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Masturbation is ‘gay sex’, says deranged Christian commentator

DAVE Daubenmire, aka “Coach Dave”, spends most of his time ranting about a variety of issues he claims are destroying the fabric of American Society via his Pass The Salt live webcasts.

Last month  the former high school football coach was banging on about the “sissification” of young American men:

“Everywhere they go, young men are being sissified. They’re being sissified in school, they’re being sissified in church. They’re being sissified on the job, they’re being sissified in the home.

“The daddies have become sissies, the daddies won’t speak back to their bossy wives because they want to get laid and so mom runs the house, mom runs everything.”

But in a later broadcast he excelled himself when he claimed that: “Masturbation is homosexuality. You’re having sex with a man. You get it? Now, you put images of a woman in your mind, but you’re having sex with a man.”

Taken to its logical conclusion, his assertion means that around 90 percent of men are gay, as the infographic, below, indicates:

Indiana University’s National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB) polled 5,865 Americans between the ages of 14 and 94 and found that men masturbate more often than women, with 84.6 women age 24-29 reporting having masturbated versus 93 percent of men in that same age group.

According to The Encylopedia of American Loons, Daubenmire also runs something called “Minutemen united”, a group of people who disrupts church services to proclaim their anti-gay stance.

Daubenmire asserts that he is “not homophobic. I’m not homo-hateful. I’m not homo-latent. I’m homo-
nauseous.

“I really couldn’t care less where a man desires to put his appendage. But I’m sick of hearing about it. I’m sick of talking about it. I’m sick of it being force fed to me on TV.”

Circumcision: regulation, not prohibition

STEPHEN MORETON believes that it is very important that people in the secular/atheist camp, as well as others, treat anti-circumcision activists with caution.

IF a religion taught that its followers must vaccinate its non-consenting children because the great sky daddy said they must, we might think the reason given was daft, but we would not complain. After all, the outcome is a good one. But what if that preventative medicine is male circumcision (MC)?

The current bid to ban religious MC in Iceland has revealed a dark, and hypocritical, side of the humanist, atheist, secular and sceptic movements. People who pride themselves on being big on science and reason toss them aside in the rush to jump on the anti-circumcision bandwagon, seeing the procedure as a convenient stick to bash religion with.

Scientific evidence is drowned out by emotional rhetoric: it’s “mutilation”, “child abuse”, a “violation of human rights”, and stupid comparisons are made with removing ear lobes, breasts or other body parts. And in jumping on this bandwagon they are rubbing shoulders with some very distasteful characters – the “intactivists”.

Intactivism is the name given by its followers to the anti-circumcision movement. The idea is that an “intact” man still has a foreskin. Originating in the USA, they dominate the Internet. Any article on MC attracts a host of hostile comments. Try answering them with reason and evidence and expect to be called a “paedophile”, “knife rapist”, “liar”. Intactivists monitor Facebook 24 hours a day watching out for parents mentioning having their sons circumcised. This is then flagged in their groups so that others can target the hapless parents with vile abuse and threats. Their cult master “Brother K” (Kenneth David Hopkins) leads the bullies with thousands of minions watching, reporting and harassing.

Doctors, surgeons and mohelim providing the procedure are targeted with abuse, campaigns to get them sacked, and death threats. Amongst themselves intactivists share strangers’ Facebook images and comments along with epithets like “I want to smack her face in with a baseball bat”. They gloated over the Malasian Airways flight 17 disaster in 2014 because some on board were going to an international AIDS conference with sessions on male circumcision, and others celebrate the Holocaust because it means fewer Jewish people, therefore fewer circumcisions.

They spread pseudoscience designed to deceive impressionable males into thinking they are missing something wonderful, the most erogenous part. That this causes psychological harm concerns them not. In fact it is their intention to make circumcised males angry as it draws motivated new recruits into their movement. They have even set a target: 600,000 angry circumcised men, which they hope will be enough to achieve their goal – a ban on infant circumcision. So far they have driven one young man to suicide, maybe two, and caused needless distress amongst others deceived by this narrative.

Cult-like: Brother K (original name Kenneth David Hopkins) has become something of a cult-leader in the intactivist movement.

