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A r t i s n o t a t h i n g , i t i s a w a y .
A r t i s n o t a t h i n g , i t i s a w a y .
The art of Ryan Grant Long. Above, Mahmud of Ghazni founded the Ghaznavid Empire and ruled as a sultan. He fell in love with Malik Ayaz, a Turkish slave, and their relationship became the epitome of idealized love in Islamic legend and Sufi literature. As the story goes, Ayaz asked Mahmud who the most powerful man in the kingdom was. When the sultan replied that it was himself, Ayaz corrected him, claiming that in fact Ayaz was the most powerful, since Mahmud was his slave. The "slave to a slave" became a favorite trope in Persian literature. Ryan Grant Long
Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum were ancient royal servants who shared the title Overseer of the Manicurists in the Palace of King Niuserre. The two men are depicted on their joint tomb in one of the most intimate poses allowed by Egyptian artistic conventions: face to face, with their noses touching. Niankhkhnum means "joined to life" and Khnumhotep means "joined to the blessed state of the dead"; together their names mean "joined in life and death." They are believed to be the first same-sex couple in recorded history. Ryan Grant Long
After killing the Philistine giant Goliath, the young hero David was brought before Saul, the first king of Israel. Saul's eldest son, Jonathan, instantly fell in love with the handsome young warrior and stripped off his own robe and armor and placed them upon David. When Jonathan was killed by the Philistines on Mount Gilboa, David mourned and said, "Greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women." The story of David and Jonathan is told in the Old Testament of the Bible, in books 1 and 2 Samuel. Ryan Grant Long
Chinese emperor Ai of Han fell in love with a minor official, a man named Dong Xian, and bestowed upon him great political power and a magnificent palace. Legend has it that one day while the two men were sleeping in the same bed, the emperor was roused from his sleep by pressing business. Dong Xian had fallen asleep across the emperor's robe, but rather than awaken his peaceful lover, the emperor cut his robe free at the sleeve. Thus "the passion of the cut sleeve" became a euphemism for same-sex love in China. Ryan Grant Long
Hadrian deemed Antinous to be the most beautiful young man in all the Roman Empire. Sadly, Antinous drowned mysteriously in the Nile River. Hadrian deified the youth after his untimely death, and Antinous was worshipped as a god; whole cities were founded in his name. As a result of his popularity and statues created in his likeness, the face of Antinous became one of the most recognizable faces in antiquity. A statue of Antinous and what's believed to be his tomb reside in Hadrian's luxurious Hellenistic-inspired villa. Ryan Grant Long
Sergius and Bacchus were Roman soldiers honored as martyrs. They were discovered to be Christians when they refused to worship the god Jupiter. Bacchus was beaten to death first, but according to legend he appeared to Sergius the next day in his prison cell and promised him, "If I have been taken from you in body, I am still with you in the bond of the union." Sergius was tortured and killed soon after. The two men had been united in a rite called "adelphopoiesis," which some scholars believe may have been a type of same-sex union. Ryan Grant Long
There is evidence of same-sex couples in the Americas, and several Native American cultures are known to have tolerated or even revered sexual and gender diversity. Yet there is much we do not know and cannot know about homosexuality in the New World. When Christian Europeans conquered the Americas they imposed their values on the indigenous peoples and destroyed records of same-sex relationships, which they identified as "the sin of the heathens." Knowledge of the lives and loves of many has been lost forever. Ryan Grant Long
One of the greatest Arab poets of all time and widely considered the greatest poet of Islam, Abu-Nuwas was also a notorious troublemaker. He was a master of satire and often wrote about topics forbidden by Islam to shock his readers, which led to his arrest on several occasions. His homoerotic poems ranged from sweetly romantic to downright lecherous: "In the bath house, the mysteries hidden by trousers are revealed to you … feast your eyes without restraint." Abu-Nuwas was immortalized in The Thousand and One Nights. Ryan Grant Long
The Renaissance master artist and inventor Leonardo Da Vinci must have loved his studio assistant Gian Giancomo Caprotti da Oreno (nicknamed Salai, which means "little devil"). After living with the young hellion for a year, Da Vinci listed Salai's vices, calling him "a thief, a liar, stubborn, and a glutton." Salai stole money and valuables, and his art was inferior, yet clearly something about Salai endeared him to Da Vinci, since he kept him around for 30 more years and featured him in several drawings and paintings. Ryan Grant Long
The samurai practiced age-structured homosexuality, which was called shudo. Ordinarily a samurai served his daimyo with honor and was expected to follow his lord in death. However, Mitsushige disliked the custom and asked his beloved samurai Tsunetomo to reject it upon his own death. Ironically, this break with tradition led to the samurai code being written down. Tsunetomo lived to retire into the mountains, where he dictated to a young visiting samurai. His commentary would become the Hagakure, a seminal guide to samurai culture. Ryan Grant Long
Walt Whitman is one of the most celebrated poets in the history of the United States. With his book Leaves of Grass he aimed to write the great American epic, and he worked on revisions of it throughout his life. The homoeroticism in the book caused some to label it obscene, but others were deeply inspired by his sensual, earthy poems celebrating human sexuality, the material world, and ethical humanism. Whitman met bus conductor Peter Doyle, who said of their first encounter: "We were familiar at once — I put my hand on his knee — we understood." Ryan Grant Long
Bayard Rustin was the heart and soul of the black civil rights movement in the United States. He was Martin Luther King Jr.'s chief organizer, a pioneer of nonviolent resistance, and the man behind the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, during which Dr. King delivered his momentous and influential "I Have a Dream" speech. Rustin's open homosexuality was a source of contention, and to this day his impact on the American landscape is all too often overlooked. Walter Naegle, Rustin's partner until he died, is executor of the Bayard Rustin estate. Ryan Grant Long
Kukai, the legendary monk who supposedly brought homosexuality to Japan. Ryan Grant Long
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