Tuesday, 31 December 2013

In Remembrance

New Year’s Eve, and it’s time to look back at those lgbt people who have inspired, entertained, campaigned and left their mark on the community and the world who have passed away since my list a year ago. I celebrate the lives of them all.

December 2012
16th      Josh Weston, gay porn star, aged 39
28th      John Carol Cage, baritone, aged 89
January 2013
5th        Mary McIntosh, academic feminist, aged 76
7th        Phil Sheats, ex-IGLFA board member, Gay Games bronze (soccer ‘94), aged 43
8th        Manuel Mota, Spanish fashion designer, aged 46 (suicide)
17th      Michael Triplett, Pres., National Lesbian & Gay Journalist Assoc. (US), aged 48
19th     Julia Penelope, activist, co-founder Lesbian Herstory Archives, aged 71
February 2013
            Stu Ross, journalist, regular contributor to Pink News, aged 38
1st        Rev. Herman Verbeck, Catholic priest, MEP, aged 77
5th        Arpad Miklos, gay porn star, aged 45 (suicide)
11th      Nikki Rowan Kedge, caterer and restaurateur, aged 68
11th      Man Karim, gay porn actor, aged 52
16th      John Ayldon, Gilbert and Sullivan bass-baritone, aged 69
25th      Jason Lynch, reigning Mr. International Rubber, aged 38
26th     Marco McMillian, Mississippi mayoral candidate, aged 33 (murdered)
27th      Van Cliborn, pianist, aged 78
March 2013
5th        Wilfried Knight, gay porn star, aged 35 (suicide)
8th        Robert Troyan, American socialite, aged 63 (murdered)
April 2013
15th      Hugh Rosen, academic, AIDS activist and research volunteer, aged 82
May 2013
4th        Frederic Franklin, ballet dancer, aged 48
6th        Steve Martland, composer, aged 53
7th        Peter Rauhofer, Grammy-winning DJ, remixer and producer, aged 48
18th      Kasaki Koh, activist and gay porn star, aged 29
20th      Shivananda Kahn, activist, aged 65
30th      Ratiparno Ghosh, film-maker, aged 49
31st      Philip McKee, firefighter at the Pentagon during 9/11, aged 41
June 2013
            Michael Brown, founder, Jewish Gay and Lesbian Group, aged 82
9th        Christopher Pearson, journalist, aged 61
17th      Donald Despertt, volunteer event organiser of DC Black Pride, aged 30
21st      Jeffrey Smart, artist, aged 91
July 2013
15th      Gunther Freehill, AIDS activist and campaigner, aged 60
15th      Eric Lembecke, Cameroon activist, aged 33 (murdered)
22nd     Kate Crutchley, actor and pioneer of lgbt theatre, aged 69
23rd      Emile Griffith, professional boxer, aged 75
August 2013
2nd       Rev. Mervyn Kingston, Church of Ireland priest, activist, aged 66
7th        Sean Sasser, AIDS activist, aged 44
13th      Louisa Jo Killen, folk singer, aged 79
18th      Josephine D’Angelo, of the All-American Girls Baseball League, aged 88
19th      José Sarria, first out lgbt to run for public office in USA, aged 90
19th      Michael Goulding, flower arranger, aged 80
20th      Domonique Newburn, of “Hollywood Houseboys” (murdered)
21st      CGK” and “EHM”, activists shot in the Nairobi shopping mall attack
23rd      Stephen Crohn, HIV patient, aged 66
24th      Amber Maxwell, trans and Socialist activist, aged 20 (suicide)
29th      Darren Manzella, campaigner against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, aged 36
September 2013
15th      Peter Taylor, NZ equestrian coach, Olympic team manager, aged 61
22nd     Barrett L. Brick, US government lawyer and gay rights activist, aged 59
27th      Alexey Davydov, leading Russian activist, aged 36
October 2013
1st        Michael Rice, museum designer, aged 85
4th        Betu Singh, lesbian activist in India, aged 49
7th        Patrice Chéreau, film and theatre director, aged 68
20th      Doug Ireland, Vietnam veteran and activist, aged 67
22nd     Sue King, first New Zealander to undergo gender reassignment surgery
26th      Sharley McLean, Holocaust survivor, aged 90
27th      Lou Reed, rock musician and songwriter, aged 71
November 2013
5th        John W. Bunting III, ex-Chair, Baltimore City Commission on HIV/AIDS, aged 69
19th      Ray Gosling, broadcaster, 1st openly gay Nottingham City Councillor, 1963, aged 74
December 2013
4th        José Esteban Muñoz, queer theorist and author, aged 46.
11th      Frederick Fox, milliner to the Queen and Princess Diana, aged 82.

