Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Homostudies Three: The Comprehensive Paradigm in gay studies

Of central importance to the Comprehensive Paradigm of gay studies was the appearance of the Wissenschaftlich-humanitäre Komitee (Scientific-Humanitarian Committee). This, the world's first homosexual rights organization, was founded in Berlin on May 14,1897, the twenty-ninth birthday of Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935), a physician of Jewish origin who became the leading authority on homo­sexuality in the first third of the twentieth century. Under the pseudonym of "Dr. Ramien," In 1896 Hirschfeld had published a book entitled Sappho und Sokrates, oder wie erklärt sich die Liebe der Männer und Frauen zu Personen des eigenen Gesch­lechts! (Sappho and Socrates, or How Is the Love of Men and Women for Persons of Their Own Sex to Be Explained?). Moved by the suicide of a young homosexual officer on the eve of a marriage into which his family had pressured him, Hirschfeld went on to create an organization that would campaign for legal toleration and social acceptance for what he called the third sex.

Writing in an era when biology and medicine uncritically accepted the notion of "inborn traits" of all kinds, Hirschfeld maintained that homosexuals were members of a third sex, an evolutionary intermediate (or intergrade) between the male and the female, and he bolstered his thesis with data of all kinds showing that the mean for the homosex­ual subjects whom he studied by interview and questionnaire fell almost exactly between those for male and female respectively. Accordingly the journal which the Scientific-humanitarian Committee published from 1899 onward was entitled the Jahrbuch für sexuelle Zwischenstufen mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der Homosexualität (Annual for Sexual Intergrades with Special Reference to Homo­sexuality).

The committee’s first priority was legal reform. Following the establishment of the North German Confederation and then of the German Empire, a new penal code was adopted that went into force on the entire territory of the Reich on January 1, 1872. Its Paragraph 175 made criminal widernatürhche Unzucht zwischen Männern (lewd and unnatural acts between males), with a maximum penalty of two years. In the interest of repealing this paragraph the Committee drafted a petition "to the Legislative Bodies of the German Empire" that was ultimately signed by some 6000 German citizens prominent in all walks of life. The Committee saw that this task must be buttressed by an educational campaign meant to enlighten a public that as yet knew nothing of the literature that had been appearing sporadically in the psychiatric journals since 1869, or of the earlier apologetic writings of Heinrich Hoessli and Karl Heinrich Ulrichs. By means of pamphlets, public lectures, and later even films, the Committee sought to convince the world that homosexuals were an unjustly persecuted sport of nature, who could not be blamed for their innate and unmodifiable sexual orientation. Because they lived in a society that was wholly intolerant of homosexual expression, they had to hide their orientation and their sexual activity, and so were peculiarly exposed to blackmail if their true nature came to the knowledge of members of the criminal underworld. Among the educated elite Hirschfeld's views soon won a large measure of support, but they were rejected by the churches and by the conservative jurists of the Wilhelmstrasse engaged in drafting a new criminal code.

The Committee was in practice the world's first center for the study of all aspects of homosexuality. Largely ignored by academic scholars in the universities, Hirschfeld collected material from various sources on the fre­quency of homosexual behavior in the population and the psychological profile of the homosexual personality. In 1904 Hirschfeld concluded that 2.2 percent of the population was exclusively homosexual, and that the figure was surprising only because so many of his subjects successfully hid their inclinations from a hostile world. The private lives of his subjects he examined from numerous aspects, in every one of which he found evidence that supported his theory of an innate third sex.

As the years passed, the Committee was beset with problems from within and without. Hirschfeld's theories placed undue emphasis on the effeminate male and the viraginous ("manly") female as the homosexual types par excellence, a standpoint that alienated the pederasts who fell into neither cate­gory and were often bisexual as well. Benedict Friedlaender, an independent scholar, denounced Hirschfeld's views and contrasted them with the Hellenic ideal of man-boy love which was a virile, state-building phenomenon in his Renaissance des Eros Uranios (Renaissance of Eros Uranios; 1904). A rival organization, the Gemeinschaft der Eigenen (Community of the Exceptional), was founded in 1902, and adopted as its journal Der Eigene, edited by Adolf Brand, which had been publishing literary and art work on the subject of pederasty since 1898. The incompatibility of the two approaches shows that the umbrella concept of "homosexuality" united biological and psychological phenomena which had only this in com­mon, that they both ran afoul of the Judeo-Christian taboo on same-sex relations; socially and politically they were - and still are - incompatible. The Committee had even anticipated the split by proposing in its petition an age of consent of 16 for homosexual relations - which would in effect have excluded the boy-lover from the benefit of law reform.


