A History of Homosexuality in Europe:
Berlin, London, Paris 1919-1939
"The homosexual identity, unlike the homosexual act, is a historical phenomenon. It is not universal, but temporal; it is not induced, but constructed. Therefore, it supposes the creation of a specific environment and an awareness that enabled homosexuals to define themselves as a group." (p. 207)
At what moment can one say that a person recognizes himself as a homosexual? (p. 207)
Is it simply that time when he accepts his sexual preferences, when he calls himself 'homosexual,' or is it only when he asserts his membership in a homosexual community, as a political statement?
The notion of 'homosexuality' still takes many forms cross-culturally and continues to be disputed: When President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Iran) spoke to students at Columbia University this year, he claimed: "In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country"
When does Tamagne date the emergence of 'homosexuality' in European countries?
The Medical Model: Discourse
(using Foucault's version of the term)
"The homosexual identity was built around different definitions of homosexuality, arising from the abundant turn-of-the-century medical literature...While it may have been studied first as a demonstration of hysteria, it soon spilled over into the realm of mental illness and came to form its own distinct category, with its own characteristics, internal classifications and symptoms." (p. 209, 210)
"Carl Westphal, a young Berlin neurologist and the first psychiatrist to study inversion on a scientific basis, asserted that homosexualtiy was a congenital disease and not a vice." (p. 211)
"Only Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, himself a homosexual and the inventor of the concept of uranism ("the heart of a woman in the body of a man"), stood out. He...asserted that homosexuality was not a disease but a simple sexual variation which was of no more consequence than the color of one's hair." (p. 211)
Homosexuality as a disease to be 'cured:'
"Steinach...deduced that it was possible to cure homosexuality by a surgical operation on the testicles." (p. 214)
Dr. Otto Emsmann thought "homosexuality could be cured either by implanting healthy sexual glands, by the transplantation of healthy testicles, or by hypnosis." (p. 214)
The 'third sex' theory: (those who felt feminine, "the heart of a woman in the body of a man") was a counterpoint to other existing discourses of the time.
Quoting Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson, "It is a curious thing to have a feminine soul captive in a man's body, but it seems that this is my case." (p. 215)
Another discourse: Psychoanalysis and Freud
"...the homosexual is neither a criminal nor a congenital mental patient, he is a neurotic: the predisposition to homosexuality arises in a man from the discovery that the woman does not have a penis. If he cannot give up the penis as the essential sexual object, he will inevitably be turned off by a woman. She may even represent a threat, if the absence of the penis is perceived as the result of mutilation (castration anxiety)." (p. 218)
"As regards female homosexuality, Freud paid it relatively little attention; later, he filled in with several psychoanalytical cases. The genesis of female homosexuality is symmetrical to the male; castration anxiety still plays an essential role, for, if the girl does not accept her lack of penis, she will struggle to assert her masculinity." (p. 219)
"Inverts go through an intense phase of fixation on their mothers during childhood, and then, identifying with her, they take themselves as sexual objects (in the narcissistic way of young boys, they seek someone similar to themselves whom they will love as their mother loved them)." (p. 219)
Freud insisted that "Psychoanalysis is not going to solve the problem of homosexuality. It must be satisfied to reveal the psychic mechanisms which lead to the decisions governing the choice of the object and to trace how these mechanisms relate to instinctual desires." (p. 219)
What did Freud contribute to the study of homosexuality?
André Gide on his own homosexuality: "No, I do not believe by any means that my particular tastes could have been transmitted by heredity: [these are] acquired characteristics, non-transmissible. I am this way because I was thwarted in my instincts by my education, and the circumstances...what I imagine, you see, is that I must have inherited an inordinately demanding sexuality, which was thwarted, repressed voluntarily by several generations of ascetics, and of which, to some extent, I am now subjected to built-up pressure." (p. 223)
Maurice Sachs speaks of his experience, "I passionately wished to be a girl, ans I was so unaware of how grand it was to be a man that I went so far as to piss sitting down. Even better! I refused to go to sleep before Suze [his nanny] had sworn to me that I would wake up to find my sex had been changed...As this occurred when I was about four years old, one would have to believe that since my earliest childhood I had inclinations which very especially predisposed me toward homosexuality." (p. 227)
Conflicting cultural discourses have made the lived experience of homosexuals often unreconcilable: Hans Henny Jahnn met Gottlieb Harms, his great love, at the age of fourteen in 1908...He fought his sexuality until 1913. After their 'wedding,' in July of that year, they still could not reconcile their physical desires with their spiritual aspirations: "We talked it over. He told me that having lain together with me made him insane...He perceived me, my man, as if I were a prostitute sick with desire. He felt disgust for my body and my soul...Now, I am dirty and sinful, and he is, too. And we cannot purify ourselves." (p. 228)
Quentin Crisp is the best representative of the flamboyant homosexual and his course throughout England in the 1920s and 2930s is rather unique. He recalls his youth in his autobiography, The Naked Civil Servant (1968), which is as impertent and funny as he was himself. He said, "I became not only a confirmed homosexual, but a blatant homosexual. That is, I submitted my case not only to the people who knew me but to those who were completely foreign, as well. It was not hard to do. I wore make-up at a time when, even on women, eye shadow was a sin." (p. 233)
The Naked Civil Servant was made into a film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7F03UUdslBY
An interview with Quentin Crisp: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpL_-r4y9EA&feature=related
(4 min in)
The official Quentin Crisp website: http://quentincrisp.com/bio/QCbyQC.html
The Birth of a Homosexual Community
Was there any homosexual community to speak of, in the 1920s?
"Between the wars, the foundation for a homosexual community was laid in the establishment of common references. Literature was one of the most fertile fields for developing the essence of the homosexual culture." (p. 265)
And a useful reference to our reading in Nightwood:
"Another emblematic figure of the time was Barbette, the transvestite trapeze artist who fascinated the crowd, and in particular Maurice Sachs, who was a spectator in 1926: 'I may never have seen anything more graceful than this girl dressed in feathers who sprang so boldly from the trapeze, did a somersault and caught herself in full flight by a foot, and then, taking a bow, pulled a big curly wig off her head and revealed that she was a young man! This little American appears at the Variety under the name of Barbette; I went to see him at the Daunou Hotel where he is staying [in Paris], and found him lying completely naked on his bed, his face covered with a thick layer of black pomade. Bisexual on the stage and bi-colored at home." (p. 273)