As many of my blog followers would have noticed, I put a slightly perverse twist on the word “history”.
I love history, and always have. I excelled at it at school, right from the first day of what was then “Social Studies” at high school, which then morphed into history. As soon as the teacher started on about ancient Greece and Rome, I was hooked.
In first form at High School, I was given the more complicated history projects, as Mrs Wilson, my asocial Studies teacher, knew I’d do the research, and put it all together in a professional way. I always scored high marks in history exams, and entered my School Certificate exam at Ordinary level for history, coming out with an Advanced pass. I had the ability that, even if I couldn’t recollect exact dates of events, I could fill in the gaps with a whole raft of other facts and figures surrounding the event. It’s a shame I can’t say the same for Math, Geography & Science – all subjects I had no love for.
This love of history has been with me all my life, and shows no signs of slowing. One of the great things I have applauded in recent years has been a strong movement towards telling the truth about history. Like many others, I grew up with a sugar-coated view of history. It was almost like we had to be protected from the very events that have placed us where we are right now! Yes, wars happened, but it was about the actual battles and the total outcome that was taught, not the actual human cost, the great blunders that cost lives…and I point directly at Gallipoli here as an example…the cities and towns and villages that were obliterated, and the millions left homeless and wandering. It never spoke of the hardships of the battlefield, where survival was an unexpected turn for those caught up in the romantic notions of war sold to them to get them to enlist. We were never taught about the aftermath of war, the disabilities, the mental anguish whereby that supposed “return to normality” never happened. My own father, who was in New Guinea and Borneo during the war, never recovered from the savageries of war, and was very much a twisted man up to his eventual suicide in 1978.
The history I grew up with extolled the virtues of the wrong people, like the ever adored Winston Churchill, who is credited…controversially…with helping to win WWII. We were never told of his drinking, his depression, his arrogance, unpopularity within parliament, his many bad decisions that resulted in the deaths of untold hundreds of thousands of people…decision making from afar, with no concern for the losses. Likewise, the Holocaust was totally ignored, the long years of events that led to Hitlers rise to power, nor the staggering death legacy of people like Stalin, and Mao Tse Tung. These were names that were just dropped into, and pulled out of, history as if their existence had no consequence. With the release of records, and film footage over the last few decades, we now have a clearer picture of the events that shaped the world around us.
But having said that, history is not just about the major events that happen around us, both in the past, and now. If we take the word ‘history’ literally, what has just happened is, in the blink of an eye, history! It is not just about what has happened in the past, but is happening right now around us, globally. The good…and the bad! Nor is it about great people, those with prestige and power. It’s about the tiny events by almost unknown people that has a long-term affect on the world. It’s about inventions, taking chances and risks, writing notes and letters, or just being a bit out-there and wacky. History isn’t just about all the serious shit – it has, quite often, an amusing and eccentric side to it.
And this is what I look for!
How many of you would read my blog posts if they were about the known, and mundane! As a gay man, I have lived through some major milestones of gay history, everything from the activism of the 70s and 80s, to the ghettoisation of the lgbt communities, to the devastation of HIV/AIDS, and the advent of Gay Pride.
However, like the world view of history, I don’t want to bore my followers by banging on about events they are already aware of. We all know about Stonewall, Gay Pride, Larry Kramer and the beginnings and politics of HIV. We know about Harvey Milk et al. Amongst all the night club dancing, the drugs, the sex, there was…and is… a plethora of other events happening. In many respects we have a bit of a blinkered view of our history on the gay scene (déjà vu?), seeing it mainly as events that happened from the mid-70s onwards. As you would have seen from the scope of my posts, the affects of both out-there and closeted gay people has been around for centuries. It is the weird, wacky, eccentric, brilliant, sad, funny, serious, fun, and downright fascinating shit that makes gay lives the earth-shattering influence they can be. That is what I want YOU to know about. If I can make you gasp, roll your eyes, or laugh then my aim has been a success.
