Forty years ago the modern gay liberation movement was born in New York City. The Stonewall Riots are the seminal moment in … um, hang on, that is such a dodgy term for LGBT history … Anyway, what am I thinking, semantics, this early in the magazine? Let’s take a look at some factoids.
- It is 140 years since the first recorded use of the term homosexuality by a man whose middle name was Maria. That’s even funnier in Polari. Karl Maria Kertbeny was the pseudonym of writer Karl Benkert, which might also mean that this was the first recorded drag name.
- 240 years Thomas Jefferson – the one who wrote that “all men are created equal” and are endowed “with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” – proposed that the punishment for sodomy should be castration. So much for the Age of Enlightenment, Tommy.
- Homosexuality legalised: in Italy 120 years ago; in Panama, Paraguay and Peru 85 years ago; and in Sweden 55 years ago. Sodomy, that useful euphemism, is still illegal in 14 of the United States, that great bastion of freedom and democracy.
- Alan Turing, the who man decoded many of the Nazi ciphers in World War II, including the Enigma code, was repaid by his country with criminal prosecution and enforced “treatment” for his homosexuality. He committed suicide 55 years ago.
- 25 years ago the Labour politician Chris Smith came out. He was the first openly gay politician in the UK.
What will the year 2009 mark in the future? The election of Obama, perhaps, although that isn’t turning out to be as gay as was hoped. Maybe it will remembered as the year in which the otherwise worthy organisation GLAAD lost its sense of humour post-Proposition 8. Who knows!
“Whosoever shall be guilty of rape, polygamy, or sodomy with a man or woman, shall be punished; if a man, by castration, a woman, by boring through the cartilage of her nose a hole of one half inch in diameter at the least.”
Thomas Jefferson, 1779
“The only account written in 1969 that suggests that Judy Garland’s death contributed to the riots is by a heterosexual who sarcastically proposes the idea to ridicule gay people and the riots.”
David Carter, Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution (2004)
“”Some members of our community will not be offended by this film. Others, like those of us at GLAAD, find it frustrating and discouraging to be confronted with a movie that wants to increase America’s discomfort with homophobia, but which for much of America, seems likely to decrease its comfort with gay people.”
Jarrett Barrios, GLAAD president, July 2009
“For GLAAD to go after a fictional flamboyant fashion director as a possible reason for gays not gaining acceptance shows a markedly socially conservative tone right now in the gay rights movement.”
Stephen Milioti, Advocate.com, July 2009