Sunday, 1 October 2023

23 For 2023

My friends in the USA are celebrating LGBT History Month from today. To celebrate here are 23 lgbt+ facts and trivia. Some of these facts are explained in more detail in earlier posts.

1) Gay detective novelist Christopher Fowler (1953-2023) came up with the famous tagline “In space no-one can hear you scream” for the 1979 film “Alien”.

2) The swimming trunks worn by the 16-year-old Greg Louganis when he won a silver medal in diving at the 1976 Montréal Olympics were bought at an auction in January 2023 for $6,604.

3) The much-troubled Nottingham Castle (which went downhill very quickly after I left!) has had three queer Constables (a sort of site manager). They were Sir Piers Gaveston (c.1284-1312) from 1310-1312; Sir William Neville (c.1341-1391) from 1381-1391; and Sir George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham (1592-1628), from c.1621-1628.

4) Douglas Byng (1893-1987) is believed to be the first drag performer in the world to have been given his own series on television. The BBC gave him his own 2-episode sketch show called “Byng-Ho!” in 1938. They were broadcast live and no recordings exist (I wish I could say the same about “Ru Paul’s Drag Race!”).

5) “Ingles” or “ningles” was a slang name for gay male prostitutes in late 16th and early 17th century London, England. Its origin is unknown, though it may be connected to an old medieval word meaning “to fondle”.

6) Facebook is synonymous with Mark Zuckerburg, but Facebook was actually co-founded in 2002 by Zuckerburg and four friends at Harvard University, USA, including the openly gay Chris Hughes (b.1983).

7) On a related online note – the world’s first internet search engine, ARCHIE, was created in 1989 by Bahamian/Canadian Alan Emtage (b.1964). He is credited with being the first openly gay black person to create and entirely new category of technology.

8) The habergeiss is a goat-like creature or cryptid from German folklore that is often represented in Christmas parades. It is said to be of male-female composite gender. You can read more here.

9) Ghosts can be queer too. In 2017 the Stonewall Columbus Queer Ghost Hunters recorded two series of their quest to track down queer and lgbt+ ghosts on You Tube. You can watch those videos here.

10) The first Olympic medals won by an lgbt+ athletes were won by George Coleman Poage (1880-1962) at the 1904 St. Louis Olympic Games. He won two bronze medals in the hurdles. He is also the first known lgbt+ black American in compete. You can read more about him here.

11) The first glossary of lgbt+ slang, as far as is known, was compiled by Isidore Leo Pavia (1875-1945), an Anglo-Italian composer and pianist. In 1910 he published a series of six articles on male homosexuality in London and England. Presumably, he was well acquainted with London’s gay underworld.

12) The world’s shortest official Pride march took place on 21 November 2017 as part of the first Paekākāriki Pride in Paekākāriki, New Zealand. The full route was 10 meters (35 feet) across a pedestrian road crossing in the town centre. There were around 200 people in the march who, lined up before hand, stretched further than the entire length of the march.

13) When the American biker group Dykes on Bikes tried to have their name registered as a trademark in the USA they were denied three times because the courts objected to the use of the word “Dykes”, saying it was an offensive and derogatory term. In September 2006 the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board dismissed the court’s objections and granted the trademark name.

14) In 2021 a new all-lgbt+ choir called Seaweed in the Fruit Locker was formed specifically to highlight queer interpretations to traditional sea shanties. The choir’s name uses two terms from polari, the slang used by gay men from the mid-1920s in England. “Seaweed” means “sailor”, and “fruit locker” means “a gay sailor’s berth on ship”.

15) Erin Honeycutt, a queer woman from Michigan, USA, earned a Guinness World Record in August 2023 by possessing the world’s longest naturally grown beard by a living female. It measures 30 centimetres. Ms. Honeycutt has a medical condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome which causes a hormonal imbalance. It has taken her three year to grow, after her wife suggested that she stopped shaving during the covid lockdown.

16) The Raelians are a religious community (many call it a cult) founded in 1974. Worshippers believe that when we die our bodies are “reclaimed” by aliens called the Elohim. They also believe that sexual and gender diversity was given to humanity by the Elohim.

17) The Father of Computer Science Alan Turing (1912-1954) almost became an Olympian. A keen runner, Alan was due to take part in the British marathon trials in 1948 for the London Olympics, having qualified with a time of 2 hours 46 minutes (which would have been the world record time in 1909) but had to withdraw because he had the flu. It is widely believed that he would have had a good chance of being selected for the Olympics.

18) A gynomorph is a term used to describe gods and deities who show both male and female sexual characteristics. Gynomorphic deities are often represented in ancient statues as being androgynous with breasts and penis.

19) Married couple, and members of England’s national women’s cricket team, Nat and Katherine Sciver-Brunt, were the first same-sex couple to read the “CBeebies Bedtime Story” on 9th June 2023. CBeebies is the BBC’s channel dedicated to the under-6-year-olds. “CBeebies Bedtime Story”, which began in 2006, is broadcast every night and read by a different celebrity. Many other lgbt+ personalities have also read a Bedtime Story.

