What Makes a Caveman Gay?

People, historically, do a lot of things. There were artists, construction workers, community leaders, religious figures, bakers,  and families, even way back when in the days of cavemen. But a recent discovery has triggered a new question: were there gay cavemen? And did they find one? Does being buried ‘like a girl’ make you a gay dude? And also, wait, what?

Salon did a good overview of the discovery of what was rumored to be “a gay caveman.”

What, you ask, led to such an intimate conclusion about a 5,000-year-old who was “outed by the way he was buried”? Did he have an especially neat cave? Was he laid to rest with a rainbow flag and some military discharge papers? Did the markings on his grave look like they were done by Tom of Finland? No, it was because he “was buried in a manner “normally reserved only for women.” Buried like a woman. That’s so gay!

Back in the day 2,900 to 2,500 years ago, when the man Fox News called a“stone age gender bender” shuffled off the mortal coil, the ladyfolk were laid to rest facing east, accompanied by such domestic knickknacks as jewelry and pottery. Dudes, on the other hand, met their maker facing west, accompanied by manly gear like weapons, tools, a copy of Maxim and a can of Axe body spray. And as the Telegraph  explained in its report on the “first homosexual caveman,” this guy was pushing daisies facing east, with a couple of jugs for company on the journey to the afterlife.

will being buried in this make me gay?

So here you have a man buried like a woman with womanly things for entertaining people in the afterlife, right? So, is he gay? Well, the thing is, he’s dead, so you can’t ask him. And what makes that the first question?

The reality is that this gender bending does indicate something surprising and interesting, at least from this vantage point. This is the first time this has happened! So THAT’S exciting. And it must, or probably does, indicate some sort of difference, so THAT’S exciting. But again- he’s dead, and you can’t ask him. So why is this the first question? And why are the other options: that he was a “third gender” or something culturally similar, that this is a burial tradition simply not discovered yet by archaeologists, that this person was the equivalent of trans*, or that this is irrelevant or an accident, being ignored?

The controversy over a “gay caveman” is just that, a controversy. In the end, it’s pretty magnificently silly, and until it’s been backed up by other discoveries, it’s kind of just a side note anyway. But hey, what do you want to be buried with? I’m going to set aside my lace-up boots like Sid Vicious. Do you think they’ll know I’m gay?

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Carmen spent six years at Autostraddle, ultimately serving as Straddleverse Director, Feminism Editor and Social Media Co-Director. She is now the Consulting Digital Editor at Ms. and writes regularly for DAME, the Women’s Media Center, the National Women’s History Museum and other prominent feminist platforms; her work has also been published in print and online by outlets like BuzzFeed, Bitch, Bust, CityLab, ElixHER, Feministing, Feminist Formations, GirlBoss, GrokNation, MEL, Mic and SIGNS, and she is a co-founder of Argot Magazine. You can find Carmen on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr or in the drive-thru line at the nearest In-N-Out.

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  1. This was a very interesting read but, as you said, fairly insignificant until there is more evidence or something to prove that he was gay. Until then I don’t find it necessary to even call it a gay issue becuase there could’ve been a number of possibilities as to why he was buried in this manner. The fact is we will probobly never know.

    “The controversy over a “gay caveman” is just that, a controversy.”

    I like this sentence because it tells it like it is. The problem I am having with this is why does it automatically get categorised as a “gay issue”? What if they just messed up and burried him in this way by mistake. We see it all time people and cavemen alike make mistakes. Surely somewhere in the world this has happened at one time or another where someone ended up in the wrong grave by mistake.

    I am reminded of a story I read about a little boy that wanted to dress up as a girl for halloween. The boys mother supported him on this and when he went to school in his costume, all of the other mothers were asking questions to the mother and making rude comments and ugly faces becuase they felt she was promoting his gayness. Or insinuating that she was gonna turn him gay. If this child turns out to be gay, I hardly believe that his mom supporting his wishes and desires was the reason. With that said, why do people always categorise these issues as one thing or another when they don’t have all the facts? I blame it on influence of society, becuase even though we don’t have the supporting evidence, our minds take the majority of us in one direction.

    I wish there was an on/off switch to change this way of thinking. Thankyou for posting this. Its nice to know I’m not the only one who analyses information before I decide it’s gay.

    • Unfortunately, this AS snippet doesn’t answer all the questions. A few other articles I found were more detailed.

      The “scientists” in charge of this dig (for whom I lose all credibility since this is a MAJOR blunder for any anthropologist to commit; NEVER ASSUME ANYTHING) said that they came to their conclusions because they have a large population to sample and this male-buried-as-woman could not be a mistake because of how detailed the burial was. i.e. Everything was arranged appropriately for a woman to be buried. This included numerous household and domestic items that were buried ONLY with women (they liked to emphasize this point ad nauseum).

      Which is fine and dandy. This isn’t the first time that there have been gender-confusions in the archaeological record. The reason that this is such a big friggin’ deal is because the researches have declared the specimen to be “gay”. Or maybe trans. Whatever. They don’t really care.

      I will agree that this isn’t really a “gay” issue. The issue with the horrible sense of scientific rigour in automatically assigning someone’s cultural identity when it can never ever be assumed under proper scrutiny.

