Sunday, 30 December 2012

Bishop Gene Robinson is about to retire

The Right Reverend Gene Robinson, 9th bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire in the US Episcopal Church, was the first priest in an openly gay relationship to be ordained a bishop in a major Christian denomination. Although he was elected by the House of Bishops, with 62 in favour, 43 opposed and 2 abstaining, Robinson received hate mail and had to wear a bullet proof vest at his consecration ceremony on 2 November 2003. The ceremony was held in the presence of Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold and six co-consecrating bishops. 48 bishops in all attended the ceremony.

Bishop Robinson is set to officially retire on 5th January 2013, bringing an end to the career that helped break homophobic barriers within the Anglican church in the US. As he prepares for the next step in his life, Robinson says he's in awe of the rapid progress his religion has made in the nine years since he first became bishop.

Reported on Towleroad:

For more information about the Bishop:

UPDATE - 31 December 2012
Bishop Robinson reflects on his tenure in New Hampshire

Unsurprisingly, he was not the first bishop to love another man, though he was the first openly gay man to be elected as a bishop.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Ryan Grant Long's History of Gay Love

I found this through one of my Facebook 'likes' ( The link below takes you to the first of a series of pages on a calendar he created for his Master of Fine Arts thesis.

He gives his reasons for choosing the format on the first page and there are 15 images drawn from various periods and places. Some of the comments at the foot of the page are interesting, but I like the style and would say that the piece generates discussion of things that often get ignored - like 'if the concept of the "homosexual" comes from the late 19th century, were the men in the Sacred Band of Thebes homosexual or not?'

One of the interesting things about LGBT history, for me, is the use of language - and the ways in which that language changes and evolves over time.

Monday, 24 December 2012

A Seasonal Message...

With thanks to Polari Magazine

A Fantabulosa Reading from the Polari Bible
David Benson, with the spirit of Kenneth Williams upon him, reads from the Polari Bible of how the fairy Gabriel foretold the birth of the saviour, Josie Crystal.
Written by David Benson, Copyright © Polari Magazine

Previous posts about Polari: - There's a link to the Polari Bible at the foot of this post.

Sadly, I've never found readings for Hanukkah, Diwali, the Winter Solstice, Yule.... Hey ho.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

First openly gay judge to be appointed Chancellor of the UK's High Court

Lord Justice Terrence Etherton, the first senior judge to be in a civil partnership, has been appointed as Chancellor of the High Court, or head of the Chancery Division. The post is one of the most senior judicial roles in England and Wales.

He was called to the bar in 1974,  becoming a Queen's Counsel in 1990. He was appointed a High Court Judge on 11 January 2001 and assigned to the Chancery Division, receiving the customary knighthood. In August 2006, he was appointed Chairman of the Law Commission, the statutory independent body created to keep the law under review and to recommend reform where needed.

On 29 September 2008, he took the post of Lord Justice of Appeal and received the customary appointment to the Privy Council. On 20 December 2012, it was announced he had been appointed Chancellor of the High Court with effect from 11 January 2013.

For more information on Sir Terence:

Monday, 10 December 2012

Speaking LGBT Chinese

Traditional terms for homosexuality in Chinese included "the passion of the cut sleeve" and "the bitten peach". An example of the latter term appears in a 6th century poem by Liu Xiaozhuo:

     She dawdles, not daring to move closer,
     Afraid he might compare her with leftover peach.

There are many tales of the passion of male nobles for each other, which at the time was considered a time-honoured tradition. This pattern continued through succeeding dynasties, with times of greater and lesser tolerance. The relationships were often structured along age lines, though that does not seem to have been a requirement, as it was with the Greek and Japanese traditions.

In more recent times the historical and literary records are more complete, showing male love in other circles, such as among the scholars and among the common people.

In the province of Fujian especially, boy marriages were common. The older man would pay a bride price to the parents and take the boy to live with him for a number of years, until he was old enough to marry.

The tradition of male love survived until the early years of this century, when it succumbed to the general Westernisation of culture and morals. Presently, male love is frowned upon both in Communist China as well as in Taiwan and is considered a western import, and against traditional Chinese morals.

