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).

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