Friday 28 September 2012

Quiz Time Answers

Here are the answers to yesterday’s quiz. I hope you enjoyed it and got most of the answers right. Why not try them out on our friends at an LGBT History Month party next month.

1)         Germany
2)         archery
3)         Zachary          
4)         c.
5)         True
6)         New York
7)         2005.
8)         a.
9)         Sir John Gielgud.
10)       December.
11)       New York, Sydney, Amsterdam, Vancouver.
12)       Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
13)       Serving US forces.
14)       violet (or purple), blue, green yellow, orange, red.
15)       c.
16)       False – they celebrate it in February.
17)       Black.
18)       Dorothy’s ruby slippers.
19)       c.
20)       Ang Lee.
21)       True.
22)       Kathryn Dawn.
23)       Lord Alfred Douglas.
24)       Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626), statesman, scientist, writer and philosopher;
and Francs Bacon (1909-1992), painter.
25)       Carry On Cleo.

Thursday 27 September 2012

Quiz Time

In a day or two the USA will be celebrating LGBT History Month. I imagine a few cities will be celebrating with special events. When we celebrate such things in the UK we usually have a quiz night. So especially for my American friends I’ve produced this lgbt history quiz. Today I give the questions. Tomorrow I’ll give the answers. You won’t necessarily find all the answers in this blog.

You can use this set of questions for your own quiz night or just to test yourself.  Even a night in with a couple of mates and a few drinks might go well with a quiz. A quiz might go even better after a few drinks.

I’ve tried to vary the sort of question as much as possible, with multiple choice answers, true or false, general lgbt knowledge and current affairs.  Some questions are easier than others. I’ll leave it up to you to decide how to score the questions. So here goes ....

1)         At the London 2012 Olympic Games athlete Karen Hultzer came out. Which country did she represent?

2)         ... and in which sport did she compete?

3)         What is the name of Sir Elton John’s son?

4)         Which of the following has NOT won a medal at the Gay Games?
            a)         George Takei of “Star Trek”
            b)         James Hormel, US Ambassador to Luxembourg
            c)         Greg Louganis, Olympic diving champion

5)         True or false – Lord Byron had an affair with his half-sister and their daughter was called Elizabeth?

6)         The Stonewall Inn, the location of the riots in 1969 which led to an increase in gay rights activism, is in which city?

7)         In which year did the UK legalise Civil Partnerships between same sex couples?

8)         Alan Turing, the Father of Computer Science, was awarded the OBE by King George VI. What does OBE mean?
            a)         Officer of the Order of the British Empire.
            b)         Official of the Organisation of British Excellence.
            c)         Officer of the Order of British Excellence.

9)         Which gay actor won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role as a butler in the film “Arthur”?

10)       World AIDS Day is held in which month every year?

11)       Name any city that has hosted both the Olympic Games and the Gay Games.

12)       What do the letters DADT stand for?

13)       … and to which group of people did it apply?

14)       Name the colours of the Rainbow Pride flag, in the correct order, from bottom to top (you only have one go at this).

15)       The island of Lesbos gave its name to the word lesbian. To which present day country does the island belong?
            a)         Turkey
            b)         Cyprus
            c)         Greece

16)       True or false – the UK celebrates LGBT History Month in November.

17)       The pink triangle was used by the Nazis to indicate a gay man in the concentration camps. What colour triangle was used to indicate lesbians (as members of an anti-social group of women)?

18)       The gay costume designer Adrian designed which famous items worn by Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz”?

19)       Which city hosted the world’s biggest Pride celebration?
            a)         San Francisco, USA,
            b)         Tokyo, Japan,
            c)         Sao Paulo, Brazil.

20)       Who directed “Brokeback Mountain”, the film about gay cowboys/shepherds?

21)       True or false – the term “lesbian”, as used to describe same-sex relationships, dates from 914 AD(CE)?

22)       What are k d lang’s first names?

23)       What was the name of Oscar Wilde’s young aristocratic friend who caused him problems with the law?

24)       Francis Bacon is the name of 2 famous gay men. What did each of them do?

25)       In which film did Kenneth Williams utter the immortal lines “Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it in for me!”?

