Tag Archives: Oscar Wilde

Gay History - April 5, 1895: Oscar Wilde Loses "Sodomite" Libel Case.

Gay History – April 5, 1895: Oscar Wilde Loses “Sodomite” Libel Case.

In February of 1895, Oscar Wilde was dining at the Albermarle Club when the Marquess of Queensberry left a calling card with the porter. It read, “For Oscar Wilde posing as a somdomite.” The misspelling may have been the product of Queensberry’s rage over the relationship between his son Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas and Wilde.  Bosie refused to end it despite Queensberry’s arguments and threats, including the threat to publicly expose Wilde, which he accomplished with that calling card. Friends urged Wilde to ignore it, but Wilde felt that such an insult required a vigorous response, namely a lawsuit against Queensberry for criminal libel. No response, he reasoned, it would be tantamount to admitting the truth, something that Wilde knew would be disastrous not only to his reputation and career, but also to his very freedom. Homosexuality was a criminal offense.

Wilde’s libel case collapsed on the second day of the sensational trial, when Wilde took the stand and Queensberry’s lawyer asked whether he had ever kissed a young man named Walter Grainger. Wilde replied, “Oh, dear no. He was a peculiarly plain boy. He was, unfortunately, extremely ugly. I pitied him for it.” Queesnberry’s lawyer pounced on Wilde’s reason for not kissing Grainger: it wasn’t that Wilde didn’t like kissing men, but that he didn’t want to kiss this particular man. That was on April 4. The next morning, Queensberry’s lawyer announced that he planned to call several male prostitutes to testify against Wilde. Wilde’s lawyer, after conferring with Wilde, addressed the court. He said that since Queensberry’s letter only accused Wilde of “posing as” a sodomite rather than actually being one, he asked the court to drop the charges and return a verdict of “not guilty” against Queensberry.

Libel law hinged on two findings: to be not guilty of libel, it had to have been found to be true and it had to have been made for the “public benefit.” And that’s what the judge found, that the statement “is true in fact and substance, and that the publication is for the public benefit.

An arrest warrant was filed that afternoon. Wilde was arrested at 6:30 that evening and charged with gross indecency. Queensberry denied that he pressed officials to bring criminal charges against Wilde, but acknowledged sending Wilde a message which read, “If the country allows you to leave all the better for the country; but if you take my son with you, I will follow you wherever you go and shoot you.” That very day, Wilde’s name was removed was removed from the play-bills at the Haymarket and St. James Theatres, where his plays, An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest were being performed. Both plays were cancelled soon after.

Wilde’s first criminal trial ended in a hung jury but the second one resulted in Wilde’s conviction and sentence to two years at hard labor.

Gay History: March 14, 1860 - Count Eric Stanislaus Stenbock is Born. Sweden's and the Baltic's Oscar Wilde

Gay History: March 14, 1860 – Count Eric Stanislaus Stenbock is Born. Sweden’s and the Baltic’s Oscar Wilde

Count Eric Stanislaus (or Stanislaus Eric) Stenbock ( Born: March  14, 1860) was a Baltic Swedish poet and writer of macabre fantastic fiction. He is known for his Gothic and decadent literary style, which was heavily influenced by the works of Edgar Allan Poe and Oscar Wilde. Despite his literary success, Count Stenbock’s personal life was shrouded in controversy, particularly regarding his sexuality.

While homosexuality was not openly discussed during Count Stenbock’s lifetime, there are numerous accounts of his romantic and sexual relationships with other men. In fact, many of his poems and stories contain homoerotic themes and imagery. For example, his poem “Prelude” describes a love affair between two young men, while his novel, “The Other Side: A Breton Legend,” features a male protagonist who falls in love with a male vampire.

Count Stenbock’s homosexuality was not well-received by his family, who were staunchly conservative and disapproved of anything they considered immoral or scandalous. As a result, Count Stenbock was often ostracized and left to fend for himself. He spent much of his life traveling throughout Europe, moving from one literary circle to another in search of acceptance and validation.

Despite the challenges he faced, Count Stenbock continued to write prolifically, producing numerous poems, short stories, and novels throughout his lifetime. His work was widely admired by his peers, many of whom were also members of the lesbian and gay community.

