Musings of an Aging Lesbian
Yesterday Kelly and I went hiking in the Whitewater Preserve with a number of lesbians from the Palm Springs area. The hike was sponsored by the LGBT Center of the desert. There were eight women ranging in age from about 30 to 72 (that would be moi!). I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with each of the women and petting Lucky the German Shepard who joined us. I also shared with a woman (a long-time staff member at the Center) the experience I had years ago with the Center. I was one of two finalists for the Executive Dire tor position. It was between this older dyke with a plan and a young attractive young man with, well, he was cute. The nearly all-male board hired the guy. I was heartbroken but knew that my Higher Power had other plans for me, especially since I was still employed at UCLA. I held a resentment for the LGBT Center for quite a while. But today…today, the Executive Director is one of the kindest men I know, the unkind board chair has since died, the staff is now nearly all women, and I’m ON the board! Ha! And really, if I had been hired those years ago, it would have changed the trajectory of my interactions with the woman who eventually became my wife. It’s all good!
Gratitude Day 10
I’m grateful today for the passion, the protests, the voices of my sisters and brothers across the country who are shouting out loud, who are not giving in to the silence that often suggests consent. We are not consenting and, in the words of Harvey Milk, we will never be silent, so hang on! I’m grateful that Kelly and I are willing and able to stand up, to speak out, and to stay in the struggle for freedom and justice for all. Finally, I’m grateful that my life is guided by the Serenity Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the different. It is that Wisdom that leads me in the right direction.
I invite you to add that for which you are grateful today.
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!
THIS DAY IN LGBT HISTORY – NOVEMBER 10
1855 – Walt Whitman (May 31, 1819 – March 26, 1892) is accused of homosexuality and “Leave of Grass” was called “a mass of stupid filth” by critic Rufus Griswold. Whitman was an American poet, essayist, and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse. His work was very controversial in its time, particularly his poetry collection Leaves of Grass, which was described as obscene for its overt sexuality.
1928 – The New York Times reported that forty distinguished witnesses including T. S. Eliot, Arnold Bennett, Vera Brittain, Ethel Smyth. and Virginia Woolf, appeared in a London in support of Radclyffe Hall to testify in favor of the lesbian novel “The Well of Loneliness.” which was in the midst of an obscenity trail. The judge refused to hear any of them. The judge applied the Hicklin test of obscenity: a work was obscene if it tended to “deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences”. He held that the book’s literary merit was irrelevant because a well-written obscene book was even more harmful than a poorly written one. The topic in itself was not necessarily unacceptable; a book that depicted the “moral and physical degradation which indulgence in those vices must necessary involve” might be allowed, but no reasonable person could say that a plea for the recognition and toleration of inverts was not obscene. He ordered the book destroyed, with the defendants to pay court costs.
1948, Scotland – Diane Marian Torr (10 November 1948 – 31 May 2017) is born. She was an artist, writer and educator, particularly known as a male impersonator as her drag king, “Man for a Day” and gender-as-performance workshops. For the last years of her life, Torr lived and worked in Glasgow, where she was Visiting Lecturer at the Glasgow School of Art. Since 1990, Torr taught “drag king” workshops in which women learn not only to dress as a man but also codes of behavior, gesture, body language and movement that constitute the performance of masculinity.The workshops, which Torr taught widely in Europe, the USA, India and Turkey, have been hugely influential, inspiring other works and a documentary film/ Diane Torr was one of the original members of the all-girl art band, DISBAND (along with members Martha Wilson, Ingrid Sischy, Ilona Granet and Donna Henes). DISBAND formed in 1978 and most recently performed at the Incheon International Women Artists’ Biennial (2009) in S. Korea.
1970 – The Stanford Gay Students Union was formed. It was the second Stanford organization for gay students; a previous organization, the Student Homophile League, was short lived.
1976 – Lynn Ransom of Oakland, California, wins custody of her children in court. She is the first open lesbian mother to do so.
