By Adriaan van den Berg
Greetings and salutations to you, my beloved readers! Yes, this year may not seem much changed from the last yet, but I wish to argue that the power to differentiate between the two, to define 2021 as different from 2020, lies with YOU! And it is On This Queer Day’s mission to provide you with something thoughtful, something inspiring from LGBTG history for every day of the month to help you make this an exceptional year. And so, here is your month of February in LGBTG history…
February 1st – Let’s start the month by recognising the birthday of a leading gay light with a commemoration of the birth of African American poet, social activist, novelist and playwright Langston Hughes (d. May 22nd 1967) on this day in 1902 – he was an innovator of “jazz poetry” and the leader of the Harlem Renaissance artistic movement. But let’s also note darkness with the admission that on this day in 1942, the death penalty was also extended in Germany for men found to have sex with other men – though in 2010 on this date, the 2nd of February, Fuji decriminalised homosexual conduct.
February 2nd – In 1988 on this day, three women protesting the discriminatory Clause 28 swung by ropes into the British House of Lords screaming “Lesbians are angry!” and “It’s our lives you are dealing with!”
February 4th – Author Randy Shilt’s important book of investigative journalism on the discovery and spread of HIV/AIDS, And the Band Played On, was published on this day in 1987. It also chronicled the US government’s indifference and political infighting over what was perceived to be a “gay disease.”
February 6th – On this day in 1993, the Netherlands voted to ban discrimination against gays and lesbians. It followed a long-coming campaign for gay and lesbian rights in that country.
February 8th – Kanojo no Michi a novel by Nobuko Yoshiya was made into a film and released on this date in 1933 – it documents the love between two women. Yoshiya was active as a novelist in the Taisho and Showa periods in Japan and was a pioneer of lesbian literature.
February 9th – Three plays with same-sex love content was raided on this day in 1927 by the police in New York city. The plays were: The Captive about two women in an “abnormal relationship,” The Virgin Man which was an Argentine comedy and Sex starring Mae West which landed West in jail for 10 days. The Captive also prompted the adoption of a state law dealing with obscenity.
February 10th – The cartoon Doonesbury by Gary Trudeau introduced the gay character, Andy Lippincott, on this day in 1976. The character would eventually “die from HIV/AIDS” in 1990 and help bring home awareness of the disease in the USA.
February 13th – Rent opened on Broadway on this day in 1996 – it is a rock opera by Johnathan Larson and tells the story of a group of artists trying to survive and to create a life in New York’s East Village under the shadow of Aids and is loosely based on the Puccini opera La Bohème.
February 14th – Three lesbians appeared on Oprah on this day in 1988 – introduced as “women who hate men,” it was not a great day for lesbians, feminists or Oprah and was just one of the many features done by Oprah Winfrey which sensationalized gay stories. Oprah apparently aired “a comparatively progressive” 1986 episode on homophobia, but in addition also aired the following episodes that sensationalised gay and lesbian matters: “Women Who Turn to Lesbianism’ (1988), “All the Family is Gay” (1991), “Straight Spouses and Gay Husbands” (!992) and “Lesbians and the Gay Baby Boom” (in 1993). Oprah has since become a vocal supporter of LGBTQ rights off-camera.
February 15th – Fifteen-year-old Lawrence King who was gay was shot by fourteen-year-old Brandon McInerney and died on this day in 2008 in Oxnard, California. King had asked McInerney to be his Valentine.
February 17th – Darkness: The Emo Killings began on this day in 2012 in Iraq. The killings targeted youths who apparently seemed gay and who belonged to the Emo subculture (Emo fashion: long straight hair dyed black or blue, tight skinny jeans). Homosexuality remains extremely taboo in Iraq and gay people are often targeted by killers who get away with their murders. Said Raad Asmar was the first victim killed on this day in 2012. Light: On this day in 2011, Facebook expanded its relationship language to accommodate civil unions and domestic partners.
February 18th – Audre Lorde is born on this day in 1934 – she described herself as “a black feminist lesbian mother poet” and a “warrior.” In Zami: A New Spelling of My Name she examined how her different identities shaped her experiences and life – including African American, black, dyke, feminist, mother.
February 20th – The founder of the fashion House of Givenchy specialising in couture, Count Hubert James Marcel Taffin de Givenchy (whose lover and partner was Philippe Venet) was born on this day in 1927 (d. 10 March 2018). He designed clothes for Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy and Audrey Hepburn amongst others. Also on this day in 1982, the medical journal “Lancet” suggests that poppers damages the immune system.
February 22nd – Andy Warhol (b. August 6, 1928) died on this day in 1987 at the age of 58. Warhol’s iconic pop art made him world-famous – including his multichromatic renditions of Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962) and of Marilyn Monroe (Marilyn Diptych, 1962). Jed Johnson was his boyfriend. Most of Warhol’s works are on display at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.
February 23rd – On this day in 1933, Adolph Hitler’s Nazi government launched the persecution of homosexuals with directives to Nazis to close gay and lesbian clubs, ban pornography and homophile publications and to dissolve homosexual rights groups.
February 25th – In Canada’s first gay rights case, on this day in 1993, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a gay man who was denied bereavement leave to attend the funeral of his lover’s father could not claim discrimination.
February 26th – Marco McMillan (b. April 32, 1979) was murdered on this day in 2013 by Lawrence Reed after McMillan had shown a romantic interest in him. McMillan was described as “the first openly gay man to be a viable candidate for public office in Mississippi” after he ran for mayor of Clarksdale in 2013.
February 28th – And on this last day of February, darkness and light: The New Haven Colony mandated the death penalty for “acts against nature” for both women and men and including anal sex and masturbation heterosexual couples on this day in 1656. Also on this day in 1992, the gay and lesbian firefighters’ organisation FireFLAG was formally incorporated and would later grow to also include and cover gay, lesbian and trans people working in emergency medical services.