Today in Gay History

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November 23

Manuel de Falla
1876 -

MANUEL DE FALLA, Spanish composer, born (d: 1946); Pablo Picasso is quoted as saying that he considered de Falla the shyest man he had ever met, “even smaller than myself, and as modest and withdrawn as an oyster shell…”

He was said to have been involved in a ménage á trois with composer Maurice Ravel and pianist Ricardo Viñes. De Falla became close friends with Diaghalev and Massine, with whom he collaborated on The Three-Cornered Hat. It was, incidentally, immediately after the first performance of this ballet, that Massine announced his engagement to Lydia Sokolova, who had just performed the leading role, and was then dismissed from the Ballet Russes by the enraged Diaghelev.

De Falla was taught music by his mother and grandmother. IN 1896 he moved to Madrid to study at the Real Conservaterio de Musica and Declamacion and developed a life-long interest in Andalusian Flamenco music

He moved to Paris where he met Dukas, Debussey and Ravel who influenced his music and orchestration. He returned to Madrid, later, where he wrote his signature work, Noches en los jardines des Espana ("Nights in the Spanish Gardens.")

(l to r) Dr. Joseph Towles and Colin Turnbull
1924 -

The famed British-American anthropologist COLIN TURNBULL was born on this date (d. 1994). Best known for this groundbreaking books The Forest People & The Mountain People, Turnbull was also one of the first anthropologists to work in the field of ethnomusicology an interest shared by Gay Rights pioneer, Harry Hay.

Turnbull was an unconventional scholar who rejected neutrality. He idealized the BaMbuti and reviled the Ik, and described the latter as lacking any sense of altruism, in that they force their children out of their homes at the age of three, and gorge on whatever occasional excesses of food they might find until they became sick, rather than save or share.

However, several anthropologists have since argued that a particularly serious famine suffered by the Ik during the period of Turnbull's visit may have distorted their normal behavior and customs, and some passages in his book make it clear that the behavior and customs of the Ik during the period he describes were drastically different from what was normal for them before they were uprooted from their original way of life.

In the US, he lived with his professional collaborator and partner of thirty years, the African American Dr. Joseph Towles, as an openly gay, interracial couple in one of the most conservative areas of the 1960s rural Virginia.

During this time he also took up the political cause of death row inmates. After his partner's death in 1988, Turnbull, strongly affected, gave all his belongings to the United Negro College Fund. In 1989, he moved to Bloomington, Indiana to participate to the building of Tibetan Cultural Center with his friend Thupten Jigme Norbu, elder brother of the 14th Dalai-lama. In 1991 - 1992, he moved to Dharamsala, India where he took the monks' vow of Tibetan Buddhism, given to him by the Dalai Lama. He was then given a buddhist name.

He died in Virginia in 1994, aged 69. Both Towles and Turnbull died from complications of AIDS.

1989 -

On this date the NATURAL BEARS CLASSIFICATION SYSTEM was unveiled on a Usenet group. The NBCS or "bear code" is a set of symbols using letters, numbers and other characters commonly found on modern, Western computer keyboards, and used for the self-identification of those who self-identify as "bears" in the sense of a mature gay or bisexual man with facial or substantial body hair.  This classification scheme was created by Bob Donahue and Jeff Stoner, and was based on the way in which star and galaxy classification systems used characteristics of an object to derive a classifying identifier.

The format of the NBCS is a sequence of space-separated descriptions that each take the form, "XMme" where X is a letter indicating some trait; M is an optional magnitude indicated by either a number or a sequence of + or - characters (the former are used for rankings that have a broad, but discrete range while the latter is used for more comparative measurements); m is an optional modifier such as "v" which indicates variability of the trait; and e is any extra (such as a parenthesized magnitude that indicates a range from the magnitude outside the parentheses to the magnitude inside).

The format includes physical traits such as "B" for beard density/length, "f" for body hair (or "fur"), "t" for height (or "tallness"), and "w" for weight. It also includes personality traits such as "d" for "the daddy factor" and sexual preferences such as "k" for "the kinky factor."

A sample bear code is: B4 s- m g++ w d+c t+ f+ k+ r e+(+?)

