Sunday 19 December 2021

Advent 4: Christmas Travesti

Over the past three Sundays I’ve presented some results of research into Christmas gift-bringers and characters. I’ve shown how some of them have changed gender over the centuries, and that some of them have often been played in traditional customs and pageants by someone of the opposite gender.

The terms “cross-dressing” and “drag” have become too associated with expressions of gender and sexual identity. Today I’ll be using an additional term. In the performing arts the term “travesti” is used to describe the portrayal of a character by a person of the opposite biological gender, regardless of whether that person is lgbt or not (to confuse matters even further, I’ll not be using the term “travesti” as used in South America for transgender people).

As with a lot of things, travesti roles began in ancient times. Here we have to make another distinction. Historians and academics often give the impression that ancient communities never did anything that didn’t involve religion and worship. The buzz word “pagan” appears like a virus, spreading through research and literature to explain everything we don’t have evidence for. What very few historians mention is that some traditional customs could have originated because people just wanted to have fun and let their hair down. Children role-played for fun just as they do today. Fun and faith went alongside each other, just like our modern Christmas. The Roman festival of Saturnalia, often erroneously quoted as being the origin of Christmas, is an example. So little is known about Saturnalia that no-one knows what they did except have wild parties. Evidence does suggest, however, that role reversal took place, but none to suggest it involved cross-dressing.

Some activities in religious festivals seeped into secular life, and vice versa. Today it is often impossible to say which effected the other the most. As far as cross-dressing in concerned, many pre-Christian religions had male priests who wore female masks in some ceremonies. Female masks have been found in Greek temples dating to 5,000 years ago. They were also used in Greek theatre in both comedies and tragedies.

The early Christian Church frowned upon cross-dressing, teaching that it was immoral and antisocial. It even became illegal to cross-dress in public in many nations. However, if the person (a man) was doing so as part of a theatrical performance, it was okay. This explains why the Church accepted travesti roles in religious ceremony. During the Middle Ages processions and portrayals of Biblical stories were popular. They were a way for the Church to inform the ordinary people who couldn’t read about Bible stories. This gave rise to the Passion plays of Easter and the Mystery plays of Christmas. In both of these plays female roles were played by men, even the role of the Virgin Mary.

During the Middle Ages communities began to organise their own little celebrations. The Mystery plays evolved into community “mumming” plays in which comedy, parody and travesty were common. Celebrations were also often adapted from local folk customs. In central Europe many of these customs took place in winter around Christmas or the winter solstice. Christian elements were added to these customs, and celebrations of the arrival of St. Nicholas to distribute gifts on December 6th was among them. St. Nicholas didn’t become associated with Christmas or gift-bringing until the 12th century, so we can be sure that these new customs don’t date before that. There’s no written evidence for most of them until the 19th century. Last week I gave a few examples of these customs in which St. Nicholas’s wife is played by a man – like the Wiefke of the Klaasohm and the Nikolowiebl of the Buttnmandllauf customs. These were acceptable to Church, State and society because they were regarded as performance, not a life-style choice.

In several countries from the 17th century there are records of groups of men who gathered and cross-dressed in private clubs – the Molly houses of the UK, for example, and various bars in the USA. Some of these men performed (sing, dance, recite, play an instrument) for the amusement of the others. This is where modern drag originated.

An event in 19th century London about a couple of men renowned for cross-dressing on stage hit the headlines. Their names were Ernest Boulton (1847-1904) and Frederick Park (1847-1881). They have a kind of Christmas connection - Park was baptised on 5th January (Twelfth Night) 1847, probably being born around New Year’s Day, and Boulton was born on 18th December 1847 (his birthday was yesterday).

They performed under the stage names of Stella Graham and Fanny Park and became quite famous. They even had publicity photographs taken of them in their drag costumes. Sadly, because cross-dressing in public in England was illegal at the time the pair were arrested outside the Strand Theatre in London in 1870. This was, however, not the first time that they had appeared in public dressed as women. Both had appeared in court on previous occasions relating to their cross-dressing. They were put on trial for outraging public decency and sodomy. The public followed its progress closely and the courtroom was often overcrowded.

Their first trial dealt with the charge of sodomy. The prosecution insisted that the fact that Boulton and Park were homosexual (a new word at the time) “proved” they were guilty. Many witnesses gave damning evidence against them, though the judge criticised the means by which some of that evidence was gathered. The jury took less than an hour to find Boulton and Park not guilty. This caused great rejoicing in the courtroom and Boulton fainted. A few days later they pleaded guilty to the charge of outraging public decency, thus negating a trial for that offence, and they were bound over to “keep the peace” (a sort of probation) for two years against a fine of 500 guineas. Both returned to the stage and toured in England and the USA, though not together, and not very often in drag.

When Boulton and Park were performing British theatre was experiencing its heyday. It was the period when the modern tradition of British Christmas pantomime (nothing to do with miming) acquired its present form. Some of that tradition came down through the medieval mummers plays. It also evolved out of the Italian “commedia dell’arte” tradition which featured characters like Harlequin, Columbine and Pierrot. Add a big influence from Victorian Music Hall (burlesque) and you get the pantomime that the UK loves to this day.

What people love about pantomime is the comedy, the songs, the spectacle, the slapstick, and above all, the stories and characters. A good traditional pantomime usually has two leading travesti roles, one played by men, the other by a woman. The pantomime dame is the most important. This is always a man in drag, usually a well-known comedian, appearing in ever-increasingly outrageous or elaborate costumes. The travesti dame role first appears way back in 1731 in “Dick Whittington”, my favourite pantomime. Dame roles became more frequent and popular in the final days of Music Hall. Another feature is that the dame has pockets full of sweets and she regularly throws them into the audience, though this has no connection to the Christmas gift-giving of the characters in traditional customs.

Perhaps because of its outrageousness and opportunity to slip in many sexual innuendos the dame character has been played by many gay actors – Sir Ian McKellen, Douglas Byng, John Inman, Wayne Sleep, Danny la Rue, Stanley Baxter, Christopher Biggins, Jack Tripp, Paul O’Grady, the list is endless. Sometimes the dame is the villain, like the two Ugly Sisters in Cinderella.

The other travesti role in pantomime is that of the Principal Boy, always played by a woman. This character is often the hero of the pantomime – Aladdin, Dick Whittington, Robin Hood, Peter Pan, Prince Charming, etc. In recent years, certainly since the 1960s, these roles have often been played by young men, usually the most famous pop star of the day.

