gentlemen of the backdoor
The third piece of the series investigates a number of different euphemisms used in England in the 18th century to describe homosexual men and their activities.
‘Backgammon Players’ became slang for homosexuals as a pun on the game. The name ‘backgammon’, etymologically, taking its roots in the 10th century; backside, slang for ones behind/ass, and gammon, the lower, or hind part of a pig, bacon. Describing a game in which one of the players are likely to be sent backwards, and one forwards. Besides the obvious crude sodomitical metaphor.
The term later evolved into ‘Gentlemen of the Backdoor’, which takes root in the idea that during times of prosecution, one of the agents of a homosexual affair would have to sneak in and out of the backdoor to ensure their activities were not caught sight of. This kind of concealment was essential to homosexual men from this period in England as the prosecution they would face under the buggery act of Henry the 8th was wither 10 years imprisonment or punishable by death.
‘Faggot’ was a word once used to describe a bundle of sticks on which accused sodomites were burnt to death.
Other legend describe its origin where the Young, weak, effeminate boys of public boys schools of England were referred to as ‘faggots’. They were sent out into the grounds, whilst the more ‘masculine’ boys played sports, to collect ‘faggot sticks’ - kindling. It was there that they would be sexually abused by the school-masters and elder pupils.
‘Ganymede’, or ‘Loathsome Ganymede’ was a typical term to describe a hairless, effeminate boy queer. Often depicted with a cockerel in his hands. A ‘chicken’ was also an underage boy.