Monthly Archives: August 2019

Gay History: The Drummer’s Revenge – The Story of Nicolas Daussy, Seigneur de Saint-Michel

In 1642, the town of Ville-Marie — the future Montreal — was founded as part of the effort by some very extreme Catholics to convert the Native people to Catholicism. A mere six years later, in 1648, the city had its — and the future Canada’s — first recorded mention of homosexuality among Europeans.
A military drummer was sentenced for “crimes of the worst kind.” History doesn’t record the drummer’s name, nor his partner’s. One historian has suggested that this partner might have been a Native man who escaped the drummer’s fate, though this isn’t known for sure.
What is known is that the drummer’s case was moved to Quebec City. French law traditionally prescribed death by fire for homosexuality. According to the Journal of the Jesuit Fathers for September 1648:

“About this time, there was brought from Montreal a drummer, Convictus crimine pessimo [convicted of a crime of the worst kind], whose death our Fathers who were at Montreal opposed, sed occute; he was then sent hither and put in the prison. It was proposed to him, so that he might at least escape the galleys, to accept the office of executioner of Justice; he accepted it, but his trial was first disposed of, and then his sentence was commuted.”

So only the intervention of the Jesuits saved him from death, and they further managed to argue him down from a life of hard labour to a job as New France’s executioner. Given his choices, the drummer chose to become an executioner. This was extraordinary, given that executions of “sodomites” in France were then at their peak, at that the Jesuits were at the centre of it.

We don’t know what happened to the drummer after that, but we do know that his first victim was a girl of 15 or 16, convicted of theft. This is the last we hear of him. By 1653, the colony was looking for a new executioner. No record survives to tell us what happened to the drummer — whether he was dead, convicted of another crime, or had escaped.

Some historians working on this issue — Pierre Hurteau and Patrice Corriveau, for example — have taken to claiming the drummer’s name wasn’t lost to history, and are calling him “René Huguet dit Tambour.” I’ve checked the sources they cite, however, and can’t find that name in any of them. I’ve also checked Marcel Trudel’s Catalogue des Immigrants, which lists the names of everyone known to have arrived in the colony, from any known source Trudel could get a hold of, for the years the drummer would’ve been in Ville-Marie.

There is a “René Huguet” on genealogical records who arrives in the colony in 1680, however, by which time our drummer is long gone. So it seems Hurteau and Corriveau have made some kind of mistake. The drummer’s name is still unknown.

Reference

  • The Drummers Revenge, 9 June 2007, by Hamish, from his WordPress blog LGBT History & Politics in Canada

Gay History: The Gay DNA Of House Music

The dance scene owes much to gay culture…

Earlier this year, Lithuanian producer Ten Walls was riding on a wave of global love with his big-room smasher ‘Walking With Elephants’. Then, in a strange move, which in the future will be seen as a case study for career sabotage, he wrote a homophobic rant on his Facebook page. 

The post compared homosexuals to paedophiles and referred to the LGBT community as “another breed”. His bigotry sent chills down the spine of anyone with an open mind and memories of less liberal times.

For many, reading such hateful views can be frightening.

While the UK’s an apparent bastion of tolerance, Stonewall’s national figures suggest eight in 10 LGBT people have been verbally abused or harassed and one in 10 has been physically assaulted. There might be gay characters in Hollyoaks, but it’s not all rainbows out there. LGBT acceptance is still fairly fragile and far from certain outside city centres.

TAPESTRY

Ten Walls’ comments revealed an embarrassing lack of historical perspective. House music (and all its subsequent forms) wouldn’t be the phenomenon it is today if it wasn’t for the major contribution from an underground scene on both sides of the Atlantic that was black, queer and fabulous.

Frat boys, R&B stars and TOWIE types are fist-pumping to EDM with a gusto that’s cheering, but also quite depressing. The musical narrative that led us to where we are today began over thirty years ago. Electronic music emerged from a scene that was alternative, diverse and mostly, very, very gay. Ten Walls? You listening at the back?

As with any cultural phenomenon, there are many threads which merge to make a fine tapestry. The LGBT contribution to the dawn of house isn’t the whole story, but it’s the backbone, glitter and colour that often gets overlooked. The unsung influence of gay culture may not stem from conscious discrimination, but when a major contribution isn’t celebrated, that oversight can allow homophobia to flourish.

The roots of today’s dance music are definitely disco — be that EDM, dubstep, house or trance. Disco spawned the driving kick-drum and epitomised the escapism, abandon and release that should be at the heart of any decent dance tune.

David Mancuso’s parties at The Loft in NYC were the ground zero of the disco movement. In 1973 Vince Aletti wrote a piece for Rolling Stone documenting the covert scene of, “After-hours clubs and private lofts open on weekends to members only — a hard-core dance crowd — blacks, Latins, gays.”

The much missed DJ Tallulah (1948-2008) span at Studio 54 in New York, but in 1974 took London by storm as the resident DJ at Bang on Charing Cross Road. When asked about dance music culture, he sniffed: “The rave lifestyle of Ibiza in the late ‘80s was just a vanilla version of the New York gay lifestyle of the ‘70s.”

NON STOP ECSTATIC DANCING

In 1981, when ‘house’ was something you might shout while playing bingo, but certainly wasn’t a ‘feeling’ or a genre, Marc Almond from Soft Cell pioneered a poetic take on queer sex, low life and ecstasy. Yes, you read that right — 1981.

The band mortified middle England with ‘Non Stop Erotic Cabaret’, then in ’82 forged electronic mixes and MDMA approval with ‘Non Stop Ecstatic Dancing’, a remix album that featured a rap from Cyndi Ecstasy, a notorious New York MDMA dealer.

Almond is a deserving national treasure now, but back then, he attracted vicious savaging from both the press and public. The mainstream may have been hating on him, but Marc was ‘loved up’ long before Ibiza became a byword for Mediterranean indulgence.

DISCO DECADENCE 

Marc Almond wasn’t the only one to enjoy chemical hedonism in NYC and bring back the vibes (and drugs) to the grey shores of England. Promoter Steve Swindells recalls visiting Paradise Garage and Studio 54: “I got to visit the ultimate VIP room, the manager’s office, and yes *sniff*, it’s all true!

What many people don’t know is that there was a heaving, largely gay orgy in the capacious basement every night! Paradise Garage, however, was something else entirely. That vast space with its incredible soundsystem! The largely gay, black and Hispanic crowd were totally off-their-tits — mostly on Quaaludes (known as ‘Ludes).”

Inspired by Paradise Garage, Swindells returned to London in ’82 and opened The Lift at the Gargoyle club. Susan Sarandon attended the opening bash and the club was immortalised as ‘The Shaft’ by Booker Prize winner Alan Hollinghurst in his first novel The Swimming Pool Library.

The Lift nodded towards New York’s disco palaces, but its roots were in South London’s largely black, illegal, gay house parties (or ‘Blues’ as they were known). Lift resident DJ Mel, of the KCC Sound System, found his feet at those illicit Blues parties and is regularly cited as one of London’s foremost black and proud DJs.

GIVE ME SOME MOORE

In 1983 Philip Sallon opened the Mud Club, a Friday nighter, with DJs Tasty Tim and Jay Strongman. Mark Moore launched his DJ career at the club, when he was promoted from carrying Tim’s records to stepping in when she took a night off.

The club’s clientele were a mix of queens, b-boys and fashionistas. The music was equally eclectic, ranging from hip-hop to show tunes and ‘trash’ — such as the theme tune from kids TV fave Rupert The Bear. The more leftfield and cheesy the tunes were, the crazier the crowd went.

Jeremy Norman opened Heaven in 1979 and by the early ‘80s, it was at the top of its game, giving gay London an epic club that rivalled anything New York (or the world) had to offer. Thursday nights were Asylum, run by Kevin Millins and hosted by Laurence Malice (the infamous Trade supremo).

Asylum and its successor, Pyramid, may get overlooked as acid house incubators, possibly because the crowd didn’t look like the smiley-faced, baggy-togged ravers that came to define the Second Summer Of Love. At Pyramid, die-hard leather clones inhaled amyl nitrate with nuclear goths and industrial transvestites. It was dark, cruisey and very weird. Heaven on any night could be unhinged and alarming, but it really climbed the walls midweek.

Mark Moore became resident on the main floor and as the mid ‘80s approached, he was characteristically experimental: “We were playing a lot of alternative electronic stuff; Cabaret Voltaire, Yello, DAF, New Order. They slotted in with the imports that were coming from Chicago and Detroit. We didn’t know what they were. It was just an extension of the electronic stuff I was already playing. Nobody settled on ‘house music’ for quite a while.”

BLACK, QUEER AND ACID

Those imports from Chicago were largely produced by and made for the city’s queer and black clubs, such as The Warehouse and The Music Box — where DJs like the late Frankie Knuckles were making a name for themselves. Initially, the tunes were a fusion of Italo, Euro-pop and funk. When producers started dabbling with the Roland TR-303 synthesiser, a style emerged that was sparser, spacier and was later dubbed ‘acid house’.

At Pyramid, the freaks ruled and nervy straight boys grudgingly gave respect to the cutting-edge sounds, with their backs firmly against the wall. It was a twitching, bitching melting pot, but it wasn’t loved by everyone. The commercial LGBT scene wasn’t entirely enamoured by the club’s electro beats and Dadaist fashions. Mark Moore regrets mentioning this schism.

“The mistake I made was recounting how the mainstream gay scene kind of rejected it — calling us the ‘black sheep’. In the eyes of most journalists, that makes it seem like it wasn’t that important. But everyone who went to those clubs has told me off for that. Of course it was important. It was JUST as important as the 30 people who saw the Sex Pistols in Manchester. It was MORE than 30 people. It was over 1,000 people, packing out at Heaven, midweek.”

As someone who attended Pyramid religiously, I can confirm that it was both seminal and heaving. My heroic 90-minute nightbus journey home, followed by a half-hour stagger through sleeping suburbia, was always worth the pain of crawling into bed at dawn, covered in glitter, fag-ash and saliva.

Attracting a much smaller clique, but equally wacky, was Leigh Bowery’s Taboo at Maximus in Leicester Square, launched in 1985. Immortalised in Boy George’s musical of the same name and hailed by the style crowd, there’s a chemical aspect of the club that’s often forgotten.

“It was very hi-energy and Italo,” remembers Mark Moore. “But what made it beautiful were Jeffery Hinton’s mix tapes. They were completely druggy and amazing. It was definitely the first place in London where there was mass ecstasy taking.”

Regulars at Taboo, such as Hot Gossip’s Mark Tyme and DJ Mark Lawrence (RIP) would spend hours at home perfecting synchronised dance routines to perform at the club. There was also a fad for formation ‘falling down’.

Basically, all those on the dancefloor would collapse in unison, often as a response to the floorshow. Taboo was demented, messy, short-lived and quite elite, but people have said the same of Danny Rampling’s Shoom. And that was two years later.

PROTO-RAVERS

Luke Howard is resident DJ at Horse Meat Disco and played Queer Nation for 14 years. He agrees that the gays were raving long before it had a name.

