Category Archives: Political

Gay History: Timeline Of An Acronym – LGBT

The Stonewall Inn in the gay village of Greenwich Village, Manhattan, site of the June 1969 Stonewall riots, the cradle of the modern LGBT rights movement and an icon of LGBT culture, is adorned with flags depicting the colors of the rainbow.[1][2][3]
LGBT (or GLBT) is an initialism that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. In use since the 1990s, the term is an adaptation of the initialism LGB, which was used to replace the term gay in reference to the LGBT community beginning in the mid-to-late 1980s.[4] Activists believed that the term gay community did not accurately represent all those to whom it referred.

The initialism has become adopted into the mainstream as an umbrella term for use when labeling topics pertaining to sexuality and gender identity. For example, the LGBT Movement Advancement Project termed community centres, which have services specific to those members of the LGBT community, as “LGBT community centers”, in a comprehensive studies of such centres around the United States.[5]

The initialism LGBT is intended to emphasize a diversity of sexuality and gender identity-based cultures. It may be used to refer to anyone who is non-heterosexual or non-cisgender, instead of exclusively to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.[6] To recognize this inclusion, a popular variant adds the letter Q for those who identify as queer or are questioning their sexual identity; LGBTQ has been recorded since 1996.[7][8] Those who add intersex people to LGBT groups or organizing use an extended initialism LGBTI.[9][10] The two acronyms are sometimes combined to form the terms LGBTIQ [11] or LGBT+ to encompass spectrums of sexuality and gender.[12] Other, less common variants also exist, motivated by a desire for inclusivity, including those over twice as long which have prompted criticism.[13]

A six-band rainbow flag representing LGBT

History of the term

The first widely used term, homosexual, now carries negative connotations.[15] It was replaced by  homophile in the 1950s and 1960s,[16][dubious ] and subsequently gayin the 1970s; the latter term was adopted first by the homosexual community.[17] Lars Ullerstam [sv] promoted use of the term sexual minority in the 1960s, as an analogy to the term ethnic minority for non-whites.[18]

As lesbians forged more public identities, the phrase “gay and lesbian” became more common.[19] A dispute as to whether the primary focus of their political aims should be feminism or gay rights led to the dissolution of some lesbian organizations, including the Daughters of Bilitis, which disbanded in 1970 following disputes over which goal should take precedence.[20] As equality was a priority for lesbian feminists, disparity of roles between men and women or butch and femme were viewed as patriarchal. Lesbian feminists eschewed gender role play that had been pervasive in bars, as well as the perceived chauvinism of gay men; many lesbian feminists refused to work with gay men, or take up their causes.[21]

Lesbians who held the essentialist view, that they had been born homosexual and used the descriptor “lesbian” to define sexual attraction, often considered the separatist opinions of lesbian-feminists to be detrimental to the cause of gay rights.[22] Bisexual and transgender people also sought recognition as legitimate categories within the larger minority community.[19]

After the elation of change following group action in the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, in the late 1970s and the early 1980s, some gays and lesbians became less accepting of bisexual or transgender people.[23][24] Critics[Like whom?] said that transgender people were acting out stereotypes and bisexuals were simply gay men or lesbian women who were afraid to come out and be honest about their identity.[23] Each community has struggled to develop its own identity including whether, and how, to align with other gender and sexuality-based communities, at times excluding other subgroups; these conflicts continue to this day.[24] LGBTQ activists and artists have created posters to raise consciousness about the issue since the movement began.[25]

From about 1988, activists began to use the initialism LGBT in the United States.[26] Not until the 1990s within the movement did gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people gain equal respect.[24] This spurred some organizations to adopt new names, as the GLBT Historical Society did in 1999. Although the LGBT community has seen much controversy regarding universal acceptance of different member groups (bisexual and transgender individuals, in particular, have sometimes been marginalized by the larger LGBT community), the term LGBT has been a positive symbol of inclusion.[6][24]

Despite the fact that LGBT does not nominally encompass all individuals in smaller communities (see Variants below), the term is generally accepted to include those not specifically identified in the four-letter initialism.[6][24] Overall, the use of the term LGBT has, over time, largely aided in bringing otherwise marginalized individuals into the general community.[6][24] Transgender actress Candis Cayne in 2009 described the LGBT community “the last great minority”, noting that “We can still be harassed openly” and be “called out on television”.[27]

In response to years of lobbying from users and LGBT groups to eliminate discrimination, the online social networking service Facebook, in February 2014, widened its choice of gender variants for users.[relevant? ][28][29][30]

In 2016, GLAAD‘s Media Reference Guide states that LGBTQ is the preferred initialism, being more inclusive of younger members of the communities who embrace queer as a self-descriptor.[31] However, some people consider queer to be a derogatory term originating in hate speech and reject it, especially among older members of the community.[32]

LGBT publications, pride parades, and related events, such as this stage at Bologna Pride 2008 in Italy, increasingly drop the LGBT initialism instead of regularly adding new letters, and dealing with issues of placement of those letters within the new title.[14]

Variants

Many variants exist including variations that change the order of the letters; LGBT or GLBTare the most common terms.[24] Although identical in meaning, LGBT may have a more feminist connotation than GLBT as it places the “L” (for “lesbian”) first.[24] LGBT may also include additional Qs for “queer” or “questioning” (sometimes abbreviated with a question mark and sometimes used to mean anybody not literally L, G, B or T) producing the variants LGBTQ and LGBTQQ.[34][35][36] In the United Kingdom, it is sometimes stylized as LGB&T,[37][38] whilst the Green Party of England and Wales uses the term LGBTIQ in its manifesto and official publications.[39][40][41]

The order of the letters has not been standardized; in addition to the variations between the positions of the initial “L” or “G”, the mentioned, less common letters, if used, may appear in almost any order.[24] Longer initialisms based on LGBT are sometimes referred to as “alphabet soup”.[42][43] Variant terms do not typically represent political differences within the community, but arise simply from the preferences of individuals and groups.[44]

The terms pansexual, omnisexual, fluid and queer-identified are regarded as falling under the umbrella term bisexual (and therefore are considered a part of the bisexual community).

