Friday, 18 May 2018

Around the World in Another 80 Gays : Part 16) Some More Spanish Firsts


Previously : 31) Julia Lemigova (b.1972) was the first national ex-beauty pageant winner to come out as lesbian, while the first reigning pageant winner to come out was 32) Patricia Rodriguez (b.1990) as Miss Spain 2014, to be followed 2 years later by Mr Spain 2016, 33) Daniel Rodriguez (b.1993), both from the Canary Islands, which also has a political lgbt first achieved by 34) Jerónimo Saavedra (b.1936).

34) Jerónimo Saavedra came out publicly in the wake of his partner’s tragic death in a road accident in 2000. He never considered himself “in the closet” as such because his sexuality had been known to many people he knew since he was in his 20s. His relationship with his partner was acknowledged in the public death notices of his partner in August 2000. At the time of the bereavement Jéronimo was approached by the author Fernando Bruquetas de Castro to write the prologue to his book “Outing in Spain: Spaniards Come Out of the Closet”. In his prologue Jéronimo acknowledged his late partner and felt that the time was right to make a declaration in print about his sexuality.

After living through the dictatorship of Gen. Franco, Jerónimo Saavedra was one of many thousands of gay men who had grown up being discriminated against and criminalised. A natural move for many who wanted political change was to join the Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party (PSOE). Jerónimo joined the PSOE in 1972 and became General Secretary of the Canary Socialist Party in 1977.

Jerónimo’s political career contains a number of significant firsts for a member of the lgbt community in Spain. Some of them are dual or triple firsts in that one appointment contains several different firsts. Only the final two listed appointments were achieved as an out politician. All the others are retrospective, and all are elected positions. First a word of explanation about the make-up of Spanish regions. Spain is divided into a number of Autonomous Communities, each of which are subdivided into a number of provinces. Here is the list of Jerónimo’s firsts:

1977 – First lgbt member of the Spanish parliament.
1982 – First lgbt interim President of an autonomous community.
1983 – First lgbt President of an Autonomous Community.
1983 – First lgbt President of the Canary Islands Autonomous Community.
1993 – First lgbt member of the Spanish Senate.
1993 – First lgbt member of the Spanish government.
1993 – First lgbt minister in the Spanish government.
2007 – First lgbt Mayor of the capital of a province.
2007 – First lgbt Mayor of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

Jerónimo Saavedra was first elected to the Cortes, the Spanish parliament, on 15th June 1977 in the first free elections to be held in Spain since 1937. This was made possible by the death of gen. Franco in 1975. With more democratic and liberal politics becoming the standard many regions around Spain sought some form of self-government. The Canary Islands was one of them and Jerónimo threw himself into negotiations to turn them into one of the newly formulated autonomous communities.

This campaign to establish autonomy for the Canaries began during Franco’s dictatorship. In 1978 Jerónimo became Vice-President of the board formed to negotiate this autonomy with the Spanish government. The Canary Islands was granted autonomous status in August 1982 and Saavedra was appointed as the interim President of the Canary’s government until elections were held the following year. In those election Jerónimo was voted in as their first president.

In 1993 Jerónimo was voted onto the Spanish Senate. However, he relinquished the position a few days later to join the government as Minister of Public Administration. Part of his work in this ministry was to oversee the process giving autonomy to the final two regions, the African enlaces of Ceuta and Melilla. In 1999 he was re-elected to the Spanish Senate, and it was a Senator that he made his written acknowledgment of his sexuality in the book “Out in Spain”.

Since leaving national politics in 2003 Jerónimo has continued to be active in the Canary Islands. In 2007 he was elected Mayor of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria becoming the first openly lgbt mayor of a provincial capital in Spain.

The Canary Islands provides another politician who was a significant first in Spain, and we travel back to the island of Tenerife.

Tenerife is the birthplace of actor and activist 35) Carla Antonelli (b.1959), the stage name of Carla Delgado Gómez. Like Jerónimo Saavadra she was a member of the PSOE. Carla was appointed as the Canary Islands co-ordinator of PSOE’s Federal Transsexual/GLBT Group.

