Tag Archives: Queer History

Explore NYC’s Queer History With This Fun, Interactive Map

Queer history comes to life in this interactive new map.

The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project has finally, after two long years of work, released a map that traces NYC’s queer history from the 17th century to the present.

The map covers more than 550 locations, from popular spots like Stonewall to obscure coordinates like the site that launched the US’ first hate-crime trial. The map allows users to filter out spots based on neighborhood, time period, type of space and cultural significance. Want to find a cruising spot from the 1950s? Done. Want to spot a lesbian activism hub from the 1890s? Got it.

Each spot on the map includes photos, a historical overview, in-depth history and even extra resources like journal articles and videos in case you’d like to learn more.

Although the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project has only been officially working on the project for the last 2 years, this map represents 20 years of work by historian Ken Lustbader, who began plotting out LGBT sites around the city in the 1990s. After securing funding, he teamed up with a professor and a historian from Columbia University to hunt for hidden pieces of LGBT history that no one else had noticed, like the home where bisexual poet Edna St. Vincent Milay lived for a year and a half in the 1920s.

Even more exciting is the fact that the team just got a $100,000 grant to keep building the project. They plan to create and embed podcasts, walking tours, original videos, multimedia ventures and other elements in order to continue to make the collection immersive.

Their work is so important because they are preserving the LGBT history that the world wants to overlook. Gay marriage only became legal in the US in 2015. For centuries before that, closeted people struggled for recognition, respect and their own lives – which they still do in many places around the US.

Start exploring the interactive map for yourself.

This Dinner Party Will Teach You All About Queer History

The Haggadah, which is read during the Jewish holiday Passover, is a guide to performing a ritual called Seder. The Haggadah lays out the blessings you should say, the food you should eat, the way you should wash your hands and serve the food, and the history of the holiday.

Geeks OUT has created a secular Haggadah for queer people. Instead of focusing on Jewish beliefs, this book called Serving Pride discusses queer history and outlines a ritual that queer people can do in order to remember their predecessors.

According to the official Kickstarter page,

Serving Pride will guide a group of dinner guests through a ritual meal where history is retold through readings, songs, games, recipes, and artwork.”

With the guide, you’ll learn about the Daughters of Bilitis, who subverted gender norms to create one of the first known queer communities. You’ll recreate the drag ball culture of 1920s Harlem and get educated about queer trendsetters who pushed music, literature and fashion to the edges of possibility. You’ll chant along with the rioters of Stonewall and sing about queer revolutionaries.

Serving Pride contains dozens of original recipes that you and your queer friends can cook up together, and songs that you can sing as a community. The book is fully illustrated by emerging queer artists, so that you can be sure this is a queer project from cover to cover.

Queer history is for everyone regardless of socioeconomic status, so this book will be available for free as a printable PDF. A full-color version will also be available for purchase.

No single dinner party can completely encompass everything there is to know about queer history, even if you only focus on queer American history like this guide does. However, the book includes a handy bibliography so that interested guests can do further research on the subjects that interest them most.

The book will hopefully be available by June 2017 just in time for Pride. If you’d like to donate to the Kickstarter and reserve your copy now, head over to the official page.

The 25th Anniversary Of The Lesbian Avengers

One of the most prominent issues that lesbian and bisexual women activists have had to face across history, has been the avoidance to include the specificity of the issues they face due  to intersecting oppressions, and the focus that has been given mostly to the demands of gay men.

One of the strongest movie scenes I can remember troubling me, ισ one from the 2014 Pride movie which I generally loved: Stella and Zoe, two of the three lesbians of the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners group, are sitting on a table in the Miners club with Mark and Mike, demanding the creation of a Women’s group that will address specifically women’s issues in a safe environment. Mike asks Stella what is unsafe about the existing environment and Stella replies “I’m a woman, Mike. Okay? I’m also a Lesbian. And a Feminist – ”… But then she is cut in the middle of her sentence by an old lady who leans over and says: “Listen, love. I don’t care if you’re Arthur Scargill. Don’t talk during the Bingo.” Everyone laughs while Stella “silently fumes”.

