The 24th of June in 1973, exactly 40 years ago, was a Sunday. For New Orleans’ gay community, it was the last day of national Pride Weekend, as well as the fourth anniversary of 1969′s Stonewall uprising. You couldn’t really have an open celebration of those events — in ’73, anti-gay slurs, discrimination, and even violence were still as common as sin — but the revelers had few concerns. They had their own gathering spots in the sweltering city, places where people tended to leave them be, including a second-floor bar on the corner of Iberville and Chartres Street called the UpStairs Lounge.
That Sunday, dozens of members of the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), the nation’s first gay church, founded in Los Angeles in 1969, got together there for drinks and conversation.
Just before 8 PM, the doorbell rang insistently. To answer it, you had to unlock a steel door that opened onto a flight of stairs leading down to the ground floor. Bartender Buddy Rasmussen, expecting a taxi driver, asked his friend Luther Boggs to let the man in. Perhaps Boggs, after he pulled the door open, had just enough time to smell the Ronsonol lighter fluid that the attacker of the UpStairs Lounge had sprayed on the steps. In the next instant, he found himself in unimaginable pain as the fireball exploded, pushing upward and into the bar.
The ensuing 15 minutes were the most horrific that any of the 65 or so customers had ever endured — full of flames, smoke, panic, breaking glass, and screams.
MCC assistant pastor George “Mitch” Mitchell escaped, but soon returned to try to rescue his boyfriend, Louis Broussard. Both died in the fire, their bodies clinging together in death, like a scene from the aftermath of Pompeii.
Metal bars on the UpStairs Lounge windows, meant to keep people from falling out, were just 14 inches apart; while some managed to squeeze through and jump, others got stuck. That’s how the MCC’s pastor, Rev. Bill Larson, died, screaming, “Oh, God, no!” as the flames charred his flesh. When police and firefighters surveyed and began clearing the scene, they left Larson fused to the window frame until the next morning.
This news photo is among the most indelible:
Thirty-two people lost their lives that Sunday 40 years ago — Luther Boggs, Inez Warren, and Warren’s sons among them.
Homophobia being what it was, several families declined to claim the bodies and one church after another refused to bury or memorialize the dead. Three victims were never identified or claimed, and were interred at the local potter’s field.
When the Rev. William Richardson, of St. George’s Episcopal Church, agreed to hold a small prayer service for the victims, about 80 people attended, but many more complained about Richardson to Iveson Noland, the Episcopalian bishop of New Orleans. Noland reportedly rebuked Richardson for his kindness, and the latter received volumes of hate mail.
The UpStairs Lounge arson was the deadliest fire in New Orleans history and the largest massacre of gay people ever in the U.S. Yet it didn’t make much of an impact news-wise. The few respectable news organizations that deigned to cover the tragedy made little of the fact that the majority of the victims had been gay, while talk-radio hosts tended to take a jocular or sneering tone: What do we bury them in? Fruit jars, sniggered one, on the air, only a day after the massacre.
Other, smaller disasters resulted in City Hall press conferences or statements of condolence from the governor, but no civil authorities publicly spoke out about the fire, other than to mumble about needed improvements to the city’s fire code.
Continuing this pattern of neglect, the New Orleans police department appeared lacklustre about the investigation (the officers involved denied it). The detectives wouldn’t even acknowledge that it was an arson case, saying the cause of the fire was of “undetermined origin.” No one was ever charged with the crime.
Article by Patheos // For more information on the massacre, check out these sources:
The modern revivers of the cult of an ancient Roman gay god have claimed that Egyptian authorities are ignoring widespread looting of the Egyptian city named for him. The Roman emperor Hadrian declared his male lover Antinous a god in the year 130, after he fell into the river Nile and drowned at the age of 19. Hadrian founded the city Antinoopolis in Egypt nearby the site of his lover’s death and established annual games in his memory.
Hadrian also named a star after him which was said to have appeared after his death. Temples for Antinous were established all over the Roman Empire during Hadrian’s reign but were torn down by Christians after the cult was outlawed by the Christian Emperor Theodosius. Many of the surviving statues of Antinous ended up in the Vatican Museum where they were seen by the artist Raphael who adopted him as a model for male perfection in painting angels.
The cult of Antinous was revived in 2002 and its followers now say that the ruins of Antinoopolis have been left to looters while officials turn a blind eye. “Nobody cares because Antinous is the god of gays, and they are embarrassed to mention that fact,” said Antonyus Subia, head priest of the Hollywood Temple of Antinous. “Even the few news articles which have appeared about the destruction of Antinoopolis fail to mention Antinous at all.”
