Wednesday, October 11, 2023

National Coming Out Day

Every year on October 11th, the anniversary of the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, we recognize the diverse range of experiences that LGBTQ folks have when coming out. So whether you are out, find yourself coming out over and over again, or are not out yet, know that you are loved just as you are, you are seen, and you are beautiful. 

Friday, June 30, 2023

Gay History: Toni Simon

Born Anton, Toni Simon (1887 - 1979) was raised in Thuringia, Germany. Even as a child Simon wore girls’ clothes whenever possible, and was pleased to do housework with her mother. At age 17, Simon volunteered for the cavalry to avoid service in the infantry where his ‘girlish’ gait would be mocked. After completing three years of service, Simon became a machinist in a bicycle factory, worked in breweries and tanneries, went to sea as a stoker and herring fisherman, and even worked as a bridge builder in northern cities such as Kiel, Wilhelmshaven and Bremen. When World War I broke out in August 1914 Simon was running a business selling newspapers and maps, which was taken over by his wife while he was conscripted. After 1918, Simon opened a restaurant in the Ruhr area, and in 1923 opened Café 4711 in Essen's Segerothstraße, which also acted as a “neuer Damenklub” for Essen’s transvestites. Herr and Frau Simon separated in 1927 and their divorce was finalized in 1932. The marriage produced five children.

Simon was arrested several times for illegal beer sales from the secret bottle cellar of Café 4711. In August 1929, Simon was summoned to appear before the Essen district court, and appeared in women's clothes. The judge found this "improper", and imposed an administrative fine of 100 marks. Simon's appearance caused a stir not only in the Ruhr press, but also in the Berlin transvestite scene. Completely impoverished by 1932, Simon had  to close Café 4711. After the Nazi takeover in 1933, Simon’s Transvestitenschein, official permission to wear female clothing, was cancelled. 

After his release from Welzheim police prison/concentration camp in 1939, Simon worked as a tester of high-voltage pylons. In this, and in the applications for reparations, she was referred to as Anton and Herr Simon. Yet, at the same time she was considered as a survivor of the pre-war queer scene in Stuttgart, and worked with the gay group Kameradschaft die runde which met in Stuttgart pubs. She arranged meetings and dances, and ‘Toni Simon’ was mentioned in advertisements in the local press. Her Transvestitenschein had been restored in 1951.

She supplemented her pension in the 1950s by smuggling in queer pornography from Denmark which at that time had a more liberal attitude to such publications.

Toni Simon died age 92.

( ~ Zagria)

Gay History: Sylvia Rivera

A veteran of the 1969 Stonewall Inn uprising, Sylvia Rivera (1951-2002) was a tireless advocate for those silenced and disregarded by larger movements. Throughout her life, she fought against the exclusion of transgender people, especially transgender people of color, from the larger movement for gay rights.

Rivera was born in New York City in 1951 to a father from Puerto Rico and a mother from Venezuela. She was assigned male at birth. Rivera had an incredibly difficult childhood. Her father was absent and her mother died by suicide when Rivera was 3 years old. Raised by her grandmother, Rivera began experimenting with clothing and makeup at a young age. She was beaten for doing so and, after being attacked on a school playground in sixth grade by another student, suspended from school for a week. Rivera ran away from home at age 11 and became a victim of sexual exploitation around 42nd Street.

In 1963, Rivera met Marsha P. Johnson and it changed her life. Johnson, an African American self-identified drag queen and activist, was also battling exclusion in a movement for gay rights that did not embrace her gender expression. Rivera said of Johnson that “she was like a mother to me.” The two were actively involved in the Stonewall Inn uprising on June 28, 1969 when patrons of the Stonewall Inn—a gay bar in Greenwich Village in lower Manhattan—rebuffed a police raid and set a new tone for the gay rights movement. Rivera said in an interview in 2001 that while she did not throw the first Molotov cocktail at the police (a long-enduring myth), she did throw the second. For six nights, the 17-year-old Rivera refused to go home or to sleep, saying “I’m not missing a minute of this—it's the revolution!”

