David By Donatello dated to the late 1420s-60s (not Michelangelo)
H O M O E R O T I C ! ! ! In high school I was floored to find out that there were gay people and even gay societies before us. I know that may seem kind of stupid, but as an adolescent in the South I desperately latched on to anything that shared the same erotic and romantic interests as mine and unfortunately all I had was Sam Smith and Italian Renassaince art in the likes of Caravaggio and this wonderful sculpture by Donatello.
I mean look at that feather leading up the interior of young David's inner thigh, talk about charged. What's also interestingly sexual is the choice to have David completely naked except for his hat and boots despite him just having engaged in a slingshot battle with the massive giant Goliath. Seems like David might have intentionally chosen to be naked for the viewers...
So this piece then made me want to learn more about these places that seemed more gay than our current time even. Especially considering that one of the most affluent families in all of Italy at the time (the Medici's) commissioned this work for their garden. SOOO turns out that in 15th century Florence a majority of men practiced some form of homosexuality. Specifically, the socially accepted way of practicing this was only men under 20 could be the "bottom" or penetrated and the men above 20 would be the "top" or penetrators in the sexual act. Otherwise it was considered wrong and a deviation "from the order of nature." As many as 17,000 men in Florence (a city of 40,000) were accused and trialed for commiting sodomy, however, only 60 were acctually punished with exile, death, or a severe punishment and most were let off with a small fine.
So this then led me to realize there are TONS of cultures before us and currently that practice and think about sexuality differently than the America I live in now in 2022. For example this type of gay relationship where an older man penetrated a younger youth was seen in many other societies like ancient Greece, medieval Japan's samurai and Heian period Buddhist monks, and ofcourse Renassaince Italy among many other societies. Also, many other places, people, and cultures today think of sexuality and gender differently than the Euromerican notion of LGBTQ+ and gender and sexuality being separate and not assumed (i.e. being gay does not mean you identify in your gender as a man).
For example, in Thailand sexual and gender identities are often linked in the Thai term phet . In Thailand there are not separate terms for gender and sexuality, but phet "denotes a distinctive type of gendered existence which has its own characteristic form of eroticism or sexual desire. 'Eroticized gender' is a possible translation.” (Peter Jackson An explosion of Thai identities…). So in a more a simple way sexuality is often assumed based on someone's gender identification and performance. There are numerous identities in Thailand that are not familiar to Euromerican ideas of gender and sexuality.
Another example is in Pakistan and India the identity hijra . This term can encompass intersex, transgender, and asexual people. However, they often play a religious and amorphous role in society. This idea of a gender identification playing some greater religious or cultural role in society is something that is not seen today in Euromerica. People who are hijra can often take up important roles at religious festivals.
Learning about these various identities challenged my previous assumptions that Euromerican ideas of identity and sexuality were universal or were true everywhere. I learned from looking into other cultures' ideas of sexuality/gender through art that these ideas are often very different and shaped by differing cultural histories. Thanks for reading! I am new to researching these other forms of gender and sexuality so if you have any comments or want me to extrapolate in certain areas please reach out to me! I am happy to discuss any and all of these ideas, email me: firstname.lastname@example.org