Saturday, 31 October 2020

A Ghostly Warning of Doom

On previous Hallowe’ens I’ve written about vampires, Frankenstien’s monster and mummies, but not about ghosts. So, how about an lgbt ghost story from ancient Greece today. The story is a sort of companion article to one I wrote a few days ago – you’ll see why when you read on.

In the city-state of Aetolia on the north coast of the Gulf of Corinth there lived a man called Polykritos. He was a man of good standing, of noble blood, and well-like by all the citizens. One year the people (i.e. the men) of Aetolia voted him their leader. During his term of office he married a girl from the neighbouring Locrian community, but after just three nights Polykritos died leaving his young bride pregnant.

Nine months later the young widow gave birth to a healthy baby. However, the birth caused a good deal of fear in the Aetolians for the baby was born with both female and male genitalia, the baby was intersex. In ancient Greek societies an intersex baby, or hermaphrodite, as they would say, was a sign of bad luck.

Polykritos’s family took the baby to the agora, the city square, where they had called for a meeting of all the citizens and priests. The assembly debated and argued about what to do about the baby. Some people were worried that taking the baby away from its Locrian mother might cause a deterioration of the friendly relations between the Locrians and Aetolians. The priests said that both the mother and baby should be taken far away and burnt to death like an animal sacrifice.

As they were still debating a dark phantom appeared. It was the ghost of Polykritos.

The crown recoiled in terror and began to run away, but the ghost called out to them, “Don’t be afraid.” It took a little while for the crown to settle down but they were still a bit frightened. The apparition spoke again:

“Citizens. Although I am dead, because of the goodwill I feel towards you I have appealed to the masters of the underworld to let me come and help you. I beg you, hand over my child to me so that no violence will come to it. I won’t let you harm my child as the priests demand. I can understand that my appearance has frightened you and caused some confusion, but if you do as I ask all fears will be removed and you’ll be saved from any disaster as a result. If you come to another decision your distrust of me will only result in disaster. I’m telling you this for your own good. So, don’t wait, make the right decision and give me my child now, because the masters of the underworld won’t let me stay here much longer.”

After a stunned silence the crowd began discussing Polykritos’s plea. Some suggested that they hand over the baby straight away. Others thought that they needed more time to think about it, but Polykritos’s ghost could wait not longer. “Okay, don’t blame me for what happens next”, it said, and with that the ghost picked up the baby and without waring began tearing the child’s arms and legs out of their sockets and ripping at its body. The ghost then ate the bleeding flesh.

The crowd stared in horror and tried to stop the ghost by throwing stones at it, but they went straight through it. Then, as suddenly as it appeared, the ghost vanished. All that was left of the baby was its head, lying in a pool of blood on the ground.

The crowd didn’t know what to do next. Perhaps they should go to consult the oracle at Delphi. Before they could discuss it further the baby’s head began to speak.

“You cannot go to the oracle because your hands are steeped in blood” the head said. “I will tell you what the oracle will foretell. One year from today death will come to everyone in this place. The offspring of Aetolians and Locrians will live together, but there will be no escape from the evil to come. A rain of blood will fall upon you and the gods will render your descendants inglorious.” The head told the crowd to leave the city if they wanted to live. The women, children and elderly were sent away leaving the men behind to await their fate.

One year later the remaining Aetolians fought a battle against their rivals to the west, the Akarnanians. Very few Aetolians survived.

I’m not much of a storyteller, I know, but I hope you found this tale nice and spooky enough for Hallowe’en. But what are we to make of it? Was it real?

The story comes from a 2nd century work by Phlegon of Tralles called “The Book of Marvels” (“Rebus Mirabilus”). Books about marvels, trivia and lists were all the rage in Phlegon’s lifetime. Phlegon himself wrote three – his Book of Marvels, a history of ancient Olympians, and a book on the longest lived humans in history. Modern scholars have given this sort of ancient trivia mania a name – paradoxography.

