LAST TIME : 39) Emperor Mikhael III of Byzantium (840-867) adopted his lover 40) Emperor Basileios I (d.886) as his son and successor even though he wasn’t of imperial birth, or “porphyrogenitos”, “born in the purple”, a term derived from the imperial robes dyed in a colour only obtained from the shells of sea snails on the island of Kythira, one of the main centres for the veneration of 41) Eros.
I don’t believe in
coincidence, so its remarkable that today’s article, scheduled for this date
last December, is so topical on so many levels. Fortunately I review my
articles a day or two before publication so I can do any appropriate rewrites.
Eros is one of those
gods whose role and image has changed over the centuries. His modern depiction
is often the same as that of his later Roman counterpart Cupid, and our image
of the Valentine Cupid as a chubby babe with bow and arrow (a health and safety
hazard if ever there was one!) comes from Renaissance art.
I need not remind regular
readers that the Greek Eros was not a cute Valentine Cupid but a muscular young
man who presided over gyms and gay sex. His importance to the Greek soldiers
training in the gyms, indulging in the customary practice of having a younger
same-sex partner, was an accepted part of their culture.
Because Eros and Aphrodite
had major shrines on the island of Kythira the Greeks began to imagine the
island as one of peace, love and tranquility, an earthly paradise. This idea
spread across Europe during the Renaissance. In fact, the reputation of Kythira
as a paradise island was uppermost in the mind of the French explorer
Louis-Antoine de Bourganville when he landed on a Pacific island in 1768 and
found it so perfect that he named it Nouvelle-Cythère, or New Kythira. Our idea
of a Polynesian paradise comes from Bourganville’s account of his visit. Today
we know the island as Tahiti.
Twenty years after
Bourganville’s visit another group of Europeans arrived. Their ship was called
“The Bounty”, and I probably don’t need to say what happened to them. The
details aren’t that important to us today, but some of the mutineers are, and
what they did are directly linked to events of recent months.
The Bounty mutineers
settled on several Pacific Islands, though most of them remained on Tahiti.
Many of their descendants still live there, including descendants of Fletcher
Christian, the leader of the mutiny (one of his descendants is currently
involved in promoting the lgbt heritage housed in the Victoria and Albert
In 1790 some Mutineer
descendants settled on what is regarded as the world’s smallest nation (as
opposed to sovereign state), the Pitcairn Islands. A month ago the governing
council announced that they had legalised same-sex marriage. What is remarkable
is that the Pitcairn Islands have a total population of only 48 – and not one
of them is lgbt.
In 1856 the Pitcairn
Islands was granted control over a former British penal colony in the Pacific
called Norfolk Island. This, too, now has a huge percentage of Bounty mutineer
descendants in its 1,800 inhabitants, including another descendant of Fletcher
Christian called 42) Cam Christian.
Although he was born and
raised on Norfolk Island, Cam Christian lives in Brisbane, the nearest main
city on the Australia mainland (nearest! – its 900 miles away). Norfolk Island
was a self-governing overseas territory of Australia with its own elected
9-person parliament. Last year the Australian government decided it would
remove its self-governing status in the face of its increasing burden on the
Australian economy. Naturally, the Norfolk Islanders are staunchly independent
in spirit and opposed this. It wasn’t long before the media was referring to
this defiance as another mutiny.
This is when 42) Cam Christian stepped into the
limelight. Australia bans same-sex marriage. As a self-governing territory
Norfolk Island was not covered by this. In an attempt to highlight the
discrepancy Cam decided he was going to marry his partner Paul Gilmore on
Norfolk Island before it became banned when Australia resumed control. A
private members bill went before the Norfolk parliament in September 2014.
Unfortunately, in March
this year the Australian government passed their bill abolishing Norfolk
Island’s parliament and Cam Christian’s dream of marrying Paul on his native
island was dashed.
Cam Christian isn’t the
first lgbt person to take action against Australia’s same-sex marriage ban. One
person actually declared independence and created the world’s first lgbt
micro-nation. His name is 43) Dale
Parker Anderson (b.1965), and
he’s another Bounty mutineer descendant.
It was the Marriage
Amendment Act 2004 that led Dale and a group of supporters to sail to the Coral
Sea Islands off the north east coast of Australia and declare an independent
kingdom on 14th June 2004. The Rainbow Pride flag became its
national flag. However, no international recognition from other governments was
received, but it brought a lot of publicity to the campaign for same-sex
The Coral Sea Islands are
in Dale’s genes, because his Bounty ancestor, William Purcell, was the last
surviving mutineer, stopped off at the islands in 1789. And Dale has another,
more specific connection to him. William Purcell had twin sons, and Dale is the
4xgreat-grandson of one of them and is also a twin. He’s an identical twin, in
fact, and his brother is straight.
Research into twins where
one is gay and the other straight has been going on for many years. A new study
began last month at the University of Essex. But it would be wrong to assume
that gay-straight twins were not known about before our modern society and our
modern concept of homosexuality. Gay-straight twins were known about in the 19th
century, and one gay twin with a straight brother belonged to a very well-known
family. His name was 44) Modest
Next time we learn how the
opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics was a very gay family affair.