Showing posts with label Gay History. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay History. Show all posts

March 25, 2020

Before The Rainbow Flag There Was Cartoon Hunks Helping to Define The Gay Culture

  • By Nick Levine

A gay man in leather                                                
Freshly moved by my company to Rochester, on one of my first nights I was able to take off, I wanted to be among gay people. I drove to town and examined the bars from the outside to see if I saw any indication of the customers. Well I made my bet on one of them. It seems to have only men and they seem like a friendly clowd. So I went in and asked for drink. As the bartender who was overweight and who was not wearing anything particualry indicative of what I was looking for went for my drink, I saw on the wall by the register a picture of the cartoon hunk in leather. I knew I was home. Not that I was into leather or cartoons but it was an indication of what the bar was about. Adam
Touko Laaksonen’s groundbreaking gay erotic art has made him a global icon. For more than 50 years until his death in 1991, the artist better known as ‘Tom of Finland’ drew gay men in a way that was radical: his muscular young hunks were happy, playful and unashamedly sexual, without being menacing. 
His work, which he liked to call ‘dirty drawings’, first found an audience on the gay underground in the 1950s and 1960s, but since then has edged ever closer to mainstream acceptance. His hyper-masculine aesthetic has influenced Freddie Mercury, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Village People, fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier, and photographers Robert Mapplethorpe and Bruce Weber. It’s also become a globally recognised brand to the extent that you can now buy a Tom of Finland tea towel on Amazon. But nevertheless, his more explicit work retains an unwavering capacity to shock.
(Credit: Alamy)
His posthumous success has undoubtedly been bolstered by the fact that in 1984, towards the end of his life, Laaksonen founded a non-profit foundation with his friend Durk Dehner to preserve and promote his catalogue of more than 3,500 illustrations. The Tom of Finland Foundation has championed Laaksonen’s work so effectively that it’s now displayed at leading galleries including New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. In 2014, the Finnish postal service even celebrated his impact with a set of commemorative postage stamps. And this month, the UK’s first public exhibition dedicated solely to his work opened at London’s House of Illustration (though the gallery is currently closed due to the Coronavirus crisis). Curator Olivia Ahmad says the show, produced in collaboration with the Tom of Finland Foundation on the centenary of Laaksonen’s birth, is necessary because he’s “one of the most influential figurative artists of the late 20th Century”.
A ‘dangerous’ artist
At the same time, Tom of Finland is still more of a cult figure than a household name like Andy Warhol (who owned several of his pieces) because his art remains incredibly provocative, especially to the straight male gaze. Many of his illustrations show men with heavily muscled torsos and surreally large genitalia engaging gleefully in sex acts. Some early Tom of Finland illustrations depicting soldiers in Nazi uniforms are also inherently problematic. Art historian Dr James Hicks says Tom of Finland is sometimes overlooked in the mainstream art world because “his work is dangerous and is meant to be dangerous”.
Equally, Tom of Finland’s deification of a certain type of gay man – muscular and avowedly masculine – hasn’t necessarily endeared him to all corners of the LGBTQ community. His influential drawings of men in leather and biker outfits helped to inspire the popular Gay Clone look that Freddie Mercury and Frankie Goes to Hollywood adopted and brought into the mainstream, but also made his work appear exclusionary to other queer factions.
Even though I had to hide my own desires – or maybe because of it – I started drawing fantasies of free and happy gay men – Tom Laaksonen 
In the 2011 book Tom of Finland: Life and Work of a Gay Hero, Dehner reflected that members of an activist group called Queer Nation “protested [Touko] not long after his death, calling him a ‘sell out’ – only drawing what they saw as ‘straights’.” And in 2020, Tom of Finland’s stylised hunks could look like the embodiment of the toxic ‘masc4masc’ culture that pervades gay dating apps, shaming queer men who present in a more femme way.
