A new book, The Deviant’s War: The Homosexual vs. the United States of America, offers an in-depth look at the life and times of an LGBTQ pioneer.
What it’s about: Frank Kameny, a Harvard-trained astronomer fired from his job with the Army Map Service in 1957 for being gay. Kameny cofounded the Mattachine Society of Washington, an early gay-rights organization; was the first openly gay candidate for Congress in 1971; and spent his life fighting for LGBTQ Americans.
Who wrote it: Eric Cervini. The book got its start in 2013 during college. “I was in need of a topic for a research paper in an undergraduate urban history seminar,” he writes, “and after searching for ‘Harvey Milk,’ the only gay activist I knew, Harvard’s library database suggested Kameny’s name.”
Seminal event: In April 1965—marking “Washington’s first organized demonstration of homosexuals,” as Cervini puts it—Kameny led a group of ten men and women to picket the White House.
Funniest tidbit: At a 1964 convention of “homophile” organizations—the term at the time for pro-gay groups—at DC’s Sheraton-Park Hotel, “a confused Sheraton employee” posted signs announcing “East Coast Hemophile Organizations.”
Most moving moment: In 2009, John Berry, the openly gay director of the Office of Personnel Management—successor to the Civil Service Commission—read a letter to the activist: “In what we know today was a shameful action, the United States Civil Service Commission in 1957 upheld your dismissal from your job solely on the basis of your sexual orientation. . . . With courage and strength, you fought back. Please accept our apology for the consequences of the previous policy of the United States government.” Kameny, age 84, rose and replied: “Apology accepted.” He died two years later.
This article appears in the August 2020 issue of Washingtonian.