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A Natural History of Homosexuality
     

A Natural History of Homosexuality

by Francis Mark Mondimore
 

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A terrible sin, a gift from the gods, a mental illness, a natural human variation—over the centuries people have defined homosexuality in all of these ways. Since the word homosexual was coined in 1869, many scientists in a variety of fields have sought to understand same-sex intimacy. Drawing on recent insights in biology and genetics, psychiatrist

Overview

A terrible sin, a gift from the gods, a mental illness, a natural human variation—over the centuries people have defined homosexuality in all of these ways. Since the word homosexual was coined in 1869, many scientists in a variety of fields have sought to understand same-sex intimacy. Drawing on recent insights in biology and genetics, psychiatrist Francis Mondimore set out to explore the complex landscape of sexual orientation.

The result is A Natural History of Homosexuality, a generous work that synthesizes research in biology, history, psychology, and politics to explain how homosexuality has been understood and defined from ancient times until the present. Mondimore narrates tales of love and courage as well as discrimination and bigotry in settings as diverse as ancient Greece and Victorian England, early America and fin de siecle Vienna. He also tells fascinating stories about societies which accepted, incorporated, or institutionalized homosexuality into mainstream culture, stories illustrating that same-sex eroticism was often accepted as a normal aspect of human sexuality. In twentieth-century America, researchers first recognized that homosexuality might not be "pathological" when Alfred Kinsey and Evelyn Hooker conducted the first studies of sexuality not biased by preconceived notions of "normal" sexual behavior.

After exploring sexual development in the human fetus, Mondimore reviews current biological research into the nature of sexual orientation and examines recent scientific findings on the role of heredity and hormones, as well as Simon LeVay's 1991 brain studies. He then turns to a very important focus: on people and their individual experiences. He explores "what happens between childhood and adulthood in an individual that makes him or her come to identify himself or herself as having a sexual orientation." He also explains our current understanding of bisexuality and the transgender phenomena of transsexualism and transvestism.

Finally, Mondimore analyzes the circumstances of such prominent scandals as the anti-homosexual trials of Oscar Wilde and Philip von Eulenberg, and recounts the Nazi persecution of homosexuals during the Holocaust. This far-reaching discussion includes a description of the ex-gay ministries and reparative therapy as well as the Stonewall riots and AIDS, ending with the emergence of gay pride and community.

"The preponderance of the scientific evidence is converging on a view which homosexual people have had of themselves for as long as any had the courage to record it," writes Mondimore. "Homosexuality is a natural, abiding, normal sexuality for some people. It is not a disease state, not simply a behavior, and not subject to change."

"Thoughtful and readable. Dr. Mondimore tells us an enormous amount about homosexuality in a lively manner. This book belongs on the bookshelf of anyone who wants to be informed about this important subject."—Richard A. Isay, M.D., clinical professor of psychiatry, Cornell University Medical College, and author of Becoming Gay: The Journey to Self-Acceptance

Editorial Reviews

Lambda Book Report

This book is informative, concise, simple to read, and an excellent resource book.

— Rev. Dale PritchardPh.d

The New England Journal of Medicine

This book will serve as an excellent introduction for students. The practicing physician can recommend it to patients... Dr. Mondimore has packed an impressive amount of information into 250 pages; the result is the best overall presentation of homosexuality that I have seen.

— Richard Pillard, M.D.

Journal of the American Medical Association

An often well-researched and warmly presented book.

Lambda Book Report - Rev. Dale PritchardPh.d

This book is informative, concise, simple to read, and an excellent resource book.

The New England Journal of Medicine - Richard Pillard

This book will serve as an excellent introduction for students. The practicing physician can recommend it to patients... Dr. Mondimore has packed an impressive amount of information into 250 pages; the result is the best overall presentation of homosexuality that I have seen.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
It takes courage to add yet another title to the plethora of current titles about homosexuality, but Mondimore, a practicing psychiatrist from Charlotte, N.C., offers a valuably balanced study written in clear language. Above all, he has no axes to grind. Too often, bookshop shelves offer works written only for an inner circle of gay readers, but the present study is expressly meant for those not in the know on subjects like the historical persecution of gays, the psychology and biology of homosexuality, social issues like "stigma management" and even the thorny problems of transsexualism and transvestitism. Mondimore notes that, in dozens of American states, anti-homosexuality laws are still on the books; he points out, too, that Germany has never paid reparations to the 50,000 gays put into concentration camps for extermination by the Nazis along with Jews and gypsies. This humane text does, however, offer some hope, such as in an amusing photo of a 1965 gay rights march in front of the White House, where men and women looking like anyone's relatives in formal dress picketed with signs like "Fifteen Million homosexuals protest Federal Treatment." At its best, Dr. Mondimore's new book reflects this kind of courage. Illustrations. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Mondimore, a psychiatrist and author of Depression, the Mood Disease (LJ 4/1/90), adds this unique and thoughtful study of the growing number of titles on the subject of homosexuality. Much of the information here is not groundbreaking (see Simon LeVay's Queer Science: The Use and Abuse of Research into Homosexuality, LJ 7/96), yet what is unique is the author's ability to distill a vast array of data to create cogent, readable prose. Written in four parts (sexual histories, sexual biology, sexual identities, and sexual politics), the book offers readers an unbiased examination of evidence suggesting that homosexuality is a complex interplay of biological, psychological, and environmental factors and that it has existed across cultures and throughout history. Given the current level of discourse in our culture on this issue, Mondimore adds an important, and reasonable, voice to the mix, and his work deserves wide readership. Well recommended for both public and academic libraries.Karen Duff, Boston P.L.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801854408
Publisher:
Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date:
11/01/1996
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.72(d)

What People are Saying About This

John Money

A book of special value to youth in search of sexual self-affirmation.

John Money, author of Gay, Straight, and In-Between

Meet the Author

Francis Mark Mondimore, M.D., is a psychiatrist and a member of the clinical faculty of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He is author of Depression, The Mood Disease, also available from Johns Hopkins.

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