The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, March 3

Jim Burroway

March 3rd, 2015

TODAY’S AGEDNA is brought to you by:

From Contact (Houston, TX), June 1974, page 5.

From Contact (Houston, TX), June 1974, page 5.

On March 3, 1974, Houston’s Farmhouse was gutted by a four-alarm blaze. The fire came just six days before the club was set to re-open and show off its new renovation. That renovation became necessary after parts of the club were damaged in a smaller January 27 fire. Investigators didn’t think the earlier fire was arson, but they were reconsidering their earlier assessment now that there was no doubt about how this latest blaze started. Houston Fire Department spokesman Paul Carr said that this fire broke out in very specific “strategic” locations and two empty gas cans were found at the site. “We have a list of people who would have had motives for doing this, but so far no one has been charged or arrested,” he said.

The prior fire had been expensive. The owners spent $45,000 to remodel ($213,000 in today’s dollars), of which only $21,000 came from insurance. Emmet Newton, one of the Farmhouse’s three owners, said, “There have been three other fire bomb attempts, and this is the second time this building has been heavily damaged.” There were two smaller fires in 1973. “I wish somebody would stop this. It could have been murder this time.” Newton and Gene Howle, a second owner, use to own Houston’s Plantation Club until it was destroyed by arson four years earlier.

The owners vowed to rebuild, and estimated that it would probably take about six months before they could reopen. Instead, they chose to move three and a half miles away and open in a completely new location. This brief notice appeared in Houston’s gay newspaper, Contact just three months later:

After a lengthy wait, the much-heralded new Farmhouse will open this month. And it appears it has been worth waiting for. The new Farmhouse comes complete with four bars, multi-level dance floors, a swimming pool, and tons of other dandy things not to be believed. It occupies an entire city block, at 2710 Albany, and is inch-for-inch the biggest gay bar and entertainment complex in the country.

Marc Andre Raffalovich

120 YEARS AGO: The Usefulness of Homosexuals: 1895. Marc-André Raffalovich was a French poet and early theorist on homosexuality (see Sep 11). He was also among the early writers to introduce the very word “homosexuality” into the English language. He had begun writing about the subject in 1894, using the French word unisexualité, but when he contributed an English translation of a portion of his work for the March 1895 edition of the Journal of Comparative Neurology in 1895, he used the terms “homosexuality” and “heterosexuality” as opposite but equal poles of human sexuality. That, in and of itself, makes this particular article noteworthy, as it appears to be the first time that homosexuality and heterosexuality were discussed as directly contrasting characteristics. He nevertheless also continued to use older terminology — “invert” and “uranism” (based on a German theory of a “female psyche in a male body” as an early formation for effeminate male homosexuality)  — and he appears to have coined a new term, “psychic hermaphroditism,” to describe bisexuality.

As for the inverts themselves:

It is difficult to do justice to the inverts; so also it would be difficult to do justice to the heterosexuals if we were to confine ourselves exclusively to their sexual life. Falsehood and sexuality are always so intimately associated because reality belies desire since expectation and realization are in glaring contradiction. If men were bold today, if they were not under the sway of an all-pervasive materialism, how differently would they think of sexuality!

…The day when the invert ceases to call for the indulgence of society, he will begin to justify himself in the eyes of truly superior men. Because heterosexuality is not suppressed homosexuality ought to be equally favored. Strange logic, if the repression of heterosexuality is one of the problems of the future, as I believe it to be.

Raffalovich saw two types of homosexuals: those who were born gay and those who “chose” their inversion. The former were worth studying, but the latter were mere criminals as far as he was concerned. Nevertheless, he was among the first to argue that homosexuality (and homosexual people) was morally neutral. But that didn’t mean he believed in homosexual emancipation. Instead, Raffalovich wrote that a homosexual, if he were “the superior being that he imagines himself and if he had any religion,” should pursue celibacy and dedicate himself to serving humanity:

The great men claimed for homosexuality have been great only because they have not allowed themselves to be overmastered by their sexuality. The grand inverts have been grand in spite of their inversion or because they raised themselves above it and so above humanity. The man without family, without wife, without children, who is kept by continence or by chastity from so many annoyances, vexations and falsehoods and whose heart is not barren and withered, may be a Michael Angelo or a Newton. (Newton is classed here only for his chastity).

…Well! since the invert is not burdened with maternity nor by all the vexations of the female sex, why not try to make him serve humanity? He has many defects and many vices inborn, but our civilization and our education do not and cannot improve his condition.

The bees and the ants have workers who do not reproduce. Is it possible, barely possible, to make some use of the uranists?

But as for changing and becoming heterosexuals, Raffalovich thought that would be impossible, and even dangerous.

So I protest that we should not make a practice of pitying the inverts as inverts. The enthusiastic uranists do not wish to change. With whom should they? The true homosexuals, those who have the passion of similarity, if they were women would love women; so also the true homosexual if he were a man would love a man. Let us pity humanity as a whole if we wish; let us pity it bitterly if we have no religion — but let us not pick out the inverts for the our utmost pity. I cannot repeat this admonition too often.

