Was Goya Gay?

Posted by Censor Librorum on Oct 1, 2022 | Categories: Arts & Letters, History

I don’t think that Goya was gay, but he had an emotionally charged relationship with a close friend, a never-married businessman named Martin Zapater.  They discussed masturbation and sent each other drawings of their penises in their letters. Martin Zapater y Claveria (1747-1803) was a wealthy Aragonese merchant and Enlightenment thinker. 

A new book, Goya y Las Mujeres, by Spanish art historian Natacha Sesena suggests that the painter had a homosexual relationship with Zapater. Letters written by Goya to Zapater at the height of Goya’s creative years have romantic and sexual undertones.

Goya, the artist who first painted a woman’s pubic hair (“La Maja Desnuda) in 1797-1800, had 20+ children, a wife and mistresses, and must have had some heterosexual leanings—but kept his emotional and intellectual intimacy for a friend from his youth, Martin Zapater.  Goya was very private and reserved in his opinions, but spilled out his heart in his letters to his friend:

“My Martin, I am desperate to go with you because I like you so much, and we suit each other so well, and it’s impossible to find anyone comparable, and I imagine what my life would be like if we could be together and hunt and drink chocolate and spend the 23 reales I have in your company…it would be the greatest happiness in the world.”  Some of Goya’s letters are signed “Yours and yours again, your Paco Goya” and “He who loves you more than you think.”

During an illness in 1790, Goya told Zapater that “with your portrait before me, it seems I enjoy the sweetness of being with you oh my soulmate I didn’t believe friendship could arrive to the stage I am now feeling.” 

Most passionate friendships, for women at least, are never consummated, and always remain in the realm of “sexual almostness.” Sexual almostness stimulates a heightened awareness of possibility, but also the boundaries that surround us. It could push an artist into daring realms—like painting pubic hair.

 

 

 

 

 

Ria Brodell’s Butch Heroes

Posted by Censor Librorum on Sep 17, 2022 | Categories: Arts & Letters, History, Lesbians & Gays, Scandals

I search for lesbians in history. There is very little historical record or literature on lesbians before the late 19th century. Imagine my delight in discovering Ria Brodell’s book, Butch Heroes. I am grateful that she found and brought these women to life. I can’t identify with their assumption of a male role; although I certainly can appreciate their brave and adventurous lives.

What is interesting about these lesbians is that all of them dressed and assumed a male “role,” i.e., a “butch.” Their lovers or wives assumed a female “role” in the partnership. Did the lesbians in Butch Heroes feel that they needed to identify as a man because they wanted to have sex with other women? Did identifying as a male give them freedom to avoid the female role of keeping house and staying at home? Or both?

What Ria Brodell did with her book is to make an emphatic statement that lesbians have always existed, found lovers, lived their lives with varying degrees of success, and some led exceptional lives. Much like today. Society’s degree of toleration has expanded in the last one hundred years, particularly in the past 20 years, but no lesbian lives totally “out” without experiencing some form of violence. Just like the past.

Brodell uses a uniquely Catholic format to portray Butch Heroes. When she was growing up her aunt had a huge collection of holy cards, and they would look at them together. She would talk to Brodell about the various saints whose stories were depicted on the cards. “So when I started researching people for Butch Heroes, I immediately thought of holy cards. The way cards employ symbolism, their intimacy, colors, style, etc. was perfect. They elevate a person to reverence. They are used for remembrance. I want this for the Butch Heroes.” 

Ria Brodell started the Butch Heroes project in 2010 after creating the painting, Self Portrait as a Nun or Monk, circa 1250. “I was thinking about what my life would have been like had I been born into a different century. Joining the church, becoming a nun or monk, was one option for those who did not want to enter into a heterosexual marriage or conform to strict gender roles of their time. As a former Catholic, I knew that “homosexuals” were called to a lifetime of chastity or service to the church, but I supposed that queer people of the past must have found other ways to live, and I wanted to find out how they did so.” 

Prior to researching and painting Butch Heroes, Brodell blended sexuality, gender, role models, and Catholic childhood in The Handsome & the Holy, a series of self-portraits and vignettes she created from 2008-2010. The Handsome & the Holy was the first time I tried to tackle the subject of my gender identity, sexuality and Catholic upbringing through painting,” Brodell said. “As a kid, part of me knew that something was “queer” about who I was attracted to, and who I wanted to be (Cary Grant, Ken, the Prince in all the Disney movies), but I didn’t have the language or the knowledge to understand what that meant. The way I wanted to express my gender did not mesh well with having to wear a little plaid skirt to school.”

Since I owned a Ken doll growing up I know exactly what she meant.

“When I began this series, I remembered a drawing I made for my First Reconciliation book in second grade. I had drawn a picture of St. Michael I was very proud of, and I showed it to my grandma. She told me it looked more like He-Man…Looking back now, He-Man and St. Michael had a similar appeal for me, strong warriors, fighting for good. As far as what unites movie stars, saints and toys like G.I. Joe and He-Man, for me they all represented an ideal, whether it was physical aesthetics or moral values. In combining them all for “The Handsome & the Holy” I was hoping to unite my “queer side” with my religious background because they are equally present in my life.”

