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LGBT History Month: 10 LGBT Authors Who Were Total Game Changers



Well we’re halfway through LGBT History month folks and we’re really getting into it. During this month it’s important to look back and reflect on those whose writing and openness about their sexuality changed the game for the LGBT community and created representation in media when there was none. Here are ten LGBT writers who changed things up in the literary world.

Sappho (630 B.C—570 BC)

There’s an old saying that all literature starts with Ancient Greece, but it should be rephrased that all it starts with Sappho, poet, and influencer. Known by Plato as the “10th Muse”, Sappho composed what historians believe around 10,000 lines of poetry on the island of Lesbos. Her poetry is about women on women love and the beauty of femininity. While we don’t know much about Sappho’s life, and the bulk of her poetry has been lost to time, we do see a lot of her influence today. The term “lesbian” comes from her home of Lesbos and she became a “patron saint of lesbians” when 20th-century lesbian writers discovered her work. She made headlines in 2014 when some of her poems were discovered, creating more fans.

Oscar Wilde(1854-1900)

Playwright, novelist, and literary rebel Oscar Wilde revolutionized the literary world with his wit and his refusal to conform. As I mentioned in my last article, Wilde’s first and only novel, The Picture of Dorian Grey,” was so “racy” with gay and bisexual characters that Victorian readers were shocked.  His novel, as well as being as openly gay as you can be in Victorian England with his boyfriend Lord Alfred Douglas, led him to be sentenced to two years of hard labor in 1895. In the years after his early death, Wilde became a symbol of rebellion, individualism, and the poster child for “being yourself”. He has become a gay icon for writers and theatre kids. Wilde makes headlines today, with a recent secular temple opening up the basement of a New York Church devoted to Oscar Wilde, something that he would probably love.

Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)

Behind every great man, there is an even greater woman, and no one was greater than Gertrude Stein. Novelist, art collector and actual badass, she hosted a Paris salon where Ernest Hemingway, F.Scott Fitzgerald, and Pablo Picasso would meet her and ask for her advice. Yes, she edited Hemingway’s writing, because she’s the original baller. She wrote the popular The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas using the tone and voice of her life partner, Alice B. Toklas. A legend in her own right, the modernist literary movement that Ezra Pound, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald are known for would not exist without her.

Langston Hughes (1920-1967)

American poet, social activist, and novelist Langston Hughes was not “out” during his lifetime. Like many authors of his time, he stayed closeted because of the fear of being an outcast. This is deeply felt in Hughes’ case, as a black man in the time of segregation he was already trying to jump one hurdle, to jump another would be almost impossible at that time. While Hughes was never out, he made a huge contribution to the literary world. He was a leader of the Harlem Renaissance literature movement and one of the earliest creators of jazz poetry. His writing deals with themes of racism, survival, memory and American identity, many of which are still relevant today.

Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997)

Leading figure of the Beat Movement during the 1950’s and 60’s, the poet Allen Ginsberg is probably best well known for his epic poem “Howl” which deals with sexual repression, capitalism, and conformity. Similar to Wilde, Ginsberg’s “Howl” became the subject of an obscenity trial because it described gay sex when sodomy laws made homosexual acts a crime in every U.S State (yes, this really happened here). Fortunately, Ginsburg was found not guilty and “Howl” was found not obscene with the judge adding, “Would there be any freedom of press or speech if one must reduce his vocabulary to vapid innocuous euphemisms?” Ginsberg was very open about his sexuality, striking a note for gay marriage by listing his life partner Peter Orlovsky as his spouse in his author bio entry.This became a bit of a turning point for freedom of speech and gay rights in America and led to more authors being open about their sexuality.

Audre Lorde (1934-1992)

Writer, womanist, and civil rights activist Audre Lorde was a major game changer, trying to get her voice heard as a black gay woman, which was no easy feat. She coined the term “womanist” with fellow author Alice Walker, who was looking for a term for feminist equality but also fit with diversity and unique struggles that women of color face. Audre was very open about her sexuality and beautifully expressed her emotions in her poetry and essays (The Black Unicorn being a personal favorite of mine). The Audre Lorde Project is a Brooklyn based center for LGBT people of color for community organizing and is still helping people today.

