History has given us some of the greatest love stories ever told, but an uncanny similarity is that they’re all straight love stories. It almost appears that queer love didn’t exist, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
Whether we’re going back to the Egyptians or the Roman Empires, love has existed in many different realms and it’s about time that we shine a spotlight on the LGBT+ relationships who loved just as hard.
Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnun – 2400 BC
The two were servants who lived in Egypt around 2400 BC. and were found buried together in the tomb of King Unas. At first, the two were reported to be brothers but many historians were quick to point out it’s quite rare for brothers to be buried together.
Whilst some historians find it easier to ignore the fact the two were a couple, there are many that support and believe Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnun were lovers.
How can we be so sure they were in love? In ancient Egypt, it was a tradition to intertwine bodies and face nose-to-nose to mark the dead as married couples.
In addition to their poses, the hieroglyphs on their tomb show the two men holding hands, sitting together, and standing nose-to-nose embracing in a way that depicts a married couple.
Egyptologists believe that Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum’s names were strung together in a way that means “joined in life and death.”
Anne Lister and Ann Walker
You may recognise this couple from the popular series Gentleman Jack which told the love story of Anne Lister and Ann Walker. Lister was a wealthy English landowner famous for her world travels and earned the title of “the first modern lesbian” by being openly queer.
Lister met young heiress Ann Walker on separate occasions and by 1832 the two had fallen in love. A few years later the two had moved in together, exchanged rings, and taken communion together in a parish church.
Whilst their union was not legally recognised, they considered themselves married. Lister turned to her diary in 1835 to express her happiness and wrote, “May we live to enjoy many more such anniversaries!”
Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas
The two met in the summer of 1891, although Wilde was married with two sons, he started his affair with Douglas who was 19 years younger.
Their love story included many ups and downs, Douglas was known to be spoilt and reckless and the two often fought and broke up. Wilde nursed his young lover through influenza only to contract the disease himself, Douglas moved to the Grand Hotel and sent Wilde the bill on his 40th birthday.
When Douglas father grew suspicious about their relationship, he launched an investigation against Wilde that eventually led to his arrest on grounds of gross indecency (which in those times was code for being gay). He ended up being sentenced to two years in prison.
On Wilde’s release, they both tried to rekindle their love, only to be forced apart by their families who threatened to withhold funds.
Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas
One of the most revered lesbian couples of all time, Gertrude Stein was an American novelist, playwright, and poet with a unique style. She met Alice B. Toklas, who would serve as her “confidante, lover, cook, secretary, muse, editor, critic, and general organiser” the day Toklas arrived in Paris.
They fell hard and fast for each other, and by 1910 they were hosting a salon in their home on 27 rue Fluerus, which is now known as one of the most influential gathering spots in the history of arts, literature, and queerdom.
Their guests included Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemmingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Thornton Wilder, Sherwood Anderson, and many other “celebrity” figures of their era.
Although it was the 1920s, the couple celebrated their love in public and spent nearly 40 years together. In 1980 when Yale University opened a locked cabinet, they found hundreds of love letters between the couple.
“Because I didn’t say good night and I miss it so, please know now how much I love you,” Stein wrote to Toklas in one of the discovered pages.
Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok
Eleanor Roosevelt was the longest-serving and impactful First Lady of the United States, she met Lorena Hickok a journalist in 1928. They quickly took a liking each other and began a relationship that lasted thirty years.
The couple met before Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated and by the time he was sworn in as the U.S. President, the First Lady was already wearing a sapphire ring given to her by “Hick” as Eleanor liked to call her.
Their relationship has been a major source of controversy for years, many of the letters the two exchanged have been burnt. However, the ones that survived suggested that the two were much more than just “good friends”.