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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
February 15, 2002

 

Education union urges end to anti-gay harassment

by Anthony Glassman
with wire reports

Washington, D.C.—The country’s largest educators’ union released on February 8 guidelines to combat anti-gay harassment in schools.

The National Education Association, representing over two and a half million teachers and school employees, urges schools to adopt policies punishing harassment and discrimination, as well as asking them to develop curricular materials on homosexuality for classroom discussion.

The union offered school districts "accurate, objective and up-to-date information" on the needs and problems of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered students and staff.

A statement suggesting that school provide age-appropriate, non-judgmental information pertinent to classroom topics being studied accompanied the NEA plan.

The union’s plan reinforces earlier NEA statements as well as resolutions taken by medical and psychological organizations, but carries with it no intrinsic weight other than the bully pulpit. The NEA has no enforcement power over school districts.

According to Judy Maruszan, the organizer of the Safe Schools Are For Everyone program at the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center, the NEA’s prominent position should suffice to get things done.

"It adds weight to what we’re doing here at SSAFE," she said, indicating that the organization can now point to the NEA guidelines when speaking to school officials.

"What I don’t know is, how do the districts get this information," Maruszan, noting that the mechanism for disseminating the data to districts is unclear.

The NEA started considering the plan last year, but withdrew it for further study after a vocal outcry by religious conservatives.

"I don’t know that there will be more backlash," Maruszan stated. "There was a huge flurry from the religious right and they withdrew it to examine it more."

"There must be pretty strong agreement on it to withdraw it and bring it back out," she concluded.

"I think it’s a pretty clear signal that the organization recognizes there are some pretty serious needs for gay and lesbian children in school—and employees," said Penny Kotterman, president of the Arizona Education Association and chairperson of the NEA’s Task Force on Sexual Orientation, which helped to draft the plan.

"Staff do need help," she added. "They need professional development, they need good, factual data that helps them deal with these issues."

"It is clear that, in too many places, students and education employees who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered face a hostile environment," Bob Chase, president of the NEA, stressed.

A study released last year by the University of North Carolina estimated that 5 to 6% of students 17 years and younger are gay, lesbian or bisexual, totaling more than 2 million youths in the United States.


 

Lesbian couple’s house is burned
after they sue for partner benefits

by Anthony Glassman
with wire reports

Missoula, Montana—A lesbian couple and their toddler son narrowly escaped a fire that gutted their home at 3 a.m. on February 8.

The fire was deliberately set, according to investigators, and the crime is being treated as a triple attempted homicide.

The women, Carla Grayson and Adrianne Neff, immediately received the support of hundreds of community members.

Grayson’s name was released three days earlier as one of the gay or lesbian employees of the state university system who filed suit to force the schools to provide domestic partner benefits.

Police believe that someone forced entry into the house Friday morning, poured flammable liquid throughout and set it on fire. Neff, Grayson and their 22-month old son escaped the inferno by climbing out a window.

The American Civil Liberties Union, who filed the suit with Grayson, Neff, another couple and a statewide gay civil rights group, said that it was likely that they were targeted both for being plaintiffs in the suit and for being openly gay.

A rally to support Grayson and Neff on February 9 drew around 700 people, including a number of community leaders.

Among the dignitaries at the rally were Missoula mayor Mike Kadas, state senator Jon Ellingson, state representative Ron Erickson, city councilman Murt Charney and police captain Bob Reid, who said that authorities had few leads in the investigation.

"I feel like I’m putting my family in the hands of this community," Neff said, "and that’s a good place to be."

The women urged people to channel their anger into creating positive change in their community.

"Without a doubt, being burned out of our house is the worst thing that ever happened to me," Grayson told the crowd at First United Methodist Church. "What happened to us may have made you angry--very, very angry--and that’s fine, but anger can lead to violence, and that’s not okay."

The women, along with co-plaintiffs Carol Snetsinger, a web and curriculum designer, and her partner Nancy Siegel, received threatening letters after filing the lawsuit against the university system.

Plans to grant benefits to same-sex domestic partners of university employees have gained support over the last few years in the university system. They have been approved by the faculty senate and union and the student government, only to be rejected by Montana commissioner of higher education Richard Crofts.

Crofts contended that granting the benefits would be a significant change in the university system’s policy. The universities, however, offer benefits to unmarried heterosexual partners of employees who are common-law spouses, a pseudo-marital status that same-sex partners cannot attain.

