Homophobia: History Repeating

In 18th century England a growing “hatred of sodomites, generated by disgust and fear, was justified, even encouraged, as a defence of society, love and of women. This virulent hatred, and the spontaneous acts of violence it inspired, were enough to stop those people who objected, such as philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1738-1832), from making their thoughts known…

“For Jeremy Bentham, the hatred of sodomy was rooted in the disgust that most people felt toward the practice. He observed that “in persons of weak minds, anything which is unusual and at the same time physically disgustful is apt to excite the passion of hate. Hatred when once excited naturally seeks its gratification in the tormenting or destruction of the object that excited it.” Frances Henry 2019 Love, Sex, and the Noose: The Emotions of Sodomy in 18th-Century England (uwo.ca)

Jeremy Bentham

In 21st century English speaking nations we are seeing history repeat itself in the form of hateful tirades against transgender people, lies about trans rights posing threats to women, family and society –

– and indeed all same-sex loving and gender-variant people are under attack in countries such as Uganda, where religious leaders and politicians have been stoking up anti-gay rhetoric for decades, even to identify as LGBTQ+ is in danger of becoming a criminal offence.

When will humanity learn its lessons and learn to honour all forms of love?

Homophobia is the result of centuries of lies, fueled by religious beliefs and political expediency. This has been going on since the 4th century CE, overturning centuries in which gay sex and relationships were part of the established order of pagan society, and genderfluidity was much associated with spiritual service in the Goddess temples. The first laws against gender fluid expression and same sex love appeared from the 4th century. In 390 a law attacked “the poison of shameful effeminacy,” in 438 this was expanded to call for all who engaged in gay sex to die “in avenging flames in the sight of the people.” The Code of Justinian, in 533 CE, which blamed sodomy for ‘famines, earthquakes and pestilence,’ set a legal climate regarding homosexuality that would influence Europe until modern times, and his violent actions in 528 against men who loved men established a climate of fear, which still haunts queers around the world. A war against queer expression has been underway ever since.

So long has this been going on most people have no idea why it actually began, but these two voices from the Victorian era were well aware of the roots of religious and political homophobia:

“The Hebrews entering Syria, found it religionised by Assyria and Babylonia, when the Accadian Ishtar had passed West, and had become Ashtoreth, Ashtaroth, or Ashirah, the Anaitis of Armenia, the Phoenician Astarte, and the Greek Aphrodite, the great Moon-goddess who is queen of Heaven and Love. . . . She was worshipped by men habited as women, and vice versa; for which reason, in the Torah (Deut. xxii. 5), the sexes are forbidden to change dress.” Richard Burton in ‘The Thousand Nights and a Night’ (1886)

“When the Empire adopted Christianity, it had therefore the traditions of the Mosaic law and the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans to guide its legislators on this topic. The Emperors felt obscurely that the main pulses of human energy were slackening; population all tended to dwindle; the territory of the empire shrank slowly year by year before their eyes. As the depositaries of a higher religion and a nobler morality, they felt it their duty to stamp out pagan customs, and to unfurl the banner of social purity.”
John Addington-Symonds wrote in A Problem in Modern Ethics (1896).

Where once religious books were used to justify attacks on queer people, nowadays science is as likely to be invoked. The belief in Adam and Eve has become belief in a biological gender binary, which is a false and ignorant interpretation of the scientific evidence. Genetics shows that all life starts out as female – the XX chromosome – and the Y that produces male features is a development out of that. For this reason the feminine in everyone – including men – should be recognised, respected and revered. Some people have a more complex chromosome make up, such as XXY, reflecting on the genetic level what has always manifested in some people’s external appearance and behaviour.

‘Third-gender’ – ‘transgender’ – ‘intermediate types’ – ‘non-binaries’ – have always existed. There have always been male bodied individuals with strong feminine characteristics. And female bodied people with strong male characteristics. And people who visibly manifested a balance of male and female in their body and personage.

As Edward Carpenter wrote back in 1914:

Since the Christian era these intermediate types have been much persecuted in some periods and places…that they might possibly fulfil a positive and useful function of any kind in society is an idea which seems hardly if ever to have been seriously considered… In pre-Christian times and among the early civilisations… the intermediate people and their corresponding sex-relationships played a distinct part in the life of the tribe or nation, and were openly acknowledged and recognised as part of the general polity.” From Intermediate Types among Primitive Folk

In 2023 humanity’s growth is still darkly afflicted by those amongst us whose ‘weak minds,’ as Bentham bluntly put it, cause them to take offence at the ways and habits of others, which they then seek to curtail. Influential figures including politicians make homophobic and transphobic statements which directly influence some people to make aggressive and violent attacks on queer people simply for being who they are.

But queer people have our own destiny, our own purpose, our own mission on planet earth. And some of us are remembering it.

Published by shokti

i am shokti, lovestar of the eurofaeries, aka marco queer magician of london town. i explore the links between our sexual-physical nature and our spirits, running gatherings, rituals and Queer Spirit Festival. i woke up to my part in the accelerating awakening of light love and awareness on planet earth during a shamanic death-and-rebirth process lasting from January 1995 to the year 2000, and offer here my insights and observations on the ongoing transformation of human consciousness, how to navigate the waves of change, and especially focusing on the role of queer people at this time.

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