Believe it or not, but homosexuality has always been apart of society, with marriage itself being defined and redefined, just as civilization evolves and develops. LGBT people can be found throughout history, and the stereotypes about them have been around for just as long.
There is even evidence to suggest that same-sex marriages were celebrated throughout history in ancient Greece and Rome, as well as areas of China and other parts of Europe!
So with October being LGBT history month, we thought it would be an ideal time to debunk the widely held myth that “same-sex marriages and relationships are a recent invention” and at the same time celebrate LGBT love throughout history…
Khnumhotep & Niankhkhnum
Found buried together in an intimate, loving embrace, Khnumhotep & Niankhkhnum were Egyptian servants (manicurists to the royal court) living around 2400 BC. This form of burial was discovered in 1964, and was initially a puzzle to scholars and historians, due to the fact that this type of funeral was usually only reserved for married couples.
Early examination referred to the couple as brothers or relatives, however with reanalysis in the 1990’s, egyptologists concluded them to be a romantic couple. In some hieroglyphs, Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep’s names are strung together in a way that is translated to mean “joined in life and in death.”
Hadrian & Antinous
Being the first leader of Rome to openly announce his sexuality, Emperor Hadrian took the throne of Rome in 117AD with a 13 year old wife (ceremonially married for political purposes). However, his true love was with younger Antinous, who accompanied the emperor as his closest confidant from 128AD.
Sexual relationships between older and younger men were common in ancient Rome, however, it was expected that the older man would cease the relationship once his younger lover reached manhood. However, the emperor maintained the relationship well past this period and consequently, Antinous downed under mysterious circumstances.
Harian was so inconsolable, that he remained in official mourning for over a week and filled his home with statues of Antinous, as well as naming stars and flowers after him.
Vita Sackville-West & Violet Trefusis
English author Vita fell in love with writer Violet during a period when LGBT pride was a laughable concept, but their relationship remained and became one of the most intense and turbulent affairs in literary history.
Both women had been friends since childhood, and began forming intense romantic bonds during adolescence, with it eventually turning into a relationship in their twenties. Despite both women being married to men, since 1918 the two ran off together several times to France, where Vita would dress as a man to avoid public attention.
Unfortunately pressure from their families, society gossip and Vita’s affairs put a strain on their relationship, however it was learning that Violet was still having sexual relations with her husband that ended their love.
Gertrude Stein & Alice Toklas
Gertrude met her life partner, Alice, on Toklas’ first day in Paris in 1907. Stein was an American writer, mentor and art collector, and soon after the two met they became constant companions. They also had a salon together which attracted some of the greatest artists, writers and thinkers of Europe and America, including Picasso, Hemingway, Thorton Wilder and Matisse.
Being another rare example of a proud LGBT couple in a time where discrimination and bigotry was eminent, the two remained deeply devoted to each other for forty years until Stein’s death in 1946. In 1980, a locked cabinet at Yale University revealed hundreds of love letters the two had written to each other over the period of their relationship.
Benjamin Britten & Peter Pears
Colleagues, mutual muses and lifelong partners Benjamin and Peter were two musicians who met in 1934. Both being extremely talented, Britten was limited by his success due to being openly gay and a pacifist (however is now considered one of the greatest composers of the 20th Century).
Following Britten’s heart surgery in 1974, the composer wrote to his lover; “My darling heart (perhaps an unfortunate phrase, but I can’t use any other).. I do love you so terribly, not only glorious you, but your singing… what have I done to deserve such an artist and man to write for?… I love you, I love you, I love you.” Written in a desperate state of health, this beautiful love letter was written with Benjamin’s determination to live long enough to see Peter one more time.
The two are now buried side by side at St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church in Suffolk. The Red house in Aldeburgh, where the couple lived and worked for twenty years, is now home to the Britten-Pears Foundation, established to promote their musical legacy, which was made a national landmark this year.
As you can see, same-sex relationships have been a fundamental human right since the dawn of time, and has been apart of society throughout history. With support for LGBT equality increasing across the world-wide political spectrum, Australia needs to jump on the bandwagon.
You can help make same-sex marriage a reality for all Australians by signing the petition here!