  2. Thank you! I’ve been waiting for AS to do their take on this story.

    As a bioanthropology student (this is my shit, yo), I was screaming internally for hours over this story. This is exactly what my profs warned us about – don’t assume ANYTHING because of the sex of the skeleton. i.e. Males bones do not mean “man”. With that same token, how on earth can we assume that the biological sex of the bones has anything to do with this person’s cultural identity? It doesn’t.

    The most likely theories from this would be that this male lived as a woman (yay trans!), or, equally likely, participated in woman-gender roles because he was incapable of performing man-gender tasks (like hunting). Of course, there were no remarks on any physical deformities, but that does not rule out mental limitations to participate in man-stuff.

    Also, I’d like to add that in this same archaeo-population, there was a female buried in full warrior regalia. WHERE ARE THE ARTICLES OF OUR FIRST BUTCH CAVEWOMAN??? Is she automatically a lesbian because she used swords and spears instead of pots and pans? No, of course not, because everyone knows that a female is equally capable of performing traditional male tasks in any society. So then why is it that a man automatically has to be gay to have the same roles as a woman?

    So much outrage from all facets of my life: Bioanthropologist, feminist, queerist, WOMAN. Just…grr.

    • Maybe the butch cavewoman was this guy’s cavewife and she told him “screw cavechores it’s your turn to handle this shit now, imma go hunt mammoths with my buddies” and they actually were the first feminist couple EVAR.

      I don’t care what the anthropologists say, I’m gonna believe this is the true version from now on.

    • She may have been a bad-ass warrior, but could she assemble an IKEA bookcase in thirty seconds or less?

  3. I want to be buried with the AS calender (April 2011, or whatever)
    Also I read somewhere on the awsomeness we call internet, there are caskets in rainbow colours!
    Too much?

  4. these gay cavemen are the demise of our society. painting all them caves, making bison sandwiches with the wimmenz. ITS OOGA AND BOOGA, not OOGA and STEVE.

    all they needed was the light of jesus to——-oh wait.

  5. maybe pots and pans were his weapons of choice, jackie chan has beaten the crap out of people with pots and pans. joking aside i love this discovery. Regardless of his sexuality it just provides more evidence that there has always been fluidity. proving that our stiving for more recognition is not a “modern phenomena.” The luxury of heterosexual norms have always been outside of some people’s experience. I am considering a different take on the flintstones now.

  6. My first thought was “maybe his lady love went missing and they never thought the body and he died of heartbreak and then they buried him with her things because they couldn’t bury them together, and facing east because that was where she was last seen so maybe he could wait for her even in death.” My second thought was that I’m a little morbid. :/

  7. A bit more info for those who are curious.
    From the link:
    “”We believe this is one of the earliest cases of what could be described as a ‘transsexual’ or ‘third gender grave’ in the Czech Republic,” the Czech Position newspaper quoted archaeologist Katerina Semradova as saying at the press conference.
    2010: Fossils of aquatic lizard found
    Proud to be ‘Born This Way’

    What followed were dozens of headlines from international news organizations declaring that a “gay caveman” had been found.”

  8. Just the headline (not autostraddle’s but wherever I saw it originally) had me rolling my eyes.

  9. Luckily I’m not a scientist, so when I see something like this, I can just think it’s interesting.

    • i’m a sociology student so my job is to basically look at everything then call it a social construct and feel good about myself.

      now “graves” and “sexuality” and “cavemen” are all social constructs…

    • Diver, totally unrelated to this thread, but was wondering if you had read my comment back to you in the NSFW Sunday article – you left the comment after midnight on April 11.

  10. I also read this article from my social psychology dork page! I actually forwarded it to AS not so much because it claimed anyone was gay….but because it was interesting to see some ancient artifacts supporting some possibly different views on gender! It definately drew some loose connections, but it was still interesting!

  11. Pingback: Autostraddle — What Makes a Caveman Gay? | MyGaySpot

  12. ah, yes. because every biological male with any sort of feminine markings likes men. all those boys at my middle school who wore pink? gay. every man who spends more than 30 seconds on his hair? loves dudes. and of course there aren’t any gay men who play sports or drive trucks or whatever it is ‘real’ men do.

    what’s most frustrating to me is that this GENDER reversal is read as homosexuality, which says that homosexuality is still seen on some level as ‘gender inversion’ and that people still aren’t getting the separation of the two.

  13. Did anyone else read this title to the tune of “What makes the Red Man Red?” from Peter Pan?
    Okay, just me then. Go back to your non-Disney infused lives, my lovely queers.

  14. Thanks terracottatoes for the link.

    ‘The takeaway from the viral reporting? “Don’t talk to British tabloids,” ‘
    Ain’t that the truth.

  15. Now I’m just all thinking about the relationship role dynamics in cave times and wondering if this was indeed some effeminate gay man, did he like, have a butch gay boyfriend?
    Like, would one gay dude pass up the chick by the side of the fire and whack the cutey little guy next to her in the head and drag him back to a cave?
    Do we have confirmation that the butch warrior lesbian cave woman was a top?

    Come on, surely there’s more ways to look at this evidence and impose all kinds of social positioning bullshit, why stop at gay/trans? Why not go full monty and make believe about a prehistoric Birdcage prequel?

  16. One of my first thoughts when I heard about this was: what if he was buried that way as some kind of eternal punishment?

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