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Sunday, 31 July 2011

First Gay Rights Protest at the Pentagon: July 31st, 1965

1965 marked several important milestones in the history of organized gay protest. In April, gay rights advocates held the first ever pickets in front of the White House demanding equal treatment in federal employment and other areas of discrimination. During the year, those pickets would expand to the U.S. Civil Service Commission, Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, and, on 31st July, the Pentagon. Participants in that picket line included gay rights pioneers Frank Kameny, Barbara Gittings (whose birthday is also today; see below), Jack Nichols and eight others. Another 46 years would pass before the military ban on gays serving openly would finally be out the door. The ban officially ends this year on September 20. The New York Public Library has a small online digital gallery of that first Pentagon protest.

Barbara Gittings

b. July 31, 1932
d. February 18, 2007

Barbara Gittings is a Gay Pioneer who participated in the first organized annual gay civil rights demonstrations, helped convince the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders, and helped persuade libraries to include gay content.

"As a teenager, I had to struggle alone to learn about myself and what it meant to be gay. Now for [48] years I've had the satisfaction of working with other gay people all across the country to get the bigots off our backs, to oil the closet door hinges, to change prejudiced hearts and minds, and to show that gay love is good for us and for the rest of the world too. It's hard work---but it's vital, and it's gratifying, and it's often fun!"

In the 1950's gay activism was in its infancy. Describing those years, Gittings says, "There were scarcely 200 of us in the whole United States. It was like a club---we all knew each other." Barbara Gittings began her career in activism in 1958 when she founded the New York chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis, the first lesbian organization. She edited DOB's national magazine The Ladder from 1963 to 1966.

In 1965 Gittings marched in the first gay picket lines at the White House and other Federal sites in Washington, DC to protest discrimination by the Federal government. She joined other activists in the first annual demonstrations for gay and lesbian civil rights held each July 4 from 1965 to 1969 at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. These yearly protests laid the groundwork for the Stonewall rebellion in 1969 and the first New York gay pride parade in 1970.

In the 1970's Gittings campaigned with Frank Kameny and others to have homosexuality removed from the American Psychiatric Association's list of mental disorders. She recruited "Dr. H. Anonymous," a gay psychiatrist who appeared, masked, on a panel at the 1972 APA conference to tell his colleagues why he couldn't be open in his own profession. In 1973, when the de-listing was announced, a Philadelphia newspaper headline announced: "Homosexuals Gain 'Instant Cure'."

Gittings also crusaded to make gay literature available in libraries. Though not a librarian, Gittings found a home in the Gay Task Force of the American Library Association, the first gay caucus in a professional organization. She edited its Gay Bibliography and wrote a history of the group, Gays in Library Land. Her campaign to promote gay materials and eliminate discrimination in libraries was recognized in 2003 by an honorary lifetime membership conferred by the American Library Association.


Selected works by Barbara Gittings:

  • "Gays in Library Land." In Daring to Find Our Own Names, James V. Carmichael, Jr., 1998.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

July 28th:Illinois Rescinds Sodomy Law: 1961

"On this date in history, the state of Illinois led the nation in becoming the first state in the land to enact a repeal of it’s law criminalizing homosexuality. The repeal became effective on January 1, 1962. Illinois would remain the only state in the union to legalize consensual adult same-sex relationships until 1971, when Connecticut would finally rescind its sodomy law, followed by Colorado and Oregon (1972), Hawaii and North Dakota (1973), Ohio (1974), New Hampshire and New Mexico (1975). The big year was 1976, when California, Indiana, Maine, Washington and West Virginia stopped criminalizing homosexuality. By the time Lawrence v. Texas struck down all sodomy laws nationwide in 2003, thirty-six states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico had eliminated their anti-homosexuality laws, either by legislative action or by state court decisions. But it all began exactly fifty years ago today with that first step in the Land of Lincoln — and, come to think of it, the land of LaBarbera, too. He must be so proud."

