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Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965)

Black playwright, author of A Raisin in the Sun.  Her husband, Robert Nemiroff (they divorced in 1964 but remained close) said that Hansberry's homosexuality "was not a peripheral or casual part of her life but contributed significantly on many levels to the sensitivity and complexity of her view of human beings and of the world."

In a 1957 letter to The Ladder, a publication of the Daughters of Bilitis, she said "I think it is about time that equipped women began to take on some of the ethical questions which a male-dominated culture has produced and dissect and analyze them quite to pieces in a serious fashion...In this kind of work there may be women to emerge who will {be} able to formulate a new and possible concept that homosexual persecution and condemnation has at its roots not only social ignorance, but a philosophically active anti-feminist dogma."

(taken from Out of the Past by Neil Miller.)

Ethel Smyth (1858-1944)

One of the first women famous as a composer, which included six operas.  She was also a leader in the English suffrage movement, and at age 71 fell in love with Virginia Woolf.  She had also been involved in relationships with several other well known women of her day. 

(thanks to Keith Stern's Queers in History.)

Sitting Bull (1831-1890)

Sioux leader and warrior who helped defeat General Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.  One of Sitting Bull's five wives was a "two-spirit" man. 

(From Keith Stern's Queers in History)

Jeanette Winterson (born in U.K. 1959)

British author of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and a number of other award-winning novels.


Thornton Wilder (1897-1975)

Pulitzer-prize-winner Thornton Wilder,  of Our Town fame, allegedly finished this famous work after going for a long walk in the rain with his lover, English professor, tattoo artist, and pornography writer Samuel M. Steward. 

(according to Keith Stern, in Queers in History.)

Susan Sontag (1933-2004)

Best-selling author, philosopher, literary theorist and intellectual.  "In a 2000 interview in London's Guardian newspaper, Sontag spoke of her bisexuality: 'As I've become less attractive to men, so I've found myself more with women.  It's what happens.  Ask any woman my age.  More women come on to you than men.  And women are fantastic.'" (from Queers in History, by Keith Stern).

Sontag was in a relationship with photographer Annie Leibovitz, and according to Keith Stern, in 2001 Time magazine reported that Sontag and Leibovitz were raising a child together.

Margaret Wise Brown (1910-1952)

"Goodnight Moon is one of the most enduring children's classics and has had an immeasurable influence on twentieth-century illustrated books.  Its author, Margaret Wise Brown, had a stormy ten-year relationship with her lover, the actress Michael Strange, who was formerly married to actor John Barrymore."

(Quoted from Queers in History, by Keith Stern)

Stephen Fry (born 1957 in UK)

Posted on the Links Page, under Religious Gays, is a video of Stephen Fry (thanks to Sonja for that link) with a critique of the Catholic Church, including comments on their policy on gays (virtually the same as the Baha'i policy).  I thought you might like a little background on Fry, and I have copied the following mini-article from Queers in History by Keith Stern:

"Stephen Fry is well known as an author of novels (The Liar, The Hippopotamus), plays, and film scripts, including the forthcoming film The Dam Busters for Peter Jackson.  He is also a famous actor (Jeeves and Wooster, Peter's Friends, I.Q., Cold Comfort Farm, Wilde) and the narrator of the Harry Potter films.

Before 1980 Fry lived as a gay man.  After 1980, he was celibate for sixteen years.  As he said, 'I am the last person I would fancy if I saw myself at a party.  I just assumed people would vomit at the thought of having sex with me anyway and I have never, ever been able to suggest going to bed with someone.'

Fry channels much of his energy into gay activism, early on with Stonewall UK and prominently with the Terrence Higgens Trust.

Fry currently lives in London with his longtime partner Daniel Cohen."

Angelina Weld Grimke

This is a direct quote from Queers in History by Keith Stern:

"Angelina Weld Grimke was a writer and activist during the Harlem Renaissance.  Her most famous work was a play, Rachel, which she wrote in response to W.E.B. DuBois' requests for theatre by, for, and about African American people.  Grimke was friends with the poet Georgia Douglas Johnson, and for seven years she had a loving relationship with Mamie Burrill, a co-worker at the school where she taught.

Grimke was also a renowned poet, whose love verses were often addressed to other women.  Critic Gloria Hull wrote of Grimke in her book Color, Sex and Poetry that 'being a black lesbian poet in America at the beginning of the twentieth century meant that one wrote (or half wrote)--in isolation....It meant that when one did write to be published, she did so in shackles--chained between the real experience and convention that would not give her voice.'"