I know there are politically correct individuals out there in Gayland who probably take offence to my calling the category “gay” history…and I don’t care, quite frankly. Their bleating falls on deaf ears. I identify as a GAY man, and as such use that term to define everything I do. However, that does not make me narrow-minded in the scope of what I post. I do not change terminologies to suit my own agenda. If an article is on queer, or trans, or homo, or bisexual…or any other terminologies within our community…culture, that is how it will be posted. I might be a narky old 80s queen, but I can assure you my world view is wide, and inclusive. The very multi-directional way our community has evolved is part of its…history.
Finally, I have to say I have loved putting these posts out there. It has indeed been an education for me as well. Who knew there was this much weirdness out there! And as gay people there is one thing I do know…the weirdness will never end as long as our community, and the individuals within it, are out there.
Bring on the Gay History!
Tim Alderman 2019
Did you know the pope in the 1400s legalized gay sex during the summer months? Discover more here
1 Some of the world’s oldest rock paintings which were discovered in Sicily, made about 10,000 years ago, showed two male phallic figures having sex.
2 Ancient Roman historian Plutarch wrote about The Great Mother, an intersex deity depicted with both sets of genitals. Her sacred priestesses, as found in the earliest civilizations in Babylonia and Akkad, were eunuchs and trans women.
3 In ancient Assyrian society, if a man were to have sex with another man of equal status, it was thought that trouble would leave him and he would have good fortune.
4 A Hindu medical text dating back to at least 600 BC made several explicit references to gay people; kumbhika – men who bottom during anal sex; asekya – men who swallow semen; and sandha – men who speak and act like women. The text also claimed it was possible for two women to create a child together but said it would end up being ‘boneless’.
The Hindu god Shiva is often represented as Ardhanarisvara, a unified entity of him with his consort Parvati. This sculpture is from the Elephanta Caves near Mumbai.
5 In Egypt 1503 BC, Hatshepsut became the second woman to rule and chose to take the title of king. She donned male clothing and wore a false beard.
Statue of Hatshepsut on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
6 Julius Caesar and Claudius were considered ‘abnormal’ for refusing to take male lovers. Julius had, at least, an affair with Nicomedes, the king of Bithymia, as a youth.
7 Ancient Celtic men openly preferred male lovers. According to Diodorus in the 1st century BC, he wrote ‘young men will offer themselves to strangers and are insulted if the offer is refused’. Sex between men was very likely an important ‘bonding ritual’.
8 One of the first Roman emperors, Elagabalus, could have been transgender. Before dying at the age of 18, it was reported the emperor had married a male athlete and would go out disguised as a prostitute.
9 Wales had a gay king. King Maelgwn of Gwynedd of the sixth century was described as ‘addicted very much to the detestable vice of sodomy’.
10 St Thomas Aquinas, a priest from the 1200s, is considered the father of homophobia. At a time when homosexuality was often treated as an ‘open secret’, he preached widely that it was ‘unnatural’, similar to bestiality, and argued sodomy is second only to murder in the ranking of sins.
11 Pope Sixtus IV, of the 1400s, was reported to have legalized sodomy during the summer months.
Posthumous portrait of Pope Sixtus IV by Titian
12 In the Klementi tribe of Albania, first observed in the 1400s, if a virgin swore before 12 witnesses that she would not marry, she was then recognized as male, carried weapons and herded flocks.
13 The French called homosexuality the ‘Italian vice’ in the 16th and 17th centuries, the ‘English vice’ in the 18th century, the ‘Oriental vice’ in the 19th century, and the ‘German vice’ starting from 1870 and into the 20th century.
14 Most people know the origins of the word ‘gay’, but the word ‘lesbian’ was first used from around 1590 to mean a tool – a stick made of lead (from the isle of Lesbos) used by stonemasons. It was flexible so it could be used to measure or mold objects to irregular shapes. A ‘lesbian rule’ was also used to mean being flexible with the law.
