by Adriaan van den Berg
December, finally! Yes, it is near year’s end and there are people who will congratulate themselves on having managed a fine year while others might resent themselves for not trying harder and doing certain things and might wish for better and think 2021 has been rotten… but adherents of both persuasions should let not let their wish to be done with it make them try outrun 2021 by disregarding the chance and potential posed by December. Decembers have always been an opportunity to spit in the face of destiny and to defy it if the latter has been unkind to you throughout the year. You can dedicate December to yourself, willfully aim to accomplish what you have so far been denied, make December a success despite and in defiance of all that had tried to pull you down earlier and in doing so also lay the foundations for a better if not great and successful 2022. And as usual, I hereby present events from Decembers past in LGBTGQ history for you to ponder, to find inspiration and motivation from, for you to lament and to learn what challenges us and what we still have to overcome just as LGBTGQ people already triumphed over so much that we have faced.
But before we dive and delve into December in LGBTGQ history, I want to thank Ronni Sanlo for collecting and preserving LGBTGQ history in her This Day in LGBT History archives at her website at https://ronnisonalo.com>this-day-inLGBT-history where you will find numerous historical entries for every day of the year. Her history archives have served as the source for most of the entries which I usually render here for every day of every month in On This Queer Day. And this LGBTGQ history is now available in the form of four books which together make up and cover a year’s entries from LGBT history worldwide for every day of the year – I have ordered mine and opted for copies signed by Sanlo. Ronni Sanlo is a prominent American LGBTGQ activist, an educator and she is former Director Emeritus of the UCLA Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center and is an authority on LGBTGQ students, faculty members and staff in higher education institutions, she is also a consultant, a speaker and author whose activism has made her one of the best known and most influential lesbian women in the world. Readers visiting the Ronni Sanlo website will also find links to her books and can read her Musings of an Ageing Lesbian and can subscribe to her newsletter. Ronni Sanlo is also on Facebook and on Instagram (at @ronnisanlo) – you can message her here with enquiries regarding her self-publishing and writing seminars. In 2014 the film Letter to Anita: The Ronni Sanlo Story was released showing Sanlo’s struggles to curb Anita Bryant’s anti-gay Save Our Children hate campaign. She helped overturn a Dade County Ordinance and it resulted in Sanlo losing custody of her children. Letter to Anita also shows her endeavors on behalf of people with HIV/Aids and her fight for civil rights amidst her loss of custody of her children and also shows the “backdrop of the broader gay civil rights movement” according to one reviewer. It won the audience award and was a finalist for Best Documentary Feature at the 25th Annual Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. You can find the film online. And with that, here is December’s entries from LGBTGQ history…
December in LGBTGQ History
December 1st – World Aids Day (since 1988). And on this first day of December 1715 an Oxford University student observed in his diary that sodomy was common amongst the campus community. He stated: “It is dangerous sending a young man who is beautiful to Oxford” – ooh, the notorious homosexual in his lair! Perhaps an eighteenth-century stereotype of the Oxford student? And in 1974 on this day the Greek letter Lamda was officially declared the international symbol for gay and lesbian rights.
December 2nd – America obtained Samoa as it’s territory on this day in 1899 – Samoa had no laws against sodomy.
December 3rd – Thai airlines began recruiting transgender flight attendants called “ladyboys” from this day in 2012 on hence. It was a novel attempt at forging a new corporate identity for the airline as well as an attempt to outdo competitors.
December 4th – The third openly gay person to be appointed as head of state, Xavier Bettel, was sworn in as Luxembourg’s Prime Minister on this day in 2013.
December 5th – No less a personage than the Anglican Bishop of Waterford and Lismore in the Church of Ireland, Bishop John Atherton, was hanged for the crime of sodomy (“buggery”) on this day in 1640. His steward and tithe proctor, John Childe, was also tried and executed. And two years later, in 1642, a Massachusetts Bay servant woman was sentenced on this day to be whipped for “unseemly practices” with another woman – the first documented case of legal prosecution of a woman same-sex relations with another woman in North America.
