Canada’s gay purge

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The Canadian government building | Canadian Government Executive | 17119

The Canadian government is expected to become the next country to apologise to former gay staff in the federal civil service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Armed Forces who were interrogated and harassed from the 1950s to the 1990s because of their sexuality.

During the Cold War, hundreds of gay men and lesbians in Canada lost government and military jobs because of their sexual orientation during the “LGBT purge”.

Gay men and lesbians in the civil service and the military were believed to pose a security risk, and thought to be vulnerable to blackmail by Soviet agents.
Hundreds of people are believed to have lost their jobs during four decades. Others were demoted, transferred, or denied promotion. Some were given the choice between being dismissed or undergoing psychiatric treatment.

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A lie detector | Canadian War Museum | 17118

A notorious “fruit machine”, similar to the lie detector pictured, was developed by researcher Frank Robert Wake. It was a crude detector which was intended to identify homosexuals by monitoring the dilation of their pupils when they were shown pornography. Plagued with problems, the project was mothballed.

Activists have been working for many years in Canada to remedy the situation. In 1992, Michelle Douglas, a former army officer, helped bring an end to discriminatory policies towards gays and lesbians. After being discharged from the army because she was a lesbian, she launched a legal challenge. On the eve of the trial the military settled the case and changed its personnel policies.

In 1996 the Canadian Human Rights Act was amended to include sexual orientation. In June 2017 Canada added gender identity and gender orientation to the Act.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-40268010

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Not Straight, Not White

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Kevin Mumford | Brian Stauffer | 17079

The new book “Not Straight, Not White” by Kevin Mumford, a history professor at the University of Illinois-Champaign, is one of the few books to document the gay history of the black community in America. “There’s still a lot of white-centered gay narratives,” he told the Windy City Times.

He was familiar with and researched James Baldwin and Bayard Rustin before he began his book. “I learned a lot by reading their FBI files, reading their newspaper clippings, and focusing on their gay writings in a way that people hadn’t.”

He includes the life of Lorraine Hansberry, who visited the White House with James Baldwin in the early ’60s and whose archives he had special permission to view. “She’s really an icon of African-American culture. She wasn’t particularly out: she would have been out had she lived, I’m quite sure, but like Rustin, like Baldwin, she had to advocate for social justice and sort of remain silent on the question of her desire.”

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Amazon | 17080

His book also owes much material to the collection of community activist and anthology editor Joseph Beam. Beam’s archives may have helped save Joseph Beam from obscurity. “Beam was really extraordinary because he corresponded with all kinds of people, and he saved all the letters that he got, and carbon copies of all of the letters that he sent. He’s an average guy, he’s an activist, worked at the Giovanni’s Room bookstore, he’s a waiter, but he has 15 boxes full of everyday letters, of being an activist, of being a community worker.”

http://www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Not-Straight-Not-White-highlights-history-of-Black-gay-men/57167.html


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Tate Bares All

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The Critics | Henry Scott Tuke | Warwick District Council

London’s Tate Britain is preparing its first show dedicated to “queer art” -“Queer British Art 1861-1967”. It is almost 50 years since the decriminalisation of male homosexual acts in England and Wales.

“We have works which demonstrate lots of different attitudes, from anxiety to celebration,” Curator Clare Barlow told the Observer, adding that other items came to acquire notoriety by accident. Walter Crane’s languorous 1877 painting, The Renaissance of Venus, is a good example. “Crane’s wife did not want him viewing or drawing nude women, so instead he used a well-known young male model, Alessandro di Marco, to stand in for the goddess of love.”

The exhibition includes a full-length portrait of Oscar Wilde by Robert Goodloe Harper Pennington, given to the writer as a wedding present by the artist and now being shown publicly in Britain for the first time. Next to it is Oscar’s prison cell door.

Queer British Art 1861-1967 is at Tate Britain, London SW1P, from 5 April to 1 October 2017.


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The Black Nite brawl

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The Black Nite, Milwaukee | Milwaukee Public Library Collection | 17041

On Saturday night, Aug. 5, 1961, four troublemakers got more trouble than they bargained for at the Black Nite on N. Plankinton Ave., one of Milwaukee’s most popular gay bars of the time.

