Gay History: Here are 46 more weird and wonderful facts from LGBTI history

Know your herstory

1. Olive oil was used for many things in Ancient Greece, including as a popular lube for anal sex.

2. Christmas has its origins in Saturnalia, a Roman festival around first century BC. Instead of family lunch, it was a celebration of sex, fertility and homosexuality. During the festivities, men ran around naked, tops became bottoms and masters waited on servants.

3. There is no record whatsoever of Jesus or Muhammad preaching against homosexuality.

4. St Paulinas of York, who was bisexual, invented the tradition of bells calling parishioners to church.

5. The earliest form of same-sex marriage was a Christian ceremony called adelphopoiesis. St Sergius, a commander in the Roman army in the third century, and St Bacchus, his second in command, were lovers who had their union in this way. The Catholic Church stripped them of ‘saint’ status in 1969.

St Sergius and St Bacchus

6. William II was ‘addicted to every kind of vice, particularly lust and especially sodomy’, according to early records. He kept his male courtiers hair long, and reportedly promoted them based on their talents in bed.

7. Eleanor Rykener, who may have been a trans woman, was a 14th century prostitute working in London. Arrested in 1395 for cross-dressing, this is the only surviving legal records from that age which mentions sodomy. Rykener claimed to have many clients, and preferred priests as they ‘paid better than others’.

8. Leonardo Da Vinci was arrested for gay sex, twice, at 24 years old. He was acquitted. If he had been killed, the world would never have had the Mona Lisa or The Last Supper.

9. In around 1600, William Shakespeare wrote As You Like It and Twelfth Night. Both feature women who cross-dress as men. It is thought this was a direct response to a Puritan campaign that objected to the ‘gay’ practice of young boys cross-dressing on stage.

10. At the first ever trial in Canada for homosexuality in 1648, a gay military drummer was sentenced to death. His life was spared on the condition he accepted the position of New France’s first permanent executioner.

11. Catharina Linck, in 1721, was executed for being gay in Germany, who would dress as a man. It was found she had been sleeping with women using a leather stuffed horn. Acting as a funnel, it also allowed her to urinate standing up.

Catharina Linck

12. Deborah Sampson joined the Continental Army in 1782 and served 17 months as ‘Robert Shurtliff’, living, dressing and fighting as a man. They also reportedly had a lot of sex with women. A renowned soldier, they also once carved a bullet from their thigh.

Frontispiece of The Female Review: Life of Deborah Sampson, the Female Soldier in the War of Revolution.

13. Charles Dickens went to a London prison in 1835 and visited the last two men hanged for homosexuality in the UK.

14. Japan has one of the shortest-lived sodomy laws in the world. The statute was in place from 1873 to 1883. Samurai warriors, who had a long tradition of same-sex relations, mounted strong opposition to the law and helped to get it repealed.

15. Using ‘they’ as a third person gender-neutral singular was the most popular pronoun in the English language until the 1800s, when ‘he’ and ‘she’ became widespread to make English more like Latin.

16. The author of America the Beautiful, Katharine Lee Bates, was an ardent feminist who lived for 25 years with another woman believed (based on Bates’ own writing) to be her lesbian partner.

17. The Duke of Kent, the bisexual younger brother of British kings George VI and Edward VIII, was arrested alongside theatre legend Noel Coward under suspicion of prostitution. They had been going around Soho in London dressed as women.

The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in 1942

18. When a desperate mother asked Sigmund Freud to cure her gay son in 1935, he wrote her back explaining why her son had nothing to be ashamed of.

19. There was an attempt to make a film adaptation of The Children’s Hour, about the dangers of homophobia. However censors demanded any mention of homosexuality were completely removed.

20. In early 1940, a Women’s Auxiliary Air Force report came to a conclusion on lesbianism: ‘Naturally, it is a vice that is going to be impossible to keep out of the WAAF altogether.’

21. In 1970, the State of Connecticut denied a gay man a driver’s license on the basis that his sexuality made him dangerous to other drivers.

