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) 

On My Etsy Shop: Yemaya

On My Etsy Shop: Signed & Matted 5x7 Yemaya Art Prints $20. Yemaya is an Orisha, originally of the Yoruba religion, who has become prominent in many Afro-American and Latin religions. Africans brought Yemaya and a host of other deities, and energy forces in nature with them when they were brought to the shores of the Americas as captives. Yemaya is the mother of all living things, as well as the owner of all waters. She is the vast ocean, the essence of motherhood, a protector of children, and a goddess of magic and witches. In Cuban Santeria, she has been syncretized with Our Lady of Regla.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Gay History: Alan Turing


Alan Mathison Turing (1912 - 1954) was an English mathematician, computer scientist, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher, and theoretical biologist. Turing was highly influential in the development of theoretical computer science, providing a formalization of the concepts of algorithm and computation with the Turing machine, which can be considered a model of a general-purpose computer. He is widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence.

In 1938, he obtained his PhD from the Department of Mathematics at Princeton University. During the Second World War, Turing worked for the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, Britain's codebreaking center that produced Ultra intelligence. For a time he led Hut 8, the section that was responsible for German naval cryptanalysis. Here, he devised a number of techniques for speeding the breaking of German ciphers, including improvements to the pre-war Polish bomba method, an electromechanical machine that could find settings for the Enigma machine. Turing played a crucial role in cracking intercepted coded messages that enabled the Allies to defeat the Axis powers in many crucial engagements, including the Battle of the Atlantic.

After the war, Turing worked at the National Physical Laboratory, where he designed the Automatic Computing Engine, one of the first designs for a stored-program computer. In 1948, Turing joined Max Newman's Computing Machine Laboratory, at the Victoria University of Manchester, where he helped develop the Manchester computers and became interested in mathematical biology. He wrote a paper on the chemical basis of morphogenesis and predicted oscillating chemical reactions such as the Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction, first observed in the 1960s. Despite these accomplishments, Turing was never fully recognized in Britain during his lifetime because much of his work was covered by the Official Secrets Act.

Turing was prosecuted in 1952 for homosexual acts. He accepted hormone treatment with DES, a procedure commonly referred to as chemical castration, as an alternative to prison. Turing died on 7 June 1954, 16 days before his 42nd birthday, from cyanide poisoning. An inquest determined his death as a suicide, but it has been noted that the known evidence is also consistent with accidental poisoning. Following a public campaign in 2009, the British prime minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology on behalf of the British government for "the appalling way [Turing] was treated". Queen Elizabeth II granted a posthumous pardon in 2013. The term "Alan Turing law" is now used informally to refer to a 2017 law in the United Kingdom that retroactively pardoned men cautioned or convicted under historical legislation that outlawed homosexual acts.

Turing has an extensive legacy with statues of him and many things named after him, including an annual award for computer science innovations. He appears on the current Bank of England £50 note, which was released on 23 June 2021, to coincide with his birthday. A 2019 BBC series, as voted by the audience, named him the greatest person of the 20th century.

( ~ Wikipedia)

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Gay History: Hans Christian Anderson

Hans Christian Andersen (1805 - 1875) was a Danish storyteller and novelist, most famous for his timeless fairy tales, including “The Little Mermaid,” “The Snow Queen” and “Thumbelina.” 

Andersen was born to a working-class family in Odense, Denmark. His father was a shoemaker, and his mother worked as a washerwoman. Andersen attended a local school, while simultaneously working as a weaver’s apprentice and later as a tailor. 

When he was 14, Andersen moved to Copenhagen to pursue an acting career. He was accepted into the Royal Danish Theatre and established a friendship with the theatre’s director, Jonas Collin. Collin raised money to send Andersen to secondary school in Slagelse, Denmark. 

In 1828, after Andersen graduated, he enrolled in the University of Copenhagen, where he began writing novels. In 1829 he published “A Walk from Holmen’s Canal to the East Point of the Island of Amager in the Years 1828 and 1829.” It was his first success as an author. 

