Monday, 25 February 2013

Gay Egyptian treasures hidden in London

Hidden down a side-street, the Petrie Museum is one of the world’s greatest collections of Egyptian archaeology. On 26th February 2013 (tomorrow!), the museum will host an LGBT event, Every Good Thing, which will celebrate objects from the collection for LGBT History Month.

This link gives some information about a few of the pieces in the collection:
One of the treasures from the Petrie Museum: This shows Horus, who later has gay sex with his uncle Seth, with his parents Osiris and Isis.

Entry is free, but you have to register on Eventbrite to reserve a space:

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

LGBT history by podcast from the National Archives

The National Archives website now hosts a series of seven podcasts on various aspects of LGBT history.

NOTE (added 10 September 2013):
These links appear not to work with Firefox, but do work with IE and Chrome.

Topics covered are:-
  • The scandalous case of John Vassall: sexuality, spying and the Civil Service - Fifty years ago civil servant John Vassall was sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment for espionage. Vassall was homosexual and, whilst working at the British Embassy in Moscow, was caught in a Soviet Secret Service ‘honeytrap’ and blackmailed into passing secrets to the Soviet Union, receiving payments for his efforts. This was one of a series of security scandals which rocked the Macmillan government in the early 1960s, feeding into a national obsession with spy culture at the time.
  • Digging for diamonds: hidden histories at The National Archives - From ‘parachuting’ to ‘truffle-hunting’, there are many ways to research at The National Archives. This talk focuses on the histories that are harder to find, from the voices of enslaved Africans to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) communities in the early 20th century, exploring the issues and problems involved, work being done to resolve them, and what still needs to be done to dig up those rare ‘diamonds’.
  • When a woman is not a woman: how the Ministry of Pensions constructed gender in the 1950s - During the 1950s, the Ministry of Pensions was suddenly faced with a substantial number of requests by individuals to change their gender status on their employment and pension records. Why was this? How did the (slightly) bewildered men at the Ministry deal with these requests? What does this have to do with fashion models like Christine Jorgensen and April Ashley, and why does this 50-year-old problem still persist in 2011?
  • Fictional obscenities: lesbianism and censorship in the early 20th century - How was the concept of obscenity governed in the absence of specific statutes that defined what was and was not obscene? To what extent was this governance an effect of the time and place in which it emerged? Drawing on early 20th century case studies, all from files in the National Archives, Dr Louise Chambers investigates these questions in relation to the banning of novels whose narratives featured same sex relations between women.
  • Genius on trial: key sources relating to Oscar Wilde at The National Archives - The arrest and subsequent imprisonment of Oscar Wilde was one of the most sensational and controversial episodes of the late Victorian era, with far-reaching social and cultural implications. This talk presents the key documents held by The National Archives on Oscar Wilde, and uses them to tell the story of the events which culminated in 1895 in his three trials and a sentence of two years’ imprisonment with hard labour.
  • George Ives: queer lives and the family - Cultural historian Matt Cook delves into the diary of George Ives, the early homosexual law reformer, and considers the issue of family, a pertinent and recurrent theme within Ives’ diary.
  • Losing Orton in the archives - The tangled history of the papers of the playwright Joe Orton is unwoven by Dr Matt Cook. Here he reveals the extraordinary sources that survive on the writer’s life, and the perhaps even more extraordinary ones that remain stubbornly missing.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Bisexuality in the Bronze Age?

The Kangjiashimenji Petroglyphs are bas-relief carvings in a massive red-basalt outcropping in the remote Xinjiang region of northwest China. The artwork includes the earliest - and some of the most graphic - depictions of copulation in the world.

Chinese archeologist Wang Binghua discovered the petroglyphs in the late 1980s, and Jeannine Davis-Kimball, an expert on Eurasian nomads, was the first Westerner to see them. Though she has written about the carvings in scholarly journals, they remain obscure.

The group of 100 figures seems to be involved in a fertility ritual (or several). They vary in size from over 9 feet tall to a few inches and are all the same ceremonial pose, holding their arms out and bent at the elbows. The right hand points up and the left hand points down, possibly to indicate earth and sky.

The few scholars who have studied the petroglyphs think that the larger-than-life hourglass figures that begin the tableau symbolise females. They have stylised triangular torsos, shapely hips and legs, and they wear conical headdresses with wispy decorations. Male images are smaller triangles with stick legs and bare heads. Nearly all of the males are ithyphallic (archeology-speak for “having an erect penis”). A third set of figures appear to be bisexual. Combining elements of males and females, they are ithyphallic but wear female headwear, a decoration on the chest, and sometimes a mask; they might be shamans.

Reading through the descriptions of the scenes depicted by the pertroglyphs, there appear to be scenes of both female/male sex and male/male sex.

For more:

Thursday, 14 February 2013

'I never thought I would see the day'

The link below is to an article put up today in The Warrington Guardian.

It gives the response of 81 year old James Daniels to the recent vote on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill - “I NEVER thought I would see it in my lifetime.” Then, perhaps more interestingly, he goes on to talk about his experience over 60 years ago as a young gay man who was arrested for being  homosexual.


Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Cottaging and Cruising in the Capital

(aka ‘Bogs, Bushes & Buggers’)
Wednesday 13 February 2013 at Bishopsgate Library, in association with LAGNA (the Lesbian & Gay Newsmedia Archive)

Was it the title, do you think, that made this event a sell out? Who knows, but it was very well attended.

Sadly, Dr Matt Houlbrook ( was unable to attend, so we didn’t hear what he had to say on the historical evidence for cottaging. But Peter, a LAGNA volunteer, entertained us with a few newspaper clippings showing how stressed suburbanites can become at the idea of goings on at the local gentlemen’s public toilet.

