“Was Oscar Wilde gay?”
That’s a question I hear a lot. In fact, after explaining any part of Wilde’s background to my friends, it’s the first question most of them ask. Was Wilde homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, or what?
Wilde was married to a beautiful woman, he had two fantastic sons, and he was outrageously successful. To an outside observer, he had just about everything a heterosexual man could possibly want. On the other hand, Wilde had a slew of male lovers, a long-time partner found in Alfred “Bosie” Douglas, and throngs of adoring men who (practically) worshipped the ground he walked on. In other words, he had just about everything a homosexual man could possibly want.
That’s where the issues enter in.
Some of Wilde’s writings seem to convey his love for women–especially writings from early on in his marriage. While other writings of his seem to say the opposite–the majority of his writings to all of his lovers. Wilde was obviously willing to marry a woman, but was that for social or political reasons, or did he actually love Constance?
During the infamous court trials (the third and final one to be exact), Oscar was asked to explain “The Love that dare not speak its name,” (a line written by a 20-something year old Bosie in the year prior), and Wilde’s response was as such:
“The Love that dare not speak its name” in this century is such a great affection of an elder for a younger man as there was between David and Jonathan. […] It is that deep, spiritual affection that is as pure as it is perfect. […] It is in this century misunderstood, so much misunderstood that it may be described as the “Love that dare not speak its name,” and on account of it I am placed where I am now. It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection. There is nothing unnatural about it. It is intellectual, and it repeatedly exists between an elder and a younger man, when the elder man has intellect, and the young man has all the joy, hope and glamour of life before him. That it should be so the world does not understand. The world mocks it and sometimes puts one in the pillory for it.
Most authors and researchers seem to have already made up their mind on the topic, though. The vast majority says that Wilde was homosexual, and that he was merely repressing his feelings toward men for the sake of marrying Constance and making an attempt at a “normal” family for that era in time. A few researchers claim he was bisexual, but with strong homosexual leanings (about a 5.5 on the Kinsey Scale–give or take), but my views are this: Wilde loved whom he loved, and that’s that. By placing external labels of sexuality on Wilde’s love and affections, we’re only devaluing the feelings he felt for those incredibly special people in his life; “The Love that dare not speak its name” that Wilde felt is pure and perfect. And that’s without an outside observer placing their own definition on it.