Their rhetoric is identical to that emanating from the supposedly rational secularist camp. It is anything but rational. “Mutilation” in its widest sense means any bodily modification, so a vaccination that leaves a scar is a mutilation. In its usual sense it means harm or disfigurement. But as MC is neither it is not mutilation. Those who cry “mutilation” are engaging in cheap emotional point-scoring, like those who call abortion “murder”.

As for “child abuse”, comparing a trivial medical procedure under local anaesthetic to years of beating or sexual violation is preposterous. And if rights are one’s concern, does the right to keep every bodily part, no matter how unimportant, trump the right to have one’s health, even life, protected? And the comparison with removing ear lobes etc is inane. Have these idiots not heard of a risk/benefit analysis?
I say, “wait a moment, let’s look at the science”. And there is a lot of it. Searching PubMed (the principle search engine for the medical scientific literature) for “circumcision public health” throws up 3,499 hits, a search on “circumcision HIV” 1,724 hits. By the time you read this those numbers will have increased as new studies are being published all the time. At my last count I had more than 1,100 of them on my computer, an extensive library on the topic being essential if one is to contribute effectively to the debate – which I do through the website www.circfacts.org which I edit and write for.

It is one of the few devoted to exposing anti-circumcision pseudoscience. Sadly, having seen the appalling ignorance in comments threads on humanist, sceptic and secular media, it appears I probably know more about this topic than all those commenters combined.

So what does the science say? Well two things. First, MC has no adverse effect on sexual function, sensation or satisfaction. And secondly it has an impressive list of proven benefits.

Dealing with sexual function first, there are dozens of studies on the effect of MC on sexual function and pleasure, mostly survey-based cross-sectional affairs, subject to the weaknesses inherent to such study designs, such as small sample sizes, selection bias, confounding and leading questions. Even so, the great majority find no effect, a few find a positive effect, and a few find negative ones. The most obvious conclusion from that alone is that male circumcision has no significant effect, and all we are seeing with the few studies that purport to find one (whether for better or worse) is statistical noise.

But not all studies are equal. Some are of inherently better design than others (ie less likely to suffer from biases and confounding). At the bottom of the pile are opinions and personal testimonies, a little higher up individual case reports, higher again ecological studies (eg country-by-country comparisons), middle ranking are cross-sectional studies (typically survey–based), higher again case-control studies, then cohort studies and then the best of all study designs, the randomised controlled trial (RCT), often referred to as the “gold standard” of epidemiology. Well-conducted systematic reviews and meta-analyses are right at the top.

Most studies on sexual function do not get past cross-sectional. When one looks at the best designed studies, ie higher up the hierarchy of evidence, something interesting happens. There are eight primary studies, including three RCTs, plus a further four systematic reviews incorporating two meta-analyses. Every one of them finds either no adverse effect, or a positive one (eg less pain on intercourse), leaving the intactivists to cherry-pick the handful of weaker studies finding a negative effect.

And cherry-pick they do. When Dr Antony Lempert, chair of the National Secular Society’s Secular Medical Forum, participated in a debate at UCL in 2013, he regaled his audience with a few studies purporting to find that MC had detrimental effects on sexual pleasure or function. He ignored the majority of studies finding no difference, including several measuring sensitivity in various ways, and RCTs looking at men circumcised as adults and thus able to compare.

In one the men even reported increased sensitivity following circumcision. He also omitted to mention the severe criticisms his cherry-picked studies had attracted. The first two were so bad (marred by statistical flaws and selection bias) as to be almost worthless. The third study, from Denmark (and which was still problematical) he misrepresented, saying it found, “circumcision was associated with a range of frequent sexual and orgasm difficulties in female partners of circumcised men, as well as the men themselves”.

Yet Morten Frisch, the lead author of that study, and a staunch opponent of circumcision, has gone on record as saying, “most circumcised men and most spouses of circumcised men did absolutely well in their sex lives” and “most women with circumcised spouses do not encounter a whole lot of sexual trouble. That I want to stress to avoid stigmatisation”.

In short, not only did Dr Lempert cherry-pick the data, he even misrepresented some of the data he cherry-picked. Sadly, this behaviour is standard practice for circumcision opponents. I used this example only to show that even people in our non-religious camp are guilty. Every study they cite can typically be matched with a greater number of often better quality studies that say something different. That is normal for pseudoscience.

