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History of homosexuality

History of homosexuality

History of homosexuality – Societal attitudes towards same-sex relationships have varied over time and space, ranging from requiring all men to engage in same-sex relationships to casual integration , through acceptance, to consider the practice a minor sin, repressing it through law enforcement and judicial mechanisms, and outlawing it on pain of death. In a 1976 study, Gwen Broude and Sarah Greene compared the attitudes and frequency of homosexuality in available ethnographic studies in the standard cross-cultural sample. They found that out of 42 communities: homosexuality was accepted or ignored in 9; 5 communities had no concept of homosexuality; 11 considered it undesirable but imposed no sanctions, and 17 strongly disapproved and punished it. Of 70 communities, homosexuality was reported as absent or rare in frequency in 41, and present or not rare in 29. 

It was accepted in certain forms in ancient Greece. However, in later cultures influenced by the Abrahamic religions, the law and the church established sodomy as a transgression against divine law or a crime against nature.

Many male historical figures, including Socrates, Lord Byron, Edward II and Hadrian, have had terms such as  gay  or  bisexual applied to them; some scholars, such as Michel Foucault, have seen this as risking the anachronistic introduction of a contemporary social construction of sexuality foreign to their time, although others dispute this. 

A common thread in the constructionist argument is that no one in antiquity or the Middle Ages experienced homosexuality as an exclusive, permanent, or determining mode of sexuality. John Boswell countered this argument by citing ancient Greek writings by Plato, which describe individuals exhibiting exclusive homosexuality.

History of homosexuality


Indigenous societies before colonization 

Among the indigenous peoples of the Americas before European colonization, a number of nations respected the ceremonial and social roles of homosexual, bisexual, and gender nonconforming people in their communities; in many contemporary Native American and First Nations communities, these roles still exist. While each Aboriginal culture has its own names for these people, a modern pan-Indian term that was adopted in 1990 is “Two-Spirit”. Although this new term has not been universally accepted, it has been criticized by mainstream communities who already have their own terms for people grouped under this “urban neologism”, and by those who reject what they call the implications “Western” binaries, 

Homosexual and gender-variant individuals were also common among other pre-conquest civilizations in Latin America, such as the Aztecs, Mayas, Quechuas, Moches, Zapotecs, and Tupinambá of Brazil. 

The Spanish conquerors were horrified to discover sodomy practiced openly among the native peoples, and attempted to crush it by subjecting the  berdaches  (as the Spaniards called them) under their rule to severe punishments, including public execution, burning and tearing to pieces by dogs.

East Asia 


Homosexuality is widely documented in ancient China, and attitudes towards it have varied over time, place, and social class. Chinese literature has recorded several anecdotes of men engaging in same-sex relationships. In the history of the  remaining fishing (余桃), set during the Spring and Autumn Era, historian Han Fei recorded an anecdote in the relationship between Mi Zixia (彌子瑕) and Duke Ling of Wei (衛靈公) in which Mizi Xia shared a particularly delicious peach with her lover. The Story of the Severed Sleeve (断袖) recorded Emperor Ai of Han sharing a bed with his lover, Dongxian (董賢); when Emperor Ai woke up later, he carefully cut off his sleeve, so as not to wake Dongxian, who had fallen asleep on it. Scholar Pan Guangdan (潘光旦) came to the conclusion that many Han dynasty emperors had one or more male sexual partners. However, except in unusual cases, such as Emperor Ai, the men named for their same-sex relationships in official histories also appear to have had active heterosexual lives.

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With the rise of the Tang dynasty, China became increasingly influenced by the sexual mores of Western and Central Asian foreigners, and female companions began to replace male companions in power and familial status. The following Song dynasty was the last dynasty to include a chapter on male companions of emperors in official documents.During these dynasties, the general attitude towards homosexuality was still tolerant, but male lovers began to be considered as less legitimate compared to wives and men are generally expected to marry and continue the family line. 

During the Ming Dynasty, Emperor Zhengde is said to have had a same-sex relationship with a Muslim ruler named Sayyid Husain. In the late Ming dynasty, homosexuality began to be referred to as the “southern custom” due to Fujian being the site of a unique system of male marriages, attested to by the scholar-bureaucrat Shen Defu and writer Li Yu, and mythologized by the folk tale The Leveret Spirit.

The Qing dynasty instituted the first law against consensual, unmonetized homosexuality in China. However, the designated sentence, which included one month in prison and 100 severe beatings, was actually the lightest sentence that existed in the Qing legal system.  Homosexuality began to be eliminated in China through the Self-Strengthening Movement, when homophobia was brought to China along with Western science and philosophy. 