“Pre acid house/rave culture, you’d hear house music in many gay clubs in London. The DJ at the Prince Of Wales in Brixton would play house tracks like ‘House Nation’, and the first time I heard ‘House Music Anthem’ by Marshall Jefferson was at a venue called Traffic on York Way [in Kings Cross].

I went straight to Groove Records and bought a copy on import the next day. The biggest night that played loads of house music was Pyramid at Heaven where Mark Moore and Colin Faver were residents.”

On a less alternative tip, but fiercely serving the LGBT black community, was Jungle at Busby’s on Charing Cross Road.

The Monday nighter ran from ’83-86 and again, Steve Swindells was at the helm. He ponders its influence: “The DJs were Colin Faver (Kiss FM) and Fat Tony (his first regular DJ gig — I think he was 15!). In ‘86 they started drip-feeding a new genre of US imports in with the otherwise largely black music they were playing. Jungle hosted, I believe, the first-ever house music PA in London. That was Darryl Pandy singing Farley Jackmaster Funk’s ‘Love Can’t Turn Around’. The crowd went crazy.”

MY HOUSE IS YOUR HOUSE

Mark Moore became quite militant in his refusal to play anything BUT house. This took shape in ’87 at Planet Love at The Fridge, run by Nicky Trax.

Moore declared a musical war: “We put a sign on the door saying, ‘We play house music — if you don’t like it, please don’t come in’. There were a lot of locals who wanted to hear rare groove and we used to worry they’d come in and shoot us. So we put that warning on the door. And two years later those records DID become classics.”

There’s another aspect to this story that may explain why the LGBT contribution to UK house isn’t documented in a detailed fashion. As the Second Summer Of Love dawned in ’88, the UK gay scene was in major crisis and London was the epicentre of this battle. HIV/AIDS was cutting a swathe through our community, instilling tabloid panic, a rise in homophobia and widespread fear.

In 1988, we were nursing loved ones, fighting bigotry, attending floods of funerals and trying to stay alive and chipper. The edgiest innovators from a wild period of creativity were dying, or had turned to activism in response to a grim pandemic and a ruthless Tory government.

The age of consent for same-sex sexual activity was 21, so at this time, I was effectively jail bait. My boyfriends faced prison if we were caught together. The absurd laws didn’t stop passion, or inhibit love, but it was far from agreeable.

Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 prohibited local authorities in England and Wales from “promoting” homosexuality. It also labelled gay family relationships as “pretend”. The Second Summer Of Love emerged against this background of oppression and prejudice.

The gays had been integral to getting the house party started, but by late ‘88, the community’s focus had switched from MDMA to AZT and HIV. Quite frankly, we were busy.

We lost a lot of people. AIDS savaged clubland like a rusty scythe. DJs, drag stars, artists, designers and go-go boys either died or went below the radar.

Of course, HIV didn’t single out creatives, but the clubs were fuelled and populated by that crowd. The club kids and older gay men who’d ruled discos in the ‘70s suddenly became thin on the ground. Between ’88 and ’93, I was either raving or grieving.

Or both. I should have been studying, but I spent more time lost in dry ice than in the books on the syllabus. On more than one occasion, I dropped ecstasy while attending a funeral wake. It wasn’t disrespectful. On the contrary, the common refrain, as we gurned over yet another coffin, was: ‘It’s what they would have wanted’.

SECOND SUMMER OF LOVE

The party continued. It always does, but it was really picking up on the illegal rave scene. The energy that sparked the flames of house music in subversive gay clubs exploded elsewhere as the Second Summer Of Love (1988-’89). If you weren’t dead or too sad to pop pills, you threw yourself into the cultural phenomenon that was loved-up, initially optimistic but totally anti-establishment.

James Horrocks, co-creator of React Records, remembers the shift in thinking. “More young gay people were looking for something new and more vibrant, and had already frequented fashion-orientated clubs that embraced the mixed message,” he recalls.

“This was fully realised with the arrival of acid house and E-culture. Vast swathes of the scene migrated to warehouses to join the raving masses. It was such a sweeping change for the LGBT scene, it was forced to throw out the rule-book.”

My personal party habits in ’88 reflected the uncertain mood of the times. My straight mates (God love ‘em) were cracking AIDS jokes, dissing ‘bum bandits’ and dropping acid while dancing on the forecourt at Heston Services. We were a gang of sorts, our catchphrase being, ‘We put the E into Ealing’.

This much was true. We were regulars at a club called Haven Stables in Ealing (where Brandon Block got started). When the club threw us out, we’d dance on the green outside, to the bemusement of daytime shoppers and commuters. Despite all the pill-fuelled love and empathy, I still didn’t feel happy ‘coming out’ to them. In fact, I was terrified they’d find out.

With my straight mates, we’d go to Nicky Holloway’s Trip at The Astoria, Paul Oakenfold’s Spectrum at Heaven and the RiP raves in Clink Street. On the sly and on my own, I’d let my hair down at the queer parties, such as Jimmy Fox’s Daisy Chain (The Fridge, Brixton), Troll (The Soundshaft) and Pyramid. It was a dual life of double-dropping and downlow habits. Occasionally, the two lives would collide under the lasers. When I saw queens at the big, straight raves, I’d steer clear and spurn recognition — the dancing gay Judas with dilated pupils.

MADCHESTER

My dwindling studies took me to Liverpool in ‘89 and much to my southern surprise, the north was embracing rave culture with characteristic passion. Liverpool took to rave in a big way, but Manchester pipped it to the post and became the darling of the music press. ‘Madchester’ was thrilling.

The city buzzed off its renaissance, but it wasn’t just the scallies and the wide-boys getting ‘on one’. Manchester boasted a booming gay scene that was cocky, hip and ready to ‘ave it ‘til dawn. As it was a short drive from Liverpool, that’s where yours truly spent most weekends.

DJ Dave Kendricks explains the city’s LGBT heritage: “Manchester’s musical history is full of gay signifiers, from Pete Shelley singing ‘Ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn’t have?’ to New Order openly imitating the sound of Bobby O on ‘Blue Monday’.”

The No.1 Club on Central Street was a small carpet-and-chrome club that became THE queer rave destination in Manchester. Tim Lennox played feel-good piano house on a quadrophonic sound system, to a rocking clan of devotees.

Previously scared to come out to my straight mates, the cat was now out of the bag and the No.1 was where I took the boys. One night, a bunch of them cheered when I snogged a drug-dealing gangster. I couldn’t have been happier. Not only had they accepted my sexuality, they were applauding it. Times were a-changing and E was fuelling the evolution.

I paid £25 for an acid tab at Mike Pickering’s Nude at The Haçienda and while it was a boss night, when Paul Cons opened Flesh at The Haçienda in 1991, THAT was mind-blowing.

Resident DJ at Flesh, Dave Kendricks also remembers it fondly.

“That monthly gay night at The Haçienda was the greatest night I ever played. It was raucous, hedonistic, totally Northern and felt like a city turning its back on prejudice, towards acceptance, in the most thrilling way.

Just a few years before, Manchester’s chief of police James Anderton said the gay community was ‘swimming in a cesspit of its own making’ after he raided the gay club, Rockies. It was a direct reference to AIDS. Flesh was the biggest fight-back to that.”

I used to get so excited at the prospect of going to Flesh, I couldn’t eat for two days prior to the event. The club ran a coach from Liverpool to Flesh and back again. It was a demented mess on wheels. God-knows what the driver made of the transvestites in K-holes and topless lesbians dancing on the seats.

As a fledgling DJ, I’d set up decks and a soundsystem at home, in Toxteth. On more than one occasion, when the coach returned from Flesh, it would stop outside my home on Elwy Street and the tripping, screaming contents of the bus would pile into my cottage and the party would continue for days.

The epic post-Flesh socials in my Liverpool latty were known as Club Lovestretch. We painted the house in UV graffiti, installed black lights and removed the bannisters, so people could rave on the stairs. I was living in Liverpool, partying in Manchester and returning to London at every opportunity. I was very busy.

QUEER NATION

In 1990, Patrick Lilley opened Queer Nation at Covent Garden’s Gardening Club. “I’d run the first soulful house and garage club in the UK, High On Hope at Dingwalls,” Lilley tells DJ Mag. “Queer Nation was just the mutated gay version. For the authentic black heritage of house (the music that sees no colour), there’s no comparison or competition for QN. We came straight from the founding fathers.”

The brilliant Luke Howard and Princess Julia were the resident DJs at Queer Nation and I spent many a Sunday night in Patrick’s VIP ‘cupboard’ with his hash pipe and secret booze stash. Due to the Sunday trading laws, there was no alcohol served after 10pm, but where there’s a will…

While Queer Nation kept it funky, other London LGBT clubs were picking up the pace and breaking ground with tougher sounds. “React (myself and Thomas Foley and later Steven React) took over promoting Garage at Heaven and Troll at The Soundshaft in the summer of 1990,” James Horrocks tells DJ Mag.

“The New York house and Detroit techno we played at Garage and Troll had morphed into a much harder sound — a mix of techno and new beat. It immediately found popularity on the scene and along with the soulful house and garage sound of New York, became the soundtrack of our lives.”

Blu Peter, resident DJ at Garage, enjoyed success as both a DJ and a producer. “Garage integrated gay and straight crowds and became more about the music and less about the sex at the end of the night!” he tells DJ Mag.

“The ‘Reactivate’ series produced tunes that were tried and tested there. Mrs Wood and I were the first international DJs to play South Africa after Apartheid, and also after the hand-over in Hong Kong. Both gigs were massive honours.”

ALL-NIGHT BENDER

In 1990, another club launched in London that made the debauchery of Studio 54 appear tame and a bit lightweight. Laurence Malice (and Tim Stabler) launched Trade at Turnmills and unlike any club before, it started at 4am on a Sunday morning.

Plugged as the ‘original all-night bender’, the club stayed open ‘til way past Sunday lunchtime and was a deranged cocktail of sex, drugs and house music. Trans beauties, supermodels, international DJs, muscle boys, East End gangsters and A-list celebrities rubbed shoulders and partied en masse, every week, like their lives depended on it. It was full tilt at 8am.

It’s impossible to convey both the lunacy of the club and the obsessive allegiance of its regulars. Entry wasn’t guaranteed, even if you were gay. The door policy was vague, but sturdy: “You don’t have to be gay or a member to get in, but your attitude and look will count.”

Me and my mates used to party at The Curzon, Jody’s or Quadrant Park in Liverpool, then drive all the way to Farringdon as dawn approached. We’d stagger out of Trade at 2pm, then drive all the way back to Liverpool. Some of those journeys, swerving along the motorway, were a little bit scary.

Trade launched the DJ careers of a number of big players who’re still rocking it today. The original line-up was Martin Confusion, Daz Saund, Trevor Rockliffe, Smokin’ Jo and Malcolm Duffy. This stellar cast was later joined by ‘Tall’ Paul Newman, Alan Thompson, Steve Thomas, Pete Wardman, Ian M, The Sharp Boys, Fat Tony and Fergie.

The most celebrated Trade DJ remains the late, great Tony De Vit (1957 –1998). Tony’s mixing skills and ability to spin an overwhelming symphony of hard house led to him being venerated like a god.

