24 votes

Pride Month at Tildes: #2 - Who is a historical LGBT advocate that you admire?

Who is a historical LGBT advocate that you admire?

We, in 2024, come from a long lineage of people who have fought for and advocated for queer causes and identities. We have those who came before us to thank for many of our rights, the terminology that we apply to ourselves, and even our very own self-concepts. The dignity that many of us are able to live with today is only possible because of people who asserted, against often significant pushback, that our dignity should be non-negotiable.

I think it would be great if we could all share some of their stories here. It's a way of keeping their memories alive, honoring their contributions, and saying thank you for the path that they laid and upon which we now walk.

Please share the story of at least one historical figure that was an LGBT advocate that you admire. Please do not just link to a Wikipedia page or an article about them -- take the time to tell us their story in your own words.

If you do not have one in mind immediately, that's fine! This is also a great opportunity to do some research. Wikipedia has a good starting point, but feel free to explore on your own.

A few addenda:

  • Feel free to connect their story to your own experiences and share why you, personally, find them admirable.

  • For the purposes of this post, "historical" does not mean "ancient." If the person came before you and was a trailblazer for queer causes, then they count!

  • The person themselves does not have to actively identify as someone under the LGBT umbrella. Straight allies can be trailblazers too, as can historical figures whose specific identities were ambiguous or don't map on to our modern identities and terminology.

  • The individual's advocacy does not have to specifically be political in nature. Many historical figures were queer advocates simply by openly being themselves. That absolutely counts!


Event Guidelines

Everyone is welcome to participate. This includes allies! You do not need to identify as LGBT in order to join in the topics.

I will use "queer" and "LGBT" interchangeably as umbrella terms to refer to all minority sexualities and gender identities. These are intended to be explicitly inclusive.

Be kind; be gracious; listen to others; love lots.


Schedule

I won't reveal everything upfront, but with each post I will give a teaser for what's next:

June 1st: Introductions and Playlist
June 4th: Who is a historical LGBT advocate that you admire?
June 7th: (teaser: you might have to look back in time again, but this time a little closer to home)
June 10th:
June 13th:
June 16th:
June 19th:
June 22nd:
June 25th:
June 28th:


If for whatever reason you would not like to see these topics in your feed, add pride month at tildes to your personal tag filters.

11 comments

  1. [2]
    arqalite
    Link
    I realized I don't follow any LGBT activists online, so I don't really know what to write about. I browsed the Wikipedia article for about 30 minutes and nothing piqued my interest, so I guess...
    • Exemplary

    I realized I don't follow any LGBT activists online, so I don't really know what to write about. I browsed the Wikipedia article for about 30 minutes and nothing piqued my interest, so I guess I'll write about my own activism, if that's allowed?

    In Romania, LGBT issues were (and still kind of are) rarely spoken about. You usually hear something in the news about a queer person from other countries (it was amusing to hear news reporters say "o persoană non-binară" - a non-binary person - when Nemo won Eurovision), but very few things from our own country.

    Anyway, because of that, 2015 was a silent year when it comes to LGBT rights, pretty much nobody brought them up and it was business as usual. Until "Coalitia pentru Familie" (Coalition for Family, I guess), an NGO strongly supported by the Orthodox Church, decided they were deeply offended by the Constitution.

    The Constitution said something among the lines of "marriage is an union [...] between two spouses" ("doi soți" in Romanian is more commonly used than "two spouses" in English but you get the point). This was seen as a legal loophole that technically permitted the government to allow same-sex marriages without voter input or public feedback, because the Civil Code was the only document that explicitly said "between a man and a woman" and the government can change it pretty much at will.

    So they started lobbying and started collecting signatures in order to start a referendum to change the Constitution. Under the false pretense of "protecting traditional values" and "protecting the traditional family" and "think of the children", people signed for it in droves, and they met the target needed to start the referendum process.

    As a freshly awakened gay, this pissed me off. I just realized I like men and you're gonna go out of your way to forbid that? Go fuck yourself. I was also annoyed because this was a non-issue, the Civil Code was not going to be changed any time soon, and nobody was doing same-sex marriages. This was the Church trying to establish more control and trying to oppress us even more.

    In case the Church thing wasn't enough for you, our religion teacher (off-topic, do y'all in the West have religion class? We do, and it's fucking weird.) announced he will give a 10 (equivalent of an A) to anyone who votes Yes at the referendum. To me this was disgusting, and honestly felt illegal.

