Tag Archives: history

Del Martin & Phyllis Lyon, lesbian pioneers

Del Martin 

b. May 5, 1921
August 27, 2008

Phyllis Lyon 

b. November 10, 1924


“Two extraordinary people … that have spent the greater part of a half century … fighting for their right to live the way so many of us, frankly, take for granted.

 – San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom

Wedding of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyons, 2008

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon founded the first lesbian organization in the United States and have fought for more than 50 years for the rights of lesbians and gays. On June 16, 2008, Martin and Lyon became the first gay couple to be legally married in California.

Martin and Lyon both earned degrees in journalism. While working as journalists in Seattle, the two became romantically involved. The couple relocated to San Francisco and moved in together on Valentine’s Day 1953.

In 1955, finding it hard to develop a social network in San Francisco, Martin, Lyon and a small group of women founded the first lesbian organization, called the Daughters of Bilitis. The name was inspired by Pierre Louys’s “Songs of Bilitis,” a collection of poems celebrating lesbian sexuality.

Though it was intended to be a secret society, Martin and Lyon wanted to make the Daughters of Bilitis more visible. The group began publishing a monthly magazine, called The Ladder, which was the first-ever lesbian publication. As editors of the magazine, they capitalized the word “lesbian” every time it appeared.

In 1964, while fighting to change California sex laws criminalizing homosexuals, the couple joined religious and gay community leaders to form the Council on Religion and the Homosexual (CRH). This organization was at the forefront of the movement to gain religious support on gay rights issues. Both women served on the founding CRH board of directors.

In 2004, when gay marriage was offered in San Francisco, Martin and Lyon were the first to wed. A California appellate court ruling subsequently invalidated their marriage. Then in May 2008, a California Supreme Court decision provided same-sex couples the right to marry. On June 16, 2008, they were the first same-sex couple married in California. The wedding was officiated by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Martin and Lyon have published two books together, “Lesbian/Woman” (1972) and “Lesbian Love and Liberation” (1973). On their 50th anniversary, the documentary “No Secret Anymore: The Times of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon” premiered. In 2005, the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association inducted Martin and Lyon into the LGBT Journalists Hall of Fame for their pioneering work on The Ladder. In 2007, they received the 2007 Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Pioneer Award.

Bibliography
Del Martin & Phyllis Lyon.” (The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Religious Archives Network).
Kornblum, Janet. “Gay Activists Blaze Trail for half century.”  USA Today. March 4, 2004

Streitmatter, Rodger.  “Phyllis Lyon & Del Martin.”  National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association: LGBT Journalists Hall of Fame.  June 5, 2008

Articles
Gordon, Rachel. “Lesbian Pioneer Activists See Wish Fulfilled.” San Francisco Chronicle. June 16, 2008

Marshall, Carolyn. “Dozens of Gay Couples Marry in San Francisco Ceremonies.” The New York Times. February 13, 2004

McKinley, Jesse. “Same-Sex Marriages Begin in California.” The New York Times. June 17, 2008

Books

Lesbian love and liberation (The Yes book of sex) (1973)
Battered Wives (1976)

Other Resources

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Troy Perry , Pastor and founder of MCC

b. July 27, 1940

“God did not create gays and lesbians so He could have something to hate.”




Troy Perry is the founder of the United Fellowship of the Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC), a Protestant denomination ministering to the gay community. UFMCC reflects Perry’s commitment to provide a safe space for gays and lesbians to celebrate their faith.

Perry was born in Tallahassee, Florida. He was drawn to the church at an early age and delivered his first sermon when he was 13. At the age of 15, he was licensed as a Baptist minister. In 1959, Perry married a woman and had two sons. The couple separated in 1964 and later divorced.

Perry overcame hardships on his journey to becoming the founder of the UFMCC. He was stripped of a religious position because of his homosexuality, became estranged from his two sons and attempted suicide. He lost hope that he could reconcile his homosexuality with his faith. The seemingly homophobic arrest of a friend convinced Perry to start a church providing spiritual support to the gay community.

In October 1968, Perry launched UFMCC with a service for 12 people in his living room. UFMCC has grown to include more than 40,000 members with churches around the world. In 1969, he performed the first same-sex wedding. In the next year, he filed the first lawsuit seeking legal recognition of same-sex marriages.

