Day 30 of LGBTQ History Month

•November 5, 2012 • Comments Off on Day 30 of LGBTQ History Month

Tom Waddell


b. November 1, 1937

d. July 11, 1987

“Winning is doing your best.”

Tom Waddell was an Olympic athlete and founder of the international sporting event, the Gay Games.

Born Thomas Flubacher in New Jersey, Waddell’s parents divorced. At 15, he moved in with his neighbors, Gene and Hazel Waddell, who adopted him. Waddell attended Springfield College, where he studied pre-medicine and was a star gymnast and football player. In 1960, he enrolled at New Jersey College of Medicine. In the early 1960’s, he participated in the African-American civil rights demonstrations in Alabama.

In 1966, Wadell joined the Army and served as a medical doctor. Two years later, he competed in the Olympics, placing sixth in the decathlon. Because of a knee injury, he retired from athletics. After the Army, Waddell completed a graduate fellowship at Stanford University.

In the mid-1970’s, Waddell came out to friends and family and began exploring the burgeoning gay scene in San Francisco. After attending a gay bowling competition, he was inspired to organize a gay sporting event. Modeled on the Olympics, he founded the Gay Games, which first took place in 1982 in San Francisco. Originally called the “Gay Olympics,” the U.S. Olympic Committee sued Waddell for the use of the word “Olympics” and the organization was renamed “Gay Games.”

In 1981, Waddell began a relationship with Zohn Artman. That same year, he met lesbian athlete Sara Lewinstein, and they decided to have a child. After their daughter was born, Waddell and Lewinstein married.

Waddell experienced the success and international impact of the Gay Games. “Tom wanted to emphasize that gay men were men, not that they were gay,” said Waddell’s biographer. “He didn’t want them to lose their homosexual identity, or hide it; he just didn’t want them to be pigeonholed by it.” In 1987, Waddell died of AIDS-related complications.

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Day 29 of LGBTQ History Month

•November 5, 2012 • Comments Off on Day 29 of LGBTQ History Month

Jon Stryker


b. 1958

“It’s about supporting people who are trying to live in peace as openly gay or lesbian or transgender people.”

Jon Stryker is a philanthropist and leading funder of national and international LGBT organizations.

Stryker was raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Kalamazoo College and a master’s degree in architecture from the University of California, Berkeley. He is an heir to the Stryker fortune and a major shareholder in Stryker Corporation, a hospital and surgical equipment manufacturer.

Stryker founded and solely funded the Arcus Foundation, the largest grantmaker for LGBT issues. Established in 2000, the foundation’s mission also includes conservation of the great apes.

In addition to the foundation, Stryker has personally donated more than $247 million to LGBT causes and great ape conservation. He is a founding board member of the Ol Pejeta Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya and Save the Chimps in Fort Pierce, Florida. The threatened colobine species Rhinopithecus strykeri was named in his honor.

A registered architect, he is the president of Depot Landmark, which specializes in the rehabilitation of historic buildings. Since 2004, he has been a Global Philanthropists Circle Member. In 2008, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force awarded Stryker the Creating Change Award.

Stryker is divorced with two children. In 2011, he was listed among The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s top 50 donors. The following year, Forbes named him one of the “400 Richest People in America.”

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Day 28 of LGBTQ History Month

•November 5, 2012 • Comments Off on Day 28 of LGBTQ History Month

Billy Strayhorn


b. November 29, 1915

d. May 31, 1967

“If you want something hard enough, it just gets done.”

Billy Strayhorn was a celebrated composer and arranger. Best known for his collaborations with bandleader Duke Ellington, Strayhorn had an important influence on the American jazz movement.

The youngest of five children, Strayhorn spent his early years in Hillsborough, North Carolina. His grandmother, who was active in her church choir, encouraged Strayhorn’s musical interests. In 1924, his mother moved the family to Pittsburgh. At the Pittsburgh Musical Institute, he took piano lessons and studied classical music. Strayhorn’s musical focus shifted when he was introduced to jazz, a genre dominated by innovative and successful black musicians.

In 1937, he began to compose in the jazz style and formed his first jazz group. The following year, he was introduced to Duke Ellington, who took him on as a protégé. Strayhorn worked with Ellington for the next 25 years as a composer, arranger and pianist. He composed the band’s best-known theme song, “Take the A Train.” Although Strayhorn and Ellington collaborated on numerous pieces, Strayhorn remained fairly anonymous and was rarely credited or compensated for his work.

