Thursday, 31 December 2020

Olympic 400+

Following on from my Mayflower 400 article two weeks ago I thought I’d bring you my Olympic 427. On 20th November I wrote that I had identified and listed my 400th lgbt Olympian (Anna Kjellbin, Swedish ice hockey player at the 2012 Olympic Youth Winter games in Innsbruck).

Shortly after I had added her to the list I came across a blog which gave many more names of lgbt Olympians, though there were no verifying sources. As with any other list that I find, whether it’s on social media or forum, I make sure I can find at least one online source that gives a definite indication of sexuality or gender identity. Quite often photos of an athlete’s wedding ceremony on social media is all I need. There are still about a hundred athletes I am still researching. There are also several Olympians who have been claimed as being lgbt but I have my doubts over the sources I have consulted.

There are two people I have not put on my list who are both worth mentioning. One is an openly lgbt Olympian who, I believe, has been misidentified. First, an Olympian I do not believe was lgbt, despite being identified as such in some places.

Robert Graves (1895-1985). This esteemed British poet entered the Mixed Literature category of the Art competition at the 1924 Paris Olympics. The Art competitions, which included music, sculpture and writing, were a part of the Olympics until 1948. Each entry had to have a sporting connection. Medals were awarded, as they were in the sports. They are still recognised by the IOC. Robert Graves’ entry into the 1924 games was a poem called “At the Games”. He didn’t win a medal.

Robert Graves is one of those individuals whose sexuality has been questioned and misinterpreted since his death. Let’s examine his attitude towards homosexuality as he expressed in his writings. Robert made a distinction between what he called “amourousness” and “eroticism”. Amourousness was the attraction and intimacy of youth and early puberty. Eroticism was the full sexual, physical and emotional love and attraction between adult couples.

The armouroursness as defined by Robert Graves was common in English public schools (confusingly, public schools were private and not state-run), of which the most famous are Eton, Harrow, and the school Robert Graves attended, Charterhouse. Hundreds of ex-public school pupils have written or spoken of sexual experiences between classmates. The majority of them became exclusively and genuinely heterosexual after leaving school, Robert Graves included. I do not consider the sexual experimentation of public schoolboys enough to justify labelling any of them as gay or bisexual.

Robert Graves admitted in his biographical writings to several intimate or platonic love relationships with several boys when he was at Charterhouse. He even noted paedophilic activities of several teachers. In his writings after leaving school Robert wrote that most boys, himself included, grew out of “this perversion”, as he described it and was the attitude he held towards homosexuality in general for the rest of his life. In effect, he was a blatant homophobe.

Last year the organisers of the LGBT History Month here in the UK included Robert Graves in their “Faces of 2019”. Half of the brief biography they gave was an attempt to manipulate his homophobic remarks into an indication that he was bisexual, and read more like political criticism of the public school system. I wrote to the organisers to point out their inaccurate assumption. I heard nothing from them, and Robert Graves remained on the website. Increasingly, I am convinced that the organisers of the UK LGBT History Month are more interested in party political activism than they are in revealing any factual history.

The second Olympian who isn’t on the list, but was very definitely openly gay, may be a victim of misidentification.

Count Robert de Montesquiou-Fézensac (1855-1921). Count Robert was a French poet, art collector, aesthete and dandy. Many websites and Olympic lists mention that he won a bronze medal in one of the equestrian events at the 1900 Paris Olympics. I believe they have named the wrong man.

Let’s go to the primary source of the 1900 Olympics, the official report. Below is a reproduction of page 291 which gives the results of the equestrian contests. Underlined in red is the only reference to the name Montesquiou in the whole report.

As you can see the report only gives an aristocratic title with no personal name. This indicates to me that it does not refer to Count Robert de Montesquiou-Fézensac.

Even though France was a republic and di not officially recognise aristocratic titles many aristocrats still used them unofficially and were often recognised outside France. Indeed, the title of the creator of the modern Olympic movement, Pierre de Tardy, Baron de Coubertin, was not officially recognised under French law.

Robert de Montesquiou-Fézensac was a Count by inheritance but he was not a Marquis, as the Olympic report mentions. The titles of Count and Marquis are not the same. Marquis is a higher rank. Robert’s title was one which belonged to all members of his family (he was A Count but not THE Count), while there could only be one Marquis de Montesquiou-Fézensac at any one time. To call Count Robert a Marquis is like calling Kamala Harris the next US President (at the moment!). Count Robert would never have insulted the real Marquis by assuming his title, because there was an actual Marquis de Montesquiou-Fézensac alive at the time, and I doubt the official report would have got it wrong.

The Marquis de Montesquiou-Fézensac was from a senior bloodline of the family. The family tree below shows you how Count Robert de Montesquiou-Fézensac was related to the Marquis, the man I am convinced is the person listed in the official Olympic report.

The person I believe to be the Marquis de Montesquiou-Fézensac recorded in the official report is Eugène Marie Gérard, 5th Marquis de Montesquiou-Fézensac, who usually went by the name of Joseph. He still has descendants living today, his grandchildren, and it is possible they have a family archive which proves my theory. Perhaps even the Marquis’s bronze medal is still in the family.

Another reason why I don’t think Count Robert competed in the Olympics is the fact that he is known to have had no interested in horses. He didn’t even take part in the regular family hunts. Why would a man who wasn’t interested in horses enter an Olympic equestrian event?

One final reason to support my theory is that the 1965 biography “Robert de Montesquiou-Fézensac: A Prince of the Nineties” by Phillippe Jullian there is no mention of any Olympics Games. Surely, winning an Olympic bronze medal is significant enough to include in a biography.

And so those are two people who are not on my lgbt Olympian list. Which brings me onto the lists of verified lgbt athletes at the Olympics Games. The lists are below, one list for the summer Olympians and another for the winter Olympians.

Summer Olympians

Winter Olympians

All that remains is for me to wish you a Happy New Year.

Sunday, 20 December 2020

Advent 4: Scrooge

One of the constant elements of a 21st century Christmas is the classic ghost story “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. Ever since it was first published in 1843 it has become a feature of the British Christmas.

Many adaptations have been produced over the years, though the original version remains at the top of the list. Even in the 21st century public readings of the original story are popular, and no more so than those performed in the UK by the gay actor Simon Callow (b.1949). Because of the popularity of his readings of “A Christmas Carol” Simon even got to play Dickens in two episodes of “Doctor Who”. The first was in the 2005 episode “The Unquiet Dead” which, even though being set on Christmas Eve 1869, was actually broadcast in April. I often watch it again with all the other Doctor Who Christmas Specials. Simon’s second Doctor Who appearance was a cameo part in the episode “The Wedding of River Song” (2011).

Film versions of “A Christmas Carol” are many and varied. They range from the 1938 version with Reginald Owen as Scrooge to the contemporary setting of “Scrooged” starring Bill Murray (my favourite modern retelling of the story). Many more contemporary version abound, usually appallingly bad and made by the Hallmark channel. One of the best and most often screened version is the more traditional “Scrooge” (called “A Christmas Carol” in the US) made in 1951 with the wonderful Alistair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge.

The film was directed by Brian Desmond Hurst (1895-1986), an openly gay Irishman who is virtually forgotten today but who directed several other popular British films like “Dangerous Moonlight” and “Tom Brown’s Schooldays”.

Brian’s background reads like a typical Charles Dickens novel. He was born into Victorian poverty and baptised Hans Moore Hawthorn Hurst. He was the seventh child of a poor metalworker in the Belfast shipyards. Brian’s mother died in childbirth three years later and his father remarried. Brian’s new stepmother had a daughter from a previous marriage and she made no attempt to show favour to her daughter and the subsequent three children she had with Brian’s father.

Brian’s father was often unemployed and moved around the shipyards of Northern Ireland to find work. The strain of supporting his large family led to bouts of alcoholism. One of the last jobs Brian’s father was involved with was the construction of the Titanic.

