Table of Contents

CanadianGay
presents
THIS DAY IN GAY HISTORY
based on: The White Crane Institute's 'Gay Wisdom', Gay Birthdays, Gay For Today, Famous GLBT, glbt-Gay Encylopedia, Today in Gay History, Wikipedia, and more …

Collected by Ted

December 17

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1760 – On this date, Deborah Sampson Gannett American Revolutionary War hero was born (d.1827). Sampson was the first known American woman to impersonate a man to join the Army and take part in combat. Masquerading as "Robert Shurtlieff," (the ID of her deceased brother), she was the most famous female soldier of the American Revolution.

Though her motives in fighting were patriotic, she had always shown great delight in wearing men's clothing and in drinking "with the boys." For both those "offenses," in fact, she had been excommunicated from the First Baptist Church of Middleborough, Mass.

While in the army, Sampson developed a bit of a reputation as a ladies' man, and the stories of her exploits with women are too numerous to be anything but apocryphal. After serving seventeen months in the Continental Army (and being wounded in the Battle of Tarrytown), Deborah Sampson was discharged by General Henry Knox at West Point.

Twice during her stint in the forces, she was almost exposed. First, during her first battle, on July 3, 1782, outside Tarrytown, New York, she received 2 musket balls in her thigh and an enormous cut on her forehead. She begged her fellow soldiers to just let her die and not take her to the hospital, but they refused to abandon her. A soldier put her on his horse and they rode six miles to a hospital. The doctors treated her head wound, but she left the hospital before they could attend to the musket balls. Fearful that her true identity would be discovered, she removed one of the balls herself with a penknife and sewing needle, but her leg never fully healed because the other ball was too deep for her to reach.

The second time was when, during the summer of 1783, Deborah came down with malignant fever and was cared for by a doctor, Barnabas Binney. He removed her clothes to treat her and discovered the band she used to bind her breasts and, thus, discovered her secret. He did not betray her secret; he took her to his house, where his wife and daughters further treated her.

When Dr. Binney asked her to deliver a note to General John Patterson, she thought that her secret was out. However, General Patterson never uttered a word; instead, she received an honorable discharge from the service, a note with some words of advice, and a sum of money sufficient to bear her expenses home. Thus, on October 25, 1783, General Henry Knox honorably discharged Deborah Sampson from the Army at West Point, after a year and a half of service.

Eight years later, in January 1792, she petitioned the Massachusetts State Legislature for back pay, which the army had withheld from her, since she was a woman. Her petition passed through the Senate and was approved, then signed by Governor John Hancock. The General Court of Massachusetts verified her service and wrote that she "exhibited an extraordinary instance of female heroism by discharging the duties of a faithful gallant soldier, and at the same time preserving the virtue and chastity of her sex, unsuspected and unblemished". The court awarded her a total of thirty-four pounds.

Ten years after that, in 1802, she began giving lectures about her experiences in the army. Deborah enjoyed speaking about serving her country. These speeches were initiated due to her own financial needs as well as a desire to justify her enlistment. But even with these speaking engagements, she was not making enough money to pay her expenses. She had to borrow money from her family and from her friend Paul Revere on many occasions. The soldiers in the Continental Army had received pensions for their services, but Sampson did not because she was female.

In 1804, Paul Revere wrote to Massachusetts' representative, William Eustis, on Sampson's behalf. Revere requested that Congress grant her a military pension. This had never before been requested by or for a woman, but with her health failing and family being destitute, the money was greatly needed. Revere wrote, "I have been induced to enquire her situation, and character, since she quit the male habit, and soldiers uniform; for the most decent apparel of her own sex; and obliges me to say, that every person with whom I have conversed about her, and it is not a few, speak of her as a woman with handsome talents, good morals, a dutiful wife, and an affectionate parent." On March 11, 1805 Congress in Washington obliged the letter, and placed her on the Massachusetts Invalid Pension Roll. This pension plan paid her four dollars a month.

 

 Paul Cadmus - portrait by Luigi Lucioni

1904Paul Cadmus (d.1999), American painter, is best known for the satiric innocence of his frequently censored paintings of burly men in skin-tight clothes and curvaceous women in provocative poses, but he also created works that celebrate same-sex domesticity.

Born in New York City on December 17, 1904 into a family of commercial artists, Cadmus studied at the National Academy of Design and the Arts Students League. He lived in Europe from 1931 to 1933, where he traveled with artist Jared French and where he produced his first mature canvases.

