+
Identity

5 images of Victorian England that will make you rethink LGBTQ history.

While the rest of society was struggling to define and understand them, they went about with their usual business, living their lives regardless of words.

LGBTQ, transgender, rights, 1890's
Photo by Alex Jackman on Unsplash

A rainbow drawing with chalk representing the LGBTQ community.

This article originally appeared on 12.21.16


Officially, there were no homosexual men in Victorian England.

But that's just because the word "homosexual" didn't enter the language until the mid-to-late 1890s. ("Transsexual" and "transgender" would catch on even later.)

There were, however, men who engaged in sexual and/or romantic relationships with each other. They just didn't identify with the same words we use today; in fact, many of them used a special cant-like, crypto-language called Polari in order to communicate without exposing themselves in public.

While the rest of society was struggling to define and understand them, they went about with their usual business, living their lives regardless of words.


Consider the case of Frederick William Park and Thomas Ernest Boulton — also known as Fanny and Stella, respectively.

The duo met while working as actors around London, where there was a longstanding tradition in the theater of men cross-dressing to perform as women. Fanny and Stella appeared onstage as sisters, but Park and Boulton carried these identities offstage as well, cavorting at parties and in public.

photography, transgender, victorian age

Fredrick and Thomas pose in an embrace as Fanny and Stella.

Photo via Frederick Spalding/Wikimedia Commons.

Boulton, whose affinity for women's clothing and dreams of femme stardom stretched back to childhood, had a live-in relationship with Lord Arthur Clinton, a naval officer and the son of the 5th duke of Newcastle. Park, on the other hand, was the son of a judge. While it's not clear whether he was involved sexually with either Boulton or Clinton, he was known to have a written correspondence with Clinton in character as Fanny.

relationships, victorian, transgender, laws

Clinton, Boulton, and Park pose for a photograph.

Clinton, Boulton, and Park. Photo via Frederick Spalding/Wikimedia Commons.

Things started to get messy when Fanny and Stella were arrested outside of London's Royal Strand Theatre on April 28, 1870.

Their alleged crime? "Conspiring and inciting persons to commit an unnatural offense" with the other men they were accompanying. Lord Clinton was also indicted in the scandal but tragically died before it went to trial, possibly by suicide.

When the case reached the court, the prosecution faced a difficult challenge. There was nothing technically illegal about a man wearing a dress in public, and it was impossible to prove someone guilty of "being gay or transgender" when the words didn't yet exist. Thus, the only potentially punishable offense for which Fanny and Stella could be tried was sodomy.

Fanny and Stella stood before a judge in their best evening gowns while doctors presented physical evidence of sodomy. Even the public at the time thought the spectacle was ridiculous, and the two were ultimately acquitted by a jury.

freedom, human rights, transgender, history

A drawing depicting both Fredrick and Thomas being arrested in 1870.

Image via The Illustrated Police News/Wikimedia Commons.

In 1880, Victorian values were once again scandalized by the "disgraceful proceedings" of a so-called "drag ball" in Manchester.

The private event on Sept. 24, 1880, at the city's Temperance Hall was organized by a group calling themselves the Pawnbrokers' Assistants' Association. They took numerous precautions to protect the guests' identities, including a bouncer at the door dressed as a nun, black paper on the windows, and a blind accordion player to provide the party's music with plausible deniability.

Somehow, Detective Jerome Caminada, who's believed to be the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes, caught wind of the occasion. The sneaky sleuth reportedly observed "men dressed in the most fantastic fashion, and eight of them in the garb of women."

The police waited until the early hours of the morning to raid the party and ended up arresting nearly 50 people for the crime of "having solicited and incited each other to commit an unnameable offense" — again, because there was nothing explicitly illegal about "being queer and dancing the can-can."

In the end, most of the defendants were forced to pay a bond in a promise to the court for 12 months of "good behavior."

legal, laws, transgender rights, police news

A cartoon published in the Police News talking about the incident.

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Five years later, the U.K. passed the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885, which made "gross indecency" punishable by prison time.

Member of Parliament Henry Labouchère realized that if they were ever going to bring charges against queer men, trying to legally prove they engaged in sodomy wasn't the answer.

Labouchère came up with the vaguely defined term gross indecency, which basically meant any kind of physical sexual contact between two people with penises that the court deemed "gross." (There was no comparable law against queer women.) The new law was tacked onto an amendment about the age of consent.

Perhaps the most famous charge of gross indecency was against Oscar Wilde, who served two years hard labor in Reading prison, from which he never quite recovered. The British codebreaker and computer science progenitor Alan Turing was also charged with gross indecency in 1952. As punishment, he was chemically castrated; 50 years later, the British government acknowledged the action was grossly inhumane.

statues, memoriam, history, reformation, transgender rights

Statues made in honor of mathematician Alan touring and writer Oscar Wilde respectively.

Photos via Lmno/Wikimedia Commons and Sandro Schachner/Wikimedia Commons.

(Left) The Alan Turing memorial in Sackville Park, Manchester, and the Oscar Wilde memorial in Merrion Square, Dublin.

Sex between two consenting British males was finally decriminalized in 1967 — but anti-gay laws stayed on the books in Scotland and Northern Ireland until the 1980s.

It still took until 2010 for the U.K. to secure most other rights for LGBTQ people, including adoption, marriage, and protection from discrimination.

The fight for sexual and gender equality has been long and arduous, but one thing is certain: Queer people have always been here, regardless of what they were called at various times in history.