Monday 24 September 2012

Star Gayzing - Libra

Libra is one of the “newest” constellations of the zodiac. Originally all of its stars belonged to neighbouring Scorpio. They formed the scorpion’s claws and were separated into the new constellation by the ancient Babylonians long after they had established the others. The main stars in Libra are still called the Northern Claw (Zubeneschamali) and the Southern Claw (Zubenelgenubi).

When I began my series of Star Gayzing I mentioned that Scorpio was regarded by the Babylonian astrologers as the patron constellation of the “love of a man for a man”. I still haven’t found out why, or what part the scorpion’s claws played. Though, when you come to think of it, Libra can be seen as the perfect modern symbol of lgbt rights and equality considering the claws are now represented as a pair of balancing scales.

The Babylonians first depicted Libra as the scales of justice. But they probably may have been created it because it rose during the time of the autumnal equinox when day and night are of equal length.

Something else to think about is Libra’s position among the constellations. Just as the sun travels through the signs of the zodiac so does the moon. During a full moon the moon is exactly opposite the sun. When the sun is in Libra the full moon appears in Taurus. Babylonian astrology specifically places the full moon in the Pleiades, the star cluster at the edge of Taurus. This cluster has been referred to on some websites as being the star group dedicated by the Ancient Greeks to same-sex relationships. I’ll be dealing with the Pleiades in more detail next year.

What would be interesting to find out is if the same-sex connection between Libra and the Pleiades is just a modern one or if there was any connection in the ancient world. It seems to be a strange coincidence (I don’t believe in coincidence). From an astrological point of view it would seem that anyone born during a full moon in Libra has particularly gay stars shining down on them.

Sunday 23 September 2012

Flower Power for Bisexual Pride Day

In June, during my short series on lgbt flags for Pride Month, I briefly mentioned the trillium flower (above) that appears on the Mexican bisexual flag.

Flag of the Ontario Francophones - French-speaking
Canadians - which uses the province's trillium emblem.
The trillium flower has more than one symbolic meaning. Its most popular and significant use at the moment is as the official floral emblem of the Canadian province of Ontario, chosen by an Act of Parliament in 1937. The flower is native to most of the temperate regions of North America and the white trillium adopted by Ontario grows mainly in the eastern region.

In recent years the trillium has been put forward as a symbol for bisexuality. The precise origin of this idea is unknown, but it was certainly in circulation in 1999 when Michael Page, co-founder of, stated on the BiCafe website that the trillium was becoming widely used. Apart from the Mexican bisexual flag (created in 2001) I haven’t found any use of the trillium as a bisexual symbol.

So why should the trillium, a relatively unknown flower, be a suitable symbol for the bisexual community? Perhaps the best reason stems (pardon the pun) from its biological nature. The trillium is a member of the order of plants to which the lily belongs – the Liliales order.

All plants in Liliales have male and female parts on the same flower. The early botanical scientists in the 19th century were the first to coin the word “bisexual” for these flowers. In the following centuries the word began to be used in biology when studies of some animal embryos showed no differentiation in gender.

Early in my Olympic Countdown series I explained how it was chromosomes that determined human gender. In botany no such chromosomal effect to gender development occurs, making the trillium and the other lily species bisexual from the moment of fertilisation. In terms of human development the term that is the best equivalent would be intersexual or bi-gender, both these terms only being used after birth.

It seems to have been first used in relation to human biology in 1804. It began to be used in relation to sexual preference at about the same time as the concept of the modern homosexual was first developed in the 1860s.

The Mexican Bisexual flag
Perhaps the geographical restrictions of the trillium plant to North America and parts of Asia prevents its universal appeal, but there are other bisexual species in the Liliales order around the world that are closely related to the trillium that could be used, perhaps the lily itself.

Thursday 20 September 2012

London 2012 Review

Since this article first appeared a lot of new information has been revealed and new research has been carried out. This article should be seen as a mere snapshot of the information known at the date of its publication. Several facts may now be outdated or inaccurate.

With the Olympic fever dying down it is time to put the London 2012 games into historical perspective and conclude my Olympic series officially.

These were the games in which the global lgbt community really got behind the openly lgbt athletes and followed every moment of their competitions. In particular top marks go to Cyd Zeigler and Jim Buzinski at Outsports for their daily updates. Over the two games there were 25 lgbt athletes and 7 more in official capacities. It was also the summer games with the fewest lgbt medals since Seoul 1988. This is a deceptive figure, as the number is likely to increase over time as it obviously doesn’t include athletes who haven’t come out.

