Today in LGBT History – JULY 2

Rudyard Kipling said: If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten. The snippets of LGBTQ history here are the stories of our lives, the stories of the giants on whose shoulders we all stand. Learn about them then tell the stories and remember… because knowing your history IS resistance!

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


Today in LGBT History – JULY 2

1899 – Actor Charles Laughton is born in Scaborough, England. Laughton (July 1, 1899 – December 15, 1962) was an English stage and film character actor, director, producer and screenwriter. Not blessed with matinee idol looks, Laughton built a brilliant career as a character actor and still earned his fair share of male lovers. His wife Elsa Lanchester (October 28, 1902 – December 26, 1986) was a British-born American actress with a long career in theatre, film and television. Elsa knew all about his boys. In her biography of Laughton she was candid and loving in her descriptions of his affairs.  

1951 – Sylvia Ray Rivera (July 2, 1951 – February 19, 2002) was an American gay liberation and transgender activist and self-identified drag queen. She was a founding member of both the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance. With her close friend Marsha P. Johnson, Rivera co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), a group dedicated to helping homeless young drag queens and trans women of color. Rivera’s gender identity was complex and varied throughout her life. In 1971 she spoke of herself as a “half sister.” In her essay “Transvestites: Your Half Sisters and Half Brothers of the Revolution” she specifically claims her use of the word “transvestite” as only applying to the gay community: “Transvestites are homosexual men and women who dress in clothes of the opposite sex.” People now want to call me a lesbian because I’m with Julia, and I say, “No. I’m just me. I’m not a lesbian.” I’m tired of being labeled. I don’t even like the label transgender. I’m tired of living with labels. I just want to be who I am. I am Sylvia Rivera. Ray Rivera left home at the age of 10 to become Sylvia. And that’s who I am.

1953 – The State Department fires 381 gay and lesbian employees. In the early 1950s, the entire country was in the grips of the Red Scare as Wisconsin Republican Sen. Joseph McCarthy was conducting his witch hunts. One of his main platforms was the Senate’s Subcommittee on the Investigation of Loyalty of State Department Employees. While McCarthy’s main targets were imaginary Communists in the State Department, gay employees were also seen as “subversives” in need of rooting out. Both homosexuals and Communist Party members were seen as subversive elements in American society who shared the same ideals of antitheism, rejection of the middle-class morality, and lack of conformity. In the eyes of the government, they were seen as scheming and manipulative and, most importantly, would put their own agendas above that of the general population. McCarthy also associated homosexuality and communism as “threats to the ‘American way of life’.” Homosexuality was directly linked to security concerns, and more government employees were dismissed because of their homosexual sexual orientation than because they were left-leaning or communist. George Chauncey noted that, “The specter of the invisible homosexual, like that of the invisible communist, haunted Cold War America,” and homosexuality (and by implication homosexuals themselves) were constantly referred to not only as a disease, but also as an invasion, like the perceived danger of communism and subversives. Among the more high-profile targets was Samuel ReberIII (July 15, 1903 – December 25, 1971) a twenty-seven year career diplomat who announced his retirement in May of 1953 after McCarthy charged that he was a security risk, which was a barely-concealed code for homosexual. By then, President Dwight D. Eisenhower had already responded to McCarthy’s witch hunt by signing an executive order mandated the firing of all federal employees who were deemed guilty of “sexual perversion,” whether proven or not. Eisenhower also announced a re-organization of the State Department. Rep. Charles B Brownson, an Indiana Republican with his own lesser-known witch hunt underway in the House Government Operations Committee, asked the State Department for a progress report in rooting out homosexuals. On July 2, 1953, the State Department’s chief security officer R.W. Scott McLeod revealed that 351 homosexuals and 150 other “security risks” had been fired between 1950 and 1953.

1970 – The Fifth Biennial Convention of the Lutheran Church in America expresses its opposition to discrimination and oppression of gay men and lesbians.

1981 – “Rare Cancer Seen in Homosexuals” is the first story in The New York Times about the mysterious disease that will later be named AIDS.

1984 – Figure skater Johnny Weir (July 2, 1984) is born. Johnny an American figure skaterfashion designer, and television commentator.He is a two-time Olympian, the 2008 World bronze medalist, a two-time Grand Prix Final bronze medalist, the 2001 World Junior Champion, and a three-time U.S. national champion (2004–2006). Weir is openly gay. In 2011, Weir married Victor Voronov (b. 1984), a Georgetown Law graduate of Russian Jewish descent, in a civil ceremony on New Year’s Eve in New York City. He is also known for his sports commentary with Tara Lipinski, as well as his work in LGBTQ activism.

1989 – Internal Revenue Service employees who are members of the National Treasury Employee’s Union receive a new contract that includes protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

2009, India – Same-sex sex acts are decriminalized in India, citing that the existing laws violate fundamental rights to personal liberty.The Delhi High Court rules that the existing laws violate fundamental rights to personal liberty (Article 21 of the Indian Constitution) and equality (Article 14) and prohibition of discrimination (Article 15). Before the overturning of this 148-year-old law, so-called homosexual acts were punished with a ten-year prison sentence.


Stand up, speak out, share your story!

Warmly,

Ronni

 

(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 ronnisanlo@gmail.com. Thanks!)

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