In the 1930s, Cadmus became the center of a circle of gay men who were prominent within the arts in New York City. This circle included his brother-in-law, Lincoln Kirstein, who helped found the American School of Ballet, and the photographer George Platt Lynes, for whom Cadmus frequently modeled.

In the 1930s, Cadmus used caricature, satire, and innuendo to veil the homoeroticism of his subjects, which radically pushed at the boundaries of acceptability. Cadmus's 1933 painting The Fleet's In! was selected for inclusion in a show at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, and in 1934 it placed him at the center of a public controversy.


The Fleet's In
(Click for larger)

Like many of his early works, the painting is ostensibly heterosexual in its depiction of sailors flirting with young women, who may be prostitutes, but it nevertheless manages to suggest a homosexual exchange between a well-dressed civilian, who sports a red tie, a widely recognized signal of homosexuality from the turn of the twentieth century, and a sailor to whom he offers a cigarette.

The painting's homoerotic subtext led to its removal after the opening of the exhibition. Frequently cited as one of the earliest incidents of government censorship, the removal of the painting was almost certainly motivated by homophobia.

Cadmus's painting Coney Island (1935) also became the subject of controversy. Its portrayal of local residents engaged in provocative (heterosexual) antics enraged Brooklyn realtors, who threatened to file a civil suit against the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Similarly, his commission for the Port Washington post office was also scandalous and was cancelled: the mural he produced, Pocahontas and John Smith (1938), so emphasizes the buttocks and genitals of the Native Americans that it obscures the subject, which is the rescue of John Smith.

As a result of Cadmus's notoriety, his 1937 exhibition at Midtown Galleries in New York attracted more than 7,000 visitors.

Other early works of particular interest for their homoeroticism are YMCA Locker Room (1933), Shore Leave (1933), and Greenwich Village Cafeteria (1934). Like The Fleet's In!, these works also document homosexual cruising and seduction.

In Cadmus's paintings, significant exchanges of glances signal sexual longing and availability, often in the very midst of mundane activities. His work documents the surreptitious cruising rituals of an urban, gay male subculture in the 1930s.

Cadmus's painting What I Believe (1947-1948) was inspired by E.M. Forster's essay of the same name, in which the novelist expresses his faith in personal relations and his concept of a spiritual aristocracy "of the sensitive, the considerate, and the plucky. Its members are to be found in all nations and classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secret understanding between them when they meet. They represent the true human condition, the one permanent victory of our queer race over cruelty and chaos."


What I Believe
(Click for larger)

Cadmus's allegorical painting, which depicts such figures as Forster and Christopher Isherwood in Socratic poses, makes clear his intellectual allegiance to the humanism that Forster depicted as gravely threatened by fascism.

In still other later works, such as The Bath (1951) and The Haircut (1986), Cadmus explores the joys of his long-term relationship with his partner and model, Jon Andersson. These paintings are particularly touching in their illustration of an entirely ordinary but rarely depicted subject: the domesticity of a same-sex couple.

Although he stopped painting towards the end of his life, Cadmus continued to draw at his home in Weston, Connecticut, particularly portraits and figure studies of Andersson, his favorite model and companion of 35 years.

Cadmus died on December 12, 1999, five days shy of his 95th birthday.

 


Tony Tavarossi and bike

1933 – Homo-masculine proto-leatherman Tony Tavarossi (d.1981) was a native San Franciscan who was as important to gay liberation history in San Francisco as his contemporary, the drag-queen politician José Sarria.

He came out at the age of twelve under the tables (literally) in the curtained booths of the South China Café at l8th and Castro streets. He nick-named himself "Tony"; his birth name was Elloyd Tavarossi.

He was a “walking oral historian” who in his own personal history set in motion a “domino effect” in gay liberation history:

Tony Tavarossi founded San Francisco’s first bike bar or leather bar, the Why Not? (1960), where he was himself arrested for propositioning an undercover cop, thus closing the Why Not? in a raid that was a rehearsal for the police raid on the Tay-Bush lnn (1961) which emboldened Chuck Arnett to hire Tony in opening the legendary Tool Box bar (1961) which, as a symbol of masculine mutiny, fortified the gay resolve to found the Tavern Guild (1962) to protect gay citizens from harassment by the San Francisco Police Department.

Tony Tavarossi said later that the gay bar scene in 1966 was a riot led by a mixed crowd of Levis-wearing leathermen, straight-trade hustlers (many of them ex-Gls from World War II and Korea), and tough drag queens.

He died of AIDS ]u1y 12, 1981, two days after the epic fire that destroyed the Barracks baths on Folsom Street, putting an end to the turbulent 1970s.

