ON THIS QUEER DAY – MAY 2023

THIS COLLUMN AND CALENDAR CAUSES SERIOUS ALLERGIES IN HOMOPHOBES & TRANSPHOBES

ON THIS QUEER DAY – MAY 2023

Written by Adriaan van den Berg

 

Intro: The GALA Archive and Proposed LGBTQI History Archive and Library at UFS 

In the whole of South Africa, there is only one institution dedicated to collecting, recording, preserving and presenting the history, our past, of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people. One. That is the GALA Archives at the University of the Witwatersrand in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. Too few people know just what we’ve got there. It is my view that almost every LGBTQIA+ person should take note and visit the GALA Archive’s website at least once, or try make a pilgrimage and go there if they can – because it is the only place dedicated to marking our existence, to recording our lives, our lifestyles, our experiences, who we are, who our LGBTQIA+ predecessors were and the way they were.

   There sure are many of us who are out and proud, who are to be seen, we and signs of us are to be seen all over. And things like our positions with their titles might remain, our property, our handiwork and whatever legacy we might have succeeded in creating too, but we won’t. And we can’t expect any institution to take note of each of us personally, but how about an institution which is dedicated to a reminder that there were people like us? So, there is one and I think it’s amazing that there is, one reminding others yet to come there were people like us, and since they also have a record and collections on our past, we should visit their webpage and social media or the archive itself and see about those like us who came before us – you’ll be amazed at what’s there.

   Correspondence, even love letters, photographs, journals and diaries, reports and other documents and books and films are what the GALA Archive has – all testifying of the presence of LGBTQIA+ people in South Africa, testifying that there are and also were South Africans who were LGBTQIA+ before us, who lived all sorts of lives, some having made extraordinary contributions to others and society, many whose lives were a glorious celebration of having been LGBTQIA+. And then there are the accounts of those who had suffered for it too. That too is the function of a LGBTQIA+ history archive: to remind us of our often-tragic past as a people.   

   One such tragic episode in South African LGBTQIA+ history was also the biggest medical atrocity since those of the Nazis during the Second World War. Yes, perpetrated right here in South Africa during the 1970s when a racist homophobe obsessed with homosexuality tortured and mutilated hundreds of gay men in the former South African Defense Force, under the pretense of practicing psychiatry and using gender assignment surgery to “cure” or “solve” their homosexuality. All the victims of his torture had suffered, but the ones he had operated on to perform gender reassignment suffered a particular fate: The man responsible for it all never finished their gender reassignment surgery and they were released from the military, simply abandoned in civil society without hormonal or any kind of support of their new but already incomplete new genders. The man behind it all was Doctor Aubrey Levine. South Africans, surprisingly, are not widely acquainted with Levine’s human rights violations and the victims therefore also don’t enjoy the recognition and care they ought to. But, I believe, if I’m right, that the GALA Archive took notice of his victims, that the Archive was in contact with some of the abused former conscripts and gave them support and recognised their plight.

   When Aubrey Levine left the military, my university, the University of the Free State, gave him a job, it appointed him as head of psychiatry! The university has never made a statement about Levine, it has never looked into Levine’s work during his tenure at UFS and we know he apparently still treated conscripts while at UFS. He had access to students and he had access to psychiatric patients. And today we know he is also a serial abuser – he has recently been released from prison in Canada after he had molested and mistreated scores of his patients after again having been given work as a psychiatrist over there. Levine never appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Committee in South Africa and he was never prosecuted, though the perversity of his crimes should disqualify him from all indemnity and he should stand trial and be made to pay – Slobodan Milosevic died of old age in prison for his crimes against humanity, why should Aubrey Levine not?

