Wednesday 15 February 2023

(Not Quite) 80 Gays Around the World: 1) Love in the Stars

This time last year I began researching for the next edition of my “Around the World in 80 Gays” series. It was my intention to have it complete and ready for serialisation this year. However, the Beijing Winter Olympics and Birmingham Commonwealth Games slowed down that research because of an explosion of interest and inclusion in competing lgbt+ athletes at both events. Between them these games provided almost a hundred new names to research and catalogue.

By the end of last year I decided that I had done enough research on “80 Gays” to produce a shortened version, “(Not Quite) 80 Gays Around the World” Not every part of the serialisation has been written, and I am trying to expand it with more names as I go along, so I can’t say for sure how many names I will end up with.

The format will remain the same as in previous editions. Each individual will be numbered so that you (and I) can keep track of how far through the list of names we are. The first three names are of people we’ve encountered before on this blog and they are all connected by love relationships, which is quite appropriate considering yesterday was what is popularly and mistakenly celebrated as St. Valentine’s Day (see here to discover why it’s the wrong St. Valentine and the wrong date). So without further ado, here’s the new “Around the World in (Not Quite) 80 Gays.

1) The Roman Emperor Hadrian (76-138) is one of the more well-known of the gay emperors. Last year we celebrated the 1900th anniversary of his visit to Britain and the construction of the famous wall named after him.

It was on his continuing travels around his empire after laving Britain that Hadrian is believed to have first met the young 2) Antinuos (c.111-c.130) in Claudiopolis (now called Bolu, a city in northern Turkey). It is assumed that Antinous was born in the area.

If estimates of Antinous’s birth are correct he would have been no more than 12 years old when he and Hadrian met 1900 years ago in 123. Hadrian, who was in his 40s, was a big fan of Greek culture, so taking Antinous as a boy lover would not strike him as being questionable, unlike it would today. Even so, there were many critics of Hadrian’s lifestyle who thought the relationship was morally wrong. One of the theories concerning Antinous’s mysterious early death in the River Nile is based on this criticism, that it was a murder to ensure the relationship stopped for good. Other theories include accidental death, political assassination, ritual sacrifice, and suicide.

Hadrian’s grief at the death of his young lover, who was not yet 20 years old, was overwhelming. Back in 2011, in the first of my “Star Gayzing” series (was it really that long ago?) I mentioned some of the tributes Hadrian created for Antinous. In that article I concentrated on the constellation Hadrian “created” and how this was to show Antinous as a new 3) Ganymede.

Ganymede was also a youth who became the lover of an older man, in this case the god Zeus. He became a very popular subject in art during ancient and classical Greece, and also from the Renaissance through to the present day. Both Antinous and Ganymede were immortalised as constellations, with Ganymede becoming Aquarius. Both young men have been inspirations for gay men’s organisations and brotherhoods, and both were deified after their deaths by their lovers. Because of Ganymede’s greater and longer significance he has more statues and images than of Antinous. He remains more prominent in modern gay male culture.

There are many directions I could take from Ganymede in our “Not Quite 80 Gays” journey, but the one I have chosen is through literature, after all, the Greek myths are only known to us through ancient writings.

The modern publication which will take us further is called “An Asian Minor: The True Story of Ganymede” by an American author called 4) Felice Picano (b.1944), and we will learn more about him and his works in a few weeks’ time.

Friday 3 February 2023

20 for '23

My apologies. I’m a couple of days late with this because I’ve been without internet access for a couple of days.

To celebrate this month’s annual LGBT+ History Month in the UK here are 20 queer facts for 2023.

1. A Knight of the Golden Grummet is a colourful British slang term from the early 20th century for a gay man. A grummet was the name the Royal Navy gave to a rope hoop or ring. Gold was a slang word for excrement. Thus, golden grummet was a slang term for anus. You can probably work out what a Knight of the Golden Grummet means.

2. On a similar slang vein, “Prick Up Your Ears” (prick up your rears) was the title of a biography of the gay British author and playwright Joe Orton (1933-1967). It was written by John Lahr, son of Bert Lahr who played the cowardly lion in the classic film “The Wizard of Oz”.

