Monthly Archives: August 2019

Gay History: Gay Marriage: What Would Buddha Do?

As a gay Buddhist, and someone who has a lot of respect for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, I often have his sometimes controversial/sometimes contradictory comments on gays and gay marriage, thorn at me. It’s a difficult question, I know…how can I support someone who seems to be non-supportive if gays within the Buddhist community, yet support gay issues for non-Buddhists. I personally consider the Dalai Lama as a great man, capable of great compassion and understanding. I also know he is the head of a traditional Tibetan sect of Buddhism called the Gelug sect, and as such has his moral teachings within the beliefs of that sect. I would like to think that being the intelligent and loving man that he is, that these questions are something he has to often contemplate, and try to understand within an old tradition that has to live in the modern world. Buddhism is not just one sect, but many different sects all following diverse interpretations of the Buddha’s teachings. As such, there are conservative and liberal strands of Buddhism, so beliefs are not universal. The Dalai Lama is but the leader of one sect, and only speaks for that sect. I choose not to judge him to harshly! Om mani padme hum 📿🏳️‍🌈

A lot of people ask me what the “Buddhist take” on gay marriage is. Well, it depends on who you talk to. A few years back, in an interview with the CBC, the Dalai Lama rejected same-sex relationships to the surprise of many convert Buddhists, who sometimes too easily assume that Buddhist ethics are consistent with their typically progressive views.

As the Canadian interview bounced around the internet, some people were shocked and perplexed, but the Dalai Lama’s position shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the issue. After all, he has been consistent. At a conference some 12 years ago, when gay leaders met with him in San Francisco to discuss the Tibetan Buddhist proscriptions against gay sex, he reiterated the traditional view that gay sex was “sexual misconduct.” This view was based on restrictions found in Tibetan texts that he could not and would not change. He did, however, advise gay Buddhist leaders to investigate further, discuss the issue, and suggested that change might come through some sort of theological consensus. But at a time when same-sex marriage has taken front-stage center in American politics, the Dalai Lama’s more recent statements come as unwelcome news to proponents of civil rights.

A lot of people ask me what the “Buddhist take” on gay marriage is. Well, it depends on who you talk to. A few years back, in an interview with the CBC, the Dalai Lama rejected same-sex relationships to the surprise of many convert Buddhists, who sometimes too easily assume that Buddhist ethics are consistent with their typically progressive views.

As the Canadian interview bounced around the internet, some people were shocked and perplexed, but the Dalai Lama’s position shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the issue. After all, he has been consistent. At a conference some 12 years ago, when gay leaders met with him in San Francisco to discuss the Tibetan Buddhist proscriptions against gay sex, he reiterated the traditional view that gay sex was “sexual misconduct.” This view was based on restrictions found in Tibetan texts that he could not and would not change. He did, however, advise gay Buddhist leaders to investigate further, discuss the issue, and suggested that change might come through some sort of theological consensus. But at a time when same-sex marriage has taken front-stage center in American politics, the Dalai Lama’s more recent statements come as unwelcome news to proponents of civil rights.

Friends of mine have argued that the Dalai Lama doesn’t really look askance same-sex relationships, that he has no choice but to uphold his tradition’s dictates; and that maybe the Dalai Lama is just stuck with the old texts’ proscriptions in the same way that a Catholic, say, must deal with Thomas Aquinas. Of course, we can’t know and must take his public statements at face value. In his case, though, our expectations tend to be different than they might be for the local minister, priest or orthodox rabbi. And so many of us who have benefited greatly from his teachings are apt to feel disappointed.

References

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Gay History: The Raid On The Rainbow Lounge – Fort Worth, Texas, 28th June 2009

The Rainbow Lounge raid occurred in the early morning hours of June 28, 2009, at the Rainbow Lounge, a newly opened gay bar in Fort Worth, Texas.[1] The raid was carried out by members of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) and the Fort Worth Police Department.[2] Several customers were arrested for public intoxication and one customer, Chad Gibson, received a severe head and brain injury while in custody. The police also claimed the customers made sexual advances and contact with them. Other customers were detained and later released without arrest.[3]

In response to this incident, several of the witnesses in the bar that evening, including Todd Camp, the artistic director of the local gay and lesbian film festival, began a grassroots awareness campaign with the launch of the informational Facebook page “Rainbow Lounge Raid.” Over the next several weeks, the page’s membership grew to nearly 15,000. Several local organizers planned a protest on the steps of the Tarrant County Courthouse the next afternoon. The Dallas-based LGBT rights group Queer Liberaction organized a candlelight vigil for the victim, a Milk Box event, and a later more formal protest.

It has been of particular interest to the media that the raid took place on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a notable raid of a gay bar which prompted the modern gay rights movement.[2] The address of the club, 651 South Jennings Avenue, is a classic location of gay bars in Fort Worth.[4]

Todd Camp, Journalist & Patron of the Rainbow Lounge the Night it Was Raided on June

At the City of Fort Worth’s first council meeting since the Rainbow Lounge Raid, and after an attendee of the meeting called out for an apology, the Mayor apologized for the events at the Rainbow Lounge.[5] The next day after the apology was reported nationally and internationally, the Mayor said the apology was taken out of context and that he was referring to the injury not the actual raid.[6]

The Rainbow Lounge in Ft. Worth, Texas

As a result of the raid, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission fired 3 individuals and disciplined two others.[7][8] The agency also completed some previously scheduled changes including increased cultural diversity training.[9]

A separate “Use of Force” investigation determined that two charges: (a) “that the Rainbow Lounge was targeted for being a gay bar”, and (b) that TABC officers “used force beyond what was necessary and reasonable”, were both unfounded.[10] However, TABC Administrator Alan Steen announced that “TABC’s five regional Educational Liaisons are being re-named Community Liaisons, and will be tasked with reaching out to diverse community groups including GLBT organizations as well as associations representing racial, ethnic and religious minorities.”[10] Steen also appointed TABC’s Director of Communications and Governmental Relations as the agency’s liaison to the GLBT community “in an effort to improve communication around the state.”[10]

Raid at a Club in Texas Leaves a Man in the Hospital and Gay Advocates Angry

The Rev. Carol West and Brian Nesbitt at a candlelight vigil on Wednesday outside the Rainbow Lounge in Fort Worth. Credit John F. Rhodes/Dallas Morning News

FORT WORTH — The grand opening sign still hangs above the door of the Rainbow Lounge, but the recently opened dance club has already become a rallying point for gay men and lesbians here, after a raid by law enforcement last week left one man hospitalized with a head injury and prompted complaints of brutality.

The raid in the early hours of June 28 by Fort Worth police officers and agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has set off a political uproar and galvanized gay advocates in Fort Worth, who have traditionally been less vocal than in Dallas and Houston. After years of keeping a low profile, gay men and lesbians in Fort Worth say they are furious, and their complaints have spread on the Internet, attracting support from gay rights groups across the country.

They have organized protests and formed a new organization, Fairness Fort Worth, to keep track of various investigations into the incident that have begun or been requested. They also have taken up collections and organized a benefit concert to help the injured.

“It has brought this community together so tight — it’s almost impermeable now,” said Randy Norman, the manager of the lounge.

The incident has drawn even more attention because of its timing; it came on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riot in New York City, widely considered to be the start of the gay rights movement.

Law enforcement officials have begun an investigation into the accusations of brutality, and internal affairs officers from the state liquor authority were interviewing employees of the club on Friday afternoon, sifting through conflicting accounts of what had happened.

Fort Worth’s police chief, Jeffrey W. Halstead, initially stood behind his officers, saying Monday that patrons had provoked the scuffle by making sexual gestures toward officers.

But as the week went on, Chief Halstead backed away from that stance. By Thursday, he had ordered an inquiry, suspended operations with the state beverage commission and promised to give police officers “multicultural training.” He declined a request for an interview.

“Make no mistake, if our officers acted in error, this department will address the problem,” Chief Halstead said in an open letter to the community posted on the city’s Web site on Thursday. Chief Halstead said the state agents, not his officers, had been the ones who had taken the hospitalized man into custody.

Alan Steen, the administrator of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, has put two officers involved in the raid on desk duty and said an inquiry would be conducted.

Several witnesses said six police officers and two liquor control agents used excessive force as they arrested people during the raid.

Chad Gibson, a 26-year-old computer technician from Euless, about 15 miles northeast of Fort Worth, suffered a concussion, a hairline fracture to his skull and internal bleeding after officers slammed his head into a wall and then into the floor, witnesses and family members said. Mr. Gibson was still hospitalized on Friday evening as doctors monitored a blood clot in his brain, his mother, Karen Carter, said.

Another patron suffered broken ribs, and a third had a broken thumb, said Todd Camp, the founder and artistic director of Q. Cinema, a gay film festival in Fort Worth. Mr. Camp, a former journalist, said he was celebrating his 43rd birthday in the bar when the police arrived at 1:05 a.m.

The officers entered the bar without announcing themselves, witnesses said. Earlier in the night, they had visited two other bars looking for violations of alcohol compliance laws. Those bars do not cater to gay patrons, and the officers had made nine arrests at those establishments on public intoxication charges, officials said.

“They were hyped up,” Mr. Camp said of the officers in the Rainbow Lounge raid. “They came in charged and ready for a fight. They were just telling people they were drunk or asking them if they were drunk, and, if they mouthed off, arresting them.”

More than 20 people were taken out of the bar for questioning, handcuffed with plastic ties and, in some cases, were forced to lie face down in the parking lot, witnesses said. Five were eventually booked on charges of public drunkenness, the police said.

In a statement released Sunday, the police said that two of those arrested had made “sexually explicit movements” toward the officers. Another was arrested after he grabbed a state agent’s groin, the statement said.

Several witnesses dispute that account, saying they had not seen anyone harass the officers. So many questions have been raised about the police account that on Friday afternoon, Mayor Mike Moncrief asked the United States attorney for the Northern District of Texas, James T. Jacks, to review the Police Department’s investigation.

Tom Anable, a 55-year-old accountant who said he was in the bar during the raid, said that for more than a half-hour the officers entered the bar repeatedly in groups of three and escorted people out. Then around 1:40 a.m., he said, the officers started to get rougher, throwing one young man down hard on a pool table.

Minutes later, one of the state agents approached Mr. Gibson, who was standing on steps to a lounge at the back of the bar with a bottle of water in his hands, and tapped him on the shoulder, Mr. Anable said. Mr. Gibson turned and said, “Why?”

Then the officer, who has not been identified, twisted Mr. Gibson’s right arm behind his back, grabbed his neck, swung him off the steps and slammed his head into the wall of a hallway leading to the restrooms, Mr. Anable said. The agent then forced Mr. Gibson to the floor, Mr. Anable said.

“Gibson didn’t touch the officer,” Mr. Anable said. “He didn’t grope him.”

Two police officers and a second state agent arrived and helped subdue Mr. Gibson, kneeling on his back. A lounge employee, Lindsey Thompson, 23, said she saw an officer slam Mr. Gibson’s head into the floor while he was prone with his hands cuffed behind him.

The raid prompted swift action. Hours later, more than 100 people were protesting on the steps of the Tarrant County Courthouse. As the week went on, calls for an independent investigation grew, with a state senator, a group of local business leaders and two churches joining the chorus.

Yet some gay residents said the outcry had been loud in part because what happened at Rainbow Lounge was uncharacteristic for this city of 750,000 people. “This has been unnerving, I know, to a lot of people in Fort Worth because it’s not the Fort Worth we know,” said Joel Burns, a gay member of the City Council. “There is a lot of scratching of people’s heads.”

Kathleen Hicks, a council member who represents the neighborhood where the bar is located, said the accusations of police brutality have rattled the city government and warrant an independent investigation. She added that she had heard no complaints about the bar before the raid.

“It has caused a lot of soul searching within City Hall and beyond,” Ms. Hicks said. “Fort Worth has been able to move quietly along and avoid all the tension and strife that you have seen in other cities, but sometimes you need to have tension and strife. I hope that this will be a wake-up call.”

References

1 Huffstutter, P.J. (2009-07-06). “Police raid at gay club in Texas stirs ugly memories”. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-07-06.

2 ^ a b McKinley, James (July 4, 2009). “Raid at Club in Texas Leaves Man in Hospital and Gay Advocates Angry”. New York Times. Retrieved 2009-07-04.

3 ^ “Man injured during Rainbow Lounge raid in Fort Worth speaks out”. Dallas Morning News. 2009-07-06. Retrieved 2009-07-06.

4 ^ “Erect-a-Set”. Fort Worth Weekly. May 4, 2005. Retrieved 2009-07-15.

5 ^ Associated Press via the Los Angeles Times: Fort Worth mayor apologizes for gay bar raid

6 ^ Associated Press: Fort Worth mayor says apology for injury, not raid; Accessed: 18 July 2009;

7 ^ First Rainbow Lounge Investigation Report Complete Press release of August 6, 2009, TABC Website. Accessed 1 June 2010.

8 ^ TABC Chief Moreno Takes Action Following Rainbow Lounge Investigation Press release of August 28, 2009, TABC Website. Accessed 1 June 2010.

9 ^ Brown, Angela K., Texas liquor board fires 3 over gay bar raid, Houston Chronicle/Associated Press, 2009-04-28

10 ^ a b c Rainbow Lounge Use of Force Report Complete – Agency Announces Further Operational Changes Press release of November 5, 2009, TABC Website. Retrieved 1 June 2010.

11 ^ [1] Raid of the Rainbow Lounge, IMDB. Accessed May 11, 2012.

12 ^ First Rainbow Lounge Police Raid On Fort Worth’S Rainbow Lounge the Subject of New Documentary Article released February 29, 2012, TowleRoad Website. Accessed March 1, 2012.

13 ^ Raid of the Rainbow Lounge: Official Trailer Trailer posted February 21, 2012. Accessed March 1, 2012.

Gay History:, 25 Violent Attacks at Gay Bars That Preceded Orlando’s Horrific Nightclub Massacre

This litany of gay hate, murder and violence goes on everywhere in the world. Here in Australia alone there are, in Sydney, about 80 unsolved gay murders from the 80s alone. It is not a pleasant subject, but it’s a reality, and whether we like it or not, like war, it is part of our history. This article only goes up to June 2016 – it would be frightening to know the further extent of this awful violence since that date. It is a constant reminder to us that even in what we consider gay-safe spaces…we are not safe!

When a radiant President Obama declared June LGBTQ Pride month, he told the American people that “despite the extraordinary progress of the past few years, LGBT Americans still face discrimination simply for being who they are.” Nobody could have imagined how that statement would take on a tragic enormity just days later.

Sunday, Obama addressed the American LGBTQ community and the rest of the nation again to talk about the worst mass shooting in our history. He talked about the unthinkable contrast of the horror that happened in the early hours of Sunday morning in Orlando: “The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub — it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights.”

Less than two weeks before the country prepares to celebrate one year of marriage equality, the sight of two men kissing on the street is terrifying enough to someone that a hatred-fueled massacre we experienced at the Pulse in Orlando can be the result.

Unfortunately, Orlando is hardly the first major deadly attack against an LGBT bar or landmark.

Photo credit: GlobalGayz/Facebook

Until today, the deadliest attack had been in New Orleans, over 40 years ago. On the week when the LGBT community celebrated its fourth Gay Pride — four years after Stonewall —  an arsonist set fire to the Upstairs Lounge at the French Quarter, killing 32 people on June 24, 1973. No suspect was ever charged.

