Introduction: Remapping sexual identities


The Third World, the part of the world that shares a colonial past and an economically dependent present,[1] has been part of the global lesbian/gay community for a long time. Lesbian/gay politics emerged in a few major countries of Latin America early in the 1970s, very soon after the modern lesbian/gay liberation movement took off in 1968-69 with the May 1968 events in Paris, the Binnenhof protest in Holland and the Stonewall rebellion in New York. In most of the Third World—much of Latin America, the Caribbean, Southern Africa, South and Southeast Asia—movements have emerged later, in the late 1980s and 1990s, but spread rapidly. The Third World is also a steadily bigger part of the lesbian/gay world. Gay commercial scenes are spreading there; immigrants and tourists are travelling back and forth; and in a few Third World countries lesbian/gay scholars are even publishing books about their communities as well as reading them. At the same time anthropologists have paid increasing attention to same-sex sexualities in parts of the world where lesbian/gay politics and even open commercial scenes have so far emerged barely or not at all, such as the Arab world and much of Subsaharan Africa.


But the fact that the Third World is part of the lesbian/gay world—a bigger and bigger part—does not mean that it is taken enough into account. The whole body of writing on Third World communities has grown up after many ‘classics’ of lesbian/gay liberation and lesbian/gay studies were already written. By the time people in the ‘First World’ started noticing the Third World, some of their basic political and scholarly assumptions were well established. These assumptions were based largely on middle class experience in advanced capitalist countries. More recent European, North American and Australian innovations and debates, which have been more or less simultaneous with the rise of Third World movements and studies, have usually been disconnected from developments in Latin America, Africa and Asia.


This is unfortunate. Movements and writings in the Third World do not just extend activism and thinking into new areas, they raise issues for lesbian/gay movements worldwide and for the whole field of lesbian/gay studies. Sexual identities and concepts of oppression and liberation are historical, social, cultural, and differentiated by period, region, class, and nationality. Applying identities and concepts to new social layers and countries has to involve questioning, challenging and enriching them. The much-needed process of overcoming Euro- and US-centrism could help transform lesbian/gay movements and studies globally. Different Rainbows aims, first, to give a sample of some of the most interesting work being done in or on different Third World countries, and second, to raise some of the fundamental issues posed for scholars and activists.


In the introduction and conclusion, I highlight some questions that come up in many of the contributions to the book, about the reality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered communities and the strategies of lesbian/gay movements. What are these communities like in the Third World? What is their place in a globalized world which is also a world of increasing social inequality? Does ‘lesbian/gay liberation’ mean the same thing in the South as in the North or something different? In responding to these questions I put forward elements of an overarching framework, in the hope that this can not only help illuminate the different articles but also be of use for those working in or on countries not focussed on here.


But the introduction and conclusion are individual products, written by one individual editor. They have benefitted from comments by other contributors, as all the articles have; but they do not define an analysis or a politics for the book as a whole. The other authors are not part of any single current or collective and do not necessarily share my analysis or politics. Nor should my analysis or politics be seen as a kind of ‘master narrative’ into which the other articles are incorporated. The authors of this book have also commented to some extent on each others’ work as the book took shape. The other authors also refer to examples from each others’ countries, showing that there is a certain spontaneous Third World identity. All the articles, including the introduction and conclusion, should be read as different voices in an ongoing dialogue.


In this dialogue I have in a sense been at a disadvantage relative to the others in not having lived experience or even experience of in-depth study in any particular Third World region. All my thoughts in the introduction and conclusion are based on others’ work. Like Dennis Altman ‘I see myself as co-researcher, ultimately dependent on both the goodwill and self-interest’ of people in the Third World. This is not an ideal situation. It is to be hoped that people in the Third World, writing on the basis of their own personal experience, activism and research, will themselves take over the discussion in the years to come.


The obstacles to Third World people’s taking charge themselves of studying the Third World should not be underestimated, however, especially when it comes to attempting syntheses that look at the Third World as a whole. We live in a world where dialogue and collaboration among different Third World regions is difficult, for crude material reasons. Third World organizations have much smaller budgets and staffs; libraries and universities in the Third World have much less funding; languages indigenous to the Third World are little used as languages of international politics or scholarship; and even flying from Latin America to or from Africa or Asia is often more difficult and expensive than flying from New York or Paris.[2] I expect and trust that people in the Third World will reject or drastically amend much of what I propose. But I think it would be false solidarity on my part to hang back from attempting any kind of synthesis, albeit initial and tentative, until they are ready to tackle it themselves. I have at least tried in the introduction and conclusion to foreground what unites Different Rainbows authors.


Social construction without Eurocentrism


The Third World raises significant questions for the dominant ‘social constructionist’ current in lesbian/gay studies, which maintains that subcultures of self-identified gay men and lesbians are a historically recent phenomenon that emerged only in the nineteenth century in Western Europe and North America. The questions raised from the Third World are not so much about whether sexuality is socially constructed. The ‘essentialist’ argument that lesbians and gay men have existed everywhere throughout human history remains a minority position, including in the Third World. Despite continual media uproar, it has not been very much rehabilitated by attempts to find genetic causes of homosexuality. Most studies agree on the historical and geographical uniqueness of modern lesbian/gay identity. As David Fernbach concluded nearly twenty years ago, ‘it is only relatively recently [and in certain parts of the world] that the space has emerged for a gay way of life’.[3]


Studying the Third World in fact adds new evidence to the case for social constructionism. On the one hand, it shows how different the Third World’s indigenous sexualities are (or were) from lesbian/gay identity as it exists in contemporary Western Europe, North America or Australia. The overwhelming majority of same-sex sexualities in past cultures were in some demonstrable way different from what Europeans, North Americans and Australians now see as lesbian/gay identity.[4] Today as well, many Third World people who have same-sex sexual relationships do not define themselves at all as a particular kind of person (‘a homosexual’). Many others do; but their identities in their particular cultures do not necessarily match up with European or North American lesbian/gay identity.


• In some cultures people have same-sex sexual relationships with one other without being seen as a particular kind of person: in gathering-and-hunting cultures when men are together on hunting trips, for instance. Afro-Surinamese women who call themselves each others’ mati have long-term, intense, often open sexual relationships with each other in between or along with their sexual relationships with men, but a mati is not a distinctive kind of woman equivalent to ‘lesbian’.[5]


• Some cultures have same-sex relationships that are ‘transgenerational’ (where for example boys may perform oral sex on adult men but not vice versa) or status-defined (where for example servants may be penetrated sexually but masters may not). But in these cases the two sexual partners do not share a ‘gay’ identity.


• In many cultures same-sex sexualities are ‘transgenderal’. They involve assigning a gender identity to one sex partner different from his or her biological sex, while the other partner is considered a ‘real man’ or ‘real woman’. Often in these cultures, for example, a man who penetrates other men sexually is still considered a ‘masculine’ man, and may often be expected to marry a woman and have children. A man who is penetrated sexually, however, is no longer considered masculine and becomes a person of the ‘other gender’ or a ‘third gender’—a ‘transgendered’ person.


There are many words in use in the Third World that put gender identity in question in various ways: ‘marimacha’ (for females) and ‘loca’ (for males) in much of Latin America, ‘bicha’ (for males) in Brazil, ‘moffie’ (for males) in South Africa, ‘hijra’ (for hermaphrodites and males) in India, ‘tomboi’’ (for females) and ‘waria’ (for males) in Indonesia, ‘bakla’ in the Philippines, etc. All these words for ‘transgendered people’, which almost always refer to only one partner in a same-sex relationship or encounter, are used instead of or alongside ‘bisexual’ (which might sometimes be used for the non-transgendered partner), ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ (which do not necessarily put men’s ‘masculinity’ or women’s ‘femininity’ in question). In many Third World countries the terms ‘lesbian’ and ‘gay’ exclude, not only many people who have same-sex sex—in the US and Europe too, many married men who have sex with men do not identify as gay—but also many of the transgendered people who have same-sex identities. Only an awkward, portmanteau expression like lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgendered (LGBT) is reasonably inclusive.[6]


In all these different cultures, people engage in same-sex sex, and some of them have acquired specific identities, but clearly not all of them can be called ‘gay’.


On the other hand, identities and communities that clearly are lesbian and gay have been emerging in one Third World country after another. It seems that their social construction keeps on happening. Similar causes seem to lead to similar effects, even in different countries or cultures. Each of the different, to a large extent complementary, variants of social constructionist thinking can now draw on Third World evidence to make its case. The Marxist-feminist analysis that sees the development of capitalism, urbanization and changing family forms as causes of the rise of a lesbian/gay identity is bolstered by the fact that capitalist development in the Third World is accompanied by the emergence of lesbian/gay communities there. Michel Foucault’s emphasis on the role of science, medicine and police surveillance and ‘queer theorists’’ attention to popular culture are also largely vindicated by the role of science, medicine, the police and popular culture in redefining sexuality in the contemporary Third World.[7]


Studying the Third World does raise questions about how sexuality is constructed. If sexuality is contructed socially, then clearly it is not constructed in isolation but as part of society constantly in (re-)construction. It is linked to gender, class, nation and ethnicity. Theorists and activists in advanced capitalist countries have not always looked for the full complexity of these links. In the Third World there is no escaping them. Taking into account the complexity and diversity of the construction of gayness can help LGBT people respond to three major challenges that haunt them in the Third World.


• One challenge, the most immediate and threatening in practice, comes from Third World nationalists and fundamentalists who condemn all same-sex sexualities as ‘Western’. These people either deny that Third World LGBTs exist at all, or reject them as aliens cut off from their countries’ own cultures. Intellectually, this challenge is easy to refute. The most elementary historical research exposes the extreme claims of the Third World’s anti-same-sex ideologues as groundless. No serious scholar denies that, even if modern lesbian/gay identity is a historically recent phenomenon, evidence of same-sex eroticism can be found throughout human history and on every continent.[8]


A wealth of evidence shows that the first European colonizers used same-sex sexuality in the Americas, Africa and Asia as evidence of their inhabitants’ ‘savagery’, and that both pre- and post-independence rulers have been kept busy trying to stamp it out ever since.[9] The writers in this book provide still more evidence. Max Mejía notes pre-Hispanic influences that are still at work in Mexico today. Mark Gevisser points out that for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe ‘to sustain his lie that homosexuality is un-African, he has to intimidate black gays into invisibility’. John Mburu adds more evidence of how pervasive and how false this lie is in Africa. Sherry Joseph and Pawan Dhall cite very ancient references to same-sex sexuality in India, both male and female. Chou Wah-shan draws on same-sex erotic literature of the Chinese Ming dynasty (14th to 17th centuries).