(Credit: Tom of Finland Foundation Permanent Collection)
However, it’s important not to separate Tom of Finland’s drawings from the historical context in which he created them. “At the time when I became aware of my sexual orientation, before World War Two, all gay activity was forbidden by law in most countries,” Laaksonen writes in the preface to his 1988 book, Retrospective I. Laaksonen, born in 1920 and raised by schoolteacher parents in a small town in southwestern Finland, says the first gay men he encountered “felt ashamed and guilty, like [they were] belonging to a lower human category” as a result of the prejudice they faced. He also acknowledges that his creativity was a reaction to this shame, saying: “Even though I had to hide my own desires – or maybe because of it – I started drawing fantasies of free and happy gay men.”
Creating a new stereotype
What’s more, Laaksonen developed his distinctive aesthetic – a homoerotic fantasy world populated by gay men who epitomised physical fitness and male desirability – as a corrective response to the particular, reductive way in which gay men were portrayed at the time. Even if Laaksonen’s drawings now seem to perpetuate the stereotype of gay men as inherently sexual and supremely body-conscious, they were once groundbreaking for this very reason.
“Pop culture representations of gay and queer men in the first half of the 20th Century are dominated by the image of the ‘pansy’,” says Dr Justin Bengry, who runs the Queer History course at Goldsmiths, University of London. Bengry says that the ‘pansy’ homosexual was invariably portrayed as “effete” and “the butt of the joke”. Even when he was allowed to “get one over on everyone else”, he was inevitably held up as exemplifying a kind of “failed masculinity”. “Tom of Finland is clearly a reaction against that,” Bengry asserts. “He’s showing that homoerotic desire can be masculine, valid, fun and playful.”
His work captures a raw sexual energy that’s unashamed, punk, rebellious, fantastical, sleazy and most importantly very funny – Chris Weller 
Tom of Finland’s gleeful and very gay brand of sexual freedom still resonates today – more than 60 years after his first drawing was published. “His work captures a raw sexual energy that’s unashamed, punk, rebellious, fantastical, sleazy and most importantly very funny,” says drag performer Chris Weller, aka Baby Lame. Weller says he “always feels slightly dirty” when he looks at Tom of Finland's drawings, but adds: “It’s a feeling I like!”
(Credit: Tom of Finland Foundation Permanent Collection)
Hicks says Tom of Finland’s work doesn’t just feel dangerous because of its overt queerness, but also “because of the way he’s playing with subcultures like leather and BDSM and the way he’s playing with race”. Laaksonen first drew a man of colour in 1960, and as his career progressed, he included more interracial couples in his drawings – something which certainly made his art feel even more taboo at the time. While it might be argued that Tom of Finland reinforces the stereotype of the hypersexual black male, it’s also fair to say that his white males were heavily sexualised too.
However, if these elements of his work are inspiringly subversive, the way Tom of Finland plays with imagery from the Third Reich is undoubtedly much more morally murky – even though Laaksonen unequivocally dismissed suggestions he might be a Nazi sympathiser. Laaksonen, who had sexual encounters with German servicemen stationed in Helsinki during World War Two, claimed “in my drawings I have no political statements to make, no ideology. I am thinking only about the picture itself. The whole Nazi philosophy, the racism and all that, is hateful to me, but of course I drew them anyway – they had the sexiest uniforms!”
The politics of beefcakes
But in another way, Tom of Finland’s unashamedly gay drawings were inherently political – namely, because they dared to present imagery that mainstream society wasn’t ready to accept. Laaksonen had been drawing for his own pleasure since the 30s, but in 1956 he submitted one of his efforts to the American beefcake magazine Physique Pictorial and had it published – that was when editor Bob Mizer gave him the pseudonym ‘Tom of Finland’.
