Monthly Archives: August 2011

The Homoerotic Poetry of Catullus


Gaius Valerius Catullus (ca. 84 BC – ca. 54 BC) was a Roman poet of the 1st century BC.His surviving works are still read widely, and continue to influence poetry and other forms of art. Catullus invented the “angry love poem.” He was imitated by Tibullus, Propertius, Horace and Ovid, as well as Ben Jonson and Robert Herrick in English. Most of Catullus’ poems are short. In a few concise lines he expresses love, friendship or bitterness. Most of his poems are heterosexual, but a good number of them are devoted to boys and are “particularly lusty.”

50. Yesterday: to Licinius Calvus 1

Yesterday, Calvus, idle day
we played with my writing tablets,
harmonising in being delightful:
scribbling verses, each of us
playing with metres, this and that,
reciting together, through laughter and wine.
And I left there fired with your charm,
Calvus, and with your wit,
so that, restless, I couldn’t enjoy food,
or close my eyes quietly in sleep,
but tossed the whole bed about wildly
in passion, longing to see the light,
so I might speak to you, and be with you.
But afterwards I lay there wearied
with effort, half-dead in the bed,
I made this poem for you, pleasantly,
from which you might gather my pain.
Now beware of being rash, don’t reject
my prayers I beg, my darling,
lest Nemesis demand your punishment. She’s
a powerful goddess. Beware of annoying her.

99. Stolen Kisses: to Iuventius 2

I stole a sweet kiss while you played, sweet Iuventius,
one sweeter than sweetest ambrosia.
Not taken indeed with impunity: for more than an hour
I remember, I hung at the top of the gallows,
while I was justifying myself to you, yet with my tears
I couldn’t lessen your anger a tiny morsel.
No sooner was it done, than, your lips rinsed
with plenty of water, you banished it with your fingers,
so nothing contracted from my lips might remain,
as though it were the foul spit of a tainted whore.
More, you handed me unhappily to vicious love
who’s not failed to torment me in every way,
so that sweet kiss, altered for me from ambrosia,
was more bitter than bitter hellebore then.
Since you lay down such punishments for unhappy love,
now, after this, I’ll never steal kisses again.

1 Gaius Licinius Calvus, orator, poet, friend of Catullus and colleague of Cicero. Ovid mentions him alongside Catullus and Tibullus.

2 An unidentified friend of Catullus.

Jim Grimsley

I was listening to NPR’s All Things Considered… today on my way to work, when I heard this segment about their summer reading suggestions:

Immerse Yourself In An Innocent, Ill-Fated Love 

by JUSTIN TORRES (The author of the forthcoming novel We the Animals. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is now a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University.)

Justin Torres

In 1995, when I was a sophomore in high school, an older, popular boy came out of the closet. He was taunted daily until he dropped out. I never saw him again.
Months later, a decidedly unpopular, more flamboyant boy was beaten in the schoolyard. I remember escorting him to the nurse’s office. I remember the look of disgust on the nurse’s face; I don’t know whether this disgust was directed at the act of savagery, or at the bleeding boy himself, and his arm around my shoulder. I also remember thinking that soon it would be my turn, and sure enough it was.
That same year, 1995, saw the publication of Dream Boy. In it, author Jim Grimsley confronts the violence of adolescent homophobia, but also, and maybe more importantly, he describes the emotional texture — the loneliness — of growing up queer, and the bravery and special intensity of finding love in a hostile environment. Grimsley demonstrates that two working-class boys loving each other, in the rural South, is an act as profound as it is simple.
I wish that back then someone had put this book in my hands. I didn’t come to Dream Boy until nearly a decade later, at the suggestion of author Dorothy Allison, who insisted that it wasn’t enough just to write the violence — that we need to write the tenderness as well. “Read Grimsley,” she said; he’s one who had gotten it right.
Dream Boy tells the story of Nathan and Roy. Nathan’s troubled family relocates to a new home on Roy’s family farm. Nathan is smart, shy and slight. Roy is two years older, strong and popular. He is pulled gravitationally toward Nathan. The first half of the book is written with devastating beauty; the language manages to be clear and precise while at the same time dreamy and incantatory.
The second half of Dream Boy takes us to a haunted house, and the book becomes a ghost story. This is a brilliant, unexpected turn, and Dream Boy is like no other book I’ve ever read. I won’t say too much more here, because you must read this book, but I will say that Grimsley realizes literature is not bound to the laws of the physical world, and he makes the most of this. And though he writes about those on the margins, he is an inventive, masterful writer deserving of a universal audience.
We find violence and tragedy here, and some have labeled this book Southern Gothic. But as novelist Flannery O’Connor said, “Those writers who speak for and with their age are able to do so with a great deal more ease and grace than those who speak counter to prevailing attitudes.”
She continued, “I once received a letter from an old lady in California who informed me that when the tired reader comes home at night, he wishes to read something that will lift up his heart. And it seems her heart had not been lifted up by anything of mine she had read. I think that if her heart had been in the right place, it would have been lifted up.”
There is something of a national conversation going on about sexuality and bullying among adolescents. Nothing I have heard can touch the beauty and eloquence of Dream Boy. No argument for compassion is as convincing, and if you’ve suffered or are suffering from bullying, no platitude is as salutary as reading and rereading this book.
So read Dream Boy, if your heart is in the right place.

