Gay History in Pacific Asia & Australia

Native peoples: ~ Many Polynesian tribes have institutionalised male homosexuality; in contrast with heterosexist modern Western cultures, it is an essential element of manhood and masculinity. Among the Malekula (Deacon, 1934) Marind, Sambia and Kiman (Herdt, 1984) it is believed that semen is the essential male substance that gives a man his strength and prowess as a hunter and warrior, and that it is not produced spontaneously by the body but has to be planted there, where it will grow. For this reason, pubescent males are ritually inseminated by an uncle or proscribed male who is not the father. In Marind society, heterosexuality is viewed as a ‘necessary evil’; the vagina being identified with excrement and women with castration.
~ IN AUSTRALIA: The aborigines revere semen for its association with creating life. In the bora ceremony of Kimberly District in Western Australia, young men drink semen. Elderly dying men do the same, for medicinal purposes. Social homosexuality was recorded by anthropologists in the Tiwi tribe (Pilling).

Anthropological studies:
~ 1870 ~ Borneo: The manang bali are the gay shamans of the Iban, and can become chiefs (Perelaer).
~ 1896 ~ Institutionalised homosexuality noted among the Kanaka Popinee of New Caledonia (Jacobus).
~ 1903 ~ Hawaii: gay shamans are refered to as healers (‘mahu’)(Malo).
~ 1911 ~ Institutionalised homosexuality noted among the Maoris of New Zealand and the Tonga and Pukapuka of Java (Kaarsch-Haak). ~
~ 1928 ~ Samoa: As in Hawaii, gay shamans are refered to as healers (‘mafu’)(Mead).
~ 1954 ~ Indonesia: The Ngadju have gay shamans.
~ 1971 ~ Easter Island: Lesbian relationships noted by anthropologist Alfred Metraux.


NEW ZEALAND: Tutanekai and Tiki were takataapui, “intimate companions of the same sex.”

BC 57 – AD 918 ~ KOREA: Hyekong the 36th king of the Shilla dynasty was described as ‘a man by appearance but a woman by nature’.

AD 8th century ~ KOREA: Myojung, a very young Buddhist monk was loved and sought after by several male aristocrats, and even by a Chinese Emperor from the Tang dynasty

1436 ~ KOREA: Choson dynasty: Sejong, the 4th Choson ruler, convened a meeting of his to discuss the rumors that his daughter-in-law had been sleeping with her maidservant.

17th century ~ KOREA: In folklore there are many stories about male homosexuals, including the hwarang (flower boy) of the Yi dynasty.

1973 ~ NEW ZEALAND: November Rotorua Gay Liberation Front formed.

1978 ~ AUSTRALIA: The Gay Solidarity Group was formed in Sydney by Ken Davis and Anne Talve. Their planned commemoration of the “Day of International Gay Solidarity” (the 9th anniversary of the Stonewall riots) on June 24 attracted somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 people. The festival, with dancing and music which Margaret McMann described as a “Mardi Gras”, is celebrated every February and is the world’s largest gay festival.

1991 ~ AUSTRALIA: Outrage, the national gay magazine, becomes the first gay product to be advertised on national television.

1993 ~ THAILAND: Lesbian group Anjaree (“women following different ways”) formed. Disliking the word lesbian because of associations with psychiatry, the use the term ‘ying-rak-ying’ (women loving women).

1995 ~ TAIWAN: 3rd Asian Lesbian Conference in Tapei.

1996 ~ PHILIPPINES: 500 lesbians and gay men marched through Manila for equality.

~ TAIWAN: Daily gay radio show begins in Tapei.

1997 ~ VIETNAM: A Vietnamese-Australian and his Vietnamese partner celebrated their ‘wedding’ with 100 guests in Ho Chi Minh city.

~ TASMANIA: The Legislative Council decriminalises gay male sex.

An in-breadth look at the presence of gay people around the world, throughout history.

The aim of this work is to show the prevalence and significance of gay people on our planet; in particular, to oppose the prevailing notion that homosexuality is a recent or regional phenomenon (a result of ‘foreign’ influences or a ‘modern permissive society’). As the evidence clearly indicates, homosexuality is – and always has been – an integral feature of human life and society.

In this work, I am concentrating on a broad represntation of as many countries, over as great a span of time as possible, so you won’t find any lengthy essays here. For some good, in-depth gay history sites, see the links page. Also, I have emphasised mostly the positive aspects of gay history and culture; those seeking details of the grimmer side of things are directed to other sources!

Where indigenous peoples are mentioned, it is in reference to cultures where homosexuality is an accepted part of that culture. Same-sex activity has been observed by many anthropologists in countless tribes around the world; this only reinforces the realisation that human sexuality is universally polymorphous. I have emphasised instances in which same-sex relationships or homosexual individuals occupy a clearly defined, equal (or superior) social niche. Of particular interest in this regard are the Native American gay shamans and the predominantly homosexual Polynesian cultures.

Many past and present cultures have socially instituted transvestism and transsexualism, but this is not always an indication of individual sexual orientation, so I have not included such references. Likewise with the many instances of ritualised pederasty; the majority of lesbian, gay and bisexual people (in the modern, ‘civilised’ world, at least) do not perceive this as being part of gay identity.

The omission of gay characters from world history is no more evident than in regard to lesbians. The notion that gay women are scarcer than gay men, or that their sexuality is somehow less ‘real’ than male sexuality, has much to do with the predominance of patriarchal societies, the status of women throughout history and modern homophobia. There is less information here regarding lesbians, although the references I have found will be a revelation to many; lesbianism is just as prevalent and widespread in world history as male homosexuality, if not always as prominent.

The word ‘gay’ is used throughout this site in reference to women and men who form erotic same-sex relationships.

I must apologise in advance for the blatant lumping together of many great nations in the same categories (and the total absence of others), but this reflects the amount of relevant information I have collected so far on each. As more information comes my way, no doubt some of these will warrant their own sections!

In regard to the development of gay culture, I have paid particular note to the foundation of national organisations, improvements in legislation, and cultural landmarks such as Pride marches and international ventures.

Every gay person on Earth, regardless of nationality, race or background, has a gay heritage not only in their own homeland but also as a member of this gay species and as a citizen of this gay planet.