Aided by the experts in various disciplines who had been attracted to the Scientific-Hu­manitarian Committee, Hirschfeld set about writing a monumental work that was published in January 1914 under the title Die Homosexualität des Mannes und des Weibes (Male and Female Homosexual­ity). This vast tome summarized everything that had been learned from the literature of the past, and especially of the preceding decade and a half, as well as the 10,000 case histories that Hirschfeld had taken in that time. All its arguments were directed toward proving that homosexuality was inborn and unmodifiable and that the reasoning (including early psychoanalytic writings) in favor of acquired homosexuality was untenable. As a scientifi­cally documented, carefully argued plea for toleration, it remains along with the 23 volumes of the Jahrbuch the committee's principal legacy to knowledge.

The economic difficulties of the 1920s and 30s posed a challenge to the work of the committee, but nonetheless it work continued. However, the accession to full power by Hitler and his supporters in 1933 meant the destruction of the Institute for Sexual Science which Hirschfeld had founded in 1918.

A brief summary of the contents of Die Homosexualität will convey some sense of the magnitude of Hirschfeld’s accomplishment. The book begins with an account of the terminology of same-sex behavior, together with the concepts associated with the names. Then, in accordance with his medical training, Hirschfeld turns to number of issues involved in the diagnosis of homosexuality in men and women. He distinguishes three other conditions that are often confused with homosexuality: hermaphroditism, gynandromorphy (referring to individuals with some characteristics of the opposite sex), and transvestism. (The German physician had coined the term “transvestism” in a publication of 1910.)

Hirschfeld then turns to theories of the causality of homosexual behavior. This topic is followed by a statistical approach, including class elements. After that is a survey of the behavior in various parts of the world. There is a brief discussion of homosexuality among animals, followed by sociological factors involved in group bonding of homosexual men and women. This is followed by an account of what is known of the history of homosexuality, beginning with classical antiquity. Given the interest of the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee in law reform, there is a discussion of the legal situation throughout the world. The effects of prejudice and discrimination are frankly addressed, together with remedies that help the rehabilitation of such persons. The book concludes with an account of the rise of gay-rights organization.

The sheer sweep of this book is breathtaking, encompassing as it does biological, sociological, historical, cultural, and legal dimensions. Later advances in science have made much of the biological material dated, but the key point is that Hirschfeld saw clearly that one must not flinch from this type of inquiry. Of course, the historical and cultural sections have stood the test of time best.

What remains, however, is the sense that homosexual behavior and culture must be examined in the broadest possible compass. This comprehensive aim is what distinguishes the third paradigm.

In some ways the “home field" of the scholars of Hirschfeld’s circle was classical antiquity. Fittingly, therefore, one of his associates Paul Brandt, writing as Hans Licht produced a three-volume work Sittengeschichte Griechenlands (1925-28), translated into English in 1932 as Sexual Life in Ancient Greece. The title notwithstanding this major work is mainly about male homosexuality. In our own time it has been massively supplemented, but even now not completely replaced by later works on the subject by Sir Kenneth Dover, William A. Percy, and Thomas Hubbard.

As this last example shows, Hirschfeld’s monumental achievement was not accomplished in a vacuum--far from it. The sex-research field in Berlin in his time was richly populated, and very competitive. Rivalries abounded.


Perhaps Hirschfeld’s most determined opponent was Albert Moll (1862·1939), also a physician of German-Jewish origin. In 1889 he published a book entitled Die Hypnose, claiming that with this technique he could change homosexuals into heterosexuals. His book Die Conträre Sexualempfindung (1891) deals with forty-one famous homosexuals. His Untersuchungen über die Libido Sexualis (1897-98) influenced Sigmund Freud, who is said to have purloined the idea of infantile sexuality from Moll. Ostensibly heterosexual, Moll never married and homosexuality played a central role in his work. His private life remains a mystery. At all events, his 1902 article “Wie erkennen und verständigen sich Homosexuelle untereinander?” (How do homosexuals recognize and understand one another?) suggests insider knowledge.
Others felt that Hirschfeld's theories overemphasized the effeminate male and the butch female as the homosexual types par excellence. This approach alienated pederasts who fell into neither category and were often bisexual as well. In his Renaissance des Eros Uranios (1904), Benedict Friedlaender rejected Hirschfeld's views, contrasting them with the Hellenic ideal of man-boy love which was a virile, state-building phenomenon. A new organization, the Gemeinschaft der Eigenen (Community of the Exceptional), appeared in 1902, and adopted as its journal Der Eigene, edited by Adolf Brand, which had been publishing literary and art work on the subject of pederasty since 1898.