In 1946, he received the Esquire Award for Outstanding Arranger. Ellington and Strayhorn were equally credited on “Drum is a Woman” (1957). In 1965, Strayhorn played his only solo concert to a sold-out theater at the New School in New York City. Some of his best-known compositions are “Chelsea Bridge,” “Day Dream,” “Johnny Come Lately,” “Clementine” and the Ellington Band’s “Lotus Blossom.”

Strayhorn was openly gay. There is speculation that his sexual orientation motivated his decision to avoid the spotlight. He was actively involved in the African-American civil rights movement. For the musical revue “My People” he arranged “King Fought the Battle of ‘Bam,’” dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

At 53, Strayhorn died from cancer. Although relatively unknown during his career, his complex arrangements and classical elements have inspired generations of jazz musicians.

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Day 27 of LGBTQ History Month

•November 5, 2012 • Comments Off on Day 27 of LGBTQ History Month

Pierre Seel


b. August 16, 1923

d. November 25, 2005

“I became aware that in spite of all that I had imagined, the true liberation was for other people.”

Pierre Seel was deported for being gay from France to a German concentration camp during World War II. He is known for speaking out about his Holocaust experience.

Seel was born to an affluent Catholic family in northern France, near the German border. In 1939, while in a public garden known for gay cruising, his pocket was picked. Seel reported the theft to police and was placed on a list of homosexuals, even though being gay was legal.

In 1941, during the German occupation, Seel was deported along with other French gays to the Schirmeck-Vorbruck concentration camp. He was tortured, starved and raped. He witnessed his boyfriend mauled to death by German shepherds. On his prison uniform, Seel was required to wear blue fabric that denoted clergymen, prostitutes and homosexuals.

After six months, Seel was removed from the camp and forced to enlist in the German army. After four years, he deserted and surrendered to the Allies, who returned him to France. Unlike others, gays did not receive compensation or acknowledgment from France for their concentration camp hardship.

In 1950, Seel entered into a marriage of convenience and never told his wife of 28 years that he was gay. They had three children.

In 1982, Seel responded to Bishop Leon Elchinger’s anti-gay remarks in a letter published in a French gay magazine. He advocated for France to honor gays persecuted by Nazis. In 1994, his memoir “I, Pierre Seel, Deported Homosexual” was published. Seel’s story was featured in the documentary “Paragraph 175” (2000). In 2003, he received recognition as a victim of the Holocaust by the International Organization for Migration.

Seel spent his last 12 years with his partner, Eric Feliu, in France.

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Day 26 of LGBTQ History Month

•November 5, 2012 • Comments Off on Day 26 of LGBTQ History Month

Ru Paul


b. November 17, 1960

“With hair, heels, and attitude, honey, I am through the roof.”

RuPaul is one of the world’s most famous drag queens. He is a successful actor, singer and television host.

Born RuPaul Andre Charles in San Diego, California, RuPaul learned about fashion from his mother and three sisters. His parents divorced when he was 7. At 16, he moved to Atlanta to live with his sister and brother-in-law.

In Atlanta, RuPaul studied acting, performed as a bar dancer and sang with a band. He gained national exposure with a cameo role dancing in the video for the B-52s’ “Love Shack.” In 1987, RuPaul moved to New York, where he became a popular entertainer in the Manhattan nightclub scene. He was crowned “Queen of Manhattan 1990.”

In 1993, RuPaul collaborated with Elton John on a remake of “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” The following year, RuPaul had his first solo hit single, “Supermodel (You Better Work),” which topped the dance music charts. Three more dance hits followed: “Back to My Roots,” “A Shade Shady” and “House of Love.”

His appearances in “The Brady Bunch Movie” (1995) and Spike Lee’s “Crooklyn” (1995), along with the release of his autobiography “Lettin It All Hang Out” (1996), landed RuPaul a talk show on VH1. He described the “The RuPaul Show” as “the most creatively satisfying, fun-filled working experience I’ve ever had.” That same year, he became a spokesperson for M.A.C Cosmetics, making him the first drag queen supermodel. In six years, RuPaul helped raise over $22 million for the M.A.C AIDS Fund.

RuPaul had a role in “To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar” (1995). In the late 1990’s, he co-hosted the morning show on WKTU-FM, a New York dance music station. He produced and starred in the film “Starrbooty” (2007), which he adapted into a nightclub act. He is the host and executive producer of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and hosts “RuPaul’s Drag U” on Logo.

In 1999, RuPaul was named Entertainer of The Year at the GLAAD Media Awards. In 2002, he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by The Most Beautiful Transsexuals in the World Association.