   Today, some of us are trying to bring a proposal to the University of the Free Sate requesting the founding of a LGBTQIA+ history archive at the UFS. The GALA Archive is our inspiration and model and so is the work of American lesbian LGBTQIA+ activist, academic and educator, historian and founder of UCLA’s LGBTQ Center’s library, Doctor Ronni Sanlo (see the documentary film about her life and efforts and the price she paid Letter to Anita). Ours is going to be a long shot in a world where LGBTQIA+ people are afforded certain basic forms of institutional consideration but anything more is difficult to ensure and obtain. 

The UFS’s LGBTQ archive and Library proposal has yet to be formally presented to the UFS, but we’re going to do so. How the new progressive administration at UFS will take it, if it will allow and support the first institution on the UFS campus to have the words “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex” in its name, we’ll have to see. If turned down, we hope to and may try to ask the university merely for premises and permission to found the LGBTQI History Archive ourselves. It will be a challenging struggle to get funding and support, but we’ll look at what GALA and Doctor Sanlo did, and try to do much the same.

   Finally, again, I urge you once more to take a look at the GALA Archive, they also have books and items you can purchase and you might even have material or documents you might want to donate to them which represents the lives and experiences of LGBTQI people in RSA. Please, visit them online and do also tell others about the GALA Archive. And as ever, I’m also going to ask you to also tell them about Exit.

 

The LGBTQI History Calendar for May2023

May 1stLet’s start the month with something lamentable as well as also with something worth celebrating on this first day of May: First, regrettably, Samoa in the Pacific Ocean’s Sodomy Crimes Act went into effect on this day in 2013. The law is a legacy inherited from New Zealand during the colonial period (Uganda which last month shocked the world with its severe newest anti-LGBTQI legislation also inherited anti-sodomy and anti-homosexuality laws from its colonial dispensation).

   I looked and homosexuality still is outlawed in Samoa, though not lesbianism. Samoa is an unfortunate case since Samoan society is generally mild and tolerant. There is a sizeable third gender community called the “fa’afafine” who are traditionally recognised and who are customary part of society and Samoan culture. Samoan lesbians and the fa’afafine who aren’t discriminated against by Samoan law say that their integration into society is being hampered and stilted by the anti-homosexual laws.

   And to make today a joyous occasion: On this day in 1984, Advocate Men magazine debuted in the USA. We remember and salute the founding and appearance of LGBTQI publications anywhere in the world in this calendar and Advocate is truly a worthy one to take note of and to toast at breakfast with your orange juice (yes, a dumb pun) or maybe later with something more appropriate and heady – Advocate is, after all, still with us and enjoys a reputation of being a stalwart gay magazine with excellent features including serious articles on sexual and gender politics as well as LGBTQIA+ lifestyle content and contributions by well-known columnists and it has been a model for other LGBTQIA+ magazines across the world.             

May 2ndYesterday we saluted the debut of Advocate Men’s magazine, and today it is the turn of another of the USA’s most famous LGBTQI magazines: Washington’s Metro Weekly – we salute you too! It first appeared on this day in 1994 – in other words, it was founded almost exactly ten years to the day after Advocate Men.

May 3rdAya Kamikawa (born  January 25th, 1968) became the first openly transgender official in Japan. However, Japan has a transgender tradition dating back to the Edo period and the Kabuki theatre where males performed female roles which reflected gender inequality in Japanese society at the time.

May 4thShould atrocities be forgotten or the victims be deemed less important and less qualified to continue being memorialised and to be remembered by us if it dates back hundreds of years, say more than five hundred years ago? NO! No matter how remote the events may seem and how difficult it may be to identify with the victims, we remember our LGBTQI dead and martyrs, the victims of hate. And especially not if the institution responsible is still around and some of its doctrines which led to atrocities in the distant past still remain present and the same. So, we remember the victims of homophobic violence and pogroms at the time when Girolamo Savonarola, a Dominican friar, gave the Ascension Day sermon on this day in 1497 in which he preached the suppression of sodomy and the burning of “sodomites.” Savonarola himself was burned and hanged.                  

