 15, 1965. 162 A.J.R., interview by Terry Mangan, Denver, CO, 197 1, Gay Coalition of Denver Collection (MSS #1151), Colorado Historical Society, Denver, Colora do.
YMCA menÂ’s room; as many as five men at a time enga ged in mutual sex. The usual age is 25 to 35 but some much older men attend. Very fe w men under 20 seem to know about this place.Â”163 The use of semi-private spaces such as rooms and r estrooms at the Y indicate a movement out of public spaces such as Ci vic Center Park, and Capitol Hill. However, according to some gay men, the thrill of p ublic sex continually persuaded gay men and others to further their sexual liaisons in the public eye. Many men did not consider the hostility enjoyable o r thrilling. The apprehension many men felt regarding incrimination as gay result ed in overly careful practices to protect their identities and lives. One professor r emembers, Â“Four years ago there was an engineering student here who was carrying on with b oys in the YMCA building; he was arrested and taken to the police station, where he killed himself with a revolver. He was the son of [another] professor.Â”164 The fear and stigma that many men expected followi ng an arrest led many to take drastic action. Â“[Anothe r man] went to the central YMCA five times before he figured out how to achieve the desi red result. His fear of being caught was so great that he was extremely careful,Â”165 remembers Mangan. The Denver Morals Bureau confined militancy and regulation to the exe cutive secretary of the Denver Â“Y.Â” Many gay men believed they would find more toleranc eÂ—or less regulationÂ—within a semi-private institution because the police would n ot arrest without cause. The Denver Post explained, Â“Brousard is not happy about the coopera tion he has had from the vice bureau. He complains the police Â‘wonÂ’t do anything unless theyÂ’ve got a signed complaint. Maybe this is right, but it makes it tou gh when youÂ’re trying to control a 163 A.J.R., interview by Terry Mangan, Denver, CO, 197 1, Gay Coalition of Denver Collection (MSS #1151), Colorado Historical Society, Denver, Colora do. 164 Katz, Gay American History, 51. 165 A.J.R., interview by Terry Mangan, Denver, CO, 197 1, Gay Coalition of Denver Collection (MSS #1151), Colorado Historical Society, Denver, Colora do.
situation like this.Â’Â”166 Moreover, Brousard was in charge of all regulation and punishment within the Â“Y.Â” He stated, Â“Â’The Police Vice Bureau told me when I came here that there was only one way to solve the probl em,Â’ Brousard said. Â‘They told me I had to be a b----. Well, this is distasteful to me. Getting rough with these homosexuals is like pushing around a little kid. But sometimes I h ad to physically throw them out.Â’Â”167 The use of the Â“YÂ” as a socialization area decrease d throughout the 1960s but never stopped completely. Homosexual men would become inc reasingly careful regarding their actions. Some began employing someone to stand by t he door while sexual relations took place, or they would also make sure to open doors i n a certain way to make noises to alert occupants someone was entering.168 When the executive secretary in 1965 attempted to Â“get rid of the queers,Â” it only invited backlash a nd outspoken opposition. Perspectives on sex in semi-private or public space s differed within the gay community. While writing a newspaper article regard ing homosexual activity, Denver Post Staff Writer Bob Whearley interviewed several gay men. A graduate student at the University of Colorado indicated, Â“Â‘IÂ’m not the way I am by choice, but what am I supposed to do about itÂ—shoot myself? IÂ’ve never be en in trouble in my life, and, I assure you, I donÂ’t go around looking for it. IÂ’d b e afraid to even go into the Y here. I might give myself away, not intentionally, but one little incident could ruin my whole 166 Bob Whearley, Â“Homosexuals in Denver: Tough Stands Aids Â‘YÂ’ In Solving Problems,Â” The Denver Post, February 15, 1965. 167 Bob Whearley, Â“Homosexuals in Denver: Tough Stands Aids Â‘YÂ’ In Solving Problems,Â” The Denver Post, February 15, 1965. 168 A.J.R., interview by Terry Mangan, Denver, CO, 197 1, Gay Coalition of Denver Collection (MSS #1151), Colorado Historical Society, Denver, Colora do.
future.Â’Â”169 Due to increasing violence associated with public sex, many gay men began to shelve the thrill of public sex because of the s tigma attached to homosexuality. The decrease in number of homosexual men partaking in public sex acts reduced drastically in the 1960s. Much of this has to do wi th increased policing by the DMB, but also class stratification. Presumably, the majority of gay men who continued to use public areas for sexual encounters were apart of lower cla sses. As sexual privatization progressed, the majority of men capable of using se mi-private or private spaces for social interactions would be of the middle and upper class es.170 Members of the Mattachine SocietyÂ—an activist group requiring membership fees Â—and other gay activist groups would necessitate money to either rent spaces for s exual encounters, or have enough wealth they could afford their own home. Meetings f or the Mattachine Society would generally be held in the private homes for members. On more than one occasion, 216 West Madison Street in the affluent Cherry Creek ne ighborhood hosted members of DenverÂ’s Mattachine Chapter.171 Homosexual men capable of affording rooms without other tenants, or who could afford a private home, would undoubtedly be apart of a wealthier class of individuals. As stigma and polic ing increased, the threat of public shame encouraged those who could afford too, to mov e their sexuality away from public areas. The slightest incrimination of being gay in the 195 0s and 1960s could devastate a manÂ’s life. However, some men used the opportunity to explain to the public their feelings about the treatment of homosexuality in De nver. Â“Â’That teacher your guy at the 169 Bob Whearley, Â“Homosexuals in Denver: Tough Stands Aids Â‘YÂ’ In Solving Problems,Â” The Denver Post, February 15, 1965. 170 For a more detailed discussion of class and its im plications on queer culture, see: Charles Kaiser, The Gay Metropolis: The Landmark History of Gay Life in America, (New York: Grove Press, 2007.) 171 Rolland Howard, Â“One.Â” Denver Area Newsletter 3, no. 10 (1959): 1.
Y mentioned: He probably wasnÂ’t a homosexual at all but some kind of nut exhibitionist,Â’ one man, a department store clerk, complained. Â‘Tha tÂ’s the trouble; people like to blame every sex crime in the book on homosexuals. When a child gets molested or a woman gets raped, itÂ’s always a homosexual who did it.Â’Â”172 The use of the word homosexual to indicate the pres ence of any kind of sex crime did not diminish in the 1960s. Popular media portra yed homosexuals as sex offenders, degenerates, deviates, molesters, rapists, and exhi bitionists. The level of verbal animosity present within the law invited contempt and stigma for being gay, according to the Denver Post Â“One homosexual told The Post he thinks that the law, by its strong denunciation of homosexual acts, perpetuates public scorn for inverts and perhaps even encourages hoodlums to prey on lone men they see in such places as DenverÂ’s Civic Center. Â‘Public cruising can be dangerous,Â’ one hom osexual admits. Â‘This is why you see so many fellows patronizing the gay bars. TheyÂ’re s afe there.Â”173 The privatization of sexuality for DenverÂ’s gay community came as disdai n, stigma, and hostility increased in the 1960s. The populationÂ’s reaction to public exhi bitions of sexuality encouraged gay men and women to create spaces specifically for the mselves. Indeed, increased attention to their cruising areas helped fostered the creatio n of Â“gay-onlyÂ” establishments in downtown Denver. 172 Bob Whearley, Â“Homosexuals in Denver: Tough Stands Aids Â‘YÂ’ In Solving Problems,Â” The Denver Post, February 15, 1965. 173 Bob Whearley, Â“Homosexuals in Denver: Tough Stands Aids Â‘YÂ’ In Solving Problems,Â” The Denver Post, February 15, 1965.
Â“Gay Only:Â” Opposition and Community Formation thro ugh Gay Bars Gay only establishments became a safe haven for Den verÂ’s gay community. They offered private areas for gay men and women to inte ract without the apprehension that public cruising brought. The majority of gay bars i n the 1960s remained discreet. They would rarely put signs up, and only homosexuals who knew of their existence would recognize the inconspicuous signage. The majority o f policing gay bars was only by happenstance when the DMB would stumble upon the ba r or heterosexual patrons would inadvertently stop in for a drink.174 The creation of gay only establishments served multiple purposes for DenverÂ’s burgeoning community It privatized homosexualityÂ— removing displays of sexuality from public visibili tyÂ—and served as the beachhead for early activism. The gay bar was more than just a ba r for many men and women in the homosexual community. While it served its purpose f or lighthearted interaction filled with gaiety, it also helped moralize the homosexual community by promoting a middleclass and sexually restrained identity. By 1965, eight known bars catered to the homosexual community. As The Denver Post detailed, Â“A few years ago, Denver had two taverns that had reputations as Â‘gay bars,Â’ or homosexual hangouts. Today it has eight. Six of the eight are on the off-limits list of the Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board : Military police check them regularly to make sure there are no GIs among the p atrons.Â”175 The DMB regulated the homosexual community less when they were discreet, and operated behind the curtains of Â“gay-onlyÂ” establishments. The rise in gay bars ref lects larger changing patterns about gay socialization. As more gay men and women identi fied as homosexual, they 174 Noel, Â“Gay Bars,Â” 67. 175 Bob Whearley, Â“Homosexuals in Denver: Clientele Fe els Safer in Â‘Gay Bars,Â’Â” The Denver Post, February 16, 1965.