History of homosexuality


Homosexuality in Japan, known as  shudo  or  nanshoku  , has been documented for over a thousand years and has connections to Buddhist monastic life and the samurai tradition. This culture of same-sex love gave rise to strong traditions of painting and literature documenting and celebrating such relationships.

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Similarly, in Thailand,  kathoey  , or “ladyboys”, have been a feature of Thai society for many centuries, and Thai kings had both male and female lovers. While  kathoey  can encompass mere effeminacy or cross-dressing, it is most often treated in Thai culture as a third gender. They are generally accepted by society and Thailand has never had any legal prohibitions against homosexuality or homosexual behavior. 

History of homosexuality


The earliest Western records (in the form of literary works, art objects, and mythographic materials) regarding same-sex relationships are derived from ancient Greece.

The formal practice, an erotic but often restrained relationship between a free-born adult male  (  i.e.   resulting in social disorder. Plato praised its benefits in his early writings but in his later works proposed its prohibition.  In Symposium  (  182B- D), Plato equates the acceptance of homosexuality with democracy, and its suppression with despotism, asserting that homosexuality “is shameful to barbarians”.because of their despotic governments, as are philosophy and athletics, for it is apparently not in the interests of these rulers to have great ideas engendered in their subjects, or powerful physical friendships or unions , which love is particularly likely to produce”

Aristotle, in his  Politics  , rejected Plato’s ideas about the abolition of homosexuality (2.4); he explains that barbarians like the Celts gave him special honor (2.6.6), while the Cretans used him to regulate the population 

Little is known about female homosexuality in antiquity. Sappho, born on the island of Lesbos, was later included by the classical Greek people in the canonical list of the nine lyric poets. Adjectives deriving from her name and place of birth (  Sapphic  and  Lesbian  ) were applied to female homosexuality beginning in the 19th century. Sappho’s poetry centers around passion and love for various characters and both genders. The narrators of many of his poems speak of infatuations and love (sometimes rewarded, sometimes not) for various women, but descriptions of physical acts between women are rare and debatable. There is no evidence that she ran an academy for girls.

In ancient Rome, the young male body remained the focus of male sexual attention, but relationships were between older free men and slaves or freed youths who assumed the receptive role in sex. Hellenophilic Emperor Hadrian is renowned for his relationship with Antinous. However, after the transition to Christianity, in 390 AD, Emperor Theodosius made homosexuality a legally punishable offense for the passive partner: “All people who have the shameful custom of condemning a man’s body, playing the part of a woman with the suffering of a foreign sex (for they do not appear different from women), must expiate a crime of this kind by vengeful flames in the eyes of the people. In 558, towards the end of his reign, Justinian also extended the proscription to the active partner, warning that such conduct can lead to the destruction of cities by the “wrath of God”. Notwithstanding these regulations, taxes on boys’ brothels available for homosexual sex continued to be collected until the end of Anastasius I’s reign in 618

The Middle Age

During the medieval period, homosexuality was generally condemned and considered the moral of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Historians debate whether there were prominent homosexuals and bisexuals at this time, but it is claimed that figures such as Edward II, Richard the Lionheart, Philip II Augustus and William Rufus were engaged in same-sex relationships .

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Also in medieval times, there were legal arrangements called adelphopoiesis (“brother-making”) in the Eastern Mediterranean or  affrèrement  (“brotherhood”) in France that allowed two men to share accommodation and pool their resources, sharing “one bread, one wine, one purse.”   Historians such as John Boswell and Allan A. Tulchin have argued that these arrangements amounted to an early form of same-sex marriage. This interpretation of these arrangements remains controversial.

The Renaissance

During the Renaissance, the wealthy cities of northern Italy – Florence and Venice in particular – were renowned for their widespread practice of same-sex love, practiced by a considerable part of the male population and built according to the classical model of Greece and from Rome. But even as much of the male population engaged in same-sex relationships, the authorities, under the aegis of the Officers of the Night, prosecuted, fined, and imprisoned much of this population. Many prominent artists who defined the Renaissance, such as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, are thought to have had relationships with men. ]  In England, Geoffery Chaucer’s “The Pardoner’s Tale” centers on an enigmatic and deceptive character who is also at one point described as “a gelding or a mare”, suggesting that the narrator thought the Pardoner was either a eunuch ( “gelding”) or a homosexual.



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