This review reminded me of just how much I have always wanted to read this book.  I hate to admit it, but I have only read one of Jim Grimsley’s books, Boulevard. Boulevard is about the transformation of a country boy from Pastel, Ala., into a latter-day Narcissus, circa 1978, when to be young, pretty and gay was almost heaven. Newell, a sweet-natured country bumpkin who has never bought a newspaper or used an umbrella, finds a room in the French Quarter. His fresh good looks attract the attention of Curtis, the manager of the restaurant where he finds a job as a busboy, but he’s fired when he rebuffs his boss’s advances. Luckily, he’s soon hired at a pornographic book store stocked with glossy, plastic shrink-wrapped magazines relating the photogenic adventures of phallically enlarged young men and with movies that are available for group showings in curtained booths. The magazines awaken Newell to his true sexual nature, but do little to prepare him for the new erotic events in his life. Other characters include Miss Sophie, nee Clarence Eldridge Dodd, New Orleans’ ugliest transsexual, who cleans the place, and the owner’s nephew, scary Jack, a sadist who eventually preys on Newell after Newell breaks up with Mark Duval, a Tulane grad student obsessed by the Marquis de Sade. Grimsley’s attempt to capture the carnival decadence of that time and place is smoothly done through naeve Newell’s gradual understanding of the environment he has entered.

I really enjoyed Boulevard, which I read several years ago when it first came out.  I loved that the character was from Alabama and Grimsley’s descriptions of New Orleans’s French Quarter are so rich and beautiful that you will fall in love with the city over and over again.  After reading Boulevard, I had planned to read more of Grimsley’s books, but for some reason, I never got around to reading any more.  I hope you will check out either of these books.  I know I will be reading Dream Boy as soon as I can get my hands on it.

Click “read more” below for a short biography of Jim Grimsley.

Jim Grimsley

Born to a troubled rural family in Pollocksville, North Carolina, Grimsley said of his childhood that “for us in the South, the family is a field where craziness grows like weeds”.

After moving to Atlanta he would spend nearly twenty years as a secretary at Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital before joining the creative-writing faculty at Emory University. During those years, Grimsley wrote prolifically, with fourteen of his plays produced between 1983 and 1993.

