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 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 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 4: Bulldaggers & Lady Lovers: The Bisexual & Lesbian Blues Legends

    On this week’s episode, we discussed the black lesbian and gay subculture in the Harlem Renaissance throughout the 1920s and 1930s in New York. From growing up in poverty to traveling minstrel stars and eventually into nationally renowned recording artists, blues legends like Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Gladys Bentley infused their music with sexuality and reality, hinting at the queer atmosphere of Harlem nightlife that included wild parties, flowing booze, and romps on the road. Many of them were known for their explicit or otherwise 'scandalous' lyrics that were full of innuendo and subtle (or not so subtle!) allusions to queer life and love. Plus, now we have a new lady to add to our Anne Bonny/Lizzie Borden ship: Bessie Smith!

    Some Looks at our Queermos

    Gertrude "Ma" Rainey

     She's been described as 'ugly' but we think that's bullshit. She's gorgeous. ( source )

    She's been described as 'ugly' but we think that's bullshit. She's gorgeous. (source)

     The infamous "Prove it on me BLues" ad featuring Ma Rainey flirting while a cop looks on, suspicious. ( source )

    The infamous "Prove it on me BLues" ad featuring Ma Rainey flirting while a cop looks on, suspicious. (source)

     Ma Rainey and her wildcats jazz band, featuring Thomas Dorsey on Piano. ( source )

    Ma Rainey and her wildcats jazz band, featuring Thomas Dorsey on Piano. (source)

     An ad for Ma Rainey and the traveling minstrel show she worked with. ( source )

    An ad for Ma Rainey and the traveling minstrel show she worked with. (source)

     Vinyl of ma Rainey's "dream Blues." ( source )

    Vinyl of ma Rainey's "dream Blues." (source)

    Bessie Smith

     Portrait circa 1920.

    Portrait circa 1920.

     Empress of the Blues and Fashion icon. ( Source )

    Empress of the Blues and Fashion icon. (Source)

     YOu can tell she's extra just by the feathers. 

    YOu can tell she's extra just by the feathers. 

     See? Feathers. ( Source )

    See? Feathers. (Source)

     From an advertisement featuring Bessie Smith. ( Source )

    From an advertisement featuring Bessie Smith. (Source)

    Gladys Bentley

     Bentley and bandleader Willie Bryant, April 17, 1936, in front of posters for their Apollo show ( source )

    Bentley and bandleader Willie Bryant, April 17, 1936,
    in front of posters for their Apollo show (source)

     Advertisement for Glady's show at Mona's in San Francisco, featuring the descriptors "sepia piano artist" and "brown bomber of sophisticated songs" ( Source )

    Advertisement for Glady's show at Mona's in San Francisco, featuring the descriptors "sepia piano artist" and "brown bomber of sophisticated songs" (Source)

     Map of clubs in Harlem featuring the Clam House where Glady's performed. ( source )

    Map of clubs in Harlem featuring the Clam House where Glady's performed. (source)

     Speaking of Mona's here's an ash tray from the club and it's motto, "Where the girls will be boys." We love it already.

    Speaking of Mona's here's an ash tray from the club and it's motto, "Where the girls will be boys." We love it already.

     photgraph of the infamous  Ebony  article from 1952 where Bentley claimed to have turned straight due to hormone treatments. this and the rest of the article can be read  here .

    photgraph of the infamous Ebony article from 1952 where Bentley claimed to have turned straight due to hormone treatments. this and the rest of the article can be read here.

    Ethel Waters and Ethel Williams

     Ethel Waters in "On with the Show," 1929.

    Ethel Waters in "On with the Show," 1929.

     Ethel Waters and Fredi Washington in the 1949 play "Mamba's Daughter." IN the play, Washington plays Waters' daughter (though this still looks pretty gay).

    Ethel Waters and Fredi Washington in the 1949 play "Mamba's Daughter." IN the play, Washington plays Waters' daughter (though this still looks pretty gay).

     Waters circa 1930s. 

    Waters circa 1930s. 

     Portrait of Ethel Waters from 1943.

    Portrait of Ethel Waters from 1943.

     Waters in  Pinky , the 1949 film she was nominated for an academy award for.

    Waters in Pinky, the 1949 film she was nominated for an academy award for.

     The only image we could find of both Ethel Williams (left) and Ethel Waters (Right). ( source )

    The only image we could find of both Ethel Williams (left) and Ethel Waters (Right). (source)

    Alberta Hunter

     Alberta Hunter, Jazz singer (we'll come back to the Jazz age, we promise!).

    Alberta Hunter, Jazz singer (we'll come back to the Jazz age, we promise!).