Tragically, Tony died at 40, due to AIDS-related bronchial failure. One only has to listen to his single ‘Burning Up’, or his remix of ‘Hooked’ by 99th Floor Elevators to get an idea of his sound. However, to really understand De Vit’s magic, you had to be there, under the lasers, as his galloping wall of sound inspired joy, disbelief and amazement.

I moved back to London after (barely) completing my studies, and after a chance encounter with Laurence Malice, wound up working on the door of Trade for five years. I’d already decided it was the greatest queer club in the world, long before I became part of its rude family.

My enthusiasm for Trade’s hedonistic spirit never waned. I’d finish on the door at 10am, then get on the dancefloor ‘til the club shut that afternoon. Like Ice-T says in the NRG classic, which became a Trade anthem, ‘He Never Lost His Hardcore’.

DTPM

Lee Freeman’s Sunday afternoon party started in ’93, as a post-Trade knees-up, at an Italian restaurant in Holborn called Villa Stefano. In order to get round the Sunday licensing laws, an enormous buffet would greet the still-buzzing gay ravers as they trooped in from Turnmills. I never saw anybody eat anything, except for the odd pill.

Over the years, it moved, first to Bar Rumba, then The End, and finally, it did a major eight-year stint at Fabric on Sunday nights. Many of DT’s residents, such as Smokin’ Jo, Alan Thompson and Steve Thomas, were regular Trade DJs, but DTPM honed a funkier, deeper groove which helped establish the club’s unique brand.

I had my very own pillar at The End (in between the two dancefloors, next to the toilets), where you could find me, every Sunday, grinning and clinging onto it for dear life.

WOMEN IN THE HOUSE

The Fridge in Brixton hosted the first huge, women-only club night Eve’s Revenge in the ‘80s, followed by Venus Rising in the ‘90s. It regularly attracted over 1300 lesbian clubbers. A special mention must go to the awesome Vicky Edwards, who span at Jungle, Venus Rising and Bad at the Soundshaft. She’s still an excellent DJ.

DJ Smokin’ Jo used to sashay through Trade with a hunk hefting her record box, and the crowd would gawp at her sass and beauty. More importantly, she’d take to the decks and totally rock the place. “Trade gave a platform to that real US house style of music,” she tells DJ Mag. “It felt cutting edge and of course, it brought techno and harder sounds to the forefront.”

Jo was a regular in DJ Mag in its early days and her relationship with Skin from Skunk Anansie proved a powerful and gorgeous fusion of rock and house sovereignty. Hearing Skin rap over Jo’s DJ set at the DTPM tent at Gay Pride in Brockwell Park remains, for me, a gobsmacking and pivotal point in black girl power.

One could argue that female DJs suffered less sexism in LGBT clubs than elsewhere, but lesbian raving really hit a peak when clubs such as Pumpin’ Curls and Kitty Lips shook up London in the mid ‘90s. “We, Vikki Red and myself, were DJs first and foremost,” Queen Maxine tells DJ Mag. “Individually, we played to varying audiences over the world for many years.

We set out to offer something unique, yet boutique; a forward-thinking space for women (of all sexual persuasions and their gay male friends as guests) who appreciated the harder side of dance music and wanted a space without getting ‘put on’ by straight guys.

“It certainly worked. We promoted two very well attended and respected nights; Pumpin’ Curls and then Kitty Lips. These clubs ran alongside Trade at Turnmills, as the little sister club. Laurence Malice was very supportive and helped open many doors for us.

The secret to our success was keeping ahead of the pack and offering something different and daring. Because of this approach, we were able to attract a very diverse crowd, who believed they were a part of something that hadn’t been done before.”

In ’94, Suzie Kreuger arrived in London. With her NYC Clit Club experience, she launched the notorious Fist. A woman, promoting a gay fetish club, was a novelty in itself. The real revolution was that Fist welcomed S&M lesbians, who joined the leather men under one roof, all united in a passion for kink, pills and techno.

It was very queer, often shocking and musically brutal. Prior to Fist, I’d never seen lesbians having sex or watched live shows that were so graphic, punters fainted, fled or vomited on a regular basis. Lesbian techno mistress EJ Doubell span fearsome sets that only added to the demonic and highly-charged vibe.

MONDAY MORNING

Trade, Garage and Fist weren’t the only LGBT clubs serving up nu techno and ‘hardbag’. The truly wayward headed to FF at Turnmills on Sunday nights. Launched in ’89 by Mark Langthorne and Nicholas Timms, it was a dark and uncompromising night that featured Suzie Kreuger on the door and a crowd who were happy to be bang at it ‘til 5am Monday morning.

Mrs Wood and Blu Peter were the celebrated residents. Having spent my Sunday morning working at Trade, FF was where yours truly went to let off steam and feel the joy and terror of manic techno and hard trance.

The club wasn’t very welcoming to those who weren’t LGBT, and it certainly wasn’t for the faint hearted. The creative team behind FF also produced a satirical fanzine (also called FF) that was militantly gay and so near the knuckle, it eventually got shut down by a law suit. 

Asked about FF, Blu Peter admits to, “Special and often bizarre memories. On the whole it was a night when you could expect anything. The audience loved to be pushed and challenged. I aspired to play there above anywhere else. The legacy is that people still talk about it, though it ended 20 years ago.”

While Peter is right, it seems that straight, white, mainstream culture prefers to tell another account when it comes to electronic music. Dave Kendrick, DJ at Flesh, isn’t surprised at the selective story telling. “Unless you’re talking about hairdressing, airline stewarding or musical theatre, the LGBT contribution is overlooked in almost all UK cultures,” he says.

“We only reached full legal equality [in the UK] last year and within that, LGBT people will always be a minority. The dialogue about what we’re due is only just beginning. You have to shout to be heard when you’re in the minority, but that doesn’t mean the amazing gay nightlife culture incubated in the British gay night-time isn’t worth shouting about. It’s an inspirational story of underground culture directly informing the mainstream.”

It’s perplexing to note that sexual diversity appears to have almost vanished from electronic music media and the wider conversation. Largely straight, white middle class crowds are embracing a genre that was birthed by working class, queer, black and Latin people over three decades ago. The young seem especially ignorant of the struggles those communities endured then and, in many parts of the world, continue to experience now.

ROOTS AND RIGHTS

For a new generation, whose first experience of house music might be Avicii or David Guetta, this seems especially pertinent as they enjoy the party, but are blind to LGBT battles being fought in places like Russia or the Middle East.

Twenty years ago in the USA, it was rare to hear house music except in black or LGBT clubs and on very few radio stations. Currently, there’s a colossal mainstreaming of dance music, not just in America, but worldwide. It’s brilliant that these newcomers, commercially defined by pumped up boys and blonde party girls, get to feel the shared joys of house music. But it’s all a bit hollow if they don’t appreciate the roots.

Strides have been made and for many in the wider LGBT community, life is less fearful than it was 30 years ago. However, if ‘Music Is the Answer’, one can’t help but wonder what the question was? One thing’s for certain, as electronic music continues to dominate popular culture, we’d do well to remind ourselves of the diversity, political struggle and sheer queerness that was so fundamental to the very DNA of dance music. Joe Smooth once sang, ‘Brother, sisters/One day we will be free/From fighting, violence/People crying in the street’.

Top tune, lovely message, but we’re not there yet.

Reference

Gay History: Eugenia Falleni. Transgender Murderer?

Eugenia Falleni dressed as a man in her mugshot in 1920. .

Eugenia Falleni lived for decades as Harry Crawford until arrested for murder

Caitlyn Jenner and now the Oscar-nominated film The Danish Girl have shone the light on the difficulties faced by transgender people as never before. Jenner’s transition and Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of Lili Elbe (formerly Einar Wegener) is bringing understanding and acceptance that others could never have dreamed of.

Take the tragic story of Sydney’s Eugenia Falleni, born about 1875, who lived most of her life as Harry Crawford. From an early age Falleni felt more comfortable as a male. For many years she lived secretly as a man in Sydney, but in the 1920s her story was made public under the most tragic and humiliating circumstances.

Eugenia is believed to have been born in Italy, the eldest of 22 children. The family migrated to New Zealand in 1877 but Eugenia was punished for dressing in boys clothes and being a tomboy.

As a teenager she ran away from home several times. At 19 her father forced her into a marriage with an Italian man named Braseli. When it turned out that Braseli was already married, Eugenia ran away for good.

Signing on as a ship’s cabin boy under the name Eugene Falleni she lived as a man aboard ships for several years until a captain discovered her secret and subjected her to continued rapes. She was forced ashore in Newcastle in 1898 and made her way to Sydney where she gave birth to a daughter she named Josephine.

She left her baby in the care of an Italian woman in Double Bay and took on the identity of Harry Leo Crawford, dressing as a man and working as a manual labourer.

Eugenia Fellini as Harry Crawford. Picture: Sydney Living Museums

Although some thought him strange and somewhat reserved, none of Crawford’s co-workers suspected his secret. They knew him to be a good worker who, despite his small frame, was not afraid of hard work.

Crawford always spurned the interest of young ladies until in 1912, when he was working as a general hand and cart driver at a company in Wahroonga, he fell for his boss’s housekeeper Annie Birkett, a widowed mother of a teenager son.

Crawford finally allowed himself to get close to a woman, even devising a method of making love that would convince her he was a man. They were married in 1913 and set up a sweets shop in Balmain together.

Crawford maintained the deception until 1917 when Annie discovered his secret from a neighbour. Determined to save the marriage Harry took Annie on a picnic on the banks of the Lane Cove River to convince her to stay

Annie Birkett was told Harry’s secret by a neighbour.

Something terrible happened on that picnic. According to later statements by Crawford Annie slipped and fell, fatally hitting her head on a rock. In a panic he tried to burn her body and obliterate the evidence. Her body was discovered but it would be years before the police were able to identify her remains.

Telling Annie’s son, Harry Birkett, that she had run off with another man Crawford moved house and in 1919 married Elizabeth Allison.

In 1920 the police finally identified Annie’s body with the help of Harry Birkett who recognised her jewellery and Crawford was later arrested.

The first mugshots were taken of Crawford in men’s clothes before he was forced to change into women’s clothes for more humiliating photographs.

Eugenia Falleni was forced to wear women’s clothing in her second series of mug shots. Picture: Leichhardt Library

There was more humiliation in store. Newspapers reported the Falleni case as the “man-woman” and there was intense interest from a less than understanding public.

Society was outraged by this woman “masquerading as a man” and supposedly defrauding innocent women into marriage.

At the trial Falleni’s defence centred on challenging the identification of the body as that of Annie, but the jury was not convinced. Falleni was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The sentence was later commuted to life in prison.

Execution may have been a kinder sentence, because of the agony of being forced to live as a woman in prison. Falleni was released from Long Bay in 1931 because of her failing health, but was dogged by her tragic past.

She died in 1938 from injuries sustained after being hit by a car on Oxford St near her home at Paddington.

Was ‘transgender warrior’ a victim of an Australian miscarriage of justice?