Brian joined the 10th (Irish) Division of the 6th Royal Irish Rifles during World War I. During that war he changed his first name from Hans to Brian to sound less German and more Irish. Brian’s first major posting was to Gallipoli, where half of his battalion were killed in the battle.

After the war Brian lived in Canada, partly to escape the “Irish Troubles”, as the militant independence campaigns were called. In Toronto he studied journalism. There he dropped his middle names, Moore Hawthorn, in favour of Desmond, another traditional Irish name.

So, as Brian Desmond Hurst he went to the US and managed to work as a scenery designer for the great Hollywood film director John Ford (himself of Irish parentage). Through Ford Brian gained experience in the cinematic processes and the two remained life-long friends.

Back in the UK Brian began making short films. He tried to get backing to found an Irish film industry but was unsuccessful. During World War II Brian was recruited by the British government to make short propaganda films. One of several feature-length films he made during this period was “Dangerous Moonlight” (1941), one of the most popular British films of that period. Brian’s own favourite war-time film was “This is the Glory” (1946), a documentary-style reconstruction of the Battle of Arnhem. It was the highest grossing war film until the mid-1950s.

By now Brian was a highly sought after director and he continued to produce popular films, and in 1951 he directed “Scrooge”. This was just one of a series of film adaptations of Dickens’ novels that were being made by various British studios and directors.

Brian Hurst’s “Scrooge” wasn’t an exact adaptation of the story. Scrooge’s life story was expanded, and there is a feel of film noir about it. Perhaps the great success of the film, and the only thing that most British people remember, is the portrayal of Scrooge by one of the UK’s best loved character actors, Alistair Sim.

The success of “Scrooge” has overshadowed Brian Hurst’s other work, though I don’t think he had any problem with that. In the 1950s and 60s the British film industry was turning away from the type of film Brian made and he gradually turned somewhat reclusive. Towards the end of his life he enjoyed a resurgence of interest in himself and is films. The British Film Institute celebrated his 80th birthday in 1975 and several plaques were erected in his name in both England and Ireland. A sort-of biography was published after his death called “The Empress of Ireland”. He is gradually making his way back to the top tier of the best British and Irish film directors of all time.

Brian Hurst’s “Scrooge” is being broadcast on British television several times on different channels this Christmas, even several times on the same channel. If you see it advertised where you live have a look at it, if you haven’t seen it before.

All that’s left for me to say is Merry Christmas, but before I go I’ll let you know that my next article on New Year’s Eve will feature, at last, my list of lgbt Olympians, which now stands at 427 names.

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Mayflower 400: Queer Bloodline Revelations

One of three stained-glass windows depicting the Mayflower. The windows were created 100 years ago this year and can be seen at the Pilgrim Museum Plymouth, Massachusetts.

In this 400th anniversary year of the sailing of the Mayflower I wanted to celebrate members of the lgbt community who are descended from the Mayflower Pilgrims and passengers. I had the idea 18 months ago and began researching the ancestries of hundreds of lgbt people for find their Mayflower ancestors. I had already researched quite a few and I’ve featured several of them in my “Out of Their Trees” series.

As research progressed more and more names became added to the list. In the end I had to sift through them all and select just 60 people to research in more detail, verifying each bloodline with as many primary and authoritative sources as was available.

The task was enormous, I realised that from the start, and with hindsight I wish I’d begun earlier. I had hoped to produce my research in June for the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower setting off on its voyage, but the research wasn’t quite complete. Then I hoped to produce it in September for the anniversary of the ship’s arrival in New England, but I hadn’t finished compiling the charts and writing its accompanying text. So, I decided I needed to get it all finished by today, the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower dropping anchor in Plymouth Harbor.

Even though the Mayflower had arrived in September it took until December before the Pilgrims found a suitable place to drop anchor and found their settlement. Incidentally, contemporary accounts of this (by two Pilgrims) make no mention of Plymouth Rock.

So, after 18 months of research my Mayflower 400 project is as complete as it’s likely to be before the anniversary passes by. It contains many family trees that are appearing in print and available online for the very first time.

Here is the link to the finished research, “Mayflower 400: Queer Bloodline Revelations”.

I hope that the lay-out of the family trees are easy to follow. Many of the people included have multiple descents from several Mayflower Passengers, Pilgrims and Separatists. These descents have had to be split between several charts. This will be confusing, but I hope with a little concentration you will figure it out!

Of the 60 lgbt Mayflower and Pilgrim descendants included in the document some are famous and some are less well-known. They range from entertainers to artists, murderers to murder victims, and politicians to activists. There’s even a stamp collector in there. The majority of the individuals are, not surprisingly, American though there are several Canadians as well. One regrettable omission is the absence of any “t+” people from the lgbt+ spectrum. I would have liked the document to be more representative of the whole community, but I’ve been unable to verify any Mayflower ancestors in the ancestries of any I researched. No doubt there is some, but they are difficult to find at present.

One word of advice for anyone researching their own, or someone else’s, family tree; don’t assume that ancestries you find on public websites such as Ancestry, Find My past, etc. are accurate. Many of them copy each other, and one false identification of an ancestor can spread. I may have mentioned before that many family trees online, including on Ancestry and Find My past, have one of my ancestors fighting in the American Civil War, which I know is impossible – he was living in Nottinghamshire, England, all through the war. A couple of years ago the media made a sensation about a young girl who claimed to have proved that all the US Presidents were descended from King John of England. The girl had not researched the ancestries herself but copied them all from Ancestry.com. A simple background search by the media would have revealed that most of the research the girl had used had long been disproved.

Having said that, rest assured that I have researched the ancestries in the document thoroughly. Research is never-ending. New Mayflower bloodlines will be discovered, and some disproved. More lgbt people will be revealed as Mayflower and Pilgrim descendants. As I said earlier, there may be some transgender mayflower descendants.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this celebratory document.

Sunday, 13 December 2020

Advent 3: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

One of the illustrations by Oscar Senonez from “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” in “A Visit from St. Nicholas and other Merry Tales”, 2019 (originally published in “Storytime”, February 2015).

One of my favourite Christmas stories is “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”, a poem written in the 14th century. Obviously, being that old means it wasn’t written in modern English. It was written in Middle English. Thankfully, I studied Middle English for two years during my “A” Level English course at college and fell in love with it. The course involved reading and studying Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” in its original language. Since then, any piece of Middle English has appealed to me and “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” was a poem I was desperate to read in its original language.

In 1999 I bought a paperback edition of “Sir Gawain” in Middle English and over ten years I read it every Christmas. I haven’t read it for a number of years because I couldn’t find the time, but this year there’s plenty of time to read it again because I’m on furlough from work.

As I mentioned last Sunday “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” is an early surviving example of the tradition of setting a supernatural or ghost story at Christmas. With the growth of queer theory that developed in the 1960s “Sir Gawain” has become subjected to analysis. This has been especially so since the 1990s.

More often than not I’ve read an academic paper on the queer interpretation of the poem and laughed out loud at its contrived and over-analysed pomposity. The majority of the authors are not medieval scholars. I don’t have any academic qualifications or letters after my name but, as I’ve already said, I did study the Middle English language literature for those two years in college. After that I spent eight years studying medieval culture when I was a historical re-enactor and tour guide at Gainsborough Old Hall. Then I studied medieval literature in detail for six years during my research into Sir John Clanvowe, the gay poet who may have written the most famous ballad about Robin Hood. I think I have sufficient knowledge in medieval history and culture to criticise those queer theorists with some authority.

Having given my personal opinion, why do I disagree with the queer theories of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”? Let’s look at the section of the poem which all the queer theorists concentrate on. It’s a section in the second half when Sir Gawain has reached the castle of Sir Bertilak.

