GayHeroes.com: Gay and Lesbian People in History

Lawrence of Arabia
Lawrence of Arabia

British scholar, archaeologist, military strategist, and author best known for his legendary war activities in the Middle East during World War I and for his account of those activities in The Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1926).


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Young T.E. Lawrence went to the Middle East ostensibly to do archeology, but he was also a spy for the British who knew that war was imminent. He got caught up with the cause of Arab independence when he saw how they were being used by the Allies. Though he fought valiantly on the battlefield and later in political circles, the victorious British and French divided Palestine with no regard whatever for the Arabs, with consequences that bleed to this day. His idealism shattered, Lawrence tried to hide from the fame he had won, even changing his name (to Shaw after his friend playwright George Bernard) and re-enlisting as a private. He died in a motorcycle accident at age 46. My favorite movie is "Lawrence of Arabia" -- rent it! Though it is obscure about details and youwon't hear much about him being gay, it gives aGayHeroes.com magnificent feel for the power one man has to affect the world. The score is amazing.

T. E. Lawrence

  

 

 

 

Lawrence met Dahoumwhose real name was Salim Ahmed, at an archeological dig in southern Turkey. Lawrence taught him photography, to read and write, and to be his assistant. Later they moved in together, and Lawrence made a nude carving of Dahoum and put it on top of their house. Apparently Dahoum was also a wrestler. Sounds pretty good toGayHeroes.com me.

Lawrence of Arabia Dahoum
Lawrence of Arabia
A fair swap: Dahoum gets Lawrence's pistol and Lawrence gets Dahoum's clothes.

 

 

 


"I liked a particular Arab very much, and I thought that freedom for the race would be an acceptable present."
--T.E. Lawrence

This is from the PBS program about Lawrence:

Some historians report that many Arabs working on the ancient site were 'tolerantly scandalized' by Lawrence and Dahoum's friendship, especially when Lawrence stayed on in 1913 and Dahoum moved in with him.

Others reject any notion that their relationship was anything more than friendship and believe Lawrence encouraged the scandalous gossip as it appealed to his sense of humor.

Whatever the truth, many agree, the few, short years with Dahoum at Carchemish were the happiest of Lawrence's life.

 

 



 

 

GayHeroes.comWhen war broke out, Lawrence was away in England. They never met again -- Dahoum died of typhus (same as Alexander's Hephaestion!) in 1918. About his war experiences, Lawrence once said "I liked a particular Arab, and thought that freedom for the race would be an acceptable present." Although there are others to whom the dedicatory poem "To S.A." in Seven Pillars of Wisdom could apply, it most clearly fits Dahoum.

To S.A.

 

 

Lawrence of Arabia Dahoum

 

 

 

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I loved you, so I drew these tides of men into my hands
and wrote my will across the sky in stars
To gain you Freedom, the seven-pillared worthy house,
that your eyes might be shining for me
When I came

Death was my servant on the road, till we came near
and saw you waiting:
When you smiled, and in sorrowful envy he outran me and
took you apart:
Into his quietness

So our love's earnings was your cast off body to be
held one moment
Before earth's soft hands would explore your face and
the blind worms transmute
Your failing substance.

Men prayed me to set my work, the inviolate house
in memory of you.
But for fit monument I shattered it, unfinished: and now
The little things creep out to patch themselves hovels
in the marred shadow
Of your gift.

If I might presume, one interpretation of the poem might be: the Poet loved Dahoum, and was inspired during the war to gain Freedom for him. During the war, Death never harmed Lawrence, but before the lovers could meet again, Death took the beloved Dahoum. The Poet-Warrior's achievements might be a monument to his departed beloved, but more fittingly, the Arab Freedom for which he fought was betrayed and shattered, and now petty diplomats cobble together misfit political entities in the ruins of that dream of Freedom.

There are those who interpret the poem as allegorical and not addressed to anyone, who opine that the poem is merely banal if it is indeed about GayHeroes.comsomeone like Dahoum. I think it is great, filled with romance, tragedy and grandeur. But even if you don't, as Oscar Wilde said, "All bad poetry comes from genuine feeling".

 

 

 

 

Lawrence after his brilliant victory at Akaba. By crossing the desert (which took two months!) and attacking from that side instead of from the coast, he caught the Turks completely by surprise.

 

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Lawrence of Arabia

 





 

 

In the summer of 1913 Lawrence took Dahoum and Sheik Hamoudi (a wild character with whom he had become friends) on a trip to England. The trio got a lot of attention. After Lawrence's death, Hamoudi recalled the one time he was angry with his hero:

"When Dahoum and I went to Oxford many wished to photograph us as we sat with him in our customary Arab clothes. After they took a picture, they would come and speak to him and always he would say 'No, No.' One day I asked him why he was always saying 'No, No,' and he laughed and said 'I will tell you. These people wish to give you money. But for me you would now be rich.' And he smiled again. Then I grew angry. Indeed, I could not believe I heard right. 'Do you call yourself my friend,' I cried to him, 'and say thus calmly that you keep me from riches?' And the angrier I grew the more he laughed and I was very wrath at this treachery. At last he said when I had turned away and would no longer look at him, 'Yes, you might have been rich, richer than any in Jerablus. GayHeroes.comAnd I - what should I have been?' and he paused watching my face with his eyes. 'I should have been the showman of two monkeys.' And suddenly all my anger died down within me."

 

 

 

 

Even if Lawrence never expressed his sexuality, which I doubt, it wouldn't mean he was not gay. There is no doubt that he loved Dahoum, and the burden of proof falls on those who insist that their love never found its natural physical expression. There certainly is no evidence that Lawrence was straight! In Arabia, he was captured and raped by the Turks; his accounts of the event are contradictory.

