Dealing With Difference – Sexuality

1992 PA talking to President Mary Robinson in IrishA statement by the late P A Mag Lochlainn which is published on the BBC website:

 

I am the president of the Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association, one of the main bodies dealing with the law and gay people in Northern Ireland. And we strongly suspect that because gay teenagers – gay / lesbian / bisexual teenagers – in Northern Ireland are more isolated than any other part of the United Kingdom, that we have probably got a higher suicide rate correspondingly. Lesbian or gay teenagers in Northern Ireland have no gay centre to go to, although recently one has opened in Derry for the North-West which is doing fantastic work. But Belfast has none. And secondly they have very, very few role models – there is only (out of all the teachers in Northern Ireland) there is only one teacher who is ‘out’. There is not a single ‘out’ doctor, lawyer, nurse or any…most other professions, and where is the teenager to find advice? Certainly not from the tabloids who peddle misinformation. And we have fairly good anecdotal and, we reckon, statistical evidence that teenagers are killing themselves because of this lack of information and this tremendous feeling of isolation.

 

LInk: 

Gay Adoption For Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has ruled that an adoption ban on gay couples is unlawful.

Presently a single gay or lesbian person can adopt children in Northern Ireland, but a couple in a civil partnership cannot.

Moves to allow gay couples to adopt had been on hold while the court heard an appeal from Stormont’s health minister, Edwin Poots.

Poots brought a legal challenge after a decision by Belfast High Court, which ruled the current adoption ban on gay and lesbian couples was unlawful.

NIHRC chief commissioner, Professor Michael O’Flaherty, said: “Through this case the commission has protected basic human rights and the best interests of the child.

“For children who are in need of a family in Northern Ireland, the importance of this case in widening the pool of prospective parents cannot be overstated.”

Prof O’Flaherty added that the appeal ruing meant “couples who are not married, those in civil partnerships and same sex couples will now be allowed to apply to be considered as adoptive parents”.

“The court has agreed with the commission that preventing someone from even being considered to adopt because of their relationship status is a discriminatory practice,” he said.

“This is fantastic news for lesbian and gay people and their families in Northern Ireland,” said Kieran Rose, chair of GLEN.

“In the Republic of Ireland the most significant inequality in our law for lesbian and gay headed families is the lack of legal protections, rights and status of children being parented by gay and lesbian couples.

“This carries significant negative consequences for these children who are excluded from the protections and security available to children in other families. This ruling will hopefully provide further momentum to ensure equal treatment for all lesbian and gay families on our island.”

In the Republic of Ireland single lesbian and gay people can apply to adopt but civil partners cannot apply as a couple. Lesbian and gay couples can and do foster children. There are many lesbian and gay families raising children in Ireland.

“Ireland has made huge progress in evolving towards full Constitutional equality for lesbian and gay couples,” said Rose.

“The Constitutional Convention overwhelmingly supported enacting laws to ensure equality of treatment in regard to parentage, guardianship and upbringing of children and the government is currently drafting legislation in this area. Addressing the inequality in our laws now needs to be prioritised.”

 

Gay Adoption Love Makes A Family same_sex_adoption

Clare Student Killed for being 'Gay'

Gay Community News has reported:

The jury at the murder trial of a student killed in Clare two years ago heard how the victim’s sexual orientation was a crucial reason for his murder.

During his closing speech in the trial of farmer Joe Heffernan, prosecutor Bernard Conlon SC told the Central Criminal Court that victim Eoin Ryan’s homosexuality was the apparent motive for his murder.

Heffernan, of Cappagh Beg, Ennis pleaded not guilty to murdering 21-year-old student Eoin Ryan and stuffing his body in a barrel on his farm, on June 7, 2011.

“He made a pass at me and I’m no queer. He’s the devil,” Heffernan reportedly told Gardaí when interviewed.

Patrick Gageby SC, defending, suggested that either a mental disorder or intoxication had caused his client to see the devil, and argued for a manslaughter verdict, reports The Independent.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy will charge the jury of seven women and five men on Monday.

 

 

Read article in full:

GCN

Belfast psychiatrist Miller to face cash dealings probe – Headline from 18 April 2013

The headline in the Belfast Telegraph reads :

‘Belfast psychiatrist Miller to face cash dealings Paul W Millerprobe behind closed doors’

however this is somewhat misleading, as on talking with the British Medical Council (BMC) I was informed by Mr Jason Day of the Press Office, that Dr Miller was currently under ongoing investigations, but that Interim Orders Panel IOP) had placed some restrictions on him, which can be seen on their website.

It is the case that IOP do hold their deliberations in camera, but this is normal and not just because of this case.

Dr Miller has reached the headlines because of his links with  ex-Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MP Iris Robinson; he acted as a former health adviser and is believed to hold controversal views on being able to cure gays!