The first medal of the games for Team LGBT was won by “veteran” Olympic cyclist Judith Arndt in her 5th games. She won silver in the road race time trial.

Top of the medal table by country was the Netherlands. They had 4 medallists in the women’s hockey team – Marilyn Agliotti, Kim Lammers, and the life partners Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel and Maartje Pauman. Carlien and Maartje scored the only goals in the final.

Lesbian football (soccer) coach Pia Sundhage saw her US team win gold in the women’s competition. Megan Rapinoe, who came out officially just before the games after months of rumour, scored twice in the semi-final. A reserve player also present at the games, and who came out shortly after the end of the Paralympics, was Lori Lindsey.

Also winning gold for Team USA was Seimone Augustus in women’s basketball. The gold medal was virtually a foregone conclusion having headed their group, though their semi-final match against Australia, in which Seimone scored 8 points, was very close.

The first openly gay male medallist was British equestrian Carl Hester who won gold in team dressage. This was Carl’s first medal in 4 Olympic games and at the age of 45 is the oldest lgbt Olympian to become champion. He also earned a 5th place diploma in the individual dressage.

Winning bronze in the team dressage was Dutch rider Edward Gal. This was his first Olympics, though his partner, Hans Peter Minderhoud (who was present in the competitor’s enclosure) had competed in Beijing. And did I see the BBC catch the first gay kiss of the Olympics during the individual dressage competition?

Controversy surrounding Caster Semenya’s gender over the past couple of years still may have played a part in her only winning silver in the 800m when she was tipped to win gold. Perhaps winning would have brought her critics out of the woodwork to hound her again. But it wasn’t all disappointment because Caster had the honour of carrying the South African flag into the stadium at the opening ceremony.

The final medal to mention was won by US tennis player Lisa Raymond in the mixed doubles. She was No. 1 seed in the women’s doubles but finished 4th.

My eye for unusual facts was immediately alerted at the men’s 10m platform diving semi-final - there were 4 openly gay diving champions there! All of them there with a purpose. They were Matthew Mitcham (defending Olympic champion), Greg Louganis (former Olympic champion, mentor to the US team), Scott Cranham (Gay Games champion and Olympian, acting as High Performance Director to the Canadians), and Simon Latimer (Outgames champion, judge for rounds 4-6). Other sports may have had more lgbt participants and coaches, but all 4 men represented 4 different nations in 4 different capacities at the same event.

At the Paralympic Games there were 2 openly lgbt athletes – Lee Pearson and Claire Harvey. Lee was hoping to become one of the greatest Paralympians by winning his 12th equestrian gold medal. He only gained a 10th gold in the team dressage. His other medals were a silver in the individual dressage and bronze in the freestyle. Despite this, Lee wasn’t disappointed and is already looking ahead to Rio. Lee’s gold, with Carl’s (above), meant that London 2012 holds a unique record, with 2 gay men winning the same medal, for the same country, in the same event, at both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Claire Harvey was a member of GB’s sitting volleyball team. They lost the 7th place match to Japan, finishing the competition in 8th place.

And research hasn’t stopped. Several weeks ago I came across the first lgbt Paralympian who competed 8 years before Lee Pearson, whom I had previously reported as the first. Her name is Kathleen Rose Winter, an American who competed in 3 Paralympic Games. I am still researching her life story and hope to include Kathleen in a post during Black History Month in October.

There is less than a year to recover before the next big international sporting event for lgbt athletes – the third World Outgames in Antwerp. And the year after that we celebrate the Sochi Winter Olympics, the Cleveland and Akron Gay Games and the Glasgow Commonwealth Games all in 2014. Can’t wait!

Me at the Paralympics just after Pistorius lost the 200m.
Photo taken by my brother Colin.

Monday 17 September 2012

Sister Acts

A few weeks ago Jack Fertig died. He had been an early member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a worldwide group of activists and campaigners who dress as drag parodies of nuns with unusual, often sexually suggestive, names.

The lgbt community has produced many varied groups throughout its history, and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (SPI) are perhaps the most recognisable. Although Jack Fertig (known as Sister Boom Boom) was not a founder member he is one of the many in the organisation who made an individual contribution to the wider community.

