9 historic same-sex couples you should know about

Are you ready for a queer history lesson? Here's our list of historic same-sex couples left out of the history books.

Some of the historic same-sex couples we mention in our article, going from left to right, Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas, Marcela Gracia Ibeas and Elisa Sanchez Loriga, Anne Lister and Ann Walker.

Living in the 21st Century has progressed many countries around the world to accept and legalise same-sex relationships and many people have become comfortable sharing their love for each other in public regardless of their gender. Loving someone of the same sex was a bit more tricky in the past and was considered taboo throughout history, yet they still let themselves love.

We have looked through years of history to bring you the most iconic historic same-sex couples that broke the standards of love of their time and created beautiful stories along with it.

Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas
Historical same-sex couple Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas pose for the camera.
Starting our list off with a widely known Irish poet, Oscar Wilde was no stranger to same-sex relations. He featured various hints of homosexuality in his poetry and stories and found himself infatuated with another man. Wilde was known as a family man as he was married to Constance Lloyd, another Irish writer, and they had two children, but a few years after their marriage Wilde became unsatisfied and was seeking a more meaningful relationship. He quickly fell head over heels for Alfred Douglas and they were romantically together for over a decade.

Their story has a very sad ending as their families found out about their homosexual affair resulting in Oscar Wilde being tried for sodomy and gross indecency. Wilde was imprisoned for “gross indecency with a man” and Douglas converted to Catholicism, in turn rejecting his sexuality. After Wilde’s death, Douglas reportedly wrote about Wilde that he “was one of the most powerful forces for evil that has happened in Europe for the last 300 years. I do not know of any man who more truly and literally sold himself to the devil than he did.”

Anne Bonny and Mary Read
Anne Bonny and Mary Read are illustrated as a historic same-sex couple who threatened the high seas as pirates.
Are you looking for a lesbian pirate story? Well, this historic same-sex couple will exceed your expectations as these two courageous women fooled a multitude of pirates in their time and loved strongly. Anne Bonny was a woman of Irish origin that met Mary Read, who went under the alias of Mark Read. The two met in England and quickly hit it off by sailing the high seas, pillaging other ships and dressing in a masculine fashion.

As Read was posing as a man the relationship between the two women wasn’t seen as anything taboo and they continued to have a successful lesbian romance… until crew member Calico Jack came into the picture. One night when the two women had some time alone Jack began growing jealous and barged into their cabin. It was revealed to him that Read was a woman and that the two were having a relationship. Some records claim that Jack didn’t mind it much and that he even agreed to join their alliance. This polyamorous twist is what makes this relationship iconic and has been discussed for years, even featured in audiobooks.

Frida Kahlo and Josephine Baker
Frida Kahlo and Josephine Baker left a mark on the world as an artistic and historic same-sex couple.
Legendary artist Frida Kahlo is considered one of history’s most iconic bisexual women and had multiple iconic relationships to match. Kahlo was married to fellow artist Diego Rivera when she began to have affairs with various women over the years. Some of her lovers included painter Georgia O’Keeffe, singer Chavela Vargas and actress Dolores Del Rio.

Although she loved every woman she had relations with, the woman that stole her heart was dancer Josephine Baker. After divorcing Rivera in 1939, Kahlo found herself in Paris for her exhibition. She met Baker at a nightclub. The two women shared a lot in common, with both of them enduring miscarriages in their lifetime and both seeking unusual ways to become mothers; Kahlo expressed her grief through her paintings while Baker adopted 12 children. The two women were politically engaged and actively fought for women’s and human rights.

Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum
Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum are two historic Egyptians that were confirmed as a same-sex couple when found in the tomb for King Unas.
Same-sex relationships went back even as far as Ancient Egypt where archaeologists and historians have discovered remains deep in an Egyptian tomb that hinted at two men having a romantic relationship. The historic same-sex couple was originally thought to be brothers when they were found in the tomb of King Unas in 1964 but later on, in the 1990s Egyptologist, Greg Reeder confirmed they were more likely gay lovers. What suggested this, was how their bodies were intertwined and their faces were nose-to-nose, a pose that marked the dead as married couples. What’s even more romantic about this ancient queer couple is that Egyptologists believe Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum’s names were strung together in a way that means “joined in life and death.”

