Chapter 1 Who or What
Who one is, a homosexual or what one does, homosexuality. The support is greatest for the latter.
Homosexuality and the homosexual’ have a history. The history of the homosexual’ began during the 1860s in Germany. While homosexuality, same-sex sexual behavior has been a part of all most every culture and society throughout history. The majority of the following quotes are by those advocating for homosexuality or who self-identify as a homosexual. Three exceptions are from Mondimore’s book, The Natural History of Homosexuality, Kronmeyer’s book Overcoming Homosexuality and the article by Byne and Parsons, Human Sexual Orientation.
It is easy to determine homosexuality, homosexual behavior. But who is a homosexual? This is a question that cannot be answered. And there is a simple reason, there is no homosexual as a distinct person, only behaviors and physical sexual acts that a person commits. There are people who during their lifetime often change their sexual behavior, and this makes it impossible to state that a particular set of behaviors defines a person as a homosexual. Also, there is no one set of sexual desires or self-identification that uniquely defines who a homosexual is. Throughout history sex acts have contained directional qualities and they are divided into active and passive roles. Even in cultures and societies today the individual who takes the active role in sexual acts between two members of the same sex is not seen as a homosexual. Also in history, many cultures and societies did not have the modern concept of gender, masculine and feminine, but they did have the concept of sex, male and female. And there were often specific roles according to sex, male and female.
Up until the 1860s the concept of homosexuality was seen as a sin or a crime. Then it began to take on medical and scientific concepts. Within these concepts there rest the premise of biological or organic causes for homosexuality. I want to talk about what one does, homosexuality’ over and above the idea of a homosexual’ who one is. Throughout history in all most every culture and society it was homosexuality, homosexual behavior that may be seen and in some instances it is was a part of carefully structured roles. The norm has always been marriage, male and female relationships for procreation. There are historically significant events that may be marked in the development of the concept of the modern homosexual’ as a distinct person.
The history of homosexuality has to consider the distinction between homosexual conduct, which is universal, and homosexual identity, which is specific and temporal. Homosexuals do not necessarily define themselves as such, even if they find people of their own sex attractive or have sexual relations with them. By the same token, society will not necessarily distinguish an individual in terms of his sexual practices. (Tamagne, Florence. A History of Homosexuality in Europe Berlin, London, Paris 1919-1939 Volume I, p.6)
Historical and anthropological research has shown that homosexual persons (i.e. people who occupy a social position or role as homosexuals) do not exist in many societies, whereas homosexual behavior occurs virtually in every society. Therefore, we must distinguish between homosexual behavior and homosexual identity. One term refers to one’s sexual activity per se (whether casual or regular); the other word defines homosexuality as a social role, with its emotional and sexual components. (Escoffier, American Homo: Community and Perversity, p.37)
Anthropology has shown that people who erotically desire the same gender sufficiently to organize their social lives around this desire come in all genders, colors, political and religious creeds, and nationalities. There is no special kind of person who is homosexual; and much as we might expect, there is no single word or construct, including the western idea of homosexuality, that represents them all. To make matters even more complicated, the local term in each culture or community that classifies the homoerotic act or role is not always positive; indeed, in the western tradition it is usually negative. (Herdt, Same Sex, Different Cultures: Gays and Lesbians Across Cultures. p.3)
We should employ cross-cultural and historical evidence not only to chart changing attitudes but to challenge the very concept of a single trans-historical notion of homosexuality. In different cultures (and at different historical moments or conjunctures within the same culture) very different meanings are given to same-sex activity both by society at large and by the individual participants. The physical acts might be similar, but the social construction of meanings around them are profoundly different. The social integration of forms of pedagogic homosexual relations in ancient Greece have no continuity with contemporary notions of homosexual identity. To put it another way, the various possibilities of what Hocquenghem calls homosexual desire, or what more neutrally might be termed homosexual behaviors, which seem from historical evidence to be a permanent and ineradicable aspect of human sexual possibilities, are variously constructed in different cultures as an aspect of wider gender and sexual regulation. If this is the case, it is pointless discussing questions such as, what are the origins of homosexual oppression, or what is the nature of the homosexual taboo, as if there was a single, causative factor. The crucial question must be: what are the conditions for the emergence of this particular form of regulation of sexual behavior in this particular society? (Weeks, Against Nature, p. 13-14)