• A second challenge comes from gays in advanced capitalist countries who see New York’s Christopher Street and San Francisco’s Castro Street as defining ‘gayness’ for the rest of the world. The implication is that Third World lesbians and gays are simply latecomers, adopting identities wholesale that had already achieved their finished form in Western Europe and North America. If they don’t quite fit in on Castro Street now, this logic suggests, they will sooner or later. ‘Progress’ is inevitable.


This one-sided picture of lesbian/gay identity does not stand up under examination either. The extreme reading of social constructionism asserting that before the nineteenth century there were only same-sex acts, but no same-sex identities, cannot survive even a superficial examination of pre-colonial Asian or African cultures. Many non-European languages have centuries-old words for people who habitually engage in same-sex sex, not just for particular sex acts. Nor are the identities expressed by these words, identities in many cases claimed by Third World people today, inherently ‘primitive’ or ‘backward’. There is no reason to assume that Third World people are doomed to shuck off these identities completely in order to take on ‘modern’ ones.[10]


• The third challenge comes from some Third World LGBTs themselves, who dream of returning to a happy, mythical, pre-colonial past when their sexualities were authentic and accepted. Attempts to portray pre-colonial Asia, Africa and the Americas as paradises for same-sexers do not stand up to serious scholarship any better than attempts to portray them as immaculately heterosexual, however. Mejía rightly warns in his article on Mexico against superficial deductions ‘from the repeated references to “sodomy” which fill the documents, reports and testimonies written in colonial times’. Gevisser and Mburu point out in their articles that homosexuality has traditionally been taboo in many African cultures.[11]


The idea that Third World LGBT identities are purely indigenous or entirely different from European or North American ones is also problematic. Colonialism happened; its legacy has not been wiped out by formal independence. Economic dependence on the advanced capitalist countries and cultural globalization are still at work today, in fact more than ever. Capitalism is a global system with far-reaching social and cultural consequences, more powerful in the world since 1989 than any system has ever been in human history. In these circumstances, the idea of absolutely pure, authentic, superior Third World same-sex identities is just as untenable as a false universalism.[12]


At least one change now under way in Third World same-sex patterns is surely a positive development. Public affirmation of a same-sex identity was virtually never a feature of indigenous traditions. The local loca may have been known to everyone in a Central American village, the kathoeys may have had well-developed communities in Thailand, but they did not make collective demands, hold marches, or found formal social organizations, let alone political movements. In this specific sense, lesbian/gay identity began to emerge in Europe only in the 1890s, and in the United States only after the Second World War; in this specific sense, it is emerging in many parts of the Third World today. There are still tensions between many traditional ways of living with same-sex sexuality—which as Gevisser says find ‘ways of accommodating it and not talking about it’—and the choice to live an openly ‘“gay” life’. Joseph and Dhall make a similar point about India: same-sex behaviour ‘“on the side of” or “parallel to” marriage, procreation and family ... does not raise very many eyebrows’, but repression begins ‘as soon as it confronts any of these institutions in the form of homosexual identity’.


Given that same-sex sexualities and identities have a long, rich history in many Third World cultures, then, and given that public affirmation of a lesbian/gay identity in the Third World is a development of the last few decades, when and why do Third World LGBTs adopt lesbian/gay identities, as supplements or replacements for their own indigenous patterns?


One possible explanation would be that there is a process of ‘globalization’ of lesbian/gay identities at work, functioning by analogy to economic globalization. The problem with this explanation is that social and sexual identities travel more slowly, and change more as they travel, than products or capital. Coca-Cola has been for sale for decades now in villages which are not even accessible by dirt roads but only over paths through the forest. Automobile parts can be manufactured almost anywhere the world where transport is available to import raw materials and machines and export the parts. Anyone in the Third World with a computer, a modem, reliable electricity and phone lines and enough money can buy and sell stocks on Wall Street. But in many Third World areas where people can watch the BBC and MTV, the emergence of lesbian/gay identities is far from straightforward. For example:


• In Sri Lanka, where British-imposed laws prohibiting ‘sodomy’ are still on the books, their repeal has been opposed by cabinet ministers whose homosexuality is widely rumoured.


• In Cairo and Karachi, metropolises with millions of inhabitants where many natives and tourists know where to go for male-male sex, there is not a single gay bar or club and hardly an identifiable gay couple.


• In Beijing and Shanghai, where there are gay clubs, those who go to them do not always call themselves gay, let alone march for lesbian/gay rights. While the word ‘gay’ is commonly used, the word ‘tongzhi’ (‘comrade’) is at least as common. As Song points out in Chou’s article, this word appropriates ‘the most sacred political label of the mainstream world’.


• In Johannesburg, where there are Lesbian/Gay Pride Marches, the 1992 march was led not by white lesbians or gays, nor by Zulu transgendered ‘skesanas’ from the black townships, but by the skesanas’ butch ‘injonga’ boyfriends—who were not considered gay.[13]


Looking for logic or trends in the kaleidoscope of identities is no small undertaking. In order to grasp the progress and limits of lesbian/gay identity in different Third World countries, and the extraordinarily varied forms it takes, the authors of Different Rainbows refer largely to four different factors:


• The pre-existence of very diverse same-sex identities in indigenous Third World cultures;


• Rapid economic and social change in their societies, largely resulting from their common, increasing, dependent insertion into the global capitalist economy;


• Cultural influences from regions, particularly North America and Western Europe, where lesbian/gay identity is already well established; and


• Major political developments in some of their countries.


If we want a term that can sum up this whole array of causes, we can paraphrase the Marxist concept of ‘combined and uneven development’ and talk about ‘combined and uneven social construction’. This term has the significant advantage that it avoids any implication of a uniform process moving more or less quickly in a single direction, which the idea of ‘globalization’ seems to suggest. The idea of ‘combined and uneven social construction’, by contrast, can help us understand how different indigenous starting points, different relationships to the world economy, and different cultural and political contexts can combine to produce very different results—while still producing identifiable common elements of lesbian/gay identity in one country after another. It can help us understand how some indigenous forms of sexuality can be preserved within a global economy and culture, changing to a certain extent their forms or functions; how new forms can emerge; and how indigenous and new forms can be combined.[14]


This approach leaves room for discussion about which of the four factors—indigenous sexualities, economic and social development, cultural globalization, and political change—have the most weight. I—and probably other Different Rainbows authors—would at least raise the question whether cultural globalization is the least essential factor. The basic possibility of attraction and affection between people of the same sex, deepgoing social processes like urbanization, and a minimum of political space to organize a community all seem to be central to lesbian/gay identity formation. Whether access to European magazines and Hollywood movies is equally central is not clear to me. Even when Third World LGBTs do read European magazines or watch Hollywood movies, it by no means follows that the magazines or movies either create or define their identities. Cultural borrowings are no proof of influence, let alone causation.[15]


‘Third World’ is in any event not a cultural category equivalent to ‘non-Western’. Argentina, for example, is no less ‘Western’ or European-influenced than the US and Canada, and more European-influenced than Japan, an advanced capitalist country which is not part of the Third World. Of the countries discussed in this book, Brazil and obviously South Africa have undergone major African cultural influences (as has the US)—and have major LGBT communities. India and much of Southeast Asia as well as China have maintained their own, non-European, cultural continuity to a greater extent than other countries discussed in this book—but few Third World countries have stronger LGBT communities than Thailand or Indonesia.


If I am right about this, it makes for a strong case that new or changed LGBT identities that have grown up in the Third World are not cultural imports—at least, no more than factories or police forces are. Very few of those who plead for purely African or Asian sexualities—whether they mean stamping out all same-sex sexualities or preserving culturally pure forms of same-sex sexuality—call for complete deindustrialization of their countries, breaking up all big cities, returning to purely traditional medicine, or dissolving all police forces. Yet these very developments—industrialization, urbanization, medicine, police—foster the rise of lesbian/gay identity. The effects of European and North American cultural influence are admittedly hard to disentangle from those of domestic capitalist development and modernization. But one could hypothesize—through an improbable thought experiment—that even if outside cultural influence were zero, economic development, modernization and political openings might lead to the rise of lesbian/gay identity anyway. A Marxist analysis would even suggest that Third World dependence on Western Europe and North America, by helping to hold back and distort economic growth and modernization, has delayed the emergence of lesbian/gay communities.


This introduction draws in part on the other articles in Different Rainbows to suggest how lesbian/gay politics and studies might be transformed in response to issues arising in the Third World. It looks at the conditions of emergence or non-emergence of LGBT identities and communities and at the forms that these emerging identities and communities take: indigenous or ‘globalized’, politicized or not. First it looks at the consequences of economic development for identity formation, testing the Marxist emphasis on the role of capitalism. Then it examines cultural factors, including the rise of police and medicine emphasized by Foucault, popular culture foregrounded in recent queer theory, and religion, which is particularly important in the Third World. Third, it focusses on an autonomous political dimension that has perhaps been the most neglected factor in the rise of Third World LGBT communities.


Capitalist development and lesbian/gay identity


Involvement in a market economy and a certain minimum income level seem essential in allowing people to become part of lesbian/gay communities in the Third World. In South American cities, for example, same-sex scenes grew up in Argentina and Brazil before the First World War, as industrialization and urbanization gathered speed.[16] In poorer countries like Paraguay and Bolivia, LGBT scenes emerged more recently and slowly. Gay subcultures have grown up in recent years in Turkey’s major cities, but not in other major cities of the Islamic world like Cairo or Karachi. This is probably the result to some extent of a degree of economic development greater than the Middle Eastern average; per capita GDP in Turkey is about four times what it is in Egypt and eight times what it is in Pakistan. Economic development alone is not always enough, however; Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states are richer than Turkey, but intense repression has effectively driven same-sex activity deep underground.


Economic ups and downs often seem to speed up or slow down community formation. Lesbian/gay movements in Latin America, the earliest and to begin with by far the strongest in the Third World, retreated in almost every country in the aftermath of the 1982 debt crisis and the ‘lost decade’ that followed. James Green in his article mentions the hard times the Brazilian movement went through in the wake of the 1981-82 recession, and the same could be said of Mexico. LGBT communities in Southeast Asia by contrast grew during the period of prosperity there in the late 1980s and early 1990s.


Economics can also help explain why lesbian communities are smaller than gay male ones; women participate less in the waged work force and earn lower wages when they do.[17] When lesbian organizing does emerge, it seems to a large extent to happen in regions where women are entering the waged work force and thus achieving a measure of economic independence—in East and Southeast Asia in the late 1980s and 1990s, for instance.


Our analysis can go deeper than mere hunches and comparisons. Beginning in the 1970s, socialist feminists have analyzed sexuality as rooted in the ways a labour force is reproduced in capitalist economies, via the family system and male and female gender roles. To start with, it can be useful to lay out how the emergence of lesbian/gay identities and communities in Western Europe and North America fits into this analysis. Then we can see how the analysis needs to be drastically revised in order to make sense of the Third World. Three phases of the process can be marked out: the commodification of same-sex sexualities; the initial formation of public communities; and the rise of large-scale lesbian/gay ghettos.


