It wasn’t until I was in a semi-out gay relationship that I started to really enjoy and seek out LGBTQIA+ media and entertainment. Now that I am fully out and established gay, I make it a point to support the community as much as possible, especially when it comes to the arts.
In May of last year, the television show Gentleman Jack premiered on HBO and BBC. The eight episodes that make up the first season follow the life of Anne Lister and her pursuit for a wife to live openly with her in England in 1832. The material for the show comes from Lister’s real-life diaries and for the most part, the show stays true to reality. It introduced me to an entire pocket of history I have shamefully never explored.
So far, I have read primarily about lesbian photographers at the turn of the century who were working in chemical photography, a very niche topic that would bore those who didn’t already have a vested interest in both photography and gay women.
One annoying recurrence in my reading is the heterosexual bias of art historians. The more I read about the history of gay culture the more I see the word “friend” transposed for the word “partner” when it came to couples who shared the same gender.
This phenomenon can be seen firsthand in the subreddit r/sapphoandherfriend on the forum-based website Reddit. The name comes from the fact that there are historians who believe that Sappho, an Archaic Greek poet, wrote her poems about platonic female friends and not lovers.
To put in perspective just how gay Sappho really was, she was from the island of Lesbos. The people who lived on this island during her life were known as lesbians. The term lesbian is now used to describe homosexual woman. To take it another step the word sapphic’s origins are tied to her as well. Sapphic is used as an alternative word to describe gay women. I can only hope that there comes a day that the world is just as proud of its gay history as I am.