Saturday, 31 July 2010

Bisexual Snails

There is a widespread myth out there that homoeroticism is somehow "against nature" because "animals don't do it".  The argument is deeply flawed on numerous counts:  Are we to model our behaviour on the animal kingdom? If so, why was the church for so long opposed to the male -behind heterosexual sexual position as ("animal like"), insisting instead on the completely unnatural missionary position? Why argue  that animals "Don't" do it", and simultaneously that it should be avoided because animals (the hare, the weasel, the hyena) DO "do it"?
The whole idea of "against nature" is a key part of the Christian church's development of opposition to same sex relationships, but is full of weaknesses in logic as well as empirically verifiable evidence.
I am in the midst of preparing a lengthy post demonstrating how flawed the argument is. In the meantime, by serendipity I have come across the following story in New Scientist magazine, on the omnisexual appetite of the rough snail. Remember, that logically a single counterexample is enough to demolish an argument such as "all animals avoid same sex activity." This counterexample eliminates that claim at a stroke. Other counterexamples, which I will present shortly, will demonstrate the more modest claim that exclusive heterosexuality is somehow "normal". What is abnormal, in the global context, is exclusive, compulsory heterosexuality .
Males track females by following their mucus trails, and will attempt to mate with pretty much any snail they encounter, regardless of whether it is the correct sex or even the same species. They mate with males just as often as they do with females – though they do give up such copulations sooner.

Argentina: The Weddings Begin

The first gay weddings under Argentina's new family equality law have begun. (These are not the first gay marriages- a handful of couples were able to sneak in by earlier court challenges and sympathetic magistrates, but these at the first to be arranged routinely under national marriage laws.  As you see, this was neither a traditional white wedding, nor a quiet affair in the registry office - there were too many reporters and photographers for that description. The couple are an actor and his agent - they will be used to the press, and won’t object to the publicity.
CNN reports:
Buenos Aires, Argentina (CNN) -- Two men who have been together for 34 years have become the first couple to obtain a same-sex marriage since it became legal in Argentina on July 15. Artistic representative Alejandro Vanelli and actor Ernesto Larrese were married in a civil ceremony Friday morning in Buenos Aires, Argentina's capital. They wore dark suits and striped blue ties and were surrounded by well-wishers and a throng of reporters, photographers and videographers. Larrese spoke to his partner -- but also to the nation at large. "To all those who are afraid ... those who are homophobic ... I tell them, don't worry; this doesn't affect you," Larrese said. "You have nothing to fear. Fear is the opposite of love. Any phobia can be cured with love. There is nothing love cannot cure.
However, the BBC says a different couple got in first, just an hour earlier, in a northern town.  Who cares? There will be many, many more.
An architect and a retired office administrator have become the first gay couple to marry in Argentina under a new law legalising same-sex marriages. Miguel Angel Calefato, 65, and Jose Luis Navarro, 54, have lived together for 27 years. Argentina is the first Latin American country to legalise same-sex marriage. The law was passed after a long and often bitter campaign and it still faces opposition, most notably from the Roman Catholic Church. After the early-morning ceremony in the northern town of Frias, Mr Calefato and Mr Navarro promised to hold a big party to thank all who had supported the passage of the law.
The couple have been together for 27 years

Thursday, 29 July 2010

"Lesbians Make Better Parents" - Research Finding

Yet again, there is new research, this time tracking children of lesbian parents from birth to adolescence, which shows clearly that children of lesbian parents do not just as well as other children in their development patterns, but in some respects, do even better. The researchers expected their results to demonstrate again that children of lesbian parents would do as well as other kids on measures of development and social behaviour, and so they did. What they had not anticipated, was that these children would do even better on some specific measures. They scored higher than kids in straight families on some psychological measures of self-esteem and confidence, did better academically and were less likely to have behavioral problems, such as rule-breaking and aggression.
"We simply expected to find no difference in psychological adjustment between adolescents reared in lesbian families and the normative sample of age-matched controls," says Gartrell. "I was surprised to find that on some measures we found higher levels of [psychological] competency and lower levels of behavioral problems. It wasn't something I anticipated."
This was emphatically not because their lives were in any way easier than others: over 40% of them had experienced teasing or other difficulties from their peers on account of their family backgrounds, and in the early years they expressed higher than normal levels of stress. As they grew older, however, they learned to overcome this, and by later adolescence, their stress levels were pretty standard for the age group.
This is based on a new analysis, published today in Pediatrics, of data from the the U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS), begun in 1986. This looked at families with two moms who had deliberately chosen to raise families by artificial insemination. The families were interviewed at discreet intervals over a twenty year period, giving an insight into how well the children were developing across a range of social and physical development indicators, and compared with  national norms. 

-(Read more at Time)

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Same-Sex Parents, Furred and Feathered.

There have been an increasing number of research studies which show that as parents,  same sex couples are at least as good as opposite sex- couples. As a gay father and grandfather myself, I don’t really need to be told this by modern research: I first learnt of the evidence decades ago, from a family friend who was then a child welfare social worker, and is today a top authority on the subject. I also have the best of all possible authority, the experience of my own family. My daughter is very clear on the subject: she is on record as saying “Gay Parents? I recommend them”. She has told me that when she says a young child with two dads, her immediate response is - “Lucky child”. Still, it’s good to see the evidence getting a more public hearing. and reaching the mainstream.

I was interested though, to find that in this, as in so many other areas, of human sexuality, the same pattern is found in many species of animals and birds.

Two Dads, with Kids
Homosexuality in animals has been known since ancient times, but still fails to penetrate the public consciousness. Nevertheless, researchers are now starting to publicize the abundant evidence for same sex coupling, pair bonding, and parenting. (And contrary to the protestations of Focus on the Family, NOM, et al, these do not always go together, not in humans, not in animals.) The nature and variety of the forms that animal parenting can take is breathtaking, with all the variations found in human society, and more (some of the animal practices would land humans in jail. “Nature” is not all sweet and lovable).

How do same sex couples find their next generation? In many of the same ways humans do, but excluding the turkey baster and in vitro fertilization. Quite often, they were in the same position I was – offspring resulted from an earlier, opposite-sex partnership. For females, Laysan's Albatross and many other birds may use sperm donors, finding an obliging male to copulate with, for the sole purpose of fertilizing their eggs. Male couples may find surrogate mothers: Black Swan male couples may hook up with a female in a menage a trois – then boot her out after the eggs have been laid. Adoption is also common: many species have same sex couples that take on orphaned or lost youngsters. Some couples are rather more cavalier though, and simply kidnap their youngsters – quite literally, in this case. (Don’t try this if you’re human, though.) Just as in human society, some youngsters biological parents who either can’t or won’t raise them themselves – and they may dump them on same sex couples to raise, in nest parasitism.