Sir Bertilak goes out hunting on three successive days. Each morning he declares to Sir Gawain that whatever animal he kills on the hunt he will give to him in exchange for anything his wife gives Sir Gawain in his absence. This sounds like a strange request to our modern ears, but in medieval literature this sort of pact is common. Medieval poems are full of these temptation challenges.

On the first day when Sir Bertilak is out hunting his wife slips into Sir Gawain’s room and tries to seduce him. All Gawain allows her to do is give him a kiss on his cheek. When Bertilak returns he gives Gawain the deer he has hunted down and Gawain gives him a kiss on the cheek. Bertilak is not alarmed by this.

The same thing happens on the next two days. Gawain receives two kisses on the second day and three on the third, and he gives them to Bertilak in exchange for a boar and a fox. However, as well as the kiss on day three Bertilak’s wife gives Gawain a green sash which she says will act as a talisman against the Green Knight he is to face in the coming days. Gawain doesn’t tell Sir Bertilak about this gift.

I won’t spoil the ending of the story as you may want to read it yourself – there’s lots of modern translations around. In fact I was surprised to see the story contained in a children’s book called “A Visit from St. Nicholas and other Merry Tales”, retold by Maxine Berry, on sale in the Pond Shop (Dollar Store) earlier this month (yes, I bought a copy, I couldn’t resist!).

What queer theorists always suggest is that there’s a latent homosexual, or at least a homosocial, motive behind it. This shows an obvious lack of research and understanding of medieval attitudes towards intimacy and knightly expectation. Like a lot of people today, they aren’t capable of separating a kiss from sex.

Kissing was, and still is (social distancing permitting) a common feature in Christian worship. Medieval chivalry was based upon it and knights would kiss their sovereign, on either the cheek or the hand, when they received their knighthood. The kiss of Christian love is also still common in some churches. Queer theorists fall into the 19th century trap of thinking that a kiss can only be sexual, they have no understanding of the social history of kissing.

Queer theorists also comment on long descriptions which the poem gives to the physical attributes of both Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Again, they suggest that there is some form of sexual or homosocial reason for this. These descriptions only serve emphasise their ability to be a perfect knight. Being a knight was not for wimps and the lazy. Gawain was a young man, and the poem is telling its readers that he is as strong and as able as any experienced knight to carry out his quest. Similarly, the physical description of the Green Knight only serves to indicate this power and strength, not as an appeal to the medieval reader’s sexual desire. I wonder what those queer theorists would think about sports commentators remarking on the physique and prowess of athletes. Are those commentators disguising a homosexual meaning?

Calling upon my extensive knowledge of the medieval period, its poetry, its culture, its chivalric ideals and Christian attitudes I find nothing in any queer theory of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” that is valid or based on fact.

But I’ll leave you to make your own decision. “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” is a marvellous adventure story. I never tire of reading it and I recommend you buy a copy and read it yourself, there’s plenty of modern translations out there. Perhaps, like the Amelia Edwards Christmas ghost stories I wrote about last week, Sir Gawain will become popular again and rival “A Christmas Carol”. Speaking of which, “A Christmas Carol” is the final piece of literature I’ll write about next Sunday, the last Sunday in Advent.

Thursday, 10 December 2020

80 More Gays Around the World: Part 28) Gold All The Way

Last time on “80 More Gays”: 76) Chelsea Blackmore is a pioneer in queer archaeology, first championed by 77) Thomas Dowson after doing research into San cave art in Namibia, which became part of a National Geographical archaeological tour for students led by 78) Thomas Egli, who was a volunteer at the ice hockey stadium at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics in which the 79) Canadian women’s ice hockey team won gold.

The full 79) Canadian women’s ice hockey team consisted of 21 members, 19 of them being experienced Olympians. Five of them are currently known to have been lesbian or bisexual, and I’ll briefly look at them individually later. But first, how did they get to the final.

The team were the reigning Olympic champions having won the 2006 Turin competition, beating Sweden 4-1. Since Turin Canada had lost to the USA in the 2008 and 2009 World Championships. They faced each other in the final in Vancouver and the anticipation and expectations of the Canadian home crowd was very high.

The defence of their Olympic title began well for the Canadian women. In their first match they thrashed Slovakia 18-0, the biggest score difference in Olympic ice hockey history, actually beating their own record from Turin 2006 when they beat the home team 16-0.

It came as no surprise to anyone that Canada faced the USA in the final. Again, the Canadians got off to a good start scoring 2 goals in 3 minutes, the only goals of the match. The final score Canada 2 – USA 0.

Let’s move on to the lgbt players. There isn’t really enough space to go to any real biographical detail so I’ll restrict myself to their Olympic experiences. The player with the most Olympic experience was 79a) Jayna Hefford (b.1977). She made her debut at the 1998 Nagano games in the inaugural women’s Olympic ice hockey tournament. Jayna scored one goal in the final match but it was the goal that won the team the silver medal (final score: USA 2 – Canada 1). She was chosen for team for the next four Olympics, making her only one of 6 lgbt athletes to compete in 5 Olympics (only Robert Dover, US equestrian, has been in 6). Because she was on the winning team for those next four Olympics, which included the Sochi 2014 games, she shares joint 4th place with US swimmer Greg Louganis on the all-time lgbt Olympic medal list (both have 4 gold, 1 silver).

Jayna Hefford is one of only 5 Olympians, lgbt or straight, to win a gold medal at four consecutive games. One of the others is the next most experienced member of the 2010 Canadian women’s ice hockey team, 79b) Caroline Ouellette (b.1979). Her first Olympics was the 2002 Salt Lake City games. With her four gold medals Caroline is joint 6th on the all-time lgbt medal list.

Then next most experienced player on the Canadian women’s team was 79c) Gillian Apps (b.1983) who not only has Olympic experience but Olympic blood. Her grandfather Syl Apps, was a pole vaulter at the 1936 Berlin summer games, and her first cousin is Darren Barber, who won a gold medal in rowing at the 1992 Barcelona games. Gillian herself competed in three Olympics – Turin, Vancouver and Sochi.

Like quite a few others she is married to a fellow Olympian, a player on the US team she beat in Vancouver, Meghan Duggan. Caroline Ouellette also married one of the losing team, Julie Chu. Jayna Hefford is also married to a US ice hockey Olympian, Kathleen Kauth, against whom she played in the 2006 Turin final.

79d) Charline Labonté (b.1982), like Gillian, competed in the Turin, Vancouver and Sochi Olympics. They also both came out as lesbian a couple of months after the Sochi games of 2014 in which the Canadians successfully defended their title.

The least experienced member of the 2010 Vancouver team was the only one who was openly lesbian at the time, 79e) Sarah Vaillancourt (b.1985). It was while she was a freshman at Harvard University that she came out to her Harvard Crimson ice hockey team-mates in 2004. Sarah first played in the Turin games of 2006 but due to injury did not return to the Olympic arena.

We stay with the 2010 Vancouver Olympics to reach the last person in our “80 More Gays Around the World”, and there’s several to choose from. It could be Ted Nebbeling, the Minister of State for the 2010 Olympics. It could be Ignatius Jones, the artistic director of the opening and closing ceremonies. It could be DQuared2, the gay twins Dean and Dan Calen, who designed the costumes for the closing ceremony. But instead I’m going for the one person who had the most direct involvement on every day and in every medal ceremony, giving a continuous link from the opening ceremony where 1) k d lang performed to the closing ceremony where the last medals were awards. That person is the designer of the Vancouver Olympic medals, 80) Corrine Hunt (b.1959).

Back in 2014 I wrote about Corinne’s medal design, so go and have a look at that. Since then she has designed the jackets worn by the Canadian snowboarding team at the 2018 PyeongChang games.

