On This Gay Day: Author Ethel Richardson was born

The birth of Ethel Richardson

Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson was born on this day in 1870 in East Melbourne. She would become one of Australia’s most celebrated writers under the pseudonym Henry Handel Richardson.

Her father died when she was young, and her mother became the Post Mistress in the Victorian Country town of Maldoon. Ethel Richardson attended Presbyterian Ladies College and excelled in the arts.  In 1888 her mother relocated the family to Germany so Ethel could study music at the Leipzig Conservatorium.

In 1894 Ethel married Scottish man John George Robertson, who was in Germany studying German literature and went on to work as an academic. Richardson became a tennis champion, while her husband worked at the university.

The couple moved to London in 1903, and in 1908 Ethel published her first novel under her male pseudonym. Maurice Guest told the story of an Englishman who falls in love with Australian girl in the German city of Leipzig.

Over the next thirty years Henry Handel Richardson would become an acclaimed novelist and short story writer. Among their works The Getting of Wisdom, the three part novel The Fortunes of Richard Mahony and The Young Cosima. 

Ethel returned to Australia in 1912 to conduct research for her three part novel, but after that remained in England for the remainder of her life. Alongside her younger sister she was an ardent supporter of the suffragette movement.

While she married her husband and lived a married life, the writer also documented her lifelong attraction to women.

In 1948 Alfred Kinsey released Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male

On this day back in 1948 researcher Alfred Kinsey released his landmark study into male human sexuality. The report introduced the Kinsey Scale which saw Dr Kinsey rank men’s sexuality on a scale of zero (exclusively heterosexual) to six (exclusively homosexual).

Kinsey suggests that around 10 percent of men are gay, and statistic that has remained in the public psyche for decades. His research was highly controversial at the time of its release, and in the years that have followed some of Kinsey’s research methods have been questioned, but his work is seen as foundational in the field of sexology.

Five years later he followed his report on male sexuality, with a study of female sexuality. His work is credited with changing public attitudes about how women experience sexual pleasure.

A 2016 review of research into sexuality argued that Kinsey’s reports may have overestimated the percentage of people who are non-heterosexual.

The release of the report in 1948 sparked great interest from the public, and Kinsey made his mark on popular culture. His work is referenced in the Cole Porter song Too Darn Hot. 

Kinsey, who was bisexual, had an open marriage with his wife Clara. As a young man Kinsey reportedly punished himself for having homoerotic feelings, but as an adult accepted his sexuality.

He passed away in 1956, aged 62. His life was dramatised in the 2004 film Kinsey, which saw actor Liam Neeson portray the researcher.

Director Bruce LaBruce celebrates his birthday today

Film director Bruce LaBruce was born on this day in 1964. His films combine narrative filmmaking with the production style of gay pornography and have often been banned in Australia. His works have been identified as part of the New Queer Cinema movement of the 1990s and often described as being shock provoking.

Among his works are No Skin Off My Ass (1993), Hustler White (1996), Otto, or Up With Dead People (2008), LA Zombie (2010).  His thirteenth feature film Saint-Narcisse was released in 2020. It told the story of identical twins separated at birth and who unaware of each others existence. When the are reunited they begin a sexual relationship.

OIP Staff, this post was first published on 3rd January 2020, and was updated in 2022. 

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