'The Laramie Project'

The Matthew Shepard Story

The Matthew Shepard Story

The story of Matthew Shepard
Location and Time:  Thursday 1st August 2012, the Metropolitan Arts Centre theatre; an intimate theatre of approximately 112 seats.

The play was ‘The Laramie Project’ which was written by Moses Kaufmann and members of the Tyectonic Theater Project, but our production was performed and orchestrated by the Dundonald Association of Music and Drama (DAMD) sponsored by the Police Service of N Ireland (PSNI) and The Rainbow Project.
The Laramie Project is a verbatim play about the reaction to the torture and murder of Matthew Shepard in 1998; The Angels during the rallyhe was a young gay man who was robbed, viciously beaten and left tied to a fence to die. Although he was soon found by the police and hospitalized, he soon expired.  Matthew was a student in Laramie, Wyoming and this play is based on a series of interviews conducted with Laramie residents in the aftermath of his murder.  Matthew’s murder focused attention on the lack of hate crime legislation in various states including Wyoming.
DAMD were formed in July 2009 by Melissa Smith.  DAMD’s artistic mission is to engage their community in theatre that makes you think or blink with tears).  ‘If we can inspire, nurture, challenge, amaze, educate or empower artists and audiences b y providing a quality performing arts experience then we retire happily with our bedtime cocoa.’

The stage setting consisted of eight chairs with a ‘goodies’ box beside each containing various individual props, and a stand for the presenter who guided us through the performance.
The performance was riveting, and it indeed did bring this audience member to tears as he remembered the harrowing news items from the time, and how utterly soul destroying the story was as it unfolded, including the trial.  The subsequent theatre production and also the movie release with of the Laramie Project and also the Matthew Shepard Story with Sam Waterston as the father of Matthew kept the story alive and in people minds, and continued to pile pressure on the USA legislature and government and local states.
DAMD’s performance was startling real, the accents were faultless ( at least to my ears), and the minimlist stage setting helped to focus attention on the dialogue, the speakers and the story.
The Laramie Project is often used as a method to teach about prejudice and tolerance in personal, social, and health education and citizenship in schools, and it has also been used in the UK as a General Certificate of Secondary Education text for English literature.  Having just been to an event during Belfast Pride about how our N Ireland Library Service for Schools is currently unable to provide the service needed for LGBT youth, and that a survey of LGBT books in school libraries only returned one item throughout Northern Ireland, it would seem that we need to put on more productions of this play, and especially try to get it seen within our school and college systems.


Further links:

  • [button_icon icon=”information” url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Laramie_Project” blank=”true”]The Laramie Project[/button_icon]
  • [button_icon icon=”information” url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Laramie_Project_%28film%29″ blank=”true”]The Laramie Project (film)[/button_icon]
  • [button_icon icon=”information” url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Matthew_Shepard_Story” blank=”true”]The Matthew Shepard Story[/button_icon]
  • [button_icon icon=”camera” url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UiKBv29xvS8″ blank=”true”]Youtube: The Matthew Shepard Story [/button_icon]
  • [button_icon icon=”camera” url=”Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1qiTmF0p4A” blank=”true”]The Laramie Project[/button_icon]
  • [button_icon icon=”information” url=”http://www.laramieproject.org/” blank=”true” colour=”green”]The Laramie Project Website & Charity[/button_icon]

Are Northern Ireland School Libraries failing our LGBT Youth?

Hmophobia is preventable in schoolOn a Wednesday evening during Belfast Pride I attended a Unison sponsored event ‘on whether our Northern Ireland School Libraries are failing our LGBT Youth?’

After a warm welcome by Fidelma Carolan, we were then given a wonderful presentation by Sally Bridge on the results of her research project undertaken whilst she was at university and completed in 2010.

The audience was actively involved, asking penetrating and supporting questions to expand and to add personal observations to what was already an exciting report.

