Monday, 22 May 2017

Out of Her Absolutely Fabulous Tree

One of the best allies the lgbt community has ever had is actor Joanna Lumley. She is probably most famous these days for her role as Patsy Stone in “Absolutely Fabulous” which confirmed her status as gay icon. But she had that status way back in the 1970s when she played the super-spy Purdey in “The New Avengers”. Her distinctive hair-style became the latest fashion, and I’m sure I’m not the only gay man who had a poster of her on their bedroom wall.

“Absolutely Fabulous” is packed full of lgbt characters and references, so it came as no real surprise when Joanna Lumley declared last summer that her character Patsy Stone is transgender.

As a tribute to Joanna Lumley’s career the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awarded her a Fellowship last week. As my own tribute I present a glimpse of her ancestry and a couple of lgbt connections. As far as I know I’m the first to establish Joanna’s descent from Edward II (1284-1327), the queer king of England. I’m certainly the first to publish it on-line.

A link to that royal ancestry comes in Joanna’s full name – Joanna Lamond Lumley. The name Lamond comes down to Joanna through her paternal grandmother who was baptised Ella Marion Lamond Young in 1882. In turn the name came down to Ella through her own maternal grandmother who was called Elizabeth Lamond (1821-1868), the daughter of Henry Lamond and his wife Margaret Shand.

Mrs. Margaret (Shand) Lamond came from a line of Scottish clergymen, with every male ancestor in the maternal line for four generations, as well as her own father, being Church of Scotland ministers. Monumental inscriptions of these ministers give enough family detail to prove the earliest of these ministers was Rev. Walter Turing (c.1671-1743).

Turing may be a name you recognise. Rev. William Turing is also the direct ancestor of Alan Turing (1912-1854), the father of computer science and massive gay icon in the UK. Rev. William’s wife was Anne Ogilvy, a member of one of the oldest aristocratic families in Scotland. She opens up a massive amount of ancestors for both Joanna Lumley and Alan Turing. In doing so it reveals their royal ancestry, for Anne Ogilvy is descended from King James Stewart V of Scotland and his grandfather King Henry VII Tudor of England. Both are descended from King Edward II. This, of course, takes their family lines back to King William the Conqueror in 1066, as well as King Harold II who died at the Battle of Hastings.

One other lgbt connection is Joanna Lumley’s family tree can also be found through the Turing family, as can be seen in this blog by genealogist Brad Verity. It shows the Turing’s relationship to the pansexual Romantic poet Lord Byron. The blog is quite detailed, so it may be hard going for those who are not familiar with narrative pedigrees.

So, that’s a brief look as the ancestry of the gay icon, ally and national treasure Joanna Lumley.

I’m taking a little break now for ten days while I concentrate on another project. I’ll be back on 1st June.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Putting the Unseakable on Display

Today is International Museum Day. This year’s theme is “Museums and Contested Histories: Saying the Unspeakable in Museums”. To quote from the Museum Day website “… museums play a vital role in peacefully addressing traumatic histories – while still sharing knowledge of the past and giving it meaning to help us understand the world today. Museums therefore become tools for teaching universal values and help create a common destiny among different, peaceful geopolitical spaces.”

There can hardly be any more contested histories than that of the lgbt community. Even as I speak the plight of lgbt individuals in Chechnya is causing alarm. Not only do some people refuse to give the community a voice but some take measures to eradicate it.

It would have been inconceivable to produce any public historical display of lgbt heritage before the 1960s. Even today there is a reluctance on the part of lgbt historians and academics in the UK to take an active lead in establishing an lgbt museum. It has always been talk and no action, and that talk is predominantly negative, more excuses on why such a museum can’t be created instead of reasons why one can.