The following names are those known transgendered people who were murdered during 2013. They are given in the chronoligical order of their passing:
Evon Young, 22, USA; Nicole Galisteu, Brazil; Daniel Mendoza Ricardo Macias, 23, Mexico; “TiffanyWesley Holder, 19, Guyana; Karen, Mexico; Naomi Estrada, 19, Mexico; Palmira Garcia, 37, Venezuela; Mônica Lewinski, 38, Brazil; Joelma, Brazil; Stephanie, Brazil; Adán Amilcar Iglesias, Honduras; CemiaCeCeDove, 23, USA; Kelly Young, USA; Ashley Sinclair, USA; Angel Francisco Martinez Gonzalez, Mexico; Rosa Fernando Domingues, 36, Brazil; Jorge Luciano Soares De Oliveira, 38, Brazil; Fábio da Conceição Machado, 26; Brazil; Ronald Feitosa Souza, 26, Brazil; Fatima Woods, 53, USA; Otávio Nascimento Valadares, 20, Brazil; Dora Oezer, 24, Turkey; Jock Maurice McKinney (aka Valarie), USA; Diamond Williams, 31, USA; Natália Sotero, 20, Brazil; Rafael da Silva Tavares, 21, Brazil; Dwayne Jones, 16, Jamaica; Mylene, France; Gaye, Turkey; Valeria, 30, Brazil; Islan Nettles, 21, USA; Joales dos Santos, 22, Brazil; Domonique Newburn, USA; Wagner Paula Rodrigues, 42, Brazil; Artegus Konyale Madden, 34, USA; Terry Golston, 50, USA; Melony Smith, 28, USA; ‘Maiara’ Castro Da Silva, 23, Brazil; Hilary Molina Mendiola, 35, Mexico; Eyricka Morgan, 26, USA; Brunete Nascimento Chagas, 22, Brazil; Natascha, 27, Brazil; S. Athiswaran, 31, Malaysia; Amari White, 22, USA; and 14 unidentified women (including 3 teenagers) in Brazil, and 1 unidentified woman in the USA.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

The 12 Gay Birthdays of Christmas : Part 4

George Dureau (b.1930)
(born 28th December, which the church commemorates as Childermass, or the feast day of the Holy Innocents, the children murdered on the orders of King Herod).
Earlier this month the leaders of the G8 group of nations gathered in London for a conference on Alzheimer’s disease. Increased funding for research was announced in the light of new figures showing the number of patients will increase significantly in the coming years. The most famous living Alzheimer’s patient is Sir Terry Pratchett, but in the lgbt community George Dureau stands as it’s most prominent, if unrecognised, sufferer. Dureau’s name may not be familiar, but his photographic work and paintings of the 1960s and 70s influenced more well-known artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe. Much of Dureau’s work deals with subjects which at the time, and still to some extent today, were uncomfortable for some viewers. Using non-professional models Dureau took pictures of, among others, naked dwarves and amputees, challenging people’s perception of beauty and perfection. Dureau’s models display a beauty of their own. Men with traditionally accepted perfect bodies were also photographed, usually of young black men, again challenging the predominantly white artistic world in the southern states where he lived. Now in his 80s George Dureau was forced to move into a nursing home last Christmas due to Alzheimer’s taking it’s toll on his health and memory. This summer a group of admirers mounted an auction of some of his belongings in New Orleans to raise funds to pay for his care.

Elsa Gidlow (1898-1986)
(born on 29th December, which this year the church celebrates as the 1st Sunday after Christmas).
Yorkshire-born  Elsa Gidlow was a poet, author, journalist, magazine editor, political activist and philosopher. In 1905 she emigrated with her family to Canada. Her writing career began when she became assistant editor on the company magazine published by her father’s employers. In 1918 she helped to publish one of Canada’s first gay magazines, “La Mouches Fantastique” (originally called “Coal From Hades”), which created some hostile public attention, especially after being attacked by the renowned fantasy-horror writer H. P. Lovecraft (he and Elsa had previously crossed swords as rival presidents of the United Amateur Press Association of America). In 1926 Elsa moved to the San Francisco Bay area which was to be her home for the rest of her life. She became involved in local politics, though her radical views fell foul of the Un-American Activities Committee in the late 1940s. Although a radical Elsa never supported Communism. In 1954 she bought a ranch which named Druid Heights, where she continued to write and live with her partner Isabel Grenfell Quallo. Many artists and radical thinkers stayed with them at the ranch, and Elsa co-founded the Society for Comparative Philosophy. In 1986 she published her autobiography, claimed to be the first to be published by an open lesbian. In her later years Elsa suffered from a series of strokes. She died at Druid Heights at the age of 87, and her ashes are buried under an apple tree on the ranch.

Yvonne Zipter (b.1954)
(born 6th January, the Feast of the Epiphany, which commemorates the arrival of the 2 Wise Men).
Yvonne has been an editor and columnist since 1981 when she moved to the Chicago area from her native Milwaukee. She became a senior copywriter and manuscript editor with the University of Chicago Press. She also wrote her own original work which concentrated on the lives of the lgbt community in Chicago. Yvonne was a member of the Black Maria Collective which published a women’s literary magazine and was a board member of one of Chicago’s earliest lesbian publishing houses, Metis Press. She became a freelance columnist with “Windy City Times” in 1982, for which she contributed features, interviews and reviews. The monthly column she wrote, “Inside Out”, was syndicated in many other lgbt magazines across the USA. Yvonne has also written fiction and poetry. Her collection of poems called “The Patience of Metal” was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award, a highly prestigious award founded in the USA in 1986. Other works by Yvonne include essays and a book about the history of softball and it’s importance in lesbian sporting culture called “Diamonds Are a Dyke’s Best Friend”. In 1995 Yvonne was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, and still works for the University of Chicago Press as a manuscript editor. On top of all this Yvonne is also a licensed massage therapist.

