By Kyle Bryant,2014-04-12 03:26
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LGBT history

    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.

     Ancient history

    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 [1]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 [2][3]referred to themselves as female. These early transsexual figures have [4][5]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 [6]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 [7]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 [8]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 [9]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.

    South Asia

    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.

    South Pacific

    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 [10]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 wereand areeither 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 [11]Nigeria, Sudan, and Yemen.

    A tradition of art and literature sprang up constructing Middle Eastern homosexuality. Muslimoften Sufipoets 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 [citation needed]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

    [12]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 [13]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 [14]Christians did on occasion accept same-sex relationships. Some critics,

    notably R. W. Southern, dispute Boswell's findings and scholarly [citation needed]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 [15]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 [16]of "instruments," in other words, dildoes."

    Pre-contact North America

    Prior to western contact, many American Native tribes had third-gender [2]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. [17][18]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 [2][18]raped, and later murdered by a group of men.

    [17]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)

    Modern history

    Northern America

     “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[19]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-[20]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, [21]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 [22]“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 [23]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 [24]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” [25]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 [26]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 [27]accused. Most cases were argued as non-consensual or rape. It was not

    until 1880 that the first prosecution for consensual sex between people [28]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

    homosexuality, a host of laws against vagrancy, public indecency, disorderly conduct, and indecent exposure were introduced across America as discourse for easier persecution. “Sodomy” laws also shifted in many states over the beginning of the 20th Century to specifically address homosexuality (many States during the 20th Century made anal intercourse [29] In 13 states, these laws would last until between men and women legal).[30]the Federal government repealed them in 2004 with the Lawrence decision.

    The Male Ideal and The 19th Century=

    Homosexual identity found its first social foothold in the 19th Century not in sexuality or homoerotica, but in idealized conception of the wholesome and loving male friendship during the 19th Century. Or as contemporary author Theodore Winthrop in Cecil Dreeme writes, “a [31]friendship I deemed more precious than the love of women.” This ideal

    came from and was enforced by the male-centric institutions of boy’s

    boarding schools, all-male colleges, the military, the frontier, etc.

    fictional and non-fiction accounts of passionate male friendships became a theme present in American Literature and social conceptions of [32]masculinity.

    New York, as America’s largest city exponential growing during the 19th Century (doubling from 1800-20 and again by 1840 to 300 000), saw the beginnings of a homosexual subculture concomitantly growing with the [33]population. Continuing the theme of loving male friendship, the [34]American poet, Walt Whitman arrived in New York in 1841. He was

    immediately drawn to young working class men found in certain parks, [35]public baths, the docks, and some bars and dance halls. He kept records

    of the men and boys, usually noting age, physical characteristics, job, and origins.

     Dispersed in his praise of the city are moments of male admiration, such as in Calamus “frequent and swift flash of eyes offering me robust, athletic love” or in poem Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, where he writes:

    Was call'd by my nighest name by clear loud voices of young men as they saw me approaching or passing, Felt their arms on my neck as I stood, or the negligent leaning of their flesh against me as I sat, Saw many I loved in the street or ferry-boat or public assembly, yet never told them a word, Lived the same life with the rest, the same old laughing, gnawing, sleeping, Play'd the part that still looks back on the actor or actress, The same old role, the role that is what we make it, as great as we like, Or as [36]small as we like, or both great and small.

    Sometimes Whitman writing verged on explicit, such as in his poem, Native Moments “I share the midnight orgies of young men / I pick out some low person for my dearest friend. He shall be lawless, rude, illiterate.” [37] Poems like these and Calamus (inspired by Whitman’s treasured friends and possible lover, Fred Vaughan who lived with the Whitman family in the 1850s) and the general theme of manly love, functioned as a pseudonym for [38]homosexuality. The developing sub-community had a coded voice to draw more homosexuals to New York and other growing American urban centers. Although, Whitman in 1890 denounced any sexuality in the comradeship of his works and historians debate whether he a practicing homosexual, [39]bisexual, etc. But this denouncement that homosexuality had become a [40]public question by the end of the 19th Century.

    Twenty years after Whitman came to New York, Horatio Alger continued the [41]theme of manly love in his stories of the young Victorian self-made man.

    He came to New York fleeing from a public scandal with a young man in Cape [42]Cod that forced him to leave the ministry, in 1866.


    The developing field of psychology was the first way homosexuality could be directly addressed aside from Biblical condemnation. In Europe, homosexuality had been part of case studies since 1790s with Johann [43]Valentin Müller’s work. The studies of this era tended to be rigorous examination of “criminals,” looking to confirm guilt and establish patterns for future prosecutions. Ambroise Tardieu in France believed he could identify “pederasts” affirming that the sex organs are altered [44]by homosexuality in his 1857 publishing. François Charles’s exposé,

    Les Deux Prostitutions: études du pathologie sociale, (The Two Prostitutions: Study of the Social Pathology) developed methods for [45]police to persecute through meticulous documentation of homosexuality.

