Glenn Burke and Truman Capote Photos Courtesy of Associated Press
LGBT History Month celebrates the achievements of 31 lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender Icons.
In 1994, Rodney Wilson, a Missouri high school teacher, believed a month should be dedicated to the celebration and teaching of gay and lesbian history, and gathered other teachers and community leaders. They selected October because public schools are in session and existing traditions, such as Coming Out Day (October 11), occur that month.
Gay and Lesbian History Month was endorsed by GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Education Association, and other national organizations. In 2006, Equality Forum assumed responsibility for providing content, promotion and resources for LGBT History Month.
Be advised video links are date gay icon is profiled.
October 5: Mary Bonauto
For more than two decades, Mary Bonauto has served as the civil rights project director at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD). Regarded by The Advocate as “the country’s most powerful lawyer in the marriage equality fight,” Bonauto was lead counsel in legalizing same-sex marriage in Massachusetts and in the fight to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Born into a strict Catholic family in Newburgh, New York, Bonauto graduated from Hamilton College and the Northeastern University School of Law. In 1987, when she joined a small firm in Maine, Bonauto was only one of three openly gay lawyers in private practice in the state.
In 1989, she went to work for GLAD. She helped enforce Massachusetts’s new law protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. Bonauto was involved in litigation, lobbying and public education throughout New England.
She served as co-counsel in Baker v. Vermont, which challenged the state’s prohibition of same-sex marriage. The landmark 1999 ruling mandated in Vermont the country’s first civil unions with legal benefits similar to marriage.
Bonauto was lead counsel in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, the litigation for marriage equality in Massachusetts. In 2003, the state’s highest court became the first in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage.
Bonauto led GLAD’s successful challenge to overturn DOMA in Gill v. Office of Personnel Management. In a 3-0 decision, the lower court ruling was upheld by the United States Court of Appeals, laying the groundwork for review by the United States Supreme Court.
In 2011, Boston Magazine named Bonauto one of the city’s “50 Most Powerful Women.” She was awarded Yale University’s Brudner prize for her contributions to the LGBT community. She has served as co-chair of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Committee of the American Bar Association.
Bonauto lives in Portland, Maine with her partner of 23 years and their twin daughters.
October 6: Glenn Burke
Glenn Burke was the first Major League Baseball player to come out to his teammates and managers during his career.
Born in California, Burke attended Berkeley High School, where he excelled in multiple sports. He briefly attended University of Nevada on a basketball scholarship before the Los Angeles Dodgers drafted him. Burke played minor league baseball for four years until his major league debut in 1976.
Burke is known as the originator of the “high five.” After Dusty Baker hit his 30th home run of the season, Burke greeted his teammate at home plate with an open palm. “His hand was up in the air, and he was arching way back so I reached up and hit his hand,” Baker said. “It seemed like the thing to do.”
While with the Dodgers, Burke began to openly express his sexual orientation. The Dodgers manager offered the outfielder a bonus to marry a woman, which Burke declined. “Glenn was comfortable with who he was,” said a childhood friend. “Baseball was not comfortable with who he was.”
In 1977, the Dodgers traded Burke to the Oakland Athletics. Many of his teammates believed that Burke was traded because of his sexual orientation. In 1980, while playing for the A’s, he faced similar discrimination and retired. In 1982, Burke publicly came out in an Inside Sports article, titled “The Double Life of a Dodger.”
After leaving baseball, Burke worked odd jobs. He became homeless and began using drugs. in 1988, he served a 16-month jail sentence for grand theft and drug possession. In 1995, Burke died from from AIDS-related complications. A documentary about his life, “Out, The Glenn Burke Story” (2010), aired on sports channels.
October 7: Paul Cadmus
Paul Cadmus was one of the first openly gay artists. He is best known for his homoerotic paintings and drawings of nude male figures.
Cadmus was born in New York City in what he called “a horrible tenement.” His father was a commercial artist and his mother illustrated children’s books. Cadmus dropped out of high school to enroll at the National Academy of Design, where he spent six years as an outstanding student. After two years at the Arts Student League of New York City, he worked as an illustrator in publishing and advertising.
In the 1930’s, Cadmus worked for the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), a post Depression government project. He created paintings for a planned PWAP exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. One of these works, “The Fleet’s In,” is a provocative depicting of U.S. Navy personnel carousing with women dressed like prostitutes. It includes a subtle homoerotic image of a sailor flirting with a civilian man. The painting generated controversy, causing the Navy to remove it from the exhibition.
