We are now well into the
Pride season. June is the month the USA celebrates Pride Month, their annual
celebration of the lgbt community first established by President Clinton in
2000. June was chosen in commemoration of the events 45 years ago tonight on 28th
June 1969 – the Stonewall Riots – which are considered as a pivotal moment in
the history of lgbt rights.
Most lgbt people will
have attended at least one Pride march or event. Some people, like myself, know
from experience that a Pride event doesn’t organise itself, it needs a group of
dedicated volunteers to plan ahead and co-ordinate. It was the same in 1969
just a month after the Stonewall Riots took place, and in the first recognised
Pride March that took place on its first anniversary in 1970.
One name which often
leaps out as a major pioneer in the organisation of these two events, and in
shaping the development of Pride today, is Brenda Howard (1946-2005).
Brenda was present at
the Stonewall Riots in 1969 and co-ordinated the rally one month later. At that
time there was no thought of an annual event. That idea seems to have been
first suggested by members of the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile
Organisations. It was they who formed the first organising committee of a march
which they would hold annually in June as near as possible to the actual
anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
But it wasn’t called
Pride. That name didn’t start to be applied to the event until 1971. Brenda
Howard is credited as being one of several people who first popularised the
word in relation to the Stonewall march, which was called the Christopher
Street Liberation Day March, named after the street on which the Stonewall
Riots took place.
One Pride element we can
be sure was the brainchild of Brenda is Pride Week, a series of events that
lasted several days around the Pride march. Brenda’s idea was the spark that
ignited a chain of events which have travelled around the world.
Think about it for a
while. The first Pride Weeks were a way for the lgbt community to come together
to discuss, socialise and, yes, celebrate their existence in the face of
homophobia. Today these Pride weeks involve everything from lgbt rights
conferences to pool parties, from marches to high-brow art installations. There
doesn’t even have to be a Pride march to go with it, as can be seen in the
creation of events such as the British Film Institute’s LGBT Film Festival.
From Pride Week the lgbt
community recognised a sense of togetherness which over the decades has also
come to recognise its own diversity. So now we have Bi Pride, Bear Pride,
Leather Pride, and many more. And not only that, but non-lgbt communities have
started to use the format – Pagan Pride, Black Pride. Brenda, unintentionally,
created a global phenomenon.
From Pride Week the lgbt
community also began to acknowledge the struggles and discrimination of their
predecessors. That is the whole reason for the first marches – to remember the
Stonewall Riots and the people who stood up for their rights. This developed
into a need to protect and reveal the heritage of the lgbt community, to
discover those struggles that have been forgotten yet can reveal so much about
how the modern community evolved. From individual cities and regions the
importance of these lgbt histories and heritage led to the creation of LGBT
From Pride Week the lgbt
community showed the world that there is nothing wrong in celebrating your
identity or your diversity. The USA in particular has embraced the diversity of
its nation – Asia-Pacific Heritage Month, Black History Month, Hispanic
Heritage Month, Jewish Heritage Month, and others.
While I have said very
little about Brenda Howard’s life, I hope I have given you some idea of how
great a legacy she left behind after her untimely death from cancer, also on
this day, in 2005, the same day as the Stonewall Riots in 1969.
In time I hope that the
name of Brenda Howard will be used in the same breath as other pioneers of the
modern lgbt community like Harvey Milk, Gilbert Baker (the designer of the
Rainbow Pride flag) and Tom Waddell (founder of the Gay Games).
week WorldPride is taking place in Toronto, Canada. Oh, how I wish I could be
there! I consider Toronto to be one of my “ancestral” homes. My grandfather and
his brothers lived in and around Toronto at the start of the 20th
century. My grandfather returned to the UK in 1911 and had loved his life in
Canada so much that he named his house after the village where he had lived –
Newton Brook. It still has this name and my eldest brother still lives there.
When my father got married in 1952 and my grandfather moved out and built a
bungalow next door he named it after another Toronto village he knew – Willow
Dale. It was in Willow Dale that my grandfather died in 1979 at the gage of
101. His brothers remained in Canada and their families, my cousins, still live
villages on Newton Brook and Willow Dale are now suburbs of the largest city in
Canada (as Newtonbrook and Willowdale). The lgbt history of Toronto hasn’t
touched either place very much over the past 100 years. Most of it has been
based further south in the larger old settlement areas. Being largely
residential areas there aren’t the usual gathering places associated with city
centres though you can get occasional glimpses of lgbt heritage.
for instance, the United Church of Canada. The church in Newtonbrook was the
place of worship of Ruth Bramham, the first transgender member of the United
Church’s lgbt network Affirm United. She is also a director on its National
Board. Another lgbt church member who lived in Toronto for a while is Rt. Rev.
