This year, the Festival Comms Team has reached out to all OUTing the Past 2018 gazetted presenters, whose presentations you may see at upcoming celebrations. In order to provide a platform for their invaluable work, presenters were asked a series a questions to acquaint you with their previous and current projects.
Cheryl Morgan was kind enough to share:
‘For 2017 I am offering a paper on Amazons, the women warriors of ancient Greek legend, who may not have been mythological after all.
‘My initial interest in this topic was the media excitement surrounding the Wonder Woman movie. I have been a comics fan since I was a kid (though rather more Marvel than DC) and being a science fiction critic exposes me to a lot of this sort of debate. Wonder Woman, famously, grew up on an island inhabited only by women. How could they not be lesbians? And yet so often we see the comics industry try to pretend that they are not.
‘Diana of Themyscira is, of course, a fictional character, but the name of her home comes straight out of the work of the ancient Greek historian, Herodotus. He spells it ‘Themiscyra’, and he associates the city with the Amazons. So I started reading, and fell down a research rabbit hole.
‘It is interesting how often an interest in mythology and LGBT+ issues coincide. I remember as child wondering, if Achilles’ mother had him raised as a girl, why couldn’t my mother do the same for me? I wouldn’t have been daft enough to run off to Troy and get myself killed playing war with the boys. It seems that myth, because it is generally regarded as not real, is the main area where the true queerness of ancient lives has not been erased by prudish historians.
‘These days, however, we are reclaiming that history, and finding out just what a queer place the past was. Those who wish to oppress LGBT+ people often claim that they are defending ‘traditional’ values. It is enormously valuable to us to be able to show that these ‘traditions’ they idolise have existed for only a couple of hundred years, whereas our traditions date back millennia.‘
Cheryl Morgan is a co-chair of OutStories Bristol <http://outstoriesbristol.org.uk/>, an organisation dedicated to discovering and preserving the history of LGBT+ people in Bristol and the surrounding area.
For more of her academic work, see her website <https://www.cheryl-morgan.com/?page_id=24837>.
Follow her on Twitter as @CherylMorgan.
Cheryl will be speaking this week at the National Maritime Museum: check out their programme here.
Be sure to follow @LGBTHM for more information during the Festival, and check out out national media partners over at The Canary.