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Gay History – February 9th: Irish Poet Brendan Behan, Archie Bunker’s Gay Buddy, and Jerry Falwell Outs A Teletubby

February 9th.

1874 – Amy Lowell the American poet was born in Brookline. Massachusetts.

A militant literary leader she thumbed her nose at the Boston Brahmans who raised her and outed herself. Her lover was actress Ada Dwyer Russell whom she called “Peter.” Russell is reputed to be the subject of Lowell’s more erotic works, most notably the love poems contained in ‘Two Speak Together’, a subsection of Pictures of the Floating World.  The two women traveled to England together, where Lowell met Ezra Pound, who at once became a major influence and a major critic of her work. Pound considered Lowell’s embrace of Imagism to be a kind of hi-jacking of the movement, and among his friends he referred to her as the “hippo-poetess”, because of her large body size. Lowell has been linked romantically to writer Mercedes de Acosta, but the only evidence of any contact between them is a brief correspondence about a planned memorial for Duse. Lowell was a short but imposing figure who kept her hair in a bun and wore a pince-nez.

1923 – Brendan Behan is born.  

Behan was an Irish poet, short story writer, novelist, and playwright who wrote in both English and Irish.  Born in Dublin into a republican family, he became a member of the IRA’s youth organisation Fianna Éireann at the age of fourteen. However, there was also a strong emphasis on Irish history and culture in the home, which meant he was steeped in literature and patriotic ballads from a tender age. Behan eventually joined the IRA at sixteen, which led to him serving time in a borstal youth prison in the United Kingdom (see “The Borstal Boy” ) and was also imprisoned in Republic of Ireland. During this time, he took it upon himself to study and he became a fluent speaker of the Irish language. Subsequently released from prison as part of a general amnesty given by the Fianna Fáil government in 1946, Behan moved between homes in Dublin, Kerry and Connemara and also resided in Paris for a period.   Behan had married Beatrice Salkeld  in 1955. A daughter, Blanaid, was born in 1963.  This however, was not enough to bring Behan back from his alcoholic abyss. By early March 1964, the end was in sight. Collapsing at the Harbour Lights bar, he was transferred to the Meath Hospital in central Dublin, where he died, aged 41.

The family of Brendan Behan claim that he was bisexual all of his life, but he kept it quiet for his families sake.

1943 – Marc Stevens 

Mark ’10½’ Stevens was a pioneering bisexual  sex industry figure during the 1970’s in New York City. He appeared in over 80 pornographic movies, and he also led an erotic dance troupe and performed in live sex shows. While he predominantly appeared in heterosexual films and loops, he made a number of gay movies as well. He was a close associate of leading sex industry figures such as Jason & Tina Russell, Annie Sprinkle, who was also his neighbor for a time, Sharon Mitchell, Jamie Gillis, Georgina Spelvin and Gloria Leonard. Tall and lean with a well-defined musculature, he had the nickname “10½” because of the size of his rather large circumcised penis

Stevens passed away of AIDS in 1989 at age 46

1971 – Barely a month after All in the Family takes to the air Archie discovers that one of his bar buddies, an ex-football player, is gay. This is the first instance in which a network television program aired a positive plot-line involving a gay issue.

ARCHIE: Hey, let me ask you something. How long you notice this kid Roger that was in with Mike?
STEVE: Oh, a couple of years, ever since he started coming to the shop.
ARCHIE: A couple of years. Now you’re a man of the world. Now you must know that this kid is kind of a la-di-da, right?
STEVE: Is that what Mike thinks of Roger?
ARCHIE: Forget about what Mike thinks. I can’t even tell you what he thinks. Here, put them glasses over here, I want to go with you once more. Go ahead. (Steve takes the beers, moves them to another table.) Come on, let me get even with you one more time. Go on, get it up there. (Steve and Archie grab hands in an arm-wrestling hold on the table.)
STEVE: What does Mike think, Arch?
ARCHIE: Aw, Mike, geez. Well for one thing, he thinks that friend of his, Roger, is straight. And for another thing–well Steve, you’re gonna wanna bust him wide open when I tell you this, I don’t know where he gets these brainstorms, but he thinks that you’re–geez, I can’t even say it to you, Steve.
STEVE: He’s right, Arch.
ARCHIE: Huh?
STEVE: He’s right. (Steve slams Archie’s arm down on the table.)
ARCHIE: Oh, you mean he’s right about his friend Roger there.
STEVE: About everything.

According to scholar Larry Gross, in his book Up from Invisibility: Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Media in America, the episode also opened the door for other programs such as Soap, later in the 1970s, and Dynasty, in the 1980s, that included recurring gay characters in their casts. And Gross further observes that this progress ultimately laid the groundwork for the programs with gay characters-some of them in leading roles-that are appearing on the small screen today.

1999 – The leader of the “moral majority” and founder of the anti-gay hate bastion Liberty University the “Reverend” Jerry Falwell claims that the purple-colored Teletubby named Tinky-Wink is gay.

Writing in the February issue of his magazine, National Liberty Journal, Falwell said the creators of the program intended for Tinky Winky to be a gay role model.

”He is purple — the gay-pride color; and his antenna is shaped like a triangle — the gay-pride symbol,” he wrote adding : “The character, whose voice is that of a boy, has been found carrying a red purse in many episodes and has become a favorite character among gay groups worldwide.”

Tinky-Wink upon hearing of Falwell’s death in 2007:

“I’m not going to pretend I’m sadder than I am,” he says. “There were late nights during the dark times when I wished to hear news like this. I’d be lying if I denied that. I don’t feel that way anymore. I like to think I’ve grown over the years, gotten past all that pain.

“But at the end of the day, I’m not terribly sad, and I think a lot of people feel the same way. Jerry Falwell was a divisive person, a hateful person, and what I’ve tried to be all about, in the Teletubbies days and since then, has been love. I’ve got to keep it that way. I don’t want anybody feeling good about it when it’s my time for Tubby bye-bye.”

2009 – Domestic Partner Registry opens in Phoenix, Arizona, USA

2011 – A bill protecting the rights to freedom of gender expression and gender identity passes the House of Commons, amending the Canada Human Rights Code. This bill is intended to protect gender-variant individuals from discrimination.

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Will Kohler

Will Kohler is one of America's well known LGBT historians, He is also a a accredited journalist and the owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as BBC News, CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post, The Daily Wall Street Journal, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story, Mr. Kohler is available for comment, interviews and lectures on LGBT History. Contact: Will@Back2Stonewall.com

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