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 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 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 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 6: 3 Genders in Ancient Egypt? It's More Likely Than you Think

    In today’s episode, cohosts Leigh and Gretchen head way back in time to Ancient Egypt. That’s right, get ready to walk like an Egyptian! Take a tour through Egyptian mythology to discuss Atum as both male and female, Set’s interactions with Horus, Nephthys’ spending all her time with Isis, Hapi’s non-binary gender presentation, and what Set and Nephthys imply about Egypt having a concept of third gender. Plus, the dancing woman mummy, gender transformation in burial, the gender presentation of women pharaohs like Hatshepsut, and Gretchen’s favorite gay Egyptian tomb! You’ll see why having 3 genders in Ancient Egypt is more likely than people think!  

    A Look at Our Mythological Cast of Deities

     Atum, the original deity with both male and female aspects. 

    Atum, the original deity with both male and female aspects. 

     Set (Left) and Horus (Right) bind the plants of Egypt ( Source ). 

    Set (Left) and Horus (Right) bind the plants of Egypt (Source). 

     Nephthys (Left) and Isis (Right) guard the body of Osiris ( Source ).

    Nephthys (Left) and Isis (Right) guard the body of Osiris (Source).

     Hapi, God of the Nile, depicted as having both male and female presentation.

    Hapi, God of the Nile, depicted as having both male and female presentation.

    A Closer Look at Non-Cisheteronormative Gender Presentation in Ancient Egypt

    Akhenaten (18th Dynasty, either 1353-1336 BCE or 1351-1334 BCE)

     Akhenaten (right) was frequently depicted similarly to Hapi as having breasts and a large belly. Compare his body with that of his wife Nefertiti (left).

    Akhenaten (right) was frequently depicted similarly to Hapi as having breasts and a large belly. Compare his body with that of his wife Nefertiti (left).

    Hatshepsut (18th Dynasty, 1478–1458 BC)

     Note the pharaonic headdress and naked torso, both typically masculine symbols.

    Note the pharaonic headdress and naked torso, both typically masculine symbols.

     Hatshepsut with her fake beard!

    Hatshepsut with her fake beard!

     In this statue, hatshepsut lacks a beard but sports the royal cobra, headdress, and the crook and flail. 

    In this statue, hatshepsut lacks a beard but sports the royal cobra, headdress, and the crook and flail. 

    Sobekneferu (12th Dynasty, 1806–1802 BCE)

     ONce again, the royal headdress and naked torso of the pharoahs on a woman who ruled as Pharaoh.

    ONce again, the royal headdress and naked torso of the pharoahs on a woman who ruled as Pharaoh.

     Bust of Sobekneferu with loincloth and royal headdress visible.

    Bust of Sobekneferu with loincloth and royal headdress visible.

    The "Dancing Woman" Mummy (2nd Century CE)

     Above view of the dancing woman mummy, where you can see visible breasts and stylized costume, likely for dancing. ( Source )

    Above view of the dancing woman mummy, where you can see visible breasts and stylized costume, likely for dancing. (Source)

     CLose up of the Dancing Woman's face, with visible beard. ( Source )

    CLose up of the Dancing Woman's face, with visible beard. (Source)

    Niankhknnum and Knhumhotep (5th Dynasty, ca 25th Century BCE)

     Image from the Tomb showing the family procession. 

    Image from the Tomb showing the family procession. 

     Niankhkhnum (Left) and Khnumhotep (Right) embracing on the walls of their tomb. 

    Niankhkhnum (Left) and Khnumhotep (Right) embracing on the walls of their tomb. 

     Close up of Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep nose kissing, one of the most intimate positions two people could have in Egyptian iconography.

    Close up of Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep nose kissing, one of the most intimate positions two people could have in Egyptian iconography.

     Image of the Jackals? Hyenas? getting it on in the hunting scene from the walls of the tomb. 

