Europe is the progenitor of homophobia. How East and West Swap Places in Their Attitudes Toward Homosexuality » LGBT Azerbaijan Gay.Az
Europe is the progenitor of homophobia. How East and West Swap Places in Their Attitudes Toward Homosexuality
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Europe is the progenitor of homophobia. How East and West Swap Places in Their Attitudes Toward Homosexuality

Today, protecting the rights of LGBT people is considered part of the progressive politics of the West, while the Islamic world appears in the popular imagination as a wild land dominated by cruelty and homophobia. However, a couple of centuries ago, the situation was reversed: in the West, homosexuality was considered a crime, while in the rest of the world it was treated quite indifferently. It was the Europeans who spread homophobia everywhere, and the fundamentalists took European imports as their own tradition.

In 1916, Irish nationalist Roger Casement was arrested by British police. Shortly before that, he had agreed with the government of Germany, which was at that time at war with Britain, on the supply of weapons for the Irish uprising. However, the British intercepted German military communications, so that the ship with the weapon did not reach the shores of Ireland, and Casement was charged with treason. This case received a wide response, many British intellectuals stood up for Casement. The fact is that the issue of Irish independence has long divided British society. In addition, Casement worked for a long time as the British ambassador investigating the crimes of the colonial administrations in the Congo and Peru, and many of those who knew him from this work, such as Arthur Conan Doyle and Bernard Shaw, stood up for him.

The case was largely decided by the publication of Casement's "Black Notebooks".

In them, he described in detail his sexual adventures in the colonies he visited. The problem was that the adventures were exclusively homosexual - for Europeans at the beginning of the twentieth century, it became a scandal.

Some considered his homosexuality to be no less terrible than the fact of betrayal. The Irish believed that the British had forged notebooks to defame him. Nevertheless, the disclosure of the notebooks weakened his support - and Casement was executed.

Roger Casement was not the only one whose sexuality did not fit into the European gender norms of the time, trying to escape from the boredom of bourgeois life and Victorian morality to the "mysterious and wild East." With the onset of the colonial era, traveling there in search of sexual adventure became fashionable among European aristocrats. Novelist Edward Morgan Forster dedicated his book A Journey to India to a local man whom he fell in love with while traveling there. His friend, archaeologist Lawrence of Arabia, who was engaged in reconnaissance activities in Turkey during archaeological expeditions and prepared an Arab uprising against the Ottoman Empire during World War I, was allegedly in a relationship with an Arab youth whom he met during excavations in Northern Syria.

French writer André Gide realized his homosexuality after traveling to Algeria. German traveler Alexander von Humboldt and Russian geographer Nikolai Przhevalsky probably had homosexual adventures in the colonies.
For heterosexuals, the attractiveness of the colonies was largely due to the fact that they could afford a lot there, because they were in an alien environment as conquerors. The colonial authorities did not care much about the rights of local residents, and the locals themselves did not know European morality, so they could not condemn travelers, and their condemnation did not mean anything to Europeans. In addition, the locals themselves did not fit into European standards: in some countries the age of sexual consent was much lower than in Europe, in others, residents wore much less clothing.

This allowed travelers like Paul Gauguin to travel to the colonies, enter into relationships with underage girls there, paint images of local women pornographic by the standards of the time, return to their homeland and sell them as an exotic depicting "noble savages" and their unity with nature. without being condemned for all this. On the contrary, many such trips brought fame and money, and often did not even have to spend on them, because the state was ready to sponsor them as research missions.

Homosexuals added to all these motives the fact that in almost all of Europe homosexuality, if not criminalized, was at least extremely condemned, and those who were convicted of it were ridiculed and ostracized. For example, despite the fact that post-revolutionary France was the first European country to decriminalize homosexuality through the secularization of legislation, the persecution of homosexuals has not stopped here.

Police continued to arrest those convicted of same-sex relationships and transvestism. It's just that now they were condemned not for a crime against God, but for violation of public order and unnatural acts.

