Musings of an Aging Lesbian

The year 2019 is coming to a close. It’s been a year of great fun with a sprinkling of some health challenges, of loss, and of frightening politics. As I look back over this year and the 72 years in which I’ve been alive, I reflect on the times good and bad that brought me to this where i am right this minute…and I give thanks.

Sarah Hurwitz shared eight Jewish social justice values to celebrate each night of Chanukah which was published by the American Jewish World Service. I will share one a day for the eight days of Chanukah. Today at Sunday begins Day 7: BEING THOUGHTFUL ABOUT THE WORDS WE SPEAK. There is a great deal of Jewish commentary on speech—about gossip, shaming, lying, and more—and a verse from the biblical book of Proverbs warns, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” This may seem hyperbolic until you consider this quote from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel: “The Holocaust did not begin with the building of crematoria, and Hitler did not come to power with tanks and guns; it all began with uttering evil words, with defamation, with language and propaganda.”

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!


 1931 – Lili Ilse Elvenes (28 December 1882 – 13 September 1931) is born. She was a Danish painter, better known today by the pseudonym ‘Lili Elbe,’ who becomes the second transgender woman to benefit from Gohrbandt’s vaginoplasty technique in 1931. Her castration and penectomy had been performed by Dr. Ludwig Levy-Lenz (1889-1966) the previous year. These preliminaries have sometimes caused confusion over the date of Lili’s ‘sex change’ which – like all other gender transitions – is not so much a single event as a process extended in time. After successfully transitioning in 1930, she changed her legal name to Lili Ilse Elvenes and stopped painting altogether. The name “Lili” was suggested by a friend, actress Anna Larssen. Later in her life, Lili chose the surname “Elbe”, inspired by the Elbe River in Dresden. She died from complications involving a uterus transplant  Her autobiography Man into Woman was published posthumously in 1933. In 2000, David Ebershoff wrote The Danish Girl, a fictionalised account of Elbe’s life. In 2015, it was made into a film, also called The Danish Girl, produced by Gail Mutrux and Neil LaBute and starring Eddie Redmayne as Elbe.

1969 – The Los Angeles chapter of the Gay Liberation Front’s Don Jackson outlines a plan for a “gay colony,” to be called Stonewall Nation, in California’s Alpine County whose current population is 450. They would recall the county government and elect an all-gay slate. Although his proposal attracts widespread media attention – and support from activists, including Jim Kepner (1923 – 15 November 1997) and Don Kilhefner (born March 3, 1938) – few gay men and lesbians are willing to make the move. After a brief flurry of national attention, GLF announces that the plan is off.

1986 – Terry Dolan (1950 – December 28, 1986), an anti-gay family values advocate, was discovered to have been gay after his death from complications of  AIDS at age 36. While he was persistently critical of gay rights, he was revealed to have been a closeted homosexual who frequented gay bars in Washington, D.C.

1988 – A district court judge ruled that Karen Thompson must be allowed to visit her lover, Sharon Kowalski, a quadriplegic. He also ruled that Kowalski’s father would remain her guardian. Kowalski had been seriously injured in an accident, and her father refused to allow Thompson to visit her. Karen fought and won the right to be Sharon’s legal guardian. In re Guardianship of Kowalski, 478 N.W.2d 790 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991) is the Minnesota Court of Appeals case that established a lesbian‘s partner as her legal guardian after Sharon Kowalski became incapacitated following an automobile accident. Because the case was contested by Kowalski’s parents and family and initially resulted in the partner being excluded for several years from visiting Kowalski, the gay community celebrated the final resolution in favor of the partner as a victory for gay rights.

1990 – The Greensboro, North Carolina council repeals a municipal ordinance forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation. The council had passed the ordinance only three months earlier.

1994, India – About 70 men from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka attend the first regional conference for gay rights in South Asia, a five-day event organized in New Delhi by activist Ashok Row Kawi (born 1 June 1947). Ashok Row Kavi is an Indian journalist and one of India’s most prominent LGBT rights activists. In 1990, he founded Bombay Dost, India’s first gay magazine. He was a representative at the International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam and served as chairman of the Second International Congress on AIDS. At the present, he is founder-chairperson of the Humsafar Trust, an LGBT rights and health services NGO, which also agitates for the legal emancipation of homosexuality in India. Row Kavi has been listed among India’s Seven Most Influential Gay & Lesbian individuals by Pink Pages magazine. In September 2017 India Times listed Kavi as one of the 11 Human Rights Activists Whose Life Mission Is To Provide Others With A Dignified Life

1998, The Vatican – Pope John Paul II speaks out against the acceptance of non-traditional families, saying it disfigures the traditional family structure.

2005, Nigeria – The Church of Nigeria issues a press release warning people about David Mac-lyalla (born 1972) “who claims to be a member of the Anglican Church.” (Actually, he was not only a member but he worked for the Church for years.) Earlier in the year, Mac-lyalla had been arrested and tortured by the police. In 2008, he was given refuge asylum in the UK and received the Bishop Desmond Tutu Award for Human Rights and Social Justice. He established the Nigerian wing of the British Changing Attitude organization, which presses for internal reform of the Anglican Communion for further inclusion of Anglican sexual minorities.

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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