James Baldwin (1924-1987)

American writer and social critic, James Baldwin may be best known for his collection of essays, Notes of a Native Son, which deals with racial, sexual, and class distinctions in Western cultures in the 20th century. His second novel Giovanni’s Room, written in 1956, well before the gay liberation movement, has bisexual and gay characters and deals with social alienation. Social Alienation was something that Baldwin deeply felt as a black man in America, and as a gay man in Europe. His writing kickstarted the conversation on sexuality to the reading public.

Jeanette Winterson (1959)

Okay, if you’re not reading Sexing the Cherry I don’t even know what you’re doing with your life. Actually, just read all of Jeanette Winterson’s books right now, and thank me later. Jeanette Winterson is a more modern writer on the list, with her work exploring gender polarities and sexual identity. Her own complicated “coming out” story found in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and Why be Normal When you can be Happy? gives a relatable and modern voice to a new generation who are looking for a connection.

Truman Capote (1924-1984)

Novelist Truman Capote took “Gay Icon” to a whole other level by becoming not only a huge celebrity but a celebrity who was openly gay in the 1960’s.  A bit of a character, known as the “Tiny Terror” with his high voice, offbeat dress and tall tales about famous people he’s never met, created a bit of a gay stereotype that remains today. Still, his openness about his homosexuality and his encouragement for other writers to do the same made him an important player in the realm of gay rights.

Alison Bechdel (1960)

Cartoonist, author, and creative genius Alison Bechdel is currently changing the game with her graphic novel Fun Home, an autobiography about her own life and learning about her sexuality, which was made into a Tony Award Winning Musical in 2015. She is also the creator of the famed Bechdel Test that calls out sexist movies. She also created the comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For” that ran from 1983 to 2008 that was one of the earliest long-running representations of lesbians in pop culture.

This is just a small list of the hundreds of LGBT writers and creators that exist and there are probably hundreds more that have been suppressed by small-minded media and gatekeeping publishers that still keep LGBT writers out today. While these trailblazers have made the path easier to walk on, there is still much work to be done. Will you be the next LGBT game changer?  

Originally posted 2017-10-21 17:01:54.

Ellen Ricks is a word-for-hire, fashion blogger, and bibliophile living in upstate New York. She has a BFA in Creative Writing from SUNY Potsdam and has been published in a number of literary magazines, both in print and online. She runs the fashion blog Sarcasm in Heels.  When not writing, Ellen enjoys frolicking in fancy dresses, consuming pumpkin spice everything, and dismantling the patriarchy.


How Moving to a New City is Different When You’re Queer



We all know what it’s like to move. You get a new job, or are accepted into college, and you start to plan. If you’re like most people, you worry about housing first. Where are you going to live? Will you need roommates to afford rent and food at the same time? Is it close to work and/or school? If you have a family, you have to consider your children and/or your spouse. After all of that, there’s the actual moving part. Renting the van, motivating yourself to pack boxes and somehow convincing yourself to throw away half of the junk you’ve collected over the years because you won’t miss a single piece of it. There are so many hundreds of factors that go into a move, all of which have to be carefully considered and carried out. It’s chaotic and exciting at the same time, and scares you more than anything.

Now imagine the same process, but as a queer person. I’m a queer woman, which puts me into two minority groups immediately. And as a queer woman, in order to even begin choosing a new place to live, I have to ask a few questions first:

  1. Where should I move? 

If you’re moving for a job, this is usually decided for you, and you’ve probably already done your research into what your new place of residence is like, as well as how the job is going to be. But say you’re going to college, and you’re picking places to apply. Some of what you have to consider includes things such as “do these schools have LGBT clubs,” “is the city around the school relatively gay-friendly?” When you’re queer, it’s almost never as simple as “Look, this school has the Philosophy program I’ve been wanting. I’ll pick that one.”

  1. Is this city gay-friendly?

Let’s face it, we all have a few straight friends. But contrary to what sitcoms and romcoms portray, no LGBT person ever wants to hang out exclusively with straight people all day, every day. That’s just not how it works, especially if you want to, I don’t know, date someone at some point. Finding a community is important, as it’s not only about social interaction with similar people, but also a sense of security and comfort.

