Sunday, 17 January 2021

Star-Gayzing: A Celestial Swansong

Among the queer legends associated with the stars is one which is represented by two constellations in different parts of the sky. Being objects of the night sky it is ironic that they specifically represent a myth associated with the Sun.

In Greek mythology there are several deities associated with the Sun. Among the most popular was Apollo, who was called Apollo Helios in the 3rd century BC. It was as Apollo Helios that he was the lover of Prince Hyakinthos. The name Helios, though, was originally that of an older Sun god, one of the Titans.

It was Helios who was believed to have driven the Sun across the sky every day in his chariot. Like many of the Greek gods Helios had many children, both immortal and mortal. According to the most often recorded myth one of his mortal sons was called Phaethon whose mother was a sea nymph called Clymene.

Like many male Greek characters (though unlike his father Helios) Phaethon had a male lover, as was part of cultural tradition in ancient and classical Greece. Phaethon’s lover was King Kyknos of Liguria, more commonly known by his Latinised name of Cygnus. Most of the ancient writers don’t say explicitly that the two were lovers, though several do, and the king’s behaviour following Phaethon’s death is a strong indication that they were.

The name Cygnus will be familiar to both astronomers and ornithologists as the name of a constellation and the Latin name for a swan. There are several legends of how King Kyknos/Cygnus became a swan and how he became a constellation, and they are related to the most familiar myth about Phaethon. The following is a compilation of various versions of the story.

The youthful Phaethon was being taunted by his friends over his claim that Helios is his father. So, Phaethon went to his mother and asked her, and she confirmed his parentage. Phaethon then went to ask Helios himself and, again, confirmation was given.

The Sun god offered to grant any wish to his son as proof of his love for him. At that, Phaethon asked if he could drive the Sun chariot for one day. Helios was reluctant to grant this particular wish. He warned Phaethon that the fiery horses that pulled the chariot were difficult to control, even for the mighty god Zeus, so they would be barely responsive to a mortal. However, a promise is a promise, and Helios agreed to let his son drive the chariot across the sky the following day.

In the morning Phaethon took the reins of the Sun chariot and set off. He found that his father was right, the horses were difficult to control. Struggling with the reins Phaethon found the horses pulling the chariot high into the sky, causing great areas of frost to cover the Earth. Then the horses flew downwards towards the ground and Phaethon could not stop the Sun from scorching the Earth causing the massive expanse of the Sahara.

Helios and the pantheon of gods looked on, concerned for the safety of both Phaethon and the Earth and Zeus sent a thunderbolt to strike Phaethon dead. The youth fell from the chariot, which was immediately taken over by Helios, and Phaethon plummeted downwards and plunged into the waters of the River Eridanus. Eridanus was a mythical river believed by some to represent the Italian River Po. This ties in with the location of Liguria in northern Italy, the kingdom ruled over by Kyknos, through which the Po flows. Out of respect to Helios, Zeus placed the river in the night sky as the constellation which bears the same name.

The myth of Phaethon also influenced the naming of asteroid 3200. It was discovered in 1983 and is one of the Apollo asteroids, those which approach very close to Earth, sometimes crossing our orbit (there’s several of these every year, sometimes passing between the Earth and the Moon). Asteroid 3200 also has an orbit which takes it closer to the Sun than any other named asteroid, so the name Phaethon is very appropriate.

But what about his lover King Kyknos? He probably witnessed Phaethon struggling to control the Sun chariot and watched helpless as his body fall into the Eridanus. Kyknos raced to the river and wailed in despair. Some myths say he stayed there for years, and some say he was there for just a few days. However long it was, King Kyknos’ mourning for his lover eventually touched the hearts of the gods.

It was Apollo who decided to turn Kyknos into a swan. The swan was one of the animals sacred to Apollo. Again, the myths vary in the speed of the transformation. Some say it was instant, some say it took a few years, with Kyknos’s hair turning white with age and gradually transforming into swan’s feathers. As an extra tribute Zeus placed Kyknos in the sky as the constellation the Romans called Cygnus.

This is only one of several legends about the origin of the constellation Cygnus. Another is that it represents the swan into which Zeus transformed himself to pursue Leda and thereby become the father of Helen of Troy and Castor and Pollux, the Gemini twins.

And the swansong? The myths say that as King Kyknos wailed in lament over his lost love and turned into a swan his voice changed and turned into a birdsong of great beauty. On his complete transformation into a swan he was placed in the sky, making his swan song the last sound he uttered. Since then a swansong has come to mean any great final performance given by a singer, actor or musician.

Monday, 11 January 2021

In Memoriam 2020: Part 2

Here is the second list of lgbt people who passed away during 2020.

Rich Thigpen, d. 6 June 2020. American comic book expert. He was heavily involved in Prism Comics, an organisation supporting and promoting lgbt comic and graphic novel artists and illustrators. He edited “Gay Agenda” and the annual “Prism Comics: Your LGBT Guide to Comics”, a publication produced for mainstream comic conventions.