Tom of Finland’s work in Physique Pictorial was so gay that it couldn’t be any gayer but just bodybuilding-y enough that it could be gotten away with – Dr James Hicks 
Though publications like Physique Pictorial were ostensibly presented as bodybuilding manuals celebrating the male form, many were essentially purveyors of gay erotica hiding in plain sight. Unlike gay pornography, beefcake magazines could be sold on American newsstands and sent through the US mail. “I don't think Physique Pictorial had much of a straight male audience,” says Bengry. “I think that it trod a line carefully so that it could plausibly deny being a gay magazine if the issue came up, but realistically it was self-consciously and knowingly a gay magazine.”
(Credit: Alamy)
Hicks agrees, saying Tom of Finland’s “work in Physique Pictorial was so gay that it couldn’t be any gayer” but also “just bodybuilding-y enough that it could be gotten away with.” These illustrations resonated with gay men around the world so strongly that Laaksonen developed a mail-order business as a kind of cottage industry for his artwork. During the 1960s, he worked at an advertising agency in Helsinki during the day, then created his beloved ‘dirty drawings’ at night. “He photographed and printed his drawings in a makeshift darkroom, then posted them to his customers across the world,” says Ahmad. “These photographs are so tiny – small enough to fit into an airmail envelope because letter-sized mail was unlikely to be opened by postal authorities” who might censor them.
And without having to maintain the pretence necessary for Physique Pictorial, Laaksonen could make his mail-order drawings explicitly sexual rather than merely highly suggestive. Ahmad says it’s hard not to be moved by these photographs today because it was so risky for them to be produced, distributed and even owned at a time when homosexuality was still illegal in many countries.
His muscular soldiers, lumberjacks and leathermen bikers were a direct contrast to the emasculating stereotypes that existed in his lifetime – Olivia Ahmad 
Laaksonen was more artist than businessman, and for many years he was poorly paid for his illustrations by both the niche titles who published them and fans who commissioned bespoke pieces. By 1973, however, he was earning enough money to quit his day job at the advertising agency and devote himself fully to drawing. His popularity continued to grow during the last two decades of his life, and in 1979 he and Dehner formed the Tom of Finland Company to copyright earlier work which had been widely pirated. Nearly 30 years after his death in 1991 from an emphysema-induced stroke, it’s arguable that his influence is more widely felt than ever. Fans can even buy a Tom of Finland leather jockstrap, a development which would surely tickle the late illustrator. Both curator Ahmad and Hicks hail his work as “revolutionary”. “His muscular soldiers, lumberjacks and leathermen bikers were a direct contrast to the emasculating stereotypes that existed in his lifetime and that still exist in some ways today,” Ahmad says.
(Credit: Alamy)
Weller says Tom of Finland’s work is now being reimagined by a new generation of queer performers who “play with the tropes he created and then really turn them on their head to create work that is political, challenging and often sexy”. Weller also says he sees a rarely discussed drag element to his aesthetic, citing his instantly recognisable “lewks [looks], attitudes and costumes”. Equally, Tom of Finland continues to inspire creatives and fashion designers. US underwear brand Rufskin launched a Tom of Finland range in 2015, while artist and Kanye West collaborator Cali DeWitt created a T-shirt for the Tom of Finland foundation last year.
A century after his birth, Tom of Finland’s original art also remains provocative and challenging to audiences still catching up with his unabashedly sexual, queer utopian vision. But as his reputation continues to swell it’s hard to deny that he achieved his primary aim: “I want to show that gays can feel happy together – that they have a right to be happy together.”
Tom of Finland: Love and Liberation at House of Illustrationis currently closed but will reopen as soon as it is safe to do so (

