Monthly Archives: December 2019

Lost St Giles And Its Poverty Past

On a weekday lunchtime the brightly coloured Central Saint Giles, to the east of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road, is buzzing with activity. Workers pour out of their offices into the shops and restaurants set around a covered courtyard forming the heart of this £450 million development. On either side are two buildings towering 15 storeys into the sky, home to Google and other companies. Designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano and completed in 2010, Central Saint Giles has quickly become a West End landmark. Passers-by can hardly miss the place thanks to its distinctive facades, covered with more than 130,000 bright green, orange, lime and yellow glazed tiles.

Central Saint Giles

With the Crossrail construction work taking place just around the corner, this area is going through an enormous amount of change. The new Tottenham Court Road station will open in time for the launch of the line that will bring fast travel across London from 2018.  Even Centre Point, one of London’s first skyscrapers and completed in 1966, is getting a makeover – apartments will replace what has in the past been occupied by offices. Once development around Tottenham Court Road is complete property speculators who invested in real estate several years ago will make a tidy profit.

But as a result of all the change in the area, St Giles, which has a history stretching back more than a thousand years, has lost its identity. Indeed, St Giles High Street is a short stretch in central London with little more than a pub and a convenience store, set across from Central Saint Giles. Surrounded by modern developments and sandwiched between Covent Garden, Soho and Oxford Street, it’s one of the capital’s lost neighbourhoods.

What’s probably oblivious to most that pass through this area on a daily basis is that it was once notorious for being one of London’s most unruly slums, where thieving and prostitution were rife. Given that streets have been built over and buildings demolished, traces of it have virtually disappeared. St Giles parish church (a religious institution since Saxon times), for example, is one of the few landmarks that would have been familiar to visitors to the area two hundred years ago.

St Giles parish church

When the clergyman Thomas Beames travelled here as part of research for his 1852 Rookeries of London book, he found thousands of destitute people living in “crumbling houses, flanked by courts and alleys…… in the very densest part of which the wretchedness of London takes shelter.” For him, it was like entering a different world:

“You have scarce gone a hundred yards when you are in The Rookery. The change is marvellous: squalid children, haggard men, with long uncombed hair, in rags, most of them smoking, many speaking Irish; women without shoes or stockings – a babe perhaps at the breast, with a single garment, confined to the waist by a bit of string; wolfish looking dogs; decayed vegetables strewing the pavement; low public houses; linen hanging across the street to dry; the population stagnant in the midst of activity; lounging about in remnants of shooting jackets, leaning on the window frames, blocking up the courts and alleys; with young boys gathered round them, looking exhausted as though they had not been to bed.”

Visiting the (now lost) George Street and Church Lane in St Giles, Beames found it hard to comprehend how up to 40 people could manage to sleep in a single room. Complete strangers slept next to each other, paying the landlord of the property a small amount for the privilege of a night’s stay. Inequality was rife in this district. Just a year before Beames published his book, statistics showed that there were 221.2 people per acre living in the district, compared to 16.2 and 5.3 per acre in Kensington and Hampstead respectively.

The residents suffered from “the want of water, with which these courts are very inadequately supplied, even where it is turned on; and this takes place, in many instances, only twice a-week, though the companies have a plentiful supply at command; and few investments have turned out so profitable as those made in the shares of these different societies.” Conditions were terrible given that “many of the houses are so far below the level of the street, that, in wet weather, they are flooded; perhaps this is the only washing the wretched floorings get; the boards seem matted together by filth.” Beames described one shocking scene:

“In a back alley, opening into Church street, was a den which looked more like a cow-house than a room for human beings – little, if any light, through the small diamond panes of the windows; and that, obstructed by the rags which replaced the broken glass-a door whose hinges were rotting, in which time had made many crevices, and yet seventeen human beings eat, drank, and slept there; the floor was damp and below the level of the court; the gutters overflowed; when it rained, the rain gushed in at the apertures.”

Those living in the Rookery lived a precarious life, getting by on petty theft, begging and from selling goods on the streets. Beames said that “oranges, herrings, water-cresses, onions, seemed to be the most marketable articles.” Others worked as sweepers or stray luggage porters. Some inhabitants spent a month in a property, others a week and others still were “trampers”, moving on after a single night, carrying all their life’s possessions with them.

Beames looked to history to understand how the Rookery in St Giles had grown to be as miserable as it was in his day, tracing it’s development from being a medieval leper hospital founded by Queen Matilda, wife of Henry II, in the 12th century. The marshes and open fields in which it was built provided a physical barrier separating it from London. While the hospital only survived until the mid 16th century, its presence in St Giles firmly establish the parish as a place for outcasts – a label that the district is only really now shaking off.  As early as the mid 17th century, church wardens reported “a great influx of poor people” as vagrants expelled from the city settled in the St Giles and sought its generous charitable relief.

Although from early on there was a lot of poverty in the parish, it also attracted some wealthy residents from the late 16th century. But from Georgian affluence in 18th century, those that could afford it moved westwards to newly built squares and the area declined rapidly to the state that Beames described in his book. As I’ve written before, William Hogarth captured St Giles in a 1751 print called ‘Gin Lane’. In a busy scene set in front of the parish church, Hogarth pictured the poverty and despair of a community dependent on gin. The only businesses that thrived were those linked to the sale of the spirit.

By the 19th century many campaigners were highlighting the plight of the inhabitants of St Giles.  Residents themselves wrote to the Times in 1849 to express their protest: “We live in muck and filth. We aint got no priviz no dust bins, no drains, no water-splies, and no drain or suer in the hole place.” But authorities’ were doing little – their solution was to simply bulldoze slums and replace with new roads, as was the case with New Oxford Street (completed in 1847). While the venture may have been a commercial success, no thought was given to where the 5,000 made homeless by the construction project would be housed. Beames was scathing:

“If Rookeries are pulled down, you must build habitable dwellings for the population you have displaced, otherwise, you will not merely have typhus, but plague; some fearful pestilence worse than cholera or Irish fever, which will rage, as the periodical miasmata of other times were wont to do, numbering its victims by tens of thousands!”

As slums were torn down over the course of the 19th century inhabitants were simply moved on to some of the other Rookeries in London. Following in the footsteps of Thomas Beames and his 1852, I’ll be visiting five more of these districts in the coming weeks and will see that St Giles is by now means an isolated case.

Map of the area in 1794. Church Lane and others are now lost following modern development


Gay History: The Only Major Player To Openly Admit He Was Gay During His Career Also May Have “Invented” The High-Five!

“They can’t say that a gay man can’t play in the Majors, because I’m a gay man and I made it.”- Glenn Burke

Major League Baseball has been going strong now for well over a century. Many thousands of players have taken the field since the beginning of organized professional baseball, but only one, Glenn Burke, ever “came out of the closet” during his playing career, letting managers, teammates, and owners know he was gay.  Burke also is noted as being the man who popularized, and possibly invented, the high-five.

Burke was born in 1952 in Oakland, California.  By the age of 18, he was voted Northern California’s high school “basketball player of the year”.  A highly gifted athlete, Glenn could reputedly dunk a basketball with either hand- quite a feat considering he was just over six feet tall.  But he soon turned all his attention to baseball.

An outfielder, he was drafted by the L.A. Dodgers and, as so often happens with young “toolsy” prospects when scouts are trying to hype them, he was quickly compared to one of the greats of all time- touted as “the next Willie Mays”.

Burke made his MLB debut on April 9, 1976.  From the word go, Burke made no secret of the fact that he was gay, freely talking about it with teammates and management.  As a result of this, during his time with the Dodgers, then General Manager Al Campanis offered to treat Burke to a lavish honeymoon (actually offering him $75,000), if Burke would just agree to get married- no doubt worried that the fact that Burke was gay would be leaked or discovered by the media at some point with how open Burke was about it.  Burke responded to this marriage request by saying, “I guess you mean to a woman?”  He refused the offer.

Despite management apparently being uncomfortable about Burke’s sexual preferences, players didn’t seem to feel the same way.  Burke was often described in his Dodger days as “the life of the clubhouse”.

While things were great with his teammates, problems arose with manager Tommy Lasorda.  The issue started when Burke befriended Lasorda’s gay son, Tommy “Spunky” Lasorda Jr.  According to Burke’s sister, Burke and Spunky were just very close friends, not intimate.  In Burke’s 1995 autobiography, Out At Home,  he purposefully didn’t go into details about the extent of his relationship with Lasorda’s son, saying that it was “my business”.

Regardless, Lasorda Sr. and Burke’s relationship quickly soured. Lasorda Sr. was in denial that his son, Spunky, was gay, at least publicly, despite the fact that Lasorda Jr. made no great secret of the fact. (Sadly, Spunky died in 1991 at the age of 33 from pneumonia and was thought to be suffering from AIDS at the time).

Whatever he actually believed, Lasorda Sr. was not happy at all about Burke and his son being friends.  Given Lasorda Sr.’s position on the subject, it’s probably for the best that they abandoned a prank Spunky and Burke were going to play on Lasorda Sr. The two dressed up in drag and showed up at Lasorda Sr.’s house for dinner.  When they got to the door, Burke said they chickened out and just went home without knocking.

Even without showing up to dinner in drag, Lasorda Sr.’s liking for Burke completely soured and Burke’s clubhouse antics, which Lasorda used to love for keeping the team loose, now were no longer appreciated by the skipper resulting in a major chewing out of Burke after one particular dugout incident.  Burke’s sister, Lutha Davis, later said,

Glenn had such an abundance of respect and love for Tommy Lasorda.  When things went bad at the end, it was almost like a father turning his back on his son.

This all came to a head in 1978, when the Dodgers suddenly traded Burke away to the Oakland Athletics for Billy North. One L.A. sportswriter stated after the fact that “[the trade] sucked the life out of the Dodger’s clubhouse.”  He even claimed to have seen a couple of the players crying when they heard Burke was traded.

When Burke arrived in Oakland, his welcome was not good. A’s manager Billy Martin supposedly introduced him as a “faggot” in front of his teammates and reportedly referred to him that way several times.  Further, there were rumors that many of his new teammates would not take showers or undress if Burke was around.

With this added strain, Burke’s play on the field suffered greatly and was later compounded by a knee injury. He went down to the Minor Leagues once his knee healed up, playing in 25 games there, but then decided to call it quits.  “It’s the first thing in my life I ever backed down from,” Burke said.  “Prejudice just won out.”

In his 4-season career (1976-1979), Burke, who showed some promise when he first came up and was a very hyped prospect, ended up hitting just .237 in 523 at-bats, including 38 RBI’s, 2 home runs and 35 stolen bases.

Besides being the first MLB player to come out during his playing career, at least with teammates and management, Glenn Burke is also often credited with being the guy who invented the high-five. To be clear, “low-fives” had been around for several decades at this point, particularly within the African American community, and there are a few people who claim to have “invented” the high-five.  Perhaps they really did perform a high-five first at some point- it being not exactly a complicated extension of the already popular low-five.  The reason Burke is so often given credit is there is substantial documented evidence of his first high-five, unlike so many other claimants. Further, after he started doing this, it caught on with the Dodgers and later throughout baseball and the world.  So even if he was not really the first person to have the bright idea to convert the low-five to a high-five (which seems likely), he at least was integral in popularizing the switch.

This “first” momentous high-five happened in 1977 when Burke ran onto the field to congratulate his Dodger teammate Dusty Baker who’d just hit his 30th home run.  Rather than do a low-five, Burke raised his hand over his head as Baker jogged home from third base.  Baker got what Burke was going for and slapped Burke’s hand, thus “inventing” the high-five.  After retiring from baseball, Burke used the high five as a symbol for gay pride, even at the same time the Dodgers were selling trademarked “high-five” symbol t-shirts due to the tradition of high-fiving teammates started by Burke.

As tragic as Glenn Burke’s baseball career may seem, it was a picnic compared to his post-baseball life.  At first things went well for him.  He became a star shortstop in his local gay softball league and led his club to the Gay Softball World Series.  He said of this:

I was making money playing ball and not having any fun. Now I’m not making money, but I’m having fun.

He also competed in the Gay Games in 1982 and 1986 in basketball and a few running events.  He even took home medals in the 100 and 200 meter sprints in 1982.  He also initially had aspirations of trying to pick back up his once promising basketball career and perhaps become the first openly gay NBA player, with that distinction, of course, now going to Jason Collins.

One of Burke’s gay friends, Jack McGowan, said of Burke at this time,

He was a hero to us. He was athletic, clean cut, masculine. He was everything that we wanted to prove to the world that we could be.

However, things soon took a turn for the worse.  For reasons known only to him, Burke started doing drugs… a lot of them.  Things got even worse when, in 1987, his leg and foot were crushed when he was hit by a car in San Francisco.  Struggling to find work and now thoroughly addicted to cocaine, he found himself on the streets.  During this period, he was also arrested for drug possession and grand theft.  To add a healthy dose of lemon juice to his cuts, in 1993, he tested positive for HIV.  Just two years later, now living with his sister in Oakland, Burke passed away from complications due to AIDS on May 30, 1995 at the age of just 42.

Bonus fact

Since Burke, one other Major League Baseball player has announced to the world that he is gay, though he waited to tell anyone until after his career was finished.  The man is Billy Beane… No, not the current Money Ball GM of the Oakland Athletics.  William Daro “Billy” Beane who played for the Tigers, Dodgers, Padres from 1987 to 1995, and also played in Japan one year during that span.  In 1999, four years after retiring, Beane announced to the world that he is gay, and later wrote a book, Going the Other Way: Lessons from a Life in and out of Major League Baseball.