However, as an individual property of a minority, the concept of homosexuality is neither timeless nor universal, although historians fail to agree on when and how a homosexual social category and identity came into being. Subcultures in the form of illicit networks, clubs, and meeting places of sodomites have been documented from the fifteen-century on in Italian towns and from the seventeenth on in urban centers of northwestern Europe. Although the legal and religious definition of sodomy referred to only certain sexual acts, especially anal intercourse, of which anyone in theory, was regarded as being capable, within urban subcultures in Britain, France, and the Netherlands, a more specific sodomitical role evolved as early as the first half of the eighteenth century. After 1700, the behavior of some sodomites began to perceived more and more as part of being different, of effeminate proclivities, of a sinful orientation, or of a particular hedonistic lifestyle. (Oosterhuis, Stepchildren of Nature: Kraft-Ebing, Psychiatry, and the Making of Sexual Identity, p.241)
To combat this homophobia, over past 125 years homosexualists have invented a countermadness known as the homosexual or gay identity. Taking its cue from psychiatry, a fictional condition has been transmuted into a person. Although this person is detoxicated, purged of mental pathology (there still is the smelly residue of prenatal physical pathology), the basic premise is the same: the homosexual is a special species of humankind. As in the psychiatric nomenclature, the labels change with the arrival of new exemplars, beginning with Urning and homosexual to today s lesbian, bull, dyke, gay, queer, fag, fairy, queen, schwule, flikker, mariacon, and recently in Berlin, warme. (De Ceeo, Confusing the Actor With the Act: Muddled Notions About Homosexuality, p.410).
It may be argued that homosexuals didn’t exist until about 150 years ago. Homosexuality certainly did, as our historical survey showed, but individuals who fell in love with members of their own sex weren’t thought to be a particular kind of person. Some societies, such as classical Greece, didn’t feel the need to label the phenomenon and had no words for homosexuality. Same-sex eroticism was something a few individuals seemed to prefer more than their fellows, but it wasn’t thought to be a characteristic worth inventing a name for. Often, the gender of one’s sexual partners was less important than attributes like their age and social status. This being the case, homosexuality was in a sense submerged within these cultures attracting no special notice. (Mondimore, Mark. A Natural History of Homosexuality, p.247)
The ancient Greek and Latin languages have no word that can be translated homosexual, largely because these societies did not have the same sexual categories that we do. Our concepts and categories of sexual expression are based on the genders of the two partners involved: heterosexuality when the partners are of the opposite sex, and homosexuality when the partners are of the same sex. In other times and among other peoples, this way of thinking about people simply doesn’t seem to apply-anthropologists, historians, sociologists have described many cultures in which same-sex eroticism occupies a very different place than it does in our own. . . . Just as the Greeks and Romans had no words for our sexual categories, the Native American societies described by explorers, missionaries, and anthropologists from the seventeenth onward had sexual categories for which we have no words. Consequently, in the sections that follow- an exploration of attitudes and customs of ancient peoples toward same-sex eroticism- the modern concepts of homosexuality or sexual orientation will be conspicuous by their absence. Within these cultures, sexual contact between persons of the same sex is not necessarily seen as characteristic of a particular group or subset of persons, there is no category for homosexuals. On the contrary, in some cultures, same-sex eroticism was an expected part of the sexual experience of every member of society, which would seem to argue against the existence of homosexuality as a personal attribute at all. (Mondimore, A Natural History of Homosexuality, p.3-4)
For several hundreds of years, the institutions of the majority considered homosexuality something a person did and called it sodomy, buggery, or a crime against nature. During the nineteenth century, a conceptual shift occurred, and a few individuals began to talk about homosexuality as something a person was. A new vocabulary was invented for these persons. Urning, invert-homosexual. (Mondimore, A Natural History of Homosexuality, p. 248)
