Category: gay history

FEBRUARY 19: Carson McCullers (1917-1967)

365daysoflesbians:

Today: the Queen of Southern Gothic, Carson McCullers herself.

Her first and most famous novel, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, set the stage for the kind of things that Carson explores in her fiction: isolation, the experience of social misfits and outcasts, forces of oppression and their consequences on a personal level.

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Carson McCullers photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1959.

She was born Lula Carson Smith in Georgia. She learned piano when she was a child, and started getting into writing around 15, when her father gave her a typewriter. After graduating high school, she took off for NY. Her plan was to study piano at Juilliard there, but this was cut short by a bout of rheumatic fever. After returning from Columbus, GA, where she’d gone to recuperate, she worked a series of menial jobs while in parallel actively pursuing a writing career and attending night classes at Columbia. Her first story, an autobiographical piece, was published when she was just 19. She married Reeves McCullers, another aspiring writer, the following year, and they moved to Georgia but they divorced in 1941, at which point she headed back to NY and formed close friendships with many of the writers there. After WW2, she lived mostly in Paris, and in 1945, she remarried Reeves.

The later part of her life was overshadowed by chronic illness, alcoholism, and depression. In 1948, she attempted suicide; in 1953, Reeves tried to
convince her to commit a double suicide with him. She fled but he did go through it. By her early thirties, she had complete paralysis on her left side, a consequence of the strokes she endured in her youth. She ultimately died of a brain hemorrhage in 1967.

Carson may have been married to Reeves, but she certainly performed a lesbian persona in her public life. She wore men’s clothes, and aggressively pursued women, though it appears that none of her attempts to seduce women were successful. Her most famous love was the Swiss writer Annemarie Schwarzenbach. In an article for The Nation, Sarah Schulman writes about McCullers’s complicated relationship with women, gender, and sexuality:

In the absence of reciprocated lesbian love and the inability to
consummate lesbian sex, McCullers still wore a lesbian persona in
literature and in life. She clearly wrote against the grain of
heterosexual convention, wore men’s clothes, was outrageously aggressive
in her consistently failed search for sex and love with another woman,
and formed primary friendships with other gay people.

Schulman actually develops her exploration of McCullers’s identity and modes of identification in a New Yorker article, noting that

I started to realize that McCullers’s gender trouble was not of the
homosexual kind, and it slowly dawned on me that, had she been alive
today, not only would McCullers (and Williams and Capote) have probably
been in A.A. and on antidepressants, she might have been living as a
transgender man. She did once tell Capote, “I think I was born a boy,”
which doesn’t, in and of itself, mean much—but how many of us, as little
girls, have never had that thought? Most.

McCullers’s memory is notably honored through the McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians. Suzanne Vega even devoted an entire album to her. Read her works online at the Open Library.

– AK

FEBRUARY 18: Audre Lorde (1934-1992)

365daysoflesbians:

Here at 365 Days of Lesbians, we never get tired of “praise the Lorde” puns, and it’s only appropriate that we should honor her legacy today, on her birthday.

Audre Lorde is one of the major names when it comes to reading about Black/female/queer identities. As a Black writer (essayist and poet), Womanist, lesbian, and civil rights activist, she has brought major contributions to the intellectual and literary landscape of the 20th- and 21st- centuries.

Recording of Audre Lorde live at UCLA in the early 1990s
 

She was born in NYC, the youngest of three daughters, to parents who were Caribbean immigrants from Barbados and Carriacou. As a child, she was nearsighted to the point of being legally blind. She learned very early on how to talk, read, and write, and everything in her life points to how precocious a writer & wordsmith she was – and she eventually attended Hunter College High School, a school for intellectually gifted students. In her autobiographical writings, she also described her relationship with her parents as difficult – they worked long hours and were emotionally distant. All of this may have encouraged her to turn to poetry as a potent form of expression.

She worked for many years as a librarian, in parallel to her writing, notably earning a master’s degree in Library Science from Columbia University in 1961. In 1966, she became head librarian at Town School
Library (NYC).
In 1980, 
she co-founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, the first U.S. publisher for women of color, along with with Barbara Smith and Cherríe Moraga (this is the press that notably published This Bridge Called My Back). Lorde notably helped women – and especially Black women – rethink feminism on their own terms, to escape the toxicity of white feminism

In 1984, Lorde headed to Berlin to start a visiting professorship. Once there, her influence was a source of inspiration for many black women in there; her impact on the Afro-German movement was chronicled in a documentary by Dagmar Schultz. Watch the trailer here:

Throughout the last years of Audre Lorde’s life, her recognition never ceased growing, but she was weighed down by a battle with cancer – first breast cancer, for which she underwent a mastectomy, then liver cancer. In her Cancer Journals, she explores her experience with breast cancer, and how it intersects with her identities. In 1992, Audre Lorde passed away from liver cancer; before her death, she participated in

a naming ceremony

and took on the name Gambda Adisa,
meaning Warrior: She Who Makes Her Meaning Known.