Then Mark Simpson, writer, journalist and rather handsome daddy of the metrosexual, talked to us briefly about his own experiences of cottaging (with a nostalgic smile on his lips) before going to his main theme - the misreporting by the press of men caught in the act. He referred to a particularly jumbled bit of reporting by pretty much all the UK newspapers in October 2007. ‘Firemen expose gay doggers’, was how The Sun headlined it.

Mark went on to show that almost all the purported facts were, in fact, not facts at all. Not that the Press Complaints Commission felt able to say so.

The first link is to Mark’s blogpost at the time, which tells you everything you need to know about the case. The next two links take you to a couple of the articles concerned, from The Daily Mail and The Sun (which Mark says was probably the least inaccurate of the lot, including the broadsheets!).

This link is to the Winter 2007 edition of Flagship, a magazine for LGBT members of the Fire Brigade Union. See page 2 - they’re quite clear that everyone within the fire brigade knew the reports were nonsense.

This was the second of a series of talks on queer topics, as part of the Bishopgate Institute’s Live and Let Louche in the Library season. The remaining two are:-

PERFORMING QUEER - Life and Art in Noughties London
Wednesday 13th March 2013, 7-9pm
The turn of the millennium saw a new type of queer expression take root in London clubland. Inspired by a range of figures from Leigh Bowery to Judith Butler, club kids became artists, performing, disrupting and dismantling traditional models of sexuality and gender. Ingo (Wotever) and Holestar (Hot Laser) will discuss their involvement in queer performance art over the last decade and its impact on LGBT life in London.

Wednesday 24th April 2013, 7-9pm

Though lesbian sex was never illegal, it wasn't until the gay rights and women's liberation movements of the early 1970s that lesbians began to socialise openly. How did women meet each other in the days before identity politics brought them together, and how did the lesbian scene evolve 1980s and 1990s? Alternative historian and performer Rose Collis will explore the social activities of pre- and post-war lesbians in London, Brighton and beyond. Louise Carolin, Deputy Editor of Diva magazine, will reflect on lesbian nightlife in the 1980s-90s.
Both are at the Bishopsgate Institute Library (230 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 4QH). Doors open at 6.30pm, entry is free - but you are advised to book in advance

St Valentine's Day post

My Dear Boy is an anthology of love letters documenting the heartbreak and joy of love between men for almost 2,000 years. Correspondents include Emperor Marcus Arelius, Bo Juyi, Saint Anselm, Erasmus, Michelangelo, Mashida Toyonoshin, Thomas Gray, William Beckford, Walt Whitman, Tchaikovsky, Henry James, Countee Cullen, William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg. They range from kings and aristocrats, musicians and artists, military men and monks, to farm labourers and herring merchants, political activists and aesthetes, black poets and Japanese actors, drag queens and hustlers.

For more detail:
Scroll down the page to a table with links to various extracts from the book.

Our thanks go to Rictor Norton for making this available online.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

An Interview With Richard Berkowitz - from The Huffington Post

Richard Berkowitz (L) and Michael Callen (R) writing How to Have Sex in an Epidemic.
Richard Berkowitz (born 1955) is a gay American author and activist. An early advocate of safe sex as a response to the AIDS crisis among gay men in the 1980s, he co-wrote with Michael Callen one of the earliest 'sex-positive manifestos', How to Have Sex in an Epidemic in 1983.

The Huffington Post has published an interview with Berkowitz. (Sadly, Callen died of AIDS-related complications in 1993, aged 38.
NOTE: The article and How to Have Sex in an Epidemic both contain sexually explicit language. Read on at your own discretion.

You can read the full text of How to Have Sex in an Epidemic through scanned images of the original document here:

More information here:

Black LGBT Elders

This article looks at the experience of a number of older African-American or Black LGBT people in San Francisco in particular.

I suspect that their experience will have many similarities to that of their peers in the UK.
[Link checked and still working on 21/11/13.]

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Happy Birthday, Lionel Blue

Rabbi Lionel Blue, the first British rabbi publicly to come out, is 83 today.

His appearance on BBC Radio 4's Desert Islands Discs from 29 May 1988 is available online:-

Some quotes:
My mother enjoyed old age, and because of her I've begun to enjoy parts of it too. So far I've had it good and am crumbling nicely.

I am pleased now that I have lived in a gay as well as a religious ghetto, though it hasn't been very comfortable. Taken together, their limitations cancel each other out and I have seen the world more kindly and more honestly.

I learnt pity, sympathy, and what it was like to be at the other end of the stick. Such lessons can't be learnt in lecture halls.

On the way to work good-hearted young girls sometimes offer me their seats, which I accept and bless them in return, a transaction satisfying to all concerned.

To my surprise, my 70s are nicer than my 60s and my 60s than my 50s, and I wouldn't wish my teens and 20s on my enemies.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Learning resources for LGBT History Month

This link takes you to an article on The Guardian's website with links to resources on its and other sites.

Thanks to @WipeHomophobia for retweeting @guardian's tweet.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Celebrating LGBT History Month

a rainbow red carpet
To help you start celebrating LGBT History Month 2013, I thought you might like to see this article from The Huffington Post.

It gives a list of almost 70 LGBT connected films, from Beautiful Thing through The Rocky Horror Picture Show to The Wizard of Oz and all stops in between.

UPDATED 8 February 2013
The Huffington Post has posted a list of 16 Black LGBT films:-

There's something for everyone. And if your favourite film isn't there, maybe you shold contact the good people at The Huffington Post and get them to add it.
a rainbow clapper board