Therefore, it is not surprising that, despite the absence of anti-homosexual legislation in France itself, in every third of its former colonies after liberation from the metropolis, it appeared. At the same time, almost everywhere outside Europe, same-sex relationships and gender non-conformism were part of the norm.

Homosexuality and Islam

In Islamic countries, the attitude towards homosexual relationships was similar to that in ancient Greece and Rome (which is not surprising given the fact that in the Hellenistic era they belonged to a single cultural space), so that romantic relationships between adult men and young men were valued almost more than relationships with women. The Qur'an condemns homosexuality based on the interpretation of the same story about Lot and Sodom as in Christianity and Judaism (although many modern researchers point out that it is not homosexuality that is condemned in it). However, it nowhere specifies what punishment should be imposed for this sin. Moreover, some hadiths (sayings attributed to the prophet) warn against being carried away by the beauty of beardless youths, because their gaze can be more seductive than the gurias (virgins waiting for the righteous in paradise).

Despite the fact that homosexual relations were criminalized in most Islamic countries, cases of punishment for them remained extremely rare. Nearly all of these reported incidents have involved same-sex rape or flagrant public disorder.

Punishing someone for a homosexual act required at least four respected people in the Islamic community to witness it, making it nearly impossible to prosecute such cases.

The Egyptian thinker Rifaa at-Takhtawi, who visited Paris in the 19th century, was surprised that Europeans feel such an aversion to homosexuality that when they translate Arabic love poetry, almost half of which is addressed to beautiful young men, and not to women, they are forced to replace the masculine gender with the feminine ... Bernadetto Romberti, who visited the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, said that hundreds of young men sold into slavery and captured in the war live in the Sultan's palace, guarded by eunuchs. It is known about male harems that openly held in the palaces of the rulers of al-Mutamid, Hisham II, Abd ar-Rahman III, al-Hakam II, who ruled in the 9th-12th centuries. Many musical troupes had young dancers - bacha-bazi or heaps, usually dancing in female form, they could be bought for sexual gratification.

Although many thinkers in the Islamic world considered sodomy a sin, most of them sincerely did not believe that it was a sin to simply fall in love with a boy or express this love through poetry.

Therefore, for example, nothing prevented the Egyptian religious thinker and poet Abdullah al-Shabrawi, who in the 18th century for 30 years was the rector of al-Azahar University, the most prestigious educational institution in the Arab world, from writing love poems addressed to a beardless youth named Ibrahim.

In secular society, the desire of a man to have sex with a young man was considered completely understandable and even justified.

Sexual relations in Eastern societies were hierarchical. That is why it was not reprehensible for women and young men to act as a host in sexual relations - they are lower in rank than adult men, and their very youth made them unmanly. Thus, in the satirical essay "Virgins and Youths" by the 9th century Arab theologian Al-Jahiz, even the exclusive preference of an adult man for beardless youths is not considered a deviation or a sin. On the men themselves, who wanted to be in this role, social stigma was imposed. Therefore, usually the relationship between men and boys ended as soon as the latter began to grow a beard. In some cases, they could continue or initially occur between two adult men, but it was not customary to discuss such a relationship, as, indeed, the relationship with his own wife.

It should also be remembered that hierarchical sexual relations between men and boys were not considered pedophilia by the standards of the time, because the age of sexual consent was significantly lower than today. Like pederasty in ancient Greece, they became permissible at the same age at which girls began to be married off, that is, from about 12-14 years old, when puberty occurs. Boys at this age began military training. One of the main goals of such relationships was to redirect the sexual energy of young men so that they do not start a family before they are able to support it, and most importantly, so that they do not encroach on other people's women. Those who attempted the murder of young people before the age of consent were punished.

However, in both Greece and the Middle East, which largely inherited Greek traditions, the very fact that boys and girls could have sexual relations at this age already suggested that they could perform actions that other adults do: take care of family, raise children and fight wars. Girls at this age already gave birth to children and looked after them, and young men could accompany women in public places (in many cultures, women were not allowed to go out into society without a relative or husband) and fight on an equal basis with other men.

