Homophobia: A History

Byrne Fone, Author
Byrne Fone, Author Henry Holt & Company $32.5 (480p) ISBN 978-0-8050-4559-8
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
Open Ebook - 480 pages - 978-1-4668-1707-4
Paperback - 480 pages - 978-0-312-42030-7
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""Antipathy, condemnation, loathing, fear and proscription of homosexual behavior"" have taken many forms over the centuries. In this lucid history, Fone (The Columbia Encyclopedia of Gay Literature) charts the ways in which homophobia has induced legal, medical, social and ecclesiastical authorities to punish--and kill--gay men. Drawing upon accepted classics of gay studies--John Boswell's Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality, David F. Greenberg's Construction of Homosexuality and Jonathan Ned Katz's Gay/Lesbian Almanac, as well as other books and articles--Fone's compendium of social intolerance argues that, despite social progress, hating homosexuals is ""the last acceptable prejudice."" The litany of horrors--biblical condemnation, slander, whipping, imprisonment, drowning, garroting and castration--is chilling, yet even more disturbing is the author's contention that violence against homosexuals has been central to Western culture. Nonetheless, several flaws keep the book from becoming more than a well-written primer. For one, Fone contributes little original research, instead relying on traditional lesbian and gay scholarship, yet he ignores some of the newest, most challenging work in the field (such as Carolyn Dinshaw's Getting Medieval). Most provocatively, while he addresses the differences between essentialist and social constructionist theories of gay identity, he declares that homophobia has a clear, unchanging, social and political character. Also problematic is the book's failure to address the violence perpetuated against lesbians. Still, at a time when the word ""homophobia"" is dismissed by many as politically correct rhetoric, Fone's work remains a powerful introduction to the undeniable historical impact of the attitudes it describes. (Aug.)
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