When Florida had a committee to terrorise gay people

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Starting in the 1950s, a Florida state committee spent years stalking, intimidating, and outing hundreds of LGBTQ people. And they got away with it. Amid a national witch hunt for communists and an ascendant civil rights movement, a group of Florida politicians with a mission to preserve racial segregation in the state created a powerful group called the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee.

Commonly called the “Johns Committee” for the influential state senator Charley Johns who spearheaded it, the Committee went after civil rights activists by arguing they were backed by communists. But when those investigations failed, they turned to a new group to target: LGBTQ people. Today, over 50 years later, some Florida legislators are calling for the state to finally come to terms with this part of its history.

In the Vox series Missing Chapter, Ranjani Chakraborty revisits underreported and often overlooked moments from the past to give context to the present. Join her as she covers the histories that are often left out of our textbooks. Our first season tackles stories of racial injustice, political conflicts, even the hidden history of US medical experimentation.

Famous skeletons holding hands were male

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A pair of hand-holding skeletons–the so-called Lovers of Modena –in a burial site in Italy have been found to be male, according to researchers at the University of Bologna. The two bodies were discovered in 2009 and are believed to have been buried between the 4th and 6th century.

The sex of the skeletons could not be determined using genetic analysis at first but researchers developed a new technique using a protein found in tooth enamel and determined that both skeletons likely belonged to men, according to an article published in Scientific Reports.

This isn’t the first ancient grave site archaeologists have found with two people buried hand-in-hand; others have been found in Greece, Turkey, Romania, and Russia. But those were all male and female couples. And while researchers were confident enough about the couple’s relationship to name them the “Lovers of Modena” in 2009, discovering that they were both men has researchers confused.

“There are currently no other examples of this type,” Federico Lugli, the lead author of the study, told Rai News. “Many tombs have been found in the past with couples holding hands, but in all cases there was a man and a woman. What might have been the bond between the two individuals in the burial in Modena remains a mystery.”

Lugli said that it wasn’t common for men to be buried like this in this time period, but that their burial suggests a relationship of some sort. “In late antiquity it is unlikely that homosexual love could be recognised so clearly by the people who prepared the burial,” he said, suggesting that they may have been cousins or soldiers.

Yeah, about that…

Murray Hall: The politician who broke 19th Century gender rules

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He was a hard-drinking, twice-married businessman and politician in 19th Century New York – but Murray Hall had a secret which was only revealed after his death.

Murray Hall had a reputation for hard living – drinking, smoking, playing poker and even brawling with a policeman. He also had an active political career and a business as a bail bondsman.

So far, so ordinary for a man at the time. But one aspect of his life remained a secret until he died from cancer in 1901. That was when it first emerged that Hall had been assigned female at birth.

It was later reported that he had been born in Govan as Mary Anderson. According to a source quoted by the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, he began dressing as a male in his teens, then fled to America when his first wife disclosed his gender to the police. It was there that he took the name Murray H Hall, before marrying for a second time and beginning his business and political career.

Writer and archivist Mel Reeve said there had been a “huge backlash” in the media after his death. “People were very angry and felt like they’d been betrayed, but obviously he was just living his life how he wanted to – which was as a man,” she said.

Newspapers reported breathlessly on the events in articles which reflected some of the attitudes of the times. The New York Times, for instance, accused him of “masquerading” in male attire. It said Hall had a reputation as “a ‘man about town’, a bon vivant, and all-around ‘good fellow’.”

One senator described how Hall used to “hobnob with the big guns of the County Democracy” and said that he “cut quite some figure as a politician”. He added: “He dressed like a man and talked like a very sensible one.”

Read on…

Bay Gays

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TV station ABC7news dug up an interesting piece of history allowing us a look at how gay people were portrayed in the media in the America of the 1970s. The documentary was made in 1976 and is called “Bay Gays.” It was shocking at the time, and opened up viewers to “the gayest city in the country.”