1980, Canada- Toronto’s civic election sees defeat of George Hislop (June 3, 1927 – October 8, 2005), the first openly gay candidate to run for municipal office in Canada. He was a key figure in the early development of Toronto‘s gay community. Hislop studied speech and drama at the Banff School of Fine Arts, graduating in 1949. He subsequently worked as an actor, and ran an interior design company with his partner, Ron Shearer. In 1971, Hislop cofounded the Community Homophile Association of Toronto, one of Canada’s first organizations for gays and lesbians. On August 28, 1971, he was also an organizer of We Demand, the first Canadian gay rights demonstration on Parliament Hill. In honor of his role as a significant builder of LGBT culture and history in Canada, a portrait of Hislop by artist Norman Hatton is held by the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives‘ National Portrait Collection.
1980 – A former policeman fires a submachine gun into two Greenwich Village gay bars in New York City, killing two men and wounding six others.
1984, UK – Labour Member of Parliament (MP) Chris Smith (born 24 July 1951) becomes the first member of the House of Commons to voluntarily come out. Christopher Robert Smith, Baron Smith of Finsbury is a British politician, a former Member of Parliament and Cabinet Minister; and former chairman of the Environment Agency. For the majority of his career he was a Labour Party member. He was the first openly gay British MP, coming out in 1984, and in 2005, the first MP to acknowledge that he is HIV positive.
1989 – Republican lobbyist Craig Spence, commits suicide after it was discovered he gave secret tours of The White House to call boys and ran a male prostitution ring. Spence’s name came to national prominence in the aftermath of a June 28, 1989 article in the Washington Times identifying Spence as a customer of a homosexual escort service being investigated by the Secret Service, the District of Columbia Police and the United States Attorney’s Office for suspected credit card fraud. The newspaper said he spent as much as $20,000 a month on the service. He had also been linked to a White House guard who has said he accepted an expensive watch from Mr. Spence and allowed him and friends to take late-night White House tours. Spence entered a downward spiral in the wake of the Washington Times exposé, increasingly involving himself with call boys and crack, culminating in his July 31, 1989 arrest at the Barbizon Hotel on East 63rd St in Manhattan for criminal possession of a firearm and criminal possession of cocaine. Months after the scandal had died down, and a few weeks before Spence was found in a room at the Boston Ritz-Carlton Hotel, he was asked who had given him the “key” to the White House. Michael Hedges and Jerry Seper of The Washington Times reported that “Mr. Spence hinted the tours were arranged by ‘top level’ persons”, including Donald Gregg, national security adviser to Vice President George H. W. Bush at the time the tours were given. A few months before his death, Spence alluded to more intricate involvements. “All this stuff you’ve uncovered (involving call boys, bribery and the White House tours), to be honest with you, is insignificant compared to other things I’ve done. But I’m not going to tell you those things, and somehow the world will carry on.
1992 – On Roseanne, Sandra Bernhard plays the first recurring lesbian character on a sitcom.
1992 – The Louisiana Baptist Convention voted 581-199 to exclude congregations which condone homosexuality. A similar resolution was approved the same day by the North Carolina State Baptist convention.
1992 – The Portland, Maine, school committee approved a ban on anti-gay discrimination in public school employment.
1997 – Keith Boykin (born August 28, 1965) of the National Black Lesbian and Gay Leadership Forum and California state assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl (born February 9, 1941) participate in a White House conference on Hate Crimes.
2014, Bangladesh – Over 1,000 Hijra (transgender women of South Asia with a long history) hold a Pride parade to celebrate the one-year anniversary since the government recognized them as a third gender.
Stand up, speak out, share your story!
(Historical information obtained from a variety of sources including QUIST at facebook.com/quistapp, Back2Stonewall.com, #LavenderEffect, DataLounge.com, #ArronsGayInfo, #AllThingsQueer, #RSLevinson, #AmaraDasWilhelm, out.com, #SafeSchoolsCoalition, and/or Wikipedia. If you wish to edit an item or add an item, please send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!)