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People with a History: An Online Guide to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans* History

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Section VII: Special Themes

Go to the following pages for other parts of People with a History

Special Themes 1: Same Sex Marriage



  • Two Versions of Rite of Adelphopoiia [At Medieval Sourcebook]
  • The Life of St. Theodore of Sykeon (7th Cent.), Chapters 134-135.
    An adelphopoiia relationship is established between St. Theodore and Patriarch Thomas of Constantinople.
  • Chin Bratotvoreniyu [At QRD]
    Old Church Slavonic text of the Rite of Brotherhood, abbreviated, with standard liturgical prayers (most of Litany, Antiphons, etc.) omitted. Cf. Jacobus Goar, Euchologion (1st ed., Paris 1647; 2nd ed., Venice 1730), pp. 706-709, s.v. "Akolouthia eis Adelphopoiian Pneumatiken." From: Velikii Potrebnik, printed by Edinovertsii in Moscow (Now called Belokrinitsky Hierarchy of Old Rite), in the year 1904. Transcribed by Nikita Syrnikov. Translated by Fr. Basil Isaacks April 1, 1995.
  • Church of Greece on Adelphopoiia [At QRD]
  • Montaigne: A Homosexual Marriage in Rome, [At Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Catholic Handbook].
    Account of a homosexual marriage in 16th-century Rome by Montaigne.
  • Metropolitan Community Church: Holy Union Liturgy [At Internet Archive, from UFMCC]


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Special Themes 2: Bisexuality

In a sense, much of the history claimed by "lesbians and gays" is a history of people who were functionally bisexual. In particular many of the famous names on lists of "famous homosexuals" were sexually active with both men and women. However, it also seems to be true that a clearly, or even hazily, formulated "bisexual" social identity is even more recent than "homosexual" and "heterosexual" identities. I will correct this statement if it is shown to be wrong, but specifically "bisexual" organizations seem only to have existed since the 1970s.

This relatively new formulation does not mean that there is no "history" of bisexuality. There have been voices in the past which have proclaimed a need for sexual freedom - whether these be the "libertines" of the 16th century, the English "rakes" of the 17th century, or the sexual radicals of the 1960s. It has proved quite possible to be explicitly homo(mono)sexual and fundamentally conservative in sexual expectations. I would take as the most significant aspect of the history of bisexuality not those people who were bisexually active, but those who sought to explore the complexities of human sexual choices.



  • None as yet


    A new dedicated Bisexual site, with a guide to academic resources.
  • Bisexual Resource Center
    A Splendid collection of resources, including historical accounts, advice, and current issues.
  • Marquis De Sade [At Books and Writers]
    Reading De Sade is not pleasant. He is genuinely obscene. Nevertheless, in the annals of the search for freedom he has a place. In nothing else, he shows that there are limits.

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Special Themes 3: Trans* History

"Trans*" is a complex category to analyze and document historically. In some respects, however, it is easier conceptually than "gay": although homosexual activity is documentable in many societies, it is much harder to document social and psychological ideas about "identity" and "orientation". On the other hand, the existence of neither male nor female gendered people ("transgressive" .or not) is very widely documented throughout many societies and cultures. This includes cross-dressers, women who lived as men, eunuchs, "third sex" people, "two-spirited" people, modern transvestites, modern surgical transsexuals, and so forth.

Some modern gays and lesbians seek to distance themselves from this trans* history: some gay men in particular have sought to portray their homosexuality as fully "masculine". In fact, modern homosexuals do transgress one of the basic markers of gender identity in modern society, the marker than says masculinity is marked out by having sex with women.

[see also under "Native American Societies" for "berdache" discussions]



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Special Themes 4: Anti-Gay: Gay Criticism of Gay Culture

There has been a persistant willingness by gay writers to criticise aspects of gay culture, and of lesbian writers to criticise lesbian culture.

Some of the criticism is probably justified, but elements of sheer intellectual and class-based snobbery towards the lumpen-schwulen play an important part.

In general these writers live in comparatively safe urban gay environments (London, New York, San Francisco. West Hollywood), have come to terms with their homosexuality long ago, and feel free to offer critiques. Their targets usually (repeatedly in fact), include gay activists, gay commercial culture, gay entertainment, Pride events and so forth. Despite protestations to the contrary, they tend to obliterate the very real struggles still going on for most gays and lesbians (violence, discrimination, religious intolerance), and ignore the benefits of a commercial culture. Above all they create tendentious constructions of gay culture in order to attack.

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© 1997, Paul Halsall, [a picture!]
Note: I read all mail, and keep much of it, but I will not be able to reply to all notes.

Last updated April 13, 2007