The characters top left mean "the passion of the cut sleeve" [duànxiù zhī pǐ]. Those above on the right mean "the bitten peach" [fēntáo].

It seems that the fear of new uses of established words to describe same sex desire is not restricted to English speakers. The compilers of the most recent edition of the Contemporary Chinese Dictionary have left out the gay usage of the Mandarin word ‘tongzhi’ (characters to the left). Used among Communists to mean ‘comrade’ but literally meaning "same will" or "same purpose", it has lately been adopted by Chinese gay people as a positive way to refer to each other. One of the dictionary compilers said that they did not want to encourage using the word in this way: ‘We know homosexuals call each other “tongzhi” but a normative dictionary won't include that meaning, no matter how the term has been informally used. We don't want to advocate or bring attention to such things.’

Other related items:
2400 Years of Homosexuality in China - thanks to Polari Magazine
Tu Er Shen, the god & safeguarder of homosexual affections

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The Jewel Box Revue

In 1939, a time when gay people were 'a threat to society', two lovers, Danny Brown and Doc Benner, created and produced America's first racially inclusive traveling revue of female impersonators. It was staffed almost entirely by gay men and one gay woman and was known as the Jewel Box Revue. In many ways, it was America's first gay community.

More detail in an article at The Huffington Post:

Other sources: - with broken image links

Monday, 3 December 2012

Christine Jorgensen

Sixty years ago this past weekend, Christine Jorgensen became one of the first people to be widely known to have undergone gender reassignment surgery.

The Christine Jorgensen site: - the site's introduction page has a clip of a press conference from when Christine returned to the US after her surgery in Denmark.

Other sources:

Earlier cases:
The earliest know male to female transition, including surgery, was that of Lili Elbe

The first female to male trans person to under phalloplasty was Dr Michael Dillon

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Today is World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day, observed on 1 December every year, is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection.

For the history of World AIDS Day:

What everyone should know about HIV:
An NAT (National AIDS Trust) website.

The GMFA (Gay Men Fighting AIDS) website is here:

The THT (Terrence Higgins trust) website:

Thursday, 15 November 2012

The gay Guinness ad that wasn't

In 1995, Guinness pretended that a gay themed ad didn't exist after the UK tabloid press got wind of it and reported it as 'wrong' and 'scandalous'. It was never shown.

Thanks to Gay Star News, you can now see this shocking piece of filth here:

Thursday, 8 November 2012

New Hampshire makes electoral history

Another historical result in the US elections was rather overshadowed by the votes for marriage equality and the election of the first out gay Senator.

New Hampshire voted in its first openly transgender lawmaker. Stacie Laughton (photo above) won one of three seats in the State House of Representatives.

Her candidate biography is here:

UPDATED 28 November 2012
I'm saddened to have to report that Stacie Laughton has now resigned following revelations that she had a criminal past, which included serving time in prison for fraud.

UPDATED 2 January 2013
Sadly, following a time of uncertainty, Stacie finally decided not totry again to gain this seat and will wait for the legal issues mentioned in this article to resolve themselves.

Additionally, I found out that Stu Rasmussen, the first openly transgender mayor in the US, was re-elected to fifth term.

UPDATED 9th November 2012
I found another relevant electoral first. California's Mark Takano is first openly gay person of colour to be elected to US Congress.

Blogpost on Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin's openly gay Sentaor:

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

First openly LGBT person to be elected to the US Senate

Tammy Baldwin's official Congressional portrait
Last night (6 November 2012), Tammy Baldwin became the first openly LGBT person to be elected to the US Senate, representing Wisconsin. She is also Wisconsin's first woman Senator.

You can see her victory speech here:

UPDATED 3 January 2013
Tammy Baldwin was sworn in to the Senate, becoming the  first openly gay US Senator

Interestingly, her successor in the Wisconsin State Congress, Mark Pocan is also openly gay. Another first, apparently.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Love letters

Published at the end of the 1990s, My Dear Boy is an anthology of gay love letters documenting the heartbreak and joy of love between men for almost 2000 years. The correspondents range from kings and aristocrats, musicians and artists, military men and monks, to farm labourers and herring merchants, political activists and aesthetes, black poets and Japanese actors, drag queens and hustlers.