Monday, 25 July 2011

July 25th: J. Warren Kerrigan, Silent Film Star

 b. July 25th 1879. 
d. June 9th, 1947

While little known today, Kerrigan had been a very popular silent film star, appearing in films for Essanay, Biograph, and later Universal. His typical character was a leading role as a modern, well-dressed man-about town. He nearly killed his career over a glib remark about his refusal to enlist in World War I.:

In May 1917, Kerrigan was nearing the end of a four-month long personal appearance publicity tour that had taken him across the United States and into Canada. At one of the final stops, a reporter for The Denver Times asked Kerrigan if he would be joining the war. Kerrigan replied:
"I am not going to war. I will go, of course, if my country needs me, but I think that first they should take the great mass of men who aren't good for anything else, or are only good for the lower grades of work. Actors, musicians, great writers, artists of every kind--isn't it a pity when people are sacrificed who are capable of such things--of adding to the beauty of the world."

He managed to salvage his reputation in 1923 with the lead role in The Covered Wagon. That success opened the doors to five more hit films in the next year, and with that his financial security was assured. He retired from filmmaking and lived with James Vincent. his devoted partner of forty years until Kerrigan died in 1947 at the age of 67."

25th July: death of Dr James Barry, Trans Military Doctor

b. c. 1789-1799
d. 25 July 1865

"Before Britain’s Inspector General of Military Hospitals, Dr. James Barry, died, he left strict instructions that no one was to change him out of the clothes in which he died. But the charwoman sent to prepare his corpse had no room for such nonsense. And so when she pulled his nightshirt up to wash his boody, she screamed, “The devil! It’s a woman!" Dr Barry, while alive, was known as a fierce and demanding doctor, and in the process became one of the most highly respected and feared surgeons in Victorian England, feared for his combative temper and fierce determination. He famously got in a bitter argument with Florence Nightingale, who called him a “brute” and “the most hardened creature I ever met throughout the Army.” As Inspector General, he fought for better food, hygiene, sanitation and proper medical care for soldiers and for prisoners. His reforms undoubtedly saved thousands of lives. He became the top-ranking doctor in the British Army, where despite his argumentative personality, was also reputed to have an very good bedside manner. Many who knew him also remarked on his high, soft voice and his diminutive stature — he stood barely five feet tall on special stacked-soled shoes. His black manservant, who joined Barry’s employment in South Africa and would remain with him for the next fifty years, was entrusted with the task of laying out six small towels every morning that Barry used to conceal his curves and broaden his shoulders.

Despite the charwoman’s discovery upon his death, his secret remained tightly held and he was buried under the only name he had gone by since his early twenties.  It wouldn’t be until the 1950s when his British Army records were unsealed that it was revealed that Barry had been born in Ireland as Margaret Buckley to a forward thinking family who were staunch supporters of women’s rights. Margaret became James Barry shortly after beginning training to become a doctor. But since women were not admitted to universities at the time, the only way Barry could continue his education and career was to do so as a man. And in every respect, he remained a man in what was very much a man’s world until the day he died.

 Holmes, Rachel : The Secret Life of Dr James Barry: Victorian England's Most Eminent Surgeon

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Ruth Ellis, "Oldest known lesbian activist"

b. July 23, 1899
d. October 5, 2000
I never expected I’d be 100 years old. It didn’t even come to my mind.”

Ruth Ellis, who lived to be 101, was credited with being the oldest known lesbian and GLBT civil rights activist.
Ellis was born in Springfield, Illinois, at the end of the 19th century—the youngest of four children and the only girl. Her parents were born in Tennessee during the last years of slavery. Ellis’s father was the first African-American mail carrier in Springfield.
Ellis attended Springfield High School at a time when very few African-Americans enrolled in secondary education. She was aware of her sexual orientation by the time she was 16. Ellis remembered her high school gym teacher as her first female attraction.
In the early 1920’s, Ellis met Ceciline “Babe” Franklin. They became friends and lovers for more than 35 years. 
When Ellis moved to Detroit in the 1930’s, Babe joined her. The couple bought a house and Ellis started a printing business. She was the first woman in Michigan to own and operate a printing company.
Their house became the local hangout for African-American gays and lesbians. Known as the “gay spot,” Ellis opened her home for parties and dances, and never turned down a gay or lesbian friend who needed a place to stay.   
In the latter part of her life, Ellis became a well-known figure in the GLBT community, first locally, then nationally.  She attended events and programs across the country, often as a speaker or special guest. She enjoyed dancing and socializing, even in her old age.
In 1999, Ellis's life was made the subject of the documentary “Living With Pride: Ruth C. Ellis @ 100,” directed by Yvonne Welbon. The film was screened at film festivals worldwide, and won the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the San Francisco International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in 1999.
Ellis lived in three centuries; she passed away in 2000. The Ruth Ellis Center honors her life and is dedicated to serving homeless GLBT youth and young adults.