Naming things is how we give them power. The words we use today make it easier for us to see and to accept identities that have always been present for what they truly are: essential parts of the human experience.

Pedro Pascal and Bowen Yang can't keep a straight face as Ego Nwodim tries to cut her steak.

Most episodes of “Saturday Night Live” are scheduled so the funnier bits go first and the riskier, oddball sketches appear towards the end, in case they have to be cut for time. But on the February 4 episode featuring host Pedro Pascal (“The Mandalorian,” “The Last of Us”), the final sketch, “Lisa from Temecula,” was probably the most memorable of the night.

That’s high praise because it was a strong episode, with a funny “Last of Us” parody featuring the Super Mario Brothers and a sketch where Pascal played a protective mother.

Keep ReadingShow less
AMC Theaters/Youtube, Variety/Twitter

AMC announced that it would be implementing a new three-tier ticketing system.

AMC Theaters, America’s largest movie theater chain, announced on Feb 6 that it will be adopting different ticket prices based on seat location.

Moviegoers will have three tiers to choose from based on sightline of the movie screen—Preferred Sightline, set in the middle at the highest price point, Value Sightline, set in the front of the auditorium at the lowest price, and Standard Sightline, which is basically everything else (including the back seats, which are perhaps the most commonly picked) set at the traditional cost of a ticket.

In other words…heartbreak will feel more expensive in a place like this…or less, depending on where you sit



The company’s announcement was met with both criticism and approval. While some feel the move follows a well-established business model, others have found it to be taking away a valued aspect of the moviegoing experience.

Keep ReadingShow less
Photo by alevision.co on Unsplash/ @camerconstewart_uk/Instagram

"Sometimes it pays to learn a language!"

It feels safe to assume that if money were no object, people would always choose to travel business class over economy. After all, who doesn’t want a fast check-in, fancy food and drink choices and more of that sweet, spacious legroom?

However, at anywhere between four to ten times the price of a regular economy ticket, this style of traveling remains a fantasy for many who simply can’t afford it.

Luckily, thanks to one man’s clever travel hack, that fantasy might be more achievable than we realize.

Cameron Stewart, a British photojournalist and camera operator, recently shared how he was able to score business class tickets at a fraction of the price, simply by switching the website language from English to Spanish.
Keep ReadingShow less
via Pexels

A mother puts a fresh diaper on her baby.

Scientists at Penn State University have devised a “smart diaper” that alerts parents when their baby is wet. The diaper is made of paper, treated with sodium chloride (salt) and has a circuit board drawn with a pencil.

When the humidity level rises in the diaper, the graphite and the urine are absorbed by the paper and it turns on a sensor powered by a small lithium battery. The sensor then sets the alarm on an app that parents download onto their phones.

“The hydration sensor is highly sensitive to changes in humidity and provides accurate readings over a wide range of relative humidity levels, from 5.6% to 90%,” the researchers at Penn State said in a statement.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Kelly Clarkson and Pink's gorgeous unplugged 'What About Us?' duet came with a timely​ message

"We're not listening to each other right now. And it's so loud, and so gross, and so angry…"

Pink and Kelly Clarkson teamed up for a sweet acoustic version of "What About Us?"

Pink and Kelly Clarkson are both known for having powerhouse voices that can belt at incredible ranges but also soften for a sweet ballad. Put the two of them together, and…well, dang.

On Feb 6, Clarkson featured Pink on her daytime talk show, in which she often sings with musical guests. The two superstars sang several acoustic duets with pitch-perfect harmonies, prompting fans of both artists to clamor for a collaborative album.

One song they sang together was Pink's "What About Us?" Pink previously described the song to The Sun in 2017: "The world in general is a really scary place full of beautiful people. Humans are resilient and there's a lot of wonderful—like I said in the song—'billions of beautiful hearts' and there are bad eggs in every group. And they make it really hard for the rest of us."

In the intro to their duet, Clarkson asked Pink about the impetus behind her writing the song.

"We're not listening to each other right now. And it's so loud, and so gross, and so angry and people are being forgotten," Pink shared. "People are being counted out and their rights are being trampled on just because a group of people doesn't believe in them."

"Like, I don't understand how so many people in this world are discounted because one group of people decided they don't like that," she continued. "And I won't—I won't have it. One of the most beautiful things that my dad taught me was that my voice matters and I can make a difference, and I will."

The lyrics of the song seem to address the political leaders and decision-makers who hold people's lives in their hands as they pull the levers of power. It's a beautiful song with an important message wrapped up in gorgeous two-part harmony.

Enjoy:

Pop Culture

Keanu Reeves shocks a small-town pub by stopping in for a pint and taking photos with the staff

“So today we had a surprise visitor for lunch. What a lovely man he was, too."

Keanu Reeves in São Paulo, Brazil, 2019.

Keanu Reeves has a reputation as one of Hollywood’s nicest celebrities. Recently, he cheered up an 80-year-old fan who had a crush on him by calling her on the phone. He’s also bought an ice cream cone for a fan to give an autograph on the receipt and crashed a wedding to take photos with the bride and groom.

He’s also an incredible humanitarian who gave up a big chunk of his money from "The Matrix" to a cancer charity.

The “John Wick” star was his usual gracious self over the weekend when on Saturday, February 4, he and a friend walked into The Robin Hood pub in Tring, Hertfordshire, about 30 miles outside of London.

Keep ReadingShow less