continually preferred to operate within bars that a llowed them to meet other homosexuals without fear of reproach from the heterosexual publ ic.176 However, DenverÂ’s gay community moved the display of homosexuality into s afer spaces to assist in the formation of a moral community through interest-gro up politics. Gay only establishments help foster community and i dentity formation for all gay men throughout the state. John Francis HunterÂ—a tra vel journalist and gay manÂ— contended: The chief reason for the phenomenon of gay bars is that under the old order, with almost universal pariahdom for the homosexual, anon ymity was obligatory and hiding part of the lifestyleÂ….Bars provided the onl y premises for lighthearted or heavy hearted socializing, not just pick-up pointsÂ… .[They] were the information centers where the ganglia of the gay grapevine inte rsected. A newly emerging gay learned the patois, became familiar with the opport unities as well as the risks concomitant with being a social renegade, a sexual exception, a freak and a loner. He discovered, often to his utter amazement, that t here was a place for him.177 While the Mattachine Society would hold meetings ou tside gay bars, in rented, or privately owned spaces, the society would dissemina te information throughout gay bars to invite, inform, and recruit new members. Subsequ ently, the rise in exclusive gay bars functioned as information centers of gay culture wi thin Denver. Gay men and women from all over ColoradoÂ—including Colorado Springs, Boulder, Fort Collins, and GreeleyÂ—would give many individuals the opportunity to meet others like themselves, and participate in homophile activist groups. The Denver Post reported, Â“No one knows for sure how many homosexuals there are in the Denv er area, but national estimates range as high as 10 percent of the adult population Â—with the heaviest concentration in 176 Chauncey, Gay New York, 358-359. Agee, The Streets of San Francisco, 75. 177 John F. Hunter, The Gay Insider, U.S.A. (New York: Stonehill, 1972) quoted in Thomas Noel, Â“Gay Bars and the Emergence of the Denver Homosexual Com munity,Â” 1978.
major metropolitan areas, such as the Mile High Cit y.Â”178 But, Denver brought gay men from rural areas from all over the west. Mangan wro te, Â“When Â‘RÂ’ was 21 years old he would occasionally come from Colorado Springs to De nver to attend gay bars. At the time the theater bar was still open.Â”179 Denver gay bars helped younger men form safety zones to explore their sexuality. In a 1965 editori al, The Denver Post recounted: A former premedical student in Boulder wrote to the Post: Â‘Â…I donÂ’t know why I am a homosexual or how I became one. I do know that it is the last thing that I as a man would ever want. Yet the impulses are there, and they are very strong. There is no escape from them, no escape from myself Â…Perhaps this is why I go to the various Â‘gayÂ’ bars of Denver. It is hard to explain the comfort and relief I feel by becoming with people of my own kind. I gues s it is the only time when I can really relax and be myself.Â’180 DenverÂ’s central location in the state made it incr easingly easy to travel to and from Denver to experience homosexual culture and the 8 k nown gay bars, for the first time. DenverÂ’s gay bars would prove to be a base for homo sexuals, offering them the opportunity to learn about DenverÂ’s gay community, activism, and interact socially without castigation from the police or heterosexual public. By the mid 1965s, the conversation around homosexu ality and gay bars changed. DenverÂ’s local media began presenting all known gay establishments to the local public. In a 1965 editorial, The Denver Post reported the location and type of bars known to be a refuge for gay men and women: Â“A few years ago, the re were two Denver bars with reputations as homosexual hangouts, or Â‘queer joint s.Â’ Today, there are at least eight, most of them within a few blocks of Civic CenterÂ—it self a favorite trysting place for deviates. The eight bars are the cityÂ’s focal point s of overt homosexualityÂ—where the 178 Bob Whearley, Â“Â’Militant MinorityÂ’ Poses Serious P roblem for Society,Â’ The Denver Post, February 14, 1965. 179 A.J.R., (Member of Denver's Gay Community), interv iew by Terry Mangan, Undated Interview. Gay Coalition of Denver Collection (MSS #1151), Colorad o Historical Society, Denver, Colorado. 180 Bob Whearley, Â“Homosexuals in Denver: Minority on Increase Affects all Citizens,Â” February 19, 1965.
boys dance with boys, the girls neck with girls, an d where, as the clocks tick inevitably toward 2 a.m. closing, roving young men on the make try desperately for a last-minute pickup.Â”181 According to Bob Whearley, the increasing number o f homosexual establishments and blatant growth of the community brought public discussions of homosexuality from the individual to the community level. Whearley, a determined and advantageous staff writer was born on September 8, 1928 in Indianapolis. Whearley later earned his degree in English and a masters degree i n Spanish Literature from the University of Colorado at Boulder.182 Whearley routinely presented legal assessments of the queer community, helping the public understand why police considered homosexuality a problem, and the public should too.183 The editorial commented on the known gay bars in Denver and included the types of Â“clienteleÂ” each bar catered too. The Denver Post stated, Â“ One of the most popular is the Court Jest er Restaurant & Lounge, 1617 Court Place. The Court Jester attracts a young er, better-dressed clientele than most of the other gay bars.Â”184 In this context, WhearleyÂ’s editorial informs the heterosexual public which gay bars are off limits to military pe rsonnel, which bars are strictly homosexual, and which bars concerned citizens shoul d avoid. The commentary focused more extensively on homosexual establishments and t he clientele they serve within the gay community, rather than their political purpose. While Whearley overwhelmingly focuses on continuing to portray homosexuality as a public concern, and the militaryÂ’s involvement in regulating G.I. attendance, he also discusses attacks on gay men in public 181 Bob Whearley, Â“Â’Militant MinorityÂ’ Poses Serious P roblem for Society,Â’ The Denver Post, February 14, 1965. 182 Virginia Culver, Â“Real Tenacious Reporter Kept Cit y, State in his Sights, The Denver Post September 5, 2007. 183 Bob Whearley, Â“Homosexuals in Denver: Minority on Increase Affects all Citizens,Â” February 19, 1965. 184 Bob Whearley, Â“Homosexuals in Denver: Clientele Fe els Safe in Â‘Gay Bars,Â’Â” February 16, 1965.
ncruising areas, and differences between different t ypes of bars catering to homosexual subcultures. By 1965, local media began to recogniz e homosexuals in Denver as part of a distinct minority. The sharpening of boundaries between homosexual and heterosexual bars in the 1960s left many gay men reluctant to attend anythin g besides Â“gay-onlyÂ” bars. One man recalled, Â“He would be sure Â‘to get in troubleÂ’ if he patronized other bars with his boyfriend. Â‘Say you slip and help your lover on wit h his coat, or show some sign of affection that would be a giveaway, youÂ’re almost c ertain to offend some Â‘straightÂ’ person,Â’ he said. Â‘The whole evening ends up a big scene. What good does that do anybody?Â”185 The rise in exclusively homosexual establishments helped create a safe zone for social interaction. Â“Â’Public cruising can be dangerous,Â’ one homosexual told the Post Â‘This is why you see so many fellows patronizing the gay bars. TheyÂ’re safe there. TheyÂ’re among their own kind.Â’Â”186 By gathering around social environments where gay men need not worry about offending straight patrons they could openly express ideas and attitudes regarding anti-homosexual rhetoric in Col orado.187 The dangers posed by cruising in public areasÂ—and the energy spent to hi de their sexual identityÂ— unintentionally helped create a unified community b ased in private gay bars away from the public eye. Denver officials faced a similar conundrum in the 1 960s regarding homosexuality as they did in the 1940s regarding prostitution. Wo uld closing gay bars in Denver create a bigger problem for the city? Many city officials fe lt gay bars served a viable purpose for the city, since they created a place to contain and regulate the public display of 185 Bob Whearley, Â“Homosexuals in Denver: Minority on Increase Affects all Citizens,Â” February 19, 1965. 186 Bob Whearley, Â“Homosexuals in Denver: Clientele Fe els Safe in Â‘Gay Bars,Â’Â” February 16, 1965. 187 Bob Whearley, Â“Homosexuals in Denver: Clientele Fe els Safe in Â‘Gay Bars,Â’Â” February 16, 1965.
homosexuality. The Denver Post reported, Â“Moreover, there is considerable cogency in the argument that homosexual activity could not be as easily observed or contained by the police if the homosexual hangouts were closed down, and that if the bars were closed the homosexual would be reduced to carrying on their ac tivities more openly in the public parks and public streets.Â”188 If the city shut down known gay bars it would only re-invent the public display of homosexual acts for the gener al populace. Unknown to city officials, homosexualÂ’s frequent attendance of gay bars actual ly helped the cityÂ’s reputation. The community focused on privatizing their sexuality to neutralize anti-homosexual laws based on morality. In a 1965 editorial, The Denver Post reported the focus of morality was always DenverÂ’s reputation, Â“The city canÂ—and m ustÂ—make certain that the Denver homosexual community is contained and restricted, t hat Denver does not become known as a haven for homosexuals.Â”189 In this context, Denver officials began a campaign of social stigmatization based upon sodomy laws under the guise of lewd, indecent, and lascivious conduct. Conflicting opinions on lewd and indecent acts plag ued Denver officials by the mid 1960s. Press coverage reported on arrests that officers accomplishedÂ—all for public displays outside gay bars. In one incident, Â“The Fr ont Door is dimly lighted, and boasts two juke boxesÂ—one in the main bar, and one in a si de room where the boys dance with boys. On Nov. 5, 1964, two young men were arrested after vice squad officers saw them kissing each other there.Â”190 The Vice Bureau began to regulate homosexuality ba sed upon lewd behavior in conjunction with Denver city ordinance. However, Denver officials considered certain behavior acceptable if only for entertainment value. In one 188 Â“Homosexuals in Denver,Â” The Denver Post February 25, 1965. 189 Â“Homosexuals in Denver,Â” The Denver Post February 25, 1965. 190 Bob Whearley, Â“Homosexuals in Denver: Clientele Fe els Safe in Â‘Gay Bars,Â’Â” February 16, 1965.
