Guest Blogger

Top 20 Things That Owe Their Existence to Queers

Filed By Guest Blogger | September 09, 2011 8:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Living
Tags: gay role models, LGBT history, Top 20 list

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Jeremy Redlien is the author/creator of the blog Queering the Closet and holds a B.S. in Philosophy, with a minor in Mathematics from SUNY Oneonta.

handtattoo.jpgAfter reading the Bilerico Project's list of the Top 20 Most Important LGBT Figures in History by Adam Polaski, I thought that it would be a good idea to create an entirely different sort of list. Rather then focusing on individuals, I decided to focus on the accomplishments of queer (or likely queer) individuals that had a positive or significant impact on human history.

Thus, I give you:

The Top 20 Things That Owe Their Existence to Queers (or at least a hearty thanks)

20 - Copernicus's Model of the Solar System

Queer to thank: Georg Joachim Rheticus

Nicolaus Copernicus developed the heliocentric model of the solar system which still happens to be viewed as true today, despite the best efforts of the Flat Earth Society. In any case, Copernicicus's work could have been lost, if it had not been for the efforts of George Joachim Rheticus. Copernican scholar Edward Rosen posited, "Is it going too far to claim that without Rheticus, no Copernicus, without Copernicus, no moving Earth; and without geodynamic astonomy, no modern science?" In 1551, Rheticus was accused of trying to seduce a 17 year old male, which resulted in Rheticus being exiled from Leipzig for 101 years.

19 - Sexuality of the Human Male, Sexuality of the Human Female, Coming of Age in Samoa, Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies

Queers to thank: Alfred Kinsey, Margaret Mead

Combined the above works led directly to what is referred to as the Sexual Revolution, a cultural phenomenon whose fallouts are still being felt today. It probably should not come as much of a shock that both of these individuals were bisexual. Kinsey experimented with sexual relationships with both sexes. Mead herself was married three times and letters published after her death revealed that she had an intimate relationship with Rhoda Metraux.

18 - The British Broadcasting Corporation

Queer to thank: John Reith, 1st Baron Reith

John Reith played a critical role in the formation of the BBC, so much the term Reithian became a word, describing his particular management style. The BBC model that Reith pionered - based around his summary of what the BBC's mission should be, Inform, Educate, Entertain - also influenced other broadcast organizations such as PBS.

Reith himself was intimately involved with a man named Charlie Bowser, the depth and intimacy of the relationship which was revealed in Reith's diaries when they were analysed by Ian McIntyre.

17 - Keynesian Economics

Queer to Thank: John Maynard Keynes

Keynesian Economics, first presented in the 1936 book The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes, has profoundly influenced economic theory ever since. Keynesian Economics was the reason for the controversial stimulus plans backed by President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama.

Keynes was always open about his sexuality and the numerous affairs he had with men.

16 - Peanuts, Soybeans, Pecans & Sweet Potatoes

Queer to thank: George Washington Carver

Here is an exercise for anybody reading this list. Go to your fridge or any cabinet in your house. Pick an item at random. Chances are, the item you are now holding, would not exist in it's current form if it were not for the work of George Washington Carver, a black man born in 1864 Missouri. Carver is credited with developing hundreds of uses for peanuts, soybeans, pecans, and sweet potatoes. He also developed or popularized uses for such products as diverse as shaving cream, bleach, buttermilk, chili sauce, instant coffee, linoleum, mayonaise, meat tenderizer, shoe polish, talcum powder, cosmetics, and synthetic rubber.

By promoting peanuts, soybeans, pecan trees, and sweet potatoes as alternative crops, Carver helped save agriculture in the south, as these products restored soil nutrients lost thanks to cotton farming, which monopolized farmland at the time.

Carver is thought to have been intimate with Austin W. Curtis, Jr.

15 - Eradication of Tuberculosis

Queer to thank: Alan L. Hart

In the early Twentieth Century, tuberculosis was the number one killer in the Unites States. Today, less then 10 percent of the U.S. population typically test positive for the disease and for those that are found to be infected, the chances of survival are dramatically better than they were 100 years ago. This can be attributed in part to the efforts of Alan L. Hart, who innovated numerous ways of detecting and treating the disease. Early detection methods pionered by Hart, such as using x-ray screenings, also helped prevent the disease from infecting more patients since doctors could quarantine those individuals found to have tuberculosis. His efforts are credited with helping to contain TB and therefore saving thousands of lives.

Born Alberta Lucille Hart, Alan L. Hart was among the first female to male transsexuals to have a hysterectomy and gonadectomy performed in the United States.

