Today in LGBT History – JUNE 6

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 – JUNE 6

1832, UK – Jeremy Bentham (February 4, 1748 – June 6, 1832) died. He was an English philosopherjurist, and social reformerand founder of modern utilitarianism. Bentham wrote the first known argument for homosexual law reform in England in around 1785, at a time when the legal penalty for buggery was death by hanging. His advocacy stemmed from his utilitarian philosophyin which the morality of an action is determined by the net consequence of that action on human well-being. He argued that homosexuality was a victimless crime, and therefore not deserving of social approbation or criminal charges. He regarded popular negative attitudes against homosexuality as an irrational prejudice, fanned and perpetuated by religious teachings.However, he did not publicize his views as he feared reprisal. His powerful essay Offences Against One’s Selfargued for the liberalization of laws prohibiting homosexual sex. The essay remained unpublished during his lifetime for fear of offending public morality. It was published for the first time in 1931. Bentham did not believe homosexual acts to be unnatural, describing them merely as “irregularities of the venereal appetite”. The essay chastises the society of the time for making a disproportionate response to what Bentham appears to consider a largely private offence – public displays or forced acts being dealt with rightly by other laws. When the essay was published in the Journal of Homosexuality in 1978, its Abstract stated that Bentham’s essay was the “first known argument for homosexual law reform in England.” On his death in 1832, Bentham left instructions for his body to be first dissected then permanently preserved as an “auto-icon” (or self-image) which would be his memorial. This was done and the auto-icon is now on public display at University College London (UCL).

1885 – A’Lelia Walker (June 6, 1885 – August 17, 1931) was an American businesswoman and patron of the arts. She was the only surviving child of Madam C.J. Walker, popularly credited as being the first self-made female millionaire in the United States and one of the first African American millionaires. “A’Lelia Walker probably had much to do with the manifest acceptance of bisexuality among the upper class in Harlem,” wrote Lillian Faderman in Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers, “Those who had moral reservations about bisexuality or considered it strange or decadent learned to pretend a sophistication and suppress their disapproval if they desired A’Lelia’s goodwill.” A’Lelia inherited her mother’s fortune but also ran the business herself, opening training centers for Walker agents and the Walker Hair Parlor. She married three times and has been linked to the legendarily hilarious Mayme White (daughter of the 19th century’s last black U.S. Congress member), stage actress Edna Thomas (November 1, 1885 – July 22, 1974)and Mae Fane, about whom little is known.

1944 – D-DAY. The invasion of Normandy Beaches in WWII. While it’s not a specific LGBT-related event, there were undoubtedly many hundreds of young gay soldiers killed on those beaches: 160,000 men landed, 9,000 were killed or wounded. Today we remember them with gratitude.

1949 – Holly Near (born June 6, 1949) is born. She is an American singer-songwriter, actress, teacher, and activist. In 1970, Near was a cast member of the Broadway musical Hair. Following the Kent State shootings in May of that year, the entire cast staged a silent vigil in protest. The song, “It Could Have Been Me”, released on A Live Album 1974, was her heartfelt response to the shootings. In 1971, she joined the FTA (Free The Army) Tour, an anti-Vietnam War road show of music, comedy, and plays, organized by antiwar activist Fred Gardner and actors Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland. In 1972, Near founded an independent record label called Redwood Records (now defunct) to produce and promote music by “politically conscious artists from around the world”. Near became a feminist, linking international feminism and anti-war activism. In 1976, Near came out as a lesbian and began a three-year relationship with musician Meg Christian(born 1946). Near was probably the first out lesbian to be interviewed in People Magazine. “I don’t know why. Just isn’t a handle I relate to. I include human and civil rights in all that I do. I am monogamous. I relate to that term. I am a feminist. If I am with a woman I am a feminist. If I am alone I am a feminist. If I am with a man I am a feminist. And until the one I am with and I part ways, then I am just what I am in that relationship and I don’t much think about what I will do next. I focus more on what I bring to that relationship. It is a full-time job being honest one moment at a time, remembering to love, to honor, to respect. It is a practice, a discipline, worthy of every moment. I think my feminism and my ability to love has been highly informed by having had lesbian relationships. The quality of my life has, without question, been elevated.” For a brief moment in time I struggled with sexual identity, somewhere in the mid-’80s. Then I realized it was the wrong question for me. That is not to say it is the wrong question for others. It just wasn’t important to me. So I haven’t really thought much about it since. I am going to sing lesbian love songs and support gay rights no matter what. The rest is public relations.”

