How gay was Gore Vidal? Not very? Lots? You decide.

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Gore Vidal | Date uncertain | Associated Press | 14160

Gore Vidal – the author of Myra Beckenridge and The City and The Pillar. Not gay? Some mistake, surely.

“Sure he had sex with men, but just try to call him gay to his face,” writes Tim Teeman in the Beast.

While Harvey Milk and Randy Shilts were open, Gore Vidal, pictured, occupied a more vexed, undeclared place. Vidal was arguably a gay radical and hero, but he would have hated the plaudit. However, he clearly was a thorn in the side of the American Establishment of his day, and his place as a gay icon is deserved.

“Vidal died a year ago…, aged 86, of complications from pneumonia, the culmination of a long, painful decline which had included alcoholism and dementia. His death precipitated a memorable correction in the New York Times, whose obituary initially stated Vidal and Howard Austen, his partner from 1950 to 2003, when Austen died, did not have sex. “According to Mr Vidal’s memoir, Palimpsest, they had sex the night they met, but did not sleep together after they began living together. It was not true that they never had sex.””

Now we get to the kernel. Vidal said he was bisexual, but his family and friends say he was gay. Vidal adamantly believed “gay” referred to a sexual act, not a sexual identity.

“Vidal said almost nothing about HIV and AIDS, even though his nephew Hugh, who died of AIDS, begged him to. “Gore didn’t think of himself as a gay guy,” says Vidal’s close friend and now-biographer Jay Parini. “It makes him self-hating. How could he despise gays as much as he did? In my company he always used the term ‘fags.’ He was uncomfortable with being gay. Then again, he was wildly courageous.” Fred Kaplan, who wrote a landmark biography of Vidal, says, “He was not interested in making a difference for gay people, or being an advocate for gay rights. There was no such thing as “straight” or “gay” for him, just the body and sex.””

“Vidal loved sex, and gossiping about it: he estimated he had had sex with a thousand men before he was 25. He told his nephew Burr Steers he had successfully pursued and had sex with Fred Astaire when he first moved to Hollywood. Steers says, “He also told me Dennis Hopper had a lovely tuft of hair above his ass. He never told me how he knew that.” ”

That is only half the story. Vidal was, for the time, courageous.

“The first page of Gore Vidal’s FBI file, released by the bureau after his death a year ago on July 31, is not about his political activism, his critique of the National Security State or even about his homosexuality. The first page, from 1960, says he made disparaging remarks about FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover,”

writes Jon Weiner in The Nation.

The FBI decided to open a file on Gore Vidal. An agent was despatched to see a Vidal play. It is not known whether the Agent understood it. However the FBI agent was careful in his choice of words. On a routing slip, the report was checked off by Clyde Tolson and seven other high officials of the FBI. It was initialed by Hoover himself.

Who was this Gore Vidal? “He seemed to be “a male homosexual.” The source of this information may surprise some: The Daily Worker, the official publication of the Communist Party USA. FBI Agents were obsessive readers of The Daily Worker. The relevant story was The Daily Worker’s 1948 review of Vidal’s novel The City and the Pillar—actually a hostile, a bitter attack on the book as “crude” and “primitive” in its portrayal of “the ‘delights’ of homosexuality.””

The Vidal FBI file came to thirty-five pages, many of them letters from right-wingers complaining to Hoover about political statements Vidal made in print or on TV. Hoover replied to most of those with a polite brush-off.

“The bureau’s findings were summarized in two pages, starting with a crucial statement: “Mr. Gore Vidal…has not been the subject of an investigation by the FBI”—the most important single sentence in Vidal’s FBI file. He had a file, but that contained only clippings and correspondence about him.

President L. B. Johnson was informed that Vidal was “a writer and author of several books as well as a contributor of articles to various nationally distributed magazines,” as well as “a Democratic-Liberal candidate for the US Congress in 1960.” So far, all true—and no doubt also known to LBJ’s people. Next came The Daily Worker quote describing The City and the Pillar as a book about “the physical adventures of a male homosexual.” Then came another quote, from the left-wing National Guardian, reporting that Vidal was scheduled to speak in 1961 at a New York City “rally to abolish the House Un-American Activities Committee,” which he had “severely criticized” in a column for the New York Herald Tribune. Then the news that a “confidential source” reported six years earlier, in 1961, that Vidal “was associated with the pro-Castro Fair Play for Cuba Committee.”

