The internet informs me that this week is Bisexual Awareness Week (consider: is your cat aware of the bisexual movement? Oh, and on a serious note, visibility matters). Allow me, then, to raise some questions about the way medieval studies has handled and assimilated the fascinating case of John Rykener, a male-cross dressing prostitute. If you took a gender-oriented medieval studies course in the last decade or so, or if you’ve read Karras’ Sexuality in Medieval Europe textbook, you’ve probably met John Rykener’s story in one form or another.
Allow me to tell you about Eleanor Rykener: assigned male at birth, she fell in with a woman named Elizabeth Broderer, who gave her women’s clothing and called her Eleanor. We do not know if Eleanor sought out Elizabeth, or if Elizabeth identified something in the young man she knew as John Ryknener that she could exploit: but as far as we know, it was with Elizabeth that Eleanor first lived as a woman.
Elizabeth was conducting a complicated and exploitative business, in which her daughter substituted for Eleanor in bed with men who believed they were sleeping with Eleanor. It is not recorded whether money was involved, but that seems likely. The court record says that Elizabeth’s daughter Alice did this ‘for lust’, but I would not be willing to take that as a given: it seems plausible to me that Eleanor and Alice worked together, willing or unwilling, in a scenario which allowed Elizabeth to maintain her daughter’s public respectability while Eleanor accrued the ill repute of a prostitute.
Somehow, from there, Eleanor met a woman named Anna, who is referred to by the court transcript as “meretrix quondam cuiusdam famuli domini Thome Blount” (the whore of a former servant of Thomas Blount). It is possible that Anna was a prostitute regularly frequented by this former servant of Thomas Blount, but the various evidence assembled by Karras, in Unmarriages, on the varied roles and statuses of unmarried couples, leads me to think Anna might just as easily have been the mistress or even domestic partner (eg, if the said servant were already married and separated) of this unnamed gentleman. For reasons not given in the record, she taught Eleanor how she might have sex with men ‘in the manner of a woman’: for which we can read, in a receptive position.
We do not know why Eleanor sought out this information, or why she acted on it. Perhaps she desired a sexual relationship with a man. Perhaps she wished to extract more substantial benefits, material or otherwise, from her work as a prostitute – since she was socially stuck as a prostitute anyway. It seems she was still living with Elizabeth Broderer, and – for one reason or another, bear in mind we do not know her motivations – an individual named Phillip, the rector of Theydon Garnon, would seem to have been her first client. (Or perhaps her non-commercial lover? Bear in mind this is entirely possible: People do sleep with trans women because they like them!) Eleanor seems to have been of limited resources at this time, because she took (was given? stole?) some garments from Phillip. When Phillip demanded their return, she convinced him to back off by asserting that she had a husband who would defend her in court.
Next, Eleanor seems to have made a break for it: she moved to Oxford, and tried – for five weeks – to establish herself as an independent women in a women’s trade, that of embroidery. She continued to sleep with men (in a marsh, the court record says). Once again, we cannot say whether she sought their company for pleasure or for money. Something may have gone wrong, though, because Eleanor next moved to Burford to work as a tapster. In Burford she continued to sleep with men, but here the court records that only four of her eight lovers paid her. Did she expect payment from the others and not receive it? Perhaps. But it’s equally plausible that she enjoyed and desired sex with men. This possibility I have seen raised in discussion of John (Eleanor) Rykener as a male homosexual.
Next, in Beaconsfield, Eleanor had sex with two men “as a woman” and one woman, Joan, “as a man”. Now, here I want to stress some things we DO know and some things we DON’T. We DO know that when the medieval record speaks of “ut vir concubuit cum” and ” concubuerunt ut cum femina” (‘[he] as a man lay with [Joan]’ and ‘[they] lay with [him] as a woman’) it does not speak of what clothes Eleanor was wearing at the time, or what name she went by. The issue at hand is who did what to whom, as is nicely demonstrated by the verb forms: he-as-a-man had sex with Joan, they (two franciscans) had sex with him-as-a-woman.
What we do not know here includes:
• Whether Joan of Beaconsfield considered herself to be having sex with Eleanor, or with John, Rykener.
• What Joan and Eleanor did together. Concubere could in fact mean lie down together, and Eleanor did not give her testimony in Latin: we don’t know what she said that she and Joan did which the court records as ‘concubuit‘. Eleanor may have spoken in compatible passive/active terms, or she may not.
• Assuming that Eleanor and Joan had penis-in-vagina intercourse, that does not tell us why they did so. Even if Joan met and bedded John Rykener, did she know about Eleanor? Was there an experiential difference, for either of them, between Eleanor(?John)’s conduct in bed and that of other men?
• Conversely, we do not know which identity Eleanor was presenting when she slept with the two Franciscans – but that possibility has already been raised by queer historians, who are generally quite keen to point out that John Rykener’s male lovers could have known exactly who and what they were doing.
Returning to London, Eleanor committed ‘the aforementioned vice’ with several more churchmen, but the record does not state if they paid her – nor, in this instance, does it specify cum femina. However, it seems her efforts to find more respectable work had not succeeded, because finally, we know that she propositioned one John Britby to commit a ‘libidinous act’ with her in a stall by Soper’s lane, for an agreed-upon-sum. John Britby swore to the court that he thought she was a woman at that time.
The court record also says that Eleanor had sex cum vir with assorted nuns and married women. This addition lacks the detail of her encounters with men and with Joan, and I would be inclined to suspect it of being an embroidery upon Eleanor’s testimony, designed to both mark out John Rykener as a particularly depraved individual and enforce public perception of him as male by ensuring that everyone knows he could and did have lots of sex cum vir. However, even allowing for the fact that this assertion has less to hold it up than the previous account, I find it curious1 that it tends to appear as a footnote only to the history of John Rykener, when the following comment about numerous priestly clients who pay better than other man gets a fair bit of circulation.
Eleanor Rykener is rarely cited, despite what her testimony can tell us about women’s lives in marginal professions in the 15th century. (I note that Kim Racon at Notches has also blogged about this lack.2) John Rykener is spoken of, and John/Eleanor, but never Eleanor or Eleanor-John. Whenever I’ve had the pleasure of teaching this topic, I’ve made a point of speaking of Eleanor Rykener and her trial, because… well, it seemed the decent thing to do.3 At the very least, Eleanor Rykener was a cultivated public persona (comparable to a drag act, perhaps?) – and given she seems to have run away and tried to take up a woman’s profession other than prostitution twice, the common summary of her story as ‘male crossdressing prostitute’ is incredibly reductive. Karras herself notes on p. 184 of Medieval Sexualities that the Rykener and a 14th century Venetian prostitute, probably a hermaphrodite, named Ronaldo/Ronaldina, are far from the standard sodomite, who did not normally wear women’s clothing. It is very unlikely that John Rykener was, in modern terms, a sad gay man who found crossdressing the only way to get laid – there’s enough other evidence to suggest that medieval blokes found ways to bang that didn’t involve ladies’ clothes!!
“II: The Questioning of John Rykener 1395: Transcription
Corporation of London Records Office, Plea and Memoranda Roll A34, m.2 (1395)
Undecimo die Decembris anno regni regis Ricardi secundi decimo octavo, ducti fuerunt hic coram Johanne Fressh maiore et aldermannis civitatis Londoniensis Johannes Britby de comitate Eboracum et Johannes Rykener, se Elianoram nominans veste muliebri detectus. Qui die dominica ultimo preterita per quosdam dicte civitatis ministros noctanter inter horas octavam et nonam super quoddam stallum in venella vocata Sopereslane inventi fuerunt iacentes, illud vitium detestabile, nephandum, et ignominiosum committentes, pro seperali examinatione coram dictis maiore et aldermannis super premissa fienda et audienda etcetera. Qui quidem Johannes Britby inde allocutus fatebatur quod ipse per vicum regium de Chepe die dominica inter horas supradictas transiens, dictum Johannem Rykener vestitu muliebri ornatum, ipsumque mulierem fore suspicantem fuerat assecutus, petens ab eo, tanquam a muliere, si cum ea libidinose agere possit. Qui ab eo argentum pro labore suo petens sibi consentiebat, invicem transeuntes ad illud complendum usque stallum predictum. Ipsi tamen tunc ibidem per ministros predictos in eorum maleficiis detestabilibus capti fuerunt, carcere vero mancipati hucusque, etcetera. Et predictus Johannes Rykener in veste muliebri hic adductus de materia predicta allocutus cognovit se fecisse in omnibus prout idem Johannes Britby superius fatebatur etcetera. Quesitum fuit ulterius a prefato Johanne Rykener quis ei docuit dictum vitium exercere et quanto tempore, in quibus locis, et cum quibus personis masculis sive feminis illud actum libidinosum et nephandum commisit. Qui in animam suam sponte iuravit et cognovit quod quaedam Anna, meretrix quondam cuiusdam famuli domini Thome Blount, primo docuit ipsum vitium detestabile modo muliebri exercere. Item dixit quod quaedam Elizabeth Brouderer prius vestivit ipsum veste muliebri; quae etiam conduxit quandam Aliciam filiam suam diversis hominibus luxuriae causa, ipsam cum eisdem hominibus in lectis eorum noctanter absque lumine reponens et eandem summo mane ab eisdem recedere fecit, monstrando eis dictum Johannem Rykener veste muliebri ornatum ipsum Alianoram nominantem, asserens ipsos cum ipsa sinistre egisse. Item dixit quod quidam Philippus, Rector de Theydon Gernon, concubuit cum eodem Johanne Rykener ut cum muliere in domo cuiusdam Elizabeth Brouderer extra Bisshoppesgate, quo tempore dictus Johannes Rykener asportavit duas togas ipsius Philippi. Et quando idem Philippus illas petiit a prefato Johanne Rykener, ipse dixit quod fuit uxor cuiusdam hominis, et si ipse illas repetere vellet faceret maritum suum versus ipsum prosequi. Item dictus Johannes Rykener fatebatur quod per quinque septimanas ante festum santi Michaelis ultimo elapsum morabatur apud Oxonium et operatus est ibidem in veste muliebri in arte de brouderer nominans ipsum Alianoram. Et ibidem in marisco tres scolares ignotos, quorum unus nominatur dominus Willielmus Foxlee, alius dominus Johannes, et tertius dominus Walterus, usi fuerunt sepius cum ipso abominabile vitium supradictum. Item fatebatur prefatus Johannes Rykener quod ipse die veneris proximo ante festum sancti Michaelis supradictum venit apud Burford in comitate Oxonium. Et ibidem fuit commorans cum quodam Johanne clerc atte Swan in officio de tapster per sex septimanas proximas sequentes, infra quod tempus duo fratres minores, quorum unus nominatur frater Michael et alius frater Johannes Barry, qui sibi dedit unum anulum aureum, et unus frater carmelitus et sex diversi homines extranei commiserunt cum illo vitium antedictum. Quorum quidem fratrum et hominum supradictorum quidam dabat dicto Johanni Rykener .xii. d, quidam .xx. d, quidam .ii. s. Item fatebatur idem Johannes Rykener quod fuit apud Bekenesfeld et ibidem idem ut vir concubuit cum quadam Johanna filia Johannis Mathew, et etiam ibidem cum ipso concubuerunt ut cum femina duo fratres minores alienigenae. Item fatebatur dictus Johannes Rykener quod post eius ultimum adventum Londoniae quidam dominus Johannes quondam capellanus ecclesiae sanctae Margaretae Patyns et alii duo capellani in venellis retro ecclesiam sanctae Katerinae iuxta turrim Londoniensem commiserunt cum illo illud vitium antedictum. Item dixit dictus Johannes Rykener quod ipse sepius concubuit cum quampluribus monialibus ut vir, et etiam concubuit modo virili cum quampluribus mulieribus, tam maritatis quam aliis, quarum numerum ignorat. Item fatebatur dictus Johannes Rykener quod quamplures presbiteri fecerunt illud vitium cum illo ut cum muliere, quorum numerum ignorat, et dixit quod citius cepit presbiteros quam alios quia plus vellent sibi dare quam alii.