And that brings me to the end of “80 More Gays Around the World”. As before it has been a pleasure to research. It has led me on to people and subjects I would not normally have looked into (e.g South African wines and leper hospitals, or the psychological effects of the Polykrates complex).

I hope you enjoyed this series and learnt something new, I know I have, which has been the main inspiration that helped me to carry on even when I hit a brick wall and couldn’t find any direction to take to get me back to the beginning.

Sunday, 6 December 2020

Advent 2: Christmas Ghosts

In October I wrote about Amelia Edwards’ role in the foundation of the science of Egyptology. Before she became an Egyptologist Amelia was a best-selling popular novelist. The most popular were her ghost stories.

When it comes to Christmas ghosts stories our mind turns automatically to Charles Dickens and “A Christmas Carol”, published in 1843 (more of that in two weeks’ time). “A Christmas Carol” probably popularised the telling of ghostly or supernatural stories at Christmastime though in some form the tradition goes back hundreds of years. One of the most popular pre-19th century stories is the 14th century “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” (more of that next Sunday).

Perhaps the most famous Christmas ghost, Marley’s ghost from “A Christmas Carol” as portrayed with great gusto (and pain!) by the gay actor Sir Alec Guinness in “Scrooge”.

Amelia Edwards knew Charles Dickens and she was a regular contributor to the weekly magazine “Household Words” which he founded and edited. Amelia’s ghost stories appeared in the successor to that magazine called “All The Year Round”, again edited by Dickens, and later by his son, which ran from 1859 to 1895.

Early in each year Dickens would invite a handful of authors to write a story of the Christmas issue of “All The Year Round”. He gave them a general idea of the overall theme of the issue and he would write the bulk of it himself, often with Wilkie Collins, and write pieces linking his work with those submitted by the other authors.

Amelia Edwards wrote about two dozen ghost stories and they have been reprinted in various anthologies ever since. The ones she wrote for the “All The Year Round” Christmas issues are the ones I’ll write about today.

SPOILER ALERT: If you want to read the stories yourself, and they’re all available in print or online, skip to the last paragraph below if you don’t want to know what happens in each story.

The first ghost story appeared in the Christmas 1860 issue which had the overall title of “A Message From The Sea”. Amelia’s contribution was part of chapter three, “The Club”. There was no individual title for her section though it was later called “Oswald Penrewen’s Story” when reprinted in anthologies.

“Oswald Penrewen’s Story” is pretty tame by modern standards, or even compared against “A Christmas Carol”. It tells of a traveller in Switzerland who meets a music-box seller. The seller says he is to be married soon and can’t wait to get back home, so he decides to take a short-cut over the mountains. The next day the traveller hears the sound of a music-box drifting down from the mountains. Feeling fearful for the seller’s safety he and some acquaintances go up into the hills and discover the music-box seller’s body at the bottom of a cliff. I told you it was tame.

Amelia’s next Christmas story appeared in the issue published on 12th December 1861. This issue was entitled “Tom Tiddler’s Ground”. Amelia’s story, “Picking Up Terrible Company”, is more of a murder story than a ghost story, so I’ll leave it and move on to 1863.

The Christmas 1863 issue of “All The Year Round” is regarded as the most popular work Charles Dickens produced after “A Christmas Carol”. It was titled “Mrs. Lirriper’s Lodgings”. Amelia Edward’s contribution was called “How the Third Floor Knew The Potteries”.

The story tells of a young man called Ben who works as a night watchman at a pottery furnace. Every night his boss, George, tells him of his suspicions about a new employee, a French porcelain painter, who is making advances on his fiancée. A few weeks later George disappears. Then, one night while he is guarding the furnaces, Ben sees George, who walks towards one of the furnaces – then vanishes. The next morning the furnace is emptied and George’s bones are found inside.

The popularity of the “Mrs. Lirriper’s Lodgings” issue led to the 1864 Christmas issue being a direct sequel, “Mrs. Lirriper’s Legacy”. Amelia’s contribution was “Another Past Lodger Relates His Own Ghost Story”. This is the tale of a man trying to get home in a snowstorm by catching a ride on a mail coach (which would accept passengers). He is told of a disaster that befell the coach nine years earlier when it crashed killing all passengers. Gradually the man realises his fellow passengers are very gaunt and pale. The coach then crashes in the same spot as it did nine years earlier and the passengers disappear. The man survives to tell the tale by falling into a snowdrift.

Amelia’ final Christmas ghost story for “All The Year Round” appeared in the 1865 issue. This had a railway theme and was called “Mugby Junction”. For “Doctor Who” fans, this is the issue in which “The Signal Man” appears. In the episode “The Unquiet Dead” the Doctor tells Dickens it his favourite ghost story.

Amelia’s story is called “No. 5 Branch Line: The Engineer”, later published as simply “The Engineer’s Story”. This is a tale of rivalry between two friends, Ben and Mat. While working as railway engineers in Italy they both fall for the same local girl. The friends argue and Ben stabs Mat. Ben then blames the girl for making him kill his friend and tries to take revenge by driving a train on which she is a passenger over a broken track and into a raging river. At the last minute Mat’s ghost appears and stops the train just in time.

All of these stories, and Amelia’s other ghost stories, are still in print or online. Whatever and wherever you are this Christmas I hope you find time to read some of Amelia Edwards’ ghost stories. Let’s try to turn them into a popular Christmas tradition as big as “A Christmas Carol”.

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

80 More Gays Around the World: Part 27) Guiding the Way

Last time on “80 More Gays”: 74) Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) lived in the same house (though not at the same time) as 75) Margaret Mead (1901-1978), a leading influence on queer anthropology and its related subject of queer archaeology, continued by 76) Chelsea Blackmore).

76) Chelsea Blackmore was appointed Senior Archaeologist at Albion Environmental Inc. in July last year. Albion is a California company that advises and participates in construction and environmental projects, anything from highways, hydroelectric plants and nature reserves, to ensure that the local ecological and cultural properties of each site are handled appropriately. Prior to joining Albion Environmental Chelsea was Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of California Santa Cruz.

Chelsea’s doctoral thesis was “Challenging ‘Commoner’: An Examination of the Status and Identity at the Ancient Maya Village of Chan, Belize”, which was one of the first studies into social identity in the Mayan civilisation. She has specialised in Mesoamerican culture and aspects of identity relating to gender, social status and sexuality.

Chelsea Blackmore has been open about her sexuality all her professional career. The lack of visible lgbt archaeologists in her undergraduate years and lack of a queer network inspired her to use gender and sexuality as possible factors in her choice of studies. Shortly afterwards she founded “Queer Archaeology”, a blog aimed at lgbt archaeologists and the study of queer archaeology. Chelsea went on to co-found the Queer Archaeology Interest Group of the Society of American Archaeologists in 2014, though attempts to create such a group had been tried before.

Two publications can be said to have pioneered queer archaeology. The first is “Out in the Field: Reflections of Lesbian and Gay Anthropologists” by Ellen Lewin and William Heap (1996), and the queer-themed issue of “World Archaeology” (2000) edited by 77) Thomas Dowson.

In February 2017 I wrote this article about Thomas Dowson and his contribution to the growth of queer archaeology. Not only is he a pioneer in the subject but he is also a leading authority in rock art.

Another aspect of Thomas’s work harks back to the “old days” of the Grand Tour of Europe undertaken by the wealthy in the 17th to 19th centuries. Among these “archaeological tourists” were Amelia Edwards (more of her on Sunday) and Johann Joachim Winckelmann, the gay librarian who made Pompeii a popular place to visit. Both of these people saw the importance of careful scientific study of archaeological sites and their preservation.

