Today in LGBT History – MAY 22

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 – MAY 22

1879, Russia – Alla Nazimova (May 22 , 1879 – July 13, 1945) was a Russian actress who immigrated to the United States in 1905. Nazimova openly conducted relationships with women, and her mansion on Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard was believed to be the scene of outlandish parties. She is credited with having originated the phrase “sewing circle” as a discreet code for lesbian or bisexual actresses. From 1917 to 1922, Nazimova wielded considerable influence and power in Hollywood. Nazimova helped start the careers of both of Rudolph Valentino‘s wives, actressJean Acker(October 23, 1893 – August 16, 1978) andfilm costume and set designer Natacha Rambova(January 19, 1897 – June 5, 1966). Although she was involved in an affair with Acker, it is debated as to whether her connection with Rambova ever developed into a sexual affair. Nevertheless, there were rumors that Nazimova and Rambova were involved in a lesbian affair (they are discussed at length in Dark Lover, Emily Leider’s biography of Rudolph Valentino) but those rumors have never been definitely confirmed. She was very impressed by Rambova’s skills as an art director, and Rambova designed the innovative sets for Nazimova’s film productions ofCamilleand Salomé. Of those Nazimova is confirmed to have been involved with romantically, the list includes actress Eva Le Gallienne(January 11, 1899 – June 3, 1991),director Dorothy Arzner(January 3, 1897 – October 1, 1979), writer Mercedes de Acosta(March 1, 1893 – May 9, 1968), and Oscar Wilde‘s niece Dolly Wilde(July 11, 1895 – April 10, 1941). .Magic Realist artist and Surrealist painter Bridget Bate Tichenor(November 22, 1917 – died on October 20, 1990), was also rumored to be one of Nazimova’s favored lovers in Hollywood during the World War II years of 1940 to 1942. The two had been introduced by the poet and art collector Edward James, and according to Tichenor, their intimate relationship angered Nazimova’s longtime companion,actress Glesca Marshall (September 19, 1906 – August 21, 1987). However, the fact that Tichenor was pregnant most of 1940, giving birth to her son on Dec. 21, 1940, along with the 40-year age gap between the two women, casts some doubt on this rumor. Nazimova lived with Glesca Marshall from 1929 until her death in 1945. Glesca was also the longtime companion of Emily Woodruff, theatrical benefactor and main patron of the Springer Opera House in Columbus, Georgia. Marshall and Woodruff are buried together at Parkhill Cemetery, Columbus, Georgia.

1967 –The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Clive Michael Boutilier v. the Immigration and Naturalization Service (1967) is handed. It is a long-forgotten ruling that upheld the deportation of a legal resident from Canada who was classified by the U.S. government as having a “mental or physical defect.” According to the INS’s Annual Report for 1967, the United States excluded or deported more than 100,000 people on this basis from 1892 to 1967, but this represented a small fraction of the total number of foreign “defectives” rejected by the United States for immigration, residency, and citizenship. U.S. immigration law barred the entry of “lunatics, idiots, epileptics, imbeciles, feeble-minded people, constitutional psychopathic inferiors, and anyone likely to become a public charge.” Physical “defects” that were grounds for exclusion and deportation included “arthritis, asthma, blindness, bunions, deafness, deformities, flat feet, heart disease, hernia, spinal curvature, and varicose veins.” Influenced by eugenics, nativism, and racism, policymakers were determined to promote their (limited) vision of national strength. “Sexual perversion” was the “critical consideration” for Boutilier.Guy Carleton Boutilierwasa Canadian politician.Born in 1933, he had moved from Nova Scotia to New York in 1955. By the time he applied for U.S. citizenship in 1963, his mother and most of his siblings also lived in the United States and he was working as a building maintenance man; ironically, he had earlier worked as an attendant for a man who was mentally ill. Boutilier’s immigration troubles began when he noted on his citizenship application that in 1959 he had been arrested, but not convicted, on a sodomy charge in New York. This prompted an interrogation by the INS in which Boutilier revealed that he had engaged in sex with men and women before entering the United States and that he had continued to engage in same-sex sex with his partner Eugene O’Rourke and with other men, after moving to New York. Based on this information, the INS rejected his citizenship application and ordered him deported as a “psychopathic personality.” Boutilier’s lawyers, affiliated with the American Committee for the Protection of the Foreign Born, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Homosexual Law Reform Society, challenged his deportation with multiple arguments. They submitted medical affidavits indicating that Boutilier was not a psychopathic personality. They raised procedural objections because the Public Health Service had not examined Boutilier. They offered expert testimony that challenged the government’s claim that homosexuality was psychopathic. They questioned whether the intent of Congress was to exclude and deport all homosexual aliens. They argued that even if it was, the law was unconstitutionally vague because the average person would not know that the government regarded homosexuality as evidence of psychopathic personality. The American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental illness in 1973, but Congress did not eliminate the “psychopathic personality” provision in U.S. immigration law until 1990. Boutilier died in a home for people with disabilities in 2003, two months before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned state sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas.  

1940 – Mary Dispenza (born May 22, 1940) is born in Chicago. Sister (nun), teacher, principal and archdiocesan administrator, Mary beame one of the highest ranking Roman Catholics ever to lose her job with the Church over her sexual orientation. A survivor of abuse at the hands of a priest,  Mary Dispenza is on a mission to protect children from harm and end abuse within the Catholic Church.Mary volunteers at Lambert House and for countless other Washington State LGBT community organizations. She is the author of SPLIT, her courageous memoir, which reveals the shocking story of her rape by the parish priest at seven years of age.

1954 – Barbara May Cameron (May 22, 1954 – Feb. 12, 2002)was a photographer, poet, writer and a nationally recognized human rights activist in the fields of gay women, women’s rights and Native American rights. She was  a member of the Hunkpapa Lakota part of the Fort Yates band of the Standing Rock Nation in Fort Yates, North Dakota. Cameron was in a 21-year relationship with Linda Boyd, with whom she raised a son, Rhys Boyd-Farrell. Cameron co-founded the Gay American Indians (GAI) in 1975 with Randy Burns(born 1955), a Native Alaskan. GAI was the first gay Indian organization. The reason for founding GAI, according to Cameron, was that Native American gay people had different needs and struggles than the gay white community. Moreover, there was in general a lack of support for people of color within the Gay and Lesbian community. In 1978, she contributed to the anthology Our Right to Love: A Lesbian Resource Book.

2008 – Democrat Maryland governor Martin O’Malley signs two bills into law legalizing same-sex domestic partnerships. Full same-sex marriage becomes legal on Jan. 1, 2013.

2009 – Harvey Milk Day, organized by the Harvey Milk Foundation, is celebrated each year on May 22 in memory of Harvey Milk, a gay rights activist assassinated in 1978. The day was established by the California legislature and signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009 after a series of petitions led by gay rights activist Daren I. Ball and in the wake of the award-winning feature film Milk retracing Milk’s life. It is recognized by California’s government as a day of special significance for public schools.

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!)

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