    Image of the Jackals? Hyenas? getting it on in the hunting scene from the walls of the tomb. 

    Online Articles:

    Books:

    • Ancient Bodies, Ancient Lives: Sex, Gender, and Archaeology by Rosemary A. Joyce
    • Sex and Society in Graeco-Roman Egypt by Dominic Montserrat

    Until next time, stay queer and stay curious!

    Episode 5: Stars from a Bi-Gone Era

    In this very special episode, hosts Leigh & Gretchen travel to the red carpet and the silver screen to hear stories about queer actors from the golden age of Hollywood. Along for the ride is a room full of queer women who came to listen to the podcast being recorded live at TGIFemslash, a convention dedicated to the queer ladies of media, the ladies who love them, and the fans who love them. Join us and a room full of big gay nerds as we discuss the early years of film and the sexploits of the rich and famous! Who was gay for pay? Who was Hollywood’s favorite lesbian? Who wore violets on the crotch of her dress to advertise her queerness? Tune in to find out, plus listen to our friends at TGIFemslash discuss their favorite queermos from history!

     Your totally gay and totally nerdy hosts wearing their matching Sappho "Our Lady of Lesbos & Poetry" gear that they totally didn't just buy for the express purpose of showing them off in their panel nope

    Your totally gay and totally nerdy hosts wearing their matching Sappho "Our Lady of Lesbos & Poetry" gear that they totally didn't just buy for the express purpose of showing them off in their panel nope

     

    Special Shoutout

    Special thanks are due to Beth Hommel, our friend and fellow attendee of TGIFemslash. Beth generously offered to help us out by designing and ordering T-shirt samples that we both wore and sold at TGIFemslash. She's an amazing and gifted designer of nerdy queer swag, so check out her store on Etsy: Glorious Wierdo

     Beth did such a great job with our shirts! Our tagline is on the back and everything!

    Beth did such a great job with our shirts! Our tagline is on the back and everything!

    And that means...we're going to have merch soon! Stay tuned for details about pins, magnets, shirts and more from your local big gay nerds at History is Gay podcast!

    Our Cast of Stars for Silver Screen Sexploits

    As people were coming into the room for our panel at TGIFemslash we had them play a game called "Silver Screen Sexploits." We had images of ten silver screen actors up on the wall; people were each given the same set of ten facts about these actors and asked to guess which fact went with which actor. Below are the actors, the facts, and some fun stats about the guesses people made!

    Clark Gable

    Clark Gable.jpg

    The Fact:

    "Was allegedly “gay for pay” and for career advancement. Had a string of older clients who paid their bills and helped them get jobs, but cheated on them constantly. Had close, personal, possibly sexual relationships with several openly queer actors."

    Number of correct guesses: 2

    Fact most frequently assigned to them:

    "A quintessential sex symbol, this actor had strong preferences for partners of the same gender and is rumored to have had affairs with two of the actors on this list. Claimed one of their partners “had a gigantic orgasm and shrieked like a maniac” but then turned spiteful when the actor turned them down after being asked for another round."---6 guesses

    Cary Grant

    Cary Grant.jpg

    The Fact: 

    “Married 5 times and had 1 daughter. Lived with a fellow actor for 12 years and then with a different actor later in life. Prior to becoming famous, dated a fashion designer on and off for 9 years.”

    Number of correct guesses: 1

    Fact most frequently assigned to them: 

    “One lover described sex with them as ‘pleasant, unhurried, gentle. There was what I can only refer to as a kind of refinement about it. It was erotic, tantalizing, fulfilling. High class stuff all the way.’”---5 guesses

    Marlene Dietrich

    Marlene Dietrich 2.jpg

    The Fact:

    “Came of age in post-war Berlin where the LGBT culture thrived and came to the US with a more open view of sexuality. At the premiere of a film, this actor walked on stage with a bunch of violets pinned to their crotch, a symbol of homosexuality in Germany. Was married but had several passionate gay affairs, one with another actor on this list!”

