Charles Jury

Unknown photographer | State Library of South Australia | 14099

Charles Rischbieth Jury (13 September 1893 – 22 August 1958), pictured, was a prominent, well-respected and much loved figure in Australia’s cultural landscape during his lifetime, in which he published several volumes of poetry and mentored other poets, playwrights, actors, scholars and teachers.

His verse drama “Icarius”, privately published in 1941, was described by friend and fellow poet John Bray as “a sombre play dealing with homosexual passion and its fate in a bitter and hostile world.” It is possibly the first open and positive description of male homosexuality in Australian poetry.

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Valentino, “I was born this way”

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Valentino | Public domain | 14100

In 1975, an openly gay disco record became popular: “I was born this way” by Valentino. Valentino was a pseudonym for Charles Harris, who recorded the song for an independent company. Harris was 22 years old, and it was two years before the Village People were formed.

The record was picked up for distribution by Tamla Motown Records. The song has been widely re-recorded and sampled by others. Valentino did not make any other records, but made gay history by breaking through with a recording issued by a major record company.

It was not the first gay record to be made and issued, though; a number of gay artistes in the UK had openly gay recordings issued, from the 1950s and earlier, but usually on small labels, or as private pressings.

Picture re-retrieved on 11 November 2014.

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The Quatrefoil Library

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Coffee House Press | 14101

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.

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First gay Church wedding in the UK

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13 April 2014 | Metropolitan Community Church | 14103

Jan Tipper and Barb Burden made history when they were married at the Metropolitan Community Church in Bournemouth on Sunday, 13 April 2014. Reverend Dwayne Morgan, who officiated, said the church had “taken pride in celebrating diversity”.

This was the first gay wedding ceremony in Britain to be conducted in a religious building.

MCC was established in Bournemouth in 1979 and is associated with the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, which has churches in over 40 countries. Mr Morgan said the church had been blessing gay couples for more than three decades.

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London’s gay bars

New Musical Express | 14104

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.