A second assumption is that homosexuality is a unitary construct that is culturally transcendent. However, a wealth of cross-cultural evidence points to the existence of numerous patterns of homosexuality varying in origins, subjective states, and manifest behaviors. In fact, the pattern of essentially exclusive male homosexuality familiar to us has been exceedingly rare or unknown in cultures that required or expected all males to engage in homosexual activity. (Byrne and Parsons, Human Sexual Orientation: The Biological Theories Reappraised, p.228)
Although same-sex attractions and sexual behavior have undoubtedly occurred throughout history, lesbian, gay, and bisexual identities are relatively new (D’Emilio, 1983). The contemporary notion of identity is itself historically created (Baummeister, 1986). The concept of a specifically homosexual identity seems to have emerged at the end of the nineteen-century. Indeed, only in relatively recent years have large numbers of individuals identified themselves openly as gay or lesbian or bisexual. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual public identities, then, are a phenomenon of our current historical era (D’Emilio, 1983; Faderman, 1991). (Patterson, Sexual Orientation and Human Development: An Overview, p.3)
While homosexual behavior can be found in all societies, though with very different cultural meanings, the emergence of ‘the homosexual’ as a cultural construct can be traced to the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century in urban centers of north-west Europe (Trumnach 1989a, 1989b) and also linked with the rise of capitalism (D’Emilio 1983) medical and psychiatric discourses provided the concept and labels of homosexuality and inversion from the 1860s, . . . (Ballard, Sexuality and the State in Time of Epidemic, p.108 in Rethinking Sex: Social Theory and Sexuality Research by Connell and Dowsett)
Historians underscore an important distinction between homosexual behavior and homosexual identity. The former is said to be universal, whereas the latter is viewed historically unique. Indeed, some historians hold that a homosexual identity is a product of the social developments of late nineteen-century Europe and the United States. Any event, it seems fair to say that a unique construction of identity crystallized around same-sex desire between 1880 and 1920 in America.
The modern western concept of the homosexual is, according to some historians, primarily a creation of late nineteenth-century medical-science discourses. In the context of elaborating systems of classification and descriptions of different sexualities, as part of a quest to uncover the truth about human nature, the homosexual is said to have stepped forward as a distinct human type with his/her own mental and physical nature. (Seidman. Embattled Eros: Sexual Politics and Ethnics in Contemporary America, p.146)
Since at least the eighteenth century, and increasingly codified from the nineteenth century (Trumbach 1998, 1999; Sedgwick 1985, 1990), the execrated category of the homosexual has served to define the parameters of what is to be normal that is heterosexual. The fact the boundaries between the two have always been permeable, as countless histories have revealed, and for the long ambiguous category of the bisexual underlined (Garber 1995), made little difference to popular beliefs and prejudices or the legal realities. The divide between homosexuality and heterosexuality seemed rooted in nature, sanctioned by religion and science, and upheld by many penal codes. (Weeks, Jeffery, Brian Heaphy and Catherine Donovan. Same Sex Intimacies Families of Choice and Other Life Experiments. Routledge. London and New York, 2001.p.14)
Homosexual identity emerged reactively to the new claims of late nineteenth century science, and the state, in relation to the classification and management of human sexuality as a whole. (Watney,Emergent Sexual Idenitties and HIV/AIDS in Aggleton, Davies, and Hart, AIDS: Facing the Second Decade, p. 14)
In modern western history the category of the homosexual originates primarily from late-nineteenth-century notions, derived from medicine, that defined same-sex desire as the product of disease, degeneracy, and moral inversion. These notions created an imagine of a woman trapped in a man’s body or of a male body with female brain a third sex apart from the rest of humanity. (Herdt, Same Sex, Different Cultures: Gays and Lesbians Across Cultures. p.18)
In the late nineteen-century avatar homosexuality was a psychological and medical phenomenon with pathological mental and physical underpinnings. From the turn of the century, Freudian psychology and American psychoanalysis portrayed it as a mental state caused by early childhood trauma, one that led to the individual’s failure to achieve adult genital heterosexuality. With the advent of gay, lesbian and bisexual studies, particularly in the last two decades, homosexuality has been investigated as a historical, political, social, and cultural phenomenon. More recently, as seen in the articles in this collection, it has been revisited as biological state. (De Cecco, and Parker, editors. Sex, Cells, and Same-Sex Desire: The Biology of Sexual Preference, p. 19)