 

1936 – Since its publication in 1980, John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces has been celebrated as the quintessential novel of post-World War II New Orleans. It offers a vibrant and telling a portrait of the Crescent City. New Orleans—with its mix of French, Spanish, and Afro-Creole cultures, and its history as a pleasure seeker's delight— is a rewarding subject for a novelist like Toole, who is interested both in exposing social hypocrisy and in celebrating the ability of the socially marginalized not simply to survive, but to live with gusto in the face of the majority's disapproval.

Toole, however, seems never to have fully accepted his homosexuality, and his writing reflects his discomfort with this marker of his own difference. The paradox of Toole's life and career is that the man who created such comically vibrant and emotionally resilient characters as Aunt Mae, Ignatius J. Reilly, Santa Battaglia, and Burma Jones should have committed suicide at only age 32.

Toole was born on December 17, 1936, the only son of a couple in their late 30s who had resigned themselves to remaining childless. His father was an ineffective but entertaining man who worked as an automobile salesman and mechanic before deafness and failing health forced him into early retirement. His mother, a charmingly flamboyant but deeply narcissistic woman, supplemented the family income by giving music and elocution lessons.

Doting on her son Ken (as John Kennedy was known within the family), Thelma Toole made him the star of the student recitals that she mounted annually. His precocity is evident in the novel, The Neon Bible, which Toole wrote at age 16, but which was only published twenty years after his death.

Toole served two years at the U. S. Army Training Center at Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico, where he oversaw a group of young officers teaching English to Spanish-speaking enlistees. His relatively light duties, however, allowed him the time to complete a draft of the novel that would become A Confederacy of Dunces.

He also engaged in one of the favorite activities of military personnel on the island: alcohol consumption. Both the soldiers and the instructors at the base drank excessively, as alcohol was cheap and plentiful. The barracks consisted solely of college educated English professors, which gave it a different makeup from usual army companies. In contrast to almost all other army barracks where gays kept their sexual orientation a secret, there was an openly gay contingent which flaunted their homosexuality. The gay men reserved a portion of the barracks for themselves and as they did not proposition any of the straight instructors, they were left alone. However, this particular group of gay men drank significantly more than the rest of the group and eventually began to exhibit a loud, rowdy, and vulgar brand of behavior, which repulsed Toole and made the straight men uncomfortable. Toole's response was to ignore their behavior and it lost him the respect of some of the men in the barracks.

The problem came to a head when a gay instructor attempted suicide by overdosing on APC (aspirin, phenacetin, and caffeine) tablets after being spurned by another soldier. When Toole found the man he waited a half hour to call for help, hoping he would awaken on his own, because it would look bad for the soldier and that he would most likely get himself court martialed for a suicide attempt. Some of his fellow soldiers were livid and held a meeting deciding whether to report Toole's negligence. Ultimately, they did not report his behavior and the army never filed any charges but his relationships with many of the men were irrevocably changed. This made Toole feel like an outsider to gays and straights alike.

Concluding his tour of duty in 1963, Toole returned to New Orleans to teach at Dominican College, a Roman Catholic women's school. After several years his inability to find a publisher for his novel, coupled with the increased frustration of living with and supporting his dependent parents, brought about a breakdown of some kind. Drinking heavily, Toole grew increasingly eccentric in his behavior and dress, and his students began to complain of his rants and increasingly to avoid his once-popular classes.

Toole disappeared on January 20, 1969, following a quarrel with his mother. Receipts found afterwards in his car indicate that he drove to the West coast, then across the country to the home of writer Flannery O'Connor in Midgeville, Georgia, and was on his way back to New Orleans when, on March 26, he stopped on an isolated road outside Biloxi, Mississippi, and connected a hose to his car's exhaust pipe. His death was ruled a suicide by asphyxiation.

Thelma Toole never divulged the contents of her son's suicide note, which she destroyed after reading. Following her husband's death in 1974, however, Mrs. Toole dedicated her energies to finding a publisher for A Confederacy of Dunces, eventually securing an effective champion in novelist Walker Percy. The novel's extraordinary commercial success, upon its publication by Louisiana State University Press in 1980, and its winning the Pulitzer Prize, seemed to surprise everyone but her.

 

1939James Booker was a New Orleans rhythm and blues keyboardist born in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. Booker's unique style combined rhythm and blues with jazz standards. Musician Dr. John described Booker as "the best black, gay, one-eyed junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced." Flamboyant in personality, he was known as "the Black Liberace."

