Category Archives: Article

Gay History: The Vatican’s Secret Life…

We all know that gay men & women exist in all areas of the religious life, and in all denominations and faiths. It’s one of those blatantly hypocritical “Don’t ask, don’t tell” situations, so easily instigated by churches, institutions and governments to dispel the “myth” that any gay people could possibly work or minister there! My encounters at boarding school, with the St. John of God brothers, with Catholic clergy in general suggests to me that the high statistical prevalence of gays, quoted in this article, is correct. My thoughts are that, due to societal rejection of gay people, especially up to 1990s, many men and women entered the religious life – both clerical and monastic – as a way to avoid persecution. Of course, it doesn’t quite work that way. Having a religious “calling” is not going to stop your natural sexual urges…but nice try! This article by Michael Joseph Gross, and published in “Vanity Fair” on November 15, 2013 shows the difficult balance between sexuality and the religious life, and how it is viewed within the walls of Vatican City, and amongst the Catholic hierarchy.

Despite headlines about a powerful “gay lobby” within the Vatican, and a new Pope promising reform, the Catholic Church’s gay cardinals, monks, and other clergy inhabit a hidden netherworld. In Rome, the author learns how they navigate the dangerous paradox of their lives.

Naked but for the towel around his waist, a man of a certain age sat by himself, bent slightly forward as if praying, in a corner of the sauna at a gym in central Rome. I had not met this man before, but as I entered the sauna, I thought I recognized him from photographs. He looked like a priest with whom I’d corresponded after mutual friends put us in touch, a man I had wanted to consult about gay clerics in the Vatican Curia. My friends told me that this priest was gay, politically savvy, and well connected to the gay Church hierarchy in Rome.

But this couldn’t be that priest. He had told me that he’d be away and couldn’t meet. Yet as I looked at the man more closely, I saw that it was definitely him. When we were alone, I spoke his name, telling him mine. “I thought you were out of the country,” I said. “How lucky for me: you’re here!” Startled, the priest talked fast. Yes, his plans had changed, he said, but he was leaving again the next day and would return only after I was gone.

During the previous few days, I had heard a lot about this man. I had heard that he is a gossip, a social operator whose calendar is a blur of drinks and dinners with cardinals and archbishops, principessas and personal trainers. Supposedly, he loves to dish male colleagues with campy female nicknames. But I would never have the experience firsthand. The priest was embarrassed: to have been chanced upon at this place; to have had his small evasions revealed. The encounter was awkward. No, he did not wish to discuss the subject I was interested in. No, he did not think the subject worthwhile. These things he made clear. We left the sauna and, after further conversation, civil but stilted, went our separate ways.

I could understand his discomfort. But in Rome these days the topic of gay priests in the upper reaches of the Holy See is hard to avoid. In February of this year, not long before the College of Cardinals gathered in the Sistine Chapel for the conclave to choose the 266th Pope, the largest Italian daily newspaper, La Repubblica, reported that a “gay lobby”—a more or less unified cabal of homosexual power brokers—might be operating inside the Vatican. According to the newspaper, the possible existence of this gay lobby was among the many secrets described in a two-volume, 300-page report bound in red and presented to Pope Benedict XVI by three cardinals he had appointed to investigate the affair known as “VatiLeaks.” That scandal, which raised fresh suspicions of endemic corruption within the Curia, had broken the previous year after Paolo Gabriele, the papal butler, made off with some of Benedict’s private papers and leaked them to the press.

The internal VatiLeaks report, according to La Repubblica, indicated that gay clerics in the Vatican were being blackmailed. The report was also said to document the alleged gay lobby’s social structure and customs. Yet details concerning gay priests’ gatherings added up to old news: the tales had been told in articles previously published by La Repubblica itself. Sensationally, the newspaper suggested that Benedict’s concern about the alleged gay lobby was one reason he had suddenly resigned the papacy.

Months later, another leak of confidential information brought the subject of a gay lobby back into the news. Someone took notes during what was meant to be a private meeting between Latin-American Church leaders and the new Pope, the former cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, now known as Francis. In June, those notes were published on a progressive Catholic Web site. Francis was quoted as saying, “The ‘gay lobby’ is mentioned, and it is true, it is there … We need to see what we can do.”

A Closet with No Door

Gay lobby? It depends on what you mean. The term could refer to a shadowy group like the Illuminati, whose members quietly exercise supreme power. This is the sort of idea that lights up the tinfoil hats of conspiracy theorists, and it doesn’t capture the slow, feudal, inefficient workings of the Vatican. “Gay lobby” is really shorthand for something else. At the Vatican, a significant number of gay prelates and other gay clerics are in positions of great authority. They may not act as a collective but are aware of one another’s existence. And they inhabit a secretive netherworld, because homosexuality is officially condemned. Though the number of gay priests in general, and specifically among the Curia in Rome, is unknown, the proportion is much higher than in the general population. Between 20 and 60 percent of all Catholic priests are gay, according to one estimate cited by Donald B. Cozzens in his well-regarded The Changing Face of the Priesthood. For gay clerics at the Vatican, one fundamental condition of their power, and of their priesthood, is silence, at least in public, about who they really are.

Clerics inhabit this silence in a variety of ways. A few keep their sexuality entirely private and adhere to the vow of celibacy. Many others quietly let themselves be known as gay to a limited degree, to some colleagues, or to some laypeople, or both; sometimes they remain celibate and sometimes they do not. A third way, perhaps the least common but certainly the most visible, involves living a double life. Occasionally such clerics are unmasked, usually by stories in the Italian press. In 2010, for the better part of a month, one straight journalist pretended to be the boyfriend of a gay man who acted as a “honeypot” and entrapped actual gay priests in various sexual situations. (The cardinal vicar of Rome was given the task of investigating. The priests’ fates are unknown.)

There are at least a few gay cardinals, including one whose long-term partner is a well-known minister in a Protestant denomination. There is the notorious monsignor nicknamed “Jessica,” who likes to visit a pontifical university and pass out his business card to 25-year-old novices. (Among the monsignor’s pickup lines: “Do you want to see the bed of John XXIII?”) There’s the supposedly straight man who has a secret life as a gay prostitute in Rome and posts photographs online of the innermost corridors of the Vatican. Whether he received this privileged access from some friend or family member, or from a client, is impossible to say; to see a known rent boy in black leather on a private Vatican balcony does raise an eyebrow.

The Vatican holds secrets so tightly that it can make Fort Meade look like a sloppy drunk. Yet dozens of interviews with current and former gay priests, gay monks, veteran Vatican journalists, Italian aristocrats, and gay men at Roman gyms, bars, nightclubs, sex clubs, and restaurants suggest that, riveting as the more graphic stories are, they convey a limited part of the reality of gay clerical life in Rome. To be gay in the Vatican is no guarantee of success, mark of belonging, or shortcut to erotic intrigue. Most basically it is a sentence of isolation. Gays in the Vatican are creatures of a cutthroat bureaucracy whose dogmatic worldview denies or denigrates their own existence. They live in a closet that has no door. Among recent Popes, Benedict made the most concerted effort to sharpen Church doctrine on homosexuality, which he once called “a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil.” He tried to cull gays from clerical ranks, most notably in 2005, when men with known “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” were prohibited from being ordained, even if they were celibate.

Denunciation and exposure have made gay priests figures of fascination—though less as people than as symbols—especially to the secular far left and the religious far right. Both sides find these clerics to be politically useful. The left uses them to level charges of hypocrisy. The right sees them as a stain in need of removal. They all got a shock late last July when Francis made his first direct public statement about gay clerics since becoming Pope.

During an impromptu press conference aboard the papal jet, en route from Rio de Janeiro to Rome after his first overseas trip, Francis was asked about the so-called gay lobby. His response, delivered with casual humor and punctuated by shrugs and smiles, was as follows: “So much has been written about the gay lobby. I still haven’t run into anyone in the Vatican who has shown me an identity card with ‘gay’ on it.” He pantomimed holding up such a card in his left hand and then went on: “When you find yourself with a person like that, you have to distinguish between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of somebody forming a lobby. . . . If a person is gay and is searching for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge him?”

He spoke these words with a palpable warmth, unlike the embattled, wary tone that other Popes have adopted. This may well have been the first time in history that a Pope has publicly uttered the term “gay”—the word that most men who feel romantic love for other men use to describe themselves—instead of the pathologizing 19th-century medical term “homosexual.” Then, in a lengthy interview with a Jesuit journal, the Pope went further, stating that the Church’s ministry should not be “obsessed” with a few divisive moral issues such as abortion and gay marriage. “When God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?” the Pope asked rhetorically. “We must always consider the person.”

Every Man for Himself

Tales of gays in the Vatican have been told for more than a thousand years. Pope John XII, who reigned from 955 to 964, was accused of having sex with men and boys and turning the papal palace “into a whorehouse.” While trying to persuade a cobbler’s apprentice to have sex with him, Pope Boniface VIII, who reigned from 1294 to 1303, was said to have assured the boy that two men having sex was “no more a sin than rubbing your hands together.” After Paul II, who reigned from 1464 to 1471, died of a heart attack—while in flagrante delicto with a page, according to one rumor—he was succeeded by Sixtus IV, who kept a nephew as his lover (and made the nephew a cardinal at age 17). Some such stories are better substantiated than others. Even while their reliability is questionable, they demonstrate that playing the gay card (even if you yourself are gay) is an ancient Curial tactic. “There are closeted gay priests who are vipers,” observes the theologian Mark D. Jordan, the author of The Silence of Sodom: Homosexuality in Modern Catholicism. “They are really poisonous people, and they work out their own inner demonology by getting into positions in power and exercising it” against other gay men, women, and anyone whom they perceive to be a threat. “Alongside that are suffering priests who seem sincere all the way down, who are trying to be faithful to God, and also to take care of people and change the institution. They are the ones who are always forgotten, and read out of the story from both sides.”

The Catholic priesthood’s contemporary gay cultural memory begins in the middle of the last century. When Paul VI assumed the throne, in 1963, by one account he took his papal name not from any predecessor but from a former lover, a film actor. That at least was the contention of the provocative gay French writer Roger Peyrefitte, whose 1976 allegations about Paul VI caused such a stir that Paul took to the balcony of St. Peter’s to denounce the “horrible and slanderous” accusations. Paul looked a laughingstock, and the Curia learned a lesson: better to ignore such charges than to amplify them by denial.

Meanwhile, some gay clerics were outgrowing the “particular friendships” that had long been part of monastic life and joining the sexual revolution. By the 1970s, the center of gay life in Rome was a cruising area called Monte Caprino, on the Capitoline Hill. At a small party of gay monks and their friends in Rome last summer, conversation turned to recollections of that place. “It was like its own little city,” one monk remembered, “with hundreds of people—everyone from seminarians to bishops—and then there were, conveniently, bushes off to the side.” The fellow feeling at Monte Caprino was compromised by the air of secrecy around the place. The area was a target for muggers and thieves, who figured rightly that clerics would make ideal victims because they had much to lose by the public act of pressing charges. One gay former seminarian recalled a night when three men beat him up and stole his wallet while numerous men in the crowded park stood by. Left bloodied by the thieves, the seminarian hollered at the bystanders, “There’s three of them and 300 of us!”

He told me this story, with its echoes of the parable of the Good Samaritan—in which a traveler is robbed, beaten, and left by the side of the road, and pious men do nothing to help him—to illustrate the every-man-for-himself dynamic of Rome’s gay clerical culture. Gay clerics often fail to help one another, he says, for the same reason that no one tried to help him the night that he was robbed: solidarity entails the risk of being outed.

