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There's one part of me that just wants to squee on the theme of the title of this blog. But what I love about Mills' work here is that he puts the brakes on the emotional reaction that's inspired by wanting to "own" this piece of history, and he walks the reader step by step through what these images do and don't mean. The biggest part of that is that they mean a lot more than simply "here is a picture of two women or two men making love." Because sex never exists in a social vacuum.

Have you ever wondered about the image I used as the icon for this series? Maybe you weren’t even sure what is was depicting. I’ve been wanting to cover publications about the presentation of same-sex desire in visual arts in the pre-modern period for some time, but it isn’t a topic that’s received a lot of attention. And it isn’t always easy to determine what images are showing same-sex desire as opposed to same-sex interactions that were not, at that time, considered to be erotic or sexual. (For example, kissing was used as a non-sexual ritual in many different situations.)

This concludes the series of "tag essays" which were something of a byproduct of the process of adding brief descriptions to all the tags, plus an audit to identify and deal with duplicates, errors, and unused tags. The poetic categories show an interesting dichotomy. Among those poems and poets identified as writing about romantic love and desire, 75% are women. Among the poems and poets treating sexual activity more explicitly, only about 10% are women, though about 25% are anonymous.

This category of tags covers literary characters who are portrayed as being in intense or romantic friendships with other women where there is no overt erotic component and typically where they are not living as a committed couple. Check out the permanent page if you want to follow up on links to the publications that discuss these works.

The current installment of working through the People/Publication/Event tags is a somewhat uncomfortable topic. One of the ways in which lesbian desire has been dismissed in literature (and then used to "prove" that lesbian behavior is sick or evil) is to take the trope of an asymmetric desiring/desired pairing and frame it as inherently non-consensual and abusive. The reasoning goes something like this. Lesbian desire always exists between an "abnormal" desiring woman and a "normal" desired woman.

This finishes up the literary works that feature cross-dressing and gender disguise. These works may involve a number of other themes as well. Keep in mind that these tag essays are meant to identify thematic groups, but individual stories are rarely simple. In particular, if cross-dressing opens the window to an enduring love once a disguised woman's gender is revealed, or if the personal interactions within the disguise have more of a predatory flavor than an erotic one, then I've placed works on those more specific categories.

When we shift from historic individuals to literary figures, there's a corresponding shift in the emphasis within types of motifs. The reasons women might choose to pass as men in real life were often economic or practical. In literature, there must be a reason that is important to the plot. Given how (relatively) common it was in real life, cross-dressing to join the military is fairly rare in fiction, outside of the specific genre of "female cabin boy" ballads.

I've written up a new set of tag descriptions. You can find the permanent page with access to the tag-links here. For reasons of internal website structure, this is going to duplicate the content of that tag essay to get it into the blog feed. (Life is complicated.) But you'll now find that permanent page in the LHMP drop-down menu.

The season of people posting their "top 10" or "10 favorite" for the past year is a bit fraught for authors. There's always the hope that maybe, just maybe, your work will have been among someone's favorites, or considered by someone to have been among the best of whatever category it is they're considering. For those of us whose work falls outside the popular categories, and when that work came out at the very end of the year when most people have already drawn up their lists, it's best just to close our hearts and move on.

Working through setting up the tag pages is taking longer than expected, so I'm going to do this in smaller chunks. I'll present each chunk in a blog entry then put them together into the permanent "tag essay" page when I have each group collected up. Why does it take so much work? Here's my process:

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