Gay History: The Queer Nation Manifesto

Text of a manifesto originally passed out by people marching with the ACT UP contingent in the New York Gay Pride Day parade, 1990.

How can I tell you. How can I convince you, brother; sister that your life is in danger. That everyday you wake up alive, relatively happy, and a functioning human being, you are committing a rebellious act. You as an alive and functioning queer are a revolutionary. There is nothing on this planet that validates, protects or encourages your existence. It is a miracle you are standing here reading these words. You should by all rights be dead.

 Don’t be fooled, straight people own the world and the only reason you have been spared is you’re smart, lucky, or a fighter. Straight people have a privilege that allows them to do whatever they please and f— without fear. But not only do they live a life free of fear; they flaunt their freedom in my face. Their images are on my TV, in the magazine I bought, in the restaurant I want to eat in, and on the street where I live. I want there to be a moratorium on straight marriage, on babies, on public displays of affection among the opposite sex and media images that promote heterosexuality. Until I can enjoy the same freedom of movement and sexuality, as straights, their privilege must stop and it must be given over to me and my queer sisters and brothers.

 Straight people will not do this voluntarily and so they must be forced into it. Straights must be frightened into it. Terrorized into it. Fear is the most powerful motivator. No one will give us what we deserve. Rights are not given they are taken, by force if necessary.

 It is easier to fight when you know who your enemy is. Straight people are you enemy. They are your enemy when they don’t acknowledge your invisibility and continue to live in and contribute to a culture that kills you.

 Every day one of us is taken by the enemy. Whether it is an AIDS death due to homophobic government inaction or a lesbian bashing in an all-night diner (in a supposedly lesbian neighborhood), we are being systematically picked off and we will continue to be wiped out unless we realize that if they take one of us they must take all of us.

An Army of Lovers Cannot Lose

Being queer is not about a right to privacy; it is about the freedom to be public, to just be who we are. It means everyday fighting oppression; homophobia, racism, misogyny, the bigotry of religious hypocrites and our own self-hatred. (We have been carefully taught to hate ourselves.) And now of course it means fighting a virus as well, and all those homo-haters who are using AIDS to wipe us off the face of the earth.

 Being queer means leading a different sort of life. It’s not about the mainstream, profit-margins, patriotism, patriarchy or being assimilated. It’s not about executive directors, privilege and elitism. It’s about being on the margins, defining ourselves; it’s about gender-f— and secrets, what’s beneath the belt and deep inside the heart; it’s about the night. Being queer is “grass roots” because we know that everyone of us, every body, every c—, every heart and a– and d— is a world of pleasure waiting to be explored. Everyone of us is a world of infinite possibility.

 We are an army because we have to be. We are an army because we are so powerful. (We have so much to fight for; we are the most precious of endangered species.) And we are an army of lovers because it is we who know what love is. Desire and lust, too. We invented them. We come out of the closet, face the rejection of society, face firing squads, just to love each other! Every time we f—, we win.

 We must fight for ourselves (no else is going to do it) and if in that process we bring greater freedom to the world at large then great. (We’ve given so much to that world: democracy, all the arts, the concepts of love, philosophy and the soul, to name just a few of the gifts from our ancient Greek Dykes, Fags.) Let’s make every space a Lesbian and Gay space. Every street a part of our sexual geography. A city of yearning and then total satisfaction. A city and a country where we can be safe and free and more. We must look at our lives and see what’s best in them, see what is queer and what is straight and let that straight chaff fall away! Remember there is so, so little time. And I want to be a lover of each and every one of you. Next year, we march naked.

I’m Angry

The strong sisters told the brothers that there were two important things to remember about the coming revolutions. The first is that we will get our a–es kicked. The second is that we will win.

 I’m angry. I’m angry for being condemned to death by strangers saying, “You deserve to die” and “AIDS is the cure.” Fury erupts when a Republican woman wearing thousands of dollars of garments and jewelry minces by the police lines shaking her head, chuckling and wagging her finger at us like we are recalcitrant children making absurd demands and throwing a temper tantrum when they aren’t met. Angry while Joseph agonizes over $8,000 a year for AZT which might keep him alive a little longer and which does make him sicker than the disease he is diagnosed with. Angry as I listen to a man tell me that after changing his will five times he’s running out of people to leave things to. All of his best friends are dead. Angry when I stand in a sea of quilt panels, or go to a candlelight march or attend yet another memorial service. I will not march silently with a f—ing candle and I want to take that goddamned quilt and wrap myself in it and furiously rent it and my hair and curse every god religion ever created. I refuse to accept a creation that cuts people down in the third decade of their life. It is cruel and vile and meaningless and everything I have in me rails against the absurdity and I raise my face to the clouds and a ragged laugh that sounds more demonic than joyous erupts from my throat and tears stream down my face and if this disease doesn’t kill me, I may just die of frustration. My feet pound the streets and Peter’s hands are chained to a pharmaceutical company’s reception desk while the receptionist looks on in horror and Eric’s body lies rotting in a Brooklyn cemetery and I’ll never hear his flute resounding off the walls of the meeting house again. And I see the old people in Tompkins Square Park huddled in their long wool coats in June to keep out the cold they perceive is there and to cling to whatever little life has left to offer them, and I think, ah, they understand. And I’m reminded of the people who strip and stand before a mirror each night before they go to bed and search their bodies for any mark that might not have been there yesterday. A mark that this scourge has visited them. And I’m angry when the newspapers call us “victims” and sound alarms that “it” might soon spread to the “general population.” And I want to scream “Who the f— am I?” And I want to scream at New York Hospital with its yellow plastic bags marked “isolation linen,” “ropa infecciosa” and its orderlies in latex gloves and surgical masks skirt the bed as if its occupant will suddenly leap out and douse them with blood and semen giving them too the plague. And I’m angry at straight people who sit smugly wrapped in their self-protective coat of monogamy and heterosexuality confident that this disease has nothing to do with them because it only happens to “them.” And the teenage boys who upon spotting my “Silence = Death” button begin chanting “Faggots gonna die” and I wonder, who taught them this? Enveloped in fury and fear, I remain silent while my button mocks me every step of the way. And the anger I feel when a television program on the quilt gives profiles of the dead and the list begins with a baby, a teenage girl who got a blood transfusion, an elderly Baptist minister and his wife and when they finally show a gay man, he’s described as someone who knowingly infected teenage male prostitutes with the virus. What else can you expect from a faggot? I’m angry.


Since time began, the world has been inspired by the work of queer artists. In exchange, there has been suffering, there has been pain, there has been violence. Throughout history, society has struck a bargain with its queer citizens: they must pursue creative careers, if they do so discreetly. Through the arts queers are productive, lucrative, entertaining and even uplifting. These are the clear-cut and useful by-products of what is otherwise considered anti-social behavior. In cultured circles, queers may quietly coexist with an otherwise disapproving power elite.

 At the forefront of the most recent campaign to bash queer artists is Jesse Helms, arbiter of all that is decent, moral, christian and amerikan. For Helms, queer art is quite simply a threat to the world. In his imaginings, heterosexual culture is too fragile to bear up to the admission of human or sexual diversity. Quite simply, the structure of power in the Judeo-Christian world has made procreation its cornerstone. Families having children assures consumers for the nation’s products and a work force to produce them, as well as a built-in family system to care for its ill, reducing the expense of public healthcare systems. All non-procreative behavior is considered a threat, from homosexuality to birth control to abortion as an option. It is not enough, according to the religious right, to consistently advertise procreation and heterosexuality … it is also necessary to destroy any alternatives. It is not art Helms is after … It is our lives! Art is the last safe place for lesbians and gay men to thrive. Helms knows this, and has developed a program to purge queers from the one arena they have been permitted to contribute to our shared culture.

 Helms is advocating a world free from diversity or dissent. It is easy to imagine why that might feel more comfortable to those in charge of such a world. It is also easy to envision an amerikan landscape flattened by such power. Helms should just ask for what he is hinting at: State sponsored art, art of totalitarianism, art that speaks only in christian terms, art which supports the goals of those in power, art that matches the sofas in the Oval Office. Ask for what you want, Jesse, so that men and women of conscience can mobilize against it, as we do against the human rights violations of other countries, and fight to free our own country’s dissidents.

If You’re Queer, Shout It!

Queers are under siege.

 Queers are being attacked on all fronts and I’m afraid it’s ok with us.

In 1969, Queers, were attacked. It wasn’t ok. Queers fought back, took the streets.


In 1990, there were 50 “Queer Bashings” in the month of May alone. Violent attacks. 3,720 men, women and children died of AIDS in the same month, caused by a more violent attack – government inaction, rooted in society’s growing homophobia. This is institutionalized homophobia, perhaps more dangerous to the existence of queers because the attackers are faceless. We allow these attacks by our own continued lack of action against them. AIDS has affected the straight world and now they’re blaming us for AIDS and using it as a way to justify their violence against us. They don’t want us anymore. They will beat us, rape us and kill us before they will continue to live with us. What will it take for This not to be ok? Feel some rage. If rage doesn’t empower you, try fear. If that doesn’t work try panic.

Shout It! 

Be proud. Do whatever you need to do to tear yourself away from your customary state of acceptance. Be free. Shout.

 In 1969, Queers fought back. In 1990, Queers say ok.

Next year, will we be here?


I hate Jesse Helms. I hate Jesse Helms so much I’d rejoice if he dropped down dead. If someone killed him I’d consider it his own fault.

 I hate Ronald Reagan, too, because he mass-murdered my people for eight years. But to be honest, I hate him even more for eulogizing Ryan White without first admitting his guilt, without begging forgiveness for Ryan’s death and for the deaths of tens of thousands of other PWA’s – most of them queer. I hate him for making a mockery of our grief.

 I hate the f—ing Pope, and I hate John f—ing Cardinal O’Connor, and I hate the whole f—ing Catholic Church. The same goes for the Military, and especially for Amerika’s Law Enforcement Officials – the cops – state sanctioned sadists who brutalize street transvestites, prostitutes and queer prisoners. I also hate the medical and mental health establishments, particularly the psychiatrist who convinced me not to have sex with men for three years until we (meaning he) could make me bisexual rather than queer. I also hate the education profession, for its share in driving thousands of queer teens to suicide every year. I hate the “respectable” art world; and the entertainment industry, and the mainstream media, especially The New York Times. In fact, I hate every sector of the straight establishment in this country – the worst of whom actively want all queers dead, the best of whom never stick their necks out to keep us alive.

 I hate straight people who think they have anything intelligent to say about “outing.” I hate straight people who think stories about themselves are “universal” but stories about us are only about homosexuality. I hate straight recording artists who make their careers off of queer people, then attack us, then act hurt when we get angry and then deny having wronged us rather than apologize for it. I hate straight people who say, “I don’t see why you feel the need to wear those buttons and t-shirts. I don’t go around tell the whole world I’m straight.”

 I hate that in twelve years of public education I was never taught about queer people. I hate that I grew up thinking I was the only queer in the world, and I hate even more that most queer kids still grow up the same way. I hate that I was tormented by other kids for being a faggot, but more that I was taught to feel ashamed for being the object of their cruelty, taught to feel it was my fault. I hate that the Supreme Court of this country says it’s okay to criminalize me because of how I make love. I hate that so many straight people are so concerned about my goddamned sex life. I hate that so many twisted straight people become parents, while I have to fight like hell to be allowed to be a father. I hate straights.

 Where Are You Sisters?

Invisibility is Our Responsibility

I wear my pink triangle everywhere. I do not lower my voice in public when talking about lesbian love or sex. I always tell people I’m a lesbian. I don’t wait to be asked about my “boyfriend.” I don’t say it’s “no one’s business.”

 I don’t do this for straight people. Most of them don’t know what the pink triangle even means. Most of them couldn’t care less that my girlfriend and I are totally in love or having a fight on the street. Most of them don’t notice us no matter what we do. I do what I do to reach other lesbians. I do what I do because I don’t want lesbians to assume I’m a straight girl. I am out all the time, everywhere, because I want to reach you. Maybe you’ll notice me, maybe start talking, maybe we’ll become friends. Maybe we won’t say a word but our eyes will meet and I will imagine you naked, sweating, openmouthed, your back arched as I am f—ing you. And we’ll be happy to know we aren’t the only ones in the world. We’ll be happy because we found each other, without saying a word, maybe just for a moment.

 But no.

 You won’t wear a pink triangle on that linen lapel. You won’t meet my eyes if I flirt with you on the street. You avoid me on the job because I’m “too” out. You chastise me in bars because I’m “too political.” You ignore me in public because I bring “too much” attention to “my” lesbianism. But then you want me to be your lover, you want me to be your friend, you want me to love you, support you, fight for “our” right to exist.

Where Are You?

You talk, talk, talk about invisibility and then retreat to your homes to nest with your lovers or carouse in a bar with pals and stumble home in a cab or sit silently and politely by while your family, your boss, your neighbors, your public servants distort and disfigure us, deride us and punish us. Then home again and you feel like screaming. Then you pad your anger with a relationship or a career or a party with other dykes like you and still you wonder why we can’t find each other, why you feel lonely, angry, alienated.

Get Up, Wake Up Sisters!!

Your life is in your hands.

 When I risk it all to be out, I risk it for both of us. When I risk it all and it works (which it often does if you would try), I benefit and so do you. When it doesn’t work, I suffer and you do not.

