An Evening with David Sedaris … An Evening with Armistead Maupin … Visual Stories of LGBT people aged 50 -70

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An Evening with David Sedaris

Sunday, 4 July 2021, 7.00pm

Salford Lyric Theatre at The Lowry, Salford Quays, Salford M50 3AZ

With sardonic wit and incisive social critiques, David Sedaris has become one of America’s pre-eminent humorists. He is appearing at The Lowry in Salford on Sunday, 4 July.

Sedaris at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2018

He is the master of satire and one of today’s most observant writers addressing the human condition. Calypso, his latest collection of essays, is a New York Times best seller, and a Washington Post Best Book of the Year. The audio book of Calypso has been nominated for a 2019 Grammy in the Best Spoken Word Album category.

Much of Sedaris’s humour is ostensibly autobiographical and self-deprecating and often concerns his family life, his middle-class upbringing in the suburbs of Raleigh, North Carolina, his Greek heritage, homosexuality, jobs, education, drug use, and obsessive behaviours, and his life in France, London, and the South Downs.

Sedaris lives in Rackham, West Sussex, England, with his long time partner, painter and set designer Hugh Hamrick. Sedaris mentions Hamrick in a number of his stories and describes the two of them as the “sort of couple who wouldn’t get married.”

An Evening with Armistead Maupin

Friday, 15 October 2021, 7.30pm

HOME, 2 Tony Wilson Place, First Street, Manchester M15 4FN

Armistead Maupin, the much loved author and LGBT activist, is appearing at HOME on Friday, 15 October.

Maupin (left) with husband Christopher Turner in May 2013

Maupin has been blazing a trail through popular culture since the 1970’s, when his iconic and ground-breaking series Tales of the City was first published as a column in the San Francisco Chronicle. The novel series has been taking the literary world by storm ever since, and is currently being adapted by Netflix into a much-anticipated new series, starring Laura Linney, Olympia Dukakis and Elliot Page.

Don’t miss the chance to join America’s ultimate storyteller, as he recounts his favourites tales from the past four decades, offering his own engaging observations on society and the world we inhabit.

Visual stories of LGBT people aged 50 – 70

The Centre for Ageing Better is working with a photographer and journalist to produce visual stories of five older LGBT+ people for Pride Month.

They are planning something similar to their AgeProud series where photos and a short piece of text tell the stories of older people who identify as LGBT+.

They need people aged approximately 50-70 to share their experiences as an older person and as someone who’s part of the LGBT+ community – to consider other issues, such as, ageism, employment, housing, social connections and the impact of COVID or how attitudes towards LGBT+ people have changed throughout their lifetime. If you are interested then please contact us.

New prostate cancer scan … LGBT homelessness … From Bud to Blossom: Our Lesbian Journeys

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New prostate cancer scan ‘could replace invasive exam and save lives’

A patient undergoing an MRI scan. Prostagram employs MRI scanning and is modelled on breast cancer screening. 
Photograph: Juice Images / Alamy

Prostagram is found to be almost twice as effective at detection as standard blood test in trials.

Scientists say they have developed a prostate cancer scan accurate enough to potentially replace current invasive examination techniques and save thousands of lives each year.

Prostagram, developed by experts at Imperial College London, employs MRI scanning and is modelled on breast cancer screening, where women are routinely offered a mammogram scan every three years as part of a national programme.

A trial of 408 men found that Prostagram detected approximately twice as many clinically significant cancers as the standard PSA (prostate specific antigen) blood test.

Previous MRI scans have had reliability issues but the Prostagram, which identified about 75% of aggressive prostate cancers in volunteers, is the first that is accurate enough to be considered for screening. The researchers say the trial results suggest the 15-minute scan could find an extra 40,000 cases of prostate cancer a year in the UK alone.

Prof Hashim Ahmed, senior author and chair of urology at Imperial College London, said: “Prostagram has the potential to form the basis of a fast, mobile national-screening programme for prostate cancer and could be a gamechanger. Prostagram also has the potential to detect more aggressive cancers earlier and pass over the many cancers which don’t need to be diagnosed. By finding these aggressive cancers at the earliest opportunity, men have the opportunity to be offered less invasive treatments with fewer side-effects.”

