Tag Archives: Gay

Gay History: PHOTOS: That Queer Feeling

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Gay History: The (Sodomy) Law in England, 1290-1885

There was no royal or parliamentary law against homosexual activity in England until 1533, but a number of medieval legal sources do discuss “sodomy:.

Fleta, xxxviii.3: Those who have dealings with Jews or Jewesses, those who commit bestiality, and sodomists, are to be buried alive after legal proof that they were atken in the act, and public conviction” 

[Fleta, seu Commentarius Juris Anglicani, (London: 1735), as trans in Derrick Sherwin Bailey, Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition, (London: Longmans, Green, 1955), 145] 

Bailey notes that it is improbable that the penalty or burial alive was ever inflicted in medieval times [although Tacitus refers to it among ancient Germans in Germania 12].

Britton, i.10: “Let enquiry also be made of those who feloniously in time of peace have burnt other’s corn or houses, and those who are attainted thereof shall be burnt, so that they might be punished in like manner as they have offended. The same sentence shall be passed upon sorcerers, sorceresses, renegades, sodomists, and heretics publicly convicted” 

[Britton, ed. F.M. Nichols, (Oxford: 1865), Vol 1:41-42 and Bailey, 146]

Bailey notes that this implies a process in which ecclesiastical courts made the charges and convictions and the state put them into effect. There do not seem, however, to have been serious efforts made to put theory into practice. The preamble to the 1533 Law seems to make this clear.

25 Henry VIII. C6

Le Roy le veult
“Forasmuch as there is not yet sufficient and condign punishment appointed and limited by the due course of the Laws of this Realm for the detestable and abominable Vice of Buggery committed with mankind of beast: It may therefore please the King’s Highness with the assent of the Lords Spiritual and the Commons of this present parliament assembled, that it may be enacted by the authority of the same, that the same offence be from henceforth ajudged Felony and that such an order and form of process therein to be used against the offenders as in cases of felony at the Common law. And that the offenders being herof convict by verdict confession or outlawry shall suffer such pains of death and losses and penalties of their good chattels debts lands tenements and hereditaments as felons do according to the Common Laws of this Realme. And that no person offending in any such offence shall be admitted to his Clergy, And that Justices of the Peace shall have power and authority within the limits of their commissions and Jurisdictions to hear and determine the said offence, as they do in the cases of other felonies. This Act to endure till the last day. of the next Parliament” 

[Bailey, 147-148, and H. Montgomery Hyde, The Love That Dared Not Speak Its Name: A Candid History of Homosexuality in Britain, (Boston: Little, Brown, 1970) [British title: The Other Love] 

Note that the law only ran until the end of the next Parliament. The law was reenacted three times, and then in 1541 it was enacted to continue in force for ever. In 1547, Edward VI’s first Parliament repealed all felonies created in the last reign [I Edw. VI. C.12]. In 1548 the provisions of the 1533 Act were given new force, with minor amendments – the penalty remained death, but goods and lands were not forfeit, and the rights of wives and heirs were safeguarded. Mary’s accession brought about the repeal of all Edward’s acts in 1548 [1 Mar c.1]. It was not until 1563, that Elizabeth I’s second Parliament reenacted the law [5 Eliz I. C.17] and the law of 1533 (not 1548) were given permanent force. 

In 1828, the statute of 1563 was revoked by a consolidating act, but the death penalty was retained. In 1861 life imprisonment, or a jail time of at least ten years, was substituted for the death penalty. All these laws were against buggery, and indeed the law of 1828 had discussed matters of proof in terms of penetration. Note that other sexual activities were not specifically criminalised.

In 1885 Mr. Labouchere introduced an amendment to the Criminal Amendment Act of 1885. It read:-

48&49 Vict. c.69, 11: “Any male person who, in public or private, commits or is party to the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and being convicted thereof shall be liable at the discretion of the Court to be imprisoned for any term not exceeding two years, with or without hard labour” 

So for the first time private acts were brought under the scope of the law, as were acts other than anal penetration. This became the famous blackmailer’s charter, and was the law used to convict Oscar Wilde.

[for all the above see Bailey 145-152]

It was the Act of 1533, then, which first made buggery an offense under English criminal law. This law survived in various forms England until 1967, although it was amended in 1861 to substitute life imprisonment for the penalties of death and forfeiture of property. 