1. Commodification. Beginning with the spread of market relationships and the growth of cities in medieval and early modern Europe, a new form of same-sex sexuality arose. Like many other forms of same-sex sexuality past and present around the world, it was transgenderal: it involved assigning a gender identity to one sex partner different from his or her biological sex, but not to the other partner. But in crucial ways it was different from most forms of transgenderal sexuality.


Transgendered people in medieval and early modern Europe seem to have lived mostly in cities, while transgendered people in other cultures often lived in the villages where most human beings in history have lived. They were cut off to a large extent from their families, while many traditional forms of transgenderal sexuality have fit transgendered people into elaborate kinship networks. They were more or less involved in prostitution for money, whereas transgendered people in many cultures have had stable marriages to people of the same sex; particularly in this sense same-sex sex was treated as something to be bought and sold, something ‘commodified’. And while transgendered people in many cultures have had well-defined roles in traditional religions, for example as shamans, in medieval Europe transgendered people were condemned and persecuted by the Christian church as well as by the civil authorities. Their subculture was therefore covert and hidden.[18]


It also seems to have been exclusively male. The restrictions on women’s travelling and trading apparently prevented transgendered women from appearing in any significant numbers. Although there were certainly female prostitutes in medieval and early modern Europe, we do not know that they had any female clients. There were perhaps cases, then as later, of individual ‘passing women’ who disguised themselves as men and married women, but the cases that have come to light are individual and exceptional.


2. Public community formation. The Protestant Reformation and bourgeois revolutions changed this situation, beginning with a change in the character of the family, as production increasingly took place outside the home and women’s tasks shifted from domestic production to housekeeping and emotional nurturing. Relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children in middle class families were increasingly seen as based not only on religion and natural male authority but also on affection. In nineteenth-century Europe and North America these ideas also gained ground in the working class as women entered the waged work force. They took hold even more as women moved into the universities and professions. By the beginning of the twentieth century ‘sex reform’ movements were urging attention to wives’ sexual satisfaction and the right to birth control.


As Chou points out in his article, popularization of ideas of romantic love made marriage more painful for those whose strongest sexual and emotional bonds were with people of the same sex and who were therefore pressured to ‘pretend’ in a new way. Men who may have earlier gone to transgendered men for sex began looking for romance and even longer-term relationships with men as well, while lesbian romance and relationships began to be possible alternatives to heterosexual marriage for women. The rise of wage labour and the resulting individual economic independence made new institutions and relationships possible outside prescribed family and religious patterns.[19] By the late nineteenth century in Europe and the early twentieth century in the US, particular bars in big cities became associated with lesbians and gay men, men organized underground drag balls, and lesbian couples (generally discrete) became more common. Scientists ‘discovered homosexuality’—and in the process invented the concept of heterosexuality. One of these sexologists was the German Magnus Hirschfeld, himself gay, who in 1897 founded the first organization advocating gay rights, the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee.


While it was not meant to be a gay group, the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee’s founding can be considered as the emergence of a lesbian/gay community onto the public stage. But the lesbian/gay identity it was associated with was still somewhere in between late medieval transgenderal identities and late-twentieth-century lesbian/gay identities. Hirschfeld described himself and the people he was studying and defending as members of a ‘third sex’.


3. Gay ghettos and identities. With the development of mass consumer society, beginning in the mid-twentieth century in the US and later in other advanced capitalist countries, gay ghettos arose as mass phenomena. In the US, the uprooting of millions of men and women by the Second World War contributed to the emergence of lesbian/gay communities. In some European countries lesbian/gay communities that existed before the war converged over the decades with the emerging North American pattern. By the 1960s, more working class men and women than ever before had a degree of economic security and independence that enabled them to lead lesbian/gay lives. The transgenderal pattern of sexuality, polarized between ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ partners, gave way to less polarized relationships in more inclusive communities. Reciprocal relationships between self-identified lesbian women or between self-identified gay men, in which ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ roles do not necessarily determine sexual identity, became the norm in advanced capitalist countries. ‘The homosexual displaced the [transgendered] “fairy” in middle-class culture several generations earlier than in working-class culture; but in each class culture each category persisted, standing in uneasy, contested, and disruptive relation to the other.’ By the 1970s, in any event, a gay commercial world emerged that was fully a part of mass consumer culture and central to lesbian/gay communities.[20]


This very schematic outline gives a sense of steady upward progress towards a predetermined objective which does not however correspond to the reality. The development of capitalist societies was accompanied by periodic crises, which in turn were often accompanied by ‘moral panics’ and waves of persecution. These crises and persecutions were as important to shaping lesbian/gay communities as the spread of market relationships and wage labour. Late medieval transgenderal subcultures were driven deep underground by persecutions that were part of the general fourteenth-to-seventeenth-century witchhunts.[21] More recently the ‘long depression’ of the last quarter of the nineteenth century saw persecutions that included the trial of Oscar Wilde, an immediate impetus for the founding of the German Scientific-Humanitarian Committee. The feminist and sex reform movements of the early twentieth century were mostly crushed by fascism, Stalinism, and a generally more conservative social climate that reigned from the 1930s to the 1950s.


Markets without affluence


If the process of lesbian/gay community formation was rocky and irregular in Europe and North America, it is many times more so in the Third World. Just as Mexico City and Kinshasha occupy a very different position in the global economy than New York or Amsterdam, the connection between wage labour, economic security and participation in a community is much less straightforward in the Third World. For most Third World LGBTs the combination of spreading markets and enduring poverty is crucial.


1. Commodification. The capitalist market was imposed on the Third World from the outside. African villagers were forced to pay colonial taxes and Indian villagers were obliged to buy British textiles long before they themselves were involved in wage labour. Even when Third World people were recruited to work in mines and factories, they were often expected to return to their villages when they were not needed, thus preserving traditional authority structures and means of subsistence that were convenient for colonial and neocolonial governments. Their traditional families and sexualities seemed to endure, even if beneath the surface they were adapting to changed circumstances.


Where it has taken place, industrialization in the Third World has been both late and dependent. This has usually meant low productivity, low wages, low employment levels, and cities swollen with impoverished migrant families. Urbanization and industrialization have nonetheless changed Third World families and sexualities. This happened first in Latin America, the part of the Third World where colonization began first and went deepest. Large-scale urbanization in the Southern Cone of South America fostered the growth of transgenderal subcultures similar to those that existed in Europe and North America.[22] A world of tranvestite balls and prostitution sprang up in Buenos Aires, and there were well-known cruising areas in Rio de Janeiro. In Southeast Asia, indigenous transgenderal sexualities existed before colonization (Thai kathoeys, Indonesian waria, Philippine bakla—roughly analogous to South Asia’s transgendered hijras). With urbanization and industrialization in the twentieth century, Southeast Asian transgenderal subcultures were commodified in ways similar to what already existed in Europe and the Americas. Transvestite beauty contests and brothels were probably not part of Asian traditions, for example, but they are often important parts of transgendered people’s lives in Asia today.[23]


Limits to industrialization have sometimes meant that women, massively pulled into the waged work force in many capitalist countries, have been excluded from it in much of the Third World, including most of South Asia, the Middle East and Africa (except South Africa). When women have gone out to work in industry, they have often faced extreme exploitation and controls on their sexuality and reproduction. When they have stayed at home, economic development has sometimes increased rather than decreased their economic and sexual dependence on men. Household production has often declined, but this has simply decreased the value of women’s contribution to the family rather than making them valued as nurturers. In India, for example, women of lower castes, whose parents traditionally received bride price when their daughters married, are now undesirable unless they come with a substantial dowry and can suffer gruesome consequences if they do not.[24] Arranged marriage, or marriage under pressure of circumstances, has often remained the rule. Women may still dream of romantic love, encouraged by movies and novels, but it often has little to do with their real family and sexual lives.


In these circumstances, particularly in the Arab world and South Asia, acknowledged lesbian sexual relationships of any kind seem to be beyond women’s reach. As Adrienne Rich has said, many of the ways in which men oppress women can also serve specifically to repress lesbianism: ‘men’s ability to deny women sexuality or force it upon them; to command or exploit their labor to control their produce; to control or rob them of their children; to confine them physically and prevent their movement’; even genital mutilation in some parts of the Islamic world.[25] In those parts of the Third World where women are most dependent on men, lesbian relationships may grow up only in unnoticed corners of households and villages, where women segregated away from men bond more or less invisibly with each other, perhaps even including unnamed, unspoken sexual bonding.


In Egypt ‘in a rural village you would not find a lesbian if you want to define lesbianism the way it is defined in the West’. If women do make love to one another they do not talk about it, and in fact everyday Egyptian Arabic has no words to name it.[26] People in many cultures resist the idea that ‘sex’ can happen among women at all, particularly where male penetration or ejaculation is the criterion for ‘sex’. (Not so long ago in Europe and North America, straight people would routinely ask about lesbians, ‘But what do they do?’) In some cultures deep kissing or even cunnilingus between women may not be seen as sex.


This does not mean that lesbianism is impossible in all sexist societies, however; far from it.[27] According to one estimate, three out of four working-class Afro-Surinamese women have committed sexual relationships with women at some point in their lives. Women open about sexual relationships with other women do not seem to be discriminated against in poor urban neighbourhoods in Jakarta. For a significant layer of working class women, economic development has made possible transgenderal lesbianism, in which one woman partner takes on a male identity, from Lima to Jakarta to Soweto. Their milieus are sometimes reminiscent of the‘butch/femme’ subcultures of 1950s North America and Europe.[28]


Even where transgendered people had traditionally been accepted, however, colonial laws have often driven them underground. There are many examples of persecution of indigenous American transgendered people by the colonizing Spanish and Portuguese and by the US as it expanded westward. Laws against sex between males on the books in much of Africa and Asia today are copies of an old British law repealed in Britain in 1967. For example, Joseph and Dhall point out in their article that the British were responsible for criminalizing ‘sodomy’ in India in 1833. Mburu shows how widespread persecution of indigenous sexualities was in Britain’s African colonies. The US has carried on the imposition of puritanical legislation. In Latin America, once Ecuador’s Constitutional Tribunal overturned the country’s ‘sodomy’ law in 1997 and Chile repealed its law in 1998, Nicaragua and Puerto Rico were the only countries left with such laws. Puerto Rico had copied its law directly from California after it came under US rule in 1898, while Nicaragua adopted its law only after US-backed forces came to power in 1990 after a decade-long war.


