John Boswell

From ArticleWorld

John Eastburn Boswell was a prominent gay historian and a professor at Yale University. He was born into a military family on March 20, 1947. In college he got the nickname Jeb. Boswell was a devout Roman catholic throughout his life, although, he did disagreed strongly with the church’s opposition to homosexual behavior and relationships.


John Boswell earned his undergraduate degree from the college of William and Mary. Boswell was considered to be a gifted medieval philologist, and he received his doctorate from Harvard University in 1975. After receiving his doctorate Boswell joined the Yale University history faculty, and in 1982 that Boswell made full professor. At Yale, Boswell helped organize the Lesbian and Gay Studies center in 1987. Consequently, this center is now the research fund for Lesbian and Gay Studies. In 1990, Boswell was named the A. Whitney Griswold Professor of History. He was also appointed to a two-year term as chair of the Yale history department around this time.


  • Boswell was the author of Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality a groundbreaking but controversial book written in 1980. The book argued that the Roman Catholic Church had not condemned gay people throughout its history.
  • Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality won the American Book Award for History. It also, won the Stonewall Book Award in 1981.
  • Boswell is primarily known for his book, Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe. In the book, Boswell argues that the adelphopoiia liturgy was evidence that the attitude of the Christian church towards homosexuality was not as strict as it is now. In the book, The Marriage of Likeness. Boswell detailed translations of the rites to adelphopoiesis which is literally Greek meaning the making of brothers. Boswell claimed that one big gay wedding occurred only a couple of centuries ago in the cathedral seat of the pope.
  • In Revolutions, Universals, and Sexual Categories Boswell compares the constructionist-essentialist positions to the realist-nominalist dichotomy. Boswell lists three types of sexual taxonomies:
  1. Sexual responses that are considered normal while all other variants abnormal.
  2. Sexual categories that are usually based on sexual object choice.
  3. All or most humans are polymorphously sexual, and that it is the socio-cultural pressure, legal sanctions, religious beliefs, historical or personal circumstances that determine the actual expression of each person’s sexual feelings.