One figure I’m surprised Ria Brodell left out was Saint Joan of Arc—who was burned at the stake for dressing like a man and hearing divine voices. I don’t know if she was a lesbian but dressing in armor certainly was outside the gender norms of 13th century French peasant girls.

Another candidate for a future Ria Brodell series would be St. Hildegund of Schonau (d. 1188). St. Hildegund was the daughter of a German knight. When she was twelve, she accompanied her father on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. For her protection, she was disguised as a boy called Joseph. On the way home her father died. Hildegund/Joseph contained to maintain her identify as a boy then man. Back in Germany, Joseph was admitted to the Cistercian monastery in Schonau, where he remained until his death.

Buy Butch Heroes here.

 

 

 

A Little-Known Story About Cardinal Krol

Posted by Censor Librorum on Sep 5, 2022 | Categories: Accountability, Bishops, History, Lesbians & Gays, Pious Trash, Politics, Scandals

Cardinal Krol (left) Pope John Paul II celebrating Mass

Cardinal John Krol, archbishop of Philadelphia (1961-1988), tried to dissuade Kirkridge, a Christian retreat house in Bangor, Pennsylvania, from hosting the first Conference for Catholic Lesbians in November 1982.  Nothing public, just behind-the-scenes pressure. The caller first asked, then threatened. The Cardinal’s office didn’t have any leverage, since Kirkridge Retreat Center is an interfaith Christian community, not a Roman Catholic institution or organization. The Kirkridge staff had backbone, the request came to naught.  Cardinal Krol did not want any public Catholic lesbian gathering in the neighboring diocese (Allentown) which was part of his ecclesiastical province. It would be a scandal.

I know this, because I received a call from my contact at Kirkridge to let me know that this had happened, and to reassure me we that we could still host our event there.

Who tipped Cardinal Krol’s office off, I don’t know, because at that time, we had barely begun to circulate notice of the conference.  They must have seen an invitation letter to a speaker, picked up gossip from Dignity, or heard a rumor via a gay clerical network.

Cardinal Krol was described by New York Times writer Peter Steinfels as “an outspoken defender of traditional theology, hierarchical authority and strict church discipline.” He was also one of the first Catholic prelates to align with Republic Party figures.  A photo taken in 1981 shows him with President Ronald Reagan. 

Krol was used to working behind the scenes to stop scandals.  In 2003, the report from a Philadelphia Grand Jury strafed Cardinal Krol and his successor, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, charging that they protected predator priests and concealed sexual abuse of boys and girls. On page 30 of the report it notes: “For most of Cardinal Krol’s tenure, concealment mainly entailed persuading victims’ parents not to report the priests’ crimes to police, and transferring priests to other parishes if parents demanded it or if “general scandal” seemed imminent.”

The Conference for Catholic Lesbians (CCL) had a second conference at Kirkridge in 1984.  There was no warning call from the Philadelphia Chancery this time.  My feeling is that Cardinal Krol had bigger fish to fry that year including preparing the opening invocation at the August 1984 Republican National Convention. In his remarks, Krol agreed with comments that President Reagan had made earlier in the day that religion and politics are inseparable. “Our Republic was conceived and survived only on moral and religious foundations,” Krol said. “The most important right of all,” Kroll emphasized, “is the right of life, which must be protected by the government.”

Protecting the unborn was a high priority for Cardinal Krol. Protecting the institutional Church from scandal was also very important to him–more important than the life and faith of abused children and their families. How else could he justify reassigning priests who sexually violated children and teens to a new parish to continue the cycle of abuse?

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Crystal Stair – Mabel Hampton’s Long Climb Home

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jul 23, 2022 | Categories: Faith, History, Lesbians & Gays

“Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.” – From Mother to Son by Langston Hughes

Mabel Hampton was a dancer during the Harlem Renaissance, a domestic worker, and an early lesbian activist. In her later years, she worked with the Lesbian Herstory Archives to preserve LGBT black history. Hampton appeared in the films, “Silent Pioneers” and “Before Stonewall.” The Lesbian Herstory Archives has an extensive collection of taped reminiscences of her life, photos, personal papers, and her 1950s lesbian paperbacks.

In 1984 Hampton addressed the crowds at the New York City Pride Parade: “I, Mabel Hampton, have been a lesbian all my life, for 82 years, and I am proud of myself and my people. I would like all my people to be free in this country and all over the world, my gay people and my black people.” In 1985 she was named Grand Marshal of the Pride Parade. I marched in both of those parades. Gay Pride Parades in the 1980s had a festive spirit – marchers felt safe and empowered in the presence of thousands of other lesbians and gays. The marchers were also serious – we wanted the same civil rights as other Americans. Before the New York City Council passed the “gay civil rights” bill on March 20, 1986, we had no legal protection from discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations.

