LGBT history refers to the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and
transgender peoples and cultures around the world, dating back to the first recorded instances of same-sex love and sexuality of ancient civilizations. What survives of many centuries' persecution– resulting
in shame, suppression, and secrecy– has only recently been pursued and
interwoven into historical narrative. A handful of countries, the first in 1994, have regularly celebrated an LGBT History Month.
Among historical figures, some were recorded as having relations with others of their own sex — exclusively or together with opposite-sex
relations — while others were recorded as only having relations with the opposite sex. However, there are instances of same-sex love and sexuality within almost all ancient civilizations. Additionally, Transgender and third sex peoples have been recorded in almost all cultures across human history.
Ancient Greece and Rome
The earliest documents concerning same-sex relationships come from Ancient Greece. Such relationships did not replace marriage between man and woman, but occurred before and beside it. A mature man would not usually have a mature male mate (with exceptions such as Alexander the Great) but he would be the erastes (lover) to a young eromenos (loved one).
The ideal held that both partners would be inspired by love symbolized by Eros, the erastes unselfishly providing education, guidance, and appropriate gifts to his eromenos, who became his devoted pupil and assistant, while the sexuality remained short of penetrative acts. The hoped for result was the mutual improvement of both erastes and eromenos, each doing his best to excel in order to be worthy of the other. If one was open about ones homosexuality then they were exiled or in some cases executed.
Kenneth J. Dover, followed by Michel Foucault and Halperin, assumed that
it was considered improper for the eromenos to feel desire, as that would not be masculine. However, Dover's claim has been questioned in light of evidence of love poetry which suggests a more emotional connection than earlier researchers liked to acknowledge.
Some research has shown that ancient Greeks believed semen, more specifically sperm, to be the source of knowledge, and that these relationships served to pass wisdom on from the erastes to the eromenos within society.
In Ancient Greece and Phrygia, the Goddess Cybele was worshiped by a cult
of people who castrated themselves, and thereafter took female dress and referred to themselves as female. These early transsexual figures have also been referred to as early gay role models by several authors.
On the legal situation in Ancient Rome, see Lex Scantinia and the
legislations of Justinian I.
Ancient China and Japan
Homosexuality has been acknowledged in China since ancient times. Scholar Pan Guangdan (潘光旦) came to the conclusion that nearly every emperor in the Han Dynasty had one or more male sex partners. There are also
descriptions of lesbians in some history books. It is believed homosexuality was popular in the Song, Ming and Qing dynasties. Chinese
homosexuals did not experience high-profile persecution as compared with that which was received by homosexuals in Europe during the Middle Ages.
Same-sex love was celebrated in Chinese art, many examples of which have
survived the book burnings of the Cultural Revolution. Though no large
paintings on silk statues are known to still exist, many hand scrolls and can be found in private collections.
In Japan, several Heian diaries which contain references to homosexual acts exist as well. Some of these also contain references to emperors involved in homosexual relationships and to "handsome boys retained for sexual purposes" by emperors. In other literary works can be found [citation references to what Leupp has called "problems of gender identity",]needed such as the story of a youth's falling in love with a girl who is
actually a cross-dressing male.
Japanese shunga are erotic pictures which include same-sex and opposite-sex love.
In South Asia the Hijra are a caste of third-gender, or transgender group who live a feminine role. Hijra may be born male or intersexed, and some
may have been born female.
In many societies of Melanesia, especially in Papua New Guinea, same-sex
relationships were, until the middle of the last century, an integral part of the culture. The Etoro and Marind-anim for example, even viewed
heterosexuality as sinful and celebrated homosexuality instead. In many traditional Melanesian cultures a pre-pubertal boy would be paired with an older adolescent who would become his mentor and who would "inseminate" him (orally, anally, or topically, depending on the tribe) over a number of years in order for the younger to also reach puberty. Many Melanesian societies, however, have become hostile towards same-sex relationships since the introduction of Christianity by European missionaries.
Middle East, South and Central Asia
Among many Middle Eastern Muslim cultures egalitarian or age-structured homosexual practices were, and remain, widespread and thinly veiled. The prevailing pattern of same-sex relationships in the temperate and sub-tropical zone stretching from Northern India to the Western Sahara is one in which the relationships were—and are—either gender-structured
or age-structured or both. In recent years, egalitarian relationships modeled on the western pattern have become more frequent, though they remain rare. Same-sex intercourse officially carries the death penalty in several Muslim nations: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Mauritania, northern Nigeria, Sudan, and Yemen.
A tradition of art and literature sprang up constructing Middle Eastern homosexuality. Muslim—often Sufi—poets in medieval Arab lands and in
Persia wrote odes to the beautiful wine boys who served them in the taverns. In many areas the practice survived into modern times, as documented by Richard Francis Burton, André Gide, and others.
Though often ignored or suppressed by European explorers and colonialists, homosexual expression in native Africa was also present and took a variety of forms. Anthropologists Stephen Murray and Will Roscoe reported that
women in Lesotho engaged in socially sanctioned "long term, erotic
relationships," named motsoalle. E. E. Evans-Pritchard also recorded
that male Azande warriors (in the northern Congo) routinely took on
boy-wives between the ages of twelve and twenty, who helped with household tasks and participated in intercrural sex with their older husbands. The practice had died out by the early 20th century, after Europeans had gained control of African countries, but was recounted to Evans-Pritchard by the elders he spoke to.