15 Julie D’Aubigny was a 17th century bisexual French opera singer and fencing master who fought and won at least 10 life-or-death duels, performed nightly shows on the biggest opera stage in the world and once took the Holy Orders just so she could sneak into a convent and have sex with a nun.
16 An 18th century English term for sex between women was the ‘Game of Flats’.
17 A molly house was an 18th century English term for a room or bar where gay men would meet. Patrons of the molly house would enact mock weddings and children being born.
Molly-houses were often considered as brothels in legal proceedings. A male brothel, illustration by Léon Choubrac (known also as Hope), included in Léo Taxil’s book La prostitution contemporaine, 1884, pg. 384, Plate VII
18 Trans man Albert Cashier fought for the Union in the American Civil War. At one point, he was captured by the Confederates but managed to escape by overpowering a prison guard.
19 A Boston marriage, in the 19th century, referred to two women living together financially independent of a man.
Sarah Ponsoby and Lady Eleanor Butler, also known as the Ladies of Llangollen, lived together in a Boston marriage.
20 The word ‘homosexual’ (coined in 1869) is older than the word ‘heterosexual’ (1892).
21 Edward White Benson, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1883 to 1896, was thought to have been repressing his homosexuality. His wife, brother-in-law and five of his six children were also gay.
22 Dude used to be a homophobic slur.
23 UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill, when he was 21, was accused of ‘gross immorality of the Oscar Wilde type’.
24 Doctors in the early 1900s thought bicycles would turn women gay.
25 Wings, the first Oscar-winning film in 1920, featured a man-on-man kiss.
Richard Arlen in Wings
26 In the 1930s, a Disney comic strip showed Mickey Mouse as a violent homophobic thug. In the strip, he beats up an effeminate cat and called him a ‘cream puff inhaler’.
27 The British secret intelligence service tried to spike Hitler’s carrots with female hormones to ‘turn’ him into a woman.
28 Sister Rosetta Thorpe, a bisexual black woman, is credited with inventing rock n roll.
29 World War 2 genius and cryptographer Alan Turing said he had lost a mystery box of treasure in Bletchley Park but could no longer find it as he couldn’t crack his own code.
30 The 1948-53 Kinsey study found a third of men had a homosexual experience.
31 A drag queen was the first openly gay candidate to run for US public office. José Sarria won 6,000 votes in his 1961 campaign for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
Jose Sarria dines in Kenmore Square during 2010 visit to Boston
32 The death and funeral of Judy Garland is credited with inspiring the Stonewall Riots.
33 Pride in New York City was never really ‘Gay Pride’. The first was mainly organized by bisexual woman Brenda Howard.
34 The original name for Pride was ‘Gay Power’. Other suggested names included ‘Gay Freedom’, ‘Gay Liberation’ and ‘Christopher Street Liberation Day’.
The Stonewall Inn located in Greenwich Village was the site of the June 1969 Stonewall riots. That event in New York City’s queer history has served as a touchstone for various social movements, as well as the catalyst for Pride parades around the world.
35 Dracula author Bram Stoker married Oscar Wilde’s first girlfriend.
36 One of the first openly gay athletes was Dodgers outfielder Glenn Burke in the late 1970s. He told his teammates, who apparently didn’t care, and was officially outed in 1982. He is also credited with creating the high-five.
37 A man who saved President Ford from assassination had his life ruined when the media outed him as gay.
38 L Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, had a son Quintin who was tasked to take over from the Church of Scientology. When Quintin came out as gay, he died of an ‘apparent suicide’ in 1976.
Geoffrey Quentin McCaully Hubbard
39 Mel Boozer, the African American human rights activist, became the first openly gay person ever nominated for the office of Vice President of the United States in 1980.
Melvin “Mel” Boozer
40 Sally Ride was the first American woman to go into space. She was also the first LGBTI astronaut and remains the youngest American to have traveled to space at the age of 32.
