Wednesday, 19 June 2019

High Pride

In a past article I’ve written about the oldest Pride events on each continent, the most northerly and southerly, and the biggest and smallest. What I haven’t done is look at which Pride event has taken place at the highest altitude. That’s not to be confused with the highest places the Rainbow Pride flag has flown. It may surprise you to learn that a dozen Pride marches have taken place at altitudes that are above the highest point in Australia.

Most Prides that take place in major cities do so at, or close to, sea level. The reason is simple – the original settlements of these cities, most of them current capital cities, were established on the coast or next to major rivers. So you won’t see New York, London, Paris, Rio de Janeiro or San Francisco in the list below.

When deciding what constitutes a Pride event, whether it uses that name or not, is largely subjective. This is my personal definition. A Pride event should be an open public event organised by a designated committee. It should be aimed at (but not restricted to) the lgbt community to celebrate and commemorate sexual and gender diversity and to highlight lgbt rights. It takes place on a specific date in a specific public location. Any profits should go primarily to lgbt projects or charities. Pride events named or publicised to highlight specific groups within the community (e.g. Bisexual Pride, Black Pride, Transgender Pride, Internet Pride) are not included (I’ll try to cover them next year). Protest marches, political rallies and gatherings arranged in response to an event (e.g. equal marriage rallies, Orlando shootings vigils, protests outside government buildings, embassies and commercial businesses) are not included. Pride events I considered for this list had a central lgbt rights element to them, a parade or march, speeches from activists, and community celebrations of diversity, or at least two of these criteria. Finally, events such as Gay Ski Week, Disney Gay Days, gay cruises, etc. are not included because of their more commercial origins, despite fulfilling several of the listed criteria (again, I’ll try to look at these events in more detail next year).

So, where is the highest Pride? The most obvious place to look is in the Himalayan nations, but because most of the mountain towns and settlements are located in homophobic nations there’s little chance of finding any public Pride events there. However, if we look at the second highest mountain range, the Andes, we hit the jackpot.

To give you an idea of how high these cities are the International Society for Mountain Medicine defines “high altitude” as any location between 1,500 and 3,500 meters (about 5,000 and 11,500 feet) above sea level. They call any location between 3,500 and 5,000 meters (11,500 and 18,000 feet) as “very high altitude”. The top 4 cities that host an annual Pride are all within the “very high altitude” levels and are all in Bolivia.

One thing Bolivia is famous for is for having the highest capital city in the world, La Paz, at an elevation of 3,650 metres (11,980 feet) above sea level. But La Paz is actually the lowest of the top 4 High Pride cities.

Below is an illustration showing the Top 20 Pride Cities that I have been able to identify. Follow the city name down, or up, to the first triangle in that column. The triangle represents the general altitude of the city. As it happens the Top 20 all take place over 2,000 metres above sea level (and so is No. 21 – Flagstaff Pride, USA, not on the chart or list below). For exact details see the table underneath.

Below is the list of the top 20 highest Pride cities with altitudes, and the name and date (that I can find online) of the most recent or future Pride held there. The heights are approximate because various cities have varying altitudes from place to place, even my local Pride march in Nottingham ends about 30 metres higher than the start. As more research and more Prides are held in the coming years the list will undoubtedly change.

Even though I said above that I wouldn’t include any Gay Ski Weeks you may be interested to know which of them is the highest, so you can get some idea of how they might fit into the High Pride table. The highest Gay Ski Week identified so far is Breck Pride in Breckenridge, Colorado, USA, at an altitude of 2,926 meters above sea level. This would place it between Cusco, Peru, and Toluca, Mexico, in the above list. This may seem unusual, but snow levels are governed by geography and environment as well as altitude. Aspen, the most famous Gay Ski Week, takes place at an altitude of 2,438 meters, putting it between 8th and 9th place.

I cannot leave the subject of Pride in South America without mentioning Cusco again. Because Cusco is a very popular tourist destination with the iconic Machu Picchu fortress as its star attraction a few miles away visitors are often confused by the local city flag (below). As you can see it is a rainbow flag, and many visitors have assumed it is the Rainbow Pride flag first adopted by the San Francisco gay community in 1979 (based on Gilbert Baker’s original 8-stripe flag of 1978). This is not the case. The Cusco flag predates Baker’s rainbow flag by several years. It had been used unofficially as a symbol of the local Inca culture and was formally adopted in 1978.

Friday, 14 June 2019

How Brother Ham and Sister Sausage Inspired the Gay Rights Movement in America

While we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots later this month we shouldn’t forget that the gay rights movement in the USA began long before 1969. One of the biggest gay rights groups was founded in 1950. It went through several names before it settled on the Mattachine Society.