On Nov. 18, 1980 a man named Ronald K. Crumpley opened fire outside the Ramrod bar in Greenwich Village in New York City. He said he believed gay men were agents of the devil, stalking him and ”trying to steal my soul just by looking at me.” His father, a minister, said in his testimony that Crumpley maybe had a ”a homosexual problem himself.”

On April 28, 1990 at Uncle Charlie’s, another gay bar in Greenwich Village in Manhattan, three men were injured in an explosion possibly caused by a pipe bomb.  The police didn’t immediately arrest anyone for the crime. Five years later, federal prosecutors accused El Sayyid A. Nosair for bombing Uncle Charlie’s, planning to blow up New York City landmarks and killing a rabbi in 1990. They said Nosair, a muslim, attacked the bar because he objected to homosexuality on religious grounds according to report from the New York Times. In 1996, he was convicted of planning to wage a “war of urban terrorism” and was sentenced to life in prison.

Jon Christopher Buice is serving a 45-year sentence for the killing of Paul Broussard in Houston, Texas on July 4, 1991. Buice and nine of his friends tried go into several bars in a gay area of Montrose, but they were refused entry. They then attacked Buice and two other friends with nail-studded wooden planks, a knife, and steel-toed boots outside Heaven, a gay bar in the city’s heavily LGBT Montrose district.

On Feb. 21, 1997 a nail-laden device exploded at the Otherside Lounge, a lesbian nightclub in Atlanta. Five people were wounded. Eric Rudoplh confessed to the Otherside Lounge bombing, as well as the Atlanta Olympics bombings, and abortion clinics in Atlanta and Birmingham. “Homosexuality is an aberrant sexual behavior,” he wrote in a statement. “Like other humans suffering from various disabilities homosexuals should not attempt to infect the rest of society with their particular illness.”

Two people were killed and 81 were injured after a bomb exploded in a gay bar in London’s Soho, on April 30, 1999. The blast happened at the busy Admiral Duncan pub in the center of London’s very gay neighborhood at the start of a holiday weekend. Just like the Orlando tragedy, the attack happened in a place where people go to socialize and escape. Peter Tatchell, spokesman for the gay rights group OutRage!, said: “A lot of gay people saw the Old Compton Street area as a safe haven.They felt able to relax and hold hands without fear of attack. This outrage has destroyed that cosy assumption.”

In Roanoke, Virginia on Sept. 22, 2000, a man called Ronald Gay asked directions to a gay bar so he could “shoot some people.” He then walked calmly into the Backstreet Cafe on a Friday night, ordered a beer, and  opened fire. He killed one person and injured six. Gay told police he didn’t like being called Gay. He also said it was his mission to make all gays move to San Francisco, which he thought would end AIDS. “He said he was shooting people to get rid of, in his words, ‘faggots,’” Lieutenant William Althoff of the Roanoke police was quoted as saying. He was sentenced to four life terms.

18-year-old Jacob D. Robida walked into a bar in New Bedford, Massachusetts in the evening of February 2, 2006. He asked the bartender if he was at a gay bar, ordered a couple of beers, and moved to the back of the bar, watching a game of pool briefly before taking out a hatchet — a small ax the size of a hammer. The bartender told CNN the man “started swinging the hatchet on top of this customer’s head”. He also struck a second patron with the hatchet, pulled out a gun and shot the first victim in the face and the second twice in the head, Phillip said. A third person also was shot in the abdomen. He killed himself three days later.

At the San Diego Gay Pride festival in July 30, 2006, six men were attacked with baseball bats and knives after leaving the Pride festival. The attackers used anti-gay slurs as they beat the victims. One almost died. Four men pleaded guilty in connection with the attacks and received prison sentences from two years and 11 months to 11 years.

20-year-old Sean William Kennedy was walking to his car outside Brew’s Bar in Greenville, South Carolina on May 16, 2007 when a car approached him. A young man got out, called him a faggot and punched him in the face so hard that caused his brain to disconnect from his brain stem.The killer, 19-year-old Stephen Moller, left the scene and let Kennedy die from his injury. He was sentenced to five years for involuntary manslaughter, but his sentence was reduced to three, because he was father. His mother said he later “left a message on one of the girl’s phones who knew Sean, saying, ‘You tell your faggot friend that when he wakes up he owes me $500 for my ‘broken hand!’”

Osvan Inácio dos Santos was leaving a gay bar in Arapicara a small city in the Alagoas, Northeast of Brazil with a group of friends, after he won a local ‘Miss Gay’ competition on Sept. 15, 2007. On the way home, he got separated from the group. They tried contacting him, but he didn’t answer. His body was found a day later. He’d been raped and beaten to death. Tedy Marques, president of the Alagoas Gay Group, said that “Homophobia is one of the worst problems Brazil faces. It is unacceptable that every other day in our country a homosexual is brutally murdered.”

Lance Neve was with his boyfriend and another friend at Snuggery’s Bar in Spencerport, New York on March 7, 2008 when a man named Jesse D. Parsons approached the group. He said he wanted to shake Neve’s hand because he had never shaken a gay man’s hand before, but Neve refused. Parsons then beat him up and left him unconscious. He was transported to an area hospital, where he was treated for a fractured skull, nose, left eye socket and upper jaw bone and blood on the brain. During his hearing, he told the court that “while he didn’t mean to hurt Neve as badly as he did, Neve deserved it.” He was sentenced to five years and a half in jail, and was ordered to pay $24,000 for Neve’s medical expenses.  

Tony Randolph Hunter, was beaten outside the Be Bar Nightclub in Washington DC by 19-year-old Robert Hannah. He later died from the injuries on September 7, 2008. Hannah was sentenced to 6 months in jail and ordered to pay $50 in court costs. 

On March 1, 2009, three friends threw concrete blocks at patrons inside Robert’s Lafitte Bar, in Galveston, Texas injuring two men. One of the victims, Marc Bosaw, required 12 staples in his head. One of the three suspects later told police their intent was to target homosexuals, said Galveston Police Department Lt.D.J. Alvarez. The trio also hurled homophobic insults, authorities said.

On April 11, 2009 Justin Goodwin was attacked at a bar in Gloucester, Massachusetts by as many as five people, who were using anti-gay remarks. The bashing left him blind in one eye, and deaf in one year. He committed suicide two years later.

On August 29, 2009 a shooting took place at a LGBT youth center in Tel Aviv. Two people died, 15 were injured. Most of them minors. A man named Hagai Feliciano was indicted for murder and a hate crime in 2013, but the charges were dropped in 2014. While not technically a bar, it is the equivalent for LGBT youth – a place of sanctuary and empowerment.

In New York City, a man named Frederick Giunta was charged and arrested on October 17, 2010 for allegedly attacking and assaulting people in two bars in Greenwich Village: Ty’s Bar on Christopher Street and nearby Julius Bar on W 10th St hurling anti-gay remarks. According to NYPD officials, Giunta has a history of committing crimes by targeting men at gay bars. The attack happened two weeks before the NYPD arrested two men on charges they attacked a patron inside the bathroom at Stonewall Inn. 

In October of 2010, two men were arrested after attacking a man in the bathroom at the iconic Stonewall Inn in New York City. The suspects reportedly told the man, “We don’t like gay bars, and we don’t piss next to faggots” before the assault began. He later refused to apologize to the victim, because he has no regrets. “I’m not going to say sorry, because I don’t know what I should be sorry for,” said Francis, who also insisted he’s not a homophobe. “I don’t hate gay people. I don’t hate anybody.”

On October 25, 2011 a man sprayed 21-year-old Russel Banks with liquid fuel and threw a lit match at him at the Rainbow and Dove gay bar in Leicester City, England. Banks suffered third degree burns to 20 percent of his body.

On the first minutes of New Year’s Day, 2014 a man named Musab Masmari poured gasoline in a stairway to the balcony at the Neighbours Nightclub in Seattle, where 750 had gone to celebrate the New Year. An unidentified informant told the FBI that, in the numerous conversations after their first meeting, Masmari often expressed a “distaste for homosexual people,” and that Masmari “opined that homosexuals should be exterminated.” He was arrested a month later, and sentenced for 10 years in prison.

On June 1, 2014 two friends were killed after they left R Place, a gay club in Seattle. Ali Muhammad Brown confessed to the killings. He contacted the men via a hook-up app like Grindr, met them after they left  the club and then shot them multiple times and killed them. Brown told the police the murders were a “bloody crusade” to punish the U.S. government for its foreign policies.

After months of violent anti-gay attacks, Central Station, Russia’s largest  gay club closed its doors on March 27, 2014. The club was considered one of the only symbols of freedom for Russian’s LGBT community.

On October 1, 2014 a man named Wayne Odegard shot a man at the Salon, a popular gay bar in Minneapolis. He was passing by the bar when he saw two men kissing. He grabbed his gun, yelled “f**cking faggots,” and shot at them, injuring one. Odgegard admitted to police he said ‘faggots’ before the shooting, and said that seeing men kissing pisses him off.” He also recited a passage from Deuteronomy. 

On March 22, 2016 a transgender woman was sexually violated inside a bathroom at the Stonewall Inn. According to the NYPD, she said that a man came into the bathroom claiming he only needed to wash his hands, but then proceeded to grope and rape her. 

On April 8, 2016, an employee of a popular West Hollywood gay bar was attacked as he left the bar walking towards his car on an apparent hate crime. The person who attacked him took his wallet, but never used his credit card.

A few hours after the Pulse massacre in Orlando, on the West Coast the LAPD might have stopped another tragedy before it happened. 20-year-old Wesley Howell, a man from Indiana, was arrested on his way to attend the LA Pride festival, allegedly with an arsenal of weapons. Officials found him in a car with three assault rifles, high-capacity magazines, ammunition and a 5-gallon bucket with chemicals that could be used to create an explosive device.

These attacks should remind us all that we must remain vigilant while there are still people out there who remain so threatened by the sight of two men having a simple kiss that they will resort to violence to stop it.

References

Gay History: A Short History of the British Gay Bar

As LGBT spaces continue to close down, we look at where they started.

PHOTO: TRADE

There’s been a lot of talk about the demise of the British gay bar. Of how queer spaces are disappearing or seriously under threat. And that’s because they are: in London alone, a string of iconic and important gay venues have closed over the past few years. So today, on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, it’s important to take stock of their importance and what more we stand to lose.

The best way of doing that? A history lesson.

There’s not a huge amount known about queer spaces in London before the 1700s; a combination of poor documentation and the need for the upmost levels of secrecy means historians know very little about where exactly those looking for same-sex contact would have flocked. The first gay cruising grounds and gay brothels are likely to have appeared towards the middle of the 17th century, but evidence is limited.

It was only in 18th century London that the first well-documented queer spaces started appearing, with “molly houses” the place to head if you were looking for a gay old time. Probably deriving their name from the slang for a homosexual male, these were havens for those looking for same-sex interactions in a society where sodomy was still punishable by death. Molly houses were spaces for female mimicry; mock marriages and births; of singing, of community and of sex. Most were brothels, but others simply places to fuck in relative peace. Some were housed in coffee houses and pubs, others in private residences.

Areas associated with high levels of crime and prostitution became homes for the molly house. According to historian Rictor Norton, these included the “markets” in the Royal Exchange, Moorfields, Lincoln’s Inn, the south side of St James’s Park and the piazzas of Covent Garden.

Mother Clap’s Molly House in Holborn – run by Margaret Clap between 1724 and 1726 – is perhaps the most notorious. Sunday nights were busiest – Mother Clap would have upwards of 40 guys in attendance – and, according to some accounts, until the place was raided in 1726 she ran the club for pleasure, not profit. When police did eventually bust their way inside, some 40 people were arrested, three of whom – Gabriel Lawrence, William Griffin and Thomas Wright – were hanged for their sexual “crimes”.

The raiding of the White Swan on Vere Street in 1810 was another significant example of a queer venue being attacked; it was here that the Reverend John Church – often claimed to have been the first openly gay minister in England –– is alleged to have conducted same-sex marriages.

Raids continued into the 19th century, although little is known about queer spaces during this time as the culture was pushed even further underground. Reports from the time show that entrapment was common, and that gay men were murdered for engaging in same-sex relations until the death penalty for buggery was abolished in 1861.

It wasn’t until 1912 that Britain saw its first “gay bar”, as we know it today, open its doors. The Cave of the Golden Calf may have only served customers for two short years, but in that time it developed a notorious reputation among the capital’s wealthy aristocrats and bohemians. Same-sex intimacy was tolerated as cabaret, dancing and drinking continued until dawn. To be gay was seemingly acceptable in this circle of the chattering class, if you could afford the door fee.

The infamous Caravan Club opened up in the 1930s, as did the Gateways Club on Kings Road – the first recognised lesbian bar in the capital, which kept its doors open until 1985.

In less privileged corners of society, clubs and bars still existed, but in a more subtle, transient way. According to historian Matt Houlbrook in his book Queer London, from pubs by the docks to bars in the city centre, at a certain time in the evening, if you knew where to head, you’d have witnessed a queer clientele quietly gathering. Lady Malcolm’s Servants’ Ball, for instance, was a notorious party on London’s queer scene in the 1920s and 1930s – a mecca for working class queers for whom high society was far out of reach.

THE COLEHERNE ARMS IN EARLS COURT, WHICH BECAME THE UK’S FIRST LEATHER BAR. PHOTO: CHARLIE DVAE, VIA

As homosexuality slowly became more socially acceptable, north of the River Thames gay bars for the white cis male section of the queer community were continuing to appear; Earls Court, Camden Town and Notting Hill saw a particular surge. Meanwhile, on the other side of the river, queers were also creating spaces. While in the 1970s squats provided space for same-sex relations, underground and illicit bars were also popping up in working class corners of the capital.

“Shebeens” were illegal bars predominantly frequented by Afro-Caribbean people, transvestites, sex workers and queers; those perceived, at the time, to be at the bottom rung of society. One of the most notorious was on Railton Road in Brixton, managed by black artist Pearl Alcock, who provided a place for socialising and public sex (well, behind the station and in the public toilets round the corner).

Historian Mathew Cook notes a distinction between the squatting Brixton gays and the “straight gay scene” in the centre of the city in the 1970s – parallels with which can be seen today in Soho’s white, macho venues and the queer(er) spaces further east, in Haggerston and Dalston.

By the 1990s it was Soho that had established itself as the centre of London’s gay scene; after homosexuality was decriminalised in 1967 – 50 years ago this year – bars, clubs, saunas and other venues were able to exist openly and in relative peace. Scenes changed, as did the drinks and drugs being taken, but the gay bar flourished in its current form.

A short film about Haggerston drag bar, The Glory

In the past decade, however, queer venues have started disappearing – not because cops have been breaking down doors to raid them, but because with skyrocketing rents, wages stagnating and the proliferation of hook-up apps like Grindr, it seems gay bars and clubs in their most recent incarnation may no longer be a going concern. The closure of London’s infamous gay club Trade back in 2008, after 18 years on the scene, marked the end of those heady pill-popping years.

Nowadays you’ll still find the odd gay bar in most corners of the city – from the macho-men at Clapham’s Two Brewers to the nautical-themed sauna in Limehouse. Look further east and you’ll find a younger, more diverse crowd. While last month Molly Moggs – a Soho gay bar – was the latest central London space to shut up shop, over in Hackney The Glory – London’s hottest drag bar, which, full disclosure, I made the above film about – recently celebrated its second birthday.