Our earlier post on Gore Vidal


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Sydney, Australia: 80 gay murders and 30 unsolved cases remembered

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Scott Johnson | Sydney Morning Herald | 14161

The Sydney Morning Herald have been revisiting the murderous rampage of gay hate gangs in Sydney in the 1980s.

Scott Johnson, 27, naked body found at base of North Head near Manly, December 9, 1988. Police announced $100,000 reward in February 2013 after coroner overturned original finding of suicide.

“It was an epidemic,” says Sue Thompson, a lawyer and the former NSW Police Force gay liaison co-ordinator. The epidemic extended to the Manly cliff-tops and the northern beaches and regional NSW, and might add up to almost 80 murders. “Tragically, in those cliff-top murders – often officially called suicides or accidents – the teenage bashing gangs were the experts and police the amateurs. It is time to right that wrong.”

Thompson worked with Steve McCann and Steve Page, two homicide squad detectives who exposed the flaws in the original police investigations that found John Russell, 31, and a 25-year-old television newsreader Ross Warren fell accidentally to their deaths from the Bondi-Tamarama cliffs. In 2005, the then deputy state coroner Jacqueline Milledge found they were murdered and condemned the original investigations as “lacklustre” and “grossly inadequate and shameful”.

During her 12 years in the gay liaison role, Thompson used police intelligence data to record 46 gay-hate murders in NSW between 1989 and 1999. The criminologist Stephen Tomsen supported that with his finding of 50 between 1985 and 1995. These statistics, as sensational as they were, never made big headlines. And they didn’t go close to accounting for the full scale of the gay-hate murder rampage.

Thompson and Tomsen’s tally of close to 80 cases spans from the late 1970s to the 90s. Almost 30 of them remain unsolved. Secret police tapes captured teenagers convicted of killing one man boasting about their involvement in dozens of other gay bashings, but it was not enough evidence to charge them with a single other attack. Former detective-sergeant Steve Page, now in corporate security, says society would not have accepted so many unexplained killings of women, children, teachers or doctors. “We dropped the ball,” he says. But now the gay-hate gangs are approaching middle age. “They’ve been living with the guilt. A few of them might want to relieve that burden and give these poor families some answers.”

Sydney Police issued this statement: “A number of these deaths were investigated by Strike Force Taradale and briefs put before the coroner, whose role it is to determine the cause of death. Investigations into the death of Scott Johnson are being reviewed by the unsolved homicide team. If anyone has any information that could assist police in any of these matters they should contact Crime Stoppers.”

The BBC’s Christmas Trees

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Paul Gambaccini | Andrew Crowley | Telegraph | 14162

Radio presenter Paul Gambaccini remembers how the BBC marked his personnel file with a symbol of a Christmas tree because he was gay.

64-year-old Gambaccini declared himself to be “one of the last of the Christmas trees”. “I am of the generation whose BBC personnel files had Christmas trees on them. It meant you were “as camp as Christmas” and were seen as a potential security risk. The country was still obsessed with the Cambridge spies. To some people, a gay man was a potential security threat and might betray his country to the Soviet Union. Utter balderdash!”

Gambaccini who has been at the BBC for almost 40 years is openly gay and, last year, married his partner Christopher Sherwood. He has never denied his sexuality. “I was never ‘in’.”


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Gay Marriage, England and Wales

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The Most Cake | 14163

The UK Government published their plans for legalising gay marriage in England and Wales on Tuesday, November 11, 2012. The consultation on plans for same-sex marriage received 228,000 submissions.

The government planned to introduce gay marriage in England and Wales by 2014. Gay marriage legislation did not feature in the election manifestos of either the Conservative or Liberal Democrat parties, the two parties in Britain’s then Coalition Government. To appease more than 100 Tory MPs planning to vote against the legislation, the Government proposed a “quadruple lock” to make it illegal for gay marriage ceremonies to be conducted by the churches of England and Wales.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was published on 24 January 2013, to enable same-sex couples to get married in both civil and religious ceremonies – where a religious institution has formally consented; and couples would be able to convert their existing civil partnership into a marriage.