Gary Paterson who became the first gay leader of a Christian church in Canada
when he was elected Moderator of the United Church in 2012 (he is married to
Vancouver councillor Tim Stevenson who was part of the Canadian delegation to
the Sochi Winter Olympics).
widely recognised Gay Village of Toronto is further south in the main
metropolis. The area is called Church and Wellesley, after Church Street and
Wellesley Street which cross in the heart of the district. This has long been
the location of Toronto Pride and is where WorldPride is being held.
of those weird turns of historical events Church and Wellesley provides a direct
link back to one of the earliest gay scandals in Toronto. Way back in 1820,
less than a decade after the settlement was founded, a local magistrate called
Alexander Wood owned an estate which covered part of the present Church and
Wellesley area. The scandal arose when he was accused of misusing his powers as
a magistrate by ordering local men to show him their private parts, ostensibly
for inspection to identify a rapist.
to 1970s Church and Wellesley has become the lgbt hub of Toronto. In 1991 the
area elected the city’s first openly gay councillor, Kyle Rae, and after his
retirement his successor was the fist openly lesbian councillor, Kristin
Wong-Tam. Toronto provided the first openly lesbian provincial Premier in 2013.
Kathleen Wynne replaced the then leader of her party and Premier of Ontario.
She won the provincial election for the post in her own right just a few days
world of art and culture one of the most significant people to put Toronto onto
the art map was Douglas Duncan. He was a wealthy heir who in 1936 opened an art
gallery in which he showcased many up-and-coming Canadian artists. Like many he
led a closeted gay life during this period when homosexuality was illegal. A
hint to his sexuality was made at his memorial service when one artist remarked
that Duncan had done a lot for female artists but didn’t actually love women.
has provided several Olympians to Team Canada. Scott Cranham (diving), Norman
Elder (equestrian), Mark Leduc (boxing) and Emanuel Sandhu (figure skating) all
have sporting links with the city.
was one of the first countries to introduce same-sex marriages and Toronto was
the location of the first. On 14th January 2001 in the Metropolitan
Community Church Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell, and Ann and Elaine Vantour,
were married. Their fight to have their marriages legally recognised is told here.
Just hours after the ruling in 2003 which recognised same-sex marriages another
Toronto couple, Michael Stark and Michael Leshner, became the first same-sex couple
to be married.
University of Toronto is home to the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity
Studies. As well as providing research courses for students and organising
conferences the Bonham Centre also publishes the most comprehensive (and reliable!)
online list of lgbt people on its website Queerbio.com.
everyone has a good time at WorldPride and wish I could be there to visit my
The term “classical” has
been applied popularly to all post-medieval music, but there are several
periods within “classical” music which relate to specific styles. One of these is
baroque music which was written between about 1600 and 1750.
Baroque was an artistic
style which also included art and literature and was originally created by the
Vatican to attract people back to the Catholic Church after the rise of
Protestantism. Baroque tried to be more popular and appeal to the ordinary
person in the street and move away from the more formal, somewhat stuffy, music
of the 17th century. That’s not to say that music before baroque was
always stuffy, but baroque tended to be more melodic and frequently more
up-beat and livelier. In this respect it had the same impact as rock’n’roll in
the 1950s when the music industry tried to appeal to a younger audience.
Many household names in
music rose to fame in the baroque period – Bach, Handel and Vivaldi. All of
them are familiar names and you probably know more of their music than you
realise. With regards to attracting people back to the Catholic Church one of
the most successful attempts was by Handel. His
“Messiah” was hugely popular in his time, and still is today.
There are several other
queer composers who made a name for themselves and helped to give music its
“baroque’n’roll” flavour to the 17th century.
Top of the list is
Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687). This Italian-born composer became one of the
most important cultural figures at the court of King Louis XIV of France. As
well as being a composer and talented musician Lully was a dancer, and most of
his baroque work was for the theatre and dance hall more than for the church.
As superintendent of
music at the royal court Lully created many innovative ballets, operas and
theatrical entertainments which can be compared to the modern stage musicals of
recent years with their special mechanical effects. Working in collaboration
with such famous French writers as Molière Lully transformed French theatrical
music and opera and influenced the way stage productions are produced.
Lully lost his royal
position in 1685 after a scandal involving him and a boy in the royal music
school, amongst other probable affairs. The alleged account of his death surely
ranks amongst the most extraordinary. But we’ll leave that for later in the
year! But until then I found this amusing little cartoon which features Lully
and his part in the development of the orchestra.
In Lully’s native Italy
another queer composer was rocking the baroque. Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713)
was a performer like Lully as well as a composer. He was regarded as one of the
top violinists of his day and highly influential in the establishing of a
distinct Italian baroque style. His music had fewer of the “fiddly” bits
(pardon the violin pun) than most baroque composers, and he wrote music which
people considered to be perfection.
Having been born into an
impoverished landed family Arcangelo’s rise to musical heights began after his
talents were spotted by some of the most important patrons around at the time –
Queen Kristina of Sweden, Cardinal Pamfili and, most importantly, Cardinal
Pietro Ottoboni (the pope’s great-nephew).
Arcangelo presided over
the weekly concerts at Ottoboni’s palace in Rome. The Cardinal is regarded as
one of the many closeted gay cardinals who gathered a group of talented,
artistic young men around him, and Arcangelo, who lived in his palace for a
while, probably came under the Cardinal’s patronage because of his looks as
much as for his music. Arcangelo formed an attachment to another violinist in
Rome called Matteo Fornari. Neither men married or are known to have had any
female romantic interests and they were hardly ever separated. Another composer
even dedicated a new sonata to the pair.
influenced many composers that followed, including Handel and Bach. The German
baroque music scene was highly influenced by the Italians. One German queer
baroque composed who was influenced by the Italians before Arcangelo was even
born was Johann Rosenmüller (1619-1684).