So sure: the future of the queer bar is hardly clear. But if history teaches us anything it’s that something new and subversive will always appear. Venues have long adapted to what’s happening around them, for as long as there are gays in 21st century London, there will be bars, clubs and other venues to be found.

Mind you, if you’re really at a loss of where to find a queer space today, your best bet is the same as it’s always been: saunter down to an abandoned public toilet or a quiet bush in one of London’s many parks, hang around for long enough, and you’ll still find blokes – as you have done for centuries – looking for a quickie after dark. It’s even BYOB.

Thanks to Joseph Alloway, University College London, for the additional research.

Cheap Pints and Sanctuary in the UK’s ‘Most Remote’ Gay Bar

We went for a night out in Central Bar, an LGBT venue in Strabane, Northern Ireland.

It’s just past 11PM on a dreary Saturday when I arrive at the Central Bar in Strabane. It’s not the only place to get pissed in this small Northern Irish town; the pubs and bars that line the high street are a clear signal that people here like a drink. But unlike the other watering holes, this bar is out, proud and gay.

Sitting right on the border of Northern Ireland and the Republic, Strabane isn’t a place you’d expect to have a thriving queer scene. Back in 2005, professional stud-wall finders Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer named it the eighth worst place to live in the UK, and this traditionally conservative corner of the British Isles is a far cry from the bustling streets of Soho, or Manchester’s Canal Street. Northern Ireland is yet to legalise same sex marriage, so in a town of just 17,000 an LGBT venue is quite unexpected.

But since its opening in 2008, the Central Bar has become a favourite among Strabane’s younger locals, opening its doors Monday to Sunday for queers and straights alike.

“I always thought there was a market for a gay bar in the area,” owner James Mccarran explains over the phone. He’s 46, heterosexual and unashamedly proud to be the landlord of the UK’s most remote gay bar. James has been in the bar business since the age of 13, and time and time again would ask his bosses to put on a gay night. “They’d always refuse to,” he says, “so I knew I wanted to open my own – it’s a market that needed to be tapped into.”

I’m somewhat hesitant as I step inside; middle-aged straight blokes don’t often run gay bars in small towns, and a part of me thinks this all might be some sort of god-awful trap. But the place feels reassuringly familiar: rainbow flags on the walls; a DJ in a polo shirt pumping out trashy pop songs; a sign advertising “BIG GAY WEDNESDAYS” hanging proudly above the bar.

SHAUNA

“I’ve been working here for nine months now, see,” 21-year-old Shauna tells me, “but I definitely drank here before then.” Passing me a pint – it’s two beers for a fiver tonight – she shows me around the busy bar. There are two main rooms, but just one is currently open, plus there’s a slightly dingy smoking area outside.

“Generally it’s a gay bar,” Shauna continues, “but it’s a mixed crowd of everybody, as everyone here is welcomed equal. There aren’t really gay bars in small Northern Irish towns like this – the nearest to here is Belfast [an hour and 45 minutes’ drive away].”

Shauna tells me that they never have any trouble, besides the occasional drunken spat, and that it’s rammed almost every night of the week. “It’s such a small town, but we sometimes even need to get extra staff in,” she adds proudly.

With Shauna off to serve another punter, I take a seat at an empty table, turning to talk to a group of guys. “No, I’m definitely not gay,” one of them assures me when I ask if any identify as LGBT, “but there’s nothing wrong with being gay either, mind.” Nobody else in the group is forthcoming, with one guy looking at me slightly awkwardly before also turning around.

In gay bars in larger towns and cities, straight invasions are often bemoaned by the queer clientele. But if Stonewall’s estimate that 6 percent of Brits are gay is correct, it stands to reason that, here, straight people are a necessary demographic to keep business ticking over.

STEVEN

Outside in the courtyard 18-year-old Steven Patton is drinking, and welcomes me over when I ask for a chat. “I’m here because I’m gay,” he tells me matter-of-factly, “and to be honest it’s the only bar I feel comfortable in in the town.” Born and bred in this small community, the bar has been a godsend for Steven. “This place normalised being gay in the town,” he continues, “so when I came out it wasn’t such a shock. Knowing there’s a gay bar in the town has helped people understand, to see. I already know so many trans people coming out here – I never thought that would happen in this town.”

We talk about coming to terms with our sexuality; how as a young queer person it’s an indescribably lonely task. LGBT isn’t a heredity condition, so finding guidance among your immediate support network can be a tricky prospect. Pop culture references and googling “what does gay mean” in an incognito Chrome window only takes you so far; human contact and an understanding ear are vital.

The gay bar, therefore, becomes nothing short of a sanctuary; a pilgrimage to be made when it’s time to explore and to escape. They’re spaces for contact, for community; places to embrace your desires in ways straight kids had for so long taken for granted. Small town teens usually have to travel for hours to find one, but not in Strabane.

“If this place wasn’t here, I don’t know what would have happened,” Steven smiles.

KELLY

As I head back inside someone shoves a shot in my direction. “Drink it!” they yell, and I happily oblige. Perched on the stool opposite is Kelly Devlin, another regular who lives just down the road. Born in London, the 34-year-old has been in Northern Ireland for nearly a decade, moving to Belfast before ending up here in Strabane.

“When I lived in Belfast for a wee while I met a guy and had a child,” she explains. “Then I came to Strabane and figured out that actually I like women. I got with a girl and, well, me and her split up, but since then I’ve been rolling with it! When I was younger you’d go to a certain bar and act a certain way around here; you’d have to talk a certain way, be a certain person. Now you can just come here and be yourself. It’s changed the community – it’s changed Strabane, for sure.”

WHITNEY (CENTRE)

With the place getting busier, an off-duty barmaid called Whitney grabs me to have a chat upstairs. “There are a lot of younger fellas who do come into the bar, but who’ve not come out to their family,” she says. “They feel it’s alright to talk to us about it; they feel comfortable here.”

A few drinks in and it’s normal for a guy to ask to pop outside with one of the team for a fag, for him to say that he’s gay and not sure how to handle it, looking desperately for a helping hand. “It feels great, like you’re helping people, as if you’re their mammy,” Whitney grins. “Sometimes they’ll come back during the week, when they’re not drinking, and have another chat. It’s such a small town, and I think people still find it hard to speak about being gay. It’s nice to be here to help them.”

The next few hours are pretty blurry, but there’s enough music, booze and unwanted groping to match any other big gay night out. As I stumble towards the exit, and beeline for the local chippy, it dawns on me just how much of an impact this place has already had. A home for local queers, and a place of advice and refuge, the Central Bar clearly serves its customers well. But more than anything it’s quite literally put “gay” on the map in this small town, starting conversations that force people to open up and chat.

Gay shame and stigma still run deep in our culture, and the earlier we confront what it means to be queer the easier the coming out process – and what follows – will become. And when there’s a gay bar at the heart of a small town community, you know that, at the least, it’ll be getting people to talk, especially when vodkas are a quid.

Reference

Gay History: The Gay Bars and Vice Squads of 1950’s Los Angeles

A gathering of gay men in Los Angeles in 1951. This group founded the Mattachine Society

In the wake of World War II a conformist impulse reasserted itself in American society. At the same time thousands of gay men found themselves in California after World War II, and they were presented with the problem of living a life in the midst of social disapproval and police repression.

In Los Angeles throughout the 1950s, the culture of gay men functioned very much below the radar. Under constant harassment by the police, homosexuals risked social ostracism and loss of employment if outed.

Homosexuality as a disease

The dominant perception of homosexuality in the 1950s was that it was a disease. The psychiatric community was nearly unanimous in this assessment and others took their cue from this stance. Most employers and government agencies barred homosexuals with morality clauses and they were widely considered to be security risks. In daily language they were often defined as “deviants”, “perverts”, or “inverts”, when they were not being painted as pedophiles.

Psychiatric opinions

In 1952 the American Psychiatric Association published the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders for the first time. It included homosexuality as a mental disease.

This was a predominant view in the mental health profession for the entire decade (an important exception was Evelyn Hooker). It was widely conjectured that homosexuality resulted from emotional traumas in childhood, as is the case with other mental illnesses, and that genetics played little to no role. On this basis the practice of conversion therapy took hold, with widespread attempts to change people from homosexual to heterosexual (here are just a few examples from students at Oberlin College in Ohio).

Employment restrictions

It was common practice for employers to prohibit homosexuality. Homosexuals had long been barred from employment in federal jobs, a policy that was reinforced in 1953 by Dwight Eisenhower’s Executive Order 10450. Private employers varied on this issue, but most would fire any employee who was discovered to be gay. Thus at a very basic level, to identify oneself as a homosexual in public was to invite a lifetime of poverty.

Social mores

The disapprobation of psychiatrists and employers reflected the overt hostility of the mainstream American mindset. An unfortunate tendency was for many people to conflate homosexuals with pedophiles and serial killers. Public safety videos of the time made this connection explicit and helped to spread much fear and misinformation.

A survey conducted as late as 1967 for a CBS documentary (see the full program or a shorter version) determined that two thirds of Americans viewed homosexuals with “disgust, discomfort, or fear” while a majority favored laws against all homosexual acts.

Sodomy was illegal in every state until Illinois decriminalized it in 1961, and the laws on this were well enforced in the 1950s. Campaigns in Sioux City, Iowa and Boise, Idaho resulted in multiple arrests and involuntary confinements. There were very few voices that dissented from this policy.

The rise of the gay bar in L.A.

Due to an important court case in 1951, California became the first state where gay bars could legally operate. Although the patrons were frequent targets of police harassment, Los Angeles had a decent number of such establishments by the mid-1950s. This corresponded with the first, halting steps towards creating advocacy organizations for gay rights.

Stoumen v. Reilly

In 1951 the California Supreme Court ruled that a bar could not lose its liquor license because it catered to gay clientele. The case was Stoumen v. Reilly.

While this did little to advance the public acceptance of homosexuality, it did allow gay bars to operate in much of California. While a number of these bars were established in Los Angeles by the 1930s, a new wave joined the fray in the wake of this decision (It should be noted that many were closed in spite of this court ruling in a mid-1950s wave of enforcement).

The Los Angeles gay bars

Some of the well-known gay bars of this time were the House of Ivy and the Windup in Hollywood, and the Crown Jewel, Harold’s, the Waldorf, and Maxwell’s in downtown Los Angeles.

Many of the gay bars in Los Angeles were located near Pershing Square, which was a cruising ground in

The character of these places varied widely, reflecting divisions within the gay community. The Crown Jewel was known as a rather straight-laced bar, with a dress code and many patrons who wished to remain discreet. Maxwell’s operated on a different end of the spectrum, with a much more flamboyant crowd.

The more conservative group of the gay community took pains to distance themselves from the “obvious” crowd, believing that they perpetuated negative stereotypes and drew unwanted attention. Helen Branson, who operated the Windup, wrote:

“I have not touched on the problem of the obvious homosexual. He is in the minority. I think he brings the censure of the public not only on himself, but is the main cause of all averse judgment against the group as a whole…. I do not welcome this type in the bar. I am rude to them, watch them closely for any infraction of my arbitrary rules, and they soon leave.”

Other recreation: bathhouses, parks, and parties

Bars were not the only place where gay men congregated in this time period. There were bathhouses and parks that were known to be more homosexual, and small groups held house parties and private engagements. None of these places were particularly more safe than the others in regards to police harassment. Even a private home party could be the target of a sting operation and as such, invitations to them were very few. It was thus quite difficult for individual gay men to coalesce into a broader community.

The homophile movement and the Mattachine Society

The creation of the first gay bars in L.A. corresponded with the rise of a group called the Mattachine Society.

The Mattachine Society was an organization founded in 1950 to advocate for the cause of gay rights. For at least a few years it was the only group of its kind in the United States. The initial founders were radical Communists, but the organization was taken over after a couple of years by more mainstream activists. It was in this time that the term “homophile” was coined — explicitly to take the word “sexual” out of homosexual.

ONE Magazine was founded by members of the Mattachine Society

This terminology placed the Mattachines at the more accommodating end of the gay spectrum, vis a vis the “obvious” homosexual. Divisions within the community would eventually come to a head in the late 1960s, and the homophile label fell by the wayside as the gay community asserted itself more forcefully.

The LAPD Vice Squad

The Los Angeles Police combatted the homosexual scourge with a notoriously vigorous Vice Squad. Using a large number of undercover officers who posed as gay man for purposes of entrapment, the Vice Squad harassed the gay community in L.A. for decades.

The entrapment process

It is said that the LAPD recruited heavily from that set of men who had failed to obtain acting roles in Hollywood. Often young and athletic, these men were trained to impersonate the gay mannerisms and language of the time, and were sent around to different bars. Often they had quotas for the number of “perverts” they were expected to bring in for a given week or month.

Helen Branson described it as such:

“They offer someone a ride or accept a ride and that does it. Some of them play fair, inasmuch as they wait for the gay one to make a pass at them, but many others wait only long enough to get in the car before declaring the arrest. The officer’s word, of course, will be taken as true, and they always count on the victim not wanting publicity. They know he will pay the fine and be quiet. The fines for this charge amount to a considerable sum in a year’s time.”

The results of entrapment

One the first successful defenses against this tactic came in 1952, when Dale Jennings of the Mattachine Society took his case to court. Jennings declared himself to be a homosexual, but asserted that the charges against him were manufactured. The charges were dropped after the jury deadlocked.

Most gay men did not realistically have the option of going to court if they could avoid it. Defending the charges in these stings would have nearly always led to loss of employment, and potentially other scandals. The most common outcome was to make a plea bargain for a lesser charge in the hopes of paying a fine. In this manner, the Vice Squad harassment became a recurring shakedown of the gay community, and it continued until well after the 1950s.

Many of those who were convicted of crimes became registered sex offenders. Many lost their jobs or otherwise had their lives ruined. Such was the price of being a gay man in the 1950s.

References

Gay History: There Goes The Gaybourhood; Stories Of Gay Neighbourhoods From Around The World

SYDNEY: Big city gaybourhoods: where they come from and why they still matterIn London, there is Soho; in New York, Chelsea and Greenwich Village; and in San Francisco, there is the Castro. In Sydney, there is Darlinghurst and, more specifically, Oxford Street. These are neighbourhoods of large cities that have, since at least the 1950s and often earlier, developed a reputation as queer spaces.

In more recent years, those reputations have begun to fade and the enduring meanings of the “gaybourhood” have come into question.

But what each of these places represents is the centrality of urban space to the emergence of visible, “out and proud” lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer identities and communities.

The 1978 Mardi Gras march was a key moment for queer urban visibility. AAP/Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives

Queer Sydney in the ‘Golden Mile’ era

The peak years of Oxford Street’s queer life extended from the mid-1970s until the mid-1990s. In the years after the second world war, many gay men in Sydney socialised in CBD hotels, including the Hotel Australia.

A guide to the ‘Golden Mile’ published in the Oxford Weekender News, one of many ‘bar rag’ newspapers that circulated the 1980s queer scene. Author provided

The first LGBTQ clubs on Oxford Street were Ivy’s Birdcage and Capriccio’s, which both opened in 1969. By the beginning of the 1980s, Oxford Street was home to a string of bars, clubs, saunas and cafes and had become known as Sydney’s gay “Golden Mile”.

The emergence of this gay heartland represents extraordinary social change. Male homosexuality remained illegal in New South Wales until 1984. The homosexual men socialising in 1950s CBD hotels were required to do so with discretion – the consequences of discovery could be devastating.