I: The Questioning of John Rykener 1395: Translation
On 11 December, 18 Richard 11. were brought in the presence of John Fressh, Mayor. and the Aldermen ofthe City of London John Britby of the county of York and John Rykener., calling [himself] Eleanor, having been detected in women’s clothing, who were found last Sunday night between the hours of 8 and 9 by certain officials of the, city lying by a certain stall in Soper’s Lane” committing that detestable unmentionable and ignominious vice. In a separate examination held before the Mayor and Aldermen about the occurrence, John Britby confessed that he was passing through the high road of Cheap on Sunday between the abovementioned hours and accosted John Rykener, dressed up as a woman, thinking he was a woman, asking him as he would a woman if he could commit a libidinous act with her. Requesting money for [his] labor, Rykener consented, and they went together to the aforesaid stall to complete the act, and were captured there during these detestable wrongdoings by the officials and taken to prison. And John Rykener, brought here in woman’s clothing and questioned about this matter, acknowledged [himself] to have done everything just as John Britby had confessed. Rykener was also asked who had taught him to exercise this vice, and for how long and in what places and with what persons, masculine or feminine, [he] had committed that libidinous and unspeakable act. [He] swore willingly on [his] soul that a certain Anna, the whore of a former servant of Sir Thomas Blount, first taught him to practice this detestable vice in the manner of a woman. [He] further said that a certain Elizabeth Bronderer first dressed him in women’s clothing; she also brought her daughter Alice to diverse men for the sake of lust, placing her with those men in their beds at night without light, making her leave early in the morning and showing them the said John Rykener dressed up in women’s clothing, calling him Eleanor and saying that they had misbehaved with her. [He] further said that certain Phillip, rector of Theydon Garnon, had sex with him as with a woman in Elizabeth Bronderer’s honse outside Bishopsgate, at which time Rykener took away two gowns of Phillip’, and when Phillip requested them from Rykener he said that [he] was the wife ofa certain man and that if Phillip wished to ask for them back [he] would make [his] husband bring suit against him. Rykener further confessed that for five weeks before the feast of St. Michael’s last [he] was staying at Oxford, and there, in women’s clothing and calling himself Eleanor, worked as an embroideress; and there in the marsh three unsuspecting scholars – of whom one was named Sir William Foxlee, another Sir John, and the third Sir Walter – practiced the abominable vice with him often. John Rykener further confessed that on Friday before the feast of St. Michael [he] came to Burford in Oxfordshire and there dwelt with a certain John Clerk at the Swan in the capacity of tapster for the next six weeks, during which time two Franciscans, one named Brother Michael and the other Brother John, who gave [him] a gold ring, and one Carmelite friar and six foreign men committed the above-said vice with him, of whom one gave Rykener twelve pence, one twenty pence, and one two shillings. Rykener further confessed that [he] went to Beaconsfield and there, as a man, had sex with a certain Joan, daughter of John Matthew, and also there two foreign Franciscans hall sex with him as a woman. John Rykener also confessed that after [his] last return to London a certain Sir John, once chaplain at the Church of St. Margaret Pattens, and two other chaplains committed with him the aforementioned vice in the lanes behind St. Katherine’s Church by the Tower of London. Rykener further said that he often had sex as a man with many nuns and also had sex as a iman with many women both married and otherwise, how many [he] did not know. Rykener further confessed that many priests had committed that vice with him as with a woman, how many [he] did not know, and said that [he] accommodated priestsmore readily than other people because they wished to give [him] more than others.”
Again, the Captain Pickles mentioned in this interview is my Great Grand Uncle, Captain George Rickinsom Swan Pickhills. The misspelling of his surname was common – and evidently infuriated him.
A question asked of me at the Mudgee workshop conducted by Helen McKay, was “Where do you get your folklore?”
Sometimes I take known stories from the universal folklore and adapt them to a local setting. “Swagman’s Stone Soup” is an example. Further to this is the development of stories around a particular Australian theme – bush-rangers. Stories that adapt the history of Outback N.S.W. during the 1870’s-80’s.
The first introduces Silly Billy Brown. He demolishes the family toilet trying to shoot a crow stealing eggs from the chookyard. Billy runs away on a one-eyed horse (at a similar age and time to Sidney Kidman) to become a bushranger but is bushranged by Captain Twilight. They meet up with Captain Daylight and become the Daylight Gang, living at their secret Rocky Billabong Hideout. This is a traditional use of three characters.
Extended stories bring in The Three Troopers: Sergeant Flashman, Trooper O’Kane and Trooper Crump. Mrs Kate Brown, Molly Brown and Miss Elizabeth Goodheart, of Dunlop Station, feature as strong characters. Captain Daylight and Sergeant Flashman compete for the heart of Miss Elizabeth Goodheart.
These characters have their place on a Time Line — from the New Calendar 1752 to the 21st century. It starts in England before the First Fleet: shows the Crimean War, for Sergeant Flashman; the death of Daylight, then follows Silly Billy Brown, who, as William Browne MP, fails in his attempts to get the railway through the Outback. Captain Twilight just fades away, but, there is a link with the present.
At Terrible Tiny Tilpa, Lizard McGinnis, Old George and a smelly swagman provided volumes of information, mystery and unbelievable history, for a similar volume of ale, when I was researching “Around the Pubs” for ABC 2CR.
They took me to a long, low, mud house on the banks of the Darling River to meet first child of Daylight and Elizabeth Goodheart. Miss Day (Captain Daylight’s real surname), never married. The young man she loved and her two brothers died in the horrible mess that was Gallipoli.
She was waiting for the mailman to bring her a telegram from the Queen telling her she was 100 years old.
Don Day is remembered as a dashing bushman, not as a bushranger. He drowned rescuing a woman and her three children. Their horse bolted tipping them into the river. He rescued the people then dived down to cut the horse from the dray. He never came up. The horse did, more dead than alive, but the Great Grey-green Darling River kept Don Day.
After shearing, his friends made a memorial at Daylight Point. It’s a sight that brings tears to the eyes and a lump to the throat. I know, because Miss Dianna took me there.
She sat straight in her side saddle as the horses trotted up a rise overlooking one of the grandest waterholes on the Darling River.
And there it was, a big black billycan on a fire of bronze logs.
It sat on a large flat rook, dragged for miles by bullock team. Engraved into the billy can is:-
“In Memory of Donald Francis Day 1850-1896 — Elizabeth Day, Twilight, Cpt. Rtd. Dianna Day, William Brown, JP Frank Day, Judge Long, Rtd. Gordon Day, Ned O’Kane, Insp.” Little crosses are punched after Frank and Gordon.
“Even Captain Pickles was here. He brought people down from Bourke on the wandering Jane.”
I helped Miss Dianna down. The horses trotted into a small broken-down yard, lush with grass. I made a fire, then filled our billy from the river. We had jolly jumbuck, boiled potatoes, johnnycake and billy tea.
Red cloud bars turned grey. Frogs and night insects started chatting. I dropped another log onto the fire, showering red sparks and stirring the low flames. When I looked up small silver twinkles dotted the sky and Miss Dianna and a curlew were both talking at once.
She told how Aboriginal women saved her life, and her mother’s, when she was born. How, in the 1890 flood, Joey Quartpot rescued them, one by one, in his bark canoe. Of her brothers, young and wild, riding all the way to Sydney to join the Light Horse to fight for King and Country. And her mother, going to live in a flat in Manly where she knitted socks and made Christmas Puddings for the ANZACS, only to die of a broken heart.
The past flickered through the flames, as she went further back to tell about Daylight and Twilight.
She laughed about William Browne MP. “He became rather fat, bald and pompous. But his heart was in the right place. He stuck up for the Outback.”
The tail of the Southern Cross was hanging low over the river. “I come here every year for the morning of the day Dad drowned.” She walked stiffly to the bronze billy can, lifted the lid then pulled the end off one of the logs. It was hollow.
Night melted. The first ray of daylight speared down the long waterhole into the bronze log, striking a large crystal in the bottom of the billy can. A shaft of light shot upwards, through the overhanging coolabah, scaring the hell out of the black and red cockatoos and blinding the last stars.
“Bushranging, booze and battle took the best of our youth, Peter.”
That night gave me the folk lore and a store of stories – fact, fiction and fantasy – to last me a lifetime.
Miss Day received her telegram from the Queen. She rests beside the long, low, mud-brick homestead. No one lives there but, at times, a swagman calls, tidies the garden then disappears towards the Tilpa Pub.
The Captain Pickhills, interviewed by Charles Bean in paragraph four of this extract, is actually my Great Grand Uncle, Captain George Rickinson Swan Pickhills. A Yorkshire man who came to Australia in the 1860s, he captained a steamer along the Darling River from Bourke in NSW to Goolwa in South Australia. He towed barges of wool bales down the river with his steamer. It is rumoured that Charles Bean’s Book “The Dreadnought of the Darling” is largely based on his interviews with, and recollections of, Captain Pickhills.
By 1890, a sheep population of nearly 100 million (it peaked at 106 million in 1892) was spread across a third of the Australian continent, from central Queensland to Tasmania, across into South Australia and down the western side of Western Australia. The shearers who shore them travelled by every conceivable means of transport: horse, train, bicycle, paddle-steamer and on foot.
Many stations and shearing sheds were great distances from railway lines or even roads. In the more settled areas of the more populous states, many shearers could work locally and only travelled for more work when the urge took them. However, in the vast outback regions of Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia, even local work involved large distances. Consequently, even good shearers faced long weeks without work as they wandered from shed to shed. When the largely seasonal work came to an end, there was no work at all. The situation was, in short, a shambles for all involved.
Nevertheless, as wool emerged as the premier industry in Australia, the shearer emerged as the embodiment not just of the industry but of a sense of freedom few occupations could equal. Shearers were often more worldly than other rural workers. They were more skilled and physically fitter.
However, opinion was still divided over whether they were heroes or villains. When Charles Bean (journalist and, later, official war historian) interviewed an old-time steamboat captain, Captain Pickhill, about the shearers he had seen in his years plying his trade on the Darling River, Pickhill recalled:
‘Lots of those shepherds and shearers near Bourke, were ‘old hands’ [meaning ex-convicts]. Some of them were decent good fellows; and the rest — well, they were horrible! Unmitigated rascals, fearing neither God nor the devil. The language I have heard in Bourke made a man wonder the heavens did not drop down and crush the fellow. They were great, coarse, horrible brutes of men.’
Others took a different view. A German political sociologist, Dr Robert Schachner, went and lived among shearers, miners and factory hands in an attempt to ascertain which of them had the best life. He concluded that shearers had a better standard of living, were better read and were more intelligent. He wrote: ‘If the spicy air of the bush gives the shearer new life and energy for thought and reading it is far different in the factory… Scarcely fit to leave school, the boy enters the horrid gloom of the machine rooms… What wonder if his brain dries up?’
In his memoirs Julian Stuart gave a nostalgic view of what it was like to be a shearer, describing a night in the quarters on Northampton Downs, where he and his colleagues were ‘disrobing 150 000 jumbucks’. Whistling Dick played on his tin whistle, Bungeye Blake sang, and Piebald Moore and Cabbagetree Capstick told some tales, but it was when Dusty Bob took the floor that Julian paid more attention. He considered Dusty to be ‘the most fluent liar that ever crossed the Darling’:
‘His anecdotes about “Crooked Mick” began and ended nowhere and made C.M. appear a superman… with feet so big he had to go outside to turn round. It took a large-sized bullock’s hide to make him a pair of moccasins [preferred footwear for shearers]. He worked at such a clip that his shears ran hot and sometimes he had half-a-dozen in the water-pot to cool. He had his fads and would not shear in sheds that faced North. When at his top it took three pressers to handle the wool from his blades and they had to work overtime to keep the bins clear. He ate two sheep each meal… that is, if they were small merinos… but only one and a half when the ration sheep were Leicester crossbred wethers. His main tally was generally cut out on the breakfast run. Anyone who tried to follow him usually spent the balance of the day in the hut. Between sheds he did fencing. When cutting brigalow posts he used an axe in each hand to save time, and when digging postholes a crowbar in one hand and a shovel in the other.’
Stuart also described the different kinds of mateship that existed among shearers. A pen mate, for example, was hardly a mate at all. The shearers drew lots to see which stand they’d get and it was pure luck who they were paired with. However, the two had to cooperate as they went about catching sheep from the same pen.
Then there were grinding mates. As he explained:
‘In the old blade-shearing days, when the “keeping” of shears was a large item for the shearer’s consideration, it was necessary for each man to have a mate to turn the grindstone for him… in fact, each pair turned for one another; they were grinding mates and very often it was Hobson’s choice on both sides, if you could believe them when they started arguing… they nearly always did.’
Last came real mateship, which according to Stuart was a thing that could last a lifetime but was sometimes difficult to understand:
‘Two hard old cases, Peter and Fred, mates of long standing, were knocking down their cheques in the good old-fashioned way, and quarrelled about some trifle. It looked as if it would end in a fight to a finish and the fracture of a lifelong friendship, so a bystander tried to act as peacemaker and started to lead Peter away, but was straightaway woodened out by old Fred. The two old battlers, reconciled, went back to the bar to resume the main business of life, cutting out their cheques.’
This story is an edited extract from The Shearers by journalist Evan McHugh, published by Penguin Books Australia.
For a religion that loves to lecture on right and wrong, involving itself in social issues it should keep its nose out of, and just generally being sanctimonious – it has an incredible history of abuse of power, wars, violence, sexual indiscretion, sexual abuse, hypocrisy, manipulation, discrimination, accumulation of wealth – and being just downright evil…and I’m not just talking about the Catholic variant! You’d think the following list was a story of fiction…but it’s not! Truth is always stranger than fiction!
WE now give a rapid summary of the crimes and vices with which many of the popes disgraced the chair of St. Peter; and before we conclude, the reader will see that every villainy the imagination can conceive has been practised by the vicegerents of God. Peculation, theft, cruelty, murder, fornication, adultery, and incest, not to mention still darker crimes, have all been notoriously committed by the supreme rulers of Christendom, who sat in the seat of infallibility, and claimed universal jurisdiction over the thoughts and consciences of mankind.
