Previously : 26) Irena Klefisz (b.1941) is a leader in the study of Yiddish heritage which, in the form of film, was pioneered by 27) Eve Sicular (b.1961) who was inspired by “The Celluloid Closet”, a book which listed the world’s first pro-gay film as “Different From the Others”, which featured 28) Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1925).
Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld not
only appeared in the 1919 silent film “Different From the Others” (“Anders als
die Andern”) but he co-wrote it and was also heavily involved in its
production. The film was part-funded by the organisation which Hirschfeld
co-founded, Wissenschaftlich-humanitäres Komitee, the WhK or
Last year I wrote about
the four founding fathers of the WhK, so I won’t go over its creation again
today. Following World War I the new Weimar Republic in Germany led to more
liberal attitudes across a range of social issues. This allowed Hirschfeld to
expand his work in the education of sexual matters and homosexuality through
film which would spread his message outside the scientific world and into the
general public sphere.
“Different From the
Others” was a success following its release in May 1919. However, because of
the social message of gay rights it became subjected to criticism and calls for
it to be banned. The year after its release the authorities restricted
screenings of the film to the medical profession and researchers. Eventually it
was banned totally and all known copies were destroyed. One copy and several
clips survived, and these have been shown at film festivals in recent years.
The legacy of Magnus
Hirschfeld can never be overestimated. Many gay rights groups have looked to
Hirschfeld as their champion. Several organisations have named awards and
projects after him. One of them, the Hirschfeld-Eddy Foundation, was formed in
2007 by the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany. The Foundation’s aim is to
provide support for lgbt activists around the world and foster respect for the
rights of the lgbt community.
The Foundation is also
named in honour of a more recent lgbt activist, 29) FannyAnn Eddy (1974-2004) of Sierra Leone. FannyAnn was
the founder of her nation’s first lgbt organisation, the Sierra Leone Lesbian
and Gay Association. She became her nation’s leading lgbt activist.
Sierra Leone has never
criminalised lesbian activity as it was never specifically included in the
Victorian British laws on sexuality which were retained on independence. This
doesn’t mean that lesbians in some former colonial states accept lesbian
activity as normal. There are many stories that come out of Africa from time to
time about lesbians who are raped to “cure” them of their sexuality, what has
been called “corrective rape”.
FannyAnn Eddy may have
been a victim of corrective rape herself. On 29th September 2004 men broke into
the offices of the Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Association while FannyAnn was
at work. Initial crime reports stated that she was gang-raped, stabbed and strangled.
Later reports from human rights agencies said that the police didn’t find any
evidence of sexual violence and were not treating it as an lgbt hate crime.
There is no protection from discrimination in the country, in fact the Sierra
Leone Human Rights Commission states clearly that it doesn’t have a mandate to
support lgbt rights.
Whatever the facts are
behind the tragic murder FannyAnn’s death gave impetus to lgbt groups in Africa
to campaign against homophobia. It was for her activism that FannyAnn was
honoured alongside 28) Dr. Magnus
Hirschfeld in the naming of the Hirschfeld-Eddy Stiftung, or
The founding council
members of the Foundation in 2007 included representatives from all continents
and of diverse sexualities and gender identities. Among the founders was 30) Joey Joleen Mataele, a board
member of the International Lesbian and Gay Association. She was also
co-founder and is current Executive Director of the Tonga Leitis Association.
Tonga is one of the
Pacific nations which have a distinct gender heritage. Different island
communities have different names for a related group of identities which the
West often interprets as transgender. Joey Joleen Mataele is a leiti, someone
who is born physically male but lives as a woman. They don’t consider
themselves as gay because they don’t identify as male.
The leiti of Tonga enjoy
more a higher degree acceptance than transgender people in places like Sydney,
Australia. The Tonga Leitis Association has royal patronage, and Joey was
invited to the coronation of King Tupou IV in 2015. She is also a Member of the Order of Queen
Salote Tupou III. More recently Joey attended the Commonwealth summit in London
earlier this month.
The Tonga Leitis
Association was formed in 1992 in response to the AIDS crisis. A leiti was the
first recorded HIV patient in Tonga. Funding was scare at first so fund-raising
ideas were formed. One of these was the Miss Galaxy pageant, created by Joey
Joleen Maetele, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this July.
The Miss Galaxy pageant is
very much based on the western beauty pageants. Entrants, however, must be
leiti or a member of one of the other Pacific gender identities. From its
beginnings as a fund-raiser in 1993 the pageant has become a popular annual
event in Tonga.
There are several other
pageants in the Pacific and South East Asian regions for members of the
traditional eastern gender communities. The West has fewer of these because of
the massive influence of the long-established female “bathing beauty” pageants.
The lgbt community has developed a whole gamut of pageants for diverse
communities, and even though there are hundreds of them which attract thousands
of contestants each year there are relatively few lgbt contestants in
traditional beauty pageants.
As far as I can determine
the contestant of a national beauty pageant who was the first to come out as
lgbt is 31) Julia Lemigova (b.1972),
a former Miss USSR.
Next time :
From the Galaxy of Beauty we visit the Island of Beauty before entering it’s
parliament while trying, unsuccessfully, to avoid Donald Trump on the way.