Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Astronomy [II, 5]

From earliest recorded history human beings have construed the patterns of the night sky in terms of human interests, persons, and passions. Occasionally, these projections have a homosexual implication.

In classical antiquity the constellation Aquarius was interpreted as representing Ganymede, the cupbearer and lover of Zeus. Gradually this identification became forgotten. In 1609 the German astronomer Simon Marius named one of the four satellites of Jupiter (in the Roman pantheon, the equivalent of Zeus) after Ganymede. The name is still used.

In the lore of astrology the conjunction of Mercury (male) and Venus (female) presided over same-sex attraction. Michelangelo is one who believed in this determination of his nature.

Karl Heinrich Ulrichs (1825-1895), the pioneering German advocate of gay rights, adapted Plato’s invocation of Aphrodite Urania, the Heavenly Venus, to produce a new term for gay men: Urnings. In English this term became uranian. While there is no direct etymological connection with the planet Uranus, a connotative link exists.

In 2005 it was learned that a new asteroid is to be named after a transvestite gypsy folk singer from Bulgaria. The asteroid, also bearing the designation 2005 UT12, was spotted in the Taurus constellation by Bulgarian astronomers, with the help of scientists from Spain and Britain,. A spokesperson for the Bulgarian team said: "We want to name the asteroid after the folk singer Azis, who is quite famous here." Azis is a controversial figure in the conservative country as he is openly homosexual, and a political campaigner for the rights of the minority Roma population.

Some science-fiction writers, including Samuel R. Delany, Ursula LeGuin, and Theodore Sturgeon, have used fictional societies on other planets as vehicles for exploring alternative same-sex arrangements.

In the nineteenth century the eccentric socialist thinker Charles Fourier (1772-1837) imagined that the planets in their orbits were interacting sexually. Although Fourier was interested in same-sex love, it is not clear if he applied the concept in this interest. Presumably as Mercury and Venus passed each other the connection would be heterosexual. For Jupiter and Saturn, both males, it would be homosexual.

The term attraction refers both to astronomical bodies and to human bodies.


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