Tuesday, 19 September 2023

Pirate Couples

Yo, ho, ho! Shiver mi timbers! And all that kind of stuff. Today is Talk Like a Pirate Day, an unofficial celebration of all things piratey, except all the plundering and scurvy. Talk Like a Pirate Day began in 1995 as a humorous idea by a couple of American friends and has been increasingly adopted by various people around the world since then.

I’ve written about pirates several times on this blog, whether is was about fighting Barbary pirates, someone with pirate ancestors, or debunking the alleged Pansy Pirate. Just type “pirate” into the search box on the left to find out more.

When we think of pirates our first image is probably of Long John Silver from “Treasure Island”, Captain Hook from “Peter Pan”, or Jack Sparrow from “Pirates of the Caribbean”. These are all highly stereotyped and romanticised versions of the real thing.

For our purpose we’ll look at pirates of the 17th to 19th centuries, the so-called Golden Age of piracy. We’ll see what kind of same-sex arrangements were practiced by them.

There was a form of same-sex “agreement” called matilotage. The word matilotage comes from the French word for “seamanship”. English sailors were often referred to as “matilots”. Basically, matilotage was an arrangement made between two male sailors whereby one would share the other’s possessions, property and “spoils of war” and inherit them if the other one died. This arrangement was especially important to pirates because they were less likely to have any family, or contact with them, and this would prevent other pirates fighting over whatever possessions were left behind.

There wasn’t any real homosexual connotation behind matilotage at the time. It should also be noted that matilotage also including sharing a bed. The prudish Victorians turned this into something that always implied something sexual, as is still vulgarly implied today. Sharing a bed with the same sex was common and had no sexual implication in the hundreds of years it had taken place before then. But it is obvious to see that any gay pirates might take advantage of this type of arrangement.

Modern scholarship on matilotage was influenced by “Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition” by B. Richard Burg (b.1938), currently Emeritus Professor of History at Arizona State University, published in 1995. Because this was the first major publication on the subject it received a lot of attention and praise. Since then, however, other researchers have pointed out that there was a lack of scholarly debate and criticism of Burg’s research at the time, and it was accepted virtually without question. Burg’s interpretations were his learned opinion, and not all of it was supported by documented evidence. Nevertheless, homosexual relationships are still an aspect of matilotage that cannot be ignored and Burg’s work remained a starting point for research that came later.

There are very few examples of matilotage that can be verified. Here are some that could be genuine.

One written matilotage agreement that does survive between pirates is that made between Francis Hood and John Beavis on 10th March 1699. The agreement was signed at Port Dauphin on Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. You may have thought that pirates only sailed in the Caribbean, but there were pirates in every sea and ocean. Madagascar is particularly associated with pirates. In fact, there is an alleged pirate colony called Libertatia that is said to have been founded on Madagascar at around that time. There’s no real evidence that Libertatia existed, but Madagascar was known as a pirate haven, and many pirates spent time there, more so than any Caribbean island.

Back to Francis Hood and John Beavis. Nothing is known about either of them. Their names suggest they were British, or American colonists. This may also suggest that they were active pirates in the Caribbean before seeking refuge on Madagascar. Their written agreement states that each would receive the other’s “gold, silver, and any other thing” should one of them die at sea.

Another couple for whom there is no evidence but are highly likely to have entered into a matilotage are Olauduh Equiano (c.1745-1797), who used the name Gustavus Vassa in adulthood, and Richard Baker. Although neither were pirates they were both shipmates in the British navy. Vassa was a former African slave in colonial America who became famous for his internationally best-selling memoir which was first published in 1789. It is claimed by some historians that this memoir was one of the most significant factors in Great Britain abolishing the slave trade.

In his memoir Vassa writes lovingly about Richard Baker. He describes how extremely fond of each other they were and inseparable. He describes how they shared a bed-space, laying in each others arms for comfort when they were going through periods of stress. Not once, however, is there any implication of physical sexual acts between them, but their relationship has led many historians to label Vassa as bisexual. Vassa married and had children after he left the navy. His memoir has inspired me to write an “Extraordinary Life” article about him next year.

This can also be said of Richard Culliford, an actual pirate captain, and his partner John Swann. Culliford and Swann met during the former’s pirate activity in the Indian Ocean, and they settles on Madagascar for a dew years before splitting up amicably. On Madagascar they were reported by other pirates to have been an open couple, with Swann being described as Culliford’s “consort”. They probably entered into a matilotage, but there’s no record of it.

Before I finish I have not forgotten the most famous pirate couple of all, Mary Read and Anne Bonney. They, too, deserves an article to themselves. This is also in the pipeline for next year.

It’s such a pity that there are not more matilotage agreement in existence, whether between pirates or ordinary sailors. Pirates have been very popular in recent decades and it is an aspect of their lifestyle that might change our image of pirates forever.

Wednesday, 6 September 2023

Two Olympic Transitions

NOTE: The information in this article is accurate on the date of publication. New information discovered after this date may alter or replace some of the details.

Today we learn about the third “Olympic first” associated with the lgbt community. The previous were Prince George of Greece and Denmark and George Poage. Today I feature two Olympians who possess other “firsts”, each of those firsts differing in their specific details but significant in their own way. Both can be regarded as the first transgender Olympian. They are Leonard Chalmers (1911-1990) and Léon Caurla (1926-2002). Both competed an identified as females before undergoing transgender surgery.

First of all, let’s differentiate their respective “firsts”. Leonard Chalmers is the first Olympian to compete (Berlin 1936) who became transgender (c.1961), while Léon Caurla is the first Olympian (London 1948) to have surgery (1950). I hope that makes sense.

Another thing they have in common is that they did not actually compete in the games they attended. Both were listed as members of their respective National Olympic Committees, and both were listed as entrants in their events, but are recorded as non-starters. This may be for several reasons. Those early Olympics may not have been so formal with regards to entries and starters. There are many athletes listed who also did not start their listed event, though their names appear in official Olympic records (Léon was one of 6 non-starters recorded in his event). Another reason is that they were what we now refer to as “alternates”, athletes who are designated to fill in for another in cases of illness. Until 1992 all alternates were listed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and were regarded as full Olympians. Since 1992, however, the IOC have not regarded alternates as Olympians. This is where I and many Olympic historians chose to differ. In my lists of lgbt+ Olympians I include all lgbt+ alternate athletes.

Let’s look more closely first at Leonard Chalmers. He was born biological female and baptised Lilian Florence Elizabeth Chalmers. Confusion about his actual date of birth is resolved on his birth certificate and the 1939 Register of England and Wales (a national census taken to assist in the distribution of ID cards during the war) which give his birthdate as 5th December 1911. Wikipedia (as of today) gives the wrong date. I will use the female pronoun as used by both Lilian and Léon during their athletic careers.

Lilian Chalmers’ prowess on the track seems to have begun in 1932. The first real record of Lilian as a member of an international English team is at the 2nd British Empire Games (retrospectively referred to as the 2nd Commonwealth Games) in London in 1934. Lilian won the bronze medal in the women’s 100 metres sprint.

Lilian’s next major event was the 1936 Berlin Olympics, being listed as an entrant in the women’s 4x100 metres relay. As mentioned above she was a non-starter in this event. The team won the silver medal. The claim that I have seen online that Lilian’s non-start was due to criticism from other female athletes about her gender is not substantiated.

In 1937 Lilian became the British women’s 200 metres champion. This was repeated in the 1939 championship, to which she added the 400 metres title. Also in 1939 she competed at the Internationale Stadionfest (ISTAF Berlin) in the stadium that had hosted the 1936 Olympics. A few weeks later war was declared in Germany.

