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The History of Gays

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25 July 2018

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Gay activists disrupted the conference by interrupting speakers and shouting down and ridiculing psychiatrists who viewed homosexuality as a mental disorder. In 1971, gay rights activist Frank Kameny worked with the Gay Liberation Front collective to demonstrate against the APA’s convention. At the 1971 conference, Kameny grabbed the microphone and yelled, “Psychiatry is the enemy incarnate. Psychiatry has waged a relentless war of extermination against us. You may take this as a declaration of war against you.”
– Ronald Bayer in Homosexuality and American Psychiatry: The Politics of Diagnosis

We must aim at the abolition of the family, so that the sexist, male supremacist system can no longer be nurtured there.
– Gay Liberation Front manifesto, London, 1971

XXXVI. [Caius Caesar] never had the least regard either to the chastity of his own person, or that of others. He is said to have been inflamed with an unnatural passion for Marcus Lepidus Mnester, an actor in pantomimes, and for certain hostages; and to have engaged with them in the practice of mutual pollution. Valerius Catullus, a young man of a consular family, bawled aloud in public that he had been exhausted by him in that abominable act. Besides his incest with his sisters, and his notorious passion for Pyrallis, the prostitute, there was hardly any lady of distinction with whom he did not make free.
– Suetonius Tranquilus, The Lives of the 12 Great Caesars, 119 AD

A lot of the idea of Greek and Roman “acceptance” of homosexuality has been blown out of proportion by A. early Christians who wanted to make the Greeks look degenerate by their standards, and B. 20th century theorists who see two naked figures on a pot and describe it as eroticism even if they are fighting. The pots which did represent actual gay sex–censored by intercrucial depictions–are few. And does the existence of homosexual pornography tell us the society as a whole generally thought homosexuality was natural and good? Of course not. Then there’s the whole term pederasty and what we translate as “lover.” If pederasty was about sex, then why was admiring boys in a sexual way frowned upon? We know there were prohibitions of this. It seems that what we translate as “lover” should more likely be translated as “teacher.” There’s also no real evidence that Alexander the Great was gay. All we have is his extremely close friendship with Hephaestion and one event where he kissed a eunuch, whom the crowd shouted for him to kiss. And there’s also another account of people lining up to be kissed by Alexander, so this may have been a tribute thing.
Here is the account: Plutarch’s Life of Alexander 67.4
“We are told, too, that he was once viewing some contests in singing and dancing, being well heated with wine, and that his favorite, Bagoas, won the prize for song and dance, and then, all in his festal array, passed through the theater and took his seat by Alexander’s side; at sight of which the Macedonians clapped their hands and loudly bade the king kiss the victor, until at last he threw his arms about him and kissed him tenderly.”
So, yeah, probably not a gay thing anymore than a European noble kissing the king’s finger or French and Italians kissing each other’s cheeks. We also know that Alexander’s parents feared for his sexuality early on. Among hundreds of quotes that could be presented, one of the most interesting comes from Athenaeus of Naucratis and his “The Deipnosophists” (X. 45). “And Hieronymus, in his “Letters”, says that Theophrastus says that Alexander was not open to ‘bodily pleasures’; and accordingly, when Olympian had given him Callixene, a Thessaian courtesan, for a mistress , who was a most beautiful woman, and all this was done with the concept of Philip, [for they were afraid that he would become effeminate], she was constantly obliged to ask him herself to do his duty by her.”
I “wonder” what the context of “effeminate” might be in a passage in which his parents, worried about his lack of desire, are hiring a female prostitute for him. Alexander would later go on to have recorded sexual relationships with women, yet the only proof of any with men is that he had a really really close friend, and that a crowd told him to kiss a eunuch once. That’s it. Time and again, that’s how Greek life is reinterpreted. Early Christians made the Greeks gay to shame the pagans and later intellectuals enthusiastically embraced this narrative by cherrypicking sources.

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Sodomy–the modern definition of anal sex rather than the Middle Ages’ of bestiality, et. al.–was punishable by death in most of the city-states of Greece. Pederasty was institutional in some cases (Sparta and Thebes), but penetrative sex was not. And in Athens, the openly homosexual could not own property, and, by extension, vote or serve in a public office.
In Rome, homosexuality was considered a vice. You were technically allowed to sodomize a male slave, but doing so would be looked at as a “decadent Greek practice.” Though the openly homosexual could own property, they could not hold office or military rank. Homosexual activity of any type with a fellow citizen meant that you would be cast out of social circles. Receiving sodomy was a crime punished by revocation of property, and, by extension, rights of citizenship. In some Providences, it was punished by death or exile.
Now let’s compare that to Middle Ages Europe. The punishment for sodomy? A fine, or a five year sentence if you were unable to pay the fine. Sodomy was not punished by death, though you could be cast out of the priesthood for it. They could not revoke property or noble status for the discovery of homosexual activity. This had to do with the philosophy of the time. Homosexuality and sodomy (homosexual or otherwise) was seen as the logical extension of uncontrolled lust–the desire for sex without reproductive function. By their philosophy, anyone had the potential to become a sodomite. As such, the punishments were lenient compared to Rome or Greece. Only certain groups within society–like certain nobles who under Roman law were literately above the common law–could do this without consequences.

