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While re-reading this chapter for the blog, I had a lot of flashbacks to the period after 2008 when California (my home state) first legalized same-sex marriage, then took it away under a ballot proposition, then ruled against the results of the proposition in the state supreme court, then waited for the parallel US Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage throughout the USA. The fight isn't over--we are seeing how easy it is for rights to be eroded, roadblocked, or de facto reversed under a hostile regime.

Like Boswell’s Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, I read this book back when it first came out and had not yet generated the intense discussion that marked its reception. (In fact, on checking the publication information, I appear to have picked up a first edition of the original hardcover.) Looking back in the context of this re-read, two things come back to me that still hold.

Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 42c - Book Appreciation with Kate Heartfield - transcript pending

(Originally aired 2020/01/18 - listen here)


Books mentioned

Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 42b - Interview with Kate Heartfield - transcript pending

(Originally aired 2020/01/11 - listen here)


Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 42a - On the Shelf for January 2020 - Transcript

(Originally aired 2020/01/04 - listen here)

Welcome to On the Shelf for January 2020.

There are two basic parts to Boswell's book on homosexuality and tolerance: 1) that Christian society was not always and inevitable intolerant of homosexuality; and 2) that the shift to intolerance can be localized to a particular historic period and related to other significant cultural and political shifts during that period. Perhaps the present day is an opportunity for understanding just how a conjunction of unrelated forces can combine to create apparently illogical shifts in popular thinking. Or at least apparent shifts in popular thinking.

This section of Boswell's work points up some of the structural flaws of his study, in my opinion. "Structural flaws" does not necessarily mean "incorrect data and evidence" but rather that the large-scale conclusions are shaped by the ways in which that evidence is interpreted. And in his quest to find evidence for the existence of a postive gay subculture, there are times when he is deliberately credulous (such as taking politically-motivated accusations of sodomy as descriptive fact) or fails to consider the meaning of the asymmetries in the data.

In this section of Boswell's study of shifting attitudes toward (male) homosexuality under Christianity, he explores the question of "why should sexual behavior come in for judgment at all?" as well as the specific trains of thought that were used to support condemnation of homosexuality specifically. He points out that it wasn't a foregone conclusion that Christianity would take this path, and that some of the background set-up for the rise of intolerance was demographic and political rather than philosophical. This shouldn't come as a surprise.

Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 41d - Lesbian Vikings - transcript

(Originally aired 2019/12/28 - listen here)

My discussion and criticism is mostly dispersed throughout the summaries for this work. Posting in haste because I have a podcast to record.


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