Pierre Bergé

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Pierre Bergé | Agence France Press | 17156gh

The French fashion tycoon Pierre Bergé – the business brains behind the Yves Saint Laurent empire – has died aged 86.

The longtime partner of the late designer Yves Saint Laurent died in his sleep early Friday at his country home at Saint-Remy-de-Provence in southern France.

The passionate bibliophile and art collector was a tireless campaigner for gay rights and donated a large part of his fortune to AIDS research.

Gay Activist sends condolences to family, friends and colleagues.

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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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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 Raid on the Caravan Club

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Inside the Caravan Club | Police Photo/UK National Archives | 17049

The Caravan Club in Soho, London was a lesbian and gay friendly members’ club that billed itself as “London’s greatest bohemian rendezvous said to be the most unconventional place in town”. The club, at 81 Endell Street, was one of many mostly temporary venues at a time when being openly gay was perilous, often resulting in prosecution and imprisonment.

The club was run by Billy Reynolds and a former strongman and escapologist called Jack Neave, known as “Iron Foot Jack” because of the metal platform he wore to compensate for a shortened leg.

After a series of complaints about the behaviour of the customers, the Metropolitan police put the club under surveillance from October 1933. Police seem to have watched the comings and goings from unused offices at the Shaftesbury Theatre opposite.

In August 1934 they raided the club, with plainclothes officers easily entering by pretending to be visitors.

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Inside the Caravan Club | Police Photo/UK National Archives | 17050

The officer in charge of the raid was Inspector Clarence, who noted : “The room inside was very badly lighted and the atmosphere was awful. … Men were dancing with men and women were dancing with women, a number of couples were simply standing still, and I saw couples wriggling their posteriors, and where I saw men together they had their hands on the other’s buttocks and were pressing themselves together. In fact all the couples I saw were acting in a very obscene manner.”

A policeman on the raid reported: “Two men were standing in front of each other dancing and moving their bodies close to each other. One had his hand on the other’s flies and the other one said: “Oh, darling.””

One policeman was shocked to enter the bathroom and find two men applying mascara and rouge to each others’ faces.

One regular customer, Cyril, had written a letter to Billy Reyolds, which was found and seized by the Police. “I have only been queer for about two years because I knew nothing about it until I came to London.” He was married and had a daughter. He ends the letter: “Billy, please be a dear boy and destroy this note.” The note is kept in the National Archives.

103 men and women were arrested and taken to Bow Street police station. Many of the young men there were working class. The majority were found not guilty in court on condition they never frequented such a club again.

History does not record whether they complied with that instruction.

Reynolds and Neave were given sentences of 12 months and 20 months respectively hard labour in prison.

https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2017/feb/27/revived-1930s-london-gay-members-club-caravan-club-raided-by-police


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When we rise

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A scene from “When we rise” | ABC Television | 17038

“When we rise” is a four part television series made for American television by film producer Dustin Lance Black for ABC television, which was commissioned by ABC in 2012. When We Rise” is a 50-year history of the gay rights movement told through four characters who suffer — and often triumph over — family rejection, landlord discrimination, gay-bashing, police harassment, legislative defeats and AIDS.

The New York Times notes:

“We’ve reached the stage in the L.G.B.T. movement when a network not only feels comfortable taking this on — but doing so in a big way,” said Eric Marcus, a gay historian who produces the Making Gay History podcast and is preparing his own multipart documentary on the movement.

Torie Osborn, a longtime gay and lesbian rights leader who was active in San Francisco during struggles depicted in the movie, said, “I hope this is a moment for our allies to learn about our history and young gay men and lesbians to learn about their history.”

“This is a story that could have been told before,” she said, adding: “Better late than never.”

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San Francisco, 1983 | Bettman/Getty Images | 17039

Mr. Black focuses largely on San Francisco. New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington, Minneapolis and other cities also played parts in the American gay story.

The four characters who form the frame of Mr. Black’s story are Cleve Jones, Roma Guy, Richard Socarides, and Dr. Charles W. Socarides, who helped to have homosexuality declassified as a mental illness.