Standing apart from these intense rivalries was the work of a foreigner, the Englishman Henry Havelock Ellis (1859-1939). At the age of 32 he married Edith Lees, a lesbian; after the first year of their marriage all sexual relations ceased, and both went on to a series of affairs with women. An autodidact, Ellis obtained in 1889 a licentiate in Medicine, Surgery, and Mid­wifery from the Society of Apothecaries in London, a somewhat inferior degree that always embarrassed him. More interested in his literary studies than in the practice of medicine, he nevertheless collected case histories mainly by correspondence, as his autobiography makes no mention of clini­cal practice.

One of his early correspondents was John Addington Symonds, who dis­cussed with him the possibility of a book on sexual inversion, in which the case histories were the core and empirical foundation. Ellis recognized two conditions: "complete inversion" (= exclusive homosexuality) and "psychosexual hermaphroditism" (= bisexuality). With remarkable sureness of judgment, the writer was resolved to treat homosexuality as neither disease nor crime. Ellis dismissed the current notion that it was a species of "degeneracy" (in the biological sense); he also maintained that it was inborn and unmodifiable. Couched in simple language, the book urged public toleration for conduct that was then regarded as unnatural and criminal. In the midst of the writing Symonds died suddenly, and the book first appeared in German under the title Das konträre Geschlechtsgefühl ("Contrary Sexual Feeling"; 1896), with both names on the title page. In the atmosphere that prevailed after the disgrace of Oscar Wilde (May 1895), publication in England was problematic, but under doubtful auspices the English edition was released in November 1897. The English version was almost immediately suppressed, and for a number of years Ellis’ important work could only be read in German.


Achieving bibliographical control of the vast body of writings on homosexuality is a challenging, sometimes vexatious task. However, it is not beyond reach. While the middle and later years of the nineteenth century saw a number of important bibliographies of erotica they were not specifically geared to the study of same-sex love. For that one one is again indebted to the first homosexual emancipation movement appearing in Berlin in 1897. This movement firmly held that progress toward homosexual rights must go hand in hand with intellectual enlightenment. Accordingly, each year's production was noted in the annual volumes of the Jahrbuch fürsexuelle Zwischenstufen (1899-1923); by the end of the first decade of monitoring, over 1000 new titles had been recorded. Although surveys were made of earlier literature, up to the time of the extinction of the movement by National Socialism in 1933, no attempt had been made to organize this material into a single comprehensive bibliography of homosexual studies.

It is still worthwhile to comb the classic German works of the pre-Nazi period for bibliographical nuggets that have escaped attention. Still, it is regrettable that this foundational era in homosexual scholarship produced no single comprehensive bibliography of the subject.

For that one must await the participation of the United State, whose gay-rights movement only emerged with the Mattachine Society in 1950-51. In the context of the Cold War and the McCarthyite frenzy, the efforts at organizing and diffusing better knowledge were at first very difficult and unpromising--but some dedicated individuals kept going all the same. An early document of the period was the little “Gay Girl’s Guide” (New York,1949 with two subsequent editions; despite the title, this mimeographed item was intended for gay men). Somewhat bizarrely, the principal author was identified as one Swarsarnt Nerf (probably a pseudonym of Edgar Leoni). At the end this booklet offers ten pages of book listings, fiction and nonfiction.

As a rule, respectable publishers avoided the topic of homosexuality, except for judgmental works by psychiatrists and other medical writers. A partial exception was Donald Webster Cory's The Homosexual in America (New York, 1951), well-written and edited, though issued by Greenberg, a somewhat marginal publisher. In addition to a lucid, though now dated text, this volumed offered appendices with lists of both non-fiction and fiction on the subject.