May 5thOn this day in 2016, Patricio “El Cacahuate” Manuel, a transgender male boxer from Southern California, became the first pro boxer to fight as a man after having fought as a woman. He used to be the acclaimed and decorated amateur female boxer Patricia Manuel  who fought at the U.S. women’s Olympic Trials boxing in 2012 though she was sidelined by an injury. His transition began in 2013 and he has surgery in 2014.   

May 6thYoung Nazis attacked and destroyed the famous Institute for Sex Research which had been found by Magnus Hirschfeld (14 May 1868 – 14 May 1935) in Berlin on this day in 1933. And on this day in 1959 the first documented LGBT uprising occurred in the USA when a group of drag queens and hustlers fought the police in a downtown donut shop in Los Angeles in what would become known as the Cooper’s Donut riot. 

May 7th On this day, we thus remember fifteen-year-old Giovanni de Giovanni who was castrated and killed for having sex with other men, one of the youngest victims of a campaign waged against sodomy waged in 14th-century Florence.    

May 8thLithuania’s Gay Pride parade took place on this day in 2010 amid threats of violence by anti-gay protestors (sound familiar?). The LGBTQI community turned out in force and the Nazis and religious groups which had threatened the parade simply failed to appear. Be armed and prepared to fight them should they pitch up, I say. 

May 9thArgentina approved its Gender Identity Law on this day in 2012 which allowed and enabled transgender people to register by their chosen names and gender identities. Argentina, like Brazil, has a significant transgender community.  

May 10thOn the 6th of May, our entry reported the destruction of the Institute for Sex Research by young Nazis on that day of the year 1993… Today, four days later on this day and date that same year of 1933, Nazi supporters also hauled out the Institute’s books and burned it in the streets of Berlin as part of book burnings throughout Germany and especially at universities. “Un-German” books and supposed pro-Semitic propaganda and allegedly corrupt and inferior Jewish literature were burned en-masse by rabid crowds of students who in Berlin were addressed and further incited by propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.   

May 11th – In 2003 on the 11th of May, African American New jersey high school sophomore Sakia Gunn (May 26, 1987 – May 11, 2003) and her friends were attacked by two men in downtown Newark in the USA after the men had propositioned the women who were waiting for a bus and the women had turned them down by saying they were lesbians. Gunn fought the two men and was stabbed in the chest. Her friends flagged a car down and she was taken to hospital where she died. The LGBTQI community was outraged and in conjunction with GLAAD petitioned the mayor’s office for a LGBTQI center, patrols of the area where Gunn and her friends were attacked, the appointment of a LGBTQI advisory council to the mayor and that the school board of Westside High which Gunn had attended, be held accountable for a lack of concern and compassion with students immediately following the murder. The Newark Pride Alliance was also found in the wake of the murder.  

May 12thSome entries for this month celebrate the first appearance in published form of LGBTQI magazines and newspapers, but we should not forget than many LGBTQI publications experienced staunch opposition from authorities and conservative factions who harassed publication and staff, raided their offices and printshops, confiscated copies and proofs or destroyed it and at times arrested editors, journalists and other staff as well as distributors or anyone associated with the publication and brought charges which in some cases had led to outright banning of publications. For instance, on this day in 1982 in Canada, police again raided The Body Politic, the country’s leading fay and lesbian newspaper allegedly on the basis that they were publishing obscene material. The magazine unfortunately stopped being published in 1987. Exit itself was published with a constant sword hanging over its head during the 1980s… and it wasn’t a matter of pushing the limit with obscene material, but rather of the cops, the censors and the powers that be disliking the paper and one day reaching a point where they could just have decided upon any suitable reason to ban and squash the newspaper. Knowing it could come at any moment must have been harrowing for all involved with Exit. Surviving such pressure today counts as part of Exit’s credibility and pedigree.                   