Teacher’s unions and a state consultant reported that offering benefits to gay and lesbian partners would be, in effect, free to the state, but Crofts held that the research was incomplete.


Gay and black groups unite to urge boycott of Cincinnati

Cincinnati—Gay activists and African American protesters who say Cincinnati discriminates against them united February 11 to support an economic boycott of the city.

The gay advocacy group Stonewall Cincinnati renewed its longstanding call for a boycott to push for repeal of the 1993 "Issue 3" city charter amendment that forbids the city to enact or enforce laws based on sexual orientation.

Leaders joined with black activists, who are demanding Cincinnati officials improve racial relations. The Coalition for a Just Cincinnati, which includes black clergy, has been advocating a boycott since April, when a white police officer shot an unarmed black man who had fled police trying to arrest him on misdemeanor charges.

"We look forward to the day when all people are afforded equal protection under the law and are treated with respect and dignity," said Roy Ford, co-chair of Stonewall Cincinnati. "Then, we will work to welcome visitors and tourists to Cincinnati."

Representatives of both groups stood together outside the city’s downtown convention center to announce their combined effort.

"We don’t agree on everything," Stonewall co-chair Heidi Bruins said Sunday, referring to some leaders of the black coalition who stand against homosexuality. "But we stand in solidarity with the coalition on issues of economic, racial and overall justice, regardless of sexual orientation."

Leaders of the black coalition said they were pleased last week when entertainer Bill Cosby canceled two March 15 performances in Cincinnati.

Cosby said he would not be comfortable appearing in Cincinnati under the circumstances.

Not everyone is heeding the call for a boycott.

Last week, a major black Baptist organization--the Progressive National Baptist Convention--said it plans to go ahead with its Aug. 5-8 convention in Cincinnati, which could attract 8,000 to 15,000 people.

In a separate announcement, an organization of gay musicians said it will visit Cincinnati in July for a weeklong concert festival. The 2002 Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses Eastern Regional Festival is expected to attract more than 1,200 delegates representing 40 choruses on July 3-7.

One of the event’s planners said the same issues that led to calls for a boycott were the same reasons the choruses will honor their commitment to perform.

"We are living in the belly of the monster, and the climate in Cincinnati is ripe for change," said Catherine Roma, founder and director of Muse: Cincinnati Women’s Choir. "We have the opportunity to be change agents, to inspire, to motivate, and to sing for justice." Muse and the Cincinnati Men’s Chorus are hosting the event.

City Council member Paul Booth said he sent letters in late January asking former President Jimmy Carter, Martin Luther King III and former U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman to mediate talks between Cincinnati officials and boycott leaders. Booth said that only King has agreed so far to participate.

"I’m trying to bring the city and the various proponents of the boycott together because right now, we’re not really talking to each other," Booth said. "We’re either talking through the media, or talking at each other."|

--Associated Press


New compromise ‘faith-based’
bill still has traps

by Eric Resnick

Washington, D.C.--President Bush’s "faith-based initiative" is likely to pass under a compromise agreement with Connecticut Democrat Sen. Joe Lieberman that will lead to a flurry of lawsuits by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people seeking federally funded services provided by religious organizations.

The first version of Bush’s plan passed the Republican controlled House last year, but stalled in the Democratic-controlled Senate over provisions making it legal for religious organizations to ignore state and local laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and religion.

The new version, brokered by Lieberman and conservative Republican Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, increases federal funding to be awarded to religious organizations to provide social services and creates new tax incentives to contribute to religious charities.

But instead of overtly exempting religious organizations from civil rights laws, the brokered version is silent on the kinds of discrimination that will be allowed, opening the door to litigation.

A congressional staffer opposed to the compromise bill said under condition of anonymity that GLBT people could severely be harmed by the ambiguity.

"Bush wants discrimination to be allowed and won’t sign any bill that doesn’t leave the possibility for discrimination," said the staffer.

"Lieberman just wants to see more money go to religious organizations and wants Bush to sign a bill," she added. "So, Lieberman proposed this compromise, which is little change to existing law, but a lot more fuel to be added to the fire of who can be discriminated against for services."

Congress has the ability to decide what discrimination, if any, is allowed by the plan. "By leaving that section out," said the source, "Congress is setting up the courts to decide it through, hoping that Bush will appoint Supreme Court justices, so they can justify all the discrimination they want."