Other Resources

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Charlotte Cushman, Actress

b. July 23, 1816 
d. February 18, 1876

Charlotte Cushman: Original Photo, 1870
It's always wonderful to find such shining gems from 19th century LGBT history. You can learn more about this fascinating woman on Wiki.
She was America's greatest 19th century tragic and dramatic actress during the eras of Edwin Forrest and Edwin Booth. She performed in England many times, and she had fond friendships with a number of women, one of the few semi-openly lesbian performers of her time. A rare original photograph circa 1870 of Charlotte Cushman.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Gay Popes: Sixtus IV (r. 1471-1484)

b. July 21, 1414
d. August 12, 1484

Pope Sixtus IV appoints Platina as Prefect of the Library, by Melozzo da Forlì

Sixtus IV (r. 1471-1484), born Francesco della Rovere, was notable enough to have the Sistine Chapel named after him. Like Julius III with Innocenzo, Sixtus made his lover Petro Riario - who was also his nephew - a cardinal. According to Crompton, this time writing in his monumental history Homosexuality and Civilization, Sixtus was labeled a “sodomite” in the dispatches of the Venetian ambassador and the diaries of Vatican insiders Stefano Infessura and Johann Burchard. Another nephew, Giuliano della Rovere, later achieved infamy as the “terrible pope” Julius II (1503-1513), Sixtus IV (1414-1482), is remembered for his art patronage, which included the erection and first decorations of the Sistine chapel. Among the artists most prominent in his reign was the Florentine homosexual Botticelli.This pope favored his scheming nephews, one of whom himself became pope under the name of Julius II. However, Sixtus was most devoted to another nephew, Raffaele Riario, whom he made papal chamberlain and bishop of Ostia. He elevated to the cardinalate a number of other handsome young men.

Both within Catholic and Protestant circles, there were widely spread rumors about the homosexual liaisons of Sixtus IV (Francesco Della Rovere, 1414-84; reigned 1471-84); many of these were recorded by the chronicler Stefano Infessura (c. 1440-1500). Among the young men whom Sixtus is supposed to have favored is Giovanni Sclafenato (d. 1497), whom he appointed Cardinal and bishop of Parma. The inscription on Sclafenato's tomb in Parma Cathedral--declaring that he was appointed Cardinal because of "his loyalty, industry, and other gifts of the spirit and the body"--lends support to allegations that his physical endowments helped to inspired the favors that the Pope extended to him.

Despite the scandalous rumors spread about his personal conduct, Sixtus was an effective leader, and he succeeded both in strengthening the temporal power of the Catholic Church and in halting temporarily the advances of Protestantism. He is responsible for establishing as dogma several fundamental aspects of Catholic belief, including the sanctity of Christ before the Resurrection.

Today, he is perhaps best remembered as an outstanding patron of the arts; he was responsible for initiating the physical rehabilitation of the city of Rome, which was continued by pontiffs in the early sixteenth century. He undertook the construction of the Sistine Chapel (1471-80) and the decoration of its walls (1481-2) with frescoes of biblical scenes by leading artists of the day, including Pietro Perugino, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, and Cosimo Rosselli.

