The First 100 Gays

Do you really want to read another think piece about Donald Trump's first 100 days? This is better.
Ellen DeGeneres came out a lesbian in 1997, and then her character on her TV show came out. Two firsts!
Ellen DeGeneres came out a lesbian in 1997, and then her character on her TV show came out. Two firsts!

WASHINGTON ― Saturday marks President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office. In case you haven’t read an analysis of his failures, his lies or what grades he deserves for his performance over the past three months, don’t worry: there are more than 833,000 takes to choose from.

Enough. It’s time to expend brain power on something else. Nobody wants another think piece on the first 100 days. But the first 100 gays? Nobody has done this. Until now.

Here are the first 100 gay people in America, with some major caveats. 1) These are people who have been out and influential in some form. 2) I am going back in time as far as I can find people in Google searches on a Friday night, when I’m doing this instead of going out and enjoying whiskey with friends. 3) I will inevitably miss important people; do not give me crap. Instead, enjoy reading about something other than Trump and learn things.

1. Frances Rummell (a.k.a Diana Frederics) published a 1939 autobiography called Diana: A Strange Autobiography. It was the first explicitly lesbian autobiography in which two women ended up happy together.

2. In 1950, Harry Hay founded the Los Angeles-based Mattachine Society, one of the first gay rights organizations in the country. The FBI spent a few years investigating those homosexuals.

 3. Marijane Meaker (aka Vin Packer) published Spring Fire in 1952, the first lesbian paperback novel. Her publisher made her change its ending from happy to tragic ― because lesbians in the 1950s couldn’t have nice things.

4. In 1955, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon founded Daughters of Bilitis, the first national lesbian political and social organization. They were also the first same-sex couple married in California when, in 2004, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered the city clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. They were 87 and 83. Aw.

Here's Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon getting marred in their 80s.
Here's Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon getting marred in their 80s.

5. José Sarria ran for San Francisco city-county supervisor in 1961, making him the first openly gay person to run for public office.

6. In 1966, Lilli Vincenz became the first lesbian to appear on the cover of a lesbian magazine, The Ladder, with her face showing. (Was there another magazine cover with a lesbian showing her arm?)

7. Craig Rodwell opened the New York City-based Oscar Wilde Bookshop in 1967. It was the first book store devoted to gay and lesbian authors. It closed in 2009.

8. Rev. James Lewis Stoll in 1969 became the first ordained minister of an established denomination to come out as gay. He led the effort that convinced the Unitarian Universalist Association to pass their first gay rights resolution.

9. In 1970, Del Whan taught the first LGBTQ class at the University of Southern California, titled “Social Movement: Gay Liberation.” It evolved into a student group, The Gay Liberation Forum, which was the first gay and lesbian campus group. USC finally recognized it in 1975.

10. Jim Morris became the first openly gay IFBB professional bodybuilder in 1971. (There’s a first for everything, right?)

11. At a 1971 University of California, Los Angeles conference called “The Homosexual in America, Betty Berzon came out as the first openly gay psychotherapist.

12. Political activist Jim Foster founded the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club in 1972, the country’s first gay Democratic political club.

13. In 1972, John Hospers became the first openly gay man to run for president of the United States. Wow.

John Hospers, the first openly gay man to run for president. He was a Libertarian Party candidate.
John Hospers, the first openly gay man to run for president. He was a Libertarian Party candidate.

14. Nancy Wechsler and Jerry DeGrieck, in 1972, became the first openly LGBT elected officials in America. They were students at the University of Michigan, and both were elected to the Ann Arbor City Council.

15. In 1972, Bruce Wayne Campbell (aka Jobriath) was the first openly gay rock musician to sign to a major record label.

16. In 1973, Sally Miller Gearhart became the first open lesbian to get a tenure-track faculty position, when San Francisco State University hired her. She helped launch one of the first women and gender studies programs in the U.S.

17. In 1975, Air Force Sergeant Leonard Matlovich walked up to his commanding officer and told him he was gay, making him the first U.S. service member to purposely out himself to challenge the military’s ban on LGBT people. Matlovich was discharged and fought for years, unsuccessfully, to end the military ban, which remained in place until 2011.

18. Harvey Milk, in 1978, became the first openly gay candidate elected to political office in California. He was the seventh openly gay or lesbian elected official nationally. Sean Penn starred in a great movie about him, “Milk.”

19. Robin Tyler became the first out lesbian on national television in 1978, appearing on a Showtime comedy special that Phyllis Diller hosted.

20. In 1979, Stephen Lachs became the first openly gay judge in the country. He retired from the L.A. County Superior Court in 1999.