Denver Post editorial, a downstairs gay bar at 1219 Lawrence S t. known as the Red Roach was a common spot for tourists. The Post reported, Â“The bar still is in operation, but the big business is being done at an upstairs s howroom known as Â‘The Gilded Cage,Â’ which features female impersonators. This has becom e popular with night-clubbing Â‘tourists.Â”191 Contentious arrests by the Vice Bureau upset gay a ctivists. The Denver Morals Bureau allowed female impersonators as a tou rist attraction, but The Denver Post also reported, Â“Six men were arrested at the Cherry Creek Tavern on Halloween night on charges of parading around in womenÂ’s clothingÂ—in v iolation of a Denver city ordinance.Â”192 The Vice Bureau could not articulate a law that di stinguished lewd behavior from artistic entertainment. On one occasi on, the city of Denver revoked the liquor license of the Red Roach because it consider ed two males dancing together indecent behavior. The Denver Post recorded: The downstairs bar figured in a notable liquor lice nse hearing two years ago, John M. Schooley, the manager of safety, suspended the l icense for five days on the grounds: Â‘Â…It was established that the place of bus iness has a reputation as an establishment to which both male and female homosex uals resort and where males are, and have been, permitted to dance togeth er.Â…I submit that it is not natural for two males to dance together unless they are entertaining and engaged in an artistic dance and that the mere sight of mal es dancing otherwise together would be offensive to the sense of the average citi zen.Â’193 At a time when the Vice Bureau began making arrests for lewd behavior, they simultaneously allowed some Â“indecentÂ” behavior for entertainment value. In a process known as Â‘slumming,Â’ many middle-class heterosexual s saw female impersonators for their entertainment value and did not immediately s uspect that they were homosexual, or 191 Bob Whearley, Â“Homosexuals in Denver: Clientele Fe els Safe in Â‘Gay Bars,Â’Â” The Denver Post, February 16, 1965. 192 Bob Whearley, Â“Homosexuals in Denver: Clientele Fe els Safe in Â‘Gay Bars,Â’Â” The Denver Post, February 16, 1965. 193 Bob Whearley, Â“Homosexuals in Denver: Clientele Fe els Safe in Â‘Gay Bars,Â’Â” The Denver Post, February 16, 1965.
condemn them for their gender deviation. So long as female impersonation was on stage, and contained within the bounds of the theatre, the Vice Bureau and public would allow it.194 Despite their unwelcome and fervent condemnation, D enver police often voiced an opinion that homosexuality was not the only prob lem; the perpetrators who preyed on homosexuals also posed a significant danger to the Denver public. Â“[Bob] found that homosexuals cause a continuing police problem, not only because they consort together but also because they are favorite targets toughs a nd hoodlums,Â”195 according to an article in The Denver Post. Many young men would prey on gay men in public cru ising areas and parks. Many dubious men would entice gay men wi th the possibility of sexual interactions before assaulting and robbing them. Th e Denver Police never concerned themselves with the perpetrators attacking homosexu als unless the gay men attacked, lodged a formal complaintÂ—a process that many never did in fear of incriminating themselves as gay. The Denver Post detailed, Â“Winter and summer, Civic Center is a favorite hunting grounds [ sic ] for homosexuals. It is also a favorite hunting gr ounds [ sic ] for the hoodlums who prey on homosexuals, for the m uggers who lead on the inverts, then work them over and relieve them of their billf olds. Understandably, these incidents frequently are not reported. The homosexual would p refer to have nothing to do with the police.Â”196 Perhaps what is most telling is the attitude towar ds the hoodlums who preyed on homosexual men. Many police officers felt that b y segregating the homosexual community into gay bars, they assisted the police m aking it easier to keep an eye on for 194 For a more detailed discussion please see: Chaunce y, Gay New York 1990; and Faderman et al, Gay L.A. 2006. 195 Â“Homosexuals in Denver,Â” The Denver Post February 25, 1965. 196 Bob Whearley, Â“Homosexuals in Denver: Clientele Fe els Safe in Â‘Gay Bars,Â’Â” The Denver Post, February 16, 1965.
misbehavior. The Denver Post reported, Â“Some policemen feel that these bars actu ally serve the public welfare by isolating homosexuals a nd keeping them out of other public places. Also, recent court decisions raise serious doubts about whether the sight of two men kissing or dancing together actually constitute s a lewd act.Â”197 In an effort to create stigma of the homosexual community, the Vice Bureau and local press utilized the gay bar to protect the community from the dangers of pu blic cruising areas. Indeed, the acceptance of gay bars by local police while seemin gly detrimental actually helped create a safer area for homosexuals. While many enjoyed th e thrill of public sex, the gay bar functioned to help protect homosexual men from stig matization within public spaces, and from harassment by both the Denver Vice Bureau and criminals. The Roots of Activism in Denver: Legal and Religiou s Reform DenverÂ’s upper and middle-class homosexual communi ty attempted to privatize its sexuality in the 1960s. The formation of Â“gay-o nlyÂ” establishments or gay bars helped contain homosexuality within the city. The gay bars within Denver not only helped privatize homosexuality, but also helped community formation through religious and legal reformation. Many gay bars served as a founda tion for civil rights grievances, as the bars routinely lead the fight against public compla ints regarding the homosexual community.198 In Denver, the gay bar not only served as a privat izing factor for sexual acts between members of the homosexual community, b ut they also served as a basis to fight inequality, sodomy laws, and police harassmen t. 197 Bob Whearley, Â“Homosexuals in Denver: Minority on Increase Affects all Citizens,Â” The Denver Post, February 19, 1965. 198 Noel, Â“Gay Bars,Â” 66.
ColoradoÂ’s sodomy laws remained unchanged in the 19 60s. The Colorado revised statutes prohibited the Â“infamous crime against nat ureÂ” but more so, the solicitation of any non-reproductive sexual acts. The statutes stat ed, Â“The solicitation of any unnatural carnal copulation shall subject the offender to con finement in the county jail for not less than thirty days nor more than two years.Â”199 State law continued to give police the ability to arrest gay men even on the suspicion of solicita tion when in public areas or outside the bounds of gay establishments. Stanley NormanÂ—a construction worker and gay manÂ—re members one Saturday afternoon visiting Colorado Springs. He met a young fellow stationed at Camp Carson who struck up a conversation regarding bars where Â“ interesting peopleÂ” tend to group. Stanley Norman did not look extraordinary, he state d, Â“I was dressed in LeviÂ’s, a T-shirt, and boots, clothes I regularly wear to my construct ion job,Â” but on this particular occasion, he apparently looked conspicuous to both this young fellow and the police.200 Stanley and the man from Camp Carson planned to att end a bar on Platte and Broadway, but they never made it there. The man attempted to solicit Stanley by physical action, asking if Stanley had a place to go or a car. Stanl ey resisted, but told the man he was staying at the Â“Y.Â” The man then revealed himself a s Military Police from Camp Carson. Stanley had done nothing illegal, but his conversat ion was enough to involve him with the police. Â“On what charges are you taking me to j ail?Â” Stanley asked calmly. The MP responded, Â“I donÂ’t have very much on right now, bu t when we get to jail we will have plenty on you. You see, everything you have said ha s been recorded on this recorder I 199 Colorado Laws 1963, Â§Â§ 40-2-31, : 357. 200 Stanley Norman, Â“Trapped,Â” One Magazine: The Homophile Viewpoint 1960, 14.
have on my arm.Â”201 Stanley committed no crime, but the MP tried to bl ackmail him for acts of solicitation. Stanley could pay him an unkn own sum of money or be taken to jail. Stanley chose jail. However, Stanley Norman never s pent any time in jail as the police department never sent a squad car. Stanley left the scene terrified, but two days later, had the same MP arrested for attempted entrapment. Stan ley visited the Colorado Springs Police Captain and told him his story. Two plainclo thes police officers accompanied Stanley to six different Â“interestingÂ” bars, and ar rested the MP for attempting to blackmail other unsuspecting gay men.202 Stanley NormanÂ’s experience is uncommon. Anti-homos exuality and sodomy laws gave police free reign to question and arrest many members of the community without cause. While this process of police entrap ment was controversial, many members of the community did not have the knowledge to contest, or pursue legal action against the state. The Denver Post reported, Â“The lawÂ’s relation to unnatural sex acts are only part of the police problem. Because of the sen se of guilt felt by many, if not by most, homosexuals, they have been made the victim of blac kmail and robbery attempts that often go unreported. The federal government, especi ally the military, considers the homosexual a security risk inclined to betray his c ountry rather than have his shame exposed.Â”203 The movement of homosexuality from the public to t he private was one way in which the community fought back against state co nstructed anti-homosexual mentality. The privatization of homosexuality by moving sexual acts into semi-public spaces was a way to present the homosexual community as mo ral. DenverÂ’s gay community 201 Stanley Norman, Â“Trapped,Â” One Magazine: The Homophile Viewpoint 1960, 14. 202 Stanley Norman, Â“Trapped,Â” One Magazine: The Homophile Viewpoint 1960, 14-16. 203 Bob Whearley, Â“Homosexuals in Denver: Minority on Increase Affects all Citizens,Â” The Denver Post, February 19, 1965.
