Category: 2000s

JANUARY 31: Patricia Velásquez (1971-)

Happy birthday
to actress and supermodel, Patricia Velásquez! You might recognize Patricia
from her starring turn in The Mummy,
but today she is most well-known for being a lesbian icon as well as one of the
very first Native American supermodels.

Patricia has over 20 film and TV credits to her filmography, including lesbian classics The L-Word and Liz in September (x).

Patricia Carola
Velásquez Semprún was born on January 31, 1971 in Maracaibo, Venezuela. She was
the fifth out of six children born to her mestizo father and Wayúu mother, a
member of the indigenous Wayúu people of Venezuela. Both of her parents were teachers and due to the fact that her father worked for the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), parts of Patricia’s
childhood were also spent in Mexico and France.

After
graduating high school in 1987, she made it to the Miss Venezuela pageant
in 1989 where she represented the state of Guárico. Although she only placed as
second runner-up, the pageant still served as the catalyst for Patricia’s
modeling career. After finishing three years of college, she moved to Milan and
began to pursue modeling and acting full time. She modeled for designers such
as Chanel and Dolce & Gabbana throughout the 90s, but didn’t reach
mainstream fame until the 1999 film The
Mummy
where she played the role of Anck-Su-Namun.

Patricia would
reprise her famous role in The Mummy Returns in 2001, as well as be featured in
episodes of Arrested Development and The L-Word. In 2002, the founded the Wayúu
Tayá Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting the Wayúu, a
Venezuelan indigenous group of which her family belongs. After disappearing from the spotlight for a while,
Patricia resurfaced in 2015 with the publication of her memoir Straight Walk. In the book, she comes
out as a lesbian and opens up about her relationship with the actress Sandra
Bernhard. In addition to frequently being dubbed the world’s first Native American
supermodel, many also consider Patricia to be the world’s first openly lesbian
supermodel!

-LC

DECEMBER 21: The world’s first same-sex marria…

On this day in 2000,
Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands signed into the law the world’s very first
same-sex marriage bill! The law would not go into effect, however, until April
1, 2001.

Following the historic 2000 decision, spin-offs of the classic blue porcelain marriage figurines were created to depict two Dutch girls or two Dutch boys kissing. They were frequently passed out at LGBT celebrations or marriage ceremonies (x).

The same-sex marriage debate began
in the Netherlands roughly in the mid-80s and was spearheaded by the magazine
Gay Krant and its editor-in-chief Henk Krol. There was much push-back on the
idea, most notably from the Christian Democratic party, but in 1995 the
Parliament finally submitted and created a “special commission” which was
tasked with investigating how legal same-sex marriages would
affect the nation. In 1997, the special commission declared that its work was
done and that there was no tangible legal or cultural barrier to providing
lesbian and gay couples the right to marry.

The final draft of the legislation
was not completed until September of 2000 and then was passed in the House of
Representatives with a vote of 33-12. Finally, on December 21, 2000, Queen Beatrix
signed the bill into law.During
the first six months of same-sex marriage being legal, over 2,000 lesbian and gay couples were
married in the Netherlands.

-LC

NOVEMBER 30: I Can’t Think Straight premieres …

On this day in 2008, the lesbian
film I Can’t Think Straight finally received a wide release in the United
States after initially hitting select theater on November 21, 2008.

The British drama is based on the
book of the same name and was directed by Shamim Sarif, a notable writer and director
of South Asian and South African descent who is openly lesbian and has
extensively explored gender and sexuality in her work. I Can’t Think Straight
follows the story of a Palestinian woman named Tala who is living in London and
engaged to a man named Hani. While Tala’s wealthy family eagerly make
arrangements for her wedding to take place in their home country of Jordan,
Tala is slowly coming to the realization that she likes women. The object of
her affection is the girlfriend of her best friend, a British Indian Muslim
woman named Leyla. As Tala’s wedding day approached, both women struggle with
their family’s cultural expectations and their secret relationship.

Upon its release in 2008, I Can’t
Think Straight
was awarded by many LGBT film festivals from around the world
such as the Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, the Melbourne Queer Film
Festival, and the Vancouver Queer Film Festival. Lesbian publication sites such
as AfterEllen and Autostraddle delivered lackluster but ultimately endearing
reviews of the film. Autostraddle dubs it “another film that lesbians either
love or hate, but this is the film that opened our hearts forever to…Tala and
Leyla, two women from very different backgrounds that fall in love on accident.”

-LC

NOVEMBER 16: Queering India is published (2001)

The collection of essays Queering India: Same-Sex Love and Eroticism in Indian Culture and Society by Ruth Vanita first hit shelves on this day in 2001. Focusing on LGBT subculture in both pre-colonial and post-colonial India, Queering India provides a comprehensive look at real everyday life for LGBT people in India and put Ruth Vanita’s name on the map as a force to be reckoned with in the field of lesbian and gay studies. 

