"The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - that you’d thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you’ve never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it’s as if a hand has come out, and taken yours."

(Bennett, 2004)

I love being queer, but I haven’t always. So I’ve looked to history for a place to belong. Finding queer stories has been a difficult journey of flipping over rocks, racking open floorboard and peaking under the bed, because for a long, long time, that's the only place we could survive.  

I have a hard time reading dense academic writing, honestly I think it could do with a bit more levity and a few more exclamation points. A bit more pizazz! I hope that in these zines you find a connection, an interest. I'm an illustrator and honestly the starchier readings put it better, but my hope is that this approach makes them more accessible.

So with these first entries I have gone in with a focus on the overlooked identities within the already overlooked queer community. Lesbians are a stuck-on-the-end single page/paragraph if lucky, trans and gender non-conforming identities are maybe an index mention and bi/pan/fluid sexualities are re-written or ignored. If I had a penny for every time I read that two people who shared their homes, bed and hearts with each other for decades were ‘really good friends’ I could probably pay off my student debt.

The aim of this is not to dictate/prescribe/pin down/determine that certain figures are of certain identities. Instead I want to offer a kaleidoscope of sorts. Some thing a little messier, a little more fluid. Something you might see yourself in.

We’ll never know, because these people are all dead, history is unforgiving and we don’t have a time machine. I’d say rather than argue about where to drop the anchor, we cruise about, explore all the corners of the map and accept and enjoy the queerness in all its multitudinous forms and combinations.

To be put under a single title, is well- boring. Modern labels might  work for the here and now, but really can't be applied to historic figures. But you don’t have to put a label on something to be able to resonate with it. This is a project to reflect on and be reflected in the queerness of the past. Our interpretations shouldn’t be singular but many. Overlapping and constantly retold and relived. Immortality is found in the hearts of others.

In this research I’ve found joy, but also an incredible amount of frustration. For those who have been forgotten, lost and deliberately removed. Those whose stories still remain are by no means the ones who were ‘stronger’ or more ‘meaningful’. If I have learnt anything from this project, it is the passion, the fullness, the stubbornness of queer lives throughout history. For each of those who are lucky enough to have their stories still told, be it through infamy or privilege there are thousands upon thousands more who lived just as brightly. Through briars of allusion, thick censorship bars and crumbling mistranslations we are here, waiting to be found.

This is by no means a definitive list. I hope, that this is a project, a space that can grow, evolve, step forward, step sideways, correct or even get a little wavy. If something needs to spill over or break boundaries, let it. It can always be scrunched up and redone.

I want it to be as free and as collaborative as possible. All these zines are available to download and reprint on the website. Print them out and leave them on a bus, tuck them into library books, send them to a friend. All they need is a single A4. Make your own, the template is there to use. Draw on them, write on them, tear bits out and keep them in your pocket. If you find something new, write it down. And send it in to be shared out again.

I am indebted to all the researchers that refused to believe anyone is insignificant. We owe so much to those who live in those niches of history, who found a thread and keep unravelling. So many queer stories are found in the domestic, someone’s great aunt or neighbour. ‘Domestic’ maybe feels reductive, but I say that with a lot of love. The domestic, the home, the day-to-day is where the cogs of human history keep churning. That's where life is lived. A lot of history might have been maliciously edited, but also a lot of it is just thought to be so commonplace it's never written down (look up the Land of Punt.) So much of this reserach is  is found by the queer community, if there’s ever a question of the validity of gaydar, look no further than queer history. So if you feel that spideysense going off, maybe follow it. You might find the next entry, uncover the next great queer story.  

If there’s anything you take from this, its to make more. More art, more writing, more connections, more mistakes, more permanence in this world. We’ve been told we should be forgotten, that we’re not worth remembering. Fuck that and fuck them. Grow roots so deep they can never be untangled.

Always here. Always queer.

‘It is our responsibility to remember that all of history is a construction, to resist nostalgia and to keep asking ourselves who constructed the histories we inherited and why? To ask who is remembered and who forgotten and to understand the power behind those choices....
Consequently, the historic characters we meet on our day out still disproportionately reflect male, white, elite, straight, cisgender, non-disabled lives. This minority continues to dominate the understanding and presentation of all of our shared history... The exclusion of LGBTQ+ narratives from public history, from the mainstream of the cultural heritage sector, not only displaces the lives that have been omitted or misrepresented, it dislocates LGBTQ+ people from their shared past.

(Lennon, R. 2018. p.10)

“There is a process of identification we engage in with queer historical figures, creating what Valerie Traub calls “lines of transmission of desire and culture” (2002: 352). Having no bloodline linking us to the past, we seek out a genealogy through affinity and identification; we look for those queer figures who can help us invent and create our own history, but we also yearn for a past that can give us a future, a modern past, so to speak.

(Roulston, 2013)

"Queerness is a structuring and educated mode of desiring that allows us to see the future beyond the quagmire of the present. The here and now is a prison house. We must strive, in the face of the here and now’s totalizing rendering of reality, to think and feel a then and there. Some will say that all we have are the pleasures of the moment, but we must never settle for that minimal transport; we must dream and enact new and better pleasures, other ways of being in the world, and ultimately new worlds … Queerness is essentially about the rejection of a here and now and an insistence on potentiality or concrete possibility for another world." 

(Muñoz, J.E. 2009).

Printable version:

Bennett A. 2004. The History Boys.

Lennon, R., 2018. For ever, for everyone?. In: R. Sandell, R. Lennon and M. Smith, Prejudice and Pride: LGBTQ heritage and its contemporary implications. Research Centre for Museums and Galleries, School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester, p.10.

Muñoz, J. E. (2009). Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. NYU Press. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qg4nr

Roulston, C., 2013. The Revolting Anne Lister: The U.K.'s First Modern Lesbian. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 17(3-4), pp.267-278.