We couldn’t think of a more fitting name for our Lorde and Savior.

– AK

FEBRUARY 17: Claudia Schoppmann (1958-)

365daysoflesbians:

It’s all good to be talking about lesbian history, but lesbian historians also do exist and it’s always great to have people from one’s community actively researching that community’s history and doing their utmost to bring it to light. Today, we bring you one such person: German historian Claudia Schoppmann.

Born in Stuttgart, in 1958, Claudia Schoppmann started out her studies in the fields of history, communication, and the German language; she now lives in Berlin. Her studies and books mainly focus on LGBT themes, and her main work, Days of Masquerade, was the product of extensive research on the lives and culture of lesbians under the Third Reich/in Nazi Germany. It explains how lesbian identities were perceived in different ways than male homosexuality, and more often completely dismissed or forgotten. The blatant lack of documents to work with then adds to the uncertainty of historiographic work within this time period.

If you speak German, you’ll surely be interested in this interview with Claudia.

– AK

FEBRUARY 16: Katharine Cornell (1893-1974)

365daysoflesbians:

What’s up with early 20th-century Broadway and all the lesbians? We don’t have a straightforward answer to that but we’ll do our best to clarify just how queer the theater milieu really was (still is?) by casting the spotlight (see what we did there?) on Katharine Cornell.

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Cornell was a stage actress, writer, theater owner and producer whose legacy in the US theater world is undeniable. Her parents were from the US, but she was actually born in Berlin, Germany, where her father was teaching at the time. Her parents traveled back with her six months later to the US, and settled down in Buffalo, NY. She displayed early on a disposition for performance, and when she moved to New York City after her mother’s death in 1915 and joined the Washington Square Players, her talent was quickly recognized and praised. Even when she appeared in less critically successful plays, her performance still garnered tremendous praise, as when she played Jo in a stage adaptation of Little Women in London.

When she returned to New York, she met Guthrie McClintic, a young male theater director whom she married in 1921. This is generally acknowledged as a lavender marriage, though, since both spouses were known to be gay. Cornell was part of what was called “sewing circles” in NY – a phrase coined by actress Alla Nazimova to
describe the underground/closeted lesbian & bi actresses in early 20th-century Hollywood (though this was definitely extended to the NY Broadway milieu). Cornell notably had relationships with Nancy Hamilton, Tallulah Bankhead (remember her?), and Mercedes de Acosta, among others.

Cornell was the first actress to win a Drama League Award and, along with her friend Helen Hayes, was often called the “First Lady of the Theatre.” She formed a production company with her husband, which helped them have complete freedom in & control over the choice and production of plays. Cornell remained in the theater milieu even when the film industry started getting more prosperous and quickly enough pushed famous stage actresses to the side, as she was determined to help the theater remain a vibrant world. You can find a more complete description of all her roles and the evolution of her career in her Wikipedia entry, as well as in the obituary that The New York Times wrote for her, and this article on the archives focused on her life and work, hosted at the University of Buffalo. And enjoy this footage of her, in what is alleged to be her sole performance on screen, in the 1943 movie Stage Door Canteen:

– AK

FEBRUARY 15: Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)

365daysoflesbians:

Susan B. Anthony is famous in the US for her involvement in the (white) women’s suffrage movement – back in November 2016, many flocked to her grave to leave their “I Voted” stickers there.

Anthony photographed by Napoleon Sarony, date unknown. 

She was born in 1820 in Massachusetts, in a Quaker family – which explains her lifelong involvement in activism. She was first active in temperance-focused circles, which led her soon after to women’s rights, and particularly suffrage for women. She endured a lot of opposition and abuse for her positions, but this didn’t deter from traveling and lecturing all around the country.

What is perhaps less well-known is her personal penchant for women. Of course, this was at a time when such words as “lesbian” had not entered mainstream vocabulary and historians are still divided on whether we can apply a modern label to 19th-century relationships, or whether there’s even enough to substantiate the hypothesis that Anthony was a lesbian – but still! It’s quite obvious that her most important relationships were with women, and she also never married. She was rumored to have been been the “third person” in the marriage of Elizabeth Cady
Stanton, her longtime companion with whom she traveled giving speeches
. She was also rumored to be involved with a few other ladies.

Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, circa 1870. 