Booker was the son and grandson of Baptist ministers, both of whom played the piano. He spent most of his childhood on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where his father was a church pastor. Booker received a saxophone as a gift from his mother, but he was more interested in the keyboard. He played the organ in his father's churches.

After returning to New Orleans in his early adolescence, Booker attended the Xavier Academy Preparatory School. He learned some elements of his keyboard style from Tuts Washington and Edward Frank. Booker was highly skilled in classical music and played music by Bach and Chopin, among other composers. He also mastered and memorized solos by Erroll Garner and Liberace. His performances combined elements of stride, blues, gospel and Latin piano styles.

Booker made his recording debut in 1954 on the Imperial Records label, with "Doin' the Hambone" and "Thinkin' 'Bout My Baby", produced by Dave Bartholomew. This led to some session work with Fats Domino, Smiley Lewis, and Lloyd Price.

In 1958, Arthur Rubinstein performed a concert in New Orleans. Afterwards, eighteen-year-old Booker was introduced to the concert pianist and played several tunes for him. Rubinstein was astonished, saying "I could never play that ... never at that tempo" During this period, Booker also became known for his flamboyant personality among his peers.

After recording a few other singles, he enrolled as an undergraduate in Southern University's music department. In 1960, Booker's "Gonzo" reached number 43 on the United States (U.S.) record chart of Billboard magazine and number 3 on the R&B record chart. Following "Gonzo", Booker released some moderately successful singles. In the 1960s, he started using illicit drugs, and in 1970 served a brief sentence in Angola Prison for drug possession. At the time, Professor Longhair and Ray Charles were among his important musical influences.

As Booker became more familiar to law enforcement in New Orleans due to his illicit drug use, he formed a relationship with District Attorney Harry Connick Sr., who was occasionally Booker's legal counsel. Connick would discuss law with Booker during his visits to the Connick home and made an arrangement with the musician whereby a prison sentence would be nullified in exchange for piano lessons for Connick Sr.'s son Harry Connick Jr.

Booker recorded a number of albums while touring Europe in 1977, including New Orleans Piano Wizard: Live!, which was recorded at his performance at the "Boogie Woogie and Ragtime Piano Contest" in Zurich, Switzerland – the album won the Grand Prix du Disque. He also played at the Nice and Montreux Jazz Festivals in 1978 and recorded a session for the BBC during this time. Fourteen years later, a recording entitled Let's Make A Better World! –made in Leipzig during this period– became the last record to be produced in the former East Germany.

In a 2013 interview, filmmaker Lily Keber, who directed a documentary on Booker, provided her perspective on Booker's warm reception in European nations such as Germany and France:

Well, the racism wasn't there, the homophobia wasn't there –as much. Even the drug use was a little more tolerated. But really I think that Booker felt he was being taken seriously in Europe, and it made him think of himself differently and improved the quality of his music. He needed the energy of the audience to feed off.

Booker died aged 43 on November 8, 1983, while seated in a wheelchair in the emergency room at New Orleans' Charity Hospital, waiting to receive medical attention. The cause of death, as cited in the Orleans Parish Coroner's Death Certificate, was renal failure related to chronic abuse of heroin and alcohol.

1941 – Congress enacts a vagrancy law for the District of Columbia, labeling as vagrant "anyone convicted of a felony loitering in a public place" and anyone guilty of "acts of perversion for hire."

 


Cashman with Paul Cottingham

1950Michael Cashman, born in London, is a British former actor, and a Labour politician. He has been a Member of the European Parliament for the West Midlands constituency since 1999.

As a child actor he was cast in the role of Oliver Twist in the original run of Lionel Bart's musical Oliver!, but he is possibly best known for his role as Colin Russell in BBC TV's EastEnders - a character remembered for being a participant in the first gay kiss in a British soap opera. He also appeared in the ITV drama serial The Sandbaggers and the Doctor Who story "Time-Flight".

Cashman was a founder of Stonewall, an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society and a Patron of The Food Chain, a London-based HIV charity.

He is a trenchant critic of discrimination against minorities within the European Union. He is leading a cross-party coalition to tackle the rise in homophobia throughout Europe. He has in the past supported the gay pride march in Warsaw, which he attended. He is also the President of the European Parliament's Intergroup on gay and lesbian issues.

In 2007 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Staffordshire for his human rights work.

In line with current guidelines the European Parliament paid his domestic partner, Paul Cottingham, £30,000 per annum for his work as Cashman's "Accounts Manager, Personnel Manager and Payroll Administrator". Cashman registered a civil partnership with Paul Cottingham, his partner for 31 years, on 11 March 2006.