From Wikipedia:
Sixtus IV has been accused of having had male lovers, the basis of this being the diary records of Stefano Infessura who recorded documented episodes, but also unsubstantiated rumours. He was accused of awarding benefices and bishoprics in return for sexual favours, and nominated a number of young men as cardinals, some of whom were celebrated for their looks. While it is indisputable that Sixtus favoured his relatives in the hope of having faithful executors of policy; there is less evidence of direct corruption or favouritism. The exception may perhaps be Giovanni Sclafenato, who was created a cardinal according to the papal epitaph on his tomb for "ingenuousness, loyalty and his others gifts of soul and body". The English theologian John Bale attributed to Sixtus "the authorisation to practice sodomy during periods of warm weather". However, such accusations by Protestant polemicists can be dismissed as attempts at anti-Catholic propaganda.

Related Posts:

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Ber(e)nice Abbott, Photographer (July 17, 1898 - December 9, 1991) U.S.A

(July 17, 1898 - December 9, 1991) U.S.A

Born in Springford, Ohio, after graduating from Ohio State University, in 1918 she moved to New York to study journalism, but eventually decided on sculpture and painting. In 1921 she moved to Paris to study with sculptor Emile Bourdelle. In 1923 - 1925, she worked also with the surrealist photographer, Man Ray, before opening her own studio in Paris. She photographed the leading artists in France and had her first exhibition at the "Au Sacre du Printemps" Gallery in 1926.

Abbott returned to the United States in 1929 and embarked on a project to photograph New York. In 1935 she managed to obtain funding for this venture from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and its Federal Art Project. In 1936 Abbott joined with Paul Strand to establish the Photo League. Its initial purpose was to provide the radical press with photographs of trade union activities and political protests. Later the group decided to organize local projects where members concentrated on photographing working class communities.

Abbott's photographs of New York appeared in the exhibition, "Changing New York", at the Museum of the City in 1937. In the late 1950s Abbott began to take photographs that illustrated the laws of physics.

Longtime partner of essayist Elizabeth McCausland, Berenice Abbott died in Monson, Maine.

Steven Hogan and Lee Hudson, Completely Queer: The Gay and Lesbian Encyclopedia, Henry Holt and Company, 1998,


Changing New York (1939)
Guide to Better Photography (1941)
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Tuesday, 12 July 2011

George Eastman

b. July 12, 1854
d. March 14, 1932
“What we do during our working hours determines what we have; what we do in our leisure hours determines what we are.”
George Eastman is the father of modern photography and the inventor of motion picture film. He founded the Eastman Kodak Company and became a philanthropist to organizations involved in technology, medicine, music and theater.
Born in Waterville, New York, Eastman and his family moved to Rochester. His father died when George was 7. Eastman dropped out of school at age 14, and took a job with an insurance company to support his mother and two sisters, one of whom was severely disabled.
Eastman began working in banking, but it was his passion for photography that made him a household name. His ingenuity and marketing savvy transformed photography from a pricey hobby to an affordable, popular pastime.
In the business world, Eastman was a leader. His company was among the first to offer its employees retirement and insurance benefits, as well as profit sharing.
Eastman is nearly as famous for his philanthropy. In addition to contributing millions to the University of Rochester, M.I.T. and the Tuskegee Institute, he established and supported the Eastman School of Music, one of the nation’s preeminent music institutions.
Despite his achievements in the world of photography, very few pictures of Eastman exist. He was a shy, unassuming man who steered clear of publicity.
In 1946, Eastman’s home became the George Eastman International Museum, housing the world’s leading collections of photography and film.
In the final years of his life, Eastman suffered from severe pain caused by a degenerative disorder of the spine. At age 77, depressed over his inability to lead an active life, Eastman killed himself with a gunshot to the heart. His suicide note read, "To my friends. My work is done, why wait?”
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George Washington Carver, Scientist

