Written and compiled by Anitra Budd & Angela Waldoch
(Originally published on the WWW at
every month, historians unveil new discoveries about the world's queer
past. In fact, history is replete with gay, lesbian, bisexual and
transgender people who have contributed significantly to world history
even though the world's cultures have rarely condoned homosexuality. But
going back as far as the dawn of human cultures complex enough to be
called "civilizations," you can find references to GLBT people.
Let the Reader Beware
Any piece claiming to be a history of the world naturally invites
skepticism and this piece is no different. Creating an accurate account of
the world's queer history, one that weaves people and events into a
cohesive narrative, can seem insurmountable. For some segments of history,
early accounts are scarce and the sources vary widely in type. For other
times, world regions and cultures, research into homosexuality has only
Homophobia across time has played a significant role in documenting our
history. In many parts of the world, homosexuality was a taboo subject,
punishable by death. It wasn't until the identity politics of the late
20th century that gays and lesbians had a positive incentive to recognize
each other, to unify as groups or to document any gatherings. In reality,
they had more reasons for hiding their sexuality at all costs. To counter
the misrepresentations of gay people as evil, immoral or perverted
throughout history, we must share our stories.
Currently, the history of the world's gay, lesbian, bisexual and
transgender people reads like a compilation of vignettes, rather than a
novel. Incidents occur and famous gays and lesbians come and go worldwide,
but seldom are clear connections made, even when diverse cultures exist
concurrently. In addition, many documented accounts of homosexuality bear
the stamp of Western bias, especially as we get closer to modern history.
This gives queer history a lopsided feel that should be rectified as time
passes and as more scholars research cultures of other regions.
Remember these caveats as you travel back in time during this admittedly
brief queer history. And enjoy it for what it is a collage of myriad
fascinating stories rather than as an unrealistically straight line
running from a definitive beginning to the present day.
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