Fascism: When rights are taken away

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‘Damenkneipe’ (Ladies’ Saloon) painted by Rudolf Schlichter, 1923 | Copyright control | 17133

Germany’s Bundestag has just voted to allow gay marriage. At a time when gay rights have made significant advances in Europe, “The Conversation” looked back to the period from 1920 to 1945.

Before the rise of the Nazis and Fascism, gay people were on the brink of legal reform and securing their rights, but overnight, everything changed.

The total number of Europeans arrested for being LGBTQ under fascism is impossible to know because of the lack of reliable records. But a conservative estimate is that there were many tens of thousands to one hundred thousand arrests during the war period alone.

Far more LGBTQ people in Europe painstakingly hid their genuine sexuality to avoid suspicion, marrying members of the opposite sex, for example. But if they had been prominent members of the gay and trans community before the fascists came to power, it was too late to hide.

In concentration camps, gay men were identified by a pink triangle. Men with pink triangles were singled out for particular abuse; mechanically raped, castrated, favored for medical experiments and murdered for guards’ sadistic pleasure even when they were not sentenced for “liquidation.”

In 1929, Germany came close to erasing its anti-gay law, only to see it strengthened soon thereafter. Only now, after a gap of 88 years, are convictions under that law being annulled.

… With new forms of authoritarianism entrenched and seeking to expand in Europe and beyond, it’s worth thinking about the fate of Europe’s LGBTQ community in the 1930s and ‘40s.

http://www.newsweek.com/how-nazis-destroyed-first-gay-rights-movement-631918

https://theconversation.com/how-the-nazis-destroyed-the-first-gay-rights-movement-80354

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London: Terence Rattigan and Wartime nookie

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Terence Rattigan | NNDB | 17061

Playwright Terence Rattigan’s greatest secret wasn’t his homosexuality, writes Robert Gore-Langton in The Spectator. It was his wartime service for his country: he was a tailgunner in the RAF.

After basic training, Rattigan was assigned as a wireless operator and airgunner to a squadron of Sunderlands, hunting enemy submarines in the Atlantic. One moment he was banking nice fat royalties from West End hits such as French Without Tears. Next thing he knew, he was patrolling the Atlantic on 13-hour missions.

His 1942 play Flare Path was written while on active service. He completed the first act during repairs after a Heinkel had shot up the tail end of his aircraft. Then, flying 1,200 miles on to West Africa, the starboard engine died. Luggage, loo seat and every fitting they could hack off with an axe went overboard in a desperate bid to stay aloft. Rattigan was about to sling his kitbag when he realised that his manuscript was in it. He ripped off the heavy cardboard covers but shoved the pages up his jacket.

The article goes on to lift a dust cover off life in London during the war. Actor Kenneth More, who appeared in many war period films, always thought that his best job in the theatre was being a stage hand among the nude girls at the Windmill Theatre. Instead of hunting enemy submarines, as he did in the navy, More used a peephole to scan men in the stalls who had newspapers concealing their laps and relayed their position. He’d whisper, ‘Wanker, Daily Mail, C17.’ Offenders would then be ejected.

https://www.spectator.co.uk/2017/03/terence-rattigans-greatest-secret-wasnt-his-homosexuality/


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Polari explained

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Julian and Sandy, 1970s, LP Cover | Copyright control | 17032

Paul Baker, an authority on Polari, having studied it for some time, has provided Scroll/The Conversation with a brief history of the language. To summarise:

Polari has now largely fallen out of use, but was historically spoken by gay men and female impersonators.

Polari developed first in the world of entertainment, West End theatres and 19th-century music halls, travelling entertainers and market-stall holders, and was based on Parlyaree which had roots in Italian and rudimentary forms of language used for communication by sailors around the Mediterranean, which found its way into Britain, especially London and port cities, and gradually became used by gay men and female impersonators, especially during the first half of the 20th century. In England, gays added Cockney Rhyming Slang, backslang (pronouncing a word as if it was spelt backwards), French, Yiddish and American airforce slang to Polari.

It was useful as a means of conducting conversations in public spaces, which would have alerted others to your sexuality at a time when homosexual acts were illegal.

“Vada the naff strides on the omee ajax” meant look at the awful trousers on the man nearby. Inserting a Polari word – such as bona (good) or palone (woman) – into a sentence could act as a coded way of identifying other people who might be gay. The language itself, full of camp, irony, innuendo and sarcasm, also helped its speakers to form a resilient worldview in the face of arrest, blackmail and physical violence.

In the 1970s, in a gay magazine called Lunch, activists branded Polari as ghettoising and it gradually became surplus to requirements. In 2000, Baker carried out a survey of 800 gay men and found about half the respondents had never heard of Polari.

In recent years however, there has been renewed interest in Polari. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence created a Polari Bible, running a Polari wordlist through a computer program on an English version of the Bible.

Paul Baker is the Professor of Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University.

https://scroll.in/article/828942/a-brief-history-of-polari-a-language-for-gay-men-and-its-curious-afterlife


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Kerry apologises for Cold War Purge

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Brian Snyder/Reuters | 17012

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry apologized to hundreds of State Department employees who were fired after the start of the Cold War for being gay in what is known as the “lavender scare.”

“In the past – as far back as the 1940s, but continuing for decades – the Department of State was among many public and private employers that discriminated against employees and job applicants on the basis of perceived sexual orientation, forcing some employees to resign or refusing to hire certain applicants in the first place. These actions were wrong then, just as they would be wrong today. On behalf of the Department, I apologize to those who were impacted by the practices of the past and reaffirm the Department’s steadfast commitment to diversity and inclusion for all our employees, including members of the LGBTI community.”

