CELEBRATING LOVE

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February is a month when not only the flowers bloom, but love also blossoms everywhere, in everyone’s heart. Love is not defined as straight or gay, love is love- pure and eternal. At times people moan that there can be no love among gay people, or that gay relations can’t exist for long. Gaylaxy brings to you some of the greatest love stories that thwart any such claims, and reinforces the belief that love surpasses all hardships. These love stories span a wide range of period- from ancient & medieval times to present day- and involve some of the most well known persons in history. This aspect of theirs may have remained hidden from you due to obvious reasons, for it is the love that dare not speak its name. They have courted each other for over 50 years, or till death has done them apart.  Before you go on to read further, make sure you have your tissues (or handkerchiefs) with you.

Alexander the Great and Hephaestion – The greatest conqueror of all times, Alexander is probably the most Gay Couplefamous of gay lovers. Though terms such as gay and straight had not yet been defined and it was common for Greeks to have younger male lovers, they were expected to relinquish it when they grew up. The story was somewhat different for Alexander. Hephaestion was Alexander’s childhood friend and his right hand man too. Roman historian Curtius writes that when the Persian queen Sisygambis was introduced to the two men, she knelt at Hephaestion’s feet to plead for mercy. On realizing her mistake, she desperately offered her apologies to Alexander, at which point he reassured her: “You were not mistaken, mother; this man, too, is Alexander.”  Another significant act would be the reply given by Hephaestion after he received an angry note from Alexander’s mother, who was jealous of Hephaestion. He had replied, “Stop quarrelling with me; not that in any case I should care. You know Alexander means more to me than anyone.”  After the sudden death of Hephaestion, Plutarch writes that “Alexander’s grief was uncontrollable” and he did not eat for days. As a final and possibly most poignant act for his friend and lover, Alexander ordered that the flame in the temple at Babylon be extinguished, an act normally reserved only for the death of the king. Alexander too died soon after.

Gay couple from historyMahmud of Ghazni and Malik Ayaz – If you remember your history lessons well, you might be able to recall this muslim emperor. If Alexander’s love is the stuff of Greek fables, Ghazni’s love for his slave boy is Islamic legend. It is said that the two were each other’s slave- one a slave in deed, and another a slave in love. The sultan even raised Ayaz to kingship and made him the king of Lahore. Popular folklore has it that once Mahmud asked Ayaz, “Who is the most powerful ruler in the world?” “I am the most powerful,” replied Ayaz. The confused king asked his slave boy to explain. “You, Mahmud, are the most powerful of all kings,” said Ayaz. “But since I rule your heart, I am more powerful still.” Another anecdote was included by great Persian poet Sa’di in his collection of verses, Bustan: Someone found fault with the king of Ghazini,  saying, ’Ayaz, his favourite slave possesses no beauty. It is strange that a nightingale should love a rose that has neither colour nor perfume.’ This was told to Muhammad, who said: ‘My love, O sir, is for virtue, not for form or stature.’

King Edward II and Piers Gaveston – Probably the only king of England to have been dethroned and executed for gay couplehis homosexual relationship, he met Gaveston in childhood when Piers was made his companion by his father King Edward I. Their relationship soon developed a deep bond, and was disapproved of by his father, who sent Gaveston into exile. On being crowned as the king, he expedited the return of his beloved, and though King Edward II got married, his fondness and love for Piers never waned. King Edward II even agreed to his own powers being restricted by the Parliament, provided his favourite was not affected in any way. However, homosexuality wasn’t tolerated in Europe in the medieval times, and in 1312, Piers Gaveston was beheaded by the Earl of Warwick. In 1327, King Edward II was deposed from his royal dignity and imprisoned. Within eight months of his imprisonment, he was executed by having a red-hot meat-roasting spit shoved up his anus.

Leonardo da Vinci and Count Francesco Melzi- Leonardo-the greatest painter of all times-met Count Francesco Melzi in 1506 when he took him under his apprenticeship. Leonardo’s other relationship was with Gian Giacomo Caprotti da Oreno, nicknamed Salai , who remained his assistant and companion for nearly 30 years. However, it was Melzi who became his life companion and was beside him even during his last hours. In a letter, Melzi had described the closeness of their relationship as sviscerato et ardentissimo amore (“deeply felt and most ardent love”).

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon– Pioneers of gay movement in America, they met in 1950, and by 1952 had fallen in love with each other. Together they founded the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) in 1955, the first social and political organization for lesbians in the United States and also brought out The Ladder – the first overtly lesbian journal- in 1956. They were the first same-sex couples to whom marriage license was issued in 2004, and later in 2008, were the first couple to have legally married after the California Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal.  Three months after marriage, Del died at the age of 87 years; their relationship having sailed through 55 long and beautiful years.

Gay CoupleIsmail Merchant and James Ivory – This is one aspect of the Indian born film producer that you might not be aware of. Ismail Merchant met James in 1959 and formed Merchant Ivory Productions in 1961. They maintained a business as well as personal partnership for over 40 years, until Merchant’s death in 2005 at the age of 68. Their partnership has a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest partnership in independent cinema history.

Giorgio Armani and Sergio Galeotti – World renowned Italian designer, Armani changed the way the world clothed. He met Sergio Galeotti- an architect by profession and 11 years his junior- in 1966. Galeotti moved to Milan to be with his love. The duo formed their own company in 1975, and brand Armani redefined fashion. Tragedy struck Armani in 1985 when Galeotti died of AIDS related complications at the age of 40. In an interview with Vanity Fair in 2000, he remembered his love by saying: “It is he who gives me the strength even now to continue… He helped me believe in my own work, in my energy.”  In another interview in 2001, he was asked about the greatest failure of his career. “Perhaps the greatest failure,” he replied, “was not being able to stop my partner from dying.”

Domenico Dolce & Stefano Gabbana – The two met in the early 1980’s, when they were working for the same design studio in Milan, and soon Cupid struck them with his arrows. After leaving Milan in 1982, they decided to join forces and set up Dolce & Gabbana. They remained partners both in personal and business life for over 19 years. However, in 2005, the couple split up as lovers, though they continue to remain business partners. Indeed, as with straight people, not all love stories can stand the test of time.