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Virginia Allows Transgender Freedom…382 Years Ago

23 Mar

The early seal of the Virginia Colony

Long before our country was struggling with the idea of gender-free bathrooms, actually – long before we were struggling with the idea of Independence from Great Britain, it seems that a Virginia magistrate was already getting things right.

382 years ago this week, In 1629, a man named Hall appeared before the court. He had not committed any crime. He was appearing before the court merely because he confused people. You see, at various times, Hall would appear as Thomas, dressed in men’s clothing. And at other times, he would appear as Thomasine, dressed in women’s garb. Virginian’s apparently couldn’t come to grips with a sexually ambiguous person.

Christened and raised as a girl, Hall was inspected by many because of the court case, and all insisted she was a man. The confusion arose because although Hall was raised female, in later years, he developed more masculine features, but still behaved effeminately, perhaps due to his upbringing. The problem presented itself in the first place because early Virginians lived in a society where clothes made the man…and the woman. People’s rank, social status, gender and job were all things that were communicated through their attire. If you wore an apron, you worked in the home, if you wore a certain kind of hat, you worked in the fields. It was a time when someone’s fluid gender expression could really confuse people.

The court was composed of the governor and council. When the judges heard from Hall, he refused to choose a gender. The court, the highest judicial authority in the colony, accepted Hall’s self- definition “a man and a woeman, that all the Inhabitants there may take notice thereof and that hee shall goe Clothed in mans apparell, only his head to bee attired in a Coyfe and Crosecloth with an Apron before him.”

Helping Our Brothers And Sisters

9 Feb

Dr. Frank Kameny is one of the most significant figures in the American equality movement.

Dr. Kameny is a World War II veteren who, after being dismissed in 1957 from the Army Map Service, fought his unfair treatment all the way to the Supreme Court in 1961. Though he lost, Frank made history for filing the first civil rights case based on Sexual Orientation.

This marked the beginning of a decades-long career fighting for LGBT equality. Frank Kameny went from fighting Nazis to fighting the U.S. and DC government. He is widely credited as a pioneer of a new and aggressive movement for equal treatment of gay and lesbians, paving the way for the eventual explosion of post-stonewall activism. As a founding member of the Mattachine Society of Washington, DC, Frank helped organize the first ever White House protest and together with the Mattachine Society of New York and the Daughters of Billitis expanded the picket line into what would later became the Annual Reminder.

Over his nearly four decades of fighting the establishment on our behalf, he succeeded in repealing DC anti-sodomy laws, continuously pushed for federal workplace protections, and was instrumental in removing homophobia and junk-science from the American Psychiatric Association and sexual orientation from its manual of mental disorders.

And now Frank needs OUR help. After all he has done for us we have a unique opportunity to show our love, support, and appreciation for this true American hero.

Helping Our Brothers and Sisters (HOBS)  is an all-volunteer micro-charity that helps marginalized GLBT individuals in the Washington D.C. area meet short-term needs. HOBS‘ focus is on those who do not fit the criteria for help from other organizations or agencies.

For the past year HOBS has been helping Frank meet his basic needs. Like so many who have lost their jobs because of workplace discrimination his needs aren’t being met with his slim pension.

For the price of a nice cocktail you can make a small donation to HOBS and toast a truly remarkable man.

We named a street after him. Now we have a chance to truly honor this great man and show him how much we appreciate his life and work:

Buy Frank A Drink

A Gay and Lesbian Museum: There’s A Space For US

12 Jan

After a decade of searching, the Gay and Lesbian Historical Society has found a San Francisco location for the first ever LGBT History Museum in the United States. The Museum opening marks the 25th Anniversary of the Society and will feature two opening exhibits: Our Vast Queer Past: Celebrating GLBT History,” curated by historians Gerard Koskovich, Don Romesburg and Amy Sueyoshi; and in the front gallery, “Great Collections of the GLBT Historical Society Archives.”

We have written several times about the importance of history and about preserving and reflecting on our past. The opening of this museum is an important moment in our movement.  If we don’t do the hard work of educating younger generations on past struggles, victories, and personal stories, we allow someone else to revise our history.  We have our own stories to tell, remember, and cherish:

“Telling our stories transforms our lives and our society and takes us out of the margins,” said Don Romesburg, a curator and assistant professor of Sonoma State University‘s Department of Women’s and Gender Studies. “The museum is at the heart of that project.”

This is a great step for our community.

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