In adopting that name the society was referencing an earlier group of men who, like themselves, had hidden behind “masks” to protect themselves. Gay men in the 1940s and 50s concealed their sexuality or be discrimination against. The earlier Mattachine group were men who wore real masks to protect their identities while they openly satirised and ridiculed the Church of medieval France. This earlier group was called the Société Mattachine.

The Société Mattachine was just one of many French troupes given the generic name of Sociétés Joyeuse. They originated in the 15th century and consisted of people from towns, villages and cities who formed for one specific event, the annual Feast of Fools.

There’s a lot of misinformation circulating on the internet about this Feast of Fools. The claim that it originated in a Roman or pagan religious festival is wrong (why are people obsessed with giving pagan origins to everything based on nothing but date? You can claim Pride marches have pagan originals because the ancient religions had communal processions near the summer solstice as well). Most ancient pagan festivals that were banned in the Roman Empire from 389 AD were forgotten during the long centuries that followed in the so-called Dark Ages (5th to 11th centuries).

The spring-time Feast of Fools was also not the same as the topsy-turvy Feast of the Bean and other role-reversal winter celebrations. They are different celebrations that existed before, during and after the Feast of Fools existed. Harry Hay, the co-founder of the Mattachine Society who chose the name, fell into the trap of believing the Victorian-era fabricated history of the Feast of Fools.

The Feast of Fools originated in 12th century France as a celebration held by junior clergy. Its name was inspired by the Bible verse – “You are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ!” (1 Corinthians 4:10). These clergy indulged in comic role-play as bishops and generally had a jolly good time. People have always dressed up to celebrate events, look at Pride. There was no act of worship or church service to go with. The Feast was an early form of the satirical sketches seen on television today.

Because the Feast of Fools was not a religious festival public participation increased until in the 15th century they also began to produce little satirical plays. The performers were called Sociétés Joyeuse and their plays were called Sermon Joyeux. The performers, both men and women, were often masked not only to hide their identity but to add to the satire with distorted masks. The Société Mattachine were just one of these groups.

The subjects of the Sermon Joyeux, as the name suggests, was religious. They were also comically vulgar and full of sexual symbolism. Generally the Sermon told the story of a fictional “saint” or religious character and his or her life and martyrdom. Along the way the “saint” has various adventures, all of which were thinly disguised parodies of religious practices.

Sadly, most of the Sermons were not written down. We are lucky to have a handful that were printed, and one features two of the most popular characters in the Sermon Joyeux. The “Le devot de sainct sermon de monseigneur Sainct Jambon et de madame saincte Andouille” was printed in Paris in 1521 by Jean Jehannot. The names Sainct Jambon and Saincte Andouille translate as Brother Ham and Sister Sausage. The Sermon Joyeux often had food-named characters with sexual connotations. Brother Ham refers to the back of a pig, i.e. the anus, and Sister Sausage is an obvious sexual reference still used in comedy today.

It is in “Le devot de sainct sermon de monseigneur Sainct Jambon et de madame saincte Andouille” that we encounter one of the rare instances of a hint of homosexual activity. In this Sermon a character “steals” Andouille in order to transport Jambon to another place. The allusion to anal sex would be apparent to the medieval audience, and may be a reference to the common accusations that male clergy often had illicit gay sex (also encountered in both Chaucer and Dante, contemporary authors to the time of the Feast of Fools).
The title page of “Le devot de sainct sermon de monseigneur Sainct Jambon et de madame saincte Andouille” (Image source Bibliothèque Nationale de France).
As with other “saint” characters Brother Ham and Sister Sausage come to their expected demise. Jambon is martyred by being killed and salted, just like a real joint of ham, and Sister Andouille is boiled, roasted and cut into pieces and fed to the townswomen, just like a real sausage.

The Société Mattachine may well have known and performed a version of the Sermon Joyeux of Brother Ham and Sister Sausage. They would also have known and used other well-known characters with names that had sexual connotations, such as Sainct Boude (Brother Sausage), Saincte Fente (Sister Crack) and Sainct Pilzan (Brother Foal’s-First-Tooth, referring to the first sexual awakenings of puberty and alluding to the belief that toothache was a punishment for sexual guilt; they did have strange ideas in those days!).

Even though the Sermon Joyeux were very clear in their satirical message and sexual imagery the reason they got away with it, apart from many of them being anonymous behind masks, was that the plays didn’t name specific real clergy. The clergy realised the plays were satirical and gave the Société Joyeuse some leeway. However, as the next century progressed the Sermon Joyeux became more outrageous and verging on heretical and so the church authorities cracked down on them and they were eventually banned. (The alleged Feast of Fools shown in Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” is NOT the same one.)

