LGBT themes in mythology

LGBT themes in mythology

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LGBT themes in mythology refers to mythologies
Mythologies is a book by Roland Barthes, published in 1957. It is a collection of essays taken from Les Lettres nouvelles, examining the tendency of contemporary social value systems to create modern myths...

 and religious narrative
A narrative is a constructive format that describes a sequence of non-fictional or fictional events. The word derives from the Latin verb narrare, "to recount", and is related to the adjective gnarus, "knowing" or "skilled"...

s that include stories of romantic affection or sex
In biology, sex is a process of combining and mixing genetic traits, often resulting in the specialization of organisms into a male or female variety . Sexual reproduction involves combining specialized cells to form offspring that inherit traits from both parents...

uality between figures of the same sex or feature divine actions that result in changes in gender
Gender is a range of characteristics used to distinguish between males and females, particularly in the cases of men and women and the masculine and feminine attributes assigned to them. Depending on the context, the discriminating characteristics vary from sex to social role to gender identity...

. These myths have been interpreted as forms of LGBT
LGBT is an initialism that collectively refers to "lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender" people. In use since the 1990s, the term "LGBT" is an adaptation of the initialism "LGB", which itself started replacing the phrase "gay community" beginning in the mid-to-late 1980s, which many within the...

Lesbian is a term most widely used in the English language to describe sexual and romantic desire between females. The word may be used as a noun, to refer to women who identify themselves or who are characterized by others as having the primary attribute of female homosexuality, or as an...

, gay
Gay is a word that refers to a homosexual person, especially a homosexual male. For homosexual women the specific term is "lesbian"....

, bisexual, transgender
Transgender is a general term applied to a variety of individuals, behaviors, and groups involving tendencies to vary from culturally conventional gender roles....

) expression, and modern conceptions of sexuality
Sexual orientation
Sexual orientation describes a pattern of emotional, romantic, or sexual attractions to the opposite sex, the same sex, both, or neither, and the genders that accompany them. By the convention of organized researchers, these attractions are subsumed under heterosexuality, homosexuality,...

 and gender have been applied to them. Many mythologies ascribe homosexuality and gender variance in humans to the action of gods or other supernatural interventions. This includes myths in which gods teach people about same-sex sexual practices, or stories that explain the cause for transgenderism or homosexuality.

The presence of LGBT themes in Western mythologies has long been recognised, and the subject of intense study. The application of gender studies
Gender studies
Gender studies is a field of interdisciplinary study which analyses race, ethnicity, sexuality and location.Gender study has many different forms. One view exposed by the philosopher Simone de Beauvoir said: "One is not born a woman, one becomes one"...

 and queer theory
Queer theory
Queer theory is a field of critical theory that emerged in the early 1990s out of the fields of LGBT studies and feminist studies. Queer theory includes both queer readings of texts and the theorisation of 'queerness' itself...

 to non-Western mythic tradition is less developed, but has been growing since the end of the twentieth century. Myths often include homosexuality, bisexuality or transgenderism
Transgenderism is a social movement seeking transgender rights and affirming transgender pride.-History:In her 1995 book Apartheid of Sex, biopolitical lawyer and writer Martine Rothblatt describes "transgenderism" as a grassroots social movement seeking transgender rights and affirming transgender...

 as a symbol for sacred or mythic experiences. Devdutt Pattanaik writes that myths "capture the collective unconsciousness of a people", and that this means they reflect deep-rooted beliefs about variant sexualities that may be at odds with repressive social mores
Mores, in sociology, are any given society's particular norms, virtues, or values. The word mores is a plurale tantum term borrowed from Latin, which has been used in the English language since the 1890s....


Critical perspective

The status of mythology varies by culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

. Myths are generally believed to be literally true within the society that created them and deemed erroneous or fictitious elsewhere. Cultures may regard myths as containing psychological or archetypal truths. Myths have been used to explain and validate the social institutions of a particular culture, as well as to educate the members of that culture. This societal role has been posited for stories that included same-sex love, which educate people as to the correct attitude to adopt toward same-sex sexual activity
Human sexual behavior
Human sexual activities or human sexual practices or human sexual behavior refers to the manner in which humans experience and express their sexuality. People engage in a variety of sexual acts from time to time, and for a wide variety of reasons...

 and gender constructions.

Since the beginning of recorded history
Recorded history
Recorded history is the period in history of the world after prehistory. It has been written down using language, or recorded using other means of communication. It starts around the 4th millennium BC, with the invention of writing.-Historical accounts:...

 and in a multitude of cultures, myths, folklore and sacred texts
Religious text
Religious texts, also known as scripture, scriptures, holy writ, or holy books, are the texts which various religious traditions consider to be sacred, or of central importance to their religious tradition...

 have incorporated themes of same-sex eroticism
Eroticism is generally understood to refer to a state of sexual arousal or anticipation of such – an insistent sexual impulse, desire, or pattern of thoughts, as well as a philosophical contemplation concerning the aesthetics of sexual desire, sensuality and romantic love...

 and gender identity
Gender identity
A gender identity is the way in which an individual self-identifies with a gender category, for example, as being either a man or a woman, or in some cases being neither, which can be distinct from biological sex. Basic gender identity is usually formed by age three and is extremely difficult to...

. Myths often include homosexuality, bisexuality or transgenderism as a symbol for sacred or mythic experiences. Heromoeroticism or gender variance in myths have been analysed according to modern conceptions of LGBT identities and behaviours, for example, deities that disguise themselves as, or adopt behaviors traditional to, the opposite gender for a given culture may be called transgender, and beings with no reproductive organs
Sex organ
A sex organ, or primary sexual characteristic, as narrowly defined, is any of the anatomical parts of the body which are involved in sexual reproduction and constitute the reproductive system in a complex organism; flowers are the reproductive organs of flowering plants, cones are the reproductive...

 or both male and female organs may be called androgynous or intersex
Intersex, in humans and other animals, is the presence of intermediate or atypical combinations of physical features that usually distinguish female from male...

. Individual myths have been denoted "queer" for rejecting an heteronormative and binary
Gender binary
The gender binary is the classification of sex and gender into two distinct and disconnected forms of masculine and feminine. It is one general type of a gender system. It can describe a social boundary that discourages people from crossing or mixing gender roles, or from creating other third ...

 view of gender. The queer interpretations may be based on only indirect evidence, such as an unusually close same-sex friendship or dedication to chastity. These have been criticised for ignoring cultural context or mis-applying modern or Western preconceptions, for example in assuming that celibacy means only avoiding penetration or reproductive sex (hence allowing homoerotic sex), while ignoring the widespread beliefs in the spiritual potency of semen that mandate an avoidance of all sex.

The presence of LGBT themes in Western mythologies has long been recognised, and the subject of intense study. The application of gender studies and queer theory to non-Western mythic tradition is less developed, but has been growing since the end of the twentieth century. Devdutt Pattanaik writes that myths "capture the collective unconsciousness of a people", and that this means they reflect deep-rooted beliefs about variant sexualities that may be at odds with repressive social mores.

Many mythologies ascribe homosexuality and gender variance in humans to the action of gods or other supernatural interventions. This include myths in which gods teach people about same-sex sexual practices by example, as in Aztec or Hawaiian mythology or myths that explain the cause for transgenderism or homosexuality, such as the story in which Prometheus accidentally creates some people with the wrong genitalia while drunk, or instances of reincarnation or possession by a spirit of the opposite gender in Voodoo.

It is common in polytheistic mythologies to find characters that can change gender, or have aspects of both male and female genders at the same time. Sexual activity with both genders is also common within such pantheons, and is compared to modern bisexuality or pansexuality. The creation myths of many traditions involve sexual, bisexual or androgynous motifs, with the world being created by genderless or hermaphrodite beings or through sexual congress
Sexual intercourse
Sexual intercourse, also known as copulation or coitus, commonly refers to the act in which a male's penis enters a female's vagina for the purposes of sexual pleasure or reproduction. The entities may be of opposite sexes, or they may be hermaphroditic, as is the case with snails...

 between beings of the opposite or same apparent gender.


Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

 features male same-sex love in many of the constituent myths. These myths have been described as being crucially influential on Western LGBT literature, with the original myths being constantly re-published and re-written, and the relationships and characters serving as icons. In comparison, lesbianism is rarely found in classical myths.

  • Achilles and Patroclus
    Achilles and Patroclus
    The relationship between Achilles and Patroclus is a key element of the myths associated with the Trojan War. Its exact nature has been a subject of dispute in both the classical period and modern times....

  • Achilles and Troilus
  • Agamemnon
    In Greek mythology, Agamemnon was the son of King Atreus and Queen Aerope of Mycenae, the brother of Menelaus, the husband of Clytemnestra, and the father of Electra and Orestes. Mythical legends make him the king of Mycenae or Argos, thought to be different names for the same area...

     and Argynnus
  • Agathaidas and Phalanthus
  • Ameinias and Narcissus
  • Apollo and Hyacinth
    Hyacinth (mythology)
    Hyacinth or Hyacinthus is a divine hero from Greek mythology. His cult at Amyclae, southwest of Sparta, where his tumulus was located— in classical times at the feet of Apollo's statue in the sanctuary that had been built round the burial mound— dates from the Mycenaean era...

  • Apollo and Hymenaios
    In Greek mythology, Hymen was a god of marriage ceremonies, inspiring feasts and song. Related to the god's name, a hymenaios is a genre of Greek lyric poetry sung during the procession of the bride to the groom's house in which the god is addressed, in contrast to the Epithalamium, which was sung...

  • Chrysippus and Laius
    Chrysippus (mythology)
    In Greek mythology, Chrysippus was a divine hero of Elis in the Peloponnesus, the bastard son of Pelops king of Pisa in the Peloponnesus and the nymph Axioche. He was kidnapped by the Theban Laius, his tutor, who was escorting him to the Nemean Games, where the boy planned to compete...

  • Daphnis and Pan
    In Greek mythology, Daphnis was a son of Hermes and a Sicilian nymph. A shepherd and flautist, he was the inventor of pastoral poetry. A naiad fell in love with him, but he was not faithful to her. In revenge, she either blinded him or turned him to stone...