“La Maledetta”

Self-centeredness can breed a sense of entitlement. “A certain part of the clergy feels that no one will care what they do if they are discreet,” says Marco Politi, a prominent Italian journalist and longtime Vatican correspondent, and the author of several books about the papacy and the Church. In 2000, Politi published a book-length interview with an anonymous gay priest, entitled La Confessione, republished in 2006 as Io, Prete Gay (I, Gay Priest). “Rumors are O.K., but not scandal,” Politi observes.

There has been plenty of scandal, though. In 2007, Monsignor Tommaso Stenico met a young man in an online chat room and invited him to his Vatican office, where their conversation—in which Stenico denied that gay sex was a sin, touched the man’s leg, and said, “You’re so hot”—was secretly videotaped and then broadcast on Italian television. (Stenico tried to persuade Italian newspapers that he’d just been playing along in order “to study how priests are ensnared” into gay sex as part of “a diabolical plan by groups of Satanists.” He was suspended from his Vatican position.) In 2006 a priest in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State injured police officers and smashed into police cars during a high-speed chase through a district in Rome known for transsexuals and prostitutes. (The priest was acquitted on all charges after claiming that he fled because he feared he was being kidnapped.) In a 2010 investigation of contract fixing for construction projects, Italian police wiretaps happened to catch a papal usher and Gentleman of His Holiness, Angelo Balducci, allegedly hiring male prostitutes, some of whom may have been seminarians, through a Nigerian member of a Vatican choir. (The choir member was dismissed; Balducci was convicted on corruption charges.)

Pope Benedict was rumored to have ordered that prelates who were living double lives be retired or removed from Rome. Marco Politi speculates that perhaps as many as 30 were eased out. The most senior prelate to lose his job was Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh. A staunch opponent of gay marriage who had publicly called homosexuality a “moral degradation,” O’Brien was brought down in February by three priests and one ex-priest who accused him of “inappropriate contact” and predatory behavior when he was their bishop. The episodes recounted by the four men involved such consistent patterns over more than 30 years that some of O’Brien’s colleagues surely must have had their suspicions. When I asked one archbishop if he had known that O’Brien was gay, however, the archbishop said he had not. When I asked the archbishop who among the other cardinals were O’Brien’s closest friends, he coldly answered, “I don’t think he had any.” Every man for himself, indeed.

Even Benedict has been dogged by rumors that he is gay. Though no solid evidence has ever emerged, it is treated as common knowledge by many in Rome, who cite stereotypes galore, including his fussy fashion sense (his ruby-red slippers, his “Valentino red” capes); his crusade to nail down why “homosexual actions” are “intrinsically disordered” (many closeted gay men, from Roy Cohn to Cardinal O’Brien, have made the most extraordinary efforts to condemn homosexuality); and his bromance with Archbishop Georg Gänswein, his longtime personal secretary. (Nicknamed Bel Giorgio, or “Gorgeous George,” the rugged Gänswein skis, plays tennis, and pilots airplanes. He inspired Donatella Versace’s winter 2007 “clergyman collection.”) Perhaps the most vicious of Benedict’s nicknames is “La Maledetta.” The word means “cursed” in Italian, but the pun derives from the fact that the term means the exact opposite of Benedict’s own name in Italian, Benedetto, which means “blessed”—with a gender change achieved in the process.

Neither Benedict nor Gänswein has publicly responded to any of this. The chatter’s main consequence has been not to hurt them personally (though surely it must, at least a little) but to help lock down genuine conversation about the everyday lives of gay priests, whether celibate or not. It is more or less impossible for gay clerics to articulate their affections in any way that does not amount to what an Anglo-Saxon mind might see as hypocrisy. Yet such a dualistic existence is very much a part of Church tradition. “This is almost an aspect of the Catholic religion itself,” Colm Tóibín has written in an essay on gays and Catholicism, “this business of knowing and not knowing something all at the same time, keeping an illusion separate from the truth.” It is also typical of Italian sexuality in general, and Italian homosexuality in particular. This is the country that tolerated the sexual escapades and serial frauds of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi with scarcely a hint of protest from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. This is the country where countless married women ignore their husbands’ dalliances with men.

La Bella Figura

The culture of deception operates according to signals and conventions by which gay clerics navigate their lives. Camp is perhaps the most powerful and pervasive of these codes, though it can be difficult to define. Ironic, effeminate self-mockery—allowing priests to exercise some limited rebellion against their own isolation and invisibility—is one form of clerical camp. For fear of laughing out loud, priests sometimes try to avoid making eye contact with one another in church when hymns with titles like “Hail, Holy Queen” are sung. After Bergoglio became Pope Francis, YouTube clips of a sequence from Fellini’s Roma went viral among gay priests in Rome. It shows a plain-looking cardinal watching a runway show of over-the-top clerical attire—which ends when the departed Pope steals the show by appearing in the glorious garb of a Sun God.

One gay former priest, who still lives in Rome, describes clerical camp as “a natural way of expressing [gay identity] while celibate.” Socially, he says, it is “a key that unlocks a further element of trust.” There’s nothing earth-shattering about this—it’s what every institution does—but “the Church has a lot more experience and practice at protecting itself. As far as that goes,” he says, with a nod to Cole Porter, “they’re the tops.”

When this former priest began his education in Rome, a professor told him, “There shouldn’t be a subculture. We are all male here, so it’s inappropriate to say ‘her’ or to refer to other men with feminine pronouns.” The former priest says that “none of this instruction was about our behavior. It was about how we should appear.” He believes that such instruction illustrates a little-noted change in official thinking about Catholic identity, and what should be at its center. “The symbols of the Church should be the sacraments,” such as the Eucharist, he argues, but over time the people who administer the sacraments have come to displace them in prominence. In other words, “the priests become the symbols” that are deemed most important. Which in turn puts a premium on outward appearance and enforces conformity to a certain official ideal. The Church, therefore, is increasingly preoccupied with making sure its leaders are groomed from among “boys who look holy: playing dress-up at the American College and going down to Piazza Navona at nine P.M. to say their Breviaries.” Sacraments and liturgy, the former priest says, are “the kernel of what makes the Church important. This is what makes us powerful. Not the protection of medieval institutions.”

Yet in the Church, as in Italian society, it’s often the case that right appearance—la bella figura—is all. In every detail, parties celebrating appointment to the Vatican and other high Church offices can be lavish—“like a posh girl’s wedding”—with many clerics in attendance being “gay men wearing everything handmade, perfect, queer as it comes,” observes one prominent figure in the Roman art world. But la bella figura matters just as much at ordinary moments. Especially for clerics who break the vow of celibacy, it is crucial to keep up appearances in the normal course of life.

Gay saunas are good places to meet other gay priests and monks. The best times to find clerics at the saunas are late afternoon or evening on Thursdays (when pontifical universities have no classes) or Sundays (after Mass). Some gay celibate clerics use the saunas not for sex but to experience a sense of fellowship with others like themselves. One calls his sauna visits “something to confirm myself as I am.” (Rome has few gay bars, and John Moss, the American owner of the largest and oldest one, the Hangar, says that the rise of Internet cruising, combined with the Vatican’s crackdown on gay priests, has decimated his gay clerical clientele. “There used to be so many seminarians—such beautiful men—who came to the bar, and we would even get hired to take parties to them in some of the religious houses. Now there’s nobody.”)

Once you make a connection, it’s possible to use your monastery cell for sexual assignations, as long as you don’t make much noise. “You can sneak people in, no problem,” one gay monk says, “but try to avoid consistent patterns of movement.” In other words, don’t invite a guy over on the same day of the week, or at the same time of day, very often. That said, “no one has sex” with other residents of his own monastery, a former monk told me, “because it is like a Big Brother house. Everyone knows everything.”

The more senior the cleric, the more likely he may be to play loose with the rules. One leading Vatican reporter (who says that, among journalists on the beat, the two most common topics for gossip about Church officials are “who’s gay and who’s on the take”) describes the logic of such behavior. “Everything is permitted because you are a prince of the court,” he says. “If you are truly loyal and entrusted with the highest level of responsibility, there has to be an extra liberty attached in order to be able to pull it off.”

Vows of celibacy don’t say anything about eye candy. Some Curia officials are said to handpick extremely handsome men for menial jobs in order to make Vatican City more scenic. A layman I know whose job requires frequent trips to the Vatican used to enjoy flirting with a muscular go-go boy who danced on the bar at a gay nightclub in Rome. One day at the Vatican, this layman was amazed to see the dancer out of context, dressed in the uniform of a security guard. When he made to greet the man, the guard signaled him to stay back, raising a finger to his lips in a quiet “Shhhhh … ”

Where silence can’t strictly be kept, word games can compartmentalize the truth. In the Vatican office of a monsignor who I’d been told might have some firsthand knowledge concerning recent gay scandals in the Church, I asked, point-blank, “Are you gay?,” and he serenely answered, “No.” I replied, “I wonder, if a priest is homosexual—but does not participate in mainstream secular gay culture—could he say that he is not ‘gay’ and still think he’s telling the truth?” “What an interesting question,” the monsignor said, immediately standing up and gesturing me to the door. “I’m afraid I don’t have any more time to talk.” He insisted on personally walking me out of the building, and as we passed along a grand hallway I remarked upon its beauty. “I don’t see it,” he replied archly. “To me, other hallways are ‘beautiful.’ ” Was this an innocent remark, or a coded answer to my question? Sometimes talking to gay priests feels like reading stories by Borges.

For those who want it, organized networks can provide some grounding. A few small groups of gay Catholics in Rome operate publicly, but because anyone can come to their meetings, it can be risky for priests, especially Vatican officials, to be part of them. One private group of about 50 gay priests and laymen meets once a year, for a kind of retreat. A Vatican priest I met with—he actually invited me to stop by his office near St. Peter’s because he said he wanted “to show that this is no secret,” though it’s secret enough that he can’t be named—is involved with this group, as part of an unofficial ministry in addition to his official duties. He says that his superiors, including at least one very prominent Vatican official, have long known he is gay, and have even promoted him since learning that fact.

Yet gays in the Vatican, like spies in intelligence services, inhabit boxes within boxes. The priest who helps with the group of 50 raised his eyebrows when I repeated to him something an archbishop had told me. “I know a priest who ministers to people in the Curia in that situation,” the archbishop said, though “he is not assigned officially.”

“That is not me,” the priest said, amazed. “I wonder who it could be.”

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

As you would expect, the priest I met in the sauna looks rather different with vestments on. When I walked into church a few days later, for Sunday-morning Mass, he was the celebrant—even though, when we met, he had said he was about to leave town. Maybe his plans had changed again.

He was preaching a homily on the Gospel reading, the parable of the Good Samaritan. The priest told the congregation that this story was a challenge. A challenge to accept “risk in favor of compassion.” A challenge to “look more deeply at ‘Who is my neighbor?’ ” A challenge to be generous, unlike “the religious, spiritual person who did nothing to help.” Listening to these words, I could not help but wonder: where, in that parable, does this priest see himself?

From the day after the conclave ended—when Francis went back to his hotel and personally checked out, paid his bill, and picked up his suitcase—the new Pope has surprised people with his actions. During Holy Week, he went to a juvenile prison and washed the feet of inmates, including two girls and two Muslims. One morning, he reportedly made a sandwich for the Swiss Guard who had stood sentinel outside his room all night. He invited 200 homeless people for dinner in the Vatican gardens.

Francis has also said some things that, from a Pope’s mouth, seem extraordinary simply because they are so down to earth—like his choice to end one homily with the untraditional exhortation “Have a good lunch!” Yet the first time this Pope’s words, rather than his actions, made significant headlines was in connection with his comments about the “gay lobby.”