Johann studied at the
University of Leipzig and lived in the city for many years. He became organist
at one of the main cathedrals and was lined up to take over the post of Cantor,
or director of music, after the current holder. This offer was swiftly dropped
after Johann and several choirboys were arrested for sodomy. Johann was
sentenced to jail, but he managed to escape and ended up in Venice.
Venice helped to
increase the Italian influence in Johann’s music and he wrote a lot while he
was there, teaching at a girl’s school. Composers from Germany came to be
trained by him and return home with the Italian influences.
In 1682 Johann himself
returned to Germany to become the choir master at the court of Anton-Ulric von
Gelf, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel. It was there that Johann died in 1684.
There are many other
composers who influenced the development of music and produce the
“baroque’n’roll” of the 17th century. The three queer composers
mentioned today are just a few of those who passed on their influence all over
Among the ever-growing
number of classical composers whose sexuality has been discussed by biographers
is one whose name is probably unfamiliar to you – Aleksandr Scriabin
Scriabin was a Russian
composer, often called a pioneer of modern classical music. One of the elements
in his extraordinary life was his belief in the influence colour has on music,
which I’ll come to in a moment. Before that we’ll have a brief look at his life
to understand why his sexuality has been discussed.
On the face of it
Scriabin was a regular straight guy. He married twice and had 7 children. It is
biographers who interpret what little evidence there is to form an opinion. And
opinion seems to be all we have with Scriabin.
Outward appearances can
be misinterpreted. Scriabin was quite short and considered effeminate. He was
nicknamed “Pussy”, and I don’t need to explain that word’s use in sexual slang.
Suffice it to say that during his lifetime Scriabin was never regarded as
particularly masculine, even though he was a habitual womaniser and assaulter
of young girls. During the turn of the century he had a very close relationship
with his music publisher. But was it romantic or bromantic? Faubion Bowers, in
the 1996 edition of his biography of Scriabin, wrote “to impute homosexuality –
latent, passive or ultimately triumphed over, as it was in Scriabin’s case, in
my opinion – still it would be recreant to shirk a rather homosexual
interpretation of Scriabin’s life. Incontrovertible proof cannot now be dredged
up from the past, but so many symptoms there seem to be”. Robert Craft
(Stravinsky’s biographer) refers to Scriabin as “emotionally hermaphrodite”,
and a handful of other historians openly label Scriabin as bisexual. The jury
is still out as far as I’m concerned.
So, back to the music.
There are many instances in medical history where one sense is expressed by
another. For example, seeing a shape and hearing a sound, or touching an object
and smelling a fragrance. This very real phenomenon is called synesthesia.
Although Aleksandr Scriabin was probably not a true synesthete he formulated a
theory in which specific colour represent specific musical keys. He wasn’t the
first or only composer who saw colour in music. Even Sir Isaac Newton came up
with a similar theory way back in 1702 (I might say more about that later in
the year). Here’s how his theory works, and I’m not particularly well versed in
music theory so I hope I can explain this properly.
Starting with the piano
keyboard, there are 12 musical keys. Scriabin divided the rainbow colours into
12 hues which he placed in a circle, one colour representing one key, like a
clock face. He placed them in a circle because they then coincided with what is
called the Circle of Fifths (pictured below). We needn’t say more about it,
except to say it’s all about how chords work together.
Much of Scriabin’s
reasoning for his application of colour to music was influenced by his own
mystical beliefs and philosophy rather than true synesthesia. From about 1903
he began composing pieces based on his colour theory. The most significant of
these was “Prometheus: Poem of Fire”. Scriabin invented a new “musical”
instrument called a “clavier à lumières” (“keyboard with lights”) to be played
during the piece. The keyboard was linked to projectors, so that whichever key
or chord was played its corresponding colour in the Circle of Fifths was
projected onto a screen or around the walls.
The clavier à lumières
was such a complex instrument to construct that it wasn’t actually used in the
world premiere of “Prometheus: Poem of Fire”. One was built for a
performance in 1915 in New York. Scriabin’s original clavier is preserved in
his Moscow apartment which is now a museum. This video shows how a recent
performance of “Prometheus”.
The culmination of
Scriabin’s colour music was to be extended to all the other senses in a
monumental piece called “Mysterium”. This was to have been the salvation of
mankind (he was a bit of an egotist and thought he was God!). “Mysterium” was
to have been a week-long performance located in the foothills of the Himalayas
and would have filled the air with music, light, colour and fragrance, with
full orchestra, clavier and dancers. In Scriabin’s mind “Mysterium” was to have
created such an aura of bliss on its audience that this bliss would spread
around the world and rid mankind of its evils to create a new world of peace.
Bearing in mind that
“Mysterium” was being written in the years running up to 1914 it seems somewhat
ironic that such a delusion of the power of his music would never be completed.
As Scriabin saw the world descend into the war whose century is being marked
this year he caught septicemia, and in April 1915 he died with “Mysterium”
Several recreation and
reconstructions of Scriabin’s colour/music have been performed in recent years.
