Anti-Homosexuality Sentiments During The Holocaust

We previously touched upon the LGBTQ experience during Nazi Germany, where members of the community were routinely targeted by the Nazis, brought to concentration camps, and murdered along with everyone else. The Nazis treated them even worse than members of other groups — some homosexual men were used as target practice. It is believed that thousands of gay men were imprisoned in concentration camps, but no one knows exactly how many.

The horror stories characterized almost unthinkably cruel treatment in a developed country. Pierre Seel survived the ordeal to describe his treatment: “The Nazis stuck 25 centimeters of wood up my ass.”

We know that gay men were tortured, murdered, given more dangerous assignments, and “worked to death” in general. 

German society was known for its homophobia during the late 30s and early 40s. Even more horribly, some gay men who died in concentration camps were killed by other prisoners.

A study of those who died was conducted by Rudiger Lautmann, who discovered that more than half of gay men who were incarcerated in concentration camps died compared to 41 percent of political prisoners and 35 percent of Jehovah’s Witnesses. 

Nazi scientific experimentation was conducted on homosexual men disproportionately to other segments of the population. Nazi doctors tried to “cure” homosexuality without success (duh). These experiments included one in which a homosexual male subject had his groin incised open so that an artificial male sex gland could be implanted to release testosterone. It was a common belief during this time period that homosexuality was caused by a lack of testosterone. 

Two of the twelve men who participated in these experiments died from infection.

Gay women may have had it even harder, as the Third Reich routinely persuaded men to rape the women. Homosexual men were routinely ordered to perform sexual acts on lesbian women, which was considered by the Reich to be a sort of conversion therapy. Homosexual men were generally kept away from other prisoners because the Reich believed that the “illness” could easily spread.

The History Of LGBT Laws Around The World: Part VI

In part five of our series on the history of LGBT laws around the world, we discussed the civil rights movement in Australia. This movement arose due to anti-sodomy laws that were a byproduct of other anti-LGBT laws leftover from the country’s colonization by the British Empire. The last man arrested for sodomy was in 1984 in Tasmania, but it took another decade for Australia to completely decriminalize homosexuality.

The world has come a long way in the last few decades. Homosexual relations have become legalized in almost every major Western country. Violence against LGBTQ individuals is almost universally classified as a hate crime in these countries. But there are still areas of the world where it can be dangerous to openly identify as an LGBTQ person. The danger is most pervasive in predominantly Muslim countries and in Africa. 

The vast majority of anti-LGBT laws rely on religion to rationalize homosexual activity as an illness or unnatural. Most conservatives who continue to outcast LGBT people do so for the same reason.

It’s important to know that while homosexuality was always frowned upon, the onus was always upon men. This was because the Bible is often interpreted as outlawing sodomy, but it has little to say about the sexual conduct between two women. 

The highest murder rate of LGBTQ individuals in the world is in Brazil, even though the country has pro-LGBTQ laws on the books and has legalized same-sex marriage. The data might not be completely reliable, though, as we generally note that Brazil has a higher murder rate than other countries simply because of the way data is aggregated.

Although LGBTQ people have experienced violence and persecution throughout history, one of the most recent historical examples that occurred on a massive scale was during the Holocaust. Nazis targeted and murdered a large number of homosexual individuals. In one particularly gruesome example, we learned that Nazis would use their homosexual captives during target practice.

The History Of LGBT Laws Around The World: Part V

In part four of our series on the history of LGBT laws around the world, we discussed the legacy of the British Empire and its many laws passed by individual colonial administrators in the 19th century. These laws have persisted for over a century, and have resulted in continued oppression against LGBT folks in at least half of the 71 countries that criminalize homosexuality today.

One of those countries was Australia, which has made great strides in adopting pro-LGBT legislation in the last couple decades. Australia was colonized in 1788. Fun fact: although many anti-LGBT laws existed, they targeted gay men for biblical reasons. Sodomy was outlawed. From 1788 to 1899, the punishment for sodomy was execution. From then until 1994, the punishment was life in prison. There were no laws specifically outlawing homosexuality for adult women.

In 1994, Australia passed the Human Rights Act. This law decriminalized consensual sexual activity between adults, including any activity between two gay men. 

