Episode 25: Chrysanthemums and Golden Bums: Male Love in Pre-Modern Japan

That’s right, Leigh and Gretchen are back with another delightful look at the history of homosexuality in East Asian history! Episode 3 explored homosexuality in Ancient China but this time, they’re heading over to Japan to take a closer look at Buddhism, samurai tradition, and the economy shaped homosexuality in the Tokugawa shogunate. But it’s not all context, you’ll laugh along with us at some of the monks’ exploits, swoon over romantic queer poetry, and peer into the delights of the floating world.. The tales we read were not shy in expressing intimate details (and you know we’re not shy in reading them!), so strap in for an exciting look at the rich history of male and female homosexuality in Japan!

As with our episode on China, many of the woodblock prints featured below are highly erotic and most likely NSFW. We will put those at the very end, but it might be best to save these for your living room, not your office!

Timeline of Japanese Time Periods Discussed in This Episode

Heian Period (784-1185 CE)
Kamakura period (1185-1333 CE)
Muromachi Period (1333-1573 CE)
Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1573-1603 CE)
Edo Period aka The Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1868 CE)

A Closer Look at Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan

“Man and youth,” Miyagawa Isshō. ca. 1750. Note that the style and color of the kimono on the left would have been appropriate for youths of all genders, but not adult males. The kimono and hairstyle thus declares the youth to be the  wakashu  partner, and his exposed feet denote a sexual demeanor.

“Man and youth,” Miyagawa Isshō. ca. 1750. Note that the style and color of the kimono on the left would have been appropriate for youths of all genders, but not adult males. The kimono and hairstyle thus declares the youth to be the wakashu partner, and his exposed feet denote a sexual demeanor.

Nishikawa Sukenobu. ca. 1716–1735. A wakashu (center) steals a kiss from a female sex worker (right) behind the back of his male patron (left).

Nishikawa Sukenobu. ca. 1716–1735. A wakashu (center) steals a kiss from a female sex worker (right) behind the back of his male patron (left).

NSFW Woodblock Prints from Tokugawa Japan

hishikawa moronobu,  Shunga . Early 1680s. A man reclines with one wakashu and converses with another. This is Possibly the first nanshoku erotic print, as well as an early example of a hand-colored ukiyo-e print in the shunga (erotic) style

hishikawa moronobu, Shunga. Early 1680s. A man reclines with one wakashu and converses with another. This is Possibly the first nanshoku erotic print, as well as an early example of a hand-colored ukiyo-e print in the shunga (erotic) style

"Client Lubricating a Prostitute" (while another peers through), Kitagawa Utamaro. late 18th Century. The caption of this illustration reads, no joke, “Pardon me if I tear your ass…”

"Client Lubricating a Prostitute" (while another peers through), Kitagawa Utamaro. late 18th Century. The caption of this illustration reads, no joke, “Pardon me if I tear your ass…”

Miyagawa Choshun (1683-1753),from “A Rare and Important Nanshoku (Male-Male) Shunga Handscroll.” 18th Century. Note the Chrysanthemums on the chigo’s Kimono (Right/Bottom).

Miyagawa Choshun (1683-1753),from “A Rare and Important Nanshoku (Male-Male) Shunga Handscroll.” 18th Century. Note the Chrysanthemums on the chigo’s Kimono (Right/Bottom).

Miyagawa Choshun (1683-1753),from “A Rare and Important Nanshoku (Male-Male) Shunga Handscroll.” 18th Century. That feel when you’re about to write a letter but decide a threesome is better.

Miyagawa Choshun (1683-1753),from “A Rare and Important Nanshoku (Male-Male) Shunga Handscroll.” 18th Century. That feel when you’re about to write a letter but decide a threesome is better.

Suzuki Harunobu, from "Shunga", A series of 24 erotic prints. Mid- 18th century, c. 1750.

Suzuki Harunobu, from "Shunga", A series of 24 erotic prints. Mid- 18th century, c. 1750.

“Old Buddhist,” Utagawa Kuniyoshi. Late 18th/early 19th Century. Note again the bare feet (indicating a sexual demeanor); the brocade Kesa robe indicates the wealthy status of cleric.

“Old Buddhist,” Utagawa Kuniyoshi. Late 18th/early 19th Century. Note again the bare feet (indicating a sexual demeanor); the brocade Kesa robe indicates the wealthy status of cleric.

“Shunga with Tengu mask,” artist unknown (but not forgotten!). 17th century. The famous tengu mask print!

“Shunga with Tengu mask,” artist unknown (but not forgotten!). 17th century. The famous tengu mask print!

Utagawa Kunisada. Ca. 1840. Note the use of the harikata or double sided dildo (better than a Tengu mask? Who Nose).

Utagawa Kunisada. Ca. 1840. Note the use of the harikata or double sided dildo (better than a Tengu mask? Who Nose).

Katsushika Hokusai. Ca. 1814. More ladies with a harikata to prove it wasn’t just a one off thing!

Katsushika Hokusai. Ca. 1814. More ladies with a harikata to prove it wasn’t just a one off thing!

And because we mentioned it….leigh showing gretchen a hilarious illustration back when we were first starting this podcast. this screenshot is titled “that’s a pretty big dildo”.

And because we mentioned it….leigh showing gretchen a hilarious illustration back when we were first starting this podcast. this screenshot is titled “that’s a pretty big dildo”.

If you want to learn more about homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan, check out our full list of sources and further reading below!

Online Articles:

Books and Print Articles:

Until next time, stay queer and stay curious!

Episode 24: Transcestor Artists, A Look At Art Beyond the Binaries

Leigh and Gretchen are back from hiatus with an extra special episode! Recorded live at the Dallas Museum of Art on June 21st as part of the museum’s Pride events, your friendly neighborhood queer history nerds sat down to chat about gender diversity in art. Love mythology? Think that heteronormativity shouldn’t apply to deities? You’re in luck! Take a brief tour through gender diversity in Mesopotamian, Hindu, and Norse mythology—and it’s just scratching the surface! Leigh and Gretchen round off their conversation with a look at two modern artists who questioned and transcended gender norms in their lives and art: Anton Prinner and Frida Kahlo. So pull up a chair and hang out with a couple of gayvenclaws to, retroactively, celebrate pride and art beyond the binary!

A Closer Look at Trancestor Artists: Watch Our DMA Slide Show

Gretchen and Leigh Find Gay Things at the DMA!

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So Excite!

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Holy cow…

So official!

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Etruscans

Their underworld was gay.

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Because they’re Hapi

Clap along if you feel like a god with two genders.

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Our favorite communist, bisexual, anti-colonialist, Picasso hating artist, Frida!

That’s it for History is Gay live from the DMA!

If you want to learn more about the differently gendered deities in mythology, Anton Prinner, or Frida Kahlo, check out our full list of sources and further reading below!

Mythology

Anton Prinner

Frida Kahlo

Until next time, stay queer and stay curious!

Episode 23: Bury the Hays Code

It’s that time of year again, time for the second annual live episode of History is Gay, live-recorded at TGIFemslash, the convention that birthed our little podcast! Join Leigh, Gretchen, and special guest host Morgan as they discuss the origins of queer censorship in the 20th century. They dive into the Hays Code, lesbian pulp fiction, and briefly discuss Patricia Highsmith, author of The Price of Salt---the lesbian pulp fiction novel from the 1952 that became the 2015 blockbuster Carol. So if you’ve always wondered where some of the worst of today’s tropes for queer women came from, you won’t want to miss this episode. And don’t worry, this story has a happy ending!

A Closer Look at the Hays Code

Production Code Administration (PCA) seal of approval.

Production Code Administration (PCA) seal of approval.

Joseph Breen, one of the founders and head of the PCA from 1934-1954.

Joseph Breen, one of the founders and head of the PCA from 1934-1954.

A Closer Look at Lesbian Pulp Fiction

The Third Way  by Sheldon Lord (1962).

The Third Way by Sheldon Lord (1962).

Odd Girl out  by Ann Bannon (1957), first in the Beebo Brinker Chronicles.

Odd Girl out by Ann Bannon (1957), first in the Beebo Brinker Chronicles.

Twilight Girl  by Della Martin (1961).

Twilight Girl by Della Martin (1961).

Whisper their love  by Valerie Taylor (1957).

Whisper their love by Valerie Taylor (1957).

A Closer Look at Patricia Highsmith

Highsmith at 21 (1942).

Highsmith at 21 (1942).

Highsmith and her cat Ripley (date Unknown).

Highsmith and her cat Ripley (date Unknown).

Highsmith Publicity shot from 1962.

Highsmith Publicity shot from 1962.

Highsmith on “After Dark” (June 1988).

Highsmith on “After Dark” (June 1988).

The Price of Salt  by Claire Morgan, aka Patricia Highsmith (1952).

The Price of Salt by Claire Morgan, aka Patricia Highsmith (1952).

If you want to learn more about the Hays Code, lesbian pulp fiction, and Patricia Highsmith, check out our full list of sources and further reading below!

Online Articles:

Books and Print Articles:

  • The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith by Joan Schenkar

  • The Cambridge Companion to American Novelists: Patricia Highsmith by Joan Schenkar

  • Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith by Andrew Wilson

  • Media & Culture by Richard Campbell, Christopher R. Martin, and Bettina Fabos

  • Lesbian Pulp Fiction edited by Katherine V. Forrest

  • "When Girls Will Be Boys: ‘Bad’ Endings and Subversive Middles in Nineteenth-Century Tomboy Narratives and Twentieth-Century Lesbian Pulp Novels” by Mary Elliott, in Legacy, Vol. 15 No. 1

  • “Bury Your Gays: History, Usage, and Context” by Haley Hulan in McNair Scholars Journal Vol. 21

  • “‘Was It Right To Love Her Brother’s Wife So Passionately?’: Lesbian Pulp Novels and U.S. Lesbian Identity, 1950-1965” by Yvonne Keller in American Quarterly, Vol. 57, No. 2

  • “Invert History: The Ambivalence of Lesbian Pulp Fiction” by Christopher Nealon in New Literary History, Vol. 31, No. 4

  • “Deviant Classics: Pulps and the Making of Lesbian Print Culture” by Stephanie Foote in Signs, Vol. 31, No. 1

Until next time, stay queer and stay curious!