Virtually forgotten today, he was the aesthete who could out-aesthete the great Oscar Wilde. A writer of opium-induced poems and stories, he once hosted Wilde who dared light a cigarette in front of a bust of Shelly. The sacrilege was so horrible the count fainted. 

His work continues to be studied and celebrated by scholars and readers alike.

You can read more about the life of Count Eric Stanislaus Stenbock by CLICKING HERE

Gay History – February 18, 1895: Oscar Wilde Accused of Being A “Sodomite”

On this day in 1895, British playwright Oscar Wilde was dining at the Albermarle Club in London when the Marquess of Queensbury left a calling card with the porter. It read, “To Oscar Wilde posing as a sodomoite.” The misspelling may have been the product of Queensbury’s rage over the relationship between Wilde and his son, Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas.

In the summer of 1891, Oscar met Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas, the third son of the Marquis of Queensberry. Bosie was well acquainted with Oscar’s novel “Dorian Gray” and was an undergraduate at Oxford. They soon became lovers.

Queensbury had ferocious arguments with his son, trying to get him to stop seeing Wilde, but Bosie refused. Queensbury even threatened to go public with what he knew, but Bosie refused to back down. So on February 18, 1895, Queensbury followed through on his threat.

Continue reading Gay History – February 18, 1895: Oscar Wilde Accused of Being A “Sodomite”

Gay History - April 5, 1895: Oscar Wilde Loses "Sodomite" Libel Case.

Gay History Month – October 16: Happy Birthday to Oscar Wilde and Nazi Germany’s Paragraph 175

October 16th.

1856:  Oscar Wilde is born in Dublin, Ireland.

After writing in different forms throughout the 1880’s, Oscar Wilde became one of London’s most popular playwrights in the early 1890’s. Today he is mostly remembered for his keen wit, his only novel The Picture of Dorian Gray and the circumstances of his imprisonment and early death.

At the height of his fame and success, while his masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), was still on stage in London, Wilde had the Marquess of Queensberry prosecuted for libel. The Marquess was the father of Wilde’s lover, Lord Alfred Douglas who was regarded at the time as a “mean spirited mincing queen intent on self-destruction” and later in life, tried to distance himself from Wilde’s name.

The charge against Wilde carried a penalty of up to two years in prison.

Queensberry was arrested with the charge carrying a possible sentence of up to two years in prison. Under the 1843 Libel Act, Queensberry could avoid conviction for libel only by demonstrating that his accusation was in fact true, and furthermore that there was some “public benefit” to having made the accusation openly. Queensberry’s lawyers thus hired private detectives to find evidence of Wilde’s homosexual liaisons. They decided on a strategy of portraying Wilde as a depraved older man who habitually enticed naïve youths into a life of vicious homosexuality to demonstrate that there was some public interest in having made the accusation openly

The trial caused Wilde to drop his charges and led to his own arrest and trial for gross indecency with other men. After two more trials he was convicted and imprisoned for two years’ hard labour. In 1897, in prison, he wrote De Profundis, which was published in 1905, a long letter which discusses his spiritual journey through his trials, forming a dark counterpoint to his earlier philosophy of pleasure. Upon his release he left immediately for France, never to return to Ireland or Britain. There he wrote his last work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898), a long poem commemorating the harsh rhythms of prison life.

Oscar Wilde died destitute in Paris at the age of forty-six.

1929:  The  Reichstag Committee votes to repeal the notorious Paragraph 175.  

But in the end the Nazis’ rise to power prevents it from being removed from the books and they in turn use it as the tool to persecute hundreds of thousands of gay, lesbian and transgender German citizens which they beat, torture and kill, sending many  to concentration camps from which they will never return.

Paragraph 175 made homosexual acts between males a crime, and in early revisions the provision also criminalized bestiality as well as forms of prostitution and underage sexual abuse. All in all, around 140,000 men were convicted under the law.

While the Nazi persecution of homosexuals is reasonably well-known today, far less attention had been given to the continuation of this persecution in post-war Germany.

In 1945, after the concentration camps were liberated, some homosexual prisoners were recalled to custody to serve out their two-year sentence under Paragraph 175. 

In 1950, East Germany abolished Nazi amendments to Paragraph 175, whereas West Germany kept them and even had them confirmed by its Constitutional Court.

About 100,000 men were implicated in legal proceedings from 1945 to 1969, and about 50,000 were convicted. Some individuals accused under Paragraph 175 committed suicide.