 

The case is ongoing

 

(Link given here (Dr Paul Miller))

 

Further reading:

 

  1. Belfast Telegraph article 18 April 2013
  2. General Medical Council – Publication and Disclosure of Interim Orders and Warnings
  3. Slugger O’Toole Blog ‘Sanctioned ‘Gay Cure’ Psychiatrist on Board of Organisation Behind ‘Leper’ Conference’

GAYFEST 82

Three NIGRA persons went to the Gay Fest for a jaunt. Our first impression of the People’s Republic of South
Yorkshire was good – incredibly low bus fares. The second was dire, Sheffield (appears) to have the dourest population imaginable. The Gay Fest was held in the Polytechnic, a teacher training college with delusions of grandeur, its architecture based on the labyrinth principle. We had to walk to the opposite end of the campus to get to our billet, a very comfortable two-bed room. This is more than can be said for some of the other beds / rooms we slept in that weekend.

Apart from continually walking into closed meetings of CHE (the Campaign for Homosexual Equality) and into a wrangle between the SWPGG (Socialist Workers Party Gay Group) and a nice young man from the Spartacus League*. (The SL and SWP are among the 57 varieties of Trot groupeens), the young ‘Spart’ compared their ‘line’ on Ireland with that on Iran. The SWP gave undifferentiated support to the anti-Shah opposition, and look at what the Iranians got! In Ireland, Master Spartacus, said they supported anti-Gay and anti-women forces. This led to the epochal event of a member of the SWP admitting that his Party was small and not about to seize power just yet.

The next meeting I attended was a duo between the Liberal Gay Action Group (LibGAG) and the Gay Social Democrats (GSD). The Libs were very lordly and made rather injudiciously nostalgic remarks about the Lib-Lab pact pipe dream of the early ’70s (i. e. a governing alliance of Labour and the Liberals). The GSD took it in good part and asked sharp questions, like will the Liberals’ portmanteau Bill of Rights be feasible?

Others attended the Gay Youth Movement (GYM)’s AGM, where a snide article about them in the Gay Gazette (the Festival’s journal) was attacked and the author ‘Pandora’ asked to apologise and also admit his / her name. [It was Eric Presland / Peter Scott Presland – currently still playwriting and producing a history of CHE]. The youth groups GYM and the Joint Council for Gay Teenagers (JCGT) threaten to boycott next year’s Gay Fest.

Three of us attended the SHRG (Scottish Homosexual Rights Group)’s seminar on S / M (sado-masochism). It had a very good attendance neck and neck with the Labour Campaign for Gay Rights’ meeting which had the ‘bisexual’ MP for Bootle, Allan Roberts as guest speaker. [One of us ought to have gone – but ‘sex’ proved more of an attraction – upstart 2013]

The rest of Saturday was spent boozing and inflicting Gay Star on unsuspecting Brits. Thus we missed the Workshop on Sexism and an explanation of what was the Gay Community Organisation [GCO – CHE split itself into a ‘political / campaigning side – CHE, and a ‘social’ side the GCO. It was disastrous, GCO barely lasted out the year, and CHE was seriously weakened – upstart 2013]. We did get an ear-bashing about how wonderful Friday’s disco had been. It sounded great until we were told the Gay’s are only allowed in once a month!

We did see Eric Presland’s Teatrolley, or a Midsummer Night’s Scream, done by Consenting Adults in Public, in the open air. Drink, damp grass, and an aversion to cod-Shakespeare, somewhat cloud one’s judgement, but generally the parade of Gay ‘types’ was interesting: the two Liberationists offering tea and ideological purity – the clones, the leathermen (played by an actor of great beauty and courage… Anyone who would expose his bum to the inclemencies of an English Autumn, and an audience made up entirely of Gay women and men would have to be). There was also a policeman who turns almost human.

The evening ended on a deliberately sour note when Consenting Adults… handed out leaflets recounting the horrors while befell the Kasir family and their small business.

On Sunday morning after carefully avoiding the Act of Worship, and not being lucky enough to avoid the truly dreadful breakfast, we nipped into the Gay Rights at Work meeting, where we learned that Judith Williams is getting fed up with a dreary round of meeting – and general unpleasantness.

We then went off to the worst-attended, but in many ways the most interesting meeting of the weekend. The Revolutionary Gay men’s Caucus organised Political Activity and Social Life, which was basically a pretty punchy attack on the Gay Liberation movement. According to their outlook the radicals, the lobbyists / civil-righters and the Gay proprietors, were as one in seeing the oppression of Gays as a ‘technical matters of the distribution of resources’. Meanwhile, whole categories of people are excluded from the Gay ‘scene’ – women, the disabled, the elderly, Black Gays, and to an extent, the unemployed. The Gay Liberation Front had married revolutionary rhetoric to feeble reformist demands. Thus they had to defend sexual pluralism under any guise, e. g., pornography, S / M – one of the RGMC defended pædophilia, presumably on the grounds that it wasn’t exploitative.

The arguments of the Caucus were rather like traversing a superbly engineered bridge, which one suddenly realises does not quite reach to opposite shore. They offered no programme – ‘shopping lists of demands were useless without money or power’. And some of the building materials of the bridge were questionable. The ‘working class’ was referred to as if it were a solid entity. Questioning brought the admission that it was difficult to define the working class, and that it is wracked with deep contradictions anyway; racism, sexism and so forth.

Their attitude to ‘Ireland’ was, roughly: the Brits are in Ireland for imperialist reasons, therefore it was a brill idea to chuck ’em out. The people who said this did admit that they were not entirely happy about the results for Gay people.