Most marchers were white, and spectators who lined the streets uptown were also white—friends and tourists. Downtown, much closer to the Village, spectators were primarily gay, and many of them were black, Hispanic with a handful of Asians. They didn’t march because to be spotted in the parade would have “outed” them, and if that happened their family would mostly likely have disowned them. They did not want to risk giving up their families.

Catholic marchers also enjoyed a special protest unit of our own co-religionists. Members of the Blue Army of Mary and other ultra conservative Catholics would throw holy water and shake rosaries as we walked by. Many of these scolds were women. I’m not sure what they intended to accomplish by throwing holy water on the marchers—an exorcism or miracle. The splash of water was refreshing on a hot, humid June day even though it was thrown in hate and disgust. But we also knew that it was their substitute for spit.

Reflecting on Mabel Hampton now, almost 40 years later and when I am much closer to her age at that time, I can only marvel, appreciate and respect what she had to endure to persevere as a proud black woman who was lesbian and a Catholic. 

A poem my father, Eugene Doherty, liked to use in his creative writing classes was “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes. It was written in 1922. The subject of the poem was a strong woman who had experienced poverty and setbacks but continued to strive and move forward. She encourages her son to do the same. I’m sure Dad had his own mother in mind; but I immediately thought of Mabel Hampton.

Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin,’ honey,
I’se still climbin,’
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

Mabel Hampton was born on May 2, 1902 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Her mother died when she was a baby. She went to live with her grandmother, but after she died, Mabel was sent to live with an aunt and uncle in New York. She was seven. They treated her harshly and she was raped by the uncle. After that, Mabel decided to run away. “I went out with nothing but a dress, a jumper dress, and I walked and walked.” She was found at a playground by Bessie White, who took her into her home. Hampton lived in the White household until Bessie died. At 17 she was on her own. Arrested for prostitution, she served a two-year sentence at the Bedford Hills, NY reformatory. Hampton said she was falsely accused because she attended women’s parties.

After she was released from jail, she began life as a dancer and singer with an all-black women’s troupe on Coney Island in Brooklyn, NY. She met an older woman who introduced her to the word, “lesbian.” The two had one night together before the woman had to return to her husband in Philadelphia. “She taught me some things,” Hampton said. “I knew some of them, but she taught me the rest.”

From Coney Island, Mabel moved to bigger and more glamorous stages in Harlem. The 1920s were the time of the Harlem Renaissance, and Mabel met and partied with many black lesbian and gay notables, including Jackie “Moms” Mabley, Ethel Waters, Gladys Bentley, Ethel Williams and socialite A’Lelia Walker. “I had so many girlfriends it wasn’t funny,” Hampton recalled. 

While waiting for a bus, Hampton met a woman she described as “dressed like a duchess.” Her name was Lillian Foster, and the two met on September 22, 1932. Foster recalled the meeting decades later: “Forty-four years ago I met Mabel. We was a wonderful pair. I’ll never forget it…We haven’t been separated since in our whole life. Death will separate us. Other than that I don’t want it to end.” They referred to themselves as Mabel and Lillian Hampton and made their home at 639 E. 169th Street in the Morrisania neighborhood in the Bronx. Depending on the circumstance, they sometimes called themselves “sisters.”

After Hampton left dancing, she began cleaning homes for wealthy white families. It was during this time that she met Joan Nestle, the daughter of one of these families, who co-founded the Lesbian Herstory Archives in New York City in 1974. She volunteered for the organization, and her stories of the wild parties of the Harlem Renaissance were enjoyed by the other volunteers. Her memories and experiences contributed to the knowledge of the lives of black lesbians in the early 20th century.

In 1935, when she was 33 years old, Mabel Hampton was received into the Roman Catholic Church. She was baptized at St. Thomas the Apostle Church on West 118th Street in Manhattan, a church with a sizable congregation of black Catholics. The Lesbian Herstory Archives website stated, “It was a step in her ongoing quest for spiritual comfort, and included a lifelong devotion to the mysteries of the Rosicrucian, and a full collection of the writings of Marie Corelli, a Victorian novelist with a spiritual bent.”

There is no information at all on why Hampton decided to become a Catholic, what it meant to her, or how she reconciled her committed relationship with Lillian Foster with her faith. Obviously, she did, like thousands of other Catholic lesbians. A photograph of a collage of Hampton’s Catholic memorabilia includes prayer cards of friends or people she knew from the 1960s, her baptismal certificate, and membership in St. Augustine Catholic Church in the Bronx. She attended Pope Paul VI’s Mass in Yankee Stadium on October 4, 1965. Even if she was not a practicing Catholic at the end of her life, those papers were important to her as part of her life’s story.

I have thought a lot about who or what might have led Mabel Hampton to seek out baptism. Maybe she met a Catholic woman or a couple at one of the rent or dance parties she attended. Maybe she was curious and walked into a church and met a black sister who listened and answered some of her questions. Hampton’s life provides some clues. She strove for justice. She persevered. She was humble. She loved deeply. She shared. These qualities can be founded in anyone but are strengthened and reinforced in a person by faith. She also had the example of Bessie White, who rescued a child from the street and abuse and fed, clothed and cared for her.