Built by George Burnham in 1853 as a grain elevator, the old flourmill at 400 N. Plankinton Avenue was later home to manufacturers Fairbanks, Morse & Co. Long known as the Old Mill Tavern and Cafe, the ground floor storefront was acquired by local financier Harry Kaminsky in 1958.

Kaminsky convinced Mary Wathen of Omaha, Nebraska, to open Mary’s Tavern. Mary complained immediately about being “bothered” by homosexual clientele from nearby taverns. “They drove regular customers away,” she complained to Kaminsky, whose response was “if we can’t beat em, let’s join em.”

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A party at the Black Nite | Wisconsin LGBT History Project | 17042

Mary’s Tavern joined The Fox Bar (open in 1948 at 455 N. Plankinton) and Tony’s Riviera (open in 1952 at 401 N. Plankinton and a longtime gay landmark earlier when it was known as the Anchor Inn) to create the city’s first gay district.

Four 20-year-old servicemen (Kenneth Kensche, John Cianciolo, Bruce Pulkkila and Edward Flynn) decided to check out the Black Nite on a dare.

Wally Whetham later reported that “this gang came in and started tearing the bar apart, and the bar fought back.” The servicemen, out for trouble, found a packed bar of 75 patrons ready and willing to defend their turf by any means necessary.

One patron suffered extreme lacerations when he was thrown through a broken window; another patron experienced a brain concussion when he was hit in the head with a barstool. He would remain in critical condition for weeks after the brawl. In the end, over $2,000 in losses were reported, including the bar’s entire bottled liquor inventory, an electric organ, a jukebox and all windows.

“One of the guys came at me and said, ‘OK you sick faggot, come on.’ I popped him right there, and the blood sprayed and he fell to the ground. I’ll never forget that as long as I live. He started it, but I stopped it. I may be a ‘faggot,’ but I’m the one who stopped it.”

“And then the cops came down, and put them all in a paddy wagon, and took them to jail,” said Josie Carter. “They said, ‘You have no business coming down here and harassing these people. The police were good to me back then; they took care of me and taught me how to stay out of trouble.”

The four servicemen were charged with disorderly conduct. Judge Christ T. Seraphim dismissed their charges due to “lack of evidence.”

https://onmilwaukee.com/history/articles/the-black-nite-brawl-lgbt-history.html


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Gay motorcycle clubs celebrated

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Five Blue Max Motorcycle Club members in uniform jackets and Pickelhauben helmets seated on Harley Davidson Electra Glide motorcycles at curb in Glendale, California, c. 1970 | One/USC Archive | 17033

An exhibition opening at the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, “Sprayed with Tears”, delves into the history of Southern California’s gay motorcycle clubs. These were popular underground clubs throughout the 1960s and ’70s. Some of them that are active today.

Using material from the ONE Archives, artist collective Die Kränken focuses on one of these clubs, Blue Max, and re-stages a performance that took place there annually between 1968 and 1993: “The Rose of No Man’s Land,” where a World War I fighter pilot is nursed back to health by a Red Cross nurse, played by a club member in drag.

There will also be a video of the Black Pipe, an LA gay leather bar that was raided by the police in 1972, and a display of screen-printed handkerchiefs that were used for the “hanky code,” a surreptitious method of communicating sexual desire by placing color-coded handkerchiefs in one’s rear pants pocket.

The Satyrs Motorcycle Club are thought to be the “oldest running gay men’s motorcycle club” in the world, dating back to 1954.

The ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives is at the USC Libraries, 909 West Adams Blvd, University Park, Los Angeles.

http://hyperallergic.com/357473/an-exhibition-mines-the-history-of-socals-gay-motorcycle-clubs/


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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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Remembering the Black Cat

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February 1967 | Black Cat/USC Digital Archive | tc17031

Two years before the Stonewall riots in New York City, Silver Lake in Los Angeles was the epicenter of a gay rights protest movement of its own. In February 1967, demonstrators at the Black Cat Tavern,, 3909 W Sunset Blvd., took a stand and pushed back against anti-LGBT forces, and a rally was held there yesterday to commemorate the events of 1967 and continue the movement today.

