Thursday, October 11, 2012

Gay and Lesbian Relatives

Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers and HiDefGen asked bloggers to document the stories of their LGBT relatives and ancestors in honor of National Coming Out Day.  His post for the day can be found here.

I know of a few living members of my family who are gay.  I have two cousins who are in committed relationships, and I am happy to include their partners in my family tree (which surprised and delighted one of them).  Other than that, there is nothing to differentiate them from other relatives in the family tree, which I think in some ways is as it should be.  I don't make a point of noting that an unmarried relative is straight; why would I note that someone is gay?

On the other hand, as Thomas discusses in his post, relatives from earlier eras generally would not easily have been able to come out of the closet and remain part of the family.  Gays were routinely ostracized by family members and by society.  There have been rumors in the family for years about two cousins from older generations who were said to be gay.  If they were indeed gay, they probably led closeted lives.  Am I doing them an injustice by not including that information, even though I don't know for sure?

This is not a question with an easy answer.  I try to honor all of my relatives as I do my research by remembering them and sharing information with other family members.  But I also try to ensure that the information I share is as accurate as possible, not based just on hearsay.  If I can find something to substantiate the rumors, perhaps documentation of a long-term, close friend of the same sex, would that be enough to list the friend as a partner?  It certainly doesn't sound as though it would meet the requirements of the Genealogical Proof Standard, or even of a preponderance of evidence.  But would it help atone for the times those relatives lived in, when they could not express themselves freely?

As I said, not a question with an easy answer.

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