The image you’re looking at is me in 2019 celebrating Pride month. In the eleven years I’ve been writing this blog I have continued to take the position that all humans should have the same rights. I’ve gotten older, fatter, and have had a couple of health scares but my opinion hasn’t changed. Seeing as how this country has barely survived the most bigoted (and that’s saying something in a country that had Andrew Jackson’s Trail-of-Tears), anti-science, regime in American history, I thought it might be time to look at a couple of examples of some of the positive highlights I’ve found while hanging out here. There are many more, and you can find them by using the lovely search engine located in the upper right hand side of every page. I won’t be linking to these blogs in any chronological order. More like what showed up in my search engine first got used first. Without any further ado, and – yes – these are all true, let’s begin.
GAY NAZI BEACH CAMPS!
Back in August of 2013 I ran across a graphic novel called In Italia Sono Tutti Maschi (In Italy Everyone Is Manly) which was published in 2008.
Let’s let Mark Adnum tell you the story of the gay, Nazi, beach lover’s paradise.
In 1938 a Sicilian mayor did the local homosexuals an inadvertent favor, and all in the name of currying favor with Mussolini. Anxious to appear as fascist as possible, the mayor of Catania noted the “spreading of degeneration” caused by local gay dances and gay behavior at some of Sicily’s gorgeous beaches and rounded up 45 guys from Catania and shipped them, handcuffed to leaky boats, 300 miles away, to the lovely island of San Domino in the Adriatic Sea. So far, so fascist, but as the months passed on San Domino, the men — far away from the prying curiosities of their devoutly Catholic family members, their employers and the police who kept watch on everything that moved in their hometowns — enjoyed something approximating a paradise.
This year a delegation of Italian gay and lesbian activists traveled to the island to pay tribute to the wartime internal exiles. And a graphic novel called In Italia Sono Tutti Maschi (In Italy Everyone Is Manly) was published in 2008.
“We notice that many public dances, beaches and places in the mountains receive many of these sick men, and that youngsters from all social classes look for their company,” the mayor of Catania wrote in 1938. He went on (and on) about “a sexual aberration that offends morality and that is disastrous to public health and the improvement of the race.” Finally, he declared that “this evil needs to be attacked and burned at its core.”
No members of the penal colony are believed to be alive today. A book by researchers Gianfranco Goretti and Tommaso Giartosi, The Island and the City, details the verbal histories of some of the prisoners as well as those of several San Dominions, who remember the period when dozens of men, most of them gay Catanians, were interned on their island.
An islander who was a young boy when the first prisoners began arriving says:
We were curious because they were called “the girls.” We would go and watch them get off the boat … all dressed up in the summer with white pants — with hats. And we would watch in awe — “Look at that one, how she moves!” But we had no contact with them.
Another islander remembers the daily 8 p.m. bell indicating the prisoners’ curfew:
They would be locked inside the dormitories, and they were under the supervision of the police. My father always spoke well of them. He never had anything bad to say about them — and he was the local Fascist representative.
Giuseppe B., a San Domino inmate, told a part of his story some years ago to Italian gay magazine Babilonia:
In those days if you were a femmenella [obviously gay] you couldn’t even leave your home, or make yourself noticed — the police would arrest you.
On the island, on the other hand, we would celebrate our Saint’s days or the arrival of someone new. We did theatre, and we could dress as women there and no-one would say anything.
Giuseppe said that the outbreak of World War II in 1939 ended the internal exile program, and the men were returned to their home towns, where they lived under house arrest. According to Giuseppe, many wept when told they would have to leave San Domino and the lovers and friends that most had found there.
This blog post originally appeared in a slightly different form at Nightcharm.com (link NSFW).
The men who lived there are long since gone, but I do find some joy in knowing that, for a brief moment, they got to see what it could mean to live their true lives.
Moving on. Next on our agenda is a little, easily verifiable, history.
This gem comes for a 2008 post from the Colfax Record. It’s since been yanked, but it’s been archived all over the web. I wrote about it in 2012 and now my post gets passed around just as much s the original. Mostly because I took the time to find links to the corresponding historical documents.
When Same-Sex Marriage Was A Christian Rite
A Kiev art museum contains a curious icon from St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mt. Sinai in Israel. It shows two robed Christian saints. Between them is a traditional Roman ‘pronubus’ (a best man), overseeing a wedding. The pronubus is Christ. The married couple are both men.
Is the icon suggesting that a gay “wedding” is being sanctified by Christ himself? The idea seems shocking. But the full answer comes from other early Christian sources about the two men featured in the icon, St. Sergius and St. Bacchus, two Roman soldiers who were Christian martyrs. These two officers in the Roman army incurred the anger of Emperor Maximian when they were exposed as ‘secret Christians’ by refusing to enter a pagan temple. Both were sent to Syria circa 303 CE where Bacchus is thought to have died while being flogged. Sergius survived torture but was later beheaded. Legend says that Bacchus appeared to the dying Sergius as an angel, telling him to be brave because they would soon be reunited in heaven.
While the pairing of saints, particularly in the early Christian church, was not unusual, the association of these two men was regarded as particularly intimate. Severus, the Patriarch of Antioch (AD 512 – 518) explained that, “we should not separate in speech they [Sergius and Bacchus] who were joined in life”. This is not a case of simple “adelphopoiia.” In the definitive 10th century account of their lives, St. Sergius is openly celebrated as the “sweet companion and lover” of St. Bacchus. Sergius and Bacchus’s close relationship has led many modern scholars to believe they were lovers. But the most compelling evidence for this view is that the oldest text of their martyrology, written in New Testament Greek describes them as “erastai,” or “lovers”. In other words, they were a male homosexual couple. Their orientation and relationship was not only acknowledged, but it was fully accepted and celebrated by the early Christian church, which was far more tolerant than it is today.