Raffalovich’s conflicted view of homosexuality betrayed his own conflicts with his sexuality. Three years earlier, he had met and fallen in love with his lifelong companion, the poet John Gray. Together, they developed a deep devotion to Catholicism, to which Raffalovich converted in 1896 and became a third order lay Dominican. Gray also converted and later became a priest (see below). After Gray’s ordination (with Raffalovich footing the bill), Raffalovich settled near Gray’s parish in Scotland where he continued to provide financial support and attended mass every morning. And while Gray served his parishioners, Raffalovich served humanity by hosting a salon and becoming a patron of the arts. Raffalovich and Gray remained devoted to each other (while living in separate households) for the rest of their lives until Raffalovich’s death in 1934, just four months before Gray’s.

[Source: Raffalovich, Marc Andre “Uranism, congenital sexual inversion.” Journal of Comparative Neurology 5, no. 1 (March 1895): 33-65. Available online via Google Books here.]

Statistics on Homosexuality Convictions: 1914. The American Journal of Urology had become increasingly focused on sexual matters as the new century progressed, so much so that in April 1914 the journal would modify its name to American Journal of Urology and Sexology. In the last month under the old title, Douglas C. McMurtrie, who wrote a regular column called “Department of Sexology,” listed the following statistics on convictions for “Crimes Against Nature”:

STATISTICS regarding all crimes in the United States are miserably defective and the results attending an effort to determine the frequency of the offence of sodomy, generally designated as an “offence against nature” is unsatisfactory. We find, however, that on June 80, 1904, there were in American penal institutions 376 prisoners committed for this crime. These prisoners comprised 15.5% of those committed for offences against chastity. Of the total 375 were male and 1 female.

The distribution by states was as follows: New Hampshire, 1; Massachusetts, 20; Connecticut, 7; New York, 62; New Jersey, 12; Pennsylvania, 52; Maryland, 8; Virginia, 3; West Virginia, 1; North Carolina, 4; South Carolina, 1; Georgia, 1; Florida, 3; Ohio, 22; Indiana, 6; Illinois, 20; Michigan, 11; Wisconsin, 6; Minnesota, 8; Iowa, 2; Missouri, 11; North Dakota, 2; Nebraska, 2; Kansas, 4; Kentucky, 6; Tennessee, 5; Alabama, 3; Mississippi, 6; Louisiana, 3; Texas, 29; Montana, 4; Wyoming, 2; Colorado, 5; Arizona, 1; Utah, 2; Idaho, 2 ; Washington, 8; Oregon, 1; California, 30. It will be seen that the frequency of conviction varies greatly in different localities.

In the figures of crime given for the state of Indiana, which are probably the most complete available, the offence in question is not mentioned. In the Indianapolis police court, however there were two cases of sodomy in 1910 and ten in 1911.

[Source: Douglas C. McMurtrie. “Statistics of Sodomy” American Journal of Urology 10, no. 3 (March 1914): 146. Available online via Google Books here.]

Mlle de Raucourt: 1756-1815. Born Françoise Marie-Antoinette Saucerotte but known popularly simply as Mademoiselle de Raucourt, the French actress and a favorite of Queen Marie-Antoinette was famous for her incredibly beauty and her singing talents, and infamous for her entirely open affairs with men and women. Her affair with the Marquis de Bièvres proved financially profitable: he gave her £12,000 and made her financially independent. She then became infatuated with the opera singer Sophie Arnould in an affair that ended badly. Two men represented the women in a duel. Raucourt then began an affair with Jeanne-Françoise Souque, and the couple lived so lavishly that they soon became bankrupt and fled to Germany to get away from their creditors. They were able to return to France a few months later with the help of the French Prince de Ligne.

When Raucourt returned to France and resumed performing at the Comédie-Française, she caught the attention of Queen Marie-Antoinette, who became her patron. But being an open lesbian and a favorite of the Court in pre-revolutionary France would soon prove precarious. Libelous pamphlets began appearing charging that Raucourt participated in all-female orgies. The pamphlets also claimed that she was the leader of la Secte Anandryne, an allegedly secret society of man-hating lesbians which, in reality, never existed. When the French Revolution broke out in 1789, she remained faithful to her royal benefactors and was imprisoned in 1793 for lack of loyalty to the Revolution. When the Revolution in turn was overthrown in 1794 by the Directory, she was released and named the director of the Théâtre Louvois. In 1803, Napoleon named her director of the imperial theaters in newly-conquered Italy.

Raucourt retired in 1814, and died on January 15, 1815 at the age of 58. When the priest refuse to allow her body to enter the church for a requiem mass, the crowd of mourners, numbering 15,000, rioted and forced the church doors open and demanded the service take place. After the funeral, her brother organized a lifetime income for her partner, Henriette Simonnot de Ponty, whom Raucourt had met while in prison.

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?


March 3rd, 2015

“Entirely open affairs” – what exactly does that mean? Seriously, how would a person look, act, and talk in an “entirely open” affair? Does this phrase have any concrete meaning at all?

“Open lesbian” – it’s the style now to say of every single person in the past who had a gay sex/love life of some kind that they were “openly” so. But again, *what exactly does that mean?* In a time when the unspeakable “crime against nature” would get you arrested, jailed, put in a pillory, whipped, burnt, or hanged? Not to mention that no respectable person would speak or do business with you.

Or is it just a really, really *cool* thing to say, with no relation to historical reality?

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