But the direct effects of this law were not restricted to England. Because of England’s success as a colonial power, and its tendency to impose its entire legal structure on the ruled areas, legal prohibitions against homosexual activity derived from this law extended well outside England. In Scotland, for instance, (which has a separate legal system) the law was not changed until 1979. In many American states “sodomy” laws are still on the books, as also in former British colonies in the Caribbean.

.[ref. H. Montgomery Hyde, The Love That Dared Not Speak Its Name: A Candid History of Homosexuality in Britain, (Boston: Little, Brown, 1970)]

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Gay History: Love And Affection: Vintage Photos Of Gay And Lesbian Couples

A couple’s photographic portrait is an affirmation of their relationship. It states for all to see: “We love each other. We care for each other. We are proud of who we are together.”

During the Victorian era many gay and lesbian couples proudly expressed their love for each other in studio portraits. Unlike the common belief that such relationships were “the love that dare not speak its name,” as Oscar Wilde so famously described same sex attraction in his poem “Two Loves,” gays and lesbians often dared to show their love. Indeed, many gay and lesbian couples more or less lived openly together throughout their lives. This was far easier for women than for men as women were expected to live together if they were not married, or to live with the euphemistically termed “female companion.”

Men, no historical surprises here, had their own haunts for meeting like-minded souls. In London these could be found in the “Molly houses” and gentlemen’s clubs or pick-ups haunts at Lincoln’s Inn, or St. James Park or the path on the City’s Moorfields, which was charmingly referred to as “Sodomites Walk.”

Theaters and circuses were also well-known dens of homosexual activity—this can be traced all the way back to Elizabethan England, when male prostitutes plied their trade at theaters.

The armed forces, in particular the Royal Navy was notorious for gay relationships—understandable with all the horny seamen looking for any port in a storm. Apparently word got around.

It is a moot point that the change in public attitude towards homosexuality commenced with the Labouchere Amendment to the Sexual Offences Act in 1885, which “prohibited gross indecency between males.” This was the law under which Wilde was infamously prosecuted and the law that heightened discrimination against gays.

Before that there had been the Buggery Act—against anal penetration and bestiality—which was introduced during the reign of Henry VIII. This led to numerous executions (hangings) and imprisonments. It was briefly repealed, then reinstated by Elizabeth I. However, there were few prosecutions under the act and it was repealed again in 1828—though “buggery” remained a capital offense. James Pratt and John Smith became the last two men to be executed for buggery, in 1835.

The Labouchere Amendment outlawed homosexuality and made it more difficult for gay men to live the lives they desired. Labouchere did not include lesbians in the act as he believed drawing attention to lesbianism would only encourage sapphic desires amongst most Victorian women.

So even when gay relationships were outlawed in England, they still thrived in open secret. In America, the sodomy laws varied from state to state. What one state tolerated or had no opinion about, another state punished. However, as with England in the Victorian era, America gay and lesbian couples would often openly express their love for each other in portrait photographs.

This collection of beautiful, brave people gives us a small visual history of LGBT relationships from the 1860s-1960s. Many of the couples are unidentifiable, but where possible their names have been given. (Editor writes: Mild disclaimer: Of course it’s difficult to say that in all cases these photos are of gay couples.)

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Gay History: Photos Of Same-Sex Couples From The 1880s – 1920s

Vintage Gay Love: A Look Back At The Early Gay Pioneers in Photos

The following is a photo tribute to gay couples from the late 19th century and first half of the 20th Century. It is a testament to the early pioneers of the LGBT movement who have made the world a more accepting and compassionate place for everyone today. It is also a reminder that homosexuality has been around since the beginning of mankind and is not something which can be legislated back into the closet.

England, 1875

Unknown location, 1880’s

New York, 1900

Unknown, Early 1900’s

Europe, 1906

New York, 1907

“A friend of mine found this old photograph in a shoe box in his Grandmother’s attic. On the back was written… Aunty Mary and her “friend” Ruth, 1910. I wonder if those quotation marks imply what I think they do, by the look on their faces, I would say they do”

Unknown, 1912

Unknown, 1914

Unknown Lesbian Couple, 1915

WWI couple, England, sometime between 1914-1918

California, 1923

Unknown, 1925

Unknown

Unknown

Unknown

Source: Flickr / gaytwogether.com / and are the property of their owners.