Jon Gee, b. 29 July 1945, d. 14 June 2020. Co-founder of the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays. Participated in the 1963 March on Washington in which Martin Luther King made his famous “Dream” speech.

Sarah Hegazi, b. 1989, d. 14 June 2020. Egyptian asylum seeker in Canada; imprisoned in Egypt for flying the rainbow Pride flag.

James Furlong, b. 1984, d. 20 June 2020, teacher. Head of History, Holt School, Wokingham, England; Joe Ritchie-Bennett, b. 1981, d. 20 June 2020, American-born employee of a Dutch pharmaceutical company in Reading; and Dr. David Wails, b. 1971, d. 20 June 2020, Senior principal scientist with Johnson Matthey, a global chemicals company. All three were murdered while enjoying meeting up in a local park after the national pandemic lockdown was relaxed.

Angela Madsen, b. 10 May 1960, d. 20 June 2020. American Paralympian who competed in rowing and track and field athletics, winning a bronze medal at London 2012 in shot put. She held over a dozen world records in rowing, including the oldest solo female rower. She died during her trans-Pacific rowing attempt.

Harry Britt, b. 8 June 1938, d. 24 June 2020. Elected member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors 1979-92 in succession to the assassinated Harvey Milk. President of the Board of Supervisors 1989-90.

Tony Fenwick, b. 26 Mar. 1960, d. 8 July 2020. Co-founder LGBT History Month UK, and CEO of Schools OUT, an organisation for lgbt teachers and educators. He was awarded an OBE (officer of the Order of the British Empire) by the Queen in 2017 for services to equality in education.

Dr. Joseph Costa, b. 1964, d. 25 July 2020. Chief of Critical Care, Mercy Medical Center, Baltimore. One of many front-line workers who have died from covid-19.

Hadley Dale Hall, b. 8 July 1933, d. 10 Aug. 2020. Founder of San Francisco Home Health Services. Founder of Coming Home Hospice, the first residential AIDS hospice in the US.

Chris Graham-Bell, b. 30 Oct. 1951, d. 12 Aug. 2020. UK publisher. Chair of Millivres Publishing. Founder of “Gay Times”. Former Chair of the Gay Business Association. Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Ash Christian, b. 16 Jan. 1965, d. 13 Aug. 2020. American actor, and tv producer; founder of Cranium Entertainment; won an Emmy in 2014 for his short daytime drama “ml promise”.

James Humphreys, b. 10 Dec. 1939, d. 27 Aug. 2020. American mathematician. Associate Professor (1974), Professor (1976), and Emeritus Professor (2003), University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He died of covid-19.

Henry van Ameringen, b. 1931, d. 9 Sept. 2020. American businessman and philanthropist who donated millions of dollars to lgbt charities and causes. Founder of the van Ameringen Foundation. He inherited his father’s perfume company, International Flavors and Fragrances.

Barbara “Soraya” Santaigo Solla, b. 6 Dec. 1947, d. 22 Sept. 2020. Puerto Rican transgender activist, and the first person in Puerto Rico to change her gender designation on her birth certificate. In October the TranSalud Clinic on Puerto Rico was renamed in her honour.

Timothy Ray Brown, b. 11 Mar. 1966, d. 29 Sept. 2020. “The Berlin Patient”, the first person to be cured of HIV, by bone marrow transplant.

Kenzō Takada, b. 27 Feb. 1939, d. 4 Oct. 2020. Japanese fashion designer. With compensation from the Japanese government for demolishing his Tokyo home to make way for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics Kenzō travelled to Paris, France, where he formed his fashion house. Chevalier, Legion d’Honneur. He died of covid-19.

Monica Roberts, b. 4 May 1962, d. 5 Oct. 2020. American transgender activist. Journalist and founding editor of TransGriot, a blog on transgender issues, with an emphasis on the African-American and ethnic transgender community.

James Randi, b. 7 Aug. 1928, d. 20 Oct. 2020. Canadian-American magician and psychic/paranormal “debunker”. He founded the James Randi Educational Foundation which offered a million dollars to anyone who can prove scientifically the existence of paranormal abilities. Asteroid 3163 is named after him.

David Scondras, b. 1946, d. 21 Oct. 2020. The first openly lgbt person elected to the city council of Boston, Massachusetts, 1983.

John Sessions, b. 11 Jan. 1953, d. 2 Nov. 2020. Scottish actor and comedian, popular on many comedy improvisation shows. He also impersonated many contemporary public figures for the 1980s satirical puppet show “Spitting Image”.

Joan Drury, b. 1945, d. 9 Nov. 2020. American author, bookseller, publisher and philanthropist. Owner of Spinsters Ink, a feminist lesbian press, 1992-2001. Won the Lambda Literary Publisher Service Award in 1999.