In 1982 Sister Boom Boom ran for public office in San Francisco, hoping to follow in the footsteps of gay US public official Harvey Milk. She may have got over 23,000 votes but Sister Boom Boom failed to win the seat. She did, however, influence the passing of a law when she tried to run for the office of mayor. The city decided that anyone running for public office must do so under their own legal name. The law is commonly called the Sister Boom Boom law.

Jack left the SPI in 1985 and became a full-time astrologer. He died of cancer on 5th August at the age of 57.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are not just a group of nun-dressing activists, they are as varied in their own lives as any other group of people with a shared interest.

With all the talk of leaving a sporting legacy after London 2012 it seems unthinkable that the Vancouver Gay Games of 1990 could have left a legacy to both the SPI and to spirituality. Yet it did in the person of Denver NeVaar.

Whilst attending the Vancouver games as a competitor in the bodybuilding contest NeVaar met Sister X who persuaded him to join the sisterhood, and Sister Who was born. Less than a year later Who made her debut at the first international convocation of the SPI. It wasn’t long before Sister Who decided her contribution to the Sisterhood would come through spiritual education rather than activism. To this end she began a long-running series of cable tv broadcasts in Denver, Colorado starting in November 1991, and celebrated its 20th anniversary last year. The aim of Sister Who’s ministry is to provide non-denominational spiritual advice, with guests, discussion and a bit of music. But Sister Who is not just an alternative persona, it is an extension of Denver NeVaar’s own persona. He holds a Masters degree in Theological Studies and is currently studying for a doctorate. He even continues to compete in bodybuilding contests, competing at the first World Outgames in Montréal in 2006.

Education has always been part of the work of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, whether it is Sister Who’s spiritual education or the wider work of the Sisterhood to highlight human rights issues.

Even in the early days of the Sisters, when more emphasis was put on the parodying of religious practices, the AIDS crisis made them realise how important it was to educate the lgbt community into the dangers. A member of the early Sisterhood became a poster boy of AIDS education when the epidemic first became recognised.

Bobbi Campbell was a registered nurse in San Francisco. He enjoyed the relaxed sexual freedom of the city. In 1981 he noticed what he thought were blisters on his feet, but after a while they got bigger. His doctor told him he had Kaposi’s Sarcoma (KS), the term must often used before the name AIDS was created. Seeing that there was little press attention to the disease in California. Bobbi went public in San Francisco’s gay newspaper “The Sentinel”. He began his own campaign of education, earning the title of the KS Poster Boy. Most people had considered the “gay cancer” as just a New York problem, but with Bobbi’s campaign – putting up posters showing his purple lesions – the West Coast began to realise they were just as much at risk.

Shortly after his diagnosis Bobbi joined the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence with the persona of Sister Florence Nightmare. During this time he campaigned alongside Sister Boom Boom. Working with others in the Sisterhood and the medical profession Bobbi produced a safe sex manual called “Play Fair!” It was a mixture of education, instruction and humour (illustrated with cartoon of SPIs in various “situations”!) which became a classic in AIDS education literature. For the SPIs 20th anniversary in 1999 “Play Fair!” was revised and reprinted.

Bobbi Campbell and his partner appeared on the cover of “Newsweek” magazine in 1983, and he died of AIDS complications on 15th August 1984.

The lgbt community can be proud of people like Bobbi Campbell and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Whatever you think about their use of Christian imagery in satire and parody (at times I feel uncomfortable with them), the Sisters have, and continue to have, a great role to play in sexual education, and their fundraising for AIDS charities and other worthy causes secures for them an important part in out future. You go, girls!

Sisters Boom Boom, Florence Nigtmare and Who
enjoy a spiritually upliting singalong!

Saturday 15 September 2012

Standing on Ceremony - Part 2

On 12th August I looked at the ceremonies of the Olympic games and the people whose creative input made them distinctive. Today we turn our attention to the lgbt main performers.

The inclusion of well-known singers and performers has become expected. Of all the main lgbt performers only k d lang has appeared at two different Olympics. In Calgary 1988 she sang “Turn Me Around” at the closing ceremony, and in Vancouver 2010 she sang “Hallelujah” at the opening ceremony.

