History has taught us many things. Heresy was unwise in medieval times. If you were French and aristocratic the guillotine was not your friend. And invading Russia in winter is never a good idea.
It has also taught us that homosexuality has been around for millennia, and some historically iconic figures were very much besotted with their own sex.
But until now, these glimpses into the history of sexuality have been buried in books, diaries and the thoughts of those long gone.
And while the gay travel market has seen adventure travel and ocean cruise operators enjoying success in recent years, until now gay history has essentially been confined to the closet.
Happily, Oscar Wilde Tours has emerged under professor Andrew Lear to fill the void between modern ideas of sexuality and our gay forebears, revealing the relationship between cultural movements of the time and the birth of modern ideas of sexuality.
From the ancient world to Berlin in the roaring twenties, same-sex love has played a key role in many cultures, and great works of homoerotic art and literature have followed.
Lear is a renowned ancient historian, with a specialty in gay history, as well as having years of experience designing and leading tours across the US and Europe. For this seasoned practitioner it seemed only natural to create the world’s first company offering tours that are not only for gay people, but about gay history.
Oscar Wilde Tours’ inaugural journey, Oscar Wilde’s Dublin, London and Paris tour, is the first in a series of offerings that connect gay travellers with their own heritage.
“We’ve taken the concept of a typical cultural itinerary and given it our own twist,” said Lear. “It's a chance to see the past from the gay perspective.”
The tour follows the life of Oscar Wilde, exploring the broader culture of homosexuality at the end of the 19th century, when the conservative Victorian Era was changing, and more modern sexual attitudes were slowly developing.
The itinerary takes guests on a journey through the capitals of Ireland, England and France, and time-travels back to periods when sexual progressives were gaining a voice.
Scheduled for early October, the tour aims to take its guests to the key sites of gay history and focuses on some key historical figures. From Socrates to Noel Coward and Virginia Woolf, Oscar Wilde Tours bring these hidden stories to light.
Lear and his wealth of knowledge will accompany the itinerary, along with guest academics, plus authors and artists with gay expertise, who will deliver lectures and talks related to the theme of the tour.
The trip takes guests to rarely visited places with secret gay histories, such as Britain’s National Portrait Gallery, and Wilde’s rooms at Oxford.
Included also are hotels and restaurants that fit snugly into the luxury bracket. Oscar himself surely would have approved.
Oscar Wilde: The man who inspired the unique tours