Perry and his partner, Philip Ray DeBlieck, have been together since 1985. In 2003, they married at a UFMCC church in Toronto, Canada. The newlyweds sued the state of California for legal recognition of their marriage. They were among the plaintiffs in the May 2008 California Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage.

Perry has been awarded honorary doctorates from Episcopal Divinity School, Samaritan College and Sierra University. He received Humanitarian Awards from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Gay Press Association.


Bibliography

Rapp, Linda.  “Perry, Troy.” GLBTQ: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender & Queer Culture. August 17, 2005


Rev. Troy Perry.” The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Religious Archives Network. March 1, 2004


“Rev. Troy D. Perry Biography.” Revtroyperry.org. June 9, 2008


Books


The Lord Is My Shepherd and He Knows I’m Gay: The Autobiography of the Reverend Troy D. Perry
(1972)


Don’t Be Afraid Anymore: The Story of Reverend Troy Perry and the Metropolitan Community Churches
(1990)


Profiles in Gay and Lesbian Courage (Stonewall Inn Editions)
(1991)


10 Spiritual Truths for Gays and Lesbians* (*and everyone else!) (2003)


Other Resources


Call Me Troy (2007)


Metropolitan Community Churches




Websites

Official Rev. Elder Troy D. Perry Website




Melissa Etheridge, Singer

b. May 29, 1961

“What do they know about this love anyway?”

Melissa Etheridge is a Grammy and Academy Award-winning singer and songwriter. She came out at the 1993 Triangle Ball, the Clinton administration’s inaugural gala for gays and lesbians, when she exclaimed, “Gee, I’m really excited to be here, and I’m really proud to have been a lesbian all my life!” 
She was born in Leavenworth, Kansas, and studied at The Berklee School of Music in Boston. Etheridge moved to Los Angeles and evolved from a bluesy sound to her renowned rock/alternative style.
Etheridge shot to stardom with her trademark blues-rock hit “Come to My Window,” for which she received a Grammy Award in 1994 for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. With its powerful lyrics, the song became an anthem for gay rights. 
In 2004, Etheridge was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the 2005 Grammy Awards, she gave one of her most memorable performances with Janis Joplin’s hit, “Piece of My Heart.” She exposed her head, left bald from chemotherapy. 
Etheridge’s songs have not only entertained, but have helped heal in times of tragedy. Her songbook includes “Scarecrow,” a tribute to Matthew Shepard; “Tuesday Morning,” dedicated to the memory of Mark Bingham, a hero of 9/11; “Four Days,” about those devastated by Hurricane Katrina; and “I Run for Life,” an anthem for breast cancer survivors. 
Julie Cypher, Etheridge’s long-term ex-partner, gave birth to their two children. After their breakup, Etheridge exchanged vows with actress Tammy Lynn Michaels. In 2006, Michaels had twins.
In 2006, Etheridge received the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Stephen F. Kolzak Award, which honors openly lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender media professionals who have made a significant difference in promoting equal rights for the community. “I Need to Wake Up,” featured in the film “An Inconvenient Truth,” won an Academy Award for Best Original Song (2007).

21 May: Frank Kameny, Gay Pioneer

 b. May 21, 1925
d. Oct 12, 2011

The momentum is there, and that’s not going to be stopped. It’s moved from hopes of a grass-roots movement, to the actuality of a grass-roots movement. And it’s taken 40 years to do it.


In 1957, the Army Map Service in Washington, D.C. dismissed astronomer Frank Kameny. Though a WWII veteran with an M.A. and Ph.D. in astronomy from Harvard University, Kameny was discharged because he was gay. Rather than accept a common practice of the times, Kameny fought for his rights. He successfully challenged anti-gay policies of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the US Department of Defense and the US Civil Service Commission.



Kameny sued the Army Map Service and lost his case. On appeal he lost again, and after the Supreme Court denied his petition to direct the case to be reconsidered, Kameny realized his objectives would require a broader movement. In 1961, Kameny co-founded the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C with Gay Pioneer Jack Nichols.