In other parts of the world similar museums have had varying degrees of success. Below I’ve selected some of the successes and failures of museums around the world. These will include some museums also dedicated to sex and AIDS as these are also considered “unspeakable” and “contested” themes and the lgbt community cannot be separated from them. I’ve deliberately selected only one museum for each continent, except Antarctica.
We’ll begin with what is usually referred to as the first gay museum, 1) the Schwules Museum in Berlin. Like a lot of other lgbt museums around the world this German museum was inspired by a one-off exhibition. In 1984 Berlin Museum mounted an lgbt exhibition called "Eldorado". The following year, due to its success, the Schwules Museum opened above a popular gay night club. The museum moved to its present location in 2013. The original emphasis was on the history of male homosexuality in Germany. In 2009 the museum received a grant from the Berlin Senate to enable expansion of its collection to include other sexual and gender identities.

There does not seem to have been any attempt to create an lgbt museum in Africa. However, in South Africa a museum has been created dedicated to the history of AIDS on the continent, 2) The Museum of AIDS in Africa.  The idea of an AIDS museum seems first to have been developed in 2004 in New Jersey and there is one currently in Florida. So much had been learnt about the origin and spread of HIV, and many huge advances in medical science that has helped us deal with it and understand it, that it became clear that in just a few short decades disease had generated its own history and legacy.

The Museum of AIDS in Africa was founded in 2012. The original aim was to build up a collection of artefacts and a series of travelling exhibitions in a permanent home in South Africa. Johannesburg and Durban have both been considered. It came about through the work of Stephanie Nolen, a foreign correspondent on a Canadian newspaper. She covered the HIV and AIDS news in Africa between 2003 and 2008 and realised that there was a lot of misinformation and propaganda. Some tribes believed it was either witchcraft or a curse from their ancestors.

The physical museum of which Stephanie Nolen first dreamed has not yet been achieved, but last year a specially designed travelling exhibition venue, a pop-up building, was designed and, it is hoped, this will become a “permanent” travelling museum of AIDS in Africa.

An earlier museum which included the history and information about AIDS was the 3) Antarang Museum – the Museum of Sex, or Sex health Information Art Gallery, which opened in India in 2002. It was created in Bombay/Mumbai is response to the increase of AIDS cases in the city. It was a joint venture between its founder Dr. Prakash Sarang, the Greater Mumbai Municipal Corporation and the Mumbai District AIDS Control Society. Initially the museum attracted a lot of media attention due to the general subject matter of sex education. Its main visitor base graduated into local prostitutes and their clients, and Dr Sarang expressed a hope that the museum would be better received in Goa. The museum went into a kind of limbo in 2007, closing down due to structural problems and lack of funds. It was virtually abandoned by its original creators, except Dr Sarang. Its future, if it has one, is not certain.

We move across to South America now. With São Paulo having some of the biggest lgbt Pride parades in the world it is natural that the city should house the only lgbt museum in Latin America. Celebrating its 5th anniversary this month is the 4) Museu da Diversidade Sexual (Museum of Sexual Diversity). It was created in May 2012 by São Paulo state’s Culture Secretariat. It currently occupies a large space in the mezzanine floor of the city’s Metro Republica subway station in one of the city’s public parks. There were plans to move it to a larger, more impressive, site – a 112-year-old mansion house in the city centre. Designs for a new annexe with library, auditorium, café and gift shop were approved in 2014 but nothing seems to have been done. There were even suggestions that Elton John would be invited to perform the official opening. However, it remain a very popular museum and exhibition space.

Australia, and 5) Sydney in particular, also seems to be the perfect place for an lgbt museum with its vibrant community and highly successful annual Mardi Gras. There have been several exhibitions in Sydney’s museum and art gallery and the idea of a permanent lgbt museum gained a lot of support after the 2013 Mardi Gras when a pop-up lgbt museum was created by the organising committee with the help of $40,000 from the city council. Impetus gathered after the suggestion of a permanent museum was raised in city council meetings. A venue was ear-marked but the council leader wasn’t enthusiastic. Finally, in 2014 the whole idea was dropped. The Mardi Gras committee admitted that the selected site would have cost them too much money and opted for more pop-up museums in the future.

In the next few weeks the 6) Stonewall National Museum and Archives is likely to see an increase in visitor numbers. Don’t be fooled by the name Stonewall. This museum isn’t in New York where the famous Stonewall Inn is located but is in Fort Lauderdale in Florida. The reason it may become popular for a few weeks is because the 4th World Outgames are being held next week just down the coast in Miami. The Stonewall National Museum was founded by Mark Silber in 1973. In 2009 the museum moved to its present site on East Sunrise Boulevard.

