LGBTI is an acronym that stands for Lesbians, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex and represents a group that started simply as a gay community in formative years. The term gay community was found too general by many activists and thus LBGTI was coined to elaborately capture specific classes of all those persons that the community seeks to protect and advance their rights1.Origins of the LGBTI community are attributed to the need to stand up for the rights of people who throughout history are discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity by other individuals and states2.
LBGT1 has been a central issue in the history of mankind dating as far back as time of the Roman Emperor Alexander Severus between 222-35 CE who at one time vowed to end male prosecution and brothels in Rome, a pledge that was in fact fulfilled by Marcus Claudius Tacitus (Emperor 275-6).3 But even again this was much later as homosexuality can be traced in ancient writings and art works.4 Homosexuality therefore thrived very prominently throughout history and many accounts of monarchs involved with fellow men have been recorded most prominent among these being Pharaoh Pepi II Neferkare of Egypt who is believed to have had a homosexual version around night-time visits to his General Sasenet between 2,284 BCE – 2,246 BCE.5.History is also alive to records indicating that about 4th Century Roman Emperors – Constantius II and Constans I affianced in same sex relationships at some stage in their reigns.6
While it is true those history records sexual relationships between man and man as well as lesbianism7, these have not been without resistance, condemnation, and victimatisation and in some cases annihilation.
Sexual orientation, gender identity and a history of discrimination
LGBT1 rights have been compromised and in many cases grossly violated with reckless abandon and in cases with aid of religion for example in the 4th Century between c. 538 – 330 BCE a book of Leviticus was written and provided penal sanctions for men who would engage in same sexual relationships thus8.
“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them”9.
Penal sanctions such as these in the bible and in other faith based laws providence of a society an entrenched mindset against homosexuality and cross-dressing which were criminalized in the Roman Empire.10This wave grew stronger well beyond the dark ages as now states moved to codify penalties for same sex relations notably in 1431 – Nezahualcoyotl, Tlatoani of Texcoco, enacted laws making homosexuality a capital punishment by hanging11 .This was followed by tougher laws in among others Spain,Rome,Peru ,Russia, Netherlands, Brazil and England through the enactment of the Buggery12 Act 1533 making anal intercourse and zoophilia punishable by death throughout England and later in Wales by King Henry VIII.
The earlier development of LGBT rights
As states unleashed terror against people based on their sexual orientation, the discussion begun to take shape around protection of human rights based and on 29 August 1867, Karl Heinrich Ulrichs became undoubtedly a pioneer homosexual to campaign overtly for homosexual rights13.This heralded the emergency of open and frank decision on LGBTI rights as we know them today in public leading to the birth of Scientific Humanitarian Committee as the first ever official organization for homosexual rights.14This Organization was founded to abolish sections of the German Criminal Code that criminalized homosexual acts and to advocate for gay rights.15 At about 1897 George Cecil Ives led processes that gave birth to the initial homosexual rights group in England.16 This was followed by the rise of Emma Goldman in about 1910 who spoke publicly in favor of homosexual rights. As the Magnus Hirschfield observed, Emma earned a special place in the LGBTI movement at the time .He noted
“She was the first and only woman, indeed the first and only American, to take up the defense of homosexual love before the general public”17
In Netherland In 1912, a Dutch lawyer Jacob Schorer,, founded the Dutch Scientific Humanitarian Committee on the basis as Hirschfield’s movement but which largely centered in the human rights 18. This is the first time a deliberate attempt was made to transform the gay movement into a human rights movement focusing on advocacy for gay rights as purely human rights issues and thus providing the foundation of discussion for LGBTI rights into international human rights law.