Kameny was the first to bring open activism to the gay rights movement. The D.C. Mattachine Society contacted public officials to attempt to change policy. They published a newsletter, The Gazette, and campaigned to overturn security clearance denials, employment restrictions and dismissals of gay men from the Federal workforce. In 1963, Kameny began a movement to repeal sodomy laws and challenge the APA‘s classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder.
On April 17, 1965, Kameny led the first public picket for gay rights at the White House. With support from the Daughters of Bilitis, the Mattachine Society extended its protest to the Pentagon and the Civil Service Commission. He helped launch the first organized gay and lesbian demonstrations for equality. These seminal demonstrations by activists from New York, Philadelphia and Washingon D.C. were held annually each July 4th at Independence Hall from 1965 to 1969 and were called annual reminders. They paved the way for the Stonewall Riots in 1969.

Inspired by Stokely Carmichael’s “Black is Beautiful,” Kameny dubbed the phrase “Gay is Good” as a slogan for the movement. He led the fight for gay rights into the 1970s and ran for Congress in 1971 on an equal rights platform. The APA removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973 and the Civil Service Commission lifted its ban on homosexuality in 1975, an action President Bill Clinton formalized many years later.

In 2000, Equality Forum with WHYY/PBS produced the documentary film “Gay Pioneers” about Frank Kameny and other early activists. In 2006, the Library of Congress incorporated over 70,000 letters, documents and memorabilia from Frank Kameny into its permanent collection. The Washington, D.C. City Council honored Frank Kameny in 2007, hailing him as a “true freedom fighter.”


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Hildegonde of Neuss 20/04

(Also spelt Hildegund) She was born at Neuss, near Cologne. After the death of her mother, at age 12, she went with her father, a knight, on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. For her safety, during the trip, she was dressed as a boy and called “Joseph” for her protection.
While returning from the Holy Land Hildegund’s father died, but she was able to make her own way home and maintained her disguise first as a boy and then as a man. Later, she made a pilgrimage to Rome, during which she had several adventures.
On one of them, she was condemned to be hanged as a robber and escaped only when a friend of the real robber cut her down from the gallows.
After that, she returned to Germany and was accepted into the Cistercian monastery at Shönau, near Heidelberg, concealing her gender, and to her death she was believed to be a man. Her true sex went undiscovered until her death in 1188.
A few years later, abbot Engelhartof Langheim wrote her biography. She is considered saint, even though her cult is not approved by the Roman Catholic Church.

Sherry Harris, Pioneer City Councillor.

b. February 27, 1965

All real and lasting change starts first on the inside and works it way through to the outside. Politically speaking, each person being the change we wish to see in the world is the only stance that can make a lasting difference. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.



Believing it impossible to win election as an out lesbian, many people warned Sherry Harris against running for Seattle City Council. In 1991, Harris proved her skeptics wrong. She defeated a 24-year incumbent councilman and became the nation’s first openly lesbian African-American city council member.Prior to politics, Harris pursued a professional career in engineering. In 1980, she received a B.S. in Human Factors Engineering from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. She worked as a project engineer for PNW Bell Telephone Company. 


As Seattle City Councilmember from 1992 to 1995, Harris championed downtown interests. She promoted the expansion of the Washington State Convention and Trade Center and supported a downtown symphony hall. A native of Newark, New Jersey, Harris said, “I was raised in a city where the downtown died, and so did the rest of the city.”


Harris has worked with Humanity’s Team, an organization that emphasizes interpersonal connections. One volunteer who worked closely with Harris said, “She is truly a fine leader demonstrating great passion for humanity’s well-being [who] displays uncompromising strength of character.”
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Feb 22: Robert Carter, Priest and Gay Activist

Fr Robert Carter SJ died a year ago today, making Feb 22, in Catholic tradition, his “dies natale”, or day of (new) birth. He deserves to be remembered as one of the earliest activist, openly gay Catholic priests:

“Since Jesus had table fellowship with social outcasts and sinners, those rejected by the religious establishment of his time, I consider myself to have been most fully a Jesuit, a ‘companion of Jesus,’ when I came out publicly as a gay man, one of the social rejects of my time. It was only by our coming out that society’s negative stereotypes would be overcome and we would gain social acceptance.”
-Fr Robert Carter
There is no contradiction between being Catholic and gay or lesbian. Indeed, just as Robert Carter says he was most fully a Jesuit when he cane out publicly, so for many of us, we are most fully Catholic when we too come out in Church.  (I say deliberately “for many of us”, as coming out is always a deeply personal decision, which may not always be feasible for all.)