Modern popular culture still has a fascination for unusual and trivial facts and there are many books, and especially YouTube channels, on the subject. They are all copying what the ancient writers did a couple of thousand years ago.

So, who was Phlegon of Thralles anyway? He wasn’t a historian. He was a freedman, a former slave of the gay Roman Emperor Hadrian. He must have been fairly intelligent and literate to be able to read and write several books. But that doesn’t tell us if the story of Polykritos and the talking baby’s head was true. Phlegon said he got the story from an earlier writer called Hieron of Ephesus. A later account of the story adds that Hieron wrote about the ghostly encounter in a letter to King Antigonus of Macedonia, a contemporary of Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC.

Scholars aren’t even sure where Hieron of Ephesus got the story from in the first place, and in the later account which mentioned the letter it is claimed that Hieron was even an eye-witness to the grisly affair. In the end it may all have been ancient urban legend or folk tale which Phlegon believed to have been true, something else which is also a feature of modern popular culture. What ever it’s ultimate origin the two surviving accounts serve as a gruesome and ghostly tale for any Hallowe’en party.

Monday, 26 October 2020

The Two-Formed One

Can anyone ever be sure of the identity of the first real-life intersex individual in recorded history? Someone who wasn’t a legend, myth or deity? It may be possible by referring to a manuscript that was written over 2,000 years ago called “Bibliotheca Historia” by Diodorus Siculus (c.80 BC-c.20 BC). Diodorus is a reasonably reliable historian.

Diodorus writes an account of the reign of King Alexander I Balas of the Seleucid Empire, the region corresponding roughly to modern Iran, Iraq and Syria. After chronicling Balas’s life, reign and death Diodorus gives an anecdotal tale which may or may nor be true.

Alexander Balas gained his throne by overthrowing King Demetrius I Soter. Balas wasn’t a particularly competent ruler and he lost his throne to Demetrius’s son five years later. Diodorus writes that Balas consulted the oracle at Apollo’s sanctuary in Cicilia in southern Turkey. The oracle issued a grave warning – to beware of the place that bore the “two-formed one”. Balas was puzzled and didn’t understand what it meant (oracles were always a bit vague).

Balas had done little of significance during his reign, apart from making a marriage alliance with Egypt. It wasn’t long before his predecessor’s son, Demetrius II, fought to regain the throne. The big show-down came after Egypt switched sides to Demetrius. The decisive battle came in August 145 BC. Balas met Demetrius and the Egyptians near what is now called the Afrin River in northeast Syria. Balas’s forces were overwhelmed and he fled south to Abae, a city on the northern edge of the Syrian desert. There he was killed, possibly by some of his own generals who decided it was better to support Demetrius.

So, who was this “two-formed one” that the oracle had warned Balas about? The tale recounted by Diodorus Siculus names him as a soldier in Balas’s army called Diophantes. According to a study of ancient literature by Dr. Lutz Alexander Graumann, Diophantes is the first historical intersex person whose name is recorded, or at least Dr. Graumann believed he was.

Diophantes was raised as girl, the only child of another Diophantes and an Arabian mother. He was originally named Heraïs. Diophantes senior was Macedonian and lived in Abae, which appears to have had a large Greek military presence.

Diophantes senior also had a son, Diophantes junior, who died young, so Diophantes senior was able to provide a large dowry for his daughter Heraïs on her marriage to a man called Samiades. One year into the marriage Samiades had to go away on a journey.

Not long after he departed Heraïs became ill. A swelling developed on the bottom of the abdomen and she developed high fevers. The physicians diagnosed it as an ulcer on her uterus and treated as such.

A week later, when Heraïs was visiting her mother, the swelling burst and out of it emerged a full set of male genitalia. The mother and her servants tended Heraïs as best they could but all of them were too shocked and didn’t understand what was going on. They all agreed that no-one, including her physician, must know of it. Heraïs gradually recovered.

