Musings of an Aging Lesbian

I sit this morning in silence and wonder, looking out my windows to the snow-covered San Jacinto Mountains hovering over Palm Springs. My thoughts, my heart, go to the many friends I lost over 30 years ago to AIDS. I started working in the AIDS program in the Florida health Department in 1987 as the AIDS Surveillance Office, an epidemiologist with a one-trick pony…AIDS. In addition to many dear friends, I lost clients, people one would never suspect of even having AIDS – a Catholic priest, a 12 year old girl, a married man with 6 kids. My friend and co-worker Donna Zimmerman and I created the Condom Commandos and found ourselves in parks, at the beach, at truck stops at all hours of the night, giving condoms to men who were having sex right then and there. My AIDS office co-workers and I took food into the rooms of guys in the hospitals, meal trays that sat on the floor at their doors because kitchen staff wouldn’t go in. We changed bed sheets and hospital nightgowns because, again, aides wouldn’t do it for those young men. And with big (white) Bonnie Lott at my side, we got a poor, wasted Black young man into the city’s finest hospital to die, because we said we were his parents. (He died later that day.) I held grieving mothers, lovers, friends, even as I had no time to grieve myself because every day there was someone else dead or dying. And I remember that first World AIDS Day in Jacksonville, Florida, at the fountain on the river, by the Christmas tree, where many of the men who eventually died were there to offer their own love and support when they were desperately in need. I was there…and I remember.

Together, let us remember our gay brothers and others who are gone from us. Today I remember David Jones, Mark Oswald, Dan Bradley, Ron Davis, and my angel Tony O’Connor. Amen…

Rudyard Kipling said: If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten. The snippets of LGBTQ history here are the stories of our lives, the stories of the giants on whose shoulders we all stand. Learn about them then tell the stories and remember…

Thanks for taking this journey with me. Now go write your story!


 December 1 – World AIDS Day. World AIDS Day, designated on December 1st every year since 1988, is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection, and mourning those who have died of the disease.

1642 – The General Court of Connecticut adopted a list of 12 capital crimes, including “man lying with man.” The law was based on the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s Liberties of 1641 law which was based on the Old Testament proscription in Leviticus.

1715, UK – An Oxford University student notes in his diary that sodomy is very common there. “It is dangerous sending a young man who is beautiful to Oxford.”

1881 – Washington makes sodomy a crime.

1897, Germany – Magnus Hirschfeld (14 May 1868 – 14 May 1935) petitions the Reichstag to abolish Paragraph 175, the first salvo in a lifelong campaign for repeal. He was a German Jewish physician and sexologist educated primarily in Germany. He based his practice in Berlin-Charlottenburg. An outspoken advocate for sexual minorities, Hirschfeld founded the Scientific Humanitarian Committee. Historian Dustin Goltz characterized this group as having carried out “the first advocacy for homosexual and transgender rights“.

1901, Mexico – El Universal, a Mexican newspaper, reports that police raided a party attended by single women. The article implied that the women were lesbians.

1927 – A California appellate court upholds the sodomy conviction of a man after a private investigator hid under his bed to catch him in consensual sexual relations with his partner.

1952 – New York Daily News front page: Ex-GI becomes blonde beauty, an article about Christine Jorgensen (May 30, 1926 – May 3, 1989), the first American recipient of sex-reassignment surgery.

1955 – Rosa Parks (February 4, 1913 – October 24, 2005), the mother of the modern day civil rights movement, said NO in Montgomery, AL, refusing to give up her bus seat and sparking the year-long bus boycott. Though not specifically gay-related, Parks is an important activist shero.

1974 – Gay activists Bernie Toal, Tom Morganti and Daniel Thaxton in Boston chose the purple rhinoceros as a symbol of the gay movement after conducting a media campaign. They selected this animal because, although it is sometimes misunderstood, it is docile and intelligent, but when a rhinoceros is angered, it fights ferociously. Lavender was used because it was a widely recognized gay pride color; the heart was added to represent love and the “common humanity of all people. The entire campaign was intended to bring gay issues further into public view. The rhino started being displayed in subways in Boston, but since the creators didn’t qualify for a public service advertising rate, the campaign soon became too expensive for the activists to handle. The ads disappeared, and the rhino never caught on anywhere else.