b. July 12, 1864
d. January 5, 1943
“Where there is no vision, there is no hope.”
George Washington Carver was a groundbreaking agricultural scientist, known for discovering innovative uses for peanuts, sweet potatoes and clay. A black man born during the Civil War, Carver overcame racism to establish himself as a preeminent scientist and renowned academic.
Carver was born a slave in southwest Missouri. As an infant, he was kidnapped by slave raiders, and then abandoned when they discovered he suffered from whooping cough. His mother’s former owners, Moses and Susan Carver, adopted and raised him.
At the age of 13, Carver left home to attend a school for African-Americans. In 1890, he matriculated to Simpson College in Iowa, where he was the only black student. In 1891, he transferred to Iowa State College to focus on his passion for agriculture. After graduating, he served as the only black member of the Iowa State faculty. Carver was invited to head the agriculture department at the Tuskegee Institute, a university for black students founded by Booker T. Washington.
As a professor, Carver encouraged students to think creatively and independently. He emphasized self-sufficiency and resilience, and he pursued broad interests, including painting and religion. Throughout his life, he maintained a positive approach. Even in the face of overt racism, Carver said, “I can’t do my work if my heart is bitter.”
Carver is best known for his advances in the agricultural field. He devised and taught impoverished farmers uses for nutritious, commonly grown crops. He was the first scientist to discover multiple uses for peanuts, developing products as diverse as flour, ink and face cream. He experimented with developing rubber from the sweet potato. Carver’s discoveries are seen as the basis for many products, including biofuels and fruit-based cleaning products.
In 1916, Carver was offered membership in the Royal Society of London. In 1923, he was given a Spingarn Medal by the NAACP. Simpson College awarded him an honorary degree in 1932.
"Black Leonardo." Time. 24 November 1991.
"Change Without Revolution ." Time. 5 January 1948.
"Dr. Carver Is Dead; Negro Scientist." The New York Times. 6 January 1943.
Fishbein, Toby. "George Washington Carver." e-Library@Iowa State University. 1 June 2010.
"George Washington Carver." The State Historical Society of Missouri. 1 June 2010.
"George Washington Carver.” The Field Museum. 24 May 2010.
"Science: Peanut Man." Time. 14 June 1937.
Published Works by George Washington Carver
How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption (1918)
How to Grow the Tomato and 115 Ways to Prepare it for the Table (1918)
How the Farmer Can Save His Sweet Potatoes and Ways of Preparing Them for the Table (1937)
George Washington Carver: In His Own Words (1991)
Books about George Washington Carver
The Story Of George Washington Carver by Eva Moore (1990)
George Washington Carver: The Peanut Wizard by Laura Driscoll (2003)
George Washington Carver: Scientist, Inventor, and Teacher by Michael Burgan (2007)
George Washington Carver by Tonya Bolden (2008)
The Man Who Talks With The Flowers: The Intimate Life Story of Dr. George Washington Carver by Glenn Clark (2010)
Ben Parker: George Washington Carver (1940)
History Channel: George Washington Carver Tech: Modern Marvels (2002)
Franklin Springs Family Media: George Washington Carver: An Uncommon Way (2010)
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Sunday, 10 July 2011

Aphra Behn (1640 – 1689), Writer and poet

b. 10 July 1640
d. 16 April 1689

All women together, ought to let flowers fall upon the grave of Aphra Behn... for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.
-Virginia Woolf

Aphra Behn, by Mary Beale

Aphra Johnson, second daughter of Bartholomew Johnson and Elizabeth Denham, baptized December 14 at Harbledown outside of Canterbury, is one of the earliest women writers to attempt to earn her living by writing. Behn challenged patriarchal ideology not just as a woman writer unambiguously on the market, but one expressly associated with sexual critique and the sophisticated genres of the theatre, scandal fiction and amatory poetry.

Novelist, poet, playwright, and spy during the Anglo-Dutch war, she became known as the "English Sappho" for her poems. Contemporary gossip most commonly linked her to John Hoyle, a lawyer, rake and "known bisexual" who was unsuccessfully tried for sodomy, and much salacious speculation on the nature of her "friendship" with Oroonoko, the "slave prince" of Surina, in the West Indies, followed by the pubblication of Oroonoko, or the Royal Slave (1688). She is buried in Westminster Abbey.


