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Posted August 9, 2006
GAY HISTORY RECLAIMED: THE KEY SURVEY
Crompton's 'Homosexuality and Civilization' seems destined to become the definitive one-volume history of same-sex relations--and it appears at a critical time. Essential to the suppression of gay people in the West was the denial that they contributed positively to history that history came very close to being erased altogether. Just as the first gay historians after Stonewall began to reclaim that history, gay French philosopher Michel Foucault mischievously denied that homosexuality existed at all before the term was coined in the 1890s. This academic fashion caused many in the community to blow off new same-sex testimony from the past just as it was reclaimed--a form of blindness heteros would never dream of applying to their own sexual history. Crompton is post-theory, post-faction: instead of denying gay men had a history, he says, just read the first-person accounts from different times and places and respect what they plainly say. He does just that in this elegant, readable journey through Christian, Islamic, and Asian same-sex history. But Crompton also makes two landmark contributions well beyond the requirements of survey. First, he fingers the one person who actually invented Western homophobia: Philo Judaeus. Jewish philosopher in Alexandria and contemporary of Christ, this titanic figure is at least as important to history as St. Augustine, and like Augustine, presents both light and dark sides. On the good side, he created the template for Christianity. Responding to the mounting fashion for monotheism in the ancient world, and to the deep respect Romans had for the Jewish equation of law with divinity, Philo sought to reinvent Judaism as a Gentile-friendly universal religion released from its tribal particularity. He was blocked in this effort by purists in Jerusalem who insisted on circumcision (meaning, for the convert, adult surgery without anaesthetic) and obeisance to the Temple, which on high holy days turned into the largest assembly-line slaughterhouse in the world. Both requirements were deal-breakers for pagans. But Philo's student St. Paul successfully applied this template to the new cult of Christianity. On the negative side, it was Philo who first interpreted the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah as punishing homosexuality, which no one else, including Jesus, thought it was. His interpretation became, to this day, the key rationale for the persecution of gay people in Christendom. Thanks to Crompton, now we know who did it. Crompton's second great contribution is to extend same- sex history, virtually for the first time, to China and Japan. Gay men often ask, what kind of society would result if there were no taboos, if men could love whomever they want? For over two thousand years, until the 19th century, this answer could be found in China and Japan. As long as a man did his dynastic duty siring children, he could do anything else he wanted sexually. The result was a broad middle area of opportunistic bisexuality flanked by strong purist traditions of hetero and homo sex. All three had their own philosophy and writings, and Crompton quotes extensively from an enormous, unsuppressed gay literature which the West has yet to sample. This book is the single finest one-volume survey of same- sex history on the market and deserves a wide audience.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 24, 2006
Magnificent and inspiring
When so many close-minded people say that, throughout history, there have only been proscriptions against homosexuality, they have never read Dr. Crompton's book. They will come to realize that, yes, there is a gay culture--one that's existed for thousands of years. It is as rich as any other. 'Homosexuality & Civilization' should be a part of every person¿s library, as well as a textbook for all LGBT-related classes. It is not simply a book to read once, it is a book to which you will find yourself continually referring. You will never view seemingly familiar tales, such as that of Achilles or Sodom and Gomorrah, the same way again. The glossy, color pictures are superb and come from all over the globe. While strolling through a museum in Boston or London, you will recognize urns and paintings that contain the lesser-known stories that make up gay culture.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 2, 2004
GAY HISTORY OUT OF THE CLOSET
Gay men have always known that homosexuals will gain equality only when they prove that they have been useful to civilization. Dr Crompton, using no epiphenomenal falderal, using gay history and biography itself, clearly demonstrates that homosexuals ¿ by any name never the same ¿ were vital, critical, even essential to western civilization. He has laid out a gay heritage that, for the sake of mere acceptance, all too many academics were willing to trash for cash. Since Stonewall, homophobic Foucauldian nonessentialists have been misconstructing gay history without gay biography. They sought to eliminate homophobia by eliminating the whole concept of `homosexuals¿, to cure homophobia by castrating homosexuals. ¿Oh, we don¿t mind that you¿re gay. You¿ll be able to explain Broadway and Hollywood to us!¿ Just don¿t tell us about the gay origins of Democracy in classical Greece, or the gay founding of the Florentine Academy, or the gay origins of Modern Science in Bacon¿s Novum Organum, or the subsequent gay origins of chemistry, thermodynamics, cybernetics, and robotics. Gay history was an embarrassment of riches; and, for the sake of nongay political support, nonessentialists, deeming it a liability, hid gay history out of sight in a closet. In one of the worst academic scandals since Christian homophobia shut down the Greek academies and the Olympic games in the 4th century, nonessentialists cut off their privates to spite their two-faced public posture. A universe of stars is not enough for Homosexuality and Civilization. Dr Crompton must be roundly applauded for bringing the gay movement back out of its misconstructed closet. The man has gay guts ¿ but that is just what he has passed on to the next gay generation: their gay heritage, a heritage essential not only to gay students but to all students of humanity.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.