During Lilian’s athletic career she worked as a machinist in Coomer’s Cardboard Box factory in Portsmouth. Her last known race was in 1951. Sometime after that she moved to London, and in 1961 Lilian underwent gender surgery and adopted the name Leonard on 21st December of that year. Leonard Chalmers died from a stroke in 1990.

Although Leonard was the first transgender athlete known to attend the Olympics he was not the first to undergo reassignment surgery. As mentioned, that distinction currently belongs to Léon Caurla. It should be pointed out that, in all probability, Léon Caurla was intersex.

Léon was born in the French town of Etain and was assigned female at birth. He was baptised Léa. Her first major competition was the 1946 European Athletics Championships in Oslo. She won a bronze medal in the 200 metres. In the first heat she was racing against the Polish sprinter Stanisława Walasiewicz (later known as Stella Walsh), a fellow intersex athlete.

On the same day as winning her bonze medal Léa won a silver medal as part of the 4x100 metres relay team. Stanisława Walasiewicz also competed in this event (her team came last). On Léa’s team was Claire Brésolles. Shortly after the Oslo championships Claire transitioned and adopted the name Pierre. He does not appear in any Olympic records. It is claimed on Wikipedia that Léa and Claire were lovers. This is not true.

In 1948 Lea was listed as an entrant in the women’s 200 metres at the London Olympics. As with Lilian Chalmers in 1936, Lea may have been an alternate athlete. But there could be another reason.

Gender verification in sport has a long and complicated evolution and history. In 1946 the International Amateur Athletics Federation (now known as World Athletics) introduced regulations requiring all athletes competing in female categories to provide a medical certificate before each competition verifying their female gender before being allowed to compete. Léa must have provided one in 1946 in order to compete at the European Championships. However, moving two years on to the Olympics and a physical examination had become mandatory. It is recorded that Léa refused to take this physical examination. The outcome was certain. Léa was barred from the French athletics federation and from the Olympics. I’m still trying to ascertain the date this happened. This must have been after the Olympics or Léa would have been disqualified from entering, and her name would never have appeared in official records.

It was at this time that Lea decided to live as a man and undergo surgery. In late 1950 the surgery took place, and Léa emerged as Léon, revealing his transition to the press in March 1952.

Details of Léon Caurla’s life after this are scarce. We know that he joined the French Air Force at some stage, and that he married and had children. By the 1980s he had returned to his hometown of Etain, where he had several jobs – a travelling salesman, owner of a florist shop, and he also rented out property.

While we cannot say with certainty that Léon Caurla was the first transgender Olympian, bearing in mind he was probably intersex, we can say that Leonard Chalmers was the first Olympian who definitely was, even though he wasn’t the first to have surgery.

With transgender issues being even more of an issue in sport than ever before we wait to see if and when transgender athletes will ever compete at the Olympics in the future.

My opinion doesn’t count for anything, but I think it is time for sport to drop its current method of scoring results. Athletic results already take into account wind speed and altitude, so, if transgender athletes have an alleged unfair advantage, why can’t someone come up with a formula that takes this into account. Let transgender athletes compete in whatever gender category they wish. Applying the formula would ensure a fairer result, even if it means finishing first and being declared third, or whatever. In the future, if it is decided that transgender athletes should never have been subjected to the formula, that formula can be removed retrospectively. The athletes not subject to the application of the formula retain their positions and medals, but if that then means there are two gold medallists, fine. Its an idea that needs a lot more work put into it.

We can only hope that sports organising bodies, transgender athletes, and transgender critics can work together for once and come up with a solution that pleases everyone.

Wednesday, 23 August 2023

Whodunnit? Millionaire Murder

In 1997 Gardner Young decided to give his partner, Greg Siner, what he had always dreamed of. Greg was a dog groomer and ran a dog boutique in New Jersey and had often dreamt of owning his own kennels and breeding championship dogs.

Gardner and Greg found the ideal place in Hopkinton, Rhode Island. It had been abandoned since 1988 and had become something of a local legend. The estate had been the home of a renowned yet eccentric millionaire spaniel breeder called Cam Lyman. Cam disappeared in 1988.

Greg had met Cam briefly a few times at various dog shows across the US, and he revelled in telling stories of Cam’s disappearance to his old friends from the New Jersey gay scene when they visited him. He had even more stories to tell after July 1998.

Greg and Gardner began the long task of renovating the estate and setting up their kennels. One of the problems that needed urgent attention was the drains in one of the kennel buildings. It had become blocked. Greg reasoned that the drain leading to the septic tank needed a good clean out after nearly a decade of non-use.

I’ve watched too many true crime programmes to be not surprised at what happened next.

After prizing off the lid of the underground septic tank Greg could see a human skull staring up at him from the bottom. He knew exactly who it belonged to. Cam Lyman had been found. Examination of the remains showed that Cam had been shot in the head.

Cam Lyman was born a biological female in 1932 and was raised as a girl. Her parents were millionaires from old colonial families and baptised their daughter Camilla Lowell Lyman. Before we go further, a brief word on pronouns. In accordance with accepted convention for people who are no longer alive I will use female pronouns for when Cam identified as female. Some YouTubers assign a non-binary identification on Cam Lyman. There is absolutely no evidence or justification for this, as there is no record that Cam identified as such, and claiming so shows disrespect.

Cammilla’s parents were like chalk and cheese. Mrs. Margaret Rice Lyman showed no interest in any of her four children. She never displayed any love towards them. Arthur Theodor Lyman, on the other hand, was the most loving and supporting father they could have. Camilla was particularly attached to him.

Growing up, Camilla became distinguishable by her large frame and awkward mannerisms. At school she was nicknamed “Butch” by her classmates. Camilla’s closeness to her father began to show in her wearing the type of jacket that he also wore. What brought them closer was their shared interest in dogs and dog-breeding which other members of the family didn’t have.

After her father’s death in 1968 Camilla seemed to withdraw from her family. Her contact with the outside world came primarily in the dog shows where she became a familiar sight and a success as a breeder. She wore her fathers’ jackets, long skirts, and cut her hair short. People were beginning to say that she was turning into her father. One month after her mother died in 1973 the transformation became complete. Camilla had become Cam.

One unsettling aspect of Cam’s new identification as a man came in his taking of steroids developed for dogs made from bull’s semen. With his aversion to established health services he would never have considered reassignment surgery, according to those who new her best. He never went to a doctor or dentist. Cam’s family and contacts in the dog world put his behaviour down to natural eccentricity and accepted it.

However successful Cam was as a dog-breeder the same cannot be said about his handling of money. To help run his estate and finances he employed a “handler” called George O’Neill.

With hindsight, the most charitable thing I can say about O’Neill is that he was a crook, and it showed from the very beginning. But Cam, for some reason, trusted him. More significantly, Cam trusted O’Neill to handle all his money and ensure all bills and official documents were delivered on time. It was O’Neill to whom Cam entrusted the preparation and delivery of the documents stating his intention to legally adopted the name Cam instead of Camilla. To the outside world O’Neill seemed to be having a controlling influence on Cam, even at dog shows, and Cam seemed to be totally dependent on him. O’Neill was even given power of attorney over everything.

Yet, despite all this, and their successful partnership as dog breeders, Cam was prone to sudden rages and the two had a tempestuous working relationship. Their last known disagreement concerned O’Neill not submitting entry details for Cam’s prize-winning spaniel in a show in Canada on time. To be honest, it wasn’t entirely O’Neill’s fault. There was a postal strike, but Cam blamed O’Neill completely. The heated argument over the phone ended when Cam’s line was cut off.