14 - Abolition of Slavery (United States)

Queer to thank: Abraham Lincoln
Honorable Mentions: Susan B. Anthony, Alexander Hamilton

Although slavery would not be abolished entirely in the Unites States until the passage of the 13th Amendment, it was Abraham Lincoln who first wrote the Emancipation Proclamation that freed slaves on a large scale. Without the Emancipation Proclamation or Lincoln's leadership during the Amercan Civil War, the North could have lost and slavery would probably have continued in the Confederacy.

Lincoln wrote one of the earliest explicit gay themed poems in American literature and shared a bed with Captain David V. Derickson, who was the head of his guards.

Other notable queers involved in the abolishment were suffragette Susan B. Anthony and Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton even used Britain's support for slavery as one reason for the colonies seceding from Great Britain.

13 - Woman's Suffrage

Queer to Thank: Susan B. Anthony
Honorable Mentions, Anna Elizabeth Dickinson, Nancy Cook, Jane Addams, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Charley Parkhurst, Eva Gore-Booth

Susan B. Anthony founded the National Woman Suffrage Association, one of the earliest organizations dedicated to woman's rights in the United States. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton originally wrote the original draft of what would eventually become the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which reads as follows:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation

Other notable members of the suffrage movement include Anthony's lover, Anna Elizabeth Dickinson, as well as Nancy Cook, who became the intimate of Eleanore Roosevelt.

Trivia: It is thought that Charley Parkhurst was possibly the first biological female to vote in the United States. Parkhurst was stagecoach driver in California and after his death in 1879, it was discovered that Parkurst was not biologically male.

12 - The Napoleonic Code

Queer to thank: Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès
Honorable Mention: Napoleon Bonaparte

The Napoleonic Code was written by Jean-Jacques-Régis de Cambacérès, who was open about his sexuality and preference for men. The Napoleonic Code is one of the most influential documents of the modern era. Napoleon biographer Robert Holtman declared in his The Napoleonic Revolution that The Napoleonic Code was among the few documents to have changed the entire world.

The code was originally enacted in the European territories that Napoleon had conquered. Specifically, the Napoleonic Code forbade special privileges based upon birthright, secret or unpublished laws, special laws that applied to specific incidents, and ex post facto laws (laws written and applied to events that have already occurred). Just as importantly, The Napoleonic Code reformed judicial procedures and the treatment of criminals.

As for the Emperor himself, he was rumored to have had many male lovers among his aides, guards, and fellow soldiers. According to biographer Evangiline Bruce, Napoleon once wrote a note declaring that whenever he met a good looking man, Napoleons feelings were felt "first in the loins and in another place I will leave unnamed."

11 - Helicopters & Modern Aviation

Queers to thank: Leonardo da Vinci, Howard Hughes

Leonardo da Vinci was the legendary Renaissance artist who was arrested twice following accusations that he had engaged in same-sex activity. Gian Giacomo Caprotti da Oreno, who inherited the Mona Lisa, had an unusually close and suggestive relationship with da Vinci. However, one possibility regarding who the real life subject of the Mona Lisa was provides a scintillating clue here. This proposal put forth by Susan Dorothea White, has that the Mona Lisa was actually a self portrait of Leonardo da Vinci in drag. Also, Keith Stern claims that an article published in the April 1995 edition of Scientific America described a computer scan that came to that conclusion as well.

As for helicopters, Leonardo da Vinci designed many fantastical mechanical devices, but unfortunately the materials necessary for those devices to actually work were not created until many years after his death. One such device was a primitive helicopter, with Leonardo's design used as the inspiration for the modern flying contraption.

Howard Hughes was the producer and director for The Outlaw a movie filled with homoerotic subtexts (and Jane Russell's bosoms). In her autobiography, Greta Keller claimed that Hughes engaged in a sexual relationship with her husband, David Bacon. Bette Davis who had a sexual relationship with Hughes, claimed that Hughes frequently liked to fantasize that she was a man.

Howard Hughes is credited with quite a few aviation innovations and set many world records flying air-planes that he had commissioned. Hughes was awarded several aviation awards, in addition to the Congressional Gold Medal in 1939 for his contributions to the industry.

10 - The Computer

Queer to thank: Alan Turring
Honorable Mentions: Lynn Conway, Mary Ann Horton, Sophie Wilson, Audrey Tang, Kate Craig-Wood

Alan Turing was an early pioneer in the field of computer science and artificial intelligence. His work included developing the Turing Test, which is intended to test if a computer has achieved human level sentience. He also helped design the ACE (Automatic Computing Engine) which was the first computer built in Great Britain. Turing's numerous accomplishments have lead many to declare him the father of the fields of computer science and artificial intelligence.

