Volume II Number 3
November 3, 1995

image What Did They Say About Gays?

Allan Gould.
Toronto: ECW Press, 1995. 180pp, paper, $16.95.
ISBN 1-55022-235-X. CIP.

Subject Headings:
Homosexuality-Quotations, maxims, etc.
Quotations, English.

Grade 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by Ted Monkhouse.


"I come to this book because of my Jewishness, and, not unrelatedly, because of my lifelong involvement in civil rights for blacks. Those three groups, of course, have very much in common: biblical threats and rejection, historical mockery and hatred, long struggles for civil and legal rights, revulsion by society, stonings, lynchings, even murder. . . . There are some real shockers in this book, at least to this sympathetic heterosexual. . . . In anthologizing and editing a book like this, one must have guidelines, and I choose to follow two. First, few, if any, writings from fiction; and second, and most important, no comments from homosexuals."

-- from "A Very Personal Introduction")

This is Gould's twenty-second book, and one of several anthologies he has edited. Gould is a literary scholar (PhD, York University; MA, New York University) who has gathered what over a hundred scholars, philosophers, scientists, organizations, religions, and poets said and wrote about homosexuality and homosexual men. So it is a learned, yet entertaining work; balanced in viewpoint and encompassing in scope.


Besides religious pronouncements, the book presents the views on homosexuality of luminaries from 2500 B.C. to the present, including Shaw, Rousseau, Voltaire, Kant, Lord Baden Powell (founder of the Scout movement), Pope John Paul II, Pliny the Elder, Winston Churchill, Samuel Pepys, Marshall McLuhan, Dylan Thomas, and Newt Gingrich, to name a very few. All selections ascribe the source, most of which are credible in a scholarly sense. None promote homosexuality, but together they provide a spectrum of moral, ethical, legal, religious, political, and philosophical thought and research on what is still a socially sensitive topic. What Did They Say About Gays? is organized by epoch: from the Babylonians to foundations of Christianity; the Middle Ages to the Renaissance; the Enlightenment to the nineteenth century; the turn of the century to World War II; and finally, World War II to the present. The reader easily sees the evolution, or lack thereof, of the history of thought about homosexuality.

As a reference tool it is very helpful but the lack of even simple indexing of those quoted is frustrating. The book is surely not intended to be read from beginning to end, yet the reader is unable to easily find out the position of any given church, leader, religion, or writer on homosexuality without a good deal of thumbing through the pages. The selections seldom exceed one page and so the 180 pages present more than 100 entries, which can only be individually located by knowing where they belong chronologically.

A school or church library should have no hesitation in owning this book. It in no way sensationalizes -- it is even physically drab in its appearance and layout. What Did They Say About Gays? merely presents the topic as seen or studied by others in a balanced, rational, dispassionate manner.


Ted Monkhouse, is a retired Teacher/Librarian from Guelph, Ontario.

Copyright © 1995 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364

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