Some use LGBT+ to mean “LGBT and related communities”.[12] LGBTQIA is sometimes used and adds “queer, intersex, and asexual” to the basic term.[45] Other variants may have a “U” for “unsure”; a “C” for “curious”; another “T” for “transvestite“; a “TS”, or “2” for “two-spirit” persons; or an “SA” for “straight allies“.[46][47][48][49][50] However, the inclusion of straight allies in the LGBT acronym has proven controversial as many straight allies have been accused of using LGBT advocacy to gain popularity and status in recent years,[51] and various LGBT activists have criticised the heteronormative worldview of certain straight allies.[52] Some may also add a “P” for “polyamorous“, an “H” for “HIV-affected“, or an “O” for “other”.[24][53] Furthermore, the initialism LGBTIH has seen use in Indiato encompass the hijra third gender identity and the related subculture.[54][55]

The initialism LGBTTQQIAAP (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally, pansexual) has also resulted, although such initialisms are sometimes criticized for being confusing and leaving some people out, as well as issues of placement of the letters within the new title.[42] However, adding the term “allies” to the initialism has sparked controversy,[56] with some seeing the inclusion of “ally” in place of “asexual” as a form of asexual erasure.[57] There is also the acronym QUILTBAG (queer and questioning, intersex, lesbian, transgender and two-spirit, bisexual, asexual and ally, and gay and genderqueer).[58]

Similarly LGBTIQA+ stands for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer/questioning, asexual and many other terms (such as non-binary and pansexual)”.[59]

In Canada, the community is sometimes identified as LGBTQ2 (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Two Spirit).[60]Depending on the which organization is using the acronym the choice of acronym changes. Businesses and the CBC often simply employ LGBT as a proxy for any longer acronym, private activist groups often employ LGBTQ+,[61] whereas public health providers favour the more inclusive LGBT2Q+ to accommodate twin spirited indigenous peoples.[62] For a time the Pride Toronto organization used the much lengthier acronym LGBTTIQQ2SA, but appears to have dropped this in favour of simpler wording.[63]

Transgender inclusion

The term trans* has been adopted by some groups as a more inclusive alternative to “transgender”, where trans (without the asterisk) has been used to describe trans men and trans women, while trans* covers all non-cisgender (genderqueer) identities, including transgender, transsexual, transvestite, genderqueer, genderfluid, non-binary, genderfuck, genderless, agender, non-gendered, third gender, two-spirit, bigender, and trans man and trans woman.[64][65] Likewise, the term transsexual commonly falls under the umbrella term transgender, but some transsexual people object to this.[24]

When not inclusive of transgender people, the shorter term LGB is used instead of LGBT.[24][66]

Intersex inclusion

The relationship of intersex to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans, and queer communities is complex,[67] but intersex people are often added to the LGBT category to create an LGBTI community. Some intersex people prefer the initialism LGBTI, while others would rather that they not be included as part of the term.[10][68] LGBTI is used in all parts of “The Activist’s Guide” of the Yogyakarta Principles in Action.[69] Emi Koyama describes how inclusion of intersex in LGBTI can fail to address intersex-specific human rights issues, including creating false impressions “that intersex people’s rights are protected” by laws protecting LGBT people, and failing to acknowledge that many intersex people are not LGBT.[70] Organisation Intersex International Australia states that some intersex individuals are same sex attracted, and some are heterosexual, but “LGBTI activism has fought for the rights of people who fall outside of expected binary sex and gender norms”.[71][72] Julius Kaggwa of SIPD Uganda has written that, while the gay community “offers us a place of relative safety, it is also oblivious to our specific needs”.[73]

Numerous studies have shown higher rates of same sex attraction in intersex people,[74][75] with a recent Australian study of people born with atypical sex characteristics finding that 52% of respondents were non-heterosexual,[76][77] thus research on intersex subjects has been used to explore means of preventing homosexuality.[74][75] As an experience of being born with sex characteristics that do not fit social norms,[78] intersex can be distinguished from transgender,[79][80][81] while some intersex people are both intersex and transgender.[82]

2010 pride parade in Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, which uses the LGBTIQ initialism.[33]

Criticism of the term

The initialisms LGBT or GLBT are not agreed to by everyone that they encompass.[84] For example, some argue that transgender and transsexual causes are not the same as that of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people.[85] This argument centers on the idea that being transgender or transsexual have to do more with gender identity, or a person’s understanding of being or not being a man or a woman irrespective of their sexual orientation.[24] LGB issues can be seen as a matter of sexual orientation or attraction.[24]These distinctions have been made in the context of political action in which LGB goals, such as same-sex marriage legislation and human rights work (which may not include transgender and intersex people), may be perceived to differ from transgender and transsexual goals.[24]

A belief in “lesbian & gay separatism” (not to be confused with the related “lesbian separatism“), holds that lesbians and gay men form (or should form) a community distinct and separate from other groups normally included in the LGBTQ sphere.[86] While not always appearing of sufficient number or organization to be called a movement, separatists are a significant, vocal, and active element within many parts of the LGBT community.[87][86][88] In some cases separatists will deny the existence or right to equality of bisexual orientations and of transsexuality,[87] sometimes leading public biphobia and transphobia.[87][86] In contrasts to separatists, Peter Tatchell of the LGBT human rights group OutRage! argues that to separate the transgender movement from the LGB would be “political madness”, stating that: 

Queers are, like transgender people, gender deviant. We don’t conform to traditional heterosexist assumptions of male and female behaviour, in that we have sexual and emotional relationships with the same sex. We should celebrate our discordance with mainstream straight norms.[…] [89]

The portrayal of an all-encompassing “LGBT community” or “LGB community” is also disliked by some lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.[90][91] Some do not subscribe to or approve of the political and social solidarity, and visibility and human rights campaigning that normally goes with it including gay pride marches and events.[90][91] Some of them believe that grouping together people with non-heterosexual orientations perpetuates the myth that being gay/lesbian/bi/asexual/pansexual/etc. makes a person deficiently different from other people.[90] These people are often less visible compared to more mainstream gay or LGBT activists.[90][91] Since this faction is difficult to distinguish from the heterosexual majority, it is common for people to assume all LGBT people support LGBT liberation and the visibility of LGBT people in society, including the right to live one’s life in a different way from the majority.[90][91][92] In the 1996 book Anti-Gay, a collection of essays edited by Mark Simpson, the concept of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ identity based on LGBT stereotypes is criticized for suppressing the individuality of LGBT people.[93]

Writing in the BBC News Magazine in 2014, Julie Bindel questions whether the various gender groupings now, “bracketed together” … “share the same issues, values and goals?” Bindel refers to a number of possible new initialisms for differing combinations and concludes that it may be time for the alliances to be reformed or finally go “our separate ways”. In 2015, the slogan “Drop the T” was coined to encourage LGBT organizations to stop support of transgender people; while receiving some support from feminists as well as transgender individuals, the campaign has been widely condemned by many LGBT groups as transphobic.

