05-29-1961 Melissa Etheridge – Born in Leavenworth, Kansas. She is an American rock singer, songwriter, and activist. Her self-titled debut album Melissa Etheridge released in 1988 became a hit. The album peaked at #22 on the Billboard 200, and its lead single, Bring Me Some Water, garnered Etheridge her first Grammy Award nomination for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female. In 1993, she won her first Grammy award for her single Ain’t It Heavy from her third album. Later that year, she released what would become her mainstream breakthrough album, Yes I Am. The album featured three Top 40 hits, including Come to My Window, which won her a second Grammy Award. In 2007, she won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for I Need to Wake Up from the film An Inconvenient Truth. In September 2011, Etheridge received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She came out publicly as a lesbian in January 1993 at the Triangle Ball, a gay celebration of President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration. Since her coming out she has become famous as a gay right activist. She is also a committed advocate for environmental issues.
05-29-1894 – p1-20-1989 Beatrice “Bea” Lillie – Born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She was a Canadian-born British actress, singer, and comedic performer. Lillie performed in Ontario with her mother and older sister, Muriel. Eventually, her mother took the girls to London, England, where she made her West End début in the 1914 show Not Likely! In 1924 she made her Broadway début in André Charlot’s Revue, starring Gertrude Lawrence. She starred in her first film, Exit Smiling (1927), opposite Jack Pickford, the younger brother of Mary Pickford. After a 1927 tour on the Orpheum Circuit, Lillie returned to Vaudeville at the Palace Theatre in New York, performing there frequently in 1928. According to English critic Sheridan Morley, “Lillie’s great talents were the arched eyebrow, the curled lip, the fluttering eyelid, the tilted chin, the ability to suggest, even in apparently innocent material, the possible double entendre.” In 1953, she won a Tony Award for her revue An Evening with Beatrice Lillie. Lillie did marry in 1920 to Sir Robert Peel. She eventually separated from her husband, but the couple never divorced. They had a son that was killed in WWII. Lillie is known to have had affairs with women, including Gertrude Lawrence, Tallulah Bankhead, and Katherine Cornell. In 1948, while touring in the show Inside USA, she met John Philip Huck. He was three decades younger, a former Marine, and became her friend and companion for the rest of her life. She retired from the stage due to Alzheimer’s disease. Thoroughly Modern Millie (filmed in 1966 and released in 1967) was her last film. Julie Andrews remembered that Lillie had to be prompted through her lines and was often confused on the set. Lillie died in 1989 in England. Huck died of a heart attack the next day, and the two were buried in the churchyard of St. Margaret’s in Harpsden, Oxfordshire, near Henley-on-Thames.
05-29-1944 – 05-18-2023 Helmut Berger – Born in Bad Ischl, Austria. He was an Austrian film and television actor. He appeared primarily in European cinema but has also acted in some American films, including The Godfather Part III. He was lovers with director Luchino Visconti from 1964 until Visconti’s death in 1976. Berger was openly bisexual. According to his 1998 autobiography Ich. Die Autobiographie, he had affairs that included flings with Rudolf Nureyev, Britt Ekland, Ursula Andress, Nathalie Delon, Tab Hunter, Florinda Bolkan, Linda Blair, Marisa Mell, Anita Pallenberg, Marilū Tolo, Jerry Hall, Bianca and Mick Jagger. Throughout the 1980s his private life made the news for his struggles with alcohol and drugs. He died at the age of 78.
05-29-1947 Bishop Gene Robinson – Born in Fayette County, Kentucky, In 2003 he became the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. Robinson was also known for being the first in an openly gay relationship to be consecrated a bishop in a major Christian denomination. His sexual orientation was privately acknowledged in the 1970s when he studied in seminary, was ordained, married, and started a family. He went public with his sexual identity and divorced in 1986. He entered a formal relationship with Mark Andrew in 1988. They ended their union in 2014.
05-29-1960 – 03-30-2020 Lorena Borjas – Born in Veracruz, Mexico. She was a Mexican-American transgender and immigrant rights activist, known as the mother of the transgender Latinx community in Queens, New York. Borjas emigrated to the US in 1981 with the goal of obtaining hormone therapy and transitioning to live as a woman. She became a legal permanent resident of the US in 1990. In 1995, Borjas made activism her life’s work. For decades, Borjas worked to protect transgender victims of human trafficking (which she herself had experienced), slavery, and violence. She hosted women who had been ostracized from their families in her own apartment until they were able to support themselves. Cecillia Gentili, a friend and a transgender leader, stated, “Needed a lawyer? Doctor? Housing? A job? She was there. Lorena was that person who, if you got arrested, you called her at three in the morning and she would answer. First thing in the morning she would be in court with a lawyer to get you out of jail.” She earned honors from former Mayor Dinkins, New York Attorney General, Letitia James, and Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz. In 2019, she was declared a New York Woman of Distinction in the State Senate. During the coronavirus pandemic, Borjas created and promoted a mutual aid fund to help transgender people who were impacted by the economic crisis. Borjas died at Coney Island Hospital from complication of COVID-19. Following her death, New York City Council member Francisco Moya announced plans to rename a street in his district, where Borjas lived, after her.
