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Sexual orientation
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Against Nature?
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Homosexuality refers to sexual and romantic attraction between individuals of the same sex. The first recorded use of the word was in 1869 by Karl-Maria Kertbeny, but the prevalence of the concept owes much to the work of the German psychiatrist Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing and his 1886 work Psychopathia Sexualis. As such, the current use of the term has its roots in the broader 19th century tradition of personality taxonomy. These continue to influence the development of the modern concept of sexual orientation, gaining associations with romantic love and identity in addition to its original, exclusively sexual meaning.

Homosexuality is usually contrasted with heterosexuality and bisexuality. The term gay is used predominantly to refer to homosexual males. Lesbian is a gender-specific term that is only used for homosexual females. The adjective homosexual is also used for same-sex sexual relations between persons of the same sex who do not identify themselves as gay or lesbian. Three major forms of homosexual relationships are proposed by anthropologists: egalitarian, gender-structured, and age-structured. Of these, one is usually dominant in a given society at a given time. (See Forms below.) As there are different biological, historical and psychosocial components to sex and gender, no single label or description will fit all individuals.


Etymology and usage

The word homosexual is both an adjective and a noun. The adjectival form literally means “same sex”, being a hybrid formed from the Greek prefix homo–, which means “same”, and the Latin root sex–, which means “sex” or "gender". Its first known appearance in print is found in an 1869 German pamphlet by the Austrian-born novelist Karl-Maria Kertbeny, published anonymously.

The term homosexual can be used to describe individuals' sexual orientation, sexual history, or self-identification. Many people reject the term "homosexual" as too clinical and dehumanizing as the word only refers to one's sexual behavior, and does not refer to non-sexual romantic feelings. As a result, the terms gay and lesbian are usually preferred when discussing a person of this sexual orientation, whose sexual history is predominated by this behavior, or who identifies as such. The first letters are frequently combined to create the acronym LGBT (which is also written as GLBT, in which B and T refer to bisexuals and transgender individuals). Some same-sex oriented people personally prefer the term "homosexual" rather than "gay", as they may perceive the former as describing a sexual orientation and the latter as describing a cultural or socio-political group with which they do not identify.

Although early writers also used the adjective homosexual to refer to any single-gender context (such as an all-girls' school), today the term is used exclusively in reference to sexual attraction and activity. The term homosocial is now used to describe single-sex contexts that are not specifically sexual. There is also a word referring to same-sex love, homophilia.

New terms are arising for use in situations where specificity is important. For example, men who have sex with men, or MSM for short, is sometimes used in the medical community when specifically discussing sexual behaviour (regardless of sexual orientation or self-identification). Same-sex attraction focuses on spontaneous feeling, but de-emphasises identification with a demographic or cultural group, and also leaves open the possibility for co-existing opposite-sex attraction. Homoerotic is a synonym for same-sex attraction that is used to refer both to personal feelings and works of art. Non-straight is another attempt at neutrality that is gaining currency. Some other humorous terms are now becoming more prevalent, including heteroflexible to refer to a person who identifies as heterosexual, but occasionally engages in same-sex sexual activities, or metrosexual to denote a straight man with stereotypically gay tastes in food, fashion and design.

A variety of negative terms also exist. Many of these, including words like queer and faggot, have been "reclaimed" as positive words by those against whom they were initially used.

Academic study

The manifestation of sexual orientation is subject to a considerable variability. Thus it is common for homosexual individuals in heteronormative societies to love, marry, and have children with individuals of the opposite sex, a practice that may be done primarily for social reasons in societies which reject same-sex relations, as a cover for one's orientation (such relationships are known as "beards"). These adaptations are forms of situational sexual behavior. Also some people of either sex want to pass their genes on and have children. Homosexual men or women may marry for that reason. Lesbian women may want a child through Artificial insemination.

A further, and extremely common, manifestation of situational sexual behaviour involving homosexual acts is seen in prisons where individuals can only meet members of their own sex for long periods of time.



Numerous researchers studying the social construction of same-sex relationships have suggested that the concept of homosexuality would best be rendered as "homosexualities." They document that same-sex relations have been and continue to be organised in distinctly categorical ways by different societies in different eras. These variations are grouped by cultural anthropologist Stephen O. Murray into three separate modes of association:

Gender-structured and age-structured homosexuality typically involve one partner adopting a "passive" and the other an "active" role to a much greater degree than in egalitarian relationships. Among men, being the passive partner often means receiving semen, i.e. performing fellatio or being the receptive partner during anal sex. This is sometimes interpreted as an emphasis on the sexual pleasure of the active partner, although this is disputed. For example, in gender-structured female homosexuality in Thailand, active partners (toms) emphasise the sexual pleasure of the passive partner (dee), and often refuse to allow their dee to pleasure them, while in ancient Greece the pederastic tradition was seen as engendering strong friendships between the partners, and was blamed for predisposing males to continue seeking the "passive" pleasures they experienced as adolescents even after they matured.

Some anthropologists have argued for the existence of a fourth type of homosexuality, class-structured homosexuality, but many scholars believe that this has no independent existence from the other three types.

Usually in any society one form of homosexuality predominates, though others are likely to co-exist. As historian Rictor Norton points out in his Intergenerational and Egalitarian Models, in Ancient Greece egalitarian relationships co-existed (albeit less privileged) with the institution of pederasty, and fascination with adolescents can also be found in modern sexuality, both heterosexual and homosexual. Egalitarian homosexuality is becoming the principal form practised in the Western world, while age- and gender-structured homosexuality are becoming less common. As a byproduct of growing Western cultural dominance, this egalitarian homosexuality is spreading from western culture to non-Western societies, although there are still defined differences between the various cultures.


Estimates of the modern prevalence of homosexuality vary considerably. They are complicated by differing or even ambiguous definitions of homosexuality, and by fluctuations over time and according to location. Anti-gay activists typically favor the smallest estimates, while radical gays prefer the highest estimates.

It is important to note, however, that these numbers are subject to many of the pitfalls inherent in researching sensitive social issues. For example, because of the stigma associated with homosexuality, survey results will be biased downward by under-reporting. The frequent use of non-random samples in many studies could also serve to skew the data.

In general, most research agrees that the number of people who have had multiple same-gender sexual experiences is fewer than the number of people who have had a single such experience, and that the number of people who identify themselves as exclusively homosexual is fewer than the number of people who have had multiple homosexual experiences.

The controversial Kinsey Reports of 1948 found that 37% of males had had some sexual experience with other men, and that 4% had always been exclusively homosexual. Among women, Kinsey found between 2% and 6% had "more or less exclusively" homosexual experience.

In the United States during the 2004 elections, exit polls indicated 4% of all voters self-identified as gay or lesbian. However, due to societal pressures, many who are homosexual may not be willing to identify as such.