For many years archaeologists discouraged tourism of digs and sites. Then the heritage industry took off and governments saw a need to protect many ancient sites. In my childhood archaeology was seen as a very dull subject and you rarely saw the subject covered on television. Only the Egyptian pyramids seem to be of interest. Then came the Viking excavations in Yorvik (York) and the raising of King Henry VIII’s flagship the Mary Rose and the public began to show more interest. Next came unexpectedly popular programmes like “Time Team”, a surprise hit archaeology series that ran for twenty years. The public were now aware of how an archaeological site should be treated and what facts about our past can be uncovered. Today, archaeological programmes are everywhere on almost every channel.

The public’s interest in archaeology has led to tourist companies offering tours of monument and ancient sites like never before. The public are more aware of their responsibilities of visiting these sites. Thomas Dowson was one of the early leaders in modern archaeological tourism. When he moved to France he was naturally interested in the archaeology of the area. There was very little information which was reliable or up-to-date. He thought other people might be interested in the local archaeology so he set up the website “Archaeology Travel” in 2010.

Archaeological tourism among tour companies and institutions has blossomed, and with the help of guidelines produced by the Archaeological Institute of America ancient sites will be better protected and understood. National Geographic organised tours and expeditions for students, including tours took of the San cave paintings which Thomas Dowson studied. One of the tour leaders was 78) Thomas Egli.

Thomas is an experienced tour guide having worked for a variety of companies, including Bali Hai Diving Adventures in Indonesia and Discover Tours Canada. Thomas has Swiss and Canadian citizenship and is currently working in Zurich as a marine ecologist (yes, a marine ecologist in land-locked Switzerland). His claim to fame, though, is that he was voted Mr. Gay Canada in 2012. However, that’s not the connection I’m going to take towards our final steps on this chain of “80 More Gays”.

In 2010 Thomas was a volunteer with VANOC, the Vancouver Organising Committee of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. He was a supervisor at the Rogers Arena where the ice hockey tournament was held. Ice hockey is the most hotly contested sport at the Winter Olympics with Canada and the USA always vying for the gold medal. The men’s ice hockey final between them was the last medal event of the games. The women’s ice hockey final, also between Canada and the USA, was held three days earlier. Canada won both finals.

The women’s ice hockey team final at Rogers Arena contained the team with the most lgbt players at the Vancouver Olympics, and I want to group them all together for the penultimate “80 Gay”. That team was the winning 79) Canadian Women’s Ice Hockey team.

Next time in our last “80 More Gays Around the World”: We discover how we link back to 1) k d lang.

Sunday, 29 November 2020

Advent 1: Post Early For Christmas

Today is the first Sunday in Advent, so for this and the next three Sundays I’ll write about Christmas, as in previous years. This year we’ll have a look at some Christmas traditions, most of them literary, and their lgbt connections.

Christmas will be different this year and a lot of traditional seasonal activities may have to be dropped, or at the very least socially distanced. Thankfully, one Christmas tradition can still be enjoyed – sending and receiving Christmas cards.

In an era when people are too lazy to go out and buy a card, write a message, buy a stamp and post the envelope the Christmas card and postage stamp are in danger of disappearing, despite them being more environmentally friendly and having a lower carbon footprint than email, text or electronic message (according to research by the brother of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the internet).

My opinion is that Christmas cards are more personal than a third-party electronic agent. It proves you care enough to make the effort to post it and it actually has your DNA on it, and you can’t get more personal than that – it’s the nearest you can get to physical contact.

Most nations, those of significant Christian heritage at least, have been producing Christmas postage stamps for almost 80 years. The UK was a little late in joining the trend, which is strange considering the UK invented the postage stamp. I can remember the very first UK Christmas stamp because it was the winning entry in a competition held by the UK’s most popular children’s programme at the times, “Blue Peter” (which holds the Guinness World record for the most consecutive annual Christmas editions of any television programme in the world – 61 and still counting). Since 1966 the Royal Mail has issued Christmas stamps every years, and “Blue Peter” has often revealed the designs on their programme.

Back in September I wrote about lgbt designers of postage stamps. To my knowledge only one lgbt artist has designed a Christmas stamp for the Royal Mail, and that was Enid Marx (1902-1998) in 1976, the tenth anniversary year of the UK Christmas stamp. Enid produced four designs, each one based on medieval English embroideries of the Opus Anglicanum school. This is a name given to the best silk and precious metal-thread embroideries produced in London in the 12th to 14th centuries.

Enid’s designs were inspired by scenes of the Nativity that appeared on several ecclesiastical vestments and decorative panels from the Victoria and Albert Museum’s collection of Opus Anglicanum embroideries. She submitted rough designs to the Royal Mail Stamp Advisory Committee in October 1975 when the decision was made to base the 1976 stamps on embroidery. Enid then submitted preliminary sketches to the committee on 12th February 1976 and these were approved.

What I thought I’d do was show how Enid went about designing her stamps. It’s not as straight forward as you think. First you have to consider the scale. A highly detailed image will not look clear on a small postage stamp. Then you have to think about where the price and the Queen’s head (or name of country, if you’re designing for another nation) are going to go. In the examples below you can see how Enid changed the original design to fit the requirements of the stamp. Some of he images below are copyright to either the Royal Mall or the Victoria and Albert Museum and are used purely to show the design process. The examples I’ll give are of the lowest and highest denomination of Enid’s Christmas stamps.

The lowest denomination, the 6½ pence stamp, features the Virgin and Child. This comes from the central point of the Clare Chasuble, a vestment made around 1272 or shortly afterwards. It was made for the marriage of Prince Edmund of England, the Earl of Cornwall and grandson of King John, to Lady Margaret de Clare. The separated in 1294, so it couldn’t have been made after that. Here’s the design process.

The image on the left is Enid’s first design, submitted to the Royal Mail Stamp Advisory Committee in 1975. The central image show her sketch for the stamp which she submitted in February 1976. You can see that she changed the dimensions of the image. On the right is the stamp that was issued on 26th November 1967. Compare it to the original design on the left. The price and Queen’s head are not very clear on the original, and have been separated from the image.

The highest denomination stamp was the 13 pence stamp shown below. It depicts the Adoration of the magi, the Three Kings or Wise Men (or third gender priests, as modern scholarship tends to describe them). The design comes from the central point of the Butler-Bowdon Cope, a large vestment worn by clergy like a cloak. It dates from the mid-1300s and belonged to the ancestors of the Butler-Bowdon family of Pleasington Hall in Lancashire. On the left is a close-up of the actual part of the cope Enid used for her design. Her submitted sketch, in the centre, shows the image reversed. I can’t find out why Enid did this. However, the image was switched back for the final design, pictured right. Again the Queen’ head and the price have been placed to one side to make them more visible.

Below are images of the vestments from which the designs were taken. On the left is the Clare Chasuble, on the right is the Butler-Bowdon Cope. I’ve pinpointed the parts of the vestments that Enid chose for her designs with voided white square boxes.



Tuesday, 24 November 2020

80 More Gays Around the World: Part 26) Homes Destroyed, Homes Discovered

Last time on “80 More Gays”: The true gender of 71) Dr. James Barry (c.1795-1865) was a secret known to few in his lifetime, including a South American independence fighter who was a compatriot of 71) Carlos de Montúfar (1780-1816) and Simon Bolivar after whom Bolivia is named, a country which attracted many German settlers and military advisors including, 73) Ernst Röhm (1887-1937) who was assassinated on evidence faked by an SS officer who was himself killed, leading to the Lidice Massacre memorialised by 74) Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950).

The Lidice Massacre, ordered by Hitler in retaliation for the killing of the Protector of Nazi-occupied Bohemia and Moravia (the modern Czech Republic), shocked the world. Hitler believed the village of Lidice, 14 miles from Prague, had harboured some of the assassins. He ordered the execution of every man in the village on 10th June 1942. The women were either sent to concentration camps or sent for “Germanisation”, and most of the children were “adopted” by SS officers. Children not accepted for adoption were killed. The village itself was razed to the ground, even the cemetery (the bodies were dug up and burned, the gravestones pulverised). Only one person survived, a man who was in prison for manslaughter. He was released in December 1942 and went home, only to find that the village, his family, friends and fellow villagers, had all gone. No-one had told him of the massacre.