Alternative terms

Many people have looked for a generic term to replace the numerous existing initialisms.[87] Words such as queer (an umbrella term for sexual and gender minorities that are not heterosexual, or gender-binary) and rainbow have been tried, but most have not been widely adopted.[87][102] Queer has many negative connotations to older people who remember the word as a taunt and insult and such (negative) usage of the term continues.[87][102] Many younger people also understand queer to be more politically charged than LGBT.[102][103] “Rainbow” has connotations that recall hippies, New Age movements, and groups such as the Rainbow Family or Jesse Jackson‘s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. SGL (“same gender loving“) is sometimes favored among gay male African Americans as a way of distinguishing themselves from what they regard as white-dominated LGBT communities.[104]

Some people advocate the term “minority sexual and gender identities” (MSGI, coined in 2000), or gender and sexual/sexuality minorities (GSM), so as to explicitly include all people who are not cisgender and heterosexual; or gender, sexual, and romantic minorities (GSRM), which is more explicitly inclusive of minority romantic orientations and polyamory; but those have not been widely adopted either.[105][106][107][108][109] Other rare umbrella terms are Gender and Sexual Diversities (GSD),[110] MOGII (Marginalized Orientations, Gender Identities, and Intersex) and MOGAI (Marginalized Orientations, Gender Alignments and Intersex).[111][112]

The National Institutes of Health have framed LGBT, others “whose sexual orientation and/or gender identity varies, those who may not self-identify as LGBT” and also intersex populations (as persons with disorders of sex development) as “sexual and gender minority” (SGM) populations. This has led to the development of an NIH SGM Health Research Strategic Plan.[113] The Williams Institute has used the same term in a report on an international sustainable development goals, but excluding intersex populations.[114]

In public health settings, MSM (“men who have sex with men“) is clinically used to describe men who have sex with other men without referring to their sexual orientation, with WSW (“women who have sex with women“) also used as an analogous term.[115][116]

References

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  1. Julia Goicichea (August 16, 2017). “Why New York City Is a Major Destination for LGBT Travelers”. The Culture Trip. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
    ^ Eli Rosenberg (June 24, 2016). “Stonewall Inn Named National Monument, a First for the Gay Rights Movement”. The New York Times. Retrieved June 25, 2016.
  • ^ “Workforce Diversity The Stonewall Inn, National Historic Landmark National Register Number: 99000562”. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. Retrieved April 21, 2016.
  • ^ Acronyms, Initialisms & Abbreviations Dictionary, Volume 1, Part 1. Gale Research Co., 1985,  ISBN 978-0-8103-0683-7. Factsheet five, Issues 32–36, Mike Gunderloy, 1989
  • ^ Centerlink. “2008 Community Center Survey Report” (PDF). LGBT Movement Advancement Project. Retrieved August 29, 2008.
  • ^ Jump up to: a b c d Shankle, Michael D. (2006). The Handbook of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Public Health: A Practitioner’s Guide To Service. Haworth Press. ISBN 978-1-56023-496-8.
  • ^ The Santa Cruz County in-queery, Volume 9, Santa Cruz Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgendered Community Center, 1996. 2008-11-01. Retrieved 2011-10-23. page 690
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  • Gay History: Police RAID at Hares & Hyenas Building

    For Melbourne’s LGBTQIA community, the police raid above the Hares & Hyenas bookstore – and subsequent serious injury of queer party organiser Nik Dimopoulos – has triggered memories of darker times. By Nic Holas.

    Nik Dimopoulos, who was arrested by Victoria Police in a raid that is being investigated.

    Nik Dimopoulos is surrounded by flowers. It’s a fitting flourish for the humble man behind some of Melbourne’s most beloved queer parties. There’s no techno pumping through the speaker here though, no throb of shirtless gay men in varying stages of undress and debauchery.

    Dimopoulos is in St Vincent’s Hospital in Fitzroy, just a short walk from Melbourne’s queer hub of bars, sex clubs and one very iconic bookstore, Hares & Hyenas. It was there, in the early hours of last Saturday morning, he was arrested by Victoria Police during a raid on his home in what police have described as a case of mistaken identity. Dimopoulos’s arm was torn from its socket, broken so badly it required hours of surgery just so he didn’t lose the limb.

    When I visit him, Dimopoulos isn’t in a partying mood. Amid all the chatter of visiting gay friends, he pauses for a moment, overwhelmed by it all again. We let him catch his breath. Doctors say it’s still too early to know whether he will recover full use of his arm.

    Four days earlier, about 2am on May 11, members of Victoria Police’s Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) entered Dimopoulos’s home, a residence connected to Hares & Hyenas, through the alley behind the bookstore. The officers were seeking to apprehend an “armed member of a Lebanese gang” linked to a May 5 home invasion and carjacking in Melbourne’s southern suburbs.

    Dimopoulos is not Lebanese. Nor is he a member of any gang. He is Greek Australian – his hair is dark, he has a beard. He’s also well built. In the eyes of the CIRT though, he matched the description of their suspect, at least enough to warrant pursuit as he attempted to flee the residence.

    Dimopoulos and his housemates, Hares & Hyenas owners Crusader Hillis and Rowland Thomson, all emphatically state that at no point did any member of the CIRT announce their presence or say they were police. Dimopoulos tells me he believed these men – storming into his home, shining torches in his face, loudly demanding he “not move” – were there to commit an anti-queer attack. So he ran.

    By the time Crusader Hillis realised the men were in fact police and made his way to the front of the building, Dimopoulos’s arm was already broken. “Nik was already completely slumped,” Hillis explains. “He was screaming. At that point, my only concern was to get across to police that it was a case of mistaken identity. There was no one showing any concern for his level of pain.”

    According to Hillis, the “bigger brass” soon started to arrive at the shop and realised the CIRT had the wrong man. But Dimopoulos’s arms, one severely broken, were still cable-tied behind his back. According to Hillis and Thomson, no one in the CIRT had a way to remove the cable ties. Dimopoulos remained bound until the ambulance arrived. At the hospital, medical staff explained the severity of his injuries. “I don’t know if we can fix this,” they told him.

    On Monday, Victoria Police assistant commissioner Luke Cornelius addressed the media, telling reporters it is “very clear to us that police stuffed this one up. Very clear to us that the injuries occasioned by the individual who was arrested by police. Very clear to us that those injuries are very serious and the nature of those injuries demand explanation.”

     Hares & Hyenas has been a fixture of Melbourne’s queer community since 1991. More than a bookstore, it is also a licensed performance venue that hosts queer theatre, cabaret and storytelling along with an endless stream of community launches, events and support groups.

    Ro Allen, Victoria’s first gender and sexuality commissioner, was “appalled” by the raid at the Hares & Hyenas building. Allen described Crusader Hillis, Rowland Thomson and Nik Dimopoulos as “Victorian LGBTIQ royalty”.