In some countries, if there was no young man suitable for this role in the family, then a girl could take his place. In this case, she took a vow not to engage in sexual relations and, since caring for the family is a male function, she began to dress and behave like a man, cut her hair short and take a male name.

Such girls in the Middle East and Central Asia were called bacha-posh, and in the Western Balkans controlled by the Ottomans, they were sworn virgins. The most famous example is the Albanian oath virgin and revolutionary Yanitsa, nicknamed the Albanian Jeanne d'Arc for her active participation in the struggle for the independence of Albania.

This practice allowed girls to go to school, get a job, move around unaccompanied, play sports, and even inherit property. She helped the family avoid social stigma due to the absence of an heir, and sometimes even exist without a male head of the family. Some mothers deliberately forced their daughters to live like boys so that they did not have to return to their family or become a servant in the husband's family.

Outside the world of Abrahamic religions

Across the world, severe segregation between male and female spaces, designed to prevent accidental sexual intercourse and to ensure that women will bear children with their husbands and not with anyone else, has led to the spread of homosexual relationships. Most adolescent boys in Yanoama (Brazil) and Araucana (Chile and Argentina) have homosexual relationships with peers, usually ending after marriage.

In some areas of the Amazon, mutual masturbation and genital affection are normal elements of companionship between young bachelors and married men.

In some places, such relationships are tolerated among young unmarried women; in Nandi (Kenya) and Akan (Ghana), they sometimes continue even after marriage.

The same hierarchical relationship between men and boys, as in the Mediterranean, is found in other regions of the world. In Indonesia, a teenager at the age of 12-13 must move from parents to a maternal uncle, with whom he becomes a concubine before marriage. In Papua New Guinea, boys were required to have an older sexual partner, most often the older sister's fiancé, in order for the brother and sister to receive the same seed. Local tribes believe that in order to mature and grow, young men must regularly drink the seed of older men.

The tradition of shudo in Japan, widespread among the samurai, was very similar to the tradition of pederasty in Greece: an older man had to take care of a young man and teach him honor, martial arts, a sense of beauty and sexual skills.
There also existed kagema prostitute boys, similar to the already mentioned bacha-bazi. Typically, these were young men who were trained in kabuki theater or worked in other entertainment establishments such as teahouses.

Warriors from the Zande tribe in Sudan, upon reaching adulthood, temporarily married boys aged 12–20, paid the ransom for them as a bride, and raised them until they reached the age of majority and marry other boys.

In some places, homosexual relationships were not part of the educational process and did not establish a hierarchy between participants. So, throughout Africa, dozens of communities were recorded in which homosexual marriage was practiced, both among men and among women. In ancient Indian texts, in addition to the male and female sex, there was also a third gender, which included homosexual and transgender people. Many of them view homosexuality as a natural phenomenon and do not expect people who are not attracted to the opposite sex to engage in heterosexual relationships or be punished.

The Indians of North America also developed a complex gender system in which there was room for gender non-conformism. To distance themselves from the European binary gender system, modern North American Indians use the term "people with two souls" for all their traditional identities that do not fit into it.

Chinese historiography is full of stories about homosexual relationships between people from all walks of life, primarily, of course, the aristocracy. Thus, many emperors from the Han dynasty had lovers along with their wives. However, in most cases, even for the rulers, it is impossible to accurately establish their sexuality, since only extraordinary cases fell into historiography, but neither homo- and heterosexuality was considered something unusual. So, one of the most famous stories is the story of Emperor Ay-Di and his lover, the official Dong Xian.

This is a rare case in the history of China, when the emperor had only homosexual relationships, and therefore, having no heirs, he tried to transfer power after his death to his beloved.

True, Dong Xian was so stricken with grief that he could not prevent a coup d'état organized by officials who did not want to put up with the last will of the emperor.

