Category Archives: LGBT history

Harvey Milk, Secular Gay Saint and Modern Martyr

In California, May 22 is officially recognised as “Harvey Milk Day“. The reasons for this secular honour are well-known, and recorded in several books and notable movies.  In 1977, he became the first openly gay man elected to public office as a gay man, but served for only a short term before he was assassinated on  Nov. 27, 1978. Even in that brief term of office, he made his mark with his contribution to San Francisco’s landmark Gay Rights Ordinance, and to the defeat of the Briggs initiative, which would have required California school districts to fire openly gay and lesbian teachers, but was defeated in the November election shortly before Milk’s assassination. Rather than rehashing the bare facts of Harvey Milk’s life and career, which can be read elsewhere, I want to reflect a little on the symbolism and lessons that these have acquired, three decades later.

Although he is best known for his unique position as a trailblazer for out gay politicians, his work was not limited to queer advocacy, as Kittredge Cherry reminds us at Jesus in Love:

Milk (1930-1978) served only 11 months on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors before he was killed, but in that short time he fought for the rights of the elderly, small business owners, and the many ethnic communities in his district as well as for the growing LGBT community.

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Continue reading Harvey Milk, Secular Gay Saint and Modern Martyr

Another Red State Victory for Queer Families

Step by step, queer families are seeing moves to full recognition, even in American red states (and in church). The latest in victory in Idaho follows court decisions in Utah and Oklahoma to strike down the states’ constitutional ban on gay marriage, and the decision by Nevada’s Republican governor not to defend his state’s ban. A challenge to the gay marriage ban in Texas is in court this week, and court challenges under way in a further 19 states.
There is progress too in many churches, including the Catholics: Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, is just the latest in an expanding list of senior bishops who have opposed full marriage equality, but suggested civil unions as an alternative.
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Idaho’s top court grants adoptive rights to spouse in gay marriage 

Idaho’s top court on Monday ruled that state law allows a woman to adopt the children of her same-sex spouse, in a precedent-setting victory for gay couples in a socially conservative U.S. state that has banned the unions.
idaho rainbow
The ruling stems from an adoption petition filed last year by an Idaho woman shortly after her marriage in California to her same-sex partner, the parent of boys ages 12 and 15, legal records showed.
The woman, unidentified in court documents on confidentiality grounds related to adoption, sought to share parental rights with her long-term partner. She appealed a magistrate judge’s rejection of her petition.
The Idaho Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision reversing the lower court’s ruling, said a person’s gender or sexual orientation was not part of the legal criteria that allowed a minor to be adopted by an in-state adult resident.
“Any adult person” is defined as any human being over the age of 18 and “cannot possibly be construed to mean ‘any married adult person’ as the magistrate ultimately determined,” Idaho Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones wrote for the court.
– continue reading at  Reuters.
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Some Divine Patrons of Queer Love

In Christian theology, we are told that we are made “in God’s image and likeness.” Taking a broader view across all religions, it is more accurate to say that humans make gods & goddesses in our image and likeness – even where they are visualized in non-human form, their reported behaviour is frequently anthropomorphic.

This is especially obvious outside of the monotheistic religions. In these, the necessity for imagining gods & goddesses in relationships and interactions with other gods produces tales of jealousy, rivalry, and amorous adventures that look remarkably human.   Reflecting what each culture sees in itself, the deities also reflect a range of interests, temperaments – and sexual preferences. Many pantheons, especially those from Classical Greece and Rome, China, India, South America and Oceania, feature prominent gods and goddesses who had homosexual relationships or adventures. (Hindu deities are especially notable for the ease with which many of them change gender from time to time).

This much I knew. But the biggest surprise for me yesterday, when I was reading some more about LGBT themes in mythology, was the discovery that in some mythologies, there are gods who are specifically designated not just as practitioners, but even as patrons of male homosexuality.

