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Against the emerging backdrop of national power and Christian faith, what might have been learned about same-sex love or gender identity was buried in scandal.
Nonetheless, in much of the world, female sexual activity and sensation were curtailed wherever genital circumcision practices made clitoridectomy an ongoing custom.
Where European dress—a clear marker of gender—was enforced by missionaries, we find another complicated history of both gender identity and resistance.
Although the LGBT community and individuals remain targets for hate violence and backlash throughout the world, the hard work of activists and allies made it possible to reach this era, where the perpetrators of violence, not the victims, are condemned as sick.
Social movements, organizing around the acceptance and rights of persons who might today identify as LGBT or queer, began as responses to centuries of persecution by church, state and medical authorities.
Such eyewitness accounts in the era before other media were of course riddled with the biases of the (often) Western or white observer, and added to beliefs that homosexual practices were other, foreign, savage, a medical issue, or evidence of a lower racial hierarchy.
The peaceful flowering of early trans or bisexual acceptance in different indigenous civilizations met with opposition from European and Christian colonizers.
Biblical interpretation made it illegal for a woman to wear pants or a man to adopt female dress, and sensationalized public trials warned against “deviants” but also made such martyrs and heroes popular: Joan of Arc is one example, and the chilling origins of the word “faggot” include a stick of wood used in public burnings of gay men.
Despite the risks of defying severe legal codes, cross-dressing flourished in early modern Europe and America.
This acceptance of performance artists, and the popularity of “drag” humor cross-culturally, did not necessarily mark the start of transgender advocacy, but made the arts an often accepting sanctuary for LGBT individuals who built theatrical careers based around disguise and illusion.
The era of sexology studies is where we first see a small, privileged cluster of medical authorities begin promoting a limited tolerance of those born “invert.” In Western history, we find little formal study of what was later called homosexuality before the 19th century, beyond medical texts identifying women with large clitorises as “tribades” and severe punishment codes for male homosexual acts.