Heh heh. Welcome to Oples: all death, all the time!
Inspired by Bentham's "anxieties"
over speaking out in favour of tolerating homosexuality at a time when England punished gay sex by hanging, I've collected some small history of Western gays and the death sentence. Er, this is grabbed from a sociology term paper I pulled together back in 2002. The sources are linked, and the sociology textbook is used throughout the country. The Canadian Encyclopedia is, of course, a must-have.
In the Europe of 1400 to 1700, the masses did not accept the possibility of coincidence. Demons were real and so any bad luck or deviance was all Satan's fault. Including homo sex.
Why was homo sex labeled deviant at all? One theory has it
that "this intolerance is rooted in the ancient Judaeo-Christian disgust for sexual acts associated with paganism."
Certainly the Bible condemns male homosexuality (in Leviticus),
as did early church leaders like Paul.
During Europe's witch and heresy crazes (concurrent with the Catholic church's growing influence), homosexuals were put to death, both male and female.
On the lesbian side, some argue (as in this textbook)
that the jealous, male-only hierarchy of the Catholic Church wanted to ensure that women did not pose a threat -- either because of their scary power over life (as midwives controlling the birthing process, or because women, um, you know, control the process by giving birth). Healers and mystics were also supposedly female, even possibly impeaching upon the power of a male-only, professionalizing medical class. The independence of spinsters and lesbians -- who didn't need men at all -- would exclude the Catholic hierarchy in its entirety.
These theories would seem to indicate that the condemnation had different origins for each gender. But certainly anyone trying to hold on to "pagan" ways was going to get whacked.
Deviance was understood as a demon taking over your body. You needed to be painfully killed to chase it off, in order to protect neighbours from being invaded in turn. Alternately, you'd made a pact yourself with the devil, and a particularly painful murder was the proper punishment for your own evil.
Certainly not all deviants were punished. Class (surprise, surprise) saved Margaret, the daughter of Emperor Charles V of Austria, and Italian noblewoman Laudomia Forteguerri, who met in 1537.
What could save your neck? Money, power or powerful kin, and a way of successfully spinning your perverted luuuv into the ultimate platonic devotion, for example. Marge and Laudy managed them all.
But a whole lotta people were killed. Lisbon's archives show that 166 sodomites (including one woman) were convicted in the 17th century. Thirty were put to death
throughout the entirety of the Portuguese Inquisition. (Some were even turned in by their priest lovers, who believed that their own wickedness should be punished. There came an end,
however: "The last recorded Christian burning of homosexuals occurred in Amsterdam in 1730."
And the good news is that the witch and heresy panics did not hit Canada. "Places that were sheltered from change did not develop the craze," writes this academic.
(See? There is some good to being an insecure, unnoticed and isolated Canuck!)
This brings us to the end of the end of the 18th century, and now I get to reintroduce our friend the reformer, Jeremy Bentham. The Satan-lives-in-my-brain-and-genitalia-theory was losing its grip. Bentham's treatise on homosexuality was never published, but his squishy ideas seeped through. The punishment should fit the crime, he suggested, and not in itself be morally indefensible. So when policy makers influenced by Bentham began to look at their criminal codes, some realized on their own that death for sex did not add up to an arm for an arm. Or whatever body part's involved.
Over to the south of us, in Virginia in 1779, Thomas Jefferson authored a bill
that reduced the penalty for sodomy (and rape and polygamy) from death to mere castration for men; women were to have a large hole cut in their noses. (See Jonathan Katz's
book "Gay American History" for a U.S. rundown!)
From Canadian confederation (the year 1867) to 1969, male homosexual sex was punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
It was at the end of World War II that the Canadian outlook on homosexuality began to change yet again. The Cold War brought a crisis in male gender identity, and a new focus on sex, family, responsibility, and the need to create conforming consumers (in order to kick start an economy that had been focused on war). Professor Tom Waugh has suggested
that Canada and the National Film Board
propaganda machine specialized in a "chilling" psychiatry, with a focus on mental health. "The series [of movies created in an effort to build a national identity and behaviour] symbolically cemented the shift... from the villainy of fascism to the villainy of controlling or distant mothers."
Homosexuality became an illness, with Freud
leading the charge (or his less sophisticated hordes of followers, anyway). On this one, women were not ignored: Girls with distant mothers and absent dads ended up hating men. And the movies encouraged boys to play hockey, not chase pretty butterflies.
When did we begin to get outta this mess? In the 1970s. Cue gay activism. Zip boom ba.