Today In Gay History – September 21: Edward II, Daughters of Bilitis, Bill Clinton Betrays Us and Will & Grace
1327 – Edward II is murdered in his prison cell supposedly after having a red hot iron thrust up his rectum (in reaction to his homosexuality of course).
1955: Daughters of Bilitis, the first lesbian organization, is formed by four lesbian couples, including Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin.
The Daughters of Bilitis was originally formed as a social alternative to lesbian bars, which were subject to raids and police harassment. As the DOB gained members, their focus shifted to providing support to women who were afraid to come out. The DOB educated them about their rights, and about gay history. Historian Lillian Faderman declared, “Its very establishment in the midst of witch-hunts and police harassment was an act of courage, since members always had to fear that they were under attack, not because of what they did, but merely because of who they were.” The Daughters of Bilitis endured for 14 years, becoming an educational resource for lesbians, gay men, researchers and mental health professionals.
1971: Thomas Craig “T. C.” Jones the great American female impersonator passes away. T. C.”was known for his impersonations of stars such as Tallulah Bankhead, Judy Garland, Katharine Hepburn and others. He has been described as “probably the best female impersonator since vaudeville’s late famed Julian Eltinge”. Although Jones was straight he had a huge gay following. T. C. Jones also appearred in New Faces of 1956, directed by Paul Lynde.
Jones made a number of television appearances, including portraying a homicidal transvestite with a penchant for strangling nurses in “An Unlocked Window”, an Edgar Award-winning episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1965 and another killer transvestite in “Night of the Running Death”, a 1967 episode of The Wild Wild West. Jones appeared in a male role opposite Jayne Mansfield and Mamie Van Doren in the film Three Nuts in Search of a Bolt (1964) and played dual male/female roles as Mr. and Mrs. Ace in The Monkees’ film Head (1968)
1993: Actress Amanda Bearse comes out while co-starring on the television series Married with Children. Bearse publicly announced her lesbianism in an interview in the September 21, 1993 issue of The Advocate, where she also encouraged other gay celebrities to use their fame and position to increase gay visibility.
In the interview, Bearse expressed relief at having been outed by the tabloids. “The outing really was quite a freeing experience. . . . That one thing, that one big secret is out. For a lot of people, it was just a confirmation of what they thought about me. I mean, I look like the girl next door, but I was always kind of off-center.”
1996: President Bill Clinton officially signs the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) into law.
1998: Will & Grace debuts on NBC’s Monday night schedule. Despite initial criticism for its particular portrayal and stereotyping of gay males, Will & Grace went on to become a staple of NBC’s Thursday night television line-up.
Will & Grace was cancelled on May 18, 2006 after a total of eight seasons. During its original run, it became the most successful television series with gay principal characters. It was also the only one.
And the girls will be back this fall. A little bit older but probably no wiser.