2. The Early Christians: Saints and Martyrs for the Church

The stories of queer saints that come down to us include those of pairs of martyred Roman soldiers and lovers, martyred Roman women, bishops who wrote skilled erotic poems, and (especially in the Eastern regions) a number of transwomen, cross-dressing monks who were  biologically female, but lived as men in male monasteries.

The cultural context of the early was one where they were political and even social outcasts, in a society of a bewildering range of attitudes to sexuality, ranging from substantial sexual licence for Roman citizens, to negligible freedom of sexual choice for slaves, to sexual abstemiousness for those influenced by Greek stoicism.

Early martyrs for the church:

Saint Sebastian

Felicity and Perpetua (d. 2o3)

Polyeuct and Nearchos

Sergius and Bacchus

Juventinus and Maximus? (d. 363)

Protus and Hyacinthus?

Bishops, nuns and monks

Paulinus of Nola (d. 431), a Bishop and missionary who is still honoured by the Church for the quality of his devotional verse, but whose output also included frankly homoerotic verse addressed to his friend, Ausonius. (St. Paulinus of Nola, bishop 22/06St Paulinus of Nola: Bishop, Poet, Saint – and Gay / St Paulinus of Nola, Gay Bishop, Poet)

SS Benedicta, (6 May) and Galla (5 October), Roman nuns – and lovers? (d. 550)

SS Symeon of Emessa and John: Hermits, Saints and Lovers (d. 588)

Venantius Fortunatus (d. circa 600/609). Like Paulinus of Nola, a bishop who wrote good quality poetry, including verse in homoerotic language.

Trans in Faith: Some Cross-dressing Saints and Martyrs

Decidedly “Queer”: In the Mists of Myth

Also from this period, are some saints whose names are familiar and much loved, but for whom the historical evidence is shaky on detail, with some popular beliefs certainly unfounded. Associated with their names, is at least some evidence for same – sex loving relationships.

George the dragon slayer (d. 3o3)

Patrick (d. 493 )

Brigid of Ireland (d. 525)

Uncumber [or Wilgefortis] 20/07


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