ON THIS QUEER DAY – THE MONTH OF JUNE IN LGBTG HISTORY

Adriaan van den Berg

June is Youth Month and June the 16th is Youth Day in South Africa. Before we look at the month of June in LGBTG history, there are things that need to be said about and for LGBTG  youth in South Africa and this column and calendar, On This Queer Day, is known for forays into just such topics. And if there is something to be said about South African LGBTG activists whom I have encountered over the years and their stance regarding LGBTG youth, then it is that they tend to care deeply about South Africa’s LGBTG youth. Here at Exit we are also well aware of our young LGBTG people – they will become our new readers as they find us online or as word about Exit spreads amongst them, as they might learn of our existence and what we offer through marketing and advertising or after they had encountered us represented somewhere upon some occasion or at some LGBTG event.

   And there is no underestimating them. If you look through social media such as Instagram and Facebook, you will see them: the many young people whose Bios include the rainbow flag or which identify them as either gay, as bisexual, as lesbian or as transgender, a great number of them and with many South Africans amongst them. The latter are a generation who had grown up with a constitution and laws protecting their rights in a country whose people have generally also become more enlightened about sexual and gender orientations and their accompanying issues and rights. They exist and their rights are not to be denied. We have come a long way since Anita Bryant’s “Save Our Children” campaign of homophobia in the USA which was explicitly aimed at rolling back anti-discriminatory ordinances which she alleged promoted homosexuality amongst children.

   So, what do we say to Jodie, the fifteen year-old Cape Town schoolboy who confidently introduces himself as bisexual? My answer is that we should tell him that he is still a work of art in the making and that he needn’t commit himself to any orientation just yet since one’s sexuality is still under development until well into your twenties. We ask him to be mindful of exposing himself to bullying by outing himself, but we can also offer support and the first line of support for LGBTG youths should be within their own families: Thus we should encourage parents of LGBTG youths to be very sensitive to their children’s preferred gender and sexual orientations and to perhaps form or join parent support groups for parents of LGBTG kids, to seek information and to act accordingly upon their LGBTG children’s needs.

   Schools too should be aware that a certain percentage of their students are probably gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender and that they have a responsibility by law to diligently guard against discrimination and bullying of such students. It should be noted by them that there might be students who out themselves and who openly identify themselves as LGBTG, by sexual orientation and gender identity – and that such students represent a minority who tends to be marginalised, discriminated against and who besides protection may also need special care and attention in cases in which they had been victimised for their gender identities and sexual orientations. A good start for any school would be to contact the local equivalent of a Sexual and Gender Equity Office or LGBTG activist groups on the nearest university campus and to invite them to come present a workshop or a lecture to all your students on sexual orientations and gender identities at your school. 

   We ourselves should be mindful though that for transgender and gay, lesbian and bisexual youths it isn’t a matter of choosing this identity or orientation, it is who they are and we should be looking out for them and assess their needs. Those needs may be for nurturing, counselling, help and assistance, for protection and support, for encouragement to come to terms with who they are, to take pride in themselves and to find their strengths and become self-sufficient and learn to protect themselves as much as they can when there aren’t parents, guardians and adults or others present to help them. They have to be encouraged to report their experiences of discrimination which adults should act upon. And those youths who discriminate against LGBTG fellow students themselves need attention, counselling and assistance and encouragement to come to terms with LGBTG people in their midst and reconcile with those they had discriminated against.

   I don’t just want to just accommodate the youngest of LGBTG youths alone, but I also want to include and say to older LGBTG youths that they should join LGBTG organizations and interest and support groups for LGBTG youth especially on campuses which usually are hubs of activity and activism and where organizations and support groups like that are to be found as well as activists who can guide and assist them – you needn’t be a student at an institution such as a university to make contact with LGBTG students there and to join their organizations and groups or to attend their meetings and events on campus. Contact with activists and LGBTG activism is generally an experience of much needed affirmation for LGBTG youths or young people.  

   And so, finally, to our LGBTG youth I say: You are part of a community and by reading Exit you take another step towards joining that community and becoming and being who you are. You belong to a people with a long history of struggle, who have overcome many terrible injustices and defeats – and proof of that you will find in this column. Look towards our history for inspiration, stand up for yourselves and be counted and know that we stand with you. And so, without further ado, here is the month of June in LGBTG history.