Friday, 27 December 2013

The HIV Soldiers

The “Soldiers” in the 2012 POZ 100 list present a cross-section of the many people from all walks of life who are keeping the works of the Seekers, Hunters and Defenders in the public eye. They do this by raising awareness of HIV/AIDS and by championing campaigns and charities. They help to encourage funding for more research either by persuading politicians to put more money into HIV programmes or by fundraising themselves. Here are several HIV Soldiers.

The “first assault”, as it were, came from the first HIV patients who were brave enough to reveal their status publicly, risking personal criticism due to the essentially homophobic attitude that surrounded AIDS in the early years.

Bobbi Campbell described himself as the “first AIDS poster boy”. He was the first person with AIDS to announce he had the disease and became one of America’s first AIDS activists. Bobbi’s contribution to the community was his honest disclosure of how the illness affected him. He brought the only first-hand experience to other HIV patients who perhaps wanted reassurance that their own illness was not an isolated case, and that advice and information from a patient (rather than a doctor) who was going through the illness would prepare themselves for their own battle ahead. At the same time Bobbi was educating the community as a whole and raising awareness into what the disease does to a person’s body.

Bobbi became a spokesman for HIV patients, writing a column in the San Francisco Sentinel, and co-founding the organisation People With AIDS Self-Empowerment Movement. As well as educating and raising awareness as one of my “HIV Soldiers” Bobbi played his part as an “HIV Defender” by encouraging safe sex and early testing.

One of the first public candlelit marches took place on 2nd May 1983. Organised by a small group of people with AIDS, including Bobbi Campbell, the march raised awareness of HIV patients and remembered those who had died. Bobbi himself succumbed to AIDS in 1984.

The work of educating communities is still as important today as it ever was, most especially in Africa. One person I mentioned a few days ago in my Olympic torch relay article is working hard with UNAIDS and WHO, Musa Queen Njoko. When she was diagnosed with HIV in 1995 the doctors told her she had 3 months to live. “I had to grow up and deal with issues that other 22-year-olds didn’t have to think about”, she said 17 years later on World AIDS Day 2011.

As a Christian Musa found a strength that led her immediately to inform and educate her community in KwaZulu-Natal about her HIV status and the disease in general. Beginning in her own church she began a series of education programmes and started to use jazz and gospel music to provide inspiration and spiritual support behind her message. She is now well-known as a gospel singer throughout South Africa, and continues to support UNAIDS.

Another singer whose HIV status influenced his music was the Brazilian rock singer Cacuza (real name Agenor de Miranda Ajaújo Neto). Although not an activist or campaigner in the usual sense, after he announced his HIV status publicly in 1989 his music became more serious and often incorporated themes around social issues. Just by revealing his status he helped to change attitudes towards the disease, and following his death his mother founded the Viva Cazuza Society, an AIDS prevention charity which also provides housing for HIV+ children.

Raising awareness of AIDS need not be vocal. Actions speak louder than words sometimes. Action from governments in the form of funding and provision of health care is only part of the job. Charity fundraising has always been part of any cause. Ways to raise money are endless, and one which also serves as an act of remembrance is one created by Brent Nicholson Earle - a long-distance run.

Brent’s first run, the American Run for the End of AIDS (AREA) in 1986 came about as a result of the deaths of many of his friends and was inspired by a similar charity run by a Canadian HIV patient. Funds were raised for many local AIDS and gay men’s health projects along the 9,000 mile route through the USA and Canada.

Building on it’s success Brent organised several other runs coinciding with the Gay Games and ending in the host city. This evolved into the International Rainbow Memorial Run, which acts like a kind of Olympic torch relay, carrying the Rainbow Pride flag from the home city of the Gay Games, San Francisco, to the games’ host city.

Whichever method the HIV Soldiers have chosen, and still choose, the message has been diverse. Whenever communities become complaisant about the problems still faced with HIV/AIDS these Soldiers help provide a reminder.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

The 12 Gay Birthdays of Christmas : Part 3

Frank Israel (1945-1996)
(born on 22nd December, which this year is the last Sunday in Advent)
If movie architecture can be described as a specific art form then Frank Israel has been it’s most important exponent. Whether movie set design, film production offices or actor’s homes Frank established his own style influenced by post-modernism across Hollywood and South California. He received a Master of Architecture degree from Columbia University and spent some time in Rome as a resident Fellow at the American Academy in the city. In 1979 Frank moved to Los Angeles to begin a teaching job at the University of California’s School of Architecture. Being so close to Hollywood proved irresistible  and Frank worked as a set designer on several films, including “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”. Unfortunately his name doesn’t appear in the end credits and I’ve been unable to discover which sets he worked on. The film industry utilised his professional skills by commissioning him to design the headquarters for Propaganda Films,  Limelight Productions and Virgin Records. Hollywood actors also asked for his distinctive design for their new homes, including “Cabaret” star Joel Grey and director Robert Altman. Many other buildings were designed by Frank across southern California, and a special retrospective exhibition of his work was produced by the Museum of Art 6 months before his death from complications caused by AIDS.