Coming from an otherwise excellent movie, this scene angered me. Not necessarily because it was poorly written, no. But because women demanding space was the punch line once again, because it was somehow realistic, you know? Being in the activist field myself, I have witnessed incidents of misogyny coming from within the LGBT community, even in 2016. That’s why I think we need more feminism in queer politics, and we need it immediately and constantly.

It was 25 years ago, on the 28th of June, 1992, more specifically, when sex lesbian activists (Ana Maria Simo, Sarah Schulman, Maxine Wolfe, Anne-Christine D’Adesky, Marie Honan and Anne Maguire)  involved in several LGBT groups (including Medusa’s Revenge – the ACT-UP  Lesbian Theatre and ILGO – the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization) started recruiting people at New York’s Pride Parade, shouting at “LESBIANS! DYKES! GAY WOMEN!” that they were “…wasting our lives being careful. Imagine what your life could be. Aren’t you ready to make it happen?”

Lesbian Avenger Ann Northrop said:

We’re not going to be invisible anymore … We are going to be prominent and have power and be part of all decision making.”

Gay and bisexual women were tired of solely working on issues like AIDS and abortion rights while at the same time having the problems caused by misogyny and homophobia and concerning directly them, outright ignored, as Eloise Salholz wrote for Newskweek, covering the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation.

They demanded visibility and focused on issues of “lesbian survival”. They soon became a worldwide phenomenon, launching chapters in more than sixty different regions, and soon including issues concerning the intersections of gender, race and class. Already by 1994, 20.000 dykes marched on Washington and more dyke marches started all over the world.

Most of their actions were shocking for the social and time context, intriguing, challenging: the Lesbian Avengers didn’t do calm and careful and waiting: they avoided traditional ways of advocacy such as sit-ins and petitions.

Their first action on the 9th of September, 1992, was against right-wing attempts to suppress a multicultural “Children of the Rainbow” curriculum for schools. Thus, the Avengers attempted not only to shock, but also to break down homophobic and racist stereotypes and to raise visibility for their lives, rights and voices.

They met in Queens School District 24, the one that had the strongest conservative voice, and paraded through the neighborhood to a local elementary school, handing out lavender balloons to children and parents saying “Ask About Lesbian Lives”, wearing t-shirts that read “I was a lesbian child”.

Fire-eating also became a signature for them: The New York Times explains:

It grew out of tragedy. Last year, a lesbian and a gay man, Hattie Mae Cohens and Brian Mock, burned to death in Salem, Ore., after a Molotov cocktail was tossed into the apartment they shared. A month later, on Halloween, at a memorial to the victims in New York City, the Avengers (then newly organized) gave their response to the deaths. They ate fire, chanting, as they still do: “The fire will not consume us. We take it and make it our own.””

The Avengers then marched down 5th Avenue carrying torches and burnt signs reading names of homophobic propositions that most probably led to violence. At the Washington Dyke March that took place in 1993, they ate fire in front of the White House.

This was thought to be the first Dyke March. After that, many followed, usually held a couple of days before the Pride Parade. The second New York City International Dyke March coincided with the anniversary of Stonewall Riots, Gay Games IV and international human rights conferences. Today marches are held even in Mexico City.

The British chapter of the Avengers was formed in 1994 by members of OutRage!.

The New York chapter has developed a Lesbian Avenger Civil Rights Organizing Project, actively placing themselves against homophobic referendums and propositions.

2017 will be the 25th anniversary of their founding, so the historic group’s history is being summed in a mobile exhibit that will travel and stay in several different places in order to sensitize and move more people. They are currently running an Indiegogo campaign in order to fund the 25th anniversary exhibit.

Kelly Cogswell, a member and author of Eating Fire: My Life As A Lesbian Avenger, told The Huffington Post:

The Lesbian Avengers 25 exhibit proves that it’s possible to fight back. We have to. We’ve done it before, and we’ll do it again. It’s not magic. But sustained activism does make a difference.”


This Month In LGBTQ History: September

Today, I can proudly kiss my girlfriend in public. Forty years ago, I would have been convicted for that. That’ s what happened to two men who kissed in public at a California rest stop in 1976; they were arrested, convicted and forced to register as sex offenders.