June in LGBTG History

June 1stSweden became the first country in the world on this day in 1972 to allow people who were transsexual to undergo gender reassignment surgery and to receive free hormone replacement therapy. Sweden also allowed the age of consent to be set at the same age of fifteen years old for same sex partners and heterosexual couples.

June 2ndOn this day in 2006, Denmark repealed a 1997 prohibition of the procedure and allowed lesbians access to artificial insemination. And on this day in 2017, Leo Varadkar, the openly gay son of Indian immigrants, became the first openly gay Prime Minister of Ireland. 

June 3rdIn Greece on this day in 1818, fragments of the Lion of Cheronea statue were discovered and later 254 sets of human remains were discovered at a grave mound at the same site which were believed to be the remains of the Sacred Band of Thebes, a 4th century BC military unit and army consisting of 300 homosexual warriors who were divided into 150 couples dedicated by oath to fight till death for each other and for their city of Thebes. For forty years the Sacred Band was victorious and they even defeated the much lauded Spartans at the Battle of Leuctra in 371 BC before Phillip of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great annihilated the Sacred Band at Cheronea in 338 BC. Alexander was said to have wept upon witnessing his soldiers slaughtering the Sacred Band for the Sacred Band fought so bravely – afterwards none of the Sacred Band’s warriors had any stab wounds in their backs, proving they had remained faithful to their oath and that none had abandoned their partners. 

June 4thThe Toronto-based Gay Liberation Union presented the first self-defence course for gay men in Canada in response to increased violence on the streets on this day in 1979. 

June 5thPortugal became the eighth country to approve same-sex marriages on this day in 2010. And Puerto Ricos’s LGBTG community was outraged by Governor Wanda Vásquez signing a new code into power on this day in 2020 which did away with previous protections and rights for LGBTG people.

June 6thJune Chan was born on this day in 1956 – she was an Asian American lesbian activist and co-founder of Asian Lesbians of the East Coast (ALOEC) and raised awareness of LGBTG issues in the Asian American community. Also born on this day in 1961, was Carol Baskin, the notorious co-star of the Tiger King Netflix series who were accused of murdering her husband. Baskin is hated by many and admired by others, but she has come out and said that she is bisexual. 

June 7thAnita Bryant has caused such damage to the aspirations of gay people: On this day in 1977, following pressure from Bryant and her Save the Children campaign against gay rights, the gay liberation struggle in the USA suffered its first defeat with the repeal of a Dade Country, Florida ordinance which had protected people against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. It took twenty years before Bryant’s damage were repaired with the reinstatement of the Miami-Dade ordinance on December 1st, 1998. 

June 8thCanada, and on this day in 1975 a gay rights group called GATE appeared before Canada’s Parliamentary Committee on Immigration to call for dropping of all references to homosexuality in Canada’s emigration laws. In 1977, Canada removed the ban on homosexuals entering Canada.  

June 9thToday in 1983 Italian film, television and opera producer and former senator Franco Zeferelli came out as “homosexual” (Zeferelli regards the term “gay” as less than elegant).  

June 10thWest Virginia became the 16th state in the USA on this day in 1976 to repeal its sodomy laws.

June 11thOn this day in 1999, U.S. President Bill Clinton issued the first Presidential Proclamation of Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.

June 12thIn the eighteenth century on this day, in 1730, five men were hanged for the crime of sodomy and their bodies were thrown into the sea at Scheveningen. Many homosexual men then fled this pogrom to Britain where they did not quite receive the welcome that religious refugees from elsewhere were being received with. 

June 13thOn this day in 1898, the German Reichstag prefigured later Nazi criminalization of homosexuality when they debated a petition to revoke Paragraph 175 which called for protection of homosexual rights and promoted by pioneering academic and scholar of sexology, Magnus Hirschfeld and supported by a number of opinion leaders. The Reichstag voted against the rights reform and criminalized homosexuality.

June 14thA group of islets off the Great Barrier Reef, the Coral Sea Islands were proclaimed the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea by a group of gay and lesbian activists on this day in 2004 in response to the Australian government’s failure to recognize same sex marriage. Their flag is the rainbow flag, the pink triangle is their coat of arms and their national anthem is “I am what I am.” 

