REVIEW: Give Yourself A Queer History Lesson With Podcast ‘Queer As Fact’

Historical photo of US gay activist Harvey Milk

As with any marginalised people, the dominating conversation on queer identity and rights is often the challenges faced from systemic oppression.

While we must continue to identify and fight discrimination, there seems a generation of queer people without knowledge of the struggles of those whose existence has made our many liberties possible.

These aren’t histories taught in our classrooms, but they’re vital to understanding ourselves. As Hilary Mantel said, “To try to engage with the present without engaging with the past…is to bob along on the waters of egotism… and ignorance”.

Queer as Fact is a history podcast dedicated to revealing and discussing the lives of some of these incredible pioneers, yet with such apparently specific subject matter, the podcast covers a surprisingly wide range of figures and topics.

From 18th century English lords to the rise of AIDs in Australia to male sexuality in Ancient Rome, from Queen Victoria’s views on lesbianism to 19th century Australian outlaw bushrangers to the last known gay survivor of the Holocaust, this podcast values our spiritual forefathers’ existence and contribution.

The diversity reminds us that queer people existed for centuries the world over before Stonewall, and their stories are illuminating.

Five historians of varying queer identities alternate hosting, but while the podcast isn’t cluttered, the episodes are long, lacking accessible “bite-sized” segments.

The hosts have recognised this potential barrier, however, and have recently begun monthly mini-episodes, one on niche queer figures with less available information.

The other, Queer as Fiction, analyses queerness and media, particularly in historical contexts. Queer film is discussed – contemporary and historic – but the segment isn’t limited to representational politics, also discussing queer authors and artists in history.

Mainstream engagement with queer culture still frequently privileges superficiality, but this fascinating podcast eschews the shallow to offer voice and recognition to real people beyond Oscar Wilde and 20th century activists.

This is not a podcast for everyone if the educational element doesn’t appeal. For those seeking the bite-sized, funny or pop culture-relatable podcast, there are options. But I look forward to dedicating time to learning more about our spiritual ancestors in future episodes.

Queer As Fact can be found on Apple podcasts, Stitcher, Podbean, Spotify, and other podcast streaming services.

(Photo by Ted Sahl via San Jose State University)

John Taggart

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