Nineteenth Century Diary Shows Acceptance Towards Homosexuality

A diary written in the early 19th century revealed accepting attitudes towards homosexuality much earlier than previously thought. Image via BBC.

A diary written in 1810 by a Georgian era farmer shows that attitudes towards homosexuality were not all negative in the nineteenth century, as the diary contains passages suggesting that people thought that homosexuality is a normal human tendency, according to BBC.

Matthew Tomlinson, a widower and farmer from Yorkshire, is the writer of the diary and in it, he wrote open-minded things about homosexuality, such as that it is natural and that he didn’t believe that people should be discriminated against for having a same-sex attraction. What prompted Tomlinson to write about this is a case that he read about in the newspaper in which a respected naval officer was sentenced to be hanged for engaging in homosexual activities. Tomlinson did not agree with this decision and even questioned whether or not that homosexual acts were really unnatural as the paper suggested. I mean, being gay seems pretty natural to me – I knew that I was gay from a very young age. 


Specifically, he said that he felt that it was strange that God would make people gay and then turn around and decree that anyone who is gay should be put to death. He wrote on January 14, 1810 “It must seem strange indeed that God Almighty should make a being with such a nature, or such a defect in nature; and at the same time make a decree that if that being whom he had formed, should at any time follow the dictates of that Nature, with which he was formed, he should be punished with death.” I don’t personally believe in any deities but if my knowledge of Christianity serves me correctly, God doesn’t make mistakes so I agree with Tomlinson. Why would God make a certain demographic just to punish them?

Tomlinson also mentioned that if there was an “inclination and propensity” for homosexuality at an early age, then it must be natural. Referencing an earlier point, I knew I was gay at an early age and came out to my mom at twelve, and I never felt that my orientation was anything other than normal. Of course, I feel the same way now. Tomlinson also makes reference to the fact that he was informed by others that homosexuality is apparent at an early age, suggesting that he and his friends were progressive and discussed such things. 

Oxford researcher Eamonn O’Keeffe was especially pleased with the discovery of this diary, considering the fact that Tomlimson was just an ordinary person, not a member of and high society group, because of that, researchers got to dive into the minds of everyday people. She said, “Even though this was a time of persecution and intolerance towards same-sex relationships, here’s an ordinary person who is swimming against the current and sees what he reads in the paper and questions those assumptions.” Critical thinking is definitely a good thing after all. 

However, because Tomlinson was a product of his time, he believed that if someone was gay by choice then they should still be punished, but not by death. Putting that unsettling point aside, I still think that it’s a good thing that ordinary people in the Georgian era had discussions about the nature of homosexuality and that some thought that it was unfair that gay people were punished so harshly for being who they were. But most importantly, it’s refreshing to know acceptance was a very real thing way before many people thought.

Source: BBC

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