Archive for the ‘Our Stories’ Category

The Nation published an excellent article that all of us in the LGBTQI+ movement should and must read.

The First Drag Queen Was a Former Slave
Who fought for queer freedom a century before Stonewall.
By Channing Gerard Joseph

The article begins this way:

“His name was William Dorsey Swann, but to his friends he was known as “the Queen.” Both of those names had been forgotten for nearly a century before I rediscovered them while researching at Columbia University. Born in Maryland around 1858, Swann endured slavery, the Civil War, racism, police surveillance, torture behind bars, and many other injustices. But beginning in the 1880s, he not only became the first American activist to lead a queer resistance group; he also became, in the same decade, the first known person to dub himself a “queen of drag”—or, more familiarly, a drag queen. In 1896, after being convicted and sentenced to 10 months in jail on the false charge of “keeping a disorderly house”—a euphemism for running a brothel—Swann demanded (and was denied) a pardon from President Grover Cleveland for holding a drag ball. This, too, was a historic act: It made Swann the earliest recorded American to take specific legal and political steps to defend the queer community’s right to gather without the threat of criminalization, suppression, or police violence.”

The article goes on to say: “My research on Swann began 15 years ago, when I stumbled upon a Washington Post article from April 13, 1888. The headline leaped off the page: “Negro Dive Raided. Thirteen Black Men Dressed as Women Surprised at Supper and Arrested.” According to another news account, more than a dozen escaped as the officers barged in and Swann tried to stop them, boldly telling the police lieutenant in charge, “You is no gentleman.” In the ensuing brawl, the Queen’s “gorgeous dress of cream-colored satin” was torn to shreds. (The fight was also one of the first known instances of violent resistance in the name of LGBTQ rights.)”

And ends this way: “Though the Stonewall uprising of 1969 is often touted as the beginning of the fight for gay liberation, Swann’s courageous example forces us to rethink the history of the movement: when it began, where it came from, and who its leaders were. Coming of age at a time when an entirely new form of freedom and self-​determination was developing for African Americans, Swann and his house of butlers, coachmen, and cooks—the first Americans to regularly hold cross-dressing balls and the first to fight for the right to do so—arguably laid the foundations of contemporary queer celebration and protest.”

The article can be read HERE.

This wonderful documentary on the life of our liberation warrior Sylvia Rivera was put together by Jerimarie Liesegang the mother of the Ct. Transgender movement. Enjoy and remember we are still in a fight for our very lives. We need more Sylvia’s in the world today.

Before moving to Hartford Ct. I lived in the woods of The Maverick, nine miles outside and over the mountain from Woodstock NY. (1) I lived in what I called an elegant shack the last place going up the mountain. The only modern convenience that I had was electricity. Very rustic living to say the least. It took me one time, one winter morning to understand why the outhouse seat was not attached after what seemed like leaving have the skin on my ass behind on the cold seat. The toilet seat then took up residence behind the woodstove where I cooked, and melted snow to take a bath. Clean water for drinking and cooking was courtesy of the artist I worked for in the summer and in the winter from a woman I did odd jobs for including babysitting her two year old. She was an herbalist and from her I learned about the wild herbs and their healing powers. We collected in the summer, dried the herbs in the old studio at the back of my shack. Screens of Red Clover blossoms, Queen Anne’s Lace seeds, Plantain, tied together in bunches, Yarrow, Tansy, Peppermint, Nettles, Comfrey from the garden. Susan and I would go on nature walks up the mountain and over following old trails. An old farm was our destination long since abandoned where fields of Dandelion awaited us and many of the herbs that Susan used grew in the area. In the fall I picked apples from the abandoned orchard and made applesauce.

During my years on the Maverick I heard many stories about Hervey White and the “good old days” of the artists that gathered there, the festivals, the free love, the feeling of living freely from the powers that tried to tame the creative spirit on the other side of the mountain and in America. Hervey White intrigued me as a revolutionary Socialist, artist, free thinking creative person. Lucille Blanch an artist who came to the Maverick as a young artist and who was still going strong painting daily live in a little white house with a “host of daffodils” growing all along her stonewalls and around her yard. “Just dig up the bulb and throw it, it will come up again,” was her direction in thinning out the plants. I worked for her doing odd jobs and helping out where I could.  But in all my talks with quite a number of folks who lived on the Maverick or who had been living in Woodstock for years no one ever mentioned that Hervey White was a Bisexual man. At the time when he was alive it was a “open secret” or so some say.

Hervey White

Hervey White

“I will do what I like and go where I like without money, paying for my living as I go. Good advice has never driven it out of me.”

