Term Paper: Homosexual Practices Might Have Begun

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[. . .] (Wikholm)

One other literary great to have been associated with homosexuality was the Irish-born but London-educated playwright Oscar Wilde, who espoused the aesthetic movement. This movement was directed by its creed, "art for art's sake," and Wilde observed this norm in his whole life, which he lived in "sophistication and good taste." He attracted and married Constance Lloyd and they had two sons and worked as editor of The Woman's World magazine in 1886. He met and had a relationship with an admirer, an Oxford student, Robbie Ross. Wilde wrote a successful play, "The Picture of Dorian Gray," after one of his lovers. He then went to Paris for his play, "Lady Windemere's Fan." where he was received as an eventful visitor of the French literati. When he returned to London for the presentation of his play, he met another Oxford student, the young, lean and good-looking Lord Alfred Douglas (or Bossie) in 1891. It was an intense and indiscriminate sexual relationship between two spendthrifts who maintained and shared a number of teen-age male prostitutes who were police characters. Neither Wilde nor Bossie cared about their records, but the openness of their affairs eventually got them into trouble with the law and with Bossie's father, the Marquess of Queensbury. Wilde's passionately written letters to Bossie were carelessly given to one of his prostitutes (called "renters") who extracted blackmail money for them and which Wilde paid (Wikholm). That should have solved the problem, but one letter went all the way through London and into the hands of the Marquess. Bossie, who demanded a break-up between the two. But Bossie hated his father and instead instigated a court battle between his father and his love, Wilde. Eventually, Wilde was convicted for gross indecency particularly as a sodomite to male prostitutes.

Wilde retains the distinction as a literary image of homosexuals "as urbane sophisticates." His court trials, convictions and prison terms even led him to become a symbol and inspiration for homosexuals all over the world to continue fighting for their emancipation in society. (Wikholm). One such inspired supporter was Magnus Hirschfeld.

As established earlier, sexologists of the period -- from Ulrichs to Krafft-Ebing -- contended that "most men were born 'normal' or 'heterosexual', but that male inverts inherit female characteristics that lead him to be sexually attracted to other males" (Wikholm). But Sigmund Freud of Freiberg (now Pribor, Czech Republic) rejected the theory and introduced another which "invented sexuality" itself (Wikholm). He suggested that sexuality was different from the individual's gender, but that inherited sexual characteristics and the person's gender preference were two different and separate matters.

Freud held that everyone is born polymorphously perverse or possessing sexual desires capable of being drawn to a particular gender or object. Since most individuals are trained or oriented into preferring the opposite sex, most people are heterosexual. "It is a person's childhood experiences that direct their sex drive towards the opposite or same sex." Freud expressed this thinking in his "Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality," published in 1905.

In his essays, Freud expressed no repulsion towards homosexuals and was not convinced that they could be cured or changed. Nonetheless, he continued using labels like "perversions' and "aberrations" on same-sex sexuality. He also offered hints to parents on how they can direct their children to become heterosexually adjusted individuals. (Wikholm)

Freud likewise disagreed that homosexuals were necessarily feminine or effeminate. A boy, according to him, may grow up looking masculine or feminine but his sexual orientation or desire may go another direction. He believed it was all a matter of upbringing. But the social effects this humane understanding of "perverts," "unisexuals," and "inverts" by the recognized Father of Psychoanalysis were to dissipate in the 50s.

In the meantime, another German physician and researcher, Eugen Steinach, in 1912, transplanted male guinea pig sex glands into females and vice versa, which suggested that the gland contained hormones that could be responsible for homosexuality. (Wikholm) At the end of his experiment, the male guinea pigs developed female sexual behavior (inviting copulation) and the female guinea pigs behaved as male in getting on other female guinea pigs. These secretions were the male testosterone and the female estrogen. It was also discovered that injections of testosterone could only intensify desire but not direct sexual orientation. His subsequent experiments on biological sexuality soon turned useless, except for his methods in sexual rejuvenation.

Other practitioners in his field tried other techniques, including shock, castration and lobotomy, to wipe out homosexuality, but all efforts failed. This occurred while Freud's psychoanalysis became popular and more responsive (1930) to the homosexual question, and it was not until much later (in the 70s and 80s) that interest in biological theories would be renewed, and this time, in "gay brains" and "gay genes." (Wikholm)

On Christmas Eve of 1924, Henry Gerber, an invert, received a charter from the State of Illinois for a non-profit organization, which he founded. It was the Society for Human Rights, the first to be formally organized homosexual organization in the United States. (Wikholm). It also published "Friendship and Freedom," the first for gays in America. It was, however, short-lived, after the wife of one of its members complained to the police and the police found papers of the Society. It was closed down after only a few months.

Hirschfeld's Scientific Humanitarian Committee inspired Gerber to organize this Society in his sustained fight against homosexual oppression in America. He did not foresee that the police would be so strict as that, nor that his followers would not be as enduring and unsupportive of his efforts. In the 40s, he communicated with Manuel Boyfrank who relished the same motivation but Gerber advised him against putting up such an organization and emphasized that Boyfrank's grass-root ideal would make sense only among the "better sort of homosexuals." (Wikholm)

Female inverts, or lesbians, made their own fervent call for recognition. In 1928, Radclyffe Hall, an English writer, published her book, the Well of Loneliness, which was automatically and consistently considered obscene and banned as well as seized by the authorities, although it had no sex scene at all. Hall's characters appealed for acceptance if not pity for their existence. The publisher was charged with obscenity and lost. A New York court ruled that it "tends to debauch public morals." But these court suits precisely made the book saleable in Hall's lifetime (1 million copies sold), even getting translated into several languages.

"The Well of Loneliness" was about a girl born to a wealthy family named Stephen due to her boyish manners. Her father discovered she was an invert but kept it secret from Stephen. Stephen became a successful novelist, met and fell in love with Mary and they lived together in harmony (Wikholm). They would frequent the bars and cabarets where they found refuge with those like themselves. But their escape is momentary and Stephen soon felt sorry and guilty towards Mary for leading her to share this lonely existence. Stephen decided to set Mary free to marry a friend by killing herself. Before she performed this sacrifice, she prayed to God for "the right to (their) existence."

There were varying reactions to the book when first published. Some secret inverts met through it. Some felt a kind of release and fulfillment, while others felt offended by the apologetic manner with which Stephen asked to be recognized by the world. Henry Gerber thought it was detestable and was a supreme anti-homosexual propaganda. The worst criticism hurled at Hall was her showing both male and female homosexuals are "tragic, alcoholic and suicide-prone" -- pathetic figures which these critics swore they were not.

The struggle for social acceptance and for their place in this world continued through the post modern era. And into the present. A book on Sex Variants was published by George Henry, a psychiatrist, with help from a Miss Jan Gay, chronicling and analyzing findings on case studies on 300 lesbians. The study was begun by the partners in the 1930s through a privately-funded medical and psychological experts team called The Committee for the Study of Sex Variants. It was aimed at studying variations from normal sex behavior or homosexuality in men and women (Wikholm). The group compiled a record on the interviews, which shared their "sexual abnormalities." The book findings demonstrate that some male homosexuals as inherently effeminate, that some others are not narcissists, and that others remained "abnormal" despite their parents' training and guidance. The lack of discipline with which the book was adjudged served to illustrate the furor, which American psychiatry went through during the period. There were other objections, but Henry refined his call for the improvement of the conditions of homosexuals and stressed their essential contributions to human culture and society.

Interest in sexology was revived with the publication of "The Sexual Behavior of the Human Male" in 1948 by Alfred Charles… [END OF PREVIEW]

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