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Popular Topics in Social Sciences
Africa: Sub-Saharan, Pre-Independence
With reports from hundreds of sub-Saharan African locales of male-male sexual relations and from about fifty of female-female sexual relations, it is clear that same-sex sexual relations existed in traditional African societies, though varying in forms and in the degree of public acceptance
Stonewall Riots Stonewall Riots
The confrontations between police and demonstrators at the Stonewall Inn in New York City the weekend of June 27-29, 1969 mark the beginning of the modern glbtq movement for equal rights.
Native Americans
A social role for individuals who crossed or mixed male and female characteristics was one of the most widely distributed institutions of native North America.
The Sexual Revolution, 1960-1980 The Sexual Revolution, 1960-1980
The sexual revolution of post-World War II America changed sexual and gender roles profoundly.
Mixed-Orientation Marriages
Mixed-orientation marriages--those in which one partner is straight and the other is gay or lesbian--often end in divorce, but such an ending is not inevitable.
Leather Culture
"Leather" is a blanket term for a large array of sexual preferences, identities, relationship structures, and social organizations loosely tied together by the thread of what is conventionally understood as sadomasochistic sex.
Transgender Activism
Since the late nineteenth century, transgendered people have advocated legal and social reforms that would ameliorate the kinds of oppression and discrimination they suffer.
Gay Liberation Front
Formed soon after the Stonewall Riots of 1969, the short-lived but influential Gay Liberation Front brought a new militancy to the movement that became known as gay liberation.
Topics In the News
Titanic Centenary: Gay Stories of the Doomed Passenger Liner
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 04/15/12
Last updated on: 04/16/12
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The RMS Titanic sank in the North Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1912 after colliding with an iceberg during her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City. In one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history, 1,514 of its 2,223 passengers perished. Although the ship was designed to be the epitome of luxury and safety, she lacked enough lifeboats to accommodate all of those aboard, perhaps because she was regarded as "unsinkable."

In the years since its sinking, the Titanic has been the stuff of legend and the source of numerous fictional and nonfictional accounts, as well as of many documentary and feature films. As Daniel Mendelsohn observes in the New Yorker, "there have been histories, academic studies, polemics by enthusiasts, and novels, numbering in the hundreds. There's even a 'Titanic for Dummies.' This centennial month alone will see the publication of nearly three dozen titles." And, he adds, the books are just the tip of the iceberg.

In its centenary year, interest in the ship and its disastrous voyage has surged. James Cameron's acclaimed 1997 film has been released in 3-D; a mini-series has been broadcast in the UK; and a dramatic production entitled Titanic Tales: Stories of Courage and Cowardice, based on the testimonies of survivors, was presented in New York.

At least two works published in commemoration of the centenary call attention to the gay stories of the Titanic.

San Francisco author of erotica Jack Fritscher has republished his fictionalized account of steamy gay love aboard the ship in Titanic: The Untold Tale of Gay Passengers and Crew. The story was originally published in Drummer in 1986 and serialized in Honcho in 1988.

Canadian historian, publisher, and former contributor to Toronto's legendary radical gay liberation newspaper The Body Politic, Hugh Brewster has published an altogether more nuanced nonfiction account of the gay history encapsulated in the Titanic story. In RMS Titanic: Gilded Lives on a Fatal Voyage, he concentrates on the Atlantic crossing as a "rare gathering" of the famous and affluent among the passengers. In doing so, he also reclaims gay history.

As Brewster told Alistair Newton in Xtra!, Canada's gay and lesbian newspaper, most people do not really know the story of the Titanic. "They know the James Cameron movie, and that's about it," he contends.

In his new book, Brewster recounts the stories of some of the gay men among the ship's passenger list, including those of painter Francis ("Frank") Millet and Major Archibald Willingham Butt, who served as military aide to presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Taft.

As Newton reports, "Brewster conducted extensive research at the Smithsonian, where he discovered Millet's passionate love letters to San Francisco poet Charles Warren Stoddard as well as the original copy of Millet's final letter from the Titanic."

Brewster points out that another of the Titanic's passengers, William Thomas Stead, an English journalist whose crusade against sexual impropriety and the exploitation of children led to the passing of the U.K.'s Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 (better known as the Labouchère Amendment) which also criminalized homosexuality. It was under this legislation that Oscar Wilde was convicted and sentenced to two years at hard labor.

In the video below, Brewster discusses his book with Newton.

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