Leo Maher

Fruit bowl part of Unfamiliar Passions, mixed media sculpture, 2021.

The first piece of the series explores numerable identifiers employed by the ancient greeks and the romans. It is with these identifiers that these former civilisations would be able to recognise a homosexual.

Two and a half millennia ago, the Ancient Greeks had a name for the homosexual man: ‘physiognomics’. They would identify them as having; unsteady eyes, knock knees, palms up, wrists loose and having two styles of walking: waggling his hips, or keeping them very under control.

From a similar period in time, the Romans, referring to them as ‘homo-delicatus’, described them as having their beards plucked and thighs smooth; with a hand on the hip and scratching the head with only one finger, often wearing violet and dressed with white leather boots to the knee or shin.
Ancient Roman pedagogical practices discouraged limp-wrists from male scholars during public speaking. The limpness to them suggested a general lack of control over the body; something anti-masculine.

This lineage between homosexuality and limp-wristedness resurge again come the 18th century where homosexuals are identified with effeminate traits; women of the period would dress in corsets and tight dresses that would restrict their body movements so that the only limb or joint they were left able to gesture with was their wrist.

And again in 2012 we see the media outraged by a sermon given by Pastor Sean Harris in Berean Baptist Church in North Carolina where he instructs all of the parents of the parishioners, the moment they see their son “dropping the limp wrist” to “walk over there and crack that wrist”- so beat the sexual immorality from their child.

We are able to identify the footholds of an identifying mechanism from over two thousand years ago fold and unfold itself throughout time until finding itself still woven into the cloth our societies today.

© Leo Maher

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