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LGBT history dates back to the first recorded instances of same-sex love and sexuality of ancient civilizations, involving the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) peoples and cultures around the world. What survives after many centuries of persecution—resulting in shame, suppression, and secrecy—has only in more recent decades been pursued and interwoven into more mainstream historical narratives.
In 1994 the annual observance of LGBT History Month began in the US, and it has since been picked up in other countries. This observance involves highlighting the history of the people, LGBT rights and related civil rights movements. It is observed during October in the United States, to include National Coming Out Day on October 11. In the United Kingdom, it is observed during February, to coincide with a major celebration of the 2005 abolition of Section 28, which had prohibited local authorities from promoting homosexuality.
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, people who are third gender or what we would now think of as intersex have been recorded in almost all cultures across human history.
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 with whom he spoke.
Ostraca dating from the Ramesside Period have been found which depict hastily drawn images of homosexual as well as heterosexual sex. The duo Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum, manicurists in the Palace of King Niuserre during the Fifth Dynasty of Egyptian pharaohs, circa 2400 BC. are speculated to have been gay based on a representation of them embracing nose-to-nose in their shared tomb. King Neferkare and General Sasenet, a Middle Kingdom story, has an intriguing plot revolving around a king's clandestine gay affair with one of his generals. It may reference the actual Pharaoh Pepi II, who was likely gay.
The Siwa Oasis was of special interest to anthropologists and sociologists because of its historical acceptance of male homosexuality. The practice probably arose because from ancient times unmarried men and adolescent boys were required to live and work together outside the town of Shali, secluded for several years from any access to available women. In 1900, the German egyptologist George Steindorff reported that, "the feast of marrying a boy was celebrated with great pomp, and the money paid for a boy sometimes amounted to fifteen pound, while the money paid for a woman was a little over one pound." The archaeologist Count Byron de Prorok reported in 1937 that "an enthusiasm could not have been approached even in Sodom... Homosexuality was not merely rampant, it was raging...Every dancer had his boyfriend...[and] chiefs had harems of boys.
Walter Cline noted that, "all normal Siwan men and boys practice sodomy...the natives are not ashamed of this; they talk about it as openly as they talk about love of women, and many if not most of their fights arise from homosexual competition....Prominent men lend their sons to each other. All Siwans know the matings which have taken place among their sheiks and their sheiks' sons....Most of the boys used in sodomy are between twelve and eighteen years of age." In the late 1940s, a Siwan merchant told the visiting British novelist Robin Maugham that the Siwan men "will kill each other for boy. Never for a woman".
Among Indigenous peoples of the Americas prior to European colonization, a number of nations had respected roles for homosexual, bisexual, and gender-nonconforming individuals; in many indigenous communities, these social and spiritual roles are still observed. While each indigenous culture has its own names for these individuals, a modern, pan-Indian term that has been adopted by consensus is "Two-Spirit". Typically this individual is recognized early in life, and raised in the appropriate manner, learning from the Elders the customs, spiritual, and social duties fulfilled by these special people in the community.
The Middle Assyrian Law Codes (1075 BC) state: If a man has intercourse with his brother-in-arms, they shall turn him into a eunuch. This is the earliest known law condemning the act of male-to-male intercourse in the military. Despite these laws, sex crimes were punished identically whether they were homosexual or heterosexual in the Assyrian society. Homosexuality was also an integral part of temple life in parts of Mesopotamia, and no blame appears to have attached to its practice outside of worship. Freely pictured art of anal intercourse, practiced as part of a religious ritual, dated from the 3rd millennium BC and onwards.
Furthermore, the article 'Homosexualität' in Reallexicon der Assyriologie states, "Homosexuality in itself is thus nowhere condemned as licentiousness, as immorality, as social disorder, or as transgressing any human or divine law. Anyone could practice it freely, just as anyone could visit a prostitute, provided it was done without violence and without compulsion, and preferably as far as taking the passive role was concerned, with specialists. That there was nothing religiously amiss with homosexual love between men is seen by the fact that they prayed for divine blessing on it. It seems clear that the Mesopotamians saw nothing wrong in homosexual acts between consenting adults".
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. Homosexuality in China, known as the passions of the cut peach and various other euphemisms has been recorded since approximately 600 BCE. Homosexuality was mentioned in many famous works of Chinese literature.
The instances of same-sex affection and sexual interactions described in the classical novel Dream of the Red Chamber seem as familiar to observers in the present as do equivalent stories of romances between heterosexual people during the same period. Confucianism, being primarily a social and political philosophy, focused little on sexuality, whether homosexual or heterosexual. There are also descriptions of lesbians in some history books. It is believed homosexuality was popular in the Song, Ming and Qing dynasties.