 But girl you can’t wait for other dykes to make the world safe for you. stop waiting for a better more lesbian future! The revolution could be here if we started it.

 Where are you sisters? I’m trying to find you, I’m trying to find you. How come I only see you on Gay Pride Day?

 We’re out. Where the f— are you?


When anyone assaults you for being queer, it is queer bashing. Right?

A crowd of 50 people exit a gay bar as it closes. Across the street, some straight boys are shouting “Faggots” and throwing beer bottles at the gathering, which outnumbers them by 10 to 1. Three queers make a move to respond, getting no support from the group. Why did a group this size allow themselves to be sitting ducks?

 Tompkins Square Park, Labor Day. At an annual outdoor concert/drag show, a group of gay men were harassed by teens carrying sticks. In the midst of thousands of gay men and lesbians, these straight boys beat two gay men to the ground, then stood around triumphantly laughing amongst themselves. The emcee was alerted and warned the crowd from the stage, “You girls be careful. When you dress up it drives the boys crazy,” as if it were a practical joke inspired by what the victims were wearing rather than a pointed attack on anyone and everyone at that event.

What would it have taken for that crowd to stand up to its attackers?

 After James Zappalorti, an openly gay man, was murdered in cold blood on Staten Island this winter, a single demonstration was held in protest. Only one hundred people came. When Yusef Hawkins, a black youth, was shot to death for being on “White turf” in Bensonhurst, African Americans marched through that neighborhood in large numbers again and again. A black person was killed because he was black, and people of color throughout the city recognized it and acted on it. The bullet that hit Hawkins was meant for a black man, any black man. Do most gays and lesbians think that the knife that punctured Zappalorti’s heart was meant only for him?

 The straight world has us so convinced that we are helpless and deserving victims of the violence against us, that queers are immobilized when faced with a threat. Be outraged! These attacks must not be tolerated. Do something. Recognize that any act of aggression against any member of our community is an attack on every member of the community. The more we allow homophobes to inflict violence, terror and fear on our lives, the more frequently and ferociously we will be the object of their hatred. Your body cannot be an open target for violence. Your body is worth protecting. You have a right to defend it. No matter what they tell you, your queerness must be defended and respected. You’d better learn that your life is immeasurably valuable, because unless you start believing that, it can easily be taken from you. If you know how to gently and efficiently immobilize your attacker, then by all means, do it. If you lack those skills, then think about gouging out his f—ing eyes, slamming his nose back into his brain, slashing his throat with a broken bottle – do whatever you can, whatever you have to, to save your life!

Why Queer?


 Ah, do we really have to use that word? It’s trouble. Every gay person has his or her own take on it. For some it means strange and eccentric and kind of mysterious. That’s okay; we like that. But some gay girls and boys don’t. They think they’re more normal than strange. And for others “queer” conjures up those awful memories of adolescent suffering. Queer. It’s forcibly bittersweet and quaint at best – weakening and painful at worst. Couldn’t we just use “gay” instead? It’s a much brighter word. And isn’t it synonymous with “happy”? When will you militants grow up and get over the novelty of being different?

 Why Queer …

 Well, yes, “gay” is great. It has its place. But when a lot of lesbians and gay men wake up in the morning we feel angry and disgusted, not gay. So we’ve chosen to call ourselves queer. Using “queer” is a way of reminding us how we are perceived by the rest of the world. It’s a way of telling ourselves we don’t have to be witty and charming people who keep our lives discreet and marginalized in the straight world. We use queer as gay men loving lesbians and lesbians loving being queer. Queer, unlike gay, doesn’t mean male.

 And when spoken to other gays and lesbians it’s a way of suggesting we close ranks, and forget (temporarily) our individual differences because we face a more insidious common enemy. Yeah, queer can be a rough word but it is also a sly and ironic weapon we can steal from the homophobe’s hands and use against him.

No Sex Police

For anyone to say that coming out is not part of the revolution is missing the point. Positive sexual images and what they manifest saves lives because they affirm those lives and make it possible for people to attempt to live as self-loving instead of self-loathing. As the famous “Black is beautiful” changed many lives so does “Read my lips” affirm queerness in the face of hatred and invisibility as displayed in a recent governmental study of suicides that states at least 1/3 of all teen suicides are Queer kids. This is further exemplified by the rise in HIV transmission among those under 21.

 We are most hated as queers for our sexualness, that is, our physical contact with the same sex. Our sexuality and sexual expression are what makes us most susceptible to physical violence. Our difference, our otherness, our uniqueness can either paralyze us or politicize us. Hopefully, the majority of us will not let it kill us.


Why in the world do we let heteros into queer clubs? Who gives a f— if they like us because we “really know how to party?” We have to in order to blow off the steam they make us feel all the time! They make out wherever they please, and take up too much room on the dance floor doing ostentatious couples dances. They wear their heterosexuality like a “Keep Out” sign, or like a deed of ownership.

 Why the f— do we tolerate them when they invade our space like it’s their right? Why do we let them shove heterosexuality – a weapon their world wields against us – right in our faces in the few public spots where we can be sexy with each other and not fear attack?

 It’s time to stop letting the straight people make all the rules. Let’s start by posting this sign outside every queer club and bar:

 – Rules of Conduct for Straight People

1.  Keep your displays of affection (kissing, handholding, embracing) to a minimum. Your sexuality is unwanted and offensive to many here.

2. If you must slow dance, be an inconspicuous as possible.

3. Do not gawk or stare at lesbians or gay men, especially bull dykes or drag queens. We are not your entertainment.

4. If you cannot comfortably deal with someone of the same sex making a pass at you, get out.

5. Do not flaunt your heterosexuality. Be discreet. Risk being mistaken for a lezzie or a homo.

6. If you feel these rules are unfair, go fight homophobia in straight clubs, or

7. Go f— Yourself.

I Hate Straights

I have friends. Some of them are straight.

 Year after year, I see my straight friends. I want to see them, to see how they are doing, to add newness to our long and complicated histories, to experience some continuity.

 Year after year I continue to realize that the facts of my life are irrelevant to them and that I am only half listened to, that I am an appendage to the doings of a greater world, a world of power and privilege, of the laws of installation, a world of exclusion.

 “That’s not true,” argue my straight friends. There is the one certainty in the politics of power: those left out of it beg for inclusion, while the insiders claim that they already are. Men do it to women, whites do it to blacks, and everyone does it to queers.

 The main dividing line, both conscious and unconscious, is procreation … and that magic word – Family. Frequently, the ones we are born into disown us when they find out who we really are, and to make matters worse, we are prevented from having our own. We are punished, insulted, cut off, and treated like seditionaries in terms of child rearing, both damned if we try and damned if we abstain. It’s as if the propagation of the species is such a fragile directive that without enforcing it as if it were an agenda, humankind would melt back into the primeval ooze.

 I hate having to convince straight people that lesbians and gays live in a war zone, that we’re surrounded by bomb blasts only we seem to hear, that our bodies and souls are heaped high, dead from fright or bashed or raped, dying of grief or disease, stripped of our personhood.

 I hate straight people who can’t listen to queer anger without saying “hey, all straight people aren’t like that. I’m straight too, you know,” as if their egos don’t get enough stroking or protection in this arrogant, heterosexist world. Why must we take care of them, in the midst of our just anger brought on by their f—ed up society?! Why add the reassurance of “Of course, I don’t mean you. You don’t act that way.” Let them figure out for themselves whether they deserve to be included in our anger.

 But of course that would mean listening to our anger, which they almost never do. They deflect it, by saying “I’m not like that” or “now look who’s generalizing” or “You’ll catch more flies with honey … ” or “If you focus on the negative you just give out more power” or “you’re not the only one in the world who’s suffering.” They say “Don’t yell at me, I’m on your side” or “I think you’re overreacting” or “Boy, you’re bitter.”

 – Let Yourself Be Angry

 They’ve taught us that good queers don’t get mad. They’ve taught us so well that we not only hide our anger from them, we hide it from each other. We even hide it from ourselves. We hide it with substance abuse and suicide and overachieving in the hope of proving our worth. They bash us and stab us and shoot us and bomb us in ever increasing numbers and still we freak out when angry queers carry banners or signs that say Bash Back. For the last decade they let us die in droves and still we thank President Bush for planting a f—ing tree, applaud him for likening PWAs to car accident victims who refuse to wear seatbelts. Let yourself be angry. Let yourself be angry that the price for visibility is the constant threat of violence, anti-queer violence to which practically every segment of this society contributes. Let yourself feel angry that there is no place in this country where we are safe, no place where we are not targeted for hatred and attack, the self-hatred, the suicide – of the closet.

 The next time some straight person comes down on you for being angry, tell them that until things change, you don’t need any more evidence that the world turns at your expense. You don’t need to see only hetero couple grocery shopping on your TV … You don’t want any more baby pictures shoved in your face until you can have or keep your own. No more weddings, showers, anniversaries, please, unless they are our own brothers and sisters celebrating. And tell them not to dismiss you by saying “You have rights,” “You have privileges,” “You are overreacting,” or “You have a victim’s mentality.” Tell them “Go away from me, until you change.” Go away and try on a world without the brave, strong queers that are its backbone, that are its guts and brains and souls. Go tell them go away until they have spent a month walking hand in hand in public with someone of the same sex. After they survive that, then you’ll hear what they have to say about queer anger. Otherwise, tell them to shut up and listen.



Gay History: Matthew Shepard: The Legacy Of A Gay College Student 20 Years After His Brutal Murder

Matthew Shepard was abducted, beaten and killed 20 years ago because he was gay.

Twenty years ago, Matthew Shepard was a “smart, funny” 21-year-old, no different than any other young man that age.

He was an “ordinary kid who wanted to make the world a better place,” his parents remembered.

But in October 1998, that all changed, when the openly gay college student was abducted, beaten and tied to a fence in Wyoming.

His life ended a few days later, and with it came a widespread awareness of the dangers that members of the LGBTQ community face every day. The homophobic brutal killing also served as a catalyst for progress in America’s laws and culture.

In the two decades that have passed, however, it remains debatable how far the country has come since the shock of that crime.

A gruesome attack

Shepard, a student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, spent Oct. 6, 1998, at a meeting of the school’s LGBTQ student group planning upcoming events for LGBTQ awareness week, Jason Marsden, executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, told ABC News.

He then grabbed coffee with friends before heading to a bar in Laramie in southeastern Wyoming.

Shepard was sitting alone at the bar, drinking a beer, when he was approached by Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. They later confessed they had “developed a rouse in which they’d pretend to be gay to win Matt’s confidence,” Marsden said.

“They could offer him a ride home and rob him,” he added.

Matthew Shepard is seen in this undated photo. Matthew Shepard is seen in this undated photo. Matthew Shepard Foundation

McKinney and Henderson kidnapped Shepard and told him he was being robbed, Marsden said.

“(MORE: ‘Gay panic’ defense still used in violence cases may be banned by new federal bill)

McKinney hit Shepard about 20 times in the head and face with the end of the pistol, Marsden said, before the two stole Shepard’s shoes, got in their truck and drove back to town.

Shepard was found the next day, 18 hours later, by a passing cyclist. He was taken to a Laramie hospital but his head injuries were so severe that he needed a neurosurgeon, so he was moved to a Colorado hospital, Marsden said.

Shepard’s parents at the time were in Saudi Arabia, where his father worked. They flew back and were with their son at the hospital for his final few days, Marsden said.

When his mother, Judy Shepard, saw the badly beaten college student in the hospital, “he was all bandaged, face swollen, stitches everywhere,” she told ABC News’ “Nightline.” “His fingers curled, toes curled, one eye was a little bit open.”

Shepard died on Oct. 12.

Judy and Dennis Shepard speak at the Democratic National Convention at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Aug. 16, 2000. Judy and Dennis Shepard speak at the Democratic National Convention at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Aug. 16, 2000. Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images, FILE

The loss “never heals,” his father, Dennis Shepard, told “Nightline.” “He was just an ordinary kid who wanted to make the world a better place. And they took that away from him. And from us.”

A promising young life cut short

Matthew Shepard was a mischievous, stubborn and argumentative child, his father said.

“We didn’t realize the amount of violence and discrimination … against the gay community until after he died.”

He grew up to become very interested in international human rights, particularly women’s rights in the Middle East and Asia, and he studied political science, said Marsden.

“His goal was to work for the State Department to try to bring the same privileges and rights he thought he had in America to other countries,” Dennis Shepard said.

A few years before his death, Matthew Shepard came out to his mother on the phone.

“He said, ‘Mom I’m gay.’ And I said, ‘What took you so long to tell me?'” she recalled. “Rejection was not ever an issue in our family.”

Their son was then living an openly out life.

“Everybody he met, he said, ‘Just to let you know ahead of time, I’m gay,'” Dennis Shepard said.

“It was like, ‘This is who I am, and that’s the way it’s going to be,'” added Judy Shepard.

Dennis Shepard wasn’t worried about his son’s safety.

“We didn’t realize the amount of violence and discrimination … against the gay community until after he died,” he said. “We thought, he was born here … he has all the rights, responsibilities, duties and privileges of every other American citizen.”

The nation mourns

The shocking homophobic crime in the sparsely-populated state garnered national sympathy. The outpouring of love was immediate as flowers and stuffed animals filled the hospital.

“This is before the term viral existed, but it really did go viral,” Marsden said.