Mark Tedeschi QC’s biography of Eugenia Falleni exposes a potential unjust murder conviction from 1920

f you go into the lord chief justice’s court at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, you may notice a pair of rather shabby red velvet curtains, to the left and right of the presiding judge’s chair. Each curtain is suspended from a horizontal brass rod, which is hinged so that it can sit flat against the panelled wall when not required.

Although court 4 is regularly used for ceremonial occasions, such as the swearing-in of senior legal figures and the extraordinary 800-year-old quit rents ceremony, I have never seen the curtains swung out for use. I had always assumed they were Victorian draught excluders, made redundant by improvements to the central heating system since the courts were opened in 1882.

That was until this week, when I read a chilling account of a woman being sentenced to death. This was not an Indonesian court sentencing someone for drug trafficking but an Australian court sentencing a defendant for murder.

The year was 1920. After hearing the jury’s verdict and inviting the defendant to address the court, the chief justice of New South Wales “gave an almost imperceptible nod to the sheriff’s officer who was waiting in the body of the court”. The official knew exactly what the gesture meant.

He walked to the front of the court, mounted the stairs to the bench, walked around the back of the judge to the two, large, hinged curtain rods that were normally flush on the wall behind the bench, each rod carrying a black velvet curtain, and swung them forward to a position on either side of the judge. By ancient tradition, this signalled that a death sentence was about to be handed down. This quaint practice symbolically isolated the judge from all side distractions and influences and focussed his attention on the prisoner directly in front of him, so as to assist him in discharging the distasteful task at hand.

Before I explain the remarkable background to this case, I should say that — as far as I know — nobody has ever been sentenced to death in court 4 of the Royal Courts of Justice, although the court of criminal appeal certainly used to hear appeals in capital cases there. Perhaps there is a legal historian who can tell me whether the courtroom curtains in London were ever deployed in the way they were in Sydney.

The woman sentenced to death in New South Wales had been convicted of murdering Annie Birkett, a woman who had believed she was the defendant’s wife. Eugenia Falleni had lived as a man for 22 years and, during that time, had taken part in two ceremonies of marriage with women who each believed that they were marrying a man. The second woman even persuaded herself she had become pregnant by Falleni.

Eugenia, the new biography of Falleni from which I have taken the passage above is, written by Mark Tedeschi QC, senior crown prosecutor for New South Wales. He believes that Falleni was wrongly convicted on the basis of “fallacious scientific evidence, unreliable sighting witnesses, dubious police practice and an avalanche of prejudicial publicity”.

Tedeschi demonstrates all too clearly how a more experienced defence counsel could have secured an acquittal or, at worst, a manslaughter verdict. It is a message that the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, should take to heart. And the authorities in Indonesia might care to note that, as long ago as 1920, Australian politicians were not prepared to see someone they regarded as a woman going to the gallows. No women had been executed in New South Wales for more than 30 years. The sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and Falleni was released on licence in 1931, only to die in a road accident in 1938.

Born in Italy in 1875 and brought up in New Zealand, Falleni went to sea at the age of 21. The following year, Falleni was raped by a sea captain who discovered that he and his crew had been deceived by the young sailor. Falleni became pregnant and gave birth to a daughter, who went on to have a family of her own.

It was in 1913 that Falleni, then known as Harry Crawford, went through a ceremony of marriage with Birkett. What strikes the modern reader as extraordinary was that Birkett, who had been widowed some seven years earlier and left with a young son, took more than four years to realise how she was being deceived by Falleni, despite several tell-tale signs.

Tedeschi explains how Falleni used a dildo and always wore a loose-fitting undershirt during lovemaking. Eventually, Birkett confronted Falleni, but Tedeschi’s account of their falling out makes it clear that Birkett’s death could have been an accident.

In his highly readable biography, Tedeschi concludes that Falleni was a “transgender warrior at a time when there was no understanding of her condition and no support for her cause”. He says “the most acceptable term today for Eugenia Falleni’s condition is ‘gender identity disorder’, which is synonymous with transsexualism”.

But Tedeschi writes as a lawyer, not as a psychologist. His main concern is to expose a miscarriage of justice for which one of his predecessors was largely responsible. An honest prosecutor never regards an unjust conviction as a successful outcome.

References

Gay History: Tab Hunter on being gay in 1950s Hollywood*

Tab Hunter, the actor with the all-American looks who starred in ’50s classics “Damn Yankees” and “Battle Cry,”. Photo Credit: Allan Glaser Production

With his blonde surfer-dude locks and fresh-scrubbed complexion, Tab Hunter set female hearts aflutter in the 1950s with hit movies like “Damn Yankees” and “Battle Cry” and records including the chart-topping “Young Love.” No one suspected that Hollywood’s all-American boy was homosexual.

Now Hunter, 84, opens up about his days in Hollywood — from his discovery at age 20 to working with cult filmmaker John Waters — and his private life, including his relationship with actor Anthony Perkins — in the new documentary “Tab Hunter Confidential,” produced by his longtime partner Allan Glaser. The actor will be on hand for a screening and Q&A Wednesday, Oct. 14, at Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington. He spoke by phone from his home in Santa Barbara, California.

You were thrown into movies with no experience. What was the first day on the set like?

The first time was when I tested with Linda Darnell for “Island of Desire,” and I was a nervous wreck. And she pinched me and said, “Relax, I’m good luck for newcomers.” And she was.

You left Warner Bros. after getting roles you didn’t like. Did you regret that move?

Yes, in many respects, and no. Your own freedom and individuality is major. . . . I really wanted out of the studio contract, but at the same time, the security financially was important because I had a mother I had to care for. It was a tough decision to make. I did a couple of movies after that that were all right, and then I did a lot of dreck, mainly for survival.

As a gay man in the 1950s, did you ever think being an actor, in which your life would be so scrutinized, might not be the right profession?

If something would be mentioned, I would just go in the other direction. I wouldn’t confront anything. My sexuality was nobody’s business. The studio never mentioned my sexuality. If they had, I would have freaked out. The only person I ever discussed things with besides Tony [Perkins] was Dick Clayton, my agent.

The movie deals heavily with your relationship with your mother. What did she say when you told her you were gay?

I never told my mother anything. We were driving back from my brother’s funeral up in northern California after he was killed in Vietnam. As we were driving down the coast, out of the blue my mother said, “I never see Tony anymore or hear about him.” And I said, “Well, he’s doing a picture in Thailand.” There was this long pause, and all of a sudden my mother said, “I’ve never been in love.” That was the closest we ever came to saying anything about it.

How did the idea for the documentary come about?

It all started with the book [his 2005 memoir of the same name]. Allan said, “I think you should do a book because I hear someone is going to do a book on you.” I thought, “Who would want to read a book on me?” He said, “You’d be surprised.” I thought about it and decided I’d do it. I figured get it from the horse’s mouth. . . . Then years went by and Allan said, “I think we should do a documentary.”

Warner Bros. considered you for “Rebel Without a Cause.” Did you want to do the kinds of roles people like James Dean were playing?

It was only when I got “Battle Cry” that I realized I wanted seriously to be an actor. . . . I started working with [acting coach] Jeff Corey and doing a lot of live TV, which was a great training ground.

Do you have any favorite co-stars or roles?

I loved working with Geraldine Page, she was one of my favorites. And Natalie Wood, who was like my kid sister. . . . “Damn Yankees” was great because it was my first musical, and I was working with the whole Broadway cast. Live TV was probably the most gratifying for my growth as an actor and a person.

How was working with Sophia Loren?

She was absolutely fabulous. We were working in the heat of the summer in New York City. She had an air-conditioned limo that we would sit in to cool off while we were waiting for a shot. The big record at that time was Bobby Darin’s “Splish Splash,” and that was our song. Under all that fire and sex, the great thing I loved about Sophia is that she was so childlike.

And Divine in “Polyester” and “Lust in the Dust”?

That’s one of my favorite leading ladies. I was just done doing a play in Indianapolis or someplace, and John Waters called and said, “I’ve got a script that I’d love you to look at, and it’s a film with Divine.” Then he said, “Before we go any further, how would you feel about kissing a 350-pound transvestite?” And I said, “Well I’m sure I’ve kissed a helluva lot worse.” I read the script and I knew I had to do it because it was such fun. . . . I wanted John to direct our film “Lust in the Dust,” but he said he only does his own stuff. I’d written it and originally it was called “The Reverend and Rosie,” and it was going to be Chita Rivera and myself, but she was tied up on Broadway. And then I wanted Shirley MacLaine, and that didn’t work out. Then Alan said to me, “What about Divine and Lainie Kazan as half sisters?” And I said, “Alan, you’re brilliant.”

Had you had any aspirations to be a singer?

I used to sing in the shower [laughs], and in church I sang in the choir. The only time I had a solo, nothing came out because I was so frightened. When Howard Miller, who was a big disc jockey in Chicago, heard me sing, he said, “Did you ever think about recording?” I said, “I’d love to do that,” so he said, “Let me put you in touch with [record producer] Randy Wood. Randy called me, presented me with a tune called “Young Love.” We went in an recorded it on a Friday, and on Monday morning I was driving down Sunset Boulevard and heard it on the car radio and almost hit a palm tree.

What did you think of your singing voice?

They drowned me in echo and I guess they thought it was all right

What did you think about having all of those female fans swooning over you?

Whenever anybody says to me, “My mother just loved you,” my response is, “Thank her for me because if it hadn’t been for her, I wouldn’t have been working.”

Did you ever think your looks were a help or a hindrance to your career?

I wasn’t comfortable in that skin. My comfort zone was being out at the stable. Every free minute I’d be out with my horses. They were my touch of reality in Hollywood. I was just never an out-there kind of guy. I was very shy as a kid. I played the game, but it was difficult.

Reference

An Abbreviated History of the Decorated Male

Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood A/W16Photography by Juergen Teller

AnOther traces the history of male icons who have challenged modern tropes of masculinity, from Louis XIV to Andreas Kronthaler

It’s important to note that it’s only within the past few of centuries of western fashion that menswear has become synonymous with the tropes of masculine dress we might think of today. Even this relatively recent history of gender-regulated, pared-down, ostentation-eschewing style has been punctured with numerous anomalies that challenge the norms of said masculine taste standards. Heels, cosmetics, and other accoutrements that often constitute the cultural symbols of femininity have, at various periods, been equally associated with men and masculine ideals. As critics today return to embracing these often-neglected facets of men’s style, and designers from Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood to Grace Wales Bonner turn away from contemporary conventions of masculinity, we explore the appearance of the decorated male throughout history.

Louis XIV as Apollo in Le Ballet Royal de la nuitArtwork by Henri Gissey

Power Heels, Powder and Patriarchy

As is so often the case, one cannot speak about western fashion without mentioning examples outside the Occident. Makeup for men is known to have been prominent throughout the ancient world, with nail varnish being worn by those throughout all ranks of society at least as early as 3000 BCE in Japan and China. Perhaps the best-known example of ancient male cosmetics would be the wearing of eye makeup by the ancient Egyptians, while heels are a comparatively younger affair, worn by men throughout the medieval near east where they had the functional purpose of allowing horse riders to stand up in their stirrups and fire arrows. When these same Persian heels arrived in the court of Louis XIV, their purpose was altogether more decorative. Himself an admirer of this elevated footwear, they came to be known as the “Louis Heel”. The image of the 17th aristocrat is possibly one of the most prominent historical images of the decorated man; alongside heels, they opted for wigs, face powders and other makeup such as artificial beauty spots.

