Thursday, 30 July 2015

Around the World in 80 Gays : Part 15 - A Family

LAST TIME : 41) Eros’s shrine on the island of Kythira led to it being thought of as paradise, a concept transferred to the island of New Kythira, or Tahiti. The mutineers of HMS Bounty settled on Tahiti and surrounding islands where their descendants still live, including 42) Cam Christian, who hoped to marry his boyfriend on Norfolk Island until the Australian government removed its self-governing status. An earlier campaign against Australia’s ban on same-sex marriage was led by another Bounty mutineer descendant, 43) Dale Parker Anderson (b.1965), a gay man with a straight twin brother, as was 44) Modest Tchaikovsky (1850-1916).
Once again, recent events link in with today’s article which, like all of these “80 Gays” articles, was planned out last December. I finished last time on the subject of gay/straight twins. Two weeks ago UK television aired a documentary on identical twins, and it featured one set of twin sisters, one of whom is transgender. The University of Essex began a new study of identical twins in May and is encouraging gay/straight twins to take part. And last week Lachlan Beaton, a professional Australian rules footballer came out as gay – he too has a straight identical twin. So the timing couldn’t have been better if it was planned.

44) Modest Tchaikovsky was the twin brother of Anatoly Tchaikovsky. They were ten years younger than their famous composer brother 45) Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840-1893). Their mother died when Modest was 4 years old and the children were brought up by their father. Pyotr became a kind of surrogate parent to his younger siblings and a very close bond formed between him and the twins.

Modest came to idolise Pyotr and imitate him in his own behaviour, something Pyotr was aware of and questioned. Perhaps because of this Pyotr favoured the other twin, Anatoly. In 1875 Pyotr wrote to Modest saying “You resemble me too much, and when I am angry with you, I am in fact angry at myself, since you always act as a mirror in which I see the reflection of all my weaknesses.” This didn’t change much, because when the two brothers were older and had been collaborating on many musical projects together their acquaintances thought it was Pyotr and Modest who were the twins in the family.

The similarities between the famous composer and his brother had become more apparent ten years earlier when, still only a teenager, Modest learnt from Anatoly that their older brother was gay (as we would say today). Modest was relieved. Like all young men realising that their sexuality was different to others he thought he must be some sort of freak. Anatoly was horrified that two of his brothers were gay, especially as he was particularly close to both of them and one was his twin.

44) Modest Tchikovsky and 45) Pyotr Tchaikovsky can be linked by marriage to other famous musical members of Russia’s lgbt community. It will probably help if I insert this very basic family tree here. To make it less confusing I’ve left out dates and other family members. People I mention by name below have coloured boxes around them so they are easier to find.

We’ll start with the Tchaikovsky family and a first cousin of Modest and Tchaikovsky on their father’s side called Alexandra. Her son married the younger of two sisters, the elder of which became the second wife of Pavel Diaghilev, thus becoming stepmother to the impresario 46) Sergei Diaghilev (1872-1929). The Diaghilevs often referred to 45) Pyotr Tchaikovsky as Uncle Petya. This was an affectionate and informal name, as the relationship was more distant than that and was by marriage not blood.

Another link to the Diaghilevs comes through another first cousin, this time on Modest and Pyotr’s mother’s side. Their cousin Amalya Schobert married Count Nikolas Litke (also known by the German name of Count Nicolas von Lütke). Hopping across to the Litkes we find one of Nikolas’s own first cousins called Anna Sulmeneva. She was 46) Sergei Diaghilev’s grandmother.

Further back in Diaghilev’s Litke ancestry was Anna Engel. Her sister was the great-great-grandmother of 47) Igor Stravinksy (1882-1971), making him a 4th cousin to Sergei Diaghilev.

One blood-link unites 44) Modest Tchaikovsky, 45) Pyotr Tchaikovsky, 46) Sergei Diaghilev and 47) Igor Stravinsky. We go to Pyotr’s beathbed. A small group of close relatives and friends kept vigil at his bedside, including his brother Modest and the sons of their cousin Amalya and Count Nikolas Litke. These sons link the Tchaikovskys, Diaghilevs and Stravinskys – they were blood related to all of them.

We move over a century ahead now to 2014. When Russia began introducing its anti-gay laws you would often hear some politicians say “there are no gay people in Russia”. The mayor of Moscow certainly thought there weren’t any in HIS city! Some wouldn’t even acknowledge that famous Russians from history, like those mentioned above, were lgbt. So I was very pleased when the Sochi Olympic committee made many references to lgbt Russians in their opening and closing ceremonies, including ALL of those mentioned above.

Unfortunately, the 2014 Sochi Olympics attracted much political and human rights attention and many people called for a boycott. Whatever your own views on boycotts, they are short-term protests that raise awareness of an issue without actually effecting it.

Protests against Russia’s anti-gay laws continue. Some decide to boycott Russian products. Some chose to confront the authorities head on – and raise money for lgbt charities in the process. One man who did just that was 48) Keith Tomlinson (b.1985).

Next time, we see how that protest went to the top of Europe, leading us to the top of the world, and then into outer space.

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