Also normal is the use of bogus statistics, speculations and internet memes passed off as genuine. Claims of foreskins containing 10,000, 20,000, 70,000 (take your pick) nerves, involved in the ejaculation reflex, covering 15 square inches, having 16 functions, 117 babies dying each year from MC complications, only one in 16,667 boys ever needing a circumcision, 20 percent getting meatal stenosis following MC, and all ending up with a hardened, desensitised glans, and many other extravagant claims, have all been debunked ad nauseam. Yet notable people in the sceptical community have fallen for some of these myths (Myles Power and Marianne Baker come to mind). And one, Deborah Hyde editor of The Skeptic, twice gave space to intactivist articles packed with misleading, even dishonest, claims, and refused to allow a rebuttal to the second of those articles.

MC has benefits. It protects against: urinary tract infections (life-threatening in the neonate, and increasingly antibiotic-resistant), balanitis, posthitis, candidiasis, penile cancer, prostate cancer, phimosis and complications thereof (paraphimosis, gangrene, necrotising fasciitis), lichen sclerosis; and sexually transmitted infections: HIV, oncogenic HPV, HSV, syphilis, Mycoplasma genitalium, Trichomonas vaginalis, genital ulcerative disease and chancroid.

Females are protected also, as their male partners are less likely to be infected. This includes a lower risk of cervical cancer caused by oncogenic HPV.

Many of these benefits apply throughout childhood, and it will not do to counter the sex-related ones with the cry, “Condoms!” One will never get all men to use condoms, or use them consistently, or use them properly every time they do. Besides, even when used consistently they are only about 80 percent effective at stopping HIV transmission according to a Cochrane Review, 71–77 percent effective according to the latest meta-analysis. As shown by the HIV tragedy in Africa, where the epidemic continues despite massive condom promotion, something more is needed.

That something more is MC. Around 40 epidemiological studies, the great majority finding an association between foreskins and contracting HIV, culminated in three RCTs (in Uganda, Kenya and South Africa) that clinched it. MC is highly protective against female to male transmission, the two most recent meta-analyses find 70 & 72 percent efficacy. That is awesome, and compares with the effectiveness of influenza vaccine against the flu.

Concurrently, a considerable body of research has identified several mechanisms by which the virus gains entry. The foreskin is the weak point that lets the virus in. Take it away and that main route of entry is denied. It can still find other ways, but the risk is much reduced.

This has led the WHO, CDC, UNAIDS, PEPFAR, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Marie Stopes and others to promote MC in Africa where the epidemic is at its worst, although it is also being considered for parts of the Caribbean, Asia and Far East where there are HIV hotspots. Originally targeting adults, by 2016 some 14.5 million Africans had volunteered for the cut, 2.8 million in 2016 alone as the programme escalated. And where it is being rolled out HIV incidence is starting to fall, more so in men than women, as male circumcision protects men directly. And the programme is now being extended to infants.

This is as good as it gets in medical science. Tens of epidemiological studies, most indicating an effect, three RCTs and a series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses confirming it, likely mechanisms identified, and now real-world data with evidence of a dose-response relationship. One cannot ask for better. Faced with an epidemic of an incurable disease, that has defied all attempts at developing a vaccine, and that has killed 35 million and infected as many more, this is fantastic!

The anti-circumcisionists are in apoplexy over this. They divide into the outright deniers, and the “yes buts”. From the deniers, pseudoscientific arguments abound, disputing the data, pointing to “methodological flaws”, or anomalies where circumcised men are evidently more likely to have HIV. All have been debunked, often in excruciating detail, and to the satisfaction of every professional body dealing with the epidemic.

The “yes buts” take a superficially more reasonable view. “Yes, circumcision can protect against HIV” they admit, “But wait until the boy is old enough to choose for himself if he wishes to be circumcised”. Those who take this line have obviously not experienced an erection held together by a dozen to twenty stitches.

In fact there are a whole string of reasons why infant male circumcision is preferable over adult. It is less risky, less costly (no need for time off work), less painful (local anaesthetic, and no troublesome erections), heals faster, and there is no need to abstain from sex for six weeks until it heals up. All these are major deterrents for adults, as identified by numerous studies.

