Researched Position Paper
Homosexual relationships have been recorded to be a part of society since very early on in human history. Even as early as 2450 BCE, two Egyptian male royal servants -by the name of Khnumhotep and Niankhknum- in the Palace of King Nyuserre Ini, were buried next to one another inside of a tomb. The engraving on their tombstone reads that the two are “joined in life and joined in death,” and multiple illustrations depict the two servants embracing one another and kissing the other’s nose. In addition, in 27 BCE, the Roman Empire, under the rule of Augustus, made homosexuality so normal that “thirteen out of the first fourteen Roman emperors were bisexual or gay.” With all of this being recorded throughout history, and homosexual relationships being recorded as equally commonplace throughout history as heterosexual relationships, it is easy for one to think that it is readily accepted by society.
However, as history and modern society proves, quite the opposite is true and same-sex couples continually find themselves being subject to prejudice, hatred, and at many disadvantages compared to their heterosexual counterparts. But even though there is bias against homosexual couples, there have been many steps taken in the community, and in the government, to ensure that equality is being achieved throughout every aspect of society. These steps taken by the government have proven to be beneficial for the mental and emotional health of those in a homosexual relationship, however, there is still resistance to where growth is being made. Through this essay, I will expose to you the progress that society has made regarding this issue, but at the same time, I will detail the opposition that this growth encounters, in the hopes that you understand that change is still necessary and homosexual -and even bisexual- relationships need to be more accepted within society. (Bringing LGBTQ History to the Classroom)
The first step towards equality with homosexual couples is the early gay rights movement in 1924. It was then when Henry Gerber, a German immigrant, founded the Society for Human Rights in Chicago. This organization is the first gay rights organization that is officially documented within the United States. Gerber took his efforts and experience from the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee -a group advocating for gay rights in Germany- and was inspired to create a gay rights organization within the United States. Through this small organization, Gerber and his peers published a few issues of the newsletter “Friendship and Freedom,” which is the United States’ primary newsletter which advocated and was geared towards the homosexual people in the United States. Although Gerber created this organization, and later on established the famous and historical Gerber House, subscription and membership rates were generally very low due to the persecution that homosexuals experienced at the time.
The persecution that homosexuals continually faced in the United States at this time prevented people from signing up to become a member of this organization, as publicizing their own sexual preferences would subject them to the threats and the judgement of those that opposed homosexuality, and during this era, that was majority of society. Especially since he was a founder of the organization, Gerber was a victim to all the tension within society presented by those against homosexual relationships. In 1925, Gerber and members of his organization were arrested, and this is when the downfall of the Society of Human Rights began. Although Gerber and the members of his organization were never charged, his and their belongings were taken away and were subject to a bigoted, and highly biased legal cases, and very thorough, but also very negative media coverage. Although this organization only advocated equality, the opinions of society towards homosexual marriage were too great and prevented it from being any more successful or influential than it had become. This caused the homosexuals to go back further into hiding and reduced their visibility and prevented them from gaining any support from society whatsoever. (LGBTQ Activism: The Henry Gerber House, Chicago, IL) (Editors, History.com)
After Gerber and those in his organization were arrested, the gay rights movement was at a stand-still for the next following decades, so therefore during this time, opposition towards gay marriage only grew. During World War II, homosexuals were further propagated against by the one and only Adolf Hitler. In the concentration camps created during World War II, homosexuals were isolated, and were forced to wear an upside-down pink triangle to symbolize and to depict the fact that they were in fact homosexuals. Those that wore the pink triangle “receive[d] the harshest treatment” from the guards of the concentration camps, and even after the guards were finished, those inside the concentration camp that were not wearing the pink triangle took their turn in beating them as well. In this era of hatred and bigotry, there was no advocation for homosexual rights, but rather, there was only hate against it which caused the opposition to grow more and more against it. (The Friends of the Pink Triangle) (Editors, History.com).