ST. DAMASUS (366-84). He was the first to assume the title of Pontiff. His election was opposed by Ursicinus, whose partisans accused Damasus of adultery. [122:1] Riddle says:
“After some deadly conflicts between the followers of the two rivals, Ursicinus was banished from the city; and a similar sentence was about to be carried into effect against seven presbyters of his party, when the people interfered, and lodged them for safety in one of the churches. But even here they found no shelter from the fury of their opponents. Armed with fire and sword, Damasus, with some of his adherents, both of the clergy and of the laity, proceeded to the place of refuge, and left no less than a hundred and sixty of their adversaries dead within the sacred precincts.” [122:2]
That this was a massacre and not a faction fight is shown by the fact that on the side of Damasus not a single person was killed. [123:3] Ammianus Marcellinus, the contemporary historian of the event, says of the contention between Damasus and Ursicinus:
“I do not deny, when I consider the ostentation that reigns at Rome, that those who desire such rank and power may be justified in laboring with all possible exertions and vehemence to obtain their wishes; since after they have succeeded, they will be secure for the future, being enriched by offerings from matrons, riding in carriages, dressing splendidly, and feasting luxuriously, so that their entertainment surpassed even royal banquets. [123:4]
Damasus gained the title of Auriscalpius Matronarum, ladies’ ear-scratcher. [123:5] He died of fever, and the Romish Church still invokes the aid of this saintly vicar of God in fever cases. [123:6]
SIXTUS III (432-40). This pope, according to both Baronius and Platina, was accused of debauching a virgin, but was acquitted by a Council under the Emperor Valentina, who is said to have referred the pronouncing of the sentence to the Pope himself, “because the judge of all ought to be judged by none.” It was without doubt to establish this maxim that the “acts” of the Council were forged. [123:7]
ST. LEO THE GREAT (440-61). Jortin calls him “the insolent and persecuting Pope Leo, who applauded the massacre of the Priscillianists, and grossly misrepresented them.” [123:8]
SYMMACHUS (498-514). His election was violently opposed by the antipope Laurentius, and three Councils were held to decide the schism. Accusations of the most heinous crimes were laid against Symmachus. Bower says:
“This gave occasion to the rekindling of the war between the two parties in Rome; and several priests, many clerks, and a great number of citizens, fell daily in the battles that were fought in the different parts of the city. No regard was shown by either party to rank or dignity; and not even the sacred virgins were spared by the enraged multitude in their fury.” [123:9]
Eunodius declared that the Pope was “judge in the place of the most high, pure from all sin, and exempt from all punishment. All who fell fighting in his cause he declared enrolled on the register of heaven.” [124:1]
ST. HORMISDAS (514-23). He was a married man, and had a son, who was raised to the popedom. He was full of ambition, and insolent in his demands to the emperor, whom he exhorted to the persecution of heretics.
BONIFACE II (530-32). His election was disputed by the antipope Dioscorus. Each accused the other of simony, but Dioscorus opportunely died. Boniface “began his pontificate with wreaking his vengeance on the memory of his deceased competitor, whom he solemnly excommunicated, as guilty of simony, when he could not clear himself from the charge, nor retort it on him, as perhaps he otherwise might.” [124:2] This sentence was removed by Pope Agapetus.
SILVERIUS (536-38). He was accused of betraying the city of Rome to the Goths, and was in consequence expelled from his see.
VIGILUS (537-55). He was a deacon elected by bribery. He engaged himself to obey the Empress Theodora, who gave him money to gain the suffrages of the clergy. Anastasius tells us that he killed his own secretary in a transport of passion, and caused his own sister’s son to be whipped to death. He is considered to have been accessory to the banishment and death of Silverius. When banished himself by the emperor, he speedily repented, in order to save his seat.
PELAGIUS (555-60). He was accused of poisoning his predecessor. This is uncertain; but it is certain that, like most of his predecessors and successors, he incited the civil powers to the persecution of heretics.
ST. GREGORY THE GREAT (590-604). According to Gibbon, this pontiff was “a singular mixture of simplicity and cunning, of pride and humility, of sense and superstition.” [124:3] Jortin’s picture is still less flattering:
“Pope Gregory the Great was remarkable for many things — for exalting his own authority; for running down human learning [125:4] and polite literature; for burning classic authors; for patronising ignorance and stupidity; for persecuting heretics; for flattering the most execrable princes; and for relating a multitude of absurd, monstrous and ridiculous lies, called miracles. He was an ambitious, insolent prelate, under the mask of humility.” [125:5]
Draper says that Gregory not only forbade the study of the classics, mutilated statues, and destroyed temples but also “burned the Palatine library, founded by Augustus Caesar.” Gibbon, however, throws doubt on this destruction, while admitting that it was generally believed. [125:6]
Gregory does not appear to have been fond of women and wine, like so many other popes; but he possessed the darker vices of bigotry and ambition. His congratulations on the usurpation of the cruel, drunken and lascivious Phocas, after a wholesale massacre of the emperor’s family, simply because the successful villain favored the pretensions of Rome (p. 109), are a sufficient proof that Gregory would scruple at nothing to advance the glory of his see.
SABINIAN (604-6). Bower says he rendered himself so odious to the Roman people by his avarice and cruelty to the poor, that they could not forbear abusing him whenever he appeared. In a dreadful famine he raised the price of corn to exorbitant rates. He accused St. Gregory of simony; but according to Baronius, that departed saint having vainly reproved him in three different apparitions for his covetousness, gave him in a fourth apparition so dreadful a blow on the head, that he died soon after. [125:7]
BONIFACE III (607). By flattering Phocas as Gregory had done, he induced him to take the title of universal bishop from the bishop of Constantinople, and confer it upon himself and his successors.
THEODORUS (642-49). He commenced the custom of dipping his pen in consecrated wine when signing the condemnation of heretics, [126:8] thus sanctifying murder with the blood of Christ. Of Adeodatus, Donus I, Agatho, and Leo II, we only know that they carried on fierce contests with the archbishop of Ravenna for refusing to acknowledge their supremacy. Leo II anathematised his predecessor, Pope Honorius, for heresy. [126:9] Neither Benedict II, John V, nor Conon, lived a whole year after assuming the tiara.
ST. SERGIUS I (687-701). He had to purchase his seat from the exarch of Ravenna by pawning the ornaments of the tomb of St. Peter. He was accused of adultery, but his innocence was strikingly proved; for, upon the child of whose parentage he was accused being baptised when but eight days old, he cried out, “The pontiff Sergius is not my father.” Bruys, the French historian of the Papacy, says, “What I find most marvellous in this story is, not that so young a child should speak, but that it should affirm with so much confidence that the pope was not its father.” [126:1]
CONSTANTINE (708-15). He is said to have excommunicated the Emperor, Philip Bardanes, for being of the same heresy as Pope Honorius. To oblige Constantine, Justinian II cut out the tongue and blinded the eyes of the Archbishop of Ravenna, who refused to pay the obedience due to the apostolic see. [126:2]
ST. GREGORY II (715-31). He was chiefly noted for his endowing monasteries with the goods of the poor, and for his opposition to the Emperor Leo’s edict against image worship. [126:3] Rather than obey the edict, he raised civil war both in Italy and elsewhere. He prayed that Christ might set the Devil on the emperor, and approved the barbarous murder of the imperial officer. [126:4] Yet the priests place in the list of saints a pontiff who, to establish the Christian idolatry of image worship, filled Italy with carnage.
STEPHEN III (768-72). When elected he found on the pontifical throne a lay pope, one Constantine, who, after a violent struggle, was dislodged and punished with the loss of his eyes, [127:5] many of his friends sharing the same fate. [127:6]
ADRIAN I (772-95). He made a league with Irene, the murderess of her son, to restore image worship, and presented to Charlemagne the pretended donation of Constantine. [127:7] Avarice was the vice of this able pontiff. He left large sums to his successors.
ST. PASCAL I (817-24). At the Diet of Compeigne this pope was charged with being accessory to the mutilation and murder of two Roman priests. The Pope denied the charge, but refused to deliver up the perpetrators of the crimes, alleging that they belonged “to the family of St. Peter.” [127:8]
EUGENIUS II (824-27). He had the honor of inventing the barbarous practice of ordeal by cold water.
NICHOLAS (858-67). He excommunicated Photius, the Greek patriarch, and the emperor Michael as his abettor, and threatened King Lothaire with the ecclesiastical sword if he suffered any bishop to be chosen without his consent. [127:9]
ADRIAN II (867-72). He was a married priest. He congratulated Bazilius, the murderer of the emperor Michael, and entered into alliance with him. [127:1]
JOHN VIII (872-82). The meek and holy nature of this worthy successor of St. Peter may be judged by his ordering the Bishop of Naples to bring him the chief men among the Saracens in that city, and cutting their throats in the presence of his legate. [127:2] A letter of John is extant, in which he justifies Athanasius, Bishop of Naples, for having plucked out the eyes of Sergius, Duke of Naples, who favored the Saracens in despite of the papal anathemas. He even cites the Gospel text as to plucking out offending eyes. Cardinal Baronius declares that this pontiff perjured himself, and that he rather deserved the name of a woman than that of a man. [128:3] The annals of the Abbey of Fulda relate that John VIII was poisoned by the relations of a lady whom he had seduced from her husband. [128:4]
FORMOSUS (891-96). He had been repeatedly excommunicated by John VIII. He invited Arnulf, the German emperor, to invade Italy, which he did, committing great atrocities. Formosus, however, had a great character for piety. He is said to have been well versed in scripture, and to have died a virgin in his eightieth year.
BONIFACE VI (896). Even according to Baronius, he was a man of most infamous character. He had been deposed for his scandalous life, first from the rank of sub-deacon, and afterward from the priesthood. [128:5]
STEPHEN VI. (896-7). He intruded into the see in the room of the intruder Boniface. Being of the opposite faction to Pope Formosus, he caused the body of that pontiff to be taken out of the tomb and to be placed, in the episcopal robes, on the pontifical chair. Stephen then addressed the dead body thus: “Why didst thou, being Bishop of Porto, prompted by thy ambition, usurp the universal see of Rome?” After this mock trial Stephen, with the approbation and consent of a Council of bishops, ordered the body to be stripped, three of the fingers (those used in blessing) to be cut off, and the remains to be cast into the Tiber. At the same Council all the ordinations of Formosus were declared invalid. [128:6]
Then followed what Riddle calls “a rapid succession of infamous popes,” of whom we may mention that Leo V (903) was deposed and cast into prison by his chaplain, Christopher, who was in turn ejected and imprisoned by Sergius III (904-11). This pontiff also had been excommunicated by John VIII. He was, says Baronius, “the slave of every vice and the most wicked of men.” [128:7] Riddle says:
“This Sergius III was a monster of profligacy, cruelty and vice in their most shameless and disgusting forms. But it was this very character which made him useful to his party, the duration of whose influence at Rome, could be insured only by a preponderance of physical power, and this again only by violence which should disdain all restraints of morality and religion. Sergius was the man for this purpose, who, while he lived in concubinage with Marozia, did not hesitate to yield all the treasures of the Roman Church as plunder to his party.” [129:8] To him succeeded other paramours of Marozia and of her mother the prostitute Theodora. John X, for instance (914-28), received his chair because he was the lover of Theodora, while Leo VI and Stephen VIII (929-31) were creatures of Marozia. Adultery and assassination form the staple of the annals of their pontificates.
JOHN XI (931-36). He was the son of Pope Sergius III. by Marozia, and if possible he surpassed his parents in crime. Elected pope at the age of eighteen, Alberic, his half brother, expelled him from Rome and imprisoned their mother Marozia. Stephen VIII (939-942) made himself so obnoxious to the Romans that they mutilated him. [129:9]
JOHN XII (956-64), the son of Alberic, was the first to change his name, which was originally Octavian. He nominated himself pope at the age of seventeen. Wilks says: “His profaneness and debaucheries exceeded all bounds. He was publicly accused of concubinage, incest, and simony.” This pope was so notorious for his licentiousness that female pilgrims dared not present themselves in Rome. [129:1] Bower says that he had changed the Lateran Palace, once the abode of saints, into a brothel, and there cohabited with his father’s concubine; that women were afraid to come from other countries to visit the tombs of the apostles at Rome; that he spared none, and had within a few days forced married women, widows, and virgins to comply with his impure desires. He was at length deposed by Otho, at the solicitation of a council of bishops and laymen, on charges of sacrilege, simony, blasphemy, and cruel mutilation. He had deprived one deacon of his right hand and made him a eunuch. He put out the eyes of Benedict, his ghostly father, cut off the nose of the keeper of the archives, and scourged the Bishop of Spires. [130:2] On the deposition of John, Leo VII was put in his place. John fulminated anathemas against his opponents, and soon after died, from a blow on the head while in bed with a married woman. [130:3] Jortin remarks that “Baronius says, from Luitprandus, that it was the Devil who gave John that blow; but it seems not probable that Satan would have used his good friend in such a manner. It is more likely that it might be the husband of the adulteress.” [130:4]
Mosheim says “that the history of the Roman pontiffs of this century [the tenth] is a history of monsters, a history of the most atrocious villainies and crimes, is acknowledged by all writers of distinction, and even by the advocates of popery.” [130:5]
BONIFACE VII (974). The old authors in derision call him Maliface. Having had his predecessor Benedict murdered, he plundered the Basilica and escaped with his spoils to Constantinople, whence he afterwards returned and murdered John XIV (984), then on the papal throne.