  • Dionysus
    Dionysus was the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy in Greek mythology. His name in Linear B tablets shows he was worshipped from c. 1500—1100 BC by Mycenean Greeks: other traces of Dionysian-type cult have been found in ancient Minoan Crete...

     and Ampelus
    Ampelos is the Ancient Greek for "vine".In an etiology told by Nonnus, the vine is personified as a beautiful satyr youth, who was close to Dionysus. As foreseen by Dionysus, the youth was killed in an accident with a bull...

  • Dionysus and Prosymnus
    Prosymnus or Polymnus , in Greek mythology, was a shepherd living near the reputedly bottomless Alcyonian Lake, hazardous to swimmers, which lay in the Argolid, on the coast of the Gulf of Argos, near the prehistoric site of Lerna....

  • Euryalus and Nisus
    Nisus and Euryalus
    Nisus and Euryalus are a pair of friends serving under Aeneas in the Aeneid, the Augustan epic by Vergil. Their foray among the enemy, narrated in Book 9, demonstrates their stealth and prowess as warriors, but ends as a tragedy: the loot Euryalus acquires attracts attention, and the two die...

  • Heracles and Abderus
    In Greek mythology Abderus or Abderos was a divine hero, reputed a son of Hermes by some accounts, and eponym of Abdera, Thrace....

  • Heracles and Hylas
    In Greek mythology, Hylas was the son of King Theiodamas of the Dryopians. Roman sources such as Ovid state that Hylas' father was Hercules and his mother was the nymph Melite, or that his mother was the wife of Theiodamas, whose adulterous affair with Heracles caused the war between him and her...

  • Heracles and Iolaus
    In Greek mythology, Iolaus was a Theban divine hero, son of Iphicles, Heracles's brother, and Automedusa.He was famed for being Heracles's nephew and for helping with some of his Labors, and also for being one of the Argonauts...

  • Hermes
    Hermes is the great messenger of the gods in Greek mythology and a guide to the Underworld. Hermes was born on Mount Kyllini in Arcadia. An Olympian god, he is also the patron of boundaries and of the travelers who cross them, of shepherds and cowherds, of the cunning of thieves, of orators and...

     and Krokus
  • Ianthe and Iphis
    Iphis was a name attributed to three individuals:-Daughter of Ligdus :According to Greek mythology and the Roman poet Ovid, who wrote about transformations in his Metamorphoses, Iphis was the daughter of Telethusa and Ligdus in Crete. Ligdus had already threatened to kill his pregnant wife's...

  • Poseidon and Pelops
  • Polyeidos
    In Greek mythology, Polyeidos or Polyidus , son of Coeranus, was a famous seer from Corinth.-Genealogy:Polyeidos was a descendant of another renowned seer, Melampus. Given that Melampus had two sons, Abas and Mantius, different sources made Coeranus, father of Polyeidos, son or grandson of either...

     and Glaucus
    Glaucus is a Greek name. In modern Greek usage, the name is usually transliterated Glafkos. It may refer to:*Glaucus, a sea-god in Greek mythology*Glaucus , a mythical Lycian captain in the Trojan War...

  • Orpheus and the Thracians
  • Orpheus
    Orpheus was a legendary musician, poet, and prophet in ancient Greek religion and myth. The major stories about him are centered on his ability to charm all living things and even stones with his music; his attempt to retrieve his wife from the underworld; and his death at the hands of those who...

     and Kalais
  • Apollo
    Apollo is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in Greek and Roman mythology...

    - People :*Marcus Plautius Silvanus , Roman consul in 2 BC*Tiberius Plautius Silvanus Aelianus, a Roman patrician serving twice as consul *Marcus Caeionius Silvanus - People :*Marcus Plautius Silvanus (1st-century BC–1st-century AD), Roman consul in 2 BC*Tiberius Plautius Silvanus Aelianus, a Roman...

     and Cyparissus
    In Greek mythology, Cyparissus or Kyparissos was a boy beloved by Apollo, or in some versions by other deities. In the best-known version of the story, the favorite companion of Cyparissus was a tamed stag, which he accidentally killed with his hunting javelin as it lay sleeping in the woods...

  • Zeus (Artemis) and Callisto
  • Zeus and Ganymede
    Ganymede (mythology)
    In Greek mythology, Ganymede is a divine hero whose homeland was Troy. Homer describes Ganymede as the most beautiful of mortals. In the best-known myth, he is abducted by Zeus, in the form of an eagle, to serve as cup-bearer in Olympus. Some interpretations of the myth treat it as an allegory of...

The patron god of hermaphrodites and transvestites is Dionysus, a god gestated in the thigh of his father Zeus, after his mother died from being overwhelmed by Zeus's true form. Other gods are sometimes considered patrons of homosexual love between males, such as the love goddess Aphrodite
Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation.Her Roman equivalent is the goddess .Historically, her cult in Greece was imported from, or influenced by, the cult of Astarte in Phoenicia....

 and gods in her retinue, such as the Erotes
Erotes (mythology)
The erotes are a group of winged gods and demi-gods from Classical mythology, associated with love and sex, and part of Aphrodite's retinue. The collective term ἔρωτες - erotes is simply the plural of ἔρως - eros, or "desire"....

: Eros
Eros , in Greek mythology, was the Greek god of love. His Roman counterpart was Cupid . Some myths make him a primordial god, while in other myths, he is the son of Aphrodite....

, Himeros and Pothos. Eros is also part of a trinity of gods that played roles in homoerotic relationships, along with Heracles and Hermes, who bestowed qualities of Beauty (and Loyalty), strength, and eloquence, respectively, onto male lovers. In the poetry of Sappho
Sappho was an Ancient Greek poet, born on the island of Lesbos. Later Greeks included her in the list of nine lyric poets. Her birth was sometime between 630 and 612 BC, and it is said that she died around 570 BC, but little is known for certain about her life...

, Aphrodite is identified as the patron of lesbians. Aphroditus
Aphroditus or Aphroditos was a male Aphrodite originating from Amathus on the island of Cyprus and celebrated in Athens in a transvestite rite....

 was an androgynous Aphrodite from Cyprus, in later mythology became known as Hermaphroditus
In Greek mythology, Hermaphroditus or Hermaphroditos was the child of Aphrodite and Hermes. He was a minor deity of bisexuality and effeminacy. According to Ovid, born a remarkably handsome boy, he was transformed into an androgynous being by union with the water nymph Salmacis...

 the son of Hermes and Aphrodite.


The sagas in the Old Norse language include no stories of gay or lesbian relationships, nor direct reference to LGBT characters, but they do contain several instances of revenge enacted by men accused of being a passive partner in intercourse, which was considered "unmanly" behavior and thus a threat to a man's reputation as a leader or warrior.

In spite of this, it has been suggested that Freyr
Freyr is one of the most important gods of Norse paganism. Freyr was highly associated with farming, weather and, as a phallic fertility god, Freyr "bestows peace and pleasure on mortals"...

, a Norse god of fertility, may have been worshiped by a group of homosexual or effeminate priests, as suggested by Saxo Grammaticus
Saxo Grammaticus
Saxo Grammaticus also known as Saxo cognomine Longus was a Danish historian, thought to have been a secular clerk or secretary to Absalon, Archbishop of Lund, foremost advisor to Valdemar I of Denmark. He is the author of the first full history of Denmark.- Life :The Jutland Chronicle gives...

 in his Gesta Danorum
Gesta Danorum
Gesta Danorum is a patriotic work of Danish history, by the 12th century author Saxo Grammaticus . It is the most ambitious literary undertaking of medieval Denmark and is an essential source for the nation's early history...

. Odin
Odin is a major god in Norse mythology and the ruler of Asgard. Homologous with the Anglo-Saxon "Wōden" and the Old High German "Wotan", the name is descended from Proto-Germanic "*Wodanaz" or "*Wōđanaz"....

 is mentioned as a practitioner of seiðr
Seid or seiðr is an Old Norse term for a type of sorcery or witchcraft which was practiced by the pre-Christian Norse. Sometimes anglicized as "seidhr," "seidh," "seidr," "seithr," or "seith," the term is also used to refer to modern Neopagan reconstructions or emulations of the...

, a form of magic considered shameful for men to perform, so was reserved for women.
It is possible that the practice of seiðr involved passive sexual rites, and Odin was taunted with this fact.

In addition, some of the Norse gods were capable of changing gender at will, for example Loki
In Norse mythology, Loki or Loke is a god or jötunn . Loki is the son of Fárbauti and Laufey, and the brother of Helblindi and Býleistr. By the jötunn Angrboða, Loki is the father of Hel, the wolf Fenrir, and the world serpent Jörmungandr. By his wife Sigyn, Loki is the father of Nari or Narfi...

, the trickster god
In mythology, and in the study of folklore and religion, a trickster is a god, goddess, spirit, man, woman, or anthropomorphic animal who plays tricks or otherwise disobeys normal rules and conventional behavior. It is suggested by Hansen that the term "Trickster" was probably first used in this...

, frequently disguised himself as a woman and gave birth to a foal while in the form of a white mare, after a sexual encounter with the stallion Svaðilfari. Comparison of a man to a child-bearing woman was a common insult in Scandinavia, and the implication that Loki may be bisexual could have been considered an insult.

Celtic and Welsh

In Celtic mythology
Celtic mythology
Celtic mythology is the mythology of Celtic polytheism, apparently the religion of the Iron Age Celts. Like other Iron Age Europeans, the early Celts maintained a polytheistic mythology and religious structure...

, no direct representation of gay or lesbian relationships exist. Ancient Greek and Roman commentators attribute sexual activity between males, including pederasty
Pederasty or paederasty is an intimate relationship between an adult and an adolescent boy outside his immediate family. The word pederasty derives from Greek "love of boys", a compound derived from "child, boy" and "lover".Historically, pederasty has existed as a variety of customs and...

, to pre-Christian Celtic tribes. However, Peter Chicheri writes in Celtic sexuality: power, paradigms, and passion that homosexual affection was severely punished in Celtic culture due to influence from Christianity, and suggests that any non-procreative sexual experience was subsequently expunged from mythic tales.