41 In the 1980s, religious groups tried to ban Dungeons and Dragons for being satanic as it ‘promoted homosexuality’.
42 In 1987, Delta Airlines apologized for arguing in plane crash litigation that it should pay less in compensation for the life of a gay passenger than for a heterosexual one because he may have had AIDS.
43 Princess Diana went to a London gay bar, accompanied by Freddie Mercury, disguised as a man.
44 The Etoro tribe in Papua New Guinea is where homosexuality is the norm and heterosexuals are excluded. They believe young men only become adults if they have a daily intake of semen to ‘properly mature’.
45 Queen’s The Show Must Go On was recorded as Freddie Mercury was dying due to complications from AIDS. According to Brian May, Mercury said: ‘I’ll fucking do it, darling’ – vodka down – and went in and delivered the incredible vocal.
46 When Ellen DeGeneres came out on her sitcom, Birmingham in Alabama refused to show it. A local LGBTI group sold out a 5,000-seat theatre so people could watch it via satellite.
Ellen DeGeneres, an Emmy winner, came out, as well as her fictional counterpart.
47 Stephen Hillenburg, one of the creators of Spongebob Squarepants, revealed in 2002 that Spongebob is asexual.
48 The couple in Lawrence vs Texas, the case that stopped sodomy being punishable in the US in 2003, didn’t actually have sex. They weren’t even a couple.
49 The country that watches the most gay porn is Kenya, a 2013 study found. In a recent poll, 92% of Kenyans claimed they thought homosexuality should be illegal.
50 Fun Home, the award-winning, lesbian musical, is the first in the history of the Tonys to be written entirely by women.
51 In 2015, it was announced a crater on Pluto’s moon will be named after George Takei’s Star Trek character, Sulu.
An area of Charon will named Sulu
- Here arev51 more weird and cool facts from LGBTI history, Gay Star News, 7 December 2015, by Joe Morgan https://www.gaystarnews.com/article/here-are-51-more-weird-and-cool-facts-from-lgbti-history/#gs.tgfpij
Did you know churches blessed gay marriages in the ‘Dark Ages’? Discover more here
1. The world’s oldest porn, which dates back over 3,000 years, features both male/male, female/female and male/female couples
2. The oldest ever known chat up line was apparently said between two men. A mythological story from the 20th dynasty of Ancient Egypt is between Horus and Seth, who quarrelled for 80 years on who should rule. Seth attempted to persuade Horus to sleep with him, saying: ‘How lovely are your buttocks! And how muscular your thighs!’ They then have sex.
3. In Egypt, two male royal manicurists named Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep were found buried together in a shared tomb similar to the way married couples were often buried. Their epigraph reads: ‘Joined in life and joined in death’. Having lived in 2400 BC, they are believed to be history’s oldest recorded gay couple.
4. Some historical gay and bi figures have turned their lovers into gods. Alexander the Great wanted to make his boyhood lover Hephaestion a god when he died, but was only allowed to declare him a Divine Hero. The Roman Emperor Hadrian, of wall-building fame, was successful in making his lover, Antinous, a god after he drowned in the Nile.
5. The church sanctified gay marriages in the so-called Dark Ages, with one being the Byzantine Emperor Basil 1 (867-886) and his partner John.
6. In a creation myth by Aristophanes, there were three sexes: those with two male heads (which were descended from the sun), those with two female heads (from the earth) and those with a male and a female head (descended from the moon). Displeased with them, Zeus crippled them by chopping them in half. Since that day, according to the story, we are looking for the other half to create our whole. This is known as the Origin of Love.
7. Mercury represents male and female principles in harmony. In mythology, Mercury fathered Hermaphroditus, who had both male and female sex organs.
8. Ancient Greeks didn’t believe in heterosexual and homosexual. However they did believe in passive and active. The most common form of same-sex relationships were when an older male, the erastes, acted as a mentor and lover to a younger boy, the eromenos. They believed sperm was the source of knowledge and it was able to be ‘passed on’.
