It all began centuries ago, in Ancient Greek. The theme of love between two individuals of the same gender has been explored at different levels in literature, from Plato’s time, in Symposium. In time, persecution or opposition to homosexual orientation has expanded, so the members of the LGBT community used literature as a form of validation and understanding.
LGBT culture refers to incorporate lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender themes into literature using elements like including an LGBT character as a protagonist or explorations of sexuality and gender, outside the normal hetero side. This kind of fiction gives authors and readers the freedom to imagine societies that are different from real-life cultures and the freedom of examining sexual bias, by forcing the reader to reconsider his cultural assumptions.
Great English writers who adopted this theme in their creations, among others, are: Sir Francis Bacon, Samuel Butler, Lord Byron, T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf.
Difference between the genders
Are men and women really that different? When Orlando wakes up a woman, she looks at her body in a full-length mirror and slowly walks to her bath. She is not at all surprised by her outside change in gender, because she feels no different than she did before the change. When she lives in the gypsy camp in the hills of Turkey, away from society and civilization, Orlando’s sexuality plays no role in her life. But, when she travels on board the English ship, she immediately begins to feel the difference, because of the way that people react to her. From this, we learn that gender roles are not biological, but societal, and gender is an abstract concept imposed on people who live in society. We, as human, are influenced by it without even realizing it. When Orlando goes out into the night, dressed as a man, she finds herself taking on male actions.
„In every human being a vacillation from one sex to the other takes place, and often it is only the clothes that keep the male and female likeness, while underneath the sex is the very opposite of what it is above.”
In this passage it is suggested that gender identity is not fixed, but can change throughout life independently of biological makeup. Virginia woolf believes that sexes are intermixed and even though an individual may seem a woman, she may really have the qualities of a man. Maybe when society will allow the freedom of gender neutrality, maybe then people will be free as individuals to act according to their nature and personality.
In my opinion, the novel “Orlando” written by Virginia Woolf is a powerful example for the members of LGBT community nowadays, to find inspiration and motivation in a piece written almost a century ago. Due to its themes – differences between gender or cross dressing – this novel will survive time, because society it is not changed and the majority of people has the same superficial way of thinking.