Episode 22: Bae-yard Rustin: The Man Behind the March

February means love and Black history, so join Gretchen and Leigh as they celebrate both by diving into into the life and work of civil rights activist Bayard Rustin! Due to his being gay, Rustin’s role as advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr. and in organizing the 1963 March on Washtington was actively erased for several decades. Fortunately, he’s been gaining more recognition in recent years and both queer history and civil rights history is actively recovering his memory and legacy. Whether it be for his pacifism, being gay, protesting all over the world, or riding a bus, Rustin was arrested over 25 times. He was a man who stood up for injustice wherever he saw it, even in prison! So join us as we talk about one of the most impactful but least well-known activists of the civil rights movement.  

A Closer Look at Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin’s Grandmother Julia Rustin.

Bayard Rustin’s Grandmother Julia Rustin.

School photo with Bayard Rustin (center), Photo Courtesy of the Chester County, Pennsylvania, Historical Society.

School photo with Bayard Rustin (center), Photo Courtesy of the Chester County, Pennsylvania, Historical Society.

Bayard Rustin’s mug shot from his 1944 arrest for resisting the draft.

Bayard Rustin’s mug shot from his 1944 arrest for resisting the draft.

Rustin in the late 1940s. Photo courtesy of the Estate of Bayard Rustin.

Rustin in the late 1940s. Photo courtesy of the Estate of Bayard Rustin.

Rustin protesting in Washington in the late 1940s. Photo courtesy of the Estate of Bayard Rustin.

Rustin protesting in Washington in the late 1940s. Photo courtesy of the Estate of Bayard Rustin.

Bayard Rustin and Cleveland Robinson with a sign advertising the march on washington, 1963.

Bayard Rustin and Cleveland Robinson with a sign advertising the march on washington, 1963.

Rustin and A. Philip Randolph on the cover of  life  magazine, from the march on Washington, 1963.

Rustin and A. Philip Randolph on the cover of life magazine, from the march on Washington, 1963.

Program from the 1963 march on washington.

Program from the 1963 march on washington.

Rustin at the headquarters for the Citywide Committee for Integration in New York City, 1964.

Rustin at the headquarters for the Citywide Committee for Integration in New York City, 1964.

Rustin speaking at the ralley for school integration at City hall in New York, 1964.

Rustin speaking at the ralley for school integration at City hall in New York, 1964.

Rustin and Martin Luther King, Jr., 1965.

Rustin and Martin Luther King, Jr., 1965.

Bayard Rustin with walter Neagle, his partner from 1977 to Rustin’s death in 1987.

Bayard Rustin with walter Neagle, his partner from 1977 to Rustin’s death in 1987.

rustin at Trafalgar’s Square, 1983.

rustin at Trafalgar’s Square, 1983.

If you want to learn more about Bayard Rustin, check out our full list of sources and further reading below!

Online Articles:

Books and Print Articles:

  • Bayard Rustin: Behind the Scenes of the Civil Rights Movement by James Haskins

  • Bayard Rustin: Troubles I’ve Seen, A Biography by Jervis Anderson

  • Queer, There, and Everywhere by Sarah Prager

  • Time on Two Crosses: The Collected Writings of Bayard Rustin, ed. By Devon W. Carbado and Donald Weise

  • “Remembering Bayard Rustin” by John D’Emilio, in the OAH Magazine of History, Vol. 20, No. 2, History is Sexuality (March 2006)

  • “Humanrights Hero: Remembering Bayard Rustin” by Walter Neagle, in Human Rights, Vol. 40, No. , The Fierce Urgency of Now: 50 YEARS LATER

  • “Bayard Rustin’s Brief Encounters with Higher Education”, in The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, No. 16

Videos, Interviews, and Other Audio-visual Media:

Until next time, stay queer and stay curious!

Episode 21: The Real Housewife of Rome

What better way to celebrate the New Year than with a new episode of History is Gay? This time, Gretchen and Leigh dive into the brief, controversial, and totally extra reign of Emperor Elagabalus of Rome. Or rather, Empress Elagabalus! Whether it be marrying multiple wives and one husband, revolutionizing the Roman religion, installing women as senators, throwing parties with sex workers, or enjoying the attention of well-endowed men, Elagabalus was as unconventional as they come. And chances are, she may very well have been a trans woman. So grab your jeweled slippers and tiara and enjoy the real housewife of Rome, Elagabalus.

A Closer Look at Elagabalus

 

Portrait of young elagabalus.

Portrait of young elagabalus.

Roman Denarius featuring the bust of elagabalus (left) and the sun god Sol (Right) with upraised hand and whip. 221 CE. For a full database of Elagabalus coins,  click here .

Roman Denarius featuring the bust of elagabalus (left) and the sun god Sol (Right) with upraised hand and whip. 221 CE. For a full database of Elagabalus coins, click here.

Roman Denarius featuring the bust of Aquilia Severa (Elagabalus’ second and fourth wife). ca 219-222 CE. For a full database of Aquilia Severa coins,  click here .

Roman Denarius featuring the bust of Aquilia Severa (Elagabalus’ second and fourth wife). ca 219-222 CE. For a full database of Aquilia Severa coins, click here.

Roman aureus featuring the bust of elagabalus (right) and a chariot driven by four horses (right) containing the stone of emesa—representing Elagabal—topped by an eagle—a symbol of protection in Syrian iconography and of roman imperial authority in roman iconography. 222 CE.

Roman aureus featuring the bust of elagabalus (right) and a chariot driven by four horses (right) containing the stone of emesa—representing Elagabal—topped by an eagle—a symbol of protection in Syrian iconography and of roman imperial authority in roman iconography. 222 CE.

Roman Antoninianus featuring the bust of Julia Maesa (Elagabalus’ Grandmother). 218-219 CE. For more Julia Maesa Coins,  Click here .

Roman Antoninianus featuring the bust of Julia Maesa (Elagabalus’ Grandmother). 218-219 CE. For more Julia Maesa Coins, Click here.

Sculpture of Julia Soaemias (Elagabalus’ Mother).

Sculpture of Julia Soaemias (Elagabalus’ Mother).

Paintings Dedicated to Elagabalus

Heliogabalus, high priest of the sun  by Simeon Solomon. 1866.

Heliogabalus, high priest of the sun by Simeon Solomon. 1866.

The Roses of elagabalus , by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. 1888.

The Roses of elagabalus, by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. 1888.

According to the Augustan History (uses he/him pronouns):

"In a banqueting-room with a reversible ceiling he once buried his guests in violets and other flowers, so that some were actually smothered to death, being unable to crawl out to the top.”

Elagabalus' entrance into Rome, with the baetyl representing elagabal behind him, as illustrated by Auguste Leroux for the novel  L'Agonie  by Jean Lombard (1902 edition). 1902.

Elagabalus' entrance into Rome, with the baetyl representing elagabal behind him, as illustrated by Auguste Leroux for the novel L'Agonie by Jean Lombard (1902 edition). 1902.

If you want to learn more about Elagabalus, check out our full list of sources and further reading below!

Online Articles:

Books and Print Articles:

  • Queer, There, and Everywhere by Sarah Prager

  • The Amazing Emperor Heliogabalus by John Stuart Hay

  • The Emperor Elagabalus: Fact or Fiction? by Leonardo de Arrizabalaga y Prado

  • The Crimes of Elagabalus: The Life and Legacy of Rome's Decadent Boy Emperor By Martijn Icks

  • Greek and Roman Sexualities: A Sourcebook by Jennifer Larson.

  • “Marlowe, the 'Mad Priest of the Sun', and Heliogabalus” by Tom Rutter, in Early Theatre Vol. 13, No. 1 (2010).

  • “Censoring Eliogabalo in Seventeenth-Century Venice” by Mauro Calcagno, in The Journal of Interdisciplinary History Vol. 36, No. 3, Opera and Society: Part I (Winter, 2006).

  • “Active/Passive, Acts/Passions: Greek and Roman Sexualities” by Ruth Mazo Karras, in The American Historical Review Vol. 105, No. 4 (Oct., 2000).

  • “History as Carnival, or Method and Madness in the Vita Heliogabali by Gottfried Mader, in Classical Antiquity Vol. 24, No. 1 (April 2005).

Until next time, stay queer and stay curious!

Episode 20: More Than Meets the Eye(brow): Frida Kahlo

In this episode, Gretchen and Leigh talk about Frida Kahlo, a Mexican artist best known for her many self-portraits and for works inspired by nature and the culture and artifacts of Mexico. She may be known for her unibrow, but that’s far from the most important aspect of her art or her story or her art. In keeping with her self-exploration of identity in her paintings, we’re going to explore one of the things least well known about her: that she had relationships with men and women! That’s right, this famous postcolonial, multiracial, disabled artist was bisexual!

A Closer Look at Frida Kahlo

Frida, age 6, 1913. For this and other rare photos of her childhood,  Click here .

Frida, age 6, 1913. For this and other rare photos of her childhood, Click here.

Frida (right), age 9, and her sisters. photo taken by her father, 1916.

Frida (right), age 9, and her sisters. photo taken by her father, 1916.

Frida (center) with her sisters and a younger male cousin, 1926. For this and other rare photos of Frida in the 1920s,  click here .

Frida (center) with her sisters and a younger male cousin, 1926. For this and other rare photos of Frida in the 1920s, click here.

Mural for the ministry of education, by Diego Rivera, 1929, featuring Frida Kahlo (bottom left, front).

Mural for the ministry of education, by Diego Rivera, 1929, featuring Frida Kahlo (bottom left, front).

Here you can see why Frida’s father called them, “The Elephant and the Dove.” Frida and Diego Rivera, 1932.

Here you can see why Frida’s father called them, “The Elephant and the Dove.” Frida and Diego Rivera, 1932.

A photo from Toni Frissell’s vogue shoot of Frida, 1937.

A photo from Toni Frissell’s vogue shoot of Frida, 1937.

Frida (Left) with Josephine Baker (Right) in paris, 1939.

Frida (Left) with Josephine Baker (Right) in paris, 1939.

Frida Kahlo (center) with Nayantara Sahgal and Rita Dar, 1947.

Frida Kahlo (center) with Nayantara Sahgal and Rita Dar, 1947.

MIguel n. Lira’s Tabla con Diferentes Frasas y Firmas signed by friends, including frida kahlo, fellow member of “los Cachuchas,” 1948.

MIguel n. Lira’s Tabla con Diferentes Frasas y Firmas signed by friends, including frida kahlo, fellow member of “los Cachuchas,” 1948.

Close up of frida’s note to Miguel n. lira: “hermano de siempre no te olvides de la cahucha no 9, Frida Kahlo”— “Forever brother, do not forget la Cachucha no. 9, Frida Kahlo.” Alongside it is her doodle of herself wearing the cap for which the group was named, 1948.