Indeed soon after, Scientific-Humanitarian Committee was to inspire the earliest known U.S. gay movement called the Society for Human Rights which was founded in 1924 and at that juncture it became very clear that the human rights discussion into gay and lesbian movement was unstoppable.19
LGBTI advocacy centering on human rights had earlier emerged two years earlier in 1922 when a German writer Friedrich Radszuweit took over homosexual club based in Berlin Vereinigung Freunde und Freundinnen, and changed its name to Bund für Menschenrecht (Alliance for Human Rights). By 1929 the Alliance would boast 48,000 members20.Events of between 1923 to 1933 are very historic as the Alliance for Human rights innovated an information sharing mechanism leading to the publishing of the bimonthly periodic ‘für Menschenrecht’ literally called ‘Bulletin for Human Rights’. Focus on information to support the cause of LGBTI rights.21
Consequently the Damen-Club Amicitia started publishing a magazine in Switzerland, named Freundschafts-Banner (Friendship Banner), whose name was changed in 1937 to Menschenrecht (Human Rights). It repeatedly called “for equal laws and equal application of prevailing laws for heterosexuals and homosexuals, writing in 1947, for example, ‘It is for us only a matter of the same human rights! Not special rights, but the same22.
Effect of the world
Much as there is little written about the effect of the two world wars, the little information available suggests that it had profound impacts. A gay rights movement had taken root in Germany and yet it remained largely outside state institutions such as the army. The Germany just like other armies in America and elsewhere prohibited recruitment of gay men into military ranks23. These policies didn’t stop gay men to quietly enlist as service men in Germany a practice that happens everywhere24.Besides the death of about 2million soldiers, in Germany in the World War 1, there came stories of gay soldiers writing to their dear ones letters some of which were publicised by the Scientific Humanitarian Committee in 1916.25After the war veterans formed a League for Human Rights to champion gay rights whose membership grew to over One hundred thousand (100,000) ex-service men which flourished in fourteen (14) year window till the rise of the Nazi at the helm of German politics.
Across the pacific ocean, Second World war very many impacts on the way of life in America generally and the most significant being rural urban migrations rose in which rural people came to town to replace many people in employment who had left for military service and consequently got into contact with urban gay life. This is was revolutionary in a sense that urban life was a bit more liberal and thus gave an opportunity for people to freely express themselves more than ever before. As the war was nearing end more voices of gave men became noticeable and the military leadership cracked the whip leading to the dishonorable discharge of gay men from the military. This created a clash back in America which was already a changing society by the time of the action.
In short, World war one and two created an opportunity for mass discrimination of people because of their sexual orientation. The impact of this was felt far and wide ultimately helping to solidify gay and lesbian identity. The Wars brought to the fore the many gay and lesbian activists, allowed many men and women to live openly about their sexuality, and laid the base for the gay movement particularly in America and the events that followed up to ‘Stonewall26’ and the resulting gay liberation movement27.
Besides, the two world wars created momentum for the grown of international law beginning founding of the League of Nations which later collapse after world war 11 broke out leading to the creation of the United Nations in 1945 which has lived to date .
10 December 1948,United Nations General Assembly adopted of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) Drafted as ‘a common standard of achievement for all peoples and nations’, the Declaration for the first time in human history spell out basic civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights that all human beings should enjoy. It has over time been widely accepted as the fundamental norms of human rights that everyone should respect and protect.
1 Swain, Keith W. (21 June 2007). “Gay Pride Needs New Direction”. http://www.denverpost.com/2007/06/21/gay-pride-needs-new-direction/ viewed on 8th December 2017
2 Bentham, Jeremy, Offences Against One’s Self,
accessed on 8th December 2017
3 Younger, John (7 October 2004). “Sex in the Ancient World from A to Z”. Routledge
4 Talalay, Lauren E. (2005). “The Gendered Sea: Iconography, Gender, and Mediterranean Prehistory”. The Archaeology of Mediterranean Prehistory. Blackwell. pp. 130–148
5 Meskell, Lynn (1999). Archaeologies of Social Life: Age, Sex, Class Etcetra in Ancient Egypt. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 95
6 Sextus Aurelius Victor, Epitome of the Caesars, 42.19.
7 Rayor, Diane; Lardinois, André (2014). Sappho: A New Translation of the Complete Works. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press –(sappo was an archaic Greek poet from the island of Lesbos and Sappho is known for her lyric poetry and she is well known as a symbol of love and desire between women and her works together with her origin in the Islands of Lesbo probably gave rise the word lesbian –woman to woman sexual relationship as we know it today.)