What have a toothbrush,
sheep dogs and a life of rebellion all have in common? The answer: they have
all played an important part in the life of Dame Ethel Smyth (1858-1944), one
of the leading British female composers of the 20th century, and
certainly the first female composer to be made a Dame.
If Ethel had been born a
man her life would not have been as extraordinary as it was. The fact that she
was a women makes her life stand out in what was a male-dominated world and
profession. And her life coincided with one of history’s great battles for
equality – women’s suffrage.
Although I don’t think
Ethel could have been labelled as a true English eccentric her life was
certainly unconventional. I prefer to call her a pioneer because she
successfully fought against the stereotypes of Victorian womanhood and found
such success in her chosen career that she could, like Florence Nightingale, be
called a “national treasure” during her own lifetime.
Putting those two
women’s names together also points out the great chasm there was between them
ideologically. Ethel Smyth was one of the most active of the Suffragettes.
Florence Nightingale, on the other hand, was no supporter of votes for women.
It can be argued that Florence’s influence and iconic status was a major factor
in the delay of giving votes to women in the UK until after her death in 1910.
The suffrage movement
was a major cause for which Ethel Smyth was prepared to put her musical career
on hold for two years. She did, however, compose an anthem which was adopted by
the Suffragettes called “March of the Women”. There are various interpretations
of this anthem online and I chose the one below because it is probably the
nearest we can get to hearing how it would have been performed most often,
without orchestra, just piano accompaniment at suffrage meetings.
The streak of rebellion
in her veins began when Ethel was young. Growing up in a Victorian middle-class
military family her desire to pursue a career in music was opposed by her
father. There were frequent shouting matches between them which sometimes led
Ethel to refuse to attend the usual social round of dinner parties and
receptions. Ethel locked herself in her room to avoid them and eventually her
father relented and reluctantly agreed to let her study music in Germany.
It was while she was in
Leipzig that she had the first of several romantic relationships with women.
Lisl von Herzogenberg, wife of Ethel’s tutor Heinrich, formed a close bond and,
more or less, accepted Ethel as a full member of the family. Through them Ethel
got to meet many of the great composers of the time – Dvorak, Greig,
Tchaikovsky and Brahms. She also met Lisl’s brother-in-law Henry Brewster, the
only man to whom Ethel is known to have had a romantic attachment. They wrote
several works together, Brewster writing the libretto for Ethel’s operas.
Although there were
several other women that Ethel loved it doesn’t seem as though she ever set up
home with any of them. In fact, her constant companions for more than 50 years
were a string of sheepdogs, all of them called Pan. In her later years when
hearing problems began to restrict her composing Ethel turned to writing and
became a well-known writer. She wrote about her dogs in a book called
“Inordinate(?) Affection: A Story for Dog Lovers” (1936).
In a way her writing
actually helped to improve her popularity as a composer as the general
non-opera-going public became aware of her. The struggle for awareness of her
work continued throughout most of Ethel’s life. The fact that she was a woman
was the biggest struggle she had to overcome. She did have a few influential
supporters and advocates, including Sir Thomas Beecham, and even enjoyed the
patronage of the exiled Empress Eugenie of France and Princess de Polignac
(Winnaretta Singer, lesbian sewing machine heiress).
Even at the end of her
life Ethel never really believed she had truly overcome discrimination, despite
the fact that she became the first female composer to be made a Dame in 1922,
and that her music was popular and played in concert halls all around the
Which just leaves the
toothbrush I mentioned at the beginning. It plays an important part in the most
famous incident in her life after she was arrested for smashing the window of a
politician’s home during a Suffragette protest. It’s a story worth re-telling
because it illustrates more than any other incident in her life how she wasn’t
going to be pushed around because she was a woman. Ethel was sentenced to a
term in Holloway Prison. One day, when fellow Suffragettes struck up her “March
of the Women” outside her window, Ethel picked up her toothbrush and went to
the window and used it to conduct the women in rousing song. What an
extraordinary sight that would have been.
Continuing my series on asteroids named after lgbt people we
reach those asteroids discovered from 1995 to 1999. As before I’ve quoted from
the original citations and added extra information were necessary. The numbers which precede each name are those officially assigned to them.
(11098) GinsbergDiscovered 2 Apr. 1995. Name published
9 May 2001. “Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997), American lyric poet and teacher, was
born in Paterson, New Jersey, and studied at Columbia College, New York City.
He became a central figure among the Beats… with the publication of his long
poem ‘Howl’ in October 1955.”
26 Sept. 1995. Name published 30 Mar. 2010.“Johnny G. Weir (b.1984) is
an American athlete, figure-skating champion and Olympian, talented in many
spheres of artistic endeavour. He is known for his unique skating style,
outspokenness and love for Russian culture. The name was suggested by his
(10204) TuringDiscovered 1 Aug. 1997. Name
published 4 May 1999. “Named in memory of Alan Turing (1912—1954), English
mathematician and logician, a pioneer in the study of computability. In a
fundamental paper published in 1936, he introduced the concept of an abstract
computing machine and showed how such a machine can be programmed to simulate
the behaviour of any other computing device. This concept, now referred to as a
“universal Turing machine”, was introduced years before the advent of
programmable computers, and it was used to demonstrate the existence of
non-computable numbers and undecidable mathematical propositions.”