     Alberta Hunter (right) performs Vaudeville. ( Source )

    Alberta Hunter (right) performs Vaudeville. (Source)

    Lucille Bogan/Bessie Jackson

    Lucille Bogan.jpg

    Listen to the Dirty and/or Queer Harlem Renaissance Blues

    Ma Rainey's "Prove it On Me Blues"

    Ma Rainey's "Sissy Blues"

    Bessie Smith's "Empty Bed Blues"

    Bessie Smith's "Foolish Man Blues"

    Gladys Bentley's "Worried Blues"

    Lucille Bogan's "BD Woman's Blues"

    Lucille Bogan's "Shave 'Em Dry"

    Lucille Bogan's "Groceries on the Shelf"

    Check out these mini documentaries about Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, courtesy of Biography.com for black history month.

    And also check out the trailer for HBO's Bessie, available to stream via an HBO subscription.

    If you want to learn more about these folks, as well as the history of queerness in the Harlem Renaissance, check out our full list of sources and further reading below!

    Online Articles:

    Books:

    • Mother of the Blues by Sandra Lieb
    • Blues Legacies and Black Feminism by Angela Y. Davis
    • Bessie Smith by Jackie Kay
    • Bessie by Chris Albertson (excerpt in Gay American History: Lesbians & Gay Men in the USAed by Jonathan Ned Katz)
    • His Eye on the Sparrow  and To Me, It’s Wonderful autobiographies by Ethel Waters
    • Heat Wave: The Life and Career of Ethel Waters by Donald Bogle
    • Ethel Waters: Stormy Weather by Stephen Bourne
    • Queer in History by Keith Stern
    • The Harlem Renaissance, by Steven Watson (free excerpt p124-144)
    • Sapphistries by Leila Rupp
    • Homosexuality in History by Colin Spencer
    • Bulldaggers, Pansies, and Chocolate Babies by James F. Wilson

    Films: 

    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!

    Episode 1: Were Some Pirates Poofters?

    This week, in our first episode, we introduced you to the dramatic pirate quartet of Anne Bonny, Mary Read, John “Calico Jack” Rackham, and Pierre “the pansy pirate” Bouspet! Two women eschewing stereotypical gender presentation, dressing as men, then falling in love each thinking the other is a man? Anne kicking Jack out of his quarters and sharing them with Mary instead? Jack Rackham being jealous of Mary and Anne's 'friendship' and walking in on Mary naked on Anne's bed? A pirate who owns a dress shop, coffee shop, and loves to paint with turtle blood? A pirate with a taste for splashy colors and may have been the lover of his former captain? Oh my! Or should we say, ‘arrrghhh’? These pirates may not have been as straight as people think.

    How do we know about these folks?

    As we mentioned in the episode, much of the histories of Anne, Jack, and Mary comes from the book A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates, published in 1724 by a mysterious  “Captain Charles Johnson”, whom some claim is a pseudonym for Daniel Defoe, aka author of Robinson Crusoe.

     First edition cover, 1724.

    First edition cover, 1724.

    Some images of our cast of queerios:

    Anne Bonny - c. 1702-1782, born in Cork, Ireland

     Illustration from the 1725 Dutch version of  A General History of...Pyrates

    Illustration from the 1725 Dutch version of A General History of...Pyrates

     

    Mary Read - c. 1690-1721, born in England

     Illustration from the 1725 Dutch version of  A General History of...Pyrates

    Illustration from the 1725 Dutch version of A General History of...Pyrates

     

    John “Calico Jack” Rackham - c. 1682-1720

     Illustration from the 1724 edition of  A General History of the Pyrates

    Illustration from the 1724 edition of A General History of the Pyrates

     

    Sadly we have no images of our favorite drama pirate, Pierre Bouspet.

    If you want to learn more about these folks, as well as the history of piracy in the 17th and 18th century, check out our full list of sources further reading below!

    Online Articles:

    Books:

    • David Cordingly, Under the Black Flag
    • David Cordingly, Women Sailors & Sailors’ Women
    • Ed. C. R. Pennell, Bandits at Sea: A Pirate Reader
    • Myra Weatherly, Pirate Women: Eight Stories of Adventure
    • Captain Charles Johnson, A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates
     Anne and Mary, from the 1724 edition of  A General History of the Pyrates

    Anne and Mary, from the 1724 edition of A General History of the Pyrates

    If you like Mary Read, Anne Bonny, Calico Jack Rackham, and Pierre Bouspet, you might also like...

    • The TV show Black Sails on Starz

    • The Abyss Duology (The Abyss Surrounds Us and The Edge of the Abyss) by Emily Skrutskie

    • The Seafarer's Kiss by Julia Ember (mermaids and Vikings, but close enough!)

    • This list of "16 Great Reads for Lesbians and Queer Girls who Love Pirates!"

    • Princeless: Raven the Pirate Princess comic by Jeremy Whitley

    Until next time, stay queer and stay curious!