An overall impression of the Festival: the price of set meals did tend to put a damper on socialising over meals, the restaurants and cafés on Eccleshall Road did a roaring trade. The youth groups and ILIS (International Lesbian Information Service) met in separate venues from the (‘adult’) male, or anyway, male-oriented groups. We only saw them striding purposely about from place to place.

The main corridor, from the bar to the gym-cum-disco area, was crowded with stalls hired by all sorts of Gay groups; revolutionaries, Tories (but no fascists – yet), humanists, Christians (but no Muslims or Hindus), weekend walkers, real ale freaks, pure-as-the-driven-snow bookshops, and bookshops selling porn. There were bisexuals and leather people, but no (overt) pædophiles, young people, and a considerable number of decidedly elderly people. People selling good papers, people selling bad papers, and people selling… um… Gay Star.

A Workshop deriving out of Saturday’s seminar on S / M was very interesting, and would have been more interesting if it had not been decided to split us into two groups. In a small room this caused both sessions to be incomprensible. People admitted to being nervous about some of the accoutrements of S / M sex, and admitted that their fascination with the outer manifestations of dominance was distressing to them. Admittedly, some others did not find such things in the least distressing.

Early in the session someone launched a shrill and rather over-heated attack on S / M, suggesting that people into S / M are also into ‘terminal sex’. The argument is self-evidently foolish. Not everybody is a Mistress / Master, and anyway the economics of sex intervenes. If you constantly bump people off, apart from the fact that it becomes rather noticeable even in the most closeted of scenes, you will find that people will no longer accept your invitations to light torture sessions. Possibly this person was trying to say, in the manner of Freudian psychoanalysis, that S / M is something else. Leather-sex people are ‘really’ repressed corpse-fuckers.

So far as we were concerned, the Festival ended roughly here. We went off to the Stars disco later in the evening. The organisers’ “five minute’s walk” proved to be wildly over-optimistic; it was more like half an hour. The disco (run by Mecca, inventors of ‘Miss World’) was pretty drab. It had a curious, limp, pre-liberation feel – there were lots of black’n’white pics of 1940s Hollywood ‘stars’. There were lots of Muir caps with Anglo-Saxon potato faces under them. The huge bar sold flat beer at inflated prices, and the dance floor was small.

The only Gay elements were the Muir caps and the poppers. The Gays are allowed into Stars once a fortnight.

Editorial report

* This was probably called the Spartacist League – a ‘Spartacus League’ was, or had been, the youth wing of the SWP (in its early IS / International Socialist guise). This may not be entirely accurate – but the niceties of British Trotskyist history are very complex. [upstart 2013].

This was the last Gay Fest – they had been run by CHE – presumably there was some debate about whether or not it was a ‘political’ or a ‘social’ event.

Fortunately CHE decided some year’s ago that the political and the social are no longer incompatible.

IN SEARCH OF THE BRITISH WORKING CLASS

Out-take from Labour & Trade Union Review No. 228 June 2012

The Morning Star, the publication of the mainstream Communist Party of Britain (a Scottish CP was set up in anticipation of self-government) organised a conference People’s Britain or Bankers’ Britain, in Bishopsgate Institute, on Saturday 31/03/12.  The first session / ‘Plenary’ consisted of speechifying by important people.  They didn’t say anything memorable.  The freshest voices were Megan Dobney (SERTUC – South East [England] Region Trade Union Committee) Secretary, and the baby-faced (and Gay, as it happens) Owen Jones, author of Chavs, the Demonisation of the Working Class.  It is debatable if there is a ‘British working class’.  Prime Ministers Thatcher and Major, Blair and Brown dissolved it in their period in office.

No major party wants to re-industrialise in UK.  ‘Working class’ may be history.  Blair seemed happy to create a US-like ‘underclass’ existing on ‘Welfare’ and descending into nihilistic apathy. Last summer’s [2011-upstart 2013] riots may be an indication that that part of his legacy is as toxic as his foreign policy.  Anita Halpin who presided, was brisk and interesting.  Her affiliation was the PPPS (People’s Press Publishing Society, ‘official’ publishers of MS) Management Committee.

This was followed by Workshops, which, as seems to be the case now, did not report-back to a ‘Plenary’ session.  Discussion of the various issues would have been interesting.  I happened across Civil disobedience: innovative action & safety, having inserted myself into an inappropriate Workshop, it was moderated by Daniel Garvin of UK UnCut.  As none of his audience had knowledge of non-violent civil disobedience, he did more than just ‘moderate’.  He was taken by a suggestion, (from NI ‘Civil Rights’ days) about hyper-‘civil obedience’.

Meaning gumming up the bureaucratic works by insisting that every rule and regulation be observed *.  He’d never encountered the notion.  ‘Safety’ in his billing referred to whether or not the police or security personnel at events would be inclined to violence.  The London Metropolitan Police can be, apparently, quite volatile.