So, there you have it. The pantomime dame is a descendant of the medieval Christmas processions and Mystery Plays in which the Virgin Mary was played by a man. The Mystery Plays evolved into mumming plays in which comedy and over-the-top characters helped to inspire the first British pantomimes and the dame.

Examples of travesti (left to right): Weifke (centre) in the Klaasohm custom; a publicity photo of Boulton (left) and Park (right); a typical British pantomime dame.

If we look at the history and development of Christmas and its many gift-bringers we find that there is no single influence or ancestor. What began as a Christian festival has lent its name to many celebrations, traditions and customs held during the Christmas season that have evolved over time. Just like our own family trees, many influences and many people and places have produced what we have today.

This is my final article of 2021. Thank you so much for being with me through this year, and I hope you’ll stay with me in 2022 when we’ll kick off with a list of January birthdays, and in mid-January look forward to the Beijing Winter Olympic and the newest list of lgbt Winter Olympians.

Have a very Merry Christmas and whatever festival and celebration you observe, and a Happy New Year.

Sunday 12 December 2021

Advent 3: Christmas Can Be a Bit of a Drag

The “family tree” of Christmas gift-bringers that I have been working on, and which I had hoped to present to you today, has proved so much of a tangled web that it is not ready. Perhaps next year?

If you’ve read the previous two Advent articles you’ll know just how much gender confusion there is around at Christmas. This is, as historians remind us, a hangover from non-Christian festivals from the past. I won’t label all of them as “pagan pre-Christian” because a lot of the traditions attributed to paganism were created relatively recently (e.g. the pagan Slavic gods have been proven to be 18th century inventions).

Gender reversal among traditional characters is a common element in many pre-modern customs, both religious and secular. The prominent feature is male-as-female transvestitism. There are, it should be emphasised, many, many traditional female Christmas gift-bringers and characters around the world. Although equally important as their male counterparts they have no gender-queer characteristic, except the ones I’ve mentioned in the previous two Sundays who were primarily transgender in essence – it is the character themselves that changed gender.

There are many regional, Christmas traditions and customs that include male-as-female cross-dressing. From my research I have been able to group them into three categories as follows.

1) The wife of St. Nicholas. We must distinguish St. Nicholas’s wife from the modern Mrs. Santa Claus as established in her present form by Katherine Lee Bates in 1889. The customs in the regions where St. Nicholas is given a wife have no connection to the American Santa Claus. In the article I wrote on Mrs.Claus several years ago I said that St. Nicholas wouldn’t have been given a wife because he was a Catholic bishop. Since then, I have been doing years of research and discovered current traditions where St. Nicholas has a wife in a supporting role. Here are some of them.

Last Sunday I mentioned that in Limburg, Belgium, an incarnation of the gift-bringer St. Barbara under the name of Sinte-Berb came to be regarded as St. Nicholas’s wife. There’s no indication, however, that she has ever been portrayed by a man in drag.

St. Nicholas’s wife appears most frequently in the Christmas customs of the Netherlands, Germany and eastern Europe, usually appearing on December 5th or 6th, St. Nicholas’s Eve and Day. In each case the character of St. Nicholas is portrayed as a medieval bishop similar to the Dutch Sinterklaas, and is most cases his wife is one of a group of companions, both demonic and good. The Nikoloweibl (Nicholas-wife) of the Buttnmandllauf custom of southern Bavaria is one of the good companions, often carrying a basket of sweets to give to children. This custom involves St. Nicholas, Nikiloweibl, an angel and demonic straw men parading through the local villages. They visit people’s homes, perform songs or play pranks, and receive gifts before moving on to the next house. At one time Nikoloweibl was always played by a young man. Today he is often played by a teenage boy in drag, but young women have been welcomed as the saintly wife in some areas since the 1950s. In other areas Nikoloweibl has been dropped in favour of a larger role for the angel, always played by a girl.

Perhaps the most unusual, not to say fun, drag wife of St. Nicholas is Wiefke in the Klaasohm celebrations on the Frisian island of Borkum. Klaasohm means “Uncle Claus” and occurs on December 5th. A group of seven young unmarried male villagers dress in costumes with exaggerated masks, each representing a caricature of St. Nicholas, hence the name. A boy dressed as Wiefke accompanies the senior Klaasohm as the group parade through the village, just like Nikolowiebl does in Bavaria. What distinguishes the Klaasohm custom from all the others is the climax to their parade. The villagers gather in the village square as the Klaasohm and Wiefke climb onto a brick pillar. What they do next is….. well, I’ll let you see for yourself. Here’s a video of the climax to the 2016 “Klaasohmfest”. Wiefke is the character dressed in red.

2) Witches and “perchten”. These are actually two different groups of characters but they share a lot of characteristics and are often interchangeable in some times and places. Perchten is a term used for both good and demonic characters of any gender in traditional winter customs. The term may be related to Frau Perchta, the name of a female deity from ancient folklore who evolved into a child-belly-slitting boogey-woman appearing on Twelfth Night (January 5th).

One perchten-type character based on someone we met last week is the Lucky or Luken of Bohemia and the modern Czech Republic. These female characters are an amalgamation of St. Lucy with St. Barbara, “ancestor” of the veiled Barborka brides played by men in Poland. Once again, tradition says that the Lucky should be played by a man. The Lucky, up to six in number, have different appearances depending on which part of central Europe they occur. Some have white-painted faces, some have long beaked masks. What they have in common are white robes and a broom with which they sweep their way through the streets and into houses. The earliest records of the Lucky, however, describe these women as belly-slitting boogey-women like Frau Perchta.

The sweeping of streets is also a frequent activity in other Christmas traditions. In the town of Rauris near Salzburg, Austria, you can encounter the Schnabelperchten. This is a group of men dressed as peasant women with beak masks and brooms like the Lucky. On Twelfth Night they sweep their way through the houses of the town making bird-like “caw caw” sounds.

Some of the female Christmas characters are more like traditional witches than human-bird hybrids. It is no surprise that these witch characters are perfect for men to portray. In the Trestern custom of Pinzgau, also in the Salzburg area, is a character called Hex. This is a witch who also sweeps her way through houses like her Schnabelperchten neighbour, which makes me think the two characters have a common origin. Nowadays the Hex is often played by someone wearing a Hallowe’en witch mask though originally it was man with witch make-up.