John Minton (1917-1957)
(born on 25th December, Christmas Day)
John Minton was an artist whose work ranged from large-scale paintings, film posters, textiles, and stage costume and scenery design, but his best work was as a book illustrator. If you’re a collector of old books, or have a passion for cookery and travel writing, you may even have one of the books he illustrated on your bookshelves. He designed the covers and illustrations for Elizabeth David’s first two food books, for instance. John had one of those artistic styles which went in and out of fashion as new trends emerged. In 1942 co-designed the sets and costumes for John Gielgud’s production of “Macbeth”. Minton was called up for service in World War II before the production was mounted, though he was invalided out shortly afterwards. Following this Minton worked for a few years as a lecturer in illustration at the Camberwell College of Art. He was a prolific artist, producing enough work to have 7 solo exhibitions of his paintings between 1945 and 1956. In later years, when his work was unfashionable, he suffered from depression and mental health problems. This didn’t help him produce quality work, as can be seen in his less-than-typical painting “Death of James Dean”. Minton also drank a lot, and in a final bout of depression he took an overdose of sleeping pills and died at the young age of 39.

Joanna Werners (b.1953)
(born on 25th December, Christmas Day)
My second reference this month to the South American country of Surinam (after describing it’s AIDS memorial 2 weeks ago) comes in the form of lesbian writer Joanna Werners. She was born in the national capital Paramaribo during the last decades of Dutch colonial rule. The Netherlands is renowned for its tolerance of sexual freedom, yet this was rarely extended to its colonies. The Netherlands produced a lot of gay and lesbian literature throughout the 20th century. In Surinam there was no lesbian literary work until 1983. Joanna was one of the pioneers of Surinam-Dutch lesbian novels with her semi-autobiographical debut novel “Dream Skin”, published in 1987. Not only did it describe lesbian relationships but also inter-racial love as seen from a black woman’s perspective. In 1971 Joanna moved to the Netherlands to study physical education and law, and became a school teacher in the former. Her later novels included elements comparing the cultures of Surinam and the Netherlands and have covered such topics as unwanted pregnancy, old age, and discrimination against black women. In her novels Joanna has incorporated poetry, and some of her poems were collected together in “Dormant Shadows” in 2007.

I’m taking a couple of days off for Christmas. I’ll be back on the 27th December. Happy Christmas to everyone.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Carrying the Torch for HIV

Only 50 days to go before the Sochi Winter Olympics. I can’t believe how quickly time has flown since London 2012. Of course, a lot has happened since then, not least of which being the anti-gay legislation passed in Russia and the continuing boycott debate. Space restricts discussion on the controversy let’s look at a positive angle to the Olympics.

And “Positive” is today’s focus. With the torch relay still in progress I’ve looked at Olympic torch bearers who are HIV+ or work for AIDS charities.

Some of these names appear on my previous list, but this one includes those who are not lgbt. In each case the person’s HIV status or connection has been recognised by torch relay organisers. The list is long, so I’ve decided NOT to include celebrities known to support AIDS causes unless they are HIV+ or their nomination mentions it specifically. As before, names are in chronological order, with HIV status if appropriate, involvement in the HIV community, date of relay and location. Further research is likely to increase this list.

