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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.

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Comic book stores and the fantastical stories that they sell have long been a place for the oppressed and marginalized to go when they were feeling down. Comics gave folks a safe space to retreat to when no one else would listen or understand, spinning stories of the misunderstood and how they rose above their circumstances.

Of course, at first comics focused primarily on straight cis white men and women, and their personal trials outside of fighting supervillains were only really relatable to some. Now, comic artists have branched outside of the binary, and comic books with characters (and authors and artists!) of any race, gender or sexuality can be found in many large chain comic book stores and conventions.

I explored New York Comic Con on its opening day, October 5th, and managed to find a plethora of LGBT+ comics and comic artists. Some of which I knew of already and others that were brand new to me, but all were swamped with patrons.

Boom! Studios is a comic publisher that has been my number one supplier of LGBT+ comics for a while. They offer a huge range of comics in terms of subject matter, age range, and representation.

Lumberjanes is the first Boom! Studios comic I found and loved. It’s about a group of girls at a camp for “hardcore lady types,” and the mysterious and supernatural creatures that they find deep in the woods. Two of the girls are dating each other (though their sexualities are never specified), one of the girls is trans and has two dads, and they make a friend at the all boys camp nearby who uses gender neutral pronouns. None of these facts are hidden in any way; they are all addressed directly in ways that readers of any age can comprehend. While the girls have very distinct personalities, they also effectively show just how nurturing, kind, strong and brave lady types of any age or body type can be. The all-female team of authors and artists (one of whom is dating a fellow female comic artist) created a world that will inspire any lady type (or dude type, or neither type) to accept themselves, learn their strengths, and experience friendship to the max.

The Backstagers appealed to me as a comic fan and longtime “theatre kid.” Taking place in a high school theater at an all boys school, it follows a ragtag group of technical theatre students (known to some as “techies” or, in this case, “backstagers”) and the strange and wondrous things they find hidden in the theater’s impossibly large backstage area. The artists, both queer, have said that there is only one straight character in the whole series. In the main group, one of the boys is gay, another bi, and another trans, and, like Lumberjanes, these issues are addressed directly and with all the awkwardness one would expect from high school theater kids. The trans boy is even shown wearing a binder, and frequently mentions how he used to go to the all girls school and help out in their theater department before transferring to his current school. While perhaps a bit of a niche comic, as it is all about high school theater and the drama that happens onstage and off, it’s still an accessible piece of literature and especially important for high school readers as they figure out who they are and their connections to others.

Representation in comics isn’t limited to those in print. Webcomics were among the first to have queer characters, mostly because of the inherent freedom in self-publishing on a more open space like the internet.

Check, Please! Is one of the more popular queer webcomics today. I tried to say hello to the comic artist at NYCC, but the line for her table stretched around her table and down an aisle in Artist Alley. This independent comic about a gay Southern hockey player going to a fictional college near Boston exploded into popularity because it’s free to read, easy to access, and overall just a really great story, dealing with homophobia, toxic masculinity in sports, and unrequited crushes. It’s very cute and often heartwarming, with an eclectic cast of characters, but also deals with very real subjects. It shows the good and the bad of growing up gay and exploring new relationships, which is frustrating and sad, but often comforting to those reading who could be struggling with the exact same thing.

What these three comics have in common is that they have accurate, well-written and entertaining representation, not for the sake of representation, but simply to share amazing stories that happen to have queer characters. In some of these stories, being queer is a huge part of the story or a character’s identity, but in others, it’s simply a fact that is easily acknowledged and accepted. Queer readers need to see that it’s okay to have these feelings or identify a certain way, and know that they can either live a normal life playing hockey at their dream college, or fight magical beasts in the woods at their camp for hardcore lady types, or both.

Be sure to share this article with the comic fan in your life, and leave a comment with your favorite queer comic below!

Originally posted 2017-10-27 19:25:56.

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Ireland Travel Guide



Ireland isn’t nicknamed the emerald isle without reason. Sprawling across the entirety of the country are woodland forests, wildflowers, and seacoast grasses. In the summer, heather blankets the mountainsides and a light dusting of snow covers the green grass in the winter. The entirety of the island, comprised of Ireland and Northern Ireland (UK) is only about the size of Indiana but it is certainly no day trip. With its rich history, natural beauty, and lively culture, there is something for everyone.

Skellig Michael

Whether it’s the first or last thing you do, take a slow drive around the Ring of Kerry. The route itself is one of Ireland’s most visited attractions and will take you through the staple scenery of the island. Tumbling waterfalls, crumbling castles, and picturesque seaside villages are all accessible from the road. Star Wars fans, history buffs, and lovers of the ocean won’t want to miss the rare chance to visit Skellig Michael. With only a few boats going out to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, you have to secure your spot well in advance but exploring the centuries-old honeycomb monastery huts, climbing the steep cliffs, and watching the nesting puffins will be worth the wait. Besides, the pilgrimage to the tiny island isn’t only about the destination but the journey too. The only way to get to Skellig Michael is by fishing boat early in the morning, when the sea is tumultuous. But the trip rewards those that take it with the chance to see whales and dolphins right alongside of them. The ships leave from Portmagee, a tiny town on the coast with tight streets, quaint shops, and cozy restaurants.