The two areas of discrimination opponents fear this compromise will invite are religious discrimination and discrimination based on sexual orientation. "And religion is often a proxy for gay," she said.

Another area of concern with the compromise is that in leaving state and local civil rights ordinances in effect without additional direction, some people will be able to get services paid for by federal money, while others won’t, depending on where they live.

The congressional aide described a scenario of a religious domestic violence shelter in a city with no gay and lesbian civil rights ordinance.

"Under this compromise, that shelter could say ‘We don’t take lesbians here on religious grounds’ or require that people pray the organization’s religious prayers before they are served," she said.

"And in small towns, the religious option might become the only option," she added.

The staffer, who is legislative counsel to a member of the House, also warns that federal court challenges to this are very expensive.

"Unless you are lucky enough to have your case taken up by the ACLU, no one is going to be able to afford to challenge this law," she said. "And that is what Bush and the religious right want from it."

Lieberman has not introduced the final version of his compromise yet, but all indications are that without the previously objectionable language, he will be able to rally enough Democrats in the Senate to pass it and send the bill to Bush for signature.|


 

Director candidates share
two visions for Stonewall

by Milla Rosenberg

Columbus-About sixty-five people turned out Saturday morning February 9 to meet the final two candidates for executive director of Stonewall Columbus. community forum at Stonewall Columbus Community Center.

The candidates, Kathleen "Kate" Anderson and Darnell Frazier, each spoke for about 15 minutes at the Stonewall Community Center, and then they took 45 minutes of questions.

Although a third candidate was scheduled to speak, Stonewall board member Joe Davy said that he had accepted another offer February 7. Davy gave background on both candidates and then introduced them.

Anderson holds a bachelor’s in sociology from Virginia Tech, and has worked as principal public transportation engineer for the Virginia Department of Transportation. In her last position, she worked as chief of staff for the Franklin County Clerk of Courts.

Frazier holds a master’s in nonprofit organizations from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. He has worked as resource development director for Continued Life Inc., general business manager for Jones Technologies Enterprises, and currently manages a parking company, Ampco, in Youngstown.

The board asked the candidates to speak about their vision for the first six months as executive director at Stonewall.

Anderson distributed a packet of materials from which she worked. She took an administrative approach to this question.

"One of my greatest loves is strategic planning," she said.

She proceeded to outlined four areas: priorities, resource evaluation, decision-making, and implementation. Her goal, which she described as "ambitious," would be to complete a resource evaluation in less than two months.

Asked to discuss her experience with people of color, Anderson responded, "I am a hands-on director. I would go out there, have face-to-face interactions, and see who the players in the community are."

Another community member asked her to give specific examples of her interactions with people of color.

"I would see how the organization could support those needs," she replied. "I am an active listener, but that is all I can say on that."

Anderson described her fundraising experience. She has worked on construction projects, capital improvement projects, and has helped to fund-raise with her local arts council.

Anderson helped to found a gay business and professional organization in Richmond, Virginia, a community she described as "closeted." She is new to Franklin County, having moved to Columbus two years ago.

Frazier spoke of his work with the Cleveland Pride festival organizing group, the Human Rights Campaign, and the National Association of Black and White Men Together.

He stated his objective: "My goal is to work in the GLBT community as executive director."

Frazier outlined six areas: development of resources, board objectives, community relations, media relations, social relations, and political relations.

He said that as executive director, he would meet with the board to discuss funding opportunities and staffing. Also, he would set up a meeting with the mayor of Columbus. He described his work for a health maintenance organization.

"That is where I learned my love of accounting and fiscal management," he said.

Frazier also emphasized fundraising and expanding Stonewall’s membership in his speech.

"We need to develop partnerships and collaborations with many organizations," he said. "All of us apply for the same grants and target the same program officers."

Asked how he would reach under-served groups, Frazier said that he would work together with the lesbian community and the minority business council.

"I have worked with Asians and Friends through Cleveland Pride," he added. "And I would reach out to transgender people and Hispanic groups."

At the end of both presentations, Stonewall board members collected audience evaluations for each candidate. Davy announced that the evaluations, résumés, and interviews will be weighted equally in the decision process.

"We will put all of the pieces together and create a scoring mechanism," he said.

The Stonewall board expects to make a final decision at the February 20 meeting. |


 

Charleston is first W.V. city
with hate crime ordinance

by Anthony Glassman
with wire reports

Charleston, W. Va.—The city council passed an ordinance on February 4 adding stiffer penalties to bias-motivated crimes, including those motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation.