Jim Grimsley is a playwright and novelist. Jim’s first novel, Winter Birds, was published by Algonquin Books in 1994. The novel won the 1995 Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and received a special citation from the Ernest Hemingway Foundation. Jim’s second novel, Dream Boy, won the American Library Association GLBT Award for Literature (the Stonewall Prize) and was a Lambda finalist. His third novel, My Drowning, was released in January 1997 by Algonquin Books and for it he was named Georgia Author of the Year. His fourth novel, Comfort & Joy, was published in October, 1999, and was a Lambda finalist. A fantasy novel, Kirith Kirin, was published by Meisha Merlin Books in 2000 and won the Lambda in the science fiction and horror category for 2001. He has published short fiction in The Ontario Review and Asimov’s and his stories have been anthologized in The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Volume 16, Men on Men 4, Men on Men 2000, and Best Stories From the South, year 2001. Boulevard, published in 2002 by Algonquin, was again a Lambda finalist in the literature category and won Jim his second Georgia Author of the Year designation. His novel, The Ordinary, a science fiction novel published in 2004 by Tor Books, won a Lambda in the science fiction/fantasy/horror category. His latest two novels are The Last Green Tree, published by Tor Books of New York in 2006, and Forgiveness, published by the University of Texas Press as part of the inaugural James. A. Michener Fiction Series. His new story collection, Jesus Is Sending You This Message, was published in September 2008 by Alyson Books.

Jim received the Lila Wallace/Reader’s Digest Writers Award for his body of work in 1997, and has twice been a finalist for the Rome Prize Fellowship in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2003-2004). In 2005 he won an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

He served as playwright in residence at About Face Theatre in Chicago under a National Theatre Artist Residency Program grant from Theate Communications Group/Pew Charitable Trust (1999-2004); he has been playwright in residence at 7Stages Theatre in Atlanta since 1986. In 1987 he received the George Oppenheimer/Newsday Award for Best New American Playwright for Mr. Universe. His collection of plays, Mr. Universe and Other Plays,was published by Algonquin Books in 1998, and was a Lambda finalist for drama.

His books have been translated into German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Hebrew, and Japanese.

Philia: Brotherly Love

Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body. Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

Hebrews 13:1-8

We recognize philia and its meaning from the name Philadelphia, that is, the city of brotherly love. This is the love of friendship, best friends, and the fellowship of being with those people you enjoy.

Philia is the Greek word for neighborly love – the bonds of friendship that bind us together in community. Philia can be defined as “the reserve of human warmth, enthusiasm and generosity that nourishes and stimulates the fellowship at the heart of civic life.” By “reserve” I mean that these qualities already exist in our communities; we just need to draw them out. In other words, our communities are inherently resilient. The lens of resilience is fundamental to Philia because it makes us re-examine our assumptions about how individuals and communities function and grow. It reminds us that we are not merely passive recipients in need of outside support and intervention, but have a built-in capacity to heal, adapt, transform and survive.

In contrast to the desiring and passionate yearning of eros, philia entails a fondness and appreciation of the other. For the Greeks, the term philia incorporated not just friendship, but also loyalties to family and polis-one’s political community, job, or discipline. Philia for another may be motivated, as Aristotle explains in the Nicomachean Ethics, Book VIII, for the agent’s sake or for the other’s own sake. The motivational distinctions are derived from love for another because the friendship is wholly useful as in the case of business contacts, or because their character and values are pleasing (with the implication that if those attractive habits change, so too does the friendship), or for the other in who they are in themselves, regardless of one’s interests in the matter. The English concept of friendship roughly captures Aristotle’s notion of philia, as he writes: “things that cause friendship are: doing kindnesses; doing them unasked; and not proclaiming the fact when they are done” (Rhetoric, II. 4, trans. Rhys Roberts).

Aristotle elaborates on the kinds of things we seek in proper friendship, suggesting that the proper basis for philia is objective: those who share our dispositions, who bear no grudges, who seek what we do, who are temperate, and just, who admire us appropriately as we admire them, and so on. Philia could not emanate from those who are quarrelsome, gossips, aggressive in manner and personality, who are unjust, and so on. The best characters, it follows, may produce the best kind of friendship and hence love: indeed, how to be a good character worthy of philia is the theme of the Nicomachaen Ethics. The most rational man is he who would be the happiest, and he, therefore, who is capable of the best form of friendship, which between two “who are good, and alike in virtue” is rare (NE, VIII.4 trans. Ross). We can surmise that love between such equals-Aristotle’s rational and happy men-would be perfect, with circles of diminishing quality for those who are morally removed from the best. He characterizes such love as “a sort of excess of feeling”. (NE, VIII.6)
Friendships of a lesser quality may also be based on the pleasure or utility that is derived from another’s company. A business friendship is based on utility–on mutual reciprocity of similar business interests; once the business is at an end, then the friendship dissolves. This is similar to those friendships based on the pleasure that is derived from the other’s company, which is not a pleasure enjoyed for whom the other person is in himself, but in the flow of pleasure from his actions or humor.