Make sure to pack your wellies for a trip to Killarney National Park. The first and one of the most diverse national parks in the country, Killarney offers spectacular experiences in nature. Dotted with lakes, the woodland environment is home to a variety of flora and fauna including Ireland’s only remaining herd of wild deer. Just outside of the park lies the lively village of Killarney. Almost as popular a destination as the park itself, Killarney offers music, culture, and history. Later, kiss the Blarney stone for the gift of eloquence like Winston Churchill and so many others have and tour the castle grounds.

Irish Sheep

Further north is the city of Cork and past that is Dublin . Whether you’re looking to have a wild night at the infamous Temple Bar, or just a quiet pub to sit down, you’ll find it in Ireland’s biggest city. Also the nation’s capital, Dublin is teaming with diverse experiences including castles, goals, and cathedrals. In the summer, the city hosts the Dublin LGBTQ Pride Festival, the biggest of its kind on the island.

Within driving distance of the city are the Hill of Tara and New Grange, archeological complexes that have brought awe and wonder to people for generations. There, you can see the ruins and inscriptions left behind by Neolithic people thousands of years ago. Due to conservation efforts, New Grange is difficult to visit because tickets need to be bought in advance for a guided tour, but if history is what you came to Ireland for, it will be worth the trouble. On the other hand, the Hill of Tara is an easy drive and walkable park.

Poulnabrone Dolmen

The northern third or so of the island is Northern Ireland, a part of the UK. Though religious tensions caused the two sides to incite violence, that is now well in the past. The border is open and you can cross without any bother, not even needing to stop to show your passport. Just don’t forget to reset your speedometer to miles per hour and convert your cash into pounds. Northern Ireland is also covered in locations to stop and experience. From the bustling city of Belfast, to the sleepy village of Cobh where the Titanic last docked, this country is teeming with reasons to get off the highway. Cross the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, skip along hexagonal basalt columns at Giant’s Causeway, or drive along the scenic coast. Game of Thrones fans will also enjoy seeking out filming locations like The King’s Road (The Dark Hedges) and Dragonstone (The Mussenden Temple).

Musseden Temple

Of course, no trip to Ireland is complete without a stop at the Cliffs of Moher. The multiple hundred feet drop of sheer cliff is one of the most iconic locations in the country. Despite its size, Ireland has so much to discover. If you didn’t get a chance to see it all, it’s only a reason to come back again.


Originally posted 2017-10-27 19:25:29.

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LGBT History Month: Celebrating Sappho



As some of you may know, I’m a huge fan of poetry. So are a lot of people, actually, and for good reason. Poetry is beautiful and allows us to say what the heart and soul can’t. Some of the greatest declarations of love and longing have been poetic, and there’s one poet who deserves a little attention for LGBT History Month. This month I’m documenting five of the most iconic and world-changing woman-loving women (WLW), and it would be careless of me not to mention the poet considered by many to be the ultimate WLW:

“Whoever he is who opposite you
sits and listens close
to your sweet speaking
and lovely laughing – oh it
puts the heart in my chest on wings
for when I look at you, even a moment, no speaking
is left in me
no: tongue breaks and thin
fire is racing under skin
and in eyes no sight and drumming
fills ears
and cold sweat holds me and shaking
grips me all, greener than grass”

The above lines are exactly what they sound like: Sappho confessing joy and admiration for a woman. Doesn’t that make you feel so gay (pun absolutely intended)?? Known for writing about her yearning and love for women, Sappho is a well-known figure in the “L” part of the LGBT community. Born on the Greek island of Lesbos, Sappho was a prolific writer, composing line after line of beautiful poetry, much of it on subjects of love and women.

Unfortunately, most of Sappho’s writing has been lost, and only one complete poem, “Ode to Aphrodite,” has ever been found. As a poet, this makes me want to sit down and cry for all the lost lesbian poems we’ll probably never see. But just because we only have fragments of some of her work, Sappho remains an iconic figure in LGBT history, for a couple of reasons.

First, you’re probably familiar with the term “lesbian.” This word didn’t come from just anywhere, and you’ve probably already figured out that it’s no coincidence that Sappho was born on the island of Lesbos. See the connection?

And second, there’s the more obvious allusion in phrases like “sapphic vibes” or “sapphic tendencies.” The term “sapphic” stems from the name “Sappho” and the belief that she expressed open homo-eroticism not just in her poetry but in life as well. Unfortunately, we will probably never know for sure, as little is known about Sappho’s life. To add to her mystery, the meaning and subjects of her poems are hotly debated, and over the centuries many have been intentionally heterosexualized by scholars.

Whatever her original intentions were, it’s clear that Sappho certainly idolized women, even if it wasn’t explicitly romantically or sexually motivated. And in the lesbian community, Sappho is widely accepted as one of the first openly homosexual women in literature. As for this lesbian, I’d like to believe that Sappho was loving ladies her whole life, and openly expressing that love to the world. After all, that’s the dream, isn’t it? To be open about our sexuality and not be ashamed to show it? It’s what the LGBTQ community is still working towards today, and why we celebrate LGBT History Month.

Thanks to Sappho’s inspiring poetry we have a name for WLW and a historical figure to study and admire. Which women do you admire? What’s your favorite sapphic poem? Tell us in the comments, and go here if you want to learn about last week’s featured lesbian, Barbara Gittings, and her influence in LGBTQ visibility. Next week I’ll be talking about Gladys Bentley, continuing my coverage of iconic lesbians who changed the world.  

Originally posted 2017-10-27 15:09:19.

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