The letters come from various sources. Some are from books published by their writers, while some were published in newspapers and pamphlets as part of political or religious attacks. Others come from court records (from the Inquisition to the Old Bailey) or were discovered in a cardboard box after a house clearance; many have narrowly escaped censorship and suppression.

The author, Rictor Norton, is an American historian based in the UK, who specialises in literary and cultural history and, more particularly, gay history.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

LGBT History Project meeting - 18 October 2012

I feel a bit guilty as I rarely report on our meetings, which I intended to when I started this blog. Bad Chris!

Today we met at the National Archives in Kew (, our most frequent venue.

We weren't researching, most of that is inhand for the 2013 edition of Past2Present; we were planning out how the magazine will be filled. Fingers crossed, we think we have some interesting stuff for you. Hope you can wait till February.

In addition, we've been working on a set of panels for a mobile exhibition on LGBT History and our work. Just starting but it already feels quite exciting to be doing something like that.

More meetings planned for later this year to help us finalise all that.

The 2013 Past2Present will be available online towards the end of next January, ready for LGBT History Month in February.

In the meantime, the previous editions are still available for download:

Monday, 8 October 2012

The 8 most important black LGBT heroes in history

Gay Star News has posted an article on black LGBT heroes, which it seems appropriate to use in October, which is Black History Month here in the UK, while in the US they are celebrating LGBT History Month.

The article includes Brits Linda Bellos and Justin Fashanu, both of whom were highlighted in the 2010 Edition of Past2Present (pages 37 and 44, respectively). You can download that edition of Past2Present here:

Other editions of Past2Present:

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Sir Frederick Leighton, Bt

Sir Frederic Leighton, Bt, (1830-1896) was an English painter and sculptor. His works depicted historical, biblical and classical subject matter. Leighton was bearer of the shortest-lived peerage in history; after only one day his hereditary peerage ended with his death.

While there is no black and white evidence to show that Leighton was attracted to men, his paintings and scultures give us some clues.

More on the 1st (and last) Baron Leighton here:,_1st_Baron_Leighton

The Advcoate's site has a slideshow of some of his work:

Sunday, 30 September 2012

A Lesbian Photo-History

These pictures document the changing times over 150 years, from what was in fashion in clothing to what society deemed as appropriate.

Curated by Marie Lyn Bernard, also known as Riese, the pictures show how the community has changed and evolved. These images were found by painstakingly looking through archives, websites, digital collections, and Tumblr sites alike.

The article on Autostraddle was the basis for a piece in The Mail On Sunday, of all newspapers!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

October is LGBT History Month in the US

After a prolonged break, due to unfortunately having to go on holiday for three weeks in France (holiday photos here: - if you like to look at other people's holiday photos, that is), I thought I'd ease myself back into the blog gently.

Next month is when our cousins in the US celebrate LGBT History Month. In February, when we celebrate LGBT History Month here, they're celebrating Black History Month. Confused? Me too.

This link will take you to a thoughtful piece on the Sun-Sentinel site, which explains quite succinctly why it's important to celebrate the various History Months:,0,484107.story

Other links: - NB: The rather pretty badges for 2013 are already on sale. - The US site. - LGBT History Month Scotland. - LGBT History Month Norfolk. - A US site. - Part of the Birtish Museum's site. - the UK LGBT History Project.

