Listen now (21 min) | The written record of gay history is, by and large, a charge sheet. A list of crimes. When same-sex desire became formulated and medicalised into ‘homosexuality’ in the late nineteenth century, we began to see the start of a corpus of homosexual literature, but one that, inevitably, was the preserve of a class who could afford to protect itself from the implications of self-expression. Gay literature is a light canon. But a gay culture? Oh boy, was there a gay culture. It just wasn’t written, but instead passed, if you will pardon the expression, from tongue to tongue, an oral culture of languages and legends, protocols and habits. Bourgeois society can both record and develop its culture in the written word, but marginalised societies can face repression, imprisonment, or even death if they write down their desires, if they write about who they are. A love letter in an evidence bag.
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