The Daily Agenda for Thursday, July 25
July 25th, 2013
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Braunschweig, Germany; Ft. Wayne, IN; Halifax, NS; Hamburg, Germany; Harrisburg, PA; Latvia, Lithuania (Baltic Pride); London, ON; Norwich, UK; Nottingham, UK; Peel, ON; Pittsburgh, PA (Black Pride); Raleigh-Durham, NC (Black Pride); Stuttgart, Germany; Tórshavn, Faroe Islands.
Other Events This Weekend: Great Lakes Regional Rodeo, Belleville, MI; Bereans for Fairness Picnic; Berea, KY; Gay Day at ValleyFair and Soak City, Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN; Up Your Alley, San Francisco, CA.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Dr. Barry’s Death Reveals a Lifelong Secret: 1865. Before Britain’s Inspector General of Military Hospitals, Dr. James Barry, died, he left strict instructions that no one was to change him out of the clothes in which he died. But the charwoman sent to prepare his corpse had no room for such nonsense. And so when she pulled his nightshirt up to wash his boody, she screamed: “The devil! It’s a woman!”
Dr Barry, while alive, was known as a fierce and demanding doctor, and in the process became one of the most highly respected and feared surgeons in Victorian England, feared for his combative temper and fierce determination. He famously got in a bitter argument with Florence Nightingale, who called him a “brute” and “the most hardened creature I ever met throughout the Army.” As Inspector General, he fought for better food, hygiene, sanitation and proper medical care for soldiers and for prisoners. His reforms undoubtedly saved thousands of lives. He became the top-ranking doctor in the British Army, where despite his argumentative personality, he was also reputed to have an very good bedside manner. Many who knew him also remarked on his high, soft voice and his diminutive stature — he stood barely five feet tall on special stacked-soled shoes. His black manservant, who joined Barry’s employment in South Africa and would remain with him for the next fifty years, was entrusted with the task of laying out six small towels every morning that Barry used to conceal his curves and broaden his shoulders.
Despite the charwoman’s discovery upon his death, his secret remained tightly held and he was buried under the only name he had gone by since his early twenties. It wouldn’t be until the 1950s when his British Army records were unsealed that it was revealed that Barry had been born in Ireland as Margaret Buckley to a forward thinking family who were staunch supporters of women’s rights. But whatever ideals the family may have had about what women were capable of achieving, society’s limitations said otherwise and women were barred from studying medicine. So Margaret became James Barry shortly after she, then he, beginning training to become a doctor. And in every respect, he remained a man in what was very much a man’s world until the day he died.
Barry’s life and career is the subject of Rachel Holmes’s 2007 book, The Secret Life of Dr James Barry: Victorian England’s Most Eminent Surgeon.
Rock Hudson’s AIDS Diagnosis Confirmed: 1985. The rumors had been swirling for some time, coming to a head when Rock Hudson was admitted into Paris’s Pasteur Institute for what was clearly a very serious illness. He had appeared a few days earlier on Doris Day’s television talk show appearing gaunt, and his speech was nearly incoherent. His admission to Pasteur only increased speculation that Hudson was suffering from AIDS, since the world-famous Institute was a leading research and treatment center for the disease. But the official line remained that Hudson was battling liver cancer until this date in 1985, when his publicist revealed that Hudson had been diagnosed with AIDS the year before. Of Hudson’s stay at the Paris hospital, the spokesperson said, “He’s lucid. He’s talking, He’s joking… He’s feeling much better and in quite good spirits.” But his publicist remained circumspect about Hudson’s sexuality, saying only, “He doesn’t have any idea now how he contracted AIDS. … Nobody around him has AIDS.”
That would change a few weeks later when, apparently with Hudson’s blessing, close friends Angie Dickinson, Robert Stack and Mamie Van Doren acknowledged Hudson’s sexuality in a supportive article in People magazine. Messages of support flowed in from Morgan Fairchild, Joan Rivers, and, of course Elizabeth Taylor. Hudson’s death less than three months later provoked another wave of sympathy and galvanized much of Hollywood, with Elizabeth Taylor’s prodding, to undertake the task of reducing the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS.
Thomas Eakins: 1844. Born and raised in Philadelphia, he studied drawing and anatomy at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and anatomy and dissection at Jefferson Medical College. His interest in the human body led him to briefly consider becoming a surgeon, but after studying art in Paris, he took his interest in the human anatomy in a very different direction, becoming one of the finest painters of the human form. While he painted hundreds of portraits throughout his lifetime, he made his particular interests clear while still a student in Paris. He wrote home:
“I can conceive of few circumstances wherein I would have to paint a woman naked, but if I did I would not mutilate her for double the money. She is the most beautiful thing there is — except a naked man, but I never yet saw a study of one exhibited… It would be a godsend to see a fine man model painted in the studio with the bare walls, alongside of the smiling smirking goddesses of waxy complexion amidst the delicious arsenic green trees and gentle wax flowers & purling streams running melodious up & down the hills especially up. I hate affectation.”
For Eakins, nudity was the essence of truthfulness, which in turn was the underpinning of the realist style in which he worked. And it was that insistence on truthfulness that got him in trouble. In 1886, he was forced to resign from the faculty of the Pennsylvania Academy after he removed the loincloth of a male model in a class which included female students. Despite the public outcry, several students left the Academy in protest over Eakins’s departure. They formed the Art Students’ League of Philadelphia, and enlisted Eakins as their instructor. He also taught at several other institutions, but his teaching career ended came to a close by 1898, just three years after being dismissed from the Drexel Institute for, again, using a fully nude male model.
Eakins married Susan Hannah MacDowell, one of his students, in 1884. Their marriage was childless, but they both shared a love of painting (Susan was a skilled artist in her own right) and photography, which Eakins had taken up in the 1880s. Amid further controversy, his photography often involved nude subjects (including a full-frontal nude photo of his friend and fellow Philadelphia, Walt Whitman), as works of art themselves, or as studies for his paintings. His entire body of work can be seen as a yearning for freedom — from what or for what, we can only guess. But looking at the obvious homoeroticism of his art, that guess is not a difficult one to make.
J. Warren Kerrigan: 1879. While little-known today, Kerrigan had been a very popular silent film star, appearing in films for Essanay, Biograph, and later Universal. He typically played a leading role, as a modern, well-dressed man-about town. He nearly killed his career over a glib remark about his refusal to enlist in World War I. He managed to salvage his reputation in 1923 with the lead role in The Covered Wagon. That success opened the doors to five more hit films in the next year, and with that his financial security was assured. He retired from filmmaking and lived with his devoted partner of forty years until Kerrigan died in 1947 at the age of 67.
Gareth Thomas: 1974. Nicknamed “Alfie,” the Welsh rugby player was the first professional rugby union player to announce publicly that he was gay. He told The Daily Mail, “I don’t want to be known as a gay rugby player. I am a rugby player, first and foremost I am a man.” I think he succeeded. Since I don’t know squat about rugby I’ll just quote from Wikipedia, which says:
He is currently ranked 12th among international try scorers and is the second highest Wales try scorer behind Shane Williams. He also won 4 rugby league caps for Wales, scoring 3 tries. He played rugby union for Bridgend, Cardiff, the Celtic Warriors, Toulouse, Cardiff Blues and Wales as a fullback, wing or centre. In 2010 he moved to rugby league, playing for the Crusaders RL in the Super League, and for Wales. He retired from rugby in October 2011.
He retired after breaking his arm during a match in July 2011. After failing to recover in tome for the 2011 Rugby League Four Nations Tournament in October, he announced his retirement.
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?