Staying with Vancouver, the enfant terrible of Canadian Celtic folk-rock, Ashley MacIsaacs, fiddled his way through a sequence with other folk-rock fiddlers, incongruously following a sedate dance sequence set to music by gay composer Samuel Barber. Thankfully Ashley wore shorts under his kilt and didn’t unintentionally “flash” live in front of a world-wide audience of millions – perhaps he’d learnt his lesson after flashing live on a late night tv show in 1998!

Recently the Olympics have had specially written songs to celebrate the games and these have often been performed in the ceremonies. The most famous with lgbt connections is “Barcelona” by Freddie Mercury. As mentioned before, Freddie died a few months before the opening ceremony in which he was to perform, robbing the world of what would have been an amazing performance. Twenty years later at London 2012 Mercury was finally given his place in the Olympics, albeit on film, at the closing ceremony. Members of Queen reunited to perform “We Will Rock You” with lead vocals by bi singer Jessie J., who performed several songs as well.

For London 2012 several song-anthems were written, including one by Sir Elton John written in collaboration with Pnau.

Whilst most pop singers are often reserved for the closing ceremony only one has been chosen to sing the host city’s national anthem – Lance Bass with the group N’Sync at the closing ceremony of Salt Lake City 2002.

The closing ceremony parties have had several lgbt performers, including Ricky Martin in Turin 2006 and Darren Hayes with Savage Garden in Sydney 2000. Of course, it was the Sydney closing cermony which also treated us to Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and 50 drag queens.

Some criticism was directed against George Michael for plugging his new song at the closing ceremony of London 2012. But all of the artists benefited financially from their appearances, most of them re-releasing songs that they featured in the ceremonies. Why single out George Michael? It should be pointed out that the British press has been steadily turning against George Michael over the past few years.

The Pet Shop Boys appeared in their customary eccentric outfits at the closing ceremony, designed by young gay designer Gareth Pugh (I want one of those helmets! Perhaps I can come up with a giant origami version). They also performed at the celebration in front of Buckingham Palace on 10th September surrounded by 800 British Olympians and Paralympians. All 3 of the lgbt athletes were present – Carl Hester, Lee Pearson and Claire Harvey.

The Pet Shop Boys outfits lead nicely on to the British fashion section of that ceremony. Alexander McQueen’s designers came up with a gold dress worn by Kate Moss. Of the other showcased designers only Stella Tennant wore a dress by a gay designer, Christopher Kane. (Stella belongs to one of the UK’s “gay dynasties”, with Stephen Tennant, Anthony Asquith, and Lord Alfred Douglas among her grandfather’s cousins.)

There must be hundreds of other lgbt performers, dancers and singers at the ceremonies. I’ll mention just one - Franklyn Singley. He appeared in Salt Lake City 2002 as assistant choreographer for the cultural section at the opening ceremony where he also performed in costume as a coyote. In the closing ceremony he was a dancer accompanying Gloria Estefan. Franklyn is notable as being half of one of the first African-American ice dance teams. He has also won a gold medal in figure skating at the 2006 Chicago Gay Games, and a gold and silver at the 2010 Cologne Gay Games.

At the opening ceremony of London 2012 members of London’s Out to Swim club, one of the most successful swim teams of the Gay Games, were performers in the industrial sequence.

London 2012’s commitment to diversity was illustrated most clearly in the opening ceremony of the Paralympics. The whole theme was centred around challenging people to think beyond what they see, with Stephen Hawking paraphrasing Oscar Wilde’s famous words “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”.
Sir Ian McKellen, that great Queen of British acting, took the central dramatic role of Prospero from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”. After encouraging the character of Miranda to explore the universe and all it has to offer Ian/Prospero joined a group of “demonstrators” carrying a placard bearing the word “Equality”.

Music by lgbt composers have often featured in ceremonies, and the Paralympics had 3 pieces at significant points. At the opening ceremony Benjamin Britten’s arrangement of the national anthem was used. David Took danced to Antony Hegarty’s “Bird Gerhl”, and the ceremony closed with the iconic gay anthem “I Am What I Am” from “La Cage Aux Folles” written by Jerry Herman (iconic gay anthem “Over the Rainbow” was sung at the 2002 winter games closing ceremony by Harry Connick jr.). The London Gay Men’s Chorus formed part of the choir during a sequence celebrating Sir Isaac Newton.

