While sodomites were being anathematized and persecuted in Europe as provokers of divine wrath, China looked upon the phenomenon of same-sex attraction calmly, as an inescapable fact of human existence. China, indeed, provides us with the longest documented period of tolerance in human history–two thousand years extending from 500 BCE to the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644. And, though homosexuality was frowned on by the early Manchus, this disapproval seems to have been largely a formal gesture. In Chinese history and literature, until the end of the Imperial age and the triumph of Marxism, men who loved men were depicted as good or bad, sympathetic or self-seeking, honest or dishonest, talented or undistinguished, but not set apart as a race to be humiliated, denounced, or extirpated.
Louis Crompton, “Imperial China”, Homosexuality and Civilization, 2003, page 243-244
This all changed with the Maoist Cultural Revolution, where communism was seen as a way of eliminating “social ills” like prostitution and homosexuality. Western accounts from before this period often remark with astonishment on how lax and accepting Chinese attitudes were toward homosexual behavior.
While out scavenging Daryl & Paul came across a Gay
Pride Flag. Paul recognized it & its significance, but Daryl didn’t. He’d
never seen one.
Cue Paul sitting Daryl down for a Gay History 101 Lesson.
He told him about the Stonewall Riots and who Harvey Milk,
Divine & Gladys Bentley were.
He explained the LGBT acronym, including the additional
letters from more recent years, the origin of the inverted pink triangle and about the AIDS Memorial Quilt.
How Pride Parades originated, who the Daughters of Bilitis were
and what it meant to be a Friend of Dorothy.
Daryl sat quietly taking it all in while cleaning a part for
his bow over and over.
A few days after their run, Paul woke to discover his coffee
mug had disappeared. In its place was one that depicted a Jesus in a rainbow
colored robes and said “Ah, Men”, also in rainbow. He knew that only one person
could be responsible, but that person was missing from their home.
When he caught up to Daryl later to go out on a run, he saw
that Daryl had finally found a new one to switch out for his beloved red bandanna. This
one was in the pride colors.
On the basis of this legal evidence, can we descry a homosexual subculture in Spain of the Siglo de Oro? Obviously, the difficulties in answering this question are formidable. In the midst of such persecutions, in which lives were quite literally at stake, one would expect homosexual coteries to be fear-obsessed and furtive to an extreme degree. Not until the twentieth century would homosexuals in Europe dare to form communities and openly document their own history. Given the high level of popular suspicion and organized surveillance, it would have been dangerous in Spain to keep a candid diary, to write intimate letters, or circulate poems like the sonnets of Michelangelo or Shakespeare. In contrast to persecuted religious sects, no family traditions would have handed down memories of these chilling times. The history of the “crime not to be named” was doomed to be inscribed almost entirely in the records of relentlessly hostile courts.
Louis Crompton, “Spain and the Inquisition”, Homosexuality and Civilization, 2003.
History only gives voice to those who are recorded, anywhere and any time there is no voice to be found it’s important to question the silence of the record. Often those outside of the society in power at any given point are only recorded through their dismissal, abuse, and persecution by that power group.