When educated about the benefits of MC, many men are positive about the idea, but are deterred by the aforementioned barriers. But majorities, sometimes very large ones (over 90 percent) would have a son circumcised. In a situation where getting as high an uptake as possible is vital, this is hugely important. It means tens of millions more circumcised males a few decades hence, and thus millions of new HIV infections averted by the end of the century. It is a no-brainer: it is not worth infecting millions with a deadly disease for the sake of a bit of skin. Yet still dogmatic anti-circumcisionists oppose it.

Now, whether MC is of use outside HIV epidemic settings is currently a hotly debated topic. But risk/benefit and cost/benefit analyses are appearing in the literature indicating that it might be. In 2012 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) conducted the most extensive review of the literature up to that point. It concluded that the benefits of male circumcision outweigh the risks, and it should be made available to parents who choose it, but stopped short of recommending it be routine. A storm followed in the medical literature, with accusations of “cultural bias” being thrown in both directions, and attempts to rebut the AAP’s findings meeting with counter-rebuttals, followed by counter-counter-rebuttals. It is still grumbling on.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) soon came to the same conclusion as the AAP, leading to another round of rebuttals and counter-rebuttals. Then the Canadian Pediatric Society published its review in 2015, this time taking a more nuanced position – the risk/benefit ratio they concluded was “closely balanced”, and so they erred on the conservative side. Again the usual round of rebuttals etc followed, as did a risk/benefit analysis finding that male circumcision does win even in a low HIV setting, and does so comfortably.

Meanwhile, just as the science is moving in favour of the procedure, public opinion is going the other way. And sadly, the European medical bodies, especially the Dutch and Nordic ones (for whom male circumcision is very much against their culture) are following public opinion instead of the science. No European body has attempted an up-to-date comprehensive review of the scientific data, and their (often outdated) policy statements seem to be more ideology than science-based. This trend has grave implications.

Thankfully, the WHO and other bodies promoting MC take no notice of the foreskin fans, and the programme continues. Unfortunately Africans do take notice, and intactivists are organising on the continent and targeting them with pseudoscience and scare-mongering. And they are very intently watching developments in Europe.

Their Facebook pages (eg Intact Africa, Intact Kenya, Nairobi Circumcision Resources) routinely post reports of moves to ban MC in the developed world, including the current attempt in Iceland.

So just when they are being told by the WHO etc to circumcise, they see Europeans saying this is wrong, or not good enough for them. What a dangerous message to be sending out.

Meanwhile, what if the MC advocates are right? Suppose the procedure really does have benefits that outweigh the risks? If so then MC is not “mutilation” it is preventative medicine that just happens to have religious and cultural significance for some. In which case, religious MC is an example of doing the right thing for the wrong reason.

The answer is to regulate the procedure. Insist it be done by medically trained practitioners, to avoid tragedies such as Goodluck Caubergs, attacked in 2010 by a woman with a pair of scissors in Greater Manchester. He bled to death. Right now any Tom, Dick or Abdul can go around with a sharp instrument cutting babies and get away with it, so long as the baby does not end up in intensive care, or dead.

This is outrageous. But it is not outrageous to want for one’s son a simple, evidence-based, prophylactic medical procedure that will protect him for life from a wide range of conditions, some serious, and some common. By all means campaign for regulation of MC, but not prohibition. Let the science settle that, and right now the science is moving in male circumcision’s favour.

• Stephen Moreton PhD is a research chemist based in Cheshire, England. He is a long-standing atheist, sceptic and debunker of pseudoscience, who has been following the intactivist movement for years, and views it as a dangerous pseudoscientific cult. He edits and writes for the debunking website www.circfacts.org, one of the few dedicated to exposing anti-circumcision pseudoscience.

Don Leon and underground gay scholarship

IN March, 2018, US writer JOHN LAURITSEN, above, a long-time contributor to the Gay and Lesbian Humanist magazine –
now The Pink Humanist – addressed the Outing the Past Conference in Liverpool. This is an abridged version of his talk.

Last year I published two books under the Pagan Press imprint.  One of them, The Shelley-Byron Men: Lost Angels of a Ruined Paradise, deals with homoeroticism – or male love – in the lives and works of men around the two most famous poets of English Romanticism, Shelley and Byron. 