So begins our story of a man named Hervey White. A socialist, utopian thinker, Bisexual/Gay man, poet, writer, publisher, builder and philosopher on art and what it could be. White along with  Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead whom he had met at Jane Adams Hull House in Chicago, founded the Brydcliff Art Colony in Woodstock ( 2 ) and after awhile White grew tired of the bourgeois notions of art and life, that was dictated by Whitehead saying of him, “He would only employ people he could dictate to,” White wrote later, “and no self-respecting artist would ever stand for his dictation.”  bought a farm in West Hurley and so began the Maverick art colony. A running joke among some old timers I met in the Maverick was that Hervy White came to this side of the mountain because all the water ran down the other side and he thought that at Byrdcliff people took far too many baths. We read this about Hervey White: In 1905, White purchased a farm just outside Woodstock with Fritz van der Loo and Carl Eric Lindin, intended as a rustic haven for the three friends and their families. It quickly transformed into an intellectual meeting place and was named the Maverick; artists, writers, and musicians took up residence in minimalistic houses, usually little more than shacks, built on the property. White’s short-lived marriage to Byrdcliffe printmaker Vivian Bevans ended in 1908. According to Tom Wolff writing Hervey White”s Maverick Community and Its Artists “we learn White’s homosexual leanings, addressed overtly in his writings, are a possible cause. White would go on to build the Maverick into a thriving community with makeshift studios, a printing press, and a steady output of publications devoted to literature and the visual arts, most notably The Wild Hawk and The Plowshare. Hervey White even while espousing socialism lived as an anarchist, living according to his principles and never sold out to the bankers, the elite, the bourgeoise, to pretense, societies expectations of what a person should be. He expressed his love for men. Leaving us to wonder who these men were, these lovers of his. We look over the photo’s of the men involved with the Maverick community and wonder which ones. I suppose we could guess and our gaydar leads us to some of them. Where they only experimenting with the leader, the catch, the cool, were they true lovers or just a one-sided sexual encounter and then they ran back to their wives?

In The Land of Tomorrow Hervey wrote …”Here I sit on this lofty hill beside a ruin of which all archeologists have read, and I am thinking of Marselino, and how beautiful he is, and how he is going tomorrow and I will never look far back into those deep dark liquid love wells more. How surprised I was yesterday to see the difference in the color of our hands when clasped; his, so dark, almost as dark as a negro’s yet having nothing of the smoky greasy black, but a clear bronze.

Both the ruins and the view from this mountain top are grand, but I am tired now and heartsick. Still I will remember all as long as I live. If I forget the heart sickness no matter…I went to the river with them [the other Mexican hands] and as were riding together, he told me again how often he would think of me, he and Catalina [“his intended”] together, and how he would write, and he would be very angry if I did not send him a photograph for I was his dearest friend and then slowly:

‘I care a great deal for you.’

And when I replied that I liked him better than all the others he said simply: ‘I know.’

I could look at him then, and I saw the lines around the beautiful mouth were quivering and drawing, and his throat was writhing. He turned toward me quickly and his eyes met mine. Ah, the shining of those eyes! He smiled; and I saw in every feature that he was saying, “It is hard to bear, but we are strong.”

He was gay when we parted; but the soft tender light was shining in his eyes. As he pulled his horse about and took off his hat waving a last laughing lingering good bye, he made the most beautiful picture I have ever seen.”

The Land of Tomorrow created a stir for it announced White’s homosexuality.

Hervey White as Pan Maverick Festival

The Maverick Festivals began in 1915 as a means to raise money to dig a well for the Maverick community. The festival was conceived as a bohemian carnival filled with communal spirit to be held during the afternoon and evening of the August full moon. A theatrical spectacle began after dark with performances by artists, musicians and local people followed by a costume ball. Attendance at the festival grew and grew and became more and more difficult to control and by 1929 it was reported that over 6,000 people were in attendance. In 1931 White suspended the festival. While living on the Maverick Lucille Blanch told me of the wonderful parties that were held back “when I was young.” This is a picture of Lucille from a festival in 1922. (more…)

Amber Stewart has a wonderful new article found on Th-ink Queerly. She begins her essay with a quote from our dear comrade Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore who had this to say.

“The radical potential of queer identity lies in remaining outside — in challenging and seeking to dismantle the sickening culture that surrounds us.” — Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore

Here is what Amber has to say at the start of the essay:

“Getting ready to do some research, I pull a book down off my shelf. On it’s cover, a glitter-covered mouth, smeared lipstick, teeth barred in anger, or maybe determination. I open it, and three fliers advertising protests fall out, reminding me of a different time and place. I bought this book, That’s Revolting!: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation, when I was in college, spending my Saturday mornings escorting patients into an abortion clinic, and Saturday nights giving and attending talks on the intersection of Marxism and feminism.