The Rights of Woman

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, also wrote Mary, A Fiction, the earliest example of a novel about a lesbian relationship written by a woman.  She was bisexual and married.  Her daughter Mary married poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and wrote Frankenstein.  (from Queers in History)

They're in the Durnedest Places...

Mel White (born 1940 in U.S.), who earned his living as a ghost writer, worked with various prominent right-wing religious and political people such as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Oliver North, Billy Graham, Jim Bakker.  Married, he attempted various "cures" for his homosexuality, including psychotherapy, prayer, electroconvulsive therapy, and exorcism.  After he attempted suicide, he and his wife agreed to an amicable divorce.  White publicly announced his homosexuality in 1994.  He married Gary Nixon (they had begun dating in 1984) in 2008, and they lead the gay rights organization Soulforce.  (Thank you to Keith Stern's marvelous book Queers in History).

A Supportive Voice from Longstanding Military Debate

Former Senator Barry M. Goldwater, Republican presidential candidate in 1964 (not gay) is quoted  in Out of the Past - Gay and Lesbian History from 1869 to the Present by Neil Miller, as saying:  "After more than 50 years in the military and politics, I am still amazed to see how upset people can get over nothing.  Lifting the ban on gays in the military isn't exactly nothing, but it's pretty damned close..."  (from op-ed piece in the Washington Post National Weekend Edition, June 21, 1993)

Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver, (b. 1935), Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, has been called America's most widely read poet.  She was influenced in her work  by poet  Edna St. Vincent Millay, and has been compared to Emily Dickinson.  Her poetry reveals a deep love for the natural world.  Her life partner, Molly Malone Cook, was her literary agent until Cook died in 2005.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950), Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, was bisexual.  In her own words, "For surely, one must be either undiscerning, or frightened, to love only one person, when the world is so full of gracious and noble spirits."  In The Lamp and the Bell, she wrote about the passion between two women.

Barbara Jordan

Barbara Jordan (1936-1996), member of U.S. Congress from Texas from 1973 to 1979, was the first African American woman from a southern state to serve in the House.  In 1974 she made an influential speech before the House Judiciary Committee in support of the impeachment of President Richard Nixon.  Her speech at the 1976 Democratic National Convention is considered by many historians to have been the best convention keynote speech in modern history.  In the latter part of her life, Jordan developed multiple sclerosis.  Nancy Earl, her life partner for well over twenty years, was her caregiver during her illness, and executor of her estate.


King James  Version?

Well, we can't always be proud.  James I (1566-1625) succeeded Queen Elizabeth to the throne of England in 1603.  According to Queers in History by Keith Stern,  James' reign was remarkable for the number of feuds he had with Parliament and the number of men who were welcomed into the royal bedchamber, including one George Villiers (1592-1628) whom he made the Earl of Buckingham.  In a letter to Villiers, James wrote "I desire only to live in this world for your sake....God bless you, my sweet child and wife, and grant that ye may ever be a comfort to your dear dad and husband."

So far, so good.   Reminiscent of today's situation, however, when those most vehemently opposed to homosexuality in public often are found to have their own private sexual conflicts, James wrote a popular book on demonology, inspiring witch hunts throughout his kingdom, and adopted a severe official stance toward sodomy.  According to Stern, James' book Basilikon Doron lists sodomy among those "horrible crimes which ye are bound in conscience never to forgive."  He himself, of course, was above the law.

As reference and for further reading, Stern offers Homosexuals in History by A. L. Rowse.


´╗┐Nazis Against Moral Degeneracy

Most Nazi leaders themselves fought against "moral degeneracy," a concept which included homosexual conduct, and, long before their rise to power, actually went on record condemning it. When, during an early election campaign, a homosexual rights organization requested a formal statement on homosexuality from all political parties, Hitler's National Socialist Party gave the following official response:

"Suprema lex salus populi!
Communal welfare before personal welfare!
Those who are considering love between men or between women are our enemies. Anything that emasculates our people and that makes us fair game for our enemies we reject, because we know that life is a struggle and that it is insanity to believe that all human beings will one day embrace each other as brothers. Natural history teaches us a different lesson. Might makes right. And the stronger will always prevail against the weaker. Today we are the weaker. Let us make sure that we will become the stronger again! This we can do only if we exercise moral restraint. Therefore we reject all immorality, especially love between men, because it deprives us of our last chance to free our people from the chains of slavery which are keeping it fettered today."