The first debate on the Bill and the Second Reading was held on 5 February 2013. 400 MPs voted in favour of the Bill and 175 MPs voted against. The Bill then went to Committee where it was examined in great detail, and supporters and opponents could give evidence supporting their views. The Committee finished its deliberations on the Bill on 12 March 2013. The Bill passed its third reading on 21 May 2013 by 366 votes for, to 161 votes against.

The Guardian reported on 12 December 2012 that public opinion appeared to be overwhelmingly in favour of equality in marriage. Three-quarters of voters supported same-sex marriage. 45% thought that gay people should be allowed to get married to each other but religious organisations should not be required to provide wedding ceremonies to gay people, but 28% thought that gay people should be allowed to get married to each other and religious organisations should be required to provide wedding ceremonies to gay people. Nearly three quarters of voters – 73% – wanted to allow gay marriage while less than a quarter – 24% – did not. Only one in six – 17% – thought that gay people should not be allowed to get married but should be allowed to form a civil partnership.

The House of Lords passed the Bill on July 15th, 2013. The Government decided to accept the Bill as amended by The Lords, and on July 16th 2013 the Bill was formally passed by the Commons. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II gave the Act the Royal Assent on July 17th 2013. The Act is now operational.

Updated 13 Nov 2014 – Act now operational.


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Eric Lembembe

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Eric Lembembe | 76 Crimes | 14164

Prominent Cameroonian gay rights activist and journalist Eric Lembembe, pictured, was killed in July 2013. Human Rights Watch reported that

Mr Lembembe’s neck and feet were broken and his face, hands, and feet had been burned with an iron.

Mr Lembembe was the executive director of the Cameroonian Foundation for Aids, a courageous activist who campaigned for equal rights, despite severe discrimination and violence. His friends discovered his body at his home in Yaounde, after being unable to reach him by phone for two days.

There have been other worrying incidents in Cameroon. The headquarters of Alternatives-Cameroun was burned down on 26 June; the Yaounde office of human rights lawyer Michel Togue was burgled and his legal files and laptop stolen; Mr Togue and Alice Nkom, another lawyer, have received repeated death threats including threats to kill their children.

In December, a Cameroon appeals court upheld the sentencing to 36 months in prison of Roger Jean-Claude Mbede under anti-gay legislation.


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Murderer Peter Moore

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Pink News | 14179

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the whole life tariff given to Peter Moore, pictured, the man who murdered four gay men for his sexual gratification in 1995, breaches his human rights.

The judges ruled by 16 to 1 that there had to be a possibility of release and review of the sentence in order for it to remain compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Moore was jailed for life in 1996 for murdering four gay men:
Henry Roberts, a 56-year-old gay man who lived in Anglesey, who was stabbed to death in September 1995;

Daily Post | 14180

Edward Carthy, pictured, a 28-year-old man whom Moore met in a gay bar, who was stabbed to death in Clocaenog Forest in October 1995;
Keith Randles, a 49-year-old traffic manager; stabbed to death in November 1995 on the A5 road in Anglesey; and
Anthony Davies, 40, stabbed to death in Pensarn Beach, Abergele in December 1995.

Peter Moore, known as “The Man in Black”, owned and managed a number of cinemas in North Wales. His killing spree began in 1995 after he apparently became fixated with Jason Voorhees, the fictional murderer in the Friday 13th series of slasher movies. Mr Randles had begged to know why he was being attacked after Moore dragged him from his caravan in North Wales and started stabbing him. Moore had replied: “For fun”. Moore, who attacked more than 50 other men in what the judge at his murder trial described as ‘20 years of terror’, received four life sentences. Moore was dubbed the most dangerous man ever to set foot in Wales at his trial.

Chester Chronicle | Liverpool Echo | Daily Post |


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RFSL

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RFSL | 14181

The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights, known as RFSL, was founded in 1950, which makes it one of the oldest LGBT rights organizations in the world. In July 2007, RFSL received official NGO status at the United Nations. Associated with, but independent from the main RFSL, is their news magazine Come Out (Kom Ut).