The fact that Mabel Hampton was interested in Rosicrucian mysteries and the writings of Marie Corelli provides a few clues to her spirituality and spiritual interests.

A modern Rosicrucian group – The Ancient Mystical Order Roase Crucis (AMORC) was founded in New York City in 1915 by H. Spencer Lewis (1883–1939). Claiming that he had learned the teachings of the order from European Rosicrucians, Lewis attracted new members by distributing his teachings in mail-order lessons and pamphlets. Rosicrucians are concerned with the occult, astrology, and esoteric secrets.

Hampton’s collection of Marie Corelli’s books provides another hint of Hampton’s interest in mysticism and the supernatural. Marie Corelli, born Mary Mackay (1855-1924) was a popular novelist and Queen Victoria’s favorite author. A reoccurring theme in Corelli’s books is her attempt to reconcile Christianity with reincarnation, astral projection, spirit or time travel, and the occult. She was associated with a Rosicrucian organization. 

For over 40 years, Corelli lived with her companion, Bertha Vyver, and left everything to her when she died. She never identified herself as a lesbian, but frequent erotic depictions of female beauty appear in her novels.

Mabel Hampton died of pneumonia on October 26, 1989. She was 87 years old. She is buried in St. Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx, New York. Her life partner and wife, Lillian Foster, is also buried in St. Raymond’s.

I am very grateful to Joan Nestle, Deborah Edel and other volunteers from the Lesbian Herstory Archives for preserving and honoring the generous life of Mabel Hampton. She is an inspiration to the lesbians who follow in her footsteps. 

 

 

 

Closeted Killer – The San Francisco Doodler

Posted by Censor Librorum on Apr 11, 2022 | Categories: Arts & Letters, History, Lesbians & Gays, Scandals, Sex

The Doodler

THE KILLER

The Doodler, also known as the Black Doodler, was a gay serial killer active in the San Francisco area during 1974-1975. He killed at least six men and attempted to kill at least three others. The toll may be much higher. The man suspected of being the Doodler is still alive and living in San Francisco. The SFPD identified him as a person of interest, but don’t have enough evidence to charge him with a crime. Three survivors of his attack refused to identify him or talk to police. It was easier for them to almost die and risk others getting stabbed to death than ruin their lives and careers by coming out.

The Doodler got his nickname by his habit of sketching his victims prior to having sex and killing them. Based on one victim’s description, the Doodler was a black man, 19-25 years old, very lanky and around six feet tall. He often wore “a Navy-time watch cap.” He may have been an art student – he told one of the survivors he was “studying commercial art.”

The Doodler’s approach was to go to a gay nightclub or bar, sketch his chosen victim and use his sketch as a pick-up line. He would suggest they go somewhere private or isolated for sex. He would stab the man to death sometime during the sexual encounter. The Doodler left his sketches at the crime scene, although the police never released any of the sketches to the public.

No one knows exactly why the Doodler started killing in January 1974 or why he stopped in June 1975. The police believed that he had “mental difficulties involving sex,” or “sexual identification problems.” According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Doodler told each victim: “All you guys are alike,” by which he meant gay. Detectives believe that the Doodler was a self-hating gay man, who killed during or after sex as a way of dealing with his own homosexual desires.

THE VICTIMS

The victims were white gay men, 27-66, that the Doodler picked up in bars and clubs for a sexual encounter. Each victim was stabbed or beaten to death. Most of the violence went well beyond what was needed to kill each man.

Gerald Cavanaugh

VICTIM #1 – Gerald Cavanaugh, 49.

Gerald Cavanaugh’s body was discovered at 1:57 am on January 27, 1974. He was lying at the edge of the water at Ocean Beach. He had been stabbed 16 times. A cut on his left hand indicated a defensive wound. Cavanaugh wore underwear, shoes, socks, pants, a shirt, a jacket, and a Timex watch. He had $21.12 in his pocket. He worked in a mattress factory. He was 5’ 8” and weighed 220 pounds. Cavanaugh was Catholic. “Never married,” noted the coroner.

Cavanaugh was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on March 2, 1923. He left home young and did a 21-month hitch with the US Army in World War II. He ended up in the Haight-Asbury section of San Francisco in the 1970s, to take advantage of the sexual freedom there and in the nearby Castro. He was not out to his family. He went home once a year to visit his mother until she died in 1967. After that, he never went back.

Police records show that Cavanaugh had been stopped by police, suspected of having sex in men’s restrooms near the foot of Ulloa Street at Ocean Beach. His body was found in the sand a short distance away. The anonymous call that tipped police to Cavanaugh’s body came from a pay phone at those restrooms.

His sister came from Canada to identify his body, but no one took Gerald Cavanaugh home after his murder. He lies under a weathered gravestone in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, California, about 12 miles south of San Francisco.

