Equality at Last -- Queen An Tir: “I Am So Proud!”

In the An Tir Crown list processional on Saturday, May 18 XLVII (2013), seven fighters proudly presented their same sex inspirations to the court and fought for them that day upon the fields of honor.

As of December, 2012, SCA Corpora has been amended to permit same sex couples to enter Royal Lists at the discretion of each Crown. In January, 2013, Their Royal Majesties An Tir took the proactive step of offering blanket approval in advance to all same sex entrants to the An Tir Royal Lists.

At Their Coronation in January of this year, King UlfR and Queen Caoimhe of An Tir made Their very first order of business an announcement that their May Crown lists would be categorically open to all couples. The proclamation was met with enthusiastic cheering from the populace.

In order of precedence the same sex couples in the May 18 list were:

  • Maestro Eduardo Francesco Maria Lucrezia inspired by Lord Giovanni Martini de Rossi Lucrezia
  • Duke Skeggi Nyewcombe inspired by Don Andrew Williams
  • Lady Bolverk of Momchilivich inspired by Mistress Bronwen Elgars
  • Mistress Ariel de Courtenay inspired by Lady Sarah Patrick Stewart
  • Lord Finn Grim inspired by Baron Refr orðlokarr Fiachson
  • Lord Alvar Guerrero inspired by Her Ladyship Aeron Corrino
  • Aoife inspired by Muirghein of Bristol

Eight of those fourteen people are gay, and three of the seven couples are long-term, committed relationships. The rest were allies and supporters of Inspirational Equality, entering to demonstrate that fighting for a member of the same sex can be as much about friendship and platonic inspiration as about romantic connection. The strong representation by peers and other long time contributing members among these couples made for a group with nearly 200 years combined involvement in the SCA. With 93 pairs in the An Tir lists, same sex couples represented 8% of the entrants overall.

At the invocation of the tourney, An Tir’s Queen Caoimhe welcomed all couples and spoke of Her great honor at being able to host “the first inclusive Crown” in An Tir. “I am so proud!” she told the assembled, to enthusiastic cheering. To commemorate the historic day, Their Majesties Caoimhe and UlfR gifted each participant with a pewter token of an equal sign badge surmounted by a crown (see picture links below).

Sir Arkill, heralding a same sex couple during the presentation of consorts, spoke what was in the hearts of many: “Two years ago, to Their everlasting sorrow, King Thorin and Queen Dagmaer were bound to turn them from the lists…but An Tir has changed! And for the better!” The roar of the populace at his rallying cry brought tears to the eyes of Her Ladyship Eulalia Piebakere, watching the tourney with her wife Anne, “I didn't think this would affect me as much as it has—I am not a fighter and never could be, but getting to see people finally have the opportunity to fight for their true inspirations? Oh, that is just the best.”

Maestro Eduardo, co-founder of the IE movement, fought for the first time in a Crown List on Saturday after more than 30 years in the SCA. “Being able to fight for my husband, for the father of my children, for the love of my life, was a great privilege I thought I would not be able to experience.” In a surprise honor, His Highness Tir Righ, inspired by the days events and Eduardo's heart-felt request to fight for the person he loves, requested that Eduardo cross to the Knights' side for the first round challenges.

For Lord Finn Grimm, the weekend was monumental not just for what it means for same sex couples but in a more personal way as well: “Fighting for Crown for the first time as a fighter and as a gay man I felt like I didn't have to hide my inspiration from the kingdom or my fellow fighters. Baron Refr, being married and not a partner of mine, was willing and honored to let me fight for him. This act shows the beauty of inspirational equality.”

While gay fighters have fought in Crown lists before (though not for their true inspirations) perhaps the most significant landmark of the day was the experience of consorts, championed for the first time in a Royal Crown Tourney. Her Ladyship Aeron Corino, in a stunning hand-embroidered Elizabethan gown, described what it was like to be fought for by Lord Alvar, “I felt simultaneously 100 feet tall and incandescent….and humbled by the enormity of the demonstration and thus infinitely small and treasured. Both are my take-away emotional gifts from the experience." Beyond the honor of being fought for, the pivotal experience of all the same sex couple participants was the experience of being fully acknowledge as Society members and stakeholders in the central tourney of our game. Lord Giovanni, inspiration to Maestro Eduardo emphasized this point: "Being in the procession this time, I felt that I was really a part of the Kingdom, I was included, before, I felt like I was just a spectator, unable to participate fully in Crown events."

