Gay History - February 10: Turn of the Century Drag Queen, Doonesbury, and “Big Bill” Tilden

Gay History – February 10: Turn of the Century Drag Queen, Doonesbury, and “Big Bill” Tilden

8893 – William “Big Bill” Tilden (February 10, 1893 – June 5, 1953)is born in Philadelphia. Almost as popular as Babe Ruth, Tilden was America’s tennis hero. He is often considered one of the greatest tennis players of all time. Tilden was the World No. 1 player for six years from 1920 through 1925. During his lifetime, however, he was a flamboyant character who was never out of the public eye, acting in both movies and plays as well as playing tennis. He also had two arrests for sexual misconduct with teenage boys in the late 1940s; these led to incarcerations in the Los Angeles area. After his convictions he was shunned in public. Tilden  never apologized for his lifestyle while he lived, preferring to accord himself the title of “artist.” 

He said, “I am not a criminal!  I am a tennis player.  I feel awkward saying this, but I consider myself an artist, an artist of the game…I have to create…”

 He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1959, six years after his death.

1911, Germany – The German League for the Protection of Mothers and Sexual Reform’ (‘Deutscher Bund für Mutterschutz und Sexualreform’)condemns anti-gay Paragraph 175 and voices its rejection of attempts to extend the law to cover women as well as men.

1916 – Mansel Vardaman Boyle (1877-1945), the “Gay Deceiver,” appears in a burlesque show. He was a famous and successful female impersonator of the day and was living with gay silent film star J. Warren Kerrigan (July 25, 1879 – June 9, 1947)in Los Angeles from at least 1936 to 1938, though Kerrigan’s long-time lover was actor James Carroll Vincent (November 9, 1897 – May 15, 1948).

By 1920 Mansel (pictured above) was 43 years old and no longer able to pull off his impersonations of a young beauty. The census record of that year shows him unemployed and living with his sister, Mary Manley, in Alameda – although he still gave “theater” as his general industry. According to his papers at the Princeton Archives, his last theatrical contract was written in 1925 and his career was over.

1946 – Ellen Marie Barrett (born February 10, 1946) is an American priest of the Episcopal Church. She was the first open lesbian to be ordained to the priesthood following the Episcopal Church’s General Convention approval of the ordination of women in 1977. Barrett’s candor about her homosexuality caused great controversy within the church. Even prior to her ordination, she was a prominent spokesperson for the rights of gaysand lesbians in the church, especially regarding their ordination.

1976 – Garry Trudeau’s “Doonesbury ”introduces a gay character, Andy Lippincott who had first appeared a month earlier.  Five newspapers refuse to carry the story arc of Andy’s coming out to Joanie Caucus. Lippincott appears on and off in the daily strip for years. In 1989, he returned to the strip when he is diagnosed with AIDS. Over the course of the next year, Lippincott’s battles with the disease, and eventual death from it, helped bring the AIDS crisis into popular culture.

1981 – The Moral Majority (which was neither) announces it will spend 3 million dollars in anti-gay advertising.

1982 – President Reagan nominates an evangelist and noted homophobe Sam Hart to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. Hart withdraws as protests mount, blaming the homosexuals for “sabotaging” his nomination. 

1983 – A spokesman for the San Francisco Giants tells a banquet audience that the Giants are planning to set up a special seating section for their gay fans. Instead of the grandstand, he ‘jokes’ by saying, “We’re going to call it the ‘fruit stand.”

1990 – Bill Sherwood (June 14, 1952 – February 10, 1990), director of Parting Glances,dies of AIDS at age thirty-seven. He was an American musician, screenwriter and film director. You can watch Parting Glances by clicking HERE

*Additional historical information gathered from: Ronnie Sanlo,, Lavender Effect,, Arron’s Gay Info, All Things Queer, RS Levinson, Amara Das Wilhelm,, Safe Schools Coalition, and/or Wikipedia.



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