The report highlighted the following areas of concern:

  • That the school library is seen as a safe haven, but librarians are not trained in providing this space and supporting it.
  • That 84% of schools either have no (52%) or don’t now (32%) if the school anti-bullying policies encompass homophobic bullying.
  • That 20% of libraries felt it was not appropriate to provide LGBT information in a school library; but of the 80% who were, 74% reported that they had no LGBT information in their library.
  • That the DENI circular on Relationships and Sexuality Education Policy in Schools has placed homosexuality in the middle of diseases and pornography, thus further seeming to stigmatized the LGBT community and its youth.
  • 76% of LGBT teenagers did not take part in any discussion about homosexuality whilst attending education.
  • School internal filtering software prevents access to positive LGBT information sites such as GlYNI, Rainbow etc; and as a consequence LGBT youth in education do not feel secure using school facilities in relation to their LGBT needs.

After the presentation the audience then moved into a more informal setting which enabled open discussion, and the exchanging of personal stories and observations.

The NI School LIbrary Service had very kindly organised for two librarians to be at the meeting, and they were in a position to answer some questions, and to expand on some of the findings.  The worrying factor is that it would seem that the School Library service is being run down, and that the role of the school librarian is disappearing with the service, where it will be run, being undertaken by untrained staff or overworked teachers – even dare I say school students who volunteer.

A full copy of the report can be viewed here:   [button_icon icon=”document-word” url=”https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=7&cad=rja&ved=0CFkQFjAG&url=http%3A%2F%2Fcadair.aber.ac.uk%2Fdspace%2Fbitstream%2F2160%2F5714%2F1%2FThesis.doc&ei=Lv3_Ub64EY2n0wWI0YHICQ&usg=AFQjCNF4JKGGrti_m3IOUCDxw9h9e6rR3Q&sig2=KpcSTaSLr12ATkUKm2hVpA&bvm=bv.50165853,d.d2k” blank=”true”]Are NI school libraries failing our LGB&T youth? [/button_icon]

At the end of the evening, it was agreed that a focus group/pressure group would be formed to monitor and to help schools and Government realise that LGBT youth need full support and protection in our schools, and that the school library is fundamental in the provision of this.

This presentation will also be provided during the Newry Pride – all will be welcome to the Unison sponsored presentation, and I hope you will attend.

Australian LGBT Refugees – Stop them sending them to Papua New Guinea

Australia has just guaranteed that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) refugees, who arrive by boat, will be sent to Papua New Guinea – where being gay could get you 14 years in jail.Australia is one of the few countries in the region that openly accepts LGBT people. It has always been a safe haven for refugees fleeing persecution. Now, only weeks out from an election, the government has thrown together this controversial policy in the hope of winning votes. Worse yet, the opposition party are proposing an even more extreme policy.

The policy has already begun to backfire, with Australians taking to the streets in protest and former Prime Ministers publicly denouncing the move. Local outrage has all parties contesting the election scrambling to respond.

Will you join the call for Australia to drop its dangerous new policy that denies hope and safety to those who they need it most?

In Papua New Guinea, it’s a crime to be gay. Because of that, any person seeking asylum there can automatically be turned away. Every LGBT person who arrives by boat will have little choice but to lie about who they are to avoid being sent home.

With their reputation under attack, Australia’s leaders could be pushed to stop violating the Geneva Conventions and protect the most vulnerable.

Sign this petition and tell Australia that you won’t stand for this:


The full policy states that all people arriving by boat to seek asylum will be relocated to Papua New Guinea where their refugee claims will be assessed, and only then allowed to settle in the community. Legal experts have already denounced the plan for breaching international law. It is singling out people on boats for taking the last resort available to them.

Hiding on a leaky boat, crossing some of the world’s most dangerous oceans, is the most difficult way to reach such an isolated country. No one would take such a risky boat journey if their very lives weren’t on the line.

Will you sign the petition against the Australian government’s plan to force people back into danger?


All Out’s first ever campaign successfully halted the deportation of Ugandan lesbian Brenda Namagadde from the UK back to her home country. Since then, we’ve become a powerful movement of over 1.7 million people fighting anti-gay laws around the world. Take a stand against Australia’s unfair targeting of asylum seekers – sign the petition:


Thanks for going All Out.

Andre, Hayley, Jeremy, Marie, Marie-Marguerite, Sara, and the rest of the All Out team.


