Rainbow Washing: Poet Alfred Tennyson Branded as Gay Without Evidence by History Tour for Schools

Color engraving portrait of English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809 - 1892), mid to late
Stock Montage/Getty Images

A historical tour for schools has branded former poet laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson among “notable LGBT people”, despite the celebrated 19th Century writer having been married with children.

Alfred Tennyson, the author of famed narrative poems such as The Charge of the Light Brigade, has been included on an Isle of Wight tour of alleged LGBT historical figures whose sexuality was supposedly hidden by “cis/heteronormative narratives”.

The LGBT heritage trail — organised by the Out On An Island group and funded by the National Lottery Heritage fund — which was reportedly set up with the hopes of being included as part of school curriculums, labelled the former poet laureate as one of the island’s “notable LGBT people”, claiming that his biography demonstrates the “meaning of queering” while asserting that he engaged in “same-sex romantic relationships”.

“What ‘queering’ means is to embrace historical figures in their entirety, including the parts of their lives which are not so clear-cut or easy to interpret from a modern standpoint,” the tour states according to The Telegraph.

“We look at the evidence of people’s past words and actions from first-hand perspectives and offer a space to examine them in a way that challenges the dominant interpretation of assumed cis/heterosexuality.”

“It is important for us to show that diverse genders and sexualities have been present throughout history. There is more to our past than cis/heteronormative narratives would have us believe.”

While Tennyson’s sexuality has been subject to some debate, given his close relationship with his would-be brother-in-law, Hallam, who was set to marry Tennyson’s sister Emilia before his untimely death in 1883.

There is no evidence that the two ever engaged in homosexual acts, yet, some have pointed to Tennyson’s poem In Memoriam — which was dedicated to Hallam — as evidence of a romantic link, given the famous conclusion of the verse: “Tis better to have loved and lost/Than never to have loved at all”.

The LGBT narrative is belied by the fact that the poet was married to his wife Emily for 42 years until his death in 1892. The couple produced two sons during their marriage.

Denouncing the revisionist history, Professor Frank Furedi said: “There is a way in which historical figures are seen as reflections of our contemporary society and its social groups.

“So Joan of Arc becomes trans, and all these historical figures are now ascribed the label of LGBTQ. There is this impulse to read history backwards. This is just a kind of anachronistic projection.”

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