Saturday, 3 November 2007

Thomas Tallis: Was he gay?

I never cease to be amazed at how people react when they discover or even just imagine that another person may be gay.

‘The Tudors’ - BBC2’s new historical epic, which is currently exploring the life and loves of Henry VIII, is also delving into the lives of other 16th century characters.

Thomas Tallis is quite simply a genius and has left the world with some of the most extraordinarily beautiful music. Imagine then the consternation when the writers choose to explore his potential bisexuality.

Blogs have certainly given a voice to the masses and opinions abound! Not least my own.
Some have expressed dismay and disappointment, others outright anger and some delight.
Even the very idea of Thomas Tallis being gay or bi or anything other than 100% straight has caused much debate.

The truth is that no one, not you or I, no historian or geneticist or any other person can tell what Tallis’s sexuality was. Does it make a difference either way?

Well for some, yes. For some it undermines his genius and debases his music. For some, even the very idea that he was gay is an affront to his brilliance. Equally ridiculous is my response – that the thought of Thomas being gay raises him in my estimation and gives his music an extra intensity and passion.

When will we learn that when we walk down the busy streets or the quiet country lanes, in the halls of Queens or the stairwells of high-rise flats, anyone of the people we meet may be gay.

It is becoming ridiculous to me that a person’s sexuality or credit rating or hairstyle or gender or ethnicity, should make the slightest difference to the fact that we are all human.

It is becoming clear that sexuality is not about black and white: it is not about clearly definable boxes like gay and straight. Like most things in life, there is a spectrum. This reality will take some getting use to – especially for the man’s man! It is clearly not ‘manly’ to admit to loving a man with slightly more than brotherly love. Whether we admit it or not, we are all on the spectrum of sexuality. So when we walk down the street today, we are passing thousands of people, all of whom express the great variety of sexual preference.

This also means that history and all of its named and unnamed characters, form a great cloud of witness to the breadth of sexual diversity. It is naive to think otherwise. The significance for today is not that we have suddenly invented gay-ness or bi-ness, but that we are starting to accept this diversity, not only in our time but in all time.

I very simply want to give thanks for the amazing diversity that we see around us and that we live day by day. I have had enough of making judgements about people, despite knowing that we all do it, and I promise myself to see God in all people. Precious, loved and divine. I simply refuse to draw an imaginary line for those who are ‘in’ and those who are ‘out’ – those who are allowed to be part of the world and those who are not. No creed or religion that sets such limits on the inclusive nature of Gods creation is worth a moment’s attention.

Jesus, despite the words have been put in to his mouth, made this clear: that God is for all and is in all and will not be boxed in by our cleverly worded limits.

This is one world. It is up to us to decide if we wish to live as such.


Dawn said...


Alan said...

It seems to me that since there is no proof that Tallis was gay or bi but there is substantial proof that he was straight (i.e. he was married )then one ought to treat the Tudors treatment of him as inaccurate and meant to gain more critical attention/accolades for having an openly gay/bi character. Diversity etc. not withstanding, the decision to make this revision to Tallis' character should be judged on whether this sacrifice of accuracy adds anything to the work itself. And my instinct is that no, it doesn't.

Chinability said...

Peter Pears, the close companion of confirmed bachelor Benjamin Britten, stated on television that the word "gay" is not appropriate to describe the experience of being a homosexual in a hetersexual society, which he evidently felt to be uncomfortable even after the enlightened reforms of the mid-1960s.

The real problem I have with the Tallis character in The Tudors is that there is so little in it about his music and Tallis comes over as someone who is not exactly larger than life (to judge from his musical output, the real one was).

Martin said...

I think the simple question is: does it matter whether Tallis was or wasn't gay??

homonoire said...

Tallis' character is a disappointment and yes, to me it makes a difference whether he is str8 or gay or both. It doesn't change his genius or our perception of him but as one of two queer characters on this whole damn show (both fated to obscurity and heteronormative marital 'bliss') he has to bear the burden of representation for alternate sexualities in medieval European history. I left my own preconceptions about historical accuracy at the door upon seeing the person they contracted to play Henry VIII so I wasn't expecting a dutiful account of Tallis' life. What is interesting is that his and William's subplot are relegated to maybe 15 minutes in the entire 10 episodes of the first season, marginalizing all other forms of sexual expression beyond the heterosexual in a film obsessed with sexual intrigue and one which, unashamedly, markets homoeroticism. For all the emphasis on creativity over historical accuracy, depictions of sexuality are predictable and reflect a serious non-commitment to imagining other ways of being in the English court at this time. I'm just so tired of these great homoerotic heteronormative histories these days that treat possibly or factually gay characters as unimportant or just don't bother treating them at all. Even when we have the freedom to reinterpret much of what we know and craft richer histories the result is still the story of the great white straight man.

vermontkid said...

seriously? who cares- men have always found their way to each other- gay is a label- and labels are for fools