Tragically, Alan Turing was convicted for committing homosexual acts and sentenced to probation and chemical castration. This punishment is thought to have led him to commit suicide in 1954 at the age of 41.

Lynn Conway is a computer engineer who first worked at IBM, but was fired in 1968 when she transitioned into a woman. She is credited with having developed numerous computer science innovations, many whose names make no sense to me, such as generalised dynamic instruction handling and Mead & Conway revolution in VLSI design.

Mary Ann Horton is a computer scientist and trans activist whose innovations aided the developement of Usenet and later the Internet itself. Sophie Wilson is a trans woman who designed the Acorn Micro Computer.

Audrey Tang, who transitioned from a man to a woman in 2005, is a Taiwanese free software programmer, who taught herself Perl at age 12 and is considered to be one of the "ten greats of Taiwanese computing."

Kate Craig-Wood is a British innovater, co-founder and managing director of Memset, the first British carbon neutral ISP. She is a proponent of greater energy efficiency in electronic technology. Kate Craig-Wood transitioned in 2005.

9 - Christianity

Queer to thank: Alexander the Great
Honorable Mentions: Desideririus Erasmus, Théodore de Bèze, King James I

The exploits of Alexander the Great, who was lovers with Hephaestion, are legendary. Most people know that he conquered "the known world" spreading Greek culture as he went. What many people, outside of historians, are not so aware of, is that this hellenization (as Alexander's spread of Greek culture is referred to) later helped ease the subsequent growth and spread of Christianity.

Desideririus Erasmus was the controversial writer/editor behind several influential editions of both the Old and New Testaments. Erasmus's writings also included many letters to his fellow monk, Servatius Roger, that were highly suggestive and included phrases like, "You are half my soul... I have wooed you both unhappily and relentlessly." Roger's responses were usually more to the point and included phrases like, "What is wrong with you?"

Théodore de Bèze was a follower of John Calvin and played an important role in the Protostant Reformation. After the death of John Calvin, Bèze succeded Calvin as the leader of the reformation. Bèze was also criticized for a relationship he had with a young man, Audebert, whom Bèze wrote numerous love poems.

King James I, the man responsible for the King James Bible, had a secret passage that linked his royal bedchambers with those of George Villiers, with whom it was thought that King James I was intimate. He was also rumored/thought to have been intimate with others, including male courtiers, Robert Carr, and Esmé Stewart.

8 - The Great March on Washington & the Civil Rights Movement

Queers to thank: Bayard Rustin
Honorable Mentions: Alain LeRoy Locke, Langston Hughes, Angela Davis, James Baldwin, Alice Walker

Bayard Rustin was the chief organizer behind the 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. Rustin was also a highly influential advisor to King and was the individual responsible for convincing King to adopt non-violence as a key strategy. Rustin was open about his sexuality and in 1986 gave a speech entitled "The New Niggers Are Gays".

Other important contributions to the Civil Rights Movement came from Alain LeRoy Locke, Langston Hughes, Angela Davis, James Baldwin, and Alice Walker.

7 - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations

Queer to thank: Eleanore Roosevelt

Eleanore Roosevelt chaired the committee that drafted The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has proven enormously influential on international law and U.N. policy since it was first adopted. Roosevelt also campaigned heavily for the formation of the United Nations and founded the UN Association of the United States for that purpose.

Roosevelt is thought to have been intimate with suffragette Nancy Cook.

6 - [Insert Title of Pretty Much Any Significant or Popular Work of Art]

Very short list of queers to thank: William Shakespeare, Sapho, Virginia Woolf, Oscar Wilde, Graham Chapin, Cole Porter, James Ivory, Roland Emmerich, Elton John, Langston Hughes, Dee Palmer, Leonardo Da Vinci, Donatello, Michelangelo, Rupaul, Lady Gaga, Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Lorraine Hansberry, Countee Cullen, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Octavia E. Butler, Billie Holiday, Jacqueline Woodson, Wanda Sykes, Bill T. Jones, Zora Neale Hurston, E. Lynn Harris, Alvin Ailey, Pedro Almodóvar, Charlie Anders, Molly Cutpurse, Candy Darling, Harisu, Dana International, Jeffrey Catherine Jones, Terre Thaemlitz, Pieter-Dirk Uys, Jin Xing, Antonia San Juan, Witi Ihimaera, Bessie Smith, Sylvester James

Nearly every artistic form, genre, and work, from the highbrow films of James Ivory to the lowbrow sci-fi action pornos of Roland Emmerich, to the pop songs of Lady Gaga, there is probably not a single work of art that does not owe some dept, to some queer, somewhere. If a work of art was not created by a queer, then it was probably inspired by some other work that was created by a queer.

