The He-She Barman, and other Bermondsey characters

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Some of Bermondsey’s characters are highlighted in London News Online.

James Allen was killed by a falling plank in a wood yard. James Allen, who was married, was in fact a woman. After her death, a post mortem found she might have had a child at some stage. It became known as the case of “The Female Husband”.

The London Standard commented “her equivocal lord” was “beautifully shaped, and his legs and feet particularly well made”.

Allen’s wife’s father said: “Allen was as handsome a young man as ever the sun shone upon” when he married his daughter.

London Online notes:

Public interest in James Allen led to the publication of pamphlets and ballads. No law barred women from cross-dressing. But some were prosecuted for financial fraud – marrying a woman to take her dowry.

Then there was Thomas Walker, the ‘She-He Barman of Southwark’, who profited from public curiosity about how a weak and feeble woman could live as a man by touring the country singing songs about his life.

The Southwark QueerStory exhibition will be on at Peckham Levels from Thursday, February 15 until Wednesday, February 28 from 10am to 11pm each day. The exhibition includes 1930s photographs of Bermondsey lad Ralph Hall, living a life of domestic happiness with his lover Monty, and their love letters written when Ralph was posted off to war.

Pub drag culture of the 1960s is celebrated as well as the emergence of the gay disco scene pioneered by DJ Tricky Dicky in 1970s Camberwell, as well as the saucy drag shows and boozy dancing at the Ship & Whale.

https://www.londonnewsonline.co.uk/celebrating-the-rich-history-of-gay-and-transgender-culture-in-south-london/

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Cuba – improved but not yet free

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2016 Photo | Agence France Press/Getty Images | 18300

In 1959, Fidel Castro came to power after leading a revolution that toppled the corrupt government of Fulgencio Batista. Police began to round up gay men. During the 1960s and 1970s LGBT people were imprisoned or forced into “re-education camps”.

Homosexuality was viewed as going against the ideal of the hyper-masculine revolutionary. “We would never come to believe that a homosexual could embody the conditions and requirements of conduct that would enable us to consider him a true revolutionary, a true communist militant,” Fidel Castro told an interviewer in 1965.

During the 1980s HIV-positive Cubans were quarantined in sanitariums. The conditions were harsh.

In 2010 Fidel Castro admitted responsibility for the injustices suffered by LGBT people after the revolution, apologising: “If someone is responsible, it’s me.”

Today Cuba’s constitution bans “any form of discrimination harmful to human dignity” and healthcare and visibility has improved. Since 2008, gender reassignment surgery and hormone replacement therapy have been available free of charge under Cuba’s national healthcare system; condoms are distributed, sex education and access to antiretroviral drugs have improved.

In 2013 Cuban law banned workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation but Cuba has yet to legalise same-sex marriage.

All this comes at a price. The only LGBT activism allowed is that which is controlled by the state.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/cuba-lgbt-revolution-gay-lesbian-transgender-rights-havana-raul-castro-a8122591.html

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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 | 17064

London’s Tate Britain held its first show dedicated to “queer art” -“Queer British Art 1861-1967” to mark 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 was Oscar’s prison cell door.

Queer British Art 1861-1967 was 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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Coll2013-055 Blue Max Motorcycle Club records

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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