needed to bring the publicÂ’s understanding of homos exuality away from the public display of sex, and let them understand that compan ionship between same-sex couples was no different from heterosexual companionship. C arl HardingÂ—member of the Denver Mattachine SocietyÂ—interviewed with Bob Whea rley of the Denver Post in order to explain legal definitions of homosexuality and t he detrimental effect the public has on the gay community. The Denver Post reported, Â“Carl B. Harding is a rebel. Armed with little more than his own convictions, he has set ou t to fight what he calls Â‘The Great Sexual Revolution.Â” His goal: To win public accepta nce of homosexuality as an honorable way of life and love.Â”204 Members of DenverÂ’s gay community sought to change the perception of homosexuality within the c ity limits. Their goal was to change public opinion by breaking down stereotypes. In 196 5, there were an estimated 12 million homosexuals in the United States, and not nearly al l 12 million were arrested for sexual acts in public, according to one gay man. He told The Denver Post Â“Â’Now this would lead one to believe that many homosexuals lead quie t, gainful, unassuming lives and contribute to society just like everyone else. As a matter of fact, this is true in the vast majority of cases.Â’ But the public does not see Â‘th e vast majority of cases.Â’Â”205 In the 1960s, homophile activists attempted to shape commu nity organization around the privatization of the sexual acts. The movement of h omosexuality from the public cruising grounds to gay bars and the home, acted as an examp le of interest-group politics within Denver Colorado. Harding stated, Â“When homosexualit y is explained to people in terms of love, they can understand itÂ…there has to be mor e than a carnal relationship between homosexuals. There is a need to be loved, just as t here is in what youÂ’d consider a normal 204 Bob Whearley, Â“Way of Life, Love-Rebel Fights for Honorable,Â” The Denver Post, February 17, 1965. 205 Bob Whearley, Â“Homosexuals in Denver: Minority on Increase Affects all Citizens,Â” The Denver Post, February 19, 1965.
heterosexual relationship.Â”206 Groups such as the Mattachine Society led the batt le against moral respectability. They would routinely include stories of police entrapment, harassment, and illegal searches in their monthly n ewsletters to help encourage all members of the queer community to present a public image of a sexually restraint homosexual minority. Activism in the 1960s could only function if homose xuals unified as a minority. DenverÂ’s gay menÂ—specifically those within the Matt achine SocietyÂ—began to equate the struggles of the homosexual community to those of ethnic minorities. Carl Harding declared, Â“Â’Homosexuals are treated like negroes in the Deep South. And, like Negroes and Jews and other minority groups, weÂ’re thought o f in terms of the stereotype. WeÂ’ve got to change public thinking.Â’Â”207 DenverÂ’s gay bars functioned to act against the repressive and negative ideas regarding sexuality. Carl Harding argued, by moving homosexuality into gay bars, it was the first step to inform the queer community that the public display of sexuality was the most detrimenta l characteristic of DenverÂ’s gay culture. Â“Homosexuals need a recreation center of t heir own,Â’ he said Â‘This would alleviate the public cruising that gives all of us a black eye. These meeting places should be wholesomeÂ—where they can meet people and dance t ogether if they want. What they do when they get home is their own business.Â’Â”208 DenverÂ’s gay activists sought to remove the tarnishing reputation of public sexualit y and promiscuity by moving homosexuality into semi-private spaces. However, ma ny members of the community did not want to participate in presenting a sexually re strained image of homosexual culture. 206 Bob Whearley, Â“Way of Life, Love-Rebel Fights for Honorable,Â” The Denver Post, February 17, 1965. 207 Bob Whearley, Â“Way of Life, Love-Rebel Fights for Honorable,Â” The Denver Post, February 17, 1965. 208 Bob Whearley, Â“Way of Life, Love-Rebel Fights for Honorable,Â” The Denver Post, February 17, 1965.
Many men, continued to use public cruising grounds for sexual relations.209 One gay man reported, Â“that he hates to adjourn to a room in th e Â‘YÂ’ for sex as the danger is half of the fun!Â”210 Homophile activism grew slowly in the 1960s becaus e gay culture was split regarding their sexual freedom. The Denver Post reported, Â“Some researchers have suggested homosexuals are more promiscuous than het erosexuals. Harding doesnÂ’t think this is necessarily true, but he admits Â‘many homos exuals practice sexual freedom.Â’ And he believes those who are indiscreet about itÂ…are t he victims of Â‘repressive laws.Â’Â”211 Many individuals continued to use public cruising g rounds, which created a two-fold problem for DenverÂ’s homophile activists. By contin uing the use of public cruising and well-known pick up spots, the individuals who did n ot care to be identified with the movement out of fear of exposure, continued to draw negative attention to them, and present an effeminate and negative presentation of homosexual culture to the average person.212 The division between those identified with homophi le activist groups, and those participating in public cruising would delay the cohesion of DenverÂ’s queer culture. Homophile activists employed other local authoritie s to promote positive images of gay culture. DenverÂ’s gay community had support from many religious officials, attorneys, and judges in the early 1960s to fight s exual inequality. The Denver Post reported, Â“For several years, homosexuals have been organizing to fight what they consider discrimination. (Â‘Frankly,Â’ says one membe r of the Mattachine Society, Â‘weÂ’re next on the civil rights agenda.Â’) [Homosexuals] ha ve received some degree of support 209 Bob Whearley, Â“Homosexuals in Denver: Clientele Fe els Safe in Â‘Gay Bars,Â’Â” The Denver Post, February 16, 1965. 210 A.J.R., interview by Terry Mangan, Denver, CO, 197 1, Gay Coalition of Denver Collection (MSS #1151), Colorado Historical Society, Denver, Colora do. 211 Bob Whearley, Â“Way of Life, Love-Rebel Fights for Honorable,Â” The Denver Post, February 17, 1965. 212 Bob Whearley, Â“Way of Life, Love-Rebel Fights for Honorable,Â” The Denver Post, February 17, 1965.
nfrom attorneys, who argue that homosexual practices are a moral question that should not fall within the province of the law.Â”213 Since WWII, Denver police sought to regulate the public display of sexuality because homosexuality w as a moral issue. The good/bad dichotomy established in the 1950s, attempted to de lineate how Denver could safely justify arresting homosexual men and women on acts of indecency. In the 1960s, DenverÂ’s activists sought to change Colorado sodomy laws to exclude activities that happened in private between two consenting adults. As The Post reported, Â“Under the laws of Colorado, it is police business if they eng age in a sex actÂ—even behind the drawn shades and locked doors of a private home.Â”214 The regulation of homosexuality became a two-part issue. While the DMB continued to contai n the public display of sexualityÂ—in parks and public bathroomsÂ—they needed a way to jus tify the outlawing of homosexuality between consenting adults in private. The Denver Post reported, Â“This is one of the unrealities of law enforcement. Without actually observing the act, or without a complaint, the police donÂ’t have a case. The poli ce would need a court order to enter the homes, or to even eaves-drop on what was happen ing insideÂ….And this raises the questions that is being heard more and more frequen tly as the homosexuals marshal their forces: Should the laws be changed?Â”215 Indeed, Denver activists caught the Denver Police Force in a duplicitous situation. The Morals Bureau had based their regulation of homosexuality on homosexual acts in public as harmf ul to the moral face of Denver, but in the 1960s, many activists advocated to move thes e acts into semi-private or private spaces to prohibit the Morals BureauÂ’s regulation o f their lifestyle. 213 Bob Whearley, Â“Homosexuals in Denver: Minority on Increase Affects all Citizens,Â” The Denver Post, February 19, 1965. 214 Bob Whearley, Â“Way of Life, Love-Rebel Fights for Honorable,Â” The Denver Post, February 17, 1965. 215 Bob Whearley, Â“Way of Life, Love-Rebel Fights for Honorable,Â” The Denver Post, February 17, 1965.
In the 1960s, ninety-eight percent of the country o utlawed even private sexual acts between members of the same sex.216 As the Denver Post reported to its readers, Â“It isnÂ’t against the law to be a homosexual. It is aga inst the law in all but one of the 50 statesÂ—IllinoisÂ—to engage in homosexual acts, which are variously described in the statutes themselves as Â‘infamous,Â’ Â‘abominable,Â’ an d Â‘detestable.Â’Â”217 Despite the growing number of activists and activism for Denver Â’s gay community, acceptance of the community was not immediate. While many attorneys a nd psychologists advocated that homosexuality was just another way of life, animosi ty escalated between the community and municipal authorities. Denver Mayor Thomas G. C urrigan for example, refused to discuss any sort of changes to the municipal code a nd in 1965 ignored pleas from DenverÂ’s homosexual community to enact current lega l and psychological views on homosexuality in DenverÂ’s law books. Mayor Currigan stated: I have taken an oath to uphold the constitution and the laws of the United States and the State of Colorado and the charter and ordin ances of the City and County of Denver. That includes upholding the law against homosexuality, which is in violation of natural law, as well as the man-made r egulations controlling it. If and when legislation is passed changing societyÂ’s offic ial position toward homosexuality, I will review my stand on the matter Until that happens, however, I will not discuss or debate this question with any one.218 Legal definitions of homosexual actions continued t o be based on what DenverÂ’s Mayor defined as Â“natural law.Â” The Denver Post reported, Â“Directly or indirectly, homosexuality affects every citizen. For one thing, homosexuality in Denver is a police problem, and police problems areÂ—or should beÂ—a pub lic concern. Rightly or wrongly, the Legislature long ago decreed homosexual acts fe lonies, punishable by sentences of 1 to 14 years in the State Penitentiary. The law was passed in the name of the people, and 216 Bob Whearley, Â“Way of Life, Love-Rebel Fights for Honorable,Â” The Denver Post, February 17, 1965. 217 Bob Whearley, Â“Homosexuals in Denver: Tough Stands Aids Â‘YÂ’ In Solving Problems,Â” The Denver Post, February 15, 1965. 218 Noel, Gay Bars, 65.