Throughout Hindu and Vedic texts there are many descriptions of saints, demigods, and even the Supreme Lord transcending gender norms and manifesting multiple combinations of sex and gender. There are several instances in ancient Indian epic poetry of same sex depictions and unions by gods and goddesses. There are several stories of depicting love between same sexes especially among kings and queens. Kamasutra, the ancient Indian treatise on love talks about feelings for same sexes. There are several depictions of same-sex sexual acts in temples like Khajuraho. Several Mughal noblemen and emperors and other Muslim rulers of South Asia are known to have had homosexual inclinations. 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 intersex, and some may have been born female.
The ancient Law of Moses (the Torah) forbids men from lying with men (i.e., from having intercourse) in Leviticus 18 and gives a story of attempted homosexual rape in Genesis 19, in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, after which the cities were soon destroyed with "brimstone and fire, from the Lord" and the death penalty was prescribed to its inhabitants and to Lot's wife who was tuned into a pillar of salt because she turned back to watch the cities' destruction. In Deuteronomy 22:5, cross-dressing is condemned as "abominable".
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 references to what Leupp has called "problems of gender identity", 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.
According to Aristotle, although most "belligerent nations" were strongly influenced by their women, the Celts were unusual because their men openly preferred male lovers (Politics II 1269b). H. D. Rankin in Celts and the Classical World notes that "Athenaeus echoes this comment (603a) and so does Ammianus (30.9). It seems to be the general opinion of antiquity." In book XIII of his Deipnosophists, the Roman Greek rhetorician and grammarian Athenaeus, repeating assertions made by Diodorus Siculus in the 1st century BC (Bibliotheca historica 5:32), wrote that Celtic women were beautiful but that the men preferred to sleep together. Diodorus went further, stating that "the young men will offer themselves to strangers and are insulted if the offer is refused". Rankin argues that the ultimate source of these assertions is likely to be Poseidonius and speculates that these authors may be recording male "bonding rituals".
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 and the same-aged Hephaestion) but the older man would usually be the erastes (lover) to a young eromenos (loved one). Men could also seek adolescent boys as partners as shown by some of the earliest documents concerning same-sex pederastic relationships, which come from ancient Greece. Often they were favored over women. Though slave boys could be bought, free boys had to be courted, and ancient materials suggest that the father also had to consent to the relationship.
Same-sex relationships were a social institution variously constructed over time and from one city to another. The formal practice, an erotic yet often restrained relationship between a free adult male and a free adolescent was valued for its pedagogic benefits and as a means of population control, though occasionally was blamed for causing disorder.
Plato praised its benefits in his early writings [e.g., Phaedrus in the Symposium (385-370 BC)] but in his late works proposed its prohibition [e.g., in Laws (636D & 835E)). In the Symposium (182B-D), Plato equates acceptance of homosexuality with democracy and its suppression with despotism, and wrote that homosexuality "is shameful to barbarians because of their despotic governments, just as philosophy and athletics are, since it is apparently not in best interests of such rulers to have great ideas engendered in their subjects, or powerful friendships or physical unions, all of which love is particularly apt to produce". Aristotle, in the Politics, dismissed Plato's ideas about abolishing homosexuality; he explains that barbarians like the Celts accorded it a special honor, while the Cretans used it to regulate the population.
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 theoretically remained short of penetrative acts and supposedly would consist primarily of the act of frottage or intercrural sex. Although this was the ideal, realistically speaking, it is probable that in many such relationships fellatio and penetrative anal intercourse did occur.[original research?] 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 one's homosexuality then they were exiled or in some cases executed because it was regarded as a duty to one's ethnic group to reproduce.
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.
Sappho, born on the island of Lesbos, was included by later Greeks in the canonical list of nine lyric poets. The adjectives deriving from her name and place of birth (Sapphic and Lesbian) came to be applied to female homosexuality beginning in the 19th century. Sappho's poetry centers on passion and love for various personages and both genders. The narrators of many of her poems speak of infatuations and love (sometimes requited, sometimes not) for various females, but descriptions of physical acts between women are few and subject to debate.
In Ancient Greece and Phrygia, and later in the Roman Republic, 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 transgender figures have also been referred by several authors as early role models.
In Ancient Rome the young male body remained a focus of male sexual attention, but relationships were between older free men and slaves or freed youths who took the receptive role in sex. The Hellenophile emperor Hadrian is renowned for his relationship with Antinous.
In Roman patriarchal society, it was socially acceptable for an adult male citizen to take the penetrative role in same-sex relations. Freeborn male minors were strictly protected from sexual predators (see Lex Scantinia), and men who willingly played the "passive" role in homosexual relations were disparaged. No law or moral censure was directed against homosexual behaviors as such, as long as the citizen took the dominant role with a partner of lower status such as a slave, prostitute, or someone considered infamis, of no social standing.
The Roman emperor Elagabalus is depicted as transgender by some modern writers. Elagabalus was said to be "delighted to be called the mistress, the wife, the queen of Hierocles." Supposedly, great wealth was offered to any surgeon who was able to give Elagabalus female genitalia.
