by Adriaan van den Berg

A New Age of Activism Needed of LGBTG People

I greet you and the new season with a call to arms since, if LGBTGQ history is instructive, an important  lesson of the past two decades has been that we are actually in the midst of a crisis on one hand even as we were gaining  constitutional recognition and legal protection of our rights in some countries on the other hand – and it was and is a crisis which can be fathomed and generally described as follow: 

  • Over the past two decades of the new millennium, LGBTGQ activists, leaders, philosophers, thinkers and intellectuals failed to define a new animating ideological vision and to set a new socio-political and economic agenda and objectives for LGBTGQ people – one that encouraged us to secure those freedoms and rights that we already gained and enjoyed in the free world while seeking those same freedoms and rights for the multitude of LGBTGQ people in countries where they are still persecuted and oppressed.  
  • And over this period, in the very countries which we deem “free” and where LGBTGQ rights are respected, LGBTGQ people began to fall short in political participation, in institutional representation and in assuming political-social and economic leadership roles.
  • At the same time, LGBTGQ people also stopped seeking acknowledgement and redress, restitution and compensation for past persecutions and for discrimination against our LGBTGQ predecessors – past wrongs were willy-nilly forgotten and forgiven and a people and their communities still very much in need of affirmation and affirmative action were instead deprived of it.
  • LGBTGQ people also abandoned traditional LGBTGQ activism and participation in LGBTGQ advocacy organizations, in interest and pressure groups, they neglected monitoring of injustices against them and infractions of their rights while ceasing to undertake mass protests and organized resistance to discrimination, intimidation and violence as before. Believing their struggle was over and that the battle for rights has been won, they neglected guarding against the possible repeal of their freedoms and rights and didn’t seek greater legal and institutional protection for it.  
  • In these free countries, LGBTGQ people also largely abandoned social work and community involvement – as a result, their communities remained or became resources impoverished and services starved. In South Africa, even our largest urban LGBTGQ communities lack health, education, legal and welfare services and crucial resources like community centers, premises with classrooms, meeting halls, offices and consulting rooms, LGBTGQ libraries and archives and media centers.

   The clubs, bars and parties and pride parades are well attended, but in short, LGBTGQ people don’t realize how underrepresented, marginalized, sidelined, isolated, stripped, invisible and vulnerable we still are here in the supposedly free world. Worst still, in other countries across the world, persecution including killing, imprisoning and torture of LGBTGQ people have proceeded virtually unopposed right until this day while their fellow LGBTGQ people in the free world continue to live unaware and without any concern or protest over the hatred and homophobia practiced against their kind in these backwards and repressive countries. I therefore begin this month’s edition of On This Queer Day with a call to LGBTGQ people to support and fund our activists, organizations, institutions and publications and to show solidarity with LGBTGQ people in still oppressive countries – may the following record of events from the month of September in LGBTGQ history serve as testimony of what we had endured and accomplished as well as serve as inspiration for what yet has to be done. Aluta continua!   

September in LGBTGQ History

September 1st – 

One of the aspects of the “crisis” facing LGBTGQ people mentioned in the just-rendered introduction to this month’s column above, is that LGBTGQ people have not secured our legal rights and our legislative protections and freedoms against possible repeal. And one of those rights vulnerable to repeal comprises the recognition of same-sex partnerships, of which a slew of instances in which states around the world recognized this right occurred since more or less the year 2000, all of which could still be vulnerable to repeal in those states… Yes, it is a right we now take for granted but which could be revoked and of which we can be deprived of yet again. And we begin our listing of events from LGBTGQ history for September first of all with the following entry: That on this first day of September in 2011, the state of Lichtenstein extended recognition of same-sex partnerships. Likewise, on the first day of September 2013, the ward of Yodogawa in the city of Osaka in Japan declared its support for LGBTG inclusion. We celebrate these accomplishments, yet we have to take note that such rights and recognition and support are not cast in stone and can be revoked, repealed and rolled back – that is the message of this column of On this Queer Day for this month in LGBTG history.

   The 1st of September in LGBTG history isn’t however just notable for the above reasons alone: Radio host Bernardo Aranda was assassinated in Paraguay on the 1st of September 1959, to which the government responded by arresting 108 men for the alleged murder. The names of those men were made public even before they were convicted and their prosecution was so sensational that it made “108” a slang term for homosexuality Paraguay. And what was purportedly “the first photograph of lesbians” to be published ever and anywhere, appeared on the cover of lesbian magazine The Ladder in the United States on the 1st of September in 1964. And in a more dubious distinction, on this day, the 1st of September in 1978, the Gay Bob doll debuted in stores in the USA sporting an earring and coming packed in a box shaped like a closet(!)