The fight to make it to that point, though, was long and tumultuous. LGBT rights groups first arose during the late 1960s, when the ACT Homosexual Reform Society was organized in Canberra. The Daughters of Bilitis group was formed in Melbourne in January 1970. These two groups are given credit for jumpstarting a movement that would change the course of history. This led to the Sydney-based Campaign Against Moral Persecution (CAMP) forming in June 1970. 

One year later, CAMP groups had arisen in every major city and university in the country. Protests erupted quickly. Not by coincidence, homosexuality’s classification as a disease or illness was removed by the Australian Medical Association in October 1973. Most states repealed anti-LGBT laws by 1991. 

Although it would take another decade for Australia to decriminalize homosexuality, the last man arrested for sodomy was in Hobart, Tasmania on December 14, 1984 — and realistically, he should’ve been arrested anyway, since he was caught fornicating in public. He was incarcerated for eight months.

The History Of LGBT Laws Around The World: Part IV

In part three of our series on LGBT laws around the world, we discussed the continued censorship of LGBT issues in some of the largest countries in the world. These include Russia, China, and the United States. Sadly, one would think that the most advanced nations would have the most advanced civil rights protections — but not yet. Even in 2021 we have a lot of work to do!

It’s important to know that even a single nation can influence dozens of other nations to amend their laws. For example, there are currently 71 countries around the world that criminalize homosexuality. More than half were once under the rule of the British Empire, which first introduced many anti-homosexuality laws in the 19th century. What’s so meaningful about this fact? It’s simple: these laws were inherited in the same way that a child might inherit religion from his or her parents.

Former British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke about this legacy a couple years ago: “I am all too aware that these laws were often put in place by my own country. They were wrong then, and they are wrong now. As the UK’s Prime Minister, I deeply regret both the fact that such laws were introduced, and the legacy of discrimination, violence and even death that persists today.”

Believe it or not, there was no standardized legislation within the Empire relating to anti-LGBT laws. The laws that spread throughout the empire were the result of colonial administrators — just a few men out of the hundreds of millions who lived under British rule.  

British Colonialism and the Criminalization of Homosexuality author Enze Han said, “(The British also) had this conception that the ‘Orient,’ the non-Western subjects, were overly erotic and over-sexed, and that’s the reason why they were worried young colonial officers going abroad would be corrupted by those sexual acts.”

The History Of LGBT Laws Around The World: Part III

Throughout history — especially modern history — it hasn’t been unusual for governments to censor the ability of LGBTQ individuals to express themselves or even protest unequal treatment by friends, family, employers, and those very governments. Censorship occurs even today in big countries like China and Russia, and, to a lesser extent, in the United States of America.

One example of Chinese censorship occurred on December 31, 2015, when the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) in China decided to block TV programs that included “unnormal sexual relationships.” At least shows depicting homosexual relationships were pulled from the lineup that season. Other programs retroactively censored these types of depictions.

These laws are harder to enforce when international programs are up for an award, such as when the Oscar-winning movie “Call Me By Your Name” appeared briefly in the Beijing International Film Festival’s lineup. It was eventually pulled. Critics suggest that the festival organizers came under pressure from Chinese authorities (or were threatened outright).

Laws against homosexuality have always been especially strict in Russia. The Law for the Purpose of Protecting Children from Information Advocating for a Denial of Traditional Family Values was signed by President Vladimir Putin on June 30, 2013. The law’s express purpose was to deny the very existence of homosexuality and restrict content that presented it as a societal norm. 

Russia is dominated by far-right nationalists, most of whom subscribe to the Russian-Orthodox Church. This made support for the censorship very strong.

In the United States, the states of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas all have anti-LGBT curriculum censorship laws to restrict the topic of homosexuality in schools. They even restrict the types of extracurricular clubs that can function on school grounds, like the gay-straight alliance.

Other states have recently repealed such laws. They include Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Utah.

The History Of LGBT Laws Around The World: Part II

Today we’ll explore the historical influence of LGBT-related laws in Ancient India, Ancient Israel, and Assyria. Although many of these societies existed at the same time, they treated homosexual activity very differently — ranging from no big deal, to a minor fine, to death. Why was there such a broad range of views regarding homosexuality? Well, the answer is religion. The answer is always religion.

