New Book: Homintern

How Gay Culture Liberated the Modern World

by Gregory Woods;xNLx;;xNLx;NOW IN PAPERBACK - August 2017;xNLx;In this sharply observed, warm-spirited book, Gregory Woods identifies the ways in which homosexuality has helped shape Western culture. ;xNLx;;xNLx;Extending from the trials of Oscar Wilde to the gay liberation era, via Harlem in the 1910s, 1920s Paris, 1930s Berlin, '50s New York and beyond, this panoramic survey presents a surpassing portrait of 20th-century gay culture.;xNLx;;xNLx;;xNLx;Browse the Homintern timeline for an introduction to the book.;xNLx;;xNLx;Find out more at

1868-11-01 00:00:00

Károly Mária Kertbeny coins the word 'homosexual'

Károly Mária Kertbeny coined the word ‘homosexual’ in a letter to Karl Heinrich Ulrichs. It eventually took hold in most European languages, in preference to such alternatives as ‘uranian’, ‘invert’, ‘similisexual’ and other neologisms conjured up by European sexologists.

1895-04-03 14:46:07

The Trial of Oscar Wilde

'It is beyond doubt that the Wilde affair cowed other artists, having the effect of coercing them into conformity in both their personal behaviour and the art they produced.' – Gregory Woods, Homintern

1896-11-01 00:00:00

Cyril Scott meets Stefan George

The English composer Cyril Scott was 17 when he met the German poet Stefan George, who was 28. George was the leader of a cultural circle most of whose members were attractive, intelligent young men. Scott later wrote of him: ‘he was not in the least ashamed of the fact’ that he was homosexual, ‘being almost obsessed, as he was, with Hellenistic ideas and ideals’.

1903-10-14 00:00:00

The Jacques d’Adelswärd-Fersen scandal, France

'The French poet Jacques d’Adelsward-Fersen had visited Capri in 1896 or 1897, and then again in 1901. When the scandal of his private life erupted into public court and a guilty verdict in 1903, he went into exile. Retiring to Capri in 1904, he had the Villa Lysis built. (While it was being erected he went off to taste the delights of Ceylon.) In Rome he met a sharp-witted and smooth-bodied fifteen-year-old, Nino Cesarini, whom he took on as his secretary/factotum/lover.' – Gregory Woods, Homintern

1906-10-01 00:00:00

Publication of Mikhail Kuzmin's novel, 'Wings'

'In Kuzmin’s novel 'Wings' (1906), young Vanya Smurov is disappointed to see, when first arriving in St. Petersburg by train, not the grand, cosmopolitan palaces he has been anticipating, but ugly suburban kitchen gardens and cemeteries, followed by a vast, polluted cityscape of tenements and shacks ... The only glimpse of the kind of cultural glamour he has been expecting is embodied in the person, behaviour and opinions of the sophisticated aesthete Larion Stroop, who befriends him.' – Gregory Woods, Homintern

1906-10-01 00:00:00

The Eulenburg scandal, Germany

In Germany, Prince Philipp of Eulenburg and his friend Kuno von Moltke were exposed as homosexuals by a journalist. Moltke sued him for libel. A series of high-profile trials followed, but they were inconclusive. Disgraced all the same, Eulenburg retired from public life. Rumours of homosexuality in high places continued to circulate.

1909-10-01 00:00:00

Natalie Barney institutes her salons at 20, rue Jacob, Paris

'Natalie Barney once said, "I am a lesbian … One need not hide it, nor boast of it, though being other than normal is a perilous advantage". Romaine Brooks met Natalie Barney in 1915. Natalie Barney needed Paris; Romaine Brooks hated it. Barney was promiscuous, Brooks not – nor even particularly sociable.' – Gregory Woods, Homintern

1912-10-01 00:00:00

Nijinsky & Ballets Russes first perform ‘L’après-Midi d’un Faun’ in Paris

'The 1912 season is best known for a performance of Nijinsky’s which caused a particular scandal. The first performance of L’Après-midi d’un faune provoked both applause and booing, both extending for long enough to provoke an immediate second performance.' – Gregory Woods, Homintern

1916-10-01 00:00:00

E. M. Forster leaves England

The novelist E. M. Forster was unable to discard his virginity until he had left England far behind him. After a nocturnal encounter with a soldier on a beach in Alexandria, he finally wrote home to a friend, ‘Yesterday for the first time in my life I parted with respectability’. The next year he began a tender relationship with an Egyptian tram driver.