UN refugee agency raises more concerns over Labor’s PNG solution – The Guardian,  26 July 2013

Rudd plan in tatters as camps labelled ‘gulags’ – Sydney Morning Herald, 25 July 2013

Coalition wants military led campaign against people smugglers – ABC, 25 July 2013 

How to break the people smugglers real business model – Inside Story, 25 July 2013

More than a legal issue, PNG plan challenges core principles – Sydney Morning Herald, 23 July 2013


Support All Out!
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All Out is bringing people together in every corner of the planet and of every identity – lesbian, gay, straight, bisexual, transgender and all that’s between and beyond – to build a world in which everyone can live freely and be embraced for who they are.

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What Does the Northern Ireland Assembly Know on Homosexuality?

A reflection of our times:


The City Hall in its coat of many colours

The City Hall in its coat of many colours


Stormont Northern Ireland

Stormont remains in its ‘vanilla’ coat

The following two motions were put forward to the Assembly in December 2012, both motions highlight just how the assembly still is failing the LGBT part of the community, because both motions have still be acted upon.


  • Lifting the Ban on Homosexual Men Donating Blood

That this Assembly notes that Northern Ireland is now the only region in the United Kingdom where homosexual men are banned from donating blood; further notes the findings of the report on Blood Donor Selection Criteria Review in April 2011; considers it to be unreasonable and intolerant to continue to turn away suitable donors; and calls on the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to lift the ban and to adopt the same safeguards as those that have been implemented across the rest of the United Kingdom.

[Mr J McCallister]
[Mr S Gardiner]


  • Bullying in Schools

That this Assembly acknowledges the negative impacts of bullying in schools; recognises the increase in cyber bullying and the endemic nature of homophobic bullying in schools in Northern Ireland; notes that bullying is linked to an increased risk of isolation, depression, self harm and suicidal ideation among young people; calls on the Minister of Education to acknowledge the particular issue of homophobic bullying; and further calls on the Minister to develop immediately a comprehensive and wide ranging anti-bullying action plan and to begin a programme of work, with schools, to make them safe and welcoming environments for all our young people.

[Mr S Rogers]
[Mrs D Kelly]
[04 September 2012]

Notes from the Northern Ireland Assembly

An article by Eamonn McCann ‘Stormon in Dark Ages over homosexuality’, published  in the Belfast Telegraph 18 July 2013,  would seem to give further evidence towards this in a small way, but what was more enlightening was the off-the-cuff comment by the young woman at the desk of the British Museum on being told that there was little represenation of the Celts or the Ulsters Scots in the British Museum’s sumptuous collection of gay artifacts from civilisations across the globe and down the ages – “Well, they’ve always been a bit odd over there, haven’t they?”

In July 2011, Dolores Kelly said ‘…members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community must “push” to make their voice heard.

“I think they need to push hard and hold to account their political representatives,” Ms Kelly said.

“Particularly the leader of the biggest party here in the north which is of course the DUP and I think they have to be challenged on all fronts.”

Politics in Northern Ireland is not just about religion, it is about bias and ignorance on many fronts,  The LGBT community needs to organise itself and to communicate with and pursue its local and national representatives into supporting the needs of our community.  (UTV Report)


Just after I wrote this piece, I was forwarded an notification on the

UN Human Rights Office Launches Unprecedented Global Campaign for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality

I am attaching a copy of the document for information and look forward to our community being actively involved in delivering ‘Equality for the LGBT Community’

UN Human Rights Office Launches Unprecedented Global Campaign for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality

human rights defenderUnited Nations HUman Rights - Office of the High Commissioner



An participant's report on Belfast Pride 2013

Belfast Telegraph - Picture of Belfast Pride 2013Last weekend Belfast LGBT pride march was very successful, and as a Gay man i was proud to march with a poster calling for the  ‘freedom of Bradley Manning’,  a Gay man jailed in the Untied States for exposing war crimes against humanity.

Belfast pride is now the biggest LGBT pride in Ireland , while this is a victory we must remember why we are marching .  Homophobia has died down but it is not yet fully dead and until it is dead we must march with pride and stand in solidarity with the LGBT movement to kill it.

Here in the North of Ireland Gay and Bi sexual men are refused the right to give blood and blood is a much need thing to save lives , yet Gay and Bisexual men can not give blood that would save peoples lives  –  this is being seen as outright Homophobia by Health Minster Edwin Poots., and illogical in the light of measures taken in other parts of the United Kingdom.

