Creator Of Viral Twitter Thread Speaks Exclusively About LGBTQ Erasure In Family Histories

Photo: Twitter / Mark Miller 
Lesbian Erasure Twitter Thread

Looking back through history, either your family history or global history, it can be easy to assume LGBTQ communities didn’t exist before the last 100 years. 

The erasure of LGBTQ stories from our family trees and history books has convinced us that same-sex love is some new invention that arose in the 20th Century. 

What we don’t always realize, or rather what we’re prevented from realizing, is that LGBTQ history traces back to the dawn of humankind.

LGBTQ ancestors probably exist in every family tree, whether we know it or not. 

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LGBTQ erasure is, by definition, hard to spot and even harder to undo. Many of our LGBTQ ancestors don’t leave behind direct descendants, and those who do likely didn’t openly discuss their gender or sexual identities

But for those who do carry on the legacy of their LGBTQ relatives, sharing their stories is a worthwhile and rewarding feat.

At least that is what Mark Miller, a father of three from California, found when a Twitter thread he shared about his great-aunt went viral in January 2021. 

His awareness of LGBTQ erasure, specifically lesbian erasure, came from a photograph of his great-aunt, Leslie Miller, and her son Robert. The photo is a century old and Mark never met Leslie, but it is a story he thinks of often. 

The photograph was taken by Lucia Larranga, Leslie’s lover.

Mark told YourTango exclusively, “As the custodian of their picture, I feel that I have the last faintly pulsing ember of their story in my hands when I hold that photograph.” 

The couple met and fell in love some time around 1917 when Leslie was 22 and Lucia was ten years older. 

It was before Robert was born, and long before modern science gave way to IVF and other conception options. But the couple desperately wanted to be parents so they came up with a plan. 

Enlisting the help of a friend, Kenneth Moore, Leslie married, got pregnant, and divorced Moore shortly after Robert was born. 

Later, Lucia and Leslie met Louise Taylor on a family trip to Hawaii and they became three. Together, the women raised young Bobby, who Mark would meet as an adult at family dinners.

Bobby would come to Mark’s childhood home in San Francisco on occasion wearing a suit and breaking into song mid-sentence. Mark describes him in the thread as, “Lovely and eccentric.”

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Bobby was gay, though he never married or had children of his own.

Mark says that, “Bobby Moore's sexuality was at no time discussed and the amazing triad of polyamorous lesbians who raised him was unknown to me and never discussed.” 

His Catholic upbringing was, as he calls it, “Dichotomous”.

His parents were open-minded enough to have many gay friends at family dinners yet, in other ways, were notably conservative — he recalls a memory of one of his mother’s friends calling to decline a dinner invitation saying, "At your house, I am always seated next to a priest or homosexual.”

Mark himself was kicked out at 18 for having a relationship with a woman who was previously married, which he tells us was “a mortal sin of adultery” as far as his mother was concerned. His mother later became a Carmelite nun after his father died.

It wasn’t until he left his family home that Mark learned directly from Bobby about the women who raised him.  

Census records and stories from Bobby show that the women lived together in the same well-valued house for over two decades until Leslie’s death in 1946. Lucia and Louise lived until 1969 and 1975 respectively. 

They sent him to Stanford and he later drew cartoons for The New Yorker.

He was a brilliant piano player and would play for hours at the Balboa Cafe in San Francisco, always donating his overflowing tip jar to the wait staff. 

Bobby appears to have been, from Mark’s stories, a fantastically gentle man.

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He was raised by women who, against all odds, lived autonomous lives in a society that would have shamed them for doing so. 

For Mark, the story made him think of his own children, particularly his teenage daughter, and how lesbian erasure and the historic oppression of women can infringe on how the next generation views their own stories. 

“I want her to know that LGBTQ [people] have always been here,” he says, “I wanted her to know that the story of her relative, Leslie, was one of a woman taking control of her life, even if she lived in a time where she was unable to control or express her own narrative."

But the story has resonated with many outside of Mark’s family. The original thread has over 14,000 retweets. 

“To my astonishment, I found that there are many keepers of the flame,” he says, “There are many amplifiers of LGBTQ history. There are many who are dedicated to preserving the histories and bringing their stories out from under the blanket of invisibility to which they have been too regularly consigned.”

The response has confirmed something Mark already knew to be true: Lesbian erasure is real.

He says he is pained that Leslie and Bobby have no direct line in order to keep their story alive. 

This is a reality that extends beyond this story. 

“I can see from the responses that the same was true in many other families,” says Mark,  “Individuals and couples that were not talked about, whose sexuality was downplayed if not entirely ignored or even denied.”

For the keepers of these stories like Mark, telling and retelling a silenced LGBTQ stories is one of the few ways to keep these flames alive. 

By creating this thread the spirit of the women who made it lives on in some way and Mark hopes this allows others to connect with this story and, “Incorporate as much of its spirit into their lives as possible before the ember blinked out into ash and their story scattered to the wind.” 

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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. She is a generalist with an interest in lifestyle, entertainment, and trending topics.