Saturday, 21 February 2015

The Seven Deadly Gay Sins : Seeing Red With Anger

The most popular of my tours of lgbt Nottingham is entitled “The 7 Deadly Gay Sins”. The Medieval world assigned colours to each of the traditional Deadly Sins. Six of these correspond to colours on the Rainbow Pride flag. My tour deals with each sin, one at a time, and I build up the Pride flag as I take my guests around the city and tell them about the sinful gay/lgbt history of Nottingham.

This short series of articles will deal with each sin in the same manner and I’ll look at the way they can be illustrated with lgbt heritage and build up our sinful Pride flag. The best place to start is at the top stripe as we take a look at ANGER and the colour RED with which it is inextricably linked.

Over the centuries the Christian church has included wrath, rage and fury. Impatience, revenge and vigilantism have also been classed as Anger. Indeed, patience is the corresponding opposite of Anger in the Catholic Church’s list of Seven Heavenly Virtues (to be covered next year).

One word which is included less often, however, is hate. It could be said that hate is the route cause of all the emotions under the Anger label. Recent decades have seen governments recognise hate as a crime in itself, specifically if it is directed against minority groups or opposing viewpoints.

Surprisingly, one word has never been (officially) listed under Anger, and that word is “violence”. This is very strange because the Medieval church said that the punishment the sinful angry would receive in Hell was to be torn apart alive violently.

Be that as it may, as far as the lgbt community is concerned it can be said without question that it has been a victim of Anger more than having been a perpetrator. The Medieval church said that the sin of anger can even be directed against yourself. This is why, until the middle of the last century, suicide was considered a crime, and the world still sees with sadness the high levels of lgbt suicides due to bullying or self-doubt.

There are many instances where the Anger of lgbt men and women has led to sinful deeds. Let’s look at a couple of them.

Close to home, quite literally, was the murder of Grenville Carter, a gay man who loved a few doors away from my old home in Nottingham in 1999. I wrote about this murder several years ago, but it’s appropriate to go over it again briefly to see how it fits our Deadly Gay Sins theme.

Grenville Carter was a lonely man who often walked through the cemetery behind our homes, offering rough sleepers the shelter of his home. One rough sleeper was Simon Charles, who had already served a prison sentence for attempted murder. Grenville Carter knew none of this, of course. During the month Charles lived with Grenville he became annoyed at his host’s habits, and his patience ran out and turned to rage and he murdered Grenville with an electric flex. Impatience and rage had turned to the Deadly Gay Sin of Anger.

When it comes to other lgbt murderers the name of several serial killers spring to mind (Denis Nielsen, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy). However, their killing sprees were motivated more by other sins (greed or lust, for example) rather than out of anger.

The lesbian murderer I’ve chosen to illustrate the Anger of impatience led to the death of an unfortunate neighbour.

The body of old Mrs. Chadwick was found in a Manchester street in 1948. Police first thought it was a hit-and-run attack, but a trail of blood led straight to the door of her neighbour Margaret Allen. Even though the victim was well-known as a cantankerous old miser, Margaret Allen’s reputation was worse. Margaret behaved like a man throughout her adulthood. She took on masculine jobs such as loading coal and building, and acted aggressively, and sometimes violently, to people she had little patience for. Unfortunately, this lost her a job as a bus conductor after passengers kept complaining about her pushing, hitting and swearing at them it they didn’t take their seat quickly enough.

After her mother’s death Margaret slipped into a series of mental health problems which could have been treated compassionately today. Bouts of depression and several suicide attempts drove Margaret to drink and smoke heavily. By 1948 she was calling herself “Bill” and claimed to have had some form of transgender operation.

On 28th August 1948 old Mrs. Chadwick called at Margaret Allen’s home for a cup of sugar. She had enough money to buy some but often begged off her neighbours. Margaret refused to let her into her home and lost her patience. Grabbing a coal hammer she smashed poor Mrs. Chadwick’s skull several times and pushed her out of the door into the street.

When arrested a couple of days later all Margaret said was “I was in a funny mood”. Funny or not, her characteristic impatience and quick temper led to murder. Her trial lasted only 5 hours, and the jury took less time than it took me to type this article to find her guilty. She was hanged in January 1949 after a failed attempt by her only friend, Mrs. Cole, who had once spurned Margaret’s amorous advances, compiled a petition. Only 162 people signed it.

So, we can start to build up our Deadly Rainbow Sins flag with our first Deadly Gay Sin.

We sin again in April when we look at the sin associated with the next colour on the Pride flag, orange. The colour gives a clue to which sin we encounter, and we will see if it feeds our soul or our sinful appetites!

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