As a teenager, Tobias Gurl was unable to find much info on gay or queer history. This led him to create The “Queer-a-Day” Project.
Growing up queer in Wisconsin without a car taught me the value of history. The nearest gay club was all the way across town and wouldn’t take you in until you were 18, and even then only on special nights, which left me with no easy way to socialize with people like myself. I was alien, adrift, compelled by necessity to cobble together whatever disparate fragments of “my” culture I could snag from the library and Time. I still remember running a Google search for ‘gay history’ in 2005 and barely finding enough material to write a ten-minute speech for English class. I had no one to talk to but the head of my GSA, an out lesbian whose senior year Women’s History class introduced me to Billy Tipton and proved once and for all that I wasn’t alone. (Given that the article we read on Tipton spun him as a woman, it was also my first peek into the complicated political history between lesbians and trans men.)
Having lived through the ache of lacking a necessity, I never truly let go of that pain. Even now, when I can re-run the above Google search and turn up more results than I could read in a lifetime, I still feel unsatisfied. Too many of my queer scientist friends have no role models to look to, or were taught that the Chevalière d’Éon was really a chevalier. To that end, I founded The Queer-A-Day Project.
Queer-A-Day is exactly what it says on the tin: quick biographies of queer individuals, updated daily. It’s a bit like a once-a-day calendar in that subscribers have their material served up in bite-sized morsels, but unlike a calendar you can go back and look in the archives if you miss a day instead of digging through the trash. Every day I find a new inspiration and share it with the world.
Among my favorites so far you’ll find: Patrick Califia, the founder of lesbian BDSM (who happens to be a man); Han Ai, the Chinese emperor whose same-sex relationship gave rise to the idiom “the romance of the cut sleeve”; surrealist Frida Kahlo, who had an affair with Josephine Baker, a civil rights activist who was also a staple of the Parisian nightclub circuit; Randy Shilts, whose award-winning coverage of the early AIDS epidemic in San Francisco inspired the name for Queer-A-Day’s unicorn mascot (pictured above); and, most recently as of this writing, Edward Gorey, an asexual author and illustrator whose skeletal Edwardian figures anticipated Tim Burton.
Have someone you want to see profiled? Drop me a comment here and I’ll add them to the queue! You might even see them appear on The Good Men Project, since I’ve been asked to compose monthly roundups with a few of my favorites.
You can also follow Queer-A-Day on Facebook here.
Art Credit: Claire Quigley