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Suffrage is a badass history of revolution

100 years later, a woman of color for vice president

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Sufferege, gay news, Washington Blade
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part special on the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.

It’s not often that history happens in your lifetime. But history was made recently.  

On Aug. 11, Joe Biden picked Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) as his running mate.  Harris, of Jamaican and Indian descent, is the first Black woman and the first Asian-American woman to be the vice-presidential nominee on a major party ticket in the United States.

This may seem old-hat to you by now, but besides Harris, Sarah Palin and Geraldine Ferraro are the only two other women to have been nominated for vice president by a major party in U.S history.

I don’t want to reduce Harris’ qualifications to a series of firsts. Before she became a senator, Harris, 55, was the San Francisco district attorney. Later, she was the attorney general of California. She would be a superbly qualified vice president, or if, necessary, a good president.

As a lesbian, I’m excited! If the Biden-Harris ticket wins, (after four years of the anti-queer Trump administration), we’ll have LGBTQ allies in the White House. Harris is a long-term supporter of LGBTQ rights going back to her tenure as San Francisco district attorney, the Blade reported.

“I grew up in a community and a culture where everyone was accepted for who they were,” Harris told the Los Angeles Blade in 2018. “It was about equality, inclusion.”  

This election season, I can’t think of anyone better than Harris to call out Trump’s many falsehoods and misdeeds. Though her parents were immigrants, Harris was born in California.  Yet, Trump and his team, resurrecting their racist, false “birtherism” claims about Barack Obama, already falsely claim that Harris isn’t eligible to be vice president. (I’m confident that folks are on to Trump’s racist assertions and that Harris will be able to fend off these baseless attacks.)       

The election will, and should, focus on much more than Harris’ gender and race. Yet, the news of her being picked as Biden’s running mate is history making. Women are half of America’s population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In a country that’s been run by (mostly) white men, it’s grab-you-by-the lapels-make-you want-to-dance-historic.

As I’m white, I can’t imagine how electrifying this must feel to women and girls of color.  Words fail to say how thrilled I was to hear Harris say on Aug. 12, the day after Biden picked her to be his running mate, that she remembered the “heroic and ambitious women before me.”

Harris’ historic moment isn’t the only milestone being marked this week. On Aug. 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution giving women in the United States the right to vote was ratified. (The amendment was passed by Congress on June 4, 1919.) Women could vote in some Western states. But women throughout the entire country couldn’t vote until Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the 19th Amendment on Aug. 26, 2020.

It’s wonderful that the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage arrives as Harris makes history. Yet, a not-so-celebratory irony permeates this milestone. Until recently, we’ve often been told in history books that the suffrage movement (beginning at a convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y. in 1848) was led by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, two white, heteronormative, middle-class women. Once the 19th Amendment was ratified, the story went, every woman in the United States could vote.

For decades, I (like many folks) bought into this narrative. Only recently, did I begin to question why LGBTQ women and women of color were left out of the prevailing narrative of women’s suffrage. Or to stop and think that many Black women couldn’t vote until the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965.

Now, queer women and women of color are being included in women suffrage narratives.  The history of the suffrage movement may make your eyes glaze over. “But it’s not a boring history of nagging spinsters,” Kate Clarke Lemay, a historian at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., has said. “It is a badass history of revolution staged by political geniuses.”

Hooray for those badasses!

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.

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Celebrating 15th anniversary of Harvey Milk Day

A powerful reminder that one person can make a difference

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The Harvey Milk Forever Stamp was unveiled at a ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on May 22, 2014. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Harvey Milk’s birthday, May 22, is officially a Day of Special Significance in California. Other states also honor Milk.

Milk was the first openly gay man elected to public office in U.S. history. In 1977, he was elected to a seat on the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco. His term began in January 1978 and ended in November when disgruntled former Supervisor Dan White assassinated Milk and Mayor George Moscone at City Hall.

In his 1982 book “Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk,” Randy Shilts wrote a moving account of San Francisco’s 1978 memorial for Milk. A “massive crowd stretched the entire distance from City Hall to Castro Street, some 40,000 strong utterly silent,” Shilts wrote. The crowd “ostensibly memorialized both George Moscone and Harvey, but few speakers quarreled that the crowd had amassed chiefly to remember the gangly ward politician [Milk] who had once called himself the mayor of Castro Street.”

Shilts quoted Board of Supervisors President Dianne Feinstein, at the time acting mayor, telling the mourners that Milk “was a leader who represented your voices.” Another speaker said Milk “was to us what Dr. King was to his people. Harvey was a prophet [who] lived by a vision.” Equality was Milk’s vision.

