Uncharted Hearts: historical tidbits

Some random facts (many of them gay-related) I learned while researching for Uncharted Hearts **click the links for sources and more info**

• Found out about this awesome person: The first female US soldier, Deborah Sampson. She lived as a man for 23 years (!) and was honorably discharged (in 1783) and she was awarded a pension, which her surviving husband was allowed to continue to collect after her death! It’s not clear if she was a gender-fluid or trans individual (has been claimed by some) or if she simply was a woman with a strong sense of patriotism, but either way she was a badass. She removed a bullet from her own thigh in order to avoid revealing her sex to military physicians! And after she left service she married and had three kids!

• People in the US as recently as February 2015 (yes this year) have been arrested under anti-sodomy laws, even though those laws were deemed unconstitutional… in 2003. Amazingly, those Revolutionary-era American sodomy laws were on the books until the 1960s (!!) when they were mostly removed. But some US states held onto sodomy as a crime, even until 2003! As of 2014, a dozen US states still had unconstitutional anti-sodomy laws on the books.

• A total of 15 men were executed for sodomy in America (during the almost 250 years when the death penalty was applied to that crime.) Sodomy was rarely prosecuted in the American colonies, despite the law, and all 13 colonies removed the death penalty for sodomy directly after winning independence. (*an interesting note: while today we think of sodomy as homosexual behavior, back in the 1700’s it was a much broader thing. Many of the convictions for sodomy were actually bestiality charges. Another weird fact: when this happened, the animals involved would be killed and disposed of without any use made of them! lol As if the poor animals had been tainted somehow by the contact. Very sad/strange.)

• There was a ship in the British Navy that was full of gay lovers!! 4 sailors on The Africaine were hanged for the crime of sodomy after the situation on board got a little out of control:

While seabound sodomy was hardly unheard-of, the practitioners among the Africaine‘s crew had seemingly grown unusually (and dangerously) bold about practicing it without a modicum of concealment, “copulating in plain view like dogs.”

(4 men hanged at once for sodomy might not seem like a lot, but the British Royal Navy rarely had even one hanging per year for sodomy, so it was a notable number.)

• Most of the things people write into historical romances about cleanliness is pretty much bullshit (okay I know they are historicals not history but still) People bathed. And did not generally shit in the street.

• We owe much of what we know about early gay life to The Societies for the Reformation of Manners, groups of people who actively searched out and exposed homosexual and other “immoral” behaviors. They claim responsibility for the prosecution of 94,322 people! (no evidence exists to support this claim) These “reformers” were useful, however, since without those court records there would be little evidence of the thriving homosexual subculture of eighteenth century England:

The simple fact of the matter is that around 1700 there was a sudden formation of affiliated Societies for the Reformation of Manners and these Societies actively searched out and revealed and prosecuted homosexual behaviour; our knowledge of molly behaviour exactly parallels the activities of these Societies. (Incidentally, these Societies had a moral view for which the general public did not have much sympathy, and we should be careful to note that the Societies were a very specific and limited social movement, and cannot be taken as evidence for a “homophobic society” in general.) The “shift” is not a shift in homosexual role, but a shift in prosecution. We know hardly anything about homosexual subcultures before 1690 þ when the Societies for the Reformation of Manners were formed.   source

• The “father of the US Military,” Baron Friedrich von Steuben, was known widely as a sodomite. Benjamin Franklin helped him escape persecution for sodomy and brought him to Valley Forge, where he was welcomed by George Washington. He went on to make huge improvements in the American military. He lived with his aides, Walker and North, in a home gifted to him by Washington, and never denied the sodomy charges.

Cool facts, right? I thought so. I read a LOT of diaries, newspapers, court transcripts, and eighteenth century fiction while working on this story. I thought these were some of the better ‘tidbits’ 🙂

kindle_cover_smI learned so much while researching for this book, and though I will probably never write another historical again, it was a good experience. I learned that though we say “it gets better,” it might actually have gotten worse in many ways (the number of GLBT hate crimes and legal prosecutions NOW is much much higher per capita than it EVER has been in history) I learned that historical romances generally tell a very narrow (and often self-serving) “single story” of our history. I learned that there were awesome people of all genders and sexualities living in the eighteenth century, and that our puritanical predecessors were not as chaste or proper as we might have thought (seriously, read some court transcripts. It’s super enlightening.)

If you are interested in a book about three men in 1795 who fall in love, where their “gay-ness” is NOT the source of any drama, and the “taboo” of their relationship is not part of the eroticism, check out Uncharted Hearts

Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia

HAHAT 2014May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia, so I am participating in my usual blog-style, with a rambling and slightly preachy post 🙂

I don’t identify as Homosexual or Transgender, and though I don’t consider myself 100% “straight” I really have no place in the LGBT acronym. So I call myself an Ally, and I try to be one.