In contrast, the queerness of a venue like Capriccio’s was defiantly visible and undeniable. As more venues were opened along the Golden Mile, the street itself became a gay space, as did the surrounding neighbourhoods where LGBTQ people – particularly gay men – made homes in the terraces and apartments of Darlinghurst and Paddington.

A simple walk along the street became an act of participation in an emerging community.

Ivy’s Birdcage at 191 Oxford Street was one of Darlinghurst’s first drag bars. Sydney Pride History Group, Author provided

Members of a marginalised social group were thus using urban space to resist oppression and build a community. For some, this produced a kind of utopia. In an interview with Sydney’s Pride History Group, DJ Stephen Allkins described his first visit to the Oxford Street disco Patch’s as a teenager in 1976. He remembers:

I was home. That was it. It was the most fabulous place I’d ever been in my life … It’s full of gay people and they’re all dressed to the nines. They’re not hiding under a rock … They’re expressing and happy.

Finding a place in the Queer community

But these feelings of joy at having found such a space can be complicated by a range of factors. The gay community was certainly not free from sexism, racism and transphobia, meaning that some within the LGBTQ community were granted far easier access to these spaces than others.

Indeed, although Golden Mile-era Oxford Street included venues popular with lesbians, including the women-only bar Ruby Reds, the surrounding neighbourhood was more identifiably gay than lesbian.

Inner-west suburbs including Leichhardt and Petersham were far more significant urban spaces in the lives of many queer women. Lesbian share-houses in these neighbourhoods became central sites of feminist politics, activism, sex and romance.

Penny Gulliver, a resident of legendary 1970s share-house “Crystal Street”, has remembered that women “who were just coming out, because there was nothing like a counselling service then, they’d come to Crystal Street”.

Into the new millennium, Oxford Street’s place as the gay heart of Sydney became less certain. As LGBTQ businesses failed and venues closed, questions emerged as to whether a community now more a part of the mainstream still needed its own spaces.

For a time, King Street in Newtown dominated as a queer alternative. In 1983 gay publican Barry Cecchini took over the Milton Hotel on Newtown’s King Street, renamed it Cecchini’s and launched it as the area’s first gay venue. Shortly after, the Newtown Hotel, just across the road, also became a gay pub. Cecchini told the Sydney Morning Herald in 1984 that gays were leaving “the scene” of Oxford Street looking for a “more cosmopolitan mix” in Newtown.

Through the following decades, venues including The Imperial in Erskineville (made famous as the site from which three drag queens launched their adventures in a bus named Priscilla) and the Sly Fox in Enmore, home to a popular lesbian night, further developed the area’s queer reputation.

Protecting Queer space

In recent years, however, a range of factors, including changes to licensing laws, have produced significant challenges for queer socialising in that neighbourhood.

Newtown sits outside the zone of the so-called “lockout laws”. Late-night partiers who might once have ventured to Kings Cross are instead heading to pubs along King Street, and reports of anti-LGBTQ abuse and violence have increased.

In response, a campaign called “Keep Newtown Weird and Safe” has attempted to maintain the queer meanings of this urban space.

Despite changes in Oxford and King streets, efforts to keep Newtown “weird” highlight the continued value of urban space to LGBTQ communities. Indeed, among a younger generation, new forms of queer identity continue to inspire the search for spaces in which to celebrate difference.

In pockets of the inner west, for example, young queer, transgender and genderqueer people are creating spaces of activism, partying, performance and everyday life. This new generation is exploring the fresh possibilities of queer identity and developing their community. Access to urban space remains central to this.

Like the city itself, the LGBTQ community continues to be less a fixed entity than a process of movement, adaptation and change.

MELBOURNE: Gay Old Time

An asio report from the 1950s, Homosexuals as Security Risks, includes information from an anonymous man about Melbourne’s secret gay subculture. As well as educating the authorities about queer terminology, the source expresses his hope “to find an affectionate, stable and confiding relationship with another homosexual”. The prospect, he acknowledges, is “a probably unattainable dream-wish”.

His account appears in Camp as . . . Melbourne in the 1950s, a Midsumma Festival exhibition. Through photographs, interviews and historical documents, Camp as provides an insight into what homosexual life was like during a grimly repressive era in which gay men and women had reason to cower in the closet.

Homosexuality was not only socially unacceptable in the 1950s, it was also a criminal offence. By 1957 the state vice squad had dedicated a third of its resources to cracking down on what it perceived as a growing problem in Victoria. Throughout the decade, the number of those arrested and jailed continued to grow as officers raided parties or entrapped gay men in public toilets and other popular beats.

Meanwhile, the Truth newspaper attempted to whip up moral outrage by running lurid scare stories about “prowling pests” and “park menaces”. But Graham Willett, a Melbourne University lecturer and curator of the exhibition, suggests that, despite the fear of discrimination and arrest, a tight-knit gay community still evolved during the 1950s. “We’ve constructed this image of Melbourne back then as this terrible place,” he says, “But what’s quite amazing is that people managed, through courage or circumstances, to find ways of meeting other people like themselves and constructing reasonably nice lives.”

Certainly the exhibition challenges the assumption that gay people of the period led lonely, desperate lives. In one photo, for example, a drag queen flounces defiantly about the stage wearing a pink dress and a flower in his hair. “In the ’50s there was no gay scene in a public way,” Willett says, “but there were still places you could go to in the city that accepted the presence of gay men.”

One of the most surprising gay sanctuaries was the Myer department store, thanks to the director of the store’s display unit, Freddie Asmussen, whose sexuality was an open secret. Bald and bespectacled, Asmussen was renowned for the extravagant decor of his South Yarra home, which boasted 13 chandeliers, a black-and-silver dining room and a colour-coded garden in which he would tolerate only white flowers. His willingness to employ young men of a similar sexual orientation turned Myer into an unlikely haven for the gay community.

Hotel Australia on Collins Street was the closest that Melbourne had to a gay bar. The upstairs area catered to a smart, discreet crowd while the downstairs bar, known as “the snake pit”, was aimed at rough trade. An alternative was Val’s, a bohemian coffee lounge on Swanston Street, with a royal-blue carpet and mauve furniture. Val was a flamboyant lesbian who walked the streets dressed in a homburg hat and tailored suit while brandishing a silver-topped cane.

Willett says that during this era there was more pressure on lesbians to conform to these stereotypes. “Lots of women talk about living as butches or femmes in the ’50s and ’60s,” he says. “But women’s liberation challenged a lot of that. It said, ‘You can be what you want to be. You don’t have to conform to these roles.’ ”

Other fragments of queer culture featured in the exhibition are similarly blatant. In the Australian Gay and Lesbian Archives, Willett discovered a stash of magazines promoting body building as a form of homoerotic stimulation. The cartoons in Physique Pictorial devise utterly ridiculous situations to justify the inevitable displays of male nudity. One features a muscle-bound builder, who falls off a roof and lands on a pile of nails, thereby requiring his workmate to extract them from his buttocks. “It just gets more and more camp,” Willett admits.

The brazen nature of such material would seem to suggest a growing confidence within the community. And yet during the 1950s there was just a single attempt to challenge the legal status quo that failed to gain sufficient support. “For most of these people, the idea of changing the law would have seemed impossible,” Willett says. “It would have just seemed inconceivable that you would do that.”

The gay-rights movement only began to emerge in Australia in the 1960s, developing as part of a broader liberal trend that also sought reform on social issues such as abortion, censorship and Aboriginal rights. Victoria didn’t decriminalise homosexuality until 1980, while Tasmania didn’t suit until 1997. Over the past 50 years, gay culture has undergone a makeover as radical as anything on Queer Eye For A Straight Guy. By exploring the formative days of the community, Willett’s exhibition reinforces how much has changed, while presenting an intriguing social history of Melbourne’s secret past.

CANADA & NORTH AMERICA: Dwindling gaybourhoods

Author Amin Ghaziani looks into the future of North American gay villages

Credit: Paul Dotey

Four and a half years ago, Shawn Ewing and her wife left their apartment in Vancouver’s West End to move to the suburbs. For the Ewings, leaving the gaybourhood for Surrey was a question of simple math.

“Two thousand square feet and a yard versus a little under 700 feet in an apartment,” she says. “Accessibility to the party downtown wasn’t important to us anymore. What was important was a house and having a yard and a garden and all of that good stuff.”

Ewing, a former president of the Vancouver Pride Society, is now vice-president of Surrey’s Pride organization. She says that despite Surrey’s conservative reputation and some early fears that they might have to “straighten up,” her family has had no problems at all.

“We haven’t changed any of our behaviour,” she says. “I don’t have a problem holding my wife’s hand when we’re walking down the street or giving her a kiss in my front yard.”

“I probably got called out more living downtown about being a dyke than I certainly have been in Surrey,” she says.

From Vancouver’s Davie Village to Toronto’s Church Street to Montreal’s Le Village, everyone has their own opinion about Canada’s gay neighbourhoods, but few seem to disagree that they are in decline.

Whichever name you call it — the gaybourhood, gayvenue, gay district, gay mecca, gay ghetto — the question of its future isn’t limited to Canada. Across the border in the United States, many notable gay districts are also fading into shadows of their former selves, from San Francisco’s Castro to Chicago’s Boystown to Seattle’s Capitol Hill to countless more.

In his recently released book There Goes the Gayborhood?, Amin Ghaziani, an associate professor of sociology at the University of British Columbia, examines the changing face of the gay neighbourhood. His research is based on census data, opinion polls, more than 600 newspaper articles and more than 100 interviews with gaybourhood residents.

“I myself lived in Chicago’s Boystown district for nearly a decade, starting in 1999. I remember feeling uneasy in those years as I read one headline after another about the alleged demise of my home and other gayborhoods across the country. The sight of more straight bodies on the streets became a daily topic of conversation among my friends — an obsession to be honest,” Ghaziani writes.

“As the years went by, my friends and I bemoaned, perhaps most of all, feeling a little less safe holding hands with our partners, dates, or hookups — even as we walked down what were supposed to be our sheltered streets. I had been called a ‘fag’ on more occasions than I still care to remember, and I was shocked at the disapproving looks that I would receive when walking hand in hand with another man. I knew I could not escape this menacing straight gaze altogether, but I was so angry that I had to deal with it in Boystown. This was supposed to be a safe place,” he writes.

According to statistics, the days where the gay community was drawn to live and work in a single neighbourhood are ending. American census data shows that same-sex-couple households have become “less segregated and less spatially isolated across the United States from 2000 to 2010,” Ghaziani writes. “This is a restlessness that clearly appears in cities across North America. To wonder where gayborhoods are going, debate whether they are worth saving, or question their cultural resonance — all of this announces to us that they are in danger.”

Although gay bars have been around since the start of the 1900s, gaybourhoods are a fairly recent phenomenon. It wasn’t until after the Second World War that they really began to flourish in North America, buoyed first by the thousands of men and women dishonourably discharged from the military for their presumed homosexuality and later by migrating single gay men and lesbians from smaller towns in search of a place to call home. Gaybourhoods promised safety and freedom, as well as places to find love and sex.

Ghaziani points to several factors that are changing these areas today: the increased acceptance of gay men and lesbians by society and under the law, allowing many people to feel safer moving to more spacious accommodations in the suburbs; growing development and gentrification, leading to rising property value and rents, driving some people out of downtown areas; and the increased migration of straight people back into desirable urban areas.

Ron Dutton has lived in Vancouver’s West End for 40 years and has never once wanted to leave. “I like the diversity of people, the sense of openness,” he says. In his opinion, changes are constant, and except for the rapidly increasing cost of living, he doesn’t think the changes are negative.

“Individual businesses come and go, but I don’t see the neighbourhood becoming any less welcoming,” he says. Still, Dutton laments that many seniors on fixed incomes have been leaving the area against their will as rents continue to skyrocket.

As some gay people resist the tide and stay in gay neighbourhoods, many more are undeniably leaving — even as North American cities begin to recognize their cultural and, especially, potential financial value.

The permanent rainbow crosswalks in Vancouver and now in Toronto and the newly installed rainbow LED strip lights in Vancouver are all being used to promote these villages as destinations, to locals and tourists alike. These efforts at urban renewal can also contribute to the gentrification that eventually prices many gays and lesbians out of these areas.

To many, especially to the younger generation, the notion of a single gay district seems antiquated. As gay people, men especially, increasingly turn online to find sexual and romantic connections, their need for gay bars and physical places to meet and hook up diminishes. As the world becomes safer for some sexual minorities, the need for the protective embrace of the gaybourhood also begins to decline. In the early 1990s, there were 16 gay bars in Boston. By 2007, that number had dropped by half.

Ghaziani references these phenomena as part of the “post-gay” era, where gays are being accepted by society and are choosing to assimilate into the mainstream. He says it’s changed the way many of us think about ourselves.

As an example, he points to statistician Nate Silver, who was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2009. In a 2012 interview with Out magazine, Silver said that his friends saw him as “sexually gay, but ethnically straight.”

Ghaziani’s book defines “post-gay” partly as an assertion that who a man has sex with “is not necessarily related to his self-identity or to the cultural communities in which he participates.” He compares this sort of sexual identity with white ethnic identity: “optional, episodic and situational.”

In reviewing media interviews with various gay people — often couples — who have chosen not to live in gaybourhoods and who say they are fitting in, he notes that their tones are often laced with some shame. He wonders why the opposite of “blending in” is having a “scarlet letter on our heads” or being “those people?”

“Assimilation into the mainstream is always accompanied by infighting within a minority group, especially between those who are eager to blend in and those who are determined to hold on to what makes them different,” he writes.

Interestingly, Ghaziani’s book also includes interviews from some of the straight people living in gaybourhoods. He finds that many are “benignly indifferent” to their gay neighbours, while a minority feel that they are victims of reverse discrimination.

He found the responses of straight people so repetitive and almost rehearsed that it was hard to tell if they were being honest about being indifferent or if they were just being politically correct. One single, straight 28-year-old in Boystown told Ghaziani that he would like to see the rainbow pylons and flags taken down because, in his opinion, self-segregation was hurting the gay movement politically.

Ghaziani argues that even while many outgrow them, gaybourhoods remain “culturally relevant as refuges for queer youth of colour, transgender individuals and queers who hail from small towns, because antigay bigotry still affects their everyday life.”

Despite having left the confines of Vancouver’s gay village, Ewing agrees that there will always be a need for the gaybourhood, but she stresses the importance of it needing to be about more than just bars. She would like to see more places that include non-drinkers and youth.

Ghaziani suggests that it’s unreasonable to expect gaybourhoods — or any neighbourhood, for that matter — to remain stable and unchanged but that it’s equally unreasonable to declare them dead.

Neighbourhoods often move, reform and migrate, he says. Toronto’s “Queer West” and Vancouver’s Commercial Drive are two such examples. Many young queer people may want to live in a gay area, but they settle where they can afford the rents, even if that means congregating in — and queering — new neighbourhoods.

Ghaziani further theorizes that these gay-friendly neighbourhoods could eventually become full-fledged gay neighbourhoods in their own right. If the old gaybourhood was an island, these new models are archipelagos. These new villages may eventually supersede the older ones, or they may all coexist.

Dutton says that while we have gained a lot of freedom under the law, that doesn’t negate the need for the gaybourhood. “I think there is much to be said for an accepting environment where people can feel free to dress unusually or where they can express their affection for one another openly. That would be regretful if those things were lost over time,” he says.

“I don’t think the times have progressed to the point where we’re all just equal,” he continues. “There is much to be said for having a place within the city where people can come from elsewhere and feel that this is home — this is where my people congregate.”

