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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The British Library’s gay secrets

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A scene from “My beautiful laundrette” | Oliver Stapleton | 17102

A new exhibition at the British Library, London, “Gay UK: Love, Law and Liberty” explores Britain’s evolving attitudes towards homosexuality. Original literary manuscripts and rare prints of newspapers and novels document the “transformation in society’s attitudes towards gay love and expression”.

A memo from the lord chamberlain’s office, dated October 1958, proposed marginally greater freedom for gay playwrights. “For some time the subject of homosexuality has been so widely debated, written about and talked about, that it is no longer justifiable to continue the strict exclusion of this subject from the stage. … I therefore propose to allow plays which make a serious and sincere attempt to deal with the subject.”

The exhibition includes a manifesto from the Gay Liberation Front, notebooks and journals from writers including Sarah Waters, Kenneth Williams and WH Auden, a never-before-seen annotated script by Hanif Kureishi for the Oscar-nominated film “My Beautiful Laundrette”, and the first edition of Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando”.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/01/british-library-explores-changing-attitudes-to-gay-love-in-exhibition


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John Hervey

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John Hervey was a key figure in 18th Century British Politics.

Born into aristoracy as the second Baron of Ickworth, he became a Member of Parliament for the Whig Party and held appointments including Lord Privy Seal.

His close friend Princess Caroline became Queen to King George II.

Hervey was bisexual, and had a wife who bore him eight children; he had several mistresses, but the love of his life was Stephen Fox.

The satirical poet Alexander Pope was jealous of Hervey’s friendship with a lady who had rejected him, and wrote a poem “Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot” in which he portrayed Hervey as Sporus, a young Roman who was castrated by Emperor Nero who then married him.

Pope’s poem became a template for putdowns of gay men, creating the stereotype of gay men being effeminate and camp.

A new book, “The Collected Verse of John, Lord Hervey” collects together for the first time Hervey’s own poetry, including this poem he wrote to Stephen Fox in 1731:

For not the Joy of Beauty’s open arms
Nor other friendships, nor Ambition’s charms
Defraud thy Empire of the smallest part
In this engross’d, this undivided Heart
You rule unshaken on that worthless Throne
My life the tenure, and the whole thy own.

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Cambridge University Press | 17083

The Rt Hon John Hervey, 2nd Baron Hervey PC, born on 13 October 1696 and died on 5 August 1743.


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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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Pheonix rises once more

Arizona State University Library archivist Nancy Godoy has been unearthing the treasures in the University’s collection of gay publications and memorabilia for a new exhibition.

On the cover of a newsletter dated Sept. 15, 1977, is a drag queen in full makeup, hair and dress, all gaping smile and wide eyes, white-gloved hand raised high above her head as if to throw all her cares away. The title of the periodical is “The Pride of Phoenix.” “When you think LGBT culture, you think this,” she says.

151 boxes of artifacts make up the BJ Bud Memorial Archives, which document the community’s history in Arizona from 1966 to 2015. She’ll be spreading awareness about the archives at this weekend’s Phoenix Pride Festival.

The boxes originally came from Hayden Library in Tempe, Arizona after being donated by The Valley of The Sun Gay and Lesbian Centre, and the archive is named after the late Harlene Bud, who founded the first Pheonix Gay Pride in the 1970s.

https://asunow.asu.edu/20170330-arizona-impact-asu-library-partners-phoenix-pride-preserve-lgbt-history-arizona

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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Gilbert Baker dies

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Gilbert Baker | Pride Winnipeg | 17063

Gilbert Baker, a San Francisco-based activist and artist best known for creating the rainbow flag representing gay rights, has died at the age of 65. He was living in New York.

Baker, who was born in Kansas in 1951, was stationed in San Francisco in the early 1970s while serving in the US Army, at the start of the gay rights movement.

According to the website biography Baker began making banners for gay rights and anti-war protests, often at the request of Harvey Milk, who would become the first openly gay man elected to public office in California when he won the 1977 race for a seat on the San Francisco board of supervisors.

Milk rode under the first rainbow flags made by Baker at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade in June 1978.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/31/gilbert-baker-rainbow-flag-inventor-gay-rights-dies


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London: Terence Rattigan and Wartime nookie

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Terence Rattigan | NNDB | 17061

Playwright Terence Rattigan’s greatest secret wasn’t his homosexuality, writes Robert Gore-Langton in The Spectator. It was his wartime service for his country: he was a tailgunner in the RAF.

After basic training, Rattigan was assigned as a wireless operator and airgunner to a squadron of Sunderlands, hunting enemy submarines in the Atlantic. One moment he was banking nice fat royalties from West End hits such as French Without Tears. Next thing he knew, he was patrolling the Atlantic on 13-hour missions.

His 1942 play Flare Path was written while on active service. He completed the first act during repairs after a Heinkel had shot up the tail end of his aircraft. Then, flying 1,200 miles on to West Africa, the starboard engine died. Luggage, loo seat and every fitting they could hack off with an axe went overboard in a desperate bid to stay aloft. Rattigan was about to sling his kitbag when he realised that his manuscript was in it. He ripped off the heavy cardboard covers but shoved the pages up his jacket.

The article goes on to lift a dust cover off life in London during the war. Actor Kenneth More, who appeared in many war period films, always thought that his best job in the theatre was being a stage hand among the nude girls at the Windmill Theatre. Instead of hunting enemy submarines, as he did in the navy, More used a peephole to scan men in the stalls who had newspapers concealing their laps and relayed their position. He’d whisper, ‘Wanker, Daily Mail, C17.’ Offenders would then be ejected.

https://www.spectator.co.uk/2017/03/terence-rattigans-greatest-secret-wasnt-his-homosexuality/


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Anne Lister

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Anne Lister’s portrait | Calderdale Cultural Services | 17055

The life of Anne Lister is being dramatised by the BBC and HBO networks.

Anne Lister was born on 3rd April, 1791 and was educated at home, in Ripon and in York. She lived in the 15th century Shibden Hall near Halifax, Yorkshire, now a listed property.

In 1806 she began a diary of her life, which she wrote in code using zodiac signs, punctuation marks and mathematical symbols; the diary, which amounts to more than four million words, detailed her social and sexual life as well as local events during her life and provides a unique insight into life in the district during the late Georgian and early Victorian periods.

She was privileged to be a wealthy land owner who could afford to go travelling and mountain climbing.

Her neighbours called her “Gentleman Jack” while her lovers called her Fred.

She died in 1840 aged 49 from a fever which she caught from an insect sting while travelling in Russia with her partner Ann Walker. The pair even got married, but it was not legally recognised.

Her diaries were decrypted after she died by relatives, who had the diaries – number of quarto volumes – hidden behind a panel in Shibden Hall, and they were rediscovered in the 1980s and published as “Anne Lister’s Secret Diaries for 1817”. The diaries were added to the register UNESCO Memory of the World Programme.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/0/meet-britains-first-modern-lesbian-scandalous-life-anne-lister/

http://www.examiner.co.uk/whats-on/sally-wainwright-write-new-yorkshire-12698139


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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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