We tend to think now that the word homosexual’ has an unvarying meaning, beyond time and history. In fact it is itself a product of history, a cultural artifact designed to express a particular concept. (Weeks, Coming Out, p. 3)
The focus of historical inquiry therefore has to be on developing social attitudes, their origins, and their rational, for without these discussions homosexuality becomes virtually incomprehensible. And as a starting-point we have to distinguish between homosexual behavior, which is universal, and a homosexual identity, which is historically specific - and a completely recent phenomenon in Britain. (Weeks, Coming Out, p.3)
Homosexuality has everywhere existed, but it is only in some cultures that it has become structured into a sub-culture. Homosexuality in the pre-modern period was frequent, but only in certain closed communities was it ever institutionalized - perhaps in some monasteries and nunneries, as many of the medieval penitentials suggest; in some of the knightly orders (including the Knights Templars), as the great medieval scandals hint; and in the courts of certain monarchs (such as James I of England, William III). Other homosexual contacts, though recurrent, are likely to have been casual, fleeting, and undefined. (Weeks, Coming Out, p. 35)
The sexological discovery’ of the homosexual in the late nineteen-century is therefore obviously a crucial moment. It gave a name, an aetiology, and potentially the embryos of an identity. It marked off a special homosexual type of person, with distinctive physiognomy, tastes and potentialities. Did, therefore, the sexologists create the homosexual? This certainly seems to be the position of some historians. Michel Foucault and Lillian Faderman appear at times to argue, in an unusual alliance, that it was the categorisation of the sexologists that made the homosexual’ and the lesbian’ possible. Building on Ulrichs belief that homosexuals were a third sex, a woman’s soul in a man’s body, Westphal was able to invent the contrary sexual feeling’ Ellis the invert’ defined by a congenital anomaly, and Hirschfeld the intermediate sex’; the sexologists definitions, embodied in medical interventions, created’ the homosexual. Until sexology gave them a label, there was only the half-life of an amorphous sense of self. The homosexual identity as we know it is therefore a production of social categorisation, whose fundamental aim and effect was regulation and control. To name was to imprison. (Weeks, Jeffery. Sexuality and Its Discontents Meanings, Myths and Modern Sexualities. p.92-93)
In sum, homosexuality is not one but many things, many psychosocial forms which can be viewed as symbolic mediations between psychocultural and historical conditions and human potentials for sexual response across the life course. Societies vary greatly in their attitudes toward same-sex response. Homosexual acts are probably universal in humans but institutionalized forms of homosexual activity are not; and these depend, to a great extent, upon the specific historical problems and outlooks of a culture.; (Herdt, Cross-cultural issues in the development of bisexuality and homosexuality, p. 55)
As a means of categorizing and regulating particular types of sexual behavior and people, both homo- and heterosexuality are relative late comers to everyday discourse. (Adams, The Trouble with Normal: Postwar Youth and the Making of Heterosexuality, p.7)
Homosexual and heterosexual behavior may be universal; homosexual and heterosexual identity and consciousness are modern realities. These identities are not inherent in the individual. In order to be gay, for example, more then individual inclinations (however we might conceive of those or homosexual activity is required; entire ranges of social attitudes and the construction of particular cultures, subcultures and social relations are first necessary. To commit; a homosexual act is one thing, to be a homosexual is something entirely different. (Robert Padgug, Sexual Matters: Rethinking Sexuality in History in Hidden From History Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past, p.60)
Several years ago my colleagues and I reported the overwhelming definitional and sampling confusion that pervaded research on homosexuality (Shively et al, 1984). That confusion only deepens the farther research on homosexuality moves away from homosexual acts and continues to engage in the futile task of searching for the causes of a defective condition or a status or a personal identity or an enduring, ineffable emotional inclination revealed in fantasy, none of which is accessible to observation. Once we understand that the biomedical and psychological research is looking for the cause of acts, which are largely circumstantial, then its futility is clear. If we return to the focus on homosexual acts, as in the original Kinsey reports, then we can arrive at some agreements as to what it is that we are attempting to describe or explain - an ancient axiom of historical and scientific research. (De Cecco, Confusing the Actor With the Act: Muddled Notions About Homosexuality, p. 412)