Commodified, covert same-sex sexualities in the Third World have been further shaped by the global economy through the domestic sex trade and international sex tourism, both of which are of course predominantly heterosexual. Altman traces same-sex sex tourism back to rich European gay tourists in North Africa in the 1890s and Bali in the 1920s. Sex tourism from the US, Japan and Europe has grown since then to be a major industry in the Caribbean, Brazil, North Africa and Southeast Asia, while the domestic sex trade is important in countries in South Asia where sex tourism is proportionally less important. Chou’s interview with sex worker ‘Peter’ in Shanghai shows how the recent spread of market relations in China has also fostered the phenomenon there. The sex trade’s customers are usually mostly Third World people themselves, and crackdowns usually victimize sex workers more than tourists. Altman rightly warns in his article against the ‘danger of both moral indignation and over-romanticization’. It is ironic that same-sex sexualities in the Third World, commodified and driven underground by European colonialism, are being further stigmatized today by European sex tourism, which in many if not all cases is very exploitative and even coercive.


2. Public community formation. While many factors that led to the rise of transgenderal subcultures in Europe—urbanization, commodification, weakening of traditional authority—have arrived in many parts of the Third World, factors that led to the rise of reciprocal lesbian/gay identities in Europe—mass consumption, women’s economic independence, and a welfare state supplanting many family functions—have arrived much later, if at all. LGBTs have less opportunity for sexual autonomy from their families even in the Third World’s biggest cities. Transgenderal patterns have persisted among LGBTs in many Third World countries.


Yet at the same time, in many of the same countries, people have increasingly looked for romance and long-term relationships, formed communities and even movements. Taken as a whole, the combination is unique to the contemporary Third World. By contrast with the ‘butch/femme’ subcultures of 1950s North America and Europe, for example, black lesbians in Johannesburg and Cape Town townships helped build a lesbian/gay movement and link it to the anti-apartheid struggle. Nicaraguan lesbians and gays in San Francisco organized in support of the Sandinistas in the 1970s. This was a rather different way of relating to the world than transgendered people had in Renaissance Italy or eighteenth-century London.


Altman has a point when he says in his article that ‘to see transvestism as a particular characteristic of Asian [or other Third World] cultures is to miss the role of drag in all its perverse and varied manifestations in western theatre, entertainment and commercial sex’. But a feature common to different cultures can still be qualitatively more prominent in some than in others. The prominence of transgendered people among working class Thais or Filipinos, or for that matter Brazilians or South Africans, may be more comparable today to the working class world in New York about 1940 than to New York today. As in late nineteenth-century Germany, the Third World’s first open same-sex communities have often consisted in large part of transgendered people. The association between lesbian/gay identity and reciprocal sexuality, which has become characteristic of advanced capitalist countries since the Second World War, is not as characteristic of the Third World.


Why do LGBT public communities emerge in some countries and not in others? Urbanization is important; ‘civil society’ has developed in Third World metropolises like Manila and São Paulo, while in rural villages nonconformity can make life very uncomfortable if not impossible. But urbanization alone is not enough to produce LGBT communities. It cannot explain why LGBT communities have emerged in Johannesburg, including its black townships, but apparently not in Kinshasha, a metropolitan area with roughly twice as many people. Nor does it account for the hunted, covert lives that Mburu describes LGBT people living in Nairobi, another city with over a million inhabitants.


The difference is probably in the kind of urbanization. Even if there is terribly high unemployment in South African townships, a high proportion of their inhabitants came for and found jobs in the country’s modern industry, in some cases passing through the modern mine work force along the way. Nairobi’s population is further towards the periphery of the world market. This difference has many social, cultural and sexual consequences. Though blacks in South African townships are poor, they are still nowhere near as poor as the poor in Nairobi; this means they have more access to commercial gathering places and mass media. Together with the disruption of family and community life caused by apartheid, it means that family and village structures arrived more intact in Nairobi than in Soweto.


Any LGBT communities that do arise in the Third World are vulnerable to economic crises, which hit harder and deeper in the Third World, and their social and political fallout. Communities’ fragility helps explain why the first wave of Latin American LGBT movements—beginning in Argentina in 1969, Mexico in 1971 and Puerto Rico in 1974—proved so vulnerable. Those movements that were not destroyed by dictatorships (as in Argentina after 1976) suffered when the debt crisis hit in 1982. Latin American communities did weather the storm and rebuild their movements in the 1980s and 1990s. In countries where LGBT communities are less well established, fundamentalist and nationalist upheavals can drive them further underground, as in Iran.


3. Gay ghettos and identities. Consumer society in the Third World is restricted to much narrower social layers than in advanced capitalist countries. Women in particular, but also most GBTs, usually have incomes too low to spend much on housing or going out. Even the most prosperous Third World countries, like South Korea, have less developed welfare states than Western Europe, Canada or Australia. But many, even very poor, Third World countries have developed large middle classes in recent years. Countries like South Africa and Brazil have had prosperous middle classes, with incomes many times their countries’ average, for decades; in both countries class is linked to ‘race’, though in very different ways. Other poor countries whose income distribution used to be less inequitable have converged in recent years with a global pattern of growing social inequality. Millions of middle class people in poor countries are now able to buy consumer goods and services at something approaching the average levels of rich countries.


This has made it possible for gay ghettos of a sort to emerge in the Third World, with discos and clubs that do their best to imitate Paris or San Francisco. They may not be actual gay neighbourhoods, but gay neighbourhoods are a North American specialty, rare even in Europe. They are more likely than in advanced capitalist countries to be middle class preserves, since Third World working class lesbians and gays can rarely afford to go to discos or fancy bars. But their existence can have an impact on LGBT culture in general. Tastes and trends can trickle down from them to people who cannot often afford to set foot in them. The results can be contradictory.


Many LGBT people in the Third World do seem to be increasingly giving up the traditional sexual distinctions. In some cases role playing that has become unfashionable may persist covertly. In many other cases people were clearly straying from the old roles covertly before, but ashamed to admit it openly. There is even a Mexican word, hechizos, for ‘real men’ who have become open to reciprocal sex.[29] The reasons why they are adopting a lesbian/gay identity are not limited to cultural shifts, but consist in large part of economic and/or political factors indigenous to their own societies. The greater numbers of people who can afford to live gay lives make it possible in more countries to define a broad, inclusive LGBT community; and in an inclusive community who plays what role in sex tends gradually to be seen as less significant.


There is no easy way to distinguish between slippage towards more reciprocal roles, on the one hand, and the distance that exists in every culture between ideology and reality, on the other. An Indian who did research on ‘these big truckers [who] picked up these little guys in saris’ (hijras) commented, ‘Picture our shock when we found out that a lot of these guys in saris weren't castrated after all, and were fucking the truckers!’ The same kind of role reversal may be common among contemporary Philippine bakla and their ‘non-gay’ sex partners. Even in Egypt, where men who identify as gay are still a small minority of those who have same-sex sex, some men talk about ‘face-to-face’ sex, meaning that anal sex is completely avoided in order to evade the issue of who is the inserter and who the insertee.[30]


Nor is it easy to be sure just how closely aligned differences between transgenderal and reciprocal identities are with class differences. Mejía says in his article on Mexico that ‘apparently in the upper class the difference between heterosexuality and homosexuality is more clearly delimited’. In Indonesia, gay communities are in some areas virtually segregated from transgendered waria and tombois, more or less along class lines.[31] The point is not that working class and poor people never develop reciprocal identities. Individuals’ life histories and psychologies may have everything to do with the sexual identities they adopt. But working class and poor people as a group, if not as individuals, do seem to develop reciprocal identities later than middle class people and to abandon other, more traditional same-sex identities more slowly.


Police roundups and queer videos


Alongside economic factors such as urbanization, commodification, the spread of wage labour and the accessibility of consumer goods, cultural factors such as scientific, medical and police classification and images in popular literature contribute to the rise of lesbian/gay identity, in the Third World as in the First. Norma Mogrovejo talks in her article about the prevalence of police raids and roundups through much of Latin America, usually on the basis of vague laws about ‘immoral and indecent behaviour’ since not many laws against homosexuality exist. The goal of such attacks—besides collecting easy bribes—is presumably to discourage LGBTs from gathering. But the effect can sometimes be to label people in lasting ways that foster a sense of community.


Medical and psychiatric ‘treatment of homosexuality’ has taken place in the Third World as it has in Europe and North America, as early as the 1930s in Brazil and the 1940s in Thailand. Chou’s article points out that it has been used in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong too, especially in the 1970s and 1980s. Foucault and others have shown how such stigmatizing ‘science’ can at the same time propagate same-sex identities and make them better known.


By far the most important intersection of medicine and same-sex sexuality in the Third World has been around the AIDS epidemic. Altman points out in his article how European and US epidemiologists and anthropologists have used it as an opportunity to track sexual behaviour. Measures by health authorities in response to AIDS have helped consolidate LGBT communities. In Costa Rica, for example, the health ministry’s raids on gay bars and mandatory testing policies gave rise to a wave of protest in 1987 and the founding of the country’s first lesbian/gay groups.[32] AIDS also prompted the formation of groups in Guatemala, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand in the late 1980s which, while not strictly speaking gay, were in fact their countries’ first tolerated, largely-LGBT public organizations. Pink Triangle in Malaysia has even received government aid, even though not only same-sex sex but ‘promoting homosexuality’ is illegal there. Vietnam and Kenya are two of the most recent examples of countries where AIDS prevention has given the first impetus to gay organizing, though Mburu reports that political pressures have forced the Kenyan group to break up.


Wherever communities are formed, they come together around cultural forms that acknowledge their existence, since most of the culture surrounding them does not. The role of beauty contests among drag queens has already been mentioned; it is a common feature of transgendered life today in Latin America, South Africa and Southeast Asia. Sports is a binding element among lesbians in the Third World as in the First, with soccer in particular being a favourite butch pastime from Lima to Soweto. Joseph and Dhall mention the importance of theatre, music, dance and fiction in Indian LGBT communities, and Mejía comments on the growing importance of LGBT cultural groups in Mexico.


This kind of homemade LGBT culture is valued, but in the Third World as in the past in the First, even a little validation from the mass media can be enormously important. A single movie can make a big difference to a country’s community, like Strawberry and Chocolate in Cuba (which played to packed houses) or the Chinese movie East Palace, West Palace mentioned by Chou (which was not publicly released domestically but circulates as a video). In recent years LGBTs have even broken through on TV in many Third World countries. Gevisser mentions the importance of TV talkshows in South Africa; Joseph and Dhall talk about India’s TV serials; and there are now LGBT characters on Brazilian telenovellas . The 16-segment daytime soap opera on Cuban TV with a lesbian couple as protagonists may have had even more influence than Strawberry and Chocolate. Some of these products get exported from one corner of the Third World to another.