“It spawned candlelight vigils all over the country. There was a mass protest on Fifth Avenue in New York in which almost 100 people were arrested,” Marsden said, as well as a vigil at the U.S. Capitol with celebrities and members of Congress.

A candlelight vigil is held for Slain gay Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, Oct. 19, 1998. A candlelight vigil is held for Slain gay Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, Oct. 19, 1998. Evan Agostini/Getty Images FILE

“All of these spontaneous vigils were organized by volunteers independently of one another. All of the calls to action for hate crime legislation were the work of individual civic and political leaders,” Marsden explained. “It was a spontaneous outrage about the severity of this crime and the overall phenomenon of hate crimes against LGBT people, which were starting to get more social attention around this time than they had received in previous years.”

But it wasn’t all sympathy.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church protested the funeral, picketing with anti-gay signs.

Rev. Fred Phelps and his parishioners traveled from Kansas to Laramie for the funeral and trial, protesting with brightly colored signs and spewing hatred.

Friends of the slain student dressed in angel costumes and staged a counter-protest encircling the parishioners so their signs wouldn’t be visible.

Matthew Shepard’s friends Walter Boulden and Alex Trout, from left, get emotional as they speak during a national vigil for Shepard,Oct. 14, 1998, at the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Matthew Shepard’s friends Walter Boulden and Alex Trout, from left, get emotional as they speak during a national vigil for Shepard,Oct. 14, 1998, at the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Juana Arias/The Washington Post/AP

Two killers head to court

After McKinney and Henderson were arrested, Henderson waived his pre-trial investigation and took a plea agreement, agreeing to two life sentences.

McKinney went to trial, and defense attorneys argued his violent actions were “gay panic” — a reaction to Shepard making a sexual advance.

“When the defense gets out there and starts talking out of, the victim’s fault, you know, ‘gay panic,’ … you just really want to scream,” Judy Shepard said. “One of the portions of his statement was that Matt was coming onto him … if that’s your defense, then every woman in a bar who gets hit on, she has the right to murder the guy sitting on her? That’s just absurd.”

The “gay panic” defense is still legal in most states but has been outlawed in a few. It’s been used since the 1960s in more than half of the states in the country, according to the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.

McKinney was convicted on numerous kidnapping and murder charges. Before sentencing, his attorneys, the Shepards and the prosecutors agreed to two consecutive life sentences in exchange for taking the death penalty off the table.

McKinney has declined to speak to ABC News while Henderson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Change in Washington

Shepard’s murder shined a light on the scope of federal hate crime laws, which at the time did not include sexual orientation or gender identity.

Two gay activists demonstrate in the streets of North Hollywood to protest against the death of Wyoming University student Mathew Shepard, Oct. 13, 1998. Two gay activists demonstrate in the streets of North Hollywood to protest against the death of Wyoming University student Mathew Shepard, Oct. 13, 1998. Hector Mata/AFP via Getty Images FILE

Demonstrators protest the hate killing of gay student Matthew Shepard, Oct. 19, 1998. Demonstrators protest the hate killing of gay student Matthew Shepard, Oct. 19, 1998. Andrew Savulich/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

“Matt’s murder immediately raised the visibility of that effort and, although it took until 2009, it did eventually pass and was signed into law by President Obama,” Marsden said.

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act added crimes motivated by the victim’s gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability to the federal hate crime law.

James Byrd Jr., who was black, was murdered by three white supremacists in Texas in June 1998. Byrd was dragged behind a pickup truck, decapitated and dismembered.

The moment Obama signed the hate crimes law “was amazing,” Judy Shepard said. “He understood social injustice. And to be there with James Byrd’s sisters when they, when he actually signed, signed into law, it was an incredible experience. And it was a relief and it was also a total understanding that there was just really a lot more left to do.”

Judy Shepard and Dennis Shepard speak onstage at Logo’s “Trailblazer Honors” 2015 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, June 25, 2015. Judy Shepard and Dennis Shepard speak onstage at Logo’s “Trailblazer Honors” 2015 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, June 25, 2015. Michael Loccisano/Getty Images, FILE

For Judy Shepard, one of the best signs of cultural progress is seeing Gay Straight Alliance groups ramping up in schools. In Wyoming, where there’s a population of just 500,000, she said there are 19 Gay Straight Alliances.

Matthew Shepard’s story has also lived on through various creative works, including the “The Laramie Project” and “The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later” plays, which tell the story of how Laramie residents reacted to the murder.

They are among the most performed plays in American high schools, Marsden said, and have even been performed across the world in different languages, Judy Shepard said.

“It’s a universal story,” she said. “If you remove the sexuality from the story and insert race or religion, it’s exactly the same story of intolerance in a community or intolerance of individuals and how it affects a community.”

“Matt’s story, I think, was inspirational to many people, especially people his age who had not previously been active in LGBT rights who started doing so. Some have gone on to be really prominent activists in the community,” Marsden said

Back to ‘ground zero’

“I thought we were making such great progress in the Obama administration,” Judy Shepard said, but after the 2016 presidential election, she felt the progress of the foundation was at “ground zero again.”

The Trump administration has brought changes including an order to ban transgender troops in the military and a new “religious liberty task force” that advocates fear will provide an excuse for discrimination.

Just this month, a new policy went into effect in which the Trump administration will no longer provide visas for same-sex domestic partners of foreign diplomats and U.N. officials serving in the U.S.

“I’m just so mad that we are regressing,” Judy Shepard said. “We’re back on the road talking about hate and acceptance and loving your neighbor and, you know, all those things again.”

During the Obama administration, the Department of Justice “was working with us.”

“They would set up conferences to educate law enforcement, NGOs and nonprofits on how to deal with hate crimes. How to address them, how to identify them, how to work with victims. And they would invite us to come,” Judy Shepard said. “We visited several countries, 25 countries with [the] State Department. Now we’re not.”

“Now the [Department of Justice] definitely does not want to work with us,” she continued. “Civil rights is not an issue, a primary issue, for the DOJ anymore. … So we don’t get calls from them anymore.”

To Marsden, the degrees of progress for LGBTQ rights in the past 20 years vary.

Especially in urban areas, Marsden said he thinks “LGBT people have a good deal more personal freedom, career opportunities, are much less subject to discrimination. I think a lot of our schools are safer, including bullying issues, which of course affect people way beyond the LGBT community — they affect anyone who is different in some way or another than the perceived norm.

“However, if you look back in history every time there’s great progress there’s also a great backlash going on,” he said, citing how the end of slavery prompted the evolution of KKK and Jim Crow, while the 1960s Civil Rights movement ignited racial violence.

“All of the advances we’ve made have been great but they haven’t reached everyone. It’s still a very hard time to be a [transgender] kid in America even in more enlightened parts of the country, certainly in more rural parts of the country.”

A Gallup poll from May 2018 found that 31 percent of people don’t think marriages between same-sex couples should be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages.

“The overall lesson about looking back on progress is you have to fight to keep it. It can be very easy politically in this time in America to reverse the accomplishments made in the last 10 or 15 years,” Marsden said.

“I want people to be very conscious of their safety,” said Judy Shepard, warning that hate is still very much out there and that women, people and members of the LGBT community are especially vulnerable. “Especially now, when we hear so much vitriol being shouted from our leaders.”

“The number of hate crimes against LGBT people has gone up in the last two years, just like racial and religious hate crimes have,” Marsden said.

Reported hate crimes in the nation’s 10 biggest cities rose 12.5 percent last year — the fourth consecutive annual rise in a row and the highest total in over 10 years, according to an analysis from California State University San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism.

“Most hate crimes and discrimination are racial or religious — LGBT is a smaller percentage,” Marsden said. “We see, sadly, the kind of person who hates a certain race it’s pretty likely you’re the kind of person that hates a certain religion or a certain sexual orientation or gender identity, as well.”

A legacy — and life — memorialized

To the slain student’s mother, Matthew Shepard shouldn’t just be remembered for his legacy — he should be remembered for his life.

“I want people to remember that he was a person, that he was more than this icon in the photograph and the stories,” Judy Shepard said. “He was just, he was a 21-year-old college student who drank too much, who smoked too much and didn’t go to class enough. Just like every other 21-year-old college student. He had flaws. He was smart, funny. People just were drawn to him. And there was a great loss not just to us, but to all his friends. And people who hadn’t met him yet.”


Gay History: Dating App Murders: Who Is Stephen Port, Who Were The Victims Of The Grindr Serial Killer – And Has He Launched An Appeal?

Stephen Port murdered men he met through a gay dating app to fulfil his sexual fetish for ‘twinks’

A GRINDR serial killer drugged and murdered four young men he met on the gay dating app – but who is he?

Here we explain who he is, how long he has been jailed for, and whether he is appealing his conviction…

Stephen Port was convicted of four murdersCredit: SWNS:South West News Service

Who is Stephen Port?

Stephen Port, who was trained as a chef, has previously been reported to have worked as a rent boy.

He featured in an episode of Celebrity Masterchef two years ago, wearing chef’s whites and mingling with famous faces.

The killer, now 41, helped celebrity chefs make pasta and meatballs for more than 100 bus drivers in an episode broadcast in 2014.

He is thought to have worked at the West Ham bus garage for more than 10 years.

Port was found guilty in November of the murder of Anthony Walgate, Jack Taylor, Daniel Whitworth and Gabriel KovariCredit: PA:Press Association

The Daily Mail reported one ex-boyfriend said he also worked in door-to-door sales, and he had just started a new job stocktaking before his arrest.

Port also claimed to have spent time as a special needs teacher at a catering college in King’s Cross and to have served in the Royal Navy.

After his arrest his parents said these claims, and that of his status as an Oxford University graduate, was false.

His mother said his school thought her son was deaf because he didn’t “speak up”.

Throughout the trial the court heard Port, of Cooke Street, Barking, east London, was obsessed with “drug rape” pornography and this led him to drug and sexually assault gay men.

He was a frequent user of the gay dating app Grindr, and would meet men using this app and other sites over the course of more than three and a half years.

In August 2018 The Sun revealed he was handed £136,000 in legal aid to fund his defence and that he was set to appeal his sentence.

sources close to his family have revealed the monster – dubbed “The Grindr Killer” after luring victims on gay dating sites – has shown no remorse.

And he is now seeking legal advice to launch an appeal claiming his murder and rape convictions are unsafe and he was guilty of lesser manslaughter charges.

Who were Stephen Port’s victims?

Jack Taylor was killed by Stephen Port after the pair met on a gay dating appCredit: Central News

21-year-old chef Daniel Whitworth was found dead with an forged suicide note in a churchyard near Port’s homeCredit: SWNS:South West News Service

22-year-old Slovakian national Gabriel Kovari was also killed by PortCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd

Fashion student Anthony Walgate was the first to be found deadCredit: Central News

He is guilty of the murder of Anthony Walgate, Jack Taylor, Daniel Whitworth and Gabriel Kovari, with an overdose of date-rape drug GHB.

Anthony Walgate was a student who had dreams of being a famous fashion designer.

Port had pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice in relation Mr Walgate’s death and was sentenced to eight months imprisonment.

But, by the time he was jailed Port had gone on to claim the lives of two young men.

Slovakian Mr Kovari, 22, and 21-year-old chef Mr Whitworth, from Gravesend, in Kent, were murdered within weeks of each other in August and September 2014.

Both, like Mr Walgate, had died of GHB poisoning and were found in an almost identical position in St Margaret’s churchyard – near Port’s flat in Barking.

Port killed again just three months after being released from prison, in September 2015, when night shift forklift truck driver Jack Taylor, 25, was found near the same churchyard.

The families of the victims have since spoken out, slamming “homophobic” police for failing to link the deaths of the four young men.

A relative of Anthony told the BBC for the programme How Police Missed The Grindr Killer: “I totally believe that the Barking and Dagenham police that investigated Anthony’s death and the others are homophobic.

“I genuinely believe that if Anthony had been a girl left outside like trash they would’ve put a lot more effort into it, a lot more effort. As they were all young boys, they did nothing.”

An IPCC investigation was launched into the Metropolitan Police’s handling of the response to the four deaths, this is still ongoing.

The mother of Jack said: “Stephen Port took Jack’s life but they let that happen as far as we’re concerned.

“They are just as guilty as him, they should be held accountable for his death as they could’ve prevented it and we have to live with that for the rest of our lives.”

Why is Stephen Port known as the Grindr serial killer?

Port met his victims on the dating app Grindr.

After his arrest he was dubbed the Grindr serial killer.

He filmed himself having sex with unconscious men, was obsessed with drug-rape pornography, and was attracted to smaller, boyish-type men known as ‘twinks’.

Port drugged his victims by spiking their drinks or injecting them in the anus with drugs which he claimed were lubrication.

In total, 12 men are said to have been attacked by Port over three-and-a-half years, between 2012 and 2015, four of which died of an overdose of the party drug GHB.

Port denied four counts of murder, four counts of manslaughter, four counts of administering a poison with intent to endanger life or inflict grievous bodily harm, seven counts of rape, six counts of administering a substance with intent to overpower to allow sexual activity, and four counts of sexual assault by penetration.

What is GHB – gammahydroxybutyrate?

Gammahydroxybutyrate (GHB), otherwise known as the date rape drug, was used by Stephen Port during the string of horrific murders targeting young gay men.

The drug can be used as a general anaesthetic but due to its stimulating, addictive properties, has also become a known party drug.

It can make a user feel numb or groggy, as well as leaving them with little ability to recall events while under the influence of the drug.

