The Quatrefoil Library


Coffee House Press

Minnpost has been to visit The Quatrefoil Library, an entirely-gay lending library which exists within a main library. The library contains more than 14,000 books and thousands of videos, audio recordings, periodicals, artworks, and archival materials, and was established by David Irwin and Dick Hewetson in 1983.

The majority of materials are available for lending with a yearly membership. Quatrefoil is entirely volunteer-run, and open seven days a week.

I find a small, one-fold satin-gloss pamphlet called “Marketplace” – only four issues in 1980 – interesting for these reasons. It’s a guide to gay-friendly commercial resources in the Twin Cities, probably printed in a very small run and almost certainly limited in its availability. The cover of the first issue is a sensitively rendered drawing of a young man, available through a local portrait artist’s gallery. It’s also decorated with a lambda, the Greek letter that was a popular, pre-rainbow flag symbol of gay activism in the 1970s. There’s such an idealism in the necessity of such an undertaking – a listings of businesses for “US,” it reads – but also in the fact that this tiny facet of the local gay culture was preserved and is now available to anyone who’d like to look at it.


London’s gay bars

New Musical Express

Gay bars have existed in London for hundreds of years, although they weren’t originally called that.

Dr Matt Cook, Social Historian at Birkbeck College, University of London points out that the nature of gay identity has changed fundamentally.

“The idea of a singular identity is very new. In 16th Century England there was a subculture loosely relating to the theatre. Men didn’t identify as specifically gay. Things happened in the context of a sexualized, risque environment and being queer was a part of a more general underground culture.”

In the 17th and 18th Century, “Molly houses” started appearing. Sometimes they were coffee or ale houses or private rooms in otherwise straight pubs.
“A lot of the knowledge we have about early gay culture is from criminal records. Molly houses were often raided and people being prosecuted is the main source of information about what happened at that time.”…

“In the 1940s and 1950s there was the A&B club, otherwise known as the Arts and Battledress and there was also the Rockingham, both in Soho. They were for a more middle-class clientele. There were also pubs such as the Salisbury in Covent Garden which weren’t as exclusive.”

The Salisbury is no longer gay, but the current duty manager, Jon Badcock, says tourists still visit the pub and ask about its history. “We’re in the middle of theatreland … Some of our older regulars remember sitting in the snug while Kenneth Williams held court.”

The early part of the 20th Century saw women becoming visible on the gay scene, with the Gateways Club opening on the King’s Road in Chelsea in 1931. Because women hadn’t featured in criminal trials, there were no public records of lesbian culture.

Outing early America



The Library Company of Philadelphia has launched its’ exhibition “That’s So Gay: Outing Early America” revealing that early 19th century America contained a spectrum of same-sex relationships and gender identifications. The exhibition draws on a hundred books, pamphlets, photos, and illustrations from the Library’s 500,000-piece collection, including a first printing of Walt Whitman’s “Calamus” poems, in which he describes men’s relationships as “adhesive.”

Then there are Charlotte Cushman, an actress who became famous for playing men’s roles, and sculptor Harriet Hosman who made statues of heroic, historic women, who lived among other women in Rome in the mid-19th century, and were known as the “Jolly Bachelors.”

Living in the nineteenth century required considerable nerve and care. Curator Cornelia King remarks:

Take the case of two men named Fitz-Green Halleck and Joseph Rodman Drake. The two were the toast of New York for writing a series of witty, satirical poems for newspapers in 1819, under the pseudonym “Croker and Company.” They were known to have an unusually close relationship, but that’s it. “We do know they were members of a club in New York called The Ugly Club. The members were supposed to be beautiful — that was the twist on the name,” said King. “It sounds to me like there was a culture, a fabric in society that I characterize as homo-social.”

There will be a much larger exhibition next year to mark the 50th anniversary of the landmark gay-rights demonstration that took place at Independence Mall in 1965.


Friedrich Alfred Krupp



We are reminded of the story of Friedrich Alfred Krupp, pictured, of the famous arms manufacturing dynasty. Born February 17, 1854, Friedrich Alfred Krupp was the heir. Although he was married, he was homosexual.

He spent the rest of his leisure time organizing sex orgies with olive-skinned young men. He was notorious around Europe, particularly in the Italian city of Capri, where Krupp began spending most of his time in 1898. For three years, Krupp lived the sexual life he had always desired, but the bacchanal was often at the price of his company’s fortunes. He cared not, for he was having the time of his life, but the Italian authorities were quite glum about his gay ways, so in 1901, Krupp was banned from Capri. The heir wasn’t fazed, however, he just moved the action to The Bristol Hotel in Berlin….Marxist enemies in Italy began leaking well-known rumors about Krupp’s orgies to the press. Though rich Krupp stood for everything they hated, he wasn’t really the target. It was the Kaiser. Soon, Germany’s then-emerging Social Democratic Party, today a ruling party, picked up the gossip and plastered it all over their newspaper, Vorwarts, on November 15, 1902. Though Krupp and his friends in the mainstream press tried to tamp down the story — Krupp even locked his wife away in a sanitarium, lest she spill the beans — it was too fast and furious, and the arms heir, convinced he would be ruined like Oscar Wilde had been a few years prior, committed suicide on November 22, 1902.