    For Melbourne’s queer community, the violence of the incident has triggered not-too-distant memories of a time when the gay rights movement often found itself brutalised at the hands of a homophobic police force. Of the Tasty nightclub raid in 1994, during which Victoria Police detained the patrons of the gay nightclub in Melbourne’s CBD and subjected them all to a demeaning stripsearch over the course of seven hours.

    Hillis and Thomson both acknowledge Saturday’s incident was not motivated by the homophobia for which the police force was once known. But they remember those days all too well.

    “We had issues with police at various times in the ’80s before we opened the shop, and then in the ’90s,” Hillis tells me. The pair were gay bashed in front of Hares & Hyenas’ original store, in South Yarra, in 1993. Hillis describes the attack as a “hate crime”, just one of a spate of homophobic bashings in the neighbourhood. When Victoria Police attended the scene, Thomson explains, they “initially refused to drive us to The Alfred [Hospital], which was a block away, because we were bleeding”.

    Thomson says Hillis stood up to the police back then, as he did during last weekend’s raid. “Crusader, in his usual way, confronted them,” Thomson says, “and told them [in the 1993 incident] they had to educate themselves on HIV and that they had to take us [to hospital], which they ended up doing but it shows the level of ignorance of the police at that stage. They thought it was dangerous to have queers bleeding in the car.”

    According to Lee Carnie of Equality Australia and the Human Rights Law Centre, “There have been many positive steps that Victoria Police has taken to build bridges with the LGBTQ communities, but the sad reality is that the legacy of past negative experiences lives on today.” The raid has also renewed the polarising debate from within the LGBTQIA community about the presence of police marching in uniform in pride parades such as Mardi Gras.

    On Monday, Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission announced they would be taking over the investigation into Nik Dimopoulos’s arrest.

    “Police should not be investigating police, it’s as simple as that,” Carnie says, supporting an independent investigation into the incident. “Victorians deserve a police force they can trust – a police force that is transparent and accountable when it does wrong.”

    Hillis and Thomson are also pleased the botched raid will be investigated independently and acknowledge the lobbying power of the queer community helped make it happen. “When the police take on the queer community, we’ve got that history. We’ve got that fear,” Hillis says. “But we’ve also got incredible fightback”.

    They hope this event can be a flashpoint “to drive this towards bigger cultural change” within Victoria Police. But Hillis believes this change “has to extend to other groups of marginalised people, who get far too much attention from the police and are arrested at far greater rates”.

    Nayuka Gorrie is a Gunai/Kurnai, Gunditjmara, Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta writer and member of Melbourne’s queer community. They tell me they weren’t shocked to hear about the raid, citing many examples of police raids and excessive force on their community.

    “We have a premier like Daniel Andrews who relies on the gay community to appear progressive but at the same time is expanding prisons and giving police more powers. We’re seeing the militarisation of police, and also quashing civil action and protest. So, it’s not shocking to me. We’re not shocked to see this happen,” Gorrie says.

    “It’s just another day, if you’re a queer black person. Part of me is a little bit frustrated that it takes this much for white queers to recognise what the relationship really is and how quickly the supposed contract between queer communities and police can be broken.”

    In his hospital room, Nik Dimopoulos is trying to finish a statement to send to friends and supporters with Crusader Hillis’s help. Both say the community’s response has been overwhelming. Yet another gay male friend wanders into the room to visit. There is now an official guest list, such is the demand. Much like one of Dimopoulos’s parties.

    Hillis intercepts the new visitor, and for a moment it’s just Dimopoulos and me in the room. He tells me why he ran that night.

    “I’ve always had a thing in the back of my mind that there would be a likelihood that [Hares & Hyenas] would be targeted. I’ve already had this concept in my head of what I would do if we were broken into, and it was understood to be a gay hate crime. What would I do, how would I react?

    “That kicked in immediately as soon as I realised there were men with torches who – without introducing who they were – yelled at me, ‘Don’t move!’ and started running towards me. By the time I got downstairs, fumbling, they caught up with me, I saw there was a group outside. It was so quick. It went from thinking there were two intruders to a gang. A hate gang.”

    Dimopoulos stops. The trauma of what happened has grabbed him by the throat and he can’t speak anymore. It took six hours for surgeons to reattach the severed muscles in his arm and, using a leg graft and metal pins, reconstruct his shoulder socket. And so we leave it there.

    On Thursday, during an interview on 3AW radio, Police Association of Victoria secretary Wayne Gatt told host Neil Mitchell that he was “proud” of the actions of the officers involved in Dimopoulos’s arrest.

    He said he didn’t think any of the CIRT had been suspended over the incident. “I would certainly hope that they are not, to be honest,” he said.

    Gatt said members of the police association had told him the CIRT clearly identified themselves when entering the property. “They do that clearly and they are recorded doing that, that’s what they tell us,” he said.

    No such recordings have been made public as yet. 

    This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 18, 2019 as “Troubled memories”.

    Reference

    Gay History: Why Be LGBT When You Can Be LGBTIQCAPGNGFNBA? The story of an escalating acronym

    Enrolling at Parsons College in New York the other day, a friend was asked to state her name, subject and PGPs. Her what? Her preferred gender pronouns. In other words, did she want to be referred to as ‘she’ and ‘her’, or ‘he’ and ‘him’, or ‘it’, or ‘they’, or none of the above, and was she a Mr, Miss, or Mx? If she wasn’t sure, a support group was on hand to help, called the LGBTQIAGNC. There was no need — she said her name was Clare and ‘she’ would do fine. And the rest of the class? ‘No one stated a PGP other than the obvious,’ she reports, ‘although we do have a large LGBT community.’

    Your reaction to that story might be to think how marvellously inclusive Parsons is — an institution so evolved that people can live gender-neutral lives without prejudice. Or it may be to ask: what on earth does LGBTQIAGNC stand for? And to wonder whether some people in the gay rights movement haven’t veered off course. As one activist sighed when I asked if he could spell out the acronym, ‘Matthew, there are so many letters now that nobody can keep up.’

    A little light googling reveals that it stands for ‘Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, asexual and gender-non-conforming’. Go a little deeper and you discover that there are dozens of different acronyms, and that nobody can agree on what the official one should be. Well, how do you find a name for individuals who are united by being different? Other terms being tacked on to the LGBT movement include ‘questioning’, ‘pansexual’, ‘ally’ or ‘allied’, ‘straight’, ‘leather’ and ‘fetish’, though nobody has found a way of stringing them together to make a snappy word, which I always thought was the point of an acronym. Someone did come up with ‘Quiltbag’, though perhaps understandably, it hasn’t caught on. A more sensible suggestion is ‘Glow’ — ‘gay, lesbian or whatever’.