I’m so grateful every day for the progress that the LGBT movement has made in America. We still have a long way to go, but we’ve come so far.

With help from LavenderEffect.org, I’d like to remember some major LGBT landmarks that happened in September.

September 28, 1292:

In what is now Belgium, a man is convicted of sodomy and burned to death at the stake – unfortunately, this is the first of many executions for “homosexual acts” in Western Europe.

September 25, 1791:

Leaders of the French Revolution create a new law code that decriminalizes consensual gay sex (by not mentioning it).

September 2, 1907:

Dr. Evelyn Hooker is born, and will go on to empirically prove that homosexuality isn’t a mental illness. Because of her research, homosexuality will be removed from the DSM.

 September 29, 1926:

An older woman seduces a younger woman in The Captive, a lesbian melodrama that creates an uproar on Broadway.

September 6, 1935:

An NYU professor is the first to use electric shock therapy, AKA aversion therapy, to “cure” gay people.

 September 11, 1961:

A San Francisco news station broadcasts The Rejected, the first made-for-TV documentary about contemporary gay life.

September 15, 1969:

New York’s first gay and lesbian newspaper, Gay Power, prints its first issue.

September 26, 1970:

After protests by the Gay Liberation Front, gay men are allowed to hold hands inside L.A. bars.

September 6, 1971:

The National Organization for Women publicly acknowledges that discrimination against lesbians is antifeminist.

September 1, 1977:

The Gay Republicans club is founded.

September 5, 1987:

The Homomonument is dedicated in the Netherlands; this monument honors LGBT victims of the Nazis.

September 10, 1996:

The US Senate passes the Defense of Marriage Act, banning gay marriage.

September 10, 2002:

Same-sex couples in South Africa receive the right to jointly adopt children.

September 8, 2008:

Rachel Maddow premieres The Rachel Maddow Show and becomes America’s first openly gay prime-time news anchor.

September 9, 2010:

A California court rules the “don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy as unconstitutional based on the first and fifth amendments.

What will your role in history be?


NYC Ballet Troupe Uses Dance for LGBTQ Visibility, Activism and History

Although ballet is not known for its inclusivity, one New York City dance troupe is using the style of dance for queer expression and activism.

Founded in 2011 by dancers Katy Pyle and Jules Skloot, Ballez describes itself as a company and community that “invites everyone to witness and celebrate the history and performances of lesbian, queer, and transgender people.”

Ballez also “re-writes the narratives of Story Ballets to tell the history of our lineage, as dancers, and as queers,” “re-imagines Archetypal characters to reflect multiplicity: of identity, desire and expression” and allows its dancers to claims their “inherent nobility and belonging within, around, and on top of a form that has historically excluded us.”

Ballez’ next project is “Sleeping Beauty & the Beast,” with the troupe explaining that it has been re-written “to insert the herstory of lesbian and queer activists into the ballet canon: the striking Garment Workers of 1893, and the AIDS activist dykes of 1993.”

Speaking to Jezebel, Pyle explains that when she was 11 and she saw a ballet production of Sleeping Beauty.

However, when Aurora broke her ankle and the Violet Fairy took her place (still in Violet Fairy costume), Pyle says that “the choreography she performed, the energy in her body, the way everyone addressed her, it was as if she was Aurora, and she was incredible” and it made Pyle realise that “sometimes the ‘wrong’ person can actually be the right person for a role.”

When the show premieres later this month, traditionally female role the Violet Fairy will be played by male dancer Christopher DeVita while Skloot will play the Beast who is described as “a leather clad Butch top…who also plays the Union Organizer in the first act.”

Skloot also explains that “these queer characters [that] are brought to life through the bodies of these particular performers is not only a good thing for LGBTQ people, [but they also] enrich the lives and imaginations of everyone who gets to witness and participate as an audience member regardless of how they identify.”

Find out more about Sleeping Beauty and the Beast and read more about Ballez’ crowdfunding campaign (which it is using to pay artists’ wages) on Kickstarter.