1950, Belgium – Chantal Anne Akerman (6 June 1950 – 5 October 2015) is born. She was a Belgian film director, artist and professor of film at the City College of New York. Her best-known film is Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles(1975). According to film scholarGwendolyn Audrey Foster, Akerman’s influence on feminist filmmaking and avant-garde cinema has been substantial. Although Akerman is often grouped within feminist and queer thinking, the filmmaker has articulated her distance from an essentialist feminism. Akerman resists labels relating to her identity like “female”, “Jewish” and “lesbian”, choosing instead to immerse herself in the identity of being a daughter. Akerman has stated that she sees film as a “generative field of freedom from the boundaries of identity”.Akerman died on October 5, 2015 in Paris. Le Monde reported that she committed suicide.

1954 – Harvey Fierstein (born June 6, 1954)is born in Brooklyn, NY. Author of The Sissy Duckling, playwright, and beloved Emmy- and Tony-award winning actor, Fierstein is also a fiercely gay social activist.Fierstein has won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his own play Torch Song Trilogy about a gay drag-performer and his quest for true love and family, and the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for playing Edna Turnblad in Hairspray. He also wrote the book for the musical La Cage aux Follesfor which he won the Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical, and wrote the book for the Tony Award-winning Kinky Boots. He was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 2007.Fierstein occasionally writes columns about gay issues. He was openly gay at a time when very few celebrities were.

1956 – June Chan (born June 6, 1956) is an Asian-American lesbian activist and biologist. The organizer and co-founder of the Asian Lesbians of the East Coast (ALOEC), Chan raised awareness for LGBT issues relating to the Asian-American community.

1967 – The New York City’s Civil Service Commission makes public its year-old policy of allowing city agencies to hire and employ lesbians and gay men. The new policy comes partly in response to the lobbying efforts of the Mattachine Society of New York.

1976 – Richard Heakin, a 21 year old college student, is killed on this day in Tucson, AZ, by four teenagers while leaving the Stonewall Tavern. He was visiting in Tucson for Gay Pride. The 13 teenage killers received only probation for the murder. The entire community of Tucson was outraged. Within months anti-discrimination laws were introduced.

1979, Canada – Toronto Teacher Don Franco is charged with being a keeper of a common bawdyhouse in his own home after a police raid found him in an orgy with a number of other men. The raid was condemned by the gay community as an act of revenge by the police, and the case made history as it was the first home, where no prostitution or sex with minors was occurring, to be charged under bawdy house law.A year earlier Franco was arrested in a police raid at the Barracks baths and then released his name to the media. Franco was close to retirement and worried that a conviction might lead to losing his pension. He didn’t back down, and dozens of hearings later he was acquitted of the charge. He retired with full pension. His was an important early victory in the struggle for gay rights. In a time when the fight for rights was savage, Franco was involved with just about every protest, group or movement. He was connected to varying degrees with AIDS Action Now, the Ontario Coalition for Gay Rights, the Campaign for Equal Families and the NDP, just to name a few. He got little credit for the work that he did and didn’t profit from his good deeds, but he is one of a select group of people who were involved in almost the entire history of the fight for gay rights in Canada. He died on February 3, 2014, at the age of 90.

2012 -A federal district judge in New York becomes the fifth to rule against the Defense of Marriage Act. The case, Windsor v. United States, eventually will reach the Supreme Court. United States v. Windsor570 U.S. 744 (2013) (Docket No. 12-307), is a landmark civil rights case in which the United States Supreme Court held that restricting U.S. federal interpretation of “marriage” and “spouse” to apply only to opposite-sex unions, by Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), is unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote: “The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.” Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer, a same-sex couple residing in New York, were lawfully married in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in 2007. Later in 2008, New York recognized their marriage following a court decision. Spyer died at the age of 77 in 2009, leaving her entire estate to Windsor. Windsor sought to claim the federal estate tax exemption for surviving spouses. She was barred from doing so by Section 3 of DOMA (codified at 1 U.S.C. § 7), which provided that the term “spouse” only applied to marriages between a man and woman. The Internal Revenue Service found that the exemption did not apply to same-sex marriages, denied Windsor’s claim, and compelled her to pay $363,053 in estate taxes. On November 9, 2010, Windsor sued the federal government in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, seeking a refund because DOMA singled out legally married same-sex couples for “differential treatment compared to other similarly situated couples without justification.”


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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