During the Renaissance, wealthy cities in northern Italy—Florence and Venice in particular—were renowned for their widespread practice of same-sex love, engaged in by a considerable part of the male population and constructed along the classical pattern of Greece and Rome. Attitudes toward homosexual behavior changed when the Empire fell under Christian rule; see for instance legislation of Justinian I.
In some 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, viewed heterosexuality as sinful[clarification needed] and celebrated homosexuality instead. In a few 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.
Same-sex scholarly 'empires of the mind'[clarification needed] were common in medieval Middle Eastern cultures, as seen in their poetry on same-sex love.
According to John Boswell, author of Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality, there were same-sex Christian monastic communities and other religious orders in which homosexuality thrived. According to Chauncey et al. (1989), the book "offered a revolutionary interpretation of the Western tradition, arguing 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 Unions in Pre-Modern Europe (New York: Villard, 1994) in which he argues 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. 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."
Persecutions against homosexuality rose during the High Middle Ages, reaching their height during the Medieval Inquisitions, when the sects of Cathars and Waldensians were accused of fornication and sodomy, alongside accusations of satanism. In 1307, accusations of sodomy and homosexuality were major charges leveled during the Trial of the Knights Templar. The theologian Thomas Aquinas was influential in linking condemnations of homosexuality with the idea of natural law, arguing that "special sins are against nature, as, for instance, those that run counter to the intercourse of male and female natural to animals, and so are peculiarly qualified as unnatural vices."
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. Homoerotic themes were present in poetry and other literature written by some Muslims from the medieval period onwards and which celebrated love between men. In fact these were more common than expressions of attraction to women.
Persian poets, such as Sa'di (d. 1291), Hafiz (d. 1389), and Jami (d. 1492), wrote poems replete with homoerotic allusions. The two most commonly documented forms were commercial sex with transgender young women or males enacting transgender roles exemplified by the köçeks and the bacchás, and Sufi spiritual practices in which the practitioner admired the form of a beautiful boy in order to enter ecstatic states and glimpse the beauty of god.
The Renaissance saw intense oppression of homosexual relationships by the Roman Catholic Church. Homosexual activity radically passes from being completely legal in most of Europe to incurring the death penalty in most European states. In France, first-offending sodomites lost their testicles, second offenders lost their penis, and third offenders were burned. Women caught in same-sex acts would be mutilated and executed as well. Thomas Aquinas argues that sodomy is second only to murder in the ranking of sins. The church used every means at its disposal to fight what it considered to be the "corruption of sodomy". Men were fined or jailed; boys were flogged. The harshest punishments, such as burning at the stake, were usually reserved for crimes committed against the very young, or by violence. The Spanish Inquisition begins in 1480, sodomites were stoned, castrated, and burned. Between 1540 and 1700, more than 1,600 people were prosecuted for sodomy. In 1532 the Holy Roman Empire made sodomy punishable by death. The following year King Henry VIII passed the Buggery Act 1533 making all male-male sexual activity punishable by death.
Florence had a widespread homosexual culture, which included age-structured relationships. In 1432 the city established Gli Ufficiali di Notte (The Officers of the Night) to root out the practice of sodomy. From that year until 1502, the number of men charged with sodomy numbered more than 17,000, of whom 3,000 were convicted. This number also included heterosexual sodomy. This also gave rise to a number of proverbs illuminating the views of the common people towards the practice; among them: "If you crave joys, tumble some boys."
The reputation of Florence is also reflected in the fact that the Germans adopted the word Florenzer to refer to a "sodomite". The association of foreignness with homosexuality gradually became a cornerstone of homophobic rhetoric throughout Europe, and it was used in a calumnious perspective. For example, the French would call "homosexuality" the "Italian vice" in the 16th and 17th centuries, the "English vice" in the 18th century, the mœurs orientales (oriental mores) in the 19th century, and the "German vice" starting from 1870 and into the 20th century.
The Church could not repress all expressions of homoerotic desire. One of the most famous examples is a tongue-in-cheek philosophic defense of the practice provided by Antonio Rocco, in his infamous L'Alcibiade, fanciullo a scola (Alcibiades the Schoolboy, in English) a dialogue in which a teacher seeks to use philosophy to convince a male student to have sex with him. However, given the tongue-in-cheek nature of the writing, it seems unclear whether it is meant to be satire or genuine under the pretense of a joke.
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 the 1790s with Johann 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 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 police to persecute through meticulous documentation of homosexuality. Others include Johann Caspar and Otto Westphal, Karl Ulrichs. Richard von Krafft-Ebing's 1886 publication, Psychopathia Sexualis, was the most widely translated work of this kind. He and Ulrichs believed that homosexuality was congenitally based, but Krafft-Ebing differed; in that, he asserted that homosexuality was a symptom of other psychopathic behavior that he viewed to be an inherited disposition to degeneracy.
