Homosexuality is a term coined by Karl Maria Kerbeny in 1869 in German and by Gilber Chaddock in 1892. The term comes from the Greek word “homo” which means “same” and Latin word “sexes” which means “sex”. Before the establishment of LGBTQ+ as a community and identity, its history can be traced from early civilizations. Evidences of homosexual activity are present in every documented history; however, the existence of homosexuality in the past is not explicitly revealed in documents. The existence of homosexuality is determined from laws against same-sex activities. For example, the Bible’s strong opposition against same-sex relationship gives confirmation to the existence of homosexuality in Ancient Israel.
Additionally, the sources of the evidences of homosexuality in Ancient Greece are primarily literary works such as Plato’s Symposium. In Ancient Greece, pederasty is an intellectual or sexual interaction between members of the same-sex and this form of relationship is a socially acceptable custom. The involvement of a male in his mid or late 20s or an ‘erastes’ and a younger male not older than 18 or an ‘eromenos’ was the ideal relationship scheme in pederasty back then. One of the ideal pederastic couple is Agathon and Pausanias in Plato’s Symposium. With the age gap of approximately 10 years, Pausanias was the ‘erastes’ and Agathos was the ‘eromenos’. Their relationship lasted longer than a typical pedarastic relationship would and neither of them had a wife or bore children.
In Ancient Middle East, the existence of homosexuality is also evident. The practice of pederasty is called ‘liwat’ in Arab world. It involves a luti, a man with fondness over beardless boys, and ‘amrad’, an unpaid beardless boy, or ‘murd’ mu’ajirin, a paid beardless boy. One example of a liwat relationship can be taken from the epic poem, Masnavi, by Zulali Khwansari from 1615 C.E. The poem depicts the sexual desire of Mahmud, the Sultan of Ghazna, for his slave, Ayaz.
In the Middle Ages, the practice of homosexuality in various forms is strongly opposed by the Roman Catholic Church. In Peter Damian’s Liber Gomorrhianus or Book of Gomorrah in English, the cardinal condemned homosexuality which he described as against moral order. Reformist Martin Luther also viewed homosexuality as “from the devil”. In the essay of Doctor Bonnie J. Morris of George Washington University, she pointed out that social movements for the rights of LGBT community started out as a response to persecution by the church, state, and medical authorities. In Michel Foucalt’s La volunté de savior or The History of Sexuality recognizes Karl Westphal as the father of homosexuality. Westphal considered homosexual orientation as a biological occurrence in contrary sexual feeling (1870). In the same writing, Westphal presented cases of homosexual activity in which he described as “disease cases”.
In the 19th century, homosexuality was still considered as a disease and people that were diagnosed to be homosexuals were put in asylum. Carl Looft, a Norwegian physician, was fascinated with the case of a woman that diagnosed with ‘homosexuality’ and was admitted to an asylum in Bergen, 1895 and he wrote an article about her in 1896. Looft recognized the theories of Westphal and considered the case to be hereditary.
Early gay rights movement began in United States of America in early 1920s when Henry Gerber established the first documented gay rights organization in America, the Society of Human Rights. A few decades later, Radclyffe Hall, an English novelist, released a book with lesbian themes post-World War I. The book stirred controversy and was criminalized for violating the Obscene Publications Act of 1857. Additionally, homosexuality, specifically male homosexuality, was illegal in Germany during the Holocaust. The police compiled a list of suspected gay men, this list was called pink list. Approximately, 50,000 homosexuals were sentenced and put into prison and some were sent in concentration camps.
In 1950, the Mattachine Society which sought social acceptance was founded by activist Harry Hay in Chicago. Harry Hay is considered to be an early proponent of gay rights movement because his contributions including the formation of an organization where homosexuals can socialize where it was illegal for homosexuals to gather in public. Two years later, the American Psychiatric Association listed homosexuality as sociopathic personality disturbance. In April 1954, under Executive Order 10450 from the then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower, homosexuals were banned from working for federal government for the “best interest of national security.” However, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the list of mental illness and made resolution concerning the rights of homosexuals:
“Further, the American Psychological Association supports and urges the enactment of civil rights legislation at the local, and state and federal level that would offer citizens who engage in acts of homosexuality the same protections now guaranteed to others on the basis of race, creed, color, etc. Further, the American Psychological Association supports and urges the repeal of all discriminatory legislation singling out homosexual acts by consenting adults in private.”
In 1969, the Stonewall Riots became the start of international gay rights movement. The Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village is a gay bar that was raided by nine policemen. Usually, people would react in a passive manner; however, the people violently responded to the arrest. Hundreds of people rioted outside while the police barricaded inside the bar. Stonewall was later set in fire by the people and police reinforcement put out the fire. The first gay pride parade took place a year later in New York. The said event was named Christopher Street Liberation Day.