Islington gets a gay archive

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Highbury Fields, 1971. Picture: Islington Local History Centre | 16460ga

A new LGBT archive is being created in Islington, London, a borough steeped with LGBT history. Today Islington council launched an appeal for people to scour their homes for LGBT memorabilia – photos, posters, flyers etc – to build the archive, which is likely to be housed at Islington Museum in St John Street.

150 brave campaigners held Britain’s first ever gay rights protest in November 1970 in Highbury Fields. A torchlight rally was organised by the Gay Liberation Front in response to the arrest of Louis Eakes in the Fields. Mr Eakes, of the Young Liberals, was detained for cruising several men in a police entrapment operation. Mr Eakes claimed he was asking them for a light.

http://www.islingtongazette.co.uk/news/heritage/highbury_fields_gay_rights_demo_was_a_watershed_moment_islington_museum_to_set_up_first_lgbt_archive_1_4729260

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When gay men fled the UK

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David Boyle writes in The Guardian about one of his ancestors, a gay man, who got caught up in the furore and witch hunt which followed the Pheonix Park Murders in Dublin in 1882, when republican terrorists stabbed the Irish secretary to death. At the time, Dublin was ruled by Britain.

The murders shocked the public on both sides of the Irish Sea, and to claw back the moral high ground Irish nationalist MPs launched a campaign to identify homosexuals in the Irish government or part of the establishment in Dublin – starting with the senior detective in charge of the Phoenix Park case, James Ellis French. The campaign led to huge torchlight processions and mass demonstrations in many towns and cities of Ireland. … Most of the defendants were acquitted – the main issue at stake was whether it was physically possible to commit sodomy in a hansom cab.

The murder became the excuse a zealous anti-homosexual MP, Henry Labouchère, his chance to tag onto an unrelated Bill, the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885, a clause entitled “Outrages against public decency” which had the effect of making sex between consenting adult men illegal. A situation which remained until 1967.

His amendment was debated at night in a few minutes, and only one MP queried whether it was relevant to the debate.

In 1895 after the passage of the Bill, Mr Boyle’s gay relative vanished from the records. The witch hunt had started in England. He records

Contemporary letters imply the same of many others – maybe many hundreds of them. One correspondent reported that there were 600 passengers queuing for the Calais ferry the night Oscar Wilde was arrested that April.

The train and ferry to Calais was a popular escape route, but there were others. Generations of gay men who wanted to be able to live without fear of arrest found other ways to get out of the UK. There were the forces; there was the Merchamt Navy. And there may have been other surreptitious ways to leave London, which remain undocumented in gay histories.

In his book “Mr Clive and Mr Page”, published in January 1996, twenty years ago this month, which was set in the 1920s, Neil Bartlett OBE, who was Artistic Director of the Lyric Hammersmith from 1994 to 2005, wrote of one of the characters in his novel who booked a passage through Thomas Cook’s on a tea clipper. There was a regular clipper service between Riga and Hays Wharf, now a shopping centre but then a working wharf, adjacent to Tower Bridge. It is understood there was a small community of ex-patriate British gay men in Riga throughout the 1920s and 1930s, but your Activist’s enquiries of gay organisations in Riga have failed to elicit any information regarding this community or what happened to them at the outbreak of World War II (if they were still there then.)

After World War II another expatriate community of British gay men emerged in Tunis, North Africa.

I would be delighted to hear from anyone who has any further information about the migration of gay men from the UK following the 1885 Act.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/21/gay-ancestor-witch-hunt-sexual-behaviour

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/671989.Mr_Clive_And_Mr_Page

http://www.theguardian.com/profile/neilbartlett

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Remembering Rehoboth, Delaware’s Gay Beach

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A Reboboth postcard, possibly 1970s | Delaware Public | 15192

Reheboth, Delaware was a popular holiday destination for gay men from Washington, DC, Philadelphia and Baltimore in the 1970s and 1980s. Rehoboth, which had gay bars like The Renegade and an entire section of its beach unofficially exclusively gay, quickly became a favorite destination. Discos operated until the wee hours of the morning, but there was also a year-round gay community there who experienced the tragedy of HIV/AIDS, and mobilized around a hate crime in the 1990s, to fight for their rights.