The international response was quick and long-lasting. In Stoke-on-Trent, a town just a few miles down the river from where I live, the local doctor and future Member of Parliament began a fund-raising campaign to rebuild Lidice. In other countries towns added Lidice to their names, and various streets and memorials were named after it.

The world’s press covered the massacre extensively, and 74) Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote an article in The New York Times magazine. This inspired her to write a verse play called “Murder of Lidice”.

Before World War II Edna was an active pacifist and in 1919 she wrote “Aria de Capo”, an anti-war play. From 1940 she began writing poems for the Writer’s War Board and openly supported the Allied Forces. This caused her reputation to tarnish a little, at least with the critics who saw Edna’s war writings as too political.

Edna’s writing career began when her mother persuaded her to enter a poetry contest in “The Lyric Year” magazine in 1912. Edna’s poem came fourth though many people, including the contest’s winner, thought it should have come first. The controversy led to Edna’s introduction to New York literary circles and a scholarship to Vassar College.

From then on Edna’s poetry and plays became popular and she won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923. It was at this time that she entered into a loving, open marriage with Eugen Jan Boissevain (1880-1949) and they lived together until his death. Edna died the following year.

The couple moved into a house in New York, number 75½ Bedford Street (pictured below), said to be the narrowest house in the city, being only 9½ feet wide (3 meters). Its narrowness results from it originally being a carriage entrance between two buildings. Edna and Jan only lived there a year. Many others have occupied the narrow house at various times, including 75) Margaret Mead (1901-1978).

Margaret Mead was a leading anthropologist of her generation. I wrote about a book she and her partner wrote in 1977 called “An Interview with Santa Claus”. This is an example of how she helped to popularise anthropology among the public. Santa Claus? Anthropology? Yes, because Margaret used her knowledge of culture and history to give an explanation for the evolution of this Christmas icon in a way that children could understand without destroying the seasonal magic.

The field of anthropology goes hand in hand with archaeology. Through archaeology ancient communities are revealed and their ways of life are revealed through anthropology. The growth of interest in gender and sexuality in non-Western cultures was pioneered by Margaret Mead. She was a panellist at the first meeting to discuss homosexuality in anthropology called by the American Anthropological Association in 1974. Since then there has been a growth in queer anthropology and queer archaeology.

In April 2013 I chose archaeology for my “Ology of the Month” in a year where I wrote many science-based articles. Have a look at them. I wrote about several queer discoveries and lgbt archaeologists including the discovery of the most northern civilisation near the North Pole by a gay Danish archaeologist. I’ve also written since then about other queer archaeologists and anthropologists and their historic discoveries, like the discovery of a whole new humanoid species and the discovery of Europe’s oldest known urban community. I’ve even written about Lawrence of Arabia’s contribution to archaeology.

One of those 2013 articles for my Ology of the Month was about Mayan cave paintings and their sexual nature. Studies into Mayan gender and culture have been continued by other archaeologists and anthropologists like 76) Chelsea Blackmore.

Next time on “80 More Gays”: From the jungles of Central America and the deserts of South Africa we are guided to the snows of Canada.

Friday, 20 November 2020

400 and Counting

This is a very personal entry, a reflection on my research over the years into lgbt Olympians. If this was an ordinary year I’d be finalising my lgbt Olympian statistics, detailing which athletes had made their debut at the Tokyo games, which ones were the most successful, which had made the biggest impact, and which ones went up or down in the all-time medals table. This will all have to wait until next year. That doesn’t mean that my research has to stop.

Back in July when the Tokyo Olympics should have started I gave a list of statistics as they stood on the planned date of the opening ceremony. The list of lgbt Olympians stood at 391. This had been a big jump since the announcement of the postponement of the games on 24th March. On that day I had 385 names on the list. This gave me optimism in reaching 400 names by the time up the opening ceremony in July 2021.

So, I was very surprised and delighted when I identified and verified the 400th athlete to add to my list on 3rd November.

On several occasions in the past when I have identified one athlete the research has led on to reveal several others. This is how I managed to reach 400, and there are many more names that have cropped up which I am slowly going through and may be added to the list after more research. This has put me in a position where I can say that, if I can verify the gender identity and sexual orientation of each name, and that is by no means certain, then I will have a full list of 450 lgbt Olympians before Tokyo 2020 begins.

After placing the 400th name to my list I contacted Cyd Zeigler of Outsports.com. We have been in contact for several years and he has helped enormously in reaching this milestone. I thanked him for his work, contribution and assistance over the years. He invited me to join him on one of his podcasts to talk about my work, and this will be broadcast on Monday, 23rd November. Check the Outsports website for details.

I’ve never really been sporty, but the Olympics have been around since the day I was born, two months before the Rome 1960 Summer games and a month before the start of the torch relay.

Whenever the Olympic Games, or the Paralympics or the Commonwealth Games, were taking place the family were always watching it. Back in 2016 when I was halfway thought my “Olympic Alphabet” series I wrote about my early recollections of the Olympics and the scrapbooks I made for the 1976 summer and winter games. One fact I gave in that article is worth repeating – there has never been a summer or winter Olympic Games in my lifetime – 60 years - where there has not been an lgbt competitor, even if they were not openly so.

So, what started me on compiling lists of lgbt Olympians? Probably the 2004 Athens Olympics. Both the “Gay Times” and “Pink Paper”, the leading UK lgbt magazine and newspaper respectively at that time, mentioned there were 11 of them. I kept that fact at the back of my mind. The 2008 Beijing Olympics weren’t on my mind for personal reasons, but I was back in Olympic mood for my all-time favourite Winter Olympics, Vancouver 2010. As we approached London 2012 I thought it would be a good idea to write an lgbt history of the Olympic Games for this blog, which I had just started. To begin the research I needed to gather together every name of lgbt Olympians I could find.

All through 2011 I researched and compiled my history and began serialising it on this blog from 14th January 2012. Of course, a lot has happened since then and that original history is very much out of date. Given enough time I’d like to update it.

One of the most significant finds during my early research was the Outsports website. They had a list of 137 openly lgbt athletes and sportspeople. Not all of them were Olympians but it formed the basis of my first list. As I said earlier, the founders of Outsports, Cyd Zeigler and Jim Buzinski, have been extremely helpful and supportive.

The published lists have become very popular. Several media websites have referenced my blog and, to my dismay, I am even used as a reference source on Wikipedia. My lists have never been intended to be authoritative and I would prefer people would go to original sources. Wikipedia may give names of lgbt Olympians but very little in the way of evidence. Similarly, sport fan forums often give names by no source, most of the time they give unsubstantiated rumour, so I don’t add any name to my list unless I can find definitive evidence of an athlete’s sexuality or gender identity.

Every Olympic year I have requests for interviews, and I have been contacted by several lgbt Olympians who had asked to be put their names on the list. There have also been a couple of lgbt athletes who have requested not to be named. My research led to me becoming a member of the International Society of Olympic Historians, the only historical society approved by the International Olympic Committee. In August 2018 my research was used at the Pride House in Glasgow during the European Athletic Championships. It was turned into a pathway leading through the entrance (pictured below).

So that’s the history of my lgbt Olympian list. Originally I also included lgbt Paralympians, but the lists are getting so long that I find it difficult keeping up with both. This is why I am stopping my list of lgbt Paralympians so I can concentrate on the Olympians. I hope there is someone out there who will carry on the Paralympic side of sport.

As I’ve said to one of my friends on several occasions, history is always changing. By that I mean that every new name or detail that comes to light changes our perception or understanding of what has happened. Each new historic name I place on my list changes the history of lgbt Olympians. What is certain is that the list will never be complete. There will always be athletes who come out as new members of the lgbt community, but there will also be others whose sexuality will have gone with them to their graves.