The number of prostate cancer deaths in the UK has overtaken the number of breast cancer deaths (approximately 12,000 compared with 11,000), with the national breast screening programme credited with saving an estimated 1,300 lives a year.

Last year, Prostate Cancer published research showing it is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK, with 57,192 new cases in 2018.

PSA tests are not recommended for screening because they are unreliable and can yield false positive results, while digital rectal examinations (DREs) are invasive, which can put men off being tested, and also have issues with reliability.

A third of the men in the Prostagram trial were black, which is significant given their increased risk of prostate cancer. One in four black men in the UK will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime compared with one in eight in the general UK population.

Dr David Eldred-Evans, another researcher and developer of the Prostagram, said: “Plans for a more extensive trial covering 20,000 men are well advanced and will proceed in the coming months subject to funding. If results from this study are similar or better than those revealed today, there is then a clear pathway to the widespread implementation of Prostagram into the general population.”

Funders of the research, which has been supported by Stephen Fry, include the Urology Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, the BMA Foundation for Medical Research and the National Institute of Health Research Imperial Biomedical Research Centre.

LGBT homelessness: ‘I had to pretend to be straight’

Some LGBTQ young people have felt unable to leave “toxic environments” during the pandemic

For Sara, university was a ticket out of an abusive home.

Sara, who identifies as queer, says she was used to hiding her identity from her Muslim family and pretending to be straight when accessing services.

But her mental health worsened after spending holidays alone in empty student halls.

“I had a roof over my head but no-one else to talk to. My mental health got really bad and I ended up dropping out. I was going to be homeless so I ended up going back to my abusive household,” she says.

“It was difficult – I was rotting away in a corner of our tiny flat while trying to look for places [to live].”

Sara, now 21, came out as bisexual to one of her parents and confronted them about the abuse, but they refused to accept what she was saying.

She says she became suicidal before a charity, the Albert Kennedy Trust (AKT), helped her to find a room at a women’s shelter.

Sara’s story is not unusual, says the Trust, which supports young LGBTQ people at risk of homelessness.

The pandemic means many have been unable to leave “toxic environments”, says its director of services Lucy Bowyer.

“We’ve seen young people going back in the closet and feeling they have to go home, stay home and that they can’t express themselves. Then people trying to access support have found it not welcoming and that has re-traumatised them.”

Temporary housing options such as staying on a friend’s sofa were no longer available as people became nervous about mixing with those outside their bubble, she says.

A scheme was brought in during the pandemic to bring all rough sleepers indoors in England

Joe, in Manchester, also had to move back in with his family after facing money troubles during the pandemic.

But he ended up homeless after a family member started to taunt and hit him.

“He was using my gayness and throwing it at me,” Joe says.

His abuser paid the household bills, meaning other family members were reluctant to intervene.

Joe slept on the streets for two weeks before being helped to rent a flat by the charity.

More than six in 10 LGBTQ young people surveyed said they felt frightened or threatened by their family members before they became homeless, according to an AKT report, while more than half feared being evicted from the family home if they came out.

The report also claimed that six in 10 faced some form of discrimination or harassment while accessing services.

The research took place over six months to January and interviewed 161 LGBTQ people aged 16-25 who had experienced homelessness in the past five years.

Both Joe and Sara said they had faced barriers while accessing services that were linked to their sexuality, ranging from homophobia from landlords or other homeless people, to forms that didn’t list their sexuality.

“My default is putting on a straight persona when accessing help,” Sara says. “It is exhausting.”

A scheme was introduced at the start of the pandemic to bring all rough sleepers indoors in England.

“Everyone In” took more than 37,000 people off the streets by January 2021, the government says.

But the impact has been patchy. In some areas, more than 80% of those helped are in longer-term accommodation, while in others it is less than 15%.

Ms Bowyer said her clients’ experience of the scheme had been “really varied”.

“In London, one borough would help anybody who turned up, but in another borough, no-one would even answer our emails and our clients couldn’t get hold of them.”

The government says the Equalities Office is conducting research to help better understand LGBTQ people’s experiences of homelessness, the challenges they face, and to enable tailored support to be provided.