In Canada, a 2003 report by Statistics Canada indicated that among Canadians aged 18 to 59, 1% reported that they are homosexual, and 0.7% reported to be bisexual. <ref>The Daily Canadian Community Health Survey</ref> At the same time, a Global Sex Survey by Durex for 2005 reports that 19% of Canadians claim to have had a homosexual experience, along with 20% of Americans. [1]

In North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, where gender- or age-structured relationships are the rule, male homosexual practices are reported to be widespread, engaged in by many individuals who do not regard themselves as homosexual. [citation needed] See Homosexuality and Islam


Prenatal hormonal theory

The neurobiology of the masculinization of the brain is fairly well understood. Estradiol, and testosterone, which is catalysed by the enzyme 5α-reductase into dihydrotestosterone, act upon androgen receptors in the brain to masculinize it. If there are few androgen receptors (people with Androgen insensitivity syndrome) or too much androgen (females with Congenital adrenal hyperplasia) there can be physical and psychological effects.<ref>Vilain, E. (2000). Genetics of Sexual Development. Annual Review of Sex Research, 11</ref> It has been suggested that both male and female homosexuality are results of variation in this process.<ref>Wilson, G. and Rahman, Q., (2005). Born Gay. Chapter 5. London: Peter Owen Publishers</ref> In these studies lesbianism is typically linked with a higher amount of masculinization than is found in heterosexual females, though when dealing with male homosexuality there are results supporting both higher and lower degrees of masculinization than heterosexual males. (See the main article for further details.)

Physiological differences in homosexual persons

Several recent studies, including pioneering work by neuroscientist Simon LeVay, demonstrate that there are notable differences between the physiology of a heterosexual male and a homosexual male. These differences are primarily noted in the brain, inner ear and olfactory sense. LeVay discovered in his double-blind experiment that approximately 10% of homosexual male brains were physiologically different from their heterosexual counterparts, <ref>http://members.aol.com/slevay/hypothalamus.pdf</ref> some people take this as showing that people are born as homosexuals, however in LeVay's own words:

"It's important to stress what I didn't find. I did not prove that homosexuality was genetic, or find a genetic cause for being gay. I didn't show that gay men are born that way, the most common mistake people make in interpreting my work. Nor did I locate a gay center in the brain. INAH-3 is less likely to be the sole gay nucleus of the brain than a part of a chain of nuclei engaged in men and women's sexual behavior...Since I looked at adult brains we don't know if the differences I found were there at birth, or if they appeared later"<ref>D. Nimmons, "Sex and the brain," Discover [March 1994), 64-71</ref>

LeVay's work has come under criticism for not taking into account the fact that all of the brains of homosexual men he studied were from homosexual men who had died of AIDS, which was not equally true of the heterosexuals whose brains he studied. When comparisons were made of the INAH-3 measurements in only the brains of those in each group who died from complications due to AIDS (albeit a small sample), similar size differences were found. It should also be noted that, to date, no evidence has been found to suggest that HIV or the effects of AIDS would results in changes in INAH-3 size.

Studies in women have not produced similar findings to date.

Some recent studies have tied a correlation between the number of older brothers a man has and his likelihood of being homosexual. Blanchard and Klassen (1997) <ref>H-Y Antigen and Homosexuality in Men. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 185, 373-378.</ref> reported that each older brother increases the odds of being gay by 33%. This is now “one of the most reliable epidemiological variables ever identified in the study of sexual orientation” (Blanchard, 1997)<ref>Birth order and sibling sex ratio in homosexual versus heterosexual males and females. Review of Sex Research, Vol. 8</ref>. To explain this finding, it has been proposed that male fetuses provoke a maternal immune reaction that becomes stronger with each successive male fetus (Blanchard and Klassen, 1997). Male fetuses produce HY antigens which are “almost certainly” involved in the sexual differentiation of vertebrates (Blanchard and Klassen, 1997)<ref>H-Y Antigen and Homosexuality in Men. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 185, 373-378.</ref>. It is this antigen which maternal H-Y antibodies are proposed to both react to and ‘remember’. Successive male fetuses are then attacked by H-Y antibodies which somehow decrease the ability of H-Y antigens to perform their usual function in brain masculinisation. This is now known as the fraternal birth order effect. In a study comparing the effects of being raised with older "brothers" and having biological older brothers, published July 26, 2006 in PNAS, Bogaert found that there was a link to homosexuality only if the older brothers were biologically related and even when they were not raised together.<ref>[2]</ref> Interestingly, this relation seems to hold only for right-handed males.<ref>http://members.aol.com/slevay/page22.html#_Birth_order</ref> There has been no observable equivalent for women.

Homosexual behavior in animals

Further information: List of animals displaying homosexual behavior

Homosexual behaviour does occur in the animal kingdom, especially in social species, particularly in marine birds and mammals, monkeys and the great apes. Homosexual behaviour has been observed among 1,500 species, and in 500 of those it is well documented.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Georgetown University professor Janet Mann has specifically theorised that homosexual behaviour, at least in dolphins, is an evolutionary advantage that minimises intraspecies aggression, especially among males.

  • Male penguin couples have been documented to mate for life, build nests together, and to use a stone as a surrogate egg in nesting and brooding. In 2004, the Central Park Zoo in the United States replaced one male couple's stone with a fertile egg, which the couple then raised as their own offspring.<ref>"Central Park Zoo's gay penguins ignite debate" by Dinitia Smith, San Francisco Chronicle, February 7, 2004</ref> German and Japanese zoos have also reported homosexual behaviour among their penguins. This phenomenon has also been reported at Kelly Tarlton's Aquarium in Auckland, New Zealand.
  • Courtship, mounting, and full anal penetration between bulls has been noted to occur among American Bison. The Mandan nation Okipa festival concludes with a ceremonial enactment of this behaviour, to "ensure the return of the buffalo in the coming season." [citation needed] Also, mounting of one female by another is common among cattle. (See also, Freemartin. Freemartins occur because of clearly causal hormonal factors at work during gestation.)
  • Homosexual behaviour in male sheep (found in 6-10% of rams) is associated with variations in cerebral mass distribution and chemical activity. A study reported in Endocrinology concluded that biological and physiological factors are in effect.<ref>"The Volume of a Sexually Dimorphic Nucleus in the Ovine Medial Preoptic Area/Anterior Hypothalamus Varies with Sexual Partner Preference" by Charles E. Roselli, et al., The Endocrine Society, October 2, 2003</ref> These findings are similar to human findings studied by Simon LeVay.
  • Male bighorn sheep are divisible into two kinds, the typical males among whom homosexual behavior is common and "effiminate sheep" or "behavioral transvestites" which are not known to engage in homosexual behavior. <ref>[3]</ref> <ref>[4]</ref>


Behavioural Studies

Main article: Kinsey Reports

At the beginning of the 20th century, early theoretical discussions in the field of psychoanalysis posited original bisexuality in human psychological development. Quantitative studies by Alfred Kinsey in the 1940s and Dr. Fritz Klein's sexual orientation grid in the 1980s find distributions similar to those postulated by their predecessors.

Many modern studies, most notably Sexual Behavior in the Human Male <ref>Alfred C. Kinsey, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, 1948, ISBN 0-7216-5445-2(o.p.), ISBN 0-253-33412-8(reprint).</ref> and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female <ref>Alfred C. Kinsey, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, 1953, ISBN 0-7216-5450-9(o.p.), ISBN 0-671-78615-6(o.p. pbk.), ISBN 0-253-33411-X(reprint).</ref> by Alfred Kinsey, have found that the majority of humans have had homosexual experiences or sensations and are bisexual. Contemporary scientific research suggests that the majority of the human population is bisexual, adhering to a fluid sexual scale rather than a category, as Western society typically views sexual nature. The Kinsey Reports found that approximately four percent of adult Americans were exclusively homosexual for their entire lives, and approximately 10 percent were homosexual in their behaviour for some portion of their lives. Conversely, an even smaller minority of people appear to have had equal sexual experiences with both genders indicating an attraction scale or continuum. However, social pressures influence people to adhere to categories or labels rather than behave in a manner that more closely resembles their nature as suggested by this research.