5 - U.S. Constitution

Queer to thank: Alexander Hamilton
Honorable Mention: Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben

Although the Federalist Papers were written anonymously, historians generally attribute their primary authorship to Alexander Hamilton. The purpose of the Federalist Papers was to argue that the U.S. Constitution should be ratified by the states. Alexander Hamilton was possibly an intimate of John Laurens, to whom Hamilton wrote, "I wish, Dear Laurens, it might be in my power, by action rather than words, to convince you that I love you."

Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben was an important military leader in the Revolutionary War, who helped General Washington install discipline into the entire Continental Army. A hero of the American Revolution, Steuben came to America and the aid of General Washington after he was accused of "improper relations" in his homeland of Prussia. Steuben was thought to have been the intimate of John H. Mulligan, William North, and Ben Walker.

4 - Philosophy

Queers to thank: Socrates, Plato
Honorable Mentions: Marsilo Ficino, Francis Bacon, Francesco Algaratti, Goerge Santayana, Gerald Heard, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Ram Dass, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Hazel Barnes, Marquis de Sade, Simone de Beauvoir, Allan Bloom, Judith Butler, Alain LeRoy Locke, Peter Gomes, Saint Anselm, Audre Lorde, Jane Addams, Didier Eribon, Raewyn Connell, Deirdre McCloskey

Thales may be credited as being the "first" western Philosopher, but it was Socrates, along with his student Plato, who took it to the next level. So radical and offensive were the notions of Socrates to the ancient Athenians, that he was pretty much the original Marilyn Manson. After Socrates was put to death following accusations of corrupting the Athenian youth and questioning the existence of the Gods, Plato fled Athens in disgust, before returning to found the original Academia.

In addition to having been teacher and student, Socrates and Plato are also thought to have been lovers. Plato argues in the Symposium that same-sex love is the highest form of love of all.

Trivia: Plato was the teacher of Aristotle and Aristotle in turn would tutor Alexander the Great, making the total influence of Plato and Socrates on world history and culture so great to be immeasurable.

3 - Calculus & Various Mathematical Theories

Queer to thank: Isaac Newton
Honorable Mentions: Andrey Nikolaevich Kolmogorov, Sofia Kovalevskaya, Alan Turing

Granted, Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz developed calculus at the same time, so maybe calculus does not owe it's existence to calculus. However, Leibniz's and Newton's versions of calculus differed on several points, so calculus can be said to at least owe a debt and a hearty thanks to both. Isaac Newton also developed an early way of calculating the roots of a function and made many other independent and significant contributions to the field of mathematics.

Isaac Newton is believed to have been intimate with Fatio de Duillier and Newton became depressed when Duillier moved out/broke up in 1693.

Other important mathematical theories were developed by queers such as Andrey Nicolaevich Kolmogorov and Alan Turing. Furthermore, anyone who thinks that a woman cannot compete with men on the same level with regards to fields such as mathematics should read the story of Sofia Kovalevskaya. What makes her notable was that Sofia was forbidden from studying mathematics in Russia, because she's a woman. Outside of Russia, she was forced to obtain alternative means to obtain advanced degrees, as the university where she was studying would not even allow her to audit classes. Her contributions to the field of mathematics include the discover of the "Kovalevsky top" and the Cauchy-Kovalevski theorem.

2 - Modern Science

Queers to thank: Isaac Newton
Honorable Mentions: Alexander von Humboldt, Count Justus von Liebig, Alan Turing, Georg Joachim Rheticus

Isaac Newton did not develop calculus on a whim, he did it to help with his work creating the three laws of physics that bear his name. Newton's theories held until Einstein came along and made everything relative. Physicists and engineers still rely on Newton's equations in situations involving the macro universe and speed not approaching the speed of light. Furthermore, Einstein could not have developed his theories without the previous work of Newton.

Count Justus von Liebig developed the modern chemistry lab set up that is still used today.

1 - Democracy

Queer to thank: Solon of Athens
Honorable Mention: Alexander the Great

Solon of Athens is credited with instituting legal reforms that helped pave the way for the development of democracy in ancient Athens. Solon of Athens also composed poems expressing his love for boys.

The Hellenization brought about Alexander the Great, also helped with the spread of democracy, in addition to Christianity.


Sources:

Keith Stern's Queers in History, The Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Historical Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Transgenders

Wikipedia's list of transgender people and list of gay, lesbian, or bisexual people

George Washington Carver was gay. . . and other bits of lgbt black history you probably didn't know by Alvin McEwen


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Kathy Padilla | September 9, 2011 8:34 AM

Libraries.