1919-10-01 00:00:00

Sylvia Beach opens Shakespeare and Company bookshop, Paris

'[On] November 17, 1919 [Sylvia Beach] opened the Anglophone bookshop and lending library Shakespeare and Company … in Paris. Visitors in the first few days included Louis Aragon, André Gide, Léon Fargue, Valery Larbaud, Georges Duhamel and Jules Romains. On March 16, 1920, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas came into the shop for the first time. They would remain good friends …' – Gregory Woods, Homintern

1919-10-01 00:00:00

Magnus Hirschfeld opens the Institute for Sexual Science, Berlin

'The scientific curiosity, bureaucratic method and sexual experimentalism of Germany in general and Berlin in particular became fused in the most practical way under a single roof: that of Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institute for Sexual Science. It was a research centre, museum, library, guest house, social centre, campaigning organisation and therapeutic clinic – all, ultimately, to be destroyed by hostile ideologues.' – Gregory Woods, Homintern

1920-10-01 00:00:00

The Swedish Ballet goes on tour

Rolf de Maré set up the Swedish Ballet (Ballets Suédois) to showcase his lover, the dancer Jean Börlin. Consistently subjected to homophobic criticism in its own country, the company achieved its major successes on tour in Europe and the USA.

1920-10-01 00:00:00

The Roaring Twenties

‘The Roaring Twenties...! But the label, perhaps, is a mistake. The true voice of the epoch was, surely, not so much a full-throated roar as a kind of exacerbated yelping; a false-virile voice tending, in moments of stress, to rise to an equivocal falsetto’ – from Jocelyn Brooke’s novel 'The Military Orchid' (1948).

1920-10-01 00:00:00

Prohibition in America

The Prohibition of alcohol in the USA (1920–1933) had the unintended effect of stimulating an underground economy of illegal drinking dens and parties in private apartments. People generally felt that, if their presence in such places made them criminals, they might as well get drunk and enjoy whatever other illicit pleasures might be available. This mood added especial vigour to the gay culture of Harlem, New York City.

1921-10-01 00:00:00

First publication of Marcel Proust's 'Sodom and Gomorrah'

'I have thought it as well to utter here a provisional warning against the lamentable error of proposing (just as people have encouraged a Zionist movement) to create a Sodomist movement and to rebuild Sodom. For, no sooner had they arrived there than the Sodomites would leave the town so as not to have the appearance of belonging to it, would take wives, keep mistresses in other cities where they would find, incidentally, every diversion that appealed to them. They would repair to Sodom only on days of supreme necessity, when their own town was empty, at those seasons when hunger drives the wolf from the woods; in other words, everything would go on much as it does today in London, Berlin, Rome, Petrograd or Paris.' – Marcel Proust, 'Cities of the Plain', Part One, 1968

1924-10-01 00:00:00

First publication of André Gide's 'Corydon'

'In addition to the major precedents of Wilde and Whitman, a third literary figure exerted a strong, queer influence in South America: André Gide. For those who could not read French, Gide’s 'Corydon' was first published in Spanish translation in 1929. The very title of the book had become part of the lexical currency.' – Gregory Woods, Homintern

1928-10-01 00:00:00

First publication of Radclyffe Hall's, 'The Well of Loneliness'

'Hall had a strong sense that she was doing something momentous with this book … When it was completed, her own opinion was that … 'The Well of Loneliness' would change the world, and would bring her the admiration of those who knew anything about literature. She was wrong.' – Gregory Woods, Homintern

1929-10-01 00:00:00

Federico García Lorca travels to New York

‘What seems clear in all the American poems, but especially so in the 'Ode to Walt Whitman', is that Lorca was both impressed and depressed by the sheer proliferation of same-sex activities that he witnessed being negotiated, if not actually carried out, during his visit to New York City. 'Poet in New York' is full of both desire and envy. When the latter is dominant, Lorca erupts into a rage against his own kind. Perhaps because he himself most desired men who did not identify as homosexual, he sometimes affected to despise those who did.’ – Gregory Woods, Homintern

1933-10-01 00:00:00

Institute for Sexual Science sacked by the Nazis, Berlin

'In Berlin, between May 6 and 10, 1933, the sacking of the Institute by Nazi thugs and the public burning of all its unique records and the contents of its library [took place]. Some 20,000 books and 5,000 images were destroyed, and the Institute’s list of names and addresses was seized, putting many lives and livelihoods in danger. The conflagration was witnessed by Christopher Isherwood, who, many years later, briefly recorded the event, as usual referring to himself in the third person: "A few days after the raid [on the Institute], the seized books and papers were publicly burned, along with a bust of Hirschfeld, on the square in front of the Opera House. Christopher, who was present in the crowd, said "shame”; but not loudly".' – Gregory Woods, Homintern