Some modern readings of texts have inferred LGBT themes, for example, the heroes and foster-brothers Cúchulainn
Cú Chulainn or Cúchulainn , and sometimes known in English as Cuhullin , is an Irish mythological hero who appears in the stories of the Ulster Cycle, as well as in Scottish and Manx folklore...

 and Ferdiadh have been interpreted as having a (bi)sexual relationship. When forced to fight each other, Ferdiadh mentions their sharing beds, and they are said to have found each other after the first day of conflict and kissed. After three days, Cúchulainn defeats Ferdiadh by piercing his anus with his "mysterious weapon" Gáe Bulg
Gáe Bulg
The Gáe Bulg , meaning "spear of mortal pain/death spear", "gapped/notched spear", or "belly spear", was the name of the spear of Cúchulainn in the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology...

. The tale has led to comparisons to Greek "warrior-lovers", and Cúchulainn's reaction to the death of Ferdiadh in particular compared to Achilles' lament for Patrocles.

In the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogion
The Mabinogion is the title given to a collection of eleven prose stories collated from medieval Welsh manuscripts. The tales draw on pre-Christian Celtic mythology, international folktale motifs, and early medieval historical traditions...

of Welsh mythology
Welsh mythology
Welsh mythology, the remnants of the mythology of the pre-Christian Britons, has come down to us in much altered form in medieval Welsh manuscripts such as the Red Book of Hergest, the White Book of Rhydderch, the Book of Aneirin and the Book of Taliesin....

, Gwydion
Gwydion fab Dôn is a magician, hero and trickster of Welsh mythology, appearing most prominently in the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi, which focuses largely on his relationship with his young nephew, Lleu Llaw Gyffes...

 helps his brother Gilfaethwy
In Welsh mythology, Gilfaethwy was a son of the goddess Dôn and brother of Gwydion and Arianrhod in the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi.His uncle Math ap Mathonwy, king of Gwynedd, must keep his feet in the lap of a young virgin at all times unless he is going to war...

 rape Goewin
Goewin is a figure in Welsh mythology, where she has a small but crucial role in the fourth branch of the Mabinogi, named after Math fab Mathonwy...

, Math
Math ap Mathonwy
In Welsh mythology, Math fab Mathonwy, also called Math ap Mathonwy was a king of Gwynedd who needed to rest his feet in the lap of a virgin unless he was at war, or he would die...

's foot-holder. Gwydion and Gilfaethwy sneak back to Math's court where Gilfaethwy rapes Goewin. When Math hears of this, he turns
Shapeshifting is a common theme in mythology, folklore, and fairy tales. It is also found in epic poems, science fiction literature, fantasy literature, children's literature, Shakespearean comedy, ballet, film, television, comics, and video games...

 his nephews into a series of mated pairs of animals; Gwydion becomes a stag
STAG: A Test of Love is a reality TV show hosted by Tommy Habeeb. Each episode profiles an engaged couple a week or two before their wedding. The cameras then follow the groom on his bachelor party...

 for a year, then a sow
A pig is any of the animals in the genus Sus, within the Suidae family of even-toed ungulates. Pigs include the domestic pig, its ancestor the wild boar, and several other wild relatives...

 and finally a wolf. Gilfaethwy becomes a hind
Deer are the ruminant mammals forming the family Cervidae. Species in the Cervidae family include white-tailed deer, elk, moose, red deer, reindeer, fallow deer, roe deer and chital. Male deer of all species and female reindeer grow and shed new antlers each year...

 deer, a boar
Wild boar, also wild pig, is a species of the pig genus Sus, part of the biological family Suidae. The species includes many subspecies. It is the wild ancestor of the domestic pig, an animal with which it freely hybridises...

 and a she-wolf. Each year they must mate and produce an offspring which is sent to Math: Hyddwn
Hyddwn appears in the fourth of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi and is one of the three sons of Gwydion and Gilfaethwy. As punishment for the rape of Goewin, Math banished his nephews, turning them into a breeding pair of deer for a year, then wolves, and finally pigs. They had three children...

, Hychddwn
Hychddwn Hir appears in the fourth of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi and is one of the three sons of Gwydion and Gilfaethwy. As punishment for the rape of Goewin, Math banished his nephews, turning them into a breeding pair of deer for a year, then wolves, and finally pigs...

 and Bleiddwn
Bleiddwn appears in the fourth of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi and is one of the three sons of Gwydion and Gilfaethwy. As punishment for the rape of Goewin, Math banished his nephews, turning them into a breeding pair of deer for a year, then wolves, and finally pigs. They had three children...

; after three years Math releases his nephews from their punishment.


Although coming from a very homophobic environment, Arthurian legend did include one character, Galehaut
Galehaut , Sire des Lointaines Isles appears for the first time in Arthurian literature in the early-thirteenth-century prose Lancelot, the central work in the series of anonymous French prose romances collectively called the Lancelot-Grail or Arthurian Vulgate Cycle...

, who appeared to display strong homoerotic adoration of Lancelot
Sir Lancelot du Lac is one of the Knights of the Round Table in the Arthurian legend. He is the most trusted of King Arthur's knights and plays a part in many of Arthur's victories...


The Lais of Marie de France also include an episode with the knight Lanval
"Lanval" is one of the Lais of Marie de France. Written in Anglo-Norman, it tells the story of a knight at King Arthur's court who is overlooked by the king, wooed by a fairy lady, given all manner of gifts by her, and subsequently refuses the advances of Queen Guinevere...

 who is accused by Guinevere of spending too much time with his male pages, and implying a sexual relationship with them. Unaware that in fact he does have a supernatural wife.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a late 14th-century Middle English alliterative romance outlining an adventure of Sir Gawain, a knight of King Arthur's Round Table. In the poem, Sir Gawain accepts a challenge from a mysterious warrior who is completely green, from his clothes and hair to his...

 has also been interpreted by some scholars as having homosexual themes


Chinese mythology
Chinese mythology
Chinese mythology is a collection of cultural history, folktales, and religions that have been passed down in oral or written tradition. These include creation myths and legends and myths concerning the founding of Chinese culture and the Chinese state...

 has been described as "rich in stories about homosexuality". The mythological stories and folklore of China reflect ancient Chinese perspectives toward homosexuality, rather than modern views. These myths are greatly influenced by religious beliefs
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

, particularly Taoist and Confucian, and later incorporated Buddhist teachings.

The pre-taoist, pre-Confucian tradition of China was predominately shamanistic, with the majority of shamans being female. Male same-sex love was believed to have originated in the mythical south, thus homosexuality is sometimes still called "Southern wind". From this period, numerous spirits or deities were associated with homosexuality, bisexuality and transgenderism. These include Chou Wang, Lan Caihe
Lan Caihe
Lan Caihe is the least defined of the Eight Immortals. Lan Caihe's age and sex are unknown. Lan is usually depicted in sexually ambiguous clothing, but is often shown as a young boy or girl carrying a bamboo flower basket.Stories of Lan's behaviour are often bizarrely eccentric...

, Shan Gu, and Yu the Great
Yu the Great
Yu the Great , was a legendary ruler of Ancient China famed for his introduction of flood control, inaugurating dynastic rule in China by founding the Xia Dynasty, and for his upright moral character....

, and Gun
Gun (Chinese)
Gun was the father of Yu the Great, the founder of the Xia Dynasty. He was appointed by Yao to control the flooding rivers. He used dikes to stop the rivers from flooding, but they eventually collapsed after nine years and killed many people.- In mythology :...


Homosexual encounters are common in Chinese folk stories. The animal spirits or fairies often choose same-sex partners, usually young men or boys. According to Xiaomingxiong
, also known as Samshasha , is a veteran Hong Kong gay right activist and one of the first authors to study the history of homosexuality in China.-Biography:...

, one exception to this age preference is the dragon
A dragon is a legendary creature, typically with serpentine or reptilian traits, that feature in the myths of many cultures. There are two distinct cultural traditions of dragons: the European dragon, derived from European folk traditions and ultimately related to Greek and Middle Eastern...

, a powerful mythological beast. Chinese dragons "consistently enjoy[s] sexual relationships with older men", one example being in the tale of "Old Farmer and a Dragon", in which a sixty-year old farmer is forcibly sodomised by a passing dragon, resulting in wounds from penetration and bites that require medical attention.

Tu Er Shen
Tu Er Shen
Tu Er Shen is a Chinese deity who manages the love and sex between homosexual men. His name literally means "rabbit deity".According to Zi Bu Yu , a book written by Yuan Mei , Tu Er Shen was a man called Hu Tianbao . Hu Tianbao was originally a man who fell in love with a very handsome imperial...

 is a deity in chinese folklore
Chinese folklore
Chinese folklore includes songs, dances, puppetry, and tales. It often tells stories of human nature, historical or legendary events, love, and the supernatural, or stories explaining natural phenomena and distinctive landmarks.-Folktales:...

 who manages the love and sex between homosexual men. His name literally means "rabbit
Rabbits are small mammals in the family Leporidae of the order Lagomorpha, found in several parts of the world...

 deity". According to "The Tale of the Rabbit God" in the Zi Bu Yu
Zi Bu Yu
Zi Bu Yu is a collection of allegedly true supernatural stories compiled by Qing Dynasty scholar and writer Yuan Mei . Literally Zi Bu Yu means "what Confucius did not speak of" which refers to the saying "Confucius did not speak of strange events, violence, riots and supernatural things" from...

, Tu Er Shen was originally a man called Hu Tianbao, who fell in love with a handsome young imperial inspector of the Fujian Province
' , formerly romanised as Fukien or Huguing or Foukien, is a province on the southeast coast of mainland China. Fujian is bordered by Zhejiang to the north, Jiangxi to the west, and Guangdong to the south. Taiwan lies to the east, across the Taiwan Strait...