"King of Assyria (669- 627 BCE), and counted as the last great ruler of the country.
When his father Esarhaddon died, he left Ashurbanipal a kingdom that stretched from northern Egypt to Persia, but he also made his brother king of Babylonia. Ashurbanipal ruled his country from Nineveh.
Ashurbanipal is remembered as one of the most cultured rulers in the Mesopotamian region: He was literate in both Sumerian and old Akkadian scripts — uncommon for rulers of the epoch — and he supported the establishment of the first systematically organized library in the Middle East. This library contained tens of thousands of works, in the shape of tablets. Most were pre-scientific works trying to explain events in the world, but some works were even of scientific nature. There were also many religious texts (like the Gilgamesh), but even folk tales were admitted into the library"
http://lexicorient.com/e.o/ashurbanipal.htm

The Ashurbanipal library is the single most important discovery from ancient Iraq and it is to the work of these royal scribes that we must be thankful for our extensive knowledge of Assyrian literary, administrative and scientific thinking. Our new research activities on this collection are designed to tie in with the University of Mosul's Institute of Cuneiform Studies which is currently under construction.
http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/research_projects/ashurbanipal_library_phase_1.aspx

Ashurbanipal (Sardanapalus), the last Assyrian king, dresses in women's clothing most of the time. The cross-dressing is used to justify his eventual overthrow. [TOL]

Thanks for pointing that out. Libraries. May have to consider changing it to 21 or work it in somehow with philosophy, art, and modern science. :)
-Jeremy

Kathy Padilla | September 9, 2011 11:29 PM

You're quite welcome.

Re: Howard Hughes & aviation
http://zagria.blogspot.com/2008/12/whatever-happened-to-pussy-katt-1929.html?m=1

Snip-
Howard Hughes who had first met Katt when he escorted Ava Gardner to Finocchio’s, returned for another meeting, and then he invited her to his suite at the Fairmont. Hughes had read a book that claimed that ancient Egyptian eunuchs were regarded as better sex objects after castration. In 1945, Hughes flew with Katt to Mexico City where she was castrated and was paid $50,000.

Afterwards he installed her in a villa in the new resort of Acapulco, and repeatedly visited her for almost two years. When he grew bored with her, he gave her enough money to open a local drag club, which flourished for three years before the police closed it down with charges of drugs and prostitution.
Snip-

Jesse Monteagudo Jesse Monteagudo | September 9, 2011 10:23 AM

That's quite a record: the sexual revolution, Keynesian economics, the United Nations, the Napoleonic Code, feminism, modern science, philosophy . . . You just gave Tea Party extremists more reasons to hate us. (They oppose all those things.)

Though an all-inclusive list would be impossible in No. 6 - Art, I regret that Walt Whitman was left out of that short list. (He also deserves honorable mention in No. 1 - Democracy.) I also notice that Voltaire was left out of 4. - Philosophy. Is Voltaire's queerness in doubt, or is it his status as a philosopher?

What about U.S. Constitution, Democracy, and Christianity? Do the Tea Party hate those things as well? :)

As for Walt Whitman and Voltaire, that was not an intentional oversight, outside of the fact that I was consciously trying to avoid making this a list of 20 Greatest Things Brought to You By White Dudes Who Also Happened to Be Gay.

I will consider adding them though now, since they were brought up.

Thank you for the feedback.
-Jeremy

#3 - Newton & Calculus: the date 1963 should be 1693!

Thanks Lewis! Fixed. What a typo!

Darn it, I thought I knew Newton. I thought he later came out with a computing device. Must have been another Newton! ;)

It was Leibniz, Newton's rival, who did come out with an early computing device.

That was my bad. Thanks for pointing it out. Have now fixed on my blog entry as well.

Eradication of Tuberculosis in Ireland and reduction of infant mortality: Dr Kathleen Lynn, also one of the garrison commanders in the Easter Rising-Lesbian, lifetime partner of Madeline ffrench-Mullen(no typo)
Irish Independence: Sir Roger Casement and Padraig Pearse, both gay men
Social Reform and poverty awareness: Jane Addams, Lesbian(Nobel Prise, 1931

Jane Adams I already have under Philosophy.

I will say though, thatGeneral Social Reform would be a little too vague for me to include.

Will consider adding Dr. Kathnleen Lynn, Sir Roger Casement and Padraig Pearse when I have a chance to do some research on them.

Otherwise, thanks for the feedback.
-Jeremy

Did Magnus Hirschfeld ever publish a book?