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Continue reading Some Divine Patrons of Queer Love

James Stoll, Unitarian Pioneer of LGBT Inclusion in Church

Rev. James Lewis Stoll, who died on December 8th 1994, was a Unitarian Universalist minister who became the first ordained minister of any religion in the United States or Canada to come out as gay. He did so at the annual Continental Conference of Student Religious Liberals on September 5, 1969 in La Foret, Colorado. Later, he led the effort that convinced the Unitarian Universalist Association to pass the first-ever gay rights resolution in 1970.
After training at Starr King School for the Ministry, in Berkeley, followed by ordination, he served as pastor at a church in Kennewick, Wash., from 1962 until 1969. For reasons that have not been disclosed, he was asked to resign, and then moved to San Francisco, where he shared an apartment with three others.
In September of 1969, he attended a convention of college-age Unitarians in Colorado Springs. One evening after dinner, he stood up and came out publicly as a gay man. He declared his orientation, stated that it was not a choice, that he was no longer ashamed of it, and that from then on, he would refuse to live a lie.

“On the second or third night of the conference,” according to Mr. Bond-Upson, “after dinner, Jim got up to speak. He told us that he’d been doing a lot of hard thinking that summer. Jim told us he could no longer live a lie. He’d been hiding his nature — his true self — from everyone except his closest friends. ‘If the revolution we’re in means anything,’ he said, ‘it means we have the right to be ourselves, without shame or fear.’

“Then he told us he was gay, and had always been gay, and it wasn’t a choice, and he wasn’t ashamed anymore and that he wasn’t going to hide it anymore, and from now on he was going to be himself in public. After he concluded, there was a dead silence, then a couple of the young women went up and hugged him, followed by general congratulations. The few who did not approve kept their peace.” ’

After the convention, Stoll wrote articles on gay rights, and preached sermons on the subject at several churches. The following year, the full annual meeting of the Unitarian Universalist Association passed a resolution condemning discrimination against homosexual persons, beginning a gradual but irresistible move towards full LGBT inclusion.
No action was ever taken by the church against Stoll, and so he remained a minister in good standing, but he was never again called to serve a congregation. It is not clear whether this had anything to do with lingering prejudice against his orientation. It could also be on the grounds of some suspicions of drug abuse, or of inappropriate sexual behaviour.
Later, he founded the first counseling center for gays and lesbians in San Francisco. In the 1970s he established the first hospice on Maui. He was president of the San Francisco chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union in 1990s. He died at the age of 58 from complications of heart and lung disease, exacerbated by obesity and a life-long smoking habit
Stoll’s name is not well known today, but for this brave and honest public witness, he deserves to be better remembered.In declaring himself, he was not the first ordained clergyman to come out, but he was the first to do so voluntarily, and the first in an established denomination. His action undoubtedly made it easier for the others who followed him, and to the formal acceptance by the Unitarians of openly gay men and lesbians in the church, and to the now well-established process to full LGBT inclusion in so many denominations.

Source:

Haunted Man of the Cloth, Pioneer of Gay Rights (NY Times)

The Homoerotic Catholic Church

That’s right:  not homophobic, but homoerotic.  Sure, there is homophobia, especially in the official teaching, but if you peer beneath the surface, scratch the veneer, lift the skirts of the priestly vestments at what lies beneath and within, you find a very different picture. It is a common observation that the most virulent homophobia often masks a closeted gay interior. This may well be the case with the institutional Catholic church: there is much in the Church’s history, institutional character, liturgical style, church decoration, and mystical tradition that is way more than just gay-friendly:  much of it is at least camp, or even frankly homoerotic.

Let us begin with the fun stuff.

In his wonderfully funny but also pointed and touching bit of memoir, “Since My Last Confession“, Scott Pomfret adopts a delightfully camp tone to describe the personnel, priestly vestments and equipment of the Mass. (In an extended metaphor, the Mass becomes a white linen restaurant, the priest is the chef, Eucharistic ministers are waiters, the chalice is the wine glass.)

This camp tone is entirely appropriate: there is much in the liturgy itself, in church architecture and decor, with its blend of high art and low kitsch, which is itself high camp, and appealing to the gay sensibility (if such exists). Elsewhere, Pomfret notes that Sunday evening doughnut supper in a particular Boston parish, is the best place outside a gay bar to pick up a man on Sunday night.

On a similar theme, Mark D Jordan (“The Silence of Sodom”) describes a certain type of Catholic gay man who tends to get deeply involved in the minutiae of liturgy planning.  These men he describes as “liturgy” queens, drawing a clear comparison with that other well-known stereotype, the opera queen.  (In this context, the well-known Marian prayer, “Hail Holy Queen” takes on a whole new meaning!)