(Names have been changed)

From Bud to Blossom: Our Lesbian Journeys

During quarantine Nancy Allen wrote a book “From Bud to Blossom: Our Lesbian Journeys.” It is a compilation written by ten different women sharing their path of embarking on lesbian relationships.

Nancy Allen came out at age 72, and has just celebrated nine years together with her partner, Kelly Thomas.

The book is aimed at women curious about lesbian relationships.

We are hearing more about LGBTQ relationships and issues. With the approval of same-sex marriage, many people have become curious about what same-sex relationships are. They may just want to understand them better or they may be considering trying one out.

This book explores the lives of women who at first did not consider a same-sex relationship. Somewhere along the way they started to acknowledge their bisexual / lesbian tendencies. Now they are willing to share their stories for the purpose of revealing what a romantic relationship is like with a woman partner.

What will you do first? … Gay Activist’s Alliance … News from Los Angeles

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What will you do first?

The first major re-openings are set for 12 April, under step two of the roadmap, with pubs, shops and hairdressers all scheduled to re-open.

Haircuts, nails, pub garden or gym – what will you do first?

The History of Manchester’s Gay Activist’s Alliance

(Thanks to Superbia Spotlights for this article)

Manchester was at the forefront of promoting the rights of LGBT+ people in the UK. It continues to be the home to a vibrant Gay Village and one of the largest LGBT+ communities in the UK.

Have you heard of GAA (Gay Activist’s Alliance) a national campaigning group started in 1978 following the prosecution of Gay News magazine for blasphemy? There was a very active group in Manchester who campaigned, picketed, and fought for LGBT rights at a time when the community had very few.

Paul Fairweather came to Manchester in 1978 to work for the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE), which was the main gay rights organisation in those days. He’s been active in a whole range of LGBT+ activities since.

In the first half of the 1980s, he was working at the Lesbian & Gay Centre, in the second half of the 1980s he worked for Manchester City Council as one of their Gay Men’s Officers. Paul has a keen interest in LGBT+ history, in particular, that of Manchester. 

Paul Fairweather’s article in the Mancunian Gay for the ‘Anderton Must Go’ campaign

In this talk Paul takes us through a presentation about how Manchester’s Gay Activist’s Alliance came about, why it was formed, how it actually operated as an organisation and the campaigns it ran to advance the rights of LGBT+ people in the city and beyond.

Find out more about the lesbian bus driver sacked in Burnley, the picket of a gay bar in Didsbury, how a Labour club in Hulme banned a gay disco and an ongoing campaign against homophobic Chief Constable James Anderton.

No Queers Here campaign against Hulme Labour Club

Following the presentation, Paul hosts a Q&A session with friends Greg Thorpe, Andrew Lowrey, Terry Waller, John Cotterill, Ann Algar and David Mottram.

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News from Los Angeles

Meatball, an LA drag queen, performs at Precinct.
The club in downtown is raising funds so it can remain open. 
Photograph: Jeremy Lucido

Historic queer institutions across southern California that have been safe spaces for LGBT+ crowds for decades are in danger of closing permanently.

“I can’t imagine a world without Precinct,” said Meatball, a drag queen. “These places were our safe havens.” 
Photograph: Jeremy Lucido

The Covid-19 pandemic has permanently closed more than 100,000 bars and restaurants across the United States but in LA, which has been under some form of lockdown restrictions since last Marchthe impact on nightclubs has been particularly brutal.

Four iconic Los Angeles gay bars, touting a combined history of 130 years, have permanently closed during the pandemic and many more have warned that they are on the brink of shutdown.

The four LGBT+ bars shuttered in West Hollywood last year, included Rage, a legendary nightclub that closed after 37 years, and Gold Coast, a 39-year-old dive bar down the street on Santa Monica boulevard. Then in January, as LA become one of the worst Covid hotspots in the nation, Oil Can Harry’s, a beloved gay country bar in Studio City, said it was closing for good after half a century of hosting gay line dancing.

