Gay History 101: April 8, 2015

Audrey Lorde served as an inspiration to women worldwide, speaking on issues such as civil rights, feminism, and oppression.

Audre Lorde (1934 –1992) was a Caribbean-American writer, radical feminist, womanist, lesbian, and civil rights activist. Lorde served as an inspiration to women worldwide, one of her most notable efforts being her activist work with Afro-German women in the 1980s. Her identity as a black lesbian gave her work a novel perspective and put her in a unique position to speak on issues surrounding civil rights, feminism, and oppression. Her work gained both wide acclaim and wide criticism, due to the elements of social liberalism and sexuality presented in her work and her emphasis on revolution and change. She died of breast cancer in 1992, at the age of 58.

Roberta Achtenberg (July 20, 1950) is an American politician. She currently serves as a Commissioner on the U.S Commission on Civil Rights. She served as Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development, becoming the first openly lesbian or gay public official in the United States whose appointment to a federal position was confirmed by the United States Senate. She worked for more than 15 years as a civil rights attorney, nonprofit director and legal educator. Her activity included co-founding the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

1629: The Virginia Court records the first incidence of gender ambiguity among the American Colonists.

1646: Jan Creoli, a black man, is executed by choking in New Netherland for sodomy. Manuel Congo, the ten year old whom Creoli allegedly sodomized, received a public flogging.

1646: In Connecticut, William Plaine, one of the original settlers of the town of Guilford is accused of committing sodomy twice in England and of corrupting a great part of the youth of Guilford by masturbation. Plaine was executed in New Haven.

1721: Jesuit explorer Pierre Francois Xavier notes in his journal that “effeminacy and lewdness were carried to the greatest excess” by the Iroquois, the Illinois, and other Indian nations of the area that would become Louisiana.

1776: Fleury Mesplet, a friend of Benjamin Franklin, publishes the play “ Jonathan and David” or “ Le Triomphe de l’Amitie”, which becomes the first book ever printed in Montreal. The play is a three-part tragedy describing the thinly veiled homoerotic relationship between Jonathan and David in the Old Testament.

1782: Deborah Sampson, a descendent of Gov. William Bradford, is excommunicated from the First Baptist Church of Middleborough, Mass. for dressing in men’s clothes and for behaving “very loose and unchristian like.”

1846: Edward McCosker is dismissed from the NYC Police Department for making “indecent” advances to other men while on duty.

1860: Walt Whitman publishes the homoerotic “Leaves of Grass”, which later inspires numerous gay poets.”

1870: Bayard Taylor’s “Joseph and His Friend” the first U.S. novel to touch on the subject of homosexuality, is published.

1896: For the first time on the American stage, two women hug and kiss in a scene of the play “A Florida Enchantment.” Though the play is not lesbian in content, the scene is so shocking and controversial that at intermission, ushers offer ice water to any audience member who feels faint.


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