    Number of correct guesses: 17

    Fact most frequently assigned to them: 

    The right one!  In fact, everyone who played got her right!

    Greta Garbo

    Greta Garbo.jpg

    The Fact: 

    “For a time in the 1920s, they lived openly with a partner of a different gender; later, they conducted their relationship with a playwright and poet of the same gender with similar directness and lack of pretense. The poet was a ‘best friend’ and lived with this actor for 30 years. Called their love affairs with same gender partners ‘exciting secrets.’”

    Number of correct guesses: 6

    Fact most frequently assigned to them: 

    The right one!

    Katharine Hepburn

    Katharine Hepburn.jpg

    The Fact: 

    “25 year relationship with differently gendered acting co-star was more about friendship than romance or sex, and their public relationship was likely a publicity stunt by studios as both of them were gay. Was allegedly set up by known Hollywood pimp Scotty Bowers with 150 sexual partners of the same gender. Had a particular attraction for one partner, whom they saw off and on for 49 years.”

    Number of correct guesses: 8

    Fact most frequently assigned to them: 

    The right one!

    Marilyn Monroe

    Marilyn Monroe.jpeg

    The Fact:

    “A quintessential sex symbol, this actor had strong preferences for partners of the same gender and is rumored to have had affairs with two of the actors on this list. Claimed one of their partners “had a gigantic orgasm and shrieked like a maniac” but then turned spiteful when the actor turned them down after being asked for another round.”

    Number of correct guesses: 7

    Fact most frequently assigned to them: 

    The right one!

    Marlon Brando

    marlon-brando.jpg

    The Fact: 

    “Had multiple affairs with famous actors in Hollywood and once told a French journalist, ‘Homosexuality is so much in fashion, it no longer makes news. Like a large number of [actors], I, too, have had homosexual experiences, and I am not ashamed. I have never paid much attention to what people think about me.”

    Number of correct guesses: 3

    Fact most frequently assigned to them: 

    "Was allegedly “gay for pay” and for career advancement. Had a string of older clients who paid their bills and helped them get jobs, but cheated on them constantly. Had close, personal, possibly sexual relationships with several openly queer actors."---8 guesses

    Vincent Price

    Vincent Price.jpg

    The Fact: 

    “One lover described sex with them as ‘pleasant, unhurried, gentle. There was what I can only refer to as a kind of refinement about it. It was erotic, tantalizing, fulfilling. High class stuff all the way.’”

    Number of correct guesses: 0

    Fact most frequently assigned to them: 

    "Was allegedly “gay for pay” and for career advancement. Had a string of older clients who paid their bills and helped them get jobs, but cheated on them constantly. Had close, personal, possibly sexual relationships with several openly queer actors."---5 guesses

    Raymond Burr

    Raymond Burr.jpg

    The Fact:

    “Was married to an opposite gender partner once but it only lasted a couple months. Met a same gender actor on the set of an iconic TV show in 1960 and they remained together until 1993, when our famous queer actor died. The fellow actor is often named as a “business partner” and still owns and operates the joint vineyard they founded together in Sonoma.”

    Number of correct guesses: 8

    Fact most frequently assigned to them: 

    The right one!

    Joan Crawford

    Joan Crawford.JPG

    The Fact: 

    “Known for having an “insatiable appetite for sex with men and women,” who may even have slept their way into becoming a screen legend. Also linked with another actor on this list!”

    Number of correct guesses: 0

    Fact most frequently assigned to them: 

    “Married 5 times and had 1 daughter. Lived with a fellow actor for 12 years and then with a different actor later in life. Prior to becoming famous, dated a fashion designer on and off for 9 years.”---8 times

     

    How do we know about these folks?

     Bowers (center), at a party in Hollywood during the 40s. Image courtesy of Altimeter Films.