The Middle Ages
Same-sex scholarly 'empires of the mind' were common in medieval Arabic and Hebrew cultures, as seen in their poetry on same-sex love. According to John Boswell, author of Christianity, Social Tolerance and
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980), there were Homosexuality
same-sex Christian monastic communities and other religious orders in
which homosexuality thrived. According to Chauncey et al. (1989), the book
Western tradition, arguing "offered a revolutionary interpretation of the
that the Roman Catholic Church had not condemned gay people throughout
its history, but rather, at least until the twelfth century, had alternately evinced no special concern about homosexuality or actually celebrated love between men." Boswell was also the author of Same-Sex
(New York: Villard, 1994) in which he argues Unions in Pre-Modern Europe
that the adelphopoiia liturgy was evidence that attitude of the Christian church towards homosexuality has changed over time, and that early Christians did on occasion accept same-sex relationships. Some critics,
notably R. W. Southern, dispute Boswell's findings and scholarly rigor. His work attracted great controversy, as it was seen by many as merely an attempt for Boswell to justify his homosexuality and Roman Catholic faith. For instance, R. W. Southern points out that homosexuality had been condemned extensively by religious leaders and medieval scholars well before the 12th century; he also points to the penitentials which were common in early medieval society, and many of which include homosexuality as among the serious sins.
Bennett and Froide, in "Singlewomen in the European Past", note: "Other single women found emotional comfort and sexual pleasure with women. The
history of same-sex relations between women in medieval and early modern Europe is exceedingly difficult to study, but there can be no doubt of its existence. Church leaders worried about lesbian sex; women expressed, practiced, and were sometimes imprisoned or even executed for same-sex love; and some women cross-dressed in order to live with other women as married couples." They go on to note that even the seemingly modern word "lesbian" has been traced back as far as 1732, and discuss lesbian
subcultures, but add, "Nevertheless, we certainly should not equate the single state with lesbian practices." While same-sex relationships among men were highly documented and condemned, "Moral theologians did not pay much attention to the question of what we would today call lesbian sex, perhaps because anything that did not involve a phallus did not fall within the bounds of their understanding of the sexual. Some legislation against lesbian relations can be adduced for the period, mainly involving the use of "instruments," in other words, dildoes."
Pre-contact North America
Prior to western contact, many American Native tribes had third-gender roles. These include "berdaches" (a derogatory term for genetic males
who assumed a feminine role) and "passing women" (genetic females who took on a masculine role). The term "berdache" is not a Native American word; rather it was a European definition covering a range of third-gender people in different tribes. Since the term "berdache" is seen as derogatory, modern Native intersexuals refer to themselves as Two-Spirit. Not all Native American tribes had transgender people.
Anthropologists had observed that relatively uncompetitive, less complex cultures such as those that do not distinguish or reward the best hunters in distinction to the other men in the tribe have virtually no homosexuality.
One female-born Mohave berdache (known as a hwame) is known to have been
murdered. Sahaykwisa told other Mohaves that he had been turned into a man by white man's magic, and took several female lovers. Sahaykwisa was raped, and later murdered by a group of men.
Jackson Katz puts forth that there is documentation of "intimate relationships between two males, often of a lifelong character", and "homosexual relations between adults and youths" (Pederasty)
“Homosexuality” in the 18th and 19th Century United States
Before the American Civil War and the massive population growth of the Post-Civil War America, the majority of the American population was rural.
Without major urban centers to foster sexual subcultures, no self-conscious homosexual subculture could form. With no access to alternative opinions to religious, legal, and social castigations, the culture treatment of homosexuality as a sickness, a sin, and a criminal
keeping homosexuality act would be internalized by homosexuals—suppressed personally and culturally. Homosexuality remained unseen
and taboo concept in society. In fact, the word “homosexuality” was not
Hungarian Karoly Maria Kertbeny (who coined as a word till 1868 by German-advocated decriminalization). During this era, homosexuality fell
under the umbrella term “sodomy” that comprised all forms of
nonproductive sexuality (masturbation and oral sex were sometimes excluded). Without urban sub-cultures or even a name for self-definition, communal solidarity and self-consciousness was impossible.
Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:26-7 and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (even though the sins of the city are not detailed well) were the justification for the severe penalties facing those accused of “sodomy.” Most of the laws around homosexuality in the colonies were derived from the English laws of “buggery,” and the punishment in all American colonies was death. The penalty for attempted sodomy (both homosexuality and bestiality) was prison, whipping, banishment, or fines. Thomas Jefferson suggested castration as the punishment for sodomy, rape, and polygamy in a proposed revision of the Virginia criminal code near the end of 18th Century.
Pennsylvania was the first state to repeal the death penalty for “sodomy” in 1786 and within a generation all the other colonies followed suit (except North and South Carolina that repealed after the Civil War).
Along with the removal of the death penalty during this generation, court case language notably shifted from Biblical damnation to a more dispassionate language, such as: “unmentionable” or “abominable” acts. This evasive language moved homosexuality to an absolute taboo in American society, making communal solidarity ever impossible. Aside from sodomy and “attempted sodomy” court cases and a few public scandals, homosexuality remained unacknowledged by mainstream society. Lesbianism had no legal definition largely because of the Victorian notion of female sexuality was that women were not sexually driven.
In a survey of sodomy law enforcement of the 19th Century, a significant minority of cases did not even specify gender of the “victim” and the accused. Most cases were argued as non-consensual or rape. It was not
until 1880 that the first prosecution for consensual sex between people of the same gender. This can be attributed the purity movement that also explained the sharp increase in arrest for prostitution and homosexuality. In response to the visibility of alternative genders, gender bending, and