As noted, the phrase first gained currency before Francis came on the scene, but it returned to public discussion just as he got serious about what may be a hallmark of his papacy: a cleanup of Vatican corruption. The scope of his concern about abuse of power seems total. He is reforming everything from the Vatican bank’s bookkeeping to the contents of the papal wardrobe.

For a long time, gay priests have made for convenient scapegoats and handy pawns in Church power games. All of them, whether actively or passively, have helped create these roles for themselves, and they can hardly imagine a different reality—unless they were to emerge from the closet and get thrown out of the priesthood. One monk told me, “A lot of us will not condemn. But not speak out. We’re in a system that controls us. The longer you’re in it, the more it controls, the more you assume the clerical position.” They keep hope small, or snuff it entirely. They believe that nothing and no one could make the Church safe for them. Might this change? “Not in my lifetime,” they all say.

Yet, before he became Francis, Jorge Bergoglio was a Jesuit. As *National Catholic Reporter’*s John Allen, the dean of the American Vatican-watchers, told me, “There’s a kind of Catholic version of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ that the Jesuits would be particularly noted for. There are guys in the Jesuit world that everybody knows are gay, but they don’t go around making a big deal out of it.” While Pope Benedict’s Vatican attempted to make sure gays knew they were unwelcome in the priesthood, the Jesuits developed a reputation for tolerating and even protecting their gay brethren.

In the collegial Jesuit spirit, Francis appointed eight cardinals to serve as his core advisers on significant issues, and in the coming years, this group may have as much influence on the situation of gays in the priesthood as Francis himself. When I asked an archbishop how he thinks the cardinals’ conversation about their gay brothers will go, he answered with reference not to the Holy Spirit but to the god of Fortune. “Right now the surest thing I can say is that there’s change in the air,” he said. “If you could say what will happen, you could say who’d win the lottery.”

The next time I heard mention of a lottery was a few days later, at dinner with a gay monk who told me that he had recently fallen in love for the first time, with a man. “Am I a clerical hypocrite? I guess in one way I am,” he said, in the middle of a long and emotional narrative, before bringing the conversation to bedrock reality. “But I’m over 60. I have nothing financially. I can’t leave.” And then he said, “If I won the Powerball lotto, I would leave.”

Note: An alteration was made in the passage about Marco Politi’s La Confessione, republished as Io, Prete Gay, in order to give a more accurate description of the book.

Reference

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We’re Queer and We’ve Been Here

This article has been reproduced from tricycle.org, and was written by Dr. Jay Michaelson, and published July 02, 2018. To me, this article encapsulates why myself, and many others, have deserted conventional beliefs – and in my case, both Catholicism & Atheism – to follow the path of The Buddha. Atheism gave me a stance, a soap box to denounce what is…and has been for centuries…the hypocrisy of conventional & fundamentalist religion. With its emphasis on bible bashing, “family values” – which is not inclusionist – xenophobia, misogyny, racism, homophobia, general prejudice & discrimination, stigma, and love of power, influence and money, has…well…totally gone against every precept and doctrine that was meant to make it great! Today, especially in light of the recent expose of sexual abuse, which has covered EVERY religion, and their associated charities and institutions, people are deserting churches, mosques and temples in hordes. As a gay man, conventional religion left me bereft of choice and hope decades ago. But like many, I still have this strange yearning for some form of spirituality, or belief or…if you like…enlightenment. Something that has a base in history, something unadulterated, something that isn’t based on ethereal deities, son’s of God, messengers of God, heavily adulterated books, myths and fantasies, something that doesn’t leave me feeling empty and dirty!For me, Buddhism has provided that spark. Not bogged down in doctrines, theologies, enforced beliefs, and lists of do’s and don’ts, it gives you choice. You enter into things voluntarily. If you transgress, you are answerable only to yourself. How deeply you travel down the road to enlightenment is up to you. Nothing is forced upon you! It provides a path that is rich and based in ancient culture. It is a path worthy of investigation.

Om mani padme hum 📿

Rediscovering Buddhism’s LGBT history of gay monks, homoerotic samurai, and gender-nonconforming practitioners and gods

It’s no secret that many LGBTQ people have found refuge in the dharma, and it’s easy to see why.  It helps us work with the wounds of homophobia, recognizing internalized self-hatred for the delusion and dukkha [suffering] that it is. Yet when queer people interact with the dharma, there is often something missing: visibility. It’s nice that Buddhism doesn’t say many bad things about us, but does it say anything good? Where are we among the Dogens and Milarepas and Buddhaghosas?

This is not, of course, a question limited to Buddhism. Everywhere, queers have been erased from history. Often we find ourselves only when we are being persecuted; we have to read in between the lines of our interlocutors, trying to reconstruct a lost past.  

But there is much to be gained from the effort. Finding ourselves in history, for better or for worse, reminds us that we have one. We can see the different ways in which gender and sexuality were understood across time and cultures, and we are reminded that sexual and gender diversity has always been a part of human nature.

The history of queer Buddhism does not always paint a rosy picture. We find a mixed tapestry that includes stories of acceptance and persecution as well as examples that are problematic or offensive to modern Western sensibilities. While books can be (and have been) written about this subject, here I will limit myself to four examples that demonstrate the breadth of queer experience throughout Buddhism.

1. MILD OFFENSES

First, and I think least interestingly, there are various levels of injunctions against male-male sexual behavior. What’s interesting here, apart from the mere visibility—yes, the monks were doing it with each other—is the minor nature of the offense. In the Theravadan monastic code, for example, sexual (mis)conduct between monks or novices was no more egregious than any other sexual misconduct, and did not warrant additional sanctions. The offense is similarly minor in Vajrayana monastic communities, leading both to consensual “thigh sex” (frottage) among monks, and, tragically, to many documented instances of sexual abuse.

Conflicting statements by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama have reflected this ambivalence. In 1994, he said that as long as there were no religious vows at issue, consensual same-sex intimacy “is OK.”  But in an interview published two years later, he said that only when “couples use organs intended for sexual intercourse” could sex be considered “proper.” After meeting with gay and lesbian activists in 1997, he noted that the same rules applied to straight and gay people alike, and that they were not part of the direct teachings of the Buddha and thus might evolve over time. In 2014, he reiterated the view that for Buddhists, homosexual acts are a subset of sexual misconduct, but that this was a matter of religious teaching and did not apply to people of another or no religion. Other rinpoches have disagreed and fully affirmed gay and lesbian lives.  There is no clear position. 

2. GENDER-NONCONFORMING ANCESTORS

Second, there are several instances of what today might be called gender-nonconforming people in Buddhist texts, now newly accessible thanks to historian Jose Cabezon’s recently published 600-plus page tome, Sexuality in Classical South Asian Buddhism. Many Theravada and Mahayana texts, for example, refer to the pandaka, a term which, Cabezon shows, has a wide variety of meanings, encompassing “effeminate” male homosexuals, intersex persons, and others who exhibited non-normative anatomical, gender, or sexuality traits. (The term pandaka is often translated “eunuch,” but insofar as a eunuch is someone who chooses to be castrated, this is an inaccurate translation. Because of the breadth of the term, Cabezon himself renders it “queer person.”)

By and large, the pandaka is not depicted positively. As Cabezon describes in great detail, the Theravadan monastic code prohibits the ordaining of a pandaka—“the doctrine and discipline does not grow in them,” it says. And a Mahayana sutra called A Teaching on the Three Vows says bodhisattvas should not befriend them. But to me, just the visibility of the pandaka is encouraging. Here we are! And if we have been stigmatized, well, as Cabezon notes, that is hardly comparable to how queer people have been treated in other religious traditions.

3. SEXUAL SAMURAI

Third, there is a fair amount of male-male homoeroticism in Buddhist textual history. The Jataka tales [parables from the Buddha’s past lives] include numerous homoerotic stories featuring the future Buddha and the future Ananda; in addition to the tales themselves apparently being told without a sense of scandalousness, these stories suggest an interesting appreciation of the homoerotics or at least homosociality of the teacher-disciple relationship. Like Batman and Robin, Achilles and Patroclus, and Frodo and Sam, the Buddha and Ananda are, emotionally speaking, more than just friends.

Japanese Buddhism probably had the most fully developed form of same-sex eroticism—nanshoku—that endured for hundreds of years, beginning in the 1100s and fading out only in the 19th century, under the influence of Christianity.  These relationships—sometimes called bi-do (the beautiful way) or wakashudo (the way of the youth)—were pederastic in nature, often between an adolescent boy (probably aged 12–14) and a young man (aged around 15–20), and thus not role models for contemporary LGBT people, but a queer love nonetheless.

As with Greek pederasty, these relationships combined a sexual relationship with a mentoring relationship. And as in the Greek model, there were clear rules and roles that needed to be followed; nanshoku was not hedonism but a homosexuality that was socially constructed.

The legendary founder of the institution of nanshoku was the 12th-century monk Kukai, also called Kobo Daishi (“the great teacher who spread the dharma”), who was also credited with founding of the Shingon school of Japanese esoteric Buddhism, which incorporates tantric practice. Although there is not much historical evidence for this, it’s interesting that the institution of nanshoku became linked with tantra, which has its own polymorphous eroticism in the service of awakening.

This culture has left us the greatest collection of homoerotic Buddhist texts of which I am aware. Nanshoku Okagami (the Great Mirror of Male Love), published in 1687 and available in a fine translation by Paul Gordon Schalow, is a collection of love stories, some requited and others not, between samurai warriors and Buddhist monks, actors, and townspeople. Now available in multiple translations, the book is an almost unbelievable artifact of Edo-period hedonism, warrior love conventions that closely resemble the Mediterranean ones, and Romeo-and-Juliet-like stories of forbidden love, impossible love, and star-crossed lovers. If you can get past our cultures’ very different ethics regarding intergenerational sex, it’s an amazing queering of history.

4. GENDER FLUIDITY

Finally, the fluidity and play of gender within some Buddhist texts is often inspiring but also frequently problematic. Numerous Buddhist enlightenment stories feature women suddenly transforming into men, for example. On the one hand, that’s kind of awesome from a queer and trans point of view. On the other hand, it’s often a way of explaining how deserving women can become fully enlightened—by becoming men.  

That highlighting the role of a prominent female bodhisattva like Kuan Yin or a female deity like Tara has enabled many Western dharma centers to manifest their commitments to gender egalitarianism—awesome. That Kuan Yin is but one manifestation of the male bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara—less awesome. And yet, that a male bodhisattva occasionally manifests as a female figure—maybe more awesome.

So too the feminization of the principle of wisdom, prajnaparamita, and the Vajrayogini, who is female, erotic, and enlightened. These figures may be gender-essentialistic, gender-binaried, and heteronormative, but especially for Westerners, they productively queer the assumptions of what is masculine and feminine.

These examples of queerness in Buddhist text and history are just a sampling; there are many more. When queers look at these echoes in the past, we’re doing several things: We are finding ourselves in history and theology. We are claiming and acknowledging our existence, albeit in different forms from those we know today. And we are, hopefully, keeping our senses of irony and historicity intact. This isn’t gay-hunting or a naïve apologetics that siphons off the bad and leaves in only the good. We are, instead, searching for a usable past, not with a faux nostalgia or appropriative orientalism, but with a sophisticated relationship to what has gone before and what is present now.

Correction (7/5): An earlier version of this article translated Kobo Daishi as “the great master from Kobo.” A more accurate translation is “the great teacher who spread the dharma.” The article also identified Kukai as the founder of the Shingon school, which is disputed. 