GREGORY V (996-99). He was turned out of his see by Crescentius, who elected the antipope John. Upon Gregory’s restoration he had this unfortunate creature deprived of sight, cut off his nose, and tore out his tongue. He then ordered him to be led through the streets in a tattered sacerdotal suit, and mounted upon an ass with his face to the tail, which he held in his hand. [130:6]
SERGIUS IV (1009-12). This pope was called Os Porci, or Swine’s Mouth. Of his doings little is known, but he is asserted to have gravely declared “that the pope could not be damned, but that, do what he would, he must be saved.” [130:7]
BENEDICT VIII (1012-24). He saved the city of Rome from a great storm, which it seems was caused by some Jews. The Jews being immediately executed the storm ceased. [131:8]
JOHN XIX (1024-33). He was a layman, brother of Benedict, yet he was raised to the see. Wilks says:
“It was by gold, and not by imperial power, that the Romans consented to this uncanonical election. The rapacity of this pope was so great that he offered to sell the title of ‘Universal Bishop’ to the see of Constantinople for a sum of money!” [131:9]
By his exactions, debauchery and tyranny, he became so odious to the Romans that he had to flee for his life.
BENEDICT IX (1033-46). A nephew of the last two pontiffs. Some say he was raised to the papacy at the age of twelve — others, at eighteen. He “stained the sacred office with murder, adultery, and every other heinous crime.” [131:1] Desiderius, afterwards pope under the name of Victor III, styles Benedict the successor of Simon the sorcerer, and not of Simon the apostle, and paints him as one abandoned to all manner of vice. [131:2] Being eager to possess the person and property of a female cousin, he sold the papacy to John Gratianus, “the most religious man of his time,” for a sum of money, and consecrated him as Gregory VI. Benedict afterwards poisoned Pope Damasus II. The Romans, weary of his crimes, expelled him from the city, but he was reinstated by Conrad. “But,” says Jortin, “as he continued his scandalous course of life, and found himself despised and detested both by clergy and laity, he agreed to retire, and to abandon himself more freely to his pleasures.” Stipulating therefore to receive a sum of money, he resigned his place to Gratianus, called Gregory VI, and went to live in his own territories. [131:3]
Mosheim calls Benedict IX “a most flagitious man and capable of every crime.” [131:4]
We have already seen how Benedict, Sylvester, and Gregory, were alike declared unworthy of the pontificate, and Clement placed in the see, and by what means Hildebrand contrived to extend the papal power. This great pontiff, Gregory VII (1073-85), has been accused of poisoning his predecessors in order to obtain the popedom, and also of committing adultery with Matilda, Countess of Tuscany, who bestowed all her possessions on the pope. But these accusations probably arose from the spite of the many enemies aroused by Hildebrand’s high-handed measures.
PASCAL II (1099-1118). He was a disciple of Hildebrand, and inherited his ambition without his talents. He compelled Henry IV to abdicate, but on his son Henry V marching against him, after a sanguinary struggle, he gave up to the emperor the right of investiture. Afterwards he excommunicated all who should declare his own grant to be valid. [132:5]
ADRIAN IV (1154-59). The only Englishman who ever became pope. He caused Arnold of Brescia to be burnt at the stake (1154) for preaching against papal corruption. The Irish should remember that it was this pope who, in virtue of the pretended Donation of Constantine, made over to Henry II of England the right to take and govern Ireland on condition of the pope receiving an annual tribute of one penny for each house. [132:6]
ALEXANDER III (1159-81). The Lateran Council (1179) declared war against all heretics, and a crusade against them was sanctioned by this pontiff. [132:7]
CLEMENT III (1188-1191). He published the third crusade (1189).
INNOCENT III (1198-1216) also preached a crusade. He claimed for his see universal empire and established the Inquisition to support the claim. He excommunicated Philip II of France and put the whole nation under interdict. Afterwards he placed England under interdict, excommunicated John, bestowed the crown on Philip of France, and published a crusade against England. He also instituted a crusade against the Albigenses, butchering them by tens of thousands with every circumstance of atrocity. [132:8]
GREGORY IX (1227-41). He formally established the Inquisition; and, to support his ambition and the unbridled luxury of his court, raised taxes in France, England and Germany, excommunicated kings, and incited nations to revolt; finally causing himself to be driven from Rome. [133:9]
INNOCENT IV (1243-54). He conspired against the life of the Emperor Frederic, through the agency of the Franciscan monks. To avoid confronting his accuser, he retired to France, summoned a council at Lyons (1244), and excommunicated and deposed the emperor, whom he coolly denominated his vassal. He also excommunicated the kings of Arragon and Portugal, giving the crown of the latter to the Count of Bologna. He persecuted the Ghibellines, and pretending to have the right of disposing of the crown of the two Sicilies, offered it to Richard, Earl of Cornwall, brother to Henry III of England. Innocent made exorbitant claims to the bishoprics and benefices in England. [133:1]
BONIFACE VIII (1294-1303). He had his predecessor, Celestine, put in prison, where he died. [133:2] He openly styled himself “King of Kings,” trafficked in indulgences, and declared all excluded from heaven who disputed his claim to universal dominion. He persecuted the Ghibellines, and ordered the city of Bragneste to be entirely destroyed. He was publicly accused of simony, assassination, usury, of living in concubinage with his two nieces and having children by them, and of using the money received for indulgences to pay the Saracens for invading Italy. [133:3]
CLEMENT V (1305-1314). He is noted for his cruel suppression of the order of Knights Templar, so as to appropriate their property. He summoned the grand master of the Templars under false pretexts to his court, and issued a bull against the order in which he brought against it the most unfounded and absurd charges, and finally pronounced its abolition, having the Grand Master and many leading members burnt alive. [134:4] After sharing the spoils of the Templars with the king of France, Clement V fixed his court at Avignon, and gave himself publicly to the most criminal debaucheries. He preached a new crusade against the Turks and gave each new crusader the right to release four souls from purgatory. Dante places him in hell.
JOHN XXII (1316-34). Like his predecessors, he persecuted and burnt heretics. He anathematised the emperor of Germany and the king of France, and preached a new crusade. Money was raised in abundance by the sale of indulgences, and was misappropriated by the pope. He left enormous treasures. Villani, whose brother was one of the papal commission, states that this successor of the fisherman amassed altogether twenty-five million florins. [134:5] Gieseler says: “He arbitrarily disposed of the Benefices of all countries, chiefly in favor of his own nephews, and the members of his curia.” [134:6]
URBAN VI (1378-89). In his time occurred what is known as “the great Western schism,” which lasted from 1378 till the Council of Constance (1414). There were during that time two popes, one residing at Rome and the other at Avignon. But which of the popes was the true one and which the antipope has not yet been decided. Urban VI was a ferocious despot. He ordered six cardinals, whom he suspected of opposing him, to be brutally tortured. [134:7] Nor was his competitor, Clement VII, behind him in violence and crime. For fifty years they and their successors excited bloody wars and excommunicated one another. The schism, which cost thousands of lives, was ended by the deposition of John XXIII (1415), who was found guilty of murder and incest. He was accused before the Council of having seduced two hundred nuns. Theodoric de Niem informs us that he kept two hundred mistresses in Bologna, and he is described by his own secretary as a monster of avarice, ambition, lewdness and cruelty. [135:8] The same author says that an act of accusation, prepared against him, presented a complete catalogue of every mortal crime.
MARTIN V (1417-31). His crimes were not of a kind to be censured by a Council of bishops. He had John Huss and Jerome of Prague burnt alive, and to put down their heresies excited civil war in Bohemia. He wrote to the Duke of Lithuania: “Be assured thou sinnest mortally in keeping faith with heretics.”
EUGENIUS IV (1431-47). His first act was to put to torture the treasurer of his predecessor, Martin V. He seized that pontiff’s treasures and sent to the scaffold two hundred Roman citizens, friends of the late pope. [135:9] The Council of Basle was called and deposed the pope, setting up an antipope, Felix V. Civil war and much cruelty of course followed.
PAUL II (1464-71). He broke all the engagements he had made to the conclave prior to his election. He persecuted with the greatest cruelty and perfidy the Count of Anguillara. He strove to kindle a general war throughout Italy, and excommunicated the king of Bohemia for protecting the Hussites against his persecutions. He also persecuted the Fratricelli. “His love of money,” says Symonds, “was such that, when bishoprics fell vacant, he often refused to fill them up, drawing their revenues for his own use, and draining Christendom as a Verres or a Memmius sucked a Roman province dry. His court was luxurious, and in private he was addicted to all the sensual lusts.” [135:1] The same writer says that “He seized the chief members of the Roman Academy, imprisoned them, put them to the torture, and killed some of them upon the rack.” [135:2] He died suddenly, leaving behind him an immense treasure in money and jewels, amassed by his avarice and extortion. [135:3]
SIXTUS IV (1471-84). He strove to excel his predecessors in crime. According to Symonds, “He began his career with a lie; for though he succeeded, to that demon of avarice, Paul, who had spent his time in amassing money which he did not use, he declared that he had only found five thousand florins in the papal treasury.” The historian continues:
“This assertion was proved false by the prodigality with which he lavished wealth immediately upon his nephews. It is difficult even to hint at the horrible suspicions which were cast upon the birth of two of the Pope’s nephews and upon the nature of his weakness for them: yet the private life of Sixtus rendered the most monstrous stories plausible, while his public treatment of these men recalled to mind the partiality of Nero for Doryphorus … The Holy Father himself was wont to say, A Pope needs only pen and ink to get what sum he wants.’ … Fictitious dearths were created; the value of wheat was raised to famine prices; good grain was sold out of the kingdom, and bad imported in exchange; while Sixtus forced his subjects to purchase from his stores, and made a profit by the hunger and disease of his emaciated provinces.” [136:4]
“He was restrained by no scruple from rendering his spiritual power subservient to his worldly views, or from debasing it by a mixture with those temporary intrigues in which his ambition had involved him. The Medici being peculiarly in his way, he took part in the Florentine troubles; and, as is notorious, brought upon himself the suspicion of being privy to the conspiracy of the Pazzi, and to the assassination which they perpetrated on the steps of the altar of the cathedral: the suspicion that he, the father of the faithful, was an accomplice of such acts! When the Venetians ceased to favor the scheme of his nephew, as they had done for a considerable time, the pope was not satisfied with deserting them in a war into which he himself had driven them; he went so far as to excommunicate them for persisting in it. He acted with no less violence in Rome: he persecuted the Colonnas with great ferocity: he seized Marino from them; he caused the prothonotary Colonna to be attacked, arrested and executed in his own house. The mother of Colonna came to San Celso in Branchi, where the body lay — she lifted the severed head by the hair, and cried ‘Behold the head of my son! Such is the faith of the pope. He promised that if we would give up Marino to him he would set my son at liberty; he has Marino: and my son is in our hands — but dead! Behold thus does the pope keep his word.'” [136:5]
Jortin says that “Sixtus IV erected a famous bawdy-house at Rome, and the Roman prostitutes paid his holiness a weekly tax, which amounted sometimes to twenty thousand ducats a year.” [137:6]
INNOCENT VIII (1484-92). Schlegel, in his notes to Mosheim, says he “lived so shamefully before he mounted the Roman throne, that he had sixteen illegitimate children to make provision for. Yet on the papal throne he played the zealot against the Germans, whom he accused of magic, and also against the Hussites, whom he well-nigh exterminated.” [137:7] Wilks says: “He obtained the votes of the cardinals by bribery, and violated all his promises.” [137:8] The practice of selling offices prevailed under him as well as under his predecessors. “In corruption,” says Symonds, ” he advanced a step even beyond Sixtus, by establishing a bank at Rome for the sale of pardons. Each sin had its price, which might be paid at the convenience of the criminal: one hundred and fifty ducats of the tax were poured into the Papal coffers; the surplus fell to Franceschetto, the Pope’s son.” [137:9] The Vice-Chancellor of this rapacious pontiff, on being asked why indulgences were permitted for the worst scandals, made answer that “God wills not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should pay and live.” It must be added that “the traffic which Innocent and Franceschetto carried on in theft and murder filled the Campagna with brigands and assassins.” [137:1] The Pope’s vices cost him so much that he even pledged the papal tiara as a security for money.
