Won’t Be a Ghost

Scene 5

From this trove of Renaissance imagery that the queer cultural references to St. Sebastian expand exponentially. Here are just a few examples.

Shakespeare uses the name Sebastian in two plays, both for plots wherein female characters dress as men, and find their androgyny enchants characters of all genders. Oscar Wilde took the name Sebastian Melmoth as his alias when he fled England. In certain Victorian circles, to hint you were an acolyte of St. Sebastian would have been as widely understood a homo code as “friend of Dorothy.” Evelyn Waugh’s Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead Revisited or Tennessee William’s Sebastian Venable in Suddenly, Last Summer, are both decadent and grotesque examples of the queered saint. “In your orange shirt you look like a better, happier St. Sebastian,” Frank O’hara tells his lover in the poem “Having a Coke with You.” During the AIDS crisis, gay artists reconnected with the Saint’s history as protector against the plague. The HIV+ performance artist, Ron Athey, embodied both the saint’s suffering and healing power in a BDSM-inspired performance titled, Sebastian Suspended.



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