Degeneracy became a widely acknowledged theory for homosexuality during the 1870s and 80s. It spoke to the eugenic and social Darwin theories of the late 19th century. Benedict Augustin Morel is considered the father of degeneracy theory. His theories posit that physical, intellectual, and moral abnormalities come from disease, urban over-population, 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. "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 been a temporary aberration; the homosexual was now a species."
An addendum to the terminology of homosexuality is the seemingly ever-changing acronym, with its roots in the 1980s when female homosexuals began to identify themselves as lesbians instead of gay. This led to references of "gay and lesbian" every time homosexuals were discussed in the media. Non-heterosexuals such as bisexual people and those who are transgender have also been classed alongside gay people and lesbians, resulting in the popular LGBT acronym (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender). However, the acronym is not set in stone; it has sometimes appeared as LGBTQ (to include questioning or queer people).
Various authors wrote on the topic of homosexuality. In 1735, Conyers Place wrote "Reason Insufficient Guide to Conduct Mankind in Religion." In 1749, Thomas Cannon wrote "Ancient and Modern Pederasty Investigated and Exemplified." In August, 1772, "Morning Chronicle" publishes a series of letters to the editor about the trial of Captain Robert Jones. In 1773, Charles Crawford wrote "A Dissertation on the Phaedon of Plato."
Molly houses appeared in 18th century London and other large cities. A Molly house is an archaic 18th century English term for a tavern or private room where homosexual and cross-dressing men could meet each other and possible sexual partners. Patrons of the Molly house would sometimes enact mock weddings, sometimes with the bride giving birth. Margaret Clap (?—circa 1726), better known as Mother Clap, ran such a Molly house from 1724 to 1726 in Holborn, London. She was also heavily involved in the ensuing legal battles after her premise was raided and shut down. Molly houses were perhaps the first precursors to the modern gay bar.
Written on July 21, 1776, the Letter LXIII became infamous for its frank talk of human sexuality. Mathieu-François Pidansat de Mairobert published the letter in his 1779 book, "L'Espion Anglois, Ou Correspondance Secrete Entre Milord All'eye et Milord Alle'ar" (aka "L'Observateur Anglais or L'Espion Anglais") ("The English Spy, or Secret Correspondence Between my Lord and my Lord All'eye Alle'ar [aka The English Observer or The English Spy]").
In 1791, Revolutionary France (and Andorra) adopted a new penal code which no longer criminalized sodomy. France thus became the first West European country to decriminalize homosexual acts between consenting adults.
Oscar Wilde, the Irish author and playwright, played an important role in bringing homosexuality into the public eye. The scandal in British society and subsequent court case from 1895–6 was highly discussed not only in Europe, but also in America, although newspapers like the New York Times concentrated on the question of blackmail, only alluding to the homosexual aspects as having "a curious meaning," in the first publication on April 4, 1895. After Wilde's arrest, the April 6 New York Times discussed Wilde's case as a question of "immorality" and did not specifically address homosexuality, discussing the men "some as young as 18" that were brought up as witnesses. Inspired by Wilde's renown and homosexuality, gay activist Craig Rodwell founded the first United States LGBTQ bookstore on November 24, 1967 and called it the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop.
Prior to the Third Reich, Berlin was a liberal city, with many gay bars, nightclubs and cabarets. There were even many drag bars where tourists straight and gay would enjoy female impersonation acts. Hitler decried cultural degeneration, prostitution and syphilis in his book Mein Kampf, blaming at least some of the phenomena on Jews.
Berlin also had the most active LGBT rights movements in the world at the time. Jewish doctor Magnus Hirschfeld had co-founded the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee (Wissenschaftlich-humanitäres Komitee, WhK) in Berlin in 1897 to campaign against the notorious "Paragraph 175" of the Penal Code that made sex between men illegal. It also sought social recognition of homosexual and transgender men and women. It was the first public gay rights organization. The Committee had branches in several other countries, thereby being the first international LGBT organization, although on a small scale. In 1919, Hirschfeld had also co-founded the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (Institute for Sex Research), a private sexology research institute. It had a research library and a large archive, and included a marriage and sex counseling office. In addition, the institute was a pioneer worldwide in the call for civil rights and social acceptance for homosexual and transgender people. As a leading city for homosexuals during the 1920, Berlin had clubs and even newspapers for both lesbians and gay men. The lesbian magazine Die Freundin was started by Friedrich Radszuweit and the gay men's magazine Der Eigene had already started in 1896 as the world's first gay magazine. The first gay demonstration ever took place in Nollendorfplatz in 1922 in Berlin, gathering 400 homosexuals.