RFSL English page

Main RFSL website

Kom Ut


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Jack Baker and Michael McConnell

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Jack Baker and Michael McConnell | Minnesota Historical Society | 14182

In 1973, gay rights activist Jack Baker and his partner, Michael McConnell, used subterfuge to get married.

Baker was a law student and McConnell a librarian. They’d been together for four years when they first applied for a marriage licence in 1970. This was rejected because they were both men, but the couple decided to fight. They appealed, and kept on appealing until the case reached the US Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case “for want of a substantial federal question”.

Undeterred, they tried again. Baker changed his name to the gender-neutral “Pat Lyn”. The licence was issued and they began to plan a wedding. They asked a Methodist minister to perform the ceremony and went through weeks of pre-marital counselling like any heterosexual couple preparing for a Methodist wedding. But with 24 hours to go, the minister changed his mind.

Pastor Roger Lynn | BBC | 14183

Pastor Roger Lynn, pictured, holding the men’s wedding licence, stepped forward. “It wasn’t just a marriage… it was a social event in the gay community,” says Lynn. Lynn pronounced the couple ‘husband and husband’” and jumped at the chance to conduct the ceremony. His church then had no rules against marrying people of the same sex. “The Methodist church has always taken a strong stand on social issues… I expected that the progressive side of the church would support me.” At the end of the ceremony, when many of the congregation came up to the pastor in tears, he says he knew he’d done the right thing. “It was very clear that these two people were in love with each other, and they were a good balance,” he says.

And the happy couple – are still together after all this time. They still live together in Minneapolis and consider themselves legally married as their licence has never been revoked!

Our previous article about Jack Baker and Michael McConnell


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Jacob Israel de Haan

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Jacob Israël de Haan | Gayinfo | 14219

Jacob Israël de Haan was born on December 31, 1881 in Drenthe, Netherlands, one of 18 children; and died on June 30, 1924 when he was assassinated in Jerusalem, Palestine by the Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah, making him accepted as the first victim of Zionist political violence.

When his first book was published in 1904, “Pijpelijntjes”, which deals with his own gay life with a man called “Aletrino” in Amsterdam’s “Pijp” working-class district, the homo-eroticism of the book led to his dismissal from his teaching job and his being excluded from social-democratic political circles. Undeterred, he wrote a second book in 1908, “Pathologieën” which describes the sorrows and joys of a sadomasochist relationship.

Avraham Tehomi | Jewish Magazine | 14220

He was a social reformer and pacifist and became very involved with the Zionist movement, which led to him visiting Jerusalem where he was assassinated by Avraham Tehomi (1903-1990).

In 1924 Palestine was a British Mandated Territory.


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The Amsterdam Homomonument

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Homomonument | Remote Whiteboard | 14221

In the centre of Amsterdam is the Homomonument, which commemorates all gay men and lesbians who have been subjected to persecution because of their homosexuality. The monument, which was designed by Karin Daan, was opened on September 5, 1987 and takes the form of three large pink granite triangles in the ground forming a larger triangle. It is on the bank of the Keizersgracht canal, near the historic Westerkerk church.

As well as the triangle on the canal, which has a set of steps leading to the water where floral wreaths are frequently laid, there is a triangle on land 60 cm high and a memorial triangle at street level. The three triangles—each measuring 10 meters (30 ft) on each side—together form a larger triangle connected on each side by a thin row of pink granite bricks. This larger triangle measures 36 meters on each side.

One of the points of the triangle points towards the National War Memorial on Dam Square. Another points towards the house of Anne Frank, while the third points towards the headquarters of COC Nederland, the Dutch gay rights organisation.

Designed to “inspire and support lesbians and gays in their struggle against denial, oppression and discrimination” the Homomonument was the first monument in the world to commemorate gays and lesbians who were killed by the Nazis.

The text on the monument “To Such A Friendship Indulgence Desire ‘is a verse of the gay, Jewish writer Jacob Israel de Haan who was born in 1881 and died in 1924.

The success of the Homomonument has encouraged further monuments to be erected elsewhere. They are:

Frankfurt, 1994
Cologne, 1995
Sydney, 2001
San Francisco, 2003
Montevideo, 2005
Sitges, 2006
Berlin, 2008
Barcelona, 2011.


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