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The secret history of gay saints the Catholic Church doesn’t want you to read

These LGBTI saints prove you can be gay and Christian

The secret history of gay saints the Catholic Church doesn’t want you to read
Lillies (1996)
St Sebastian depicted in the 1996 film Lillies.

Some people think you can’t be gay and Christian. What better way to prove them wrong than with a list of LGBTI saints?

The Catholic Church doesn’t want you to read this. They’ve deliberately erased many gay saints from official lists.

And we have to admit it is difficult to find hard historical evidence about most saints. Many of the stories about them are little more than legends.

But if you start looking, there are lots of LGBTI saints and martyrs. Here are just a few of the most famous:

St Joan of Arc

The 1999 movie The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc.

The 1999 movie The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc.

Jeanne d’Arc is not just the most famous LGBTI saint but the most famous saint full-stop.

Joan was just a French peasant. But an angel appeared to her in a vision and told her God wanted her to lead the French fight against the English in the Hundred Years War.

She persuaded the French Prince Charles to let her lead his army, even though she had no military training. And, dressed as a male soldier, she achieved a momentous victory over the English at the city of Orléans in 1429.

Thanks to her, the prince was crowned King Charles VII. But Joan was then captured by the English.

They decided she was a heretic and a witch and burnt her at the stake. She was just 19.

Some refuse to accept Joan was LGBTI.

Was she a trans warrior or did she only cross-dress in male armor through necessity? Either way, she would be part of our gay, trans and gender-fluid family today.

Likewise, the same people who claim she was a virgin admit she liked to share her bed with other young women. And that sounds pretty lesbian to us.

St Sebastian

Gerrit van Honthorst's depiction of Saint Sebastian.

Gerrit van Honthorst’s depiction of Saint Sebastian.

St Sebastian is the original gay icon. This near-naked, young, muscled man – tied to a post and pierced with arrows – is one of the most famous images in fine art.

He was the commander of a company of archers in the imperial Roman bodyguard. And he was known to be ‘close’ to his male superiors. But he had a secret.

To rescue two other Christian soldiers, he ‘outed’ himself as Christian too. The Emperor Diocletian ordered that he should be shot to death by his fellow archers.

Strangely, that didn’t kill him. The pious St Irene saved him and treated his wounds. But Diocletian caught up with him. He ordered a second execution and Sebastian’s fellow soldiers beat him to death.

There’s no single reason why he became the unofficial gay patron saint. It’s a mix of his rumored sexuality, his ‘coming out’ story and his iconic homoerotic image penetrated with arrows. And homosexuality was once considered an illness while St Sebastian was known to save plague victims.

St Wilgefortis

Conchita (right) brought fresh attention to St Wilgefortis.

Conchita (right) brought fresh attention to St Wilgefortis.

Legend says Wilgefortis was the daughter of a king in Portugal who took a vow of chastity.

When her father tried to force her into marriage with the king of Sicily she prayed for help. God saved her by giving her a beard and the Sicilian king refused to marry a bearded wife.

So she is a trans male saint.

Sadly, there is no happy ending. Her father got so angry he crucified her.

Her only reward is to become the patron saint of difficult marriages. After all, it’s a particularly difficult marriage that ends in crucifixion. In Spain she is called Librada because she helps women who want to be ‘liberated’ from difficult husbands.

The Catholic Church plays down St Wilgefortis. But after Conchita – another bearded lady – won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2014 for Austria, depictions of the saint gained short-lived cult status.

St Perpetua and St Felicity

George Hare's 1890 painting Victory of Faith depicted Perpetua and Felicity in prison.

George Hare’s 1890 painting Victory of Faith depicted Perpetua and Felicity in prison.

This North African lesbian couple are the patron saints of same-sex relationships.

Perpetua was 22-year-old noblewoman with a newborn baby. Felicity, who was pregnant, was her slave.

Roman soldiers arrested them in around 203AD because they were Christians. They comforted each other in prison and Perpetua wrote a jail diary, describing the visions she had while inside.

Felicity worried that she wouldn’t be martyred because Roman law forbade the execution of pregnant women. But she gave birth to her daughter in time.

The day came for games to celebrate the birthday of the Emperor Septimus Severus. As part of the entertainment, the pair were taken into the amphitheater in Carthage, North Africa, along with a group of male Christians.

Gladiators whipped them. Then boar, a bear, and a leopard were set on the men, and a wild cow on the women. That still wasn’t enough to kill them and they gave each other the kiss of peace before a swordsman finished them off.

Perpetua’s diary became the ‘Passion of St Perpetua, St Felicitas, and their Companions’. The story was so popular in North Africa that St Augustine ordered people not to treat it like it was part of the Bible.

St Paulinus

St Paulinus processed through the streets of Nola, near Naples, Italy.

St Paulinus processed through the streets of Nola, near Naples, Italy.

If you’ve ever heard a bell ringing to call you to church, you’ve got the bisexual St Paulinus to thank. He invented that tradition.

He had previously been a married Roman senator. But after his wife died, he became bishop of Nola in Italy from 395AD to 431AD.

When the Vandals raided the region, a poor widow came to Paulinus asking him to help her son who the Vandals had carried off.

He had spent all his money paying ransoms for other captives. So he went to Africa to offer himself to the Vandals in return for the widow’s son. They agreed and made Paulinus a gardener. But when the Vandal king realized his son-in-law’s slave was the Bishop of Nola, he set him free.

What’s not well known is Paulinus also wrote love poems to his boyfriend, Ausonius. In one, he promised there love would last even after his death. And he added:

Thee shall I hold, in every fiber woven,
Not with dumb lips, nor with averted face
Shall I behold thee, in my mind embrace thee,
Instant and present, thou, in every place.

He is still honored every year in Nola when his statue is paraded through the streets. American descendants of Italians from Nola also honor him in the same way in Brooklyn.

St Francis of Assisi

Mickey Rourke as St Francis of Assisi in the movie Francesco.

Mickey Rourke as St Francis of Assisi in the movie Francesco.

St Francis is one of the best-loved religious figures in history, famous for hugging lepers and showing compassion to animals.

What you probably don’t know is he encouraged the other Franciscan friars in his 13th century cloister to call him ‘mother’.

Even more surprisingly, he allowed a widow to enter the all-male friary, renaming her ‘Brother Jacoba’.

And it is likely he had at least one same-sex relationship while in his 20s. His partner’s identity is hidden by history but is thought to be Brother Elias of Cortona.

Thomas of Celano, who knew Francis personally and wrote a biography of him in 1230 just four years after his death, wrote:

‘Now there was a man in the city of Assisi whom Francis loved more than any other…

‘He would often take this friend off to secluded spots where they could discuss private matters and tell him that he had chanced upon a great and precious treasure. There was a cave near Assisi where the two friends often went to talk about this treasure.’

St Sergius and St Bacchus

The Passion of Saints Sergius and Bacchus by Elastic Theatre.

The Passion of Saints Sergius and Bacchus by Elastic Theatre.

Homophobic Christians tell us that same-sex marriage is against their faith. Trouble is they don’t know their own history. Step forward Saints Sergius and Bacchus.

Sergius was a commander in the Roman army in the third century and Bacchus was his second in command.

They were referred to in the earliest records of their story as ‘erastai’, the Greek word for ‘lovers’. And it’s believed they committed themselves to each other in a Christian ceremony called ‘adelphopoiesis’ or ‘brother-making’ which was a kind of same-sex marriage.

But their faith got them in trouble while they were stationed in Syria in 303AD. As Christians, they refused to sacrifice to Jupiter, the Roman’s chief god.

Officials arrested them, dressed them in women’s clothing and paraded them through the street to humiliate them into submission. But they resisted, chanting they were dressed as brides of Christ.

So the Romans turned to torture. They separated them and beat them so severely that Bacchus died.

That wasn’t the end of the story. That night Sergius had a vision.

Bacchus appeared to him in his soldier’s armor and with the face of an angel. He urged Sergius not to give in, saying they would live together as lovers forever in heaven. It’s a unique martyrdom story, because martyrs are always promised they will be with God in heaven, not with their lover.

Over the coming days, Sergius was tortured and finally beheaded.

Christians honored them as saints right up until 1969, the same year as the Stonewall Riots. The Catholic Church stripped them from the official list of saints, perhaps to starve the emerging gay rights movement of their power.

St Aelred

The Name of The Rose movie depicted medieval monastic life.

The Name of The Rose movie depicted medieval monastic life.

The patron saint of friendship was erotically attracted to men, and celebrated male relationships, throughout his life.

Aelred was the abbot of a Cistercian abbey in North Yorkshire, England for 20 years until his death in 1167. He wrote about the link between friendship and spirituality, saying ‘God is friendship’.

And he encouraged friendship between his monks comparing it to the love between Jesus and his beloved disciple, and between Jonathan and David. (You can read more about those two gay stories here).

Aelred advocated chastity. But his passion for male relationships is clear when he wrote: ‘It is no small consolation in this life to have someone who can unite with you in an intimate affection and the embrace of a holy love…’

In the same passage he describes this relationship with another man as one where ‘the sweetness of the Spirit flows between you, where you so join yourself and cleave to him that soul mingles with soul and two become one.’

St Galla and St Benedicta

The Last Kingdom TV series, which depicts the Dark Ages

Women in the Dark Ages faced few choices, as depicted in The Last Kingdom.

Galla had been married but was widowed after just one year. Not wanting another relationship with a man, she grew a beard to ward them off.

And she went even further. St Galla founded a convent in Rome in the sixth century and fellow nun Benedicta moved in with her there.

Then Galla fell seriously ill and St Peter appeared to her in a vision, telling her to prepare for death. She was devoted to God so liked the idea of going to heaven. But she was also devoted to Benedicta and didn’t want to leave her behind.

So she prayed to Peter that Benedicta would swiftly follow her to the afterlife.

Admittedly, by modern standards, praying for your partner’s death seems a bit wrong. But Peter agreed.

Galla died in 550AD of breast cancer and Benedicta’s death came 30 days later, just as St Peter had promised.

Historical note on gay saints

To historians, we would point out there are around 10,000 Catholic saints (though there is no definitive figure). By any impartial standard, some of them are bound to have been LGBTI.

To Catholics, we would say that you accept a saint’s sanctity on the basis of faith, not scientific proof. So why would you not accept their sexuality on the same basis?


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HAVE YOUR SAY

    Barry Tracy says:

    This seems to be artwork of Alessio Ciani. A new painting of St Sergius St Bacchus. I have been unable to find out more about this , but I would like to buy a quality print copy for framing Any information appreciated . Thanks .

    Considering 50% of American priest recognise as being gay, its not just the saints who ebjoy some same sex action. Chuck the gays out of this gig and there would be no church…

    hello i just found your site and i Love so far can you message me when you have time thank you ,johnnny angelo

    Ricky Wyness says:

    I still believe Christians god is heavily anti-Gay despite this.

    Joey Brady says:

    We are all called to be saints . So to be a saint one has turned from Sin. Being Gay is not what make you who you are. Being gay is who you claim to be .

    Felicity and Perpetua have not been erased they are still mentioned sometimes in the long list of saints sometimes read in Mass. Kisses between members of the same sex were and still are very common in European and middle eastern culture an do not imply homosexuality.

    David McClure: It is logic that Saints, who are men and women who have achieved a standard admired by the Faithful, could be LGBTQ. It is a natural inclination, so the Church should own up to this fact. Many current priests and nuns are possibly LGBTQ, so it is natural to consider that men and women in the Church’s historical record were alsoi LGBTQ. The Church has got to own up that Religious Figures throughout history acted as normal individuals do today, so the historical Saints would be LGBTQ individuals.

    I stopped reading at St. Joan because….seriously? Just because she was a virgin doesn’t automatically mean she’s a lesbian. I myself feel no need for sex, so I don’t go looking for a victim. I’d like to wait for the one I love and would only do it if it were a necessity. 😒

    We can never truly know if any of this is true . We can assume , based on speculation from bits and pieces of information . If any of these saints were LGBT , the Church of Rome will never supply proof . Why are we seeking validation from an entity that will never accept us ?

    John Benoot says:

    Well guess conclusion of all this bigoted hypocrisy = evil! Fight the real enemy, fight religion! Religion is the downfall of humanity and roots of all homophobia. Some people better read another book for once……

    Deborah Bee says:

    All of this is made up, just like Jesus, god and the devil. And heaven and hell. Just stories.

    Like anything else I will look at the evidence and critically think before listening to people opinion.

    Thts why I QUIT going to church cause all they do is judge!!!

    Paula Key says:

    ‘ALL THEY DO’? Who is the “They”?

    John Benoot What a foolish thought. There are many sane people who have kept their faith. But they know the difference between faith and organized religion. The two are not in anyway the same.

    John Benoot says:

    That is why all sane people quit religion.

    FUCK TWO FACE HYPOCRITE CHRISTIANS THEY NOTHING BUT FUCKIN JUDGABLE BITCHES

    Paula Key says:

    And in English, please?!!????

    As a gay Christian, I take great exception to your over generlization of your general hatred for Christians. You don’t know every Christian in the world and your judgement of the group as a whole is exactly why you claim you left the church. Isn’t that being hyporitical yourself? It’s OK for you to judge from outside the faith? Be serious. What’s your real reason for being so filled with hate?

    Inez Rufus says:

    Religions with all their rituals are divisive. But please try not to harbour such hate. It’s not good for your ‘Wa’

    St Wilgefortis never existed, her cult arose because people in the West saw an effeminate statue of Jesus and some twats created some bs story to explain his looks. This article had good intentions but it was executed sooo poorly and the research behind it is minimal to nonexistent.

    Sam Hancox says:

    I don’t buy any of it if I’m honest, it just sounds like a load of made up BS

    Yup. Just exactly like everything else in religion! 😋

    TheBen Asis says:

    Some of us are not aware of LGBT history, religious or otherwise. LGBT persons have undoubtedly suffered more than their share, especially since 325 C.E. We know that it is difficult to present facts throughout most of history, facts have been turned and twisted throughout history just as now, by religious and political entities trying to clean up their own tracks. Let us have a history, factual or not. Let us have a star, a saint, a hero, to cling to in our time of trial. (TheBen)

    “Either way, she would be part of our gay, trans and gender-fluid family today.” Don’t be silly. “Jeanne d’Arc is not just the most famous LGBTI saint but the most famous saint full-stop.” Don’t be silly. “And homosexuality was once considered an illness while St Sebastian was known to save plague victims.” Oh, well, he MUST have been gay. “God saved her by giving her a beard and the Sicilian king refused to marry a bearded wife. So she is a trans male saint” Nope. Just a lady with a beard which was temporarily convenient. “This North African lesbian couple are the patron saints of same-sex relationships.” (1) Were they lesbians? (2) They are not the patron saints of gay relationships. There are no such patron saints. …Oh, God. The mind displayed in this story is the sort of mind that thinks Game of Thrones is accurate history.

    Sam Jones says:

    I picked up on these things too. Having a beard doesn’t make you transgendered. I have a straight, cisgender female friend with a beard. She has a hormonal condition which causes all her body hair which wouldn’t normally grow in on women to do so, and after fighting it for 15 years, she finally decided to let it be and grow in. That doesn’t make her trans though. Jeanne d’Arc dressed in men’s clothing, not because she was trans, but because it was necessary to for her to fight in the war. Again, cross dressing does not make you trans. If you’re trans, you’re not cross dressing at all, as you’re not dressing like a man/woman, you are one. If she did actually share her bed with women, and there’s historical proof of that, then that would make her a lesbian, or at least bisexual, but it still would not make her trans. At all. And lastly, there isn’t a patron saint of gay relationships, and based off that story that could just as easily had been friends. Like, I’m gay as all hell, but that doesn’t mean I like misinformation, even when it’s something that it would be nice if it were true, like having trans saints, or saints of same sex relationships. I really feel like this article was written by someone who doesn’t really understand anything to do with being transgender, or how it works though.

    Sancta simplicitas! As an ex-Lutheran neopagan from the high north, they could easily make me belief these stories; I know very few of these saints.

    Paul Michael Anderson I hate gay people? Oh, don’t be so bloody silly. I am gay. I am married to a man. I produced a gay rights newsletter in the 1970s. I frequently write letters to local newspapers attacking our opponents. That does not mean I have to approve the kiddie-comic crap that is this story. So many people project their own demons on other posters, and that’s what you’re doing.

    If you hate Gay people, why do you troll here???

    Paul Garlington, You mean I really love all this crap?

    Me thinks you doth protest too much.

    Hr Walker says:

    what utter gabage. this makes flying pigs and leprechauns real. creating offensive nonesense,to prove what point? it shameful to create something that is not true and to warp facts is sick deviation. all this about is showing the anti catholic nature of the writer and publisher who have a nasty attitude towards catholics. so what’s next an article that demonstrates obama is superman and ellen is superwoman ,who do amazing things with superpowers??? SHAME ON YOU FOR THIS HORSE CRAP!!!

    What’s secret about them? These are all well known saints with hundeds, if not thousands, of churches dedicated to them all over the world. The only reason you think they’re secret is because you have only just found out what millions of people knew already. Let’s have some real news on lgbt media sites for a change.

    And of course St Wilgefortis follows the same path of stories that did not exist

    The history of sergius and bacco is cool, but probably they never existed….The Italian academic Pio Franchi de Cavalieri argued that the “Passion of Sérgius and Bacchus” would have been based on an older, lost passion of Juventinus and Maximino, two martyred saints in the time of the Roman Emperor Julian in 363. He especially noted the punishment Of being paraded by the city dressed as a woman reflected the treatment of Christians by Julian. The historian David Woods adds that Zósimo’s “New History” includes a description of Julian punishing cavalry deserters in the same way, reinforcing the thesis that the author of the “Passion of Sergius and Bacchus” would have been based on stories of the time Of Julian and not of Galerius . Woods argues that the tradition of the martyrdom of the saints would be a later development that was linked to obscure relics in the fifth century and that the “Passion” is a composite fiction after the cult became popular. He concludes that “the martyrs Sérgius and Bacchus did not exist as counted

    Peter Hebert says:

    Nice article. However, some facts are wrong. Sts Bacchus and Sergius were not demoted and still are a part of the Roman martyrology. In 1969 their feast day was restored to its original day, October 7th, having been moved to October 8th in the 18th century. Btw. The other saints i.e. Christopher, we’re not de-sainted, they were just taken off the calendar to make room for others. This was not the case for Sts. B and S. They still are on the calendar

    Please also note that Perpetua and Felicity are both listed in the Roman Canon

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