Many people believe that humans are placed on the earth to find happiness, to live their life and then settle down and procreate to keep this world expanding. Many people also believe that the world has always been a strictly heterosexual, or heteronormative, society and that homosexuals have been a recent thing; however, according to archives through history, historians and the likes beg to differ. The history of homosexual relationships is a vast and highly unexplored part of history that many like to ignore. This report will hit on many different countries and many different time periods where homosexuality was a common factor and had different meanings in each place and time. Other point of views will be added to give different sides to the history books, including the scientific view-point of same-sex relationships in different species.
History has more information on homosexual relationships than many expected. The first homosexual couple mentioned in history is the ancient Egyptian servants Khnumhotep and Niakhkhnum who lived c. 2300 B.C. according to New York Times. There were inscriptions and hieroglyphics archeologists found of this same-sex couple that were buried together in a tomb. They were the king’s chief manicurists and highly esteemed in their position, hence the tomb. The inscriptions above the tombs is of these two men embracing. There are multiple different view points, some believing them to be brothers or twins however, according to Mr. Reeder and others, the embrace of heterosexuals for tomb art are conveyed as “implicit erotic and sexual relationship” (Wilford New York Times). This is one of the first relationships between men that is documented and there are more throughout history.
Another example if this would be in the society of ancient Greece where evidence of homosexual relationships show up in their language and their stories. In Hidden from History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past, there was not a distinction between heterosexual and homosexual but between who was the passive and active role. The most common same-sex relationships were between older men, known as erastes, who was the lover and role model for a younger male, known as the eromenos. It was believed that the knowledge the erastes held could be passed to the eromenos through his sperm. And in the book Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe, “the word “lesbian” is derived from the Greek island Lesbos, home of Greek poetess Sappho. Her poetry proclaimed her love for girls and praised the beauty of women” (Interesting Facts). There is also the fact that in Greek mythology, many gods, demigods, and heroes had homosexual relations in their epics. An example of this would be the famous hero Achilles and Patroclus and the proof of their relationship according to the myths are in both writing and art. Their relationship and the fight for Troy is an epic in The Illiad so the proof is in a largely known historic primary source. Another time period of information would be during the early start of the Current Era. The texts on information like relationships is more prominent after the Dark Ages. Due to the times such as the Dark Ages, there was no time for such things as relationships when one was just trying to stay alive; however, out of the Dark Ages came the age of enlightenment, or the Renaissance. In Gender, Sexuality, and Material Objects in English Renaissance Verse on page 87, it talks about this being a time where women formed close relationships with their female friends to the point where they would gift one another “heteroerotic courtship presents” such as the ones men would give to women during the time. There are also many poems and letters between women that portrayed the ending of their affair due to marriage with non-gender specific terms, which is less likely to happen when the correspondent is male. There is even written proof of homosexual relations between the women because of them speaking of their “affectivity and bodily intimacy” (Renaissance 88). Most of this takes place in Europe however, this is not the only place homosexual relationships are taking place.
In China, there is a story of a Chinese emperor named Ai of Han who fell in love with a minor official named Dong Xian and gifted him with power and riches. The legend goes that one day when the two men were asleep in the same bed, the emperor was awoken by business much-needed of attending; however, the emperor’s lover had fallen asleep on the emperor’s robe so instead of rousing Dong Xian from sleep, the emperor cut the sleeve off to allow himself to leave. This entire legend is the reason behind the euphemism for same-sex love, which is “the passion of the cut sleeve” or “the cut sleeve” (Passions of the Cut Sleeve) which was dated c. 20 B.C. In China, however, homosexuality was strictly for men and was not synonymous with women (Passions of the Cut Sleeve). It was more common for men to be with men rather than women with women and even then, homosexuality was almost revered in China when it came to men. An example of this being when an emperor took a male lover, they were referred to as the emperor’s “favorites” (Passions of the Cut Sleeve). It isn’t just China that homosexuality dates back far. It is also prominent in Japan and Thailand. In Japan, homosexuality was celebrated in both documents and paintings while in Thailand, kings had both women and men for lovers. A commonality between China and Japan are the paintings created to show such relationships and document them. These are many different countries and time periods where homosexuality took place and in comparison, humans are not the only species that experiences homosexual tendencies or the lifestyle of homosexuality.
In science, and especially biology, many believe that due to animal instincts informing the animals to procreate that it is always only a male and female species that interact in such a way. This view-point is not entirely true due to the many different species that participate in same-sex love. According to Science Daily and the University of California – Riverside postdoctoral researcher Nathan Bailey,
“”For example, male fruit flies may court other males because they are lacking a gene that enables them to discriminate between the sexes,” Bailey said, “But that is very different from male bottlenose dolphins, who engage in same-sex interactions to facilitate group bonding, or female Laysan Albatross that can remain pair-bonded for life and cooperatively rear young.””.
