Vice: 'The Pilgrims Were Queer'

Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

On Thanksgiving, Vice published a piece called, “The Pilgrims Were Queer,” a title which was highly inaccurate in its implication that homosexuality was widespread in Puritan society , but apparently necessary in order to permit social justice warriors to feel better about celebrating the holiday.

The author writes of a 1625 colony called Merrymount (originally called Passonagessit) surmising it was a gay enclave, writing, “In fact, as historians note, the name "Merrymount" can also refer to a Latin phrase meaning “erect phallus”—quite a coincidence, given the men erected an 80-foot pole in the center of town.” Except Morton said of the pole that it stood as a “fair sea mark for directions,” describing it as “a goodly pine tree of 80 foot long, was reared up, with a pair of buckshorns nailed on, somewhat near unto the top of it; where it stood as a fair sea mark for directions, how to find out the way to mine Host of Ma-re Mount."

Other, more credible evidence the author cites of tolerance for same-sex practices in that particular colony: that “Morton declared himself ‘‘Lord of Misrule” and his people were described by Nathaniel Hawthorne as a “crew of Comus,” a reference to a mythological figure during whose ceremonies men and women exchanged clothing.”

More evidence: “On one particularly exciting occasion, the residents of Merrymount erected a maypole and danced in a manner described as evoking Ganymede and Zeus—figures that often symbolized same-sex couplings. This proto-Pride proved a bit too much for the neighbors, who arrested Morton, chopped down the pole, and scattered the residents.”

The author quotes Michael Bronski, a Professor of Practice in Media and Activism in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard, who states, "[Indigenous] gender roles—not all the time, but a considerable amount—were completely foreign to the Europeans. Every tribe had their own word for it, but there was a considerable amount of gender fluidity.”

The author describes people whose apparent homosexual behavior was punished: five men sent back to England after their behavior was discovered, two men in 1637 accused of lewd behavior, one who beaten, branded, and exiled, the other whipped and returned to indentured servitude, and two women accused of lewd behavior in 1649, one of whom was sentenced to acknowledge her behavior.

Bronski stated, “The earliest sodomy laws are not prohibiting homosexual sex per se. They're prohibiting non-reproductive sex. So if you had anal sex with your wife, that would be a crime. The most important thing was to reproduce, because half the children died when they were infants. … My reading of this is that the Puritans were like, ‘people do this stuff, but it really shouldn't be public. We don't want to go too far punishing them, because that would hurt the community.’ The most important thing is to keep the community stable.”

He concluded, "I think Thomas Morton would have loved it. I'm rather fond of the Puritans. I wouldn't want to live with them, but they totally understand that human beings are fallible. And what really matters is keeping the community together -- which I can relate to as part of a gay community.”

What's Your Reaction?