I’ll leave you with this thought – recent research has uncovered about 50 new names for me to look into, and I am on track to have a list 500 lgbt Olympians by the time of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, and that’s only 27 months away.

I hope to present the full list around Christmas time.

Monday, 16 November 2020

80 More Gays Around the World: Part 25) Friends and Betrayal

Last time on “80 More Gays”: 68) Bruce Voeller (1934-1994) was the person credited with coming up with the name “AIDS”, and names form the basis of the AIDS Memorial Quilt created by 69) Cleve Jones (b.1954), for which many companies have raised funds, including South African wine companies, one of which is owned by 70) Gerard Holden (b.1964), while another is located on the site of a leper hospital were 71) Dr. James Barry (c.1795-1865) worked.

After over 40 years service in the British army as a pioneering surgeon 71) Dr. James Barry retired to London where he died. His body was laid out in preparation for burial by a woman called Sophia Bishop. It was she discovered that James Barry was physically female and had successfully hidden this secret from the army for decades. When Sophia was refused payment for her services she took the secret to the press.

The revelation that one of the most revered army surgeons was born a woman caused quite a stir. The army were so embarrassed that they tried to suppress James Barry’s military records for a hundred years. Their attempt failed and the world got to know James Barry’s secret.

James Barry was baptised Margaret Ann Bulkey in Ireland. From adulthood he lived as a man. This suited James’ father who managed to enrol him into Edinburgh University as a medical student in 1809. Women were not allowed to study medicine in those days.

James qualified as a doctor in 1812 and enlisted into the army a year later. He rose very quickly to become Assistant Surgeon to the Forces in 1815. This position gave James the chance to travel the world. His first posting was to Cape Province in South Africa where he became Colonial Medical Inspector. In this role he went to the leper hospital at Hermanus (the location of the present Hamilton Russell wine estate) and immediately set about improving health care and hygiene practices.

James had a reputation for voicing his opposition to many established medical practices wherever he went. He even had a big row with Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War over hygiene (she then stole his ideas and passed them off as her own).

By the time of his death James Barry was well-known and respected, and all because his father enrolled him into Edinburgh University all those decades earlier. Others also kept his gender a secret. One of the family friends was a Venezuelan revolutionary called Francisco de Miranda. The original plan may have been for James to act as governess to Miranda’s children, perhaps in Venezuela, before he made his decision to become a doctor. James wouldn’t have become such a famous figure in the medical world if he had gone to Venezuela because South America was in a state of turmoil as colonies began revolting against their Spanish and Napoleonic rulers. Francisco de Miranda laid the foundations for the liberation of much of South America, assisted by compatriot revolutionaries such as a Simón Bolivar and 72) Carlos de Montúfar (1780-1816).

Carlos’s relationship with the German explorer Alexander von Humboldt is mentioned here. After he and Humboldt went their separate ways Carlos entered the Spanish army and fought in several battles against the Napoleonic French. In 1810 he sailed back to his native Ecuador, a Spanish colonial province then called the Quito Audiencia. There he joined the independence movement with his father, the Marques de Selva Alegre.

In 1812 independence was declared under the name of the Autonomous Government of Quito with Carlos’s father as President. However, a few months later Spanish loyalist troops took Quito city and the revolutionary government, including Carlos de Montúfar, fled. Eventually Carlos joined Simón Bolivar in his independence campaigns in Colombia but was captured at the Battle of the Cuchilla de Tambo in June 1816. The following month he was executed.

Simón Bolivar went on to become the big hero of South American independence, even having the country Bolivia named after him, of course. Strangely, Bolivia attracted many German settlers. Their descendants are recognised as a separate ethnic community to this day.

In the 1920s Bolivia decided to call upon Germany to help them reorganise their army. One of the military instructors that was sent was 73) Ernst Röhm (1887-1934), one of Adolf Hitler’s close friends.

Ernst arrived in Bolivia in January 1929. He was disappointed that a recent conflict with Paraguay has been resolved before he arrived and he was often at odds with his commanding officer, Gen. Hans Kundt. Shortly after his arrival a coup supported by Kundt deposed the Bolivian president. Ernst was rumoured that the new president had chosen him to replace Kundt, but before that could happen Ernst received a letter from Hitler ordering him to return to Germany. If only he had stayed in Bolivia.

What attracted Ernst back was the promise of becoming Chief of Staff of the SA (Sturmabteilung, the Storm Battalion, known as the Brown Shirts), the Nazi’s paramilitary wing which Ernst had helped to found in 1921. By 1934 the general reputation of the SA had deteriorated to the status of armed thugs and Hitler decided to scale back its powers.

Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich, the Chief of the SS Security Service, fabricated documents against Ernst Röhm, suggesting that the SA were planning to overthrow Hitler. Most of this evidence centred on the alleged activities of the many known gay members of the SA. Hitler knew Ernst was gay and was at first reluctant to believe the evidence. What resulted was the “Night of the Long Knives”, a pivotal event in the history of the rise of Hitler.

On 30th June 1934 Hitler and SS troops arrested Ernst Röhm and the SA leaders in a surprise attack. After some procrastination Hitler ordered the execution of Ernst two days later. Following the Night of the Long Knives Hitler strengthened Paragraph 175, the law criminalising homosexuality, and Hitler assumed more power.

Reinhard Heydrich, the co-author of the fake documents, became Protector of Nazi-occupied Bohemia and Moravia (modern-day Czech Republic). Czech rebels murdered Heydrich in 1942 and Hitler retaliated by ordering the execution of every man in the village of Lidice, where he claimed the assassins had been harboured. The “Lidice Massacre” horrified the world. Some places still commemorate it to this day. One commemoration was a verse-play called “The Murder of Lidice” and it was written by 74) Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950).

Next time of “80 More Gays”: How a village was destroyed, how reputations were built, and how civilisations were revealed.

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Homohoax: How To Fool The Nazis

Armies have always used hoaxes and deception to confuse and mislead the enemy. Camouflage is the most obvious method of concealment and the famous camouflage pattern was produced by the French army in World War I. By World War II a different technique to hoax the enemy began to be used extensively, and that was the manufacture of fake army vehicles and military bases, and some of the top lgbt artists of the era helped to hoax the Nazis. This technique wasn’t new. It has its roots way back to ancient Greece and the Trojan Horse, the ultimate disguised army personnel carrier. In the UK the technique was used most prominently by the British Middle East Command Camouflage Directorate. Members of this unit were mainly artists, designers and prop makers.

Two lgbt members of the British war effort to hoax the Nazis at home and abroad were Robert Medley (1905-1994) and Oliver Messel (1904-1978).

The main area of operations for the Camouflage Directorate was in North Africa. The most significant deception operations were called Operation Crusader (November-December 1941) and Operation Bertram (September-October 1942). Their purpose was to get British and Allied troops around the German defences on the Egyptian-Libyan border.

Robert Medley, an established artist and theatre designer, was assigned to Operation Crusader. With his life partner, the dancer Rupert Doone, he founded the Group Theatre. In 1937 Robert founded the Artist’s International Association, an organisation which specifically promoted the works of socialist and avant-garde artists.

It was the socialist aspect of Robert’s life which caused concern to MI5 who thought he was too Communist-leaning. They blocked his appointment as an official war artist in France and instead Robert was chosen to record air raid precautions in northern England.

When this contract ended he was selected by the British Middle East Command Camouflage Directorate to go to North Africa as part of Operation Crusader. There Robert designed camouflage and disguises for military vehicles and created a fake railhead and goods depot.

More extensive hoaxes were created for Operation Bertram, the deception leading up to the Battle of El Alamein in 1942 which Allied forces won. The captured Nazi general admitted that he had been fooled into thinking the Allies had more troops in the area than they actually did, thanks to Robert Medley and all the other talented members of the Camouflage Directorate.