Ancient Indian law punished any non-vaginal intercourse whether a person was homosexual or not. Notably, however, unlawful heterosexual behavior was punished much more severely. Older texts place a larger penalty on taking a woman’s maidenhood than anything else. But in Ancient India, the fines for homosexual behavior were typically minor — and morality was rarely mentioned in religious texts important to Hinduism. 

Assyria was another society in which homosexual behavior seemed to be no big deal. In fact, sexualized crimes did not differentiate between homosexual and heterosexual behavior — you were prosecuted for the same crime either way. An Akkadian tablet read: “If a man copulates with his equal from the rear, he becomes the leader among his peers and brothers.” 

This meant that consenting adults even of the same sex could legally have anal sex with one another, and it might even have been seen as a “lucky” event. Notably, it was more frowned upon in lower social classes or in the military than it was in the upper tiers of the social hierarchy. 

And then we come to Ancient Israel, where we transition from homosexuality as “no big deal” to homosexuality as “you need to die.” Ancient Israeli law stems from the Torah, where several passages seem to suggest that men who have sex with one another are actively subverting God’s will. Thus, those who were found to have violated these biblical laws were most likely put to death as a result.

The History Of LGBT Laws Around The World: Part I

To say that the history of civil rights laws protecting the LGBT community has been long is an understatement if ever there was one. We’ve had to fight every step of the way, and in many parts of the world many LGBT individuals are still forced into hiding or treated as criminals simply based on who they love. This series will explore how laws here at home and abroad have evolved in relation to LGBT rights.

Let’s first discuss the strides that the LGBT movement has made in recent decades. Only a decade ago, gay marriage was still illegal in the United States — and although we were not the first ones to pass a law reversing course, there are now twenty-nine states where gay marriage has been officially recognized by law! The only country known to still execute members of the community is Iran.

There are still laws that levy a death penalty for homosexual behavior in other countries as well, including: Afghanistan, Brunei, Mauritania, parts of Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). None of these countries continue to enforce these barbaric laws. 

Only a decade ago in 2011 did the United Nations Human Rights Council pass a revolutionary resolution to recognize that LGBT rights were human rights. This occurred after the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released a comprehensive report on human rights violations that were born out of hate for gay people, including criminal activity and legislation that criminalizes homosexual activity. 

These new laws have been a long time coming. There were LGBT laws on the books as far back as the human eye can go! In the next part of our series, we will look at human rights in Ancient India, Ancient Israel, and Assyria — and perhaps ask the question “why did homosexual activity go from no big deal to the most heinous crime ever?”

LGBTQ Pride Month Transforms Into Something Far Greater

LGBTQ citizens of the United States have called for police reforms to start pride month off with a bang, joining the “Black Lives Matter” movement to prove that social injustice for one group means social injustice for all of them. BLM protests have been built in small towns and large cities across the U.S., quickly expanding to countries all across the world — becoming one of the biggest and most effective movements in history.

This has all happened as another year has gone by without a “Pride Month” proclamation from President Trump. This is hardly a head-scratcher considering his stance on gay rights. But it’s also a particularly strong slap in the face to activists who watched the president issue separate proclamations for National Homeownership Month (really?), National Ocean Month (he loves oceans so much he wants to raise sea levels!) and Great Outdoors Month (he loves the outdoors so much he’s trying to drown most of it with the ocean!).

Many LGBTQ citizens joined with their African American friends and family to protest.

Congressman Mark Takano (Democrat-Riverside), who happens to be openly gay, said, “We must acknowledge that racist police brutality has gone without impunity for far too long in America. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, are the most recent cases of black men and women who have died at the hands of police — that we know of. Too often, the results of investigations into these instances of police misconduct amount to nothing and true justice is never served. This cannot, and must not, go on.”

Let’s do our best to remember those names!

Fairfield, CA Solano Pride Center wrote, “As a collective of LGBTQIA people from a range of backgrounds and life experiences, we have benefitted immeasurably from black leadership and actions that have brought greater civil liberties for all. As a center, we aspire to do more and do better at serving and focusing on African American lives, needs, voices, hopes, achievements and beyond.”

