Hold on tight………..
January 1, 1801 – Ireland was added to Great Britain by an Act of Union thus creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It also put Ireland, and today, Northern Ireland under British laws on morality and particularly homosexuality.
January 1, 1879 – E. M. Forster (1879 – 1970) is born in London. After his brilliant novel “A Passage to India” in 1924, he produced no new works. His gay novel “Maurice” was written in 1914, but not published until after his death. For 50 years his lover was a married London policeman named Bob Buckingham.
January 1, 1886 – English Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1885 takes effect. “Indecencies” between adult males in private become a crime punishable by up to two years imprisonment.
January 1, 1892 – Ellis Island in New York harbor opened. Over 20 million new arrivals to America were processed until its closing in 1954. It is unknown how many of the new immigrants were gays and lesbians. Some estimates are as high as 1 million (This is lower than 10% since most of those admitted to the US were families not that THAT really makes a difference.)
January 1, 1895 – J. Edgar Hoover is born in Washington. Hoover led a deeply repressed sexual life, living with his mother until he was 40, awkwardly rejecting the attention of women and pouring his emotional, and at times, physical attention on his handsome deputy at the FBI. What exactly was his relationship with his ever constant companion and fellow FBI man Clyde Tolson? There has been a lot of speculation but no documentation. Still there are numerous stories of Hoover appearing in drag in New York. Usually in a red dress, and he liked to be called “Mary”.
January 1, 1900 – Silent movie star William Haines is born in Staunton, Virginia. His good looks and baby face made him a hit playing the wisecracking penniless young man in countless films. Blessed with a good voice, he was one of the few silent stars to make the transition to talkies.
In 1933, Haines was arrested in a YMCA with a sailor he had picked up in Los Angeles’ Pershing Square. Louis B. Mayer, the studio head at MGM, delivered an ultimatum to Haines: Choose between a sham marriage (also known as a “lavender marriage”) or his relationship with Shields. Haines chose Shields and they remained together for almost 50 years. Mayer subsequently fired Haines and terminated his contract. He made a few minor films at Poverty Row studios, then retired from acting. His final films were made with Mascot Pictures, Young and Beautiful and The Marines Are Coming in 1934.
Haines never returned to acting, but continued to receive offers for film roles. During production of Sunset Boulevard (1950), Haines was offered a cameo role in the film, which he declined. He later said, “It’s a rather pleasant feeling of being away from pictures and being part of them because all my friends are. I can see the nice side of them without seeing the ugly side of the studios.
Haines started a successful interior design business with his life partner Jimmie Shields, and was supported by friends in Hollywood most notably Joan Crawford.
Haines died of lung cancer in December 1973 at the age of 73.
January 1, 1901 – The Commonwealth of Australia was founded as six former British colonies became six states with Edmund Barton as the first prime minister, and Canberra as the capital. Today, Sydney, the biggest city in Australia, has one of the world’s largest gay communities. It’s annual Mardi Gras celebrations draw nearly a million a people from all over the globe.
January 1, 1933 – John Kingsley was born in Leicester, England. Writing under the name Joe Orton he became of Britain’s most popular comic playwrights (Entertaining Mr Sloane in 1964 and Loot in 1966). He was murdered by his lover Kenneth Halliwell who then committed suicide in the London flat they had occupied for 15 years. In 1967 he had written in his diary “I have high hopes of dying in my prime.” (Orton documentary embedded below.)
January 1, 1959 – Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba after leading a revolution that drove out dictator Fulgencio Batista. Castro then established a Communist dictatorship. Although homosexuality was illegal under the Batista government the laws were largely ignored in fun loving Cuba. Since Castro, tens of thousands of gays have been rounded up and imprisoned.
January 1, 1965 – Gays and lesbians are arrested at the New Year’s Day Mardi Gras Ball in San Francisco. The ball was a fundraiser for Council on Religion and the Homosexual at California Hall. The event galvanizes the local gay and lesbian community.
January 1, 1971 – Colorado decriminalizes private consensual adult homosexual acts.
January 1, 1971 – Oregon decriminalizes private consensual adult homosexual acts.
January 1, 1972 – Science magazine publishes a report that suggests male homosexuality may be determined in the womb due to chemical and/or hormonal stress of the pregnant woman.
January 1, 1972 – Hawaii decriminalizes private consensual adult homosexual acts.
January 1, 1974 – Ohio repeals its sodomy laws and decriminalizes private consensual adult homosexual acts.
January 1, 1975 – New Mexico decriminalizes private consensual adult homosexual acts.
January 1, 1976 – Iowa decriminalizes private consensual adult homosexual acts.
January 1, 1977 – Vermont decriminalizes private consensual adult homosexual acts.
January 1, 1977 – Harvey Milk (May 22, 1930 – November 27, 1978) takes office in San Francisco .He was an American politician and the first openly gay elected official in the history of California, where he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Milk served almost eleven months in office and was responsible for passing a stringent gay rights ordinance for San Francisco. On November 27, 1978, Milk was assassinated. Milk was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 by President Obama.
January 1, 1978 – Good Housekeeping readers name Anita Bryant “The Most Admired Woman in America.”
January 1, 1978 – North Dakota decriminalizes private consensual adult homosexual acts.
January 1, 1980 – Arizona decriminalizes private consensual adult homosexual acts.
January 1, 1993 – The World Health Organization officially deletes “homosexuality” from its list of “diseases.
WATCH: A Genius Like Us: A Portrait of Joe Orton, a 70-minute BBC Arena documentary from 1982.