Opinion
2 min

The History Boys celebrate 100 columns

Four years, two publications, two amateur historians, one dream

A toast to the History Boys! Credit: Stephen McDermott/Daily Xtra

Alexander the Great invaded India in 326 BCE, Christina became the queen of Sweden in 1644, and Tchaikovsky composed Swan Lake around 1875. But now something really, really important is happening — this is our 100th History Boys column!  

We’re taking over Greece for a historic celebration that may include several famous dead queers we dig up and reanimate for the occasion (something we do figuratively in the column twice each month). It’s as I always say: It’s not a party unless zombie Walt Whitman is forcing you to take a bath just so he can watch.

Or — and given budget constraints, this is more likely — we’ll make this article the celebration and call it a day.

Michael Lyons and I started writing History Boys, our column on lesser-known queer history, in August 2012, for Toronto’s Fab Magazine. We wanted a project to work on together, and we wanted more money, and we both love queer history, and it was then (as it is now) a very hot topic. So we pitched it to Fab editor Phil Villeneuve, and he said yes.

Actually, knowing the eccentric Phil (“Dancing Phil” in YouTube land), he probably let out several shrill yelps, performed an impromptu dance number, slapped us both in the face and then ziplined out the window. Whatever the case, we got the column.

It was gay history at first — it was Fab after all. We wished we could open up the subject matter a little, but it was still fun. And then Fab closed down. After several weeks of freaking out, we shifted over to Daily Xtra and things were fine. Plus, we finally got to write about the whole queer community.

With all of the research and writing we’ve done in the last four years, I suppose we’re in danger of becoming experts, but we began as enthusiastic amateur historians and the intent was always to learn alongside our readers. We’re here to take you on a not-at-all-cheesy journey of learning, folks.

Over the years, we’ve given a smattering of public talks (with varying degrees of success), conducted a few on-camera interviews, worked with some wonderful illustrators (Eric Williams, Jori Bolton, Sissydude, Yigi Chang and Stephen McDermott), and occasionally been mistaken for boyfriends (I made the mistake at times too, but eventually got over it).

Perhaps the most thrilling moment so far was waking up one morning to find a complimentary tweet from the inimitable, the legendary, the brilliant, the sexy Stephen Fry (who has since married a young man, dashing some of our hopes).

Michael and I are close friends, and working together has always been a big part of our friendship. While we do enjoy other things together — complaining and sushi, mostly — in many ways it’s hard to separate our friendship from our collaboration.  Planning, discussing and writing History Boys is part of how we hang out — it is, in a sense, an expression of our affection for each other.

Which is kind of gross, I know, but we like it, and our readers, (very patient) editors, and other supporters are an important part of this soppy equation. So, we thank you.

And when, some day far, far in the future, we both retire to Canada’s east coast to open up a tea room for old ladies in an abandoned lighthouse — which is, believe it or not, a dream of ours — everyone is invited to come and visit. But only one or two at a time, and you have to wear frilly frocks, and just remember that Tuesday is chutney day and the table by the door is reserved for old Mrs Quigley and her invisible dogs.