Robert Carter, Priest and Gay Activist, Dies at 82

The Rev. Robert Carter, who in the early 1970s was one of the first Roman Catholic priests in the country to declare publicly that he was gay and who helped found the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, died on Feb. 22 in the Bronx. He was 82.
Robert Carter, right, with Dan McCarthy, left, Bernard Lynch and John McNeill at a gay pride march in the early 1980s

 

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John Boswell

b. March 20, 1947
d. December 24, 1994

John Boswell was an esteemed historian who argued that homosexuality has always existed, that it has at times enjoyed wide social acceptance, and that the Church historically allowed same-sex unions.

“It is possible to change ecclesiastical attitudes toward gay people and their sexuality because the objections to homosexuality are not biblical, they are not consistent, they are not part of Jesus’ teaching; and they are not even fundamentally Christian.”

John Boswell was a gifted medieval philologist who read more than fifteen ancient and modern languages. After receiving his PhD from Harvard in 1975, he joined the history faculty at Yale University. Boswell was an authority on the history of Jews, Muslims, and Christians in medieval Spain. He helped to found the Lesbian and Gay Studies Center at Yale in 1987. In 1990 he was named the A. Whitney Griswold Professor of History.

In 1980 Boswell published the book for which he is best known: Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century. In this groundbreaking study, Boswell argued against “the common idea that religious belief-Christian or other-has been the cause of intolerance in regard to gay people.” The book was named one of the New York Times ten best books of 1980 and received both the American Book Award and the Stonewall Book Award in 1981.
Boswell’s second book on homosexuality in history was The Marriage of Likeness: Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe, published in 1994. In it he argues that the Christian ritual of adelphopoiia (“brother-making”) is evidence that prior to the Middle Ages, the Church recognized same-sex relationships. Boswell’s thesis has been embraced by proponents of same-sex unions, although it remains controversial among scholars.
John Boswell converted to Roman Catholicism as an undergraduate at the College of William and Mary, and remained a devout Catholic for the rest of his life. He was an effective teacher and popular lecturer on several topics, including his life journey as an openly gay Christian man.
Boswell died of AIDS-related illness on Christmas Eve in 1994 at age 47.

Bibliography:

Selected works by John Boswell:

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April 14, Catherine Opie

b. April 14, 1961

“Let’s push the boundaries a little bit here about what you guys think normal is.”

For over a decade, photographer Catherine Opie has used the power of her lens to create visibility for queer subcultures existing on society’s fringes. Her raw and honest photographs challenge viewers to reevaluate notions of sexuality and societal norms. Her groundbreaking work has adorned gallery walls worldwide, including The Guggenheim in New York and The Photographer’s Gallery in London. 

At the age of 9, Opie decided to become a social documentary photographer after studying the work of Lewis Hine. Inspired by Hine’s use of photography as a means to effect social change around child labor, Opie pursued her  passion for documenting the world with her camera. At 18, she left her home in Sandusky, Ohio, to study at the San Francisco Art Institute where she received a BFA in 1985. She earned an MFA from California Institute of the Arts three years later.

In 1995, Opie’s career gained momentum after her provocative portraits of gay fringe groups appeared at the Whitney Biennial, one of the world’s leading art shows. Images of pierced, tattooed and leather-clad members of Opie’s inner circle were presented to the public in a bold and unapologetic fashion. “Looking at her pictures can be uncomfortable,” observed The New York Times, “not because of their confrontational content but because they reveal as much about the beholder as the beheld.”

In addition to documenting sexual minority communities, Opie photographs landscapes and architecture. In her exhibit “Freeways” (1994-95) she explores the intricacies of Los Angeles’s highway system. In “Mini-malls” (1997-98), she reveals the rich ethnic diversity of Southern California’s shopping centers. Combining both landscape and portraiture in her series “Domestic,” Opie traveled nationwide photographing lesbian couples living together.

