Homosexuality of the Ancients: The World Before Homophobia


  • For the past several decades, the world has become engaged in a conversation about homosexuality
  • Individuals and activist groups have appealed to their governments around the world, demanding equal rights to love who they choose
  • Within the past several years, many governments have repealed homophobic laws or created legislation protecting the rights of the LGBTQA community
  • However, the world is still hostile towards people of different sexualities, regardless of the legal progress we have made
  • It is still dangerous to be open about your sexuality
  • The world wasn’t always this way
  • Before the rise and spread of Western culture and monotheistic religions like Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, the majority of the world looked at homosexuality as a normal and natural part of life
  • All of the major civilizations of the ancient world were inclusive of different sexualities
  • We live over the ashes of a world that understood that love and gender are not black and white concepts
  • Let’s take a trip around the world


Today: Egypt

  • Human Rights Watch is an advocacy organization that brings attention to issues for the LGBTQA community
  • In September 2014, 7 men were arrested for “inciting debauchery”
    • They were suspected of performing a same sex marriage
  • The Egyptian government has forced those arrested for debauchery to undergo anal medical examinations, where men are “checked” to make sure they haven’t engaged in homosexual activity
  • Despite there being no law banning homosexuality, people convicted of debauchery are sentenced to up to 8 years of jail time

Ancient Egypt

  • Homosexuality and gender fluidity were normal parts of Egyptian life
  • The gods regularly shifted gender and engaged in same sex relationships
  • Horus and Seth
    • Not a romantic relationship, as they were both trying to prove the other was the “passive” member
  • The god’s weren’t the only ones to accept same sex relationships
  • Tombs of the pharaohs and prominent Egyptians depicted normal life, and many of them showed homosexual relationships
  • Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep were servants to the Pharaoh, and were buried in a conjoined tomb

Today: China

  • China decriminalized homosexuality in 1997 (“hooliganism”)
    • Removed it from the list of mental illnesses in
  • CNN published an article in December of 2014 describing public sentiment towards homosexuality
    • You only have one child so you want your child to be ‘normal’ like everybody else”
      • Xiaogang Wei, Beijing Gender Health Education Institute
  • The article continues, claiming many members of the LGBTQA community get married to the opposite gender anyway, either to pretend to be straight or to produce a child
  • As of 2013, Chinese clinics still offered “shock treatment” as a cure for homosexuality

Ancient China

  • Confucianism was tolerant of homosexuality and same sex relationships
  • According to WomenOfChina, The emperors of the Han dynasty (202 BCE – 220 CE) were often openly gay and kept male lovers throughout their rule
    • Emperors Wu and Wen were both known to be gay
    • Emperor Ai had slept with his male servant – when he got up he ripped his sleeves so as not to disturb the other man
      • “Relationship of the cut-off sleeves” stems from this story
  • Galeote Pereira, “The greatest fault we do find among the Chinese is sodomy, a vice very common in the meaner sort, and nothing strange among the best
    • The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations in Human Societies

Joel Molero, 19, was brutally murdered for being openly gay

Today: The Americas

  • Argentina Brazil, Colombia, and Uruguay have passed legislation allowing gay marriage
  • Many Latin American countries have tried legally protecting LGBTQA rights
    • However, it’s not enough
  • According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 600 people in Latin America were killed between January 2013 and March 2014 from homophobic violence
  • Joel Molero, a 19 year old Peruvian man was murdered and dismembered  in for being openly gay in November of 2012
    • According to HuffPost, information not released by the press until June of 2013
  • In North America, the US and Canada have legalized gay marriage
    • Parts of Mexico allow it
  • Despite legal changes, discrimination still pervades everyday life
  • June 12, 2016 49 people were killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando
    • One of the worst shootings in our history
  • Approximately 20% of hate crimes in the US in 2012 were on the basis of sexual orientation
  • I’ve witnessed people harassing each other in high school for their sexuality

Tribal Americas

  • Many native South American tribes included same sex relationships in daily life
  • The Moche people of Peru (0 CE – 800 CE) left erotic pottery depicting same sex couples
  • The Incan Empire considered both homosexuality and premarital sex normal parts of life
    • A fact the conquistadors were horrified to find out
  • In “The Construction of Homosexuality,” David Greenberg discusses the commonhomosexuality of the Mayans, as described by Spanish missionaries
  • Most Native American tribes were accepting of homosexuality
  • Navajo tribes considered gay marriage a normal union
  • “Common law marriages” applied to everyone
  • Two spirit” is a common term
    • You are blessed to have the spirit of male and female
      • LGBT tribe members often became religious leaders for that reason
  • Crossdressing and androgyny were both totally acceptable