its enforcement is carried out in the name of the p eople.Â”219 Local authorities continued to discuss and regulate homosexuality in a negative ma nner despite the growing number of outspoken activists. According to Dr. Samuel B. Had den, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Â“[H]omosexual groups Â‘resent every suggestion that homosexuals are sick. Â’ Further, Dr. Hadden said, these groups are waging campaigns to make homosexuality a Â‘socially acceptableÂ’ pattern of behavior.Â”220 Medical and psychological definitions began changi ng on a national level. Rather than reflect these shifting stances on homos exual personhood, Denver officials remained obstinate and continued policing homosexua lity based upon moral law. In this context, advocates for the homosexual commu nity examined why Denver officials were reluctant to evaluate law based on m odern psychological and medicine inquiry. One Denver attorney stated: The fierce, irrational condemnation of the homosexu al by the public, is attributable in part to the latent homosexuality in every member of societyÂ…The most stable person may be able to regard deviants w ith tolerance in a live-and-letlive policy, but most men may find the thought of e ffeminacy in other males unsettling the more so in a culture like the United States, where the male deprived of a patriarchal position, is highly sensitive abou t his maleness.Â’221 Many advocates for DenverÂ’s gay community believed Denver officials were uncomfortable with sexual deviation. As national tr ends of heteronormativity continued into the 1960s, a maleÂ’s deviation from a strict pa triarchal position as the breadwinner was considered detrimental to the health of the nat ion. Local authorities continued to disregard pleas from the gay community as well as g ay advocates regarding moral law in 219 Bob Whearley, Â“Homosexuals in Denver: Minority on Increase Affects all Citizens,Â” The Denver Post, February 19, 1965. 220 Bob Whearley, Â“Homosexuals in Denver: Minority on Increase Affects all Citizens,Â” The Denver Post, February 19, 1965. 221 John Kokish, Â“No Crime in Private, Brief Contends: Colo. Homosexuality Law Challenged,Â” The Denver Post, October 8, 1967
Denver. Regardless of national changes to the conve rsation of homosexuality, the basis of law in Denver constituted religious and moral thoug ht. Denver used morality to function as the guiding fac tor in its anti-homosexual policies throughout the Cold War Period. However, i n 1963, ecclesiastical authorities began to reconsider the moral code on a global scal e. Ideas regarding sexuality changed in the 1960s, and what religious sects once conside red natural or unnatural no longer seemed applicable. Canon D. A. Rhymes of London sta ted: [T]raditional moral code implied that sex is unavoi dably taintedÂ…Â’Nor does Christ ever suggest that sexuality as such is undes irable or that marriage is only possible occasion of any expression of physical rel ationship.Â’ Canon Rhymes said it had been argued that morality should be based on natural lawÂ…Â’but what is natural and what is unnatural? Much of the prejudic e against homosexuality is on the ground that it is unnaturalÂ—but unnatural for w hom? Certainly not for the homosexual himself. It is very doubtful whether nat ure offers any guidance on morality.Â’ The moral law against extramarital sex a nd homosexuality Rhymes went on, Â‘does not concern itself with the needs of the individual in the lights of all the circumstances of environment, nature and he redity.Â’ Rhymes said the moral code of today is being ignored because it is already outdated.222 Denver officials used religion and morality to just ify the mistreatment of homosexuals. However, church authorities in Denver began to chan ge their minds regarding gay men and women. The Rev. Taylor McConnell, program direc tor for the Rocky Mountain Methodist Conference stated, Â“The fruits, the queen s and the fairies are a very small and very obvious group. The majority of homosexuals are decent, respected businessmen, farmers, housewives and people like that.Â”223 Religion attempted to change public perception of homosexuals and feature homosexuality more prominently in public discussion. In an attempt to confront the growing n umber of homosexual men and women in Denver, many of whom were religious and decent c hurch members, church authorities 222 Â“English Pastor Blasts Taboos Against Sex,Â” The Rocky Mountain News, March 11, 1963. 223 Bob Whearley, Â“Â’Militant MinorityÂ’ Poses Serious P roblem for Society,Â’ The Denver Post, February 14, 1965.
argued that anyone could be gay and societyÂ’s non-a cceptance of the stereotypes only exacerbated the hate towards the more common and in creasing number of moral homosexual men. According to The Denver Post, the Rev. Harvey HollisÂ—secretary of the Denver Council of ChurchesÂ—Â“looks upon homosexu ality as Â‘a real hot potato for the churches, but one that weÂ’ve got to do something ab out.Â’ He believes Denver is fast becoming a center for homosexuals who are being for ced out of other communities. These people, plus the cityÂ’s already high percenta ge of unmarried young adultsÂ…comprise a group that the churches have had a difficult time reaching.Â”224 The mistreatment of gay men and women in smaller rural communities forced many to leave their homes and head to urbanized communities in th e west. In this context, the mistreatment of homosexuals seemed unchristian to m any religious officials. In an effort to expand their reach to unmarried people, religiou s voices began to treat gay men and women with respect because of state constructed har assment. Indeed, ecclesiastical voices began to affirm that not all homosexual peop les were indecent or an affront to the heterosexual public. The number of accepting church voices was small, but their participation in community discussions in a positiv e way would have an affirmative impact on religious and moral law in Denver. While some of the most virulent condemnation of homosexuality came from fundamental ist churches, beginning to change the way religious entities viewed homosexual ity would help make progressive changes in the next decade. By the end of the 1960s, attorneys began to fight f or homosexual rights on the basis of privacy. The Denver Post asked, Â“Should homosexual acts between consenting 224 Bob Whearley, Â“Â’Militant MinorityÂ’ Poses Serious P roblem for Society,Â’ The Denver Post, February 14, 1965.
adults in private by punished as a crime?Â” In 1967, Norton FrickeyÂ—a Denver based attorneyÂ—filed a charge against the Denver District Court that the Colorado Statute against homosexuality was unconstitutional and cons tituted cruel and unusual punishment towards homosexual men and women. In his brief, Â“Frickey contends the Colorado law violates the eighth Amendment of the U .S. ConstitutionÂ…[he] filed in support of a motion to dismiss a morals charge agai nst one of his clients, a Denver professional man.Â”225 Frickey filed the brief on the decision of the U.S Supreme Court in Johnson vs. California (1962) in which the court declared that punishment for the status of being an addict is unconstitutional. The Denver Post reported, Â“Frickey says, Â‘being a homosexualÂ’ is analogous to Â‘being an addictÂ’Â…In fa ct, he argued, an addictÂ—in most casesÂ—voluntarily takes the first step that leads t o his addiction. A homosexual, on the other hand, is an innocent product of biological an d psychological abnormalities over which he has no control.Â”226 According to The Denver Post, Â“Â’FurthermoreÂ’ the brief states, Â‘that homosexualÂ’s manifestation of his sta tus causes no one harm, if the acts are conducted in private with a consenting adultÂ…It is certainly less offensive than the drunk who staggers along a public sidewalk.Â’Â”227 Indeed, attorneys and gay activists began to challenge DenverÂ’s anti-homosexual laws by the 1960 s based on public indecency. The encouragement of early homophile activists to move sexual acts into private spaces would help discredit anti-gay laws. As Frickey poin ts out, Â“both the American Law Institute in its Model Penal Code and the Wolfendon Committee in England have 225 John Kokish, Â“No Crime in Private, Brief Contends: Colo. Homosexuality Law Challenged,Â” The Denver Post, October 8, 1967 226 John Kokish, Â“No Crime in Private, Brief Contends: Colo. Homosexuality Law Challenged,Â” The Denver Post, October 8, 1967 227 John Kokish, Â“No Crime in Private, Brief Contends: Colo. Homosexuality Law Challenged,Â” The Denver Post, October 8, 1967
recommended excluding homosexual acts in private be tween consenting adults from the criminal statutesÂ…. Even the Church of England, the brief states, has concluded that Â‘although homosexual acts are sins in the eyes of t he church, they arenÂ’t necessarily crimes to be punished by the state.Â’Â”228 While the sodomy statute in Colorado remained on the books until 1975, the motion of an attorney in 1967 to dismiss a morals charge shows the progressiveness of some Denverites to cha nge local law. Denver routinely policed the public act of homosexuality, but the de sire to continue policing private acts between adults was unnecessary. Privacy statutes be came a global discussion by the late 1960s. Denver authorities reluctance to decrease th eir efforts to control sexual acts in private, would invite increasing criticism from Den verÂ’s gay community and their advocates. The privatization of sexuality was necessary for De nverÂ’s gay community to gain access to the political machine. Homophile activist groups such as the Mattachine SocietyÂ—which disbanded in Denver in 1962Â—helped cr eate the basis for queer politics in Denver. Like many queer cultures across the Unit ed States, privatizing sexuality and presenting a morally restrained image of homosexual men, allowed gay men and women to disseminate information and participate in inter est-group politics. Throughout the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, the public display of homo sexual acts tarnished the reputation of the gay minority. The public continuously only s aw negative aspectsÂ—arrests and sexual affrontsÂ—which hindered the progression of u nderstanding homosexuality as a socially acceptable and normal pattern of behavior. In the 1960s, gay advocates helped community and identity formation by advocating the movement of homosexual acts into 228 John Kokish, Â“No Crime in Private, Brief Contends: Colo. Homosexuality Law Challenged,Â” The Denver Post, October 8, 1967
a privatized sector thus decreasing the DMBÂ’s abili ty to entrap and harass gay men. While activism clearly existed as early as 1957 wit h the creation of the Mattachine Society, gay advocates used the gay bar as the fore front of a gay rights movement in DenverÂ’s history. Gay only establishments helped pr ivatized sexuality for those individuals who chose to use them, which brought a moral face to homosexuality, and allowed legal and ecclesiastical authorities to tra nsform their way of thinking. As these authorities changed their mindset, the entire basis for ColoradoÂ’s anti-gay policiesÂ— moralityÂ—would be an unacceptable barrier to sexual equality for DenverÂ’s gay community. By the 1970s, homophile activism would t ransform into gay liberation where a gay identity and the majority if not all of gay Denverites wou ld agree upon a gay rights agenda.229 229 Armstrong, Forging Gay Identities, 2002. 2.
