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Spotlight Lesbian and Bisexual Female Poetry before Stonewall
 
  Even though no canonical list of pre-Stonewall Lesbian Poetry exists, a significant number of women wrote and read a wide range of poems that expressed their sensibilities as woman-loving women.  
 
 
  Natalie Clifford Barney Natalie Clifford Barney (1876-1972), an American expatriate known as the Amazon, was the muse and inspiration of other writers and a poet, memoirist, and epigrammatist in her own right.  
 
 
  Katharine Lee Bates American poet, literary scholar, and educator, Katharine Lee Bates (1859-1929) is best known for her poem "America the Beautiful" and for her relationship with Wellesley College colleague Katharine Coman.  
 
 
  Aphra Behn Aphra Behn (ca 1640-1689), an English writer known to her contemporaries as a "scandal" for her writings and her flamboyant personal life, was one of the most influential dramatists of the late seventeenth century. Today, she is better known as a poet and novelist with a fascinating biography.  
 
 
  Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979), who is widely acknowledged as one of the finest twentieth-century American poets, encoded a lesbian identity in her poems.  
 
 
  Emily Dickinson Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), a reclusive American poet more appreciated after her death than before, wrote poems and letters to her sister-in-law Susan that are both passionate and elusive in their homoeroticism.  
 
 
  Hilda Doolittle Hilda Doolittle (1886-1961), a bisexual poet and novelist who published under the initials H. D., wrote poems and autobiographical prose works that celebrate women's romantic relationships with each other.  
 
 
  Katherine Bradley (1846-1914) and Edith Cooper (1862-1913), writing as Michael Field, collaborated on a number of plays and eight volumes of verse, many of which had lesbian contents.  
 
 
  Elsa Gidlow (1898-1986), known to many as the "poet-warrior," was unabashedly visible as an independent woman, a lesbian, a writer, and a bohemian-anarchist at a time when such visibility was both unusual and potentially dangerous.  
 
 
  Angelina Weld Grimke Angelina Weld Grimké (1880-1958) was the first African American to have a play staged. In addition to that historic achievement, her poetry regularly appeared in journals, newspapers, and anthologies during the era now known as the Harlem Renaissance, though she faded into near obscurity after the 1920s.  
 
 
  Although Radclyffe Hall (1880-1943) is best known as the author of The Well of Loneliness, arguably the most famous lesbian novel ever written, she also wrote five volumes of poetry.  
 
 
  Amy Lowell Amy Lowell (1874-1925) was a poet, translator, essayist, literary biographer, and public speaker. Her poetry is extremely frank, forthrightly sensual, and often overtly lesbian.  
 
 
  Charlotte Mew Charlotte Mew (1869-1928), an English poet, does not explicitly mention her lesbianism but encodes the emotional pain of hiding her sexuality in complex dramatic monologues on themes of loss and isolation.  
 
 
  Edna St. Vincent Millay Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950), an American poet and playwright, expressed her bisexuality in both her life and her work. She achieved fame early on in life as the pretty, petite "It Girl" of poetry, but was criticized for turning to social politics and activism starting in the 1930s.  
 
 
  Gabriela Mistral Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957) was a Chilean educator, journalist, feminist, diplomat, and Nobel laureate who celebrated women and motherhood in poems and essays that are frequently homoerotic.  
 
 
  Sophia Parnok Sophia Parnok (1885-1933) was Russia's only openly lesbian poet during her lifetime. The lyrics in her first book of verse, Poems (1916), presented the first, revolutionarily nondecadent, lesbian desiring subject ever to be heard in a book of Russian poetry.  
 
 
  Geneviève Pastre (b. 1924), one of France's leading lesbian theorists and political activists, was a respected French poet and academic in her fifties when she came out as a lesbian and made radical lesbian feminism the root of her political and literary work.  
 
 
  Katherine Philips Katherine Philips (1632-1664) was called "The Matchless Orinda" and considered "The English Sappho" of her day. Two-thirds of her poems concern erotic relationships among women.  
 
 
  Adrienne Rich Adrienne Rich (1929-2012) has aestheticized politics and politicized aesthetics and is America's most widely read lesbian poet. Her work has won both fans and many critical accolades including the National Book Award.  
 
