LGBTQ History Lesson

I gave myself one, a few weeks ago ūüôā

I stumbled across a¬†post about Bayard Rustin¬†and it shocked me. First, I had never heard of this person. Apparently, he was a major player in the civil rights movement, but I certainly never¬†learned his name in school. Which I suppose shouldn’t surprise me. We only ever hear a handful of names, briefly focusing on only the most dramatic stories of what in reality was a long and multi-faceted movement.

652px-bayardrustinaug1963-libraryofcongress_cropSo, I spent an afternoon reading, doing research on Bayard Rustin. I learned he was openly gay (in the 1950’s!!), a pacifist, and a lifelong advocate for worker’s rights. The level of bravery and strength of spirit his accomplishments represent is amazing. It deserves remembrance.

I read a lot of negative material about Mr. Rustin, as well. His sexuality was a major point of contention in the civil rights movement. Black pastors and church leaders did not want to support him, and many feared he weakened the movement. His pacifism was another sticking point. Leaders like Malcom X insisted violence was a tool that should not be ignored, and thought Rustin was a fool for his nonviolent methods. Rustin was romantically linked to white men, which led to even more backlash.

Now, looking back on history, I think his contributions are clear. Though some¬†might not agree with his non-violent methods, many more applaud him for just that. His work for and with labor unions is certainly notable, as is his LGBT activism. But to me, what was most impressive was the fact he dedicated his life to activism on behalf of all people, knowing he faced opposition from so many sides. To fight alongside people who you know don’t fully support you requires an inner strength I cannot imagine.

At the Women’s march this past weekend, I know many women did something similar. Trans women marched alongside cis women who wore shirts and signs equating vaginas with womanhood. Black women walked beside white women whose feminism often excludes or simply ignores POC. I think they probably did it for the same reason Rustin did: the cause was bigger than their individual needs at the time.

I am grateful for what I’ve learned about Bayard Rustin. I’m going to use it as a starting point to learn more about LGBT history!¬†Hoping to post one each month here.

How about you? Do you know of¬†any “forgotten heroes” of LGBT history? I’d love to hear about it!

 

Rainbow Book Fair

I did it! I had a great time, too ūüôāIMG_4875

Behind me you can see the tables full of vintage gay porn, which I had to resist buying ūüôā The man selling that stuff was really sweet and I loved looking through it all.¬†I sold some books. Not a ton, but a decent amount, especially considering this was not a romance event. I got to¬†talk with a lot of interesting people and that made the day pretty great. I wish I had walked around more! I only made one circle of the room and I said hello to a few people I knew from facebook, but I didn’t chat as much as I’d have liked.

I managed to keep my feelings of maybe not belonging there in check. I did get several passers-by who commented their surprise that there were “so many women who write gay stories!” but when I talked with them they seemed more amazed than upset, and a few even bought my books so that was cool.

I saw this guy wearing a super fun t-shirt, and doing something with his phone. This is the shirt:¬†frontand what he was doing with his phone was live-casting from the fair for a group called PrideCasters. I spoke with him a few minutes and he explained what “periscope” is (It’s a video app.¬†I had no idea lol) and he told me all about pridecasters. You can follow them on twitter @pridecasters and see what they do. He was trying to get people to join as casters, it seems a relatively new channel. I love the idea and I hope they are very successful. You can see my video here (I’m on with my awesome table-mate Renee at around 3 minutes in) and it also gives a great taste of what the fair was like.

After¬†the fair¬†I went to dinner with some very nice authors, and had a fun evening¬†talking with them. Socializing was definitely the highlight of the trip for me.¬†I will likely be going to the fair again next year! It was a great time and had a wonderful, positive vibe. Everyone seemed happy to be there ‚̧ and I am glad I was there, too.

 

World Poetry Day

Today is world poetry day! I’m not a poet, or really a big poetry fan. I like it well enough, I just don’t feel at all qualified to talk about it in any meaningful way.

There is a poem that has stuck in my head for years. I read it once, way before I had kids, and I never forgot it. I looked it up today (it took no time at all thanks to google. what a time to be alive! lol) so I thought it would be a good one to share.

Today it is snowing (first day of spring! ha!) and my little boy is outside. I’ve been spending entirely too much time on the computer lately, so I’m going out to play. Happy poetry day everyone!

I Took His Hand and Followed
Mrs. Roy L. Peifer

My dishes went unwashed today,

I didn’t make the bed,

I took his hand and followed

Where his eager footsteps led.

Oh yes, we went adventuring,

My little son and I…

Exploring all the great outdoors

Beneath the summer sky

We waded in a crystal stream,

We wandered through a wood…

My kitchen wasn’t swept today

But life was gay and good.

We found a cool, sun-dappled glade

And now my small son knows

How Mother Bunny hides her nest,

Where jack-in-the-pulpit grows.

We watched a robin feed her young,

We climbed a sunlit hill…

Saw cloud-sheep scamper through the sky,

We plucked a daffodil.

That my house was neglected,

That I didn’t brush the stairs,

In twenty years, no one on earth

Will know, or even care.

But that I’ve helped my little boy

To noble manhood grow,

In twenty years, the whole wide world

May look and see and know.