Ruth Vanita was born in Rangoon, Burma in 1955, but her family moved to New Delhi when she was only 2-years-old. Although she has been a practicing Hindu ever since her late 20s, her North Indian mother and Tamilian father originally raised her in a Christian household. Ruth suffered from acute myopia as a child and as a result her 8th grade teacher encouraged her mother to simply take her out of school. Thankfully, both of her parents were teachers themselves and were able to home school Ruth through high school and allowed her to enroll in Miranda House College at Delhi University. 

She eventually received her PhD in the late 1990s, her thesis serving as the foundation of her book Sappho and the Virgin Mary: Same-Sex Love and the English Literary Imagination. She was the co-founder of the influential activist magazine Manushi: A Journal about Women and Society and has written over 50 academic articles and 8 books in the field of English literature, Indian literature, and LGBT studies. She is currently a professor at the University of Montana and serves as the director of the university’s Global Humanities and Religions Program. You can find Queering India here!

-LC

OCTOBER 29: The Journey is released (2004)

On this day in 2004, the Malayalam
film The Journey (സഞ്ചാരം/Sancharram) was first released in the United States. The Journey was the first film about
lesbian identity to come out of India since the 1996’s Fire.  

Written and directed by Ligy J.
Pullappally, the film follows the story of two girls falling in love in the
South Indian state of Kerala. Kiran and Delilah come from a Hindu family and a
Catholic family, respectively, but their friendship has managed to last them
from childhood into teenage-hood despite the stigma of their rural hometown. When
a boy named Rajan realizes he has a crush on Delilah, he asks Kiran to help him
write love letters to her. In the process of writing sweet nothings to her
closest friend, Kiran discovers that she too has a crush on Delilah.

Although The Journey is often compared to Fire, Pullappally  has spoken
at length about how important it was for her to depict lesbians living in rural
India rather than in the urban centers and how the lack of resources and
isolation that comes along with rural living can impact LGBT youth. Upon its
release across the American festival circuit, The Journey was awarded several awards and even the Chicago Award for best film. It continues to be praised and replayed today in 2017 for its subtle handling of adolescent sexuality and lesbian identity
within Keralan culture.  

-LC

AUGUST 18: The Attack on the New Jersey Four (2006)

On this day in 2006, seven black lesbians were verbally and
physically assaulted in New York City. The story of the attack became a media
sensation with the women being labeled a “wolf pack” made up of “killer
lesbians.” When four of the women refused to plead guilty to attempted murder,
they famously became known as the “New Jersey 4”.

image

Renata, Patreese, Venice, and Terrain – known as the New
Jersey 4 – are photographed together by Blair
Dorosh-Walther (x). 

While walking down Sixth Avenue in the West Village with her
friends, Patreese Johnson was catcalled by a man named Dwayne Buckle. To the
man’s obscene comments Patreese simple responded, “Mister, I’m gay.” Enraged, he began threatening to rape all the women and, as surveillance
video shows, threw the first punch in what would become an all-out brawl between Buckle, the women, and a few male bystanders. The
fight lasted four minutes and by the end one woman in the group’s hair had been pulled out, another had been held down and choked, and Buckle himself had
been stabbed with a kitchen knife. He would later claim to the New York Times
that he was “the victim of a hate crime against a straight man.” All seven women were charged with attempted murder despite video footage that
proved their attacks to be self-defense.

The trailer for the 2014 documentary, Out in the Night, which revisits the reality versus the myth of the New Jersey 4. 

Out of the seven women, three pleaded guilty and four
pleaded not guilty. The LGBT community and the straight, white-run national media
were both incensed by the trials of the “New Jersey 4” (despite the attack
taking place in New York, the women were New Jersey residents); the LGBT
community rallied behind the women while news outlets ran articles with
headlines like “Violent Lesbian Gangs a Growing Problem.” Ultimately, the New
Jersey 4 were convicted and sentenced to 3 to 11 years at Riker’s Island. In
2014, the documentary Out in the Night
was released, which chronicles the high-profile court cases and finally tells
the story from the women’s perspectives. You can stream Out in the Night here.

-LC

AUGUST 11: But I’m A Cheerleader is released (2000)

On this day in 2000, the movie But I’m A Cheerleader was first released in the United States. Now
a cult classic, the movie tells the story of a young lesbian named Megan who is
sent off to a gay rehabilitation camp – or “homosexuals anonymous” as her
mother puts it. Despite the seemingly heavy subject material, But I’m A Cheerleader pokes fun at the concept of “praying the gay away” and is more therapeutic than any ex-gay camp could ever hope to be. 

The first film from director Jamie Babbit, But I’m A Cheerleader is most remembered
for its genuine humor, John Waters camp-style sets, and the unforgettable chemistry between
its two leads – Clea Duvall and faux-lesbian icon Natasha Lyonne. Played by
Lyonne, the movie starts off by following Megan through her daily routine of
gazing longingly at the cut-out photos of models in her locker, cringing
through makeout sessions with her boyfriend, and, of course, attending
cheerleading practice. The movie’s titular line is spoken when Megan is
bombarded one day by her friends and family in a pseudo-intervention/reverse
coming out; to the accusation that she’s a lesbian, she can only respond “…but
I’m a cheerleader!” However, despite the obvious oxymoron of a lesbian cheerleader,
Megan’s parents insist that she drop everything and pack her bags for the
ex-gay camp called True Directions.

