May 26, 2022 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

How Lou Sullivan Created His Own Future

Newly-released diaries of the trans icon give us something to think about this Transgender Day of Remembrance.

When Gwendolyn Ann Smith started the Transgender Day of Remembrance in 1999, she wanted to commemorate all the people we’d lost. Not just in the year previous, but for decades leading up to the new millennium. After spending so much time combing through archives of obituaries trying to find past cases of trans deaths (often described in the press as “men in dresses” and “bearded ladies”), she wanted to create something lasting that would honor the dead in the way they hadn’t been honored in life. 

Today, we use TDOR to call the world, and ourselves, to account for the terrible crimes against trans folks that are committed almost daily. We’ve lost at least 22 transwomen to violence this year alone, and we continue to lose members of the community to violence, homelessness, and overdoses due to a lack of community resources and basic civil protections available to trans folks. 

But let’s step back from the terrible sadness that comes with TDOR to think, for a moment, about the good things that have happened, the ways in which we’ve been able to make progress for the community. The ways in which we’ve been able to find, and hold, and encapsulate joy.

The activist Lou Sullivan’s diaries, which came out in selected form from Nightboat Books last month, is one of the most joyful events anyone in the community can remember for quite some time. When Sullivan, who for years was responsible for creating and distributing FTM International, the newsletter and global community for trans men, died of HIV-related complications in 1991, the world lost an incredible fighter, artist, and thinker. In the release of his diaries, we’re able to get at least a piece of him back. Here we see Sullivan bouncing from his hometown in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin to the rough and ready streets of San Francisco in the pre-AIDS era, full of bathhouses, late-night trysts, and anonymous sex. Sullivan fought his entire life not just to break away from his early Christian identity and be embraced as a man, but to be seen and accepted as a specifically queer man. In a world that barely knew what the word “trans” meant, this was quite a feat. Through his tales of raucous sex, parties, teenage foibles, and fashion experiments, we see a portrait of someone who was able to bend the world to his desires, rather than being broken by it. This alone is something to celebrate. 

This Trans Day of Remembrance, if you’re in need of a little joy, a little reconnection with life, a little reminder of how we can fight for our own happiness, this is a volume to pick up. 

Leave despair behind for a few hours, and read about someone who, against all odds and with no help from anyone, became the purest, finest version of himself. 

Related Posts

Venice Pride Festival and Parade Around the Corner

May 24, 2022

May 24, 2022

Live music, DJ sets, Sunday parade and more come to Venice Beach Recreation Center June 4 & 5  By Staff...

Trans Fans Praise Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Auntie Diaries’ Track

May 23, 2022

May 23, 2022

By Susan Payne “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers,” by Kendrick Lamar wrestles big issues, but his track “Auntie Diaries”...

LGBTQ Center Long Beach to Host Final Do Say Gay Workshop Friday

May 23, 2022

May 23, 2022

By Susan Payne Join LGBTQ Center Long Beach this Friday for its final Do Say Gay art workshop that explores...

California Trans Child Molester Faces New Kern County Murder Charge

May 23, 2022

May 23, 2022

By Susan Payne After authorities recently charged Hannah Tubbs in connection to a 2019 robbery, the convicted 26-year-old trans child...

Happening Now: West Hollywood’s LGBTQ+ Arts Festival

May 23, 2022

May 23, 2022

By Susan Payne Happening now through the end of June, WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival celebrates the artistic contributions of...

Alcohol a Factor in Griffith Park fatal Hit and Run of Senior Gay Cyclist

May 13, 2022

May 13, 2022

77-year-old Andrew Jelmert killed in April 23 hit and run training for AIDS/Lifecycle By Susan Payne The Los Angeles Police...

Kaiser Permanente Hospitals Receive LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality Leader Designation

May 12, 2022

May 12, 2022

Kaiser Permanente’s 15 hospitals recognized by Humans Rights Campaign  By Susan Payne This year, Kaiser Permanente’s 15 hospitals in southern...

‘Match the Stars’ During MisMatch Game Performance Benefitting the LGBT Center

May 12, 2022

May 12, 2022

By Susan Payne An unstoppable comedy phenomenon is set to reach a $200,000 goal in money raised for the Los...

Confidential Settlement Made With Many LGBTQ Students at USC Over Alleged Doctor Misconduct

May 5, 2022

May 5, 2022

More than 80 former patients accuse Dr. Dennis Kel of sexual battery, harassment and inappropriate remarks By Susan Payne In...

Audio Meets Reality in ‘Being Trans’ Podcast Series Showcasing the Lives of Four Transgender Individuals of the LA Area

May 5, 2022

May 5, 2022

Through narrative-style storytelling, BEING Studios gives listeners an intimate, first-person access into the worlds of people they may not otherwise...

Orange County Man Faces Federal Charge on Suspicion of Making Anti-LGBT Threats Against Merriam-Webster

April 29, 2022

April 29, 2022

Jeremy Hanson of Rossmore charged in connection to October threats  By Susan Payne  An Orange County man faces a federal...

Palm Springs Approves Universal Income Pilot Program for Transgender, Nonbinary Residents

April 29, 2022

April 29, 2022

Payments to start in 2023 By Susan Payne A guaranteed income pilot program that would provide transgender and nonbinary residents...

Nobel Laureate and Education Activist Malala Yousafzai to Speak in Beverly Hills

April 28, 2022

April 28, 2022

May 15, 2022 at Saban Theatre Malala Yousafzai, the youngest-ever Nobel recipient and activist for education and equality is coming...

Compton Man Arrested for Allegedly Targeting, Robbing 20+ Gay Men He Met on Grindr

April 24, 2022

April 24, 2022

By Susan Payne Authorities have announced the arrest of a Compton man who allegedly targeted and robbed more than 20...