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100 Days Later

October 4, 2013 By Josh Steichmann

100 days from SCOTUS marriage100 days ago, the Supreme Court struck down the central portion of the Defense of Marriage Act, and dismissed the last gasp appeal of the Prop. 8 supporters, returning the freedom to marry to California. Across the country, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people cheered along with allies who supported the vision of an America where everyone could marry the person that they love.

Since then, we’ve seen a parade of victories at the federal level, from the Department of Homeland Security allowing same-sex spouses full immigration privileges to the IRS issuing new rules to make sure loving same-sex couples are recognized, to the first same-sex weddings on U.S. military bases. We’ve seen big marriage victories in New Mexico and New Jersey, and we’ve seen the roll-out of the biggest advance in LGBT healthcare in our lifetimes with the Affordable Care Act.

Here in California, we’ve seen the federal courts uphold SB 1172, which ended the psychological abuse of LGBT youth by licensed therapists, we’ve seen transgender students win both with the passage and signing of the School Success and Opportunity Act (AB 1266), which ensures that transgender students can participate as their authentic selves in school, and at the Arcadia Unified School District, which settled a lawsuit and implemented policies to ensure transgender equality.  Read the rest of this entry »

Bayard Rustin and “From Protest to Politics”

August 28, 2013 By Josh Steichmann

Bayard Rustin From Protest to PoliticsIn February 1965, Bayard Rustin wrote an essay for the magazine Commentary, titled “From Protest to Politics: The Future of the Civil Rights Movement“.

In it, he argues that the work of desegregating lunch counters, hotels, swimming pools and libraries was peripheral to the broader Civil Rights Movement. “Without making light of the human sacrifices involved in the direct-action tactics … that were so instrumental to this achievement,” the protests, hit “Jim Crow precisely where it was most anachronistic, dispensable, and vulnerable.” The real challenge would be to shift the institutional and structural impediments to full equality. “What is the value of winning access to public accommodations for those who lack money to use them?” Rustin asked.

Rustin was not an outside critic of the Civil Rights movement; rather, Rustin was part of the core whose protests had been so instrumental to dismantling Jim Crow. He was the main organizer of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, whose 50th anniversary we celebrate today. He convinced Dr. Martin Luther King jr. to speak last, knowing his, “I Have a Dream” speech would be an indelible vision of equality. Rustin was the person who introduced King to Gandhi’s non-violent tactics, and was an organizer of the Montgomery Bus Boycotts. His pamphlet on the march remains a classic of organizing literature. Read the rest of this entry »

God Save the Nelly Queen

August 19, 2013 By Josh Steichmann
Empress Jose Sarria, the Widow Norton

Empress Jose Sarria, the Widow Norton

José Julio Sarria (1922-2013)

Before Tammy Baldwin, before Barney Frank, even before Harvey Milk, there was Empress José Julio Sarria, the Widow Norton, the first proudly gay person to run for elected office in North America.

A World War II veteran who fell into a job as a cocktail waiter at San Francisco’s Black Cat Tavern, at 710 Montgomery St. (now a tapas bar), Sarria became a celebrated drag performer after a vice bust scuttled his hopes of being a teacher. It was out of the Black Cat that Sarria launched his activist career, founding the League of Civic Education, the first of his homophile organizations.

The Black Cat was also where Sarria started his political career, running for a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors 12 years before Harvey Milk made his first run. Sarria was the first proudly gay man to run for elected office, and despite meddling from both Republican and Democratic opposition, came in ninth out of 33 candidates, with almost 6,000 votes. Sarria had lost the seat but the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community had won recognition as a political power. Read the rest of this entry »

How Much Milk You Got?

May 22, 2013 By Josh Steichmann

harvey milk quizIn honor of Harvey Milk Day, we’ve put together a little quiz to test your knowledge about the life and times of Harvey Milk. How much do you know? Take the quiz to find out! Put the challenge to your friends! The top three scorers will each get an Equality California shirt in their size, and will look fabulous in it. In the event of a tie, we’ll have a drawing for the prizes from the respondents with the highest scores.

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Oh Those Bifurcated Girls of Yesteryear

May 2, 2013 By Josh Steichmann
Bifurcated girls of 1903

Hurrah, Mama’s at the seashore and Papa’s in heaven!

The hottest of the hot in 1903? Those butch “bifurcated girls” (bifurcated by the two-legged trousers, natch) having a roll! Public Domain Review collects some of the earliest print exploits of butch women having fun.

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Jason Collins came out

May 1, 2013 By Josh Steichmann
Jason Collins came out Monday

Jason Collins came out Monday

Jason Collins, a Northridge native and former Stanford basketball player who now plays for the Washington Wizards, came out on Monday. He’s the first gay player in one of the “Big 4″ leagues (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL) to leave the closet, and he announced his decision in a thoughtful essay for Sports Illustrated. He’s single-handedly knocked Alan Alan Gendreau off the front page of OutSports.

Sports and politics writer Charles Pierce reminds us to let Collins be Collins, not our avatar..

Remembering The Legacy Of César Chávez

March 31, 2013 By Josh Steichmann

cesar chavezThere is a lot to celebrate about César Chávez, the noted labor and civil rights leader whose birthday we celebrate Saturday. But what many don’t know is that Chávez was also an ardent advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.