So, those are some of the lgbt museums that have been created or considered. They illustrate the successes and pitfalls of establishing a museum dedicated to a subject that is still quite controversial, in museum terms. I’d like to finish with the words of Gerard Koskovich, a founding member of the GLBT Historical Society and Museum in San Francisco, which with the Schwules Museum and the Museu da Diversidade Sexual comprise the most successful of lgbt museums – “By critically representing the stories of lgbt history in the setting of a museum, we not only create a foundation for greater social acceptance today, we also help open the way of LGBT and non-LGBT people alike to imagine a future of greater dignity and equality”.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Four Founding Fathers

You could say that 15th may is the birthday of the modern lgbt rights movement, because on this day in 1897 the Wissenschaftlich-humanitäres Komitee (Scientific-Humanitarian Committee) was formed, often abbreviated to WhK, which is what I’ll do because the full name is a bit of a mouthful. The WhK is regarded as the first public lgbt rights organisation in history (there had been several private or secret organisations before this). In this 120th anniversary year of its foundation let’s celebrates the work of its four founders.

Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935) is the most well-known of the WhK members. It was he who gathered a few friends in his apartment the day after his birthday to suggest the formation of this new organisation. But while Hirschfeld’s name became famous, that of the other three men in that apartment are less well known, so let’s bring them forward so we can celebrate all of them together.

Perhaps the man who ranks second in the foundation of the WhK is Max Spohr (1850-1905). He was a successful publisher in Leipzig, the centre of the publishing industry in imperial Germany. He bought out several smaller publishing companies and built up his own business to the extent to which he could move into a very specialised and controversial area – sex.

Spohr was one of the early advocates for sexual freedom of all types. He pioneers the publication of sex education books and on several occasions was prosecuted for publishing obscene material. The majority of his books dealt with the subject of contraception. Most of his authors wrote under pen-names to protect them from prosecution.

In 1893 Spohr began adding books on homosexuality to his catalogue. It was these books which attracted Magnus Hisrchfeld, who had tried unsuccessfully to find a publisher for his pamphlet “Sappho and Socrates”. Spohr published the pamphlet in 1896 under Hirschfeld’s pen-name Th Ramen. This was the start of a very strong friendship between the two. Max Spohr was not gay, but he supported Hirschfeld in his campaigns. He welcomed the opportunity to help co-found the WhK in 1897.

In 1903 he learnt he had cancer. He passed the publishing business over to his brother and died the following year. After his death the company declined. Gradually the emphasis on sex education was replaced by genealogy and history. The company finally went out of business in 1942. Max Spohr’s publishing legacy was recognised in 2001 when a street in Leipzig was named after him, and his legacy to equality was recognised the same year when the German lgbt group Völklinger Kries founded the Max Spohr Prize, which is awarded to a German company which has shown excellence in diversity employment.

It was Max Spohr who introduced Magnus Hirschfeld to the most shadowy of the four founding fathers of the WhK, Eduard Oberg (1858-1917). Eduard was one of the people Hirschfeld invited to his apartment on 15th May 1897 to discuss the formation of the organisation.

Oberg was a railway official. When the WhK was established in Berlin Oberg was working for the Royal Prussian State Railway in Hanover so had taken a less active role in the first pioneering days of the organisation. However, he did contribute financially. When he retired from the railways in 1910 he became chairman of the WhK in Berlin. He never married and died in 1917.

The fourth founding father is perhaps the most contradictory. Not because he was heterosexual or turned homophobic but because his personal views on racial supremacy was to typify the later Nazi regime which left a scar on the 20th century. This man’s name was Franz Vollrath Karl Wilhelm Josef von Bülow (1861-1915). With a name like that you won’t be surprised to learn that he had aristocratic ancestry.

Von Bulow’s father was chamberlain to the Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg and an ambassador to the Imperial German parliament in Frankfurt. He became an officer in the Prussian army and then entered the German colonial service.