Only in the twentieth century, through mass media and political rhetoric, has the explicit terminology of homosexuality/heterosexuality been widely applied to people and acts and events, typically to contain and control all sexual behavior. Only as wide-scale sexual liberation movements gained steam in the 1960s did people who desire the same gender begin to call themselves lesbian or gay. Since that time these identity systems have been exported to other cultures, which has created controversies in developing countries that previously lacked these concepts, having neither the history nor the political traditions that bought them about. No wonder it seems strange but also familiar to hear of gays and lesbians” from societies that previously denied having homosexuality at all. (Herdt, Same Sex, Different Cultures: Gays and Lesbians Across Cultures, p.7)
Language has been an important weapon in the gay movement’s very swift advance. In the old days, there was sodomy an act. In the late 19th century, the word homosexuality was coined: a condition. A generation ago, the accepted term became gay: an identity. Each formulation raises the stakes: One can object to and even criminalize an act; one is obligated to be sympathetic toward a condition; but once it’s a fully fledged 24/7 identity, like being Hispanic or Inuit, anything less than wholehearted acceptance gets you marked down as a bigot. (Steyn, There’s No Stopping Them Now, p.35)
Steyn explains that historically, moral concern for sexual activity between two persons of the same sex was identified as sodomy, an act. And an act is what it is. You can either think it is a good idea or you can think it is bad. Either way, it’s very objective. It’s what someone does. Then, Steyn explains, in the late nineteen-century the act was described as condition of certain persons, and it was termed homosexuality - a condition a person is in. Next, a few decades ago homosexuality got upgraded again, now referring to a person’s very identity, so that we now identify people as being or not being gay. Now it describes who a person is. (Stanton and Maier, Marriage on Trial; the Case Against Same-Sex Marriage and Parenting, p. 15)
The greatest single victory of the gay movement over the past decade has been to shift the debate from behavior to identity, thus forcing opponents into a position where they can be seen attacking the civil rights of homosexual citizens rather attacking specific and (and as they see it) antisocial behavior. (Altman, The Homosexualization of America, The Americanization of the Homosexual, p. 9)
There is another historical myth that enjoys nearly universal acceptance in the gay movement, the myth of the eternal homosexual. The argument runs something like this: Gay men and lesbians always were and always will be. We are everywhere; not just now, but throughout history, in all societies and all periods. This myth served a positive political function in the first years of gay liberation. In the early 1970s, when we battled an ideology that either denied our existence or defined us as psychopathic individuals or freaks of nature, it was empowering to assert that we are everywhere. But in recent years it has confined us as surely as the most homophobic medical theories, and locked our movement in place. Here I wish to challenge this myth. I want to argue that gay men and lesbians have not always existed. Instead they are a product of history, and have come into existence in a specific historical era. Their emergence is associated with the relations of capitalism; it has been the historical development of capitalism-more specifically, its free-labor system-that has allowed a large numbers of men and women in the late twentieth century to call themselves gay, to see themselves as part of a community of similar men and women, to organize politically on the basis of that identity. (D’Emilio, Making Trouble Essays on Gay History, Politics, and the University, p.5)
I have argued that lesbian and gay identity and communities are historically created, as a result of a process of capitalist development that has spanned many generations. A corollary of this argument is that we are not a fixed social minority composed for all time of a certain percentage of the population. There are more of us than one hundred years ago, more of us than forty years ago. And there may very well be more gay men and lesbians in the future. Claims made by gays and nongays that sexual orientation is fixed at an early age, that large numbers of visible gay men and lesbians in society, the media, and the schools will have no influence on the sexual identities of the young are wrong. Capitalism has created the material conditions for homosexual desire to express itself as a central component of some individuals’ lives; now, our political movements are changing consciousness, creating the ideological conditions that make it easier for people to make that choice. (D’Emilio, Making Trouble Essays on Gay History, Politics, and the University, p.12)