ALEXANDER VI (1492-1503). Roderic Borgia was one of the most depraved wretches that ever lived. His passions were so unbridled that, having conceived a liking for a widow and two daughters, he made them all subservient to his brutality. Wilks calls him “a man of most abandoned morals, deep duplicity, and unscrupulous ambition. Like his predecessors, he had but one object at heart, the temporal and hereditary aggrandisement of his family.” [138:2] Mosheim says: “So many and so great villainies, crimes and enormities are recorded of him, that it must be certain he was destitute not only of all religion, but also of decency and shame.” [138:3] This pope, at a certain feast, had fifty courtesans dancing, who, at a given signal, threw off every vestige of clothing and — we draw a veil over the scene! “To describe him,” says Symonds, “as the Genius of Evil, whose sensualities, as unrestrained as Nero’s, were relieved against the background of flame and smoke which Christianity had raised for fleshly sins, is justifiable.” [138:4] His besetting vice was sensuality; in oriental fashion he maintained a harem in the Vatican. He invited the Sultan Bajazet to enter Europe and relieve him of the princes who opposed his intrigues in favor of his children.
In regard to his death we follow Ranke:
“It was but too certain that he once meditated taking off one of the richest of the cardinals by poison. His intended victim, however, contrived, by means of presents, promises and prayers, to gain over his head cook, and the dish which had been prepared for the cardinal was placed before the pope. He died of the poison he had destined for another.” [138:5]
JULIUS II (1503-13). He obtained the pontificate by fraud and bribery, [138:6] and boldly took the sword to extend his dominion. [138:7] Mosheim says:
“That this Julius II possessed, besides other vices, very great ferocity, arrogance, vanity, and a mad passion for war, is proved by abundant testimony. In the first place, he formed an alliance with the Emperor and the King of France, and made war upon the Venetians. He next laid siege to Ferrara. And at last, drawing the Venetians, the Swiss and the Spaniards, to engage in the war with him, he made an attack on Lewis XII, the king of France. Nor, so long as he lived, did he cease from embroiling all Europe.” [138:8]
PAUL III (1531-49). He was as much a man of the world as any of his predecessors. He acknowledged an illegitimate son and daughter. [138:9] The emperor once remonstrated with him on having promoted two of his grandsons to the cardinalate at too early an age. He replied that he would do as his predecessors had done — that there were examples of infants in the cradle being made cardinals. [139:1]
We now close this horrid list of criminals. Since the Reformation the popes have been obliged to live more decently, or at least to conceal their vices instead of flaunting them before the world. Should the Protestants object that they are in no way responsible for the crimes of the Papacy, we shall cheerfully concede the plea; but at the same time we beg to remind them that Catholics are also Christians, and that the historian must deal with the whole system through all the centuries. Besides, as Michelet observed, Protestantism is after all only an estuary, and Catholicism the great sea.
[125:4]So intense was Gregory’s hatred of learning, that he angrily rebuked the Archbishop of Vienna for suffering grammar to be taught in his diocese, and contemplated burning all the writings in existence that were not devoted to the cause of Christianity.
Oliver Wellington “Billy” Sipple (November 20, 1941 – February 2, 1989) was a decorated U.S. Marine and Vietnam War veteran, who was left disabled by the war. On September 22, 1975, he grappled with Sara Jane Moore as she fired a pistol at U.S. President Gerald Ford in San Francisco, causing her to miss. The subsequent public revelation that Sipple was gay turned the news story into a cause célèbre for LGBT rights activists, leading Sipple to unsuccessfully sue several publishers for invasion of privacy, and causing his estrangement from his parents.
Oliver Wellington Sipple was born in Detroit, Michigan. He served in the United States Marine Corps and fought in Vietnam. Shrapnel wounds suffered in December 1968 caused him to finish out his tour of duty in a Philadelphia veterans’ hospital, from which he was released in March 1970. Sipple, who was closeted in his hometown of Detroit, had met Harvey Milk in New York City and had participated in San Francisco’s gay pride parades and gay rights demonstrations. Sipple was active in local causes, including the historic political campaigns of openly gay Board of Supervisors candidate Milk. The two were friends and Sipple would also be later described as a “prominent figure” in the gay community who had worked in a gay bar and was active in the Imperial Court System.
He lived with a merchant seaman in a fourth-floor walk-up apartment located in San Francisco’s Mission District. He later spent six months in San Francisco’s VA hospital, and was frequently readmitted into the hospital in 1975, the year he saved Ford’s life.
Sipple was part of a crowd of about 3,000 people who had gathered outside San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel to see President Ford on September 22, 1975. Ford, just emerging from the building, was vulnerable despite heavy security protection. Standing beside Sipple in the crowd was Sara Jane Moore. She was about 40 feet (12 m) away from President Ford when she fired a single shot at him with a revolver, narrowly missing the President. After realizing she had missed, she raised her arm again, and Sipple dived towards her; he grabbed her arm, possibly saving President Ford’s life. Sipple said at the time, “I saw [her gun] pointed out there and I grabbed for it. … I lunged and grabbed the woman’s arm and the gun went off.” The bullet ricocheted and hit John Ludwig, a 42-year-old taxi driver; he survived. The incident came just three weeks after Lynette Fromme’s assassination attempt on Ford. Reporters hounded Sipple who at first did not want his name used, nor his location known.
The police and the Secret Service immediately commended Sipple for his action at the scene, as did the media. The national news media portrayed Sipple as a hero, and noted his status as a former Marine.
Though he was known to be homosexual among members of the San Francisco gay community, and had even participated in gay pride events, Sipple’s sexual orientation was a secret from his family. He asked the press to keep such personal information off the record, making it clear that neither his mother nor his employer knew he was gay.
The day after the incident, two answering machine messages outed Sipple to San Francisco Chronicle’s columnist Herb Caen. One was from Reverend Ray Broshears, the head of a gay activist group called the Lavender Panthers. The other message was from local gay activist Harvey Milk, a friend of Sipple and on whose campaign for city council Sipple had worked. While discussing whether the truth about Sipple’s sexuality should be disclosed, Milk told a friend, “It’s too good an opportunity. For once we can show that gays do heroic things, not just all that caca about molesting children and hanging out in bathrooms.” Milk outed Sipple in order to portray him as a “gay hero” and so to “break the stereotype of homosexuals” being “timid, weak and unheroic figures”. According to Harold Evans, “[T]here was no invitation to the White House for Sipple, not even a commendation. Milk made a fuss about that. Finally, weeks later, Sipple received a brief note of thanks.” Three days after the incident, Sipple received a letter from President Ford. It read:
I want you to know how much I appreciated your selfless actions last Monday. The events were a shock to us all, but you acted quickly and without fear for your own safety. By doing so, you helped to avert danger to me and to others in the crowd. You have my heartfelt appreciation.
Two days after the thwarted assassination attempt, unable to reach Sipple, Caen wrote of Sipple as a gay man, and of a friend of Milk, speculating Ford offered praise “quietly” because of Sipple’s sexual orientation. Sipple was besieged by reporters, as was his family. His mother refused to speak to him. Gay liberation groups petitioned local media to give Sipple his due as a gay hero. Caen published the private side of the Marine’s story, as did a handful of other publications. Sipple then insisted to reporters that his sexuality was to be kept confidential. Reporters labeled Sipple the “gay ex-Marine”, and his mother disparaged and disowned him. Later, when Sipple hid in a friend’s apartment to avoid them, the reporters turned to Milk, arguably the most visible voice for the gay community. Of President Ford’s letter of thanks to Sipple, Milk suggested that Sipple’s sexual orientation was the reason he received only a note, rather than an invitation to the White House.
Sipple sued the Chronicle, filing a $15-million invasion of privacy suit against Caen, seven named newspapers, and a number of unnamed publishers, for publishing the disclosures. The Superior Court in San Francisco dismissed the suit, and Sipple continued his legal battle until May 1984, when a state court of appeals held that Sipple had indeed become news, and that his sexual orientation was part of the story.
According to a 2006 article in The Washington Post, Sipple went through a period of estrangement with his parents, but the family later reconciled with him. Sipple’s brother, George, told the newspaper, “[Our parents] accepted it. That was all. They didn’t like it, but they still accepted. He was welcomed. Only thing was: Don’t bring a lot of your friends.” However other sources indicate that Sipple’s parents never fully accepted him. His mother, just after news broke of Sipple’s sexual orientation, hung up on Sipple saying she never wished to speak to him again. His father is said to have told Sipple’s brother to “forget [he had] a brother.” Finally, when his mother died, his father did not allow him to attend her funeral.
Sipple’s headstone at Golden Gate National Cemetery
Sipple’s mental and physical health sharply declined over the years. He drank heavily, was diagnosed with schizophrenia, fitted with a pacemaker, and gained weight. The incident brought him so much attention that, later in life, while drinking, he would express regret about grabbing Moore’s gun. On February 2, 1989, an acquaintance, Wayne Friday, found Sipple dead in his San Francisco apartment, with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s next to him and the television still on. The San Francisco coroner estimated Sipple had been dead for approximately 10 days. He was 47 years old. Sipple’s funeral was attended by about 30 people. President Ford and his wife sent a letter of sympathy to his family and friends. He was buried in Golden Gate National Cemetery south of San Francisco.
His $334 per month apartment near San Francisco’s Tenderloin District was found with many newspaper clippings of his actions on the fateful September afternoon in 1975, including a framed letter from the White House. A letter addressed to the friends of Oliver Sipple was on display for a short period after his death at the New Belle Saloon:
Mrs. Ford and I express our deepest sympathy in this time of sorrow involving your friend’s passing …
— Former President Gerald Ford, February, 1989
In a 2001 interview with columnist Deb Price, Ford disputed the claim that Sipple was treated differently because of his sexual orientation, saying,
As far as I was concerned, I had done the right thing and the matter was ended. I didn’t learn until sometime later – I can’t remember when – he was gay. I don’t know where anyone got the crazy idea I was prejudiced and wanted to exclude gays.
According to Castañeda and Campbell:
The Sipple incident has been referred to, in passing, in a major motion picture and in a prime-time television program. Several law review articles and more than a dozen books and commentary pieces have also mentioned the perplexing ethical dimensions of the case.
A September 2017 episode of the radio program Radiolab covered Sipple’s act of foiling the assassination of then President Ford. The episode goes into Sipple’s act of heroism, his outing by Harvey Milk and Herb Caen and the news media, and the ethics of his outing in spite of his opposition.
1 Castañeda, Laura; Shannon B. Campbell (2006). News And Sexuality: Media Portraits of Diversity. Sage Publications Inc. ISBN 978-1-4129-0999-0. Retrieved February 19, 2008.
2 ^ a b Shilts, Randy (2005). Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the U.S. Military. Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-312-34264-7. Retrieved February 19, 2008.
3 ^ a b c Sadler, Roger L. (2005). Electronic Media Law. Sage Publications Inc. ISBN 978-1-4129-0588-6. Retrieved February 19, 2008.
4 ^ a b Johansson, Warren; William A. Percy (1994). Outing: Shattering the Conspiracy of Silence. Haworth Press. ISBN 978-1-56024-419-6. Retrieved February 19, 2008.
5 ^ a b Radiolab Podcast (September 23, 2017), Radiolab – Oliver Sipple [Daryl Lembke, Daniel Luzer, Ken Maley, Sarah Jane Moore, Dan Morain], retrieved October 3, 2017
6 ^ a b c d Morain, Dan (February 13, 1989). “Sorrow Trailed a Veteran Who Saved a President and Then Was Cast in an Unwanted Spotlight”, The Los Angeles Times, p. 1.[dead link]
7 ^ a b c Caught in Fate’s Trajectory, Along With Gerald Ford, Lynne Duke, The Washington Post, December 30, 2006, p. D01.
8 ^ “Archived copy”. Archived from the original on August 31, 2007. Retrieved May 23, 2007. “Oliver Sipple 1941-1989”. Accessed May 23, 20
1 “Oliver Sipple 1941–1989”. Accessed May 23, 2007. Archived February 13, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
2 ^ a b Shilts, Randy (1982). The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, St. Martin’s Press. ISBN 0-312-52330-0 p. 122.
3 ^ a b c Oliver Sipple – Radiolab especially from around 16:30 to 20:00
4 ^ Harold Evans, The Imperial Presidency: 1972–1980′, Random House, 1998.
5 ^ “The Oliver Sipple Page”. web.archive.org. August 31, 2007.
6 ^ a b c “Oliver Sipple – Radiolab – WNYC Studios”. Retrieved September 9, 2018.
7 ^ a b MORAIN, DAN (February 13, 1989). “Sorrow Trailed a Veteran Who Saved a President and Then Was Cast in an Unwanted Spotlight”. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 9, 2018 – via LA Times.
8 ^ Rangel, Jesus (February 4, 1989). “O.W. Sipple, 47, Who Blocked An Attempt To Kill Ford in 1975”. The New York Times. Retrieved September 9, 2018.
9 ^ “The Frontlines: A President Committed to ‘Unity'”.