Council voted 23-3 to pass the measure, which also includes the categories in the state hate crime law: race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, political affiliation and sex.

The ordinance adds misdemeanor penalties of an additional 30 days in jail and a $500 fine for crimes against the groups protected in the state law, as well as sexual orientation and disability.

Three out of five people speaking before city council on the measure opposed the addition of sexual orientation, including Randy Wilson, a Baptist pastor.

"At worst it will just prevent decent, God-fearing people from trying to save the sodomites from their sin," he said.

"That says enough there that we need a bill that provides protections," countered David Stewart, another speaker at the meeting.

Huntington, W. Va., is also in the process of researching and introducing a hate crimes ordinance, but Charleston is the first city in the state to pass hate crime protection for sexual orientation.

The ordinance cleared a major hurdle on January 17, passing out of council’s rules and ordinance committee by unanimous vote. The entire committee showed up for the meeting, as well as around 50 people who came to express their views.

A major concern at the committee meeting was whether the ordinance would include only gays and lesbians, or if it could also be used to prosecute someone who assaulted a heterosexual because of his or her orientation. Committee members assured the crowd that "sexual orientation" covered heterosexuals as well as gays.

An amendment was also added at the committee meeting banning prosecutors from using membership in a group such as the Ku Klux Klan as proof of a hate crime unless membership in the organization related directly to the crime being prosecuted. The amendment was introduced by Councilmember David Molgaard, who said that the measure would ensure that the new ordinance would not violate constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and association.

The Charleston and Huntington measures both arose out of concern over a number of recent anti-gay attacks, most notably the murder of Arthur "J.R." Warren near Fairmont, W.V. in July, 2000, and the Nov. 18 attack on Michael Fiffe in Huntington. Fiffe was beaten so severely that he is in a coma from which he will never completely recover.

Warren’s killers, who beat and kicked him, locked him in the trunk of a car and then ran him over to make the attack look like a hit-and-run, pleaded guilty. One is serving a sentence for first-degree murder, the other for second-degree murder. Both will be eligible for parole within 15 years.

Fiffe’s attackers await trial on charges of malicious wounding, which carries a sentence of 2 to 10 years, although if he dies in the next ten months and prosecutors can prove the attack caused his death, the charges can be increased to murder under West Virginia state law.

Since the state’s hate crimes laws do not include sexual orientation, neither crime’s perpetrators faced increased penalties for their actions. Had Warren’s killers attacked him for being black, prosecutors could have increased their sentences.


News Briefs

Victim sues, says police won’t pursue beating case

Denver—A Rifle, Colo. teenager who says he was attacked by four young men because he is gay filed a federal lawsuit February 7, claiming his civil rights were violated.

Kyle Skyock, 17, said the men and boys beat him and left him alongside U.S. 6 last February. But police and prosecutors say Skyock fell and injured himself while walking home from a party.

Prosecutors in this town about 180 miles west of Denver say there isn’t enough evidence to file charges, but the case is still open.

Skyock’s lawyer, Calvin Lee of Glenwood Springs, said on Feb. 6 that he would seek a special prosecutor in the case.

A jogger found Skyock unconscious along the highway Feb. 10, 2001. His skull was fractured and he had bruises, a black eye and three broken ribs. He was comatose for three days.

He later told police he left the Elks Lodge with two pairs of brothers after finishing work there. He said the four suddenly turned on him as they drove around drinking and smoking marijuana.

Rifle police said that a drunken Skyock left a party at the brothers’ house and fell about a half-mile into his walk home. The side of the road where Skyock fell is rocky and he could have been hurt by his fall, police said.

Dr. Rob Kurtzman, a Grand Junction forensic pathologist, agreed that Skyock’s injuries were consistent with a fall.

But Arapahoe County Coroner Michael Dobersen, who reviewed the case, said the injuries were more consistent with an assault. He said Skyock couldn’t have received the injuries from a fall.

Skyock and his mother, Sharlene Skyock, pointed to burns and a bruise shaped like a two-by-four as inconsistent with a fall. They are suing the four young men and two of their parents for conspiracy to deprive civil rights, assault and false imprisonment.

 

Virginia bill would ban class discussion

Richmond, Va.—The state House of Representatives passed a bill on Feb. 4 that would ban discussion of homosexuality in state classrooms.

