Ancient LGBTQIA+ Acceptance Tales

10 Unbelievable Ancient LGBTQIA+ Acceptance Tales

We all know LGBTQIA+ people have been around forever, but how much do you really know about queer history across different cultures? We’re about to dive into some fascinating facts that’ll expand your understanding of gender and sexuality throughout human history. 

From Mesopotamia to the Pacific Islands, our ancestors had some interesting and often surprisingly accepting views on gender and sexual diversity. While it’s easy to think of progress as a straight line forward, the truth is way more complex. Some ancient cultures were incredibly open-minded in ways that might shock people today. Let’s explore ten mind-blowing ancient LGBTQIA+ acceptance tales that show just how diverse human experiences have always been. 

1. Mesopotamian Deities and Divine Gender-Bending  

Let’s kick things off in ancient Mesopotamia, where the goddess Inanna had some seriously fabulous clergy. The kurgarra and galatur were transgender priests and priestesses seen as divine mediators. These folks were believed to have been transformed by Inanna herself, giving them a special connection to the divine world. Talk about heavenly representation! 

2. Two-Spirit People in Native American Cultures  

Jumping continents to the Americas, many Native American tribes recognised and respected individuals who embodied both masculine and feminine spirits. These Two-Spirit people often held special roles in their communities as healers, matchmakers, or spiritual leaders. They were seen as having unique insights due to their dual nature. Take that, gender binary! 

3. Ancient Chinese Imperial Romance  

Time-traveling to ancient China, we find the heartwarming tale of Duke Ling and his courtier Mizi Xia. Their love story, featuring a shared peach, became a symbol for same-sex relationships in Chinese culture for centuries. The phrase “the passion of the cut sleeve” also comes from another Chinese emperor who cut off his sleeve rather than disturb his male lover who had fallen asleep on it. Who says romance is dead? 

4. Thebes’ Legendary Gay Warriors  

In ancient Greece, the Sacred Band of Thebes was an elite military unit composed entirely of 150 male couples. These warriors were undefeated for over 30 years, proving that love is a battlefield – and they were winning! The idea was that each man would fight harder to impress his lover and to protect him. Talk about relationship goals! 

5. Egypt’s Pharaoh and His Midnight Escapades  

Even the land of pyramids had its share of royal gossip. Pharaoh Pepi II allegedly had secret nightly rendezvous with his general, Sasenet. A text from the Middle Kingdom period describes the Pharaoh sneaking out of the palace for four hours each night to visit his lover. Ancient Egyptian soap opera, anyone? 

6. India’s Timeless Third Gender Tradition

Zooming over to the Indian subcontinent, we find the Kinnar or Hijra, a recognised third gender with roots stretching back millennia. Ancient texts like the Kama Sutra and the Manusmriti casually mention same-sex relationships and gender diversity. The Kinnar are still a recognised community in India today, showing the enduring nature of these traditions. 

7. Samurai’s Code of Honor and Love  

In pre-modern Japan, people considered same-sex relationships among men, especially samurai, highly honorable. They knew these relationships as wakashudo, or “the way of youth,” and viewed them as a path to virtue and understanding. Some even viewed these bonds as superior to heterosexual relationships. This tradition continued until Western influences began to change Japanese society in the late 19th century. 

8. Roman Emperors and Their Same-Sex Affairs  

Ancient Rome was pretty chill about same-sex relationships, as long as you maintained your “manly” image. Even powerful figures like Julius Caesar and Emperor Hadrian had well-known male lovers. Hadrian was so devoted to his lover Antinous that when the young man died, Hadrian had him deified and built cities in his honor. Now that’s commitment! 

9. Celtic Warriors and Their Intimate Bonds  

Roman historians, who were low-key scandalized, described Celtic warriors as being super open about their same-sex relationships. The historian Diodorus Siculus wrote that Celtic men “openly seek the company of other men” and saw nothing shameful in it. No shame in their game! 

10. Pacific Islander Third Gender Traditions  

Many Pacific Island cultures, including Hawaii, Tahiti, and Samoa, traditionally recognised and respected third gender individuals. These people, known by various names like Māhū in Hawaii or Fa’afafine in Samoa, played important social and spiritual roles. They were often seen as having special abilities to mediate between the physical and spiritual worlds. 

Why This Global History Matters  

This whirlwind tour of ancient LGBTQIA+ acceptance tales from across cultures shows us that acceptance of diverse gender identities and sexualities isn’t new or limited to any one part of the world. From Asia to the Americas, Europe to Africa, and the Pacific Islands, our ancestors often embraced a much more fluid understanding of gender and sexuality than many societies do today.   

The shift towards intolerance often came later, frequently tied to colonialism and the spread of certain rigid religious interpretations. Understanding this helps us challenge modern prejudices and remember that acceptance has deep, global roots.  

It’s important to note that attitudes varied across time and cultures, and history is complex.

Not every ancient society was a queer utopia, and individuals still faced personal prejudices or societal restrictions. However, the overall picture shows a much more diverse and accepting world than many people today might assume.   

Understanding these ancient LGBTQIA+ acceptance tales isn’t just about fun facts (although they are pretty awesome). It’s about recognising that LGBTQ+ people have always been part of the human story, often in plain sight and sometimes in positions of great respect and power. It’s about challenging the idea that homophobia or transphobia are “traditional” values when, in fact, acceptance and celebration of diversity have deeper historical roots in many cultures.   

So let’s keep learning, keep sharing these stories, and keep working towards a world that embraces all the beautiful diversity of human gender and sexuality. After all, we’re just carrying on a tradition as old as civilisation itself! 

Next Read: The Taj Mahal’s Gay Cousin: India’s Queerest Monument

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