3. The late, openly gay, Kevin Conroy (1955-2022) has played Batman more times than all other Batman actors combined. He voiced the iconic superhero in the animated television series, films and video games. He began voicing Batman in 1992 and his final performance was for the forthcoming film “Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League”. An estimate of the separate programmes and films in which he voiced Batman exceeds 400.

4. On 1st April 2022 Paolo Rondelli (b.1963) became the first openly gay elected Head of State in history. He was elected as one of the two Captain Generals by the parliament of the republic of San Marino, an independent land-locked nation within Italy. His fixed term of office lasted six months, and he cannot be re-elected until April 2025.

5. If you find a joke or comment to be in bad taste, blame Sir Francis Bacon, Viscount St. Alban (1561-1636). In 1597 this gay statesman, scientist and philosopher wrote about “tasting” books. This idea became popular among other writers and critics and soon they were talking about books that tasted bad. From there we get “good taste” and “bad taste”.

6. IsiNgqumo is a slang language used by the lgbt+ community in Zimbabwe and South Africa, especially by those who are native Bantu speakers.

7. The gay French poet and dandy Count Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac (1855-1921) is descended from Jean de Montesquiou, Seigneur d’Artagnan (1555-1608), grandfather of Charles de Batz-Montesquiou who was immortalised as d’Artagnan in the novel “The Three Musketeers”.

8. Openly gay Australian entomologist Dr. Bryan Lessard has named at least 50 new species of flies and insects, including ones named after Beyoncé and Ru Paul.

9. “Black Carnation” was a derogatory name for the gay community used in Latvia during the 1920s and 1930s. It seems to have been invented by a tabloid newspaper in 1926 which claimed that gay men would recognise each other by the wearing of a black carnation, or by attending venues called Black Carnation. The term became popular in Latvia’s press.

10. The first novel currently acknowledged as being the first in the genre of gothic horror is “The Castle of Otranto”, written by Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford (1717-1797) and published in 1764.

11. The 2021 census of England and Wales recorded that 1,536,614 people over the age of 16 (of those that answered the voluntary question) identified as something other than heterosexual, with 3 and a half million not answering the question.

12. The first person to undergo gender-reassignment surgery was Karl Meir Baer (1885-1956) in 1906.

13. “Doctor Who”, the longest running science fiction television series in the world, began on 23rd November 1963. The first story and episode was directed by the 24-year-old Waris Hussein (b.1938). He is the first of the many lgbt+ people who have made significant contributions to the programme. I’ll mention more of them in November when I celebrate its 60th anniversary.

15. The world’s most expensive painting sold at auction is Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi”, which sold for $450,312,500 in 2017. Since then, doubts about its authenticity have been raised.

16. In January 2023 Ellen Lascelles (b.1984) became the second member of the outer British Royal Family (popularly referred to as “Minor Royals”) to become engaged to a same-sex partner. Ellen is, on the date this is posted, 74th in line of succession to the throne. The first same-sex marriage was that of Lord Ivar Mountbatten, who is way down in the 700s in line of succession. So don’t hold your breath in the hope of an lgbt+ monarch of in the UK just yet!

17. Former UK Prime Minister David Cameron (b.1966) became the second politician to have a rainbow incorporated into his coat of arms in recognition of him leading the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition government instigating and passing into law the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013. The first rainbow was granted to former Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow (b.1963) in 2011.

18. The official royal monograms for the new King Charles III reminded me that the openly gay graphic designer and professional violinist Øyvind Rauset (b.1952) designed several official royal monograms for members of the Norwegian royal family in the 1990s.

19. Mercury, despite its relatively small size, is the most cratered planet in our solar system. Among its many craters are those named after people in the lgbt+ community, including composers Aaron Copland and Pyotr Tchaikovsky, and authors Marcel Proust and Arthur Rimbaud.

20. People usually leaves flowers at the graves of their heroes and loved ones, but people leave potatoes at the grave of Friedrich II the Great, the gay King of Prussia (1712-1786) because he saved his country from starvation and famine (more of less) by encouraging people to grow potatoes. How he did this will be explained in an article I will publish on World Potato Day (23rd August).