Shilts presciently titled the last section in his book “The Legend Begins.” In 1979, after a jury gave assassin White a light seven-year sentence, LGBT rioters rocked San Francisco in what is called “The White Night Riots.” During the riots, Shilts wrote that “a lesbian university professor yelled into a feeble bullhorn: ‘Harvey Milk lives.’” Since 1978, Harvey Milk’s courageous leadership has been celebrated globally.

Over four years, 2006-2010, San Francisco reminded the country that Milk was a gay man worthy of great honors. The 2008 movie “Milk,” filmed partly in San Francisco, with Sean Penn as Milk, ignited greater public interest in the legendary gay activist. Gay screenwriter Dustin Lance Black and Penn won Academy Awards in 2009.

The film led Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign legislation making Milk’s birthday a Day of Special Significance. Also, President Barack Obama awarded Milk with a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom. On Milk’s 84th birthday, the U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative Forever stamp in his honor.

California’s Harvey Milk Day recognizes Milk for his contributions to the state. It also encourages public schools to conduct “suitable commemorative exercises” to honor Milk.

“To me, [Milk] was a man who was a capitalist, and an entrepreneur who happened to be gay,” said Republican Sen. Abel Maldonado, the only Republican to vote for the bill to create Harvey Milk Day.

The newer scholarship about Milk provided additional insight into his activism. “An Archive of Hope: Harvey Milk’s Speeches and Writings” edited by James Edward Black, Charles Morris, and Frank Robinson, published in 2013 by the Univ. of California Press, is an excellent example.

The book’s title is drawn from Milk’s 1978 speech called “The Hope Speech.” He spoke about people [gays, seniors, Black Americans, disabled, Latinos, Asians] “who’ve lost hope.” He proceeds to talk about inspiring hope in others who are struggling when the “pressures at home are too great.” It is a passionate speech, based largely on Milk’s conversations with people in the Castro. In a review of the book for The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, I wrote it is: “An important contribution to the corpus of work on Harvey Milk as a writer and orator.”

Milk believed that it was important for members of the LGBTQIA+ community to come out. If more people were aware of their LGBTQIA+ associates who were their friends, family, and loved ones, then discrimination would end. To Milk, coming out would lead to ensuring LGBTQIA+ civil rights.

In 2007, during Pride in San Francisco I worked at a nonprofit’s booth in Civic Center Plaza. A man stopped to talk. I mostly listened. He was a veterinarian from a small town in Arkansas. He was gay and closeted. He regularly visited San Francisco for Pride. Afterward, he regularly returned to his closeted life in Arkansas. I felt sorry for him. Though I was a stranger to him, he needed to come out to me. I was reminded of Milk’s wisdom about the freedom of coming out.    

Harvey Milk Day is for all people who need hope. Milk’s life is a lesson that one person can make a difference. A strong, united community inspired by Milk and others has changed and continues to change the world.  

Milk’s short political career led to long-term LGBTQIA+ political leadership from the Bay Area to Washington, D.C. to Miami to Seattle. To paraphrase a Woody Guthrie song: This LGBTQIA+ Land is Our Land. Happy Milk Day 2024!

James Patterson is a lifetime member of the American Foreign Service Association.

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Opinions

Rosenstein: Vote McGuiness for Delaware’s 14th District

For responsible growth and continued improvements in Sussex County

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I know Kathy McGuiness, and there is no one more qualified to replace Pete Schwartzkopf as 14th District Representative. 

I have owned a home in Sussex County for more than 25 years, and have been coming to Rehoboth Beach for 40. I followed Kathy’s career, and know the time she has given to the people of the state and District. No one can match her ability to do the job. Kathy is a health care professional, and a mother, committed to continue to fight to protect every woman’s health and reproductive rights.

“As a registered pharmacist, I’ve been on the front lines when it comes to health care,” she said. “I’ve been with patients who cried at the counter when they couldn’t afford their medicines, administered COVID shots during the pandemic, struggled when my mother couldn’t schedule a doctor’s appointment for weeks, and joined my sister to advocate for her son, who is in a wheelchair, when he can’t get the services he needs. We have a health care crisis in Sussex County.”  

Kathy is committed to attracting, and retaining, doctors, nurses, specialists, and pharmacists, to the fastest-growing county in the state. She has committed to seeing state and federal regulators never again identify the families, and retirees, in the 14th district, as being under-served in healthcare.  

Kathy graduated from Cape Henlopen High School and her mom taught 6th grade at Shields Elementary. She knows first hand the struggles of our children, and teachers. She is committed to listening to, and working with, local and state officials, parents, and teachers, to ensure the resources needed to facilitate the best possible education for all our children.