At True Directions, the boys fix cars, play football, and
chop firewood while the girls swaddle baby dolls, wear skirts, and
vacuum monochrome carpets in hopes to become True Men™

and True Women™

. Amongst all the madness, Megan finally
realizes that not only is she in fact a lesbian, but that she also kind of has
a thing for Graham, the only other girl at camp who is unconvinced by the
ridiculousness of these activities. With the stage set and the characters
positioned exactly how you want them to be, the story plays out in a perfectly
fluffy, romcom rhythm. The two girls fall in love by sneaking out late at night
to nearby gay bars and rolling their eyes at various True Directions tasks,
only to ditch the camp’s “graduation ceremony” and officially run off
into the sunset together at the movie’s climax. It’s not in spite of, but rather, because of this expected story line that LGBT folk have kept this movie on repeat well into the
21st century; rarely are lesbians given the type of aesthetically
pleasing, teeny-bopper story that But I’m
a Cheerleader
has to offer, and much less one that continues to make you laugh
with each and every re-watch.

-LC

lesbianartandartists:Zanele Muholi, Katlego Mashiloane and…

lesbianartandartists:

Zanele Muholi, Katlego Mashiloane and Nosipho Lavuta, Ext. 2, Lakeside, Johannesburg, 2007

JUNE 21: Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement (2009)

When Edith Windsor sued the federal government for making her pay excess taxes on her deceased wife’s estate, she paved the way for the overturning DOMA (The Defense of Marriage Act). Her name and the name of her late partner, Thea Spyer, went down in history, but it
wasn’t until June 21, 2009 when the documentary Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement was released and the world
came to know the real life love story behind the landmark civil rights case.

The film opens with Edie and Thea combing through old photos
of themselves from their younger days. A photo of Edie in a pink swimsuit
flicks onto the wall and a wheelchair-bound Thea says “Yeah I love that girl…and
the person who took that picture also loves that girl” and my first thought is
“Oh no this is going to make me cry.” The rest of the film is much of the same –
old photos, cute banter, and me crying. Edie and Thea first met in 1963 at a
restaurant called Portofino in Greenwich Village, which was a popular hang out
spot for New York lesbians. From that night forward, the two kept running into
each other at various gay bars and clubs and always made a point to dance with
each other before the night was over. It wasn’t until a particular weekend trip
to the Hamptons where they “made love all afternoon and went dancing all night
and that was the beginning.”

Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer proudly hold up their marriage certificate (x).

Thea was a respected psychologist, Edie was a head manager
at IBM, and the year was 1967. In order to hide the true nature of their
relationship from their coworkers, Thea created a make-believe older brother
named Willy who was dating Edie, but in reality, the two were engaged and
living together in the gay haven of Greenwich Village; instead of a traditional
wedding ring, Edie wore a circular diamond pin on her shirt almost every day
for the next forty years. When New York City legalized domestic partnerships,
Edie and Thea went to city hall immediately and were one of the first 100
couples to be issued a certificate. Thea suffered a heart attack in 2002 and
when her health began to rapidly deteriorate in the following years, the two
decided to get married for real in Toronto, Canada on May 22, 2007. Although
Thea’s doctors had given her less than a year to live, they were able to be
each other’s wives for two years before Thea passed away on February 5, 2009. Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement captures a fleeting moment in time. The pure love and sweetness that radiates from the documentary is probably best summed up when Thea, clutching her
wife’s hand and sitting in their living room, says, “We have been dancing for
forty-two years. It’s slowed down a little now, but we still manage.”

-LC

JUNE 16: San Francisco celebrates its first same-sex marriage (2008)

It doesn’t take too much digging around LGBT
history to come across the names Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. Not only were
they the founders of the Daughters of Bilitis and the landmark lesbian magazine
The Ladder, but they were also the
very first same-sex couple to be legally married in San Francisco on this day in
2008!

image

Despite only being legally married for less than a year, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were partners for 58 years (x). 

Del and Phyllis’s love story is truly one for the ages. The two
met in 1950 in the city whose history they would eventually be woven into, San
Francisco. They officially moved in together on Valentine’s Day in 1953 and it
was out of their shared apartment on Castro Street where they created some of
the most defining cultural touchstones of lesbian history in America – those touchstones
being the Daughters of Bilitis organization and its accompanying magazine The Ladder. The two worked side by side
in the movement their whole lives and were married for the first time on
February 12, 2004, but sadly that first marriage (along with thousands of other
couple’s marriages) were made defunct by the California Supreme Court in August
of that year. It was only when same-sex marriage was finally declared fully legal
in the city in 2008 that Del and Phyllis were wed once and for all and became
the very first gay couple legally married in San Francisco on June 16, 2008. Del
Martin passed away just two months later on August 27, 2008; she died a happily
married woman, twice over. 

-LC