Today in LGBT History – December 16

When I was young, I searched for images of myself in books in my school library. I k new I was a lesbian but thought I was the only one. I found nothing that reflected myself back to me, but I did find books on strong women. Margaret Meade was one of them. I read about her and Babe Diederickson and Eleanor Roosevelt and Jane Addams. I knew there was something in me that connected to something in them but I didn’t realize it was the issue of sexual orientation until I was much older. But this is why history and our libraries are so important to me… they are the places we go to find reflections of ourselves. May you find your reflection here.

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

Today in LGBT History – December 16

342, Italy – The Theodosian Code, a compilation of Roman Law authorized by Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius II, passes. It reads: When a man marries and is about to offer himself to men in womanly fashion, what does he wish, when sex has lost all of its significance; when the crime is one which it is not profitable to know; when Venus is changed to another form; when love is sought and not found?…Those infamous persons who are now or hereafter may be guilty may be subjected to exquisite punishment.

1899 – Noel Coward (16 December 1899 – 26 March 1973), writer & composer is born. He was an English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer, known for his wit, flamboyance, and what Time magazine called “a sense of personal style, a combination of cheek and chic, pose and poise”. Coward was homosexual but, following the convention of his times, this was never publicly mentioned. Coward’s most important relationship, which began in the mid-1940s and lasted until his death, was with the South African stage and film actor Graham Payn (25 April 1918 – 4 November 2005) .

1901 – Margaret Mead  (December 16, 1901 – November 15, 1978), anthropologist, is born. Mead was a respected and often controversial academic who popularized the insights of anthropology in modern American and Western culture. Her reports detailing the attitudes towards sex in South Pacific and Southeast Asian traditional cultures influenced the 1960s sexual revolution. She was a proponent of broadening sexual mores within a context of traditional Western religious life. Mead never openly identified herself as lesbian or bisexual. In her writings she proposed that it is to be expected that an individual’s sexual orientation may evolve throughout life. Mead also had an exceptionally close relationship with Ruth Benedict, one of her instructors. In her memoir about her parents, With a Daughter’s Eye, Mary Catherine Bateson implies that the relationship between Benedict and Mead was partly sexual. She spent her last years in a close personal and professional collaboration with anthropologist Rhoda Metraux, with whom she lived from 1955 until her death in 1978. Letters between the two published in 2006 with the permission of Mead’s daughter clearly express a romantic relationship. On January 19, 1979, President Jimmy Carter announced that he was awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously to Mead.

1921 – The New York Times printed a story about Ethel Kimball (born 1892) who passed as a man named John Hathaway for several years. She married a woman, and after being discovered was arrested for providing false information when applying for a marriage license. While in jail she was offered female clothing but refused to wear them.
On December 15th, 1922, James and Louise Hathaway were approached by Boston police regarding a possible attempted car theft. What followed was the unmasking of James’s true identity: James was actually Ethel Kimball of Allston. 

1977, Canada – As part of its Charter for Human Rights, Quebec passes a gay civil rights law. The law makes discrimination against gays in housing, public accommodation, and employment illegal throughout the province.

1978 – A protest march is held in Toronto over the raid of a steambath. It is the first major demonstration over a bathhouse rain in Toronto and attracts about 400 people.

1997, New Zealand – The New Zealand court of appeals rules unanimously against giving same-sex couples the right to marry under the Marriage Act of 1955. 

1983 – Mel Brook’s “To Be or Not To Be,” a remake of the Ernst Lubitsch classic, becomes the first mainstream Hollywood film to not just acknowledge Nazi persecution of homosexuals but makes it a key plot element.

Stand up, speak out, share your story!




(Historical information obtained from a variety of sources including QUIST at,, Lavender Effect,, Arron’s Gay Info, All Things Queer, RS Levinson, Amara Das Wilhelm, Safe Schools Coalition, 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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