    Bowers (center), at a party in Hollywood during the 40s. Image courtesy of Altimeter Films.

    Most of the stories that we discussed came from one guy: Scotty Bowers, a Hollywood pimp of the queer silver screen actors of the 1940s and beyond. He was also associated with Alfred Kinsey in his famous study of human sexuality in the 1950s by providing many of the interview subjects.

    A former marine, Bowers kept quiet for many years about these stories, as he did not want to adversely affect the lives of any of the actors who were still around. Many of the stories were actively hushed up using fixers paid by the studios at the time, and several of the actors were in "lavender marriages"---marriages arranged by the studio, frequently with another queer actor. At the time, studios especially would not have wanted the queer attractions of their headlining actors to be widely known, as that would have damaged the 'wholesome family image' of many of the films they wanted to market.

    After all of the actors died, Bowers finally decided that his experiences and stories couldn't harm their image or beloved status---plus the world was a more open place to queer attraction---so he wrote about it. His memoir, Full Service, records many of the tidbits that we talked about. What makes his book so special is his refusal to be embarrassed by sex, meaning that he handles these stories with a distinct lack of judgment. Good job, dude! 

    If you want to learn more about these folks, as well as other queer silver screen stars, check out our full list of sources and further reading below!

    Online Articles:

    Books:

    • Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Live of the Stars by Scotty Bowers
    • James Dean: Tomorrow Never Comes by Darwin Porter and Damforth Prince
    • Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood by William J. Mann
    • Clark Gable: Tormented Star by David Bret
    • Kate: The Woman Who Was Katharine Hepburn by William J. Mann
    • The Fixers: Eddie Mannix, Howard Strickling And The MGM Publicity Machine by EJ Flemming

    Until next time, stay queer and stay curious!

    Episode 2: Cloistered Queers

    This week, we talked a lot about medieval views of sex and sexuality, including the practice of brother-making that very likely had a romantic component to it, if not a sexual one as well. It was a pretty context heavy episode, but all that set the stage our large cast of love poem/love letter writing, highly suggestive mystical vision having monks and nuns: Alcuin, St. Anselm of Canterbury, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, Baudri of Bourgeuil, Aelred of Rievaulx, Benedetta Carlini, and other monks and nuns with 'special friendships' with each other. Tender words caressing little breasts making you want to die? Licking inmost parts? Quoting gay Greek mythology in love letters? Arm-sized dildos? Visions of the wound in Jesus' side that sound remarkably like a vulva? Jesus and John being married? These monks and nuns were definitely not as straight as people think.  

    How do we know about these folks?

    As we mentioned in the episode, a lot of our information about the individual people comes from love letters and poems written from one monk or nun to another. While some have been lost due to history or religious purges, we still have some pretty awesome letters lying around. We quoted from a few in our episode, but there are so many more and they're too good and too gay not to share in full.

    Oh, and make sure you check out Humon's Tumblr comic about monastic views of sex and sexuality. It's accurate and adorable.

    Alcuin to Arno of Salzberg (c. late 700s)

     Carolingian manuscript, c. 831 with Rabanus Maurus (left) and Alcuin (middle), dedicating his work to Archbishop Odgar of Mainz (right).

    Carolingian manuscript, c. 831 with Rabanus Maurus (left) and Alcuin (middle), dedicating his work to Archbishop Odgar of Mainz (right).