Epilogue Â“Queen City Takes on New MeaningÂ”230 On Friday June 27, 1969, two detectives entered th e Stonewall InnÂ—a gay bar in Greenwich Village in New York CityÂ—to raid the bar, arrests its patrons, and shut the bar down. Normally, those in the bar would panic, scatt er, and attempt to evade arrest. However, the gay population responded differently t hat night: as the police began to arrest members of the community and haul them off, gay men and women began jeering and taunting the police. A riot ensued. The Stonewa ll Riot sparked a nationwide gay liberation movement. According to historian John DÂ’ Emilio, Â“Gay liberation used the demonstrations of the New Left as recruiting ground s and appropriated the tactics of confrontational politics for its own ends. The idea s that suffused youth protest found their way into gay liberation, where they were modified a nd adapted to describe the oppression of homosexuals and lesbians.Â”231 The liberation movement sparked by the Stonewall r iot rallied gay men and women across the country to fig ht systemic oppression by the state. The Denver Gay Coalition Â“traced its roots to New Y ork, where the first Gay Coalition was formed in 1969 in the aftermath of the Stonewal l riot.Â”232 As gay communities across the U.S. united against repression, Denver focused on the unlawful attempts at entrapment and harassment, as well as the laws that singled out homosexual men and women for discrimination within the state. Gatherin g around the idea of a cohesive minority allowed Denver gays to become increasingly confrontational and fight DenverÂ’s anti-gay laws. 230 Mike Burke, Â“The Rocky Mountain Gay Rush,Â” Rocky Mountain Magazine July 1979. 231 DÂ’ Emilio, Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities, 233. 232 Noel, "Gay Bars,Â” 63.
nThe 1970s marked a period of resistance for DenverÂ’ s gay community. The increasing number of homosexual men and women in De nver after WWII began to identify and act within the queer community.233 As the number of men and women who openly identified as homosexual increased in the 19 70s, discrimination from municipal and law authorities proliferated simultaneously. Ga y populations across the country experienced tremendous animosity as fears of commun ism and sexual deviance made homosexuality the antithesis to American normalcy t hroughout the post war world. By the 1970s, homosexual men and women began to unify and identify as part of a larger queer minority. The context of the sexual revolutio n widened the possibilities for normative sexualities and identity expression. Thro ughout the 1960s and 1970s, the New Left widened conceptions of extramarital sex, priva cy, contraception, and homosexuality for the general public. The gains made by early hom ophile activism, would not have sustained itself in the 1970s without the decline a s the New Left as it allowed for identity politics to finally merge. As Elizabeth Armstrong n otes, Â“By defining the primary goal of gay politics as the expansion of the range of ways to express gay identity, the gay movement was able to balance interest group and ide ntity politics.234 In Denver, homophile activists comprised of middle and upper c lass white men, strived to present a morally and sexually restrained version of the homo sexual person in the 1960s. In contrast, not all gay Denverites agreed to present this faade, and continued to participate in public acts of sexuality. The gains of the gay l iberation movement helped solidify gay identity that encompassed more than the strict mora list. Other members of the community that considered sexual acts in public as normal, we re finally able to participate in politics 233 Phillip A. Nash, Â“Haven for Gays,Â” The Rocky Mountain News, Editorial, June 13, 1978, p.43 234 Armstrong, Forging Gay Identities, 3.
nnand further the gay rights agenda; expressing the i dentity and presenting gay culture in the manner they considered normal.235 DenverÂ’s gay community, like the gay community nati onally, became increasingly confrontational in the 1970s. For the first time, the homosexual population of Denver began turning out in force to attend City Council hearings protesting mistreatment and police harassment and getting invo lved to fight discrimination against DenverÂ’s gay populaces.236 Throughout the decade, police increased surveillan ce and entrapment methods to facilitate division among the queer minority. Local authorities valued the reputation of Denver above all else. Inc reased attention to homosexuality intended to push the queer community out of Denver so that Denver did not become known as a haven for homosexuals. The process of stigmatization begun in the late 196 0s to discredit the queer movement increased in the 1970s. The police continu ed efforts to solicit homosexual men in bars and in parks, and even went so far as to le ad them into conversation, which could result in their arrest. As historian Thomas Noel su ggested, Â“Not only suggesting lewd acts to vice squad members, but dancing with and ki ssing another gay could lead to arrestÂ…No complaint was made by the bar owner, empl oyees, or customers.Â”237 The fervor which the Morals BureauÂ—renamed the Vice Bur eauÂ—sought to entrap homosexual men and women resulted in the increased militancy and outspoken opposition. A 1973 study by the Denver Gay Coalitio n stated, Â“all of the arrests made of homosexuals during the first three months of the ye ar were made for soliciting, not for 235 Halperin, What Do Gay Men Want, 2-3 236 Andy Rogers, Â“Gays Crowd Council Chambers: Homosex uals Protest Criminal-Code Draft, The Denver Post, October 24, 1973; Â“How to Dump McNichols, Exercise your political muscle,Â” Private Flyer, undated; Noel, Â“Gay Bars,Â” 63. 237 Noel, "Gay Bars,Â” 62.
nhomosexual actsÂ…99.1% of homosexual arrests stem fr om conversations with vice bureau officials and not from citizen complaints.Â”238 Decreased numbers of complaints from citizens resulted in increased police attentio n acting on the will of a conservative state seeking to exclude and eliminate homosexualit y from the Denver region. The public display of homosexuality continued to be the foremo st setback to DenverÂ’s gay community. While many homosexual men and women move d their relationships into private or semi-private spaces, the Denver Vice Bur eau routinely used even the remote chance of public sex as justification for their que stionable treatment of the community. The Vice Bureau treated the homosexual minority wit h complete disdain and policed their actions based upon preconceived notions of mo rality. During the 1950s and 1960s, the Bureau relied on citizen complaint to help faci litate a negative response to the community. By the 1970s, decreased citizen complain ts resulted in increased episodes of entrapment, and police harassment. The Denver Vice Bureau amplified its regulation of homosexuality in the 1970s. In the late 1960s, the Vice Bureau began a process of stigmatization meant to weaken the queer minorityÂ’s argument and battle for civil righ ts, and by the 1970s created new methods for policing public sexuality. Â“A good part of the general vice duties is devoted to Â‘homosexual surveillance,Â’ a recognized police t erm for the undercover assignment of discovering homosexuals who allegedly violate Secti on 823.5-1 of the Revised Municipal CodeÂ—the CityÂ’s much-debated Â‘lewd actÂ’ and prostit ution ordinance,Â”239 according to one editorial. The revision of Colorado criminal co de in 1971 allegedly removed sodomy 238 Andy Rogers, Â“Gays Crowd Council Chambers: Homosex uals Protest Criminal-Code Draft, The Denver Post, October 24, 1973 239 Cecil Jones, Â“Denver police vs. homosexuals: a con frontation,Â” The Rocky Mountain News, April 23, 1973.
nfrom Colorado statutes via legislative repeal. Acco rding to contemporary sources, Senate Bill 262 removed from the Colorado Statutes but rep laced the language of Â“crimes against nature,Â” with contemporary language of Â“dev iate sexual intercourse,Â” which continued to outlaw sodomy and homosexual relations hips.240 The enactment of Senate Bill 262Â—effective July 1, 1972Â—re-codified sodomy as illegal and allowed the Vice Bureau to entrap homosexual men on charges of indec ency, deviate sexual intercourse, prostitution, and lewd or obscene behavior. By 1974 the language of deviate sexual intercourse successfully operated within the Colora do Revised Statutes as well as Denver criminal law. Denver municipal codes of 1974 focused primarily on the solicitation of sexual intercourse. In congruence with definitions from th e State of Colorado, municipal code 802.8 stated, Â“Any person, either male or female, w ho performs, offers, or agrees to perform any act of sexual intercourse, or any act o f deviate sexual intercourse, with any person not the spouse of such person, in exchange f or money or other thing of value, commits prostitution.Â”241 DenverÂ’s municipal ordinances outlawed any sexual relationship outside the bonds of marriage includin g adultery, prostitution, and premarital sex. Ordinance 802.14 defined homosexuality as deviate sexual intercourseÂ— allowing for the Vice BureauÂ’s continued prosecutio n of sodomy laws despite the removal of an official sodomy law from the Colorado statutes. Contemporary research regarding sodomy laws in Colo rado states that voters repealed sodomy laws by popular vote in 1972 but th is was not the case.242 Instead, the 240 Colorado Revised Statutes, Public Law 18-3-304, U.S. Statutes at Large 8 (1973): 306. 241 City and County of Denver, Revised Municipal Ordinances (Denver, 1974.) Ordinance 802.8 242 These widely used sources show Colorado repealed i ts sodomy law in 1971/1972: "United States Sodomy Laws." United States Sodomy Laws. http://www .sodomy.org/laws/ (accessed May 26, 2014);
nstate re-enacted the sodomy laws in the revised sta tutes but with different language and a different numbering system. In the 1973 Colorado Re vised Statutes, the same Â“deviate sexual intercourseÂ” language that appears in Senate Bill 262 from 1971 at Â§40-3-405 actually moved to the Colorado Revised Statutes Â§18 -3-405. The language of Â“deviate sexual intercourseÂ” actually appeared in two separa te locations in the 1971 and 1973 session laws. The state legislature passed the lang uage of the new criminal code in 1971, and placed the language within the criminal code fo r 1973 expecting a re-codification of the law. However, Â“deviate sexual intercourseÂ’ neve r actually appeared in the statutes at Â§40-3-405 because by 1973 it was already located wi thin the criminal code as Â§18-3405.243 The use of sexual deviate intercourse within the C olorado Revised Statutes allowed the Vice Bureau to continually arrest homos exual men and women on charges associated with their sexual practices. Members of the Vice Bureau persisted in their arrests of gay men well into the late 1970s. Despit e outspoken activists fighting the hypocritical actions of the Bureau, it was not unti l 1975 that homosexuals in Colorado could safely partake in even private sexual relatio nships. The revisions to DenverÂ’s municipal law reflected l ess on anti-homosexual clauses and more on the methods used by the Vice Bu reau. Homosexuals and community advocates began making routine appearances in city council meetings to protest recodification of criminal codes that would make priv ate conversations between adults illegal. The Denver Post reported, Â“While many of the 30 personsÂ—including a number "The History of Sodomy Laws in the United States Colorado." The History of Sodomy Laws in the United States Colorado. http://www.glapn.org/sodo mylaws/sensibilities/colorado.htm (accessed May 26, 2014); "Colorado Sodomy Law." Human Rights Campaign http://www.hrc.org/laws-andlegislation/entry/colorado-sodomy-law (accessed May 26, 2014.) 243 Colorado Revised Statutes, Public Law 18-3-305, U.S. Statutes at Large 8 (1973): 306; Colorado Revised Statutes, Public Law 40-3-305, U.S. Statutes at Large 8 (1971.
