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 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 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 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!