It was made illegal in 2003, with a derivative GBL then being manufactured before it was made illegal as well in 2009.

Met Police announced last year that it would examine more than 50 deaths related to the drug after the conviction of serial killer Stephen Port, BBC reported.

A documentary which unravels Port’s sinister character How Police Missed the Grinder Killer will be shown on BBC One on Tuesday at 10.45pm.

In August 2018 it was revealed he is seeking legal advice to launch an appeal claiming his murder and rape convictions are unsafe and he was guilty of lesser manslaughter charges.

A source close to the Port family told The Sun: “Stephen’s conviction for murder was way too high and untrue.

“If anything it should have been manslaughter as these deaths were a series of self inflicted accidental drug overdoses.

“It was proven in court that they had other drugs, medication and alcohol in their systems before they met up with Stephen.

“All of these can be lethal if taken alongside GHB. Stephen did not poison them.

“The rape charges will be dropped once the case is downgraded to manslaughter. Stephen didn’t murder anyone.”

‘I am still shaking’: Stunned parents of alleged serial killer tell of their shock as their male escort son is accused of murdering four men he met on gay websites and poisoning them with party drug GHB

The parents of an alleged serial killer revealed their shock today as their male escort son was accused of murdering four men he met on gay websites.

Stephen Port, 40, of Barking, east London, is accused of using the party drug GHB – known as liquid ecstasy – to poison his four victims in a string of attacks spanning 14 months.

And Joan and Albert Port said today the allegations had ‘shaken’ them, adding that their son’s claim on Facebook that he was an Oxford University graduate and a special needs teacher was false.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police tonight referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission concerning ‘potential vulnerabilities in the response’ to the deaths of the four men – who were found dead in June, August and September of last year and September this year.

The Port couple – who protested their son’s innocence – said they only found out that he had been arrested for murder on the news this morning.

The Ports, who also live in Barking, added that they had taken their son books by adventure and thriller novelist Clive Cussler when he rang them from custody after being arrested on Thursday.

Pictured: This is Stephen Port, 40, above on Facebook and below in the dock, who today appeared in court accused of murdering four young men by poisoning them in the past 15 months

Map: Port lives in a flat in Cooke Street, Barking, and one body was found in the same street last year. Two bodies were later found in the nearby grounds of St Margaret’s Church and another was found on North Street, next to the Abbey Ruins. All the deaths happened in the space of 15 months

Mrs Port, 74, said: ‘The first we heard of it was on the news this morning. I was shocked. I am still shaking. We last spoke to him last night.’

And Mr Port, 73, added: ‘He phoned me up about half 10. He just said, “Can I have a bit of money and some books, something to read by tomorrow morning?”

‘So I had to go up there with a couple of books and £40 – you have to have a bit of money. He didn’t explain why he was there. He didn’t say nothing.’  

Stephen Port, who also claimed to have served in the Royal Navy and has worked as a male escort, is said to have met the men online and then invited them back to his flat for sex.

Between June 2014 and September this year the four victims were allegedly given fatal doses of GHB, known as a date rape drug because it is colourless, odourless and tasteless.

The men, all in their early twenties, were found dead within half a mile of Port’s Barking flat but were considered accidental drug overdoses until police launched a murder investigation last week.

Three of the bodies were found either in or close to the churchyard of St Margaret’s Church in Barking. Another alleged victim was found on the same street Port lived in, Cooke Street, Barking.

Port was arrested after a police raid on his flat and has been charged with four counts of murder and four counts of administering a poison with intent to endanger life or inflict grievous bodily harm.

Most recent photograph: This is a photograph of Stephen Port taken in the back garden of his parents’ home in February

Port, who has blonde hair but is now nearly bald with only a few tufts of hair on his head, appeared in the dock at Barkingside Magistrates accompanied by three uniformed officers.

He spoke only to confirm his name, age and address during the brief hearing.

Wearing a prison issue grey tracksuit he held one of his arms and repeatedly glanced at the floor. He gave no indication of plea. 

Deputy District Judge Shlomo Kreiman remanded Port in custody to appear at the Old Bailey on Wednesday. 

His first alleged victim is said to be Anthony Patrick Walgate, 23, from Barnet, who was found dead on Cooke Street on June 19, 2014.

Gabriel Kovari, 22, from Lewisham, was found dead in the churchyard of St Margaret’s Church, North Street in Barking, on August 28 2014.

Less than a month later Daniel Whitworth, 21, from Gravesend, Kent, was also found dead in the same graveyard.

Jack Taylor, 25, from Dagenham, whose body was found near the Abbey Ruins close to North Street on September 14 this year, is believed to be his most recent victim.

Port describes himself on Facebook as a special needs teacher at Westminster Kingsway College in King’s Cross. It says he attended the University of Oxford between 2000 and 2003.

He is believed to have worked as a chef and may have helped disabled students learn to cook while one ex-boyfriend said he also worked in door-to-door sales.

His likes include a number of gay websites and lesbian, gay, transsexual and bisexual support groups, and it has also emerged he may have been a rent boy in the past.

Mr and Mrs Port, who live just two and a half miles from their son’s Barking home, said they only found out their son was gay when their daughter told them a ‘couple of years ago’, and that Mr Port disapproved of his son’s gay lifestyle.

Speaking from the front room of their small terraced house, asked what her son was like Mrs Port said: ‘He is a quiet boy, tall, 6ft 3in, size 14 shoes. He doesn’t say a lot. He had different boyfriends – he is gay.’

Mr Port added: ‘Don’t me get wrong – I’m against it. We thought he would be alright now – he has just started a new job. 

‘He goes round different shops stocktaking – the pound shop and car show rooms. He was a chef for 13 years at the bus garage in West Ham.’

Mrs Port said her son had lived in his current flat for nine years – which he kept tidy – and they regularly went to visit him.

They said he is in regular touch with his sister Sharon, 43, who lives in Clacton and were aware of an older man who stayed in his flat but insisted they were not in a relationship.

Mr Port said: ‘He lived on his own. He’s got this older chap who has known for donkey’s and he has got to have somewhere to live as well. He pays the bills.’

Pictured: This is Stephen Port, 40, pictured above and below, who allegedly drugged the four men and killed them after inviting them back to his flat

Mrs Port insisted she believed her son was not to blame. She said: ‘I don’t think he has done it. He will have got involved and taken the blame for other people.

‘He was like that at school – he didn’t speak up. They thought he was deaf because he didn’t speak up.’

Speaking about his son’s predicament and the court proceedings, Mr Port said: ‘There’s nothing to say, nothing to do, you’ve just got to let it go on.

He added: ‘We still like him – don’t get me wrong. He is too quiet. He has been led astray. He won’t speak up, he won’t argue.

‘If I say something, “don’t do it”, he’ll say “yes, dad, yes dad” and then he will go and do it.

‘He had a girlfriend about two years ago – but it was a case of she liked him more than he liked her. 

Anthony Walgate, the first alleged victim, was a student at the University of Middlesex who had dreams of being a famous fashion designer.

Police found him dead in the street at 4am on June 19, 2014.

At the time his devastated mother Sarah Sak, from Hull, said she was convinced her son would not have drunk too much or taken drugs before he died. 

Toxicology tests later confirmed that he had only a small amount of alcohol in his system and no traces of illegal drugs.

The second and third alleged victims Gabriel Kovari, 22, and Daniel Whitworth, 21, were found at the same Barking church within one month of each other. 

An inquest earlier this year heard both men had taken GHB and methadone.

Mr Whitworth had ‘blamed himself for Mr Kovari’s death’ after they took the drug GHB at an orgy, Walthamstow Coroner’s Court heard in June.

A dog walker found Slovakian-born Mr Kovari on August 28 last year while Mr Whitworth, from Kent, was found on September 20.

The coroner was told that Mr Whitworth was found dead holding a note in his left hand, which said: ‘I can’t go on anymore, I took the life of my friend Gabriel.

‘We were just having some fun at a mate’s place and I got carried away and gave him another shot of G[HB]. It was an accident, I know I will go to prison if I go to the police.’

The note said the men had sex at the party and added: ‘I have taken what G[HB] I had left, with sleeping pills – if it does kill me it’s what I deserve. This way I can at least be with Gabriel again.’

A statement by Mr Kovari’s family was issued at the time.

It read: ‘He was full of love and care for others and loved the company of his friends,’ a letter from his brother and mum which was read out in court, said. ‘He had been a very inquisitive and special child gifted in arts.

‘He had excellent relationships with all his relatives and the desire to prove himself to the world.’

Mr Kovari’s flatmate, John Pape, told the inquest he had seen him with Mr Whitworth and was meeting men through gay social network site Grindr.

A statement from Mr Whitworth’s father, Adam Whitworth, was read to the inquest.

It said: ‘He was an active and intelligent outdoors boy who loved days on his bike exploring leafy byways,’ it read. ‘Those who knew him were shocked by this terrible news.’

Ms Persaud recorded an open verdict.

The final alleged victim, Jack Taylor, 25, was found dead in September.

Home: Port’s first alleged victim is said to be Anthony Walgate, 23, from Barnet, who was pronounced dead outside the alleged serial killer’s flat on Cooke Street, Barking on June 19, 2014
Deaths: The second and third alleged victims Gabriel Kovari, 22, and Daniel Whitworth, 21, were found here in the graveyard of St Margaret’s Church last summer, pictured today
Victim: Last month Port’s final alleged victim Jack Taylor, 25, from Dagenham, was found close to the Abbey Ruins, next to the churchyard, also pictured today

The 25-year-old, who worked on night shifts as a forklift operator, had been out with friends on the Saturday evening before he was found dead in the early hours of the morning.

He was last seen meeting a man at Barking station at around 2am and walking towards the Abbey Ruins. 

His body was found around 300 yards from where Mr Whitworth and Mr Kovari were found dead by a dog walker. 

Stephen Port lived in a one bedroom ground floor flat in a block of 12 in Barking, where his first alleged victim Anthony Walgate, 23, was found dead in the street last year.

Kristina Piliciauskaite, who lives with her husband and 11-month-old son in a flat two floors above Port, described how police examined the body.

She said: ‘We woke up at about 4 o’clock in the morning because we heard police and ambulance sirens.

Neighbours: People living in the same block as Port described him as quiet and shy and someone not keen to speak to them

‘We looked out of the window and there was a body right outside the door covered with a sheet.

‘The legs were sticking out and we could see the jeans and trainers of a man. The police were here for about a week, checking everyone in and out of the block of flats and asking us if we saw anything’

Describing how she used to see Port apparently smoking cannabis in his garden she added: ‘I used to see him quite often because during the summer I sit out on my balcony and it looks straight down onto his front garden below.

‘He was nearly always dressed in a sports tracksuit and would sit outside in the garden playing loud music from his phone and smoking grass.

‘We could hear shouting coming from the flat late at night sometimes too.

‘He would come in and out of the flat a lot. Sometimes three or four times a day, always walking around and then buzzing the door. If someone didn’t let him in then he would hop over the garden fence and knock on the garden door.

‘He would never speak if you saw him in the corridor or outside’. 

Nenita Enriquez, 69, a retired nurse who lives on the same floor, said: ‘He doesn’t talk to anyone. He doesn’t say hello he just walks around quietly’. 

Speaking about the body that was discovered outside the block of flats in June last year, she said: ‘The body was found just to the left of the door as you come in – where the gas box is. And the forensics tent went right across the entrance to the block – where all our mail boxes are.’

Posing: Port’s Facebook site and other social media profiles contain dozens of selfies showing himself clothed or with his shirt off

Ollie Sharp, 19, was working on the block of flats on the three days before Port’s arrest last Thursday. 

He said: ‘I had been working in his flat since last Monday. 

‘On Thursday about 12 police came up to the door and asked me to let them in to the building. They all went up to the front door and then smashed down the door with one of those red battering rams like you see in films.

‘On Friday, one of his friends turned up and buzzed the door and I heard the police talking to him. He was a small guy, with red hair and a neck tattoo.

‘The red haired guy said he was coming to visit a friend and his ex lived in the flat and had cheated on him loads. And then not long after CID came and put him in a van and took him away too.

‘One minute I am painting, the next he is getting arrested for four murders.

‘The police haven’t explained or said anything – I didn’t even know what he had been arrested for at the beginning.’

He added: ‘I was supposed to be painting his outside windows and door frames.

‘But when I went in I could instantly see it wasn’t the cleanest of places. It was messy and disorganised. It just looked dirty.

‘It wasn’t rubbish – it was just his stuff everywhere – not organised. He never went out to work – he was always there. 

Paid work: This online advert reveals that Stephen Port is believed to have worked as a male escort while in his early thirties

An alleged serial killer worked as a rent boy charging £200-per-night, it was revealed today.

Stephen Port, who claimed to be an Oxford graduate who worked as a special needs teacher, advertised his services online.

Reviews reveal he was highly recommended by men who visited him at home for sex.

One American client described him as ‘bright interesting, loving and enjoys laughing’ and even considered paying for Port to fly to the US.

The alleged murderer was described as being ‘shy’ but ‘easy and friendly’ and sent the client ‘nice messages’.

In an anonymous review he wrote: ‘Stephen was a dream come true. Everything was better than he promised. All dealings with him were easy and again the reality was better that I had expected. How do you describe a dream come true?’

Port wooed the older man to the point the customer feared he could be ‘hurt emotionally’ him. The reviewer said he thought he was under-charging for his services.

