elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Alan Bray & Graham Wilson

Alan Bray (October 13, 1948 - November 25, 2001), who has died aged 53, was a rare combination; a senior civil servant, gay activist and scholar. His book, Homosexuality In Renaissance England, first published in 1982 and still in print, is a classic of meticulous research and independent thinking on the origins of the modern gay identity. It shows how sodomy was regarded in Elizabethan cosmology as a sinful desire to which all men were potentially subject, but that homosexual activity was widely tolerated and had not then come to signify the deviant psychological type it later became. (Picture: Alan Bray at London Gay Pride 1979 taken by Terry Waller. https://www.flickr.com/photos/terry6082books/4415591708/in/album-72157623404562861/)

Alan was brought up, in significant economic hardship, in Hunslet, Leeds, and the death of his mother, when he was 12, affected him deeply; he was vulnerable in relationships and retained an intense privacy, and sometimes loneliness, alongside unfailing tenderness towards his friends.

Educated at Central high school, Leeds, where he met his lifelong friend, Graham Wilson, and Bangor University, he spent a year in an Anglican seminary before building a distinguished career in the Inland Revenue. He worked in Lord Rayner's team at a time of civil service reform. His managerial acumen, and an ability to memorise complex cases, commanded great respect. Before taking early retirement as a principal in 1996, after a serious illness and an HIV diagnosis, he piloted through the highly technical issues surrounding the Lloyds insurance market crisis.

Earlier, in 1984-85, he was awarded a sabbatical at Nuffield College, Oxford, where he wrote The Clandestine Reformer: A Study Of The Rayner Scrutinies (1988).

A creative tension in Alan's life sprang from the radicalism around his sexuality and long-held religious beliefs. He converted to Roman Catholicism in the mid-1980s, and was in communication with the late Cardinal Basil Hume on behalf of the gay Catholic group, Quest.

In the early 1970s, he was involved with the Gay Liberation Front, and with campaigns such as the Gay News Defence Committee, set up in 1977 to fight the blasphemous libel prosecution of Gay News by Mary Whitehouse. After the Guardian published an offensive article about the 1979 Gay Pride march, polite and besuited, he cased the Guardian offices the night before a highly effective zap by 50 members of the Gay Activists Alliance.

Alan saw his work as part of the wider sexual politics movement, and he was a founder member of the Gay History Group. The success of his first book led to greater recognition, and he had two important articles on male friendship published in the History Workshop Journal, of which he was an editor between 1994-97. He became a fellow of Birkbeck College, London, and was invited to give papers at American and Australian universities. His final project, The Friend, is due to be published next year.

This book explores same sex kinship ceremonies and unions that permeated the culture of pre-modern societies. A particular focus is on joint tombs inscribed with declarations of love - the most illustrious being the grave of Cardinal Newman. It was while discovering these burial sites that Alan realised his research was also a personal act of remembrance and mourning for friends lost to Aids.

He is survived by Graham, and by his sister, Jacqueline Smith.

Alan Bray, civil servant, gay campaigner and historian, born October 13 1948; died November 25 2001

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2001/dec/18/guardianobituaries.gayrights (Stephen Gee, The Guardian, Tuesday 18 December 2001)
The work of Randolph Trumbach, Michel Rey, Alan Bray, Theo Van Der Meer, and a host of other historians has demonstrated that "sodomitical subcultures" had emerged in major European cities by the eighteenth century, and it is possible that similar subcultures took root in the ports of the American colonies, although their appearance may well have depended on the later growth of those cities. (In either case, the precise terms by which men involved in such subcultures understood themselves and distinguished themselves from others must be analyzed with care; threads of historical continuity may link the "molly houses" Alan Bray and Randolph Trumbach have located in eighteenth-century London with the Bowery resorts in the late-nineteenth-century New York, but much more work will need to be undertaken before we can establish their existence or analyze their significance). --Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940 by George Chauncey
In understanding the historical ramifications of laws that control sexual behavior, it is useful to remember that no universal baseline of appropriate sexual or gender behavior exists. "Sexual deviance" is often the cultural and political wild card used to demonize people who do not conform to certain sexual norms. Its accusation can be used by mainstream culture against marginalized groups or between marginalized groups themselves. We see throughout American history that restrictions against LGBT people are enforced "as needed" to maintain the contemporary status quo - a clear example of Alan Bray's concept of society as a process. Regardless of the status quo, process denotes adjustment, change, experiment, all in the name of an ideal way of life that is different for everyone. The Puritans, like most English dissenter groups, had been accused of envisioning "the world upside down". Puritanism was, in this sense, a revolutionary movement.
Homosocial space in the eighteenth century gave birth to distinct same-sex relationships that were referred to in popular and literary culture as romantic or intimate friendships. These friendships were important to the women and men who engaged in them - often as important and long-lasting as traditional heterosexual marriages - and were an accepted, praised, and significant social institution. Alan Bray argues that these friendships were largely a product of the Enlightenment - that the ideas of egalitarianism, brotherhood, and rational love (as opposed to uncontrolled, passionate love) helped contribute to a new concept of deeply committed, emotionally passionate friendship between members of the same sex. It is possible that some of these friendships embodied similarities to our contemporary ideas of romantic and sexual relationships. In many ways they were understood as a beneficial and complementary alternative to marriage. A major function of heterosexual marriage was to regulate sexual activity that would lead to reproduction, but this new idea of friendship, for men as well as women, often provided a more enlightening, expressive outlet. --A Queer History of the United States by Michael Bronski
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1500563323
ISBN-13: 978-1500563325
Amazon: Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time

Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher

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Tags: days of love, essayist: alan bray

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