In 2006 the Equality Forum (EF) held the first GLBT History Month, to celebrate and honor the many gay men and women in our community who have enriched the world. Historical names such as Michelangelo, Whitman, Christopher Isherwood, Gertrude Stein, and Bayard Rustin are included on this list of Icons. The list also highlights newer, contemporary individuals such as Rachel Mad- dow, Rufus Wainwright, Suze Ormon, and Jo?hanna Sigurðardo?ttir.
EF is committed to educating the gay community, and its supporters, friends and allies, about gay heroes by offering complementary videos, biographies, downloadable images and other resources to the community on their website beginning on October 1. By the end of the month all 155 Icons that have been documented since 2006 will be available on the website.
“GLBT History Month teaches us how proud we should be of our community and our moment. History months are an important step for civil rights movements. We are proud to coordinate this national and international project. Each one of these people is a remarkable story in and of itself,” said Malcolm Lazin, Founder and Executive Director of the EF. “Thirty-years-ago if you thought there was going to be something called women’s studies, black studies, you would have thought I was crazy. Now these are standard, as are queer studies classes.”
To celebrate GLBT History Month, the SFGN staff compiled a list of our own personal heroes!
Cliff Dunn: Eleanor Roosevelt
Although the history and cultural books are rife with excellent role models, from a modern-age worldview, Eleanor Roosevelt is, for me, the ultimate example. She was rightly fitted with the sobriquet ‘First Lady of the World’ because the entire planet was the canvas she worked upon to create a more perfect place for all.
This niece of Teddy Roosevelt was a Cold Warrior in every sense, helping to keep the Democratic Party of the post-WWII era firmly committed to battling Communism and Totalitarianism in its every guise when others wanted a rapprochement with the Soviet Union.And she cared – not just for the women in her romantic life, or even the husband whose legacy we honor while wincing at his serial philandering, but for seemingly all of humanity.
The iconic 1970s TV character Archie Bunker probably inadvertently hit it right on the head in describing Eleanor’s activism when he reminisced – unhappily – that “She was always out on the loose. Runnin' around with the coloreds. She was the one that discovered the coloreds in this country, we never knew they was there.”
Joey Amato: Freddie Mercury
It may be safe to say that nobody had a greater influence on rock music than the late Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury. True, there were other openly gay/flamboyant rock stars in the 70’s and 80’s, like Elton John and David Bowie, but Mercury, despite his sexual orientation, was ‘cool’. Even the most homophobic, conservative music lovers listened to and idolized Queen and Mercury.
Mercury can also be credited for helping to create the foundation of much of today’s rock music. Contemporary artists, such as Adam Lambert, Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam along with icons including Liza Minnelli and George Michael all credit Mercury as one of their greatest musical influences.
Queen guitarist Brian May recently announced that Sacha Baron Cohen has been chosen to play Mercury in a film about the singer’s life, scheduled to begin filming in 2011. Mercury, who was born in Zanzibar, is repeatedly called one of the greatest singers of all time. Even though he died of bronchopneumonia brought on by AIDS on November 24, 1991, his influence on LGBT culture and music lives on.
Jarrett Terrill: Bayard Rustin
As far as heroes are concerned, no list would be complete without the inclusion of Bayard Rustin. Possibly as important to the Civil Rights movement as his best- friend, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Bayard Rustin organized the Freedom Rides and the famous March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom where MLK gave his “I have a Dream” speech.
Rustin was a black, gay, socialist Quaker. On every level he was a political minority and his contributions to freedom and equality for all Americans should be paid our utmost homage. Gay Marriage advocates should also pause to consider the moral fortitude of a man who lived with the same life partner until his death in 1987.
A. Sebastian Fortino: E.M. Forster
I have read all of E. M. Forster’s novels. He was born in 1879, and after his mother was widowed raised by what one “about the author” section described
as an “army of aunts.” He wrote elegantly, with an economy of words, surely a reaction to a new century in which the florid pens of Victorian authors were no longer fashionable.
His themes are class structure and society, often highlighting the hypocrisy of the upper echelons in their relationships with the poor.
Homosexuality was also one of Forster’s themes.The character of Tibby Schlegel in Howard’s End seems to be that of a closeted, effeminate young man, content in the shadow of his sisters. In Maurice, which was published posthumously but written before WWI, we see a man who gives up class and country to flee to South America with his male lover.
Forster was so dedicated to writing the truth in his work that he virtually gave up his career as a novelist when he could no longer deny his sexuality, and not being able to publish themes about gay life.