Queensland to erase old convictions for homosex offences


Queensland, Australia will follow the lead set by the other Australian states Victoria and New South Wales in expunging historical gay consensual sex criminal convictions, following a meeting between LGBTI community representatives and the state government but men convicted of homosexual conduct prior to its decriminalisation in Queensland in 1990, will probably have to wait until after next year’s state election to apply to have their records altered.

The Sydney Star Observer notes that

Despite most of the 460-plus men convicted of homosexual acts throughout the law’s near 100-year history of existence, Peter Black, the president of Brisbane Pride, a Queensland University of Technology senior law lecturer, told media that expungement of past convictions would be a significant moment for the LGBTI community.

“[It would be] a recognition from the government that those laws should never have been on the books to begin with – and that is consensual sexual activity between two adult men should not be criminal and I think there is some genuine symbolic value for the LGBTI community in having the Queensland government – or any government for that matter – come forward and provide a process for the convictions to be expunged,” Black said.

Sydney Star Observer



Karl Heinrich Ulrichs and the early gay rights movement, Berlin, 1867



The cover of Die Insel (The Island), December 1930, advertising a serialized instalment of “Men for Sale” | German National Library, Leipzig | 14469

A new book, “Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity” by Robert Beachy, documents the history of gay activism in Berlin.

Nancy D. Kates, writing in SF Gate, notes:

The earliest public demand for gay civil rights was made by lawyer and civil servant Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, who addressed the Association of German Jurists in 1867, calling for repeal of antisodomy laws. Ulrichs and his supporters did not prevail in unified Germany, and the newly formed country unfortunately codified these antisodomy laws in 1871 under “Paragraph 175” of the penal code. (The 2000 documentary film “Paragraph 175,” directed by San Francisco filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, deals primarily with Nazi persecution of gay men under the same 1871 law, which they made more extreme. It was not repealed until the late 1960s.)

Things did not go well for Ulrichs, who lost his job, social support and credibility for being so outspoken about the rights of men-loving men. Despite numerous setbacks, Ulrichs continued his advocacy work for decades, publishing a series of pamphlets about the rights and experiences of “Urnings” (gay men) like himself, and blazing a trail for gay rights that would be taken up several decades later, primarily in Berlin.


Karl Heinrich Ulrichs | Lloyd Duhaime | 14470

The application of the laws was, shall we say, somewhat versatile in Berlin.

…The late 19th century Berlin police chief, Commissioner Leopold von Meerscheidt-Hüllessem, who created the police Department of Homosexuals in 1885, to prosecute cases under Paragraph 175. Since homosexual prostitution and sexual acts were illegal, but gatherings were not, Hüllessem’s force focused on rounding up actual criminals and monitoring Tiergarten Park and other well-known cruising areas. Homosexual gatherings were allowed to flourish with police monitoring: Gay balls required police permits, gay clubs and taverns were regulated, and the police mingled openly in gay crowds, sometimes acting as tour guides for slumming heteros.

Before the Great War, the relatively tolerant city had a huge number of gay establishments, publications (some with nude photos and personal ads), and other gay businesses, as well as a fair number of male prostitutes, called “warm brothers” in the slang of the day. But not always warm: Berlin’s rent boys frequently turned the tables on their wealthier clients, usually married men, threatening to “out” them as homosexuals unless they received large payoffs, resulting in scandals, lawsuits and the suicides of several prominent citizens. Hüllessem’s division eventually changed its name to the Department of Blackmail and Homosexuals.

Karl Heinrich Ulrichs was born on 28 August 1825 and died on 14 July 1895.

SF Gate


Ernst and Röbi’s story is now a film



From “The Circle” | Stefan Haupt | 14465

The story of Ernst Ostertag and Röbi Rapp—a couple since the ’50s and the first men to be married in Switzerland is used by the new film “The Circle” to reconstruct roughly a decade’s worth of gay Swiss history.

The film’s title has significance for Swiss gay history.

The Circle refers to a tri-lingual publication founded in 1932 as a lesbian-oriented periodical, one quickly converted by the pseudonymous “Rölf” (the actor Karl Meier) into a “homophilic” concern. As the couple and supporting interviewees explain, Switzerland never had the equivalent of Germany’s infamous Paragraph 175 or any codified, institutionally enforced homophobic legislation, meaning Zurich became a mecca for continental gay life: The Circle’s annual balls were the only large gay events of their era. That certainly didn’t mean an end to homophobia, with the publication cooperating with the police on self-censorship and gay life occupying a not-quite-public gray zone whose boundaries were increasingly encroached upon by the police.