1933-10-01 00:00:00

André Gide and [Roger] Martin du Gard arrive in Berlin

‘The two writers coincided in Berlin in October, [André] Gide arriving for a fortnight, [Roger] Martin du Gard for five weeks. They did their best to avoid each other on their forays into the sexual underworld, but always dutifully compared notes on what they had seen and experienced.’ – Gregory Woods, Homintern

1937-10-01 00:00:00

Philip Johnson observes 1930s Berlin

The American architect Philip Johnson admired what he had seen of the Nazis in Berlin and Nuremburg: all those blond boys in leather! ‘Then, in 1937, he and [a friend] founded the Young Nationalists, a band of youths who gathered mainly from backgrounds in the Ku Klux Klan, the German-American Band and other right-wing groups. He kept on visiting Berlin, of course, still to sample its sexual opportunities, but now also to study fascism seriously.’ – Gregory Woods, Homintern

1940-10-01 00:00:00

George Orwell reflects on inter-war Paris

George Orwell disapproved of the queerness of Paris. In his famous essay ‘Inside the Whale’, he complained: ‘The populace had grown so hardened to artists that gruff-voiced Lesbians in corduroy breeches and young men in Grecian or medieval costume could walk the streets without attracting a glance.'

1948-10-01 00:00:00

First publication of Gore Vidal's, 'The City and the Pillar'

'Jim Willard, the central character of Gore Vidal’s pioneering novel 'The City and the Pillar' (1948), casts an inexperienced but apparently authoritative eye over the city’s gay population soon after he himself has arrived there. He, too, notices the difference between the invisible and the visible: "It seemed that from all over the country the homosexuals had come to New York as to a centre, a new Sodom; for here, among the millions, they could be unnoticed by the enemy and yet known to one another".' – Gregory Woods, Homintern

1948-10-01 00:00:00

Publication of 'Sexual Behavior in the Human Male' by Alfred Kinsey et al

The first of the Kinsey Reports, 'Sexual Behavior in the Human Male', revealed a much higher incidence of male-male sexual activity than had previously been imagined. This gave added impetus to campaigns for homosexual law reform.

1948-10-01 00:00:00

Paul and Jane Bowles in Tangier

The writers Paul and Jane Bowles, a recently married couple, had moved to Tangier. ‘At this time, Paul Bowles was involved with a Moroccan man, Ahmed Yacoubi, who lived at a safe distance in Fez, and Jane with a Moroccan woman, Cherifa, who did not. As these things happen, Jane did not like Yacoubi and Paul did not like Cherifa. Nevertheless a degree of harmonious tolerance was achieved’ – Gregory Woods, Homintern

1953-10-01 00:00:00

Publication of 'Sexual Behavior in the Human Female' by Alfred Kinsey et al

The second of the Kinsey Reports, 'Sexual Behavior in the Human Female', shocked America with the revelation that women desire more from sex than pregnancy, and that their routes to sexual fulfilment include many that do not involve men.

1956-10-01 00:00:00

First Publication of James Baldwin's novel, 'Giovanni’s Room'

In Baldwin’s novel 'Giovanni’s Room' (1957) among the customers of the gay bar run by Guillaume: 'There were the usual paunchy, bespectacled gentlemen with avid, sometimes despairing eyes, the usual, knife-blade lean, tight-trousered boys. One could never be sure, as concerns these latter, whether they were after money or blood or love.'

1957-10-01 00:00:00

Yukio Mishima visits Broadway

On his second trip to New York City, the Japanese novelist Yukio Mishima went to no fewer than eight Broadway shows, including My Fair Lady, West Side Story and, for the second time, South Pacific.

1961-10-01 00:00:00

Rudolf Nureyev defects from the USSR to the West

On 16 June 1961 at an airport in Paris, Rudolf Nureyev defected with the help of the French police. Within a week he was performing in 'Sleeping Beauty' with the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas. On a tour of Denmark he met Erik Bruhn, soloist at the Royal Danish Ballet.

1967-10-01 00:00:00

The Sexual Offences Act partially decriminalises male homosexual acts in England and Wales

'The 1967 Act was hedged about with caveats and conditions, among them the principle of ‘privacy’ and the restriction of legal behaviour to an encounter between two individuals only. As is well known, once the 1967 Act had been passed, the rate of convictions for homosexual offences went up ... The ideal inscribed within the 1967 Act is a lasting union between two ‘good’ homosexuals. Yet all it decriminalised was a limited range of sexual acts in a limited range of locations.' – Gregory Woods, Homintern

1969-10-01 00:00:00

The Stonewall Riots, New York City

The Stonewall riots symbolically initiated the era of the gay liberation movement. They are commemorated every year by Pride parades all around the world. However, there were many pre-Stonewall initiatives pressing for law reform and civil rights for homosexual men and women.

New Book: Homintern

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