Today in LGBT History – July 17

I recall an article in the Advocate from 1991 written by Urvashi Vaid entitled Eating Our Own. Urvashi’s premise was that we LGBT people tend to devour our leaders and prevent them from, well, leading. Worse, we offer no Plan B; we just pick up our ball and go home, spending the next weeks complaining about how our leaders suck. I’ve learned over time that this is a sad and somewhat typical phenomenon within minority communities.

There is a huge – and necessary – discussion within the LGBT community about race and privilege and white supremacy. However, my recent experience is that the discussion has morphed from a healthy desire to understand to a miserable testament to division within a minority community. If we – the LGBT community – continue to fight among ourselves, we are prohibiting ourselves from paying attention to what’s happening external to us, about us, with us. We MUST pay attention to the bigger picture. As we fight among ourselves, we miss the fact that the current administration is about to eviscerate us with a Religious Liberty law. There is no concern for any of the ism about which we’re blasting one another; there will be only blanket discrimination with us and others as targets.

I urge you to get out of the internal community muck and pay attention to what’s happening around us, or we won’t have the option to fight among one another as we fight for our lives.

Today in LGBT History – July 17

1729, France – Admiral comte Pierre André de Suffren de Saint Tropez, bailli de Suffren (July 17, 1729 – December 8, 1788) is born. He was most famous for his campaign in the Indian Ocean in which he fought a series of intense and evenly matched battles for supremacy against the established British power there, led by Vice-Admiral Sir Edward HughesAlfred T. Mahan praised Suffren as “a very great man” and evaluated him in terms he usually reserved for praising decisively victorious admirals

1730, Netherlands – Three men in the Netherlands – Leendert de Haas, Casper Schroder, and Huivert van Borselen – are hanged and burned for sodomy. Their ashes are taken out to sea by ship and thrown overboard.

1859, UK – Ernest Rhys (July 17, 1859 – May 25, 1946) is born in London. Rhys was the editor of the Everyman Library, a collection that totaled 967 volumes containing the classics. After he retired, he wrote his autobiography filled with anecdotes about his gay clique including Oscar Wilde.

1883, Finland – Swedish director Mauritz Stiller (July 17, 1883 – November 18, 1928) is born in Finland. In addition to discovering Greta Garbo, Stiller is given credit for creating a Swiss national cinema that took a progressive attitude toward sexuality and desire.

1898 – Photographer Bernice Abbott (July 17, 1898 – December 9, 1991) is born in Springfield, Ohio. Famous for her photographs of the changing New York City cityscape, Abbott also photographed many gay, lesbian, and bisexual images during the 1920s and 30s. The film Berenice Abbott: A View of the 20th Century, which showed 200 of her black and white photographs, suggests that she was a “proud proto-feminist”; someone who was ahead of her time in feminist theory. Before the film was completed she questioned, “The world doesn’t like independent women, why, I don’t know, but I don’t care.” She lived with critic Elizabeth McCausland for 30 years.

1942 – Fred Halsted (July 17, 1941 – May 9, 1989) is born. He was an American gay pornographic film director, actor, escort, publisher, and sex club owner. His films Sex Garage and L.A. Plays Itself are the only gay pornographic movies in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, where they were screened before a capacity audience on April 23, 1974. A screening of L.A. Plays Itself was sponsored by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art on February 28, 2013 and another took place on December 16, 2011 at the Los Angeles art gallery Human Resources. His films have also been shown the Netherlands Film Museum and in competition at The Deauville Film Festival. His lover, Joseph Yanoska, died of AIDS in 1986.

1945 – Drag performer Ethyl Eichelberger (July 17, 1945 – August 12, 1990) is born in Pekin, Illinois, under the name John R0y Eichelberger. He was an American drag performer, playwright, and actor. He became an influential figure in experimental theater and writing, and performed nearly forty plays. He became more widely known as a commercial actor in the 1980s. With the lack of AIDS medications, Ethyl committed suicide on August 12, 1990.

1968 – The Wall Street Journal publishes an article entitled “U.S. Homosexuals Gain in Trying to Persuade Society to Accept Them”. The article, an overview of what was happening during the late 1960’s, was written by Charles Alverson.

1977 – Spencer Kimball, president of the Mormon Church, blames the problems of the U.S. on homosexuals.

1982, UK – Commander Michael Trestrail, Queen Elizabeth’s personal bodyguard, is forced to resign after he was outed in the British newspapers. Soon after, reports surfaced that Margaret Thatcher wanted to raise the issue of gays in the palace until the Queen reportedly summoned her to Buckingham Palace and told her to mind her own business.

1988 – Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis signs into law an amendment that bars homosexuals from becoming foster parents unless no heterosexual couples are available. The law was in effective for only one year.

1998 – A group of ex-ex-gays hold a press conference to counter ads stating that gays and lesbians could become straight by converting to Christianity. They said the ads were an attempt to falsely present gays and lesbians as anti-Christian and deny that many are spiritual people.

1998 – The Red Lobster restaurant announces that it is dropping a legal challenge to a Cook County (Chicago) Human Rights ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

1998, Israel – A group of Orthodox Jews gather to discuss the plight of gay men and lesbians who are also Orthodox Jews.

Let your voice speak out and change the world! 




(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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