Tag Archives: history

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 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/

LGBT History Month – Day 19 – Stephen Fry

Gooooooood evening good evening good evening good evening good evening good evening, and welcome to… Day 19 for a look at Stephen Fry (1957).

stephen fry

Stephen Fry is a gay English comedian, actor, writer, presenter and activist, who suffers from bipolar disorder. His career in showbusiness began with his involvement with the Cambridge Footlights, which led to a successful performing partnership with fellow comedian and satirist Hugh Laurie. Both Fry and Laurie appeared (though rarely together) in the classic BBC comedy Blackadder (“Baaaaaaa!”), and in 2003 Fry went on to host the popular comedy panel quiz QI. He has also appeared in and presented numerous plays, TV dramas, films and documentaries. He’s also a novelist. And he reads audiobooks. And… Oh, look, he basically does everything. And we love him for it.

In 2014, Fry was listed number 4 on the World Pride Power list, he married his partner, Elliot Spencer, in 2015. In February 2014 Stephen Fry became the honorary president of Proud Canaries, a new club for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender fans of Norwich City Football Club, as well as being an official Ambassador for the City of Norwich. He is also active in mental health charity and awareness groups and serves as president of the charity Mind.

His official website is here: http://www.stephenfry.com/

LGBT History Month – Day 18 – Sally Ride

Day 18 and we shoot into space to celebrate Dr Sally Ride (1951 – 2012).

Sally RideSally Ride graduated from Stanford University in California where she studied physics. In 1977 she applied for NASA’s astronaut programme, which had that year started to admit women. Ride was one of six picked for the first female intake. In 1983 she flew a six-day mission aboard the space shuttle Challenger, becoming the first American woman in space. The following day, Gloria Steinem, then-editor of Ms. magazine, said, “Millions of little girls are going to sit by their television sets and see they can be astronauts, heroes, explorers and scientists.”

Dr Ride flew again aboard Challenger in 1984, and left NASA in 1987 to take up a teaching position. She worked tirelessly to promote science to young people and in particular to encourage girls to get involved in science and engineering.

She was reticent about discussing her private life. She married astronaut and scientist Steven Hawley, divorcing after five years. Her same-sex partner of twenty-seven years was Tam O’Shaughnessy, with whom she founded educational company Sally Ride Science in 2001. O’Shaughnessy continued to run the company following Dr Ride’s death from illness in 2012.

You can read a review of the book Sally Ride: America’s first Woman in Space here: http://io9.gizmodo.com/the-secret-life-of-sally-ride-the-first-american-woman-1586255004
And her obituary here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/24/science/space/sally-ride-trailblazing-astronaut-dies-at-61.html?_r=0

LGBT History Month – Day 16 – George Takei

It’s Day 16 – Oh, my! It’s George Takei (1937 – ).

george takei

Best known for his acting role as Hikaru Sulu in the original series of Star Trek, George Takei is an American actor, director, author, and activist.

He is a proponent of LGBT rights and active in state and local politics, apart from his continued acting career. Born in 1937, as a child Takei experienced at first hand the segregation and internment of Japanese-Americans following the attack on Pearl Harbor and has since campaigned for improved human rights and Japanese-American relations, winning several awards and accolades, including for his work with the Japanese American National Museum.

Takei is gay, a fact he revealed publicly in 2005 in a magazine interview, in response to the California governor’s veto of a proposed same-sex marriage bill in the state. Prior to this, Takei’s sexuality had been widely known amongst his Star Trek colleagues and the show’s fans, and from the 1970s on he was openly active in LGBT organisations. He married Brad Altman, his partner of 18 years, in 2008.

In June 2012, the American Humanist Association gave Takei the LGBT Humanist Award, and in May 2014 the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation honoured him with the GLAAD Vito Russo Award, presented to an openly LGBT media professional who has made a significant difference in promoting equality for the LGBT community.

In 2014, Takei spoke up in defence of a Miss America winner who was suffering racial abuse based on her Indian heritage. He wrote: “In Star Trek we have this creed: ‘Infinite diversity in infinite combinations’. That’s what Starfleet was all about.”

(Oh, and he also has an asteroid named after him.)

You can find his official website here: http://www.georgetakei.com/ and he maintains an active Twitter profile @GeorgeTakei.

