One almost never hears about homosexuality in the Old West
I find that strange. In a society with a huge shortage of women and a lack of legal and social controls, you''d imagine it to have been rampant.
It was rampant. Who says you never hear about it? But the biggest place in America it ran rampant was colonial Virginia, which had an 8 to 1 male to female ratio in the early days and gay unions not dissimilar to Australian mateship.
It was rampant, but cowboys don''t kiss and tell. There was such a shortage of women, even the cows weren''t safe.
Any literature on the topic?
There weren''t a lot of women but in movies and tv it seems like every town was teeming with whores.
Read "The Virginian" by Owen Wister and tell us that again, OP. That''s the gayest book ever written.
Actually, the 1940s film of "The Virginian" is pretty damn gay. The two leads start out as enemies, and get closer and closer as the film goes on, and finally get drunk and wind up in bed together. The film shows them both crammed into a tiny narrow bed, looking regretful, but fully clothed.\
Gary Cooper made a lot of homoerotic westerns, come to mention it.
This thread has inspired me to go get another copy of Stonewall, The Other Side of Silence, which is a history of homosexuality in the US, mostly in the 20th Century. It covers a bit of the West too in "cowboy" times. Every time I buy a copy I give it away to someone I think needs to read it.\
In the 19th Century the word homosexual did not exist. You have to look for other words like sodomites etc.
I''ve heard that cowboys are frequently, secretly fond of each other.
The Voice of the Night
The outlaw was thick with gay tension.
[quote]colonial Virginia, which had an 8 to 1 male to female ratio \
George Washington and Lord Fairfax had good reason for hooking up when George was barely past twinkhood. Of course, history changed his Fairfax interest to look like it was all aimed at Sally Fairfax.
"This thread has inspired me to go get another copy of Stonewall, The Other Side of Silence, which is a history of homosexuality in the US, mostly in the 20th Century."\
I haven''t been able to track down a copy of this book. Could you please indicate the author, publisher, etc.? Thanks.
SF''s gay reputation started during the Gold Rush. It continued. In 1990, the incidence of the male homosex was twice as high in the Seattle to San Francisco belt as it was in Boston-New England area.\
Any all-male camps, mining, cowboys, lumberjacks, merchant marine, whaling, the military: all were notorious for the homosex.
1990 sounds like it was a lot of fun.
OP, you have no idea! It was gayer than an Ungaro spring frock!
The GAY Caballero
What is the famous painting from the 1850s that shows the good ''49ers on one side of the painting and the degenerate ones on the other. On the degenerate side the guys are boozing, gambling and two are quite obviously groping a young boy.
I forget the URL but someone here posted a link to a site that had lots of info on gays in the Old West
"Queer Cowboys" by Chris Packard:\
"Chris Packard introduces readers to the males-only clubs of journalists, cowboys, miners, Indians, and vaqueros who defined themselves by excluding women and the cloying ills of domesticity and recovers a forgotten culture of exclusively masculine, sometimes erotic, and often intimate camaraderie in the fiction, photographs, and theatrical performances of the 1800’s Wild West."
How do you know, r25? Were you there?\
Generally, such relationships were secretive and undocumented by nature. It does not mean they did not exist. \
As others have pointed out: traveling west gave one an opportunity to escape the obligations of marriage and the judgment of society and to live almost entirely in the company of men.\
No doubt not ALL cowboys were gay, but really... you do the math.
Alma, in tears
Irony seems to be lost on R30.
R32, your post at R25 isn''t clear as a comment on craigslist-style hetero-looking-for-gay-sex postings. It could easily have been misinterpreted as sincere.\
Your attempt at humor is appreciated, but underwhelming. Ty again.
R16, here''s a copy of that painting with the miners groping the twink, and maybe I''ll look for a larger copy. It''s called "Sunday Morning in the Mines", and the original is at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento.
Thank you R37/39, I searched for the painting but I could not find it.
Google is not my friend, and neither is Bing, apparently.
Hanky Code from Wikipedia:\
The wearing of various colored bandanas around the neck was common in the mid- and late-nineteenth century among cowboys, steam railroad engineers, and miners in the Western United States. It is thought that the wearing of bandanas by gay men originated in San Francisco after the Gold Rush, when, because of a shortage of women, men dancing with each other in square dances developed a code wherein the man wearing the blue bandana took the male part in the square dance, and the man wearing the red bandana took the female part (these bandanas were usually worn around the arm or hanging from the belt or in the back pocket of one''s jeans).\
Those bunkhouses (as in the old western movies) must have been a riot of homosex .... and all those young (and not so young) guys out on the trail, cattle-herding etc, in their chaps - emphasing their assets ...
