February marks LGBT+ History Month and tonight we will be celebrating at Studio and Fusion with Climax! ‘Icons’! LGBT+ histories are colourful and wonderfully diverse, although they are often marked by the struggle for equality and emancipation. While names such as Harvey Milk, Lili Elbe, and Vita Sackville West might be more recognisable to us because of their recent media representations, we wanted to celebrate some of the LGBT+ pioneers in history that do not always receive the attention they deserve.
L: Anna Rüling
German born Anna Rüling (Theodora ‘Theo’ Sprüngli, 1880-1953) has been described as the world’s first lesbian activist. A homosexual feminist, Rüling spoke out on issues of lesbianism and the women’s movement and strove for an alliance between civil rights movements at the beginning of the twentieth century. Her most famous speech, ‘What Interest does the Women’s Movement have in Solving the Homosexual Problem?’ can be seen as the first battle cry in the struggle for lesbian emancipation.
G: Alexander Gumby
African American L.S. Alexander Gumby (1885-1961) was an amateur historian, archivist, and owner of a well-known salon that was frequented by many homosexuals during the Harlem Renaissance. Gumby was famous for his collection of rare manuscripts, books, newspaper clippings that extensively documented black histories. His was a well-known social butterfly and his love of art and music made him the social centrepiece of queer Harlem life.
B: Josephine Baker
Josephine Baker (1906-1975) was an American-born, dancer, singer, and actress who rose to fame in the 1920s in Gay Paree. Famous world-wide, Baker was known in Paris for her topless dances and her talents for acting and entertaining. A bisexual woman of colour, Baker was also a civil rights activist and spoke alongside Martin Luther King in 1963. She also adopted twelve children from all over the world and was known as “the Universal Mother” of her “Rainbow Tribe”.
T: Michael Dillon
Laurence Michael Dillon (1915-1962) is the first trans man known to have undergone phalloplasty. Dillon was a medical student at Oxford and underwent 13 operations under Harold Gillies between 1946-1949. At the beginning of this era, Dillon also published the book ‘Self: A Study in Endocrinology and Ethics’ in which he described in detail the experiences of trans men. He is most known for his relationship with Roberta Cowell, but in his later life, Dillon moved to India where he trained to become a Buddhist monk.
Images – Flickr; Wikicommons.