Eventually, Samiades returned home. Heraïs was too afraid to meet him and this made Samiades angry. Time and time again he demanded that his wife should meet him. By now Heraïs’s father had learnt the truth and he too was afraid to reveal the truth to Samiades. In the end Samiades took Diophantes senior to court, claiming he was deliberately preventing Heraïs from performing her lawful duties as a wife.

The jury agreed and Heraïs was summoned to the court. Feeling there was no other choice but to reveal the truth Heraïs undid her dress and revealed her new gender status to the whole court. At the same time she insisted that no man should cohabit with another man.

There was nothing Samiades or the court could do to force her into going back to her husband when she appeared to be a man. From then on Heraïs lived and dressed as a man and adopted the name of his father and dead brother, Diophantes. Physicians examined him and decided to surgically stabilize his genitals to prevent any internal pain.

Diophantes enrolled into the Greek army and fought at Abae where King Alexander I Balas was killed. Thus the oracle’s prophecy was fulfilled.

But is it a true story? Did Diophantes really? We’ll never know for sure. But is it possible for male genitalia to suddenly appear like that? There are known cases of intersex females not showing any visible signs of male genitalia. There are also cases of females whose male genitalia don’t become apparent until puberty. Some intersexuals enter puberty later than the usual age, and putting these all together we can understand how the female Heraïs became the intersex Diodorus.

The age at which a female could marry in ancient Greece was 12. In his written account Diodorus Siculus states that Diophantes senior provided a dowry as soon as Heraïs came of age. A year after the marriage her husband goes off on a journey and Heraïs undergoes her changes. This could have been during a late puberty, so Heraïs-Diophantes may have been 15 or 16. This is also a reasonable age for a Greek youth like Diophantes to join the army. So, on the medical evidence alone, it is very possible that the story could have been based on fact.

So, there we have it. Probably the earliest recorded name of an intersex person, the “two-formed one” mentioned by an oracle in a warning to King Alexander I Balas between 150 and 145 BC – Diophantes of Abae.

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

80 More Gays Around the World: Part 23) From France to Fern-atics

Last time on “80 More Gays”: 61) Hélène van Zuylen (1863-1947) was a pioneering female motor racer in a male dominated sport, and 62) Roberta Cowell (1918-2011) was a pioneering transgender motor racer, and she was also an lgbt pilot, as was 63) David Charlebois (1962-2001), a victim of the 9/11 terror attacks, who was born in a city that was once named after 64) Hubert Lyautey (1854-1934).

64) Hubert Lyautey was appointed Resident General of Morocco in 1907. The French were already well-established in Morocco, though they switched from being a foreign trading nation with a number of bases in the country to a colonial power at the beginning of the 20th century.

Local rebels and declining economy led Lyautey, in command of French troops in North Africa at the time, to move into Morocco to “protect” French interests in 1904. Morocco came under direct French military control in 1907 after rebels killed a prominent French doctor in Marrakesh, which led to Lyautey being appointed Resident General. In 1911 a power struggle between the Sultan and his brother led to further rebellions. France then declared Morocco to be a French Protectorate.

Unlike other French colonies Morocco was allowed to keep its distinctive character and laws. The Sultan of Morocco was allowed to remain as Head of State instead of the French President and the country remained a sovereign state.

Lyautey strengthened the infrastructure of Morocco, building railways, roads, bridges and ports. Kenitra was one such port. It was a small settlement before Lyautey turned it into a French military base in 1912. In 1933, after Lyautey had returned to France after being replaced in 1925, Kenitra was renamed Port Lyautey. It returned to its former name when France abolished the protectorate in 1956.

Although married to Inés de Bourgoing, a remarkable person in her own right, Lyautey was widely regarded as being gay. Gay men being married was not unusual for that period. There’s no actual proof Lyautey was gay. He never admitted being so, through it seems it was not a secret, and even the French Prime Minister was aware of it.

Lyautey’s may have provided inspiration for a literary character who brings us back to someone I mentioned several “80 More Gays” ago. Today he joins the chain in his own right – 65) Marcel Proust (1871-1922).