This is when my identity as a queer woman was forged.

It was not forged in the banquet halls of the Human Rights Campaign, but in the streets, protesting against police brutality, discriminatory immigration practices, and rape culture. We were asking, not just for equal pay for equal work, but for work to be redefined as a collective action, something that could benefit all of us, not just companies.

I was an idealist.

I wanted to agitate for queer rights, but for me, that meant calling for the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (RIP). It meant making sure that same-sex couples could get green cards, regardless of their marriage status. It meant supporting the legalization of sex work.

What it did not mean was fighting for gay marriage.”

To read the rest of this article go to HERE.

Amber has this wonderful ending:

“So I’m lobbying for the “Q” to be removed from the acronym.

I want us to stop using “queer” as a catch-all. I do not ask this out of stubbornness or nostalgia, but because I believe it is important that the community keep space for outside the box thinking. I think it’s important that we have a term we can use when referring to something that is just ours. I think it’s important that we remember that we can still be full of radical potential.”

About Th-Ink Queerly

Th-ink Queerly is a LGBTQ+ thought leadership magazine that challenges the hegemonic status quo, disrupts prejudice, and demonstrates our vital role in society to improve humanity.
Note from the editor
Th-ink Queerly is grounded in self-examination and leadership. As LGBTQ+ people we harness our self-awareness to demonstrate our necessary role in society. We promote thoughtful dialogue that seeks to improve humanity and equal rights for all. We critique the status quo — challenging rigid doctrines, heteronormativity, patriarchy, bigotry, and radicalized ideologies — and offer solutions to create a more loving and accepting world. If you would like to contribute to Th-Ink Queerly, please review the “Submission” guidelines.

 

The Women’s Action Coalition marches in support of lesbian rights in the 1992 Gay Pride Parade.

Lesbophobia Past and Present

By ANN MONTAGUE

Lesbians resist and rebel against institutions and belief systems that oppress us. Starting as young girls we fight against the tyranny of pink. Today, the situation is worse than ever for all girls, as multi-million-dollar corporations become the enforcers of oppressive sex stereotyping.

Over the last 10 years, Disney has marketed over 26,000 “Princess” items. This has not only become the fastest growing brand for Disney, it is also the largest franchise in the world for girls ages two to six. The products are all about clothes, jewelry, makeup, and of course, being rescued by the prince.

Disney enforces oppressive gender norms for girls by idealizing the institution of monogamous heterosexual marriage (Cinderella, Little Mermaid, The Princess, and the Frog). Princesses can only be imagined as heterosexual and their greatest success can only be the fairy-tale wedding, which renders them as property.

At the same time, the proliferation of pink sends more messages to girls. Pink becomes more than a color, and academics have even created the word “pinkification,” which is defined as “teaching and reinforcing stereotypes that limit the way girls perceive themselves.”

Peggy Orenstein, the author of a recent book, “Cinderella Ate My Daughter,” asked a sales rep, “Is all this pink really necessary? There are other colors in the rainbow.” He laughed, “I guess girls are just born loving pink.” There are, of course, girls who rebel, turn their backs on imposed limitations, and shout, “Pink Stinks.”

As lesbians enter their teenage years, the struggle continues as it becomes clear that they are not even trusted to name their own experience.

A young Arab American lesbian did a Q and A interview about her first novel, which was a 2018 finalist in the Wishing Well Book Awards’ “Books For Teenagers” category. She was aghast and appalled when the interview was published. Everywhere that she had said the word “lesbian,” they had changed the word to “queer” in their quotations.

“I was rebranded,” she said. “I became the mythological ‘if the situation were right’ lesbian. Queer has become the ‘I am not going to rule anything out because I am an open-minded girl.’ It doesn’t carry the sting of ‘lesbian.’ The stigma of ‘lesbian.’ The boundaries of ‘lesbian.’ Lesbian is a solid ‘no.’”

She added that she would never have said that the androgynous lesbian character in her book was “presenting a gender,” as her interviewer had made up. “That unwillingness to bend is the very reason lesbians are targeted with insidious psychological warfare.”

Why did she (Julia Diana Robertson “Beyond The Screen Door”) have this strong reaction? It was not just that she was “misquoted,” and it was not aimed at those who choose to identify as queer. It was because lesbians of all ages are seeing themselves, as well as their history erased. This, of course, is nothing new, but after past years of struggle there is now an aggressive resurgence.

She was shocked that words she would never use to describe herself or the characters in her novel were put into her mouth. The interviewer admitted unapologetically what she had done; she was trying to “provide space for all LGBTQ women.” In doing that, however, she excluded Julia from her own story, and by extension, all lesbians.

Lesbian critical theory (more…)