3) General female characterisations. This category includes human, non-demonic female characters. Perhaps the most famous of these is La Befana, one of the principal Christmas gift-bringers in Italy, and yet another character who carries a broom. She could be included in the previous category if it wasn’t for her origin. She is generally depicted as a stereotypical witch today, but originally La Befana (who first appears in the 1500s) was just an old woman. There isn’t much evidence to suggest that she was often played by a man in traditional celebrations, but a modern portrayal of her is worth a mention.

For the past few years on January 6th Venice has held a very special gondola race. It’s part of the Regatta della Befana. Dozens of gondoliers dress up as La Befana and race along the Grand Canal. The winner is the first to grab a sock dangling from the Rialto Bridge full of Christmas goodies. It sounds like great fun, certainly more fun than the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race in the UK.

There are quite a few female characters that are more “normal”. As well as Hex in the Pinzgau Trestern there is Lap and Lappin, a married couple, both played by men. Sadly, they have traditionally been played as a couple with intellectual disabilities, and Lappin is always portrayed as pregnant.

Among other female characters in traditional Christmas customs played by men are: Zusslweibl in the Klöpfeln custom from the Italian Alps, appearing on the three Thursdays before Christmas; Jumpfere the virgin in the Bärzeli-Buebe custom of the Hallwil in Switzerland (also home of the Wienachts-Chindli I mentioned last Sunday), appearing on January 2nd; and the Huttfroueli, an old woman who appears in several local customs in the Alps, appearing between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

One final entry into this group is another Alpine character. In various Swiss towns on either New Year’s Eve or January 13th groups of men dress up as various characters, the Silvesterklaus. They go from house to house, singing, yodelling and wishing everyone a Happy New Year. Among the Silvesterklaus is a character played by men, the Schöne. The name means “beautiful”, and the men put on traditional female Swiss costumes and wear masks of a young woman’s face with a large, elaborate, and very heavy headdress.

But what about women dressing as male characters? While the majority of the cross-dressing roles have been men in drag there have been a few instances in modern times of women playing male roles. As mentioned above and last week, the instances of women playing the Christkind came about because the gender of the character itself changed from male to female. Instances of women playing male characters have increased in recent years, particularly as one of the most controversial Christmas character of our time, Zwarte Piet.

Discussing and analysing the racism attributed to Zwarte Piet, the black-faced companion of Sinterklaas, is outside the scope of this blog. What these accusations, modern interpretations of race that have no relation to the historical development of the character, have forced the Dutch to question Piet’s inclusion in Christmas festivities. In a lot of places a compromise has taken place. Instead of Piet appearing in black face he has begun to appear in red-face, green-face, blue-face, and any other colour. At the same time more women are playing Piet, and the traditional male name and gender of the character is generally retained. A similar change is beginning to occur in portrayals of the demonic Krampus. With the increase in the worldwide appeal of the character more women are beginning to dress up as a new character, a female Krampus, in traditional European festivals. Krampus has always been regarded as a male demon. Both the Krampus and Piet are instances of a traditional character evolving before our very eyes.

Who knows which of the Christmas characters we love today will remain the same in a hundred years. Who knows what influences will change them, and who knows which new characters will appear as a result. Will the current cultural climate of increasing recognition of gender diversity and racial representation have any effect?

But, let’s go back to antiquity next week and look at the history and development of the tradition of men playing women in festivals and theatre to see why this is so, and look at the version that is hugely popular in the UK at Christmas time.

Sunday 5 December 2021

Advent 2: How Jesus Became a Bride

Last Sunday we learnt that the Reformation turned the Christ Child (Christkind) into a Christmas gift-bringer and merged with representations of angels to change gender into female. Germans took the female Christkind to America where she merged with another German gift-bringer, the Weihnachtsmann, to become Kris Kringle. By adopting the name of the Dutch colonial Sinterklaas he became our modern Santa Claus (in a children’s book published as Christmas 1821, meaning SANTA CLAUS IS 200 YEARS OLD THIS MONTH! Why aren’t people celebrating?).

The female Christkind merged with other Christmas characters who have been portrayed by both women and men. Let’s begin In Sweden with St. Lucy.

Lucy was a Christian saint martyred during the reign of the Roman emperor Diocletian at the beginning of the 3rd century. She is said to have secretly visited the Roman catacombs where Christian families were hiding from persecution to bring them food and drink. She lit her way with a candle, which later legends evolved into the crown of candles that St. Lucy is usually depicted wearing.

German missionaries in the 10th century introduced the Nordic lands to Christianity and its saints. St. Lucy’s Day is December 13th, which was around the same time as a traditional Swedish winter solstice celebration called Lussinatta, allegedly named after a pagan goddess called Lussi (of whom there is no evidence). What Lucy and Lussi have in common is the origin of their names from an ancient Indo-European word meaning “light”. Lussinatta is a celebration of light, and St. Lucy is venerated as a bringer of light. The connection between the two is obvious and the reason they became linked.

How St. Lucy became a Christmas gift-bringer took a long time. The Swedes adopted St. Nicholas as a Christmas gift-bringer when Christianity was introduced. As the Reformation spread Sweden adopted Lutheranism and dropped St. Nicholas and adopted the German female Christkind.

The earliest recorded processions on St. Lucy Day, called Luciatåg, took place in schools and universities (male-only at the time) in which a boy was chosen to head the procession as the Christkind or an angel wearing a crown of candles and a white robe. By the 17th century this character had become identified as St. Lucy yet was often still played by a boy. Female roles in church processions in medieval Europe are very rare, and female characters were usually played by men or boys (including the Virgin Mary).

Recent Luciatåg have also occasionally had boys playing St. Lucy, often leading to traditionalists objecting to the change of gender, unaware that it is part of the original tradition. In 2017 the “official” St. Lucy in the celebration in the Nordic Museum was portrayed by an openly gay operatic singer called Rickard Söderberg, a regular soloist in St. Lucy Day concerts. Below is a video of part of that concert.

The first record of St. Lucy as a Christmas gift-bringer appears in a journal written by a Lutheran minister in 1764. While he was working as a tutor in a castle in Västergötland the minister was startled to be awoken on St. Lucy’s morning by a girl dressed as a Christkind bringing him breakfast. This was a tradition in some rural areas, and the idea slowly spread across Sweden. The merging of the Christkind with St. Lucy is dated from this event.

The gift-bringing St. Lucy didn’t become a truly national tradition until the 20th century even though the Luciatåg and Lucy Day celebrations had become popular and widespread much earlier.

If you look at the video above again you’ll see the procession of teenagers carrying candles. The boys represent "star boys", a tradition dating back to early medieval church pageants. The girls represent bridesmaids, and give us a clue to the next gender-switching element of the Christkind.