The scandal brought the artist national attention. His subsequent work continued to push the envelope with naked and muscled male physiques. Cadmus became recognized as one of the first contemporary artists to chronicle gay life. Despite his success, museums rejected his work because of its gay themes.
In an interview with the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art, Cadmus quoted the French artist Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres: “People say my paintings are not right for the times. Can I help it if the times are wrong?” Now in the permanent collection of The Navy Art Gallery in Washington, “The Fleet’s In” is among the most popular attractions.
In 1999, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Equality Forum honored Cadmus with the International Arts Award. He called it his most prized award and the first time the gay community officially acknowledged his contribution. Cadmus had a 35-year relationship with Jon Andersson, the subject of many of his works.
October 8: Truman Capote
Truman Capote is a critically acclaimed author of contemporary American literature. He is best known for the novels “In Cold Blood” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Born Truman Persons in New Orleans, Capote’s parents divorced shortly after his birth. Neglected by his mother, he was sent to Alabama to live with his aunt. While in Alabama, Capote began a lifelong friendship with Harper Lee, author of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” In 1934, Capote’s mother married a successful businessman. She reclaimed her son and the family moved to Manhattan. Truman adopted his step-father Joe Capote’s last name.
At 17, Capote dropped out of high school and worked as a copyboy for The New Yorker. He began writing well-received articles and short stories. In 1948, Capote published his first novel, “Other Voices, Other Rooms.” The novel’s exploration of homosexual themes, coupled with its provocative cover photo of Capote, garnered him fame and controversy.
In 1958, Capote published “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” which was adapted into an iconic film starring Audrey Hepburn. In 1965, Capote secured his place among the American literary elite with “In Cold Blood.” He based the novel on the high profile murder of a Kansas farming family. With “In Cold Blood,” Capote created a new literary genre the nonfiction novel, which combines fact and fiction. Among Capote’s other popular works are “Local Color” (1950), “The Grass Harp” (1951), “The Muses are Heard” (1956), “The Dogs Bark” (1973) and “Music for Chameleons” (1980). He also wrote numerous plays and screenplays, most notably “The Innocents” (1961).
Capote was also famous for his extravagant lifestyle and flamboyant personality. He appeared frequently on television talk shows and was a prominent member of the social elite, often in the company of the Chaplins, the Kennedys and Marilyn Monroe. Capote was openly gay during a period when the subject was taboo. In 1966, he hosted the Black and White Ball, which is regarded as one of the most important social events of the decade. For 35 years, Capote was in a relationship with fellow author Jack Dunphy.
October 9: Chris Colfer
Chris Colfer is an actor, singer, novelist, and screenwriter. He is best known for playing Kurt on “Glee.” He is one of the first openly gay teen actors to portray an out character on primetime television.
Colfer was raised in Clovis, California, and was home schooled during middle school because of severe bullying. He excelled in high school, was president of the Writers’ Club, and edited the school’s literary magazine. He wrote, directed, and starred in a gender-reversed spoof of “Sweeney Todd,” titled “Shirley Todd.” Despite his achievements, Colfer was harassed because he was perceived to be gay.
With only community theater experience, he auditioned for the role of Artie in “Glee.” He did not get the part, but inspired the show’s creator, Ryan Murphy, to create a character for him. “He’s never been formally trained,” said Murphy, “and I just thought he was so talented and gifted and unusual.”
Colfer plays Kurt, a stylish, outspoken member of the glee club who performs songs traditionally sung by women. Similar to Colfer’s real life experiences, Kurt overcomes struggles with his sexual identity and bullying. He falls in love with another male character. The New York Post named the pair “one of the most beloved TV couples of the millennium.”
Through his television character, Colfer hopes to give people strength and “show the little sparks of bravery that are in us all.” He is an inspiring role model both for teens discovering themselves and for adults who have been in his shoes. He recorded a video for the “It Gets Better” campaign, telling teens
“there’s a world full of acceptance and love just waiting for you to find it.”
He won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor and a Teen Choice Award. Colfer was nominated for two Emmys, a Screen Actors Guild Award and a People’s Choice Award. In 2011, he was named one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” by Time magazine.
Colfer starred in and wrote the screenplay for ”Struck by Lightning” (2012), a coming-of-age comedy that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. “The Land of Stories,” his first novel for children and young adults, was released in 2012.Chris Colfer b. May 27, 1990 Through his television character, Colfer hopes to give people strength and “show the little sparks of bravery that are in us all.”
Equality Forum is a national and international LGBT civil rights organization with an educational focus. Equality Forum coordinates LGBT History Month, produces documentary films, undertakes high-impact initiatives and presents the largest annual national and international LGBT civil rights summit. For more information, visit www.equalityforum.com.