Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin
queerbychoice

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Did You Wear Green on Thursday?

I've been reading the book Another Mother Tongue: Gay Words, Gay Worlds by Judy Grahn. It contains a lot of interesting material, but I also find myself continually frustrated by the lack of greater supporting evidence for the theories Judy Grahn comes up with about the supposedly ancient historical development of various modern queer traditions. The book is written in a very feel-good, "Look, it's okay to be gay and I'm going to prove it to you by telling you that purple and pinky rings and the word 'bulldyke' and a thousand other familiar aspects of gayness as you know it actually date back to thousands of years B.C.!" kind of tone, and it often feels to me like she's more interested in finding faintly plausible stories that make people feel good than in actually verifying whether they are true. But then again, it's hard to tell for sure sometimes without personally reading the sources she claims to have found for her information. So I wanted to conduct a little of my own research in this entry.

Judy Grahn says that once upon a time, back before the pale-skinned Celtic tribes arrived there, the British Isles were inhabited by a darker-skinned pagan tribal culture known as the Brownies or, alternately, the Fairies. The Fairies had no institution of marriage; people of both genders were free to have sex with multiple partners, and when babies were born, no one cared about trying to establish who was the father - all the men were happy to speculate that they might be, and to share the child among them. The Fairies were led by a Queen, and they also had such a thing as a King, but the Queen was the ruler with the real power and she was never permanently partnered with just one man. All of this information apparently comes from anthropologist Margaret Murray; Judy Grahn then additionally speculates that since the Fairies seem to have had such a sexually liberated and nonpatriarchal culture, they probably also valued and respected same-gender sex.

Apparently it was not until Shakespeare's time that people began to refer to the Fairies as being other than human. The idea of inventing mythical creatures and calling them Fairies may have been a way to obscure the real history of the Fairies and pretend it was not real, because the liberated customs of the Fairies were unsettling to the patriarchal cultures that had replaced the Fairies. Anyway, the mythical creatures called Fairies were endowed with some traits that had belonged to the real Fairies, including queer and genderqueer traits, and these traits were remembered sufficiently in the culture that the word "fairy" eventually became a slang term for queer men.

Grahn then goes on to explain that when she was in high school, there was a rumor perpetually whispered that if anybody wore green on a Thursday, that meant they were queer. She says she researched the Fairies and found out that they tended to wear green as the overwhelmingly most common color in their clothing, and that Thursday was their most important religious day, and that their religious ceremonies held on Thursdays included orgies, at which, presuming that Grahn was right about them having valued and respected same-gender sex, same-gender sex would have presumably been had.

For centuries after the Fairies had been conquered, Celtic witches' covens apparently met on Thursdays and carried on some of the Fairies traditions. Christianity, once it was invented and spread to England, was terribly threatened by these covens, and imposed extremely harsh penalties on anyone caught participating in them.

Judy Grahn asserts that the tradition in her high school that anyone who wore green on a Thursday, that meant they were queer, was derived from the fact that the Fairies wore green and had their queer religious orgies on Thursdays. I am having considerable difficulty believing this, for several reasons. First, because tracing any high school tradition back to B.C. times is just kind of automatically astounding. Second, because I previously heard a similar high school tradition from Frank Aqueno, who stated that the whispered rumor at his high school in New Jersey (during the same decade, the 1950s) was that if you wore yellow on Thursday, you were queer. I have some trouble with the idea that a tradition from B.C. times would cross 20+ centuries and the Atlantic Ocean to survive in perfect correctness at Judy Grahn's high school, only to have its colors mixed up a few hundred miles away at Frank Aqueno's high school. Besides, since I never heard anything of the kind at my high school, I'd personally assumed that it was a tradition specific to a particular part of the 20th century, and that it had already died out by the time I got to high school.

Grahn does acknowledge the fact that at some high schools the color was yellow, and that other high schools don't have such a tradition at all. She says, "I asked about five hundred people whether they knew of the taboo about wearing green on Thursday. About half of them remembered the prohibition from their own high school years. A few people reported variations. In one Kansas town, wearing green and pink together, especially on Thursday, branded a person as queer. Sixty miles away, the colors were green and yellow. From one Boston school a woman told me the formula was the wearing of orange and yellow together on a Thursday. In a small town in Idaho the color was yellow . . ." But she insists that "the most common by far is green on Thursday."

What I would like to do now is to check whether (a) such a tradition still exists at all; (b) green is actually the most common color; and (c) it also exists in the U.K., where, after all, it supposedly originated (if we're to believe Judy Grahn).

Poll #480559 The Green on Thursday Poll

Do you remember ever hearing any rumor that people who wore a particular color or combination of colors on a particular day of the week were queer?

yes
15(23.1%)
no
50(76.9%)

What color(s) was it?

green
11(25.0%)
yellow
2(4.5%)
orange
0(0.0%)
red
0(0.0%)
purple
0(0.0%)
blue
0(0.0%)
black
0(0.0%)
white
0(0.0%)
pink
0(0.0%)
brown
0(0.0%)
grey
0(0.0%)
other
0(0.0%)
not sure
0(0.0%)
not applicable
28(63.6%)

If you checked more than one box above, please clarify whether people were queer if they wore either color or only if they wore both colors together.

What day(s) of the week was it?

Thursday
13(28.9%)
Monday
1(2.2%)
Tuesday
0(0.0%)
Wednesday
0(0.0%)
Friday
0(0.0%)
Saturday
0(0.0%)
Sunday
0(0.0%)
not sure
2(4.4%)
not applicable
29(64.4%)

In what geographic location(s) did you attend high school? Or, if you remember hearing such a rumor in elementary school, middle school, college, or wherever else, record that geographic location here instead. And if you're reporting a rumor that someone told you existed at their school, record their school's geographic location.

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