Anthony Sullivan, b. 25 Feb. 1942, d. 10 Nov. 2020. Australian-born campaigner for same-sex marriage in the USA. His marriage to Richard Adams (d.2012) in 1975 was the first to campaign for recognition by the US Federal Court. In 2015 the marriage was recognised by the US government as the first US same-sex marriage.

Dr. Michael Kelly, b. 1954, d. 14 Nov. 2020. Australian queer theologian and author. Co-founder of the Rainbow Sash Movement, an organisation lgbt Catholics who campaign for acceptance in Communion.

Witold Sadowy, b. 7 Jan. 1920, d. 15 Nov. 2020. Polish actor and author who came out at the age of 100, probably the oldest coming out.

Jan Morris, b. 2 Oct. 1926, d. 20 Nov. 2020. Welsh transgender author, historian and travel writer. She was the journalist on the 1952 Everest expedition who reported the successful conquest. Awarded the CBE (Companion of the Order of the British Empire) by the Queen in 1999 for services to literature.

Deb Price, b. 27 Feb. 1958, d. 20 Nov. 2020. Pioneering American lesbian columnist, the first to have her columns syndicated across the US (1992).

Pat Patterson, b. 14 Jan. 1941, d. 2 Dec. 2020. Canadian/American professional wrestler, consultant and producer. Acknowledged as a leading figure in the global success of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). His long career culminated in him being the oldest person to win a WWE wrestling title in 2019 at the age of 78.

Here is the second half of the transgender murder victims of 2020.

Brian “Egypt’ Powers, killed in Akron, Ohio, on 13th June 2020, aged 43.

Brayla Stone, killed in Dallas, Texas, on 25th June 2020, aged 17. 

Merci Mack, killed in Dallas, Texas, on 30th June 30, aged 22. 

Shaki Peters, killed in Amite City, Louisiana, on 1st July 2020, aged 32. 

Bree Black, killed in Pompano Beach, Florida, on 3rd July 2020, aged 27.

Summer Taylor, killed in Seattle, Washington on 4th July 2020. 

Marilyn Cazares, killed in Brawley, California, in July 2020. 

Dior H Ova/Tiffany Harris, was killed in the Bronx, New York, in July 2020. 

Queasha D Hardy, killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on 27th July 2020, aged 22.

Aja Raquell Rhone-Spears (a.k.a. Rocky Rhone), killed in Portland, Oregon, on 28th July 2020. 

Kee Sam, killed in Lafayette, Louisiana on 12th August 2020. 

Aerrion Burnett, killed in independence, Missouri on 19th September 2020. 

Mia Green, killed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 28th September 2020, aged 29. 

Michelle Michellyn Ramos Vargas, killed in Puerto Rico on 30th September 30, 2020. 

Felycya Harris, killed in Augusta, Georgia, in October 2020, aged 33. 

Brooklyn Deshuna, killed in Shreveport, Louisiana, on 7th October 2020, aged 20. 

Sara Blackwood, killed in Indianapolis, Indiana, on 11th October 2020.

Angel Unique, killed in Memphis, Tennessee, on 25th October 2020, aged 25. 

Yunieski Carey Herrera, killed in Miami, Florida, on 17th November 2020, aged 39. 

Asia Jynaé Foster, killed in Houston, Texas, on 20th November 2020, aged 22.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

In Memoriam 2020: Part 1

I hope it’s not too late to wish you a Happy New Year.

Before I begin this year’s blogging I want to look back at the members of the lgbt community who passed away in 2020. Below is the first half of my selection of people who made some contribution to international, national of local lgbt lives. The list covers the months January to May 2020.

Edward Jeunette, b. 10 Aug. 1957, d. 1 Jan. 2020. Lawyer with Baltimore City Department of Social Services. Lgbt activist and Baltimore community volunteer.

Sylvio Horta, b. 17 Aug. 1974, d. 7 Jan. 2020. American tv writer and creator of the “Ugly Betty” tv series, adapting it from a Colombian telenovela.

Anthony Crickmay, b. 20 May 1937, d. 8 Jan. 2020. British photographer who specialised in opera and dance portraits. Some of his portraits of famous ballet dancers are in the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Dr. Donald West, b. 9 June 1924, d. 20 Jan. 2020. Professor of Clinical Criminology, Cambridge University. Pioneer researcher into homosexuality.

Michou, b. 18 June 1931, d.  26 Jan. 2020. Real name Michel Catty. French cabaret singer and drag performer. Chevalier, Legion d’Honneur.

Hon. Deborah Batts, b. 13 Apr. 1947, d. 3 Feb. 2020. Senior Judge of the Southern District of New York since 2012; the first African-American and openly lgbt US Federal Judge.

Camila Maria Concepción, b. 20 Dec. 1991, d. 21 Feb. 2020. American transgender activist. Assistant writer of the Netfix series “Gentefied” and “Daybreak”.

