I saw a post whizz by on my dash about a Happy Tony Stark fest and while I am crap at formal fests, I thought “Happy Tony Stark” and immediately...
So a while ago there was this post going around about the houses in Harry Potter and how it makes no sense...
The next time I see the “it wasn’t canon argument,” I’m going to run screaming at you with copies of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 and news articles detailing the treatment of convicted homosexuals in 19th Century England, and then continue screaming until you understand exactly what would have happened to Arthur Conan Doyle had he explicitly written Sherlock Holmes and John Watson as gay lovers.
So, I wrote this a bit cheekily last night, but now I want to expand on it with some actual facts. I see a lot of people saying, “Oh, back in the 19th century, Sherlock and John couldn’t openly be together.” And that’s true, but what’s at the heart of that sentiment is this one, “Arthur Conan Doyle couldn’t have written them openly together, because the general public would assume he was encouraging homosexuality, perhaps was even homosexual himself, and that would have been dangerous.” Here’s why.
In 1885, the British Parliament enacted section 11 of the he Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885, known as the Labouchere Amendment which prohibited gross indecency between males. It thus became possible to prosecute homosexuals for engaging in sexual acts where buggery or attempted buggery could not be proven. Note that they didn’t have to actually catch you in the act, they just had to suspect that you did it. During this time period, many notable men were prosecuted with disastrous results; Lord Arthur Chilton committed suicide after being implicated in Boulton and Park trial involving two transvestites and Oscar Wilde was sentences to prison and hard labour after being found guilty.
Was there still a homosexual culture in England at the time? Yes, it was around this time that the movement began to flourish, with clandestine gatherings preceding the opening of the first gay pub, The Cave of the Golden Calf in 1912. There was even the beginnings of gay erotica and publishing, but it was still very much subversive and not opening distributed among the public.
The opposite of who Arthur Conan Doyle was; Sherlock Holmes increased subscriptions to The Strand magazine by 30,000. While Oscar Wilde, if not embraced, accepted, the consequences of his actions, Arthur Conan Doyle was not in a position to do that. He received a knighthood in 1902, he was involved in political campaigns and other civic work throughout his lifetime, and he had 5 children to support. He was not in a position to risk what an accusation of buggery would bring.
So, when you look at the situation, Arthur Conan Doyle was unable to go any farther than he had with Holmes and Watson in his original stories. Even if he wanted to. Even if he tried to fill it with as much subtext as possible, he would always have to be mindful of what would happen if he went to far.
This is why this argument bothers me so much. Were Sherlock Holmes in John Watson explicitly in a romantic relationship in the original stories? No, and no one is arguing that they were. Are we intended to imply, with the clues that were safe to include given the environment at the time, that it’s a possibility? That’s up to you to decide. But demanding that the only way a relationship could be legitimate is if it had been clearly stated by Arthur Conan Doyle is frustrating because it’s imposing today’s standards on a time period where they do not fit.
The fact of the matter is, it doesn’t matter whether or not you think homosexuality is a sin. Let me say that again. It does not matter if you think homosexuality is a sin, or if you think it is simply another expression of human love. It doesn’t matter. Why doesn’t it matter? Because people are dying. Kids are literally killing themselves because they are so tired of being rejected and dehumanized that they feel their only option left is to end their life. As a Youth Pastor, this makes me physically ill. And as a human, it should make you feel the same way. So, I’m through with the debate.
When faced with the choice between being theologically correct…as if this is even possible…and being morally responsible, I’ll go with morally responsible every time.