Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Around the World in Another 80 Gays : Part 10) No Molly-coddling

Previously: 14) Gayle Rubin (b.1949) co-founded the International Ms Leather contest whose first winner was 15) Judy Tallwing McCarthy (b.1945), the partner of 16) Sashie Hyatt (d.1989), whose presence at the Stonewall Riots was commemorated in a comic book written by 17) Andy Mangels (b.1966).

Novelist, science fiction author, comic book writer, fantasy/superhero historian and founder of the Broadway Bears singing group, 17) Andy Mangels has become a prominent figure in the world of fantasy in popular culture. He has compiled guides and encyclopaedias on “Star Wars” and “The X-Files” and written tv tie-in novels for “Star Trek”. It is this last aspect of his work which brings us to 16) Sashie Hyatt and the 1969 Stonewall Riots.

The television series “Quantum Leap” centres round the time and space-hopping character Sam correcting historical “wrong turns”. In a 1990 episode called "Good Night Dear Heart" Sam was solved a murder and revealed the killer. The American lgbt community were highly offended, for reasons which have not been fully explained, when the murderer was revealed to be a lesbian. I can just about remember this episode from Its UK broadcast and don’t recall anything that could be offensive (certainly no more offensive than the stereotypes in “Will and Grace”).

Several years later Andy Mangels thought that a way to follow Sam’s example and right a wrong (as perceived in the US) by writing a sequel to “Good Night Dear Heart” in the “Quantum Leap” comic book series. The magazine editors agreed to include an editorial by Andy explaining the reason for the sequel.
Sashie Hyatt (centre) as she is represented
in "Up Against a Stonewall".
The story was called “Up Against a Stonewall” and was featured in issue 9 of the “Quantum Leap” comic book in February 1993. The title gave a hint to the historic event into which Sam had leapt. The story was based in the days leading up to the Stonewall Riots. Andy Mangels was a friend of Sashie Hyatt, who had been at the Riots. Sashie died of cancer in 1989 and Andy dedicated his sequel to her. He also included her in the storyline.

When “Up Against a Stonewall” was published Andy Mangels was editor of an independent US comic book anthology called “Gay Comix”. This was a series of comic books written and illustrated by a member of the lgbt community. If had begun publication in 1980 and from issue 14 in December 1991 Andy Mangels was its editor.

One artist who contribute to several issues of “Gay Comix” during Andy Mangels’ editorship was 18) Jon Macy. He has continued to use lgbt and erotic themes in his work which includes “Teleny and Camille”, a graphic novel adaptation of one of the first gay pornographic novels.

“Teleny and Camille” is based on a novel called “Teleny, or The Reverse of the Medal” which was published in 1893. No-one knows who wrote it but Oscar Wilde’s name has often been attributed. This is partly because the published of the novel, Leonard Smithers, knew Oscar Wilde. Smithers was a publisher of various erotic and pornographic Victorian novels, including the one which is said to be the world’s first English-language pornographic gay novel, “The Sins of the Cities of the Plain”.

Like “Teleny, or The Reverse of the Medal”, the author of “The Sins of the Cities of the Plain” is unknown. It has been suggested that it was a novelised memoir by an Irishman called 19) John Saul (1857-1904).

John Saul, also known as Dublin Jack, was a male prostitute who was involved in two famous sex scandals. First was the Dublin Castle scandal, a precursor to the scandal that surrounded the theft of the Irish Crown Jewels. The second scandal was the more well-known Cleveland Street Scandal in which Queen Victoria’s own grandson the Duke of Clarence was implicated.

The full title of “The Sins of the Cities of the Plain”, if it wasn’t long enough already, was “The Sins of the Cities of the Plain, or Recollections of a Mary-Ann with Short Essays on Sodomy and Tribadism”. With a title like that there’s be no room for the author’s name on the spine even if it was known!

The term “Mary-Ann” in the full title is a slang term for an effeminate man, often a male prostitute who dressed as a woman to procure clients. John “Dublin Jack” Saul called himself a “professional Mary-Ann” at the Cleveland Street trials in 1887.

Earlier variants of “Mary-Ann” were “molly” or “moll”, and in England in the 18th and 19th centuries there were several known “Molly Houses”. These were places, usually taverns and coffee houses where men could meet for homosexual activity or to socialise.

The word “molly” survives in England in the term “molly-coddling” which is used to describe a kind of behaviour that suggests a person are being unnecessarily being over-protected. The implication is that the person being molly-coddled is weak and feeble. In earlier times is specifically meant being treated like an effeminate man.
An 18th century representation of a
Molly (left) and his client.
For centuries the term “molly” was used as a derogatory name for effeminate men. In its shorter form of “moll” it was also used in America for female prostitutes before being more famously used to refer to the girlfriends and sexual partners of gangsters.

In the early 20th century the growth of women’s sport gave rise to a new application of the word “moll”. Men generally considered sport to be a manly pursuit and not something that women should take part in. As more women took up sports men began to describe them as “muscle molls”. Male critics wrote derogatory articles in the press about these women with too many muscles, as they thought, and who were looking unmanly. Interestingly, the term “muscle mary”, applied to a male bodybuilder who devotes a lot of time on his appearance, derives from the derogatory “Mary-Ann”.

The more successful a female athlete became the more sexist the remarks against her femininity. The “Muscle moll” athlete who was to receive quite a lot of criticism was the same athlete who would later be voted as the best American female athlete of the 20th century. She was Olympian 20) Babe Didrikson Zaharias (1911-1956).

Next time : Questions of Gender – in a couple of weeks we run from the Olympics to a cemetery in Roman London.

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