I love how, in the painting, the ''twink''s'' knees are all muddy.
They all seem to have muddy knees except the guy who isn''t wearing any pants.
Um, because they were PRAYING!
I also like the two guys on the right, one bareass, the other one checking him out.
This link has LOTS of information about male lovin'' in the Wild and Woolly West.
Birthday greetings to James Butler Hickok. Despite the impression you got from Doris Day and Howard Keel, Wild Bill had no interest in Calamity Jane. Instead, Charley Utter was the one he lived with and Charley is said to be the love of his life.
Wild Bill Hicock was born on May 27, 1837 in Troy Grove, Illinois.
Women were scarce in the Wild and Woolly West.
The Outlaw was on again this morning, in a crystal-clear print.\
Those three boys (Doc Holliday, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid) sure had something going on.
Women were not just "scarce"- they were completely absent from the "old west" for a very long time. Yet, as Gore Vidal points out, there were still brothels. Filled with young men. So "Miss Kitty" was actually Mister Kitty.
"Women were scarce in the Wild and Woolly West."\
Actually, there were Native American women, but Anglo-Saxon men didn''t marry them the way that French or Spanish men did.
R11 - would you please post a reference or source for that? I''m researching that era and Fairfax''s dealings, and would be grateful for the research lead.
"Young cowboys had a great fear / That old studs once filled with beer / Completely addle'' / They''d throw on a saddle, And ride them on the rear."
Do you think these relationships between men were generally acknowledged or were the kept secret?
A friend and I were discussing what would happen if two men, say, working on the trans-continental railroad, were discovered to be lovers -- would the community shrug, would they be kicked out of the community or would they possibly be lynched?
My guess would be that it either would casually accepted though not condoned or they would be sent packing; my friend believes they would be killed.
I really wish there was a single volume history of this topic.
I remember reading that "dude" was slang for gay in the old west.
R57 Good questions. But we'll never know because they didn't write about it.
Look at it this way - these men committed acts that were unnatural to the vast majority of them. And just like in the British Navy, the Outback and surely on the trips to Mars, most men go back to women when they get the chance. Leaving us with the memories :)
I'm sure some men assumed domestic responsibilities just as they do in relationships today.
After Brokeback Mountain came out, Patricia Nell Warren (The Front Runner) wrote a piece about growing up on a big ranch with cowboys when she was a girl.
Many native American communities included gay members in the old West (I think the term that is used is "Two-Spirited" people)
I assume it was a very common practice. Since there were so few women, I bet most of them engaged in some form of homosex. I also assume that the % of gays was the same as ever so that means it was heaven for real homosexuals, being able to have sex with plenty of men w/o really being afraid of being shamed by society, of being exposed (people didn't seem to talk about sex then anyway) and not being forced to marry or explain why they aren't married.
r71 That is true, but I wouldn't be surprised if there was still a stigma towards femme men and genuinely gay men(I am not implying they are one in the same).
There might have been a social distinction between the real gays and those only doing it out of having no women around. Even back then, I imagine people suspected who was gay or straight.
Okay, but how many "fem" men do you suppose went west to pan for gold all day, build fences for cattle, brawl with their neighbors, invading Native American tribes, etc.
I would wager that most "fem" gay men moved to big cities.
Or am I confusing stereotypes here?
r73 Good point.
Yeah r72 I agree. If I had to guess, I'm pretty sure most gays tried not to "act too gay" so people wouldn't suspect. People were still more religious, more superstitious, more prejudice and religious than they are today. I'm sure they didn't shout their gayness from the rooftops but they probably didn't need to look over their shoulders all the time either.
r73 that's a great point. What you say makes perfect sex. I suppose it was a lot easier for the masculine gays to pretend gay sex was just out of necessity.
Check out the movie [italic]Tombstone[/italic] and watch Jason Priestley and Billy Zane's characters. Jason P plays what looks like the boyfriend of the head criminal and Billy Zane plays a somewhat flamboyant actor. I wonder if the attitudes then might be somewhat like it is depicted here. No one ever says anything but it's just understood.
It was a simple, hard life with work, work and more work. There wasn't much stimulation for them. And there was the religious factor to consider.
There was next to no sophistication in the country areas. But there were some who had the feelings, which they probably suppressed.
In the native american communities there was no stigma to same sex preference. In fact, some were held in high regard.
Sorry R78, but there was tremendous freedom from religion.
I'll tell you one thing though .. when Time Travel comes in, that's the first place I'm going. The Old West. Dodge City sounds good.
Similarly, gauchos (Argentina cowboys) have always had a reputation for dabbling in the homosex.
If you wanted a good book about passions amongst the pirates Brethren: Raised By Wolves is a pretty good read. It's a romance.