By the way:
The LGBT History Month Pre-Launch event this year will be held at Bletchley Park, home of the codebreakers, on Thursday 15th November (all day). More info from the UK LGBT History Month site.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Sister Boom Boom has died, aged 57

Sister Boom Boom, 1984
Jack Fertig, one of the first Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, died on the evening of 5th August of liver cancer, aged 57. He died at home with his partner, Elias Trevino, and other members of his family at his side.
Jack Fertig speaking at a 9/11 memorial in 2010.
(Photo: Rick Gerharter)
A detailed obituary appears in San Francisco's Bay Area Reporter: has a number of images tagged for Sister Boom Boom here:

A previous post on this blog:

The Sisters' website:
The websites for the London & Manchester Orders: - although it appears to be abandonned (and not in a good way)

UPDATE 11/11/13: However, the Manchester Sisters did manage to upload a Polari translation of the Bible, which is now available from here:

If that has peaked your curiosity about Polari, this recent post might help:

BTW - this is my
100th post
to the LGBT History Project Blog!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Go TeamLGBT!!!

GayStarNews reports today that 10 of the 23 out gay athletes in the London Olympics have won medals - with a haul that would place Team LGBT at no. 19 in the official rankings, ahead of countries like Spain, Brazil & Canada.

London 2012 Olympics: an LGBT legacy?

London bids to host the 2018 Gay Games/OutGames

More than 40 percent of the out LGBT athletes at the London Olympics took home medals, a better medal-winning percentage than Team USA

For information on LGBT sports in Europe:

The European Gay & Lesbian Sport Federation:

The 2011 and 2012 editions of Past2Present followed the LGBT History Month theme of Sport:
2011 -
2012 -

Saturday, 11 August 2012

US Army: Newly promoted Brigadier General is highest ranking serving officer to come out

Brig. Gen. Tammy Smith receives her stars from wife Tracey Hepner
"Army reserve officer Tammy Smith calls her recent promotion to brigadier general exciting and humbling, saying it gives her a chance to be a leader in advancing Army values and excellence.

What she glosses over is that along with the promotion she is also publicly acknowledging her sexuality for the first time, making her the first general officer to come out as gay while still serving. It comes less than a year after the end of the controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell” law.

“All of those facts are irrelevant,” she said. “I don’t think I need to be focused on that. What is relevant is upholding Army values and the responsibility this carries.”"

Updated 14 April 2013:
At the 6th annual gala of US workplace advocates Out & Equal on 25th April 2013, Brigadier General Tammy Smith will receive the organisation’s Advocacy Award.

For more about this, go to:

Thanks to Towle Road (the 'site with homosexual tendencies'!) for bringing this to my attention:

Friday, 10 August 2012

The Wellcome Library

Beth & I spent yesterday exploring the Wellcome Library to see what they had that would suit our researches for future editions of Past2Present. The 2012 edition is available for download from here:

We left about 7 hours (including a delicious lunch in the cafe) later, barely having scratched the surface. There is a wealth of information and material for us here.

There's also the image collection:
It's useful to note that images are available under creative commons license for non-commercial use.

Your Story - a look back at gay Manchester on Gaydio

A Gaydio item with Manchester locals talking about their experiences as LGBT people in Manchester as far as the 1960s. (Lasts 1hr 3mins.)


Tuesday, 7 August 2012

The Birth of Gay’s The Word

This link takes you to a piece on the Polari Magazine website by Ernest Hole, who set up one of my favourite bookshops in London (and probably the world, actually) Gay's The Word, in Marchmont Street, London WC1 (near Russell Square).

My association with the shop goes back to 1980, so not all that long after it first opened. I was only just out to myself at that point and remember walking hurriedly past the door on several occasions before I managed to go in.

It was there that I used to buy my copies of Gay News and where I still buy many of my LGBT-related books. Between about 2003 to 2008, I even managed to spend hundreds of pounds of the Department for Constitutional Affair's money to set up a resource library for the Rainbow Network (the department's support group for its LGBT staff) and its members and allies.

I still go there occasionally to check for the latest LGBT literature and non-fiction. It's a gay bibliophile's paradise.

The shop's website:

More information:

Choreographer Nigel Charnock has died

Nigel Charnock, the performer, director and choreographer and founder member of DV8, has died, aged 52, of stomach cancer. He is survived by his two older brothers, Andrew and Peter, and his partner, Luke Pell.