The other book, Don Leon & Leon to Annabella, recovers a milestone in the struggle to emancipate male love. It is also one of the greatest epic poems in English.

Don Leon is a powerful outcry against injustice, a moving and witty defence of male love, and an account of Byron’s sexuality, which on the whole has proven to be true.  Among neglected literary masterpieces, Don Leon heads the list – not only neglected, but vilified and suppressed. 

It is great poetry. At the same time, it is pornographic, at least by earlier standards. 

I gained my enthusiasm for Don Leon from my friend, the late Joseph Wallfield, later known by his pen name, “Warren Johansson” – a brilliant man and a mentor to many gay scholars. I first met him in 1969 in the early weeks of the New York Gay Liberation Front. For well over a decade, Warren and I and art historian Wayne R Dynes would meet every weekend for dinner, usually in an Indian restaurant in the Lower East Side. I can still hear him chuckling over some of the racier or more blasphemous couplets of Don Leon.

Most of Don Leon was probably written in the early 1820s, and it was probably first published in the late 1830s or early 1840s, but this is conjectural. No copy of this first edition is known to exist. The oldest surviving edition was published in 1866 by Dugdale, known mainly for pornographic titles. In 1934 Fortune Press published Don Leon and Leon to Annabella; this edition was confiscated by the London police, who burned all the copies they could find.

In editing Don Leon & Leon to Annabella, I collated all surviving editions, using the Dugdale copy in New York’s Morgan library, which also has the unique surviving first edition of the companion poem, Leon to Annabella. 

For the first time the Pagan Press edition provides critical material in addition to the two poems.

We don’t know and may never know the author or authors of the Leon poems. Perhaps they were a team effort.  Although various candidates for authorship have been put forward, I simply refer to the “Leon poet”. Following earlier editions, the Pagan Press edition shows “Lord Byron” as the author – but he cannot be the sole author, since Don Leon mentions events that happened after his death. Our copyright page gives the author as “Lord Byron (allonym)”.

Is Don Leon really a great poem? I believe that it is, and fully agree with Warren Johansson, who wrote: “The Don Leon poems belong to the masterpieces of English literature and as heroic and didactic verse are second to none in our language.” 

G Wilson Knight, the man who in 1957 rescued Don Leon from obscurity, wrote: “The quality of the writing is of the highest order. Indeed, no such brilliant manipulation of the rhymed couplet has been known since Pope.” A contrary opinion was expressed by Doris Langley Moore, a Byron biographer who tried to deny, excuse, or minimize every trace of homoeroticism in his life. She wrote: “In England, among the advocates of a less normal kind of eroticism, two dirty, dingy poems, full of sniggering puns, were in circulation.” Well, so much for her.

I received an expert opinion from Steven J Willett, an authority on metrics:

Don Leon is a superb work that should be more widely known. The primary author is a skilled craftsman: the meter of the heroic couplets tends to be regular, but strong variations are used for rhetorical focus . . . He also handles rhyme with genius. The long central section on sexual hypocrisy reminded me of Swift, Dryden and Pope in its precision, contempt, saeva indignatio and satirical point.”

Thus, the suppression of Don Leon was not only the suppression of a polemic for homosexual emancipation, but also the suppression of a literary masterpiece. Don Leon has not received the appreciation it deserves for several reasons: few people, even gay scholars, have even heard of it; it was read too fast and with the wrong expectations; and it was read in a poor edition. Reading poetry is a talent, which requires an inborn sense of rhythm as well as knowledge of various rules. Poetry should be read aloud or slow enough that the words can be heard inside the head.

In 1974 when David Thorstad and I wrote The Early Homosexual Rights Movement (1864–1935), we dated the beginning of our movement from the first writing of Karl Heinrich Ulrichs. Since then, gay historians have uncovered significant earlier writings, such as Heinrich Hössli’s two-volume work of the 1830s, Eros: The Male Love of the Greeks . . .

In terms of publication date, Don Leon is the oldest surviving work in English to discuss sex between males and call for the abolition of England’s sodomy (or “buggery”) statute, enacted under Henry VIII.

