No Way, They Were Gay?: Hidden Lives and Secret Loves (Queer History Project)

Age Range
Release Date
April 06, 2021
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"History" sounds really official. Like it's all fact. Like it's definitely what happened.

But that's not necessarily true. History was crafted by the people who recorded it. And sometimes, those historians were biased against, didn't see, or couldn't even imagine anyone different from themselves.

That means that history has often left out the stories of LGBTQIA+ people: men who loved men, women who loved women, people who loved without regard to gender, and people who lived outside gender boundaries. Historians have even censored the lives and loves of some of the world's most famous people, from William Shakespeare and Pharaoh Hatshepsut to Cary Grant and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Join author Lee Wind for this fascinating journey through primary sources―poetry, memoir, news clippings, and images of ancient artwork―to explore the hidden (and often surprising) Queer lives and loves of two dozen historical figures.

Editor reviews

2 reviews
History you might not have known
(Updated: February 05, 2021)
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Learning Value
If you've already read Wind's great novel, Queer as a Five Dollar Bill (2019), you know that there is solid evidence indicating that Abraham Lincoln was gay. Given the history of the treatment of the LGBTQIA+ community, it's not a surprise that a lot of the history of this community has been suppressed, especially when it comes to the biographies of individuals. This new collective biography examines the lives of men who loved men, women who loved women, and people who lived outside gender boundaries, and puts these individuals, their times, and their evolving histories into context. There is a concerted effort to include all facets of the LGBTQIA+ community, and there's some cultural diversity as well.

As was evident in Pittman's Stonewall: Coming Out in the Streets, there's a lot of gay history that was not recorded, or was systematically ignored. Wind starts with a really helpful introduction about different ways this history was hidden, as well as "Good Stuff to Know". I really appreciated all of the helpful side bars as well, especially about the language that should be used. There are a lot of differences of opinion, as well as terminology preferences, and the explanations are really well done. I love that there is information about staying safe as well. This intro chapter alone is worth buying the book; it gives shows readers the difficulties that have been faced in the past and are still being faced, and is a great place for starting conversations.
Good Points
Wind's note about whom to include was also helpful. There were some people who were already on my radar, but some that were new to me as well. The research is phenomenal, and there are extensive source notes at the back. It was particularly inspired to present the research and then ask readers "What do YOU think?" There is a lot of primary source evidence cited, making this book a fantastic resource for students who are working on National History Day projects.

From Sappho, to Queen Anne, to Bayard Rustin, each entry gives a brief description of the person's life and works, evidence as to why they were gay, how this identity affected their lives and treatment. The best part about the book is the inclusion of historical context, and the presentation of as many illustrations of photographs as could be found to support the narrative. I also liked that there was a "Putting it in Order" chart at the back; sometimes it's hard to understand the historical order of events across world history, and this really helped.

The only thing that made me a little sad was wondering what Eleanor Roosevelt would have thought about being included. She was just a little older than my grandmother, who would have been mortified if a secret about her would have been uncovered after her death. Mr. Wind did indicate that her estate did look at the manuscript and gave permission rights for her writing that is included. Of course, Roosevelt was particularly good at moving with the times, so I like to think that she would have become a champion of sharing hidden histories had she lived long enough.

No Way, They Were Gay? is a well-researched, intriguing book of history that has a place on the shelves of middle school, high school, and public libraries everywhere.
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