    Others include Johann Caspar and Otto Westphal, Karl Ulrichs. Kraftt-Ebing’s 1886 publication, Psychopathia Sexualis,was the most [46]widely translated work of this kind. He and Ulrichs believed that

    homosexuality was congenitally based, but Kraft-Ebing differed; in that, he asserted that homosexuality was a symptom of other psychopathic [47]behavior that he viewed to be an inherited disposition to degeneracy.

    Degeneracy became widely acknowledged theory for homosexuality during the [48]1870s and 80s. It spoke to the eugenic and social Darwin theories of the late 19th Century. Benedict Augustin Morel is considered the father [49]of degeneracy theory. His theories posit that physical, intellectual, and moral abnormalities come from disease, urban over-population, [50]malnutrition, alcohol, and other failures of his contemporary society.

    An important shift in the terminology of homosexuality was brought about by the development of psychology’s inquisition into homosexuality.

    [51]“Contrary sexual feeling,” as Westphal’s phrased, and the word

    “homosexual” itself made their way into the Western lexicons. Homosexuality had a name aside from the ambiguous term “sodomy” and the elusive “abomination.” As Michel Foucault phrases, “the sodomite had [52]been a temporary aberration; the homosexual was now a species.”

    Oscar Wilde

    Oscar Wilde

    Oscar Wilde was an extremely important figure for bringing homosexuality into the public eye. His scandal and court case from 1885-6 was highly discussed in America. Although for newspapers like the New York Times it was a question of blackmail and the homosexual content of the letters is not mentioned only alluded to as having “a curious meaning,” in the first [53]publication on 4 April 1895. After Wilde’s arrest, the April 6th New

    York Times discussed Wilde’s case as a question of “immorality” and would not specifically address homosexuality, discussed the men “some [54] The treatment of as young as 18” that were brought up as witnesses.

    the Wilde case in American newspapers reflects well the American attitude towards the subject. Although in open discussion, it could not be named during 1890s.

Late 19th Century

    We'wha was a relatively modern Ihamana (Two-Spirit) of the Native American

    Zuni tribe. She made a trip to Washington in 1886, and later shook President Roosevelt's hand. She was revered by her tribe for her skill at weaving and pottery, as well as taking part in community ceremonies [2]and rituals. Her life was originally documented by anthropologist [55]Matilda Coxe Stevenson in the late 19th century.

    The Early Twentieth Century

    The early 20th Century

    [56]In 1908 the first American defense of homosexuality was published. The

    Intersexes: A History of Similisexulaism as a Problem in Social Life, was [57]written by Edward Stevenson under the pseudonym Xavier Mayne. This 600

    page defense detailed Classical examples, but also modern literature and [58]the homosexual subcultures of urban life. He dedicated the novel to

    Krafft-Ebing because he argued homosexuality was inherited and, in Stevenson’s view and not necessarily Krafft-Ebing’s, should not face

prejudice. He also wrote one of the first homosexual novel Imre: A [59]Memorandum. Also in this ear, the earliest known open homosexual in the [60]United States, Claude Hartland, wrote an account of his sexual history.

    He affirmed that he wrote it to affront the naivety surrounding sexuality. It was in response to the ignorance he saw while being treated by doctors [61]and psychologists that failed to “cure” him. Hartland wished his

    attraction to men could be solely “spiritual,” but could not escape the [62] By this time, society was slowly becoming aware of the “animal.”

    homosexual subculture. In a 1898 lecture in Massachusetts, a doctor gave [63]a lecture on this development in modern cities. With a population around

    three million at the turn of the century, New York’s queer subculture

    had a strong sense of self definition and began redefining itself on its own terms. “Middle class queer,” “fairies,” were among the [64]terminology of the underground world of the Lower East Side. But with

    this growing public presence, back lash came naturally. The YMCA, who ironically promoted a similar image to that of the Whitman’s praise of male brotherhood and athletic prowess, took a chief place in the purity campaigns of the epoch. Anthony Comstock, a salesman and leader of YMCA in Connecticut and later head of his own New York Society for the Suppression of Vice successfully pressed Congress and many state [65] Also ironically, the YMCA legislatures to pass strict censorship laws.

    became a site of homosexual conduct. In 1912, a scandal hit Oregon were more than 50 men, many prominent in the community were arrested for. In reaction to this scandal conflicting with public campaigns, YMCA [66]leadership began to look the other way on this conduct.


    The 1920s ushered in a new era of social acceptance of minorities and homosexuals, at least in heavily urbanized areas. This was reflected in many of the films (see Pre-Code) of the decade that openly made references to homosexuality. Even popular songs poked fun at the new social acceptance of homosexuality. One of these songs had the title "Masculine [67]Women, Feminine Men." It was released in 1926 and recorded by numerous [68]artists of the day and included the following lyrics:

    Homosexuals received a level of acceptance that was not seen again until the 1960s. Until the early 1930s, gay clubs were openly operated, commonly

    known as "pansy clubs". The relative liberalism of the decade is

    demonstrated by the fact that the actor William Haines, regularly named

    in newspapers and magazines as the number-one male box-office draw, openly [70]lived in a gay relationship with his lover, Jimmie Shields. Other

    popular gay actors/actresses of the decade included Alla Nazimova and

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