All these are examples of indigenous Third World cultural production. Countries like Brazil and India have very large culture industries, including export industries, so there is no economic reason why they should not be able to meet the demand for LGBT images. But where domestically produced images are not plentiful or positive enough LGBTs are bound to go looking for foreign ones, and sometimes they find foreign images more appealing even when local ones do exist. ‘Foreign TV channels, cable networks, e-mail and Internet have become accessible even in the smaller towns’ in India, say Joseph and Dhall, and ‘have been instrumental in creating significant lifestyle changes, especially in the younger generation’. Altman too mentions the role of rock videos and Internet in Southeast Asia. He describes the focus on US and French posters, magazines and films in a Manila gay club with an almost exclusively Filipino clientele.


In poorer or less tolerant countries where there is less access to videos and Internet, even importing a foreign book or magazine can make an enormous difference. Zimbabwe’s International Book Fair has been a central moment for the LGBT community there year after year. President Mugabe’s decision to ban Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe from the August 1995 fair led to its membership reportedly doubling over the next several months—and shifting from white to black over the next few years. The ban led to global repercussions and built-in confrontations in subsequent years.


Analyzing the role of cultural imports requires great care. It is all too easy to conclude that because people read a European book, watch a US video, or wear the same kind of leather jacket you could see in a Sydney bar, their identities and lives are the same. Even as a US immigrant living in Holland I am often struck by how superficial the borrowed imagery is and how different the mentalities behind it can be. In Nicaragua the LGBT community chooses to celebrate Gay Pride on the day that commemorates their own struggle against repression, rather than on the anniversary of Stonewall. Local and global imagery and identities are in constant, sometimes contradictory, sometimes complementary interaction.


This kind of ambiguity can be seen in the very words people use—the adoption of the word ‘gay’ in many different countries and languages, for example. Chou says that the same Chinese who call themselves ‘tongzhi’ in some contexts can use the word ‘gay’ in others, particularly when they are identifying in some way with international lesbian/gay culture. The Hindi word sakhi has a comparable ambivalent and complementary relationship to the English word ‘lesbian’.[33] Altman mentions that ‘some Filipinos who belong to gay groups might also see themselves in particular contexts as bakla.’ The word ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ and various indigenous words in different languages are usually neither mutually exclusive nor completely clear in their connotations. Both borrowed and indigenous words are tools of cultures that continue to change over time and are not sealed off from the rest of the world.


Santería and secularization


Religion plays a crucial role in structuring most Third World societies. It is not just a way of meeting people’s spirtual needs and making sense of good and evil, life and death—though many people in advanced capitalist countries, including in gay ghettos, seem to find this dimension lacking in their lives. It is also the foundation of identity, family life and customs. But it is not socially or politically neutral. Religion in the Third World has always been political, from the Conquistadors to the Iranian revolution to the Pope’s visit to Cuba.


Though lesbians and gays in the Americas and Europe who have wrestled with Christian homophobia might not credit it, the effect of religion on LGBT identity formation is not always negative. Buddhism as a religion has traditionally been more or less neutral towards same-sex sexuality. Some indigenous African religions even provide ways of expressing same-sex identity, through the idea of possession by deities of the other sex. Transgenderal sexuality reflected in West Africa’s Dahomeyan and Yoruba religions has survived among African slaves’ descendants in the Caribbean and Brazil and persisted underground in Christian-dominated cultures. Many LGBTs in Haiti find a degree of acceptance in the voudun religion, as Brazilians do in candomblé and Cubans in Santería.[34] The Cuban regime’s encouragement of Santería as a counterweight to Catholicism has given a curious boost to LGBT identity there.


Not even all Christian denominations in the Third World are closed to recognizing LGBT identity. The most striking example is the spread of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC), as in Johannesburg’s Hope and Unity MCC and other MCCs as far-flung as Buenos Aires and the Philippines. Gevisser notes the positive role of the Anglican church under Archbishop Desmond Tutu in promoting acceptance of LGBTs in South Africa. In Buenos Aires even Catholic monks and nuns have joined a local coalition for tolerance and against police attacks.


Still, most major religions in the Third World, specifically including Christianity, Islam and Hinduism, have clearly helped hold back the development of LGBT identity. The negative role of the Catholic Church is hard to overlook for LGBTs anywhere in Latin America or in the Philippines. Mejía speaks of the Church’s ‘long history of anti-gay hostility’ in Mexico; so do the Nicaraguan lesbians interviewed by Randall. Even Catholicism’s liberation theology wing can act as brake on LGBT progress, as noted by Green in the Brazilian Workers Party’s internal debates. Nor are Third World Protestant churches more pro-gay on the whole than Catholics. Mburu’s article shows how central anti-gay attitudes have been to East African Protestantism over the past century and still are today. US Baptists were observed by Gevisser as isolated dissenters at Johannesburg Lesbian and Gay Pride, and the Protestant fundamentalist African Christian Democratic Party was the only party to oppose gay rights in the South African constituent assembly. Protestant evangelicals have been gaining ground in Latin America, including in Brazil and inside the Workers Party, where according to Green they align with Catholics in opposing gay rights.


LGBT identities are still exceptionally weak in Muslim countries generally today, despite the lack in Islam of the sex-negativism present in early Christian scriptures,[35] the richness of same-sex traditions in Islamic cultures, and widespread male-male sex by all accounts today. While transgenerational sex between men and boys is traditionally the ‘idealized form’ of male-male sex in Arab culture—and even today in many Arab countries male adolescents can play a passive role in sex with men without suffering lasting disgrace[36]—adult men who do not marry or persist in playing a passive role are transgendered and stigmatized. There are common words in many Muslim countries for such adult transgendered men: hassas in Morocco, köçek in Turkey, khanith in Oman, khusra in Pakistan, etc. Mburu describes the persistence of same-sex traditions among the Muslim Swahili peoples of the East African coast. Gevisser sees Muslim influence by way of Indonesians brought to the Cape under Dutch rule in the transgenderal ‘moffie’ traditions of South Africa’s Cape region. The existence, even ubiquity, of male-male sex in the Islamic world is often accompanied by fierce repression. In a number of Middle Eastern countries today, such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan, ‘sodomy’ is a capital crime. One scholar was dismissed from her professorial chair at Kuwait University in 1997 merely for suggesting that lesbianism was common among students.


The fact that most major religions condemn same-sex sexuality is compounded by the way virtually all religions have historically reflected and reinforced women’s social and sexual subordination. Countries that accept religious diversity also seem more more open to sexual diversity.[37] In most Third World societies, therefore, some degree of secularization is a major stimulus, even a precondition, for LGBT identity. The fact that secularization has been slower in the Third World than in advanced capitalist countries has limited the emergence of LGBT communities there, though the political power of Protestant fundamentalists in the US and the Catholic Church in Latin Europe shows that secularization has its limits in core capitalist countries too.


The example of Turkish cities like Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir shows the importance of secularization to the rise of lesbian/gay identity. The lesbian/gay commercial scenes and organizing efforts there have no parallel in any Arab or Muslim Middle Eastern country, even in major metropolises like Cairo and Karachi, which like Istanbul have populations of between five and seven million.[38] Economic differences probably account for the difference to some extent. But the cultural and religious factors at work are much more complex and striking.


The idea that Turkey is ‘partly in Europe’ or ‘closer to Europe’ or ‘more European’ is of dubious relevance here. Egypt and Pakistan both experienced colonial rule (by Britain), which Turkey escaped, and the European influences have been great, at least on their ruling elites. The extent of European settlement in an Egyptian city like Alexandria was as great or greater than in any Turkish city. Nor are Turks any less likely to be Muslim; the Christian minority in Egypt is proportionally far larger than in Turkey, and its attitudes towards same-sex sexuality are no different than the Muslim majority’s. But paradoxically, British rule in Egypt and Pakistan left Islamic social hegemony unaffected or even strengthened, while Turkey went through a profound process of secularization in the process of defending itself from European colonization after the First World War. The strength of secular values in Turkey is unequalled in any other Muslim-majority country west of Indonesia. It can hardly be a coincidence that Turkey is, along with Indonesia, the Muslim-majority country where LGBT communities are strongest.


India, whose decolonization was ultimately negotiated with Britain rather than won by force as in Turkey and Indonesia, did establish a secular political order. But in hindsight secularization in India did not penetrate the society very deeply. The enduring social hegemony of Hinduism and to a lesser degree Islam has not been conducive to the development of lesbian/gay identity, as the rise of communalism in the 1990s has made clear. Joseph and Dhall say in their article that the current government’s talk of enacting a Uniform Civil Code is unlikely in the short run to help LGBTs win basic civil rights or repeal of colonial-era criminal laws. The attacks in 1998 by the ruling party-linked, Hindu fundamentalist Shiv Sena on more than a dozen movie theatres across the nation, which intimidated managers into suspending showings of the lesbian-themed film Fire, unfortunately lends credence to Joseph and Dhall’s pessimism.


The political dimension


Politics has been one of the most neglected factors in accounts of the emergence of LGBT identities. Mere party politics may have relatively little influence on the development of lesbian/gay identities, but the political climate and culture and major social-political movements certainly do. This is true in both advanced capitalist countries and the Third World.


The vision of male ‘comradeship’ in Walt Whitman’s poetry, clearly influenced by the democratic ideology of the Civil War-era United States, played an important role in shaping many gay men’s first self-images. Particularly through Whitman’s influence on Edward Carpenter, this vision, cross-pollinating with the ideas of the early labour and socialist movement, influenced the vision of gay love in Britain.[39] In Germany, home of the world’s first enduring gay political movement, varying politics were intertwined with varying forms of gay identity. The women and men drawn to Hirschfeld’s Scientific-Humanitarian Committee came under the influence of his ‘third sex’ theories as well as his social democratic political leanings; those who came together in and around the Community of the Special celebrated an often self-consciously aristocratic ideal of male-male friendship. The contrast may be related to a tendency of working and lower class people to be involved at a historically later period in transgenderal relationships, and of middle and upper class people to move earlier towards more reciprocal patterns. Certainly political alignments in Wilhelmine and Weimar Germany were particularly associated with class affiliation.[40]


While the influence of politics is most important for the minority of LGBTs who actively engage in it, it can spread more widely when community gathering places become bases for political mobilization. This is what happened in San Francisco by the early 1960s, for example.[41] New York’s Stonewall bar, a gay gathering place that seemed anything but political, was the birthplace of US lesbian/gay liberation in 1969. The political worldview that prevails among activists can be important for the self-conception of other LGBTs who mix with activists in the community’s gathering places or are influenced in far more indirect ways.


In the Third World, as Altman comments, a certain degree of economic development is a crucial but not exclusive factor in the development of a commercial gay world. The fact that ‘it appears to be bigger in Manila than Singapore is due to a number of factors of which comparative political tolerance seems to me perhaps the most essential’. Among the poorest Latin American countries, the strongest lesbian/gay movement seems to be in Nicaragua. After wage labour and mass consumption, deep-going popular mobilizations are a factor that seems important in fostering lesbian/gay identity.


