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October marks LGBT History Month, Coming Out Day
Alan Turing. Richard Bruce Nugent. Eleanor Roosevelt. Leslie Feinberg.
These are just four of the hundreds of thousands of names that people should keep in mind in October, both for LGBT History Month and for National Coming Out Day.
All right, perhaps Alan Turing is a bad example for the latter.
Turing, a brilliant mathematician, was one of the people working for the British government in World War II, struggling to create a method to break the Nazis’ Enigma cipher.
The Turing machine, more properly known as the Turing-Welchman “bombe,” enabled the Allies to decipher coded Nazi transmissions, bringing an earlier end to the war in Europe.
However, after the war, Turing was arrested by police and charged with gross indecency for having sex with another man. He was allowed to bypass imprisonment by taking hormone treatments to lower his libido, lost his security clearance, and killed himself two years later.
Last year, the British government apologized for their treatment of someone who is viewed as a national hero. The law decriminalizing homosexuality in Britain was passed two years after Turing’s death.
Richard Bruce Nugent, on the other hand, had a far longer life, dying in 1987, just over a month shy of his 81st birthday.
The tragedy of Nugent’s life, however, was that he was largely ignored because of his refusal to keep quiet about his sexual orientation.
Nugent could have been the brightest star of the Harlem Renaissance, a writer and painter of unique talent. However, while his contemporary Langston Hughes could be subtle, Nugent refused to keep his voice down, metaphorically speaking.
Gay Rebel of the Harlem Renaissance and the unfinished novel Gentleman Jigger, both available at fine bookstores everywhere, illustrate Nugent’s talents as a painter and wordsmith.
Eleanor Roosevelt was the wife of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and was referred to as the “first female president. Writing analysis indicates that, after her husband was struck down by polio, Eleanor signed numerous government documents with his name.
The First Lady was apparently bisexual, having carried on a long-standing relationship with reporter Lorena Hickok. She wore a sapphire ring given to her by Hickok at her husband’s inauguration, and their correspondence carries such passionate lines as, “I want to put my arms around you and kiss you at the corner of your mouth.”
Leslie Feinberg is an award-winning author, LGBT activist and prominent member of the Workers World Party, a prominent American Communist party that has anti-bigotry and affirmative action as some of its central tenets.
Known for such groundbreaking works as Stone Butch Blues, Drag King Dreams and Transgender Warriors, Feinberg has become a photographer since falling ill in 2008.
Feinberg champions the use of gender-neutral pronouns like “hir” and “ze,” and maintains a place in the vanguard of gender-transgressive people across the world.
Firmly ensconced in the middle of the now-five-year old LGBT History Month is National Coming Out Day, with student organizations and community centers across the nation holding events to commemorate the day. It is all the more poignant this year following a spate of teenage suicides in September following anti-gay bullying.
For example, the Cleveland LGBT Center’s 35th anniversary celebration includes a youth-driven poetry and prose reading for National Coming Out Day on October 11 at Gypsy Bean and Bakery on Detroit Avenue, followed the next day by the LGBT Heritage Day celebration at City Hall.
For more information, go to the website of your local LGBT Center or student organization.
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