I often find myself wondering about the gays of the past. Well, not really wondering so much as asking myself where the heck they were. It was obviously much more stigmatized to be gay back in, say, the late 19th century than it is today, so it makes sense that a lot of homosexuals weren’t necessarily publicly out of the closet, but that doesn’t mean that everyone was straight, does it? In my recent studies of the Harlem Renaissance in my Sexuality Studies class, I was proven wrong. Not only were gays coming out of the woodwork at the beginning of the century, they were proud of it.
However, as Eric Anderson (author of Inclusive Masculinity: The Changing Nature of Masculinities) notes, many of the people involved in “gay relationships” weren’t necessarily gay. It was the beginning of a sexual revolution:
“At the turn of the 20th century, before we had the ‘mass’ notion that anyone could be gay; when we thought all gays were like Oscar Wilde, men had much more tactile/emotional relationships because they were not thought gay. I call this epoch, one in which we have high awareness that homosexuality exists, and we have high homophobia (i.e. the 1980′s) a period of homohysteria. In this period, men fear being thought gay and will do anything to distance themselves from it. They separate their bodies from one another and become more emotionally stoic. These photographs capture the zeitgeist”
Despite the clarification, I still love the vintage gays. Ashley Baccam over at Buzzfeed seems to have the same soft spot for the back-in-the-day queers as I do, as do the creators of Fuck Yeah, Gay Vintage on tumblr. I’ve included some of my favorites, but click the links to see all of the images.
Talk about combining two of my favorite things in the world- vintage photos and queermos!