Here are a variety of articles celebrating his life and work:

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Polari, the secret gay language

Yesterday I found a link from a tweet that reminded me of one of my favourite presentations from those I used to do at work for LGBT History Month.

It's a piece from the Manchester Evening News (known also as 'MEN', which I rather like) about a new iphone app about Polari:

Polari, as you may well know, was a form of gay slang popular among gay men in the 1950s and 60s. It was important in those dark days, as it allowed gay men to talk to each other, usually about other gay men and their sex lives, without betraying the details to non-Polari speakers. For some reason, speaking Polari seems to encourage a certain campness (well, it does in me!), so I'm guessing it didn't totally hide that you were 'queer'.

As part of my work as the lead of the Rainbow Network (LGBT staff support group) at the Department for Constitutional Affairs (later part of the Ministry of Justice), I and a team of helpers used to run events for staff around the country to celebrate LGBT History Month. Several times I ran a workshop (1-2 hours, depending on the time/place/people) setting Polari in context and teaching a little. I even set them a mock 'GCSE' paper and gave them chance to practice their new language skills.

The workshop was always well received and the older participants sometimes talked about their own experience. When I ran it for Morden Council a few years ago, one of the participants told about a time when he had been crew on the QE2. One of the female passengers liked to dress up to the nines. One of the other waiters whispered behind her back, 'Vada the naff drag on her!' The woman turned to him and said, 'Nish the cackle, dear.' It turned out she'd run several hair salons with many gay men working for her; she knew some Polari. Oops!

Also, interestingly, quite a lot of the younger participants proved to be unaware that homosexuality had been criminalised until 1967 (when it was only partially decriminalised by the Sexual Offences Act 1967). They were really shocked, bless them.

I've attached links to some of the material I used and added a few more for interest:-

Updated 16 August 2012:
A piece aimed principally at the American audience.

UPDATED 6 August 2012:
Thanks to my friend Tony Booth, I found a couple of links on YouTube:
Kenneth discusses "Polari" talk on a chat show, then some clips of Julian & Sandy on Wogan in 1987 -
 - Sadly, this link no longer works.
A Julian & Sandy sketch, 'Bona Bookshop' -


The Polari bible:

Friday, 3 August 2012

Bristol's hidden history to be revealed

From the press release:

A Bristol community group is hot on the trail of the city's secret gay and lesbian history thanks to a grant of £20,300 from the Heritage Lottery Fund. OutStories Bristol, a not-for-profit community group, is working to track down the stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people in the city since the 1930s.  Now it wants more LGBT people in the city to come forward to tell its volunteers about their lives.

Until legal restrictions were eased in the late 1960s, the great majority of LGBT Bristolians had to be very discreet and many led double-lives. OutStories Bristol is training its volunteers to gather the tales, from the mundane to the outrageous, of LGBT people across the city. The stories they collect will feature in a major exhibition at the city's M Shed Museum in February 2013.

OutStories Bristol has already collected many fascinating stories via its volunteers and its website and Facebook group. These include:
  • The story of the woman who founded Bristol Gay Switchboard in 1975 when she realised the need for an information and help service. For over three years she ran the service from her Totterdown home before an office and dedicated phone line were set up.
  • The first person in Britain to complete female-to-male gender surgery.
  • Tales of the Radnor Hotel, probably Bristol's earliest gay pub.
Appealing for LGBT Bristolians of all ages to come forward with their stories, OutStories Bristol Co-Chair Andy Foyle said:

"This project is important because it's the hidden history of around ten percent of Bristol’s population.

"It’s vital people see that we didn't just pop out of the woodwork in the 'permissive 1960s'. We've been around a long time and our history says much about the changing attitudes of society in general.

"It's vital that we collect the stories of LGBT people, especially older ones whose adult lives spanned the years before 1967.

"But we also want the everyday stories and those that bring things up to date: your friend's civil partnership last year, the chap you worked with whom everyone accepted was gay; the lesbian couple who raised a family, and so on."