The contrast between Turkey, on the one hand, and Egypt and Pakistan has already been mentioned. Turkey is not only a less poor and more secular country, it is also one with a somewhat greater margin for independent and radical political organizations. Two of its progressive parties, the Radical Democratic Green Party and the Freedom and Solidarity Party (ÖDP), have played important roles in supporting its very embattled LGBT community.


Among the political factors important in the emergence of LGBT communities, links to feminism and black movements seem particularly important for LGBT communities. Mogrovejo’s article explores the development of Latin American lesbian feminism in depth in the context of Latin American women’s movements generally. Lesbian networking at the 1983 Latin American Feminist Gathering, the 1985 UN women’s conference in Nairobi and the 1986 International Lesbian Information Secretariat conference all contributed to making possible the first Latin American and Caribbean Lesbian Gathering in 1987 and the first Asian Lesbian Network conference in 1990.[42] These international gatherings sometimes inspired women to found the first lesbian groups in their own countries after they returned home, for example in El Salvador. They were also forerunners of the first Caribbean lesbian/gay conference in 1996 (with 14 countries represented) and the thousand-strong founding conference of the international Latino-Latina Lesbian and Gay Organization in 1997. Altman observes that in Asia too lesbian movements have often spun off from feminism, as in Thailand and the Philippines, and are not necessarily linked to gay male activism.


Green’s article mentions the importance not only of feminism but of black consciousness for early LGBT organizing in Brazil. The links between LGBT organizing and black struggles against apartheid in South Africa are striking.


For lesbian/gay, women’s and black movements, the impact of the New Left and youth revolts in 1968 and after was as crucial in parts of Latin America as in Europe and North America. The 1969 Stonewall rebellion can hardly be understood without taking into account everything else that was happening in the US in the late 1960s. Mejía says that the Mexican lesbian/gay liberation movement’s ‘presence under the banner of solidarity with other oppressed groups—political prisoners, workers, peasants—earned support and sympathy for their cause’. Green too links 1968 with the first Argentinian and Mexican lesbian/gay groups.


In later years, as lesbian/gay movements grew more quickly in Europe and North America, influences from diasporas there, for instance from US Latinos, became a stimulus to community formation in the Third World. This was all the more important for regions where LGBT communities had not emerged in the 1970s. Joseph and Dhall mention the impetus provided by the emergence of South Asian LGBT groups in North America and Europe in the mid-1980s, and Altman mentions the influence on Asian LGBTs in general of Asian LGBT groups in North America, Australia and Britain. China in particular has been influenced by tongzhi organizing in Hong Kong and the US. Perhaps North American- and European-based networking among Arabs and Muslims will eventually have an impact on the Islamic world.


While feminist, black, youth and immigrant movements have a generally positive influence on lesbian/gay ones, nationalism seems to have a generally negative influence. Nationalist movements often have a particular interest in controlling women’s sexuality, since women are supposed to reproduce the nation both physically by bearing children and culturally by raising them. In general, tolerance for sexual deviation seems greater where ethnic diversity and multiculturalism are valued, and much less where conformity is imposed in the name of nationalism.[43] At the same time, greater freedom for a previously repressed or despised national culture can be accompanied by greater freedom for women and gays, as has been the case in Quebec, Catalonia and the Basque country.


Probably most important of all in facilitating the emergence of LGBT communities is the existence of a minimal democratic space in which social organizing is possible. This was rare in the Third World twenty years ago, when open or veiled dictatorships ruled the great majority of Third World countries. For Latin Americans in particular, the link between dictatorship and anti-gay repression was clear. Green mentions the fierceness of the military dictatorship’s attacks on LGBTs in Brazil after it took power in 1964, which choked off the first stirrings of community formation that were happening before then. LGBTs were also among the thousands who disappeared during the ‘dirty war’ waged by Argentina's military dictatorship in 1976-83, which wiped out one of Latin America’s first and strongest LGBT movements. In Africa, Mburu points out, despite many formal transitions to multi-party systems in the 1990s, LGBTs still suffer under the strength of the ideology that individual rights in general are ‘un-African and deleterious’.


Dictatorships’ weakening hold on power did not always immediately work to LGBTs’ advantage in the 1980s and 1990s. Insecure regimes have sometimes turned to anti-gay prejudice in attempts to regain waning popular support. Death squads have targetted LGBTs as well as union and peasant organizers in Latin America, killing hundreds of LGBTs who were neither political, nor activist, nor leftist in what has been called ‘social cleanups’. The use of anti-gay prejudice to shore up shaky regimes is described by Gevisser in Zimbabwe, Namibia and Swaziland. Former Zimbabwean president Canaan Banana has claimed that indecent assault charges against him were fabricated following rumors that he was planning a political challenge to Mugabe’s rule. In any event Banana’s trial in 1998-99 was accompanied by a public campaign to increase punishments for same-sex sex acts.


But while the decline of dictatorships can create obstacles to LGBT community formation, their actual fall and subsequent democratic openings are moments of great opportunity. Green’s article describes how the fall of the Brazilian dictatorship in the late 1970s and early 1980s went hand in hand with the rise of LGBT communities and movements. The fall of Argentina’s dictatorship in 1982 made possible the refounding in 1984 of its lesbian/gay movement, which took off in the early 1990s.[44] Some of the fruits of community organizing were harvested when Buenos Aires banned discrimination based on sexual orientation after winning municipal home rule in 1996. Mogrovejo’s article describes how the fall of the Pinochet dictatorship created space for the rise of a lesbian community in Chile.


Gevisser’s article captures a similar feeling of liberation with the fall of apartheid in South Africa, which spilled over to increase support for freedom for LGBTs. Along with international lesbian/gay solidarity with gay African National Congress member Simon Nkoli when he was on trial, Gevisser mentions social democratic influence on ANC exiles during their years in Scandinavia, Canada and Australia as a source of post-apartheid tolerance. The first Johannesburg Lesbian and Gay Pride celebration took place in 1990, he notes—the same year that Nelson Mandela was released and the ANC unbanned.


The weakening of authoritarian Southeast Asian regimes since the outbreak of the economic crisis in 1997 also brings new dangers as well as new possibilities for LGBT communities. In 1998 for example, a People's Anti-Homosexual Voluntary Movement was formed in Malaysia by prominent members of the ruling party. They denied that their organizing had anything to do with the fall a month earlier of deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, who has been charged with same-sex offenses.


Similar dangers may exist in neighbouring Indonesia. Yet so far the possibilities are more visible than the dangers. Dédé Oetomo, founder of Indonesia’s Gaya Nusantara in the 1980s under the Suharto dictatorship, has described it himself as ‘a rather mild social service-oriented movement’ to begin with. But he adds that the LGBT and democratic movements ‘have always gone hand in hand’. Sex workers, ‘especially the female sex workers, face repression from state ideology and from the armed forces who run the sex business areas,’ he says. ‘With the general radicalisation of the urban poor and working class, they will join in political activity. Sex workers took part in demonstrations and rallies in May [1998 that brought down Suharto] and against the Habibie regime in November.’[45]


Another link between lesbian/gay and broader democratic movements can be seen in Burma. Aung Myo Min, director of the Thailand-based Campaign for Lesbigay Rights in Burma founded in mid-1996, is also director of the Human Rights Documentation Unit of the Burmese government-in-exile formed after the military junta refused to accept the results of the 1990 elections. He organizes confidential workshops with gay Burmese activists who manage to go regularly to Thailand.


The left’s unhappy marriage with LGBTs


Since many Third World dictatorships were backed by the US in the Cold War years in order to defend ‘free enterprise’, movements for democracy often included strong currents that saw global capitalism as the ultimate enemy. These currents often influenced LGBT communities and movements which shared the desire for democracy. In this sense the progress of LGBT communities was sometimes felt to be bound up with the progress of the socialist left. This was true particularly in Latin America in the 1970s. It was less the case in Southeast Asia in the 1980s, where rapid economic growth was fostering the emergence of LGBT communities. In Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, repression limited open expression of radical sympathies. In Thailand and the Philippines, where the left was more visible, Maoist predominance within it made it difficult for openly lesbian/gay activists to link up with it.


The connection between creating space for LGBT communities and challenging capitalism has come to seem less plausible. Few LGBTs today remember the days in the 1920s when not only communists but the bulk of activists in the world’s ‘sex reform’ movements viewed Soviet Russia as a beacon of enlightened policies, thanks in particular to its decriminalization of same-sex sex and its active participation in the World League for Sex Reform. Not only has socialism lost credibility since the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall, LGBTs are increasingly aware that the record of anti-capitalist movements and regimes in the twentieth century on sexual issues has at best been very mixed.


Bolshevik policies of inconsistent toleration came to an end in 1934 with the consolidation of Stalinism.[46] From the 1930s to the 1980s, the Stalinist, Maoist and Castroist currents that dominated the international anti-capitalist left fostered anti-gay prejudice rather than lesbian/gay identity. No self-organization of women or LGBTs was allowed in their ranks or under their rule.[47] Both China and Cuba, whose regimes had great prestige in the Third World, had harsh anti-gay policies. In the Cuban revolution’s first years the Soviet-linked Popular Socialist Party actively promoted prejudice. At the same time the US recruited gays for a counter-revolutionary underground, which ensured that ‘private space was invaded as never before’. The consignment of LGBTs to the notorious UMAP camps in the mid-1960s was the height of Cuban repression.[48]


Against this backdrop, the influence of Stalinism, Castroism and Maoism throughout the Third World in the last few decades has been a barrier to lesbian/gay identity, as several articles in this book attest. Green mentions the attitude of the Brazilian Communist Party that homosexuality was a form of ‘bourgeois decadence’. Joseph and Dhall mention the example of a women’s organization affiliated to the Communist Party of India condemning a conference for South Asian gay men in 1994 as an ‘invasion of India by decadent western cultures’.


Yet development, secularization and education have had effects on lesbian/gay identity in China and Cuba themselves that the Chinese and Cuban regimes presumably neither foresaw nor wanted. As the Nicaraguan lesbian Hazel recalls her visit to Cuba in Randall’s interview, ‘It's contradictory, because ... in Cuba I found a massive community. An enormous parallel world. I'd never seen so many lesbians and gay men in my life.’ The Cuban regime has grown more tolerant since the 1980s, making possible a more visible lesbian/gay community and even (since 1994) attempts at organizing an openly gay group. In 1999 the gala opening of a lesbian Women’s Centre was attended by an estimated 1200. ‘Just frame your argument in Marxist orthodoxy, and you can get away with anything’, commented director Lupia Castro in an interview.[49]


In China, open gay organizing is still repressed. Just knowing that feminists and lesbians would attend the 1995 Beijing women’s conference led the government to isolate it far away from the urban centre, forbid Chinese women university students from attending, and arrest gay activists who tried to make contact with delegates. But the growth of civil society, due in part to economic development and in part to market reforms, has created more room for AIDS work with gay men (funded from abroad) and for debates over classifying homosexuality as a mental illness.