Aldrich R. and Wotherspoon G.- et alii : Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History Vol.1: From Antiquity to the Mid-Twentieth Century , Routledge, London, 2001

Jean Calvin? (1509 - 1564)

b. 10 July 1509
d. 27 May, 1564

Is it possible that Calvin, founder of a particulary puritanical branch of Christianity, was bisexual? It seems unlikely, but at least one contemporary source claims so. Was this just maliciious slander?

Oxford historical theologian and principal of the evangelical Wycliffe Hall, Alister McGrath, reviews The Early Reformation on the Continent by Owen Chadwick in the Times Literary Supplement (June 14). Noting that Calvin "attracted eulogy and vilification in equal measure," McGrath writes:
"Jerome Bolsec, with whom Calvin crossed swords in 1551, went on to publish a scurrilous (but highly entertaining) life of Calvin in 1577. His subject, according to Bolsec, was irredeemably tedious and malicious, bloodthirsty and frustrated. He treated his own words as if they were the word of God, and allowed himself to be worshipped by his followers. "
In addition to frequently engaging in homosexual activity, he had an undiscriminating habit of indulging himself sexually with any female within walking distance. Thus, according to Bolsec, Calvin resigned his benefices at Noyon on account of the public exposure of his homosexuality."
According to McGrath:
"Bolsec's biography makes much more interesting reading than the more deferential biographies of Theodore Beza [Calvin's cohort who was, himself, accused of homosexuality] and Nicolas Colladon."
In Leiden historian Alastair Hamilton's review of Bernard Cottret's new Calvin biography (in the same issue of the Times Literary Supplement), he grants that "Despite the number of studies and biographies which continue to appear on John Calvin, the man himself remains elusive." He affirms: "Calvin is all but entirely concealed behind his theological writings."

Friday, 8 July 2011

July 8th:Philip Johnson, Architect

b. July 8, 1906
d. January 25, 2005

"The job of the architect today is to create beautiful buildings. That's all."

Proportion, minimalism and geometry were elements Philip Johnson combined to create his masterpieces, which include iconic New York buildings. It seemed destined that Johnson, the descendant of Huguenot Jacques Cortelyou, who designed the town plan of New Amsterdam (later renamed New York), would leave an indelible mark on the city. 

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Johnson studied philosophy and history at Harvard. His education was regularly interrupted by long trips to Europe where he saw architecture that influenced his designs.

At New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), he co-curated an exhibition that tracked recent trends in building. The show, "The International Style: Architecture Since 1922," included Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe and provided the official introduction of modern architecture to the United States. 

During the Great Depression, Johnson pursued a career in journalism abroad. He subsequently enlisted in the U.S. Army. After his military service, Johnson enrolled in the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where he realized his passion for architecture.

Philip Johnson's work is characterized by innovation. In a career spanning almost 60 years, he developed a reputation for flexibility and foresight.

Johnson founded the Department of Architecture and Design at MoMA and served as a trustee of the museum. He was awarded an American Institute of Architects Gold Medal (1978) and the first-ever Pritzker Architecture Prize (1979).

The Glass House (1949), which he designed for himself, is a modest 56-foot-by-32-foot rectangle with exterior walls made almost entirely of glass. The building, in New Canaan, Connecticut, incorporates the bucolic setting as an integral part of the home's ambiance.

His other seminal works are the New York State Pavilion for the World's Fair (1964), MoMA's east wing and sculpture garden (1964), Pennzoil Place in Houston (1975), and the Sony Building in New York City (1984).
The architect shared the last 40 years of his life with his partner, David Whitney, who died only months after Johnson.

Goldberger, Paul. “Philip Johnson, Architecture’s Restless Intellect, Dies at 98.” The New York Times. January 27, 2005
Lacayo, Richard. “Splendor in the Grass.” Time. June 28, 2007,8816,1638456,00.html
“Philip Johnson.” Legacy. July 2, 2008
Stern, Robert A.M. “Philip Johnson.” Architectural Record. July 2, 2008
Filler, Martin. “ART; The Architect of a Master Builder’s Store of Art.” The New York Times. June 2, 1996
Mason, Christopher. “Behind the Glass Wall.” The New York Times. June 7, 2007
Smith, Roberta. “ART REVIEW; Philip Johnson and the Modern: A Loving Marriage.” The New York Times. June 7, 1996
“Times Topics: Philip Johnson.” The New York Times.
The Glass House (1949)
Trump International Hotel and Tower (1971)
IDS Tower (1973)
Pennzoil Place (1975)
Crystal Cathedral (1980)
Wells Fargo Center (1983)
One PPG Place (1984)
Sony Building (1984)
Puerta de Europa (1996)
The Urban Glass House (2006)
Other Resources
American Masters: Philip Johnson