Are they good parents? Quite often, not only as good, but better. There are many reasons for this. In birds, quite often it is not true that children “need” a mom and a pop. Many species (such as Warthogs, Red foxes and Sage Grouse) are raised by just one parent. When they get two parents, even of the same sex, that is immediately a bonus – they get double the parenting right off. Often, they get better, more spacious homes. Some female bird couples (Greater Rheas, Canada Geese) build what amount to double nests to hold two clutches – but where only one clutch has been fertilized, bingo: a double size home for a standard size family. Some male couples get bigger nests because only the male does the nest-building. Two males = two builders, and again, a bigger home. Other male couples get not so much a bigger home, as a bigger lot. Black Swans use their superior combined size and strength as two males to grab bigger or better territories – and thus better feeding grounds. Mammal youngsters sometimes get better feeding, simply by having to moms to nurse them: some females will suckle their partners’ young - grizzly bear mamma pairs may both nurse and protect each other's young. Then there are the family variations not usually seen in humans. If two parents are better than one, how about three, or even four? Grizzly bears are often raised by female pairs – and sometimes by female trio (The familiar term "gay bears" takes on a whole new meaning).

When sexual activity between males, or between females has been professionally observed, it has too frequently been dismissed or explained away as “deviant”, or the result of “accident”, or even as “immoral” behaviour (as in “A Note on an Apparent Lowering of Moral Standards in Lepidoptera”, the title of a published scientific paper. I kid you not.) In many parts of modern Western culture, there has arisen a deeply held assumption, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, that the only "natural" form of sexuality and family is "one man, one woman". Even when faced with evidence to the contrary,from the animal world or from human anthropology and history, these people dismiss such evidence as "freakish", or unnatural. In their own observations, their hetero normative assumptions distort the evidence. When one animal is observed mounting another, it is simply assumed that the one on top is male, the other female. And so the myth is perpetuated that only opposite sex mounting occurs.

The plain truth is that in nature, sexual diversity is the norm. (It may well be that what is truly “unnatural” is exclusive heterosexuality . Fortunately, several writers over the last decade have begun to expose the way in which these biases have been distorting scientific research and its dissemination. We will be hearing a lot more about animal same sex relationships and parenting in future - which will help to counter the lies and ignorance propagated by the sexual morality brigade.

Also See:
Previous Posts at "Queering the Church"


Books:

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Modern (Un)famous Gay Men

At Queer Sighted, Andrew Belonsky has a list of 10 (un) famous "gays you should known" - but probably don't.

The odd one in the list is Peter Tchaikovsky - neither unknown, nor exactly perceived as hetero.

Still, the others are worth a look. They are:


Herbert Huncke, 1915-1996: New York vagabond, friend of the literary "beat" generation.

Claude McKay, 1889-1948:Described as the "dark horse of the Harlem Renaissance"

Ethyl Eichelberger, 1945- 1990: New York drag artist.

Patrick Angus, 1953-1992: New York painter

Roger Casement, 1864-1916: Irish diplomat and nationalist, executed by the British for "treason" - and so remembered by the Irish as a patriot.

Mangus Enckell, 1870-1925: Artist

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, 1840-1893:

Pierre Seel, 1923-2005: French survivor of the Nazi Gay Holocaust

F. Holland Day, 1864-1933: Pioneer photographer of male nudes

The Global Growth of Marriage Equality

I wish I had thought of doing it this way! I have often reported on the global growth in gay marriage, and looked for ways to present it in a simple graphic. Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight has found the simple key - convert the jurisdictions, whether countries, provinces or cities, to the populations living under them, and treat all of Europe as a single entity.

This is the colourful chart that resulted:

 

That's 250 million people who now live in locations where legal recognition for gay marriage has been agreed. (More are on the way. Finland this week was just the latest to declare an intention to change the law.) Please note the rather prominent band of yellow - South Africa. I have only two quibbles with this. Nate refers to the "slow" growth to equality. But going from roughly one million at the start of 2007 to two and a half million now, I would describe as rapid. I would also stress that this applies to full marriage only: it would be interesting to see a similar chart which included civil unions.

Queer Bonobos: Sex As Conflict Resolution

In trying to understand "natural" sexuality, a look at the world of the bonobo is intriguing. Often loosely described as "chimps", bonobos are in fact a quite distinct species, closely allied to both chimps and to humans, and may in fact be the closest of all primates to humans in evolutionary development. In addition to physiological and genetic similarities, they also show some features of sexual behaviour that are unusual in animals - but familiar to humans. For example, females remain sexually receptive for far longer than other species. Instead of being physically ready for sex for just a few days in her cycle, the female bonobo is almost continuously sexually attractive and willing for sex. Intercourse is more frequent than in other primates, although the reproduction rate is similar: there is a partial separation between sex and reproduction. Mating is more often face to face, like humans, than in other animals, where the dog-like position is almost universal. Both males and females become sexually aroused remarkably easily. Oh, and there's a great deal of same sex activity. Frans De Waal, on whose research I base my notes,  says that the most typical sexual pattern is genital rubbing between females:
One female facing another clings with arms and legs to a partner that, standing on both hands and feet, lifts her off the ground. The two females then rub their genital swellings laterally together, emitting grins and squeals that probably reflect orgasmic experiences.
Males also engage in genital contact, including "penis- fencing", and rubbing the scrotum of one against the buttocks of another.
De Waal first became interested in bonobo behaviour not for its sexual component, but as part of a study into primate aggression. In continuous observations of bonobos in a zoo, he found that a standard feature of the behaviour was sexual arousal and intercourse immediately before feeding. As soon as a caretaker approached with food, the males would develop erections, and the animals would invite each other for sex. (This is not just an aberration of captivity. Other researchers have observed the same association between food and sex in the wild: after a group had entered trees with ripe fruit, or after they had killed a young prey animal, there would be a flurry of sexual contacts before settling down to eat.)
De Waal later found that it is not just food that leads to sexual arousal, but anything that gets the interest of more than one animal at a time - in other words, anything that could lead to competition. In the zoo environment, when two bonobos share an interest in a cardboard box thrown into the enclosure, they briefly mount each other before playing with the box.
In some aggressive contexts related to conflicts between animals, there will often be genital contact to follow. Where one male drives another away from a female, the two males may later reunite for some mutual genital rubbing. Or if one female strikes a juvenile, its mother may lunge at the other female - but as with the males, this brief conflict will be followed by the two rubbing their genitals together.
De Waal thus concludes that sexual behaviour among bonobos is a mechanism to reduce conflict:
During reconciliations, bonobos use the same sexual repertoire as they do during feeding time. Based on an analysis of many such incidents, my study yielded the first solid evidence for sexual behavior as a mechanism to overcome aggression. Not that this function is absent in other animals--or in humans, for that matter--but the art of sexual reconciliation may well have reached its evolutionary peak in the bonobo. For these animals, sexual behavior is indistinguishable from social behaviour.
Sexual relationships are also used in a more positive way, to forge social bonds, particularly between the females. As with many animal species, bonobos live in clan groups. In their case, the males remain for life in their birth clans, so they will know all the other individuals. It is the female bonobos who leave, and start a new life as adults in a new clan, where they are strangers. They routinely approach one or two senior females, and attempt to establish a sexual relationship. If this is reciprocated, the association becomes permanent, with the older females acting as guardians to the younger. Later, as the newcomers themselves become established seniors within the clan, they may likewise accept sexual approaches from new female arrivals, and take on their guardianship.
Here we can point out that this use of sexual relationships to promote social bonding and avoid conflict has clear parallels in human society.  At the domestic level, the "kiss and make-up scenario" is well known, in which a quarrel between partners may be followed by particularly intense love-making. At a grander level, for many centuries of European history, formal marriage was usual only for the wealthy classes, to protect property and inheritance rights. At the highest social levels, dynastic marriages were frequently arranged to ensure political alliances between royal houses - and to reduce the risk of war. Elsewhere, other societies have used homosexual relationships between men in the same dynastic way, to promote cordial relationships between clans. This has been noted in medieval Egypt, and in China.
There is one other feature of bonobo sexuality that I found has a remarkable resemblance to some human practice. Freed from the tight connection between intercourse and reproduction,young and attractive bonobo females are able to use their charms for material gain.   Some females have been observed to approach males with an enticing food supply with clear a clearly sexual offer. After intercourse, the male will share his food with the female, who then leaves.
Females offering males sexual favours for profit: sound familiar?
Source:
de Waal, Frans B.M. : Bonobo Sex & Society, Scientific American, arch 1995, which I found on-line here
See also my previous post here at QTC:
Books:

Monday, 26 July 2010

NJ Gay Marriage Court Initiative Failed.

In New Jersey, the recent focus for news on marriage equality was the unsuccessful political process which aimed to slip legislation in during the dying days of the last legislature, before the new anti-marriage Governor took office. Later, there was a much less well-publicized attempt to pursue a litigation route. Some years ago, the state Supreme Court had ruled that the state had an obligation to provide equal treatment to all its citizens. IT was on the strength of this judgement that the state legislature then introduced civil unions as an alternative.

Experience since then has shown that in NJ, as elsewhere, separate is not equal. After the failure of the political process, six same-sex couples initiated court proceedings to secure the equality which had been promised, but not provided by the political process. That application today hit a road block: the court declined to hear the case.

This looks though, like a temporary delay. The reason given was that the suit must first make its way through the lower courts. Even so, the decision was close - a 3-3 split. Equality could still come to New Jersey. (Marriage opponents probably have more reason to be disappointed than equality supporters do over this decision: they were hoping for a total rejection:
Len Deo, president of the New Jersey Family Policy Council, which supports the traditional view of marriage as between one man and one woman, said, “We were hoping the Supreme Court would just reject the application outright.”
From Washington Post:




NJ Supreme Court rejects gay marriage case

Gay Popes, Papal Sodomites

For the month of Gay Pride (in church), it would be great if we we could simply celebrate a list of unambiguously gay popes - but we can't. This is not because they don't exist (there were undoubtedly several popes whom we know had physical relationships with men), but because of the inadequacies of language, and the weakness of the historical record over something so deeply personal, especially among the clergy. Both of these difficulties are exemplified by Mark Jordan's use of the phrase, "Papal Sodomites".  In medieval terms, a "sodomite" was one of utmost abuse, which meant far more than just the modern "homosexual". It could also include, bestiality, or heresy, or withcraft, and (in England, after the Reformation) "popery", which is deeply ironic, and hence treason.

So in the years before libel laws and carefully controlled democratic institutions, accusations of "sodomy" were a useful slander for the powerful to throw at their political enemies. Some at least of the charges against the popes will have been without foundation. We just don't know, and probably never will, which of these charges were simply malicious. On the other hand, the historical facts around some of the others are clear.
In the modern world, the problem is somewhat different. There have been clear reports and claims that at least two modern popes have had male lovers, but in the deeply closeted world of the Vatican, these claims remain as yet not conclusively proven (not have they been clearly refuted).
Still, it is worth considering both those are definitely known to have had male lovers, as well as those who may have done, and also those who did not, but tolerated or protected others.
About Paul II (1464 - 1471) Sixtus IV ( 1471-84), Julius II (1503-1513), Leo X ( 1513-1521), and Julius III (1550-1555) there is little room for doubt: the historical record is clear.

About Boniface, Alexander VI (r. 1492-1503),  Benedict IX and John XII (r. 955-964) the evidence is less certain.
Among the early popes who notable tolerated or protected people accused of homosexual practices, we should remember Pope Callistus, who was harshly criticized by Tertullian for his failure to condemn sex between men; Pope Leo IX, who implemented many of St Peter Damian' s proposals for church reform, but rejected the appeals for harsh penalties against clerical "sodomites", and also rejected appeals to prevent the consecration as bishop of the promiscuous John (or Jean) of Orleans. Later, ,Paul III (1534 -49) is said to have protected and bestowed honours on his son, Pier Luigi Farnese, who surrounded himself with male lovers, used Roman police to track down a young man who had spurned his advances, and was accused of raping a bishop and other clerics.
A passage from the glbtq.com is fascinating for the very different picture it paints to that prevailing elsewhere, at a time when the inquisition and secular powers were burning between them thousans of men across Europe and in the New World:

The papacy generally revealed in practice a relatively tolerant attitude to sexual "deviation." Within the Papal States, penalties against sodomy were enforced less rigorously than in many other territories. By the fifteenth century, Rome had developed a vibrant subculture of men who enjoyed sexual relationships with other men. (The situation of women in Rome is less well documented.)
Thus, throughout the early modern era, men found refuge in Rome from the harsh punishment of sodomy, which was more "routine" in northern Europe and which was also vigorously prosecuted in Spain and Portugal during the Inquisition of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Although popes at least acquiesced in the prosecutions under the Inquisition, the persecution of sodomites probably resulted from local animus and zeal rather than from directives from Rome. Protestant reformers consistently condemned papal toleration of homosexual acts.
In the modern period, there have been claims that Pope John XXIII was preparing a gentler  teaching on same sex relationships before his death, that Jon Paul I in his brief papacy promoted a gentler approach and may have had some gay experience in his past, and that Pope Paul VI had an extensive history of homosexual affairs in his early career.
Vatican apologists will no doubt acknowledge that there have been times when appallingly inappropriate men occupied the papacy, especially in the scandalous centuries before the Counter-Reformation. However, Leo IX at least is regarded as one of a great wave of reforming popes from the 11th and 12th centuries. More importantly, it is central to Vatican claims of supremacy and authority that by apostolic succession, they are the direct representatives of Christ on earth. If this argument is valid, what possible reason can there be for assuming that the harsh arguments espoused by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI should carry any more weight than the example of their predecessors?

