“Bad Gays”

Huw Lemmey and Ben Miller

This is a fun concept for a book: take the concept of “let’s talk about the forgotten gays of history” and focusing, instead of on the heroic ones, the villainous ones. I thought the choice of Hadrian for the cover art was weird, but the chapter on him… sorta explained that, and sorta didn’t? Like, my reading is that he was definitely a toxic boyfriend, but not particularly a villain beyond that, unless you want to count the inherent villainy of being a Roman emperor. And even then, by Roman Emperor Standards, he wasn’t actually all that bad.1

I have, in the past, bounced off books for being too academic in style, and this feels like it’s right around the upper edge of what I can tolerate in that way. It’s an interesting telling of the history, with a fair amount of citations throughout, but where I started to lose interest was where it got deep into… queer theory? Historiography? Something like that. Not a book to read when your brain is tired and you just want to gently process words, there’s too many moments demanding of deep thought for that. But then, sometimes that’s what you’re in the mood for.

Overall, though, I enjoyed the read! It’s a fun, if sometimes disheartening and depressing, skim through a specific subset of history. Give it a go.2

  1. This is, admittedly, a pretty low bar.
  2. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.