respect your elders

History buffs list their favorite facts about queerness through the ages

La Maupin
Julie D’Aubigny, a.k.a. La Maupin

Now here’s a trivial pursuit! On Reddit, users recently lit up the r/LGBT forum with “queer historical facts” after one person noted that LGBTQ+ history “can be really hard to find, and it’s not often talked about.” (Thanks, cis-het agenda!)

“So maybe this’ll be fun and we can learn something about our history!” the original poster added. “You can post anything you want. … For example, a historical character whose queerness is not often talked about, or about a civilization and their traditions.”

Here’s a selection of responses, along with supporting evidence from around the web. (And if you still want more, check out the “favorite conspiracy theory” one person wrote about John F. Kennedy, his friend Lem Billings, and Marilyn Monroe as a beard.)

“Well, Julie D’Aubigny [who performed under the stage name La Maupin] was a badass bi sword-fighter and opera singer who kissed women in public.”

(This fact is corroborated on the Los Angeles Public Library blog, where librarian Alan Westby writes, “About 1701, La Maupin’s husband—M. Maupin—returned to her life, though this appears not have hindered her extra-marital relationships at all. Her bisexual affairs, cross-dressing, sword fighting all continued unabated.”)

Related: As a new year dawns, take a moment to reflect on a dark moment in queer history

“There are Hindu temples that are thousands of years old that have carvings depicting homosexuality. The Kama Sutra also has queer shit in it. We have queer representation in ancient texts as well. … Unfortunately, today’s society is just as homophobic because of colonization, but times are changing.”

(The HRC reports that the Kama Sutra mentions same-sex experience as an activity “to be engaged in and enjoyed for its own sake as one of the arts.” According to India Today, scholars have interpreted images at the temples of Khajuraho to mean that people engaged in homosexual acts in ancient times. And Devleena Ghosh, a professor in social and political sciences at the University of Technology, told ABC Radio National in 2020 that British colonists created social constructs against “anything that deviated from the norm on ideas about the family, sexuality, [or] male and female behavior.”)

“The Spartans were hella gay. They had to spend so much time with just other men that they got really used to having you know what with each other.”

(“In Athens and Sparta, homosexuality was practiced to various degrees, and its status was somewhat ‘complicated,’ according to Plato’s Pausanias,” Yale graduate history student James Flynn wrote for the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Humanities magazine last year. “In Thebes, on the other hand, it was actively encouraged, and even legally incentivized”)

Related: Rare artifact from queer history pops up after nearly 150 years… on Google

“In Egypt, two male royal manicurists named Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep were found buried together in a shared tomb similar to the way married couples were often buried.”

(“They are so close together here that not only are they face to face and nose to nose, but so close that the knots on their belts are touching, linking their lower torsos,” independent Egyptian history scholar Greg Reeder told The New York Times in 2005. “If this scene were composed of a male-female couple instead of the same-sex couple we have here, there would be little question concerning what it is we are seeing.”)