The next day, 20 July 1987, O’Neill went to Cam’s estate to explain. He found the phone ripped off the wall and could not find Cam anywhere. Nothing else seemed out of order, and the dogs were okay but they needed feeding. For the rest of his life O’Neill claimed that he had assumed Cam had left the business and gone to have gender re-assignment surgery in Europe. Knowing Cam’s aversion to health care this was never believed by anyone.

By Christmas 1987 Cam’s family had got very concerned and began an investigation. At the same time Cam’s lawyers and bank did as well. It was discovered that O’Neill had been embezzling money from Cam’s estate for several years, and hundreds of thousands of dollars had gone missing. Cam probably never knew it was happening. Although O’Neill was eventually convicted of embezzlement, he refused to admit he knew anything about Cam’s disappearance, or even showed any real concern. All he said was “she’s dead”, but that’s what Cam’s family was thinking as well.

Apart from O’Neill the police and private investigators could never identify a reason for Cam’s disappearance, nor any suspects in his murder after his body was discovered by Greg Siner. O’Neill acted very suspiciously throughout the whole investigation, but that’s not proof of any involvement.

To this day the case is unsolved. The mystery behind it only enhances its appeal, like Jack the Ripper. It still features in the media from time to time.

Cam’s remains were buried with his parents. There’s no-one still living who had any close connection to the 1987 case. The last of Cam’s siblings died in 2018 and his many nephews and nieces were too distantly connected to have any useful information. Only Greg Siner and Gardner Young (now separated) remain to give first-hand accounts.

So, whodunit?

Monday, 7 August 2023

(Not Quite) 80 Gays Around the World: 4) Art in Italy

Last time on “80 Gays”: Partners 9) Robert Ferro (1941-1988) and 10) Michael Grumley (1942-1988) co-wrote a book about Atlantic, the latter also writing about Bigfoot (the subject of a novel by 11) Samantha Leigh Allen), and after whom a literary prize is named which grants winners residency at the Art Workshop International founded by 12) Bea Kreloff (1925-2016) and 13) Edith Isaac Rose (1929-2018).

The Art Workshop International is a summer school offering courses in several creative arts – writing, painting, art history – while at the same time offering attendees the opportunity to experience the culture on a famous town in Italy. The second of this summer’s sessions ended a couple of weeks ago.

Several well-known lgbt artists and writers have been among the tutors during the 2-week courses, including 5) Edmund White, and Dorothy Allison (number 28 in my 2020 edition of “80 More Gays Around the World”).

The Art Workshop’s founders, 12) Bea Kreloff and 13) Edith Isaac Rose, met at the opening of an exhibition in 1980. There was an instant connection and they found kindred spirits in each other. They had a lot in common. They were both children of eastern European immigrants – Bea’s from Russia, and Edith’s from Hungary and from what is now Poland. Both of their fathers were in the clothing industry – Bea’s father was a tailor, and Edith’s father made women’s coats. And both Bea and Edith were married.

Bea Kreloff was born Beatrice Magit in 1925. In 1944 she married Bernard Krulovetsky, another child of east European immigrants. He soon shortened his name to Kreloff, and Bea kept her married name for the rest of her life. The couple had two sons.

Edith Isaac Rose was born Edith Ganansky in 1929. In 1950 she married Charles Leitelbaum (often mistakenly called Teitelbaum), again, a child of east European immigrants. They separated in the early 1980s.

In 1950 Bea and Edith were both studying art. Bea entered the Brooklyn Museum Art School. Afterwards she became a private art tutor whilst producing her own work. In the 1970s she became Chair of the Art Department at the Ethical Culture Fieldson School, Riverside, New York City. By this time she had separated from her husband and have moved with her sons into accommodation provided by the charitable organisation, the Westbeth Artists’ Residents Council in Manhattan.

Edith Isaac Rose graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1951. Moving to New York City a few years later she also became an artist and decided to drop her married name and adopted the first names of her parents, Isaac and Rose, for her professional work. Edith’s artwork became increasingly more influenced by social issues, such as political corruption and social inequality. She also expanded into other media, including embroidery. She used all media to produce a body of work in the 1980s, a series of works called “Daily Rage” which displayed which reflected her own left-wing opinions.

The year after Bea and Edith met at that exhibition, Edith left her husband and went to live with Bea. They remained together until Beas’ death in 2016.

The Art Workshop International which the couple founded in 1981 was established in the historic town of Assisi in Italy. Of course, this town is famous for its association with one man, whom we met two years ago, 14) St. Francis of Assisi (c.1187-1226).

Scholars are still discussing the nature of St. Francis’s sexuality. It may never be known. Within the Franciscan Order, which he founded, the attitudes towards homosexuality have changed as society’s attitudes have changed. As a Catholic organisation the Franciscan stance on homosexuality at the moment is “love the sinner, hate the sin”. When I began studying as a Methodist lay preacher several decades ago I began researching Christian doctrine on homosexuality – apart from atheists, no genuinely Christian denomination has ever declared homosexuality one of the sins, except Christian leaders who abuse their position of influence and express their own personal view and claim it is doctrine. Even Popes have done this.

Today, all Catholics are encouraged to treat members of the lgbt community with the respect due to all humans. Some of their doctrines may be homophobic. All organisations have the right to make their own rules which their members are expected to follow, that’s democracy. But change doesn’t always come from outside. The Catholic Church cannot change (in other words, make it more acceptable to those who aren’t Catholic) if there are no lgbt Christians within in to influence change. Even though the Franciscans do not yet accept same-sex marriage within its Order they don’t apply this to same-sex marriage outside it. Some Franciscan friars openly campaigned for same-sex marriage in the USA before it became legal.

Like I said earlier, most established denominations (I don’t recognise the many blatantly homophobic US independent evangelical churches as Christian) “love the sinner, hate the sin”, so there should be no surprise to learn there are lgbt+ Christians can, and have, become church leaders. That brings me on to our next individual, an openly gay Franciscan friar who is currently the equivalent of a Franciscan bishop, 15) Brother Markus Fuhrmann (b.1971).

Next time of “80 Gays”: Some right royal visitors bring gender variation to Cologne, with a sweet smell that leads to a transformation.

Monday, 24 July 2023

One Olympian, Multiple "Firsts"

NOTE: Research is never-ending. The information in this article is accurate on the date of publication. New information which is discovered after this date may alter or replace some of the details.

The Paris 2024 Olympic Games begin a year today with the start of the football and rugby sevens tournaments, several days before the actual opening ceremony. To celebrate, here’s the second of my three Olympic firsts in the lgbt+ community. In fact today we look at someone with multiple firsts.

This man who is not only the first identified lgbt+ competitor at the Olympics (as far as research currently reveals), but he is also the first black American and first lgbt+ Olympian to win a medal, as well as several others. His name is George Coleman Poage (1880-1962).

George Poage

One of my favourite sayings is “history is always changing”. By that I mean that our concept and understanding of what happened in the past changes when new information or new interpretations are applied to history.

When I began my Olympic research in 2010 George Poage was not a name anyone would have put on any lgbt+ list. His family only revealed he was gay in 2016, to someone who had been researching Poage’s life since the 1980s. He included the fact in a biography of Poage in 2017. That biography is available to download here. For our purposes today we’ll just concentrate on Poage’s Olympic achievements and his sexuality.