Earlier, Jeremy Bentham about 1785 had written an essay on “Paederasty” and Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1818 had written “A Discourse on the Manners of the Ancient Greeks” – but these were not published until 1978 and 1931 respectively. 

I’ll now discuss the arguments of Don Leon. The poem begins by addressing a judge who is about to don the black cap worn when pronouncing the sentence of death – on a man convicted of buggery. 

Under the barbarous buggery statute, men and even adolescent boys in England were hanged, as late as 1835. The law remained on the books until 1861. In sharp contrast, sex between males was legalized by France in 1791 and shortly thereafter in Russia and much of Europe. The poem begins:

Thou ermined judge, pull off that sable cap!
What!  Cans’t thou lie, and take thy morning nap?
Peep through the casement; see the gallows there:
Thy work hangs on it; could not mercy spare?

The Leon poet then poses the question: “What had he done?” This leads into the argument that sex between males is not harmful:

What bonds had he of social safety broke?
Found’st thou the dagger hid beneath his cloak?
He stopped no lonely traveller on the road;
He burst no lock, he plundered no abode;
He never wrong’d the orphan of his own;
He stifled not the ravish’d maiden’s groan.
His secret haunts were hid from every soul,
Till thou did’st send thy myrmidons to prowl,
And watch the prickings of his morbid lust,
To wring his neck and call thy doings just.

An original note to Don Leon cites Beccaria (translated): “The only true measure of crimes is the harm done to society.”

Argument: The law is unjustly applied:

Now look: those crowded benches contemplate
Where legislators sit in grave debate.
They make our laws, and twist the hempen cord,
That hangs the pennyless and spares the lord.
Argument: Male love is natural:
Though law cries “hold!” yet passion onward draws;
But nature gave us passions, man gave laws,
Whence spring these inclinations, rank and strong?
And harming no one, wherefore call them wrong?
Argument: There are classical precedents for male love:
Oh! flowery path, thus hand in hand to walk
With Plato and enjoy his honeyed talk.
Beneath umbrageous planes to sit at ease,
And drink from wisdom’s cup with Socrates.
Now stray with Bion through the shady grove;
Midst deeds of glory, now with Plutarch rove.

Argument: All-male sex is or can be masculine. Don Leon has raunchy descriptions of soldiers and sailors:

Are you a soldier? Pace the barrack-room,
Just as the morning dawn dispels the gloom.
See where the huddled groins in hot-beds lie,
Each fit to be a garden deity.
Are you a sailor?  Look between the decks:
What sinews thewed are there! what sturdy necks!
Pent in their hammocks for a six months’ cruise,
They dream of Portsmouth Point and Wapping stews.
No deep-sea lead, suspended from a weight,
Could keep their manhood in quiescent state:

Here the Leon poet, by a century, anticipates the Kinsey study of American men, which found only one significant difference between males towards the homosexual end of his continuum and those whose behavior was exclusively heterosexual. The gay men had a higher “sexual substrate” (or sex drive). This is positive, because a high sex drive correlates positively with good health, longevity, and intelligence.  Don Leon’s robustly horny soldiers and sailors, having sex with each other, hardly fit the later paradigms of “sexual inversion” (Westphal) or “a female soul trapped in a male body” (Ulrichs) or “the third sex” (Hirschfeld).

Argument: Sex between males is widespread. 

The Leon poet repeatedly argues that devotees of male love are found among all kinds of men and in all classes.

Argument: Bisexuality is the norm. 

Byron and others are depicted as attracted to both males and females.  An original Don Leon note is explicit: “It does not follow as a natural consequence that paederasts are mysogynists, or that a culpable indulgence in inclinations for the one sex argues an insensibility to the charms of the other.”

Argument: Religion is an enemy. 

Don Leon is strongly anti-religious and blasphemous. Although the death penalty for blasphemy in England was abolished in 1676, the offence remained punishable by fine and imprisonment until it was finally abolished only ten years ago, March 2008.  Some lines:

Could all the scourges canting priests invent
To prop their legendary lies . . .

Again:

Who has not seen how Mother Church can press
Each vain tradition to her purposes,
And from the cradle to the grave supply
Proofs sacred of infallibility?