May 13thI have been a bit scrappy and negligent with celebrating authors in my entries for this calendar, but today is the birthday of Amistead Maupin (b. May 13th, 1944), the author of the well-known Tales of the City series of novels for which he has earned the epithet of the “Charles Dickens of San Francisco.” Maupin writes about people in that city during the 1970s and 1980s and gives a unique portrait of the city’s social history during that period.           

May 14thThe founder of the Institute for Sex Research mentioned in the entries for the 6th and the 10th, Magnus Hirschfeld (b. 14 May 1868 – d. 14 May 1935), on this day of April 1897, founded the first ever gay rights organisation, the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee in Berlin, Germany. On this same day in April 1919, he founded his Institute later destroyed by the Nazis.   

May 15thOn this day in 1996, the Epis, copal Church court ruled that there was no chore doctrine against ordaining a gay man as a deacon (below a priest). And in 2010 on this day, Greenland’s first Pride Parade took place. 

May 16thSame-sex activities are legalized in the Bahamas on this 16th day of April 1991 and the First Gay Pride Parade took place on this day in 2005.  

May 17thIn 1995 on this day in April, the first Lavender Graduation took place at the University of Michigan. It is a ceremony conducted on a number of US campuses which honors the graduation and the efforts and contributions of LGBTQI students at their universities. The ceremonies are especially valuable at universities and institutions of higher learning where LGBTQI graduates have had bad experiences with homophobia and discrimination (whether by authorities or fellow students) and it not only highlights these experiences of LGBTQI students, but aims to give them a joyous, proud graduation after their student careers had in many cases been marked by unfortunate incidents and experiences. The Lavender Graduation ceremonies were designed by Doctor Ronni Sanlo, the veteran lesbian LGBTQI activist, academic and educator mentioned in the introductory column after she was denied opportunity to attend the graduation of her biological children because of her sexual orientation. (As also mentioned in the introductory column, you can learn about Doctor Sanlo’s life through the film Letter to Anita).      

May 18thLet’s pay tribute to a great LGBTQI activist from the past today, let’s remember Eve Adams since Johnathan Ned Katz’ (b. 1938) book The Daring Life and Dangerous Times of Eve Adams was released on this day in 2021. Eve Adams was born to a Jewish family in Poland and emigrated to the USA in 1912. There she befriended anarchists, sold radical publications and ran lesbian- and gay-friendly speakeasies in Chicago and New York. Born Chawa Zloczewer, she changed her name to Eve Adams. In 1925 she published a book titled Lesbian Love with portraits of a number of lesbian women. It sure was a dangerous time and she attracted the attention of a young J. Edgard Hoover, the FBI’s top boss who secretly was a crossdresser, and the FBI watched her and then arrested her. She had immigration officials, the New York police and an informer all pitched against her in a court case and she was convicted of publishing obscene literature and for attempting to have sex with a policewoman sent to entrap her. The Daring Life and Dangerous Times of Eve Adams is the first biography of Eve Adams and the author, Johnathan Ned Katz’s publisher also reprinted the long-lost text of Adam’s singular and exceptional text, Lesbian Love.

May 19thOn this day in 2011, Rachel Isaacs became the first LGBTQI person to be ordained in the Jewish Conservative movement. She was the rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel in Waterville, Maine in the USA. And in 2009 on this day, the series Glee premiered on US television featuring LGBTQI characters.

May 20thI have called for LGBTQI self-defense after threats were made against the Pride Africa march and event last year, I called for LGBTQI people to arm themselves and to learn how to protect themselves and how to fight. I have my critics and opponents, but I’d like to see the tables turned on those disrupting our public events and Pride marches as it happened on this day in 2012 in Ukraine’s capital Kiev. More than 500 Neo-Nazi nationalists attacked the country’s first Pride march and injured some people while the cops stood by and looked on. South African LGBTQI people still have to learn that it is a bad idea to leave our safety and security and protection up to the police alone.                       