Close up of frida’s note to Miguel n. lira: “hermano de siempre no te olvides de la cahucha no 9, Frida Kahlo”— “Forever brother, do not forget la Cachucha no. 9, Frida Kahlo.” Alongside it is her doodle of herself wearing the cap for which the group was named, 1948.

Kahlo and Chavela Vargas by Tina Modotti, 1950.

Kahlo and Chavela Vargas by Tina Modotti, 1950.

Chavela Vargas performing “La Llorona” in Frida starring Selma Hayak as Frida Kahlo!

Frida in her garden with two fo her dogs, by gisle Freund, circa 1950. For this and other photos by Gisle Freund,  Click here .

Frida in her garden with two fo her dogs, by gisle Freund, circa 1950. For this and other photos by Gisle Freund, Click here.

Frida’s studio with her wheelchair and adjustable easel, on display at La Casa Azul museum in Mexico.

Frida’s studio with her wheelchair and adjustable easel, on display at La Casa Azul museum in Mexico.

Frida Kahlo’s death mask, also on display at La Casa Azul museum in Mexico.

Frida Kahlo’s death mask, also on display at La Casa Azul museum in Mexico.

A Selection of Frida Kahlo’s Paintings

Henry ford hospital , 1932.

Henry ford hospital, 1932.

Two nudes in a forest , 1939.

Two nudes in a forest, 1939.

Self portrait with cropped hair , 1941.

Self portrait with cropped hair, 1941.

Self portrait with monkey and parrot , 1942.

Self portrait with monkey and parrot, 1942.

The broken column , 1944.

The broken column, 1944.

The Love Embrace of the Universe, the Earth (Mexico), Myself, Diego, and Señor Xolotl , 1949.

The Love Embrace of the Universe, the Earth (Mexico), Myself, Diego, and Señor Xolotl, 1949.

still life (dedicated to samuel fastlicht) , 1951.

still life (dedicated to samuel fastlicht), 1951.

Living Nature , 1952.

Living Nature, 1952.

Episode 19: Queer Poetry in the Not-So-Great War: Siegfried Sassoon

We’ve got a special episode for you this time, gayvenclaws! Gretchen is taking care of a family medical emergency, so join Leigh and special guest Hayden Smith as they discuss the famous WWI soldier Siegfried Sassoon. A writer, poet, and novelist known for his anti-jingoist, anti-war poetry, Sassoon was willing to showcase the horrors of the trenches for foot soldiers. Sassoon also had multiple relationships with men prior to his marriage, including a fellow poet who died in the war. It’s a tale of love, loss, grief, anger, and healing as we dig into this fascinating fellow and his prolific poetry!

Find Hayden Smith Online

A Closer Look at Siegfried Sassoon

Siegfried Sassoon (front row, center) with his brother Hamo and other students at Cambridge, 1906.

Siegfried Sassoon (front row, center) with his brother Hamo and other students at Cambridge, 1906.

Siegfried Sassoon by George Charles Beresford, 1915.

Siegfried Sassoon by George Charles Beresford, 1915.

Portrait of the poet Siegfried Sassoon by Glyn Warren Philpot, 1917.

Portrait of the poet Siegfried Sassoon by Glyn Warren Philpot, 1917.

Siegfried Sassoon by Bassano Ltd, 23 August 1920.

Siegfried Sassoon by Bassano Ltd, 23 August 1920.

Siegfried Sasson and Ethel Fane (Lady Desborough) in his car, January 2, 1926.

Siegfried Sasson and Ethel Fane (Lady Desborough) in his car, January 2, 1926.

Edith Olivier, Siegfried Loraine Sassoon, and Hester Sassoon (nee Gatty), Date unknown.

Edith Olivier, Siegfried Loraine Sassoon, and Hester Sassoon (nee Gatty), Date unknown.

Stephen Tennant, April 1906.

Stephen Tennant, April 1906.

Robert Graves, 1920.

Robert Graves, 1920.

Portrait of Wilfred Owen from his 1920 collection of poems.

Portrait of Wilfred Owen from his 1920 collection of poems.

Siegfried Sassoon’s Anti-War Letter

Sassoon’s anti-war letter, 1917.

Sassoon’s anti-war letter, 1917.

Transcription:

“This Statement is made by Second-Lieutenant
Siegfried Lorraine Sasson, M.C., 3rd Batt.
Royal Welch Fusiliers

I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority because I believe that the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it. I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that the war upon which I entered as a war of defence and liberation has now become a war of aggression and conquest. I believe that the purposes for which I and my fellow soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them and that had this been done the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation.

I have seen and endured the sufferings of the troops and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust. I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed.

On behalf of those who are suffering now, I make this protest against the deception which is being practised upon them; also I believe it may help to destroy the callous complacency with which the majority of those at home regard the continuance of agonies which they do not share and which they have not enough imagination to realise.”

To other, related letters from Sassoon, check out the British Library’s collection.

Selected of Siegfried Sasson’s Poems

The Poet As Hero

You've heard me, scornful, harsh, and discontented, 
   Mocking and loathing War: you've asked me why 
Of my old, silly sweetness I've repented— 
   My ecstasies changed to an ugly cry. 

You are aware that once I sought the Grail, 
   Riding in armour bright, serene and strong; 
And it was told that through my infant wail 
   There rose immortal semblances of song. 

But now I've said good-bye to Galahad, 
   And am no more the knight of dreams and show: 
For lust and senseless hatred make me glad, 
   And my killed friends are with me where I go. 
Wound for red wound I burn to smite their wrongs; 
And there is absolution in my songs.

—from Cambridge Magazine (1916)

‘Blighters’

The House is crammed: tier beyond tier they grin 
And cackle at the Show, while prancing ranks 
Of harlots shrill the chorus, drunk with din; 
“We’re sure the Kaiser loves the dear old Tanks!”

I’d like to see a Tank come down the stalls, 
Lurching to rag-time tunes, or “Home, sweet Home,” 
And there'd be no more jokes in Music-halls 
To mock the riddled corpses round Bapaume.

—from The Old Huntsman and Other Poems (1917)

The Kiss

To these I turn, in these I trust—
Brother Lead and Sister Steel.
To his blind power I make appeal,
I guard her beauty clean from rust.

He spins and burns and loves the air,
And splits a skull to win my praise;
But up the nobly marching days
She glitters naked, cold and fair.

Sweet Sister, grant your soldier this:
That in good fury he may feel
The body where he sets his heel
Quail from your downward darting kiss.

—from The Old Hunstman and Other Poems (1917)

To His Dead Body

When roaring gloom surged inward and you cried,
Groping for friendly hands, and clutched, and died,
Like racing smoke, swift from your lolling head
Phantoms of thought and memory thinned and fled.

Yet, though my dreams that throng the darkened stair
Can bring me no report of how you fare,
Safe quit of wars, I speed you on your way
Up lonely, glimmering fields to find new day,
Slow-rising, saintless, confident and kind—
Dear, red-faced father God who lit your mind.

—from Counter-attack and Other Poems (1918)

To see more of Sasson’s poems, see the Poetry Foundation.

If you want to learn more about Siegfried Sassoon, check out our full list of sources and further reading below!

Online Articles:

Books and Print Articles:

  • Siegfried Sassoon: The Making of a War Poet by Jean Moorcroft Wilson

  • Taking It Like a Man: Suffering, Sexuality and the War Poets by Adrian Caesar

  • Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis, 1918-1957 by Matt Houlbrook

  • Tomboys and Bachelor Girls: A Lesbian History of Post-War Britain 1945-71 by Rebecca Jennings

  • “‘For You May Touch Them Not’: Misogyny, Homosexuality, and the Ethics of Passivity in First World War Poetry”, James S. Campbell, published in ELH, Vol. 64, No 3 (1997), pp. 823-842

  • “Between Manliness and Masculinity: The “War Generation” and the Psychology of Fear in Britain”, 1914-1950, Michael Roper, published in Journal of British Studies, Vol. 44, No. 2 (April 2005), pp. 343-362

  • “Siegfried Sassoon”, Bernard Knox, published in Grand Street, Vol. 2, No. 4 (Summer, 1983), pp 140-151

Until next time, stay queer and stay curious!

Episode 18: She's a Real Wilde One

What would an exploration of the Wilde family be without taking a closer look at Oscar Wilde’s ‘virulently lesbian’ niece Dolly Wilde? Gretchen and Leigh take you on a journey to learn more about this elusive personality. Unlike her uncle, Dolly left little written work behind and is best known from her letters and from what other people have to say about her. They dive into the life and loves---many, many loves---of Dolly Wilde, including the love of her life Natalie Clifford Barney, speedboat racer Joe Carstairs, silent screen actor Alla Nazimova, and others. Come join the ouroboros of gay that is the Sapphic ‘sewing circle’ of 1920s Hollywood and Paris. 

A Closer Look At Dolly Wilde

One of a series of portraits of Dolly Wilde photographed by Cecil beaton.

One of a series of portraits of Dolly Wilde photographed by Cecil beaton.

Another of Cecil Beaton’s portraits of Dolly Wilde, and one of the most glamorous portraits of his early career.

Another of Cecil Beaton’s portraits of Dolly Wilde, and one of the most glamorous portraits of his early career.

Another glamor shot of Dolly, perhaps one of Beaton’s, but the exact date and photographer are unknown.

Another glamor shot of Dolly, perhaps one of Beaton’s, but the exact date and photographer are unknown.

a more casual dolly wilde, date and photographer unknown.

a more casual dolly wilde, date and photographer unknown.

Dolly doing one of her favorite things, being behind the wheel. Date and photographer unknown.

Dolly doing one of her favorite things, being behind the wheel. Date and photographer unknown.

Still from 1937 film by Rognon de la Flèche (Lady Cara Harris) 'Treason's Bargain,” in which dolly appeared.

Still from 1937 film by Rognon de la Flèche (Lady Cara Harris) 'Treason's Bargain,” in which dolly appeared.