Born and raised in the district, now bringing her family up here, Kathy understands the value of the unique, precious, natural resources in Eastern Sussex County. She will continue to work to protect our beaches and natural resources. She will fight for state funding for sensible, responsible, infrastructure and traffic projects, that truly meet the needs of the community. Kathy takes the fight to Dover understanding tourism with her experience as a six-term Rehoboth Beach Commissioner. She is a businesswoman, and founding president of Rehoboth Beach Main Street. She will fight to protect and promote local businesses, press DelDOT to improve traffic flow, and importantly, work with state and county officials to create more safe and affordable workforce housing.

No one has the broad experience Kathy has. She has been a member of the 14th District’s Democratic Committee; a trustee at Delaware State University; a member of the Delaware Film Commission; a member of CAMP Rehoboth Board of Directors and the YMCA Sussex Board; and Lewes-Rehoboth Meals on Wheels board. She volunteered with Delaware Food Bank, Just Soup Ministry, Shepherd’s House, Planned Parenthood, and the Seashore Striders.

Kathy was named State of Delaware, Tourism Person of the Year; Business and Professional Women’s Employer of the Year; and recently, 2022 Delaware Pharmacist of the Year. She is married to Steve, a river boat pilot, and is mom to three amazing children. Has one grandchild, and another on the way. 

Let me address the only issue some may have with Kathy. She was accused of six very questionable criminal counts when serving as a successful State Auditor. Of the most serious, the jury found her not guilty on three, and the judge threw two others out. She was convicted of one simple misdemeanor, for hiring her daughter as an intern, which she only did after the Delaware Attorney General assigned to her office, said it was legal. As Pete Schwartzkopf said at her campaign announcement, this is nothing that so many others in the state have done. Kathy said, “I’ve paid my debt to the state through a fine and community service. Now I’m ready to get back to what I have done my entire adult life — help and serve the people of Eastern Sussex County.” 

So, I am honored to add my name to those of Speaker of the Delaware House Pete Schwartzkopf, 20th District Representative Stell Selby, Dewey Beach Mayor Bill Stevens, Dewey Council member Paul Bauer, former Rehoboth Planning Commission Chair Richard Perry, former Ambassador Tom McDonald, former Rehoboth Beach Commissioner Steve Scheffer, former Dewey Mayor Pat Wright, and former Democratic County Chair and Judge, Mitch Crane, all endorsing Kathy McGuiness for 14th District Representative. 

They know Kathy is the candidate for those who want to see responsible, sustainable growth, and continued improvements in Sussex County. She said, “When elected, I promise to listen to your questions and concerns. I will reach out, and remain available for conversations with everyone. I will serve with renewed dedication and humility. I promise to give it everything I’ve got.” So, vote Kathy McGuiness for District 14th Representative on Sept. 10. She will make us all proud.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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Opinions

Advocating for the Queer Community On and Off The Job

One organ donor can save up to eight lives

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Kai Sprando (Photo Courtesy Infinite Legacy)

As a proud trans man, Kai Sprando recognizes the importance of visibility and education in fostering understanding and acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community. His commitment to spreading awareness and advocating for queer experiences is something he champions on both a personal and professional level. 


In 2019, Kai began working in the organ donation field as it provides a convergence of purpose and opportunity, which he embraced wholeheartedly to make a difference in people’s lives. Kai works as an Instructional Designer at Infinite Legacy, where he develops educational resources, curriculum and training plans primarily for clinical staff. At Infinite Legacy, he found not just a job, but a community of compassionate individuals who support him in every aspect of his trans journey.

In Kai’s eyes, organ donation is more than a medical procedure; it is a lifeline and second chance for individuals with end stage organ failure. He also sees it as a way for organ donors to continue their legacy of kindness beyond their time on Earth. He is deeply moved by the profound impact that one organ donor has to save up to eight lives. This knowledge fuels Kai’s passion for his work, driving him to encourage others to learn about the transformative power of organ donation.

For Kai, education is key. He believes that the more people know about and understand organ donation, the better equipped they are to make informed decisions and advocate for the cause.

“The opportunity to make a difference by saving lives as an organ donor is very powerful. When I pass, I want to know that if nothing else, I tried my best to help others. That’s what life is all about to me…finding ways to make the hard things in life a little less hard, one act of kindness at a time.” said Kai.

With his background in teaching and his viewpoint as a trans man, Kai has been invited to and spoken at several national organ donation and transplantation conferences providing insight and perspective on what it means to be trans and queer, allowing his peers the ability to be more effective and caring while interacting with LGBTQIA+ people and their families. 

Kai is passionate about advocating for marginalized communities and through his openness, vulnerability and willingness to share his lived experiences, Kai contributes to positive change in healthcare, particularly around gender and sexuality representation.

As he continues to advocate for change and build a better infrastructure around LGBTQIA+ needs and representation, Kai remains hopeful for the future. He has seen the important shifts and positive changes in healthcare in recent years and is determined to keep pushing for progress, one conversation at a time.

Everyone can register to be an organ donor. To learn more, visit infinitelegacy.org

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