In 2004 the Spanish government introduced same-sex marriage. Other lgbt rights were slow to follow. There was no law to allow transgender people to change official documents which registered their gender. Carla Antonelli was still a man in the eyes of the law. She threatened to go on hunger strike until the government had introduced a gender identity law. Within months the Gender Identity Law was passed and Carla became the first person in Spain to legally correct the gender on all official documents.

This is not the only first achieved by Carla Antonelli. She began to take a more active role in politics. In 2011 she was elected to the assembly of the Madrid Autonomous Community becoming the first transgender person in Spain to be elected to a governing legislature (note: the first transgender Spaniard to be elected to public office was Manuela Trasobares who was elected as a town councillor in 2007).

ransgender politicians have been increasing in numbers in recent years, whether in local, regional or national elections. Several transgender candidates have been unsuccessful in their campaigns to be elected. In the UK the first known transgender candidate seems to have been Alexandra MacRae who failed to be elected in 1992. But we have to cross to the other side of the world to find the first successful transgender candidate to be elected to a national parliament. Her name is 36) Georgina Beyer (b.1957).

Next time : We go Down Under to see how a politician changed a nation’s attitude to sex and get an indigenous perspective.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Out Of His Tree : A Minor Royal With Major Roots

The UK is in Royal Wedding fever this week with the wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle at the weekend. The current “official” royal family is quite small compared to 30 years ago. Those who don’t undertake official duties, or are more distant descendants of British monarchs, are often referred to as “minor royals”. Today’s subject, Lord Ivar Mountbatten, is one of them, and the closest openly gay minor royal related to Prince Harry. Several historical royal weddings have influenced Ivar’s ancestry.

Lord Ivar and Prince Harry share an origin in that their families came originally from Germany. They changed their German names to more English ones in 1917 during World War I. The Royal Family’s name of Saxe-Coburg changed to Windsor, and the Princes of Battenburg changed theirs to Mountbatten. At the same time they renounced with German titles. If it wasn’t for the war Lord Ivar would be Prince Ivar of Battenburg. Many non-titled families of non-British origin also changed their names during the war.

Ivar’s great-grandfather was Prince Louis of Battenburg. He and his brother married into the British royal family and became British citizens. Prince Louis became Louis Mountbatten from 1917 and was created Marquess of Milford Haven. His elder daughter Alice had married a Danish prince so remained a princess. Her son is Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. On renouncing his Danish titles to become a British commoner just before marrying the present Queen Philip’s surname became Oldenburg-Schleswig-Holstein – not very English-sounding for someone marrying the future queen just two years after World War II. So he adopted his mother’s family name. That’s why Prince Harry is also a Mountbatten.

In the Battenburg roots we find that their princely title comes through another royal marriage. In 1851 Prince Alexander von Hessen married Countess Julia von Hauke. As a German prince Alexander was expected to marry a woman of equal rank, which Julia wasn’t. This type of marriage is called “morganatic” and happened quite a lot, and the wives and children weren’t allowed to call themselves prince or princess.

Alexander’s brother, the Grand Duke of Hesse, gave Julia the title of Countess of Battenburg for herself and her children, and in 1858 granted them the titles of Princess or Prince. Battenburg was an old Hesse family castle and, in a way, foretells the British Royal Family’s adoption of the name of Windsor in 1917.

Lord Ivar may not even be the first lgbt Mountbatten. One of Julia’s grandchildren became Alexander Mountbatten, Marquess of Carisbrooke (1886-1960). He was Queen Victoria’s favourite grandchild. Several gay high society luminaries, such as Cecil Beaton who knew him personally, acknowledge Alexander as being gay in their diaries. Carisbrooke’s only child, Lady Iris Mountbatten (1920-1982), married an American, Michael Bryan, and the Mountbatten bloodline (but not the name) exists in the USA today in their son Robyn and grandchildren.