Contrary to myth, Christianity’s concept of marriage has not been set in stone since the days of Christ, but has constantly evolved as a concept and ritual.
Prof. John Boswell, the late Chairman of Yale University’s history department, discovered that in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies in ancient Christian church liturgical documents, there were also ceremonies called the “Office of Same-Sex Union” (10th and 11th century), and the “Order for Uniting Two Men” (11th and 12th century).
These church rites had all the symbols of a heterosexual marriage: the whole community gathered in a church, a blessing of the couple before the altar was conducted with their right hands joined, holy vows were exchanged, a priest officiatied in the taking of the Eucharist and a wedding feast for the guests was celebrated afterwards. These elements all appear in contemporary illustrations of the holy union of the Byzantine Warrior-Emperor, Basil the First (867-886 CE) and his companion John.
Such same gender Christian sanctified unions also took place in Ireland in the late 12th and early 13th century, as the chronicler Gerald of Wales (‘Geraldus Cambrensis’) recorded.
Same-sex unions in pre-modern Europe list in great detail some same gender ceremonies found in ancient church liturgical documents. One Greek 13th century rite, “Order for Solemn Same-Sex Union“, invoked St. Serge and St. Bacchus, and called on God to “vouchsafe unto these, Thy servants [N and N], the grace to love one another and to abide without hate and not be the cause of scandal all the days of their lives, with the help of the Holy Mother of God, and all Thy saints”. The ceremony concludes: “And they shall kiss the Holy Gospel and each other, and it shall be concluded”.
Another 14th century Serbian Slavonic “Office of the Same Sex Union”, uniting two men or two women, had the couple lay their right hands on the Gospel while having a crucifix placed in their left hands. After kissing the Gospel, the couple were then required to kiss each other, after which the priest, having raised up the Eucharist, would give them both communion.
Records of Christian same sex unions have been discovered in such diverse archives as those in the Vatican, in St. Petersburg, in Paris, in Istanbul and in the Sinai, covering a thousand-years from the 8th to the 18th century.
The Dominican missionary and Prior, Jacques Goar (1601-1653), includes such ceremonies in a printed collection of Greek Orthodox prayer books, “Euchologion Sive Rituale Graecorum Complectens Ritus Et Ordines Divinae Liturgiae” (Paris, 1667).
While homosexuality was technically illegal from late Roman times, homophobic writings didn’t appear in Western Europe until the late 14th century. Even then, church-consecrated same sex unions continued to take place.
At St. John Lateran in Rome (traditionally the Pope’s parish church) in 1578, as many as thirteen same-gender couples were joined during a high Mass and with the cooperation of the Vatican clergy, “taking communion together, using the same nuptial Scripture, after which they slept and ate together” according to a contemporary report. Another woman to woman union is recorded in Dalmatia in the 18th century.
Prof. Boswell’s academic study is so well researched and documented that it poses fundamental questions for both modern church leaders and heterosexual Christians about their own modern attitudes towards homosexuality.
For the Church to ignore the evidence in its own archives would be cowardly and deceptive. The evidence convincingly shows that what the modern church claims has always been its unchanging attitude towards homosexuality is, in fact, nothing of the sort.
It proves that for the last two millennia, in parish churches and cathedrals throughout Christendom, from Ireland to Istanbul and even in the heart of Rome itself, homosexual relationships were accepted as valid expressions of a God-given love and commitment to another person, a love that could be celebrated, honored and blessed, through the Eucharist in the name of, and in the presence of, Jesus Christ.
I’ll end with this nugget from 2015. It was a nice reminder of why being an ally is important.
The story I’m about to tell is only tangentially related to the rest of the blog, but it’s worth sharing given the atmosphere of hate that’s permeated the American media as of late. Almost every Friday I do a radio show on WBIG called The Big Wake Up Call. You can use the first link to stream live and the second to listen to recordings in case you miss it. Anyway, I got a call today from a nice man. He’d emailed me and asked if we could talk. He got my number simply because I sent it to him. He was hesitant to talk at first, I have that effect on people, but finally told me why he contacted me. About a year and a half ago a friend of mine got a job working on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. During one episode I mentioned that, during a rare a break in production schedules, she and her wife were finally able to take their honeymoon. That’s it. That’s all I said. But to this man it was an earth shattering revelation. You see, he and his boyfriend at the time had just come out to their parents and they were not well received. They were told how society would shun them forever. And yet, on this silly little radio show I do, here were a couple of, annoyingly straight, dudes calmly talking about superheroes and lesbians and being much more interested in the superheroes. It hit them they were normal too. That their relationship was no big deal. Sure there were, and are, very important things people cared about, like whether or not Ben Affleck was going to be a good Batman, or whether Gal Gadot was going to honor the heritage of Wonder Woman. Yes to both, by the way. But on that list of very super really fucking important things, whether or not two people loved each other didn’t make the rankings. Inspired by this, I guess not everything needs to be a Facebook meme to inspire someone, they said “fuck it” and got married. They hope their families will see them for what they are; a happy, committed, couple. But, if not, it’s no longer their concern. They’ve staked a claim to their own lives and are going to do the best they can.
I’m leaving their names out since they still have family issues and it’s not my job to cause them grief. Even so, it’s nice to know that sometimes, once in a while, doing what I do doesn’t suck.
Every now and then I’ll hear from them. They’ve moved, they’re happy, and life is looking good. As much as they miss their families they refuse to subject themselves to hate and vitriol just for being who they are.
I, for one, can’t blame them.
Listen to Bill McCormick on WBIG (FOX! Sports) every Friday around 9:10 AM.
contact Bill McCormick