The infectious excitement at the An Tir tourney included not only those same sex couples fighting for their inspirations for the first time, but also those involved in other aspects of the tourney. Lady Lisette, a field herald, explained why the day was important to her: “Just as the mundane struggle for marriage equality is about accepting and expanding the ability to publicly express love and commitment among all consenting adults, so is the struggle within the Society to recognize that Inspiration comes in many forms and from many different sources, and should not be publicly restricted to that of a romantic same-sex couple.” His Lordship Justin, a fighter offered knighthood on Saturday commented that, “It was wonderful to be a participant in the tournament and see these contestants for the Crown able to fight for their inspirations, of whatever gender or romantic status.” Her Ladyship Etan Mor MacNessa, a member of the populace, summarized her feelings on the day this way: "I felt great pride seeing my Laurel fight for his inspiration.”

Duke Skeggi was the most accomplished fighter of the group, going eight rounds as one of the final nine before he was out. By representing a leader of the rapier community as a candidate for the crown, Duke Skeggi managed to champion two of the most hotly debated current issues in the Society at once. After the tourney, his inspiration Don Andrew posted, “I am still completely humbled by Duke Skeggi. I never imagined just how incredible an experience it was going to be as his inspiration at May Crown….Thank you, my friend. Our plan backfired just a little - you inspired me.”

As a straight man fighting for a non-romantic inspiration, Duke Skeggi’s entry in the Lists was met with some discomfort by a few individuals (who preferred not to be quoted here). This reaction, while it may be a minority stance, represents an important viewpoint and demonstrates that, even in An Tir, not all possible repercussions of same sex couple entry in Crown Lists are unanimously supported.

Though An Tirians differ on the details, populace support for same sex inspirations is strong overall, and the formidable showing of same sex couples in the An Tir lists is an indication not only of kingdom support for same sex couples in Royal lists, but of the general acceptance and inclusion for gay members overall in An Tir culture.

In addition to the number of same sex entrant pairs, the size of the An Tirian list in general may be surprising to Scadians from areas other than the West coast. One lesser known reason that An Tir lists are so friendly to same sex couples is that An Tir has a long tradition of Crown Lists welcoming all fighters of all skill levels.

An Tir as a kingdom, has very few barriers to entry (couples may enter up to an hour before the tourney simply by showing a membership and a fighter authorization). In addition, An Tir has a kingdom culture that condones the idea of contributing to the selection of the Crown by adding to the gauntlet through which the winner must pass (even if you yourself have little chance of winning). Because of these two factors, An Tir Crown Tournaments regularly go more then ten rounds and last up to six hours.

The seven An Tirian couples fighting this past Saturday bring the number of same sex couples entering Knowne World Crown lists in just the last four months to 13 couples in seven different kingdoms:

  1. Lady Cecilia Dysney for Mistress Mary Dedwydd verch Gwallter, Caid, February 23
  2. Countess Matilda Seton, OP, for Baroness Anne Bigod, OP. Kingdom of the Outlands, March 9, 2013
  3. Dame Varia Goffe and Mistress Antonia, Artemisia, April 6
  4. Lady Ekaterina fighting for Lady Nadiana, Drachenwald, April 6
  5. His Lordship Tiberiv Ivlivs Rvfvs for Avraham ben Zebulun, East Kingdom, April 27
  6. Lady Hilkka Susinnen for Lady Leonet de Covenham, Insulae Draconis Coronet (Drachenwald), May 18

…Joined by the seven An Tirian couples on May 18.

Same Sex Inspirations in the SCA: A Brief History

For same sex couples, being allowed to fight for their inspirations in Royal Lists is a victory a very long time in coming. Lady Bolverk, IE activist and first female knight of An Tir remembers agitating for a rule change at SCA board meetings as long ago as the early eighties. Fast forward to recent history when the SCA Census, performed in the spring of 2009, put the issue on the radar for many Scadians.