The measure would force school districts to change their policies to prohibit anything dealing with homosexuality and other "crimes against nature" from classrooms, student assemblies and meetings, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The bill passed the House 83-16. It now moves to the state senate.

Gay civil rights groups in the state, as well as the Virginia Education Association, say the bill limits teachers and school boards too much in setting curricula and discussing sociological, psychological and health issues.

Educators and gay and AIDS activists worry that the bill, if passed, would destroy chances of effectively educating students about HIV and AIDS.

 

Arizona partner bill on hold

Phoenix—Bills to allow unmarried couples in committed relationships to register as domestic partners were put on hold in the Arizona House after being alternately called a threat to marriage or a step toward dignity.

The House debated the legislation at length Feb. 5, but backers postponed showdown votes indefinitely. They later said some potential supporters still had concerns left unanswered by the bills’ hurried handling.

Supporters outnumbered opponents on two procedural votes on the bills but were short of the 31 votes needed to pass legislation in the 60-member House.

One of the bills would establish a domestic party registry in Superior Court. To be eligible to register, two people must be in a committed relationship, share living expenses, be at least 18 and not be married or in another registered domestic partnership.

Under the second bill, registered domestic partners would gain basic rights in insurance, inheritance and medical decision-making.

The proposed laws, if passed, would be very similar to measures currently in place in California.

Openly gay Rep. Steve May, a supporter of the bills, said they might not resurface for several weeks because the state’s budget will take priority.

 

Army won’t kick out bi officer

Fort Bragg, N.C.—The Army has refused to discharge an officer who admitted to homosexual conduct and volunteered to resign his commission.

The Army wants Capt. David Donovan to continue in his job as a military policeman and information systems management officer rather than pay back the cost of training him. Donovan’s four requests for discharge, including one supported by Fort Bragg’s commanding officer, have been rejected.

Donovan, who is married, said he discovered his bisexuality a few years ago.

He said his role as an officer and military policeman requires him to enforce a "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy that he felt was wrong.

Failing to discharge him opens the Army up to accusations it is failing to enforce policy equally, Donovan contends.

Donovan, who has served 17 years in the active-duty military wrapped around two years in the Army reserve, has volunteered to pay back whatever the government determines it is owed, Conormon said.

By resigning, Donovan would forfeit his lifetime health benefits and his pension, now about three years away and estimated to be worth about $250,000, Conorman said.

 

Marriage, civil unions get hearing

Hartford, Conn.—Gay couples described legal barriers they have faced and more than a dozen religious leaders supported gay marriages at a legislative hearing on same-sex unions Feb. 11.

But opponents, wearing stickers that read "Marriage has Meaning," told lawmakers that same-sex marriages and civil unions undermine the institution of marriage.

Several hundred people attended the daylong hearing held by the Connecticut House Judiciary Committee. The committee is considering two bills on same-sex unions this session: one to allow same-sex marriage and another to create civil unions similar to ones in Vermont that legally recognize gay couples.

 

Jury says murder was hate crime

Jefferson, Wis.—A 33-year-old man killed another man in part because he was gay, a jury ruled February 9.

The jury found Darrin Grosskopf guilty of first-degree intentional homicide for the March 31 death of Keith Ward, 21.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge John Ullsvik had allowed jury members to consider lesser charges when they began deliberations Friday. The 14-person jury found Grosskopf had targeted Ward because of his sexual orientation.

According to testimony, Ward and Grosskopf had been partying with friends for much of the day March 30 and had gone back to Grosskopf’s apartment to continue using cocaine, marijuana and beer late that evening.

When found later, Ward had been stabbed once in the chest with a buck knife.

At one point, a witness told the court, the still-intoxicated Grosskopf visited his house after the attack and shook his hand, saying he had killed a homosexual.

Defense attorney Robert Dvorak said Ward sexually assaulted Grosskopf, prompting the defendant to grab a knife he kept on a table and stab Ward in the chest. The jury dismissed the "gay panic" argument.

Grosskopf faces life in prison for the felony conviction. The sentence could be enhanced by a total of 20 years and $5,000 because it was considered a hate crime with a dangerous weapon and because Grosskopf had been convicted of a felony in a 1996 case.

A sentencing date had not yet been set.

Compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.


EVENINGS OUT

To be young, black,
gifted and queer

by Anthony Glassman

The twentieth century was one of major upheavals for the black community. It saw the rise of a singular, albeit not monolithic, "black culture" that is completely interwoven with the experience of African Americans.