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Leonard Matlovich

b. July 6, 1943
d. June 22, 1988

Sgt. Leonard Matlovich was the first person to fight discrimination against gays and lesbians in the U.S. military.

"When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one."

Leonard Matlovich was a self-described "Air Force brat" who wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, an Air Force master sergeant. At age 19 he enlisted and volunteered for Vietnam. He served three tours of duty, earning the Bronze Star for bravery, the Purple Heart, and an Air Force commendation.

Matlovich was an unlikely champion of gay rights. Religiously and politically conservative, he was brought up in a Catholic family and converted to Mormonism as he attempted to control his homosexual inclinations through strict religious beliefs.

Sgt. Matlovich remained closeted in the gay-excluding military. But in March 1975, the decorated 12-year veteran handed his commanding officer a letter stating that "my sexual preferences are homosexual as opposed to heterosexual" and requesting a waiver of the military's anti-gay policies because of his exemplary service record.

The Office of Special Investigations declared Sgt. Leonard Matlovich unfit for military service and recommended that he be discharged. Matlovich's challenge to the ruling thrust him into the glare of headlines. The New York Times wrote about him, NBC made a television movie, and in 1975, Matlovich became the first openly gay person to be on the cover of Time Magazine.

In 1980 a federal judge ordered the Air Force to reinstate Matlovich with back pay. The Air Force negotiated a settlement with Matlovich and the federal court's ruling was vacated when Matlovich agreed to drop the case in exchange for a tax-free payment of $160,000.

After his case passed from the headlines, Matlovich became active in gay rights and AIDS organizations. In 1986, he was diagnosed with AIDS. When he died in June 1988, he was buried at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC with full military honors. His headstone does not bear his name; it reads simply "A Gay Vietnam Veteran." The words "Never Again" and "Never Forget" are chiseled beneath two triangles. Below them are these words:

"When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one."


Saturday, 2 July 2011

Sylvia Rivera (1951 - 2002). Drag Queen, Stonewall Activist.

b. July 2, 1951
d. February 19, 2002

Civil rights pioneer Sylvia Rivera was one of the instigators of the Stonewall uprising, an event that helped launch the modern gay rights movement.

"I'm not missing a minute of this, it's the revolution!"

Seventeen-year-old drag queen Sylvia Rivera was in the crowd that gathered outside the Stonewall Inn the night of June 27, 1969, when the Greenwich Village gay bar was raided by the police. Rivera reportedly shouted, "I'm not missing a minute of this, it's the revolution!" As police escorted patrons from the bar, Rivera was one of the first bystanders to throw a bottle.

After Stonewall, Rivera joined the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) and worked energetically on its campaign to pass the New York City Gay Rights Bill. She was famously arrested for climbing the walls of City Hall in a dress and high heels to crash a closed-door meeting on the bill. In time, GAA eliminated drag and transvestite concerns from their agenda as they sought to broaden their political base. Years later, Rivera told an interviewer, "When things started getting more mainstream, it was like, `We don't need you no more'." But, she added, "Hell hath no fury like a drag queen scorned."

Sylvia Rivera (né Ray Rivera Mendosa) was a persistent and vocal advocate for transgender rights. Her activist zeal was fueled by her own struggles to find food, shelter, and safety in the urban streets from the time she left home at the age of ten. In 1970, Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson co-founded STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) to help homeless youth.

The Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP), an organization dedicated to ending poverty and gender identity discrimination, carries on Rivera's work on behalf of marginalized persons.

In 2005, a street in Greenwich Village near the Stonewall Inn was renamed in Sylvia Rivera's honor.

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