Category Archives: Gay History

Canada’s Stonewall – February 5, 1981: Toronto’s Brutal “Operation Soap” Bathhouse Raids, Over 300 Gay Men Arrested

On February 5th, 1981 more than 200 plainclothes police officers raided four Toronto bathhouses leading to the largest mass arrest since the October Crisis ten years earlier. In total, 289 gay men were charged with being “found-ins of a bawdyhouse” and two were charged with “buggery”.

Men speaking out in the aftermath of the raids described severe misconduct on the part of the police. Some reported being photographed naked, others said police took down their employers’ names and phone numbers and several men stated that police had referred to them as “queers, faggots and fairies”. Moreover, one man reported that several officers used sledgehammers and crowbars with abandon, smashing windows and breaking down doors. This last fact is corroborated by the $38,000 in damages reported by the four bathhouses after the raid (nearly $175,000 in 2020 dollars). In contrast, the police report stated that the officers behaved in a “professional manner.”

A documentary on the bathhouse raids and the ensuing protests quotes Duncan McLaren, one of the men who was charged as a found-in at the Barracks bathhouse.

McLaren describes his victimization by the police:

“We ended up in the shower room and we were all told to strip… But I think one of the most chilling things was… one of the cops said, looking at all the showers and the pipes going into the shower room; he said ‘Gee, it’s too bad we can’t hook this up to gas’.

Continue reading Canada’s Stonewall – February 5, 1981: Toronto’s Brutal “Operation Soap” Bathhouse Raids, Over 300 Gay Men Arrested

Black History Month - Remembering Marsha P. Johnson: The Original Drag Queen Transgender Activist (1945 - 1992)

Black History Month – Remembering Marsha P. Johnson: The Original Drag Queen Transgender Activist (1945 – 1992)

Marsha P. Johnson was an African-American self-identified gay male drag queen and trans activist  in New York City’s gay scene from the 1960s to the 1990s.

One of the city’s oldest and best known “drag queens”, (which is what Marsha proudly referred to herself as) Marsha sometimes worked as a waitress, but usually she worked the streets. He was known for helping other drag and transvestites and street kids and was regarded as one of NYC’s original drag mothers.

Marsha participated in clashes with the police amid the Stonewall Riots along with her friend Sylvia Rivera (After wrongly being credited it for stating it.)) and both became co-founders, of the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.) in the early 1970s.   Marsha and Sylvia became the mothers of  S.T.A.R House and together gathered food and clothing to help support the young queens. Sometimes legally.  Most times not.

STAR opened their first STAR House in a parked trailer truck in a Greenwich Village parking lot later that year. It functioned as a shelter and social space for drag/trans sex workers and other LGBT street youth. However, the pair arrived one day to find the trailer was being towed, with as many as 20 youth still sleeping inside. This experience made them decide to find a more permanent home for STAR House. “Marsha and I decided to get a building,” Rivera told Leslie Feinberg in 1998. “We were trying to get away from the Mafia’s control at the bars. We got a building at 213 Second Avenue.”

Marsha was one of a kind.  Once, appearing in a court the judge asked Marsha, “What does the ‘P’ stand for?”,  Johnson gave his customary response “Pay it No Mind.” and the  judge laughed and let him go.  This phrase became her trademark. In 1974 Marsha P. Johnson was photographed by famed artist Andy Warhol, as part of a “ladies and gentlemen” series of polaroid’s featuring drag queens.

Masha P. Johnson was as tough, crazy and as gritty as New York City itself.  But as kind and as loving as any mother could be to her “children”

In July of 1992 that came to an abrupt end when Marsha’s body was found floating in the Hudson River off the West Village Piers shortly after the 1992 Pride March. Police ruled the death a suicide. Johnson friends and supporters said she was not suicidal, and a people’s postering campaign later declared that Johnson had earlier been harassed near the spot where her body was found.  Attempts to get the police to investigate the cause of death were unsuccessful but many today believe that Marsha was murdered.

Marsha P. Johnson was an original, an activist, and a martyr.

May he be at peace and never be forgotten.