March 16, 2020

National Museum Wales In Cardiff Aim to Revel LGBT Secrets Kept by Enacted Laws

Image result for Queen Victoria and lived in Rome with fellow painter Penry Williams.

For decades LGBT voices went almost unheard - not least because of laws that made gay relationships a crime. 
Limited reform came with the Sexual Offences Act 1967 but it was not until 2013 same-sex marriage was made legal.
Whatever the law, art has always depicted gay themes and been made by LGBT people. 
Now National Museum Wales in Cardiff has begun a series of "queer tours" of the stories behind them.

Owain Rhys
Image captionOwain Rhys said the project was an "eye-opener"

They came about after the institution's volunteering and engagement chief Owain Rhys met freelance curator Dan Vo. 
"We commissioned Dan to research artwork and to pick the ones with the most interesting connections to LGBTQ+ and we went from there," Mr Rhys said.
The tours, organised in association with Pride Cymru, take in work by Swansea's Cedric Morris, Haverfordwest's Gwen John and Conwy's John Gibson. 
John became obsessed with a woman she sent paintings to named Vera Oumancoff.
Gibson made several portraits of Queen Victoria and lived in Rome with fellow painter Penry Williams. 
"This is part of a wider piece of work we are doing to do with cultural democracy, inclusivity and representation," Mr Rhys said. 

National Museum WalesImage copyrightGEOGRAPH/PHILIP HALLING
Image captionCurator Dan Vo said the tours took them into almost every gallery of the museum

He called the project an "eye opener".
"Having a person telling you a story in person is much more engaging than having it on a panel," Mr Rhys said. 
Curator Dan Vo said works in the tours were either made by an LGBT artist, or the subject was, or they were "something our community has made part of our story".
Mr Vo said: "We got to go into almost every single gallery of the collection and look at the different ways you can tell stories.
"In the past LGBTQ+ stories have gone untold because they were taboo. 
"That is something that has changed in the last ten years.
"Museums understand more their place in understanding and shaping their community and culture now. 
The tours begin on Sunday 15 March and will be held on the third Sunday of each month for at least six months.

