Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel (Courtesy of the Artists, for The Art Newspaper)

Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel (Courtesy of the Artists, for The Art Newspaper)

Oscar Wilde has been the metaphorical patron saint for gay artists for over a century, but a planned art exhibit is coming close to a full canonization. Unveiling this September, the “Oscar Wilde Temple” will be installed in the Church of the Village in New York City.

Artists “McDermott & McGough” will create a temporary chapel inside the Methodist church as a memorial to celebrity homosexuals over the last century. The purpose of the temple is to reflect on historic “homophobia.” This must be in church history somewhere, and undoubtedly the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, spoke on it often.

Their endeavor is supported by a crowd of gay activists and supporters, such as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center of New York. Likely they had to take time off their routine church work on altar guilds and visitation of shut-ins to do this.

McDermott, McGough & friends will create visual eulogies to homosexuals of the past who died by various means. It’s true that some were harshly treated at the hands of the state, but so were straight people in a time of hangings and hard service. None of these candidates for gay sainthood died as Christians; at least, it is never mentioned.

A four-foot statue of Wilde is planned as the center of interest for this pop-up church. Paintings in a Victorian Aesthetic style (which Wilde embodied) will supply more information. Note the halo hovering over Wilde, so we can know what the new “holy” looks like.

Candidates for sainthood

The star of this show is Oscar Wilde. Dying young in 1900 after a debauched life, he deserted his wife and children for a series of men. Still, Wilde was entertaining and a great read. His brilliance left the world sympathetic to his asserted mistreatment at the hands of the state. Oscar admitted he was imprisoned for attempting to jail his young lover’s father, the Marquis of Queensberry, in a slander suit. He also lied about his age under oath. The case ran aground.

Evidence out of Wilde’s lawsuit caused him to be arrested and imprisoned for two years. Wilde was only charged with “gross indecency,” not the more serious charge of buggery, although a host of lower-class boys testified they were paid prostitutes for him. Wilde didn’t live long after, but used his remaining time on earth to rekindle affairs with Lord Alfred Douglas and other younger men. But he made an eloquent defense at his trial, idealizing love between men so well that it is used by gay rights activist to this day. An inspiration for us all!

Among the candidates for gay sainthood are Marsha P. Johnson, Brandon Teena, Alan Turing and Harvey Milk. Johnson was a drag queen, gay prostitute and activist. He/she is renowned for heroic acts in the Stonewall Riots of 1969. History records him as: throwing a shot glass while screaming “I got my civil rights” and dropping “a heavy object into the windshield of a police car.” For gay activists, this is akin to participation in the Revolutionary War, and constitutes a noble fighting corps.

Brandon Teena (left) & "Marsha" Johnson (right) Transvestite

Brandon Teena (left) & “Marsha” Johnson (right), transvestite

Johnson was “hailed as the saint of Christopher Street” or site of Stonewall Inn. She/he attended churches, temples, and “made Santeria offerings” to water spirits. At age 46, Johnson was found drowned in the Hudson River. Police ruled it suicide, but gay activists insisted that wasn’t possible. Musician “Anohni” was so inspired by Marsha’s life that she wrote religiously worded plays, such as “The Ascension of Marsha P. Johnson.” Their assertions and Marsha’s close relation to Stonewall (their Mecca) explain her appearance in this new Methodist Empyrean.

Brandon Teena, a young woman identifying as a man, was raped and later killed by two young thugs. It isn’t clear if it had anything to do with her sexual issues, because they slaughtered everyone in the home except a toddler. In this horrific crime, the only one lamented is Teena (Brandon). If being incarcerated or murdered qualifies for beatification, there’s a backlog of billions waiting for this Christian hall of honor.

Harvey Milk was shot by a disgruntled employee, Dan White – but that hasn’t stopped the laudations for dying while homosexual. Milk was the first openly gay official in San Francisco, and the victim of another city supervisor, Dan White. White was chiefly gunning for San Francisco’s mayor, George Moscone (straight and married) who refused to restore his job to him. White also had several targets in mind, so this was not about being gay. But movements need myths and martyrs.

Harvey Milk, one of the many honors this gay SF official gained after death

Harvey Milk and one of the many honors this gay San Francisco official gained after death

Milk had already been given the Medal of Freedom, and U.S. postage stamps were issued with his likeness during the reign of Obama. Half of San Francisco is renamed in his honor, and California holds a “Harvey Milk Day.” This is despite his proven acts of statutory rape, a common occupation for a high percentage of older gay men. Milk’s personal belongings lay in San Francisco’s GLBT History Museum. Perhaps some will be sent for veneration in the “Oscar Wilde Temple.”

All of the above are called “martyrs of homophobia,” but perhaps the only candidate who was truly mistreated by the state was British cryptanalyst Alan Turing. A true war hero, he significantly helped Allies unravel German code, and undoubtedly helped win the war. Turing volunteered his sex life to police, and was fiercely prosecuted, although there was no evidence of prostitution or underaged boys. He was forced to accept chemical castration as an alternative to prison, and later killed himself. Turing was a confirmed atheist.

Statue of Alan Turing by Stephen Kettle at Bletchley Park – built from half a million pieces of Welsh slate (photo: Antoine Taveneaux CC BY-SA 3.0)

Statue of Alan Turing by Stephen Kettle at Bletchley Park – built from half a million pieces of Welsh slate (photo: Antoine Taveneaux CC BY-SA 3.0)

But atheism should not be a problem to either artists or the clergy at Church of the Village. David McDermott’s art statement included this: “The Temple is to be a place free of religious doctrine, honoring a watershed historical figure who pioneered the long struggle for equal rights for gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgender people” (insert gay rhetoric).

This torrent of religious terminology was co-opted by gay activists decades ago. McDermott & McGough are having so much fun playing church that they likened their paintings of Wilde’s arrest and imprisonment to “Stations of the Cross.” If nothing else, they’re sticking to the theme, whether it’s believable or not.

This is old hat for the Church of the Village, as hyping homosexuality is an entrenched part of its call. For Holy Week, their website opened with this: “An Open Letter to the UMC from the United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus, April 16, 2017, Easter Sunday.”

Queer clergy will likely be pushing and pawing to see this abomination of an exhibit while it lasts.


Church of the Village website

McDermott & McGough to open temple dedicated to Oscar Wilde in New York’s Church of the Village

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.