(17744) JodiefosterDiscovered 18 Jan. 1998. Name
published 21 Sept. 2002. “Jodie Foster (b.1962) is an accomplished actress and
film director. For most astronomers she will always be Eleanor ‘Ellie’ Arroway
in Robert Zemeckis' movie ‘Contact’, based on the novel by the same name
written by the late Carl Sagan.”
20 Sept. 1998. Name published 23 May 2000. “Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) was
a French writer of great courage and integrity, who made a point of equal
vocation for man and woman. In her treatise ‘Le Deuxième Sexe’ (1949) she
pleaded passionately for the abolition of the myth of “eternal feminine”. She
was the lifelong companion of Jean-Paul Sartre.”
11 Apr. 1999. Name published 28 Sept. 2004. “The word zephyr derives from the
name of the ancient Greek god of the west wind, Zephyros.” Zephyros and Apollo
were rivals in love of the prince Hyakinthos (Hyacinth).
15 Sept. 1999. Name published 3 July 2012. “Frank L. Kameny (1925–2011) trained
as a variable star astronomer in the 1950s, but joined the Civil Rights
struggle. His contributions included removing homosexuality from being termed a
mental disorder in 1973 and shepherding passage of the District of Columbia
marriage equality law in 2009.”
(25619) MartonspohnDiscovered 3 Jan. 2000. Name
published 28 Apr. 2010. “Márton Spohn (b.1989) was awarded second place in the
2009 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for his cellular and
molecular biology project. He attends the Fazekas Mihaly Secondary Grammar
School, Budapest, Hungary.”
1 Nov. 2000. Name published 9 Apr. 2009. “In Greek mythology Narcissus was a
hero from the territory of Thespiae in Boeotia who was renowned for his beauty.
In the various stories, he became obsessed with his own reflection in a pool
and, for one reason or another, died as a result.”
that are not named after lgbt people but have lgbt links.
7 Feb. 1995. Name published 17 May 2011. “Moomintroll is the central character
of the classic 1946 novel ‘Comet in Moominland’ … by Finnish author ToveJansson. Moomintroll and his friends discover that a comet is on a
collision orbit with the Earth and the story details their adventures to avoid
the threatened catastrophe.” Tove (1914-2001) was a well-known out lesbian
writer and artist in Finland.
Last November I wrote
about the gay Battle of Britain fight pilot Squadron Leader Ian Gleed. I also
told you about the plastic model kit I was putting together of one of Gleed’s aircraft,
the Hawker Hurricane Mk1. I’ve not been rushing to complete it and its still
not finished (photo below). The internet is full of forums where others have
been making this model.
With the airplane being
one of the very few commercially available model kits which is of a plane flown
by a specific fighter pilot, and certainly only one of the two I know about
(there’s also a model kit of Gleed’s Spitfire), I thought I’d have a look at
his association with the Hawker Hurricane and how it helped him to become a war
Acting Flight Lieutenant
Ian Gleed acquired the specific plane reproduced in the model kit on 17th
May 1940 shortly after he arrived at 87 Squadron’s base near Lille in France.
The Hawker Hurricane Mk1 was one of the most reliable and rugged fighter planes
in the RAF. Gleed had his Hurricane painted in standard camouflage with the
squadron’s code letter LK and the individual plane letter A.
Wartime pilots often
adopted lucky mascots. Ian Gleed’s mascot was the cartoon cat called Figaro
from the Disney film “Pinocchio” which had recently been released. You can’t
see it on the photo above but it was painted on the other side of the plane on
the detachable cockpit door. This mascot was painted on all of the subsequent
planes Gleed flew as well. The picture below (by “stickman” on www.a2asimilations.com) shows Figaro
swatting a swastika with his paw, the usual pose Gleed used for his mascot and
it proved so distinctive that the Hurricane soon gained the nickname “Figaro”.
Another distinctive paint
job on “Figaro” was the propeller cone. It was painted red, and the very front
of the fuselage was painted with a pair of red lips so that it looked as though
“Figaro” was blowing a raspberry at Nazi enemy planes.
Gleed’s first day of
operations in his new plane was the following morning, 18th May, as
leader of a dawn patrol over the French/Belgian border. They encountered 5 Nazi
Messerschmitts and immediately engaged them. Gleed shot down 2 of them. That
was just the start of an intense period. He shot down another 6 enemy planes
over the next 2 days.
87 Squadron was based in
France until the advance of Nazi troops came too close and the pilots were
ordered to evacuate back to England. In the ten days that the squadron fought
the attacks on the ground and in the air some 70 Nazi planes was shot down, at
least. Pilots and civilians were killed. It was safer for the British pilots to
be brought home. Besides, a much bigger battle was on the way, and Britain
needed as many pilots as it could muster.
As second in command of
the squadron Gleed became the force behind rebuilding the team and morale.
Stationed in the south of England they encountered sporadic night raids which
increased over several weeks. Many Nazi planes were shot down and several 87
Squadron pilots were lost in battle. This was the prelude to the Battle of
Taking to his “Figaro”
plane many times over the next months as the Battle of Britain raged on Gleed
shot down 7 Nazi planes. For his actions Gleed was awarded the Distinguished Flying
Cross. At the end of September 1940 he was promoted to Squadron Leader with
full command of 87 Squadron.