After the Stonewall Rebellion in June of 1969, things began to improve. In 1971 or ’72 Jack Stafford, a librarian based in Queens, NY, began an effort, supported by a committee of the American Library Association (ALA), for a comprehensive bibliography of homosexuality, which would emphasize the positive aspects. When Stafford died unexpectedly in 1973, Barbara Gittings took charge of the manuscript on behalf of the ALA. With their approval, she utilized the material to create a 16-page leaflet of highlights, called “A Gay Bibliography.” Distributed pretty much for free to libraries and other interested parties, this selection greatly enhanced readership, and eventually publishing prospects as well.

By contrast, the compilation of Martin S. Weinberg and Alan P. Bell, Homosexuality: An Annotated Bibliography (New York: 1972) represents a step backwards. This large work, compiled under the auspices of the Kinsey Institute of Indiana University, provides detailed but uncritical abstracts for 1,263 books, pamphlets, and articles published in the English language from 1940 to 1968. The book stresses psychiatric, medical, and social-science contributions, many harshly negative, It is now mainly of interest to those seeking to reconstruct the repressive atmosphere of the middle years of the twentieth century.

In this context, it was clear that a real effort must be made by the nascent gay organizations themselves. To ONE, Inc. of Los Angeles belongs the honor of addressing this task on an appropriate scale. After many delays, the ONE efforts yielded the most ambitious project attempted up to that point: Vern Bullough et al., Annotated Bibliography of Homosexuality (New York, 1976), which was prepared in the Los Angeles offices of ONE, Inc. This work provides about 13,000 entries arranged in twenty broad subject categories. Some notion of the enormousness of the whole subject is conveyed by the fact that, even at that date, the number of entries could probably have been doubled. Unlike most of the other American bibliographies, this work is international and multilingual in scope; unfortunately the two-volume set is marred by thousands of small errors and lacunae, especially in foreign-language items. The title notwithstanding, annotations are very sparse, and uncertain in their critical stance. Full subject indexes, which would have served to offset some of these shortcomings are lacking; instead each volume has its own author indexes. The shortcomings of this major work, undertaken largely by volunteer staff working under movement auspices, illustrate the problems that have, as often as not, been made inevitable by the social neglect and obloquy in which the subject has been enveloped. To his credit, W. Dorr Legg, the project director, realized that an altogether new work was needed, one that would remedy the all-too-evident faults of the existing work. After several years of intense work, it was found that fundamental disagreements prevented the editors from concluding the task, which had reached the letter N. The copious materials for this unfinished project are now preserved in the ONE archives at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

In San Francisco in the 1960s William Parker began gathering material for a one-person effort. His first attempt was Homosexuality: Selected Abstracts and Bibliography (San Francisco, 1966); this publication, and a number of other earlier lists, are now most easily accessible in the Arno Press omnibus: A Gay Bibliography: Eight Bibliographies on Lesbianism and Male Homosexuality (New York, 1975). Parker's more substantial work is Homosexuality: A Selected Bibliography of over 3,000 Items (Metuchen, NJ, 1971), followed by two supplements (published in 1977 and 1985), which carry coverage up through 1982. These volumes arrange the material (English-language only) by types of publication; there are helpful subject indices. Although some note is taken of films, television programs and audiovisual materials, the coverage of print items is almost entirely restricted to nonfiction.

Parker's two supplements cover six- and seven-year periods respectively, but even as of 2010 there is no current annual bibliography of homosexuality. For a time, the best means of of monitoring current production was through the "Relevant" section of the scholarly Dutch bimonthly Homologie (Amsterdam, 1978-97 ), which utilized the resources of Homodok (Dokumentatiecentrum Homostudies), founded in 1977 under the auspices of the University of Amsterdam.

In San Francisco the lesbian monthly The Ladder, published by the Daughters of Bilitis organization, included notices of books from its inception in 1956 (the full set was reissued with a new index in New York in 1975). Eventually these notices were coordinated on a monthly basis by Gene Damon (Barbara Grier), whose later columns have been recently collected in a handy, indexed volume: Lesbiana: Book Reviews from the Ladder, 1966-1972 (Reno, 1976). Utilizing input from Marion Zimmer Bradley and others, Damon and Lee Stuart produced the first edition of The Lesbian in Literature: A Bibliography (San Francisco, 1967). This work subsequently appeared in an expanded, third edition: Barbara Grier, The Lesbian in Literature (Tallahassee, 1981), with about 3100 items, including some nonfiction. The entries are labeled with an ingenious coding system, balancing relevance and quality.