1974 – The Greek letter  lambda was officially declared the international symbol for gay and lesbian rights by the International Gay Rights Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland. The lambda was selected as a symbol by the Gay Activists Alliance of New York in 1970.

1975 – Feminist writer Jill Johnston (May 17, 1929 – September 18, 2010) wrote an essay “Are Lesbians Gay?” in which she explained why she believed it was absurd for lesbians to align themselves with the gay movement. Johnston was an American feminist author and cultural critic who wrote Lesbian Nation in 1973 and was a longtime writer for The Village Voice. She was also a leader of the lesbian separatist movement of the 1970s. In 1993, in Denmark, she married Ingrid Nyeboe. The couple married again, in Connecticut, in 2009

1976 – In Florida, Willard Allen was released from a mental hospital 26 years after he was ordered by a judge to be held there for having sex with another man. His doctors had been recommending his release for almost 20 years.

1980 – Anita Bryant is interviewed by “Ladies Home Journal” and notes that she no longer feels as “militant” as she once did about gay rights.

1982 – The US House of Representatives votes to provide $2.6 million in funding to the Centers for Disease Control to fight AIDS.

1985 – “Cosmopolitan” article writes about AIDS noting, “If ever there was a homosexual plague, this disease is it.”

1987, France -Author James Baldwin (August 2, 1924 – December 1, 1987) dies. He was an American writer and social critic. His essays, as collected in Notes of a Native Son (1955), explore palpable yet unspoken intricacies of racialsexual, and class distinctions in Western societies, most notably in mid-20th-century America. An unfinished manuscript, Remember This House, was expanded and adapted for cinema as the Academy Award-nominated documentary film I Am Not Your Negro. Baldwin’s novels and plays fictionalize fundamental personal questions and dilemmas amid complex social and psychological pressures thwarting the equitable integration not only of African Americans, but also of gay and bisexual men, while depicting some internalized obstacles to such individuals’ quests for acceptance. Such dynamics are prominent in Baldwin’s second novel, Giovanni’s Room, written in 1956, well before the gay liberation movement. In 1949 Baldwin met and fell in love with Lucien Happersberger (September 20, 1932 – August 21, 2010), aged 17, though Happersberger’s marriage three years later left Baldwin distraught. Happersberger died on August 21, 2010, in Switzerland.

1988 – World AIDS Day, sponsored by the World Health Organization, on December 1st every year is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection, and remembering those who have died of the disease. The United States was the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, first noticed by doctors in young gay men in Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco in 1981. Since then, 1.2 million people live with HIV, more than half of which are unaware of their infection. HIV is a silent disease when first acquired, and this period of latency varies. The progression from HIV infection to AIDS varies from 5–12 years. In the past, most individuals succumbed to the disease in 1–2 years after diagnosis.. However, since the introduction of potent anti-retroviral drug therapy and better prophylaxis against opportunistic infections, death rates have significantly declined. Government and health officials, non-governmental organizations and individuals around the world observe World AIDS Day with education on AIDS prevention and control.

1989 – African-American dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey (January 5, 1931 – December 1, 1989) dies of complications from AIDS. He was an African-American choreographer and activist who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City. He is credited with popularizing modern dance and revolutionizing African-American participation in 20th-century concert dance. In 2014, President Barack Obama selected Ailey to be a posthumous recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

1997-Keith Boykin (born August 28, 1965) of the National Black Lesbian Gay Leadership Forum participated in a meeting with President Clinton to encourage greater inclusion of African American gays and lesbians in the President’s Initiative on Race.

1999 – Lavender Country was an American country music band formed in 1972, whose self-titled 1973 album is the first known gay-themed album in country music history. Based in Seattle, the band consisted of lead singer and guitarist Patrick Haggerty, keyboardist Michael Carr, singer and fiddler Eve Morris and guitarist Robert Hammerstrom (the only heterosexual member).

2009, Europe – The Treaty of Lisbon and Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union are amended to include sexual orientation protection

Stand up, speak out, share your story!



(Historical information obtained from a variety of sources including QUIST at,, #LavenderEffect,, #ArronsGayInfo, #AllThingsQueer, #RSLevinson, #AmaraDasWilhelm,, #SafeSchoolsCoalition, and/or Wikipedia. If you wish to edit an item or add an item, please send an email to me at Thanks!)

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