Atlanta 1996
Pandora Singleton, head of Project Azuka, a support agency for HIV+ women, member of the National Minority AIDS Council Board of Directors; she died in 2004; Sister Love Inc. (another women’s HIV/AIDS support agency) created the annual Pandora Singleton Ally Award, given for outstanding work with those with HIV/AIDS: 10 July 1996, Savannah, USA.
Rebecca Alexander, volunteer with Project Open Hand, a charity which delivers meals to people with HIV/AIDS in the San Francisco Bay area: date and location uncertain.
Brett Lykins, HIV+, born prematurely in 1980 and infected by a blood transfusion before he was 3 months old, Youth Spokesperson for AIDS Walk Atlanta; he died in 2007: date and location uncertain.
Sydney 2000
Susan Paxton, HIV+, women’s rights advocate, adviser to the Asia Pacific Network of People Living with HIV: date and location uncertain.
Salt Lake City 2002
Mark Nowak, HIV+, retail assistant at Avalon Apparel, New York: 1 Jan. 2002, Buffalo, New York State.
Leonard Ditmanson, Medical Director of the Ryan White Early Intervention Service Clinic (specialising in HIV/AIDS), and the Immunodeficiency Clinic, University Physicians Healthcare Hospital, University of Arizona: 13 Jan. 2002, Tuscon, Arizona.
Jim Valiton, HIV+, of Tuscon Interfaith HIV/AIDS Network; he died in 2008: 13 Jan. 2002, Tuscon, Arizona.
Earvin “Magic” Johnson, HIV+, former professional basketball player: 15 Jan. 2002, Los Angeles, USA.
Dennis J. Lee, HIV+, long-term HIV survivor: 8 Feb. 2002, Salt Lake City.
Paul Harris, HIV+, journalist with POZ magazine: Dec. 2001, location uncertain.
Athens 2004
The first 7 names all carried the torch through Cape Town, South Africa, on 12 June 2004.
Magdalene Dladla, charity fundraiser, who uses her own home to care of HIV/AIDS orphans;
Musa Queen Njoko, HIV+, one of the first South African women to declare her status in 1995, works with UNAIDS;
Shaun Mellors, HIV+, founder of the National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS in South Africa;
Prudence Mabele, HIV+, founder of Positive Women’s Network in South Africa;
Gail Johnson, foster mother of Nkosi Johnson, who died of AIDS in 2001 aged 12; she set up Nkosi’s Haven, a shelter for destitute people living with HIV/AIDS;
Paul Roux, medical student at University of Cape Town, founder of the Kidzpositive Family Fund;
Joy Wilson, head of Joy for Life, a charity which helps with the various needs of people with HIV/AIDS.
John Bauters, Red Cross volunteer, has worked educating African children about the dangers of AIDS: 19 June 2004, Atlanta, USA.
Jackie Chan, OBE, movie director and action man, UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador: 23 July 2004, Thessalonika, Greece.
Earvin “Magic” Johnson, HIV+, his second time as an Olympic relay torchbearer: date and place uncertain.
Beijing 2008
John Caldera, HIV+, San Francisco Veteran Affairs Commission member: 9 April 2008, San Francisco, USA.
Dhamiri Mustapha, HIV+, board member of Tanzania National Council of Young People Living with HIV and AIDS: 13 April 2008, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.
Jackie Chan, OBE, movie director and action man, UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador, his second time as a torchbearer: 4 May 2008, Sanya, China.
Vancouver 2010
Tom Hammond, HIV+, Executive Director of the AIDS Committee of Guelph and Wellington County, Ontario: 20 Dec. 2009, Owen Sound, Ontario.
Eric Sawyer, HIV+; founder member of ACT-UP, Civil Society Partnership Adviser to UNAIDS: 20 Jan. 2010, Calgary, Alberta.
Tiko Kerr, HIV+, artist and AIDS activist and charity fundraiser: 10 Feb. 2010, Vancouver.
London 2012
Helen Allen, founder of PREPAIDS (Peer Education Programme Against AIDS), a charity helping with HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa; UK Nurse of the Year 2011: 29 May 2012, Chester.
Cameron Foster, student, volunteer with Cricket Without Boundaries which combines coaching Kenyan schoolchildren in cricket and HIV/AIDS awareness: 31 May 2012, Hindley, Greater Manchester.
Kelly Williams, teacher, volunteer coach in HIV awareness to underprivileged children in Lusaka, Zambia: 18 June 2012, Whitby, Yorkshire.
Asunta Wagura, HIV+, Executive Director of Kenya Network of Women with AIDS: 1 July 2012, Solihull, West Midlands.
Stefanie Daniels, volunteer worker with a group who provided care for children orphaned though HIV/AIDS: 8 July 2012, Stevenage, Hertfordshire.
Peter Hellawell, HIV+, Chair of the Trustees of Positive Action, charity marathon runner: 12 July 2012, Bridport, Dorset.
Colin Bentley, nursing assistant on an HIV ward, charity marathon runner: 17 July 2012, Brighton.
Lewis Moody, former international rugby player for England, Patron of HOPE HIV, supporting AIDS orphans in Africa: 26 July 2012, Fulham, London.
Emma Harley, Paediatric nursing sister, works with street children and disadvantaged communities in Kenya affected by HIV/AIDS: 26 July 2012, Fulham, London.
London 2012 Paralympic
The following are volunteers with Act4Africa, a charity that trains Africans affected by HIV/AIDS to deliver healthcare, AIDS prevention and Stigma Reduction programmes across East Africa. They each carried torches as a group, 5 Sept. 2012, through Harrow, Greater London.
Kathy Smedley, founder of Act4Africa;
Meigan Lyons, former Mayor of Minehead;
Hannah Lane;
Lesley-Ann (Lily) Newman;
Dora Witcomb.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Star Gayzing - Out Of This World : Part 4