05-29-1968 Hida Viloria – Born in Jamaica, Queens, New York to immigrated Colombian and Venezuelan parents. She is a Latinx American writer, author of Born Both: An Intersex Life. Viloria is an intersex and non-binary rights activist and is Founding Director of the Intersex Campaign for Equality. Her father, a physician, and mother, an ex-school teacher, chose to register and raise her as female without subjecting her to medically unnecessary cosmetic genital surgeries. On Human Rights Day, 2013, Viloria became the first openly intersex person to speak at the U.N., by invitation, at the event “Sport Comes Out Against Homophobia”, along with tennis legend Martina Navratilova, and NBA player Jason Collins. In April, 2017, she became the second American recipient of an intersex birth certificate, issued by the city of New York. In 2019, Viloria was featured in the Smithsonian Channel documentary, The General was Female?, which explores compelling evidence that General Pulaski, the father of the American Cavalry, may have been intersex.
05-29-1841 — 11-10-1917 Ella Wesner – Born in Pennsylvania, place unknown. She was the most celebrated male impersonator of the Gilded Age of Vaudeville. Her career was with the vaudeville impresario Tony Pastor. Her career was briefly stopped when she left Pastor’s shows and ran off to Paris with the notorious Helen Josephine Mansfield, who had been the mistress of “Diamond Jubilee” Jim Fisk, as well as the mistress of his murderer, Edward S. Stokes. The event caused considerable scandal and it was reported in most of the major newspapers in the US. After the romance cooled, Wesner returned to the US and resumed her career with Pastor, winning ever larger audiences. She never married and preferred female lovers. She left instructions that when she died to be buried in male attire.
05-29-1955 Stephen Whittle – Whittle at Altrincham Cottage Hospital, Greater Manchester, England. He is a transgender pioneer and a UK professor of Equalities Law in the School of Law at Manchester Metropolitan University. In 1966 his mother sent him to Withington Girls’ School. It was during this time that he started reading medical books. He knew he was romantically attached to other girls at school – he never told them, and so his love was not reciprocated – but he also knew that he was sexually attracted to men. On top of that was a strong desire to be a man. In 1972, while visiting a doctor about a sore throat he read about a female to male (FTM) transsexual person. In 1974 Whittle came out as an FTM transman, after returning from a women’s Liberation Conference in Edinburgh, which he attended as a member of the Manchester Lesbian Collective. He began hormone replacement therapy in 1975. He has been active in transsexual and transgender communities since the age of 20. In 2004 the Gender Recognition Act was passed and in April 2005 Whittle was able to obtain a new, male birth certificate. He married Sarah Rutherford in 2005 (they had been living together since 1979). They have four children.
05-29-1959 Rupert Everett – Born in Burnham Deepdale, Norfolk, England. He is an English actor and writer. He first came to public attention in 1981, when he was cast in Julian Mitchell’s play and subsequent film Another Country (1984) as an openly gay pupil at an English public school in the 1930s. He has since appeared in many other films, including My Best Friend’s Wedding, An Ideal Husband, The Next Best Thing, and the Shrek sequels. He is openly gay. In 2009, Everett told British newspaper The Observer that he wished he had never revealed his sexuality, he feels that it hurt his career and advised younger actors against such candor. Everett criticized the introduction of same-sex marriage, claiming, “I find it personally beyond tragic that we want to ape this institution that is so clearly a disaster.” In addition to his autobiography and the screenplay for the Wilde biopic, Everett has written several books, such as The Hairdressers of St. Tropez.
05-29-1960 Mike Freer – Born in Manchester, England. He is a British politician. A Conservative, he was elected as the Member of Parliament for the constituency of Finchley and Golders Green at the 2010 general election. Freer is openly gay, which he revealed to fellow MPs during a speech in the debates over Marriage for Same-Sex Couples Act 2013. He lives with his husband Angelo Crolla. He and Crolla entered into a civil partnership in January 2007. On the eighth anniversary of their civil partnership, in January 2015, they got married.
05-29-1975 David Burtka – Born in Dearborn, Michigan. He is an American actor and chef. He is known for his acting roles in theatre and television shows such as How I Met Your Mother and The Play About the Baby. He graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Pasadena in the summer of 2009. He and Neil Patrick Harris married in Italy in September 2014. They had been together since 2006 and have two children.
05-29-1984 Lavern Cox – Born in Mobile, Alabama. She is an American actress, reality television star, television producer, and LGBT advocate. She is best known for her portrayal of Sophia Burset on the Netflix television series Orange Is the New Black, for which she became the first openly transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award in the acting category. In April 2014, Cox was honored by GLAAD with its Stephen F. Kolzak Award for her work as an advocate for the transgender community. On June 9, 2014, she became the first openly transgender person to appear on the cover of Time magazine. In 2015, she appeared in the film Grandma, starring Lily Tomlin.