This Month in Queer History: August 2012


August has been a mixed bag for queers in sports. On the one hand, it brought us tennis player Renee Richards (1934) and the first Gay Games in San Francisco (1982). Yet, in 2000, gays were still fighting for acceptance in the stands, let along on the field. A security officer kicked a lesbian couple out of an LA Dodgers game for kissing. The outrage around the incident motivated the team to not only apologize, but also create the first “gay night” in professional baseball.

Pride continues around the world in August, bringing the first celebrations in Prague, Czech Republic (2011) and Liverpool, U.K. (2010). In August 2007, Democratic presidential hopefuls participated in the first-ever live televised debate focused on LGBTQ issues with LOGO. Also worth celebrating is the anniversary of the first nationwide gay rights measures in Argentina (2008) and legalization of same-sex marriage in Wisconsin (2009).

Back in the ’50s, news publications didn’t cover LGBTQ folks, they exposed them. Even the New York Times entrapped a man (1953) wanted for “consensual sodomy” (AKA having sex with his male lover) by publishing a false ad from his mother and turning the man’s letter of response over to police, leading to his arrest.

In other stories of newspapers behaving badly, a Cleveland publication reported on two men found naked in a puddle, adding dryly: “It is supposed they were cleaning out the gutter” (1855).

Closer to home, the Oregon Territory makes official its anti-sodomy law in 1848. A Portland newspaper reports on the law’s usage against a gay couple whose neighbor reported them to the police. The sodomy law also puts gays at increased risk of sterilization in 1935 when the Oregon governor says that sex offenders can only be pardoned after being sterilized. He goes so far as to suggest expanding the state’s sterilization law, drawing inspiration from Nazi Germany. Yikes.

On a lighter note, happy August birthdays to writer James Baldwin (1924), fashion designer Tom Ford (1961), DJ and Lindsay Lohan ex Samantha Ronson (1977), and musician and DJ JD Samson (Le Tigre, MEN).

Sources: On This Gay Day (onthisgayday.blogspot.com) and the Gay and Lesbian Archives of the Pacific NW (glapn.org) Sodomy Laws
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