After the war, he would enlist comrades to beat him, saying something to the effect that the "old man" was displeased and Lawrence needed to be punished. So he seems to have been a victim of the medieval loathing of the flesh, whose desires were said to keep men from attaining the divine. Now we recognize that it is precisely thorough passionate love of another that the reality of divine love, which loves you for yourself alone, is experienced.

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T. E. Lawrence



 

One woman, Miss Fareedeh, who taught Lawrence Arabic and whom some try to identify as a love-interest for him, says "TE never fell in love with any woman. He could not..." Fareedeh herself denied that she was "S.A."
 

 

 

 

Proof that Lawrence was gay...

...doesn't exist. As a friend and colleague once said, "But matters of the heart defy such disingenuous proof-seeking. One needs to look for implications, study comparisons, and be a little less demanding for something crudely literal in the search for "proof".

So clues have to be added up and conclusions drawn.

Lawrence liked a particular Arab very much, said of him "I liked a particular Arab, and thought that freedom for the race would be an acceptable present.," lived happily with him, made a scandalous nude carving of him and put it up on their house, and undertook heroic labors of war for him, but when he died, Lawrence counted his life's work as wasted, and dedicated his great literary work to this man, "S.A." He writes "I loved you, so I drew these tides of men into my hands... that your eyes might be shining for me When we came."

Amid subsequent inquiry, TE changes the story of "S.A." over and over, even to "an imaginary person of neutral sex," obviously because he couldn't say his beloved was a man. Sadly, he had come to dread that people might discover the true identity of "S.A."

Through the rest of his life, he never marries, dates, or consorts with women. One woman people say might have been his love interest denies it categorically, saying that TE was incapable of loving women. He has men administer annual beatings to him.

...well, I might be wrong, but he sure sounds gay to me.

 

 

 

I recently received the following extraordinary correspondence
from a person with an interest in T.E. Lawrence:

Dear Jay,

I thought you might be interested to hear something my Grandfather told me many years ago.  (He was British, and served in the desert campaign during WWI.)  My Grandfather was not a close friend of Lawrence's, but he knew him, and was a very compassionate and perceptive person.

It was his considered view that Lawrence was neither entirely gay nor straight, but rather, both.  He felt that Lawrence had a fundamental longing to love a woman that could never be fulfilled beyond friendship, due to the crippling nature of punishment received from his mother during childhood.  He also felt that Lawrence longed for intimacy with men, and definitely could feel passionately attracted to them, but never consummated these feelings entirely.

Many years ago, while traveling in the Middle East, I met an elderly Bedouin man who had known Lawrence.  He spoke honestly and caringly about him, at some length.  When it came to Lawrence's sexuality,  the old man said: "He noticed men.  He noticed women from afar.  But he was neither way entirely.  He was alone.  His spirit came from far away."

I have always felt that those words paid a deep tribute to something core about T.E. Lawrence.  I suspect he was more gay than straight.  I think he was in love with Daoud.  I don't know if this was ever fully expressed, but it surely was felt.  I think he was also sincerely in love with Janet Laurie, who was an extraordinary person, and perhaps the one woman in ten thousand Lawrence could have been attracted to.  But having studied Lawrence's life for many years, i do feel that most of all, "he was alone.  His spirit came from far away."

I write this to you because it seems like you really value Lawrence, and the truth of his life.  And because I do believe that part of that truth was that he was someone for whom physical intimacy was difficult, and sometimes tortured.  And yet, perhaps partly because of this, the intimacy he expressed through friendship with all sorts of people was very powerful indeed.  He had "baraka," a quality beyond charisma.  Perhaps he had a different destiny here than most of us, in which sex played a different role.  God bless him, wherever he is.  May he travel on to great adventures, healed, and renewed, and alone no more.

Thank you for reading this, which I have never shared with anyone before.  I just wanted to pass it on, because you seem to value the truth of people's lives, and perhaps these scraps are part of Lawrence's truth. And because it matters that we try to see the mystery that is another human being.

I can't thank this writer enough for taking the time to share her extraordinary, sophisticated, insightful, and just plain beautiful letter about her grandfather and T.E. 
The letter startles me with the value, truth, and beauty of nuance.  It's humbling.  I thank her again for writing and for blessing me with her wisdom and discernment.















 

T. E. Lawrence painting

This painting by M.S. Tuke, of young Lawrence about to take a dip with a pal, hung in Lawrence's house in England.

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 After the war Lawrence was so disillusioned that he refused medals about to be presented to him by the King, leaving the shocked George V (in his words) "holding the box in my hand." He lived on the masochistic side of asceticism, denying himself the recognition he had earned. A many-sided genius whose accomplishments precluded the privacy he constantly sought, Lawrence became a mythic figure in his own lifetime even before he published his own version of his legend in The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. By the manufacture of his myth, however solidly based, he created in his own person a characterization rivaling any in contemporary fiction.

GayHeroes.com-- Encyclopedia Britannica

Lawrence motorcycle

 

 






Get a fab tee-shirt!  
I am writing to various 'Lawrence' interest groups to advise that I have produced some remarkable T-Shirts to commemorate Lawrence's tour of France undertaken in 1908, which I have researched and travelled myself over the past 3 years. I ask if you would consider putting a posting on your website to advertise them for me.
 
There are two designs:-
 
1. A Limited Edition (1000 units) at a retail price of 19.95 on a white T. Inlcudes a Cerificate of Authenticity.
2. A general release at a retail price of 15.95 on a black T.
 
Regards
Bernard Andrews

Here's a link to his website where you can order a shirt:
http://www.telned.info/tshirt.html
Lawrence t-shirt

 

 

 

GayHeroes.com BookstorePlenty of great books on Lawrence are waiting at your library.

 

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And what about you???
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Jay Spears
jay@gayheroes.com
Date Last Modified: 1/12/2011