Lives of the Treacherous

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BAD GAYS
A Homosexual History
by Huw Lemmey and Ben Miller
Verso. 368 pages, $29.95

 

IN THEIR INTRODUCTION to Bad Gays: A Homosexual History, authors Huw Lemmey and Ben Miller illustrate one of their central arguments with a trenchant contrast. Oscar Wilde has emerged as one of the key figures of the contemporary LGBT rights movement, they point out, as he “was one of the first men in British society to give a creative form to a sexuality that barely yet understood itself,” and they agree that he earned this place.

            But what about his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, better known by his nickname “Bosie”? Just as Wilde had contributed to what was emerging as a new identity and had created something akin to a rallying cry for a century of queer activism that would follow, Bosie could be thought of as sheer “evil twink energy” (the first of many such biting epithets used by the authors). While largely forgotten in the history books, Bosie emerged as viciously anti-leftist, anti-Irish, and anti-Semitic. He would even accuse Winston Churchill of being caught up in Jewish conspiracies during World War II. Churchill would successfully sue Bosie, who died broke, and only two people attended his funeral.

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Matthew Hays teaches film studies at Concordia University, Montréal.

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