CHICAGO: People from LGBT community face subtle discrimination even in ‘gaybourhoods’

Prejudice and discrimination still exist- it’s just more subtle and difficult to detect.(Shutterstock)

Straight people living in neighbourhoods mostly populated by LGBT folks say they support gay rights in theory, but their street interactions contradict those sentiments.

Gaybourhood, or traditionally gay neighbourhood, still face a subtle form of discrimination from ‘straight’ people. According to a study conducted by the University of British Columbia, straight people living in such neighbourhoods, say they support gay rights in theory, but many interact with their gay and lesbian next-door fellas on the street in ways that contradict those sentiments. “There is a mistaken belief that marriage equality means the struggle for gay rights is over,” said Amin Ghaziani, the study’s senior author. “Prejudice and discrimination still exist- it’s just more subtle and difficult to detect.”

The researchers interviewed 53 straight people, who live in two Chicago gaybourhoods – Boystown and Andersonville. They found the majority of residents saying that they support gay people. However, the researchers found their progressive attitudes were misaligned with their actions. While many residents said they don’t care if people are gay or straight, some indicated that they don’t like gay people who are “in your face”.

When asked about resistance from LGBTQ communities to the widespread trend of straight people moving into gaybourhoods, some of the people interviewed responded with accusations of reverse discrimination and described gay people who challenged them as “segregationist” and “hetero-phobic.” Some said they believed they should have open access to cultural gay spaces, and were surprised that they felt “unwelcome” there. “That feeling of surprise, however, exemplifies a misguided belief that gay districts are trendy commodities when they are actually safe spaces for sexual minorities”, added Ghaziani.

When the researchers asked residents if they had done anything to show their support of gay rights, such as marching in the pride parade, donating to an LGBTQ organization, or writing a letter in support of marriage equality to a politician, the majority said they had not. Many also expected their gay and lesbian neighbours to be happy and welcoming of straight people moving into gaybourhoods, expressing sentiments like, “you wanted equality- this is what equality looks like.”

With gay pride celebrations fast approaching around the world, Adriana Brodyn, the study’s lead author, said it is important to pause and reflect on the state of LGBTQ equality. “I hope that our research motivates people against becoming politically complacent or apathetic,” she said. “If we do not motivate ourselves to be aware of this subtle form of prejudice, then it will just continue to perpetuate.” The study appears in the journal City and Community.

REYKJAVIK: Where’s The Gaybourhood?

I’ve asked around. Though the sample size is hardly one that would hold up under intense scrutiny, a pattern has begun to emerge. The question “Where’s the gaybourhood?”, when raised in Reykjavík, will most likely be met with the response (after several, strangely long seconds of quiet contemplation): “Well—it’s a very small city.” Whether my interlocutor is heterosexual, or part of the alphabet soup, the answer is the same.

This strikes me as odd for a number of reasons. The first being that, while yes, relative to some far more populous cities of the world—Shanghai, Istanbul, Lagos, São Paulo, New York City, etc. (thanks, Wikipedia!)—Reykjavík’s approximate 120,000 is rather small. Further, this question also deals greatly with historical population growth over time—go back to 1901, and the population was only a bit over 6,300.

But, still… A population of 120,000 seems significant to me—though to be fair, I did grow up in a small-ish town (15,000 in a good year). And I can think of plenty of cities with populations smaller than Reykjavík’s that foster vibrant gay scenes, if not full-fledged gaybourhoods.

And yeah, the development of “gaybourhoods” was historically aided (though not exclusively) by the existence of a highly trafficked urban space with large international shipping ports, naval and military bases and heavy involvement in major wars, as well as a significant history of cosmopolitanism, internal migration and immigration from abroad, and…

Well, I think I just answered my own question, didn’t I? And it’s nothing against Iceland—that’s just not how things worked here. Historically, at least.

I don’t buy that culture is born exclusively as an act of defiance, or out of need for defence, and thus dies out when the need for shielding is gone.

There are a few historical spaces I was able to read up on. Known to those “in the know,” ya know? Informally, and before LGBT+ was even a conceivable acronym. Walking through Reykjavík, I feel as though I’m surrounded by hidden histories. Historical gay spots, as far as I could find, were highly secretive and unofficial, rarely documented, and limited in number and size out of necessity—this wasn’t especially news to me.

What struck me more, as I learned to accept that a lot of what I was looking for in terms of historical narrative would remain in permanent obscurity, was the following: where exactly were the present scenes? I mean, it’s one thing for a “gaybourhood” to not have existed in the past—but where’s the presence now? Why does it appear as though not much new is forming?

It wasn’t long before I started to find various explanations for the lack of gaybourhood, queer scene, or various cultural presence in contemporary Reykjavík via the wonderfully enlightening netherworld of tourist-information websites. One of the more striking quotations I found goes as follows, taken from Guide to Iceland’s website:

As for gay-culture, there isn’t much, because there does not need to be. Gays participate as regular members of society, and in Iceland there are openly gay people in all sectors and levels of society. And as such, there is no gaybourhood…

Forgetting (as much as I’d prefer not to) the use of “gay” in place of a wide variety of different identities and experiences, I wonder how much truth there is to this sentiment. Yes, Iceland is ahead of the curve in many ways in terms of LGBT+ legal rights—impressively so. But legal rights are hardly the same thing as acceptance (which, by the way, is hardly a victory—see the Riddle Scale), and certainly legal rights are not the same thing as actual safety, security, comfort, self-determined expression, etc. I don’t buy that culture is born exclusively as an act of defiance, or out of need for defence, and thus dies out when the need for protection is gone (which, mind you, it certainly is not).

So, to answer my question, the “gaybourhood” as of now exists alongside the straightbourhood (i.e. the World). Reykjavík has the outward appearance of an assimilationist’s utopia—lesbian beside queer beside trans beside intersex beside bisexual beside gay beside straight beside etc., all dancing contentedly in the same small club, no difference between them. Except that there are differences—different experiences, different wants and needs, different discrete identities and worldviews. And there is no way that everyone can or should always exist together like this.

It’s great that all spaces are open to us, and that many (though not all) can feel relatively safe living as ourselves. But no one wants only to co-mingle—with heterosexuals, or with adjacent letters. In speaking to LGBTQ+ persons of Reykjavík (while knowing there are still many more to talk to, and still much, much more to hear), one does seem to detect a want and a need for them to carve out discrete spaces for themselves. Though I wonder how much room here there actually is to do so.

VANCOUVER: ‘Gaybourhoods’ are expanding, not disappearing: UBC study

Sociology professor Amin Ghaziani says as couples diversify, so does where they call home

The corner of Davie Street and Bute Street in Vancouver, B.C. (Wikimedia Commons)

Gay and lesbian spaces, commonly known as “gaybourhoods,” are expanding across cities, rather than disappearing, a new B.C. study says.

Gaybourhoods, such as Vancouver’s Davie Village, are nothing new. A common perception has been that major cities have just one neighbourhood where all gay people live.

But new research by University of British Columbia sociology professor Amin Ghaziani, released Thursday, shows that members of the LGBTQ community are diversifying where they live, choosing what he calls “cultural archipelagos” beyond the gaybourhood. Only 12 per cent of LGBTQ adults live in a gaybourhood, while 72 per cent have never.

Ghaziani used data from the 2010 U.S. census to track location patterns of lesbians, transgender people, same-sex couples with children, and LGBTQ people of color.

He found queer communities of colour have emerged in Chicago and the outer boroughs of New York. That’s because African-American people in same-sex relationships are more likely to live in areas where there are higher populations of other African-Americans, rather than other LGBTQ people, he found.

Rural areas draw more same-sex female couples than male couples, and female couples tend to live where the median housing price per square foot is lower, which Ghaziani attributed to a possible reflection of the gender pay gap.

The study focuses on the U.S., but the findings are similar to data released in the last Canadian census.

There were 73,000 same-sex couples in the country in 2016, an increase of more than half over the last decade.

Meanwhile, major cities that were historically popular for same-sex couples, such as Toronto and Montreal, saw a nearly five per cent dip in the same time period, while areas such as Victoria are seeing an increase.

CANADA: Same-sex marriages rise, as gaybourhoods change

There were nearly 73,000 same-sex couples in 2016 in Canada, about a 61 per cent increase

The number of same-sex couples in Canada increased by more than half in the last decade, with three times more couples choosing to get married, census data shows.

There were nearly 73,000 same-sex couples in 2016 – about a 61 per cent increase from the 43,000 reported in the 2011 census.

The increase in the number of reported same-sex couples could be due to attitudes liberalizing dramatically since gay marriage was approved in 2005 in Canada and 2013 in the U.S., according to Amin Ghaziani, Canada Research Chair in Sexuality and Urban Studies at the University of British Columbia.

New census data shows a rapid increase in same-sex couples tying the knot – with one-third of couples reportedly being married – including Vancouver-area residents Laura and Jen O’Connor.

The pair got married for all the romantic, fairy-tale reasons: after seven years together, they were deeply in love and wanted to start a family. But on another level, they thought it might just make their life together a little easier.

After all, being gay comes with its own unique set of challenges – challenges they hoped might be easier to navigate if they shared a last name.

“It’s one less thing, one less obstacle that you have to deal with,” says Jen, 27, during an interview in a sun-drenched backyard at Laura’s parents’ house in Cloverdale.

They decided to move in to save money after spending $15,000 on three unsuccessful rounds of in vitro fertilization.

The pair are currently saving up to buy a home of their own in the Vancouver area – the third-most popular metropolitan city for same-sex couples to live in across the country, behind Toronto and Montreal.

Gaybourhoods are nothing new, including Vancouver’s Davie Street – a well-known destination for LGBTQ members in B.C., but are seemingly becoming less of the hotspots they once were, according to Ghaziani.

“Acceptance produces more of a dispersion,” he said, adding that cultural and social factors work hand-in-hand with the economics of where same-sex couples and singles look to live.

Acceptance is only one factor in the decision-making process, though, as real estate prices remain high and unaffordable for many, especially those with children.

Lesbians are considered the trailblazers of LGBTQ migration, Ghaziani said, historically finding trendy neighbourhoods that are progressive, cheaper and have nearby sustainable resources like grocery and book stores.

Due to the gender wage gap and 80 per cent of same-sex couples with kids being female, lesbians are usually the first to be pushed out of neighbourhoods once late-stage gentrification begins, he said.

For example, as Davies Street tends to offer single occupancy units at higher rent – leaving the one-eighth of same-sex couples with children most likely looking to more affordable non-urban areas.

And as more traditional gaybourhoods change, others seem to be beginning in other parts of the province. More than 1,200 same-sex couples resided in Victoria in 2016, according to the census data, compared to about 700 in 2006.

With files from Laura Kane from The Canadian Press

AUSTRALIA: Australia’s biggest ‘Gaybourhoods ‘

Australia’s “gaybourhoods” are rapidly changing and relocating. We took a look at some of the most prominent LGBTI locales with the help of Australian Census data on same-sex couples.

1. Potts Point (NSW)

Gone are the days Darlinghurst held the crown as Sydney’s queer capital. While the Oxford Street strip still hosts Sydney’s annual Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade, a few suburbs over to the east of the CBD you’ll find the beating heart of the city’s LGBTI culture in Potts Point. In the 2011 Australian Census, Potts Point had the second-highest concentration of male same-sex couples in capital city suburbs, only .1 of a percentage point off the then leader (Darlinghurst).

Potts Point in Sydney (Greg Wood/AFP/Getty Images).

2. Daylesford (Victoria)

Home to Australia’s largest rural LGBTI festival, ChillOut, Daylesford is a couple of hours outside of Melbourne and is known for its many mineral springs. It’s a popular spot for visitors and mature same-sex couples looking to settle down and invest in a tree-change. People in same-sex couples tend to be more mobile than people in opposite-sex couples. In 2011, 63 per cent of people in same-sex couples lived somewhere else five years ago compared with 40 per cent of people in opposite-sex couples.

A world record attempt at the largest ever simultaneous massage in the popular Victorian spa town of Daylesford in 2010. (Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

3. New Farm (Queensland)

Found in the inner suburbs of Brisbane alongside its winding river, New Farm plays host to the annual Brisbane Pride Festival and is close to the gay nightlife of Fortitude Valley. Brisbane had more than 3500 self-identifying same-sex couples in the 2011 Census, many of whom call New Farm’s leafy streets home.

New Farm Park in Brisbane (Photo by Glenn Hunt/Getty Images)

4. Brunswick (Victoria)

Brunswick isn’t just a hipster hotspot, it’s home to a great many LGBTI people who’ve traded Prahran’s Chapel Street for the northern suburbs of Melbourne. Its culinary and nightlife options have blossomed as Prahran’s famous Commercial Road strip has dwindled in recent years. It also has a higher proportion of female same-sex couples than its southern rival.

Brunswick, Victoria (Mat Connolley/Wiki Commons).

5. Newtown/Erskineville (NSW)

The Newtown/Erskineville area in Sydney’s Inner West is home to the majority of the nation’s female same-sex couples. In fact, if you were to take in the neighbouring suburbs of St Peters and Enmore, you’d account for a whopping 22.4 per cent of female same-sex couples as a percentage of Australia’s capital cities. Its famous terraces and pocket bars also account for 11 per cent of male same-sex couples.

Cyclists along King St, Newtown (Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

LONDON: London’s hottest Gaybourhoods

SOHO

Revitalised by the gay community “two or three recessions ago”, according to Coote, but now thoroughly commercialised and “de-gayed”, in the words of photographer Adrian Lourie. Still home to a large collection of clubs and pubs, of course — the Admiral Duncan, Shadow Lounge, G-A-Y — and therefore still a mecca for tourists and out-of-towners. The lesbian Candy Bar closed last year but new bar She Soho is “quite seismic in that it’s the first lesbian bar actually on Old Compton Street”, according to Sophie Wilkinson, news editor of The Debrief.

VAUXHALL

Hot in Vo-zhawl: the Royal Vauxhall Tavern in the heart of SE11 (Pic: Adrian Lourie) ( Adrian Lourie )

The Royal Vauxhall Tavern has been a welcoming destination for gays since the Second World War, and the adjoining Pleasure Gardens contain a popular canoodling hummock more recently dubbed Brokeback Mountain. Vauxhall — formerly VoHo, now Vo-challe or Vo-zhawl — is now home to a sizeable residential community and a massive nightlife scene based around the clubs, bars and saunas under the railway arches: Barcode, Chariots, Fire etc… Possibly on the turn thanks to rising rents. “Going through Vauxhall recently I saw that a gay specialist leather shop had become a halal butcher’s, which is probably the sort of thing that would keep Mr Farage awake at night,” says Ben Summerskill.

HAMPSTEAD

Historically a gay area due to the Heath (before mobile apps made hook-ups easier) and the men’s bathing pond, it’s still beloved of older, wealthier, boho gay residents as well as younger blow-ins or those forced to settle for nearby Kilburn. “It has an upmarket village feel — in a non-Village People way — with a fine housing stock and plentiful high street,” says TV journalist Stefan Levy. There’s also a venerable gay pub, the King William IV (the Willy).

CLAPHAM

As with Hampstead Heath, above, so with Clapham Common: plus, The Two Brewers nightclub and Kazbar remain pivotal venues on the London gay scene. Gays smitten by the “Vale of Cla’am” and able to get on the property ladder there have stayed amid the rising tide of yummy mummies.