#19 feels naked without Hirschfeld (and then you would have to bring up that entire period which would include Krafft-Ebbing, Havelock Ellis, and I would consider throwing Freud in that group).

Wow...now this by Magnus Hirschfeld I did not know!

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1310/is_1996_March/ai_18268134/

It seems that Hirschfeld coined the word "racism" as well.

I'm very interested in this.

The first few hits that I get from this seem to be right-wing bile but this might make for a very intersting...story here.

Wow!

...I hate to keep writing about this...

But I am now experiencing some of the most racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic diatribes that I have ever seen. Reading about Hirschfeld and his coinage of the term racism.

I considered Magnus Hirschfeld, but was trying to avoid accomplishments beyond those in Queer Activism, otherwise I would have have loved to include Sylvia Rivera and Ruth C. Ellis and more than a few others. Both Kinsey and Mead's books addressed issues beyond those of sexual minorities.

In any case, thank you for the feedback.
-Jeremy

I think that with the implementation of the F.A.I.R. Education Act, many of us, including myself, are rushing to embrace historical figures as our own who were merely rumored to be gay or bisexual.

Wikipedia has put together an ongoing list of those historical figures whose homo/bisexuality have been verified. From first glance, Copernicus, Hamilton, Lincoln, Plato, Socrates and Aristotle are not on the list. Michelangelo and da Vinci are.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_gay,_lesbian_or_bisexual_people

For better or worse, I believe most people will refer to Wiki's list first before ascribing a sexual orientation to some of these people.

I never said Copernicus was gay, the reason I included his theory was that his heliocentric model of the solar system would probably have been lost without the work of Georg Joachim Rheticus who was likely gay. Neither did I include Aristotle.

Hamilton, Lincoln, Plato, Socrates I included because they all had writings that were at least suggestive, if not outright proof. That is things that people wrote I consider solid evidence, while I tried to avoid cases that were based on second hand evidence. Everything I wrote myself here was just a summary, not an exhaustive compilation of the evidence that is used to assume certain historical figures were gay/lesbian/bisexual/trans etc.

I consider Wikipedia useful and the "anybody can edit" thing to be an advantage not a detraction. But Wikipedia is not the final definitive source on any subject.
-Jeremy

You did a great job compiling this article and I was happy to see it on Bilerico. You made excellent use of the web space you were given.

I mentioned Aristotle because he was put on another list of supposed homo/bisexual historical figures that didn't include Plato:

http://www.lambda.org/famous.htm

To be clear, Socrates was put to death for corrupting the minds of Athenian youths, not for corruping their bodies. It's historical fact that he had a common law wife and three kids. That he and Plato were lovers has been rumored, but never verified, and probably never will be.

Lincoln's letters to Joshua Speed and his ensuing depression at Speed's marriage offer evidence of his homo/bisexuality, but not necessarily proof.
Neither does the fact that Lincoln and Speed shared a bed and cabin for a while.

While such behavior may be considered proof positive today, it was actually quite a common practice in Lincoln's time, and not much was made of it-- at least according to a TV documentary I saw on it about 6 months ago.

Overall, I'm elated that this topic is finally coming to the fore. Hopefully, it will stimulate more research and documentation and provide more positive role models for LGBT youth.

As Socrates/Plato are my favorite philosophers, I'm well aware of why Socrates was put to death, hence the Marilyn Manson line. :) The line about arguing for same sex love being the highest form of love was the reason I included the two.

As for Lincoln, I understand the practice of two guys sharing a bed was historically common due to limited space and resources, but then why did he do it with his head guard after he became President? Or was it common for reasons other then limited space/resources? I'm no expert, in any case. Also, Lincoln writing the earliest gay themed american poem was reason enough for me to put him on the list.

While I tried to err on the side of caution, I also realise that history too often tries for the erasure of sexual minorities. Hence, if there was no single instance of clear cut evidence, I tried to stick to cases where there were several different lines of speculation and with Lincoln there are quiet a few. I also avoided cases such as J. Edgar Hoover and a couple of Popes, plus a few others I've forgotten, who were leaders where accusations of being gay would have been highly damaging, unless there was corroborating evidence of some kind.

Thanks for the article. I enjoyed your thematic approach. Could you explain your reasoning for labeling people who might have been gay or lesbian, or who might have had one special friend - for labeling them as "queer." I'm all for SELF-identification with whatever works for you, but can't help but feel that most of the "queers" on your list would be angered or horrified to be so labeled. Thanks in advance.