It was pretty amazing, you would drive through on Route 50 and get to Annapolis. [You’d think], Oh my god, when are we gonna get there? And hit the Bay Bridge! And then the relief. It was almost as if it was a weather phenomenon that would take over, the relief that would come over your body. And [you’d] say, “I’m on my way to the beach, where I can be me….The gay area was south of what’s now, we call Poodle Beach. We’d have to go across the Carpenter Beach, the Dupont area, into a no man’s land, and that’s where we all would pitch our chairs and have our time to sun and have a good time.”

– Steve Elkins.

http://delawarepublic.org/post/history-matters-delawares-gay-beach


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Gay film pioneers remember a new use for piano wire!

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Falcon Studios | 15171

Out have looked back 40 years to the founding of the US gay video industry, where studios like Falcon began producing sex material for the burgeoning gay market, first with pictures and magazines, and then venturing into video production. Four key players at the time were Vaughn Kincey, Jack Dufault, Jim Hodges, and Chuck Holmes, who worked under the pseudonyms of John Summers, Matt Sterling, John Travis, and Bill Clayton. Chuck Holmes, Jim Hodges and Vaugh Kincey founded Falcon Studios, and went on to become the most commercially successful of the four men.

Jim Hodges (“John Travis,” co-founder Falcon Studios): I was probably one of the first in the business. Bob Mizer [publisher of [of Physique Pictorial] was down here on West 11th Street in Los Angeles. We were shooting posing straps. And then it went from posing straps to ‘soft’ nudes [with flaccid penises]. And then it went from ‘soft’ nudes to piano wire holding the penis back — but hard so it would stay down, not go up. It was a lot of magazine publishing back then. That is really where it all started.

In the US, the sale or exhibition of “porn” — actual sex on film — was illegal. In 1969, San Francisco became the first city in the US to allow porn to screen in theaters, and the business flourished, leading the New York Times to proclaim it the “Smut Capital of the United States” in 1970. Demand for hardcore product increased nationally (and internationally), and much was produced in San Francisco.

http://www.out.com/entertainment/2015/7/08/few-good-men-oral-history-early-gay-porn


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Remembering Philadelphia, 1965

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July 4, 1965 | Location: Philadelphia, US | Photographer unstated | The Mattachine Society and The Equality Forum/Associated Press | 15167

Fifty years ago a small demonstration took place for gay rights, in Philadelphia. It was one of the first actions of the modern gay rights movement.

About 40 protesters calling for equality gathered in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia on July 5, 1965.

Seen as an incredibly bold and courageous move by the standards of the day,1965 was when homosexuals were legally barred from US government jobs and could be arrested for engaging in consensual intimate acts even in the privacy of their own homes. The American Psychiatric Association still classified being gay as a disease that could be treated with chemical castration or lobotomy.

“Fifty years ago, America perceived us as degenerates,” said Malcolm Lazin, who organized the anniversary events. “One of the many goals of the gay pioneers was to demonstrate that we are first class American citizens.”

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/gay-rights-activists-mark-landmark-1965-demonstration-32226771

http://www.lgbtqnation.com/2015/06/philadelphia-july-4th-events-to-recall-bold-1965-gay-rights-protest/


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Berlin: “150 Years of Homosexual History” Exhibition opens

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SV-Bilderdienst | 15156

The German Historical Museum in Berlin has opened an exhibition tracing 150 years of gay history in the country. The exhibition includes the first uses of the term “homosexual,” the brutal Nazi-era repression of gays and gradual moves toward legal equality starting in the 1960s.

The exhibition is a joint production with Berlin’s Gay Museum and has been four years in the planning.

“Homosexuality_ies,” runs through to Dec. 1, 2015. It features photo and film material, an electric shock device used for “aversion therapy” in the 1950s, other artifacts, and an “A to Z” section exploring issues ranging from gay marriage to censorship.

One of the earliest exhibits is a handwritten 1868 letter from Vienna-born writer Karl Maria Kertbeny to a German advocate of legal reform, Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, which is believed to be the oldest written record anywhere of the words “homosexual” and “heterosexual.”

It also features the work of scientists such as sex researcher Magnus Hirschfeld, whose pioneering Institute for Sexual Research was shut down and looted shortly after the Nazis took power in 1933. The Nazi regime toughened the 1872 law criminalizing sex between men; West Germany changed the so-called “paragraph 175” to decriminalize it only in 1969.

In the words of Visit Berlin, the exhibition

puts the political contribution the homosexual liberation movements made toward the development of our democratic society in the visual range of a broader public for the first time.

http://www.startribune.com/german-museum-launches-show-on-150-years-of-gay-history/309500731/

https://www.dhm.de/en/ausstellungen/preview/homosexuality-ies.html

http://www.visitberlin.de/en/event/09-20-2015/guided-tours-with-curators-homosexualityies-guided-tour


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China’s gay past

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The Diplomat have been looking at the re-emergence of open homosexuality in China. Yuxin Zhang explains.