SHOREDITCH

A prime example of pioneering gays subsumed within a wider influx of cool, followed by commercialism. The Joiners Arms was a totemic gay venue when Shoreditch felt like “the middle of nowhere” (Summerskill). Then came the Young British Artists, the hipsters, the pop-ups, the City boys and the big chains. Still an LGBT favourite, though, thanks to a thriving art/design and alternative bar/club scene (Sink the Pink nights, etc), though high rents mean gays and lesbians are more likely to settle in Dalston or Hackney (see below). Sophie Wilkinson says Shoreditch is “one of the few pockets of London where I feel I can walk hand in hand with another woman without fear of attack”, along with Soho, Waterloo and Dalston (there are infrequent lesbian club nights at Dalston Superstore).

STOKE NEWINGTON

Home to a sizeable London lesbian community, with social life focused on the nearby parks and the iconic Blush bar on Cazenove Road. Stoke Newington School pioneered the teaching of LGBT History month.

BERMONDSEY

A mixture of Vauxhall and Shoreditch, minus the club culture (though XXL, the club for “bears, cubs and their admirers”, is a short lollop away). It’s near the river but with a large amount of ex-council accommodation and do-up-able warehouse space, plus a burgeoning foodie culture.

CHISWICK

Google “gay Chiswick” and the only result is a car park recommended on a cruising website. But anecdotal reports suggest that many gay air crew — those who can afford it — settle in Chiswick due to its combination of bucolic charm and proximity to Heathrow. One resident claims a W4 postcode is an asset when chatting someone up.

And finally…

PECKHAM

“Definitely the next place!” according to Lourie. His view is echoed by QX magazine, which notes the area’s multicultural vibrancy and arty/student scene fed by Goldsmiths and Camberwell, as well as the queer night Garçonne at the Bussey Building and live art nights at The Flying Dutchman, plus LGBT-friendly bars. Wilkinson also mentions Tooting and Nunhead as potential hotspots as all young creative/club types — not just LGBTQ+ ones — are priced out of central north, west and east London. The next gaybourhood? Look south…

References

Gay History: The “Lavender Scare”.

Interrogations of one’s sexuality became commonplace in the 1950s and 1960s’ federal workplace. Questions like “Do you identify as a homosexual or have you ever had same-sex sexual relations?” were commonplace as employers attempted to root out LGBT employees. This period of time is often known as the Lavender Scare—the interrogation and firing of LGBT-identifying civil servants.

Before the Lavender Scare and post-World War II, LGBT individuals from rural towns began congregating to cities where they could keep anonymity. This newfound peace and community, however, was disturbed in 1947 when the United States Park Police created a Sex Perversion Elimination Act. Primarily targeting these communities in parks, at least five hundred people were arrested and 76 were charged.

As a part of the broader Red Scare that targeted communists, the Lavender Scare’s development was in large fault due to Senator McCarthy, who brought to the Senate his famous list which gave the names of two hundred and five federal employees, two of which were homosexual individuals. While federal agents began to investigate Senator McCarthy’s federal employment list, much of the Red Scare rhetoric also invoked the ideas of morality connected with queer and homosexual people to those of communists. At the time, homosexuals were viewed as sinful and perverted and the public perception of homosexuality shared many similarities with the public view of communists, who were similarly viewed lacking in both moral and mental strength. For the federal government, LGBT employees began to pose a security risk: if they were living double lives, then they may not be loyal nor mentally stable enough to keep government secrets.

Eventually, Senators Wherry and Hill, who were supported by McCarty, interrogated the two LGBT individuals on McCarty’s list, leading to their discharge. In March 1952, the federal government announced its removal of 162 civil servants suspecting of being homosexual. And about a year later on April 27, 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower signed Executive Order 10450, expanding on Truman’s federal employment regulations with a statement to exclude federal employees of “sexual perversion.” Because of this Executive Order, it is estimated that at least ten thousand civil servants lost their jobs.

The Lavender Scare made being publicly LGBT difficult. Although homosexuals were largely closeted before the Lavender Scare, being publicly LGBT during the 1950s was largely challenging and near impossible without staggeringly high consequences. Not only were LGBT federal employees fired, but many others were also simply fired for “guilt of association” in knowing someone who was LGBT. Because of the resulting stigma within federal government as well as in larger public culture, many of the federal investigations and resulting firings lead to dismissed employees’ suicides — most of which were later covered up by the federal interrogators.

Several LGBT people later stepped up to challenge federal government’s “sexual perversion” components, including civil servant Frank Kameny who took his case to the Supreme Court. Although Kameny lost, a few federal courts began ruling in his favor by 1969. More gay rights organizations also developed such as the Mattachine Society (1950) as well as the Daughters of Bilitis (1955). The Lavender Scare’s effects, however, were still lasting.

The Lavender Scare not only broke up and quieted the cities’ queer communities who were afraid of federal employment discrimination and potential hate crime, but it also resulted in a largely conservative, homogenous culture within the government. While most federal organizations overturned their policies on LGBT discrimination, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and National Security Alliance (NSA)’s bans on homosexuals lasted into the 1990s, until they were officially overturned by President Bill Clinton in 1995. Later, as recent as 2015, Secretary of State John Kerry apologized to the LGBT community on behalf of the federal government’s Lavender Scare interrogations, stating: “I apologize to those who were impacted by the practices of the past and reaffirm the department’s steadfast commitment to diversity and inclusion for all our employees, including members of the LGBTI community.”

Homosexuals at the State Department

In the 1950s and 60s, security within the U.S. government, including the State Department, was on high alert for internal risks, particularly Communists and what were considered to be sexual deviants—homosexuals and promiscuous individuals. Investigating homosexuality became a core function of the Department’s Office of Security, which ferreted out more people for homosexuality than for being a Communist.

In 1950, a subcommittee chaired by Maryland Senator Millard Tydings convened to investigate Joseph McCarthy’s notorious list of “205 known communists.” Tydings worked to discredit McCarthy’s claim, but, in the process, the subcommittee concluded that the State Department was overrun with “sexual perverts,” part of the so-called “Lavender Scare.” 

During the hearings, Nebraska Senator Kenneth Wherry memorably claimed that as many as 3,000 homosexuals were employed at State. By the end of 1950, 600 people had been dismissed from positions at the State Department on morals charges. In 1973 a federal judge ruled that a person’s sexual orientation alone could not be the sole reason for termination from federal employment; two years later, the Civil Service Commission announced that it would consider applications by gays and lesbians on a case-by-case basis.

The following excerpts give a glimpse behind the curtain as individuals in the Security and Personnel offices discuss how they interrogated suspected homosexuals, who were then forced to leave the Service. Norman V. Shute served as the Administrative Officer of the Near East Asian Affairs (NEA) Bureau at the State Department from 1958-1961. His memoir was given to ADST in July 1995. Robert J. Ryan, Sr. served as the Assistant Chief for Foreign Service Personnel from 1953-1955. He was interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy beginning November 1991. Robert Woodward served as the Chief of Foreign Service Personnel from 1952-1953 and was interviewed by Kennedy beginning May 1987.

Joseph C. Walsh served as the Director of the Security Office from 1953-1957. He was interviewed by G. Lewis Schmidt beginning April 1989. Charles Anthony Gillespie Jr. served as the Regional Security Officer (RSO) in Manila, Philippines and Jakarta, Indonesia from 1965-1966. He was interviewed by Kennedy beginning September 1995. Edward L. Lee II served as an Agent in the Field Office of the Security Office in the State Department from 1971-1972. He was interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy beginning June 1999.

“Homosexuality in the Service has always been a problem”

Norman V. Schute, NEA Administrative Officer, 1958-1961

SCHUTE:  Homosexuality in the Service has always been a problem. I voice no personal opinion on this. Basically, officially it is believed that homosexuality can lead to the compromise of U.S. Government security.

Both German and Soviet intelligence use homosexuals to establish a close relationship with homosexuals in other countries’ services including our own. Those who cohabited on the outside were developed into informants by their lovers.

Others were or were likely to become targets for blackmail and thence informants. “Traitor” is another term used for it. Back in 1946 as I recall, [someone] had to inform Secretary of State Cordell Hull that a very senior officer had been arrested for pederasty [homosexual relationship between an adult male and a minor male] in Lafayette Park [near the White House].

In Rome, two of my colleagues after interviews confessed and were released from the Service. Three members of the original Foreign Service Security group were reported to be deviants and on interview were promptly released.

And in 1947…, Foreign Service Chief Inspector Merle Cochran, later an Ambassador, sent home seven communications personnel, a veritable “daisy and chain” as it is known. And that’s the way it is, or at least was, in my day.

“’How many homosexuals has the Department fired this year?’”

Robert J. Ryan, Sr., Assistant Chief for Foreign Service Personnel, 1953-1955

RYAN: When I was in Departmental Personnel, we had an individual who had been arrested and then the Security Office ran an investigation on him and found that he was an active homosexual. I remember Arch Gean, who was then the Chief of Departmental Personnel, telling me about going up with Jack Peurifoy, who was the Assistant Secretary for Administration, to see General [and Secretary of State George C.] Marshall and going over the file with him.

When they finished their discussion, as it was reported to me, General Marshall said, “Fire the bastard.” And that was where the policy was inaugurated of terminating people with homosexual backgrounds….

On the issue of the homosexuals, of course, one of the unfortunate incidents that occurred following that is that each year at the time the State Department went up for its hearing before the Appropriations Committee, one of the questions from Congressman [John J.] Rooney [D-NY,  pictured], who was Chairman of the State Department Committee, always was “How many homosexuals has the Department fired this year?”

That was a usual question, so it was a matter of public knowledge each year of how many people left the State Department because of allegations of homosexual activities. The Security Office actually had one guy, John Finletter, who spend his full time following up allegations of homosexuality among the employees of the Department.

Robert Woodward, Chief of Foreign Service Personnel, 1952-1953

WOODWARD: The Security Division was caused to set up standards which were very specific and arbitrary. For example, I had gone to great effort to get a deputy Chief of Mission for Saigon….

Ed Gullion was a very able fellow, and I was hunting for a replacement for him. I found a very, very able guy and this was one of the duties of the Chief of Foreign Service personnel, was to try to get very able people for very important assignments. I went to quite a lot of effort to get this man, and I wanted to persuade him — he’d never been in the Far East — I wanted to persuade him of the importance of the assignment. This was, as I recall, just before Dien Bien Phu. It was a very critical time for the French….

Anyhow, the man was going to take up his duties that I considered important, and I think that he’d been persuaded were important. He was about to depart from the United States. I think he was in New York, when I was suddenly informed through Bob Ryan (see above), who was in constant liaison with the security division, that the man had resigned.

Well, I couldn’t understand it, because I had had several talks with him just a few days before, and everything was going according to plan. I discovered that the security division had brought him in and had a very tough interrogation with him.

They had a criterion that if any person in the Foreign Service were found to have had any kind of a homosexual relationship after a date six months after his 21st birthday, that he must be discharged from the Foreign Service. This man that was going to Saigon was 45- 46 years of age, happily married, had children. There was no question of his homosexuality whatever.

But in the course of the interrogation he admitted some kind of a homosexual incident within that narrow margin just after the cut-off date, six months after his 21st birthday. And he was out of the Foreign Service. Of course, there was nothing I could do about it, and I had to find somebody else to go to Saigon.

Joseph C. Walsh, Director of the Security Office, 1953-1957

WALSH: There were multiple problems. When Congress created USIA [U.S. Information Agency] they directed that everyone then in the Agency be cleared for top secret information. Thus, all were subjected to “full-field” investigations by the FBI to determine whether or not their employment was to be continued.

Also, all applicants for employment with the Agency were subject to the same regulation. This investigational processing consumed long 3 periods of time — as much as four months in some cases — which created untenable problems in the hiring procedures.

As a result of these long delays, the Agency lost many especially suitable applicants for employment. The great bulk of the job didn’t set well with the FBI and, with Congressional approval, transferred the full-field investigations to the Civil Service Commission with the stipulation that should an investigation reveal affiliation with Communism or its organizations, such would be returned to the FBI for their more extensive handling.

This measure reduced considerably the waiting time before the required clearance could be made for an individual’s appointment. The clearance process, of course, fell upon the Office of Security. The staff received the FBI and/or Civil Service reports, studied them carefully and, with no obstacles extant, stamped them with full clearance.

The standard of measurement, our bible, was Executive Order 10450 issued by President Eisenhower shortly before our Agency was formed in 1953. The essence of this Order related to Federal employees as affecting the country’s National Security — denial of such employment was spelled out to include anyone associated with communism, homosexuals, drunks and other social aberrants who might be considered threats to the security of the USA.

All this, I’m sure you remember, happened within the days of the broiling McCarthy investigations so thoroughly exposed under TV lights and avidly consumed by a national audience intrigued and scared by the Wisconsin Senator’s accusations.

As to the denials of the security clearances: It seems to be — now, thirty-plus years later — there were, within our Agency, extremely few individuals (employees or applicants) who were denied security clearance due to their association with communism, or its organizations. By far, the major shares of the total number were those admitted homosexuals.

It was a nasty business, seeking out and identifying people suspected of homosexuality. Disquieting features to me — there were several awfully decent and intelligent people who worked within the Agency whom I got to know well and enjoyed working within the Agency programs who, suddenly and peremptorily, dropped out of the picture — disappeared! Under investigation, they had admitted their homosexuality and had resigned.

“The whole idea was to develop information so that you could confront the individual. Then he would resign.”

Charles Anthony Gillespie Jr., RSO, Manila and Jakarta, 1965-1966

GILLESPIE: I learned when I came into security affairs that there were two sorts of secret or highly sensitive, investigative units – or maybe it was one unit with two parts in the State Department security system. One of these units had to do with real, honest to God, counterintelligence….

Either a separate unit or a part of the same unit dealt with nothing but homosexuality. I remember the first time that when I went into that unit and talked to two or three of the people assigned, I felt almost intimidated myself. They were briefing me on the unit’s activities. There were special code words for the special kinds of investigations. These were formal investigations.

We use a code word system today on the distribution of sensitive policy messages. We have “NODIS,” which means “no distribution outside the State Department.” These security units also used “NODIS CHEROKEE,” “NODIS GREEN,” and so forth, which meant that the message dealt with a particular subject. It could involve China, and so forth. In any event, in the security investigative area, communications were labeled. I don’t remember quite what the label was, but a certain label meant that it concerned a homosexuality case.

The whole idea was to develop enough information so that you could confront the individual and get him to agree that he was a homosexual, if that was what you believed. Then he would resign from the Foreign Service. If he didn’t resign, you would pull his security clearance.

I was never directly involved with one of these cases. I don’t know what it was really like to handle one. However, that confrontation technique as described to me was to face these people, get them to admit what they were, and then they would leave the Foreign Service. That was the whole idea.

It was a little more precise than [looking for somebody who was unmarried or talked with a lisp], although those factors were never far away, because I think that people believed in those days, as they probably have for some time, that in terms of our ethic in the United States, you could probably identify people like that. They were visible if you just looked hard enough.

What I was told when I was briefed in this unit was that I should try to find out whether there were any homosexual hangouts, e.g., nightclubs at my post.

If I heard of anybody from our mission who hung out at these places, I should immediately take the following steps:  find out what they were doing at one of these hangouts. Was the allegation really true? If it was true, they told me, notify us, and we’ll open a case on the person concerned. So that was it, and this unit would undertake follow-up action.