    Peter Tatchell, who has done more for gay rights than almost anyone, is bewildered by the proliferation of incomprehensible acronyms. ‘It’s great to be inclusive,’ he says, ‘but the new alphabet soup is a confusing and alienating mess — made even worse when people get into spats over missing initials or the inclusion of initials they disagree with. The longest I’ve ever seen is LGBTIQCAPGNGFNBA. This is absurd. It makes us a laughing stock and devalues serious issues around sexuality and gender.’

    The problem seems to be that the western world is only just coming to terms with transgenderism. For even the most enlightened liberal, the idea that we are anything other than just men and women is unfamiliar territory. Perhaps that’s because incidence of intersexuality is rare. Accurate figures are hard to come by, though the Intersex Society of North America puts the number of people born with neither XX nor XY chromosomes at one in 1,666. Is that really enough to merit institutions asking for our PGPs? Or for the Whitney Museum to install gender-neutral toilets, in addition to male and female ones? Or for some British schools to insist that teachers no longer address classes as ‘boys and girls’, for fear of offence?

    This might all sound silly — and the rush to take offence does undermine the LGBT movement. But surely it is important to create a society in which trans people can live without fear and prejudice? According to Stonewall, nearly half of trans people under 26 have attempted suicide. That perhaps puts a few odd pronouns into perspective.

    Personally, I wonder if the trans movement isn’t now at the beginning of an arc that gay rights and anti-racist campaigns were at a generation ago. In the 1950s, we prosecuted Alan Turing for homosexual acts but now recognise this as such a terrible injustice that he has been given a posthumous royal pardon. In the 1970s, we used to laugh at racist jokes in Rising Damp – now they appal us. I still doubt that, in 50 years’ time, terms like Mx will have caught on. But by then, it will perhaps be entirely irrelevant what gender or sexuality you are, and we’ll look back on the PGP as a relic of a long-gone fretful age.

    There is now a K in LGBTQQICAPF2K+

    This is a new one for us but welcome the Ks

    There is now a K to add to the ever-growing LGBT+ acronym – and apparently, it stands for “kink”. The acronym which has grown since the 90s, out of a need to move away from the limiting “gay community” adds letters to encompass any community that defines itself as anything but heterosexual or cisgender.

    The LGBT initialism was coined in the late 80s / early 90s.

    So what do all the letters mean?

    L – lesbian

    G – gay

    B – bisexual

    T – transgender

    Q – queer

    Q – questioning

    I – intersex

    A – asexual

    A – agender

    A – ally

    C – curious

    P – pansexual

    P – polysexual

    F – friends and family

    2 – two-spirit

    K – kink

    However, the addition of the K has been met with some reservation from many on the question website, Quora. Users were quick to dismiss Kink as part of the LGBT+ community.

    Sarah remarked, “Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t believe that fetishes belong in the same acronym as sexualities and gender identity”.

    While Caitlin added, “However, I and others believe that it shouldn’t be included in the acronym. Kink is not inherently non-cis or non-straight, and including it can feed into the stereotype of queer people being “sexual deviants”. BDSM is fine in a community of its own but it’s strange and unnecessary to include it with sexual orientations and gender identities”.

    John wrote, “I’m gay, and I do not and will not use this silly LGBTQLAPK sh*t. They keep adding a silly letter for inclusion. You are just labelling yourselves, and that is a silly thing to do.”

    References

    Gay History: Council on Religion and the Homosexual

    The Council on Religion and the Homosexual was a San Francisco-based organization founded in 1964 for the purpose of joining homosexual activists and religious leaders.

    Clockwise from upper right:  Partygoers on their way to the Council on Religion and the Homosexual Mardi Gras Ball at San Francisco’s California Hall under the watchful eyes of the San Francisco police, January 1, 1965. Credit: San Francisco Examiner. Evander Smith photographed by the police outside California Hall (the police photographed everyone entering the building using sequentially numbered cards), January 1, 1965. Credit: Evander Smith—California Hall Papers (GLC 46), LGBTQI Center, San Francisco Public Library. Herb Donaldson photographed by the police outside California Hall, January 1, 1965.  Credit:  Courtesy Herbert Donaldson.

    The CRH was formed in 1964 by Glide Memorial Methodist Church, as well as Daughters of Bilitis founders Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin. It included representatives of Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran, and United Church of Christ denominations.[1]

    In the early 1960s, as social change accelerated across the U.S., progressive clergymen increasingly took to the streets to minister to marginalized persons. The Rev. Ted McIlvenna, who worked for the Glide Urban Center, a private Methodist foundation in downtown San Francisco, witnessed the oppression and violence homosexuals faced, and to improve the situation sought a dialogue between clergy and homosexuals.

    With the support of the Methodist church, McIlvenna convened the Mill Valley Conference from May 31 to June 2, 1964, at which sixteen Methodist, Protestant Episcopal, United Church of Christ, and Lutheran clergymen met with thirteen leaders of the homosexual community.

    Following the initial meeting, the participants began plans for a new organization that would educate religious communities about gay and lesbian issues as well as enlist religious leaders to advocate for homosexual concerns. In July 1964, the participants, along with several other clergymen and homosexual activists, met and formed the Council on Religion and the Homosexual (CRH), which was incorporated in December of that year. The CRH was the first group in the U.S. to use the word “homosexual” in its name.[2]

    1965 Fundraiser

    On January 1, 1965, CRH held a costume party at California Hall at 625 Polk Street in San Francisco to raise money for the new organization. When the ministers informed the San Francisco Police Department of their intentions, the SFPD attempted to force the rented hall’s owners to cancel the event.[3] After a further meeting between the ministers and police, which resulted in an agreement not to interfere with the dance, guests arrived to find police snapping pictures of each of them as they entered and left, in a blatant attempt to intimidate.[3]

    When police demanded entry into the hall, three CRH-employed lawyers explained to them that under California law, the event was a private party and they could not enter unless they bought tickets. The lawyers were then arrested, as was a ticket-taker, on charges of obstructing an officer.[4]

    Seven of the ministers who were in attendance that night held a press conference the following morning, where they described the pre-event negotiations with police and accused them of “intimidation, broken promises and obvious hostility.”[3][4] One minister compared the SFPD to the Gestapo.[4]

    When the arrested lawyers came to trial, they were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, which saw the lawyers’ arrest as an attempt to “intimidate attorneys who represent unpopular groups.”[3] Charges were dropped before the Defense had presented its case.[3]

    The incident and its aftermath are often regarded as the starting point of a more formally organized gay rights movement in San Francisco.[5]

    Candidate’s Night

    In 1965, CRH held an event where local politicians could be questioned about issues concerning gay and lesbian people, including police intimidation. The event marks the first known instance of “the gay vote” being sought, which led lesbian activist Barbara Gittings to say “It was remarkable. That was something that [gay] people in San Francisco were way ahead of the rest of the country in doing.”[1]

    References

       Licata, Salvatore J.; Robert P. Peterson (1982). Historical Perspectives on Homosexuality. Routledge. p. 175. ISBN 0-917724-27-5.

