The thing that gets me about the whole “you can’t call historical people gay because they conceived of sexuality differently” thing is this:
We already conceive of sexuality and gender significantly differently than we did 30-40 years ago.
I agree that it’s important to remember that there are different models for this kind of thing, and different societies in different time periods have varied a lot in how they understood and categorized sexuality.
I think that’s very important, I’m just not sure that taking modern terms out of people’s mouths is a useful way to do it.
Given that applying current understandings of gender and sexuality and the difference between them to even the LGBT people from right here, 40 years ago, has us running into problems… (the main one being who is trans and who isn’t, because we see that dividing line as a lot sharper and a lot more important than they generally did)
And given that the time period you’re talking about may not have its own set of words readily available, or the only ones that are available may be ones used to pathologize and criminalize…
At some point you just have to pick a word, and acknowledge that it’s not the perfect word, don’t you?