Sunday Brunch – Harlem Renaissance with Gladys Bentley

As butches we have our own spectrum of “queerness”. We are gender-queers; in butch/femme relationships, in butch/butch relationships or no relationships; butches – as a gender option; butches comfortable being butches; butches comfortable being lesbian; butches comfortable being women, butches being comfortable being men.

from – The Butch Caucus

Gut Lightning from Twilight for Gladys Bentley (Fall 2012) from Adam Graetz on Vimeo.

In the 1920s Harlem was an open and accepting place for gays and lesbians. African-American historian Henry Louis Gates has described the Harlem Renaissance as being “surely as gay as it was black, not that it was exclusively either of these.” Black gays and lesbians, described in Harlem vernacular as being “in the life,” provided entertainment in the form of private parties, sometimes fund raisers, and sometimes private erotic events. In addition to the clubs of Harlem, private rent parties became a place where gays and lesbians could dance and socialize without fear of being arrested. Rent parties were private parties that people threw in their apartments to raise rent. Rent parties became places for gays and lesbians to mingle in relative safety.

Enter Gladys Bentley. Born in 1907 the Philadelphia native left home at 16 for New York. For Gladys, her lesbianism made her need to strike out on her own all the more urgent. As she would recall many years later in an Ebony Magazine Article, “It seems I was born different. At least, I always thought so….From the time I can remember anything ,even as I was toddling , I never wanted a man to touch me…Soon I began to feel more comfortable in boys clothes than in dresses”.

She began her career singing and playing piano at rent parties and the legendary speakeasies of “Jungle Alley” at 133 between Lenox and Seventh Avenue. She appeared at Harry Hansberry’s “Clam House” on 133rd Street, one of New York City’s most notorious gay speakeasies, in the 1920s, and headlined in the early thirties at Harlem’s Ubangi Club, where she was backed up by a chorus line of drag queens. She attracted gay, straight, black and white audiences.

What I love about her the most is she was a BUTCH lesbian. Bentley dressed in her trademark tuxedo and top hat. She flaunted her sexual orientation and reputation as a ‘bulldagger’ or butch lesbian. She openly flirted with women in the audience. She was a 250 pound woman dressed in men’s clothes (including a signature tuxedo and top hat), who played piano and sang her own raunchy lyrics to popular tunes of the day in a deep, growling voice while flirting outrageously with women in the audience.

Starting in 1928 (at age 21) she began a recording career that spanned 2 decades. 8 recordings for the OKeh recording company were followed by a side with the Washboard Serenader’s on the Victor label. Although on her recordings she did not dare have lesbian lyrics, she certainly played up this image in the clubs and in public. She married a white woman from NJ and used her fortune to provide them with an apartment on Park Avenue complete with servants and drivers.

In the 1930s the repeal of Prohibition quickly eroded the prominence of Harlem speakeasies. Furthermore, the Great Depression seems to have ended much of the “anything goes” spirit of tolerance that had pervaded in the 1920s. By 1937 the glory days of Jungle Alley were very much a thing of the past. Bentley (now aged 30) moved to Los Angeles to live with her mother in a small California bungalow. She was able to maintain some success, particularly during World War 2 when many homosexual bars proliferated on the west coast. Once again , Bentley carved out a niche for herself in this subculture and environment. Many lesbian women came to see her shows at “Joquins’ El Rancho” in Los Angeles and “Monas” in San Francisco, although on occasion she did have legal trouble for performing in her signature male attire.

In the 1950s McCarthyism swept the United States and it was no longer safe to be an “out and proud” butch lesbian bulldagger. Out of desperate fear for her own survival (particularly with an ageing mother to support) Gladys Bentley started wearing dresses, and sanitizing her act. In 1950, Bentley wrote a desperate, largely fabricated article for Ebony entitled “I am Woman Again” in which she claimed to have cured her lesbianism via female hormone treatments. Bentley became an active and devoted member of “The Temple of Love in Christ, Inc”. She was about to become an ordained minister in the church when she died of a flu epidemic in 1960 at the age of 52.