    1. ^ Squatriglia, Chuck; Heredia, Christopher; Writers, Chronicle Staff (2003-09-25). “Donald Stewart Lucas — gay rights pioneer / He helped build foundation for later activists”. SFGate. Retrieved 2019-10-08.
    2. ^ Jump up to: a b c d e D’Emilio, John (1998). Sexual politics, sexual communities: the making of a homosexual minority in the United States, 1940-1970. University of Chicago Press. pp. 193–195. ISBN 0-226-14267-1.
    3. ^ Jump up to: a b c Shilts, Randy (1982). The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk. St. Martin’s Press. pp. 53–60. ISBN 0-312-56085-0.
    4. ^ Smith, Kristin (November 4, 2011). “Tears for Queers”. The Bold Italic. Archived from the original on August 27, 2017. Retrieved 2017-06-04

    The 17 Most Interesting Micronations

    The concept of a Micronation is a crazy one. Tiny nations, rarely recognized by anyone, they claim territorial independence but are mostly ignored by the rest of the world. Some are pretty legit, some are jokes, and some are scams, but they’re all interesting. These 17 Micronations all have individual claims to fame that make them intensely cool, in one way or another.

    17. Republic of Molossia

    Molossia is probably one of the most well known Micronations, with just the right blend of tongue-in-cheek humor and seriousness be wonderful and awesome. Molossia is based on two properties in Nevada and Pennsylvania, stretching over 58,000 acres owned by President Kevin Baugh (dictatorial). He issues their own money, they recognise other micronations, and if you give him enough warning, he’ll even give you a tour in full uniform. Molossia has its own alphabet, flag, and has been at war with East Germany since 1983, despite only being founded in 1999. Plus, they just added their own words to the Albanian national anthem. A little bonkers, and a lot of fun, how could you dislike the Republic of Molossia?

    16. The Kingdom of Lovely

    In 2005, the BBC ran a six-part documentary titled How to Start Your Own Country in which comedian Danny Wallace attempted to do exactly that — the Kingdom of Lovely is what resulted. He decided his flat would be appropriate, and gave Tony Blair a declaration of Independence, claiming it as a micronation. Partly internet based, Lovely now has more than 55,000 citizens scattered around the world, but Wallace’s attempt to gain recognition from the United Nations was harmed by him lacking any territories.

    15. The Duchy of Bohemia

    Whether the Duchy of Bohemia is actually a micronation or not is up for debate. Amongst the serious Micronationers, it’s generally frowned upon as they haven’t been doing anything really political, instead just selling off titles as a way to make a quick buck — rather than attempting to set themselves up as a legitimate mini-country. The reason I’ve included them is because their backstory is wonderful — they believe themselves to be the government in exile of Bohemia, which was absorbed into other Eastern European countries decades ago. They believe themselves to be descended of the Bohemian royal line, which is kinda badass.

    14. Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands

    In 2004, the Australian govenrment refused to acknowledge gay marriages, so as a move of symbolic protest a huge cluster of islands of the Northeast Coast of Queensland were declared the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands, a Euro spending constitutional monarchy under the rule of King Gautier I. With a national anthem by Gloria Gaynor, anyone who was gay or lesbian was immediately granted citizenship — though the only economic activity on the islands was tourism, fishing, and selling stamps. Yes, it’s silly, and no it’s not meant to be taken seriously, but it was an interesting protest, and all done in fun.

    13. The Dominion of Melchizedek

    The so-called Dominion of Melchizedek presents the seedier side of micronations, a group of people involved in an immense swathe of financial fraud that brought the world powers down against them. Not internationally recognised, it was founded by a father and son con-artist team, who sold fake banking licenses. They facilitated global banking fraud, and were once called “one of the most diabolical international scams ever devised in recent years.” The leaders claim it’s an “ecclesiastical sovereignty,” like the Vatican City, but that’s more or less BS. They give banking licenses to illegitimate entities, who then rip off everyone else. Poor immigrants were also duped into buying citizenship papers they couldn’t afford, only to find they were useless. Nice people, all around.

    12. The Aerican Empire

    Their flag has a happy face on it. Do you really need any more indication that these people are amazing? They also take the micronation concept to absurdest ends, claiming diverse areas of land like a square kilometer of Australia, a house-sized area in Montreal, Canada, a colony on Mars, the northern hemisphere of Pluto, and an imaginary planet. For the first 10 years of existence, it didn’t even claim any land, but still managed to declare war on other micronations. They also have one of the most wonderful mottos around “The Empire exists to facilitate the evolution of a society wherein the Empire itself is no longer necessary.” It’s pretty much a state set up by a bunch of HGTTG nerds, which is amazing in and of itself.

    11. Nova Roma

    Take you standard SCA style reenactment geeks, have the obsess about Rome instead of the Middle Ages, and turn the wackiness up to 11, and you have the basics of Nova Roma. Founded in 1989 in order to “the restoration of classical Roman religion, culture, and virtues,” they’re a fully recognized non-profit with an educational and religious mission. They practice the Roman religion, do the festivities, wear the clothes, reenact battles — but I’m assuming skip the horrible torture, ethnic cleansing, and pedophilia. Well, I hope. The New Romans don’t really consider themselves a Micronation, but the rest of the Micronation community does, and they have made utterings about attempting to become a sovereign nation following in Roman traditions.

    10. Conch Republic

    The Conch Republic deserves to be on this list if only for having the funniest motto I’ve ever seen on a Micronation: “We Seceded Where Others Failed.” Well played, Conchers, well played. The Republic is completely tongue-and-cheek, and exists only to help drive tourism to the Florida Keys, but its founding was caused by real frustrations. When the US Border Patrol set up a checkpoint between Key West and the mainland, it frustrated a number of residents. Why were they being treated like foreign nationals entering the USA when they were citizens? So they decided they should make their own country. Yeah, they were removing the Michael, but were doing so with a point.

    9. The Other World Kingdom

    Finding pictures of the OWK that I could put on a marginally SFW website was tricky, because OWK exists only for kink. It’s a Femdom Micronation, one where men and women who like it when women have complete sexual and physical power over men get together. Fiercely matriarchal, male visitors are used as furniture, beaten, and generally tortured in a manner that some BDSM lovers are intimately familiar with. While apparently no actual sex occurs in this Czech manor (yeah, right), their claims as a Micronation allow them to get away with things that otherwise might be illegal — like detaining people against their will (kinda?) and physical abuse. Hey, whatever rubs your Buddha.