Those Evangelical Allies, Again

The word "evangelical" is a troublesome one in religious discourse, as it can mean so many different things, and is used indifferent ways.   Polling firms reporting on social policy issues routinely use it as a contrast to Protestants, as in Catholics, Protestants and Evangelicals - by which they really men Mainline Protestants and Other Protestants. Press releases though have never been given to verbal precision, and we have become accustomed to the usage. To complicate matters further, some of the "Mainline" churches, especially the UK Church of England, are described in news reports in terms of their "evangelical" or "liberal wing. In more theological, less politicized terms, there are many in the Mainline churches who would insist that they too are inherently "evangelical",  in its true sense.

Further complicating the issue is the repeated research finding that it is the "evangelical" wing of Christianity, in the sense of non-mainline Protestant, that is the most implacably opposed to LGBT equality or inclusion in church, which leads to the assumption that one leads necessarily from the other. There is growing evidence though that even in this sense, some evangelical leaders, like many Catholic theologians, are now recognising the fallacies and mistaken assumptions in the Christian opposition of the past few centuries. I have reported on some of these in the past - there are many more.

However, it is the more theological meaning of "evangelical" that Janet Edwards is using when she argues at "Religion Dispatches " that gay rights  are an "evangelical thing".

“We need to out-evangelize the evangelists!”

Contrary to popular imagination, which usually places evangelicals strictly within the conservative Christian right-wing, this rousing call to action came from Rev. Jean Southard at a dinner for LGBT advocates during the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s General Assembly.
In the midst of debates within both the Presbyterian Church and the nation, Rev. Southard’s point was that LGBT-rights advocates in the church should shout from the rafters that their actions are evangelical—in the deepest historical sense of the word—and in so doing, remind evangelicals of Christianity’s fundamental tenet of inclusion. 
Though it has taken on a narrow meaning in American politics today, “evangelical” is actually an ancient Christian term whose roots extend to the earliest days after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. “Evangelical,” or “evangelion” in the original Greek, literally translates as “Good News.” From the women running to tell the others of the empty tomb (Luke 24:1-12), to Paul’s mission to the Gentiles (Acts 15), to John writing his Gospel to make sure the Good News would be there for future generations like us, “evangelical” has always meant sharing Jesus’ Good News with all those who wish to be part of the Church. 
As Jesus said, “When I am lifted up, I shall draw all people to myself” (John 12:32). There is no “but” in Jesus’ “all.” And so it is incumbent upon us, as a Church, to extend our full welcome and blessing to all the faithful, including those who are LGBT.
Yet LGBT people are the ones whom many in the Church today judge as beyond the reach of Jesus’ embrace—just as the Galatians and Corinthians were considered beyond God’s love in Paul’s time. 
For those who claim the mantle of the evangelical tradition, it is important to remember what it means that God’s love is available to all of us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ, and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It means that LGBT Christians have the same place at Christ’s table as anyone else.
The chorus of the praise song, “We Are One in the Spirit,” echoes Paul (Galatians 5:22) when it repeats the refrain, “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” It is in this Spirit that we can “out-evangelize the evangelicals.”
And so, when LGBT people freely embrace and live a Christian life, the Church must recognize such deep faithfulness and open our arms to them as well. At the heart of Jesus’ Good News is this: there is no “but” in “all.”
(Watch Rev Jean Southard speak on Marriage Equality on Youtube: Part 1, and Part 2)

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Animals Use Sex Toys, Too

The more I explore the nature of sexuality in the animal world, the more amazed I am at the extraordinary number of ways in which animals show all the diversity of human sexuality, and more. Male dolphins and whales have an extra orifice to penetrate (their partners' blowholes); some primate male couples can indulge in "penis fencing" while hanging from a tree branch (I bet you've never tried that); and female spotted hyenas have a pseudo- phallus that they can (and do) use for penetration. More familiar activities are the usual mounting and penetration, either vaginal or anal, usually from the rear but sometimes from the front, or even the side; masturbation, using hands if they have them, but also flippers or just the ground; oral sex - forms of both fellatio and cunnilingus are known; and just plain cuddling and caressing.

Squirrel Threesome
Relationships are equally diverse, including long term pair bonds, in both between-sex and same-sex couples, one-off copulation, strictly monogamous and non-monogamous relationships, polygamy, polyandry and group orgies.
Families and child rearing are diverse. There's male and female pederasty, incest, and likewise butch/femme female relationships. There are single parents, between- sex parent couples, and same-sex parent couples, who may acquire kids by finding sperm donors (if female), surrogate mothers (if male), or by adoption. (In some species, male couples turn out to be more successful parents than between-sex parents, just like research suggests for humans).

As in humans, there are a range of "purposes" of sex, from the obvious one of simple pleasure, to asserting domination and status, to procreation. Bonobos even use it as a form of social peacekeeping. There's also a negative side: rape and sexual violence also occur. I confess I've not yet come across the wildlife equivalent of consensual S/M, but I wouldn't be surprised if I did. Just about everything else is there, including transgender (routine in some species), transvestism, and the use of sex toys.

Yes, sex toys, as in dildos and masturbation aids, but instead of visiting a sex store or going on-line, they just make their requirements themselves. Bruce Bagemihl, in "Biological Exuberance" describes numerous examples among the primates, including female Orang-utans and Bonnet Macaques who manufacture their own dildos from plant materials, males who make masturbation aids by forcing a hole in a leaf, and others who simply use natural materials as they find them, twigs, stones, or fruit, for rubbing against their genitals or for inserting into a vagina. (There are not yet reports of male use of dildos, but no doubt that too will be observed some day.)
The use and manufacture of tools by primates is considered an important example of cultural behaviour in animals, and a forerunner of the activities that are so widespread among human beings.although many different forms and functions are evident in animal tool use, these examples show that nonreproductive sexual activities are part of the overall behavioral pattern: the primate capacity for object manipulation extends seamlessly into the sexual sphere.
Similar types of activities occur among people too, of course, and sexual implements of various sorts have a long and distinguished history in human culture. ...Examples have been found from as far back as the Palaeolithic through to medieval times - including some Biblical references - as well as in the ongoing traditions of many indigenous peoples throughout the world.
-Bagemihl, Bruce, Biological Exuberance.