Today: Africa

  • Multiple African nations have tried to claim that homosexuality is a Western concept brought by slavers and colonists to Africa
  • Bisi Alimi is a Nigerian journalist – he has written about homosexuality in precolonial africa
    • He was forced to emigrate to the UK after receiving death threats for revealing his sexuality
  • South Africa is the ONLY African country to legalize gay marriage
    • Homosexuality itself is still illegal in OVER 30 African countries
    • Jailing, Beatings, and occasionally the death penalty are CURRENT punishments for homosexuality

Tribal Africa

  • Bisi Alimi argues against his government, reminding them that the Yoruban word “adofuro,” meaning homosexuality, has existed long before the colonial era
  • The men of the Zande warrior tribe often married younger men
    • Lived in the region that is now Sudan, where being convicted of homosexuality often means the death penalty
  • King Mwanga II of Uganda was well known for being bisexual – he was open in his rebellion against the Christian colonists who tried to criminalize homosexuality in Ugandan culture


  • Egypt, China, The Americas, and Africa were only 4 of the many many regions that accepted homosexuality as a normal part of life
    • Ancient Rome, India, Russia, and all of the other hubs of culture today were inclusive of different sexualities
  • As of right now, only 26 countries have legalized gay marriage
    • There are 195 countries in the world
  • Hundreds of people are murdered every year for being open about their sexuality
  • Despite the progress that anti-discrimination laws have made, the LGBTQA community is still in physical and emotional danger from the rest of the world
  • Laws and policies will not fix the situation – we need social change to truly make a difference
  • We need to go back to our roots
  • Every ancient civilization was tolerant of homosexuality,including same sex relationships as normal parts of everyday life
  • Gender did not have to be a black and white concept, and neither did sexuality
  • When you are sick, you try to rid yourself of the disease
    • Homophobia is a disease in our global community, and we must get rid of it
  • The ancients recognized the true rules of nature – love is love, regardless of gender
  • Let’s take an active role in changing the world perception, and act like the ancients


Homophobia in the Rise of Christianity


  • Today our society is slowly becoming more accepting of homosexuality, recognizing that it is a normal and natural thing
    • But how did the world become homophobic in the first place?
      • Was it always that way?
  • Homophobia is a Judeo-Christian construct that has spread around the world with Christian expansion.


Christian Origins (Background)

  • Christianity formed around the Mediterranean
  • Founded on Judaic beliefs and the fulfillment of  the greatest Jewish prophecy
    • Jesus Christ is the Messiah, God incarnated in human flesh
  • Teaches forgiveness and love as founding principles
    • Based on Jewish texts (10 Commandments) and Jesus’ teachings
  • Also teaches that sex (for purposes besides procreation) is sinful
    • Homosexuality is strictly forbidden by God
  • Emphasizes the responsibility to spread religion and “spread the good news”
    • Missionaries carry out this job by travelling to foreign countries and working with populations to “civilize” and spread Christianity
  • As the church began to organize, the Catholic church developed and remained the only form of Christianity for centuries
  • Soon after its formation, the Christian church was persecuted by the Romans
    • Shortly after that, the Christians took over it


Ancient Rome

  • Homosexuality was totally normal
  • Both gods and mortals were involved in same sex relationships
    • Statues and buildings dedicated to appreciating the body
  • Jesus was infamously crucified by a Roman
  • Emperor Nero persecuted early Christians, earning him the title of “AntiChrist” (666)
  • Shortly afterwards, Christianity began to spread through the Roman empire
  • As Christianity gained traction, more people began to condemn homosexuality
  • 392 AD Christianity became the official religion of the Roman empire (pagan religions were banned)
  • As the Roman empire declined, the stigma grew


  • Europe became intolerant of homosexuality
    • This lasted for centuries
  • The Western world was extremely Christian, and Westerners were the first to expand and colonize multiple continents
  • When Western expansion began to occur, colonizers took their homophobic culture with them
  • Began a transition worldwide to homophobic ideologies


Western Expansion

  • In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue
    • He was a dedicated Catholic & mandated his crew remain devout
  • He reached the Caribbean and was the first to interact with the natives, whom he called “Indians”
    • He and his crew immediately began the process of converting the Native Americans to Christianity
      • This included enforcing their homophobic ideology
  • The voyage of the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria began a centuries long persecution of homosexuality