With future Olympic games it is certain that the ceremonies will continue to be spectacular and memorable. But in terms of the best ceremony from a gay angle no-one will ever beat the Sydney 2000 closing ceremony.

Since this article first appeared a lot of new information has been revealed and new research has been carried out. This article should be seen as a mere snapshot of the information known at the date of its publication. Several facts may now be outdated or inaccurate.

Thursday 13 September 2012

Pride in Nottingham

The Pride season will be ending soon. I’ve attended all of the Nottingham Pride events (hardly surprising, I live in Nottingham now), and I remember the first one which was held on this very day 15 years ago.

I often feel very proud of being part of the lgbt community in Nottingham because the whole Pride experience in the UK was co-founded by someone from the city.

Let’s start at the beginning. The Stonewall Riots of June 1969 led to the formation of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) in New York shortly afterwards. They held a march on the first anniversary of the riots. Two British men were there and together they were inspired to form a GLF group in the UK. One man was Aubrey Walter, the other was a 19-year-old sociology student from Nottingham called Bob Mellors.

The first UK GLF meeting attracted 9 people and from them grew an organisation that earned a place in history as one of the pioneers of protest, even though, as a national group, is existed for less than 3 years.

After a small scale attempt at a protest march the GLF decided to hold a high-profile march in London with the deliberate aim of showing they were determined to fight prejudice and discrimination. Following the example of the American GLF, the UK group arranged the first gay pride march on the anniversary of Stonewall in 1972.

Since then London has gone on to become one of the biggest in the world, even hosting the 3rd World Pride this year. Even though many annual Pride marches and celebrations soon began to fill the cities and major towns it wasn’t until 1997 that Bob Mellor’s home city decided to hold one of its own.

The main impetus for the event came from the GAi (Gay AIDS Initiative) Project, a sexual healthcare service. One of its main health workers, Tim Franks, was a major mover in the organisation of the event, and it was probably Tim who came up with the event’s name – Pink Lace.

This was an inspired name. Nottingham was known worldwide as a major producer of lace, and Pink Lace gave an extra sexual connotation that seemed appropriate for a healthcare charity like the GAi Project. And it sounded good!

The location for Pink Lace was a street in Hockley, the nearest Nottingham has to a “gay village”, outside the GAi Project’s office. The police closed off the street, and they were keen to be a part of the event. When Pink Lace was first announced earlier in 1997 the local police authority carried out a survey among the gay community into homophobic abuse. From their findings came a campaign called “Blow The Whistle”, aimed at encouraging gay men to report abuse.

The street had several charity, community and commercial stalls along one side, and there was a temporary stage outside the Broadway Cinema (in whose café bar I usually write the first draft of the entries to this blog, including this one).

I travelled down for the day from my then home in north Nottinghamshire. I remember the day being a bit overcast, but there was an optimistic atmosphere – and a bit of apprehension about the reaction from the “general public”. The stage had many local performers, and many of the local lgbt venues held special events that night.

In 1998 Pink Lace went bigger and better and moved to Nottingham Castle (with a new logo to match, left). Tim Franks remained as Chairman of the organising committee and was filmed for several weeks beforehand and during the event by Channel 4 television for a 6-part series called “Making Out”. This second Pink Lace also saw the first star performers – Tom Robinson and Sam Fox.

These were the years I began working at Nottingham Castle, and I didn’t need to come out to my new work colleagues because it all became obvious when they saw me celebrating at Pink Lace 3 weeks after I joined the staff in 1999.

There is still general agreement in Nottingham that these were special events in a unique setting. Unfortunately, increasing attendance figures meant that larger premises had to be found.

In 2000 internal differences in the Pink Lace committee led to a split (Tim had left the committee after Pink Lace 1999), and plans were made for 2 Pride events in Nottingham. What would have been Pink Lace 2000 at Nottingham Castle was cancelled, but a rival 2-day Nottingham Pride was held by the River Trent. But that’s a whole different story.

I am indebted to my colleague at Nottinghamshire’s Rainbow Heritage, David Edgley, for the photo above of the first Pink Lace 15 years ago today.

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Reminder of Courage

Even though the terrorist attacks on 9/11 may be a horrible memory to most of us, the events are still very much always alive in the minds of those who lost loved ones. Every now and again the rest of us are reminded of the tragedy, and very occasionally in a negative way.