And so, the Sermon Joyeux and the Société Joyeuse of medieval France satirised the Church authorities with food and sex-related characters. The Société Mattachine were just one of many groups of local groups who performed during the annual French Feast of Fools. Many centuries later a student of Medieval French literature and drama, Harry Hay, used the Mattachine name for a gay rights movement. The masked medieval Mattachine pointed out the weaknesses and contradictions within the Church and were a role model for the Mattachine Society in the 1950s to point out the weaknesses and contradictions within society about the criminalisation of homosexuals.

In October, for LGBT History Month USA, I’ll look at the origins of the first major lesbian rights organisation, the Daughters of Bilitis.

Monday, 10 June 2019

Heraldic Alphabet 2019

Happy International Heraldry Day. Here is the latest selection of members of the lgbt community who are entitled, in reality or theory, to bear a coat of arms. There are 24 of them this year.

The format is as before. The people are listed in alphabetical order by the surname or name commonly used or known (e.g. Pope Julius III is listed under J, and not under D for his family name of Del Monte). The arms may be inherited, granted by a heraldic authority, assumed (not officially registered but accepted under continuance of use through several generations), marital, or arms of office.

There is only one transgender armiger (a person who has a coat of arms) this year, Jenny Bailey. The arms shown are those she was entitled to use in her official capacity as Mayor of Cambridge. Several others were eligible to bear various arms of office (e.g. Sir Arthur Vicars).

In English and Scottish heraldry unmarried and widowed women are not entitled to put their coat of arms on a shield but on a diamond shaped lozenge. This is the case with several women below. Women who bear arms of office can use a shield. To produce a more uniform look I’ve shown all arms on shields. I mention below which arms would be officially displayed on a lozenge.

Not all of them people listed actually used a coat of arms. Some are theoretical and could be used according to current heraldic regulations.
A) Waheed Alli, Baron Alli (b.1964) – media entrepreneur. Arms granted with a crest and supporters by the College of Arms in 1998 after he was created a life peer.

B) Jenny Bailey (b.1962) – local politician. Arms of office as Mayor of Cambridge 2007-8. These arms were granted to the borough of Cambridge way back in 1575 and illustrate the origin of the town’s name – the bridge over the River Cam.

C) Peter Coke (1913-2008) – actor. Inherited arms. Peter is known mainly for his 14 year career as BBC’s radio detective Paul Temple. Family tradition says that the crescents were adopted as the family emblem by an ancestor who fought in the Crusades with Richard the Lionheart.

D) Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) – artist and inventor. I wrote an article here on Leonardo’s coat of arms to commemorate the 500th anniversary of his death.

E) Martha May Eliot (1891-1978) – paediatrician and Assistant Director of the World Health Organisation. Inherited arms from her direct ancestor Samuel Eliot (1748-1788) of Boston, Massachusetts. Samuel owned a framed watercolour given to him by Sir Isaac Heard, Garter King of Arms, depicting his coat of arms.

F) Sir John Finch (1626-1682) – British Ambassador to Constantinople. Inherited arms. These are carved on his gravestone with those of his partner Sir Thomas Baines. The 3 lions are the arms of the Fitzherberts from whom the Finch family descend.
G) Eileen Gray (1878-1976) – architect and interior designer. Maternal arms (theoretically on a lozenge). Eileen’s original name was Hon. Kathleen Eileen Smith, and was a daughter of Baroness Gray, a Scottish peer. In 1897 Eileen’s father changed his children’s name to Gray (as their mother’s coheirs). Eileen’s sister inherited the title and registered this ancient Gray coat of arms for herself. As a Scot Eileen would have had to register her own version of these arms. There’s no record of her doing so.

H) Penelope Hoare (1940-2017) – editorial director of several publishers. Inherited arms (on a lozenge). The arms descend from her ancestor, Sir Richard Hoare, Lord Mayor of London in 1713.

I) Jaroslav Iwaszkiewicz (1894-1980) – writer and poet. The Iwaszkiewicz family belonged to the Polish-Ukrainian clan of Gozdawa. Polish heraldry is unique in having clan arms (called a herb) which can be used by many families. Legend says these were conferred upon a Gozdawa ancestor in 1090 by the Duke of Poland.

J) Pope Julius III (1481-1555) – Pope. Inherited arms. Pope Julius was baptised Giovanni Maria de’ Ciocchi Del Monte. Those funny lumpy shapes on the diagonal stripe are heraldic representations of mountains – Del Monte means “of the mountain”.