20) Breaking (or breakdancing) is set to make its first “adult” Olympic appearance (it has already appeared in the Youth Olympics). In the breaking community the sport is also called b-boying and b-girling. Many dancers use the prefix B-boy or B-girl before their professional name. B-boy is also an American slang term for a gay man, meaning “bottom boy”. By the way, open gay Peruvian B-boy Dosu is currently competing for Olympic ranking, though he still has a long way to go to reach the qualifying rankings (as of 25 August 2023 he’s ranked 201st).

21) Matilda Simon, 3rd Baroness Simon of Wythenshawe (b.1955), became the first transgender peer in the UK in 2022 when she transitioned and was formally recognised by the Lord Chancellor. She succeeded her father to the title in 2002 when she became known as the 3rd Baron Simon of Wythenshawe (the title can only pass to male heirs, as it will when the baroness dies). To become the first transgender member of the House of Lords, however, she must win a by-election to fill a vacant seat.

22) Vakasalewalewa is a third-gender identity in which Fijians who are biologically male from birth express themselves as female.

23) The gay King James VI of Scotland, who was also King James I of England (1566-1625), was the only child of Mary, Queen of Scots and the bisexual Lord Darnley. Darnley’s father was the Earl of Lennox who claimed to be the next in line to the throne. When James became king (with Lord Darnley being dead at the time), this meant that King James’s own grandfather Lennox was his heir, and James himself was 2nd in line to his own throne. A family tree in on of the “Gay Thrones” posts here may make it clearer.

Tuesday, 19 September 2023

Pirate Couples

Yo, ho, ho! Shiver mi timbers! And all that kind of stuff. Today is Talk Like a Pirate Day, an unofficial celebration of all things piratey, except all the plundering and scurvy. Talk Like a Pirate Day began in 1995 as a humorous idea by a couple of American friends and has been increasingly adopted by various people around the world since then.

I’ve written about pirates several times on this blog, whether is was about fighting Barbary pirates, someone with pirate ancestors, or debunking the alleged Pansy Pirate. Just type “pirate” into the search box on the left to find out more.

When we think of pirates our first image is probably of Long John Silver from “Treasure Island”, Captain Hook from “Peter Pan”, or Jack Sparrow from “Pirates of the Caribbean”. These are all highly stereotyped and romanticised versions of the real thing.

For our purpose we’ll look at pirates of the 17th to 19th centuries, the so-called Golden Age of piracy. We’ll see what kind of same-sex arrangements were practiced by them.

There was a form of same-sex “agreement” called matilotage. The word matilotage comes from the French word for “seamanship”. English sailors were often referred to as “matilots”. Basically, matilotage was an arrangement made between two male sailors whereby one would share the other’s possessions, property and “spoils of war” and inherit them if the other one died. This arrangement was especially important to pirates because they were less likely to have any family, or contact with them, and this would prevent other pirates fighting over whatever possessions were left behind.

There wasn’t any real homosexual connotation behind matilotage at the time. It should also be noted that matilotage also including sharing a bed. The prudish Victorians turned this into something that always implied something sexual, as is still vulgarly implied today. Sharing a bed with the same sex was common and had no sexual implication in the hundreds of years it had taken place before then. But it is obvious to see that any gay pirates might take advantage of this type of arrangement.

Modern scholarship on matilotage was influenced by “Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition” by B. Richard Burg (b.1938), currently Emeritus Professor of History at Arizona State University, published in 1995. Because this was the first major publication on the subject it received a lot of attention and praise. Since then, however, other researchers have pointed out that there was a lack of scholarly debate and criticism of Burg’s research at the time, and it was accepted virtually without question. Burg’s interpretations were his learned opinion, and not all of it was supported by documented evidence. Nevertheless, homosexual relationships are still an aspect of matilotage that cannot be ignored and Burg’s work remained a starting point for research that came later.

There are very few examples of matilotage that can be verified. Here are some that could be genuine.

One written matilotage agreement that does survive between pirates is that made between Francis Hood and John Beavis on 10th March 1699. The agreement was signed at Port Dauphin on Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. You may have thought that pirates only sailed in the Caribbean, but there were pirates in every sea and ocean. Madagascar is particularly associated with pirates. In fact, there is an alleged pirate colony called Libertatia that is said to have been founded on Madagascar at around that time. There’s no real evidence that Libertatia existed, but Madagascar was known as a pirate haven, and many pirates spent time there, more so than any Caribbean island.

Back to Francis Hood and John Beavis. Nothing is known about either of them. Their names suggest they were British, or American colonists. This may also suggest that they were active pirates in the Caribbean before seeking refuge on Madagascar. Their written agreement states that each would receive the other’s “gold, silver, and any other thing” should one of them die at sea.

Another couple for whom there is no evidence but are highly likely to have entered into a matilotage are Olauduh Equiano (c.1745-1797), who used the name Gustavus Vassa in adulthood, and Richard Baker. Although neither were pirates they were both shipmates in the British navy. Vassa was a former African slave in colonial America who became famous for his internationally best-selling memoir which was first published in 1789. It is claimed by some historians that this memoir was one of the most significant factors in Great Britain abolishing the slave trade.