Although we’ll never know for sure, Proust based the character of the Baron de Charlus in his 7-volume novel series “À la Recherche du temps perdu” (Remembrance of Things Past) on Lyautey. It’s also likely that the Baron was based on another gay Frenchman, Count Robert Montesquiou (1855-1921). Marcel Proust had met them both – Lyautey in 1887 and Montesquiou in 1893. Both could easily been the inspiration, Proust selecting specific characteristics from each.

Baron de Charlus makes his first appearance in Proust’s novel series in volume one, “Swann’s Way”, which was turned into the film “Swann in Love” by 60) Nicole Stéphane. The main character, Charles Swann, falls in love with Odette. The first physical realisation of their attraction occurs in a scene inside a carriage. After a sudden jolt a flower, a cattleya, a type of orchid, becomes loosened from Odette’s dress. Swann leans over and pins it back in place and as they lean towards each other they kiss. From then on they adopt a private saying, “Do a cattleya” to mean any sexual contact between them.

It’s very apt that the cattleya (pronounced cattley-a rather than cattle-ya) plays such a large part in their relationship. It was Odette’s favourite flower. It was also Marcel Proust’s favourite flower. Every day he would buy a fresh cattleya for his buttonhole.

Detail of “Portrait of Marcel Proust” by Jacques Emile Blanche, 1892,
showing Proust wearing a cattleya orchid.

Orchids were very fashionable during Proust’s lifetime, even a craze. It even had a name, orchidelerium. This was one of several floral manias. There was also a craze for ferns, which was also given a name, pteridophilia. Although the height of the orchid and fern manias was over a century ago there’s still an appeal for them, as can be seen in the success of a fern nurseries, including one in southern England called Fernatix (pronounced like “fanatics”) created by 66) Steven Fletcher (b.1959) and 67) Kerry Robinson (b.1965).

Steven Fletcher’s horticultural career began with growing orchids in the 1980s. For a while he was Chair of the Cambridge Orchid Society. At the regular orchid shows Steven would use ferns to place around the pots to disguise them. He noticed people began to take as much interest in the ferns as they did in the orchids. This got him thinking about growing ferns and led to his decision to open Fernatix with his partner Kerry.

Steven and Kerry met on a blind date arranged by a friend and they connected instantly. When they first began displaying their ferns they attracted attention – they looked like bikers in leathers and piercings, not like gardeners at all. Nonetheless, they were accepted into the horticultural world and Fernatix soon became a successful business.

The first Fernatix display at the premier flower show in the UK, the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show, earned them a gold medal, and many more have followed over the years, right up to this year.

Ferns may seem underwhelming to most people but their popularity and the success of Fernatix and other fern nurseries prove they are still popular. The fern fever of the 19th century originally centred on their aesthetic value, but it led to them being studied to improve cultivation. Eventually, the study of ferns became a science in its own right called pteridology.

There may be many lgbt pteridophilists besides Steven Fletcher and Kerry Robinson, but there’s one who became a significant figure outside botany. His main area of study was in phytocytology - plant structure. If these scientific terms are a bit too technical we can be grateful to this particular pteridological phytocytologist for coming up with a short name for a new disease. This man’s name was 68) Bruce Voeller (1834-1994).

Next time on “80 More Gays”: A new disease acquires a new name, and names come together to raise awareness with a glass of wine.

Saturday, 17 October 2020

The Godmother of Egyptology

Today is International Archaeology Day. Arguably the most influential archaeological subject is Egyptology. The names of ancient pharaohs and gods are household names. It has influenced everything from Napoleonic furniture to Hallowe’en costumes. Hundreds of films and books based on ancient Egypt are highly popular.

Last Hallowe’en I revealed how the curse of the Egyptian mummy was created by the most popular Victorian novelist, the bisexual Maria Correlli (1855-1924). The establishing of Egyptology as a separate science owes a great deal to another Victorian queer novelist, the openly lesbian Amelia Edwards (1831-1892).