On the other hand, what is one to make of the display of the near naked Christ on the cross, and the depictions of the passion in the “Stations of the Cross” found in every Catholic church?  Do these have a special frisson for the SM /Leather sub-group of gay men?  It is certainly so that renowned mystics such as St John of the Cross have developed a whole school of spirituality on the idea of contemplation on the body of Christ – and couched it in language that is remarkably sensuous, even erotic.

Priesthood & Training

It’s not only the gay men in the congregation that respond to the camp. It’s well known that an astonishingly high proportion of Catholic priests are gay.  There are no reliable statistics, but the guesstimates I have seen tend to cluster around the 50% mark, give or take 20% either side. Nor are these all in the lower ranks, nor should we assume that they are all celibate:  rumours and allegations of sexually active gay bishops, cardinals, Vatican officials  and even popes are commonplace. (Some conservative factions in the Church even claim that all three popes immediately after Vatican II were gay, and that Paul VI in particular ushered in a “homosexual mafia” to the Vatican staff – possibly explaining the reactionary lurch under John Paul II and Benedict XVI?)

Why should this be so?  It is probably simplistic just to blame it on the desire to wear the priestly drag (where else can a gay men get to wear skirts public outside the theatre or drag shows?), but the camp style probably does have something to do with it.

More important though, as Mark D Jordan has persuasively shown, is that the entire culture of priestly training in all-male seminaries is deeply supportive, even encouraging, of a gay orientation, just as it discourages

straight men. Jordan also shows, scandalously, that it is not just the students in these institutions who are, or first become, sexually active in the seminaries: many staff members are sexual predators, taking advantage of the students in their care – even as they warn against forming “particular friendships” with each other.

History

In the Church’s long past, carefully airbrushed out of official history,
are hidden numerous examples of gay, lesbian and even transvestite (FTM) saints, bishops, and popes. Fortunately, modern scholars no longer depend on clerical approval, and this gay past is now being recovered for us(See the work of John Boswell, Alan Bray, and Bernadette Brooten just for starters.)

Far from opposing gay marriage, for many centuries the church recognised and liturgically blessed same sex unions:  at the start of the relationships, by the ceremonies of “adelphopoesis” in the Eastern church, and by the “ordo ad fratres faciendum” in the West.  Both these terms referred to the making of “sworn brothers”, and may have been largely about contracts of property arrangements – but that is exactly what opposite-sex unions were about at the time.  The concept of marriage as the consummation of romantic love is a modern invention.  Many same sex unions have also been recognised in death, right up to the 19th century, by being buried in shared graves, often inside church buildings, or with grave monuments, memorials and inscriptions inside the churches comparable to the memorials to married couples buried together.

Does it matter?

That there is at least a strand of homophile or homoerotic culture, sensitivity, and activity in the Catholic Church is clear.  So what?  Should we care?  For those of us in the Church who are gay, I believe it matters immensely.  By recognising the hypocrisy, it becomes easier to stand up to the theological bullying, and to counter the lecturing with rational argument.

Further reading:

Books
Jordan, Mark D:  The Silence of Sodom: Homosexuality in Modern Catholicism
Boswell, John Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century
Boswell, John : Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe
Alan Bray, The Friend

Brooten, Bernadette : Love Between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism
Engel, Rangy: The Rite of Sodomy Homosexuality and the Roman Catholic Church

Pomfret, Scott: Since My Last Confession: A Gay Catholic Memoir

Openly Gay Bishop Consecrated in 1098

With all the current fuss about the decision of the US Episcopal Church to consecrate openly gay bishops, and the Catholic Church’s declared hostility to gay priests and to gay marriage or even civil unions, we forget that in the older history of the church, it is not gay priests and bishops that are new, or gay marriage, but the opposition to them.  Many medieval and classical scholars have produced abundant evidence of clearly homosexual clergy, bishops, and even saints, and of church recognition of same sex unions.gay bishops