( ~ National Women's History Museum) Read the full article.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Gay History: Marsha P. Johnson

Marsha P. Johnson (1945-1992), who would cheekily tell people the "P" stood for "pay it no mind", was an outspoken transgender rights activist and is reported to be one of the central figures of the historic Stonewall uprising of 1969. Following the Stonewall uprising, Johnson joined the Gay Liberation Front and was active in the GLF Drag Queen Caucus. On the first anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion, on June 28, 1970, Johnson marched in the first Gay Pride rally, then called the Christopher Street Liberation Day. One of Johnson's most notable direct actions occurred in August 1970, staging a sit-in protest at Weinstein Hall at New York University alongside fellow GLF members after administrators canceled a dance when they found out that it was sponsored by gay organizations. 

During a gay rights rally at New York City Hall in the early '70s, photographed by Diana Davies, a reporter asked Johnson why the group was demonstrating, Johnson shouted into the microphone, "Darling, I want my gay rights now!"

Along with fellow trans activist Sylvia Rivera, Johnson helped form Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries (STAR), a radical political organization that provided housing and other forms of support to homeless queer youth and sex workers in Manhattan. The two of them became a visible presence at gay liberation marches and other radical political actions. She was also a popular figure in New York City's gay and art scene, modeling for Andy Warhol, and performing onstage with the drag performance troupe Hot Peaches from 1972 through the ‘90s. Johnson was also an AIDS activist with AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP).

Johnson's body was found floating in the Hudson River in 1992. Initially and quickly ruled a suicide by the NYPD, controversy and protest followed, eventually leading to a re-opening of the case as a possible homicide.

( ~ Wikipedia)

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Gay History: Leslie Jordan

Leslie Allen Jordan (1955 - 2022) was an American actor, comedian, writer, and singer. His television roles include Beverley Leslie on Will & Grace (2001–2006 and 2017–2020), several characters on television in the American Horror Story franchise (2013–2019), Sid on The Cool Kids (2018–2019), Phil on Call Me Kat (2021–2022), and Lonnie Garr on Hearts Afire (1993–1995). On stage, he played Earl "Brother Boy" Ingram in the 1996 play Sordid Lives, later portraying the character in the 2000 film of the same name. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jordan became an Instagram contributor, amassing 5.8 million followers in 2020, and published his autobiography How Y'all Doing? Misadventures and Mischief from a Life Well Lived in April 2021.

In 2021, Jordan received GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics' Timeless Star award, the group's career achievement honor given to "an actor or performer whose exemplary career is marked by character, wisdom and wit." He also won an Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series Emmy Award in 2006 for his part as Beverley Leslie in Will & Grace.

On October 24, 2022, at approximately 9:30 am PDT, while driving to film scenes at the Call Me Kat set, Jordan's car, a late model BMW 2 series Gran Coupe, hit the side of a building at Cahuenga Boulevard and Romaine Street in Hollywood. He was believed to have experienced a medical episode that led to the crash. Jordan was pronounced dead at the scene. He was 67 years old.

( ~ Wikipedia)

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Gay History: Evangeline Marrs Whipple

Evangeline Marrs Simpson Whipple (1857 - 1930) was an American philanthropist and author, who was known for her humanitarian activities as a member of the American Red Cross in Europe during the First World War. When she died in 1930, she was buried at her request in Italy next to the love of her life, a woman with whom she had a relationship that spanned nearly 30 years. That woman, Rose Cleveland, was the sister of President Grover Cleveland, and had served as her brother's White House hostess (First Lady of the United States) from 1885 to 1886 because he was not married when he took office.

