LGBT History Month 2023 October 19 – 25


b. April 12, 1993


“I do not know all of the history behind our courageous LGBT community, but I am eager to learn and to help continue the fight for equality and acceptance.”

Carl Nassib is the first openly gay active NFL player. In 2021, as a defensive end for the Las Vegas Raiders, he made headlines by coming out after five seasons in the pros.

Nassib was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, to a family of football enthusiasts. His father played at the University of Delaware. His older brother played in the NFL. Nassib excelled in high school sports, lettering in football, basketball, and track and field. His love of athletics and exceptional success fueled his dream of one day playing professional sports.

In 2011 Nassib enrolled in Penn State University. He immediately tried out for the football team as a walk-on, but the coach didn’t play him until he earned an athletic scholarship in 2013. He quickly proved himself on the field, and after two successful seasons, he joined the starting lineup in his senior year. His performance earned him the Lombardi Award for best college football linebacker and the Hendricks Award for top defensive end in the nation. He was also named the Big Ten’s Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year.

In 2016 the Cleveland Browns signed Nassir as a third-round draft pick for a four[1]year deal worth $3.2 million. After a successful first game, he was nominated for Pepsi’s NFL Rookie of the Week. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers claimed Nassib off waivers for his last two years of the contract, then the Las Vegas Raiders picked him up in 2020 as an unrestricted free agent.

During Pride Month in June 2021, Nassib came out in an Instagram post. Despite fearing it might ruin his career, Nassib felt an obligation to set an example for LGBTQ youth. In his post, he pledged $100,000 to the Trevor Project, an organization that provides counseling and suicide prevention services for at-risk LGBTQ kids. In a remarkable show of support, the NFL matched Nassib’s donation.

After a standout 2021 season, Nassib became the first out NFL player to compete in the playoffs. In 2022 he signed a one-year deal to play again with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Nassib is in a relationship with Soren Dahl, an Olympic swimmer. He continues to support the Trevor Project and advocate for LGBTQ rights. He is the first openly gay active player in the NFL.


b. September 9, 1948

d. November 17, 2021


“I transitioned in place. And the community came along with me.”

Rasmussen was the first openly transgender mayor in America.

Stewart “Stu” Rasmussen became the first openly transgender mayor in America when he was elected in Silverton, Oregon, for a third time in 2008. It was his first term as Silverton’s mayor after coming out as transgender.
Assigned male at birth, Rasmussen, who identified as female but used predominantly male pronouns, was a lifelong resident of Silverton, a farming community of roughly 9,200 people. His father was a mail carrier and managed the Palace Theatre, a local cinema. A self-described nerd, Rasmussen studied electrical engineering at what is now Chemeketa Community College. He worked for a tech company and as an entrepreneur before entering politics, where he served for most of three decades.

Rasmussen brought cable TV to Silverton in the 1970s. In 1974 he became the co-owner of the Palace Theatre. He ran the projector, worked the concessions, and frequently stood out front, costumed like a character from the currently running film. The year he took over the theater, he began dating Victoria Sage, the woman he would eventually marry.

A socially liberal, fiscally conservative Democrat, Rasmussen entered politics in the 1980s, first as a City Council member. He was elected mayor in 1988, while still publicly identifying as male, and served two terms. In the mid 1990s, he ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the Oregon House of Representatives and then the Oregon State Senate. By the time he ran for mayor again in 2008, he had transitioned to female. Despite backlash and his own doubts, Rasmussen won Silverton’s support. He told the Salem Statesman Journal: “A lot of people who are transgender think, I can’t be myself here, I have to go somewhere else … I transitioned in place. And the community came along with me.”

After the election, members of the Kansas-based, notoriously anti-LGBTQ Westboro Baptist Church descended on the town in protest. The Silverton community countered, rallying around Rasmussen, with several male supporters donning dresses and holding signs declaring “Jesus Loves Stu.” In 2013 a musical about him, “Stu for Silverton,” opened at the Intiman Theatre in Seattle. It played in other cities, including New York.