December 6th – On this day and date in 1993 the Massachusetts State Senate approved a bill that protected lesbian and gay public-school students from discrimination.
December 7th – Ibrehim Eren, a journalist, was imprisoned on this day in 1989 in Turkey for protesting police harassment of gays and ended up being detained for four months, but in September of 2017 he was appointed the director general of the public broadcaster Turkish Radio and Television.
December 8th – This is an unusual but totally laudable case and example from the UK, namely of the South Yorkshire Police placing a full-page ad in the Gay Times as part of their recruitment drive on this day in 1996.
December 9th – Shame on high: And on this day in 2014 Gambia saw a government-sponsored anti-gay march proceed from the National Assembly to the State House and attended by no less an eminence than Gambia’s President, Alhaji Yahya Jammeh. South Africa’s LGBTGQ community should take note of how many African countries still have homophobic laws on their stature books, in many cases outright banning any same-sex relations and conduct. An ongoing systematic effort and campaign should be launched to identify and internationally criticize and condemn and shame and shun these countries still guilty of these crimes against humanity and forward=thinking, progressive countries like South Africa should in fact lead the way in imposing and organizing economic and cultural sanctions against these culprit countries and nothing less.
December 10th – Zackie Achmat, the pioneering crusader for the causes of people with Hiv/Aids and LGBTGQ people in South Africa, founded the Treatment Action Campaign or TAC on this day in 1998.
December 11th – Meeting in Denver, Colorado, the American Psychiatric Association passes a resolution on this day in 1998 rejecting reparative therapy stating that attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation can cause depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior while the America Psychological Association had already passed a similar resolution in August, 1997 and a member told a newspaper that the very idea of reparative therapy spreads the idea that homosexuality is a disease and is evil.
December 12th – More than 5000 people attended a “Stop the Church” protest at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on this day in 1989 to object to the inordinate influence Cardinal John O’Connor had on government policies on HIV/Aids and regarding sexuality. A 100 activists who had laid down in the aisles were arrested.
December 13th – Belgium became the second country to approve same-sex marriages on this day in 2002.
December 14th – Tasso, or Torquato Tasso, who died shortly before being crowned king of poets by the pope and one of the most widely read poets until the beginning of the twentieth century, admitted his love for Orazio Ariosto on this day in 1576
December 15th – The International Scientific Conference on Gay and Lesbian Studies was convened on this day in 1988 and the highlight was a heated discussion around the Constructionism VS Essentialism controversy entitled “Homosexuality, Which Homosexuality?”
December 16th – To Be or Not to Be, Mel Brook’s remake of the Ernst Lubitsch classic released on this day in 1983, became the first mainstream Hollywood film to acknowledge Nazi persecution of homosexuals and made it a key element of the plot.
December 17th – After wreaths laid by the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association in a ceremony of remembrance were removed, British Secretary of State Chris Smith writes a letter of apology to the Association on this day in 1987. ,
December 18th – How we have been treated as oddities, as suffering from a deviant sickness and in the following case the love of the two men sounds tender and heart-rendering; On this day in 1902, Doctor William S. Barker of St. Louis presented a paper to the Medical Society of City Hospital Alumni about two men identified as “W” and “B” and saying W showed an unnatural fondness for B and the two were inseparable.
December 19th – A play featuring the first lesbian scenes and the first lesbian kiss on stage on Broadway, The God of Vengeance, opened in the Provincetown Playhouse on this day in 1922 and would open on Broadway two years later. The theatre owner and 12 cast members were found guilty on obscenity charges which were later overturned.
December 20th – New York has always been seen as a tolerant city with a large LGBTGQ community, but it hasn’t always been a seat of progressive attitudes towards LGBTGQ people. On this day in 1973 the New York City Council rejected a proposed gay rights ordinance for the city for the second time.