    Besides that, we had to write an essay on why it's important to protect the traditional family. I protested by writing an essay redefining the concept of a family, focused on inclusion and equal opportunity. To put the cherry on top, I "thought of the children" by describing the advantages of allowing same-sex couples to adopt, with examples from the US and Western Europe.

    I was proud of it, it was a masterpiece of a commentary and I expected to get an F (4 or less) for it. Well, as a subtle but kind "fuck you" from the teacher, everyone else got a 10 while I got a 9. It was funny in retrospect but I remember being a bit pissed.

    Anyway, October 2018 rolled around and the referendum was almost ready to take place. Panic set in a little, but online polls showed a bit of hope. People were very disinterested in participating in the referendum, even if 80% of those who said they'd participate would vote Yes.

    Legally, they needed 30% of the eligible population to vote. So technically they could get 100% Yes and still fail because not enough people showed up.

    LGBT organizations and supporters around the country joined forces under #boicot (#boycott), urging everyone to not vote, carefully explaining why voting No would only help the homophobes.

    I did my part, asking my family to not participate, and trying to subtly nudge my classmates into it as well. I also posted a fair bit on Romanian Reddit, but they were mostly LGBT allies anyway.

    Referendum weekend came and went. As expected, the people close to me didn't go, most of my class didn't go, but my fucking best friend did, and voted Yes???? That bitch!

    He did it to annoy me since he witnessed how passionate I was about it (bitch, it's my legal lack of rights going to get worse, what did you expect?) and I was very angry at him for it. He also has been jokingly homophobic around me (internet, please don't tell me to cut him off, in reality he cares about me immensely and has always supported me when I truly needed it) so this was his next attempt at a "joke". He learnt a lesson that day, rest assured. :)

    Anyway, the referendum failed, with only 21% participating and 91.5% voting Yes. We knew it was the homophobes (and people who didn't know any better) that participated, but they started screaming that we sabotaged them, and "look at the results!!!! 91.5!!!!" but that quorum is there for a reason, dude.

    Since then the Church has reverted to its usual ways of hating gays silently and we didn't have any other significant attempts from them since.

    Oh, and in case it wasn't clear, the Constitution still says "marriage between two spouses" while the Civil Code says "a man and a woman" so I still can't fucking marry my partner. There were some ideas of allowing civil partnership but they died immediately in parliament.

    Anyway, nothing changed in my country and I guess we're grateful for it? I like to think I did my part into this even if it was like me telling 30 people to stay comfortably at home (which probably they were going to do anyway).

    I still think that essay rocked - wish I kept a copy of it.

    16 votes
    1. kfwyre
      Link Parent
      Definitely allowed! All of the topics in the pride series are just jumping off points for discussions, so feel free to take a prompt in whichever direction you feel is best (like you did here!)....

      I guess I'll write about my own activism, if that's allowed?

      Definitely allowed! All of the topics in the pride series are just jumping off points for discussions, so feel free to take a prompt in whichever direction you feel is best (like you did here!). I'd rather people post off-label answers than not say anything at all.

      I appreciated the perspective you gave us into Romanian law, culture and process -- this was very insightful to me. It sounds like the referendum failed due to the advocacy efforts of people like you. That's historical right there! Great job.

      3 votes
  2. [2]
    kfwyre
    (edited )
    Link
    Let me introduce you, if you haven't already met, to Public Universal Friend. They weren't always called that. They had a birth name, and an assigned gender, of course, from back when they were...

    Let me introduce you, if you haven't already met, to Public Universal Friend.

    They weren't always called that. They had a birth name, and an assigned gender, of course, from back when they were born in 1752. But when they were 24, they had an alleged multi-day fever that brought them near death. This is debated by historians -- as is much of the information about the Friend's life.

    Whether or not the illness was real, they survived. They also explained that, during the illness, their old soul had ascended to heaven and they had been inhabited by a new one.

    This new one carried the name of Public Universal Friend.

    They also said it was a genderless soul.

    The Friend then requested that people avoid using gendered pronouns for them and, from that point on, refused to respond to their birth name. They adopted androgynous and masculine attire. When someone attempted to force them to sign a document under their birth name, they wrote an X in protest. When asked directly whether they were a man or a woman, the Friend simply responded: "I Am that I Am".