    8. The failed Libertarian states

    This entry isn’t just one nation, but instead is devoted to the number of attempted Libertarian micronations that have fallen apart for one reason or another. Hey, whenever your entire population thinks they’re John Galt, it’s hard to find someone to fix the sewage pump. There was Minerva on a small reef island near Fiji, which fell when Tonga invaded and took it over. There was New Utopia, founded by Howard Turney, which may or may not be an immense scam, depending on who you talk to. Then the Principality of Freedonia attempted to lease land in Somaliland, but public dissatisfaction led to rioting and the death of a Somali national, so the American students who founded it scarpered. There’s the more recent Seasteading Institute, which is attempting to build an ocean based new nation. I’m sure one day, one of them will succeed.

    7. The Empire of Atlantium

    Unlike many of the tongue in cheek attempts at micronationhood, the Empire of Atlantium went at it with a fierce devotion to the nation-state experiment, and wanted to found an extremely liberal, secular humanist utopia. Formed in Sydney in 1981, the nation has only 0.29 square miles to its name, but as primarily non-territorial state, they’re cool with that. I guess you could say it’s more a state of mind (oh god, why did I make that pun?) The man behind Atlantium is fiercely disliked by other Micronations, essentially for being an enormous flaming douchenozzle, but at least he’s trying.

    6. Grand Duchy of Westarctica

    For some reason, up until 2001 there was a huge wedge of Antarctica not claimed by any existing nation. All of the land south of 60° S and between 90° W and 150° W. was between the claims of Chile and New Zealand, and no one wanted it. So Travis McHenry claimed the so called Marie Byrd Land, and christened it the Grand Duchy of Westarctica. Of all the entries on this list, Westartica actually makes more sense than most. There was a huge swathe of land that nobody wanted, so why couldn’t they just claim it? It was completely unclaimed, so they grabbed it. I kinda hope they actually get some recognition, at least one of these guys deserves a win.

    5. The Kingdom of EnenKio

    Possibly the most widely known and condemned of the scummy, scamming micronations, the Kingdom of EnenKio claimed Wake Atoll of the Marshall Islands as their home base. These three little islands make up around 6.5 square kilometers of land, and after setting up this micronation in 1994, the founders immediately started setting up scam passports and diplomatic papers, which they sold to various unsavory types, despite them not actually having any weight in any nation on the planet. Both the United States and the Marshall Islands have released official communications condemning the actions of the EnenKions.

    4. The Hutt River Province Principality

    One of the longer running micronations, the Hutt River Province was founded in Australia in 1970. Based in the middle of fucking nowhere, around 500km north of Perth, this 18,000 hectare of farmland declared their secession after what they deemed to be overly draconian wheat production quotas. Unlike most other attempts on this list, the Hutt River Provinces almost succeeded. There’s an old Commonwealth law allowing for succession, and the Queen’s representative in Australia couldn’t be bothered fighting the five families who started the new country, so they just let them be. They don’t pay taxes, and mostly just keep to themselves, selling stamps and coins to make some extra cash on the side.

    3. The Independent Long Island

    Wait a second, someone actually wants Long Island? Huh, who would have thought? The ILI is an interesting case, because while they started by claiming the entire island as their own in 2007, on the grounds that it never changed hands to the Americans during the Revolutionary War. Or something like that. They could just be ornery, I’m not really sure. But in the scant handful of years that followed, it was entertaining as all hell to watch their dreams crumble into dust. Unlike some of the leaders on this list who kept their delusions going for years, the ILI first wanted their own country, then were happy being a separate state, and now have completely abandoned political aspirations and is now a “cultural project.”

    2. Freetown Christiania

    Within the Danish capital of Copenhagen sits a small, self-declared autonomous region known as Freetown Christiania. Founded in 1971 by, well, hippies, it’s run by, well, hippies. A bunch of squatters took over a former military barracks, and set up the mother of all communes. Think street music, lots of pot, vegetarian food, no violence, and no hard drugs. Christiana was most well known up until 2004 for its completely open marijuana sales. Anybody (including tourists) could just rock up to a stall and buy some hash. Unfortunately, 2004 saw the Danish government crack down on this, and the freeholding has been in a legal wreck ever since, with their very existence in question. Luckily, 2011 saw them open their doors to the public again after shutting last year.

    1. Sealand

    Far and away the most widely known and popular of the micronations, Sealand is based on a WWII sea fort in international waters off the coast of the UK. Occuppied by the Sealandian royal family since 1967, they have a strong internet presence, and appear to make much of their money by hosting internet gambling sites on their servers, as it’s perfectly legal in Sealand. They’ve also made quite a spin on tourism and selling of minor titles. While not technically recognised by any other nation, they’re on an island no one has jurisdiction of, so they generally just get left well enough alone. Strangely, Sealand received a major popularity boost thanks to the anime and manga series Hetalia: Axis Powers, which was about the personified embodiments of nations (don’t even ask) including the tiny Sealand.

    Reference

    Lost St Giles And Its Poverty Past

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

    Central Saint Giles

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

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

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

    St Giles parish church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Reference

    Gay History: The Queer Nation Manifesto

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

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

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

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

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

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

    An Army of Lovers Cannot Lose

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

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

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

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

    I’m Angry

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

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

    [Untitled]

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

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

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

    If You’re Queer, Shout It!

    Queers are under siege.

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

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

    Shouted

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

    Shout It! 

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

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

    Next year, will we be here?

    [Untitled]

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

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

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

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

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

     Where Are You Sisters?

    Invisibility is Our Responsibility

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

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

     But no.

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

    Where Are You?

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

    Get Up, Wake Up Sisters!!

    Your life is in your hands.

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

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

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

     We’re out. Where the f— are you?

    [Untitled]

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Why Queer?

    Queer!

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

     Why Queer …

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

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

    No Sex Police

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

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

    [Untitled]

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

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

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

     – Rules of Conduct for Straight People

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

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

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

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

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

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

    7. Go f— Yourself.

    I Hate Straights

    I have friends. Some of them are straight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     – Let Yourself Be Angry

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

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

    Reference

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    A gruesome attack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Shepard died on Oct. 12.

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

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

    A promising young life cut short

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Their son was then living an openly out life.

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

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

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

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

    The nation mourns

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

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

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

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

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

    But it wasn’t all sympathy.

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

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

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

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

    Two killers head to court

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Change in Washington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Back to ‘ground zero’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    A legacy — and life — memorialized

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Reference

    Gay History: The Downfall of the Ex-Gay Movement

    What went wrong with the conversion ministry, according to Alan Chambers, who once led its largest organization

    TERRY JOHNSTON / FLICKR

    In 2001, Alan Chambers was hired as the president of the world’s largest ex-gay ministry, Exodus International. That same year, U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher issued a report that stated, “there is no valid evidence showing that sexual orientation can be changed.”