Rasmussen remained in office until he was unseated in 2014. He married his longtime partner, Victoria, the same year. In 2018, he ran again, but was defeated.

Rasmussen died of prostate cancer at age 73. The New York Times published his obituary.

October 21: Allen Schindler Jr. SLAIN NAVAL OFFICER

b. December 13, 1969

d. October 27, 1992


“If you can’t be yourself, then who are you?”

His murder brought national attention to gay people in the military.

Allen Schindler Jr. was a United States Navy officer. His brutal murder in 1992 brought national attention to gay bashing and the right of gay people to serve in the military.

Schindler was born in Chicago Heights, Illinois. His mother worked multiple jobs to support him and his sisters, while his aunt acted as their primary caregiver.

At age 18, Schindler joined the Navy and became a radioman on the aircraft carrier USS Midway. He described this period as among the happiest of his life. When the Navy decommissioned the ship less than a year later, Schindler was reassigned to the USS Belleau Wood. Though he had previously spoken safely, if discreetly, about his sexuality, he now faced unrelenting harassment from his new shipmates. They shouted homophobic slurs, physically assaulted him, and glued his locker shut. The military consistently ignored Schindler’s complaints about the abuse.

Frustrated by his treatment, Schindler eventually rebelled. In September 1992, he transmitted the message “2-Q-T-2-B[1]S-T-R-8” (too cute to be straight), which reached most of the Pacific fleet. He was immediately charged with broadcasting an unauthorized statement. In the ensuing meeting with his captain, Schindler came out and was told he would be discharged. In the aftermath, he wrote in his journal, “If you can’t be yourself, then who are you?”

As he awaited discharge, Schindler grew afraid for his safety. During his last visit home, he gave his prized childhood toys to a nephew and spent extra time in the airport saying goodbye to his mother. In Japan during his final shore leave, two fellow shipmen followed Schindler into a restroom at night. They beat him to death, crushing his face and neck and rendering him virtually unrecognizable.

Schindler’s killing spotlighted the issue of gay bashing and sparked renewed debate around the official ban on gay people serving in the military. The Navy’s attempt to conceal the details of her son’s murder forced Schindler’s mother to confront her own misunderstandings and biases. With gay rights organizations by her side, she fought for justice and became an activist.

Schindler’s killers were convicted, and in 1993 one received a life sentence. The same year, President Bill Clinton signed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy into law. The bill allowed gays and lesbians to serve in the military if they kept their sexual orientation secret. Though discriminatory, DADT provided a step forward. In 2010, President Barack Obama repealed the bill, thus allowing gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans to serve openly in the armed forces.

October 22: Charles Silverstein PSYCHOLOGIST & LGBT ACTIVIST

b. April 23, 1935

d. January 30, 2023


“We wanted to eliminate homosexuality as a mental disorder, period.”

His testimony helped prompt the declassification of homosexuality as a mental illness.

Charles Silverstein was an American psychologist, writer, and gay rights activist. His testimony played a consequential role in persuading the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness.

Silverstein was born to a Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York. As a teenager, he recognized he was gay. Wishing he could be “cured,” he struggled with low self-esteem and feelings of shame.

Silverstein attended State University of New York at New Paltz. He taught elementary school for six years before deciding to become a psychologist. He earned his doctorate in social psychology from Rutgers University.

In his early 30s, after his first gay sexual experience, Silverstein emerged from the closet to become a passionate gay rights activist. He joined the pioneering Gay Activists Alliance in 1972 and began challenging the psychiatric profession over the classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). In February 1973, while still a doctoral student, Silverstein spoke as one of several presenters to an APA panel who was reviewing the matter. Using humor to sway his audience, Silverstein satirized the organization’s previous absurd diagnoses, such as “syphilophobia,” an irrational fear of syphilis. Ten months later, the APA voted to remove homosexuality from the DSM. It marked a watershed for LGBTQ equality.