The Macaroni. A real Character at the late MasqueradeMezzotint by Philip Dawe, 1773

So many of these items were simply not yet strict symbols of femininity. Indeed, far removed from today’s concepts of masculine dress, many of these were as much to do with power and patriarchy as individual expressions of style. It is often cited that the diminutive King Louis took to heels and towering wigs to impart a more “monarchic” height, while it has been observed that it was only due to trends of women imitating men’s fashion that the heel became common amongst both genders. In 18th-century Europe, particularly in England, decoration reached new heights with the “Macaroni”. Macaroni referred to groups of cultured young men whose interest in fashion was seen as excessive. Their hairstyles and powdered wigs, jewellery, attire, makeup and generally “effete” appearance were cause for concern amongst many who felt they were rather too unmanly. It is worth noting, however, that whilst frowned upon and associated with effeminacy, there was not quite the same negative weight to such styles (or indeed to effeminacy) as there later was in Victorian society. Class, however, was heavily at play and while it might be considered acceptable or even suitable for a man of certain social status to sport highly stylised attire, a man of lower rank would not be received as warmly.

Henry Cyril Paget, 5th Marquess of Anglesey

Eccentrics and Exiles

There was a notable shift come the Victorian era, one that was particularly visible in Britain. Following some high-profile scandals in the press, attitudes towards gender became markedly less tolerant. In many ways, the late 1800s in particular can be thought of as a cut-off point for the social rules that shaped men’s style – whatever was considered masculine around this period remained so in a manner that had not quite been so rigid previously. This rigidity did not mean that there weren’t several who defied or ignored convention. If fortunate they were classified as eccentrics, as was the case with Henry Cyril Paget, whose elaborate headdresses and bejewelled costumes (which often contained Louis heels), amazed and also horrified many.

Paget, however, had the protections of wealth and status and that often worked to convert perceived queerness into tolerated eccentricity. Others were not so lucky. Even the likes of photographer Cecil Beaton, who was by no means lacking in money and social standing, suffered from the rampant homophobia that suffused the post-Victorian air. At a friend’s ball, he was famously dunked in a fountain by a group of “hearties”, because of his wearing makeup. Similarly, Quentin Crisp’s love of makeup and feminine attire resulted in his being chased through the streets, kicked and beaten. What was certainly apparent by the 1930s was that, in the public consciousness, the image of the decorated man had become consolidated with a vision of femininity and queerness that was violently received.

Self-portraitPhotography by Samuel Fosso

The Opening and Breaking of Menswear

This consolidation was to have a lasting effect. Vogue ball culture, which emerged from American black drag scenes of the 1930s, is particularly pivotal, in that it shows how queer cultures and groups utilised the negative connotations of the decorative to challenge and undermine the dominant status of masculinity. Elsewhere, counterculture made constant recourse to what had become strictly feminine symbols. With the disco movement, we see men in heels once again, this time in the form of platforms, while the flamboyant impulse was once more loose in the embracing of all the glitter and ornament that have now come to be thought of as “camp”. Similarly, the New Romantic movement which came about almost a decade later is defined by its disregard of the doggedly concrete rules about what men could and couldn’t wear, elevating instead the “excesses” of costume.

Current conversation regarding menswear and cosmetics is becoming increasingly preoccupied with noting the breaking down and opening up of menswear. For many, the mere loosening of men’s fashion is not enough – the very existence of menswear and womenswear as two separate strands, something which is central to the mechanisms of the fashion industry, continues to keep harmful gender norms alive (in spite of the move of some designers, like Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood, to do away with such divisions). While designers like Claire Barrow emphasise the essential non-binary nature of their clothes, when it comes to more commercial bodies, such as Selfridges, who recently made the decision to promote gender-neutral clothing with a retail concept space titled ‘Agender’, it can be hard not to suspect the cold machinations of trends and advertising at work. For some, defying dominant gender standards is a choice, but for others, it is a necessity and not something to be left to the mercy of consumerism.

Reference

Gay History: The Curious Relationship Between Richard The Lionheart And King Philip II Of France

Richard the Lionheart and Philip II of France “ate every day at the same table and from the same dish, and at night their beds did not separate them.”

There are a number of monarchs throughout history who are believed to have been gay. Richard the Lionheart and Philip II are just a couple of kings who seemingly would rather have a relationship with a man than produce an heir and a spare. However, though Richard has been treated as something of a gay icon for years, direct evidence that he and Philip actually had a homosexual relationship is scant.

The source most people point to is a report by Roger de Hoveden, who was a contemporary of the two kings. Here is an English translation of his account:

Richard, [then] duke of Aquitaine, the son of the king of England, remained with Philip, the King of France, who so honored him for so long that they ate every day at the same table and from the same dish, and at night their beds did not separate them. And the king of France loved him as his own soul; and they loved each other so much that the king of England was absolutely astonished and the passionate love between them and marveled at it.

It sounds like solid evidence, but put into the context of the time, sharing a bed wasn’t a big deal. Certainly among lower classes, bed sharing among families happened all the time—it was a way to keep warm, or they might not have been able to afford more than one bed, or had room for more than one. Bed sharing was done as a matter of necessity. There was nothing inherently sexual about it and it was something most did.

In the case of Richard and Philip, the bed sharing and the other statements of love between them were a political statement.  The two had teamed up to overthrow Henry II, and were just announcing to the world that France and England were allies. About the notion that the two were gay, historian Dr. John Gillingham states,

The idea wasn’t even mooted until 1948 and it stems from an official record announcing that, as a symbol of unity between the two countries, the kings of France and England had slept the night in the same bed. It was an accepted political act, nothing sexual about it; just two politicians literally getting into bed together, a bit like a modern-day photo opportunity.

Richard the Lionheart was also known to have held political court in his bedroom. He also rewarded his favourite servants with the opportunity to sleep at the foot of his bed at night. Again, there is no evidence to suggest that anything more than sleeping occurred on these occasions. He shared a bed with others to symbolize trust.

In later years, political leaders would often greet each other with “the kiss of peace” which was Biblically sanctioned. Again, the kiss meant nothing more than a handshake does today.

While the bed sharing and eating together wasn’t necessarily a positive indicator of the pair’s sexual preferences, the two for a time maintained a close alliance and apparent friendship.  In fact, Richard was engaged to Alice, Philip’s sister for a while. However, he ended up renouncing her and spreading a rumour that she was having an affair and had given birth to an illegitimate child. Richard also married his wife, Berengaria of Navarre, while he was still betrothed to Philip’s sister. Not exactly things a person should do if they were trying to keep on the woman’s brother’s good side.

As previously mentioned, Philip also helped Richard win the crown of England. Thanks to their alliance, Philip went to war against Richard’s father with Richard later joining in, ultimately defeating Henry II. Henry then named Richard his heir and died two days later.

Philip and Richard’s relationship eventually soured. The pair spent the last five years of Richard’s life in bitter rivalry and open war. Richard ended up winning many of the battles between the two, but Philip outlasted him. Supposedly, Richard was shot and killed by a boy who was acting out of revenge. Whether that is true or not, the arrow he was shot with didn’t hit anything vital, but the wound became gangrenous, at least giving him time to set his affairs in order before he succumbed to infection.

Was Richard’s and Philip’s enmity part of a lover’s quarrel as is so commonly said today? The evidence for that is scant. So if not “lover’s quarrel” maybe “bromance turned sour…” or perhaps most accurate of all “political alliance that was no longer necessary or convenient.”

Bonus Facts:

▪ Many people argue that Richard was homosexual because he rarely saw his wife and never fathered any legitimate children. However, he did have at least one illegitimate son and reportedly spent time with other women while on Crusade.

▪ Richard and Philip fought together during the Crusades, but argued over what to do about certain areas, resulting in Philip leaving for France earlier than anticipated. Richard was then captured, and when he was released Philip warned Richard’s brother John: “Look to yourself: the devil is loose.”

▪ Philip’s marital issues also earned him a reputation for being homosexual, though he had enough wives and children to (perhaps) prove otherwise. He had one child with his first wife, Isabelle, who later died in childbirth trying to deliver twins (who also died). He was then married to Ingeborg, the daughter of the King of Denmark, who he despised and confined to a convent before seeking an annulment from the Pope on the grounds of non-consummation. He then took a third wife, Agnes, by whom he had two children, before going back to Ingeborg on the Pope’s orders.

▪ As far as kings go, Richard wasn’t a very good one. He only spent six months of his ten year reign in England and cared more about the Crusades than what was going on in his own country. He is popularly remembered as a good king though, partially because of the Robin Hood legends, where Robin Hood was a supporter of Richard the Lionheart and a sworn enemy of the king’s evil brother, Prince John.

▪ King Philip wasn’t a fan of John, either. After Richard’s death, John became king. Philip and John were at war for years, as Philip suspected that John had kidnapped and murdered Arthur, his daughter Marie’s betrothed.

Reference

Gay History: Albert Cashier

Albert D. J. Cashier (December 25, 1843 – October 10, 1915), born Jennie Irene Hodgers, was an Irish-born immigrant who served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Cashier adopted the identity of a man before enlisting, and maintained it until death. Cashier became famous as one of a number of women soldiers who served as men during the Civil War, although the consistent and long-term (at least 53 years) commitment to a male identity has prompted some contemporary scholars to suggest that Cashier was a trans man.[3][4][5][6]

(November, 1864)

Cashier was very elderly and disoriented when interviewed about immigrating to the United States and enlisting in the army, and had always been evasive about early life; therefore, the available narratives are often contradictory. According to later investigation by the administrator of Cashier’s estate, Albert Cashier was born Jennie Hodgers in Clogherhead, County Louth, Ireland on December 25, 1843,[7]:52[2] to Sallie and Patrick Hodgers.[2] Typically, the youth’s uncle or stepfather was said to have dressed his charge in male clothing in order to find work in an all-male shoe factory in Illinois. Even before the advent of the war, Jenny adopted the identity of Albert Cashier in order to live independently.[7]:52 Sallie Hodgers, Cashier’s mother, was known to have died prior to 1862, by which time her child had traveled as a stowaway to Belvidere, Illinois, and was working as a farmhand to a man named Avery.[8][9][10]

Cashier first enlisted in July 1862 after President Lincoln’s call for soldiers.[7]:52 As time passed, the need for soldiers only increased. On August 6, 1862, the eighteen-year-old enlisted in the 95th Illinois Infantry for a three-year term using the name “Albert D.J. Cashier” and was assigned to Company G.[11][12][7]:52 Cashier was listed in the company catalog as nineteen years old upon enlistment, and small in stature.[note 1]