Tom Watkins, b. 21 Sept. 1949, d. 24 Feb. 2020. British music and pop manager of the bands Pet Shop Boys, Bros, and East 17. Early in his career he designed logos and album covers for Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Wham! and Duran Duran.

Mart Crowley, b. 21 Aug. 1935, d. 7 Mar. 2020. American playwright, best-known for “The Boys in the Band”, a ground-breaking play about the lives of young gay men in New York. He was also script editor and producer of the tv mystery series “Hart to Hart”.

Donald Howarth, b. 5 Nov. 1931, d. 24 Mar. 2020. British playwright and theatre director, the last of the “Angry Young Men” who revolutionised British theatre in the 1960s. He wrote and directed anti-apartheid plays in South Africa for black Africans.

Terrence McNally, b. 3 Nov. 1938, d. 24 Mar. 2020. American playwright, screenwriter and librettist, nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1994. Received a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2019. Died of covid-19.

Glenn Stevens, b. 1946, d. 30 Mar. 2020. Businessman, often called the Founder of Manchester’s Gay Village. Affectionately known as Mr. Manchester. Died of covid-19.

Barbara Farrelly, b. 1943, d. 3 Apr. 2020. First editor of “Star Observer” 1992-4, Australia’s leading lgbt newspaper.

David Harvey, b. 1961, d. 5 Apr. 2020. Chair of Brighton and Hove Pride 2002-6. Radio and tv journalist. Producer of popular BBC consumer tv series “That’s Life”. He died of covid-19.

Phyllis Lyon, b. 10 Nov. 1924, d. 9 Apr. 2020. American writer and activist with her wife Del Martin. They co-founded the Daughters of Bilitis, a lesbian activist group of the 1950s. Del died in 2008.

Robbie Browne, b. 1949, d. 11 Apr. 2020. American real estate agent, businessman and philanthropist. Board member of GLAAD. He donated millions of dollars to LGBT+ charities. Died of covid-19.

Don Haines, b. 5 May 1950, d. 24 Apr. 2020. Lawyer and administrative officer with the American Civil Liberties Union.

David Carter, b. 1954, d. 1 May 2020. American historian, author of “Stonewall: the Riot that Sparked the Gay Revolution”, the first definitive account of the 1969 riots.

Douglas Chambers, b. 29 Nov. 1939, d. 1 May 2020. Canadian academic. Professor Emeritus of English, University of Toronto. Died of covid-19.

Maurice Lapierre, b. 1935, d. 2 May 2020. American librarian who taught library science at many universities. Chief Medical Librarian, Ministry of Health, Bahrain 1982-4. Died of covid-19.

Roy Horn, b. 3 Oct. 1944, d. 8 May 2020. German-born American magician with his partner Siegfried Fischbacher. He died of covid-19.

Lynn Shelton, b. 27 Aug. 1965, d. 16 May 2020. American film-maker, nominated shortly before her death for two Emmys for her miniseries “Little Fires Everywhere”.

Little Richard, b. 5 Dec. 1932, d. 20 May 2020. Rock’n’roll and gospel singer-songwriter. His real name was Richard Penniman.

Larry Kramer, b. 25 June 1935, d. 27 May 2020. American playwright and activist. Oscar nominated for his screenplay of “Women in Love” (1969). Founder of AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP).

Dr. Ron Simmons, b. 2 Mar. 1950, d. 28 May 2020. Black men’s health and AIDS campaigner. Assistant Professor, Howard University School of Communications. Executive Director of “Us Leading Us”, an HIV support group for the black community.

The year 2020 also saw a tragic rise in the reports of murders of transgender people. No list could ever do justice to their memory and courage. The list below is a random selection of transgender murder victims from January to May 2020.

Dustin Parker, killed in McAlester, Oklahoma, on 1st January 2020, aged 25.

Neulisa Luciano Ruiz, killed in Puerto Rico on 24th February 2020.

Yampi Méndez Arocho, killed in Moca, Puerto Rico, on 5th March 2020, aged 19.

Scott/Scottlynn Devore, killed in Augusta, Georgia, in March 2020, aged 51.

Monika Diamond, killed in Charlotte, North Carolina, on 18th March 2020, aged 34.

Lexi, killed in Harlem, New York, on 28th March 2020, aged 33.

Johanna Metzger, killed in Baltimore, Maryland, on 11th April 2020.

Layla Pelaez Sánchez and Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos, both killed in Puerto Rico on 21st April 2020, aged 21 and 32 respectively.

Penélope Díaz Ramírez, killed in Puerto Rico on 13th April 2020.

Nina Pop, killed in Sikeston, Missouri, on 3rd May 2020.

Helle Jae O’Regan, killed in San Antonio, Texas, on 6th May 2020, aged 20.