 
  Christina Rossetti Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) was such a devout Anglo-Catholic that one doctor diagnosed her with "religious mania." Though her piety repressed her sexuality, she wrote poetry that included vividly erotic female-to-female affection.  
 
 
  Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980) wrote poetry that broke the silence of many aspects of female experience such as sex, menstruation, breast-feeding, mother-daughter relationships, and female aging. Her work has been enormously important to many feminist and lesbian readers.  
 
 
  Vita Sackville-West Vita Sackville-West (1892-1962) was a prolific author of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, though she is best known for her relationship with Virginia Woolf and for her scandalous love affairs.  
 
 
  A representation of Sappho Sappho (ca 630? B.C.E.), an ancient Greek poet born on the Isle of Lesbos, has been admired through the ages as one of the greatest lyric poets. Today, she is esteemed by lesbians around the world as the archetypal lesbian and their symbolic mother.  
 
 
  May Sarton May Sarton (1912-1996), the author of more than forty books, gradually revealed her lesbianism in her writing. Sarton worked successfully in poetry, the novel, essays, and the journal.  
 
 
  Anna Seward Anna Seward (1742-1809) was one of the best known English women poets of her time. She had several romantic friendships with women and celebrated the Ladies of Llangollen in verse.  
 
 
  Edith Sitwell Edith Sitwell (1887-1964) was a poet and novelist who surrounded herself with gay men, some of whom became her artistic collaborators. Although it is not clear that she ever experienced a sustained sexual relationship with anyone of either sex, her closest emotional bond was with another woman.  
 
 
  Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), in addition to becoming--with Alice B. Toklas--half of an iconic lesbian couple, was an important innovator and transformer of the English language.  
 
 
  May Swenson (1913-1989), one of America's most inventive and incisive poets, wrote many love poems celebrating lesbian sexuality.  
 
 
  Sara Teasdale Sara Teasdale (1884-1933) reflected in her poetry the reality that the strongest emotional relationships in her life were with women.  
 
 
  Marina Tsvetaeva Maria Tsvetaeva (1892-1941) is widely considered one of the four greatest twentieth-century Russian poets. She described herself as bisexual, but the lesbian theme found throughout her poetry, prose, letters, and journals has been ignored or minimized by Western biographers and concealed by Russian scholars.  
 
 
  Renée Vivien (1877-1909), who had many affairs with women, openly celebrated lesboerotic love in her poetry and dreamed of women-controlled spaces in an era when most women were still domestically confined.  
 
 
  Sylvia Townsend Warner (1893-1978), a poet, novelist, and short story writer, is an important lesbian voice of the earlier twentieth century.  
 
 
notable birthdays this week
June 28
 
Florence Henri
RENOWNED AVANT-GARDE PHOTOGRAPHER, 1893
John Inman John Inman
ACCLAIMED COMIC ACTOR, 1935
 
David Kopay
THE FIRST AMERICAN PROFESSIONAL ATHLETE TO COME OUT PUBLICLY, 1942
 
June 29
 
Carl Hester
OLYMPIC EQUESTRIAN, 1967
 
July 1
 
George Sand George Sand
ENORMOUSLY PROLIFIC WRITER KNOWN FOR HER CIGAR-IN-HAND CROSS-DRESSING, 1804
Charles Laughton Charles Laughton
A MOVIE ACTOR AND DIRECTOR TORMENTED BY INTERNALIZED HOMOPHOBIA, 1899
 
Farley Granger Farley Granger
AMERICAN ACTOR KNOWN FOR PLAYING HANDSOME YET EMOTIONALLY VULNERABLE YOUNG MEN, 1925
Hans Werner Henze
GERMAN COMPOSER KNOWN FOR A WIDE RANGE OF MUSICAL STYLES, 1926
 
Paul Russell
NOVELIST KNOWN FOR INTRICATE NARRATIVES THAT EXPLORE GAY RELATIONSHIPS, 1956
Fred Schneider
MEMBER OF THE ROCK BAND THE B-52S, 1960
 
July 2
 
Donald Windham Donald Windham
AMERICAN FICTION WRITER, MEMOIRIST, AND EDITOR, 1920
Sylvia Rivera
LEGENDARY VETERAN OF THE STONEWALL RIOTS WHO HELPED SPARK THE EVENT, 1951
 
Daniel Kowalski
OLYMPIC MEDALIST IN SWIMMING, 1975
Johnny Weir
CHAMPION FIGURE SKATER, 1984
 
July 3
 
Thelma Ellen Wood
ARTIST FICTIONALIZED IN DJUNA BARNES' NIGHTWOOD, 1901
 
About Notable Birthdays
This feature lists people about whom glbtq.com has both entries and complete birth dates. Each person listed has made a significant contribution to or had a significant impact on glbtq culture or history. Most are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, though some are either heterosexual or cannot be adequately characterized using any of these labels.
 