  1. Is it woman-friendly?

As I mentioned above, security and comfort are a huge deal. Being a woman isn’t always safe, so choosing your housing is vital to your well-being. Is the house/apartment you’re looking at in a safe neighborhood? What are the crime rates (murder, sexual assault, theft, etc.)? Is the demographic similar to what you’re used to?

When I moved into my first apartment at university, I didn’t consider any of these things. I found the cheapest place close to campus and moved in my stuff, no questions asked. It was a nightmare. Our neighbors were loud, creepy, and had parties every other weekend that left me hiding in my bedroom with the doors locked, hoping they wouldn’t get drunk enough to bust open the door to “talk” to me and my female roommates. The neighborhood was relatively quiet, but not somewhere you might walk a dog alone at night, and certainly not somewhere I felt safe enough to hold my girlfriend’s hand in public.

My second place was a vast improvement and if that first little hole-in-the-wall taught me anything, it was that there’s a lot to consider when moving somewhere new. But be aware, for the hundreds of factors you have to consider while moving, if you’re queer expect to ask a couple dozen more in the process.

Despite the stress, moving is still an exciting time. If you keep your wits about you when coming to a new city, you’ll be just fine and can then look forward to the new friends you’ll make along the way. Cue the packing montage in which you sob amid a pile of high school yearbooks and memorabilia.

Originally posted 2017-06-30 19:02:56.

Also published on Medium.

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The Overlooked Impact of Homophobia on LGBTQ Youths



Despite the great accomplishments within the LGBTQ+ community, from the Stonewall Riots in 1969 that fought against discriminatory police raids to Obergefell v. Hodges that challenged the constitutionality of the ban on same-sex marriage, there are still significant hurdles that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth must overcome. One vastly overlooked problem is the number of homeless LGBTQ youths fending for themselves on the streets.  According to True Colors Fund, 1.6 million young Americans experience homelessness. While this number is truly shocking, the disparity between LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ youths is staggering; approximately 40% of homeless youth in America identify as being in the LGBTQ+ spectrum.

We hear about the homeless all the time; they are thugs, drug dealers, and the like. We do not, however, hear much about the LGBTQ homeless youths. Every year, many LGBTQ individuals choose to leave or are removed or from their homes by their parents because being in LGBTQ spectrum does not align with their family’s set of virtues and values, be it spiritual or out of sheer ignorance. Simply put, the number of LGBTQ homeless youths correlates to discriminatory beliefs and practices. Of course, being homeless comes with its own unique set of challenges, but homeless LGBTQ  youths face much more difficult problems. In conjunction with struggling to find food and decent shelter, homeless youths must also deal with such problems as increased risk of physical and sexual violence, alcohol and drug abuse, homophobic or transphobic attacks, and an increased risk of contracting STIs such as HIV/AIDS. This harsh statistic is an unfortunate reality for thousands of LGBTQ youths and will continue to be a problem if actions are not taken to prevent or at least decrease the numbers of LGBTQ homeless youths.

So, what can one do to help the LGBTQ homeless population? The simplest and easiest way to help LGBTQ homeless youths is to accept their sexuality and/or gender identity. Fight against homophobia, transphobia, and hateful speech and stand up to people who believe that one’s sexual identity is a choice. It is also helpful to educate people about LGBTQ individuals by showing that they are just like everyone else. Tell them that LGBT individuals such as Leonardo da Vinci, a famous Italian painter and inventor, Alan Turing, the father of the modern computer, Barbara Gittings, a lesbian and LGBTQ rights activist, and Christine Jorgensen, the first actor to have gone through sex-reassignment surgery, helped shape the world as we know it. Educating people on LGBTQ issues is the first step in helping get rid of prejudice and discriminatory thoughts and actions, which will make the world a more egalitarian planet to live on,which will help decrease the number of cases of LGBTQ individuals being removed from their homes.