The first condition for the highest form of Aristotelian love is that a man loves himself. Without an egoistic basis, he cannot extend sympathy and affection to others (NE, IX.8). Such self-love is not hedonistic, or glorified, depending on the pursuit of immediate pleasures or the adulation of the crowd, it is instead a reflection of his pursuit of the noble and virtuous, which culminate in the pursuit of the reflective life. Friendship with others is required “since his purpose is to contemplate worthy actions… to live pleasantly… sharing in discussion and thought” as is appropriate for the virtuous man and his friend (NE, IX.9). The morally virtuous man deserves in turn the love of those below him; he is not obliged to give an equal love in return, which implies that the Aristotelian concept of love is elitist or perfectionist: “In all friendships implying inequality the love also should be proportional, i.e. the better should be more loved than he loves.” (NE, VIII, 7,). Reciprocity, although not necessarily equal, is a condition of Aristotelian love and friendship, although parental love can involve a one-sided fondness.

The concept of philia love, or brotherly love, can be analogous to the modern idea of Platonic Love.  Today, when people refer to “Platonic Love” they are referring to an affectionate relationship without sexual intimacy. This is not what Plato meant when referring to love. Plato’s Symposium addresses love and presents various opinions on the subject. A symposium was a banquet, usually accompanied by much wine, but at this particular symposium, the diners chose to remain relatively sober. Likewise, the customary symposium entertainment was sent away. This made the discussion of love the central aspect of the feast. The recounted speech of Diotima is taken to be closest to Plato’s own ideas on love.

The type of love Plato seems to have admired most was that in which one man loved another because of his intelligence or virtue, rather than because of his physical attractions — a love of the idea of beauty more than the physical appearance, and a love of a person is a lesser love to that of absolute beauty, the ideal form.

Platonic love in the modern world can also refer to love between gay men.  I think that we should think of Platonic love and Philia love in the same way.  We should love our fellow man, treat him kindly without expecting something in return.  The beauty of friendship is that you are a friend through thick and thin, which could be described as a Platonic relationship, but the traditional definition of Philia love is a friendship based on conditions.  However, I think that if we think of brotherly love as a love with conditions, then we are doing it an injustice.  We should love our friends unconditionally, and I hope that is what all of us do.


Philia from Wikipedia
A Short Handbook on Love
Definition of Philia
Philosophy of Love
Platonic Love

Note:  I debated whether or not to include the Biblical passage above because it comes from Hebrews Chapter 13.  See, I have a bit of a fear of the number “13,” not a major fear, just a wariness.  In other words, I have a slight case of “Triskaidekaphobia.” Triskaidekaphobia (from Greek tris meaning “3”, kai meaning “and”, deka meaning “10” and phobia meaning “fear” or “morbid fear”) is fear of the number 13; it is a superstition and related to a specific fear of Friday the 13th, called paraskevidekatriaphobia or friggatriskaidekaphobia.

Straight But Not Narrow

I came across information for the Straight But Not Narrow (SBNN) organization on SECRETGUYSTUFF’S BLOG. More about SBNN in a moment, but I did want to take a second to say that SECRETGUYSTUFF’S BLOG is one of the coolest blogs that I have come across in a long time.  It’s a blog about “It’s guys talking about guy stuff. You know, the inside stuff, the stuff we want to know about, the stuff we want to discuss, the experiences we want to share, and the questions we can’t ask our moms. So share it, dare it, enjoy it.” From discussions about lubes to masturbation myths to body hair to the various degrees of sexuality. It is a blog about all of the stuff that I wondered about as a teenager and young adult. I eventually found many of the answers on my own, but I wish this blog had been around back then. I still learn a few things here and there, and this blog is a fun way to learn about the secret guy stuff and it is also a bit nostalgic for those of us who have already experienced these points in our lives.  So before I begin to talk about SBNN, I wanted to introduce you guys to SECRETGUYSTUFF’S BLOG.