Gay Bishops in Church History

One story is particularly striking.  At the close of the 11th Century, Archbishop Ralph of Tours persuaded the King of France to install as Bishop of Orleans a certain John  – who was widely known as Ralph’s gay lover, as he had previously been of Ralph’s brother and predecessor as Bishop of Orleans, of the king himself, and of several other prominent men.   This was strongly opposed by prominent churchmen, on the grounds that John was too young and would be too easily influenced by Ralph.  (Note, please, that the opposition was not based on the grounds of sexuality, or even of promiscuity).  Ivo of Chartres tried to get Pope Urban II to intervene.  Now, Urban had strong personal reasons, based in ecclesiastical and national politics, to oppose Ralph.  Yet he declined to do so. In spite of well-founded opposition, John was consecrated Bishop of Orleans on March 1, 1098, when he joined two of his own lovers, and numerous  others, in the ranks of openly homosexual Catholic Bishops. Continue reading Openly Gay Bishop Consecrated in 1098

Pride in Our Past

One of the features of the post-Stonewall era, with the explosion of interest in lebian & gay studies and in queer theory, has been the wealth of information becoming available of our place in history.  By reminding ourselves and the world that we as LGBT people have been around in all ages and societies, by showing that in many of these it is not homosexuality but exclusive heterosexuality that was considered abnormal, and by presenting as role models individual gay & lesbian leaders in all fields, we have been enabled to recover a sense of self- confidence, and to counter more easily the lies and prejudice spouted against us.

For the most part, however, this recovery of history has by-passed our place in the church, which today remains one of the primary sources of the hostility.  This is quite unnecessary:  gay men, lesbians, and gender minorities all have a notable place in scripture and church history, which we should be doing more to uncover and share.

When I first began to explore what we may call our ‘lost’ history, I thought of it as material that had simply become ignored and then forgotten. Later, as I investigated some particular individuals, I realised that in at least some cases,  the omissions have not been simple oversight.  The nature of these is so significant they can only represent deliberate acts, actively airbrushing us out of the official biographies. Two examples illustrate the problem – many more can be found.

Last week I wrote about St Paulinus of Nola, noted saint, bishop and gifted medieval poet.  All of these are recorded in his entry in the on-line Catholic Encylopedia.  This entry also notes his friendship with a certain Faustinus, and that a portion of the poetry is addressed to Paulinus, which the entry describes as ‘epistles’ – a word which to modern ears has distinctly religious associations.  What the CE does not tell us, is that these verses were quite clearly erotic love poems, of sufficiently obvious a nature as to be represented in the Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse. These verses were emphatically not the entirety of Paulinus’ legacy.  No more than for any of us, homosexual attraction was by no means thee totality of his being.  But by no stretch of the imagination can I conceive of frankly homosexual erotic verse being presented as religious ‘epistles’, as the result of mere oversight.  Somewhere over fifteen centuries of hagiographic transmission,  the true nature of these poems has been deliberately excluded.

Much the same has occurred much more recently in the story of Cardinal John Henry Newman, which I also investigated and wrote on last week. In a lengthy entry, the CE totally ignores his very significant attachment to his beloved friend, Aubrey St John.  There is no point in speculating about the physical expression of this love.  It is quite enough to know the uncontested fact that it was so strong that Newman insisted on being buried in the same grave as St John, so that they might spend eternity together.  Yet so remarkable a desire, evidence of an exceptionally important relationship in his life, gets not even a mention.  This too can only be deliberate omission of an uncomfortable fact, not simple oversight – but in this case, without the excuse of centuries of historybehind it.

But it gets worse.  In just the past two days, I have come up against two different writers who claim there has been deliberate mistranslation of scriptural texts, so as to obscure the gender implications.  In the article on the Song of Songs (“The Song of Songs, A Gay Love Poem” (Fidelity Press, 1995), reviewed at the Wild Reed the writer provides evidence that later translators have deliberately altered the text of the Song of Songs to obscure its frankly same -sex erotic origins.

“Johnson has consulted with many Hebrew scholars, who reluctantly concede the validity of his revolutionary word-for-word translation. The Masoretes did not, happily, produce a homophobic text. They merely made a gay love poem appear to be hetero. And that was done to many ancient poems and stories.”

