Queer History: May


This feature has now come full circle, having begun last year in May, going through some changes (and some grave omissions on my part), and there’s something poetic in that.

I say that for a couple of reasons. Today is Memorial Day here in the U.S. where I write from, a day associated with veterans and those who never came home from war. In any given year, much as I don’t like to think about it, many of us also have the responsibility of suddenly carrying forward with us the memories of people now lost to us, veterans of many kinds, of literal war and of the more mundane evils of daily privation, isolation, hatred.

So for us to come around to another little anniversary like this, not quite as big as the site’s launch of course, but a nice reminder all the same, well… whatever else may be true about our work, it’s nice to put another candle on the cake.

You can use our “history” tag to take a look at the entries from last year, and all entries up to this one. Last time we hopped around a few centuries, but this time we’re playing it a bit close. Let’s think about our veterans, and a broader idea of what constitutes valor in combat.

It was in May of 1993 that the struggle was won for eliminating the sodomy laws of Washington D.C. A full 10 years before the landmark Supreme Court case, Lawrence Vs. Texas in 2003, local activists took their fight to the streets and the courthouses to do their part in chipping away at the edifice of state sponsored queer oppression. Not the first victory and certainly not the last, but a vital one, and so close to the seat of power.

In May of 2009, after long struggle just to survive, Octavia St. Laurent passed on. In her time, her brilliance set more than just Paris on fire, and she spoke frankly about a life most never even try to imagine or empathize with.

80 years ago this month, Father Mychal Judge was born, going on to lead a life of not only great social sacrifice, but tremendous personal sacrifice as a gay man, a priest, and all his years of service to the poor, working to change the church’s doctrine and treatment of queer people, while closeted, would end as he rushed to be among the first to respond to the World Trade Center attacks on September 11th, 2001.

Though it’s unlikely the struggle ever really ends, from these struggles come our veterans, whose wisdom and strength we must draw on as we make new history this and every year.

Featured image is of Octavia St. Laurent, from “Paris is Burning”, used from Wikipedia

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