Following on from my Mayflower 400 article two weeks ago I thought I’d bring you my Olympic 427. On 20th November I wrote that I had identified and listed my 400th lgbt Olympian (Anna Kjellbin, Swedish ice hockey player at the 2012 Olympic Youth Winter games in Innsbruck).
Shortly after I had added her to the list I came across a blog which gave many more names of lgbt Olympians, though there were no verifying sources. As with any other list that I find, whether it’s on social media or forum, I make sure I can find at least one online source that gives a definite indication of sexuality or gender identity. Quite often photos of an athlete’s wedding ceremony on social media is all I need. There are still about a hundred athletes I am still researching. There are also several Olympians who have been claimed as being lgbt but I have my doubts over the sources I have consulted.
There are two people I have not put on my list who are both worth mentioning. One is an openly lgbt Olympian who, I believe, has been misidentified. First, an Olympian I do not believe was lgbt, despite being identified as such in some places.
Robert Graves (1895-1985). This esteemed British poet entered the Mixed Literature category of the Art competition at the 1924 Paris Olympics. The Art competitions, which included music, sculpture and writing, were a part of the Olympics until 1948. Each entry had to have a sporting connection. Medals were awarded, as they were in the sports. They are still recognised by the IOC. Robert Graves’ entry into the 1924 games was a poem called “At the Games”. He didn’t win a medal.
Robert Graves is one of those individuals whose sexuality has been questioned and misinterpreted since his death. Let’s examine his attitude towards homosexuality as he expressed in his writings. Robert made a distinction between what he called “amourousness” and “eroticism”. Amourousness was the attraction and intimacy of youth and early puberty. Eroticism was the full sexual, physical and emotional love and attraction between adult couples.
The armouroursness as defined by Robert Graves was common in English public schools (confusingly, public schools were private and not state-run), of which the most famous are Eton, Harrow, and the school Robert Graves attended, Charterhouse. Hundreds of ex-public school pupils have written or spoken of sexual experiences between classmates. The majority of them became exclusively and genuinely heterosexual after leaving school, Robert Graves included. I do not consider the sexual experimentation of public schoolboys enough to justify labelling any of them as gay or bisexual.
Robert Graves admitted in his biographical writings to several intimate or platonic love relationships with several boys when he was at Charterhouse. He even noted paedophilic activities of several teachers. In his writings after leaving school Robert wrote that most boys, himself included, grew out of “this perversion”, as he described it and was the attitude he held towards homosexuality in general for the rest of his life. In effect, he was a blatant homophobe.
Last year the organisers of the LGBT History Month here in the UK included Robert Graves in their “Faces of 2019”. Half of the brief biography they gave was an attempt to manipulate his homophobic remarks into an indication that he was bisexual, and read more like political criticism of the public school system. I wrote to the organisers to point out their inaccurate assumption. I heard nothing from them, and Robert Graves remained on the website. Increasingly, I am convinced that the organisers of the UK LGBT History Month are more interested in party political activism than they are in revealing any factual history.
The second Olympian who isn’t on the list, but was very definitely openly gay, may be a victim of misidentification.
Count Robert de Montesquiou-Fézensac (1855-1921). Count Robert was a French poet, art collector, aesthete and dandy. Many websites and Olympic lists mention that he won a bronze medal in one of the equestrian events at the 1900 Paris Olympics. I believe they have named the wrong man.
Let’s go to the primary source of the 1900 Olympics, the official report. Below is a reproduction of page 291 which gives the results of the equestrian contests. Underlined in red is the only reference to the name Montesquiou in the whole report.As you can see the report only gives an aristocratic title with no personal name. This indicates to me that it does not refer to Count Robert de Montesquiou-Fézensac.
Even though France was a republic and di not officially recognise aristocratic titles many aristocrats still used them unofficially and were often recognised outside France. Indeed, the title of the creator of the modern Olympic movement, Pierre de Tardy, Baron de Coubertin, was not officially recognised under French law.
Robert de Montesquiou-Fézensac was a Count by inheritance but he was not a Marquis, as the Olympic report mentions. The titles of Count and Marquis are not the same. Marquis is a higher rank. Robert’s title was one which belonged to all members of his family (he was A Count but not THE Count), while there could only be one Marquis de Montesquiou-Fézensac at any one time. To call Count Robert a Marquis is like calling Kamala Harris the next US President (at the moment!). Count Robert would never have insulted the real Marquis by assuming his title, because there was an actual Marquis de Montesquiou-Fézensac alive at the time, and I doubt the official report would have got it wrong.
The Marquis de Montesquiou-Fézensac was from a senior bloodline of the family. The family tree below shows you how Count Robert de Montesquiou-Fézensac was related to the Marquis, the man I am convinced is the person listed in the official Olympic report.
Another reason why I don’t think Count Robert competed in the Olympics is the fact that he is known to have had no interested in horses. He didn’t even take part in the regular family hunts. Why would a man who wasn’t interested in horses enter an Olympic equestrian event?
One final reason to support my theory is that the 1965 biography “Robert de Montesquiou-Fézensac: A Prince of the Nineties” by Phillippe Jullian there is no mention of any Olympics Games. Surely, winning an Olympic bronze medal is significant enough to include in a biography.
And so those are two people who are not on my lgbt Olympian list. Which brings me onto the lists of verified lgbt athletes at the Olympics Games. The lists are below, one list for the summer Olympians and another for the winter Olympians.
All that remains is for me to wish you a Happy New Year.