They also talk about same-sex behavior is in around 1,500 species and this fact is most prominent in complex herd life. Some species that experience same-sex relations are the bonobos, a species of chimp, where sex is casual between all sexes and it is used to release tension and reinforce companionship. So the fact homosexuality is common in the history of humans is less shocking when one learns that these tendencies towards same-sex relationships transcends species even.
All the topics touched have a wide variety of location and feelings towards homosexual relationships. There is European views and Egyptian, along with East Asian views. The scientific facts of same-sex relationships were shown through other species beside human. This research is an ever ongoing exploration that should not, and could not, end just because this is the end of the report. This will continue to be researched and if this information peaks ones interest, one is implored to stay curious.
Boswell, John. Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe. New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1994.
The reason I used this document in my essay is because this is a scholarly book on the history of same-sex relationships and the fact Boswell was a professor at Yale at the time he wrote this and was a specialist on homosexuality in Christian Europe is a huge factor as to why I consider this credible. He died in the same year this book was published. His book is about same-sex relationships in pre-modern Europe and the widely accepted view on homosexuality. It talks about the times of Ancient Greece to early Christian Europe.
Duberman, Martin Bauml, Martha Vicinus, & George Chauncey Jr., Eds. Hidden from History:
Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past. New York, NY: NAL Books, 1989.
The reason I used this document is because it has the History of Gays and Lesbians and all the authors that participated in this book were highly notable researchers in the community. This book hits on so many different time periods and touches on some many different places. It has enough information to be extremely helpful in my continued research. Hidden from History is all about the history of homosexual relationships with evidence to back it up.
Hammons, Pamela S. Gender, Sexuality, and Material Objects in English Renaissance Verse.
Routledge, 28 May 2010. 1st Edition.
The reason this was used and is viewed as a scholarly book is due to the fact the author is an associate professor at the University of Miami. There is actual structural breakdown of primary sources from the Renaissance times that were interpreted by a woman in that trade. This information in intellectual and informative and was used to convey the points behind the evidence I used.
Hinsch, Bret. Passions of the Cut Sleeve: The Male Homosexual Tradition in China.
The Refents of the University of California, 1990.
The reason I used this is because I had found the story of the Chinese emperor and his lover and I wanted to fact check it. This author is credible because he is a Chinese Historian and has written many books on different subjects taken place in China with the evidence to back himself up with.
Lau, Steffi. Homosexuality in China. US-China Today, 10 Mar. 2010, Accessed: 6 Oct. 2017,
The reason I used this is because this article was an interview with a gay Chinese man who knew his history because it affected him. It is useful but it is not a scholarly article due to the fact these people have no educational background in this subject. It was still very useful because they touched on the history of the story of the passion of the cut sleeve and also the information pertaining to all the history of homosexuality in china.
University of California – Riverside. Same-sex Behavior Seen in Nearly All Animals, Review
Finds. ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 June 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090616122106.htm>.
This article is a highly scholarly article due to the fact it had many participants that were scientific researchers who knew their field of study and were credible. The proof is also in nature and the acts of these animals are documented by many different researchers in biology and the studies of these specific species. It doesn’t just touch on any single species but multiple and how it isn’t just humans that experience same-sex relations.
Wilford, John Noble. A Mystery, Locked in Timeless Embrace. New York Times,
New York Times Company, 20 Dec. 2005,
This is the last scholarly piece due to the fact it is from professional reporters for the New York Times and has archaeological evidence of these two men’s relationship with archaeologists to back them up. This was an interesting and thought-provoking piece with different view points, not just solely wholeheartedly believing them to be homosexual but with people refuting with their own evidence and it is not one-sided. It is an extremely fantastic piece that helped push my research further.
“Arabe”, Pinterest, Accessed: 11 Oct. 2017, <http://pin.it/4NVZdiN>.
Bryant, Christopher. “A Queer History: Imperial China.” Polari Magazine, 13 Nov. 2012, <www.polarimagazine.com/features/queer-history-imperial-china/>.
Dunn, Jimmy. “The Tomb of Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep At Saqqara.” Tour Egypt, Accessed: 11 Oct. 2017, <www.touregypt.net/featurestories/niankhnumt.htm>.
Latinpop, “Same Love Pride Equality Heart and Rainbow Painting”, Etsy, Accessed:11 Oct. 2017, <https://www.etsy.com/listing/386431044/same-love-pride-equality-heart-and?utm_source=Pinterest&utm_medium=PageTools&utm_campaign=Share>.