Dolly Wilde on Meeting Virginia Woolf

“Cambridge on a frosty night. The Dean’s room in King’s College, firelight, books, sober colours, elegance and a group of charming people holding conversation. We are waiting for dinner when someone says “Leonard and Virginia are very late.” The smooth waters of my mind are ruffled by fear by this unexpected remark, and my heart beats perceptibly quicker. The chief Lama of Thibet will be here any moment —easy manners must give place to decorum, familiar friendship be brought stiffly to attention. Then the door opens and a tall gaunt figure, grey-haired, floats into the room. Her age struck me first, and then her prettiness —shock and delight hand in hand. How to explain? There is something of the witch in her —as in Edith Sitwell— with the rather curved back and sharp features. She is dressed in black, old fashioned elderly clothes that make me feel second-rate in my smart clothes —her feet are very long and thin encased in black broché shoes with straps of the Edwardian period. All is faded and grey about her, like her iron grey hair parted in the middle and dragged into a bun at the back. And yet immediately one sees her prettiness and a lovely washed away ethereal look making all of us look so gross and sensual. The eyes are deep-sunk and small the nose fine and pointed, a little too pointed by curiosity, but the feature that most strikes one is the mouth —a full round mouth, a pretty girl’s mouth in that spinster face. It is so young, young like her skin that is smooth and soft. She greets Honey and me without looking at us and at dinner never once makes us the target of her eyes —there is embarrassment around the table and she only talks to her intimates. She is witty and kindly malicious. Then suddenly I say something that makes her laugh and the curtain of her eyelids are raised and we talk together, flippantly delightfully. I had once been told one must never mention her books and as we threaded byeways of humour I thought of your letters about her so much. I saw her, too, all the time as such a little pretty girl in a big hat, and Kew Gardens with the governess planting a kiss on the back of her neck —do you remember?— which was the parent of all the kisses in her life…

She has nothing to do with maternal life —is supposed to be a virgin, to have experienced no physical contact even with Orlando. She says she has no need of experience —knows everything without it: and this impression she gives as one meets her. I felt cruelty in her, born of humour —tiredness, great tiredness and her eyes veiled with visions rather than brightened by them.”

A letter from Dolly Wilde to Natalie Clifford Barney, dated 1931

A Closer Look at Dolly’s Lady Loves

A young joe Carstairs holds a bow and arrow (and our hearts). Image Courtesy of the LIFE photo collection.

A young joe Carstairs holds a bow and arrow (and our hearts). Image Courtesy of the LIFE photo collection.

Joe Carstairs, butch icon, with her doll, Lord Tod Wadley.

Joe Carstairs, butch icon, with her doll, Lord Tod Wadley.

Janet flanner ca 1920.

Janet flanner ca 1920.

Silent screen actor Alla Nazimova.

Silent screen actor Alla Nazimova.

Alla Nazimova photographed by Arthur Rice as ‘Marguerite Gautier’ in  Camille.

Alla Nazimova photographed by Arthur Rice as ‘Marguerite Gautier’ in Camille.

Watch the full version of Alla Nazimova’s film adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s play “Salomé.”

Zelda Fitzgerald, 1917.

Zelda Fitzgerald, 1917.

Gwen Farrar ca 1925

Gwen Farrar ca 1925

The 1920s Hollywood sewing circle chart, courtesy of  Autostraddle .

The 1920s Hollywood sewing circle chart, courtesy of Autostraddle.

Select Images of Natalie Clifford Barney

This portrait of Natalie Clifford Barney as “The Happy PRince” by Carolus-Duran hung on the wall of her salon at 20 Rue Jacob.

This portrait of Natalie Clifford Barney as “The Happy PRince” by Carolus-Duran hung on the wall of her salon at 20 Rue Jacob.

a young Natalie Clifford Barney.

a young Natalie Clifford Barney.

Natalie Clifford Barney, between ca. 1890 and ca. 1910.

Natalie Clifford Barney, between ca. 1890 and ca. 1910.

Natalie Clifford Barney (Left) and lover Romaine Brooks (Right), ca 1915.

Natalie Clifford Barney (Left) and lover Romaine Brooks (Right), ca 1915.

If you want to learn more about Dolly Wilde, check out our full list of sources and further reading below!

Online Articles:

Books and Print Articles:

  • Truly Wilde by Joan Schenkar

  • Wilde’s Women by Eleanor Fitzsimons

  • In Memory of Dorothy Ierne Wilde: Oscaria by Natalie Clifford Barney

  • The Sewing Circle by Axel Madsen

  • The Girls: Sappho Goes to Hollywood by Diana McLellan

Videos:

Until next time, stay queer and stay curious!

Episode 17: He's A Real Wilde One

In honor of his 164th birthday, Leigh and Gretchen talk about the life and times of Oscar Wilde with special guest K. W. Moore from the blog “A Scholar of No Importance.” Wilde’s unwillingness to conform to Victorian sensibilities regarding keeping his private life private and the famous trials that resulted from it changed the shape of Western discussions of sexuality thereafter. His writing, too has left its mark both on the world, and on all three of our hosts this episode. So come join us as we pay homage to the Wilde man himself, the man who sought to live up to his blue china and worried he might fall short.

Where to Find our Guest Host K. W. Moore

 

A Closer Look at Oscar Wilde

A young Oscar Wilde, 2 years old.

A young Oscar Wilde, 2 years old.

Oscar Wilde at Oxford.

Oscar Wilde at Oxford.

One of a series of “fancy portraits” by cartoonist Linley Sambourne mocking contemporary personalities. This one of Oscar Wilde was Published June 25, 1881.

One of a series of “fancy portraits” by cartoonist Linley Sambourne mocking contemporary personalities. This one of Oscar Wilde was Published June 25, 1881.

“The Modern Messiah,” a Cartoon depicting Oscar Wilde's 1882 visit to San Francisco by George Frederick Keller. Published in  The Wasp , March 31, 1882.

“The Modern Messiah,” a Cartoon depicting Oscar Wilde's 1882 visit to San Francisco by George Frederick Keller. Published in The Wasp, March 31, 1882.

Constance wilde with son cyril.

Constance wilde with son cyril.

Vyvyan (left) and Cyril (right) Holland.

Vyvyan (left) and Cyril (right) Holland.

One of a series of portraits done of Oscar Wilde by Napoleon Sarony in 1882.

One of a series of portraits done of Oscar Wilde by Napoleon Sarony in 1882.

Another Sarony portrait from 1882.

Another Sarony portrait from 1882.

A third portrait from the 1882 session with Napoleon Sarony.

A third portrait from the 1882 session with Napoleon Sarony.

Oscar Wilde with a carnation in his buttonhole. Portrait by Alfred Ellis & Walery Studio, 1892.

Oscar Wilde with a carnation in his buttonhole. Portrait by Alfred Ellis & Walery Studio, 1892.

Bosie Douglas with his brother Frederick Douglas.

Bosie Douglas with his brother Frederick Douglas.

Oscar Wilde (Left) with lover Bosie Douglas (right), 1893.

Oscar Wilde (Left) with lover Bosie Douglas (right), 1893.

Robbie Ross (Left) and Reginald Turner (Right), circa 1893.

Robbie Ross (Left) and Reginald Turner (Right), circa 1893.

 Excerpts from De Profundis:

“To regret one’s own experiences is to arrest one’s own development. To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.” 

“Love does not traffic in a marketplace, nor use a huckster's scales. Its joy, like the joy of the intellect, is to feel itself alive. The aim of Love is to love: no more, and no less. You were my enemy: such an enemy as no man ever had. I had given you all my life, and to gratify the lowest and most contemptible of all human passions, hatred and vanity and greed, you had thrown it away. In less than three years you had entirely ruined me in every point of view. For my own sake there was nothing for me to do but to love you.” 

“The final mystery is oneself. When one has weighed the sun in the balance, and measured the steps of the moon, and mapped out the seven heavens star by star, there still remains oneself. Who can calculate the orbit of his own soul?” 

“A sentimentalist is simply one who wants to have the luxury of an emotion without paying for it. We think we can have our emotions for nothing. We cannot. Even the finest and most self-sacrificing emotions have to be paid for. Strangely enough, that is what makes them fine. The intellectual and emotional life of ordinary people is a very contemptible affair. Just as they borrow their ideas from a sort of circulating library of thought—-the Zeitgeist of an age that has no soul—-and send them back soiled at the end of each week, so they always try to get their emotions on credit, and refuse to pay the bill when it comes in. You should pass out of that conception of life. As soon as you have to pay for an emotion you will know its quality, and be the better for such knowledge. And remember that the sentimentalist is always a cynic at heart. Indeed, sentimentality is merely the bank holiday of cynicism.” 

“Society takes upon itself the right to inflict appalling punishment on the individual, but it also has the supreme vice of shallowness, and fails to realise what it has done. When the man’s punishment is over, it leaves him to himself; that is to say, it abandons him at the very moment when its highest duty towards him begins. It is really ashamed of its own actions, and shuns those whom it has punished, as people shun a creditor whose debt they cannot pay, or one on whom they have inflicted an irreparable, an irremediable wrong.” 

“Every single human being should be the fulfilment of a prophecy: for every human being should be the realisation of some ideal, either in the mind of God or in the mind of man.”

“The aim of Love is to love: no more, and no less.” 

If you want to learn more about Oscar Wilde, check out our full list of sources and further reading below!

Online Articles:

Books and Print Articles:

  • Graham Robb, Strangers: Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century

  • Richard Dellamora, Masculine Desire: The Sexual Politics of Victorian Aestheticism

  • Ned Katz, Love Stories: Sex Between Men Before Homosexuality

  • Neil McKenna, The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde

  • Barbara Belford, Oscar Wilde: A Certain Genius

  • Richard Ellman, Oscar Wilde

  • Frank Harris, Oscar Wilde: His Life and Confessions

  • Terence Crawford, The Last Illness of Oscar Wilde

  • Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

  • Ed. Merlin Holland, The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde

  • “Bachelor Friendships of the Nineteenth Centuries” in Proud Heritage: People, Issues, and Documents of the LGBT Experience

  • Ben Griffin, The Politics of Gender in Victorian Britain

  • Franny Moyle, Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Oscar Wilde

Until next time, stay queer and stay curious!

Episode 16: Lavender Apparitions

Happy Halloween everybody! As good Halloween gays, Leigh and Gretchin bring you a special, spoopy episode for Halloween. In the first half, they bring tales of gay and lesbian ghosts and lavender apparitions of all kinds, though of the kindly and perhaps a bit cheeky variety rather than bloody or scary. A ghostie who pinches bottoms? A long-dead monk who pulls the sheets off of straight couples? How queer! For the second half, they interview Joe Applebaum, one of the producers of Queer Ghost Hunters, a paranormal investigation series on YouTube focused on finding and talking to queer ghosts. So grab your bucket of candy and get ready for some spoopy fun on History is Gay!

qgh image.png

Check out Queer Ghost Hunters!

  • Queer Ghost Hunters YouTube Channel Have a look at the trailer for their first season:

Check out Joe Applebaum and The Clowder Group!

