October is LGBTQ History Month, and with these stories from our pages, the curious can take a trip in time from premodern eras to the queer future. LGBTQ histories are often difficult to write, because the documents that can tell historians about heterosexual and cisgender people might have nothing more than hints about queer lives. The scholarship in the stories below show that silences in archives and in the present can be overcome.

For more, check out our LGBTQ Pride Month roundup.

An illustration of Dong Xian and Emperor Ai depicting the story of Passion of the cut sleeve

In Han Dynasty China, Bisexuality Was the Norm

So tender was Emperor Ai’s love for his "male companion" that, when he had to get up, instead of waking his lover, he cut off the sleeve of his robe.

How Medieval Arabic Literature Viewed Lesbians

As far back as the ninth century, doctors and poets wrote about women who loved women without calling them deviants.
the Publick Universal Friend

The Genderless Eighteenth-Century Prophet

In 1776, a 24-year-old Quaker woman named Jemima Wilkinson died of fever, and came back to life as a prophet known as the Publick Universal Friend.
King (Kabaka) Mwanga from Buganda (1868-1903)

Anthropologists Hid African Same-Sex Relationships

Sex between people of the same gender has existed for millennia. But anthropologists in sub-Saharan Africa often ignored or distorted those relationships.
Benedetta Carlini

Lesbianism (!) at the Convent

Mother Superior Benedetta Carlini, a visionary nun of Renaissance Italy, was accused of heresy and “female sodomy.”
Old West Crossdressing

The Forgotten Gender Nonconformists of the Old West

In the Old West, cross-dressing was sometimes a disguise for criminals on the lam. But, one historian argues, in many cases these “cross-dressers” were probably people who we would identify as transgender today.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Two_African_American_women,_three-quarter_length_portrait,_seated,_facing_each_other_LCCN99472087.tif

Searching for Black Queer History in Sensational Newspapers

Sometimes finding the stories of marginalized populations demands reading between the lines.
Vernon Lee 1881 by John Singer Sargent 1856-1925

The Forgotten Master of the Ghost Story

Vernon Lee was a widely-read writer of 19th-century ghost stories, called the "cleverest woman in Europe." Her life story was pretty fascinating, too.
Oscar Wilde with a green carnation

Four Flowering Plants That Have Been Decidedly Queered

The queer history of the pansy and other flowers.
The Eldorado Nightclub

Gender Identity in Weimar Germany

Remembering an early academic effort to define sexual orientation and gender identity as variable natural phenomena, rather than moral matters.
Judy Garland A Star is Born

Did A Star is Born Make Judy Garland a Gay Icon?

One scholar argues that Judy Garland's role in A Star is Born was so pivotal because it involved both gender impersonation and “racial drag."
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cover_of_Strange_Affair_by_Edwin_West_-_Illustration_by_Harry_Schaare_-_Monarch_Book_1962.jpg

Pulp Fiction Helped Define American Lesbianism

Between 1950 and 1965, steamy novels about lesbian relationships, marketed to men, inadvertently offered closeted women much-needed representation.
Christine Jorgenson

A History of Transphobia in the Medical Establishment

At a time when trans people who wanted surgery needed to trust doctors, transphobia made it difficult.
Enhanced infrared imagery of Hurricane Hugo

How Audre Lorde Weathered the Storm

When Audre Lorde wrote from St. Croix that Hurricane Hugo would not be the last natural disaster of its scale, she was pointing to human failures.
Members of the United Kingdom branch of the Gay Liberation Front carry placards during a street protest along Essex Street in London on 12th February 1971.

From Gay Liberation to Marriage Equality

One scholar explains how the LGBT movement became focused on advancing the rights of a narrow set of people at the expense of its once-radical vision.

The Story of the First High School LGBT Group

The first high school LGBT group started in the 1970s.
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