The Second (and last) Plenary consisted of more speeches.  The two MPs, Michael Meacher and Kelvin Hopkins made essentially the same speech (this is not a complaint about them.  The organisers must have realised they’d say much the same thing).  Kelvin Hopkins said that the EU was always anti-Socialist in concept.  (It was a Christian Democratic project.  Kelvin Hopkins may be of the opinion that Christian Democrats are ‘right wing’.  The label was generously distributed by British politicians – who appeared not to notice that the CDs created welfare and health services – just as good, if not better that the UK’s.  That the EU is now in the grip of ‘Anglo-Saxon’ economic liberalism is partly the fault of the Labour Left’s national chauvinism.  Germany’s Christian Democrats seem to have rediscovered their faith in themselves, and may put the City of London in its box.

Augusto Praça of Portugal’s CGT spoke.  He may have said something interesting.  But he had trouble with the microphone and had a very strong accent.  Bob Crowe made a fine, fighting speech and said his wee group would be fighting the local elections – (George Galloway’s victory in Bradford haunted the meeting.  Galloway, who writes a monthly MS column, sent a message of solidarity.  He was busy celebrating his victory with an old-fashioned rally in a local (Bradford) public park).

A ‘whip round’ for MS produced £4,000 (well-paid ‘union leaders’ present?).  There was an implication we might not be allowed out…).  A ‘Socialist choir’ gave us the International and The Red Flag (printed on a classy handout, possibly a subtle advert for the PPPS).  The choir, Straw-berry Thieves, consists of eight women and one man.  ‘Socialist choir’ used to mean scores of Welsh miners Strawberry Thieves (title unexplained) was excellent.  Thompsons Solicitors provided (good quality) vino, the ‘photo exhibition’ remained mostly on the floor.  Ian Townson (QuAC – a Queer Against the Cuts, formerly Lancaster GLF (Gay Liberation Front, Brixton Faeries etc.)) also attended.  He said it was just a prolonged ‘plug’ for the Morning Star.  But it had, effectively, been billed as such.

 

Seán McGouran

 

* PA Mag Lochlainn (President of the NI Gay Rights Association 1991 – 2012) in 1968 was part of the NI Civil Rights Association group in Omagh (Co. Tyrone).  They realised that the Ministry of Agriculture was obliged to examine every single animal being raised by the farmers of Ulster.  So, helpfully, they took to driving local farmers’ cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and various poultry up the stairs to the Ministry’s local office  (They were always on the first floor for some reason).  The effect on the Ministry’s carpet-cleaning bills can only be guessed-at.

 

BACK IN THE U. S. S. R.

[Edited] out-take from upstart Vol 3, No. 1., March ’91

 

(Whether this demonstrated arrogance or naivety – or is just journalism of interest to our readership (all three of them) – in a sub-provincial publication is up to the reader…)

Over the years from Gorbachev’s taking office in the USSR the official policy of glasnost or ‘openness’ has led to a situation where Gay people have come out in a quite unprecedented way.  Even in the 1920s and ’30s Gay people were fairly cautious about proclaiming their sexuality in the Soviet Republic.

Today the situation is different, there are open groups in Leningrad [(now St. Petersburg – though the authorities hedged their bets by allowing the surrounding area, (it’s the size of Ireland), to remain ‘Leningrad’).  The citizens of ‘St Petersburg’ want it to return to the name Leningrad.  A demonstration by elders in the early 1990s, objecting to the name change, carried banners pointing out that they had defended ‘Leningrad’ during one of world-history’s greatest sieges.  Citizens of Tsaritsyn, (formerly the drearily named ‘Volgograd’), have taken much the same line – they fought, starved and died defending ‘Stalingrad’. – upstart 2013].  Moscow has a Gay magazine called Tema.  There was conference on homosexuality in Tallin, Estonia during summer 1990.  There are probably other manifestations of “out” behaviour of which we are not aware.

Tema’s editor Roman Kalinin who is also the founder of the Moscow Gay and Lesbian Union, and ten other people were summoned to a police barracks on December 17.  They were accused of engaging in anal sex, which means a five year sentence in a prison camp.  They were also accused of using — gasp — drugs.

The dear old RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary [now PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) – upstart 2013]) used this excuse to arrest Gay people in 1977.  The police-crater’s mind is a wonderful thing to behold.  These charges have been dropped because Kalinin demanded to know how the police were going to prove them.  Roman Kalinin was interviewed in a big circulation magazine about AIDS and HIV, apparently an “unbelievable” number of letters came in after this.  Ordinary Soviet citizens are very worried about The Plague.  Kalinin is now homeless because his landlord found out he was Gay and an activist – no doubt the KGB noised the latter fact abroad.

In Leningrad things are somewhat worse.  Olga Zhuk founded the Tchaikovsky Foundation for Cultural Initiatives and Defence of Sexual Minorities.  Named after the composer, it thereby, in itself, exposes some myth making by the Russian Soviet Establishment.  The Foundation and Olga have been harassed over the past few months, the KGB have now arrested Olga.

She has been arrested under Article 121.1 of the criminal law Code.  This Article deals only with sexual acts between men.

Olga Zhuk was also accused of “gathering groups of criminals”.  This harass-ment and arrest were the result of a meeting with the City Council, which refused to recognise the Foundation.

