Timeline of Oppression



1400 B.C.E. – 1 C.E.
Greek and Roman Era. Sexual relationships between men are accepted culturally, with strict norms of who takes what role in sex acts.

1 C.E. – 700 C.E.
Christianity increases in Western Europe. Sexuality or nudity except for procreation in marriage is condemned.

Justinian imposes death penalty for adultery and same sex acts.

900 – 1100
Increased tolerance of differences: religious, cultural, sexual. Knights, clerics, and popes engaged in same sex acts.

1260 – 1600
Intolerance increases. Inquisition, witch hunts. Same sex acts are equated with heresy. Women punished for violating gender norms.

Buggery Law. First English civil law to call for death penalty for same sex acts between men.

1600 – 1800
China and Japan: Sex between men tolerated into mid 1700s. Emperors, Buddhists, samurai have younger male lovers.

1600 – 1800
Colonial America: colonists are scandalized by Native American beliefs about sexuality and nudity. Some Native American cultures revered cross-dressing women and men as healers and shamans. They also discover buggery" (Sex between men or between women) among Native Americans.

1800 – 1860
Attitudes about sodomy change in France, the United States, Germany, and England. Such acts are still a crime but no longer punished by death. Thomas Jefferson recommends that the state of Virginia punish such acts as sex between men by castration and sex between females by having a hole one and a half inches in diameter bored into the nose cartilage.

Karoly Benkert, a Hungarian doctor, coins the term "homosexuality" to describe same sex acts.

1870 – 1910
The medical profession begins to have influence in Western Europe and United States. Homosexuality becomes a suitable topic for scientific study. Many medical "experts" call for decriminalization of homosexuality because "the poor creatures" are sick, not criminals. A typology for a "Homosexual Personality" is developed. Homosexuals are referred to as "inverts," "the third sex," and "men trapped in women’s bodies."

The term "Heterosexual" is first used in medical texts to refer to people inclined toward sex with both men and women. By mid 1890s, heterosexual is used exclusively to refer to people who are inclined toward sex with the other sex.

Dr. Magnus Hirschfield, a German homosexual, establishes the Scientific Humanitarian Committee, the first homosexual rights organization.

1900 – 1930
A rich urban subculture for homosexual men and women develops in Germany and United States. African American lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals become a prominent part of the Harlem Renaissance. "Gay" becomes a code word in the homosexual subculture in the U.S. The "New Woman" (feminists and suffragists) of the 1920s are stigmatized as "lesbians." Homosexuality is "treated" with a variety of "cures": castration, electric shock, cliterodectomy, hormone injections, lobotomy, untested drugs, commitment to insane asylums, and vigorous exercise and diet programs.

Henry Gerber establishes the Chicago Society for Human Rights. It is the first gay rights organization in the United States.

1930 – 1946
Pro-Nazi Forces in Germany target gay men as "unGerman" and State sanctioned harassment and violence against homosexuals begins.

1946 – 1960
Following WWII there is a return to "traditional" family values. The cold war begins.

The United States Senate authorizes a formal investigation of "homosexuals and other moral perverts" in government.

Kinsey studies homosexual behavior among females. An Executive Order barring homosexuals from government service is signed by Eisenhower.

The ACLU changes its position on legal sanctions against gay people and states publicly that it supports gay rights.

June 27, 1969
Stonewall Riots, New York City. Gay men and lesbians fight back for the first time, during a police raid of a gay bar in Greenwich Village. This results in three days of rioting that receives national media attention. This event is marked as the beginning of the modern gay/lesbian rights movement.

The term "homophobia" is coined by George Weinberg, to describe an irrational fear of homosexuality. This is the first time anti-homosexual feelings are labeled as pathological.

Homosexuality is removed from the list of mental disorders that are recognized by the American Psychiatric Association.

1972 – 1976
Thirty-six cities and towns adopt gay rights laws. 25 states repeal sodomy laws. Several mainstream religious groups endorse gay rights laws.

1977 – 1980
Emerging political conservative and fundamentalist Christian coalition voices resistance to gay rights.

Gay rights laws are over turned in Eugene, Oregon; Wichita, Kansas; St. Paul, Minnesota. The Briggs Initiative that would have banned gay teachers or any positive discussion of homosexuality in schools is defeated in California. A similar initiative passes in Oklahoma. Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone are assassinated in San Francisco.

The first national March on Washington for lesbian and gay rights has 100,000 participants.

First cases of AIDS begin to appear.

Wisconsin passes the first statewide gay rights law in the nation.

The second national March on Washington for lesbian and gay rights has 700,000 participants. It is the biggest civil rights march in the history of the country but Time and Newsweek fail to report it.

The American Bar Association endorses gay rights legislation. Massachusetts becomes the second state to pass a gay rights law. Denmark becomes the first country in the world to legalize gay marriages. United States Department of Health and Human Services reports that lesbian and gay youth are 2-3 times more likely to kill themselves.

Coalitions of right-wing Christian fundamentalists and Republicans target lesbians and gay men as responsible for the breakdown of "traditional family values." Anti-gay rhetoric is prominent part of Republican National Convention. Oregon and Colorado place initiatives on the November ballot that would outlaw gay rights legislation. The Colorado initiative wins. Massachusetts recommends that all schools address the needs of LGB youth.

After making campaign promises to allow gay and lesbian Americans to serve openly in the military, President Clinton signs the military’s gay ban, known as "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," into law.

Anti-gay initiatives are on the ballot in Idaho and Oregon. Hawaii Supreme Court considers legalizing marriage between same-sex couples, resulting in backlash in several other states that pass laws barring marriage between same-sex couples.

Supreme Court rules Colorado anti-gay civil rights law unconstitutional. President Clinton signs the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act". This act does not ban marriages by same-sex couples, but it does bar federal recognition of those marriages once they become legal in any state.

Vermont passes a law permitting "civil unions" for same sex couples.

Massachusetts Supreme Court rules same sex marriages are legal. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom directs the county clerk to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples under the equal protection clause of California's state constitution. The California Supreme Court orders the city to stop performing same sex marriages 29 days later. All of these marriages are nullified later in 2004. Connecticut becomes the second stated to legalize civil unions. President George W. Bush proposes a Constitutional amendment "defining and protecting marriage as a union of man and woman as husband and wife."




Adapted from: Adams, M., Bell, L. A., & Griffin, P. (Eds.). (1997). Teaching for diversity and social justice: A sourcebook. New York, NY: Routledge