This Week In Gay History April 21 – 27: Shakespear, “Ma” Rainey and The Most Hated Man In San Francisco
April 21 1981 – In Toronto six people, including activists George Hislop and Peter Maloney and head of Club Bath chain in United States, Jack Campbell are charged with conspiracy to live off avails of crime. All three were listed as owners of the Club Baths Toronto. These were the final charges following the infamous February 5, 1981 bathhouse raids named laughingly by Metropolitan Toronto Police as Operation Soap place on February 5, 1981 where over 300 gay bathhouse patrons were arrested.
The event marked a major turning point in the history of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Canada; the raids and their aftermath are today widely considered to be the Canadian equivalent of the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City Mass protests and rallies were held denouncing the incident. These evolved into Toronto’s current Pride Week, which is now one of the world’s largest gay pride festivals 2010.
Almost all the charges against the 300+ men charges including Hislop, Maloney and Campbel are later dropped in court and the Toronto Metro Police become a laughingstock.
April 22, 1766 – Madame De Stael is born near Paris. Older editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica only describe her life as being “unconventional”. In truth, she was an active bisexual. Born Anne Louise Germaine Necker she seduced and lived for 19 years with Juliette Recamier the most celebrated beauty of her time. Upon Recamier’s death, De Stael wrote “I love you with a love that surpasses that of friendship…were I to embrace you with all that remains of me.”
Celebrated for her conversational eloquence, she participated actively in the political and intellectual life of her times. Her works, both critical and fictional, made their mark on the history of European Romanticism.
April 22, 2012 – Jack Denton Reese, a gay Mormon teen commits suicide in Mountain Green, Utah. He was 17 years old. According to Jack’s boyfriend, Alex Smith, Jack was bullied at school. On April 23, Alex, who didn’t know yet that his boyfriend had taken his life, spoke at a panel about the bullying Jack experienced. The panel was held in connection with the screening of the documentary film, “Bullied.”
April 23, 1791 – James Buchanan is born near Mercerburg, Pennsylvania. The 15th president of the United States was the only bachelor to serve in that office. His closest friend, Senator William Rufus De Vane King was called “Miss Nancy” by his detractors, making the President “Mr Nancy.”
April 23rd, 1990 – The Hate Crimes Statistic Act is signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. It is the first U.S. bill to use the phrase “sexual orientation.”
“We must work together to build an America of opportunity, where every American is free finally from discrimination. And I will use this noble office, this bully pulpit, if you will, to speak out against hate and discrimination everywhere it exists.”
Eight years later his sons Presidential administration will become one of the most anti-gay in United States recorded history.
April 24, 1858 – Dame Ethel Smyth is born in Surrey, England. A composer, writer, and feminist Smyth wrote seven torrid volumes of explicit memoirs. Smyth was something of a female Don Juan. She particularly enjoyed seducing the wives of men who had wanted to sleep with her.
Smyth was affectionately caricatured in E.F. Benson”s Dodo novels and mocked by Virginia Woolf. In 1910, Smyth met Emmaline Pankhurst, the founder of the British women’s suffrage movement and head of the militant and extremely well-organized Women’s Social and Political Union. Struck by Mrs. Pankhurst’s mesmerizing public speeches, Smyth pledged to give up music for two years and devote herself to the cause of votes for women.
In London in 1912: over 100 arrested suffragists, including Ethel Smyth, who had smashed windows of suffrage opponents’ homes in well-coordinated simultaneous incidents all over London, were arrested, tried, and sentenced to two months’ imprisonment. Ethel Smyth found her time in Halloway Prison an “exalting” experience of communal determination and sacrifice by women of all ages and classes. One day, while the prisoners were taking their outdoor
exercise, Ethel Smyth appeared at a window overlooking the prison yard, and conducted their singing of the suffrage battle anthem by waving her toothbrush.
April 25, 1284 – King Edward II is born in Caernavon Wales. Ancient Christianity had tolerated homosexuality (In the 12th century the king of France elevated his lover to high office) but by the mid 13th century live was harder on gays and Edward was made an example. His first lover Piers Gaveston ended in Gaveston’s murder by courtiers. His second affair, with Hugh le Despenser, ended with the Barons arresting them, imprisoning and them. Le Despenser had his genitals cut off and burned in front of him. He was then beheaded. Edward was murdered by having a red-hot poker inserted in his anus.
April 25th, 1978 – St. Paul, Minnesota votes to repeal its four-year old gay-rights ordinance by a margin of 2-1. Mary Richards was not happy.
April 25th,1979 – Jury selection begins in the trial of Dan White for the murder of S.F. Mayor George Moscone and gay activist Supervisor Harvey Milk. In a controversial verdict that led to the coining of the legal slang “Twinkie defense,” White was convicted of manslaughter rather than murder in the deaths of Milk and Moscone. White served five years of a seven-year prison sentence. Less than two years after his release, he returned to San Francisco and committed suicide. San Francisco Weekly has referred to White as “perhaps the most hated man in San Francisco’s history.”
April 25th,1993 – The third March on Washington happened and has an estimated attendance one million people. Although gays in the military was the major issue of that march it also marked the first time that same-sex marriage gained some notice, as well. On the day before the march, the Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Community Church, married 2,000 gay couples in a ceremony on the steps of the Internal Revenue Service building. Although the event was largely obscured by the march itself, for those who participated it was a transforming occasion.
“I remember going down to escalators to catch the Metro to the IRS,” recalls Aleta Fenceroy of Omaha, who married her partner Jean Mayberry at that ceremony, “and the whole subway tunnel burst out with people singing ‘Going to the Chapel.’ It was one of those moments that still gives me goose bumps when I think of it.” Later that day, she and Mayberry walked around Dupont Circle with wreaths of flowers in their hair, receiving the congratulations of strangers.
April 25th, 1995 – Lawrence, Kansas passes an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. The law, the culmination of a 7-year struggle, is the only one of its type in the state of Kansas.
April 26, 1564 – William Shakespeare is born at Stratford-on-Avon. The debate rages as to whether or not he was gay. It will likely never be resolved but many have tried.
April 26, 1886 – Creator of “The Blues” Gertude “Ma” Rainey is born Gertrude Pridgett in Columbus, Georgia.
Accompanied by her “Georgia Band,” which included such jazz greats as Louis Armstrong, Thomas Dorsey, and Coleman Hawkins, she belted out song after song with titles like “Rough and Tumble Blues,” “Jealous Hearted Blues,” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Blues.”
In spite of her marriage to “Pa,” Rainey she made no secret of her relationships with women. Indeed, her famous “Prove it on Me Blues,” recorded in 1928, sounds more like the testimony of a lesbian than a bisexual:
“Went out last night with a crowd of my friends, They must have been women, ’cause I don’t like no men. Wear my clothes just like a fan, Talk to gals just like any old man ‘Cause they say I do it, ain’t nobody caught me, Sure got to prove it on me”
April 27. 1951 – Luis Zapata, Mexico’s most productive and successful gay writer is born. Zapata studied French literature at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. In his best-known work, Las aventuras, desaventuras y sueños de Adonis García, el vampiro de la colonia Roma (1979; Adonis García: A Picaresque Novel), he chronicled the lives of urban homosexuals. His other works include Hasta en las mejores familias (1975; “Even in the Best Families”), De pétalos perennes (1981; “Of Perennial Petals”), De amor es mi negra pena (1983; “Of Love That Is My Hell”),