History

This Vintage Photo Offers a Rare Glimpse at Gay History

Commons

The inscription on the back of this photo is raising eyebrows.

An old photo of two lifeguards has resurfaced on Reddit and not only because it features two strapping young men. The inscription on the back, dated Mar. 26, 1949, is what sets it apart.

Related | 44 Vintage Photos of Gay Men in Acts of Love

The message reads, “To Buzz, I’ll always remember the times we spent together. All my love, your Tommy.” The message is teaming with romantic sentimentality. If you’re like us, you’re longing to know more about Buzz and Tommy.

“TO BUZZ, I’LL ALWAYS REMEMBER THE TIMES WE SPENT TOGETHER . . . ALL MY LOVE, YOUR TOMMY”, location unknown, March 26, 1949, inscription written on back of photo. from r/lgbt

The sad truth is that most LGBTQ+ stories are lost to history. We know that LGBTQ+ people have always been here, but our stories have been systematically suppressed or reduced to open-ended speculation.

Gay Lifeguards 1949

Commons

In some ways, this is no different. Many would call the LGBTQ+ discourse surrounding this image speculation. Admittedly, without more context, there is no way to definitively know if these two were in a romantic relationship. Having said that, to dismiss the unmistakable tenderness of the inscription as purely platonic would be obtuse.

Gay Lifeguards Message 1949

Commons

More to the point, it is this dismissiveness that has relegated our history to whispers in a dark room. There’s even an entire subreddit for that! While we may never know the truth behind these two men, there are some things we can learn from this.

Related | 18 Vintage Pride Photos to Celebrate Pride Month

Queer people are desperate for history. Like a ship without an anchor, LGBTQ+ people have learned to cling to what little history we do have. A collective story that binds and unifies us. A way to remember those who dared to be themselves at a time when doing so meant exile, imprisonment, or death.

Perhaps we should treat each case with an open mind, and understand that assuming these men are straight is also speculative. Even more so when it’s paired with such an emotional message.

Related | The Fascinating Queer History of Coming Out

It’s time we honor queer stories. It’s about time for the world to accept that we have always been here, and we aren’t going anywhere.

What do you think?

This Vintage Photo Offers a Rare Glimpse at Gay History

Recommended Podcast

To Top