Here is my next list of asteroids named after members of the lgbt community. These asteroids were all discovered between 1981 and 1985.
Eddington (2761)      Discovered 1 Jan. 1981. Named after  British astrophysicist Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington (1882-1944). His observations of the solar eclipse on 29 May 1919 proved Einstein’s theory that gravity bends light. A crater on the Moon is also named after him.
Leonardo (3000)        Discovered 2 Mar. 1981. Name published 29 Sept. 1985. “Named for Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Italian painter, sculptor, architect, musician, engineer and natural philosopher.”
Florence (3122)         Discovered 2 Mar. 1981. Name published 6 Apr. 1993.Named in memory of Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), English nurse and hospital reformer, who almost single-handedly established trained nursing as an honourable profession for women. She transformed the English field hospitals during the Crimean War ... Florence Nightingale is most remembered as The Lady of the Lamp for her courage, compassion and devotion to the injured troops as she visited the hospital wards...” Florence, actually, did NOT establish “trained nursing as an honourable profession for women”. She resisted all attempts to turn nursing into a “profession” and certainly not a paid one. Her sexuality is hotly debated.
Proust (4474)             Discovered 24 Aug. 1981. Name published 10 Nov. 1992. “Named in honour of Dominique Proust, astrophysicist at the Meudon Observatory who works on observational cosmology... The name of this minor planet also honours the French writer Marcel Proust.”
Randi (3163)              Discovered 28 Aug. 1981. Name published 3 May 1996. “Named in honour of the American magician James Randi (b.1928) for his continuing efforts in debunking the claims of the paranormal community and exposing the tricks that charlatans use. His use of scientific techniques in many disciplines has contributed to the refutation of suspicious and fraudulent claims of paranormal results...” Randi came out at the age of 82.
Michelangelo (3001)             Discovered 24 Jan. 1982. Name published 29 Sept 1985. “Named for Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564), Italian artist.”
Orpheus (3361)         Discovered 24 Apr. 1982. Name published 16 Dec 1986. “Named for the poet and musician of Greek mythology who almost rescued his wife Eurydice from Hades...” After losing his wife Orpheus abandoned female love and spent the rest of his life chasing boys. For this the local women beat and tore him to pieces. His spirit was reunited with Eurydice in Hades. This asteroid’s orbit crosses our own and is seen as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (i.e. one day it might hit us!)
Tsvetaeva (3511)      Discovered 14 Oct. 1982. Name published 31 May 1988. “Named in honour of Marina Ivanovna Tsvetaeva (1892-1941), talented Soviet poetess.”
Ride (4763)                Discovered 22 Jan. 1983. Name published 18 Feb 1992. “Named in honour of Sally K. Ride, the first American woman to fly in space. From 1978 to 1987 Ride was a Space Shuttle astronaut, flying on two missions that launched scientific satellites... Ride is currently professor of physics and director of the California Space Institute at the University of California...” On Sally’s death in 2012 her partner revealed she was a lesbian, making Sally the only known lgbt astronaut.
Britten (4079)                        Discovered 15 Feb. 1983. Name Published 8 July 1990. “Named for Benjamin Britten (1913-1976), English composer. Best known for his operas and other vocal music, Lord Britten was also an accomplished pianist and conductor. His music is imbued with a rare beauty of line and limpidity of texture.” LGBT History Month UK in 2014 is themed around music in celebration of the centenary of Britten’s birth in 2013, and inspired the main theme of this blog for 2014.
Bernstein (4476)       Discovered 19 Feb 1983. Name published 2 Dec. 1990. “Named in memory of Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), American composer, conductor, pianist, educator, and author. A colourful, multifaceted musician, Bernstein wrote music in many forms: … including ‘West Side Story’, an innovative recasting of ‘Romeo and Juliet’…”.
Tippett (4081)                        Discovered 14 Sept. 1983. Name published 8 July 1990. “Named for Sir Michael Tippett (b.1905), English composer. Tippett’s music, particularly that for voice, is marked by a compassionate humanity.” Sir Michael Tippett died in 1998.
Pollack (5226)            Discovered  28 Nov. 1983. Published 12 July 1995. “Named in memory of James B. Pollack (1938-1994), a planetary scientist who spent much of his career at the NASA Ames Research Center. He was a world leader in the study of planetary atmospheres ... He played major roles in many NASA flight missions ... Work on the effects on the earth’s atmosphere and surface biology … led Pollack and others to the concept of ‘nuclear winter’…”
Dionysus (3671)        Discovered 27 May 1984. Name published 2 Feb. 1988. “Originating in Thrace, where he was revered as a god of wine, the cult of Dionysius spread gradually through Greece. Dionysius became, in turn, the god of vegetation, pleasure, civilization, and ultimately a kind of supreme god and a symbol of rebirth or everlasting life...” Dionysus was a god of male and female sexualities, a male cross-dresser, who had several young male lovers.
Casanova (7328)       Discovered 20 Sept. 1984. Name published 24 Jan. 2000. “Giovanni Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798) was a writer, spy and diplomat, the prince of Italian adventurers. His autobiography ‘Histoire de ma vie’ established his reputation as an archetypal seducer of women...” He was also known to have seduced a few men!
Copland (4532)          Discovered 15 Apr. 1985. Name published 28 Apr. 1991. “Named in memory of American composer Aaron Copland (1900-1990)… Most of his later compositions make inimitable use of American folks tunes and jazz melodies. Copland's quintessential ballet scores ‘Billy the Kid’, ‘Rodeo’ and ‘Appalachian Spring’ have long been concert-hall staples, and his ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’ … represents one of the world's most recognizable melodies...”

Asteroids that are not named after lgbt people but have lgbt links.
Ötzi (5803)                 Discovered 21 July 1984. Name published 23 May 2000. “Ötzi, or Iceman, is a popular name for a prehistoric man of the late Stone Age. His mummified body was found on the Similaun Glacier in the Tirolean Ötztal Alps, on the Italian-Austrian border in 1991.” He was subject of one of my articles in April 2013.

An Intriguing possibility in 2014 : Under the current naming procedure for asteroids I’m expecting a unique event to occur in the New Year – 2 brothers, both students, one of them gay, will have had asteroids named after them. More news soon.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

The 12 Gay Birthdays of Christmas : Part 2

Today’s Christmas birthdays are all celebrated today, 15th December, the 3rd Sunday in Advent.