In March 2011 Cottingham was diagnosed with a very rare cancer, angiosarcoma, and he died on 23 October 2014 in the Royal Marsden Hospital, London. He was cremated in a humanist service at the City of London Cemetery on 7 November 2014.

Cashman was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours for public and political service.

On 23 September 2014 he was created a Life Peer taking the title Baron Cashman, of Limehouse in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, which is also his birthplace.

 

1959Gregg Araki is an American independent filmmaker. He is involved in New Queer Cinema.

Araki made his directorial debut in 1987 with Three Bewildered People in the Night. With a budget of only $5,000 and using a stationary camera, he told the story of a romance between a video artist, her sweet-heart and her gay friend.

Two years later, Araki made a name for himself on the festival circuit with The Long Weekend (O' Despair). Produced, directed, written, photographed and edited by Araki (for his own Desperate Pictures Company), this very small-scale Big Chill derivation involved a group of recent college graduates brooding over their futures during one woozy, boozy evening.

He followed this up in 1992 with The Living End, a road movie about two HIV-positive men whose paths cross one fateful day and the tumultuous relationship which ensues. Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, the film was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize.

Araki's next three films comprised his "Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy."

Totally Fucked Up (1993) (Totally F***ed Up in publicity) chronicled the dysfunctional lives of six gay adolescent people who have formed a family unit and struggle to get along with each other and with life in the face of various major obstacles.

The Doom Generation (1995) was a black comedy brimming with graphic violence, cultural symbolism and relentless eroticism. While largely trashed by critics, the piece won a measure of respect in a number of circles and is available on DVD and VHS in both rated and unrated versions due to several sex scenes as well as the violent climax.

Araki's next venture was the ill-fated MTV series This Is How the World Ends (2000), which was meant to have a budget of $1.5 million. The network only gave him $700,000 and hoped to find partners to finance the difference. Araki offered to make the pilot episode for $700,000, and MTV took him up on it, but after the pilot was shot it was not picked up for broadcast.

Nowhere (1997) was described by its director as "A Beverly Hills, 90210 episode on acid". It centered around a group of bored, alienated adolescent people in Los Angeles during a typical day of kinky sex, drugs, and the requisite wild party.

Following a short hiatus, Araki returned with the critically acclaimed Mysterious Skin (2004) based on a novel by Scott Heim, which tells the story of a teenage hustler and a withdrawn young man obsessed with alien abductions, and how they both deal with the sexual abuse they suffered from their Little League coach when they were children.

Araki self-identified as gay until 1997, when he entered a relationship with actress Kathleen Robertson, whom he directed in Nowhere. The relationship ended in 1999. Araki has since mainly dated men. He now identifies as bisexual.

1963The New York Times ran a front page story titled "Growth of Overt Homosexuality in City Provokes Wide Concern." It told of a series of police raids on gay bars and arrests.

1969 – Falsetto singer Tiny Tim, perceived by many to be gay because of his voice and mannerisms, marries his girlfriend, Miss Vicki, on national television. He is best remembered for his hit "Tiptoe Through the Tulips."

1970Gloria Steinem and eight other feminist leaders announced at a press conference in New York City that they support gay rights.

1971 – The Florida Supreme Court strikes down the state's "crime against nature" law as unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. It says that, with a constantly changing world, what is a crime against nature today is different from what it was a hundred years ago.

1979 – United States District Court for the Central District of California Judge Irving Hill rules that the marriage of Australian Anthony Sullivan and US citizen Richard Adams, under a license issued by Boulder County, Colorado in 1975, is not valid for purposes of Sullivan’s immigration.

1987Morton Downey Jr. was arraigned on charges of attacking a gay guest on his television show.

1990The OutRage Christmas Celebration for London's Extended Queer Family was held in Covent Garden.

1990 – Three same-sex couples in Hawaii applied for marriage licenses. The licenses were not issued.

1990 – Connecticut State Rep. Joseph Grabarz comes out.
He becomes Connecticut’s first and only openly gay state legislator. At the time he was the lover of actor, playwright, and voice actor Harvey Fierstein.

1997 – British Secretary of State Chris Smith wrote a letter of apology to the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association for having wreaths removed immediately following a ceremony of remembrance.

1997 – Under an agreement with New Jersey state child welfare officials, same-sex couples in the state were granted the right to jointly adopt children.

2007 The Parliament of Hungary gives the same rights to registered partners as to spouses with some exceptions: adoption, IVF access, surrogacy, and taking a surname.

DECEMBER 18 →

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