These desperate attempts to survive do not diminish her previous accomplishments. For many years, on a daily basis, she took risks that would not be common until the Stonewall era. In the last two decades, Rosetta Records has re-issued some of Ms. Bentley’s songs as part of various “Women in Jazz” compilations.

LGBT History Month

So it’s February, which means one thing, its LGBT History Month.

This fantastic calendar event is here to celebrate the lives and achievements of the LGBT community; celebrating its diversity and the society as a whole. It is an opportunity to celebrate LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) lives and culture by exploring our own and others’ histories in an LGBT context.

It is also an opportunity for learning, discussion and debate around the continued fight for LGBT liberation.

Every year a range of arts, cultural and educational events take place across the country. LGBT History Month is for everyone; individuals, community groups, organisations, service providers, LGBT and non-LGBT people.

Sites to visit
  • http://www.lgbthistory.org.uk/
  • http://lgbthistorymonth.org.uk/
  • http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/themes/same-sex_desire_and_gender.aspx
  • https://www.uea.ac.uk/literature/engagement/lgbt-history-month

How LGBT History Month can change attitudes

What’s the campaign called? 

LGBT History Month is an event first marked in Scotland a mere nine years ago to coincide with the abolition of Section 28, which prohibited local authorities and schools from discussing lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) lives. LGBT History Month is managed and promoted by LGBT Youth Scotland, the largest youth and community-based organisation for LGBT young people in Scotland.

Why should we care?

LGBT lives and culture should not be simply tolerated but, in fact, celebrated and incorporated into our daily lives. And as Scotland opens its doors to the world in 2014 through high-profile events such as the Commonwealth Games and Homecoming Scotland, the importance of working together takes on an even greater significance.

Who else cares?

More people than ever care about LGBT rights. Since its launch LGBT History Month has grown in size and scale to become an annual cultural celebration of LGBT creativity, and with more than 60 events planned for 2014, this year promises to deliver an exciting, ambitious and accessible programme of events for everyone. Debate and discussion can’t take place in isolation, and the fact that so many mainstream organisations across Scotland are committed to planning and delivering events throughout the month needs to be acknowledged and applauded. Next month, for example, Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Equality Council (ELREC), Midlothian Council and LGBT Youth Scotland invite you to an evening of celebration and dance at the National Mining Museum; South Lanarkshire council will fly the rainbow flag from no fewer than four locations across the local authority area; and Forth Valley college play host to artwork from the three local LGBT youth groups, to name but a few.

Who are you targeting? 

Put simply, everyone. The success of LGBT History Month in Scotland is down to the fact that it’s remained true to its values: History Month provides a platform for showcasing the very best of LGBT culture at not only a national level but also locally and regionally, in community groups and through youth organisations. In doing so, its reach has extended far beyond LGBT-specific groups into mainstream organisations, including the British Transport Police, local authorities and the NHS, further and higher education, universities, colleges, schools, and the third sector.

What would a better world look like?

Our mission is to “empower lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people and the wider LGBT community so that they are embraced as full members of the Scottish family at home, school and in every community”.

What can we do?

To find out more about how you can get involved in LGBT History Month, or to see what events and activities are happening locally in your area, visit us at www.lgbthistory.org.uk. Alternatively, why not take part in our #lgbtsmallsteps campaign, which encourages individuals and organisations to celebrate the small, personal ways people have marked the month?

Same-sex desire and gender identity

The evidence for same-sex desire and fluid ideas of gender has often been overlooked in the past, but museums and their collections can allow us to look back and see diversity throughout history.

Much of the historical evidence is centred around men and their concerns and often what survives is partial, fragmentary or ambiguous. Such things have often been hidden in history, and obscured by censorship, but now we realise the past is much ‘queerer’ than we have often thought.

This theme is based on an original web trail published on the Untold London website. Only some of these objects are on display. Some images contain explicit scenes, though these are shown small (click to see larger versions).

Visit – http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/themes/same-sex_desire_and_gender.aspx

LGBT History Month @University of East Anglia

This year the university will be presenting a number of events in support of LGBT History Month –  All talks are free and they take place in Arts 2.02 at 7 pm.