Listen to Marsha P. Johnson Talk About the Stonewall Riots In Her Own Words – “We didn’t start the rebellion.” [RARE AUDIO]

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Change text alignment Displays more block tools Gay History - February 4: Maria Schneider Swings, Closeted GOP Congressman BUSTED, and Liberace Tinkles The Keys One Last Time

Gay History – February 4: Maria Schneider Swings, Closeted GOP Congressman BUSTED, & Liberace Tinkles The Keys One Last Time

1973: Twenty year old French actress and star of the The Last Tango in ParisMaria Schneider, admits to the New York Times that she is bisexual, stating “I’ve had quite a few lovers for my age. More men than women . . . women I love more for beauty than for sex.  Men I love for grace and intelligence.”

In early 1976, Schneider abandoned the film set of Caligula and checked herself into a mental hospital in Rome for several days to be with her lover, photographer Joan Townsend.] This, coupled with her refusal to perform nude, led to Schneider’s dismissal and she was replaced by Teresa Ann Savoy.

Maria Schneider died from cancer on February 3, 2011 at age 58.

1981: Jon Hinson (R-Mississippi) an extremely conservative congressman is arrested for performing an act of “oral sodomy” with a twenty-eight-year-old man in the rest room of a House of Representatives office building.  He was taken into custody along with a male employee of the Library of Congress.

He pleads no contest and is given a thirty-day suspended sentence.  He resigns two months later.

It also becomes known that Hinson also survived a 1977 fire that killed nine people at the Cinema Follies, a Washington theater that catered to a gay clientele. while he was an aide for then Republican Thad Cochran. He was rescued from under a pile of bodies — one of only four men who survived.

After his resignation he publicly acknowledged his homosexuality and became active in gay political issues. Hinson fought against the ban on homosexuals in the military and was a founder of the Fairfax Lesbian and Gay Citizens Association in Fairfax County, VA before his death from respiratory failure resulting from AIDS in July 1995

1987: Liberace dies at the age of 62 in Palm Springs from AIDS.  Just two weeks earlier his publicists had denied a Las Vegas Sun story which claimed he had the disease. He is buried in Los Angeles’ Forest Lawn Cemetery.

What can I say about the old queen that has not already been said in Behind The Candelabra.

2004: The Massachusetts high court rules that only full, equal marriage rights for gay couples, not civil unions, would be constitutional. “The history of our nation has demonstrated that separate is seldom, if ever, equal,” an advisory opinion from the four justices who ruled in favor of gay marriage stated. A bill creating only civil unions, not full marriage rights, would be “unconstitutional, inferior, and discriminatory status for same-sex couples.”

Gay History: The Incredible Life of Black and Gay Civil Rights Icon Bayard Rustin (March 17, 1912 – August 24, 1987)

BLACK HISTORY MONTH: The Incredible Life of Black Gay Civil Rights Icon Bayard Rustin

Bayard Taylor Rustin was born in West Chester, Pa., March 17, 1912. He had no relationship with his father, and his 16-year-old mother, Florence, was so young he thought she was his sister. From his grandparents, Janifer and Julia Rustin, he took his Quaker “values,” which, in his words, “were based on the concept of a single human family and the belief that all members of that family are equal,”

As a teenager, Rustin wrote poems, played left tackle on the high school football team and, according to lore, staged an impromptu sit-in at a restaurant that would serve his white teammates but not him. When Rustin told his grandmother he preferred the company of young men to girls, she simply said, “I suppose that’s what you need to do.”

In 1937, Rustin moved to New York City after bouncing between Wilberforce University and Cheney State Teachers College. Enrolling at City College, he devoted himself to singing, performing with the Josh White Quartet and in the musical John Henry with Paul Robeson. He also joined the Young Communist League. Though he soon quit the party after it ordered him to cease protesting racial segregation in the U.S. armed forces. By this time he was already on the radar of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI.

Disappointed when the 1941 March on Washington was called off, Rustin joined the pacifist Rev. A.J. Muste’s Fellowship of Reconciliation, and when FOR members in Chicago launched the Congress of Racial Equality in 1942, Rustin traveled around the country speaking out. Two years later, he was arrested for failing to appear before his draft board and refusing alternative service as a conscientious objector. Sentenced to three years in prison, he ended up serving 26 months, angering authorities with his desegregation protests and open homosexuality to the point they transferred him to a higher-security prison.