In 1969, the West Germany government eased Paragraph 175 by providing for an age of consent of 21. The age of consent was lowered to 18 in 1973.  Finally the paragraph was repealed and the age of consent lowered to 14, in 1994.

East Germany had already reformed its more lenient version of the paragraph in 1968, and repealed it in 1988.

Gay History Month – October 22: The Brutal NYC Gay Bathhouse Raid of 1916 and Lord Alfred Douglas the Original Evil Queen

Gay/LGBT History Month - October 22nd: The Tragic Lafayette Bathhouse Raid of 1916 and Lord Alfred Douglas the Original Evil Queen

October 22, 

1870: Lord Alfred Douglas is born near London on this day. Forever known as Bosie, the lover of Oscar Wilde. becomes an author, poet and translator. Much of his early poetry was Uranian in theme. He was regarded at the time as a “mean spirited mincing queen intent on self-destruction” and later in life, tried to distance himself from Wilde’s name.

In 1891, Douglas met Oscar Wilde; although the playwright was married with two sons, they soon began an affair. In 1894, the Robert Hichens novel The Green Carnation was published. Said to be a roman à clef based on the relationship of Wilde and Douglas, it would be one of the texts used against Wilde during his trials in 1895.

In 1916  Winston Churchill sued Douglas over allegations that he had taken part in a Jewish-financed conspiracy to have Kitchener ‘murdered’ in 1916; Douglas received a prison sentence. Like Wilde, Douglas wrote while in prison – In Excelsis – which his Douglas’ s  bigotry began to be exposed with lines such as ‘The leprous spawn of scattered Israel/Spends its contagion in your English blood’,

After his release in 1920 Douglas co-founded a fiercely antisemitic magazine, Plain English, on which he collaborated with Harold Sherwood Spencer. They printed numerous anti-Jewish diatribes, made claims of “human sacrifice among the Jews,” and publicly advocated The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Douglas died of congestive heart failure in Lancing, West Sussex on March 20th. 1945.

Lord Alfred Douglas will go down in gay history as the original “evil queen”.

1916: Police in New York City raid the all-male Lafayette Baths after agents from the New York Society for the Prevention of Vice, who had infiltrated the establishment, and filed a detailed report about “homosexual degeneracy” happening in the establishment.  

The book Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World describes the raid:

Layfette 1916 Bathhouse raid

Thirty-seven men, including the manager, were arrested. Twenty-five of them were convicted and sentenced to prison. Manager Frank Terwilligar, committed suicide one month later.   

The Lafayette Baths stayed in operation under another owner well into the 1920’s and was American precisionist painter Charles Demuths favorite haunt.

Incidentally, the new bathhouse was owned by Ira & George Gershwin’s, father and both boys were involved in the business.  At the time Ira was age 20 & George was 18. 

1977:  Montreal Police raid gay bars Truxx, and Le Mystique and charge 146 men with being found-ins in common bawdyhouse. More than fifty uniformed and plainclothes police in bullet proof vests from the divisional morality, mobile and technical squads carried off the raid. It was the largest mass arrest since War Measures Act during the FLQ Crisis. The 146 men arrested were held for up to 15 hours at police headquarters “while ‘compulsory’ VD tests were administered

1986: United States Surgeon General C. Everett Koop released his first report on the AIDS epidemic in America, two years before mailing information about the disease out to every American household. He reportedly waited four years before speaking publicly about the disease on this date.

1992: A report on hate crimes in Michigan was rejected by the US Civil Rights Commission because it included documentation of anti-gay hate crimes.

1993: United States Air Force Lt. Heidi De Jesus dropped her lawsuit that attempted to bring charges against the military for her dismissal based on her sexual orientation and the ban on gay and lesbian military personal. The legal battle had literally left her broke.

1999: Boeing announced that it would extend health benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of their employees. However, the company explained that unmarried heterosexual couples would not receive the same benefits because they had the option of marriage, angering the union.

1999: San Francisco Archbishop William Levada announced he would make a $30,000 contribution to a California ballot initiative to restrict the definition of marriage to opposite sex couples.

2009: The Lutheran Church of Sweden voted to allow same-sex marriages by a vote of 176 of 249 voting members. The decision came just days after the 30th anniversary of when Sweden stopped classifying homosexuality as a disease.