Rick Dominguez, back row, second from left, was part of the dance group LA Wranglers that performed at Oil Can Harry’s in 2012. The bar closed permanently in January. Photograph: Courtesy Rick Dominguez

Oil Can Harry’s still had a siren on site that staff used in the 60s to warn customers that police were coming and allowed them to quickly switch to partners of the opposite gender, said Rick Dominguez: “New generations aren’t going to get to know this space.”

Tony Soto, who performs at Akbar, says he’s hopeful that bars will survive the pandemic. Photograph: Paul Brickman

Tony Soto, a drag queen who performs at Akbar and Precinct, said some performers gave up and fled LA during the pandemic, but he was hopeful that the bars that have survived would draw big crowds once it was safe: “We are social animals, we need to be around each other.”

He has been doing weekly shows on Zoom, but was desperate to be in the same room as his audience again: “I haven’t heard real applause and real laughter in over a year.”

Stop imposing your imperialist Western transphobia on my people … 20 years of marriage equality: how the Dutch inspired the world

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Stop imposing your imperialist Western transphobia on my people

Societies across the world acknowledged and celebrated gender-diverse communities – until the British arrived to impose their Victorian values.

Trans rights activists at a protest on 6 March 2021 – Ibrahim Oner / SOPA Images / ZUMA Wire / Alamy Live News

“Trans people have always existed, everywhere,” writes Arya Karijo. 

“We were mudoko dako for the Lango in Uganda, yan daudu for the Hausa in Nigeria. We were priestesses and priests for the Bunyoro in Uganda, a third gender for the Teso in Kenya.

We were eunuchs with powerful court positions in the Dahomey kingdom in Benin, and concubines in the Ashanti kingdom in Ghana. Native Americans thought of us as “two-spirit” people. Records of our existence go back centuries in Afghanistan, and many other countries,” she adds.

These are some of the discoveries that Arya, a Kenyan trans woman, made while on a quest to talk to other transgender people from places that share her country’s colonial past.

She found that there is a rich heritage of transgender people across many cultures that was concealed and criminalised by British colonial rulers.

Arya spoke to Nayyab Ali and Saro Imran, who belong to a gender-diverse community in Pakistan which has existed for thousands of years but was blacklisted by the UK’s Criminal Tribes Act in 1871.   

She heard from Yahyia Al-Zindani, who fled his home in Yemen because Houthi militia believe his kind are a foreign concept and want to kill him. 

Transgender women in Kuwait told her how they have resigned themselves to a punitive law against “imitating the other gender”, a vestige of prohibitions enforced by colonial missionaries. 

In her conversations with trans and non-binary people in the former British colonies, one thing became clear: that the way trans people are treated in the UK continues to affect trans communities elsewhere.

“When the British media obsesses over trans people, when British politicians question our rights, when prominent authors try to discipline the gender-diverse community, they perpetuate this colonial cruelty against us,” she writes. “Our existence is our truth. For centuries, your people have tried to erase us. But we won’t let you.”

20 years of marriage equality: how the Dutch inspired the world

Two decades after fighting for marriage equality, veteran gay rights activist Henk Krol reflects on that struggle, and shares his own wedding news.

The Netherlands was the first country to legalise gay marriage, 20 years ago – Matthew Chattle / Alamy Stock Photo

When same-sex marriage was legalised in the Netherlands twenty years ago, on 1 April 2001 – a world first – Dutch journalists weren’t planning to cover the story. Until they found out that dozens of newsrooms from around the world were sending cameras to capture the first wedding ceremonies.

Henk Krol, a veteran gay rights activist who fought for this historic legal change two decades ago, remembers the contrast between how it was seen in the Netherlands compared to internationally.

“People here were already used to [same-sex] marriage,” he explained. LGBT couples had held ‘wedding’ ceremonies for years, and registered partnerships for same-sex people were legalised in 1998. “But the fact that we were the first country to [grant marriage equality] was news.”

I grew up in the Netherlands, and fondly remember the wedding day of my parent’s close friends in the late 1990s. The two men had lived together since I was little, and their celebration was no different to me than any other wedding. But it wasn’t officially a marriage, it was a registered partnership.

Henk Krol

“I thought it was very insulting,” said Krol, about how the 1998 introduction of registered partnerships was seen as a victory for LGBT equality.