Meanwhile, back in “blighty” (the UK), deception work was being carried out by Oliver Messel. As well as being a theatre designer Oliver designed masks and costumes. He also designed for films (he was nominated for an Oscar in 1960).

With the constant threat of a Nazi invasion the UK government devised a series of homeland defence strategies. One of these was the Taunton Stop Line, a line of defences which ran across the south-west peninsula of England (Cornwall and Devon). As with other Stop Lines around the country the defence line included small concrete machine gun posts called pillboxes. It was Oliver Messel’s job to disguise these pillboxes, which he did by making them look like caravans, haystacks, or heaps of coal. Many pillboxes survive around the country and are Grade II listed structures. Several of Olive Messel’s pillboxes also still survive.

Photo of pillboxes disguised by Oliver Messel, taken from the book “Indigo Day” by fellow artist and Camouflage officer Julian Trevelyan, published 1957.

Towards the end of the war the USA created its own camouflage division inspired by Operations Crusader and Bertram called the 603rd Engineers Camouflage Battalion, part of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, more popularly known as the Ghost Army. Two lgbt artists recruited were Ellsworth Kelly (1923-12015) and Bill Blass (1922-2002).

Ellsworth Kelly is best known for his abstract paintings with bold blocks of colours. For the Ghost Army he painted camouflage patterns on military vehicles and designed propaganda posters. Like most artists in the Ghost Army and the British Camouflage Directorate Ellsworth filled many sketch books with ideas and designs for hoax methods.

Both the British and American camouflage units sent their members to the front line. There was no other way the artist could design effective hoaxes without knowing the lay of the land, as it was often the terrain that dictated which deception techniques were best for the area.

Bill Blass was starting his career as a fashion designer when he enlisted into the US army in 1943. His artistic skills soon saw him assigned to the Ghost Army. After some training in the States, Bill Blass, Ellsworth Kelly and the rest of the Ghost Army travelled to the UK where they helped the British in creating fake D-Day landings called Operation Fortitude in 1944. All over Europe hoax military operations hid the true D-Day target of the Normandy beaches of France.

The Ghost Army then went into France after the D-Day landings and gradually moved south-east, constructing fakes and hoaxes along the way. Bill Blass provided deception techniques during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944-5, and Ellsworth worked along the Maginot Line, a line of defensive structures like those that Oliver Messel worked on for the Taunton Stop Line.

There is no doubt that the wartime deceptions of Robert Medley, Oliver Messel, Ellsworth Kelly and Bill Blass contributed to the success in hoaxing the Nazis into believing something that wasn’t real. On this Remembrance Day, while we may not be able to gather around memorials, let’s give a thought this year to the work of artists, designers and craftsmen who were as much a part of front-line war as the soldiers.

Thursday, 5 November 2020

80 More Gays Around the World: Part 24) Naming Names

Last time on “80 More Gays”: 64) Hubert Lyautey (1854-1934) was probably part-inspiration for a character created by 65) Marcel Proust (1871-1922) who was an orchid lover, one of the botanical crazes which began in the 19th century, like fern-fever which formed the basis of a nursery founded by 66) Steven Fletcher (b.1959) and 67) Kerry Robinson (b.1965) and which was a specialist area of study by 68) Bruce Voeller (1934-1994).

The name of 68) Bruce Voeller is best known within the lgbt community for coming up with the name AIDS, but in scientific circles he is also remembered for something else. Bruce studied the structure of ferns and related plants. He wrote many academic articles and papers on the subject and a few general text books on botany. In 1962 he was appointed an Assistant Professor of botany at the Rockefeller Institute (now the Rockefeller University) and became an Associate Professor four years later.

Bruce married and had three children. He decided to come out as gay in 1963 and the subsequent child custody battle after the divorce attracted a lot of coverage in the press.

Bruce then became a gay rights activist joining several protests and co-founding the Gay Activists Alliance in 1969. However, he disliked the Alliance’s reliance on “zapping” – high-publicity protests that we see today in organisations such as Extinction Rebellion. In 1973 Bruce left the Alliance to form what is now called the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

In 1978 Bruce moved to California where he founded another organisation, the Mariposa Education and Research Foundation, whose aim was to conduct research into human sexuality and sexually transmitted diseases. Thus Bruce and the Mariposa Foundation were ideally placed when a deadly disease suddenly appeared in the 1980s. At first scientists varied in their choice of name for the disease, the most popular being Gay Related Immune Defence Disorder (GRID). Some doctors refused to use this name because some patients with the disease weren’t gay men.

It is believed that it was Bruce who came up with the alternative name for GRID. His suggestion was Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome – AIDS. Bruce attended the meeting of the Centre for Disease Control in July 1982 at which the name AIDS became the official name for the disease. Bruce continued to campaign for AIDS education and carried out research into the disease right up to his own AIDS-related death in 1994.

Names figure prominently in awareness campaigns for HIV and AIDS. Perhaps no other disease has so many named sufferers who are personally memorialised in something akin to the names on war memorials. The biggest collection of these names is the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt founded by 69) Cleve Jones (b.1954).

The idea for the quilt came to Cleve during a march in 1985 in remembrance of Harvey Milk, the gay San Francisco politician murdered in 1978. Cleve asked people to write the names of loved ones who had died from AIDS-related causes on cardboard signs. These were then taped to the walls of the San Francisco Federal Building. To Cleve, the taped signs reminded him of a quilt. And so an icon of the modern lgbt community was born. This year the quilt came into the care of the National AIDS Memorial organisation. Sections of the quilt were unfolded at the National AIDS Memorial Grove in a ceremony on 10th July 2020.

Over the years many lgbt and non-lgbt organisations, both charitable and commercial, have contributed to the fundraising efforts of the NAMES Project Foundation to help support people who are suffering physically or financially because they have been diagnosed with HIV or lost a loved one.

In 1997 a California wine producer called Clos du Bois began a long-running fund-raising  campaign. They produced “neckers”, little cards that hang around bottle necks, each depicting the AIDS Quilt. Every purchaser would be encouraged to return the necker to Clos du Bois who would donate a dollar to the NAMES Project Foundation.

Clos du Bois advertisement from “Advocate” magazine, November 1998.
Clos du Bois was not the first commercial company to target the lgbt community (e.g. Disney, Skittles and Kellogg’s are “serial targeters”). Let’s stay with wine. Over the years several other wine companies have produced fundraisers for lgbt charities. There are also a few wine companies run by openly lgbt producers. One of the biggest in South Africa is the Holden Manz Wine Estate established by 70) Gerard Holden (b.1964) and his partner Migo Manz.

Gerard came from a coal-mining family in northern England. This inspired him to become a mining engineer and he joined Barclays Bank. He eventually became its Global Head of Mining and Metals. This took him all around the world, and he fell in love with South Africa. In 2005 he bought a winery estate in the Francshhoek Valley in Western Cape Province.

The Holden Manz estate has grown in its reputation, and several of its wines have won awards. It has also hosted tours of the winery, including some organised by Out in the Vineyard, an lgbt wine-lovers tour company in California. The luxury guest house on the estate has also hosted same-sex weddings.

Wine-growing in South Africa went through a renaissance after the dismantling of apartheid in the 1990s. The Holden Manz estate is one example, and today South African wines are very popular. It is one among many vineyards in idyllic settings, surrounded by picturesque mountains. But the scenery can often mask the original purpose of the vineyard, and probably no more so than another leading Western Cape vineyard, Hamilton Russell at Hermanus. The land on which that vineyard sits was once part of a leper hospital. One of the doctors who worked there was 71) James Barry (1795-1865).

Next time on “80 More Gays”: From South Africa to Venezuela, and from Ecuador to Germany, we find that having a friend in high places is both a blessing and a danger.