And again:

Look, how infected with this rank disease
Were those, who held St. Peter’s holy keys,
And pious men to whom the people bowed,
And kings, who churches to the saints endowed;
All these were Christians of the highest stamp –

The notes to Don Leon are almost as long as the poem itself, and are of great value to gay scholars.  These contain excerpts from an 1833 work by “A. Pilgrim”: A Free Examination into the Penal Statutes xxv Henry VIII cap 6 and v Eliz c 17 addrest to Both Houses of Parliament. Although the work itself is lost, much of it survives, embedded in the Don Leon notes.  In an appendix, my colleague, Hugh Hagius, retrieves these fragments and discusses the lost book’s arguments, which are:

a)  The Scriptural basis of the sodomy laws is vague and obscure.
b)  The predilection was shared by many of the noblest figures of antiquity.
c)  The argument that sodomy is bad for the propagation of the species is based on a misapprehension;  what is required is not greater fertility but less, as Dr. Malthus has shown.
d)  The law is applied unequally, with much greater severity toward the lower orders than their social superiors

There are connections between Don Leon and the overlapping circles around Jeremy Bentham, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Lord Byron. They may have been connected in some way to Don Leon – as authors, editors, or publishers.  There is no reason that Shelley or Byron, separately or in collaboration, could not have written almost all of Don Leon. It is a great poem and they were great poets who were masters of the heroic couplet. 

So far as I can tell, from participation in conferences and discussion groups, the specialists in English Romanticism do not want to know that these men were gay, with a tentative, grudging exception made for Byron. Whatever progress we may have made, Academia is still not friendly to male love. There is much work to be done, to uncover and preserve what belongs to us.

The full text of John Lauritsen address as well as references can be found here

• Liverpool's Outing the Past (formerly known as Sexing the Past) conference, addressed this year by John Lauritsen, is dedicated to examining the subjects and methodologies that are part of LGBT+ history.

It attracts delegates involved in academic research related to a wide array of disciplines, political and human rights activism, as well as other voluntary organisations and professional practices.

This year, the programme highlighted the legacy of individuals or organisations in affecting or better understanding the lives of LGBT+ individuals.

The annual conference documents the emergence and development of organisations or movements committed to LGBT+ activism, provides a historical context for LGBT+ activism in the past or present, illuminates the ways that activism can influence how past attitudes to sex and gender have been historicised and considers particular possibilities and challenges inherent in historicising LGBT+ activism

 

Trinidad and Tobago Constitutional Court to strike down its decades-old buggery law

THE efforts of gay activist Jason Jones, above, to have the buggery law in his native Trinidad and Tobago struck down resulted in an important court judgment this month that could affect other Caribbean countries that have anti-LGBT legislation. High Court judge Devindra Rampersad ruled in favour of Jason Jones who mounted a legal challenge to the law in March 2017.

Reacting to the ruling, Javion Nelson, Executive Director of Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), wrote: “Great news coming out of Trinidad & Tobago, where the buggery law has been struck down. It is lovely to see evidence of progress across the region. Commendations to Jason Jones and colleagues from organisations there on their success.”

According to The Gleaner, noted Jamaican gay rights activist Maurice Tomlinson simply tweeted, “love wins”.

Amid the celebrations and the widespread discussion on social media among gay advocates around the world, many asked the question: “Is Jamaica next?”

The Trinidad and Tobago High Court declared that Sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act were unconstitutional, illegal, null, void, invalid, and of no effect to the extent that these laws criminalise any acts constituting consensual sexual conduct between adults.

The judge said: “The conclusion is not an assessment or denial of the religious belief of anyone. This court is not qualified to do so. However, this conclusion is a recognition that the beliefs of some, by definition, are not the beliefs of all, and, in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, all are protected and are entitled to be protected under the Constitution."

Jones argued that Section 13 of the country’s Sexual Offences Act, which criminalises anal sex, is unconstitutional because it violates his right to privacy, liberty, and freedom of expression.

In reacting to the ruling, Jones said: “What I think the judge pointed out was that here, ‘every creed and race find an equal place’. I think we must all come together now and embrace each other in love and respect.”

The final ruling will be handed down in three months to preserve the need for consent. The court will also meet to hear whether the offending sections should be struck down in their entirety and to deal with the issue of cost.

