China tiptoes out of the closet, gently



Shanghai in 2009 | Nir Elias/Reuters | 14153

Despite ten years of Chinese citizen petitions for same-sex marriage, the Chinese government has never responded with a public statement. Recent developments suggest that the Chinese government policy on homosexuality is being relaxed, but in reality no official policy exists. Harassment might be on the decline, but LGBT rights are still ignored on a political level.

China’s landmarks are the 1997 decriminalization of ‘hooliganism’, which was widely assumed to include homosexuality, although the law was never explicit, and the 2001 decision to remove homosexuality from the list of mental diseases.

Since 1993 Renowned sociologist and activist Li Yinhe has repeatedly tried to have homosexuality legalised but his attempts have never been met by sufficient support of parliamentary representatives to pass the threshold of 30 votes for becoming a proposal.

Attitudes remain deeply conservative and traditional. There is a big gap between those who participate in the activities of LGBT organizations, who are often aware of and sympathetic towards international debates on gay rights, and other gays and lesbians, simply living in other parts of Chinese society. Wei Wei, a scholar who does in-depth fieldwork, talked to ‘non-active’ gay men and found that, even when they have same-sex partners, many consider marriage as something that could and should only be between men and women.

Many gays prefer not to initiate a confrontation with their families. Their parents might actually know or suspect they are in a same-sex relationship, but as long as it remains unsaid, no social taboos are violated. So they bring home their partner to celebrate Chinese New Year, as “their best friend.”



Bayard Rustin and the March on Washington



Bayard Rustin, 1963 | Associated Press | 14154

It is the anniversary of the famed 1960s March on Washington, DC, at which the late Dr King gave his famous “I have a dream” speech. The Guardian looks at the contribution made to history by Bayard Rustin, King’s associate, who was kept in the background as some organizers considered him a liability due to the fact that he was unrepentantly and openly gay.

Rustin was brought up a Quaker and in 1944, after refusing to fight in World War Two, he had been jailed as a conscientious objector. His sexuality of course – in the context of the times he lived in – got him into trouble. His position became particularly vulnerable following his arrest in Pasadena, in 1953, when he was caught having sex with two men in a parked car. Charged with lewd vagrancy he plead out to a lesser ‘morals charge’ and was sent to jail for 60 days.

By the time the march was proposed, writes John D’Emilio,

“He had recently turned 50. He was still waiting for his day in the limelight, though likely believing it would never come. Prejudice of another sort, still not named as such in mid-century America, had curtailed his opportunities and limited his effectiveness.” Rustin, despite all the civil rights movement’s concerns about his draft dodging and homosexuality, went on to organise and lead the March on Washington.

“He had to build an organization out of nothing. He had to assemble a staff and shape them into a team able to perform under intense pressure. He had to craft a coalition that would hang together despite organizational competition, personal animosities and often antagonistic politics. He had to manoeuvre through the mine field of an opposition that ranged from liberals who were counselling moderation to segregationists out to sabotage the event. And he had to do all of this while staying enough out of the public eye so that the liabilities he carried would not undermine his work.”

Rustin’s work on the March – arguably one of the most effective, well supported and eventually, productive, protests ever, earned him a reputation for brilliance in organisation.

Bayard Rustin died on August 24, 1987 in Manhattan.

Fifty years on from the march, the White House has announced that Bayard Rustin will be posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States.


Memorial for gay Holocaust victims in Tel Aviv



Public domain | 14155

Israel has announced that it is to erect a monument in the honour of gay victims of the Holocaust, the first of its kind in the country.

The memorial is to be completed in Meir Park, Tel Aviv later this year, and the first of its kind in Israel. Like other monuments around the world, it will feature a concrete pink triangle.

Eran Lev said:

“This will be the first and only memorial site in Israel to mention the victims of the Nazis who were persecuted for anything other than being Jewish. As a cosmopolitan city and an international gay centre, Tel Aviv will offer a memorial site that is universal in its essence. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not a monument, but a place — a place of quiet that will invite visitors to sit, contemplate, reflect and be in solitude. One of the first restrictions the Nazis imposed on the Jews was against going to public parks. We’re bringing that memory back into the public space.”


Hitler’s Olympics



Third Reich Ruins | 14156

Earlier this week the Daily Mail alleged that during the 1936 Olympics, Hitler and the Nazi government relaxed its draconian laws.