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The Hours (film)

•November 1, 2012 • Comments Off on The Hours (film)

The Hours, released in the U.S. in 2002, is a drama based on Michael Cunningham’s 1999 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same title. The film stars Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, and Meryl Streep and was directed by Stephen Daldry. The plot follows three women, all from different time periods, whose lives are interconnected by the novel Mrs. Dalloway. Virginia Woolf (Kidman) struggles with her mental illness in 1920s England as she writes Mrs. Dalloway; Laura Brown (Moore), a pregnant housewife with a young son in 1950s California, reads Mrs. Dalloway as she contends with an unhappy marriage; and Clarissa Vaughan (Streep) is a New Yorker in 2001 caring for her AIDS-stricken friend Richard, who all too appropriately calls her Mrs. Dalloway after the novel’s titular character.

Each of The Hours‘ three characters depicts lesbianism in a different way, all of them involving a kissing scene. Virginia kisses her sister in a clear and desperate attempt for connection; Laura kisses Kitty, a neighbor, to comfort her in the face of surgery; and Clarissa is an out lesbian living with her partner Sally, whom she kisses after Richard’s suicide. All the scenes are set in opposition to the oppressive relationship each woman has with the man in her life, and they are strongly linked to Clarissa and Sally’s relationship in the Mrs. Dalloway novel.

On the surface, the lesbianism portrayed in The Hours seems to be a liberating alternative to the confinement of the characters’ lives. Each of these women is stretched to the breaking point–some of them beyond it–and each suffers a degree of depression along with other possible disorders. It is starkly apparent that the women have built facades of “normal” life for the benefit of the men in their lives–even Clarissa states that nothing matters except Richard, including her partner Sally. It would seem, then, that the moments where each woman finds connection with another woman are the moments where they don’t have to pretend for the sake of others.

Unfortunately, what could be a positive portrayal of LGBTQ relationships and love is hampered by the film’s inescapable link with mental illness. Each character’s kiss with another woman is connected to their freedom, and that freedom is–at least according to society–unhealthy. Virginia kisses her sister and shortly after commits suicide; Laura kisses Kitty and , after an attempted suicide, abandons her husband and two children; Clarissa kisses Sally after Richard’s death. The film seems to suggest that women and especially lesbians who seek agency and autonomy can expect to find only tragedy and ostracism. Step outside the heteronormative structure and face your doom.

The Hours lends itself very well to social commentary about the oppression of women, and for that I praise it. However, I balk at the portrayal of lesbians as mentally ill and depressed women. The film, perhaps inadvertently, seems to be saying “Look how oppressed and desperate these women are! Look how they have to kiss other women just to feel a connection!”–as if a woman’s desire for another woman can only be a symptom of a truly unhappy life. Even Clarissa, the lesbian character(!), shows no feeling toward Sally until her life of dependence on Richard has fallen apart. 

This film should not have made comments on society at the expense of its LGBTQ audience. Hurtful stereotypes still have negative effects even during kiss scenes.


Thumbs up for casting, characters, and story; Thumbs down for lesbianism = depression


~Katy and Stacy


Day 25 of LGBTQ History Month

•October 25, 2012 • Comments Off on Day 25 of LGBTQ History Month

Holly Near


b. June 6, 1949

“I do not separate my music from my heart, nor do I separate my ideas from my daily life.”

Holly Near is a singer, songwriter and activist for social change. She is an articulate political artist.

She was raised in Ukiah, California, by politically active parents who were cattle ranchers. She began her show business career acting in films such as “Minnie and Moskowitz” (1971) and “Slaughterhouse Five” (1972), and in television shows including “All in the Family,” “The Partridge Family” and “The Mod Squad.” After appearing in “Hair” on Broadway, Near decided to focus on music.

In 1972, she launched Redwood Records, becoming one of the first women and one of the first artists to own a record label. Redwood became a force in alternative music, showcasing the work of politically conscious recording artists.

Near has released more than 25 albums. In 1981, she was one of the first out lesbians interviewed by People magazine. She has been in relationships with both men and women, but rather than identifying as bisexual, she describes herself as a “monogamous feminist.”

Near was one of the “1000 Women for Peace” nominated for a 2005 Nobel Peace Prize. In 1985, she was named “Woman of the Year” by Ms. Magazine. Near’s autobiography “Fire in the Rain, Singer in the Storm” was published in 1993.

In 1996, Near was honored with the GALA Choruses Legacy Award for her unique contributions to the gay and lesbian choral movement. Her portrait hangs at The Freedom Center in Cincinnati, along with other artists for social change, including Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie.

“Singing For Our Lives,” which she wrote to honor the memory of Harvey Milk, appears in the official hymnal of the Unitarian Universalist Church.

After living most of her life in Southern California, Near returned to Ukiah, where she sings, composes, and teaches master classes in performance craft and songwriting.

Here’s a video on Holly Near:

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