Remembering Brendan Behan

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Brendan Behan | Public Domain | 15011

Irish Central remembers Brendan Behan, the bisexual writer.

Brendan Behan’s … image of ex-IRA man, saloon-loving iconoclast, contrasts almost violently with his affection for young boys, revealed first by Ulick O’Connor in his Behan biography, Brendan. Despite having a devoted wife and fathering a child, Behan’s homosexuality, which first blossomed when he was serving time in a British borstal for young boys, frightened and disturbed him until his premature death in 1964.

Brendan Francis Aidan Behan (Irish: Breandán Ó Beacháin) was born on 9 February 1923 and died on 20 March 1964. He is best remembered for his 1954 play “The Quare Fellow” which, when produced at Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop in Stratford, London in 1956, gave him recognition and success. Behan’s autobiographical novel, Borstal Boy, was published the same year and became a worldwide best-seller.

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London’s Black Cap

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Fancy a Pint | 15008

The Black Cap pub in Camden Town has been a landmark on London’s gay scene for decades. Famed for its drag shows, both Danny La Rue and Hinge and Bracket started their careers at the Black Cap.

Writing in The Guardian, Ben Walters notes:

… Camden council considers another application that would convert the upper bar of The Black Cap – where drag acts such as Danny La Rue and Hinge and Bracket started their careers – into flats.

The pub goes back to 1751, is named after a witch, and has been a gay bar since around 1965.

The application to close and convert the upper bar is particularly significant to gay history. It is called the Shufflewick Bar after one of the legendary performers, Mrs Shufflewick (Rex Jameson) whose performances were often attended by Charles Hawtrey, Barry Humphries and Barry Cryer.


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1953 – Gay magazine for homosexuals finds itself in court

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The 1953 and 1954 magazines | One.USC.Edu | 15003

1953, an era when FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was routing out “sex deviates” from the government and homosexuality was a crime in every state, and … Los Angeles, where volunteer writers and editors launched a new “magazine for homosexuals”.

ONE, as it was called, offered thoughtful articles, defiant editorials and none of the racy photos or sex ads often found in today’s gay press. “The first issue was sold in bars in the Los Angeles area for 25 cents, about the price of a draft beer,” said Michael C. Oliveira, an archivist at the magazine’s archives housed at the USC Library.

The magazine was immediately banned by the U.S. Post Office as “obscene.” The cover story of the first issue censored by the postmaster, asked “Homosexual Marriage?”

ONE vs. Olesen was largely forgotten until recently, but nevertheless scored the first gay rights victory at America’s highest court. Now, the high court is expected to revisit the gay rights issue, deciding soon whether to hear a case to determine whether gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry.

Eric Julber, now 90 and living with his wife in Carmel, Calif., is a surprising hero in the ONE saga. A new attorney with an interest in civil liberties, he was asked to write an article for ONE about the threat of government censorship and how to avoid it. His piece, titled “You Can’t Print It!,” became the cover story of the October 1954 issue — and the second target of a postal service seizure.

Julber, who was 30 at the time, promptly agreed to represent the magazine’s editor pro bono.

“I said I would take their case, and I wouldn’t charge a fee,” said Julber, who grew up in Los Angeles, where his musician father worked at a Hollywood studio. “I thought they had a strong case. They were not running a night club. They were writing a magazine. It was a very conservative magazine. It was just the subject matter — homosexuality — that made it ‘obscene.'”

Julber filed suit against Los Angeles Postmaster Otto Olesen, contending the seizure of the magazine violated the constitutional principles of free speech and equal protection. His suit contended ONE was subjected to discriminatory treatment because of prejudice against gays.

The case looked unwinnable in 1953-6. Federal judges in California were not ready to approve this type of magazine. U.S. District Judge Thurmond Clarke in Los Angeles handed down a two-page opinion in March 1956 upholding the Post Office’s decision that ONE was “non-mailable matter.” As evidence of obscenity, he cited one piece of fiction in which a woman recalls an affair with her college roommate and decides to live with the woman rather than marry a high school boyfriend.

Well at least Judge Clarke did actually read the magazines in front of him, even if they were not entirely to his taste. He found as “filthy” a bawdy poem called “Lord Samuel and Lord Montagu” and an ad for a Swiss magazine which could, he said, “lead to the obtaining of obscene matter.” “The suggestion advanced that homosexuals should be recognized as a segment of our people and be accorded special privilege as a class is rejected.”

ONE, whose circulation had reached 2,000, was having trouble delivering issues to its readers. To get around the postal ban, ONE continued to sell copies on news stands and sent copies in brown envelopes from various post offices in other locations.

