Thanksgiving’s Gay Secrets

Each year we gather together with our families (blood or created) and give thanks for the good things in our lives (and perhaps for the bad things that aren’t in our lives).
The day centers around food, football, and for many, gearing up for an intense day of shopping on Friday but we here at HuffPost Gay Voices thought we’d do a little digging to uncover the gayer side of Thanksgiving.
From gay Pilgrims to beloved gay turkeys, these are the things that they didn’t teach you about in grade school (or on Martha Stewart’s Thanksgiving special).

Secret #1: Pilgrims Party in P-Town

While many people think that the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts, they actually arrived in one of the gayest towns in the world — Provincetown.  The Pilgrims came to Provincetown in 1620 and spent five weeks there, during which time they created and signed the Mayflower Compact.  There’s no word on whether they had time for tea dances or hanky panky under the docks, but we sure hope so!

Secret #2: Gay Pilgrims

The first Thanksgiving at Plymouth Point in 1621 may have been attended by gay Pilgrims. According to, in 1637 two men at Plymouth faced execution because they were “convicted of what the law books said was a grave moral crime” — being in a gay relationship. Richard Pickering, deputy director of Plimoth Plantation, the living museum of Colonial and Native American history, notes gays and lesbians “did not have the opportunity to pursue the kind of lives and identities that modern social structures allow.” Though the maximum penalty for homosexuality was death, neither men were killed. Pickering says that Alexander, who was labeled the seducer and “therefore was considered more responsible,” was branded with a hot iron and banished from the colony. Roberts was allowed to stay but he could not own land or be actively involved in politics.

Secret #3: Native Americans And The Two-Spirit Tradition

Thanksgiving in present day America is a mix of Native American autumnal celebratory traditions and traditions brought to the New World by colonists. The NorthEast Two-Spirit Society notes that there are roughly 400 indigenous Nations in the United States and 155 of those Nations have “documented multiple gender traditions” including those who are “Two Spirit,” or individuals whose spirits “are a blending of male and female.” Harland Pruden and Melissa Hoskins, Co-Chairs of NE2SS, write:
“The Two Spirits’ mere existence threatened the colonizers’ core beliefs; the backlash was violent. Sketches, housed at the New York City public library, depict Two Spirit people being attacked by colonizers’ dogs.”Secret #4: Gay Turkeys
Homosexuality has been observed in many as many as 1,500 species — including turkeys. There is even a YouTube clip in which two male turkeys chase each other around a Massachusetts yard just after gay marriage was made legal in the state.

Secret #4:  Gay Turkeys

Homosexuality has been observed in many as many as 1,500 species — including turkeys. In this clip, two male turkeys chase each other around a Massachusetts yard just after gay marriage was made legal in the state.

 Secret #5: An Awkward Thanksgiving

Going home for Thanksgiving? The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) wants you to consider their hilarious (and delightful) new campaign, “I’m Letting Aunt Betty Feel Awkward This Thanksgiving.” GLAAD writes:

“The LGBT community has a ton to be thankful for from the past year. But we also have a long way to go. And believe it or not, putting down that forkful of stuffing for a minute and just talking about yourself (if you can) this Thanksgiving can make a huge difference. We’ve all had those Thanksgiving dinners where Aunt Betty decides this is the perfect time to discuss a year’s worth of ailments and medical treatments. Well, you know what? If she can talk about her podiatrist, you can talk about your partner. The fact is, while you’re scarfing down mashed potatoes and staying silent while everyone else at the table is freely speaking their minds, you’re missing a golden opportunity to make real, honest progress by talking about your life, and the things you care about. It’s okay if Aunt Betty feels a little awkward at first, it’s important for her to know that someone she loves cares deeply about LGBT equality. And the more we all talk about what’s important to us, the less awkward those conversations will become. Today some LGBT people can’t be open about who they are. But if you do feel comfortable, speaking openly and honestly about your life with your loved ones is one of the best ways for all of us to move forward together.”

Secret #6: Thanksgiving’s Unofficial Fruit

Fresh or fresh out of the can with those weird indentations still intact — no table is complete without cranberries during the holidays. And seeing as cranberries are Thanksgiving’s unofficial fruit — we began to wonder about other fruit, including the word itself and how it became equated with gay men. The term first became used to refer to gay men in 1935, and some believe it was due to the word’s prior association with “a girl or woman willing to oblige.” Gay men have long been connected to slang that serves to emasculate them and “fruit” most likely falls into that category.

Secret #7: The NFL Gets Gayer

For many Americans there’s nothing like a good game of football to finish off a Thanksgiving afternoon. And thanks to a change to the National Football League’s Collective Bargaining Agreement made in September of this year, we might soon be seeing gay football players (or at least the groundwork has been laid for the possibility). The Agreement was altered to include “sexual orientation” in the non-discrimination clause which now reads: Section 1. No Discrimination: There will be no discrimination in any form against any player by the Management Council, any Club or by the NFLPA because of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or activity or lack of activity on behalf of the NFLPA.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

4 responses to “Thanksgiving’s Gay Secrets

  • Majid Ali

    Happy Thanksgiving!It would be easy to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. But that would seem superficial given all the suffering in this world. Hunger, poverty, homelessness, unrest in the Middle East, and the destruction of Hurricane Sandy…we could go on and on.But we believe that no matter our circumstances each and every one of us has something to be thankful for…something to hang on to no matter how difficult things might seem. It might be something as small as the grip of an infant upon our finger or a warm smile from a total stranger. Or it might be something as momentous as news that cancer is in remission. There is always something that keeps us going…something to be thankful for.So let us give thanks for that “something”… that wonderful “something” that brightens our lives and helps us through the day. God Bless youPlease this Thanksgiving and Christmas help a Christian family. Check it out on Indiegogo at or click on my name and don't forget to share this on your Facebook and twitter profiles.God Bless you

  • silvereagle

    Interesting article, but yours of two days prior was the better of the two!!!And, as noted om the prior comment, we should not forget those in the path of Sandy — give to the Salvation Army, all of their funds raised for Sandy will be used there, unlike some other large organizatioins — it does good work!!!Have a great Thanksgiving whereever you may be…

  • Will

    I had not known of the two men who were punished for being gay in Plimouth (original spelling) Colony. I thought it would be interesting to see if any trace existed of him after the banishment to fill out the rest of his life.So, I decided to Google Alexander and Roberts Plymouth Colony and found the following:In 1637, John Alexander and Thomas Roberts were changed with and convicted of "lude behavior and unclean carriage one with another, by often spending their seed one upon another, which was proved both by witness and their own confession; the said Alexander found to have been formerly notoriously guilty that way, and seeking to allure others thereunto." John Alexander was sentenced to a severe whipping, then to be burned in the shoulder with a hot iron, and then to be permanently banished from the Colony. Roberts was sentenced to a severe whipping, but was not banished. He was prohibited from ever owning any land within the Plymouth Colony "except he manifest better desert." I was unable to discover where he had gone after being banished. However, I do know that in early 1638, Anne Hutchinson, newly banished from Boston for religious heresy (although even more for being a woman who refused to keep her place subservient to men) joined with Roger Williams to found the Rhode Island Colony. Geographically it might have made sense for Alexander to go there — however, while there was much more religious freedom there (even for Catholics and Quakers) I doubt that there would have been any more tolerance for homosexual acts. Alexander might well have lived with one of the local native tribes where was some recognition of some people's "two spirit" nature. people.

  • Uncutplus

    It is true that the Salvation Army uses almost all collected funds to the cause, unless you are LGBT! The Salvation Army is EXTREMELY HOMOPHOBIC!

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