It isn’t at all obvious why a gay rights movement should ever have arisen in the United States in the first place. And it’s profoundly puzzling why that movement should have become far and away the most powerful such political formation in the world. Same gender sexual acts have been commonplace throughout history and across cultures. Today, to speak with surety about a matter for which there is absolutely no statistical evidence, more adolescent male butts are being penetrated in the Arab world, Latin American, North Africa and Southeast Asia then in the west. But the notion of a gay identity; rarely accompanies such sexual acts, nor do political movements arise to make demands in the name of that identity. It’s still almost entirely in the Western world that the genders of one’s partner is considered a prime marker of personality, and among Western nations it is the United States - a country otherwise considered a bastion of conservatism - that the strongest political movement has arisen centered around that identity. We’ve only begun to analyze why, and to date can say little more then that certain significant pre-requisites developed in this country, and to some degree everywhere in the western world, that weren’t present, or hadn’t achieved the necessary critical mass, elsewhere. Among such factors were the weakening of the traditional religious link between sexuality and procreation (one which had made non-procreative same gender desire an automatic candidate for denunciation as unnatural). Secondly, the rapid urbanization and industrialization of the United States, and the West in general, in nineteen-century weakened the material (and moral) authority of the nuclear family, and allowed mavericks to escape into welcome anonymity of city life, where they could choose a previously unacceptable lifestyle of singleness and nonconformity without constantly worrying about parental or village busybodies pouncing on them. (Duberman, Left Out, p. 414-415.)
Thus gay’ has become a sexual orientation (a particular kind of homosexuality), a social identity and a political movement. It should be clear that gay’ is a new form of homosexual practice, which in its fullest sense is unique in human history. The psychosocial condition of being gay today must therefore be understood in their own place and historical time. Being gay or lesbian is a kind of commentary’ on the dualistic tendency of Western society to dichotomize body and mind, masculinity and femininity, homosexual and heterosexual, as noted below. The modern gay movement both reflects and mediates these dualisms, indicating that social and erotic transformation is a part of human potential, as Freud suggested. (Herdt, Cross-cultural issues in the development of bisexuality and homosexuality, p. 54)
It allows us, in short, to imagine there’s a connection between action and identity, to imagine an equal sign between the verb kill’ and the noun killer.
Sexual identity is a new addition to the identity portfolio, and we can see in recent history, and to a large extent even within living memory, the process of its accretion. That’s just plain interesting, I think, like being able to watch a pearl form in front of our eyes. Why not take a look, since we are able to. It can’t help but give us a better, perhaps more profound view of ourselves.
But I’d say it’s most important because sexual identity, like that equal sign between verb and noun, is in the end a house built on sand, the living in which makes us more, through omission rather than commission more anxious, less happy people than we might otherwise be. (Archer, The End of Gay and the Death of Heterosexuality, p.27)
We are learning that sexual identities are social constructs which come and go in different shapes and sizes. Beneath them are behaviors which defy easy categorization. (Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin and Gebhard, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, p.f)
What these examples illustrate is that homosexual and heterosexual are socially constructed categories. There are no objective definitions of these words; there is no Golden Dictionary in the Sky that contains the real definitions. These are word categories we made up. (Muehlenhard, Categories and Sexualities, p. 102-103)
Through an examination of certain historical structures of sexual dimorphism, I have come to conclude that identity categories homosexual/heterosexual in the nineteenth century and gay/straight in the twentieth century should be understood not as universal but as suggestions of common themes around the world (Herdt ed. 1994). (Herdt, Same Sex, Different Cultures: Gays and Lesbians Across Cultures, p.xvi)
