Thursday, 6 February 2020

20 Queer Facts for LGBT History Month UK

Happy LGBT History Month UK. Here’s 20 more queer facts you may or may not know. Ideal for quiz questions at your History Month celebration.

1) The agamoi were unmarried Spartan men over the age of 30. The Spartans claimed they showed no interest in fathering children and spent too much time in each other’s company. Even though Spartan men followed the cultural norm of having boy lovers as well as wives they considered the agamoi to be perverted because they didn’t have wives as well. Because of this the agamoi were banned from attending the regular naked sport festivals, but were allowed to compete in their own – in the middle of winter, also naked.

2) L. Craig Schoonmaker (1944-2018), the person who first came up with the term “gay pride”, ran for President of the USA in 2000 as an independent candidate.

3) “Star Trek” legend and lgbt activist George Takei (b.1937) is also an athlete. He joined the Los Angeles Frontrunners (an lgbt athletics club) before he came out publicly in 2005. In 2006 he won a gold medal at the Gay Games in Chicago in the 4x100 meters relay. His team was called the Trekeys.

4) Openly lesbian British Olympic BMX cyclist Shanaze Reade (b.1988) entered the Guinness Book of World Records live on British television on 28th March 2016. She became the fastest person to cycle round a “Wall of Death” at a speed of 26.8 miles an hour.

5) A cinaedus was a male dancer in the Roman Empire who twerked! The erotically-charged shaking of the back side during the dance led to the association of that name cinaedus with passive sexual male partners.

6) The world’s first ever variety/light entertainment programme on television was “Looking In” on the BBC on 23rd April 1933. It was produced by Eustace Robb (1899-1985) who went on to produce one variety programme a week for a year. He was an openly gay ex-army officer who lived on a country estate in Oxfordshire where the Duke and Duchess of Sussex once rented a house until hounded out by paparazzi.

7) In the 2nd century BC King Alexander Balas of the Seleucid Empire (modern Turkey, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and bits of Pakistan) consulted an oracle who told him to “beware of the place that bore the two-formed one”. Alexander was later assassinated in Abrae in Greece. Abrae was the home of a male warrior called Diophantus, who had been born female.

8) In 2011 Dr. Bryan Lessard (b.1988), an openly gay entomologist, named a species of fly Scaptia beyonceae after the singer Beyoncé because it has a prominent “bootylicious” rear end. Bryan is something of a celebrity in entomology circles and is known as “Bry the Fly Guy”. He works at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Organisation in Sydney, Australia, and in 2019 organised a group of colleagues to take part in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade.

9) Fans of the 1980s series “Man from Atlantis” may like to know that the majority of the underwater swimming scenes were not done by the show’s star, Patrick Duffy, but by an openly gay, national swimming champion called Tom Reudy (b.1955). Tom has also won over a dozen medals at the Gay Games since 1986.

10) The Byzantine Empire created several high-ranking and influential positions at court for eunuchs. These eunuchs could be either castrated men (called ektomiai) or naturally-born intersex (called spadones, or thladai). There were even noble ranks created for them. Several of them became Patriarchs, heads of the Greek Orthodox Christian Church, equivalent to an archbishop.

11) The famous line “Me Tarzan, you Jane” from the iconic 1932 film “Tarzan the Ape Man” starring Johnny Weismuller didn’t appear in any of the 26 Tarzan books written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. It was a line created by gay songwriter Ivor Novello (1893-1951) during his short time as a scriptwriter for MGM studios.

12) Ganymede is the biggest moon in the solar system, bigger than the planet Mercury. It is one of over 70 known moons that orbit Jupiter. Those that have been named are named after sexual partners and female descendants of Jupiter/Zeus – except Ganymede. He is the only male lover of Jupiter after whom a moon is named.

13) The iconic Union Flag (or Union Jack, its makes no difference – trust me, I’m a member of the Flag Institute) is based on the original flag of the union of the thrones of England and Scotland in 1601. That original was chosen by the gay “Queen” James I who wanted a new flag to be flown from ships of the unified navy. He asked for a design which combined the flags of England and Scotland so that neither had precedence. Despite this, the finally accepted design gives the Scottish flag precedence in heraldic terms (James was Scottish), being the blue base on which the English cross is placed.

14) Figures from the Ministry of Justice of England and Wales published in November 2019 revealed that more than half of the prisons in England and Wales (62 out of 121) had at least one transgender inmate. This does not include inmates who had received a legal Gender Recognition certificate.

15) The influential queer statesman, philosopher and scientist Sir Francis Bacon, Viscount St. Alban, (1561-1626) was a pioneer in experimental research. His final experiment was to see if snow would preserve a dead chicken. Conducting the experiment on a cold and snowy Sunday in April he caught a chill and died of pneumonia three days later.

16) Despite popular belief Harvey Milk was NOT the first openly lgbt person to be elected to public office in the USA. He was, at the very least, the 4th. Nancy Wechsler and Jerry DeGriek were elected to the Ann Arbor city council in Michigan on 3rd April 1972. They both came out as lesbian and gay respectively four months later. They didn’t stand for re-election in 1974 but supported Kathy Kozachenko in her successful campaign to become the first openly lesbian elected official on 2nd April 1974. Harvey Milk wasn’t elected to public office in San Francisco until 1978.

17) Modern democracy was founded in response to the murder of a gay couple, Harmodius and Aristogeiton. They were lovers in ancient Athens during the tyranny of Hipparchus and Hippias. During the ceremonial procession at the Panathenaic Games in 514 BC they killed Hipparchus. Harmodius and Aristogeiton were then murdered by Hippias in retaliation. Hippias was then overthrown and the new rulers created the first modern democracy. They erected a statue in honour of the murdered gay couple.

18) Carl Austen-Behan (b.1972) holds an interesting combination of honours and titles. As an RAF firefighter he won a Royal Humane Society Bronze Medal for rescuing a pilot from a crashed military aircraft in 1992 (he was dismissed in 1997, when it was illegal to be gay in the RAF). In 2001 he was voted Mr Gay UK. In 2016 he became Lord Mayor of Manchester (he was host to the national service of commemoration for the Battle of the Somme centenary). In 2020 he was awarded an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) for services to charity, the lgbt community and Manchester. He was also appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Greater Manchester by the Lord Lieutenant (the Queen’s representative).

19) Spintry is an old word for a male prostitute and gay sex. The word was used in England during the 17th century. It originates from a Greek work for a bracelet. The allusion is that a hand goes through the bracelet – I’ll leave you to guess why it became used for gay sex and prostitution.

20) Lt. Robert Jones (c.1740-after 1780) of the Royal Artillery popularised figure skating, if not even inventing the modern sport. He designed the first modern ice skate, which had the blade attached to the boot (previously blades were strapped onto ordinary walking boots). In 1772 his book “A Treatise on Skating” was published - during his trial for sodomy. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. However, King George III must have been a skating fan because he granted Jones a royal pardon – on condition he left the UK for good.

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