Straight But Not Narrow is an organization that was started by asking that very question.  There have been a number of great campaigns and charities that have recently emerged to show support to gay youth and teens. However, SBNN noticed one significant niche missing in the efforts. the message to the young, straight male. Its an unfortunate reality that most of the bullying and harassment that gay teens face comes from them. It is for this reason that we are building a campaign that is primarily directed to the young, straight male by using comedy and their peers to positively influence their views on LGBT teens.

SBNN was founded by Avan Jogia.  Avan, an actor, musician, writer, and big picture thinker. His idea, his passion, his voice started it all.

Back to school should be a fun time for everyone. The sad truth is, this can be a tough time for a LGBTQ students. Straight But Not Narrow are rally their troops to do their part in making sure this back to school is awesome for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation.

They are asking allies to make a pledge.  Here’s the pledge:

“I will do my part to make sure this is a great school year for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are gay, straight, or somewhere in between. Just be you, because it’s all good with me”. I’m Straight But Not Narrow (the last line is optional if, of course, it doesn’t apply to you).

SBNN has also had a series of YouTube videos to get their point across.  Here is one by Ryan Rottman (who I had to look up too, but he is very cute).

Ryan Rottman (born March 17, 1984) is an American actor. He is best known for his role as Joey Colvin on the TeenNick series Gigantic, which premiered October 8, 2010.  Ryan Rottman started his career in 2008 as an extra in the film The House Bunny. Before that he starred in the plays at Texas Tech University. In 2009, he appeared in films The Stuntman and The Open Road. Rottman’s other television credits are Viva Laughlin, Greek, Victorious and the webisode series Valley Peaks.

One of the most fascinating things that I have found while teaching at the conservative little private school where I teach is that I often hear the girls in the school say that they wished they had a “gay best friend.”  It is generally said in response to a homophobic comment from one of the boys in the class and sometimes it is just random.  They don’t know that I am gay, and it is probably better that way (mostly because of school politics), but the students know that I don’t tolerate derogatory language in my class in any form.  Therefore, it often gives me a warm fuzzy feeling when the girls put the guys in their places when they are being insensitive.  I also find it particularly funny that there are a few of the girls who have said that, who I am almost 100 percent sure that their male best friend is actually gay, they just don’t know it yet.  We have a few students at school who either have not yet admitted it to themselves or are still in the closet because of home and school prejudices.  I try my best to teach all of my students acceptance of those things they do not understand.  People are far too often scared of things they don’t understand and that fear turns into prejudices.  It is a sad state of affairs, but it is something that I am working to change.

Moment of Zen: Very Cute

Speaking of Running Away…

If you live on the Eastern Coast of the United States and are in the path of Hurricane Irene, I hope that you will take the necessary precautions and evacuate if you are told or advised to do so.  Having lived through several hurricanes myself, including Katrina (2005) and Opal (1995), they are not something to ignore.  If you are staying and will be effected by the hurricane, please make sure that you are well stocked on water and other emergency supplies.  Please be careful and keep well informed.  All those in the path of the storm will be in my thoughts and prayers.

Run Away…

Do you ever get the urge to just run away?  I’m sure I am not alone in this feeling from time to time.  When things just begin to pile up on you; everyone seems to be pulling you in a different direction; you have a ton of things to do, that all needed to be done yesterday; and you just wish there were four or five of you to get it all finished.  I have been having that feeling for the last few weeks, but I hope things are starting to settle down.  However, on the nights when I teach my college class, I pass the airport on my way home.  I seem to always be passing by when the last plane of the night is landing.  It’s a regional airport, and I have been on that last flight into the airport several times.  Seeing that plane in the air, flying over, always gives me the urge to run away.  I always want to be on one of those planes that are leaving.  It doesn’t matter where (though Italy would be nice), just to go somewhere and put the worries of life behind me for a few days.  It’s actually a very odd feeling for me, to want to fly somewhere that is, because I am terrified of flying.  Anytime I fly, I have to take Xanax just to keep from having a panic attack.  Yet, I still wish I were in one of those planes.

