Buy Frank A Drink (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Transcripts

Buy Frank A Drink

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:08:51
But first, we'll hear about an underdog who has been facing down giants for more than half a century and a new campaign on Facebook to help him out in his hour of need. Next time you're in the DuPont Circle area and you find yourself on 17th Street between Q and R, take a look at the street signs.

MR. FRANK KAMENY

13:09:10
These two blocks from Q past (word?) R are now officially Frank Kameny Way.

SHEIR

13:09:17
And this is none other than Frank Kameny.

KAMENY

13:09:20
So I tell people now you can come to Washington and see a Washington monument and the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials and Frank Kameny Way.

SHEIR

13:09:31
I met up with the 85-year-old Washingtonian on Frank Kameny Way. Frank?

KAMENY

13:09:35
Ah, greetings.

SHEIR

13:09:35
Good to meet you. We're in a bustling restaurant where we nestled into a cozy corner booth.

KAMENY

13:09:40
Do you want to get in this part? All right.

SHEIR

13:09:42
The city mounted the Kameny Way signs this past summer in one of D.C.'s most visible gay neighborhoods because Frank Kameny, well, let's just say when it comes to the gay rights movement, he's a pretty big deal. In fact...

KAMENY

13:09:56
I founded the gay movement here in Washington in 1961 and with it gay activism and (word?) nationally.

SHEIR

13:10:06
He also coined the slogan, Gay is Good.

KAMENY

13:10:09
Gay is good, but being gay in those days was not good.

SHEIR

13:10:15
And Frank should know. Back in 1957, his homosexuality got him fired from his government job in Washington.

KAMENY

13:10:22
The federal civil service had a gay employment ban and one whole section of the police was set up to ferret out gay people and feed in their names to the Civil Service Commission so they could be fired or not hired.

SHEIR

13:10:40
And Frank was, yes, one of those people.

KAMENY

13:10:44
But I was, to my knowledge, the first person to fight back.

SHEIR

13:10:50
He wrote a petition to the Supreme Court.

KAMENY

13:10:52
And incidentally, the next month that will be going on display at the Library of Congress for six months.

SHEIR

13:11:00
And though the petition was denied, Frank didn't back down. He led the first-ever gay protests at the White House and Pentagon in the mid '60s. In the '70s, he helped convince the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

KAMENY

13:11:16
That has made a difference because, for example, we were being denied security clearances since we were emotionally disordered. Officially, we couldn't be entrusted with government secrets.

SHEIR

13:11:29
He was the first openly-gay member of D.C.'s Human Rights Commission, the first openly-gay congressional candidate. In 2009, he was invited to the Oval Office when President Obama signed that bill granting same-sex couples federal benefits.

KAMENY

13:11:41
And after the signing, he gave me the pen, which I have at home and I cherish.

SHEIR

13:11:47
Throw in his proud army service in World War II and you might say when it comes to Frank Kameny...

MR. BEN CARVER

13:11:52
He's a 12-round fighter. He's fought everyone from the Nazis to the APA to the Defense Department and Frank wins.

SHEIR

13:11:56
But as this gentleman will tell you...

CARVER

13:11:59
My name is Ben Carver. I've been in D.C. for about ten years.

SHEIR

13:12:03
It wasn't too long ago that fighting-Frank Kameny was in danger of losing and losing big. Sitting in that corner booth on Frank Kameny Way, Ben tells the story.

CARVER

13:12:12
Well, I found out through a friend that last Christmas, Frank was snowed in.

SHEIR

13:12:17
At his home in the Palisades in Northwest D.C….

CARVER

13:12:21
And had some difficulties meeting his most basic living needs, like heat, electricity, water, food...

SHEIR

13:12:29
Frank says he was still picking up the pieces from the dot.com bubble back in the year 2000 and he says since finances aren't really his strong suit, well, in the midst of that blizzard, he was hurting. He eventually received help from a local non-profit.

CARVER

13:12:44
Called Helping our Brothers and Sisters...

KAMENY

13:12:46
A kind of a charity organization in a way...

SHEIR

13:12:49
But the whole thing got Ben Carver, who, by the way, had not yet met Frank, well, it got Ben thinking.

CARVER

13:12:54
I felt like this was a shameful thing that a man who has given so much to the gay community, who, before I was even born, was laying the groundwork for making my life better and I felt the very least that I could do was find a way to help him.

SHEIR

13:13:09
So what did Ben do in today's social media savvy world? He launched a page on Facebook.

CARVER

13:13:15
It's called Buy Frank a Drink and what you can do is for $10, say the price of a nice cocktail, you can, in effect, toast a gay rights pioneer and honor him for everything that he has done for us. And through that small donation, we can help Frank with his situation.

SHEIR

13:13:30
Hundreds of people have signed on to buy Frank that drink and for that, he is most grateful.

KAMENY

13:13:35
It leaves me sleeping a lot more soundly.

SHEIR

13:13:38
Even if he can't quite log on to thank them.

KAMENY

13:13:41
Obviously, I've heard of Facebook. I've heard of Twitter. I don't know how they work.

SHEIR

13:13:46
You should help him set up a Facebook account.

CARVER

13:13:49
Oh, you can work on that, Frank.

KAMENY

13:13:50
All right, fair enough.

CARVER

13:13:51
I'll friend you.

SHEIR

13:13:51
I'll friend you, too. But in the meantime, Frank is pleased to report something else that has him sleeping more soundly, too. In June 2009, he received a letter from his old employers, the Civil Service Commission.

KAMENY

13:14:03
It's now been renamed the OPM, the Office of Personnel Management.

SHEIR

13:14:07
Apologizing for firing him back in 1957...

KAMENY

13:14:10
So I accepted their apology and suggested that I'm waiting for a reassignment and 52 years of back pay.

KAMENY

13:14:23
We're talking very much (word?) and then he can relax.

CARVER

13:14:26
But Ben Carver isn't relaxing anytime soon. He plans on keeping the "Buy Frank a Drink" page going for as long as it takes, just as Frank Kameny plans on keeping his fight for gay rights going as long as it takes.

KAMENY

13:14:39
We hear a very great deal about what has come to be called the gay agenda. And for me, that is subsumed under the single word equality and we've come a very, very long way toward the achievement of that over the 50 years that I've been involved, but we still have quite a way to go.

SHEIR

13:15:00
He says that when it comes to gay rights, Washington, D.C. is way ahead of the curve, Maryland, too, now that it's on the verge of legalizing same-sex marriage. But as we sit in that booth on Frank Kameny Way, the 85-year-old says he looks forward to the day when the rest of the country catches up, even if he's not there to see it.

KAMENY

13:15:20
I have a feeling I'm not likely to be around that much longer in person, but I'll be here out near DuPont Circle forever.

SHEIR

13:15:31
For more information on "Buy Frank a Drink," visit our website, metroconnection.org
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