Homosexuality is a topic so prevalent in today’s society. Unfortunately or fortunately (for a certain sections of society) it is as taboo today as it once was in 17th century in England. Accusations from every religion, hints about homosexuals not belonging to human race, curses that they will be damned forever and burn or boil or any other choicest abuse which the mind can conjure up is thrown at them.
The first opinion about homosexuality from anyone is that it is “unnatural.” To truly be able to understand homosexuals and this sort of sexual behaviour, we must examine its origins.
Today, our idea of gender and sex is compartmentalized; hence when we see a male showing affection towards another male it seems unnatural. But in cultures throughout the world, there has been enough documentation about the fact that gender and sex were quite interchangeable in nature; meaning that a male need not be ‘macho’ or a female need not be ‘feminine’. In fact, it was often seen as a combination of both the traits, which tallies with our recent knowledge of human behaviour where everybody has ‘male’ and ‘female’ tendencies.
The second reason for homosexuality being considered unnatural is the belief that it will eventually lead us into the destruction of the society or world. Citing examples like Greece, Rome, Pompeii and many other civilizations around the world to show that their decline and eventual destruction occurred due to homosexuality, some say that we are also a ‘morally declining world’ and homosexuality will become prevalent and destroy us like it did for all the other civilizations that practiced homosexuality. The truth is much farther from this. In these ancient civilizations including India, homosexuality was not unusual and was considered as much a normative behaviour as heterosexuality and bisexuality was. In Rome for example, when the senate ruled, there was a higher tolerance for homosexuality and it was not considered a crime. But when persecutions started, it started appearing in legal documents frequently and this was faulty attribution to rise in homosexual activities.
Sex was studied by many scholars and homosexuality was also studied in detail and can be found in many ancient works of Cicero and Martial. It was practiced in every cross section of the society. Today, we know that most men fall in the middle spectrum where they have experienced some sort of homo-erotic experience. We also know that in the absence of females, men do feel increased sexual attraction towards other men (prisons). Hence, even in ancient societies where military was an all man affair where homosexuality was widely prevalent.
The slandering of homosexuality started with Christianity, when some church fathers looked at nature as pure and started taking notes on the good and bad behaviours to be followed by man. Since the nature of the natural world was itself evolving then, many of their theories were flawed.
For example, it was believed during this time that hyenas were fond of digging up graves and eating corpses. It was also believed that hares grew a new anal opening every year, and that weasels mated through the mouth and bore their young through the ear.
Because hyenas were considered to be rather disgusting animals, and believed to engage in homosexual sex predominantly, homosexuality itself began to be considered to be disgusting by them through their association with the animals the ancients considered disgusting. These beliefs were recorded in books but since homosexuality was so prevalent no one including the church clergy men paid any heed to it.
Until 11th century, homosexuality was practiced freely. Instability in government and lawlessness in the society prompted the state and the church to become allies and progressively the latter gained the upper hand, causing communal riots and restrictions. The church targeted minorities like Jews and Muslims and waged holy wars against them but when this failed they resorted to anti gay propaganda against them.
As British became an increasingly powerful country and greedy to conquer lands and eager to convert people forcefully into Christians, beliefs about homosexuality has now trickled down to every corner of the world and haunts us irrespective of our religious nature.
It is time that people became aware of their ignorance and explore about homosexuality and its historical significance to truly understand the relevance it has in our world today. People, who are able to accept that homosexuality exists, still feel that their daughter or son should not be that way. Many children and adults still do not feel talking about their homosexual attractions to their family or friends. The small majority that does tell people are sometimes shunned away from their social circles. Homosexual love or marriage is not accepted, and most see it as ‘animal lust’ which is the saddest part. To love and to be loved is the most basic desires of our human soul and probably the second most basic desire would be, to be accepted. Sadly, both are at a very meager stage for homosexuals today in our world. Laws can help undoing what cruelty was done before but only human love and acceptance can transcend the pain that homosexuals, bisexuals and trans-genders face every day. Let’s hope to be a kinder species and learn lessons from our brethren.
The post was originally written for F.A.C.E Magazine on a book on World Social Issues