Homosexuality was once considered a normal part of life — especially in ancient Greece. But in modern times gays and lesbians have had it rough. Thankfully it’s not a crime anymore in the U.S. but in some parts of the world, it’s not only a crime, but is still punishable by death. For the most part though, those laws aren’t used to execute LGBT people.
In this article The Mirror takes a look back the history LGBT executions and highlights some of the more notable ones.
John de Wettre (1292) —
Wasa knife maker and is the earliest recorded gay person executed for being gay.
According to historian Byrne Fone, in his book "Homophobia,” he wrote:
“In 1292 John de Wettre, a knifemaker, was executed for sodomy in Ghent, burned alive for engaging with another man in an act ‘detested by God.’ This is the earliest known execution for that act. We don't know whether the other man was a lover or a passing stranger, whether the act was habitual or unique. All that we can know about John de Wettre is how his age defined him as it burned him — in Pope Gregory's words, an ‘abominable’ person whom ‘the world despises.’”
Giovanni di Giovanni (1350 – 1365) —
Was a 15 year old Italian boy charged with being "a public and notorious passive sodomite” and is credited with being the youngest person ever executed for being gay.
According to Michael Rocke in his book “Forbidden Friendships: Homosexuality and Male Culture in Renaissance Florence” he wrote:
“His sentence unusually labels Giovanni himself a ‘public and notorious passive sodomite,’ and for this reason the podesta inflicted on him an exemplary and barbaric punishment. After being paraded on an ass to the ‘place of justice’ outside the city walls past the Franciscan basilica of Santa Croce, he was to be publicly castrated. Then, so that he would be punished ‘in that part of his body where he allowed himself to be known in sodomitical practice,” he was to be mutilated between his thighs with a red hot iron.”
Jacopo Bonfadio (1508 – 1550) —
Was an Italian humanist, historian and official historian of the Republic of Genoa (modern day Italy).
According to Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon in their book “Who's who in Gay and Lesbian History: From Antiquity to World War II” they wrote:
“He wrote a meticulous history of Genoa from 1528 to his own time, but his integrity in researching historical ‘truth’ had fatal consequences. According to the most reliable reconstruction of events, several powerful families, who did not appreciate the way in which Bonfadio had written about them, took advantage of the fact that the historian had been accused of having seduced one of his students to have him condemned to death for sodomy and beheaded on 9 July 1550; his body was then burned at the stake.”
Mervyn Tuchet (sometimes Touchet), (1593 – 1631) —
Was the 2nd Earl of Castlehaven and in a tale fit for a soap opera was accused of not only sodomy but as well as accused of helping his manservant rape the Earl’s own wife.
According to Executed Today:
“Convicted of rape and sodomy by a jury of his aristocratic peers, his crimes were alleged to have taken place under his roof and against members of his own family. While all of the witnesses against Touchet stood to gain materially from his death and various household servants did present evidence which contradicted that of his wife and son (who testified against him)… The results of this inquiry, conducted by the Privy Council, revealed abominable crimes, in particular rape and sodomy. On April 25, 1631, the Earl was put on trial, charged with committing sodomy with a servant and assisting another servant, Giles Broadway, with the rape of his own wife.”
In addition the Earl’s manservant was also executed for sodomy.
“[Lawrence] Fitzpatrick copped to having sexual relations with the Earl — but crucially claimed that those acts had not entailed actual penetration.”
John Atherton (1598 – 1640)
Was the Anglican Bishop of Waterford and Lismore in the Church of Ireland. In a particularly ironic case, Atherton was executed under a law he helped institute.
According to David Norris, an Irish scholar and gay rights activist:
“For in the 1630s a man called John Atherton, Lord Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, who had spotted a gap in the sodomy laws which meant that for technical reasons this vicious apparatus of persecution had not yet been extended to Ireland, engaged in a ‘Save Ireland from Sodomy Campaign.’ In doing so he was anticipating by several hundred years the inane activities of the Rev. Ian Paisley and similarly targeting as scapegoat a vulnerable group. He was successful in the short term. But he was all too human, all too frail and his frailties were known to his enemies. As a result Atherton a former sub Dean of Christ Church Cathedral passed by this ancient building with the Cathedral bells tolling solemnly on his way to the scaffold on Gallows Green, where on the 5th of December 1640 he was hanged by the neck until dead as a result of the conviction of both himself and his Tithe Proctor John Childes on a charge of buggery.”
Lisbetha Olsdotter (died 1679) —
Was aSwedish cross-dresser and early female soldier (disguised as a man).
According to GLBT-contributions.com:
“[Lisbetha Olsdotter]was executed on a number of different charges after having dressed as a man, serving as a soldier and marrying a woman. She was judged guilty of the charges under the law of the act of religion from 1655; for having, with full intent, ‘mutilated’ her gender, ‘mocked God and the Order of God,’ and fooled authorities and her ‘fellow Christians’ by impersonating a man. Due to the unusual nature of the case it was sent to the Royal Court for review. On November 12, 1679 the Royal Court confirmed the verdict and it was decided that she would go to her execution in male clothing but wearing female headdress. She was decapitated on Hötorget (Haymarket square) in Stockholm.”
James (sometimes John) Pratt and John Smith
Were two London men who, in November 1835, became the last two to be executed for sodomy in England.
According to Executed Today:
“[James Pratt and John Smith] were hanged outside Newgate Prison for (in the exhausting fulminations of the Old Bailey trial records) ‘feloniously, wickedly, diabolically, and against the order of nature, carnally … commit and perpetrated the detestable, horrid, and abominable crime (among Christians not to be named) called buggery.”
Richard William Cornish
Was a ship’s master in 1625 and punished for his crimes in the then-colony of Virginia.
According to OutHistory.org:
“Richard Cornish was executed in the Virginia Colony for an alleged sexual attack on one of his male stewards, a crime that Cornish's brother later denied. One witness claimed: ‘The Master would have buggered’ the steward. Cornish's brother said his relative was "hanged for a rascally boy wrongfully. The Council and General Court that executed Richard Cornish was the ruling body of the Virginia Colony.”
William Plane (sometimes Plaine) (1646)
Was an early American colonist and resident of Guilford in the colony of New Haven.
According to OutHistory.org:
“The charges were that Plaine, though ‘a married man ... had committed sodomy with two persons in England,’ and ‘had corrupted a great part of the youth of Guilford by masturbations ... above a hundred times.’ When asked about such ‘filthy practice,’ Plaine ‘did insinuate seeds of atheism, questioning whether there was a God.’ [John] Winthrop reported in his journal that Governor Eaton of the New Haven Colony had written to the governor of the Massachusetts Colony seeking the magistrates' and church elders' advice about Plaine's punishment. All agreed that he ‘ought to die,’ giving different reasons ‘from the word of God.’ Winthrop added: ‘indeed it was horrendum facinus [a dreadful crime], and he a monster in human shape ... and it tended to the frustrating of the ordinance of marriage and the hindering the generation of mankind.’ Winthrop's reasons for considering Plaine's activities so wicked, their alleged anti-marriage, anti-procreative effects, summarized two main Puritan objections to sodomy.”