It is easy to claim that Poage was “erased from history” because he was black. He and his racial background are clearly recorded several times in the official report of the 1904 Olympics, and in many other publications produced at the time, including newspapers, and school, college and athletics club records. He is one of hundreds of Olympians who drift out of public memory all the time. Everyone probably knows who Usain Bolt is. But who remembers Carl Lewis or Allan Wells? Just because you don’t learn about something in school doesn’t mean it has been erased or covered up.

The 1904 St. Louis Olympics at which George Poage competed is notorious among we Olympic historians (I’m a member of the International Society of Olympic Historians, sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee – the IOC) as being one of the “messiest”.

The games were originally awarded to Chicago. The organisers of the 1904 St. Louis World Fair (the one featured in the Judy Garland musical “Meet Me In St. Louis”) were already planning their own international multi-sport festival that would take place at the same time. The World Fair asked Chicago to cancel their games or move them to St. Louis. This caused some conflict, and the founder of the modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, stepped in and cancelled the Chicago Olympics and re-awarded them to St. Louis.

The IOC then had to decide which events organised by the St. Louis World Fair where to be considered Olympic. It wasn’t until 2021 that the list of official 1904 Olympic events was established – 117 years afterwards!!! There are still debates about other events. There’s even debates over which nations were represented. Most US athletes, George Poage included, competed under their sports club’s team name, not their nation. In 2021 ten Olympians were removed from Team USA and listed among their actual national teams. Poage competed as a member of the Milwaukee Athletics Club

So you can see why the 1904 Olympics were messy. And I haven’t even mentioned what happened in the marathon. But I digress. Let’s get back to George Poage.

First of all, let’s clear up several points. George Poage was NOT the first black Olympian (that was French rugby player Constantin Henriquez in 1900). Nor is Poage the first black medal winner (also Henriquez, who won a gold medal). George Poage WAS the first known black Olympian to compete as an American, and the first black American medallist. There are other “firsts” that can be attributed to Poage, which I’ll mention as we go along. Poage was registered to enter five events – the 60 metres, the 100 metres, the 400 metres, the 200 metre hurdles, and the 400 metre hurdles. As mentioned earlier, US athletes competed under their club name.

The track events began on 29th August 1904, and George Poage took part in the very first event, the first heat of the men’s 60 metre sprint. Unfortunately, this is one of the events which suffer from lack of full documentation. There’s no record of Poage’s finishing position or time, but he was not one of the first two finishers who progressed to the final. However, this does make George Poage the first black American to compete in a track event at the Olympics, as well as the first ever lgbt+ track athlete, two more “firsts” he holds.

Poage’s next event was the 400 metres later that day. There were no heats as there were only 12 entrants and they started on the line together like modern long-distance races. Poage spent the first half of the race behind the lead group. He quickly progressed into second place and spectators assumed he would win. On the last bend he was overtaken by several others and crossed the finish line in 6th place. Again, no time was recorded for him.

George Poage’s next event was two days later, the 400 metres hurdles. Again, there were no heats, as this time there were only four entries, all American. This is the race in which Poage won his first Olympic medal, a bronze. Being the first black American Olympian, this also made him the first black American Olympic medal winner. He also became the fist black athlete of any nation to win an individual Olympic medal (Constantin Henriquez won a team gold). All of this as the first lgbt+ Olympian in each case. That’s two more “firsts”.

The next day Poage competed in the 200 metres hurdles, wining his second bronze medal (out of a field of 5 entries). Even though there is no recorded time, it is recorded that just 2 metres (6 feet) separated the first three, with the last two athletes well behind them.

Poage was listed as an entry in the 100 metres on 3rd September, but is listed as a non-starter. This was a common occurrence in these early days of competitive athletics.

As mentioned before, no-one knew about George Poage’s sexuality until his nephew, Rev. Lawrence Jenkins, told Poage’s biographer of the fact in 2016. At the time Poage was being celebrated as an outstanding athlete in La Crosse, Illinois, where he had lived and taught. A statue was unveiled in his memory. Actually, it’s four statues, showing Poage in the various stages of a race – starting position, setting off, running the race, and crossing the finishing line. Rev. Jenkins and other family members were present at the unveiling.

There’s very little that can be said for definite about Poage’s sexuality other than he was gay. He left no personal testimony, and there’s no inference of sexual behaviour with another man. The only incidence of any sexual nature at all came in 1914 when he was teaching at Sumner High School, though it was not of a homosexual nature. Some students had falsely accused Poage and two other teachers of inappropriate relationships with young female students. An investigation cleared all three. Even though the other teachers were reinstated, despite criticism from the local press, Poage had decided to resign and move away.

So, the only evidence we have to go on is the word of his family. But does it matter if there’s no evidence of a gay relationship? George Poage was a trailblazer no matter what his sexuality. Whatever obstacles he encountered because of his race, and there were not as many as other black Americans at the time received, he reached the level of an elite athlete. He was lauded in his own lifetime, disappeared from public memory, and is returning slowly to take his place in the record books.

Monday, 10 July 2023

Star Gay-zing: Queer Asteroid Update

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but been a lot of reports about a newly discovered asteroid that is following us around in Earth’s orbit, like a couple of other “quasi-moons” we have. Perhaps it’s only me that has noticed because I’m interested in them.

But it made me think that it is about time I did an update on the asteroids that have been named after members of the lgbt+ community. So, here it is.

Each asteroid is preceded by its official number and name, its date of discovery, the date when the name was published, a quote from the official citation, and finally other notes of queer interest I can add.

2223 Sarpedon

Discovered 3 October 1977. Published 1 August 1991.

“One of the leaders of the Lycians, Sarpedon was killed by Patroclus in the Trojan War. At the command of Zeus, his body was seized by Apollo and returned to Lycia.”

Sarpedon was the lover of Prince Atymnius of Ethiopia, the son of King Cephus and Queen Cassiopeia. Patroclus, Zeus and Apollo are also lgbt+, and have asteroids named after them.

3200 Phaeton

Discovered 11 October 1983. Published 2 July 1985.

“This object associated with the Geminid meteor stream has the smallest known perihelion distance for a body in a short-period orbit and is named for the son of Helios, who operated the solar chariot for a day, lost control of it and almost set fire to the Earth.”

The god Zeus shot Phaeton out of the sky with a thunderbolt and he fell into the River Po. Phaeton’s lover, Cycnus, mourned his death and was turned into a swan by Apollo. You can read the full story here.

7091 Maryfields

Discovered 1 May 1992. Published 8 Nov 2019.

“Stagecoach Mary Fields (c.1832-1914) was an African-American folk hero and trailblazer. She was a mail carrier in Montana in her 60's, braving harsh weather but never missing a day. Loved by her community, her birthday was a local holiday. She refused to be limited by social norms or laws.”

I wrote about her “Extraordinary Life” several years ago, here.

26883 Marcelproust

Discovered 12 August 1994. Published 28 July 2021.

“Marcel Proust (1871–1922) was a French novelist and essayist, widely considered to be one of the most influential author of the 20th century. His monumental novel ‘Á la recherche du temps perdu’ was published in seven volumes between 1913 and 1927, the last three volumes being edited by his brother, Robert.”

This is the second asteroid named after the gay author, the first being 4474 Proust (listed here). Although the official citation of 4474 Proust specifically identifies the astrophysicist Dominique Proust as the individual after whom this asteroid is named, it states that it also honours Marcel Proust.

27400 Mikewong

Discovered 11 Mar 2000. Published 11 June 2021.

“Mike Wong (b.1971) is a planetary scientist at the University of California at Berkeley who studies giant planets in the Solar System. He is part of the team that discovered a moon around asteroid 624 Hektor, and he studied a 2009 impact on Jupiter while monitoring of the atmosphere with adaptive optics.”