. One day Hu Tianbao was caught peeping on the inspector, at which point he confessed his reluctant affections for the other man. The imperial inspector had Hu Tianbao sentenced to death
Capital punishment
Capital punishment, the death penalty, or execution is the sentence of death upon a person by the state as a punishment for an offence. Crimes that can result in a death penalty are known as capital crimes or capital offences. The term capital originates from the Latin capitalis, literally...

 by beating. Since his crime was one of love, underworld officials decided to right the injustice by delegating Hu Tianbao as the god and safeguarder of homosexual affections. In order to cater to the needs of modern homosexuals, worship of the Rabbit God has been resuscitated in Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

: A temple was founded in Yonghe City
Yonghe City
Yonghe District is a district in the southern part of New Taipei in northern Taiwan. The Xindian River forms a natural boundary between Yonghe and Taipei City to the north and east, although three bridges connect the two areas. To the south and west lies Zhonghe District, which shares some...

 by a gay, Taoist priest.

For thousands of years, male homosexuality was referred to in literature by alluding to two semi-legendary figures from the early Zhou Dynasty
Zhou Dynasty
The Zhou Dynasty was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang Dynasty and preceded the Qin Dynasty. Although the Zhou Dynasty lasted longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history, the actual political and military control of China by the Ji family lasted only until 771 BC, a period known as...

. The first was Mizi Xia
Mizi Xia
Mizi Xia is a semi-legendary figure from the Zhou Dynasty Period of China. He was first recorded in the work Han Fei Zi, by Legalist philosopher Han Fei, as the companion of the historical figure Duke Ling of Wei. While Mizi Xia may have actually existed, nothing is known about him beyond this...

 and the half-eaten peach which he shared with his lover, the actual historical figure, Duke Ling of Wei
Duke Ling of Wei
Duke Ling of Wei was a ruler of the ancient Chinese state of Wei. He was the subject of Chapter 15 of the Analects of Confucius. Duke Ling was also one of the most famous representatives of the homosexual tradition in China, as portrayed in the philosophic work Han Fei Zi by Han Fei...

. The second was Lord Long Yang, who convinced an unnamed King of Wei
Wei (Spring and Autumn Period)
This article is about the State of Wei founded during the Spring and Autumn Period. For the Warring States Period state whose name is pronounced identically, see Wei ....

 to remain faithful to him by comparing himself to a small fish which the King might throw back if a larger fish came along. While both Mizi Xia and Lord Long Yang may have actually existed, nothing is known about them beyond their defining stories, and their presence in Chinese literature was very much that of legendary characters who served as archetypes of homosexual love.


According to Japanese folklore
Japanese folklore
The folklore of Japan is heavily influenced by both Shinto and Buddhism, the two primary religions in the country. It often involves humorous or bizarre characters and situations and also includes an assortment of supernatural beings, such as bodhisattva, kami , yōkai , yūrei ,...

 and mythology
Japanese mythology
Japanese mythology is a system of beliefs that embraces Shinto and Buddhist traditions as well as agriculturally based folk religion. The Shinto pantheon comprises innumerable kami...

, homosexuality was introduced into the world by Shinu No Hafuri and his lover Ama No Hafuri. These were servants of a primordial goddess, possibly the sun goddess
Solar deity
A solar deity is a sky deity who represents the Sun, or an aspect of it, usually by its perceived power and strength. Solar deities and sun worship can be found throughout most of recorded history in various forms...

, or is apart of the Japanese myth cycle and also a major deity of the Shinto religion. She is the goddess of the sun, but also of the universe. the name Amaterasu derived from Amateru meaning "shining in heaven." The meaning of her whole name, Amaterasu-ōmikami, is "the great August kami who...

. Upon the death of Shinu, Ama committed suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

 from grief, and the couple were buried together in the same grave. In some tellings of the story, the sun did not shine on the burial place until the lovers were disinterred and buried separately, although whether the offense to the sun was due to the homosexual relationship is not stated.

In another tale, Amaterasu retreats from conflict with her brother Susa No O into a cave, depriving the Earth of sunlight and life. In order to coax Amaterasu from the cave, the deity of humour and dance, Ame No Uzume, performs a bawdy sexual dance that involved exposing her breast and vagina, and inviting Amaterasu to admire them. On Amaterasu's stepping out of the cave, the transgendered kami Ishi Kore held up a magical mirror, and the combination of the dance and her reflection fascinate Amaterasu so much that she does not notice other spirits closing the cave entrance behind her.

or Shintoism, also kami-no-michi, is the indigenous spirituality of Japan and the Japanese people. It is a set of practices, to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection between present day Japan and its ancient past. Shinto practices were first recorded and codified in the written...

 gods are involved in all aspects of life, including the practice of shudo (traditional pederasty
Pederasty or paederasty is an intimate relationship between an adult and an adolescent boy outside his immediate family. The word pederasty derives from Greek "love of boys", a compound derived from "child, boy" and "lover".Historically, pederasty has existed as a variety of customs and...

). An over-arching patron deity of male-male love and sex, "Shudō Daimyōjin", exists in some folk Shinto sects, but is not a part of the standard Shinto pantheon.

Other kami associated with same-sex love or gender variance include: Shirabyōshi
were female dancers, prominent in the Japanese Imperial Court, who performed traditional Japanese dances dressed as men. The profession of shirabyōshi developed in the 12th century...

, female or transgendered kami, represented as half-human, half-snake. They are linked to Shinto priests of the same name, who are usually female (or occasionally transgender) and perform ritual dances
Ceremonial dance
Ceremonial dance is a major category or classification of dance forms or dance styles, where the purpose is ceremonial or ritualistic.This compares to other major dance categories based on purpose:* Celebration dance** Festival dance...

 in traditional men's clothing; Oyamakui, a transgendered mountain spirit that protects industry and childbearing; and Inari
Inari (mythology)
is the Japanese kami of fertility, rice, agriculture, foxes, industry and worldly success and one of the principal kami of Shinto. Represented as male, female, or androgynous, Inari is sometimes seen as a collective of three or five individual kami...

, the kami of agriculture and rice, who is depicted as various genders, the most common representations being a young female food goddess, an old man carrying rice, and an androgynous bodhisattva
In Buddhism, a bodhisattva is either an enlightened existence or an enlightenment-being or, given the variant Sanskrit spelling satva rather than sattva, "heroic-minded one for enlightenment ." The Pali term has sometimes been translated as "wisdom-being," although in modern publications, and...

. Inari is further associated with foxes and Kitsune
is the Japanese word for fox. Foxes are a common subject of Japanese folklore; in English, kitsune refers to them in this context. Stories depict them as intelligent beings and as possessing magical abilities that increase with their age and wisdom. Foremost among these is the ability to assume...

, shapeshifting fox trickster spirits. Kitsune sometimes disguise themselves as women, independent of their true gender, in order to trick human men into sexual relations with them. Common belief in medieval Japan was that any woman encountered alone, especially at dusk or night, could be a fox.


Hindu mythology
Hindu mythology
Hindu religious literature is the large body of traditional narratives related to Hinduism, notably as contained in Sanskrit literature, such as the Sanskrit epics and the Puranas. As such, it is a subset of Nepali and Indian culture...

 has many examples of deities changing gender, manifesting as different genders at different times, or combining to form androgynous or hermaphroditic beings. Gods change sex or manifest as an Avatar
In Hinduism, an avatar is a deliberate descent of a deity to earth, or a descent of the Supreme Being and is mostly translated into English as "incarnation," but more accurately as "appearance" or "manifestation"....

 of the opposite sex in order to facilitate sexual congress. Non-divine beings also undergo sex-changes through the actions of the gods, as the result of curses or blessings, or as the natural outcome of reincarnation
Reincarnation best describes the concept where the soul or spirit, after the death of the body, is believed to return to live in a new human body, or, in some traditions, either as a human being, animal or plant...


Hindu mythology contains numerous incidents where sexual interactions serve a non-sexual, sacred purpose; in some cases, these are same-sex interactions. Sometimes the gods condemn these interactions but at other times they occur with their blessing.

In addition to stories of gender and sexual variance that are generally accepted by mainstream Hinduism, modern scholars and queer
Queer is an umbrella term for sexual minorities that are not heterosexual, heteronormative, or gender-binary. In the context of Western identity politics the term also acts as a label setting queer-identifying people apart from discourse, ideologies, and lifestyles that typify mainstream LGBT ...

 activists have highlighted LGBT themes in lesser known texts, or inferred them from stories that traditionally are considered to have no homoerotic subtext. Such analyses have caused disagreements about the true meaning of the ancient stories.


In general, Buddhist scripture
Buddhist texts
Buddhist texts can be categorized in a number of ways. The Western terms "scripture" and "canonical" are applied to Buddhism in inconsistent ways by Western scholars: for example, one authority refers to "scriptures and other canonical texts", while another says that scriptures can be categorized...

 does not distinguish same-sex sexual activity from heterosexual activity, both being seen as non-conducive to spiritual growth. Many Buddhist moral laws arise from traditional tales and legends, and this is also the case with the Buddhist view of LGBT people. For example, the monastic rules that prohibit LGBT clergy in some sects come from interpretation of the epic Mahavagga. In the Pandakavathu section of this work, tales about "pandaka" (sexually or gender variant people) are related. In one such story, a Pandaka first approaches a group of monks, then a group of novices, and finally elephant keepers and requests them to "defile" him/her. Although rejected each time and driven away, the encounters create an ethos of innuendo
An innuendo is a baseless invention of thoughts or ideas. It can also be a remark or question, typically disparaging , that works obliquely by allusion...

 about the monks, leading the Buddha
In Buddhism, buddhahood is the state of perfect enlightenment attained by a buddha .In Buddhism, the term buddha usually refers to one who has become enlightened...

 to bar gay people from the clergy.

This stricture is not applied to lay people, and many Buddhist stories include positive portrayals of same-sex relationships
Homosexuality is romantic or sexual attraction or behavior between members of the same sex or gender. As a sexual orientation, homosexuality refers to "an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, or romantic attractions" primarily or exclusively to people of the same...

. These are particularly common in the "Jātaka
The Jātakas refer to a voluminous body of literature native to India concerning the previous births of the Buddha....