    I know it's a fallacy to project modern identities onto historical figures, but it's also incredibly hard for me to not see the Friend as a non-binary icon. Choosing a new name? Rejecting gendered pronouns? Giving cheeky, evasive responses when asked about your gender? Putting an X on identity documents? This. Is. Enby. Energy. They were literally hundreds of years ahead of their time!

    The Friend went on to become a successful preacher and lead a group called the Society of Universal Friends. The details in all of this are muddy, in part because much of the information we have about the Friend might have been influenced by individuals' malice and greed. The details here are also less relevant to the LGBT-trailblazer aspect of Public Universal Friend's life.

    One detail I will share, however, is the one that I find most heartwarming. In writings that have been recovered regarding the Friend, many of them respected the Friend's name and preferred pronouns even in their own private diaries that were not intended to be read by anyone else.

    When we look back in history, it's easy to project on to people a sense that they were "products of their time." There's a sort of implicit logic that encourages us to think "because it was so long ago, everyone would be phobic about this, right?"

    I think the detail about the journals stands out for me because it showed that ~250 years ago, there were a group of people ready and willing to accept someone's new name and preferred pronouns -- an act that (unfortunately) can still feel cutting-edge and radical today in some spaces.

    I like the story of the Public Universal Friend in part because I think the P.U.F. is 🔥 and I admire their uncompromising individuality. But I also like their story because it wasn't just them doing their thing on their own -- people close to them were on board with them and supported them. To me, the story of Public Universal Friend is a rare and altogether incredible example of early American queer acceptance.

    21 votes
    1. 0d_billie
      Link Parent
      I have never heard of the Public Universal Friend before, but wow, that's brilliant. Thanks for introducing us! You're right about using modern identities for historical figures, but I completely...

      I have never heard of the Public Universal Friend before, but wow, that's brilliant. Thanks for introducing us!
      You're right about using modern identities for historical figures, but I completely agree: the enby energy (enbygy?) is strong.

      10 votes
  3. [2]
    patience_limited
    (edited )
    Link
    While not a public advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, Dr. Alan L. Hart [archive link] was a transman who quietly pioneered medical gender affirmation in the U.S., and also happened to transform the...

    While not a public advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, Dr. Alan L. Hart [archive link] was a transman who quietly pioneered medical gender affirmation in the U.S., and also happened to transform the treatment of tuberculosis.

    His Wikipedia entry details an extraordinary life of courage, persistence, and dedication to public health. Hart's protocol for early detection of tuberculosis and isolation of infectious patients probably saved hundreds of thousands from slow, agonizing deaths. It's also noteworthy that Hart wrote novels in the 1930's and '40's featuring gay and trans main characters, some very popular. He was one of my personal inspirations, and it's shameful that his story isn't better known and recognized.

    Hart did contribute to his own erasure by requesting the destruction of his personal papers on his death. More confusion was added by a TERF war over whether he was actually a lesbian operating under a system of oppression that forced him to become a man in order to love women.

    10 votes
    1. kfwyre
      Link Parent
      Well, I know what I'm reading next! My order of The Undaunted is on the way. His three other books are completely out of print, and I couldn't even find used book listings for them. I did find a...

      Well, I know what I'm reading next! My order of The Undaunted is on the way.

      His three other books are completely out of print, and I couldn't even find used book listings for them. I did find a print-on-demand listing from India for Doctor Mallory -- not sure if it's legitimate or not though.

      2 votes
  4. The_Schield
    Link
    Sammy Rae (frontwoman of Sammy Rae & The Friends, a contemporary rock outfit) is a champion of the love others, love yourself philosophies. She is constantly creating music that vocally supports...

    Sammy Rae (frontwoman of Sammy Rae & The Friends, a contemporary rock outfit) is a champion of the love others, love yourself philosophies. She is constantly creating music that vocally supports and empowers minority and lgbt voices. Go listen to their song, "Jackie Onassis", you will hear Sammy's lovable and memorable pop rock anthem about her own bisexual journey relating to her feelings for a woman she had met in her youth.

    Her social media is clearly a beacon or lighthouse of a safe space. I am truly so proud to call myself a fan.

    8 votes
  5. imperialismus
    Link
    Kim Friele (1935-2021) was the most important gay rights activist in Norwegian history. For several decades she was the leader of a gay rights organization called DNF-48. They successfully...