When the stresses of life seem to be at their breaking point for you, what do you wish you could do?  And if you did run away, where would you go?

Gays and the Old West

Last night, the topic of my c.ass was the settling of the American West.  I always enjoy punching up my lectures with something interesting and though many people find the Wild West fascinating, most of what they find fascinating is mere cowboy mythology.  Lecturing about the invention of barbed-wire and the massacres of Native Americans can get a little tedious (not to diminish the importance of either topic, but…).  The fact is, you can only talk about Chinese prostitution just so much to make it interesting.  Though I am a nineteenth century US historian, I have never found the history of the Wild West that exciting.  So after my lecture tonight, which did go surprisingly well for a topic I am not that interested in, I decided to do a little research into the homosexual past of the Wild West, which is certainly something that can make the topic more interesting.

Say the words “gay cowboy” and chances are the conversation will turn to “Brokeback Mountain,” the 2005 film starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, and based on the Annie Proulx short story.  The Oscar-winning drama, which is set in the 1960s to ’80s, highlighted a long-submerged facet of frontier culture. But  homosexuals and transgender individuals had a more interesting history in the American West is much older than the movie might lead you to think. It is, in fact, almost as old as the West itself.

The Autry National Center is the first major American museum to recognize the contributions of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community to the American West and has created the Out West series. The museum presents a series of programs featuring Western scholars, authors, artists, politicians, musicians, and friends of Western LGBTs in discussions and gallery talks at the Autry.

“With Hidden Histories, the Autry National Center weaves the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community into the rich tapestry of the American West,” said GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios. “It is so important for Americans to hear stories that reflect the diversity of the LGBT community and our presence throughout our nation’s great history. GLAAD is proud to endorse Out West.”

It seems that LGBT community has a long history in the West. Take for instance the tale of One-Eyed Charlie, who was a stagecoach driver known for his hard drinking and itchy trigger finger. Charlie worked for the California Stage Co., where he earned his reputation as one of the best drivers in the wild West. He traveled between Oregon and California and, the story goes, got his nickname when he lost an eye while attempting to shoe a horse.

But Charlie kept a secret that was revealed only after his death in 1879. When his body was being prepared, a coroner discovered that One-Eyed Charlie was actually a woman.  It turns out that Charlie, nee Charlotte Darkey Parkhurst, had passed much of her adult life as a man. The discovery of her true gender became a local sensation. And her story still fascinates U.S. historians, some of whom believe that she was the first woman to have voted in a presidential election, long before the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920.

As far back as 1882, the Texas Livestock Journal wrote that “if the inner history of friendship among the rough and perhaps untutored cowboys could be written, it would be quite as unselfish and romantic as that of Damon and Pythias.”  In Greek mythology, Damon offered to be taken hostage by the despot Dionysius I so that his condemned friend, Pythias, could make a final visit home. When Pythias returned to be executed, Dionysius was so impressed by their trust that he spared both their lives.

“There have been gay cowboys for as long as there have been gay people,” says Brian Helander, a 51-year-old nurse from Arizona and president of the International Gay Rodeo Association. “It’s always been a part of the western frontier lifestyle that wasn’t talked about. It was just there.”

Jim Wilke, the cowboy historian, agrees. “Many circumstances contributed to personal closeness on the ranch and trail,” he wrote in a 1997 article. “Cowboys commonly bedded in pairs, sharing bedrolls with their ‘bunkie’.”

Wilke also points to the tradition of the all-male stag dance, where cowboys could be found entertaining themselves with polkas, waltzes and quicksteps. He says homosexual acts between young, unmarried cowboys were euphemistically known as “mutual solace” in the 19th century.