Under the rule of Nazi Germany, about 50,000 men were sentenced because of their homosexuality and thousands of them died in concentration camps. Conditions for gay men in the camps were especially rough; they faced not only persecution from German soldiers, but also other prisoners, and many gay men were reported to die of beatings. Female homosexuality was not, technically, a crime and thus gay women were generally not treated as harshly as gay men. Although there are some scattered reports that gay women were sometimes imprisoned for their sexuality, most would have been imprisoned for other reasons, i.e. "anti-social".
In Britain, the view of homosexuality as the mark of a deviant mind was not limited to the psychiatric wards of hospitals but also the courts. An extremely famous case was that of Alan Turing, a British mathematician and theoretician. During WWII, Turing worked at Bletchley Park and was one of the major architects of the Colossus computer, designed to break the Enigma codes of the Nazi war machine. For the success of this, he received the Order of the British Empire in 1945. Unfortunately, in spite of all his brilliance and the services rendered to his country, Turing was also openly homosexual and in the early 1950s this fact came to the attention of the British government when he was arrested under section 11 of an 1885 statute of "gross indecency". At the time there was great fear that Turing's sexuality could be exploited by Soviet spies, and so he was sentenced to choosing between jail and injections of synthetic estrogen. The choice of the latter lead him to massive depression and committing suicide at the age of 41, biting into a poisoned apple. It is estimated that an additional 50-75,000 men were persecuted under this law, with only partial repeal taking place in 1967 and the final measure of it in 2003.
Before the American Civil War and the massive population growth of the Post-Civil War America, the majority of the American population was rural. Homosexuality remained an unseen and taboo concept in society, and the word "homosexuality" was not coined until 1868 by German-Hungarian Karoly Maria Kertbeny (who 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 a name for self-definition, group identification and self-consciousness was unlikely.
Mainstream interpretation of Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:26-7 and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah 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 the 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, legal language shifted away from that of damnation to more dispassionate terms like "unmentionable" or "abominable" acts. Aside from sodomy and "attempted sodomy" court cases and a few public scandals, homosexuality was seen as peripheral in mainstream society. Lesbianism had no legal definition largely given Victorian notions of female sexuality.
A survey of sodomy law enforcement during the nineteenth century suggests that a significant minority of cases did not specify the gender of the "victim" or accused. Most cases were argued as non-consensual or rape. The first prosecution for consensual sex between people of the same gender was not until 1880. In response to increasing visibility of alternative genders, gender bending, and homosexuality, a host of laws against vagrancy, public indecency, disorderly conduct, and indecent exposure was introduced across the United States. "Sodomy" laws also shifted in many states over the beginning of the twentieth century to address homosexuality specifically (many states during the twentieth century made heterosexual anal intercourse legal). In some states, these laws would last until they were repealed by the federal government in 2004 with the Lawrence decision.
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 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 masculinity.
New York, as America's largest city exponentially growing during the 19th Century (doubling from 1800–20 and again by 1840 to a population of 300,000), saw the beginnings of a homosexual subculture concomitantly growing with the population. Continuing the theme of loving male friendship, the American poet, Walt Whitman arrived in New York in 1841. He was immediately drawn to young working class men found in certain parks, public baths, the docks, and some bars and dance halls. He kept records of the men and boys, usually noting their ages, physical characteristics, jobs, 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 small as we like, or both great and small."
Sometimes Whitman's 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." 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 homosexuality. The developing sub-community had a coded voice to draw more homosexuals to New York and other growing American urban centers. Whitman did, however, in 1890 denounce any sexuality in the comradeship of his works and historians debate whether he was a practicing homosexual, bisexual, etc. But this denouncement shows that homosexuality had become a public question by the end of the 19th Century.
Twenty years after Whitman came to New York, Horatio Alger continued the 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 Cod that forced him to leave the ministry, in 1866.
We'wha (1849–1896) was a notable Zuni weaver, potter and lhamana. Raised as a boy, they would later spend part of their life dressing and living in the roles usually filled by women in Zuni culture, later living and working in roles filled by men, changing depending on the situation. Anthropologist Matilda Coxe Stevenson, a friend of We'wha's who wrote extensively about the Zuni, hosted We'wha and the Zuni delegation when We'wha was chosen as an official emissary to Washington D.C. in 1886. During this time they met President Grover Cleveland. We'wha had at least one husband, was trained in the customs and rites for the ceremonies for both men and women, and was a respected member of their community. Friends who documented their life used both pronouns for We'wha.
In 1908, the first American defense of homosexuality was published. The Intersexes: A History of Similisexualism as a Problem in Social Life, was written by Edward Stevenson under the pseudonym Xavier Mayne. This 600-page defense detailed Classical examples, but also modern literature and 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 novels—Imre: A Memorandum. Also in this era, the earliest known open homosexual in the 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 and psychologists that failed to "cure" him. Hartland wished his attraction to men could be solely "spiritual," but could not escape the "animal."
