Tanika Koosmen is NUPSA’s LGBTI Representative, and a PhD researcher in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. You can contact them at Tanika.Koosmen@uon.edu.au.
With Pride Week fast approaching, it’s a good time to be thinking about your own LGBTIQ+ community. In particular, Pride Week is a moment to thank those who have paved the way before us, and those that show us support when we need it. Queer people have built a support network so great that we don’t need to have personally met our Queer Heroes for them to have a big impact in our lives.
During my time at this university, I have come across a great many Queer Heroes. For those that don’t know, Greek and Roman mythology (the area in which I do my best researching) are full of queer characters and themes, and the folk and fairy tales that follow carry that tradition on. Of course, this means that my Queer Heroes are a little older than expected, but there is something so inherently comforting about the fact that I can read about people who were just like me, changing history in honest, tragic, and amazing ways.
So, without further ado, here are some of my historical Queeroes:
Achilles (an honest-to-Zeus reason for dramatics)
Even though the relationship between Achilles, hero of Greece, and Patroclus, his companion, is still debated in scholarly sources, the actions speak in a way that the sources do not. After Patroclus’ death at the hands of the Trojan Prince, Achilles flies into a murderous rage and kills Hector, denying him basic burial rites for the murder of Patroclus. After Achilles’ death, their ashes are buried in the same jar. Sounds pretty gay to me.
Sappho (the OG Lesbian)
While the ancient Greeks had a very different view of sexuality, Greek lyric poet Sappho (c. 630 – c. 570BC) is the reason that lesbians are called lesbians (sorry, citizens of Lesbos). As the origins of sapphic attraction, Sappho’s poetry expresses love for women in a manner that is still revered as some of the greatest love poetry in history.
Alexander the Great (356 – 323BC. R.I.P)
“Hephaestion was the one whom Alexander loved, and for the rest of their lives their relationship remained as intimate as it is now irrecoverable: Alexander was only defeated once, the Cynic philosophers said long after his death, and that was by Hephaestion’s thighs.” Robin Lane Fox, Alexander the Great, 1973. P 56.
What a mood.
Hans Christian Andersen (the real reason Simon Spier kept falling in love with anyone that looked even remotely gay)
Victorian author Hans Christian Andersen (1805 – 1875) was the very beginning of the modern literary fairy tale tradition. His mother, who was illiterate, practiced Danish folk customs and told her son stories about trolls and ghosts, while his paternal grandmother told him Nordic stories about witches, ice maidens, and princesses. When Andersen developed authorial ambitions, he wrote in the style of the stories he had been told as a child. In his works, he spoke about human fragility and sacrifice, but also pure and unrequited love.
Biographies of his life told of his habit of falling in love with unattainable women and men, the most famous being the son of his patron and benefactor, Jonas Collin. It is his unrequited love for Edvard Collin who inspired his (arguably most) memorable fairy tale, The Little Mermaid. Ursula would be proud.
Oscar Wilde (he was the BIGGEST bi, my friends)
Born into a family of writers, Oscar Wilde decided to write his collection of fairy tales for the sake of his two young sons with author Constance Lloyd, who published her own volumes of fairy tales. Wilde was educated at Oxford University, earning a degree in Greek and Latin. He enjoyed an unconventional taste in clothes, and often paraded around in velvet coats, black silk stockings, and flowing shirts.
Wilde’s personal life is well documented, thanks to court records that show the Marquis of Queensbury (the father of Wilde’s lover, Lord Alfred Douglas) accused Wilde of sodomy, for which he was eventually convicted and sentenced to two years’ labour at Wandsworth and then Reading Gaol. After his release, Wilde published The Ballad of Reading, a heartbreaking ode to his time in prison.
The man well and truly lives up to his adage: “Somehow or other I’ll be famous, and if not famous, I’ll be notorious.”
If you have a few Queeroes, don’t forget to stop by the NUPSA stall at Pride Week Carnival on Tuesday, August 27 and tell us all about them!