The flamboyant Lyautey made no secret of his admiration for young men. In fact, he went so far as to claim that he could not work with men unless he had sex with them first. Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau noted that Lyautey was "an admirable, courageous man, who has always had balls between his legs—even when they weren’t his own."
Though Lyautey showed clear preferences for handsome young officers as companions, he never promoted their careers unfairly, and so maintained the loyalty of the soldiers under his command. They suppressed their personal feelings about his sexuality in appreciation of his abilities as a soldier, administrator, and leader.
Historian Robert Aldrich, in Colonialism and Homosexuality, makes the case that gay men such as Lyautey were ideal administrators for the colonial powers. Because they were unable to live their lives freely in mother countries that shunned and repressed them, they were generally more interested than their heterosexual counterparts in learning about new languages, religions, and cultures, and were excited by the sexual opportunities opened up to them in countries that didn’t impose the sexual constraints of moralistic Europe.
Source: Queers in History by Keith Stern
Colonialism and Homosexuality by Robert Aldrich
Paperback: 464 pages
Publisher: Routledge (December 25, 2002)
Amazon: Colonialism and Homosexuality
Amazon Kindle: Colonialism and Homosexuality
Colonialism and Homosexuality is a thorough investigation of the connections of homosexuality and imperialism from the late 1800s - the era of 'new imperialism' - until the era of decolonization. Robert Aldrich reconstructs the context of a number of liaisons, including those of famous men such as Cecil Rhodes, E.M. Forster or André Gide, and the historical situations which produced both the Europeans and their non-Western lovers.
Colonial lands, which in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century included most of Africa, South and Southeast Asia and the islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans and the Caribbean, provided a haven for many Europeans whose sexual inclinations did not fit neatly into the constraints of European society.
Each of the case-studies is a micro-history of a particular colonial situation, a sexual encounter, and its wider implications for cultural and political life. Students both of colonial history, and of gender and queer studies, will find this an informative read.
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