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LGBT History Month: Celebrating Sappho

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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”
Sappho

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.

A 22-year old poet and writer, Summer is the voice for Tell It Like A Lesbian and the features editor for TravelPRIDE. She loves horror movies, rock climbing, and is trying to start an herb garden in her spare time.

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1 Comment

  1. Ellen Ricks

    October 28, 2017 at 11:26 pm

    Yasss! As a huge fan of Sappho, it warms my heart she being celebrated for LGBT history month. Great article!

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Travel Reading: The Assassin Chronicles – Chapter One

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     Palm Springs, California; it had everything. The rolling, maroon mountains in the rural areas contrasted sharply with the sun-baked estates of the rich and famous far off in the distance. From his view on the aerial tramway of Mount San Jacinto, The Assassin – Smith – could just make out both. The tram ride was one of the most popular attractions in Palm Springs. He admired this canvas before business grabbed his attention.

     “Is it feasible?”  This was his handler, Mr. Wolf. He was an attractive man with wafting, golden hair and sparkling emerald eyes. Unfortunately, the red blazer he wore didn’t do a thing to showcase his muscular build nor add any degree of menace to his five-foot-seven stature.  

     Smith, a handsome forty-something year old man with jet black hair and a very demanding face, had quite the crush on his boss. The relationship oozed sexual tension, but Wolf suffered from a horrible disease – he was debilitatingly heterosexual!

     “Well?”

     With a sigh, The Assassin nodded once. He was a man of no words. In fact, for the rest of the gondola ride, he ignored Wolf. He peered out at a gorgeous sunset that few places in the world could rival.  

     After the charming sky-ride was finished, The Assassin climbed inside his very tasteful candy black Mercedes SLS. He opened the glove compartment, removing a silenced Colt M45 pistol from its depths. Smith tucked the weapon into its holster beneath his pristine white suit jacket.

     The car’s engine roared to life, like a pouncing lion leaping from the bush. Smith piloted the car past a string of golf courses and shopping malls which he was sure housed only the best designer brands. That reminded him: He needed to pick up an Armani tux for his mother’s vow renewal.

     As the sun continued to set, it was clear where Smith was heading; the annual White Party. The fireworks could be seen throughout the Springs, exploding in majestic whites and pinks.  

     The main event took place where it normally does, White Party Park. More than twenty thousand men, some half-naked, a few totally naked, ate, drank, made out, and partied around the giant Ferris wheel.

     Smith was both enthralled and disgusted. He loved gorgeous, sweaty men, but loathed gratuitous promiscuity at the same time. It’s true; The Assassin was a walking conundrum. Pity he forgave his own quirks. The quirks kept him single and lonely.  

     If a person were to wonder how he entered the party armed and without the complete pat down, the answer would be simple.  Security tends to become slack when Greek Gods prance around in tight white speedos.  No one detected him clambering over the scaffolding set up beside the Ferris wheel.

     Work then replaced his view of the delicious debauchery and he set his gaze on a massive VIP tent.

     Inside that tent, Fred Robertson and Graham Phelps discussed what to do with the charitable donations.  Both men were shrewd in business, but only Fred could be called unscrupulous.  He was an overweight smoker battling inoperable lung cancer.  His partner in crime, however, was one of the healthiest men in America and the owner of the largest pharmaceutical company, BioScience Labs.

     Halfway through Fred’s plan, Graham interjected.  “Won’t work, no sir.”

     “I organized the event,” Fred shot back between coughs.

     “Which is why you’d be the only suspect, you idiot.”

     “That’s why our friend’s out there.”  Fred lit another cigarette.  “I’m not gonna die for enjoyin’ life.”

     Graham chortled.  “You do know they do put the warning labels right on the package now.  In bold.”

     Fred simply glared.  “I pull this off, we got a deal?”

     “My company could always use more cancer funding.  Although, you’re screwing over your own community.”

     “I don’t have HIV.”

     Smiling and shaking his head, Graham shook Fred’s hand and left the tent.  He almost bumped into Wolf.  His odd proportions made the white BDSM outfit he wore look laughable.

     Fred put out his cigarette.  “That’s not exactly subtle, son.”

     “He’s here.”

     Wolf snatched Fred’s collar, nearly dragging him out of the tent.

      Smith was waiting.  He grabbed Fred’s head and snapped it backwards.

     Briefly stunned, Wolf watched Fred’s lifeless body fall to the floor.  He growled and reached for his gun.  Smith already had his in hand and was about to take Wolf down when Wolf grabbed the nearest bystander.  The bystander took the bullets.  Smith disappeared into the crowd.

     Wolf went another direction, but the pair of them had falcon vision.  Neither lost sight of the other.  They made their way through the crowd and into a gay bar.

     Thankfully, the gay bar was tasteful and not at all what one would expect.  Like most restaurants in Palm Springs, the bar had class and a classy clientele.

     Smith entered the men’s room right before Wolf.  He sauntered over to the urinal.  Wolf joined him.  They were waiting for a man in the middle to finish.

