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From the archives

WARREN ALLEN SMITH profiles the US painter Paul Cadmus, who died in 1999 at the age of 94 (from the Spring 2000 edition of The Gay and Lesbian Humanist)

If there were a past life (for who would foolishly choose to hope for a future life) and I could become anyone of my choosing, I would choose to be Sergei Diaghilev or Paul Cadmus. As Diaghilev I could have been loved by Nijinsky and revered by such as Picasso, Stravinsky, and Cocteau. But as Cadmus, I could have been loved by photographer Jared French and model-musician Jon Andersson and revered by such as W H Auden, Christopher Isherwood, George Balanchine, George Platt Lynes, George Tooker, Lincoln Kirstein (New York City Ballet Director, the husband of Paul’s sister Fidelma), and E M Forster (who, while posing for a portrait, passed the time reading aloud passages from Maurice). As a journalist some years ago at the annual ceremonial of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, I commenced a friendship with Cadmus when he inquired and learned that I write for Free Inquiry and other humanist publications. Asked by this controversial and eminent painter of The Fleet’s In! and The Seven Deadly Sins what I meant by “humanist”, I responded in such a way that he replied, “Oh, then I’m a secular humanist also!” From then on, whenever we were together, he jovially introduced us as “two secular humanists”. He told me, however, that he had never been much of a student of philosophy. From my description of “naturalistic humanism”, however, he agreed that he fit in to its non-supernaturalistic outlook and its emphasis upon the humanities. Later, we both came to prefer “humanistic naturalism” as a label, one that John Dewey also had once used and which emphasizes the non-supernaturalism. A devout Catholic until he was seventeen, he then “shed it all”, he said. “I’ve always liked the story of the Albigensians who were besieged by the Pope at Beziers. His soldiers asked him: ‘How do we know the heretics from the Christians?’ The Pope replied: ‘Burn them all. God will know his own.’” A gentle man who seldom raised his voice against anything or anyone, he laughed almost as softly as he played his beloved grand piano, surrounded by books, sculpture, photographs, and different kinds of art. At one lunch he prepared for me at his Connecticut home, Cadmus said: “I think my ancestors sailed from Jutland around 1710. My father’s side may have been Dutch and, like Erasmus, Latinized the name. My mother, conceived in Spain, was born in New York. Her father was Basque, her mother Cuban. Maybe I was just a cad to begin with”, he joked, “and the name was Latinized.” His parents, both artists, encouraged their son and their daughter, Fidelma, to study art, and Cadmus began with an interest in antiques. One day at the National Academy of Design in uptown Manhattan and knowing that older art students had nude models to work with, he peered through a peephole and saw a naked female. “I had never seen a stranger in the nude. It was a revelation,” he confirmed telling others. While growing up in Manhattan, he said, “I was fascinated by the sailors around the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. I was young and was propositioned many times. But I was afraid to go with them, and we just talked while sitting on the benches.” “The male nude has been a specialty of my own oeuvre”, Cadmus told several friends, “when I am not being concerned with the foibles of people in daily life: men, women, and children. We are made, we are told, ‘in God’s image’, and we assume that He was not clothed by Armani or Brooks Brothers or, if He is She, not attired by Balenciaga or Donna Karan.” Cadmus, who in 94 years completed over 120 paintings, delighted in such observation. “I do love Michelangelo’s male forms,” he has said, adding that “Michelangelo’s women often look like males with grapefruits attached.” “It seems that genitalia,” Cadmus lamented about the public taste, “equal pornography.” But not for him personally: “My penis is not the most important organ in my body. My eyes are.” Cadmus met Jon Andersson, 27, when he himself was 59 and “I never wanted to be with anyone else.” That included the time he was invited to a long-ago party by Truman Capote. Capote’s long-time companion Jack Dunphy told him he could not bring a male guest, that “Truman said he didn’t want to ask ‘a bunch of fags’ to his party.” This infuriated Andersson and was one of the few times the two did not appear together in public or private. On one occasion when it was said that he was the only artist to draw so many male nudes, the then 92-year-old Cadmus quipped, “Well, there was Michelangelo.” Biographer Charles Kaiser quotes Cadmus as having been interviewed by Alfred Charles Kinsey: “He took homosexuality just as calmly as he did his work with wasps. He interviewed me about my sex life – how many orgasms, how big it was, measure it before and after.” Kinsey even went to dinner at Cadmus’s house following the interview. Just before his 95th birthday on December 17th, friends were invited on December 1 to a birthday party at the D C Gallery. Painters Jack Levine and Chuck Close, sculptor Phylis Raskind, photographer Charles Henri Ford (once Tchelichew’s lover), and over one hundred other friends were on hand to toast Cadmus and celebrate his birthday. Cadmus walked spryly and greeted everyone joyfully. I was introduced as “a fellow secular humanist”, and he and Jon were elated to meet my new companion, who is a descendant of Maroons and who is four decades my junior. As always, Cadmus gazed with an artist’s eye. Eleven days later, and just five days before his actual birthday, Cadmus died peacefully while watching television with Jon at their suburban home in Connecticut.