The relationship between the women continued until Evangeline met Bishop Henry Benjamin Whipple in Florida while she was on vacation. Henry Whipple was the first bishop of Minnesota, known for advocating for Native American rights. Henry died in 1901. In his honor, Evangeline commissioned several memorials to him, including the bell tower for the Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour. She stayed in Minnesota following his death and continued supporting the community. In 1902, she traveled to Italy with Rose Cleveland. They corresponded when apart.

The letters, preserved by the caretaker at Evangeline's Minnesota home, are collected in a new book, "Precious and Adored: The Love Letters of Rose Cleveland and Evangeline Simpson Whipple," and make clear that they were more than just friends.

( ~ Wikipedia)

Monday, June 26, 2023

Gay History: Joseph Fiévée

Joseph Fiévée (1767 - 1839) was a French journalist, novelist, essayist, playwright, civil servant (haut fonctionnaire) and secret agent. He also lived in an openly gay relationship with the writer Théodore Leclercq (1777-1851), with whom he was buried after his death.

Fiévée was born and died in Paris. The son of a restaurant owner, he became a publisher during the French Revolution, most notably editing La Chronique de Paris, a newspaper; it was here that he started his career as journalist, but unfortunately incurred the suspicion of authorities who had him imprisoned during the Reign of Terror. He was a member of the royalist network around the Abbey de Montesquiou, and was forced to go into hiding during the Directoire. While in hiding, he wrote his novel on changing times and mores, La Dot de Suzette, which was a great literary success.

From 1800 to 1803, he wrote a column for the Gazette de France. He was again imprisoned in the Temple (Paris) by order of Joseph Fouché, but he was freed at the request of Bonaparte. He became a kind of secret agent for Napoleon, informing him of political affairs in France and England.

From 1804 to 1807, he was editor in chief of the Journal des débats, which became Journal de l'Empire. He was ennobled by the Emperor; was named "maître des requêtes" to the Conseil d'État in 1810; then "Préfet" of the Nièvre départment from 1813 to 1815.

A supporter of Louis XVIII of France during the initial Restoration, he was banished during the Hundred Days. Having become one of the intellectuals of the "ultra" party and writer for the papers La Quotidienne and the Conservateur, he eventually became more politically liberal after 1818. A strong supporter of the freedom of the press, he was sentenced to three months of prison in the Conciergerie where Casimir Perier visited him.

He became a contributor to the journals Temps in 1829 and National in 1831.

Joseph Fiévée married in 1790 (his brother-in-law was Charles Frédéric Perlet), but his wife died giving birth, leaving him one child. At the end of the 1790s, he met the writer Théodore Leclercq who became his life companion, and the two would live and raise Fiévée's son together. When becoming Préfet, Fiévée and Leclercq moved to the Nièvre department, and their open relationship greatly shocked some locals. The two men were received together in the salons of the Restoration.

Both men are buried in the same tomb at Père Lachaise Cemetery.

(~ Wikipedia)

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Gay History: Leonard Matlovich

Technical Sergeant Leonard Phillip Matlovich (1943 - 1988) was an American Vietnam War veteran, race relations instructor, and recipient of the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. He was the first gay service member to purposely out himself to the military to fight their ban on gays, and perhaps the best-known openly gay man in the United States of America in the 1970s next to Harvey Milk. His fight to stay in the United States Air Force after coming out of the closet became a cause célèbre around which the gay community rallied. His case resulted in articles in newspapers and magazines throughout the country, numerous television interviews, and a television movie on NBC. His photograph appeared on the cover of the September 8, 1975, issue of Time magazine, making him a symbol for thousands of gay and lesbian servicemembers and gay people generally. Matlovich was the first named openly gay person to appear on the cover of a U.S. newsmagazine. According to author Randy Shilts, "It marked the first time the young gay movement had made the cover of a major newsweekly. To a movement still struggling for legitimacy, the event was a major turning point."