Amelia Ann Blanford Edwards was the only child of Thomas and Alicia Edwards, a retired army officer and the daughter of an Irish barrister. Amelia was home-schooled by her mother and governesses and was a prodigious child, writing poetry and stories before she was 14 years old. She was also a very talented artist, a skill she would later utilise to illustrate her popular travel books.

Amelia’s popularity as a writer began long before her interest in Egyptology. Her fiction – novels and short stories – made her a celebrity to rival Maria Correlli (both outsold Charles Dickens). I’ll return to Amelia’s fiction writing in December, specifically her ghost stories, but for today let’s concentrate on her “Egyptian period”.

Amelia came from an era and social background in which well-educated, reasonably well-off ladies like herself would travel around Europe with a female companion. One year, 1873, she and a companion were in France during a particularly miserable wet summer, so they decided to head south to warmer climes and Egypt. Amelia was instantly entranced by the whole Egyptian culture. She sailed up the Nile with a group of fellow travellers to Abu Simbel (in its original location before being relocated block by block in the 1960s).

Amelia discovered a small chamber buried in the sand and proceeded to records its contents and draw the vivid wall paintings in her sketch book. Amelia wrote up her Egyptian experiences in published them in “A Thousands Miles Up the Nile” in 1877, containing many of her own drawings, including the one below of Abu Simbel. This book is probably the biggest best-seller she ever wrote.

As with the majority of European travellers to Egypt Amelia collected and bought many ancient artefacts, including several mummified hands. It wasn’t long, however, before she realised the danger of this popular “hobby”. In her book she wrote that many Egyptian site were being spoiled or destroyed by the actions of travellers and tourists and the neglect of local authorities.

At that time in Egypt’s history the country was in economic decline and couldn’t afford to pay for serious excavations and research. In 1882 Amelia banded together with Reginald Stewart Poole, the Curator of Coins and Medals at the British Museum, to found the Egypt Exploration Fund. Both were elected honorary joint secretaries. Donations trickled in and by January 1883 the fund was able to send its first expedition to Egypt.

One of the archaeologists to benefit from the Fund was Flinders Petrie, who would go on to become Britain’s greatest Egyptologist and founder of modern archaeological methods. He and Amelia became firm friends and in her will Amelia ensured that Petrie would be the first person to be appointed the first ever Professor of Egyptology.

The appointment has a very interesting back story. Amelia, being a woman in Victorian England, found it difficult to get support from the male-dominated academic and scientific establishment. She got no help from the British Museum other than the voluntary assistance from Reginald Poole. At the time of her death University College London was the only institution which offered and gave the same degrees to woman as it did to men. Amelia laid down in her will that £2,500 should go towards setting up a chair in Egyptology there – as long as it wasn’t held by anyone from the British Museum. Shortly before her death, when she became seriously ill, she added a clause stipulating that the post should not go to anyone over the age of 40. Flinders Petrie was 39 and the only experienced archaeologist who fit the criteria.

Apart from being hugely popular for her Egyptology, travel writing and ghost stories Amelia also enjoyed an equally hugely successful lecture tour of the USA in 1889-90. This raised a lot of money for the Egypt Exploration Fund.

Amelia spent her last years in a little village called Westbury-on-Trym with her partner and companion Ellen Drew Braysher (1804-1892). They were buried together in Henbury near Bristol, their graves later being designated Grade II listed status. Historic England, the country’s leading heritage organisation, placed the grave on their Pride of Place list of significant lgbt sites in 2016.

As well as leaving £2,500 to University College London for the chair in Egyptology Amelia also left them her personal collection of artefacts and library. They formed the basis of what is now called the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology. Obviously, it is named after Flinders Petrie, or Sir Flinders Petrie as he became, but the museum would not exist at all if Amelia Edwards hadn’t given her collection to found it. It annoys me that the museum isn’t named after her.