December 21st – On this day in 2007, Nepal’s Supreme Court ordered the end of anti-LGBTGQ laws and the creation of new laws that safeguard LGBTGQ people.
December 22nd – Another example of a city authorities in the USA denying LGBTGQ people their rights and once more it was New York (after the entry for Dec. 20th): On this day in 1964, Doctor Harry Benjamin testified at a meeting of the New York Health Department urging that transsexuals should be allowed to have new birth certificates which state their own gender preference and identification, but his recommendations were rejected.
December 23rd – Once LGBTGQ people were denied the very right and ability to meet, socialize and spend recreational time together. On this day in 1959 the California Supreme Court upheld the right of LGBTGQ people to congregate thereby repealing a 1955 statute that allowed the Department of Alcoholic Beverages Control to revoke the liquor license of any establishment that was a “resort for sexual perverts…”
December 24th – In all my research for this column I have encountered a number of touching declarations of love and one written on this day in 1573 by French diplomat and law professor, Hubert Languet once more delivers a beautiful example. He wrote to the poet Sir Phillip Sidney that “My affection for you has entered my heart far more deeply than I have ever felt for anyone else, and it has so wholly taken possession there that it tries to rule alone.”
December 25th – Time magazine ran its first article ever on homosexuality on this day in 1950 and it stated that homosexuals should not work in government jobs since the pose a security risk.
December 26th – And after yesterday’s entry on Time magazine’s offences against gay people, on this day in 1977 People magazine did likewise when it named homophobe and anti-gay hysteric Anita Bryant who conducted the Save Our Children ant-gay hate campaign as one of the Twenty-Five Most Intriguing People of 1977.
December 27th – Anita Bryant’s anti-gay campaigning had historical precedents, such as that conducted by the Societies for Reformation of Manners in England in the eighteenth century whose leader the right Rev. Bray preached a sermon on this day in 1708 in which he referred to sodomy as “an evil force invading our land.”
December 28th – Another institution which does not have such a clean record as far as its treatment of LGBTGQ people is concerned is the Vatican and on this day in 1998 Pope John Paul II cautioned against the acceptance of non-traditional families since they disfigure the traditional family structure – a clear swipe at same-sex marriages and gay unions.
December 29th – As recently as 1995 television shows featuring homosexual characters were pulled from broadcasts in the United States such as the case of KOAA-TV in Colorado whose general manager John Gilbert on this day in 1995 pulled the shows Jenny Jones and Carnie for this reason.
December 30th – The Vatican’s attitudes and conduct towards LGBTGQ people which have often been far less than laudable and at times outright abhorrent are not representative of all Catholic’s attitudes towards LGBTGQ people, as the case which occurred on this day in 1998 proves the case to be: New Ways Ministries, a Catholic group, took out a full-page ads in the New York Times calling for an end to anti-gay violence.
December – We have had two entries for this month so far reporting anti-LGBTGQ attitudes in articles and features by such illustrious publications as Time and People magazines. We end this month’s entries with one reporting that on this day in 1971 Life magazine published an eleven-page spread titled Homosexuals in Revolt discussing the post-Stonewall gay and lesbian movement in generally positive terms for the first time. On this positive note, we end this year of 2021 – may you have a gay 2022.
Interfaith Calendar for December 2021
December 6th – Saint Nicholas Day – Christian
December 8th – Feast of the Immaculate Conception – Catholic
Bodhi Day – Mahayana Buddhist (Celebration of the Buddha’s enlightenment)
December – Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe – Catholic
December 21st – Yule – Pagan and Wiccan (At sundown at the Winter Solstice as the great horned hunter god is reborn).
December 16th – 25th – Posadas Navidenas – Hispanic Christian
December 25th – Christmas – Christian (Birthday of Jesus)
Feast of the Nativity – Orthodox Christian
December 26th – Boxing Day / The Feast of St. Stephen – Roman Catholic
December 28th – Holy Innocents – Catholic Christian
December 31st – Watch Night – Christian