Both the Orange order and the Catholic church stand united in their opposition to LGBT marriage.  The right of LGBT Northern Irish Citizens to marriage is a right that Stormont has blocked.

Queer bashing is still something that many LGBT people in the North of Ireland encounter, and they suffer mental heath issues which results in them taking their own lives.

Many LGBT people in the North still have a fear about coming out.  In state schools many young LGBT students face homophobic bullying which the schools do not proactively handle.  Until and unless the school system in the North Of Ireland is separated from the church , this abomination of abuse of power by the church will continue to impact on LGBT youth.

The word GAY means Good as You and we are.  Some day we shall have our liberation and no more shall Gay people live in fear  We shall over come some day.


Seán óg Garland


Queers in Exile: the Unforgotten Legacies of LGBTQ Homeless Youth

LGBT Homeless Youth Documented In ‘Queers in Exile’ At The Leslie Lohman Museum (PHOTOS)

The Huffington Post  |  By  Posted: 07/16/2013 8:09 am EDT  |  Updated: 07/17/2013 10:01 am EDT

An exhibition entitled “Queers in Exile: the Unforgotten Legacies of LGBTQ Homeless Youth” will provide a historical narrative and abundance of images to the long-silenced tale of homeless queer youth.

lgbtq homeless youth

The exhibition, curated by Alexis Heller, will illuminate the untold street stories from 1969’s Stonewall riots to present day, revealing years of persecution, determination and hope. From pop master Andy Warhol to LGBTQ documentary photographer Samantha Box, the selected artists capture the all too invisible generations of survivors, creators and revolutionaries who call the streets their home.

The show takes its name from Sylvia Rivera’s essay “Queens in Exile, The Forgotten Ones,” which demands respect and change for LGBTQ communities. In the spirit of Rivera’s essay, the Leslie Lohman Museum explains how their exhibition does not just seek to revisit the past but change the present and what is to come.

“It is a view of history told by those who live/lived it within a community often silenced and ignored, but the vision goes beyond visibility. It is about collective memory and conscience, and repositioning queer homeless young people from ‘other’ to ‘our own’… It offers homeless youth a place by grounding them within an empowered history and lineage, honors their struggle, and reflects that they matter.”

“Queers in Exile” runs from July 18 – July 28, 2013 at the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York. See a preview of the exhibition in the slideshow below and let us know your thoughts in the comments.

HPV vaccination should be extended to gay men


Campaigners are hoping that the jab given to protect against cervical cancer will be widened to include gay men

It is estimated that of the 77,917 gay men who visited a sexual health clinic in 2010, 16,962 of those under 26 would have been eligible to have the jab if it were available. Photograph: Alamy