Transgendered Military History

During the summer of 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump sent out a tweet announcing his plan to reverse an Obama-era policy that allowed for transgender people to serve in the armed forces. The policy, which now would officially ban such people from serving, has not been handed down as an official guide of yet, but it does lead to some questions. First of all, before Obama’s order, there was not an explicit prohibition of transgenders, but they were not expressly allowed either.

But the idea of transgender in the military is actually not that old.

It wasn’t called “transgenderism” back then, but there is a history of women dressing as men in order to fight for their side. In fact, perhaps the most famous “transgender” was Joan of Arc in the 15th century, who was ultimately burned at the stake for heresies – one of which was dressing as a man to be in combat.

Some researchers at the National Archives reviewed military records and found evidence of women who had dressed as men and served in the military during the Civil War. There is evidence that about 250 women fought on either side of the conflict, with their reasons varying from ideology to a need for work.

It is believed that most of those who survived the war went back to daily life as women, while some remained playing the role of men for the rest of their lives. Two of the more prominent cross-dressing “transgender” women were Albert Cashier and Lyon Wakeman.

Cashier was born as Irish immigrant Jennie Hodgers, enlisting in the Army at age 18 and fighting in the Illinois Army Regiment. After serving in 40 combat actions during the Civil War, “he” continued to live as a man, not being exposed until being examined by doctors following a car wreck 45 years after the War ended. “He” even forfeited an Army pension by refusing to undergo a physical exam.

However, when “he” died, several men who served alongside spoke up and pressed the military to give this newly-discovered woman full military honors at death, and the request was granted.

Lyon Wakeman started life as Sarah Wakeman, and went to work as a “man” to get out of poverty before signing up with the Union Army in New York, a teenage girl passing as a 21-year-old man. She served until she was killed in the Red River Campaign, her body buried under a monument with the name Lyon Wakeman.

Currently, there are estimated to be more than 130,000 American military veterans who are transgender in some form, with about 15,000 serving in the military currently, according to a Dallas personal injury attorney.

As cross-dressers or transgenders have served with honor and distinction for most of the history of America, the debate will roll on whether “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” applies to transgender soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen and whether serving alongside them (such as Chelsea Manning, for example) will impact military readiness or morale.  Currently, the president does not seem inclined to let it play out. But is this a slap in the face for those who have heroically served previously?

Have You Heard About the HIV Epidemic of the 1990’s?

For folks who were born in the late 1980’s and afterwards, it might be difficult to conceive of a world without AIDS, safe sex and condoms being a regular part of the conversation. However, the HIV epidemic of the 1990’s is a big reason for that conversational freedom everyone in the country can experience today.

The epidemic started in big cities and spread to communities across the nation, including rural areas. Spread by intravenous drug users and folks engaged in unprotected sexual activities, it ran rampant before people even realized they were infected. At that point, condoms were used primarily for pregnancy protection, something the LGBT community did not need to worry about.

During the decade, countless men and women were assaulted and lost their lives to the disease, as case after case showed up during routine physicals and emergency room visits. The fun and partying of the previous years had been replaced by a more somber attitude as people lost their friends and loved ones to the outbreak. At that point in time, little was known about the virus and even less was known about how to treat and prevent it.

Safe sex became a topic of concern that extended well beyond whether or not your teenager got pregnant or got someone else pregnant. Parents, single folks and teens alike all understood that the situation had become far more serious. While getting other types of sexually transmitted diseases could create harm, most were easily treatable and concerns were overlooked in the heat of the moment.

However, the HIV epidemic showed that one night of fun could turn into a death sentence. The suffering that many of these patients went through extended to their families and the community at large. Outreach centers popped up to help victims, who were often ostracized by folks afraid of contracting the disease from them. It took years for researchers to set the public mind at ease that HIV could not be transmitted through hugs and sitting near someone.

Although the epidemic settled down somewhat, the problem of HIV and AIDS still exists today. The epidemic of the 1990’s is something that is sure to go down in history as one of the tragic medical events of the century. Many lives were lost in a short period of time, with homosexual men comprising a large group of the people who were gone before their time.