The complement to Grier in the male sphere is Ian Young, The Male Homosexual in Literature: A Bibliography (second ed. Metuchen, NJ, 1982), with 4282 items, interpretive essays by several hands, and title index. While there are no annotations, Young sweeps the field: fiction, poetry, drama, and autobiography. Like Grier, the volume is restricted to works written in English and translations of foreign works. Regrettably, no scholars have come forward to update these exemplary works by Grier and Young on creative literature.

Apart from the general bibliographies just discussed, which claim to cover at least the whole-English language production in their chosen domains, there are also a number of works defined by the country in which they appeared. William Crawford (ed.), Homosexuality in Canada: A Bibliography (Toronto, 1984), contains a good deal of material, in French as well as English, that has been overlooked elsewhere. Manfred Herzer, Verzeichnis des deutschsprachigen nicht belletristischen Schrifttums zur weiblichen und männlichen Homosexualität aus den Jahren 1466 bis 1975 in chronologischer Reihenfolge (Berlin, 1982) is an exemplary compilation of some 3500 nonfiction items published in German up to 1975 . For Italian-language material, see the annotated listing by Giovanni Dall'Orto, Leggere omosessuale (Turin, 1984), a roster of publications from 1800 to 1983. Still awaiting systematic treatment is the rich Italian material before 1800, though much of this can be recovered from Dall’Orto’s extenive website, Claude Courouve's work on French bibliography was privately published.

Almost from the beginning homosexual organizations have created their own periodicals to supplement the mainstream journals which tend to scant, or even exclude altogether research on sexual variation. A detailed roster of no less than 1924 publications existing (or believed to exist) in the 1980s is Robert Malinowsky, International Directory of Gay and Lesbian Periodicals (Phoenix, 1987). By definition, this work does not include older journals that had ceased (309 of these are listed in Bullough, et al., cited above), nor does it provide, for obvious reasons, a listing of the contents of these publications. Gay and lesbian journals are covered only sporadically in current bibliographies, and even copies of the less familiar newspapers are hard to find once they leave the stands; here the gay and lesbian archives are doing an essential job of preservation, since public and univer­sity libraries usually do not preserve these materials. In the early twenty-first century, unfortunately, poor economic conditions caused the demise of a number of gay and lesbian periodicals.

A summation of bibliographical work appears in Wayne R. Dynes, Homosexuality: A Research Guide (New York, 1987). Each of the approximately 170 subject groups begins with an introduction outlining the strengths and problems of the topic in its current state of development (or lack of development). Every item is annotated, a feature Dynes judged essentially in a realm where quality is so varied. This volume is interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, and transhistorical, and may be consulted for a sense of the complexity of the overarching field. See the electronic version:

More specialized, but quite thorough is Linda Garber, Lesbian Sources: A Bibliography of Periodical Articles, 1970-1990 (New York, 1993). Like Dynes, this list is organized in terms of categories, from “Abortion” to “Youth.” However, Garber does not provide annotations.

Neither Dynes nor Garber were prepared to attempt a sequel to their vast works. The reason was this. By the early ‘nineties it was clear that the proliferation of material was outrunning the feasibility of efforts to monitor it. Here the Internet seemed to offer an ideal solution, but unfortunately it was not as effective as one would have thought. The advantages of publishing bibliographies in this format are obvious: economy, since no publisher of the traditional kind was needed and no one need pay for consult the compilation; ease of access; and flexibility, since the editor(s) could keep constantly adding new items as they appeared.

Yet things did not quite work out as expected. The problems are illustrated by the fate of a truly remarkable effort conducted by the Englishman Paul Halsall while he was a graduate student at Fordham University in New York. Working selflessly and with almost feverish energy, during the 1990s Halsall created “People with a History” (PWH) ( This a major annotated bibliography covering gays, lesbians, and trans people for all historical periods and areas, including non-Western ones. Fully annotated, the site contains links to other sites created by Halsall. While PWH can be used as a supplement and continuation of Dynes, Homosexuality: A Research Guide, the site also notices earlier works. Unfortunately, Halsall had to stop work in 1998 in order to complete his dissertation. He has since returned to England, where he has moved on to other tasks.