Compared to any ‘regular London escort’ he was a ‘wonderful guy’ and ‘such a kind individual’, the client said.

The testimonial was left on an escort review site after a liaison in May 2007 when the American client, then in his late 50s, met him a number of times.

Port was said to charge £100 for a session and £200 for an overnight stay. 

Port was described as the ‘ideal trip companion’ and an American client said he wanted to pay for him to travel to the US the following winter.



Gay History: The 1970s Gay Sex Scandal That Enthralled Britons Is Back

What the Thorpe affair reveals about the history of elite men seeking sex and relationships with other men

When British Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe was acquitted of conspiracy to murder on June 22, 1979, the press had a field day. Thorpe allegedly paid to have his lover of fifteen years — the horse groom and sometime model Norman Scott — assassinated. The outing of a popular, charismatic politician was only one of many sensationalist elements, which included: a cast of characters comprising several senior members of the Liberal Party and a crew of incompetent Welsh gangsters; a botched assassination attempt in which Scott’s dog had been shot instead of him; and, that favored British theme, class antagonism. The trial pitted patrician Thorpe — from a prominent political family, educated at Eton and Oxford, and married to an aristocrat — against working-class Scott. The judge’s partial summing-up sought to discredit the prosecution witnesses while describing Thorpe as “a national figure with a very distinguished public record”; when the jury acquitted Thorpe, the verdict was widely regarded as a miscarriage of justice, in which the establishment had rallied round to protect its own. Evidence is still emerging about the extent to which the government and the police colluded in protecting Thorpe at Scott’s expense.

A recent high-profile BBC dramatization of the events of the Thorpe affair, A Very English Scandal, reintroduced the British public to these events. The three-part miniseries, directed by Stephen Frears with a screenplay by Russell T. Davies, stars Hugh Grant as Thorpe and Ben Whishaw as Scott, and is based on a book-length account of the scandal that had been published to commemorate the 1967 decriminalization of sex between men in England and Wales. The drama thus drew on the talents of many of the leading lights of queer British film and TV, and staked out a place for the Thorpe scandal in the LGBT history of Britain.

The show also offers a more nuanced — and, to this historian, more plausible — representation of how masculinity and male homosexuality worked in Britain before around 1980 than usually appears in the popular media. The period between the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885, which allowed for men to be prosecuted for same-sex sex without the prosecution having to prove anatomically that anal sex had taken place, and the Sexual Offences Act 1967, which decriminalized sex between men in private, is usually understood as a time when a clearly-identified category of “the homosexual” — constructed in binary opposition to the “heterosexual” or “normal” man — was harshly oppressed by the legal and medical establishment. In the twenty-first century, this has become part of Britain’s national heritage. The story of Oscar Wilde’s tragic downfall at the hands of the establishment continues to pull in audiences, with a number of movies depicting the playwright’s life. In 2013, the computer science pioneer Alan Turing received an official royal pardon, which was extended three years later to all men who had been prosecuted for gross indecency, thus allowing the Conservative government of the time, under David Cameron, to draw a contrast between those prejudiced times and our own enlightened age.

A Very English Scandal makes clear, though, that in the world Thorpe inhabited, there were clear limits within which elite men seeking sex and relationships with other men could pursue their inclinations without controversy. When Scott first made a public statement about his affair with Thorpe, a police report went on file just in case, in the environment of the Cold War, the prominent politician might become a blackmail risk — but no prosecutions were set in motion, even though sex between men was still illegal. While Thorpe’s colleagues and friends suggest his poll numbers might improve if he marries, they evince no surprise or concern about the fact that he clearly prefers men. Though it is not clear that there is an evidence basis for this, the drama suggests that many of Thorpe’s circle might themselves prefer men too.

This could be interpreted as the establishment wagon-circling and closing ranks to protect its own — and at the time of the trial, many did interpret it as such: a BBC investigation at the time repeatedly asked people involved in the case if there had been a cover-up. But another way to think about this is that, in fact, for much of modern British history, norms surrounding male homoeroticism have been extremely context-specific. From the early nineteenth century until very recently, most elite men spent the part of their lives before marriage (perhaps in their late 20s or early 30s) immersed in single-sex environments, many of these residential: boarding schools, residential universities, gentlemen’s clubs, regimental halls, professional associations, political associations, dining clubs and discussion societies. In these contexts, very close romantic — and sometimes, though not always, sexual — attachments between men were thought a normal and appropriate part of the homosocial life-stage that most men would put aside when they married; within this highly class-hierarchical environment, exploitation of non-elite men for sex was thought not to be much different from exploitation of non-elite women for the same purpose. A significant minority of men — particularly around the turn of the twentieth century, when it was widely thought that too many men were choosing the bachelor lifestyle over marriage to eligible women — found that they preferred this environment to the prospect of matrimony, and stayed, doting on the boys and young men who passed through their care.

Because my historical research focuses on elite educational institutions, I find such men everywhere, working as teachers. In the forties, Thorpe surely met several at Eton and at Trinity College, Oxford. In the still heavily Latin-and-Greek-centric curricula of those days, men seeking paradigms within which to understand their desires often turned to ancient literature, where they would find idealized, romanticized descriptions of the pure and noble love an older man could bear towards a younger man or adolescent. One nineteenth-century Eton teacher, William Johnson Cory, wrote poetry based in large part on the Greek Anthology. His work, which enjoyed considerable mainstream popularity in its time, inspired generations of men who sought to put their own feelings into verse. One such man was Oscar Wilde, whose relationship with Alfred Douglas only came within the purview of the law after it moved outside the walls of Magdalen College, Oxford. But others included a significant social network of men — perhaps the majority of whom worked in education — who circulated amongst each other information that ranged from classical texts to scientific studies to pornography. Those at Eton and Oxford who read Johnson Cory’s poetry collection Ionica in its 1891 and 1905 editions may well have still been there when Thorpe arrived 40 years later.

That life-cycles and generations have a tendency to work like this means that conversation about a particular classically-influenced paradigm of same-sex desire — as well as forms of homoeroticism that were not at all acknowledged, talked about, recorded, or understood as a matter of identity — persisted in these institutions long after the Wilde trials were meant to have shut down all talk about homosexuality, long after the world wars, and long after the Sexual Offences Act. In 1998, a prominent Oxford classicist, who had spent 30 years in that university (and, prior to that, five at Eton), published a mainstream book about Virgil in which he held that a classical conception of pederasty was one of the major paradigms in which people in the nineties might continue to understand homosexuality, and that “[i]t is well known that many adolescents themselves pass through such a phase, and that it can be prolonged or created in institutions from which women are excluded…” This construction of a classical paradigm to understand modern homosexuality does not sound so different from, for example, the writing of the early theorist of male homosexuality John Addington Symonds, who made similar observations in the 1880s and 1890s.

In A Very English Scandal, Davies and Frears show the elite paradigm of male homoeroticism with which Thorpe was familiar butting up against the very different face of seventies gay liberation, the old giving way to the new. Outside the courtroom, a group of gay lib demonstrators give Scott a rapturous reception, welcoming him not only as out and proud, but also as a figure seeking to puncture the hypocrisy of the establishment and their desire to protect their own. When he is acquitted, Thorpe gives a hollow victory speech accompanied by his wife and son, whose lukewarm reception is overshadowed by gay libbers in the background carrying signs with bold slogans. That gay and lesbian activists of the time could paint Thorpe’s behavior as hypocrisy — much like how we now debate whether to out duplicitously closeted politicians — suggests that by then, in 1979, understandings of male sexuality were not so classed as they had once been. This was part of the broader shift in society and politics that accompanied, and followed on from, the victory of Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party in the general election of that year. The eighties were when David Cameron, Boris Johnson, and, a few years behind them, Jacob Rees-Mogg attended Eton and Oxford; when they entered politics in the nineties, it was in a more prosperous, more outward-looking, more socially liberal Britain. Though at that time Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, which forbade “promoting” homosexuality, still reigned, Cameron commented at the end of his parliamentary career that same-sex marriage was the prime ministerial achievement of which he was proudest.

Jeremy Thorpe (L) and Norman Scott, who had a secret relationship in the early 1960s. Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Getty Images & Mirrorpix/Getty Images

To understand how we got here, though, we have to understand the links with the past, and the ways in which continuity operates as well as change. Though the present parliament is the most educationally diverse on record, institutions like Eton and Oxford still exert a peculiar influence over public life, as much in demotic conceptualizations of class and social inequality as in hard social-scientific data. Many viewers of A Very English Scandal will likely notice the differences between the world it depicts and our own: the cars, the seventies outfits, the social attitudes, the cod in parsley sauce. But Davies and Frears also went out of their way to emphasize the continuities, from Thorpe’s pro-European politics to the tabloids’ intrusion into the lives of public figures and, of course, the evergreen draw of a story that pits the entitled rich against the bold and scrappy poor who stand up for justice. It’s telling that we look at the story of a cross-class same-sex love affair that went wrong and think that there is something “very English” about it. Watching A Very English Scandal, I come away with a sense of how quickly the country has changed, how the Britain I encountered when I first came to live here in 2011, when Cameron was prime minister, is different — only just — from the Britain in which my friends’ parents grew up, when Thorpe was leader of the Liberal Party. As a historian of gender and sexuality in modern Britain, I come away with a renewed conviction that my late-nineteenth-century classics teachers were not mere marginal eccentrics, but in their own way key to understanding power and politics in modern Britain.


Gay History: The ‘Macaroni’ Scandal of 1772: ‘Gay’ Trial A Century Before Oscar Wilde

Much derision was directed toward aesthetes in the late 19th century, who, led by Oscar Wilde, declared their devotion to beauty in all its forms. That moment in the history of men and their fashions is remembered today because of the fate of Wilde, imprisoned for what was then the crime of “gross indecency”. But this was not the first sensational trial of a high-profile homosexual. That had happened long before, such as in the notorious “macaroni” case of 1772.

Over the centuries, all manner of dandies have attempted to make their place in society. Wilde’s predecessor, George Bryan “Beau” Brummell became an arbiter of men’s fashion in Regency England despite his obscure social origins and lack of interest in women. Part of the secret of his success was his cultivation of a refined but understated style that avoided the kind of flashiness that could get a man condemned for “effeminate” flamboyance.

In the 1760s and 1770s, there was an explosion of public interest in the “macaronis”, fashionable society gents who were given that name because, in the eyes of the penny press of the day, they committed such cardinal sins as rejecting good old English roast beef for dainty foods from continental Europe – such as pasta. Those finicky eaters, who also sported excessive French fashions in clothing, were in some ways the predecessors of Wildean aesthetes, but they have largely been forgotten today.

Wilde, by contrast, is remembered because of his talent and for the way he was treated by the British legal system. In the 1980s and 1990s, he became a kind of “gay icon” with a new relevance to a generation struggling with the horrors of the AIDS epidemic. His disgrace at the end of the 19th century was reinterpreted as a kind of queer martyrdom that presaged later struggles for lesbian and gay liberation.

Queer theory

Enthusiasm for Wilde on the part of lesbian and gay activists in the late 20th century was connected to the rise of a new form of cultural and literary analysis known as “queer theory”. This development was heavily influenced by the work of the French philosopher Michel Foucault on the ways in which textual discourse operates. The focus was no longer on identifying gay men or lesbians in past centuries but on identifying when and why those terms were used.

It was this thinking that led the prominent scholar of Alan Sinfield, a leading British queer theorist, to identity the Wilde trials of 1895 as a “queer moment” when dandyism became linked with same sex desire.

Print: ‘How d’ye like me’, Carington Bowles, London, 1772.

The stereotypical proto-homosexual man emerged as a being that was attracted to younger men, who was theatrical rather than understated, effeminate rather than manly, and artistic rather than sporting. But it was not true that Wilde became obvious as a homosexual during the course of his trial – for the simple reason that the term “homosexual” was not reported in the British media until the time of another scandal, that surrounding the Prussian Prince of Eulenburg, that unfolded between 1906 and 1909.

And the fact is that Wilde was far from the first allegedly effeminate “sodomite” or “bugger” – and here I use terms that were widely employed at the time – to be disgraced in court.

The scandal of Captain Jones

Hester Thrale (1741 – 1821) was a member of the literary circle surrounding the famous encyclopediast Dr Samuel Johnson. She kept a fascinating diary in which she noted a wide variety of sexual foibles and eccentricities in the society circles of her time. She had a striking ability to recognise homosexuals (both male and female). Thus, in the entry for March 29, 1794 she discussed “finger-twirlers” as being a “decent word for sodomite”. In one passage, recorded in late March or early April 1778, she recalled the time six years earlier when a certain Captain Jones had been convicted of crimes against nature, and sentenced to die:

He was a Gentleman famous for his Invention in the Art of making Fireworks, and adapting Subjects fit to be represented in that Genre; & had already entertained the Town with two particular Devices which were exhibited at Marylebone Gardens & greatly admired: viz: the Forge of Vulcan in the Cave of Mount Etna, & the calling of Eurydice out of Hell – If he is pardoned says Stevens, He may shew off the Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; it will have an admirable Effect.

Jones was a man of fashion in society who had been convicted at the Old Bailey for sodomising a 13-year-old boy. The link that Thrale made between camp dandyism and same sex scandal was rife in the papers of the time. As one correspondent put it in a letter to the Public Ledger on August 5, 1772, Captain Jones was “too much engaged in every scene of idle Dissipation and wanton Extravagance”. He was referred to as this “MILITARY MACCARONI [original emphasis]”. And, the writer concluded, “therefore, ye Beaux, ye sweet-scented, simpering He-She things, deign to learn wisdom from the death of a Brother”.