By this time, society was slowly becoming aware of the homosexual subculture. In an 1898 lecture in Massachusetts, a doctor gave a lecture on this development in modern cities. With a population around three million at the turn of the 20th 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 terminology of the underground world of the Lower East Side. But with this growing public presence, backlash occurred. 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 legislatures to pass strict censorship laws. Ironically, the YMCA became a site of homosexual conduct. In 1912, a scandal hit Oregon where more than 50 men, many prominent in the community were arrested for homosexual activity. In reaction to this scandal conflicting with public campaigns, YMCA 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 Women, Feminine Men." It was released in 1926 and recorded by numerous artists of the day and included the following lyrics:
|“||Masculine women, Feminine men
Which is the rooster, which is the hen?
Homosexuals received a level of acceptance that was not seen again until the 1970s. 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 lived in a gay relationship with his lover, Jimmie Shields. Other popular gay actors/actresses of the decade included Alla Nazimova and Ramon Novarro. In 1927, Mae West wrote a play about homosexuality called The Drag, and alluded to the work of Karl Heinrich Ulrichs. It was a box-office success. West regarded talking about sex as a basic human rights issue, and was also an early advocate of gay rights. With the return of conservatism in the 1930s, the public grew intolerant of homosexuality, and gay actors were forced to choose between retiring or agreeing to hide their sexuality.
By 1935, the United States had become conservative once again. Victorian values and mores, which had been widely ridiculed during the 1920s became fashionable once again. During this period, life was harsh for homosexuals as they were forced to hide their behavior and identity in order to escape ridicule and even imprisonment. Many laws were passed against homosexuals during this period and it was declared to be a mental illness. Many police forces conducted operations to arrest homosexuals by using young undercover cops to get them to make propositions to them.
By the 1930s both fruit and fruitcake terms as well as numerous other words are seen as not only negative but also to mean male homosexual, although probably not universally. LGBT people were widely diagnosed as diseased with the potential for being cured, thus were regularly "treated" with castration, lobotomies, pudic nerve surgery, and electroshock treatment. so transferring the meaning of fruitcake, nutty, to someone who is deemed insane, or crazy, may have seemed rational at the time and many apparently believed that LGBT people were mentally unsound. In the United States, psychiatric institutions ("mental hospitals") where many of these procedures were carried out were called fruitcake factories while in 1960s Australia they were called fruit factories.
As the US entered World War II in 1941, women were provided opportunities to volunteer for their country and almost 250,000 women served in the armed forces, mostly in the Women's Army Corps (WAC), two-thirds of whom were single and under the age of twenty-five. Women were recruited with posters showing muscular, short-haired women wearing tight-fitting tailored uniforms. Many lesbians joined the WAC to meet other women and to do men's work. Few were rejected for lesbianism, and found that being strong or having masculine appearance – characteristics associated with homosexual women – aided in the work as mechanics and motor vehicle operators. A popular Fleischmann's Yeast advertisement showed a WAC riding a motorcycle with the heading This is no time to be frail. Some recruits appeared at their inductions wearing men's clothing and their hair slicked back in the classic butch style of out lesbians of the time. Post-war many women including lesbians declined opportunities to return to traditional gender roles and helped redefine societal expectations that fed the women's movement, Civil Rights Movement and gay liberation movement. The war effort greatly shifted American culture and by extension representations in entertainment of both the nuclear family and LGBT people. In mostly same sex quarters service members were more easily able to express their interests and find willing partners of all sexualities.
From 1942 to 1947, WWII conscientious objectors in the US assigned to psychiatric hospitals under Civilian Public Service exposed abuses throughout the psychiatric care system and were instrumental in reforms of the 1940s and 1950s.
