The Irish Same Sex Marriage Referendum



Paul Faith/Agence France Press | 17170gh

The Republic of Ireland held a referendum on same-sex marriage on May 23, 2015.

The electorate voted to amend the constitution to permit same sex marriage. The final result was:

Yes – 1,201,607 (62.1%)
No – 734,300 – (37.9%)

The turnout was 60.5%.



Dublin: Micheál MacLiammóir and Hilton Edwards


Writing in the Irish Times (print edition) on the occasion of the referendum on same-sex marriage, Miriam Lord notes that veteran Irish journalist Bruce Arnold declared on radio that life was not too bad for homosexuals in Ireland in the 1950s and 1960s. Says Arnold:

“I remember particularly Micheál MacLiammóir and Hilton Edwards strutting through St Stephen’s Green, hugely admired and known as a gay couple.”

Miriam continues:

“Which brings to mind the old story of how Dublin’s hard chaws would shout at the two as they ostentatiously strolled around the green: “Hey, youse two, would yis ever effin get married.” And MacLiammóir would reply: “Love to, dear boys, but one of us is a Catholic and the other is a Protestant.””

Micheál MacLiammóir was born on October 25, 1899 and died on March 6, 1978; Hilton Edwards was born on February 2, 1903 and died on November 18, 1982.


Play remembers Fanny and Stella



Fanny and Stella – Frederick Park and Ernest Boulton | Essex Record Office | 15105

The Guardian reviews the play “Fanny and Stella: The Shocking True Story” by Glenn Chandler. Frederick Park and Ernest Boulton were two cross dressing, possibly trans men who attempted to get the law changed in Victorian England. The press of the time called them the He-She-Ladies. Their attempts to mix and mingle in normal society got them into endless scrapes with the police force, and resulted in them being sent for trial.

Chandler sums up the result of the six day trial:

“The jury at the end of the day saw it all rather as a joke, light-hearted banter, and there was no proof of sodomy.”

Fanny and Stella’s trial – postponed for a year after their arrest – for “conspiring to incite others to commit unnatural offences” – at the Strand Theatre in 1870, when they appeared in Bow Street magistrates court the next morning still in their evening gowns, was farcical. The jury took less than an hour to return not guilty verdicts.

The police came under pressure to start looking into the sexual lives of citizens, bringing to court men who dressed as women, usually charged with soliciting or public order offences. But the line-crosser was sodomy, something the prosecution, despite sending six doctors to intimately and brutally examine the bodies of Fanny and Stella while they were in Newgate prison, failed to prove.

“People thought they were women, especially Stella, he was the most feminine of the two. Fanny was a bit more like my grandmother and definitely the underdog of the two,” said Chandler.

Fanny and Stella, alas, failed to get the law changed.


Denmark’s Dr. Death


Carl Værnet

Carl Værnet | Scanpix | 15097

Peter Tatchell has been examining Danish government archive records into the life of Dr Carl Værnet, a Danish Doctor who went on to work for the Nazis – attempting to cure gay men of their sexuality and turn them heterosexual.

Værnet operated on gay prisoners in Buchenwald concentration camp, inserting artificial hormone glands into their groins. Two of these men died from infections caused by the insanitary conditions. The Nazis were well known for their hatred of gay people and for their aim to “eliminate the perverted world of the homosexual”.

When the war was over, Værnet managed to escape to Argentina where he is understood to have continued his work on the same theme, until he died in 1965. He was never brought to justice, and his victims in Europe were denied justice. It is not currently known if there are also victims of his mad medicine in Argentina.

There is an assumption today that “liberation” of the concentration camps resulted in the release of all of the Nazi regime’s prisoners. Not so, in the case of the gay inmates. As most of them had been imprisoned for homosexual sex offences by the Courts, if they had not served the full term of the sentence of the Court, they were returned to a conventional prison until their sentences had been completed.


Remembering Billy Strayhorn



Billy Strayhorn | Out | 15095

Jazz composer, arranger and musician Billy Strayhorn was born on November 29, 1915 in Dayton, Ohio. One of the very few openly gay jazzmen of his (or any) time, he studied at the Pittsburgh Music Institute. He died on May 31, 1967. He found fame through his close friendship and collaboration with the band leader and musician Duke Ellington, and among the many tunes composed by Strayhorn is the evergreen “Take the A Train”.

Out notes:

Strayhorn met Ellington in December 1938, when the musician and his band performed in Pittsburgh. After the show, Strayhorn got Ellington’s attention by telling him how he would have re-arranged his songs –and then, he proceeded to show him. Impressed by the young man’s skills, Ellington invited Strayhorn to meet the band again in New York. It marked the beginning of a collaboration that spanned three decades.

In the 1950s, Strayhorn left Ellington to pursue a solo career, coming out with a few albums and revues. He was also a champion of civil rights: An ally to Martin Luther King, Jr., Strayhorn wrote activist compositions that honored King and his movement, including “King Fit the Battle of Alabama” for the Ellington Orchestra, which was part of the historical revue (and album) My People, released in 1963 and dedicated to King.

A few months before King’s assassination, Strayhorn died from esophageal cancer, at 51. He was in the company of Bill Grove, then his partner of three years. Devastated after hearing the news, Ellington recorded a memorial album, And His Mother Called Him Bill, which included Strayhorn’s beautiful piano balad “Thank You For Everything”, also known as “Lotus Blossom.” Ellington performed the song alone while the rest of his band was packing up, leaving him to reminisce about his creative soul mate, and the timeless music they made together.