The Black Cat Tavern had been open for only two months when a party on New Year’s Eve, 1966 was raided by undercover officers who infiltrated the party and, when they saw same-sex couples kissing at midnight, police began a flurry of arrests. 14 patrons of the bar were arrested for “assault and public lewdness” and the police physically beat several of the individuals. A riot broke out and spilled into the street and neighboring bars.

After the raid, organizers met to begin planning a large demonstration to be held at the Black Cat. The then-new PRIDE organization began publishing a newsletter called The Advocate where they disseminated details of the gathering; the Advocate has published ever since.

On February 11, 1967, an estimated 300 to 600 protestors surrounded the Black Cat in what would be remembered as a tense but ultimately peaceful protest against homophobic laws and police brutality. The event marked a turning point for the local gay rights movement and part of a growing trend of LGBT resistance.

https://www.timeout.com/los-angeles/blog/commemorate-a-milestone-of-local-lgbt-history-this-weekend-at-the-black-cat-tavern-020917


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Marking 50 years of legality

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It was in 1967 the UK law was changed to legalise homosexuality between two consenting males. The 1967 act amended the law of England and Wales regarding homosexual activity, with Scotland following suit in 1980, and Northern Ireland in 1982.

The British Museum’s new exhibition will highlight the previously-hidden gay histories within its collection, and creates a treasure map of historic LGBTQ moments and objects held by the museum.

The Museum has a coin featuring the Roman emperor Hadrian on one side, and his male lover Antinous on the reverse. Antinous, who would have been part of a harem of the emperor’s lovers, drowned in the Nile river during a lion hunt, leaving the emperor distraught.

Other events will be taking place across the UK at the British Museum, the Red House, the Walker in Liverpool, the Russell-Cotes museum and gallery, and more.

https://news.artnet.com/art-world/british-arts-gay-history-2017-797522


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Love is a drag re-released

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The Love Is a Drag LP Cover | Vintage Vinyl | tc287

The Guardian notes that the 1962 gay LP “Love is a drag”, which has been a collector’s item for many years, has been re-released.

Archivist JD Doyle managed to get in contact with the original record producer, who, like the musicians and singer on the LP, were not credited when it was released in 1962, for obvious reasons.

In 2012 the album’s producer, Murray Garrett, emailed him after discovering that Doyle had written about the music on his website.

The story begins in the 1920s. As far back at the 1920s, blues singers such as Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith had been singing about gay characters, though they were loathe to directly express their own desires. In 1946 Garrett was a celebrity photographer for Life magazine and was taken by a friend to a bar in Greenwich Village. A handsome young man came out on the club’s stage and started to sing standards normally performed by a woman to a man. Garrett was confused until his friend informed him that they were in a gay bar. Garrett later told Doyle he was so impressed by the quality of the music that the night stayed in his mind “for years and years”.

In the early 60s a friend of Garrett’s was starting a record company in Hollywood and asked him if he had any ideas for projects that would stand out. Garrett thought a man singing love songs to another man would more than fit the bill. Garrett asked his photography partner, Gene Howard, who had earlier performed with Stan Kenton’s band, to sing on the album. The singer told him he had two daughters and a wife to consider, not to mention a career. According to Doyle, Howard’s wife asked just one question about the project: “Is it going to be done with dignity?”

The album sold by word of mouth, mainly in the Hollywood community Garrett and Howard knew well. Gay waiters and car hops started buying copies, up to six at a time. Frank Sinatra ordered a dozen copies. Garrett gave a copy to Bob Hope and Liberace also acquired a copy.

Over the years, the album became a cult item, selling for up to $200.

A number of LP recordings made in Britain for the UK gay market appeared in the 1950s and 1960s, and some of the artistes involved have been documented in Gay History.

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/dec/05/love-is-a-drag-story-behind-groundbreaking-gay-album

http://www.vintagevinylnews.com/2016/10/mystery-of-1962-album-love-is-drag.html


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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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