Editors' Note: Guest blogger Jeremy Redlien is the author of the blog Queering the Closet and holds a bachelor degree in Philosophy with a minor in Mathematics from SUNY Oneonta.
While doing research for my novel Silver Demon, I was going through Keith Stern's Queers in History and came across the entry for Gerald Heard, which mentioned his idea of isophyls. The term itself comes from the greek words "iso" and "phil" meaning "same" and "love" and is roughly the Greek equivalent of the Latin term "homosexual".
According to Heard, the isophyls are a secret society that has been the primary influence throughout history. He stated in a series of lectures to the ONE Institute that "in advanced societies, the isophyllic type, relieved of breeding is produced and so specialized as to run the elaborate organizations."
I must admit Heards' idea fascinates me, but is there any truth to this? Have LGBTQ individuals been the primary movers and shakers throughout civilization?
I don't intend to answer Heards' question directly, but a surface examination of the biggest names in history might make it appear so. Alexander the Great, Plato, Isaac Newton, Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, and Julius Caesar, all have historical evidence which points to them being likely isophyls.
Then there are lesser known individuals who have greatly influenced history in indirect ways.
It was Bayard Rustin who persuaded Martin Luther King to adopt non-violence and organised the infamous 1963 March on Washington during the African American civil rights movement. Rustin was openly gay.
George Joachim Rehticus was banned from Leipzig for 101 years after being accused of seducing a 17 year old boy. This did not stop him from promoting Copernicus' heliocentric model and thus helping to give birth to modern science.
Alan Turing is credited as being the father of modern computer science and his code breaking skills, specifically his creation of the Enigma code breaking machine, was instrumental in the defeat of the Axis powers. He was prosecuted for being in a same sex relationship and his punishment (chemical castration) most likely resulted in his suicide.
Furthermore, since Turing, many trans woman, such as Mary Ann Horton, Lynn Conway, Sophia Wilson, Audrey Tang, and Kate Craig Wood, have made significant contributions to the development of the world of computing.
Susan B. Anthony can be considered the founder of the Woman's Suffrage Movement and had passionate affairs with her co-activists.
Eleanore Roosevelt helped found the United Nations and chaired the committee that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She also lived with journalist Lorena Hickok and the letters between the two have revealed that they were lovers.
In spite of all this, and the above examples are really just the tip of an iceberg, it feels a bit arrogant to suggest that one's own community is somehow responsible for every major civilized advancement ever. But there is a possible explanation that I would like to discuss here.
While we members of the gender and sexuality minority community have not always been prosecuted for our deviations form the norm, there are few times in history when such persecution did not take place. This means that many members of our community have been forced to endure the additional difficulties of navigating a world where we become outsiders in our own countries and homes.
No pain, no gain, or so the saying goes. Has the persecution we have faced as a community helped to strengthen some of our members or to inspire them to new heights of thinking?
It is no difficult task to find LGBTQ artists whose status as an outsider informed their creative output. But what of other fields, such as science, history, politics, or engineering? Could simply being queer actually provide an advantage in these areas as well?
I can recall reading as a youth in one of the novels in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, the story of Qwi Xux a gifted scientist who had been part of a group who had been recruited (technically enslaved and brainwashed) by the Grand Moff Tarkin into designing the Death Star and other weapons for the Empire. The relevant part for this article is her background, while she and her peers were enslaved, they were forced to study and work under extreme circumstances - if any of them failed, they were forced to watch their home village be destroyed before being executed. Qwi Xux was the only one of her peers to survive the training.
I bring this up because of the parallels to what might be the reason why a disproportionate number of gay, lesbian, bi, transgender/transsexual, intersex, and so on, individuals who have significantly changed history. Like Qwi Xux's fellow peers, too many have us have ended up dead, either by our own hands, by being subjected to direct violence, or allowed to die through lack of proper medical care as occurred during the AIDS crisis.
However, it does appear that there are those of us who have also managed to go on to become extraordinaire, to take their suffering and allow it to transform themselves into greater individuals. Perhaps it is time we adopted a new motto: "We're here! We're queer! And we built this world!"
(Rule the world graphic via Bigstock)