Earlier this year an American radio broadcaster, Carson Daly, joked about what would happen on a plane full of gay men if it was hijacked. He insinuated that they’d be camp and panicky and utterly helpless. His apology the next day doesn’t hide his homophobia.

As history, and the 9/11 attacks, has shown gay men are just as capable of acts of courage and bravery as anyone else. Daly’s “joke” sparked a response from Alice Hoglan. She is the mother of Mark Bingham, the gay rugby player who was instrumental in stopping hijackers of Flight 93 by storming the cockpit and forcing the plane to crash before it reached its target. In doing so Mark and his fellow passengers knew they were going to die.

Mark Bingham has become one of the best known of the 9/11 victims, not because he was gay but because of his courage. And that is how it should be. The stories of the victims show that bravery and courage shows no discrimination.

Heroes like Mark Bingham find courage in the heat of the moment. Others need courage at all times because of the nature of their work. The emergency services during 9/11 were full of brave people risking their lives in a situation which they could not have known would get gradually worse. The New York City Fire Department was particularly badly hit with 343 of its personnel being killed during the rescue attempt.

I’d like to take time to remember one of these- the first official victim of 9/11, Father Mychal Judge. I mentioned him last year, but here is a little more about him.

Father Mychal Judge was a Franciscan friar and chaplain to the fire department. His work  involved going with the firefighters to scenes of fires to provide spiritual support to anyone – firefighter or victim – who needed it. On 11th September 2001 Father Mychal went with his colleagues (his “boys”) to the Twin Towers.

One of the firefighters was hit by a falling body from the first tower and laid fatally wounded. Father Mychal rushed to give him the last rights. He knelt beside his “boy” and took off his safety helmet. As he did so more debris fell on top of them, killing them both instantly. Or at least that’s the accepted story. The reality is no less tragic. Father Mychal’s body was found inside Tower One and no-one is really sure how he died. The special place he had in the hearts of his colleagues is seen in the apocryphal manner in which his death is remembered. His “boys” gave him a death they felt fitting for his courage, which itself cannot be doubted.

Father Mychal was also a gay priest. He had a lively personality, called “theatrical” by some who knew him.  Being the son of Irish immigrants he had the “blarney” to make even confirmed enemies friends. At the start of the AIDS epidemic Father Mychal ministered to the gay community and tried to offer as much help as he could. Within the Catholic Church his sexuality was conveniently overlooked, perhaps because of his popularity with all sections of the New York community.

As well as his chaplaincy in the fire department he visited charity shops giving donations of clothes. A regular point of call was the Out of the Closet AIDS Thrift Shop. The owner, knowing Father Mychal worked with the fire department, once asked if he could donate a fire helmet to the shop. With characteristic humour the Father said “Get in line!. Do you know how many gay men want one of those!”

Sunday 9 September 2012

Some Olympic Facts and Figures

Since this article first appeared a lot of new information has been revealed and new research has been carried out. This article should be seen as a mere snapshot of the information known at the date of its publication. Several facts may now be outdated or inaccurate.

With the Paralympics coming to a close tonight I thought it was time to give you a few facts and figures about lgbt Olympians. These statistics refer to summer, winter and Paralympic games, including London 2012.

As I’ve found out in the past few months statistics can change as soon as past Olympians and Paralympians come out, so it should be noted that the facts and figures given here are correct (to the best of my knowledge) as of today.

Number of lgbt athletes in the men’s competitions        50
Number of lgbt athletes in the women’s competitions   81

Earliest identified lgbt athletes (neither were “out” at the time)
Summer          Amsterdam 1928               Otto Peltzer, Germany, athletics
Winter             Cortina d’Ampezzo 1956   Ronnie Robertson, USA, figure skating

Earliest to compete as an “out” lgbt athlete
Winter             Innsbruck 1976           John Curry, GB, figure skating (outed by a German newspaper after his competition ended, but it was half-way through the games)

Top 3 summer Olympics with the most lgbt athletes (including those who were not out at the time)
1) Sydney 2000           44 athletes
2) Atlanta 1996            30 athletes
3) Beijing 2008            28 athletes     