Early South America

  • Many native South American tribes included same sex relationships in daily life
    • The Moche people left thousands of ceramic pieces depicting same-sex intercourse
  • The Incan Empire considered both homosexuality and premarital sex normal parts of life
  • Spanish conquistadors were horrified by these “immoral” people
    • Francisco de Toledo wrote about the Incan empire so that Christian Europe would know how “uncivilized” it was
  • Conquistadors began to burn homosexuals at the stake
  • Spanish settlers taught the remaining Natives to practice Catholicism


  • Today’s Latin America is primarily Catholic
  • Despite modern laws protecting LGBTQA rights, many people identifying as gay/lesbian/etc face extreme discrimination
    • Physical, verbal, and emotional violence
  • This modern persecution is the legacy of the violent conquistador behaviors, based on a zealous, but typical for the time interpretation of Christianity


The Protestant Reformation

  • In 1517, Martin Luther posted his “95 Theses” on the doors of a church
    • Began the protestant reformation
  • Establishment of the Lutheran, Anglican, and Presbyterian churches, later followed by Methodist, Quaker, and Baptist
    • At the time, all of these denominations still maintained the same view of homosexuality
  • As more Christian denominations formed, Europe faced the struggle of choosing an official religion
  • Many Europeans decided to leave the continent so they could practice their religion freely


Early North America

  • Most Native American tribes were accepting of homosexuality
  • Navajo tribes considered gay marriage a normal union
  • “Common law marriages” applied to everyone
  • “Two spirit” is a common term
    • You are blessed to have the spirit of male and female
      • LGBT tribe members often became religious leaders for that reason
  • Crossdressing and androgyny were both totally acceptable
  • English settlers arrived, bringing their religion with them
  • Depending on what places were colonized, the denomination of Christianity differed (Spain was Catholic, England was Anglican, the pilgrims were protestant)
    • They all held the same stance on homosexuality however
  • The colonizers condemned the two spirit way of life
  • Colonizers tried to teach the Navajos that same sex relationships were sinful


  • Today, being a “two spirit” is not an honorable trait
  • Along with the loss of land, life, and culture came the loss of acceptance of homosexuality as a normal institution
  • All Americans, Native or not, have to fight to be recognized and accepted for their sexuality


PreColonial India

  • India has historically been accepting of homosexuality, despite modern debates on that subject
  • Until it came under British influence, beginning in 1612, homosexuality was a natural part of life
  • Hindu texts depicted transgender gods and same sex relationships
  • The act of kissing (especially in female same sex relationships) was actually supposed to bring people to a higher state of consciousness
  • The British East India Trading Company arrived and began trade with India
    • Brought Protestant Christianity with them
  • The British condemned India’s open attitude towards homosexuality and tortured those found “guilty” of being gay
    • Publically trapped between 2 wooden boards, where people passing by could harass them


  • India has had a difficult time overcoming the stigma of homosexuality
  • In the time since British colonization, India has tried to reject many of its Western influences
  • Hinduism has still remained the most powerful religious force in India, but the Christian influences of the West still remain
  • Some try to claim that homosexuality is a Western construct
    • Despite it being the opposite
  • Starting the conversation has been difficult, as discussing homosexuality has been taboo
    • Result of refusal to explicitly describe homosexual “crimes” to prevent contagion



  • The rise and expansion of Christianity caused the rise in homophobic attitudes all over the world
  • Christian explorers and missionaries carried their ideologies with them to new places, where they claimed the rest of the world was acting “immorally”
  • Ancient civilizations and cultures that had always included homosexual practices were forced to adopt Christian heterosexual lifestyles
  • As time went on, these attitudes became commonplace, and being gay was a trait that was suppressed in millions of people
  • As our world slowly becomes more accepting of homosexuality as a natural trait, it is important to acknowledge that this is not a new idea
    • It’s an ancient one

The Faces of War

“It’s What I Do” tells of Lynsey Addario’s life as a conflict photographer – it unveils the inner workings of a woman who has seen almost every modern world conflict up close. However, the pages of her memoir do more than just detail her experiences; it tells the stories of those on the other side of her camera lens.


This image from the memoir has been seared into my memory.  This boy’s face (pg. 189, 210 ) is full of uncertainty, his brow furrowed with the weight of his surroundings.  The dirt on his lip and his bloodshot eyes reveal that this child has faced more in his short lifetime than I will ever have to; the bandages on his face a stark contrast to the brightly colored bandaids I wore on my scraped knees as a child.  This photo reminds me to fight for peace, to prevent more pictures of children like this one.


