The following narrative about “Historical Homos” was written by Chris Feliciano.
Dekkoo.com, a subscription streaming service dedicated to gay men, celebrates Pride month with an original series executive produced by Zachary Quinto. Historical Homos is a provocative and often hysterically funny guide to queer history. For thousands of years, world historians have kept some of the greatest names in civilization in the closet. Socrates, Virginia Woolf, Michelangelo, and Shakespeare – were all members of the rainbow tribe. In Historical Homos, hosts Bash and Donal Brophy uncover and unload the most tantalizing dish on some of these great queers of yesteryear. Did you know that Louis XIV’s brother, Philippe, dressed up in drag and that Leonardo da Vinci was arrested for sodomy twice? Or that Eleanor Rykener, a 13th-century trans sex worker, claimed in court records that her best clients were monks because they paid more? Directed by Brendan Patrick Hughes, written by Bash, produced by Idyllwild Pictures, and executive produced by Emrhys Cooper, Brian Sokel, and Zachary Quinto, Historical Homos premieres Friday, June 9, on Dekkoo, with a new episode streaming every Friday through Pride month.
“The world is hell-bent on believing that gays, lesbians, trans people, and queers of all kinds are the proud innovations of the 20th century,” says Bash. “Donal and I are here to prove that’s utter nonsense. Queer people have been around for eons, challenging society, serving looks, and living out their deepest fantasies. Our story stretches from Stonewall to Hadrian’s Wall, and only the gay gods know how far beyond that.”
Historical Homos began as a coffee table book by Bash and his sister, Lucy Hendra. It later morphed into social media with its popular Instagram page. When the siblings began their search for a production company to turn Historical Homos into a series, they were connected with Zachary Quinto who happened to be working on a similar project called Pride and Prejudice with Donal Brophy and Emrhys Cooper. The group decided to combine both projects into one, hosted by Bash and Donal.
“Bash is the real backbone of the series,” Donal contends. “Like the true scholar that he is, he researches each figure meticulously.”
“Donal balances my nerdiness and obsession for detail with his empathetic appreciation for the stories and lives we cover,” Bash interjects. “He’s an actor by training so he understands these figures as multidimensional people.”
According to both, the goal of the series is not merely to congratulate the historical figures for being queer. Bash and Donal interrogate these people, dig into every rumor and slice of gossip, and ask the “tough” questions to learn who was buggering whom, in what positions, and on what substances. Both hosts believe humor is crucial because, for too long, the narrative of queer history has been one of repression, alienation, and oppression. In Historical Homos, we learn queerness has not always been rejected. Same-sex love and desire have not always been denigrated.
The first four episodes present a nice spread of L, G, B, and T. The first episode explores male homosexuality in Greek Mythology and how these myths reflected real life in ancient Greece. In episode two, Bash and Donal delve into the true story of a transgender spy and soldier, Le Chevalier d’Éon, who was born Charles and became Charlotte at the age of 49 – only to discover the humiliating constraints of life as an 18th-century woman.
The third episode of Historical Homos focuses on the little-known bisexual proclivities of William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe. The final Pride month episode reviews the life and loves of Virginia Woolf, particularly her lesbian affair with Vita Sackville-West.
“I wish I knew about these historic queer people as a child,” Donal Brophy reflects. Growing up in Ireland and Australia, Brophy knew little of what being gay was beside the odd reference in film and on TV. “Much of what I knew was tied to the fear and stigma around the AIDS epidemic. It would have been so helpful in my coming out to have heard about positive, creative, intelligent gay people.”
Bash grew up in Manhattan and the south of France. His father, Tony Hendra, was an actor and writer, best known for starring in the film This Is Spinal Tap and for editing the popular satirist magazine, National Lampoon. Bash knew he was gay at seven years old and came out to his family and friends at sixteen.
Studying history was an escape and like his own historical heroine, Madame du Châtelet, Bash was fiercely dedicated to his intellectual ambition, especially when he discovered that many historical figures were part of the LGBTQ+ community. He began devouring any book, article, website, movie, docuseries, letter, or stray piece of graffiti in the records that proved queer people have always been here. “You just have to know where and how to look,” he says.
Luckily, today’s LGBTQ+ generation has it easier. They simply need to stream Historical Homos on Dekkoo. But Bash and Donal hope the series appeals to a heterosexual audience, too. Says Bash, “Our hope is that all viewers – gay and straight – learn to expand what they believe about the past and human sexuality. That’s one of the most powerful ways to better understand the queer community’s lived experiences and inherited contexts.”