They did not. None of the laws were relaxed, but an instruction was sent out that there were to be no arrests without prior permission, that was all. Instead, anyone who could have caused trouble at the Olympics was rounded up and interned for at least the duration of the Games, unknown to the foreign Press and athletes competing in the 1936 Games.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has a thorough article about the 1936 Olympics which is well worth reading.

In August 1936, the Nazi regime tried to camouflage its violent racist policies while it hosted the Summer Olympics. Most anti-Jewish signs were temporarily removed and newspapers toned down their harsh rhetoric. Thus, the regime exploited the Olympic Games to present foreign spectators and journalists with a false image of a peaceful, tolerant Germany.

Ignorant of what was happening to people in Germany, a number of Jewish athletes from around the world, competed.

As most did not fully grasp at the time the extent and purpose of Nazi persecution of Jews and other groups, these athletes chose to compete.

And here is the killer bit as far as the LGBTI community is concerned.

The Nazis made elaborate preparations for the August 1–16 Summer Games. A huge sports complex was constructed and Olympic flags and swastikas bedecked the monuments and houses of a festive, crowded Berlin. Most tourists were unaware that the Nazi regime had temporarily removed anti-Jewish signs, nor would they have known of a police roundup of Roma in Berlin, ordered by the German Ministry of the Interior. On July 16, 1936, some 800 Roma residing in Berlin and its environs were arrested and interned under police guard in a special camp in the Berlin suburb of Marzahn. Nazi officials also ordered that foreign visitors should not be subjected to the criminal penalties of German anti-homosexuality laws.

The article also reminds us that boycotts were organised but were ineffective. It also highlights poor writing and checking among journalists who should know better.


Sean Sasser



Sean Sasser’s Twitter photo | Eton Online | 14157

Sean Sasser, an AIDS activist and chef whose romance with Pedro Zamora on the MTV reality show “The Real World” in 1994 was among the first real-life gay relationships on television, died on Wednesday at his home in Washington. He was 44.

Their relationship and their commitment ceremony, held in the “Real World” apartment, became the show’s most compelling story line. Each had contracted H.I.V. as teenagers.

Sean Franklin Sasser was born in Detroit on Oct. 25, 1968. His parents divorced when he was 6. He tried to enlist in the Navy at 19 and was rejected when a blood test showed he had contracted H.I.V. He traveled around the US, attended culinary school and became involved in AIDS education and activism. After Mr. Zamora’s death, Mr. Sasser became a more prominent advocate.

More recently, Mr. Sasser had concentrated on baking. He was the pastry chef at Ris, a restaurant in Washington. Mr. Sasser and his partner Mr. Kaplan were married this year. Mr. Sasser is survived by Mr. Kaplan, his mother, Patricia, and his sister, Staci White.

Gay Activist sends condolences to friends, family and colleagues.


Moscow’s secret gay history exposed



Yevgeniy Fiks | 14158

Photographer Yevgeniy Fiks has mapping an unexplored topography of the city of Moscow: its former Soviet era gay cruising places.

“These places were dear to many: they acquired a private slang terminology in which the statues of Lenin and Marx that were present in every Russian city were affectionately referred to as “Auntie Lena” and “Director of the Pleshka”, both out of familiarity and as a way of queering them,” writes Agata Pyzik. Pleshki is the Russian name for cottaging sites.


Pinks under the bed?



Location, date and photographer not known | Political Affairs | 14159

In looking back on the history of what we today call the struggle for Gay Rights or Gay Liberation, the Communist and Socialist contributions to that struggle are deserving of both recognition and analysis, <a href="“>writes Norman Markowitz in Political Affairs.

Gays have been involved in the struggles for the emancipation of the working class as revolutionary agitators, labor organizers, and partisans of socialist, communist and anarchist movements since the days of the Paris Commune and the First International, when for many those three categories were interchangeable. Appeals were made to both Marx and Engels to bring the oppression of homosexuals into the larger struggle for the emancipation of the working class. (Marx refused and Engels was hostile to the idea.)

Gays involved in organizing trade unions and other activities for the socialist movement in Germany and other countries found themselves targeted by the police and abandoned by their unions and parties. The socialist movement, struggling to achieve elemental political democracy in a world where the working class did not even have the right to vote outside of a few countries, found itself divided on many questions, including how to respond to colonialism, the question of women’s rights, and the rights of oppressed national minorities.

The first significant support that gay civil rights received in world history came at the end of the 1890s from the flagship Marxist socialist party of the Second International, the German Social Democratic Party.