Translation: (in no particular order): Reasonably thick beard, cub tendencies, definite Daddy, (endowment) gets attention, above average fur, loves groping/pawing/touching, (Kinkiness) loves most things, (Muscle) some definition/Blue collar, spends some time outdoors, (sex) plays under special circumstances, tall, bear with a tummy

Gay Rights in Israel
2006 -

 Israel's Supreme Court recognizes foreign same-sex marriages.

Charleston, South Carolina
2009 -

On this date the city council of CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA passed ordinances expanding the city’s existing policy prohibiting discrimination in housing to include age, sexual orientation and gender identity. How important is this? In American history there is probably no other conservative city than Charleston.  The Civil War was virtually born in Charleston and it is a city that was founded on the slave trade and the institutionalization of the most conservative, landowning families.  But that was then and this is now.  Although the state is still a conservative hotbed, Charleston is a more cosmopolitan and urbane city.  It also has a spirit of liberalism and openness.  Recent demonstrations, of course, have called this into serious question. But there remains a strong, progressive population there.

So this can only be seen as a sign of how far we have come.  The council also passed a public accommodations ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, disability, age or sexual orientation.

The ordinances were presented to the mayor’s office in August by members of Charleston’s Alliance For Full Acceptance (AFFA), SC Stonewall Democrats, SC Log Cabin Republicans, American Civil Liberties Union and South Carolina Equality — who had successfully introduced similar ordinances in Columbia SC.  Charleston joins a number of other cities in the south with comprehensive anti-discrimination ordinances including Charleston WV, New Orleans LA, Atlanta GA, Covington KY and Columbia SC.

Today's Gay Wisdom
Announcement of the first fixed date for Thanksgiving by Franklin Roosevelt
1941 -

Influenced by the campaigning of author Sarah Josepha Hale, who wrote letters to politicians for around 40 years trying to make it an official holiday, Lincoln proclaimed the date to be the final Thursday in November in an attempt to foster a sense of American unity between the Northern and Southern states. Because of the ongoing Civil War and the Confederate States of America's refusal to recognize Lincoln's authority, a nationwide roll-out of the Thanksgiving date was not realized until Reconstruction was completed in the 1870s. These things happen when you try something new, right?

Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving an official holiday by proclamation in 1863, designating it as the last Thursday of November. Many southern states weren’t supportive of Thanksgiving at first.  They were not happy about the federal government telling them to celebrate and felt that it was a “New England” holiday. They were still a bit miffed about the whole Civil War thing.

Despite Lincoln’s proclamation, the date of Thanksgiving was not fixed until 1941, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed a bill setting the holiday on the fourth Thursday of November. He moved it up a week to help the economy by lengthening the Christmas shopping season.

Republicans were not down with this change, and retaliated by calling it “Democrat Thanksgiving” (or “Franksgiving”). They celebrated the following Thursday, calling that “Republican Thanksgiving.” Many Republican governors defied the change of date and observed the holiday on the last Thursday of the month, anyway. Republicans have some experience of being childish pre-Obama, it seems.

Macy’s first Thanksgiving Day parade in 1924 was held with live animals from the Central Park Zoo and was billed as “The Christmas Parade.” This was the parade for the next three years.

In 1927, Goodyear sponsored a giant balloon of Felix the Cat, starting that tradition. Until 1933, the balloons were just released to float off into the sky at the end of the parade and $100 was given by Macy’s to whomever found a deflated balloon.

That stopped when a pilot trying to grab a loose balloon crashed his plane and died. Mickey Mouse made his debut seven years later. Kermit the Frog came along in 1985. Snoopy, who joined the parade in 1968, holds the record for most appearances in the parade with seven. 

The parade route was moved to its present starting point at 77th and Central Park West in 1946. It was first televised nationally in 1947, drawing respectable viewership. Fifty years ago, the parade was almost cancelled due to the assassination of JFK. But it was felt that the nation needed it so the show went on. Each year, approximately 3.5 million people line the streets to watch the parade live while another 50 million or so watch it on TV. 


  1. Steelman

A Taste of Thanksgiving: Curious Facts About America’s Holiday by Christopher Forest

Ancient Ways: Reclaiming Pagan Traditions by Pauline Campanelli and Dan Campanelli

Hawaiian Mythology by Martha Warren Beckwith

The Everything Christmas Book: Stories, Songs, Food, Traditions, Revelry, and More by Brandon Toropov, Sharon Gapen Cook, Marian Gonsior and Susan Robinson

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