In May 1835 Andersen wrote “Tales Told for Children: Volume One,” which included many of his now-famous stories such as “The Princess and the Pea” and “The Tinderbox.” Later that year, Andersen published Volume Two, which included “Thumbelina” and “The Naughty Boy.” Despite the success of these volumes, Andersen received criticism for his casual writing style, which delayed the publication of Volume Three until 1837. His third volume included classics like “The Little Mermaid” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” 

Andersen subsequently wrote plays. He gained notoriety from one of his first, “The Mulatto,” in 1840 — a work that explores and condemns slavery. He traveled to Africa, Asia, Sweden, Spain and other European countries, and wrote several books documenting his time abroad, including “A Poet’s Bazaar” (1842), “Pictures of Sweden” (1851) and “In Spain” (1863). 

Although Andersen’s sexuality was never made public, he wrote love letters to both men and women and experienced a few romances with men. From 1861 to 1863, he enjoyed a continuous relationship with the Danish dancer Harold Scharff. 

In 1872 Andersen sustained permanent injuries falling out of bed. He developed signs of liver cancer soon thereafter and died of the disease at age 70. He is buried in Assistens Cemetery in Copenhagen.

( ~

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Gay History: Liberace

Władziu Valentino Liberace (1919 -1987) was an American pianist, singer, and actor. A child prodigy born in Wisconsin to parents of Italian and Polish origin, he enjoyed a career spanning four decades of concerts, recordings, television, motion pictures, and endorsements. At the height of his fame from the 1950s to 1970s, he was the highest-paid entertainer in the world with established concert residencies in Las Vegas and an international touring schedule. He embraced a lifestyle of flamboyant excess both on and off stage.

The success of Liberace's syndicated television program made him a popular recording artist. From 1947-51, he released 10 albums. By 1954, it jumped to nearly 70. He released several recordings through Columbia Records, including Liberace by Candlelight. He sold over 400,000 albums by 1954. His most popular single was "Ave Maria", selling over 300,000 copies.

His albums included popular songs at the time, such as "Hello, Dolly!". He also played his versions of classical music for the composed by Chopin and Liszt. Many fans of classical music criticized them (and Liberace's skills as a pianist in general) for being "pure fluff with minimal musicianship". In his life, he received six gold records.

During his career, Liberace denied being homosexual. He successfully won lawsuits against The Daily Mirror newspaper and Confidential magazine, who had reported some of his gay relationships. He was awarded damages and legal fees. Towards the end of his life his chauffeur sued him for "palimony". The lawsuit was unsuccessful. He died of pneumonia caused by AIDS/HIV on February 4, 1987 in Palm Springs, California, aged 67.

( ~ Wikipedia)

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Gay History: Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol (1928 - 1987) was an American visual artist, film director, producer, and leading figure in the pop art movement. His works explore the relationship between artistic expression, advertising, and celebrity culture that flourished by the 1960s, and span a variety of media, including painting, silk-screening, photography, film, and sculpture. Some of his best-known works include the silkscreen paintings Campbell's Soup Cans (1962) and Marilyn Diptych (1962), the experimental films Empire (1964) and Chelsea Girls (1966), and the multimedia events known as the Exploding Plastic Inevitable (1966–67).

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Warhol initially pursued a successful career as a commercial illustrator. After exhibiting his work in several galleries in the late 1950s, he began to receive recognition as an influential and controversial artist. His New York studio, The Factory, became a well-known gathering place that brought together distinguished intellectuals, drag queens, playwrights, Bohemian street people, Hollywood celebrities, and wealthy patrons. He promoted a collection of personalities known as Warhol superstars, and is credited with inspiring the widely used expression "15 minutes of fame".

In the late 1960s he managed and produced the experimental rock band The Velvet Underground and founded Interview magazine. He authored numerous books, including The Philosophy of Andy Warhol and Popism: The Warhol Sixties. He lived openly as a gay man before the gay liberation movement. In June 1968, he was almost killed by radical feminist Valerie Solanas, who shot him inside his studio. After gallbladder surgery, Warhol died of cardiac arrhythmia in February 1987 at the age of 58 in New York City.

( ~ Wikipedia)

Monday, June 19, 2023

Gay History: Lorraine Hansberry

Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965) was an activist and playwright best known for her groundbreaking play “A Raisin in the Sun,” about a struggling Black family on Chicago’s South Side. After the play’s release, Hansberry became the first Black playwright and youngest American to win a New York Critics’ Circle Award. “A Raisin in the Sun,” named after a line in Langston Hughes’ poem “Harlem: A Dream Deferred,” opened at New York City’s Ethel Barrymore Theatre in March 1959, becoming the first play written by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway. The iconic work was then made into a 1961 film starring Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee.