"Black" music was the first to come into the public eye, with a culture surrounding it that both terrified and attracted "white" America with its siren song. The rise of jazz and the backlash against it is one thread in the century’s tapestry. The Harlem Renaissance mixed jazz together with literature to weave a more vivid picture, and the rise of the cinema served perhaps to tie the knot keeping the image intact.

Perhaps the only constant throughout the turbulent eras of the last century, however, has been the fact that gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people were in the vanguard of the movements arising out of them. Leaders like Bayard Rustin, James Baldwin and Ruth Ellis lived their lives fairly openly in the most repressive of times, and with varying degrees of fame.

The fact that the mainstream generally ignores their sexual orientation could partially explain why they have become ingrained in the collective consciousness; James Baldwin is seldom referred to as a gay author, despite the fact that he wrote freely about it, as was the case with his novel Giovanni’s Room.

They are, however, far from the only, or even the most, famous queer African Americans to inhabit the public consciousness.

Johnny Mathis’ soulful song stylings have set the mood for many a romantic evening in the heterosexual world, a world Mathis himself never inhabited. He is perhaps the first male vocalist whose career wasn’t affected by his sexual orientation, with the possible exception of Little Richard. However, Little Richard did the "born again" thing, and was a camp act to begin with.

The musicians, in fact, are perhaps the most eclectic mix of black queers around. In addition to Mathis and Little Richard, there are the men like Billy Strayhorn, who worked with the inestimable Duke Ellington, and wrote Ellington’s theme song "Take the A Train," as well as dozens of other tunes.

Tevin Campbell, who hit big in the late 1980s, had a bit rougher a time when it came to his sexual orientation: it became known when he was arrested for soliciting a male undercover police officer. Campbell first came into the spotlight at the age of 13 with his first album, T.E.V.I.N.

Andy Bey got his stage debut at the Apollo Theater when he was 12; between then and his coming out in 1994, he worked with his sisters and legends like Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughn.

There really isn’t even a need to mention the first truly famous drag queen/singer, Sylvester. "(You Make Me Feel) Mighty Real" is still anthemic, still played at clubs around the world, and has probably been remixed about a thousand times. Before RuPaul, practically before the Lady Chablis, there was Sylvester, without whom no disco compilation is complete, God rest her soul.

There were as many women singing the blues who were queer as weren’t, or so it seems. Alberta Hunter, who retired in 1956 but whose popularity had a renaissance in the 1970s, was one of the longest-lived blues and jazz singers.

Bessie Smith, on the other hand, died in her forties, but sold almost three quarters of a million copies of her 1924 release "Down Home Blues," cementing her position as one of the most influential blues artists in history.

Josephine Baker, that lovely lady who left for the golden shores of Paris to find fame and fortune, was known for her lesbian affairs, although that is not what sent her overseas. Her life as an expatriate was due to the difficulties faced by black entertainers in the United States.

There are as many queer black writers as grains of sand on the beach, one begins to think. The lists go on and on, but a few names stand out.

Jewelle Gomez, for instance, whose career still goes on today. That’s not really surprising, though. She’s only in her early 50s. Her books The Lipstick Papers and The Gilda Stories can still be found on shelves.

So can the works of a few of the gay lights of the Harlem Renaissance. Countee Cullen, who married W.E.B. DuBois’ daughter before running off to Europe with the best man at his wedding, is one of them.

Another poet of the era is Langston Hughes, about whom just about everything is known. Let’s skip him and go on to more obscure writers.

Like, for instance, Bruce Nugent. Nugent was far more in-your-face than his contemporaries in the Harlem Renaissance, making him both legend and martyr; his career suffered greatly by his role as the first black author to deal directly with issues of same-sex attraction. A collection of his writing is being released this spring, though.

More recent is Hilton Als, who wrote The Women and The Group, as well as the screenplay for the film Swoon, a mixed-era retelling of the Leopold and Loeb murder case. He’s written for the Village Voice, the New Yorker and served as editor at large for Vibe, covering all the bases a writer could ever dream of.

Of course, there are others, hundreds, thousands of them. The names come and go in a flood: Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, Randy Boyd, E. Lynn Harris, James Earl Hardy, Reginald Vel Johnson, Bill T. Jones. There are too many to name; thankfully, web sites like http://www.blackstripe.com/blacklist have them all written out.

Black History Month is every February, it’s true, but the contributions of LGBT black artists enrich America every day.

 

 

 

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