June 15thThe New York Times decided to allow its writers to use “gay” as an adjectival synonym for “homosexual” on this day of 1987. And on this day in 2012, Denmark became the 11th country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.

June 16thThat great American hate convention, the Southern Baptist Convention, passed a resolution for the recall of an openly gay American ambassador from his overseas post on this day in 1999.  

June 16thYouth Day in South Africa. Our youth are our future – please stand with our LGBTG youth. If you know a LGBTG youth, express your support for them and their cause today. On this day in 2006, the state of Hawaii agreed to pay a settlement to three LGBTG youths who had been subjected to terrible abuse while being incarcerated in juvenile jails. 

June 17thAnd South Africa submitted a resolution requesting a study on discrimination and sexual orientation in the Human Rights Council was passed on this day in 2011. It was the first time that any United Nations body approved a resolution affirming the rights of LGBT people. 

June 18thThomas Jefferson, the American statesman, prepared a draft for Virginia’s criminal statute on this day in 1779 which envisioned punishment of sodomy with castration. 

June 19th In 2014 on this day, the Presbyterian Church voted to allow pastors to marry same-sex couples.

June 20thExodus International, a group that claims it could cure same-sex attraction through prayer and therapy, announced that it would close its doors on this day in 2013 after more than three decades. 

June 21stTwo gay male couples held the first gay wedding in Cuba on this day in 2001.

June 22ndHeterosexuals Unafraid of Gays (HUG) was formed in New Zealand on this day in 1985. And the 2007 Jerusalem Pride Parade on this day in June that year encountered hundreds of Haredi, members of Israel’s ultra-orthodox sect who had brought bags of eggs and human excrement to be flung at the parade. One Haredi was caught with a bomb he intended detonating in the march.  

June 23rdFive “Sodomitical Boys” are caught aboard the Puritan ship Talbot set for Salem, MA on this day in 1629. The boys were sent back to England where males above fourteen years of age could be hanged for the crime. Their fate is unknown.

June 24th Before the attack on the Pulse nightclub in 2016, the deadliest attack on a gay nightclub in the USA occurred on this day in 1973 when the UpStairs Lounge was set alight. Thirty two people died. The most likely suspect was a gay man who had been thrown out of the bar earlier in the day – he committed suicide in 1974.

June 25thOn this day in 1970, the Vatican issued a statement confirming its point of view and policy that homosexual unions are a “moral aberration that cannot be approved by human conscience.”

June 26thThe first LGBT Pride parade was held in Athens on this day in 2005.

June 27thIn 2006 on this day Iceland’s Parliament approved parenting equality and on this same date in 2010, Iceland legalized same sex marriage.

June 28thOn this day in 1969 the patrons of the Stonewall inn in New York rioted and fought the police and the famous Stonewall riots occurred.  

June 29th52 gay men were taken to a concentration camp in preparation for the Berlin Olympics on this day in 1936. 

June 30thOn this final day of the month of June in 2013, Putin signed an anti-gay propaganda law into effect. The law was voted into power by the State Duma with one abstention.

   And that was the month of June from LGBTG history – may you have found inspiration from it.

 

Interfaith Calendar for June 2022

June 2nd Ascension Day: Coptic Orthodox Church  – Marking Jesus’ ascension to heaven.

June 4th till 6th Shavuot: Judaism – The giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.

June 8th Race Unity Day: Baha’i Faith – Day of racial unity.

June 11th Rise of the Star of Antinous: Antinoan faith of the Gay God Antinous.

June 12th Trinity Sunday: Christian – Celebration of the three personifications of God as the Trinity.

June 12th All Saints Day: Eastern Orthodox Christian Church – The end of the Easter season.

June 16th Feast of Corpus Christi: Roman Catholic – The presence of the body of Jesus in the eucharist.

Martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev Sahib: Sikh – Martyrdom of the saint.

June 21st Antinous in Ephesus / Antinous Enters Egypt / The Sacred Obelisk: Antinoan faith of the gay god Antinous. 

June 24th Litha: Pagan and Wiccan – Summer solstice.

June 24th Feast of the Sacred Heart: Roman Catholic – Celebrates Jesus’ physical heart as a representation of his love.

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