The Daily Agenda for Sunday, December 29

Jim Burroway

December 29th, 2013

John Addington Symonds (left) and Edward Carpenter (right)

“The Most Beneficial Results Accrue from the Sexual Relations Between Men”: 1892. John Addington Symonds was an English poet and literary critic who, although married and a father, was an early advocate of male homosexuality (see Oct 5). Edward Carpenter was a poet, socialist philosopher, and an early gay advocate — and among the very few who lived openly as a gay man (see Aug 29) in Victorian England. In 1892, Symonds was beginning his collaboration with sexologist Havelock Ellis for Ellis’s first installment of his six-volume Studies in the Psychology of Sex, when Symonds wrote to Carpenter to discuss some of the topics he intended to cover. While Ellis intended to stick strictly to a psychological discussion on homosexuality (or Sexual Inversion, as it was called at the time), Symonds was keen to open the topic up to historical and ethical considerations:

It is a pity that we cannot write freely on the topic. But when we meet, I will communicate to you facts which prove beyond all doubt to my mind that the most beneficial results, as regards health and nervous energy, accrue from the sexual relations between men: also, that when they are carried on with true affection, through a period of years, both comrades become united in a way which would be otherwise quite inexplicable.

The fact appears to me proved. The explanation of it I cannot give, & I do not expect it to be given yet. Sex has been unaccountably neglected. Its physiological & psychological relations even in the connection between man & woman are not understood. We have no theory which is worth anything upon the differentiation of the sexes, to begin with. In fact, a science of what is the central function of human beings remains to be sought.

This, I take it, is very much due to psychologists, assuming that sexual instincts follow the build of the sexual organs; & that when they do not, the phenomenon is criminal or morbid. In fact, it is due to science at this point being clogged with religious & legal presuppositions.

…My hope has always been that eventually a new chivalry, i.e.., a second elevated form of human love, will emerge & take its place for the service of mankind by the side of that other which was wrought out in the Middle Ages.

…How far away that dream seems! And yet I see in human nature stuff neglected, ever-present — pariah and outcast now — from which I am as certain as I live, such a chivalry could arise.

Whitman, in Calaumus, seems to strike the key-note. And though he repudiated (in a very notable letter to myself) the deductions which have logically to be drawn from Calamus, his work will remain infinitely helpful.

[Source Chris White’s Nineteenth-Century Writings on Homosexuality: A Sourcebook (London, Routledge, 1999): pp 92-94.]

Catholic Church Reaffirms Opposition to Homosexuality: 1975. It wasn’t the first time, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last. But on this date in 1975, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — think of it as the Vatican’s equivalent of the Justice Department (so to speak) — issued Persona Humana, addressing “certain questions concerning sexual ethics.” On the subject of homosexuality, the Congregation stated:

A distinction is drawn, and it seems with some reason, between homosexuals whose tendency comes from a false education, from a lack of normal sexual development, from habit, from bad example, or from other similar causes, and is transitory or at least not incurable; and homosexuals who are definitively such because of some kind of innate instinct or a pathological constitution judged to be incurable.

In regard to this second category of subjects, some people conclude that their tendency is so natural that it justifies in their case homosexual relations within a sincere communion of life and love analogous to marriage, in so far as such homosexuals feel incapable of enduring a solitary life.

In the pastoral field, these homosexuals must certainly be treated with understanding and sustained in the hope of overcoming their personal difficulties and their inability to fit into society. Their culpability will be judged with prudence. But no pastoral method can be employed which would give moral justification to these acts on the grounds that they would be consonant with the condition of such people. For according to the objective moral order, homosexual relations are acts which lack an essential and indispensable finality. In Sacred Scripture they are condemned as a serious depravity and even presented as the sad consequence of rejecting God. This judgment of Scripture does not of course permit us to conclude that all those who suffer from this anomaly are personally responsible for it, but it does attest to the fact that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and can in no case be approved of.

The same statement also reaffirmed the Church’s opposition to premarital sex, extramarital sex and masturbation (which is also branded “an intrinsically and seriously disordered act”).

Billy Tipton: 1914-1989. It wasn’t until his death in 1989 when it became widely known that the American jazz pianist, saxophonist and bandleader was a transman. Early in his career, Tipton performed as a man while continuing to present as a woman otherwise, but by the 1940s, he had transitioned his gender identity fully to male — except for when he went home to his family, where he became Dorothy again, leading fellow musicians to believe he was lesbian.

By the 1950s, Tipton was identifying solely as a man. It was during that time when he was awarded a recording contract with Top records, for whom he recorded two albums of jazz standards. The albums were reasonably successful, and he was given the opportunity to sign a contract for four more. He declined the offer, and took his Billy Tipton Trio to Spokane where he performed weekly at a downtown nightclub called Allen’s Tin Pan Alley and worked as a talent broker at the Dave Sobol Theatrical Agency. He also entered into at least five heterosexual relationships, including a common-law marriage with Kitty Kelly with whom Tipton adopted three sons. One son, William, remembered Billy as a good father who loved to go on Scout camping trips. It was William who would learn that his father had been born a woman, when he was looking on as paramedics tried to resuscitate him after collapsing with a hemorrhaging peptic ulcer.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

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