Germany as a unified nation was quite young in the 1890s, less than 50 years old. The old patchwork of independent duchies, principalities and kingdoms had unified with the Prussian king as emperor. Germany felt they were lagging behind other European nations in world colonisation so spread its imperial wings into south-west Africa, amongst other places. Franz von Bülow travelled to the new German African colony and spent 3 years studying its people and neighbouring British colonies. He came back to write a book on what he regarded as the primitive, animalistic tribes he encountered, which he hinted were inferior and should be exterminated. This was a common view among German colonials.

After being blinded in one eye in a hunting accident von Bülow returned to Germany, wrote his book, and became acquainted with Magnus Hirschfeld. Thus he was invited to that meeting in the apartment in 1897. Like Oberg, von Bülow primarily supported the WhK financially and he doesn’t appear to have been an active campaigner. The following year he married, but that didn’t last more than 12 months. In 1900 he moved to Venice (homosexuality wasn’t illegal in Venice). On the outbreak of World War I he returned to Germany and he died in his mother’s house in Dresden in 1915.
These were the other three founding fathers who supported Magnus Hirschfeld’s pioneering Wissenschaflich-Humanitäres Komitee. Hirschfeld persuaded many influential Germans and others to add their support to his campaign, including such luminaries as Albert Einstein and Leo Tolstoy. While Hirschfeld’s reputation and legacy grew, that of his three fellow founders lingered in the shadows. I hope I’ve helped to bring them further into the light.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Q-dunnit?

Crime and law not only impacts on lgbt lives in real life but also in fiction. There’s a large amount of lgbt crime and detective novels. Crime detection itself has been a popular genre in literature for over a century. Whether it’s a whodunit thriller, mystery or police detective story there are many lgbt writers who have made a career out crime.

The modern crime novel traces its roots back to the gothic novels of the 18th and 19th centuries. Perhaps the first that can be called a mystery novel is Edgar Allen Poe’s 1841 novel “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”. Some of the early modern crime novels that include lgbt characters mirrored their portrayal in film and television. Gay men were seen as victims, or devious criminals. The film “Victim” starring Dirk Bogarde in 1961, released during the process of discussion into decriminalising some homosexual activity, helped to give the general public a more sympathetic face to gay men.

One sympathetic gay male detective in fiction appeared before the Wolfenden Report was published in 1956. In “The Heart in Exile” written by Rodney Garland, published in 1953, a London psychiatrist becomes amateur detective in a quest to find the truth behind the death of his male partner. He may have been the first gay amateur sleuth.

Which brings me on to one specific character whom I’m sure has already sprung into your mind, and a character who has been beset with gay speculation for decades – Sherlock Holmes. I am not one of those who thinks there was anything remotely homosexual about the relationship between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. That doesn’t stop other others from hinting or speculating, particularly film and television.

Even though there were no gay detectives in the 19th century there were some lgbt authors writing crime fiction. I don’t know if you can really call the gothic novels of Horace Walpole (1717-1797) as crime or mystery novels, but they belong to the literary group which evolved into them via “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”. Wilkie Collins’s 1868 novel “The Moonstone” was an early form of the classic crime detective mystery. The stories of the afore-mentioned Sherlock Holmes became the most famous of the Victorian crime detectives, but sandwiched in between them was the biggest best-selling whodunit of the era, “The Mystery of a Hansom Cab” by Fergus Hume.

Fergus Hume (1859-1932) was British ex-pat in New Zealand whose parents ran a lunatic asylum. Moving to Melbourne, Australia, in 1885 he hoped to kick-start his play-writing career by penning “The Mystery of a Hanson Cab” and establishing his writing credentials. To his surprise it became a blockbuster when published in London the following year. One of the people who read the novel was Arthur Conan Doyle. It probably partly inspired him to create Sherlock Holmes. Both Hume and Conan Doyle saw their original detective novels as one-off put their popularity meant that the public clamoured for more of the same. Both authors supplied that demand and it would be Sherlock Holmes’s popularity that would overshadow that of any other literary detective of that era.