In his memoir Vassa writes lovingly about Richard Baker. He describes how extremely fond of each other they were and inseparable. He describes how they shared a bed-space, laying in each others arms for comfort when they were going through periods of stress. Not once, however, is there any implication of physical sexual acts between them, but their relationship has led many historians to label Vassa as bisexual. Vassa married and had children after he left the navy. His memoir has inspired me to write an “Extraordinary Life” article about him next year.

This can also be said of Richard Culliford, an actual pirate captain, and his partner John Swann. Culliford and Swann met during the former’s pirate activity in the Indian Ocean, and they settles on Madagascar for a dew years before splitting up amicably. On Madagascar they were reported by other pirates to have been an open couple, with Swann being described as Culliford’s “consort”. They probably entered into a matilotage, but there’s no record of it.

Before I finish I have not forgotten the most famous pirate couple of all, Mary Read and Anne Bonney. They, too, deserves an article to themselves. This is also in the pipeline for next year.

It’s such a pity that there are not more matilotage agreement in existence, whether between pirates or ordinary sailors. Pirates have been very popular in recent decades and it is an aspect of their lifestyle that might change our image of pirates forever.

Wednesday, 6 September 2023

Two Olympic Transitions

NOTE: The information in this article is accurate on the date of publication. New information discovered after this date may alter or replace some of the details.

Today we learn about the third “Olympic first” associated with the lgbt community. The previous were Prince George of Greece and Denmark and George Poage. Today I feature two Olympians who possess other “firsts”, each of those firsts differing in their specific details but significant in their own way. Both can be regarded as the first transgender Olympian. They are Leonard Chalmers (1911-1990) and Léon Caurla (1926-2002). Both competed an identified as females before undergoing transgender surgery.

First of all, let’s differentiate their respective “firsts”. Leonard Chalmers is the first Olympian to compete (Berlin 1936) who became transgender (c.1961), while Léon Caurla is the first Olympian (London 1948) to have surgery (1950). I hope that makes sense.

Another thing they have in common is that they did not actually compete in the games they attended. Both were listed as members of their respective National Olympic Committees, and both were listed as entrants in their events, but are recorded as non-starters. This may be for several reasons. Those early Olympics may not have been so formal with regards to entries and starters. There are many athletes listed who also did not start their listed event, though their names appear in official Olympic records (Léon was one of 6 non-starters recorded in his event). Another reason is that they were what we now refer to as “alternates”, athletes who are designated to fill in for another in cases of illness. Until 1992 all alternates were listed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and were regarded as full Olympians. Since 1992, however, the IOC have not regarded alternates as Olympians. This is where I and many Olympic historians chose to differ. In my lists of lgbt+ Olympians I include all lgbt+ alternate athletes.

Let’s look more closely first at Leonard Chalmers. He was born biological female and baptised Lilian Florence Elizabeth Chalmers. Confusion about his actual date of birth is resolved on his birth certificate and the 1939 Register of England and Wales (a national census taken to assist in the distribution of ID cards during the war) which give his birthdate as 5th December 1911. Wikipedia (as of today) gives the wrong date. I will use the female pronoun as used by both Lilian and Léon during their athletic careers.

Lilian Chalmers’ prowess on the track seems to have begun in 1932. The first real record of Lilian as a member of an international English team is at the 2nd British Empire Games (retrospectively referred to as the 2nd Commonwealth Games) in London in 1934. Lilian won the bronze medal in the women’s 100 metres sprint.

Lilian’s next major event was the 1936 Berlin Olympics, being listed as an entrant in the women’s 4x100 metres relay. As mentioned above she was a non-starter in this event. The team won the silver medal. The claim that I have seen online that Lilian’s non-start was due to criticism from other female athletes about her gender is not substantiated.

In 1937 Lilian became the British women’s 200 metres champion. This was repeated in the 1939 championship, to which she added the 400 metres title. Also in 1939 she competed at the Internationale Stadionfest (ISTAF Berlin) in the stadium that had hosted the 1936 Olympics. A few weeks later war was declared in Germany.

During Lilian’s athletic career she worked as a machinist in Coomer’s Cardboard Box factory in Portsmouth. Her last known race was in 1951. Sometime after that she moved to London, and in 1961 Lilian underwent gender surgery and adopted the name Leonard on 21st December of that year. Leonard Chalmers died from a stroke in 1990.

Although Leonard was the first transgender athlete known to attend the Olympics he was not the first to undergo reassignment surgery. As mentioned, that distinction currently belongs to Léon Caurla. It should be pointed out that, in all probability, Léon Caurla was intersex.

Léon was born in the French town of Etain and was assigned female at birth. He was baptised Léa. Her first major competition was the 1946 European Athletics Championships in Oslo. She won a bronze medal in the 200 metres. In the first heat she was racing against the Polish sprinter Stanisława Walasiewicz (later known as Stella Walsh), a fellow intersex athlete.

