A Few Words on Versailles

No, I am not watching the drama series. Enough of you have expressed utter horror on social media to warn me off that. However, I did take in the accompanying documentary about Louis IV and his court presented by Lucy Worsley and Helen Castor.

Mostly this was good stuff, at least as far as I know because 17th Century France really isn’t my period. However, there was one brief comment that caused me to pause.

Normally BBC history documentaries erase all evidence of LGBT folks from the past. After all, children might be watching, and we wouldn’t want to get a nasty letter from Mary Whitehouse, would we? (Yes, I know she’s dead, but the BBC and Ofcom don’t appear to have twigged that yet.) However, you can’t really talk about Louis XIV without talking about his brother, Philippe, Duc d’Orléans.

Philippe was very gay, and an enthusiastic cross-dresser. So far so good. It is nice to see teh gay actually acknowledged (though the chap playing Phillipe in the documentary isn’t like any gay man I know, and looks positively embarrassed when cross-dressed). However, during the documentary Lucy Worsley blamed Philippe’s gayness on his being treated as a girl by his mother, Anne of Austria.

Lucy, we need to have a word.

To start with, suggesting that a kid can be “made gay” by his upbringing suggests that being gay is something that can be induced, and therefore also “cured”. That’s not a good point to be making.

In any case, we know that many gay men exhibit gender-variant behavior in childhood. When you see people claiming that 80% of trans kids “grow out” of being trans, and have thus been cured of their transness, what they actually mean is that 80% or so of kids exhibiting gender-variant behavior are not trans, and mostly grow up to be happily lesbian, gay or bisexual. Or to be happily non-binary but not want any medical intervention. Or can’t make up their minds as kids but discover their trans identity later in life. Philippe fits right into this pattern.

Which brings me to my second point, Lucy. Blaming a child’s gayness on his mother is anti-feminist. Kids are what they are. My guess is that all Queen Anne was doing was accepting her son’s gender-variant behavior. That’s not bad parenting, it is loving your kid. Mothers have quite enough to do without having people going round blaming them for their kids being gay.

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