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Dustin Lance Black | Andrew Testa/The New York Times | 17040

Mr. Black said that if he had learned anything from this work, it is that the gay rights movement is a story of triumphs followed by setbacks. Mr. Trump’s election, he said, is just another turn in this road.

“We are in a period of backlash right now,” he said. “I would give anything for this to be less topical. But this series shows our history is a pendulum, not a straight line.”


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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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Hackney’s gay collection

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Some of the items owned by Hackney Museum | Gary Manhine/Hackney Council | 17030

Hackney Museum has decided it doesn’t have enough gay history in its archive, and has launched a project to discover more of the London borough’s gay past. Emma Winch, Hackney Museum’s heritage learning manager, told an event to celebrate gay history month: “Young people tell us museums don’t do enough to collect and share LGBTQI history. This, and the lack of representation in the national curriculum, is unacceptable. It has an effect on their identity and confidence.”

Musician I’m Empire was at the launch to give a speech on his experience of coming out as a queer man in Hackney’s black community, while street artist Stik shared his memories of the queer “safe house” community in Dalston Lane.

Stik described how he first arrived in London in 2001 after “spectacularly crashing and burning” and joined a group squatting then-derelict London Fields Lido, sleeping in a wooden art shipping container. “I came to Hackney because it was somewhere possible to live and I found an accepting and vibrant community,” he said.

A house in Dalston Lane was a hub for wild parties. “Our parties like Behind Bars and Queeruption fundraisers were the most radical punk and progressive things I have ever seen, and there’s no way we could get away with such subversive actions nowadays.”

http://www.hackneygazette.co.uk/news/heritage/hackney_museum_launches_drive_to_collect_more_of_borough_s_gay_history_with_inspiring_talks_from_stik_and_i_m_empire_1_4875508


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Patient Zero – The truth

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Gaétan Dugas | Anonymous/Associated Press | 16489gh

The alleged “Patient Zero” of the American AIDS epidemic was a French Canadian flight attendant named Gaétan Dugas, who died of AIDS in 1984. Mr Dugas was exonerated last week. Far from being the instigator of an epidemic, he was merely one of thousands of its victims.

New genetic sequencing of blood samples which had been stored since the 1970s showed that the strain infecting him had circulated among gay men in New York for several years before he arrived in the US in 1974. So he did not introduce the virus to North America; he was a victim.

The revelation proves that the epidemic’s early days had been overshadowed by a witch hunt.

Federal health officials said homosexuals, Haitians, hemophiliacs and heroin users were all victims — thus effectively calling them all carriers. Many individuals felt the sting of suspicion, including Ryan White, a 13-year-old hemophiliac who was bullied and barred from middle school after he contracted H.I.V. from a blood-clotting factor.

Mr. Dugas’s name emerged when Randy Shilts, the journalist who himself later died of AIDS, published his best-selling history of the epidemic, “And the Band Played On.” Through interviews, he found the real name of the mysterious “Patient O,” for “outside California,” in a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linking 40 men with AIDS on two coasts.

Mr. Shilts never claimed that Mr. Dugas was the nation’s first case, but alarmist journalism during his book publicity tour created the image of a libertine who, as one headline screamed, “Gave Us AIDS.”

“The current study provides further evidence that patient 57, the individual identified both by the letter O and the number 0, was not patient zero of the North American epidemic,” said Richard McKay, historian and co-author of the study from the University of Cambridge, adding that the authors of the original study had already pointed out he was unlikely to be the source. He said a “trail of error and hype” had led to Dugas being branded with the “Patient Zero” title.

“Gaétan Dugas is one of the most demonised patients in history, and one of a long line of individuals and groups vilified in the belief that they somehow fuelled epidemics with malicious intent,” said McKay.

The revelation has caused medical experts to consider the ethics involved when patients identities are revealed. Is it right to hunt down the first case in any outbreak, to find every Patient Zero?

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/oct/26/patient-zero-gaetan-dugas-not-source-of-hivaids-outbreak-study-proves

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