February 11, 2020

A 200 Year Old Diary Which Rewrites Gay History

A diary written by a Yorkshire farmer more than 200 years ago is being hailed as providing remarkable evidence of tolerance towards homosexuality in Britain much earlier than previously imagined.
Historians from Oxford University have been taken aback to discover that Matthew Tomlinson's diary from 1810 contains such open-minded views about same-sex attraction being a "natural" human tendency.
The diary challenges preconceptions about what "ordinary people" thought about homosexuality - showing there was a debate about whether someone really should be discriminated against for their sexuality.
"In this exciting new discovery, we see a Yorkshire farmer arguing that homosexuality is innate and something that shouldn't be punished by death," says Oxford researcher Eamonn O'Keeffe.
Tomlinson's diary
Image captionThe diaries were handwritten by Tomlinson in the farmhouse where he lived and worked
The historian had been examining Tomlinson's handwritten diaries, which have been stored in Wakefield Library since the 1950s.
The thousands of pages of the private journals have never been transcribed and previously used by researchers interested in Tomlinson's eye-witness accounts of elections in Yorkshire and the Luddites smashing up machinery.
But O'Keeffe came across what seemed, for the era of George III, to be a rather startling set of arguments about same-sex relationships.
Tomlinson had been prompted by what had been a big sex scandal of the day - in which a well-respected naval surgeon had been found to be engaging in homosexual acts.
Tomlinson's diary
Image captionHistorian Eamonn O'Keeffe says the diaries provide a rare insight into the views of "ordinary people" in the early 1800s
A court-martial had ordered him to be hanged - but Tomlinson seemed unconvinced by the decision, questioning whether what the papers called an "unnatural act" was really that unnatural.
Tomlinson argued, from a religious perspective, that punishing someone for how they were created was equivalent to saying that there was something wrong with the Creator.
"It must seem strange indeed that God Almighty should make a being with such a nature or such a defect in nature; and at the same time make a decree that if that being whom he had formed, should at any time follow the dictates of that Nature, with which he was formed, he should be punished with death," he wrote on January 14, 1810.
If there was an "inclination and propensity" for someone to be homosexual from an early age, he wrote, "it must then be considered as natural, otherwise as a defect in nature - and if natural, or a defect in nature; it seems cruel to punish that defect with death".
Tomlinson's diary
The diarist makes reference to being informed by others that homosexuality is apparent from an early age - suggesting that Tomlinson and his social circle had been talking about this case and discussing something that was not unknown to them.
Around this time, and also in West Yorkshire, a local landowner, Anne Lister, was writing a coded diary about her lesbian relationships - with her story told in the television series, Gentleman Jack.
But knowing what "ordinary people" really thought about such behavior is always difficult - not least because the loudest surviving voices are usually wealthy and powerful.
What has excited academics is the chance to eavesdrop on an everyday farmer thinking aloud in his diary.
Satirical drawing of an electionImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionTomlinson was appalled by the levels of corruption during elections
"What's striking is that he's an ordinary guy, he's not a member of the bohemian circles or an intellectual," says O'Keeffe, a doctoral student in Oxford's history faculty.
An acceptance of homosexuality might have been expressed privately in aristocratic or philosophically radical circles - but this was being discussed by a rural worker.
"It shows opinions of people in the past were not as monolithic as we might think," says O'Keeffe, who is originally from Canada.
"Even though this was a time of persecution and intolerance towards same-sex relationships, here's an ordinary person who is swimming against the current and sees what he reads in the paper and questions those assumptions."
Claire Pickering, library manager in Wakefield, says she imagines the single-minded Tomlinson speaking the words with a Yorkshire accent.
Tomlinson's diary
Image captionThere are three volumes of Tomlinson's diaries at Wakefield Library
He was a man with a "hungry mind", she says, someone who listened to a lot of people's opinions before forming his own conclusions.
The diary, presumably compiled after a hard day's work, was his way of being a writer and commentator when otherwise "that wasn't his station in life", she says.
O'Keeffe says it shows ideas were "percolating through British society much earlier and more widely than we'd expect" - with the diary working through the debates that Tomlinson might have been having with his neighbors.
But these were still far from modern liberal views - and O'Keeffe says they can be extremely "jarring" arguments.
If someone was homosexual by choice, rather than by nature, Tomlinson was ready to consider that they should still be punished - proposing castration as a more moderate option than the death penalty.
Doghouse aerial
Image captionTomlinson's former home was still there in the 1930s (bottom left), but has since disappeared beneath housing and a golf course
O'Keeffe says discovering evidence of these kinds of the debate has both "enriched and complicated" what we know about public opinion in this pre-Victorian era.
The diary is raising international interest.
Prof Fara Dabhoiwala, from Princeton University in the US, an expert in the history of attitudes towards sexuality, describes it as "vivid proof" that "historical attitudes to same-sex behavior could be more sympathetic than is usually presumed".
Instead of seeing homosexuality as a "horrible perversion", Prof Dabholwala says the record showed a farmer in 1810 could see it as a "natural, divinely ordained human quality".
Rictor Norton, an expert in gay history, said there had been earlier arguments defending homosexuality as natural - but these were more likely to be from philosophers than farmers.
"It is extraordinary to find an ordinary, casual observer in 1810 seriously considering the possibility that sexuality is innate and making arguments for decriminalization," says Dr. Norton.

Who was the writer of this diary?

Matthew Tomlinson was a widower, in his 40s when he wrote his journal in 1810 - a man of a "middling" class, not a poor laborer but not rich enough to own his own land.
"I try and imagine how he would have looked," says library manager Ms. Pickering. 
There are no pictures of Tomlinson, who is thought to have lived between about 1770 and 1850.
"Very dour," she suggests. And a "bit of a hypochondriac".
Tomlinson's diary
Image captionThere are thousands of pages of handwritten journals - but some volumes appear to have been lost
"I imagine if you stopped him at his gate for a chat he'd talk about his gout more than anything else.
"I'd love to have a conversation with him about what Wakefield was like at the time," she says.
No-one knows how these private diaries, covering 1806 to 1839, ended up in Wakefield Library, but they were there by the 1950s and are presumed to be part of an earlier acquisition of old books and local documents. 
There are three surviving volumes and at least another eight are missing.
But they show vivid detail about life in Wakefield in the early 19th Century. During elections, Tomlinson was appalled by the corruption, the rum drinkers having to be carried home in wheelbarrows and the "hired ruffians".
And at Queen Victoria's coronation, he was skeptical about expensive ceremonies and celebrations, calling them all "humbug".
This was not a closed world. His social circle seemed to be avid readers of books and newspapers, following reports of revolutions abroad and riots and insurrections at home.
They saw elephants marching through Wakefield in a circus parade and military bands who had competed to hire the most talented black musicians.
We know where he lived - Doghouse Farm in Lupset, because he carefully wrote it on the front of his journals.
The farm, at the edge of the landowner's estate, is now under a housing estate and a golf course. All that survives are his diaries