Visit www.uea.ac.uk/literature/engagement/lgbt-history-month

Music in Queer Fiction – Dr Clare Connors – 3 February 2014

When music is described in novels it serves all sorts of purposes. It can connote passion for example, or an experience of intimacy, or point to areas of meaning, life and feeling beyond the grasp of words, or impossible for cultural reasons to articulate. This talk explores the specific role played by the representation of music in a number of twentieth-century works of queer fiction, including novels by Alan Hollinghurst and Sylvia Townsend Warner.

“Marriage is so Gay.” The battle for same sex marriage in the US and Britain: A comparative perspective – Dr Emma Long – 6 February 2014

Same-sex marriage has been a controversial political issue in both the US and UK in recent years. Yet despite the fact the issue is the same, the nature of the campaigns in each country has been quite different. This lecture considers the history of the debate and looks at why the issue has been received differently in the two countries.

Southeast Gaysia!: LGBT Heritage and Activism in the ASEAN Region – Yi-Sheng Ng – 10 February 2014

Southeast Asia is a hugely diverse region, where different races, religions and government systems exist side by side. And yet there are common threads in our queer history that bind us together, from traditions of holy transgender shamans to modern-day lesbian weddings and gay rights marches. Singaporean activist Yi-Sheng Ng will share stories from Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam; these are tales of liberation and oppression, continuity and change.

Pitching Harmony: Thinking differently about the assimilation and difference debate – Dr Jonathan Mitchell – 13 February 2014

In this lecture I wish to speculate on the concept of harmony and how it offers creative possibilities for ways of thinking about LGBT politics. As LGBT politics becomes increasingly divided between a liberal acceptance and extreme differences – BDSM culture, bug-chasing, bare-backing etc. – I wish to muse on the concept of harmony, especially close harmony as a means to emphasize the ‘queer’ at work with and within the norm without having to lose one’s identity either to assimilation, or to the extremes. My own concepts here are fraught with problems and are highly value laden, and I aim to maintain these tensions as a process of self-critique.

“A Quiet Place”: Gay & Bisexual Classical Composers in 20th Century America – Malcolm Robertson – 17 February 2014

Perhaps due to the population size and the diversity of the cultural backgrounds of its citizens, the USA has produced a large number of diverse ‘classical’ composers in the 20th century of which a considerable proportion were/are gay or bisexual. The sheer variety of individual styles in which these composers expressed themselves is quite staggering and many of these composers have reputations that are of key importance to 20th century ‘classical’ music both nationally and internationally. The talk will look at the life and music of several of these composers, including works that seem to reflect their personal feelings and sexuality.

The Homosexual Steamroller: Queer “Propaganda” through Literature – Dr B.J. Epstein –  20 February 2014

Why are LGBTQ books for young readers considered so threatening? Can you turn people queer simply by featuring LGBTQ characters in literature? LGBTQ books for children and young adults are some of the most banned or censored books in the world. This talk will explore some of these texts and the many challenges they have faced. It will discuss the content of both picture books and young adult novels as well as how these works might influence readers.

Saints, Sinners and Martyrs in Queer Church History: The continuing evolution of religious responses to homoerotic relationships – Terry Weldon – 24 February 2014

History contradicts the common assumption that Christianity and homoerotic relationships are in direct conflict. There have been numerous examples of Christian saints, popes and bishops who have had same-sex relationships themselves, or celebrated them in writing, and blessed same-sex unions in church. There have also been long centuries of active persecution – but recent years have again seen the emergence of important straight allies for LGBT equality, and a notable reassessment of the scriptural verdict.

Trans & Gender Variant History 1800s onwards – Katy J Went – 27 February 2014

The development of modern theories, constructs and realities about gender, intersex, sex and trans. Changing social gender “norms”, sexual psychopathology, shifts in neuro and biological understanding of sex and gender, and modern medical possibility to redefine bodies. From crossdressing mollies to sexual inversion, transgenderism, non-binary gender and 80 shades of intersex. This is the second lecture in a series that began by covering the ancient and medieval history of gender variance until 1800, delivered at UEA in 2012.