On the same day as winning her bonze medal Léa won a silver medal as part of the 4x100 metres relay team. Stanisława Walasiewicz also competed in this event (her team came last). On Léa’s team was Claire Brésolles. Shortly after the Oslo championships Claire transitioned and adopted the name Pierre. He does not appear in any Olympic records. It is claimed on Wikipedia that Léa and Claire were lovers. This is not true.

In 1948 Lea was listed as an entrant in the women’s 200 metres at the London Olympics. As with Lilian Chalmers in 1936, Lea may have been an alternate athlete. But there could be another reason.

Gender verification in sport has a long and complicated evolution and history. In 1946 the International Amateur Athletics Federation (now known as World Athletics) introduced regulations requiring all athletes competing in female categories to provide a medical certificate before each competition verifying their female gender before being allowed to compete. Léa must have provided one in 1946 in order to compete at the European Championships. However, moving two years on to the Olympics and a physical examination had become mandatory. It is recorded that Léa refused to take this physical examination. The outcome was certain. Léa was barred from the French athletics federation and from the Olympics. I’m still trying to ascertain the date this happened. This must have been after the Olympics or Léa would have been disqualified from entering, and her name would never have appeared in official records.

It was at this time that Lea decided to live as a man and undergo surgery. In late 1950 the surgery took place, and Léa emerged as Léon, revealing his transition to the press in March 1952.

Details of Léon Caurla’s life after this are scarce. We know that he joined the French Air Force at some stage, and that he married and had children. By the 1980s he had returned to his hometown of Etain, where he had several jobs – a travelling salesman, owner of a florist shop, and he also rented out property.

While we cannot say with certainty that Léon Caurla was the first transgender Olympian, bearing in mind he was probably intersex, we can say that Leonard Chalmers was the first Olympian who definitely was, even though he wasn’t the first to have surgery.

With transgender issues being even more of an issue in sport than ever before we wait to see if and when transgender athletes will ever compete at the Olympics in the future.

My opinion doesn’t count for anything, but I think it is time for sport to drop its current method of scoring results. Athletic results already take into account wind speed and altitude, so, if transgender athletes have an alleged unfair advantage, why can’t someone come up with a formula that takes this into account. Let transgender athletes compete in whatever gender category they wish. Applying the formula would ensure a fairer result, even if it means finishing first and being declared third, or whatever. In the future, if it is decided that transgender athletes should never have been subjected to the formula, that formula can be removed retrospectively. The athletes not subject to the application of the formula retain their positions and medals, but if that then means there are two gold medallists, fine. Its an idea that needs a lot more work put into it.

We can only hope that sports organising bodies, transgender athletes, and transgender critics can work together for once and come up with a solution that pleases everyone.

Wednesday, 23 August 2023

Whodunnit? Millionaire Murder

In 1997 Gardner Young decided to give his partner, Greg Siner, what he had always dreamed of. Greg was a dog groomer and ran a dog boutique in New Jersey and had often dreamt of owning his own kennels and breeding championship dogs.

Gardner and Greg found the ideal place in Hopkinton, Rhode Island. It had been abandoned since 1988 and had become something of a local legend. The estate had been the home of a renowned yet eccentric millionaire spaniel breeder called Cam Lyman. Cam disappeared in 1988.

Greg had met Cam briefly a few times at various dog shows across the US, and he revelled in telling stories of Cam’s disappearance to his old friends from the New Jersey gay scene when they visited him. He had even more stories to tell after July 1998.

Greg and Gardner began the long task of renovating the estate and setting up their kennels. One of the problems that needed urgent attention was the drains in one of the kennel buildings. It had become blocked. Greg reasoned that the drain leading to the septic tank needed a good clean out after nearly a decade of non-use.

I’ve watched too many true crime programmes to be not surprised at what happened next.

After prizing off the lid of the underground septic tank Greg could see a human skull staring up at him from the bottom. He knew exactly who it belonged to. Cam Lyman had been found. Examination of the remains showed that Cam had been shot in the head.

Cam Lyman was born a biological female in 1932 and was raised as a girl. Her parents were millionaires from old colonial families and baptised their daughter Camilla Lowell Lyman. Before we go further, a brief word on pronouns. In accordance with accepted convention for people who are no longer alive I will use female pronouns for when Cam identified as female. Some YouTubers assign a non-binary identification on Cam Lyman. There is absolutely no evidence or justification for this, as there is no record that Cam identified as such, and claiming so shows disrespect.

Cammilla’s parents were like chalk and cheese. Mrs. Margaret Rice Lyman showed no interest in any of her four children. She never displayed any love towards them. Arthur Theodor Lyman, on the other hand, was the most loving and supporting father they could have. Camilla was particularly attached to him.

Growing up, Camilla became distinguishable by her large frame and awkward mannerisms. At school she was nicknamed “Butch” by her classmates. Camilla’s closeness to her father began to show in her wearing the type of jacket that he also wore. What brought them closer was their shared interest in dogs and dog-breeding which other members of the family didn’t have.

After her father’s death in 1968 Camilla seemed to withdraw from her family. Her contact with the outside world came primarily in the dog shows where she became a familiar sight and a success as a breeder. She wore her fathers’ jackets, long skirts, and cut her hair short. People were beginning to say that she was turning into her father. One month after her mother died in 1973 the transformation became complete. Camilla had become Cam.