January 3, 2020

19th Century Book According to Hopkins Research Helped Lay Foundation For LGBT Rights

It’s an unassuming little book, bound in olive green leather and stamped with gilt. Seven inches tall and less than 5 inches wide, it’s small enough to be concealed in a coat pocket.
Who would have thought that an 1883 essay with the dry-as-dust title “A Problem in Greek Ethics" could create such a stir?
A curator at Johns Hopkins University recently stumbled across an extremely rare copy of the 19th-century essay by John Addington Symonds that helped lay the foundation for the modern gay rights movement — a copy that for more than 130 years was thought to be lost.
It is now on view at the university, along with some letters, photographs and copies of books from Symonds’ library. The discovery establishes Hopkins as a national center of Symonds scholarship, a professor said. And it helps resurrect the reputation of a gay rights pioneer whose work inspired the writer Oscar Wilde’s famous defense against charges of “gross indecency.”

“Symonds is unjustly neglected today,” said Shane Butler, director of the university’s Classics Research Lab. "He was very famous in his own lifetime. Both he and Oscar Wilde were household names.
“But even if Symonds was forgotten after he died, his [unsigned] essay wasn’t. Pirated copies were passed hand to hand and read throughout the 20th century. The essay has been enormously influential in the struggle for gay rights.”

Photo of John Addington Symonds in "Queer Connections: The Library of John Addington Symonds," an exhibit at the Eisenhower Library of Symonds' letters and books.
Photo of John Addington Symonds in "Queer Connections: The Library of John Addington Symonds," an exhibit at the Eisenhower Library of Symonds' letters and books. (Baltimore Sun)

The book is the centerpiece of the exhibit, “Queer Connections: The Library of John Addington Symonds,” on view through March 13 at the Milton S. Eisenhower Library, 3400 N. Charles St. Once the exhibit closes, “A Problem in Greek Ethics” will be available in the library’s reading room.
“There’s something sacred about a book like this,” Butler said, “especially for queer students and gay faculty like myself. Just knowing that it’s there and being able to hold it and turn its pages is incredibly moving.”
The essay’s title is misleading because the “problem” that Symonds describes isn’t intrinsic to Greek ethics. Instead, the author argues that the Victorians had a flawed understanding of the ancient world they professed to revere.
“The book’s premise is that British Victorians based their whole culture on the world of ancient Greece,” said Ryan Warwick, a doctoral student in classics who worked on the exhibit. “But in 19th-century England, homosexuality was illegal — while in ancient Greece, homosexuality was widely accepted and practiced and considered to be the root of their cultural greatness.”
It appears Symonds knew how inflammatory his ideas were. He had his essay printed privately and limited the run to just 10 copies.
“He was afraid it would fall into the wrong hands,” said Gabrielle Dean, curator of rare books and manuscripts for Hopkins’ Sheridan Libraries.
Just five copies — all in the collections of libraries in the U.S. and the U.K. — were thought to have survived.