“The four part series starts before the rainbow flag was a a symbol for a united community. Before Harvey Milk was elected supervisor, before the White Night riots that followed his death, before HIV and AIDS devastated a community, before same-sex marriage was legal.” says ABC.

 

Alan Turing will be the face of the Bank of England’s new £50 note

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The Bank of England has announced that Alan Turing’s will appear on British £50 notes starting 2021.

“Alan Turing was an outstanding mathematician whose work has had an enormous impact on how we live today,” Bank of England governor Mark Carney said. “As the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, as well as a war hero, Alan Turing’s contributions were far ranging and path breaking. Turing is a giant on whose shoulders so many now stand.”

Turing was a computer scientist whose innovative thinking was integral to breaking Nazi codes during World War II. Despite his heroic deeds, he was deemed a criminal less than a decade after the end of the war when he was found guilty of having sex with a man. He was sentenced to chemical castration in 1952 and eventually driven to suicide.

“It’s important that we remember and recognise the impact of LGBT figures throughout history, so it’s great that Alan Turing will be the face on the new £50 bank note,” Kim Sanders, director of communications at LGBTQ+ rights organisation Stonewall in the U.K, said in a statement. “It’s vital that we celebrate LGBT history, which is often less visible, and make sure that we represent the diversity of those who paved the way before us.”

Years after his death, Turing’s early contributions to technology have become more fully embraced, materialising in a movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch, an official royal pardon in 2013, and other accolades.

The Bank of England received 227,299 nominations after it put a call out for suggestions for a scientist that should be featured on the £50 note. Finalists included Ada Lovelace and Stephen Hawking. The photo of Turing will be a 1951 portrait, his signature from the visitor’s book at the famed Bletchley Park, where code breaking efforts were concentrated during the war, and a quote of his from a 1949 interview with the Times of London: “This is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be.”

Read more…

Why Kink belongs at Pride

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Earlier this month, just weeks before the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a Twitter user shared a since-deleted viral tweet directed at Pride goers. It contained a number of statements about the nature of Pride, with one particular remark sparking a string of intra-community discourse: “Please don’t bring your k*nks/fet*shes to pride, there are minors @ pride and this can sexualise the event.”

Debate quickly followed within the queer community, calling into question the place of public displays of kink and BDSM at queer events.

Some agreed with the original tweet, assenting that wearing fetish gear or publicly expressing one’s sexuality would violate the consent of those present, as it could make people feel uncomfortable or triggered.

Others challenged these sentiments. “Kinks, sex, and protest are all inherent parts of pride,” wrote Nicolette Mason on Twitter. “One of the core tenets of pride is liberation and working against cultural shaming,” wrote a user under the handle @atty_boy. “Calling to make pride ‘kid-friendly’ implies that celebrating sexuality and kink openly is bad. Normalizing these things is a GOAL of pride.”

Wherever you stand on the issue, the fact remains that BDSM, subversive sexuality, and leather culture have enjoyed a long history within the LGBTQ+ rights movement, and such public displays of sexuality are driven by much more than libido or countercultural impulses — they’re an inherent expression of queer culture and sexuality, and as such, deserve a place at Pride as much as anything.

Read on…

Lasting Marks

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The story of sixteen men put on trial for sadomasochism in the dying days of Thatcher’s Britain was told by the police, the prosecution and the tabloid press — but not by those in the dock.

Lasting Marks is the story of a group of men, brought together through their shared sexual desires, and the vice investigation (named ‘Operation Spanner’) that followed when the police acquired a video tape of these acts being performed, Lyne delves into a somewhat forgotten, historic case in this informative and engaging film.

Troye Sivan on being effeminate

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“I have to get comfortable with the fact that I am kind of effeminate sometimes–or really effeminate sometimes. That I want to paint my nails. Overcoming all those stupid rules that society embeds in you as a kid about gender and sexuality is a conscious task. I have almost exclusively LGBT people around me [now]. That instilled a sense of confidence in me. That I have every reason to be proud of who I am.”

Read the whole interview with Troye over here.