Marc Grossman, the Chavez Foundation’s communication director and César Chávez’s longtime spokesman and personal aide, says that for Chávez, support for the LGBT community started early. A long-time friend of the Chávezes from the ’40s on, who was a lesbian, baptized the Chávezes eldest son, Fernando.

“By the late ’70s, he would go to gay rights parades,” Grossman said. “I was with him when he met Harvey Milk.”

And Milk, in turn, was an early supporter of the United Farm Workers grape boycott.

“This was not a position that was popular,” said Grossman, referring to Chávez’s support for LGBT equality. “But César didn’t care about what was unpopular. He came out strong against the Vietnam War, something most other labor organizations wouldn’t do. He believed you couldn’t lead by following the crowd.”

Grossman shares the anecdote of a young aide who had left Chávez to move to San Francisco, and who later came out. Chávez came to San Francisco for a labor rally and went to a gay pride parade. The aide recognized him and said, “I’m surprised to see you here,” and Chávez replied, baffled, “Why would you be surprised?”  Read the rest of this entry »

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November, 11 — Mattachine Society founded

November 13, 2012 By Josh Steichmann
Cover of Mattachine flyer

Cover of Mattachine recruitment flyer, "Are you left handed?"

On November 11, 1950, five men met for the first meeting of the Mattachine Society, the most influential pre-Stonewall organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. They were Harry Hay, Rudi Gernreich, Dale Jennings, Chuck Rowland and Bob Hull, and James Gruber and his boyfriend Konrad Stevens joined within a year.

More history, including rarely-seen documents, after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Pink Triangle: From Discrimination to Defiance

October 25, 2012 By Guest Contributor

EQCA remembers the pink triangle symbolBy Meghann Crusinberry, EQCA Intern

The pink triangle shows up on posters and placards, forms the logo of many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organizations, and is an instantly recognizable symbol of pride and solidarity. But it wasn’t always like that. Here’s how an emblem of discrimination became a symbol of defiance.

The pink triangle came from the Holocaust when between 5,000 and 15,000 LGBT people were put into Nazi Concentration camps, and although the pink triangle was specifically used for the male prisoners, it now symbolizes both gay and lesbian Holocaust victims. Most were sent to concentration camps where they were forced to do hard labor, but the unlucky few were sent to the death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, or to Buchenwald, where they had to endure anti-gay medical experiments by Dr. Carl Vaernet, which included castration and attempts to inject testosterone capsules in hopes of finding a cure for homosexuality.

Within all camps there was a filing system on the prisoners clothing. For gay victims, it was a pink triangle that was larger than any of the other prisoners’ triangles so that fellow prisoners and guards alike would be able to identify gays even from a distance. This symbol meant that other prisoners shunned them due to the fear of the extra punishment for associating with gays. For the unlucky individuals who happened to also be Jewish, they were forced to wear both a yellow and pink triangle, which showed that they were the lowest of the low.

Although the pink triangle has a dark past, that past helped the pink triangle become a symbol for liberation. In 1972, “Heinz Heger” (pen name for Josef Kohout) wrote “The Men With the Pink Triangle,” about his experiences as a gay Holocause survivor. “The Men With The Pink Triangles” is credited by a lot of LGBT scholars as reintroducing the pink triangle to common knowledge, especially among LGBT folks. The memoir wasn’t just another survivor’s story — it was the first big survivor’s story that dealt with being gay during the Holocaust. Up until 1969, being gay was still illegal in Germany, and Heger’s memoir was instrumental in reclaiming the history of gay Holocaust victims.

Then, in 1987, AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, or ACT UP, chose an inverted pink triangle as their logo — an explicit reference not just to the intolerance that surrounded them, but also to the effects of the AIDS crisis, which ACT UP founder Larry Kramer explicitly labeled a holocaust, in line with ACT UP’s slogan, “Silence = DEATH.”

Although LGBT victims were liberated from the camps, anti-sodomy laws in Europe kept most silent for years on their experiences, and the community still faces intolerance today. With the voices of the survivors of the Holocaust fading, it is up to the present and future generations to keep the meaning of the pink triangle alive, and to never forget.

Equality Roundup: Gender-Bending Lesbian Surrealist Writes & More

October 25, 2012 By Shaun Osburn

We got a new executive director this week. We’re excited to have John O’Connor join us officially on December 3.

It’s LGBT history month, and the New Yorker has a great story on Merle Miller coming out in the New York Times, crediting it with helping spawn Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign.

You’re all voting, right? Frying Pan News on why Prop 32 is bad for the LGBT community.

Orange Coast magazine on how small indignities mean progress is still too slow in Orange County.

Buzzfeed on eight families fighting for the freedom to marry.

One of the Wachowski sibs is a trans woman, and she talks about what it means to be visible and trans.

Is Adam Pally TV’s least stereotypical gay guy?

It’s Claude Cahun‘s birthday! Cahun was a gender-bending lesbian surrealist writer and photographer who fought against the Nazis. Her work dealt with fluid sexuality with playful verve and political punch, especially in images like “Don’t Kiss Me, I am in Training,” where she appropriates macho boxing myths for a cartoonish revision, presaging “identity artists” like Cindy Sherman.

Finally, philosopher and author John Corvino makes witty, smart videos about what marriage and other rights mean.