Queerversaries, today’s birthdays: October 7


october 7 marilyn waring althea garrison

Born October 7: politicians Dame Marilyn Waring, outed by a newspaper as a lesbian in 1976, and Althea Garrison, outed by a newspaper as a transgender woman in 1992.

Dame Marilyn Waring

Marilyn Waring, born October 7, 1952, joined New Zealand’s National Party after a Labour PM opposed homosexual law reform. She consequently stood as a candidate for the party in the 1975 election. Marilyn won her seat and the National Party won government.

Robert Muldoon, the notoriously belligerent leader of the National Party, and Marilyn Waring soon fell out. The pair clashed over issues like abortion, rape in marriage, sporting contacts with apartheid-era South Africa, and nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, the Nationals enjoyed a cosy relationship with the New Zealand Truth. One of its own writers described the paper as a ‘shrill megaphone’ for the conservative establishment.

In August 1976, the New Zealand Truth outed Marilyn Waring as a lesbian on its front-page. However, other local papers ignored the story and Marilyn weathered the storm.

october 7 marilyn waring althea garrison

She remained in the New Zealand Parliament for nine years despite suffering depression over her treatment at the hands of Prime Minister Muldoon. She wrote later of wearing sunglasses on flights to hide involuntary tears and throwing up on a daily basis.

Ashamed and despairing

“I could not stand what the government was doing anymore… I was ashamed and despairing to be complicit in this nightmare.”

In 1984, Marilyn Waring withdrew from the National Party caucus to protest the party’s threat to block the opposition Labour Party’s anti-nuclear legislation. Muldoon intended to disallow the ban on nuclear weapons even if a majority voted for it. She hoped her withdrawal would provoke him into calling an early election.

It worked. An enraged and drunken Muldoon announced an election. Labour won and soon legislated to ban nuclear weapons from New Zealand, including on visiting American warships.

Marilyn Waring retired from politics and went on to become a prominent feminist, author, academic, and activist for female human rights and environmental issues.

In 2020, she was appointed a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Read also: Iceland’s lesbian PM: Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir

Serbia’s lesbian PM: Ana Brnabic

Althea Garrison

Born October 7, 1940, Althea Garrison transitioned after attending beauty school. She then undertook substantial tertiary education in administration and management, including at Harvard University.

In 1982, Althea Garrison ran for the Massachusetts House of Representatives as a Democrat. She lost.  Undeterred, she ran in another ten elections over the following decade for either the House or a seat on the Boston City Council.

In 1992, Althea ran for the House of Representatives as a Republican. She won after the Democrat incumbent stuffed up his paperwork and was removed from the ballot.

However, a local newspaper reporter had his eye on Althea Garrison. Eric Fehrnstrom later found fame as presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s head kicker. But in 1992, he worked for Rupert Murdoch’s muckraking Boston Herald.

The paper specialised in political hit jobs as its chief columnist later noted.

“We were all about finding people and kicking them when they were down. And then we’d laugh about it.”

Fehrnstrom tracked down Althea’s birth certificate and outed her. Both Democrat and Republican politicians defended her election and her record in the house. However, she lost her seat in the following election and numerous subsequent candidacies for both the house and Boston City Council.

Then, in 2019, a Boston City Councillor vacated her seat following her election to Congress. As the next-placed candidate at the previous election, Althea Garrison took her place.

Her main focus remained the issues she campaigned on in the nineteen-eighties and nineties: affordable housing and services for seniors and veterans. Elected as an independent, she frequently voted with the Democrat majority. But her conservatism showed up in her support for Donald Trump and opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.

Although popular with her constituents, an effective councillor, and reputedly a formidable grassroots campaigner, Althea does not use computers, a hindrance to modern political campaigning. She lost her seat on council at the following election.

Read also: Late 19th century New York political operative, transman Murray H. Hall.

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Destiny Rogers

Destiny Rogers embarked on her career in the media industry immediately after high school, initially joining Mirror News, which later evolved into News Ltd. She fondly recalls editing Ian Byford's 'Passing Glances: A History of Gay Cairns' as one of her most fulfilling projects. Additionally, Destiny co-researched and co-wrote 'The Queen's Ball', chronicling the history of the world's longest-running continuous queer event. Her investigative work on the history of Australia's COON Cheese and Edward Coon culminated in the publication 'COON: More Holes than Swiss Cheese', a collaborative effort with Dr. Stephen Hagan. Destiny's journey at QNews began as a feature writer, and she was subsequently elevated to the role of Managing Editor of QNews Magazine in 2018. However, in July 2022, she decided to resign from this role to refocus on research and feature writing. For contact, please reach out at destinyr@qnews.com.au.

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