“Queer City: Gay London from the Romans to the Present Day” by Peter Ackroyd— An Interesting Historical Take on London

Ackroyd, Peter. “Queer City: Gay London from the Romans to the Present Day”, Abrams Press, 2018.

An Interesting Historical Take on London

Amos Lassen

The first generation of lesbian and gay scholars after the Stonewall showdown compiled evidence proving that men had gone to bed with men, and women with women, early in history and often thus saying that Homosexuality was not something new. Because the social stigma against homosexuality was still potent, “these writers armored their books against condescension, brandishing complex theories about representation and identity, and thorning their texts with source notes.” Yet, even with this care the authors took to be sophisticated, however, they still provided a thrill that depended in large part on a simple intellectual— the list.

We see that here in Peter Ackroyd’s “Queer City,” that covers two millenniums of lesbians, gays, trans people and other queers who have lived in London. Ackroyd starts with a list of words for non-heterosexuals, including “catamite,” “sapphist,” “ingle,” “pathic,” “mollie,” “jemmy,” “tribade,” “tommy,” “indorser,” “fribble” and “madge,” and quickly moves on to names, famous and forgotten. Unlike his predecessors, Ackroyd doesn’t include philosophical puzzles about the nature of sexuality, or its lack of a nature. What he is saying here is that we have arrived and that our history no longer has anything to prove.

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