The costumes of both St. Lucy and her bridesmaids are influenced by the lussebrud. This name came to be rendered as Lucy-bride though it is more accurately translated as Light-bride. She was a character in winter solstice celebrations like the Lussinatta. Going back into folk tradition in Europe we find other “brides” – May brides, Spring brides, Summer brides. Their presence provided playful gender reversal roles. Men played the brides, disguised and masked, who danced though the pageants dragging men and women out of the crowds to dance with them.

These traditional male brides link into the Christkind through modern Christmas gift-bringers in eastern and central Europe.

In the ethnic communities of the Sorbs (also called Wends and Lusatians) where Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic meet, there is a bridal Christmas gift-bringer. In German she is called the Bescherkind, meaning “gift child”. In Sorbian she is called Dzěćetko, which means “child”. In Polish she is called Barborka. They are all basically the same character.

One of these characters has a double gender identity. In the Czech Republic, the Sorbian Dzěćetko is called Dzieciątko (also called Ježíšek, Baby Jesus). The Czech Dzieciątko is depicted as the traditional boy Christ Child, while the Sorbian Dzěćetko is depicted as a female bride.

The Polish Barborka is not named after the Christ Child but St. Barbara. She is said to have lived at about the same time as St. Lucy and was also martyred. Skipping ahead to modern times, St. Barbara is a minor Christmas gift-bringer in Limburg in the Netherlands where she was once considered to be the wife of St Nicholas. As with St. Lucy, the Limburg St. Barbara was often played by a man in pre-modern times.

Barbara’s bridal connection comes in an old folk custom based on a legend that she had a cherry tree branch with her in her prison. On the morning that it blossomed Barbara was led away and beheaded. This legend merged with the old winter bride customs in which unmarried girls would break off small cherry branches on St. Barbara’s Day, December 4th, and hope that they will blossom by Christmas. If they did, it was a sign that the girl will marry in the coming year. Similar customs are associated with other saints on other days of the year. Over time this custom became a tradition in which a local girls were selected to portray St. Barbara as a bride with her bridesmaids, travelling around their villages handing out nuts, sweets and biscuits. Thus the main bride became the Christmas gift-bringer Barborka.

This custom was modified in Sorbia where the Christkind was already established as a gift-bringer, and the Barborka merged with the Christkind to become the Bescherkind and Dzěćetko. The cherry branch custom and the Christmas gift-bringing traditions eventually separated, so that today where both customs exist the winter brides are still portrayed by girls while the Christmas gift-bringing brides are often portrayed by men with veiled faces. In the 20th century the Christmas brides have increasingly been portrayed by girls and women, and very often without the veils that were traditionally worn to hide their identity.

Over 400 miles away in the Swiss town of Hallwil there is another isolated case of a female gift-bringing bride named after the male Christ Child – Wienachts-Chindli.

And there we have it – the male Christ Child of Eastern Europe merged with traditional winter solstice brides to become the modern female Christmas gift-bringers St. Lucy, Barborka, Bescherkind and Dzěćetko, characters played by both men and women.

Next Sunday, if I can get the design right, I’ll present a pictorial family tree of all the characters mentioned in this and the previous Advent article. Otherwise, I’ll be writing about more gender switching characters that are encountered during Christmas.

Sunday 28 November 2021

Advent 1: How Jesus Became Santa

For most of this year I’ve been doing research for a board game based on the world’s many Christmas gift-bringers. There are almost 100 characters, past and present, who bring gifts throughout the Christmas season, starting with St. Martin (on November 10th) through to Sagaan Ubgen, a Russian-Mongolian “New Year Wizard” (whose gift day is based on a lunisolar calendar and can be on any date between January 24th and March 3rd).

Santa Claus has been slowly been killing off traditional regional gift-bringers. In a world that encourages diversity I think we should rediscover these disappearing characters. Thankfully, many ethnic and regional Santa alternatives have been emerging since the 1990s.

An area that has been growing, or should I say returning, to the lgbt community is gender diversity. I’ve written many articles on gender variance in history. This is reflected in seasonal gift-bringers such the Three Kings whom historians suggest may have been third-gender. Other gift-bringers have changed gender in the past, sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. This Advent I’m looking at the gender-switching representations of Christmas gift-bringers, and I begin with the person after whom the Christian Church and Christmas get their names, Jesus Christ.

The evolution of many gift-bringers makes a labyrinth look like a straight road. The evolution of the baby Jesus into Santa Claus is an example. The baby Jesus is also called the Christ Child – Christkind or Christkindl in German-speaking nations. He didn’t become a Christmas gift-bringer until the 16th century when Martin Luther (1483-1546), founder of the Protestant Reformation, called for the abandonment of Catholicism and anything that hinted at it, including saints. St. Nicholas was the major Christmas gift-bringer across Europe at that time, delivering presents on his feast day of December 6th, as he still does in some countries. Luther encouraged the adoption of the Christkind as a Protestant gift-bringer. At the same time he suggested moving the gift day from December 6th to December 25th.

At first the German Protestant Christkind wasn’t represented in physical form as Santa Claus is today in countless shopping malls. How this changed, switching gender in the process, involved angels and the Nazis.

By the 18th century angels were regularly portrayed in art and churches as young girls or women. Around the same time the Christkind began to be portrayed not as a baby but a toddler or young androgynous infant and had acquired wings so that there was very little difference between the Christkind and a female angel. One of the earliest representations of the Christkind that I can find is the one illustrated below. It appeared in a children’s story and picture book first published in 1848 and is clearly female, though contemporary greetings cards still often depicted Christkind as a young boy.

In 1933 the Nazis decided to promote the city of Nuremberg as “the Treasure Chest of the Reich”. Nuremberg was famous for several things at the time – metal work, and its annual Christmas market. Since the 16th century Nuremberg had been producing angels made out of metal foil as Christmas decorations. They were very popular and were called Rauschgoldenengel – Golden Angels. For Christmas 1933 the Nazis chose a young actress to play a Golden Angel at the Nuremberg Christmas market. They called her the Christkind. This began a tradition of choosing a teenaged girl to portray the Nuremberg Christkind every two years that continues to this day. After World War II Nuremberg influenced other German cities and towns to appoint their own female Christkind.

Outside Germany, even in Catholic nations, the original male baby Christ Child also became the Christmas gift-bringer. He is known under various names, such as Gesù Bambino in Italy, El Niño Diós in South America, and Dzieciatko in Poland.