Although the June 28, 1969, Stonewall riots are generally considered the starting point of the modern gay liberation movement, a number of demonstrations and actions took place before that date. These actions, often organized by local homophile organizations but sometimes spontaneous, addressed concerns ranging from anti-gay discrimination in employment and public accommodations to the exclusion of homosexuals from the United States military to police harassment to the treatment of homosexuals in revolutionary Cuba. The early actions have been credited with preparing the LGBT community for Stonewall and contributing to the riots' symbolic power. See: List of LGBT actions in the United States prior to the Stonewall riots
In the autumn of 1959, the police force of New York City's Wagner administration began closing down the city's gay bars, which had numbered almost two dozen in Manhattan at the beginning of the year. This crackdown was largely the result of a sustained campaign by the right-wing NY Mirror newspaper columnist Lee Mortimer. Existing gay bars were quickly closed and new ones lasted only a short time. The election of John Lindsay in 1965 signaled a major shift in city politics, and a new attitude toward sexual mores began changing the social atmosphere of New York. On April 21, 1966, Dick Leitsch, Craig Rodwell president and vice president respectively of the New York Mattachine Society and Mattachine activist John Timmons staged the Sip-In at Julius' Bar on West 10th Street in Greenwich Village. This resulted in the anti-gay accommodation rules of the NY State Liquor Authority being overturned in subsequent court actions. These SLA provisions declared that it was illegal for homosexuals to congregate and be served alcoholic beverages in bars. An example of when these laws had been upheld is in 1940 when Gloria's, a bar that had been closed for such violations, fought the case in court and lost. Prior to this change in the law, the business of running a gay bar had to involve paying bribes to the police and Mafia. As soon as the law was altered, the SLA ceased closing legally licensed gay bars and such bars could no longer be prosecuted for serving gays and lesbians. Mattachine pressed this advantage very quickly and Mayor Lindsay was confronted with the issue of police entrapment in gay bars, resulting in this practice being stopped. On the heels of this victory, the mayor cooperated in getting questions about homosexuality removed from NYC hiring practices. The police and fire departments resisted the new policy, however, and refused to cooperate. The result of these changes in the law, combined with the open social- and sexual-attitudes of the late Sixties, led to the increased visibility of gay life in New York. Several licensed gay bars were in operation in Greenwich Village and the Upper West Side, as well as illegal, unlicensed places serving alcohol, such as the Stonewall Inn and the Snakepit, both in Greenwich Village. The Stonewall riots were a series of violent conflicts between gay men, drag queens, transsexuals, and butch lesbians against a police officer raid in New York City. The first night of rioting began on Friday, June 27, 1969 at about 1:20 am, when police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar operating without a state license in Greenwich Village. Stonewall is considered a turning point for the modern gay rights movement worldwide. Newspaper coverage of the events was minor in the city, since, in the Sixties, huge marches and mass rioting had become commonplace and the Stonewall disturbances were relatively small. It was the commemorative march one year later, organized by the impetus of Craig Rodwell, owner of the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop, which drew 5,000 marchers up New York City's Sixth Avenue, that drew nationwide publicity and put the Stonewall events on the historical map and led to the modern-day pride marches. A new period of liberalism in the late 1960s began a new era of more social acceptance for homosexuality which lasted until the late 1970s. In the 1970s, the popularity of disco music and its culture in many ways made society more accepting of gays and lesbians. Late in 1979, a new religious revival ushered in the conservatism that would reign in the United States during the 1980s and made life hard once again for LGBT people.
In the 1980s a renewed conservative movement spawned a new anti-gay movement in the United States, particularly with the help of the Religious Right (Evangelicals in particular). While it is a common belief within some circles of the LGBT community that Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were anti-gay, some others believe that this is an exaggeration. Ronald Reagan spoke up for gay equality as early as 1978, when he came out against Proposition 6, a ballot initiative that would have dismissed California teachers who "advocated" homosexuality, even off-campus. As President, he allocated 5.727 Billion dollars from 1982 until 1989 for AIDS research. Socially, the Reagans were well known for being tolerant of homosexuals. Robert G. Kaiser's news story in the March 18, 1984, Washington Post. "The Reagans are also tolerant about homosexual men," Kaiser wrote. "Their interior decorator, Ted Graber, who oversaw the redecoration of the White House, spent a night in the Reagans' private White House quarters with his male lover, Archie Case, when they came to Washington for Nancy Reagan's 60th birthday party—a fact confirmed for the press by Mrs. Reagan's press secretary." However, by the later part of the decade the general public started to show more sympathy and even tolerance for gays as the toll for AIDS related deaths continued to rise to include heterosexuals as well as cultural icons such as Rock Hudson and Liberace, who also died from the condition. Also, despite the more conservative period, life in general for gays and lesbians was considerably better in contrast to the pre-Stonewall era.
Testifying to improved conditions, a 1991 Wall Street Journal survey found that homosexuals, in comparison with average Americans, were three times more likely to be college graduates, three times more likely to hold professional or managerial positions, with average salaries $30,000 higher than the norm.
The first US state to decriminalize sodomy was Illinois in 1961. It was not until 1969 that another state would follow (Connecticut), but the 1970s and 80s saw the decriminalization throughout the majority of the United States. The 14 states that did not repeal these laws until 2003 were forced to by the landmark United States Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas.
|States, territories, and federal district||Year|
|Delaware, North Dakota||1973|
|New Hampshire, New Mexico, Washington||1975|
|California, Guam, Indiana, Maine, South Dakota, Ohio, West Virginia||1976|
|Alaska, Iowa, Nebraska, New Jersey||1978|
|Pennsylvania, New York||1980|
|Northern Mariana Islands, Wisconsin||1983|
|Michigan (Wayne County only)||1990|
|District of Columbia, Nevada||1993|
|Georgia, Rhode Island||1998|
|Maryland, Missouri (Western District counties only)||1999|
|New York (applied to New York National Guard)||2000|
|Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia||2003|
|United States Armed Forces||2011|
Several public schools have opened with a specific mission to create a "safe" place for LGBT students and allies, including Harvey Milk High School in New York City, and The Alliance School of Milwaukee. The Social Justice High School-Pride Campus is proposed for Chicago, and a number of private schools have also identified as "gay friendly", such as the Elisabeth Irwin High School in New York City.