Lord Ivar Mountbatten’s Hesse ancestry can be traced in an unbroken male line all the way back to Reginar, Duke of Lorraine (d.915). Not even Prince Harry can trace his complete male line back that far. Being descended from royalty it’s no surprise to learn that Lord Ivar is a descendant or cousin to gay kings and royals from history, including Edward II of England, James I of Great Britain, Ludwig II of Bavaria, Friedrich II of Prussia, and Gustav III of Sweden.

Lord Ivar’s ancestry through his grandmother, the wife of the 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven, is just as grand the Battenburgs and Queen Victoria. It includes another morganatic marriage. Ivar’s grandmother, Countess Nadejda de Torby (1896-1963) was the daughter of Grand Duke Mikhail Mikhailovich of Russia, a grandson of Tsar Nikolai I, who had married Sofia von Merenburg, Countess of Torby.

Countess Sofia’s ancestry reveals surprising bloodlines. She was a child of another morganatic marriage. Her father, Prince Nicholas von Nassau-Weilberg, married Natalia Pushkine, who was created Countess of Merenberg. If her surname looks familiar it’s because her father was the famous Russian writer Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837). Pushkin is mentioned in my article on Count Sergei Uvarov.

What is a real surprise is Alexander Pushkin’s own ancestry. His great-grandfather was an African slave.

Abram Petrovich Gannibal (d.1781), as he is now named, was the son of a tribal chief in what is now Cameroon. The chief was killed in a battle against the Ottomans and Abram was taken as a slave to Turkey, and later to the court of Tsar Peter the Great.

Abram’s remarkable rise for slavery to the ranks of Russian nobility is covered extensively in the internet. Pushkin himself was immensely proud of his African ancestry and though his Lord Ivar Mountbatten is of mixed-race descent.

So far we’ve only looked at Lord Ivar’s paternal ancestry. His mother’s family tree is just as diverse.

Janet Mercedes Bryce married Lord Ivar’s father in 1960. Ivar was named after her cousin Ivar Bryce (1906-1985), who brings another American connection into the family. Ivar Bryce married the grandmother of lgbt activist Julia Pell (1953-2006).

While Ivar’s paternal ancestry contains many European leaders, his mother’s reveals many South American leaders. Janet’s grandmother was the sister of Manuel Candamo, President of Peru 1903-4. Through the Candamo’s Lord Ivar is 4th cousin to Manuel Odria, President and military dictator of Peru 1948-56.

Lord Ivar’s South American ancestors centre in Peru and Chile. It includes many significant military leaders of the independence movements and colonial governors and mayors. Although I haven’t found any, there is a possibility that Lord Ivar has some indigenous blood, perhaps even Inca. What I have found is that Ivar’s ancestors have been arriving in South America since the days of the Conquistadors in the 16th century.

The families in Ivar’s Hispanic ancestry read like a roll call of the leading noble families in medieval Spain – Álvarez de Toledo, Guzmán, Ponce de Leon and Sotomayor, to name just a few.

Having such an illustrious collection of ancestors was never going to be surprise in Lord Ivar Mountbatten’s family, but little surprises like Pushkin with his African blood and Peruvian presidential links provide one of the most diverse family trees among the minor royals.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Around the World in Another 80 Gays : Part 15) An Island of Beauty

Previously : 28) Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935) and 29) FannyAnn Eddy (1974-2004) are jointly commemorated in the human rights organisation the Hirschfeld-Eddy Foundation, co-founded by 30) Joey Joleen Mataele, who also founded the Miss Galaxy pageant modelled on the western beauty contest, in which the earliest known lgbt contestant was 31) Julia Lemigova (b.1972).

31) Julia Lemigova was not out as lgbt when she competed in the Miss USSR 1990 pageant. The Soviet government had banned beauty pageants in 1959. It was during the Perestroika era under more democratic leadership that these contests were revived.

The first national Soviet female beauty pageant, called Miss Moscow Beauty, was held in 1988. The following year it was renamed Miss USSR. Julia Lemigova entered the pageant in 1990 and came second. However, the winner was “dethroned” when she got married, making Julia the new Miss USSR 1990. She thus became eligible to enter the Miss Universe 1991 pageant in Las Vegas. On that occasion she came third.