This second picture is equally penetrating to me.  These Pakistani men serving the Taliban (pg. 198, 210) look directly into the eyes of the camera, their gaze unwavering.  The young, handsome face of the man in front is unsmiling, his head resting gently against his automatic weapon.  War has forced him to become a man, and no matter which side he fights for it breaks my heart that youth all over the world are losing their innocence to violence and hatred.


My passion blog centers around discrimination and ways American college students can fight for equality.  We as young people can connect to the powerful visuals, and I will use that to further my cause.  By showing the world how people are affected by prejudice I hope to strike a chord in my peers that will encourage us to promote peace, and protect children from horrors of war.



I can’t keep quiet

For anyone




On January 21st, 2017, hundreds of thousands of people gathered for the Women’s March on Washington D.C., the now famous protest in response to President Donald Trump’s inauguration.  The march demanded equal rights for women, but also for the other minority groups concerned by the presidential election.  One of the largest rallies ever held, the Women’s March created a forum for the modern feminist movement.  Symbols like the We The People campaign, the pink hat, and the empowering upraised fist came to be associated with the events of the day.  The song “Quiet,” by Connie Lim (or MILCK) is another such symbol, and it has become a call to civic engagement for American women from Seattle to Boston.


When MILCK first wrote “Quiet” several years ago, she was told not to release the song.  The ballad, she revealed in an interview with Allure, was written as a retelling of her experience with fear and empowerment.  The daughter of Chinese immigrants, MILCK grew up with a double set of social expectations; one from her family, and one from the Americans around her. Put on your face, know your place, shut up and smile, don’t spread your legs the first lyrics of the song represent the confining demands that were placed on her as a woman in America.


Following the events of the presidential election however, MILCK decided that she had to share her song with the world.  In a time when American women, MILCK, and myself included, are wondering whether our voices will be heard in this administration, “Quiet” validates our fears and then dissolves them by calling us to action.


The lyrics of “Quiet” embody the spirit of not only the Women’s March itself, but of the uncrushable spirit of the women in our country.  It addresses the challenges we face and the fears that hold us back, and empowers us to break through the fear and speak up for ourselves.  Many American women, especially teenagers, are hesitant to voice their opinions because our society often labels outspoken women as “aggressive” or “pushy” – MILCK sings openly about these feelings, refusing to hide even her fear.


But no one knows me no one ever will,

If I don’t say something if I just lie still –

Would I be that monster scare them all away,

If I told them what I have to say


Those lyrics pierce right through me, and strike at the heart of my fears.  As I cross the line into adulthood, it is dawning on me that people won’t be asking me to raise my hand – if I have a message to spread, I have to voice it on my own.  Chances are the world isn’t going to like everything I have to say, and I will be reprimanded more than once for being an outspoken American woman – I will be that monster.  As I’ve struggled to come to terms with that, “Quiet” has reassured me of the importance of speaking out anyway:


I can’t keep quiet, no

I can’t keep quiet, no

A one woman riot, oh


I can’t keep quiet

For anyone



MILCK’s lyrics have calmed my fears of facing judgement from the world, and have empowered me to fight for the things I believe in.  Women like me all over the United States are discovering the inner strength to stand up and demand equal rights; we can’t keep quiet anymore, and “Quiet” is giving us the power and the reminder to engage our world and fight to make it a better place.


The soulful lyrics of “Quiet” relieve our fears of expressing ourselves, but it also encourages us to actively engage in our communities.  The song comes to a climax when MILCK sings

Let it out, Let it out

Let it out now

There’ll be someone who understands


MILCK’s notes appeal to that urge inside each of us to let it out, to tell the world how we feel and to fight for the change we want to see in our society.  The song asks every woman to share what they have to say, pleading with us to show everyone how powerful we truly are.  MILCK also reminds us that, no matter where you are or how isolated you feel, none of us is alone.  Each one of us is fighting to reach the same goal of equality, and when we feel alone and unheard, There’ll be someone who understands.



The empowering message of “Quiet” could not have come at a better time.  The 2016 presidential election was one of the most controversial in our history, and it has raised a lot of debate on topics covering immigration policy to reproductive rights and everything in between.  The candidate’s attitude towards women and women’s rights created upheaval on more than one occasion, and it was a deciding factor for many people when they went to vote.  Millions of women in America were downright afraid of the results of the election and many women, myself included, have become concerned about the future of our rights and social standing in America.


MILCK recognized this fear, and it motivated her to finally release “Quiet.”  She first performed the song at the Women’s March in a way that unified all the women present.  As the women’s march approached, she reached out to 23 women across the country and asked them to debut the song with her in D.C..  The women rehearsed the piece online, preparing for the event.  The http://now famous video of their performance was not only the first time they had sung together, but the first time any of these women had met each other.  The performance was, and is, a reminder to all of us that we can make anything happen when we work together to fight for our rights.  Together we can change the world we live in.