Hume returned to his native England and continued to write and churn out 140 novels, most of them mystery and crime fiction. Very little of his personal life is known. He is not known to have kept a diary or journal. A couple of experiences may have exposed the young Fergus Hume to homosexuality, even though it was illegal at the time.

First there was the lunatic asylum run by his parents in which they also lived. A government report at the time mentioned that the “abominable vice”, the phrase frequently encountered when homosexuality is discussed, was present in many asylums. Second, Hume went to a traditionally English public school in New Zealand where all the Greek classics and Greek love were major parts of his education. Schoolboy crushes between the boys often developed into physical relationships.

Fergus Hume never married and no romantic involvement with women are known. His biographer, Lucy Sussex, speculates on his sexuality, citing his association with a couple of antipodean actors in who were imprisoned for homosexual offences. Hume was considered a dandy, someone who paraded in his finery in the streets. One of Hume’s later books was a Utopian novel in which the ancient Greek civilisation is recreated on an island.

There is much homoerotic content and Hume said he had researched the era extensively. The novel also included a poem entitled “Venus Urania”, a name which inspired a group of Victorian poets. Hume also said he studied the Uranian poetry of John Addington Symonds, one of the pioneers of gay rights.

There is a tantalising suggestion here. Would Fergus Hume have become one of the individuals whose sexuality was an “open secret” but never admitted? Taking it further, did Arthur Conan Doyle unwittingly put some of Fergus Hume’s own flamboyant character into his later Sherlock Holmes novels? Hume was enough of a celebrity to have met most of Victorian society when he arrived back in England in the 1880s, even Conan Doyle.

In the words of Lucy Sussex, “Ultimately, though, Hume tantalises but never reveals his personal mystery.”

Monday, 8 May 2017

Gay Indiana Jones and the Lost Treasure of Zerzura

…or “Gay Indiana Jones and the Treasure City of the Sahara”, or “… and the Quest for the Lost Oasis”, or any one of several other titles I considered for this article.

Almost as soon as the first Indiana Jones film hit the screen people have made suggestions as to whom the character is based. Like the character of M from the James Bond books there are several names who have been put forward as the “original”. Two of the most popularly named names are Otto Rahn (1904-1939), the gay archaeologist who went in search of the Holy Grail for the Nazis, and the straight adventurer and explorer Roy Chapman Andrews (1884-1960) who became Director of the American Museum of Natural History.

Another man who can be suggested is Count László Almásy (1895-1951).

Almásy (whether his title was real or not is debatable but he was from an aristocratic family) is best known as the role model for another fictional hero, the title character of the novel and film “The English Patient”. Very little, if anything, in either the novel or film is true, but Almásy’s real life was so full of intrigue and adventure that he qualifies for both of my “Xtremely Queer” and “Extraordinary Lives” series of articles. No doubt he’ll appear in one of them in the future.

Like Otto Rahn, László Almásy was gay and on “the other side” during World War II. Even though they were members of the SS and Luftwaffe respectively they were not in combatant roles and acted as sources of information rather than as active pursuers of Nazi policy.

If ever there was a story worthy of an Indiana Jones film it is surely the search for Zerzura, a legendary city of treasure deep in the Egyptian desert. It has been the subject of stories and speculation since medieval times.

The fabled city of Zerzura makes its first written appearance among the documents of a 13th century emir in the city of Fayyum in Egypt on the Nile (I love the name the ancient Greeks gave to this city – Crocodilopolis). In 1481 there was another manuscript written whose title translates as “The Book of Hidden Treasures”. It is essentially a treasure-hunter’s handbook (I’m sure Indiana Jones’s father had a copy!). It gave the following account of a camel driver who recounted a fabulous tale to the emir of Benghazi.

The camel driver was travelling across the desert when a huge sandstorm blew up. He was the only survivor of his group. Lost, dazed and delirious from thirst he claimed he was rescued by a group of tall, fair-haired, blue-eyed warriors who took him back to their home, Zerzura. Zerzura was a gleaming white city filled with luxury and treasure. After a few months the camel driver, long since recovered from his sandstorm ordeal, left the city and trudged through the desert again until he reached Benghazi, exhausted and thirsty. The emir provided hospitality as he listened to the camel driver’s adventure.

