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7 Black LGBTQ Icons You Have Definitely Never Heard Of

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BY R. ERIC THOMAS

No shade, but February is too short and too cold a month to be celebrating Black History. Nobody is trying to go to an Audre Lorde parade when it’s 10 degrees outside. How are you going to dedicate the month that is doing the least to the people who have a long history of “doing the most?” Fortunately, you can celebrate Black History Month any time you want. Thursday the 13th of June? It’s Black History Month now. Time is a construct. To help you on your celebratory journey, here are seven black LGBTQ historical icons that deserve your attention. It’s possible you haven’t heard of many of them; they may not technically be real. But whatever; facts are a construct.

1.  Millicent Beauregard is the most famous gay black ghost. She passed to the great rainbow connection in the sky in 1921 after rolling her eyes so hard she got vertigo and fell off a bridge. She now spends her days possessing unsuspecting white gay men. Ever heard your friend Tripp snap his fingers and declare, “Girl, I have a black woman living inside of me”? That’s not a microaggression; it’s Millicent! Hello from the other side!

2.  Anthony Burgess was the first person to download Lemonade. He is the Matthew Henson of scorned diva anthems and modern black female empowerment. Like Usain Bolt crossing the finish line with milliseconds to spare, Anthony’s ears will always be just a little bit woker than the rest of ours. Respect.

3.  Sally Freemont is a great black lesbian inventor. But Sally is best known for one, dramatic failure and the phrase it produced. In 2002, she got up to do the ChaCha Slide—a dance that includes all the instructions in the lyrics. Poor Sally, all brains and no coordination, prompted her sister Rosalee to loudly remark, “She tried it!” This one moment of sisterly shade stuck, becoming a favorite phrase of queens the world over. Sally Freemont,  we salute you for your failure. You tried it!

4.  Chrystal is the black trans lesbian surfer who rode fourth wave feminism into an all-white gathering and famously bellowed, “What you’re not going to do is keep talking without me!”

5.  Patrice Breslow: the owner of The Library. As Dorian Corey famously proclaimed in the landmark film Paris Is Burning, “shade comes from reading; reading came first.” And reading came from the living room of retired bookseller and all-around shady queen Patricia Breslow. She never met a sassy opinion she didn’t want to broadcast and she never met a book she didn’t want to devour from cover to cover. After a series of smart investments allowed to purchase a sprawling mansion in the Bronx (opulence, darling!) she opened her salon to a group of friends who liked to page through tomes and play the dozens on each other. Just like that, the library was open!

6.  Carlton Scruggs, who watched the “Can You Feel A Brand New Day” scene in The Wiz and immediately knew. I mean, we all knew. But Carlton knew knew. The dark bodies in white underwear. The joyous liberation anthem by complicated queer icon Luther Vandross: It was all too much. He turned off the VCR, threw on Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out," vamped around the coffee table and never looked back.

7.  Kyle from Living Single. Don’t trip; you know he was family.

 

R. Eric Thomas is a comedy writer living in Philadelphia.  He loves cornbread and kale and tweets as @oureric. He also writes a daily political humor column for Elle.com.