Another way to help is to donate to organizations such as the Ali Forney Center. The Ali Forney center was founded in 2002 by Carl Siciliano in memory of Ali Forney, a gender non-conforming teen who fled his home at the age thirteen in 1995 and was subsequently thrown around many different foster homes in which he was abused, both physically and mentally. Ultimately Ali Forney was murdered Harlem. The Ali Forney Center’s mission is, understandably, to help out and protect LGBTQ homeless youths and supply them with the necessary tools for them to become successful in life. Donating opportunities for the Ali Forney Center include clothing donations or a monetary donations. Volunteering opportunities are also available, such as preparing meals, working as a youth counsellor, working as a Learning, Employment, Advancement and Placement (LEAP) mentor, and many more.

LGBTQ homelessness is a very serious problem that has no easy solution. However, by simply speaking against homophobia, transphobia, and hateful speech, one can begin to rid the world of prejudice and discriminatory behavior. Educating others about the accomplishments of people in the LGBTQ spectrum that have helped change the world for the better is also an extremely effective way to steer people’s thoughts towards thoughts of acceptance and equality. Volunteering and donating to organizations that are designed to help LGBTQ youths, whether it be a few socks or hundreds of dollars to helping prepare meals, can vastly improve the lives of the LGBTQ homeless youths. By taking action and spreading  of equality, we can all make this world a more habitable place to live and help the homeless LGBTQ youths from living on the streets.

Originally posted 2017-06-30 17:06:57.

Also published on Medium.

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Hidden Secrets of the Middle East: Israel’s Progressive Stance on LGBTQ Culture



Israel is known for many things: It’s the origin of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, housing biblical soils filled with historical artifacts, and it’s friendly, bilateral relationship with the United States.

Despite making daily political headlines, what is seldom known about the tiny country in the MIddle East is its support of the LGBTQ community.

The country’s capital city and financial hub, Tel Aviv, hosts the largest Pride Parade of Asia every year, with over 200,000 attendees in 2017.

The country also offers a unique LGBTQ experience for the gay community. The “Rainbow” Trip is considered the “ Greatest Pride Parade of the Middle East .” The trip lasts 10 days long, and starts off in the holy city of Jerusalem. By day 6, members will have explored the ancient city of Nazareth and engaged in the pride parade overtakes the streets of Tel Aviv. You can book your tickets now for next year’s June, 2018, Tel Aviv Pride Group Trip.

Within its abundance of attractions in the main city, you have the option purchasing a Pride Week Bracelet , which gives you access to the exclusive parties that are happening.

“Tomorrow is the main event – the annual Tel Aviv Pride Parade! As usual, it starts in Gan Meir at around noon, runs through Bograshov street, Ben Yehuda street, and Ben Gurion Avenue, and ends up at the Gordon Beach, where you can expect a big, wild party,” writes Ashley for Pride one year, “If you find lots of skin on display, cross dressing and the waving in the air of various sex toys offensive, steer clear of these areas.”

The Aguda, or the National Association of LGBT in Israel, founded 42 years ago, has remained persistent in its standing. Since then, the organization has been involved in numerous accounts of social work, community building, and political advocacy.

Through the support of the country’s population and LGBTQ campaigns, there has been growth in Tel Aviv’s gay nightlife scene. From night clubs, community centers, and even gay beaches, the ever-growing population of LGBTQ entertainment sectors doesn’t on these who are looking to travel to Israel for a good time.

In 2015, the Israel was considered the seventh happiest place for gay men to live. This year, the country’s citizens shared on their thoughts on homosexual engagements. As of 2017, 79% of Jewish residents supported the belief of equal rights for gay marriage.

Dance clubs like Shpagat gives you the best of both worlds: A taste of Middle Eastern culture and relaxed vibes that allow you to mingle with and meet people. The Breakfast Club offers gay Thursdays and eclectic, underground nightlife.

There are plenty of gay cruises, dance parties, and even hotels to choose from. Before planning your trip, be sure to do some deep research on the hidden gems found in and around the capital.
If you are planning on heading to Israel for a vacation this summer, be sure to check out the Gay Tel Aviv Guide offered online. This provides you with a diverse list of attractions and activities found within the country’s parameters.

Originally posted 2017-06-29 21:04:35.

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