Kinsey himself, along with current LGBT activist groups, focus on the historicity and fluidity of sexual orientation. Kinsey's studies consistently found sexual orientation to be something that evolves in many directions over a person's lifetime; rarely, but not necessarily, including forming attractions to a new gender. Rarely do individuals radically reorient their sexualities rapidly — and still less do they do so volitionally — but often sexualities expand, shift, and absorb new elements over decades. For example, socially normative "age-appropriate" sexuality requires a shifting object of attraction (especially in the passage through adolescence). Contemporary queer theory, incorporating many ideas from social constructionism, tends to look at sexuality as something that has meaning only within a given historical framework. Sexuality, then, is seen as a participation in a larger social discourse, and, though in some sense fluid, not as something strictly determinable by the individual.

Most sexual orientation specialists follow the general conclusion of Alfred Kinsey regarding the sexual continuum, according to which a minority of humans are exclusively homosexual or heterosexual, and that the majority are bisexual [citation needed]. The consensus of psychologists is that sexual orientation, in most individuals, is shaped at an early age; and is not voluntarily changeable.

Other studies have disputed Kinsey's methodology and have suggested that these reports overstated the occurrence of bisexuality and homosexuality in human populations. "His figures were undermined when it was revealed that he had disproportionately interviewed homosexuals and prisoners (many sex offenders)."<ref>Tom Bethell (April 2005). "Kinsey as Pervert".</cite> American Spectator, 38, 42-44. ISSN 0148-8414.</ref> <ref>Julia A. Ericksen (May 1998). "With enough cases, why do you need statistics? Revisiting Kinsey's methodology".</cite> The Journal of Sex Research 35 (2): 132-40, ISSN 0022-4499.</ref>

However, Kinsey's idea of a sexuality continuum still enjoys acceptance today and is supported by findings in the human and animal kingdoms including biological studies of structural brain differences between those belonging to different sexual orientations.

More modern and precise research Sex in America: A definitive survey (1995) is now available from NORC and the University of Chicago by Edward O. Laumann, University of Chicago. "Results reported from the study, and included in The Social organisation of sexuality, include those related to sexual practices and sexual relationships, number of partners, the rate of homosexuality in the population (which the study reported to be 1.3% for women within the past year, and 4.1% since 18 years; for men, 2.7% within the past year, and 4.9% since 18 years).

Sexologists have attributed discrepancies in some findings to negative societal attitudes towards homosexuality. For example, people may state different sexual orientations depending on whether their immediate social environment is public or private. Reluctance to disclose one's actual sexual orientation is often referred to as "being in the closet". Individuals capable of enjoyable sexual relations with both sexes may feel inclined to restrict themselves to heterosexual relations in societies that stigmatise same-sex relations.

Although the concept of three basic sexual orientations is widely recognised, a small minority maintain that there are other legitimate sexual orientations besides homosexuality, bisexuality and heterosexuality. These may include significant or exclusive orientation towards a particular type of transsexual or transgender individual (e.g. female-to-male transsexual men), intersexed individuals, or those who identify as non-gendered or other-gendered.

Father-son Relationships and Male Sexual Development

Investigation into parent-child relations of homosexual and heterosexual men is heavily documented in research literature, and a link between the absence of sufficient bonding with samesex parent or role models and the development of adult male homosexuality has been proposed. Numerous studies have found that adult homosexual males tend to report having had less loving and more rejecting fathers than their heterosexual peers (Bell, Weinberg, & Parks, 1981; Bieber et al., 1962; Braatan & Darling, 1965; Brown, 1963; Evans, 1969; Jonas, 1944; Millic & Crowne, 1986; Nicolosi, 1991; Phelan, 1993; Saghir & Robbins, 1973; Siegelman, 1974; Snortum, 1969; Socarides, 1978; West, 1959).

Bieber (1976) stated:

Since 1962 when our volume was published, I have interviewed about 1,000 male homosexuals and 50 pairs of parents of homosexuals. The classic pattern was present in more than 90% of cases. In my entire experience, I have never interviewed a single male homosexual who had a constructive, loving father. A son who has a loving father who respects him does not become a homosexual. I have concluded that there is a causal relationship between parental influence and sexual choice (p. 368).

Bieber (1976) later expanded and clarified his earlier findings by saying:

We have repeatedly stated and written that a boy whose father is warmly related and constructive will not become homosexual; however, one must not get trapped by the fallacy of the converse, that is, a hostile, destructive father always produces a homosexual son

These reports have been criticized, particularly for confusing cause and effect. In other words, any tendency for gay males to bond more with their mothers than their fathers is more likely the result of homosexuality than the cause. The American Psychological Association has also criticized such reports, noting that the percentage of homosexuals is relatively constant across cultures, which is not what one would expect if parental influence were significant. The theory also fails to explain why homosexual acts were accepted among males in ancient Greece, pre-modern Japan, and other cultures, or why animals exhibit homosexuality. Animal biological research is beginning to parallel human research in its findings. The study of homosexual rams (Roselli et al. 2004 cited in LeVay, 2006) <ref>http://members.aol.com/slevay/page22.html</ref> revealed that in homosexual rams, the analogous brain structure indicated to be involved in human homosexuality showed similar size differences to those in humans.

Behaviour modification

Main article: Ex-gay

Some therapists, institutions, and groups contend they are able to assist homosexuals to overcome their homosexual tendencies. Most of these are conservative Christian organizations which interpret the Bible as holding homosexuality to be unnatural or sinful, and which consider homosexuality to be an undesired orientation. Reparative therapy is psychotherapy aimed at the elimination of homosexual attractions and is employed by people who claim that homosexuality is a disorder or a sin. A "transformational ministry" claims that homosexual behavior is essentially a sin that can be overcome through a religious approach employing repentance and faith.

There is no credible, scientific evidence supporting successful "treatment" of homosexual orientation, and some persons have reported that great harm was inflicted on them by such "treatments".<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> "Ex-gay" supporters point to others<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> who they say have experienced success; however, most mainstream medical and psychological organizations reject such claims and consider attempts to change sexual orientation to be ineffective and potentially harmful.

Nature versus nurture

Considerable debate exists over whether predominantly biological or psychological factors produce sexual orientation in humans. Candidate factors include genes and the exposure of fetuses to certain hormones (or lack thereof). Historically, Freud and many others psychologists, particularly in psychoanalytic or developmental traditions, speculated that formative childhood experiences helped produce sexual orientation; as an example Freud believed that all human teenagers are predominantly homosexual and transition to heterosexuality in adulthood; those who remain homosexual as adults he believed had experienced some traumatic event that arrested their sexual development; however, he did believe all adults, even those who had healthy sexual development still retained latent homosexuality to varying degrees. Although there is currently no general medical consensus, one theory is that biological factors — whether genetic or acquired in utero — produce characteristically homosexual childhood experiences (such as atypical gender behaviour experiences), or at the least significantly contribute to them.

Homosexuality and society

A mural of a female couple kissing on the CCSF student union in San Francisco

Societal attitudes towards same-sex relationships, reflected in the attitude of the general population, the state and the church, have varied over the centuries, and from place to place, from expecting and requiring all males to engage in relationships, to casual integration, through acceptance, to seeing the practice as a minor sin, repressing it through law enforcement and judicial mechanisms, to proscribing it under penalty of death.

