Tag Archives: History

14 years ago today

6 Oct

On October 7, 1998, Aaron Kreifels was riding his bike through a field in Wyoming. He wasn’t expecting that day to be different from any other beautiful sunny afternoon in the vast plains surrounding Laramie, but that day would change many lives.

Aaron spotted what he initially thought was a scarecrow next to a fence. Then he noticed a glisten of blood. The sun sparkled on what he barely recognized as a face. What Aaron had discovered was the 22 year-old Matthew Shepard, clinging to life.

Most of you know what happened next. Matthew held on for five more days and as his parents held his hand and prayed, Matthew slipped away quietly on October 12th, leaving in his wake a new movement for equality.

The outcries for justice and for greater protections were immediate and resonating.

Since then, Matthew’s mother Judy has made it her personal mission to protect all young LGBT people from Matthew’s horrific fate. In founding the Matthew Shepard Foundation, she has created safe spaces in and outside of schools for kids, and worked with parents to ensure their children learn to erase hate from their lives.

But overwhelmingly what you saw in 1998 was a community ready to act, ready to change something. And Matthew’s story was the catalyst for that. Many of you have seen or read the Moises Kaufman play, The Laramie Project – Matthew’s story as told through interviews of those who were living in Laramie at the time – some of his friends and some who just happened to be riding a bike through the plains of Wyoming that day. If you think of nothing else today, please consider the importance of telling your story – how your story can change the world around you.

This young boy, unbeknownst to him, has changed the world with his.

The Men with the Pink Triangle

19 Apr

It’s Holocaust Remembrance Day.

While no person’s oppression is greater or lesser than another’s, a day like today cannot go by without acknowledging the estimated 15,000 gay men who were murdered in Nazi concentration camps.

The pink triangle, which in later years became a symbol of freedom for the lesbian and gay community, was created as a marker for gay men in WWII Germany. Treatment in concentration camps for gay men was frequently far more brutal than for other prisoners. They faced persecution not only from German soldiers, but from their fellow prisoners as well. Their pink triangles on their prison uniforms were frequently used as bull’s eyes when soldiers took prisoners out for target practice. Many died from beatings, frequently from fellow prisoners and some were used by doctors for scientific experiments – trying to locate a “gay gene.”

Following the war, those who escaped the horrible fates of the concentration camps found that they could then be re-improsoned for being gay. Under Paragraph 175, the anti-gay law in Germany which criminalized homosexuality, gay men could spend up to ten years in prison. From 1950-1994, when the law was finally abolished, 100,000 gay men were convicted under the law.

Memorials set up and reparations paid to survivors of the Holocaust did not include gay people. It was not until 2002, nearly 60 years after WWII that the German government officially apologized to the gay community. In 1984, the first memorial to gay Holocaust victims was built and there are now more than 25 around the world from Australia to Anchorage, Alaska.

Rudolf Brazda, believed to be the last surviving person who was sent to a Nazi concentration camp because of his homosexuality, died in France in August, 2011, aged 98. The Men With The Pink Triangle is a gripping account of one prisoner’s experience in the camps written by Hans Heger.

As we remember those lost in one of our history’s most violent and gruesome chapters, please take the time to remember everyone.

Oscar Wilde Arrested!

6 Apr

On this day in 1895, Oscar Wilde was arrested after losing libel case against the Marquess of Queensberry.

Wilde was in a long-term relationship with the son of the Marquess for nearly four years. This made the Marquess none too happy and she outed him as a homosexual. Since homosexuality was illegal at the time, Wilde sued the Marquess for libel. Since there was much evidence supporting the Marquess’ accusations, Wilde was found guilty and sentenced to two years of hard labor.

At this point, Wilde was already a well-known writer, having written brilliant and popular plays including The Importance of Being Ernest and his only novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. Additionally, Wilde was known among society for his flamboyant style and wit.

Following his release, Wilde fled to Paris where he wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol about his experiences in prison.

In honor of Oscar Wilde, here are some of his most memorable quotes.

“Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much.”

“Arguments are to be avoided: they are always vulgar and often convincing.”

“By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.”

“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.”

“I am not young enough to know everything.”

“I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their intellects. A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.”

“I have nothing to declare except my genius.”

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”

“n America the young are always ready to give to those who are older than themselves the full benefits of their inexperience.”

“It is better to be beautiful than to be good. But… it is better to be good than to be ugly.”

“There are only two kinds of people who are really fascinating – people who know absolutely everything, and people who know absolutely nothing.”

“What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

and my personal favorite:

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

Openly Gay Man Elected to Public Office

8 Nov

Photo (c) Danny Nicoletta

On this day 33 years ago, after several unsuccessful attempts, the first gay person in US history was elected to a public office.

On November 8th, 1977, Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Most of us have heard about Harvey and many of us saw the incredible Academy Award-Winning Film from 2008. And many of us had no idea who he was before that film, but now we know a little more. Harvey’s murderer Dan White, was also elected to office that same day.

20 years to the day after Harvey won his office, Bill Clinton became the first sitting US President to address the Gay & Lesbian Community directly in a fundraising speech.

We spend so much time getting frustrated over how far we have to go, but we ask that you take a look at where we’ve been and how quickly we have moved forward. We have come this far because those before us have talked about who they are. Harvey Milk spoke clearly about who he was and the fact that we had to come out to create change. That truth remains. 33 years later. Talk About Equality.

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