1685-1759

Given Handel's exalted status and the unwritten rule that no star in the classical galaxy may be homosexual, it is hardly surprising that scholarly investigation into Handel's sexuality has met with resistance.

In Handel's case, homosexual panic set in early. Even biographers in his own time appear troubled about this celebrity's apparent lack of interest in women. He never married but did spend a great deal of time in private, all-male social circles. That Handel himself maintained strict silence about his private life only fuelled suspicions of homosexuality, leading scholars and critics over the years to a general "don't ask, don't tell" policy. [link]

So was George Frideric Handel gay? The answer can only be inferred from primary sources since Handel never openly admitted that he was gay, and for an obvious historical reason too: the origin of the word “homosexual” (prior to its subsequent conflations with the word “gay”) dates back only to 1868, more than 100 years after Handel died. The polarization of “heterosexual/homosexual” did not come to signify a specific medical distinction until the 1890s, while its modern political values only crystallized during the first half of the 20th century. Handel could not have subscribed to a position or an identity of queerness since activities that we might deem as homosexual today would have lacked a name. [link]

A painted portait of Handel looking over sheets of music.