Prior to “A Raisin in the Sun” fame, Hansberry — who never publicly acknowledged she was a lesbian — joined lesbian rights group Daughters of Bilitis and contributed letters about feminism and homophobia to its magazine, “The Ladder,” according to LGBTQ historian Eric Marcus, host of the “Making Gay History” podcast. Marcus notes that Hansberry didn’t officially come out until nearly a half-century after her death — when in 2014 her estate unsealed diaries and other writings in which she reveals her sexuality. Hansberry died in 1965, at just 34 years old, of pancreatic cancer.

( ~ / Photo: David Attie / Getty Images)

Sunday, June 18, 2023

June 18 ~ Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to all the fathers, stepfathers, foster fathers, grandfathers, godfathers, uncles, "guncles", dads and sugar daddies.

Gay History: Freddy Mercury

Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara / 1946 - 1991) was the lead vocalist and songwriter of the rock band Queen. Regarded as one of the greatest lead singers in the history of rock music, he was known for his flamboyant stage persona and four-octave vocal range. Mercury defied the conventions of a rock frontman with his highly theatrical style influencing the artistic direction of Queen.

Mercury was born in Zanzibar, spent most of his childhood in India, then moved back to Zanzibar. At age 17, he fled with his family from the racial violence that marked the Zanzibar Revolution and settled permanently in the United Kingdom. Mercury was ethnically Parsi, part of the Zoroastrian religious community whose ancestors fled from Persia to India to avoid persecution following the Muslim conquest of Persia over a thousand years ago. In other words, many people can be proud to call Freddie Mercury one of their own.

In 1970, he formed the group Queen with guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor. Mercury wrote numerous hits for Queen, including "Killer Queen", "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Somebody to Love", "We Are the Champions", "Don't Stop Me Now", and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love". He became well known not only for his stellar voice but also for his charismatic stage presence.

As a member of Queen, Mercury was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003, and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2004. In 1990, he and the other Queen members were awarded the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music, and one year after his death, Mercury was awarded it individually.

Although both Freddie Mercury and Queen actively avoided publicly labeling his sexuality, lest it negatively impact their careers, Freddie Mercury's attractions and behavior were openly bi. His relationships included Mary Austin, to whom he willed his home and the royalties from his music, and about whom he wrote the song "Love of my Life." Later, Mercury was involved with Barbara Valentin, who is featured in the video for "It's a Hard Life."

In 1985, he began a relationship with hairdresser Jim Hutton that lasted until Mercury's death from bronchial pneumonia resulting from AIDS.

( ~

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Gay History: Marlene Dietrich

Marie Magdalene "Marlene" Dietrich was a German-American actor and singer. Throughout her long career, which spanned from the 1910s to the 1980s, she continually reinvented herself.

Her career began in silent films and she starred in one of the most influential sound films of the time, The Blue Angel (1930). Her performance in The Blue Angel began her long collaboration with famed director Joseph von Sternberg and brought her international fame. She signed a contract with Paramount and began making Hollywood films, becoming one of the best-paid actors of the era.

Although she continued to appear in a few films in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, she spent most of that time touring the world as a hugely popular live cabaret performer.

Throughout her career, she was known for challenging gender assumptions, often dressing in tuxedos. She would frequently begin her live show in a glamorous gown and then do the second part in a tuxedo, singing songs that were more often performed by men.

She also wore her famous tux, flirted with, and kissed a woman in the 1930 film Morocco.

While she still lived in Berlin in the 1920s, she enjoyed the thriving gay scene. Even then she was challenging gender roles, boxing at a famous prizefighter's boxing studio.

Although she could not be public about her sexuality, she did not work especially hard to keep her exciting love life secret. She had many affairs (often with the knowledge of her husband) with both men and women. Dietrich was a member of "The Sewing Circle," a phrase used to describe a collection of quietly lesbian and bi actresses in Hollywood.

( ~

Friday, June 16, 2023

Gay Artist: Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo, born Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón (1907 - 1954), is arguably Mexico’s most famous artist. Inspired by the country's popular culture, she employed a naïve folk art style to explore questions of identity, postcolonialism, gender, class, and race in Mexican society.