Subia said that the ruins of Antinoopolis were being systematically looted by tomb robbers and blamed poor law enforcement by the new Egyptian Government. “This is our gay heritage which is being destroyed,” he said.
One of the world’s earliest carvings conveying human sexuality shows bisexuality was normal, even over 3,000 years ago The Kangjiashimenji Petroglyphs, rock carvings found in a remote region in northwest China, show a fertility ritual.
Archaeologist Wang Binghua discovered the symbols in the late 1980s, but little has been written about them. In a new report from Mary Mycio, the carvings show 100 figures which abstractly depicts different ways of expressing sexuality.
While carvings have been found dating back over 20,000 years, these petroglyphs are probably the most explicit and intricate. Mycio writes: ‘The few scholars who have studied the petroglyphs think that the larger-than-life hourglass figures that begin the tableau symbolize females. They have stylized 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. Ithyphallic is archeology-talk for “erect penis,” and nearly all of the males have one. ‘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. Read on…
At least 100,000 gay men were arrested during the Nazi regime, with thousands sent to concentration camps like Dachau, Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen. And many of those who ended up in these camps were even sent to prison after the war for being gay by the American and British occupation forces after the camps were freed.
Now a new exhibit is trying to share their tragic story. “Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals, 1933-1945,” at Lake Worth, Florida’s Compass Gay and Lesbian Center through January 25, was originally created by the US Holocaust Museum some years back. But with barbaric anti-gay legislation cropping up in various corners of the globe, it’s as relevant as ever.
“Few people recognize the role laws, specifically Paragraph 175, had in justifying the dehumanization and murder of thousands of homosexuals during the Holocaust” says Compass Center CEO Tony Plakas. “There are historic lessons to be learned for sure, but there are present-day applications too: Political currents aimed at denying gays and lesbians employment protections, hate-crime legislation, and the denial of equal recognition of marriage illustrate how legislation and law-enforcement can be used to forward harmful political and social agendas.”
Filled with hundreds of archival photos, the exhibit traces the history of persecution from Weimar Era Germany, when gay people could live somewhat freely, to the height of the Third Reich, when they were exterminated alongside millions of Jews and other “undesirables.”
When the Nazis first took over, homosexuals were deemed “sick” and forced into a brutal version of conversion therapy. “It had nothing to do with morality or religion,” says the Holocaust Museum’s Ted Phillips, who created the exhibit a number of years ago. “[Gay men] were a brake on the growth of the German Aryan population. So the emphasis was to re-educate them to be productive dads. And if they contacted another male, they were spreading the contagion.”
The policy didn’t address lesbianism, explains Phillips. “Women were not very important in society—mainly as wives and mothers to support men,” he says. “The policy denied women’s sexuality and personhood.”
The another section, “Radicalization,” addresses the virulent persecution that came in the run-up to WWII. Expanding the scope of Paragraph 175, the section of the penal code that addressed homosexuality, the Nazis started staging raids on gay clubs and shutting down queer newspapers. Even the suspicion of homosexuality was enough to get you arrested, and more than 50,000 gay men were sent to prison.
Because so many records were destroyed, it’s hard to say exactly how many gay men were sent to concentration camps—the best estimates are between 5,000 and 15,000. Once there, they were made to wear pink triangles and placed in forced-labor gangs with hardened criminals.
According to press notes, some men were castrated, brutalized or marked for “extermination through work.” At a granite quarry, gays from the Mauthausen camp were often chosen to plant explosive charges, and the Nazis enjoyed setting off the charges before they escaped. At the Flossenburg camp, a commandant gave gay inmates extra-large pink triangles. “He liked them for target practice,” Phillips says.
Phillips says he hopes the exhibit shows visitors how any group can be targeted: “It shows how easy it is to erode public opinion of a minority, make them outcasts and create the indifference that allows persecution.”
Article by Queerty
The portrait below isn’t just any old vintage picture. Recently sold at auction as a painting of “a woman in a feathered hat,” it’s actually thought to be the first known formal portrait of a transvestite, the spy Chevalier d’Eon. The subject of this portrait is definitely a man, even though he lived the latter part of his life as a woman. And did I mention he was a spy, too? No really, kids, let’s find out more about the Chevalier d’Eon.