" stories (Indian folklore
Folklore of India
The folklore of India compasses the folklore of the nation of India and the Indian subcontinent.The subcontinent of India contains a wide diversity of ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups...

 tales of Buddha's previous lives), in which the Buddha almost always has a devoted male companion. In some tales they would even be reincarnated together as animal pairs "ruminating and cuddling together, very happy, head to head, muzzle to muzzle, horn to horn". Although not shown as sexual, these relationships between men are loving, and contrast with the difficult marriages to shrewish wives in many stories.

In traditional Thai
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

 Theravada Buddhism, accounts propose that "homosexuality arises as a karmic
Karma in Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh philosophies....

 consequence of violating Buddhist proscriptions against heterosexual misconduct" in a previous incarnation Thai Buddhist's also believe the disciple Ānanda
Ānanda was one of the principal disciples and a devout attendant of the Buddha. Amongst the Buddha's many disciples, Ānanda had the most retentive memory and most of the suttas in the Sutta Pitaka are attributed to his recollection of the Buddha's teachings during the First Buddhist Council...

 to have been reincarnated a number of times as a female, and in one previous life to have been transgender. Ānanda is popular and charismatic, and known for his emotionality. In one story of one of his previous lives, Ānanda was a solitory yogi
A Yogi is a practitioner of Yoga. The word is also used to refer to ascetic practitioners of meditation in a number of South Asian Religions including Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism.-Etymology:...

 that fell in love with a Nāga, a serpent king of Indian folklore, who took the form of a handsome youth. The relationship became sexual, causing Ānanda to regrettfully break off contact, to avoid distraction from spiritual matters.

According to one legend, male same-sex love was introduced into Japan by the founder of the True Word (Shingon) sect of Japanese esoteric Buddhism, Kūkai
Kūkai , also known posthumously as , 774–835, was a Japanese monk, civil servant, scholar, poet, and artist, founder of the Shingon or "True Word" school of Buddhism. Shingon followers usually refer to him by the honorific titles of and ....

. Bodhisattvas with associations to homosexuality and transgenderism are Kuan Yin
Kuan Yin
Guanyin is the bodhisattva associated with compassion as venerated by East Asian Buddhists, usually as a female. The name Guanyin is short for Guanshiyin which means "Observing the Sounds of the World". She is also sometimes referred to as Guanyin Pusa...

 (Kannon), Avalokiteśvara
Avalokiteśvara is a bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. He is one of the more widely revered bodhisattvas in mainstream Mahayana Buddhism....

, and Tara
Tara (Buddhism)
Tara or Ārya Tārā, also known as Jetsun Dolma in Tibetan Buddhism, is a female Bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism who appears as a female Buddha in Vajrayana Buddhism. She is known as the "mother of liberation", and represents the virtues of success in work and achievements...


West African, Yoruba and Dahomean (Vodun)

The celestial creator deity
Creator deity
A creator deity is a deity responsible for the creation of the world . In monotheism, the single God is often also the creator deity, while polytheistic traditions may or may not have creator deities...

 of Dahomey mythology
Dahomey mythology
The Dahomey are a nation located in Benin, Africa. The mythology of the Dahomey includes an entire pantheon of thunder gods; for example,*Xevioso is the god of thunder in the So region....

 is Mawu-Lisa, formed by a merger of the twin brother and sister gods Lisa (the moon) and Mawa (the sun). In combined form, he or she presented as intersex or trangendered (with changing gender). Other androgynous gods include Nana Buluku
Nana Buluku
Nana Buluku is the Supreme Deity of the Fon from Dahomey.In Dahomey mythology, Nana Buluku is an androgynous deity creator of the Universe and all that exists in it...

, the "Great mother" that gave birth to Lisa and Mawa and created the universe, and contains both male and female essences.

The Akan people
Akan people
The Akan people are an ethnic group found predominately in Ghana and The Ivory Coast. Akans are the majority in both of these countries and overall have a population of over 20 million people.The Akan speak Kwa languages-Origin and ethnogenesis:...

 of Ghana have a pantheon of gods that includes personifications of celestial bodies
Astronomical object
Astronomical objects or celestial objects are naturally occurring physical entities, associations or structures that current science has demonstrated to exist in the observable universe. The term astronomical object is sometimes used interchangeably with astronomical body...

. These personification manifest as androgynous of transgender deities, and include Abrao (Jupiter), Aku (Mercury), and Awo (Moon).

The mythology of the Shona people
Shona people
Shona is the name collectively given to two groups of people in the east and southwest of Zimbabwe, north eastern Botswana and southern Mozambique.-Shona Regional Classification:...

 of Zimbabwe is ruled over by an androgynous creator god called Mwari, who occasionally splits into separate male and female aspects.

Possession by spirits is an integral part of Yaruba and other African spiritual traditions. The possessed are usually women, but can also be men, and both genders are regarded as the "bride" of the deity while possessed. The language used to describe possession has a sexual and violent connotation but unlike in Yoruba-derived American religions, there is no link assumed between possession and homosexual or gender variant activity in everyday life
Everyday Life
Everyday Life is the first solo album made by Life MC of the British Hip Hop group Phi Life Cypher....



Few records of homosexuality exist in Egyptian mythology
Egyptian mythology
Ancient Egyptian religion was a complex system of polytheistic beliefs and rituals which were an integral part of ancient Egyptian society. It centered on the Egyptians' interaction with a multitude of deities who were believed to be present in, and in control of, the forces and elements of nature...

, and the written and pictorial works are reticent in representing sexualities. The sources that do exist indicate that same-sex relations were regarded negatively, and that penetrative sex was an aggressive act of dominance and power, shameful to the receiver, a common view in the Mediterranean basin
Mediterranean Basin
In biogeography, the Mediterranean Basin refers to the lands around the Mediterranean Sea that have a Mediterranean climate, with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers, which supports characteristic Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub vegetation...


The most well-known example of this occurs in the power-struggle between the sky-god Horus
Horus is one of the oldest and most significant deities in the Ancient Egyptian religion, who was worshipped from at least the late Predynastic period through to Greco-Roman times. Different forms of Horus are recorded in history and these are treated as distinct gods by Egyptologists...

, and his uncle Seth
Set (mythology)
Set was in Ancient Egyptian religion, a god of the desert, storms, and foreigners. In later myths he was also the god of darkness, and chaos...

, the destructive god of the desert. Seth's attempts to prove his superiority include schemes of seduction, in which he compliments Horus on his buttocks and tries to anally penetrate him. Unknowingly failing, Seth ejaculates between Horus's thighs, allowing Horus to collect his semen to use against him. Seth believes that he has conquered Horus by having "performed this aggressive act against him". Horus subsequently throws it in the river, so that he may not be said to have been inseminated by Seth. Horus then deliberately spreads his own semen on some lettuce, which was Set's favorite food (the Egyptians thought that lettuce was phallic). After Set has eaten the lettuce, they go to the gods to try to settle the argument over the rule of Egypt. The gods first listen to Set's claim of dominance over Horus, and call his semen forth, but it answers from the river, invalidating his claim. Then, the gods listen to Horus' claim of having dominated Set, and call his semen forth, and it answers from inside Set. The association with an evil god such as Seth reinforces the negativity of homosexual relationships, even for the active, hence more-masculine, participant.

Human fertility was a major aspect of Egyptian mythology, and was often entwined with the crop fertility provided by annual flooding of the river Nile. This connection was shown in iconography of Nile-gods, such as Hapy
Hapi, sometimes transliterated as Hapy, not to be confused with another god of the same name, was a deification of the annual flooding of the Nile River in Ancient Egyptian religion, which deposited rich silt on its banks, allowing the Egyptians to grow crops. His name means Running One, probably...

, god of the Nile River, and Wadj-wer
Wadj-wer is an Egyptian fertility god whose name means the "Great Green". Sometimes depicted in androgynous form, he is a personification of the Mediterranean Sea or of the major lakes of the Nile delta. He is depicted as carrying the ankh and a loaf. Wadj-wer is often depicted as being pregnant...

, god of the Nile Delta
Nile Delta
The Nile Delta is the delta formed in Northern Egypt where the Nile River spreads out and drains into the Mediterranean Sea. It is one of the world's largest river deltas—from Alexandria in the west to Port Said in the east, it covers some 240 km of Mediterranean coastline—and is a rich...

, who although male were depicted with female attributes such as pendulous breasts, symbolizing the fertility the river provides.

Australian Aboriginal

The indigenous population
Indigenous Australians
Indigenous Australians are the original inhabitants of the Australian continent and nearby islands. The Aboriginal Indigenous Australians migrated from the Indian continent around 75,000 to 100,000 years ago....

 of Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 have a shamanistic religion, which includes a pantheon of gods. The rainbow serpent
Rainbow Serpent
The Rainbow Serpent is a common motif in the art and mythology of Aboriginal Australia. It is named for the snake-like meandering of water across a landscape and the colour spectrum caused when sunlight strikes water at an appropriate angle relative to the observer.The Rainbow Serpent is seen as...

 god Ungud
In Australian Aboriginal mythology, Ungud is a snake god who is sometimes male and sometimes female. He is associated with rainbows and the fertility and erections of the tribe's shamans....

 has been described as androgynous or transgendered. Shaman identify their erect penises with Ungud, and his androgyny inspires some to undergo ceremonial subincision of the penis. Angamunggi is another transgendered rainbow-serpent god, worshipped as a "giver of life".

Other Australian mythological beings include Labarindja, blue-skinned wild women or "demon women" with hair the colour of smoke. Stories about them show them to be completely uninterested in romance or sex with men, and any man forcing his attention upon them could die, due the "evil magic in their vaginas". They are sometimes depicted as gynandrous or intersex, having both a penis and a vagina. Ths is represented in ritual by having their part played by men in women's clothes.

Polynesian: Hawaiian and Maori

Polynesian religions feature a complex pantheon of deities. Many of these gods refer to their companions of either sex as "aikane", a term encompassing passionate friendship and sexual-love, often in bisexual contexts.