Silverstein’s activism also played a key role in influencing the psychiatric establishment’s views on conversion therapy, the ill-conceived and cruel attempt to change someone’s sexual orientation. His 1972 speech against the practice persuaded Gerry Davison, president of the Association for Advancement of Behavioral Therapies, to change his perspective and begin speaking out against the practice on moral grounds.

Silverstein’s activism also extended to publishing. He coauthored the 1977 book “The Joy of Gay Sex: An Intimate Guide for Gay Men to the Pleasures of a Gay Lifestyle.” At a time when resources on the topic were limited, the book became essential reading for countless men. Silverstein also founded the Journal of Homosexuality and authored guides for psychotherapists and the parents of gay children to help facilitate understanding of sexual diversity. Silverstein also founded two LGBTQ-affirming health care organizations dedicated to providing unbiased medical treatment.

Silverstein received an achievement award from GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality. He became an American Psychological Association Fellow in 1987 and received The Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement from the Association in 2011.

Silverstein died at age 87. He is survived by his adopted son.

October 23: Andrew Solomon AWARD-WINNING WRITER

b. October 30, 1963


“I believe that words are strong, that they can overwhelm what we fear.”

His books have won more than 30 national and international awards

Andrew Solomon is an award-winning author and a commentator on politics, culture, and psychology. He is a professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University and an activist for LGBTQ rights and mental health.

Solomon was born and raised in Manhattan. He studied English at Yale University and received his master’s degree in the subject from Cambridge University, where he later earned a doctorate in psychology.

In 1991 Solomon published his first book, “The Irony Tower: Soviet Artists in a Time of Glasnost,” a work of nonfiction based on his study of Russian vanguards. He published his first novel, “A Stone Boat,” about a gay man’s relationship with his terminally ill mother, in 1994.

A contributing writer for a variety of publications, including New York Times Magazine, Solomon published a personal account of his experiences with depression in 1998. The piece garnered widespread attention. In 2001 he shot to literary fame with “The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression,” which won him the National Book Award and a finalist’s position for a Pulitzer Prize. A combination of personal memoir and cultural and scientific commentary on depression, the book earned praise as a transformative masterpiece. It was translated into more than 20 languages. For his role in destigmatizing mental illness, Solomon was honored by numerous mental health advocacy organizations.

Solomon’s best-selling nonfiction work, “Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity,” was published in 2001. Discussing the ways that families raise children with physical, mental, and social disabilities or differences, the book was praised for its sensitive perspective on disability issues. It garnered over 30 national awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award, and was named one of the 10 best books of 2012 by The New York Times. It was also honored with research advocacy awards from the Departments of Psychiatry at Yale and Columbia Universities, among others.

An LGBTQ rights, mental health, and arts activist, Solomon serves as a Special Advisor on LGBT Mental Health to the Yale School of Psychiatry and as a member of the board of directors of the National LGBTQ Task Force, the University of Michigan Depression Center, and Columbia Psychiatry. A former president of PEN America, he also serves on the boards of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New York Public Library. His TEDX talks on mental health have been viewed more than 20 million times.

Solomon lives in New York and London with his husband and son. He has a daughter with a college friend.

October 24: Michael Stipe ROCK STAR

b. January 4, 1960


“My feeling is that labels are for canned food … I am what I am—and I know what I am.”

He is best known as the front man for the alt rock band R.E.M.

Michael Stipe is a singer and lyricist, a producer, and a photographer. Praised for his distinctive baritone vocals that range from keening to crooning, he is best known as the front man for the American alternative rock band R.E.M.

Born John Michael Stipe, in Decatur, Georgia, he was a military brat who spent his childhood moving from place to place with his parents and two brothers. They settled in Illinois, where Stipe graduated high school. He attended the University of Georgia.