Arguments were brought forward that the boy’s testimony was unreliable and Jones was granted a royal pardon on the condition that he left the country. Members of the public seethed with indignation at the thought of an establishment cover-up and a variety of men fled to the Continent.

The macaronis have, however, been remembered for their style rather than for imputed sexual notoriety. We remember the uncouth revolutionary soldier who was originally mocked by the British as a “Yankee Doodle” for having “Stuck a feather in his cap / And called it macaroni”. But we’ve forgotten how queerly peculiar such an act may have seemed in the wake of a trial that bears comparison with those endured by Wilde a century later. That Americans could appropriate the song as a patriotic air implies a degree of innocence or, perhaps, of convenient forgetting.


Gay History: Send in the Clones

I was an 80s Clone…many would have said an arch-Clone! I lived the life, and the look. Levi’s jeans, “Bonds” tee-shirts and singlets, plaid flannelette shirts, “Blundstone” boots (Blunnies), or Doc Martins, huge handlebar moustache, a transient beard in any of a number of styles, short or buzz-cut hair, an “Akubra” cowboy hat. I lived in pubs like The Oxford, and danced…half naked…in nightclubs like “Mandate” (Melbourne), and “Midnight Shift” or “Stronghold” in Sydney. I sniffed Amyl, blew whistles, banged tambourines, ingested LSD & Speed when the mood took me, sprinkled talc on dancefloors, and danced in a jockstrap on occasion. Leather vests, belts, armbands and cockrings. Pierced ears, pierced nipples, tattoos. I loved it…though many other gay men, especially older “dinner party” gays, hated it and thought we leaned too heavily on straight stereotypes for our look. What they couldn’t see was that this extreme stereotyping WAS gay! That at THAT time, THEY were the stereotype…along with the effeminate, lisping, limp-wristed stereotype that was the general impression of gay men…was what we were trying to move away from, by presenting a more “macho” type of gay men…that we wanted to be seen as men, not as a parody of! The Clone look, along with Hi NRG dance music became looks and sounds that very much defined the 80s.

Don’t ask me why it started, but by the beginning of the 80’s ‘the clone’ was beginning to become a universal phenomenon (and I don’t mean Dolly the sheep!).

Some commentators suggest the first clones appeared in San Francisco’s Castro Street; others that they came from New York’s ‘Village’. Either way, by the 80’s the look had been adopted by gay men around the world.

The most obvious elements were the (obligatory) moustache and ‘the uniform’. Depending on where you lived, the latter would be based on a Lacoste sports shirt, chinos and ‘loafers’ (USA) or checked shirt, jeans and trainers (UK). These minor national differences notwithstanding, the overall look was an overt and unambiguous statement – not just about dress sense but also masculinity and sexuality.

The Clone Ranger. Extract from gay club advert.

This was an extremely significant act for that time – not least because gay men were, on the whole, still largely closetted. Yet, in spite of this, here were large groups of gay men choosing an image – and a highly sexualised one at that – for themselves. Prior to this, the only ‘sexualised’ images of gay men were as predators – of ‘defenceless’ straight men and, of course, children since we were all paedophiles. And, needless to say, they weren’t images of our choosing.

Within the UK this was also another indication of the Americanisation of gay men or, perhaps more accurately, the gay identity. In a sense, it was almost inevitable, given the sustained hostility to all things gay in the UK (e.g. Mary Whitehouse’s attacks on Gay News, the raiding of Gay’s the Word and other bookshops). The USA was the principal source of many gay resources – from porn to political material. (I shall cover this in more detail in a later blog.)

Get a room! Gay hotel ad.

It could be argued that it was the clones who started to put the sex into homosexual: there are certainly some commentators who believe that they paved the way for other groups such as leather men and bears. Certainly, the collective visibility of so many self-defined gay clones can only have helped put us on the map as a population that was much larger – and a lot less apologetic – than many people had imagined.

Of course, there were always some queens who took it all a bit too seriously. Thankfully, there were others who managed to combine the playful and political elements of the clone. No one in the UK did this more successfully than the artist David Shenton, through his character ‘Stanley’, who appeared regularly in Gay News and then Capital Gay.

Stanley (second from right) pops into his local gay bar. Taken from ‘Stanley and the Mask of Mystery’ by David Shenton. Reproduced by kind permission of the artist. World copyright © David Shenton

I’m not sure if the clone has totally disappeared from the gay scene or simply merged into one of the other diverse ‘identities’ our community now has. But it would be a shame if we were to forget what was our first, ‘home-grown’ positive gay stereotype.

A letter I wrote to “Campaign”…a gay newspaper popular in the 70s & 80s…in response to someone criticising the Clone look – then in its starting phase
The blogger in Clone days circa 1986/87

Remaking the Castro Clone

Levis 501 jeans. Skin tight. Sanded down at the knees and crotch for that perfectly worn-in look. Third button unbuttoned to create a bit of allure. T-shirt, also skin tight. A Levis snap-front plaid. That was the uniform of the Castro clone, the gay fashion icon spawned in the 70s that — with surprisingly minor evolution or alteration — can still be seen on the streets of San Francisco today.

Danny Glicker, thankfully, is in love with the look. As the costume designer on Milk, Gus Van Sants biopic of the slain civil rights leader Harvey Milk, Glicker had to outfit hundreds of actors, from leading men Sean Penn, James Franco and Emile Hirsch to an army of extras, all dressed to span a full decades worth of fashion dos and donts.

Period films always present challenges to their costumers, but those based on true stories are that much more complicated. Glicker was saddled with another great expectation while preparing the highly anticipated film: Milks characters are not only real, they lived during a time many viewers can still recall themselves. And Milk owned a camera shop and lived an incredibly well documented life, which took some of the guesswork out of the equation, but also meant that there would be no excuse with eagle-eyed fans for anything less than absolute authenticity.

Simply recreating the clothes wouldnt have been sufficient — the bodies on todays actors are more defined and muscled than those of the leaner Milk and his comrades. Instead Glicker had to tailor the clothes to look as if they were hanging off of a 70s frame.

We created these enormous books of research that specifically address each character within the timeline, says Glicker, a young, unassuming, bespectacled man with a head of thick black curls whose previous work include Transamerica, Thank You For Smoking and HBOs True Blood. It was sort of overwhelming, because after awhile it was hard to edit down the material. I was very interested in recreating outfits exactly as they were, partially because I knew that Gus was going to be incorporating so much archival footage into the movie, and I didnt know exactly where.

Given access to the archives of the San Francisco GLBT Historical Society, Glicker and his team managed to get their hands on a fair amount of Milks actual clothing. Then they went shopping. Glicker, who prefers vintage pieces, combed hundreds of stores and amassed a huge collection of items, which he then authenticated using his research books before altering to fit the actors. No tiny detail of the evolution of fashion went unchecked — there are, after all, key differences between a 1976 shirt and a 1978 shirt (such as the collar width), and Glicker was determined to be accurate.

What couldnt be bought was recreated (and sometimes what was bought was still recreated so that spare sets were available), including T-shirts from now-defunct Castro bars, protest Ts found in the archive, and the suit Milk was killed in, which they had viewed at the Historical Society. That was a very, very meticulous recreation, says Glicker, who had to wear cotton gloves while handling the suit, which is kept in a temperature and light controlled environment and wrapped in acid free tissue. We were measuring everything from the lapels to the belt loops and leg openings. The fabric, every aspect of the fit, it was all done to match as closely as possible.

And when the thrift stores and archives didnt have what he needed, Glicker went to Levis corporate headquarters in San Francisco. The uniform of choice for Harvey Milk, his friends and many in the LBGT community at the time was the Levis 501 button fly jean, says Robert Hanson, President of Levi Strauss & Co.s Levis Brand Division. If you saw anything but Levis in the film it would have been wrong.

Levis gave me a tremendous amount of access to both their archive and retail store, says Glicker. Hanson (who is gay) and Levis, an early pioneer and longtime stalwart supporter for gay causes, thought the film was a perfect match for the brand. The movie is really about a very specific movement at a specific time in the city, Glicker says. These people wore Levis. It was what they were about and where they were. Its more than just a brand of clothes in this case, its an iconic part of America and the Castro.

When I started reading about what people wore, adds screenwriter Dustin Lance Black. I thought, What was that Levis clone look about? It didn’t take much to realize that it was about a group of people who had been called pansies and fags reclaiming their masculinity and being men.

That held true even when going butch went beyond the basics. I remember reading someone complaining that the guys were actually going too far with it — trying to be too butch, actor James Franco, who plays Milks longtime lover, Scott Smith, told Black in his Out cover interview. I saw a lot of guys from the Castro where they [actually] looked like construction workers.

Thats why the Castro clone, Glicker says, is actually a deceptively simple look. It has to be perfectly played, he says. In order to make it look good, you have to find the perfect fit and you have to feel great in it to be able to sell the outfit. It was a uniform because it was accessible for everybody. It wasnt out of peoples grasp. It was about the wearer more than the means of the wearer. And whether or not Milk launches a vintage resurgence, the basic elements havent been put out to pasture. I see the influence of it everywhere. Its not going anywhere. Its like the gay communitys little black dress.

The gay clone, illustrated.
Leather enthusiasts at the 1978 San Francisco Gay Day Parade.

2001 Michael Tolliver is wearing jeans, with an opened flannel shirt to show off his body. This look depicts the Castro Clone style of the 1970s.


Gay History: The Complete Guide to Every Queer Pride Flag

Whether you’re celebrating Pride in New York or Tel Aviv, you’ll be seeing all sorts of flags — and not just those in the traditional rainbow. There are many sexualities in on the queer spectrum, and we’ve identified the flags for each. Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments.

Gilbert Baker Pride Flag

In 1977, Harvey Milk challenged Gilbert Baker, a veteran who taught himself to sew, to come up with a symbol of pride for the gay community. His response? The original Pride flag. Inspired by Judy Garland’s “Over the Rainbow,” these colors flew at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade celebration on June 25, 1978. Though some dispute whether Baker was the sole creator of the flag that started it all, its symbolism remains. Each color celebrates an aspect of queer Pride:

Hot pink =  Sex

Red = Life

Orange = Healing

Yellow = Sunlight

Green = Nature

Turquoise = Magic/Art

Indigo = Serenity

Violet = Spirit

1978-1999 Pride Flag

After the assassination of Harvey Milk, many wanted the Pride flag he commissioned to commemorate his accomplishments for the community and their personal support. The demand was greater than the available fabric, so the Paramount Flag Company began selling this version of the flag, as did Gilbert Baker, who had trouble getting hot pink fabric.

Traditional Gay Pride Flag

This is the most familiar flag. In 1979, the community landed on this six-color version, which was hung from lampposts in San Francisco. Numerous complications over having an odd-number of colors led to turquoise being dropped, at least according to reports. Read more about the modern flag here.

Philadelphia People Of Color Inclusive Flag

Noting that queer people of color are often not fully included in the LGBT community, the city of Philadelphia added two colors — black and brown — to the Pride flag in their honor. The city had previously faced accusations of racial discrimination in its gay bars, which led 11 queer nightlife venues to take antiracism training. Many white men were outraged by the flag, claiming that rainbow includes all skin colors, but with a star like Lena Waithe donning it at the Met Gala, it seems the design is here to stay.

Progress Pride Flag

This new flag seeks to take Philadelphia’s inclusive approach a step further. Daniel Quasar, who identifies as queer and nonbinary, designed this flag. The white, pink, and light blue reflect the colors of the transgender flag, while the brown and black stripes represent people of color and those lost to AIDS. “When the Pride flag was recreated in the last year to include both black/brown stripes as well as the trans stripes included this year, I wanted to see if there could be more emphasis in the design of the flag to give it more meaning,” Quasar explained on his Kickstarter.

Bisexual Flag

Designed by Michael Page, the flag brings visibility to the bisexual community, showing the overlap of the stereotypical colors for boys and girls. The flag was inspired by an older symbol of bisexuality: the “biangles,” two overlapping pink and dark blue triangles.

Pansexual Pride

Created on the web in 2010, this flag has colors that represent pansexuality’s interest in all genders as partners. The pink represents women, yellow nonbinary and gender-nonconforming people, and the blue is for men.

Asexual Flag

Like the pansexual flag, the asexual flag was created in 2010. Inspired by the Asexual Visibility and Education Network logo, it represents many ace identities, including graysexuals (the fluid area between sexuals and asexuals) and demisexuals (people who don’t experience sexual attraction unless they have an emotional connection with their partners.

Labrys Lesbian Pride Flag

Oddly enough, this sapphic symbol was created by a man. Created in 1999 by gay graphic designer Sean Campbell, the flag has not gained much traction in the lesbian community. It features a labrys, an ax-like weapon used by Grecian amazons.

Polyamory Flag

Featuring the symbol for the infinite numberpi, which shares the first letter of “polyamory,” this flag celebrates the infinite selection of partners available to polyamorous people. The letter is gold to represent the emotional attachment we have with others as friends and romantic partnerss, rather than just our carnal relationships.

Intersex Flag

Designed in 2013 by the organization Intersex International Australia, this flag intentionally features nongendered colors that celebrate living outside the binary.

