It’s Flag Day, a day established in 1916 to commemorate the Second Continental Congress’s adoption of the Stars and Stripes on June 14, 1777. The original 1777 specification for the flag was simple: “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.” That was it. Consequently, there were as many early American flag designs as there were flag designers.
In 1795, the number of stars and stripes rose to fifteen in honor of Vermont and Kentucky’s entry into the union. As more states entered, flag makers added stars and stripes accordingly, although some flag makers decided having too many stripes made their flags look a little too busy. They took the initiative of going back to thirteen stripes for the original thirteen states. In 1818 when there were twenty states in the union, Congress decided to curb the potential stripe explosion and adopted the thirteen stripe flag with twenty stars, while specifying that new stars would be added as needed each July 4. But the stars’ remained unregulated, and flag makers continued to demonstrate a great deal of creativity throughout the nineteenth century. When Arizona and New Mexico became the 47th and 48th states in 1912, Congress finally got around to declaring a uniform design for the stars and stripes.
Today, the flag’s design is carefully regulated by the General Services Administration’s specification DDD-F-416E (PDF: 1.16MB/34 pages!), with precise measurements and colors defined according to the CAUS Standard Color Reference of America. But very few commercially-made flags adhere to that standard: the measurements and aspect ratios are almost always wrong and the colors are typically off. Those that do are called Government Specification or G-Spec flags. The rest of us make do with whatever the particular manufacturer decides it will be. In some ways, things never really change much after all.
Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Albany, NY; Anchorage, AK; Baltimore, MD; Bentonville, AR; Bisbee, AZ; Blackpool, UK; Boston, MA; Brooklyn, NY; Casper, WY; Chemnitz, Germany; Edmonton, AB; Grand Rapids, MI; Huntington, NY; Indianapolis, IN; Kalamazoo, MI; Key West, FL; Ljubljana, Slovenia; Luleå, Sweden; Lyon, France; Memphis, TN (Black Pride); Nanaimo, Vancouver BC; Nantes, France; Nashville, TN; Pittsburgh, PA; Portland, OR; Regina, SK; Sacramento, CA; San Mateo, CA; Shanghai, China; Sitges, Spain; Spokane, WA; Strasbourg, France; Tel Aviv, Israel; Thunder Bay, ON; Vienna, Austria; Warsaw, Poland; Wuppertal, Germany; Zagreb, Croatia; Zurich, Switzerland.
Other Events This Weekend: Lesbian and Gay Stadtfest, Berlin, Germany; Cedar Point Gay Days, Cedar Point, OH; AIDS Walk, Long Beach, CA; Out in the Vineyard Gay Wine Weekend, Sonoma, CA; Tel Aviv LGBT International Film Festival, Tel Aviv, Israel.
TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:
The Florida-based gay photographic and lifestyle magazine David described Annie’s Odds and Ends this way: “Annie’s Odds ‘n’ Ends at the corner of Oakland Park Boulevard and 12th Ave, caters to the female set and keeps a clean, congenial atmosphere for the girls to relax in and meet new friends. No hassles here. Dance, play pool and enjoy yourself is the order of the day.” The building is still there and is home to a sports bar.
THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
► 100 YEARS AGO: Sexual Inversion Among Women in Spain: 1914. Not much has been written about lesbians in the historic literature, where most of the focus was on gay men. But Douglas C. McMurtrie, the New York editor of the Urologic and Cutaneous Review came a cross an article in a Spanish journal by the criminologist Bernaldo de Quiros and decided that the information was “of sufficient originality to warrant an abstract in English.” Using the term “tribadism” for lesbianism, McMurtrie went on to summarize de Quiros’s paper:
In certain cases, particularly those of congenital inversion with or without reference to physically inverted characteristics, tribadism develops, from instinctively digressive tendencies, in centers where there are segregated members of the female sex. There are various centers of this sort: convents, boarding-schools, manufacturing establishments, etc. Sapphic love affairs are very prevalent in tobacco factories. In explanation of this a new cause has been mentioned; namely, the irritation which the flying tobacco dust produces. Until recently, there was, near the tobacco factory of Madrid, a tavern which, had the proprietor known any classical mythology — beyond that pertaining to Bacchus, could have been christened “To the Island of Lesbos.”