September 2nd The well-known American gay magazine The Advocate was first published on the 2nd of September in 1967, while September the 2nd was also the day and month of 2005 on which the groundbreaking neo-western film about two gay men, Brokeback Mountain premiered at the Venice Film Festival.

September 3rd The first national U.S. Latina Lesbian conference was held on this date in Los Angeles in 1988.

September 4thOne of the foundation rights of LGBTGQ people is legalization of same-sex acts between consenting adults – it is not just another one of the LGBTGQ rights that are legally entrenched that can yet be repealed, as a foundation right its repeal would affect many other LGBTGQ rights such as all those recognizing and extended to same-sex couples. This foundation right was what was essentially proposed on this day, September 4th of 1957 in England by the Wolfenden report. The report appeared following the arrest of a number of prominent public figures for homosexual offences which challenged British authorities to review its suppression of homosexuality and same-sex acts.

September 5th Columbia “decriminalized” so-called “homosexual behavior” on this day in 1970, making the penalty for such acts three years in jail. Abolish such laws and you enable recognition of same-sex couples and pave the way for related rights such as their right to adopt children. 

September 6thLesbian human rights activist Sandra Moran was voted in Guatemalan congress on this 6th day of September in 2015. (See the commentary for the entry for September the 8th).

September 7th – The first 24-hour LGBTGQ TV network and the second such a LGBTGQ channel in the world, PrideVision TV, was launched on the 7th of September in 2001.

September 8thIn Puerto Rico on this day in 2012, the first lesbian and the first black woman as well as the third woman to be so, Ana Ima Rivera Lassen was appointed president of the Puerto Rico Bar Association for lawyers.

   I am aware that many such historical cases of the stellar rise and amazing appointments of LGBTGQ people to leadership positions contradict belief that such a great many LGBTGQ people have come to shun political participation and to stop aspiring to political leadership. Cases like Sandra Moran’s in Guatamala (entry for September 6th) and Ana Ima Rivera Lassen’s may indeed have paved the way and have enabled some younger and other LGBTGQ people to pursue similar accomplishments and positions of political leadership and that such LGBTGQ candidates are now enabled and empowered by legal recognition of the freedoms and rights of LGBTGQ people in their countries. Yet I also believe it was what at the same time led to LGBTGQ people in general resting their laurels and to feel they needn’t pursue political participation and seek leadership positions for themselves anymore. So, the problem is that LGBTGQ people didn’t realize that political participation beyond mere voting but also on a civic and organizational level should be a perpetual pursuit for every LGBTGQ person of adult age and that we should forever be encouraging young and those LGBTGQ people with such potential to aspire to and pursue political and leadership positions.    

September 9thCivic and political action? LGBTGQ people can organize and participate in novel and innovative ways… Take New York group The Lesbian Avengers who is “a direct-action group focused on issues vital to lesbian survival and visibility.” They staged their first public action in the NY borough of Queens on this day in 1992 when they targeted right-wingers attempting to suppress as multicultural “Children of the Rainbow” curriculum for elementary school children. Since then chapters have been established world-wide.

September 10thOn this day we remember the ruling and case which allowed same-sex couples to jointly adopt children in South Africa: it was Du Toit versus the Minister of Welfare and Population Development. Yet I want to stay true to this month’s theme for this column and ask how much it takes to repeal such rulings and to roll back such rights? How secure are our human rights?   

September 11thThe second important and much lauded film related to LGBTGQ people or causes affecting them to have premiered in September in LGBTGQ history, was And the Band Played On which premiered on this day in September 1993 and which starred Richard Gere, Lily Tomlin, Alan Alda, Matthew Modine and Anjelica Houston. Both the film and book by the same title were indictments of government complacency as the HIV virus was discovered and in the face of the ensuing AIDS epidemic. 

September 12thAmerican actor Anthony Perkins who became famous for his portrayal of the cross-dressing-like-mama killer Norman Bates in the film Psycho dies of AIDS on this day in 1992. Perkins’ one-time lover Rock Hudson was the first famous star to have succumbed to AIDS in 1956.  

September 13th I am not averse to queer nationalism and the idea of a LGBTGQ Homeland at all, as I have let on before. And on the 13th of September 2004 the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom declared war of Australia’s government for failure to recognize same-sex marriages. The Gay and Lesbian Kingdom formed a micro-nation who demanded territorial compensation under the Unjust Enrichment law of Australia and the group asserts that it exists as an independent country since they lay claim to a group of uninhabited islets east of the Great Barrier Reef as Australia’s external overseas Territory of the Coral Sea Islands. 

September 14th This is it! Way to go, Jerusalem Open House! It is an LGBTGQ organization which went to Israel’s Supreme Court to force Jerusalem City Hall to fund the LGBTGQ Pride Parade. 

