Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Guest Post - What's So Gay About the Fae? by wtprater

The Politically Incorrect Dictionary defines a fairy as "homophobic. Replaced by petite airborne humanoid which possesses magical powers. The term fairy should be avoided when discussing these mythical beings, regardless of how gay they may appear." So, how gay are the Fae? Well, that depends. On where you look. 

I was first introduced to the Fae as creatures in William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream (AMND), presented in parts in the movie Dead Poet's Society (DPS). And when I saw Puck (Robert Sean Leonard), the lead fairy, I felt a little gay. Okay, a lot of gay. Years later, watching the movie version of AMND, starring Michelle Pfeifer as Titania, Rubert Everett as Oberon, and Stanley Tucci as Puck, I realized that there was a possibility that Fairies were gayer than unicorns farting out rainbows and sneezing skittles. But unlike my first experience, I also began to understand that being a Fairy (and gay) was not a fluffy experience to throw away or kill myself over (see DPS) nor was it an experience to run away from i.e. Peter Pan. It wasn't a cheesy magical puff of fairy dust, but rather a hard examination of the special and unique traits that blossom within and throughout me, helping me find my own magical touch.

So, when did the two words (Fairy and Homosexual) become synonymous with one another? Well, in 1895, the American Journal of Psychology reported the existence of a secret homosexual organization in New York called The Fairies. The group was regarded as "a peculiar society of introverts. Coffee-klatches, where the members dress themselves with aprons, etc. and knit, gossip, and crotchet; balls where men adopt the ladies' evening dress, are well known in Europe." As we all know, men had been dressing in drag for years to perform on stage, but this "new" element became men impersonating women in real life, not on stage. In The Female Impersonators by Earl Lind, "One of my earliest visits to Paresis hall [in New York City] - about January 1895 - I seated myself at one of the tables. I had only recently learned that it was the androgyne headquarters- or "Fairie" as it was called at the time." A 1921 source cites that Androgynes were known as "fairies, fags, or brownies". Brownies were the male version of fairies, and just as gay. 

There are more references between then and 1960, but it is my belief that the biggest resurgence of the commonality of these words was around 1954, with the play Peter Pan by J M Barrie in which a female (Mary Martin) plays the lead male character, Peter Pan, who is a type of Fairy. Tinkerbell, yet another Fairy, and nickname for gay men, is his sidekick. My question: What could be more "peculiar" than a grown woman playing a young boy who is trying to seduce a young girl? Now, that's just my interpretation, it is not a factual thing. 

We do know that a few years later in 1970, Harry Hay started a group named the Radical Faeries. Trying to describe the Fairies . . . "Faerie culture is indefinable as a group; however, it has similar characteristics to Marxism, feminism, paganism, Native American and New Age spirituality, anarchism, the mythopoeic men's movement, radical individualism, the therapeutic culture of self-fulfillment and self-actualization, earth-based movements in support of sustainable communities, spiritual solemnity coupled with a camp sensibility, gay liberation and drag." Those involved in this culture make create faerie names for themselves, practice magic (solitary or as a group), and study nature as source of strength and connectedness. 

So, whether it is flying high with bright colors, spreading glitter all over the place, creating havoc and anarchy, or dabbling in mischief, there are vast similarities (and differences) in both Fae and Homo history. And I for one will never be insulted when and if someone calls me a Fairy, because I know that I am magically delicious. Oh, wait, that's Leprechauns. . .Oh, well.

1 comment:

  1. Great research, Will. I've often wondered why "fairy" myself.