Tony McDade, killed in Tallahasee Florida, on 27th May 2020.

Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, killed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 9th June 2020.

Riah Milton, killed in Liberty Township, Ohio, on 9th June 2020, aged 25.

Jayne Thompson, killed in Mesa County, Colorado, on 9th May 2020, aged 33.

Selena Reyes-Hernandez, killed in Chicago, Illinois, on 31st May 2020, aged 37.

Next week I'll list some of the lgbt+ lives we lost from June to December 2020.

Thursday, 31 December 2020

Olympic 400+

Following on from my Mayflower 400 article two weeks ago I thought I’d bring you my Olympic 427. On 20th November I wrote that I had identified and listed my 400th lgbt Olympian (Anna Kjellbin, Swedish ice hockey player at the 2012 Olympic Youth Winter games in Innsbruck).

Shortly after I had added her to the list I came across a blog which gave many more names of lgbt Olympians, though there were no verifying sources. As with any other list that I find, whether it’s on social media or forum, I make sure I can find at least one online source that gives a definite indication of sexuality or gender identity. Quite often photos of an athlete’s wedding ceremony on social media is all I need. There are still about a hundred athletes I am still researching. There are also several Olympians who have been claimed as being lgbt but I have my doubts over the sources I have consulted.

There are two people I have not put on my list who are both worth mentioning. One is an openly lgbt Olympian who, I believe, has been misidentified. First, an Olympian I do not believe was lgbt, despite being identified as such in some places.

Robert Graves (1895-1985). This esteemed British poet entered the Mixed Literature category of the Art competition at the 1924 Paris Olympics. The Art competitions, which included music, sculpture and writing, were a part of the Olympics until 1948. Each entry had to have a sporting connection. Medals were awarded, as they were in the sports. They are still recognised by the IOC. Robert Graves’ entry into the 1924 games was a poem called “At the Games”. He didn’t win a medal.

Robert Graves is one of those individuals whose sexuality has been questioned and misinterpreted since his death. Let’s examine his attitude towards homosexuality as he expressed in his writings. Robert made a distinction between what he called “amourousness” and “eroticism”. Amourousness was the attraction and intimacy of youth and early puberty. Eroticism was the full sexual, physical and emotional love and attraction between adult couples.

The armouroursness as defined by Robert Graves was common in English public schools (confusingly, public schools were private and not state-run), of which the most famous are Eton, Harrow, and the school Robert Graves attended, Charterhouse. Hundreds of ex-public school pupils have written or spoken of sexual experiences between classmates. The majority of them became exclusively and genuinely heterosexual after leaving school, Robert Graves included. I do not consider the sexual experimentation of public schoolboys enough to justify labelling any of them as gay or bisexual.

Robert Graves admitted in his biographical writings to several intimate or platonic love relationships with several boys when he was at Charterhouse. He even noted paedophilic activities of several teachers. In his writings after leaving school Robert wrote that most boys, himself included, grew out of “this perversion”, as he described it and was the attitude he held towards homosexuality in general for the rest of his life. In effect, he was a blatant homophobe.

Last year the organisers of the LGBT History Month here in the UK included Robert Graves in their “Faces of 2019”. Half of the brief biography they gave was an attempt to manipulate his homophobic remarks into an indication that he was bisexual, and read more like political criticism of the public school system. I wrote to the organisers to point out their inaccurate assumption. I heard nothing from them, and Robert Graves remained on the website. Increasingly, I am convinced that the organisers of the UK LGBT History Month are more interested in party political activism than they are in revealing any factual history.

The second Olympian who isn’t on the list, but was very definitely openly gay, may be a victim of misidentification.

Count Robert de Montesquiou-Fézensac (1855-1921). Count Robert was a French poet, art collector, aesthete and dandy. Many websites and Olympic lists mention that he won a bronze medal in one of the equestrian events at the 1900 Paris Olympics. I believe they have named the wrong man.

Let’s go to the primary source of the 1900 Olympics, the official report. Below is a reproduction of page 291 which gives the results of the equestrian contests. Underlined in red is the only reference to the name Montesquiou in the whole report.

As you can see the report only gives an aristocratic title with no personal name. This indicates to me that it does not refer to Count Robert de Montesquiou-Fézensac.

Even though France was a republic and di not officially recognise aristocratic titles many aristocrats still used them unofficially and were often recognised outside France. Indeed, the title of the creator of the modern Olympic movement, Pierre de Tardy, Baron de Coubertin, was not officially recognised under French law.

Robert de Montesquiou-Fézensac was a Count by inheritance but he was not a Marquis, as the Olympic report mentions. The titles of Count and Marquis are not the same. Marquis is a higher rank. Robert’s title was one which belonged to all members of his family (he was A Count but not THE Count), while there could only be one Marquis de Montesquiou-Fézensac at any one time. To call Count Robert a Marquis is like calling Kamala Harris the next US President (at the moment!). Count Robert would never have insulted the real Marquis by assuming his title, because there was an actual Marquis de Montesquiou-Fézensac alive at the time, and I doubt the official report would have got it wrong.