In launching his legal challenge in February 2017, Jones said “I am doing this for the betterment of our nation, and for our future generations.”

The header on Concerned Citizens for T&T’s Facebook page

Anti-LGBT groups began ramping up their efforts in advance of the case and a Christian hate group – Concerned Citizens for T&T – called for a demonstration outside the parliament building.

Another faction led by Pentecostal ministers argues that if the buggery laws are repealed, same-sex marriage will swiftly follow. “Same sex marriage is a cancer,” said a spokesperson for T&T Cause. “We must keep the buggery laws, if it is removed it is a slippery slope to same-sex marriage.”

Members argued that if Jones were to win, it would put the rights of gay people ahead of the rights of heterosexuals which, they maintain, “are superior”.

“We are saying having rights and being right are two different things. You must respect the rights of others,” said Bishop Victor Gill, Vice-President of T&T Cause, above. He called homosexuality “unnatural and illegal.

“As the LGBTQI . . . whatever other letter, it is not a human right,” he added. “It is a human wrong.”

But LGBT rights groups on the islands insist allowing for personal freedoms won’t interfere with religious beliefs. “Faith groups will be under no obligation to change their teachings about moral sexuality within their congregations because of the court ruling,” says Colin Robinson, Director of the Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO).

“Even if same-sex marriage eventually became legalised in Trinidad and Tobago . . . such unions would be a civil matter. Nowhere in the world where same-sex marriages are recognised are faith denominations forced to marry persons of the same sex.”

Robinson says he defends the right of groups such as T&T Cause to hold particular views on sexuality and marriage, “but the role of the law, protected by the Constitution, isn’t to enforce any faith group’s teachings.

“Win or lose, religious believers will continue to be able to make arguments of law on matters of social policy to the courts.”

Despite the ruling, anti-LGBT sentiment will not disappear overnight in Trinidad and Tobago, where many hate crimes go unreported. In addition, under Section 8 of the Immigration Act, homosexuals who are not citizens are technically not allowed to enter the country. It’s not generally enforced, but an attempt was made to bar Elton John from entering the country in 2007.

Prime Minister Keith Rowley told parliament last year that all citizens deserve to live free of violence and harassment, “regardless of whom they sleep with.” He’s been reticent, though, to support a repeal of the sodomy law.

In a crowdfunding campaign to raise £15,000 for his legal fees, Jones wrote last year that “in my home country of Trinidad and Tobago, I can be arrested and imprisoned for up to 25 years for having consensual sex with my male partner.

“Any sexual intimacy between couples of the same sex is a crime (including sex between women). My Government calls these acts ‘serious indecency’. They can imprison us for up to 25 years for penetrative sex and for 5 years for any other act of sexual intimacy. There are around 100,000 LGBT people on my islands, many living a hidden and fearful life. Gay and bi men, lesbian and bi women, trans people, all live with the threat of this criminal law hanging over them.

“We inherited these laws from Britain (did you know that 74 million LGBT people in the Commonwealth are criminalised?), but my own Government extended the law from only gay men to lesbians after we gained our independence. This is Trinidad and Tobago in the year 2017. An oil-rich, tropical, Caribbean paradise . . . ?

He added: “I am a human rights defender challenging my Government in the High Court to change this situation. I am asking the Court to declare that these laws are unconstitutional! That they violate my human rights, and encourage homophobia and hatred from my fellow citizens against the LGBT community, and therefore they MUST be removed!

”My Government is defending this case, saying that these laws must stay in place! Since filing my legal challenge in February of this year, I have received over 5 dozen death threats, and hundreds of messages of hate on my social media pages. I live in fear for my safety and have become completely isolated from friends and family because I don’t want anything to happen to them back home.

“Over the last two years, I have planned my case with a brilliant legal team made up of lawyers from both Trinidad and Britain.

“They have worked for free, giving me hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of free work! I am so very grateful to them all! My day in Court is nearly here. Now, I need YOUR help.

”I still need to raise at least £15,000 for my Court case . . . Litigation is not cheap, even when you have the best lawyers working for you for free!

“Your donation will ensure that 100,000 LGBT people have their day in Court, so that we can challenge these barbaric laws that criminalise us for being lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans.”