The Historical Gay

I came across this article today, which raises an interesting historagraphical question. But seeing that TealArt too easily descends into philosophical blathering, I'll just throw this one out.there.

How appropriate is the queer theory historical search for likely homosexuals? And is "outing" famous historical (regardless of other judgments) a productive practice.

Lets first remember that the term "homosexual" dates to the 1890s and while there were certainly people who were homosexual before 1890, the idea of categorizing individuals based on affectional orientation didn't really exist before that. Having said that, "homosexuals" did face suppression and any number of torments, it was just produced on a different level.

So for any number of reasons, there is a certain movement to reclaim the gay history. Because there are tons of historical figures who were almost certainly gay, but that gets lost. It was also probably lost in the moment, but it's equally important to remember now.

If Hitler was gay, as the article suggests, is there a responsibility to reclaim that as well. Just yesterday there was a bit about a respected statesman and President. This guy, was a southerner, and not surprisingly pro-slavery. So I guess one of the questions, is "Do we have a responsibility to reclaim all of the gay history that we find, or just the parts that suit us. And I guess I'd say, we should reclaim it, if only to show a kind of diversity. There are queers everywhere, and I think that's an important lesson. You can go anywhere and find gay people; they exist outside of the hip coffee shops, the left bank of the Seine, Men's Express, Abercrombie and Fitch, and so forth. The one down side is, of course, that homophobes will inevitably take revelations that condemnable characters like Hitler are endemic of homosexual culture, but then those same individuals will look at the guys on the left bank wearing shirts from Express, and talking about "Art", and categorical label all queer's as pansies. There are some fights you just can't win.

On the other hand, this is ultimately a form of outing. Clearly it's not the same as outing contemporary figures, but to some degree. I agree with Armested Maupin et al. that outing people will show that queers can be successful; that queers really are everywhere, and that the world hasn't ended yet. History is perhaps the ultimate venue for this, as we are able to avoid the serious ethical dilemma that prevents or should prevent outing of contemporary figures.

So here's the second question that this raises (and I'll leave you with this): Where is the line between outing contemporary figures, and reclaiming a gay history?


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