Most nations do not impede consensual sex between unrelated individuals above the local age of consent. Some jurisdictions further recognise identical rights, protections, and privileges for the family structures of same-sex couples, including marriage. Some nations mandate that all individuals restrict themselves to heterosexual relationships — that is, in some jurisdictions homosexuality is illegal. Offenders face up to the death penalty in some fundamentalist Muslim areas such as Iran and parts of Nigeria. There are, however, often significant differences between official policy and real-world enforcement. See Violence against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and the transgendered.

Coming out

Main article: Coming out

Many people who feel attracted to members of their own sex have a so-called coming out at some point in their lives. Generally, coming out is described in two phases. The first phase is the phase of "knowing oneself," and the realization or decision emerges that one is open to same-sex love. This is often described as an internal coming out. The second phase involves one's decision to come out to others, e.g. family, friends, and/or colleagues. This occurs with many people as early as age 11, but others do not clarify their sexual orientation until age 40 or older. Most have their coming out during school age, so sometime during the time of puberty. At this age, they may not trust or ask for help from others, especially when their orientation is not accepted in society. Sometimes their own parents are not even informed. Coming out can sometimes lead to a life crisis, which can elevate to suicidal thoughts or even committing suicide. Crisis centers in larger cities and information sites on the Internet can help these people to accept their homosexuality. In fact, the suicide rate is notably higher with pubescent homosexuals than their heterosexual peers.

Modern law

In most developed countries, same-sex relationships are accepted, and are accorded legal protection. Many governments have established formal structures for confirming legal relationships (either as marriage or partnership) between people of the same sex.

In some cultures homosexuality is still considered unnatural and has been outlawed (see sodomy law, victimless crime). In some Muslim nations (such as Iran) it remains a capital crime.

For example, the Supreme Court of Canada, citing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, has established the legality of same-sex marriage on the basis of human rights. Some people argue for social acceptance of same-sex relationships on the basis that homosexuals were born homosexual, but it is difficult for some people to change their moral stance on homosexuality. Some religious groups fear the slippery slope that same-sex tolerance is a step toward tolerance of other currently unaccepted practices such as polygamy and incest. Many people in religious groups recognize other people's rights to choose a same-sex relationship, but also believe that same-sex relationships are incompatible with their chosen religious practices. They often attempt to use other state-sanctioned punitive measures to discourage homosexuality, short of death or imprisonment. This includes attempts to rescind domestic partnership benefits through anti-gay-marriage initiatives with broad language.

Understudied phenomena

Despite the emollience of attitudes towards homosexuality and acceptance of it in some societies, in psychology it is considered an 'understudied relationship'. In his book Understudied Relationships, social psychologist S.W. Duck found that most mainstream research is predisposed towards studying only heterosexuality, in terms of relationships in contemporary Western cultures, implying that same-sex relationships are neglected and ignored by the majority of psychologists. More research since the 1990s has focused on homosexual relationships. [citation needed]

Political aspects

Image:Burning of Sodomites.jpg
Burning of Sodomites
The Knight von Hohenberg and his squire being burned at the stake for sodomy, Zurich 1482 (Spiezer Schilling)


Homosexuality has at times been used as a scapegoat by governments facing problems. Notable examples include Nazi Germany's treatment of homosexuality (see main article) based on the understanding that it was a threat to masculinity as well as contaminating the "Aryan race". During the early 14th century, accusations of homosexual behaviour were instrumental in disbanding the Knights Templar under Philip IV of France (see main article). In the 1950s, politicians in the United States tried to discredit Senator Joseph McCarthy by noting one of his aides was homosexual. A recent instance is the burning of 6,000 books of homoerotic poetry of 8th c. Persian-Arab poet Abu Nuwas by the Egyptian Ministry of Culture in January 2001, to placate Islamic fundamentalists.<ref>Al-Hayat, January 13, 2001</ref><ref>Middle East Report, 219 Summer 2001</ref>

Business and attitudes towards homosexuality

In countries where business structures have a significant degree of autonomy from a government, the companies have often been at the forefront in treating gay men and women equally. In the United States, the level of equal parity is much more common in business structures than governments. As of 2005 approximately 45% of companies within the Fortune 500 offered domestic partner benefits and nine of the top ten companies include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies.


European Court of Human Rights Rulings Against Military Forces

In the ancient world

Some ancient societies, such as Greece and Japan, fostered erotic love bonds between experienced warriors and their apprentices. It was believed that a man and youth who were in love with each other would fight harder and with greater morale. A classic example of a military force built upon this belief is the Sacred Band of Thebes.

During the Middle Ages

The adoption of Christianity by the Roman Emperor Constantine in the fourth century and subsequent predominance of Christianity led to a diminished emphasis on erotic love among military forces. By the time of the Crusades, the militaries of Europe had largely switched gears, asserting that carnal relations between males were sinful and therefore had no place in an army that served their perception of God's will. The Knights Templar, a prominent military order, was destroyed by accusations of sodomy.

The Arab world and Asia, by contrast, did not adopt such strict views. A classic work of Middle Eastern literature known as The Book of One Thousand and One Nights (or Arabian Nights) documents several accounts of intimate relationships between men and boys. Artwork that has survived from this period documents such relationships in both cultures.

Nazi Germany

In modern times

The modern world has brought about a fundamental shift in the acceptance of homosexual behavior. Europe and North America have seen growing acceptance of homosexuality as a result of modern liberalism and the Gay Liberation movement. By contrast, many Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries have gone from tolerance to outright hostility. The only nation in the region with significantly different policies is Israel.

Attitudes in Europe and North America vary, with some countries—like the United Kingdom and the Netherlands—accepting openly homosexual individuals into the armed forces, and others—like the United States and many nations in South America and the Caribbean—either quieting or discharging homosexuals. The United States is known for its “Don't ask, don't tell” policy, which is seen as a compromise between acceptance and the tactics of marginalization and humiliation that had been used before.

Most nations that adhere to the strict interpretation of Sharia (Islamic law) remove individuals from their armed forces who are believed to be homosexual, and may punish, torture, or subject them to the death penalty.

Policies of various Nations

See Sexual orientation and military service

United States Military

  • During the winter of 1778 at Valley Forge, a LT Enslin was court-martialed and discharged for gay conduct by LT Colonel Aaron Burr, and has the distinction of being the first known American soldier dishonorably discharged due to homosexuality (http://thegaymilitarytimes.com/history.html)

Youth groups

Scouting, a worldwide group of youth organisations, often emulate the attitude of their home country's military. Thus the Scout Association in the UK welcomes gay members both as members and as leaders, while the Boy Scouts of America expels them. However, the Scout Association of Malta, embraces gay members as members and leaders, even though the military does not have an official policy. (It should be noted that The Scout Association UK says that it welcomes gay members on the basis of diversity, as it no longer emulates the military.)


Groups not influenced by the Abrahamic religions have sometimes regarded homosexuality as sacred, while a negative view of homosexuality has been common in the Abrahamic religions. In the wake of colonialism and imperialism undertaken by countries of the Abrahamic faiths some cultures have adopted new attitudes antagonistic towards homosexuality.