William Dorr Legg (1904-1994)
In the world of lgbt studies and archives the name of W. Dorr Legg stands high. Legg gave up his career as Professor of Landscape Architecture to become a leading member of the early gay rights movement in the USA. He was a member of the Mattachine Society, one of the first gay rights groups to be formed, and in 1952 he and his partner helped to found ONE, Incorporated. In 1953 this organisation began publishing the first widely distributed gay publication in the US called “ONE”. It fell foul of US postal regulation in 1954 when they refused to distribute what they considered this “lewd, obscene, lascivious, and filthy” magazine through it’s postal system. As business manager of ONE magazine Legg was involved in the long battle in the courts to challenge the postal service. The case ended over 3 years later in the US Supreme Court with victory for ONE, Incorporated. ONE Magazine continued to be published until 1969 when competition form newer magazines made production unprofitable. The key to ONE, Incorporated’s mission was education. ONE Magazine provided one method of disseminating ideas and knowledge. Another was a ground-breaking series of lectures and courses at the ONE Institute of Homophile Studies which began in 1956. Under Legg’s leadership the Institute continued and grew, reaching a high point in 1981 when California granted it a charter to establish master’s and doctoral degrees. Legg became it’s first Dean. The large archive and library accumulated by the ONE Institute merged with the International Gay and Lesbian Archive in 1995 after Legg’s death and is now the largest lgbt archive in the world.

Muriel Rukuyser (1913-1980)
Today marks the centenary of the birth of this Jewish-American poet. Always advocating progressive social politics throughout her life Muriel often incorporated themes of social justice, feminism and equality into her poems. This led to critics either consistently loving or hating her work. Early in her career she also wrote for various periodicals, often covering social issues upon which she based some of her poetry – “Breath-in experience, breathe-out poetry”, she once wrote. An example of this is her poem “The Book of the Dead” which was inspired by her presence at the hearings on miner’s deaths from silicosis, an illness caused by breathing in rock dust. Muriel wasn’t afraid to speak out and take the consequences. While writing for a student newspaper she was arrested while covering the trial in the Scottsboro Case. This was a trial in which 9 black teenagers were wrongly accused and convicted of rape (the last of the group to be pardoned posthumously was only done last month). Muriel was arrested twice, the second time was during an anti-Vietnam protest. As well as her experiences influencing her poetry, so did her Jewish background. She also wrote plays, screenplays, biographies, and translations of European writers. Her sexuality was never acknowledged though she sis accept an invitation to take part in a Lesbian Poetry Reading in 1978. A stroke prevented her from attending.

Mutsuo Takahashi (b.1937)
This poet has been a leading figure in Japanese homoerotic and gay literature for over 50 years. Predominantly a poet, Mutsuo has produced works of prose, memoir, novels, libretto and traditional Japanese verse and plays. In 2000 he received the Kunsho award for his contribution to modern Japanese literature. His memoirs “Twelve Views From the Distance”, published in 1970, described how he recognised his homosexuality as a schoolboy in rural Japan. In 1962 he moved to Tokyo and worked in an advertising agency until his retirement in the 1980s. During all this time he wrote prolifically, including homosexual themes and gay sex in most of his work. His 1964 anthology “Rose Tree, Fake Cover” gained him national attention and critical praise. He sent a copy to Yukio Mishima, the famous Japanese writer obsessed with masculinity, male body image and military discipline.  Mutsuo became Mishima’s protégé and they became close friends, a friendship which ended with Mishima’s ritual suicide.  Mutsuo became more widely known outside Japan in the mid 1970s when he began incorporating his experiences abroad in his poetry. He continued this international element by dedicating poetry to foreign writers like Ezra Pound, Jean Genet and Jorge Luis Borges.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Heritage Spotlight - AIDS Memorials

Every World AIDS Day (WAD) people gather to remember those we have lost to AIDS. We do this in several ways – candlelit vigils, religious services, remembrance gatherings and coming together at memorials. There are a lot of AIDS memorials around the world and events were held at most of them.

It seems strange to think of AIDS memorials as part of our heritage. They seem so significant and a part of so many people’s lives today. Yet they will stand, hopefully, long after we are all gone to mark a period in world history when so many people endured so much pain, and gave so much hope that AIDS would be eradicated. No other disease has ever been remembered worldwide in this way.

I was surprised by how many AIDS memorials there were. One of the earliest and most well-known is the NAMES Project AIDS memorial quilt, the ever-growing patchwork of personalised fabric squares. As of today there are more than 44,000 names remembered. It is the largest AIDS memorial, and no-one who has seen it, or photos of it, laid out in full can fail to be moved.

Other memorials are quite small and modest. The whole variety can be seen on the AIDSmemorial website, which has gathered together photos and information on 146 AIDS memorials of various forms, from the red ribbon and WAD to statues and gardens.

Here is a brief look at some of them, taking a different type of memorial and featuring one from each continent.

We begin with another memorial quilt. Since the NAMES Project AIDS quilt was officially launched on 1st July 1987 almost every major western nation has created their own national quilt. It’s a simple idea, and something to which individuals can feel a part. But for those unable to have their personal patches included the presence of an on-line virtual quilt is perfect. There are several of these on the internet. Here!TV in the USA produced one of these e-quilts on WAD 2008 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the identification of HIV.

Moving down to South America, also on WAD 2008, a monument was unveiled in Brasa Square in New Nicherie, Surinam. It consists of a large red ribbon sculpture designed by local artist Frankey Amatsenen, and has become the focus for remembrance events. The red ribbon has been incorporated into many other monuments around the world.