‘Holy Sexuality Conference’ cancelled

A CHURCH in London was forced to cancel a “gay cure” event in April following a petition signed by almost 40,000 people. The five-day “Holy Sexuality Conference”, organised by the Seventh-day Adventist Church was to feature a number of “ex-gay” activists. In a statement the organisers said: “Seventh-day Adventists are a people of peace who believe in hope and dialogue. However, it appeared that rather than drawing people together the conference had the potential to divide. The Adventist Church recognises that the individuals invited to speak at the Holy Sexuality Conference have compelling life stories to share but equally appreciate that there are those who take a different point of view. “We are disappointed that in a society that values freedom of speech and divergence of opinion that there are those whose wish it is to silence individuals who hold a different point of view to their own. We do not believe that the potential disruptions that were being planned for this event would have been beneficial either to the participants or to our friends in the LGBT community. “As such, a decision has been made to cancel the event which had been locally organised by a group of members in the South London area.” Nick Clegg, the then Deputy Prime Minister, had condemned “gay cure” therapy, describing it “dangerous nonsense”. Responding to a question from Telegraph boss Lord Guy Black of Brentwood, Mr Clegg said: “It is grossly offensive to me that anyone could think gay people need to be ‘cured’. If anything needs curing, it is the outdated belief that being gay is wrong or something to be ashamed of. Sexuality is not an illness but an inherent part of who you are. “Most people now recognise conversion therapy as dangerous nonsense, but we do need to challenge any remaining counsellors who believe they can ‘treat’ homosexuality. “Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat Health Minister, helped bring together leading organisations across the NHS, medical and psychological professions to sign up to a new Memorandum of Understanding.This made clear that conversion therapy is unethical, potentially harmful and cannot be provided within the NHS. I wouldn’t rule out further action if necessary.”

Poland rejects same-sex unions

POLISH lawmakers last December voted against putting a gender-neutral civil unions bill on the agenda of the then parliamentary session. MPs voted down the bill proposed by the Your Movement party by 235 votes to 185, with 18 abstentions. This was the third time the Sejm had rejected the legislation, which was first introduced in 2012. In January 2013, a draft bill for same-sex civil partnerships was thrown out by just 17 votes. The bill included a range of benefits that currently are granted only to married heterosexual couples, including protections and responsibilities, inheritance, pension funds, notary, and medical rights. Joint tax benefits and adoption rights are not included in the bill. Currently there is no legal recognition of same-sex couples in Poland. Article 18 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland (1997) defines “marriage” as a union of a man and a woman. According to Wikipedia, a majority of Poles oppose LGBT Pride parades. A 2008 study revealed that 66 percent of Poles believe that gay people should not have the right to organise public demonstrations, while 69 percent of the population believe that gay people should not have the right to display their way of life. Thirty-seven percent of Poles believe that gay people should have the right to engage in sexual activity, but the same number think they should not. In 2011, according to a poll by TNS Polska, 54 percent of Poles supported same-sex partnerships while 27 percent supported same-sex marriage. In a 2013 opinion poll conducted by CBOS, 68 percent of Poles were against gays and lesbians publicly displaying their way of life, 65 percent of Poles were against same-sex civil unions, 72 percent were against same-sex marriage and 88 percent were against adoption by same-sex couples.

Ireland makes history

Irish gay marriageMillions of words have been written in reaction to the result of Ireland’s historic gay referendum in May. Not surprisingly, right wing religious commentators expressed shock and dismay, but their views served only to show how deeply out of touch they are with the real world. Even one of Ireland’s most senior Catholic clerics acknowledged after the vote that the Catholic Church now has to take a “reality check”. Diarmuid Martin, the Archbishop of Dublin, who voted “No” in the referendum, said the Church in Ireland needed to “reconnect with young people”. But it cannot possibly do so as long as the Church remains stuck with its official policy on homosexuality as laid out in its Catechism: Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity [Cf. Gen 19:1–29; Rom 1:24–27; 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tim 1:10], tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. When the results became known, I – in my role of secretary of the UK LGBT charity, the Pink Triangle Trust – issued a press release welcoming the result of the Irish referendum. It read: “This is splendid news and a major triumph for LGBT rights campaigning. “It is also a slap in the face for the Pope who has described same-sex marriage as the work of the devil and a ‘destructive attack on God’s plan’. The Pope has also said that gay adoption is ‘a form of discrimination against children’ and compared trans people to nuclear weapons. “It is clear that the majority of ‘No’ campaigners are motivated by a view of marriage informed by their religious faith. They argue that the vote is about the nature of the family, and that children are entitled to a relationship with their birth parents. A letter advocating a No vote was read out in Catholic parishes prior to the referendum. “Ireland is a country where the Catholic Church was an unassailable institution for decades. It didn’t even decriminalise homosexuality until 1993 – and only did so as a result of a European court judgment. “The result of the referendum is a huge blow to the Church which is already reeling from the scandal of predatory paedophile priests in its midst. Its hostile stance on homosexuality is given in its Catechism which describes homosexual acts as “intrinsically disordered”. This is in sharp contrast to the staunch support given by the Humanist and secular movements and prominent Humanists like Stephen Fry and Richard Dawkins.” What I found particularly encouraging was that commentators who are not high profile individuals such as Fry and Dawkins – and not even spokespeople for the Humanist and atheist movements – expressed their joy over the result. One particularly brilliant piece, for example, was penned for The Irish Times by Fintan O’Toole, who wrote: “We’ve made it clear to the world that there is a new normal – that ‘ordinary’ is a big, capacious word that embraces and rejoices in the natural diversity of humanity.

