Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Carl Austin-Behan, Lord Mayor of Manchester

Last week openly gay Carl Austin-Behan was sworn in as the new Lord Mayor of Manchester, a city in northwest England. Manchester is the second most populous English city after London. Austin-Behan made history not only for being Manchester’s first openly gay Lord Mayor in the position’s 124-year history, but at 44 years old he is also the youngest.

Carl Austin (he has used a hyphenated surname only since his marriage last year) had recently built a career as a Labour Party councillor on the Manchester City Council and was named earlier this year as that party’s choice to be the city’s new ceremonial Lord Mayor. Prior to entering politics, he had served as a firefighter in the Royal Air Force, from which he was discharged in 1997 for being homosexual (the discriminatory ban was lifted in 2000). Nevertheless, during his time in the RAF, Mr. Austin was awarded the Good Show Award for Bravery, The Royal Humane Society Bronze Award for rescuing a pilot from a burning Hawk Aircraft, and a special mention in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List (1996) with a Commander in Chief’s Commendation. After his discharge he entered the Greater Manchester Fire Service. Shortly thereafter he won the title of Mr. Gay UK in 2001 (photo below) during which time he was working as an events manager.

He told the Manchester Evening News: “I thought it was time we had an openly gay Lord Mayor. We have already had different races and cultures doing it, so this is a recognition of the LGBT community.” Manchester is known for its large gay population and social culture. The city has hosted an annual gay pride event since 1991.

Last year the new Lord Mayor married Simon Behan, his partner of 12 years, and they are currently in the process of seeking to adopt a child. Officially, Simon Austin-Behan is referred to as "The Lord Mayor's Consort." Carl told reporters that he will not be wearing the traditional uniform of black and grey trousers sported by previous Lord Mayors, and he commented that he has only one white shirt in his wardrobe. “I want people to feel like they can relate to the Lord Mayor.”

Note from your blogger: In the United Kingdom “Lord Mayor” is the title of the ceremonial mayor of a major city with special recognition bestowed by the sovereign, in this instance Queen Elizabeth. The proper style of address for the office is “The Right Worshipful the Lord Mayor of Manchester.” I kid you not.

For an extended bio, click on this link to visit the official web site of Manchester's Lord Mayor:

http://www.manchester.gov.uk/info/200033/councillors_and_decision-making/1158/the_lord_mayors_office

So there you have it.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Guido Westerwelle

Germany's former Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, died from leukemia last Friday at age 54. As vice chancellor (2009-2011) he was the first openly gay man to hold high office in Germany. He “came out” when he attended Angela Merkel’s 50th birthday party with his male partner, Michael Mronz. They entered into a civil partnership in 2010. In a recent statement on the Westerwelle Foundation website, the couple said they were "thankful for an unbelievably good time together. Love remains."

Westerwelle, a former chairman of the Free Democratic Party (FDP), saw his party form a coalition with Angela Merkel’s government. He went on to serve as a deputy in her cabinet. A lawyer by profession, Westerwelle was a member of the Bundestag (Germany’s parliament) from 1996-2013.

Among the controversies that peppered his political career, Westerwelle announced in 2010 that he would not be taking his civil partner Michael Mronz along with him to countries with anti-gay policies. Other official trips as foreign minister, however, included Mronz, who is an events manager.

Guido Westerwelle became ill with leukemia just months after leaving government in 2014. His last public appearance was in November, 2015, when he was promoting his book about his battle with acute blood cancer, “Between Two Lives.”

Westerwelle with partner Michael Mronz:


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Pierre Boulez

Mr. Boulez in 1971.
Photo by Larry Morris


When the great French composer, conductor and pianist Pierre Boulez (1925-2016) died at the age of 90 at his home in Baden Baden last month, there was much Internet chatter about his sexual orientation. Obituaries in major newspapers and journals mentioned that Boulez was “tightly guarded” about his personal life, but music critic Norman Lebrecht, who knew him for decades, stated that Mr. Boulez was gay. Boulez was extremely closeted, often introducing Hans Messner, his German lover of more than fifty years, as his “valet.” That Boulez (the “z” is not silent) was homosexual was one of the music world’s worst kept secrets.

Mr. Boulez enjoyed a first tier international career, holding conducting positions in France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, England and the United States, and his numerous recordings earned him twenty-six Grammy Awards. Boulez did not use a baton, using only his hands to conduct, in the fashion of Dimitri Mitropoulos, Leopold Stokowski and fellow Frenchman  Georges Prêtre.

As an opera conductor, Pierre Boulez was most famously associated with Bayreuth, conducting Parsifal and the Ring Cycle. In Paris he founded the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM) at the Centre Pompidou and the Ensemble Intercontemporain (EIC). In the United States he was conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony and the New York Philharmonic and was composer-in-residence at Carnegie Hall (1999-2003).

As a composer, he was a champion of the avant-garde, writing atonal, electronic and serial music, although in later years composition took a back seat to conducting. He championed twentieth century composers, programming major works by Berg, Mahler, Debussy, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Bartok, Webern and Varèse.

After a 2012 eye operation left him with impaired vision, he cancelled conducting engagements, and a shoulder injury from a fall kept him from attending the many 90th birthday celebrations held throughout the world in 2015. Both Columbia Records and Deutsche Grammophon issued limited edition box sets (67 CDs and 44 CDs, respectively) of his recordings in honor of his 90th birthday. Last month BBC Four broadcast an hour-long documentary, “Pierre Boulez at the BBC: Master and Maverick.”