German migrants in the 18th century took their Christmas customs and female Christkind across the Atlantic.

The generally accepted theory is that Christkind (in its variant form of Christkindl) is the origin of the name Krishkinkle. This later changed to Kris Kringle, a name you probably associate with Santa Claus. How Kris Kringle became another name for Santa Claus is also because of German migrants.

In the mid 19th century a new Christmas gift-bringer emerged in Germany. Originally a character called Herr Winter appearing in a satirical magazine in 1842, he was a bearded old man in a hooded coat carrying a Christmas tree. The princely families of Germany adopted him as a non-religious alternative to the Christkind. They called him the Weihnachtsmann (Holy Night Man). German migrants took him to America, while the German-born British royal family introduced him into the UK where he merged with Father Christmas. If you ever see a 19th century Christmas card with a Father Christmas-like figure carrying a Christmas tree, that’s actually Weihnachtsmann, even if he labelled differently.

In America the secular Weihnachtsmann adopted the Christkind’s new American name, Kris Kringle, thus changing the gift-bringer’s gender back to male. In 1821 an anonymous illustrated poem about “Santeclaus” gave the Dutch colonial Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) a look similar to Weihnachtsmann-Kris Kringle. It was the famous illustrations of German immigrant Thomas Nast which modified the costume into a more recognisable one we associate with Santa Claus today. In this way Kris Kringle and Santa Claus merged into one. The current image of Santa was finally consolidated by another German immigrant, J. C. Leyendecker. He can be credited with ensuring that Santa Claus is depicted as the jolly fat man with a big white beard and red coat that later artists such as Norman Rockwell and the Coca Cola company copied, effectively finishing the popular practice of depicting Santa coats of other colours.

And there we have it. The Protestant Reformation turned the Christ Child into a Christmas gift-bringer. By merging with representations of angels the Christkind became female and travelled across the Atlantic to meet a fellow immigrant, Weihnachtsmann, to change gender back into Kris Kringle, and finally into Santa Claus. In effect, the Christkind, having been responsible for replacing St. Nicholas (whose name became Santa Claus), eventually merged back into him.

Next Sunday we’ll see how the female Christkind moved north, merged with a Mediterranean saint, and became a male bride.

Monday 1 November 2021

November Birthdays

I will return on 28th November when I will begin the first of my regular pre-Christmas Advent series. This year I'l start by looking at some traditional gender-bending characters you might see at Christmas, then at some members of the lgbt community who have "made the Christmas gay".

Tuesday 26 October 2021

William and John: Part 5) Robin Hood

 “Robin Hood and his Merry Men Entertaining Richard the Lionheart” by Daniel Maclise (1806-1870). This painting was always on display at Nottingham Castle in my time there.

When I worked at Nottingham Castle the last weekend in October was the annual Robin Hood Pageant. The grounds were filled with craftsmen, re-enactors and jousting contests. Sadly, the last pageant at the castle was in 2018. To remind me of those happy days I’ll continue telling the lives of Sir John Clanvowe and Sir William Neville. In the previous article Sir William had been appointed Constable of Nottingham Castle.

You can’t think about Nottingham Castle without thinking of Robin Hood. I believe Sir John Clanvowe wrote the ballad “The Geste of Robyn Hode”, printed posthumously between 1493 and 1534 (“geste” means “adventure”). It contains a remarkable amount of similarities to people, places and events in the lives of Sir John, Sir William, and William's wife Elizabeth le Waleys.

I wrote a small e-book called “Robin Hood – Out of the Greenwood: His Gay Origins Revealed” in which I go into much more detail about my theory. You can purchase it from Amazon here. There is only room for a very brief explanation of my theory on this blog.

The earliest reference to Robin Hood as a subject of ballads is in "Piers Plowman, a poem written around 1377. One line says: “But I know rhymes of Robin Hood and Randolf, Earl of Chester", indicating that “rhymes”, or ballads, about Robin Hood were well known. Unfortunately no-one wrote those ballads down, meaning everything we know about Robin Hood the outlaw hero was written after 1377. Before then, many legal documents record Robin’s as a common alias adopted by criminals. "Piers Plowman" is the first time Robin is associated to ballads.

The other man mentioned with Robin in "Piers Plowman" was a real person, Randolf de Blundeville, 6th Earl of Chester (b.1170). By 1216 Randolf was the greatest magnate in all England and virtual ruler of Cheshire. He also appears in another ballad, probably written in 1260, named after another folk hero, "Fulke le Fitz Waryn". Its plot bears more than a passing resemblance to "The Geste of Robyn Hode”. The synopsis of both are interchangeable and goes like this -

The outlaw hero has a right-hand man called John who waylays travellers in a forest and brings them back to the camp for a meal with the hero. They pay for the meal with their valuables. One of the hero’s companions assumes a false identity in the presence of the hero’s archenemy. The disguised companion lures the archenemy into the forest where the hero kills him. The king hears about the outlaw hero and comes to deal with him in person. The king’s men injure one of the hero’s companions who begs to be killed. The hero seeks refuge with a friendly knight. The king can’t find anyone willing to help him find the hero, but eventually he finds and pardons the outlaw.

Historians are convinced that “The Geste of Robyn Hode” (which I’ll just refer to as “The Geste” from now on) was influenced by “Fulke le Fitz Warine”. The real Fulk FitzWarin was a popular folk hero in the county where Sir John Clanvowe was born and raised. I believe he based “The Geste” on “Fulke le Fitz Waryn” and moved the action from his home county to Nottinghamshire.

Elizabeth le Waleys, the wife of Sir John’s partner Sir William Neville, (explained here) was step-niece to King Robert the Bruce of Scotland whose ancestor Prince David of Scotland was married to the sister of Randolf, Earl of Chester.

The few surviving ballads about Robin Hood date from the 1400s. Scholars of language and grammar use in “The Geste” suggest it was originally written before 1400. The same grammar is used in "Piers Plowman" and Sir John Clanvowe’s own poem "The Boke of Cupide" throughout, suggesting it was written in their lifetime. The language in "The Geste” is also consistent with Sir John's Lollard writing (explained here) - another clue linking Sir John to “The Geste”.