Many Belvidere boys had been at the Battle of Shiloh as members of the Fifteenth Illinois Volunteers, where the Union had suffered heavy losses. Cashier took the train along with other boys from Belvidere to Rockford in order to enlist, in answer to the call for more soldiers.[13]:380 Along with others from Boone and McHenry counties, Cashier learned how to be a volunteer infantryman of the 95th Regiment at Camp Fuller. After being shipped out by steamer and rail to Confederate strongholds in Columbus, Kentucky and Jackson, Tennessee, the 95th was ordered to Grand Junction where it became part of the Army of the Tennessee under General Ulysses S. Grant.[13]:380–381

The regiment was part of the Army of the Tennessee under Ulysses S. Grant and fought in approximately forty battles,[12] including the siege at Vicksburg. [13]:381 During this campaign, Cashier was captured while performing reconnaissance,[7]:55 but managed to escape and return to the regiment. After the Battle of Vicksburg, in June 1863, Cashier contracted chronic diarrhea and entered a military hospital, somehow managing to evade detection.[7]:55–56 In the spring of 1864, the regiment was also present at the Red River Campaign under General Nathaniel Banks, and in June 1864 at the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads in Guntown, Mississippi, where they suffered heavy casualties.[7]:56–57[13]:382–383

Following a period to recuperate and regroup following the debacle at Brice, the 95th, now a seasoned and battle-hardened regiment, saw additional action in the Winter of 1864 in the Franklin-Nashville Campaign, at the battles of Spring Hill and Franklin, the defense of Nashville, and the pursuit of General Hood.[13]:383

During the war, the regiment traveled a total of about 9,000 miles.[7]:52[note 2] Other soldiers thought that Cashier was small and preferred to be alone, which were not uncommon characteristics for soldiers. Cashier fought with the regiment through the war until honorably discharged on August 17, 1865, when all the soldiers were mustered out.[7]:57

Cashier was only one of at least 250 soldiers who were assigned female at birth and enlisted as men to fight in the Civil War.[14][15]

Cashier’s postwar residence, since moved to Saunemin, Illinois

After the war, Cashier returned to Belvidere, Illinois for a time, working for Samuel Pepper and continuing to live as a man.[7]:57[16] Settling in Saunemin, Illinois in 1869, Cashier worked as a farmhand as well as performing odd jobs around the town.[7]:57 and can be found in the town payroll records.[7]:57 Cashier lived with employer Joshua Chesbro and his family in exchange for work, and had also slept for a time in the Cording Hardware store in exchange for labor. In 1885, the Chesbro family had a small house built for Cashier.[17] For over forty years, Cashier lived in Saunemin and was a church janitor, cemetery worker, and street lamplighter. Living as a man allowed Cashier to vote in elections and to later claim a veteran’s pension under the same name.[7]:58 Pension payments started in 1907.[18]

In later years, Cashier ate with the neighboring Lannon family. The Lannons discovered their friend’s sex when Cashier fell ill, but decided not make their discovery public.[7]:59

In 1911, Cashier, who was working for State Senator Ira Lish, was hit by the Senator’s car, resulting in a broken leg.[7]:59 A physician found out the patient’s secret in the hospital, but did not disclose the information. No longer able to work, Cashier was moved to the Soldiers and Sailors home in Quincy, Illinois on May 5, 1911. Many friends and fellow soldiers from the Ninety-fifth Regiment visited.[7]:59 Cashier lived there until an obvious deterioration of mind began to take place and was moved to the Watertown State Hospital for the Insane in March 1914.[7]:60 Attendants at the Watertown State Hospital discovered Cashier’s sex, at which point, the patient was made to wear women’s clothes again after what we can assume would be more than fifty years.[7]:60 In 1914, Cashier was investigated for fraud by the veterans’ pension board; former comrades confirmed that Cashier was in fact the person who had fought in the Civil War and the board decided in February 1915 that payments should continue for life.[19][20][21]

Albert Cashier died on October 10, 1915 and was buried in uniform. The tombstone was inscribed “Albert D. J. Cashier, Co. G, 95 Ill. Inf.”[11] Cashier was given an official Grand Army of the Republic funerary service, and was buried with full military honors.[7]:60 It took W.J. Singleton (executor of Cashier’s estate) nine years to track Cashier’s identity back to the birth name of Jennie Hodgers. None of the would-be heirs proved convincing, and the estate of about $282 (after payment of funeral expenses)[20][21][22] was deposited in the Adams County, Illinois, treasury. The name on the original tombstone is Albert D. J. Cashier. In the 1970s, a second tombstone, inscribed with both names, was placed near the first one at Sunny Slope cemetery in Saunemin, Illinois.[11][23]

Cashier is listed on the internal wall of the Illinois memorial at Vicksburg National Military Park.[24]

A musical entitled The Civility of Albert Cashier has been produced based on Cashier’s life; the work was described by the Chicago Tribune as “A timely musical about a trans soldier”.[25]

Also Known As Albert D. J. Cashier: The Jennie Hodgers Story is a biography written by veteran Lon P. Dawson, who lived at the Illinois Veterans Home where Cashier once lived. The novel My Last Skirt, by Lynda Durrant, is based on Cashier’s life. Cashier was mentioned in a collection of essays called Nine Irish Lives, in which Cashier’s biography was written by Jill McDonough.[26] Cashier’s house has been restored in Saunemin.[27]

Authors including Michael Bronski, James Cromwell, Kirstin Cronn-Mills, and Nicholas Teich have suggested or argued that Cashier was a trans man due to living as a man for at least 53 years.[3][4][5][6]

References

1 Salt. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-10-08. Retrieved 2007-12-14.

2 ^ a b c Blanton, DeAnne & Cook, Lauren M. (2002). They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War. Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 9780807128060.

3 ^ a b Cromwell, Jason (1999). “Transvestite Opportunists, Passing Women, and Female-Bodied Men”. Transmen and FTMs: Identities, Bodies, Genders, and Sexualities. University of Illinois Press. pp. 77–78. ISBN 9780252068256.

4 ^ a b Bronski, Michael (2011). “A Democracy of Death and Art”. A Queer History of the United States. Beacon Press. pp. 69–70. ISBN 9780807044391.

5 ^ a b Teich, Nicholas (2012). “The History of Transgenderism and its Evolution Over Time”. Transgender 101: A Simple Guide to a Complex Issue. Columbia University Press. pp. 76–77. ISBN 9780231157124.

6 ^ a b Cronn-Mills, Kirstin (2014). Transgender Lives: Complex Stories, Complex Voices. Minneapolis: Lerner Publishing Group. p. 41. ISBN 9780761390220.

7 ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Tsui, Bonnie (2006). She Went to the Field: Women Soldiers of the Civil War. Globe Pequot. Guilford, Connecticut: TwoDot. ISBN 978-0-7627-4384-1. OCLC 868531116.

8 ^ Benck, Amy. “Albert D. J. Cashier: Woman Warrior, Insane Civil War Veteran, or Transman?”. OutHistory. Retrieved 6 May 2015.

9 ^ Illinois Issues: Little Soldier, Big Mystery, Illinois Public Radio, July 10, 2018

10 ^ McAuliffe, Nora-Ide. “When Jennie Came Marching Home – An Irishwoman’s Diary on Albert Cashier and the US Civil War.” The Irish Times, The Irish Times, 10 Apr. 2018, http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/when-jennie-came-marching-home-an-irishwoman-s-diary-on-albert-cashier-and-the-us-civil-war-1.3456012.

11 ^ a b c Hicks-Bartlett, Alani (February 1994). “When Jennie Comes Marchin’ Home”. Illinois History. Archived from the original on 2006-09-05. Retrieved 2007-12-13.

12 ^ a b 1 Blanton, DeAnne (Spring 1993). “Women Soldiers of the Civil War”. Prologue. College Park, MD: National Archives. 25 (1). Archived from the original on 5 December 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-14.

2 ^ a b c d e f g Clausius, Gerhard P. (Winter 1958). “The Little Soldier of the 95th: Albert D. J. Cashier”. Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society. 51 (4): 380–387. ISSN 2328-3246. JSTOR 40189639.

3 ^ “The Women Who Fought in the Civil War”. Off the Beaten Path. Retrieved August 5, 2018.

4 ^ Steve Hendrix (August 25, 2017). “A history lesson for Trump: Transgender soldiers served in the Civil War”. Washington Post. Retrieved 10 August 2018.

5 ^ “Deposition of J. H. Himes” (January 24, 1915) from Blanton (Spring 1993)

6 ^ “Recollections – Albert D. J. Cashier”. Saunemin, Illinois. Google Sites. Retrieved 10 August 2018.

7 ^ “The Handsome Young Irishman of the 95th IL Infantry”. eHistory, Ohio State University. Retrieved August 3, 2018.

8 ^ McAuliffe, Nora-Ide. “When Jennie Came Marching Home – An Irishwoman’s Diary on Albert Cashier and the US Civil War”. http://www.irishtimes.com. The Irish Times. Retrieved 8 August 2018.

9 ^ a b “Women in the Civil War”. Warfare History. Retrieved August 3, 2018.

10 ^ a b DeAnne Blanton, Lauren Cook Wike (2002-09-01). They Fought Like Demons. LSU Press. p. 174. ISBN 9780807128060. Retrieved 2018-08-03.

11 ^ “The Handsome Young Irishman of the 95th IL Infantry”. eHistory, Ohio State University. Retrieved August 3, 2018.

12 ^ “Albert D. J. Cashier”. Find a Grave.

13 ^ Bonnie Tsui (2006-07-01). She Went to the Field: Women Soldiers of the Civil War. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781461748496. Retrieved 2018-08-03.

14 ^ Jones, Chris (7 September 2017). “‘Civility of Albert Cashier’: A timely musical about a trans soldier”. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 8 August 2018.

15 ^ McDonough, Jill (2018). “The Soldier”. Nine Irish Lives. Algonquin Books. pp. 68–99.

16 ^ “For Love Of Freedom”. Saunemin Historical Society. July 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-14.

Gay History: When Gay Marriage Was A Rite

Gay marriage does not lead to polygamy according to 6000 years of human history. In countries where polygamy is legal, marriage for gays is often illegal. In countries where same-sex marriage is legal, polygamy is illegal.

St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mt. Sinai.

A Long Tradition Of Gay Marriage

As churches struggle with the issue of homosexuality, a long tradition of same sex marriage indicates that the Christian attitude toward same sex unions may not always have been as “straight” as is now suggested. A Kiev art museum contains a curious icon from St. Catherine’s monastery on Mt. Sinai.

It shows two robed Christian saints. Between them is a traditional Roman pronubus (best man) overseeing what in a standard Roman icon would be the wedding of a husband and wife. In the icon, Christ is the pronubus. Only one thing is unusual. The husband and wife are in fact two men.

St. Serge and St. Bacchus

Is the icon suggesting that a
homosexual or same sex marriage 
is one sanctified by Christ?

The very idea seems initially shocking. The full answer comes from other sources about the two men featured, St. Serge and St. Bacchus, two Roman soldiers who became Christian martyrs.

While the pairing of saints, particularly in the early church, was not unusual, the association of these two men was regarded as particularly close. Severus of Antioch in the sixth century explained that “we should not separate in speech [Serge and Bacchus] who were joined in life.” More bluntly, in the definitive 10th century Greek account of their lives, St. Serge is openly described as the “sweet companion and lover” of St. Bacchus.