Continue reading BLACK HISTORY MONTH: The Incredible Life of Black Gay Civil Rights Icon Bayard Rustin

Gay History - February 1: Tom of Finland, Robert Opel and Tennessee Williams Terrorized in Key West

Gay History – February 1: Tom of Finland, Robert Opel and Tennessee Williams Terrorized in Key West

February 1st.

1978: Tom of Finland has his first U.S. exhibit at Robert Opel’s Fey Way Gallery in San Francisco.

Robert Opel was not only famous for being the man who streaked the 1974 Academy Awards. He also opened the first erotic art gallery in San Francisco called Fey-Way Studios (1978- 1979)

While Tom of Finland’s work went on to become famous worldwide. Tragically things did not turn out the same way for Robert Opel.

On the night of July 7, 1979, a crazed gunman by the name of Maurice Keenan killed Robert Opel in his own gallery shortly after putting on a stage performance entitled The Mock-Execution of Dan White (Harvey Milk’s murderer).

Keenan made off with $5 dollars and a camera.

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1979: A gang of teenage boys stands outside Tennessee Williams’s home in Key West, Florida, and begins throwing beer cans and firecrackers at the house while chanting “Come on out, faggot!” The incident is just the latest in a string of bizarre homophobic attacks aimed at the openly gay playwright.

Via The Washington Post:

Tennessee Williams’ life now on Key West in a way resembles the plot of one of his plays: an injured innocent in a honky-tonk town pitted against uprovoked malice, deliberate cruelty. Since January, his gardener has been murdered, his house ransacked twice. He has been mugged twice on the street, once reported, once not. His dog has disappeared. One winter evening some kids stood outside his house and threw beer cans on the porch, yelling at America’s greatest playwright, “Come on out, faggot.” The only person home at the time was a house-guest, writer Dotson Rader, and when the kids set off some fire-crackers, Rader remembers thinging: “This is it. They’ve resorted to guns.”

Yet Williams has reacted with the resiliency of one of his heroines, dismissing it all as “ridiculous.” He uses the same cliche to explain it away as does the Key West Police Department: “There is voilence everywhere.” What has happened is enough to “shatter faith in essential human goodness,” as Williams himself once put it, but he has insisted on a brave front, as if through “enduring the devil, he will earn, if nothing else, its respect.”

Black History Month -READ: Black Panthers Leader Huey Newton’s Pro-Gay Rights Letter

A little over a year after the Stonewall riots of 1969, Black Panther Party leader Huey Newtospoke these words on August 15th, 1970, in an attempt to guide his more homophobic and patriarchal brothers into remembering that oppression, any kind of oppression is wrong, even if its directed towards gays and women.

Continue reading Black History Month -READ: Black Panthers Leader Huey Newton’s Pro-Gay Rights Letter

Gay History - January 31, 1989: AIDS Protestors Shut Down The Golden Gate Bridge

Gay History – January 31, 1989: AIDS Protestors Shut Down The Golden Gate Bridge

On January 31, 1989 a group of about 80 to 100 courageous demonstrators shut down the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco at the height of rush hour to demand faster government action in stopping the spread of AIDS.

The CDC’s reported a cumulative total of 117,781 cases since AIDS reporting began in 1981. 

Below is the original AP wire service article about the protest:

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*January 31, 1989: From Los Angeles Times wire services

SAN FRANCISCO — A group of about 80 demonstrators shut down the Golden Gate Bridge at the height of rush hour this morning to demand faster government action in stopping the spread of AIDS.

The bridge remained closed for about half an hour until police arrived and made 20 to 30 arrests, authorities reported. The group, which called itself “Stop AIDS Now Or Else,” spread a banner across the width of the heavily traveled span and handed out leaflets to blocked motorists. Bridge Officer Lou Garcia said the demonstrators started blocking lanes about 7:30 a.m. and quickly succeeded in stopping traffic in both directions. The closure snarled traffic heading into San Francisco from Marin County on U.S. 101. Frustrated motorists shut off their engines and got out of their cars in an effort to see what was going on.