10 ^ Laura Castañeda, Shannon B. Campbell, “News and Sexuality: Media Portraits of Diversity”, SAGE, 2006, ISBN 1-4129-0999-6, page 66. The movie referenced (chapter notes in the book) is Absence of Malice, and the TV program is an episode from L.A. Law from May 1990.
11 ^ “Radiolab, Oliver Sipple”. WBEZ 91.5 Chicago. September 22, 2017. Archived from the original on September 22, 2017.
In 1935, Sigmund Freud penned a response to a mother who had asked him for help with her gay son. Despite the broader perceptions of homosexuality at the time, Freud took a different approach, telling the woman it’s “nothing to be ashamed of.”
“I gather from your letter that your son is a homosexual. I am most impressed by the fact that you do not mention this term for yourself in your information about him. May I question you why you avoid it?” he wrote. “Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation; it cannot be classified as an illness; we consider it to be a variation of the sexual function, produced by a certain arrest of sexual development. Many highly respectable individuals of ancient and modern times have been homosexuals, several of the greatest men among them.”
While the this correspondence sheds light on his personal communications, it has long been known that Freud did not view homosexuality as a pathology. He believed everyone was born bisexual and later became either straight or gay because of the relationships with those around them. In the letter, Freud does suggest “treatment” for homosexuality may be possible, but says the result “cannot be predicted.”
The letter currently appears on display in London as part of an exhibition at Wellcome Collection called “The Institute of Sexology.” (Scroll for transcription.)
Dear Mrs [Redacted],
I gather from your letter that your son is a homosexual. I am most impressed by the fact that you do not mention this term yourself in your information about him. May I question you why you avoid it? Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation; it cannot be classified as an illness; we consider it to be a variation of the sexual function, produced by a certain arrest of sexual development. Many highly respectable individuals of ancient and modern times have been homosexuals, several of the greatest men among them. (Plato, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, etc). It is a great injustice to persecute homosexuality as a crime – and a cruelty too. If you do not believe me, read the books of Havelock Ellis.
By asking me if I can help, you mean, I suppose, if I can abolish homosexuality and make normal heterosexuality take its place. The answer is, in a general way we cannot promise to achieve it. In a certain number of cases we succeed in developing the blighted germs of heterosexual tendencies, which are present in every homosexual in the majority of cases it is no more possible. It is a question of the quality and the age of the individual. The result of treatment cannot be predicted.
What analysis can do for your son runs on a different line. If he is unhappy, neurotic, torn by conflicts, inhibited in his social life, analysis may bring him harmony, peace of mind, full efficiency, whether he remains a homosexual or gets changed. If you make up your mind he should have analysis with me — I don’t expect you will — he has to come over to Vienna. I have no intention of leaving here. However, don’t neglect to give me your answer.
Sincerely yours with best wishes,
P.S. I did not find it difficult to read your handwriting. Hope you will not find my writing and my English a harder task.
Eugenia Falleni lived for decades as Harry Crawford until arrested for murder
Caitlyn Jenner and now the Oscar-nominated film The Danish Girl have shone the light on the difficulties faced by transgender people as never before. Jenner’s transition and Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of Lili Elbe (formerly Einar Wegener) is bringing understanding and acceptance that others could never have dreamed of.
Take the tragic story of Sydney’s Eugenia Falleni, born about 1875, who lived most of her life as Harry Crawford. From an early age Falleni felt more comfortable as a male. For many years she lived secretly as a man in Sydney, but in the 1920s her story was made public under the most tragic and humiliating circumstances.
Eugenia is believed to have been born in Italy, the eldest of 22 children. The family migrated to New Zealand in 1877 but Eugenia was punished for dressing in boys clothes and being a tomboy.
As a teenager she ran away from home several times. At 19 her father forced her into a marriage with an Italian man named Braseli. When it turned out that Braseli was already married, Eugenia ran away for good.
Signing on as a ship’s cabin boy under the name Eugene Falleni she lived as a man aboard ships for several years until a captain discovered her secret and subjected her to continued rapes. She was forced ashore in Newcastle in 1898 and made her way to Sydney where she gave birth to a daughter she named Josephine.
She left her baby in the care of an Italian woman in Double Bay and took on the identity of Harry Leo Crawford, dressing as a man and working as a manual labourer.
Although some thought him strange and somewhat reserved, none of Crawford’s co-workers suspected his secret. They knew him to be a good worker who, despite his small frame, was not afraid of hard work.
Crawford always spurned the interest of young ladies until in 1912, when he was working as a general hand and cart driver at a company in Wahroonga, he fell for his boss’s housekeeper Annie Birkett, a widowed mother of a teenager son.
Crawford finally allowed himself to get close to a woman, even devising a method of making love that would convince her he was a man. They were married in 1913 and set up a sweets shop in Balmain together.
Crawford maintained the deception until 1917 when Annie discovered his secret from a neighbour. Determined to save the marriage Harry took Annie on a picnic on the banks of the Lane Cove River to convince her to stay
Something terrible happened on that picnic. According to later statements by Crawford Annie slipped and fell, fatally hitting her head on a rock. In a panic he tried to burn her body and obliterate the evidence. Her body was discovered but it would be years before the police were able to identify her remains.
Telling Annie’s son, Harry Birkett, that she had run off with another man Crawford moved house and in 1919 married Elizabeth Allison.
In 1920 the police finally identified Annie’s body with the help of Harry Birkett who recognised her jewellery and Crawford was later arrested.
The first mugshots were taken of Crawford in men’s clothes before he was forced to change into women’s clothes for more humiliating photographs.
There was more humiliation in store. Newspapers reported the Falleni case as the “man-woman” and there was intense interest from a less than understanding public.
Society was outraged by this woman “masquerading as a man” and supposedly defrauding innocent women into marriage.
At the trial Falleni’s defence centred on challenging the identification of the body as that of Annie, but the jury was not convinced. Falleni was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The sentence was later commuted to life in prison.
Execution may have been a kinder sentence, because of the agony of being forced to live as a woman in prison. Falleni was released from Long Bay in 1931 because of her failing health, but was dogged by her tragic past.
She died in 1938 from injuries sustained after being hit by a car on Oxford St near her home at Paddington.
Was ‘transgender warrior’ a victim of an Australian miscarriage of justice?
Mark Tedeschi QC’s biography of Eugenia Falleni exposes a potential unjust murder conviction from 1920
f you go into the lord chief justice’s court at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, you may notice a pair of rather shabby red velvet curtains, to the left and right of the presiding judge’s chair. Each curtain is suspended from a horizontal brass rod, which is hinged so that it can sit flat against the panelled wall when not required.
Although court 4 is regularly used for ceremonial occasions, such as the swearing-in of senior legal figures and the extraordinary 800-year-old quit rents ceremony, I have never seen the curtains swung out for use. I had always assumed they were Victorian draught excluders, made redundant by improvements to the central heating system since the courts were opened in 1882.
That was until this week, when I read a chilling account of a woman being sentenced to death. This was not an Indonesian court sentencing someone for drug trafficking but an Australian court sentencing a defendant for murder.
The year was 1920. After hearing the jury’s verdict and inviting the defendant to address the court, the chief justice of New South Wales “gave an almost imperceptible nod to the sheriff’s officer who was waiting in the body of the court”. The official knew exactly what the gesture meant.
He walked to the front of the court, mounted the stairs to the bench, walked around the back of the judge to the two, large, hinged curtain rods that were normally flush on the wall behind the bench, each rod carrying a black velvet curtain, and swung them forward to a position on either side of the judge. By ancient tradition, this signalled that a death sentence was about to be handed down. This quaint practice symbolically isolated the judge from all side distractions and influences and focussed his attention on the prisoner directly in front of him, so as to assist him in discharging the distasteful task at hand.
Before I explain the remarkable background to this case, I should say that — as far as I know — nobody has ever been sentenced to death in court 4 of the Royal Courts of Justice, although the court of criminal appeal certainly used to hear appeals in capital cases there. Perhaps there is a legal historian who can tell me whether the courtroom curtains in London were ever deployed in the way they were in Sydney.
The woman sentenced to death in New South Wales had been convicted of murdering Annie Birkett, a woman who had believed she was the defendant’s wife. Eugenia Falleni had lived as a man for 22 years and, during that time, had taken part in two ceremonies of marriage with women who each believed that they were marrying a man. The second woman even persuaded herself she had become pregnant by Falleni.
Eugenia, the new biography of Falleni from which I have taken the passage above is, written by Mark Tedeschi QC, senior crown prosecutor for New South Wales. He believes that Falleni was wrongly convicted on the basis of “fallacious scientific evidence, unreliable sighting witnesses, dubious police practice and an avalanche of prejudicial publicity”.
Tedeschi demonstrates all too clearly how a more experienced defence counsel could have secured an acquittal or, at worst, a manslaughter verdict. It is a message that the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, should take to heart. And the authorities in Indonesia might care to note that, as long ago as 1920, Australian politicians were not prepared to see someone they regarded as a woman going to the gallows. No women had been executed in New South Wales for more than 30 years. The sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and Falleni was released on licence in 1931, only to die in a road accident in 1938.
Born in Italy in 1875 and brought up in New Zealand, Falleni went to sea at the age of 21. The following year, Falleni was raped by a sea captain who discovered that he and his crew had been deceived by the young sailor. Falleni became pregnant and gave birth to a daughter, who went on to have a family of her own.
It was in 1913 that Falleni, then known as Harry Crawford, went through a ceremony of marriage with Birkett. What strikes the modern reader as extraordinary was that Birkett, who had been widowed some seven years earlier and left with a young son, took more than four years to realise how she was being deceived by Falleni, despite several tell-tale signs.
Tedeschi explains how Falleni used a dildo and always wore a loose-fitting undershirt during lovemaking. Eventually, Birkett confronted Falleni, but Tedeschi’s account of their falling out makes it clear that Birkett’s death could have been an accident.
In his highly readable biography, Tedeschi concludes that Falleni was a “transgender warrior at a time when there was no understanding of her condition and no support for her cause”. He says “the most acceptable term today for Eugenia Falleni’s condition is ‘gender identity disorder’, which is synonymous with transsexualism”.
But Tedeschi writes as a lawyer, not as a psychologist. His main concern is to expose a miscarriage of justice for which one of his predecessors was largely responsible. An honest prosecutor never regards an unjust conviction as a successful outcome.
Albert D. J. Cashier (December 25, 1843 – October 10, 1915), born Jennie Irene Hodgers, was an Irish-born immigrant who served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Cashier adopted the identity of a man before enlisting, and maintained it until death. Cashier became famous as one of a number of women soldiers who served as men during the Civil War, although the consistent and long-term (at least 53 years) commitment to a male identity has prompted some contemporary scholars to suggest that Cashier was a trans man.
Cashier was very elderly and disoriented when interviewed about immigrating to the United States and enlisting in the army, and had always been evasive about early life; therefore, the available narratives are often contradictory. According to later investigation by the administrator of Cashier’s estate, Albert Cashier was born Jennie Hodgers in Clogherhead, County Louth, Ireland on December 25, 1843,:52 to Sallie and Patrick Hodgers. Typically, the youth’s uncle or stepfather was said to have dressed his charge in male clothing in order to find work in an all-male shoe factory in Illinois. Even before the advent of the war, Jenny adopted the identity of Albert Cashier in order to live independently.:52 Sallie Hodgers, Cashier’s mother, was known to have died prior to 1862, by which time her child had traveled as a stowaway to Belvidere, Illinois, and was working as a farmhand to a man named Avery.
Cashier first enlisted in July 1862 after President Lincoln’s call for soldiers.:52 As time passed, the need for soldiers only increased. On August 6, 1862, the eighteen-year-old enlisted in the 95th Illinois Infantry for a three-year term using the name “Albert D.J. Cashier” and was assigned to Company G.:52 Cashier was listed in the company catalog as nineteen years old upon enlistment, and small in stature.[note 1]
Many Belvidere boys had been at the Battle of Shiloh as members of the Fifteenth Illinois Volunteers, where the Union had suffered heavy losses. Cashier took the train along with other boys from Belvidere to Rockford in order to enlist, in answer to the call for more soldiers.:380 Along with others from Boone and McHenry counties, Cashier learned how to be a volunteer infantryman of the 95th Regiment at Camp Fuller. After being shipped out by steamer and rail to Confederate strongholds in Columbus, Kentucky and Jackson, Tennessee, the 95th was ordered to Grand Junction where it became part of the Army of the Tennessee under General Ulysses S. Grant.:380–381
The regiment was part of the Army of the Tennessee under Ulysses S. Grant and fought in approximately forty battles, including the siege at Vicksburg. :381 During this campaign, Cashier was captured while performing reconnaissance,:55 but managed to escape and return to the regiment. After the Battle of Vicksburg, in June 1863, Cashier contracted chronic diarrhea and entered a military hospital, somehow managing to evade detection.:55–56 In the spring of 1864, the regiment was also present at the Red River Campaign under General Nathaniel Banks, and in June 1864 at the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads in Guntown, Mississippi, where they suffered heavy casualties.:56–57:382–383
Following a period to recuperate and regroup following the debacle at Brice, the 95th, now a seasoned and battle-hardened regiment, saw additional action in the Winter of 1864 in the Franklin-Nashville Campaign, at the battles of Spring Hill and Franklin, the defense of Nashville, and the pursuit of General Hood.:383
During the war, the regiment traveled a total of about 9,000 miles.:52[note 2] Other soldiers thought that Cashier was small and preferred to be alone, which were not uncommon characteristics for soldiers. Cashier fought with the regiment through the war until honorably discharged on August 17, 1865, when all the soldiers were mustered out.:57
Cashier was only one of at least 250 soldiers who were assigned female at birth and enlisted as men to fight in the Civil War.