The next major step towards the fight towards equality between homosexual and heterosexual marriages was one of the United States’ first gay rights organization, the Mattachine Foundation. This organization was discovered in 1950 by Harry Hay, a Communist Party Organizer and cultural worker, in Los Angeles, and utilized the word “homophile” in lieu of the word “homosexual” as it was “less clinical and focused on sexual activity.” During this era, homosexuals maintained a low profile but were at the same time, they were slowly attempting to gain support from experts in sociology and psychology. After the Mattachine Society was established, it faced backlash from not only society, but also from other homosexuals themselves. In the beginning, the Society had only held discussion groups located within the houses of those involved with the organization. Because its founder, Harry Hay, was a Communist Party Organizer, the society had taken a more left approach in the attempt to improve the status of homosexuals in the eyes of society. This organization quickly gained attention from society after one of the founding members, Dale Jennings, was arrested in 1952 for solicitation. He was later set free due to the jury being deadlocked, and after his freedom was acquired again, Jennings went to form another organization called One Inc. This organization embraced the support of women with open arms and published the country’ first magazine which advocated for the support of gay marriage: ONE. Although Hay and Jennings made exceptional progress in giving homosexuality visibility, the two were barred from the Mattachine Foundation due to their communism, but the magazine that Jennings had discovered continued on even after the U.S. Post Office declared it to be “obscene and refused to deliver it” in 1954. The post office had only labelled the magazine to be “obscene” only because it propagated the visualization of homosexual couples within the United States. There was no nudity in the magazine, or anything really offensive, it was only through the eyes of those who see it wrong in society that there was opposition against it. (Editors, History.com) (Ripberger)
Following the Mattachine Foundation, the remaining members restructured it to form the Mattachine Society, which went on to publish the second homosexual publication within the United States, The Mattachine Review. Later that year, another homosexual publication was created, however, in this situation, the organization was founded by lesbian women, rather than gay men. The women were called the “Daughters of Bilitis,” and their respective newsletter that they punished was called The Ladder. Furthermore, this era in the advocation of homosexual marriage only seemed to face more and more setbacks. In 1952, the American Psychiatric Association put homosexuality down on the list of things that are to be considered mental disorders, and in April of 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower has signed an executive order that prohibited gay people from obtaining federal jobs. Once more, this era only propagated against marriage and only caused society to see the worst in homosexuals, which intern built the argument against them furthermore. (Editors, History.com]
However, within the next decade or so and until now, the gay rights movement continued gathering head way in advocating for equal rights and the movement that was birthed in this era propelled homosexual marriage in the eyes of the view, causing them to form their own opinion regarding the issue. In June of 1969, the gay rights movement was created as protests erupted in New York City to show that the police raids of Stonewall Inn – a very well known and illegal gay bar at the time- had no reasoning for the raids in the first place. The growth in the support of gay marriage continues to grow until it hit a milestone of May 2004 where Massachusetts becomes the first state to legalize homosexual marriage. The growth and support continued until June 26, 2015, where the US Supreme Court rules that homosexual marriage is now legal. (Major Events in the U.S. Gay Rights Movement) (Blake)( Editors, History.com).
Regardless of the fact that gay marriage is now legal, there are still those that are heavily against it. Much like how the earlier events in history saw opposition, the society we live in today faces opposition in the welcoming of everyone. Be it due to religious or personal reasons, there are those minds are hard to shake on the issue and fail to realize that all love is love. Society needs to be more open to new things and more welcoming to people of different backgrounds. If not, sooner or later everyone will be the same, and where’s the fun in that.
- Blake, Paul. “US Supreme Court Rules Gay Marriage Is Legal Nationwide.” BBC News, BBC, 27 June 2015, www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-33290341.
- “Bringing LGBTQ History to the Classroom.” GLSEN, www.glsen.org/article/lgbtq-history-1.
- Editors, History.com. “Gay Rights.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 28 June 2017, www.history.com/topics/gay-rights/history-of-gay-rights#section_1.
- “LGBTQ Activism: The Henry Gerber House, Chicago, IL (U.S. National Park Service).” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 20 Feb. 2018, www.nps.gov/articles/lgbtq-activism-henry-gerber-house-chicago-il.htm.
- “Major Events in the U.S. Gay Rights Movement.” VOA, 9 Dec. 2012, www.voanews.com/a/major-events-in-the-us-gay-rights-movement/1561668.html.
- Ripberger, Ann. “Social Scientists and Homophiles, 1950s and 1960s · Lesbians in the Twentieth Century, 1900-1999 · Outhistory.org.” Outhistory.org, 2008, outhistory.org/exhibits/show/lesbians-20th-century/social-scientists.
- The Friends of the Pink Triangle. “The Pink Triangle.” Symbol, www.thepinktriangle.com/history/symbol.html.”
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