If these touching Victorian same-sex couple photos don’t prove that “love is love” is far from a new idea, nothing will. We all know that LGBT relationships are not a new concept. They’ve just finally found more acceptance. While being lesbian is not a new thing, by any stretch of the imagination, acceptance is very new.
So, as we know lesbian couples must have existed back in the Victorian ages. But it’s not easy finding the history of them. That’s where the internet comes in and shares all these amazing pictures and memories.Reddit has done an amazing job at bringing some cute Victorian couples to our attention, and I just needed to share them. I also rounded up a few more interesting moments from Victorian LGBT history.
1. Alice Mitchell and Freda Ward
How heartwarming is this? Proving that despite popular belief, LGBT people existed long before social media. Shock horror. While this story took a dark turn (look it up if you’re curious), it is proof that love is love, and nothing can stop that.
2. This gorgeous lesbian couple, Lily and Adrienne
Up next we have Lily Elise and Adrienne Augarde. Many comments on this photo state that photos like this prove that lesbians are not a “new thing” as some may suggest. Many others point out that their clothing suggests a ceremony or wedding of sorts. That’s an amazing thing.
P.S a woman in a suit would have caused quite the stir back in 1907, so that alone is a very admirable thing to see. We love to see gender shifting back in a time when gender meant EVERYTHING.
Historical records and accounts show that Charlotte Cushman and Matilda Hays spent ten years together. They even had a wedding ceremony, according to Elizabeth Barret Browning. While the lesbian marriage ended with affairs on both sides, the same-sex couple enjoyed quite a few years together during a time that was remarkably challenging for same-sex couples.
4. Fanny and Stella – evidence of a gay community?
This couple actually formed a theatrical double act. In this, Frederick William Park and Thomas Ernest Boulton dressed as women and traveled around England. They did this off stage, too.Interestingly, Lord Arthur Clinton lived with Boulton and they exchanged love letters to each other. Only, Clinton sent them to “Stella”.
Clinton and Boulton were arrested, on suspicion of homosexuality activity. Clinton unfortunately died before the trial, many speculating it was suicide.While all men included in this so-called scandal were let-off because of insubstantial evidence, the whole situation is shocking.
5. The infamous drag ball
While this one isn’t specifically about a Victorian same-sex couple, it’s still a fantastic example of how the LGBTQ community came together during the era. In 1880, Manchester City Police received notice of a ball being held. Actually, those who organised the ball took extra care hiding the guest’s identity. Why go through all that trouble for a simple ball? Yes, you guessed it – this ball was a drag ball. Complete with a bouncer dressed as a nun at the door.
The police raided this party, and the men were later charged with “improper actions”. The drag ball gained a lot of attention and all 47 of the men’s name were published in newspapers – making headlines. The majority of those who attended the bail was forced to promise the court that they would practice “good behavior” for 12 months.
Being LGBT in the Victorian era
So what was life like for these gorgeous couples in the Victorian era? To say it wasn’t easy is an understatement. Crossdressing men, “homosexual behavior,” and drag balls all sparked a Criminal Law Amendment Act.
The law made this kind of “gross indecency” (obviously I don’t agree with it being called that) punishable. However, there was a funny thing about this law: Clause 11 of its Labouchere Amendment forbids oral sex between men, but not between women. According to a common urban legend, Victoria removed allusions to lesbianism from the Act because she refused to accept that women did any such things. However, they had never actually been included in the Act.
Famously, Oscar Wilde and Alan Turing were both investigated for this. Turing sadly decided to go through hormone therapy to avoid imprisonment. In 2017, a law named after him. The Turing Law posthumously pardoned him as well as thousands of other LGBTQ individuals convicted under the Act.
The first same-sex couple rights in the Victorian era
While decriminalizing homosexual relationships would come YEARS later, it’s important to note that homosexual rights groups formed in the Victorian era.
For instance, the Order of Chaeronea was established in 1897. It was a secret society with the goal of making homosexuality accepted openly. Actually, in the Victorian era, there were also “female marriages.” In these, women referred to each other as “hubby” and “wedded wife.” They were even recognized as a couple. Those seeking to reform society use this kind of marriage as a model/example.
There were also other significant happenings in gay rights activism and legislation throughout the victorian era. To name a ‘few,’
- In August 1867, Karl Heinrich Ulrichs lobbied before the Congress of German Jurists in Munich for a resolution demanding the repeal of anti-gay laws. He became the first homosexual to publicly defend homosexuality, and quite unsurprisingly, he was yelled at. The Historian of German culture and history, Robert Beachy stated in an interview that he considers it fair to think of Karl as the first gay person to come out of the closet and declare his sexual identity.
- The period from 1840 to the mid-1860s saw most of the popular 1800s decriminalization wave. This is the period when a wave of decriminalization of homosexuality swept through Europe and Latin America. Prior to the 1940s, the Netherlands had already decriminalized homosexuality in 1811, making it the first European nation to do so. The Dominican Republique would follow suit in 1822. However, the biggest wave came between 1840 and 1865, at which time, at least 5 other nations would decriminalize homosexuality. First came Hannover in 1840, followed by Portugal in 1852. Argentina followed a year after, and in 1858, the Ottoman Empire, in its Tazimat reform era, also abolished laws condemning homosexuality. Then came San Marino in 1865, and eventually, the Empire of Japan, and Paraguay. Italy and the Vatican eventually legalized it.
Many find this kind of information quite shocking, especially as Victorians were seen as straitened and strict. In fact, that isn’t true. The LGBT community obviously existed and was filled with exciting people.
It’s also lovely to see this kind of information, especially with so many people claiming that LGBT relationships will “extinct” the traditional family. But to place a final nail in the coffin of any idea that homosexuality is a modern thing, did you know homosexuality was already known even among famous figures in ancient times? Here are a few notable cases to consider.
Alexander the Great and Hephaestion
I’m sure you’ve heard quite a lot about Alexander the Great and his leadership. But did you know he may have been gay? Alexander and Haphaestion grew up together and were lifelong companions, and authors like Plutarch have suggested that they were also lovers. They appear to have taken their relationship cues from Achilles and Patroclus, and according to one myth, Alexander and Hephaestion placed wreaths on Achilles’ and Patroclus’ respective tombs when they visited the Troy site.
Hadrian and Antinous
At the height of Rome’s power, Hadrian was Emperor. He is known to have had a number of relationships with people of the same sex before he eventually met Antinous in Bithynia (modern Turkey) in 123 CE. After then, the couple practically lived together while visiting various provinces of the Roman Empire, until Antinous drowned in Egypt’s River Nile.
And so, as you can see, same-sex love is not a new thing. It has always been around, and some societies have even accepted it. So, next time somebody brings up the Victorian ages as an argument, you know exactly what to say.
What do you think about these touching Victorian same-sex couple photos? Share below!
I’m a freelance journalist/writer/content marketer with BA Hons in Journalism.