Human papilloma virus (HPV) is best known for causing most cases of cervical cancer. But Pavol Krascenic became infected as a result of having sex with his then boyfriend. Unfortunately for Krascenic, as a result of contracting HPV, he was diagnosed with a precursor to anal cancer, which is hard to treat. Despite four operations to curb its spread, he is in terrible pain much of the time. “The steroid cream I got from a London hospital made no difference and the painkillers I take every day are so strong they make me feel like I’m on another planet, like I’m drunk, and even then I still have the pain and often have to lie down to relieve it,” says the 31-year-old who was a chef in London until 2009 when his condition left him unable to work and seriously depressed.
The pre-cancerous growths in the anus also weaken a sufferer’s immune system and, for gay men, leaves them more likely to get infected with HIV. In 2008, Krascenic was diagnosed with that too, which made the growths more painful. “A lot of gay men don’t know about HPV or think that it only affects girls, but HPV is dangerous,” he says. “Gay men are often shocked and surprised when they find out it’s something that can affect them too.”
Krascenic is supporting a new campaign by doctors, sexual health experts, politicians and charities, including the Terrence Higgins Trust, for gay men to be offered a vaccination against HPV in the same way that 12- and 13-year-old girls already are in order to protect them against cervical cancer – research suggests the vaccination is effective for those under 26. “If I’d known there was a vaccination against HPV I would have paid for it myself, given what I know about the virus,” says Krascenic.
The possibility of gay men becoming eligible for the HPV vaccination may move closer on Wednesday when the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) – experts who advise the government on the use of vaccination to tackle any medical condition – discuss the issue. If they approve it, this would prevent gay men worried about HPV having to pay up to £450 to be immunised privately, which at the moment is their only option. Of the 77,917 gay men who visited a sexual health clinic in 2010, 16,962 of those under 26 would have been eligible to have the jab if it were available, sexual health experts estimate.
Lord Fowler, widely admired for his work as the Conservative government’s health secretary when Aids emerged in the 1980s, has written to Anne Milton, the public health minister, calling gay men’s exclusion from HPV jabs “clearly unequal and unfair”.
He wrote: “There is a clear inequity in the HPV vaccination programme offered to all 12- and 13-year-old girls. As the four strains of HPV vaccinated against are sexually transmitted, heterosexual males will eventually receive indirect protection against the related cancers and genital warts by a herd immunity effect. Men who have sex with men, meanwhile, receive no such protection, despite increasing rates of anal cancer in this group.”
The number of men in Britain diagnosed with anal cancer rose from 100 a year in 1975-77 to around 370 a year in 2007-2009. The number of deaths went from 20 to 120 a year over the same period, according to Cancer Research UK. HPV also causes penile, oral and throat cancers in gay men, with the virus again transmitted sexually. Extending HPV jabs to gay men would be cost-effective and save the NHS money, it is argued.
Peter Greenhouse, a gynaecologist specialising in sexual health and spokesman for the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH), says the UK should learn from Australia where there has been a huge drop in genital warts in both young women and young men since it began giving girls the HPV jab in 2007. Young gay men, though, have not seen the same benefit. “That has prompted some sexual health clinics to start offering them the injections so that their future sexual behaviour does not harm their health, in the same way that gay men in both Australia and the UK are already immunised against Hepatitis B,” he says.
The Australian government’s pharmaceutical benefits advisory committee last year advised ministers that boys as well as girls aged 12 and 13 should receive the vaccine, though the federal health minister has yet to concur. Similarly, in the US the federal advisory committee on immunisation practices (ACIP) has recommended that the jab be offered to 11- and 12-year-old boys and males aged 13 to 21 who were not vaccinated previously, as well as men aged 22 to 26 who are gay, bisexual or who have a compromised immune system. The US government has yet to respond.
In the UK, Krascenic is in no doubt about what the JCVI’s decision should be: “It’s unfair that the vaccine is only for girls and that gay men can’t get it. This is a public health problem, so the vaccination should be free on the NHS.” He adds: “I’m costing the government much more now, in healthcare costs and welfare benefits, because I’m ill and out of work. But if the vaccine had been available, I might have avoided this.”


Further reading:


  1. Wikipedia on HPV
  2. NHS Choices on HPV

Here for Business – Equality and Human Rights Commission

ehrc_logo3The Commission is working in partnership with businesses to help them to meet their obligations under equality law and understand how they can identify human rights risks.

Here you will find a series of interviews with businesses and short and snappy guidance that will help you to do better business.



‘The Equality Act: Guidance for Small Business’ explains how the 2010 Equality Act relates to their operations and what they need to do to ensure they stay within the law. It includes practical advice in managing important business challenges such as recruitment, promotion and what to do to ensure as many customers as possible can access their services.

‘A guide to business and human rights’ helps businesses identify and manage human rights issues which may arise in their business operations. These could include supplier considerations and the impact on their customers. For example, businesses might think about the right to privacy and the confidential information they hold online about customers and staff.

Start reading now via the links shown below:

  1. Guidance for Business
  2. Human Rights matter for business
  3. Working better
  4. Partnership working
  5. Tools and Resources



camdenlgbtforumCamden 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.



QUAC’s event was held in an architectural wonder – the Mary Seacole Centre – (the central (?) library in Peckham) 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




Camden and Islington LGBT Forum

S McGouran



(Out-take from Gay Star No. 4 Summer 1981)


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.


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.



More reading on ERNST ROEHM:

  1. Mein Kamp
  2. Wikipedia – Ernst Röhm
  3. Spartacus Educational – Ernst Rohm