18. The History of Homosexuality

From: The 7 Sexes

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18 The History of Homosexuality All human behavior is subject to the judgment of others. As children, we are judged by our parents, teachers, and playmates. Some behaviors are approvedandadmired;othersarecondemnedandsometimespunished. That has been the history of behavior concerning table manners, dressing ,grooming,reliability,dishonesty,theft,selfishness,generosity,cursing , bullying, flirting, and just about anything we do. Both culture and religion have their dos and don’ts. Those values change from generation to generation, and they are different in different countries and regions of countries. Almost all cultures condemn violent behavior toward those who are not designated by the state as legitimate objects for attack. We punish perjury, theft, fraud, treason, blackmail, piracy, and many other behaviors as crimes, and regulate them with laws. Most industrial nations no longer regard some crimes of the past as crimes today. At one time, blasphemy was a capital crime. Until the 1920s, it was a crime for a physician in the United States to offer medical advice on birth control. Until the 1950s, it was a crime for a white person to marry or live with a black person. Until the 1970s, a physician who carried out an abortion committed a crime. One notices inconsistency when looking at judgments of a sexual behavior through history. In Biblical times, a man could have more than onewife.1InMoslemculture,amalecanstillhaveuptothreewives.Until such practice was banned by revelation to the elders of the Mormon Church, plural marriages were common in that religion. Divorce was a rarity for all Christians until the 1950s, when it became an accepted way to end a failed marriage. In Roman Catholic theology, it is still a forbidden act and requires a special church court for annulment to end a failed marriage. One of the most controversial sexual behaviors is the act of The History of Homosexuality 133 homosexual love, where two men, or two women, enjoy sex together. About two to three percent of people consider themselves to be gay (the male form of homosexuality) or lesbian (the female form of homosexuality ).2 In the early history of homosexuality, the act was considered a sin. Ceasing to do it was sufficient to restore the status of a person in the community. People may perjure themselves but we rarely think of persons as congenital liars. We don’t think of a murderer as a person who wakes up each day with a desire to kill someone. In biblical times, the act of same-sex loving was considered an abomination.3 The term abomination is a synonym for condemnation or disapproval. We do not know how people three thousand years ago meted out punishments for abominators. We know today that an Orthodox Jew who violates kosher laws is considered an abominator, but as an Orthodox rabbi who was a studentofmineremarked,“Imarryabominatorsallthetime.Noteating kosher food is an abomination. Most of my congregation doesn’t keep to a strict kosher diet. If I only married persons who never did abominable acts,Iwouldhavenoonetomarry.”Forthatreason,hefeltitwaspossible for him to officiate at the marriage of a gay or lesbian couple.4 There is still ambivalence and division in the United States on the status of homosexuals. They have certainly become more tolerated than they were one or two generations ago. In the middle ages, same-sex activity was a sin. In the Renaissance and early modern times, it was elevated to a crime and its practitioner was designated as a Sodomite, based on an interpretation of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19.5 The attempted gang raping of two male angels was seen as a condemnation of the entire Canaanite communities—too evil to be allowed to continue. Based on this interpretation, many Christian churches still see homosexuality as incompatible with God’s intentions. Someseehomosexualityasadiseaseandbelievesuchindividualsshould beforcedintotreatment,or,iftheychoosetocontinuetheirhomosexual activity, forced into exclusion from society. That exclusion could include punishment in prison. In 1869, the Hungarian journalist Karl Kertbeny (1824–1882) replaced the term sodomite with the term homosexual in Leipzig, Germany. He believed the condition was innate and should be decriminalizedintheAustro-HungarianEmpire.Helaterusedtheterm heterosexual to describe a sexual relation between a male and a female.6 134 Kertbeny’sviewsoonspreadtothemedicalprofession,andhomosexuality was recognized as a disease. Psychologists and psychiatrists continued to identify homosexuality as a disease or pathology until the 1960s. They sought its cause as well as many treatments, including some that were very traumatic, like prefrontal lobotomies in the 1950s. The shift to considering homosexuality as a condition with neither criminal nor pathological association began...