Queer history: Pre-colonial LGBTQ+ cultures
“Queerness is a Western behavior; we learnt it”.
This statement is false because queer history dates back to ancient times in many cultures around the world. Sadly, when we talk about the history of queerness, we mostly mention certain countries in the north-west. And that is why, I am going to talk about queer history from around the world to make it more accessible.
What better time to do it than this Pride Month.
The native North American cultures have individuals who don’t follow the binary gender categories of men and women. They are diverse in terms of their gender identity and sexuality such as the intersex people, androgynous, feminine males and masculine females.
Two-spirit is a modern, umbrella term for them; however, they have their unique individual names in their native communities such as “a’yai-kik-ahsi” in Niitsitapi group and “batée” of the Crow Nation.
These individuals hold significant roles in their tribe’s social class.
Found majorly among the Langi, Teso and Karamanjo tribes, mudoko dako loosely translates to ‘other gender’.
They are assigned male sex at birth but express femininity and are treated as females. They can even marry other men without sanction.
In the Basotho tribe in Lesotho, women can have long term relationships with other women. Sometimes these women have male spouse who are fully aware of the relationship.
A celebration is held in the community to mark the start of this motsoalle relationship.
Greek drawings from the 5th century all have a common image: same sex couple romancing each other. Greek author Aeschylus also talked about the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus – two comrades in the war against the Trojans.
However, the Greek term for men who prefer male sexual penetration is the offensive word kinaidos. They faced stigma especially from comedy writers who told stories about them wearing a bra, a wig and a gown, and called them euryprôktoi, “wide arses”.
The well-know book Kamasutra which serves as a guideline for how to be a gentle man and enjoy relationships also talks about lesbian relationships.
According to this ancient text, women married other women and raised children together. They were called ‘Swarinis‘.
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About the author: Amos Sanasi is an award-winning sex educator who specializes in sexual enlightenment. Her book “BDSM CHEAT SHEET” is a beginner’s guide for those who want to be kink-positive. She is also the founder of West Africa’s first sex-Ed tech startup RevaginateNG. She tweets at @thesanasi.