Reference:

Gay History: Harvey Milk Debates Sen. John Briggs, September 1978.

Harvey Milk and Republican state Sen. John Briggs of Orange County met in September 1978 for a debate at Northgate High School in Walnut Creek over the Briggs Initiative, a proposition that would have made it mandatory for school boards to fire openly gay and lesbian teachers. The photos were recently found in The San Francisco Chronicle archive by pop culture critic Peter Hartlaub and published for the first time in decades. 📷: John Storey

Gay History: “An Interview with a Gay, Russian Neo-Nazi”

“An interview with a gay, Russian neo-nazi” Reproduced from “Vice”. Article by Nick Chester, 6 June, 2013.

*My own note and observation on this issue;

There is always a lot of conjecture surrounding the age-old question of whether people – pastors, priests, politicians, sportspeople, cult leaders and followers – who hold extreme right wing views on topics like gays are, in actual fact…repressed gays! I am not even going to attempt to answer that question, but let’s just say that there would seem to be many instances of it over the decades. The adage of “me thinks they doth protest too much” would seem to apply to many recent “coming out” stories. So perhaps instances of neo-nazi coming out stories shouldn’t come as a shock…though they do! Religious leaders bashing the anti-gay agenda are often just blustering to the converted, and words, though hurtful, are just words. However, when that anti-gay agenda is followed through by extreme acts of violence – leading to anything from serious injuries to death for gays at the receiving end of such hate – one really has to take a step back and question…just how much can you hate yourself, and the group that you actually belong to – as distinct from the opposing group you actually did join! At what point did you see joining a neo-nazi movement, to cover your gay inclinations, and then perpetuating violence against other gay people, seem like a good life choice? And how much violence did you enact against you gay brothers and sisters before you had that light-bulb moment – these violent actions haven’t stopped me being gay! It is very interesting how they manage to twist the ideology of neo-nazism… and perhaps a denial of the historical base behind nazism itself…to qualify their pre-coming out thinking. This idea of gays being uber-masculine is very unnerving in its concept, as surely there would have to be a lead-on to things such as domestic violence within gay relationships, and one has to ask that controversial question – why can only gays into BDSM be part of the neo-nazi movement…a disturbing question, yes, but the question is there. This is a brief, but engrossing, interview.

A couple of weeks ago, I interviewed someone from the Malaysian neo-Nazi scene. The whole concept of Malay neo-Nazis was confusing, because a pretty dominant part of the Nazi shtick was hating anyone who wasn’t white, and people from Malaysia normally aren’t white. However, it turned out that the notoriously strict Nazi ideology wasn’t too much of an issue in this case, and that the Malay Nazis could carry on sieg-heiling and wearing swastikas despite the fact they aren’t Aryan because they really hate immigrants, or something.  

Another group of neo-Nazis not bothering to adhere to Hitler’s guidelines on who to hate are those involved in the Russian gay neo-Nazi skinhead movement. As you might recall from being within spitting distance of any history textbook ever, the Führer and his Third Reich buddies weren’t too keen on either Russians or homosexuals – an estimated 100,000 of the latter were arrested between 1933 and 1945, with 5,000 to 15,000 eventually being sent to perish in concentration camps.

Much like the Malays, minor historical details like rampant persecution and horrific genocide have apparently been forgotten by the Russians. The first such group I came across were the Gay Union of Patriots of Russia, whose members spout bizarre theories about how only gay men can be true Russian patriots. I also learned that there was a group called Gay Aryan National-Socialists and another called GASH (Gay Aryan Skinheads). That last one had the best ring to it, so I tracked down a member, Balu, on VK.com—a Facebook equivalent that’s big in Russia—and had a chat about the gay Russian Nazi scene.

VICE: Hi Balu. Can you say a bit about the ideology behind G.A.S.H?
Balu: Our ideology consists of clearing the planet of “dirty” nationalities. We fight for purity of blood, for white skin color and for strong and beautiful people. We don’t accept white guys or white girls who hook up with black men. It is disgusting to observe such interracial unions. Why share your life with such rejects when there are healthy white guys

Because there are also healthy people from lots of different races. You know, most people don’t equate Nazism with homosexuality. Why do you think this is?
I think it’s based on a stereotype and, initially, heterosexuals prevailed in the nationalist movement. Also, public opinion calls nationalists rough barbarians, murderers, and so on, so observers from outside probably think that the nationalist has to be a strong, fearless street fighter, and gays represent gentleness, kindness, and harmlessness. In the public imagination, it doesn’t make sense that men who prefer the beautiful and glamorous side of life can fight for their rights and ideas.

How long has GASH existed for?
Our movement has existed for more than 20 years in Russia. It’s relatively young, but quite well developed. We’re lagging behind other places in Europe and the States a bit, but we possess strong will power and fighting spirit for the sake of the white cause.

So there are similar movements in America and other European countries then?
Yes, of course there are. They suggested to us an idea that we had pined for for so long. They helped us to be defined and direct our activity to the necessary course.

Is GASH the only gay racist skinhead group in Russia that you have come across?
At present, it is the most widespread movement among gay Nazis. The fact is that the majority of gay skinheads don’t attach themselves to GASH but have the same purposes and method of asserting influence. They simply don’t focus people’s attention on them. We don’t like excessive attention to our subculture at all either. However we want it so that everyone knows who we are and what we fight for.

Are you linked to any other gay groups?
We cooperate with the normal gay community a little bit, yeah. Sometimes we despise them, though, because each of our actions yields a result, and the actions of normal gay communities in Russia only exacerbate the situation with regards to society, homophobes, and gays.

So you consider the existence of GASH to be a positive thing for Russia? And for gay rights in Russia?
We don’t consider ourselves as heroes or particularly positive characters. We have severe methods, but they really work. We fight for everyone, not just for ourselves. We’re trying to clear this world of unnecessary people who aren’t worthy of this earth.

Wow, OK. What’s your opinion of homophobic Nazi skinheads?
Not all heterosexual nationalists are homophobes; they are often latent homosexuals, actually. We fight nationalist homophobes in the same way that we fight against any other homophobes. They’re nothing special to us.

You get into fights with homophobic Nazi groups?
Yes, we fight against homophobes irrespective of the color of their skin or their nationality. We don’t understand why our brothers oppose us. After all, we have nothing against heterosexuals and we have no plan to make the entire planet gay.

How many members does GASH have?
It’s very hard to say the exact quantity. About one in 50 gays are nationalists or have tendencies towards this movement. In the group I’m in, there are about 1,500 to 1,700 other permanent members in Moscow or nearby areas. Then there are other communities of gay nationalists scattered all over Moscow—there’s a GASH group in each area.

Does GASH have any lesbian members?
Sometimes lesbians reach out to us, but we explain to them that they don’t have a place in our ranks.

What about transgender Nazi skinheads? Do they exist?
Transsexuals aren’t present among us and I don’t see that it’s possible for them to be.

Why’s that then?
We believe that we’re at war and that there’s no place for women and men who consider themselves to be women. The fact that it’s specifically a man’s fight is an integral part of our ideology.

You seem to place a strong emphasis on manliness. What’s your view of less masculine gay people? Are they still accepted by your group?
This is a controversial question. I can’t give a definite answer, as all members are assessed as individuals. The person has to have certain qualities and believe in our idea. He has to understand that it might be necessary to give his life for an idea and for the community as a whole.

OK, so what qualities are they on a sexuality level?
Our sexual life generally consists of BDSM, especially sadomasochism. Our brothers aren’t engaged in tenderness on silk sheets—we commit truly manly acts.

Is BSDM closely linked to GASH’s ideology then?
Oh yes, they are as closely connected as smoke and fire. Almost all nationalists have a piercing, traditional leather skinhead jackboots, and blue jeans, which became a sexual fetish for us long ago, as well as shaven heads. By our nature, sexual intercourse is rough. This is similar to primitive passion. Some of us have slaves, but they often aren’t nationalists. We treat sex as something sacred. This is similar to how believers treat God. Sex is a transmission of passion, emotions, pleasure and—last but not least—sperm into the body of a brother. We give part of each other. This is a very important part of our sexual life. From outside, it can seem as if we treat sex too thoughtlessly, but this isn’t the case; each act of sexual intercourse between brothers bears a deeper meaning. It is a secret ceremony between the devoted.

How do you respond to people who say that homosexuality and Nazism aren’t exactly bedfellows?
Our sexual orientation isn’t a barrier to being nationalists. The spirit of nationalism can be present in any of us irrespective of this. In Russia, the rights of gays are hugely restricted, and we can’t sit back quietly when a person is killed just because he’s gay. Many people from the Caucasus [a region at the border of Europe and Asia] furiously oppose gays. Someone has to reject the pressure that they exert by real brute force.

OK. Finally, how do you respond to people who say that Hitler wasn’t particularly fond of gay people?
At that time, very tough measures were in place, but they really worked and were bountiful. I don’t think Hitler even personally wanted to gas gays, but the ideology demanded it.

For those interested in a run-down on Russian LGBT history, follow this link: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_history_in_Russia

References

Gay History: Buddhafield – A Dark Story of a Gay, Speedo Wearing Guru, and Exploitation!

In 1985, recent film-school graduate Will Allen found what appeared to be an exciting alternative community in Los Angeles. Always curious about the meaning of life, Allen was lured by a charismatic South American-born guru known as Michel, who seemed able to answers his questions. With little hesitation, he joined Buddhafield, a group where love and enlightenment flowed in abundance.

It wasn’t until 22 years later that Allen realized he belonged to a cult.

When Will Allen, then 22, was forced to leave home in 1985 after his mother learned he was gay, his sister invited him to join a local alternative community and meditation group in West Hollywood, California she had been attending for nine months.[9][10] The group, led by Michel Rostand, eventually grew to one hundred members and began calling itself Buddhafield.

The group leader, Michel Rostand—a well-tanned disciplinarian who rarely wore more than Speedos or tight gym shorts—claimed that he could put people directly in touch with god.

Before he became an enigmatic leader to a group of hippies, Rostand was searching for fame in Hollywood. His biggest role was as an extra in the Roman Polanski classic, and a handful of gay porn. He also fancied himself a dancer, and told people he performed in the ballet.

His accomplishments weren’t much, but to him they were monumental. To him, he was a star.

Rostand utilized his acting talent to create a powerful persona that would capture the minds of more than 100 vulnerable souls. He started by holding weekly yoga and meditation sessions at a studio in West Hollywood, and soon the group grew.

Attracted to Michel’s messages of healing and self-fulfillment, newcomers often gave themselves over to Buddhafield readily. Calling him “The Teacher,” they ditched functioning society and moved into one of Buddhafield’s several houses together. Rape survivors, for example, felt cleansed, and lost souls found salvation through Michel’s tutelage and their newfound family. In joining Buddhafield, some sought to escape society’s authoritative decrees or replace drug habits with spiritual highs. Others were tossed out of their homes or contending with trauma or battling disillusionment with their respective religions. Most maintained low-end jobs to pay rent, but they rarely communicated with people who were not part of the roughly 100-member organization. Life as they knew it ended. And for more than two decades, they loved it. 

“It somehow felt good to be elite,” Coquet said of his 25 years in the organization. “There was something about it.”

Allen, Coquet and Cheiffo realized that, once they took the plunge, nothing could be halfhearted. Michel, who is also a well-read ballet dancer trained in hypnotherapy, led activities on six nights of the week. If anyone said they’d rather not attend, a friend would question their devotion, insisting that person was stuck inside their own muddled headspace. Supposed enlightenment waited beyond every doubt.

“We all thought we were going to be with him until we died,” Coquet said.

