George Santayana famously said that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
That is so true. What happened in the past may result in regrets and action to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But history sometimes can and should be celebrated. History also is populated with events and people that can inspire us and delight us.
Perhaps no one understands that better than August Bernadicou, a 26-year-old gay man whose passion is chronicling LGBTQ history. Bernadicou is the founder of the LGBTQ History Project and this year launched the QueerCore podcast, a series that reveals the sometimes startling stories of creative queers like Rumi Missabu.
Since he began his professional writing career at the age of 14, Bernadicou has interviewed more than 500 people, with some of those archived interviews included in the QueerCore podcast series. Born in Stockton, he moved to San Francisco and now lives in New York City.
QueerCore, Bernadicou says, “elucidates radical, LGBTQ activists’ dark histories. It is a spotlight on the catalysts who fought in the front lines, in the back lines and in the trenches of civil rights. The QueerCore Podcast is an opportunity for them to tell their stories in their own words. It is an opportunity for them to tell them for their first time, for their last time and to the world.”
Bernadicou has produced four podcasts to date, with the fifth one going live soon. The series began with a profile of Rumi Missabu. Missabu, born in Hollywood, moved to San Francisco and was an original member of the Cockettes, the avant garde psychedelic hippie theater group founded in 1969, but the story is even stranger. Missabou left the Cockettes and lived the next 35 years as a person without an identity — no government ID, work record or a social security number just an expired San Francisco library card that said “Rumi.”
Episode Two is the story of Troy Perry, who founded the first LGBTQ Christian religious organization in 1968. Today the Metropolitan Community Church has over 40,000 members and 222 member congregations in 37 countries in every continent but Antarctica.
Episode Three features Don Kilhefner, who Bernadicou describes, in a flattering way, as “the most dangerous gay activist alive in America.” Kilhefner is a co-founder of the Radical Faeries, a countercultural movement focused on exploring queer consciousness. He also was a co-founder of the Gay Community Services Center (now the LA LGBT Center). At the age of 82, he is still an activist and active in the Gay Elder Circle, which he created in 2009.
Episode Four focuses on Jewel Thais-Williams, owner of L.A.’s Catch One, the first gay Black disco in America. Williams co-founded the Minority AIDS Project in 1987, which helps Blacks and Hispanics affected by AIDS/HIV. And in 1989, she founded Rue House, which provides housing for minority women with AIDS and their children.
Coming soon is Episode Five, which Bernadicou says will feature “the Theater of Ridiculous, the genre that impacted art, culture, glitter, glam and Gay Liberation.” Those profiled are Tony Zanetta, Agosto Machado and Ruby Lynn Reyner.
The previous podcasts (and the coming ones) can be found here.