Since the 1980s, and particularly since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Stalinist hegemony over the international left has ended and space has opened for more democratic anti-capitalist currents, whose growth can foster rather than hold back the rise of lesbian/gay identity. This drama was first played out on the small stage of Nicaragua, as the Nicaraguan lesbians interviewed by Randall in this book recount. At the beginning ‘lesbian rights didn't seem to even be a part of the horizon’. But as Ana V. says, ‘The Sandinista revolution opened up a space that maybe didn't transform things completely but it certainly didn't close off the possibility’—witness the LGBT community’s growing strength and openness in the regime’s last years. International lesbian/gay solidarity, particularly from San Francisco’s lesbian/gay Victoria Mercado Brigade, played a role in this turnaround.


During the same years in the 1980s new connections were being built between the socialist left and LGBT communities on a small scale in Mexico, with Trotskyists like Mejía of the Revolutionary Workers Party, and on a larger scale in Brazil with the Workers Party, a story told in this book by Green. The Workers Party had the advantage of being a newly founded party that did not include the older, more anti-LGBT currents of the Communist Party and Maoists. As Green explains, its relationship with LGBT communities has been sustained and deepened over the last twenty years.


Today, with the Asian economic crisis, similar links between the left and LGBT communities are beginning to take shape in Southeast Asia, notably in Indonesia and the Philippines. As the Indonesian LGBT and democratic movements draw closer, ties seem to be forming in particular with the democratic movement’s most radical wing. Oetomo of Gaya Nusantara has remarked that so far only the leftist People’s Democratic Party has supported and worked with his movement.[50] In the future, as in the early twentieth century, the growth of a refounded left may help foster LGBT community formation, as the growth of secular, feminist, black and democratic movements have throughout the century.


Third-Worldifying the queering


The picture of the ‘combined and uneven social construction’ of lesbian/gay identities that I have sketched out in this introduction has different emphases and a different overall angle of approach, I think, than most recent lesbian/gay academic or political writings do. My feeling is that this is not just the outcome of my own predispositions, but something that is natural, necessary and in a sense even inevitable when looking at the Third World. Perhaps a greater focus on the Third World in years to come could help change lesbian/gay politics and studies as a whole. I see four shifts in emphasis that could be helpful in LGBTs’ understanding the world better and in making it a better world for us:


• Reacting against crude forms of economic determinism and class-centred politics, feminists in the 1970s and queer theorists and activists in the ‘80s and ‘90s have tended to stress the importance of ideology and culture. To some extent they have helped right a balance that needed righting. But looking at the Third World requires us to acknowledge and analyze more the crucial role of a minimal level of living standards and social protections in making LGBT lives and freedom possible. The experience of the last quarter-century suggests that LGBTs cannot take these basic necessities for granted in advanced capitalist countries either.


• Among cultural factors, queer theorists have in recent years mainly studied the influence and challenged the prejudices of scientists, doctors, police and producers of popular culture. In the Third World there is no way of avoiding the crucial cultural significance of religion as well. Many LGBTs in advanced capitalist countries have also been coming together as Protestants, Catholics, Jews and Muslims. The discourses and power structures of these religions merit more systematic attention.


• LGBT activists around the world have been challenging discriminatory laws and policies for decades now. But scholars have not paid much attention to the place of LGBTs in their countries’ overall political climate and order, and LGBT movements have been less likely recently to see themselves as part of broader efforts for political change. In the Third World the need for LGBTs to be part of processes of democratizing their countries is becoming steadily clearer. LGBTs in advanced capitalist countries should debate more whether ‘actually existing liberal democracy’ should be the limit of their historical and political horizon.


• Third World evidence raises questions about recent queer theory’s emphasis on the diffuseness of power and its questioning of the systemic coherence of structures underlying LGBT oppression. In Third World countries, whether under open dictatorships or superficial democracies under the thumb of the International Monetary Fund, power does not seem all that diffuse. Nor is there anything diffuse about men’s power over women in countries where female genital mutilation or dowry death are commonplace.[51] Frontal, systemic challenges have often seemed to LGBTs like an appropriate response to structures like the Catholic Church, military dictatorships or apartheid. Measured by Third World standards, Altman’s charge that ‘American “queer theory” remains as relentlessly Atlantic-centric in its view of the world as the mainstream culture it critiques’ seems valid.[52] In advanced capitalist countries too, postmodern questioning of the coherence of power structures may play into the ideological camouflage practised by the power structures themselves.


Some queer theorists might respond by challenging any attempt at a systemic conception of LGBT oppression and liberation as essentially Eurocentric. Does a systemic account of LGBT identity in fact have to mean imposing ‘modern, Western’ categories on other cultures or epochs? Take the cases of precolonial Mesoamerica and the Andes, where there is evidence that the Aztecs and Incas suppressed forms of same-sex sexuality that were tolerated and even celebrated among peoples that they conquered.[53] Is it inherently Eurocentric to see this as oppression, or to see the resistance of conquered peoples as resistance to oppression? Similarly today, in the conflict between Robert Mugabe and LGBT Zimbabweans, is it Eurocentric to recognize Mugabe’s oppressive policies for what they are, or Afrocentric to dismiss LGBT Zimbabweans’ fight for sexual freedom?


The approach of this introduction, and I think of Different Rainbows as a whole, is to say no. We can see that LGBTs in the world today, in all our enormous diversity, have converged enough to have a certain real commonality of identity. This constitutes an objective basis for solidarity in our oppression and in our struggles, past and present, and an objective claim on the solidarity of others.




[1] This includes all the countries discussed in this book (with the partial exception of China, a vast country which held its own against Europe until the early nineteenth century, was never fully colonized, cut its links to the world market in 1949 and has only partially restored them in the past two decades). ‘Third World’ is an unsatisfactory term for these countries. But I have preferred it to euphemisms such as ‘developing’ or ‘less developed’, or ideologically laden (though more accurate) ones such as ‘dominated’ or ‘dependent’. 

[2] Edward Said has pointed out how woefully underdeveloped ‘Middle Eastern Studies’—not to mention ‘European Studies’ or ‘American Studies’—are in the Middle East itself (Orientalism, New York: Random House, 1978, pp. 204, 322-24).

[3] David Fernbach, The Spiral Path: A Gay Contribution to Human Survival, Boston/London: Alyson/GMP, 1981, p. 82. For an insightful overview of the ‘gay gene’ debate and its political implications, see David Fernbach, ‘Biology and gay identity’, New Left Review no. 228 (Mar.-Apr. 1998).

[4] See above all the detailed examination in David F. Greenberg, The Construction of Homosexuality, Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1988.

[5] Gloria Wekker, ‘“What’s identity got to do with it?”: rethinking identity in light of the mati work in Suriname’, in Evelyn Blackwood and Saskia E. Wieringa eds., Female Desires: Same-Sex Relations and Transgender Practices across Cultures, New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1999, p. 120.

[6] For this reason, despite the unfortunate awkwardness, I use both the terms ‘lesbian/gay’ and ‘LGBT’ in the introduction and conclusion, as appropriate in different contexts. I avoid the word ‘homosexual’, which evades or confuses too many issues.

[7] John D’Emilio, ‘Capitalism and gay identity’, in Ann Snitow et al. eds., Powers of Desire: The Politics of Sexuality, New York: Monthly Review Press, 1983, was an early Marxist-feminist analysis. See also Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Volume 1: An Introduction, New York: Random House, 1978.   

[8] Clellan S. Ford and Frank A. Beach, Patterns of Sexual Behavior, New York: Harper & Row, 1951, p. 130, notes that in 49 out of 76 societies studied some form of same-sex sexual behaviour (male and/or female) was not only known but socially accepted.

[9] Rudi C. Bleys, The Geography of Perversion: Male-to-Male Sexual Behavoir Outside the West and the Ethnographic Imagination, 1750-1918, New York: New York Univ. Press, 1995, recounts medieval European Christian stories of non-Christians’ ‘sodomitical’ practices; nineteenth-century European racists’ ‘scientific’ explanations that ‘inferior races’ were prone to ‘pathological’ forms of sexuality; and many other ways in which non-European same-sex eroticism was incorporated into European discourses over the centuries.

[10] As Will Roscoe and Stephen Murray say, no version of social constructionism is tenable that sees the ‘history of homosexuality as a progressive, even teleological, evolution from pre-modern repression and silence to modern visibility and social freedom’ (‘Introduction’, in Murray and Roscoe eds., Islamic Homosexualities: Culture, History and Literature, New York, New York Univ. Press, 1997, p. 5).

[11] Admitting that intolerance existed in indigenous cultures does not mean granting ‘the West’ a patent on tolerance. On the contrary, the extreme forms of persecution in late medieval Europe and Nazi Germany have not been surpassed in any other culture.

[12] Neil Garcia argues convincingly against the idea that ‘cultures are by nature circumscribed by impermeable boundaries’ (Philippine Gay Culture: The Last Thirty Years, Diliman: Univ. of the Philippines Press, 1996, pp. xvii-xviii).

[13] Hugh McLean and Linda Ngcobo, ‘Abangibhamayo bathi ngimnandi (Those who fuck me say I’m tasty): Gay sexuality in Reef townships’, in Mark Gevisser & Edwin Cameron eds., Defiant Desire: Gay and Lesbian Lives in South Africa, Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1994, pp. 164-65.

[14] For an initial attempt to apply the idea of ‘combined and uneven development’ to same-sex sexualities, see Peter Drucker, ‘“In the tropics there is no sin”: Sexuality and gay-lesbian movements in the Third World’, New Left Review no. 218 (July-Aug. 1996).

[15] Barry Adam, Jan Willem Duyvendak and André Krouwel point out that even ‘similar cultural practices have quite different meanings’ in different cultures (‘Gay and lesbian movements beyond borders?: national imprints of a worldwide movement’, in Adam, Duyvendak & Krouwel eds., The Global Emergence of Gay and Lesbian Politics: National Imprints of a Worldwide Movement, Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press, 1999, p. 348).

[16]  Daniel Bao, ‘Invertidos sexuales, tortilleras, and maricas machos: The construction of homosexuality in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1900-1950’, Journal of Homosexuality  (Chicago) vol. 24 no. 3/4 (1993), pp. 192, 208.

[17] John D’Emilio has put forward this explanation for the US (‘Capitalism and gay identity’, pp. 105-06).

[18] Evidence of communities of trangendered men has been found for northern Italy as early as the fourteenth century, in France as early as the fifteenth, and in England and Holland as early as the seventeenth (Ellen Ross & Rayna Rapp, ‘Sex and society: A research note from social history and anthropology’, Powers of Desire, p. 65; Greenberg, Construction of Homosexuality, pp. 330-31).