Also see my previous posts, here at Queer Families and at Queering the Church:
:
The Wildlife Rainbow

Queer Bonobos: Sex As Conflict Resolution

Lesbian Lizards

Bisexual Snails

Gay (Wild) -Life

Natural Law and Laysan's Albatross

Bighorn Rams: Macho Homos, Wimpish Heteros

At Seed Magazine: Sex At Dawn The effeminate sheep and other problems with natural selection


Books:

Bagemihl, Bruce: Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity (Stonewall Inn Editions)

Roughgarden, Joan: Evolution's Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People

Sommer, Volker and Vasey, Paul: Homosexual Behaviour in Animals: An Evolutionary Perspective

Court reinstates Arizona partner benefits ?

Judge Blocks Arizona’s Termination of Domestic Partner Benefits

Among the first policy changes pushed by Arizona’s legislature as soon as Republican Janet Brewer succeeded Janet Napolitano (D) as governor was to pass House Bill 2013, which changed the definition of “dependent” to specifically exclude domestic partners and adopted children of gay individuals, effectively ending insurance coverage for the families of gay state employees. This move came despite denials from Arizona’s Prop 102 promoters that the state would not remove domestic partner benefits if the amendment banning same-sex marriage was added to the constitution. Prop 102 was approved by Arizona voters in 2008.

This week, U.S. District Judge John Sedwick granted a temporary injunction against the state of Arizona from implementing the new law:
“Because employees involved in same-sex partnerships do not have the same right to marry as their heterosexual counterparts, Section O has the effect of completely barring lesbians and gays from receiving family benefits,” Sedwick wrote. “Consequently, the spousal limitation in Section O burdens state employees with same-sex domestic partners more than state employees with opposite-sex domestic partners.”

- Full report at Box Turtle Bulletin 

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Some Irish Sense On Gay Relationships: Another Bishop Speaking Out.

Willie Walsh, the retiring Bishop of Killaloe, has some unremarkable but encouraging words on homosexual relationships. Unremarkable, that is, for anybody outside of the Catholic episcopate. Encouraging, given that he is of it. Speaking informally at a civic reception to mark his retirement, he was asked for his views on the Irish Civil Partnership legislation, which was signed into law earlier this week. While making clear his unwavering belief in the traditional support for "family" and marriage, he made two important statements which should give encouragement to all gay and lesbian Catholics.


Referring directly to the civil partnership law, he said he had always been "hesitant" about asking the state to support a particular teaching of the Church. This is a clear distancing from his fellow Irish bishops, who were forthright in their attempts to do just that, with strenuous attempts to derail the bill.
(It is not a coincidence that these remarks were made on his retirement. Could he have been as candid before announcing his departure? ) He also said he "respects" people of homosexual orientation, and was "saddened" by the hurt the church had done to us.
“I’ve always been hesitant about asking civil authorities to support a particular teaching of our church. I do place great emphasis on marriage, I have worked in that area all my life and I place great emphasis on marriage and family life.”
“While I do worry about the apparent breakdown of family life, I equally respect the laws of this country. I have always done so and always will do so.
I respect people who are of homosexual orientation and I would be always conscious of the fact that very often we in the church have hurt them and hurt them deeply and I am saddened by that and saddened by the lack of respect for any human being.
He added: “It is deeply, deeply important and we would be endangering that at our peril. I know and respect many people who are gay. We should always treat them with the deep respect to which every human being is entitled.
The emphasis on "respect" is orthodox teaching - but not heard or seen in practice nearly as often as opposition to equality legislation, or to protection from discrimination, so it is good to  hear it articulated, as it is to read his cautious distancing from opposition to Civil Partnership law.
-Irish Times, July 13.

Still, the words themselves are indeed cautious. What makes them interesting to me, is that this is now the fourth bishop in recent months to suggest or imply a more nuanced stance on gay relationships - and as far as I can tell, not one has been rebuked or repudiated by the Vatican or a single other bishop. First, we had Cardinal Schonborn of Vienna  in late April, who has certainly not been repudiated - I've been watching closely. Then there were  Bishops Januario Torgal Ferreira of Portugal, and Francis Quinn, of California. (Note that three of these four are now either retired, or on the point of retirement. How many younger bishops feel the same way, but are more guarded in their words - for now? I suspect it will not take too much for more men too feel that the climate has changed, and so able to speak more freely.)

It is also worth recalling that the last unequivocal denunciation of homosexuality, the "Homosexualitatis Problema" was issued over twenty years ago. Since then, ten countries have approved gay marriage, including four Catholic countries and Canada, which is damn near majority Catholic. Meanwhile, there have been numerous reports of hostile words by Pope Benedict, including a reported attack on gay marriage in Portugal, just before the legislation was signed. But close attention to his actual words has generally shown they were not quite what the press was reporting. Even the Portuguese address, while probably implying a criticism of gay marriage, did not actually use the words.

Are we in the eye of a storm, do you suppose, waiting apprehensively while the Vatican prepares an updated Hallowe'en letter to cope with the new onslaught on "traditional" marriage and family - or is it conceivable that the worst of the storm really has passed, that the Vatican theologians are in fact quietly preparing a discreet, tactical retreat from the excesses of the JP II papacy on sexual ethics, while they attempt to digest and come toe terms with the implications for theology, as James Alison has suggested (Discovery of "Gay" = Good News for the Church"), of what medical science, biology and anthropology have already made plain: homosexuality is not in any sense "unnatural", and is not diseased?   It is also not "disordered" in any sense except that it is not "ordered" towards procreation -but then, nor is celibacy.

Friday, 23 July 2010

The Road To Equality: How Long, How Long!

After I placed a report this week on the UN accreditation for an LGBT Human Rights Group, I noted in a comment that it is important as we celebrate each landmark (as with gay marriage success), we should also look back and recognise how far we have come.

Sadly, I was reminded this week that we also need to look ahead and consider just how far we still have to go. At one end of the scale, there are still five countries that impose the death penalty for homosexual acts. On the other, not even the most progressive countries have year reached  full equality: there are still only a handful of countries with full protection against all discrimination on grounds of both orientation and gender identity. None of those has a full slate of legal protections.

My interest today was triggered by a report from Canada, concerning the possibly imminent execution of an Iranian man, urging the Canadian government to "intervene". The difficulty in these countries, which are generally pretty hostile to the West in the first place, is knowing how to intervene without aggravating the situation.  The death penalty also still applies in four other states (Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Mauritania and Sudan), as well as in some parts of Nigeria and Somalia.

In search of fuller information I went to ILGA (International Lesbian Gay Association), and downloaded their report  on "State Sponsored Homophobia". This is dated May 2010, so its pretty up to date - but beware. The listing for marriage gives only three countries, omitting Portugal, Iceland Argentina. This a sharp (and encouraging) sign of just how quickly things can sometimes change.
Homosexual acts remain illegal (without the death penalty) in 34 African countries (more than half the total) and eighteen in Asia , in Guyana in South America as well as eleven Caribbean island states, and nine Pacific Island states. Even in Europe,  homosexual acts are illegal in the Turkish part of Cyprus.
Even where homosexuality itself is legal, there are still a few countries where there is not yet an equal age of consent, even in some parts of Europe and North America.