Is she nonetheless a lesbian icon? No – at least not to us. Her passionate defense of the women’s right to vote was mainly focused on the white women’s right to vote. She made several statements that made her priorities clear, and at this point, our lesbianism is like feminism: if it excludes people, then it’s not for us. We thank her for her contributions, and move on to find other heroines.

– AK

FEBRUARY 14: Angela Robinson (1971-)

365daysoflesbians:

As luck would have it, our lesbian of the day for Valentine’s Day is the one and only Angela Robinson, the fantastic writer, director, and producer who brought us the iconic D.E.B.S., The L Word, and Girltrash! among other things.

REMEMBER THIS?

LGBT themes are central to Angela’s projects. In addition to D.E.B.S., she has created the online series Girltrash!, which is related to The L Word. She has also worked as a writer, director, & producer for Herbie: Fully Loaded, Hung, True Blood, and Charlies’ Angels. In a 2006 article for AfterEllen.com, she explained how we need to take back power and start making the lesbian content we want to see featured:

My panel epiphany is: We have the power now.
We have the tools of creation and the means to distribute our work. We
don’t have to beg for scraps and try to cross over. We can make our own
stuff and let them come over here if they want. In fact, let’s break
down this here and there crap and just make great, fun, moving,
hilarious, intense, bold work. It’ll work if we support each other and
talk to each other, say on sites like this, right now. The gatekeepers
are dying, slowly but surely, and now is the time for the artist to talk
directly to the audience, without the middleman. And everybody can be
an artist, not just the people on the panel, but each and every one of
the people in the audience.

I would love to see Dykeback Mountain,
if it happens. Hell, I would like to make it myself. But my hope (and
prediction) is that it will be just one of many lezzie movies, TV shows,
shorts, books, songs, blogs, whatever. It will happen if we make it,
sell it, buy it or give it away. It’s in our hands. Get to work.

photo credit: Alessandro Abbonizio / Angela Robinson at the 2005 premiere of Herbie

In a 2014 radio interview, she explains what it is like to be a black, female, lesbian director in Hollywood, how diversity plays out in this milieu, and the neecessity of having diversity:

What different perspectives do women and other ethnicities bring?
“This specific example happened on True Blood last year where there was
this episode I was writing and there was a character who was being
created, a white guy who was really eccentric and I guess went back and
wrote it as a black woman. I just changed the character because it had
to be a white guy. I was just like, “Why not just make this a black
woman?” And I try to do that whenever I can. Just change it.“

She has a son with her partner, Alex Kondracke, and they live in California. Happy birthday, and happy Valentine’s, Angela!

– AK

FEBRUARY 13: Leontine Sagan (1889-1974)

365daysoflesbians:

Today we celebrate the 128th birthday of Leontine Sagan,
the Austrian-Hungarian director and actress who is most known for her film Girls in Uniform, the first lesbian film
of the western world!

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Leontine pictured in 1946, not giving a fuck. 

Leontine was born in Budapest in 1889, but she would spend much of her
childhood travelling due to the fact that her mother’s family lived in Vienna and
her father worked in the diamond fields of South Africa. She experienced what
she would later call the “turning point of my life” during one of her European
travels in Berlin; her mother took her to a production of Maxim Gorky’s play The Nachtasyl and from that moment on she was completely enchanted with the
theater. Her family urged her to take classes in more “practical” trades such
as stenography, and so it wasn’t until she was 21 when Leontine was officially
able to begin studying film under the renowned German director Max Reinhardt. Following
her classical training, Leontine hit the road once again, travelling through
Europe with several theater troupes as an actress. After twelve years working
on the stage, Leontine transitioned to a directing role and eventually became
the first woman to helm the iconic Theater Royal, Drury Lane in London. In 1939, Leontine
signed a contract with the American production company Metro Goldwyn Mayer.
Although the partnership never amounted in any films, Leontine had officially
ventured out of the theater world and into the whirlwind of Hollywood film
making. This would eventually lead to her being tapped to direct the movie
version of Girls in Uniform (or Mädchen in Uniform) in 1931, which tells the story of a German school girl who develops a
crush on her teacher. Leontine had directed a stage version of the story back
in London, and so she was seen as the ideal choice to adapt it to the screen. With
the rise of the Nazi party happening in Germany at the time, the movie was
quickly banned for its bold depiction of lesbian relationships and its
antifascist themes; however, it was revived and brought to America under the
recommendation of first lady Eleanor Roosevelt (coincidence? we think not).

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Cover art for Girls in Uniform, which was revived in a series of women’s film festivals during the 1970s. 