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-kerry-apology-idUSKBN14T2HB


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German victims of Paragraph 175 to get compensation at last

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Gay prisoners in the concentration camp at Sachsenhausen with pink triangles. Germany, December 1938 | Unknown photographer | Socialist Worker | 16448gh

Germany is set to compensate up to 50,000 men convicted under a historic law which was still in effect until the late 1960s. “Paragraph 175” was part of Germany’s criminal code from 1871 to 1994, and made homosexual acts between men a criminal offence.

Thousands of gay and bisexual men were arrested and incarcerated in NZI concentration camps. Those who managed to escape the camps were often arrested again under Paragraph 175. The persecution continued well after the end of World War II. Gay men were often socially ostracised as well as losing their homes and jobs.

Since the end of World War II, a total of over 140,000 men were convicted, and 50,000 were prosecuted under Paragraph 175.

€30m will be made available in compensation to survivors, depending on individual cases, and taking the length of sentence into consideration.

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Heiko Maas | Heiko Maas | 16449gh

Germany’s Justice Minister Heiko Maas said the draft law, which will be formally announced later in October, will offer “relatively uncomplicated” individual claims, as well as allowing for collective claims.

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/germany-compensate-50000-gay-men-who-were-jailed-their-sexual-orientation-1585450

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Bob Mizer’s photos and The Athletic Model Guild

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Model: Mike Diaks | Photo: Bob Mizer/Bob Mizer Foundation | 16297gh

Male nude photographer Robert Henry “Bob” Mizer was born on March 27, 1922 and died on May 12, 1992. His first photographs appeared when he was 20 years old. He specialised in male nude pictures especially of bodybuilders, and sold his photos through the mail, which got him into trouble with the US Postal Office in 1947, who did not like photographs of men wearing scanty posing pouches being sent through their system.

He is famous for establishing the influential studio, the Athletic Model Guild, in 1945, and for founding the magazine Physique Pictorial. Over 1,100 men were willing to pose for his photographs. There were so many models, in fact, he needed assistance to cope with the workload – and was joined in the venture by his brother Joe and Mother Delia!

Other photographers also entered the field, but subsequent photographers and artists including Robert Mapplethorpe and David Hockney cited Mizer as a key influence on their own careers.

The Guardian have published a collection of some of Mizer’s more famous photographs, and there are more at the Bob Mizer Foundation website.

Bob Mizer Foundation

Beefcakes and Monkeys – The Guardian

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Harold O’Neal and amateur gay films

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Still from “Vallejo,” 1947 | The Harold T. O’Neal Collection | The G.L.B.T. Historical Society | New Yorker | 16216gh

During the post war years and into the sixties, positive portrayals of gay men and lesbians living happy and successful lives were completely absent from films. During the British film boom from 1955 to 1965 there were a number of films which shed light on homosexual lifestyles (in Britain) but again the characters portrayed “had flaws”. For a more accurate reflection of what life was really like for gay men and lesbians, it is necessary not to look at the portrayals of mass media, but to look at the private films made on home movie cameras by amateur film makers of the time.

The New Yorker sheds more light on the matter.

Harold O’Neal was an amateur film maker who lived in San Francisco. Born in Stockton, California, in 1910, he was a reserved, somewhat shy man who worked for the Veterans Administration and in personnel for the Army Corps of Engineers. He kept his sexuality closely guarded, but made dozens of home movies which captured the rhythms and intimacies of gay social life long before it was allowed to flourish in the open.

One home movie shows a telegenic group of men on a getaway at a shoreline cabin in the Bay Area town of Vallejo, in 1947. The friends sunbathe, laugh together, mug for the camera with more than a touch of theatricality. A man picks some orange flowers and tucks them behind his ear; another wears a grass skirt and dances the hula.
Another movie, from 1946, shows a house party where guests in suits and ties smoke cigarettes and drink from dainty glasses. Men dance in pairs, hands clasped, a head against a cheek. One giddily air-claps to music the viewer cannot hear.

A fascinating article.

http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-moving-revelations-of-gay-home-movies

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Klaus Mann

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Klaus Mann | Public domain | 15438

Klaus Heinrich Thomas Mann was born on 18 November 1906 and died on 21 May 1949 in Cannes of an overdose of sleeping tablets. Born in Munich, Klaus Mann was the son of German writer Thomas Mann. He began writing short stories in 1924 and the following year became drama critic for a Berlin newspaper. His first book appeared in 1925.

In 1932 Klaus wrote the first part of his autobiography, which got him in trouble with the Nazis. Apolitical cabaret, the Pepper-Mill, in 1933, also came to the attention of the Nazi regime. To escape prosecution he fled to Paris, then Amsterdam and Switzerland, where his family had a house. In November 1934 he was stripped of German citizenship and became a Czechoslovak citizen.

Mann’s most famous novel, Mephisto, was written in 1936 and first published in Amsterdam. His novel Der Vulkan is one of the 20th century’s most famous novels about German exiles during World War II.

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Thomas Quinn Curtiss | Public domain | 15439

Not long after he moved to the US where in 1937, he met his partner Thomas Quinn Curtiss, who was later a film and theater reviewer for Variety and the International Herald Tribune. Mann became a US citizen in 1943.

During World War II, he served as a Staff Sergeant of the 5th US Army in Italy (picture) and in summer 1945 he was sent by the Stars and Stripes to report from postwar Germany.

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Denmark’s Dr. Death

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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.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/may/05/nazi-doctor-gay-people-carl-vaernet-escaped-justice-danish

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Remembering Billy Strayhorn

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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.

Source:
http://www.out.com/today-gay-history/2015/4/29/billy-strayhorn-duke-ellingtons-gay-composer

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