There has been progress with various laws against discrimination of various sorts, but piece-meal protections can never be comprehensive.  There are still only nine countries with constitutional protection against discrimination on grounds of orientation. South Africa led the way in 1994, followed by Canada and Ecuador in 1998, Colombia and Switzerland (2000), Swede (2003), Portugal (2004), Kosovo (2008) and Bolivia (2009).

None of these yet has full legal protection on all the criteria listed by ILGA:
  • Employment discrimination based on orientation
  • Employment discrimination based on gender identity
  • Hate crimes based on orientation considered an aggravating circumstance
  • Hate crimes based on gender identity considered an aggravating circumstance
  • Incitement to hatred on orientation a criminal offence
  • Full marriage equality
  • Adoption by same -sex couples
  • Gender recognition
(Sweden comes closest. It is not included only under "hate crimes based on gender". Not far to go, Sweden!)
So, wherever you are, there remains work to do on the long road to equality, both in your own country, and even more, in the world at large. Why not see what you can do to help?

(However, there was one suprising bright spot: with all the attention and awareness of homophobia in Africa, it was good to see, in a listing of the dates for decriminalization of homosexual acts, Africa is the only region listed where  in some countries  same-sex activities have NEVER been criminalised.  Hats off to  Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Côte d‘Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Madagascar, Mali, Niger and Rwanda!)

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Why Catholics Support Gay Marriage.

Research results have consistently shown that US Catholics nationally are more supportive of gay rights (including gay marriage), and do not agree with the Vatican teaching that homosexual relationships are morally wrong. What has not been clear from research is why this should be, when the formal Vatican doctrine, and the publicly stated position of the bishops, is so different. The same conundrum was posed even more sharply this month in Argentina, where polls showed that in this overwhelmingly Catholic country, where the bishops very publicly opposed it, 70% of the population supported the introduction of full family equality.


In California, two separate polls released within days, by Field and by PRRI, confirm the patterns we have become accustomed to: over the longer term view, support for equality has grown steadily; Democrats and independents are supportive, Republicans are not; younger voters are strongly supportive - and Californian Catholics narrowly support marriage equality.
The difficulty with most research results for demographic sub-samples, such as "women", or "Latinos" , 0r "over 50's" is that without deeper statistical analysis, it is never quite clear whether the differences seen between groups are specific to those groups, or just the result of hidden demographics distorting the groups being examined.

The great thing about the research from PRRI, is that it addresses that problem by taking a two-level split of a large sample, to consider religion within ethnic groups. It thus standardises for ethnicity when considering religion - and the results are truly fascinating, especially against the background of marriage equality in Argentina. It turns out that among all religious groupings, Latino Catholics are the most supportive of marriage equality - and Latino Protestants are the most strongly opposed.  In California, what appears to be Catholic support for marriage equality is specifically Latino Catholic support: White Catholic views are pretty similar to White (mainline) Protestants. Conversely, the strong Latino Catholic support does not show up in overall Latino support, because it is balanced by strong opposition from Latino Protestants.

It gets better. If the report simply left it there, that would be interesting, but would simply beg a couple of further questions. Why should Latino/a Catholics differ so strongly from White Catholics, and even more strongly from Latino/a Protestants? Why are Catholics and Protestants so different to Evangelicals, who are very strongly opposed? Why are Blacks overall less supportive than either Whites or Latinos? So, it is great to report that it does not stop there. There is plenty of real good meat in this report worth chewing over, both theologically and politically, which offers some real insight into the reasons for these discrepancies.


One dramatic impact on thinking about marriage, is what people are hearing from their clergy.  Catholics are more likely than other groups to be hearing anything at all from clergy about homosexuality, and White Catholics less than Latino Catholics.  Both Catholic groups, together with White Protestants, are the least likely to be hearing negative statements. Some Latino Catholics are hearing a message that flatly contradicts the position of the bishops: almost one in ten report they are hearing supportive words from their Catholic priests about homosexuality.

(With the continuing debate in some Protestant groups about gay ordination, it is important to note that a small majority of Protestant clergy seem more likely to support than to discourage gay and lesbian relationships, by 21% to 19% ).

This has huge implications for the push for marriage equality, for inclusion in church, and for the Catholic Church in particular.  First, it confirms once again that religious belief and homosexual relationships are not incompatible. It is simply untrue that "Christians" as a whole reject homosexuality, or same sex marriage. A growing minority of Christians, and some clergy, support such relationships.  This increasing support within the churches will ease the way towards greater LGBT inclusion in church. For the Catholic bishops, the signs are ominous. At a national level, their voices have been among the most prominent arguing against gay marriage, gay adoption, civil unions, and protection from discrimination. But this message from the top of the pyramid does not seem to be getting through on the ground. It is remarkable that Catholics are the least likely of all groups to be hearing negative messages about homosexuality from their priests, and even more so that some Catholics are being told to be supportive, or are hearing messages that are neutral rather than critical.

Why this disconnect? Could it be that the local priests are in closer contact, with real people. both gay and straight, and so more in touch with reality? Another finding in the research is that people's views on homosexuality will be strongly influenced by the parents of gay men and lesbians. Any priest is likely to have several such parents in his congregation, in addition to some gay people themselves who have not been driven away from the church, or into hiding in a closet. This direct personal knowledge will be showing him the falsity of official discourse, that we are not "disordered", driven by our sexuality away from God, or interested only in "gratuitous self-indulgence".  Rather than repeating the lies, many would simply prefer to hold their tongues - and some are taking the remarkable step, given their dependent position, of directly contradicting the bishops' message.

If the bishops are unable to speak directly to gay men, lesbians or their parents, they would be wise to at least listen carefully to what their priests could be telling them. If they continue to not do so, they will simply continue to lose further credibility, and will suffer greater loss of authority, just as they have already done on contraception, and as the Argentinian bishops have now done on marriage equality.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Irish Civil Partnership Bill Signed.


Irish President Mary McAleese has signed into law the provision of Civil Partnerships, which will provide Irish gay and lesbian couples with a legal status almost identical to that of heterosexual married couples - but not adoption rights. This is very similar to the UK Civil Partnership legislation. That too does not cover adoption, which was provided for separately.