Julber persuaded ONE’s founding editors, Dale Jennings and Don Slater, to appeal the 9th Circuit’s decision to the Supreme Court. “They agreed to pay my expenses to travel back to Washington. That’s the way you had to do it then. I took along a copy of the magazine,” he recalled.

He told them the rulings by the California-based judges reflected an intense prejudice against homosexual people and predicted the Supreme Court would take a “rational view of the matter.”

His petition was filed on June 13, 1957. The Supreme Court was struggling at the same time with the question of obscenity in a case involving Samuel Roth, a New York book dealer, who was appealing his conviction for selling sexually explicit books. In a 6-3 decision, the justices upheld his conviction, but also sharply narrowed the definition of what is considered obscene. In a landmark ruling, “All ideas having even the slightest redeeming social importance — unorthodox ideas, controversial ideas, even ideas hateful to the prevailing climate of opinion — have the full protection of the guaranties” of the 1st Amendment, said Justice William J. Brennan in Roth vs. United States, handed down on June 24, 1957. “Sex and obscenity are not synonymous.”

With that ruling fresh in their minds, several Supreme Court law clerks read Julber’s petition — as well as the magazine itself — and advised the justices it was not obscene.

Julber said he was delighted to win, but disappointed the court had not issued a written opinion explaining its reasons. He was honored at a banquet sponsored by ONE, and he went on to have a long career as a personal injury lawyer, but he never again had a case go to the Supreme Court. He remains proud of his achievement.

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Klaus Wowereit steps down as Berlin’s mayor

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Klaus Wowereit | 2006 | Getty | 14479

After a long career in Berlin politics, Klaus Wowereit stepped down as Mayor of Berlin on 11 December 2014.

Wowereit first entered mayoral office after being elected the district mayor for Berlin-Tempelhof when he was 30, becoming the youngest politician ever elected to the city legislature. In 2001, following the collapse of the Berliner State Bank, Mayor Eberhard Diepgen stepped down. “Wowi” as he’s affectionately known, had worked his way high enough in the ranks to win the Social Democratic Party (SPD)’s nomination.

Wowereit came out as gay in his 2001 mayoral campaign, when he was told that tabloid newspapers were about to out him. “I am gay and that is a good thing,” Wowereit said as he publicly came out. He was cheered by party members at the announcement. “… and that is a good thing” became a catchphrase associated with “Wowi”. In 2010, Wowereit told Time Magazine that his coming out strengthened his campaign. At the time of his resignation, he was the only openly gay mayor leading a major European city.

His final day in Berlin’s Rote Rathaus (Red City Hall) were marked with well-wishes and flowers from his colleagues. As he left, he said “Tschüss!” and someone answered “See you soon!” to which the outgoing mayor only responded with a “nö” in true Berliner form.

Wowereit is a life-long Berliner and lives with his partner of 21 years, neurosurgeon Jörn Kubicki.

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Stephen Spender

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Stephen Spender | Location: Berlin | 1934 | Unknown photographer | National Portrait Gallery, London | 14478

Sir Stephen Harold Spender CBE was born on 28 February 1909 and died on 16 July 1995. During his life he became one of the most celebrated poets of his generation. His sexuality remains obscured by a cloud.

Wikipedia notes that in his formative years

his closest friend and the man who had the biggest influence on him was W. H. Auden, who introduced him to Christopher Isherwood.

In 1929 he moved to Hamburg. Isherwood invited him to visit Berlin.

Also in 1929 he began writing his novel “The Temple” about a young man who travels to Germany and finds a culture at once more open than England’s — particularly about relationships between men. “The Temple” was not published until 1988.

In 1933, Spender fell in love with Tony Hyndman, and after a short affair with a woman, Spender and Hyndman lived together between 1935 and 1936. Then Spender married Agnes Maria “Inez” Pearn, his first wife. However he continued to have affairs with men.

Hence the speculation and debate over his sexuality, which remains clouded to this day.

During World War II, Spender was in the UK, playing an active part in the war against Germany: then he was appointed to the Allied Control Commission, restoring civil authority in Germany.

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Magnus Hirschfeld

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Magnus Hirschfeld | Bundesstiftung Magnus Hirschfeld | 14475

Magnus Hirschfeld was born on 14 May 1868. He was a German physician and sexologist who founded the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft which many regard as the very first gay rights campaigning organisation.

He moved to Berlin in 1896, when he published his first pamphlet, and founded the IFS in 1897. His nickname on the Berlin gay scene was Aunt Magnesia.