Among the prostitutes, inversion is frequent, as also with some female criminals. The prison and hospital are centers of initiation into the practices of tribadism. Tribades are seldom permitted in brothels. Whenever recognized, they are found living independently. We have become acquainted with some who act as “men” and keep their beloved locked up at home while they go out on business to earn by their degraded profession, means for their mutual maintenance and provision for their needs. Admitting the frequency of homosexuality among prostitutes, it is necessary at the same time, to consider at least, the paradoxical hypothesisof Kurella, according to which prostitution is a partial inversion in woman, this being evidenced by the absence of feminine honor — which is obvious — and by the failure of ordinary sexual practices to give them satisfaction.
One of the great struggles that writers about homosexuality were forced to endure was to wrap their brains around the possibility that sexuality and gender roles were somehow separate. Men and women were defined according to both who they were anatomically, and according to what they did behaviorally. Men had penises and did men’s work; women had vaginas and performed women’s tasks, and the idea that the two parts of the definition could be decoupled in any meaningful way was beyond the imagination of most observers. That failing is not altogether their fault; it was also beyond the imagination of most gays and lesbians of that era as well. Where today we would simply see two men or two women in a same-sex relationship, that observation would have proved extremely difficult to understand a century ago. And so there was a considerable effort to figure out in these same-sex relationships who was the man and who was the woman, a task that McMurtrie candidly admitted was a difficult one:
It is difficult to picture the dualism of the sexes and the roles played by the different characters in this kind of love. One criterion of inversion which has been taken, is the development of the clitoris, either congenital or acquired by manipulation; this organ corresponding in the homology of sexual dualism to the male penis. The tribades whom we questioned on this point answered in various ways. The “man” is the masculine, not by reason of extraordinary development of the clitoris, but rather by the manifestation of characteristics which they, with their knowledge of the psychology of the other sex, consider as masculine. The “male” tribade is such through her impulse of domination, through her masculine impetus, and especially, according to the eloquent love-confession of one of these women, “because she is the one who does the beating.” The normal woman or the inverted woman lives under the “rule of the club” and in the delivery of mitigation of “the beating” that the differentiation is accomplished. …The “male” tribade likes to imitate a man in actions and occupations. They also adopt masculine nicknames.
[Source: Douglas C. McMurtrie. "Sexual inversion among women in Spain. Urologic and Cutaneous Review 18, no. 6 (June 1914): 308. Available online via Google Books here.]
► Boy George: 1961. George O’Dowd’s first stage name was Lieutenant Lush when he performed with Bow Wow Wow. That tenure was short lived: he was booed off the stage. He then joined up with drummer (and regular boyfriend) Jon Moss (previously of The Damned and Adam and the Ants), bassist Mikey Craig and guitarist/keyboardist Roy Hay. They called their group In Praise of Lemmings and then Sex Gang Children. When they finally realized that they had a androgynous Irish singer, a black bassist, a Jewish drummer and an English keyboardist, they decided to call themselves Culture Club, with Boy George as the frontman. Their debut album Kissing to Be Clever was released in 1982, and their single “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?” became an international hit. “Time (Clock of Heart)” and “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya,” gave them the distinction of being the first group since the Beatles to have three Top 10 hits in the U.S. from a debut album. Their next album Colour By Numbers, did almost as well, with “Church of the Poison Mind” and “Miss Me Blind” hitting the Top Ten in the U.S. and “Karma Chameleon” holding the #1 spot for three weeks (and for six weeks in the U.K.).
Boy George left Culture Club behind in 1986 when his relationship with Moss soured and he began descending into a nasty heroin addiction. He went into rehab, but part of his treatment added prescriptions for narcotics to deal with the heroin withdrawal. He ended up trading one addiction for another. He had a few modest hits as a solo artist, including the title song from the movie The Crying Game in 1992. He wrote the score for the London musical Taboo, which was based on his life and earned him a Tony nomination for Best Musical Score. But his troubles continued to follow him. In 2005, he was arrested in New York for cocaine possession and filing a false burglary report. The drug charge was dropped and he pleaded guilty to the false report. He was sentenced to five days of community service, fined $1,000 and ordered into drug rehab. In 2008, he was arrested and charged with assault and false imprisonment. He was convicted and sentenced to fifteen months imprisonment. He was released after four months and was placed under home detention. In 2010, he released Ordinary Alien, which he followed in 2013 with This Is What I Do.
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