Working at the same time as Halsall, Gary Simes of Sydney Australia, created the last printed bibliography of the subject that is comprehensive in scope. This is Simes, Bibliography of Homosexuality (Sydney: University of Sydney Library & The Australian Centre for Lesbian and Gay Research, 1998), based on the holdings of the University of Sydney Library. This listing of 6129 items is selectively annotated. A different approach appears in the massive volume edited by Timothy F. Murphy, The Reader’s Guide to Gay and Lesbian Studies (Chicago, 2000). The Guide consists of some 430 essays, from “Academicians” to “World War II, Cultural Effects of.” Each entry begins with a list of publications; these are mostly books and items written in the English language--two serious limitations. While a few of the essays that follow are thoughtful, even penetrating, many are lackluster, having apparently been compiled by graduate students. A stronger hand by the overall editor would have been helpful.

Returning to Internet resources, probably the best way for the tyro scholar to begin is to turn to the lists maintained by the London-based scholar Rictor Norton at his site: One may also consult online the collective work known as GLBTQ, which bills itself as “the world’s largest encyclopedia of gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer culture” ( The articles are generally clear and reliable, though coverage is limited to literature, the arts, and the social sciences, with inclusion of numerous relevant biographies For the older, entries, however, the attached bibliographies tend not to be up-to-date. Many relevant Wikipedia entries contain bibliographies,

Online one can also browse two large and continuously updated repertoires that stem from the library world. The first, Harvard Libraries’ HOLLIS Classical is relatively concise, with somewhat under 5000 items appearing when one types in the key word “homosexualty.” One may also access the vast list of the holdings of the Library of Congress on line. Finally, one can proceed to a truly enormous compilation, that of Worldcat ( Among its 1.2 billion items are more than 50,000 entries relevant to our subject, including books, periodicals and periodical articles, dissertations, CD-ROMS and other electronic compilations. The enormous profusion of periodical articles, of varying quality, poses a huge problem of bibliographical control. Worldcat presents these selectively (e.g. the Journal of Homosexuality), but seems to be constantly increasing coverage.

Using the resources of Worldcat, Paul Knobel created an invaluable Bibliography of Homosexuality: The Non-English Sources, comprising an astonishing 4600 entries from 39 non-English languages. Consulting Knobel’s great “webliography” will do much to correct the Anglophone exclusivity that hobbles scholarship in many areas. Knobel’s work may be viewed at


Over the course of the twentieth century a number of encyclopedias of sexology appeared, but until 1990 none addressing the specific topic of homosexuality. In that year the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality, edited by Wayne R. Dynes and others, appeared. Not only was this landmark work the first monument of its kind, it is--in the judgment of many observers--probably still the best. The Encyclopedia contains 770 articles providing a broad range of information useful to both scholar and layperson. Coverage includes historical, medical, psychological, sociological, and transcultural and transgeographical information in biographical, topical, and thematic entries. A subject cross-reference guide begins the work. Biographies exclude living people, but they are often referred to in the text. The focus tends to be Western (because of the availability of information), but African, Eastern, and other groups are included. Variant viewpoints are discussed, and bibliographies (primarily covering book-length studies) are provided at the end of each article. See the electronic version:

Issued as a pair by Garland Press in 1999 were The Encyclopedia of Gay Male Histories and Cultures (edited by George Hagerty) and The Encyclopedia of Lesbian Histories and Cultures (edited by Bonnie Zimmerman). The second volume has the distinction of offering the first in-depth encyclopedia of lesbianism. There is some inconvenience in having to consult both works for certain topics, such as the Mattachine Society and Stonewall.

There is also a French-language effort entitled Dictionnaire des cultures gays et lesbiennes, edited by Didier Eribon (Paris, 2003). Coverage is somewhat ethnocentric, being limited to France and areas influenced by that country, such as the Maghreb.