The basic distinction between behavior and identity has to be constantly stressed: people are not simply homosexual’; rather, many people engage in homosexual acts- and many, not always the same ones, experience homosexual fantasies- which for a minority becomes a basis for a concept of homosexual (lesbian/gay) identity. As Pateman put it: The self is not completely subsumed in its sexuality, but identity is inseparable from the social construction of the self’ (Pateman 1988, see ch. 7). The distinction between homosexual behavior and identity, first identified in sociological literature by McIntosh at the end of the 1960s (McIntosh 1968), is the basis for the modern idea of the gay community’ (or lesbian/gay community) in which ethnic model of identity became the basis for social, cultural, and political organization around sexual preference (Epstein 1987). (Altman, AIDS and the Discourses of Sexuality, p. 36 in Rethinking Sex: Social Theory and Sexuality Research by Connell and Dowsett)
Another aspect of the development of sexual orientation and identity which would seem to require investigation is the reduction of the percentage of men and women engaging in homosexual behavior with age. A significant percentage of the medical students and male twins investigated by McConaghy and colleagues (1987, 1994) reported that they were not currently aware of homosexual feelings they experienced in adolescence indicating homosexual feelings diminished or disappear with age in a proportion of the population. (McConaghy, Unresolved Issues in Scientific Sexology, p. 300)
Lesbian and gay historians have asked questions about the origins of gay liberation and lesbian feminism, and have come up with some surprising answers. Rather than finding a silent, oppressed, gay minority in all times and all places, historians have discovered that gay identity is a recent, Western, historical construction. Jeffrey Weeks, Jonathan Katz and Lillian Faderman, for example, have traced the emergence of lesbian and gay identity in the late nineteenth century. Similarly John D’Emilio, Allan Berube and the Buffalo Oral History Project have described how this identity laid the basis for organized political activity in the years following World War II. The work of lesbian and gay historians has also demonstrated that human sexuality is not a natural, timeless given, but is historically shaped and politically regulated. (Duggan & Hunter, Sex Wars: Sexual Dissent and Political Culture, p.151-152)
For not until he sees homosexuals as a social category, rather than a medical or psychiatric one, the sociologists can begin to ask the right questions about the specific content of the homosexual role and about the organization and functions of homosexual groups. All that has been done here is to indicate that the role does not exist in many societies, that it only emerged in England towards the end of the seventeenth century, and that, although the existence of the role in modern America appears to have some effect on the distribution of homosexual behavior, such behavior is far from being monopolized by persons who play the homosexual role. (McIntosh, The Homosexual Role, p.192)
With rare exceptions, homosexuality is neither inherited nor the result of some glandular disturbance or the scrambling of genes or chromosomes. Homosexuals are made and not born that way’. From my twenty-five years’ experience as a clinical psychologist, I firmly believe that homosexuality is a learned response to early painful experiences and that it can be unlearned. For those homosexuals who are unhappy with their life and find effective therapy, it is curable. (Kronmeyer, Overcoming Homosexuality, p. 7)
Homosexuality is commonly and widely understood to describe sexual attraction for those of one’s own sex. There does not seem to be anything problematic or uncertain in such a definition. Nevertheless, the theoretical enterprise of deciding exactly what constitutes homosexuality- or, more pragmatically, who is homosexual-is far from self-evident. While there is a certain population of men and women who may be described more or less unproblematically homosexual, a number of ambiguous circumstances can cast doubt on the precise delimitations of homosexuality as a descriptive category. (Jagose, Queer Theory, p.7)
Although theories concerning the formation of modern homosexuality differ, there is significant agreement that homosexuality, as it is understood today, is not a transhistorical phenomenon. With the exception of Faderman, all theorists discussed so far make crucial the distinction between homosexual behaviour, which is ubiquitous, and homosexual identity, which evolves under specific historical conditions. (Jagose, Queer Theory, p.15)
Phrases such as homosexuality in the modern sense’ or homosexuality as it is understood today’ effectively draw attention to the paradigm shift from sexual acts to sexual identities, and to the problems inherent in assuming continuity between current and historic remote same-sex acts. Unfortunately, however, such phrases imply that modern homosexuality, unlike its predecessors, is coherent, certain, and known. Much is invested culturally in representing homosexuality as definitionally unproblematic, and maintaining heterosexuality and homosexuality as radically and demonstrably distinct from one another. Yet modern knowledges about the categories of sexual identification are far from coherent. (Jagose, Queer Theory, p.18)
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