The Trials of Oscar Wilde: Sex and Scandal

em History & People 1 Comment

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” As his most popular work, “The Importance of Being Earnest”, hints at, Oscar Wilde’s life was a complicated one. Perhaps the most famous gay martyr in history, Wilde is often presented as a sacrificial victim destroyed by a bigoted and puritanical establishment.

But the story of how Wilde came to prominence, and eventually sued his lover’s father for libel, is one as surprising as it is complex. Join Tom and Dominic as they explore Oscar Wilde’s journey from the heights of brilliant success to the depths of notoriety and suffering.

Hadrian & Antinous

em History & People 2 Comments

A mysterious death on the Nile, an unconventional love affair, a Roman-Greek hero turned God – the story of Hadrian and Antinous is full of intrigue. Join Tom and Dominic as they delve into the world of Roman romance, where gender binaries and modern moral arguments do not feature, and look into the possible theories of how Antinous’ body ended up in the Nile…

Tokugawa Iemitsu

em History & People 1 Comment

Through the life of 17th century Japanese shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu, the Bad Gays podcast explores the role of same-sex relationships in Japanese court culture of the time, the radically different meanings of age and gender in different times and places, and a gay teen romance that ends, alas, with being stabbed to death in the bathtub.

Oscar Wilde on trial

em History & People Leave a Comment

At a time when male homosexuality was illegal in Britain, celebrated playwright Oscar Wilde became embroiled in a scandal that ultimately saw him put on trial for “gross indecency”. As Professor Joseph Bristow tells Lauren Good, it’s a story of danger and betrayal, which not only tells us about the writer’s life, but also about the prejudices of society at the time.

Which LGBTQ+ histories get told – and which get overlooked?

em History & People Leave a Comment

Uncovering and telling the stories of LGBTQ+ people in history can be rewarding, important work, but it’s also often challenging and complex. How far is it possible to understand the sexualities of people in the past from our 21st-century vantage point? And which stories do we forget about? To mark LGBT+ History Month in the UK, Matt Elton hosts a panel of experts – Florence Scott, Fleur MacInnes, Tim Wingard, Channing Joseph and Anthony Delaney – to discuss issues of representation in the past.

Evil twinks and gay gangsters

em History & People 5 Comments

From Alexander the Great to Ronnie Kray, the hosts of the Bad Gays podcast reveal the most villainous LGBTQ+ figures ever – and explain why it’s important to discuss the problematic alongside the good.

n February, season two of HBO’s teen drama Euphoria reached a climax. “Well, if that makes me a villain,” proclaimed an unrepentant Cassie Howard, “then so fucking be it.” This much-memed line encapsulates popular culture’s preoccupation with baddies, from Netflix’s endless scammer series to Disney’s villain origin stories. Social media is pretty much a conveyor belt of villainy, too, with different echo chambers picking their own adversaries. Meanwhile, famous young women such as Britney Spears, who were once demonised, are now being reappraised as victims. And with hindsight’s perfect vision, it’s clear that plenty of characters in TV and film were not the “actual villain” either.

We seem to be more accepting of some baddies than others. History is littered with famous probably-gay villains, from Alexander the Great to Roy Cohn, Senator McCarthy’s chief counsel and Trump’s favourite lawyer. But unlike LGBTQ+ heroes such as Alan Turing or Audre Lorde, they are seldom remembered or claimed as gay. The question of why that should be the case is the starting point of Bad Gays: A Homosexual History by Huw Lemmey and Ben Miller. The book’s central argument is that, if we are to fully understand how today’s gay identities evolved, the lives of villains – the most deceitful, criminal, manipulative and power-hungry gay people – are just as important as those of gay heroes such as Oscar Wilde.

Bad Gays is a continuation of the duo’s podcast of the same name, which profiles the “evil and complicated queers in history” – such as Ernst Röhm, the world’s first out gay politician – a Nazi – and J Edgar Hoover, the FBI director who helped harass political dissidents and gay government employees and was posthumously outed by his friend, Broadway star Ethel Merman.

“We want to address our history and how gay identity came to be,” Lemmey says. “But if we’re ever going to understand our sexual identity in a way that is based around solidarity and friendship, we need to discuss gay people who were devious and ruthless, too.”

Read on…