The history of LGBT+ activism is a long and storied one, but many of those stories have been erased or forgotten. In honor of the month of Pride and all the courageous activists who came before us, here are some of them:
The Activism of Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld
Magnus Hirschfeld, who was himself gay, led a movement to decriminalize and understand homosexuality in pre WWII Germany that was highly successful given the time in which it took place. In 1897 he founded the Scientific Humanitarian Committee to study and demystify homosexuality, believing that through scientific examination hostility towards gay men and women could be reduced. In 1898 his committee presented 5000 signatures of prominent Germans to the Reichstag in favor of overturning discriminatory laws against homosexuality. The bill didn’t pass, but Hirschfeld was only beginning. In 1910 he coined the term ‘transvestite’, the very first term for what we now know as transgender people, and even - remarkably - suggested that gender might be a spectrum. In 1919 he opened his Institute for Sexual Research, a clinic created for studying and caring for sexual or gender minorities. The famous Lili Elbe (as in The Danish Girl) received treatment at his clinic.
The clinic was wildly ahead of its time. Hirschfeld not only pioneered gender confirmation surgery through the work of Dr. Ludwig Levy-Lenz but he convinced the police - the police! - to issue a special permit to trans women so that they could travel freely in their own clothing without being harassed or arrested.
As a gay Jewish man who fought for the rights of gay and trans people, it’s not a surprise that Hirschfeld was a favorite target of the Nazis. In 1933 his Institute was raided and his research burned, setting back queer liberation for god knows how long. He fled to France, where he lived out the rest of his life.
The Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis
The Mattachine society, founded in 1950, was the first ‘homophile’ (gay rights) organization in the United States. Founded by Harry Hay in Los Angeles, the society had itself likely been inspired by knowledge of Hirschfeld’s work and proposed to improve the condition of the lives of gay men in America. The group adopted the cell style organization favored by Communist groups and soon there were chapters all around the country. When member Dale Jennings got arrested for ‘lewd behavior’ he decided to fight the charges with the support of the Society, who generated publicity and sympathy around the case. The jury deadlocked, the charges were dropped and the Mattachine society declared victory.
The Daughters of Bilitis (1955) was originally concieved as an alternative to the lesbian bar scene but quickly politicized. They provided support and education for lesbians who wanted to learn more about their orientation, as well as launching a magazine that was the first nationally distributed lesbian publication called The Ladder in 1956. In 1960 they even held a national convention.
The Activism of Frank Kameny
In 1957 Frank Kameny was caught up in the “lavender scare”, a purge of homosexuals from US Government departments, and lost his job. But Kameny was a fighter, and he didn’t take it lying down. He devoted himself to activism.
Refusing to be bullied or made ashamed of his orientation, Kameny not only founded the Washington D.C. chapter of the Mattachine society but launched what was one of the earliest LGBT picket lines in history when he and ten other activists picketed the White House in 1965 carrying a sign that said “Gay is Good”, his favored slogan. In 1963 he launched the campaign to decriminalize homosexuality in D.C. and personally drafted the bill that finally passed in 1993.
The Compton’s Cafeteria Riot
The first transgender-led riot against the police took place not at Stonewall, but at Compton’s Cafeteria in the Tenderlion district of San Francisco.
Compton’s Cafeteria was a restaurant that had become a meeting place for transgender people, as they weren’t welcome in many gay bars at the time. In the early 1960′s, the staff at the Cafeteria began calling the police on their trans customers, leading to arrests and raids and harassment. Things came to a head when a police officer attempted to arrest one of the trans women who was patronizing the restaurant, and she threw her coffee in his face. Furniture was thrown, windows were smashed, and the fighting spilled out into the street. A police cruiser had all its windows smashed out and a newsstand was burned down.
The next night trans women and other LGBT supporters formed a picket line outside the Cafeteria to protest their treatment. During the demonstration the windows of the Cafeteria were once again shattered. Many of the activists were members of Vanguard, an early organization for LGBT youth.
There’s something there that wasn’t there before. (Pt. 1)
Warning: Dealing with loss, angst, heartache, fluff, smut (for later chapters ;)
Summary: You have been having terrible nightmares ever since Allison died. Your neighbor and best friend Stiles discovers this and offers to help you fall asleep. Soon you’re not able to sleep with out him, and theres something more, something new you’re feeling towards the dark haired spastic genius. If only you could figure out what it was.