Today in Gay History

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March 31

Poet Edward FitzGerald
1809 -

EDWARD FITZGERALD, English poet was born (d. 1883); An English writer, best known as the poet of the first and most famous English translation of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. FitzGerald's emotional life was extremely complex. He lived for his friends, almost all of whom were men, but he also had a series of extremely intimate friends (also male).

The first was William Browne, who was sixteen when he met Fitzgerald. They were very close friends until Browne's marriage. Browne's early death was a major catastrophe for FitzGerald. In 1851 FitzGerald published a work called Euphranor: A Dialogue on Youth in memory of a friend who had died young. In it he recounts how, after the death of his beloved William Kenworthy Browne, he cruised the Suffolk docks “looking for some fellow to accost me and fill a very vacant place in my heart.” Whether he was in fact accosted, and whether his vacant place was filled, he does not say.

But fifteen years later, now famous as the translator of The Rubaiyat, FitzGerald returned to the docks and became part owner of a herring-lugger, Meum and Teum. The “You” of the “I and You” was a strapping young fisherman named Joseph Fletcher, whom he called “Posh.” Although FitzGerald wrote about being taken with Posh’s blue eyes and auburn hair, and although several letters addressed to “My Dear Poshy” have survived, there is no proof the virile Posh ever actually filled FitzGerald’s vacant place. For the sake of love, let us hope he did.

As FitzGerald grew older, he grew more and more disenchanted with Christianity and finally gave up attending church entirely. This drew the attention of the local pastor, who decided to pay a visit to this self-absenting member of his flock. The conversation was very short. FitzGerald told the pastor that his decision to absent himself from church services was the fruit of long and hard meditation. When the pastor protested, FitzGerald showed him to the door, and explained that no further visits would be necessary.

Sergei Diaghilev
1872 -

On this date the Russian choreographer SERGEI DIAGHILEV was born (d: 1929).  A Russian art critic, patron, ballet impresario and founder of the Ballets Russes from which many famous dancers and choreographers would later arise.

One cannot underestimate the influence of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes on the development of 20th  century art. But the importance of his sexuality to Diaghelev's creative art is sometimes overlooked. Had he not been a Gay man, had he not attracted to his cause the great Gay writers of the day, the stream of 20th century art may have flowed in an entirely different direction (some might say towards "Let's Make a Deal"). As Martin Green wrote in Children of the Sun, "He made the dancer Nijinsky first his lover and then his choreographer, slyly displacing Michel Fokine and inspiring Nijinsky to become the company's chief ballet-creator. Diaghilev's superb taste...was made manifest in this new Nijinksy, the choreographer, and in the ballets he created. These works of art were the children of Diaghilev's sexual passion. The same thing happened later with Leonide Massine and Serge Lifar...These men created ballets under the spell of Diaghilev's passion and he created through them."

Richard Chamberlain
1934 -

RICHARD CHAMBERLAIN, American actor, born; an American actor of stage and screen who became a teen idol in the title role of the television show Dr. Kildare (1961-1966).

In the 1970s, Chamberlain enjoyed success as a leading man in films: The Music Lovers, (1970), Lady Caroline Lamb (playing Lord Byron, 1973), The Three Musketeers (1973), The Lady's Not for Burning (1974), The Towering Inferno (in a villainous turn as a dishonest engineer, 1974), and The Count of Monte Cristo (1975). In The Slipper and the Rose (1976), a musical version of the Cinderellla story story he displayed his vocal talents. A television film, William Bast's The Man in the Iron Mask (1977), followed. That same year, he starred in Peter Weir's film The Last Wave.

Chamberlain later appeared in several popular television mini-series (earning him a nickname of "King of the Mini-series"), including Centennial (1978–79), Shogun (1980), and The Thorn Birds (1983) as Father Ralph de Bricassart with Rachel Ward and Barbara Stanwyk co-starring. In the 1980s, he appeared as leading man with King Solomon's Mines (1985) opposite newcomer Sharon Stone, and also played Jason Bourne/David Webb in the television film version of The Bourne Identity (1988).

Chamberlain resides in Hawaii, with his partner since the mid-1970s, agent-producer-director Martin Rabbett. Although it was generally known that Chamberlain was Gay, having been outed by the French women's magazine Nous Deux in December 1989, it was not until 2003, at age 69, that he came out as such in his biography, Shattered Love (ISBN 0060087439), which describes how he felt obliged to hide his sexuality in order to have an acting career and detailed affairs with dancer Rudolph Nureyev and actor Anthony Perkins.

The Honorable Barney Frank
1940 -

BARNEY FRANK, U.S. Representative from Massachusetts, born; American politician and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Frank is a Democrat represented Massachusetts’s 4th congressional district since 1981 until his retirement in 2012. Following the Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives in the 2006 midterm elections, Frank assumed the chairmanship of the House Financial Services Committee.

He is a prominent figure in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and has been outspoken on many civil rights issues including Gay Rights. In 1987, he spoke publicly about his homosexuality for the first time. He said in a 1996 interview: "I'm used to being in the minority. I'm a left-handed, Gay Jew. I've never felt, automatically, a member of any majority."