Her paintings often had strong autobiographical elements and mixed realism with fantasy. In addition to belonging to the post-revolutionary Mexicayotl movement, which sought to define a Mexican identity outside of European colonialism, Kahlo has been described as a surrealist or magical realist.

Her clothing choices also reflected her determination to define a Mexican identity. She incorporated traditional clothing into her wardrobe as a way to show pride in her Mexican heritage.

Although she was disabled by polio as a child, Kahlo had been a promising student headed for medical school until a traffic accident at age eighteen, which caused her lifelong pain and medical problems. During her recovery, she returned to her childhood hobby of art with the idea of becoming an artist.

Kahlo's interests in politics and art led to her joining the Mexican Communist Party in 1927, through which she met fellow Mexican artist Diego Rivera. The couple married in 1928 and spent the late 1920s and early 1930s traveling in Mexico and the United States. Rivera was by far the better-known artist, but Kahlo did secure her first solo exhibition in New York in 1938.

Kahlo's work as an artist remained relatively unknown until the late 1970s, when her work was rediscovered by art historians and political activists. By the early 1990s, she had become not only a recognized figure in art history but also regarded as an icon for Chicanos, the feminism movement, and the LGBTQ movement.

She had a tumultuous relationship with her husband, Diego Rivera. Both had a number of affairs — some sanctioned and some on the sly. They even divorced for a year and then remarried. Her lovers included a diverse selection of men and women, many of them well-known thinkers and artists in their time. 

( ~

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Gay History: Divine

An indomitable icon of queer culture, Harris Glenn Milstead  (1945 – 1988), better known by his stage name, Divine, was a trailblazing performer whose alter ego was rude, raunchy and outrageous: a joyously self-determined, deeply liberating figure.

One of the most recognizable and celebrated counterculture artists, Divine performed mainly female roles in numerous films, most notably those of John Waters including Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, Polyester and Hairspray. An irreverent symbol of brash, bold wit and in-your-face humor, Divine was also a nightlife fixture and commanded the stage in theatrical productions such as The Neon Woman.

Divine also had a successful music career with international hit singles like "You Think You're A Man", "I'm So Beautiful" and "Walk Like A Man", all of which were performed as his female drag persona. He is widely viewed as a hero in both gay and punk culture, as well as one of the most significant drag performers of all time, People magazine described Divine as the "Drag Queen of the Century".

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Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Gay History: SAGE

Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Elders (SAGE) is America's oldest and largest non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults, focusing on the issue of LGBT aging. According to its mission statement, "SAGE leads in addressing issues related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning and other self-identifying members of the community (LGBTQ+) aging. In partnership with its constituents and allies, SAGE works to achieve a high quality of life for LGBTQ+ older people, supports and advocates for their rights, fosters a greater understanding of aging in all communities, and promotes positive images of LGBTQ+ life in later years." SAGE is a 501(c) organization that focuses on advocacy on the local and federal levels, as well as activities, groups and programs that encourage LGBTQ+ older adults to stay connected with each other and the community.

Incorporated by lesbian and gay activists and aging service professionals in 1978 as Senior Action in a Gay Environment, SAGE (now Services & Advocacy for LGBT Elders) is primarily located in New York City and has partner organizations all over the United States of America and Puerto Rico. SAGE also supports LGBTI older people in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nepal, and the Philippines. SAGE works with LGBTQ+ older adults and aging service providers to address and overcome the challenges of discrimination in older adult service settings.

SAGE is responsible for the nation's first Friendly Visiting program for frail and homebound LGBT older adults; the country's first support group for LGBT older adults with HIV; the nation's first program dedicated to caregiving services for LGBT older adults; the nation's first LGBT Senior Drop-In Center and the creation of the first national conferences devoted to LGBT aging concerns.

In 2010, SAGE became the recipient of a three-year, $900,000 grant from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Administration on Aging to create the nation's only national resource center on LGBT aging.

( ~ Wikipedia)

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Gay History: The Trevor Project

The Trevor Project is an American nonprofit organization founded in 1998. Focused on suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth, they offer a toll-free telephone number where confidential assistance is provided by trained counselors. The stated goals of the project are to provide crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for youth (defined by the organization as people under 25), as well as to offer guidance and resources to parents and educators in order to foster safe, accepting, and inclusive environments for all youth, at home, schools and colleges.