nof attorneys, clergy, and mental health professiona lsÂ—who spoke against the statute revisions said the measure was unconstitutional, pa rt of the attack was addressed at the police departmentÂ’s method of enforcement of the or dinance.Â”244 The increasing vigor with which the Vice Bureau solicited and entrapped homosexual men caused activists to become increasingly confrontational. Â“Jerry Gerash, an attorney representing the Denver Gay Coalition, a homosexual group, said the propose d ordinance revision would make Â‘ private conversations with sexual connotations il legalÂ’ in Denver,Â”245 reported one Denver Post article. The gay community fought against regulatio ns that continually considered even private homosexual relationships a public matter. The Vice Bureau refused to relegate itself to defea t. Large turnouts of gay men and women at city council meetings fought the injus tice provoked by the Vice Bureau. According to Thomas Noel, Â“In city council hearings Gay Coalition attorneys maintained that Â‘officers sometimes engaged homosex uals in leading conversation for fifteen minutes before the homosexual offered to pe rform a lewd act.Â”246 In an effort to invalidate municipal ordinances aimed specifically at the gay community, attorneys and activists demonstrated the methods of entrapment th e Vice Bureau employed. Plainclothes police officers would lead homosexual men i nto situations that trapped them. One breaking point was the use of the Â“Johnny Cash SpecialÂ” by the Denver Vice Bureau. The Johnny Cash Special was a bus loaned to various police departments across the countryÂ—based in New YorkÂ—to entice and entrap homo sexual men with the intention of sexual acts. According to a 1973 Gay Coalition m emorandum, Â“The bus was driven on 244 Andy Rogers, Â“Gays Crowd Council Chambers: Homosex uals Protest Criminal-Code Draft,Â” The Denver Post, October 24, 1973. 245 Andy Rogers, Â“Gays Crowd Council Chambers: Homosex uals Protest Criminal-Code Draft,Â” The Denver Post, October 24, 1973. 246 Noel, Â“Gay Bars,Â” 62.
nthe Capital grounds and in Cheesman Park, two wellknown Â‘gayÂ’ meeting places. The driver would invite a man to board the bus and prom ote a conversation, which would end in a mutual agreement to commit a sexual act. The b us was then driven a short distance and parked at which time vice squad officers (who h ad concealed themselves in the rear of the bus) would come forward and arrest the passe nger.Â”247 Methods of entrapment by the Vice Bureau contradicted the very basis of thei r law. The Vice Bureau solicited the homosexual man into a situation with the promise of sex, thereby invoking the same ordinance they intended to police. DenverÂ’s gay act ivists spoke out against police harassment so heavily in the 1970s that Gay Coaliti on lawyers actually made successful gains in 1974. Denver Gay Coalition lawyers, the De nver police chief, and Denver city Â“signed a statement before a Denver district court judge which specified Â‘that homosexuals shall not be singled out for prosecutio n for conduct which would not constitute an offense if engaged in by members of t he opposite sexÂ…That conduct such as kissing, hugging, dancing, holding hands between members of the same sex shall not be deemed the basis for an arrest,Â’Â” according to T homas Noel.248 In this context, the loosening of sexual restrictions allowed DenverÂ’s g ay community to begin functioning in a more openly way. The roots of homophile activism requiring the presentation of a moral gay man no longer seemed required. Local media also began to speak out in defense of t he gay community. Throughout the post war decades, local media covera ge provided a relatively negative connotation to the homosexual community. Local sour ces such as The Denver Post and The Rocky Mountain News began offering editorials, commentary, and headlin es 247 Cordell Boyce and Terry Mangan, memorandum to City of Denver Representatives, February 12, 1973. Gay Coalition of Denver Collection (MSS #1151), Col orado Historical Society, Denver, Colorado. 248 Noel, Â“Gay Bars,Â” 64.
ndedicated to defending the legitimacy of the homose xual community. In one 1973 editorial, journalist Cecil Jones warns about polic e entrapment and explains in detail the process by which police and the courts treated gay men and women with questionable evidence. He stated, Â“[S]hould a well-barbered youn g man attempt to engage you in conversation, it would be advisable to shun his ove rtures and do nothing exceptional. An indiscretion could lead to arrest on three city ord inances that may well be unconstitutional, and the arrest could proceed from methods which, according to a number of attorneys, often pass beyond legitimate u se of police power to entrapment.Â”249 In this context, the increase in positive media att ention reflects changing attitudes toward homosexuals. Indeed, articles in the 1950s describe d centers of homosexual activity and how Denver residents should avoid them. In contrast as the 1970s progressed, the local mediaÂ’s attention was on describing how the police mistreat homosexuals and how law enforcement agents routinely use questionable evide nce shows the change in popular attitude towards DenverÂ’s gay community. Tolerance and discrimination fluctuated in Denver i n the 1970s. While some judges, attorneys, and religious officials condoned homosexualityÂ—and fought for sexual justiceÂ—the majority of the townÂ’s conservatives fo ught against homosexual acceptance on a national level. Denver authorities continued t o use morality as a basis for discrimination, despite growing resentment from rel igious officials of using biblical scripture out of context. One professor stated, Â“To parade Bible texts with the assumption that they answer the question is to ignore the dept h of the Biblical message and how it 249 Cecil Jones, Â“Denver police vs. homosexuals: a con frontation,Â” The Rocky Mountain News, April 23, 1973.
nrelates to our contemporary responsibility.Â’Â”250 Religious values began to change in the 1970s. National denominations began to evaluate the ir treatment of homosexuality.251 The increased attention and changes that ecclesiast ical entities began to accept homosexuality discredited DenverÂ’s municipal author ity use of morality and religion as basis for discrimination and exclusion. Reverend Troy PerryÂ—a licensed Baptist ministerÂ—ca me out of the closet and declared is homosexuality in 1964. He wrote Â“his au tobiography called Â‘The Lord Is My Shepherd and He Knows IÂ’m Gay,Â’ and set about found ing the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) specifically to meet the needs of gay men and women.Â”252 Homosexual ministers opened many MCC across the Un ited States. Ordained ministers who openly declared their homosexualityÂ—a nd ordained by other entitiesÂ—left their prior lives behind to oppose the Â“passive exc lusionÂ” that so many ecclesiastical authorities used against the gay community. Reveren d Charlie Arehart moved from Missouri to become pastor at the MCC of the Rockies in Denver in 1977.253 The MCC operated as a place of safety and assurance for man y members of the gay community. As Rev John Hose stated, Â“Â‘we are disenfranchised peop le in the eyes of the establishment church. Of all the people who need assurance that t hey are GodÂ’s children, it is members of the gay community who are made to feel as pariah s in society.Â’Â”254 Ministers that operated MCC across the country did so to rectify a division between the homosexual community and religion. Rev Perry said, Â“The church was necessary because I found as a 250 Virginia Culver, Presbyterian Professor for Gay Or dination, The Denver Post, February 24, 1978. 251 Kenneth A. Briggs, Â“Presbyterian Panel Asks Gay Or dination Plan,Â” The Denver Post, January 27, 1978; Peter Jaffe, Â“Gay issues leaves presbytery sp lit,Â” The Rocky Mountain News, April 5, 1978. 252 Sue Lindsay Roll, Â“MCC meets needs of gay men, wom en,Â” The Rocky Mountain News, March 2, 1977. 253 Sue Lindsay Roll, Â“MCC meets needs of gay men, wom en,Â” The Rocky Mountain News, March 2, 1977. 254 Sue Lindsay Roll, Â“MCC meets needs of gay men, wom en,Â” The Rocky Mountain News, March 2, 1977.
ngay person that you couldnÂ’t be gay and Christian t oo.Â’Â”255 The MCC of the Rockies, based upon principles of inclusion and equality, co ntinued to help the development of the gay community as a moral entity. By the late 1970s, religious affiliates began to help fight discrimination based upon religion, morality, and biblical scripture. In one 1978 editorial, the Rocky Mountain News featured commentary from The MCC of the Rockies, it stated: The Metropolitan Community Church of the Rockies is a Christian Church, composed of homosexual and heterosexual Christians, who welcome all people, regardless or race, sex, affectional [ sic ] or sexual preference, economic status, or previous denominational affiliationÂ…. We are an ecu menical Christian Church which loves all people, AND REFUSES TO JUDGE anyone We deplore the hate campaign led by Â‘self-entitledÂ’ Christian peoples. Under the guise of a Â‘return to morality and decency,Â’ they twist and pervert Bibli cal Scriptures, and encourage you to oppress gay peopleÂ…. We remind these people that American citizens, gay and non-gay alike, are guaranteed the freedoms decl ared in the Bill of Rights. United we of M.C.C. of the Rockies oppose bigotry, whether it be directed at Â‘Blacks,Â’ Â‘Catholics,Â’ Â‘Chicanos,Â’ Â‘Gays,Â’ Â‘Jews,Â’ Â‘Women,Â’ or other minority groups. As tax-paying citizens of Denver, we are pr oud that OUR city is NOT known for discrimination.256 The MCC of the Rockies used DenverÂ’s reputation as inclusive and welcoming town to fight discrimination for all minorities. As Denver officials continued to place the reputation of Denver as a primary concern, civil ri ghts activists used the accepting nature of DenverÂ—which municipal authorities createdÂ—to pr omote the tolerant treatment homosexual men and women deserved. Indeed, theologi cal entities began to employ tactics to promote tolerance and acceptance, the st ate designed to control and conceal homosexuality, to actually increase the awareness a nd normalization of the queer minority. Many Coloradoans would continue to exhibit a progre ssive attitude towards queer culture into the late twentieth century. In 1973, C olorado Rep. Charles J. Demoulin 255 Sue Lindsay Roll, Â“MCC meets needs of gay men, wom en,Â” The Rocky Mountain News, March 2, 1977. 256 Â“We Are HappyÂ…That God Loves Homosexuals,Â” The Rocky Mountain News, June 18, 1978.