During 1941 Gleed
continued to take to the air in “Figaro” to engage enemy raiders. The main duty
of 87 Squadron at this time was in night flying, so “Figaro” was painted black.
Gleed flew over London during one of the most intensive nights of the blitz.
On promotion to Wing
Commander in November 1941 Ian Gleed left 87 Squadron and his loyal companion
of the sky “Figaro”. It had been developing mechanical problems over the
previous months and had not flown in it since August. Gleed had to leave
“Figaro” behind with the squadron, for from now on he’d be flying mostly in the
iconic plane of Fighter Command, the Spitfire. “Figaro” was decommissioned, and
after Gleed was shot down and killed in 1942 his family was given the cockpit
door of “Figaro” with Figaro the cat (the very one in the photo above). This is
now in the RAF Museum collection.
[Achievement – the
name given in heraldry to the full pictorial representation of a coat of arms.]
International Heraldry Day (yes, these really is one). In celebration I have
trawled through my files and done some new research to bring you a whole (or
almost whole) alphabet of lgbt heraldry. I don't have room to show the full heraldic achievements, so instead here are 24 shields of lgbt
people and, in keeping with the international flavour, I have included as many
nationalities as possible. I’ve also tried to include at least one person from
each century since the origins of medieval heraldry. Some shields you may recognise
from my regular Queer Achievement articles. Other will re-appear in future
A) Francilia Agar (b.1975), Olympic swimmer from Dominica.
B) George Byron, 6th Baron Byron
(1788-1824), Romantic poet.
C) Sir John Clanvowe (c.1341-1391), knight and
D) Michael Dillon (1915-1962), doctor and
E) King Edward II of England (1284-1327).
F) Mark Frankland (1934-2012), MI5 spy.
G) Manhendra Gohil Singh (b.1965), Prince of
H) Antonio Hoyos y Vinent (1885-1940), writer.
I) Christopher Isherwood (1904-1986), writer.
J) Sir Elton John (b.1947), singer songwriter and
K) Eigil Knuth (1903-1996), archaeologist and
L) Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687), composer.
M) Michelangelo (1475-1564), painter and sculptor.
N) Sir William Neville (c.1341-1391), Constable of
O) Lawrence Olivier (1907-1989), actor.
P) Julia Pell (1953-2006), civil rights
Q) Roger Quilter (1877-1953), composer.
R) Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962), First Lady of
S) Tom Shakespeare (b.1966), sociologist.
T) Alan Turing (1912-1954), mathematician and
father of computer science.
U) Count Sergei Uvarov (1786-1855), diplomat.
V) Rev. Charles Vaughan (1816-1897), Chaplain to Queen
W) Siegfried Wagner (1869-1930), composer and
director of the Bayreuth Festival.
Y) Marguerite Yourcenar (1903-1987), novelist and
One of the leading
musicologists to look at the way gender and sexuality, in particular lgbt
sexuality, effects and influences music was Philip Brett (1937-2002). In
commemoration of Philip’s pioneering work in queer musicology the American
Musicological Society (AMS) created the Philip Brett Award, an annual prize
which recognises the work of one or more individual in the academic study of
The AMS is currently
looking for nominations for this year’s award, and their deadline in 1st
July. The award winner will be announced later in the year. In advance of that
announcement here is the first part the list of all recipients of the Philip
Brett Award so far. I can’t go into much detail with all of them, so I’ll look
at just a few of the recipients and their work. The rest of the list will be
given when the latest award in announced.
1997Elizabeth Wood, for “Decomposition” in
“Decomposition: Post-Disciplinary Performance”, and for “The Lesbian in Opera:
Desire Unmasked in Smyth’s ‘Fantasio and Fete Galante’ in “En Travesti: Women,
Gender Subversion, Opera””. Elizabeth was one of the first collaborators with
Philip Brett on queer musicology, and one of the very few out lesbian musicologists
around at the time. They appeared at many seminars and conferences together,
and co-authored the entry “Lesbian and Gay Music” for the 2001 edition of “The
New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians”. Elizabeth was a founder member of
the Gay and Lesbian Study Group of the AMS in 1990. Just as Philip Brett was
known for his work on Benjamin Britten, Elizabeth was equally well-known for
her work on Dame Ethel Smyth, both delving into the significance of each
composer’s sexuality in relation to their music.
1998Gillian Rodgers, for “Male Impersonation on the North
American Variety and Vaudeville Stage, 1868-1930” (PhD dissertation). Gillian
was a founder member and early committee member of the Gay and Lesbian Study
Group. The musical theatre of 19th century America is her
speciality, particularly it’s evolution from minstrelsy to vaudeville.
1999Martha Mockus, for “Sounding Out: Lesbian Feminism
and the Music of Pauline Oliveros” (PhD dissertation).
2000Byron Adams, for “The ‘Dark Saying’ of the
Enigma: Homoeroticism and the Elgarian Paradox” in “19th Century
Music”, and for “No Armpits, Please, We’re British: Whitman and English Music,
1884-1936” in “Walt Whitman and Modern Music: War, Desire and the Trials of
2001Bruce Holsinger, for “Music, Body, and Desire in
Medieval Culture: Hildegard of Bingen to Chaucer”.
