“I love you” – three easy words to say, no? Not if you’re judged by others for saying them. This month we honour authors from the LGBT community and their struggles with 10 gems from our catalogue.
Life was easy in ancient Greece and Rome, when gay men could show their love openly. Gaius Petronius Arbiter tells in The Satyricon about the misadventures of Encolpoius and his young lover Giton.
Some 1900 years later, things had changed: Homosexuality was seen as a pathological perversion that needed to be cured or at least suppressed. One of the most influental doctors of this time, Sigmund Freud, details his views in the first essay in Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex.
This often led to an enormous struggle to try and reconcile public image with privately held desires. Federico Garcia Lorca, a well known Spanish poet, suffered greatly for what he could not change, and was assassinated in 1936. We have 67 of his poems in Libro de Poemas.
One way of dealing with this was to confide in close friends only. This is what E. M. Forster did. His first book Where Angels Fear to Tread still deals with a mesalliance: An English widow falls in love with an Italian – something her husband’s family cannot let happen…
Another example of “for friend’s eyes only” is Lytton Strachey. Openly gay to his friends, he kept his sexual orientation quiet otherwise. It is likely that his subtle mocking of four Eminent Victorians would not habe been so well received otherwise.
Those two at least were not betrayed by their friends. Once officially outed, The Trial of Oscar Wilde took place, and he was sentenced to two years of hard labour. This is a dramatic reading of an anonymous, contemporary court report.
Given the possible outcomes of being marked as “deviant”, it was best to keep quiet. Marcel Proust never admitted to be gay and even his housekeeper appears to have been unawares, other than his friends. A l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs is part of his masterpiece A la recherche du temps perdu.
Public opinion was apparently always kinder to lesbian couples, especially in recent times. Gertrude Stein was already able to live an open life as lesbian. Her book Geography and Plays contains experimental stream of consciousness essays.
Of course, it was never a good idea to flaunt one’s lifestyle, no matter what it might be. The Autobiography I, Mary MacLane of an openly bisexual feminist caused a major scandal. Today, Mary MacLane would be described as the first blogger ever.
Even though extemely popular, Marie Corelli had no notions of living a public life. Although she never described herself as lesbian, she lived with her lover for 40 years and left her all her property. Among it was Ziska, a book about an alluring Egyptian princess wreaking havoc among a party of European travellers…
Enjoy – and keep saying “I love you!”