When asked why he left the safety of Zerzura the camel driver became evasive. Guards found a fabulously expensive ring in his possession. The emir surmised that the camel driver had stolen the ring and left Zerzura before he could get caught.

The emir was fascinated by the tale of Zerzura and sent an army of men to search for the fabled treasure city. They never found it. And the fate of the camel driver? The emir had his hands chopped off for stealing the ring.

It wasn’t until 1835 that Europeans began to learn about the legendary treasure city. Reports were made of the discovery of a long-lost oasis deep in the Egyptian Sahara and several expeditions tried to find Zerzura’s location.

For a century nothing was found, but the area was mapped accurately for the first time, along with a couple of legendary oases of lesser significance. In 1926 Prince Kemal el-Din of Egypt discovered the Gilf Kebir, a rocky plateau the size of Switzerland. Archaeologists went mad. Was this Zerzura? The academic journals published many articles on the subject, both for and against the suggestion. One of those who believed Gilf Kebir was Zerzura was László Almásy.

In that same year, 1926, Almásy had himself rediscovered a long-lost caravan route through the desert known as the Road of Forty (it took 40 days to get from one end to the other).

In 1932 Prince Kemal financed Almásy and a small expedition to fly over the Gilf. They photographed two very green fertile valleys. Again, this discovery created a sensation in archaeological circles. Travelling to the Gilf overland was difficult but they made it the following year. What sceptics often remarked was that stories of Zerzura mentioned 3 valleys and Gilf Kebir had only 2. Almásy’s expedition concentrated on its western edge of the plateau – and he found the third valley. Sceptics were harder to be convincing after that.
Although Almásy never found any structural remains he was convinced that the lost city of Zerzura was to be found in or around Gilf Kebir. There is, however, evidence of human habitation. In some of the caves in the Gilf’s cliffs are rock paintings.

The quest for Zerzura petered out after that, mainly due to the outbreak of World War II. Almásy returned to North Africa as a Luftwaffe officer charged with producing maps of the desert. He was also charged with the task of smuggling two Nazi spies across the desert to Cairo. This didn’t have any effect on the Nazi war effort as the spies were captured not long arriving.

After the war the Hungarian Communist government charged Almásy with treason for working with the Nazis. He was acquitted, but then a Soviet KGB hit squad went after him. He escaped to Cairo where he befriended King Farouk who made him the first director of the new Egyptian Desert Research Institute.

So, had the lost Treasure City of the Sahara been found? Does Zerzura really exist? We’ll never know. Nothing that can be described as actual treasure has been discovered, but thanks to Count László Almásy its possible location may have been found. All we need now is Indiana Jones to finish the job and find it!

Thursday, 4 May 2017

May the (Police) Force Be With You

Yes, I know. The title is a cliché of the tired-old Star Wars joke but with recent events in the news I thought I’d bring this article forward a few weeks to today.

The murder of an openly gay policeman in Paris a couple of weeks ago in a terror attack reminds us all of the wonderful work they do to protect us. The same can be said of the police officer murdered in a similar manner outside the House of Parliament in London. On a more positive side the UK saw the coming out of the police officer who was recently appointed to the highest rank in the UK, Cressida Dick, the new Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

The relationship between the lgbt community and the police around the world still throws up some serious matters for concern (but then, so do the actions of some elements in the lgbt community). However, that’s not the concern of today’s article. Since 2000 there has been an increasing acceptance of lgbt police officers within the service itself, though the legacy of suspicion within the lgbt community has been slower in acceptance. Sometimes it is difficult to believe that the police are not homophobic when individual police officers express their homophobia.