Jae Stevens

VICTIM #2 – Joseph “Jae” Stevens, 27

Early in the morning of June 25, 1974, Jae’s body was discovered by a woman walking her dog. He was in the bushes by Spreckels Lake in Golden Gate Park, close to his car. He had been stabbed three times and there was blood in his nose and mouth. Joseph Stevens had been born in Texas but moved to San Francisco in his late teens. Stevens performed as “Jae,” a female impersonator at Finocchio’s, a nightclub in San Francisco. He was originally brought in as a replacement act but proved to be so popular that he quickly moved into gay stand-up comedy. One of his sisters described him as “Very, very talented. And again, gorgeous. Oh, my, we had such fun together, making up little shows while he was growing up and then later in clubs. I mean, he was a fantastic actor. And, oh, could he sing.”

Three months after his death, another sister, Alma Teresa Stevens, thought evil spirits had emerged from his murder. She killed their mother and burned her in the family fireplace. She attacked another sister and tried to kill her. The sister survived, but Alma ended up in an institution for the criminally insane. The people who purchased the family home said the mother haunts the house, but she is a friendly ghost. They talk to her and ask her to watch the house while they are away.

Klaus Christmann

VICTIM #3 – Klaus A. Christmann, 31

Klaus or Claus Christmann, a German national, was last seen alive at Bojangles, a gay dance club in the Tenderloin district. He had been visiting friends in San Francisco for three months. His wife and two children remained in Germany. According to the coroner, “The deceased’s pants were unzipped and open,” supporting investigators’ theory that Christmann and the Doodler had gone to a quiet, private area for sex.

A dog walker discovered his body early in the morning on Sunday, July 7, 1974. He lay near a street leading from Golden Gate Park to Ocean Beach. His throat was slashed in three places, and he had been stabbed 15 times. At his death, Christmann wore a tan leather jacket, “black side zipper ankle boots with brown Cuban-heels, a white Italian shirt, orange bikini briefs, one blue moonstone ring and one brown cameo ring along with a gold wedding band.” The coroner also noted he had a tube of face paint in his pocket, which led police to speculate that Christmann may have been working as a drag queen or female impersonator in secret.

Frederick Capin

VICTIM #4 – Frederick Elmer Capin, 32

Frederick Capin was from Washington State, a decorated Vietnam veteran working in San Francisco as a registered nurse. He had been a medical corpsman in the Navy and was the recipient of a medal for saving four men under fire in Vietnam. His body was found on May 12, 1975, by a hiker behind a sand dune between Vicente and Ulloa Streets in the Outer Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco.

Capin, six-feet-tall and a lithe 148 pounds, had been stabbed 16 times in upper left chest. Capin’s corduroy jacket and multi-colored “Picasso” shirt were blood-soaked, and there was dried blood smeared over his face, hands, and blue jeans. The marks in the sand leading to Capin indicated his body had been dragged about 20 feet.

VICTIM #5 – Harald Gullberg, 66

Harld Gullberg

Harald Gullberg was a sailor. He was born in Sweden in 1908 and became a naturalized American citizen on August 15, 1955. Half his teeth were gone and those remaining were rotted. Gullberg was a heavy drinker and was slowly dying from cirrhosis.

His body was found near Land’s End Trail by Lincoln Park Golf Course on June 4, 1975. Gullberg’s throat had been slashed. He had been dead about two weeks. Gullberg’s pants were unzipped, and he wore no boxers or briefs. He had $2.43 in his pocket. His face was eaten by maggots.

VICTIM #6 – Warren Andrews, 52

In January 2022, the San Francisco Police Department identified a sixth victim of the Doodler. Warren Andrews was a lawyer for the U.S. Postal Service. He lived in Millbrae, a suburb of San Francisco. Andrews was battered with a rock and branch and left for dead on the morning of April 27, 1975. His body was found in Land’s End park. His family flew him home to the Seattle area, where he lay in a coma until dying nearly two months later. A reporter tracked down Andrews’ sister. When asked if he was gay, she said, “I think he probably was…but back in those days, everybody was in the closet.”

Warren Andrews

THE SURVIVORS

Three men survived an attack by the Doodler. They saw his face, talked to him, may have even had sex with him. They were able to flee or get away before he killed them. The eyewitnesses described their attacker as a young, tall, slim black man.

SURVIVOR #1 – May 1975

A European diplomat met the Doodler in a restaurant “where he was having a midnight snack.” The Doodler asked the diplomat if he had any cocaine. They went back to the diplomat’s apartment, where the Doodler stabbed him six times. The diplomat denied they had “sexual relations.”

SURVIVOR #2 – July 1975

A “nationally known” entertainer took the Doodler back to his Fox Plaza apartment. The identity of this person has never been disclosed, although he might have been actor Rock Hudson or Richard Chamberlain, or singer Johnnie Ray. The identity of this survivor is one of the great mysteries of the case.