 

Murder

A Muscovite activist, Alexander Lukeshev, editor of the independent journal New Life, has been murdered.  Possibly the KGB, but the racist group Pamyat, one of whose intellectuals Valentin Rasputin was seen on C4’s The Media Show last month (February 1991 – upstart 2013) describing Gays as “less that vermin”, would seem to be likely candidates too.  Anyone who has been a guest of Her Majesty, or of The Nation must realise that keeping contacts with the outside world is very important.  Isolated prisoners can be harassed and even killed in large prisons.  So far as Gay women and men are concerned the USSR is a giant prison.  That society appears to be falling apart means that isolated communities like the Gay community, which is only just emerging, are in danger of their liberties and even their lives.

[There followed a number of names and addresses of Soviet nomenclatura, which is no longer relevant.  No doubt most of them found cosy billets in the States – all 16 of them – that seceded from the Union, the largest one being the Russian Federation.  The Federation is the same territory as the RSFSR (the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic).  ‘Federation’ due to the fact that a number of ‘ethnic’ Republics operate within the state.  Some are more ‘independent’ than others, the (uniquely in the USSR) Buddhist Komi Republic, embraced capitalism with eye watering vigour, while Tataristan has not [yet] given up on Soviet values.  Tataristan (the erstwhile Tatar Autonomous Soviet Republic) is Muslim in culture.  Its most famous son is [was – upstart 2013] Rudolf (his Mammy was a fan of Valentino) Nurey[ev].  He was a great ballet performer, whether he was as unambiguously a boon to ballet in ‘the West’, despite excitable (non-dance) journalists’ scribblings, is a matter for debate.

This is not to say that he wasn’t a great performer, who excited audiences – even ones anæsthetised by the effect of television, in telly’s ‘goldfish bowl’ days.]

 

 

 

 

 

HISTORICAL GAY CAMDEN…

Camden LGBT Forum issued early in the year an A5 booklet Camden & Islington LGBT History Month 2013.  Which was just as well as History Month is, effectively a Camden phenomenon. There was an event in deepest Clapham, south London run by QuAC (Queers Against the Cuts) though the date might have been just happenstantial).  And not much elsewhere in what might vaguely be called inner London, though there were events in Croydon and other places.

 

Room 106… Room T 102… [?]

‘My’ first event was in SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies), LGBTQ and Religion / Faith.  It was held in Room 106. The organisers, (“… [s]peakers from the Christian and Muslim communities, as well as SOAS lecturer and writer, Ben Murtagh”) did not turn up!)).  A ‘Room T 102’, on the same floor as the room we were on, is mentioned at the back of the booklet in connection with this discussion.  Most of us probably spent the evening wondering if we should be in another Room (even building; UL, and SOAS itself are enormous) we got on with it anyway.  There was one Irish, one Polish and one Italian Catholic, all male, in my case ‘collapsed’, two Jewish persons, one transgender, a ‘lapsed Anglican’, (a young heterosexual man who is doing a MA on religion and sexuality), and ‘Lee’ / ‘Leigh’ who’s background was Pentecostal.  There were two largely quiet young women of Anglo-Caribbean (and Pentecostal) origin.

In the nature of things very few conclusions were come to, we simply discussed our inherited faiths and our environments.  Catholic Irish don’t take a denunciatory attitude to Gay people, they never have; sex, sexuality, and orientation simply were not discussed.  ‘Sex education’ was handled very awkwardly, if at all.  (Currently sex education in the Republic is quite open, and – ‘liberal’ is the word, – probably due to a number of female, Fianna Fáil, Education ministers, Máire Geogeghan Quinn and Mary Burke.  LGBT matters are dealt with, though as ever, the B and T tend to be neglected).  The Pole and the Italian said that homosexuality was not discussed, except in terms of total rejection.  The M-to-F Trans woman was of quite rigidly Orthodox background, and said her own feeling was that anything other than heterosex was frowned upon. Sex variant people were simply perverts – end of story.   Or get lost – you were no longer of the Faith – or the family.  She had had a long and problematical journey out of this mind-set.

A problem with religion in our political context is that all the parties have similar policies.  They’ll do as little as possible to put them into effect, and we can always expect half a dozen Tory closets to do something stupid.  (The fact that there is – in context – a major homophobic party in Northern Ireland is more useful than not.  It means than nearly everyone else feels the need to be pro-LGBT, or at least, consider the matter.  The current leader of the UUP has attended Belfast LGBT Pride for a number of years now.  As have all the other (non-‘Paisleyite’) parties).

The churches can treat LGBT members any way they feel.

Vincent Nichol, immediately on becoming Archbishop of Westminster and RC Primate of England unilaterally closed down the Soho-based LGBT Apostolate and masses for LGBT people.  Quite what this has to do with Christian charity it is difficult to fathom.  And may create a problem of authority.  They’ll probably continue in disguised form.

So far as the ‘Room 106’ discussion was concerned, it is a pity nobody turned up with a notion of how to lead such.   (Michael Brown took the chair at – basically, -my request, but obviously could only facilitate the conversation; not lead it).  We, inevitably, gave our ‘testimonies’ and left, we didn’t even swap e-mail addresses.  Which was a bit of a lost opportunity.  I managed not to get to other events, partly because some were at awkward times, an interesting talk on Magnus Hirschfeld, The Scientific-Humanitarian Committee and the First Wave of the Queer Movement in Germany 1897 – 1933, was held in Islington Town Hall at six in the evening.  The time and venue were not problematical for me.  I didn’t remember the event until about 6.15 p. m. on the actual day.

