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Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Modern (Un)famous Gay Men

At Queer Sighted, Andrew Belonsky has a list of 10 (un) famous "gays you should known" - but probably don't.

The odd one in the list is Peter Tchaikovsky - neither unknown, nor exactly perceived as hetero.

Still, the others are worth a look. They are:

Herbert Huncke, 1915-1996: New York vagabond, friend of the literary "beat" generation.

Claude McKay, 1889-1948:Described as the "dark horse of the Harlem Renaissance"

Ethyl Eichelberger, 1945- 1990: New York drag artist.

Patrick Angus, 1953-1992: New York painter

Roger Casement, 1864-1916: Irish diplomat and nationalist, executed by the British for "treason" - and so remembered by the Irish as a patriot.

Mangus Enckell, 1870-1925: Artist

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, 1840-1893:

Pierre Seel, 1923-2005: French survivor of the Nazi Gay Holocaust

F. Holland Day, 1864-1933: Pioneer photographer of male nudes

The Global Growth of Marriage Equality

I wish I had thought of doing it this way! I have often reported on the global growth in gay marriage, and looked for ways to present it in a simple graphic. Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight has found the simple key - convert the jurisdictions, whether countries, provinces or cities, to the populations living under them, and treat all of Europe as a single entity.

This is the colourful chart that resulted:


That's 250 million people who now live in locations where legal recognition for gay marriage has been agreed. (More are on the way. Finland this week was just the latest to declare an intention to change the law.) Please note the rather prominent band of yellow - South Africa. I have only two quibbles with this. Nate refers to the "slow" growth to equality. But going from roughly one million at the start of 2007 to two and a half million now, I would describe as rapid. I would also stress that this applies to full marriage only: it would be interesting to see a similar chart which included civil unions.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Gay Popes, Papal Sodomites

For the month of Gay Pride (in church), it would be great if we we could simply celebrate a list of unambiguously gay popes - but we can't. This is not because they don't exist (there were undoubtedly several popes whom we know had physical relationships with men), but because of the inadequacies of language, and the weakness of the historical record over something so deeply personal, especially among the clergy. Both of these difficulties are exemplified by Mark Jordan's use of the phrase, "Papal Sodomites".  In medieval terms, a "sodomite" was one of utmost abuse, which meant far more than just the modern "homosexual". It could also include, bestiality, or heresy, or withcraft, and (in England, after the Reformation) "popery", which is deeply ironic, and hence treason.

So in the years before libel laws and carefully controlled democratic institutions, accusations of "sodomy" were a useful slander for the powerful to throw at their political enemies.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Gay Pride, Warsaw- In the 16 th Century!

Most Pride celebrations are local, for a specific city or town. In Europe, things are a little different. Every year, one city is selected for a continental celebration, drawing in visitors from right across the continent for Euro Pride. A few years ago, it was London's turn. Today, Warsaw hosts Europride. This has attracted the attention of activists who are conscious of modern Poland's reputation as a bastion of homophobia, one of the few European countries where gay marriage is constitutionally prohibited, and where some major political parties campaign on gay-bashing.  UK government minister Chris Bryant, the most senior openly gay man in the new coalition,  has gone to Warsaw to join the parade, in the hope that Euro Pride in Warsaw will contribute to an erosion of the hostile political culture.

At least one gay Pole objects to this image. Writing a "A Postcard From Gay Poland", ?ukasz Palucki exposes an extraordinary amount of what for most of us is hidden gay history, showing how Poland was for centuries a bastion of gay tolerance.

Reports like this need to be taken seriously. Far too much for what passes for political or religious discourse on sexuality is based on a highly edited, selective view based on a heterosexist bias. We need to recover and disseminate our lesbian and gay history, in the state and in the church.

Here are some extracts :

There is a State called Poland in the middle of Europe.  For unclear reasons to me, Poland is described as a part of Eastern Europe.  This qualification is more mental than geographical because Poles are being perceived as homophobes.

This stereotype strengthens Poles’ image as fanatic Catholics whose intolerance results from conservatism and is deeply rooted in the state’s long history.  There is nothing more false than that!  There are only a few countries in the world where the history of social tolerance is of such great importance, as in Poland.

I’m going to tell you the story you certainly don’t know.  This is a history of a State that was a safe refuge for many types of ‘unaccepted’ minorities, where homosexuality was never a crime, where several rulers were homosexual, and catholic priests gave church weddings to same-sex couples.

Sigmund Column: Symbol of Warsaw - and a Gay Memorial

Some people quote a wrong date, 1932, as the date of decriminalisation of homosexuality in Poland.  This mistake comes from a lack of knowledge.  In this year, the ‘Makarewicz’ Penal Code was actually established – and it  didn’t include a penalty for homosexual acts.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Modern History: Out in the Forces, UK

Over the last year or so there have been many notable anniversaries of landmarks on the way to LGBT equality: 40 since since Stonewall (June last year), 40 years since the first gay liberation march (June this year); 20 years since the first civil unions in Denmark (last year),10 years for those in Vermont (June this year), 5 years for the first full marriages in Massachusetts. Here's one that passed me by - possibly because it's more difficult to pin it down to a specific date in th year, possibly because it will have been missed by the American media that so dominate our news cycle.

2010 marks ten years of openly gay and lesbian members serving in the British armed forces.