Rock Hudson

SURVIVOR #3 – July 1975

The third survivor was a “well-known San Francisco figure” who left the city after the attack and refused to answer calls or letters and wouldn’t help the police in their investigation. The man had brought the Doodler back to his Fox Plaza apartment, which happened to be on the same floor as the first attack two weeks prior. The late Charles Lee Morris, owner and publisher of the Sentinel, a San Francisco gay weekly, told a story about a Los Angeles man who was about to go to bed with a young black man resembling the composite sketch of the Doodler, but changed his mind when a knife fell out of the man’s pocket.

THE SUSPECT

In January 1976, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a story about the Doodler and two days later a suspect was arrested. A man who resembled the composite sketch was taken into custody after he entered a Tenderloin bar and offered to draw the patrons. Along with a book of sketches, he’d been carrying a butcher knife. When he was brought in for questioning he denied assaulting or killing anyone; but became so enraged during an interrogation that he attacked one of the detectives.

The man was let go, and never charged, because none of the three survivors would testify against the man in court. It would mean coming out of the closet and being revealed as gay. Without their cooperation, police couldn’t build a case. Gay rights activist and politician, Harvey Milk, said, “I can understand their position. I respect the pressure society has put on them.”

In 1977, the San Francisco Sentinel reported that a local psychiatrist practicing in the East Bay area informed police that one of his patients confessed to being the Doodler. The psychiatrist said his patient was struggling with his own homosexuality and was killing in response to his own conflicted feelings. The psychiatrist has the surname “Priest,” or may have been a priest. His identity was lost.

San Francisco Police confirmed in 2019 that the man suspected of being the Doodler was alive and still considered a person of interest in the case. In the 47 years since the Doodler’s last murder, many of the officers involved in the case have died, although one of the survivors may still be living. Susan Stryker, the author of Gay by the Bay: A History of Queer Culture in the San Francisco Bay Area mentions the case briefly. “The only people I found who remembered the killings were trans women who lived in the Tenderloin at the time,” she said. “It is a very poorly-remembered episode in SF LGBT history.”

Were there other serial murders of gay men in the late 70s and 80s in other cities in California or gay urban centers? In the case of the younger men, Klaus Christmann in particular, my theory is the Doodler savaged men with whom he was strongly sexually attracted. The older men, Gerald Cavanaugh and Warren Andrews, may have been of the age or physical resemblance of a man or men who sexually abused or took advantage of him when he was younger. The choice of a knife as a killing weapon is strongly evocative of an erect penis. It enters a body and takes control. He stabbed at the heart.

San Francisco Chronicle reporter, Kevin Fagan, resurrected this notorious serial killer case through his podcast, The Doodler, produced in partnership with Ugly Duckling Films and Neon Hum Media. Maybe the murderer will confess? Maybe the police have enough DNA to prepare a case? Sadly, I don’t think either one will happen and the Doodler will die a free man. Who is he? A friendly neighbor? A respected elder? A recluse in a shabby apartment with a dog-eared sketchbook?

 

 

 

 

Saint Thecla the Evangelist

Posted by Censor Librorum on Apr 7, 2022 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Faith, History, Saints, Scandals, Sex

A healthy number of saints’ stories feature people who were “called to chastity” or to a relationship with Christ vs. marriage. All kinds of fantastic legends and tales ensued about the lengths to which these people would go to avoid marriage and connubial sex. Ultimately, they were all successful in their quest to avoid sex with members of the opposite sex. They ended up living alone (rarely) or with a same-sex companion (often) or same-sex community in a wilderness setting (usually).

Thecla at her window listening to Paul

St. Thecla the Evangelist is one of those saints. She would face anything but marriage.

Thecla’s story is preserved in the Acts of Paul and Thecla, an apocryphal story of Paul’s impact on a young virgin, Thecla, and her subsequent trials, adventures and spiritual leadership as his disciple. She infuriated many Church Fathers, including Tertullian, who griped that some Christians were using the example of Thecla to legitimize women’s roles in teaching and baptizing.

According to Acts, Thecla was a beautiful young woman of Iconium (now Konya, Turkey) whose life was transformed when she heard St. Paul preaching in the street beneath her window. She announced her intention to break off her engagement and to embrace a life of chastity. Her finance was furious. Her family was scandalized. They denounced her to the governor who had her arrested and condemned to death. Thecla was tied naked to a stake, but a miraculous thunderstorm put out the flames. She is saved. Once home, Thecla disguises herself as a youth and escapes to reunite with Paul and travel to Antioch.

While traveling, she is sexually assaulted by Alexander, a prominent man of Antioch. One account reads: “Repulsing the assault, she tears his cloak and knocks the wreath from his head. Alexander (the would-be ravisher) brings her before the magistrate who, despite the protests of the women of the city, again condemns Thecla to death, this time ad bestias. Pleading to remain a virgin until her death, she is taken in by ‘a certain rich queen, Tryphaena by name,” who lost her own daughter. (Tryphaena was the widow of Cotys, King of Thrace and a great-niece of the Emperor Claudius. In Romans 16:12, Paul sends greetings to a Tryphaena.)