When you did a background investigation on someone or you were updating an investigation on a Foreign Service Officer — let’s say, age 43 or 44 — who had never been married, you were enjoined to make sure that you asked all the right questions which would cover what we today would call sexual orientation. The question might be asked, “Why isn’t he married?” “Does he go out with women?” Really subtle, penetrating questions like that — just as we used to ask questions about drinking.

When I first started in as a Security Officer, questions on drug use were practically never asked. I left the security area in the late 1960s when questions about drugs became very important. Investigations of homosexuality were very important matters. They were big deals.

I don’t think that the homosexuality issue would ever have loomed large in most people’s minds. However, for many of them it was a distasteful area…

The idea was that if an individual engages in any behavior which is prohibited by his social or cultural group, and does it surreptitiously, knows that it’s wrong, by that very fact he or she is now susceptible to pressure. That was the whole theory of it.

Now, I will be very blunt and say that I detected, as a human being talking to other human beings — and this is an intuitive kind of judgment — that there were some people who were firmly and solidly convinced that certain kinds of behavior were not only wrong but abominable.

They considered that this kind of behavior should be ferreted out and eradicated. Some of the people holding those views were certainly in the State Department security system at this time. I think that they gravitated to charges of this kind.

“If a person said they were homosexual, that usually meant terminating the interview”

Edward L. Lee II, Field Agent, Security Office, 1971-1972

LEE: There was a law that is still in place called Executive Order 10450. That goes back to the ‘60s. It authorized federal agencies to investigate people that were coming to work for the U.S. government.

There were certain criteria that you would look at. We did not want at that time people that were involved in activity of moral turpitude. We did not want people that were not loyal Americans. What a loyal American is or is not was never quite well defined.

But we were hoping that people would hold up their hand and say they would be loyal to the Constitution and the system of government, they would not attempt to overthrow it, and what have you. Even in the early ‘70s, the Cold War was well underway. There was a threat of communist aggression worldwide. There was a threat of nuclear superiority. So, there were a lot of things we did not want. We did not want spies or homosexuals.

The belief at that time was that if your sexual orientation was other than heterosexual, you could be co-opted, recruited, blackmailed. Thereby, a very senior person in the Department of State could be forced, co-opted, coerced to turn over documents, violate their loyalty to the United State and what have you. We’ve learned a lot since then.

But we did not want people with bad credit, criminal records, homosexuals, drunks… These were all risks that we were not prepared to accept. Unfortunately, during the early periods that I was in the Foreign Service, people didn’t have that many rights. If the Department chose to turn you down for a position, the ability to get equal treatment under the law was not guaranteed…

The period of free love, the period of Haight Ashbury and Woodstock and free expression sort of helped us become who we later were. There was a lot of jaundiced eye looks at people even if their academic background was good and they scored well on the Foreign Service exam and did well on the orals and what have you.

When they got to the point of getting the clearance, that became a very unpleasant experience. There were no real guarantees of what could and could not be asked. If you were asked, “How would you describe your sexual orientation,” quite often people that were raised in the ‘50s or ‘60s would not lie, they would simply tell the truth.

We’d always been told that if you tell the truth, how can you be wrong? Well, in telling the truth, you end up not being hired. So, people really looked at the security organization, SY, the Office of Security, as this potential group of thugs that could deprive you of being employed. During the late ‘60s/early ‘70s, we grappled with those things….

If a person said they were homosexual, that usually meant terminating the interview, documenting what had been said, and that would be reviewed by a higher authority. Usually, a woman that was living with someone was viewed very negatively. A woman who was divorced was almost looked at as a prostitute in some circles within the old SY organization. It was a very black-and-white environment

References

Exonerating “Patient Zero”: The Truth About ‘Patient Zero’ And HIV’s Origins

The man blamed for bringing HIV to the United States just had his name cleared.

New research has proved that Gaëtan Dugas, a French-Canadian flight attendant who was dubbed “patient zero,” did not spread HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, to the United States.

A cutting-edge analysis of blood samples from the 1970s offers new insight into how the virus spread to North America via the Caribbean from Africa. More than 1.2 million people in the United States currently live with HIV.

The research, conducted by an international team of scientists, was published this week in the journal Nature.

“No one should be blamed for the spread of a virus that no one even knew about, and how the virus moved from the Caribbean to the US in New York City in the 1970s is an open question,” co-author of the research, Dr. Michael Worobey, a professor and head of the ecology and evolutionary biology department at the University of Arizona, said at a news conference Tuesday.

“It could have been a person of any nationality. It could have even been blood products. A lot of blood products used in the United States in the 1970s actually came from Haiti,” he said. “What we’ve done here is try to get at the origins of the first cases of AIDS that were ever noticed. … When you step back in time, you see a very interesting pattern.”

‘Patient zero’ and the power of a name

In 1981, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first documented a mysterious disease. In their research, they linked the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, to sexual activity.

In 1987, the National Review referred to him as the “Columbus of AIDS,” and the New York Post called him “the man who gave us AIDS” on its front page.

“We were quite annoyed by that, because it was just simply wrong, but this doesn’t stop people from saying it, because it’s so appealing. You know, ‘The man who brought us AIDS.’ Well, if it were true, it would be annoying, but since it isn’t true,

Gaëtan Dugas was dubbed “patient zero.”

However, the letter O was misinterpreted as a zero in the scientific literature. Once the media and the public noticed the name, the damage was done.

Dugas and his family were condemned for years. In Randy Shilts’ seminal book on the AIDS crisis, “And The Band Played On,” Dugas is referenced extensively and referred to as a “sociopath” with multiple sexual partners.

In 1987, the National Review referred to him as the “Columbus of AIDS,” and the New York Post called him “the man who gave us AIDS” on its front page.

“We were quite annoyed by that, because it was just simply wrong, but this doesn’t stop people from saying it, because it’s so appealing. You know, ‘The man who brought us AIDS.’ Well, if it were true, it would be annoying, but since it isn’t true, it’s even more annoying,” said Dr. James Curran, dean of Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health and co-director of the university’s Center for AIDS Research.

Curran, who was not involved in the new research, coordinated the AIDS task force at the CDC in 1981 and then led the HIV/AIDS division until 1995.

“The CDC never said that he was patient zero and that he was the first person,” Curran said of Dugas.

“In addition to the potential damage to his reputation, it was also a damage to scientific plausibility. That there would be a single-point source to start the epidemic in the United States is not very likely. It’s more likely that several people were infected,” Curran said. “I think that the concept of patient zero has always been wrong and flawed, and scientists never said it.”

Dugas died in 1984 of AIDS-related complications. Now, more than 30 years later, scientists have used samples of his blood to clear his name.

Going back in time with blood

For the new research, Worobey and his colleagues gathered archival blood samples in New York and San Francisco that were originally collected for a hepatitis B study in 1978 and 1979. The samples came from men who had sex with men.

The researchers screened the samples and noticed that “the prevalence of HIV positivity in these early samples from hepatitis B patients is really quite high,” Worobey said Tuesday.

From the samples, the researchers recovered eight genome sequences of HIV, representing the oldest genomes of the virus in North America. They also recovered the HIV genome from Dugas’ blood sample.

As many of the samples had degraded over time, Worobey’s lab developed a technique called “RNA jackhammering” to recover the genetic material.

The technique involves breaking down the human genomes found in the blood and then extracting the RNA of HIV to recover genetic data about the virus, an approach that’s similar to what has been used to reconstruct the ancient genome of Neanderthals in separate studies.

“The major contribution which interested me the most was their capacity to restore full sequence genomes from very old serum samples using the jackhammer technique,” Curran said of the new research.

After analyzing the genomes, the researchers found no biological evidence that Dugas was the primary case that brought HIV to the United States, and the genome from Dugas appeared typical of the other strains already in the United States at the time.

The researchers discovered strong evidence that the virus emerged in the United States from a pre-existing Caribbean epidemic in or around 1970.

How HIV arrived in the United States

Sequencing genomes allows scientists to take a peek back in time to determine how a virus emerged and where it traveled by examining how many mutations appear in the genome.

Scientists estimate that HIV was transmitting in humans after a chimpanzee infected a single person sometime in the early 20th century in sub-Saharan Africa. The general consensus among scientists is that HIV then crossed the Atlantic and quickly spread through the Caribbean before it arrived in the United States, probably from Haiti, Curran said.

Scientists at the University of Oxford published a separate study in June suggesting that HIV spread through specific migration routes — based on tourism and trade — throughout the past 50 years as it made its way around the world.

The research team behind the new genetic analysis now hopes that its findings may lead to a better understanding of how HIV moved through populations — and how blaming a single patient for the pathogen’s rise remains troublesome.

“In many ways, the historical evidence has been pointing toward the fallacy of this particular notion of patient zero for decades,” Richard McKay, a historian of medicine at the University of Cambridge and a co-author of the new research, said at Tuesday’s news conference.

“The study shines light from different angles to better understand the complexity of an important period in the past,” he said. “In view of this complexity, one of the dangers of focusing on a single patient zero when discussing the early phases of an epidemic is that we risk obscuring important, structural factors that might contribute to its development: poverty, legal and cultural inequalities, barriers to health care and education. These important determinants risk being overlooked.”

Reference

Gay History: The Daughters of Bilitis

The scene was 1950’s America where laws prohibited the congregating of “sex perverts”, a term in which homosexuals, crossdressers and transgender folk were routinely lumped in. Any bar or club which permitted this activity would have its liquor license revoked and even face permanent closure. Raids on suspected habitats were rampant and violent as America engulfed itself in the Lavender Scare. Unbeknownst to most citizens, this was a government created fear run by the CIA and the FBI with J. Edgar Hoover at the helm. Decades later the stories would break of the illegal spying and blatant fabrications the government had formed and perpetuated on peaceful institutions. Especially targeting any institute of a minority that could threaten the White, straight, middle-class Utopia some leaders were trying to desperately cling to. Yet despite the obstacles, the fear, and the propaganda two women found each other and would fall into a 55-year romance.

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon met in Seattle in 1950, two journalists who were both editors of separate Labor Journals. Lyon says that her first impression of Martin stuck in her mind because “She was the first woman I’d ever seen carrying a briefcase!.” The two struck up a friendship with Lyon maintaining that she was straight for the first two years, but eventually giving in and revealing her feelings to Del. The two shared an intimate night but made no commitments. Lyon left soon to return to San Francisco and continue her career; however, her thoughts remained on Martin. The two didn’t stay away from each other long and on Valentine’s Day in 1953 they made their commitment to one another official. The first year was hard, as it is with so many new couples, Lyon often jokes that they only stayed together because they couldn’t decide who would get the cat!

One of the biggest problems Phyllis and Del experienced was loneliness and isolation. While they had a few male gay friends, and some family close by, they were constantly frustrated at their lack of a lesbian circle. With raids and pressure mounting against queer hangouts it became even harder for the couple to meet others like them. This is when a new friend suggested the two come to a secret meeting which would discuss starting a private lesbian club. Phyllis says in her friend asked if she and Del would like to join a society of 6 lesbians and they both exclaimed “YES” because that would mean they’d each know 5 more lesbians. To their delight, the club formed with 8 lesbians, 4 couples and the group began to discuss locations as well as a name. No one is sure who suggested it but the name Bilitis came up. Bilitis was a fictional character from the poem “Songs of Bilitis” written by 19th-century poet Pierre Louys. In his poem, Bilitis falls in love with and seduces the notorious Sappho, who was a real lesbian in early Greece and an icon in lesbian history. In fact, before the term Lesbian, women attracted to other women were referred to as Sapphists. The club knew that any true Saphhist would know the name Bilitis was a subtle reference to the lesbian community. Yet it was certainly obscure enough to throw off the scent of any authorities or anti-gay hounds. For your enjoyment, here is an excerpt from the Songs of Bilitis:

Phyllis Lyon & Del Martín

Love me, not with smiles and flutes or plaited flowers, but with your heart and tears, as I adore you with my bosom and my sobs.

When your breasts alternate with mine, when I feel your very life touching my own when your knees rise up behind me, my panting mouth no longer even knows the way to yours.

Clasp me as I clasp you! See, the lamp has just gone out, we toss about in the night, but I press your moving body and I hear your ceaseless plaint. . .

Moan! moan! moan! oh, woman! Eros drags us now in heavy pain. You’ll suffer less upon this bed in bringing forth a child than you’ll agonize in bringing forth your love.

Panting, I took her hand and pressed it tightly beneath the humid skin of my left breast. My head tossed here and there and I moved my lips, but not a word escaped.

My maddened heart, sudden and hard, beat and beat upon my breast, as a captive satyr would beat about, tied in a goat-skin vessel. She said to me: “Your heart is troubling you..”

“Oh, Mnasidika!” I answered her, “a woman’s heart is not seated there. This is but a little bird, a dove which stirs its feeble wings. The heart of a woman is more terrible.

“It burns like a myrtle-berry, with a bright red flame, and beneath the abundant foam. ‘Tis there that I feel bitten by voracious Aphrodite.”

We are resting, our eyes closed; the quietude is great about our bed. Ineffable summer nights! But she, thinking that I sleep, puts her warm hand on my arm.

She murmurs: “Bilitis, are you asleep?” My heart pounds, but without answering I breathe as calmly as a sleeping woman in her dreams. Then she begins to speak:

“Since you cannot hear me,” she says, “Ah! how I love you!” And she repeats my name: “Bilitis . . . Bilitis . . . ” And she strokes me with the tips of trembling fingers:

Woodsworth quote and poster image from Liz Millward’s book “Making a Scene: Lesbians Community Across Canada 1964-84.”

“This mouth is mine! and mine alone! Is there another in the world as lovely? Ah! my happiness, my happiness! These naked arms are mine, this neck, this hair. . .

On October 19, 1955, the Daughters of Bilitis hosted their first meeting in the home of on the couples. We are going to read off the name of guests but it is important to know that many of these women went under pseudonyms even long after the LGBTQ movement took off. The list of newcomers was “Bobbie, Toni, Gwen, Elizabeth, Noni, Mary and Del, and Phyl.” In this meeting, they agreed to write their two gay affiliates the Mattachine Society and ONE Incorporated. These were of course two male groups and some mistook the DOB (Daughters of Bilitis) as being a direct branch of one of these institutions. But to the surprise of many, including the FBI who were already spying on the group, the women were perfectly capable of creating their own organization without the help of a man.

As instrumental as the DOB was it is important to remember this was still the 1950’s and they were not perfect, often being brainwashed or forced to assimilate to their societal standards. While it is easy to cast judgment on some of their rules and stances, the truth is their progress in such an oppressive time is what should be remembered the most. However, we will discuss some of the issues that caused problems in the beginning. One of the first issues to arise was the dress code. Most of the members believed that masculine clothing could paint the group in a bad light. In fact, a rule was established just a month later that “If slacks are worn they must be women’s slacks”. This was in response to three butch visitors attending a weekly meeting and striking fear into the hearts of some members. Of course, this mirrored the narrative at the time. The editor of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote in 1957 “When ladies young and old wear sloppy slacks or tight pants on Market St. I wish I had a water pistol and could give each one of them a good squirt. Ladies, please be ladies.” We couldn’t find if the editor was a male or a female at this time, however, the stigma still applies.

Another issue the DOB faced was whether they wanted to be a social club or politically active. The women’s rights movement was taking off and the Homophile movement was starting to gain traction with more individuals coming out in public. A side note, the term Homophile was originally preferred as the root word “phile” is derived from the Greek word for love and early activists thought it would be better if people related gays with love rather than sex. But back to the DOB, the group was slowly growing and while some women wanted to further advance the fight for inclusivity, others simply wanted a place to meet where they could enjoy each other’s company without fear of being raided or targeted for violence. This issue would continue to divide members for the next 2 decades until the group would formally disband.

