Homosexuality and other forms of 'queerness'
His Holiness opposes violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation.
On the Dalai Lama in San Francisco, 1997
The word 'homosexuality' derives from the Greek homos, 'same', rather than the Latin homo, 'man', so it refers to sex between either men or women. Nevertheless, 'lesbianism' is usually used to refer to sexual relations between females (Herdt, 1987: 445). Same-sex relationships span a spectrum from brotherly or filial affection, which is universally admired, to affectionate respect for a spiritual teacher, or strong bonds of friendship, likewise generally admired, to erotic feelings for those of the same sex, to sexual activity with those of the same sex, to a person's conscious self-identification as 'homosexual', 'gay' or 'lesbian'. In modern Western culture, any man who engages, or has engaged, in homosexual activity has tended to be identified as 'a homosexual', though this way of identifying a person based on his or her sexual orientation is not found in other cultures. Gilbert Herdt identifies three forms of the cultural structuring of what is now seen as 'homosexual' activity (usually of males) across different cultures:
(1) age-structured homosexuality, in which people of the same sex but of different ages are sexually involved; (2) gender-reversed homosexuality, wherein a person adopts the dress, mannerisms, and sexual activities of the opposite sex; and (3) role-specialized homosexuality, in which a person, by virtue of his or her social and religious role, is entitled to engage in homosexual activity. (1987: 446)
The first type, which occurred in ancient Greece, has been the most common, and does not preclude the junior participants' later marrying and having children, though perhaps taking boy lovers also. The Greeks, however, strongly condemned passive homosexuality in adults, i.e. being penetrated, rather than being the 'active' penetrator (Herdt, 1987: 447). Early Christianity was antagonistic to homosexuality, but was then ambiguous on it until the eleventh century. It was strongly condemned from the time of Thomas Aquinas, and came to be punishable by the stake.