Queen Tryphaina

Thecla is allowed to return to Tryshaena. She rides a lioness (who licks her feet) and is paraded through the city. The next morning, Alexander comes for her and escorts her to the arena to die. There she is stripped and thrown to wild beasts. A lioness (presumably the one who licked her feet) protects her from the attacks of lions, bulls and bears. Thecla prays, and throws herself into a trench of water (an euripus) and baptizes herself. The water is full of ferocious and hungry seals. A cloud of fire covers her nakedness and kills the vicious seals. The women in the stands of the arena cast fragrant nard and balsam into the area, which had a pacifying effect on the remaining wild animals. The awestruck governor releases Thecla and she returns to the palace of Queen Tryshaena. Refusing all entreaties to stay with the queen, Thecla dresses in male clothing and sets out to find Paul. She tells him that she baptized herself, and had been commissioned by Christ to baptize and preach in his name. According to the story, Paul recognized her as a fellow apostle and encouraged her to preach the Gospel. Wherever she went, “a bright cloud conducted her on her journey.”

Thecla encouraged women to live a life of chastity and to follow the word of God. She returned home to find her finance had died and her mother indifferent to her preaching. She left, and in one version of her story, she dwelt in a cave in Seleucia Cilicia (southern Turkey) for 72 years and formed a monastic community of women, whose members she instructed “in the oracles of God.”

In another version, Thecla passed the rest of her life in a rocky desert cave in the mountains near the town of Ma’aloula (Syria). She became a healer and performed many miracles. She remained persecuted, and men still conspired to rape and kill her. Just as she was about to be seized, Thecla cried out to God for help. A fissure opened in the stone walls of her cave and she disappeared. It is said that she went to Rome and lay down beside Paul’s tomb.

Thecla and animals

Her cave became an important pilgrimage site in early and medieval Christianity. Today visitors can still see Thecla’s cave and the spring that provided water for her. The nuns who live at the Mar Thecla monastery will tell you her story and show you the opening in the rock where the saint escaped.

There are many wonderful parts of St. Thecla’s story, beginning with her determination to live her life following her calling to evangelize, rather than accede to family or societal expectations. Her protection by animals, the public affirmation by groups of women, are also very positive. She was unashamed of her nakedness when she was led twice to the arena to die. She was proud of her body, her virginity, and her sole possession of it. The biggest surprise was her encouragement by St. Paul ( wives-be-subordinate-to-your-husbands), accepting her as a fellow apostle. The ugly, horrifying constant throughout her life is the desire by men to rape Thecla or kill her if she won’t submit to their authority. Men who are rapists do not believe that they are the problem–females (or males) who aroused them are at fault. What can Christianity do to change this perception?

 

 

 

Her Knight in Shining Armour – I Love a Happy Ending!

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jan 24, 2022 | Categories: Humor, Lesbians & Gays

I

 

Charlotte Mew’s Fearful Longings

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jan 16, 2022 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Faith, History, Lesbians & Gays, Sex

“Charlotte Mew: Madness and Sapphic Desire,” by Rebecca Batley introduced me to this slightly mad, brilliant, and reclusive poet. Almost immediately she reminded of some closeted Catholic lesbians that I have met. These women longed for love and sex but were fearful of acting on their desire. They were afraid of losing their respectability; and the tension between their religious faith and sexual need filled them with dread and a sense of loss. No wonder they were a little unhinged. Deeply closeted women often don’t read signs well, and can fixate on women who aren’t interested in them. This results in a predictable rejection. 

Charlotte “Lotti” Mary Mew was born on November 15, 1869, in London, England. Several of Mew’s siblings suffered from mental illness and were committed to mental institutions. This scared Charlotte and her remaining sister Anne, so much that they made a pact never to marry. In 1898, their father died without leaving any money for the family. This forced the Mews to rent out part of their home, and Charlotte took a job.

As a schoolgirl, Charlotte fell in love with her headmistress, Lucy Harrison. Harrison herself fell in love with a teacher named Amy Greener, and they moved away. Mew had two other serious crushes: the writer Ella D’Arcy in 1898 and popular novelist and suffragette May Sinclair nine years later. Her loves were unrequited. There is no information on whether Charlotte’s physical longings were ever consummated with anyone, but her poem, There Shall Be No Night There describes a tender fantasy:

“Then through my blood the coming mystery
Of night steals to my heart and turns my feet
Toward that chamber in the lamp-lit street,
Where waits the pillow of thy breast and thee.
‘There shall be no night there’—no curtained pane
To shroud love’s speechlessness and loose thy hair
For kisses swift and sweet as falling rain.

What interested me the most about Charlotte Mew was the tension between her religious belief and her lesbian desire. Tensions and strains between our physical and spiritual selves have ripped apart, wounded, or maimed many lesbians. Charlotte Mew was no exception. Does God love me for who I am and what I am? Many lesbians have concluded that the answer is “No,” and leave religion to end their isolation and painful loneliness. Mew stuck with religion but suffered. She believed, but she also carefully coded her desires and doubts in her poetry:

“I think my body was my soul,
And when we are made thus
Who shall control
Our hands, our eyes, the wandering passion of our feet,
Who shall teach us
To thrust the world out of our heart: to say, till perhaps in death,
When the race is run,
And is forced from us with our last breath
“Thy will be done”?