Barbara Gittings picketing Independence Hall as part of an Annual Reminder on July 4, 1966; photo by Kay Lahusen.

Finally, the biggest issue facing the country at this time did not escape the Daughters and its members. Despite the original 8 founders varying in their ethnicities, Racism still played a large factor as the organization expanded. While the first chapter had few issues with People of Color attending their meetings, as the DOB grew and more chapters were established around the country racial prejudice crept into the ranks and discouraged many fellow lesbians from attending the desperately sought meetings. It is sad to remember that simply because one minority group experiences oppression does not exclude them from being just as culpable in delivering that same oppression to another minority group. Throughout LGBTQ history we see exclusions in varying forms from the exclusion of POC, to the exclusion of trans individuals, to those who are too butch or too femme, or simply non-conforming to one standard or one side.

Regardless of these obstacles, the DOB was just getting started and their most influential contribution was yet to come. In 1956 the Daughters of Bilitis decided to go public with their group by officially affiliating themselves with the first and largest gay publication in America, One Incorporated. The magazine announced the Daughters of Bilitis in an issue along with the DOB’s stated purpose. While we won’t take time to read the Purpose on this podcast, you can find it posted on our social media pages. To give a quick rundown though, the organization make 4 statements which covered 1. Educating the Variant (a term used for homosexuals) 2. Educating the Public, 3. Participating in Research, and 4. Investigating the Penal Code (fighting to de-criminalize homosexuality). The plug from One brought a surge of interest to the Daughters. That summer Barbara Gittings attended her first DOB meeting in San Francisco. She says of the meeting “There were about a dozen women in the room and I thought – wow! All these lesbians together in one place! I had never seen anything like it.” This shows how isolated the gay community, and particularly the lesbian community, really were from each other. By the way, Barbara would later go on to become very influential in the party and eventual editor of The Ladder.

In October of 1956, one year after the group’s formation, the DOB published their first edition of The Ladder. The magazine was the first nationally distributed publication of its kind. However, it wasn’t the first lesbian newsletter. In 1947 Vice Versa was written and published by “Lisa Ben” with the subtitle “America’s Gayest Magazine”, distributed only in Los Angeles and often by hand rather than mail. Lisa Ben was a pseudonym of course and an acronym for Lesbian, there are varying reports on what her actual name was. What we did find is that she preferred to remain anonymous so we will keep it that way. Vice Versa was a fun little newsletter that instantly became a hit. However, the constant pressure of being outed took its toll on Ben and rumor has it she lost her job and became increasingly paranoid of certain arrest and imprisonment. After just a few short months she closed down her publication. Nevertheless, it left a lasting impression on the people L.A. and a hunger in the lesbian community for something of their own. When the Daughters of Bilitis released their magazine almost 10 years later the suffering Sapphists were relieved.

While the DOB put plenty of energy in researching a name for their organization, the name for their newsletter The Ladder actually derived from the artwork of the first issue. Simple line drawings that showed figures moving towards a ladder in the distance. Phyllis Lyon did a lot of the writing for the magazine, originally under a pseudonym, but eventually coming out in order to encourage other lesbians to do the same. Right by her side as always was Del as editor of the publication. By 1957 the newsletter had 400 subscribers across the country. Letters of support poured in and one prominent recipient, in particular, wrote to the magazine:

“I’m glad as heck that you exist. You are obviously serious people and I feel that women, without wishing to foster any strict separatist notions, homo or hetero, indeed have a need for their own publications and organizations.”

The writer was Lorraine Hansberry, who would later become the first African- American woman and one of the youngest playwrights in history to have a produced on Broadway. She would go on to produce the award-winning “A Raisin in the Sun”.

As the magazine grew so did the DOB and the lesbian movement as a whole. In 1960 the first National Lesbian Convention was held in San Francisco with 200 female attendees. Another visitor was the San Francisco police always putting the taxpayers’ money hard at work as they looked for women in men’s clothing. And of course, public outcry increased as politicians and pastors warned of the “new evil” of lesbians. “You parents of daughters” one politician screamed into a mic “— do not sit back complacently feeling that because you have no boys in your family everything is all right…To enlighten you as to the existence of a Lesbian organization composed of homosexual women, make yourself acquainted with the name Daughters of Bilitis.” However the more the agitators spoke out against the DOB the more attention they drew to the group and the more their numbers swelled. In cities all around the country, in even the most unlikely places, chapters were springing up.

Unfortunately, the old arguments of how much the group should get politically involved sprang up, again and again, causing deeper rifts. By the 1960’s the civil rights and feminist movements were in full swing and the younger lesbians weren’t interested in outdated dress codes, and racial exclusion, or lack of political involvement. In 1963 Barbara Gittings took over The Ladder and brought a new political charge to the magazine. For the first time the cover was replaced with pictures of real lesbian models and eventually, the models even gave consent to be named. Queer women were no longer willing to sit silently to the side and assimilated to societies outdated and sexist requirements. It was also during this time that the DOB would begin to receive an anonymous $3,000 monthly donation from a contributor known only as “Pennsylvania” who would write a check to a different daughter each time. The total sum donated was estimated at $100,000.

Despite their best efforts, the members of the DOB could not come to an agreement on whether to be involved in politics or even which organizations to endorse. As tension in the organization continued to intensify the Daughters of Bilitis finally disbanded in 1970. The president at the time, Rita LaPorte took The Ladder’s mailing list without knowledge or approval and continued to publish the magazine for another 2 years. However, without the monthly donation from “Pennsylvania” Rita and her co-conspirator Barbara Grier soon ran out of money and the magazine officially folded.

Regardless of its flaws and dramatic demise, the Daughters of Bilitis and their infamous publication The Ladder were game changers for the Lesbian Movement and set a precedent for many LGBTQ organizations to follow. And back to that love story about Phyllis and Del, on June 16, 2008, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin became the first same-sex couple to be legally married in San Francisco. They had been together 55 years. A few months later, Del passed away at age 87 with Phyllis right by her side as always.

Marcia M. Gallo, the historian and author of Different Daughters: A History of the Daughters of Bilitis and the Rise of the Lesbian Rights Movement, the resource for most of this podcast, wrote about The Ladder:

“For women who came across a copy in the early days, The Ladder was a lifeline. It was a means of expressing and sharing otherwise private thoughts and feelings, of connecting across miles and disparate daily lives, of breaking through isolation and fear.”

Reference

Gay History:The Mattachine Society

McCarthy and the Mattachine Society

One of the earliest American gay movement organizations, the Mattachine Society began in Los Angeles in 1950-51. It received its name from the pioneer activist Hany Hay in commemoration of the French medieval and Renaissance Societe Mattachine, a somewhat shadowy musical masque group of which he had learned while preparing a course on the history of popular music for a workers’ education project. The name was meant to symbol- ize the fact that “gays were a masked people, unknown and anonymous,” and the word itself, also spelled matachin or matachine, has been derived from the Arabic of Moorish Spain, in which mutawajjihin, is the masculine plural of the active participle of tawajjaha, “to mask oneself.” Another, less probable, derivation is from Italian matto, “crazy.” What historical reality lay behind Hays’ choice of name remains uncertain, just as the members of the group never quite agreed on how the opaque name Mattachine should be pronounced. Such gnomic self- designations were typical of the homophile phase of the movement in which open proclamation of the purposes of the group through a revealing name was regarded as imprudent.

Political Setting.

The political situation that gave rise to the Mattachine Society was the era of McCarthyism, which began with a speech by Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin at a Lincoln’s Birthday dinner of a Republican League in Wheeling, West Virginia, on February 9, 1950. In it McCarthy accused the Truman Administration of harboring “loyalty and security risks” in government service. And the security risks, he told Congressional investigators, were in no small part “sex perverts.” A subcommittee of the Senate was duly formed to investigate his charges, which amounted to little more than a list of government employees who had run afoul of the Washington vice squad, but such was the mentality of the time that all seven members of the subcommittee endorsed McCarthyls accusations and called for more stringent measures to “ferret out” homosexuals in government.

The May 1959 issue of the Mattachine Review, an American LGBT magazine

Formation and Structure.

The organization founded by Hay and his associates was in fact modeled in part on the Communist Party, in which secrecy, hierarchical structures, and “democratic centralism “were the order of the day”. Following also the example of freemasonry, the founders created a pyramid of five “orders” of membership, with increasing levels of responsibility as one ascended the structure, and with each order having one or two representatives from a higher order of the organization. As the membership of the Mattachine Society grew, the orders were expected to subdivide into separate cells so that each layer of the pyramid could expand horizontally. Thus members of the same order but different cells would remain unknown to one another. A single fifth order consisting of the founders would provide the centralized leadership whose decisions would radiate downward through the lower orders.

The discussions that led to the formation of the Mattachine Society began in the fall of 1950, and in July 1951 it adopted its official designation. As Marxists the founders of the group believed that the injustice and oppression which they suffered stemmed from relationships deeply embedded in the structure of American society. These relationships they sought to analyze in terms of the status of homosexuals as an oppressed cultural minority that accepted a “mechanically …superimposed heterosexual ethic” on their own situation. The result was an existence fraught with “self-deceit, hypocrisy, and charlatanism” and a “dis- turbed, inadequate, and undesirable . . .sense of value.” Homosexuals collectively were thus a “social minority” unaware of its own status, a minority that needed to develop a group consciousness that would give it pride in it’s own identity. By promoting such a positive self-image the founders hoped to forge a unified national movement of homosexuals ready and able to fight against oppression. Given the position of the Mattachine Society in an America where the organized left was shrinking by the day, the leaders had to frame their ideas in language accessible to non-Marxists. In April 1951 they produced a one-page document settingout their goals and some of their thinking about homosexuals as a minority. By the summer of 1951 the initial crisis of the organization was surmounted as its semipublic meet- ings suddenly became popular and the number of groups proliferated. Hay himself had to sever his ties with the Communist Party so as not to burden it with the onus of his leadership of a group of homosexuals, though by that time the interest of the Communist movement in sexual reform had practically vanished.

Early Struggles and Accomplish- ments.

In February 1952 the Mattachine Society confronted its first issue: police harassment in the Los Angeles area. One of the group’s original members, Dale Jennings, was entrapped by a plain clothesman, and after being released on bail, he called his associates who hastily sum- moned a Mattachine meeting of the fifth order. As the Society was still secret, the fifth order created a front group called Citizens Committee to Outlaw Entrapment to publicize the case. Ignored by the media, they responded by distributing leaflets in areas with a high density of homosexual residents. When the trial began on June 23, Jennings forthrightly admitted that he was a homosexual but denied the charges against him. The jury, after thirty- six hours of deliberation, came out deadlocked. The district attorney’s office decided to drop the charges. The contrast with the usual timidity and hypocrisy in such cases was such that the Citizens Committee justifiably called the outcome a “great victory.”

With this victory Mattachine began to spread, and a network of groups soon extended throughout Southern California, and by May 1953 the fifth order estimated total participation in the society at more than 2,000. Groups formed in Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco, and the membership became more diverse as individual groups appealed t o different segments of gay society.

Emboldened by the positive response to the Citizens Committee, Hay and his associates decided to incorporate in California as a not-for-profit educational organization. The Mattachine Foundation would be an acceptable front for interacting with the larger society, especially with professionals and public officials. It could conduct research on homosexuality whose results could be incorporated in an educational campaign for homosexual rights. And the very existence of the Foundation would convince prospective members that there was nothing illegal about participation in an organization of this kind. The fifth order had modest success in obtaining professional support for the Foundation. Evelyn Hooker, a research psychologist from UCLA, declined to join the board of directors, but by keeping in close touch with Mattachine she obtained a large pool of gay men for her pioneering study on homosexual personality.

Dick Leitsch, president of Mattachine Society of New York, at its offices, December 30, 1965. Photo by Louis Liotta/New York Post. Source: NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images.

Crisis.

The political background of Hay and the other founders, while it gave them the skills needed to build a movement in the midst of an intensely hostile society, also compromised them in the eyes of other Americans. An attack on the Mattachine Society by a Los Angeles newspaper writer named Paul Coates in March 1953 linked “sexual deviates” with “security risks” who were banding together to wield “tremendous political power.” To quiet the furor, the fifth order called a two-day convention in Los Angeles in April 1953 in order to restructure the Mattachine Society as an above-ground organizaion. The founders pleaded with the Mat- tachine members to defend everyone’s First Amendment rights, regardless of political affiliations, since they might easily find themselves under questioning by the dreaded House Un-American Activities Committee. Kenneth Burns, Marilyn Rieger, and Hal Call formed an alliance against the leftist leadership that was successful at a second session held in May to complete work on the society’s constitution. The results of the meeting were paradoxical in that the views of the founders prevailed on every issue, yet the anti-Communist mood of the country had so peaked that the fifth-order members agreed among themselves not to seek of- fice in the newly structured organization, and their opponents were elected instead. The convention approved a simple membership organization headed by an elected Coordinating Council with authority to establish working committees. Regional branches, called “area councils,” would elect their own officers and be represented on the main council. The unit for membership participation became the task-oriented chapter. Harry Hay emerged from the fracas crushed and despondent, and never again played a central role in the gay movement.

Mattachine Restructured.

The new leadership changed the ideology of the Mattachine Society. Rejecting the notion of a “homosexual minority,” they took the opposite view that “the sex variant is no different from anyone else except in the object of his sexual expression.” They were equally opposed to the idea of a homosexual culture and a homosexual ethic. Their program was, in effect, assimi- lationist. Instead of militant, collective action, they wanted only collaboration with the professionals – “established and recognized scientists, clinics, research, organizations and institutions – the sources of authority in American society. The discussion groups were allowed to wither and die,while the homosexual cause was to be defended by proxy, since an organization of “upstart gays . . . would have been shattered and ridiculed.” At an organization-wide convention held in Los Angeles in November 1953, the conflict between the two factions erupted in a bitter struggle in which the opponents of the original perspective failed to put through motions aimed at driving out the Communist members, but the radical, militant impulse was gone, and many of the members resigned, leaving skeleton committees that could no longer function. Over the next year and a half, the Mattachine Society continued its decline. At the annual convention in May 1954,only forty- two members were in attendance, and the presence of women fell to token representation.

An important aspect of Mattachine was the issuing of two monthly periodicals. ONE Magazine, the product of a Los Angeles/ discussion group, began in January 1953, eventually achieving a circulation of 5000 copies. Not formally part of Mattachine, in time the magazine gave rise to a completely separate organization, ONE, Inc., which still flourishes, though the periodical ceased regular publication in 1968. In January 1955 the San Francisco branch began a somewhat more scholarly journal, Mattachine Review, which lasted for ten years.

Helped by these periodicals, which reached many previously isolated individuals, Mattachine became better known nationally. Chapters functioned in a number of American cities through the 1960s, when they were also able to derive some strength from the halo effect of the civil rights movement. As service organizations they could counsel individuals who were in legal difficulties, needed psychotherapy, or asked for confidential referral to professionals in appropriate fields. However, they failed to adapt to the militant radicalismof the post-Stonewall years after 1969, and they gradually went under. The organization retains, together with its lesbian counterpart, the Daughters of Bilitis, its historical renown as the legendary symbol of the “homophile” phase of the American gay movement.

BIBLIOGUPHY. John D’Emilio, Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making o f a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1940-1 970, Chicago: Chicago University Press,1983.

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