Throughout her
lifetime, Leontine Sagan made an unforgettable mark on the world of film making – Girls in Uniform was not only the first movie to explicitly depict lesbian experiences,
but it was also the first German movie to be produced cooperatively with both the
cast and crew obtaining equal incomes. She also made two other films during
her lifetime, Men of Tomorrow (1932) and Gaiety George (1946). Leontine Sagan died on May 20, 1974, but she is remembered as a
fiercely uninhibited storyteller and a pioneer of lesbian culture.

– LC

FEBRUARY 12: Jacqueline Woodson (1963-)

365daysoflesbians:

Anyone attended AWP in DC this week? We sure did, and guess who headlined the event: Jacqueline Woodson. (We know. We were fangirling too.)

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Writer extraordinaire, Woodson was born in Ohio and from very early on, loved nothing more than writing. She’s written literary fiction, as well as middle-grade and young adult novels and poetry, and explores issues of gender, sexuality, and race – among others – in her works with a great sense of nuance and love. She understands the specific need to write books for teenagers, as she explained in an interview with NPR:

I’m writing about adolescents for adolescents. And I think the main
difference is when you’re writing to a particular age group, especially a
younger age group, you’re — the writing can’t be as implicit. You’re
more in the moment. They don’t have the adult experience from which to
look back. So you’re in the moment of being an adolescent…and the
immediacy and the urgency is very much on the page, because that’s what
it feels like to be an adolescent. Everything is so important, so big,
so traumatic. And all of that has to be in place for them.

This makes her undeniably a particularly relevant author for today’s young readers, but has also made her the target of censorship attacks. Still, her work has continually garnered high praise, and she is the recipient of several prestigious awards and honors. In 2015, the Poetry Foundation named her the Young People’s Poet Laureate. In 2005, she won the Margaret Edwards Award, and in 2014, the National Book Award in the Young People’s Literature category.

Woodson talks to a group of NYC schoolkids about her book Brown Girl Dreaming at the Strand bookstore.

Go read Another Brooklyn, her latest novel, as well as some of her most well-known works: Brown Girl Dreaming and Miracle’s Boys. Listen to an interview here, and watch here an amazing discussion between Jacqueline Woodson and Edwidge Danticat.

– AK

FEBRUARY 11: Tammy Baldwin (1962-)

365daysoflesbians:

We need to see more women in power – and more specifically, more lbpq women in power. Take Tammy Baldwin, born on this day back in 1962, who’s the first openly gay senator in US history and who’s undoubtedly inspired many queer women to go into politics while living their life openly.

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Baldwin hails from Wisconsin. (Fun fact: apparently, through familial ties, she’s related to comedian Andy Samberg!) She first started out as a lawyer, and in 1992 ran to represent Wisconsin’s 78th Assembly District. In the early 90s, she was one of the very few openly gay politicians in the US. Back then, she was already an open proponent of LGBT rights. 

She got elected to the Senate in 2012, running against the Republican Tommy Thompson; after her 14 years in the House of Representatives, she had the highest seniority in her entering class of senators. She was featured in Time, where she was quoted as
saying “I didn’t run to make history” on her historic election.

Still, she did, and we’re all glad to have her as a Senator!

– AK

February 10 — Stephanie Beatriz

365daysoflesbians:

(Picture source)
Hello everyone, I am in love with Stephanie Beatriz and this is the perfect time to let you all in on this secret.

Stephanie Beatriz Bischoff Alvizuri was born today in 1981 in Neuquén, Neuquén Province, Argentina. She moved to the United States with her younger sister and parents when she was three years old. She grew up in Webster, Texas, graduated from Stephens College in 2002, and went to New York City to pursue her dreams as an actress. She moved to Los Angeles in 2010.

Though many know her as Rosa Diaz from Fox’s Brooklyn Nine Nine, Beatriz has had small parts in The Closer and Southland as well as playing Sofia Vergara’s character’s, Gloria’s, sister on Modern Family. She also plays a small part in the independent movie, Short Term 12, which is on Netflix and I highly recommend though watch out for major abuse and self harm depictions.

Beatriz also has appeared in many drama productions at The Old Globe Theatre, oregon Shakespeare Festival, Theatreworks USA, and Yale Repertory Theatre.

Beatriz has been cast as the lead (!!!!!!) in the upcoming drama, Light of the Moon.

Beatriz co-hosts the podcast, REALITY BYTES, with best friend, Courtney Kocack, writer on Amazon’s Dagger and Eggs.  If you don’t have Itunes, they have a Youtube you can subscribe to here.

Beatriz came out as bisexual on Twitter in July 2016.

BTWs you call fall down the Youtube rabbit hole here, you’re welcome.  

Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and she’s @stephbeatz on Snapchat!


(Sources: x, x, x,)

~lex lee.