2004
Volume 53 Number 1
  • ISSN: 2589-4617
  • E-ISSN: 2667-2081

Abstract

Abstract

When organized homosexual emancipation took root in the late nineteenth century, it was based to a large extent on the then prevailing biomedical and psychiatric conceptualizations. These presented homosexuality as an innate inclination of a minority, while science-based knowledge was seen as the road towards societal acceptance of such leaning. In this article it is argued that, as early as in the eighteenth century, distinct efforts were made towards ‘homosexual emancipation’, if preliminary and less coherent perhaps, yet also quite radical in tone and contents. While the modern gay movement largely steered a defensive course way into the twentieth century – based on a clearly demarcated minority group’s sense of ‘being different’ and ‘having no other option’ – in the eighteenth century, voices could be heard that appealed to self-determination and choice, and that used racy language and let itself be inspired by libertinism, cultural history, and literature. The examples provided in this article are derived from (mainly English and French) court archives, pamphlets, political-philosophical treatises, personal documents, and (semi-pornographic) literary texts.

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