[19] See Dennis Altman, The Homosexualization of America, The Americanization of the Homosexual, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1982, pp. 47-48.

[20] George Chauncey, Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940, New York: Basic Books, 1994, p. 27. Altman’s Homosexualization of America, pp. 79-97, has explored and analyzed gay consumer culture in depth.

[21] See John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century, Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1980, ch. 10, ‘Social change: Making enemies’.

[22]  Daniel Bao, ‘Invertidos sexuales, tortilleras, and maricas machos’, pp. 192, 208.

[23] See e.g. Peter A. Jackson, Male Homosexuality in Thailand: An Interpretation of Contemporary Thai Sources, Elmhurst (NY): Global Academic Publishers, 1989, p. 227. Transgendered people in Asia still sometimes fill a social niche at least as much as a sexual one; in Indonesia many people even assume that waria are asexual (Dédé Oetomo, ‘Gender and sexual orientation in Indonesia’, in Laurie J. Sears ed., Fantasizing the Feminine in Indonesia, Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 1996, p. 261).

[24] See Trupti Shah & Bina Srinivasan, ‘India: the effect of capitalist development on gender violence: dowry and female feticide’, in Penny Duggan & Heather Dashner eds., Women’s Lives in the New Global Economy, Amsterdam: IIRE, 1994.

[25] Adrienne Rich, ‘Compulsory heterosexuality and lesbian existence’ (1980), in Snitow, Powers of Desire, pp. 183-85.

[26] Interview with Hind Khattab by Didi Khayatt (9 Mar. 1995), in Khayatt, ‘The place of desire: Where are the lesbians in Egypt?’, unpublished ms.

[27] Blackwood, while agreeing that compulsory heterosexuality is characteristic of many societies, has challenged Rich’s blanket theory, pointing to examples of non-compulsory, non-oppressive forms of sex among women in different cultures (‘Breaking the mirror: The construction of lesbianism and the anthropological discourse on homosexuality’, in Blackwood ed., The Many Faces of Homosexuality: Anthropological Approaches to Homosexual Behavior, New York: Harrington Park Press, 1986). But Rich’s picture of repression faithfully reflects the situation in many Third World regions today.

[28] Wekker, ‘“What’s identity got to do with it?”’, p. 122; Alison J. Murray, ‘Let them take esctasy: Class and Jakarta lesbians’, in Blackwood and Wieringa, Female Desires, p. 151; Saskia Wieringa, ‘An anthropological critique of constructionism: Berdaches and butches’, in Dennis Altman et al. eds., Homosexuality, Which Homosexuality?, London: GMP, 1989, pp. 215, 217.

[29] Ian Lumsden, Homosexuality, Society and the State in Mexico, Toronto: Canadian Gay Archives/Solediciones, 1991, pp. 45-46.

[30] Garcia, Philippine Gay Culture, esp. pp. 134-61; Iwan van Grinsven, Limits to Desire: Obstacles to Gay Male Identity and Subculture Formation in Cairo, Egypt, [Nijmegen: unpublished ms., 1997], p. 37.

[31] Oetomo, ‘Gender and sexual orientation’, p. 265. Oetomo says that waria  ‘are mainly working-class or lower-class, at least by origin, while most gay men hail from middle- or upper-class families or aspire to middle-class standing’ (p. 268). Thomas Boellstorff, The Gay Archipelago: Translocal Identity in Indonesia (unpublished PhD diss., forthcoming 1999), confirms that waria  are predominantly lower class, but shows that gay-identified men can be lower class too; 90 percent make less than US $60 a month, which is low even by Indonesian standards. Alison Murray says that lower class lesbians ‘are excluded from the global movement by the lack of two essentials: money and the English language’. Far from all lower class lesbians fit into butch-femme roles, however, and even Sumatran tombois who see themselves as men will sometimes define themselves as lesbians in certain contexts (‘Let them take esctasy’, pp. 140, 148).

[32] Jacob Schifter Sikora, La Formación de una Contracultura: Homosexualismo y Sida en Costa Rica, San José: Ediciones Guayacán, 1989.

[33] Giti Thadani, ‘The politics of identities and languages: Lesbian desire in ancient and modern India’, in Blackwood and Wieringa, Female Desires, p. 86.

[34] Murray describes transgender roles in Hausa possession cults and mentions Dahomeyan and Yoruba counterparts in ‘Gender-defined homosexual roles in Sub-Saharan African Islamic cultures’, in Islamic Homosexualities, pp. 222-24. A fascinating account of the consequences of African-derived religion for same-sex identity in Suriname is found in Gloria Wekker, Ik ben een gouden munt: Subjectiviteit en seksualiteit van Creoolse volksklasse vrouwen in Paramaribo, Amsterdam: VITA, 1994, forthcoming in English from Univ. of Cambridge Press. See also Murray, ‘Haiti’, in Wayne R. Dynes ed., Encyclopedia of Homosexuality, New York/London: Garland Publishing, 1990,  p. 516; João S. Trevisan, Perverts in Paradise, London: GMP, 1986, pp. 171-74; and Lourdes Arguelles and B. Ruby Rich, ‘Homosexuality, homophobia and revolution: Notes toward an understanding of the Cuban lesbian and gay male experience’, in Martin Duberman et al. eds., Hidden from History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past, New York: New American Library, 1990, p. 445.

[35] The Islamic scriptures do include condemnations of male-male sexuality, however. One English translation of the Koran quotes Lot, seen as a Jewish prophet and forerunner of Muhammad, as saying, ‘Are you blind that you should commit indecency, lustfully seeking men instead of women?’ and, ‘Will you fornicate with males and leave your wives, whom Allah has created for you?  Surely you are great transgressors.’  (The Koran, N.J. Dawood trans., Baltimore: Penguin, 1968, pp. 84 (27:56), 203 (26:165-66)). Omar Nahas of the Dutch Yoesuf Foundation on Islam and (Homo)sexuality says that the original Arabic text specifically condemns anal intercourse and not egalitarian, voluntary, adult homosexuality (Stichting Yoesuf, Homoseksualiteit en de barmhartigheid van Allah, Utrecht: Stichting Yoesuf, 1999, p. 12).

[36] Murray and Roscoe, ‘Conclusion’, in Islamic Homosexualities, p. 302.

[37] Adam, Duyvendak & Krouwel, ‘Gay and lesbian movements beyond borders?’, pp. 353-54.

[38] Van Grinsven says, ‘Gay organizations do not exist’ in Cairo, nor are there ‘“gay bars” or any other commercial institutions serving gays’(Limits to Desire, p. 15). Badruddin Khan, ‘Not-so-gay life in Pakistan in the 1980s and 1990s’, in Islamic Homosexualities, says flatly, ‘There is no “gay life” in Karachi, in the Western sense of the word: no bars, no newspapers, and few instances of lovers living together’ (p. 275).

[39] See Sheila Rowbotham & Jeffrey Weeks, Socialism and the New Life: The Personal and Sexual Politics of Edward Carpenter and Havelock Ellis, London: Pluto Press, 1977.

[40] See Manfred Herzer, ‘Communists, Social Democrats, and the homosexual movement in the Weimar Republic’, in Gert Hekma et al. eds., Gay Men and the Sexual History of the Political Left, New York: Haworth Press, 1995, and Peter Drucker, ‘Gays and the left: Scratching the surface’, Against the Current no. 68 (May/June 1997).

[41] John D’Emilio, Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1940-1970, Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1983, esp. ch. 10: ‘The movement and the subculture converge: San Francisco during the early 1960s’.

[42] Sylvia Borren, ‘Lesbians in Nairobi’, in Second ILGA Pink Book: A Global View of Lesbian and Gay Liberation and Oppression, Utrecht: Interfacultaire Werkgroep Homostudies, 1988, pp. 60-65, gives a particularly inspiring picture of how international solidarity helped African lesbians affirm their identity and make themselves visible.

[43] Adam et al., Global Emergence, esp. Adam, ‘Moral regulation and the disintegrating Canadian state’, p. 18; Geoffrey Woolcock and Dennis Altman, ‘The largest street party in the world: The gay and lesbian movement in Australia’, p. 328; Scott Long, ‘Gay and lesbian movements in Eastern Europe: Romania, Hungary and the Czech republic’, pp. 244.

[44] Stephen Brown, ‘Democracy and sexual difference: The lesbian and gay movement in Argentina’, in Adam et al., Global Emergence, p. 112.

[45] Dédé Oetomo (interviewed by Jill Hickson), ‘The struggle for lesbian and gay rights’, Green Left Weekly no. 351, 3 Mar. 1999.

[46] John Lauritsen and David Thorstad, The Early Homosexual Rights Movement (1864-1935), revised edition, Ojai (CA): Times Change Press, 1995.

[47] Randall raises the ‘question of whether a woman's movement not led by women can make real inroads against sexism and women's oppression’. This should lead us to question Song’s statement in Chou’s article, that for the Chinese ‘equality of the sexes is natural, not something achieved through the feminist struggle’.

[48] Arguelles and Rich, ‘Homosexuality, homophobia and revolution’, pp. 447-48. By far the best overview of Cuba’s lesbian/gay community, its history and situation is Ian Lumsden, Machos, Maricones and Gays: Cuba and Homosexuality, Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press, 1996.

[49] James Balducci, ‘Dyke Revolucionaria has an attitude, a brain and a vision’, Bay Area Reporter (23 Apr. 1999).

[50] Oetomo, ‘The struggle for lesbian and gay rights’.

[51] Wieringa and Blackwood say that ‘the term “queer” does not allow for recognition of gender hierarchies and women’s oppression. A term lumping together lesbians and gays denies that lesbians are differently located within their societies.’ (‘Introduction’, in Blackwood and Wieringa eds., Female Desires, p. 210). 

[52] Kendall points out that queer theory ‘privileges both nonconformity and the visible’ (‘Women in Lesotho and the (Western) construction of homophobia’, in Blackwood and Wieringa, Female Desires, p. 173). Neil Garcia does rely heavily on postmodern literary theories in his book Philippine Gay Culture and draws on Judith Butler’s and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s writings on ‘queer theory’. Perhaps this is due in part to the fact that much of his book is devoted to literary criticism, though he interweaves it in stimulating ways with political reflections.

[53] Mejía, for example, makes a contrast between the relatively intolerant Aztecs and the relatively tolerant Zapotecs in precolonial Mesoamerica. There is in fact considerable controversy about the Aztecs’ toleration or persecution of same-sex sexuality. Greenberg’s Construction of Homosexuality mentions Spanish reports of transgenderal, religious prostitution among the Aztecs (pp. 164-65), but these seem unreliable. Geoffrey Kimball, ‘Aztec homosexuality: the textual evidence’, Journal of Homosexuality  (Chicago) vol. 26 no. 1 (1993), concludes that the Aztecs disapproved of same-sex eroticism but did not repress it by force (p. 20).