During Matlovich's September 1975 administrative discharge hearing, an Air Force attorney asked him if he would sign a document pledging to "never practice homosexuality again" in exchange for being allowed to remain in the Air Force. Matlovich refused. Despite his exemplary military record, tours of duty in Vietnam, and high performance evaluations, the panel ruled Matlovich unfit for service, and he was recommended for a General (Under Honorable Conditions) Discharge. The base commander, Colonel Alton J. Thogersen, citing Matlovich's service record, recommended that it be upgraded to Honorable. The Secretary of the Air Force agreed, confirming Matlovich's discharge in October 1975.

Matlovich sued for reinstatement, but the legal process was a long one, with the case moving back and forth between United States District and Circuit Courts.When, by September 1980, the Air Force had failed to provide U.S. District Court Judge Gerhard Gesell an explanation of why Matlovich did not meet its criteria for exception (which by then had been eliminated but still could have applied to him), Gesell ordered him reinstated into the Air Force and promoted. The Air Force offered Matlovich a financial settlement instead. Convinced that the military would find some other reason to discharge him if he reentered the service, or that the conservative Supreme Court would rule against him should the Air Force appeal, Matlovich accepted. 

On June 22, 1988, less than a month before his 45th birthday, Matlovich died in Los Angeles of complications from HIV/AIDS. His tombstone, meant to be a memorial to all gay veterans, does not bear his name. It reads, "When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one."

( ~ Wikipedia)

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Gay History: Audre Lorde

A self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” Audre Lorde (1934 - 1992) dedicated both her life and her creative talent to confronting and addressing injustices of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. Lorde was born in New York City to West Indian immigrant parents. She attended Catholic schools before graduating from Hunter High School and published her first poem in Seventeen magazine while still a student there. Of her poetic beginnings Lorde commented in Black Women Writers: “I used to speak in poetry. I would read poems, and I would memorize them. People would say, well what do you think, Audre. What happened to you yesterday? And I would recite a poem and somewhere in that poem would be a line or a feeling I would be sharing. In other words, I literally communicated through poetry. And when I couldn’t find the poems to express the things I was feeling, that’s what started me writing poetry, and that was when I was twelve or thirteen.”

Lorde earned her BA from Hunter College and MLS from Columbia University. She was a librarian in the New York public schools throughout the 1960s. She had two children with her husband, Edwin Rollins, a white, gay man, before they divorced in 1970. In 1972, Lorde met her long-time partner, Frances Clayton. She also began teaching as poet-in-residence at Tougaloo College. Her experiences with teaching and pedagogy—as well as her place as a Black, queer woman in white academia—went on to inform her life and work. Indeed, Lorde’s contributions to feminist theory, critical race studies, and queer theory intertwine her personal experiences with broader political aims. Lorde articulated early on the intersections of race, class, and gender in canonical essays such as “The Master’s Tools Will Not Dismantle the Master’s House.”

 “I have a duty,” Lorde once stated, “to speak the truth as I see it and to share not just my triumphs, not just the things that felt good, but the pain, the intense, often unmitigating pain.”

( ~

From the House of Yemanjá
by Audre Lorde

My mother had two faces and a frying pot   
where she cooked up her daughters
into girls
before she fixed our dinner.
My mother had two faces
and a broken pot
where she hid out a perfect daughter   
who was not me
I am the sun and moon and forever hungry   
for her eyes.

I bear two women upon my back   
one dark and rich and hidden
in the ivory hungers of the other   
pale as a witch
yet steady and familiar
brings me bread and terror
in my sleep
her breasts are huge exciting anchors   
in the midnight storm.

All this has been
in my mother's bed
time has no sense
I have no brothers
and my sisters are cruel.

Mother I need
mother I need
mother I need your blackness now   
as the august earth needs rain.   
I am

the sun and moon and forever hungry   
the sharpened edge
where day and night shall meet
and not be

Audre Lorde, “From the House of Yemanjá” from The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde. Copyright © 1997 by Audre Lorde. Reprinted with the permission of Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency and W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.,

Source: The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde (W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 1997)