Excellent question. It's a complicated issue for me. The term queer was intended in some quarters to denote a belief that boundaries are meaningless and to express contempt for general classism. However, my boyfriend, sociology Prof. Jeffery Dennis noted that the term is much more likely to be used by academics and upper class professionals, than by blue collar working class individuals, who are more likely to use traditional terms like gay or lesbian. This begs the question of how well it has succeeded in that purpose.

Of course that all has little to do with your question. Basically, to try and figure out precisely who was what and how much, was a fairly daunting task. Furthermore, historical standards also posed a problem. I'm seriously hoping no one calls me out on Solon for example, and one could make a good case that none of the Greeks really belong.

In short, for a little bit of all those reasons, I found the use of the term queer a convenient descriptor, although I am no means trying to imply that these people necessarily would have publicly identified as queer. Given the different languages so many of these individuals would have spoken, the different standards of sexual norms for different cultures, a term in which boundaries have less meaning is almost mandatory in a case like this.
-Jeremy

...[queer] is much more likely to be used by academics and upper class professionals, than by blue collar working class individuals, who are more likely to use traditional terms like gay or lesbian.
Interesting. I personally imagine that slang terms like queer are more often used by working class and poor young people as weapons against those they hate and/or fear. At any rate, I think those trying to appropriate or reclaim words like queer, as opposed to re-purposing a benign term like gay are fighting an uphill battle for widespread acceptance for obvious reasons. But my response was prompted by a belief that your list was intended for use in secondary school classrooms. On reading your piece a second time, I see I was mistaken. Or, at least, you didn't say that here.


By the way, did you mean this, or am I especially dense:

Granted, Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz developed calculus at the same time, so maybe calculus does not owe it's existence to calculus.

Okay, confession, this is where the part about me putting this together during my spare time (and usually late at night) shows the most, as re-reading it now, I see that sentence is particularly poorly worded.

If I were to re-write it, I would probably say something more like:
"Granted, Leibniz and Newton developed calculus at the same time, so Calculus merely owes Newton a hearty thanks, rather than it's entire existence."

As for your question regarding the audience, this was meant simply for a general audience, if high-school teachers wanted to use it as a starting point for putting together a lesson plan, I see no problem with that, but that was not my primary goal.

As for the primary users of the term queer, I can see youth/college age individuals in general using it, but have a harder time seeing blue collar/working class individuals, as they tend towards the conservative side.

Again, thanks for the input and questions.
-Jeremy

Paige Listerud | September 10, 2011 1:42 AM

Of necessity, I realize that #6 must needs be a very short list of queer literary, musical and artistic accomplishment. Still, I'm surprised not to see Lord Byron on the list--considered THE overriding, dominant literary influence of the 19th century by Oscar Wilde.

Again, Lord Bryon was not a deliberate oversight, so I will consider Adding him when I get the chance.

Thank you for the input.
- Jeremy

This is great- I learned new stuff, and I really like your way of organizing this. I worry that LGBT history will be taught as the Stonewall Rebellion and a few other relatively recent events, as though queer people are a recent innovation, rather than an integral part of entire sweep of human history.

A couple of thoughts: Turing's work as codebreaker was also indispensable to the defeat of Nazism/Fascsim - so that is something else we owe to a queer, (unless perhaps it is premature to declare that battle won...) And how about the Roman Empire - courtesy of Julius Caesar, who was known as "every woman's husband and every man's wife."

And I would really like to see the list of artists expanded ad infinitum, to reflect reality. The first names I wanted to add were Michelangelo, Georg Friedrich Handel, Marcel Proust - Yes that list is Eurocentric, but queers have created the lions' share of European cultural expression,( as well as American art of the 19th and 20th centuries ...) and those are facts worth recording too.

Also I want to weigh-in on the word "queer." I am of the "queer nation" generation of activists. We consciously appropriated the historical term of abuse 'queer' about 20 years ago, BECAUSE it had a sting, as a way of saying 'I refuse to be shamed and stigmatized by your attitudes: Yes I am a queer, I am that very thing you think you hate, and I am a proud, brave, beautiful human being. I am part of your world and always have been.' " We're here, we're queer , get used to it," as we chanted. So for me it's an empowering term that connotes defying hatred and prejudice. It remains my preferred way of referring to myself and my community, both present and historical, and not merely because of its' convenience as a catch-all label that can encompass diverse present-day identities as well as the many ways queer people understood and created their identities and sexualities throughout history. And by incorporating stigma, "queer' also gets at the way in which queer identities have always been acts of resistance, and cannot be accurately conceptualized without reference to stigma and resistance.

Thank you for your comments. As I tend to over-intellectualize these things sometimes, I particularly appreciated your spirited and radical defence of the term queer.