8 Levine, Baruch A. (1989). JPS Torah Commentary: Leviticus. Jewish Publication Society.
9 Torah/Bible,Book of Leviticus Chapter 20 verses 12
10 Wilhelm, Amara Das (8 May 2014). “A Timeline of Gay World History”. Gay & Lesbian Vaishnava Association. ww.galva108.org/single-post/2014/05/08/A-Timeline-of-Gay-World-History accessed on 8th December 2017.
11 Lee, Jongsoo (2008). The Allure of Nezahualcoyotl: Pre-Hispanic History, Religion, and Nahua Poetics University of New Mexico Press, 9 Dec 2009
12 Smith & Hogan, Criminal Law (10th) for the general definition of buggery and the case of R v Jacobs (1817) Russ & Ry 331 reiterates that buggery related only to intercourse by a man with a man or woman or intercourse per anum or per vaginum by either a man or a woman with an animal. Other forms of “unnatural intercourse” may amount to indecent assault or gross indecency, but do not constitute buggery.
13 LeVay, Simon, 1996. Queer Science: The Use and Abuse of Research into Homosexuality, MIT Press
14 Goltz, Dustin (2008). “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Movements”, In Lind, Amy; Brzuzy, Stephanie (eds.). Battleground: Women, Gender, and Sexuality: Volume 2, pp. 291 ff. Greenwood Publishing Group
15 Paul Russell, The Gay 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Gay Men and Lesbians, Past and Present 16 (2002)
16 London and the Culture of Homosexuality 1885–1914, Matt Cook, Cambridge University Press, 2003,
17 Jeffrey Escoffier-Left-wing Homosexuality Emancipation, Sexual Liberation, and Identity Politics-https://web.archive.org/web/20090430093850/http://www.wpunj.edu/newpol/issue45/Escoffier45.htm accessed on 7th December 2017.
18 Bert Boelaars, Urgency and Strategy: Homosexual Men and Women in the First Half the of the Twentieth Century, in Urgency Required Gay and Lesbian Rights are Human Rights 10 (Ireen Dubel & André Hielkema eds., 2010).
19 St. Sukie de la Croix, Chicago Whispers: A History of LGBT Chicago before Stonewall 75 (2012).
20 Laurence Senelick, The Homosexual Theatre Movement in the Weimar Republic, 49 Theatre Survey 5, 22 (2008).
21 Florence Tamagne, A History of Homosexuality in Europe, Vol. I & II: Berlin, London, Paris 1919-1939 75 (2007)
22 Hubert Kennedy, The Ideal Gay Man: The Story of Der Kreis 215 (1999).
23http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/23/us/23military.html accessed on 9th December 2017.In America while the policy prohibiting recruitment of gay men into the military was ended by the don’t ask don’t tell which altogether was repealed by President obama in 2011,it remains a challenge as President Trump seeks to undo the gains so far made.
24 Laurie Marhoefer May 12, 2017,The forgotten origins of the modern gay rights movement in WWI , https://theconversation.com/the-forgotten-origins-of-the-modern-gay-rights-movement-in-wwi-76691
25 ibid 24
26 Brief History of the Gay and Lesbian Rights Movement in the U.S. University of
Kentucky(http://www.uky.edu/~lbarr2/gws250spring11_files/Page1186.htm . The Stonewall riots (also known to as the Stonewall uprising involved a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the (LGBT) community against a police raids and brutality that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village in New York City. These are considered be the catalyst of the gay liberation movement as we know it today.
27 Chris Love ( 2012) https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2012/5/25/1094817/-Remembering-LGBT-History-How-World-War-II-Changed-Gay-and-Lesbian-Life-in-America accessed on 9th December 2017