After the war, Cashier returned to Belvidere, Illinois for a time, working for Samuel Pepper and continuing to live as a man.:57 Settling in Saunemin, Illinois in 1869, Cashier worked as a farmhand as well as performing odd jobs around the town.:57 and can be found in the town payroll records.:57 Cashier lived with employer Joshua Chesbro and his family in exchange for work, and had also slept for a time in the Cording Hardware store in exchange for labor. In 1885, the Chesbro family had a small house built for Cashier. For over forty years, Cashier lived in Saunemin and was a church janitor, cemetery worker, and street lamplighter. Living as a man allowed Cashier to vote in elections and to later claim a veteran’s pension under the same name.:58 Pension payments started in 1907.
In later years, Cashier ate with the neighboring Lannon family. The Lannons discovered their friend’s sex when Cashier fell ill, but decided not make their discovery public.:59
In 1911, Cashier, who was working for State Senator Ira Lish, was hit by the Senator’s car, resulting in a broken leg.:59 A physician found out the patient’s secret in the hospital, but did not disclose the information. No longer able to work, Cashier was moved to the Soldiers and Sailors home in Quincy, Illinois on May 5, 1911. Many friends and fellow soldiers from the Ninety-fifth Regiment visited.:59 Cashier lived there until an obvious deterioration of mind began to take place and was moved to the Watertown State Hospital for the Insane in March 1914.:60 Attendants at the Watertown State Hospital discovered Cashier’s sex, at which point, the patient was made to wear women’s clothes again after what we can assume would be more than fifty years.:60 In 1914, Cashier was investigated for fraud by the veterans’ pension board; former comrades confirmed that Cashier was in fact the person who had fought in the Civil War and the board decided in February 1915 that payments should continue for life.
Albert Cashier died on October 10, 1915 and was buried in uniform. The tombstone was inscribed “Albert D. J. Cashier, Co. G, 95 Ill. Inf.” Cashier was given an official Grand Army of the Republic funerary service, and was buried with full military honors.:60 It took W.J. Singleton (executor of Cashier’s estate) nine years to track Cashier’s identity back to the birth name of Jennie Hodgers. None of the would-be heirs proved convincing, and the estate of about $282 (after payment of funeral expenses) was deposited in the Adams County, Illinois, treasury. The name on the original tombstone is Albert D. J. Cashier. In the 1970s, a second tombstone, inscribed with both names, was placed near the first one at Sunny Slope cemetery in Saunemin, Illinois.
Cashier is listed on the internal wall of the Illinois memorial at Vicksburg National Military Park.
A musical entitled The Civility of Albert Cashier has been produced based on Cashier’s life; the work was described by the Chicago Tribune as “A timely musical about a trans soldier”.
Also Known As Albert D. J. Cashier: The Jennie Hodgers Story is a biography written by veteran Lon P. Dawson, who lived at the Illinois Veterans Home where Cashier once lived. The novel My Last Skirt, by Lynda Durrant, is based on Cashier’s life. Cashier was mentioned in a collection of essays called Nine Irish Lives, in which Cashier’s biography was written by Jill McDonough. Cashier’s house has been restored in Saunemin.
Authors including Michael Bronski, James Cromwell, Kirstin Cronn-Mills, and Nicholas Teich have suggested or argued that Cashier was a trans man due to living as a man for at least 53 years.
1 Salt. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-10-08. Retrieved 2007-12-14.
2 ^ a b c Blanton, DeAnne & Cook, Lauren M. (2002). They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War. Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 9780807128060.
3 ^ a b Cromwell, Jason (1999). “Transvestite Opportunists, Passing Women, and Female-Bodied Men”. Transmen and FTMs: Identities, Bodies, Genders, and Sexualities. University of Illinois Press. pp. 77–78. ISBN 9780252068256.
4 ^ a b Bronski, Michael (2011). “A Democracy of Death and Art”. A Queer History of the United States. Beacon Press. pp. 69–70. ISBN 9780807044391.
5 ^ a b Teich, Nicholas (2012). “The History of Transgenderism and its Evolution Over Time”. Transgender 101: A Simple Guide to a Complex Issue. Columbia University Press. pp. 76–77. ISBN 9780231157124.
6 ^ a b Cronn-Mills, Kirstin (2014). Transgender Lives: Complex Stories, Complex Voices. Minneapolis: Lerner Publishing Group. p. 41. ISBN 9780761390220.
7 ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Tsui, Bonnie (2006). She Went to the Field: Women Soldiers of the Civil War. Globe Pequot. Guilford, Connecticut: TwoDot. ISBN 978-0-7627-4384-1. OCLC 868531116.
8 ^ Benck, Amy. “Albert D. J. Cashier: Woman Warrior, Insane Civil War Veteran, or Transman?”. OutHistory. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
9 ^ Illinois Issues: Little Soldier, Big Mystery, Illinois Public Radio, July 10, 2018
11 ^ a b c Hicks-Bartlett, Alani (February 1994). “When Jennie Comes Marchin’ Home”. Illinois History. Archived from the original on 2006-09-05. Retrieved 2007-12-13.
12 ^ a b 1 Blanton, DeAnne (Spring 1993). “Women Soldiers of the Civil War”. Prologue. College Park, MD: National Archives. 25 (1). Archived from the original on 5 December 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-14.
2 ^ a b c d e f g Clausius, Gerhard P. (Winter 1958). “The Little Soldier of the 95th: Albert D. J. Cashier”. Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society. 51 (4): 380–387. ISSN 2328-3246. JSTOR 40189639.
3 ^ “The Women Who Fought in the Civil War”. Off the Beaten Path. Retrieved August 5, 2018.
4 ^ Steve Hendrix (August 25, 2017). “A history lesson for Trump: Transgender soldiers served in the Civil War”. Washington Post. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
5 ^ “Deposition of J. H. Himes” (January 24, 1915) from Blanton (Spring 1993)
6 ^ “Recollections – Albert D. J. Cashier”. Saunemin, Illinois. Google Sites. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
7 ^ “The Handsome Young Irishman of the 95th IL Infantry”. eHistory, Ohio State University. Retrieved August 3, 2018.
8 ^ McAuliffe, Nora-Ide. “When Jennie Came Marching Home – An Irishwoman’s Diary on Albert Cashier and the US Civil War”. http://www.irishtimes.com. The Irish Times. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
9 ^ a b “Women in the Civil War”. Warfare History. Retrieved August 3, 2018.
10 ^ a b DeAnne Blanton, Lauren Cook Wike (2002-09-01). They Fought Like Demons. LSU Press. p. 174. ISBN 9780807128060. Retrieved 2018-08-03.
11 ^ “The Handsome Young Irishman of the 95th IL Infantry”. eHistory, Ohio State University. Retrieved August 3, 2018.
12 ^ “Albert D. J. Cashier”. Find a Grave.
13 ^ Bonnie Tsui (2006-07-01). She Went to the Field: Women Soldiers of the Civil War. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781461748496. Retrieved 2018-08-03.
14 ^ Jones, Chris (7 September 2017). “‘Civility of Albert Cashier’: A timely musical about a trans soldier”. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
15 ^ McDonough, Jill (2018). “The Soldier”. Nine Irish Lives. Algonquin Books. pp. 68–99.
16 ^ “For Love Of Freedom”. Saunemin Historical Society. July 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-14.
The group that calls itself Islamic State (IS or Isis) has a special punishment for gay people – it kills them by throwing them off high buildings. Taim, a 24-year-old medical student, tells the story of how he only escaped this fate by fleeing from Iraq to Lebanon.
In our society, being gay means death. When Isis kills gays, most people are happy because they think we’re sick.
I first realised I was gay when I was about 13 or 14. I too thought homosexuality was a sickness and I just wanted to feel normal. During my first year of college, I started having therapy for it. My therapist told me to tell friends that I was going through a “difficult phase” and to ask for their support.
I’m of Muslim background but my ex-boyfriend was from a Christian background and I had a bunch of Christian friends, whom I used to hang out with. In 2013 I got into a fight with a fellow student, Omar – who later joined Isis – about hanging out with Christians. A friend of mine told him to go easy on me because I was going through a hard time, having treatment for being gay. That’s how people knew. I think my friend’s intention was noble but what happened as a result ruined my life.
In November 2013, Omar attacked me with two of his friends. I was just walking home after a really lovely day. They beat me, threw me to the ground and shaved my head, saying to me: “This is just a lesson to you for the moment, because your father is a religious man. Watch what you do!” He meant that I wouldn’t be killed then and there out of respect for my dad, because I’m from a religious family.
I left town for a few days and didn’t go to university but then I went back, and in March 2014 I made Omar angry again, this time by suggesting that non-Muslims shouldn’t have to pay the “jizya”, the tax paid by non-Muslims to a Muslim government. I was washing my hands in the university bathroom when he and others attacked me again. They came at me from behind, but I recognised one of them from his green watch. It was the same group. They kicked me half-unconscious. I was barely able to walk and stopped going to university for a month.
Then, in the middle of final exams, Isis took over. Omar called me and asked me to repent and join them. I hung up the phone.
On 4 July, a group of fighters from Isis came to my home. My father answered the door and apparently they said to him: “Your son is an infidel and a homosexual and we have come to carry out God’s punishment on him.”
My dad is a religious man and luckily for me he was able to tell them to come back the next day, to give him time to find out whether the accusation was correct. He came inside the house and started screaming. Finally, he said: “If these accusations are true, I will hand you over to them myself, happily.” And I just stood there, not knowing what to do and what to say, or how to defend myself.
I was in shock. But my mother decided that I should leave the house immediately, and she started working on getting me out of Iraq for good. It was midnight and she said to me: “We’re leaving right now.” She took me to her sister’s house. The next day she booked me a plane ticket to Turkey and got me a visa. But I had to travel via Erbil and they wouldn’t let us into Kurdistan. I stayed in a village near Erbil for two weeks, trying to get in but I never managed it. I tried to leave via Baghdad but there were clashes on the road and the driver wouldn’t go on. I tried to get out so many times, and failed.
Eventually, in August, after weeks in hiding, my mum arranged somehow for me to get to Kirkuk, driving there through fields and on unpaved roads. From there, I went to Sulaymaniyah. I’d planned to go to Turkey but the first available flight was to Beirut and I didn’t need a visa – so here I am.
If I’d stayed, Isis would have come for me and killed me the way they’ve killed others. If Isis didn’t get me, members of my family would have done it. A few days after I left, I learned that my uncle – my father’s brother – had taken an oath to cleanse the family honour.
Recently, I received an anonymous Facebook message – but my mother thinks it was from my uncle. It said: “I know you’re in Beirut. Even if you went to hell, I would follow you there.”
All I want now is to be in a safe place, unreachable by my dad or anyone with extremist thoughts. I want to be safe, to be free, and to be myself – to get my degree and start living… I just want to start living.
Human rights lawyers from the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project have helped me get refugee status and are working on getting me resettled in another country, where I want to continue my studies. Here I’m living in one room, the size of my bathroom back home. I’m in limbo.
I think I will recover eventually but there will always be a memory of this dark period when I literally had to run for my life to avoid being killed. It was very stressful, but luckily I made it.
I’ve lost contact with most of my family. A month after I fled, my younger brother sent me a Facebook message saying: “I have had to leave town. The family is shattered and it’s all because of you.”
I was angry and didn’t reply. But then on New Year’s Eve I missed him, so I wrote to him, saying: “It’s not my fault that I was born this way. They (Isis) are the criminals.” And after that we had a long conversation on Facebook about our childhoods.
I’ve not spoken to my father. What he did was very hurtful. He’s my father. He’s supposed to protect me and defend me, no matter what. But when he said that he’d hand me over to Isis, he knew what they were going to do to me. He knew. Maybe in the future I can forgive him, but right now I don’t even want to think about him. I want him out of my life.
I talk to my mum every week, though. It’s hard for her because there’s no network coverage and she has to go out of town to get a signal. She’s the most amazing woman in the whole world. She’s cultured, respectful – very bright. She loves me and when she was trying to smuggle me out, we never discussed my homosexuality. She was just focused on getting me to safety. Because she is my mother, I think she always knew that I was gay. But all I felt from her was her love, her ultimate love. I never said goodbye to her because when I actually managed to escape, there had been so many failed attempts that I was sure I would be back and see her again.
All I need is a hug from her.
I still have gay friends at home but we’re not in contact any more, for their own safety.