In 2012, for the first time, two American school districts celebrated LGBT History Month; the Broward County school district in Florida signed a resolution in September in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, and later that year the Los Angeles school district, America's second-largest, also signed on.
In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, there has been a growing movement in a number of countries to regard marriage as a right which should be extended to same-sex couples. Legal recognition of a marital union opens up a wide range of entitlements, including social security, taxation, inheritance and other benefits unavailable to couples not married, in the eyes of the law. Restricting legal recognition to opposite-sex couples prevents same-sex couples from gaining access to the legal benefits of marriage. Though certain rights can be replicated by legal means other than marriage (for example, by drawing-up contracts), many cannot, such as inheritance, hospital visitation and immigration. Lack of legal recognition also makes it more difficult for same-sex couples to adopt children.
The first country to legalize same-sex marriages was the Netherlands (2001), while the first marriages were performed in the Amsterdam city hall on April 1, 2001. As of June 2019[update], same-sex marriages are legal nationally in twenty-six countries: the Netherlands (2001), Belgium (2003), Spain and Canada (2005), South Africa (2006), Norway and Sweden (2009), Portugal, Iceland and Argentina (2010), Denmark (2012), Brazil, France, Uruguay, New Zealand (2013), United Kingdom (without Northern Ireland—May 22, 2015), Luxembourg (2014), Ireland (2015), Colombia (2016), Finland, Germany, Malta (2017), Australia (2018) and in Austria, Taiwan and Ecuador (2019). In Mexico, same-sex marriage is recognized in all states, but performed only in Mexico City, where it became effective on March 4, 2010.
Same-sex marriage was effectively legalized in the United States on June 26, 2015 following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. Prior to Obergefell, lower court decisions, state legislation, and popular referendums had already legalized same-sex marriage to some degree in 38 out of 50 U.S. states, comprising about 70% of the U.S. population. Federal benefits were previously extended to lawfully married same-sex couples following the Supreme Court's June 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor.
Since the mid-1970s students at high schools and universities have organized LGBT groups, often called Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) at their respective schools. The groups form to provide support for LGBT students and to promote awareness of LGBT issues in the local community. In 1990, a student group named The Other Ten Percentile (Hebrew: העשירון האחר) was founded by a group of teachers and students in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, becoming the first LGBT organization in Jerusalem. Frequently, such groups have been banned or prohibited from meeting or receiving the same recognition as other student groups. For example, in September 2006, Touro University California briefly attempted to ban the school's GSA, the Touro University Gay-Straight Alliance. After student demonstrations and an outcry of support from the American Medical Student Association, the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association and the Vallejo City Council, Touro University retracted its revocation of the school's GSA. The university went on to reaffirm its commitment to non-discrimination based on sexual orientation.
In April 2016, the GSA Network changed their name from Gay-Straight Alliance Network to Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network in order to be more inclusive and reflective of youth who make up the organization.
When Heinrich Hoessli and K. H. Ulrichs began their pioneering homosexual scholarship in the late 19th century, they found little in the way of comprehensive historical data, except for material from ancient Greece and Islam. Some other information was added by the English scholars Richard Burton and Havelock Ellis. In German Albert Moll published a volume containing lists of famous homosexuals. By the end of the century, however, when the Berlin Scientific-Humanitarian Committee was formed it was realised that a comprehensive bibliographical search must be undertaken. The results of this inquiry were incorporated into the volumes of the Jahrbuch fur sexualle Zwischenstufen and Magnus Hirschfeld's Die Homoexualitat des Mannes und des Weibes (1914). The Great Depression and the rise of Nazism put a stop to most serious homosexual research.
As part of the growth of the contemporary gay movement in Southern California, a number of historical articles made their way into such movement periodicals as The Ladder, Mattachine Review, and One Quarterly. In France Aracadie under the editorship of Marc Daniel published a considerable amount of historical material. Almost without exception, university scholars were afraid to touch the subject. As a result, much of the work was done by autodidacts toiling under less than ideal conditions. Since most of this scholarship was done under movement auspices, it tended to reflect relevant concerns; compiling a brief of injustices and biographical sketches of exemplary gay men and women of the past for example.
The atmosphere of the 1960s changed things. The sexual revolution made human sexuality an appropriate object of research. A new emphasis on social and intellectual history appeared, stemming in large measure from the group around the French periodical Annales. Although several useful syntheses of the world history of homosexuality have appeared, much material, especially from Islam, China and other non-Western cultures has not yet been properly studied and published, so that undoubtedly these will be superseded.
In the 1950s and 1960s, lobotomies ... were administered promiscuously in the treatment of homosexuals.
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