His work on 624 Hektor with his colleague Frank Marchis, a fellow openly gay astrophysicist, is told here.

38083 Rhadamanthus

Discovered 17 April 1999. Published 24 July 2002.

“Rhadamanthus was a son of Zeus and Europa. Because of his just and upright life, after death he was appointed a judge of the dead and the ruler of Elysium, a blissfully beautiful area of the Underworld where those favoured by the gods spent their life after death.”

The Greek writer Athenaeus (170 AD-223 AD) wrote that Rhadamanthus was the lover of Talos (a human, not the giant bronze statue that came to life, as depicted in the film “Jason and the Argonauts”).

85030 Admetos

Discovered 24 September 1960. Published 28 October 2004.

“Admetus (Admetos), from Greek mythology. The King of Pherae was saved by Apollo from his fated death when his wife Alcestis offers to die in his place, father of Eumelos, the best charioteer in the Greek army during the Trojan War.”

One of Apollo’s many male lovers.

343158 Marsyas

Discovered 29 Apiil 2009. Published 14 May 2021.

“Marsyas, a Phrygian Satyr dared oppose Apollo in a musical duel. Marsyas lost when he could not play his flute upside-down. For his hubris he was tied to a tree, flayed, his blood turned into a stream. Marsyas is so named for its unusual retrograde orbit, that which opposes the motion of most solar system objects.”

Marsyas was the teacher and lover of the boy Olympos of Mysia, as stated by the philosopher Philostratus. After Marsyas was flayed alive Apollo gave his body to Olympos for burial.

442721 Kerouac

Discovered 18 October 2009. Published 23 May 2022.

“Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac, known as Jack Kerouac (1922–1969) was an American writer and poet. His novels, including ‘On the Road’ and ‘The Subterraneans’, established a new writing style of spontaneous prose. Kerouac is considered a pioneer of the 1950s and 1960s Beat Generation.”

45595 Inman

Discovered 6 February 2000. Published 6 February 2023.

“Frederick John Inman (1934–2007) was an English actor best known for playing Mr. Humphries in the British comedy ‘Are You Being Served?’ (1972–1985), who went on to star in the Australian version of the same sitcom. In 1976 he was named both BBC TV Personality of the Year and ‘TV Times’ readers' Funniest Man on Television.”

John Inman was hugely popular. His mincing character Mr. Humphries gave the UK one of its most enduring catchphrases, “I’m free!” He was also one of the greatest pantomime dames in British theatre.

475080 Jarry

Discovered 26 October 2006. Published 20 December 2021.

“Alfred Jarry (1873–1907) was a French poet, novelist, writer and playwright. His play ‘Ubu Roi’ is often cited as a forerunner of Dada and the Surrealist movement of the 1920s. He also coined the term and philosophical concept of ‘pataphysics’, the science of imaginary solutions, which involves the destruction by the absurd of reason and language.”

Although Jarry is known to have had gay encounters in his younger years he didn’t seem to have had any romantic relationships with anyone, male or female, after that. Many of his works included gay characters and themes.


98 Ianthe

Discovered 18 April 1868. Published before 1903.

“Named for the young girl who became betrothed to Iphis, a Cretan girl who was changed by Isis into a man.”

In the pseudo-science of astrology, Ianthe is the influence behind dissatisfaction with one’s gender role, or with gender identity problems.

52965 Laurencebentz

Discovered 15 October 1998. Published 29 March 2023.

“Laurence Bentz (b.1958) is a French medical doctor, specializing in Public Health & Education Sciences. She contributed to tackling the HIV-AIDS epidemic at its onset, through clinical work, epidemiology, and research to enhance patient adherence to complex treatments. She also developed interventions to support the empowerment of chronically-ill people.

Friday, 23 June 2023

Olympic Day: The First of Three Firsts

Note: As more research is undertaken and new information is made available, the information below may be subject to change. The information is as correct as possible on the date of publication. This article has been amended since it was first published.

In January 1948 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to create an annual day on which National Olympic Committees (NOCs) could celebrate the founding of the modern games and promote its ideals through sport. The date chosen for this special day was 23rd June, and today is its 75th anniversary.

This date was chosen because it was the last day of the Congrés International de Paris pour le Retablissment de Jeux Olympique, during which the IOC is recognised as being founded.

My continuing research into lgbt+ participation in the Olympic Games has brought to light three individuals who are pioneers in a particular aspect of the Olympic movement. Over the next three months I will feature them individually.

Today we look at the man who was the first lgbt+ member of an organising committee, a member of the committee which organised the very first modern Olympics in 1896. He was Prince George of Greece and Denmark (1869-1957).

HRH Prince George of Greece and Denmark

Last year I mentioned that the first lgbt+ member of an NOC was Prince Aribert von Anhalt (1864-1933). He was appointed to the Komitee für die Beteiligung Deutschlands an den Olympischen Spielen zu Athen (Committee for the Participation of Germany at the Olympic Games in Athens) on its formation on 13th December 1895. Prince George of Greece and Denmark predates Prince Aribert, because the Greek NOC was founded on 3rd February 1894, even before the IOC’s first congress mentioned above, and the NOC appointed Prince George to the organising committee of the Athens Olympics in January 1895.

But why is George a prince of both Greece and Denmark? Well, George’s father was a brother of the king of Denmark who was offered (and accepted) the throne of Greece by the Greek people. His descendants are still princes and princesses of Denmark as well as Greece. King Charles III’s father was born one of them before adopting his mother’s name. In fact, Prince George was one King Charles’s godparents, and represented the King of Greece at Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1952. But I digress.

Although Prince George married and has two children he is widely believed to have been gay. There’s some circumstantial evidence for this in a couple of recent books about Sigmund Freud, to whom George’s wife turned for therapy.

Prince George and his brothers Crown Prince (later King) Constantine and Prince Nicholas were heavily involved in the organisation of the Athens Olympics. Constantine was President of the organising committee, and when other duties prevented him from attending, Prince George deputised for him. George was appointed President of the Sub-Committee for National Sports, which included sailing and rowing. Unfortunately, bad weather and a mix-up over the supply of proper boats saw the sailing abandoned. George was also appointed an umpire and final arbitrator in the swimming events, and as chairman of the judges for the weightlifting events.

The one-hand weightlifting contest provided Team GB with its first ever Olympic champion, Launceston Elliott. But the weightlifting events provided an incident that has gone down in Olympic history, and it involved Prince George. The incident could have come straight out of a comedy film, or at the very least be considered apocryphal, if it wasn’t recorded in the official report of the games that was published in 1897. Here is what the report says:

Apart from his duties as a sports official Prince George also performed several civic duties as well as a member of the royal family. He took part in official receptions, visited sports events he was not directly involved with, and supported his father, the king, in royal engagements associated with the games.

In 1906 Athens hosted what is now referred to as the Intercalated Olympics. The Greek Olympic Committee had the idea of holding an Olympic games in between the main 4th-yearly events, but various circumstances led to this being the only one ever held. They were regarded as full Olympic Games until 1948 when the IOC decided to remove it, its results, and medals from their records. However, most Olympic historians, myself included, still give the Intercalated games full Olympic status.

What makes the IOC’s decision even more ridiculous is that the 1904 Intercalated Olympics were the first ones we would recognise as an Olympic Games today. They introduced the opening and closing ceremonies, an athlete’s parade, flag-raising for the medallists, an Olympic village, and athletes registered under their National Olympic Committee rather than athletics club. It was also the first Olympics to be concentrated within a short time period and not spread out over several months.

