Franklin H. Kameny died on October 11th at the age of 86. Recognized as a founding father in the gay activist movement, he made his mark more than a decade before the Stonewall riots of 1969.
In a strange quirk of history, I got to know him on a more personal level the last seven months of his life, an unexpected development that took place because of my daily talk radio show, the Line of Fire. When the program began to air in his hometown of Washington, DC, in March of this year, he became a regular listener, calling in several times over the months.
The first time we spoke on the air, I told him that I genuinely admired his courage and pioneer spirit but that I categorically rejected his morals, as he was both a gay activist and a radical sexual libertarian. For his part, he was all too pleased to tell me that the God I worshiped was a “sinful, abominable, homophobic bigot who needed to repent.” That’s how our interaction began.
After I sent him a copy of my book A Queer Thing Happened to America (in which he was mentioned in the Introduction), he took up my invitation to be in contact via email, leading to several interesting e-exchanges between us.
When he learned that we both graduated from Queens College in New York (although he preceded me there by more than 30 years), he emailed me with many details about his background, writing, “As two former Queens-ites, I would be delighted to communicate with you on all of this.” I replied in kind.
When he heard me say that I mourned the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (while appreciating the fact that many LGBT’s have served our nation in the military), he wrote to me as a proud veteran of WWII: “We Gay Americans are not going away. We are not going to disappear. We are not going to become invisible or silent. And as gay people we and our homosexuality are going to have full, precise, absolute, unswerving, unyielding equality with you and your heterosexuality in EVERY aspect of societal, cultural, national, and legal functioning, bar NONE. . . .
“Gay IS Good. It IS OUR military equally along with yours.”
I replied (in part): “I know how passionately you feel about these things, I recognize how long you have fought for your ideals, and I understand how much you have sacrificed for your convictions, but I am 100% sure that in the end, God’s gracious and good ways will triumph on the earth -- either in my lifetime or after -- and you will realize that He does, in fact, have a better way than gay.