    Love has penetrated my heart with its flame,
    And is ever rekindled with new warmth.
    Neither sea nor land, hills nor forest, nor even the Alps
    Can stand in its way or hinder it
    From always licking at your inmost parts, good father,
    Or from bathing your heart, my beloved, with tears.
    Sweet love, why do you inspire bitter tears,
    Why do bitter draughts flow from devotion's honey:
    If now your sweetness, world, is mixed with bitterness,
    All prosperity will alternate rapidly with misfortune,
    All joys be changed to sad lamentation;
    Nothing lasts, anything can perish.
    Therefore, world, let us flee from you with all our hearts,
    As you, ready even now to perish, flee from us.
    Let us seek the delights and ever-enduring realms
    Of heaven with your whole heart, mind, and hand.
    The blessed hall of heaven never separates friends;
    A heart warmed by love always has what it loves.
    Therefore, father, abduct me with your prayers, I beg you;
    Then our love will never be estranged.
    Look with joy and with a gladdening heart, I pray,
    At these little offerings which great love sends you,
    For our gentle Master praised the two copper coins
    The needy widow put into the temple's treasury.
    Sacred love is better than any gift,
    And so is steadfast faithfulness which flourishes and endures.
    May divine gifts follow you, dearest father
    And at the same time precede you. Always and everywhere farewell.

    (Source, includes other love letters)

    Anselm, to Gilbert (c. 1077/78)

     Illumination of Anselm from his manuscript of  meditations

    Illumination of Anselm from his manuscript of meditations

     

    Brother Anselm to Dom Gilbert, brother, friend, beloved lover

                . . . sweet to me, sweetest friend, are the gifts of your sweetness, but they cannot begin to console my desolate heart for its want of your love. Even if you sent every scent of perfume, every glitter of metal, every precious gem, every texture of cloth, still it could not make up to my soul for this separation unless it returned the separated other half.

              The anguish of my heart just thinking about this bears witness, as do the tears dimming my eyes and wetting my face and the fingers writing this.

              You recognized, as I do now, my love for you, but I did not. Our separation from each other has shown me how much I loved you; a man does not in fact have knowledge of good and evil unless he has experienced both. Not having experienced your absence, I did not realize how sweet it was to be with you and how bitter to be without you.

              But you have gained from our very separation the company of someone else, whom you love no less – or even more – than me; while I have lost you, and there is no one to take your place. You are thus enjoying your consolation, while nothing is left to me but heartbreak.

    (Source, including more of Anselm's love letters)

    Boudri of Bourgeuil to Walter (c. early 1100s)

    May an exchange of letters always unite us while we are apart,
    And may this letter now bring me into your presence.
    Let my letter now greet you, repeat my greetings,
    And repeat them a third time to please you even more.

    Lately I received a sweet poem from Walter
    Which, since you wrote it, has touched your hand.
    I received it with the
    honor it deserves
    And immediately called you to mind with my love.
    Now my poem gladly returns your visit,
    And I pray that you cherish me with your love.
    If you wish to take up lodging with me,
    I will divide my heart and breast with you.
    I will share with you anything of mine that can be divided;
    If you command it, I will share my very soul.
    You will be lodged completely within my breast
    And will continue
    as the greatest part of my soul.
    Meanwhile I will humbly pray for good fortune
    Until conversation
    revive us.
    A different garment – if you haven't considered it – would bring that about:
    The name of monk would make such conversation endure forever.
    So that you could long enjoy our true love,
    Another life would change your visits,
    Whether the love of God or fear of punishment or both
    Commend monastic life to you.
    In case you decide to come to us as such,
    I have ordered our men to accompany you.
    And if
    rumor has told you that I am about to visit you,
    That hangs in doubt – it might be possible or it might not.
    For now, therefore, hurry; "Procrastination harms the ready."
    Anticipate tomorrow; do what you should today.

    (Source, includes other love poems)

    Bavarian Nun Love Poems (c. 1100s)

    The first letter, which we read in the episode:

    I am weighed down with grief,
    For I find nothing
    I would compare to your love,
    Which was sweeter than milk and honey,
    And by
    comparison to which the gleam of gold and silver seems tawdry….it is you alone I have chosen for my heart...
    I love you above all else,
    You alone are my love and desire…
    Like a turtledove who has lost her mate
    And stands forever on the barren branch,
    So I grieve ceaselessly
    Until I enjoy your love again

    And the second letter, in its full, entirely gay entirety:

    To G., her singular rose,
    From A.---the bonds of precious love.
    What is my strength, that I should bear it,
    That I should have patience in your absence?
    Is my strength the strength of stones,
    That I should await your return?
    I, who grieve ceaselessly day and night
    Like someone who has lost a hand or a foot?
    Everything pleasant and delightful
    Without you seems like mud underfoot.
    I shed tears as I used to smile,
    And my heart is never glad.
    When I recall the kisses you gave me,
    And how with tender words you caressed my little breasts,
    I want to die
    Because I cannot see you.
    What can I, so wretched, do?
    Where can I, so miserable, turn?
    If only my body could be entrusted to the earth
    Until your longed-for return;
    Or if passage could be granted to me as it was to Habakkuk,
    So that I might come there just once
    To gaze on my beloved’s face--
    Then I should not care if it were the hour of death
    For no one has been born into the world
    So lovely and full of grace,
    Or who so honestly
    And with such deep affection loves me.
    I shall therefore not cease to grieve
    Until I deserve to see you again
    Well has a wise man said that it is a great sorrow for a man to be without
                that
    Without which he cannot live.
    As long as the world stands
    You shall never be removed from the core
    of  my being.
    What more can I say?
    Come home, sweet love!
    Prolong your trip no longer;
    Know that I can bear your absence no longer.
    Farewell.
    Remember me.

    (From John Boswell's Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality)

    Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (c. late 1600s)

     Sor Juana's book  A Celebration of and Posthumous Works by the phoenix of Mexico and Tenth Muse, the Mexican poet, Sor Juana Inés De La Cruz

    Sor Juana's book A Celebration of and Posthumous Works by the phoenix of Mexico and Tenth Muse, the Mexican poet, Sor Juana Inés De La Cruz

    A luminary Mexican nun who was an early champion for women's rights to education, her letters to Vicereine Maria Luisa de la Paredes of New Spain: 

    But, [Maria Luisa], why go on?
    For yourself alone I love you.
    Considering your merits,
    what more is there to say?
    That you’re a woman far away
     is no hindrance to my love:
     for the soul, as you well know,
     distance and sex don’t count

     Can you wonder my love sought you out?
     Why need I stress that I’m true,
     when every one of your features
     betokens my enslavement?

    Another poem, entitled "My Lady": 

    I love you with so much passion,
    neither rudeness nor neglect
    can explain why I tied my tongue,
    yet left my heart unchecked.

    The matter for me was simple;
    love for you was so strong,
    I could see you in my soul
    and talk to you all day long.

    How unwisely my ardent love,
    which your glorious sun inflamed,
    sought to feed upon your brightness,
    though the risk of your fire was plain!

    Let my love be ever doomed
    if guilty
    in its intent,
    for loving you is a crime
    of which I will never repent.


    And yet another, "Don't Go, My Darling", in what seems like the most dramatic post-breakup "fuck you wait no don't leave me" to exist:

    Don’t go, my darling, I don’t want this to end yet.
    This sweet fiction is all I have.
    Hold me so I’ll die happy,
    thankful for your lies.

    My breasts answer yours
    magnet to magnet
    Why make love to me, then leave?
    Why mock me?

    Dont brag about your conquest--
    I’m not your trophy.
    Go ahead: reject these arms.

    That wrapped you in sumptuous silk.
    Try to escape my arms, my breasts--
    I’ll keep you prisoner in my poem.

    (Source, from Leila J. Rupp's Sapphistries: A Global History of Love Between Women)

    Hildegard of Bingen (c.1098-1179)

     St. Hildegard of Bingen and Her Assistant Richardis” by Lewis Williams

    St. Hildegard of Bingen and Her Assistant Richardis” by Lewis Williams

     

     German nun, mystic, poet, healer, and scientist who fell in love with her sister nun, Richardis von Sade, wrote in homoerotic ecstacy about the Virgin Mary, and in a case of "she who doth protests too much", wrote a series of morality plays arguing against the love between women, yet FULL OF THEM and waxing poetic on the divine nature of femininity. SHRUG. 

