The Virginia Gazette of Williamsburg reported last month that the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is researching LBGTQ history in America’s Colonial era with the intent of developing programming at the tourist attraction “that reflects the time period.”
Nine days later, in a fundraising letter dated Aug. 16, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation solicited charitable contributions to support “its mission to share the stories of all those who contributed to America’s legacy of liberty and preserve a city where the Revolution unfolded.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, the fundraising packet—which included, as a free gift, a set of four greeting cards featuring recipes from the Colonial era and envelopes to go with them—made no mention of the foundation’s plans for LBGTQ programming.
Instead, it said, “Colonial Williamsburg strives daily to serve as a faithful steward of our nation’s history and the people who forged it.”
“We believe in remembering the path to independence and self-government created by America’s earliest patriots, shopkeepers, laborers, farmers, tradesmen and women, and indigenous and enslaved individuals,” it said.
Any accurate portrayals of Colonial history have to include the latter two groups, of course—even if the letter writer uses the politically correct terminology for American Indians/Native Americans and slaves, respectively—but notice the absence of any mention of LBGTQ colonists.
Though it might be loathe to admit it, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation likely realizes LBGTQ programming is something few would-be donors would want their contributions to finance.
That raises the larger question: Why does Colonial Williamsburg think it needs to develop LBGTQ programming at all? The short answer is: It doesn’t need to.
This is just another manifestation of in-your-face left-wing identity politics, and it’s likely to turn off far more of the people who visit Colonial Williamsburg than it would attract.
But apparently, that’s of scant concern to Colonial Williamsburg’s Gender and Sexuality Diversity Committee. (We are not making that up.) The foundation and the committee apparently employ at least one “researcher” whose job is to “examine the history of marginalized people and try to piece together their lives based on the scant evidence left behind.”
According to the researcher, per The Williamsburg Gazette’s account, the supposed need for the committee and the programming stemmed from “several visitors” who “had asked questions about the lives of LGBTQ people in the 17th and 18th centuries.”
Note that that was not “several thousand” or even “several hundred,” just “several.”
The researcher shared with the newspaper the discovery of 18th-century historical records that supposedly offered an account of an affluent landowning Virginia woman who applied for a marriage license to wed another woman. After (unsurprisingly) being rebuffed, we’re told, the next day, she “returned, dressed in traditional male clothing and sporting a short haircut.” Passing herself off as a man, the marriage license was said to have been granted.
Doubtless, there were LBGTQ individuals in Colonial-era America, though their numbers were surely vanishingly small—likely less than the 2 percent of the population they represent today. And it’s safe to assume they didn’t flaunt their alternative lifestyles in annual Pride parades or demand that others use their “preferred” pronouns.
That said, if LBGTQ visitors to Colonial Williamsburg—few though they may be—ask about the closeted conditions their “marginalized” 18th- and 19th-century counterparts lived under, the tour guides, re-enactors, and docents should be able to answer those questions factually, accurately, and politely.
But that hardly justifies the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation spending scarce donor dollars to have a standing Gender and Sexuality Diversity Committee or to employ a full-time researcher to develop LBGTQ programs and re-enactments only “several” visitors would be interested in.
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