Top 3 winter Olympics with the most lgbt athletes (including those who were not out at the time)
1) Turin 2006                          11 athletes
2) Vancouver 2010                 9 athletes
3) Salt Lake City 2002            8 athletes

Top 2 Olympic Games with the most athletes competing as “out and proud”
1) London 2012                       26 athletes (out of 26)
2) Beijing 2008                        12 athletes (out of 29 “out” by 2012)

The Olympics with the most medals won by lgbt athletes
Atlanta 1996                21 medals, won by 17 athletes (6 gold, 3 silver, 12 bronze)

The Olympics with the most lgbt gold medal champions
Sydney 2000   10 champions
Beijing 2008    10 champions

Top 3 sports with known lgbt athletes
1) athletics                  16 athletes
2) football/soccer        14 athletes
3) figure skating          12 athletes

Top 3 sports with the most lgbt gold medals
1) equestrianism         12 gold (won by 3 athletes)
2) handball                   8 gold (won by 6 athletes)
3) diving                       5 gold (won by 2 athletes)

Top 3 lgbt athletes with the most medals
1) Lee Pearson, GB, equestrianism   12 medals (10 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze)
2) Anja Pärson, Sweden, skiing          6 medals (1 gold, 1 silver, 4 bronze)
3) Greg Louganis, USA, diving            5 medals (4 gold, 1 silver)

Top 3 lgbt athletes with the most gold medals
1) Lee Pearson, GB, equestrianism               10 gold
2) Greg Louganis, USA, diving                        4 gold
3) Sheryl Swoopes, USA, basketball              3 gold

Lgbt athletes who have compete in the most games
6 Olympics      Robert Dover, USA, equestrianism
5 Olympics      Judith Arndt, Germany, cycling
                        Sabine Braun, Germany, heptathlon
                        Natalie Cook,  Australia, beach volleyball
                        Chris Witty, USA, speed skating and cycling

The 3 youngest lgbt athletes
13 years         
Ondrej Nepela, Czechoslovakia, figure skating          Innsbruck 1964
15 years         
 Marian Lay, Canada, swimming                                 Tokyo 1964
16 years         
Greg Louganis, USA, diving                                        Montréal 1976

The 3 oldest lgbt athletes
48 years          Robert Dover, USA, equestrianism                Athens 2004
47 years          Martina Navratilova, USA, tennis                     Athens 2004
47 years          Karen Hultzer, South Africa, archery               London 2012

The 3 youngest lgbt medal winners
16 years          Greg Louganis, USA, diving                            1 silver (Montreal 1976)
18 years          Ronnie Robertson, USA, figure skating          1 silver (Cortina d’Ampezzo 1956)
(Ewa Kłobukowska of Poland was 17 when she won 1 gold and 1 bronze in athletics in Tokyo 1964. In 1966 she was the first Olympian to fail the gender test and stripped of her medals. This test is now regarded as unreliable.)

The 3 oldest lgbt medal winners
48 years          Robert Dover, USA, equestrianism    1 bronze (Athens 2004)
45 years          Carl Hester, GB, equestrianism         1 gold (London 2012)
44 years          Robert Dover, USA, equestrianism    1 bronze (Sydney 2000)

Only lgbt athlete to compete in summer and winter Olympics
Christine Witty, USA   speed skating              1994, 1998, 2002, 2006
                                    cycling                         2000

Lgbt Olympians who are, or have been, partners of other lgbt Olympians
Judith Arndt and Petra Rossner (both Germany, cycling)
Paul O’Brien and Blyth Tait (both New Zealand, equestrianism)
Camilla Andersen (Denmark, handball) and Mia Hundvin (Norway, handball)
Alyson Annan (Australia, hockey) and Carole Thate (Netherlands, hockey)
Lotte Kiaerskou and Rikke Skov (both Denmark, handball)
Lisa Raymond (USA, tennis) and Rennae Stubbs (Australia, tennis)
Gro Hammerseng and Katia Nyberg (both Norway, football/soccer)
Jessica Harrison and Carole Péon (both France, triathlon)
Sanne van Kerkhof and Ireen Wüst (both Netherlands, speed skating)
Hans Peter Minderhoud and Edward Gal (Netherlands, equestrianism)
Ondrej Nepela (Czechoslovakia, figure skating) and Toller Cranston (Canada, figure skating)