In other words, it confirms what the earlier icon implies, that they were a homosexual couple who enjoyed a celebrated gay marriage. Their orientation and relationship was openly accepted by early Christian writers. Furthermore, in an image that to some modern Christian eyes might border on blasphemy, the icon has Christ himself as their pronubus, their best man overseeing their gay marriage.

Professor John Boswell’s Startling Discovery

The very idea of a Christian gay marriage seems incredible. Yet after a twelve year search of Catholic and Orthodox church archives Yale history professor John Boswell has discovered that a type of Christian gay marriage did exist as late as the 18th century.

Contrary to myth, Christianity’s concept of marriage has not been set in stone since the days of Christ, but has evolved as a concept and as a ritual.

St. Serge and St. Bacchus, a partnered gay couple

Professor Boswell discovered that in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies in ancient church liturgical documents (and clearly separate from other types of non-marital blessings of adopted children or land) were ceremonies called, among other titles, the “Office of Same Sex Union (10th and 11th century Greek) or the “Order for Uniting Two Men” (11th and 12th century). That certainly sounds like gay marriage.

John Boswell

earned the Ph.D. in History from Harvard University in 1975. He became a full professor at Yale University in 1982. Boswell was conversant in 17 languages.

The ceremonies Boswell describes had all the contemporary 
symbols of a marriage.

1 A community gathered in a church

2 A blessing of the couple before the altar

3 Their right hands joined as at heterosexual marriages

4 The participation of a priest

5 The taking of the Eucharist

6 A wedding banquet afterwards

All of these are shown in contemporary drawings of the same sex union of Byzantine Emperor Basil I (867-886) and his companion John. Such homosexual unions also took place in Ireland in the late 12th to early 13th century, as the chronicler Gerald of Wales (Geraldus Cambrensis) has recorded.

One Greek 13th century “Order for Solemnization of Same Sex Union,” having invoked St. Serge and St. Bacchus, called on God to “vouchsafe unto these Thy servants grace to love another and to abide unhated and not cause of scandal all the days of their lives, with the help of the Holy Mother of God and all Thy saints.” The ceremony concludes: “And they shall kiss the Holy Gospel and each other, and it shall be concluded.”

Another 14th century Serbian Slavonic “Office of the Same Sex Union,” uniting two men or two women, had the couple having their right hands laid on the Gospel while having a cross placed in their left hands. Having kissed the Gospel, the couple were then required to kiss each other, after which the priest, having raised up the Eucharist, would give them both communion.

Ancient marriage records can be found in libraries across Europe.

Boswell found records of same sex unions in such diverse archives as those in the Vatican, in St. Petersburg, in Paris, Istanbul, and in Sinai, covering a period from the 8th to 18th centuries. Nor is he the first to make such a discovery. The Dominican Jacques Goar (1601-1653) includes such ceremonies in a printed collection of Greek prayer books.

While homosexuality was technically illegal from late Roman times, it was only from about the 14th century that anti-homosexual feelings swept western Europe. Yet same sex unions continued to take place.

St. John Lateran Church, Rome

At St. John Lateran in Rome (traditionally the Pope’s parish church) in 1578, as many as 13 couples were “married” at Mass with the apparent cooperation of the local clergy, “taking communion together, using the same nuptial Scripture, after which they slept and ate together,” according to a contemporary report.

Gay people have partnered for thousands of years

Another woman to woman union is recorded in Dalmatia in the 18th century. Many questionable historical claims about the church have been made by some recent writers in The Irish Times newspaper.

Boswell’s academic study however is so well researched and sourced as to pose fundamental questions for both modern church leaders and heterosexual Christians concerning their attitude toward homosexuality.

For the Church to ignore the evidence in its own archives would be a cowardly cop-out. The evidence shows convincingly that what the modern church claims has been its constant unchanging attitude towards homosexuality is in fact nothing of the sort.

It proves that for much of the last two millennia, in parish churches and cathedrals throughout Christendom from Ireland to Istanbul and in the heart of Rome itself, homosexual relationships were accepted as valid expressions of a God-given ability to love and commit to another person, a love that could be celebrated, honoured and blessed both in the name of and through the Eucharist in the presence of Jesus Christ.

Either we’re all equal under the law or we’re not equal.

Gay Marriages really are about equal rights and civil rights.

Everyone should have the right to get married and enjoy the legal protections for their committed faithful partnership which only legal marriage provides.

This Gay Marriage article, originally published on August 11, 1998 is reprinted from The Irish Times, by permission of its author, Jim Duffy of Dublin, Ireland. Photos and Links added by Rick Brentlinger to illustrate the text.

Jim Duffy is an Irish political reporter, commentator and researcher.

Reference

Gay History: This Discontinued Gay Ken Doll Will Haunt Mattel Forever

Remember when Mattel accidentally made a super gay Ken doll? We do. And queer people made him the best selling Ken doll, ever.

The year is 1993. Barbie is cool as shit, but her boyfriend Ken…not so much. Way less outfits, way less adventures, and with cool dudes like G.I. Joe and the New Kids on the Block fashion dolls to woo the blonde bombshell over, Ken’s chances weren’t looking great. Mattel needed to do something, and stat. So they surveyed a bunch of five year olds who definitely knew what cool was and made a whole new Ken, ready to burst out of the closet and say hi to the world.

Chrome cock ring necklace and all.

Wait, what??

You may be shocked to find out that children have a very easily influenced idea of what’s cool. The quizzed little girls that Mattel surveyed were more than happy to repeat back what they saw as cool (mainly whatever was airing on the then still-newish MTV), but five years olds aren’t exactly known for their in-depth understanding of social trends, gender norms, and the general cultural climate. So they had no idea that say, Madonna’s cool back up dancers, were actually gay AF.

And that’s how we ended up with Earring Magic Ken, a companion to Earring Magic Barbie clad in a purple mesh shirt, a purple leather vest, wearing a big, shiny, silver ring around his neck. While he fits into some gay stereotypes, (especially from the early ’90s), it’s the necklace that really got everyone’s attention.

Curtesy chateau_cat on Instagram

As gay author and journalist Dan Savage explains in a column about the doll from 1993, in the late ’80s and early ’90s, besides being a sex toy, a cock ring was the queer fashion statement of the time. Leather daddies wore them stitched to their vests. Lesbians wore them as zipper pulls. Placement on clothing communicated secret preferences to those in the know, much like pierced ears at the time (Ken does have that “straight” at least). And many, many people wore them around their necks as a necklace. Ken included. The accessory was a staple of the gay club culture that was blowing up at the time, a scene Ken would fit right into with his leather/mesh ensemble.

Obviously, none of those little girls told the Mattel researchers that they wanted Ken to wear a cock ring around his neck. It is probably true that the adults designing the doll saw the fashion out of context and never thought to dig deeper. Mattel staunchly denies the doll was intended to have anything to do with homosexuality at all. The early ’90s was a time when queer culture was just starting to blossom in the open, still reeling from the horror of the AIDS crisis. Queer culture and pop culture were beginning to mingle in a way they hadn’t before, and Earring Magic Ken is an example of what happens when you pay attention to the what of trends and not the why.

Mattel, who has never been pleased about this connection, rushed to discontinue the dolls. However, the story spread faster than them, and sales for the doll spiked, making him the best selling Ken doll ever. Some even claim the best selling Barbie model ever, but as Mattel is unwilling to discuss our friend Ken’s current status, that title goes to Total Hair Barbie (released the year before).

Still, he will always have his little place in history as the time Barbie supported her boyfriend in exploring his homosexual tendencies. Who knew Barbie was such a cool girlfriend?

How Barbie’s Boyfriend Ken Became an Accidental Gay Icon

The toy company Mattel introduced the doll Earring Magic Ken in the early 1990s as one of six dolls in the Earring Magic Barbie collection. But the company quickly recalled and discontinued the doll due to an unintended depiction of then-taboo gay culture. YVONNE HEMSEY/GETTY IMAGES/JULIUS SEELBACH/FLICKR/CC BY 2.0

Mattel has been manufacturing its Barbie dolls since 1959. Shortly thereafter, it began producing dolls of Barbie’s boyfriend, Ken. Girls really liked Barbie, and the doll became a certifiable cultural force, but Ken dolls never sold as well. In an effort to increase sales of Ken dolls in the early ’90s, Mattel’s research department worked with a group of 5-year-old girls to find out what might make them more likely to nag their parents to buy one.

This workshop of young girls, inspired by images and music videos they’d seen on the then-culture-defining MTV music video network, wanted Ken to have a cool, new look, as author Matt Haig detailed in his book “Brand Failures: The Truth About the 100 Biggest Branding Mistakes of All Time.” And what “cool” meant to 5-year-olds who’d seen MTV was maybe a mesh shirt. And a leather vest. And an earring, and tight pants. Oh, and maybe a flashy necklace, too.

The minds at Mattel went on to produce this version of Ken and in 1993, Earring Magic Ken was born. He wore a lavender mesh shirt, a matching purple leather vest, hip-hugging black jeans, and even had a new earring at a time when men having pierced ears in the United States was still somewhat risqué. Ken, just like the other dolls in the Earring Magic collection, even came with a human-sized clip-on earring for the kids to wear.

Ken even had a flashy, circular chrome ring dangling around his neck. But Mattel’s choice for Ken’s necklace would cause a row that the company would soon regret. That’s because a panel of 5-year-olds generally isn’t sophisticated enough to parse the subversion of gender norms, to understand the flouting of traditional masculinity, to ken the coded language of underground fashion — or to predict the cluelessness of toy designers.

At this time, we should point readers who’d rather avoid more graphic discussion of human sexuality in another direction. Perhaps you’d like to read about solar eclipses, or how 3-D printing works? You also could learn whether a giant squid could actually defeat a submarine. But if you’re sticking around beyond this paragraph, things get a little more adult.

The Earring Magic line of Barbie dolls included several versions of Barbie as well as the characters Midge, Ken, and others not pictured. KSUTA/FLICKR/CC BY 2.0

“He’s always read gay,” said Dan Savage, internationally renowned columnist and podcaster, in an email, “but has he ever read gayer than he did with a gay sex toy around his neck?”

Savage originally wrote about Earring Magic Ken in the summer of 1993, when much of the pop culture world was having a good laugh at Mattel’s lack of understanding that while little kids saw what Prince, the members of Right Said Fred or Madonna’s backup dancers were wearing simply as “cool,” the adult world was clued in to how gay it was.

The doll flew off the shelves, especially since gay men, including Savage, rushed out to buy a Ken doll. The kitsch factor drove Earring Magic Ken to become the best-selling Ken doll at the time. We reached out to Mattel for comment multiple times — to find out just how well the doll sold and whether it remains the No. 1 Ken, as well as for the current regime’s take on this piece of corporate history — but they did not return our requests.

