October 1: Marin Alsop, TRAILBLAZING CONDUCTOR
born. October 16, 1956
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“Success means pursuing a career that inspires you — brings passion to your life and totally absorbs your energy.”
She is the first female conductor to lead a major orchestra in the United States, Britain, Austria, and South America.
Marin Alsop is the first woman to conduct a major orchestra in the United States, Britain, Austria, and South America. She serves as the chief conductor of the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Alsop was born in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Her parents were professional string players. Alsop began playing the violin at age 5 and was accepted into the Julliard Pre-College Program at age 7. When she was 9, her father took her to see the renowned conductor Leonard Bernstein. The experience so inspired her, she told her violin teacher she wanted to conduct. The teacher cautioned her that “girls can’t do that.”
At age 16, Alsop entered Yale University as a math major. She transferred to Julliard to pursue a bachelor’s and master’s degree in violin, graduating in 1978. During college, she performed with the New York Philharmonic and the New York Ballet.
Alsop auditioned three times for Julliard’s conducting program but was rejected. Over the next four years, she founded an all-female jazz string ensemble, conducted the opera “The Photographer” by Philip Glass, and established Concordia, a 50-piece orchestra specializing in contemporary American music. In 1989 she became the first woman to win the Koussevitzky Prize for student conducting at Tanglewood Music Center in Massachusetts, where, during her continued studies, she met her idol and eventual mentor, Leonard Bernstein.
Throughout the next decade, Alsop held conducting positions for the St. Louis Orchestra and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, among others. In 2002 she shattered the glass ceiling, becoming the principal conductor of Britain’s Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. During her tenure, she cofounded what is today the Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship to support women.
In 2005 Alsop became the first conductor to win a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship. When she was named musical director of the Baltimore Symphony in another barrier-shattering appointment two years later, she donated $100,000 of her MacArthur grant to start OrchKids, a groundbreaking outreach program serving under-resourced Baltimore schoolchildren. During her 14 years in Baltimore, Alsop also served as the first female principal conductor of the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra and the first woman to lead a Viennese Orchestra.
Alsop’s artistic success has included innumerable appointments, tours, and recordings. Her many professional accolades include the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Conductor Award and the Ditson Conductor’s Award for the Advancement of American Music. “The Conductor,” a documentary about her, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2021.
Alsop and Kristin Jurkscheit, a horn player, married in 1990. They are the parents of a son.
October 2: Chasten Buttigieg LGBT ACTIVIST
b. June 23, 1989
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“Your time in the closet and your journey to coming out belong to you.”
He is an openly gay teacher, author, and activist, and the spouse of Pete Buttigieg.
Chasten Glezman Buttigieg is an educator, an author, and an LGBTQ rights advocate. He is the spouse of Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who became the U.S. Secretary of Transportation in February 2021.
Chasten was born in Traverse City, Michigan. His parents owned a landscaping business. As a teenager, he attended public high school and worked on his grandfather’s cherry farm. “Growing up in conservative rural Michigan, I thought I was the only gay person in the world,” he says. He thought there was something “twisted and wrong” with him. Although he kept his sexual orientation secret, he was bullied and taunted with homophobic epithets.
Buttigieg escaped to Germany on an exchange program for his senior year in high school. When he returned, he came out to his family. Their rejection compelled him to leave home, and he spent a difficult period in which he was technically homeless. Around this same time, he was sexually assaulted by the friend of a friend.
Buttigieg and his family eventually reconciled. He went on to attend the University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in theater and global studies. He received his Master of Education from DePaul University.
Buttigieg worked as a teaching artist at First Stage Children’s Theater in Milwaukee. During the 2010s, he taught in public schools in Chicago and Indiana. He met his husband on a dating app in 2015. The couple married in 2018, during Pete’s tenure as South Bend’s mayor, making Chasten the first gay “first gentleman” of a city mayor in America. The following year, Chasten joined the South Bend Civic Theater as director of curriculum for civic education.
Chasten took a leave of absence from his teaching job to support Pete’s 2020 presidential bid. The couple made history again, as Pete was the first openly gay married presidential candidate in U.S. history. Chasten served as his husband’s campaign spokesperson, advisor, and social media manager. In the fall of 2020, Chasten became a Harvard Institute of Politics fellow for a semester and released his first book, a memoir titled “I Have Something to Tell You.”
In 2021 the Buttigieges received the International Role Model Award from Equality Forum. Around the same time, they became the parents of twins, Joseph and Penelope. The family lives in Washington, D.C. Chasten appears on television and holds public speaking engagements to discuss his life experiences and advocate for LGBTQ equality.
October 3: Madeline Davis LGBT ACTIVIST & HISTORIAN
b. July 7, 1940
d. April 28, 2021
Photo © KEITH GEMEREK
“I don’t want to have to be afraid of going to jail for being in love and doing something about it.”
She was the first out lesbian major-party delegate to a U.S. national convention.
Madeline Davis was a prominent gay rights activist, a writer, an archivist, and a librarian. She was the first out lesbian major-party delegate to a national convention in the United States.
Davis was born in Buffalo, New York. She attended the University of Buffalo, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in library studies.
Davis realized she was a lesbian in her 20s. She was married to a man for three years in the 1960s before they separated.
In the late ’60s, Davis cofounded and later served as president of the Mattachine Society of the Niagara Frontier, an early gay rights organization. She also cofounded Fifth Freedom, the first LGBT magazine in New York.
In 1971 Davis spoke at the first gay rights march at the New York state capitol. Soon thereafter, she wrote a song titled “Stonewall Nation,” now recognized as the first gay liberation record and an anthem for the gay rights movement.