Her move to France after the Miss Universe pageant developed into something that was other than glamorous. In 1997 she met banker Edouard Stern and began a relationship which resulted in the birth of a son, Maximilien. Maximilien was in the care of his father when he suffered a fatal brain injury. He was only 6 months old. There may never be a satisfactory explanation, but conspiracy theories abound, involving Stern’s bank, suppressed autopsy results and a disappearing nanny.

After her son’s death Julia Lemigova became a successful international businesswoman with several cosmetics companies to her name. In 2009 she became the girlfriend of tennis legend Martina Navratilova. They became engaged in a very public manner at the US Open tennis tournament in 2014 and were married later that year.

As far as can be determined Julia Lemigova was the first former national beauty pageant winner to reveal a same-sex relationship. There have been several others since then, the most recent being last month - Diedre Downs Gunn, Miss USA 2005.

There have been a handful of openly lgbt reigning national pageant queens. The first was 32) Patricia Yurena Rodriguez (b.1990). It was as the reigning Miss Spain 2013 that she came out as lesbian. Her titles cover a range of several years. They are:

Miss Tenerife 2007,
Miss Spain 2008 (and entry into Miss World 2008)
Miss Tenerife 2013, and
Miss Universe Spain 2013 (and entry into Miss Universe 2013).

Patricia was unable to enter Miss Universe 2008 because was under the 18-year-old age limit (Spain was represented by her runner-up). Later in the year, after she passed her 18th birthday, Patricia represented Spain in the Miss World pageant.

Patricia’s young age went in her favour five years later when, usually for female pageant contestants after so many years, she was again voted Miss Tenerife 2013. By this time the Miss Spain pageant had been divided into two, one pageant for Miss World and the other for Miss Universe. Patricia Yurena Rodriguez won the Miss Universe Spain pageant with entry into Miss Universe 2013 to be held in Moscow.

Sadly, we have to bring some ugliness into all this beauty by introducing two politicians who, unfortunately, are still around – Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Putin was responsible for the laws against homosexuality which not only saw protests at Miss Universe but also at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics held two months later.

The only reason Miss Universe was being held in Moscow was because Donald Trump, who owned the Miss Universe organisation at the time, had commercial links in Russia. It’s too complicated to go into, but it’s a fact that the venue of Miss Universe 2013, half of the judges, and several contestants who were selected by businessmen and not by the public, had business links to Trump.

The compere of the previous two Miss Universe pageants was American openly gay broadcaster Andy Cohen. He had also compered several Miss USA pageants, but he refused to host Miss Universe 2013 because of the anti-gay laws. Trump found a replacement, another openly gay American broadcaster, Thomas Roberts. Recently, Roberts made a public apology and regretted agreeing to act as pageant host in view of more recent Trump-Putin-Russia revelations.

That’s enough political ugliness. Let’s return to beauty. Patricia Yurena Rodriguez, Miss Universe Spain, was voted the first runner-up (i.e. second) in Miss Universe 2013 in Moscow. Less than a year later she came out on Instagram becoming the first reigning national pageant queen to do so.

Spain is unique in that it is the only nation who has had both a male and female lgbt national pageant winner. What’s more remarkable is that they both held the same regional title.

33) Daniel Rodriguez (b.1993) (no relation to Patricia as far as I know) won the Mr Tenerife title in 2016. In June 2016 he won the Mr International Spain pageant (again, there’s two Spain pageants; Mr International is the male equivalent of Miss Universe). Just days later, still in the media circus that follows the pageant finals, he came out as gay. This was deliberate. He had wanted to show that a gay man can enter and win any national pageant title. However, his reign was short. Daniel wasn’t happy with the way the Mr International Spain organisers were using him in their promotions and he resigned in October 2016.

It’s not only national pageants that Tenerife and the Canary Islands can boast to have the first lgbt representatives. The islands can also boast five political firsts in Spain, all of them achieved by just two people, the first person holding four of them. His name is 34) Jerónimo Saavedra (b.1936).

Next time : From an Atlantic island to a national capital and international activism.