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This Victorian scholar was way ahead of his time on gay issues, but he treated his boyfriends like dirt

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In many times and places, people who would fall under today’s LGBTQ+ umbrella have grown up with no framework to understand their identities.

As historian Emily Rutherford writes, that was true for Victorian scholar John Addington Symonds. But, thanks to his work, many men who followed him had new ways to put their sexuality in context.As a student in 1850s Britain, Symonds read Plato’s Symposium and Phaedrus, encountering paiderastia—the social and erotic relationship between older and younger Athenian men.

He later wrote that the concept was “the revelation I had been waiting for”—and something that he literally had no words to describe in his native language.

He settled for a Greek phrase meaning roughly “the love of impossible things.”But Rutherford writes that Symonds soon found his reading of the Greeks wasn’t universal.

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