- September 2021
In the lead-up to today, the 20th anniversary of 9/11, I've heard frequent laments for the national unity we Americans felt and displayed in the days after the attacks. This isn't surprising, considering we're now a nation of fissures.
I remember that feeling. A complete wuss where needles are concerned, even I was prepared to give blood. As much as they needed. As long as they knocked me out first.
But I also remember that, for some, unity wasn't on the agenda.
Two days after the planes flew into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Jerry Falwell appeared on Pat Robertson's "700 Club" TV show, and offered this: "I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way – all of them who have tried to secularize America – I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'"
Robertson heartily agreed. During a period of monumental national sorrow, America's two most prominent conservative Christian leaders chose to demonize queer people and our fellow travelers.
After an outcry, Robertson blamed Falwell. The televangelists couldn't even manage unity in their disunity.
Looking back, I suspect the issue was partly timing. The nation was too raw. If they'd waited a month to blame gays and feminists and liberals, they might've been better received, not come across as heartless, vicious toadstools.
I guess they just got caught up in their enthusiasm for sharing God's love.
- August 2021
Josephine Baker, the St. Louis-born performer, spy and activist, will be reinterred on Nov. 30 in the Panthéon monument in Paris, the first Black woman to receive one of the highest honors France bestows on its citizens.
Baker moved to France in 1925, where her career as a singer and dancer exploded. During World War II, she joined the French resistance. She was the only female speaker at the 1963 March on Washington.
Baker was also famously bisexual. I assume she is not being honored for that . . . although we are talking about France here.
- July 2021
The LGBTQ community just received a gift.
Of the many individuals renowned for battling queer rights over the years, Anita Bryant stands out for the virulence of her attack, her Christian smugness and the fact that she was a whole lot better-looking than Jerry Falwell.
When Florida's Miami-Dade County banned employment and housing discrimination against gays in 1977, Bryant formed Save Our Children, famously reasoning that "Homosexuals cannot reproduce, so they must recruit."
The beauty queen and singer, who called gays "human garbage," flogged fears of kids being indoctrinated and molested. "Before I yield to this insidious attack on God and His laws, I will lead such a crusade to stop it as this country has not seen before," said Joan of Arc with a bouffant.
This week, Anita Bryant's granddaughter announced her engagement to a woman.
Bryant turned many people off religion, but hearing she has a lesbian granddaughter might bring them back again.
- June 2021
This is so cool.
The White House has partnered with the Smithsonian for a Pride-month exhibit. The White House's Ground Floor Corridor, lit up in rainbow colors for the first time, presents LGBTQ+ history, like Stonewall, the AIDS epidemic, Harvey Milk and Marsha P. Johnson.
The exhibit also goes farther back in time, and fittingly for the location, tells of Rose Cleveland, who served as White House hostess for her brother, President Grover Cleveland, until he married in 1886.
"For almost 30 years, Rose Cleveland maintained a romantic relationship with Evangeline Marrs Simpson Whipple. The women lived together in Italy from 1910, until Rose’s death from the Spanish flu in 1918," notes the exhibit. "Rose and Evangeline are buried side by side in Italy and their love letters, housed in the Whipple Collection in the Minnesota Historical Society, were published in 2019."
I don't know whether there's any mention in the exhibit of President James Buchanan. Historians suspect he was gay, but I've not been hot to claim him, since historians also often label him as the worst president ever. I might be more inclined to embrace Buchanan now, though. Despite the fact that he set the stage for the Civil War, I do believe, after the last four years, the title of America's Lamest Chief Executive no longer belongs to him.
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