Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Larry Kramer Takes on "Homo Sex in Colonial America"

In a piece posted on yesterday's Huffington Post, activist/author/play write Larry Kramer asserts that the absence of gays and lesbians in American history can be blamed on a lack of vocabulary to describe homosexuality in pre-twentieth century America.

Although a plethora of personal letters from the earliest colonial days, through the civil war and into the pre-Stonewall era describe deeply passionate yearnings between same-sex "friends", and the practice of two men or two women sharing a very small bed for years was widespread during more "innocent" times , historians are hesitant to ascribe the label "homosexual" to those relationships for fear of being called revisionists.

Kramer takes issue with historical accounts of such relationships, using historians' own vocabulary. When a preponderance of evidence exists in the historical record to back up a theory, but there is no declarative statement from the subject in question and no smoking gun can be found, academics use the phrase "it seems reasonable to assume" to support their claims that one thing or another is likely to have occurred. Over time, those theories are often accepted as historical fact. Except when it comes to LGBT history. Kramer writes:

"Jamestown was initially an all-male settlement. subsequent years...male colonists outnumbered women by roughly six to one in the 1620's and four to one in later decades... It is difficult to believe that a group of young and notoriously unbridled men remained celibate for an extended period of time. It seems likely that some male settlers deprived of female companionship would have turned to each other instead.

"Settlers in the seventeenth-century Chesapeake often paired off to form all-male households, living and working together. would be truly remarkable if all the male-only partnerships lacked a sexual ingredient... IT SEEMS REASONABLE TO ASSUME,... that much of the sex that took place... was sodomitical."

Kramer says it's time for America to grow up and accept the fact that although LGBT people in history may not have known what to call themselves, and that sodomy was often punishable by death, when the need arose, colonial queers knew what they wanted and what to do behind closed doors.

Read the full article at The Huffington Post.

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