    From one of Hildegard's letters to Richardis, begging her to return to be with her instead of her position as an abbess at a far-away convent:

    Now, again I say: Woe is me, mother, woe is me, daughter, “Why have you forsaken me” (Ps 21.2; Matt 27.46; Mark 15.34) like an orphan?  I so loved the nobility of your character, your wisdom, your chastity, your spirit, and indeed every aspect of your life that many people have said to me: What are you doing?

    Now, let all who have grief like mine mourn with me, all who, in the love of God, have had such great love in their hearts and minds for a person- as I had for you- but who was snatched away from them in an instant, as you were from me.  But, all the same, may the angel of God go before you, may the Son of God protect you, and may his mother watch over you.  Be mindful of your poor desolate mother, Hildegard, so that your happiness may not fade.

    (From Selected Writings of Hildegard of Bingen)

    From her writings on the marriage to God as a union between souls alike two lovers:

    Creation looks on its Creator like the beloved looks on the lover.
    The soul is kissed by God in its innermost regions.
    With interior yearning, grace and blessing are bestowed.
    It is a yearning to take on God’s gentle yoke,
    It is a yearning to give one’s self to God’s Way.

    She also wrote "Symphonia", a collection of songs devoted to the Virgin Mary, extoling her love and passion for the holy mother, calling her "the greenest twig" and praising her womb as the creator of all things. 

     "The Universe" by hildegard of bingen. uh huh okay hildegard that doesn't look like anything we've seen before sure

    "The Universe" by hildegard of bingen. uh huh okay hildegard that doesn't look like anything we've seen before sure

    She was also fascinated by women's health, and her medical writings were perhaps the first to ever describe the female orgasm: 

    When a woman is making love with a man, a sense of heat in her brain, which brings with it sensual delight, communicates the taste of that delight during the act and summons forth the emission of the man’s seed. And when the seed has fallen into its place, that vehement heat descending from her brain draws the seed to itself and holds it, and soon the woman’s sexual organs contract, and all the parts that are ready to open up during the time of menstruation now close, in the same way as a strong man can hold something enclosed in his fist.

    HOLY WOW, HILDEGARD. 

    Some other images of our cast of queerios:

    Aelred of Rievaulx - 1110-1167, Cistercian monk and abbot of Rievaulx

     Illumination of Aelred from his manuscript, "The MIrror of Charity."

    Illumination of Aelred from his manuscript, "The MIrror of Charity."

    Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz - c. 1651-1695, Hieronymite nun, poet, philosopher, and self-taught scholar

     Portrait of Sor Juana by Miguel Cabrera, c. 1750.

    Portrait of Sor Juana by Miguel Cabrera, c. 1750.

    Jesus' Side Wound, aka That Sweet Side Pussy

     Jesus' wound and Jesus as 'man of sorrows' in manuscript from france c. 1375.

    Jesus' wound and Jesus as 'man of sorrows' in manuscript from france c. 1375.

     Wound of Christ in Psalter and Prayer book of Bonne de Luxembourg, 1345.

    Wound of Christ in Psalter and Prayer book of Bonne de Luxembourg, 1345.

     Side Wound from a Book of Hours from England and the Netherlands, 1410.

    Side Wound from a Book of Hours from England and the Netherlands, 1410.

     From a nun's prayer book made in Southern France between 1275 and 1300, Christ displaying the wound in his side to a nun in prayer, historiating the initial D(omine) of the Hours of the Passion (  D omine labia mea aperies , O Lord open thou my lips). 

    From a nun's prayer book made in Southern France between 1275 and 1300, Christ displaying the wound in his side to a nun in prayer, historiating the initial D(omine) of the Hours of the Passion (Domine labia mea aperies, O Lord open thou my lips). 