The Petrie Museum has long been a place I have wanted to visit. Back in 2010 it produced a special museum trail called “Beyond Isis and Osiris: Alternate Sexualities in Ancient Egypt”. Although comparatively small in area the museum has thousands of items on display and the trail picked out 14 of them that illustrate the variety of sexual and gender attitudes among the Egyptians, from their ancient gods to Alexander the Great.

The trail originated in a series of talks given in February 2008 for LGBT History Month UK by John J. Johnston, who was a teaching assistant at University College London while studying there for a PhD in Egyptology. The talks proved so popular that Johnston formed them into the “Beyond Isis and Osiris” trail. Below is a video of Johnston talking about his trai. Johnston became Vice-Chair of the Egypt Exploration Society (to which the Egypt Exploration Fund had been renamed in 1919) shortly afterwards and held the position until 2015.

Perhaps when covid restrictions are lifted and we can move around freely once more I’ll finally make it down to London and visit the museum founded by Amelia Edwards, the woman known as the Godmother of Egyptology.

Sunday, 11 October 2020

80 More Gays Around the World: Part 22) Action on Land, Terror in the Sky

Last time on “80 More Gays”: 58) Jacinto Benavente (1866-1954), Spanish dramatist, chose not to write during the first years of the Franco regime because of state censorship of the theatre overseen by 59) Luis Escobar (1908-1991), an aristocratic actor and theatre director, as was 60) Nicole Stéphane (1923-2007), a Rothschild baroness and cousin of 61) Hélène van Zuylen (1863-1947).

Before her marriage 61) Hélène van Zuylen was Baroness Héléne Betty Louise Caroline de Rothschild. She inherited the theatrical talent of her family by writing plays, as well as poetry, novels and short stories. Under the pen-name Paule Riversale Hélène probably collaborated with her partner Renée Vivien on several works.

Hélène was married to Baron Etienne van Zuylen van Nijevelt van de Haar. They had two sons. Whilst still married she began a relationship with Renée Vivien, and Renée is said to have considered herself to be married to Hélène as well. But Hélène’s claim to fame is far removed from her writing.

Before meeting Renée, Hélène gained celebrity status as a pioneering female motor racer in the era when racing was more Chitty Chitty Bang Bang than Formula 1. Helene’s husband founded the Automobile Club of France in 1895. Three years later he organised the Paris-Amsterdam motor race. It also included a tourist car section in which Hélène, the only female, participated. As such she would be better described as the first female participant of a motoring event rather than a race. Below is a remarkable photograph of Hélène in her car at the start of the section that began at Champigny.

Photo: Rijksmuseum
Several years later Hélène competed in an actual race, though her car developed mechanical problems and she pulled out. With her contemporaries Camille du Gast and Anne, Duchess d’Uzès, Baroness Hélène van Zuylen is regarded as a pioneer of female racing. Motor racing is still very much male dominated. There are very few openly lgbt racing drivers, but one pioneer of female and transgender racing made her name in the mid-20th century - 62) Roberta Cowell (1918-2011).

I have written about Roberta Cowell twice, so you could read them first for more detailed information. The articles are here and here.

At the end of the war in Europe, the 75th anniversary of which we commemorated in lockdown this year, Roberta was a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft I. After being liberated and later demobbed she returned to motor racing. This was also the beginning of the period in her life when she began to recognise her true gender and she became the first woman in the UK to undergo gender reassignment surgery.

Roberta also tried to continue flying. She bought an old de Havilland Mosquito plane in 1958 in which she hoped to set a transatlantic crossing record. However, the plane needed a new engine and none could be found. The flight was abandoned and the plane was scrapped.

Roberta Cowell was a Spitfire pilot during the war, one of few known lgbt pilots of the 20th century. Today there are many more, including my friend Rob, and many are members of the National Gay Pilots Association (NGPA). Although US-based the NGPA has chapters in Canada, Australia and the UK. One notable lgbt pilot and member of the NGPA was 63) David Charlebois (1962-2001).