…The romance between Ernst and Röbi acts as a microcosmic example of a larger debate whose broad terms remain familiar. A teacher from an intellectual family, Ernst remained closeted until his parents’ death, acutely aware they wouldn’t want to learn about his orientation, while Röbi was openly gay and lived in comfortable candor with his mother from an early age. As years pass, the debate takes on a more urgent tone, with Rölf (Stefan Witschi) exhorting monogamy and discretion while his younger staff members find his ideals increasingly outmoded. This split—between openness and closeted, and more broadly a debate about how to live gay life in a public, rigidly straight space—remains germane…


LGBT Denmark



Gay Pride in Copenhagen | 2010 | Unknown photographer | 14464

LGBT Denmark is the Danish National Organisation for Gay Men, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Trans people and was founded in 1948, originally becoming known as “The Circle of 1948”. It was founded by Axel Axgil, who was Chair until 1952.

Male homosexuality was a crime in Denmark until 1933, under the 1683 law which stated: “Relations against nature is punishable by execution”. By a law of 1866, the death penalty was replaced by a sentence of prison labour. In 1933 sex between adult men aged over 18/21 was de-criminalised.

GLBT Danmark is a co-founder of the International Lesbian and Gay Association.


Philadelphia – The sit-in at Dewey’s restaurant



Dewey’s, Philadelphia, 1965 | Uncredited photographer/Windy City Media | 14014

While the Stonewall Inn Riot is widely regarded as a key moment of gay history, there were previous occasions when gay people said “No” and made a stand. One such event took place in 1965 – before Stonewall – in Philadelphia.

On the evening of Sunday, April 25, 1965, staff at the diner turned away more than 150 people they believed to be LGBT. According to the August 1965 issue of Drum magazine, which mixed beefcake pictorials with news for gay men, the restaurant’s staff refused “to serve a large number of homosexuals and persons wearing non-conformist clothing.”

Eventually, three teenagers — two boys and one girl — refused to give up their seats, in effect beginning a sit-in. In the week that followed, LGBT activists used tactics borrowed from the civil-rights movement to put pressure on the restaurant’s owners until the ban was lifted.

Dewey’s was a small, family-owned chain of diners that operated in Philadelphia from the 1940s to the 1970s. The 13th Street and 17th Street locations drew many LGBT customers, especially after the nearby bars closed. The restaurant was known as “Fag Dewey’s” where “you’d find streetwalkers, you’d find drag queens, you would find everybody.” It is understood that the diner’s management had grown tired of a group of young LGBT kids just sitting around, being rowdy and ordering little, so it encouraged its employees to shoo them away.


The First Gay Pride in Cardiff



The Gay Pride march through the centre of Cardiff in 1985 | Photographer uncredited/Wales Online | 14015

Wales Online remembers the first Gay Pride March in Cardiff, in 1985.

Dating from 1985, this image, right, depicts South Wales’ first ever gay pride march. It took place in Cardiff with marchers parading down Queen Street to the bemusement of shoppers and pedestrians. According to the editorial piece accompanying the image, “many [onlookers] shook their heads in disbelief – others laughed and laughed away”.

The presence of policemen and placards in this picture may give the impression of a demonstration, but the theme of this march was pride, not protest.

Holding signs which read “Gay love is good love”and “sing if you’re glad to be gay”, these activists envisioned this march in Cardiff as a “coming out” for gay and lesbian activism in South Wales and an occasion to celebrate and affirm Wales’ sexually diverse and gender-blended society.


Michael Denneny



Michael Denneny, 1988 | Robert Giard | 14016

Slate has published an interview with Michael Denneny, who is one of the founders of one of America’s 1970’s leading gay magazines, “Christopher Street”.

Mr Denneny first got a job at book publishers Mcmillan. The first gay book he published with them was “The Homosexuals: Who and What We Are” by Alan Ebert.

I’d gotten involved with the Gay Activists Alliance, and in time we’d started our first gay magazine, OUT, in 1973, but it only lasted two issues before folding. During that period I’d gotten close to a young guy just out of grad school named Chuck Ortleb, and we continued that discussion—intensively!—for the next couple of years. These discussions with Chuck ended up convincing me there was such a thing as gay literature and, more importantly, that a change of consciousness, a change in our imaginations, had to be the first step in fighting for gay rights. The best way to do that was through a literary magazine. Electoral politics was not at all a promising avenue at the time. So we ended up founding Christopher Street in 1976, one of the first gay literary magazines—and that got me fired for good from Macmillan.


A Christopher Street issue | Public domain | 14017