One unsettling aspect of Cam’s new identification as a man came in his taking of steroids developed for dogs made from bull’s semen. With his aversion to established health services he would never have considered reassignment surgery, according to those who new her best. He never went to a doctor or dentist. Cam’s family and contacts in the dog world put his behaviour down to natural eccentricity and accepted it.

However successful Cam was as a dog-breeder the same cannot be said about his handling of money. To help run his estate and finances he employed a “handler” called George O’Neill.

With hindsight, the most charitable thing I can say about O’Neill is that he was a crook, and it showed from the very beginning. But Cam, for some reason, trusted him. More significantly, Cam trusted O’Neill to handle all his money and ensure all bills and official documents were delivered on time. It was O’Neill to whom Cam entrusted the preparation and delivery of the documents stating his intention to legally adopted the name Cam instead of Camilla. To the outside world O’Neill seemed to be having a controlling influence on Cam, even at dog shows, and Cam seemed to be totally dependent on him. O’Neill was even given power of attorney over everything.

Yet, despite all this, and their successful partnership as dog breeders, Cam was prone to sudden rages and the two had a tempestuous working relationship. Their last known disagreement concerned O’Neill not submitting entry details for Cam’s prize-winning spaniel in a show in Canada on time. To be honest, it wasn’t entirely O’Neill’s fault. There was a postal strike, but Cam blamed O’Neill completely. The heated argument over the phone ended when Cam’s line was cut off.

The next day, 20 July 1987, O’Neill went to Cam’s estate to explain. He found the phone ripped off the wall and could not find Cam anywhere. Nothing else seemed out of order, and the dogs were okay but they needed feeding. For the rest of his life O’Neill claimed that he had assumed Cam had left the business and gone to have gender re-assignment surgery in Europe. Knowing Cam’s aversion to health care this was never believed by anyone.

By Christmas 1987 Cam’s family had got very concerned and began an investigation. At the same time Cam’s lawyers and bank did as well. It was discovered that O’Neill had been embezzling money from Cam’s estate for several years, and hundreds of thousands of dollars had gone missing. Cam probably never knew it was happening. Although O’Neill was eventually convicted of embezzlement, he refused to admit he knew anything about Cam’s disappearance, or even showed any real concern. All he said was “she’s dead”, but that’s what Cam’s family was thinking as well.

Apart from O’Neill the police and private investigators could never identify a reason for Cam’s disappearance, nor any suspects in his murder after his body was discovered by Greg Siner. O’Neill acted very suspiciously throughout the whole investigation, but that’s not proof of any involvement.

To this day the case is unsolved. The mystery behind it only enhances its appeal, like Jack the Ripper. It still features in the media from time to time.

Cam’s remains were buried with his parents. There’s no-one still living who had any close connection to the 1987 case. The last of Cam’s siblings died in 2018 and his many nephews and nieces were too distantly connected to have any useful information. Only Greg Siner and Gardner Young (now separated) remain to give first-hand accounts.

So, whodunit?

Monday, 7 August 2023

(Not Quite) 80 Gays Around the World: 4) Art in Italy

Last time on “80 Gays”: Partners 9) Robert Ferro (1941-1988) and 10) Michael Grumley (1942-1988) co-wrote a book about Atlantic, the latter also writing about Bigfoot (the subject of a novel by 11) Samantha Leigh Allen), and after whom a literary prize is named which grants winners residency at the Art Workshop International founded by 12) Bea Kreloff (1925-2016) and 13) Edith Isaac Rose (1929-2018).

The Art Workshop International is a summer school offering courses in several creative arts – writing, painting, art history – while at the same time offering attendees the opportunity to experience the culture on a famous town in Italy. The second of this summer’s sessions ended a couple of weeks ago.

Several well-known lgbt artists and writers have been among the tutors during the 2-week courses, including 5) Edmund White, and Dorothy Allison (number 28 in my 2020 edition of “80 More Gays Around the World”).

The Art Workshop’s founders, 12) Bea Kreloff and 13) Edith Isaac Rose, met at the opening of an exhibition in 1980. There was an instant connection and they found kindred spirits in each other. They had a lot in common. They were both children of eastern European immigrants – Bea’s from Russia, and Edith’s from Hungary and from what is now Poland. Both of their fathers were in the clothing industry – Bea’s father was a tailor, and Edith’s father made women’s coats. And both Bea and Edith were married.

Bea Kreloff was born Beatrice Magit in 1925. In 1944 she married Bernard Krulovetsky, another child of east European immigrants. He soon shortened his name to Kreloff, and Bea kept her married name for the rest of her life. The couple had two sons.

Edith Isaac Rose was born Edith Ganansky in 1929. In 1950 she married Charles Leitelbaum (often mistakenly called Teitelbaum), again, a child of east European immigrants. They separated in the early 1980s.

In 1950 Bea and Edith were both studying art. Bea entered the Brooklyn Museum Art School. Afterwards she became a private art tutor whilst producing her own work. In the 1970s she became Chair of the Art Department at the Ethical Culture Fieldson School, Riverside, New York City. By this time she had separated from her husband and have moved with her sons into accommodation provided by the charitable organisation, the Westbeth Artists’ Residents Council in Manhattan.