A Closer Look at the Queer Hauntings

The New Inn, Gloucester. site of the Pilgrims Rest Gay monk Ghost! ( Source )

The New Inn, Gloucester. site of the Pilgrims Rest Gay monk Ghost! (Source)

Queen’s Theater, Soho, London. site of the Voyeuristic ghost who spies on ushers changing ( Source )

Queen’s Theater, Soho, London. site of the Voyeuristic ghost who spies on ushers changing (Source)

GEorge’s Hotel, East Dereham. Site of the Unzipping Ghost. ( Source )

GEorge’s Hotel, East Dereham. Site of the Unzipping Ghost. (Source)

Francis Grierson, the Psychic Pianist.

Francis Grierson, the Psychic Pianist.

Villa Montezuma, Grierson’s home in San Diego, CA.

Villa Montezuma, Grierson’s home in San Diego, CA.

Elephant and Castle Pub, Amersham. Site of the bum-pinching ghost. ( Source )

Elephant and Castle Pub, Amersham. Site of the bum-pinching ghost. (Source)

If you want to learn more about Queer Hauntings, check out our full list of sources and further reading!

Books and Print Articles:

  • Ken Summers, Queer Hauntings: True Tales of Gay and Lesbian Ghosts

Until next time, stay queer and stay curious!

Episode 15: Lizzie Borden Took a Labrys

Way back in the first episode, Leigh and Gretchen formed a historical ‘murder wives’ ship starting with Anne Bonny; in this episode, they take a closer look at murder wife #2: Lizzie Borden! That’s right folks, she too may very well have had a thing for the ladies as well as possibly murdering her father and stepmother. Just how queer was she? Did she have an affair with her maid and her stepmother caught them? Did she fall in love with a glamorous lesbian movie star after the murders? Why was she acquitted and what was society like for a single, Victorian woman who wanted to be in possession of a large fortune and upward social mobility? Find out on this week’s History is Gay!

A Closer Look at Lizzie Borden, The Trial, and Her Potential Loves

Lizzie Andrew Borden

Lizzie Andrew Borden

Lizzie Borden, 1890, looking glam.

Lizzie Borden, 1890, looking glam.

Lizzie’s Father, Andrew Borden, looking like a penny-pinching asshole.

Lizzie’s Father, Andrew Borden, looking like a penny-pinching asshole.

Lizzie’s Stepmother, Abby Gray Borden.

Lizzie’s Stepmother, Abby Gray Borden.

Lizzie’s Older Sister Emma Borden.

Lizzie’s Older Sister Emma Borden.

Lizzie’s Uncle, John Morse.

Lizzie’s Uncle, John Morse.

The Borden Home: 92 Second St, Fall River Massachusetts, 1892.

The Borden Home: 92 Second St, Fall River Massachusetts, 1892.

Jurors at Lizzie Borden’s trial, 1893.

Jurors at Lizzie Borden’s trial, 1893.

Sketch Illustration of Lizzie from the trail.

Sketch Illustration of Lizzie from the trail.

Illustration of Lizzie Borden in  Frank Leslie's illustrated newspaper , v. 76 (1893 June 29).

Illustration of Lizzie Borden in Frank Leslie's illustrated newspaper, v. 76 (1893 June 29).

An illustration of Lizzie fainting at the reveal of the disfigured skulls of Abby and Andrew in the courtroom.

An illustration of Lizzie fainting at the reveal of the disfigured skulls of Abby and Andrew in the courtroom.

Illustration and article in  the Fitchburg Sentinel , August 13, 1892.

Illustration and article in the Fitchburg Sentinel, August 13, 1892.

Bridget Sullivan, live-in maid to the Borden family.

Bridget Sullivan, live-in maid to the Borden family.

Raging lesbian stage and film actress Nance O’Neil.

Raging lesbian stage and film actress Nance O’Neil.

Another sultry shot of the seductress…

Another sultry shot of the seductress…

Article announcing Lizzie’s death in the  Lewiston Daily Sun

Article announcing Lizzie’s death in the Lewiston Daily Sun

If you liked hearing about Lizzie Borden, you may also like…

Plays:

  • 1948: Fall River Legend, a ballet choreographed by Agnes De Mille, most famously known as the choreographer for Oklahoma!, Carousel, Brigadoon, and other classic 1950s American musicals. Takes the Lizzie Borden story and changes the outcome of the jury sentence to guilty.

  • 1965: Lizzie, an opera by Jack Beeson

  • 1990: Lizzie the Musical a rock opera by Tim Maner, Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer and Alan Stevens Hewitt called “a gothic rock ritual with a ‘riotgirl’ attitude by NYT and the Village Voice describes the music as “lush tunes that retch sex, rage, dyke heat, misanthropy, and incest.”

  • Axed: An Evening of One Ax by Carolyn Gage, a collection of two one-act plays, Lace Curtain Irish and The Greatest Actress Who Ever Lived, both focused on women who were intimate with Lizzie during her lifetime, Bridget Sullivan and Nance O’Neil, respectively. Carolyn Gage is the playwright that called Nance O’Neil an “outrageous lesbian”.

Film & Television

  • 1975: The Legend of Lizzie Borden, an ABC television film starring Elizabeth Montgomery as Borden and Fionnula Flanagan as Bridget Sullivan. Fun fact: It was discovered after Elizabeth Montgomery’s death that she was actually Lizzie Borden’s sixth cousin once removed!

  • 2014: Lizzie Borden Took an Ax, a Lifetime television film starring Christina Ricci

  • 2017: Lizzie Borden Documentary on the ‘Female Killers’ YouTube channel that we’ll link in the show notes.

  • 2018: Lizzie movie starring Kristen Stewart and Chloe Sevigny. The film centers around the intimacy between Borden (played by Sevigny) and maid Bridget Sullivan (played by Stewart) in the face of Lizzie’s gross father. Seems pretty gay! By the time this episode airs, it will have just released, which is why we wanted to do this episode!

Other

  • The Borden Dispatches a duology that reimagines Lizzie as a warrior against supernatural horrors and her parents as possessed.  

  • Lizzie Borden: Girl Detective novels by the late Richard Behrens are a fictional series of books where young Lizzie solves crimes.

  • Plus, lots of other fiction books about Lizzie, Bridget, and the murders. Wikipedia is a great place to start your search.

  • Lizzie Borden Podcast discusses Lizzie’s life, history, background of Fall River, has live readings from plays or radio dramas, and more! There are 11 episodes out and it seems to no longer be running.

  • The podcast Most Notorious! A true crime podcast also has a Lizzie Borden episode, as do The History Chicks.

If you want to learn more about Lizzie Borden, check out our full list of sources and further reading below!

Online Articles:

Books and Print Articles:

  • Parallel Lives: A social History of Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall River by Michael Martins and Dennis A. Binette

  • A Private Disgrace: Lizzie Borden by Daylight by Victoria Lincoln

  • The Life and Trial of Lizzie Borden by Charles River Editors

  • The Life, Legend, and Mystery of Lizzie Borden by Trey Wyatt

  • Lizzie: A Novel by Evan Hunter

  • Lizzie Borden: The Legend, The Truth, The Final Chapter by Arnold R. Brown

Videos:

Until next time, stay queer and stay curious!

Episode 14: The Labor Struggle is Real Queer

Leigh and Gretchen have a special History is Gay treat for you this Labor Day. Join them as they discuss the history of the labor movement as it relates to the struggle for queer civil rights in America. You may not know, but the labor and LGBTQ+ movements have been allies for a long time. Just how far back does the partnership go? Listen and find out! Learn about Jewish lesbian feminists fighting for better workplace conditions during WWI, the mostly-queer marine cooks union in the 30s and 40s, lesbian bus drivers’ unions, the Coors boycott, and more. We end with a discussion of what needs to be done and Gretchen may or may not end up on a soapbox. Happy Labor Gay!

A Closer Look at People in the Labor and LGBTQ+ Movements

Pauline Newman (1887-1986)

Pauline Newman (1887-1986)

Rose Schneiderman (1882-1972)

Rose Schneiderman (1882-1972)

Dr. Marie Equi (1872-1952)

Dr. Marie Equi (1872-1952)

A gathering of the Nation Union of Marine Cooks and Stewards (NUMCS)

A gathering of the Nation Union of Marine Cooks and Stewards (NUMCS)

Cooks and Stewards on the HF Alexander

Cooks and Stewards on the HF Alexander

Newspaper of the NUMCS

Newspaper of the NUMCS

Stephen Blair, Vice President of the NUMCS

Stephen Blair, Vice President of the NUMCS

Revels Clayton of the NUMCS

Revels Clayton of the NUMCS

Judy Mage, who led the NYC Department of Welfare strike in 1965

Judy Mage, who led the NYC Department of Welfare strike in 1965

Howard Wallace, who helped lead the Coors boycott in 1974

Howard Wallace, who helped lead the Coors boycott in 1974

One of the most famous protest signs of the Coors boycott in the 1970s

One of the most famous protest signs of the Coors boycott in the 1970s

Joni Christian, labor activist and transgender icon (Image courtesy of the  NY Times )

Joni Christian, labor activist and transgender icon (Image courtesy of the NY Times)

If you want to learn more about the alliance between the Labor and LGBTQ+ movements, check out our full list of sources and further reading below!

    Online Articles

    Books

    • Out in the Union by Miriam Frank
    • My Desire for History: Essays in Gay, Community, and Labor History by Allan Bérubé, edited by Estelle B. Freedman
    • Plane Queer: Labor, Sexuality, and AIDS in the History of Male Flight Attendants by Phil Tiemeyer
    • Steel Closets: Voices of Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Steelworkers by Anne Balay
    • Sexuality and Socialism: History, Politics, and Theory of LGBT Liberation by Sherry Wolf

    Videos

    Until next time, stay queer and stay curious!

    Episode 13: Six Degrees of Virginia Woolf, Part 1

    Gretchen and Leigh are pleased to announce their very first special guest to History is Gay, Dan Arndt of Write to Survive Podcast and The Fandomentals, to talk about Virginia Woolf and Vita-Sackville-West. This episode has everything: modernism, gay love letters, dramatic queers, queers with mommy issues, and a story of gay lovers running away to Europe and their spouses chasing them down that’s so cinematic we really are surprised they haven’t made a movie of it yet. Just how gay was Virginia Woolf? So gay we’ve got six degrees episodes to work with! Join us for Part 1 of an ongoing series.

    A Closer Look at Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West

    Baby Virginia in the arms of her mother, julia stephen

    Baby Virginia in the arms of her mother, julia stephen

    Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell in Firle Park in 1911.

    Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell in Firle Park in 1911.

