Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 27, 2012

Newgate Prison

November 27, 1835: There is a double hanging at Newgate Prison in London. Newgate’s first prison was built in 1188 at the behest of King Henry II. It is just inside the City of London at the corner of Newgate Street and Old Bailey. Before it was a prison site, it was an actual gate site of the Roman London Wall. As a prison, it has been extended many times over the centuries. It was demolished and rebuilt in 1777 and remained in use as a prison until 1902. On this date, John Smith and John Pratt were hanged after a conviction of sodomy. This was the last execution for homosexuality brought on by the English judicial system. They were not, however, the last homosexual men to be persecuted by onerous laws either in England or elsewhere in the world.

Homosexuality is the romantic or sexual interest between two members of the same sex. It is one of three main categories of sexual orientation – the other two being bisexuality (affinity for both sexes) and heterosexuality (affinity for members of the other sex). Asexuality is sometimes considered to be a fourth orientation and refers to people uninterested in sex at all. The term “homosexuality” is a mixture of Roman and Greek usage with the homo from the Greek, mean “same” rather than the Roman meaning “man” and homosexuality can refer to people of either gender. In today’s colloquial usage, “gay” refers to homosexual men while women are referred to as lesbians.

Attitudes toward sexuality have changed with time and place and have undergone shifts in acceptance or disregard. Same-sex relationships have at times been held in high esteem and in others, as in the time of the Newgate Prison hangings, been held as not only out of favor, but downright criminal. At one time, homosexuality was seen as a disease and participants were treated to “cures” for this diagnosis. Psychology was the first field of study that identified homosexuality as a discreet entity. But there is a range of sexual orientation and humans find themselves placed somewhere in that range. There is no consensus at this point in time as to what actually causes one to land on any certain point of that continuum, in other words, we don’t know what causes any sexual orientation.

Reliable data about the demographics of sexual orientation are essential when forming any public policy. However, some area of the globe still see homosexuality as an abomination and will punish “offenders” for this behavior. As less stigma is attached to the label, rates of admitted homosexuality have risen. Some people who have had some same-sex encounters still do not label themselves as homosexuals. But with many people given an anonymous chance to admit to same-sex ideation, there may be many more bisexuals than we had previously thought. Luckily, at least in many parts of the world, they are free to date whomever they wish.

Why is it that, as a culture, we are more comfortable seeing two men holding guns than holding hands? – Ernest Gaines

Homosexuality is god’s way of insuring that the truly gifted aren’t burdened with children. – Sam Austin

If homosexuality is a disease, let’s all call in queer to work:  “Hello.  Can’t work today, still queer.” – Robin Tyler

There is nothing wrong with going to bed with someone of your own sex.  People should be very free with sex, they should draw the line at goats. – Elton John

Also on this day:

First Crusade – In 1095, Pope Urban II calls for European princes to rescue the Holy Lands from desecration by the infidels.
No Twinkies – In 1978, Harvey Milk and George Moscone were murdered.
Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics – In 1839, the American Statistical Association was formed.