rainbow dublinLGBT people are now a fully acknowledged part of the wonderful ordinariness of Irish life. “It looks like a victory for tolerance. But it’s actually an end to mere toleration. “Tolerance is what ‘we’ extend, in our gracious goodness, to ‘them’. It’s about saying ‘You do your own thing over there and we won’t bother you so long as you don’t bother us’. “The resounding Yes is a statement that Ireland has left tolerance far behind. It’s saying that there’s no ‘them’ anymore. LGBT people are us – our sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, neighbours and friends. We were given the chance to say that. We were asked to replace tolerance with the equality of citizenship. And we took it in both arms and hugged it close.” Writing ahead of the referendum in The Washington Post, Shawn Pogatchnik, pointed out: “Gays in Ireland often have faced a stark choice between leading secret lives or emigrating to more liberal lands. This week, the Irish could turn that tradition on its head and vote to legalise same-sex marriage in the world’s first national referendum on the matter. “The campaign ahead of Friday’s constitutional referendum has featured searing testimonies designed to make the voters of this predominantly Roman Catholic nation look in the mirror. Members of many of Ireland’s most prominent families have come out of the closet in hopes of challenging their neighbors’ attitudes to homosexuality. “The contest has pit the waning power of the Catholic Church against the secular-minded government of Prime Minister Enda Kenny.” He quoted former President Mary McAleese as saying: “A Yes vote costs the rest of us nothing. A No vote costs our gay children everything.” She was speaking at a gay rights event in Dublin after her only son, a 30-year-old airline executive, revealed he is gay. McAleese, a canon law scholar and former legal adviser to the church, spoke of her son’s experience of bullying and isolation as a teenager, and of friends who learned that their own sons were gay only when they tried to kill themselves. He also quoted Conor Cusack, who is one of the few openly gay athletes in Ireland’s native Gaelic sports scene.“For too long now, people haven’t been able to be true to themselves,” she said. In media debates, Cusack has challenged the views of other well-known sportsmen who say they’ll vote no. Ursula Halligan, one of Ireland’s best known political correspondents, who came out as a lesbian in May this year at age 54, was also quoted in Pogatchnik’s article as saying: “Emotionally, I have been in a prison since the age of 17; a prison where I lived a half-life, repressing an essential part of my humanity, the expression of my deepest self; my instinct to love. “At every turn society assumes and confirms heterosexuality as the norm. This culminates in marriage when the happy couple is showered with an outpouring of overwhelming social approval. For me, there was no first kiss; no engagement party; no wedding. And up until a short time ago, no hope of any of these things.” I could go on forever quoting from some of the most uplifting reports I have ever read in the wake the Irish vote, but rather than bang on in a glow of elation I would rather draw your attention to the battle that now urgently needs to fought in Northern Ireland, where the Democratic Unionist Party government continues to block all LGBT rights legislation including same-sex marriage. This month (June) a mass rally in support of same-sex marriage is due to be held in the face of fierce religious opposition. The BBC reported on May 25 that the former moderator of the Presbyterian Church, Dr Norman Hamilton, said he believed legalising same-sex marriage would be resisted in Northern Ireland in the immediate future. ”I can’t see the Presbyterian Church or, indeed, any of the other Churches changing our fundamental position on same sex marriage in that we do regard marriage as being exclusively between a man and a woman,” he said. “But if there were changes to be made, then I would want to urge that they are made by the legislators rather than by the courts.” DUP Member of the Legislative Assembly Peter Weir said he did not see the need for a referendum in Northern Ireland. “We are defending the role of traditional marriage. This is an issue that has been debated on four occasions in the assembly and, on each occasion, it has been rejected by the majority of assembly members. We believe that the traditional marriage definition is correct one. We would be concerned about the impact on Churches.” He concluded: ”We don’t really run social policy in this country by way of referendum.” Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International, said: ”It is discrimination as usual in Northern Ireland for same-sex couples, for gay people. This is now the one region in the UK and Ireland where gay people are not allowed to get married.” Caitríona Ruane, Sinn Féin, said Patrick Corrigan from Amnesty was “absolutely right”. “I was part of the campaign in the south over the last number of weeks. There was a real conversation across family tables amongst the young and old. “For the first time my LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender] friends felt part of the conversation. An overwhelming population in the south voted for it - they voted yes for equality. “If we do not legislate I have no doubt there will be a legal case on discrimination.”