The world's largest organized body of religion, the Roman Catholic Church, requires homosexuals to practice chastity in the understanding that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered", and "contrary to the natural law". It insists that all are expected to only have heterosexual relations and only in the context of a marriage, describing homosexual tendencies as "a trial", and stressing that people with such tendencies "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity." <ref>"Catechism of the Catholic Church", see the "Chastity and homosexuality" section.</ref> Distinguishing between "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" and those that are "only the expression of a transitory problem", the Vatican requires that any homosexual tendencies "must be clearly overcome at least three years before ordination to the diaconate." <ref>Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders, Congregation for Catholic Education, November 04, 2005</ref>

In brief, Hinduism has taken various positions, ranging from positive to neutral or antagonistic. Sikhism has no written view on the matter, but Sikh (Punjabi) society is generally ultra-masculine and conservative; toleration of any homosexual behaviour or orientation is bound to meet outrage or strong disapproval. However, other Sikhs believe that Guru Nanak's emphasis on universal equality and brotherhood is fundamentally in support of homosexuals' human rights. Confucianism has allowed homosexual sex with the precondition of procreation. Abrahamic religions have held varied views of homosexuality, depending on place, time and form of same-sex desire. Islam regards love and desire for beautiful youths (adolescent men or boys) as a natural temptation for all men, sexual relations however as a transgression negatory of the natural role and aim of sexual activity. <ref>"Homosexuality in the Light of Islam", September 20, 2003</ref> Buddhism traditionally did not concern itself with the gender of the beloved. Contemporary Western Buddhists and many Japanese and Chinese schools hold very accepting views, something that is traditionally allowed when the relationship does not impede the birth of a child, while other Eastern Buddhists, possibly since colonial times, have adopted attitudes that scorn the practice. Christianity has traditionally condemned deliberately non-procreative sex, and while attitudes have in some sectors (e.g. Anglican Church, liberal Protestantism) been liberalised, the majority of denominations still view homosexual relationships as sinful. Judaism, depending on the movement, is either liberal, conservative, or neutral on the subject. The Orthodox-Jewish tradition generally views homosexual sex as sinful, and homosexual attraction as out of the norm, while Reform and Reconstructionism are often fully accepting of gay attraction and sex. Conservative Judaism doesn't view attraction as sinful. Homosexual acts are just thought of as being equal to breaking any other of the mitzvot and therefore equally sinful. This movement, however, does not admit openly gay Jews as rabbis, nor does it perform commitment ceremonies. It is very open to it, and because of the movement's belief in an "evolving Torah", the issue is very big in the movement today. Native American religions generally grant gender-variant individuals honoured status for their perceived spiritual powers. Shintoism, Discordianism, and Taoism regard homosexuality positively. Religions collectively termed "Pagan," including Druidism and Wicca, are also accepting in general. Ancient Germanic religions were however condemnatory towards homosexuality and their common law in Scandinavia harshly punished homosexual activity.


Main article: Anti-gay slogan

Same-sex love practices have been the subject of a continuing debate dating back at least to Classical Greece. In antiquity, and in countries not under the sway of Abrahamic beliefs, the debates usually took the form of debating which love is best, the love of women or the love of boys, unlike more recent discussions which frame the question in terms of "right" and "wrong."

Each camp has made use of a relatively circumscribed arsenal of arguments, some of which have not changed greatly over the past two and a half thousand years. Recent advances in sociological studies and other discourse such as queer theory have brought a measure of rigour to the debate.


  • "It is commonplace in nature." Based on zoologists' observations of many different species.<ref name="we">Template:Cite web</ref>
  • "Suppressing it alters the balance of nature." A Bedamini Melanesian belief.<ref name="we" />
  • "It foments close friendships and independent thinking." Also in Lucian
  • "It [male homosexuality] is a mark of true masculinity." Claimed by Indian Sufi Akhi Jamshed Rajgiri in self defense before the Sultan of Jaunpur for his love of youths. (In Vanita & Kidwai, 2000, p.139)
  • "Suppression is irrational." Jeremy Bentham, in his 1785 essay on "Paederasty" (first English language text on homosexuality). In that same work, he also states: "It is wonderful that nobody has ever yet fancied it to be sinful to scratch where it itches, and that it has never been determined that the only natural way of scratching is with such or such a finger and that it is unnatural to scratch with any other."
  • "The male form is superior to the female form." (implication for male homosexuality). Medieval Arabic text included in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights (The Debate Between the Wise Woman and the Sage).


  • "Same-sex love is against nature." This charge dates back to Classical Greece, where it was first articulated by Plato in his Laws. Of course, Plato also portrayed many homosexual and homoerotic scenes in his dialogues, most notably in the Lysis, Charmides, and Symposium.
  • "It is condemned by God." Expressed by early Christian exegetes (claimed to be the moral of the Sodom and Gomorrah story), and also in the Qur'an. The Scriptures of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) condemn the practice.
  • "It leads to plagues and natural disasters." Advanced by Christian authorities from late Antiquity through the Renaissance, as well as by orthodox Islamic ones. (As in the poems of Sanai)
  • "It is abuse of the young." Encountered in "Erotes," a dialogue of the early Christian era by Lucian.
  • "It is a dissipation of one's reproductive force." Plato, Laws, 838

Same-sex love in pre-modern times

Sexual customs have varied greatly over time and from one region to another. These, as well as the orientation of particular pre-contemporary figures continue to be studied. Modern Western gay culture, largely a product of 19th century psychology as well as the years of post-Stonewall Gay Liberation, is a relatively recent manifestation of same-sex desire. It is generally not applicable as a standard when investigating same-gender sex and historical opinions and beliefs held by other people.

It is generally accepted that the lives of historical figures such as Socrates, Lord Byron, Edward II, Hadrian, Julius Caesar, Michelangelo, Donatello and Christopher Marlowe included or were centred upon love and sexual relationships with people of their own gender. Terms such as gay or bisexual have been applied to them, but many regard this as risking the anachronistic introduction of a contemporary construction of sexuality foreign to their times.[citation needed] Variations from modern standards of beauty, social roles, sexual positions, and age disparities are of such magnitude so as to render meaningless any projection of modern roles onto historical personages. This does not mean, however, that people in the past experienced the physical phenomenon of homosexual attraction any differently than people experience it today.

While some premodern societies did not employ categories fully comparable to the modern homosexual or heterosexual dichotomy, this does not demonstrate that the polarity is not applicable to those societies. A common thread of constructionist argument is that no one in antiquity or the Middle Ages experienced homosexuality as an exclusive, permanent, or defining mode of sexuality. John Boswell has criticised this argument by citing ancient Greek writings by Plato, which he says indicate knowledge of exclusive homosexuality.[citation needed]Michel Foucault and historians following his line of thought have argued that the homosexual is a modern invention, a social construct of the last 100 years.[citation needed] While true of homosexuality as a scientific or psychological category, there are examples from earlier ages of those viewing their sexuality as a part of a human identity and not merely a sexual act. [citation needed] One cited example is the 16th century Italian artist Giovanni Antonio Bazzi who adopted the nickname "Sodoma", which is viewed by Louis Crompton as something analogous to the modern gay identity.[citation needed]


Though often denied or ignored by European explorers, homosexual expression in native Africa was also present and took a variety of forms.