In the lgbt community several names are remembered more than others in connection with the 9/11 terror attacks of 2001. Father Mychal Judge is remembered as a victim at the World Trade Centre as he administered to another victim, and Mark Bingham is the passenger of Flight 93 who took part in the heroic rebellion against the hijackers. These heroes often overshadow the other lgbt victims, such as David Charlebois.

David was the co-pilot of American Airlines Flight 77 which hit the Pentagon on that bright, sunny morning. His flying career began after he graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Datona Beach, Florida, and he joined American Airlines in 1991.

Although never fully closeted as a gay man David decided to be more open about his sexuality when he joined the NGPA. The final stage in this pubic coming out process was his participation in the NGPA contingent in the March on Washington in 2000. He helped to carry the association’s banner. When their section came to the end of the march he and several colleagues dashed further back to join the American Airlines own lgbt group, GLEAM, to finish the march twice.

One the morning of the 9/11 attacks David woke at 6 a.m. and made coffee and bagels for guests who had stayed overnight after a party he hosted the night before. We’ll never know his precise role in the aftermath of the hijacking of his plane three hours later. In his memory the NGPA set up a scholarship named after him.

David Charlebois had the air in his blood, so to speak. His father was US Air Force Reservist, later a CIA agent, and travelled the world. This explains why David was not born in the USA but in Morocco in the city of Kenitra where there was a US naval base. This had been established there in 1942 when the city had a different name.

Before being renamed Kenitra after Moroccan independence from France in 1956 it was called Port Lyautey, named after one of France’s most important colonial administrators, 64) Hubert Lyautey (1854-1934).

Next time on “80 More Gays”: Morocco helps us to remember things past as we return to Marcel Proust and a worldwide mania.

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

The Name's the Games: Answers

I hope you enjoyed the quiz I set yesterday. Here are the answers. 

WELL-KNOWN NAME

ALTERNATIVE NAME

1) Boy George

V) George O’Dowd (b.1961), singer

2) Dana International

I) Sharon Cohen (b.1972), Eurovision winner

3) Dick Sargent

M) Richard Stanford Cox (1930-1994), actor, the second “Darren” in the tv series “Bewitched”

4) Divine

T) Harris Glen Milstead (1945-1988), drag entertainer and actor

5) Duke of Buckingham

H) Sir George Villiers (1592-1628), royal “favourite” of King James I of Great Britain

6) Dusty Springfield

Q) Mary O’Brien (1939-1999), singer, famous for her beehive hairstyle

7) Elegabalus

C) Varius Avitus Bassianus (c.204-222), Emperor of Rome

8) Freddie Mercury

W) Farroukh Bulsarra (1946-1991), singer with musical links to Barcelona and Bohemia

9) George Michael

U) Giorgios Panayiotou (1963-2016), singer who wrote a hit song as a result of being arrested for cruising in a public toilet

10) Hadrian

P) Publius Aelius Hadrianus Augustus (74-136), Emperor of Rome

11) Horace Walpole

Y) 4th Earl of Orford (1717-1797), gothic novelist

12) Jake Shears

R) Jason Sellards (b.1948), lead singer of Scissor Sisters

13) Lady Gaga

F) Stefani Germanotta (b.1986), singer

14) Little Richard

N) Richard Penniman (1932-2020), rock’n’roll singer

15) P. L. Travers

S) Helen Lyndon Goff (1899-1996), creator of Mary Poppins

16) Pope Alexander VI

K) Rodrigo di Borgia (1431-1503), Roman Catholic pontiff

17) Rock Hudson

J) Roy Scherer (1925-1985), Hollywood heart-throb

18) Rudolf Valentino

L) Rodolfo di Valentia d’Antonzuella (1895-1926), Hollywood heart-throb

19) Sir Elton John

O) Reginald Dwight (b.1947), Oscar-winning singer-songwriter

20) Stella Walsh

G) Stansisława Walasiewicz (1911-1980), Olympic sprinter, Anglicised her name when became US citizen

