Category Archives: LGBT History Month 2016

LGBT History Month – Day 29 – Imaam Daayiee Abdullah

And so we come to the last in this series, having explored LGBT+ people with amazing lives and positive contributions to our society. From actors to poets, musicians to doctors, astronauts to artists, each one of the people we have mentioned has enriched our society and helped further understanding into what it means to self-define as either LGBT+, straight, man, woman, bi-gendered, or something beautifully unique. We hope you’ve enjoyed the series and maybe made one or two new discoveries on the way over the last month.

Before we close the series, our last is Imam Daayiee Abdullah (1954 –   )

Imaam Abdullah

Daayiee Abdullah is an African American gay Imam from Washington DC. He is one of three openly gay Imams in the world.

Around 2000, he joined the online Yahoo! group Muslim Gay Men. On this forum, there were many who claimed to be gay, but were intent on telling those who were seeking help that the Qur’an forbids homosexuality.  Abdullah attempted to refute these comments by explaining that one is to follow the Qur’an first and the Haddith second. Through this, he began to gain popularity among homosexuals and allies across the online community. One of the reasons he began to be called Imam was because he performed many ceremonies for people in who were considered pariahs in their community due to illnesses, or the gender or religion of the person they wished to marry. Abdullah performed same-sex marriages for men and women and counselling for all couples.  Along with performing these ceremonies that others would not, he married mixed couples and religiously differing couples who are from Abrahamic faiths.

Abdullah was a board member of the round table of the Al-Fatiha Foundation for several years until it closed in 2011.  From 2011 to 2012, he served as part of the Queer Muslim Working Group, which evolved into the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity in 2013. Abdullah also has served on the planning team for the LGBT Muslim Retreat since 2011.

You can visit his website here: https://daayieesplaceofinnerpeace.com/MPV-WASHINGTON__DC_2.html 
And read an article about him and his work HERE

LGBT History Month – Day 28 – Agnes

Agnes is a very special lady, born in 1939.

From the age of 12, she obtained her mothers post-hysterectomy hormones to feminise her body. At 19, she was referred to Dr Robert Stoller and interviewed by him, Dr Harold Garfinkel and Dr Alexander Rosen.  Garfinkel was a sociologist interested in the way that gender worked.

Agnes was taken to be an example of testicular feminisation syndrome. She refused to meet or be classified with any other trans* person or any homosexuals. Garfinkel studied her case, and published academic papers on her intersex condition.

She was recommended for surgery as an intersex patient, at a time when such surgery was regularly denied to trans*. Surgery was completed in 1959 by a team of doctors. Stoller presented his findings at the 1963 International Psychoanalytic Congress in Stockholm; Garfinkel included an extensive chapter on Agnes in his pioneering 1967 book on Ethnomethodology.

Agnes was able to undergo surgery, and five years after this, she was able to tell doctors that she did not identify as intersex, but had told medical personnel this to enable to her to be cleared for surgery.

Just imagine this for a moment, a 19 year old girl in 1958, convinced the experts that she was intersex, and obtained her goal of completed gender reassignment surgery. After her surgery, she disappeared from the history books.  If she is still alive, she will now be in her mid-seventies..

You can read Garfinkel’s and Stollers research paper on Agnes from 1967 online, here: www.intersexualite.org/passing-is.html

And an analysis of Garfinkels work, here:  www.ejhs.org/volume4/agnes.htm

LGBT History Month – Day 27 – Grace Jones

Grace Jones (1948 – ) is our inspiration for day 27.

grace jones

Grace Jones is a Jamaican singer, lyricist, supermodel, record producer, and actress. She began her career as a supermodel, then began producing music, with 10 studio albums and 8 compilation albums to date. Film credits from 1973 onwards include Conan the Destroyer, Boomerang and A View to a Kill in 1985.

Jones’ distinctive androgynous appearance, square-cut, angular padded clothing, manner, and height of 179 cm (5’10 ½”) influenced the cross-dressing movement of the 1980s.