LGBT History Month – Day 15 – Barbara Jordan

For our 15th, it’s Barbara Jordan (1936 – 1996):

barbara jordan

Barbara Jordan was an American politician, the first African-American to be elected to the Texas State Senate and the first southern black women to be elected to the House of Representatives, the first African-American representative of a former Confederate state. A strong advocate for civil rights, Jordan fought for the establishment of a minimum wage and was a fierce defender of the US Constitution. She was strongly tipped for a position in the Supreme Court, but sadly was afflicted by multiple sclerosis, which rendered her unable to serve in that capacity.

In the 1960s, while on a camping trip, Jordan had met Nancy Earl, who would be her partner for the next twenty years, and they settled in a home they built themselves in Austin, Texas. Jordan never publicly declared herself a lesbian – the House of Representatives website simply says that she “never married and carefully guarded her private life” – but following her death in 1996, President Bill Clinton and Texas Governor Anne Richards both expressed specific sympathies to Nancy Earl, and the information was discussed publicly by the media in the days following.

LGBT activists at the time expressed regret that Jordan never came out publicly during her life. Many asserted that, given her political stature and the esteem in which the nation held her, she could have done so with little harm to herself. But we must assume she had her reasons. Perhaps she simply judged that the political climate was not right; perhaps she simply felt it wasn’t state business. In any case, her legacy is that of a hard-working, hard-fighting advocate of civil rights.

To read more about Barbara you can click here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_Jordan and here http://www.biography.com/people/barbara-jordan-9357991#synopsis.


LGBT History Month – Day 14 – Renée Richards

Day 14, and we head into the world of professional tennis to look at Dr Renée Richards (1934 – )

renee richards

Dr Richards is an American ophthalmologist, author and former professional tennis player.

Born in New York, Richards excelled in sports at school, and later became a skilled tennis player while studying at Yale. After graduating, Richards went on to study ophthalmology, taking additional training in the United States Navy.

In 1975, Richards underwent male-to-female sex reassignment surgery, before returning to work as an ophthalmologist.  She continued to develop her tennis skills, and applied for the US Open in 1976. She was denied entry by the United States Tennis Association, who required all female tennis players to undergo gender verification by chromosomal testing, and banned players who would not comply. Richards took the matter to court, and the New York Supreme Court ruled in her favour in 1977. Judge Ascione ruled that she was indeed female, and that requiring her to pass the genetic test was “unfair, discriminatory and inequitable, and a violation of her rights”.

Through her fight to play tennis as a woman, she challenged gender roles and became a role model and spokesperson for the transgender community. She was inducted into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame in 2013.

You can read an interview with her here: http://www.gq.com/story/renee-richards-interview, and an article about her here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-33062241

LGBT History Month – Day 13 – Marcel Proust

For our 13th, it’s Marcel Proust.

marcel proust

Marcel Proust (1871 – 1922) was a French novelist, critic, and essayist best known for his monumental novel À la recherche du temps perdu (‘In Search of Lost Time’) published in seven volumes from 1913 – 1927. Proust was gay, and his sexuality and relationships with men are often discussed by his biographers. However, Proust himself never admitted being gay, though it seems it was something of an open secret for those who knew him. On 5 February of 1897 (we really should’ve put Proust on the 5th, now we think about it) he duelled with fellow writer Jean Lorrain, a writer and dandy – and openly gay – who had accused Proust of being involved with a chap called Lucien Daudet. As writer Kathy Padden puts it in an article on the confrontation on Today I Found Out, “Yes, this was two gay men dueling over the suggestion that one of them was gay.”

Proust and Lorrain both fired their pistols; both shots missed. There’s some suggestion that both missed intentionally, but whatever the case, honour was satisfied and their relationship continued in simmering hatred for many more years.

The exact influence of Proust’s sexuality on his writing is a topic of debate. However, In Search of Lost Time discusses homosexuality at length and features several principal characters, both men and women, who are either gay or bisexual.

You can read more about his work, here: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2002/nov/02/classics.marcelproust

LGBT History Month 2016 – Day 12 – Audre Lorde

Day 12 and we explore the life of Audre Lourde (1934 – 1992). Audre Lorde was an American writer, radical feminist, womanist, lesbian, and civil rights activist. In her own words, Lorde was a “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet”

audre lorde
Her poems and essays focused on civil rights issues, feminism, and the expression of black female identity. Lourde is best known for technical mastery and emotional expression in her poetry, particularly the poems which express anger and outrage at civil and social injustices she observed throughout her life. She was a champion of intersectional feminism, and life-long explorer of her own identity and the universal identity of African-American women. Her main goal was to empower black people and lesbians, to make diversity a source of growth and celebration rather than a reason for marginalisation, and to encourage everyone to be comfortable in their own skin.

You can find out more here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/audre-lorde