Commenting on the grant award, HLF’s acting Head of South West, Richard Bellamy said:
“Everyone has a story to tell about their life that is unique to them; that’s why we are so keen to support projects like the one that OutStories is running, which enable people who might have been hidden from history to have their voices heard. The story of the UK’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities has only begun to emerge in recent years, but it is providing a vital insight for present and future generations into the beliefs and attitudes of the past."

Whatever your sexual orientation or gender identity, if you have a story about Bristol's LGBT communities, OutStories want to hear from you. You can email or write to OutStories c/o LGBT Bristol, Create Centre, B Bond, Smeaton Road, Bristol BS1 6XN. Information will be treated in strict confidence.

For further information see and the OutStories Bristol Facebook page:

96 years ago today...

On 3rd August 1916, Sir Roger Casement was executed in Pentonville Prison, London. An Irish nationalist, he was convicted of treason.

There is still some controversy over his sexual orientation. Photographs of the 'Black Diaries', meant to be his own, were circulated shortly before his execution. Taken at face value, they show him as a promiscuous homosexual with a liking for yonger men. Given contemporary attitudes towards homosexuality, they would have greatly reduced public sympathy for him.

Whether the diaries are genuine or forgeries has been much debated. However, a detailed forensic investigation in 2002 concluded that the diaries had been written by Casement. The diaries were declassified for public inspection in August 1959 and may be seen at the  National Archives in Kew (

More information:

The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Crime Against Europe, by Roger Casement

Thanks to LGBT History Month (@LGBTHM) for the tweet that reminded me of this date.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Gore Vidal has died

Gore Vidal in 2009
Gore Vidal, American author, playwright, essayist, screenwriter, and political activist, died on 31 July aged 86 of complications from pneumonia.

He is known to have had affairs with both men and women. His third novel, The City and the Pillar (1948), outraged mainstream critics as one of the first major American novels to feature unambiguous homosexuality.

He was interviewed for The Celluloid Closet (a documentary, based on Vito Russo's book, surveying the various Hollywood screen depictions of homosexuals and the attitudes behind them throughout the history of North American film). He explained how in Ben-Hur (1958), for which he was an (uncredited) writer, he got the director to agree that a scene between Ben-Hur (played by Charlton Heston) and Massala (Stephen Boyd) should be played as if they were ex-lovers seeing each other for the first time in years. Needless to say, the somewhat right-wing Charlton Heston was not told of this; Stephen Boyd seems to have been happy to do it that way. With this knowledge, the scene takes on a new character entirely.

BTW, it may have helped with Stephen Boyd that he appears to have been gay. In February 2012 Raquel Welch said that Boyd had hinted to her that he 'preferred the company of men', when she showed interest in him during filming of Fantastic Voyage in 1966. Gore Vidal also mentioned that Boyd was gay in his 1995 book Palimpsest.

Added 7 November 2012:
"Just Lucky": An Interview with Gore Vidal

Added 16 August 2012:
The Legacy of Gore Vidal

Added 8 August 2012:
Gore Vidal and his approach to sexuality and gender by Michelangelo Signorile:

Added 7 August 2012:
From This Way Out, a series of LGBT podcasts, the 6 August 2012 edition included a feature on Gore Vidal:
More This Way Out podcasts available here:

Added 5 August 2012:
An article in The Observer by Rachel Cooke, telling of her close encounter with Gore Vidal in 2008:

Polari Magazine -
The Guardian -
More information:

Saturday, 28 July 2012

45th Anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967

28 July 2012 marks the 45th anniversary of the granting of Royal Assent to the Sexual Offences Act 1967. See Tim Bennett-Goodman's article on the impact on the gay community in England and Wales of this landmark piece of legislation:

About Leo Abse's role in decriminalisation (4th para of the section):

Arthur Gore, 8th Earl of Arran (1910-1983), was a Conservative whip in the House of Lords. He was the sponsor in the House of Lords of Leo Abse's bill, he also sponsored a bill for the protection of badgers. He was once asked why the badger bill had not received enough support to pass whereas decriminalising homosexuality had. "Not many badgers in the House of Lords," he replied.

If you're interested, you can see the original text  of the Act here: