The LGBTQ+ Torchbearers of history

The Trouble Club

Once described by Prince Philip as Britain’s most eccentric thinker, Tyne O’Connell is no ordinary historian, making it her mission to change the narrative of British history and highlight the queer and LGBTQ+ heroes that helped build this country.

From King James I to Mall Frith and Sir Francis Bacon, Tyne explores the lives of some of the most famous individuals of history, but through a very different lens. Tyne also discussed why Victorian historian’s removed and overlooked these eccentrics and the unknown figures who dared to be different. It was a riveting discussion and an evening unlike any history lesson you’ve ever experienced.

Tyne O’Connell is a British author and LGBTQ historian who focuses on breathing life back into the ghosted LGBTQ Torchbearers of History from 1603-1850.

The rising visibility of women and LGBTQIA Torchbearers in Britain over the past forty years has done little to expand most people’s knowledge of the women and LGBTQIA Torchbearers who shaped British history. History remains stuck in the revisionist narrative of Victorian historians like Sir Thomas Carlyle who stated  “The history of the world is but the biography of Great (straight white) Men”. Yes, that Sir Thomas Carlyle, Father of Modern History!

Victorian historians pink-washed history by using a heteronormative historiography to glorify the deeds of straight white men whilst deliberately ghosting the once famous LGBTQ Torchbearers including the transgender Mall Frith (1584-1659) and Chevalier D’Eon (born France 1728 buried St Pancreas Old Church 1810). Victorian Historians heteronormalised William Shakespeare (1564-1616), trans actor and activist Mall Frith (1584-1659) Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626)  Lady Mary Wroth (1584-1659), Aphra Behn (1640-1689), lesbian opera soprano Arabella Hunt (1662-1705) and thousands more, so as to conform to a heteronormative calvinist narrative.

As a child fascinated by history, my godfather Quentin Crisp presented me with the quest of uncovering the Queer Torchbearers of British History or the Great British Eccentrics as he called them. History is not made by conformists, it is made by eccentrics; original thinkers who cut a line of their own, in the way they think, live and dress. Eccentrics provoke cultural and social progress by inspiring new ideas and art forms. Eccentrics force us to look at the world differently.

The early years of the Modern Age began with the coronation of our first openly gay monarch, King James I following the death of Queen Elizabeth I on the 24th March 1603. The Jacobean marked the end of the Medieval in Britain for unlike Elizabeth, King James I celebrated the new ideas and cultural changes of the Renaissance and embraced the cultural exuberance of the Baroque with an emphasis on individuality and eccentricity.  By abolishing the restrictive legislation and censorship laws which had maintained class and gender barriers the Stuart reign oversaw an era that celebrated The Arts and New Ideas, triggering the birth of modern celebrity culture.

The first celebrities to become household names emerged from the crucible of the reign of our first openly gay monarch King James I (1603-1625) LGBTQIA salons championed by the Stuarts. The transgender actor, Mall Frith inspired many of Shakespeare’s most beloved plays. Several plays were written about Frith’s extraordinary life the most famous of which is ‘The Roaring Girl’ by Thomas Dekker and Thomas Middleton. It had a hit run at the Fortune Theatre from 1606/7-1612 and is still regularly staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

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The Trouble Club is a special society, a talks and dinners club where you can hear some of the finest voices talking on everything from politics to fiction. They all happen to be women. Both men and women are welcome to attend talks. It is led by women, founded by Joy Lo Dico, moonlighting from her day job as a freelancer for the Financial Times and broadcaster at Monocle as well as speaking and presenting. Its mission is to get great women speakers on stage and to build the bonds across the group. Alumni include Gloria Steinem, Reni Eddo-Lodge, Baroness Lady Hale, Elif Shafak, Emma Barnett and Laura Kuenssberg amongst many others.