May 21stCason Crane (b. 1992) became the first openly gay man to summit Mt. Everest on this day in April 2013. He also became the first gay mountaineer to scale the Seven Summits in that same year. Mountaineering is favorite pastime and passion for a number of LGBTQI people – are we naturally predisposed towards being excellent mountaineers and climbers?                     

May 22ndToday, like every 22nd of April, is the memorial Harvey Milk Day in America memorialising San Francisco city councilor and gay activist Harvey Milk in America. Milk who was gunned day by fellow city employee Dan White in 1978. The film Milk starring Sean Pen as Harvey Milk raised awareness of Harvey’s extraordinary life and California Arnold Schwarzenegger was petitioned to declare this commemorative day.     

May 23rdIn 1791, in France, a new system of law was introduced which made rape the only punishable sex crime excluding sodomy – it made France the first country to decriminalize sex between men.

May 24thAmerican news services reported on this day in 1974 that Russian film director Sergei Paradzhanov (b. January 9, 1924, d. July 20, 1990) had been sentenced to six years of hard labor for the crimes of “partial homosexuality” and “incitement to suicide.” He had been jailed already once before in 1948 for homosexual acts with another man and was released under an amnesty after three months. An estimated 1000 persons were arrested each year on homosexuality-related charges in the USSR at the time.              

May 25th15 000 people attended the first “Gay Day” at Disneyland in Southern California on this day in April 1978. It was one of the first times such numbers of LGBTQI people congregated other than in pride marches.                 

May 26thIn 2019 on this day of May, imprisonment of 5 to 14  years for homosexuality was imposed by the government of Kenya. It is part of a wave of anti-LGBTQI feelings and legislation and action sweeping through Africa. Part of it was the recent severe penalties also imposed in Uganda where identifying yourself as gay or lesbian and so much as speaking of LGBTQIA+ issues are banned and punishable with severe penalties. 

   In this day of May 2023, regarding the entry just rendered for today about Kenyan and Ugandan law, I have to rally our troops, dear readers and point the following out to you: In her books on LGBTQIA+ history, This Day in LGBTQ History by Doctor Ronni Sanlo (available through her Ronni Sanlo website), Doctor Sanlo remarks on the lamentable fact that most of Africa is marked by such draconian anti-LGBTQ laws and that only South Africa has full LGBTQ inclusion. What are we doing about it? What are South African LGBTQI people doing for their brothers, sisters and siblings elsewhere in Africa who are now living in an intolerant hell? I believe we require missionary zeal, an absolute dedication towards doing as much as possible to advocate and propagate and fight for LGBTQI rights in Africa. Even if you just make the effort to send an email to the Ugandan embassy protesting their anti-LGBTQI laws and persecution of our people, or an email to the South African Department of Foreign Affairs asking that our country impose economic and trade sanctions against Uganda and all other countries in Africa with anti-LGBTQ laws and if not, that the South African government relays its and the South African people’s displeasure with those countries and their laws. Anything, but you have to do something! LGBTQI people have to realise they are in a global ongoing struggle and fight, in their own countries even if there are enlightened pro-LGBTQI laws, in Africa and everywhere else. Sorry, being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex don’t and can’t just mean enjoying a certain sexual preference and being of a certain gender you were born or which suits you alone, it has always meant being in an ongoing conflict to ensure your safety and security, your rights as such and for who you are, to convince others that you have inherent rights and that people like you and me are worthy of respect. Despite the glamour and the pleasure and leisure under the rainbow, we are at war.

May 27thThe Lambda Book Report made its debut on this day in 1987 as the first periodical devoted exclusively to lesbian and gay literature. I discovered the book titled Lambda Rising published by Lambda Rising Incorporated.

