Inventing the Homosexual Discussion

Perhaps Kertbeny’s coining of the homosexual was a mixed blessing. The word was quickly used to label various types of social deviance. In religion, the homosexual was sinful. In medicine, the homosexual was sick. And in law, the homosexual was criminal. So how does our continuing exploration of essentialism and constructionism dovetail with the creation of the word? Consider the realms of religion, law, and medicine. But consider, too, whether this new social identity was a necessary first step in the creation of what we know today as gay and lesbian culture, history, politics, and entertainment.

Hey, please make more ideas and try not rely more on other people’s quotes. Thank you.


It may come as a surprise to learn that the word “homosexual” has a very specific and well- recorded history. It was coined in 1869 in Germany. That fact is a major point to raise in the essentialist / constructionist contrast. It also impacts linguistics, and the intersection of thought, action, law, and identity. Of course we can assume that homosexual sex existed before 1869. English alone is filled with archaic references to “buggery,” etc. But the invention of “the homosexual” was a profoundly important moment in politics, medicine, and religion. A new kind of person had been created, and a new way of seeing humanity was born. What you do became who you are. The world was never the same. Inventing the Homosexual Discussion

Read Matthew Johnson’s “Homosexuality” at

Karl-Maria Kertbeny (1824-1882), the journalist who first coined the word homosexual in 1869

The 19th century invention of the homosexual is not meant to imply that those who partook of same-sex relations were respected, ignored, and/or tolerated in earlier times. Byzantine Emperor Justinian (483-565 a.d.) was among the first in history to scapegoat men who engaged in sodomy. He believed in a link with such behavior and famines, earthquakes, and pestilences. (Nothing survives on his feelings for female same-sex acts.)

Consider, too, the Dutch witch hunt of 1731. Dutch society was ripe for a panic. King William III had led the nation to economic and military successes during the late 17th century, but he died in 1702, and by 1713, the Dutch had suffered humiliating losses of colonial territories. By 1730, Holland was considered to be in decline. The Calvinist clergy found its explanation for decline in a growing laziness and complacency in society, along with a supposed increase in gambling, prostitution, and sodomy.

Over two years, any man suspected of sodomy with another man was arrested. Interrogation, torture, and forced confessions were the norm. A secret language was revealed. “Going to the office” meant cruising a public bathroom. To “dance and jump” was to have sex there. Though there were witch hunts in 1764, 1776, and 1795, the worst occurred in 1731, when 22 men and boys were executed.

Note the profound irony being played here. Today the Netherlands is arguably the most socially and politically progressive nation in the world when it comes to equality of rights for gay men and lesbians.

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