Image:Catlin - Dance to the berdache.jpg
Dance to the Berdache
Sac and Fox Nation ceremonial dance to celebrate the two-spirit person. George Catlin (1796-1872); Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

In North American Native society, the most common form of same-sex sexuality seems to centre around the figure of the Two-Spirit individual. Such persons seem to have been recognised by the majority of tribes, each of which had its particular term for the role. Typically the two-spirit individual was recognised early in life, was given a choice by the parents to follow the path, and if the child accepted the role then the child was raised in the appropriate manner, learning the customs of the gender it had chosen. Two-spirit individuals were commonly shamans and were revered as having powers beyond those of ordinary shamans. Their sexual life would be with the ordinary tribe members of the opposite gender. Male two-spirit people were prized as wives because of their greater strength and ability to work.

East Asia

In Asia same-sex love has been known since the dawn of history. Early Western travellers were taken aback by its widespread acceptance and open display.

Homosexuality in China, known as the pleasures of the bitten peach, the cut sleeve, or the southern custom, have been recorded since approximately 600 BCE. These euphemistic terms were used to describe behaviours, but not identities. The relationships were marked by differences in age and social position. However, the instances of same-sex affection and sexual interactions described in the Hong Lou Meng (Dream of the Red Chamber, or Story of the Stone) seem as familiar to observers in the present as do equivalent stories of romances between heterosexuals during the same period.

Homosexuality in Japan, variously known as shudo or nanshoku, terms influenced by Chinese literature, has been documented for over one thousand years and was an integral part of Buddhist monastic life and the samurai tradition. This same-sex love culture gave rise to strong traditions of painting and literature documenting and celebrating such relationships.

Similarly, in Thailand, Kathoey, or "ladyboys," have been a feature of Thai society for many centuries, and Thai kings had male as well as female lovers. Kathoey are men who dress as women. They are generally accepted by society, and Thailand has never had legal prohibitions against homosexuality or homosexual behaviour. The teachings of Buddhism, dominant in Thai society, were accepting of a third gender designation.


Roman man and youth in bed. Dated ca. 30 AD (1st century). Found in Estepa, Spain
Main articles: Pederasty in ancient Greece and Philosophy of Greek pederasty

The earliest western documents (in the form of literary works, art objects, as well as mythographic materials) concerning same-sex relationships are derived from Ancient Greece. They depict a world in which relationships with women and relationships with youths were the essential foundation of a normal man's love life. Same-sex relationships were a social institution variously constructed over time and from one city to another. (See Pederasty) The practice, a system of relationships between an adult male and an adolescent coming of age, was often valued for its pedagogic benefits and as a means of population control, and occasionally blamed for causing disorder. Plato praised its benefits in his early writings, but in his late works proposed its prohibition, laying out a strategy which uncannily predicts the path by which same-sex love was eventually driven underground. (See Philosophy of Greek pederasty)

Roman emperor Hadrian (pagan) allegedly was a fully practicing gay himself.

The Roman (Christian) emperor Theodosius I decreed a law, on August 6th, 390, condemning passive homosexuals to be burned at the stake. Justinian, towards the end of his reign, expanded the proscription to the active partner as well (in 558) warning that such conduct can lead to the destruction of cities through the "wrath of God." Notwithstanding these regulations, taxes on homosexual boy brothels continued to be collected until the end of the reign of Anastasius I in 518.

During the Renaissance, rich 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 (elite) population and constructed along the classical pattern of Greece and Rome. <ref>Rocke, Michael, (1996), Forbidden Friendships: Homosexuality and male Culture in Renaissance Florence, ISBN 0-915122-92-5</ref> <ref>Ruggiero, Guido, (1985), The Boundaries of Eros, ISBN 0-915056-96-5</ref> But even as the majority of the male population was engaging in same-sex relationships, the authorities, under the aegis of the Officers of the Night court, were prosecuting, fining, and imprisoning a good portion of that population. The eclipse of this period of relative artistic and erotic freedom was precipitated by the rise to power of the moralising monk Girolamo Savonarola. In northern Europe the artistic discourse on sodomy was turned against its proponents by artists such as Rembrandt, who in his "Rape of Ganymede" no longer depicted Ganymede as a willing youth, but as a squalling baby attacked by a rapacious bird of prey.

The relationships of socially prominent figures, such as King James I and the Duke of Buckingham, served to highlight the issue, including in anonymously authored street pamphlets: "The world is chang'd I know not how, For men Kiss Men, not Women now;...Of J. the First and Buckingham: He, true it is, his Wives Embraces fled, To slabber his lov'd Ganimede;" (Mundus Foppensis, or The Fop Display'd, 1691.)

1723 in England saw publication of Love Letters Between a Certain Late Nobleman and the famous Mr Wilson., which some modern scholars presume to be a novel. The 1749 edition of John Cleland's popular novel Fanny Hill includes a homosexual scene, but this was removed in its 1750 edition. Also in 1749 the earliest extended and serious defence of homosexuality in English Ancient and Modern Pederasty Investigated and Exemplified, written by Thomas Cannon, was published, but was suppressed almost immediately. It includes the passage: ""Unnatural Desire is a Contradiction in Terms; downright Nonsense. Desire is an amatory Impulse of the inmost human Parts." <ref>Gladfelder, Hal (May 2006) In Search of Lost Texts: Thomas Cannon's 'Ancient and Modern Pederasty Investigated and Exemplified", Institute of Historical Research </ref> Around 1785 Jeremy Bentham wrote another long defence, but this was not published until 1978. <ref> Journal of Homosexuality (ISSN 0091-8369) Volume: 3 Issue: 4 , Volume: 4 Issue: 1 </ref>Executions for sodomy continued in the Netherlands until 1803, and in England until 1835.

Between 1864 and 1880 Karl Heinrich Ulrichs published a series of twelve tracts, which he collectively titled Research on the Riddle of Man-Manly Love. In 1867 he became the first self-proclaimed homosexual to speak out publicly in defence of homosexuality when he pleaded at the Congress of German Jurists in Munich for a resolution urging the repeal of anti-homosexual laws.

Sir Richard Francis Burton's Terminal Essay, Part IV/D appendix in his translation of The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night (1885-6) provided an effusive overview of homosexuality in the middle east and tropics. Sexual Inversion by Havelock Ellis, published in 1896 challenged theories that homosexuality was abnormal, as well as stereotypes, and insisted on the ubiquity of homosexuality and its association with intellectual and artistic achievement. Appendix A included A Problem in Greek Ethics by John Addington Symonds, which had been privately distributed in 1883. Beginning in 1894 with Homogenic Love, Socialist activist and poet Edward Carpenter wrote a string of pro-homosexual articles and pamphlets, and 'came out' in 1916 in his book My Days and Dreams.

In 1900, Elisar von Kupffer published an anthology of homosexual literature from antiquity to his own time, Lieblingsminne und Freundesliebe in der Weltliteratur. His aim was to broaden the public perspective of homosexuality beyond it being viewed simply as a medical or biological issue, but also as an ethical and cultural one.

Middle East and Central Asia

Main article: Homosexuality and Islam

Among many Middle-Eastern Muslim cultures, homosexual practices were widespread and public. Persian poets, such as Attar (d. 1220), Rumi (d. 1273), Sa’di (d. 1291), Hafez (d. 1389), and Jami (d. 1492), wrote poems replete with homoerotic allusions. Recent work in queer studies suggests that while the visibility of such relationships has been much reduced, their frequency has not. The two most commonly documented forms were commercial sex with transgender males or males enacting transgender roles exemplified by the köçeks and the bacchás, and Sufi spiritual practices in which the practitioner crossed over from the idealised chaste form of the practice to one in which the desire is consummated.