May 28thI spoke of the intended proposal for a LGBTQI history archive and library at the University of the Free Sate in the introductory column. If we deliver the proposal to UFS and get turned down, we will ask for permission to found it ourselves. Someone we can ask for help and perhaps for funding is David Bohnett, who is one smart and sharp and inspiring openly gay man who has blazed a trail through the cyberworld: He developed GeoCities, PlanetOut and NetZero. On this day in 1999, Yahoo! Bought GeoCities for $375 billion from Bohnett. And Bohnett has donated computers and funds for college and university LGBTQ centers. UCLA, where Doctor Ronni Sanlo founded a LGBTQI library, was the first campus to launch a David Bohnett Cyber Center. (Gay men in the computer and online world like David Bohnett are the “sons of Alan Turing,” the gay man who founded computer science and began development of computers, was punished with chemical castration for being gay and committed suicide. His memory lives on).

May 29thToday’s entry is dedicated to understanding LGBTQI history: June 28, 1969 – The Stonewall riots are generally considered to be the starting point of not only the modern gay liberation movement in the USA, but of that movement internationally seeing it also inspired gay activists and people to resist discrimination and victimization elsewhere in the world too. Over the following years and decades, later generations of LGBTQI people elsewhere in the world also heard what the LGBTQI people who were responsible for the Stonewall riots had done, and it became an inspiration for them too. But the Stonewall riots were preceded by a number of protests and pickets in the USA which set a precedent showing LGBTQI people were willing to assert themselves, would take action to make themselves heard and would resist discrimination and efforts to deprive them of their rights, or that they would not take kindly to abuse, as the riots would prove. Those pickets and protests occurred at the White House, the Civil Service Commission, the State Department and The Pentagon. And the action was taken under the collective name of the East Coast Homophile Organization or ECHO and comprised Philadelphia’s Janus Society, the Mattachine Societies of New York and Washington and the New York chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis. The White House picket occurred on this day in May 1985.

May 30thAnita Bryant is a deplorable American homophobe who had done gay rights a lot of harm. The only thing worse than her, is someone who praised her. And sure as hell, on this day in 1977, columnist for Newsweek George Will praised her efforts in Florida. Willy also made some future predictions: he said if things continue as they are, then homosexuals marriages will soon be legal and proliferate and homosexuals will become eligible for adopting children too! Well, Willy was right about that, but he stinks for making his predictions a warning saying it will be “part of the moral disarmament of society.” I thought morals are principled beliefs ensuring the good for all people, not that they are weapons or arms to be used against people as Willy suggests – getting hard there, hey, Willy. And what a bad Willy you were for standing up for Anita.   

May 31stToday is the birthday of beloved American poet Walt Whitman (d. Match 26, 1892) and author of Leaves of Grass, whose poetry spoke of a love for men (almost thirty years before the term “homosexual” was used).

   And that was the month of May 2023. I hope you found something inspiring from our history, but above all, let it make you proud!

Interfaith Calendar for May 2023

May 1st The Sacred Boar Hunt: Antinoan – Religion of the Queer God Antinous

Beltane: Wiccan/Neo Pagan

May 2nd Twelfth Day of Ridvan: Baha’i

May 3rd Saints Phillip and James: Christian – Feast days of the saints                      

May 4th National Day of Prayer – USA: Interfaith                     

May 24th Declaration of the Bab: Baha’i                     

May 27th Visakha Puja: Buddhism – Buddha Day                     

May 29th Ascension of Baha’u’llah – Baha’i                

Note to those looking for modern transgender deities: The academic and polytheist paganist Doctor P. Sufenas Virius Lupus and others have invoked the birth of new transgender deities. If you want to know more you can Google the deities by their collective name, they are known as the “Tetrad++” and you can find more information and material and his writing if you Google “P. Sufenas Virius Lupus” and his “Red Lotus Library.”   

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On This Queer Day – the Introductory Column, the LGBTQI History Calendar and Interfaith Calendar and it’s Introductory Column for this month – was written and compiled by Adriaan van den Berg. You can contact him with queries, corrections, criticism and suggestions at He is a very gay man and flies the rainbow flag with skull and crossbones.  

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