AT 1,494,000 WORDS, A Gay History of the World is one of the longest works on homosexuality even written. It took three years to write, and the Internet was used extensively. Each of the world’s 193 countries has a chapter. Each country is divided into three sections. Section 1 discusses the legality of male homosexuality, the practice of which is still illegal in some 67 countries. Section 2 gives some general facts (such as population and other demographics) and a short general history. Section 3 discusses the history of male homosexual in the country.
Italy is the longest entry with some 67,000 words (with Great Britain close behind). The reason for Italy’s lengthy treatment is that there have been three major gay cultures in Italy: that of the Etruscans, who came before the ancient Romans, and the modern era starting with the Italian Renaissance. For the record, the United States’ entry comes to some 47,000 words, and it is arguably the most detailed gay history of the US to date.
The earliest references to homosexuality are in art. The so-called Tomb of the Two Brothers from ancient Egypt shows two men about to kiss and dates from 2400 BC. However, rock art in Sicily said to depict homosexuality may be even earlier. A noteworthy feature of classical civilizations—especially in light of today’s attitudes—is that sexual contact between adult men and teenagers has been found to be widespread. It is found in ancient Greece and Rome, Iran, China, India, and Papua New Guinea (where it occurs in sixty tribes). It occurs in poetry in ancient Greek, Latin, Persian, Turkish, Urdu, and Hebrew in the Middle Ages. This is probably not unexpected in that average lifespans were so much shorter than they are today (perhaps thirty in ancient Rome). The legal age of consent in Britain and some Anglo countries was twelve all the way up until 1985 (but only for heterosexuals).
A Gay History of the World is available in digital form at present, with the separate countries available separately. Copies are for sale both of the whole text and some individual countries on Amazon digital books.
Paul Knobel is a writer and historian based in Canberra, Australia.
From the G&LR's Blog