Edith Isaac Rose graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1951. Moving to New York City a few years later she also became an artist and decided to drop her married name and adopted the first names of her parents, Isaac and Rose, for her professional work. Edith’s artwork became increasingly more influenced by social issues, such as political corruption and social inequality. She also expanded into other media, including embroidery. She used all media to produce a body of work in the 1980s, a series of works called “Daily Rage” which displayed which reflected her own left-wing opinions.

The year after Bea and Edith met at that exhibition, Edith left her husband and went to live with Bea. They remained together until Beas’ death in 2016.

The Art Workshop International which the couple founded in 1981 was established in the historic town of Assisi in Italy. Of course, this town is famous for its association with one man, whom we met two years ago, 14) St. Francis of Assisi (c.1187-1226).

Scholars are still discussing the nature of St. Francis’s sexuality. It may never be known. Within the Franciscan Order, which he founded, the attitudes towards homosexuality have changed as society’s attitudes have changed. As a Catholic organisation the Franciscan stance on homosexuality at the moment is “love the sinner, hate the sin”. When I began studying as a Methodist lay preacher several decades ago I began researching Christian doctrine on homosexuality – apart from atheists, no genuinely Christian denomination has ever declared homosexuality one of the sins, except Christian leaders who abuse their position of influence and express their own personal view and claim it is doctrine. Even Popes have done this.

Today, all Catholics are encouraged to treat members of the lgbt community with the respect due to all humans. Some of their doctrines may be homophobic. All organisations have the right to make their own rules which their members are expected to follow, that’s democracy. But change doesn’t always come from outside. The Catholic Church cannot change (in other words, make it more acceptable to those who aren’t Catholic) if there are no lgbt Christians within in to influence change. Even though the Franciscans do not yet accept same-sex marriage within its Order they don’t apply this to same-sex marriage outside it. Some Franciscan friars openly campaigned for same-sex marriage in the USA before it became legal.

Like I said earlier, most established denominations (I don’t recognise the many blatantly homophobic US independent evangelical churches as Christian) “love the sinner, hate the sin”, so there should be no surprise to learn there are lgbt+ Christians can, and have, become church leaders. That brings me on to our next individual, an openly gay Franciscan friar who is currently the equivalent of a Franciscan bishop, 15) Brother Markus Fuhrmann (b.1971).

Next time of “80 Gays”: Some right royal visitors bring gender variation to Cologne, with a sweet smell that leads to a transformation.

Monday, 24 July 2023

One Olympian, Multiple "Firsts"

NOTE: Research is never-ending. The information in this article is accurate on the date of publication. New information which is discovered after this date may alter or replace some of the details.

The Paris 2024 Olympic Games begin a year today with the start of the football and rugby sevens tournaments, several days before the actual opening ceremony. To celebrate, here’s the second of my three Olympic firsts in the lgbt+ community. In fact today we look at someone with multiple firsts.

This man who is not only the first identified lgbt+ competitor at the Olympics (as far as research currently reveals), but he is also the first black American and first lgbt+ Olympian to win a medal, as well as several others. His name is George Coleman Poage (1880-1962).

George Poage

One of my favourite sayings is “history is always changing”. By that I mean that our concept and understanding of what happened in the past changes when new information or new interpretations are applied to history.

When I began my Olympic research in 2010 George Poage was not a name anyone would have put on any lgbt+ list. His family only revealed he was gay in 2016, to someone who had been researching Poage’s life since the 1980s. He included the fact in a biography of Poage in 2017. That biography is available to download here. For our purposes today we’ll just concentrate on Poage’s Olympic achievements and his sexuality.

It is easy to claim that Poage was “erased from history” because he was black. He and his racial background are clearly recorded several times in the official report of the 1904 Olympics, and in many other publications produced at the time, including newspapers, and school, college and athletics club records. He is one of hundreds of Olympians who drift out of public memory all the time. Everyone probably knows who Usain Bolt is. But who remembers Carl Lewis or Allan Wells? Just because you don’t learn about something in school doesn’t mean it has been erased or covered up.

The 1904 St. Louis Olympics at which George Poage competed is notorious among we Olympic historians (I’m a member of the International Society of Olympic Historians, sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee – the IOC) as being one of the “messiest”.

The games were originally awarded to Chicago. The organisers of the 1904 St. Louis World Fair (the one featured in the Judy Garland musical “Meet Me In St. Louis”) were already planning their own international multi-sport festival that would take place at the same time. The World Fair asked Chicago to cancel their games or move them to St. Louis. This caused some conflict, and the founder of the modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, stepped in and cancelled the Chicago Olympics and re-awarded them to St. Louis.

The IOC then had to decide which events organised by the St. Louis World Fair where to be considered Olympic. It wasn’t until 2021 that the list of official 1904 Olympic events was established – 117 years afterwards!!! There are still debates about other events. There’s even debates over which nations were represented. Most US athletes, George Poage included, competed under their sports club’s team name, not their nation. In 2021 ten Olympians were removed from Team USA and listed among their actual national teams. Poage competed as a member of the Milwaukee Athletics Club

So you can see why the 1904 Olympics were messy. And I haven’t even mentioned what happened in the marathon. But I digress. Let’s get back to George Poage.