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The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, also known as the DSM, is the official list of mental disorders to which all mental health professionals refer when diagnosing patient. The first version, released in 1952, listed homosexuality as a sociopathic personality disturbance. In 1968, the second version (DSM II) reclassified homosexuality as a sexual deviancy. Soon afterward, gay protesters began picketing at the APA’s annual conventions, demanding that homosexuality be removed from the list completely. Members of the APA had their lives–and the lives of their families–threatened by gay activists. In 1973, after intensive debate and numerous disturbances by gay activist, the APA decided to remove homosexuality from its next manual (DSM III). What followed was a swarm of outrage from psychiatrists within the APA who disagreed with the decision and demanded that the issue be reconsidered.
In 1974, a referendum was called and approximately 40% percent of the APA’s membership voted to put homosexuality back into the DSM. Since a majority was not achieved to reverse the decision, homosexuality remains omitted from the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. To the LGBT community, this omission from the DSM was a logical move. They felt that, absent from any unbiased social-science research to prove that homosexuality is inherently pathological, the only thing that had been keeping homosexuality in the DSM was societal prejudice. However, many in the scientific community have criticized the APA’s decision to remove homosexuality from the DSM, claiming its motives were more political than scientific.
Dr. Ronald Bayer, author of the book Homosexuality and American Psychiatry, writes: “The entire process, from the first confrontation organized by gay demonstrators to the referendum demanded by the orthodox psychiatrists, seemed to violate the most basic expectations about how questions of science should be resolved. Instead of being engaged in sober discussion of data, psychiatrists were swept up in a political controversy. The result was not a conclusion based on an approximation of the scientific truth as dictated by reason, but was instead an action demanded by the ideological temper of the times.”
Along these same lines, a recent radio documentary on the subject of homosexuality revealed that the president-elect of the APA in 1973, Dr. John P. Speigel, was a “closeted homosexual with a very particular agenda.” Another of the reasons APA members were so quick to vote in favor of homosexuality’s removal from the DSM, according to Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, is that many in the psychiatric profession had “failed to identify, with certainty, the psychodynamic causes of homosexuality, and consequently to devise a reasonably successful treatment for it.” It should be noted that although the psychiatric profession as a whole has failed in treating homosexuals, there are still many psychotherapists who report great personal success in such treatment.
While the medical profession in general has done much to advance our knowledge of human functioning, in some cases it seems that modern medicine seeks to recognize or diagnose only those problems that it believes it can remedy. I found this out a few years ago when I experienced an unexplained twitching in my eye. (The medical term is “blesphorospasm.”) I visited a general practitioner, two optometrists, an ophthalmologist, and a neurologist and underwent a thirteen-hundred-dollar MRI only to be told I had no problem. Although a few of the physicians were able to name my symptom, none could tell me, with certainty, what was causing it. It wasn’t until I visited a doctor friend of my dad’s (whose alternative methods were not recognized as legitimate by my insurance company) that my problem was diagnosed and corrected. And, I might add, he charged me only forty-five dollars. Gordon Dalbey writes, “I am convinced that the American Psychiatric Society [sic] removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses simply because the psychiatrists were tired of failing in their human efforts to heal it.” He suggests that the reason much of secular psychiatry has failed in treating those with unwanted homosexual desires is that it has ignored the spiritual component of this process. Dalbey points out that homosexuality is something that “only the Father God can heal.”
Another factor in the APA’s decision to remove homosexuality from its list may have been the perception that there were not many homosexuals who desired therapy to change their orientation. This perception may have been fueled by the fact that ex-gays were not nearly as vocal in 1973 as we are now. I take issue with the fact that the APA and many other professional organizations have moved far beyond just saying that homosexuality is not an illness, and instead are now saying that reorientation therapy could potentially “harm” someone tying to change from gay to straight. Groups like the American Psychological Association, the National Association of Social Workers, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have upset a large portion of their membership by rejecting the idea that homosexuals can change. In doing this, most of the major psychological associations have turned their backs on people like me. But there are still hundreds of mental health experts successfully treating homosexuals; they just aren’t advertising it. This is because doing so could get them into trouble, if some gay activists have their way. There has been a move in the APA to make treatment of homosexuality a violation of professional conduct for a psychiatrist, even if it’s done at the patient’s request.

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