Today, I came across an article by Bernadette Brooten, “Junia…… outstanding among the Apostles”…  in which she produces evidence that a personal name in Romans was altered from a female form to a male form, to mask the fact that a woman was being addressed as a great apostle:

“Greet Andronicus and Junia . . . who are outstanding among the apostles” (Romans 16:7): To be an apostle is something great. But to be outstanding among the apostles—just think what a wonderful song of praise that is! They were outstanding on the basis of their works and virtuous actions. Indeed, how great the wisdom of this woman must have been that she was even deemed worthy of the title of apostle.

John Chrysostom (344/54-407)(2)

Also notable is the case of Junias or Junio, placed in the rank of the apostles (Rom. 16, 7), with regard to whom one or another [exegete] raises the question of whether it is a man.

Pontifical Biblical Commission (1976)(3)

What a striking contrast! The exegesis of Romans 16:7 has practically reversed.”

There are many other examples. On the face of it, it would seem that to support the view that homosexuality was sinful, and that women could not serve as priests, the official voise of the church a;ltered texts that did not fit with their prejudices.  Then they used their bowdlerised texts in support of their prejudices.

These arguments are clearly contoversial, and are surely contested.  I lack the credentials and resources to explore them fully, nor do I have any desire to do so.  I do want to stress though, that there is a pattern (here and elswhere), entirely consistent with the abuse and transformation of the word and concept of “sodomy”, which makes it at the very least abundantly clear that the received version of history as handed not by the church, and usually accepted without questioning, is at the very least open to contest and debate.

There is a further reason to explore for ourselves our true place in church history:  Pope Benedict himself, indirectly, has commanded us to do so.  In his otherwise infamous “Hallowe’en letter”, then Cardinal Ratzinger instructed us to “speak the truth” on homosexuality :

“Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral”
“We encourage the Bishops to promote appropriate catechetical programmes based on the truth about human sexuality… ”
“The Lord Jesus promised, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (Jn. 8:32)”

(Encouraging thruth, of course, the letter immediatley proceeded to pronounce falsehoods and half truths)

God is Truth” was one of the key attributes of the divine, relentlessly hammered into me in school RE lessons, complete with endless scriptural texts to support the statement – all of which I was required to write out and memorise. But truth is not something which we can find simply by accepting at face value the words of the church, as the Vatican could like us to believe. Truth is a goal never fully achieved, that needs to be worked for, to be wrestled with, accepting there will be many false starts and mistakes along the way. (For a wonderful descripton of this search in the context of the church see James Alison, “The joy of being wrong”, in “On Being Liked”.) For the misrepresentations of church history apply not only to sexual & gender issues, but also to the official versions of the history of church power and of the Vatican itself.

In recovering an understanding of GLBT church history, I am also finding a new understanding of the growth and abuse of papal power itself.  Both of these journeys I have begun sharing with you, and will continue to do so, for as long as I maintain this site.

There is one final reason for me, personally, to explore these issues.  When Cardinal Murphy O’Connor authorised the move of the Soho Masses into the Catholic parish of the Assumption & St Gregory, he made clear in his public statements that there should be no ‘ambiguity’ in our ministry about Catholic teaching on homosexuality, on which official teaching should be presented ‘clearly and in full’.  For someone like me, in clear dissent with some of the official teaching, this presented a real dilemma, which soon dissolved when I recognised that it is simply impossible to follow both instructions to the letter.  For the “full” teaching of the church is  itself ambiguous, on many points and many levels. Recognising the impossibility of doing both,  I have discarded any attempt to avoid ambiguity, and embraced instead the alternative instruction, to promote the full teaching as fully as I can.  but the Magisterium, so central to Catholic orthodoxy, is assembled from history.  To understand it “fully”, we need to understand also the historical development and selection.

I can thus proclaim that in creating, maintaining and developing this blog, I am attempting to do no more than follow the clear directives of my presnt Pope, and immediately past Cardinal:  to speak the “truth” about homosexuality and Catholic teaching, “in full”.  This is clearly an impossible and Herculean task, akin to clearing a beach of sand, one grain at a time.  Still, I continue relentlessly, one grain and post at a time, seeking the truth where I find it – including those truths that the Church itself has attempted to keep hidden.

In doing so, I am finding increasing confidence and pride in my status as an openly gay Catholic, with increasing freedom from years of instilled guilt.  I hope and pray that my ramblings can help you to do the same.