Sometimes the guidelines were more specific. Michel would hand down dictums on an individual basis. His biggest hangups were sexual, as the group later discovered in a dark way. He banned most members from fornicating, citing the release of energy that comes with an orgasm as an inferior high. Often seen in nothing but a Speedo and Ray-Bans, Michel was particularly interested in recruiting attractive young men. Even better if they were virgins. (He was raised Catholic and probably feared the AIDS epidemic that was sweeping the country, Coquet pointed out.) In truth, “everybody was fucking everybody” surreptitiously, one ex-member says in the movie.

Buddhafielders told themselves lies about what was going on, and they fed lies to outsiders too. When the mob appeared in public together, they fibbed about their affiliations. At a movie theater, they would claim to be a “movie club.” While on hikes, they were an “ecological group.” They had T-shirts to prove it.

The rare times anyone conversed with strangers about their personal lives, Buddhafielders lied about where they resided, fearing potential exposure. “Society is not going to understand it, so just don’t even try,” Coquet said of the Buddhafield groupthink. 

Barring fleeting skepticism, no insiders questioned Michel’s rules. They’d found tranquility. “There was truth in all of it,” Coquet said. “There were lies and weird manipulations, but they were based on something we really believed in.”

And for a long time, no one would rather return to normal society, anyway.

“‘This [was] such a great way to live, to see life from this way,'” Allen said, describing their justification. 

When we think of cults, we picture murder and nutty religious practices. But in Buddhafield, positivity abounded, and they kept up with current events throughout. “There was a lot of humor in everything we did,” Allen recalled. “[Michel] was very funny, and we laughed and laughed and laughed a lot.” 

Everyone lived, cooked, did yoga, meditated and attended seminars (including acting and ballet lessons) together. Some worked together too. Allen, Coquet and Cheiffo said they were temporarily employed at an Indian restaurant whose clientele included Barbra Streisand, Ally Sheedy and Michael Jackson. A cultlike faction of Sikhs apparently hired the trio to pose on their behalf because “people in that cult were too spacey to be waiters.” They donned traditional Sikh turbans to appear authentic.

Members paid Michel $50 for weekly hypnotherapy sessions called “cleansings.” Coquet, in fact, was a licensed therapist himself. Michel hired him to give non-hypnotic counsel, while Michel oversaw the sessions oriented toward metaphysical growth. Working closely with Michel lent Coquet and Allen unprecedented access to their teacher.

For his finest act, Michel performed what he called “the knowing.” Promising the most intimate connection to God possible, only privileged disciples were granted “the knowing.” No one wanted to leave before they’d experienced it. Cheiffo, a self-described “punk-rocker” who was loyal for 27 years and received “the knowing” seven months after arriving, said some waited 18 years hoping they’d be selected. The documentary’s subjects liken “the knowing” to an LSD trip: colors swirl, trees sway and divinity presents itself. Today, Allen, Coquet and Cheiffo recognize the manipulativeness of the practice. Michel would employ an ancient Hindu technique, pressing his fingers to the recipients’ eyes in such a way that intense beams of light would form. Using the spiritual teachings they’d been fed, members fixed deep meanings to the experience, often calling it, at most, “God” or, at least, “intoxication.” If it was ineffective, Michel claimed that person wasn’t spiritually prepared to receive “the knowing.”

“When I was actually revealed ‘the knowing,’ I was screaming bloody murder,” Coquet said. “It was so painful to me, and everything in my being was saying, ‘Get out of this house. Leave now.’ And I did everything I could do to just stay there and stick with it. There were other times when it was just amazing. I would put my hands on my eyes and have there be a light show.”

The warning signs were always there, but the tribe’s bond both strengthened and splintered after the FBI raided a Texas cult led by David Koresh in 1993. The standoff ended in flames, killing 76 affiliates of the Branch Davidians sect. Michel panicked. He changed his name to Andreas, effectively creating a new character for himself. Fearing a similar fate, he relocated Buddhafield to Austin. Mutual support within the institution fortified, yet somewhere in that process, a shift occurred. For those who’d been around since the beginning, Andreas’   purpose went from imparting enlightenment to ensuring the group stayed afloat. He was convinced he was a Christlike figure, and history tells us that most Christlike figures are executed.

Members had to derive positivity among themselves. Many were at Andreas’ every beck and call. They got little sleep, yet they were expected to remain alert at all times. One guy made Andreas ornate fruit salads every morning — they were mostly thrown away, but he continued nonetheless. Allen, who lived with The Teacher for 18 of his 22 years in Buddhafield, was tantamount to a personal servant, reading to Andreas and tucking him in nightly, among other tasks. As if being worshiped weren’t enough (some members called him “my lord”), Andreas’ “Howard Hughes neurosis” — Allen’s words — was satisfied at all hours. 

Because his role as therapist provided unique access to the mysterious leader, Coquet learned things few did. According to Coquet, Andreas claimed a “persecution complex” as a result of being molested as a young boy. Members later learned that, despite his sex regulations, Andreas was manipulating male Buddhafielders into sleeping with him. Advised never to say no to their teacher, disciples — gay and straight — would receive spiritual awakenings during “cleansings” and then convince themselves to give their bodies to Andreas. They were effectively being raped, but it carried the guise of consent. 

No one talked about it. “You’re just a sack of meat to this person,” one man says in the movie. “That’s when I began to hate him.”

Through it all, no one outright confronted Andreas — at least not to Allen, Coquet and Cheiffo’s knowledge. When someone was tempted to raise concerns, another member would encourage them to return to their spiritual center. Those who actually left were forced to “disconnect” from the group, just like in Scientology. (Buddhafielders were sometimes ordered to maintain ostensible friendships with these people to keep tabs on them, should anyone choose to contact the authorities.) But in 2006, a nostalgic apostate returned to Buddhafield after a decade. Unlike some of the current insiders, he was able to spot the change in Michel/Andreas’ spirit. He wasn’t a teacher anymore — he was a master, and a fussy one at that. 

Then the returnee heard from his friends that Andreas was a sexual predator. This “character,” as Allen described him, barged into his wife’s cleansing session — a strict no-no — and accused Andreas of hurting his disciples. Andreas denied it and later blamed Cheiffo for not being there to “protect” him. But the damage was done: Before leaving again, the former member wrote an email to the group outlining all of the abuse allegations. More victims came forward. A steady implosion set in.

A few Buddhafielders had already planted seeds toward exiting. Allen, for example, who’d been a kept man, got a job in 2003 so he could save money in case he decided to leave. Most were facing an uphill battle if they chose to reboot their lives, so they didn’t jump ship immediately upon learning of Andreas’ wrongdoings. Even some who had suffered his advances didn’t quit right away. In fact, some victims refuted the allegations altogether, still hoping to protect The Teacher. Instead, Buddhafield saw a gradual wave of departures as people accepted that they belonged to a cult. Andreas left for Hawaii, starting a new clan. Certain loyalists followed him, and he rounded out his numbers with locals who are devoted to him today. Now charging $100 a pop for therapy sessions, Andreas still has all his financial and personal needs secured. “Holy Hell” shows Allen and other ex-Buddhafielders confronting him on a Hawaiian beach. 

“He used to say, ‘In the world, but not of it,'” Cheiffo recalled. “Now, when this thing was over, we were not in the world. My God, it’s been so hard to get back into life. I feel like I was in a frickin’ convent — or jail, really.”

With few marketable skills, minimal income and intense intimacy issues, displaced Buddhafielders have had to piece their lives together. Legal recourse is not easy, so Allen hopes “Holy Hell” will draw attention to the darker side of Andreas’ actions — if he can get the movie distributed in Hawaii. But Allen, Coquet and Cheiffo say people they introduced to the group are still following Andreas, which means attacking from the inside would be like harming their own family. Andreas covered enough of his tracks to eliminate a potential criminal case. That’s why he called his therapy sessions “cleansings” and ensured his sexual encounters had a semblance of consent. They could bring civil cases for harassment or duress, but is it worth the effort and money?

Allen, Coquet and Cheiffo were in their 50s when they were forced to hit that bitter “reboot” button. They felt like “gypsy” 20-somethings. They were building careers, exploring relationships and learning how to be self-sufficient adults — things that enlightenment alone cannot accomplish. The struggle was roughest for Cheiffo, whose partner left her when she quit Buddhafield. Her dear friend of 17 years, who is still one of Andreas’ pupils, will no longer speak to her. 

“Later, we had to use humor to heal this whole thing,” Allen said of their 10 years outside of the cult. “We said, ‘We were laughing then — why aren’t we laughing now? Let’s get through this one step at a time, one day at a time.’ There was a lot of crying, a lot of tears and frustration and confusion, but eventually, after that, you have to laugh. You have to. Otherwise, what? You’re going to be a victim your whole life? You’re always going to suffer. It is funny to step back and laugh at yourself and not take yourself so seriously because that’s a problem

CULT WARNINGS AFTER WATCHING “HOLY HELL” DOCUMENTARY

Imagine spending over twenty-two years of your life believing you are one of the select few who knows the secrets of the universe– only to discover the world that you live in is really a brainwashing cult. This is the story behind Holy Hell. Will Allen, the filmmaker who made this documentary from 20 years of recording cult activities, woke up and decided to expose his former guru.

Unfortunately for this story, the Buddhafield cult still operates. Relocated to Hawaii, Gomez continues to manipulate new and old followers under his new moniker Reyji (God-King). Though he reportedly often travels in disguise it appears his influence has reached many in the area who are involved in yoga and other new age pursuits. This documentary seeks to provide not only closure for those who helped make it, but also serves as a warning for those who may be exposed to the group.

After watching, I was very disturbed at the ending as it did not seem to me that the former members had done their recovery “homework” by making the effort to really learn about unethical hypnosis and mind control. I was left to wonder if ex-members are still allowing cult-programmed phobias against cult experts to keep them from getting the help they might need to truly heal from the years of mind control abuse.

I encourage anyone interested in how cults work to watch this documentary.

Tim Alderman 2019.

References

Stifled Words: How Social Media is Creating Self-Censorship!

“People don’t often say what they think but rather what they think is permissible.”

― Michael Rectenwald, Springtime for Snowflakes: Social Justice and Its Postmodern Parentage

“In general, opinions contrary to those commonly received can only obtain a hearing by studied moderation of language, and the most cautious avoidance of unnecessary offence, from which they hardly ever deviate even in a slight degree without losing ground: while unmeasured vituperation employed on the side of the prevailing opinion, really does deter people from professing contrary opinions, and from listening to those who profess them.”

― John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

There was a time, not that far a distance past, where we thought social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Smartchat et el were the way of the future, a form of media that would give us all a voice, allow us an opinion on myriad subjects, give us new, fertile ground for debate. Somewhere along the line, that freedom became twisted into silence!

It started simply enough, with memes seeming to do endless loops…for years! Then we had the video clips, often displaying graphic acts of deplorable violence, which also did the rounds regularly, though, oh course, often to a new audience who displayed their abject horror, and commented so, until being told “oh…that old chestnut again! Been doing the rounds for yonks!”. Then, of course, there was all the shit that was just made up, to elicit a response. It was about this time that many of us started to evaluate just how valid and pertinent this new media was. Many users canned the apps at that stage, though a good many more, like me, dithered to leave, due to the amount of contact we had with friends on social media. With the tyranny of distance, it was often the sole point of contact we had.