     After some extended eye contact, the third wheel turned to them and baited them in a butch voice.  “Want some privacy?”  Both killers almost made him their next target.  He scurried away, his pride crippled.

     Smith and Wolf still just stared at each other.  They were hesitant to even flinch.  Then, Wolf’s arrogance got the better of him and he drew his gun.  His opponent grabbed his arm and shoved it in the urinal.  When Smith flushed, he rendered the weapon useless.

     It was time for him to use his own.  Wolf countered by tackling Smith to the ground.  More punches and kicks were thrown.  While unclear, one of them managed to slam the other’s head into a sink.

     Playtime was over.  Wolf, now scared, dodged a couple punches that Smith smacked right into the bathroom mirrors behind them.  He didn’t have time to avoid the glass shard Wolf wielded.  Smith’s jugular was the intended target, but Wolf managed only to get Smith’s arm during a block.

     Another kick landed Smith on his back.  When he stood up, the bathroom door creaked closed.  Wolf ran.

     The next morning felt like Hell.  Deep bruising and bandages stretched over Smith’s face, mocking him.  He slithered up to his car, a tux slung over his shoulder and a tourist pamphlet in one hand.  The shop from earlier didn’t have Armani as he predicted; he settled for Versace.

     Smith opened the pamphlet and marvelled at all the tourist attractions he was missing out on.  Palm Canyon called to him.  He loved to hike, and these rocky mountain trails with views of palm trees and subtle peaks ignited a primal fire within his soul.  Then he took a gander at the information on the art museum in the city itself.  It featured classic and performance art; the former his favorite.  His inner child wanted to visit Soak City and ride the 70-foot twin scorpion water slide.  At times like these, Smith wished he was normal.  However, he knew he’d never be back here.  He would never enjoy these things.

     For just a minute, The Assassin examined his car, then the tux.  It almost seemed like he had grown distasteful of extravagance, too.  What else would he do with the money he made, he asked himself?  Not that it mattered.  Smith was heading for a crisis of self and he didn’t even know it.

     With that, he got into his car and headed into the mountains.  His final destination was the airport on the other side.  After showing his ticket, he headed through the gate.

      “Enjoy your trip to Switzerland, Mr. Kowalczyk,” the stewardess called out.

     Smith grinned.  It was dangerous using his Christian name, but he enjoyed hearing it.  Actually, in truth, he barely remembered it.

     Meanwhile, in the middle of the Sea of Japan, Wolf reported his failure to his superior aboard a freighter.

     If this mystery man had a physical form, it was well hidden by the shadows of the cargo hold.  “What made you think I’d sign off on this?”

     “There’s something you need to see.”  Wolf pulled a photo out of his pocket and handed it to the figure.

     “Is this credible?”

     “Yeah, boss, it is.  I triple checked.”

     The mystery man sucked his teeth.  “Have everyone waiting for us on the dock.  Dear God, how did I not see this?!”

     Wolf nodded and backed away respectfully.

FADE TO BLACK.

Thanks for reading!  Stay tuned for next week’s story, full of more international intrigue, travel ideas, style, and fashion.

Originally posted 2017-09-18 22:49:12.

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The Life and Legacy of Edith Windsor

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As many of you may know, Edith Windsor, the pioneer for marriage equality in the United States tragically passed away on Tuesday, September 12th. Because many are upset about her passing (I know I am), it is important to look back and remember all that she had accomplished in her 88 years of life.

Edith Windsor, born Edith Schlain on June 20th, 1929 in Philadelphia to James and Celia Schlain, was a Russian Jewish immigrant and, because of the time in which she was born, her family suffered from the Great Depression. However, Windsor persevered and earned a master’s in mathematics from NYU and eventually joined IBM, where she worked for sixteen years. While in college, Edith met Saul Windsor. Their relationship ended once when Saul discovered that Edith had fallen in love with a female classmate. Edith, however, said that she did not wish to be a lesbian and proceeded to marry Saul. This marriage did not last very long as after a year of her tying the knot, Edith told him that she longed to be with women and they divorced. She then moved from Philadelphia to New York City.  

While in New York, Edith met Thea Spyer. Both in relationships of their own, they had to keep their relationship a secret. While Windsor was working for IBM, she received multiple phone calls from Thea Spyer. In order to conceal her sexual orientation, she told her colleagues that she was speaking to Thea’s brother, a fictitious person named Willy who, comically, was the name of Windsor’s childhood doll.  

“Like countless other same-sex couples, we engaged in a constant struggle to balance our love for one another and our desire to live openly and with dignity, on the one hand, with our fear of disapproval and discrimination from others on the other.”

In 1967, Spyer asked Windsor to marry her. Windsor was again afraid that her sexuality would be discovered, so Spyer proposed to her with a diamond brooch. Unfortunately, Spyer was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1977. Fearing that she would not be alive to see same-sex marriage legalized, they got legally married in Canada in 2007.