Prince George was, again, appointed as President of the judges and games referee, and he and his brother Nicholas were heavily involved in the organisation of the sports. He also fulfilled his royal responsibilities at receptions for the athletes.

The prince’s athletic abilities gained more recognition at these games. During the marathon Prince George awaited at the stadium entrance for the arrival of the first runner. That runner was Canadian Billy Sherring. As he entered the stadium Prince George ran along side him, applauding and encouraging him, on the final lap around the stadium. It should be pointed out that Prince George was in full military uniform and the lap was 400 metres in distance.

Prince George was often referred to as the Prince of Crete. He became involved in the political conflict on Crete, an island that remained in the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire after Greece gained its independence from it in 1830. After several Greek-Cretan insurrections the Ottoman Empire declared war on Greece in 1897. The major European powers sent a multinational force to defend Greece.

This force set Crete up as an autonomous state and in 1898 appointed Prince George of Greece and Denmark as High Commissioner of the Great Powers, the de facto head of state. The Ottomans were finally expelled from the island later that year. Prince George remained in office until 1908 when the Cretan assembly declared unilateral union with the Greek crown. Crete was fully incorporated into Greece in 1912. The full history of Crete between 1897 and 1912 is a lot more complicated than this and cannot be recounted with enough justice here.

There is still so much to tell about Prince George – how he saved his cousin, the future Tsar Nicholas II, from being assassinated in Japan, and how he lived with his bachelor uncle for most of his life despite never divorcing from his wife. But all that can wait for another time. On this Olympic Day, we only needed to look at his Olympic involvement.

Saturday, 10 June 2023

Heraldic Alphabet 2023

Welcome to my 10th Heraldic Alphabet celebrating the annual International Heraldry Day with coats of arms in the lgbt+ community. Regular readers and fans of my Alphabets will notice several differences this year.

First, there are two letters with double entries because there are more armigers (people with a coat of arms) whose names begin with those letters.

Second, there’s an oval instead of a shield for the letter B1. This is explained in my detailed look at its owner, Bishop Eve Brunne.

Third, in England, when an armiger dies his or her coat of arms can be displayed at the funeral on a diamond shaped black wooden panel. Heraldic internet sites have used black backgrounds to commemorate recent deaths (e.g. Queen Elizabeth II). The black background I show marks the passing of Princess Abigail Kawananakoa of Hawaii last December.

Some nations still don’t allow women to use shields, only ovals or diamond lozenges. For the sake of visual uniformity I prefer to use shields, except for the example referred to above. The symbol ^ used in the list below indicates that the individual would use a lozenge.

I have chosen not to show the helmet, crest, motto, and/or animal supporters to which any armiger is entitled. These are best shown in future in-depth looks at their full heraldic achievement.

Some Quick Basic definitions

Arms of Office – arms of an institution or public office of which the person is the nominal head, used only during their term of office. Not all institutions or offices grant this right.

Assumed – arms adopted by a family where no heraldic authority exists. Also, arms that are not officially registered by any such authority that does exist.

Cadency mark – a specific symbol added to a family coat of arms to indicate the place in order of birth of the user (i.e. 1st son/daughter, 2nd son/daughter, etc.).

Family – arms usually borne by the family’s senior bloodline member. Other family members are often required to add differences (e.g. cadency marks). Some nations allow all family members to use the arms unaltered.

Marital – spouses (including same-sex couples in some countries) can chose to place their arms side by side on one shield. Heirs place theirs on a smaller shield or lozenge on their spouse’s. A person who is not an armiger can just display the arms of their spouse alone.

Personal – inherited family arms used by the individual, with or without differences and cadency marks. Also new arms granted by an official heraldic authority.

 Quarters – 4 or more divisions of a shield with a different inherited coat of arms in each. Some individuals are entitled to bear many quarters.

Without further ado, here is 2023’s Heraldic Alphabet:

A) Carl Austen-Behan (b.1972) – Lord Mayor of Manchester 2016, Mr. Gay UK 2001. Arms of office. Arms of the city of Manchester, granted by the College of Arms on 1st March 1842.

B1) Bishop Eva Brunne (b.1954) – Lutheran Bishop of Stockholm 2009-19. Arms of office. For more information see here.

B2) Hon. Toby Butterfield (b.1965) – British-American lawyer, Gay Games squash champion 2002. Personal arms. Arms granted to his father, Lord Butterfield, with Toby’s cadency mark as his 3rd son (star). The towers on either side of the lion are from the arms of Nottingham (Lord Butterfield was Vice-Chancellor of Nottingham University).

C) Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571) – Florentine sculptor and goldsmith. Family arms. The lion is the original family arms. The fleurs-de-lys and “label” at the top is called a capo d’Anjou (see here).

D) Nils Dardel (1888-1943) – Swedish artist. Family arms granted to his great-grandfather Georges-Alexandre Dardel, a Swiss army officer knighted, ennobled and granted arms by the King of Sweden on 21st May 1810.

E) Reginald, Lord Esher (1852-1930) – Sir Reginald Brett, 2nd Viscount Esher. Personal arms. The Brett family arms are the gold lions. They are holding a fasces, a symbol of authority in the Roman Empire (where we get the modern word “fascist” - this does not imply that the family has any fascist associations). The 3 leopard faces were inherited from the Wilfords of Enfield. The bears’ heads are inherited from the Forbes of Edinglassie.

F) Laudomia Forteguerri (1515-1555) – Italian poet. Family arms. The pattern on the right side is called vair. It represents pieces of squirrel fur (“varus” is Latin for squirrel) sewn together to form the lining of a medieval cloak. Blue represents the squirrel’s back fur, white represents its belly fur.

G) Sir John Gielgud (1904-2000) – British actor. Family arms. The Gielguds are untitled Polish nobility. Sir John’s great-grandfather fled to England during Russian occupation of Poland. I have not determined if Sir John had an English grant of arms. This is his inherited Polish arms. They are derived from an older coat of arms belonging to the Dzialosza family to which the Gielgud family are related.

H) Capt. Myles Hildyard (1914-2005) – British army officer, and historian. Personal arms. The blue quarters are the Hildyard arms. The white quarters with the bugles are inherited from the Thoroton family. Capt. Hildyard was President of the Thoroton Society, a historical society named after his ancestral uncle, an antiquarian called Robert Thoroton (1628-1678).

I) Ruth Illingworth – Mayor of Mullingar, County Westmeath, Ireland, 2009-10; the first openly lgbt mayor in Ireland. Arms of office. Probably assumed arms, as I cannot find any official grant. This design is based on the town’s 18th century civic seal. The wheel represents the mill-wheel of a local landmark – the name Mullingar means “left-hand mill”. Other objects on the shield represent local heritage and families.

J) Lady Catherine Jones (1672-1740) ^ – British philanthropist and women’s rights advocate, daughter of the Earl of Ranelagh. Family arms. The objects in the corners are called pheons, representing arrow heads.

K) Princess Abigail Kinoiki Kehaulike Kawananakoa (1926-2022) – Hawaiian princess and heir to the Hawaiian throne. Inherited arms, being those of the kingdom of Hawaii granted by the College of Arms in May 1845. Had the kingdom survived, these are the arms Princess Abigail would have used as Queen. Minor changes were made when it was chosen for the state seal of Hawaii in 1959. The stripes are prominent on the state flag.

L) Ellen Lascelles (b.1984) ^ – British recruitment consultant. Personal arms. Ellen’s great-grandmother was Princess Mary, Queen Elizabeth II’s aunt. Princess Mary had her own variation of the royal arms (bottom left), making her children her heraldic heirs, including Ellen’s father who would have added the star as a third son. The yellow crosses are the Lascelles family arms. They inherited the cross with the lion from the Burkes of Clanricarde.