In Persia homosexuality and homoerotic expressions were tolerated in numerous public places, from monasteries and seminaries to taverns, military camps, bathhouses, and coffee houses. In the early Safavid era (1501-1723), male houses of prostitution (amrad khane) were legally recognized and paid taxes.

A rich tradition of art and literature sprang up, constructing Middle Eastern homosexuality in ways analogous to the ancient tradition of male love in which Ganymede, cup-bearer to the gods, symbolised the ideal boyfriend. Muslim — often Sufi — poets in medieval Arab lands and in Persia wrote odes to the beautiful Christian wine boys who, they claimed, served them in the taverns and shared their beds at night. In many areas the practice survived into modern times (as documented by Richard Francis Burton, André Gide, and others).

In Central Asia, on the Silk Route, the two traditions of the east and the west met, and gave rise to a strong local culture of same-sex love. In the Turkic-speaking areas, one manifestation of this were the bacchá, adolescent or adolescent-seeming male entertainers and sex workers. In other areas male love continues to surface despite efforts to keep it quiet. After the American invasion of Afghanistan, Central Asian same-sex love customs in which adult men take on adolescent lovers were widely reported.

Other forms are less well documented. It is reported that in the Oasis of Siwa, boy marriages were the norm until the middle of the twentieth century, a practice which was coupled with a minimum age for heterosexual marriage of forty for the men, a measure presumed to have been taken to avoid overpopulation. Finally, sexual relations between older and younger boys are said to be frequent in the Middle East as well as in the Maghreb.

The prevailing pattern of same-sex relationships in the temperate and sub-tropical zone stretching from Northern India to the Western Sahara is one in which the relationships were — and are — either gender-structured or age-structured or both. In recent years, egalitarian relationships modelled on the western pattern have become more frequent, though they remain rare.

See also: Tellak

South Pacific

In many societies of Melanesia same-sex relationships are an integral part of the culture. Traditional Melanesian insemination rituals also existed where a boy, upon reaching a certain age would be paired with an older adolescent who would become his mentor and whom he would ritually fellate over a number of years in order to develop his own masculinity. In certain tribes of Papua New Guinea, for example, it is considered a normal ritual responsibility for a boy to have a relationship in order to accomplish his ascent into manhood. Many Melanesian societies, however, have become hostile towards same-sex relationships since the introduction of Christianity by European missionaries.

Modern Developments

Shortly after World War II the gay community began to make advancements in civil rights in much of the Western World. A turning point was reached in 1973 when, in a vote decided by a plurality of the membership, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, thus negating homosexuality as a clinical mental disorder.

Since the 1960s, in part due to their history of shared oppression, many gays in the West have developed a shared culture. Not all gays choose to participate in it, and many gay men and women specifically decline to do so. To many gay men and women, the gay culture represents heterophobia and is scorned as widening the gulf between gay and straight people. Some people believe that gay culture is exemplified by the gay pride movement. In the past, some gay groups organised campaigns for awareness of the AIDS outbreak.

Marriage and Civil Unions

Legislation designed to create provisions for gay marriage in a number of countries has polarised international opinion and led to many well-publicized political debates and court battles in a number of countries. In 2006 the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada and South Africa had legalized same-sex marriage. Regarding same-sex marriage in the United States, only the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has legalized gay marriage while the States of Vermont and Connecticut allow civil unions <ref>http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/4081999.stm</ref>.

Other countries, including the majority of European nations, have enacted laws allowing civil unions, designed to give gay couples similar rights as married couples concerning legal issues such as inheritance and immigration. Numerous Scandinavian countries have had domestic partnership laws on the books since the late 1980s. In the United States, the framing of the debate around marriage rather than civil unions may have been partly responsible for the defeat of a number of measures by sparking opposition from many conservative and religious groups. For example, in California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger stated that he supports full legal protection for gay couples - but that the issue of gay marriage is best decided by the people or in the courts <ref>[5]</ref>.

In Asia, the conflict between homoerotic tradition and a resurgent Islamic fundamentalism continues. Liaquat Ali, a 42 year old Afghan refugee, and Markeen Afridi a 16 year old Pakistani boy, reportedly fell in love and got married in a very public ceremony in October of 2005. <ref>Afghan tribesman faces death for wedding to teenage boy, Peter Foster, Sydney Morning Herald, October 7, 2005</ref> <ref>Man weds boy in Khyber Agency, Daily Times, October 6, 2005</ref> There are efforts to refute the original reports which were authored by a reporter from the tribe where the wedding occurred. <ref>Gay Marriage Report Fabricated, Kashmir Khan Afridi</ref>.

For many traditionalists, and in the light of unfavorable views by certain religions, objections have been raised, e.g. arguing that marriage is a specific institution designed as a foundation for parenthood, which an infertile union cannot qualify for. The American Psychological Association has largely discredited such arguments (C. Patterson, 1995) and found that the majority of unbiased academic studies of gay and lesbian parents contradict these beliefs.


Adoption by same-sex couples remains a contentious issue in many countries, and part of the platform of many gay rights organizations.

Political developments

Publicly gay politicians have attained numerous government posts, even in countries that had sodomy laws or outright mass murder of gays in their recent past.

Gay British politicians include former UK Cabinet ministers Chris Smith (now Lord Smith of Finsbury who is also a rare example of an openly HIV positive statesman) and Nick Brown, and, most famously, Peter Mandelson, a European Commissioner and close friend of Tony Blair. Openly gay Per-Kristian Foss was the Norwegian minister of finance until September of 2005.

Religious developments

The overall trend of greater acceptance of gay men and women in the latter part of the 20th century was not limited to secular institutions; it was also seen in many religious institutions. Reform Judaism, the largest branch of Judaism outside Israel had begun to facilitate religious weddings for gay adherents in their synagogues. The Anglican Communion encountered discord that caused a rift between the African and Asian Anglican churches on the one hand and North American churches on the other when American and Canadian churches ordained gay clergy and began blessing same-sex unions. Other Churches such as the Methodist Church had experienced trials of gay clergy who some claimed were a violation of religious principles resulting in mixed verdicts dependent on geography.

These developments have been accompanied by a response from certain conservative religious organisations, especially in the United States. In various instances, this movement has succeeded in overturning some of the aforementioned legislation and has had an influence on academia. In late 2005, Haworth Press withdrew from publication a volume on homosexuality in classical antiquity titled Same-Sex Desire and Love in Greco-Roman Antiquity and in the Classical Tradition of the West. This was in response to criticism from American conservative groups which objected to the discussion of positive aspects of classical pederasty, as well as to a chapter by the American academic Bruce Rind which was branded by the critics as advocating pedophilia. (see Anti-gay slogan) The publisher, in a letter to the editors, exonerated Rind from the accusation and conceded that his article was sound, but stood by its decision to withdraw it "to avoid negative press" and "economic repercussions." Article in the Halifax The Chronicle Herald

Fundamentalist religious organizations are also attempting to weaken the gay rights community by cutting off its sources of income. In spring of 2005, the "American Family Association" threatened a boycott of Ford products to protest Ford's perceived support of "the homosexual agenda and homosexual marriage." After meeting with representatives of the group, Ford announced it was curtailing ads in a number of major gay publications (thus depriving them of a major source of income), an action it claimed to be determined not by cultural but by "cost-cutting" factors. That statement was contradicted by the AFA, which claimed it had a "good faith agreement" that Ford would cease such ads. Soon afterwards, as a result of a strong upcry from the gay community, Ford backtracked and announced it would continue ads in gay publications, in response to which the AFA denounced Ford for "violating" the agreement, and renewed threats of a boycott. Anti-Gay Group Renews Ford Boycott Threat

Whether or not sexual orientation (in the sense of an underlying same-sex, opposite-sex, dual-sex, or other spontaneous attraction) exists, and whether or not it can be changed is a matter of some controversy. See Sexual orientation, Environment, choice, and sexual orientation, Ex-gay, and Genetics and sexual orientation. Several religious groups have organized ex-gay groups to help individuals who are unhappy being gay (ego-dystonic homosexuality).