    Victoria Sackville-West in costume for the Shakespeare Memorial National Theatre Ball at the Royal Albert Hall, June 20, 1911 ~ Photograph by N. Speaight

    Victoria Sackville-West in costume for the Shakespeare Memorial National Theatre Ball at the Royal Albert Hall, June 20, 1911 ~ Photograph by N. Speaight

    Virginia and Leonard Woolf, 1926.

    Virginia and Leonard Woolf, 1926.

    Vita Sackville-West as her alter ego the Duke Orlando, posed specifically for Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel Orlando

    Vita Sackville-West as her alter ego the Duke Orlando, posed specifically for Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel Orlando

    Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West at Monk's House, Virginia's home.

    Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West at Monk's House, Virginia's home.

    VIrginia Woolf, Vita Sackville-WEst, and Vita's two sons, Benedict and Nigel Nichonson, at Sissinghurst.

    VIrginia Woolf, Vita Sackville-WEst, and Vita's two sons, Benedict and Nigel Nichonson, at Sissinghurst.

    Virginia and Leonard, Photographed by Gisèle Freund, 1939.

    Virginia and Leonard, Photographed by Gisèle Freund, 1939.

    Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson at Sissinghurst with their dog Rollo. 

    Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson at Sissinghurst with their dog Rollo. 

    Vita Sackville-West's Other Loves

    We mentioned in the episode that unfortunately we didn't have enough time to go over all of Vita's many lovers, but we wanted to put a nice handy list of the "greatest hits", so to speak here for y'all to enjoy, straight from our outline notes (which you can get full access to by becoming a Patreon supporter!:

    • Mary Garman (bohemian woman who's husband hated the Bloomsbury’s)
    • Margaret Goldsmith Voigt (American Historian), 1928
    • Hilda Matheson (BBC Director of Talks), 1929
    • Evelyn Irons, Journalist, first female winner of Croix De Geurre, 1931 (this was a threeway with her and her lover Olive Rinder).Met while she was doing a piece on Vita
    • Christabel Gertrude Marshall (Christopher St. John), Suffragette and Writer, lived in poly relationship her whole life 1932-1934
    • Gwen St. Aubyn, (Vita’s HUSBAND’S SISTER) 1934
    • Violet Pym, 1947
    • Edith Lamont, (painter) 1947
    • Bunny Drummond, (her elderly neighbor’s daughter in law) 1947-1952
    • Her husband, Harold, who was also bisexual, had an open marriage with Vita, and may have slept with Violet’s husband as well. Other loves include writer and critic Raymond Mortimer. He wrote to her that he often would spend time in Paris with young men while she was away, and the two never shared a bed after 1917. Harold, his son said “viewed sex as incidental, and about as pleasurable as a quick visit to a picture gallery between trains”
       

    Content Warning: Vita Sackville West's Memoriam and Virginia Woolf's Suicide Note

    IN MEMORIAM VIRGINIA WOOLF

    Many words crowd, and all and each unmeaning.
    The simplest words in sorrow are the best.

    So let us say, she loved the water-meadows,
    The Downs; her books; her friends; her memories;
    The room which was her own.
    London by twilight; shops and unknown people;shops and Mrs Brown

    Donne's church; the Strand; the buses, and the large
    Swell of humanity that passed her by.

    I remember she told me once that she, a child,
    Trapped evening moths with honey round a tree-trunk
    And with a lantern watched their antic flight.
    So she, a poet, caught her special prey
    With words of honey and lamp of wit.

    Frugal, austere, fine, proud,
    Rich on [in] her contradictions, rich in love,
    So did she capture all her moth-like self:
    Her fluttered spirit, delicate and soft,
    Bumping against the lamp of life, too hard, too glassy,

    Yet kept a sting beneath the brushing wing,
    Her blame astringent and her praise supreme.

    How small, how petty seemed the little men
    Measured against her scornful quality.

    Some say, she lived in an unreal world,
    Cloud-cuckoo-land. Maybe. She now has gone
    Into the prouder world of immortality.

    V S-W  (The Observer 6 April 1941)

    Woolf’s Suicide Note

    Dearest,

    I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times. And I shan't recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can't concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don't think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. I can't fight it any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can't even write this properly. I can't read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that—everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can't go on spoiling your life any longer. I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been. V   

     

    If you want to learn more about Virginia Woolf and Vita-Sackville-West, check out our full list of sources and further reading below!

    Online Articles:


    Books and Print Articles:

    • Virginia Woolf by Susan Rubinow Gorsky
    • The Letters of Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf edited by Louise DeSalvo and Mitchell a. Leaska (Editor)
    • Diary of Virginia Woolf Vol. 2 (1920-1924)
    • Diary of Virginia Woolf Vol. 3 (1925-1930)
    • Portrait of a Marriage by Nigel Nicolson
    • Congenial Spirits: The Selected Letters of Virginia Woolf edited by Joanne Trautmann Banks
    • Vita Sackville-West: Selected Writings edited by Mary Ann Caws
    • A History of Homosexuality in Europe: Berlin, London, Paris by Florence Tamagne
    • Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on her Life and Work by Louise DeSalvo  

    Until next time, stay queer and stay curious!

    Episode 12: Let's Have a Kiki with Queer as Fact!

    Welcome to our very first extra special collaboration! Joining Leigh and Gretchen this episode are our friends over at Queer as Fact, a queer history podcast from Australia. Our topic of choice? Queer slang! Join us as we discuss lavender linguistics, the history of queer slang in Australian penal colonies, and our favorite slang words, both American and Australian! So brush off your oysters, pitch your tents for camp, sharpen up your Gillette blades, and let’s have a kiki with Queer as Fact!

    Queer as Fact Links

    QAF Logo.jpg

    A Closer Look at the Purple Pamphlet

    Cover from the infamous "Purple Pamphlet" attempting to defame the gay community in Florida. It backfired. (Images of the Purple Pamphlet courtesy of  Queerty .)

    Cover from the infamous "Purple Pamphlet" attempting to defame the gay community in Florida. It backfired. (Images of the Purple Pamphlet courtesy of Queerty.)

    Page one of the full glossary of LGBT terms.

    Page one of the full glossary of LGBT terms.

    One of the infamous 'pornographic' images that led to the downfall of the purple pamphlet.

    One of the infamous 'pornographic' images that led to the downfall of the purple pamphlet.

    If you want to learn more about lavender linguistics and queer slang, check out our full list of sources and further reading below!

    Online Articles:

    Books and Print Articles:

    • A Dic(k)tionary of Gay Slang by H. Max
    • Green’s Dictorionary of Slang by Jonathon Green
    • The Alyson Almanac by Alyson Publications

    Until next time, stay queer and stay curious!

    Episode 11: Rainbow Rising: The First Pride

    Leigh and Gretchen welcome you to their first Pride month special and the first of an ongoing series on Queer civil rights movements in the United States. And what better way to do both than to dive into the lives of Gilbert Baker---the maker of the first rainbow pride flag---and Brenda Howard---one of the primary organizers of the first Pride march commemorating the Stonewall riots and Pride week. Pride is a special month for those of us in the queer community, so we wanted to celebrate our forefathers and foremothers that make this month possible. Do you like bisexual curmudgeons and people with nicknames like "Busty Ross"? We sure do. One of the best things about recent queer civil rights history in the United States is getting to know the people who directly affected how we live our lives now. And with these two, we've found people to admire and emulate. So, get ready to meet the Mother of Pride and the Gay Betsy Ross!

    A Look at Gilbert Baker

    Gilbert Baker in front of his mile long flag for Stonewall 25 in 1994 (© Fredrick Persson EP)

    Gilbert Baker in front of his mile long flag for Stonewall 25 in 1994 (© Fredrick Persson EP)

    Gilbert (in the vest) and collaborators raising the first flag in 1978 (© gilbertbaker.com)

    Gilbert (in the vest) and collaborators raising the first flag in 1978 (© gilbertbaker.com)

    Gilbert Baker dressed as his drag persona, Busty Ross (© Getty Images)

    Gilbert Baker dressed as his drag persona, Busty Ross (© Getty Images)

    More fabulous Busty Ross!

    More fabulous Busty Ross!

    Gilbert's original eight-striped flag in 1978. The hot pink and turquoise were later removed to make mass production easier, and to make it easy to fly the flag in two halves (three colors each) from lightposts on either side of the street following Harvey Milk's assassination. However, in 2004 at the Key West Pride Festival, Gilbert said it was time to bring back the two stripes: "We lost two of the original colors, pink and turquoise. It’s time, however, to restore the original design. First, it is simply more beautiful and more authentic. Moreover, when we lost the pink, we lost the symbol for our sexual liberation. The missing turquoise honors Native Americans and the magic of life. Both colors are needed to embrace our history."

    Gilbert's original eight-striped flag in 1978. The hot pink and turquoise were later removed to make mass production easier, and to make it easy to fly the flag in two halves (three colors each) from lightposts on either side of the street following Harvey Milk's assassination. However, in 2004 at the Key West Pride Festival, Gilbert said it was time to bring back the two stripes: "We lost two of the original colors, pink and turquoise. It’s time, however, to restore the original design. First, it is simply more beautiful and more authentic. Moreover, when we lost the pink, we lost the symbol for our sexual liberation. The missing turquoise honors Native Americans and the magic of life. Both colors are needed to embrace our history."

    Baker's mile-long flag at Stonewall 25. (© Eric Miller)

    Baker's mile-long flag at Stonewall 25. (© Eric Miller)

    Gilbert in the 2015 San Francisco Pride parade. (© Gilbert Baker's facebook)

    Gilbert in the 2015 San Francisco Pride parade. (© Gilbert Baker's facebook)

    Gilbert with president barack obama in 2016, where he presented obama with a handmade rainbow flag. look at that tie!

    Gilbert with president barack obama in 2016, where he presented obama with a handmade rainbow flag. look at that tie!

    Homage to Gilbert

    google's doodle for gilbert's 66th birthday. google animators went to fabric stores in san francisco, obtained fabric, and animated this stop-motion cuteness to emulate gilbert's process of the flag creation. (© google - learn more  here )

    google's doodle for gilbert's 66th birthday. google animators went to fabric stores in san francisco, obtained fabric, and animated this stop-motion cuteness to emulate gilbert's process of the flag creation. (© google - learn more here)

     

    A Look at Brenda Howard

    Brenda (top right, glasses) resting with the women's contingent after the first Pride march in 1970. (Unless otherwise noted, all images of Brenda Howard ©  New York Area Bisexual Network's Facebook )

    Brenda (top right, glasses) resting with the women's contingent after the first Pride march in 1970. (Unless otherwise noted, all images of Brenda Howard © New York Area Bisexual Network's Facebook)

    Brenda (second from left, glasses and pigtails) with Bob Kohler, Sylvia Rivera, etc. at an LGBTQ Demonstration at Bellevue Hospital in 1970.