Opie is a professor of photography at UCLA. She has received various awards, including the Washington University Freud Fellowship in 1999 and the Larry Aldrich Award in 2004. In 2006, she was awarded the prestigious United States Artist Fellowship.
In an exhibit catalog interview, Opie reflects, “I have represented this country and this culture. And I’m glad that there is a queer, out, dyke artist that’s being called an American photographer.”



Bibliography

“Catherine Opie.” GuggenheimMuseum.org. 6 July 2010.
“Catherine Opie on Artnet.” Artnet – The Art World Online. 6 July 2010.
Sheets, Hilarie M. “Home Views, Bound by Ice or Leather.” 19 May 2010
“Catherine Opie, American Photographer.” The New York Times. 19 May 2010.
“UCLA Faculty.” UCLA Department of Art. 19 May 2010.
Wilton, Kris. “Catherine Opie.” ARTINFO. 19 May 2010.
Books of Catherine Opie’s Photography
Catherine Opie: 1999/In and Around Home by Jessica Hough et al (2005)
Catherine Opie: Chicago (American Cities) by Elizabeth Smith et al (2006)
Catherine Opie: American Photographer by Dorothy Allison et al (2008)
Websites
Catherine Opie’s Social Network
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9 April: Cynthia Nixon, Actress

“I never felt like there was an unconscious part of me that woke up or came out of the closet. I met this woman and I fell in love with her.”


Actor Cynthia Nixon at the Garden State Equali...
b. April 9, 1966

Cynthia Nixon is a television, film and Broadway actress best known for her role as Miranda on “Sex and the City.” She is one of only 15 performers to receive a Tony, an Emmy and a Grammy Award.

Nixon is a native New Yorker, the only child of Walter Nixon, a radio journalist, and Anne Kroll, an actress and a researcher on the television series “To Tell the Truth.” Cynthia’s first television appearance was at age 9 as an imposter on the show.

At age 12, Nixon began her acting career with a role in an ABC Afterschool Special. Her feature film debut came soon after in “Little Darlings” (1980), followed by her first role on Broadway in “The Philadelphia Story.”

Nixon graduated from Hunter College High School and attended Barnard College. As a freshman, she made theatrical history acting in two Broadway plays at the same time, “The Real Thing” and “Hurlyburly.”

A working actress since the 1980’s, Nixon received a Best Supporting Actress Emmy Award in 2004 for “Sex and the City.” In 2006, she was honored with a Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in “The Rabbit Hole.” In 2008, Nixon received a second Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”

In 2008, “Sex and the City” became a movie franchise. Nixon and her television co-stars reprised their roles in the film and a 2010 sequel, “Sex and the City 2.” The original film grossed over $415 million worldwide, making it one of the most successful R-rated comedies.

Nixon is engaged to Christine Marinoni. The couple plans to tie the knot in Manhattan when  same-sex marriage becomes legal in New York State. “We want to get married right here in New York City, where we live, where our kids live,” Nixon says. She and Marinoni share parenting responsibilities for Nixon’s two children from a previous relationship.

In 2009, Nixon shared a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for reading Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.” In 2010, Nixon received the Vito Russo GLAAD Media Award for promoting equal rights for the gay community.

Nixon is a breast cancer survivor and a spokeswoman for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.





Bibliography

Breen, Matthew. “Cynthia Nixon is More Than Just Sex.” The Advocate. 2 June 2010.
“Cynthia Nixon.” The Internet Movie Database (IMDb). 2 June 2010
“Cynthia Nixon” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2 June 2010.
Nussbaum, Emily. “Educating Cynthia.” New York Magazine. 2 June 2010.


Videos
FIGHT BACK: A Message from Cynthia Nixon
Cynthia Nixon on Larry King Live on Prop 8
Marie Claire TV: Cynthia Nixon Interview


Websites
IMDb: Cynthia Nixon
Sex and the City HBO Official Website
Sex and the City Movie Website
Internet Broadway Database (IBDB): Cynthia Nixon


Cynthia Nixon’s Social Network
Cynthia Nixon’s Facebook Fan Page

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