In ancient China, which was polygamous, same-sex sexual behaviors were well-received and tolerated. Positive descriptions of homosexual behavior, or Nan-Feng as it was called, in historical records and in Chinese literature can be dated back to the Han dynasty (206 BC–220 AD). … Traditional Chinese gay culture changed with the introduction of monogamy from the West, and the establishment of institutions and “ethical standards” that regulated sexual behavior, thus shaping contemporary Chinese attitudes and social values. This produced what we know of today as a “normal” (as it is perceived) sexual orientation, in turn contributing to the development of conservatism and homophobia.

http://thediplomat.com/2015/06/chinas-misunderstood-history-of-gay-tolerance/

Remembering Eleanor Roosevelt

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Eleanor Roosevelt | The White House Historical Association | 15152

Former American First Lady Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born on October 11, 1884 and died on November 7, 1962; Marc Peyser and Timothy Dwyer are the authors of “Hissing Cousins: The Untold Story of Eleanor Roosevelt and Alice Longworth”. They write in Huff:

June marks the start of Gay Pride season, with parades from Boston and Los Angeles to Tel Aviv and Oslo. It’s a good bet that somewhere over those rainbows, Eleanor Roosevelt’s spirit will be marching, too. She’s appeared off and on over the decades, whether loud and proud on posters reclaiming her as an uncelebrated lesbian or more demurely as a sort of mascot for branches of the Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club.

The First Lady’s sexuality remains shrouded in mystery. So why was she, in the White House, and at such a dangerous time for gay men and lesbians, such a champion of their rights?

Some would argue that was because the First Lady was a closeted lesbian. The most often-cited evidence is her intense friendship with an openly lesbian reporter named Lorena Hickok. Roosevelt and Hick worked together, vacationed together and wrote each other hundreds of letters, many of them as purple as a late-summer eggplant. “Gee! What wouldn’t I give to talk to you & hear you now, oh, dear one,” said one from Eleanor. “It is all the little things, tones in your voice, the feel of your hair, gestures, these are the things I think about & long for.” The First Lady got Hick a job reporting from around the country on the progress of the New Deal. Back in Washington, she bunked in a guest room at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And the rumors began. “And so you think they gossip about us?” Eleanor wrote to Lorena in November 1933. “I am always so much more optimistic than you are. I suppose because I care so little what ‘they’ say!”

Well worth reading.

http://firstladies.c-span.org/FirstLady/34/Eleanor-Roosevelt.aspx

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marc-peyser/the-first-lady-of-gay-rights_b_7608122.html


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London: Ken Livingstone and Partnership Ceremonies

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In 2001 London Mayor Ken Livingstone introduced a partnership registration service for same sex couples. The registrations recognised the partnership of the individuals but did not confer any legal rights. The new register was called the London Partnerships Register. The register was open to heterosexual as well as gay couples.

The first couple to take advantage of the scheme, which pre-dated Civil Partnerships and demonstrated the need and desirability of giving same sex couples rights, were Ian Burford and Alexander Cannell, who had been together already for 38 years.

They had a five-minute ceremony conducted by Rob Coward, a specially-trained officer with Greater London Authority.

Couples taking part in the ceremony received a certificate but the register was not made available to the public for confidentiality reasons. The register was designed to be self-financing, charging couples £85 to register their details.

The Greater London Authority was the first public body in the United Kingdom to recognise same-sex relationships as being on a par with heterosexual partnerships.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/1525205.stm


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Long Beach, 1914: When actors entrapped cruisers and cottagers

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A scene from the play | O&M Co | 15147

A new play, “The twentieth century way” by Tom Jacobson is reviewed by The Daily Beast.

In 1914 the Long Beach Police Department recruited the services of two actors – one rugged, one more delicate – to act as bait to entrap men who had sex with men.

The actors recruited for the job were W.H. Warren and B.C. Brown.

The two would encourage their targets to show their penises through ‘glory holes’ between walls or stalls, after which they would score a cross on the men’s penises with a permanent marker. The men and their marked penises, indicative of their ‘guilt,’ would then be hauled down to the police station, and the men would be prosecuted for ‘social vagrancy.’

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/06/19/the-actors-who-trapped-gay-men-into-having-illegal-sex.html


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