Homosexual transsexualism, or HSTS, has a recorded history as long as writing itself, from 6,000 years ago and before. It is the natural end point of a developmental scale of human homosexuality. This can be described as ‘transgender homosexuality’ because those who display it are completely same-sex oriented, from childhood, sometimes as early as 2; and they are completely cross-sex identified, that is, they understand themselves as being of the opposite sex, from the same age. Such individuals may experience severe discomfort because of the mismatch between their sense of self and their social role and appearance, if they attempt to present in a normative manner for their sex. This is called Homosexual Gender Dysphoria and in severe cases the subject may fully transition and live as a member of the opposite sex, where he or she will fully conform to the gender standards for that culture. These are HSTS.
As a general rule then, HSTS are same-sex oriented and cross-sex identified from childhood and they will transition if their fear of the social consequences of doing so impacts less on them than their feelings of Gender Dysphoria.
Today, we recognise that this form of homosexuality is an innate sexuality, that is, it’s not learned or ‘socialised’.
If it is innate, we should expect to find expressions of it across all human cultures at all times and this we do. It is mentioned – often negatively, in many ancient texts like the Bible, the Hindu texts, the Koran and so on. There are numerous reports of it throughout history. Sometimes, as in Europe or where the writers were European, this has been negative. Elsewhere, records are more balanced in tone.
The close link between HSTS and homosexuality, together with the copious records, suggest that it too is a fundamental and intrinsic aspect of human nature. Despite often extreme social intolerance, then, HSTS has lived on throughout the ages of human culture. Its appearance in the West in recent decades should be seen not as a new phenomenon but as the reappearance of a natural part of the human condition that had been suppressed, for centuries, by brutal, often lethal violence, frequently promoted by religion.
This article aims to provide an overview of the history as we know it today.
Writing was not invented until around 4,000 BCE and prior to that, any evidence of HSTS or, for that matter, any human sexual behaviour, remains conjectural.
There is significant prehistoric evidence that HSTS was present before the establishment of sedentary cultures and the invention of writing. This is consistent with models found more recently in tribal societies. The evidence comes from multiple burial sites across Europe. It is tempting to include it here but, because we cannot absolutely be sure of the nature of the culture that the deceased lived in or the context of the burials, we will dedicate another article to this. However, I am personally confident that, if ever we were able to definitively analyse this evidence it would confirm the presence of HSTS in prehistory.
While great care must be taken in studying the written, historical evidence, because of the cultural differences between us and the writers, we are on much more solid ground.
The written history
Writing was a product of the first settled, agrarian cultures and probably originated as a way of tallying crop produce and of making contracts. As far as we know, the very first writing was invented in Mesopotamia, which is now Iraq, in a culture called Sumer, which lay between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
The city which gives us the first recorded writing was called Uruk. This is the Biblical Erech. The people used a form of writing called ‘cuneiform’ which might have been invented by women. They wrote on clay tablets. This presents us with a problem deciphering Sumerian texts, because, after 6000 years, many of the tablets have been destroyed or are buried in the ruins of the city, which remain, abandoned, in the desert of modern Iraq. This means that for much of the time we have to ‘fill in the gaps’ with later material. Despite this, we have a great deal of information.
Uruk was a Goddess city and its deity was called Inanna. The people of the city believed that she was an invisible but incredibly powerful being who really lived in her dedicated temple, at the heart of the city itself. She was a form — in India this would be called an ‘avatar’ — of the Great Goddess herself, but Inanna was anthropomorphic. That means that even though she was invisible to humans, she actually looked, to those who could see her, like an astonishingly perfect young woman, albeit much larger, with wings.
Naturally, Inanna, being a goddess, was served by women, but not all of these were born so: she was served by transwomen too.
The transsexual servants of Inanna self-castrated out of devotion to the Goddess, specifically in order to make themselves complete as women; this was documented not just by the Sumerians but by successor cultures down to Rome and is carried on today in India. They used the complete form of castration, removing scrotum, testicles and penis. This was usually carried out at or soon after puberty, so they would have stopped masculinising at that point and so would appear passable as women.
They were the world’s first recorded transsexuals.
Religion, prostitution and transsexualism
Within Sumerian and later Mesopotamian cultures was the tradition of ‘Temple Prostitution’. This existed in many other cultures and we have numerous contemporary accounts of the practice.
Religious prostitution is not, even today, well understood, partly because of centuries of scholarship that sought to erase it and partly because of the generally sex-negative attitude of Anglo-Saxon culture. Women in Sumer did not see the act of sex with a stranger, for money, as demeaning but rather as a religious act that confirmed them as part of the sisterhood of the goddess Inanna.
One of the most famous Mesopotamian texts, the Epic of Gilgamesh, confirms this. In it, Gilgamesh, the king, is frustrated because a wild man by the name of Enkidu, who lives with the animals on the steppe, has been spoiling his traps. Gilgamesh seeks help from the High Priestess of Inanna, who sends a harimsu, or temple prostitute, to seduce Enkidu and bring him back to the city. This she is to accomplish by finding where he sleeps and lying down naked beside him. When Enkidu awakes, he will be so inflamed with lust that he will have sex with her. So he does and is thereby tamed and brought to the life of the city, where he becomes Gilgamesh’ best friend.