September 15thOn this day in 1996, the European Parliament called for an end to all discrimination against homosexuals in every country of the European Union while also on the 15th of September but in 2011, in Australia “X” became the gender option for intersex people on their passports while transgender people could choose between “male” or “female.” 

September 16thLet’s not forget LGBTGQ people from previo7us epochs and from centuries past… Remember people like Navy Chief of Detectives, Laurens Hospuijn from Amsterdam who was executed for sodomy in that city on September the 16th of 1730 by being strangled and then thrown i9n the water with a 100-pound weight. 

September 17th – The political Left has not always been allies of LGBTGQ people. Take the case of Toronto gay activist Brian Mossop who was expelled from the Communist Party of Canada on this day in 1976 for being openly gay and for advocating homosexuality. 

September 18thOur third film to be remembered for opening in September in the past and in LGBTGQ history, Mommy Dearest, which both glorified and denounced gay icon Joan Crawford, opened on this day in September 1981.  

   I spoke of repeal of rights and laws which affect us as LGBTGQ people, but there are also legal mechanisms whereby we can seemingly enjoy protection while at the same time clauses are added that can be abused to counter our presence and ability to be ourselves and to enjoy our freedoms: Take the Toronto Board of Education in Canada’s adoption of a policy banning discrimination based on sexual orientation on this day in 1980, to which they added a clause which forbidden “proselytizing of homosexuality in schools,” a case in point.    

September 19thThe multitude of countries which either until recently or which still have anti-LGBTGQ legislation and laws: Belize still banned same-sex activity in 2003 when it adopted a law which penalized and punished it with ten-year jail sentences, doing so on the 19th of September 2003. 

September 20thSaudi Arabia is a serious problem as far as human rights are concerned: We know and may be aware of their suppressions of women’s rights such as their refusal to honor their undertaking to allow women to drive, we know of their murder of journalists (e.g. Jamal Kashoggi), but also spare a thought for the Kingdom’s LGBTGQ people, including the twenty four Filipino guest workers who received 50 lashes of a 200-lash sentence for alleged “homosexual behavior” on September the 20th 1996 and who were subsequently also deported despite protests by Amnesty International.

September 21stA Oklahoma court ruled on this day in 1982 that homosexuality was no grounds for finding a parent unfit in a case in which it awarded custody of two boys to their divorced gay father. 

September 22ndIn 1928 on the 28th of September, The Chicago Defender, a pre-eminent African American newspaper ran an ad for a new record by Ma Rainy called Prove It on Me Blues which was apparently a song about lesbian love. 

September 23rd Is Indian prince Manavendra Singh Gohil the only openly gay royal in the world? He was born on this day of September in 1965. 

September 24thOn this day in 1482, Richard Puller von Hohenberg was burned at the stake along with his servant Anton Matzler in Zurich for having a homosexual relationship. And also on this day of September in 1731 in the Netherlands, twenty two men were strangled and burned in Zuidhorn for sodomy.  

September 25thIn 1984 on this day in September, 5800 pages of J. Edgar Hoover’s personal war on “Sex Deviate” gays are released, but Hoover was gay himself.  

September 26thThis month’s On This Queer Day has had a number of entries of LGBTGQ-related films and media events, and on this day in September in 2013, Latin America’s first gay travel program, Boys on the Road premiered in Mexico. 

September 27thIn 1907 on this day of September, John Leonell (23) and Tom McLaughlin (28) committed suicide in each other’s arms. 

September 28thLGBTGQ activist Fanny Ann Eddy who established the Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Association, was murdered on this day in September 2004 in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

September 29th On this day in 2012, California became the first US state to ban conversion therapy on minors to “cure” them of their homosexuality…. something South Africa still has to do.

September 30thThe first public action for gay rights in Paraguay takes place after the government arrested hundreds of gay men and tortured them on this day in 1959.  

Interfaith Calendar for September 2021

September 4th till 11th Paryushana – Jain

September 6th Antinous in Athens – Antinoan, Faith of the Gay God Antinous

September 7th till 8th Rosh Hashanah – Jewish New Year 

September 11th Nayrouz – Coptic New Year

September 16th Yom Kippur – Jewish

September 19th Birth of Antoninus Pius – Antinoan, Faith of the Gay God Antinous

September 21st Antinous and Hadrian and the Mysteries of Eleusis, Antinous on Mount Cassius, Blessing of St. Carpocrates and the Sacred Ship of Antinous – Antinoan, Faith of the Gay God Antinous

September 25th Antinous at Heliopolis – Antinoan, Faith of the Gay God Antinous  

September 21st till 27thSukkot – Jewish

September 28th Antinous at Giza – Antinoan, Faith of the Gay God, Antinous

September 20th Pitru Paksha – Hindu

September 21st Mabon, Autumnal Equinox – Wicca

September 28th Arbaeen – Islamic


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