Gabrielle Dean, a curator for rare books and manuscripts at Johns Hopkins University, holds the lost sixth copy of a "A Problem in Greek Ethics" by John Addington Symonds.
Gabrielle Dean, a curator for rare books and manuscripts at Johns Hopkins University, holds the lost sixth copy of an "A Problem in Greek Ethics" by John Addington Symonds. (Baltimore Sun)

Dean discovered the sixth copy while helping students, in a course she taught with Butler, prepare an exhibit about books that were central to Symonds’ intellectual development.
”I was trying to verify the authenticity of Symonds’ handwriting by comparing the example we had to samples of his handwriting in other books,” Dean said.
”I Googled ‘John Addington Symonds‘ handwriting’ and one of the hits was a brand-new listing for ‘A Problem in Greek Ethics’ from a rare book dealer.”
Dean presumes that the sixth copy had been privately owned before it went on the market in the fall. Once she and Butler got over their disbelief at their stroke of luck, they quickly obtained approval from library officials to purchase the book. (They would not disclose the price.)
”I was blown away when Gabrielle showed me the listing,” Butler said. “I assumed there had to be some sort of mistake. The odds of coming across something so incredibly rare are practically zero.”
Butler has been interested in Symonds since he was an undergraduate at Duke University in the early 1990s and found a reprint of “A Problem in Greek Ethics” in a used bookstore in North Carolina.
“I was a young gay man who was just out of the closet and I was a classics major,” he said. “Here was a book about how homosexuality was celebrated in ancient Greece and Rome. I had to have it.”
The more Butler learned about Symonds, the more fascinated he became. 
Symonds was one of those larger-than-life personalities common to Victorian England. He was on a first-name basis with the leading thinkers of his day, from the explorer Sir Richard Burton to the poet Walt Whitman. (Symonds pointedly inquired about Whitman’s sexual practices, earning a rebuke from the author of “Leaves of Grass." Whitman replied that his correspondent’s inferences “are disavowed by me & seem damnable.”)
For his part, Symonds seems to have known since puberty that he was sexually attracted to men. But like other closeted gay men of that era, he married a woman and fathered four daughters. Diagnosed with tuberculosis in his 20s, Symonds later moved his family to Switzerland in the belief that the bracing mountain air would improve his health.
His memoirs describe three significant same-sex relationships: a youthful romance with a choir boy, a long and intense sexual friendship with a former student, and finally, his liaison with the gondolier Angelo Fusato, whom he met on a trip to Venice.
So smitten was Symonds with Fusato that he arranged to hire the gondolier as a household employee — a pretext so transparent that even today, Warwick marvels at its outrageousness.
“Why do you need a gondolier on your staff,” Warwick asked, “when you’re living in the mountains of Switzerland?”
The two men lived together for the rest of Symonds’ life. Though he observed appearances for his family’s sake, his sexual orientation seems to have been an open secret.
Dean said that the author Robert Louis Stevenson used his friend Symonds as a partial model for the protagonist in “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" — a novel about a man forced to ”hyde” his true nature by leading a double life. 

Symonds was not flattered by being compared to a murderer. Dean said that after Symonds read the book, he sent Stevenson the following note:
”I would have liked Dr. Jekyll to go in for analysis,” Symonds wrote. “That would have been a much better ending, don’t you think?”
But Symonds’ ideas seem to have had the most significant impact on Wilde, with whom he exchanged a few letters.
“Previous generations have been captivated by Oscar Wilde the eloquent,” Warwick said. “Symonds was more of a bibliophile, a plodding scholar. But he’s doing all the work and tracking down all the citations that allow Oscar Wilde to make his famous speeches.
“Wilde made this big legalistic argument that he shouldn’t be on trial for sodomy because homosexuality has been a noble pursuit since antiquity. All of that is in ’The Problem With Greek Ethics,’ though rewritten and reprocessed by Wilde.”
Butler is glad that the lost sixth copy is once again publicly available, given its relevance to today’s LGBTQ community.
”Symonds went through long periods of despair and shame and self-doubt,” he said. “But he always came back to the certainty that there was nothing wrong with him — there was something wrong with the world.
“It takes courage for LGBTQ kids to believe that today. To have believed that in 1883 was extraordinary.”

Mary Carole McCauley is an arts reporter specializing in theater, books and visual arts. A native Chicagoan, Mary joined the Sun in 2000. Her writing has been honored with a National Headliner Award and five awards from the Society for Features Journalism.

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