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Gay History – January 18: The Gay King of America, Betty Berzon, An American Family, Anita Bryant, and The L Word

To know our history is to be proud of our community - Will Kohler


Today in Gay History – January 18

1726, Germany – The man who might have been the first gay king of America was born in Berlin. Prince Heinrich of Prussia (pictured right above) was the brother of Frederick the Great who tried have him made King of America. The fledgling US even considered it during the period ruing the Article of Confederation, but, by the time the fickle prince agreed, the equally fickle American public had opted for the Constitution and a republic. 

1928 – Betty Berzon (January 18, 1928 – January 24, 2006) is born. She was an American author and psychotherapist known for her work with the gay and lesbian communities. She was among the first psychotherapists to assist gay clients. After coming out as lesbian in 1968, she began providing therapy to gays and lesbians. In 1971, during a UCLA conference called “The Homosexual in America,” Berzon became the first psychotherapist in the country to come out as gay to the public. Also in 1971, she organized the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center as well as an organization of gays and lesbians within the American Psychiatric Association (the Gay Psychological Association, now known as the Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues); the APA declassified homosexuality as a mental illness two years later. She is survived by Teresa DeCrescenzo, the president of Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services, whom Berzon met in 1973 and married during a mass wedding ceremony at the 1993 March on Washington. In 2007, Ventura Place in Studio City was renamed Dr. Betty Berzon Place in her honor, making it the first street ever officially dedicated to a known lesbian in California. Also in 2007, the LGBT magazine The Advocate named Berzon one of 40 “heroes.” The Betty Berzon Papers (1928-2006) are at the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives.

1936 – Rev. James Lewis Stoll (January 18, 1936 – December 8, 1994) is born. In 1969, he becomes the first ordained minister of an established denomination to come out as gay. He led the effort that convinced the Unitarian Universalist Association to pass their first gay rights resolution.

1958 – Marci Lee Bowers (born January 18, 1958) is a US gynecologist and surgeon who specializes in gender confirmation surgeries. Dr. Bowers’ practice is at the San Mateo Surgery Center in Burlingame, California. From 2003 to 2010, she practiced in the town of Trinidad, Colorado, where she had studied under Stanley Biber before his retirement. Bowers married eleven years prior to her surgery, and remains married to her female spouse.

1973 – Viewers of An American Family 12-part television documentary shown on PBS about the lives of an “average” American family, the Louds, discover that son Lance (June 26, 1951 – December 22, 2001) is living as an openly gay man in New York City. Lance was an American television personality, magazine columnist and new wave rock-n-roll performer. He died of liver failure as a result of hepatitis C and a co-infection with HIV. He was 50 years old.

1975, Canada – The founding conference of the Coalition for Gay Rights in Ontario (CGRO) opens at Don Vale Community Center in Toronto. 

1977 – In Miami, Florida: Anita Bryant, a former beauty queen, launches a nationwide crusade against gay and lesbian rights in response to Dade County’s new municipal rights ordinance forbidding housing and employment discrimination against lesbians and gay men. Accusing lesbians and gay men of corrupting the nation’s youth, Bryant dubs her crusade the “Save Our Children” campaign. Miami-Dade County commissioners passed the ordinance with a vote of 5-3. Anita Bryant vows to defeat the ordinance at the ballot box. On June 7, 1977, Bryant’s promise is fulfilled. Nearly 70 percent of voters opt to repeal the ordinance.

1996 – The wedding of Ross’s ex-wife Carol and her girlfriend Susan airs on Friends. Candace Gingrich (born June 2, 1966) guest stars as the minister. Candace is an American LGBT rights activist at the Human Rights Campaign. She is the half-sister of former Speaker of the HouseNewt Gingrich, who is more than 20 years their senior.

1999, Zimbabwe – the first president of Zimbabwe, Canaan Sodindo Banana (5 March 1936 – 10 November 2003), already retired from the post, is convicted on 11 counts of sodomy. At the time, president Mugabe is scapegoating homosexuals as the reason for Zimbabwe’s ills. Banana serves six months of a 10-year sentence and moves to the UK for political asylum.

2004 – The L Word premieres on Showtime. The L Word is an American/Canadian co-production television drama series portraying the lives of a group of lesbians and their friends, connections, family, and lovers in the trendy Greater Los AngelesCalifornia city of West Hollywood. The series originally ran on Showtime from January 18, 2004 to March 8, 2009, and subsequently in syndication on Logo and through on-demand services. On July 11, 2017, it was announced a sequel season was in the works with Showtime. The show was created by executive producer Ilene Chaiken (born June 30, 1957). Chaiken has been married to LouAnne Brickhouse, a former executive at Disney, since 2013.


Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, journalist and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story,

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