“Quiet”’s achingly beautiful melody is still shaping the way American women are looking at their place in society.  As the song gains popularity, MILCK’s message of courage and empowerment is reaching a wider audience, and is causing women everywhere to rethink the way they perceive the world.  The original video recording of the Women’s March performance went viral, quickly reaching a national platform.  MILCK released a music video accompanying the song, a visual story equally as powerful as the song itself, and performed “Quiet” live on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.  Women around the world share their stories of empowerment with the hashtag ICan’tKeepQuiet, a tag now synonymous with the Women’s March as well.



In today’s political climate, MILCK’s single “Quiet” calls on American women to speak out and become engaged in our communities.  By acknowledging the fears and doubts we have about doing this, the song becomes relatable to its audience, and allows us to hear the message of her song.  She promises that we are not alone in our search for equality, and that when we feel isolated and alone, there will be someone else who is fighting alongside us.  With every chord we are encouraged to take the risk, fight for our beliefs and above all, to make our voices heard.


I can’t keep quiet

For anyone




~ For the readers of a women’s life magazine (Live Happy, Darling, Cosmopolitan) ~

It’s What I Need To Do

Bibiane is one of the women interviewed by Addario; her husband left her after learning that she had been raped.

“With each new assignment … I felt more fortunate to be an independent, educated woman.  I was thirty-one years old, and I cherished my right to choose my love, my work.  I had the privilege to travel and to walk away from hardship when it became too much to bear.  Most people on earth didn’t have an exit door to walk away from their own lives.”


As a white American woman, Lynsey Addario knows that she will never have to face the injustices that the people in her camera lens experience.  Chapter 8 of her book “It’s What I Do” opens with her expression of gratitude for the life she is able to lead, following her account of Congolese women who had been raped.


Kanyere was also interviewed; her three year old daughter was raped.

The stories of these women were the most intense part of the book for me; I do not connect to things easily, but the rejection of these women by their families brought me to tears in anger.  Lynsey tells their stories of hardship and cruelty, and through her words I could feel their anguish.  When she then contrasted the stories with her gratitude for the privileges she had been born with, it made me realize just how lucky I really am.


In my passion blog, I hope to address the conflict between privilege and discrimination the way that Lynsey Addario discusses rape in her book.  I want to shed light on the prejudice that people face without sensationalizing it, to remind those who are not targets of discrimination that it is still their responsibility to oppose it.  As a white American woman, I have privileges that many others would never dream of having, and it is up to me to use my gifts to make the world a place where equality is a reality, not a distant dream.


I Can’t Keep Quiet

I can’t keep quiet, no

I can’t keep quiet, no

A one woman riot, oh


I can’t keep quiet

For anyone



These lyrics from MILCK’s song “Quiet” resonates with women across the United States in a way that few slogans ever have.  On January 21st, 2017, Connie Lim (MILCK), first performed her song a cappella at the Women’s March in D.C. – her performance was videotaped by spectators at the march, and the song quickly became a rallying cry for women around the country.  As the piece gained media attention, MILCK released an accompanying music video, adding a visual story to her musical one.  “Quiet” is an incredible song that unites women in their common experiences of modern sexism, and is empowering us to speak out against injustice in today’s world, to refuse to keep quiet.


  • “Quiet” addresses the fears and pressures that American women face today
    • the first verse addresses the societal expectations for women to behave a certain way
    • the lyrics acknowledge the fear of being harassed for speaking out
    • the refrain releases these anxieties when MILCK sings “I can’t keep quiet, for anyone, anymore”
    • the music video shows a physical interpretation of the feelings that strike a chord with women all over the country



  • “Quiet” is challenging American women to speak out for their beliefs and challenge the expectations imposed on us by years of sexism and inequality
    • MILCK released the song after being told she shouldn’t (not keeping quiet)
    • first sung at the women’s march
      • keystones of the evolving women’s rights movement
    • women that had never met each other sang together to support their cause
      • they’re not keeping quiet


“Quiet” is a song that does so much more than get stuck in our heads – it gets stuck in our souls.  The mournful lyrics turn into words of empowerment, and MILCK’s refusal to keep her silence is inspiring women across the United States to speak out against inequality.  In today’s political and social climate, “Quiet” is empowering us to engage in our communities and fight for our rights.  It shows us that we can let them hear what we have to say; we can’t keep quiet, for anyone, anymore.