I didn’t, but probably I ought to, have gone to Jonathan Kemp’s readings from his books in Islington Museum.  I felt it was somewhat redundant, and I should just read and review the books in the standard fashion.

 

QuACers

QUAC’s event was held in an architectural wonder – the ?? Centre – it is spheroid.  The rooms and study pods do have corners.  I inserted myself into a corner furthest from the door – nearest the wine – but ought not to have.  I had a very heavy cold and a braying cough, as did a woman near the door.  We both had to leave the room and share Fisherperson’s Friends as the rest of the audience simply could not hear the speaker from Syriza.  I asked him if he could send upstart a version of his talk.  He said that he only had notes, but would try to do something

S McGouran

 

 

 

ERNST ROEHM – STREET FIGHTIN' MAN

Out-take from Gay Star No. 4 Summer 1981

STAR GAYS NO. 4

 

By Peter Brooke

At the end of the First World War, there was a widespread passionately held belief in Germany that the soldiers at the Front had been ‘stabbed in the back’ by politicians at home.  When the General Staff realised that defeat was inevitable, they arranged for the transfer of power to the German Parliament (whose powers had previously been very limited).  They argued that the Parliament (‘Reichstag’) could make a better peace with the victorious allies than they could themselves, since the allies would be more sympathetic to a fledgling democracy in Germany than they would to the old Prussian military oligarchy.  At the same time, the allies would have an interest in negotiating a reasonable peace, sine the German army was till intact and able to mount substantial and costly opposition to any possibility of an invasion.

No sooner had power been transferred, however, than the army, its morale shattered began to break up, while large scale rioting broke out at home.  The new government tried at first to appease the rioting by getting rid of the monarchy and expressing revolutionary sentiments. Later they suppressed it viciously, using the ‘Freikorps’ – groups of soldiers who had informally banded together in opposition to the revolutionary movement.

But in t he meantime, Germany had suffered a military and political collapse which eventually resulted in the humiliating terms of the Treaty of Versailles.  It was in this period that the ‘German Workers Party’ (later National Socialist Germany Workers Party) was founded, in Munich, capital of Conservative and Catholic Bavaria, in 1919.

Ernst Roehm was one of the first members of the Nazi Party, and a highly influential one, owing to his position as Chief of Staff of the Reichwehr (German Army) in Bavaria.  Together with is commandant, Franz von Epp, he had been active in the Freikorps immediately after the war.  He illustrates the ambivalence that existed between the army, the local government in Bavaria, and the extreme right.  The Munich putsch of November 1923 was originally projected as a march on Berlin (in imitation of Mussolini’s march on Rome) headed by the Bavarian government. Roehm was closely involved in the negotiations to bring this about.  In the event, of course – though only at the last moment – the negotiations proved abortive and Hitler spent a year on Landsberg gaol, where he wrote Mein Kampf.

Paramilitary Strength

During that year, the movement split in a bewildering number of directions, but the main disputes were those between, on the one hand, a socialist wing in North Germany  (mainly led by the brothers Gregor and Otto Strasser, and by Goebbels) and the right wing in Bavaria.  And, on the other hand, those who wanted to pursue a parliamentary road, and those who wanted to build up the movement’s paramilitary strength.  Roehm was very much in favour of paramilitary activity and, after the failure of the putsch, had formed the ‘Frontbann’ – a private army independent of party discipline.

While in prison, Hitler kept aloof from these disputes, ensuring that all sides maintained their personal loyalty to him, but in 1925, after his release, he concentrated on building a unified party command to which all paramilitary activity would be subordinate.

With the defeat of his views on the need for an independent paramilitary force, Roehm left Germany and went to Bolivia as a Lieutenant Colonel on the General Staff of the Bolivian army.  He came back in 1928 and had an autobiography – The Story of a Traitor – published by the Nazi Party’s publishing house in the same year. Early in 1931, Hitler appointed him as Chief of Staff of the SA.

Stormtroopers

The SA (Sturmabteilung – stormtroopers, or ‘Brownshirts’) had been established in 192, dissolved after the putsch, and revived again after Hitler’s release from Landsberg in 1925.  Their leader since then had been Franz von Pfeffer who, however, fell out with Hitler in 1930, by which time a rival had emerged in the shape of the SS (Schutzstaffeln – protective squads).  This had been led, since January 1929, by Heinrich Himmler, who had originally been introduced to the Nazi Party by Roehm.

When Roehm was appointed, he was known as an early ‘hero’ of the Nazi movement, a close friend of Hitler’s (despite their differences on opinion) and also as a confidante of the Reichswehr leaders, notably the powerful General Schleicher.   Nonetheless, it was still, apparently an odd choice.  Hitler’s argument with Pfeffer had turned on the autonomy of the SA from the political structure of the Nazi party.  Roehm had in the past had much more extreme views on the need for such autonomy than ever Pfeffer had (and he delayed agreeing to take the job for nearly a year because of this issue.)