However, this story is remembered not so much for an attempt to transfer power to a lover, as for an episode showing the power of love between Ay Di and Dong Xian. One day, Dong Xian fell asleep on the sleeve of the emperor, and he was called for advice. The emperor was afraid to disturb his beloved and therefore cut off the sleeve. Since then, the expression "cut off sleeve" in China has become a euphemism for homosexuality.

Colonial era

In the Islamic world, the situation began to change only in the 18th and 19th centuries, with the increasing penetration of Europeans and the spread of fundamentalist movements such as Salafism and Wahhabism, which arose as a reaction to it. These movements emerged on the outskirts of civilization and were largely fueled by those who could not find a place in urban society, the poor, fleeing the debauchery of cities, in which they risked ending up in debt bondage and selling themselves or their children into sexual slavery for the pleasures of the rich and Europeans. Therefore, it comes as no surprise their disdain for the things that flourished in urban culture - harems, prostitution, homosexuality, Europeanization and secularization - and their desire to return to the supposed foundations of Islam.

After capturing Damascus and Baghdad in the 19th century, these movements forced local women to dress in burqas and began an active persecution for homosexual relations, which was not previously in Persia and the Ottoman Empire.

However, the spread of homophobic sentiments in society was caused not by fundamentalists, but by the Europeans themselves. European colonial administrations brought with them European laws. In many countries, the criminalization of homosexuality, introduced by the colonial administration, still persists. So, in modern Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, the laws on sodomy are repeated by the Soviet criminal articles. In 57% of all countries still criminalizing homosexual behavior, legislation is based on the British Empire's Criminal Code. 70% of the British colonies have such laws.

Europeans usually justified their dominance over other peoples on a civilizational mission. They viewed non-white people as less developed and closer to nature, and therefore unable to govern themselves on their own. By the end of the 19th century, it was widely believed in Europe that homosexuality was widespread outside its borders. The Turkish ambassador in Paris in 1803-1806 was even surprised that Europeans think that all Turks are homosexual and that homosexuality is generally considered something shameful among them. Gender non-conformism of peoples outside Europe began to be seen as a sign of their savagery, while a strict separation between the sexes began to be considered a sign of development. For example, Scottish biologists Patrick Geddes and Arthur Thomson, in their 1889 book The Evolution of Sex, write that "hermaphroditism is primitive." This made it possible to justify their extermination or the forcible imposition of European norms.

By the early twentieth century, white men had become obsessed with the idea that the white race was in danger due to the influx of migrants and the growth of liberation movements among women and people of color.

Therefore, homosexuality began to be pathologized not for religious reasons, but for medical reasons. For example, the American sexologist William Robinson, who lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, wrote that homosexuality is a sign of degeneration, and "every sexual deviation that does not serve the reproduction of a race is a pathology." Scientists began to talk about the fact that the genitals of lesbians and gays are similar to the genitals of black people, and homosexuality and gender inconsistency began to be seen as an evolutionary regression, a failure in the process of sexual differentiation. To correct this "flaw", eugenicists began to subject homosexuals to chemical castration, forced sterilization, lobotomy, and conversion therapy.

In Soviet Russia, despite the decriminalization of homosexuality after the revolution, the homophobic laws of the tsarist era persisted in the Islamic republics. Interestingly, in Russia itself, laws criminalizing homosexuality were adopted under the influence of German law. Located on the outskirts of Europe and periodically on the verge of being colonized, Russia, after the beginning of the reign of Peter I, constantly tried to catch up with Europe, adopting its traditions and legislation in order to be able to be one of the colonial empires, and not a backward country conquered by foreigners.

However, homophobia in the Russian Empire did not take root: the police were reluctant to do business, doctors did not want to testify against homosexuals, because they considered homosexuality to be an innate sign, and loud scandals involving the aristocracy were extinguished at the filing of the emperors.

The court knew perfectly well about the homosexuality of the composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky and the conservative writer Vladimir Meshchersky, as well as the Grand Dukes Sergei Alexandrovich and Konstantin Konstantinovich, but no action was taken in this regard.