21. Tennis great Billie Jean King, in 1981, became the first prominent professional athlete to come out as a lesbian. Michael Jackson wrote a song about Billie Jean, but it was not about her.

22. In 1983, Gerry Studds became the first openly gay member of Congress. It wasn’t under the best of circumstances; he admitted he had been having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old male congressional page. 

23. Sally Ride was the first American woman in space, in 1983, and then when she died in 2012, she came out as a lesbian in her obituary. Boom! That makes her the first out LGBTQ astronaut.

Sally Ride, chilling out in a spaceship.
Sally Ride, chilling out in a spaceship.

24. Terry Sweeney, in 1985, became “Saturday Night Live’s” first openly gay cast member.

25. In 1986, Becky Smith and Annie Affleck became the first openly lesbian couple granted legal, joint adoption of a child.

26. Sherry Harris was elected to the Seattle city council in 1991, making her the first openly lesbian African-American elected official.

27. In 1993, Roberta Achtenberg became the first openly gay or lesbian person nominated to a federal government post and confirmed by the Senate. Then-President Bill Clinton nominated her to be his assistant secretary of fair housing and equal opportunity.

28. Lea DeLaria hosted Comedy Central’s “Out There” in 1993, the first all-gay stand-up comedy special. She’s on “Orange Is The New Black” now.

29. In 1994, Deborah Batts became the first openly gay or lesbian U.S. federal judge. She was on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

30. Rachel Maddow, in 1995, became the first openly gay or lesbian American to win the prestigious Rhodes scholarship. She later became the first out lesbian to host a prime time news show, which you may have heard of: “The Rachel Maddow Show.”

31. Steve Fong became the first openly gay speaker at a Republican National Convention in 1996.

32. In 1997, Ellen DeGeneres came out as a lesbian on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” and then her TV series character came out too. That made her the first openly lesbian actress to play an openly lesbian character on TV. This was a BFD to budding young lesbians.

33. Tammy Baldwin became the first open lesbian elected to Congress in 1998. She later became the first openly lesbian or gay U.S. senator.

34. James Hormel, in 1999, became the first openly gay U.S. ambassador. This was around the time then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) compared homosexuality to alcoholism, kleptomania and sex addiction. Good times.

Friends and family applaud James Hormel after he's sworn in as the U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg in 1999.
Friends and family applaud James Hormel after he's sworn in as the U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg in 1999.

35. In 2003, David Cicilline became the first openly gay mayor of a U.S. state capitol, Providence, Rhode Island. He’s in Congress now.

36. Marcia Hams and Sue Shepard, in 2004, became the first same-sex couple to marry in Massachusetts after it was legalized there.

37. James McGreevey became the first openly gay governor in 2004. He came out after getting in trouble for appointing his secret lover, Golan Cipel, as his homeland security advisor, even though he lacked qualifications. McGreevey resigned soon afterward.

38. In 2005, Bonnie Bleskachek became the first openly lesbian fire chief of a major city, Minneapolis. She was demoted two years later amid claims of harassment and discrimination.

39. Kate Brown became the nation’s first openly bisexual governor in 2015, when she became governor of Oregon.

40. In 2009, Annise Parker was elected mayor of Houston, making her the first LGBT mayor of a U.S. city with a population over 1 million.

41. Chai Feldblum, in 2010, became the first openly lesbian or gay person to serve on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

42. Brenda Sue Fulton was named to the West Point Board of Visitors in 2011, making her the first openly gay or lesbian member of the board.

43. In 2011, Fred Karger announced his bid for president, making him the nation’s first openly gay Republican presidential candidate. He did not get far.

44. Katie Ricks, in 2012, became the first open lesbian ordained by the Presbyterian Church.

45. In 2012, Air Force Col. Ginger Wallace became the first openly lesbian or gay member of the U.S. military to have a same-sex partner participate in the pinning ceremony tradition that had been reserved for spouses and family members. Her partner of 10 years, Kathy Knopf, pinned her colonel wings.

46. Barney Frank got married in 2012. That made him the first sitting member of Congress to marry a same-sex spouse.

47. In 2012, Army Reserve officer Tammy Smith became the first openly gay U.S. general in American history. 

48. Kyrsten Sinema was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012, making her the first openly bisexual member of Congress.

49. In 2012, Kate McKinnon became “Saturday Night Live’s” first openly lesbian cast member.

50. Basketball player Jason Collins came out in 2013, making him the first openly gay active male professional athlete in a major team sport.

51. In 2013, Robbie Rogers joined the Los Angeles Galaxy, making him the first openly gay male athlete to compete in Major League Soccer.

52. Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, came out as gay in 2014. That made him the first openly gay chief executive on the Fortune 500 list.

53-100. Here’s a lot more!



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