Inspired by the SCA census, organized political pressure began in An Tir, in September, 2010, with the first petition presented to Their Majesties Tiernan and Miranda at September Crown, 2010, by the newly formed Inspirational Equality group.

Since then, same sex rights proponents across the Knowne World—from first time members to Board members—have worked steadily to repeal the SCA law barring same sex entry, at both Corpora and Kingdom levels. Kingdom discussions and comments to the Board indicate that, after many years of unquestioning acceptance of the status quo, SCA membership opinions on same sex couples in Crown are in a state of flux.

Meanwhile, events in the modern world have demonstrated significant cultural shifts in attitudes towards gay rights, undoubtedly contributing to the growing trend of support within the SCA. The IE group on facebook now has nearly 1,400 members, and lively debate has taken place in forums across the Society from local shire facebook pages to the Knowne World chivlist.

In response to membership requests, in February of 2012, the SCA board of directors began the process of Corpora revision by seeking comment on the first of multiple iterations of proposed change language drafted to address the rights of same sex couples in Royal Lists. In December of 2012, after three comment periods, generating the largest volume of populace comment ever seen by the board on any issue, the SCA Directors unanimously approved the following language:

Each competitor in a Royal List must be fighting for a prospective consort of the opposite sex unless a Crown has elected to permit a competitor to fight for a prospective consort of the same sex.

Following this announcement, in a surprise show of widespread support among Crowned Heads of the Knowne World, fifteen of nineteen Kingdoms expressed support—either by issuing blanket approvals (as was the case in An Tir), or making clear that they would approve all comers when asked informally.

Despite the proactive nature of widespread Royal support for the Corpora change, reaction to the board ruling continues to evoke a mixed response among the SCA populace. While many in the SCA perceive the rule change as appropriately incremental and respectful of kingdom sovereignty, a few view it negatively—either as an undermining of the long standing tradition of opposite sex inspirations, or overly conservative and lacking in leadership in SCA governance.

Board members, committed to a bottom-up rather than a top-down style of leadership, have commented off the record that they wanted to address the concerns of same sex couples without forcing a change the SCA is not ready for. The board’s cautious stance proved particularly important to the Southern region of the US, where the Crowns of Gleann Abhann, Meridies, and Trimaris, along with Aethelmearc in the North, chose not to issue a blanket permission. (However, as no known same sex couples petitioned in these kingdoms, this may simply reflect a lack of need, rather than an expression of any particular political ideology.)

Given the overall support this tourney season for same sex couples in most of the Knowne World, the leaders of the Inspirational Equality group have remained focused on the positive, viewing the work of cultural shift as a gradual and organic process, proceeding hand-in-hand with advances in gay rights in the modern world. Ultimately, however, the IE group states they will not consider the work of their movement complete until Corpora states unequivocally that same sex couples are allowed in all Royal Lists, and when the laws and ceremonies of all kingdoms appropriately reflect this change.

As Lord Piaras Mac Toirdhealbhaigh of An Tir posted on the IE discussion page in April, “I have to admit that I still find the accepted wording for corpora very frustrating. I understand that its better then it was, but I've never been one for ‘good enough.’ Essentially, every six months, I have to wait and hope the new crown decides that they will allow same-gender consorts. Instead of being an equal participant in the game, I have to essentially hope that the new monarch will understand the will of the populace and not be a homophobe.” For these reasons, the IE group plans to continue work toward complete inclusion for same sex couples even as they celebrate victories along the way.

For the time being, however, in the afterglow of same sex entries in seven kingdoms including the ground-breaking An Tir Crown, the focus is triumphantly on celebration.

As Mistress Ariel de Courtenay, co-founder of the IE movement, walked to her place in the line of challengers after presenting Lady Sarah to Their Majesties, a fighter called out, “Fight well today!”

“I’ve already won.” She replied, grinning.

I have never been prouder to

I have never been prouder to live under the Sable Lion.