Early Lesbian Magazines in the USA

the ladder

 

Lisa Ben was a “gay gal” living in California who became a pioneer for the LGBT movement. She wrote and published the first lesbian magazine in the United States, VICE VERSA — America’s Gayest Magazine, both to educate about and normalize homosexualty and to create gay media by a gay person. Using resources from her job at RKO Studios, she was able to make ten copies of one edition a month. Nine editions were distributed between 1947 and 1948 until Lisa Ben left her job.

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Bayard Rustin & the Collective Challenge

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Bayard Rustin was a leading facilitator and influential speaker during the Civil Rights Movement, entrenched in social justice at a very early age by his politically active grandparents. Possessing a charismatic personality, good education, and impressive organizing skills it would make sense that he was a prominently recognized figure in history, only that given everything he accomplished, his name will sparsely appear in any school history textbook. Despite Rustin’s achievements for the Civil Rights Movement he was repeatedly forced into the shadows because of his sexual identity.

Rustin’s most notable work includes organizing with Dr. King on the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the March on Washington. Previous to meeting Dr. King, he had already made waves in social justice through sit-ins and protests in addition to his evasion of the draft during WWII. Having been raised Quaker and adopting Gandhi’s non-violent resistance platform, he often spoke about the path of peace and pacifism.

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In fact, he introduced Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Gandhi’s teachings, as King had not at the time of their meeting solidified his position on nonviolence. Rustin acted as King’s most important advisor for many years, but his homosexuality prevented him from being a greater public ally for the movement. He was regularly challenged by individuals within the Civil Rights Movement who on all other accounts would have been allies.

Though he was open and comfortable with his own identity, Rustin was often the target of accusations of perversion and was even threatened with exposure of a false scandal implicating a sexual relationship between Rustin and King. Fearful that such an accusation would completely derail the Civil Rights Movement, King distanced himself from Rustin. King still corresponded with Rustin for advice, but avoided public meetings until the organization of the March on Washington began and it became abundantly clear that Rustin was the only person equipped to coordinate an event of its magnitude.

Bayard Rustin’s impact can be straightforwardly followed through history, but it is significant to note the impact his sexuality had on limiting his success. It can be argued that King could not have accomplished all that he did without Rustin’s advising, thus, it can be speculated that had Rustin been heterosexual he would have the same, if not greater, household name recognition as King today. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama in 2013.

Brother Outside Movie

FBI Surveillance Records of Bayard Rustin

Twenty-Two Days on the Chain Gang

ISAAC MYERS

ISAAC MYERS

Born in Baltimore(1835), Maryland, the son of free African-American parents. Myers was barred from public education, but he did attend a private day school run by a local clergyman named Rev. John Fortie. Leaving school at sixteen, he served an apprenticeship with Thomas Jackson, a widely-respected African-American ship caulker and then entered the trade himself, becoming by the age of 20 a supervisor, responsible for caulking some of Baltimore’s largest clipper ships. He stayed in the trade for a decade.  Continue reading

Betty Friedan: a broader understanding

 

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“The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the twentieth century in the United States. Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched the slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night—she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question– ‘Is this all?”’ Continue reading