Gay History 101: November 19, 2014

The Tom Robinson Band, with hits like “Glad to Be Gay,” was formed during a time when male homosexual activity was still a crime in England, punishable by prison.

Sandro Botticelli (Italian Renaissance painter 1445 -1510),The name Botticelli is always remembered in the context of his Birth of Venus and other lovely women, but he never married and he also kept apprentices in style. The story goes that he was utterly taken with one young lad and was so proud of his beauty that he painted him naked, sleeping, in a piece called Venus and Mars, where Venus is instead fully clothed.

Tom Robinson (born 1 June 1950) is a British singer-songwriter, bassist and radio presenter, best known for the hits "Glad to Be Gay" and "Don't Take No for an Answer.” At the age of 13, Robinson realized that he was gay. At that time, male homosexual activity was still a crime in England, punishable by prison. Wracked with shame and self-hatred, he had a nervous breakdown and attempted suicide at 16. In 1973, Robinson moved to London and joined the acoustic trio Café Society. In London, he became involved in the emerging gay scene and embraced the politics of gay liberation, which linked gay rights to the wider issues of social justice. Inspired by an early Sex Pistols gig, he founded the more political Tom Robinson Band in 1976.

The following year the group released the single "2-4-6-8 Motorway" which peaked at No. 5 in the UK Singles Chart for two weeks. The song alludes obliquely to a gay truck driver. In February 1978, the band released the live” Rising Free” EP and reached No. 18 in the UK Singles Chart, it included his anthemic song "Glad to Be Gay" originally written for a 1976 London gay pride parade. The song was banned by the BBC. In 2014, he was one of the performers at the opening ceremonies of World Pride in Toronto, Canada, alongside Melissa Etheridge, Deborah Cox and Steve Grand

The Pink Triangle was one of the Nazi concentration camp badges, used to identify male prisoners who were sent there because of their homosexuality. The pink triangle was also used to identify sexual offenders including rapists, and pedophiles. Every prisoner had to wear a downward-pointing triangle on his or her jacket, the color of which was to categorize him or her by "kind.” Other colors identified Jews (two triangles superimposed as a yellow star), political prisoners, and others the Nazis deemed undesirable. Pink and yellow triangles could be combined if a prisoner was deemed to be gay and Jewish. Originally intended as a badge of shame, the pink triangle (often inverted from its Nazi usage) has been reclaimed as an international symbol of gay pride and the gay rights movement, and is second in popularity only to the rainbow flag.

2014: Swedish Absolut Vodka’s creative marketing department came out this year with another winning design: A limited edition of its iconic bottle wrapped in the six colors of the rainbow flag. The caption in italics reads: “In an Absolut world everybody is encouraged to be who they are. That world is more colorful, diverse and respectful. Be proud of who you are and let your true colors shine. Absolut has been consumed by proud people Since 1879.” Absolut was central to a storyline on Sex and the City where Samantha transformed struggling young actor Smith into the "Absolut Hunk.” The Broadway Musical RENT mentions Absolut in the song "La Vie Boheme.” Absolut was also a major sponsor of RuPaul's Drag Race reality TV show.

2000: The Netherlands — In December of 2000 it became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage when the Dutch parliament passed, by a three-to-one margin, a landmark bill allowing the practice. The legislation gave same-sex couples the right to marry, divorce and adopt children. The legislation altered a single sentence in the existing civil marriage statute, which now reads, “A marriage can be contracted by two people of different or the same sex. At midnight on 1 April 2001, Job Cohen, Mayor of Amsterdam, became the first public official to wed same-sex couples.

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