9. There was a band of 150 gay couples from Thebes who defeated a Spartan army, and went undefeated for 30 years.
10. In ancient China, homosexuality was referred to as ‘the cut sleeve’ and ‘pleasures of the bitten peach’.
11. Until the late 1400s the word ‘girl’ just meant a child of either sex. If you had to differentiate between them, male children were referred to as ‘knave girls’ and females were ‘gay girls‘.
12. The word drag is apparently an acronym, a stage direction coined by Shakespeare and his contemporaries meaning ‘Dressed Resembling A Girl’.
13. The Virginia Court in 1629 recorded the first gender ambiguity among the American colonists. A servant named Thomas(ine) Hall was officially declared by the governor to be both ‘a man and a woman’. To stop everyone else from being confused, Hall was ordered to wear articles of each sex’s clothing every day.
14. In early 17th century London, there was a gay brothel on the site where Buckingham Palace is today.
15. Nicholas Biddle, an early explorer of America, found in 1806 that among Minitarees (Native American tribe), ‘if a boy shows any symptom of effeminacy or girlish inclinations, he is put among the girls, dressed in their way, brought up with them and sometimes married to men’.
16. Uganda had a gay king. King Mwanga II, who reigned from 1884 to 1888, is widely reported to have had affairs with his male servants.
17. In the 19th century the word gay referred to a woman who was a prostitute and a gay man was a man who slept with a lot of women.
18. Homosexual men in 1900s London made up an entire slang language so they could communicate in public without fear of being arrested – Polari. Some words survived into today’s slang, such as ‘naff’ – meaning lacking style, TBH, standing for ‘to be honest’ or ‘to be had’, and tjuz, meaning to primp or improve.
19. Carmilla, a story of a lesbian vampire that preyed on young women, was written 25 years before Dracula.
20. The US has apparently already had a gay president, James Buchanan. He shacked up for 10 years with a future VP, William Rufus King, and was referred to by President Andrew Jackson as ‘Miss Nancy’ and ‘Aunt Fancy’.
21. The modern use of gay comes from gaycat, a slang term among hobos meaning a boy who accomapnies an older, more experienced tramp, with the implication of sexual favors being exchanged for protection.
22. While the monocle might have gone out of use, it had a huge following in the ‘stylish lesbian circles of the earlier 20th century’.
23. The first celebrity to come out as openly gay was Billy Haines, who came out in 1933.
24. The oldest surviving LGBT organization in the world is Netherlands’ Center for Culture and Leisure (COC), which was founded in 1946, and used a ‘cover name’ to mask its taboo purpose.
25. Gay male victims of the Holocaust, who wore the downward-facing pink triangle, were still considered to be criminals when they were freed from concentration camps. They were often sent back to prison to serve out their terms.
26. Mensa, launched in 1946, claims its name was always chosen to mean ‘table’ in Latin to demonstrate the coming together of equals. Really, it was intended to be called ‘Mens’, meaning ‘mind’. They changed it in order to avoid confusion with a men-only magazine. Not so smart.
27. The 1950s saw gay people try to change ‘homosexual’ to ‘homophile’. They hoped an emphasis on same-sex love, instead of sex, would help.
The October 1957 edition of The Ladder, mailed to hundreds of women in the San Francisco area, urged women to take off their masks. The motif of masks and unmasking was prevalent in the homophile era, prefiguring the political strategy of coming out and giving the Mattachine Society its name.
28. Playboy has been loved by straight men for decades, but it was a gay short story that built its reputation. Hugh Hefner was the only one to accept a science fiction story about heterosexuals being the minority against homosexuals in 1955. When letters poured in, he said: ‘If it was wrong to persecute heterosexuals in a homosexual society, then the reverse was wrong too.’
29. The Royal Navy commissioned a class of fast patrol boats during the 1950s which were prefixed with the word ‘gay’. Names included the Gay Bruiser and the Gay Charger.
HMS Gay Bombardier, fitted out in the motor torpedo gunboat design, undergoing trials in Portsmouth Harbour in 1953
30. While many know the handkerchief code, it was popular for gay women to wear blue stars on their wrists in the 1950s and the 1970s to identify themselves in clubs.
