• “There was something very peculiar about Doc…”: Deciphering Queer Intimacy in Representations of Doc Holliday

      Tankard, Alex; University of Chester (Taylor and Francis, 2014-12-08)
      This essay discusses representations of male intimacy in life-writing about consumptive gunfighter John Henry “Doc” Holliday (1851-1887). I argue that twentieth-century commentators rarely appreciated the historical specificity of Holliday’s friendships in a frontier culture that not only normalized but actively celebrated same-sex intimacy. Indeed, Holliday lived on the frayed edges of known nineteenth-century socio-sexual norms, and his interactions with other men were further complicated by his vicious reputation and his disability. His short life and eventful afterlife exposes the gaps in available evidence – and the flaws in our ability to interpret it. Yet something may still be gleaned from the early newspaper accounts of Holliday. Having argued that there is insufficient evidence to justify positioning him within modern categories of hetero/homosexuality, I analyze the language used in pre-1900 descriptions of first-hand encounters with Holliday to illuminate the consumptive gunfighter’s experience of intimacy, if not its meaning.