As for Turing, hmm. Allied Victory In WWII is worth considering. As for Julius Ceaser, that's a more complicated situation. Although the final title I choose was not clear on this point, the main motiviting idea for me behind the list were things that exist today thanks to queers, not in the distant past.
-Jeremy

Interesting list, Jeremy, including a small handful of people I didn't know about. Most glaringly I had no idea who Kovalevskaya and Kolmogorov were, let alone their contributions... probably because calculus is an instrument of cruel and unusual torment. However, there are a couple of things I disagree with in your subsequent posts - neither of which have to do with the list itself.

One - I will repeat the same thing I was told by every professor I had through 8 years of college: "Wikipedia is NOT a creditable source. If you use Wikipedia you must refer to the source materials used by the author of the article, and not the article itself." Wikipedia may be a good way to quickly find reference and summation of material, but - because it is not an original source of reference, and because the "anybody can edit" has caused numerous errors since Wiki's launch - it isn't recognized as a creditable reference source. I like Wikipedia as well, but I use it only as a starting point for my research and studies. Most often I use the references listed at the bottom of the article for real sources of creditable material.

Two: I would be one of the people Om Kalthoum refers to as being angered and horrified. I hate the word "queer" in reference to myself, or to anything in the LGBT experience. I grew up with the word "queer" meaning "different, strange, odd, abnormal, unacceptable, perverted." None of those words apply to me, and I cannot accept "queer" because of its connotations. Use it as you will in reference to yourself, I don't care - that's your business. But understand that for the majority of my generation of LGBT - and, sadly, a growing number of this generation - the words "queer", "fag", "dyke", etc. were usually part of a hate-filled rant, and often followed by physical violence.

I can fully appreciate your quandary in labeling the sexual orientation of some of these historical figures - especially the further back in human history you get. And no, I don't think our convenient little auto-boxes of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Trans fit some of these people easily, either. But sitting back and slapping the label "queer" on them, to my eyes, is just plain unoriginal and lazy. Why not omnisexual, or pansexual? They may make it difficult to fit everything within a 140 character limit, but nothing worth saying - as was recently pointed out here in another post - ever came out in 140 characters.

Please understand, Jeremy, that none of this is against you personally. I don't know you at all, so I have nothing to base an opinion on. My problem with "queer" is the same problem I have with any pejorative label. To put it bluntly, I cannot wait until the human race evolves to the point where we don't need to caste someone by slapping some arbitrary label on them. Or to put it in the words my Gram raised me with, "there is only one race: Human. The rest is just noise."

Thank you for your input on these issues.

Let me explain my opinion regarding both matters, Wikipedia and the use of the term queer. When I wrote my senior thesis for my bachelors degree, which was on linguistics, I argued that the most objective language was the language that could describe the greatest number of possible worlds.

Similarly, I feel that while many claim that "anybody can edit Wikipedia makes it unreliable" is wrong precisely because by opening up the potential knowledge base to anybody that wishes to contribute, Wikipedia makes itself the most objective possible source of free knowledge currently available to us. I realise that there of course practical issues, as my assertion is based upon the assumption that everyone who edits Wikipedia does so in good faith. However, I see little reason to reject newer sources and modes of knowledge gathering, simply because they are shunned by certain authorities.

Also, you will want to note that I also relied upon sources other then Wikipedia, primarily Keith Sterns "Queers in History", which I have some issues with and while some would consider it more reliable then Wikipedia as it's a printed work from an accredited source, I have found a greater percentage of errors in it, then I have while browsing Wikipedia. Granted this is based upon casual observation and is by no means objective, I'm just saying traditional sources are by no means perfect.

Similarly, I understand why some people have prejudices against the term queer. However, please be aware, I don't intend to offend people by it's use. However, I use it because theoretically speaking, it can, by refuting traditional notions of boundaries, cover a much broader set of circumstances then any acronym.

Again, thank you for your input, as I greatly enjoy these sorts of conversations and debates.
-Jeremy

'I would probably say something more like:
"Granted, Leibniz and Newton developed calculus at the same time, so Calculus merely owes Newton a hearty thanks, rather than it's entire existence."'
I rather hope you wouldn't say something more like that; "it's" never (ever) takes a possessive apostrophe, despite the irritating popular misuse. Indeed, "it's" is only ever used as an abbreviation for "it is". The dog never chases "it's" tail.
Loved the list, thank you so much!

I don't know if anyone's mentioned this so far, but the Mona Lisa is not actually Da Vince himself (as awesome as that would be), but Lisa del Giacondo; it was commissioned by her husband Francesco when they were first married.
This article is so interesting. I had no idea Susan B Anthony was a lesbian!