The Marquis de Montesquiou-Fézensac was from a senior bloodline of the family. The family tree below shows you how Count Robert de Montesquiou-Fézensac was related to the Marquis, the man I am convinced is the person listed in the official Olympic report.

The person I believe to be the Marquis de Montesquiou-Fézensac recorded in the official report is Eugène Marie Gérard, 5th Marquis de Montesquiou-Fézensac, who usually went by the name of Joseph. He still has descendants living today, his grandchildren, and it is possible they have a family archive which proves my theory. Perhaps even the Marquis’s bronze medal is still in the family.

Another reason why I don’t think Count Robert competed in the Olympics is the fact that he is known to have had no interested in horses. He didn’t even take part in the regular family hunts. Why would a man who wasn’t interested in horses enter an Olympic equestrian event?

One final reason to support my theory is that the 1965 biography “Robert de Montesquiou-Fézensac: A Prince of the Nineties” by Phillippe Jullian there is no mention of any Olympics Games. Surely, winning an Olympic bronze medal is significant enough to include in a biography.

And so those are two people who are not on my lgbt Olympian list. Which brings me onto the lists of verified lgbt athletes at the Olympics Games. The lists are below, one list for the summer Olympians and another for the winter Olympians.

Summer Olympians

Winter Olympians

All that remains is for me to wish you a Happy New Year.

Sunday, 20 December 2020

Advent 4: Scrooge

One of the constant elements of a 21st century Christmas is the classic ghost story “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. Ever since it was first published in 1843 it has become a feature of the British Christmas.

Many adaptations have been produced over the years, though the original version remains at the top of the list. Even in the 21st century public readings of the original story are popular, and no more so than those performed in the UK by the gay actor Simon Callow (b.1949). Because of the popularity of his readings of “A Christmas Carol” Simon even got to play Dickens in two episodes of “Doctor Who”. The first was in the 2005 episode “The Unquiet Dead” which, even though being set on Christmas Eve 1869, was actually broadcast in April. I often watch it again with all the other Doctor Who Christmas Specials. Simon’s second Doctor Who appearance was a cameo part in the episode “The Wedding of River Song” (2011).

Film versions of “A Christmas Carol” are many and varied. They range from the 1938 version with Reginald Owen as Scrooge to the contemporary setting of “Scrooged” starring Bill Murray (my favourite modern retelling of the story). Many more contemporary version abound, usually appallingly bad and made by the Hallmark channel. One of the best and most often screened version is the more traditional “Scrooge” (called “A Christmas Carol” in the US) made in 1951 with the wonderful Alistair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge.

The film was directed by Brian Desmond Hurst (1895-1986), an openly gay Irishman who is virtually forgotten today but who directed several other popular British films like “Dangerous Moonlight” and “Tom Brown’s Schooldays”.

Brian’s background reads like a typical Charles Dickens novel. He was born into Victorian poverty and baptised Hans Moore Hawthorn Hurst. He was the seventh child of a poor metalworker in the Belfast shipyards. Brian’s mother died in childbirth three years later and his father remarried. Brian’s new stepmother had a daughter from a previous marriage and she made no attempt to show favour to her daughter and the subsequent three children she had with Brian’s father.

Brian’s father was often unemployed and moved around the shipyards of Northern Ireland to find work. The strain of supporting his large family led to bouts of alcoholism. One of the last jobs Brian’s father was involved with was the construction of the Titanic.

Brian joined the 10th (Irish) Division of the 6th Royal Irish Rifles during World War I. During that war he changed his first name from Hans to Brian to sound less German and more Irish. Brian’s first major posting was to Gallipoli, where half of his battalion were killed in the battle.

After the war Brian lived in Canada, partly to escape the “Irish Troubles”, as the militant independence campaigns were called. In Toronto he studied journalism. There he dropped his middle names, Moore Hawthorn, in favour of Desmond, another traditional Irish name.

So, as Brian Desmond Hurst he went to the US and managed to work as a scenery designer for the great Hollywood film director John Ford (himself of Irish parentage). Through Ford Brian gained experience in the cinematic processes and the two remained life-long friends.

Back in the UK Brian began making short films. He tried to get backing to found an Irish film industry but was unsuccessful. During World War II Brian was recruited by the British government to make short propaganda films. One of several feature-length films he made during this period was “Dangerous Moonlight” (1941), one of the most popular British films of that period. Brian’s own favourite war-time film was “This is the Glory” (1946), a documentary-style reconstruction of the Battle of Arnhem. It was the highest grossing war film until the mid-1950s.

By now Brian was a highly sought after director and he continued to produce popular films, and in 1951 he directed “Scrooge”. This was just one of a series of film adaptations of Dickens’ novels that were being made by various British studios and directors.

