Today in LGBT History – January 17

Whatever is silenced will clamor to be heard.      — Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale 

Learning our history is resistance! Thanks for taking this journey with me. Now go write your story!

Today in LGBT History – January 17

1558, France – Cardinal Charles de Lorraine requests that the French Ambassador to Rome report scandals involving Cardinal Carlo Carafa (29 March 1517 – 6 March 1561) and Giovanni Carafa (died 5 March 1561), Duke of Paliano to Pope Paul VI. They had engaged in “that sin so loathsome in which there is no longer a distinction between the male and female sex.” They are first exiled then sentenced to death.

1886, UK – British novelist Ronald Firbank (17 January 1886 – 21 May 1926) is born in London. He was an innovative English novelist whose eight short novels, partly inspired by the London aesthetes of the 1890s, especially Oscar Wilde, consist largely of dialogue, with references to religion, social-climbing, and sexuality. His best novels are Caprice (1917) and Concerning the Eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli (1926). Firbank was not without his own eccentricities. He wore two dressing gowns at once, painted his nails, lived in an apartment painted black, and owned only books bound in blue leather. Openly gay and chronically shy, he was an enthusiastic consumer of alcohol and cannabis. He died of lung disease in Rome at age 40. Susan Sontag named his novels as part of “the canon of camp” in her 1964 essay Notes on ‘Camp.

1971 – Novelist Merle Miller (May 17, 1919 – June 10, 1986) comes out in a New York Times Magazine essay entitled “On Being Different: What it Means to Be a Homosexual”. He was an American writer, novelist, and author who is perhaps best remembered for his best-selling biography of Harry S. Truman, and as a pioneer in the gay rights movement. He later says, “I don’t see any great rush of people lining up to declare themselves as homosexual. Who is to say they should do so? I think, however, it is rather important. For one thing, you cannot demand your rights, civil or otherwise, if you are unwilling to say what you are.” The response of over 2,000 letters to the article (more than ever received by that newspaper) led to a book publication later that year.

1982 – Austin, TX voters reject a ballot proposal by almost two-to-one that would have allowed housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

1999 – Transgender Robert Eads (December 18, 1945 – January 17, 1999) dies of ovarian cancer. More than two dozen doctors in Georgia refused to treat Eads on the grounds that doing so would harm their practice. Eads story is documented in the award-winning documentary Southern Comfort. Eads transitioned from female to male later in life. He was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1996, but as an example of the social stigma faced by gender variant individuals, more than a dozen doctors refused to medically treat him. When he was finally accepted for treatment by the Medical College of Georgia hospital in 1997, the cancer had already metastasized to other parts of the body, rendering any further treatments futile.

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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