Wahineomo, a goddess of Hawaiian mythology
Hawaiian mythology
Hawaiian mythology refers to the legends, historical tales and sayings of the ancient Hawaiian people. It is considered a variant of a more general Polynesian mythology, developing its own unique character for several centuries before about 1800. It is associated with the Hawaiian religion...

 whose name means "thrush woman", is depicted in relationships with other goddesses Hi'iaka
In Hawaiian mythology, Hiiaka is a daughter of Haumea and Kāne. She was the patron goddess of Hawaii and the hula dancers, and takes on the task of bearing the clouds - variously, those of storms and those produced by her sister's volcanos, and lived in a grove of Lehua trees which are sacred to...

 and Hopoe. When Hi'iaka was suspected of infidelity with her sister Pele's husband, the volcano goddess Pele killed Hi'iaka's beloved Hopoe by covering her in lava. In addition to Wahineomo and Hopoe, Hi'iaka had lesbian relationships with the fern goddess Pauopalae and Pele-devotee Omeo. Omeo was part of the retinue that brought the bisexual Prince Lohiau to Pele after his death. During his life Lohiau was the lover of both the female Pele and male Paoa.

Other Polynesian LGBT gods include the gay couple Pala-Mao and Kumi-Kahi, and the bisexual goddess Haakauilanani, who was both servant and lover of the "Earth mother" creator goddess Papa
Rangi and Papa
In Māori mythology the primal couple Rangi and Papa appear in a creation myth explaining the origin of the world. In some South Island dialects, Rangi is called Raki or Rakinui.-Union and separation:...

 and her husband Wakea
In Hawaiian mythology, Wākea is the eldest son of Kahiko , and lives in Olalowaia. Wākea is the ancestor of the aristocracy, the ali‘i. The priests and common people come from his brothers. In another legend, Wākea lives in Hihiku and marries Pāpā, also called Pāpā-nui or Pāpā-nui-hanau-moku, who...

. Non-divine LGBT characters also exist in Polynesian mythology
Polynesian mythology
Polynesian mythology is the oral traditions of the people of Polynesia, a grouping of Central and South Pacific Ocean island archipelagos in the Polynesian triangle together with the scattered cultures known as the Polynesian outliers...

, such as the (male) shaman Pakaa and his chief and lover Keawe-Nui-A-'umi, and the famed fisherman Nihooleki, who was married to a woman but also had a relationship with the pig god Kamapua'a
In Hawaiian mythology, Kamapuaa is a hog-man fertility demi-god associated with Lono, the god of agriculture. The son of Hina and Kahiki-ula, the chief of Kauai, Kamapua'a was particularly connected with the island of Maui....

. Kamapua'a was also responsible for sending the love-god Lonoikiaweawealoha to seduce Pele's brother gods Hiiakaluna and Hiiakalalo, hence distracting them from attacking him. Kamapua'a's other male lovers included Limaloa, the bisexual god of the sea and mirages.

Pacific Island: Celebes, Vanuatu, Borneo and the Philippines

Third gender, or gender variant, spiritual intermediaries are found in many pacific island cultures, including the bajasa of the Toradja Bare'e people of Celebes
Sulawesi is one of the four larger Sunda Islands of Indonesia and is situated between Borneo and the Maluku Islands. In Indonesia, only Sumatra, Borneo, and Papua are larger in territory, and only Java and Sumatra have larger Indonesian populations.- Etymology :The Portuguese were the first to...

, the bantut of the Taosug people of the south Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

, and the bayoguin of the pre-Christian Philippines. These shamans are typically biologically male but display feminine behaviours and appearance, and are often homoerotically inclined. The pre-Christian Philippines had a polytheistic religion
Polytheism is the belief of multiple deities also usually assembled into a pantheon of gods and goddesses, along with their own mythologies and rituals....

, which included the transgender or hermaphroditic gods Bathala
In ancient Tagalog Theology Bathala was the Supreme Being; the Omnipotent Creator of the universe. Antonio de Morga, among others, thought that Bathala meant an omen bird , but the author of the Boxer Codex was advised not to use it in this sense because they did not consider it God but only his...

 and Malyari, whose names means "Man and Woman in One" and "Powerful One" respectively; these gods are worshipped by the Bayagoin.

The Big Nambas of Vanuatu
Vanuatu , officially the Republic of Vanuatu , is an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is some east of northern Australia, northeast of New Caledonia, west of Fiji, and southeast of the Solomon Islands, near New Guinea.Vanuatu was...

 have the concept of divinely approved-of homoerotic relationships between men, with the older partner called the "dubut". This name is derived from the word for shark, referring to the patronage of the shark-human hydrid creator god Qat
Qat may refer to:* Qat , of Oceania or Melanesia* Qat, or Khat, a tropical evergreen plant whose leaves are used as a stimulant...


Among their pantheon of deities, the Ngaju Dayak
Dayak people
The Dayak or Dyak are the native people of Borneo. It is a loose term for over 200 riverine and hill-dwelling ethnic subgroups, located principally in the interior of Borneo, each with its own dialect, customs, laws, territory and culture, although common distinguishing traits are readily...

 of Borneo
Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is located north of Java Island, Indonesia, at the geographic centre of Maritime Southeast Asia....

 worship Mahatala-Jata, an androgynous or transgender god. The male part of this god is Mahatala, who rules the Upperworld, and is depicted as a hornbill
Hornbills are a family of bird found in tropical and subtropical Africa, Asia and Melanesia. They are characterized by a long, down-curved bill which is frequently brightly-colored and sometimes has a casque on the upper mandible. Both the common English and the scientific name of the family...

 living above the clouds on a mountain-top; the female part is Jata, who rules the Underworld from under the sea in the form of a water-snake. These two manifestations are linked via a jewel-encrusted bridge that is seen in the physical world as a rainbow. Mahatala-Jata is served by "balian
People with the name Balian includeMembers of the Ibelin family:*Barisan of Ibelin*Balian of Ibelin, a 12th century nobleman and crusader, and the protagonist of the 2005 movie Kingdom of Heaven*Balian Grenier*Balian of Beirut*Balian of Arsuf...

", female hierodules, and "basir" transgender shamans metaphorically described as "water snakes which are at the same time hornbills". Similar transgendered shamans, the "manang bali", are found in the Iban Dayak
Iban people
The Ibans are a branch of the Dayak peoples of Borneo. In Malaysia, most Ibans are located in Sarawak, a small portion in Sabah and some in west Malaysia. They were formerly known during the colonial period by the British as Sea Dayaks. Ibans were renowned for practising headhunting and...

 people. Manang bali dress and act like women and have homoerotic relationships. This makes them both the target of ridicule and respected as a spiritual intemediary. Boys fated to become manang bali may first dream of becoming a woman and also of being summoned by the god/dess Menjaya Raja Manang or the goddess Ini
Ini was a king at Thebes, Egypt, during the 8th century BCE.Menkheperre Ini or Iny Si-Ese Meryamun was probably Rudamun's successor at Thebes but was not a member of his predecessor's 23rd Dynasty. Unlike the 23rd dynasty rulers, he was a local king who ruled only at Thebes for at least 4–5 years...

. Menjaya Raja Manang began existence as a malegod, until his brother's wife became sick. This prompted Menjara into becoming the worlds first healer, allowing him to cure his sister-in-law
A sister-in-law is the sister of one's spouse, the wife of one's sibling, or sometimes the wife of one's spouse's sibling...

, but this treatment also resulted in Menjara changing into a woman or androgynous being.

Mythologies of the Americas

Aztec and Mayan

In addition to being a god of maize, magic and rulers, the Mayan god Chin
Chin (Mayan god)
Chin is one of the names mentioned by Las Casas for a deity said to have introduced homosexual relationships to Mayan noblemen living in the 16th-century Verapaz provinces....

 is said to have introduced homoeroticism
Homoeroticism refers to the erotic attraction between members of the same sex, either male–male or female–female , most especially as it is depicted or manifested in the visual arts and literature. It can also be found in performative forms; from theatre to the theatricality of uniformed movements...

 into the Mayan culture and subsequently became associated with same-sex love. His example inspired noble families to purchase young men as lovers for their sons, creating legal relationships akin to marriage.

thumb|300px|right| Image of Xochipilli.Xochipilli was the god of art, games, beauty, dance, flowers, and song in Aztec mythology. His name contains the Nahuatl words xochitl and pilli , and hence means "flower prince"...

 was the god of art
Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect....

, games, beauty, dance
Dance is an art form that generally refers to movement of the body, usually rhythmic and to music, used as a form of expression, social interaction or presented in a spiritual or performance setting....

, flower
A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants . The biological function of a flower is to effect reproduction, usually by providing a mechanism for the union of sperm with eggs...

s, maize
Maize known in many English-speaking countries as corn or mielie/mealie, is a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable...

, and song in Aztec mythology
Aztec mythology
The aztec civilization recognized a polytheistic mythology, which contained the many deities and supernatural creatures from their religious beliefs. "orlando"- History :...

, and also the patron of homosexuals and homosexual prostitutes. This role "suggests a complex set of associations including the role of entertainer, the love of exotic foods and perfumes, male gender variance, and same-sex eroticism". The goddess Tlazoteotl, known as the "Eater of Filth" or "Shit Goddess" is an underworld deity of life and death, transforming pain and suffering
Pain and suffering
Pain and suffering is the legal term for the physical and emotional stress caused from an injury .Some damages that might be under this category would be: aches, temporary and permanent limitations on activity, potential shortening of life, depression or scarring...

 into gold. She is the metaphorical mother and protector of the "huastecs", transgendered or lesbian priestesses, along with the goddess Xochiquetzal
In Aztec mythology, Xochiquetzal was a goddess associated with concepts of fertility, beauty, and female sexual power, serving as a protector of young mothers and a patroness of pregnancy, childbirth, and the crafts practised by women such as weaving and embroidery...

. In some manifestations she is known as "Goddess of the Anus", with links to male homosexual sex.