Brian Hurst’s “Scrooge” wasn’t an exact adaptation of the story. Scrooge’s life story was expanded, and there is a feel of film noir about it. Perhaps the great success of the film, and the only thing that most British people remember, is the portrayal of Scrooge by one of the UK’s best loved character actors, Alistair Sim.

The success of “Scrooge” has overshadowed Brian Hurst’s other work, though I don’t think he had any problem with that. In the 1950s and 60s the British film industry was turning away from the type of film Brian made and he gradually turned somewhat reclusive. Towards the end of his life he enjoyed a resurgence of interest in himself and is films. The British Film Institute celebrated his 80th birthday in 1975 and several plaques were erected in his name in both England and Ireland. A sort-of biography was published after his death called “The Empress of Ireland”. He is gradually making his way back to the top tier of the best British and Irish film directors of all time.

Brian Hurst’s “Scrooge” is being broadcast on British television several times on different channels this Christmas, even several times on the same channel. If you see it advertised where you live have a look at it, if you haven’t seen it before.

All that’s left for me to say is Merry Christmas, but before I go I’ll let you know that my next article on New Year’s Eve will feature, at last, my list of lgbt Olympians, which now stands at 427 names.

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Mayflower 400: Queer Bloodline Revelations

One of three stained-glass windows depicting the Mayflower. The windows were created 100 years ago this year and can be seen at the Pilgrim Museum Plymouth, Massachusetts.

In this 400th anniversary year of the sailing of the Mayflower I wanted to celebrate members of the lgbt community who are descended from the Mayflower Pilgrims and passengers. I had the idea 18 months ago and began researching the ancestries of hundreds of lgbt people for find their Mayflower ancestors. I had already researched quite a few and I’ve featured several of them in my “Out of Their Trees” series.

As research progressed more and more names became added to the list. In the end I had to sift through them all and select just 60 people to research in more detail, verifying each bloodline with as many primary and authoritative sources as was available.

The task was enormous, I realised that from the start, and with hindsight I wish I’d begun earlier. I had hoped to produce my research in June for the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower setting off on its voyage, but the research wasn’t quite complete. Then I hoped to produce it in September for the anniversary of the ship’s arrival in New England, but I hadn’t finished compiling the charts and writing its accompanying text. So, I decided I needed to get it all finished by today, the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower dropping anchor in Plymouth Harbor.

Even though the Mayflower had arrived in September it took until December before the Pilgrims found a suitable place to drop anchor and found their settlement. Incidentally, contemporary accounts of this (by two Pilgrims) make no mention of Plymouth Rock.

So, after 18 months of research my Mayflower 400 project is as complete as it’s likely to be before the anniversary passes by. It contains many family trees that are appearing in print and available online for the very first time.

Here is the link to the finished research, “Mayflower 400: Queer Bloodline Revelations”.

I hope that the lay-out of the family trees are easy to follow. Many of the people included have multiple descents from several Mayflower Passengers, Pilgrims and Separatists. These descents have had to be split between several charts. This will be confusing, but I hope with a little concentration you will figure it out!

Of the 60 lgbt Mayflower and Pilgrim descendants included in the document some are famous and some are less well-known. They range from entertainers to artists, murderers to murder victims, and politicians to activists. There’s even a stamp collector in there. The majority of the individuals are, not surprisingly, American though there are several Canadians as well. One regrettable omission is the absence of any “t+” people from the lgbt+ spectrum. I would have liked the document to be more representative of the whole community, but I’ve been unable to verify any Mayflower ancestors in the ancestries of any I researched. No doubt there is some, but they are difficult to find at present.

One word of advice for anyone researching their own, or someone else’s, family tree; don’t assume that ancestries you find on public websites such as Ancestry, Find My past, etc. are accurate. Many of them copy each other, and one false identification of an ancestor can spread. I may have mentioned before that many family trees online, including on Ancestry and Find My past, have one of my ancestors fighting in the American Civil War, which I know is impossible – he was living in Nottinghamshire, England, all through the war. A couple of years ago the media made a sensation about a young girl who claimed to have proved that all the US Presidents were descended from King John of England. The girl had not researched the ancestries herself but copied them all from A simple background search by the media would have revealed that most of the research the girl had used had long been disproved.

Having said that, rest assured that I have researched the ancestries in the document thoroughly. Research is never-ending. New Mayflower bloodlines will be discovered, and some disproved. More lgbt people will be revealed as Mayflower and Pilgrim descendants. As I said earlier, there may be some transgender mayflower descendants.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this celebratory document.

Sunday, 13 December 2020

Advent 3: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

One of the illustrations by Oscar Senonez from “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” in “A Visit from St. Nicholas and other Merry Tales”, 2019 (originally published in “Storytime”, February 2015).