You can read a post celebrating her life and works here: http://www.gradientlair.com/post/119408598533/the-great-grace-jones

LGBT History Month – Day 26 – Zachary Quinto

Day 26 and we wish we had as much charisma as our next inspirational person holds in half of one eyebrow: it’s Zachary Quinto (1977 – ).

zachary quinto

Zachary Quinto is an American actor and film producer. He is best known for his roles as Sylar on the science fiction drama series Heroes, and Spock in the reboot Star Trek, and its sequels Star Trek Into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond.
In 2010, Quinto contributed a video to the It Gets Better Project, an Internet-based campaign that aims to prevent suicide among LGBT youth. Quinto publicly came out as gay in October 2011. He explained that, after the suicide of gay teenager Jamey Rodemeyer, he realised “that living a gay life without publicly acknowledging it is simply not enough to make any significant contribution to the immense work that lies ahead on the road to complete equality.”

You can read more on his official site, here: http://www.zacharyquinto.com/

LGBT History Month – Day 25 – Amanda Simpson

Into politics for day 25, Amanda Simpson (1961 – ) is the first transgender lady to be appointed to the White House administration.

amanda simpson

Previous to being in politics at the highest level, Simpson participated in the Bates Aeronautics Program while a student at Harvey Mudd College. She earned her single engine land private pilot’s license in 1981, a commercial pilot’s license with instrument privileges in 1983, and became a certified flight instructor – airplane in 1988 and an instrument instructor in 1989. In 1988 she added a multi-engine class rating to her commercial license to qualify for transfer to Hughes Missile Systems as a project test engineer and pilot. Simpson upgraded to an Airline Transport Pilot’s (ATP) license in 1994 after adding multi-engine to her flight instructor ratings in 1991. In 1997 she added single-engine sea (float planes and flying boats) to her ATP license. In 2005 she became one of only a few licensed pilots flying FAA-certified unmanned aircraft in the national airspace system.

As of 2009, she has flown over 60 different makes and models of aircraft and has accumulated over 2700 flight hours.

In late 2009, Simpson accepted an appointment by the Obama Administration, where she served as the Senior Technical Adviser to the Bureau of Industry and Security. In July 2011, Simpson was reposted to the Pentagon, following this, she was detailed to the Army Energy Initiatives Task Force, where she served as the Deputy Executive Director until January 2014, when she was named the Executive Director by the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy & Environment (ASA-IEE) In September 2015, Simpson was sworn in as the first Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy.

You can read an interview with her here: http://www.refinery29.com/amanda-simpson-army-transgender-interview

LGBT History Month – Day 24 – Alison Bechdel

An artist of a different kind for day 24, Alison Bechdel (1960 – )

Alison Bechdel

Alison Bechdel is a lesbian American cartoonist. Originally best known for the long-running comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, she came to critical and commercial success in 2006 with her graphic memoir Fun Home. Bechdel’s sexuality and gender non-conformity are a large part of the core message of her work. “The secret subversive goal of my work is to show that women, not just lesbians, are regular human beings.”

Dykes to Watch Out For is the origin of the ‘Bechdel test,’ which has become a frequently used metric in cultural and gendered discussion in film studies. The test asks whether a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. The test is used as an indicator for the active presence of women in films and other fiction, and to call attention to gender inequality in fiction due to sexism.

Her work can be explored on the Dykes to Watch Out For website: http://dykestowatchoutfor.com/

LGBT History Month – Day 23 – David Bowie

We couldn’t do a series like this without him. Day 23 celebrates the life of David Bowie (1947 – 2016)

david bowie

As a musician, actor and fashion icon, David Bowie constantly reinvented himself, developing challenging music and alter egos regularly throughout his career. His musical success began with Space Oddity in 1969 and continued up until the release of the album Blackstar just a few days before he died in January 2016.

A beloved, much-admired icon, for sure – but what puts him on our list for this month?

Bowie could be seen as something of an LGBT enigma. As with his overall performance persona, his sexual identity is a story of layers. In 1972 he declared himself gay. In 1976 he said he was actually bisexual. And years later, he explained that, in fact, he had always been a ‘closet heterosexual’, and suggested that his G and B identifications had been simply a product of the time and of his cultural environment.

This is perhaps a good illustration of the fact that people can have many aspects and elements to their identities, and regardless of how Bowie truly saw himself, his artistic work has had an enormous positive influence on the LGBT community. His alternates and stage characters were sexually ambiguous, gender-fluid, and unashamed to be who they were. These were themes he developed extensively in his portrayals of the Thin White Duke and Ziggy Stardust.

His presentation of ‘Otherness’ as something to be embraced challenged assumptions and broke down barriers, and inspired many people who found his messages relevant to their own struggles. Musicians including Boy George, the Pet Shop Boys and Scissor Sisters have all acknowledged owing much to Bowie’s work, both personally and professionally.