As a writer, I love the medium for the opportunity it gives me to have an individual voice, to share an opinion, to be, if I choose, controversial, to go against the grain, or step outside the square. My opinions lean left, and no apology is made for that. I believe in social justice, a fair judging for all (provided no harm is perpetrated on others), equality, the separation of church and state (I’m a professed Atheist, but with a tendency towards Buddhism), a fair deal for all through good government, unbiased charities, and the inherent good nature of the majority of people. However, social media is slowly silencing many of my beliefs, forcing me to hold back when I encounter unfairness, prejudice, and hate-speech. It’s turning me into someone I don’t like!

The rot started to set in a few years back! In the first instance, I reposted a meme. The meme held a very pertinent message – lost on me, this far down the line – and had something to do with American Indians, and had the face of one on it. Within minutes, a vehement, aggressive comment was received back from someone on my friends list, stating that it had nothing to do with Indians, that I was being racist, and demanded that I remove it immediately! I remember exactly how I felt when I read the tirade – shocked at the aggression, embarrassed (to the point where I blushed, despite being on my own), belittled, yet furious that someone would dare accuse me of being a racist! But, I was so taken aback by surprise that I made the wrong decision! Instead of replying “No, I won’t”, and sticking to my guns…I deleted it! I remember only too well how angry I felt with myself for days after that, that I’d allowed myself to be bullied by someone I knew. If by standing up for myself they unfriended me, would ai miss them? The trueful answer was…no! And let’s face it – ANY face that wasn’t white would have exhibited that response from THAT person, because they like to be seen as non-judgemental as far as other races go. The hypocrisy is lost on them! As for me? Well, let’s just say…don’t test me!

In the second instance, I liked a Facebook page called Barebackers. My personal opinion on barebacking is that, as two mature, consenting adults, we have every right to make any decisions pertaining to having sex together, ourselves. This particular page never sent out offensive posts, nor did they promote the use of barebacking in posts, though they did send out some quite amusing gay memes. I quite regularly reposted their memes, without any judgement at all…until one point in time! There always has to be one! This particular “friend”…who I didn’t know personally, but was only friended because we had both gone to “Mandate” in Melbourne in the 80s, and had similar memories…took personal offence to the fact that I received posts from a Barebacking page. Not only did he take offence, he reported the page to Facebook, then had the hide to inform me of that fact, along with a tirade about his displeasure. I knew this person had issues from other posts he made, but this was going to far! Not only had he reported a page purely because of its name, despite the inoffensive posts, but was, in effect, dictating to me what I could – or could not – look at, or practise! I wasn’t silent this time! Not only a long, angry comment on him minding his own business, and not inflicting his personal beliefs on others…but I immediately unfriendly him! Goodbye, and good riddance! Facebook did – rightly – absolutely nothing about the page! He has sent me friends requests in the intervening years, but to no avail. Such a betrayal of friendship is unforgivable.

In the third instance, I was walking my dogs one morning in Glebe, and noticed some cottages in one of the local streets that had a frontage no wider than 6-8 feet, with these tiny old houses from another era on them. When I got home, I made an innocuous post about my observation, that the frontages and houses were so narrow that they had to be claustrophobic to live in. That was it! An observation! An abusive comment came back…this time from someone I knew…regarding how first world my opinion was, that there were people in the world who would be more than happy to live in such places etc etc. Again, a reply went back that I had not been making a social statement about the houses, but purely an opinion about them based on what I saw. He unfriendly me this time. Truthfully, I laughed this one off – as did others – as he had a reputation for being self-opinionated, and commenting just to provoke argument! But a point was made…we were not supposed to comment negatively on anything, or comment contrary to commonly held opinions, or be, in any way, an individual with an opinion. The realisation that social media was not a fair-minded or democratic place to be came into being. It changed how I dealt with things, with what I commented on, with how I interacted with people, even those I knew!

Many people take social media way too seriously, and many…too many…post more than they should! It shouldn’t be a medium to discuss personal arguments, obscure comments with no referencing point, and anything about yourself that is a little too personal. Another person on my friends list,- who was there for no other reason that he was friends with others I knew – made a rather heart-wrenching post about himself, perhaps exposing more vulnerability than is healthy! There are times where you should just seek medical help, not rely on social media to diagnose mental or physical problems! Anyway, I was quite touched by his vulnerability, “Liked” the post to acknowledge that I’d read it, then commented sympathetically, and non-judgementally. *Ding* goes Facebook Messenger minutes later. A message from said person! “Gee, thanks for liking my current situation, you fucking arsehole. I hope you have a life of fucking misery. You deserve it. You shallow arsehole”. I was incredulous. I tried a calming response “That’s a bit unfair. A like is a recognition of having read something. I actually empathise with you, and have commented likewise. I’m sorry that you took an actual acknowledgement as an insult!”. I waited…and waited. No response! I was getting a bit cranky by now that he had been so rude, so fired off another response “It seems it was a bit much to expect an apology for an abusive message…to someone you don’t even know! I’ll save you the trouble of doing the obvious”. He then came back with “I’m not apologising. You took pleasure in my suffering”. By now, all empathy and niceness had gone out the window “You’re obviously a self indulgent brat! Goodbye”, and I hit *Block* before he could respond. You just can’t win with some people. Perhaps not surprisingly, I don’t respond to these sorts of posts anymore, no matter how I feel.

So I started – and still do – self-censoring. My posts are pretty bland, and uncontroversial. I often find myself about to comment on a post, then deciding…no! It will only cause an argument! Or worse still…*name* will see the comment, and take it personally! Or *name* will see the comment, and take it the wrong way! So I delete what I was starting to type. It seems as though if I can’t be 100% positive and light-hearted…I just don’t comment! It has also made me realise that I am often way too liberal in maintaining friendships on social media. Some terrible things float through my Facebook feed these days, by people I’ve known for a long time., and who have the ability to shock me with their posts. Prejudice, misogyny, intolerance! There are times when I’m stunned by just how blatant people are on social media…and feel no shame! I don’t “get” how people from a community that is prejudiced against by so many, for so long, can, in turn, be prejudiced against others! It makes no sense.

Like many, it’s not about making a comment, or instigating debate! It’s that fair debate doesn’t happen anymore. We all maintain individual friends lists, and quite often there is no cross-over with friends. So you will comment on a friends post…perhaps not agreeing with their opinion…and the next thing you know, someone who you don’t even know is aggressively throwing in their two cents worth. If you then reply to them, it just gets more aggressive, and you end up just letting it lie because it’s getting out-of-hand!. The other annoying thing is people who take comments off in totally different directions to what the post is about! FFS…stick to the point!

So is social media stifling our individual opinions, causing us to self-censor, to reel in our own opinions even if they are contradictory? Yes, it is! We are even careful about how we use humour now, as it is often taken out of context! Social media has brought out our blandness, forcing us into an unreal world of niceness, and never ending positivity. It has made children out of adults. It is, like the daily news, dumbing us down!

As an intelligent, reasoning adult, I keep telling myself to just quit it. I stopped using Twitter because it is just a nasty bitchfest. I’m moving myself more to Instagram these days, as with a world-wide audience of followers, it tends to not be so judgemental and negative. As stated earlier, I’m loathe to quit Facebook due to my friends there, but having said that, those who actually like or comment on my posts is minimal in number, so maybe I need to reassess my priorities. Maybe I just need to be brutal. Maybe the qualifying question that needs to be asked is…

Are you suffocating my voice!

Tim Alderman ©️2018.

Gay History: Ronnie Kray – “The Queen Mother”.

When Ronnie Kray fancied you, you made yourself scarce says veteran entertainer Jess Conrad – Mirror Online

It is pretty hard not to have heard of the Katy twins, Reggie and Ronnie, especially after the film “Legend”. The two London gangsters robbed, bashed and murdered their way through the London underworld in the 60s, and owned and ran a string of nightclubs and protection rackets.

As boys in 1940s England, Ronald and Reginald Kray were wartime evacuees. They called Bethnal Green home, had a dog named Freda, an older brother named Charlie, and a sister who died as a baby.

No strangers to malfeasance, the two got started early, racking up a lengthy rap sheet before they could even order a pint. Violence, gang activity, and running from the law were all just after-school activities for the twins. They even knocked a police constable around and were briefly imprisoned in the Tower of London—two of the last inmates to be locked up in the infamous facility.

In the early 1950s, the Kray twins displayed a talent for boxing as young men. Reggie was a particularly potent force in the ring. Yet a life of crime kept calling them back. So a life of crime it was.

Glamorous as they were, trouble loomed in the shadows. Ronnie was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic in 1959, a disorder that came to haunt him in the coming years. After helping a criminal associate named Frank “The Mad Axeman” Mitchell escape prison in December 1966, the brothers struggled to keep their newly freed friend under control and allegedly had him killed. Ronnie had a thing for orgies mixed with politics and carried on an affair with Tory peer Lord Boothby. And while Ronnie was known as “The Queen Mother” in London’s gay underworld, they both had alleged bisexual tendencies. Reggie married a woman named Frances Shea in 1965, though the tumultuous relationship allegedly involved Reggie’s attempted rape of his wife’s brother.

It is rumoured that both brothers had gay sex encounters, though Reggie has been labelled more as a bisexual than a gay male. In a Mirror (UK) article dated 31 August, 2015, Deputy Features Editor, Steve Myall, headlined an article claiming that the brothers had had secret gay sex with each other. The eye-opening revelation was made by author John Pearson, who interviewed them both. “Ronnie and Reggie Kray had a secret incestuous relationship with each other (as they were growing up) so criminal rivals would not discover they were gay”, he claimed. The cruel and violent East End pair were terrified of coming out (as gay). He further revealed “They were worried that rivals would see their sexuality – Ronnie was a homosexual and Reggie was bisexual – as a sign of weakness so only had sex with each other in order to keep the secret”.

It has long been known that Ronnie was a homosexual and Reggie was bisexual but the news they had a sexual relationship with each other gives a telling insight into their close connection. John said the pair were spoilt by their mother Violet, Grandma Lee and their two aunties, May and Rose, while their father was soon dominated by the increasingly violent brothers.

Smart: Twin brothers and organised crime bosses Ronnie and Reggie Kray (Image: Getty)

He says while he knew about the the incest he waited until the brothers were both dead before revealing it for fear of retribution. John wrote: “All of which conformed, of course, to a classic pattern; and with their warm, indulgent mother, their ineffectual father, and their surrounding cast of loving women, it was not surprising that, with adolescence, the Twins discovered that they were gay“. The brothers ran a notorious criminal network in the 1960s building up an empire of nightclubs though hijacking, armed robbery and arson. As they moved from the East End to the West End they became big names, rubbing shoulders with Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland and being photographed by David Bailey.

Brotherly love: Amateur boxers Reggie (left) and Ronnie Kray with their mother Violet Kray (Image: Getty)

But onto Ronnie.

Veteran entertainer Jess Conrad was a young man in London and in awe of the Kray twins and recalls the fear they instilled, the protection they offered to stars like Barbara Windsor and Diana Dors and a very strange gig in Broadmoor Prison.

Ronnie Kray was a predatory homosexual who terrified young men in Soho in the 1960s so much they hid when they knew he was coming. According to legendary singer and actor Jess Conrad, who knew the Kray twins well, good looking young men used to vanish for fear of catching Ronnie’s eye and being invited back to “a party”. He said: “You had to keep your wits about you if you were a young man and Ronnie really fancied you. Word used to go out that the Krays were on their way to a certain pub and all the good looking boys used to piss off. Because otherwise if he asked you to go back to the house you had to go back and that was it“.

It’s always been known Ronnie Kray was gay with a fondness for violence but Jess’ recollection is one of the few accounts of how he exerted power for sexual ends. Jess said many men, including himself, were in awe of the gangsters and the way they dressed and carried themselves and were attracted to them.

