Speak truth to bullshit. —Brene Brown
Learning our history is resistance! Thanks for taking this journey with me. Now go write your story!
Today in LGBT History – February 4
1923, Austria – Nazi thugs fire guns into a Vienna homophile gathering attended by Magnus Hirschfeld (14 May 1868 – 14 May 1935) and wound a number of people in the crowd. Hirschfeld was a German Jewish physician and sexologist educated primarily in Germany; he based his practice in Berlin-Charlottenburg. An outspoken advocate for sexual minorities, Hirschfeld founded the Scientific Humanitarian Committee. Historian Dustin Goltz characterized this group as having carried out “the first advocacy for homosexual and transgender rights“.
1915 – On a speaking tour, Edith Lees Ellis (1861-Sept. 14, 1916), open lesbian wife of Havelock Ellis (2 February 1859 – 8 July 1939), exhorts women to begin “organizing a new love world.” She was an English writer and women’s rights activist. From the beginning, their marriage was unconventional; at the end of the honeymoon he went back to his bachelor rooms and she had several affairs with women, which her husband was aware of. Their open marriage was the central subject in Havelock Ellis’s autobiography, My Life(1939).
1934 — Eleanor Roosevelt (October 11, 1884 – November 7, 1962) writes to her lover journalist Lorena Hickok (March 7, 1893 – May 1, 1968) about how lucky they. “Someday perhaps fate will be kind & let us arrange a life more to our liking [but] for the time being we are lucky to have what we have. Dearest, we are happy together and strong relationships have to grow deep roots.” The nature of Hickok and Roosevelt’s relationship has been a subject of dispute among historians. Roosevelt was close friends with several lesbian couples, such as suffragists and educators Nancy Cook (August 26, 1884 – August 16, 1962) and Marion Dickerman (April 11, 1890 – May 16, 1983), and educator Esther Lape (October 8, 1881 – May 17, 1981) and scholar and suffragist Elizabeth Fisher Read (1872 – December 13, 1943), suggesting that she understood lesbianism; Marie Souvestre (28 April 1830 – 30 March 1905), Roosevelt’s childhood teacher and a great influence on her later thinking, was also a lesbian
1938 – Gay writer and historian Martin Greif (February 4, 1938 – November 17, 1996) was born in New York City. He was an American editor, lecturer, publisher and writer. A prolific writer, Greif was one of the first people to compile a history of gays and lesbians and biographies of some of the most illustrious people in time. Main Street Press was founded in 1978 by Greif and his life partner, Lawrence Grow, in Clinton, New Jersey. Grow died of a stroke associated with AIDS in 1991. Greif died of an AIDS-related illness in November 1996.
1973 – Twenty year old French actress and star of The Last Tango in Paris, Maria Schneider (27 March 1952 – 3 February 2011) admits to the New York Times that she is bisexual, stating “I’ve had quite a few lovers for my age. More men than women…women I love more for beauty than for sex. Men I love for grace and intelligence.” Schneider came out as bisexual. In early 1976, she abandoned the film set of Caligula and checked herself into a mental hospital in Rome for several days to be with her lover, photographer Joan Townsend. Schneider died of breast cancer on 3 February 2011 at age 58
1975, Canada – Police raid Sauna Aquarius in Montreal and arrest thirty-six people as found-ins in a common bawdyhouse. It was the beginning of a police “clean-up” for the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games.
1981 – Congressman Jon Hinson (R-Mississippi) (March 16, 1942 – July 21, 1995) is arrested for performing an act of “oral sodomy” with a twenty-eight-year-old man in the restroom of a House of Representatives office building. He pleads no contest and is given a thirty-day suspended sentence. Following his 1981 resignation, he became an LGBT activist in metropolitan Washington D.C. Hinson died of respiratory failure resulting from AIDS in Silver Spring, Maryland, at the age of fifty-three.
1987 – Author Randy Shilts‘ (August 8, 1951 – February 17, 1994) investigative journalism book And the Band Played On is published. It chronicles the 1980–1985 discovery and spread of HIV/AIDS, government indifference, and political infighting in the United States to what was initially perceived as a gay disease. Shilts himself would die of the disease on February 17, 1994.
1987 – Liberace (May 16, 1919 – February 4, 1987) dies at the age of 62 in Palm Springs from AIDS-related illnesses. Just two weeks earlier his publicists had denied a Las Vegas Sun story which claimed he had the disease. He is buried in the Los Angeles Forest Lawn Cemetery. Władziu Valentino Liberace was known as Liberace. He was an American pianist, singer, and actor. A child prodigy and the son of working-class immigrants, Liberace enjoyed a career spanning four decades of concerts, recordings, television, motion pictures, and endorsements. At the height of his fame, from the 1950s to the 1970s, Liberace was the highest-paid entertainer in the world, with established residencies in Las Vegas, and an international touring schedule. Liberace embraced a lifestyle of flamboyant excess both on and off stage, acquiring the sobriquet “Mr. Showmanship.” In 1982, Scott Thorson (born January 23, 1959), Liberace’s 22-year-old former chauffeur and live-in lover of five years, sued the pianist for $113 million in palimony after he was let go by Liberace. Liberace continued to deny that he was homosexual, and during court depositions in 1984, he insisted that Thorson was never his lover. The case was settled out of court in 1986, with Thorson receiving a $75,000 cash settlement, plus three cars and three pet dogs worth another $20,000. Thorson stated after Liberace’s death that he settled because he knew that Liberace was dying and that he had intended to sue based on conversion of property rather than palimony. In a 2011 interview, actress and close friend Betty White stated that Liberace was indeed gay and that she was often used as a beard by his managers to counter public rumors of the musician’s homosexuality. Liberace was secretly diagnosed HIV positive in August 1985 by his private physician in Las Vegas, 18 months before his death. His lover of seven years, Cary James Wyman, was also infected. Aside from his long-term manager Seymour Heller and a few family members and associates, Liberace kept his terminal illness a secret until the day he died and did not seek any medical treatment. In 1994, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him. Behind the Candelabra, a film adaptation of Scott Thorson’s autobiography debuted on HBO in May 2013. Michael Douglas stars as Liberace, with Matt Damon playing Thorson, in a story centered on the relationship the two shared and its aftermath.
2004 – The Massachusetts high court rules that only full, equal marriage rights for gay couples, not civil unions, would be constitutional. “The history of our nation has demonstrated that separate is seldom, if ever, equal,” an advisory opinion from the four justices who ruled in favor of gay marriage stated. A bill creating only civil unions, not full marriage rights, would be “unconstitutional, inferior, and discriminatory status for 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, 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!)