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Out and About in History: A Look at Homosexuality Throughout the Ages

Love, Sex June 6, 2014

Wherever you fall on the sexual orientation spectrum, most of us know that June is a time of celebration for gays, lesbians, and everyone in between—and for good reason. Even before President Clinton made it official on June 2, 2000, Pride Month has become internationally acknowledged over the years as the GLBT community has taken some amazing strides towards equality

 

Unfortunately, there’s still a long way to go, and mainstream acceptance of non-straight folks is still insanely recent. The American Psychiatric Association counted it as a mental disorder until the seventies, and it wasn’t until the nineties that some governments started to decide being gay wasn’t really a crime after all—yeah, the nineties. Sodomy laws in the US weren’t even tossed out until 2003. I’ll just let that sink in for a moment.

 

Progress is definitely happening, but considering how long homosexuality has existed in society, you’d think, by now, the whole two-dudes-kissing thing would cause a little less drama. Plenty of factors have tried to suppress it—like government, religion, and times when making lots of babies was really important—but the truth is, it’s been around forever, and it’s not going anywhere.

 

In the wake of the last few decades, it’s easy to forget that homosexuality is nothing new—it’s just been really well hidden, until more and more brave people took it upon themselves to stand up and say, “Screw that.” In fact, evidence goes back as far as the mesolithic and neolithic eras, where homosexual depictions in rock art and figurines gave us a pretty good idea what our ancestors were up to. Apparently, gay cavemen were a thing.

 

The ancient Greeks and Romans were no strangers to same-sex love, either. Ever wonder where the word lesbian came from? That would be the island of Lesbos, the home of famous bisexual poet Sappho. Certain types of gay relationships were a pretty normal part of the Greek and Roman cultures for a good while, mostly between young men and their older mentors. Jump ahead a few centuries and you get Shakespeare, who was eventually outed by his sonnets (and Gandalf). Oscar Wilde wasn’t as clandestine with his sexuality, and we know how that turned out.

 

Every part of history has had its share of people who didn’t give a shit about convention, and humans don’t even have the monopoly on it. According to Yale, over 450 animal species are known to exhibit homosexual traits, and that’s only the ones we know about. A lot of people have heard about the penguins, but scientists have also observed the behavior in tons of others including lizards, birds, and even dragonflies.

 

While homosexuality may be old news, the fight for gay rights is still pretty fresh. The Stonewall Riots in June of 1969 really kicked things off, when police raided an underground gay bar in New York City called the Stonewall Inn. The riots lasted for days, becoming the catalyst for the equality movement we’re still fighting for today. The first Pride Parade happened just one year later, and today they’re held every year in hundreds of cities across the world.

 

Gay or straight, we’ve got more sexual freedom now than any generation ever had before us. This month is a great time to honor that no matter what our preferences, and to show our support for those who still have a lot to fight for. Stay strong and celebrate who you are!

 

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