As an older NSDAP member than Hitler he was less likely to be absorbed in the Hitler-myth that almost any other Nazi leader. He had been out of the country when Hitler was most vigorously establishing his supreme control over the movement.  His main contribution to the Munich putsch had been to secure promises of help, which, in the event, were broken.  And he had not played a prominent part in the movement since his return from Bolivia.

In addition to which, of course, e was gay, and made few attempts to conceal the fact.

Genteel Young Ladies

Roehm’s homosexuality had made him enemies from the start – principally Rudolf Hess, Martin Bormann and Walter Buch (head of Uschla – the Nazi’s internal secret police).  But in February 1932, Hitler dismissed these attacks, saying:  ” …the SA is a body of men formed for a specific political purpose.  It is not an institute for the moral education of genteel young ladies, but a formation of seasoned fighters.”  The following month saw the publication of letters from Roehm complaining of the difficulty of obtaining boys in Bolivia. This led to an attempt from within the SA to assassinate him.  While he tried to prevent publication, he made no attempt to deny that he had written the letters.

Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in January 1933, and set about wiping out all the opposition parties to establish a one party sate.  The SA and the SS had become by the middle of the year organs of the state.  The SA which, since Roehm took command, had increased from around 60,000 members to around two and a half million, even had its own prisons.  The only non-Nazi power centre left by 1934 was the (very heavily infiltrated) army.  The army was willing to be incorporated into the Nazi system (it adopted the eagle and swastika as its insignia in May 1934) but Roehm argued that it should be subjected to SA command and remoulded ideologically.

Throughout 1933, in fact, the SA, while given plenty of opportunities to brutalise opposition groups, was chafing under the political control which prevented it from overrunning the society completely.  In February 1933, Roehm proposed that the army shod be subjected to the SA and was denounced by Hitler, who pointed out that an army would be more effective in a European war than a uniformed mob.  Roehm denounced this his friends as a ‘new Versailles treaty’ and, over dinner with Himmler, accused the SS of supporting reaction.  In April he complained  ” … the Party isn’t a political force anymore; it’s turning into an old age home”.  At another meal with Himmler in that month, Himmler denounced his homosexuality; Roehm burst into tears but the next night he held an especially large and noisy gay party at the SA headquarters).

Anarchic Force

By June 1934, a clear alliance had formed against Roehm consisting of Hess, Bormann, Himmler and Goering (Goebbels until the last moment was attempting to promote reconciliation).  They could argue that the state was well on its way to becoming a monolithically Nazi state, yet the SA was an anarchic force operating independently of it.  The SA, on the other hand, took the view that it was itself the Nazi revolution, so the state should be subjected to it.  It was reluctant to become just another component part of the state under the direction of the political wing of the movement (which it had traditionally regarded – always excepting Hitler himself – with contempt).

In June 1934, Hitler, who had, in typical manner, delayed choosing between the two perspectives for as long as possible, threw in his lot with the anti-Roehm group and resolved the issue once and for all with a dramatic purge of the SA leadership.  This also entailed a speedy resolution of his previously ambivalent attitude to homosexuality.  On the day of the purge, he ordered Roehm’s successor as Chief of Staff of the SA, Victor Lutze (who had been proposed by Himmler, to enforce Paragraph 175 of the German legal code (the German anti-gay law).

Hitler On Homosexuality

That he had been thinking along these lines previously is suggested by a conversation he had with Rudolf Diels, the first commandant of the Gestapo (which had been established in Berlin by Goering partly as a counterbalance to the SA) in January 1934.  Paradoxically, Hitler’s argument against homosexuality may also a tribute to the high personal regard he undoubtedly had for Roehm:

“He [Hitlerl lectured me on the role of homosexuality in history and politics.  It had destroyed ancient Greece, he said.  Once rife, it extended its contagious effects like an ineluctable law of nature to the best and most manly of characters, solely eliminating for the reproductive process those very men on whose offspring a nation depended.”

Roehm would certainly have appeared to Hitler to be one of the ‘best and most manly characters’ and his aggressively masculine homosexuality had already been extensively theorised upon in German in a manner that would have been unthinkable in Britain.  (E. g. in Hans Bluher’s The German Wandervogel Movement as an Erotic Phenomenon and in Benedict Friedlander’s group – a breakaway from Magnus Hirschfled’s Scientific-Humanitarian Committee – the Community of the Special).

According to Hans Peter Bleul (in his Sex and Society in Nazi Germany), Hitler was also worried about the possibility of an Order of the Third Sex – a gay freemasonry organising in secret for its own purposes.   This notion may well have been encouraged by Roehm’s tendency to pick gay men for the leadership of the SA (though Karl Ernst, the SA leader in Berlin, who is represented in [the play, then film] Bent as gay, had a reputation for seducing high society heiresses).

Male Comradeship

I am unable at this point to reconstruct Roehm’s own politics.  He was of course fundamentally opposed to parliamentary democracy and had been a Royalist before becoming a Nazi.  Like many Nazis he was nostalgic for the war and the male comradeship of the army.  Tight army discipline, by relieving the individual of much of the responsibility for decision making, can allow for a high degree of individual anarchy, and this seems to have been how Roehm envisioned the Nazi state.

