So we asked our 2014 conference staff and Transcending Boundaries Inc. (TBI) Board of Directors the following question:
"What historical LGBTQ figure would you most like to have dinner with and why?...What do you think you talk about and why? What would you eat?"
Here a few of the responses:
Melissa, TBC 2014 Conference Chair:
"This is a tough question for me to answer, in part because I get to sit down for lunch with amazing teachers and leaders of the Queer community every year at TBC. My first instinct is to say "I want to have dinner with all of you guys!" because I see the people who attend and teach at TBC as the future of our community. But that's also avoiding the question so here's my real answer!
I never got to meet Silvia Rivera. In fact when she died in 2002 I didn't know who she was. My participation in QUILTBAG activism started several years after that and I didn't learn about her contributions to the community until I got involved with TBC in 2010. When I look at the work she did trying to protect homeless gay and transgender youth at a time when there was almost no awareness of their plight, I'm amazed. She was truly before her time and the work she did would still be groundbreaking today. So if I had a chance to bring someone back and meet them at the table, that's who I'd choose. As for what we'd talk about, my instinct is to say that I would listen. I'm sure she'd have incredible stories and could contribute greatly to my understanding of the community I serve as TBC staff. "
Sara, Special Events Coordinator for the 2014 conference and the most recent addition to the TBI board:
"The historical LGBT person I would most like to have dinner with is Bayard Rustin. Bayard Rustin was a gay African-American who was the lead organizer behind the 1963 March on Washington. I admire his ability to tactically and intersectionally while working for justice on many fronts. I would likely try to pick his brain on the sheer logistics of how you organize a successful large scale event. I'm not sure what we'd eat for dinner, but for desert I'd go with homemade zucchini bread."
Lisa Jacobs, President and co-founder, TBI:
"In trying to answer this question, I find myself wavering between two of my favorite queer artists of the past, Victorian poet Walt Whitman and Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. Then again, I never have been much good at choosing just one. Each contributes a unique history and body of work that continue to inform queer identity, and I imagine they would be fascinating lunch companions to boot.
Walt Whitman has long been one of my favorite poets, his books well-loved and well-worn in my collection. His strong, melodious, open praise of the beauty around him, whether in the land or the splendor of the human body, has always instilled within me a sense of pride in mere existence. His experiences as a queer man in an unforgiving time also intrigue me, as do his time spent volunteering at hospitals during the Civil War. How did he find beauty amongst all the ugliness? I would love to sit with him in the open air, open country, with a picnic spread and a view of his human inspiration. I would ask how the progress and tragedies of his time affected his poetry and his love of humanity. I would long to see the world through his eyes, if only for a moment.
Frida Kahlo, however, reminds me of myself in so many ways – a bisexual, genderbending artist, a woman who refused to compromise herself to beauty standards and a person with disabilities. I imagine myself with her somewhere in Mexico, somewhere that brings her peace, sampling food from her home, that beautiful yet tortured place which informed so much of Frida’s work. I would love to ask her how she viewed her gender and its expression, why and what gave her the courage not to shave her unibrow and mustache, and about the great passions that consumed her life.
Through the lens of the past, we better understand our present and future. Learning about the diversity of our queer forebears reminds us that there were once no strict lines in non-conforming sexualities and gender – only ‘perceived as normal’ and not. And that ‘not’ encompassed an entire rainbow."