The celebration of LGBT+ History Month this February, we take a look into the LGBT+ history regarding 17th-18th Century Pirates, and 14th-19th Century Native American Indians.
Amongst Historians it is widely considered that homosexuality was common in the male-dominated world of piracy. However not just between men - also women. Famously between Pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read, who it is thought that the two may most probably have been bisexual or lesbians.
The idea many Pirates were gay is reinforced from historical accounts of the renowned same-sex civil union amongst Pirates known as ‘Matelotage’. Matelotage was an economic partnership, where 'matelots' would agree to share their incomes, and inherit their partner's property in the case of their death. They would also pledge to protect and fight alongside each other in battle and otherwise act in the other's interest. Sometimes these Matelotage’s were fraternal but also certainly sometimes they were sexually romantic.
Arguably three of the most infamous Pirates, Captain “Calico Jack” Rackham, Anne Bonny and Mary Read, were known to have a romantic/sexual three-way relationship which resulted in two separate pregnancies. It’s fair to say that if relationships like this were between some of the most feared Pirates of a generation, there is no doubt homosexuality was accepted amongst many Pirate Ships - a people who already sailed outside the law regardless and against all social norms.
Native nations are similar to other world populations in the demographic representation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. Many tribal languages include specific vocabulary to refer to gender identities beyond male and female; others do not, or those terms have been lost. Similarly, there are many differences in how Indigenous communities and tribes saw or responded to gender variance. In some tribes and First Nations, stories are passed down of individuals who had special standing because they were LGBTQ. Their status among their people came from their dreams, visions, and accomplishments that revealed them as healers and societal or ceremonial leaders. In other tribes, LGBTQ people had no special status and were ridiculed. And in still other tribes, they were accepted and lived as equals in day-to-day life.
“In my Nipmuc Algonquin People, I was taught that the people of same-sex relationships were revered, had a dualistic connection with land and spirit, and hence were viewed as having a sort of mana or spiritual power.” - A quote taken from a descendant of the Nipmuc tribe/nation.