Earring Magic Ken has become a sought-after collectible, fetching high prices on online auction sites like eBay. JULIUS SEELBACH/FLICKR/CC BY 2.0

Though the Earring Magic Ken incident showed that LGBTQ culture at the time had infiltrated the mainstream (or, arguably, been co-opted by it), Ken might’ve simply remained the butt of late-night jokes until Savage — who’s since gone on to serve as one of the country’s most prominent sex and relationship advice columnists — published his explanation of the gay-culture subtext communicated by wearing the sex toy.

As Savage outlined back in the 1990s, the chrome metal ring used as a sex toy was also worn as a fashion accessory among certain subsets of the queer community. The rings were used as necklaces, bracelets, zipper-pulls, and worn just about anywhere else they could be attached. And in a form of code, specific placements on clothing could imply certain sexual preferences among the gay crowd; you can read Savage’s more detailed account of the nuances in the Chicago Reader’s archives.

Mattel quickly pulled the dolls from the shelves and apologized for the error. Clearly, it was not their intention to associate a child’s doll with an adult sex accessory.

Ultimately, Savage thinks the Earring Magic Ken incident is more of an amusing cultural blip than some kind of important moment, noting that neither the doll nor the hubbub is well-known today. “I don’t think a gay man under 40 would even know what we we’re talking about,” he said.

Adam McDonald is a 36-year-old gay man and film critic for the Bored as Hell podcast. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said when asked about Earring Magic Ken.

Dan Savage still has his Earring Magic Ken doll, though. When asked him about it, he quickly emailed a brand-new photograph of it, sex toy and all, proving that it had left at least some impression — if nothing other than as a relic of a unique time in quickly changing American popular culture.

References

Gay History: The Secret History Of Gay Saints The Catholic Church Doesn’t Want You To Read

These LGBTI saints prove you can be gay and Christian

St Sebastian depicted in the 1996 film Lillies.

Some people think you can’t be gay and Christian. What better way to prove them wrong than with a list of LGBTI saints?

The Catholic Church doesn’t want you to read this. They’ve deliberately erased many gay saints from official lists.

And we have to admit it is difficult to find hard historical evidence about most saints. Many of the stories about them are little more than legends.

But if you start looking, there are lots of LGBTI saints and martyrs. Here are just a few of the most famous:

St Joan of Arc

The 1999 movie The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc.

Jeanne d’Arc is not just the most famous LGBTI saint but the most famous saint full-stop.

Joan was just a French peasant. But an angel appeared to her in a vision and told her God wanted her to lead the French fight against the English in the Hundred Years War.

She persuaded the French Prince Charles to let her lead his army, even though she had no military training. And, dressed as a male soldier, she achieved a momentous victory over the English at the city of Orléans in 1429.

Thanks to her, the prince was crowned King Charles VII. But Joan was then captured by the English.

They decided she was a heretic and a witch and burnt her at the stake. She was just 19.

Some refuse to accept Joan was LGBTI.

Was she a trans warrior or did she only cross-dress in male armor through necessity? Either way, she would be part of our gay, trans and gender-fluid family today.

Likewise, the same people who claim she was a virgin admit she liked to share her bed with other young women. And that sounds pretty lesbian to us.

St Sebastian

Gerrit van Honthorst’s depiction of Saint Sebastian.

St Sebastian is the original gay icon. This near-naked, young, muscled man – tied to a post and pierced with arrows – is one of the most famous images in fine art.

He was the commander of a company of archers in the imperial Roman bodyguard. And he was known to be ‘close’ to his male superiors. But he had a secret.

To rescue two other Christian soldiers, he ‘outed’ himself as Christian too. The Emperor Diocletian ordered that he should be shot to death by his fellow archers.

Strangely, that didn’t kill him. The pious St Irene saved him and treated his wounds. But Diocletian caught up with him. He ordered a second execution and Sebastian’s fellow soldiers beat him to death.

There’s no single reason why he became the unofficial gay patron saint. It’s a mix of his rumored sexuality, his ‘coming out’ story and his iconic homoerotic image penetrated with arrows. And homosexuality was once considered an illness while St Sebastian was known to save plague victims.

St Wilgefortis

Conchita (right) brought fresh attention to St Wilgefortis.

Legend says Wilgefortis was the daughter of a king in Portugal who took a vow of chastity.

When her father tried to force her into marriage with the king of Sicily she prayed for help. God saved her by giving her a beard and the Sicilian king refused to marry a bearded wife.

So she is a trans male saint.

Sadly, there is no happy ending. Her father got so angry he crucified her.

Her only reward is to become the patron saint of difficult marriages. After all, it’s a particularly difficult marriage that ends in crucifixion. In Spain she is called Librada because she helps women who want to be ‘liberated’ from difficult husbands.

The Catholic Church plays down St Wilgefortis. But after Conchita – another bearded lady – won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2014 for Austria, depictions of the saint gained short-lived cult status.

St Perpetua and St Felicity

George Hare’s 1890 painting Victory of Faith depicted Perpetua and Felicity in prison.

This North African lesbian couple are the patron saints of same-sex relationships.

Perpetua was 22-year-old noblewoman with a newborn baby. Felicity, who was pregnant, was her slave.

Roman soldiers arrested them in around 203AD because they were Christians. They comforted each other in prison and Perpetua wrote a jail diary, describing the visions she had while inside.

Felicity worried that she wouldn’t be martyred because Roman law forbade the execution of pregnant women. But she gave birth to her daughter in time.

The day came for games to celebrate the birthday of the Emperor Septimus Severus. As part of the entertainment, the pair were taken into the amphitheater in Carthage, North Africa, along with a group of male Christians.

Gladiators whipped them. Then a boar, a bear, and a leopard were set on the men, and a wild cow on the women. That still wasn’t enough to kill them and they gave each other the kiss of peace before a swordsman finished them off.

Perpetua’s diary became the ‘Passion of St Perpetua, St Felicitas, and their Companions’. The story was so popular in North Africa that St Augustine ordered people not to treat it like it was part of the Bible.

St Paulinus

St Paulinus processed through the streets of Nola, near Naples, Italy.

If you’ve ever heard a bell ringing to call you to church, you’ve got the bisexual St Paulinus to thank. He invented that tradition.

He had previously been a married Roman senator. But after his wife died, he became bishop of Nola in Italy from 395AD to 431AD.

When the Vandals raided the region, a poor widow came to Paulinus asking him to help her son who the Vandals had carried off.

He had spent all his money paying ransoms for other captives. So he went to Africa to offer himself to the Vandals in return for the widow’s son. They agreed and made Paulinus a gardener. But when the Vandal king realized his son-in-law’s slave was the Bishop of Nola, he set him free.

What’s not well known is Paulinus also wrote love poems to his boyfriend, Ausonius. In one, he promised there love would last even after his death. And he added:

Thee shall I hold, in every fiber woven,
Not with dumb lips, nor with averted face
Shall I behold thee, in my mind embrace thee,
Instant and present, thou, in every place.

He is still honored every year in Nola when his statue is paraded through the streets. American descendants of Italians from Nola also honor him in the same way in Brooklyn.

St Francis of Assisi

Mickey Rourke as St Francis of Assisi in the movie Francesco.

St Francis is one of the best-loved religious figures in history, famous for hugging lepers and showing compassion to animals.

What you probably don’t know is he encouraged the other Franciscan friars in his 13th century cloister to call him ‘mother’.

Even more surprisingly, he allowed a widow to enter the all-male friary, renaming her ‘Brother Jacoba’.

And it is likely he had at least one same-sex relationship while in his 20s. His partner’s identity is hidden by history but is thought to be Brother Elias of Cortona.

Thomas of Celano, who knew Francis personally and wrote a biography of him in 1230 just four years after his death, wrote:

‘Now there was a man in the city of Assisi whom Francis loved more than any other…

‘He would often take this friend off to secluded spots where they could discuss private matters and tell him that he had chanced upon a great and precious treasure. There was a cave near Assisi where the two friends often went to talk about this treasure.’

St Sergius and St Bacchus

The Passion of Saints Sergius and Bacchus by Elastic Theatre.

Homophobic Christians tell us that same-sex marriage is against their faith. Trouble is they don’t know their own history. Step forward Saints Sergius and Bacchus.

Sergius was a commander in the Roman army in the third century and Bacchus was his second in command.

They were referred to in the earliest records of their story as ‘erastai’, the Greek word for ‘lovers’. And it’s believed they committed themselves to each other in a Christian ceremony called ‘adelphopoiesis’ or ‘brother-making’ which was a kind of same-sex marriage.

But their faith got them in trouble while they were stationed in Syria in 303AD. As Christians, they refused to sacrifice to Jupiter, the Roman’s chief god.

Officials arrested them, dressed them in women’s clothing and paraded them through the street to humiliate them into submission. But they resisted, chanting they were dressed as brides of Christ.

So the Romans turned to torture. They separated them and beat them so severely that Bacchus died.

That wasn’t the end of the story. That night Sergius had a vision.

Bacchus appeared to him in his soldier’s armor and with the face of an angel. He urged Sergius not to give in, saying they would live together as lovers forever in heaven. It’s a unique martyrdom story, because martyrs are always promised they will be with God in heaven, not with their lover.

Over the coming days, Sergius was tortured and finally beheaded.

Christians honored them as saints right up until 1969, the same year as the Stonewall Riots. The Catholic Church stripped them from the official list of saints, perhaps to starve the emerging gay rights movement of their power.

St Aelred

The Name of The Rose movie depicted medieval monastic life.

The patron saint of friendship was erotically attracted to men, and celebrated male relationships, throughout his life.

Aelred was the abbot of a Cistercian abbey in North Yorkshire, England for 20 years until his death in 1167. He wrote about the link between friendship and spirituality, saying ‘God is friendship’.

And he encouraged friendship between his monks comparing it to the love between Jesus and his beloved disciple, and between Jonathan and David.

Aelred advocated chastity. But his passion for male relationships is clear when he wrote: ‘It is no small consolation in this life to have someone who can unite with you in an intimate affection and the embrace of a holy love…’

In the same passage he describes this relationship with another man as one where ‘the sweetness of the Spirit flows between you, where you so join yourself and cleave to him that soul mingles with soul and two become one.’

St Galla and St Benedicta

Women in the Dark Ages faced few choices, as depicted in The Last Kingdom.

Galla had been married but was widowed after just one year. Not wanting another relationship with a man, she grew a beard to ward them off.

And she went even further. St Galla founded a convent in Rome in the sixth century and fellow nun Benedicta moved in with her there.

Then Galla fell seriously ill and St Peter appeared to her in a vision, telling her to prepare for death. She was devoted to God so liked the idea of going to heaven. But she was also devoted to Benedicta and didn’t want to leave her behind.

So she prayed to Peter that Benedicta would swiftly follow her to the afterlife.

Admittedly, by modern standards, praying for your partner’s death seems a bit wrong. But Peter agreed.

Galla died in 550AD of breast cancer and Benedicta’s death came 30 days later, just as St Peter had promised.

Historical note on gay saints

To historians, we would point out there are around 10,000 Catholic saints (though there is no definitive figure). By any impartial standard, some of them are bound to have been LGBTI.

To Catholics, we would say that you accept a saint’s sanctity on the basis of faith, not scientific proof. So why would you not accept their sexuality on the same basis?

Reference