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Gay History: Nigerian Student Uses Magnets To ‘Prove’ Gay Marriage Is Wrong

A student in Nigeria claims he has scientific proof that same-sex marriage is wrong. 

The so-called discovery was made by Chibuihem Amalaha, a postgraduate student at the University of Lagos who told Nigeria’s This Day Live that same-sex marriage is “eating deep into the fabric of our human nature all over the world.” Amalaha said he conducted “experiments” in physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics to test his theory. Ultimately, he deduced that the repellence of two similar entities (magnets, for instance) proves that same-sex marriage is wrong. 

In a series of befuddling explanations, Amalaha cited magnets, electrolysis, animal mating and simple addition as rationale for why gay relationships just aren’t right. His entire thesis boils down to the fact that “like” does not attract “like.” 

Via This Day Live:

A bar magnet is a horizontal magnet that has the North Pole and the South Pole and when you bring two bar magnets and you bring the North Pole together you find that the two North Poles will not attract. They will repel, that is, they will push away themselves showing that a man should not attract a man. If you bring two South Poles together you find that the two South Poles will not attract indicating that same sex marriage should not hold. A female should not attract a female as South Pole of a magnet does not attract the South Pole of a magnet. But, when you bring a North Pole of a magnet and a South Pole of a magnet they will attract because they are not the same, indicating that a man will attract a woman because of the way nature has made a female.

Amalaha hopes to win a Nobel Prize someday for his work. 

Homosexuality is criminalized in Nigeria. Human Rights Watch notes the country’s federal criminal code carries a 14-year punishment on consensual gay relationships. In states within the nation where Sharia law is enacted, gay relations are punishable by death. 

Luiz DeBarros, of gay-centric blog Mamba Online, critiqued the coverage of Amalaha’s “high-school standard experiments” by This Day Live as “uncritical and uninformed,” saying it will likely add to homophobia in the region. 

Last year, Nigeria passed an anti-gay marriage bill, despite international outcry against it. This legislation not only targets same-sex marriages, but also anyone who aids or abets gay couples as well as any couple displaying a “public show” of affection.

University of Lagos: Magnets prove homosexuality is unnatural

Staff of the University of Lagos have lauded the work of one of their postgraduate students, Chibuihem Amalaha, for an experiment in which he claimed observations of magnets provided proof that homosexuality is unnatural.

Mr Amalaha claimed that as the poles of magnets repel those of the same type, this “means that man cannot attract another man because they are the same, and a woman should not attract a woman because they are the same. That is how I used physics to prove gay marriage wrong”.

Nigerian news website This Day Live reported on the experiment:

“A University of Lagos post graduate student, Chibuihem Amalaha, from Imo State has used science to prove that gay marriage is improper among other breakthroughs.”

In an interview for This Day Live, Mr Amalaha explained the motivation for his experiments.

“In recent time I found that gay marriage, which is homosexuality and lesbianism, is eating deep into the fabric of our human nature all over the world and this was why nations of Sodom and Gomora were destroyed by God because they were into gay practice,” he said.

Mr Amalaha added that his tutors have praised his research: “Recently my lecturer at the Department of Chemical Engineering, Profesor D S Aribuike, pointedly told me that I will win Nobel prize one day, because he found that my works are real and nobody has done it in any part of the world.”

He said his next goal is to get his research published in international journals.

Luiz DeBarros of South African LGBT website Mambaonline said: “It’s debatable as to whether the embarrassing article is more damming [sic] of the standard of education at the University of Lagos or of the standard of journalism at This Day.

“The uncritical and uninformed article is likely to add to the ignorance and prejudice surrounding homosexuality in Nigeria.”

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Gay History: Johnny Mathis on the Long Road to Gay Rights: ‘People Are Stubborn; There’s a Waiting Period Until They Catch Up’

At his penthouse in Beverly Hills, Johnny Mathis has no objection to a 9 a.m. interview — he has been up for five hours already, and at the gym for a long-standing regime of pulley stretching and leg lifts. “Anything to get the juices flowing and also get me into my stage clothes,” says the 81-year-old singer. “I look at myself in the mirror and go, ‘Well, not bad,’ ” he adds with a laugh.

Mathis has been donning those stage clothes all year, on a tour marking the 60th anniversary of his debut album. He is a singular vocalist whose classic hits from the 1950s — “Chances Are,” “Misty,” “It’s Not for Me to Say” — established an enduring style of  pop romance. In Barry Levinson’s Oscar-nominated 1982 film Diner, set in the postwar era, the character Eddie Simmons memorably asks his pals, “When you’re making out, which do you prefer, Sinatra or Mathis?”

 Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images Mathis with Johnny Carson in 1979.

A native of Texas, raised in California and the fourth of seven children, Mathis caught his father’s passion for music at a young age. He began vocal lessons, including classical and operatic styles, at age 13. Yet, in high school, he also was talented enough at track and field to get an athletic scholarship to San Francisco State University and, later, an invitation to try out for the U.S. team heading to the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia.

Around that same time, however, while performing at a San Francisco nightclub, Mathis caught the ear of George Avakian, head of jazz A&R at Columbia Records, who was vacationing in the city. “Have found phenomenal 19-year-old boy who could go all the way,” Avakian telegrammed his label. “Send blank contracts.”

In the six decades since, Mathis has charted 43 hit singles and sent 74 titles, including numerous Christmas releases, onto the Billboard 200. In 2003, The Recording Academy presented Mathis with a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement. It was recognition for an artist who has long sung of romance— but also has supported civil rights and gay rights, from singing with activists at the Salute to Freedom concert in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963 to acknowledging his own sexual orientation two decades later.

The 74 titles Mathis has charted on the Billboard 200 have included numerous Christmas albums.

You were part of a generation of racial pioneers in pop in the ’50s who crossed over to white fans. What’s your perspective on Black Lives Matter and race relations today?

The world changes. The world is completely different now from when I was growing up. Back then you didn’t say things like they say now out loud, about race and things. But that’s just progress. When are we going to find out that we’re all the same, we’re all absolutely, without a doubt, the same? It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or straight or gay.

You’ve seen a lot of change in attitudes toward being gay since you were getting death threats in the 1980s. [The threats followed a 1982 interview in Us Weekly in which Mathis was quoted as saying, “Homosexuality is a way of life I’ve become accustomed to.”]

Things take time. People are stubborn about what they perceive to be the right thing or the wrong thing, and it takes a long time to filter this human condition. There’s a waiting period until people catch up. But if you have patience — which it takes when someone thinks differently from you — everybody always catches up. That patience is a wonderful virtue.

You have declined to talk about your own relationships, and it seems that you prefer to lead by your presence rather than speaking out.

I’ve been very happy to see some of the success that I’ve had along the way in opening the eyes of people, especially people who listen to music.

Looking back, what do you remember about George Avakian discovering you at San Francisco’s 440 Club?

I didn’t realize he was in the audience, and unfortunately he had a bad case of poison oak or poison ivy. So he was not in a very good mood. But he heard me sing and said, “I think you’re ready to make your first recording.” George is still with us; He’s now 102 years old, and I saw him not too long ago. He counseled me for many years.

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Gay History: Unearthed Letter From Freud Reveals His Thoughts On Gay People

In 1935, Sigmund Freud penned a response to a mother who had asked him for help with her gay son. Despite the broader perceptions of homosexuality at the time, Freud took a different approach, telling the woman it’s “nothing to be ashamed of.”

“I gather from your letter that your son is a homosexual. I am most impressed by the fact that you do not mention this term for yourself in your information about him. May I question you why you avoid it?” he wrote. “Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation; it cannot be classified as an illness; we consider it to be a variation of the sexual function, produced by a certain arrest of sexual development. Many highly respectable individuals of ancient and modern times have been homosexuals, several of the greatest men among them.”

While the this correspondence sheds light on his personal communications, it has long been known that Freud did not view homosexuality as a pathology. He believed everyone was born bisexual and later became either straight or gay because of the relationships with those around them. In the letter, Freud does suggest “treatment” for homosexuality may be possible, but says the result “cannot be predicted.”

The letter currently appears on display in London as part of an exhibition at Wellcome Collection called “The Institute of Sexology.” (Scroll for transcription.)

The Kinsey Institute

Dear Mrs [Redacted],

I gather from your letter that your son is a homosexual. I am most impressed by the fact that you do not mention this term yourself in your information about him. May I question you why you avoid it? Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation; it cannot be classified as an illness; we consider it to be a variation of the sexual function, produced by a certain arrest of sexual development. Many highly respectable individuals of ancient and modern times have been homosexuals, several of the greatest men among them. (Plato, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, etc). It is a great injustice to persecute homosexuality as a crime – and a cruelty too. If you do not believe me, read the books of Havelock Ellis.

