Today in LGBT History – March 20

If we own the story then we can write the ending.   —Brene Brown

Happy birthday to me!

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

Today in LGBT History – March 20

1749 – A group of single women called “The Petticoat Club” felt they were paying a severe economic penalty for not marrying while they saw large numbers of “eligible” men who, for whatever reason also chose to not marry, doing well in the world. In a petition to the New York Gazette, the club proposed that those “old bachelors,” were not carrying out their proper duties and should be severely taxed for their selfishness and that tax would go to support unmarried women. It didn’t happen.

1890, Denmark – Opera star Lauritz Melchior (20 March 1890 – 19 March 1973) was born in Copenhagen, Denmark. He was a Danish-American opera singer. He was the pre-eminent Wagnerian tenor of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s and has since come to be considered the quintessence of his voice type. Late in his career, Melchior appeared in movie musicals and on radio and television. He also made numerous recordings. He was virtually a household name for his singing at New York’s Met. Between 1944 and 1952, Melchior performed in five Hollywood musical films for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Paramount Picturesand made numerous US radio and television appearances. In 1947, he put his hand and footprints in cement in the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Novelist Hugh Walpole (13 March 1884 – 1 June 1941) had been his lover and patron.

1901 – Gavin Arthur (March 20, 1901 – April 28, 1972) was born Chester A. Arthur II in Colorado. He was a San Francisco astrologer and sexologist and a grandson of American President Chester A. Arthur. The grandson of President Chester Arthur, he dropped his famous name and headed out on his own at an early age, working his way around the world in the merchant marine. Along the way he discovered he was bisexual and became friends with many of the gay gurus of the period — Edward Carpenter (29 August 1844 – 28 June 1929), Havelock Ellis (2 February 1859 – 8 July 1939), and Magnus Hirschfeld  (14 May 1868 – 14 May 1935).  

1915 – Sister Rosetta Tharpe (March 20, 1915 – October 9, 1973) was an American singer, songwriter, guitarist, and recording artist. As a pioneer of mid-20th-century music, she attained popularity in the 1930s and 1940s with her gospel recordings, characterized by a unique mixture of spiritual lyrics and rhythmic accompaniment that was a precursor of rock and roll. She was the first great recording star of gospel music and among the first gospel musicians to appeal to rhythm-and-blues and rock-and-roll audiences, later being referred to as “the original soul sister” and “the Godmother of rock and roll.”She influenced early rock-and-roll musicians, including Little RichardJohnny CashCarl PerkinsChuck BerryElvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. In 1946 Tharpe saw Marie Knight (June 1, 1920 – August 30, 2009) perform at a Mahalia Jackson concert in New York. Tharpe recognized a special talent in Knight. Two weeks later, Tharpe showed up at Knight’s doorstep, people speculated that Knight and Tharpe maintained a romantic and sexual relationship.

1961 -The United States Supreme Court denies certiorari to Frank Kameny’s (May 21, 1925 – October 11, 2011) petition to review the legality of his firing by the United States Army’s Map Service in 1957, bringing his four-year legal battle to a close

1964 – Tracy Chapman (born March 30, 1964) is an American singer-songwriter and a multi-platinum and four-time Grammy Award-winning artist.  known for her hits “Fast Car” and “Give Me One Reason” along with other singles “Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution“, “Baby Can I Hold You“, “Crossroads“, “New Beginning” and “Telling Stories“. Although Chapman has never publicly disclosed her sexual orientation, during the mid-1990s she was in a same-sex relationship with writer Alice Walker (born February 9, 1944). Chapman maintains a strong separation between her personal and professional life. “I have a public life that’s my work life and I have my personal life”, she said. “In some ways, the decision to keep the two things separate relates to the work I do.

1970 – Twenty-three year-old David Bowie (8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016) marries nineteen year old Mary Angela Barnett. A few years later, Bowie explains how they met, “Angela and I knew each other because we were both going out with the same man.”  Angie Bowie went on to a career in Hollywood. The two divorce in 1980. Bowie was an English singer-songwriter and actor. He was a leading figure in popular music for over five decades, acclaimed by critics and fellow musicians for his innovative work. His career was marked by reinvention and visual presentation, his music and stagecraft significantly influencing popular music. 

1975 – Gays of Ottawa (GO) picket police station and office of Ottawa Journal to protest arrests and homophobic media coverage of arrests in a so-called Sex Scandal.

1977 – The Arkansas State House of Representatives unanimously passes a resolution in praise of Anita Bryant and her anti-gay and lesbian rights campaign.

1978 – The San Francisco Board of Supervisor passes what is described as “the most stringent gay rights law in the country.”  Only one of the eleven supervisors — Dan White — votes against the ordinance. Later that year, he murders Harvey Milk  (May 22, 1930 – November 27, 1978).

1986 – After fourteen years, the New York City Council finally passes a gay rights ordinance with a vote of 21 to 14.  Mayor Ed Koch tells reporters, “The sky is not going to fall.  There isn’t going to be any dramatic change in the life of this city.”

1988 –  M. Butterfly opens on Broadway. The play by David Henry Hwang is about a civil servant attached to the French embassy in China who falls in love with a beautiful Chinese opera diva who is a “man masquerading as a woman.” They are together for twenty years until the truth is revealed. The civil servant is convicted of treason and imprisoned, then kills himself.

1990 – Queer Nation forms in New York to eliminate homophobia and increase visibility of LGBT people

Stand up, speak out, share your story!




(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!)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.