Tragically, Thea Spyer passed away in 2009, which left Edith with a large tax bill that heterosexual couples would not have after the death of a spouse because the legal definition of marriage in the US did not include same-sex couples. Sensing the inequality, Edith decided to sue the federal government. In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples were entitled to the same benefits as heterosexual couples. This milestone of equality was one of the catalysts that led to the Obergefell vs. Hodges case in 2015 that deemed the ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

In addition to her pivotal role in achieving marriage equality, Windsor also volunteered with the Gay and Lesbian and Defenders (GLAD), the East End Gay Organization, the LGBT Community Center, and more. Edith Windsor is considered a pioneer for marriage equality and she certainly deserves the title. Thanks to Windsor, same-sex couples across the US can now marry the person they love with the full benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy today. It is my hope that Windsor can inspire others to fight for the rights of the LGBTQ community and help fight bigotry around the world. Edith Windsor is unfortunately gone but she will never be forgotten. She will continue to inspire the LGBTQ community to be proud and to fight for the rights they justly deserve.

Originally posted 2017-09-18 18:03:58.


Also published on Medium.

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LGBTQ Fashion Revolutionaries: Steal Their Looks, Steal Their IDGAF Attitudes

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Hearing that a member of the fashion world is also a member of the LGBTQ+ community comes as no surprise – after all, the point of fashion is to bend the rules, be anything but normal, and to accept the extraordinary. It is fashion’s job to shake things up, so it’s no wonder that queer people are the movers and shakers at the helm of this industry.

We’re showcasing the best of the best in queer fashion – those who have broken the mold, stepped outside their comfort zones, and dominated the mainstream.

Alexander McQueen

Known as the “beloved bad boy of fashion,” Alexander McQueen was openly gay, extremely extra, and didn’t care to follow the rules – in fact, one might say he lived to break them. Coming from London ’s East End Givenchy house and moving on to his own label, McQueen was essentially the Mick Jagger of fashion. Known for shaking up the conservative label, McQueen sparked outrage when he moved to the French couture house, following John Galliano as Chief Designer. Once he had his own label, McQueen continued to push boundaries – even liberal ones. His shows were often controversial, and he was famous for creating “bumster” trousers, which essentially displayed a model’s butt cleavage, for lack of a better term. The bumsters were supposed to be a parody of construction workers, an interesting attitude toward class structure. McQueen often drew inspiration from tragedies, obscene events, and people who you would not see at any of his fashion shows.

One of the most memorable traits of McQueen was his I-don’t-give-a-f*ck attitude. Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel said of the late McQueen, “he was always interesting, never banal” – high compliments from another gay fashion rebel whose cat has its own Wikipedia page.

Andrej Pejić

An Australian trans model who has referred to herself as “living between genders,” Andreja Pejić is known as the “first completely androgynous trans model.” Starting her career as a male model photographed for Paris Vogue in womenswear, an idea brought forth by yet another fashion phenom, Carine Roitfeld, Pejić is not only taking the modeling world by storm, she’s also venturing into film and walking in the Prabal Gurung show at New York Fashion Week this year.

Pejić has noted that gender dysphoria is not easy to live with, and is an outspoken role model for trans youth around the world.

Tim Gunn

Honestly, do we even need to elaborate on Tim Gunn? Okay, we will, because he’s worth it – the Project Runway mentor is really everyone’s mentor, isn’t he? He’s like the impeccably dressed, kind-hearted, gay dad you never had but always knew you wanted.

Gunn had his beginnings, as many of us now know, as a high school teacher. He taught a design course at Corcoran School of Art in Washington D.C. and from there, went on to eventually teaching at Parsons and becoming an associate dean. Even before Gunn became a teacher, he had to overcome a debilitating stutter and admits that there were quite a few points in his life where he didn’t feel like he could “make it work” – but he did regardless. Gunn is a true inspiration.

Cara Delevingne

Cara Delevingne is one of the hottest models – and now-actresses – in Hollywood now. A stint as Enchantress in Suicide Squad and as Margo in Paper Towns has turned her into a bona fide movie star. Her career is on fire, but don’t ask her about her sexuality, unless you want to get a clap back. The blunt star has said, in regards to her bisexuality: “My sexuality is not a phase…I am who I am. I think that being in love with my girlfriend is a big part of why I’m feeling so happy with who I am these days.” We’re happy for her, and can’t wait to see what she does next.

Alexander Wang

Alexander Wang is an openly gay designer with a following- the likes of Rihanna, Chloe Sevigny, Azealia Banks, Gisele Bundchen, Nicki Minaj, and Lady Gaga, to name but a few. While recently making headlines as being oblivious to fans and viewers at his New York Fashion Week 2017 show, Wang is nonetheless an incredible fashion force to be reckoned with. The former Creative Director of Balenciaga, Wang has since gone on to start his own line and collaborate with H&M.

While some of the aforementioned icons are just beginning their careers, some are right in the middle, and some have tragically had their lives cut short, none seem to be without controversy (except for maybe our angel baby Tim Gunn). Whether good or bad, these revolutionaries have changed the fashion industry; time will tell what their ultimate thumbprint on the runway will be.

Originally posted 2017-09-18 16:54:51.

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