By asking me if I can help, you mean, I suppose, if I can abolish homosexuality and make normal heterosexuality take its place. The answer is, in a general way we cannot promise to achieve it. In a certain number of cases we succeed in developing the blighted germs of heterosexual tendencies, which are present in every homosexual in the majority of cases it is no more possible. It is a question of the quality and the age of the individual. The result of treatment cannot be predicted.

What analysis can do for your son runs on a different line. If he is unhappy, neurotic, torn by conflicts, inhibited in his social life, analysis may bring him harmony, peace of mind, full efficiency, whether he remains a homosexual or gets changed. If you make up your mind he should have analysis with me — I don’t expect you will — he has to come over to Vienna. I have no intention of leaving here. However, don’t neglect to give me your answer.

Sincerely yours with best wishes,

Freud

P.S. I did not find it difficult to read your handwriting. Hope you will not find my writing and my English a harder task.

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Gay History: The Linguistic Turf Wars Over the Singular ‘They’

The use of the word “they” has been debated by linguists and copy editors alike. (Photo: zebicho/shutterstock.com)

Of all the turf wars that have complicated the landscape of grammar over the past few hundred years, the most complicated and frustrating may be that of the singular they.

It may be the most controversial word use in the English language—because it highlights a hole where a better-fitting word should go.

It creates a conflict between writers and editors who want things to follow the natural symmetry of Latin, and people who find they the only logical option for referring to a single person without a gender attached.

And there has been a lot written about it—it’s something of a hot topic this year, thanks to a vote by the American Dialect Society to name they its word of the year for 2015.

“In the past year, new expressions of gender identity have generated a deal of discussion, and singular they has become a particularly significant element of that conversation,” Ben Zimmer, the chairman of ADS’ New Words Committee, explained back in January. “While many novel gender-neutral pronouns have been proposed, they has the advantage of already being part of the language.”

The group voted the way it did in part because of they’s increasing importance as a way to make room for people who don’t fit a predefined gender binary. (It helps that the word drops the added complication of “he or she.”)

If the English language did permanently embrace a singular gender-neutral pronoun, it would be far from alone—254 of the 378 languages tracked by the World Atlas of Language Structures Online don’t specify for gender at all with their pronouns.

Alas, this problem isn’t as easy to solve as a vote from a dialect society. The problem is something of an emotional one—and it’s sparked debate for centuries.

For some word purists, the singular they is the linguistic equivalent of an ingrown hair, but for others, the solutions for getting around the problem are way messier.

Geoffrey Chaucer, user of the singular they, along with Shakespeare and Jane Austen. (Photo: Public Domain)

For centuries, the singular they was not only accepted by the public but by some of our most famous authors—Geoffrey Chaucer, Jane Austen, and Shakespeare, just to name three.

But around the late 18th and early 19th century, something happened: Critics of this specific usage appeared. The reason for this critical reassessment came about partly out of prescriptive vibes around the English language at the time. Long story short: We wanted English to be more like Latin, and that meant rethinking the use of plural nouns in singular contexts.

In 1975, researcher Ann Bodine broke this down in a landmark paper, Androcentrism in Prescriptive Grammar: Singular ‘They,’ Sex-Indefinite ‘He,’ and ‘He or She’. The text, republished in the 1999 book The Feminist Critique of Language, notes that the influence of Latin grammar played an important role in the increase of rules around the English language—and specifically gave the world the “generic he,” a term that followed Latin form but didn’t mesh with modern concerns about gender equality.

Around the time of Bodine’s paper, things started to turn against the generic he. Students started complaining about its use at Harvard. But they faced resistance from the professors who taught them.

“The fact that the masculine is the unmarked gender in English (or that the feminine is unmarked in the language of the Tunica Indians) is simply a feature of grammar,” a group of 17 professors and teaching fellows wrote in a 1971 open letter published in the Harvard Crimson.

And Bodine noted that the then-recent attempts to ditch the generic he were really attempts to roll back a controversial change.

“Intentionally or not, the movement against sex-indefinite ‘he’ is actually a counter-reaction to an attempt by prescriptive grammarians to alter the language,” she wrote.

Grammarians didn’t give up on squashing the singular they easily. Some who tried to remedy the problem caused by this attempt to make English more like Latin have been tried to patch things up. For hundreds of years, English-speakers have tried to invent words that fill the language’s most unsightly gap. Nearly all of them have failed.

