The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, January 8
January 8th, 2014
Events This Weekend:
- Gay Christian Network Annual Conference, Chicago, IL; Thursday through Sunday.
- San Francisco Bulls Hockey LGBT Night, San Francisco, CA. Saturday.
- Aspen Gay Ski Week, Aspen, CO. Begins Sunday.
- Arosa Gay Ski Week, Arosa, Switzerland. Begins Sunday.
- Midsumma, Melbourne, VIC. Begins Sunday.
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
TODAY IN HISTORY:
“Man Haters” Hold Orgies In Sydney: 1932. The Arrow, a scandal/sporting broadsheet published in Sydney, New South Wales, regaled readers with an alledgedly eyewitness account of the annual crowning of the queen of a “kamp kult” (see Dec 23.) The scandalous hook, obviously, was the gender-bending men in glorious drag enacting an elaborate coronation, complete with actors playing the role of bishop and attendants played before an audience chattering “in the mincing tones that inverts adopt in familiar conversation.”
After the Christmas holidays had passed, The Arrow was at it again, and this time it was the lesbians’ turn. First, a introductory lesson for the Arrow’s readers was in order:
Lesbianism is the term applied to intercourse between two women,one being aggressive, and acting therole of a “husband,” tho other being the “wife.” The name is derived from the island of Lesbos, where a school of homosexuality among women was founded by Sappho, and which has flourished in comparative secrecy, since centuries B.C. Mother Grundy has been so ready to frown upon friendships of young; boys, that she has blinded herself to the stark instances of perverted love of girls, for older, and younger members of the fair sex.
And here, an introductory lesson for contemporary readers is in order. “Mother Grundy” referred to an old woman, “as old as the hills,” as they said, who clung to old-fashioned forms of propriety and morality and was overly concerned with what other “respectable folk” might think. The Arrow then went on to describe a “ghastly” attack made at a New Year party when a young woman slahed her father with a can opener when he tried to drag her away “from the clutches of her female ‘husband’, a good looking girl sime years her senior with whome she was desperately in love.” The Arrow continued:
Fiona’s partner in life is Dolly, a fluffy, baby faced blonde, with winsome ways, a horror of lighting the bath heater, a dread of being left alone in case of burglars, and she has other feminine attributes which make her partner Mona feel all the more manly. Dolly stays at home to do the house work, and mend Mona’s clothes, and prepare the meals. In every respect she is a loving and dutiful wife. Her parents, simple folk, who live near Hornsby, rejoiced that their nineteen-year-old daughter had gone to stay with an old school chum till she found work. That was till her father herad rumors and got a tin opener slashing for his efforts to rescure her.
The Arrow claimed that early during the New Year’s party Dolly whispered to one of the guests (“six girls, all of whom arrived in taxis and were dressed as men”) that she was unhappy, fearful that Mona was seeing someone else and would “give me up if I go on moping.” Meanwhile the party continued, in a story line that probably tittilated just about every straight man’s fantasy:
The gramophone played gaily, but only records by male impersonators were heard. Ella Shields, and others famed for their skill in adopting male attire, and voice, kept everyone in gales of husky laughter with their bright songs. The talk turned to books, books in which Lesbianism was the theme. Edna was besieged with inquiries when she announced that she had found in a second hand shop “The Well of Loneliness,” Radclyffe Hall’s banned but beautifully written novel… During supper Mona flirted outrageously with Mavis, and Mavis’s “husband” Edna was too drunk to notice. Soon Mona and Mavis disappeared into the bedroom, and the door was shut lie hind them. Dolly, the little blonde, stared after them, tears filling her eyes. Repeated questions such as “Is there any more coffee, pey?” from Edna, and ‘Where DID Mona got that pretty blue shirt?” from Jessie, evoked no reply.
The hideous party continued. Soon the girls were fondling each other, and kissing desperate, sterile kisses in wild abandon. The noise grew louder as they sang, and jazzed, and the suggestion of “Let’s play strip poker,” was hailed with cries of “Yes, let’s! Where are the cards! Oh, Mona will find them!” Someone hammered on the bedroom door, until Mona came out, her tie awry, her sleek Eton crop ruffled, and her temper more so.
Mona joined the card game, and that’s when Dolly’s father showed up to spoil the fun. He demanded that Dolly return home. Dolly refused, grabed a can opener, sliced her father’s arm. Meanwhile the others packed Dolly’s suitcase and Mona demanded that Dolly leave. “I can’t have your father snooping about hero finding fault,” she supposedly said. “For God’s sake, get out, and don’t como into my ofllcc snivelling and asking for me, like you did last time. I won’t, take you back.”
Dolly went home with her father, the party disbanded, and the entire improbably story came to an equally unlikely end, more or less. But not without a bit more moralizing from The Arrow:
Strange how this Lesbian love is flourishing in Sydney. Blame the war, blame the way women are encouraged to flaunt -their enjoyment of masculine occupations and hobbies, blame modern freedom in allowing masculine women to entice feminine women away from the places where they may meet suitable husbands, to spend barren years in the society of a sexually-perverted girl-friend. In Berlin Lesbians have their own cafes and newspapers. How horrible if such a state of affairs should come about in Sydney!
