- Keith Stern. Queers in History: The Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Historical Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Trangenders. Forward by Sir Ian McKellen. Dallas: Benbella Books, Inc. 2009.
Wait. Who is this on p28. A gay man cum drag queen called Alexis Arquette. Alexis transitioned to female in 2006. Queers in History is dated 2009. This was not a last minute change that we would excuse the book for missing.
There are no transsexual men in the book, not even Patrick Califia. Most of the lesbian cross-dressers from the 19th and early 20th century appear but not always as cross-dressers: George Sand, Renée Vivian , Bryher, John Radcliffe Hall, Vita Sackville-West, Romaine Brooks, Hilda Doolittle but not Jane Heap, Micky Jacob.
The only heterosexual cross-dresser included as such is Edward Wood, but the article follows the book by the science-fiction writer Jean Marie Stine that he was bisexual in his younger years. There is no entry for Stine herself. Robert Baden-Powell is in as a repressed gay, but no mention is made of his female impersonations.
None of the trans men activists are here, nor the trans women activists. And, somewhat surprisingly, very few gay activists. Harvey Milk is here but not Peter Tatchell, Joseph Doucé or Louis Georges Tin. José Sarria, trans activist and gay electoral candidate is sorely missed. Aurore Dupin is in under her pen name of George Sand and Pauline Tarn as Renée Vivien, but the writer known as Vernon Lee is in under her mufti name of Violet Paget. Stern is of the school that if a person is a king, queen or pope, their other name is not to mentioned. Thus on p107 we find Christina but not Christina Vasa; on p21 we find Anne but not Anne Stuart.
Whilst Stern includes many English kings and queens, he is quite indifferent to prime ministers and other members of parliament. Thus no mention of Peter Mandelson, Jeremy Thorpe, Edward Heath, William Hague. William Lygon, the 7th Earl Beauchamp, leader of the Liberals in the Lords, who resigned after being outed in 1931, is missing. Lygon is usually taken to be the real-life model for Lord Marchmain in Brideshead Revisited. However Archibald Primrose, the 5th Earl of Rosebery, Prime Minister 1894-5 is included under Rosebery. Nor does he include the various gay and lesbian mayors of major cities: Paris, Berlin, Hamburg, Zurich, Houston etc.
Many authors, musicians, painters etc. are included. One meaning of ‘queer’ is gays and trans who lack heterosexual privilege. That is not the meaning here. This book features the famous and the accomplished as recognized by the straight world. Some of us would have preferred the inclusion of those who had contributed to GLBT history without the approval of the straight world, but that was not Stern’s choice.
In his “Notes” at the beginning of the book, Stern says “Their sexual orientation is made evident by their choice of romantic partners”. This leaves one thinking that he does not properly understand what ‘transgender’ is. Wendy Carlos is in the book by being one of the few transsexuals that straight people instantly name, but surely not by her ‘choice of romantic partners’.
With these few caveats, the book is quite fun, but many of us would have come up with quite different lists.
- Doug Ireland. "We Were Everywhere". Gay City News. http://www.gaycitynews.com/articles/2010/03/11/gay_city_news/editors_latest/doc4b993c59047f4417229299.txt.