Uncharted Hearts: historical tidbits

Some random facts (many of them gay-related) I learned while researching for Uncharted Hearts **click the links for sources and more info**

‚ÄĘ Found out about this awesome person: The first female US soldier, Deborah Sampson. She lived as a man for 23 years (!) and was honorably discharged (in 1783) and she was awarded a pension, which her surviving husband was allowed to continue to collect after her death! It’s not clear if she was a gender-fluid or trans individual (has been claimed by some) or if she simply was a woman with a strong sense of patriotism, but either way she was a badass. She removed a bullet from her own thigh in order to avoid revealing her sex to military physicians!¬†And after she left¬†service¬†she married and had three kids!

‚ÄĘ People in the US as recently as February 2015 (yes this year) have been¬†arrested under anti-sodomy laws, even though those laws were deemed unconstitutional… in 2003. Amazingly, those Revolutionary-era American¬†sodomy laws were on the books until the 1960s (!!) when they were mostly removed. But some US states held onto sodomy as a crime, even until 2003! As of 2014, a dozen US states still had unconstitutional anti-sodomy laws on the books.

‚ÄĘ A total of 15 men were¬†executed for sodomy in America (during the almost 250 years when the death penalty was applied to that crime.) Sodomy was rarely prosecuted in the American colonies, despite the law, and all 13 colonies removed the death penalty for sodomy directly after winning independence. (*an interesting note: while today we think of sodomy as homosexual behavior, back in the¬†1700’s it was a much broader thing. Many of the convictions for sodomy were¬†actually bestiality charges. Another weird fact: when this happened, the animals involved would be killed and disposed of without any use made of them! lol As if the poor animals had been tainted somehow by the contact. Very sad/strange.)

‚ÄĘ There was a ship in the British Navy that was full of gay lovers!! 4 sailors on¬†The Africaine¬†were hanged for the crime of sodomy after the situation on board got a little out of control:

While seabound sodomy was hardly unheard-of, the practitioners among the¬†Africaine‚Äės crew had seemingly grown unusually (and dangerously) bold about practicing it without a modicum of concealment, ‚Äúcopulating in plain view like dogs.‚ÄĚ

(4 men hanged at once for sodomy might not seem like a lot, but the British Royal Navy rarely had even one hanging per year for sodomy, so it was a notable number.)

‚ÄĘ Most of the things people write into historical romances about cleanliness is pretty much bullshit (okay I know they are historicals not history but still) People bathed. And did not generally shit in the street.

‚ÄĘ We owe much of what we know about early gay life to¬†The Societies for the Reformation of Manners, groups of people who actively searched out and exposed homosexual and other “immoral” behaviors. They¬†claim responsibility for the prosecution of 94,322 people! (no evidence exists to support this claim)¬†These “reformers” were useful, however, since without those court records there would be little evidence of the thriving homosexual subculture of eighteenth¬†century England:

The simple fact of the matter is that around 1700 there was a sudden formation of affiliated Societies for the Reformation of Manners and these Societies actively searched out and revealed and prosecuted homosexual behaviour; our knowledge of molly behaviour exactly parallels the activities of these Societies. (Incidentally, these Societies had a moral view for which the general public did not have much sympathy, and we should be careful to note that the Societies were a very specific and limited social movement, and cannot be taken as evidence for a “homophobic society” in general.) The “shift” is not a shift in homosexual role, but a shift in prosecution. We know hardly anything about homosexual subcultures before 1690 √ĺ when the Societies for the Reformation of Manners were formed. ¬† source

‚ÄĘ The “father of the US Military,”¬†Baron Friedrich von Steuben, was known widely as a sodomite. Benjamin Franklin helped him escape persecution for sodomy and brought him to Valley Forge, where he was welcomed by George Washington. He went on to make huge improvements in the American military. He lived with his aides, Walker and North, in a home gifted to him by Washington, and never denied the sodomy charges.

Cool facts, right? I thought so. I read a LOT of diaries, newspapers, court transcripts, and eighteenth century fiction while working on this story. I thought these were some of the better ‘tidbits’ ūüôā

kindle_cover_smI learned so much while researching for this book, and though I will probably never write another historical again, it was a good experience. I learned that though we say “it gets better,” it might actually have gotten worse in many ways (the number¬†of GLBT hate crimes and legal prosecutions NOW¬†is much much higher per capita than it EVER¬†has been in history) I learned that historical romances generally tell a very narrow (and often self-serving) “single story” of our history. I learned that there were awesome people of all genders and sexualities living in the eighteenth century, and that our puritanical predecessors were not as chaste or proper as we might have thought (seriously, read some court transcripts. It’s super enlightening.)

If you are interested in a book about three men in 1795 who fall in love, where their “gay-ness” is NOT the source of any drama, and the “taboo” of their relationship is not part of the eroticism, check out Uncharted Hearts ‚̧

doodle tuesday

I have been doing ‘Doodle Tuesday” for a few weeks now. My last few posts have been sort of heavy, so I thought this would be nice to share. I found out about Doodle Tuesday from Thorny Sterling’s blog, and I am grateful for the knowledge. It has been so fun sharing my doodles, and browsing everyone else’s!

Doodle Tuesday is an offshoot of the You Will Rise Project, an anti-bullying platform which uses visual and literary arts to help people rise above bullying and move past hurt. As a former art teacher, I love the concept. As someone who was teased and excluded (though “bullying” is too strong a word for my experiences), I think it is wonderful.

So, here are the doodles I’ve done so far:

8.6 8.13 8.20 8.27

Why don’t you do one, too? All you have to do is post them to facebook or twitter, with a #doodletuesday tag.

Hope to see your work next Tuesday!