22. Dusty Springfield, one of the biggest superstars at the time, came out as bisexual in 1970. ‘I know that I’m as perfectly capable of being swayed by a girl as by a boy’

23. Wendy Carlos, a transgender woman, helped to pioneer electronic music. In 1968 she experimented with a series of recordings of compositions by JS Bach played on a Moog synthesizer.  She won three Grammys and recorded music for the soundtrack of Clockwork Orange.

Wendy Carlos

24. Years before Stonewall in New York City, there was a queer rebellion against police harassment in San Francisco in 1966. Trans people fought back against police outside Compton’s Cafeteria in San Francisco.

25. Bayard Rustin, an openly gay black man, inspired Martin Luther King Jr’s use of non-violent protest from which Bayard learned in India taking part in Ghandi’s movement.

Rustin at a news briefing on the March on Washington in Washington, D.C., on August 27, 1963

26. A young stripper named Shelly Bauman lost her leg in a freak confetti cannon accident. She sued and used the money from the settlement to open Seattle’s first gay bar, which she named ‘Shelly’s Leg’.

Shelly’s Leg sign in the Museum of History and Industry.

27. The first openly gay LGBTI person to be elected to office was not Harvey Milk. It was Kathy Kozachenko, in 1974, who won a seat on the Ann Arbor, Michigan city council.

28. Shakuntala Devi wrote the first study of homosexuality in India, The World Of Homosexuals, in 1977. It treated homosexuality in an understanding light and is considered pioneering.

29. Singer Johnny Mathis came out as gay in a 1982 magazine article, but the magazine had to retract the statement because Mathis received numerous death threats.

30. In a private cemetery in Arkansas, Ruth Coker-Burks single-handedly buried and gave funerals to more than 40 gay men during the height of the AIDS epidemic. She had to do this because their families wouldn’t claim them.

31. When scientists first realized American gay men and Africans in France were both suffering from AIDS, French researchers sent over a sample to be tested. But a scientist with a grudge against the French institute switched out the sample, setting research back years.

32. An official Star Trek novel was published with scenes depicting Kirk and Spock as lovers in 1985. While these parts were supposed to be edited out, the wrong version was printed. It then became a collector’s item.

33. OJ Simpson’s father was a gay drag queen who died of AIDS.

(L-R) O.J. Simpson and his father.

34. Before Matt Groening created The Simpsons, he created a cartoon featuring a gay couple.

35. Dorian Corey, the older drag queen featured heavily Paris Is Burning, kept a mummified corpse in her apartment for an untold amount of years. Shot in the head, wrapped in fake leather and stuffed in a suitcase, it was only discovered after her death.

36. The first primetime male gay kiss in the US is up for debate. While many consider it to be Dawson’s Creek in 1995, On Will & Grace, Will and Jack kissed (for political reasons) three months earlier.

37. Sailor Moon in Japan had a lesbian couple, Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune. In the English translation this is censored, stating they are cousins instead. Due to the dubbing the flirting that was left in, this meant some viewers thought their relationship was incestuous.

Haruka in her Super Sailor Uranus form, as seen in the anime.

38. George Clooney once was asked if he would ever play a gay role. His response was: ‘I already did — as Batman’.

39. When asked if Bert and Ernie were gay in 1994, Sesame Streett CEO Gary Knell replied ‘They are not gay, they are not straight. They are puppets. They don’t exist below the waist.’

40. Man! I Feel Like A Woman was inspired by Shania Twain’s visit to a drag bar.

41. Oscar, the character from the US version of The Office, was not originally intended to be gay. This choice was inspired by an early episode in which he wore a pink shirt.

42. In 2004, a Mario game had a transgender playable character with a subplot about being accepted by her family. This was censored in the American version.

43. Eminem gave Elton John a pair of diamond studded cock-rings as a wedding gift.

44. A Nigerian ‘scientist‘ claimed he had ‘proved’ being gay was wrong by using magnets in 2013. He then promptly demanded to be given the Nobel prize for his research. He didn’t get one.

45. Satanists performed a ‘Pink Mass‘ on the grave of Fred Phelps’ mother in order to turn her into a lesbian in the afterlife.

46. A woman in Nebraska tried to sue all gay people in 2015. Her appeal had no legal references, but quoted Webster’s Dictionary and the Bible. It obviously did not succeed.


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