In this deeply Catholic country, the legislation was strongly opposed by the Catholic bishops - who lost badly, It is notable that this legislation was not just passed, but warmly welcomed by the Justice Minster as "one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation ...  since independence"  




Signing into law of new civil Bill welcomed


THE SIGNING into law yesterday of the Civil Partnership Bill was welcomed across the political spectrum and also by groups that have campaigned for legal recognition for same-sex couples in Ireland.
The Bill was signed into law by President Mary McAleese at Áras an Uachtaráin yesterday morning.
Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said it was “one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation to be enacted since independence”.
The Green Party’s justice spokesman Trevor Sargent also warmly welcomed the development, describing it as a significant step forward and a stepping stone towards greater equality in society.
While the Bill has now been enacted, it cannot fully commence until commensurate changes take place in social welfare, tax and pensions legislation.
Those changes are likely to be made in the Finance Bill and Social Welfare Bill drafted following December’s budget.
The changes will pave the way for the first civil partnership registrations to take place in January next year.



-(Full report from the Irish Times)

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Bighorn Rams: Macho Homos, Wimpish Heteros

To look at them, bighorn rams are the very image of hypermasculinity. They live on the rugged mountain slopes of Montana and Canada, in an environment that demands strengh, athleticism and stamina. Their appearance is impressive, with large thick horns curling back behind the ear, and they’re big, weighing up to 300 pounds. They exude so much machismo, that their image has been appropriated by numerous as a symbol for many  male athletic teams. And they like their sex – with other males. Those few who don’t, are described by researchers as “effeminate” .

Lovers, maybe?

For bighorn sheep (and also for thinhorns), "natural" sex is same-sex, including elaborate courtship rituals, genital licking, and anal penetration. (Many rams also find a way to "masturbate" - not with their hooves, but by rubbing on the ground.)  In this "homosexual society", almost all rams routinely participate year-round in sexual activity with each other, but heterosexual intercourse is limiting to the rutting season. Even then, not all rams, especially the younger ones, get to participate.

For Bighorn and Thinhorn Sheep, heterosexuality is definitely not "normal".

From “Evolution's Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People ” (Joan Roughgarden):
“The females live separately from the males. The sexes associate only during the breeding season, from mid fall to early winter. A female is receptive for about three days, and will not allow herself outside of these three days.”
This emphatically does not mean that the males endure sexual abstinence for the rest of the year.
The males have been described as `homosexual societies`. Almost all males participate in homosexual courting and copulation. Male-male courtship begins with a stylized approach, followed by genital licking and nuzzling, and often leads to anal intercourse in which one male, usually the larger, mounts the other. The mounted male arches his back, which is identical to how a female arches her back during heterosexual intercourse. The mounting male ahs an erect penis, makes anal penetration, and performs pelvic thrusts leading to ejaculation. 
The few males who do not participate in male sex are described as “effeminate”,. These males are identical tin appearance to other males but behave quite differently. They differ from “normal males” by living with the ewes rather than joining the all-male groups. These males do not dominate females, are less aggressive overall, and adopt a crouching, female urination posture. These males refuse mouning by other males. These nonhomosexual males are considerd “aberrant”, with speculation that that some hormone deficiency must underlie their behaviour. Even though in physical appearance, including body size and horn development, these males are indistinguishable from other males, scientists urge further study of their endocrinological profile.
This case turns the meanings of normal and aberrant upside down. The “normal” macho bighorn has full-fledged anal sex with other males. The “aberrant” male is the one who is straight – the lack of interest in homosexuality is considered pathological. Now, why would being straight be a pathology, requiring a hormonal checkup? According to the researchers, what’s aberrant is that a macho-looking bighorn ram acts feminine! He pees like a female – even worse than being gay.
(Same sex mountings have also been described in several other species of sheep and goats in North America and Europe, and in farm animals).

Also See Previous QTC Posts:

The Wildlife Rainbow

Queer Bonobos: Sex As Conflict Resolution

Lesbian Lizards

Bisexual Snails

Gay (Wild)-Life

Natural Law and Laysan's Albatross

Also The effeminate sheep and other problems with natural selection (at "Seed Magazine")


Books:

Bagemihl, Bruce: Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity (Stonewall Inn Editions)

Roughgarden, Joan: Evolution's Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People Sommer,

Volker and Vasey, Paul: Homosexual Behaviour in Animals: An Evolutionary Perspective

Gay Pride, Warsaw- In the 16 th Century!

Most Pride celebrations are local, for a specific city or town. In Europe, things are a little different. Every year, one city is selected for a continental celebration, drawing in visitors from right across the continent for Euro Pride. A few years ago, it was London's turn. Today, Warsaw hosts Europride. This has attracted the attention of activists who are conscious of modern Poland's reputation as a bastion of homophobia, one of the few European countries where gay marriage is constitutionally prohibited, and where some major political parties campaign on gay-bashing.  UK government minister Chris Bryant, the most senior openly gay man in the new coalition,  has gone to Warsaw to join the parade, in the hope that Euro Pride in Warsaw will contribute to an erosion of the hostile political culture.

At least one gay Pole objects to this image. Writing a "A Postcard From Gay Poland", ?ukasz Palucki exposes an extraordinary amount of what for most of us is hidden gay history, showing how Poland was for centuries a bastion of gay tolerance.

Reports like this need to be taken seriously. Far too much for what passes for political or religious discourse on sexuality is based on a highly edited, selective view based on a heterosexist bias. We need to recover and disseminate our lesbian and gay history, in the state and in the church.

Here are some extracts :

There is a State called Poland in the middle of Europe.  For unclear reasons to me, Poland is described as a part of Eastern Europe.  This qualification is more mental than geographical because Poles are being perceived as homophobes.

This stereotype strengthens Poles’ image as fanatic Catholics whose intolerance results from conservatism and is deeply rooted in the state’s long history.  There is nothing more false than that!  There are only a few countries in the world where the history of social tolerance is of such great importance, as in Poland.

I’m going to tell you the story you certainly don’t know.  This is a history of a State that was a safe refuge for many types of ‘unaccepted’ minorities, where homosexuality was never a crime, where several rulers were homosexual, and catholic priests gave church weddings to same-sex couples.

Sigmund Column: Symbol of Warsaw - and a Gay Memorial

Some people quote a wrong date, 1932, as the date of decriminalisation of homosexuality in Poland.  This mistake comes from a lack of knowledge.  In this year, the ‘Makarewicz’ Penal Code was actually established – and it  didn’t include a penalty for homosexual acts.

But the history of tolerance towards homosexuals is much older.  In order to understand it, we have to go back in the past, to the beginning of  the Polish State.

In a nutshell, in the Kingdom of Poland the phenomenon was well-known, named, and, what was the most interesting aspect, seldom punished.

Medieval church courts could sentence sodomites to burn at the stake or hanging, but a nobleman could replace it (as an act of favour) with beheading.

It happened like that throughout most of Europe.  But not in Poland.

Polish historians have been proud that Poland was a state “without stakes”.  There was no death penalty for homosexuality.