    Like most conservative Christian leaders at the time, Chambers considered the countercultural nature of his work a point of pride. During the latter part of the 20th century, Exodus and similar conservative groups promoted the idea that gay people could—and should try to—become straight. Ex-gay leaders traveled to churches and appeared on television news programs citing a litany of examples of happily married “former homosexuals” to demonstrate that sexual orientation is a choice and that change is possible.

    But Chambers would undergo a radical change of heart. In 2013, he publicly apologized to the LGBT community for the “pain and hurt” Exodus had caused and announced that the ministry was permanently shutting down. Chambers’s decision effectively delivered the deathblow to the beleaguered ex-gay movement. And his story of transformation, detailed in a new memoir, My Exodus: From Fear to Grace with a foreword by CNN’s Lisa Ling, will likely resonate with many traditionalists who are searching for new ways to think about LGBT issues.

    Chambers, 43, was raised by an ex-military father in a Southern Baptist home and realized he was attracted to other males at a young age. Most of his early sexual encounters with men were anonymous, which bred in him a deep self-hatred. At 19, he connected with an Exodus-affiliated ministry where he hoped to rid himself of same-sex attraction once and for all.

    While the ministry did not make Chambers straight, he claims that it saved his life and many others because it provided a “safe space for many” to talk about their sexuality. At the time, there was no national network for LGBT Christians and most churches were not places of sexual transparency. But, he says, Exodus’s emphasis on “change” made it “fatally flawed.”

    In 1998, Chambers married his wife, Leslie, with whom he adopted two children. In My Exodus, he recounts his inability to consummate the union for eight months, but he says their sex life is now “good.”

    “While many relationships are built on sex, ours just includes sex,” Chambers says. “We love it and value it because we worked hard for it.”

    As a former Exodus participant who once lived a “gay lifestyle” but was able to achieve a successful straight marriage, Chambers was the perfect candidate to lead the organization. And by 2001, Exodus needed all the help it could get.

    At its peak, Exodus International had an annual operating budget of more than $1 million, had 25 employees, and served as an umbrella organization for more than 400 local ministries across 17 countries. But over the years since its founding in 1976, many of the leaders Exodus’ touted as success stories had become cautionary tales instead.

    Cofounder Michael Bussee left the group in 1979 and entered a relationship with another Exodus leader, Gary Cooper. Bussee would later admit, “I never saw one of our members or other Exodus leaders or other Exodus members become heterosexual, so deep down I knew that it wasn’t true.” Throughout the 1980s and ‘90s, many former Exodus members became vocal critics of the ministry, claiming it had caused them psychological distress. And in September 2000, Exodus’s chairman John Paulk was photographed cruising for men at a gay bar in Washington, D.C. He was ousted from his position and later confessed, “I do not believe that reparative therapy changes sexual orientation; in fact, it does great harm to many people.”

    The movement traditionalists believed would be their saving grace in the fight against LGBT rights was quickly becoming their Achilles’ heel.

    Being chosen to lead Exodus in 2001 was like becoming the ex-gay Pope following the Catholic sex-abuse scandals. The ministry’s board knew it could not survive another public scandal, so it questioned Chambers rigorously before deciding to hire him. During the interview process, Chambers recalls a board member asking him what success would look like under his leadership. He replied, “It looks like Exodus going out of business because the church is doing its job.”

    Chambers words would later seem prophetic, but he first needed to travel a long road. In 2005, he called homosexuality “one of the many evils this world has to offer.” And in 2006, he lobbied for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. But Chambers admits that during the same year his thinking began to evolve.

    “As I heard more stories and evaluated my own realities,” Chambers said, “I realized change in orientation was not possible or happening.”

    Though the ex-gay leader was stewing on the inside, he seemed as resolute as ever on the outside. He advocated for California’s Proposition 8, which sought to ban gay marriage in the state. In 2009, he published a book called Leaving Homosexuality: A Practical Guide for Men and Women Looking for a Way Out. He admits to immediately regretting the book’s title and some of its content.

    Chambers’s thinking continued morphing until his dramatic announcement that the ministry would shut down in 2013: “Exodus is an institution in the conservative Christian world, but we’ve ceased to be a living, breathing organism. For quite some time, we’ve been imprisoned in a worldview that’s neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical.”

    By this point, the ex-gay movement was already in shambles. A 2013 Pew Research poll showed that only 36 percent of Americans believe a gay or lesbian person’s orientation can be changed. As Satcher reported, modern science had delivered crushing blows to the ex-gay movement with peer-reviewed research showing that its ideology was bunk. And a national movement to ban reparative therapy for minors was taking shape and had already been successful in several states.

    The closing of Exodus International became the “tipping point” in conservative Christians’ conversations about the nature of sexual orientation. Today, even top Southern Baptist leaders have denounced ex-gay therapy, and the school newspaper for the Jerry Falwell-founded Liberty University has editorialized against it.

    “Shutting down Exodus dealt a fatal blow to the whole idea that orientation can be changed and that God somehow loves you more because of the choices you make,” Chambers says. “Some ministries still promote this idea, but they are not going to achieve the same level of success that Exodus had. That position is more of a minority than it has ever been.”

    The release of Chambers’s memoir this month marks another step in the leader’s evolution. He has voiced his support for President Obama’s effort to ban orientation-change therapies for minors and celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage. And now he even admits that he believes committed, monogamous same-sex relationships can be holy.

    “I look at gay and lesbian people who are in committed relationships and I believe they can reflect the image of God,” Chambers says. “That belief has continued to evolve, but heterosexuals don’t have a corner on the market of healthy, holy relationships.”

    While many culture-warring conservatives will undoubtedly see Chamber’s openness as a cowardly capitulation, others will call him courageous. The former ex-gay leader chooses to focus on just being honest, instead. As he said in a chapter intended for his memoir but cut by the publisher, “Every part of my life, all of my compartmentalization is reconciled. My message and story are no longer different depending on the group to whom I’m speaking.”

    Chambers describes his current sexual orientation as “complicated.” While he is still attracted to men, he also says that he and Leslie have a healthy marriage with a robust sex life. But he no longer claims that every person with same-sex attraction should follow his path.

    “For those who cannot reconcile their faith and sexuality, they can be affirmed in their choice of celibacy and devote their lives to causes more life giving than ‘ridding themselves of the demon homosexuality,’” Chambers says. “And the gay Christian community can be affirmed in who they already are: beloved.”

    Reference