    Brenda (second from left, glasses and pigtails) with Bob Kohler, Sylvia Rivera, etc. at an LGBTQ Demonstration at Bellevue Hospital in 1970.

    Brenda (left, pigtails and glasses) at a meeting with other members of the Gay Liberation Front in 1970.

    Brenda (left, pigtails and glasses) at a meeting with other members of the Gay Liberation Front in 1970.

    Meeting of radical women's group Lavender Menace with Brenda in the background (left, black shirt), early 1970s.

    Meeting of radical women's group Lavender Menace with Brenda in the background (left, black shirt), early 1970s.

    Brenda at NYC Pride marche late 1970s/early 1980s.

    Brenda at NYC Pride marche late 1970s/early 1980s.

    Brenda ca 1990. 

    Brenda ca 1990. 

    Brenda Howard at an ACT UP New York demonstration circa 1997-1998.

    Brenda Howard at an ACT UP New York demonstration circa 1997-1998.

    Undated photo of Brenda (left, white pants) with her partner Larry Nelson marching with the PFLAG Queens at the St. Patrick's Day for All parade. 

    Undated photo of Brenda (left, white pants) with her partner Larry Nelson marching with the PFLAG Queens at the St. Patrick's Day for All parade. 

    New York Area Bisexual Network contingent at NYC Pride March with Brenda Howard visible second from the right (black tank top). 

    New York Area Bisexual Network contingent at NYC Pride March with Brenda Howard visible second from the right (black tank top). 

    An Ode to Brenda Howard 

    Brenda's good friend Dorothy Danaher-Gilpin, Ed.D, wrote this poem in honor of Brenda’s passing:

    In Honor of Brenda
    When I was in pigtails
    You were already marching
    Voice firm and loud
    Banners held high

    I, blissful in suburbia
    Years from sexual maturity
    Watched you on TV
    And wondered
    What all the fuss was about.
    I grew older
    And tired of the nonsense
    I moved to the Big City
    In search of
    My soul.

    Many spirits were trampled
    By Reagan-Bush
    Yours was emboldened
    Defiant
    You strode harder
    We followed
    Made gains
    Ideas changed
    Laws changed
    A leather vest and buttons
    Your simple uniform
    Tireless hours on the phone
    Recruiting volunteers
    To help you hold
    Our banners
    For Freedom
    For Justice
    For Compassion
    For All.

    You leave us now
    With a Legacy
    Of Hope
    Fight for what’s Right
    And
    We will
    Prevail.

    If you want to learn more about Brenda Howard, Gilbert Baker, and the origins of Pride, check out our full list of sources and further reading below!

    Online Articles:

    Videos:

    Books and Print Articles:

    • Sewing the Rainbow by Gayle Pitman
    • Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders

    Until next time, stay queer and stay curious!

    Episode 10: Thigh Fencing and the Saffron Massage

    In this episode, cohosts Gretchen and Leigh will take you on a tour of medieval Arabo-Islamic erotic literature and the many delightful descriptions of queer female experience it contains. Remember way back in episode two when ‘thigh fencing’ came up? Well, that and other martial imagery for wlw sexual experience come from medieval Arabo-Islamic poetry! Like shield banging, jousting without a lance, or our new favorite---the saffron massage. Love stories of cross dressing heroines who marry women? Then you’ll love Princess Budur and her wife Hayat. We’ve got another word of the week focused on queer female self-description, medical explanations for wlw preferences, and the music of love (moaning). We’ll also chat about the Arabic Sappho and the first lesbian couple, Hind and al-Zarqa’!

    Just a warning, some of the images and poems are NSFW, so best read this at home.

    Arabic Erotica and Sex Manuals

    17th century, unknown Persian miniaturist depicts of sapphic women with a creative looking dildo. (thought we didn't have a lesbian emoji? surprise, now you do.)

    17th century, unknown Persian miniaturist depicts of sapphic women with a creative looking dildo. (thought we didn't have a lesbian emoji? surprise, now you do.)

    The Perfumed Garden

    Cover of Richard Francis Burton's 1886 translation of Muhammad al-Nafzawi's text.

    Cover of Richard Francis Burton's 1886 translation of Muhammad al-Nafzawi's text.

    In chapter 9 of The Perfumed Garden, one of the best known of the medieval Arabo-Islamic sex manuals, we get a long list of 'sundry names' for the vulva. The whole thing is both delightful and humorous, but we wanted to quote you this section on dreaming about seeing a vulva:

    The person who dreams of having seen the vulva, feurdj, of a woman will know that "if he is in trouble God will free him of it; if he is in a perplexity he will soon get out of it; and lastly if he is in poverty he will soon become wealthy, because feurdj, by transposing the vowels, will mean the deliverance from evil. By analogy, if he wants a thing he will get it; if he has debts, they will be paid."
    It is considered more lucky to dream of the vulva as open. But if the one seen belongs to a young virgin it indicates that the door of consolation will remain closed, and the thing which is desired is not obtainable. It is a proved fact that the man who sees in his dream the vulva of a virgin that has never been touched will certainly be involved in difficulties, and will not be lucky in his affairs. But if the vulva is open so that he can look well into it, or even if it is hidden but he is free to enter it, he will bring the most difficult tasks to a successful end after having first failed in them, and this after a short delay, by the help of a person whom he never thought of.

    Full text of Burton's translation of The Perfumed Garden is available here.

    The Tale of Qamar al-Zaman and Princess Budur: The Story That Keeps Getting Better

    Illustration of Princess Budur, done by Edmund Dulac, for the 1907 edition of  The Arabian Nights  for Hodder & Stoughton. 

    Illustration of Princess Budur, done by Edmund Dulac, for the 1907 edition of The Arabian Nights for Hodder & Stoughton. 

    We weren't able to find illustrations of Budur and Hayat, so here is one of Qamar and Budur from the 1958 Italian Young Readers book  Le Mille E Una Notte.  You can find more illustrations of this tale from this edition  here . 

    We weren't able to find illustrations of Budur and Hayat, so here is one of Qamar and Budur from the 1958 Italian Young Readers book Le Mille E Una Notte. You can find more illustrations of this tale from this edition here

    Illustration of Qamar and Budur from the 1915 edition of  More Tales from the Arabian Nights . 

    Illustration of Qamar and Budur from the 1915 edition of More Tales from the Arabian Nights

    This tale was Gretchen's absolute favorite discovery in researching for this episode. What an utterly delightful story! After recording the podcast, she found new articles on the story that discuss the gender flipping and sexuality of Budur and Qamar on another level, namely, that of Budur taking the dominant male role in a m/m interaction when she and her husband reunite. Budur even propositions Qamar---while disguised as a man---using gay poetry:

    My pintle is big and the little one said unto me,
    "Tilt boldly therewith at my inwards and quit thee thy need."
    Quoth I, "'Tis unlawful;" but he, "It is lawful with me;"
    So to it I fell, supporting myself by his rede.'
    --
    The penis smooth and round was made with anus best to match it,
    Had it been made for cunnus' sake it had been formed like a hatchet!

    Wow. (What we want to know is, where did Budur learn this, or is she just that good at making up gay poetry?) All that to say, there are even more layers to the story that mess with cisheteronormativity! This is the best story ever, and we honestly need an adaptation of it yesterday. Full text of "The Tale of Qamar al-Zaman and Princess Budur" can be found here and here

    If you want to learn more about queer women in the medieval Arabo-Islamic Literary Tradion, check out our full list of sources and further reading below!

    Books and Print Articles:

    • Sahar Amer, Crossing Borders: Love Between Women in Medieval French and Arabic Literatures
    • Sahar Amer, "Medieval Lesbians and Lesbian-Like Women" in Journal of the History of Sexuality (Vol 18, no 2, 2009).
    • Sahar Amer, "Cross Dressing and Female Same-Sex Marriage in Medieval French and Arabic Literature" in Islamicate Identities
    • Sahar Amer, "Lesbian Sex and the Military: From the Medieval Arabic Tradition to French Literature" in Same Sex Love and Desire Among Women in the Middle Ages
    • Fedwa Malti-Douglas, "Tribadism/Lesbianism and the Sexualized Body in Medieval Arabo-Islamic Narratives" in Same Sex Love and Desire Among Women in the Middle Ages
    • Samar Habib, Arabo-Islamic Texts on Female Homosexuality 850-1780 A.D.
    • Samar Habib, Female Homosexuality in the Middle East: Histories and Representations
    • Kathryn Babayan, "'In Spirit We Ate Each Other's Sorrow': Female Companionship in Seventeenth Century Safavi Iran" in Islamicate Identities
    • Stephen O. Murray "Woman-Woman Love in Islamic Society" in Islamic Homosexualities
    • As'ad AbuKhalil, "A Note on the Study of Homosexuality in the Arab/Islamic Civilization" in The Arab Studies Journal (Vol 1, no 2, 1993)

    Until next time, stay queer and stay curious!

    Episode 0.2: T'Ain't Nobody's Bizness: An Interview with Robert Philipson

    Holy Happy Pride, everyone, you get a bonus episode this month! This week Leigh sits down with Robert Philipson, producer and director of the documentary T’Aint Nobody’s Bizness: Queer Blues Divas of the 1920s, which we discussed in our episode Bulldaggers and Lady Lovers, about his process, the importance of telling queer stories and excavating lost history, his upcoming documentary project Mood Lavender which sheds light on more queers in the Harlem Renaissance, and maybe even a little sneaky surprise for you all.

    Image Courtesy of shogafilms.com

    Image Courtesy of shogafilms.com

    The poster for  T'Ain't Nobody's Bizness , image courtesy of shogafilms.com

    The poster for T'Ain't Nobody's Bizness, image courtesy of shogafilms.com

    The poster for  Congo Cabaret , image courtesy of shogafilms.com

    The poster for Congo Cabaret, image courtesy of shogafilms.com

     

    Where To Find Robert Online

    Until next time, stay queer and stay curious!

    Episode 9: Nazi Punks Fuck Off, Pt 2: Claude Cahun

    Claude Cahun's name might not be well known, but their work as an artist has been hugely influential in the lives of many Western pop culture icons (David Bowie, for example). But the line between life and art wasn't always so clear for Claude Cahun and their life partner Marcel Moore. Whether it was fucking with gender norms in self portraiture or fucking with Nazis during World War II, Claude never did things in a straightforward manner. We'll say it again, "Nazi punks, fuck off!" Now with surrealism!