Transgender Flag

Monica Helms, a trans woman, designed this flag in 1999, and it was first flown at a Pride Parade in Phoenix a year later. “The light blue is the traditional color for baby boys, pink is for girls, and the white in the middle is for those who are transitioning, those who feel they have a neutral gender or no gender, and those who are intersexed,” Helms noted. “The pattern is such that no matter which way you fly it, it will always be correct. This symbolizes us trying to find correctness in our own lives.”

Genderfluid/Genderflexible Flag

Encompassing the fluctuations and the flexibility of gender in genderfluid people, the flag features colors associated with femininity, masculinity, and everything in between. The pink stands for femininity. The white represents the lack of gender. The purple represents the combination of masculinity and femininity. The black symbolizes all genders, including third genders. The blue reflects masculinity.

Genderqueer Flag

Created in 2011 by Marilyn Roxie, the genderqueer flag highlights androgyny with lavender, agender identities with white, and nonbinary people with green. Some people refer to it as a nonbinary flag if they feel queer is a slur.

Lipstick Lesbian Flag

If you want the most feminine pride flag, here it is. Although it’s not a widely used symbol, it celebrates the femmes in the lesbian community, lovingly called “lipstick lesbians.”

Leather, Latex, & BDSM Flag

Whether the kink community should be added in the acronym LGBT is a heated debate, but there is no denying that the community has several of its own flags. This one was designed by Tony DeBlase for Chicago’s International Mr. Leather celebration in 1989. This symbol is not exclusively gay, but rather for the leather and BDSM community. The original flag is on display at the Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago.

Bear Brotherhood Flag

Though The New York Times named 2018 “the age of the twink,” only the bears — as gay men lovingly refer to the beefier, more hirsute guys — have their own flag. Craig Byrnes designed it in 1995 for the International Bear Brotherhood. Its colors are to match the fur of bears living in the woods.

Rubber Pride Flag

This symbol is for members of the rubber and latex fetish community and is similar to its predecessor, the leather Pride flag. Peter Tolos and Scott Moats created the design in 1995 “as a means to identifying like-minded men and [it] reflects the sensory, sensual, and mental passion we have for rubber.” They say the black color represents “our lust for the look and feel for shiny black rubber,” the red symbolizes “our blood passion for rubber and rubbermen,” while yellow highlights “our drive for intense rubber play and fantasies.” It also features a literal kink, for obvious reasons.

Polysexual Flag

Polysexuality, unlike pansexuality, is the attraction to multiple genders but not all. A middle ground between bisexuality and pansexuality, it is centered more around attractions to femininity and masculinity rather than gender itself. The pink represents attraction to females; the blue for males. The green is for an attraction to those who don’t conform to either gender.

Agender Flag

While genderqueer people bend the rules of gender, agender people reject a gender completely. For their flag, the black and white stripes represent the absence of gender, while green, the inverse of the gender-heavy purple, represents nonbinary genders.

Aromantic Flag

While asexual flags use purple to show their lack of sexual attraction, aromantic flags use green to celebrate the people who live without romantic attraction.

Non Binary Flag

Created by 17-year-old Kye Rowan in 2014, this flag was a response to nonbinary people feeling improperly represented by the genderqueer flag. This symbol was not to replace Roxie’s creation but sit beside it as an option. The yellow symbolizes gender outside a binary. The white, a mix of all colors, represents those with many or all genders. Purple stands in for those who feel both binary male and female or fluid between them. The black is for the agender community, without sexuality or color.

Pony Flag

Pony play is a distinct fetish where people are treated like horses by wearing hooves, ears, and  saddles and pulling carts. Carrie P created this flag in 2007; it uses black in solidarity with the leather community at large.

Straight Ally Flag

The flag equivalent of “I support LGBT people, but no homo,” this makes everyone feel included at Pride marches, even if they’re celebrating other people’s sexualities.


Gay History: Unearthing The “Knights of the Clock”.

Enigmatic might be the best word to describe this organization, which was variously called the Knights of the Clock or Clocks. Gay and lesbian historians differ in their reporting of who founded the group, when it was founded, and what its exact name was. The ONE Gay and Lesbian Archives in L.A. maintains that Merton L. Bird, an African-American accountant about whom little is known, was the cofounder, and that it started up around June 1951. The other co-founder was W. Dorr Legg, who used about a dozen pseudonyms throughout his life, and whose name appears in virtually every anthology of gay history. He earned a master’s degree in landscape architecture with a specialty in urban planning, taught at Oregon State University, lived in New York and Florida, and came home to Ann Arbor, Michigan to care for his elderly parents. Legg’s lovers were, for the most part, African-American, and he experienced racial discrimination first hand (though not, according to John D’Emilio, in Detroit’s black community). Some historians hold that Bird and Legg met in Michigan, drove around looking for a comfortable place for interracial gay couples, and landed in L.A. in the late 1940’s. Lillian Fader-man and Stuart Timmons hold that Marvin Edwards, not Bird, went to L.A. with Legg. Timmons interviewed Edwards for their 2006 book, Gay L.A., which includes a very youthful candid photo. Edwards was forced to leave L.A. after a year or so, when his landlady discovered he was gay.

Legg has been variously described as charismatic, charming, poised, witty, intelligent, controlling, inflexible, and opinionated. A Republican in politics, he chose to live off the earnings of younger men (according to an interview in Joseph Hansen’s 1998 biography of Don Slater). In Legg’s 1994 book, Homophile Studies in Theory and Practice, he described Bird as brilliant and gives all credit for the Knights’ founding to Bird. “Hostility and harassment were the daily lot of interracial same-sex couples in 1950. … [Bird’s] idea was that by coming together to form a mutual aid society, the group could at the very least offer each other encouragement. The decision was to form a California nonprofit corporation and call it the Knights of the Clocks, a deliberately ambiguous title.” Many historians, such as Paul Cain, have quoted from Legg’s book, Homosexuals Today; A Handbook of Organizations & Publications (1956), which he wrote under the name of Marvin Cutler, stating that the aim of the Knights was to “promote fellowship and understanding between homosexuals themselves, specifically between other races and the Negro, as well as to offer its members aid in securing employment and suitable housing. Special attention was given to the housing problems of interracial couples of which there were several in the group.”

Although most sources give June 1951 as the Knights’ founding date, others range from the late 1940’s to the early 1950’s. Perhaps the L.A. group known as the Cloistered Loyal Order of the Conclaved Knights of Sophisticracy (or, sometimes, Sophistocracy, and known as the C.L.O.C.K.S.) lent its name to Bird and Legg’s Knights. It may or may not have been formally incorporated. Jonathan Ned Katz was unable to turn up the legal papers when he searched back in the 1970’s, but Edward Sagarin (the pseudonym of Donald Webster Cory) states in what was originally his NYU thesis, later published, that the Knights incorporated in 1950. Three undated typescripts in the ONE Archives’ file on the Knights contain some information about the C.L.O.C.K.S. Their oath of office, following a Masonic-type ritual, was to “practice the arts of sophisticracy diligently, honestly, courteously, amicably, faithfully, and with all of my ability.” At the end of the installation, the installing officer and “honor guard” intoned: “By the authority vested in me by the State of California, and as a duly elected officer of this corporation, I hereby declare you [name of office]. Honi soit qui mal y pense.” This, the motto of the Order of the Garter, founded in mid- 14th-century England, can be roughly translated as “shamed be he who thinks evil of it.” Instead of the usual titles (president, VP, etc.), the C.L.O.C.K.S. used medieval ones: Exalted Knight, Senior Knight, Bursar, and Scribe (who kept a Tablet instead of minutes).

In the ONE’s file, a few handwritten entries beginning on May 24, 1951, were recorded in an unused 1944 calendar from what appears to be an insurance company. On that date, “application forms were passed out,” “minutes were approved as read,” and the “Vice President spoke of aims of Club.” Gone is the mystique of the Cloistered Loyal Order. One of the Knights’ events was planned to take place in June at the Wilfandel Club. According to the still-active club’s website,, it was established on November 21, 1945, by two black women to provide “people of all races with a public meeting place in Los Angeles during the 1950’s.” Another meeting note, dated July 1, listed members who would sing, play an instrument, dance, and make speeches at an upcoming party. (Bird was listed as one of the speech-makers.) On that same date, there was an entry for a rough draft of letterhead, “The C.L.O.C.K.S./Incorporated/Los Angeles/Calif.” The name “Josephine Baker” appears fleetingly in a meeting note, leaving one to imagine all kinds of possibilities.

Yet another event, dated August 4, was to be a “midsummer frolic” beginning at 9 p.m., with draft beer and spaghetti. The last social event mentioned was a Valentine’s meeting with a “social program” planned for Saturday, February 16 [1952]. Events seemed to be admission-by-card only. Other cryptic entries mentioned the Loan Fund, Housing & Employment Committee, the Membership Committee, the Entertainment Committee, and the Legal Aid Committee, of which Bird was chair. “NAACP” is noted without any further comment. Interestingly, Bird’s name is consistently spelled “Byrd” throughout, and C. Todd White’s book lists “M. Byrd” as Merton Bird’s pseudonym. Some members’ names and addresses are written throughout the entries, and there’s an intriguing mention of a seal and articles of incorporation. Sagarin remarked that meetings were originally held monthly, and then semimonthly. Meetings, he said, usually drew about 35 attendees, with a larger group attending the socials.

Reproduced in Legg’s 1994 book and credited to “ONE’s Baker Memorial Library and Archives” is a 1951 invitation, engraved in Gothic script, to a Knights social event: the fourth anniversary party of “Gene and Edward” on May 12, 1951, from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. Legg stated that guests at that event were “a comfortable mix of races and assorted personal relationships including both men’s Beverly Hills employers and their families.” ONE Archives’ handwritten meeting notes do include some female first names, and one name that could possibly begin with “Mrs.”

When did the end come? ONE Archives’ file contains no information about the group beyond a handwritten list, dated February 15, 1952, of fourteen members (including Bird and Legg) who owed dues. On that date, the group had $14.15 in the bank. In 1952, Legg and Bird numbered among the founders of ONE, Inc., a group within the Mattachine that published ONE magazine. White mentions that Bird appeared to have offered the Knights’ charter as a model, or to offer a merger with the Knights, neither of which were accepted. Sagarin noted that “for all practical purposes it had disappeared from the scene” by 1953, though an occasional meeting was held after that date.

A 1966 article in Tangents magazine by Richard Conger implied that the Knights, “formerly of Los Angeles,” were represented at the ONE Institute Midwinter Session, an educational program for gay men and lesbians held on an almost yearly basis in various cities and considered a precursor to today’s academic programs. The Institute was the brainchild of Legg. Sidney Roth-man reported of the Knights: “Its originality lay in its avowed intention to enroll men and women alike and their parents and other relatives on an interracial basis. Its meetings and large social gatherings appear not to have been matched in attendance until this present year (1965) by a few social events staged in San Francisco as the joint effort of several homophile organizations in that city. The Knights continued for three or four years but eventually found themselves overshadowed by another Los Angeles development … The Mattachine.” (Conger and Rothman were, according to Vern Bullough, two of Legg’s pseudonyms.)

When Legg died in 1994 at the age of 89, he was survived by his partner of over thirty years, John (Johnny) Nojima, who died a few years ago. Very little is known at this time about Merton L. Bird.

ONE’s file contains the names and addresses of some of the earliest Knights. Can any of them be traced? Are any of their addresses close to those noted on the map of “significant locations” in White’s book? What might the archives of other California institutions contain? Did any of the Knights’ files migrate to other gay organizations following a very celebrated “heist” of papers in 1965 by another ONE, Inc. founder, Don Slater, due to personal and professional disputes with Legg? Does the NAACP’s L.A. chapter keep records back to the 1950’s? What about the archives of the Wilfandel Club? More research is waiting to be done on this fascinating and pioneering organization.

I’m grateful to the archivists at ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives in LA., particularly to Loni Shibuyama. This article would not have been possible without Lillian Faderman ‘s assistance, and I would, also like to thank Philip Clark, Wayne Dynes, Joseph Hawkins, and C. Todd White.


  • Bullough, Vern L. Before Stonewall; Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context. Harrington Park Press, 2002.
  • Cain, Paul D. Leading the Parade: Conversations with America’s Most Influential Lesbians and Gay Men. Scarecrow Press, 2002.
  • Conger, Richard (pseud.). Where the Mainstream Flows. ONE 14:2, 1966.
  • D’Emilio, John. Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States. 1940-1970. Univ. of Chicago Press, 1983.
  • Dynes, Wayne. “W. Dorr Legg.” in Gay & Lesbian Biography, edited by Michael J. Tyrkus. St. James Press, 1997.
  • Faderman, Lillian, and Stuart Timmons. Gay LA.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians. Basic Books, 2006.
  • Hansen, Joseph. A Few Doors West of Hope: The Life and Times of Dauntless Don Slater. Homosexual Information Center, 1998.
  • Katz, Jonathan. Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the USA.: A Documentary. Crowell, 1976.
  • Knights of the Clock(s) File. ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles. Legg, W. Dorr, ed. Homophile Studies in Theory and Practice. ONE Institute Press, 1994.
  • Rothman, Sidney (pseud.). The Homophile Movement. ONE 13:12, 1965.
  • Sagarin, Edward (pseud.). Structure and Ideology in an Association of Deviants. Arno Press, 1966.
  • White, C. Todd. Pre-Gay LA.: A Social History of the. Movement for Homosexual Rights. Univ. of Illinois Press, 2009.
  • Martha E. Stone, literary editor of this magazine, is a reference librarian by day.