First of all, no, this is not actually related to the manga or anime series Le Chavealier D’Eon, which was about a knight in service of King Louis XV looking for clues about the death of his sister. The real Chevalier was a man who spent the first 49 years of his life as a man and the last 33 as a woman. Though the choice may not have been entirely d’Eon’s own personal preference. In 1763, after being appointed to Le Secret du Roi, the secret network of spies who worked for King Louis XV (the same from the anime/manga), he was named Plenipotentiary Minister to London. However, someone was gunning to replace him, and d’Eon ended up demoted to secretary. He then got into a bit of a tussle with his replacement, accusing the man of trying to murder him and then, later, holding on to some private security documents to blackmail the king. By some accounts, he was sent to prison for this and escaped from France to England, where he lived out the rest of his life as a woman, cross-dressing to protect his identity.
But he was so persuasive as a woman (and also flat-out refused to admit his gender when asked) that people took bets on what gender he was, and when he died in 1810, only an autopsy confirmed that he was a man. The people who knew d’Eon for the last three decades of his life had no idea, including his own housekeeper (who went into a “state of shock” following the discovery). Apparently, the French government, knowing that d’Eon had a ton of secret information that could really blow their cover (including plans to invade England), let d’Eon off the hook and allowed him to live out the rest of his life as a different person as a way to thank him for not spilling all their state secrets. They also went ahead and paid all his debts, like he requested, just to ensure their spot would not be blown the heck up.
The painting itself had experts scratching their heads. Originally thought to be of a woman, once restoration began, some distinctly male features started revealing themselves on this handsome woman in the fancy hat. Like stubble, for one thing, and the muscular nature of the facial structure. Art dealer and historian Philip Mould made it his mission to figure out the identity of this portrait’s subject, and when he finally did, he knew this was a special find:
“It’s a combination of mirth and respect for a man who was bold enough, brave enough, but also extrovert enough to state his case.”
To this day, the “Patron Saint of Transvestites” still inspires those who choose to dress in the clothing of the opposite gender; the term “eonism” means the male adoption of female dress. And so goes the story of the former French spy who dressed as a woman before any had ever really heard of such a thing as a lifestyle (outside the theatre, anyway). [via Mary Sue & Discovery News]
The Middle Ages had the Black Death, 1918 had the influenza epidemic. But the scourge sweeping the land at the end of the 19th century? Masturbation.
We’re not exaggerating. According to the medical minds of the time, "No single vice causes so much mental and physical debility… It impairs the intellect, weakens the memory, debases the mind, ruins the nervous system, exhausts the vital power and destroys body, mind and soul." They thought masturbation could result in insanity, impotence, epilepsy and "puny offspring."
You could blame pretty much everything on masturbation as long as you ignored the truth. Sure, the general view on masturbation became a lot more sane, sometimes even to a degree that went a bit too far for some (in the 1970s there were sex education films shown in some schools in countries like Belgium and Sweden that featured teens demonstrating how to masturbate) but even as late as 1994 the U.S. Surgeon General was fired for just saying masturbation was part of human sexuality. By Bill Clinton of all people.
Fortunately (well…) for sufferers, doctors back then had almost as many cures as there were symptoms. John Harvey Kellogg for example (yes, the cornflakes guy) was an advocate of circumcising young boys to curb masturbation and applying phenol (an acid that can cause second and third-degree burns) to a girl’s clitoris. Read more on Cracked: 5 Insane Ways Fear of Masturbation Shaped the Modern World
Gladly most of us are over this….
A north London school which has developed lessons on gay historical figures who suffered persecution claims to have succeeded in “more or less eliminating homophobic bullying” in its classrooms and playgrounds over the last five years.
The life story of the wartime code-breaker & computer pioneer Alan Turing is among those being used to tackle homophobia. Turing, a mathematician who cracked German codes in the second world war, was prosecuted in 1952 for his homosexuality, which was then a crime. He was forced to decide between prison and taking female hormones to reduce his libido, and chose the latter. An inquest into his death – two years after his prosecution – returned a verdict of suicide. Authors Oscar Wilde and James Baldwin and artist Andy Warhol also feature in the lessons.
Now Stoke Newington secondary plans to share the lessons with hundreds of primary and secondary school teachers. By the summer, it will have trained more than a hundred teachers in how to “educate and celebrate” being gay. Read on…
It is, sadly, highly doubtful if such lessons would ever be allowed to be taught in many American schools since, according to the influential religious right there, asking kids not to bully others into suicide is “pushing the gay agenda”.