Here in Europe, with the controversy over their anti-gay laws still making the news, it should be remembered that there is a thriving lgbt community in Russia, and recognition of AIDS victims can be seen in two statues. One is in the Museum of Modern Art and the other in the Zarab Tsereteli Gallery, both in Moscow. Their designs are similar – 2 naked figures of a man and woman surrounded by a disc carved with other figures. Human figures feature in several other memorial statues, and to my mind the most beautiful is located in Brighton, UK.

Africa has been the hardest hit continent of all since AIDS was identified. Next week you’ll see how highly significant HIV/AIDS prevention is in Africa in an article about the Olympic torch. South Africa has many AIDS memorials, and in Gugu Dlamini Park in Durban is an example of the many parks, garden and botanical tributes. Gugu Dlamini was one of the first women to reveal her HIV status publicly in South Africa. Because of it she was attacked by a mob and killed in 1998. The Central Park was renamed in her honour in 2000 when a memorial wall was erected beside the large AIDS ribbon sculpture (which had been erected 6 months earlier to mark the international AIDS Conference held in the city).

Moving eastwards to Asia we find very few memorials. One of the most striking sculptures incorporating the AIDS ribbon can be found in Kowloon Park, Hong Kong. This bronze sculpture features 2 interlinked ribbons forming a heart shape designed by Van Lau. It was unveiled on WAD 1997.

Finally, to the antipodes and Oceania/Australasia. One of the most frequent acts of any kind of remembrance is the creation of a Book of Remembrance. I’m sure there are books in every major city around the world. In the church of St. Matthew-in-the-city in Auckland, the New Zealand national AIDS Book of Remembrance has been housed since 1995. Like many memorial quilts, the Book of Remembrance is an ever-growing memorial.

AIDS memorials have become part of the architectural and cultural heritage of major cities around the world.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The HIV Defenders

Following the previous article on HIV Seekers and Hunters we turn our attention today to people who are working to stop HIV from spreading. That work can take several forms. Some people develop drugs and treatments. Some people work with HIV/AIDS prevention programmes. And some are themselves HIV+ who pass on their knowledge and experience to others. All of them are working to improve the defence against HIV and AIDS.

The names of HIV Defenders is endless. The people I mention today represent a small cross-section of the work being carried out, and I’ll begin with the area in which I was myself involved until recently – safe-sex education.

I volunteered for a gay men’s safe-sex health programme in Nottingham from 1999. We produced and distributed free condom packs around the city (my mother knew I volunteered for a local health charity, I didn’t have the nerve to tell her exactly what I did!). Many thousands of similar projects exist around the world. Choosing which to mention was difficult. So I stuck a pin in a map. It landed near Austin, Texas, USA.

The AIDS Service of Austin (ASA) began in 1986 as the Austin AIDS Project. It developed from a project founded 3 years earlier by Austin resident Paul Clover. Two members of ASA included a man brought up in a travelling rodeo who became the first openly gay member of the Texas House of Representatives, Glen Maxey, and a “Rubber Fairy” who won a silver medal in bodybuilding at the 1998 Gay Games. Clifford Ueltschey.

The Rubber Fairies were a group who produced and distributed free condoms and safe-sex education. Clifford’s bubbly personality would have been an asset to any group. His friends and ASA colleagues all mention his joy of life, even after he was diagnosed with HIV. Clifford took control of his own health and started bodybuilding. He competed at the Gay Games twice, first in 1994 and then in 1998, when he won his silver medal in the lightweight division. As his obituary in the “Austin American-Statesman” says, “His greatest contribution might have been the lives he touched by simply being himself”. Clifford died in 2000.

ASA member Glen Maxey came to public attention in 1986 when he challenged the Texas Commissioner of Health’s proposal to quarantine suspected HIV/AIDS patients. Glen gathered together a team of experts to testify against the proposal before the legislative hearing. During this successful challenge to the Commissioner of Health Glen Maxey was outed by the media. From then on Glen became more involved in legislative matters and was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1991. He continued to support HIV/AIDS issues in office. He left office in 2003.

Of course the same-sex message was ineffective for the thousands of early AIDS victims. Their only defence against HIV was drugs and medication. Many drugs have been developed over the years, but perhaps the most well-known and significant was one of the earliest. In one of those twists of history it was a drug that had been around for decades but had been consigned to the back of a laboratory shelf because it had no useful purpose. That drug was azidothymidine, or AZT.

AZT was a drug first synthesised by Professor Jerome Horwitz at what is now the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, USA. Horwitz was one of the first scientists who tried to create new drugs which stopped cancer cells replicating rather than look at existing drugs to see how they affect cancer cells, which was the usual practice. In 1964 Horwitz developed AZT which he hoped would interfere with cancer’s DNA. Instead it proved to be virtually useless and was shelved. Every now and again Horwitz would offer AZT to researchers into other diseases, and it wasn’t until 1985 that it was screened for HIV treatment. And bingo! When HIV replicates it hijacks human DNA to do so. AZT tricks the HIV by adding a chemical which blocks the replication.

AZT became one of the biggest HIV drugs. It had some side effects, but it provided hope. Horwitz didn’t receive a penny for developing AZT because the drug was patented by a big chemical company. However, they made it clear who was responsible for it’s creation. For a while Prof. Horwitz became a science celebrity, enjoying his “15 minutes of fame”. But who remembers him as a pioneer of HIV/AIDS treatment today? Prof. Horwitz died last year at the age of 93.