LGBT History Month UK is with us again. Following on from my previous post about the number 24 being regarded as homophobic, I will reclaim the number for our community and present 24 facts and trivia about the lgbt+ community and culture. You may even already know about some of these, and some of these come from posts and articles I have written in the past.
1) The first AIDS awareness ribbon was created by Barnaby Miln (b.1947), an openly gay member of the General Synod of the Church of England, who distributed small pieces of rainbow ribbon in 1986 through his charity Christian Action on AIDS. Miln also came up with the idea of World AIDS Day.
2) The door of Freddie Mercury’s garden lodge was sold at auction in 2023 for £400,000 ($508,160). It was covered in hand-written tributes and messages left by fans following his death in 1991.
3) Ukrainian lgbt+ soldiers have taken to wearing a unicorn badge on their uniform in defiance of Russia’s homophobic laws. Russia has claimed that lgbt+ soldiers don’t exist in their own army, so the Ukrainian soldiers adopted a non-existence animal to represent themselves.
4) Scientific studies have shown that there is a higher percentage of left-handed people (like myself) in the lgbt+ community than in the non-lgbt+ community.
5) In 1967 the state of Illinois became the first in the USA to decriminalise homosexuality.
6) Following the accession of King Charles III, Ellen Lascelles (b.1984) became 74th in line of succession to the UK throne (merely a hypothetical list beyond the first 3 or 4). Ellen is currently (Feb 2024) 76th, and the highest placed member of the lgbt+ community on the list.
7) The clownfish can change gender as it grows older. All clownfish are born male, and some change gender when there is a shortage or absence of female clownfish. It makes you see the Disney film “Finding Nemo” in a new light!
8) Noel Currer-Briggs (1919-2004), one of several gay World War II codebreakers who worked at Bletchley Park with Alan Turing, was a prominent genealogist of the late 20th century, and a leading authority on the Shroud of Turin, the suppose shroud of Christ.
9) Nicholas Cherrywood (b.1996) of Dallas, USA, a gay model and make-up artist, holds the current Guinness World Record for owning the biggest collection of Care Bears memorabilia and items. He has collected 1,234 items with an estimated value of £120,000 ($152,379). Incidentally, Nicholas Cherrywood is also the name of one the villains in the Care Bears franchise.
10) This week in Venice they are halfway through their annual carnival. Cat masks, called “gnago” or “gnaghe” are popular, and were once a sign of homosexuality. In the 16th century male prostitutes wore cat masks during the carnival to approach prospective clients. Homosexuality was illegal, but Venetian law said that wearing a mask during carnival meant you were playing a character and not yourself, so you couldn’t be arrested. However, female prostitutes complained that their business was being taken away, so…
11) …in 1511 the Venetian authorities added female prostitutes to their list of commercial enterprises who were required by law to display their wares in public. Female prostitutes were thus allowed to lean out of windows with their breasts exposed. That’s why modern Venice has a Street of Breasts and a Bridge of Breasts. And all because male prostitutes were taking their business away.
12) Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, built by the gay King Ludwig II (1845-1886), became familiar to millions of children after 1968 when it featured prominently in the film “Chitty Chitty, Bang Bang” as the castle of Baron Bomburst.
13) The first player in the Ladies Professional Golf Association to come out publicly while still a competitor was Muffin Spencer-Devlin (b.1953) in 1996.
14) Figures originally published by the Office for National Statistics based on the 2021 UK census mistakenly overestimated the number of people self-identifying as pansexual due to a faulty census code. The figure was originally published was 112,000. The corrected figure published in October 2023 is 48,000.
15) The oldest known lgbt+ couple to get married did so on 6th September 2014. Vivien Bazack (1923-2016) and Verona “Nonie” Dubes (1924-2022) married in the First Christian Church, Davenport, Iowa, USA. Vivien was 91, Nonie was 90.
16) The urban rainbow-painted road crossings that are popular in some cities around the world are thought to have originated in Taiwan in June 2008. The first was part of a gender equality campaign created by Prof. Jerry H. Hsia and the Graduate School of Fine Arts.
17) The longest surviving rainbow crossing is in West Hollywood, California, USA. It was created to celebrate Gay Pride Month 2012.
18) The gay Baron Franz Nopcsa von Felső-Szilvás (1877-1933) has been called the Father of Palaeobiology because he tried to work out how dinosaurs lived and theorised that they are the ancestors of birds. Scientists mocked him, but his ideas are now considered standard knowledge.
19) Deborah Sampson (1760-1827), who served in the American Revolution dressed as a man, is the only historical lgbt+ female to feature on a flag. She appears on the town flag of Plympton, Massachusetts, USA, where she was born.
20) In 2012, military historian Gavin Menzies wrote a book claiming that Zheng He (1371-c.1434), a Chinese admiral and eunuch, “discovered” the American continent in 1421. The claim is generally regarded as pseudo-history without genuine evidence, though Zheng He was a great explorer.
21) In 2019, Otis Francis-Smith became the first baby to be carried by both female parents. Lance-Corporal Donna Francis-Smith is the biological mother whose egg was fertilised and then implanted into her partner Jasmine Francis-Smith, who gave birth to Otis. The procedure has successfully been carried out only once more since then.
22) Von Steuben Day is celebrated in mid-September every year in several cities across the USA, primarily in New York City and Philadelphia. It commemorates Baron Friedrich von Steuben (1730-1794), a Prussian officer regarded as the Father of the American Revolutionary Army. He fled from Europe to escape accusations of homosexuality.
23) New Zealand was the first country to legally recognise gender-diverse identities in 2015. Technically, the law includes anyone who identifies as a straight drag performer.
24) Clatterdevengeance is a derogatory slang term for the penis which appears only twice in print (other than slang dictionaries). It appears in two satirical broadsheets called “Mercurius Demoncritus” by John Crouch in 1659 and 1660. They were published at the end of the Protectorate, the period when England was a republic, and just before the restoration of the monarchy.