31. Jimi Hendrix pretended to be gay to get out of the army in 1962.
32. A 1969 sci-fi novel accurately predicted the mainstream acceptance of LGBTI people. It also predicted rise of China as a global economy, the EU, TiVO, satellite TV, laser printers and the popularity of marijuana.
33. In the 1960s, the term AC/DC became a popular slang for bisexual. It came from the abbreviations for two types of electrical currents.
34. Barbara Jordan was the first African American to be elected in Texas in 1973. She was also a woman, a Democrat, and gay. She later became the first black woman to give the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention.
35. A serial killer, the Doodler, targeted gay men in 1970s San Francisco. He would sketch his victims nude before murdering them. While three victims survived, and a suspect was identified, no one was willing to out themselves in order to convict the suspect.
36. Bruce Banner’s name was changed to David Banner in 1970s show The Incredible Hulk, as ‘Bruce’ was considered a stereotypically gay name.
37. The first openly gay doll, Gay Bob, was launched in 1977. He had a pierced ear and his box was shaped like a closet.
38. Leonard Matlovich was the first gay US service member to come out. When he died, he was buried without a name and known only as Gay Vietnam Veteran. His epitaph reads: ‘When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.’
39. In the early 1980s, a book claims the Naval Investigative Service was investigating homosexuality in Chicago. Having heard gay men refer to themselves as ‘friends of Dorothy’, they went on a futile search for the elusive woman clearly at the center of a homosexual ring.
Judy Garland in her role as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz is one of two likely origins for the phrase “friend of Dorothy” referring to a gay man or LGBT person.
40. The 1985 film Back To The Future had a deleted scene where Marty tells Doc that he’s worried hitting on his mother could make him gay.
41. Ben Affleck’s 1993 directorial debut was titled: ‘I Killed My Lesbian Wife, Hung Her on a Meat Hook, and Now I Have a Three-Picture Deal at Disney’.
42. The US government considered making a ‘gay bomb’. Scientists figured in 1994 that discharging female sex pheromones over enemy forces would make them sexually attracted to each other.
43. Doctor Who actor John Barrowman nearly got the role of Will in Will and Grace in 1998. But he lost the part when producers thought he was ‘too straight’. Barrowman is gay and Eric McCormack, who got the part, is straight.
44. Peter Tatchell, an Australian gay rights activist living in Britain, attempted a citizen’s arrest on Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe in 1999. He walked up to Mugabe, grabbed the dictator by the arm, and said: ‘President Mugabe, you are under arrest for torture’.
45. Founded in 2004, LGBTI activists in Australia created a micronation called the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands. The national flag is the LGBT color flag, the official currency is the Euro, and it still exists today.
46. A group from the Greek island of Lesbos requested a legal injunction to ban gay groups from using the word ‘lesbian’ in their names in 2008, claiming it was ‘insulting’ them around the world. It failed.
47. Chinese news agency Xinhua dubiously reported on the apparent existence of a Swedish town in 2009, a town of 25,000 lesbians forbidden to speak to men. Several Swedish tourism sites crashed due to the number of Chinese visitors.
48. In 2010, Microsoft banned a user from Xbox Live for putting Fort Gay as his address. When he tried to tell them that Fort Gay actually exists in West Virginia, it took an appeal from the town’s mayor for it to be corrected.
49. A Hong Kong billionaire offered $65 million to the man that was able to woo and marry his lesbian daughter. It didn’t work.
50. The first gay kiss to be screened in Saudi Arabia was seen in 2012. It was from UK soap Brookside, the first ever televised lesbian kiss in the UK, which originally aired in 1993. It was only thanks to the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony.
- The 50 coolest and weirdest facts from lgbti history, Gay Star News, 1 October 2016, by Joe Morgan https://www.gaystarnews.com/article/50-weirdest-and-coolest-facts-lgbti-history200215/#gs.ttprhx