In a 1948 study of rural homosexuality by Alfred Kinsey, the controversial zoologist, it was noted that “there is a fair amount of sexual contact among the older males in western rural areas.”  His report added: “It is a type of homosexuality that was probably common among pioneers and outdoor men. Today it is found among ranchmen, cattlemen, prospectors, lumbermen and farming groups in general. These are men who … live on realities and on a minimum of theory. Such a background breeds the attitude that sex is sex, irrespective of the nature of the partner.”

He also noted that these homosexual acts rarely interfered with heterosexual relationships and that the cowboys themselves were often deeply homophobic and “quite without the argot, physical manifestations and other affectations often found in urban groups.”

Although anti-sodomy laws were common in the Wild West, they were selectively enforced. In 1896 a man from El Paso called Marcelo Alviar was charged with sodomy and his bond was set at $500, the same as it would have been for murder. And in 1901 an Idaho detective hid in the ceiling above a public lavatory in an attempt to catch homosexuals in the act. Alas, the bowler hats worn by the offenders made identification impossible.

Samples of California Sodomy Laws:

1801–Though carried out under Spanish law, the last known U.S. death sentence for sodomy occurs in California. Eighteen-year-old Jose Antonio Rosas is shot by a firing squad. 

1850–California’s first criminal code is enacted, and includes a ban on sodomy. The law begins with the preface, “The People of the State of California, represented in Senate and Assembly, do enact as follows:”. However, the law was enacted in April when California still was a territory. It did not become a state until September, and it is unclear if this made the original law invalid.

Below is an unnamed poem written in Texas in the 1880s and recorded by Charlie Siringo, a cowboy in the 1870s.

My lover is a cowboy
He’s kind, he’s brave, he’s true
He rides the Spanish pony
and throws the lasso, too
And when he comes to see me
And our vows we have redeemed
He puts his arms around me
And then begins to sing:
Oh, I am a jolly cowboy,
From Texas now I hail,
Give me my saddle and pony
And I’m ready for the trail.
I love the rolling prairie
Where we are free from care and strife,
And behind a herd of long-horns,
I will journey all my life.


A ‘howdy pardner’ could be more than just hello
Gay Cowboys? Sure, Pardner.
Gays in the wild wild west.
‘Out West’ at the Autry examines the history of homosexuals and transgender people in the Old West

Gay Demon Editor’s Pick

So this is tooting my own horn a little bit, but when I saw this, I was pretty excited about it. GayDemon’s Blog, a “porntastic blog with your daily fix of fresh gay sex and random pornographic ramblings.” featured my blog as it’s editor’s picks today and wrote a very flattering review of The Closet Professor. Check them out, (NSFW).

Les regrets de Joachim du Bellay

Les regrets de Joachim du Bellay

Sonnet CV (Originally French)

De voir mignon du Roy un courtisan honneste,
Voir un pauvre cadet l’ordre au col soustenir,
Un petit compagnon aux estat parvenir,
Ce n’est chose (Morel) digne d’en faire feste.

Mais voir un estaffier, un enfant, une beste.
In forfant, un poltron Cardinal devenir,
Et pour avoir bien sceu un singe entretenir
Un Ganymide avoir le rouge sur la teste:

S’estre veu par les mains d’un soldat Espagnol
Bien hault sur un eschelle avoir la corde au col
Celuy, que par le nom de Sainct-Père lon nomme:

Un bélistre en trois jours aux princes s’égaller,
Et puis le voir de là en trois jours dévaller:
Ces miracles (Morel) ne se font point qu’à Rome.

The Regrets of Joachim du Bellay

Sonnet 105 (English Translation)

Seeing King’s darling as an honest courtier,
Watch a poor junior order to support to the collar,
A little companion to achieve status,
This is something, my dear Morel, worthy of making a feast.

Yet seeing a footman, a child, a beast,
A rascal, a coward made a Cardinal
For having taken care of a monkey well,
A Ganymede wearing the red hat on his head

Is to be seen through the hands of a Spanish soldier
Although a high ladder to have the rope to the neck
The one, by the name of the Holy Father’s common names:

A scoundrel in three days for the princes are equal,
And then view there over three days to unwrap:
These are miracles, my dear Morel, that take place in Rome alone.