The loudest homosexual scandal in the Russian Empire flared up around the writer Alexander Shenin, the alleged author of the erotic homosexual poem "The Adventures of a Page", but he also got off with dismissal from service and expulsion from St. Petersburg. Public sabotage of the law led to a decline in its application, so that by the end of the 19th century, the persecution of homosexuals almost disappeared. At the beginning of the twentieth century, projects were already being developed to decriminalize homosexuality (which would later become the basis of Soviet legislation on this issue) related to desecularization and the opinion of doctors on this matter.

At the same time, with the growth of revolutionary sentiments and the danger of separating the outskirts from the empire, the idea that homosexuality is a product of culture in the Islamic outskirts has grown. Soviet lawyers associated homosexual behavior with both an excess of development caused by the decline of bourgeois European civilization and a lack of development caused by its underdevelopment. Therefore, it was subsequently decriminalized only in the Slavic republics of the Soviet Union: the Slavs were considered more developed, so homosexuality in their case was supposed to be an innate condition, and they themselves were worthy of sympathy. The Islamic outskirts were subject to forced civilization, and they fought against homosexuality, because they believed that its spread was due to the backwardness of traditions.

Homosexuality was recriminalized in the USSR in 1934, again under the influence of Germany. However, this time the law was introduced at the suggestion of the NKVD out of fear that homosexuals were spying on the Nazis - Weimar Germany, despite the continued criminalization of homosexuality, was at the time the center of the sexual revolution. In Russia, they did not yet know that the Nazis had tightened anti-homosexual legislation, and linked their rise to power a year earlier with homosexuality and sexual corruption. At the same time, the Russian special services themselves used homosexuals for espionage, which provoked paranoia in the United States and Great Britain after the war that all homosexuals are communists and spy on the Soviets.

Anti-colonialism and homophobia

The emergence of the LGBT movement coincided with decolonization. Between World War II and the beginning of the 21st century, all colonial empires collapsed, and at the same time, homosexual relations were decriminalized in all Western countries, and in some even same-sex marriage was legalized. Russia once again stood out in this respect: it completely decriminalized homosexuality (even earlier than the United States and Great Britain did) under pressure from the Council of Europe, but without a broad public discussion and a formed LGBT movement.

By the end of the twentieth century, Europeans began to position tolerance for homosexual relationships as a sign of development and civilization. Countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, which only recently adopted European gender norms, have now begun to be labeled as undeveloped precisely because of the prevalence of homophobia in them.

The rights of LGBT people and women began to be used in the West as a basis for excluding representatives of the "backward" and "intolerant" cultures of the East, primarily Sikhs, Arabs and Muslims.

In turn, in the countries of the East, fundamentalist currents began to spread, seeking to free these countries from European influence. Now they, too, linked the rights of gays and women to the corruption caused by the effeminacy and excess of civilization among Europeans. And this applies to both Islamic and Christian fundamentalists. For example, in Africa, the criminalization of homosexuality, which is portrayed by local leaders as imposed by Europeans, persists in some predominantly Christian countries and has been abolished in some predominantly Muslim countries because it originated not so much from religion as from colonialism. In Ethiopia, the only African country that has never been colonized, homosexuality was criminalized with the arrival of Christianity there in the 13th century, and criminalization continues to this day. In Russia, the ban on "propaganda of homosexuality" was inextricably linked with the growth of anti-European sentiment and was presented as a way to combat the corrupting influence of the West.

Paradoxically, fundamentalism is the result of modernization, and therefore any projects of returning to the past proposed by fundamentalists are aimed at the moment at which modernization has already taken place. Ironically, by proposing a project to combat Western influence and European tolerance, which supposedly has gone too far, contemporary Islamic fundamentalists in the Middle East and Orthodox fundamentalists in Russia are themselves asserting the values that Europe has imposed on them quite recently.

Due to lack of funding, the article was translated by google translator. Gay.Az editors apologize for the inconvenience*


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