Monday, February 25, 2008

Spotlight: History of Same-sex Partnerships Celebrated in Croydon

Each year, there is a growing number of events being organised for LGBT History Month around the UK. During the month we will run a series of spotlight posts on this blog highlighting some of those events and perhaps bringing them to your attention. You can view a list of events (or register and promote your own) by visiting our calendar. Feel free to also join the debate and make new friends on our forum.

Croydon’s gay community held a public event on Saturday the 2nd of February to celebrate the history of same-sex partnerships down the ages.

The first part of the event celebrated the ancient English tradition of “sworn brotherhood”, or “wedded brotherhood”, in which two (or sometimes more) men would publicly swear vows of life-long friendship. This was illustrated with readings from Chaucer and from traditional ballads. Next followed a talk about Saints Sergius and Bacchus, who were particularly known for their undying love for each other.
Re-enactment of the same-sex unions ceremony The final part of the event was a staged re-enactment of a church service that was used in some parts of Europe for hundreds of years to bless the union of two people of the same sex. The re-enactment featured a priest and two deacons in full costume, plus of course the happy couple, and a chorus.

The event was presented by CAGS (Croydon Area Gay Society) as part of LGBT History Month. Ross Burgess, who helped to organise the event, said “It’s often thought that society didn’t recognise same-sex relationships before the passing of the Civil Partnership Act two years ago. But in fact sworn brotherhood was a well-understood feature of English life during the Middle Ages and later, and our event today was intended to remind people of the long heritage of same-sex unions.”

Richard, from Thornton Heath, said “The evening was a complete success and well worth attending”. Tony Walton from Wimbledon said “It’s wonderful that a piece of forgotten gay history has been rediscovered.” Jim of Central Croydon said “It was a well researched and presented depiction of a little-known religious ceremony.”

Terence Cooling, who took the part of one of the deacons, said “For me, the Making of Brothers ceremony was a truly moving spiritual experience – to the extent that I was not merely an actor but a participant in a truly blest, solemn, religious Ceremony. It felt right, honourable, dignified and, above all, consecrated.

Neil from Croydon said “I’ve done Chaucer before at uni and in college, but I haven’t come across sworn brothers. Teachers and lecturers and students should study this relationship and then I think people will be more accepting. And in English literature and in sociology where gender and sex come into it this sort of thing should be encouraged.”

The full text of the event is at

Croydon Area Gay Society

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