Native American and Inuit

In Inuit shamanism, the first two humans were Aakulujjuusi and Uumarnituq, both male. This same-sex couple desired company and decided to mate. This sexual encounter resulted in pregnancy for Uumarnituq. As he was physically not equipped to give birth, a spell was cast that changed his sex, giving him a vagina capable of passing the child. The now-female Uumarnituq was also responsible for introducing war into the world via magic, in order to curb overpopulation. The goddess Sedna
Sedna (mythology)
In Inuit mythology, Sedna is the goddess of the sea and marine animals such as seals. A creation myth, the story of Sedna shows how she came to rule over Adlivun, the Inuit underworld...

 is an Inuit
The Inuit are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of Canada , Denmark , Russia and the United States . Inuit means “the people” in the Inuktitut language...

 creator deity, with dominion of marine animals. She is depicted as gynandrous or hermaphoditic in some myths, and is served by two-spirit
Two-Spirit People , is an English term that emerged in 1990 out of the third annual inter-tribal Native American/First Nations gay/lesbian American conference in Winnipeg. It describes Indigenous North Americans who fulfill one of many mixed gender roles found traditionally among many Native...

 shamans. Other myths show Sedna as a bisexual or lesbian woman, living with her female partner at the bottom of the ocean.


A large number of spirits or deities (lwa) exist in Haitian and Louisiana Voodoo
Louisiana Voodoo
Louisiana Voodoo, also known as New Orleans Voodoo, describes a set of underground religious practices which originated from the traditions of the African diaspora. It is a cultural form of the Afro-American religions which developed within the French, Spanish, and Creole speaking African American...

. These lwa may be regarded as families of individuals or as a singular entity with distinct aspects, with links to particular areas of life.

Some lwa have particular links with magic, ancestor worship or death such as the Ghedes and Barons. A number of these are further particularly associated with transgenderism or same-sex interactions. These include Ghede Nibo
Ghede Nibo
In Haitian Vodou, Ghede Nibo was a handsome young man who was killed violently. After death, he was adopted as a spirit or Lwa by Baron Samedi and Maman Brigitte and became a leader of the spirits of the dead. Envisioned as an effeminate, nasal dandy, Nibo wears a black riding coat or drag...

, a spirit caring for those who die young. He is sometimes depicted as an effeminate drag queen
Drag queen
A drag queen is a man who dresses, and usually acts, like a caricature woman often for the purpose of entertaining. There are many kinds of drag artists and they vary greatly, from professionals who have starred in films to people who just try it once. Drag queens also vary by class and culture and...

 and inspires those he inhabits to lascivious sexuality of all kinds, especially transgender or lesbian behaviour in women. Ghede Nibo's parents are Baron Samedi
Baron Samedi
Baron Samedi is one of the Loa of Haitian Voodoo. Samedi is a Loa of the dead, along with Baron's numerous other incarnations Baron Cimetière, Baron La Croix, and Baron Kriminel. He is the head of the Guédé family of Loa, or an aspect of them, or possibly their spiritual father...

 and Maman Brigitte
Maman Brigitte
In Vodou, Maman Brigitte is a death loa, the wife of Baron Samedi. Maman Brigitte is one of the few Loa who is white and is depicted as being fair-haired and green-eyed with light European skin. She drinks hot peppers and is symbolized by a black rooster...

; Baron Samedi is the leader of the Ghedes and Barons and is depicted as bisexual dandy or occasionally transgendered, wearing a top-hat and frock coat
Frock coat
A frock coat is a man's coat characterised by knee-length skirts all around the base, popular during the Victorian and Edwardian periods. The double-breasted style is sometimes called a Prince Albert . The frock coat is a fitted, long-sleeved coat with a centre vent at the back, and some features...

 along with a women's skirts and shoes. Samedi has a tendency toward "lascivious movements" that cross gender boundaries and also imply a lust for anal sex
Anal sex
Anal sex is the sex act in which the penis is inserted into the anus of a sexual partner. The term can also include other sexual acts involving the anus, including pegging, anilingus , fingering, and object insertion.Common misconception describes anal sex as practiced almost exclusively by gay men...


Other barons displaying gay behaviour are Baron Lundy and Baron Limba, who are lovers and teach a type of homoerotic nude wrestling at their school, believed to increase magical potency. Baron Oua Oua, who often manifests with a childlike aspect, has been called the baron "most closely linked to homosexuality" by Voodoo practictioners.

Another lwa, Erzulie
In Haitian Vodou or Vodou, Erzulie is a family of lwa, or spirits.-Maîtresse Mambo Erzulie Fréda Dahomey:Erzulie Fréda Dahomey, the Rada aspect of Erzulie, is the spirit of love, beauty, jewelry, dancing, luxury, and flowers. Gay men are considered to be under her particular patronage...

, is associated with love, sensuality and beauty. Erzulie can manifest aspects that are LGBT-related, including transgender or amazonian traits, in addition to traditionally feminine guises. When inhabiting men, these aspects can result in transgender or homoerotic behaviour, whereas they may result in lesbianism or anti-male
Misandry is the hatred or dislike of men or boys.Misandry comes from Greek misos and anēr, andros . Misandry is the antonym of philandry, the fondness towards men, love, or admiration of them...

 sentiment in women. Erzulie Freda is seen as the protector of gay men, and Erzulie Dantor is associated with lesbians.

Santería and Candomblé

Santería is a syncretic religion of West African and Caribbean origin influenced by Roman Catholic Christianity, also known as Regla de Ocha, La Regla Lucumi, or Lukumi. Its liturgical language, a dialect of Yoruba, is also known as Lucumi....

 and Candomblé
Candomblé is an African-originated or Afro-Brazilian religion, practised chiefly in Brazil by the "povo de santo" . It originated in the cities of Salvador, the capital of Bahia and Cachoeira, at the time one of the main commercial crossroads for the distribution of products and slave trade to...

 are syncretic religions derived from Yoruba diasporic beliefs and catholicism
Catholicism is a broad term for the body of the Catholic faith, its theologies and doctrines, its liturgical, ethical, spiritual, and behavioral characteristics, as well as a religious people as a whole....

, most prevalent in South Americas, including Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

 and Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

. Their mythologies have many similarities to that of Yoruba, and contains a pantheon of Orísha
An Orisha is a spirit or deity that reflects one of the manifestations of Olodumare in the Yoruba spiritual or religious system....

s (spirits), comparable to (and often identified with) the lwa of Voodoo.

In one Cuban Santería "pataki", or mythological story, the sea goddess Yemaha is tricked into incestuous sex with her son Shango
In the Yorùbá religion, Sàngó is perhaps one of the most popular Orisha; also known as the god of fire, lightning and thunder...

. To hide her shame at this event, she banished her other two sons, Inle and Abbata, to live at the bottom of the ocean, additionally cutting out Inle's tongue and making Abbata deaf. As a result of their isolation and lonliness, Inle and Abbata become passionate friends and then lovers, able to communicate empathically. This pataki is used to explain the origin of incest, muteness
Muteness or mutism is an inability to speak caused by a speech disorder. The term originates from the Latin word mutus, meaning "silent".-Causes:...

, and deafness in addition to homosexuality.

Mesopotamian, Sumerian, Phoenician, Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian and Canaanite

The ancient regions of Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

 and Canaan
Canaan is a historical region roughly corresponding to modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and the western parts of Jordan...

 were inhabitied by a succession of overlapping civilisations: Sumer
Sumer was a civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age....

, Phoenicia
Phoenicia , was an ancient civilization in Canaan which covered most of the western, coastal part of the Fertile Crescent. Several major Phoenician cities were built on the coastline of the Mediterranean. It was an enterprising maritime trading culture that spread across the Mediterranean from 1550...

, Akkadia, Babylonia
Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia , with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as a major power when Hammurabi Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as...

, Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

. The mythologies of these people were interlinked, often containing the same stories and mythological gods and heroes under different names.

The Sumerian creation myth, "The Creation of Man", from circa 2000 BCE
20th century BC
The 20th century BC is a century which lasted from the year 2000 BC to 1901 BC.-Events:* 2000 BC: Arrival of the ancestors of the Latins in Italy.* 2000 BC: Town of Mantua was presumably founded.* 2000 BC: Stonehenge is believed to have been completed....

, lists a number of physically differing people created by the goddess Ninmah.Ninmah (Sumerian: "Great Queen") has many names, and is identified with Ninhursag
In Sumerian mythology, Ninhursag or Ninkharsag was the earth and mother goddess, one of the seven great deities of Sumer. She is principally a fertility goddess. Temple hymn sources identify her as the 'true and great lady of heaven' and kings of Sumer were 'nourished by Ninhursag's milk'...

 (Sumerian: "Lady of the mountain"), Nintu (Akkadian: "Lady of Birth"), Belet-ili (Babylonian: Lady of the gods), Aruru, Mami, Mamma. (Dalley (1998), p. 326)
These included "the woman who cannot give birth" and "the one who has no male organ or female organ", which have been regarded as being third gender or androgynous. Enki
Enki is a god in Sumerian mythology, later known as Ea in Akkadian and Babylonian mythology. He was originally patron god of the city of Eridu, but later the influence of his cult spread throughout Mesopotamia and to the Canaanites, Hittites and Hurrians...

, the supreme god, is accepting of these people and assigns them roles in society as "naditu" (priestesses) and "girsequ" (servants to the king). The Akkadian mythical epic Atrahasis contains another iteration of this story, in which Enki specifically requests that Nintu create a "third-category" of people that includes third-gender people, barren women, and an "infant-stealing demon".

In ancient mesopotamia, worship of the goddess Inanna included "soothing laments" sung by third gender priests called "gala". According to old Babylonian
Old Babylonian
Old Babylonian may refer to:*the period of the First Babylonian Dynasty *the historical stage of the Akkadian language of that time...

 texts, these priests were created specifically for this purpose by the god Enki. Some gala took female names, and the word itself means "penis+anus", hinting at their androgynous status. The cultural practice, or "me", of androgynous, third-gender or homoerotically inclined priests were part of those said to have been stolen by Innana from Enki in "The Descent of Innana" myth. In the Babylonian Erra myth, the gender of the "kurggaru" and "assinnu" priests was supernaturally changed by the goddess Ishtar
Ishtar is the Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of fertility, love, war, and sex. She is the counterpart to the Sumerian Inanna and to the cognate north-west Semitic goddess Astarte.-Characteristics:...

, making them feminine.Inanna (Sumerian) is identified with Ishtar (Babylonian), Astarte
Astarte is the Greek name of a goddess known throughout the Eastern Mediterranean from the Bronze Age to Classical times...