K) Robert Ketton-Cremer (1906-1969) – owner of Fellbrigg Hall, Norfolk. Inherited arms. Controversy erupted in 2017 when Robert’s family criticised the National Trust, who now own Fellbrigg, for “outing” him during LGBT History Month. These are the arms of the Cremer family.

L) Ned Lathom (1895-1930) – aristocrat and amateur playwright. Inherited arms. Ned Lathom is the popular name for Edward Bootle-Wilbraham, 3rd and last Earl of Lathom. Peers often use their title as their surname. The blue and white quarters are the arms of the Wilbraham family, and the red and white are those of the Bootles.
M) Dr. Heather Morris-Eyton (b.1967) – lecturer in Sport and Movement, Johannesburg University; Gay Games multi-medal-winning swimmer. Inherited arms (on a lozenge in England, on a shield in South Africa). The red quarters are the arms of the Eyton family, and the black quarters those of the Morris family. The arms were united in 1905 by the marriage of Heather’s great-grandfather to the Eyton heiress.

N) Isabella Norcliffe (d.1846) – partner of landowner Anne Lister. Inherited arms (on a lozenge). Born Isabella Dalton her father changed the family name and arms in 1807 when he inherited the Norcliffe family estates from his mother’s brother.

O) Lt. Myles O’Donovan (1896-1918) – World War I casualty. Inherited arms. As mentioned in my article for the centenary of the Armistice of 1918 Myles was a son of the O’Donovan clan chief. He belongs to same family as Connell Hill O’Donovan in my Heraldic Alphabet of 2017. The crescent indicates that Myles was a second son.

P) Isabella Pell (1900-1951) – socialite and member of the French Resistance during World War II. Inherited arms. Isabella was of the same family as Julia Pell, whose arms I described in more detail here.

Q) Dr. Alexandre Quintanilha (b.1945) – molecular biologist and member of the Portuguese parliament. Possible inherited arms. The rules of Portuguese heraldry can cause confusion. Anyone can assume the surname and arms of any ancestor, and they don’t have to match. Various small emblems showing which side of the family the arms come from are placed on the shield. Alexandre’s father (whose birth surname was da Silva) adopted the name of Quintanilha from his grandfather’s grandmother. These are the arms of her family. I don’t know if these arms are used by Alexandre Quintanilha but he is entitled to adopt them to go with the name.

R) Anna Rochester (1880-1966) – labour reformer and journalist. Assumed inherited arms. Anna descends from Nicholas Rochester of Kent who migrated to Virginia in 1689. Even though these arms belong to the Rochesters of Essex there’s no proof that Nicholas was related to them. However, because he were used by him and his descendants they have become the de facto arms of the American Rochester family for use in the USA, since there is no US government heraldic authority to say otherwise.
S) Baroness Ebba Sparre (1626-1662) – lady-in-waiting and possible lover of Queen Kristina of Sweden. Arms granted in 1647 to her uncle, his brothers (Ebba’s father was dead by then) and their families when Queen Kristina created them barons and baronesses. The Sparre family arms are contained on the smaller central shield. The palm trees and antelopes are symbolic elements probably representing righteousness and harmony respectively.

T) Aubrey William Trask (b.1989) – computer technologist. Granted by the Canadian Heraldic Authority in September 2018, making them the newest lgbt coat of arms I know of. Red and white represents Canada in a pattern symbolising electronic circuits. The octopus represents flexibility. Aubrey was administrator of the lgbt student organisation when he was studying at McGill University.

V) Sir Arthur Vicars (1862-1927) – herald. Inherited arms. Sir Arthur could impale (place on the right half of a shield) these family arms next to the arms of office of Ulster King of Arms. He was implicated in the theft of the crown jewels of Ireland.

W) Dorothy Wellesley, Duchess of Wellington (1889-1956) – author, poet and socialite. Marital arms. Dorothy was born Dorothy Ashton and married Sir Gerald Wellesley, 7th Duke of Wellington. As husband and wife they displayed their family arms together. The Ashton arms on our right are impaled with the Wellesley arms on our left.

Y) Prince Felix Yusupov (1887-1967) – Russian prince, known primarily for his role in the murder of the monk Rasputin. Inherited arms. Prince Felix’s father, Count Sumarokov-Elston, married the Yusupov heiress and adopted her name. The Sumarakov-Elston arms were added to hers and they are the two at the bottom of the shield.

Z) Nikolai Zverev (1832-1893) – pianist, tutor to Sergie Rachmaninoff. Inherited arms. Nikolai belonged to an old Russian aristocratic family.