NYC gay history walking tours

Gay history in New York

In the last few weeks, I’ve been planning a gay history tour of New York for the spring for Oscar Wilde Tours. New York is truly one of the great gay cities, along with London, Paris, Berlin, Florence, or Athens. Ever since the days before the Civil War, when Walt Whitman hung out with his Bohemian friends at Pfaff’s Beer Cellar at Broadway and Bleecker, it has been a major center of gay life.

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gay Shakespeare?

Here is a video (thanks, Rob!) of a section of my lecture “From Edward II to Sir Ian McKellen” on gay history at the UK’s National Portrait Gallery, filmed at BGSQD on November 21, 2014.  Question:  can we call Shakespeare ‘gay’?

gay history in Morocco

Gay history in Morocco and Southern Spain

Here is an interesting article about gay history in Tangier.  Oscar Wilde Tours would love to organize a tour to southern Spain and Morocco in 2017.  Southern Spain has a fascinatingly complex history, including a lot of gay history.  Rome’s gayest emperor, Hadrian (whose male lover Antinous appears in museums in New York, London, Paris, Rome, Delphi, etc.) was from a city called Italica, the ruins of which are near modern Seville.  Later on, there was a whole tradition of male-male poetry in Arab Spain, and sadly, the Inquisition was particularly active in southern Spain. As a result, Southern Spain’s lovely cities—Córdoba, Seville, and Granada—are a great place to learn about both tolerance and prosecution.  And Seville is also the setting for one of the all-time favorite operas, Bizet’s Carmen.  In fact, the once famous cigar factory (where Carmen works) is now the main building of the university.

And Morocco has a fabulous gay history as well.  A certain fluidity about sexuality in the native culture attracted a host of gay Western artists in the 19th and early 20th century.  As the article says:

“Morocco…has always been a nation where tolerance is practiced but not preached” As a result, “there was a time when Morocco was renowned as a haven for gay Americans and Britons, who fled restrictions in their own countries to take advantage of its relaxed atmosphere.  And “Tangier’s huge literary legacy…includes Jean Genet, Andre Gide, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Gore Vidal and Joe Orton, all of whom were gay or bisexual.”

Plus of course Morocco is gorgeous, with wonderful crafts and food, and….we would love to go there.  But of course the Arab world is far less tolerant than it was in the days of the Spanish Arab love poets.   Morocco is clearly the most stable, safest, and most tolerant Arab country left, but we would love to hear from our readers about their experiences there.

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Walt Whitman and New York gay history

Just spotted this review of a fascinating new book about Walt Whitman and gay sociability in late 19th century New York.  This is very timely for us, because Oscar Wilde Tours is planning a gay history tour of New York, to start hopefully in the spring.  New York is of course one of the richest gay history sites in the world, but there isn’t much information available about the topic:  there’s no book about it, and the only walking tours cover only the Village. 

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Gay History in Paris

More gay history notes for gay travelers.  I don’t think that most Americans associate Paris with gay history, but it is one of the richest cities for gay history, as it is for all other kinds of history.  In fact, Paris is the only city that offers a whole series of gay history tours:  Paris Gay Village’s “visites inverties” (inverted tours).  They are only offered irregularly and in French, but Oscar Wilde Tours will always include them (with translation of course) in our Paris tours.

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Gay Heroes of Ancient Athens

While I was in Greece researching Oscar Wilde Tour’s 2016 Greece tour, I was following a great story from gay history: the story of the ancient Athenians’ favorite heroes—right up there with Theseus, the city’s mythical founder— Harmodius and Aristogeiton, the male-male couple who assassinated the brother of the last tyrant of Athens and whom the Athenians regarded as the founders of the democracy. It would be hard to exaggerate how honored these guys were in Athens.

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