Gay Lovers in Church History

At a time when some Catholic bishops are actively intervening in the political process to prevent gay marriage and gay adoption, it could be helpful to remember that in the long history of the Christian faith, outright hostility to same sex relationships has not always been inevitable. In the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, and in the early, medieval and modern church, there have been numerous examples  of Christian recognition of same sex relationships, both as formal rites and procedures, and by personal example.

SS Sergius & Bacchus, Gay lovers, Roman soldires, martyrs and saints.
SS Sergius & Bacchus: Gay lovers, Roman soldiers, martyrs and saints.

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In Scripture:

  • God & Adam:  Chris Glaser (“Coming out As Sacrament“) has observed that the very first love story in the Bible, and certainly the most important, can be viewed as between two “males” – that between God and Adam. Yes, it is completely false and simplistic just to accept the conventional pronoun and to think of God in purely masculine terms, but the point is an important one. Whoever we are, male female or neither, we know that God loves us. We may think of God in whatever gendered terms we like – and that could certainly include a same-sex relationship.



  • David & Jonathan: Many people protest that there is no evidence that the relationship between these two took physical form, but a more compelling argument is that there is also no evidence that it did not – and there is substantial evidence of its emotional intensity. It is also one of the two relationships which represent the longest love stories in the Bible. The other is another which is about a same sex pair – Ruth and Naomi.
  • Ruth & Naomi Here too there are naysayers arguing that this is “just” a family relationship, but this misses the point. Whatever else it is, this is clearly a story of a deep emotional love and mutual commitment between two women.
  • Jesus &  the Beloved Disciple:  We cannot know precisely the nature of this relationship, but it was clearly a close one. We also do not know for certain the identity of the Beloved Disciple, although many people assume it is John the Evangelist. (There was even a long standing tradition in some parts of the Church, that the couple being married at Cana were Jesus and John). Others disagree, suggesting Lazarus, among other possibilities.
  • Martha & Mary – Described in the New Testament as ‘sisters’, but this may have been a euphemism for lesbian lovers.
  • Philip and Bartholomew:  Included in the Apostles, cited together in the Eucharistic prayer of the Mass, these were frequently named as a couple in the early liturgies of same-sex union.
  • The Roman Centurion and his “pais” (= slave/lover) represent the clearest possible evidence that Christ himself did not reject people in same -sex relationships, and was even willing to go into the home of the Roman  – an extraordinary thing for a Jew to do, in the  context of the deep resentment against the Roman military occupation.
  • St Paul and Timothy are sometimes named as possibly having a relationship that was more than just spiritual.
  • Euodia and Syntyche of Phillippi were a missionary couple active in the early church , mentioned in St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians (4:2-3)
  • Tryphaena and Tryphosa were a further missionary couple active in the early church, mentioned in in Rom 16.

The Early  & Medieval Church

In the early church, many saints and martyrs are remembered as pairs of lovers. The church also created and used formal rites for church blessing couples committing to each other in same sex unions. In addition to liturgical recognition of these unions at their start, some couple also achieved church recognition at their dissolution in death, by being buried together in church tombs, in a manner exactly comparable to that widely used for conventionally married couples.

Here are some examples:

  • SS Sergius & Bacchus, Roman soldiers, lovers, martyrs and recognised as saints by popular acclamation, are by a long way the best known of the so-called “gay saints” (although I prefer to use the descriptor “queer”).
  • SS Polyeuct and Nearchos, are not as well known as Sergius and Bacchus, but like them were Roman soldiers and martyrs who became recognized as saints. They are frequently named together in the liturgical rites of same-sex union.
  • St Paulinus of Nola was a Bishop who also wrote homoerotic poetry to his male lover, Ausonius

Other paired saints who were often named in these rites and other liturgies (including, in some cases, the Mass) are

  • The  ‘two Theodores’, one a foot soldier martyred in the fourth century, and the other a general invented in the ninth century to form a pair, are often depicted with their arms around one another, and they are paired together with Serge and Bacchus in Kievan icons dating from before the twelfth century.
  • Peter and Paul
  • Peter and Andrew
  • Jacob and John
  • Philip and Bartholomew
  • Cosmos and Damian
  • Cyrus and John
  • Marcellus and Apuleius
  • Cyprian and Justinus
  • Dionysius and Eleutheris
  • George and Demetrius.

