From History to Herstory to Our Story: GLBT Historical Fiction

on Oct 23, 2014 by Christopher Hawthorne Moss

By Christopher Hawthorne Moss, author and editor oof Our Story GLBT Historical Diction at GLBT Bookshelf www.glbtbookshelf.com

Gold gobletI remember when feminists coined the expression “herstory” to counteract the overt and subtle masculinism of the word “History”.  Of course, we all know that the “his” in “history” is not actually the masculine pronoun, but it was an acknowledgement that what we were taught in school was, in fact, the history of men.  Women were a side issue.  The impetus for developing “herstory” was to bring to light the equally central role of women in our past.  The impact of this effort did more than just add female names and faces to the story of humanity.  It helped change the way we looked at how we both learned of and interpreted our collective past.  We stopped reciting the dates of battles and started looking at the records for clues to the actual lives of people of the past.

People who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer deserve a history/herstory too.  There is even less record of our lives.   Much of what we have in the records consists mostly of religious diatribes and criminal records, for that was the interface between the dominant culture and us: their attempts to control our behavior through threats and punishment.  Sadly, there is little alternative if you want to tell our story.  The evidence of our lives and loves is at best spotty.

That’s where I believe historical fiction can mend our lack of a history.  Intelligent people realize that times change, but every type of person alive today has existed in every era.  If the estimate that ten percent of people are GLBTQ now, then we were in those numbers at every point in the history of humankind.  The capable storyteller can see the forest for the trees, that is, see just where and how people like us found a way to be no matter when.  It is our job, in essence, to tell the stories of our forebears in sexual and gender identity.  That the people we write about may or may not have actually lived is irrelevant.  They are our history… our story.  As Monique Wittig wrote:

“There was a time when you were not a slave, remember that. You walked alone, full of laughter, you bathed bare-bellied. You say you have lost all recollection of it, remember . . . You say there are no words to describe this time, you say it does not exist. But remember. Make an effort to remember. Or, failing that, invent.”

Deprived of concrete records it is our job, and our purpose here, to invent.

I have dedicated most of my own writing to this invention, including Tryck Stop, my short story in A TASTE OF HONEY.  It is recent history, about 1949, and the two characters are living just at the dawn of the present era of gay liberation.  Where Cleve and Sully liv there won’t be awareness of gay people for decades, maybe longer,   Ironically the American West was to a large extent a refuge for gay people.  Mountain men left the East and even Europe to find freedom the Rockies.  They made partnerships with the less repressed Indians.  They gave up that freedom when the preachers reached the mountains but in all male enclaves like the remote ranges, they found it again.  Historians will hotly deny all this, but simple logic and awareness of human nature affirms it.  And of course we all know about those women who lived as men in the Old West.

Cleve and Sully may make it after all, with the remote West’s acceptance of the oddball pairings of old bachelors.  Let’s hope so.  Barring that, let’s just believe so.

About Christopher Hawthorne Moss

Christopher Hawthorne Moss is the author of WHERE MY LOVE LIES DREAMING, a tale of life before and during the Civil War on a riverboat in the Mighty Mississippi, and BELOVED PILGRIM, a transgender novel about a transman living as a knight during th devastating Crusade of 1101, as well as historical short stories in CLOSET CAPERS and A TASTE OF HONEY.  Visit Christopher at his home page wwww.shirld-wal.com and his review blog, That’s All I Read at https://kitmossreviews.blogspot.com, as well as on Facebook at https://www.facebooks.com/kitmoss2012 .

By Christopher Hawthorne Moss, author and editor oof Our Story GLBT Historical Diction at GLBT Bookshelf www.glbtbookshelf.com

Gold gobletI remember when feminists coined the expression “herstory” to counteract the overt and subtle masculinism of the word “History”.  Of course, we all know that the “his” in “history” is not actually the masculine pronoun, but it was an acknowledgement that what we were taught in school was, in fact, the history of men.  Women were a side issue.  The impetus for developing “herstory” was to bring to light the equally central role of women in our past.  The impact of this effort did more than just add female names and faces to the story of humanity.  It helped change the way we looked at how we both learned of and interpreted our collective past.  We stopped reciting the dates of battles and started looking at the records for clues to the actual lives of people of the past.

People who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer deserve a history/herstory too.  There is even less record of our lives.   Much of what we have in the records consists mostly of religious diatribes and criminal records, for that was the interface between the dominant culture and us: their attempts to control our behavior through threats and punishment.  Sadly, there is little alternative if you want to tell our story.  The evidence of our lives and loves is at best spotty.

That’s where I believe historical fiction can mend our lack of a history.  Intelligent people realize that times change, but every type of person alive today has existed in every era.  If the estimate that ten percent of people are GLBTQ now, then we were in those numbers at every point in the history of humankind.  The capable storyteller can see the forest for the trees, that is, see just where and how people like us found a way to be no matter when.  It is our job, in essence, to tell the stories of our forebears in sexual and gender identity.  That the people we write about may or may not have actually lived is irrelevant.  They are our history… our story.  As Monique Wittig wrote:

“There was a time when you were not a slave, remember that. You walked alone, full of laughter, you bathed bare-bellied. You say you have lost all recollection of it, remember . . . You say there are no words to describe this time, you say it does not exist. But remember. Make an effort to remember. Or, failing that, invent.”

Deprived of concrete records it is our job, and our purpose here, to invent.

I have dedicated most of my own writing to this invention, including Tryck Stop, my short story in A TASTE OF HONEY.  It is recent history, about 1949, and the two characters are living just at the dawn of the present era of gay liberation.  Where Cleve and Sully liv there won’t be awareness of gay people for decades, maybe longer,   Ironically the American West was to a large extent a refuge for gay people.  Mountain men left the East and even Europe to find freedom the Rockies.  They made partnerships with the less repressed Indians.  They gave up that freedom when the preachers reached the mountains but in all male enclaves like the remote ranges, they found it again.  Historians will hotly deny all this, but simple logic and awareness of human nature affirms it.  And of course we all know about those women who lived as men in the Old West.

Cleve and Sully may make it after all, with the remote West’s acceptance of the oddball pairings of old bachelors.  Let’s hope so.  Barring that, let’s just believe so.



About Christopher Hawthorne Moss

Christopher Hawthorne Moss is the author of WHERE MY LOVE LIES DREAMING, a tale of life before and during the Civil War on a riverboat in the Mighty Mississippi, and BELOVED PILGRIM, a transgender novel about a transman living as a knight during th devastating Crusade of 1101, as well as historical short stories in CLOSET CAPERS and A TASTE OF HONEY.  Visit Christopher at his home page wwww.shirld-wal.com and his review blog, That’s All I Read at https://kitmossreviews.blogspot.com, as well as on Facebook at https://www.facebooks.com/kitmoss2012 .


Tagged

Add a Comment