He was not particularly anti-Semitic and argued against the emphasis on anti-Semitism after the take-over of power (though, of course, the SA was the main vehicle for Nazi anti-Semitic activity prior to the war).  Despite his love for the army, he was not particularly interested in territorial expansion.  He doesn’t seem to have held any particular economic theories (though Hjalmar Schacht, the economist who fashioned the Nazi welfare state was one of his proteges).  In contrast to the elitist SS, the SA was designed to be a mass movement and, though opposed to parliamentary democracy, he probably had some vague notion that power should come from below.

He could perhaps be summed up as an anarchist, who was opposed to all moral conventions but who accepted that, without moral conventions, the strong will triumph over the weak and who was therefore determined to be one of the strong.  We may also suggest that he was encouraged in this point of view by his feelings as a gay man watching thousands of young men reduced to utter poverty and purposelessness in the early 1920s.  In a Germany that had been deliberately economically crippled in the aftermath of an (in his view) undeserved defeat.

NOT A GAME OF TWO HALVES

In April 2011 the manager of Glasgow Celtic football Club (Neil Lennon) and three other officers were sent letter bombs.  This led to hand-wringing articles in the press.  To the effect that one urban tribe (Celtic) was as bad the other (Glasgow Rangers FC (Football Club)).  The next time team-members, officers or supporters of Rangers get letter bombs or bullets in the post, will be the first time.  Neil Lennon has a growing collection of the latter.  He resigned from Northern Ireland’s ‘national’ squad, because when he scored a goal he was the object of abuse, including death threats, from a bloc of ‘fans’.

There was, (prior to the letter bombs), a controversy in (the Communist Party of Britain’s daily) Morning Star about Celtic and Rangers.  Writers dismissed the idea of actual differences between the teams: the ‘Old Firm’.  They’re both commercial enterprises.  Martin O’Neill, a former manager, distanced the enterprise from ‘Rebel’ songs.  An MS letter-writer said Belfast Celtic wound itself up in 1948.  But not why.  A Celtic player was shot dead in mid-match.  The killer was never found.  The next time a Rangers player is shot dead, or a ‘teen in Glasgow gets his throat slashed for wearing a ‘blues’ strip, will be the first time.

Some commentating on the latest incivilities claim both sides sing sectarian songs.  Since when have ‘Rebel’ songs been sectarian?  Do Celtic fans censor their repertoire to avoid mentioning Wolfe Tone and the rest?  It would be disingenuous not to acknowledge that much of this is engaged in because it winds up the opposition.  The ‘on the one hand; on the other hand’ balance is disingenuous.  There is an imbalance in the behaviour of the ‘ultras’ following the teams.  MS‘s correspondents did not note some relevant matters.  The National Front and the UDA (Ulster Defence Association) did a roaring trade outside Rangers ground, selling journals and collecting money.  Rangers’ management claims this has declined due to their efforts.  It is probably due to Unionism in Scotland being in (probably terminal) decline.

This article is not a denunciation of the ‘blues’.  Rangers’ fans were horrified by the letter bombs.  Northern Ireland supporters were disgusted at Lennon’s treatment.  It’s not healthy to argue with those barracking him, they constitute a solid bloc in stadiums, or when beating-up those less Loyal than themselves.

There has been a follow-up to the bombs and bullets, partly pro forma declarations of indignation and distaste by Scotland’s Establishment.  Meanwhile Neil Lennon received another bullet in the post, and was physically assaulted in the course of a match by a Hearts (Heart of Midlothian) fan.  Hearts is Edinburgh’s equivalent of Rangers, Hibernian being the Celtic-equivalent.  Edinburgh disdains Glaswegian crudity, but the sectarian beast is clearly dozing, not dead.

James MacMillan, a composer, in the 1998 Edinburgh Festival lecture, said sectarianism was Scotland’s dirty little secret.  The [Labour & Trade Union] Review’s response (I wrote it) was ‘on the one hand; on the other hand’ hand wringing.  But this sequence of events is eye opening.  The London media is detached about these matters.  It’s been implied that Neil Lennon attracted his bullets, letter bombs (some put ‘bomb’ in quotes — the police described them as ‘viable’) and assaults, whether on the grounds of being red haired, “Northern Irish”, or manager of Glasgow Celtic, it’s difficult to assess.

Some bloggers (who don’t denounce Glasgow Celtic in grossly sectarian and racist terms) accuse its fans of supporting ‘terrorists’, meaning the IRA.  It is ‘whataboutery’ – but – (some) Rangers fans support the UDA and UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) and not just by cash in collection tins.  The UK government (to which they are, allegedly, ‘Loyal’) negotiated with the IRA, which put away its guns well before the Loyalist UDA / UFF or UVF did.

If the recipients of these bombs had been Jewish or even African or Afro-Caribbean people would have been the objects of sympathy, ‘think pieces’, and possibly even some action, (unless they happened to be Muslims).  Why is the official response to these acts of aggression so sluggish?  Is sectarianism systemic to Scottish (even British) society?  Retaliatory violence may happen unless the Establishment from Parliament (Westminster as well as Holyrood) down indicates that sectarianism is history.

 

Sean McGouran