Marcela Gracia Ibeas and Elisa Sanchez Loriga
The first same-sex couple to be married in Spain, Marcela Gracia Ibeas and Elisa Sanchez Loriga, pose for the camera.
Meet the two women that became the first historic same-sex couple to marry all the way back in 1901. Yes, you’re hearing that right, but you may be wondering how did they get away with it if same-sex marriage was only legalised in Spain in 2005?

Well, it all started when Ibeas and Loriga met while the two were training to be teachers where they sparked a “friendship” that led Ibeas’ family to send her away to Madrid. They soon reunited in Madrid and began living together and progressing their relationship into a romantic one. Loriga began to dress more masculine and to the outside world took on the identity of her deceased cousin Mario.

As Loriga was raised as an atheist she confirmed her masculine identity by being baptised as Mario Loriga which in turn led the Spanish government to believe they were a “traditional” couple. Although news eventually broke out that they were both women their marriage was never legally annulled, so they are officially Spain’s first married same-sex couple.

Michelangelo and Tommaso dei Cavalieri
Famous artist Michelangelo was in a romantic relationship with nobleman Tommaso dei Cavalieri, as they are pictured here.
The widely-known sculptor and painter Michelangelo may be remembered for his legendary works such as his statue of David or perhaps his work done on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, but few know of his muse that inspired him to create throughout his life.

Michelangelo met the Italian nobleman Tommaso dei Cavalieri during a stay in Rome in 1532 and soon became infatuated with him. It was said that dei Cavalieri was so handsome that he fit Michelangelo’s ideal of masculine beauty and the two were very close until Michelangelo’s death in 1564.

Although there is no mention of the two having a sexual relationship, their love for each other was beyond romantic. Michelangelo had the muse model for sketches many times throughout the years but his love for him really shines through in the sonnets he wrote about him, with sonnet G.94 expressing his desire to be the flowing clothes that press against dei Cavalieri.

Lili Elbe and Gerda Gottlieb
Gerda Gottlieb, left, and Lili Elbe, right, were one of the first relationships between a cis woman and a transgender woman.
These names may be familiar to you if you have seen The Danish Girl as the movie focuses on retelling Elbe’s gender-transitioning story. Elbe was born as a man and identified as one until she modelled for her wife, Gerda Gottlieb, as she painted. Gottlieb’s female model cancelled on her and so Elbe put on the dress and stockings set aside for the model and began her journey in understanding her gender. The two women were both painters and Elbe expressed her identity as a Transgender lesbian through her queer erotica paintings.

They both moved to Paris to live more openly and later Elbe began searching for gender reassignment surgeries which she endured in Germany. As her procedures became widely talked about in 1930 her marriage to Gottlieb became invalidated by the Danish court. Elbe’s story tragically ended with her passing away in 1931 after developing an infection from her surgeries. Still, we see their story as a historic representation of same-sex couples.

Ruth Ellis and Ceceline “Babe” Franklin
Ruth Ellis sits at her printing press that she owned with Ceceline Franklin.
Ruth Ellis is known as the world’s longest-living open lesbian, living until 101 years old when she died in 2000. She was born to parents that were pseudo-accepting of her sexuality when she decided to come out to them during high school. When Ellis reflected on her parent’s reaction to her sexuality she said, “I think [my father] was kind of glad that I had a woman instead of a man because he was afraid I’d come home with a baby. If you had a baby in those days, you’d have to leave home. And he wanted me home.”

She met the love of her life, Ceceline Franklin, in Detroit in 1937 and they stayed together for a long 30 years. “We were just two opposite people. Sometimes opposites attract. That was our case,” expressed Ellis. Ellis shared a printing press with Franklin and they both were strong activists for LGBTQ+ rights until their passing.

Anne Lister and Ann Walker
Anne Lister and Ann Walker pose together as a historic same-sex couple, depicted by actors in the Gentleman Jack series available to watch on HBO or BBC One.
Anne Lister is known as the first modern-day lesbian and her story was adapted into a historical drama by the name of Gentleman Jack which was aired on BBC One. Lister was a wealthy landowner widely known for her openly queer lifestyle which she wrote about in detail in her coded diaries.

Lister had met Ann Walker in the 1820s and although they saw each other on multiple occasions they only officially were head-over-heels for one another in 1832. They took communion together at the Holy Trinity Church in Goodramgate, York, but sadly their marriage wasn’t legally registered at the time. The church now features a blue plaque that officially states that England’s first lesbian wedding happened there. This historic same-sex couple lived together in Lister’s estate Shibden Hall until her death in 1840.

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