Earlier this year one of my best friends, who stayed behind, was killed.
He was thrown off the main government building.
He was a great man – a very kind person. He was 22 years old, a medical student, and he was really calm and really smart – a bit of a genius. He used to talk to me about the latest scientific discoveries.
He always got straight As. You never saw him without a book.
We met first online – gay Iraqis hang out a lot in online communities – and then face to face. In person, he was quite quiet – but online he never stopped talking. Sometimes he would chat until the power went off and we lost the internet. He shared his deepest secrets with me. As gay men, we all had to lead secret lives. But he was the kind of person you love to talk to.
I don’t know how he was outed because he was very careful – but maybe through a text or online message. When Isis capture people, they go through all their contacts.
The last time I saw him in the flesh was a few days after Isis took over our town, but we continued talking online until I fled.
When I first saw the pictures of him, I can’t describe what I felt. The video images follow me in my nightmares. I see myself falling through the air. I dream that I’m arrested and then thrown from a building – facing the same fate as my friend.
It was devastating to see him go in that brutal way. He was blindfolded but I knew it was him from his skin tone and from his build. It looked like he died immediately but a friend told me he didn’t – perhaps the building wasn’t high enough. The friend said he’d been stoned to death.
I wanted to break down. I couldn’t believe it. One day he was alive, active, just living his life.
And now he is gone.
Isis are professional when it comes to tracking gay people – they hunt them down one by one
Even before Isis arrived, I was living in constant fear. There are no laws to protect you. Militiamen were killing people in secret, and no-one would say anything. To them, we’re just a bunch of dirty criminals they need to get rid of because we bring God’s anger and are – as they see it – the source of all evil.
For the past few years it’s been really, really hard. There were militiamen or security men who – if they found out someone was gay – would arrest him, rape him, torture him. There were lots of murders supervised by the Iraqi army. Videos came out of people being burned alive or stoned and you can see soldiers there. I have seen a video where some gay men had ropes put around their necks and they were dragged around the streets and people were throwing stones at them and when they were half-dead they were set on fire. Some people had their rectums glued up and were then left to die in the desert.
Before Isis, I think that maybe the power of my family protected me. But let’s assume that Isis disappeared this second, the threat to my life would be just as serious, now that I’ve been identified as gay.
The difference now is that Isis has only one horrible method of killing people – throwing them off buildings and, if they don’t die, stoning them. I know that if Isis had captured me, that would have been my fate.
What’s also changed is that the media are focusing on what Isis is doing, because it’s Isis. And Isis films everything and releases the video and says: “We killed these people for being gay and this is their punishment according to our Holy Book.”
Isis are also professional when it comes to tracking gay people. They hunt them down one by one. When they capture people, they go through his phone and his contacts and Facebook friends. They are trying to track down every gay man. And it’s like dominoes. If one goes, the others will be taken down too.
We have feelings and we have souls – stop hating us just because we’re born different
It’s devastating to see the public reaction to the killings. Usually, when Isis posts pictures online, people sympathise with the victims – but not if they’re gay. You should see the Facebook comments after they post video of the killings. It’s devastating. “We hate Isis but when they do things like this, we love them. God bless you Isis.” “I am against Isis but I am totally with Isis when they kill gays.” “Amazing news. This is the least that gays deserve.” “The most horrible crime on earth is homosexuality. Good job Isis.” “The scene is ugly but they deserve it.” “Those dirty people deserve Isis.”
And there are thousands of people agreeing with these comments full of hate. That is what is so disturbing. This is the society I fled from.
Islam is against homosexuality. My father made me study Sharia law for six years because he wanted me to be a religious man like him. There is a hadith [an ethical guideline thought to be a saying of the prophet] that instructs gay men to be thrown off a cliff and then it’s up to a judge or the Caliph to decide if they should be burned or stoned to death.
Imam and Islamic scholar Dr Usama Hasan from the Quilliam Foundation says there are many hadiths and traditions ascribed to the Prophet Muhammad and his disciples on the subject of punishment for homosexuals. “However, all are disputed and there has never been any consensus on them, especially since they seem to contradict the Koran, 4:15-16.” He adds that some scholars have argued that Muhammad could not have given any such ruling since no confirmed case of homosexuality was ever brought to him.
I think Isis is throwing gay men from buildings because our society hates us and it’s a way of gaining support.
I try not to look at Isis’s videos. But to be honest I do look for their martyrdom videos. I want to see if I can see Omar, the man who ruined my life.
I worry a lot about the gay men still left there. I have dozens of friends who can’t leave because they can’t afford to. But, after our friend’s death, I said goodbye to them online and blocked them, for their own safety.
I’m speaking out to honour my friend who was killed – and for the gay men I know who are still in Iraq. I want Iraqis to know that we’re human beings, we’re not criminals. We have feelings and we have souls. Stop hating us just because we’re born different.
I was lucky to get out. I saved my soul. But what about them? Will they be lucky enough to survive? And, if they survive, will they recover from the trauma of being hunted? It’s a disaster. They’re all targets.
Taim told his story to the BBC’s Caroline Hawley. Taim is not his real name, nor is Omar the real name of his persecutor.
She prays that one day she will face the people who killed her daughter and find out why they did it.
“I want to know, that’s the point,” she says. “I want those who did this thing to my child to be arrested, all of them.”
Almost 4 months after Pasca was murdered, no-one has been arrested.
For many LGBTI people and their families in South Africa, safety, justice, and the promise of a truly rainbow nation still feel a long way off.
South Africa’s constitution was the first in the world to protect people from discrimination because of their sexual orientation. The country was also the first in Africa to legalise same-sex marriage. But after a spate of murders, gay people say more needs to be done to stop hate crimes.
Betty Melamu sits on a brown leather sofa in her living room in the township of Evaton, just south of Johannesburg. She’s cradling a framed picture of her daughter Motshidisi Pascalina, known as Pasca.
In a quiet, wavering voice, she sings Pasca’s favourite song.
“Whenever she would listen to radio or go to church she would sing that song,” she remembers.
When I ask if Pasca was a good singer she says, “Yes,” and laughs – apparently Pasca was more spirited than talented, constantly switching between parts as she sang.
She loved football too, studied hard at school and wanted to be a politician.
“She wanted to do something good,” says Melamu with pride.
But the laughter and happy memories are fleeting, and sadness is etched in her thin, drawn face. Pasca was a lesbian, something her family knew and accepted. She had just turned 21 and completed her final high school exams when she went to a party in December.
“I don’t know what happened after the party,” says Melamu. “But she didn’t come back.”
Two days later Pasca’s body was found in a field in a neighbouring township. She had been beaten and mutilated. At the morgue her family couldn’t recognise her face and could only identify her by a tattoo on her leg.
“At that time I was strong,” Melamu remembers. “But after that I feel like I am crazy woman.”
And as we talk, she repeats one question, over and over.
“Why? Why did this happen to my child?”
Pasca was was born in 1994, the year apartheid ended and Nelson Mandela was elected president – she was one of the first of South Africa’s so-called born free generation.
In his inauguration speech, Mandela promised to “build a society in which all South Africans will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts… a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.”
But 21 years later, this promise remains largely unfulfilled for the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community.
In a country where crime rates in general are high, black lesbians in poor townships face particular risks and often suffer the most violent crimes.
As women, they’re vulnerable in a country with one of the highest rates of rape in the world. As lesbians in an often homophobic and patriarchal society, they face a further danger – the idea that they can be “changed” and “made into women” through what is known as “corrective rape”.
It’s suspected this may have happened to Pasca, although the post-mortem was unable to determine this.
And when crimes happen, there’s no guarantee that the response will be adequate. Victims say they often face secondary harassment by police or health care workers.
Pasca’s case was assigned to a police officer who was on leave at the time, only returning to work two and a half weeks later.
Frustrated at the delay in this and two other rape cases, in January activists took to the streets of Evaton with rainbow flags and banners. Chanting “Pasca is our sister,” they marched to the local police station to demand justice.
“The police are not doing anything,” Lindiwe Nhlapo told me several weeks later. She’s part of Vaal LGBTI, one of the groups that organised the march. “The police are failing us big time.”
Since then, the police have tried to address concerns about the investigation into Pasca’s death, but frustration with the justice system is a common story.
In the nearby township of KwaThema, silver drapes and rainbow flags adorn the living room of the small house that’s the headquarters of the Ekurhuleni Pride Organising Committee (EPOC).
There’s also a bar down one end and a sign on the wall – Divas and Dykes Lounge. Day or night, this is a safe place for gay and transgender people to socialise.
“I can’t walk with my partner on the street and hold their hand,” says Bontle Kahlo, from EPOC. “I can’t go out at night and say ‘I’m going to dance somewhere,’ because I’m not safe. I might get killed because of who I am, because of who I love.”
She points to a frame on the wall containing photos of dozens of LGBTI men and women.
“This is our memory wall,” she says. Some of them died of natural causes, but many of the lesbians in the pictures were murdered because of their sexual orientation.
“Women are less than men,” says Kahlo. “If you’re a black woman, you are even less, and if you’re a black lesbian woman you are basically nothing in this country.”
Among the faces on the wall is Noxolo Nogwaza, a 24-year-old lesbian who was raped, mutilated and murdered in 2011.
But five years later, no-one has been prosecuted.
“The feeling we got from the police is that they expected us to do all the work for them,” says Kahlo.
“It’s very tiring to be an activist but to also be a police officer and to try as hard as you can, and to have a government which is not supportive.”
Her partner and fellow campaigner Ntuspe Mohapi nods in agreement.
“They’re good at talking but not at acting,” she says.
When they heard about Pasca’s murder, there was a familiar sadness.
“I think it’s getting worse,” Mohapi says. “And these are just the cases of murder that we are talking about. We haven’t started with rape, or hate speech, and the bullying in schools, and the suicides of gay teenagers.”
South African law doesn’t classify hate crimes differently from other crimes, so there are no official statistics to turn to.
The organisation Iranti-org is funded by the EU to document violence against LGBTI people – it has counted more than 30 murders and rapes in the country since 2012.
Pasca was just one of three LGBTI people killed in South Africa during a six week period late last year. The deaths barely received a mention in the mainstream media.
There hasn’t always been a lack of interest though. After the murder of Noxolo Nogwaza and several other lesbians in 2011, there was a global outcry. 170,000 people signed a petition calling on the government to act.
In response, the government set up a National Task Team and drew up a National Intervention Strategy to reduce hate crimes.
It also established a Rapid Response Team to make sure that hate crimes are properly investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted. This has had some success in clearing a backlog of murders and other crimes.
But the government is not doing enough says Mpaseka “Steve” Letsike, co-chairwoman of the National Task Team and head of LGBTI organisation Access Chapter 2.
“We are not getting it right. There’s a huge gap. We need to invest our energies into prevention, into conversations, into dialogues.”
The government is doing some of this – funding awareness campaigns and training police and health workers. But “it’s still a drop in the ocean,” says Letsike.
To get a sense of the challenge South Africa faces, I travel to the Johannesburg suburb of Yeoville. It’s home to many migrants from more traditional, rural parts of the country.
In a tiny room, barely big enough for a bed and a fridge, I perch on an upturned bucket and speak to two men. The elder of the two speaks softly, but has a fearsome clarity when our conversation turns to homosexuality.
“Homosexuality is a taboo to us,” he says. “I’ll go back to African traditions, there’s no word for that in our language.”
I ask what would happen if one of his daughters told him she was a lesbian.
“I might kill her myself. That thing is unnatural, it’s awkward, so I cannot accept something that is awkward in my house.
“If someone said choose between keeping this child or killing it, I would kill it.”
His views reflect the gap between the law and the attitude of many South Africans. It shows that the government has failed to create a truly rainbow nation, say activists.
“Conditions for LGBTI people in South Africa have improved substantially since 1994,” says John Jeffery, deputy minister of justice and constitutional development. His department is responsible for the National Intervention Strategy.
“We are trying to educate people about LGBTI rights, that gay rights are human rights,” he says, and adds that he is frustrated with the criticism.
“There’s no use complaining outside that government is not doing enough,” he says. “I unfortunately have not heard proposals from civil society organisations about things we should be doing that we’re not doing. They need to tell us where they think we should be improving.”
While open to suggestions, he says there are limits to what he can do.
“More could be done, but the extent to which we can run awareness programmes would depend on budget and what money we’ve got, and unfortunately government is facing budget cuts.”
The government is currently in the process of preparing legislation to outlaw hate crimes and hate speech, which should allow better monitoring of crimes and, it’s hoped, reduce homophobic abuse.
“There’s no magic solution, it’s a process and that process takes time,” says Jeffery.
Betty Melamu is still waiting.
She prays that one day she will face the people who killed her daughter and find out why they did it.
“I want to know, that’s the point,” she says. “I want those who did this thing to my child to be arrested, all of them.”
Almost 4 months after Pasca was murdered, no-one has been arrested.
For many LGBTI people and their families in South Africa, safety, justice, and the promise of a truly rainbow nation still feel a long way off.