"The Geste" is composed of four interwoven plotlines. The first and last are set in Barnsdale Forest, Yorkshire. The plotlines in the middle takes place in a forest in Nottinghamshire. Sherwood is never mentioned, it is only implied by us today because it is the only forest in Nottinghamshire. A manuscript from around 1410 contains the line "Robin Hood in Sherwood stood." However, another document of 1429 says "Robin Hood in Barnsdale stood”. Both are used in a similar fashion to someone today saying “Is the Pope Catholic?” meaning something is blatantly obvious. This suggests the locations were interchangeable. There’s much rivalry today between Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire over which county Robin Hood comes from. The answer is, both. The forests were a short distance from each other, and the main road from London to York runs through both.

The author of “The Geste” shows a geographical knowledge of specific locations in both areas. Sir William Neville’s wife Elizabeth owned several manors in Barnsdale, and William himself was Constable of Nottingham Castle. Sir John Clanvowe would have known both areas well, and my theory is that he used this knowledge of both areas to write “The Geste”.

It’s difficult to imagine Robin Hood without King Richard the Lionheart and his brother, the evil Prince John. One read of "The Geste" and you are struck by the absence of both. The only king mentioned is Edward. Before 1400 there were only three kings called Edward – a father, son, and grandson - who reigned beween 1272 and 1377. But which King Edward is featured in “The Geste”?

Edward II was the most frequent to visit Nottingham and is the most widely accepted candidate by modern historians. One visit of note was in 1323-4 when he came in pursuit of outlaws whom he later pardons, as King Edward does in “The Geste”. One of those pardoned was Sir Richard le Waleys, Elizabeth le Waleys’ grandfather.

One interesting fact is the presence of a real man named Robin Hood in documents relating to this visit. Robin is one of Edward's porters, but about six months later he leaves the king's service. In "The Geste" Robin Hood joins the king's service after being pardoned and leaves a year later. Was this Robin Hood the man who was turned into an outlaw hero by ballad writers, and was the man whose “rhymes” became widely known by the time “Piers Plowman” was written in around 1377?

This is just an outline of some of my research. Historians of medieval literature agree that “The Geste” was written by a competent author, someone writing in the late 1300s whose work was considered worthy of saving and printing in the 1490s. None of the known English writers or poets of the late 1300s can be connected to “The Geste” in as many different ways as Sir John Clanvowe, either directly or through his partner Sir William Neville and William’s wife Elizabeth.

In the next part of “William and John“, published some time next year, I’ll continue to look at the Robin Hood connection and some of the famous characters in “The Geste” and reveal more family ties to Sir John, Sir William and Elizabeth, including Little John and the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Friday 1 October 2021

October Birthdays

Welcome to the first of my lists of monthly birthdays. Every day of every month sees the anniversary of the birth of many lgbt people. In this series I list one person for each date. Those listed represent the widest range possible – nationality, ethnicity, occupation, gender identity, sexuality and era.

These birthdays come from my personal spreadsheets containing names and information of almost 25,000 lgbt people whose identities have been made public in the media or online.

Do you share your birthday with someone famous – or infamous? If you’re not happy sharing a birthday with someone infamous, don’t worry. Next year’s list will have a different set of names.

The list of November birthdays will appear on November 1st.

Saturday 11 September 2021

Pause for 9/11

Most of us who were born before 2000 will remember what they were doing and where they were on 11th September 2001, 20 years ago today. I was at work, stationed in the main art gallery on the top floor of Nottingham Castle. It was time for my afternoon break but my colleague who was to take over from me for 20 minutes was 5 minutes late. I wasn’t too worried. Then he was 10 minutes late, and I was wondering where he was. Then he was 15 minutes late, and I radioed down to the office to ask where he was. At which point he arrived and told me that he had been watching the television in the staff room. Two planes had crashed into the World Trade Centre, he said. It didn’t sink in for a minute or two until I got to the staff room and saw for myself the tragedy unfolding on television.

There was a sombre feeling in the air for the rest of the day. About an hour later one of my ex-partners (let’s call him Sam) came to visit me in the gallery. He has just come off duty as a nurse and had been effected by the news, which was made more personal for him as only a month beforehand he and his then partner were standing on the top of the World Trade Centre. For reasons which don’t concern us, he and his partner had split up since then and Sam was feeling vulnerable. He asked me to keep him company that evening. I agreed and we couldn’t help but watch what was going on in New York for the rest of the night.

Many commemorative events are taking place around the world. There are too many names of those who lost their lives for us to remember individually. Many have family and friends to remember them, but some may not. The lgbt community lost just a tiny group of people compared to the full list of casualties. Below is a list of those known to us.

I list their names alone in alphabetical order of surname. Just by reading down the list you are contributing to the global commemoration and helping to keep their names alive, whether they are remembered by their loved ones or by no-one other than yourself.

Renee Barrett

Graham Berkeley

Mark Bingham

Pamela Boyce

David Charlebois

Eugene Clark

Jeffrey Collman

Luke Dudek

James Joe Ferguson

Carol Flyzik

Ronald Gamboa and his partner Dan Brandhorst

Sheila Hein

Mychal Judge

William Anthony Karnes

John Keohane

Andrew LaCorte

Michael Lepore

Patricia McAneney

Wesley Mercer

“Roxy Eddie” Ognibene

Seamus O’Neal

Catherine Smith

Waleska Martinez

and two people who are known to us by their first name only,



Wednesday 1 September 2021

Going Part-time

I’ve been saying this for a long time, but I need to slow down. The time has come to put my words into action.

When I began this blog way back in 2011 I didn’t know what reaction I’d get. Ten years later, and exactly a week after my 10th anniversary, the blog passed half a million page views. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate people’s interest in what I write, even if they stumble on my blog by accident and never return.

For several years my intention was to stop writing when I reached my 10th anniversary. It would also be when I’ve reached an age when I can start thinking about early retirement. Reaching half a million page views is another reason why I’ve thought about it again – the 10th anniversary, half a million page views, entering my 60s. It seems an appropriate time to step back.

This has always been a hobby. I’ve never asked for money from readers and I don’t accept adverts (I’ve lost count of the ads that crop up masquerading as comments that I’ve deleted). So I’ve never made a living out of this, not even from my Olympic research which has been very popular from the start.

History should also be freely accessible without censorship (I leave that sort of manipulation of facts to politically left and right activists).

There has always been something in lgbt history that catches my eye when researching, and there’s so much more to find. With that in mind I want to reassure regular “fans” that I’ll still keep researching and writing – but not as often.

To ensure that at least one article appears each month, a list of birthdays will (hopefully) appear on the first day of each month or the last day of the previous month.

Fans of my annual Heraldic Alphabet, and I know there are many out there from the reaction I’ve received on social media, can expect another edition in June 2022.