In 1972, as a delegate representing New York’s 37th Congressional District, Davis became the first out lesbian to address the Democratic National Convention. “I am a woman and a lesbian, a minority of minorities,” she proclaimed. “Now we are coming out of our closets and onto the convention floor.” That same year, Davis taught what she described as the first college-level course on gay women, “Lesbianism 101,” at the University of Buffalo, with fellow activist Margaret Small. Davis organized pride workshops in New York City, spoke at LGBT protests and rallies, and lectured at universities nationwide about gay rights, feminism, and gender.
During the ’90s, Davis served as chief conservator and head of preservation for the Buffalo Public Library system. She founded and was the director of the Buffalo Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Archives, which currently reside in the Buffalo State College Library. She published magazine and journal articles, short stories, and poems, and in 1993 co-authored “Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community” with Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy.
Davis married activist Wendy Smiley in 1995. Theirs was the first same-sex wedding in the Buffalo Jewish community. The couple moved to Amherst, New York, in 2006, where Davis worked as a librarian and archivist. In 2012 she became the vice president for community liaison of the Stonewall Democrats and was inducted into the Advocate magazine’s Hall of Fame.
Davis died of complications from a stroke at age 80. The New York Times published her obituary.
October 4: Elana Dykewomon AUTHOR & ACTIVIST
b. October 11, 1949
d. August 7, 2022
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“You can try a hundred things in your life, and … you can still go on trying.”
Her debut novel was the first to be identified as a “lesbian book” by The New York Times.
Elana Dykewomon, née Elana Michelle Nachman, was a feminist activist and author, best known for her three popular lesbian-themed novels. She published five poetry collections, wrote short stories and essays, and contributed to numerous lesbian periodicals.
Dykewomon was born in Manhattan to Jewish parents and cleaved to her religious identity, particularly as she matured. When she was 8, the family moved to Puerto Rico, where her father opened a law practice. She knew she was “different” as a preteen and felt “sharply alienated” by the toxic masculinity and oppressive heteronormativity of the culture. She attempted suicide after a doctor told her she couldn’t possibly be homosexual.
Back in the United States, Dykewomon studied fine arts at Reed College before receiving her BFA in creative writing from the California Institute of Art. She earned her MFA from San Francisco State University.
In 1974 Dykewomon published her debut novel, a bawdy coming-of-age story titled “Riverfinger Women,” under her original name. It was the first work to be identified as a lesbian book by The New York Times. By the time she published her second book in 1976, “They Will Know Me By My Teeth,” a collection of poetry and short stories, she had adopted the pseudonym Dykewoman, later spelling it with the second “o” to delete the word “man” from the name. She published a collection of her poetry, “Fragments from Lesbos,” under the new spelling in 1981.
In 1987 Dykewomon became the editor of a lesbian journal called Sinister Wisdom. She held the job for more than seven years. During this period, her writing appeared in “Tribe of Dina: A Jewish Women’s Anthology” as well as a variety of lesbian publications.
Dykewomon’s second novel, “Beyond the Pale” (1997), about lesbian Russian-Jewish immigrant factory workers, won the Ferro- Grumley Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction. In 1999 the Associated Press named “Riverfinger Women” to its list of 100 Greatest Gay Novels.
Dykewomon continued to write and publish, and she taught at San Francisco State University later in life. She lived in California with Susan Levinkind, her wife and partner of many years. After Levinkind died of Lewy body dementia in 2016, Dykewomon wrote the play “How to Let Your Lover Die.”
Surrounded by friends, Dykewomon died of esophageal cancer minutes before they were set to watch a live-streamed performance of the play. Though she never achieved commercial success, her work occupies an essential place in the annals of American LGBTQ history.
October 5 Tessa Ganserer TRANSGENDER GERMAN POLITICIAN
b. May 16, 1977
© GETTY IMAGES
“Visible gender diversity will ultimately also be an enrichment for all people.”
She is one of the first two transgender German politicians elected to the Bundestag.
Tessa Ganserer made history in 2021 as one of two transgender women elected to the Bundestag, the German federal Parliament. As a representative of The Greens party, she supports a strong environmental agenda and is a fierce LGBTQ rights advocate.
Ganserer was assigned male at birth in Zwiesel, Bavaria. She attended Weihenstephan- Triesdorf University of Applied Science in Freising, Germany, where she studied engineering and forestry. She graduated in 2005. Ganserer presented herself publicly as male until she was 41.
At age 21, Ganserer joined Germany’s Alliance 90/The Greens political party. From 2002 through 2005, she served as the spokesperson for the specialist forum on ecology at the Federal Association of Green Youth.
Ganserer served as a district executive in the administrative region of Middle Franconia from 2008 to 2018. In 2013 she was elected to a seat in the Lantag of Bavaria (Bavarian state Parliament). There, Ganserer sat on multiple committees, including transportation, energy, and technology, and served as vice chair for public service from 2013 to 2018.
In 2018 Ganserer came out as a trans woman, making her the first openly transgender member of a German Landtag. She was “shocked” by the hatred she faced on social media, although she said, “It was definitely outweighed by the many positive messages.” In the Lantag, she fought to make legal name and gender changes easier.
When Ganserer ran for the Bundestag, she set her sights on federal reform of the country’s restrictive 1981 Transgender Act. She said she ran “so that transgender people can finally raise a voice in the place where the legislative decisions on this degrading transsexual law are made.” Elected in 2012, Ganserer and another female Greens candidate, Nyke Slawik, became the first two transgender members of the German federal Parliament.
In the Bundestag, Ganserer advocates for soil protection, reduced carbon emissions, and forest conservation. She champions health and gender-affirming care for LGBTQ people, the right of lesbian mothers to adopt children, and ending the ban on blood donations from gay men.
Ganserer has two sons and is married to Ines Eichmüller, a fellow Greens party politician.
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