The Fabulous High Seas: A Journey Through the History of Gay Pirates

Pirate Party women of the high seas card game for pride month

Ahoy, mateys! Grab your eye patches and rainbow flags as we set sail on a fabulous journey through the swashbuckling world of gay pirates.

While Hollywood often paints pirates as rough and gruff scallywags, history reveals a vibrant tapestry of diverse identities and love stories that defy the traditional stereotypes. So, buckle your swashes and hoist the Jolly Roger—we’re diving into the fascinating, and surprisingly inclusive, world of pirate history!

The Golden Age of Piracy: A Diverse Crew

The Golden Age of Piracy, spanning the late 17th and early 18th centuries, was a time of rebellion and defiance against rigid societal norms. Pirates, outcasts by nature, often formed their own codes of conduct and social structures aboard their ships, creating environments that were remarkably egalitarian and inclusive.

One of the most notable examples of inclusivity at sea is the pirate haven of Libertalia, a legendary utopian colony founded by Captain Misson and his companion Caraccioli. Although its existence remains unproven, Libertalia is said to have welcomed people of all races and creeds, including those who didn’t conform to traditional gender and sexual norms.

Love on the High Seas

Pirate ships were microcosms of society, where men and women from various backgrounds lived in close quarters. This environment fostered deep bonds and relationships, some of which were romantic and intimate.

One of the most famous pirate couples was Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Both women disguised themselves as men to join pirate crews and eventually sailed with the notorious “Calico Jack” Rackham. The exact nature of their relationship remains a topic of speculation, but historical accounts suggest a deep bond and mutual admiration. Anne and Mary’s story illustrates how pirate life allowed for more fluid and unconventional expressions of gender and sexuality.

Matelotage: The Pirate’s Pact

A significant aspect of pirate culture that highlights their unique approach to relationships is “matelotage,” a form of same-sex civil union practiced among pirates. This bond was not merely for companionship but often involved shared property, joint economic ventures, and mutual care in times of illness or injury. The term “matelot” comes from the French word for “sailor,” but within the pirate community, it signified a deeper, often romantic partnership.

The practice of matelotage reflects the pragmatic and progressive nature of pirate society. By forming these unions, pirates ensured their well-being and economic stability, while also enjoying the personal freedoms that came with these partnerships. Some historical records even suggest that matelotage was a form of resistance against the rigid and oppressive societal norms of their time.

Pirates of All Colors

Pirate crews were often racially diverse, as piracy offered an escape from the racial hierarchies and oppressions of the mainland. Many pirates were formerly enslaved people or indentured servants who found freedom and camaraderie on the high seas. This diversity extended to sexual orientation and gender identity, creating a melting pot of cultures and lifestyles.

For instance, Black Caesar, an African pirate who escaped enslavement and became one of Blackbeard’s most trusted lieutenants, exemplifies the diverse makeup of pirate crews. While there are no specific records of his sexual orientation, the inclusive nature of pirate culture suggests that individuals like Black Caesar found acceptance among their peers, regardless of their personal identities.

The Legacy of Gay Pirates

The history of gay pirates is more than just a collection of fascinating anecdotes; it’s a testament to the resilience and adaptability of human beings in the face of adversity. Pirates created societies that defied the rigid norms of their time, embracing diversity in all its forms. Their stories remind us that even in the most unlikely places, love and acceptance can flourish.
Today, the legacy of these audacious sailors lives on, inspiring books, movies, and even themed events like LGBTQ+ pirate festivals. Their tales continue to captivate our imaginations, offering a colorful and inclusive perspective on a time often romanticized for its adventure and rebellion.

So next time you raise a glass of rum and toast to the high seas, remember the brave souls who sailed against the tide of conformity, proving that the pirate’s life was indeed a life for all. Arrr, mateys!


Enjoy the lightly strategic Pirate Party: Women of the High Seas – a card game of powerful women pirates inspired from history.