Queering a Tudor Warship

Queering a Tudor Warship

Written by Carl R. Trueman |
Tuesday, August 22, 2023

“Queerness as an interpretative tool” seems to be no more than the blunt assertion that today’s questions are the only ones worth asking and today’s categories the only ones worth applying. Never mind that when the ship sank, the crew drowned and that these artifacts spoke of real human lives that were lost and families that were presumably devastated. It is all about today’s categories such as gender and queerness. Difference need not be respected. Perspectives unsanctioned by modern Western progressivism need not apply.

The anti-Western left has been exposed for its sexual imperialism over the last few months. Evidence is all around. American Muslims have led protests against the imposition of LGBTQ policies and curricula in schools, leaving American progressives uncomfortably caught between two pillars of their favored rhetoric of political thought-crime: transphobia and Islamophobia. The Washington Post opined that anti-LGBTQ moves in the Middle East were “echoing” those of the American culture wars—as if Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan had been listed by the Human Rights Campaign as favored vacation destinations until their ruling elites started reading the website of Moms for Liberty.

It is, of course, the nature of imperialism that everything, everywhere, is always to be measured by the imperialists’ standards. And that is also what makes them so impervious to spotting their own imperialism. “Queering the Mary Rose‘s Collection,” an article on the website of the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth, England, is a recent example of this. The Mary Rose was a Tudor warship that sank in 1545 and was raised from the seabed in 1982 in a groundbreaking act of marine archaeology. The museum is dedicated to displaying artifacts retrieved from the wreck, some of which are now being analyzed “through a Queer lens.”

The specific examples are an octagonal mirror, nit combs, a gold ring, and Paternosters. Apparently, looking into a mirror can stir strong emotions for both straight and queer people, and for the latter it can generate, for example, feelings of gender dysphoria or euphoria, depending on whether the reflection matches their gender identity. Combs would have been used by the sailors to remove the eggs of hair lice. Today they are reminders of how hairstyles can be the result of imposed gender stereotypes, but also make possible the subverting of these through hairdos that break with social expectations. Rings are a reminder of marriage and, of course, that the Church of England founded by Henry VIII, king during the Mary Rose’s working life, still does not allow gay marriage. Finally, the Paternosters remind us that the crew were “practicing” Christians and that, once again, Henry VIII, via his initiation of the English Reformation, facilitated the civil criminalization of homosexual acts.

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