Art and literature

Main article: Homoeroticism
Image:Love play in China - wiki.jpg
Young men sipping tea, reading poetry, and making love
Individual panel from a hand scroll on homosexual themes, paint on silk; China, Qing dynasty (18th-19th c.); Kinsey Institute, Bloomington, Indiana

One of the main ways in which the record of same-sex love has been preserved is through literature and art. Typically through history, male homoeroticism has been the work of gay male artists, while lesbian eroticism has more often been the work of heterosexual men, although exceptions exist, especially in poetry and fiction.

Male homoerotic sensibilities are visible in the foundations of art in the west, to the extent that those roots can be traced back to the ancient Greeks. Homer's Iliad is considered to have the love between two men as its central feature, a view held since antiquity. Plato's Symposium also gives readers commentary on the subject, at one point putting forth the claim that male homosexual love is superior to heterosexual love.

The European tradition of homoeroticism was continued throughout the ages in the works of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Since the Renaissance, both male and female homoeroticism has remained a common theme in the visual arts of the west.

In Islamic societies homoeroticism was present in the work of such writers as Abu Nuwas and Omar Khayyam. The Tale of Genji, called the "world's first real novel", fostered this tradition in Japan, as did the Chinese literary tradition in works such as Bian er Zhai and Jin Ping Mei. Today, the Japanese anime subgenre yaoi centers on male homosexuality. Japan is unusual in that the culture's male homoerotic art has typically been the work of female artists, mirroring the case of lesbian eroticism in western art.

In the twentieth century, entertainers such as Noel Coward, Madonna, kd lang, and David Bowie have brought homoeroticism into the field of western popular music. It is through these and other modern songwriters and poets that art by lesbians, rather than erotic art by men with lesbian themes, has had its greatest cultural impact in the West since the ancient Greek poet Sappho.

In the 1990s, a number of American television comedies began to feature gay and lesbian characters. The 1997 coming-out of comedian Ellen DeGeneres on her show Ellen was front-page news in America and brought the show its highest ratings. However, public interest in the show swiftly declined after this, and the show was cancelled after one more season. Immediately afterward Will & Grace, which ran from 1998 to 2005 on NBC, became the most successful series to focus on homosexuality.

Playwrights have penned such popular homoerotic works as Tennessee Williams's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Tony Kushner's Angels In America. Homosexuality has also been a frequent theme in Broadway musicals, such as A Chorus Line and Rent. In 2005, the gay romantic film Brokeback Mountain was a financial and critical success internationally. Unlike most gay film characters, both the film's lovers were "butch." The movie's success was considered a milestone in the public acceptance of the American gay rights movement.

Further reading

  • Companeras: Latina Lesbians : An Anthology, ed. by Juanita Ramos, Routledge 1994
  • Historical Dictionary of the Lesbian Liberation Movement: Still the Rage, by Joanne Myers, Scarecrow Press 2003
  • Allan Bérubé, Coming out under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two, New York: MacMillan, 1990
  • George Chauncey, Gay New York: Gender Urban Culture and the Making of the Gay Male World, New York: Basic Books, 1994
  • John d'Emilio, Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1940-1970, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983
  • Lillian Faderman, Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth Century America, Penguin 1992
  • David K. Johnson, The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004
  • George Rousseau, Perilous Enlightenment: Pre- and Post-Modern Discourses--Sexual, Historical, Manchester University Press, 1991, ISBN 0-7117033012
  • Jennifer Terry, An American Obsession: Science, Medicine, and Homosexuality in Modern Society, University of Chicago Press 1999, ISBN 0-226-79367-2
  • Ruth Vanita,Queering India: Same-Sex Love and Eroticism in Indian Culture and Society, Routledge 2002

See also


External links


<references />


  1. Christopher Bagley and Pierre Tremblay, (1998), "On the Prevalence of Homosexuality and Bisexuality, in a Random Community Survey of 750 Men Aged 18 to 27", Journal of Homosexuality, Volume 36, Number 2, pages 1-18.
  2. Lester G. Brown, Two Spirit People, 1997, Harrington Park Press, ISBN 1-56023-089-4
  3. Kenneth J. Dover, Greek Homosexuality, 1979, Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd., London, ISBN 0-674-36261-6(o.p. hardcover), ISBN 0-674-36270-5(pbk.).
  4. Andrew Avis
  5. Bret Hinsch, Passions of the Cut Sleeve: The Male Homosexual Tradition in China, The University of California Press, 1990, ISBN 0-520-06720-7.
  6. Norman Roth. The care and feeding of gazelles - Medieval Arabic and Hebrew love poetry. IN: Lazar & Lacy. Poetics of Love in the Middle Ages. George Mason University Press, 1989.
  7. Arno Schmitt & Jehoeda Sofer (eds). Sexuality and Eroticism Among Males in Moslem Societies. Haworth Press, 1992.
  8. LeVay, S., Science, 1991, 253, 1034-1037.
  9. Stephen O. Murray and Will Roscoe, Boy Wives and Female Husbands: Studies of African Homosexualities, 1998, ISBN 0-312-21216-X.
  10. Bullough et al. (eds.) (1996). Handbook of Medieval Sexuality. Garland Publishing. ISBN 0-8153-1287-3.
  11. Foucault, Michel (1990). The History of Sexuality vol. 1: An Introduction, p.43. Trans. Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage.
  12. James Davidson, London Review of Books, 2 June 2005, "Mr and Mr and Mrs and Mrs" - detailed review of The Friend, by Alan Bray, a history of same-sex marriage and other same-sex formal bonds
  13. Scientific Gay
  14. Genetics of homosexuality
  15. Homosexuality and Transgender Surgery
  16. Fingerprints Study
  17. Androgen Link
  18. Doubt cast on 'gay gene'
  19. Robert T. Michael, John H. Gagnon, Edward O. Laumann, and Gina Kolata. Sex in America: A definitive survey. Boston: Little, Brown, 1995. ISBN 0-316-07524-8
  20. Percy, William A Pederasty and Pedagogy in Archaic Greece. University of Illinois Press, 1996.
  21. Bullough, Vern L. Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context, Harrington Park Press, 2002.
  22. Johansson, Warren and Percy, William A. Outing: Shattering the Conspiracy of Silence, Harrington Park Press, 1994.
  23. Dynes, Wayne R. (ed.) The Encyclopedia of Homosexuality New York and London, Garland Publishing, 1990
  24. Norton, Rictor and Crew, Louis The Homophobic Imagination, in College English, 1974 http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/pubd/homophobicimagination.html

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