nnpassed a custody bill that prohibited courts from d enying custody of a child based upon sexual identity. Â“Demoulin said it wouldnÂ’t prohibi t a judge from considering a parentÂ’s homosexuality as one of several factors affecting a childÂ’s best interest.Â’ But homosexuality by itself couldnÂ’t be Â‘determinative. Â’Â”257 DemoulinÂ’s bill was one of the first four introducing anti-discrimination on the b asis of sexual orientation. In 1975, Boulder County Clerk Clela Rorex issued a marriage license for two gay men from Colorado Springs. Â“The county clerk said she issued the license after the Boulder district attorneyÂ’s office said no state law prevented perso ns of the same sex from being married,Â” according to an article in The Denver Post .258 While the state revoked the license shortly after, the fact that the county clerk and Boulder d istrict attorney issued the license further illustrates at least one personsÂ’ progressive attit ude towards the queer community. The 1970s marked a period of progression for Denver Â’s gay community. Following 1973, DenverÂ’s gay community became incre asingly public regarding gay culture as many businesses opened and marketed them selves as pro-gay establishments.259 Â“By the mid-1970s there were three gay churches, a gay motorcycle club, a gay theater, a gay coffee house, several ga y bath houses, gay apartment houses, publications, and other facilitates, as well as fou rteen bars,Â” according to Thomas Noel.260 In 1974, DenverÂ’s gay community held its first prid e parade, openly in Cheesman Park. Members of the community, and heterosexual allies, gathered for volleyball, baseball, picnics, and other lawn games.261 The transformation of homphile activism to gay 257 Â“Gay parentsÂ’ custody bill offered,Â” The Rocky Mountain News February 26, 1973. 258 Â“License Issued in Boulder For 2 Men to Be Married ,Â” The Denver Post, March 27, 1975. 259 Rhinoceros volume 1, no. 6 (April 1975) 260 Noel, Â“Gay Bars,Â” 65. 261 Bob Eweges, Â“Anti-Hostility Effort: Â‘Gay Pride Wee kÂ’ Focuses on Equality,Â” The Denver Post March 19, 1974.
nnnliberation made considerable advancements for Denve rÂ’s gay minority possible. The cohesion of a political rights agenda based upon id entity, finally allowed for national gay rights progression. DenverÂ’s queer community stoppe d dividing itself between those who presented an image of sexual restraint, and those w ho practiced their sexuality openly. Amidst national conversations regarding changing at titudes about sexuality, religion, and morality, Denver slowly became the liberal and tole rant haven it never wanted to be for queer populations.262 As Sergeant B.J. OÂ’Donnell observed, Â“I think [str aight] people are being more liberal. TheyÂ’re accepting other peopleÂ’ s lifestyles.Â”263 Conclusion DenverÂ’s gay culture has a long and rich history. Beginning within groups of cowboys, miners, and the army, individuals partakin g in same-sex sexual acts formed the earliest remnants of a queer minority within Colora do territory. World War IIÂ—as with many queer communities throughout the United States Â—proved to be a catalyst for the small group of individuals within the Mile High Cit y. Increased policing of vices awakened the police and public to a growing number of homosexual men and women making Denver their home. The formation of the homosexual identity catalyzed the gay community during the post war world. As the federal government, stat e, and public increased policing of sexual abnormality and sexual deviance, gay people began to see themselves as part of a larger minority facing similar injustices despite r egional and geographic differences. As 262 For information on national religion conversation affecting Denver, see: Virginia Culver, Â“Episcopali ans Condemn Â‘SinÂ’ of Homosexuality,Â” The Denver Post, November 11, 1977; Kenneth A. Briggs, Â“Presbyterian Panel Asks Gay Ordination Plan,Â” The Denver Post, January 27, 1978; and Peter Jaffe, Â“Gay issues leaves presbytery split,Â” The Rocky Mountain News, April 5, 1978. 263 Noel, Â“Gay Bars,Â” 65.
nnthe state attempted to curb the visibility of homos exuality and sexual deviance, it created a minority capable of rebelling against sexual inju stices and increased their visibility and identity recognition well into the twenty-first cen tury. The Stonewall Riot in 1969 proved to be the catalyst for a Gay Liberation movement ac ross the entire United States. DenverÂ’s Gay Coalition formed from the roots of the movement in New York to combat anti-gay laws in Colorado. In this context, the Sto newall riot helped facilitate a national and very public gay liberation movement, but Denver Â—as many other communitiesÂ— began the fight for equality long before the riot i n Greenwich Village. The movement in Denver is a tale of communities, w hich never truly unite. Early homophile activism advocated based on morality, and truly was for the gains of white homosexualÂ—usually upper and middle classÂ—men. Thes e early movements left out many other voices in this narrative including lower class gay men, men of color, and women. In the 1970s, the gay liberation movement so ught to incorporate the majority of these groups by basing the gay rights agenda on the gay identity. Homophile activism really advocated based on sexual acts, as their pre mise was to distance homosexuality from sexual acts. Within the context of the sexual revolution, early homophile activism based on morality no longer mattered. Advocating fo r an image of a sexually restrained homosexual decreased as sexuality became increasing ly public, and free love became more prominent. Homophile arguments separating homo sexual acts from homosexual status collapsed as the sexual revolution embraced all sexual scenes and acts as part of homosexual culture. DenverÂ’s queer community used a cultural-institutional approach to attempt to combine the voices of members of the que er community left out of the early movements. According to Elizabeth Armstrong, cultur al-institutional approaches
nnÂ“included gay rights organizations, but it also inc luded lesbian quilters, the freedom day parades, and lesbian/gay newspaper. It was simultan eously culture, political, and organizational.Â”264 While arguments of morality were crucial to early formations of homosexual culture in Denver, within the context of the sexual revolution and the gay liberation movement, the politics of moral respecta bility diminished. Indeed, the combining of cultural and political agendas helped DenverÂ’s gay community to take the voices of many individuals and advocate against ant i-homosexual rhetoric that would advance the lives of many queer individuals, rather than just men.265 Gay establishments would present and disseminate information for all d ifferent varieties of queer individuals furthering acceptance of a unified queer minority e mbracing all aspects of their sexuality.266 DenverÂ’s gay community continued to flourish into t he 1980s, 1990s, and the twenty-first century. Homosexual men and women in t he Mile High City would express their sexual identity with pride beginning in the 1 970s. While Denver celebrated its official Â“PrideÂ” celebration in 1974, for the next thirty years it would draw over 200,000 participants, observers, friends, and family of the gay community and would be ranked as one of the top ten pride celebrations in the United States.267 The story of the Gay Coalition of Denver, the Gay Task Force, the Lesbia n Task Force, would continue to 264 Armstrong, Forging Gay Identities, 13. 265 Women and lesbian movements often distanced themse lves from homophile activism because they did not strive for the same political gains. Early lesb ian activists such as the Daughters of Bilitis, the Lesbian and Task Force, and others like them did not partic ipate in partisan politics with homophile activism until the transformation of the gay liberation movement. For a more detailed discussion see: Marcia M. Gallo Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement (Berkley: Seal Press, 2007) 266 Bob Eweges, Â“Anti-Hostility Effort: Â‘Gay Pride Wee kÂ’ Focuses on Equality,Â” The Denver Post March 19, 1974. 267 Matt Kailey, Focus on the Fabulous, (Boulder: Johnson Books, 2007,) 19; for a more deta iled discussion of the celebration see: Aaron B. Marcus, Â“Pridefest: a history of Denver's gay pride celebr ation,Â” Colorado Heritage May/June 2013 (pp. 26-35)
nnfight for sexual equality. Denver continually opera ted as a center for gay lifeÂ—not only within ColoradoÂ—but also within the west. As Philli p NashÂ—Coordinator for the Gay Community Center of ColoradoÂ—stated, Â“Denver is no more a Â‘havenÂ’ for homosexuals than it is a Â‘haven for homophobes. It is to this c ityÂ’s credit that our citizenry is wide in its diversity and that we can all live together in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance, if not acceptance.Â”268 While it was certainly not a haven for homosexual men and women, the attitudes of Denver citizens indeed created a relat ively liberal space for many queer individuals in the west. The history of DenverÂ’s ga y community shows that often in rural communities, a bigger urban environment frequently provides the opportunity for sexual freedom, and the experience gay men and women need to know they are part of a larger community, and deserve sexual equality. Gay Denveri tes attempted to steer the conversation of homosexuality away from negative co nnotations associated with degenerative sex, but progressions of the gay liber ation movement helped unify DenverÂ’s gay community and combine the political aspirations of gay liberation, with emerging notions of sexual freedom. By engaging with diverse citizens of Denver, the gay community began to truly make Denver, the Queens Ci ty of the Plains. 268 Phillip A. Nash, Â“Â’HavenÂ’ for gays?Â” The Rocky Mountain News June 13, 1978.
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