2002Sophie Fuller and Lloyd Whitesell, editors of “Queer Episodes in Music and Modern
2003Boden Sandstrom, for the documentary film “Radical
Harmonies”, of which she was co-producer. The documentary dealt with the
emergence of the Women’s Music Cultural movement in America which began in the
early 1970s. It chronicled the evolution of the work of female producers and
technicians who, with performers, found very few women-based record companies
and show producers with whom they could collaborate. June Millington was
associate director on the documentary. Boden is a technician and sound engineer
herself, a Doctor in audio technology, and is currently a lecturer in the
Musicology and Ethnomusicology Division of the University of Maryland.
2004Ruth Sara Longobardi, for “Music as Subtext; Reading
Between the Lines” from “Models and Modes of Musical Representation in Benjamin
Britten’s ‘Death in Venice’: Musical, Historical, and Ideological Contexts”
2005Judith Ann Peraino, for “Listening to the Sirens:
Musical Technologies of Queer Identity from Homer to ‘Hedwig’ ”.
award) Nadine Hubbs, for “The Queer
Composition of America’s Sound: Gay Modernists, American Music, and National
Identity”. Nadine is a founding co-director of the Lesbian-Gay-Queer Research
Initiative. She has written many other books on popular queer music culture,
and is currently Professor of Women's Studies and Music, Faculty Associate of
the Department of American Culture, at the University of Michigan.
Every now and again we
hear of a young boyband member coming out as gay or bisexual. It doesn’t seem
to affect the headlines these days, not unless the boyband member is a huge celebrity.
It seems that a lot of
the most popular boybands of the 1980s and 1990s had one lgbt member, and so
here’s an overall look at the history of the Gay Boys in the Band.
First of all, let’s set
some criteria. What do I regard as a boyband? Obviously, all members of the
band are “boys”, that is of any age up to their mid-20s (some even re-form when
the members are in their 30s, but they still get labelled as boybands). Whether
they play an instrument or not isn’t important. Next in importance is the
target audience. Generally, a boyband appeals to the teenage market, usually
teenage girls. Their music is pop-based, and their band’s image is usually
carefully managed – during one phase during the 90s lots of naked young torsos
were on show!
Very often a boyband has
been specially “manufactured” and created by record producers rather than
evolve out of previous years of performing before being “discovered”.
The roots of boyband
culture go back several decades. Groups like the Beach Boy and the Beatles can
all be said to have influenced the boyband style. The Osmonds, the Jacksons and
the Monkees were probably the first “proper” boybands.
One of the earliest, and
most literal, boybands was the Puerto Rico group Menudo. Members of this band
had to be aged between 12 and 16. Once past that age a band member was replaced
with someone younger. Menudo produced one of the most famous gay boyband
members, Ricky Martin, one of the few gay ex-boyband members to have success in
a solo career. But he wasn’t the first member of Menudo to come out.
At the age of 14 Angelo
Garcia left Menudo to pursue a solo career. Unlike fellow band member Ricky
Martin Angelo recognised his sexuality in his teenage years, yet he didn’t come
out publicly until 2010, influencing Ricky’s decision to come out several weeks
But who was the first
boyband member to come out officially during his boyband career? During the
1990s, at the height of the boyband phenomenon, there was a spate of
manufactured bands whose members were all, or almost all, gay. Generally these
were formed by record producers who had a large association with the lgbt club
and dance scene and who thought an all-gay boyband would have as much success
as any other. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your personal view of
boybands), the all-gay line-up had only a fleeting success and they all
disappeared after a year or two.
In the UK the most
well-known, or at least most moderately successful at the time, was a band
called 2wo Third3 (pronounced Two Thirds) in 1994. The name of this 3-member
boyband was supposed to indicate the sexuality of the singers – two were gay,
one was straight (a 4th member was a cartoon character!). Only one
of these gay members, Lee Thomas, is still active in the music industry.
Across the Irish Sea at
about the same time another gay boyband was put together, assembled from young
lads who answered an ad in an Irish lgbt magazine called “Guyz”. The success of
the Irish boyband Boyzone led “Guyz” publisher to form an all-gay Irish line-up
of 5 boys in a clear imitation. The band’s name was influenced by the magazine
– 4Guyz – a name which clearly indicated its target market. After a flurry of
publicity and a few gigs, including London Pride 1996, 4Guyz failed to get as
far as releasing a single.
Which brings me back to
Boyzone. In the UK there hadn’t been such a fuss made out of a current/former
boyband member coming out since George Michael as that of Stephen Gately of
Boyzone in 1999. When he decided to come out in the Sun newspaper before they
had a chance to out him there was such a wave of support from fans and public
alike that it can be said to have been a turning point in the media’s
(particularly the Sun’s) reputation in handling coming out stories. Stephen
Gatley’s coming out was treated sympathetically and without sensationalising
his sex life.
Former Wham member
George Michael, on the other hand, as I’m sure most of you will remember, outed
himself in spectacular fashion in 1998. It probably lost him a lot of fans, and
it certainly helped the British media to begin labelling him as the bad boy of
pop after years of them lauding him as one of the greatest singer songwriters
this country has produced.