Some couples who were found by archaeologists to have been buried together in Macedonia in the 4th to the 6th centuries were:

  • Faustinos and Donatos (at Phillippi),
  • Posidonia, and Pancharia,
  • Kyriakos and Nikandros,
  • Gourasios and Konstantios,
  • Euodiana and Dorothea (at Phillippi),
  • Martyrios, a presbyter, and Demetrios, a lector (at Edessa),
  • Eudoxios, presbyter, and John, a deacon described as “the sinner” (at Edessa),
  • Droseria and Eudoxia (at Edessa),
  • Athanasios and Chryseros: buried together at Edessa, in Macedonia.  5th to 6th century.
  • Alexandra and Glukeria: buried together at Phillippi, in Macedonia.  6th century
  • St Patrick of Ireland:  after his escape from early slavery, Patrick worked for time as a male prostitute. A recent history of Irish homosexualilty suggests that he may have taken a male lover in later life
  • St Brigid of Ireland may have had a female lover, Darlughdach – although, as with many of the early saints, the historical details of her life are sketchy and unreliable.
  • Several Bishops of the medieval church are known to have have had male sexual partners. Archbishop Ralph of Tours even got his boyfriend John, who had a well-deserved reputation for promiscuity, named as bishop of Orleans. Other bishops were renowned for the poetry and love letters they wrote to their boyfriends. (SeeThe Homoerotic Flowering of the Medieval Church)

It was not only the Eastern church that sometimes buried same sex couples in shared tombs. The historian Alan Bray (“The Friend“) has described the shared tombs of the Irish and English couples

  • Dicul and Maelodran the wright (Delgany, County Wicklow);
  • Ultan and Dubthach (Termonfechin, County Louth);
  • John Bloxham and John Wyndham (Merton College Chapel, Oxford,  14th Century);
  • William Neville & John Neville:  English knights, buried together in Galata, near Constantinople 14th Century.
  • Nicholas Molyneux and John Winters: made a compact of ‘sworn brotherhood, made in the church of St Martin of Harfleur. 15th century.

Renaissance to Modern

  • John Finch and Thomas Baines were buried together in Christ’s College Chapel, Cambridge (17th Century).
  • Fulke Greville & Sir Phillip Sidney: the joint monument Greville planned for himself and Sidney in St Paul’s cathedral was never built.  But the simple intention alone indicates the natrure of the relationship, as also its recognition by the church.
  • Cardinal John Henry Newman and Fr. Ambrose St.John were buried together, 19th C. There is no suggestion that their deep love was anything but celibate, in keeping with their vows. All the same, reflection on this relationship raises important questions about the response of the Catholic Church to same sex relationships in our own day.

More ‘Cross-Dressing Saints’

Today and tomorrow the church commemorates two more of the band of ‘transvestite saints’ – women who disguised themseves as men to live out their lives in male monasteries.  Wednesday 11th February is the feast of  St Euphrosyne ( later known as Saint Smaragdus), who died in 470.   Tomorrow, Thursday 12th February, is the turn of St Mary (later, Marinos) of Alexandria.




From the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia:

” Euphrosyne was the only daughter of Paphnutius, a rich man of Alexandria, who desired to marry her to a wealthy youth. But having consecrated her life to God and apparently seeing no other means of keeping this vow, she clothed herself as a man and under the name of Smaragdus gained admittance into a monastery of men nearAlexandria, where she lived for thirty-eight years after. She soon attracted the attention of the abbot by the rapid strides which she made toward a perfect ascetic life, and whenPaphnutius appealed to him for comfort in his sorrow, the abbot committed the latter to the care of the alleged young man Smaragdus. The father received from his own daughter, whom he failed to recognize, helpful advice and comforting exhortation. Not until she was dying did shereveal herself to him as his lost daughter Euphrosyne. After her death Paphnutius also entered the monastery. Her feast  is celebrated in the Greek Church on 25 September, in the Roman Church on 16 January (by the Carmelites on 11 February).”

St Mary of Alexandria is said to have been brought to the monastery originally by her father.  She is sometimes known as a  “Desert  Father in Disguise”,

Unfortunately, it is also claimed by some that her story,  like others of the transvestite saints, is a fiction.