And while we have learned time and time again that there is no trickle down of power in America, the only opportunities for real change come when the mainstream is in productive turmoil. Because standing up to the system can be a very creative experience that opens up the imaginations of a generation. —Sarah Schulman
Learning our history is resistance! Thanks for taking this journey with me. Now go write your story!
Today in LGBT History – March 1
1642 – The Plymouth Colony Court heard a case brought against Edward Michell and Edward Preston for “lewd & sodomitical practices tending to sodomy.”
1649 – The first known conviction for lesbian activity in North America occurs on this day when Sarah White Norman (ca. 1623-1654) is charged with “Lewd behaviour with each other upon a bed” with Mary Vincent Hammon (1633-1705) in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Since Mary was younger than 16 years old, she was only admonished, but Sarah, probably 10 years older, stood trial. Originally, Richard Berry (1626-1681), a neighbor, accused the two women, and one man, Teage Joanes, of sodomy and other unclean practices. Later Berry said he had borne false witness against Joanes, but he did not withdraw what he said against Sarah White Norman. Much later, the same Berry and other men, including Joanes, were prosecuted for homosexuality, and ordered to “part their uncivil living together”.
1656 – The New Haven, CT law is the first in the American colonies to make same-sex acts between women punishable by the death penalty. The code quotes Romans 1:26 (“if any woman change the natural use into that which is against nature”) as the basis for the law.
1880, UK – Giles Lytton Strachey (1 March 1880 – 21 January 1932) is born. He was a British writer and critic. A founding member of the Bloomsbury Group and author of Eminent Victorians, he is best known for establishing a new form of biography in which psychological insight and sympathy are combined with irreverence and wit. His biography Queen Victoria (1921) was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Though Strachey spoke openly about his homosexuality with his Bloomsbury friends, and had relationships with a variety of men including Ralph Partridge (1894 – 30 November 1960), details of Strachey’s sexuality were not widely known until the publication of a biography by Michael Holroyd in the late 1960s. His sister was a lesbian.
1882 – Boston district attorney Oliver Stevens calls Walt Whitman’s (May 31, 1819 – March 26, 1892) “Leaves of Grass” obscene literature and suggests some poems be removed. It doesn’t happen.
1893 – Mercedes de Acosta (March 1, 1893 – May 9, 1968) is born. She was an American poet, playwright, and novelist. De Acosta wrote almost a dozen plays, only four of which were produced, and she published a novel and three volumes of poetry. She was professionally unsuccessful but is known for her many lesbian affairs with famous Broadway and Hollywood personalities and numerous friendships with prominent artists of the period. But as Alice B. Toklas (April 30, 1877 – March 7, 1967), lover of Gertrude Stein February 3, 1874 – July 27, 1946) and de Acosta’s long-term friend, wrote to a disapproving critic, “Say what you will about Mercedes, she’s had the most important women of the twentieth century”.
1935 – Bessie Smith (April 15, 1894 – September 26, 1937) records the song “B-D Woman” in praise of ‘bulldaggers,’ perhaps the first popular release to pay tribute to butch lesbians.
1977 – Blueboy Forum, which bills itself as the U.S.’s first gay-oriented TV show, debuts on New York cable
1978, Canada – The Toronto Lambda Business Council is incorporated. It was the first association of gay businesses in the country.
1993 – Leslie Feinberg’s (September 1, 1949 – November 15, 2014) “Stone Butch Blues” is published. It goes on to win the 1994 Stonewall Book Award. The story is about a young Jewish working-class butch protagonist and highlights butch-femme culture. Feinberg was an American, butch lesbian and transgender activist, communist, and author. Feinberg authored Stone Butch Blues in 1993. Her writing and her pioneering non-fiction book Transgender Warriors (1996) laid the groundwork for much of the terminology and awareness around gender studies and was instrumental in bringing these issues to a more mainstream audience.
2004 – The Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association founds the International Journal of Transgenderism, published by Haworth Press.
2008, Nicaragua – Nicaragua legalizes same-sex sexual activity.
2011, Portugal – The Portugal President signs the most advanced gender identity law in the world, simplifying the process of sex and name changes.
2012 – Maryland passes legislation to legalize same-sex marriage, becoming the eighth state to do so.
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, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!)