There are many openly lgbt police officers of all ranks around the world. Below is a 3-part table listing some of them who have achieved notability. Because I live in the UK and have more information readily to hand I hope you don’t mind if I concentrate on the UK police today. I’m preparing articles on other police forces for later in the year.
The titles of the higher ranks vary between some forces and to produce the tables I’ve used the shoulder epaulette insignia, which are much more unified and better at giving a visual indication of equal ranks. The lowest ranks are listed first. At the bottom of the third chart is Cressida Dick, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. Her insignia seems to indicate a rank higher than a Chief Constable. The Metropolitan Police doesn’t have the rank of Chief Constable, and has extra senior ranks that other forces don’t have. Hence she appears to outrank the Chief Constables when, in fact, she doesn’t (only in London, as the Chief Constable’s outrank her in their own area of authority).

You can also see some gaps. Because I brought this article forward a few weeks I haven’t had time to research the ranks with gaps. I will update this article when I do.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Chain Males : Part 1

Following on from my article on female mayors in March I bring a look at members of the lgbt community who have held mayoral office. We begin with a small group who have held the office of Lord Mayor.

Let’s being, though, with a definition of a Lord Mayor. The office is most associated with the UK. Towns with mayors may receive letters patent from the sovereign granting or confirming the status of Lord Mayor onto the town mayor. This usually happens when the town is simultaneously elevated to city status. Even though cities existed before 1893 by being the seat of a bishopric, only London and York had Lords Mayor before that year.

The title of Lord does not give them a place in the House of Lords. “Lord” is a term used to signify special recognition from the Crown (as also in Lord Lieutenant and Lord Justice) and indicates the office not the person. As such, any female holder of the office is also called Lord Mayor, not Lady Mayor or Lady Mayoress (which is a traditional courtesy title given to the wife of a mayor). Lords Mayor are civic heads of their city, the “Chief Citizen”, and not the head of the governing city council (usually titled the Leader of the Council) though are selected by their council from one of their elected members.

By the way, the Lord Mayor of London and the Mayor of London are two different titles. The Lord Mayor is the civic head of the old City of London, and the Mayor is the elected political head of the larger Greater London area covering many towns, cities and boroughs of which the City of London is just one part.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way lets turn to the lgbt Lords Mayor themselves. The illustration below shows you their locations. All of them in England were entitled to use the coat of arms of their city during their term of office. In Australia, Wollongong has no coat of arms, and in Melbourne the named office holder was Deputy Lord Mayor and not entitled to use the city arms.

Here is a list of the Lords Mayor in chronological order:

David Campbell – Wollongong, Australia, 1991-9
Robert Davies – Westminster, UK, 1996-7 (see also below)
Gary Singer – Melbourne (Deputy), Australia, 2004-6
Colin Inglis – Kingston-upon-Hull, UK, 2011-12
Leon Unczur – Nottingham, UK, 2012-12
Gary Millar – Liverpool, UK, 2013-14
Carl Austin-Behan – Manchester, UK, 2016-17
Robert Davies – Westminster (Deputy), UK, 2016

Immediately, it is clear that all of them are male. There has not yet been any female Lords Mayor from the lgbt community to my knowledge. All of the men listed, with the exception of Robert Davies in 1997, were openly gay before they took office.

Robert Davies came out in 2007 when he and his partner announced their Civil Partnership. Here is another example of the confusion that can arise with the London mayors. Robert and his partner Simon Milton (d.2011) were publicly elected Westminster city councillors. The council appointed Robert Lord Mayor of Westminster in 1996. In 2008 Simon (by now Sir Simon) was appointed Deputy Mayor of London, the larger London that covers many boroughs as well as the cities of London and Westminster. Robert is currently a Deputy Lord Mayor of the city Westminster. Confusing? It is to a lot of Londoners as well! Having said that, Robert and Sir Simon are the only lgbt couple who have both held mayoral office, though not simultaneously.

Of the other Lords Mayor on the list I have mentioned Leon Unzcur several times on my blog before, mainly because he was also the first openly gay Sheriff of Nottingham and because I know him quite well. Unfortunately he has suffering from parkinson’s disease and I don’t see him around very often.

Perhaps the most surprising connection is the appointment of Carl Austin-Behan. He has been a Manchester city councillor since 2011, but his earlier claim to fame was as Mr. Gay UK 2001. His term of office as Lord Mayor ends officially in the next few days.

In the next Chain Male article I look at the international mayors (mayors in the USA will be looked at later in the year).