While most such works nowadays are positive and supportive, antihomosexual sentiment must be confronted. A valuable instrument in this effort is The Dictionary of Homophobia: A Global History of Gay & Lesbian Experience edited by Louis-Georges Tin (Vancouver, 2008). A revised translation of a French-language work of 2003, this volume employs more than 70 scholars who produced some 175 short essays. Subjects include religious and ideological forces such as the Bible, Communism, Judaism, Hinduism, and Islam; historical subjects, events, and personalities such as AIDS, Stonewall, J. Edgar Hoover, Matthew Shepard, Oscar Wilde, Pat Buchanan, Joseph McCarthy, Pope John Paul II, and Anita Bryant; as well as other topics such as coming out, adoption, deportation, ex-gays, lesbiphobia, and biphobia.

The year 2009 saw the appearance of the Greenwood Encyclopedia of LGBT Issues Worldwide edited by Chuck Stewart (Westport, 2009). Published in three volumes, this set had the goal of offering an up-to-date international overview of key issues in the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. More than 70 countries are represented, with special attention to HIV/AIDS issues. The target audience is mainly younger readers.

Not cited in this section are some shorter, one-volume printed works that lack the authority of those noted.

As noted above, one may also consult online the collective work known as GLBTQ, which bills itself as “the world’s largest encyclopedia of gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer culture” (

Another major work is the CD-ROM created by Paul Knobel of Sydney, Australia. His Encyclopedia of Male Homosexual Poetry and its Reception History (2002) covers poetry with 6,300 entries. Knobel has also produced am Encyclopedia of Male Homosexual Art (2005; CD-ROM) with more than 800 entries.


The emergence of encyclopedias of homosexuality is a development not envisaged in Hirschfeld’s time. By contrast, no one has attempted a narrative synthesis that would even approach the scope of Hirschfeld’s great work of 1914. Embracing everything from biology and psychology to law and literature, that would be a task that could only be addressed in a multivolume work written by many authors. Both funding and editorial control would be an almost insuperable task.

However, at least two American historians have produced comprehensive accounts of the historical record. The first is David F. Greenberg author of The Construction of Homosexuality (Chicago, 1988). Written by a professor of sociology at New York University, this large work begins with what is known of the earliest cultures and proceeds systematically down to the contemporary period. Some theoretical templates, including ones derived from Marxism, will not compel the assent of every reader. Yet this is a remarkable panorama touching on a wealth of evidence.

The second recent notable book of this kind is Louis Crompton’s Homosexuality and Civilization (Cambridge, Mass., 2006). This gracefully written and comprehensive survey was the product of some thirty years of intense thinking and research on the part of an early pioneer of gay and lesbian studies. Crompton's great intellectual nemesis is the late Michel Foucault, whose History of Sexuality, Volume I emphasizes the difficulty of reconstructing the sexual ethos of another culture or historical period.

The main part of the book limns the history of homosexuality in Europe and parts of Asia from Homer to the eighteenth century. In a series of deft narratives, Crompton, emeritus professor of English at the University of Nebraska, relates the "rich and terrible" stories of men and women who have been immortalized, celebrated, shunned, or executed for the special attention they paid to members of their own sex. Two chapters on China and Japan offer a welcome to the usual Eurocentric focus. Crompton's comparative study seeks to show how anomalous Judeo-Christian aversion to homosexuality was in the greater context of world history.

Some questions may be raised about Crompton's overall scheme which is couched in a kind of symphonic form, with an opening allegro in ancient Greece, a long, mournful adagio reflecting the obloquy and persecution of Christian Europe, and a short concluding presto, as the Enlightenment began to dissolve the accumulated errors and prejudice. Crompton’s story is thus a contribution to what some have termed “Whig history,” that is a story of progress that was derailed but not destroyed by centuries of bigotry and persecution.

Others may regret that Crompton’s account stops at the start of the nineteenth century. Had Crompton lived longer (he died in 2009), he might have produced a second, complementary volume on the modern era--and perhaps even a third, to deal with non-Western cultures outside of East Asia. Once one has completed the journey with him, however, one can readily find other studies to fill in the gaps.

[This account incorporates some material from Wayne R. Dynes, et al. The Encyclopedia of Homosexuality. New York: Garland, 1990. Electronic version at]


See Wayne R. Dynes, Homosexuality: A Research Guide. New York: Garland, 1987; supplementing this compilation with the listings in the Crompton monograph just noted.



Blogger Paul Halsall said...

Great to see you still working on this Wayne.

The Fordham site is undergoing a major overhaul. My sine qua non is that the gay content remains, or the whole site comes down.

1:51 PM  

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