Other than the
manufactured all-gay line-ups of the 1990s, who was the earliest known boyband
member to be openly gay from the start of the boyband’s existence? That honour
goes to Andrew Kinlochan of the UK boyband Phixx. When the band was formed in
2003 he was already openly gay, though this was not known to the media at large
until he admitted it to the Sun newspaper in the publicity surrounding the
release of Phixx’s first single. Recently Andrew tried to revive his singing
career as a soloist on a tv talent show, but this was unsuccessful and he is
currently working for Burberry.
Perhaps the experience
of Stephen Gately’s coming out (and particularly after the hugely supportive
and respectful coverage of his sad death and funeral, despite attempts by some
tabloids to do otherwise) probably encouraged other gay boyband members to come
out. Stephen’s partner at the time of his outing was Eloy de Jong, member of
the Dutch boyband Caught in the Act. Another Irish boyband member, Mark Feehily
of Westlife, came out in 2005, again in the Sun newspaper (what’s the big deal with
the Sun newspaper, I don’t know?).
Thanks to talent shows
like “X-Factor” there has been many young gay singers emerging onto the pop
scene. The popularity of boybands, not seen since the 1990s, has brought more
gay boyband members to the public notice. The most recent of these, in the UK,
is Jaymi Hensley of the band Union J, who found fame in the 2012 UK series of
“X-Factor” (Union J is managed by Louis Walsh who also managed Boyzone and
Other boybands with gay
members, some more well-known than others, have been ‘N Sync (Lance Bass), Blue
(Duncan James), New Kids on the Block (Jonathan Knight), and V (Kevin McDaid).
These days any new
boyband seems to be subject to “which one is gay” speculation, such has been
the regularity of former boyband members coming out and the acceptance by fans
of openly gay singers. Even One Direction and the Wanted haven’t escaped this
speculation. Who knows? Only time will tell.
It’s been a while since
I wrote a proper article on flags so for the start of this Pride Month here’s a
brief look at some of the many flags adopted for and by various sexualities, genders
and relationships in the lgbt community.
My main criteria for
inclusion is that the flag should be recognised by members of the community it
represents. Some are proposed designs which have found support and may not yet have been produced as actual flags but
are designed to be flown as such if desired. For the same of visual uniformity I have shown all flags in the same ratio.
There’s only space to give the name of community the flag represents, and it’s year of creation
if known. Brief descriptions of some communities are given, just in case they are
new to you. I apologise in advance for any misunderstandings or inaccuracies in the descriptions I give. This isn't meant to be the ultimate authority on lgbt flags but a record of their use.
Polyamorous people are those who have multiple, often simultaneous, relationships with others of any gender.
The TwoSpirit emblem was adopted by the Committee of the International Two Spirit Gathering.
Intersexuals have often been grouped with hermaphrodites purely because of the presence of the physical properties of male and female sex organs. Some intersexuals also include transgender people who are transitioning and not born as intersex. It has often been called the bi-gender flag.
Lipsticklesbians are those who prefer the more feminine characteristics and don't have physical attraction to masculine lesbians.
Pansexuals have relationships with anyone of any gender or sexuality and, unlike the polyamorous, are often monogamous.
Aromantics don't experience love in the way that it occurs in other relationships. There is close friendship and physical contact.
Genderqueer is an umbrella term for various non-binary relationships - people who do not feel that can be labelled as any one particular sexuality or gender. (See also genderqueer and gender non-binary below)
Autosexuals find that sexual activity with others is a problem, either physically or psychologically, and find satisfaction in exploring and enjoying their own sexual pleasure. In other respects their relationships can be as conventional as any other.
Neutrois is a term which can be used by several other genders/sexualities. What they have in common is a recognition of an asexual or gender-neutral identity. Sometimes trans-sexuals have been included. The flag is also seen as a horizontal tricolour.
Genderfluid people are often grouped with the genderqueer. The difference is often personal to each person.
Hermaphrodite is an old-fashioned term still used among some intersexuals. The physical characteristics of both male and female genders are more noticeable in hermaphrodites, whereas intersexuals may only display this on a genetic level.
Gender non-binary is a sexual identity in the genderqueer spectrum. This is not intended as a replacement for the genderqueer identity or flag but as a companion.
G0y is a recently established term for a gay man who is only interested in masculine men and don't involve themselves in some major parts of the lgbt community (Pride marches, dance culture, etc.). Most importantly, the g0ys (yes, that's the number zero and not the letter O) do not indulge in some sexual practices that are otherwise common in the gay community. The stripes are often shown horizontally.
Androphilia is the sexual attraction to men, irrespective of your own gender/sexuality.
Gynephilia is the sexual attraction to women, irrespective of your own gender/sexuality.
Greyromantic is an umbrella term for several identities, the main characteristics of which are the refusal to have their romantic attraction to someone returned even when a sexual attraction is declared, or they can only feel romantic attraction after an deep emotional bond is formed first.
Demisexuals are almost the same a greyromantics in that no sexual attraction (as opposed to romantic attraction in greyromantics) is felt until after a strong emotional bond is formed.
What I hope this look at some of the many identities that are being recognised with flags will help you realise what a diverse community we live in. However, with so many identities adopting very similar flags I feel there is a need for flag design to become more imaginative.