As a teenager, Stipe loved punk rock and idolized Patti Smith. He frequented a record store in Georgia, where he met Peter Buck. They decided to form a band, taking on members Bill Berry and Mike Mills to create R.E.M. Stipe is said to have picked the name randomly from a dictionary. R.E.M. quickly found success with their first single, “Radio Free Europe,” and were signed by I.R.S. Records. They released their first EP, “Chronic Town,” in 1982.

Between 1982 and 2011, when the group disbanded, R.E.M. released 15 studio albums, five live albums, and numerous compilations and singles. The band earned countless national and international nominations and awards, including 12 MTV Video Music Awards, four BMI Pop Awards, and three Grammys. R.E.M. was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. They have sold more than 85 million albums.

In 1987 Stipe founded the independent film company C-00 Films with Jim McKay. They have produced movies such as “Being John Malkovitch” and “Saved.” Stipe has collaborated with other popular musicians, including Tori Amos, Peter Gabriel, Warren Zevon, and Natalie Merchant (with whom he had an affair). Stipe was very close to fellow indie rocker Kurt Cobain and is the godfather of Cobain’s child with Courtney Love.

In the 2000s, Stipe got into photography, shooting concerts for The Runaways, Queen, and The Ramones. He has released several photography books, which include concert photos as well as individual portraits of other music artists.

In the 2010s, Stipe became a Democratic party activist. He has rallied for gun control and other social justice issues.

Stipe continues to write music, publish, and produce, and is working on his first art show. He released his first solo single in 2019 and is on track to release his first solo album late in 2023. He says he knew he was “queer” before he was 10, although he prefers not to label his sexuality. He lives in New York and Berlin with his partner, Thomas Dozol, a photographer.

October 25: Kara Swisher TECH JOURNALIST & PODCASTER

b. December 11, 1962


“Sure, I am funny … Mostly, though, I just tell the truth.”

She is arguably the most authoritative tech journalist.

Kara Swisher is an American tech journalist and podcaster. Arguably the most powerful insider and authoritative voice in the industry, she has broken some of the biggest stories in Silicon Valley.

Swisher grew up on Long Island knowing she was gay from an early age. She attended Georgetown University and interned at The Washington Post. She earned her master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University before returning to the Post for a full-time position.

In 1997 Swisher joined The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), where she became one of the first major reporters on the internet beat. She wrote a column called “Boom Town,” covering Silicon Valley’s hottest corporate players and personalities. Appearing on the front page of WSJ’s Marketplace section, it quickly secured her reputation as top tech writer. Many of the most powerful figures in the industry, such as Jeff Bezos and Marc Andreessen, sought her counsel early in their careers.

Swisher published a book about the internet-access giant AOL in 1998. She published a sequel in 2003. The same year, she and fellow journalist Walt Mossberg launched the award-winning conference “D: All Things Digital.” They later expanded the concept into the popular blog, a subsidiary of Dow Jones & Co. and part of the WSJ digital network. In 2014 Swisher and Mossberg left to start a new tech news site, Recode (later sold to Vox), and the Code Conference series.

Praised for her no-nonsense style and courage to hold power accountable, Swisher has interviewed dozens of prominent figures, going head-to-head with the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Rupert Murdoch, Larry Ellison, and Elon Musk. Her conferences have hosted groundbreaking conversations, like her joint interview with Steve Jobs and Bill Gates —the only one they ever did together—and the introduction of iconic products like Apple’s virtual assistant, Siri.

Swisher earned her stripes breaking big tech-industry news and ethics stories, such as the falsified résumé and subsequent resignation of Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson and the ouster of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich. Eich donated to California’s Prop 8, which banned same-sex marriage. She regularly reported on controversial topics, including consumer privacy, regulatory issues, and the underrepresentation of women at major tech companies.

In 2018 Swisher became a New York Times Opinion writer and host of “Sway,” a podcast about power. In 2022 she hosted her last Code conference and launched a new podcast, “On With Kara Swisher,” with Vox Media and New York Magazine. She also co-hosts Vox’s “Pivot” podcast. Swisher is married and has four children. Copyright © 2023 – A Project of Equality Forum