“Madeleine in Church” by Charlotte Mew (1916)

In 1926, her sister, Anne, was diagnosed with cancer. Charlotte took care of her until she died in 1927. After her sister’s death, she became deeply depressed and entered a nursing home. She committed suicide by drinking Lysol, a disinfectant. Charlotte Mew died on March 24, 1928, at the age of fifty-eight. 

Charlotte Mew is buried with her sister Anne in Hampstead Cemetery, West Hampstead, London. The epitaph reads, “Cast Down the Seed of Weeping and Attend.” The phrase is from The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Vol. II (Purgatorio), Canto XXXI (31). Dante meets his ladylove, Beatrice, and recalls his love for her. She admonishes him.

“Cast down the seed of weeping and attend;
So shalt thou hear, how in an opposite way
My buried flesh should have directed thee.”

“Never to thee presented art or nature
Pleasure so great as the fair limbs wherein
I was enclosed, which scattered are in earth.”

The dismal reproach to follow a “higher good” instead of human love followed poor Charlotte Mew to her grave.

I wish instead to provide her and her work and art a happier ending, inspired by Psalm 126:6 –

“Those who go forth weeping,
Carrying sacks of seed
Will return with cries of joy,
Carrying their bundled sheaves.”

Almost 100 years after Charlotte Mew’s death, there are lesbians of faith who are married, enjoying the physical delights of a loving relationship, and looking forward together to the promise of salvation and eternal life.

The Farmer’s Wife, a poem by Charlotte Mew read by Tom O’Bedlam

 

 

 

 

Andy Warhol’s Catholic Influences

Posted by Censor Librorum on Jan 5, 2022 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Celebrities, Faith, History, Lesbians & Gays, Scandals, Sex

Andy Warhol is an influential and celebrated 20th century artist and pop icon. He was gay and was raised Catholic. His faith and sexuality influenced his art. As an adult, he did attend church from time to time, especially after he was shot and almost killed in 1968 by Valerie Solanas, a writer and radical feminist.

Andy Warhol with Bibles

“Revelation” an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum from November 19, 2021 to June 19, 2022, features Warhol artworks that are infused with both strains, often harmoniously and deeply revealing. The show was developed by the Andy Warhol Museum’s chief curator, Jose Carlos Diaz and curated at the Brooklyn Museum by Carmen Hermo.

Some of the show’s highlights include Warhol’s two gigantic versions of “The Last Supper” in pink and yellow; and a fusion of the face of Christ, an advertising tagline, and a shirtless young man; and a shot-up, scarred Warhol reminiscent of Christ’s wounds or a martyred St. Sebastian.

Much of Catholic dogma, art and religious expression is focused on the body. The sacrament of the Eucharist—eating and drinking Christ’s body—can have sexual overtones. Human figures in Catholic art history are often beautiful men, some in sexually suggestive poses. These influences went into Warhol’s formation as an artist and as a man, and he combined them with the pop arts trends of the day. Catholicism has inspired generations of homosexual artists through its sensual and sexually charged imagery.

 

 

Memorial Brass of Elizabeth Etchingham and Agnes Oxenbridge

Posted by Censor Librorum on Dec 29, 2021 | Categories: History, Lesbians & Gays

Elizabeth Etchingham and Agnes Oxenbridge were born in 1420s England. They may have met one another as girls or as teenagers. We cannot know for certainty the nature of their relationship, but the evidence in the brass memorial points to an intense, enduring, affectionate bond.

Elizabeth Etchingham was in her mid-twenties when she died on December 3, 1452. Agnes Oxenbridge died almost three decades later on August 4, 1480. She was in her mid-fifties.

Elizabeth and Agnes have a joint memorial brass on the floor of the side aisle of the Assumption of Blessed Mary and St. Nicholas Church at Etchingham. The brass is in front of the monument to Etchingham’s ancestors.

Their memorial brass was designed in the style of married couples with one interesting detail: the women are shown facing each other and looking into each other’s eyes. Elizabeth’s head is lifted up slightly to gaze at the taller figure of Agnes, whose head is bowed slightly. Generally, married couples in that era were shown looking straight ahead. Agnes and Elizabeth appear to be in motion towards each other, with their skirts spread backwards and their bodies angled forward. The two women were dressed identically.

The difference in size and hair styles of the two women most likely reflects their age difference at death. Loose, flowing hair was associated with young women; Agnes’ pinned up hair is seen on mature women. The lack of a head covering on either woman indicates that they were unmarried.

The women must have expressed a desire to be buried together which the families honored. Agnes may have directed the design of the memorial brass. The intimate gaze of the two women evident as they move toward one another. The space between them was ended by death.