On this date in 1292 in the Belgium city of Ghent, 29 year old knife maker John de Wettre was found with another man committing and act “detested by God”.
He was burned alive as punishment.
In many parts of Europe at the end of the thirteenth century, then, sodomites, heretics, and other social and sexual deviants were demarcated from the rest of the population. Those who once were only sinners now were criminal; their behavior was not only sinful but antisocial, and thus appropriately punished by loss of rights, property, and life. In 1292 John de Wettre, a knifemaker, was executed for sodomy in Ghent, burned alive for engaging with another man in an act “detested by God.” This is the earliest known execution for that act. We don’t know whether the other man was a lover or a passing stranger, whether the act was habitual or unique. All that we can know about John de Wettre is that John’s execution, if it was the first, would not be the last.
So the next time someone says to you that gay men have not been persecuted as others have, have not dealt with oppression, and not fought as long as other to be accepted and equal. Remind them of John de Wettre.
That is his legacy to us.