The Trevor Lifeline was established with seed funds provided by The Colin Higgins Foundation and HBO's license fee. As a result, it became the first nationwide, around-the-clock crisis and suicide prevention helpline for LGBTQ youth. The project also provides online support to young people through the project's website, as well as guidance and resources to educators and parents.

(~ Wikipedia)

Monday, June 12, 2023


 June 12, 2023 marks seven years since 49 people were killed and 53 others wounded in a mass shooting inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Gay History: Matthew Shepard


Matthew Wayne Shepard (1976 – 1998) was a gay American student at the University of Wyoming who was beaten, tortured, and left to die near Laramie on the night of October 6, 1998. He was taken by rescuers to Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado, where he died six days later from severe head injuries received during the attack.

Suspects Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson were arrested shortly after the attack and charged with first-degree murder following Shepard's death. Significant media coverage was given to the murder and what role Shepard's sexual orientation played as a motive for the crime.

Shepard's murder brought national and international attention to hate crime legislation at both the state and federal level. In October 2009, the United States Congress passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (commonly the "Matthew Shepard Act" or "Shepard/Byrd Act" for short), and on October 28, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the legislation into law.

In the aftermath of Matt’s death, his parents, Judy and Dennis Shepard, started the Matthew Shepard Foundation to honor his life and aspirations. The Matthew Shepard Foundation’s mission is to amplify the story of Matthew Shepard to inspire individuals, organizations, and communities to embrace the dignity and equality of all people.

(~ Wikipedia)

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Gay History: The Human Rights Campaign

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is an American LGBTQ advocacy group. It is the largest LGBTQ political lobbying organization within the United States. Based in Washington, D.C., the organization focuses on protecting and expanding rights for LGBTQ individuals, most notably advocating for same-sex marriage, anti-discrimination and hate crimes legislation, and HIV/AIDS advocacy. The organization has a number of legislative initiatives as well as supporting resources for LGBTQ individuals.

HRC is an umbrella group of two separate non-profit organizations and a political action committee: the HRC Foundation, a 501(c) organization that focuses on research, advocacy and education; the Human Rights Campaign, a 501(c) organization that focuses on promoting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) rights through lobbying Congress and state and local officials for support of pro-LGBTQ bills, and mobilizing grassroots action amongst its members; and the HRC Political Action Committee, a super PAC which supports and opposes political candidates.

( ~ Wikipedia)

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Gay History: GMHC & ACT UP

 The GMHC (formerly Gay Men's Health Crisis) is a New York City–based non-profit, volunteer-supported and community-based AIDS service organization whose mission statement is to "end the AIDS epidemic and uplift the lives of all affected."

The organization was founded in January 1982 after reports began surfacing in San Francisco and New York City that a rare form of cancer called Kaposi's sarcoma was affecting young gay men. After the Centers for Disease Control declared the new disease an epidemic, Gay Men's Health Crisis was created when 80 men gathered in New York writer Larry Kramer's apartment to discuss the issue of "gay cancer" and to raise money for research. GMHC took its name from the fact that the earliest men who fell victim to AIDS in the early 1980s were gay.

(~ Wikipedia)


AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) is an international, grassroots political group working to end the AIDS pandemic. The group works to improve the lives of people with AIDS through direct action, medical research, treatment and advocacy, and working to change legislation and public policies.

ACT UP was formed on March 12, 1987, at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in New York City. Larry Kramer was asked to speak as part of a rotating speaker series, and his well-attended speech focused on action to fight AIDS. Kramer spoke out against the current state of the Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC), which he perceived as politically impotent. Kramer had co-founded the GMHC but had resigned from its board of directors in 1983. According to Douglas Crimp, Kramer posed a question to the audience: "Do we want to start a new organization devoted to political action?" The answer was "a resounding yes." Approximately 300 people met two days later to form ACT UP.

At the Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, in October 1987, ACT UP New York made their debut on the national stage, as an active and visible presence in both the march, the main rally, and at the civil disobedience at the United States Supreme Court Building the following day. Inspired by this new approach to radical, direct action, other participants in these events returned home to multiple cities and formed local ACT UP chapters in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Rhode Island, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and other locations. ACT UP spread internationally. In many countries separate movements arose based on the American model. For example, the famous gay rights activist Rosa von Praunheim co-founded ACT UP in Germany.

(~ Wikipedia)