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Latest Blog Posts
Jim Obergefell (left) and the late John Arthur.

Now that the Supreme Court has recognized marriage as a fundamental right open to gay and lesbian couples, it is worth observing that while Love won, our enemies, however unintentionally, helped speed along our victory.

On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States declared that marriage is a fundamental right that must be extended to gay and lesbian couples. In an eloquent decision authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, and joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, the Court ruled that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage, holding that the Fourteenth Amendment mandates both that states must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and also must recognize valid marriages entered into by same-sex couples in other states.

While we await a ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States that may extend marriage equality throughout the nation, Mexico's Supreme Court has, with little fanfare, issued a series of rulings that has effectively legalized same-sex marriage throughout the country. However, Mexico's judicial system is different from that of the United States in that its supreme court does not invalidate state laws en masse. Rather, it issues rulings that become binding precedent in other judicial proceedings until finally the issue is settled. This month a ruling from Mexico's Supreme Court marked a crucial turning point in the process.

Transgender military couple Logan Ireland and Laila Villanueva.

The Department of Defense has recently announced additional protections for gay and lesbian servicemembers and has refined its policy on service by transgender servicemembers. Following in the wake of the successful and incident-free repeal of the discriminatory Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy in 2011, which barred gay men and lesbians from serving openly, the new moves make the U.S. military a more welcoming home for glbtq members.

Alison Bechdel.

At the Tony Awards, broadcast on June 7, 2015, Fun Home, the musical based on Alison Bechdel's graphic memoir of the same name, scored a major upset, winning "Best Musical" and four other Tonys. Besting other more traditional entertainments, including An American in Paris, Fun Home, in the words of Michael Paulson and Patrick Healy in New York Times, "completed a long journey from the margins to the mainstream." Perhaps the first Broadway musical featuring a lesbian protagonist, Fun Home focuses on the cartoonist's relationship with her closeted gay father and explores issues of sexuality, family, memory, and suicide.

Plaintiffs Loretta M. Pangelinan and Kathleen M. Aguero.

On June 5, 2015, Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood declared unconstitutional Guam's law that restricts marriage to opposite-sex couples. The ruling takes effect on June 9 and makes Guam the last jurisdiction in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to gain marriage equality and the first U.S. territory to do so.

Congratulations to the winners of the 27th Annual Lambda Literary Awards, which were presented at a gala ceremony at New York City's Cooper Union on June 1, 2015. The event was hosted by Kate Clinton and featured musical performances by Lauren Patten and Toshi Reagon. Special Awards were presented to Rita Mae Brown (Pioneer Award) and John Waters (Trustee Award for Excellence in Literature). Ann Balay and Daisy Hernandez were presented Betty Berzon Emerging Writer Awards.

Congratulations to activist and political operative David Mixner. His one-man play, Oh Hell No!, earned a warm audience response in New York in October 2014 and is to open on June 11, 2015 in Los Angeles. In addition, on May 31, 2015, Mixner was awarded an honorary Doctor of Public Service by Washington College, which was the first college founded in the newly independent United States.

It has long been noted that one of the most persistent vices of the self-proclaimed religious is hypocrisy, so it is not very surprising when those who claim to be religious are exposed as hypocrites. Nonetheless some hypocrisy is so egregious that it must be pointed out. Take, for example, the post on May 28, 2015 by Terry Mattingly at GetReligion.org that questions the journalistic ethics of Religious News Service for having accepted a grant from the pro-gay Arcus Foundation.

Monument honoring glbtq veterans.

As we celebrate Memorial Day 2015, we remember the sacrifices made by those who have served in our military, including glbtq servicemembers, both those who served in silence and those who are now able to serve openly. We need especially to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Fittingly, on this Memorial Day, May 25, 2015, the first federally approved monument honoring glbtq veterans will be dedicated at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Illinois.

 
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