Missouri’s gay past


Denim Vest and run pins from 1970. St Louis Riverfront Times

Steven Brawley’s collection of historical LGBT artifacts reaching back six decades is on display in St Louis, Missouri.

“The thing that’s weird is that when you live your life in secret, there’s not a lot of history that’s been recorded,” gallery owner Philip Hitchcock tells Daily RFT. “The story of the LGBT community tends to be one of moving from secrecy and shadows into the light, into saying, ‘Here we are.’”

Hitchcock admits some of the artifacts seem down-right ordinary. A friend recently asked why a 37-year-old St. Louis Pride T-shirt deserved a spot in the historical collection.

“She said, ‘My husband has shirts older than that,’” Hitchcock says. “But the difference is, everyone knows your husband has been [wearing] that. We’ve been in secret.”


Christopher Chataway


Matt Crossick/Empics Entertainment

Gay Activist is sad to note the passing of Sir Christopher Chataway, the famous athlete, businessman, politician and broadcaster. The Daily Telegraph remembers that Mr Chataway was a supporter of homosexual law reform.

“He was in the vanguard of social reform, co-sponsoring Humphry Berkeley’s Bill to legalise homosexuality”

In 1965, Humphry Berkeley, then an MP, decided to introduce a bill to legalise male homosexual relations along the lines of the Wolfenden report of 1957. Berkeley was well known to his colleagues as a homosexual. His Bill was given a second reading by 164 to 107 on 11 February 1966, but the Bill fell when Parliament was dissolved due to the 1966 General Election (in which Berkeley lost his seat). He felt his defeat was due to the unpopularity of his bill on homosexuality. Leo Abse picked up the reform and backed it until it was passed successfully in 1967.

The Guardian published an account of the law reform battle on the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Act.

Mr Berkeley died on 14 November 1994.


Gay landmarks required



The photo shows Fire Island’s Cherry Grove Community House and Theater being ferried out to Fire Island in 1946. The building was listed in June 2013 as an historic place by the US Parks Department because of “the enormous role it played in shaping what evolved into America’s First Gay and Lesbian Town… facilitating gradual social acceptance, self-affirmation, and integration of its gay and lesbian residents into Cherry Grove’s governing affairs and civic life.”

The building is one of only three buildings of historial interest to the US LGBTI community which have been listed (the others are The Stonewall Inn and Frank Kameny’s house).

The US National Register of Historic Places is appealing for nominations for other sites of historical importance to the gay community to be listed.


Maris Sants and the mob



Maris Sants, pictured, who now lives in London, was excommunicated from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia in 2002 because of his sexuality. His case was highlighted by Amnesty International after he was attacked by anti-gay thugs.

In the years after he came out as gay, the 45-year-old found himself the focus of much attention in the media. Crowds gathered outside his church in Riga, and skinhead protesters held placards condemning homosexuality. Some even threw excrement or violently attacked him. Mr Sants wisely decided to emigrate.

Gay relationships were illegal in Latvia until the early 1990s, and homophobia remains widespread.

“There was a time in around 2005 when, possibly for a year or two, I was one of only two publicly known gay guys in the whole country,” said Mr Sants. “Those who came out, most of them had to immediately emigrate. By the time I came out at the age of 36 I had been through different healing programmes. I had been to psychiatrists and psychotherapists and had gone to ‘ex-gay’ ministries with evangelical Christians who believe homosexuality can be cured. When I turned 33 a serious thing happened and I understood – and this was really like a revelation – that actually it was completely OK. I understood then that hiding my homosexuality was a sin.”

Following his excommunication from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia, Mr Sants founded a congregation that was open to all, regardless of sexual orientation.

It hosted the inaugural LGBT Pride march in Riga, an event marred by violence from anti-gay protesters.


Terry’s story of the anti-gay witch hunt


Now aged 89, Terry (not his real name) was a young man when he was arrested in central London following an admission from his then boyfriend that the pair were in a consensual, private – but under the law of the time, criminal – sexual relationship. Terry told The Independent his story.

“It was by far the most terrifying experience of my life. The police came to my flat in the early morning. I think they were hoping to find me and my boyfriend in bed together but he happened to be out of town that week. He was arrested later.

“They turned the place upside down and I remember one of the constables saying to his colleague that they’d got ‘another effing queer’. I was given a suspended sentence on the basis of my boyfriend’s statement. They were scary times. A real witch hunt was going on. Even now it’s pretty hard to talk about it – I told no one for years and lots of people still don’t know.”

The Independent reminds us that the 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act, which introduced the notorious Section 11 offence of two men committing “gross indecency”, was used to prosecute Oscar Wilde in 1895. The bulk of prosecutions took place after the 1930s and sharply accelerated during the post-war period as homosexuals became increasingly equated by the Establishment with depravity and betrayal.

Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, who was made Home Secretary in 1951, instructed the forces of law and order to conduct a “new drive against male vice” that would “rid England of this plague”.