LGBTQ+ History Through The Ages


We’re here we’re queer get used to it! October is the month to learn about our history and honour the LGBTQ people who have come before us

By hearing stories about LGBTQ people through history we see a queer timeline within a much greater context. This allows us to broaden our own ideas around queerness and brings a greater appreciation around social and cultural differences across the LGBTQ umbrella.

Throughout history there are many records of same sex attraction, but it is worth noting that much of the early recorded history was written by men within patriarchal societies. This one sided point of view has led to a very skewed representation of history coming from societies that considered sexuality to only be relevant when a penis was involved.

Relationships involving women loving women were at best ignored, and at worst deliberately suppressed and hidden. It is for this reason that literature and primary sources such as correspondence and court records are a rich source of information.

Additionally in ancient times, sex was divided into the false binary of penetrative vs receptive sexual intercourse, with the favour placed on being the person doing the penetrative actions.

But no matter what time period you look at, and what lense is used, it is clear that same sex attraction and gender diverse people have always existed.

Podcasts are a fantastic way to get up to speed with LGBTQ history and there are a number of well researched and presented podcasts to listen to.

You can find examples throughout time of same sex attraction and a whole slew of gender diverse people and cultures, and the podcasters featured here have done a great job digging deeper and uncovering inclusive and relevant queer history.

Something that you will hear come up again and again in these episodes specifically, is that it was only in the fairly recent past that words like homosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans where used. The social and cultural definitions of sexuality have changed many times over the breadth and width of history, and having an appreciation of this can help contextualise our own, current lived experience, and also give us an understanding that our current tropes and cultural monoliths are not the only valid way to express queerness.

The attitudes to same sex attraction have fluctuated constantly and dramatically over the last 2500 years, and it becomes clear when listening to the podcasts and episodes selected, that we can’t take the gains we have achieved only in the last 50 years for granted.

These podcasts have highlighted just how much it is up to us to define our own ideas about what it means to be queer. They prompt us to consider a future LGBTQ history that isn't just the political statement it still must be, where we can imagine a world no longer fraught with the dangers of not conforming to societal expectations, and where we can express our sexuality in whatever consensual way that we feel suits us and our partners. A place where labels no longer have pejorative meanings.

The episodes below give a broad social context to same sex attraction and what impacts that had on the societies and cultures of the time.

So without further ado, here are some great episodes about queer history through the ages. Enjoy!

The Lesbian Historic Motif:

When did we become Lesbians? - The Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast Episode 29

This episode discusses the history of words for women who loved women throughout recorded European and Arabic history.

The History of Gay Sex:

Ancient Greek Homosexuality and Pederasty

This episode takes a deep dive into same sex relationships between men in Ancient Greece. Ancient Greek culture spread through the Mediterranean, influencing Persian and Roman empires, and ultimately the whole world as it stands today.

Nanshoku: Homosexuality in Samurai Japan

Male same sex relationships were socially accepted in the elites of Samurai era Japan. This meant that all levels of society wanting to emulate the superstars of the day, not only tolerated but widely practiced male same sex relationships.

Queer As Fact:

The Sacred Band of Thebes

Whats not to love about an Ancient Greek military unit made up of male lovers.

History is Gay:

Cloistered Queers

Queers in the unexplored corners of history by traveling to the cloisters of Medieval Europe.

Mei Ai Hold Your Hand? Homosexuality in Imperial China

Queers in Imperial China

Bulldaggers and Lady Lovers

Stories of the vibrant black lesbian and gay subculture of the Harlem Renaissance and the blues legends who sang of its glory during the 1920’s and 1930’s

Three Genders? In Ancient Egypt? It's More Likely Than You Think

This episode covers a lot of ground including Ancient Egyptian mythology, archaeological evidence versus cishet bias, and the gender presentation of women pharaohs.

These episodes are only the tip of the iceberg of queer history. There are plenty more history podcasts and episodes on LGBTQ history on the queer podcasts website.