The New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society decided to make the singular they its word of the year. (Photo: PSD photography/shutterstock.com)

University of Illinois professor Dennis Baron, a longtime supporter of the singular they, has long maintained a list of gender-neutral pronouns that people have attempted to add to the English language, the most recent example from 2015, but most of the interesting ones from the 19th century. Terms like “thon,” “e,” and “um” were among the most prominent attempts to improve the language. Additionally, Baron notes, people complaining about the common use of the singular they were fairly common during the 19th century.

“If only occasionally found in the best writings, it is because the proofreader interposes his correction before the sentence reaches the public, for every editor [knows] how often even careful writers make the mistake,” a writer for the Findlay, Ohio Jeffersonian wrote in 1877.

Baron, in introducing the concept in an essay, is quick to stick a knife in its heart before it even had a chance to fly:

These pronouns fill a need, but none has been widely adopted, hence they are the words that failed. What has succeeded is singular they, which arose naturally in English hundreds of years ago, and is used both by speakers and writers concerned that their pronouns be inclusive, and also by many who don’t give the matter much thought at all.

Even in the modern day, some critics of the word use persist. Blogger Freddie deBoer, meanwhile, argues in an essay that the singular they issue is an infrequent problem at worst.

“Using ‘their’ for singular antecedents is one that I think people need to [just give into],” deBoer writes in his essay. “As I’ve argued, it only occurs in a very limited set of circumstances, and those circumstances very unlikely to produce confusion about what is meant.”

Over at the dearly departed site the Toast, linguist Gretchen McCulloch blames the root cause of this fissure on “a series of historical accidents,” but suggests that the issues raised by grammarians are practical in nature, even if the solutions are in many ways worse than the problems in the first place.

Really, if this problem is ever to go away, it’s going to be up to professional copy editors to speak up. And at least some of them appear to have made peace with the change.

Last year, prominent Washington Post copy editor Bill Walsh (who was not a football coach for the San Francisco 49ers) drew a line in the sand in favor of the singular they, revealing in a deeply nerve-wracking blog post that he had been wanting to make the big change for years, despite how divisive it was for some.

“What finally pushed me from acceptance to action on gender-neutral pronouns was the increasing visibility of gender-neutral people,” he wrote.

Walsh, the author of some popular books read by copy editors, is seen as something of a trailblazer on this issue, even though he pledges his desk will use the term sparingly.

Still, it won’t be easy to win over everyone else in the journalism world. The issue is that many copy editors simply struggle with the conundrum that the word creates, some treating it as a pet peeve even though it’s common in regular speech.

In a blog post last year, the Baltimore Sun’s John E. McIntyre noted the lingering controversy, citing one Facebook feed that called the singular they an “idiot epicene.”

“I know any number of editors who share this visceral dislike of the singular they,” McIntyre wrote. “It cuts no ice with them that linguists have demonstrated widespread use by reputable writers for centuries … or that we somehow contrive to use you in both singular and plural senses without growing red-faced and shouting.”

Copy editors have differing views on the use of a singular they. (Photo: Billion Photos/shutterstock.com)

Copy editors may never find peace on this issue, even though the American Copy Editors Society has been laying the groundwork for such a change, noting with positivity last January the American Dialect Society’s move to make the singular they its word of the year.

But a shift like that isn’t enough to convince one of the toughest copy editors in the business—Mary Norris, the “comma queen” at The New Yorker.

“Many ACES stalwarts—copy editors, journalists, grammarians, lexicographers, and linguists—stand ready to embrace the singular ‘their.’ But not us. We avoid it whenever we can,” Norris wrote earlier this year.

In that same blog post was a video where she discussed how her desk replaced an instance of the singular they in a George Saunders story with a generic he. (The linguistics blog Language Log had a field day with this whole saga.)

And, sooner or later, the Associated Press Stylebook will probably weigh in as it has in other linguistic controversies, like, recently, when it decided to allow “more than” and “over” to be used interchangeably.

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Gay History: The Most Surprising LGBTI Stats And Facts From Around The World

This couple spent a year collecting fascinating LGBTI data to answer every question you can dream of

Pride in London: One couple has gathered LGBTI data from around the world to get to know the crowds better. Photo David Hudson

My husband and I spent a year collecting LGBTI data from hundreds of surveys, polls, reports, studies and monographs.

