This above all: to thine own self be true… — Polonius’s last piece of advice to his son Laertes in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet
Learning our history is resistance! Thanks for taking this journey with me. Now go write your story!
Today in LGBT History – April 26
1564, UK – William Shakespeare (26 April 1564–23 April 1616) is born at Stratford-on-Avon. He was an English poet, playwright and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon”. The debate rages as to whether or not he was gay. It will likely never be resolved. The word drag is a stage direction coined by Shakespeare and his contemporaries meaning ‘Dressed Resembling A Girl’.
1886 – Creator of “The Blues” Gertrude “Ma” Rainey (April 26, 1886 – December 22, 1939) is born Gertrude Pridgett in Columbus, Georgia. Accompanied by her “Georgia Band,” which included such jazz greats as Louis Armstrong, Thomas Dorsey, and Coleman Hawkins, she belted out song after song with titles like “Rough and Tumble Blues,” “Jealous Hearted Blues,” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Blues.” In spite of her marriage to “Pa” Rainey, she made no secret of her relationships with women. Indeed, her famous “Prove it on Me Blues,” recorded in 1928, sounds more like the testimony of a lesbian than a bisexual: “Went out last night with a crowd of my friends, They must have been women, ’cause I don’t like no men. Wear my clothes just like a fan, Talk to gals just like any old man ‘Cause they say I do it, ain’t nobody caught me, Sure got to prove it on me” The political activist and scholar Angela Y. Davis noted that “‘Prove It on Me’ is a cultural precursor to the lesbian cultural movement of the 1970s, which began to crystallize around the performance and recording of lesbian-affirming songs.”
1895, UK – Author Oscar Wilde (16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900) is prosecuted in Regina v. Wilde. Wilde pleads not guilty to charges of sodomy and gross indecency. On the stand, he says of homosexuality, “It is beautiful. It is fine. It is the noblest of affection. There is nothing unnatural about it.”
1944 – Violette Morris (18 April 1893 – 26 April 1944) is killed. She was a French athlete who won two gold and one silver medals at the Women’s World Games in 1921–1922. In 1936, she became a spy for Nazi Germany, which continued during World War II. She was killed in 1944 in a Resistance-led ambush as a traitor to France. Morris had been banned from the 1928 Olympics for her lesbianism.
1970 – The first known print use of the term Transgender appears in The V Guide describing author Gore Vidal’s (October 3, 1925 – July 31, 2012) “Myra Breckenridge.”
2000 – Vermont becomes the first state in the U.S. to legalize civil unions and registered partnerships between same-sex couples.
Stand up, speak out, share your story!
(Historical information obtained from a variety of sources including QUIST at facebook.com/quistapp, Back2Stonewall.com, Lavender Effect, DataLounge.com, Arron’s Gay Info, All Things Queer, RS Levinson, Amara Das Wilhelm, out.com, Safe Schools Coalition, 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!)