Medical men realise that a certain proportion of truly homo-sexual women must be expected in every big city.
But parents should be wide-awake to the dangorous fascination that a vigorous, domineering woman may exercise over a clean-minded, sympathetic, and simple girl. Beware of these friendships between women which so often lead to perversion and mental derangements.
[Source: Aldson Mitchell "And Now Women Are Holding Orgies: Man Haters Hold Wirld Party in William Street Flat. Girls Dressed as Men -- Tin Opener Attack." The Arrow (Sydney, NSW, January 8, 1932): 5. Available online here.]
Two Men Arrested for “Abominable Act and Detestable Crime Against Nature”: 1962. Read that year again. It was in 1962, not 1562, when Max Perkins and Robert McCorkle were arrested in Charlotte, North Carolina, on the charge that they “did unlawfully, willfully, maliciously and feloniously commit the abominable and detestable crime against nature with each other.” The North Carolina statute they were charged under was a 429-year-old law carried over from England which provided imprisonment of between five to sixty years, after having been modified in 1869 to remove the death penalty. McCorkle pleaded no contest and received the minimum sentence of 5 to 7 years. He served a portion of that sentence (I don’t know how long) and was released. Perkins, who was at the very least a cross dresser but more likely may have been transgender, pleaded innocent. The jury however found Perkins guilty, and the same judge who sentenced McCorkle earlier sentenced Perkins to 20 to 30 years in prison.
Perkins went to Federal Court, and on October 5, 1964, Federal Judge J. Braxton Craven ruled that Perkins was wrongly convicted. Craven found that if the statute outlawing the “detestable crime” was a new one, it would be unconstitutionally vague. But since it wasn’t, he held that the weight of historical interpretation and common law pointed to a much more specific crime. “It has been interpreted many times by the North Carolina Supreme Court,” Craven wrote. “Although the court has said it means much more than it meant at common law or at enactment during the reign of Henry VIII, its decisions have made equally clear that crime against nature does not embrace walking on the grass.” Based on those decisions, Craven found that the specific crime being outlawed was “buggery”; Perkins’s “detestable crime” was fellatio. He also found that Perkins’s excessive punishment, when compared to McCorkle’s, was obviously imposed because “his not guilty plea inconvenienced the court and that he was punished for it.” Further, he found that Perkins’s court-appointed counsel refused to mount a defense or call any of Perkins’s witnesses. Judge Craven ordered Perkins released before concluding his opinion:
Is it not time to redraft a criminal statute first enacted in 1533? And if so, cannot the criminal law draftsmen be helped by those best informed on the subject — medical doctors — in attempting to classify offenders? Is there any public purpose served by a possible sixty year maximum or even five year minimum imprisonment of the occasional or one-time homosexual without treatment, and if so, what is it? Are homosexuals twice as dangerous to society as second-degree murderers — as indicated by the maximum punishment for each offense? Is there a good reason why a person convicted of a single homosexual act with another adult may be imprisoned six times as long as an abortionist, thirty times as long as one who takes indecent liberties with children, thirty times as long as the drunk driver — even though serious personal injury and property damage results — twice as long as an armed bank robber, three times as long as a train robber, ten times as along as one who feloniously breaks and enters a store, and 730 times as long as the public drunk?
These questions, and others like them, need to be answered.
Judge Craven would go on to serve on the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit from 1966 until his death in 1977. Perkins received a new trial and was found not guilty.
Graham Chapman: 1941-1989. When Graham was growing up, his favorite radio program was the surreal British sketch comedy program The Goon Show, which made Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers household names. Chapman acknowledged that it was a major influence on him: “From about the age of seven or eight I used to be an avid listener…. In fact, at that stage I wanted to be a Goon.” He never got that chance, but he did go on to become a part of the Goon Show’s obvious successor: Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Chapman’s characters tended to epitomize the famous British Upper Lip, although those characters were often undone when their masks slipped to reveal a loony madness underneath. He also co-wrote the “Dead Parrot” sketch about a man who tries to return a dead Norwegian Blue Parrot to the pet shop, a sketch which is one of the Monty Python classics. Chapman played King Arthur in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and he played the title character in Life of Brian.
Chapman came out as gay just before Monty Python’s Flying Circus went on the air in 1969, and he was committed to his life-long partner, David Sherlock, since 1966. In 1972, he helped to co-found the publication Gay News in an effort to change the way gay people were perceived by the public. Chapman was a raging alcoholic through much of his career, but he went sober in 1977 following a drunken interview on British television. He died on October 4, 1989 of throat cancer, on the day before a planned twentieth anniversary celebration of the first Flying Circus broadcast. Fellow Python Terry Jones called it “the worst case of party-pooping in all history.” John Cleese delivered the eulogy: “Graham Chapman, co-author of the ‘Parrot Sketch’, is no more. He has ceased to be. Bereft of life, he rests in peace. He’s kicked the bucket, hopped the twig, bit the dust, snuffed it, breathed his last, and gone to meet the great Head of Light Entertainment in the sky.”
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?