Gay History – July 1: The Buggery Act, The Hays Code Becomes Mandatory, George McGovern, and Blueboy Hit’s The Stands
1828 – The Buggery Act 1533, formally An Acte for the punishment of the vice of Buggerie (25 Hen. 8 c. 6), was an Act of the Parliament of England that was passed during the reign of Henry VIII. It was the country’s first civil sodomy laws.
The Act defined buggery as an unnatural sexual act against the will of God and Man. This was later defined by the courts to include only anal penetration and bestiality. The act remained in force until it was repealed and replaced by the Offences against the Person Act 1828, and buggery remained a capital offence until 1861, though the last executions were in 1835
The Act was repealed in 1553 on accession of the staunchly Catholic Queen Mary, who preferred such legal matters adjudicated in ecclesiastical courts. However, it was re-enacted by Queen Elizabeth I in 1563.
The United Kingdom Parliament repealed buggery laws for England and Wales in 1967 (in so far as they related to consensual homosexual acts in private).
1934 – Hollywood makes makes Hays Code permanent– after Will H. Hays, who was the president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA) from 1922 to 1945 – makes it mandatory. Among its provisions: “Pictures shall not infer that low forms of sex relationships are the accepted or common thing,” and “Sex perversion (GAY) or any inference to it is forbidden on the screen.” The Motion Picture Production Code was the set of industry moral guidelines that was applied to most United States motion pictures released by major studios from 1930 to 1968.
- This forced a change to the ending of The Bad Seed. In the novel and stage play, Christine gives an overdose of sleeping pills to her dangerous sociopathic daughter Rhoda, and Christine shoots herself, but Rhoda survives, with the implication she will kill again (especially now that her mother, the only person aware of her true nature, is gone). The film version has Christine survive her suicide attempt, whereas Rhoda dies in a contrived and implausible Karmic Death (she goes to the lake to find the penmanship medal for which she killed a boy, and a tree is struck by lightning and falls on her)
- Topics considered “perverse” could not be discussed or depicted in any way. Such topics included—but were not limited to— homosexuality, miscegenation (interracial relationships), bestiality, and venereal diseases. Studios used the explicitly racist ban on depicting miscegenation to justify the exclusion of non-white actors from employment: they reasoned that the Code would be breached if either actor or character was of a differing race. Anna May Wong, the leading Chinese-American actress of the time, was rejected as the female lead in The Good Earth because the male lead was white actor Paul Muni. In fact, Anna May Wong only made one film in which she got to kiss her white co-star (Java Head, which was made in the UK). Ironically, this was done despite the fact that the Code actually advocated for the “inherent dignity of foreign peoples” and insisted that their cultures not be undeservedly slurred – of course, this didn’t really help American non-whites (especially not the Japanese during World War II).
*The bestiality ban was part of the reason for changes to Red Hot Riding Hood‘s original ending, which showed the Wolf forced into marriage by the Grandma, then years later taking his half-human, half-lupine children to the nightclub to see Red perform. (The original ending, much like the “erection takes”, existed on a Director’s Cut that was sent to overseas soldiers.)
*The decision to kill off half-Native American Pearl in Duel in the Sun was based on this rule. In the book, Pearl lives and marries the good brother, Jesse.
*Imitation of Life (1934) struggled to get approved because it featured a biracial character who tried to pass for white, and was played by an actual mixed-race actress. It was ultimately approved after two weeks of shooting – although a scene in which a black man nearly gets lynched for flirting with a white woman was ordered cut from the script.
*From Here to Eternity cut all references to homosexuality (the soldiers fraternize with male prostitutes in the book) and Karen’s infertility from gonorrhea (which is now caused by a bad miscarriage). Hilariously the brothel is turned into a gentleman’s club with the whores being called “hostesses” – but the characters still act like they are.
Tea and Sympathy deals with a character being Mistaken for Gay, but the film eliminates a gay teacher who is fired for being seen sunbathing with Tom on the beach (which starts the whole thing off). Tom instead just gets mocked for being found sewing.
The Supreme Court itself began to undercut the purpose of the Code (to prevent federal government censorship of the film industry) starting in 1952.
In 1966, MGM released the film Blowup—which failed to gain Hays approval due to its relatively explicit erotic content—in direct defiance of the Code. The MPAA and the Code could do nothing to stop MGM from distributing the critically-hailed film, which became a smash hit.
1972, UK – The United Kingdom’s first Gay Pride March draws about 2,000 gay men and lesbians to the center of London.
McGovern issued a multi-point plank in support of gay rights in early 1972. However, the plank was dropped from the official Democratic Party platform.
1975 – Blueboy, a magazinefor gay men debuts.
Blueboy was one of the early gay men’s lifestyle and entertainment magazines available in the U.S. It was published monthly from 1974 to 2007.
The founding publisher was Donald N. Embinder, a former advertising representative for After Dark, an (straight?) arts magazine with a substantial gay readership. Embinder first used the nom de plume Don Westbrook, but soon assumed his real name on the masthead.
TRIVIA: Singer Cyndi Lauper mentions the publication in the first lines of her song “She Bop”: “Well, I see him every night in tight blue jeans. In the pages of a Blueboy magazine.”