The date February 27, 1493, is very important here.  On this day, King Jan I Olbracht finally separated secular and ecclesiastical judiciaries and placed a ban on the clergy’s interference in law courts.

Since that date, homosexual acts have not been penalised in Poland.  There was no such tolerance towards homosexual individuals as in Poland at that time.

How was the state of tolerance born?

Everything started at the end of 14th century, when Poland and Lithuania were unified by the political union and military alliance that was to secure them against the aggression from the Teutonic Order and to avoid the war between these countries for the Russian land.

The victory over the Order in the battle of Grunewald in 1410 established the Jagiellon dynasty and gave rise to the union of the two states.  The Commonwealth of both nations, composed of the Polish ‘Crown’ and the Great Duchy of Lithuania, was formed in 1569 in Lublin.  This gave rise to one of the largest countries of contemporary Europe.  The Commonwealth was a country with the Parliament dominated by the gentry.  Kings were elected.

The law guaranteed everyone the right to practice any religion, which was of high importance in particular in the 16th century, when Poland was to a large extent a Protestant country.

Moreover, the famous Polish tolerance – although nowadays this sounds sarcastic – also referred to Muslims (Tatars) who received privileges from Polish kings as early as in the 16th century.

Gays and Authority

First rumours about the homosexuality of Polish rulers were in the 13th century with King Boleslaus the Bold, and Leszek Bialy.

The latter died in interesting circumstances during so called ‘Invasion of G?sawa’.  It happened in 1227 during the meeting of Polish Princes.  When Prince ?wi?tope?ek invaded Gasawa he met few Princes naked, without security, in an urban sauna.

However Jan Dlugosz, the Polish analyst, has described for the first time a homosexual incidence among rulers concerning King Wladyslaw III Jagiellon called Warnenczyk, who never got married.

Wladyslaw was fighting with Turkey in the defence of Christian Europe (formally it was a crusade) and he was killed during a battle in 1444 near Warna.

The King’s corpse has never been found.  There are several legends about his further history.  One of them suggests that the King survived and escaped to Turkey with his lover.  The Church officially recognised his homosexuality and because of that, Wladyslaw is only King Crusader who has never been beatified.

And you thought that Gay Pride was a modern idea!

Gay Prides in XVI century?

Some reports about the first homosexual individuals, directly demonstrating their orientation (they simply paraded) on market in Cracow in 16th century, have been kept.  A well-known historian, Stefan Bratkowski, has described them (but very shortly) in one of his books.  It wasn’t actually a gay parade as we know today, unless we consider a Polish word paradowa? (which translates as public manifestation) as a Parade.

A long line of gay kings...

Even King Sigismund the Old was suspected of at least being bisexual…

However, the greatest ‘star’ of these times was King Henri de Valois – the first Polish elected to be king, who became later the King of France.  He was stayed just 123 days in Poland.  But what he had done in Wawel in Cracow was remembered by the Polish nobility for a long time.  He wasn’t gay, he was transsexual.

History, like nature, likes balance. So surely that’s why Wladyslaw IV (1595-1648) , a son of the ‘king-Jesuit’ Zygmunt III, Waza, started to rule.  The same-sex affairs of the king Wladyslaw IV constituted a secret for ages.  But fortunately, my friend Sergiusz Wróblewski, a well-known LGBT journalist and historian from Poznan, has spent some time on revealing these interesting stories.

This is perfect story for a movie.  Wladyslaw IV was very powerful gay.  He was king of Poland and Sweden, he was Tsar of  Russia and Great Duke of Lithuania – and he was gay. This story is very long, so I will give only the precis…..

Even the city symbol is a gay emblem!

Symbol of Warsaw is gay

Only a few people know that the Sigmund Column – a symbol of Warsaw and the oldest civic monument in the city – was erected after conflict between conservative ultra-Catholic father and his homosexual son.

There is quite a lot of evidence on homosexuality of the king W?adys?aw IV Vasa. The emotional tie linking the king’s son with Adam Kazanowski was noted by several known people at the beginning of 17th century.  Kazanowski and his family benefited from it greatly. However, let’s concentrate on the Warsaw City.

King Sigmund III Vasa wanted his unruly son to be his successor. In order to facilitate his the election, he bought Bobola’s manorial estate near Krakowskie Przedmie?cie in Warsaw and refashioned the building into dignified residence that was donated to his son.

From chronicles, it can be concluded that it was the one of the most beautiful (and the most expensive) palaces in Europe of the time.  Young Wladyslaw gave it as a present to his lover Adam Kazanowski so the gift constituted beautiful expression of Wladyslaw’s love.

Since that time, this building has been called Kazanowski’s Palace.  When king Sigmund found out about this, he went mad.  There were many conflicts between father and his son, but this was the greatest.

The Church objected (naturally)

The Church claimed pagan Romans had built columns and Christians should not have done it.  Church resistance had greater weight because the Bernardines Monastery was the owner of the ground where the sculpture was planned to be erected.

Church protests against the construction had some interesting aspects.  For instance, a sculpture of the Blessed Virgin was placed to discourage the ‘king-sodomist’. However, after lots of adventures, Wladyslaw erected the Column.  This is the history of Warsaw’s symbol that today is associated more with catholic conservatism than with family scandal.

We also have in our history two bisexual kings: Michal Korybut-Wisniowiecki and the last Polish king Stanislaw August Poniatowski.  The latter started his political career in the English ambassador’s bed, from where he jumped into Tsarina Catherine the Great’s bed!

Gay Marriage is not possible in Poland today, but that is because the modern politicians have "redefined " it, restricting it to one man and woman. It was not always so:

Catholic same-sex marriages

In 15th century Poland, two men, as long as they were from the nobility, could marry each other.  It happened in Catholic churches.  A ceremony had unique character. Men joined their hands and kneeled down at the altar.  A priest blessed them and read ceremonial prayers.  Next, both knights pledged that they “would love each other as whole brothers”, would support themselves with health and fortune till the end of their lives.

An oath was long and full of flourishes, in accordance with rhetoric of the rime. After that, the priest put the rings on their fingers and blessed them again saying: “To glory of God. I wish you all the best wholeheartedly”.

The ‘newlyweds’ kissed the steps of an altar and joined their hands, bowing to moved nobles and marched through the church.

In eastern Poland, Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine there are lots of common graves of men that they spent their lives together.  If the Catholic church ever takes the decision to support gays and lesbian’s partnerships, it will be enough to go back to the ritual that was established five hundred years ago.

There is much more in the full post. Read it at UK Gay News

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[caption id="attachment_9724" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Radical protesters shout slogans and gesture to Euro Pride gay parade participants in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, July 17, 2010. Over 8.000 people took part in the parade, for the first time held in an eastern European capital."][/caption]