Sharp dressers: Ronnie and Reggie Kray in their heyday (Image: Mirrorpix)

In an interview with author John Pearson, Ronnie indicated he identified with the 19th century soldier Gordon of Khartoum (Lawrence of Arabia): “Gordon was like me, homosexual, and he met his death like a man. When it’s time for me to go, I hope I do the same.” A British television documentary, The Gangster and the Pervert Peer (2009), showed that Ronnie Kray was a rapist of men. The programme also detailed his relationship with Conservative peer Bob Boothby as well as an ongoing Daily Mirror investigation into Lord Boothby’s dealings with the Kray brothers.

Ronnie Kray shocked his older brother Charlie by admitting his homosexuality and goaded his twin brother Reg into experimenting with gay sex, a new (2001) biography reveals.

Laurie O’Leary, author of A Man Among Men and a childhood friend of the Krays, says Ronnie summoned him to Broadmoor Hospital eight weeks before he died. Kray asked him to write the ‘warts-and-all’ story of his life. ‘Don’t make me into a nice person,’ he told O’Leary. ‘Just say I was nice with nice people, but a bastard with bastards.’

The biography, containing previously unpublished photographs and poems by the twins, describes how Ronnie had considered bringing an Arab boy back to London after falling in love with him while on holiday, and how he refused to hide his sexual preferences from the law or his fellow gangsters.

O’Leary, who grew up next door to the Kray brothers, was a pallbearer at Reggie Kray’s funeral on 11 October last year. ‘Ron discussed his homosexuality with only a very few people, but put simply it was a part of his nature he discovered, explored and enjoyed,’ O’Leary said. ‘He was at ease with it. It did not seem to conflict with his “tough guy” image or cause him any problems on any level.’

Ronnie Kray first admitted to O’Leary he was gay in his mid-teens, after falling in love with a younger boy called Willy. But when O’Leary told Willy, who ran an unofficial school for card sharps, of Kray’s attachment, he reacted badly.

‘He was terrified and said he would never dare go round to Ron’s house again unless I was there too,’ O’Leary said. ‘But I refused: Ron would have assumed [Willy and I] were having an affair.

‘I could easily understand Willy’s feelings, though_ [Ron] could be frightening.’

The members of the twins’ gang, known as the Firm, were overwhelmingly tolerant of Kray’s homosexuality. ‘Even if they objected, Ron just smiled at them and told them they didn’t know what they were missing,’ O’Leary said.

Kray’s mother, Violet, was comfortable with her son’s homosexuality, but his father and older brother, both called Charlie, were horrified.

‘Ron’s father thought it was degrading and disgusting, and his older brother was totally flabbergasted,’ O’Leary said. ‘But Ronnie told him that he had been like it for years and that not only could nobody change him but that he wouldn’t let them try. He said his brother Charlie just had to accept him as he was.’

Ronnie further shocked Charlie by telling him that Reggie was a bisexual. When Charlie confronted Reggie, according to O’Leary, the twin confirmed the claim, adding: ‘Don’t you think that boys are nice, Charlie? I think I could fancy a few myself.’

Despite this acknowledgment, Reggie habitually denied he was a bisexual. ‘I would say that Reg fought the fact he could also be bisexual more than Ron, but I knew of his affection for quite a few young male teenagers with whom he kept company,’ said O’Leary.

‘Ron would goad Reg when he went out with women and tried to influence Reg with his own appetite for young men.’

Although Ronnie Kray did have a number of regular sexual partners and strong friendships with other homosexual men – including Lord Boothby, for whom he obtained youths – O’Leary says he had a particular penchant for dark, clean-cut, boys with very white teeth.

During the Sixties, Ronnie fell in love with a young Arab boy on one of his many trips to Tangier in North Africa. ‘Ronnie showed me a photo,’ O’Leary said.

‘He told me that the boy loved him and showed me a letter the boy had written. It was a real love letter that said how much the boy wanted to come to England and live with Ronnie.’

Although Kray lost interest in the Arab boy, O’Leary says Ronnie was often very possessive of his boyfriends. ‘When he was sentenced, he still had many boyfriends and would do anything he could to make them happy,’ he said.

But perhaps Ronnie’s greatest claim to notoriety was his headline grabbing involvement with Tory peer, Lord Boothby.

According to BBC News, 23 October, 2015 “An association between Conservative peer Robert Boothby and London gangster Ronnie Kray was the subject of an MI5 investigation, documents have revealed. The men went to “homosexual parties” together and were “hunters” of young men, declassified MI5 files claim.

Allegations in 1964 about the pair’s relationship caused such concern within Downing Street that the then head of MI5 was summoned to the Home Office.

The government feared a scandal greater than the so-called Profumo Affair.

Rumours that notorious gangster Kray and Lord Boothby – a popular TV presenter and former MP for East Aberdeenshire – were having an affair were published in 1964.

The Sunday Mirror – which did not name the pair – claimed to have a photo of Kray and Boothby together with the bisexual peer’s chauffeur and lover, Leslie Holt.

The men were later identified in a German magazine.

Lord Boothby publicly denied having a homosexual or any other close relationship with Kray.

At the time, he said the photograph showed them discussing “business matters”, dismissing rumours about his personal life as a “tissue of atrocious lies”.

The Sunday Mirror ended up paying £40,000 in damages to Boothby.

But the papers – released as part of 400 declassified files by the Security Service (MI5), Foreign Office and Cabinet Office – reveal new information about their association.

They show how home secretary Henry Brooke was so concerned about the matter he summoned the head of MI5, Sir Roger Hollis, to ask what the security services knew.

Brooke feared the allegations might erupt into a scandal to rival the Profumo affair, which helped to bring down the Conservative government of Harold Macmillan.

Sir Roger told the home secretary how MI5 had received reports that Lord Boothby was bisexual and had contacts with the Krays.

But, since he had no access to official secrets, MI5 concluded that Boothby’s private life was of no concern, the papers reveal.

According to an MI5 source, Lord Boothby was in a relationship with Holt – his chauffer and ex-boxer who also went by the name Johnny Kidd.

Holt told the source how Lord Boothby and Kray had “been to a couple of (homosexual) parties together”.

The report suggested the Sunday Mirror was tipped off about the “affair” between Lord Boothby and Kray by the rival Nash gang.

The MI5 report said: “Certainly the suggestion that Boothby has been having an affair with the gangster Kray is hardly true.”

Dr Richard Dunley, records specialist at the National Archives, said the story was “one of the greatest scandals that never was”.

“If this had come out in 1964 it would have been a huge scandal,” he said.

Dr Dunley said the files do not mention well-known claims that Lord Boothby had a long-term relationship with former prime minister Harold Macmillian’s wife.

“As tabloid headlines go, you can imagine what would have happened,” he said.

“The Mirror did effectively get hold of the story but couldn’t publish it, they got sued for libel.”

Lord Boothby, left, with Ronnie Kray, centre, and Leslie Holt, the former’s chauffeur and lover ( )

Footnote:

9 Interesting facts about the Kay brothers.

1) In 1952 after refusing to do National Service the twins were jailed and became among the last prisoners held at the Tower of London, before being transferred to Shepton Mallet military prison in Somerset for a month, to await court-martial.

2) In 1960 the notorious slum landlord Peter Rachman gave Reggie a nightclub called Esmeralda’s Barn in Wilton Place where the Berkeley Hotel now stands.

3) In 1964 the Sunday Mirror reported Scotland Yard was investigating a homosexual relationship between an unnamed peer and a major figure in the criminal underworld – Ronnie and Conservative MP Robert Boothby. Despite the pair not being named Boothby chose to go public with a letter to The Times in which he denied being gay and stated that he had only ever met Kray three times, always to discuss business matters and always in the company of other people. Facing the threat of a libel defeat, the Sunday Mirror issued an apology to the peer and paid out £40,000, equivalent to £500,000 today while newspaper’s editor, Reg Payne, lost his job over the affair.

4) In 2000 when Reggie died those sending wreaths included Barbara Windsor, Who singer Roger Daltry and pop star Morrissey. There was also a wreath believed to be from the American Mafia – next to a photo of Manhattan was the message: “In deep respect, from your friends in New York.”

5) Jack “the Hat” McVitie, was a minor member of the Kray gang who had failed to fulfil a £1,500 contract paid to him in advance to kill a rival. As punishment McVitie was lured to a basement flat in Stoke Newington, on the pretence of a party. As he entered, Reggie Kray pointed a handgun at his head and pulled the trigger twice, but the gun failed to discharge. Instead Ronnie held McVitie in a bearhug and Reggie stabbed him to death with a carving knife – at one stage his liver came out and had to be flushed down the toilet.

6) In 1985, officials at Broadmoor Hospital discovered a business card of Ronnie’s, which prompted an investigation.It revealed the twins – incarcerated at separate institutions – plus their older brother Charlie Kray and an accomplice were operating a “lucrative bodyguard and ‘protection’ business for Hollywood stars” called Krayleigh Enterprises. Documentation of the investigation showed that Frank Sinatra hired 18 bodyguards from Krayleigh Enterprises during 1985.

7) In prison Reggie claimed to have become a born-again Christian while Ronnie got married in Broadmoor to a twice-divorced former topless kissogram girl.

8) Patsy Kensit’s dad James ‘Jimmy The Dip’ Kensit was not only a member of the notorious Richardson gang – who made most of their money from fraud and earned a terrifying reputation as ruthless torturers who nailed their victims to the floor – but was also a close friend of their rivals, Reggie and Ronnie Kray.

9) Artist Lucian Freud ran up half a million pounds in gambling debts with the Krays. The late artist confessed he once cancelled an exhibition out of fear they would demand more money if they saw he was earning.

Splash: Daily Mirror announces the pair GUILTY OF MURDER (Image: Daily Mirror)

References

  1. “Gangster twins Ronnie and Reggie Kray ‘had secret gay sex with EACH OTHER” Mirror.co.uk 31 August 2015 by Steve Myall. https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/real-life-stories/gangster-twins-ronnie-reggie-kray-6354591
  1. When Ronnie Kray fancied you, you made yourself scarce says veteran entertainer Jess Conrad, Mirror.co.uk. By John Myall 3 Sept 2015. https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/ronnie-kray-fancied-you-you-6376849
  2. Krause Twins: The killer truth behind the killer legends. Huffington Post, 6th December 2016, by DeAnna James. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/the-lineup/kray-twins-the-killer-tru_b_8631552.html
  3. Katy’s death bed secrets revealed. The Guardian (UK). 25th March 2001, by Amelia Hill. https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2001/mar/25/ameliahill.theobserver
  4. BBC News, 23 October, 2015. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-34612729
  5. 9 things you never knew about the notorious Kray twins. Mirror.co.uk. 31 August 2015, by Steve Myall. https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/9-things-you-never-knew-6357210

Gay History: Rev. Fred Niles ‘Cleansing March”, October 2, 1989. A Spectacular FAIL!

On this day in 1989, I was running the “Expectations” store, opposite the Oxford Hotel, in Oxford Street. It was almost like the entire gay community, and its supporters, had been waiting for this day. There was a palpable feeling of excitement – almost Mardi Gras-like – mixed with a strong undercurrent of rebellion on the strip. Watching from the 2nd floor window of my store, you could see people starting to line the footpaths early. By the time Nile’s parade participants started their march down the other end of Oxford Street, the paths were packed, and you could follow the progress of the parade from the roar of the crowd! Only for this parade, the roar was not of encouragement, or light-hearted joy, but of hate and vitriol! The communities hatred of Nile, and his constant gay-bashing was being fully voiced. As it passed by our section of the street, I notices a car load of Islanders, roped in by Nile to add bodies to his parade numbers. I don’t know what he had told them, or what they expected,but the looked cowered and terrified! As much as I didn’t feel sorry for Nile, or his cross-on-wheels, I did feel sorry for them. It would have been a very frightening situation from their perspective. Nile got everything he deserved – and then some. As far as the gay community was concerned, the parade was a great success – but not for Nile, or his supporters. He would have gone home with his tail tucked very firmly between his legs.

