In our second season, we bring you a high-seas adventure full of surprises as we uncover the queer & women’s history of pirates. Gay love and even marriage were more common in the 17th-century world of pirates than we might expect, and history is full of cross-dressing, swashbuckling pirates who broke gender norms and created their own queer culture. Even Johnny Depp, in the Pirates of the Caribbean series, intentionally played Captain Jack Sparrow as a gay man.

Collaborating with experts in the field, we take a deep dive into the stories you don’t hear in the mainstream, exploring why they have been erased for hundreds of years.



We could not have told this story alone! 

Joshua Nelson

Pirate Shanty Writer

A special thank you to our season 2 Shanty writer!

Joshua Nelson (he|she|they) is an artist, musician,  performer, producer and maker based in Cleveland. For years, he has played music in numerous bands, including currently playing bass in a heavy melodic rock band, The Firmary. She has a deep connection to pirate music, as for nearly a decade while living in Los Angeles, they sang lead and played mandolin & harmonica in L.A.’s premiere pirate band, Rillian and the Doxie Chicks, who notably played the red carpet premieres for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Pirates of the Caribbean movies at Disneyland. Also while living in L.A., for over 4 years they performed in the title role of Rainbow Carnage‘s shadowcast production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, as well as performing in numerous drag shows as Janus Beast in the greater L.A. area.

In addition, Joshua is an LGBTQIA+ advocate and activist, and serves on the board of Geauga SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) Support Group, the first in rural Geauga County.


Aside from the information provided to us by our guests, we used the following resources.

  • Blood-Red Arab Flag book (Davies–PDF)
  • “Life at Sea” section of Queerly Phrased (Livia)
  • Under the Black Flag book (Cordingly–PDF)
  • Captain Kidd and the War Against the Pirates (Ritchie)
  • Queer Buccaneers: (De)constructing Boundaries in the Pirates of the Caribbean Film Series (Stenihoff)
  • Bandits at Sea: A Pirates Reader (Pennell)
  • A Pirate of Exquisite Mind: Explorer, Naturalist, and Buccaneer: The Life of William Dampier (Preston)
  • Anne and Mary (Norton)
  • Bootylicious by Crain
  • Frilly shirts by Sainsbury
  • Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition: English Sea Rovers in the Seventeenth-Century Caribbean (Burg)
  • Women Pirates of America (1909 newspaper article about Anne and Mary)
  • Pirates Through the Ages Reference Library
  • Pirates in History and Popular Culture (Sanna)
  • Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age (Rediker)
  • “Reclaiming Jamaica’s Gay Past: Cross-Dressing Pirate Heroes and Gay-Friendly Reggae Gods” by Farley (the Advocate, PDF)
  • “Blackbeard Economics: The Surprising–and Surprisingly Tame–Self-Organization of Pirates” (Leeson review; PDF)
  • “When Women Pirates Ruled the Seas” by Rediker (PDF)
  • “Pirates in Modern Media” by Bauer (PDF)
  • “The Sea Will Make a Man of Him?” by Karremann
  • “One Woman’s Rise to Power: Cheng I’s Wife and the Pirates” (Murray, PDF)
  • “BLACK ATLANTIC, QUEER ATLANTIC: Queer Imaginings of the Middle Passage” (Tinsley, PDF)
  • Podcast on PRIDE
  • Hell Cats podcast about Anne and Mary
  • “The Practice of Homosexuality among the Pirates of Late 18th and Early 19th Century China” (Murray, PDF)
  • “A History of Same-Sex Marriage” (Eskridge, PDF)
  • “If a Pirate I Must Be” excerpt on matelotage (book by Sanders)