M) Erica Mann (1905-1969) ^ - German actor and author. Attributed marital arms. I included the Mann family in last year’s Alphabet. If her family’s German arms were permitted in England, this is how Erica’s arms could have looked as wife of author W. H. Auden (see 2016 Alphabet). They married to allow Erica to flee Nazi persecution and become a British citizen.

N) Rt. Rev. Szymon Niemiec (b.1977) – Bishop of the United Christian Church of Poland, founder of Polish Pride, and psychotherapist. Personal arms, granted by the United Christian Church. Red and white are the Polish national colours. The angels (Gabriel left, Michael right) deliberately break the heraldic rule of never putting white on white. This symbolises the angels’ spiritual nature. The chalice and disc represent Holy Communion. The “X” on the disc is also the family arms of the Niemiec family.

O) Dr. Rachel Wyndham Obbard – American Professor, and planetary scientist. Family arms. These arms were granted to Dr. Rachel’s 3-times great-grandfather, Robert Obbard, by the College of Arms on 12 February 1850. The crescent indicates her descent from a 2nd son.

P) Dennis Price (1915-1973) – British actor. Family arms. For more information see here.

R) John Randolph (1773-1833) – US Congressman and Senator. Assumed arms. John Randolph is believed to have had a form of genetic gender variation, probably Klinefelter syndrome. The first Randolphs to settle in Virginia used the arms of the Randolphs of Kent who used black stars. There’s no known link between the two families. John’s great-grandfather was the first to use red stars.

S) Mrs. Sarah Scott, née Robinson (1720-1785) ^ - British novelist and social reformer. Personal arms. Sarah and her brother became heraldic heirs to the Robinson family in 1794. The deer features in many Robinson family arms. Sarah’s marriage to George Scott was for his financial benefit and was not a happy one.

T) Ernest Thesiger (1879-1961) – British actor. Personal arms. Granted to his grandfather, Sir Frederick Thesiger, in 1844 when he was knighted. Sir Frederick’s 5th son is Ernest Thesiger’s father, hence the cadency mark of a ring.

V1) Sándor Vay (1859-1918) – Hungarian poet and journalist. Family arms. Born Countess Sarolta Vay. The original Vay arms date from 1418 and show just the deer and arrow, facing the other way. Later generations modified and added to the design. This particular design was adopted by Sandor’s paternal grandfather,

V2) Count Gottfried von Cramm (1909-1976) – German tennis player. Family arms. For more information see here.

W) Dame Veronica Wedgwood (1910-1997) ^ – British historian. Personal arms. A member of the famous Wedgwood pottery family. These arms were confirmed to Dame Veronica’s ancestor, John Wedgwood, by the College of Arms on 20 November 1576.

Y) Dame Eileen Younghusband (1902-1981) ^ - British pioneer of social work training. Family arms. These arms appear on the memorial to one of her great-uncles, and are still used by descendants of another. This implies that her grandfather could also use them and, therefore, Dame Eileen could inherit them.

Tuesday, 23 May 2023

(Not Quite) 80 Gays Around the World: 3) Atlantis, Bigfoot and Awards

Previously on "80 Gays": A retelling of the myth of 3) Ganymede was written by 4) Felice Picano (b.1944), member of the Violet Quill Club with 5) Edmund White (b.1940), 6) Christopher Cox (1949-1990), 7) George Whitmore (1945-1989), 8) Andrew Holleran (b.1944), 9) Robert Ferro (1941-1988), and 10) Michael Grumley (1942-1988).

9) Robert Ferro and 10) Michael Grumley met in 1967 when they were both studying creative writing at the University of Iowa. Michael Grumley was an Iowa native though had studied at several universities before landing back. Although a member of the Violet Quill, which was primarily concerned with writing gay fiction, Michael had a secondary interest outside the lgbt+ community.

The 1960s and 1970s saw an explosion of interest in esoteric topics such as ancient astronauts, mystic faiths, and the paranormal. While not having any extreme beliefs himself, Michael became a notable contributor in two of the more popular subjects – Atlantis and Bigfoot.

Michael Grumley only collaborated with his partner Robert Ferro on one work, “Atlantis: The Autobiography of a Search”, published in 1970. Officially marketed as non-fiction there are some critics who regard the book as being semi-fact.

What is contained in “Atlantis: The Autobiography of a Search” is the odyssey taken by the Ferro-Grumleys (as the couple were called from their Iowa university days) from Italy to the Bahamas, following a trail of clues and prophecies that led them to the Bimini Road, an underwater ridge of natural rock which has been clamed as the road to Atlantis. There may be elements of literary license and elaboration on the Ferro-Grumley’s part, but their book has become part of the Atlantis mythos itself.

Robert Ferro didn’t collaborate on Grumley’s 1975 book “The Are Giants in the Earth” about Bigfoot, the American forest-dwelling Yeti. Several years ago I included Michael Grumley in my piece “Queer Cryptids”. “There Are Giants in the Earth” expands Grumley’s take on Atlantis to include other ideas such as a hollow earth and lost races of humanity.I shall be returning to these ideas in another episode of “80 Gays” later this year. Although I am highly sceptical of such ideas I am fascinated by them and how they develop, or can develop, if you let your imagination run free. For instance, by combining some ideas in “There are Giants in the Earth” with others from a book entitled “Santa Claus: the Last of the Wild Men” by Phyllis Siefker, I can make a claim that Santa Claus is not based on St. Nicholas but is actually based on a Scandinavian Bigfoot called a Stallo.

Despite being such an enigmatic and elusive creature, Bigfoot ranks as one of the most internationally well-known cryptids. It’s no wonder books about him become best-sellers. When it comes to fiction cryptids provide ready-made fantasy creatures (the Harry Potter books rely primarily on established cryptids). One recent novel about Bigfoot gave a new spin on the creature. The novel is called “Pamela Wants To Cuddle”, and is written by 11) Samantha Leigh Allen.

Spoiler alert: The following paragraphs contain plot details about “Pamela Wants To Cuddle”. If you are currently reading it, or intend to, I advise you to skip to the last paragraph below so that your enjoyment of the novel won’t be spoilt.

Samantha has worked primarily as a transgender journalist, writing for such publications as The Daily Beast, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Out, and CNN, amongst others. She has a PhD in Women’s Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and wrote “Real Queer America: LGBT Stories From Red States” in 2019.

Just before that Samantha thought about writing a novel. From a germ of an idea grew a novel that has been described as “bizarre” and “bonkers”. In effect, what she came up with was a slasher-movie/dating-show combination.

“Patricia Wants To Cuddle” is set in Washington state, USA, where stories of Bigfoot, or Sasquatch, seem to be common. The Patricia of the novel’s title is a female Bigfoot. Like all creatures who live in the wild, Patricia is very protective of her territory, so when a television cast and crew arrive to film a dating show Patricia “despatches” these intruders, one by one, in her own inimitable style. It’s all very tongue in cheek and satirical, like “Slumber Party Massacre”, the slasher novel by Rita Mae Brown (number 57 in that first “80 Gays” series). But “Patricia Wants To Cuddle” has one last twist, which I’m not going to reveal.