I don’t go around saying it, though. In fact I think this might be the first place I’ve actually said those words “I’m an ally.” I have an HRC bumper sticker on my car, and I have some Rainbow-ish love-is-love T-shirts, and I don’t tolerate any hate speak in my presence… but I never openly identify myself as an ally.

As it stands in terms of homphobia and transphobia: There are the people under the LGBT* umbrella, who are discriminated against, and then there are the people who are actively doing the discriminating. The rest of us are either silent witnesses, doing nothing to help (almost as bad as the discriminating assholes) or we are “Allies,” willing to stand up for what is right, even if only in small ways.

Promising to be an ally is awesome, because you are basically saying “I know the world isn’t always safe for you, but I promise to be a safe place, and to support you.” That is a beautiful sentiment, and a powerful vow.  I love it.

But “ally” isn’t an identity. It isn’t a thing you are. Rather, it is an action, something you have to do.

And in my opinion, it isn’t something to be proud of. It is something we all should be. Being an ally is like the bare minimum of  human decency. Men should be allies to women, people who are LGBT should be allies to each other, young people should be allies to the elderly… anyone with privilege should be an active ally to those living without that privilege. We should try to do better, all of us, every day.

I could totally go on a rant about Ally pride, and how much it pisses me off, but I don’t want to fill this post with negativity. This hop is supposed to be about positive change. And so I thought I’d list some ways to actually BE an ally, everyday. Beyond the shirts and the bumper stickers.

  • The way we teach our kids is a big way to be an ally, maybe the biggest. Kids depend on us to show them what is right and wrong, and showing them that acceptance is right and discrimination is wrong is a powerful way to create positive change. If you have kids, you know there are a million tiny ways you mold their opinions everyday. Do it carefully.
  • Speaking up is another way. And I don’t mean when someone is being actively bullied or harassed, though of course we should do that, I mean in the tiny everyday things we all see and hear. When my neighbor said “I have no problem with gay people getting married, as long as they don’t kiss in front of my kids.” I didn’t want to say anything, but I did. When I hear people say “That’s so gay!” I speak up, even if they all think I’m an oversensitive PC bitch. When my kid wants to paint his toenails pink, I let him, and I make sure anyone who suggests there is something “wrong” with him gets a verbal slap. We are all in situations like this every day, especially as allies. It is important to speak up.
  • Changing the way we think is a way that I think many allies might ignore. You might think that you are totally “in” the LGBT movement, are completely supportive. But I have heard a lot of negative comments among so-called allies. Little comments about bisexuals with partners of the opposite sex being in a “straight” relationship. People saying “I hope my kids turn out to be gay” or “My gay friend, Joe, is coming over later.” I’m sure I’ve also said tons of things that were offensive and hurtful, but the point is just that we should all try to do better.

I guess the core of it is, to truly be an ally (verb, not noun) we need to constantly acknowledge our privilege, try really hard to have empathy, understand that just because we don’t see oppression doesn’t mean it isn’t happening, and take action whenever possible. I’m trying.

I will leave you with this really awesome but slightly unrelated TED Talk, about building empathy and rejecting categorization:

❤ Don’t forget to visit the other great blogs in this hop! Click HERE to go to the main HAHAT blog hop page

One commenter will win a copy of my latest book, Love You Forever, in either signed paperback or e-reader format, your choice. note: If you want to win, you must comment and leave your e-mail when it asks (I think if you are a wordpress user it will not ask, it will just know) otherwise I won’t be able to contact you! This contest will be open until May 24 and one winner will be chosen at random.

But because giving away my own book really doesn’t cost me much, I will also donate $1 per comment (Only up to $25. Sorry, I’m poor) to Youth Pride Inc, an organization local to me that supports LGBTQQ youth and provides community education. So come on, talk to me!

(if comments aren’t visible below, click on this link or the title of the post to open this post in its own page for commenting)

doodle tuesday

I have been doing ‘Doodle Tuesday” for a few weeks now. My last few posts have been sort of heavy, so I thought this would be nice to share. I found out about Doodle Tuesday from Thorny Sterling’s blog, and I am grateful for the knowledge. It has been so fun sharing my doodles, and browsing everyone else’s!

Doodle Tuesday is an offshoot of the You Will Rise Project, an anti-bullying platform which uses visual and literary arts to help people rise above bullying and move past hurt. As a former art teacher, I love the concept. As someone who was teased and excluded (though “bullying” is too strong a word for my experiences), I think it is wonderful.

So, here are the doodles I’ve done so far:

8.6 8.13 8.20 8.27

Why don’t you do one, too? All you have to do is post them to facebook or twitter, with a #doodletuesday tag.

Hope to see your work next Tuesday!