    Interestingly enough, the discussion regarding the erotic nature and treatment of Christ's side-wound extends even to some of our monk friends, including Aelred of Rievaulx, of whom we spoke! His meditation for his sister on what she should do in thinking of the moment Christ received the wound from the spear piercing his side: 

    Then one of the soldiers opened his side with a lance and there came forth blood and water. Hasten, linger not, eat the honeycomb with your honey, drink your wine with your milk. The blood is changed into wine to gladden you, the water into milk to nourish you. From the rock streams have flowed for you, wounds have been made in his limbs, holes in the wall of his body, in which, like a dove, you may hide while you kiss them one by one. Your lips, stained with his blood, will become like a scarlet ribbon and your word sweet.

    In this, he is referencing The Song of Songs, one of the most erotic spiritual texts in which a groom says to his bride:

    My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hollow places of the wall, show me thy face, let thy voice sound in my ears: for thy voice is sweet, and thy face comely...  (2:14)
    Thy lips are
    as a scarlet ribbon: and thy speech sweet... (4:3)
    Thou hast wounded my heart, my sister, my bride, thou hast wounded my heart with one of thy eyes... (4:9)
    Thy lips, my bride, are as a dropping honeycomb, honey and milk are under thy tongue... (4:11)
    I am come into my garden, O my sister, my bride, I have gathered my myrrh with my
    aromatical spices: I have eaten the honeycomb with my honey, I have drunk my wine with my milk... (5:1) 

    Who's the bride and who's the groom when it comes to Aelred speaking to his sister of Christ? Hmm?

    Other folks we didn't get a chance to dive into during the episode due to time constraints but you should look up (part 2, anyone?):

    "Gay" Monks & love letters:

    Walafrid Strabo (c. 808-849)
    Marbod of Rennes (c. 1035-1123)
    Notker Balbulus (c. 840-912)
    Salamo III, bishop of Constance (c. 860-920) and Waldo
    Egbert and St. Boniface (letters c. 716-20)
    Abbot Bernard of Clairvaux (c.1090-1153) and his friend Archbishop Malacy of Armagh)

    Mystic/religious women & homoeroticism in medieval texts:

    Hadewijch (d. 1248),  who wrote poems to her beguine sister Sara and wrote on God as the female personification of love
    Bieris de Romans
    Julie D'Aubigny (c.1673-1707, who will get her own episode!)

    If you want to learn more about these folks, as well as the history of medieval sex, sexuality, and cloistered communities, check out our full list of sources and further reading below!

    Online Articles:

    Books:

    • Boswell, John. Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe
    • Boswell, John. Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality
    • Brown, Judith. Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy
    • Krueger, Derek. “Between Monks: Tales of Monastic Companionship in Early Byzantium” in Journal of the HIstory of Sexuality #20 (2011): 28-61.
    • Rupp, Leila J. Sapphistries: A Global History of Love Between Women
    • Rictor Norton, My Dear Boy: Gay Love Letters through the Centuries (Full Text available online)
    • Hildegard of Bingen, Selected Writings

    If you like cloistered queers, you might also like...

    • Alicia Gaspar de Alba’s novel Sor Juana’s Second Dream, which was then adapted into a play, “The Nun and the Countess” by Odalys Nanin
    • 1990 film, I, the Worst of All (Yo, la peor de todas), won Argentina’s Academy Award entry for Best Foreign Language Film. 
    • Netflix series “Juana Ines”, 2016 produced in Mexico
    • 2009 film from German feminist director Margarethe von Trotta called Vision: From the Life of Hildegard von Bingen
    • Lesbian playwright Carolyn Gage's play "Artemisia and Hildegard"
     Illumination from the Passional of Abbess kunigunde of bohemia. 

    Illumination from the Passional of Abbess kunigunde of bohemia. 

    Until next time, stay queer and stay curious!