Let’s get back to Michael Grumley and Robert Ferro. After the deaths of both partners from AIDS in 1988 their estates were used to set up the Ferro-Grumley Foundation. In 1990 the foundation created the Ferro-Grumley Award, an annual prize given to the best lgbt+ fiction of the year. Three fellow Violet Quill members have won this award – 4) Felice Picano in 1996,8) Andrew Holleran in 1997, and 5) Edmund White in 2001. The winning author received $1,000 and a two-week residency at the Art Workshop International in Assisi, Italy, which was founded by 12) Bea Kreloff (1925-2016) and 13) Edith Isaac-Rose (1929-2018).

Next time on “80 Gays”: We turn our attention to art in Italy.

Monday, 8 May 2023

Game of Gay Thrones 8: Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Byzantium, Murcia, Dai Viet and Anhalt

To mark last Saturday’s historic coronation of King Charles III here is another batch of lgbt+ people who were prevented from becoming sovereign, or who unlawfully declared themselves to be one.

We’ll start with a man who was born into the British royal family but was deprived of his titles by the king.

Prince Hubertus von Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (1909-1943) – heir apparent of the duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

In 1826 the German duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was created. The title of duke eventually passed to the children of Prince Albert von Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the husband of Queen Victoria of the UK. By 1917 the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was Victoria and Albert’s grandson, Prince Charles, Duke of Albany.

During World War I Charles (I suppose I should use his German name Karl) fought for Germany against Britain. This prompted the UK to pass the Titles Deprivations Act 1917. This stripped British royals who were fighting for Germany of all their British titles, and the loyal British royals dropped their German titles. This is when the UK Royals adopted the family name Windsor and the Princes of Battenburg became the Mountbattens.

After the war the German Weimar Republic abolished all royal titles, though many remained in use unofficially, as they are still today. The ex-reigning royals became the titular heads of their dynasties. Karl’s eldest son renounced his rights to succeed as head of the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha dynasty in 1932. The heir became Karl’s second son, Prince Hubertus.

Like his father Prince Hubertus became a high-ranking Nazi officer, but unlike his father Hubertus was actually anti-Hitler. Surprisingly, there are reports that Hitler would have appointed Prince Hubertus governor of the UK after a successful invasion, making him third in rank in the entire Nazi party. It has become apparent through research carried out in the last decade that Prince Hubertus was a closeted gay man. He never married, had no known relationships, or an interest in getting married.

During World War II Hubertus was a Luftwaffe pilot. He was killed when his plane was shot down by the Soviet Air Force in 1943. His father outlived him and died in 1954 and Hubertus’s nephew became head of the Saxe-Coburg and Gotha family.

Staurakios (d.800) – attempted to become Emperor of Byzantium

Staurakios was one of the many eunuchs who held high positions at the imperial Byzantine court. However, Byzantine law forbad eunuchs from occupying the throne. This didn’t stop Staurakios from trying.

Staurakios was the chief minister and most powerful man in the empire during the reign of Empress Irene, who favoured giving top positions to eunuchs. This was mainly because she distrusted the officials who had been appointed by her predecessor, her late husband Emperor Leo IV. This also meant that those officials distrusted the eunuchs, Staurakios in particular.

Staurakios’s career rose and fell on a regular basis. Irene appointed him her foreign minister (in 781); he was captured by Sultan Harun-al Rashid (782); after his release he gained Byzantine control over Slavic Greece (784); was sacked, flogged, and exiled by Irene’s son Co-Emperor Constantine (790); and then recalled back to Byzantium and reinstated (791).

When Constantine died Staurakios found that he had a rival. He and Aetius, another eunuch appointed to a high position by Empress Irene, began a power struggle to ensure control of the empire after Irene’s death. Aetius accused Staurakios of trying to usurp the throne. Although Irene believed this, all Staurakios got was just a metaphorical slap on the wrist and told not to do it again.

But it does appear that Staurakios was indeed plotting to become emperor when Irene died. In 800 Irene decided to limit his authority over the army, which he was bribing, to prevent him from organising a military campaign against Aetius. However, Staurakios was becoming ill at around this time. His advisers and doctors assured him he would recover and become emperor. So he continued his campaign against Aetius. He should have ignored his advisers and rested. He died a few weeks later.

Muhammad ibn Ammar (1031-1086) – self-proclaimed Emir of Murcia, Spain.

This poet was the lover of Abbad III al Mu’tamid (1040-1095), the Emir and Caliph of Seville, who was also a poet. The two met when they were teenagers and a close bond developed quickly though their love of poetry and each other. However, al-Mu’tamid’s father, Emir Abbad II, was suspicious of ibn Ammar’s influence and banished him. Needless to say, when Abbad II died and al-Mu’tamid succeeded as Abbad III, ibn Ammar was recalled, and he was appointed Vizier.

Ibn Ammar led the conquest of the neighbouring kingdom of Murcia, deposing its emir in 1078. He told the Murcian people that they deserved a better emir, and he decided that this better emir was himself. This displeased Abbad III, who had not given him permission to declare himself emir. The two poets exchanged sarcastic poems, not meant to be malicious, but they both took them personally and their friendship deteriorated. Not only that, but ibn Ammar’s reign as self-appointed emir also deteriorated and eventually he was deposed.

Returning to Seville as a prisoner ibn Ammar misjudged Abbad’s attempts at a reconciliation and, reluctantly, Abbad ordered his execution. Nonetheless, Abbad gave ibn Ammar a sumptuous funeral.

Prince Lê Tuân (1482-1512) – heir presumptive of Dai Viet.

Dai Viet was a medieval kingdom in what is now northern Vietnam. Prince Lê Tuân was the eldest son of King Lê Hien Tong. In 1499 the king was persuaded by his high ranking courtiers to name his successor to ensure the stability of the kingdom.

The king thought Prince Lê Tuân, was unsuitable. He was too hot-heated and often dressed as a woman, so he chose his youngest son as his successor instead. An even bigger reason to overlook Prince Lê Tuân than his cross-dressing was because he had plotted to drug his own mother.

Both of Lê Tuân’s younger brothers became kings of Dai Viet in succession. The first was very popular, but the second was a murderous maniac, disposing of many other royal princes. Lê Tuân thought it best to hide away to avoid the same fate as them.

Lê Tuân’s penchant for wearing women’s clothing didn’t hinder his marriage, and he has many living descendants, all, technically, the senior bloodline heirs of the Lê dynasty of Dai Viet. When Lê Tuân died he was declared as god by the people of the Biansia commune of Dai Viet, which is now part of China.

Prince Aribert von Anhalt (1864-1933) – heir apparent to the Duchy of Anhalt

I briefly wrote about Prince Aribert’s involvement in the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 (spoiler alert – next month I’ll be writing about another European gay prince who was even more heavily involved).

The duchy of Anhalt was a small sovereign German state within the German Empire, just as the above-mentioned duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Prince Aribert was the last heir apparent before the Weimar Republic abolished all royal titles.

Actually Anhalt was not abolished by the Weimar Republic with the others. In 1918, the final days of the German Empire, Anhalt saw the year of three sovereigns. Aribert’s eldest brother, the reigning Duke of Anhalt, died childless in April 1918. Aribert’s next oldest brother, Prince Eduard, succeeded but died in September 1918. Eduard’s 17-year-old son Prince Joachim-Ernst then became duke. Prince Aribert was appointed regent for his nephew until Joachim-Ernst became 21. Until a time when Joachim-Ernst married and had children, Prince Aribert was heir to the title.

The day after the Armistice of 11th November 1918 was signed, which ended World War I, Prince Aribert announced the abdication of his nephew and the self-abolition of the duchy of Anhalt. As with Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Prince Joachim-Ernst lost his royal title but became the head of the dynasty. Prince Aribert lost his place as heir when Prince Joachim-Ernst married and had children.