    Kim Friele (1935-2021) was the most important gay rights activist in Norwegian history. For several decades she was the leader of a gay rights organization called DNF-48. They successfully campaigned to decrimiminalize sexual relations between men (1972), to convince the Norwegian psychiatry association to cease classifying homosexuality as a mental disorder (1977) and to allow gay men to enter the military (1979). In 1981, largely due to their activism, discrimination against gay people was outlawed. She also campaigned to create a legal framework for same-sex unions with most of the same rights as marriage, although she was a staunch critic of traditional marriage as an institution, and didn't choose to marry when gay marriage was legalized in Norway despite being in a decades-long relationship and having been one of the first people to enter a legally recognized same-sex civil union.

    In 1979, Friele and her partner Wenche Lowzow came out publicly as a lesbian couple. Her partner was a member of parliament for the Conservative party, and the first gay member of parliament to come out. (She was eventually not re-nominated for parliament by her party in 1985, largely due to coming out.) The two of them were invited to testify before the US Congress on gay issues in 1982. They had to apply for special permission to enter the country and Lowzow's diplomatic passport, which he held as a member of the Norwegian parliament, was stamped with the mark "a sexual deviant" when she entered the US. Their visa also restricted them to only visit Washington DC.

    8 votes
  6. saturnV
    Link
    Whilst perhaps not an explicit advocate, I found the story of Georges Burou (1910-1987) very interesting. He was a French gynecologist widely credited with innovating modern sex reassignment...

    Whilst perhaps not an explicit advocate, I found the story of Georges Burou (1910-1987) very interesting. He was a French gynecologist widely credited with innovating modern sex reassignment surgery for trans women, and worked tirelessly and silently across his whole life to further access to it, often helping subsidise the costs, and performing surgery without asking too many questions. He performed over 3000 surgeries across multiple decades of work.
    In the 1950s, he developed what became the gold standard of vaginoplasty for trans women. He performed over 800 vaginoplasties in the two decades before he published his research.

    "Due to the controversial nature of the procedure, Burou is said to have kept a low profile in order to continue his practice. His work at Clinique du Parc, which has been described by current day plastic surgeons as "pioneering", "innovative", and "genius", made Burou a notable figure in the recorded history of plastic surgery. The discretion of Burou's clinic made him relatively unknown to his medical contemporaries, despite him being well known among many trans women around the world. His level of renown was such that "going to Casablanca" became a popular colloquialism for gender confirming surgery at this time."

    6 votes
  7. aphoenix
    Link
    Jim Egan (1921-2000) was a Canadian LGBT activist, probably most notably known for the supreme court case Egan vs. Canada. A layperson's understanding (which is all I'm qualified to give) of the...

    Jim Egan (1921-2000) was a Canadian LGBT activist, probably most notably known for the supreme court case Egan vs. Canada. A layperson's understanding (which is all I'm qualified to give) of the case is that Egan and his partner Nesbit applied for Canadian Pension benefits in the mid-80s, and applied for the Spousal benefits for Nesbit, despite the fact that they would have actually gotten more money if they collected separately. They did this to create a case for spousal benefits for same-sex couples, and took the case to the Supreme Court. Though their appeal was dismissed, it created an important precedent for LGBT rights in Canada, and helped pave the way towards same-sex marriage.

    As a quintessentially canadian man, I have to link the Heritage Minute: Jim Egan video, which is certainly where my knowledge of Mr. Egan and his accomplishments started.

    More information on Jim Egan from Canadian Encyclopia. One especially good paragraph from this page that sums things up better than I did:

    In May 1995, the Supreme Court ruled on Egan v. Canada, and dismissed the appeal. At the same time, it ruled that “sexual orientation” is in the Charter as a ground of discrimination, thus providing protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation (see LGBTQ2 Rights in Canada). The decision has been described as “losing the battle but winning the war.” Because of the Egan decision, laws across the country that discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation in all areas of life (e.g., employment, government benefits, income tax, family law) became ripe for challenge.

    4 votes
  8. Eric_the_Cerise
    Link
    Not sure this qualifies, but I just discovered Willie Nelson recorded this cover 20 years ago, that became very popular, and apparently, he's been quite supportive of LGBT issues over the years....

    Not sure this qualifies, but I just discovered Willie Nelson recorded this cover 20 years ago, that became very popular, and apparently, he's been quite supportive of LGBT issues over the years.

    This is a recent duet video he did with Orville Peck that's (IMO) even better.

    Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond Of Each Other

    3 votes