First of all, let’s clear up several points. George Poage was NOT the first black Olympian (that was French rugby player Constantin Henriquez in 1900). Nor is Poage the first black medal winner (also Henriquez, who won a gold medal). George Poage WAS the first known black Olympian to compete as an American, and the first black American medallist. There are other “firsts” that can be attributed to Poage, which I’ll mention as we go along. Poage was registered to enter five events – the 60 metres, the 100 metres, the 400 metres, the 200 metre hurdles, and the 400 metre hurdles. As mentioned earlier, US athletes competed under their club name.

The track events began on 29th August 1904, and George Poage took part in the very first event, the first heat of the men’s 60 metre sprint. Unfortunately, this is one of the events which suffer from lack of full documentation. There’s no record of Poage’s finishing position or time, but he was not one of the first two finishers who progressed to the final. However, this does make George Poage the first black American to compete in a track event at the Olympics, as well as the first ever lgbt+ track athlete, two more “firsts” he holds.

Poage’s next event was the 400 metres later that day. There were no heats as there were only 12 entrants and they started on the line together like modern long-distance races. Poage spent the first half of the race behind the lead group. He quickly progressed into second place and spectators assumed he would win. On the last bend he was overtaken by several others and crossed the finish line in 6th place. Again, no time was recorded for him.

George Poage’s next event was two days later, the 400 metres hurdles. Again, there were no heats, as this time there were only four entries, all American. This is the race in which Poage won his first Olympic medal, a bronze. Being the first black American Olympian, this also made him the first black American Olympic medal winner. He also became the fist black athlete of any nation to win an individual Olympic medal (Constantin Henriquez won a team gold). All of this as the first lgbt+ Olympian in each case. That’s two more “firsts”.

The next day Poage competed in the 200 metres hurdles, wining his second bronze medal (out of a field of 5 entries). Even though there is no recorded time, it is recorded that just 2 metres (6 feet) separated the first three, with the last two athletes well behind them.

Poage was listed as an entry in the 100 metres on 3rd September, but is listed as a non-starter. This was a common occurrence in these early days of competitive athletics.

As mentioned before, no-one knew about George Poage’s sexuality until his nephew, Rev. Lawrence Jenkins, told Poage’s biographer of the fact in 2016. At the time Poage was being celebrated as an outstanding athlete in La Crosse, Illinois, where he had lived and taught. A statue was unveiled in his memory. Actually, it’s four statues, showing Poage in the various stages of a race – starting position, setting off, running the race, and crossing the finishing line. Rev. Jenkins and other family members were present at the unveiling.

There’s very little that can be said for definite about Poage’s sexuality other than he was gay. He left no personal testimony, and there’s no inference of sexual behaviour with another man. The only incidence of any sexual nature at all came in 1914 when he was teaching at Sumner High School, though it was not of a homosexual nature. Some students had falsely accused Poage and two other teachers of inappropriate relationships with young female students. An investigation cleared all three. Even though the other teachers were reinstated, despite criticism from the local press, Poage had decided to resign and move away.

So, the only evidence we have to go on is the word of his family. But does it matter if there’s no evidence of a gay relationship? George Poage was a trailblazer no matter what his sexuality. Whatever obstacles he encountered because of his race, and there were not as many as other black Americans at the time received, he reached the level of an elite athlete. He was lauded in his own lifetime, disappeared from public memory, and is returning slowly to take his place in the record books.

Monday, 10 July 2023

Star Gay-zing: Queer Asteroid Update

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but been a lot of reports about a newly discovered asteroid that is following us around in Earth’s orbit, like a couple of other “quasi-moons” we have. Perhaps it’s only me that has noticed because I’m interested in them.

But it made me think that it is about time I did an update on the asteroids that have been named after members of the lgbt+ community. So, here it is.

Each asteroid is preceded by its official number and name, its date of discovery, the date when the name was published, a quote from the official citation, and finally other notes of queer interest I can add.

2223 Sarpedon

Discovered 3 October 1977. Published 1 August 1991.

“One of the leaders of the Lycians, Sarpedon was killed by Patroclus in the Trojan War. At the command of Zeus, his body was seized by Apollo and returned to Lycia.”

Sarpedon was the lover of Prince Atymnius of Ethiopia, the son of King Cephus and Queen Cassiopeia. Patroclus, Zeus and Apollo are also lgbt+, and have asteroids named after them.

3200 Phaeton

Discovered 11 October 1983. Published 2 July 1985.

“This object associated with the Geminid meteor stream has the smallest known perihelion distance for a body in a short-period orbit and is named for the son of Helios, who operated the solar chariot for a day, lost control of it and almost set fire to the Earth.”

The god Zeus shot Phaeton out of the sky with a thunderbolt and he fell into the River Po. Phaeton’s lover, Cycnus, mourned his death and was turned into a swan by Apollo. You can read the full story here.