I searched the internet to the best of my ability to find an English translation of this poem and never found more than a few lines translated.  So with my limited ability at translating French and the use of Google Translate with some further help from various French-English Dictionaries, the English Translation above is my best attempt at a translation, though I am afraid I am not poetic enough to translate it in the style of a Petrarchan Sonnet in which it was originally written.  If anyone knows of a better English translation, please let me know.

Du Bellay

With that caveat at the beginning you may be wondering why I even posted this poem today.  For me, the answer is quite interesting.  The poem was written by the poet Joachim du Bellay, who lived in Rome while in the retinue of his relative Cardinal Jean du Bellay.  This sonnet is one of the two sonnets in his series Les regrets (1558) which expressed his scandalized opinion of Julius III during what became known as The Innocenzo Scandal.

The Innocenzo Scandal

Julius III

Pope Julius III (1550-1555) was born in Rome, September 10, 1487 as Giovanni Maria Ciocchi del Monte, he took the name Julius and studied law at Perugia and Siena. After taking holy orders, he became chamberlain to Pope Julius II.  Although an outstanding canonists, his careless homosexuality, especially as he got older, created a scandal for the papacy. In his sixties, he picked up a 14-year-old boy on the streets of Parma. The boy, ironically named Innocenzo was described as being stunningly beautiful, and Julius was so enraptured with him that he forced his brother to adopt Innocenzo.

In February of 1550 Cardinal Del Monte was elected pope as Julius III, and immediately made the 17 year old Innocenzo a Cardinal. Attempts to give the boy an education which could have prepared him for ecclesiastic office had already proven useless – “a few social graces, a few bits of knowledge, perhaps about the glories of the Classical world, and Innocenzo’s formal education was over.” Nevertheless, Julius issued a Papal Bull declaring Innocenzo legitimate – a necessary move given that persons of illegitimate birth were not eligible for membership of the College of Cardinals – and named him Cardinal Nephew, effectively in charge of all papal correspondence. But the role of secretary to the papacy proved manifestly beyond Innocenzo’s abilities, and so, in order to find a way for his favourite to retain the appearance of power without having any real responsibility, Julius upgraded a hitherto minor position, that of secretary intimus, which, as Cardinal Secretary of State, was eventually to become the highest of Vatican offices. Innocenzo, although relieved of all real duties, continued to be showered with benefices and high offices, much to the disgust of his fellow cardinals. As Cardinal he was given the titular church of San Callisto, in 1562.

Council of Trent

Cardinals who were more sensitive to the need to reform the mores of the Church in order to combat the Protestant Reformation protested in vain against Innocenzo’s elevation. Rumors also circulated around European courts. Gossip called the boy Julius’s “Ganymede.” The relationship became a staple of anti-papal polemics for over a century: it was said that Julius, awaiting Innocenzo’s arrival in Rome to receive his cardinal’s hat, showed the impatience of a lover awaiting a mistress, and that he boasted of the boy’s prowess. The Venetian ambassador, Matteo Dandolo, wrote that Cardinal Del Monte “was a little scoundrel”, and that the Pope “took him [Innocenzo] into his bedroom and into his own bed as if he were his own son or grandson”. Onofrio Panvinio wrote that Julius was “excessively given to intemperance in a life of luxuriousness and to his libido,” and, more explicitly characterized him as “puerorum amoribus implicitus” (‘entangled in love for boys’). One more mocking rumor made the rounds in Rome, saying that Innocenzo had been made a cardinal as a reward for his being the keeper of the pope’s monkey.

Remember that this scandal took place in one of the most tumultuous periods of the Roman Catholic Church. It occurred in the midst of the Wars of Religion that resulted from the Protestant Reformation.  As a Cardinal, Julius III, had served as the first president of the Council of Trent, which was the core movement in the Catholic Counter-Reformation.