Finally.. the count down is now on in earnest… after 5 weeks in June/July, I returned to the UK to sort everything out and … get ready to move. With the date now set, and a one way ticket booked… the last month has now officially begun. This means, of course, many See you soon” dinners with friends still here in Britain, and two weeks in Germany as friends of mine are getting married and visiting my mother. At least Continue reading
Our weekend away was pretty much an exploration of the coast around Albufeira. Prior to heading there, I had fairly little idea what we would find. I somehow imagined that it would be a bit like some of the Costas you can find in Spain: with large hotels and long beaches. To come straight to the point: It is not, although it has some aspects of it.
Albufeira itself is a pretty cute little town. Continue reading
One of the great advantages of being in a small country is that everything is really (relatively) close by… which, of course, in the case of Portugal, means stunning coastline and beaches are literally just minutes away. And although Lisbon has some amazing beaches (see the post about Praia 19 – the “Gay Beach of Lisbon”), a friend and I decided to check out the Algarve last weekend. I’ve split this post into two: First, a post about the train ride (with some hints about trains in Portugal) – and then a second post about Albufeira (coming soon) Continue reading
Praia 19 – or Beach 19 – is the “must do” gay beach after partying all night in Lisbon – or maybe just to top up your tan (without the tan lines if you so wish). I had been to Lisbon a few times, but as I’m not really a beach person (sorry, I get bored too easily), I hadn’t been to this mystical wonderland of sun, sand … and men. Nevertheless, I decided to check it out – and so here is the “lowdown” on the beach some people call the best gay beach in Europe… Continue reading
Friday was finally the day, and it was “bye bye” to Brexit-land – and hello to Lisbon. Of course, I didn’t expect my leaving day to be quite such a dramatic day in the British and European landscape… However, Brexit certainly had quite an effect on what I planned as a quiet traveling day, and just before hitting the second of the Lisbon Pride celebrations, Arraial Pride, the day after arriving. Continue reading
I recently had an interesting debate with a friend: Does having a lot of sex mean you are sex positive? To cut a pretty long discussion short: His view was (or is) that gay men in particular are pretty sex positive, because generally spoken, they have a lot of [opportinities for] sex. I tried to defend the point that some gay men may be promiscuous – and may have a lot of sex, but … that much of gay dating life is actually pretty sex negative. How come? Continue reading
If you are now wondering what Wuppertal is… I totally get you. Few people have ever heard about it… Wuppertal is actually my home town in Germany, and the place I grew up in, until I left for London in the 1990s. Wuppertal is famous a few things though: Aspirin came from Wuppertal, Engels, one of the original authors of the communist manifesto – and it has a railway that hangs upside down (and that is the defacto mode of transport in the city). As far as similarities with Lisbon are concerned, it is hilly, too. And that pretty much sums up the similarities.
So… what is Wuppertal doing in a blog about Lisbon? Well, just as Lisbon has inspired many artists, some artists with a connection to Wuppertal have been inspired in and by Lisbon. And here are two examples … Continue reading
The Carnation Revolution swept away the fascist regime of the Estado Novo on April 25, 1974. However, despite the return to democracy and fundamental changes in Portuguese society, advancement to become one of the most liberal countries worldwide in terms of gay rights was a slow progress.
First gay rights organisations emerged shortly after the Carnation Revolution. Although homosexuality was still technically illegal, Lisbon started to have a more open gay scene. Although unofficially gay bars had existed in the Bairro Alto district, bars and clubs became more overt following the revolution: Lisbon’s oldest, still existing gay bar, Finalmente, opened its doors in 1976, presenting nightly drag shows until today. MHAR, Movimento Homossexual de Acção Revolucionária was the first official LGBTI+ organisation, established just one month after the April revolution.However, these organisations lacked support of both the government as well as a support base in the traditionally more progressive left-wing parties. Nevertheless, homosexuality was decriminalised, between consenting adults, in 1982.
As in other countries AIDS changed the face of gays in Portugal: National organizations such as the Comissão Nacional de Luta Contra a SIDA [National Commission for the Fight against AIDS] and the charity Abraço brought increased visibility to gay life. The death of António Variações, a high musician, as a result of AIDS, widely shocked Portuguese society in 1984.
During the 1990s, gay life in Portugal underwent dramatic changes: The Partido Socialista Revolucionário (a predecessor of today’s Left Bloc Party) was the first political party to call for an end to machismo, homophobia and discrimination in 1991. Organisations, still active today were established: ILGA Portugal, established in 1995, and Opus Gay (1999) emerged, and Lisbon became home to the first Arraial Pride in 1997 – and the Marcha Nacional do Orgulho LGBT. The LGBT Centre of Lisbon opened in 1997, and, also in 1997 the first film festival established in the Portuguese capital was the “Festival de Cinema Gay e Lésbico de Lisboa”, known as QueerLisboa.
The new Millennium
If changes during the 1990s were seismic and dramatically changes in attitudes, the new millennium saw an increased focus on establishing equal rights, particularly in the eyes of the law: In 2001 civil partnerships between same-sex couples were introduced. In 2003, workplace discrimination was outlawed. In 2004, the original constitution of 1975 was amended to prohibit any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation, and in 2007 the Penal Code was amended to exclude all mentioning of homosexuality and amended to include specific laws criminalising discrimination because of sexual orientation and laws in relation to homophobic crimes. From 2009 mandatory sex education in schools started to include LGBTI+-related topics, and in 2010 the blood donation ban for gay and bisexual men was lifted. Marriage equality was achieved in 2010, although this originally excluded the right to adopt children. This last restriction was lifted in 2015, and the right to adopt children was granted to same-sex couples. Finally, in 2016, assisted reproductive technology, such as invitro-fertilisation was allowed for lesbian couples (and single women).