(taken from Hidden From History: Reclaiming the Gay & Lesbian Past: edited by Martin Bauml Duberman, Martha Vicinus & George Chauncey, Jr.)

What was unique to the Nazi regime...was the cold-blooded mass extermination of entire populations, to maintain the domination of an alleged 'master race.'...

...In first place among the victims of Nazism stood the Jews, at least six million of whom perished under Nazi rule...

How many people in Britain and America today are aware that the gypsies of Europe were rounded up by the Nazis and sent to their death in almost similar proportion to the Jews - relative to their smaller numbers?...

When it comes, however, to the tens of thousands of homosexuals who were exterminated in the same cold-blooded way, the situation is far worse then simple forgetfulness. The fate of gay people under Nazi rule has been the object of deliberate suppression. Neither in Germany itself, nor in the countries whose armies liberated Europe from the Nazis, did the powers-that-be want it known that homosexuals, too, were the victims of Nazi mass murder. Gay people, though a very distinct category in the concentration camps, were even omitted from memorials erected to the victims of Nazism. Scarcely surprising, since in 1945 male homosexuality was equally illegal in the United States, Britain and Soviet Russia, and there is still a long way to go before we are free even of the 'criminal' label, let alone all other abuse.

(taken from The Men With The Pink Triangle, by Heinz Heger {1972} - a unique first-hand account of the life and death of homosexual prisoners in the Nazi concentration camps)

Woman Chief

This story is quoted from the book, Out of the Past - Gay and Lesbian History from 1869 to the Present:

"...within Plains Indian culture, there was at least one nineteenth-century woman who took a traditionally male role (and female wives). She was known only as the Woman Chief of the Crow Indians of the upper Missouri. As a young girl, she was a member of another tribe, the Gros Ventre, but was taken prisoner by the Crow at age ten and adopted by a Crow warrior. Edwin T. Denig, a white frontiersman who lived with the Crow and knew her for twelve years, describes how as a young girl she desired to acquire 'manly accomplishments.' Her Crow foster father encouraged her in this, permitting her to guard the horses, presenting her with bow and arrows, and teaching her to ride fearlessly. She later carried a gun, learned to shoot, and was the 'equal if not the superior' to any of the men in hunting. 'Long before she had ventured on the warpath,' Denig wrote, 'she could rival any of the young men in all amusements and occupations, was a capital shot with the rifle, and would spend most of her time killing deer and bighorn, which she butchered and carried home on her back when hunting on foot.' She never wore men's clothes, however, always dressing as a woman, except for her hunting arms. After the death of her foster father, she assumed responsibility for his lodge and family.

When the Blackfeet made a charge on the Crow lodges, she single-handedly led a counterattack against them, killing one with a gun and shooting arrows into two more. This act made her a hero to the entire Crow Nation. The following year, she led a number of young men on their first war excursion against the Blackfeet, returning with 70 horses and two scalps. Other successful raids followed. As Denig wrote:

'Old men began to believe she bore a charmed life which, with her daring feats, elevated her to a point of honor and respect not often reached by male warriors, certainly never before conferred upon a female of the Crow Nation. The Indians seemed to be proud of her, sung forth her praise in songs composed by them after each of her brave deeds. When council was held and all the chiefs and warriors assembled, she took her place among the former, ranking third person in the band of 160 lodges.'

Soon after, she married a woman, and later added three more wives. Before taking a young woman in marriage, she always went through the expected procedure of giving horses to the family of her intended. Denig thought there was a practical reason for her marrying women: Given her rank as a warrior and hunter, she viewed women's work as beneath her. Thus, marriage to a man would be inappropriate to her status. He added, 'Strange country this, where males assume the dress and perform the duties of females, while women turn men and mate with own sex!'

For 20 years the Woman Chief seems to have 'conducted herself well in all thing {sic} appertaining to war and a hunter's life,' as Denig put it. Then, in the summer of 1854, she was killed while on a peacemaking expedition to the Gros Ventre tribe. 'Thus closed the earthly career of this singular woman,' wrote Denig. 'Neither has there since appeared another of her sex who preferred the warrior's life to that of domestic duties.' "


We'Wha Goes to Washington

This story is quoted from the book, Out of the Past - Gay and Lesbian History From 1869 to the Present, by Neil Miller:

"In the year 1886, the Zuni Indian berdache We'Wha (1849-1896) came to Washington, D.C. He stayed for six months, as a guest of his friend, the anthropologist Matilda Foxe Stevenson, and captivated Washington society. He demonstrated Zuni weaving at the Smithsonian. He appeared at the National Theatre in an amateur theatrical event, at which he received 'deafening' applause from an audience of senators, congressmen, and other luminaries. He became friends with the Speaker of the House of Representatives and his wife and also called on President Grover Cleveland, to whom he presented a gift of his handiwork.