 (Phoenician), Atargatis
Atargatis, in Aramaic ‘Atar‘atah, was a Syrian deity, " great goddess of northern Syria" ,"the great mistress of the North Syrian lands" Rostovtseff called her, commonly known to the ancient Greeks by a shortened form of the name, Aphrodite Derceto or Derketo and as Dea Syria, "Goddess of Syria"...

 (Syrian) and in later texts Aphrodite (Greek).
The changes may also facilitate possession by the goddess, causing a psychological change or prompting physical castration.

The relationship between the semi-divine hero Gilgamesh and his "intimate companion" Enkidu in the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh
Epic of Gilgamesh
Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem from Mesopotamia and is among the earliest known works of literature. Scholars believe that it originated as a series of Sumerian legends and poems about the protagonist of the story, Gilgamesh king of Uruk, which were fashioned into a longer Akkadian epic much...

has been interpreted as a sexual one by some modern scholars. Enkidu was created as a companion to Gilgamesh by the goddess Aruru, and civilised by a harlot. As Gilgamesh and Enkidu were of similar ages and status, their relationship has been seen as relatively egalitarian, in contrast with the typically pederastic mode of ancient Greece
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 or Persia.


Zoroastrianism is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster and was formerly among the world's largest religions. It was probably founded some time before the 6th century BCE in Greater Iran.In Zoroastrianism, the Creator Ahura Mazda is all good, and no evil...

 has been said to have a "hatred of male anal intercourse". This is reflected in its mythology: When Ahriman, the "Spirit of Aridity and Death" and "Lord of Lies", seeks to destroy the world, he engages in self-sodomy. This homosexual self intercourse causes an "explosion of evil power" and results in the birth of a host of evil minions and demons. Ahriman has also been regarded as the patron of men who partake of homosexual sex. However, this negative portrayal of homosexuality in Zoroastrianism is not found in the Gathas
The Gathas are 17 hymns believed to have been composed by Zarathusthra himself. They are the most sacred texts of the Zoroastrian faith.-Structure and organization:...

, their original holy book which is said to be the direct sayings of the prophet Zoroaster
Zoroaster , also known as Zarathustra , was a prophet and the founder of Zoroastrianism who was either born in North Western or Eastern Iran. He is credited with the authorship of the Yasna Haptanghaiti as well as the Gathas, hymns which are at the liturgical core of Zoroastrianism...



The story of David and Jonathan
David and Jonathan
David and Jonathan were heroic figures of the Kingdom of Israel, whose covenant was recorded favourably in the books of Samuel. Jonathan was the son of Saul, king of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, and David was the son of Jesse of Bethlehem and Jonathan's presumed rival for the crown...

 has been described as "biblical Judeo-Christianity's most influential justification of homoerotic love". The relationship between David and Jonathan is mainly covered in the Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

 First Book of Samuel, as part of the story of David's ascent to power. The mainstream view found in modern biblical exegesis argues that the relationship between the two is merely a close platonic
Platonic love
Platonic love is a chaste and strong type of love that is non-sexual.-Amor Platonicus:The term amor platonicus was coined as early as the 15th century by the Florentine scholar Marsilio Ficino. Platonic love in this original sense of the term is examined in Plato's dialogue the Symposium, which has...

Friendship is a form of interpersonal relationship generally considered to be closer than association, although there is a range of degrees of intimacy in both friendships and associations. Friendship and association are often thought of as spanning across the same continuum...

. However, there has long been a tradition of interpreting the love between David and Jonathan as romantic or sexual. Although David was married (to many women), he articulates a distinction between his relationship with Jonathan and the bonds he shares with women.

Another biblical hero, Noah
Noah was, according to the Hebrew Bible, the tenth and last of the antediluvian Patriarchs. The biblical story of Noah is contained in chapters 6–9 of the book of Genesis, where he saves his family and representatives of all animals from the flood by constructing an ark...

, best known for his building an ark
Noah's Ark
Noah's Ark is a vessel appearing in the Book of Genesis and the Quran . These narratives describe the construction of the ark by Noah at God's command to save himself, his family, and the world's animals from the worldwide deluge of the Great Flood.In the narrative of the ark, God sees the...

 to save animals and worthy people from a divinely caused flood, later became a wine-maker. One day he drinks too much wine, and fell asleep naked in his tent. When his son Ham
Ham, son of Noah
Ham , according to the Table of Nations in the Book of Genesis, was a son of Noah and the father of Cush, Mizraim, Phut and Canaan.- Hebrew Bible :The story of Ham is related in , King James Version:...

 enters the tent, he sees his father naked, and is cursed
Curse of Ham
The Curse of Ham is a possible misnomer, for the Curse of Canaan. The curse refers to Noah cursing Ham's offspring Canaan, for Ham's own transgression against his father, according to Genesis in the Hebrew Bible. The debate regarding upon whom the curse fell has raged for at least two thousand...

 with banishment and possibly slavery and becoming black-skinned. In Jewish tradition, it is also suggested that Ham had anal sex with Noah or castrated him.


Saints Sergius and Bacchus
Saints Sergius and Bacchus
Saints Sergius and Bacchus , were third century Roman soldiers who are commemorated as martyrs by the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches...

: Sergius and Bacchus's close relationship has led many modern commentators to believe they were lovers. The most popular evidence for this view is that the oldest text of their martyrology, in the Greek language
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

, describes them as "erastai", or lovers. Historian John Boswell considered their relationship to be an example of an early Christian same-sex union
Same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage is marriage between two persons of the same biological sex or social gender. Supporters of legal recognition for same-sex marriage typically refer to such recognition as marriage equality....

, reflecting his contested view of tolerant early Christians attitudes toward homosexuality
History of Christianity and homosexuality
This article focuses on the history of homosexuality and Christianity from the beginnings of the Church through the mid 1900's. For current teachings of Christian Churches on homosexuality see Homosexuality and Christianity....

. The official stance of the Eastern Orthodox Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

 is that the ancient Eastern tradition of adelphopoiia
Adelphopoiesis, or adelphopoiia from the Greek , derived from "brother" and "I make", literally "brother-making" is a ceremony practiced at one time by various Christian churches to unite together two people of the same sex...

, which was done to form a "brotherhood" in the name of God, and is traditionally associated with these two saints, had no sexual implications. Saints Cosmas and Damian
Saints Cosmas and Damian
Saints Cosmas and Damian were twin brothers, physicians, and early Christian martyrs born in Cilicia, part of today's Turkey. They practiced their profession in the seaport of Ayas, Adana, then in the Roman province of Syria...

Saint Sebastian is a long-standing gay icon
Gay icon
A gay icon is a public figure who is embraced by many within :lesbian, :gay, :bisexual and :transgender communities...

. The combination of his strong, shirtless physique, the symbolism of the arrows penetrating his body, and the look on his face of rapturous pain have intrigued artists (gay or otherwise) for centuries, and began the first explicitly gay cult in the 19th century. Richard A. Kaye wrote, "contemporary gay men have seen in Sebastian at once a stunning advertisement for homosexual desire (indeed, a homoerotic ideal), and a prototypical portrait of tortured closet case
The Closet
The Closet may refer to:* The Closet , Chinese film* The Closet , French film* The closet, referring to undisclosed homosexuality- See also :* Closet* Closet * In the closet...


Islamic and Pre-Islamic Arabian

Islamic folk beliefs
Islamic mythology
Islamic mythology is the body of traditional narratives associated with Islam from a mythographical perspective. Many Muslims believe that these narratives are historical and sacred and contain profound truths...

 remain common, such as the myths surrounding Jinn
Jinn or genies are supernatural creatures in Arab folklore and Islamic teachings that occupy a parallel world to that of mankind. Together, jinn, humans and angels make up the three sentient creations of Allah. Religious sources say barely anything about them; however, the Qur'an mentions that...

, long-lived shapeshifting spirits of air and fire. Their shapeshifting abilities allow them to change gender at will. The word Jinn means "serpent-like" and they are sometimes considered to be led by the Devil Iblis, representing powers of magic and rebellion, and acting as bringers of wealth. Jinn are served Al-Jink and Mukhannathun
Mukhannathun is classical Arabic for people who would now be called transgender women, perhaps poorly distinguished from eunuchs. Various "mukhannathun" appear in several hadith. In one hadith the prophet Muhammad banishes a mukhannath to a region near Medina, but prohibits people from killing...

, transgender and homoerotically-inclined wanderers with entertainment and spiritual functions. In the pre-islamic Arabic and Oikoumene
Ecumene is a term originally used in the Greco-Roman world to refer to the inhabited universe . The term derives from the Greek , short for "inhabited world"...

 cultures, third-gender individuals, such as Mukhannathun were worshippers in widespread Goddess cults. These cults revered a trio of goddesses: Al-lat
Al-Lat may refer to:*Allāt, pre-Islamic Arabian goddess who was one of the three chief goddesses of Mecca*al-Lat , ancient name for the Sun in Frank Herbert's Dune universe...

, Al-Uzza, and Manat
Manat may refer to* Azerbaijani manat, unit of currency in Azerbaijan* Turkmenistani manat, unit of currency in Turkmenistan* The designation of the Soviet ruble in both Azerbaijani and Turkmen* Manāt, the goddess of fate and destiny in pre-Islamic Arabia...


Arabian mythology also contains magical sex-changing springs or fountains, such as Al-Zahra. Upon bathing in or drinking from Al-Zahra, a person will change sex. The folklore of Swat, in northern Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

 often includes same-sex relationships in which the "beloved" is a handsome younger man or boy.

See also

  • Religion and homosexuality
  • Religion and transgenderism
  • Queer theology

  • LGBT literature
    LGBT literature
    Gay literature is a collective term for literature produced by or for the LGBT community, or which involves characters, plot lines or themes portraying male homosexual behavior.-Subgenres:...

  • LGBT history
    LGBT history
    LGBT history refers to the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender peoples and cultures around the world, dating back to the first recorded instances of same-sex love and sexuality of ancient civilizations. What survives of many centuries' persecution– resulting in shame, suppression,...

  • LGBT themes in speculative fiction


  • Boswell, John. Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe New York: Villard Books, 1994. ISBN 0-679-432280.