Around 30 C.E., there was a woman in Konya, Turkey who, as was normative for her gender at the time, was socially repressed; although she’s known for ultimately becoming a Christian heroine, her story may be viewed through a lesbian lens to allow us to learn more of LGBT history.
During her time, arranged marriages were incredibly common – she was actually paired off for marriage by her family. Not being interested in the arranged marriage, however, she decided to make an escape but cutting off her hair and dressing like a man, and subsequently running off to join what we today call a convent.
She joined this convent and became a Christian heroine, practicing celibacy and becoming a nun. Thereafter she was a very important woman. Her life can be viewed as more than just that of a Christian heroine, though. Some significant components of her story are that she cut off all her hair and dressed like a male. This represents a very interesting way of handling a situation – a woman would go to these lengths to solve a problem like this only if she was comfortable enough to do it.
Moreover, we know that during the development of western civilization, lesbians were hiding out in convents for survival; with no way to be financially independent or make a living for themselves, the only thing to do to get away from men was to joint the convent. Thus, for thousands of years, same-sex oriented women had been living in convents and building relationships with each other in lieu of being forced into heterosexual marriages.
The importance of this story of convent women is that it teaches us that LGBT individuals have always existed – although they were not referred to with the terminology that we have today, LGBT people definitely existed, and so too did same-sex eros. This story is one component of a history in which LGBT people learn to adapt and survive in oppressive societies, gaining resilience and strength along the way. Even though there were traumas involved in LGBT history that have been passed down today, by learning our history we can have pride in the knowledge that we’ve been around for centuries and our ancestors have paved the way for us today.