We'Wha was known {for} his pottery and for his weaving; sales of his work to various collectors made him one of the first Zunis to earn cash. He was 'the most intelligent of the Zuni tribe,' with an 'indomitable will and an insatiable thirst for knowledge,' according to Stevenson, who spent a number of years in the New Mexico pueblo where he lived. He was also, she noted, 'perhaps the tallest person in Zuni: certainly the strongest both mentally and physically.'

Despite We'Wha's strength and stature, President Cleveland and all of Washington society mistakenly believed him to be a woman. We'Wha apparently never indicated anything to the contrary. For many years, Stevenson shared this misapprehension--even after she learned the truth, in her writings she always referred to We'Wha as 'she.' The Washington Evening Star described We'Wha's appearance at the National Theatre as follows:

'Folks who have formed poetic ideals of Indian maidens, after the pattern of Pocahantas or Minnehaha, might be disappointed in Wa-Wah (sic) on first sight. Her features, and especially her mouth, are rather large; her figure and carriage rather masculine.'

For his part, We'Wha was disillusioned with the white women he met in Washington. He had seen them, in the ladies' rooms, removing their false teeth and the 'rats' from their hair.

...The berdache status could be found in 130 different Native American tribes. In his book, The Spirit and the Flesh, ethnohistorian Walter L. Williams noted that the institution of the berdache was well established throughout the continental United States, with the apparent exception of the Northeast. Some particularly warlike tribes like Comanches and the Apaches looked down on berdaches; others, such as the Navajo, revered them.

...This sacred, often revered status, was in sharp contrast to the deviant label increasingly imposed on homosexuals and transvestites in Western culture. 'If a winkte {Sioux term} is in a family, that family would feel fortunate,' one Sioux informant told Walter Williams. And Matilda Coxe Stevenson relates how the death of We'Wha in 1896 caused 'universal regret and distress' among the Zuni:

'We'Wha's death was regarded as a calamity, and the remains lay in state for an hour or more, during which time not only members of the clans to which she was allied, but the rain priests and theurgists and many others, including children, viewed them. When the blanket was finally closed, a fresh outburst of grief was heard...'

When he died, We'Wha was buried in both men's and women's clothing."

MODERATOR'S COMMENT: There is controversy about use of the term berdache, because of the history and connotations of the word. Native tribes had their own terms for these individuals, such as Winkte (Sioux), Nadle (Navajo), Hwame (Mohave), Ko'thlama (Zuni), etc.


Too Many Red Dots!

Taken from the section "The Age of McCarthy,” in Out of the Past - Gay and Lesbian History from 1869 to the Present, by Neil Miller. This was a time when hysteria reigned in the U.S. regarding homosexuality, and gay witch-hunts were conducted by the government:

"Panic about homosexuals in high places spread north to Canada, where the new 1952 immigration act explicitly barred homosexuals from entering the country. At the same time, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (the Mounties) established a special investigative unit called A-3 that concentrated exclusively on identifying and rooting out homosexuals in government jobs. Like their American counterparts, the A-3 investigators watched gay bars and public parks; they also recruited informers among gay men. The force soon had a list of 3,000 names, according to Canadian journalist John Sawatsky who investigated the Mounties' Security Service for his book, Men in the Shadows.

In one bizarre incident, Sawatsky writes, the A-3 unit attempted to plot groupings and gathering places of homosexuals on a map of the Canadian capital of Ottawa. Every area of the city with a concentration of homosexuals was identified and marked with a red dot. Soon, the map contained so many colored dots that it became an indecipherable mass of red ink. The investigators purchased another map - the largest one available. It, too, became a one {sic} great red smudge. Finally, a Mountie approached the Department of National Defence with a request that it fly over the city with high-resolution cameras in order to produce an even larger map. The Defence Department refused - it was experiencing a financial crunch at the time. At that point, the mapping of Ottawa's homosexuals came to an end."