And the result is our new book, LGBTQ Stats: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer People by the Numbers.

Ever wonder how many people around the globe live in countries where same-sex activity remains subject to criminal prosecution? Or how many trans people have been elected to public office? What relationship style lesbians prefer? Which US state was the first to elect an openly bisexual governor? Or what the top-grossing films are with LGBTQ content?

We answer these and about 1,000 other questions.

Noted economist and professor MV Lee Badgett, of The Williams Institute, says the book is ‘the most comprehensive portrait of LGBTQ life around.’

There are plenty of surprising facts and eye-opening figures.

My husband David Deschamps explains: ‘I was especially struck by the change in attitudes among young people. There has been a huge generational shift in a remarkably short span of time – from revulsion and derision to acceptance and marked casualness.’

Here is some of the most interesting LGBTI data, stats and facts we found:

Shifting attitudes

In 1994, 51% of college freshmen in the US believed lesbians and gay men should try to be heterosexual. Today, an astonishing 31% of 18- to 29-year-olds in the US and a whopping 49% of 18- to 24-year-olds in the UK describe themselves as ‘not 100% heterosexual’.

In 1985, 24% of Americans said they personally knew a lesbian or gay person. By 2015, that number had risen to 88%.

LGBTIs and the law

There is no country on earth in which LGBTI citizens enjoy the same legal rights that their heterosexual counterparts take for granted.

More than 2.7 billion people live in countries where being LGBTI is punishable by imprisonment, violence, or death.

The UN Security Council’s first meeting dedicated to addressing the persecution of LGBTI people took place In August 2015.

73 countries and 5 entities imprison consenting adults for homosexual acts. In 45 of these nations, the law is applied to women as well as men. In 14 countries, including Uganda and India, the potential penalty for engaging in same-sex activity is life in prison.

France became the first European country to decriminalize same-sex activity between consenting adults of the same gender in 1791. The following countries repealed sodomy laws in the years indicated:

  • Brazil in 1830.
  • Mexico in 1871.
  • Russia in 1917 (recriminalized in 1933 and decriminalized in 1993).
  • Poland in 1932.
  • Switzerland in 1942.
  • England in 1967 (partial decriminalization); gay men achieved full decriminalization in 2003.
  • Spain in 1979.
  • All of Australia in 1997.
  • All of the US in 2003.

Homosexuality remains a crime in 37 of the 52 nations that make up the Commonwealth of Nations (formerly the British Commonwealth).

North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam have never had Western-style sodomy laws.

Japan holds the distinction of having one of the shortest-lived sodomy laws in the world. The statute was in place from 1873 to 1883. Samurai warriors, who had a long tradition of same-sex relations, mounted strong opposition to the law and helped to get it repealed.

South Africa’s post-apartheid constitution of 1996 was the first in the world to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Lesbian, gay and bi people in the armed forces

LGB people can serve openly in the military in 49 countries, including Albania, Germany, Israel, Japan, and Thailand. Two additional countries, Mexico and South Korea, don’t ban LGB people from serving in the military, but they are often harassed and/or discharged.

Transgender people can serve in the military in 19 countries, including Australia, Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Shocking HIV stats

Globally, trans women are 49 times more likely to have HIV than other adults of reproductive age.

As a result of homophobic laws, lack of sex education, and the absence of needle-exchange programs, the size of Russia’s HIV-infected population nearly doubled between 2010 (when it stood at 500,000) and 2015 (when it reached 930,000).

The AIDS Memorial Quilt was first unveiled at the Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights on 11 October 1987. It is composed of more than 48,000 panels. Each panel is a tribute to someone who has died of an AIDS-related illness. It is the largest piece of folk art in the world. The quilt covers 1.3 million square feet (or about 50 miles or 80 kilometers) and weighs more than 54 tons. More than 14 million people have seen it at thousands of displays worldwide. It was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

Lesbian and gay prime ministers

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir
became Iceland’s first female prime minister — and the world’s first openly lesbian head of government — on February 1, 2009. She served until 2013. There have been three other openly LGBT heads of state:

  • Elio Di Rupo, prime minister of Belgium from 2011 to 2014.
  • Xavier Bettel, prime minister of Luxembourg from 2013 to the present.
  • Leo Varadkar, who at 38 made history in 2017 by becoming Ireland’s youngest and first openly gay prime minister.