The group was formed to undertake research to defend the rights of homosexuals and to repeal Paragraph 175 of 1871 which had criminalized homosexuality. They argued that the law encouraged blackmail. Hirschfeld believed that a better scientific understanding of homosexuality would eliminate hostility toward homosexuals. The group’s petition to overturn Paragraph 175 managed to gather over 5,000 signatures from prominent Germans. Unfortunately success in the German Parliament did not come for many years. There were attempts to change the law in 1921, 1925 and 1929 but all failed.

His views were that homosexuals were like disabled people and that male homosexuals were by nature effeminate. These views eventually caused the organisation to split, and some members left to form the ‘Bund für männliche Kultur’ (Union for Male Culture) which argued that male-male love is a simple aspect of virile manliness rather than a special condition. The Bund did not survive long.

Bundesstiftung Magnus Hirschfeld notes that:

Between 1899 and 1923 Hirschfeld and his staff compiled a 20,000-page anthology. The “Yearbooks For Sexual Intermediaries” were intended to show that between the “full man” and the “full woman” there are an infinite number of gradations and combinations. Hermaphrodites, transvestites, homosexuals are the necessary natural link between the two poles of man and woman. The homosexual is a kind of “third sex”.

On 6 July 1919 he opened his new Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (Institute for Sexual Research), which housed his archives and library on sexuality, provided educational services and medical consultations – and included a Museum of Sex.

The Institut für Sexualwissenschaft | Archive for Sexology | 14476

In 1921 Hirschfeld organised the First Congress for Sexual Reform, which led to the formation of the World League for Sexual Reform. He co-wrote and acted in the 1919 film Anders als die Andern (“Different From the Others”), a film which made the case for decriminalisation, which starred Conrad Veidt as one of the first homosexual characters ever written for cinema. The authorities banned the film in 1920 but by then many gay and lesbian people had seen the film and described the experience as “liberating”.

The Nazis attacked Hirschfeld’s Institute on 6 May 1933, and burned many of its books as well as its archives.

Hirschfeld died on 14 May 1935 in Nice, France.

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Source 2 Bundesstiftung Magnus Hirschfeld


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The London Gay Centre, Cowcross Street

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67-69 Cowcross Street | 2014 | Google Street View | 14474

The London Gay Centre at 67-69 Cowcross Street, London was established by the Greater London Council in 1984-5 with a grant of around £750,000. Plans were for facilities including club/performance space, cooking and dining space, a bookshop, a daycare, a lounge and meeting room, a media resource center, offices and other meeting spaces. London was trying to emulate Birmingham, which had opened a Gay Centre in 1976.

Many LGBT organisations of the time were allowed to use the centre for postal purposes.

As a non-commercial gay venue there were problems with volunteers, political infighting and general mismanagement due to staff turnover. When the GLC was abolished in 1986 ownership of the building was transferred to the London Residuary Body. The centre continued in operation for five years but mounting losses, including a robbery, resulted in its closure and subsequent sale. The building is now the headquarters of the charity AddAction.

Updated 6 Dec 14 – text amendment.


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Indiana’s gay history being collected

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Indystar reports on a number of projects which are collecting local gay history for future availability. One of the collections documenting gay life is that of Michael Bohr, who began collecting artifacts two decades ago after the death of an acquaintance whose numerous photos of gay events from the 1970s — picnics, parties, meetings — were tossed into the trash by the dead man’s disapproving parents.

Bohr started gathering material in 1995 and now has 8,000 items, such as photos, videos of drag shows, hundreds of T-shirts from gay festivals and out-of-print gay publications, including a 1966 copy of what is believed to be Indianapolis’ earliest gay journal, “The Screamer.”

Bohr’s collection, named the Chris Gonzales Library & Archives after an activist who died of AIDS in 1994, is a labor of love and depends on free rent. Today it is housed in the basement of a building at 429 E. Vermont St. where the advocacy group Indy Pride is based. (The collection is open to the public on weekends)….

Two decades ago Bohr… told The Indianapolis Star that the gay community was responsible for preserving their own culture. “No one else is going to keep our history for us,” he said.

Now, that’s no longer true. Recently the historical society approached Bohr about acquiring parts of his archive and keeping it in its secure, state-of-the-art facility. Bohr said no. He worries the pendulum may swing.

“Things are going well for the gay rights movement,” he said, “but history has its ups and downs. The political climate could change suddenly. (The historical society) depends on fundraising and so is susceptible to outside pressure. If the (historic society) had the archive, and the gay material became politically embarrassing, they could say, ‘Let’s bury it in the basement.’ Maybe that’s me being old and cynical, but it’s happened before.”

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Indystar


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

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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.

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Philadelphia – The sit-in at Dewey’s restaurant

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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.


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