I don’t want a ‘registered partnership party’ or a ‘registered partnership trip’, but a real honeymoon. And above all, I don’t want a ‘registered partnership night’, but a wedding night. Because the other doesn’t seem as romantic.”

This wasn’t the only reason that Krol and other activists continued to fight for equal marriage rights. Registered partnerships not only have a different name, but they also grant fewer rights to couples and their children.

Registered partnerships, Krol explained, are contracts between two people, while marriage is different – it places obligations on others too.

“If two people get married at the town hall, then your employer suddenly has to deal with it, then the tax authorities have to deal with it,” he gave as examples. “That is what makes marriage so special.”

In the 1970s, when the fight for marriage equality in the Netherlands first gathered steam, Krol was also in touch with gay rights activists in the US. He helped to raise money for pro-equality adverts in the Miami Herald and Time magazine to combat attacks from anti-rights campaigners.

Krol had worked as a journalist and as a press officer for the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). He managed to secure Amsterdam’s famous Royal Concertgebouw for a fundraising concert, along with the country’s most famous TV presenter at the time, Mies Bouwman, as host.

“Mies agreed in an instant. That meant that all the well-known Dutch artists of the time were also eager to take part,” Krol remembers. The Miami Nightmare concert was a big success, raising more money than needed for the ads. The rest went into other work to promote marriage equality.

Krol believes his political and media connections also helped him “to lobby much better than anyone else. It wasn’t so much a tremendous effort on my part, but a coincidence that helped the fight enormously.”

His advice for equal marriage campaigns in other countries is to “make it a broad political battle. Do not allow only left or right parties to vote in favour, make sure it is widely accepted. Because the people involved [the same-sex couples who want to marry] are both left- and right-wing supporters.”

After same-sex couples in the Netherlands gained the right to registered partnerships, not everyone wanted to fight for marriage equality.

Some saw the institution of marriage as “outdated”. But for Krol the point was not whether gay couples should get married, but whether they have equal rights to be able to marry. “You must first ensure that you can get married. If you are allowed to marry, you can then refuse marriage,” he insisted.

He gave another example of the same principle. “I’ve been a pacifist my whole life. I didn’t want to join the military. But when I was rejected [by the military] because of my homosexuality, I requested a re-examination […] I wanted to be approved, because I wanted to be able to refuse service.” Now, two decades after the world’s first legalisation of same-sex marriage – the Dutch LGBT rights milestone that inspired the world – Krol is preparing for his own wedding. “Because it’s been 20 years, I asked my partner Aldo to marry me,” he said. “After 20 years, I’m finally going to use it myself.”

Someone is decorating postboxes in Manchester!

Leonardo, ladies’ man: why can’t we accept that Da Vinci was gay? … Film on State surveillance and LGBT spaces … Stephen Whittle podcast

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The full Poldark … Aidan Turner as Leonardo and Matilda de Angelis as Caterina da Cremona in the new Amazon series. Photograph: Vittoria Fenati Morace / Amazon Prime

The woman in Leonardo da Vinci’s life is finally getting her due. The new drama Leonardo, due to start on Amazon Prime on 16 April, drags Caterina da Cremona out of the shadows. Billed as his “muse” and played by Matilda de Angelis, this forgotten woman of the Renaissance appears in publicity images deep in intimate dialogue with Aidan Turner as Leonardo.

The show’s writer Steve Thompson has explained her role in the show. “Some of his relationships were with men; those were significant relationships,” he told Variety. “But perhaps the most significant relationship in his life was with a friend who was a woman, with whom he was very close, and we unpack that.” Leonardo is framed as a murder mystery, and it claims to use this device to get at the reality of who the great Renaissance man was.

But Caterina is a figment, a fantasy, a complete piece of tosh, invented by a 19th-century Romantic and for some reason given highly unconvincing credence by one modern biographer, Charles Nicholl.