1989. Politics: Evangelist attempts ‘Cleansing March’ on Sydney’s queer heartland

Queer protestors prepare to give Fred Nile and his followers a rousing reception on Oxford Street. Photograph: Terrence Bell, courtesy of Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives

Australia’s ‘Reverend’ Fred Nile has built a career out of homophobic opportunism. He is the man to whom the media could turn whenever they needed a ‘controversial’ sound-byte on topics such as decriminalisation, HIV/AIDS and anti-discrimination.

For several years he topped up his profile with his annual stunt of a prayer meeting by the route of Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade. As tens of thousands gathered to celebrate Mardi Gras, Nile and his small band of followers portrayed themselves as brave martyrs standing against a sea of depravity. And on those rare occasions when it rained on the night of the Parade, Nile would claim it was all the result of his prayers – conveniently ignoring the fact that Mardi Gras was held in the middle of Sydney’s rainy season.

By 1989, however, even Nile must have begun to realise that his prayer meeting was being ignored – by God and, more importantly, the media. And so it came to pass that he announced that he would lead a “Cleansing March of Witness for Jesus” up Oxford Street – Sydney’s gay ‘golden mile’ – on October 2nd. The march would end with a “Pro-decency ‘Solemn Assembly of Repentance and Intercession’”.

Never one for under-statement, Nile claimed there would be 100,000 Christians on the march. It’s most unlikely that even he believed he would attract that level of support, but it always makes good Press to come up with such numbers. But whilst he was clearly pre-occupied with boosting the numbers of his likely supporters, he obviously failed to consider the size of the opposition.

This was the first demonstration that I had attended since my arrival in Sydney the previous year and is was quite an eye-opener. It was obvious from the outset that Sydney’s queer community was extremely well-organised and that, in itself, signalled that Nile had bitten off far more than he could chew.

The Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, Sydney Gay Solidarity Group and the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras were three of the key organisations involved in the counter-demonstration. As we assembled in Green Park, just off Oxford Street, we were all given a cardboard mask with a caricature of Nile’s face on it. The plan, we were told, was to greet Nile and his followers, with thousands of Niles staring right back at them!

But there was more to the masks than mere caricature. They came in a number of different colours and the reason for this soon became obvious. Protestors were despatched to different areas of Oxford Street based on the colour of their masks. This ensured that there was an even spread of people along the route of the Cleansing March.

A couple of protestors in Fred Nile masks. Photograph courtesy of Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives. http://www.alga.org.au

It wasn’t long before we were all in position to greet Nile and his followers. Apparently they were all in high spirits for the first section of the march. Led by a young bearded man carrying a cross (with wheels, unlike the original) they seemed happy and confident – until they turned the corner into Oxford Street. The 1500 or so ‘Christians’ that Nile had managed to muster came face-to-face with 5,000+  vocal, angry queers. More accurately, they came-face-to-face with thousands of Fred Nile faces.

To most people, the fact that they were out-numbered four-to-one by members of the local community would be a clear sign that they weren’t welcome and that they should go back to their own neighbourhoods. But evangelical Christians like nothing more than playing the martyr and so they persisted on their inflammatory course, carrying placards with ‘Christian’ messages like “What’s so gay about AIDS?”

Counter-demonstrators responded with messages like “Repent, Relent, Re-decorate!” and chants of “Two, four, six eight. Are you sure your priest is straight?” The Christians processed dismally up Oxford Street, the queers turned their protest into a party.

At the site of the planned ‘Repentance and Intercession’, Fred Nile was drowned out by boos and chants from the protestors. Then Jamie Dunbar, a photographer from the local gay newspaper, leapt to the microphone and chanted “Go to Hell Fred. Gay love is best!”. He chanted repeatedly until he was removed by Christian heavies.

It was clear to everyone that Nile’s stunt had seriously backfired. Even the media opined that his march had been a deliberate and unnecessary provocation. Yet Nile continued to dig a hole for himself. When interviewed on one news programme he complained that counter-demonstrators had used portable toilets that had been installed for his supporters. In consequence his supporters had been unable to use them because of the risk of AIDS. His interviewer could barely believe her ears and left her audience in no doubt as to what an ignorant and bigoted remark this was. Nile never went near Oxford Street again.

Gay History: A Contradiction in Terms; Nicky Crane, and Kevin Wilshaw- Gay Neo-Nazi’s. Part 2.

KEVIN WILSHAW

I’ve had threats from people on the far left who think I’m insincere but especially people on the far right who think I’m a traitor,

A white supremacist active as recently as the start of this year says today he is publicly renouncing 40 years of hate. Speaking on Channel 4 News he comes out as gay for the first time – and admits to a violent past.

Much of Kevin Wilshaw’s life has been defined by a belief in white supremacy.

He said he had hurt people, “but not unprovoked, in defence. In a by-election in Leeds I smashed a chair over someone’s head.”

But he denied ever having approached minorities and assaulted them.

“I’d never do that, but I have seen incidents where people were singled out because they were black by a group of people. It turned my stomach, I rejected that, I pushed it to the back of my mind.”

He joined the BNP after being part of the National Front and flirted with dangerous fringe groups like the Racial Volunteer Force.

Mr Wilshaw says he remembers meeting David Copeland – the Brixton and Soho nail bomber. More recently he took to social media – and until the start of year was still speaking at rallies (2017).

In his interview with Britain’s Channel 4 news, Wilshaw showed a few of the decorative items in his apartment, including a Nazi flag and a bronze bust of Adolf Hitler.

When the interviewer asked Wilshaw “at what point did — well, Nazism — start to be attractive to you?” Wilshaw thought for a moment, then said “I must’ve been about 11 years old…. my father was very right-wing, and I think I took it a bit further than him.”

Wilshaw did not discuss specific dates or timelines, but according to HOPE Not Hate, a British non-profit that “campaigns to counter racism and fascism,” WIlshaw had belonged to the far right “since 1974 and even a little before.”

He admitted he hadn’t had many friends at school, and thought joining far-right groups would bring him a sense of “comradeship.” By age 18, he’d joined Britain’s far-right National Front party, and was a party organizer by age 20. He was particularly notorious (or just well-known) in Britain during the 1980s. Wilshaw’s original membership card, made out in the name of John Kevin Wilshaw, calls for “Racial preservation” and adds “Coloured Immigrants and their descendants must be returned to their lads of ethnic origin.”

Over the past 44 years, between the ages of 14 and 58, he has worked with UK far-right extremist groups peddling Neo-Nazi ideology.

His actions ranged from mundane “leafletting” to “occasionally getting involved in political violence”.

But now he claims to have put his days as a Mein Kampf-reading racist behind him to address the contradictions that have plagued him in private.

Mr Wilshaw is not only gay, but has Jewish blood through his mother.

Despite Wilshaw’s father’s “very right wing” tendencies, he married a partly Jewish woman, Kevin’s mother. “Her maiden name was Benjamin,” Wilshaw said. “We do have Jewish blood in the family on that side.”

Under Jewish law, a child is considered Jewish if his mother was. Yet Wilshaw’s own background clearly did not prevent him from joining a political group dedicated in part to the notion that this very background made him an inherent threat. This might be largely due to the fact that Wilshaw’s physical appearance has nothing in common with anti-Semitic caricatures regarding what Jews “look like.” (His mother died in 2015.)

HOPE Not Hate reports that other aspects of Wilshaw’s family life were at odds with far-right doctrines: despite the official Islamophobia of British far-right parties (he was once arrested for vandalizing a mosque in Aylesbury), he has a close relationship with his sister, who married a Muslim man and converted to Islam in 1970, and is also close to her Muslim children.

On an application form to join the National Front, he wrote about his hatred of “the Jews”.

“That term ‘the Jews’ is the global faceless mass of people you can’t personalise it, not individuals. That’s the generalisation that leads to 6 million people being deliberately murdered.

“I tended to compartmentalise things,” he said.

“I put my political life in one section and my normal life in the other.”

Mr Wilshaw was recently arrested on online abuse charges — the second time he has been arrested.

He said he quit the movement for good after being attacked for his sexuality.

“On one or two occasions in the recent past I’ve actually been the recipient of the very hatred of the people I want to belong to … if you’re gay it is acceptable in society but with these group of people it’s not acceptable, and I found on one or two occasions when I was suspected of being gay I was subjected to abuse.”

Mr Wilshaw admits that being a Nazi who is gay – but with a Jewish background – is a contradiction.

“It’s a terribly selfish thing to say but it’s true, I saw people being abused, shouted at, spat at in the street – it’s not until it’s directed at you that you suddenly realise that what you’re doing is wrong.”

“You have other members leading National Front who are overtly gay. And nobody could see the contradiction of it that you have an overtly gay person leading a homophobic organisation, makes no sense.”

“Then you have someone like Nicky Crane, one of the hardest people who would be gay.”

“Even when people found out, they’d rationalise it, ‘He’s not really gay’ or ‘gay and ok’.””I’ve had threats from people on the far left who think I’m insincere but especially people on the far right who think I’m a traitor,” he said.

“I can’t win!”.

Support has come from a fellow former extremist.

Matthew Collins was once an organiser for a far-right group and knew Neo-Nazis “who were involved in extreme violence … and did kill people”.

He turned informant and fled to Australia between 1993 and 2003 for his own safety.

Now he works for anti-fascist campaign group Hope Not Hate, researching the state of the UK far right and trying to convince people to leave the movement.

“Is Kevin cured? No, I don’t think so … but Kevin’s on the way,” Mr Collins said.

“The work with Kevin is about socialisation. He wants to walk down the streets with another man and maybe hold hands.

“Our thing is to mix him in with regular normal people, drinking beer without dressing up like a [WWII German] tank commander, [and] having nice pictures on your living room wall, not pictures of Hitler.”

Kevin Wilshaw & Matthew Collins

“I feel appallingly guilty as well, I really do feel guilty, not only that, this is also a barrier to me having a relationship with my own family, and I want to get rid of it, it’s too much of a weight.”

“I want to do some damage as well, not to ordinary people but the people who are propagating this kind of rubbish – want to hurt them, show what it’s like for those who are living a lie and be on the receiving end of this type of propaganda, I want to hurt them.”

Fearing some level of revenge, Mr Wilshaw says “one or two would want to sort me.. they’d see it as betrayal.”

“I am going to find it difficult, granted, to fill a void that has occupied my life since childhood.”

The latest figures show right-wing extremism only makes up about 10 per cent of cases dealt with by the UK Government’s main deradicalisation program.

Anti-fascist campaigners believe the country’s extreme far right has declined significantly in recent years, perhaps to its lowest point in two decades, and some commentators have dismissed the remaining members as weird, uneducated white men with uniform fetishes.

But the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox by a Nazi sympathiser, just before last years Brexit referendum, showed the danger posed by elements of the movement has not passed.

Since then, three far-right groups have been banned by the UK Government and two people have been charged over a plot to kill another politician.

“We are very concerned by the number of the arrests and the nature of the arrests”, Mr Collins said, when asked about the most extreme end of the movement.

“What we are looking at are groups that look like terrorists, talk like terrorists, act like terrorists and our belief for the last 18-months to two years is that they will eventually become terrorists.”

References