Herodotus, in his description of life in Babylon, a successor to Sumer, wrote:
Many women who are rich and proud and disdain to mingle with the rest, drive to the temple in covered carriages drawn by teams, and stand there with a great retinue of attendants. But most sit down in the sacred plot of Aphrodite, with crowns of cord on their heads; there is a great multitude of women coming and going; passages marked by line run every way through the crowd, by which the men pass and make their choice. Once a woman has taken her place there, she does not go away to her home before some stranger has cast money into her lap, and had intercourse with her outside the temple; but while he casts the money, he must say, “I invite you in the name of Mylitta”. It does not matter what sum the money is; the woman will never refuse, for that would be a sin, the money being by this act made sacred. So she follows the first man who casts it and rejects no one.
Did transwomen also perform this sacred duty? It’s almost inconceivable that they did not, as it was a requirement for all women. In addition, we have references directly from Sumerian texts that confirm it.
One, from the ‘Hymns to Inanna’ (Kramer & Wolkstein) is:
‘”Hail!” to Inanna, First Daughter of the Moon!
The male prostitutes comb their hair before you.
They decorate the napes of their necks with colored scarfs’
This is clearly referring to transwomen beautifying themselves before performing their religious duties. It suggests that transwomen were accepted in Sumer and were expected to behave as other women did.
The modern Indian version of the Sumerian transwomen priestesses are sometimes called ‘hijra’ and amongst them are considerable numbers of HSTS. They too, practise religious prostitution. There is no persuasive argument to suggest that something similar was not also the case in Sumer.
The earliest human civilisations appeared in Sumer, making the fact that transsexualism is described there important. However, the tradition that proceeds through the Middle East and then west and north to Europe and beyond was not the only line of cultural development. At about the same time or slightly later than the Sumerian cities appeared, further east in the Indus valley, similar events were taking place.
Through time, these led to the great Hindu culture of India, which spread south and east across the region. At the core of this culture are texts called the Vedas, which were written between 3000 to 1500 BCE, although the source material might be even older. The Vedas consist of four volumes and have a huge advantage over the Sumerian texts: they are complete. Despite the vagaries of history that India has had to endure, the culture of the Vedas still lives on, in more-or-less unchanged form.
As the culture spread, so did the records of transsexualism.
In his book Tritiya Pakriti, scholar Amara Das Wilhelm has concentrated a huge resource of information which we unashamedly make use of here.
The word kliba or klibaka is the most common third-gender term found in Vedic literature. It … often specifically describes those who are effeminate or homosexual by nature. Kliba is frequently used to disparage men considered weak, cowardly, unmanly, effete, of questionable manhood and so on.
In one category of kliba, exist ‘Shandha—he has the qualities and behavior of a woman’.
The Sushruta Samhita is an ancient Vedic medical text put into writing sometime around 600 B.C. (It) describes a type of female shandha with the qualities of a man (3.2.43).
Shandha—he has the qualities and behaviour of a woman.
The term shandha or shandhaka is also commonly found in Vedic literature. It…often specifically describes male-to-female transgenders. Both the Sushruta Samhita (3.2.42) and Smriti-ratnavali state that the shandha talks, walks, laughs and otherwise behaves like a woman.
Under the category ‘Panda’, he notes: ‘ Sevyaka—he is sexually enjoyed by other men’. Clearly, this refers to a homosexual male, though it does not specify his presentation.
Women who are impotent with men are mentioned less frequently in Vedic literature. Nevertheless, several types of nastriya or third-gender women can be found:
1) Svairini—she engages in lovemaking with other women. (lesbian)
2) Kamini—she engages in lovemaking with both men and women. (bisexual)
3) Stripumsa—she is masculine in behavior and form. (HSTS)
4) Shandhi—she is averse to men and has no menstruation or breasts.
The word tritiya-prakriti refers to third-gender men and women with various combinations of the two natures described above. It is especially used in the Kama Sutra to describe men and women who are homosexual or transgender by nature. Such people appear as male or female and assume masculine or feminine identities (They have no sexual interest in the opposite sex.)
Amara Das notes that:
Because the Dharma Shastra considers the third sex to be an inborn nature rather than an acquired vice, no verses punish third-gender citizens for their characteristic behavior. No laws penalize third-gender men for refusing to marry women or conceive children (quite the contrary) and no laws punish crossdressing, male prostitution, private homosexual behavior, etc.
As you can see, a comprehensive set of what the author calls ‘third gender’ types are here described. Note especially the way that the texts explicitly conflate gender-conforming homosexuality and transsexualism as two forms of the same thing. This was the universal understanding until the 20th century and remains the standard one throughout all of the world except the West.