In 1990, the House voted to reprimand Frank when it was revealed that Steve Gobie, a male escort whom Frank had befriended after hiring him through a personal ad, claimed to have conducted an escort service from Frank's apartment when he was not at home.

Frank had dismissed Gobie earlier that year and reported the incident to the House Ethics Committee after learning of Gobie's activities. After an investigation, the House Ethics Committee found no evidence that Frank had known of or been involved in the alleged illegal activity. Regarding Gobie's more scandalous claims the report by the Ethics Committee concluded, "In numerous instances where an assertion made by Mr. Gobie (either publicly or during his Committee deposition) was investigated for accuracy, the assertion was contradicted by third-party sworn testimony or other evidence of Mr. Gobie himself."

The New York Times reported on July 20, 1990 that the House Ethics Committee recommended "that Representative Barney Frank receive a formal reprimand from the House for his relationship with a male prostitute." Attempts to expel or censure Frank, led by Republican member (ahem) Larry Craig (how rich is that?!) failed. Rather the House voted 408-18 to reprimand him. This condemnation was not reflected in Frank's district, where he won re-election in 1990 with 66 percent of the vote, and has won by larger margins ever since.

In 1995, then-Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey referred to Frank as "Barney Fag" in a press interview. Armey apologized and said it was "a slip of the tongue". Frank did not accept the "slip of the tongue" excuse and responded, "I turned to my own expert, my mother, who reports that in 59 years of marriage, no one ever introduced her as Elsie Fag."

In 1998, he founded the National Stonewall Democrats, the national gay, Lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Democratic organization. In 2004 and again in 2006, a survey of Capitol Hill staffers published in Washingtonian magazine gave Frank the title of the "brainiest", "funniest", and "most eloquent" member of the House.

Frank is known for his witty, self-deprecating sense of humor. He once famously quipped that he was unable to complete his review of the Starr Report detailing President Bill Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky, complaining that it was "too much reading about heterosexual sex." Frank is also noted for his occasionally caustic remarks about Republicans. In a June 2007 New England Cable News interview, Frank said of Mitt Romney: "The real Romney is clearly an extraordinarily ambitious man with no perceivable political principle whatsoever. He is the most intellectually dishonest human being in the history of politics." Frank's blunt stance on outing certain homosexual Republicans has become well-publicized, dubbed "The Frank Rule"—that it is acceptable to out a closeted person, if that person uses their power or notoriety to hurt Gay people.

The issue became especially relevant during the Mark Foley page scandal of 2006, during which Frank clarified his position on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher: “I think there's a right to privacy. But the right to privacy should not be a right to hypocrisy. And people who want to demonize other people shouldn't then be able to go home and close the door and do it themselves.”

In November 2011 Frank announced that he would not run for reelection when his current term is up in 2013. In January of 2012 he announced his intention to marry his longtime partner, Jim Ready. He remains a go-to voice for progressive politics and is frequently on cable news programs as an expert voice.

Alan Duncan
1957 -

British Tory politician and Shadow Minister ALAN DUNCAN was born today. Born Alan James Carter Duncan, he is known as one of the most strident and ideological libertarians within the leading ranks of the Conservative Party.

Duncan was the first sitting Conservative MP voluntarily to acknowledge that he is gay; he did this in an interview with The Times on 29 July 2002, although he has said that this came as no surprise to friends.  Indeed, in an editorial published on the news of Duncan's coming out, The Daily Telegraph reported, "The news that Alan Duncan is gay will come as a surprise only to those who have never met him. The bantam Tory frontbencher can hardly be accused of having hidden his homosexuality."

Duncan became the first member of either the Cabinet or the Shadow Cabinet to enter into a civil partnership when he was joined as civil partners with his partner James Dunseath in July 2008.

Duncan has a committed following in the Gay community and is active in speaking up for gay rights. He was responsible for formulating the Conservatives' policy response to the introduction of civil partnership legislation in 2004, which he considered his proudest achievement of the Parliament between 2001 and 2005. In 2007, Pink News named him the 15th most powerful LGBT person in the UK.

Alejamdro Fernando Amenabar Cantos
1972 -

Spanish filmmaker ALEJANDRO FERNANDO AMENÁBAR CANTOS was born in Santiago, Chile. In addition to writing and directing his own films, Amenábar has maintained a notable career as a composer of film scores, including the Goya Awards-nominated score for José Luis Cuerda's La lengua de las mariposas.

Amenábar was awarded the Grand Prix of the Jury at the International Venice Film Festival in 2004 for Mar adentro ("The Sea Inside") starring Javier Bardem, and in February 2005 the same film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. In February 2004, Amenábar came out to the Spanish Gay magazine Shangay Express. In 2008 Amenábar shot an epic (an in this writer’s opinion, beautiful) film called Agora which he wrote with Mateo Gill. Set in Roman Egypt, the film is based on the life of philosopher and mathematician Hypatia of Alexandria. The editor highly recommends the film.

In July 2015, Canto married David Blanco.

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