Today, Portugal ranks as one of the most liberal countries in Europe according to the ILGA Rainbow Europe ranking. Jointly with Spain, it holds the 4th position in Europe with a human rights score of 70%, just behind Denmark, and ahead of countries like Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands.
Please bear in mind that I’m not a historian (nor Portuguese for that matter…), but just compiled this based on my reading. It would be great if you could add any omissions or corrections below! Thanks!… Of course, I also realise that I have mostly focused on gay items. I hope I can find out more about lesbian and trans history in the future and share it here!
Isn’t Pride just a commercialised street party, sponsored by big brands and full of pretty boys in skimpy clothes? And anyway, does it still matter?
I recently posted about my summer plans, which include going to both Lisbon’s Arraial Pride and Orgullo in Madrid. Pride in many countries has become a big business: Madrid Pride brings around 2million people onto the street, London Pride is awash with big businesses sponsoring it. And yes, I totally understand that some people get completely fed up with all the commercialism taking over what once was a profoundly political event. Similarly, with Portugal being 4th, the UK 3rd and Spain 6th in the annual ILGA Rainbow Ratings, it seems hard to argue that life as a gay men faces heavy discrimination in those countries (not fully equal mind you… but nowhere as bad a s 20, 30 years ago). So… why bother going to attend Pride? Here is my somewhat personal list of reasons you too should come out to join Pride: Continue reading
Life under the Inquisition
There are many surviving documents about gay life under the Inquisition, most of it stored in the National Archives of Torre do Tombo. Although the Inquisition tried hard to quell gay life and culture, there are references to transvestite shows to be found in the archives of the time, and references to men impersonating women as sex workers.
Living under the constant threat of being discovered, gays also started to adopt a specific language (much like the much later Polari found in the UK). Using terms not usually associated with sexual activity, such “hunting” to describe looking for sex or “being in the afternoon” to describe another gay person, prevented people ‘not in the know’ from understanding the verbal code used to communicate.
The age of enlightenment brought an end to the rule of the Inquisition, and it slowly lost its grip on Portuguese society. However, while the enlightenment brought many advances, wider society was still influenced strongly by Catholic moral ideas and the influence of the Catholic church remained strong.
The reformed penal code of 1852 did not contain any references to homosexual acts, effectively legalising them. However, social morals still remained skewed against gays, although homosexual acts did not lead to the same scandalous consequences as in other countries at the time. This tolerance gave Portugal the status of a comparatively liberal country, at least when compared to countries such as Germany or the UK where gays were openly prosecuted by the police at the time and homosexuality was a crime (e.g. Germany recriminalised homosexual acts in 1871, in the UK, homosexual acts have been illeagal since 1533).
This relative liberal outlook lead to some pioneering works about homosexuality being published within the Portuguese Empire at the time. This included works such as A Inversão Sexual, by Adelino Silva, which, when published in 1895, was one of the first works to analyze ‘scientifically’ the topic of homosexuality (by comparison, Magnus Hirschfeld’s work “Die Homosexualität Des Mannes Und Des Weibes” was published almost twenty years later, in 1914). Despite of this, homosexuality was still often seen as a mental illness which needed to be treated. For example, Egas Moniz, the first Portuguese nobel laureate and inventor of the highly controversial lobotomy, classified homosexuality as a mental illness, and counseled that it should be cured like any other mental illness (which, in his case, presumably involved drilling holes into heads of patients).
The First Republic
The end of the monarchy in Portugal, and the establishment of the First Republic in 1910, didn’t change much in terms of societal attitudes towards gays and homosexuality. While homosexuality remained technically legal, interest in it came mainly from a medical perspective: Assuming that it was an illness and needed treatment. As such, books which appeared to condone homosexuality were often banned or seized. Much in contrast to the more liberal attitudes of the rest of Europe, Portuguese society in the 1920s became more conservative: In fact, Portugal was the only European country not to send any delegates to the World League for sexual Reform initiated by Magnus Hirschfeld in London in 1929.
The Estado Novo
After Salazar established the authoritarian regime of the Estado Novo in 1933, things took a predictable turn for the worse: Salazar advocated a return to Catholic doctrine and conservative values. Gender roles were reverted to become more traditional, and all expressions of sexuality outside of marriage were frowned upon. Sexual expression was seen as subversive and books, scripts or other artistic works advocating any form of sexual expression outside of marriage and as a means to reproduction were systematically censored, and artists, writers and advocates were criminalized.
In 1954, homosexuality was recriminalised, with people engaging in “crimes against nature” facing being being locked up in mental asylums or condemned to hard labour. The Portuguese secret state police PIDE systematically hunted homosexuals or spread rumors about opposition and resistance fighters, including famously the then president of the opposition Portuguese Communist Party Júlio Fogaça. Fogaça subsequently was expelled by the Communist Party, while serving a prison sentence, in 1961 under the pretext of homosexual conduct.
Please bear in mind that I’m not a historian (nor Portuguese for that matter…), but just compiled this based on my reading. It would be great if you could add any omissions or corrections below! Thanks!…Of course, I also realise that I have mostly focused on gay items. I hope I can find out more about lesbian and trans history in the future and share it here!
>> Next time… The Carnation Revolution to modern-day Portugal.