Monday, June 03, 2013

Queering the family tree: Part 1

What fun: Kicking off Pride Month with a couple of posts about genealogy --- thanks largely to the friend who sent me a link to this post, Forbidden Forebears: Finding the GLBT Ancestors in Your Family, written by Michael Leclerc for the Mocavo Genealogy Blog (Mocavo is a useful and free online genealogical resource; follow the link to find it.)

It's an interesting piece although overly optimistic --- ancestral gay family members aren't easily sorted out unless they somehow became obvious enough to be considered scandalous --- all gay people were scandalous back then --- and made the papers, court documents or Aunt Flora's diary. The goal of most LGBTQ people within reach of has been to blend. We call it "closeted" now.

And Leclerc is using the terms "forebear" and "ancestor"  in too general a sense. One descends from a forebear or an ancestor. Aunts, uncles, siblings and cousins are neither.

But you get where he's going --- every family tree has LBGT people in it, most of whom are not and probably never can be identified definitively as such, although that's changing in current generations. Looka here.

Most of us probably do, however, have gay grandparents in addition to our gay aunts, uncles and cousins of varying degrees and generations. Until quite recently folks were expected to marry someone of the opposite sex, reproduce and stay married --- no matter how challenging the experience. And most did, gay and straight alike.

This still happens if one or more of the contracting parties wants to be, or appear to be, something he or she is not --- and most likely never will be. These days, therapeutic and masquerade marriages tend not to end well.

The number of LGBTQ ancestors is likely to be quite small, however. And if Great-grandma and Great-grandpa had a dozen kids you can be reasonably sure that they were aggressively heterosexual and enjoying the experience. Well, Grandpa at least. Childbirth is not a piece of cake I'm told.


I expect that the genealogists most likely to go prospecting for gay kinfolk are gay themselves. Although we've been in the news a lot lately, there aren't that many of us. So it always takes effort to find people like ourselves if for no other reason than to locate a date. Accustomed to making the effort, the tendency extends into fields beyond romance where other interests lie.

Many of us who are gay are curious, too, about how we got that way. Genetics is the obvious answer. So those of us attuned to family history may look within our families for people like us, too, with mixed results.

Some of my family lines seem just to go on and on, one boring heterosexual generation after another. Others, however, spit out folks who most likely were gay with some degree of regularity.

No, I'm not going delve into living generations here --- in the interests of family harmony --- even though current generations are where trends become increasingly obvious. But I will talk another time about a couple of ancestral kinfolk as well as a couple of non-related guys I've stumbled across while researching for this blog.

Some of the search involves common sense --- among menfolk, look first at those who lived reasonably long lives and never married. They couldn't, remember, unless they chose to involve someone of the opposite sex in deception.

A little "gaydar" helps, too. For the unitiated, "gaydar" is the supposed ability of gay people to recognize other gay people at a glance --- although it's usually a little more complicated than that. It works --- some of the time --- although there always are surprises and wishful thinking can cloud the issue. Watch out for wishful thinking.

Anyhow, I wasted way too much time this morning turning the background on "uncle" in the illustration here pink and have to go. More, another day.

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