Elagabalus

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This episode of Bad Gays has everything: a tyrannical little boy king, a dictator who wanted to overthrow the Roman pantheon and install a meteorite as the object of a new monotheism, prostitution and vestal virgins, and drowning your party guests in rose petals.

We break down Elagabalus: the myth, the legend, the gender-bending icon and the searcher for the biggest dicks in the Roman Empire.

You can also listen to this episode on Spotify or Apple Podcasts

Drag: A British history

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Drag is an art form that’s seen a great deal of success – and a little controversy – in recent years. Yet, as Jacob Bloomfield argues in his book, Drag: A British History, it’s also entertained British audiences for decades, stretching back to the music halls of the Victorian era and revue shows of the Second World War.

Essential Queer Horror Films

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From 1934 until 1967, Hollywood movies were shaped by the Production Code, otherwise known as the Hays Code. Written in 1930, but not implemented until four years later, this set of rules was generally intended to keep movies from “corrupting” the people who watched them. Given that homosexuality was considered either a physical or psychological malady in the early 20th century, the code effectively legislated any limited queer presence out of existence.

While homosexuality was not explicitly banned in the Hays’ text, it was mandated that “no picture shall be produced that will lower the moral standards of those who see it. Hence the sympathy of the audience should never be thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil or sin.” It was also codified that only “correct standards of life” should be presented,” and that “sex perversion or any inference to it is forbidden.”

In other words, for a long time, cinematic queers were pushed underground, relegated to existing only in subtext — and most often as villains. In order to get queer stories onscreen, filmmakers had to find creative ways to subvert the system.

Horror films in particular have made for a fascinating case study in the evolving perceptions of queer presence; queer-horror filmmakers and actors were often forced to lean into the trope of the “predatory queer” or the “monstrous queer” to claim some sense of power through visibility and blatant expressions of sexuality.

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Italian fascists exiling gay people created an accidental queer haven

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Picture this. It’s the 1930s in Italy. You’ve perfected color-mixed outfits right down to the white, pointed-toe boots that are now en vogue, and you walk out of the house looking like a dapper dandy every morning.  Life’s not too bad except for little Benny Benito and his plan to round up and sequester all the “degenerates” and, man oh man, are you ever sitting on a secret.

The island of San Domino, part of the Isole Tremiti

Or rather, you were sitting on it last night, and it’s making sitting at work a little tricky today! Mussolini isn’t exactly known for being super tolerant about, well, anything. His answer to most problems was a little stabby stab. Seriously, he was expelled from school twice for stabbing his classmates. This man was the opposite of chill.

Eventually, you get rounded up under suspicion of being one of these “degenerates” and sent to the island of San Domino. When you get there, you realize that it’s… kind of a paradise, actually. In 1938, around 45 men (mostly from Catania) arrived on this Mediterranean island as part of Mussolini’s morally bankrupt campaign against homosexuality. Marked by pink triangular badges, they probably wore them with more style than any Boy Scout ever could.

The island of San Domino in Puglia became one of the biggest middle fingers to Italy’s leader during Mussolini’s reign. It was already inhabited when the gays arrived. They just made it infinitely more fabulous. Gay-tanamo Bay, if you will.

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