A spokeswoman for the group said they chose the bridge for the protest because it would be ″the most disruptive to people.″

″AIDS is disrupting our lives and until people’s lives are disrupted, they don’t pay attention,″ said Darla Rucker, spokeswoman for the group of AIDS victims and friends of AIDS patients.

″We don’t have the time to wait. My friends are dying all around me.″

The demonstrators closed all the traffic lanes by spreading a banner that read: ″AIDS Genocide; Silence Death; Fight Back,″ according to Highway Patrol officers, who called for police vans to cart off those arrested.

Some motorists stuck along U.S. 101 north and south of the bridge expressed anger at the demonstration and traffic tie-up.

Ruth Wheeler, of Larkspur, said she veered off the highway in Marin County, parked at a Safeway store and queued up with some 20 people to use five public telephones.

″People at Safeway were very upset. They said it was going to defeat their (the protesters’) cause,″ said Wheeler, who finally arrived at her destination about 9:30 a.m. ″The people said, ’Hey, if they think I’m going to be for them, doing something like this, forget it.‴

You can read the entire article about the event by clicking HERE

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Gay Disco History – January 29, 1977: Thelma Houston’s “Don’t Leave Me This Way” Hits #1

On January 29, 1977, the disco-infused “Don’t Leave Me This Way” by upcoming Motown artist Thelma Houston began its 17-week Top 40 run on the Billboard charts.

The song throughout the 1980s and 1990s, became an unofficial theme song for the AIDS epidemic in gay male communities. American artist Nayland Blake created a work for the American Foundation of Aids Research about the epidemic that referenced the song and its significance in the community. An art exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia entitled “Don’t Leave Me This Way – Art in the age of AIDS” opened in 1994 containing various works about the epidemic. A 246-page publication of the exhibition also followed.

Watch: The Classic PBS ¿Qué Pasa, U.S.A.? - "Is Joe Gay?" Episode - [VIDEOWATCH: The Classic PBS ¿Qué Pasa, U.S.A.? "Is Joe Gay?" Episode - [VIDE

WATCH: The Classic PBS ¿Qué Pasa, U.S.A.? “Is Joe Gay?” Episode – [VIDEO]

¿Qué Pasa, U.S.A.? is America’s first bilingual situation comedy, which ran from 1977-1980 and the first sitcom to be produced for PBS.. The program explored the trials and tribulations faced by the Peñas, a Cuban-American family living in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood, as they struggled to cope with a new country. Along the way the sitcom tackled pressing social issues such as homophobia, addiction, women’s liberation, and sexual freedom.

The “Is Joe Gay?” episode was filmed in 1980 and is as relevant today as it was then.

German Parliament Officially Recognizes Gay Victims of the Nazis for the First Time

German Parliament Officially Recognizes Gay Victims of the Nazis for the First Time

The German parliament for the first time on Friday focused its annual Holocaust memorial commemorations on people persecuted and killed over their sexual or gender identity during World War II.

“”Now you’re a gay pig and you’ve lost your balls.” That was how Otto Giering was taunted by a guard in August 1939 after his forced castration in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Even before his deportation to the concentration camp, the 22-year-old had been convicted twice for homosexual contact and sent to a labor camp

Campaigners in Germany have worked for decades to establish an official ceremony for gay victims of the Nazi regime (LGBTQ is not appropraite phrasing)

“Today’s hour of remembrances focuses on a group of victims which had to fight for a long time to achieve recognition: people who were persecuted by the National Socialists because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity,” Baerbel Bas, president of the Bundestag lower house, said while opening a ceremony marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation. More than half of these men were convicted, usually to serve long prison sentences or forced labor. In some cases, men were forced to undergo sterilization. Many were driven to suicide, Those who did not conform to National Socialist norms, lived in fear and mistrust. The hardest hit were the many thousands of men and women who were deported to concentration camps because of their sexuality – usually under a pretext. Many were abused for medical experiments, most perished after only a short time or they were murdered,” she added.

It has taken over 65 years for the gay and lesbians brutalized and murdered by the Nazis to be officialy recognized.

The commemoration was attended by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Chancellor Olaf Scholz and two visiting members from Ukraine’s Jewish community.