We need to recognize the way that racism, sexism, power dynamics, and classism (among others) impacts the way our media, celebrities, and public embrace some activists fighting for their lives and the lives of others, and dismiss other activists altogether. We need to understand that our culture is toxic for everyone, including those committing violent acts, and work to build a more loving and just world for all. Thanks for all you do to help build that world. —Cat Zavis, Network of Spiritual Progressives
Learning our history is resistance! Thanks for taking this journey with me. Now go write your story!
Today in LGBT History – February 22
1417, Italy – Pope Paul II (Pietro Barbo) ( 23 February 1417 – 26 July 1471) is born in Venice. He was Pope from 30 August 1464 to his death in 1471. After having been lay abbot of Santa Maria in Sylvis since 1441, in 1445 he succeeded Giuliano Cesarini as archpriest of the Vatican Basilica. Platina reported that Pius II suggested he should have been called Maria Pietissima (Our Lady of Pity), as “when he could not obtain what he aimed at by praying, entreating, and requesting, he would join tears to his petitions to make them the sooner believed.” Some historians have suggested the nickname may also have been an allusion either to Paul’s propensity to enjoy dressing up in sumptuous ecclesiastical finery, or a lack of masculinity reflecting possible homosexuality. Some (mainly the pontiff’s detractors) say that he had died whilst being sodomized by a page boy.
1685, Germany – George Frederick Handel (23 February,1685 – 14 April, 1759) is born in Halle, Lower Saxony. He was a baroque composer who spent the bulk of his career in London, becoming well known for his operas, oratorios, anthems, and organ concertos. Handel received important training in Halle and worked as a composer in Hamburg and Italy before settling in London in 1712
After he moved to England a contemporary wrote “His social affectations were not strong; and to this may be imputed that he spent his whole life in a state of celibacy; that he had no female attachments of another kind may be ascribed to a better reason.” We never learned who that “better reason” was. Handel never married, and kept his personal life private.
1778 – Prussian military genius Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben (September 17, 1730 – November 28, 1794) arrives at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Fearing prosecution for alleged indiscretions with young men back in Prussia, Steuben signed on to train George Washington’s ragtag Continental Army. Most historians consider his success at this task a major factor in the American victory. He was a Prussian and later an American military officer. He served as inspector general and a major general of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. He is credited with being one of the fathers of the Continental Army in teaching them the essentials of military drills, tactics, and disciplines. He wrote Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, the book that served as standard United States drill manual until the American Civil War. He served as General George Washington‘s chief of staff in the final years of the war. Von Steuben was most likely gay. His exits from the court of Hohenzollern-Hechingen and from Paris were under clouds of accusation of homosexual activity. Von Steuben arrived in the United States with his 17-year-old secretary, Peter Stephen Du Ponceau, who is rumored to have been his lover. At Valley Forge, he began close relationships with Benjamin Walker and William North, then both military officers in their 20s, which are assumed by many to have been romantic. Because homosexuality was criminalized at the time, records of his relationships are limited to references in correspondences. Von Steuben formally adopted Walker and North and made them his heirs. A third young man, John W. Mulligan Jr. (1774–1862), also considered himself one of Steuben’s “sons,” inherited Von Steuben’s vast library, collection of maps and $2,500 in cash.
1892 – Alice Mitchell (November 26, 1872 – March 31, 1898)19, kills Freda Ward (1875-1892), 17, at the docks in Memphis as a result of jealousy. The story made national headlines for months. The two girls had planned to marry but Alice was furious that Freda had admitted to romantic feelings for two men. Mitchell was subsequently found insane by means of a jury inquisition and placed in a psychiatric hospital until her death in 1898. The case, exploited by sensationalist press, focused attention of the sexual attachments of women and drew out into the public discourse discussions of lesbianism. The case was headlined as “A Very Unnatural Crime” across the Country. The case influenced the popular literature of the era which began to depict lesbians as “murderous” and “masculine”. One identity was the “mannish lesbian” creating dialogue of gender expression.
1933, Germany – Adolf Hitler’s government launches the Nazi persecution of homosexuals with directives to close gay and lesbian clubs, ban pornography and homophile publications, and dissolve homosexual rights groups.
1943 – Carl Wittman (February 23, 1943 – January 22, 1986) is born. He was a member of the national council of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and later an activist for LGBT rights. He co-authored “An Interracial Movement of the Poor?” (1963) with Tom Hayden and wrote “A Gay Manifesto” (1970). In 1971, Wittman moved to Wolf Creek, OR, with his then-partner, Stevens McClave. Two years later, he began a long-term relationship with a fellow war resister Allan Troxler. In the early 1980s, Wittman created the North Carolina Lesbian and Gay Health Project (LGHP) with David Jolly, Timmer McBride, and Aida Wakil to address the health needs of sexual minorities in that state. Wittman declined hospital treatment for AIDS and committed suicide by drug overdose at home in North Carolina.
1977 – After a television producer cancels plans to develop a weekly series around her, Anita Bryant complains to the press that she is being “blacklisted” in Hollywood because of her crusade against homosexuals.
1990, Taiwan – The first Lesbian organization for Chinese-speaking women in Asia is formed. The group is called Women zhi jizn (Between Us).
2011 – Hawaii’s Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed a civil union law in 2010 but her successor, Gov. Neil Abercrombie, makes it the first law he signs on this day.
2011 – Attorney General Eric Holder releases a statement regarding lawsuits challenging The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) Section 3. He wrote: “After careful consideration, including a review of my recommendation, the President has concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny. The President has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to legally married same-sex couples, fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional. Given that conclusion, the President has instructed the Department not to defend the statute in such cases.” In United States v. Windsor (2013), the U.S. Supreme Court declared Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) struck down the act’s provisions disallowing same-sex marriages to be performed under federal jurisdiction.
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(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!)