The planned articles that will appear for the rest of this year are listed below. It is unlikely that this schedule will change.

11th September – 9/11 20th anniversary in memoriam.

1st October – list of October birthdays.

26th October – William and John: Part 5) Robin Hood.

1st November – list of November birthdays.

28th November – Advent 1: The first of my annual Christmas articles with an lgbt theme.

1st December – list of December birthdays.

5th December – Advent 2.

12th December – Advent 3.

19th December – Advent 4.

1st January 2022 – list of January birthdays.

A provisional list of proposed article for 2022 will appear at the beginning of January.

Thinking well ahead to 2023 I have begun research for a new series of “Around the World in 80 Gays”. The individual who will start and finish this circle of 80 connected lgbt people through time and location has already been chosen – the Roman Emperor Hadrian.

Once again, thank you for showing an interest in my blog. I hope you return to check out the new articles when they are published.

Tuesday 24 August 2021

William and John: Part 4) Nottingham

Nottingham Castle gatehouse, part of the medieval castle that survives.

Nottingham Castle reopened to the public last month after a £30 million pound make-over (of the parts not protected by law). As regular readers may recall, I worked there for seven years as a gallery assistant and tour guide (winning the Best Guided Tour in the UK award in 2003 by “Good Britain Guide”).

2021 is an anniversary year for Nottingham Castle, because 640 years ago Sir William Neville was appointed Constable of Nottingham Castle. In the previous chapter I described how he and his partner Sir John Clanvowe acquired positions at the court of King Richard II. Today I’ll explore their connection to Nottingham.

Sir William’s first appointment which brought him to Nottingham was as Justice of the Forest North of the Trent in May 1381. The office, one of two English Justices of the Forest (the other being South of the Trent) were the chief magistrates of forest law. Sir William's appointment covered the forests of Sherwood in Nottinghamshire, and Knaresborough and Inglewood Forests in Yorkshire.

The medieval idea of a forest is different to ours today. A forest was not just trees, as you imagine Sherwood Forest to be. The word derives from the Latin for “outside”, so a forest included open fields, meadows, rivers, villages, and occasionally a small town. What united them was that the area covered by forest law, where the king had sole rights of hunting, hence they are called royal forests.

Being Justice of the Forest meant you only had to carry out your duties once every three years, but the actual performance of these duties would take many months as the Justice was required to sit and judge the accumulated violations of forest law and review the forest’s administration. If anyone poached deer or took wood for fire without permission within a royal forest, the Justice presided over their case. In modern versions of Robin Hood it is often the Sheriff of Nottingham who arrests and presides over the court in Sherwood Forest, but in real life he had no authority there. He couldn’t arrest Robin Hood for any law he broke in Sherwood Forest. That was the job of the Foresters. In 1387 Sir William Neville resigned from this appointment.

Often accompanying the office of Justice of the Forest North of the Trent was the constableship of Nottingham Castle. Unlike the Justice, this was a full-time position. Sir William Neville was appointed as Constable in November 1381. Nottingham was a royal castle and his appointment was a further sign of the king's favour, and William was appointed for life. Sir William would travel between Nottingham and his Yorkshire estates all the time.

But what is a constable? Basically, it’s the general manager of a castle. He kept the castle running when the king wasn’t in residence, and ensured that everything the king wanted when he was in residence was available. As a royal residence Nottingham Castle was visited by King Richard II every year that Sir William was Constable.

One of the most well-known events of King Richard's reign was the Peasant's Revolt of June 1381. Neither Sir William nor his partner Sir John Clanvowe had any real part in it. The revolt was partly a response to the changing social make-up after the Black Death, and partly due to growing support for Lollardy, an early form of Protestantism. There was also a political move against the king who was giving too much importance to his friends and advisers. By 1385 a political group called the Lords Appellant had been formed which openly criticised the king.

Through the influence of the Lords Appellant the parliament of 1386 took away the powers of the 19-year-old King Richard and put them into the hands of commissioners. Richard retaliated by going on a journey around the country to gather support against the commission. At Nottingham Castle in August 1387 he gathered his supporters at a Great Council. A group of judges pronounced the Lords Appellant commission as treasonable.

The king made an error of judgement in thinking that the supporters who gathered at Nottingham Castle were powerful enough to defeat the Lords Appellant, who issued a reciprocal accusation of treason against members of the court, including Archbishop Alexander Neville, the younger brother of Sir William Neville. Sir William had neither the political power nor resources to openly support his brother against the charge. Sir William Neville was wise to not openly declare his own views, which would be to his advantage. As constable of a royal residence he was required to support the king, but he was perhaps remembering the earlier crisis surrounding the impeachment of his brother Lord Neville for the failure of the military campaign in northern France in 1376.

The king reluctantly agreed to arrest the named traitors and bring them to trial at the so-called "Merciless Parliament" in February 1388. Archbishop Neville was found guilty of treason. Only his position as a clergyman protected him from execution. He ended his days in exile as a parish priest in France.

Several courtiers who weren’t charged with treason were, however, banished from court. Sir John Clanvowe was one of them. He disappears from court records for a while, perhaps returning to estates in Herefordshire and Wales. Sir William, however, earned the trust of the victorious Lords Appellant. They awarded him an annuity out of the forfeited estates of the traitors.

The power of the Lords Appellant lasted less than two years. After Richard II regained his personal rule on reaching 21 years of age, Sir John Clanvowe and Sir William Neville were again regular attendees at court, and for a few brief years Richard was secure on his throne.

Earlier I mentioned Lollardy as being a cause of the Peasants Revolt. Both Sir William Neville and Sir John Clanvowe were prominent Lollard supporters, members of a small group of courtiers called the Lollard Knights. I wrote about this several years ago, so I’ll direct you over to those articles where you can read more.

While visiting his royal residence in Nottingham King Richard II would have been entertained with lavish banquets, jousts and entertainment. Sir John Clanvowe was a poet and it is my belief that on one occasion he produced a new ballad to be recited in front of the king and the court at one of those banquets. It featured a well-known character in a new setting, not unlike modern reboots of films and television series. Sir John used personal knowledge and the family backgrounds of himself, Sir William Neville, and the king to give local interest to his ballad. That well-known character was Robin Hood. Most of what is familiar to us about this legendary outlaw comes from the ballad I believe was written by Sir John Clanvowe, and I’ll explain more about it in the next chapter of the lives of Sir William and Sir John.

