Saturday, February 12, 2011

Today in Gay History

Del Martin (left) and Phyllis Lyon (right) at their 2004 wedding

On this day in 2004, and after 50 years together, LGBT pioneers Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin were the 1st gay couple wed in San Francisco weddings.
Del died just two short years later in August 2006 at age 87. Phyllis still lives in San Francisco, the undisputed gay female icon of the last 70 years.

In their younger years, Del and Phyllis had founded the lesbian organization, The Daughter’s of Bilitis in 1956. They published for several years the newsletter “The Ladder,” with Phyllis being the first editor for about a year, and Del becoming the editor for the next several years. They also were very involved advocating for the entire LGBTQ community for over 58 years.

For more on their remarkable and very public activism over 50+ years, see Wiki here.

Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin in the 1950s

Herewith a letter published in “The Ladder” from Del in 1956, explaining the rationale for the Daughters of Bilitis.

“ . . . The Daughters of Bilitis is a women’s organization resolved to add the feminine voice and viewpoint to a mutual problem. While women may not have as much difficulty with law enforcement, their problems are none the less real — family, sometimes children, employment, social acceptance.

However, the lesbian is a very elusive creature. She burrows underground in her fear of identification. She is cautious in her associations. Current modes in hair style and casual attire have enabled her to camouflage her existence. She claims she does not need help. And she will not risk her tight little fist of security to aid those who do.

But surely the ground work has been well laid in the past 5½ years [referring to earlier references to the male-dominated groups such as The Mattachine Society]. Homosexuality is not the dirty word it used to be. More and more people, professional and lay, are becoming aware of its meaning and implications. There is no longer so much “risk” in becoming associated with [text missing].

And why not “belong”? Many heterosexuals do. Membership is open to anyone who is interested in the minority problems of the sexual variant and does not necessarily indicate one’s own sex preference.

Women have taken a beating through the centuries. It has been only in this 20th, through the courageous crusade of the Suffragettes and the influx of women into the business world, that woman has become an independent entity, an individual with the right to vote and the right to a job and economic security. But it took women with foresight and determination to attain this heritage which is now ours.

And what will be the lot of the future lesbian? Fear? Scorn? This need not be — IF lethargy is supplanted by an energized constructive program, if cowardice gives way to the solidarity of a cooperative front, if the “let Georgia do it” attitude is replaced by the realization of individual responsibility in thwarting the evils of ignorance, superstition, prejudice and bigotry.

Nothing was ever accomplished by hiding in a dark corner. Why not discard the hermitage for the heritage that awaits any red-blooded American woman who dares to claim it?

S/ Del Martin, President
Daughters of Bilitis

Friday, February 11, 2011

Today in Gay History

Happy Birthday

U S Rep Tammy Baldwin (D-Ws)

Born February 11, 1962

“The first out lesbian elected to the United States Congress, Democratic legislator Tammy Baldwin has been a strong supporter of glbtq rights, but she is far from a one-issue politician. Because of her solid record on such concerns as health care, the environment, education, and farming, her constituents in Wisconsin have [thus far] elected her to four terms in the House of Representatives. The last two terms, she was elected by over 2 to 1 margins over her nearest opponents.”

From wiki:

“Baldwin has stated her support for such legislation as the Equal Pay Act (EPA) and recently voted for the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. These acts criminalize and outline prosecution guidelines and punishments for wage discrimination based on sex. She received a grade of 100 from the League of Women Voters as of 2007. She has received favorable evaluations from other civil rights groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union.

Representative Baldwin has also advanced what she sees as stronger enforcement of laws against sexual violence and violence against women. She is a supporter of the Violence Against Women Act, which allowed victims of sexual violence and other sexual crimes to take their cases to federal courts as well as providing funding for various anti-sexual violence initiatives and programs. She is also among the sponsors of a resolution to promote and support National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

Baldwin has also promoted her efforts on behalf of women's health and reproductive rights.[5] She sponsored of the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program Reauthorization Act of 2007, which helped low-income, underinsured and uninsured women pay for cervical and breast cancer-related medical services.”

Baldwin and her domestic partner Lauren Azar were together for 16 years before amicably separating and ending their relationship in May, 2010.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Today in Gay History

During this week, in fact on February 7th, 1941, an incident took place in Hamburg, Germany during World War II. As the Nazi’s reign of terror continued, many gay couples had one man dress as a woman to avoid being caught. One such couple, Franz Liederspool and his lover, Burt Nowitski were out for casual evening of beers and weinershnitzel when the Nazi’s noticed that one of them was actually a woman. The men ran through the crowded streets of Hamburg trying to escape the Nazi’s when they ended up in a dark alley.

Knowing that if they were caught together they were doomed, Franz Liederspool told Burt Nowitsk, who was dressed as the woman, to go into the back entrance of a local burlesque house. Little did Franz know that the door actually led right to the stage. For the next three hours the Nazi’s hunted for the gay couple while Burt performed with some of the best leg kicks that the German people had ever seen. Not only did the Nazi’s not find them, but the soldiers eventually grew tired and went for some R&R at the very burlesque house that Burt was working at. It was quite an ironic twist of fate, indeed.

Years later the movies “La Cage au Folles” and “The Bird Cage” were loosely based on their story.