    A Look at Claude Cahun

    Much of Claude's self-portraiture work with their life partner Marcel Moore dealt with challenging gender expectations and roles, and playing with the gaze and assumptions of the viewer. Check out some of these shots:

    Marcel and Claude

    Marcel and Claude

    007-claude-cahun-theredlist-783x1024.jpg
    Autoportrait , 1928 (courtesy of Jersey Heritage Collection)

    Autoportrait, 1928 (courtesy of Jersey Heritage Collection)

    Que Me Vuex Tu   (What Do you Want From Me),  1929

    Que Me Vuex Tu (What Do you Want From Me), 1929

    Autoportrait,  1927

    Autoportrait, 1927

    Self Portrait (as a dandy),  1921-1922

    Self Portrait (as a dandy), 1921-1922

    studies for a keepsake 1925 @musee d'arte moderne.jpeg
    Self portraits - Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore, left to right respectively. 

    Self portraits - Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore, left to right respectively. 

    This one is Leigh's favorite. They also desperately want that coat. 

    This one is Leigh's favorite. They also desperately want that coat. 

    self portrait as a young girl 1914 jersey heritage.jpg
    self portrait in cupboard 1932 jersey heritage.jpg
    How can you not immediately fall in love with the kooky weirdo walking their cat on a leash in the cemetery!!

    How can you not immediately fall in love with the kooky weirdo walking their cat on a leash in the cemetery!!

    Scan_20180529 (6).jpg
    Scan_20180529 (7).jpg
    I Am In Training Don't Kiss Me , 1927 (courtesy of Jersey Heritage Collection)

    I Am In Training Don't Kiss Me, 1927 (courtesy of Jersey Heritage Collection)

    Symbolist and Surrealist Art

    Not only did Cahun and Moore create a library of photo series, they also created other media of Symbolist and Surrealist art together-- from beautifully (and homoerotically) illustrated manuscripts and manifestos, photo-and-literary montage pieces, to surrealist sculptures and objects:

    Uranian Games  manuscript cover, 1916-1918

    Uranian Games manuscript cover, 1916-1918

    A spread from Views and Visions, Chapter 29, 'The Modern Night' and 'The Antique Light', 1919

    Aveux non avenus  (Disavowels) frontispiece, 1920-1930 (courtesy of Jersey Heritage Collection)

    Aveux non avenus (Disavowels) frontispiece, 1920-1930 (courtesy of Jersey Heritage Collection)

    More from  Disavowels

    More from Disavowels

    👀 Such vulvic imagery....

    👀 Such vulvic imagery....

    Nazi Fighting Badasses

    Later in their lives, during the Nazi occupation of France in WWII, Cahun and Moore moved to the isle of Jersey and began a misinformation propaganda campaign aimed at tanking morale of German troopsl. Adopting the persona of Der Soldat Ohne Namen (The Soldier Without a Name), they began leaving propaganda tracts and posters, resistance poems, and defaced Nazi posters all around town. 

    A propaganda tract from Cahun and Moore, 1942

    A propaganda tract from Cahun and Moore, 1942

    One of their rough designs for a tract that they ended up placing on oberleutenant w. zepernick's grave, 1943

    One of their rough designs for a tract that they ended up placing on oberleutenant w. zepernick's grave, 1943

    More leaflets of awesome resistance!

    More leaflets of awesome resistance!

    Signing as the soldier with no name

    Signing as the soldier with no name

    Cahun in the garden of La Rocquaise, posing as der Soldat ohne Namen

    Cahun in the garden of La Rocquaise, posing as der Soldat ohne Namen

    Arrest and Continued Resistance

    When Cahun and Moore were arrested by the Gestapo, it did not stop their resistance efforts, as they vowed to fight the Nazi horror to their very last breaths. 

    Marcel Moore's sketch of their prison cell, complete with the ventilation ducts that allowed a network of prisoners to secretly send messages to one another

    Marcel Moore's sketch of their prison cell, complete with the ventilation ducts that allowed a network of prisoners to secretly send messages to one another

    And we leave you with this, badass Claude Cahun after being released from prison, flipping the Nazis the "dirty bird" one last time. ICONIC HERO!

    And we leave you with this, badass Claude Cahun after being released from prison, flipping the Nazis the "dirty bird" one last time. ICONIC HERO!

     

    If you want to learn more about Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore, check out our full list of sources and further reading below!

    Online Articles:

    Books and Print Articles:

    • Exist Otherwise: The Life and Works of Claude Cahun by Jennifer L. Shaw
    • Disavowals by Claude Cahun
    • Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun: Behind the Mask, Another Mask by Sarah Howgate and Dawn Ades
    • Inverted Odysseys: Claude Cahun, Maya Deren, Cindy Sherman by Shelley Rice

    Until next time, stay queer and stay curious!

    Episode 8: Nazi Punks Fuck Off, Pt 1: Magnus Hirschfeld

    In this first part of a two-part series (so far!) of episodes dedicated to badass queer nazi fighters from our history, we dove into the fascinating life of Doctor Magnus Hirschfeld, the so-called "Einstein of sex." His approach to sexuality, gender, and race was decades ahead of the likes of Alfred Kinsey and Harry Benjamin, and who knows where society would be had his research not been destroyed. So come join us as we say, "Nazi punks, fuck off!" 

    A Look at Magnus Hirschfeld

    The einstein of sex, and such a snappy dresser, too!

    The einstein of sex, and such a snappy dresser, too!

    Dat gay book nerd life, yo. we get it, magnus. same.

    Dat gay book nerd life, yo. we get it, magnus. same.

    Some clips from Hirschfeld's 1919 film "Anders als die Andern (Different from the Others)":

    Hirschfeld with two "Cross-dressers" (as they are labeled in this photo by the new yorker) outside the institute of sex

    Hirschfeld with two "Cross-dressers" (as they are labeled in this photo by the new yorker) outside the institute of sex

    lili elbe and her nurse, after lili's successful srs surgery at hirschfeld's institute of sex

    lili elbe and her nurse, after lili's successful srs surgery at hirschfeld's institute of sex

    A 1907 political cartoon depicting Hirschfeld as ‘Hero of the Day,’ drumming up support for the abolition of Paragraph 175 of the German penal code that criminalized homosexuality. The banner reads, ‘Away with Paragraph 175!’ The caption reads, ‘The foremost champion of the third sex!’ – US Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archives

    A 1907 political cartoon depicting Hirschfeld as ‘Hero of the Day,’ drumming up support for the abolition of Paragraph 175 of the German penal code that criminalized homosexuality. The banner reads, ‘Away with Paragraph 175!’ The caption reads, ‘The foremost champion of the third sex!’ –US Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archives

    Rise of the Third Reich and the destruction of Hirschfeld's research, personal library, and the legacy of the Institute of Sex

    Nazis ransacking hirschfeld's personal library of materials

    Nazis ransacking hirschfeld's personal library of materials

    One of the most absolutely frustrating things we knew going in to this, and becoming even more infuriated by as we researched, is that not only did the Nazis burn and destroy nearly all of the research, papers, libraries, and tangible knowledge and work done and discovered by the Institute of Sex, but that we've all seen evidence of it happening under our noses for many many years. 

    If you have ever learned anything about the Holocaust in a class, or seen a film, featuring newsreel footage or photos of the Nazi book burnings, you have seen this scene or shot below. And we'd be willing to bet: you were never told that this footage is of Nazi stormtroopers destroying the sexology research on homosexuality, gender identity, and human behavior by Magnus Hirschfeld, were you? Even the context of theliteral act of destruction of our history has been lost, glossed over, erased. We were burned and destroyed, and never even taught about it.

    1933-may-10-berlin-book-burning.JPG
    The pink triangle, a symbol which originated with hate and ostracization, marking our community in victimhood, now reclaimed. We think magnus hirschfeld would be proud. 

    The pink triangle, a symbol which originated with hate and ostracization, marking our community in victimhood, now reclaimed. We think magnus hirschfeld would be proud. 

    If you want to learn more about Magnus Hirschfeld, check out our full list of sources and further reading below!

    Online Articles:

    Books and Print Articles:

    • Heike Baur, The Hirschfeld Archives: Violence, Death, and Modern Queer Culture
    • Robert Beachy, Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity
    • Ralf Dose, Magnus Hirschfeld: The Origins of the Gay Liberation Movement
    • Charlotte Wolff, Magnus Hirschfeld: A Portrait of a Pioneer in Sexology
    • Kate Fisher and Jana Funke, “Let Us Leave the Hospital; Let Us Go on a Journey around the World”: British And German Sexual Science And The Global Search For Sexual Variation in A Global History of Sexual Science, 1880–1960
    • Not Straight From Germany: Sexual Publics and Sexual Citizenship since Magnus Hirschfeld, edited by Michael Thomas Taylor, Annette F. Timm, and Rainer Herrn
    • Jane Caplan, “The Administration of Gender Identity in Nazi Germany” in History Workshop Journal vol. 72 (2011).
    • Katie Sutton, “"We Too Deserve a Place in the Sun": The Politics of Transvestite Identity in Weimar Germany” in German Studies Review vol. 35 (2012).
    • Helga Thorson, “Masking/Unmasking Identity in Early Twentieth-Century Germany: The Importance of N.O. Body” in Women in German Yearbook, vol. 25 (2009).
    • Erwin J. Haeberle, “Swastika, Pink Triangle and Yellow Star: The Destruction of Sexology and the Persecution of Homosexuals in Nazi Germany” in The Journal of Sex Research vol. 17 no. 3 (1981).
    • Erwin J. Haeberle, “The Jewish Contribution to the Development of Sexology” in The Journal of Sex Research vol. 18 no. 4 (1982).

    Videos:

    Until next time, stay queer and stay curious!

    Episode 0.1: Queer, There, and Everywhere

    Welcome to a special first here in History is gay: our first ever minisode! As Gretchen has been busy traveling this month, she and  Leigh are filling in with a special guest interview with Sarah Prager, author of Queer, There, and Everywhere, creator of the Queer history app Quist, and queer history public speaker. If you love queer folk from history and learning fun, daily facts about queer history, then this interview should be right up your alley! Join us as we discuss Sarah's book, her love of queer history, future projects, and even a potential collaboration on a future History is Gay episode. Gay History nerds ftw!

    Image Courtesy of sarahprager.com

    Image Courtesy of sarahprager.com

    Where To Find Sarah Online

    Until next time, stay queer and stay curious!