Today in LGBT History – March 17

I have unfailing faith in the men and women of the FBI and I am confident that their efforts to seek justice will not be deterred. —Andrew McCabe

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

Today in LGBT History – March 17

1912 – Bayard Rustin (March 17, 1912 – August 24, 1987) is born. He was an American leader in social movements for civil rightssocialismnonviolence, and gay rights. In the pacifist groups Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) and the War Resisters League (WRL). A member of the Communist Party before 1941, he collaborated with A. Philip Randolph on the March on Washington Movement in 1941 to press for an end to discrimination in employment. He was a leading activist of the early Civil Rights Movement, helping to initiate a 1947 Freedom Ride to challenge, with civil disobedience, the racial segregation issue related to interstate busing. He recognized Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s leadership, and helped to organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to strengthen King’s leadership. Rustin promoted the philosophy of nonviolence and the practices of nonviolent resistance, which he had observed while working with Mahatma Gandhi‘s movement in India, and helped teach Martin Luther King, Jr. about nonviolence. Rustin was a gay man who had been arrested throughout his early career for engaging in public sex with white male prostitutes. Rustin’s sexuality, or at least his public criminal charge, was criticized by some fellow pacifists and civil-rights leaders because it detracted from his effectiveness. Rustin was attacked as a “pervert” or “immoral influence” by political opponents from segregationists to conservative black leaders from the 1950s through the 1970s. In addition, his pre-1941 Communist Party affiliation when he was a young man was controversial, having caused scrutiny by the FBI. To avoid such attacks, Rustin served rarely as a public spokesperson. He usually acted as an influential adviser behind the scenes to civil-rights leaders. In the 1980s, he became a public advocate on behalf of gay and lesbian causes. On November 20, 2013, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

1938, Russia – Rudolf Nureyev (17 March 1938 – 6 January 1993) is born to Muslim peasant parents in Ulfa, East Siberia. Perhaps the greatest dancer who ever lived, Nureyev danced hard, partied hard, and spent long hours in gay bathhouses. Nureyev defected from the Soviet Union and lived in France and the U.S. on and off. He was director of the Paris Opera Ballet from 1983 to 1989. Nureyev met Erik Bruhn (3 October 1928 – 1 April 1986), the celebrated Danish dancer, with whom he remained off and on, with a very volatile relationship, for 25 years, until Bruhn’s death in 1986. Nureyev died in Paris of AIDS-related complications on January 6, 1993.

1968 – Two drag queens known as “The Princess” and “The Duchess” held a St. Patrick’s Day party at Griffith Park, a popular cruising spot and a frequent target of police activity in Los Angeles. More than 200 gay men socialized through the day to protest entrapment and harassment by the LAPD.

1970 – The film version of Mart Crowley’s (born August 21, 1935) play “The Boys in the Band opens in New York, directed by William Friedkin. It is the first major Hollywood look at gay life. The director remarks, “I hope there are happy homosexuals. There just don’t happen to be any in my film.” The screenplay is based on Crowley’s Off-Broadway play The Boys in the Band. It is among the first major American motion pictures to revolve around gay characters and is often cited as a milestone in the history of queer cinema. Crowley is openly gay.

1977 – Two years after having repealed its state sodomy laws, Arkansas’s state legislature recriminalizes same sex acts between consenting adults. The new law, approved two years after Arkansas had repealed its anti-sodomy laws, is the first of a series of setbacks for gay and lesbian civil rights that evidence the rise of a conservative backlash in the US.

1987 – The White House reveals that President Reagan has undergone AIDS testing out of fear that he may have contracted the disease during blood transfusions after his 1981 assassination attempt

1989 – Actor Merritt Butrick (September 3, 1959 – March 17, 1989), best known for his portrayal of James Kirk’s son in the films “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” and “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock,” dies of AIDS in Los Angeles at the age of twenty-nine. He was an American actor, known for his roles on the 1982 teen sitcom Square Pegs, starring a young Sarah Jessica Parker and Jami Gertz, in two Star Trek feature films, and a variety of other acting roles in the 1980s.

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(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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