Tuesday, December 28, 2021

My most treasured LGBTQ moment of 2021 - Learning that the first drag queen was a gay black man named William Dorsey Swann

As 2021 comes to an end and 2022 is coming around the corner, it is with a great deal of sadness that I have to even mention the jerks and jackasses who attempted to make life harder for LGBTQ people. BUT jerks and jackasses are a side dish of life and we all have to deal with them. They can try to make your life more difficult and at times can succeed even for just a moment. But then you learn to deal with them and win.

And the one way of dealing jerks and jackasses who plague LGBTQ people is remembering who we are and why we fight. Remember that you should fight for those coming up after you. And you should honor those who came before you. And speaking of the latter, one of my most treasured moments came this year when I found out about William Dorsey Swann. As the video above notes, Swann gay black man who was a former slave and the self-described drag queen. And that's only the beginning of his story. He became the first American on record who pursued legal action for LGBTQ rights. He was unsuccessful, but paved the way for Stonewall and our entire movement in general.

For a gay black man like myself, this discovery is gold. After so many years of being rendered invisible in the African-American civil rights movement and pushed into the background of the LGBTQ equality movement, the discovery of how much LGBTQ people of color were actually there and in the foreground of both movements (particularly visible in portion of Black history where we generally aren't mentioned) means the world to me. 

Editor's note - Unfortunately, no pictures or film footage of Swann exists. The footage in the video are of the vaudeville duo of Gregory and Brown.