Jesse's Journal: How About We Celebrate LGBT Americans With Monuments?

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Marsha P. Johnson.

The current campaign to take down Confederate monuments has led many people to wonder who would take their place. Dan Avery, writing for NewNowNext.com, suggested 7 LGBT Americans who are more deserving of honor than Nathan Bedford Forrest or Jefferson Davis.

Avery listed among his heroes such notables as Baron Friedrich Wilhelm Von Steuben, Sylvia Rivera, Edie Windsor, Frank Kameny, Bayard Rustin, Harvey Milk, and Kathy Kozachenko.
Here are a few LGBT American heroes who, in my opinion, also deserve a monument:

1. Walt Whitman (1819-1892). Though people don’t dedicate monuments to writers, there is much to be said in favor of erecting one to honor “The Good Gray Poet.” Without Whitman’s love of men, he would never have written Leaves of Grass; and without Whitman’s poetry, American literature as we know it would not exist.

2. Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906). This feminist icon never married and never showed interest in men. On the other hand, Anthony’s life and letters prove that her greatest passion (other than for the cause of women’s suffrage) was for other women.

3. Katharine Lee Bates (1859-1929) is best-known to us as the author of “America the Beautiful,” one of our country’s two unofficial national anthems. (The other one being Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.”) Not so well known is Bates’s love for women, which may have informed her work.

4. George Washington Carver (1861-1943). The great African-American botanist, educator and inventor is famous for his work with the lowly peanut. A former slave, Carver served for a time on the faculty of Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute. While at Tuskegee, Dr. Carver was accused of giving “therapeutic” oil massages – with peanut oil, of course – to some of his handsome young male students. Later in life, Carver took a partner, Austin Wingate Curtis, who shared Carver’s love of science.

5. Jane Addams (1860-1935). The famous social worker, activist and founder of Hull House in Chicago never married. Though there is no proof that Addams was a lesbian in the modern sense of the word, her closest relationships were with other women.

6. Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962). The greatest First Lady who ever lived was married for much of her life to her distant cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This did not keep her from forming passionate friendships with other women, most notably journalist Lorena Hickok. Mrs. R’s female friendships were instrumental in getting her out of Hyde Park and making her a great political and social activist, the “First Lady of the World.”

7. Bessie Smith (1894-1937). The “Empress of the Blues” was married, as were most people during her lifetime. This did not keep this bisexual, African-American blues singer from enjoying sexual and emotional relationships with other people, women as well as men.

8. Marsha P. Johnson (1945-1992). Marsha “Pay It No Mind” Johnson, like Sylvia Rivera, was one of several trans women of color who changed the lives of all LGBT Americans. Unlike Rivera, Johnson’s involvement in the Stonewall Riots was never in doubt. After Stonewall, Johnson and Rivera formed STAR, Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, one of the first groups that fought for the rights of trans people.


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