21) Tab Hunter

X) Arthur Andrew Gelien (1931-2018), American pop teen idol

22) Tom of Finland

D) Touko Vallo Laakionen (1920-1991), erotic artist

23) Tom Waddell

E) Thomas Flubacher (1937-1987), pre-adoption birth-name of Olympic athlete

24) Tsar Dmitri I of Russia

A) Yuri Otrepyev (1581-1606), royal imposter

25) Virginia Woolf

B) Virginia Stephen (1882-1941), writer

Monday, 5 October 2020

The Names's the Game

It’s a while since I did a history quiz, so here’s one for LGBT History Month USA.

Below are 50 names. In the column on the left are well-known names of 25 people in the lgbt community, past and present. In the column on the right are alternative lesser-known names of the same people, some of which are their real or original names, but not in the same order.

Your task is to match the names on the left with the correct names on the right. You may find some easy, but I’ll give hints in the alternative name column to help you eliminate the wrong names. I won’t give hints for all of them – that would be too easy!

There are no prizes for getting them right. It’s just a bit of fun, and perhaps something you can entertain your friends with if you celebrate a socially distanced LGBT History Month get-together – I’ve noticed that online quizzes have become popular. 

WELL-KNOWN NAME

ALTERNATIVE NAME

1) Boy George

A) Yuri Otrepyev (1581-1606), royal imposter

2) Dana International

B) Virginia Stephen (1882-1941), writer

3) Dick Sargent

C) Varius Avitus Bassianus (c.204-222), Emperor of Rome

4) Divine

D) Touko Vallo Laakionen (1920-1991), erotic artist

5) Duke of Buckingham

E) Thomas Flubacher (1937-1987), pre-adoption birth-name of an Olympic athlete

6) Dusty Springfield

F) Stefani Germanotta (b.1986), singer

7) Elegabalus

G) Stansisława Walasiewicz (1911-1980), Olympic sprinter, Anglicised her name when she became a US citizen

8) Freddie Mercury

H) Sir George Villiers (1592-1628), royal “favourite” of King James I of Great Britain

9) George Michael

I) Sharon Cohen (b.1972), Eurovision winner

10) Hadrian

J) Roy Scherer (1925-1985), Hollywood heart-throb

11) Horace Walpole

K) Rodrigo di Borgia (1431-1503), Roman Catholic pontiff

12) Jake Shears

L) Rodolfo di Valentia d’Antonzuella (1895-1926), Hollywood heart-throb

13) Lady Gaga

M) Richard Stanford Cox (1930-1994), actor, the second “Darren” in the tv series “Bewitched”

14) Little Richard

N) Richard Penniman (1932-2020), rock’n’roll singer

15) P. L. Travers

O) Reginald Dwight (b.1947), Oscar-winning singer-songwriter

16) Pope Alexander VI

P) Publius Aelius Hadrianus Augustus (74-136), Emperor of Rome

17) Rock Hudson

Q) Mary O’Brien (1939-1999), singer, famous for her beehive hairstyle

18) Rudolf Valentino

R) Jason Sellards (b.1948), lead singer of Scissor Sisters

19) Sir Elton John

S) Helen Lyndon Goff (1899-1996), creator of Mary Poppins

20) Stella Walsh

T) Harris Glen Milstead (1945-1988), drag entertainer and actor

21) Tab Hunter

U) Giorgios Panayiotou (1963-2016), singer who wrote a hit song as a result of being arrested for cruising in a public toilet

22) Tom of Finland

V) George O’Dowd (b.1961), singer

23) Tom Waddell

W) Farroukh Bulsarra (1946-1991), singer with musical links to Barcelona and Bohemia

24) Tsar Dmitri I of Russia

X) Arthur Andrew Gelien (1931-2018), American pop teen idol

25) Virginia Woolf

Y) 4th Earl of Orford (1717-1797), gothic novelist

Tomorrow I’ll give the correct answers.