The first bisexual governor and trans politicians

On February 18, 2015, Kate Brown became the first openly bisexual governor in American history. Brown was sworn in as Oregon’s governor following the resignation of her predecessor. She became the first openly bisexual person to be elected governor in the US after her victory in a 2016 special election.

According to a Washington Post analysis published in December 2015:

  • Since 1977, 139 transgender candidates have run for more than 200 races in 31 countries.
  • 52 transgender candidates were elected.
  • Nearly 90 percent of these candidates were trans women.
  • As of December 2015, 20 transgender elected officials were in office.

The ‘gay happiness index’ winners are…

In a 2015 study of 115,000 of its members, Planet Romeo – an international social network for GBT men – created a ‘gay happiness index’. It had three criteria:

  • How do gay men feel about society’s view of homosexuality?
  • How do gay men experience the way other people treat them?
  • Are gay men satisfied with their lives, and do they accept themselves?

Based on these criteria, of the 127 countries rated, the top nations in the gay happiness index were:

1 Iceland
2 Norway
3 Denmark
4 Sweden
5 Uruguay
6 Canada
7 Israel
8 Netherlands
(The UK ranked 23rd and the US ranked 26th.)

The lowest-ranked nations (in descending order) were:

8 Cameroon
7 Iran
6 Nigeria
5 Iraq
4 Kyrgyzstan
3 Ethiopia
2 Sudan
1 Uganda

What kind of relationship do lesbian and bi women want?

Lesbian website Autostraddle asked 8,566 self-selected lesbian, bisexual, and trans women about their preferred relationship style in a 2015 survey:

  • 61.7% of respondents chose monogamy.
  • 22% chose ‘mostly monogamy’ – which, in the words of the survey authors, ‘means many different things to many different people’.
  • 6% chose an open relationship.
  • 5.3% chose polyamory.
  • 1.4% chose ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’. That means partners are free to do whatever they want with whomever they want as long as it doesn’t become known to the other partner.
  • 0.58% chose polyfidelity. If you are in a relationship with more than one other person and you are all emotionally and sexually faithful to each other.
  • 0.39% chose triad — a closed relationship that involves three people, also called a ‘thruple’.

Where are all the LGBTI families?

The US states with the highest proportion of same-sex couples raising children are:

  • Mississippi – 26%
  • Wyoming – 25%
  • Alaska – 23%
    What LGBTI films are box office hits?

Two LGBTI-themed films share the title of winning the most Oscars. This year Moonlight won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay. And in 2006 Brokeback Mountain won Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Score. The Academy also nominated Brokeback Mountain for Best Picture but it missed out.

At $83,043,761
in US earnings, Brokeback ranks as the fourth-highest-grossing LGBTI film. The Birdcage is first ($124,060,553), Interview with a Vampire comes second ($105,264,608), and The Imitation Game is third ($91,125,683). To date, Moonlight has grossed $27,854,932.

Which city in the world has the biggest Pride?

According to estimates from organizers, police, and media accounts, the largest LGBTI Pride events, calculated by the number of attendees, include:

1 São Paulo Pride Parade (2006) – 3 million people.
2 Madrid Europride Festival (2007) – 2.3 million.
3 New York City Pride Parade (2016) – 2 million.
4 San Francisco Pride Parade (2014) – 1.7 million.
5 New York City Pride Parade (2015) – 1.6 million.
6 Cologne Europride Parade (2002) – 1.4 million.
7 Toronto Pride Festival (2012) – 1.2 million.
8 Madrid National Pride (2012) – 1.2 million

And some ‘firsts’ from LGBTI history

Dr Magnus Hirschfeld founded the first ‘homosexual emancipation organization’ on 15 May 1897. It was called the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee and was in Berlin.

The first formally organized LGBTI movement group in the United States was the Society for Human Rights in Illinois in 1924. A few months after its founding, the group ceased to exist in the wake of several members’ arrests.

According to historian Susan Stryker, ‘the first known incident of collective militant queer resistance to police harassment in US history’ took place in August 1966. Transgender people staged a rebellion outside Compton’s Cafeteria in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district to protest mistreatment and abuse by the police.

A world of LGBTI data

LGBTQ Stats: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer People by the Numbers is published by The New Press. Husband-and-husband team of David Deschamps and Bennett Singer are the authors

Reference