Phallic … Lady With an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci, 1489-90. Photograph: FineArt / Alamy

If the makers of Leonardo wanted a strong woman character, they had plenty of historical options. He clearly got on well with Cecilia Gallerani, mistress of the ruler of Milan, whom he portrayed holding a very phallic pet mink, perhaps to symbolise her power over men. He was also friends with Isabella d’Este, ruler of Mantua and art connoisseur. Most fascinatingly, there was his encounter with one Lisa, wife of the Florentine merchant Francesco del Giocondo. It’s said he got musicians to play and entertained her with jokes when she posed for the painting we know as the Mona Lisa. What was it he found so mysterious about her? But no solid evidence exists that he ever had a romantic relationship with a woman – either sexual or platonic.

His reputation for loving men has never been hidden and the TV series does depict his relationships with men. Giorgio Vasari’s book The Lives of the Artists, first published in 1550, suggests he was besotted with his male assistant Salaì, “who was most comely in grace and beauty, having fine locks, curling in ringlets, in which Leonardo delighted”. Gossip solidified into social history when documents were found at the start of the 1900s that show Leonardo was accused of “sodomy” before Florentine magistrates in 1476.

All the evidence is that men having sex was common in the art workshops of Renaissance Florence. The sodomy accusation against Leonardo was made to the fantastically named Office of the Night, a unique sex crime agency set up in 1432 to counter what was seen as a specifically Florentine vice. The records of the Office of the Night, brilliantly analysed by historian Michael Rocke, reveal that in Leonardo’s day “the majority of local males at least once in their lifetimes were officially incriminated for engaging in homosexual relations”.

As for Leonardo, he lived with his entourage of good-looking assistants and pupils, dressed them and himself in luxurious clothes including pink and purple tights, and drew stupendously sensual male nudes.

The most queer bit of painting in Britain … Leonardo’s Virgin of the Rocks, at the National Gallery. Photograph: Peter Barritt / Alamy

But for some people that leaves something missing from his life. So his affair with a woman from Cremona was invented in the Romantic age. An Italian writer claimed to have seen a mention in Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks of his female lover called “La Cremona”. The passage is not in any of Leonardo’s surviving notebooks. And even in the Romantic age, it didn’t catch on.

Why would anyone be desperate to dig up this slender story? Yet one of Leonardo’s modern biographers, Charles Nicholl, tried to resuscitate it. Nicholl noticed a single word, “Cremonese”, in a list of names in Leonardo’s papers in the Royal Collection and claimed it might mean La Cremona. Nicholl then speculates that Leonardo, who would have been 57 at the time, slept with this north Italian sex worker. He can’t have painted female nudes without experiencing heterosexual love, he claims. It’s as if Leonardo’s homosexuality is incompatible with the universality of his art.

Instead of being bedazzled by Turner and De Angelis, why not go to the National Gallery when it reopens and look at Leonardo’s Virgin of the Rocks. The most hypnotic figure in it is an angel whose long curly hair matches Vasari’s description of Salaì and whose tender pale face is magically androgynous. This angel is the most beautiful and most queer bit of painting in Britain.

The Leonardo I want to see on screen is the man who painted this.

Film on State surveillance and LGBT spaces

We have received a request for participants in a film; the subject of which is state surveillance and queer spaces.

A student currently studying an MA in visual anthropology at the University of Manchester, with his filming partner will be gathering material for the above mentioned project. They are hoping to interview LGBT people who remember police raids in the Manchester Gay Village prior to 1990 and learn about their experiences.

They appreciate that this is an extremely sensitive topic and want to assure you that your emotional and physical wellbeing is their foremost concern and any filming work will take place in accordance with the appropriate COVID guidelines as well as the ethical guidelines set out by the university department. Likewise, anonymity might be an issue and they are keen to work around this in any way possible.

If you are interested, please contact us and we will put you in touch.

Stephen Whittle (OBE) at Buckingham Palace

Author and journalist Shon Faye talks with LGBT+ trailblazers who have something important, interesting or enlightening to say about what it means to be LGBT+ in the world today.

The conversation is with Stephen Thomas Whittle, OBE (born 29 May 1955) – a British legal scholar and activist with the transgender activist group Press for Change

Since 2007, he has been professor of Equalities Law in the School of Law at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Having been assigned female at birth, he is described as “a radical lesbian before his sex change and now a leading commentator on gender issues”, who after the Gender Recognition Act 2004 came into force in April 2005, achieved legal recognition as a man and so was able to marry his female partner.

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