However, you’ll have to wait a while for that. I’ll explain why in a couple of weeks, but look out for 26th October, Robin Hood Day, when his connection to Sir John Clanvowe and Sir William Neville will be explained.

Wednesday 18 August 2021

Tokyo Review

I’m exhausted! Even though most of the action at the Tokyo Olympics took place outside my working hours it was difficult keeping up with all 180+ athletes. I will definitely be taking time off work during Paris 2024.

Let’s look back at Tokyo 2020. The bidding process for the 2020 Olympics began in May 2011. The final candidate cities were Tokyo, Baku, Doha, and Madrid. Each bid had its own logo. Madrid’s logo caused a bit of controversy. The illustration below helps to explain. Top left is the winner of the logo competition. Top right is what the Madrid bid committee did to it. Below them is promotional material for two Italian gay dolls called Gayskelly and Spaggaytti. In the top left corner of the advert you’ll see their logo. You won’t be surprised to learn that critics of the Madrid bid logo accused the committee of plagiarism. The dolls are no longer produced.

As we know, Tokyo won the 2020 Olympics. In February 2017 the Tokyo Organising Committee held its first Open Day to show National Olympic Committees (NOCs) how preparations were progressing. Among the delegates was Luke Pellegrini, Head of Games Operations and Sports Services with the Australian Olympic Committee. In this role he ensures that all the Australian athletes (including its 13 lgbt Tokyo athletes) received adequate support before and during the games. He was listed among the Outstanding 50 LGBTI Leaders of 2018 by Deloitte and Google Australia.

Currently, the only other known openly lgbt member of an NOC is Fumino Sugiyama, a former fencing champion, who was elected to the Japanese Olympic Committee in June.

2020 was the 10th anniversary of Pride House, a place where lgbt athletes, friends and allies could meet. The first official Pride House was set up for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Tokyo’s Pride House was announced in April 2017.

Just as the athletes were entering their final stages of training the covid pandemic struck. For the first time in the modern era the Olympics were postponed. For some athletes this was a hindrance, but for others it was a blessing, as they would probably not have qualified had the games been held in 2020.

There were several lgbt coaches who trained Tokyo 2020 athletes during the qualification period. These included Alyson Annan-Thate (head coach, women’s hockey, Netherlands), Cheryl Reeve (assistant coach, softball, USA), Pia Sundhage (head coach, women’s football, Brazil), and Denis Vachon (coach to Canadian gymnast Brooklin Moors).

The IOC appointed several lgbt officials and judges. Among them were Craig Hunter (swimming and water polo judge) and Jon Napier (Technical Delegate, sailing competition, mainly responsible in resolving registered protests). Deputy Sport Manager for the badminton competition was Bambang Roedyanto, Gay Games badminton champion (men’s doubles 1994).

There was also the first transgender judge. Kimberly Daniels was a judge in the canoe slalom, in which her daughter Haley competed.

Staying with transgender issues, the inclusion of Laurel Hubbard on New Zealand’s weightlifting team drew the same criticism she received in previous competitions. Credit should be given to the IOC for taking the decision to accept her inclusion. In the women’s football competition Canada’s team included the self-identified transgender player Quinn.

At last, on 23rd August 2021 the Tokyo 2020 Olympics began. The muted opening ceremony contained little lgbt content apart from the flag bearers mentioned several weeks ago. Former Olympic rowing champion Marnie McBean was the Chef de Mission (the head of an Olympic delegation) of Team Canada, the only nation known to have had an openly lgbt Chef de Mission. Marnie is their second following Mark Tewkesbury in London 2012 (Craig Hunter, above, was Chef de Mission of Team GB at the London 2012 Paralympics).

Team Out (our lgbt athletes) was bigger than most national teams. It would take too long to chronicle every day and result, so I suggest you hop over to Outsports which reported on all the best action.

Francine Niyonsaba, the Burundi sprinter, was one of several athletes who were subject to gender regulations from the IOC and World Athletics. Her inclusion in my list is based on official announcements of her being on the intersex spectrum. Other athletes were affected by the regulations. I won’t place them on the full list until I have verified the precise nature of their Disorder of Sexual Development (as it is called in official circles).

The first member of Team Out was Kaia Parnaby in the Australian softball team on 21st July. Their competition was one of several which began before the opening ceremony.

The lgbt medal was won by French judoka Amandine Buchard on 25th July. As stated last week Amandine topped the lgbt Tokyo medal table by winning one gold and one silver. In doing so she leapt straight in to equal 36th place on the all-time summer medal table.

The last lgbt medal was won by Alexandra Lacrabere and Amandine Leynaud, members of the French handball team who won the gold medal on the final day. They were the last lgbt athletes to finish competing. How appropriate that French athletes would be first and last to win medals in Tokyo. Perhaps it’s a good omen for the next Olympics in Paris 2024. By becoming handball champion Lacrabere joins Buchard in equal 36th place. Leynaud was making her debut and only (!) has a gold medal. Three members of New Zealand’s rugby sevens team also jumped up to equal 36th by winning the gold medal to add to the silver they won in Rio 2016.

On the final day Team Out finished in 7th place in the final Olympic medal table. Once we started winning medals we jostled with Team France in the medal table, and only the presence of the above mentioned members of the winning handball team put us higher. (Update: several lgbt athletes have become know to us since then, though their results keep us in 7th place).

The highest climber in the medal table among the experienced Olympians was Brazilian swimmer Ana Marcela Cunha who, by wining the gold medal in the marathon swim, leapt up 142 places to joint 21st position.

Only four members of Team Out managed to hang on to their position in the medal table due to their results ensuring that newcomers in the table above them didn’t push them down. These athletes were British dressage rider Carl Hester (31st place), and Australian footballers Chloe Logarzo, Sam Kerr and Tameka Yallop (equal 244th place). Incidentally, the full summer medal table (up to 8th place finishers) has 478 places.

The closing ceremony had two lgbt flag bearers – Nesthy Petecio (Philippines, boxing silver medallist) and Francine Niyonsaba (Burundi sprinter). Nesthy was just one of quite a few athletes who publicly thanked their same-sex partner for support.

So, that wraps up this rather lengthy “brief” review of Tokyo 2020. It has been a record-breaking Olympics, both in terms of the size of Team Out and in the overall positive support from the Tokyo organising committee. This is surely a turning point in lgbt sport.

Attention returns to Japan next week with the Paralympics. As I have said several times recently I have stopped research into lgbt Paralympians because of the volume of Olympic research there is to do. I will return to the Olympics in just a few months for the winter games of Beijing 2022.