Last edited: December 06, 2004

Sodom and Gomorrah: Where it all began

The Advocate, October 27, 1998
P.O. Box 4371, Los Angeles, CA 90078
Fax: (323) 467-0173
Editorial Fax: (323) 467-6805

By Chris Bull; Judy Wieder

Ever wondered about the origins of the word sodomy? Before it came to mean any non-penile-vaginal sexual contact (does that make Bill Clinton a sodomite?), it all began with a Bible story. According to Daniel A. Helminiak's book What the Bible, Really Says About Homosexuality, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is the most famous Bible passage -- found in Genesis, chapter 19, verses 1 to 11 -- that deals with homosexuality, though in a negative way, of course.

Here are the basics: The gatekeeper to the city of Sodom, Lot (not Trent), is on duty when two angels arrive. Lot urges them to stay with him in his house. Just as Lot's guests are about to go to bed, the men of Sodom arrive and surround the house. They ask Lot where the two male visitors (angels) are and tell Lot to bring them outside so that "we may know them." Lot begs the men of the city not to act so wickedly even offering up his two virgin daughters as a distraction (nice!) rather than have the men touch his guests. They refuse.

The angels fight back, blinding the men threatening Lot's house, and warn Lot that God is now going to destroy Sodom, They send Lot and his wife away, but Lot's wife, as we know, looks back at the fire, brimstone, and orgies and turns into a pillar of salt. Sodom and the neighboring city, of Gomorrah are destroyed.

According to Helminiak, by the 12th century, people interpreted this Bible story as a condemnation of homosexuality, despite all the other couplings going on in the orgies. The sin of Sodom was taken to be male homogenital acts, and the word sodomite became a word referring to someone who engages in anal sex. And thus God was seen to be punishing the people of Sodom -- or Sodomites -- for their homosexual activity.

When a word starts like that, no wonder we've got PR problems.

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