One of my favourite Christmas stories is “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”, a poem written in the 14th century. Obviously, being that old means it wasn’t written in modern English. It was written in Middle English. Thankfully, I studied Middle English for two years during my “A” Level English course at college and fell in love with it. The course involved reading and studying Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” in its original language. Since then, any piece of Middle English has appealed to me and “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” was a poem I was desperate to read in its original language.

In 1999 I bought a paperback edition of “Sir Gawain” in Middle English and over ten years I read it every Christmas. I haven’t read it for a number of years because I couldn’t find the time, but this year there’s plenty of time to read it again because I’m on furlough from work.

As I mentioned last Sunday “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” is an early surviving example of the tradition of setting a supernatural or ghost story at Christmas. With the growth of queer theory that developed in the 1960s “Sir Gawain” has become subjected to analysis. This has been especially so since the 1990s.

More often than not I’ve read an academic paper on the queer interpretation of the poem and laughed out loud at its contrived and over-analysed pomposity. The majority of the authors are not medieval scholars. I don’t have any academic qualifications or letters after my name but, as I’ve already said, I did study the Middle English language literature for those two years in college. After that I spent eight years studying medieval culture when I was a historical re-enactor and tour guide at Gainsborough Old Hall. Then I studied medieval literature in detail for six years during my research into Sir John Clanvowe, the gay poet who may have written the most famous ballad about Robin Hood. I think I have sufficient knowledge in medieval history and culture to criticise those queer theorists with some authority.

Having given my personal opinion, why do I disagree with the queer theories of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”? Let’s look at the section of the poem which all the queer theorists concentrate on. It’s a section in the second half when Sir Gawain has reached the castle of Sir Bertilak.

Sir Bertilak goes out hunting on three successive days. Each morning he declares to Sir Gawain that whatever animal he kills on the hunt he will give to him in exchange for anything his wife gives Sir Gawain in his absence. This sounds like a strange request to our modern ears, but in medieval literature this sort of pact is common. Medieval poems are full of these temptation challenges.

On the first day when Sir Bertilak is out hunting his wife slips into Sir Gawain’s room and tries to seduce him. All Gawain allows her to do is give him a kiss on his cheek. When Bertilak returns he gives Gawain the deer he has hunted down and Gawain gives him a kiss on the cheek. Bertilak is not alarmed by this.

The same thing happens on the next two days. Gawain receives two kisses on the second day and three on the third, and he gives them to Bertilak in exchange for a boar and a fox. However, as well as the kiss on day three Bertilak’s wife gives Gawain a green sash which she says will act as a talisman against the Green Knight he is to face in the coming days. Gawain doesn’t tell Sir Bertilak about this gift.

I won’t spoil the ending of the story as you may want to read it yourself – there’s lots of modern translations around. In fact I was surprised to see the story contained in a children’s book called “A Visit from St. Nicholas and other Merry Tales”, retold by Maxine Berry, on sale in the Pond Shop (Dollar Store) earlier this month (yes, I bought a copy, I couldn’t resist!).

What queer theorists always suggest is that there’s a latent homosexual, or at least a homosocial, motive behind it. This shows an obvious lack of research and understanding of medieval attitudes towards intimacy and knightly expectation. Like a lot of people today, they aren’t capable of separating a kiss from sex.

Kissing was, and still is (social distancing permitting) a common feature in Christian worship. Medieval chivalry was based upon it and knights would kiss their sovereign, on either the cheek or the hand, when they received their knighthood. The kiss of Christian love is also still common in some churches. Queer theorists fall into the 19th century trap of thinking that a kiss can only be sexual, they have no understanding of the social history of kissing.

Queer theorists also comment on long descriptions which the poem gives to the physical attributes of both Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Again, they suggest that there is some form of sexual or homosocial reason for this. These descriptions only serve emphasise their ability to be a perfect knight. Being a knight was not for wimps and the lazy. Gawain was a young man, and the poem is telling its readers that he is as strong and as able as any experienced knight to carry out his quest. Similarly, the physical description of the Green Knight only serves to indicate this power and strength, not as an appeal to the medieval reader’s sexual desire. I wonder what those queer theorists would think about sports commentators remarking on the physique and prowess of athletes. Are those commentators disguising a homosexual meaning?

Calling upon my extensive knowledge of the medieval period, its poetry, its culture, its chivalric ideals and Christian attitudes I find nothing in any queer theory of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” that is valid or based on fact.

But I’ll leave you to make your own decision. “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” is a marvellous adventure story. I never tire of reading it and I recommend you buy a copy and read it yourself, there’s plenty of modern translations out there. Perhaps, like the Amelia Edwards Christmas ghost stories I wrote about last week, Sir Gawain will become popular again and rival “A Christmas Carol”. Speaking of which, “A Christmas Carol” is the final piece of literature I’ll write about next Sunday, the last Sunday in Advent.