As an actor, Bowie is probably best known for his portrayal of Jareth, the Goblin King, in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth (1986). He wrote five songs for the movie, including Magic Dance (and wore those tights…) . He also appeared in 1983 vampire fantasy The Hunger, 1976 sci-fi drama The Man Who Fell To Earth in 1973, and the 2006 mystery The Prestige.

You can explore his website here: http://www.davidbowie.com/ and read his obituary here http://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/jan/11/obituary-david-bowie

LGBT History Month – Day 22 – Ellen DeGeneres

Welcome to Ellen DeGeneres (1958) for our Day 22.

ellen degeneres

Ellen DeGeneres is an American comedian, television host, actress, writer, and producer. She starred in the popular sitcom Ellen from 1994 to 1998, and has hosted her syndicated TV talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, since 2003.

In 1997, during the fourth season of Ellen in 1997 and whilst appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Ellen came out publicly as a lesbian. Her Ellen character Ellen Morgan followed suit shortly afterwards while speaking to a therapist (played by Winfrey), and the series went on to explore various LGBT issues, including the coming-out process.

This made her the first openly lesbian actress to play an openly lesbian character on television, and attracted a great deal of press attention which she later said had caused her emotional difficulty and also negatively affected her career.

In 2008, Ellen married her long-time girlfriend Portia de Rossi, who legally petitioned for a change of name to Portia Lee James DeGeneres. California legislative changes initially made the status of the marriage uncertain, but it was later validated by the state Supreme Court, and Portia’s petition was accepted in September 2010.

As a film actress, amongst other credits, DeGeneres provided the voice of Dory in the Pixar animated film Finding Nemo (2003).

You can view the site for her show, here: http://www.ellentv.com/

LGBT History Month – Day 21 – John Maynard Keynes

Day 21, and we take a closer look at John Maynard Keynes (1883 – 1946):

John Maynard Keynes

John Maynard Keynes, 1st Baron Keynes, CB, FBA, was an English economist whose ideas fundamentally changed the theory and practice of modern macroeconomics and the economic policies of governments. He was born in 1883, a subject of Queen Victoria. He died in 1946, having lived through the Boer War, both World Wars, and a worldwide economic depression. He is best known for his proposal that when national economies suffer a downturn, governments should borrow and spend money to boost economic activity. Part of the proceeds of the resulting economic growth should then be used to repay the debt.

In 1921, Keynes fell in love with, and thereafter married, Lidia Vasilyevna Lopukhova, a Russian ballerina. They lived happily until his death in 1946. The marriage surprised his friends, as prior to meeting Lopukhova, Keynes had been exclusively involved with men. While studying at Eton and Cambridge, Keynes engaged in many affairs, which – presumably because ‘economist’ – he documented meticulously in diaries. He was perhaps fortunate to have been involved in an academic intellectual subculture – the so-called ‘Bloomsbury Set’ – which for its time was unusually at ease with same-sex relationships

There’s an article about his economic theories and personal life here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/analysis-and-features/john-maynard-keynes-new-biography-reveals-shocking-details-about-the-economists-sex-life-10101971.html

LGBT History Month – Day 20 – Sandi Toksvig

Good evening, and welcome to QI

Oh. Sorry. We’re getting ahead of ourselves. But still, Sandi Toksvig (1958) is our inspiration for Day 20.

sandi toksvigSandi Toksvig OBE is a lesbian British-Danish writer, actor, comedian, presenter and producer on British radio and television, and a political activist. She is a keen advocate for women’s rights and equality.

She began performing in theatre and comedy with the Cambridge Footlights and was a member of the Comedy Store Players. In 1982 she made her first TV appearance working on children’s programming, and has since appeared in many factual programmes, sitcoms and talk shows. She has been a regular guest and host on panel shows including QI and Mock The Week, and between 2006 and 2015 she was a regular presence on BBC Radio 4 as host of The News Quiz, before leaving to serve as co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party. She is also a writer for television and theatre and the author of numerous fiction and non-fiction books. She is the current Chancellor of the University of Portsmouth.

Toksvig was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to broadcasting. She is slated to take over from Stephen Fry as the new host of QI when he steps down this year.

Her official website is here: http://sanditoksvig.com/