7091 Maryfields

Discovered 1 May 1992. Published 8 Nov 2019.

“Stagecoach Mary Fields (c.1832-1914) was an African-American folk hero and trailblazer. She was a mail carrier in Montana in her 60's, braving harsh weather but never missing a day. Loved by her community, her birthday was a local holiday. She refused to be limited by social norms or laws.”

I wrote about her “Extraordinary Life” several years ago, here.

26883 Marcelproust

Discovered 12 August 1994. Published 28 July 2021.

“Marcel Proust (1871–1922) was a French novelist and essayist, widely considered to be one of the most influential author of the 20th century. His monumental novel ‘Á la recherche du temps perdu’ was published in seven volumes between 1913 and 1927, the last three volumes being edited by his brother, Robert.”

This is the second asteroid named after the gay author, the first being 4474 Proust (listed here). Although the official citation of 4474 Proust specifically identifies the astrophysicist Dominique Proust as the individual after whom this asteroid is named, it states that it also honours Marcel Proust.

27400 Mikewong

Discovered 11 Mar 2000. Published 11 June 2021.

“Mike Wong (b.1971) is a planetary scientist at the University of California at Berkeley who studies giant planets in the Solar System. He is part of the team that discovered a moon around asteroid 624 Hektor, and he studied a 2009 impact on Jupiter while monitoring of the atmosphere with adaptive optics.”

His work on 624 Hektor with his colleague Frank Marchis, a fellow openly gay astrophysicist, is told here.

38083 Rhadamanthus

Discovered 17 April 1999. Published 24 July 2002.

“Rhadamanthus was a son of Zeus and Europa. Because of his just and upright life, after death he was appointed a judge of the dead and the ruler of Elysium, a blissfully beautiful area of the Underworld where those favoured by the gods spent their life after death.”

The Greek writer Athenaeus (170 AD-223 AD) wrote that Rhadamanthus was the lover of Talos (a human, not the giant bronze statue that came to life, as depicted in the film “Jason and the Argonauts”).

85030 Admetos

Discovered 24 September 1960. Published 28 October 2004.

“Admetus (Admetos), from Greek mythology. The King of Pherae was saved by Apollo from his fated death when his wife Alcestis offers to die in his place, father of Eumelos, the best charioteer in the Greek army during the Trojan War.”

One of Apollo’s many male lovers.

343158 Marsyas

Discovered 29 Apiil 2009. Published 14 May 2021.

“Marsyas, a Phrygian Satyr dared oppose Apollo in a musical duel. Marsyas lost when he could not play his flute upside-down. For his hubris he was tied to a tree, flayed, his blood turned into a stream. Marsyas is so named for its unusual retrograde orbit, that which opposes the motion of most solar system objects.”

Marsyas was the teacher and lover of the boy Olympos of Mysia, as stated by the philosopher Philostratus. After Marsyas was flayed alive Apollo gave his body to Olympos for burial.

442721 Kerouac

Discovered 18 October 2009. Published 23 May 2022.

“Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac, known as Jack Kerouac (1922–1969) was an American writer and poet. His novels, including ‘On the Road’ and ‘The Subterraneans’, established a new writing style of spontaneous prose. Kerouac is considered a pioneer of the 1950s and 1960s Beat Generation.”

45595 Inman

Discovered 6 February 2000. Published 6 February 2023.

“Frederick John Inman (1934–2007) was an English actor best known for playing Mr. Humphries in the British comedy ‘Are You Being Served?’ (1972–1985), who went on to star in the Australian version of the same sitcom. In 1976 he was named both BBC TV Personality of the Year and ‘TV Times’ readers' Funniest Man on Television.”

John Inman was hugely popular. His mincing character Mr. Humphries gave the UK one of its most enduring catchphrases, “I’m free!” He was also one of the greatest pantomime dames in British theatre.

475080 Jarry

Discovered 26 October 2006. Published 20 December 2021.

“Alfred Jarry (1873–1907) was a French poet, novelist, writer and playwright. His play ‘Ubu Roi’ is often cited as a forerunner of Dada and the Surrealist movement of the 1920s. He also coined the term and philosophical concept of ‘pataphysics’, the science of imaginary solutions, which involves the destruction by the absurd of reason and language.”

Although Jarry is known to have had gay encounters in his younger years he didn’t seem to have had any romantic relationships with anyone, male or female, after that. Many of his works included gay characters and themes.


98 Ianthe

Discovered 18 April 1868. Published before 1903.

“Named for the young girl who became betrothed to Iphis, a Cretan girl who was changed by Isis into a man.”

In the pseudo-science of astrology, Ianthe is the influence behind dissatisfaction with one’s gender role, or with gender identity problems.

52965 Laurencebentz

Discovered 15 October 1998. Published 29 March 2023.

“Laurence Bentz (b.1958) is a French medical doctor, specializing in Public Health & Education Sciences. She contributed to tackling the HIV-AIDS epidemic at its onset, through clinical work, epidemiology, and research to enhance patient adherence to complex treatments. She also developed interventions to support the empowerment of chronically-ill people.